Kushagara

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There's a saying that goes, "Curiosity killed the cat." If you have Rohan Kishibe's force of will, experience, and Heaven's Door, you could stand a chance. However, not many people are immune to bizarre events. There's no guarantee that you won't end up as the dead cat.

Kushagara (くしゃがら) is a short story that is part of an anthology of short stories based on the Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan series. It was written by Ballad Kitaguni (北國 ばらっど Kitaguni Baraddo) and published by Shueisha. Kushagara was included with the August 2017 issue of Ultra Jump to coincide with the eighth episode release of the Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan series.

It was then compiled in a collection named Rohan Kishibe Does Not Shout with four other stories, which released for sale on June 19, 2018. Kushagara is on pages 3–53 in the volume.

This story received a live action TV Drama adaptation which aired on December 29, 2020.

Summary

At Café Deux Magots, Rohan organizes his material for a new story when he is caught by a fellow manga artist working at Shueisha who had the same idea, Jugo Shishi. "Jugo Shishi" was a pen name which originated when he wrote the wrong answer for his multiplication table, so he chose it as a reminder that life does not go as planned. Jugo starts making small talk with Rohan but Rohan wants to be left alone. Jugo persuades Rohan to sit and talk with him, stating that Rohan's yelling will attract attention so he'll have to sign autographs for kids. Rohan describes Jugo as having a thug-like appearance, with pierced eyelids and his hair dyed red. He is annoyed with Jugo's talkative personality, comparing him to Josuke and Okuyasu. However, Rohan really enjoys Jugo's manga, believing that it has a very detailed reality to it despite depicting a fictional civilization with fictional history. Jugo's works are always logical as he believes that experience and knowledge are necessary.

Jugo starts talking about his new editor. His former editor had the same taste in potato chips as Jugo. He liked Home Alone 3, only listened to Japanese music, and was a fan of the band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. They were good friends, but his new editor is a lot more serious. Recently, his new editor gave him a list of prohibited terms for manga. Rohan and Jugo are appalled to see that words like "electrocution", "earthquake", and "tsunami" are banned, thinking that the publishers are cowards. Jugo found a word in the list that he wasn't familiar with, "kushagara". He didn't understand the meaning of the word or why it was prohibited. He tried to investigate but couldn't find anything meaningful in the dictionary or on Google. He asked his editor, but he was just told not to use it, and since he's not allowed to use it then it's not necessary for him to know what it means. Rohan assumes it might be an onomatopoeic word or a word from some other dialect. Jugo gives Rohan a lifelong request to tell him anything he knows about the word if he ever finds out something about it. Jugo thanks him and leaves, leaving Rohan wondering what the word means.

Jugo had succeeded in quitting smoking and is capable of tolerating his appetite, desire to sleep, and desire for lust. However, he is overtaken by his desire for knowledge. After meeting with Rohan, Jugo spends his time turning over dictionaries all over his house, staying in the library, and visiting the editorial department of Shueisha, but he never finds out anything about "kushagara". The editorial department starts thinking of him as a nuisance and asks him if he made any progress on his manuscript, so Jugo gradually stops going there.

About a month later, Jugo and Rohan coincidentally reunite at a used bookstore in town. It was Rohan's first time there, as he usually prefers buying new books in the best condition possible. The only reason he went there was to see the atmosphere of a deserted used bookstore. Rohan realizes that he ends up encountering unexpected situations whenever he follows his whims, remembering the time he was accosted by a persistent young boy challenging him to rock-paper-scissors. Rohan witnesses Jugo acting like a thug, angrily demanding for ancient encyclopedias to the confused shopkeeper. Threatening to break his neck, Jugo grabs the shopkeeper by the collar. Although Rohan doesn't want to get involved, he couldn't overlook that Jugo could easily kill the innocent man. Rohan grabs Jugo's hand and pulls it away from the shopkeeper. Rohan wants to stay in the bookstore longer but feels uncomfortable seeing the shopkeeper's reaction, so he drags Jugo out of the store without buying any books.

Jugo regains his sanity and asks Rohan what he's doing there. Rohan notices that the sociable man who used to decorate himself so much that he didn't even look like a manga artist now had the appearance of a depressed, shabby outcast. He wonders how someone could change so much in one month, believing that a person's mental state is more effective at changing faces than plastic surgery. Jugo reveals that he's read as many dictionaries, novels, and picture books as he could. He even went to the police for help yet found no answer. Rohan is taken aback, thinking that Jugo was acting like a dog with rabies. Rohan decides to say something uncharacteristic of himself. He raises his finger and adjusts his breathing as an attempt to soothe Jugo before suggesting that Jugo should just stop caring. He realizes that this is hypocritical because if he was in Jugo's position then he would be eager to continue researching, but since he isn't directly taking part in this research, he could look at the situation objectively. He states that if he didn't have a job of his own and his pride to deliver his work to his readers by the deadline then he might have been more into helping Jugo with his research. Rohan knows that if nobody tells Jugo to stop then he would fall deeper into the abyss.

Jugo reacts by angrily cussing at Rohan, which causes Rohan to snap and reflexively punch Jugo to the ground with his non-dominant hand. Rohan explains that he was merely kindly telling Jugo to calm down and to be careful about who he gets angry to; if Rohan was holding a G-Pen in his hand then it would have ended badly. He says he'll forgive Jugo but if he continues to underestimate Rohan then Rohan will abandon him. Jugo apologizes but says that his head is completely full of "kushagara" so he doesn't understand what's going on anymore. He struggles to get back up, and Rohan is surprised since he didn't intend to hit him so hard. Rohan suspects whether Jugo has been smoking something dangerous. Jugo holds his head down and starts chanting "kushagara" over and over. He exclaims that all he needs right now is the meaning of "kushagara" and that he doesn't need anything else, even if it's a check for 100 million yen or a gold nugget. He points out that once you're worried about "kushagara", you can't get anything else done. Rohan notes something odd about his statement and asks Jugo about it, but Jugo didn't notice anything. He keeps talking and Rohan realizes that every time he says "kushagara", the word was like a sneeze or a hiccup being released at unnatural times, interrupting whenever Jugo spoke. It was like a seizure, so he thinks Jugo must have a mental illness. Rohan mentions that sometimes it's easier for people to see illnesses in other people rather than themselves, so this time it was Rohan who noticed Jugo's illness first.

Jugo reveals that even if he tries to forget about "kushagara", he thinks about it so much all the time that he can't even sleep. Rohan gets quiet and Jugo increasingly starts mentioning "kushagara" in all of his sentences. Annoyed with Rohan's silence, Jugo is about to push him but stops when he sees Rohan's frightened expression on his face, which was a look that Rohan wouldn't normally make. Rohan clearly sees something strange poking out from the back of Jugo's throat, which is what had been saying "kushagara" earlier. It wasn't a person, but rather something that made Rohan feel physiologically disgusted. Before the thing could crawl out of Jugo's mouth, Rohan immediately uses Heaven's Door and turns Jugo into a book.

Jugo loses consciousness as he falls to the ground and his mouth closes, causing the thing in his throat to disappear. Rohan starts reading through his pages, learning that Jugo's real name is actually "Keitaro Nishi". His father loves manga. When he was in high school, he won an award for the work that he submitted which led to his debut. Two years prior, he had broken up with his girlfriend but was invited to her wedding at the start of the current year and attended it. Flipping through Jugo's pages, Rohan sees something that he never saw before in any human that he's read. Jugo's pages were attached together like a bound-pocket book, meaning the ends of the two pages were stuck together to form a pouch so that what's inside couldn't be seen. It's a type of traditional binding that might be seen in weekly magazines. Next, Rohan notices a range of text that is unreadable. On the outside of the pouch, there is a messy pattern that makes Rohan instinctively feel wary when he looks at it. Looking closer, he notices that it is actually numerous small hand prints embedded on the pouch, which made the pages turn black.

Rohan deduces that it's not just a word that he's dealing with but some kind of power that can compete with Heaven's Door. As Rohan wonders what he could do, the creature whispers "kushagara" from within the book. Suddenly, the pouch tears open. Rohan understands that nothing good will come from it so he quickly takes out his pen. With it, he writes in Jugo's book to forget all about the word "kushagara". However, his attempt fails. Every time Rohan tries writing "kushagara", the ink would instantly disappear. Rohan discerns that it's impossible to find the word in any literature and there's no way to write it either because it's forbidden. He wonders whether this is a parasite that will devour Jugo's body once it breaks free from the pouch. With no time to spare, Rohan uses his supernatural drawing speed to write inside Jugo's book.

Jugo wakes up with his head feeling refreshed, as if he just changed his clothes, took a hot shower, shaved his beard, and slept on brand new sheets for the first time in a month. With no idea what happened to him, he is surprised to see Rohan with him. Now feeling as if he has a good idea for a new story, Jugo finally decides to go home. Rohan tells him to do his best and Jugo is amazed, wondering if he can brag to people that the famous Rohan supported him. He's also surprised to hear Rohan suddenly being strangely soft to him after he was always rude before, but this motivates him to draw a great manga. The two say their goodbyes to each other.

Jugo couldn't remember who his new editor was, so he calls the editorial department. They lecture Jugo for skipping meetings for a month. His new editor is inexperienced and felt anxious about what to do. Jugo is confused because he doesn't remember meeting his new editor, as if he lost one month of his memories. Rohan has mixed feelings that he had to write in Jugo's book that he would forget one month's worth of memories since it must have caused some problems in his personal life, but he rationalizes that it was the only way to save him. If Jugo was turned into a book again, the pouch would still exist. In the end, Rohan couldn't find out anything about "kushagara". He tried asking the editorial department later and they tell him that Jugo never met his new editor at all. He also asked if there is actually a list of banned terms that Shueisha gives to manga artists but they respond that there isn't. If a manga artist used any dangerous expressions in their work then their editor could point it out. Thus, Rohan wonders who exactly was the "new editor" that Jugo initially met, who gave him the list of forbidden words.

Rohan theorizes that the word "kushagara" actually has no meaning. It is intended to stimulate people's curiosity and spread like a pathogen or a parasite as if it was "breeding". To verify his theory, he heads back to the used bookstore. As the shopkeeper greets him and mentions "kushagara" in his sentence, Rohan instantly turns him into a book with Heaven's Door. Noticing the shopkeeper also has a pouch, Rohan writes inside that he would forget about the events in the past few days. He then leaves the store, concerned about who else Jugo encountered and told about "kushagara". Rohan wonders why he wasn't affected like Jugo and the shopkeeper, since Jugo told Rohan about it first. He ponders whether Heaven's Door is countering the power of "kushagara" from affecting him. Feeling it was dangerous to pry any further, Rohan decides not to investigate. It is revealed that the word "kushagara" used in the story is set as a substitute term since the actual prohibited term cannot be written.

Appearances

Characters
Josuke Higashikata
(Mentioned only)
Okuyasu Nijimura
(Mentioned only)
Jugo's Mysterious Editor
Jugo's Mysterious Editor
Jugo's New Editor
Jugo's New Editor
Ken Oyanagi
(Mentioned only)
Kushagara Creature
Kushagara Creature

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