[ Contents | Prolog: Hell | I. Upper Hell | II. Dire Wood ]
After some time, and many words, Raditz stared back at Vegeta, and finally, slowly, sheathed his all-but-forgotten sword. He shook his head. "I still don't know why I let you talk me into this." He hesitated. "Strike that--yes, I do. But.." he shrugged, looking for the words and not finding them.
"But you don't know what I've gotten you into, do you?" Vegeta smirked, plainly amused. He looked out across the burning plain. Few beings could find anything amusing in the tormented landscape of Hell, but what amused Vegeta was visible only to his mind's eye. Suddenly, he laughed.
"Trust me, Raditz! It's better than this, at least." He looked around. "You have to go back. I have to go.. forward." Vegeta pondered. "According to your father Bardock, the path I must follow starts somewhere around here, and is guarded by two ogres."
It was Raditz's turn to smirk. "Oh, Slack and Slacker! I know those two clowns; a couple of lazy-ass lesser oni. They keep order in the uppermost Hell, the one for selfish, indecisive fools."
"'Lesser' oni? Compared to what? The bull-demons?" Vegeta frowned.
Raditz chuckled. "Oh, you've met the gozu-oni? Yes, I guess you would have, if you've spoken with your father. They're strong. But no, these guys are weaker, a lot weaker. One of them is a speedster, but no faster than a good Saiyan warrior, and the other fancies himself a strongman. Again, not so strong as we are. They're liars and cheats, though. You can't trust what they say unless you force the truth out of them."
Vegeta smiled evilly. "So I might have to force the truth out of them? How.. unfortunate."
"Yeah. Real unfortunate." The anticipatory gleam in Raditz's eyes matched Vegeta's. "I have to go that way, anyway, to add this stone," he tossed the black demon stone from hand to hand, "to their 'rock garden'. I can guide you that far, at least.. my prince."
A short while later, they ascended the seared, black cliffs overlooking the burning plain, leaping from ledge to ledge to the top. Raditz paused to rest, and to point out a few landmarks.
"Over there, beyond their little Camp for Losers, are Lord Enma's peach trees. Slack and Slacker are supposed to guard those, too, and not allow anyone to eat fruit from them." Raditz laughed.
"So how many of those peaches have you eaten, Raditz?" Vegeta smirked.
"At least one." Raditz grinned. "Those are the Peaches of Immortality-- too bad the immortality part only works for the living and for gods. Dead, damned bastards like us just get stronger, faster, tougher in spirit--and it regenerates our ki, our life force, which doesn't regenerate real well here. Not surprising, since we're dead. With the trip you're planning, some fresh fruit might prove a welcome snack along the way."
He smirked. "Now, I go distract those clowns, and you get the peaches. They know I was hunting down there--they'd be expecting to see me come by sooner or later--they won't be suspicious of me."
"You actually planned this!" Vegeta said mockingly.
Raditz looked hurt. "I always have a plan--I just like to keep my plans simple. And sometimes things just don't go as planned."
"Hmmph. Why bother with the games? If they are weaker, just take the peaches!" Vegeta waited; he was beginning to realize that Raditz had a reason for the seemingly odd things he did here.
"Then they know for sure that we took the peaches, and that we can take peaches any time we want. If THAT happens, Lord Enma replaces them with something a lot tougher to guard his precious fruits, and no more free ki for us Demon Guardsmen. But, if Slack and Slacker down there aren't sure what happened, they keep their mouths shut and don't tell Lord Enma, because then their asses are on the line for failing to guard the tree."
Raditz shook his long hair back. "It's not too bad for us, considering we're all dead and damned--but it's different. In some ways, REALLY different. And we have to play the game by the rules of here, not by the old rules of Vegetasai."
Vegeta harkened to the warning in Raditz's voice. "I'm listening."
"You already know you can't die, since you're already dead--but you sure can hurt like it all over again." Raditz started ticking things off on his fingers. "And there are things--like the ki-vampire demons I mentioned--that can make sure you're not good for much after they get done with you. Losing all your remaining ki, losing all your memories, losing your very form and identity--not fun."
He continued, "Here, you don't get stronger from a beating--unless you learn something from it. That one took me a long time to understand; it took me even longer to find out that I didn't have to get beaten up to learn something." Raditz smiled wryly.
"Oh, yeah," Raditz added, "time is subjective."
"What?" Vegeta looked disturbed.
"How long have I been dead, Vegeta?"
"Eight years. Don't you know that?"
"No, I didn't. I'm only absolutely sure of the first two years, plus some time after that. There is something about this realm that keeps everything from happening in the same place at the same time, but it isn't exactly like what you'd think of as Space and Time. For one thing, it changes depending on what you are doing, or how you look at it, or whatever."
Raditz looked at Vegeta with concern, and continued, emphasizing his words carefully. "The further you get from the mortal world, the vaguer Time gets, and you're going into the mythic hells--further from the mortal world than anything short of Chaos itself. Even if you succeed in returning to life, you might find that a thousand years have passed while you were gone."
Vegeta was wide-eyed and very worried. "There must be a way around it! I will not be stopped before I even get started!" He thought for a time. "Why are you sure of the first two years?"
Raditz stared off into the distance for a while before continuing. "I witnessed.. the consequences of all my own stupidity and.. evil. I saw you kill Nappa--" Vegeta stiffened momentarily, "--and I watched the battle between you and Kakarott, knowing it was all my doing that either my brother or my prince would die." He smiled at the irony, "I never expected that you would both survive! Gods, that was a weight off my soul!"
"That was the first year. After Kakarott's battle with Frieza--and every Saiyan in Hell watched that battle!--as you well know, for you were there, my prince." Raditz saluted his fallen prince. "That must have been strange, fighting the same battle in both worlds, living and dead," he marveled. "After that battle," Raditz continued, "there was nothing to bind me to the mortal world, and time, again--except that time when somebody wished the bunch of us back to fight you and Kakarott."
"There is something to bind ME to the mortal world," Vegeta said softly, almost to himself. In his memories, he held a beautiful blue-haired woman close, and marveled at a precocious, violet-haired child. "Bulma. Trunks," he whispered to himself.
He turned back to Raditz. "Do you know where the path to the mythic hells is?" Raditz shook his head in negation. "Then I will have to force the truth out of those oni of yours. Distract them, then go. You know the path you must take; I will find out the path I must take." Vegeta smirked in that devilish way of his.
Raditz nodded, and started down the canyon toward the oni's 'camp'.
"Raditz.." The long-haired Saiyan looked back at his prince. "Protect them."
* * * *
"AAAAAAAAH!" The red ogre writhed futilely in Vegeta's grasp. "You didn't have to dislocate my shoulder! You could have just asked!"
"I did ask, quite nicely." Vegeta kept the ogre's arm twisted unnaturally behind his back. "You lied to me. It might have worked.. once. Too bad for you that Kakarott told me about the stairway up to Lord Enma's hall, and that I recognized it."
"It was a joke, okay! Can't any of you Saiyajin take a joke?" The oni demon was sweating heavily; he could expect no help from his partner. The blue ogre was embedded head downward quite deeply in the banks of the Pool of Blood, and would be a long time digging himself out.
"My favorite jokes usually involve someone's violent death. As you can see, I naturally don't 'take jokes' very well."
"Yikes! You belong down below the Pool of Blood, what are you doing up here bothering us?" The red ogre whined.
"I was down below, I came up for the scenery. I already told you what I want--don't annoy me more than you have already. Or are you one of those perverts who enjoys his own pain?" Vegeta twisted the ogre's loose shoulder again.
"AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH! DO I LOOK LIKE I'M ENJOYING THIS?? ALL RIGHT, ALREADY! I'll guide you to the Cave of Avernus, I really will this time! Just let my arm go!"
"I don't think I will. I'll keep it, until I see this cave. If I think you've tricked me again, you've got a second arm." Vegeta was smiling now.
* * * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER II. DIRE WOOD
[ Contents | Prolog: Hell | I. Upper Hell | II. Dire Wood ]
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009