[ Contents | XXVIII. Inferno | XXIX. Converging Paths | XXX. Reunion ]
"GOKUUUUU!" Bulma screamed as she realized two things: one, the rift opened a good fifty feet above the throne room floor, and two, no one was holding her!
Goku turned, and, faster than Bulma could see, caught her. "Oops! I guess I forgot about carrying you." He smiled sheepishly.
Bulma glared at him and at Raditz's back. "Hmmph! I'll bet you two were just trying to sneak out and leave me behind!"
Raditz concentrated on the three Saiyajin who'd flown up to meet them, poised for combat. He smirked knowingly--he recognized the leader.
"PREPARE TO DIE, MORTALS! It is forbidden for the living to-- RADITZ?? What in Hell's name are you doing here? ALIVE??" The foremost warrior, a broad-shouldered Saiyajin with a remarkable resemblance to Goku broke off in mid-speech, shocked. His eyes grew even wider when he looked at black-haired Goku. "The Super Saiyajin!"
Raditz's smirk widened into a wicked grin. "So Kale didn't warn you just who was coming through, did he? Did he at least tell you why we're here, Turles?"
Turles regained his composure. "What? Kale hasn't told anyone anything--he can't. The King forbade him to return until Kale closed that rift for good! His squad second told us someone would be coming through." He looked Goku up and down. "So you're my young cousin Kakarott, the Super Saiyajin!"
"My name," Goku gritted his teeth, "is Son Goku!"
"Give it up, little brother; you'll never convince every single Saiyajin to call you by your Earth name--not unless Prince Vegeta gets hit on his head, and starts calling you 'Goku'," Raditz commented dryly.
"Wait a minute!" Bulma interrupted. "You're saying that Kale is still back in Sean's apartment? Sean's in danger!"
"It's too late to worry about that," Raditz said. "Gohan and the demon-girl will have to handle him themselves. They know his secret."
Turles glared at the blue-haired woman held by Goku, and then at Goku and Raditz in turn. "Why are you here, then? You know better than to come here in the body! And who is this woman?"
"We're here," said Son Goku, "to find my son and her son! If you have them, give them back!"
"WHAT??" Turles' eyes widened with shock; the two other warriors also looked shocked.
"You heard him," Raditz growled. "My nephew, and her son," the long-maned Saiyajin jerked a thumb toward Bulma, "were thrown bodily into Hell by one evil bastard of a demon. The demon is dead; we don't think the kids are, and we're here to get them back. If you think we're violating a few rules, what are the rules on INNOCENT MORTAL CHILDREN being sent to HELL??"
Turles hovered motionless, shocked into silence for a long moment. "Trava!" He snapped at the warrior to his left. "Inform the King!"
"At once, Commander!" So saying, the lower-ranking warrior darted away and down.
"Come," ordered Turles. "We will wait on the King." He dropped down before the empty throne, and looked back, plainly expecting them to follow.
"Raditz, we don't have time for this!" Goku said quietly in his brother's ear. "I mean, it's really interesting to meet my relatives and all, but--"
Raditz cut him off with a slashing move of his hand and answered back just as quietly, "King Vegeta is also the Duke Infernal of this Hell.. If he's willing to help us, it will save us a lot of time and trouble. Little brother--I know what I'm talking about; trust me." With that, he dropped down beside Turles; after a moment, Goku followed, still carrying Bulma, whom he set down.
Bulma stood on her own two feet and smoothed out the borrowed blouse she was wearing. Black wasn't her favorite color, but she supposed she ought to be happy that Sean had something around his apartment in her size, or she'd still be in her nightshirt. Bulma couldn't help but wonder about his ex-girlfriend, though--the black jeans were fine, but some of the other clothes she'd declined.. Yiiiiee!
Goku and Bulma looked around while they waited, taking in everything. "So this is just like the King's palace on Vegetasai?" Bulma asked.
"Yes," Raditz said. He wished the two of them would stop gawking and rubbernecking like tourists; it was embarassing. On the other hand, Turles and most of the guards were giving Goku surreptious curious looks--they were trying to look professional and not stare, while at the same time staring in curiousity at the legendary Super Saiyajin.
He turned to Turles and in a low voice said, "You're quiet--you have not said a word yet about how things would have been different if you had gone on that scouting mission instead of me. That used to be your favorite topic."
Turles' dark eyes flicked toward Raditz, and the barest hint of a smirk crossed his face. "You haven't forgotten anything, have you? I'm surprised; it is said the living do not remember death."
Behind the smirk, Raditz saw something else in Turles' dark eyes, desperate need and dead hope--and he knew all too well what Turles longed hopelessly for. Raditz had spent eight years of eternity with the same desperate need and hopelessness.
"A lot of things are said that aren't true. What changed, cousin?"
"I learned the answer to my question," the dead warrior said. "Lord Enma granted me the boon of seeing what would have happened if I had not done Bardock the favor of sending you on that scouting mission, but had gone myself."
"And?" Raditz raised an eyebrow, genuinely curious.
"It was not.. good. Even though I would have survived the destruction of Vegetasai.." Turles sighed. "You would have survived anyway, since you would have been sent with Nappa to guard Vegeta, and I would have found that damn Doom Tree of yours... and died trying to use it."
"Use it?? I don't even want to know how you could use a world-destroying monstrosity like that!" Raditz exclaimed.
Turles smirked. "You yourself found out the properties of the fruit--imagine the thing taking root in a truly fertile world instead of some desert moon. A world like.. Earth."
After a long silence, Raditz finally answered, "Some things are not good to imagine."
"Heh. Yes. Kakarott would have killed me, and destroyed the Tree; after that it would have been.. worse. I do not understand the connection, but because the Namek Piccolo lived, Vegeta died, and Kakarott would not have been strong enough to fight Frieza. The last of the Saiyajin would have died when Frieza destroyed Earth; Frieza would have won." Turles fell silent for a moment. "I no longer regret doing that favor for Bardock."
But there is so much else you do regret, Raditz knew. So much.. as do I. But I.. I see both sides of it now, and I regret it twice over; once for myself, and once for those I wronged. I think you are still spared that, cousin.
The sound of echoing footsteps caught Raditz's attention; the black-bearded chamberlain Kosho strode into the vast hall, followed closely by two taller Saiyajin.
"All kneel before the King!" proclamed the chamberlain as King Vegeta took his throne, and Sullion, his shield man, stood at his left hand.
All knelt before the King; all, except Goku. He remained standing, staring curiously at the Saiyan king. Tall, broad-shouldered, bearded--but for all that, his face and hair were distinctly Vegeta's.
"Wow! You really are Vegeta's father!"
Kosho, who was watching from his place in the shadows to the left of the throne, cringed visibly. Turles glanced quickly around, confirming that he was not in the line of fire between Kakarott and the King; Raditz's tail twitched nervously. Even Bulma rolled her eyes in resigned disgust at Goku's homespun manners. King Vegeta furrowed his brow in anger, at first; as he studied Kakarott's open, innocent face he calmed slightly. The idiot--extremely powerful idiot, the King reminded himself--intended no insult. An odd look, almost of recognition was crossing Kakarott's face as the King answered.
"You are Kakarott, the Super-Saiyajin who defeated Frieza!" The King waved his hand, indicating to the others that they could rise. "Why did you come here? Did you not know that your life is forfeit?" Anger and something else turned his voice into a harsh snarl.
Goku's eyes narrowed and his face was at once serious; his resemblance to Turles was suddenly obvious and pronounced. "Didn't Turles's messenger tell you? I'm here to get my son and Bulma's son back!"
"A child in Hell? A living child??" King Vegeta rose from his throne, angrier still. "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?" He glared at the four in front of him.
"Two children: my son Goten, and Bulma's son." Goku clenched his fists, and explained briefly about the demon kidnapping the children, the ritual they interrupted, and the demon's terrible revenge.
King Vegeta scowled, and clenched his own fists angrily. "You have come for your son, that I understand" --the tone of his voice was passionately angry, touched with remembered pain-- "and the woman looks for her son, but why are you here, Raditz? Why forfeit the gift of life you have received?"
Raditz bowed. "It was--and is--my duty to protect Bulma and her son, my king."
The king's eyes narrowed again. "But you were sent back at my son's request to protect.." King Vegeta's eyes widened suddenly, and he turned abruptly to Bulma.
"YOU!" He snarled, "You are Prince Vegeta's mate, and your child is.. is my grandson!" The Saiyan King glared balefully at her. "But you.. you are not Saiyajin, you are weak.. pathetic.."
"EXCUUSE ME!" Bulma hands were on her hips; she glared angrily at the Saiyan king. "Prince Vegeta doesn't find me all that weak, and I wouldn't start calling other people pathetic if I were you--being the ghost king of a dead world whose subjects are ALL ghosts IMPRISONED IN HELL isn't exactly something to boast about!"
With a snarl of rage, King Vegeta summoned and flung a ball of ki straight at Bulma...
Paaft.. BOOM! Almost lazily, Goku stretched his hand out and flicked the king's attack up and away, to explode somewhere near the high, cavernous ceiling. Gravel and dust showered down.
Bulma paled and shrank back behind Goku; Raditz stepped up behind her and watched Turles and the other Guardsman suspiciously.
"Our children--that's all that matters here," Goku reminded King Vegeta and Bulma.
"Then go and find them! I will not stop you," King Vegeta growled. "It is a fool's quest--even if you find them, you still will not leave Hell alive!"
"We'll see," Goku smiled that certain way he always did before a good fight. White power rose around him, enveloped him; he picked up Bulma and hurtled after Raditz.
Once clear of the palace, Goku glanced over at his brother. "You feel them, don't you?"
"I can sense Goten, definitely," Raditz answered. "But this place.. direction, distance is all wrong from what you know, little brother. Be careful of trusting your senses here." He glanced at Goku. "Can't you sense them?"
"I think so," the younger Saiyajin answered, his face drawn as if in pain. "But there is so much evil ki here.. they stand out, only a few ki even as good as you were, but it hurts to look for them."
"Yeah. Welcome to Hell, little brother."
* * * *
The dead man abandoned the stolen car again--it was the fourth or fifth he'd hotwired and taken, driven until rubble blocked his path, then abandoned. He was close to his goal--somewhere in the heart of the city, his enemies had vanished from his senses. He stood and looked around, senses tingling. Somewhere nearby there was a great power, well-hidden, and a strange disturbance.
Finally he looked up--and spotted it. Or rather, spotted him. The alien Piccolo hovered above one of the few unruined buildings downtown. The dead man narrowed crimson eyes; how convenient of his enemies to leave this sentinel, announcing their presence!
Piccolo was too powerful for him to face; he must be careful to avoid the alien's notice. He crooked his finger, and summoned the Children of Darkness again. They came eagerly to his command, ready for new victims. The dead man frowned; one was missing. He shrugged; no matter, it was one of the weaker ones.
Chaos and darkness set foot on the stairs to Hell.
* * * *
Sean glanced at Nezumi, Gohan, and Sinhika in turn. They were all engrossed in the scene unfolding before them, as Raditz and Goku faced the other Saiyajin. Sound carried faintly through the rift, so they could even hear the louder parts of the conversation. A hot wind continued to blow out of the rift. The artist shivered.
"Sin, is it my imagination, or is that rift really wide-open between here and there?"
"All things physical and spiritual go through; I had to make the gate two-way, or they wouldn't be able to return," the demon-girl answered. Only one may open such a gate, my innocent lover--and not a mere mortal demon such as myself. Be happy you do not understand the sacred tongue and do not know whom I invoked--nor that He answered! Destiny moves this night: the Creator rests, the Preserver acts, the Destroyer waits.
"Wonderful. My apartment is now the antechamber to Hell." He reached for the whiskey bottle before remembering that Kale had destroyed it. "I wonder if that violates my lease?"
Sinhika looked thoughtful for a moment. "It probably violates any clauses on tenant remodeling without permission of the owner, and might touch on the single-occupancy clause."
"Only if something moves in--oh, right, something already has." Sean rolled his eyes from side to side theatrically. "Um, this may be a stupid question, but what keeps anyone else from over there from moving in and subletting the place?"
"That's Gohan's job, and yours, and, to a lesser extent, mine," the dusky orange-haired girl answered.
Sean stared suspiciously at Gohan; the long-haired kid stared back at him quizzically. "No offense, kid, but aren't you a bit young for the job? Back when I went to middle school, 'Demon Hunting 101' just wasn't on the curriculum."
Gohan folded his arms and looked smug. "I'm strong for my age."
"Yeah, right. I'll take your word for it. Okay, so how is it my job, too? I'm not a martial artist, or a demon, or whatever--I'm just a guy." The young man in black folded his arms and scowled, black hair drooping into his face again.
"It's still your dwelling--remember how you nearly threw Kale out? If any spirits come through that gate, just tell them they're not invited and send them back." Sinhika answered in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Okaaaay. I'll be sure and do that--not that it worked on Kale or anything."
Sinhika shook her head. "He's a special case--there's something stopping him from going back through the gate."
"Yeah, plain orneriness." Sean grumbled. "Speaking of ornery weird people," He glanced at Nezumi, "There's something profoundly disturbing about a guy who says things like 'back when I was ghost...'" He picked up an empty shot glass and inspected it closely for any remaining traces. "That's getting just a little bit too 'goth' for my tastes."
Nezumi turned away from the window overlooking Hell to face Sean. She tilted her head a bit to the side, thoughtful, a glint in her eyes. "Raditz also does things like demand to be sent back to Hell. Go figure that one out." She smiled mischieviously.
"Definitely way too 'goth'..." Sean smirked.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Sean jumped about a foot into the air. "What the hell? Who the hell is banging on my door in the middle of the friggin' night during a disaster curfew??"
BAM! BAM! BAM!
"That's odd," muttered Gohan. "I can't sense anyone out there."
"WHO IS IT?" yelled Sean.
CR-CRACK! The door split down the middle and fell in splintered pieces to the floor. A man stood there, his face hidden in shadows. His clothes were tattered and bloody and his long dark hair was matted with blood and worse. He lifted his head revealing eyes that blazed with an unholy crimson light, and smiled a cold, thin-lipped smile. With his long black leather coat swirling about his legs, the evil sorceror Voron strode into the apartment.
"Voron." Sean said flatly. "I didn't invite you."
"Voron.. is dead," the dead man rasped. "And I don't need an invitation. But they do." He lifted his hand and crooked his finger, beckoning to the darkness outside. Darkness poured in the door and swallowed them all.
* * * *
For Gohan, the worst part was the memories of all his old fears. In the cold, silent dark, everything he'd been afraid of came back to him--the shock and terror as the long-haired stranger named Raditz beat his father and took him far away; the terrible loneliness and loss when Piccolo told him his father was dead and abandoned him in the wilderness; his fear when he faced Nappa--the first person who truly wanted to kill Gohan; the moment of terror when Frieza reappeared after Dad's Genki Dama, seemingly indefeatable and killed Kulilin, and promised to kill Gohan next; and the absolute horror that was Cell. In the darkness, it all came back to him now; added to it was the growing, devouring fear that he would never, ever see his father again--from Hell, there would be no return.
In his fear, he called out to the one person who had been there for him over the years: "PICCOLO!"
<Piccolo? Where are you? It's so dark and cold... I'm scared.> He stopped breathing and became very quiet, hiding in the dark from the fear.
<GOHAN!> Gohan could feel the fear in Piccolo's mind. <DON'T LET GO! I'm coming!>
What does he mean, "Don't let go"? Gohan wondered as the cold darkness crept into his heart and mind, stilling them.
* * * *
Sean shivered in the bitter cold, the blind dark silence angering him as he fell over the end table by the couch. He cursed, but could not hear himself in the enveloping darkness. Oh joy, total sensory deprivation. I so want to be completely blind and deaf when some undead asshole is trying to kill me!
Sean used to think he was the only kid who was never afraid of the dark; instead of fearing the monster under the bed, he liked to pretend he was the monster under the bed. Being a monster would be awfully handy when the bullies bothered you on the way home from school, and he liked the dark--one could hide in the dark, and pretend to stalk one's unsuspecting victims from the shadows. He was also the one who cheered for the monster at the movies; they were so much more interesting and cool than their shallow, insipid, happy victims--who reminded him all too much of the kids who picked on him at school. Sean used to think he was unique and weird that way--until the day in college he met the other unique, weird kids who thought black was the best color and night was the best time.
His true fears: failure, conformity, inadequacy in his chosen field were too sophisticated for this darkness to hold--all it could express was fear of the dark, of being alone, of monsters, and ultimately, of death. Sean never feared his old friends, but death.. death was beginning to disturb him. He wished he could find a match; he really wanted a cigarette.
* * * *
Sinhika growled with rage--she knew this darkness! It had attacked her in the defiled temple; she had not surrendered to it then, she would not fall to it now. She was a warrior and the daughter of heroes! Illusion enfolded her, and she eluded the darkness. Sinhika smirked; it could not find her, and she.. still could not see. "Achintya! This should not be possible--I can see in the dark!"
"Idiot. The bodies of these darkness demons are something more than mere absence of light," snarled an already familiar voice.
"Thank you for that helpful bit of information, Kale." Sinhika answered sarcastically. "Any useful suggestions?"
"I will consider the matter.. after the boy dies." Kale's voice was cruelly triumphant.
"What??" Sinhika unsheathed her swords, frustrated by her blindness. She didn't dare swing at random for fear of hitting a friend. "Gohan? Why would you hate him?"
"Not Kakarott's whelp, you fool! It's that wretched artist that I want dead! Kakarott's brat is Saiyajin and--" Kale broke off abruptly, hissing curses. "DAMN THIS! If the brat dies--" The sense of his presence vanished abruptly from Sinhika's side.
* * * *
The cold bit into Nezumi's bones, and the darkness seemed to hold every childhood nightmare she'd ever known. I'm not a child anymore, she thought. Still, there were monsters in the dark--she'd seen the dead man, and she remembered the killers and rapists from the quarry. What else was closing in on her? Nezumi drew her gun--I can't shoot, I might hit my friends! She could only wait, heart pounding, for something to get her.
Something washed over her, shook the clouds from her mind. "Take care of the brat," an almost familiar voice snarled in her ear. "He's right at your feet, and dying." A powerful hand on her shoulder pushed her down, forcing her to her knees.. she fell on something soft. A body!
* * * *
Prince Khara flew toward the heart of downtown. After returning the little girl to her home, and finding out that her mother was safe after all, he had managed to track down Sinhika's landlord. All he had learned about his sister was that she was "one of those neo-punk types hangin' out at the coffee house on 3rd and Main"--whatever that meant. He intended to search for her near there--perhaps some of her friends lodged nearby.
As he flew toward the heart of downtown, something caught the invisible demon's attention. He scanned the skyline--yes, there! A very great power, suppressed, hovering over the heart of the city, over one particular building. What did it mean?
The Rakshasa Prince sensed the darkness elementals move in for the attack before he clearly saw the source of the great hidden power above. "Aadhyaatmikuum andhakaara akaaryuum! I will not allow this!" Sword drawn, he rushed into the building, following the shadow of darkness.
Piccolo dove down to the building and smashed through the window--
--into darkness. Complete and absolute darkness, neither up nor down, silent, cold and terrible. Piccolo feared neither darkness nor death, but where in this dark infinity was Gohan? The Namek dared not unleash his power--undirected, it would kill the humans and might hurt Gohan if his defenses were down. He had to find Gohan--the boy's power was fading fast! Piccolo's fear for Gohan rose up and paralyzed him.
"Aadhyaatmikuum anaarya! Go back to the everlasting night that spawned you!" Something bright slashed the darkness, and the darkness wailed soundlessly.
"Who's there?" Piccolo shouted. "What is this darkness?"
"Powerful one," the voice called back, "If you be not an enemy, reveal yourself in light! The Children of Darkness cannot abide true light!"
The fear fled from Piccolo's heart as he smiled knowingly. The Namek knew exactly what to do.
"TAIO-KEN!" Unbearable brightness flashed over the tiny room; darkness screamed, writhed, and vanished, burned completely away.
Sean blinked, and blinked again; spots danced before his eyes, slowly clearing. A sword blade waved about two inches in front of his nose.
"Oops, sorry!" Sinhika quickly lowered her blade. "I didn't know who you were in the dark!" Her eyes darted across the room, to the figure that stood framed in the door. "KHARA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?"
Piccolo looked around--there! Gohan was on the floor, terribly still; the young lady from the quarry, Nezumi, was bent over him, pumping his chest with her hands. As he watched, she bent down and forced her breath into his mouth.
"Come on, kid, breathe!" Nezumi pleaded as she continued trying to resuscitate him. In an instant, Piccolo was beside them, placing his hand on hers, pouring his own ki into Gohan's body.
Gohan shuddered; Nezumi stopped and felt his neck. She stared at Piccolo. "Thank God! His heart is beating on its own..." The boy coughed weakly; Nezumi smiled. "He's breathing!" She gently turned him over as he coughed, clearing his air passages.
Gohan's eyes fluttered open; he blinked, looking at the two anxious faces hovering over him. "Piccolo. You came!" He smiled weakly.
"CURSED BE YOUR MEDDLING, ALIEN!" snarled a baleful voice. "And cursed be your knowledge, Prince of Illusion--but for you, the child would be dead and the Opawang's curse fulfilled."
Piccolo turned slowly; the voice came from the small adjoining room. Sean spun around; he was in the studio, near the gate, and the voice came from right behind him!
The dead man who had been Voron stood there, at the very edge of the rift, crimson eyes glowing with anger. "You will regret your part in this," it cursed. "BECOME KRJALK!"
The living corpse swayed on its feet as black horns burst out of its skull and curled back; its body bulged and heaved as two black, leathery wings tore themselves out of the dead man's back. They spread wide, then folded close again, blending with the black leather coat he wore. Black nails lengthened and sharpened into claws; the dead man grinned, revealing long canine fangs. A lurid light gathered in one hand; black and yellow lightnings sparking and crawling up and down his curled fingers.
Piccolo smirked; he recognized that lurking malevolence and complete lack of detectable power. "You seem to like being beaten, don't you? First by Raditz, and now by me." The tall Namek took up fighting stance and growled, "You should never have attacked Gohan; that was your final mistake.. Deputy!"
"Oh, crud! There goes my apartment!" Sean broke into a sweat as he realized that he was between Piccolo and Deputy-Voron. The winged demonic corpse was so close he could smell the thing, so close it could reach out and touch--
"YIIIII!" A hand clamped down on his shoulder.. from behind. Whew! It wasn't the Deputy-Voron demon, who was staring at him, looking.. puzzled? What the--? Sean turned his head, saying "Uh, Piccolo, you just scared ten.. years..."
Piccolo was ten feet away. No one visible was touching Sean.
"Goodbye, Sean!" snarled Kale's voice in his ear, as two powerful, invisible hands picked up the goth artist and hurled him straight at Deputy-Voron. Sean crashed headlong into the surprised demon, and they both fell.. through the gate.
Sean screamed as he plummetted into Hell.
* * * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER XXX. REUNION
[ Contents | XXVIII. Inferno | XXIX. Converging Paths | XXX. Reunion ]
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009