[ Contents | II. Dire Wood | III. Along the Way | IV. A Long Story ]


By Dragoness Eclectic



In the mountain valley below Black Earth Mountain, Bulma sighed and finally slammed the trunk lid. She was surprised; it wasn't even noon yet. The wild frenzy of the last battle with the Opawang, Raditz's second death, Gohan's furious pursuit of the evil sorceror, the final destruction of the Opawang, the freeing of the two kami, and Raditz's second resurrection had all happened in less than an hour.{1} Rounding up scattered gear, accepting the gratitude of the villagers, and getting the kids into the car had taken longer.

Gohan had spent most of that time discussing something with Piccolo--Bulma thought that 'something' was probably Raditz, judging from Piccolo's angry glances and Gohan's gestures in the Saiyan's direction. For a while, the discussion seemed more like an argument, but they finally settled whatever it was and calmed down.

Goku got the kids settled down, and Raditz made himself useful helping Bulma get everything else rounded up.

"Okay, guys! I'd love to drive everyone back, but this is only a four-seater, and I'm not packing the kids in the trunk, even if that's the way they came in the first place. One of you can hold Goten in his lap, and Trunks is riding with me, so that means two of you can ride in the car." She looked hard at Gohan. "And I really think one of you should be Gohan, because you're looking pretty bushed right now."

Gohan nodded tiredly in agreement, and looked at the other adults questioningly.

"I don't need a ride, I'm not going back that way." Piccolo growled, then smiled at Gohan. "Take care of yourself, Gohan." He gave Raditz one last suspicious glare, and flew off, rapidly disappearing into the distance.

Goku looked Raditz up and down, once again taking in his rent and shattered armor and glancing at the myriad streaks of blood still staining the pavement. He didn't say anything about it, but his concern was obvious. "I'll just teleport home. See you when you get there!" With that, he put two fingers to his forehead and vanished in a *pop* of displaced air.

"Kakarott!" Raditz's eyes went wide. "How'd he do that? WHAT did he do?"

"Oh, yeah, Dad can teleport. He learned it from some aliens on his way back from Namek." Gohan yawned; he was tired. The fight had taken a lot out of him.


"*Ahem*" Bulma got their attention. "Could we get this show on the road? The kids are already falling asleep! Raditz, you're the only one who looks half-way awake, so ride in the front with me, and wake me up if I start nodding off behind the wheel. Gohan, you hold Goten and sit with Trunks in back." She waited for everyone to take their seats. "Let's go!"

*      *      *      *

"Hi, Chi-chi!" Goku stuck his head in the back door. "I'm back!"

"Goku!" Chi-chi dashed out the back door, and quickly looked around the back yard. No one else there. "WHERE ARE THEY?" She raised the cooking spoon she was holding in a threatening manner.

Goku put his hands up in an impromptu block and backpedalled. "They're okay, Chi-chi! THEY'RE OKAY! I just teleported home ahead of them! They'll be here as soon as Bulma can drive over!"

Chi-chi lowered the spoon. "My babies are okay?" Her evident worry distressed Goku.

"They're fine." He hugged her and held her. "Gohan got roughed up a bit, but nothing a bath and dinner won't fix. Goten's fine, just tired. It was all over by the time Piccolo and I got there, and everyone is okay. You'll see." Goku smiled. "But they're all going to be starving!"

"All over? So something DID happen? But they're okay?" Chi-chi seemed unconvinced that everything was really okay.

"Something did happen, but Bulma wouldn't tell me until after everyone got home and had dinner, so I guess we'll have to wait. Everyone is really okay--just a few cuts and bruises at worst." Goku hugged Chi-chi again, then stood back and looked at her, grinning.

Chi-chi couldn't help smiling back. "I guess you wouldn't be so happy if someone had gotten hurt and you were just trying to spare me the worry." She headed back inside. "I sent Kulilin off with a grocery list, and everyone else is in the living room. I'm getting some snacks together now; there should be some hot tea left in the pot on the table."

"Everyone else?" Goku wondered. Then Master Roshi entered the kitchen.

"Hello, Goku! Everyone's okay, then?" Goku's old sensei looked delighted to see him unscathed.

"Master Roshi! This is a nice surprise; what are you doing here? And Kulilin, too?" Goku looked puzzled.

"And me and Tenshinhan and Chaozu!" Yamcha stuck his head in the kitchen. "Don't forget me!" came the high voice of Puar from somewhere in the living room. Goku looked more puzzled than ever.

"Chi-chi asked us to help, after you left and she read Bulma's files." Master Roshi explained, looking serious. "There was some very disturbing information there--even Chi-chi had no idea HOW disturbing!--and she was worried about you.. especially.. considering how Vegeta died."

It was Goku's turn to look serious. "What do you mean?"

"Come." Master Roshi led Goku out to the living room, and nodded to Dr. Briefs, who was sitting at the computer. "Show Goku."

With some difficulty, Goku slowly read over the incriminating "Folklore" files, looking more and more serious as he read. "So that's what he was talking about!" he muttered to himself.

Goku looked up, and was all smiles again. "They won, though. Bulma promised the full story after she got here and had dinner, so stop worrying!"

Master Roshi shook his head. "I guess it wasn't what I was worrying about, then. This," he gestured at the computer's screen, "reminded me of an ancient--and true--legend of an immortal evil sorceror called the Opawang. I feared that Bulma had stumbled on that evil, and great tragedy had befallen us." Master Roshi smiled. "I am more relieved than you can imagine to know that everything turned out for the best."

"Me, too!" spoke up Chaozu. A chorus of "yea! uh-huh!" and general agreement came from the others. Puar did a few backflips and landed on Yamcha's shoulder again. Oolong came out from behind the couch where he'd been hiding.

Goku smiled, and then frowned. He sniffed the air. "I guess flying all over with Piccolo worked up a sweat--I'm going to hit the showers before everyone else gets back. They'll be wanting to use them, too. And I need to dig out some extra clothes." With that he headed down the hall.

Chi-chi stepped out of the kitchen with a tray of snacks. "Where's Goku?"

"Uh, the shower?" volunteered Yamcha as he dove into the snacks.

Chi-chi looked mildly exasperated. "I wanted to ask him--oh well, it'll just have to wait." She disappeared back into the kitchen. Master Roshi thought he heard her mutter something, and raised an eyebrow. What did she mean by "the fifth Saiyan"?

*      *      *      *

In Hell, in the black wood, Vegeta paused in his long, long chase of the golden deer. The creature had stopped; it no longer ran off at the very edge of sight. What had happened? Wary, Prince Vegeta stalked the golden deer.

By the edge of a dark stream the golden deer struggled, caught in the grasp of a horned, goat-headed demon. A second, diseased-looking goat-demon stood nearby, leering at the deer.

"So what do we do with it?" asked the first demon, powerful muscles bunching as his grip tightened on the helpless animal. "Eat it, or--?"

"Is it male or female?" the other demon rasped, purple tongue hanging out. Oozing sores covered its grey skin, and it drooled.

"Let me check," the first one said, as it flipped the deer over none too gently.

Something about the goat-demons made Vegeta's skin crawl. He stepped out of the woods. Both demon's heads whipped around as they noticed him.

"Whatever THAT is, it's male!" snapped the demon holding the deer.

The second demon nodded in agreement. "Yeah, but we could still have some fun with him before we eat him, huh-huh-huh."

"Do ya think he'll squeal like that other guy?" The first demon dropped the deer and stalked toward Vegeta, clawed arms spread wide to catch and tear.

Vegeta merely stared at the demons in silent contempt as the over-muscled deer-catcher approached him. He could sense their power--it was pitifully weak, if tainted and foul. Something familiar about that foulness..

"He's stiff with fear! Oh, this is gonna be fun!" The demon giggled and tried to tackle Vegeta.

Vegeta wasn't there. Suddenly he was behind the demon, and almost negligently slammed a elbow into the beast's spine. KRACK! The demon fell, writhing--but only the top half of his body still moved. A quick stamp of Vegeta's foot against its skull and the rest of the demon stopped moving, too. The broken demon dissolved into a powerless wisp of spirit and seeped away.

The other demon slurped its purple tongue back into its mouth, and panicked. It started to run on sharp-nailed, humanoid feet. Vegeta hit it from behind, thrusting his gloved hand between its ribs and seizing its black heart. He crushed it, breaking the demon, stealing its power--

The demon's essence washed over him, into him; a foul, perverted distortion of fertility and desire--love twisted inside out into hate; physical desire perverted into lust and rape; shared pleasure become the infliction of pain and degradation on the weaker by the stronger, and fertility twisted into--

Vegeta cried out, and flung the foul thing away from him. He summoned power, and flung it, burning and blasting the horrid creature for long minutes, until no trace of its manifestation remained. He stood, breathing heavily with emotion and exertion, shaking. Vegeta felt tainted, befouled by the thing. He raised his head.

The stream! The dead prince flung himself face down into the bitterly cold stream, letting water wash over him, wash the foulness away. Vegeta recognized what was familiar about the demons' nature. The foulness, the taint, was the same--that same perversion of nature and reality that made up the essence of the monster that killed him. He'd found the demon's backtrail--but, oh gods, he could have happily endured a thousand years of Hell rather than learn what "broobirth" was!

Vegeta lay there for uncounted hours, shuddering, while the icy black waters of Styx's nameless daughter answered his unvoiced prayer and washed the taint of Chaos away. Finally, he stirred.

"Vegeta, remember that you are a Saiyan!" he admonished himself, as he got to his feet again. "Broo.." he spat in disgust. "So they call themselves. Abominations! Living or spirit, I will destroy them wherever I find them!" The Saiyan prince looked around. Across the stream, the golden deer looked at him timidly, and bounded up the bank. It stopped, looking back over its shoulder at him.

"So YOU are my guide, are you? Show me the way, then, and enough of these games!"

The deer cocked its head, and almost seemed to nod, then bounded away. Vegeta swiftly followed.

*      *      *      *

Bulma started as something nudged her shoulder. "Huh?" she said, and then realized she'd been--

"You were falling asleep," Raditz said. He was leaning back, letting the slipstream blow his long hair out straight as he relaxed. His eyes were half-closed, but an occasional glance in Bulma's direction betrayed his alertness.

"Oh. Thanks." She looked around. The kids were all asleep. Gohan slumped with his head back; Goten slept curled up in his lap. Trunks lay across the seat with his head against Gohan's hip. Bulma yawned--and stopped guiltily as Raditz opened his eyes and arched an eyebrow, watching her.

"I'm not falling asleep again!" She yawned again. "Okay, I am tired--last night wasn't the most restful night I've ever spent! How come you're so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed--er, well, bright-eyed, anyway?"

Raditz smirked. "Being revived from death is.. invigorating. Heh. I guess healing the big things, like being dead, fixes the little stuff, like being tired, cut and bruised. I've never felt better in my life!"

"Okaaaay.. I think I'll pass on that method of getting my energy back, thank you. I'm glad you're all better, though." Bulma adeptly steered the car through a pass in the lower coastal mountains and picked up a road to follow.

Raditz looked thoughtful. "You really are, aren't you?" he said, wonder in his voice.

"Yes! Raditz, you're not so bad now that you're off this 'Kakarott has to join us in exterminating planets or else!' thing you were on. There's more to you than I would have suspected from our original meeting-- and, you're like Vegeta--once you drop the arrogant tough-guy act, you're.." she looked at him critically, "hrmmmm.. very handsome, and uhm.. very.. masculine. Ummm-hmmm." Bulma, she scolded herself, calm down, you're married!

He raised an eyebrow. "So human females would find me.. attractive?"

"You're going to be beating 'em off with a stick--figuratively speaking. Lose that Saiyan contempt for anyone weaker than you--we human women don't like to be treated with contempt-- and you'll do fine." Bulma was blushing a bit.

"I see." The corner of his mouth turned up with the hint of a smile. "This life may turn out more.. interesting than I thought." Raditz regarded Bulma more seriously. "I do thank you for bringing me back to life--even unintentionally."

"I think you mentioned that before, but I wasn't quite sure how to take it at the time--I couldn't decide between 'shock' and 'terror'." Bulma smiled wryly. "Little Goten came along at just the right moment, didn't he?"

Raditz smiled, remembering. "Yeah, things were getting a bit tense when the kid jumped me." The big saiyan laughed. "He's been trying to catch my hair for weeks, and he finally got it--happiest I've ever seen him. And, what the hell, I was pretty damn happy right then, just to be alive again! I still am."

The car swooped low around the shoulder of a mountain; Bulma slowed down as she looked for landmarks. "All right! There it is--that clearing at the end of the road! WAKE UP, KIDS, WE'RE HOME!"

*      *      *      *


1. As told in "Raditz's Return".

[ Contents | II. Dire Wood | III. Along the Way | IV. A Long Story ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic