[ Contents | XXXI. Cacodemon Rising | XXXII. Convergence Point | XXXIII. Counterchaos ]


By Dragoness Eclectic



Gohan looked up as the demon plunged down. If only he had a moment to catch his breath, to let his strength return! It wasn't all gone, he was still super-Saiyajin. With what seemed a last effort of his burning muscles, he flung himself aside as the great talons slashed down.

Gohan didn't dodge the eye-beams; the crimson lasers stung like burning whips, slashing him and flinging him to the ground again. He started to drag himself to his feet--the beams lashed him again, slamming down on his face. His back felt like it had been flayed. Gohan tucked his feet under his body, rolled, and jumped to his feet in spite of his protesting muscles.

Another barrage of eye-beams hit Gohan and chewed up the ground all around him; Gohan went flying, savagely buffeted by the storm of ki energy. Cacodemon crouched low over the youth like a huge, winged Tyrannosaur ready to leap on its prey. Crimson eyes narrowed as Cacodemon regarded Gohan; black tendrils writhed in waves along its mouth. The gem in the middle of its forehead still glowed and pulsed rhythmically.

Cacodemon began to switch his tail from side to side, like a great cat; each swing was in time with the pulsing gem. The great crimson eyes opened wide, and stared at Gohan, great glowing, swirling portals into hell.

Looking into those gigantic, terrible eyes, Gohan felt infinitely small. What could he possibly do against a monster like this? How could one small boy defeat the embodiment of murder and violence and evil? Either the stinger would finally slip past his defenses and he'd be dead before he felt it like Vegeta, or the monster's sheer power would overwhelm him. He would die, and Dad would die, and then the demon would go on to kill Mom and Goten and Bulma and everyone he knew--all because of him. The demon wanted Gohan dead for killing the Opawang; everything else was secondary. The fight was hopeless; they couldn't beat the demon; maybe if he was dead, it would leave them alone...

A sullen anger began to heat up Gohan's aching body; something in him rebelled against the demon's message of despair. First Nappa, then later Recoome, Frieza, Garlic, Cell and now this demon--hating him and hurting him for no other reason than he existed and got in their way! He was tired of it, and angry, as angry as he'd ever been at anything before, angry at this horrid monster that wanted him dead.

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!" Gohan screamed with rage and power as raw energy seethed through his body, spiking his hair out in all directions, enveloping him in a corona of yellow fire.

Cacodemon's lethal tail darted forward--and was parried; Gohan deflected the deadly stinger, once, twice, more times than he could count as the demon stabbed at him repeatedly. Venom dripped from the stinger tip, but none of the lethal toxin reached Gohan.

"ENOUGH!" yelled Gohan; he grabbed the six-foot bone needle in both hands and twisted, then pulled--

Cacodemon howled as the young Saiyajin ripped his stinger out. The great demon staggered back a step, and whipped the wounded end of his tail out of Gohan's reach. Gohan darted into the air, a streak of golden flame; a harsh scream of monstrous rage followed Gohan high into the air.

Another golden streak joined him. "Son, what happened? You weren't even trying to defend yourself at first!" Worry shaded Goku's voice.

Gohan shook his head. What had he been thinking? He knew better than that! He remembered the confidence dad always had in him, and knew his father was right. "Dad.. don't look in his eyes. He can hypnotize you or something.. make you think he's unbeatable, and that you should just give up."

"Gohan, are you okay?" There was something in Gohan's face that Goku did not like.

"I'm--well.. no. I can't tell, now, if I was scared because he's unbeatable, or because he made me scared and made me think he's unbeatable. 'Course," Gohan smiled at his father, "if I refuse to be scared for any reason at all, it doesn't matter, does it?"

"He's not unbeatable--but he learned a lot about us from our first fight, and he's got new techniques to keep us from beating him the same way. So, we have to use something new."

Something green flashed up at the edge of Gohan's vision; the boy quickly turned his head. "PICCOLO!" Gohan yelled joyfully. "I thought you were dead! The demon stung you..."

Piccolo smiled wryly. "No tree ever died of snakebite, Gohan. A Namek is less like a Saiyajin than a human is like a tree." The Namek's smile turned into a snarl, one lip curling up to expose a fang. "Cacodemon's venom is made to kill Saiyajin very quickly and very thoroughly; it does not work very well on anything else."

Below them, the fell demon flapped his massive wings, slowly climbing towards the small group. Gohan smiled fiercely. "You're right, dad! There's a way to beat him, and we'll find it!"

Piccolo shuddered as a spasm of pain crossed his face. "Gohan, I--" Another spasm shook him.

"Piccolo! What's wrong? I thought the poison didn't hurt you?" Gohan's confidence suddenly turned to worry.

"Not.. poison." Piccolo was shivering violently, as if cold. "Something wrong.. with arm, shoulder.. where he bit me." Green flesh was turning dark, swelling, changing. "Gohan.. stay back..." Piccolo's face twisted with pain; he threw his head back and howled, falling out of the sky as his strength failed him momentarily.

"PICCOLO!" Gohan shouted, and dove after him--only to stop abruptly as Goku grabbed him. "Dad! What are you--"

"No! Don't follow him!" Goku pulled his son back. "The demon's bite is bad--remember the monsters that kept you from following Vegeta?"

"The monsters? But they were just people who were..." Gohan trailed off, eyes widening with sudden realization. "..who were transformed by Cacodemon's spit! PICCOLO! NOOOOOOO!"

As the horrified Gohan watched, branched antlers sprouted from Piccolo's head, wreathing it, and his flesh turned darker and leathery. His cape and pants shredded away as razor-sharp bony spikes emerged from his spine and joints.

"YES!" thundered Cacodemon. "HE IS MINE!"

*      *      *      *

Pain and confusion tore through Piccolo as unnatural changes wracked his body. His very thoughts were twisted, chaotic--vicious pain stabbed through his head every time the Namek tried to sort through his conflicting emotions and swirling thoughts.

The mind that had been a bastion of cool reason was submerged in a sea of passions and pain. His very body deformed painfully; somewhere beyond himself, others waited for him. One was the source of his pain, Piccolo knew; what were the others? Which was which? Emotion became pain; the strongest emotion was the greatest pain--and Piccolo lashed out at the greatest agony of all.

*      *      *      *

"YIIIIIII!" Gohan dodged frantically as the transformed Piccolo charged him, striking with all his power. "PICCOLO! STOP! It's me, Gohan!"

Goku took one look at Piccolo's distended, blood-shot eyes and thought he knew the truth. "Gohan! Be careful! Piccolo's not himself! Cacodemon's got control of him somehow!"

The chaos-twisted Namek turned to Goku, empty eyes peering out from antler-crowned brow. A spasm of pain passed over his face and he howled, rushing to attack.

Goku and Piccolo whirled about each other, a storm of blows, feints and blocks. Piccolo seemed unable to do other than hammer madly at Goku, and Goku held back, afraid that he might harm his friend and Gohan's teacher. Engrossed in the fight, Goku did not hear the sound of monstrous wings flapping.

"Dad! Cacodemon's getting away!" Gohan's frantic shout broke through his concentration.

"Forgive me, Piccolo." Goku said apologetically, then rammed his fist deep into the dark Namek's stomach. A follow-up blow slammed into the back of Piccolo's neck--and Goku yelped, clutching a sliced and bloody hand. Those bone spurs were sharp!

Piccolo plumetted down; Goku looked around. The immense power of Cacodemon receded as the demon flapped off toward the east--toward his home. Toward Chi-chi, Goten, Bulma and Raditz, who were helpless against him.

"GOHAN! We have to stop him---ARRGGGHH!" Piccolo came from below, striking savagely upward to gore Goku with his antlers.

*      *      *      *

"What the--?" Vegeta was the first to spot the demon tiger chariot as it coursed through the air above the rim of Mount Bakhau. "Impossible! What is he doing here?"

Mogris squinted, trying to pick out the tiny shape that Vegeta was watching so intently. "My eyes are not so good as yours; who is impossible and is he an enemy?"

"Not so far," growled Vegeta, suddenly guarded. The chariot turned toward them, and rapidly drew near.

"So who do you know in a silver-chased chariot, wearing a dark red cape and silver armor, with dark blue hair?" Mogris asked as she unlimbered her shield.

"King Vibishana." And so it proved as the chariot touched down before Vegeta, and the sapphire-eyed demon king looked down at the dead Saiyan prince.

"I should have heeded Khara's judgment as to your return path; I would have found you sooner," said the Rakshasa King as he dismounted from the chariot.

"What are you doing here?" snarled Vegeta.

"I am here to bring you back to Earth," said the demon Vibishana, "and there is little time. Come, I will be your charioteer."

"What??" Vegeta's eyes narrowed as he regarded the demon king suspiciously. "How did you know I was ready? And what is wrong with time?" A coldness gripped him; had he lost track of time? Had years, decades, centuries passed while he pursued his quest to the edge of creation?

"Cacodemon is loosed upon the Earth--and more powerful than before. I knew that you would be ready--you would not have come forward in time otherwise, Prince Vegeta." The Rakshasa King climbed up into the charioteer's position.

Prince Vegeta climbed into the enchanted chariot that once belonged to Prince Indrajit, in the long-ago, and held up his hand when King Vibishana would have goaded the tigers to fly. "Mogris comes with us."

Vibishana nodded in acknowledgement as Mogris climbed into the chariot behind Vegeta. Finally the tigers spread their wings...

*      *      *      *

Halfway up the mountain, Raditz looked sharply to the east. "Something happened."

"What?" Prince Khara looked around, suddenly wary; his right hand rested on the hilt of the great hand-and-half sword at his side.

"Yes.. what?" Bulma gasped, already out of breath from their climb up the mountain--or rather, her climb. Everyone else could fly.

"Piccolo--his power dropped, and then changed," Raditz said impassively. "Gohan's taken a beating too, but his power went way up a little bit ago--kid must have gotten mad." Raditz chuckled.

"I think," said Sinhika nervously, "we should hurry."

"Yes, we should," said Raditz as he offered his hand to a struggling Bulma.

"You could all fly there, and Raditz could carry me there," she answered. "Except I'm the only one here who knows exactly where Vegeta is buried, and I can't fly OR see in the dark!"

Bulma was wrong about one thing: one other person knew exactly where his father was buried. Trunks slipped quietly up the mountain path, following his mother and the others in the dark.

*      *      *      *

WHAAAM! Piccolo slammed into the ground, shaking and cracking it.

"I'm sorry, Piccolo, but I can't let you hurt my dad! I know you'll understand when you are yourself again." Gohan raised his arms as the demonic Namek raised his dark, antler-wreathed face from the earth.

"MAA-SEN-KO!" Gohan's ki bolt flashed down, striking the warped Piccolo square in the chest. It exploded in a cloud of fire and smoke, obscuring everything from view.

"Gohan! Can you hold Piccolo off for a while?" Goku appeared beside his son, breathing hard. "I have to stop Cacodemon." Goku's face turned hard. "He's going after the children again."

"Yes. I will, Dad." Gohan replied confidently, hiding the pain deep within.

"I knew you could." Goku looked carefully at his son. "Piccolo will be all right."

"You think so, Dad?" Gohan looked at him, puzzled, but trusting.

"Yes. We will set things right, and that includes Piccolo." Goku said, and Gohan could see the pain and anger in his father's eyes. Goku's kindly heart would never accept the pain and death caused by evil--he would do everything in his power to undo the evil that had been done.

"Don't worry, I don't think you could hurt Piccolo without being as mad as you were at Cell. All you need to do is keep him busy for a while."

"Okay, Dad." Gohan nodded at his father. Goku waved back, and vanished in a flicker-flash of light.

*      *      *      *

Bulma stumbled to a halt in the small meadow, out of breath, tired and.. overwhelmed. This place always overwhelmed her, the place where her love lay buried, where she'd said her last goodbyes and wondered if he could hear them.

Are you here, Vegeta? she asked silently. Do you know what is happening? Will you come back to me? She reached up and untied the ribbon holding her hair back, letting the soft blue cloud of it tumble down to her shoulders.

A soft glow suddenly lit the small meadow, revealing the boulders with the inscription carved into them. Bulma jumped, and looked behind her--oh. Just Raditz, lighting the night with his own power. The two rakshasa demons stood close by, slightly ill-at-ease. At the sight of them, Bulma felt suddenly uneasy herself. Whether the Mantras worked or not, whether they invoked powers holy or blasphemous, Bulma knew she could not do this with two demons looking over the grave of her prince. They didn't belong here. Raditz belonged here, at the side of his prince--but the demons did not.

Bulma looked at Sinhika and Khara. "You'll have to go. You have taught me what I need to know, but you cannot be here when I.. waken Vegeta. I'm sorry, but it just.. isn't right."

Sinhika opened her mouth to protest, but then Khara laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "No, she is right. We do not belong here. We will be down the path a small way if you should need us."

"I think.." Bulma hesitated, "it would be better if you went all the way back to the house. I have a hunch that it would be.. safer."

Prince Khara bowed briefly to Bulma. "It will be as you say. Come, Sinhika." The Rakshasa prince rose into the air, followed by Sinhika, and swooped down the mountain toward the distant lights of the house.

Raditz picked up a length of fallen wood, ignited it, and stuck it in the ground as an impromptu torch. "I think," he said impassively, "you should do what must be done soon." The tall Saiyajin looked toward the west. "Cacodemon is coming."

Bulma swallowed hard. "There's just one problem," she said. "The Mantras are supposed to be recited just before dawn, at the first sign of light."

Raditz glanced at the dark, starless sky. "How long until dawn?"

Bulma shivered. "It should have come hours ago."

*      *      *      *

WHAAM! WHAAM! WHAAM! Goku hammered Cacodemon's skull and jaws with mountain-shattering blows, causing the demon to wobble in flight. Each time he struck, Goku had to dodge as the great demon snapped at him, teeth clashing shut where he had just been. Still the demon flew on, seemingly untouched, still cushioned by the thick hair and rubbery hide and power far vaster than any dragon or dinosaur.

Good thing I can dodge him a lot better than I dodged Vegeta when he was a giant monster! Goku's eyes narrowed as he studied the ponderously flying demon. All of the stolen energy had been absorbed into that huge gem on the demon's forehead... Goku circled back and over the demon's head from behind.

"HAAAAAAIIII-YAAA!" A single perfect blow slammed into the great gem, driven with all the strength in Goku's body--

"AAAAAAAGGGGHHHH!" Goku howled as his hand plunged into the blazing ruby and seemed to fuse with it--and his life poured into the gem. Brighter than a star the gem blazed, and hot--burning Goku's body and searing his trapped hand as he collapsed helplessly across the gem, his power draining away faster than he could move.

Cacodemon laughed that harsh clashing metal sound. "FOOL! NOW.. DIE!" The long tail whipped up, the newly regenerated stinger dripping with venom, arched over Cacodemon's back and plunged down--

"Go..han.." Goku gasped, as, with the last of his strength, he put two fingers to his forehead and reached out to his son...

*      *      *      *

"KAKAROTT!" Raditz staggered as if he'd been struck, and the expression on his face was that of a man who has taken his deathwound. "Goku..." Sweat beaded on his forehead. He turned to Bulma, a snarl of anger replacing the mortal shock.

She looked back at him, eyes wide and scared. "What--what happened?"

"The demon.. killed my brother. I felt his power fade suddenly, then vanish." There was an odd flatness to his voice that made Bulma shiver; it was worse than his grimness when the Opawang attacked them in the mountains. "Gohan and Piccolo are far away; Cacodemon comes."

"Son-kun! I.." Bulma gulped as the tears started to drip from her eyes. She couldn't say anything more--not about Goku. He couldn't be gone! Not him, too; not again! "We're going to die, aren't we?"

"NO! Not if I can help it! I'll take you back to the house; the Rakshasas can hide you and everyone from the monster." Raditz strode across the tiny meadow and grabbed Bulma by the arm.

"No, Raditz! They can't hide me--we know that already. The demon will come after us anyway--it knows where we are, no matter what Sinhika and Khara do. There's no place to hide." Bulma looked at him, determined. "I won't run--I refuse to spend the rest of my life running from that monster while it destroys everyone who gets between it and me."

"So you'll just let it kill you? You can't fight it!" Raditz snarled, his voice thick with anger. The veins on his forehead stood out.

"I can't--but you can. Son-kun..." Bulma choked back a sob. "If you and Goku and Gohan can't stop the thing.. who can? It doesn't matter if I stay up here, by Vegeta, or hide in the house--it'll be the same in the end. Either you will all beat the thing, or we.. will all die." Bulma wiped away more tears.

Raditz released her arm and stepped back to stare at this perpetually surprising woman. "Damn this! I can't argue with you, woman." His lips curved up in that sly smile Bulma had gotten to know well. "Damn my stupidity for meeting you first--and then getting killed. I hope Vegeta knows how lucky he is!"

The big, long-haired Saiyajin looked out into the night, toward the unseen threat of Cacodemon. "We don't have very long; I'll do what I can to hold him off--and that's more than you might think!" Raditz smirked again. "You do what you think best..." he trailed off, brows furrowing with worry.

Bulma bit hard on her trembling lip. "What's the matter?"

"I can't leave you alone and unprotected up here! But if I wait to fight until he gets here.. the demon will be able to kill you too easily." His head turned from her toward the distant demon and back.

"Mother will not be alone, Raditz-san." Trunks stepped out of the shadows.

Raditz started and blinked, then smiled wryly. "Good--no, excellent job hiding your ki, young prince."

"TRUNKS!" Bulma shrieked. "You're supposed to be safe in bed!"

"I'm sorry, mother, but I have to be here--to help bring back father." The young boy's eyes were very wide, and his face was solemn.

"Young man, you will go right back to the house. RADITZ! Take Trunks and--"

"No." Raditz smiled knowingly at Trunks and folded his arms; he understood. "The young prince has as much right to be here as you do."

"What? Raditz, he's only a five-year-old boy! It's much too dangerous!"

"He is a Saiyan warrior and a prince, no matter what his age. Do you think he wants his father back any less than you do? Do you think he would do any less than you to get Vegeta back? Do honor and duty weigh any the less because he is young? Rather, he feels the burden more keenly, because he has so little power to abide by its demands. Respect the duty he has to his father!" The big Saiyajin spoke calmly, yet with unusual sternness.

Bulma looked into her son's eyes. "He is his father's son," she agreed.

*      *      *      *

Far above the Earth, the great black cloud that coiled around the planet began to break up. Released from the serpentine coils that had held it suspended for a time, the world turned again; as the banks of unnatural cloud broke up, the stars began to peek through the night side once again. Long-delayed dawn began to seep across the sky around the world.

*      *      *      *

Raditz plunged through the air toward the distant but rapidly nearing demon. As he gathered ki in one hand, he tried not to think that he would probably die, his death accomplishing nothing save to help the demon fulfill the Opawang's death curse. It didn't help, trying to avoid thinking, but the dark thoughts were drowned out in the rising exhilaration of impending battle--a battle he would fight with all his powers.

The demon was near enough, now. Raditz flung the sphere of energy high into the sky, where it exploded into a glowing ball of silvery lunar light. With all my powers, he thought as the energy of transformation started to pulse through him.

With a roar like thunder, a great, maned ouzaru in white armor leaped into the air and grappled Cacodemon, dragging the surprised monster from the air. A huge ape-like hand darted out and seized the demon's deadly tail, wringing the venom-dripping stinger until it snapped off. Another hairy arm held the Chaos demon in a head lock, keeping the monster's snarling jaws immobile and out of reach.

Cacodemon gurgled with rage through his clenched teeth and raked the maned ouzaru's arm with its acid-slimed claws. Wings flapped wildly, half-blinding the maned ouzaru as it pinned the monstrous demon to the earth, grinding its left knee into the demon's back.

The great ape bit deep into the demon's left shoulder and spat out a gobbet of blubbery hide--only to see the wound boil as the torn flesh regenerated faster than the blood could pour out of it. The maned ouzaru growled, and tightened his grip on the demon's tail; the new stinger was already protruding from the rapidly healing appendage. Tearing it off again wouldn't help.

The maned ouzaru growled and bit the demon again; with one swift thrust, he jammed the tail stinger deep into the wound, and hammered it with all his strength, his fist driving it into the demon's back like a nail.

Cacodemon squealed thinly through his trapped jaws and stopped clawing madly at the imprisoning arm. Slowly and deliberately the huge demon grabbed the ouzaru's arm at the wrist and with tremendous effort, pulled the arm away from his throat, the gem on his head pulsing with a blinding light. Though smaller than the great ouzaru, Cacodemon was far, far stronger, and ripe with Goku's stolen power.

Far above, a few stars peered through the thinning haze of star dust, and the sky began to lighten in the east.

*      *      *      *

"DAD! Eat this, it's a senzu bean!" Barely conscious, Goku obediently swallowed the small object someone was shoving in his mouth. He snapped wide-awake as strength and warmth flooded back into him; wounds closed and burnt skin flaked away, replaced by new.

"Gohan! I made it!" Goku exclaimed, smiling at his son as he flexed his newly-healed hand. "I wasn't sure I had enough strength left..." He looked around; he was stretched out on the ground, high up on a forested hill. He frowned; he could sense the demon--and something that felt like Raditz grown stronger and wilder. Something missing.. "Where's Piccolo?"

"Umm.. unconscious, I think." Gohan was reluctant to continue. "I need a senzu for him.. he's in pain, and his thoughts are so confused, that's why he attacked us. I don't think Cacodemon is actually controlling him."

"Are you sure?" Goku asked as he rose to his feet and adjusted his gi.

"Pretty sure." Gohan nodded.

Goku reached into his pouch and handed Gohan three senzu beans. "Here, you may need some, too. It's getting rough."

"Thanks, Dad!" Gohan smiled and darted into the air, and stopped, hovering.

"Gohan-- don't hit the demon's gem. That's how I got hurt--it sucks energy out of you if you touch it."

Gohan nodded. "The Opawang could do that, too."

"Once you've taken care of Piccolo, I need your help against the demon. Raditz is the only one fighting it now, and it's a lot closer to home." Goku's face turned stern as he looked toward the distant demon.

"Raditz?? But he's not strong enough--oh." Gohan suddenly realized the significance of the glowing orb in the sky. "I forgot, he still has his tail!"

"Hurry, Gohan; he's still not strong enough."

*      *      *      *

Long, razor-sharp claws sank into the maned ouzaru's arm and heaved; the great demon flexed its whole body and flung the ouzaru headlong.

WHOOOMMM! Cacodemon spat a great gout of raw power at the maned ouzaru; it struck the great ape as he struggled to rise. The white blast struck and exploded with hellish fury; the fireball boiled up and up into the atmosphere, finally collapsing in an immense cloud of smoke and ash that rose to the lowermost reaches of the upper atmosphere, and drifted on the upper winds, coloring sunsets for weeks afterwards.

For good measure, the great Chaos demon blasted blindly with his eye beams through the smoke, toward the focal point of his attack. After some minutes of this, he stopped, snarling.

Then Goku appeared out of nowhere, and punched Cacodemon in the nose. The demon reared back, startled at the sudden attack, snarled, and snapped at Goku, who dodged easily-- and then suddenly back again as the tail stabbed at him from the other direction.

"WHOA!" Goku dodged the lethal stinger as well--and then the eyebeams hit him and sent him careening into the side of a mountain. "Oh, no! He's all powered up with MY power!" Goku dodged frantically as Cacodemon spat white fire at him, annihilating the mountain he'd just hit. Goku vanished in the fireball as it swelled to envelope him.

"LEAVE MY DAD ALONE, YOU BIG BULLY!" Gohan slammed hard into Cacodemon's ankle, and the demon came crashing down; Cacodemon's balance was as bad as ever. As the demon thrashed, Gohan lifted a shattered chunk of mountain with his mind and hurled it down on the demon.

The angry demon looked up, and disintegrated it with a flash of his crimson eyes. With a snap of his wings, the demon catapulted himself into the air, and crimson beams darted past Gohan's head like bullets. Gohan didn't dodge--the demon's attack was astray--and that saved him, as a bolt of white fire boomed past through the space where he would have dodged to.

"Whew!" Gohan ignored the miss, which parted the very air and slashed deep into space, striking the moon's dark face. The hidden orb exploded, sending chunks of rock and gravel into a myriad of orbits--some to deep space, some to plunge into the atmosphere as an unexpected meteor shower, and the rest to orbit Earth as an eternal hazard to space travel. Thus did Earth acquire its first ring.

Another barrage of eye-beams chased Gohan, who dodged them confidently--he'd seen this pattern before. Next comes the tail, he thought, preparing to dodge the stinger again.

CLONK! A sudden strike of the demon's clawed hand sent Gohan reeling as he caught part of the unexpected blow. Don't get cocky, he thought muzzily as he started to right himself--

WHOOOMMM! Another great blast of white fire, this time enveloping Gohan. Another mountain vanished in the fireball and surging smoke cloud. Cacodemon followed through with a few desultory eye-beams, and then waited for the smoke to settle. The whelp's power had dropped dramatically; he was probably unconscious. The great demon grinned, and flexed his venomous tail, readying it to strike. Cacodemon licked his teeth with a pointed black tongue; the other Saiyajin of the curse was also unconscious, and only needed a touch of his tail.. and that smoke cloud was almost clear. He raised his wings, ready to snap them down and launch himself into the air--

Goku appeared. His chest heaved and his breath came in great gasps, his gi was almost burned away. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. He stood between Cacodemon and his prey, and smirked. "You can't beat me that easily!"

Cacodemon studied Goku for long minutes as the smoke cloud cleared. "YOU CANNOT ESCAPE ME AND SAVE THE CHILD BOTH. ONE OF YOU WILL DIE!" Cacodemon spat white fire at the crater now visible beneath the clearing smoke.

A flicker-flash, and Goku vanished, only to appear between the oncoming attack and Gohan. He threw both hands up, blocking the attack, blocking his own titanic power thrown at him. Back and back he was forced, unti he stood in the crater beside a battered, unconscious Gohan, holding off the tremendous beam. Goku's arms ached and burned from the effort; sweat poured off his entire body, and his entire will was concentrated into one point--a point under unbearable pressure. His aura brightened, and wild yellow sparks cracked and flew about it.

"AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!" Goku screamed as he made one final effort--and deflected the terrible beam away from his son, up into the air, where it plunged on into deep space to explode far beyond sight or sound. He collapsed to his knees beside Gohan, every muscle shaking.

The demon snapped his wings down and half-lept, half-flew to the crater where the two Saiyajin lay. Before Cacodemon could do more than snarl and start to bring his tail up, both Goku and Gohan flickered and vanished. Cacodemon howled his rage until the very rocks cracked and broke.

Great wings flapped as Cacodemon descended on the other crater where a great maned ape sprawled unconscious, bleeding and burned. The Chaos demon flexed his tail and lashed out, the deadly stinger plunging down toward the helpless ouzaru--

"GREAT PARRY!" A woman's voice rang out, and Cacodemon's stinger glanced off a rune-painted shield. The holder of the shield appeared out of nowhere, between Cacodemon and his prey; a small, auburn-haired woman clad in maroon and blue armor. In her left hand, the great round shield painted with the runes of Death and Earth fended off the Chaos demon's stinger; in her right hand she held a long spear, graven with the runes of Air and Fire, ready to throw.

"AN ORLANTHI? HERE?" Cacodemon reared back; for the first time since he came forward from Before Time, the Chaos demon's confidence was shaken. A little. A very, very little. "DIE, WINDPRIESTESS!" He vomited white fire at the woman--

Impossibly, her shield deflected it, deflected an attack that would have staggered Goku at the height of his power. Half the world away, a mountain range exploded into dust and vapor. High above, the sphere of lunar light burst at the touch of a black steel arrow and faded away.

"Have you forgotten the Shield of Arran, Cacodemon? The Earth itself is my shield, foul slime of Chaos!" She raised the spear. "LIGHTNING SPEAR!" The lightning bolt flashed from her hand to Cacodemon--

The lightning bolt struck square on the blazing jewel in his forehead, struck and sunk into its depths without a trace. Cacodemon grinned. Mogris looked at her empty right hand. The Lightning Spear was gone.

"ORLANTH IS DEAD, HE HAS NO POWER HERE, FOOLISH WINDWHORE!" Cacodemon laughed harshly. "NOW MY LAST ENEMIES DIE!" He turned his head toward the fallen ouzaru--and stopped. The great maned ape was gone. Nothing but an empty crater lay before him.

*      *      *      *

The first light of dawn peeked above the horizon as Bulma spoke the words. All her sorrow and loss and love for her fallen prince went into that prayer, and the world wept with her, and the very heavens asked, What can we do to help her?

And the Preserver answered.

Half the mountain exploded beneath Bulma's feet. Power burst from the mountain as the sun touched it, power that shivered stone and sent it flying miles into the air. By some miracle, none of the boulders fell on the Son house nestled below the mountain. A familiar power protected Bulma and Trunks from the consuming fury that would have burned the flesh from their bones and vaporized the bones. Bulma felt herself and Trunks cradled in a sphere of cool power as the dust settled and the smoke cleared.

"Silly woman--I told you I'd be back!" Vegeta said.

*      *      *      *


[ Contents | XXXI. Cacodemon Rising | XXXII. Convergence Point | XXXIII. Counterchaos ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic