[ Contents | XXXIII. Counterchaos | XXXIV. Hearts Entwined | Epilog ]


By Dragoness Eclectic



Raditz gently lifted the unconscious Vegeta in his arms and rose into the air. "He's still alive--I think." The long-haired Saiyajin looked worried. "What did he do, exactly?"

"I'm not sure," answered Goku; "but he destroyed the last of Cacodemon's power. It's really dead, now."

"Dad?" Gohan looked from his dad to the fallen demon and back.

Goku nodded. "Do what Vegeta asked."

"KA.. ME.. HA.. ME-HA!" Gohan flung one last blast of ki, a brilliant fireball that blazed up and utterly consumed what was left of the demon.

"Goku, do you have a senzu left?" Raditz asked.

"Yes." Goku tossed a bean to Raditz.

"Thanks. I don't know if he'll need this, yet, or even if it will help, but.." Raditz trailed off, still worried. "I'm taking him back to Bulma." He smiled wryly. "I hope Chi-chi doesn't mind yet another guest!"

"Another guest?" Kulilin wondered as Raditz sped off toward his house.

*      *      *      *

Vegeta wandered in the fog for a while--then stopped abruptly as he realized he'd been here before. He was in the borderland between life and spirit, again!

"NO! I can't be dead again! I killed that damn demon--he did not kill me!"

"Your body is not dead, but your spirit is severed from it, Prince Vegeta." Before Vegeta loomed the tall, dark, sapphire-eyed King of the Rakshasas. His red velvet cape stirred in an intangible breeze.

"What? How did that happ--damn! The Death rune!" Vegeta scowled and clenched his fists.

Yes; you used powers not meant for a mortal body in the physical world," pronounced King Vibishana. "When you tore the Death rune from Cacodemon's spirit, you took it to yourself, and it acted on you as Death acts on all men--but you hold it and control it, so you can not fully die unless you will it. Neither can you fully live, for a mortal body cannot embrace both Death and Life."

Prince Vegeta looked within, and saw that everything the Rakshasa King said was true. If he held the Death rune, he could become something monstrous, neither dead nor alive--and nearly invincible, able to kill with a touch or a look. Not even Kakarott could withstand him, if his will were the stronger..

..and he would never embrace Bulma again, nor look with pride upon his young half-Saiyan son. Death has neither lovers nor children.

Bah! He could already kill anyone whose power was the weaker; he did not need this.. atrocity. Kakarott would probably be immune to it, anyway.

"How do I get rid of this thing?" Vegeta growled.

"Yield it up to he who rightfully bears it in this Time," King Vibishana bowed respectfully to something large that loomed out of the mist.

A large something that seemed to shift from one moment to the next, first a large man with a stern, strong face and compassionate eyes, and then a great white bull. Vegeta knew that what he saw was both symbolic and real--this was part of the spirit realm, and spirits take shapes representative of their true nature. Behind him was another, the white bull's master, remote and dimly seen; a serene and immense power that Vegeta did not want to see any closer, let alone disturb.

"Nandi is the faithful servant of Lord Sh--"

"Do not tell me!" Vegeta interrupted. "I know what he serves; I do not care to know more!" The Saiyan Prince shuddered. "Take it; I give it to you freely!"

The man who was a bull nodded and reached out to touch Vegeta's spirit, plucking something dark and deadly from its depths. "You, too, have served my lord well. Return in peace and be blessed."

*      *      *      *

In the Underworld, four lost souls came before Lord Enma for judgement--and Negi was stuck with filling out the paperwork while Nappa departed on other errands.

Errands, my low-class stubby tail! Negi thought darkly as he glared at the skinny blue clerk-demon assisting him. Nappa's just going to see his lady again, everyone knows that! Okay, let's see what I have to give this twit so he can fill his stupid forms out and get off my back...

"Kaeru, consigned to Hell of.. Hey, you! What's this character? I don't know this Hell." Negi barked at the clerk-demon, who cringed. Saiyajin made him nervous; they were so bad-tempered and unpredictable!

"Uh, that's the Hell of Violent Perversion," the blue demon answered timidly as he looked over the form. "You know, rapists and sex-murderers and people like that."

"Violent Perversion? Who thinks up these categories?" Negi shook his head. "Gah. File him; he's Not My Problem Anymore. Next.. Kidoru, Hell of Petty Perversion, reincarnation when he gets his head out of his--"

"*Ahem* That's not correct terminology, sir, and I cannot put it on this form!" The clerk-demon protested primly.

Negi glared at the gaudly dressed blue demon with his one good eye. Ripping the little twit's head off and using it for a football would probably not impress the higher-ups, and would just cause Negi further pain.

"You. Know. What. I. Mean," Negi growled.

"Ah, yes," the clerk-demon answered hastily. "I believe I can fill in the details. Next?"

"Melchior..." Negi's eyebrows went up, and he stared silently for a long time.

"Yes?" pressed the impatient clerk-demon.

Negi blinked. "He really didn't belong there!" the Saiyan warrior said to himself, and then glared at the clerk-demon again. "Melchior.. Heaven." Negi smirked. "Good. I liked the kid."

"Yes, well, um, next?" The clerk-demon hated prodding the touchy Saiyajin, but his shift was almost over, except for this job...

"Last.. Pomona. Reincarnation..." Negi jumped abruptly to his feet. "I have to double-check on this one." The little blue clerk-demon stared after him as the one-eyed Saiyajin left.

*      *      *      *

Pomona shivered, alone with her anguish as she hovered between what had been and what would be. Soon her previous life would be erased, and another would begin; she wouldn't be Pomona anymore, but someone else, with no memory of being Pomona.

Not that Pomona had been worth remembering.. before the Judge of the Dead, her entire life had been revealed to her in all its pettiness, emptiness, and selfishness. She'd always thought of herself as good and kind--only to discover that she'd never done things because they were right, but because she wanted to stay out of trouble, that she'd never been kind to anyone because she really cared about them, but because she wanted to be liked and looked up to. How had she not seen it before?

She liked people who were nice to her, who did things for her--but she'd never really cared about them, never loved anyone. All her life had been a selfish pursuit of her own comfort and her own desires--how could she have been so blind, so petty, so.. childish!

A sob escaped her; if only--! If only she'd done things differently, if things had been different, if she had been different.. Well, next time they would be different, but would she? Or would she spend another lifetime making the same foolish mistakes, and learn the same bitter truth at its end?

A gentle touch on her shoulder, and Pomona looked up, startled. It was the demon warrior, Negi--but he didn't look very demonic just then. He looked at her so strangely with that one good eye--and then gently brushed one tear from her cheek. Only then did Pomona see the matching tear in his eye.

"You regret..." was all he said, but the look on his face said far more; it spoke of regret as deep as Hell, and empathy for the pain of a wasted life.

Pomona remembered, suddenly, on the long climb up from Hell, how this demon had caught her and held her several times when she'd fallen, and gently helped her get back on her feet--to Melchior he'd been merely aloof--but the other two! Those two had been grabbed roughly by the handiest extremity and brutally thrown back on the stairs, scraped and bleeding, every time they'd so much as tripped. From the evil smirk on the face of the big bald demon, what they got was only to be expected.

She had wasted her life on petty selfishness--and now found sympathy from a demon in Hell! Pomona finally collapsed against Negi, weeping bitter tears of regret for things done that could not be undone, for things left undone that she would never have a chance to do, for a lifetime of chances missed. Much to her surprise, Negi put his arms around her and held her--though there was no warmth, no physical attraction between the two dead souls, still she found comfort there.

"Yes.. I regret," she said at last. She looked at the dead Saiyajin--Pomona could no longer think of him as a demon--and said bitterly, "And I can't say, 'don't worry, I'll be fine'--I won't be fine! I never was." She balled up her many-ringed fingers into fists. "Why does it have to be this way?? It's not fair!"

Negi stirred at that. "Not true."

"Huh?" Pomona took a step back and stared at him; no one had ever told her that when she was crying on their shoulder before! Friends had always agreed with her, held her, told her how badly the world had treated her...

The one-eyed warrior struggled to find the right words. He gestured as he spoke, as if he had to seize the words physically before he used them. "You.. I.. We made choices, made our own lives. No one else did." He paused for a moment. "'Fair' is not the same as 'you like it'."

Pomona looked at the damned warrior with new eyes; in Hell, this violent murderer had shown her kindness.. and in this Limbo between lives, he had given her truth. The pink-haired girl looked down at her feet, avoiding Negi's gaze. "You.. are right." She looked at him again. "You won't be fine, either."

"No. I.. made bad choices." Negi looked at her, considering. She will be incarnated a human, on Earth. Perhaps.. it was finally time to let go of the Saiyajin, to move on.. being human wouldn't be so bad. "Soon, a new choice. Maybe better."

She smiled weakly. "Yeah, there is that hope. Maybe better."

*      *      *      *

Beyond Limbo, between Heaven and Hell runs Snake Way, and on Snake Way stands the fabled Palace of the Jade Goddess called Princess Snake. The Snake Goddess turned from the enchanted mirror to her daughter, Kadru the Naga Princess.

"I told you it would be a simple matter to get dear Emmie to agree! Your guardian lives, and we shall see you married to Prince Khara before the year is out." Princess Snake pouted a bit, and then smiled. "I could almost dislike King Vibishana for twisting my arm like that--but he was quite correct. It is unthinkable that a mere condemned spirit should be the guardian of my daughter, and it would be an insult to send such to treat with the King of the Rakshasas regarding his son's marriage. However, the living Prince of the Saiyajin is--"

"..more than appropriate--Yes, mama, I know. You told me." Kadru sighed; why did things have to move so slowly again? Things had started happening when she'd gone off on her own with Prince Vegeta, but now that mother was involved.. Kadru sighed again. Of course, everything had to be done properly, but couldn't things speed up a bit?

Something had changed during her long journey with the Saiyan Prince, and it hadn't been the rest of the universe--no, the change was inside her. Kadru no longer felt driven by the desperate need to please her father, or to find a husband to please and be needed by and taken care of by. She could take of herself, she'd proven that--all the gods knew the ill-tempered, obnoxious Prince Vegeta certainly hadn't taken care of her! (Well, not much; he had saved her from freezing in Niflheim). She could also help someone who needed help, without waiting around to 'be needed' by him--thanks to Prince Vegeta for showing her that, too!

She still desperately wanted--needed--to be loved, but that could not be forced. It would just have to come in its own time.. and at least mother loved her. Kadru lowered her long black lashes with a sigh. Until mother had taken her in and show Kadru her own love, Kadru had never realized how little her father cared about her--the unlove of indifference ran far deeper than hate.

Now what about Prince Khara? Kadru still hadn't met him--he'd left Lankha on some quest just before the Ferryman had brought her there. Beautiful Lankha had indeed lived up to its reputation, and had been very nice to visit, and she thought she would enjoy living there someday soon--but she'd come to see Khara and he wasn't there, so back home she went. Kadru sighed again, and settled her coils comfortably. Oh well, patience.. After putting up with her father for centuries, she could endure for a few short years.

Kadru started up with a sudden thought. Which one of her ladies-in-waiting would mother send to set the terms of her marriage? If it was Scylla, they were close enough in height and build in their human forms... Maybe there was a way to get a peek at Prince Khara before things were settled. Maybe. At least she would make very sure he was not indifferent to her!

*      *      *      *

"Don't worry, your parents are alive," Raditz hastened to assure Bulma as she gaped in horror at the destruction all around the compound.

By some miracle, their house and Dr. Brief's lab had escaped Cacodemon's wrath. Everything else was gone, blasted and obliterated by the brief fight there. Half the city burned; the other half was an empty blast crater. What the earthquake had missed, the demon had finished.

"Jesus!" Nezumi paled as she looked across the destruction. Prince Khara carried her, while Sinhika carried Sean; Raditz had his hands full with Bulma and the unconscious Vegeta. Trunks proudly flew on his own.

"BULMA!" Mrs. Briefs ran out and flung her arms around her daughter as they alighted on what was left of the lawn. Dr. Briefs followed close behind, looking relieved. Bulma's mother then flung her arms around Raditz and gave him a big hug--"Raditz! You saved my baby! And Vegeta's back, too!"

After a short time, a few more capsule houses were decanted, and everyone had a place to stay. Raditz would not leave Vegeta's side, at first, so Bulma gave him a room in her new house--then Nezumi didn't seem to want to leave, so she added on a room for her, too.

"You two don't need to hover right over me, you know! The demon's dead, his followers are dead, no one is going to try and kidnap me, okay?" Bulma was working on her old dragon radar, cleaning it and fine tuning it--it would be needed soon. The exhausted Trunks was finally in bed to stay. Vegeta, still unconscious, was also in bed; Bulma figured the best thing for him was rest.

"I didn't expect anyone to kidnap you the first time," Raditz growled, pacing back and forth.

"Ma'am, I'm what's left of the Capsule Corp Security Department, it's my job to worry about these things," Nezumi said.

Bulma pushed the big knob on the dragon radar; it lit up and began to beep, showing seven white dots scattered around the world. "Yes! Perfect!" She turned it off again. "Fine! You two want to worry, hover around the living room all you like; I'm going to bed!"

"Before you go to bed, can I help myself to this?" Nezumi held up a jar of corn she'd found in the pantry.

"Oh, that," Bulma answered after yawning and stretching. "I don't know why my father stocks that in the Capsule Houses--that kind is no good for cooking, unless you grind your own cornmeal. You can have it if you want." Another yawn, and Bulma headed down the hall to her own bedroom.

Nezumi smirked--smirked!--knowingly and said, "I think I know a use for it!" and disappeared into the kitchen. Shortly afterward came an odd "pop-pop-pop" sound, and a delicious smell of roasted grain and hot, salty oil wafted through the small house.

Raditz lifted his head up, sniffed once, and bolted into the kitchen, stomach growling--

Nezumi emptied a big pot of.. something into an equally big bowl. "Here, try this if you're still hungry!"

The delicious, tantalizing smell emanated from the bowl of puffy white stuff. Raditz picked up the bowl and stared at it. It looked like something used to stuff boxes with. "What is this, edible packing material?"

Nezumi looked at the big Saiyajin, and smiled mischieviously. "It's popcorn, silly. Try it."

The long-haired warrior scooped up a tentative handful and stuffed it in his mouth. Raditz's eyes opened wide, and he reached for the rest of the bowl. "Hey, this is good!"

"Yep." Nezumi grinned, and poured some more corn in the pot before she put it back on the stove. Raditz watched her as she did so, admiring her compact curves. His tail switched from side to side. Does she have any idea what it means for her to privately offer food to an unattached warrior like me? No, of course not, she's not Saiyajin, she wouldn't know...

Then Raditz caught a glimpse of the smile on her face as Nezumi briefly turned her face away from the stove. His tail froze in an arc; she knows! I don't know how, but she knows!

Mom was right, Nezumi thought to herself after catching a glimpse of Raditz's face; the way to a man's heart is through his stomach!

"Raditz," she asked not-so-innocently, "if you're still hungry, there's some steak in the fridge; how do you like it cooked?"

"Quickly," the big Saiyan warrior replied, smirking.

*      *      *      *

Consciousness slowly returned. For a time, Vegeta lay quietly, listening to a wondrous sound--his own heart, beating. He hadn't heard that in a long, long time. After a while, the Saiyan prince realized that there was something--no, someone!-- warm and naked and very feminine curled up against his bare back. He opened his eyes.

Morning light filtered through the shaded window of the bedroom--of their bedroom. He was home, in his own bed, and beside him... Vegeta slowly turned over, careful not to disturb the person next to him. She slept, blue hair spilling across the pillow, one arm still draped over his waist.

Vegeta smiled, and very gently lifted the hair away from her neck. He kissed her lightly but persistantly, starting on her throat at the base of her jaw and working his way down. She began to stir by the time Vegeta reached her collarbone.

"Mmmmmm! That's nice..." Bulma murmured, still mostly asleep.

"Yes, it is, isn't it?" Vegeta whispered in her ear.

Bulma's eyes flew open. "Vegeta! You're--"

"Alive and back on Earth--or else we're both in Heaven, and I don't think I've been quite that good," her prince said, as he caressed her.

"YES!" Bulma shouted in pure joy.

*      *      *      *


[ Contents | XXXIII. Counterchaos | XXXIV. Hearts Entwined | Epilog ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic