[ Contents | V. Shah Mat | VI. The Invisible Demon | VII. City of Illusion ]
"Oh Man, I am the demon warrior Indrajit, hard to see.
I fight invisibly, hidden by enchantment from your sight.
I attack behind the wild winds of evil thought;
I put out many lights left unguarded.
I know you, and good deeds done in life are your only shield when you
who have died must go alone past me to another world.
You may hide at night from the Sun, but never from your own
heart--where lives Lord Narayana."
The challenge echoed from tree to tree of the pale wood, but Prince Vegeta could see no sign of the challenger. The corner of his mouth quirked up in a cold half-smile.
"Well, he did say he was hard to see," Vegeta wryly told himself. If Maricha had not lied, the path to Hidden Lankha continued beyond the pale wood, beyond the river cutting through it. Of course, if Maricha had lied.. Vegeta smiled evilly, and his thoughts were very dark.
Vegeta had had to resume normal size after leaving the Dire Wood; his path followed dark caves and tunnels once again. Serpentine things slithered back into darkness as he passed, only to re-gather behind him. Whatever they were, they avoided him, and Vegeta ignored them in turn.
In truth, though it had been refreshing to become ouzaru once more, Vegeta found that he did not miss it when he became man again. His power had grown so much over the years since he'd lost his tail that the ouzaru's size and rage no longer gave the advantage over his normal form that it once had. It just made him a larger target--though it might be very useful in fighting another gigantic enemy like that damn demon!
From the caves he'd emerged into another spectral forest--this one of white trees, pale moss, white marble rocks, and pale ashy soil. What was it with these forests? Would the next one be grey, or some bright color? Feh. Somewhere in this wood was supposed to be the guardian Vegeta must pass--and now his voice echoed all around.
Vegeta lept forward, landing in combat stance with a tree protecting his flank. His eyes flicked from side to side as Vegeta scanned the pale trees, trying to sense something of his opponent. Nothing. If Indrajit was more than a voice, he was indeed hidden and invisible.
"Oh Man, your deeds are dark with blood and rage,
no shield for you, but instead a stain.
Fragile fluttering candle, I am the dark wind extinguishing you!"
The air slashed him; Vegeta was flung hard against a tree by the blow, snapping the mighty trunk in two. A great cut split his torso armor open, and a thin line of blood stretched across his chest from right shoulder to left hip. Only instinct allowed him to block the second stroke aimed at his neck--there was a chunk! of something hard biting into wood beside him, and the stub of the tree shattered.
"I can't sense his power at all!" Vegeta dodged without thought and something whipped past his cheek to embed itself into the boulders behind him. Vegeta glanced down; a black steel arrow still quivered, embedded nearly to the fletching in the rock. Thunk! Another one buried itself in Vegeta's shoulder. Just in time, he felt the passage of two more arrows, and dodged them.
He grimaced in pain. Arrows? This demon was using ARROWS? This was impossible; no saiyan was so weak as to be hurt by simple ballistic projectiles! How could he be hurting? Unless...
"Oh Man, feel the bite of my black arrows,
feel the bite of my power!
Feel the touch of my blade,
feel the touch of my hunger!"
With one sudden motion, Vegeta yanked the black arrow from his shoulder. It vanished as soon as he drew it out. Vegeta's eyes narrowed. So; not a real arrow, but the outward form of the demon's own powerful attack! He dodged, for no better reason than a hunch he'd been standing still too long.
Steel shrieked again as something tore chunks from the rocks behind him. Too close! And then the return stroke caught him, a brutal punch across Vegeta's face with a taloned hand. Blood ran from three parallel cuts across his cheek--and the saiyan struck back! A flurry of blows traded with something unseen, yet powerful--only one struck home, and that one did not land with any force, yet the invisible demon broke off, retreated beyond Vegeta's reach.
Black steel arrows sleeted down on Vegeta, and it was his turn to retreat, twisting and turning through the trees that blocked Indrajit's arrows. Every now and then one found its way through, and Vegeta gasped in pain. He paused, and dodged away again; upward he flew, above the trees. He turned, and blasted downwards.
Nine explosive blasts in a ring about him, searing white trees into black dust, heaving up great clouds of the black ash. All around Vegeta the air was filled with smoke and ash; nothing could be seen more than a few meters away. The warrior prince stopped to check his handiwork.
He's powerful, I'll give him that, Vegeta thought. Fast, and knows how to fight. Invisible, and hard to hit because of it--a dangerous opponent. Can he sense me in all this smoke?
"Oh Man, you think to hide from Indrajit?
You still cannot hide from your own heart,
and your black deeds call out to me!"
The blow caught Vegeta low in the back, and flung him down, towards the ground. Barely he recovered control, and flipped to touch down and bounce aloft again. He can sense me! This is bad.
Twice, thrice more Vegeta retreated through the trees as Indrajit's steel rain assailed him. He did not always dodge quickly enough, and the wounds were adding up. Twice and thrice Vegeta blasted away the trees surrounding him, but with no sign that he'd hit anything. He paused between attacks, shaking with exertion. Too much! He'd never defeat the demon this way--he needed a plan.
Baka! The Saiyan prince berated himself. Vegeta, didn't you learn anything from that 'game' of Maricha's? This demon, Indrajit--he has nerve, and he thinks he knows my powers, now. I can guess at his--he is vulnerable to me, if I can land a blow on him, or he wouldn't have run when we mixed it up hand-to-hand. Invisible.. I can't see him to hit him, so I have to know where he is some other way--yes!
Again, Vegeta dashed high into the air, blasting away the spectral forest in a ring around him. He left a small grove of trees standing in the middle, and darted back into the shelter of the tiny wood just ahead of Indrajit's arrows. A rapid barrage of ki blasts annihilated the incoming arrows, followed by two larger blasts volleyed into the air to explode across the sky.
He won't be hanging in the sky to shoot at me, now. Vegeta smiled evilly; with these trees, he has to get in close... and once he does, I'll know where he is!
Everything grew still. Vegeta flitted from tree to tree, listening, waiting for his opponent. Nerves taut, anticipating the attack that was long in coming. So, he thinks he can outwait me? I planned for that, too!
A sudden burst of speed, another flurry of arrows dodged, another sky blast, and Vegeta once again waited for Indrajit's attack--in another tiny grove of trees left standing from a previous round of blasts, a grove still closer to river and the boundry Indrajit could not let him pass. Vegeta smirked to himself. Yes.. he can either attack me at MY choosing, or he can fail in his duty and let me pass him by. Which will he do?
Still Indrajit avoided him, save for the occasional arrow. At last, Vegeta looked upon the river--steaming cold water in its bed of white marble pebbles, transparent as glass. Of course; he means to stop me as I cross the river. His mistake. Vegeta dove into the river.
Black arrows slammed angrily into the river bank behind him, but too late. The Saiyan prince was already at the bottom of the river, easily dodging the arrows falling like pebbles slowly through the water. Now, will he come in after me, or wait until I emerge? Vegeta swam along the river until he came to a deep still pool where white-leaved trees overhung the water on both sides. He turned, facing upward, looking up through the water. No more black arrows fell from the air; the trees crowded too closely together. He's waiting for me to come out; he'll attack me as I emerge on the far bank. Vegeta smiled.
The surface of the water shimmered above him, and it seemed to Vegeta that he saw as if from the bottom of another stream, the stream near Kakarott's house. On the banks of that stream, Bulma knelt, weeping. Her eyes were red, and her hair dishelved, and face drawn, as from long grief. A dark fear crept into Prince Vegeta's heart as she took off her shoes and jewelry and watch with an odd calmness, a strange fixed determination in her manner as she stood on the bank, a heartbeat from plunging into the water. Death was in her eyes...
Vegeta surged from the bottom--and stopped abruptly. No! That was not the Bulma he knew! Memory of things said raced through his mind...
"I attack behind the wild winds of evil thought.." "I would do anything to give you pain!.." Vibhishana said, "Take my word, it never happened. Do not grieve and please your enemies..."
INDRAJIT! DAMN YOU! Vegeta raged. The water boiled, and Vegeta exploded from the water blazing with power--Indrajit attacked!
* * * *
Bulma stretched as she awoke from her nap. Goodness! Three o'clock in the afternoon, and here she was, snoozing! This wasn't a vacation, it was pure decadence, she thought sternly to herself. You're getting lazy, Bulma-girl! Time to get back to work! It's getting high time to go back home. Besides, she reflected, in less than a month it would be time for Trunks to start school. Better if he were settled in back home, first.
With that thought in mind, she wandered outside, looking for Trunks and Raditz--and stopped to stare at the scene in the front yard.
"Raditz, what are you doing with my car??"
Raditz glanced at Bulma; he had the aircar standing on edge, and was hefting it in both hands. "Getting an idea of how massive it is." He set the car down on its skids. "I've been meaning to ask you--how do you get these things into those little capsules?"
"Ummm.." Bulma blinked.
"The thing I can't figure out is what do you do with the excess mass? Those capsules do not weigh what this car does, or you couldn't carry them. I thought maybe the car was made of some hyper-strong, super-light material, like saiyan armor, but no, it's got a respectable mass to it. Where does the mass go, or come from?"
"Ah! That is a very good question, Raditz, and the answer to it was the key to, well, Capsule Corporation and the Brief's family fortune. Not to mention solving the problem of getting a good parking space no matter how busy the mall is!" Bulma smiled, and fairly bounced as she walked, and talked.
Raditz followed, and listened attentively as Bulma explained the basic theory behind the encapsulatization process, and bounced around the Son homestead, packing.
"Trunks, get your stuff! We're going home as soon as we pack and say goodbye to everyone! Anyway, after Daddy solved the basic problem of isolating the hyperspatial pocket from its substrate continuum... Raditz, don't you need to pack anything?"
"Um, not really. Hmmm.. there is one thing. Wait." Raditz went to the small bedroom set aside for him, and dug out his broken armor. Yes, Bulma would definitely be able to make use of it. He emerged from the room carrying the shattered armor. Bulma frowned as Raditz tossed it on the dining room table.
"I don't think that armor is good for much anymore, Raditz."
He smirked at her. "You'd be surprised. Ever find that scouter?" Raditz felt around the inside of the armor, just above the large circular hole in the chest piece. "Yep, there it is!" Something clicked, and he pulled out a small packet wrapped in silvery film.
Bulma raised an eyebrow. "What is that?" She leaned over to look, curious.
Raditz grinned as he opened the packet, pulling out two strings of small silver disks, each no larger than a quarter. "Still intact, too! Good! They're Saiyan tech manuals, Bulma. Get that scouter, and there's a reader in it, just behind the main control button. Even if you fried the power-detection circuitry, you should be able to take out the reader and hook it to one of your computers."
"Tech manuals?" Bulma's eyes gleamed with excitement. "Tech manuals for what, exactly?"
"Well, well, I had that one after all." He flicked a disk. "Scouters, for one thing. Armor repair and maintenance, space pod maintenance AND flight operations, starship and starbase life support systems, all kinds of odd things. Heh."
Bulma looked like a kid who's just been turned loose in a toy store with an Iridium credit card. She tried to keep her voice steady, and barely restrained herself from snatching up the disks and hugging them to herself. "How come--Why do you have all this?"
"Had a bad experience once; got stranded on a deserted base with a busted space pod, and no idea how to fix the damn thing! Barely managed to figure out how to bring up the station's life systems before I ran out of air--it was a vacuum moon--and then I had to muck about for manuals and tools to fix the stupid pod. That wouldn't have been so bad, but the large antisocial reason that the station was deserted was trying to eat me at the time. I've been a bit paranoid ever since about trusting my life to equipment I can't fix."
"Well, I can certainly understand that!" Bulma agreed. She remembered how utterly demoralized she had been when HER spaceship had been destroyed on Namek. Everything she'd brought to Namek except her clothes had eventually been destroyed; she'd never felt so helpless in her life. Without tools, without something to work with, she'd been not much more than a frightened rabbit cowering from terrifying noises and fearsome creatures. She'd hated that feeling more than anything else. And then there was that loathsome frog...
"Thank you, Raditz," she said thoughtfully.
He smiled, not saying a word. Damn, but she's beautiful! Brilliant, too. I am starting to understand why Prince Vegeta chose her...
Or did she choose him?
* * * *
In the borderlands between life and death, spirit and world, a foulness lurked. It had used the time spent waiting for the last one to return, used it well. The gifts of Chaos were powerful, but ever fickle and random. Some were less useful than others--and It knew what It wanted, what It needed to defeat the Saiyajin. It would disperse Itself and re-manifest, again and again and again, until It shaped Itself as It desired. Time was on Its side; sooner or later, It would suceed, and It cared not for Time--had It not defied Time when It broke violently into Time from the Chaos Before Time?
One of the gifts of Chaos is heightened intelligence. It manifested Itself with an unexpected, yet welcome keeness of perception, and alacrity of thought. So. The last one had returned to the world; all was ready for the curse to be fulfilled--all except Itself. It was not ready; It had not the necessary combination of gifts yet. Worse, with Its new cunning, It remembered that one of the more backhanded "gifts" of Chaos is diminished intelligence and increased impatience. Woe to It if It should manifest too stupid to know that It was not ready yet, and rushed off to be defeated by the Saiyajin.
It stayed in the world for a time, curled up dragon-fashion with Its great tail wrapped around Itself, contemplating the problem. At last, a solution presented itself! It arose.
There was a hideous twisting and tearing of chaotic flesh; with a final howl of pain, It tore a piece of Itself away, a piece that formed itself into a smaller copy of It, perhaps a quarter the size of the original. It instructed Its smaller self, "You are Deputy, because I have made you my deputy self; your task is to keep watch, and use Our keen mind to discern when I am ready to accomplish our task, and by My Name command Me to cease and re-form if I rush to do battle before I am ready."
Deputy nodded; being of one mind until this moment with his greater self, he knew what the problem was, and what had to be done. Satisfied that the dilemma had been dealt with, the greater being dispersed its material form, and started to re-manifest yet again.
* * * *
Countless miles away, Goku woke suddenly, gasping. He sat up abruptly, disturbing his wife's sleep.
"Goku, honey, what is it?" she queried sleepily.
Cold sweat beaded on Goku's forehead; something hideously evil and powerful was out there! But no--as he reached out with his senses, it vanished again.
"I don't know. For a moment, I thought--no. Nothing there. It must have been a nightmare. Go back to sleep, Chi-chi."
She murmured and fell asleep again, leaving the mighty Saiyan awake, wondering if it really had been only a nightmare.
Miles away, in another direction, his older brother awoke, the awareness of danger prickling along his spine. Raditz threw on some clothes and prowled about, uneasy, his tail lashing from side to side. The young prince and Bulma slept soundly; there was nothing threatening within the Capsule Corp. compound. No, thought Raditz as he looked at the cold uncaring stars, it's far away, whatever it is--and it's waiting. But for what?
* * * *
In Hell, Vegeta fought his own nightmares...
Indrajit attacked! The Saiyan blocked the expected attack, and followed up with his own barrage of ki blasts, interweaving and twisting, forcing the invisible demon to dodge in a dance of Vegeta's design. Twice more, Vegeta felt the demon's slashing blows, blows that made him smile as he bled from them. He knew where Indrajit was!
"HAIIIIIIIII!" Prince Vegeta's hair blazed golden as he answered with one titanic blast! Trees shattered and disintegrated, the river boiled away in a 50-meter stretch, the very rocks softened, melted, and ran like water. In the center of it all, a dark form was silhouetted, frayed, and disintegrated.
Billowing ash and smoke finally settled, and Vegeta laughed cruelly as he reverted to his normal form. "Farewell, Indrajit! It seems they will need another guardian for this realm!" He turned, and flew over the charred ruins of the remaining wood.
* * * *
Something nagged at Vegeta's mind as he passed over the last smoking stumps and started to settle before the carved archway leading into the secret caves below Hidden Lankha. He remembered how Maricha had used his exposed king as a feint, to lure him into a trap.. and a dream of illusion.. But he had seen Indrajit's destruction in his blast--
"Monkey, thus are you blind!" Vegeta swore at himself, and blazed golden once again. He whirled, ducked, and parried the invisible blade that drove for his heart, the core of his spirit--a blow that would have broken him, leaving Vegeta powerless and empty, drifting forever in Hell. The sheer force of Vegeta's barehanded parry ripped the blade from Indrajit's hand and flung it in shattered pieces across the forest.
With one hand Vegeta seized the wielder's unseen arm, and thrust his other hand against the invisible demon's chest, cutting loose with a rapid barrage of ki blasts. He felt his enemy's body buck and shudder under the force of his blasts, and finally go limp; Vegeta flung the broken demon to the ground, no longer invisible. He noted without surprise that the archway had vanished as if it had never been there in the first place.
Indrajit had not been pretty before Vegeta's attacks, but now he was a charred and smoking ruin of a creature. Vegeta marveled; he HAD hit him with his great blast at the river, but the monster had survived--until now. "Tough demon."
"Indeed," agreed Indrajit. Vegeta turned white with shock. The charred raw skull lifted slightly to regard him with empty eye sockets. "Of all Rakshasa kind, only my father Ravanna was stronger than I. You looked surprised, o man! Have you forgotten where you are? You cannot kill the dead." Indrajit chuckled.
Prince Vegeta gathered power in one hand. "I can make you wish you could die!"
Indrajit laughed hollowly. "No need; you have defeated me in combat. I must surrender to you--but answer me this: who are you, O man? Only one human ever defeated me, and that was Lakshmana the brother of Rama, who was Rama's shadow and second self. How could another such human be born--and one so dark in deed--and not be known across all the Three Worlds?"
Vegeta laughed. "Human?? I am no human, I am a Saiyan warrior; I am the Prince of the Saiyajin!" He uncurled his white tail and switched it from side to side for emphasis.
Empty sockets turned to regard Vegeta's tail. Indrajit laughed his corpse-laugh. "Fool that I am, not to have known you, Child of Hanuman! I, the invisible warrior, have been blind!"
"Child of Hanuman? What?? Either you are mad, or-- Demon, explain yourself!"
Indrajit growled and raised himself on one skeletal arm. "Saiyan, born under a distant star, yet ignorant of your own ancestry! So does the past become illusion, and all histories are lies told by scholarly fools. The blood of the Son of the Wind runs in your veins, and his spirit fires your soul, tailed one! I can see it, taste it in your heart!"
"That little white monkey? You dare mock me--"
"Fool. You are blinded by the world's illusions!" The charred demon flung up one arm, and the image of a white monkey with a black-tipped tail appeared. "Thus you think of Hanuman! Even in that form, he is a fearsome warrior--but behold his other form--one I think you will recognize, Saiyan!"
Indrajit clicked his blackened claws together, and another image replaced that of the small white monkey. Night, and a full moon shone upon the gates of a beautiful city; night, and a monstrous white ouzarou smashed those gates to splinters. Armored black rakshashas swarmed around him, firing arrows and bravely attacking. Vegeta could hear the great ape bellow his rage as he ripped up an iron gatepost bigger than a tree, and fell upon the rakshasa soldiers. Demon blood ran through the streets in an obscene river as the white ouzaru with the black-tipped tail crushed them or plucked them up and tore them to pieces.
"Eighty-thousand elite rakshasa warriors, the royal guard of Lankha, died that night. Three of our greatest champions challenged him, and died. I stopped his rampage, but at the cost of a magic that cannot be recalled once used, and still he escaped. Yes, THAT little white monkey!" Indrajit laughed mockingly, and dispelled the illusion.
"You should not have defeated me--thy dark heart should have betrayed you. Now I understand--four golden threads light your darkness. Hold on to them, Prince of the Saiyajin! You have ever been your own worst enemy--beware, lest darkness within betray you to darkness without!"
Indrajit faded from sight, his final warning echoing in the still air. The way was open.
* * * *
Thus it was that Vegeta, Prince of the Saiyajin, came to Beautiful Lankha, the hidden city of the Rakshasas. Hidden from the world by illusion and myth, but itself no illusion; the beautiful masterwork of Viswakarman, the Architect of Heaven. Even the meanest houses of commoners were built of gleaming alabaster stone, and how can one describe the palace to eyes that have not seen its glory? A lesser wall made of sixteen colors of rose gold enclosed the palaces of the king. Spired domes of gold, covered in costly gems and starred with diamonds, a mansion only different from the best one in heaven in that it touched the Earth of Lankha.
Illusion clad the inhabitants of Lankha, the Rakshasas. Some made themselves beautiful beyond mortal ken, glamourous fey whose beauty is a deadly snare, others were maimed and deformed, repulsive and frightful even in their splendid clothes. Some were black, some pink, some ghastly pale; others took the form of fantastic beastmen--gleaming men with golden leopard's heads, impossibly jewelled unicorns, other things less probable.. but no bears, monkeys, nor serpents. The rakshasas disdained to pose as Naga-kind, and found no pleasure in assuming the forms of those who had defeated them so bitterly in the long-ago.
Over all this beautiful city and her fierce eldritch people ruled the Rakshasa king, Vibishana the Good Demon, youngest brother of Ravana. The tall Rakshasa King stood at a wide window overlooking the city. A wind blew off the ocean, ruffling his dark blue hair and causing his red velvet cloak to flutter behind him. Sapphire-blue eyes set in a face the color of night watched the newest traveller to walk the streets of Lankha. He turned to his guards.
"He is here; let us go down and welcome our guest." King Vibishana smiled, revealing long fangs and a carnivore's sharp teeth. In spite of, or perhaps because of his fearsome appearance, he was inhumanly handsome.
The king glanced out the window again, his supernatural sight picking out the ghostly Saiyan prince. "You've come a long way, Prince Vegeta, and your journey is not yet done. On you is the burden of Fate: will it be in vain?"
* * * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER VII. CITY OF ILLUSION
[ Contents | V. Shah Mat | VI. The Invisible Demon | VII. City of Illusion ]
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009