[ Contents | X. The Opawang | XI. Desperation | XII. Battle's End ]
Raditz's eyes went wide with shock. "Oh, crud! He's a damn energy vampire! GOHAN, DUCK!"
"MIT-TEN EM TEKAU PEST!" Once again, nine spheres of blazing energy hurtled toward Gohan and Raditz. Raditz darted out of the path of destruction, and sped across the valley, looking for a safer place to deposit Bulma, Trunks and Goten. A small mountainside shrine caught his eye. Behind him, Gohan did not duck.
Raditz glanced back as he hastily dropped Bulma and the kids at the shrine. Gohan blocked AND DEFLECTED the explosive spheres, one after another, almost faster than Raditz could follow. One-two-three, four, five, six-seven-eight-nine, the fiery spheres rebounded and flashed past the Opawang to detonate thunderously against the west rampart of the fortress.
Gohan hovered in mid-air, unscathed, facing the Opawang. Only the eastern walls of the fortress still stood; the rest was a row of smoking craters. Gohan's hair blazed golden. The Opawang glowed; a fiery nimbus surrounded him.
I knew the kid was more powerful than I, but this! I never suspected... My god, I'm totally outclassed here! I'm nothing, next to this. I'm a first-class Saiyan warrior, but I might as well be one of those villagers, for all that my power matters next to these two! Wait a second, that flame nimbus looks familiar...
Gohan struck. Faster than even Raditz's eye could follow, he closed with the Opawang, hammering him with mountain-shattering blows--only to fall away, screaming in pain, burnt and bleeding. The Opawang hurtled back, slammed into the mountainside by the force of Gohan's blows.
"GOHAN! NO!" Raditz screamed. He hurtled down and caught Gohan's falling body with one arm; with the other, he threw a blast of ki--not at the Opawang, but at the mountainside above the Opawang. The Opawang picked himself up just in time for several hundred tons of rock to fall on his head.
Art by Maetel
"That'll slow him down for a few." Raditz carried Gohan to the small shrine where the others waited. "You with us, kid?"
"Yep, just.. hurting," Gohan gasped. His hair faded back to black. "What happened?"
"Same thing that happened when I hit the Fire Ochimo--that flame aura somehow turns your own attack against you." Raditz shook his head. "You attacked before I could warn you. Looked like you hit yourself hard."
"Oh, man, did I!" Gohan groaned. "What is that guy, anyway?"
"An immortal sorceror of ancient..." Bulma played with her pocket comp, muttering under her breath, "Egypt? Khem is Egypt? What on earth is an ancient Egyptian sorceror doing HERE?" She looked everyone over.
Goten and Trunks looked fine, except for a little dust in their hair. Gohan grimaced in pain, and his gi was torn and burnt; his arms looked blistered and sore. Raditz looked like an elephant herd had trampled him a few times--his armor was crazed and cracked, the one remaining shoulder piece had been blown off entirely, and the leg guards broken off short. Dried blood streaked his face and limbs, and his right arm was blistered like Gohan's.
"He likes the climate?" Raditz offered. "All I know is what I've seen--the sonuvabitch is an energy vampire--he eats ki attacks and absorbs their power for himself--and he has some weird defenses and some dangerous attacks. Gohan, forget what I said about their attacks being pathetic--he damn near killed me with that Nine Sphere blast of his!"
"I know--I saw. For a while, I thought he did. Kill you, I mean." Gohan looked thoughtful.
Raditz blinked. I must be imagining things--it sounds like the idea bothered him. Could it have?
"What the Opawang said," Bulma interjected, "was that he was immortal, couldn't be harmed, had unlimited power, and could control spirits and demons--even the dead. A very arrogant and nasty person to be stuck in the same room with." She looked wonderingly at her son. "Trunks, that challenge you made to the Opawang--where did that come from?"
Trunks blushed and ducked his head. "Mom, I was really, really scared when the Opawang appeared like that..." Trunks stared at his feet for a moment, "..and I wondered, 'What would Father do? He wouldn't be scared!'" A fierce expression flashed across his face as Trunks clenched his small fists. "I pretended I was Father, and I wasn't scared anymore."
Bulma laughed nervously. "You sounded so much like your father it scared me."
Raditz rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well, while we're thinking like Vegeta, let's answer this question: how do we kill the bastard?"
Bulma bit her lip. "He's immortal and invulnerable--"
"You are as bad as my brother. Do you really believe everything your ENEMY tells you?" Raditz looked disgusted. "Come on, woman, pull it together and use your head."
Bulma glared at him. "You can be really annoying, you know?"
"It's a natural talent of mine. In less than ten minutes I can talk people into killing me without even trying to. Just ask Kakarott."
She snarled through clenched teeth. "I'm about ready to kill you myself! CAN WE GET BACK TO THE POINT??"
"The point is, Opie there said a lot of crap about himself, but we don't know how much of that is true, and how much is pure bullshit intended to spook us. I shouldn't have to tell you this, you're not stupid." Raditz looked mildly contemptuous.
Bulma looked very annoyed. "Oh yeah? Gohan," she turned to him, "you tell me--what's he got?"
Gohan looked thoughtful. "He has some nasty defenses, some moderately dangerous attacks--nothing I shouldn't be able to handle with the proper precautions--but I couldn't hurt him. I hit him, Bulma, I smashed him into the mountain with super-saiyan strength--and his power didn't weaken in the least. Raditz dropped a chunk of mountain on his head, and he's still there, just as tough. No change in his strength--except one: it went UP when I blasted him with a Kamehameha. Raditz is right about that--he consumes energy thrown at him." He shook his head. "I don't know how to explain it, unless part of what he says is true--if he is immortal."
Bulma looked at Raditz. "Got a theory, Raditz?"
"Nope, just a few points. One bad, one maybe useful. Don't get in a panic, but some of the crap Opie was spewing was true. He does have power over ghosts and spirits--remember I told you I nearly didn't get away from him when I was a ghost? He can trap souls and drain their energy--and he's somehow keeping spirits from leaving this valley. Dying here and now would be bad--above and beyond the usual unpleasantness." He shifted his position.
"Bet that the Ochimo we killed will be back by nightfall, at least as the demon spirits they were before you wished them all back. Not good; anyone here know how fight a soul-stealing wraith that you can't even touch? Didn't think so. I'll get back to that--I have some ideas."
Bulma and Gohan both glanced at the lowering western sun, and looked at each other. Bulma swallowed nervously. "Let's get back to that real soon," she muttered.
Raditz stood up and paced. "The one maybe useful point is a question: if there is something to what he was saying, exactly what makes this guy immortal and what makes him invulnerable?"
Bulma pondered, brow furrowed. "Okay, tell me if we're on the same page: something gives this guy unlimited ability to absorb abuse, what is it? You're right, he didn't just wake up one morning and decide to be immortal--he did something, and something in him is changed from a normal person. But what?"
Gohan thought a bit. "His ability to absorb ki and throw it back as more attacks, or bolster his own defenses could be enough to make him practically invulnerable.."
Raditz frowned. "He sucks up physical damage, too. I hit him, physically, and nearly broke bones--mine. I saw you hit him, and that nasty fire shield of his may turn your attack against you, but it doesn't stop the physical impact from getting through. He slammed into that mountain HARD. Of course, if he can channel stolen ki into some kind of healing ability..." Raditz stopped short.
"Of course." He turned to Gohan. "When you were up there in the room with him and Bulma and Trunks, did you see any sign that he was losing energy, or in pain, or even distracted?"
Gohan looked startled. "Yes. Yes, I did. When I faced the Opawang, he was boasting one moment, then a spasm hit him, and he started trying to kill me."
Raditz grinned. "THAT was when I broke the Earth Ochimo's back--and it healed immediately. I FELT it heal under my hand. The Ochimo said something about it and its master being part of each other--to harm it was to harm Opie, and Opie couldn't be harmed, or some such crap. The Ochimo are tied to him; he can lend some limited part of his ability to take abuse to them, and they feed him energy--or they did as ghosts, anyway."
Trunks spoke up. "When I attacked the Air Ochimo, I couldn't hurt her at first--but when I powered up and started really pouring energy into my attacks, she went down fast--almost as if she had no defenses at all."
Raditz nodded. "It went the same way with the Fire and Earth Ochimo. Their invulnerablity is a lot more limited than Opie's, but it may be the same kind--some rapid self-healing sort of thing--but they had to draw the power from Opie, and he doesn't strike me as the generous type."
Bulma pursed her lips. "Hmmmm... So he can absorb ki and take no damage from it, he can heal himself from physical damage, and he can use ki to make additional defenses and attacks. He can control ghosts, or at least drain ki from them. So how do we kill this bastard?"
"The safe way of dealing with an energy vampire," Raditz commented, "is to starve it--don't feed it energy yourself, cut it off from its usual methods of feeding, force it to expend energy, and then, when it is weaker, finish it with purely physical attacks or the next best thing. The unsafe, quick and dirty way of dealing with an energy vampire is to overload it, dump so much energy into it so fast that it can't keep up with the energy, and so dies. It can be embarrassing if the vamp doesn't overload. Heh."
Raditz looked back up at the ruined fortress. "Too bad Gohan fed the bastard more energy than he could dream of stealing from a whole planetful of weak humans. We can't starve him, I doubt he overloads--he didn't seem bothered by Gohan's big blast--and it's going to tricky to make him use up energy without accidently feeding him some more. It's the only thing I can think of right now--push him hard, make him burn energy, and hope we can find some weakness." He shook his head. "It's not much of a plan."
Bulma looked for some hope. "What about our original plan, to free the kami of the spring? We could at least get away, then."
Gohan looked up. "No. He won't let us go that easily; we're too valuable a prize for him, and too dangerous as enemies. That would have worked while he was still imprisoned, but now.." Goku's son shook his head. "Besides, I won't leave a monster like that running loose to do who knows what to however many innocent people."
Bulma's shoulders drooped. "You're not inspiring a lot of confidence, guys. This isn't looking good, is it?"
Raditz regarded her impassively; he glanced at Gohan. "Sorry, I don't believe in comforting lies." He stood up. "Listen! If we don't beat this bastard, and any of you survive, and the kami is freed or Hornhead brings down the barriers for his own reasons, WARN KAKAROTT! Don't let him walk unaware into that bastard's traps--letting Hornhead feed on Kakarott's power would be.. bad."
Gohan looked at the setting sun. "*Ahem* About fighting with soul-stealing wraiths..."
"Yeah, I guess that's our next worry--at least as long as Opie is digging himself out from under all that rock. I need to work something out--an idea I had--give me a while..." Raditz sat down and closed his eyes, as if in meditation.
Bulma frowned, and shrugged. "Well, Gohan, while he's doing that, let's see if I can dig up any food for the kids." She looked through her capsule case and started opening things up and digging out packages. "Goten's already sacked out, and Trunks looks tired. Ah, here's some sleeping bags, and here's the camp food!"
* * *
I fought them easily enough as a spirit among spirits. And what am I now? Spirit clothed in flesh, but the spirit is still there. I should still be able to fight them, but how do I see them, and what weapon do I use?
Seeing is easy--they manifest visibly to attack the living, and unmanifested they are nothing, a nuisance in dreams, no more. But where is the weapon I used?
There is no steel nor armor plate in the spirit realm--all things are spirit, even what seem to be tangible objects. My blade was not a thing, but an idea, a concept of an attack that gives the opponent no hold on one's spirit, no passion to inflame, no weakness to tear at. It is the passionless strike, the blow without hate, destruction without anger, the act without doubt, the purpose that is true. It is the void, and the flame within. Set aside the Saiyan battle rage; it gives no strength here. Remember the purpose -- protect them!
It is manifest.
* * *
Raditz opened his eyes. Across his lap lay a spectral, translucent white katana. It had no weight; he grasped the hilt with his right hand, seemingly, but it had no substance. Only in spirit could he feel it; it was a thing of pure spirit. Invisible, save for the ki-glow he had given it to guide his stroke. He raised the spirit blade in salute. "To you, Bardock my father, for what you have taught me. May it be enough."
It was full dark; someone had kindled a campfire, and Trunks watched him from across that fire, thoughtful. Bulma and Goten slept; Gohan also watched, open-mouthed with astonishment. "What is that?"
"A weapon--the same weapon I used last night on those same wraiths. I just had to figure out how to recall it." Raditz sighed, and the blade vanished like morning mist in the sun. "Don't worry, it'll be there when I need it." He smiled, and the blade reappeared in his left hand, flickered, and vanished. "If I keep my soul in the right place."
Trunks regarded him intently. "'Remember the purpose'" he quoted, "I understand that, but what is the 'flame in the void'? Can you teach me to create such a weapon?"
"Was I speaking aloud?" Raditz looked at Trunks thoughtfully.
Gohan looked bewildered. "I heard nothing."
"I'm not sure you were. I may have heard your mind." Trunks said.
Something is happening here.. He should not have heard me. Perhaps he was.. meant to? The blade reappeared in Raditz's hand. He presented it, hilt first, to Trunks.
Trunks took it. He held the spirit blade, scarely daring to breathe. Wonder and awe shown on his face. "How did--?" The blade flickered and vanished.
"Careful. You let yourself get too excited. It's still there, just take hold of it.. with your spirit. Remember what you heard in my mind..."
Trunks centered himself, and found the void, emptied of all passion and concern. Within, the flame, and he seized hold of it--lightly, for a flame is not held with force. The blade re-appeared in Trunks' hand, shaped like a straight sword, not a katana this time.
He looked at Raditz, wonder and a profound respect in his eyes. "But you.. have no weapon now."
Raditz smirked. "Not so." The ghost katana reappeared in his right hand; Trunks still held his spirit sword. "That's the funny thing about spirit; it increases when you give it away."
Gohan looked on in amazement. He really is Dad's brother, like him, and not like him in the oddest ways. He's the dark to Dad's light--like Vegeta! That strangeness I see in his eyes--when I catch an unguarded look at Goten, Trunks, Bulma, even myself-- I remember catching a glimpse of it in Vegeta's eyes, way back on Namek, when he thought I didn't see him watching me. It was so out of place in the person I believed Vegeta to be, that I didn't believe what I saw then--not until so much later, when I came to know Vegeta as he truly is. Is it really so hard for a Saiyan to admit he has a heart?
* * *
The ghost Ochimo attacked at midnight. As if in some ghastly reprise of their deaths, the Fire and Earth Ochimo attacked Raditz, while the Air Ochimo slipped past him to pursue Trunks. Perhaps they thought to take vengeance; they did not say, and Raditz did not ask.
Spectral weapons clashed without sound; Earth hesitated as Fire pressed the attack. Beyond them, Air circled Trunks warily, more cautious now that her opponent was armed, not the defenseless victim she had expected. Gohan tested his powers, only to find to his dismay that ki blasts merely passed through the intangible spirits without touching them.
Earth broke away from the contest between Fire and Raditz to pursue the defenseless Gohan. Raditz grinned evilly; how convenient of Earth to expose himself! He feinted at Fire, and before Fire could do more than parry, in a blur of speed Raditz was on the Earth Ochimo. The spirit blade sliced him across and through; the maimed ghost fled with a dismal wail. Raditz spun and beheaded Fire, who'd leaped to attack his apparently unguarded back.
A third wail marked the passing of Air; Trunks flourished his blade and saluted Raditz. "You're right--we have speed and they have skill."
"Which is why we wrapped this fight up as fast as possible." Raditz dispelled his spirit blade. "I'd feel better if I knew what Water was up to. He's the one we never accounted for."
Gohan looked up the mountain, into the darkness. "I'd feel better knowing what the Opawang is up to."
"Sending those creeps after us, for one thing. They came down on us about five minutes after he got loose from all that rock."
Gohan glanced sharply at Raditz. "You sensed it, too? Why didn't you say anything?"
"I don't believe in comforting lies, but I do know when to keep my mouth shut. As long as Hornhead's staying up there, and not doing anything to us, we might as well get some rest. We'll need it later."
* * *
Dawn came red and gloomy; black clouds still hovered over the valley. Bulma was the first to wake (save Raditz, who hadn't slept); she stretched, got up, looked around--and screamed.
Bulma's scream woke everyone up. "What? What's wrong?" Gohan looked around, and finally saw what Bulma was pointing at with one trembling hand. His eyes went wide with shock.
The Opawang's fortress stood, frowning upon the mountainside. It reared proud and undamaged, as if yesterday's battle had never been.
"Now we know what Hornhead was doing last night," Raditz said dryly. "He likes having a clean house more than he likes chasing us in the dark."
"What kind of power does he have, that he can just rebuild a castle in one night?" Gohan sounded almost scared.
"Hopefully, less than he had yesterday," Raditz responded. "If he doesn't..."
"Oh, no!" Bulma was looking downhill now, at the village. "Where are all the people? Nothing is moving--even the pigs and chickens are quiet."
Raditz scowled. "Maybe it's just my nasty, suspicious mind--but I think I know what the Water Ochimo was up to. Time to find that bastard. Gohan, protect Bulma." Power flared around Raditz, and he took to the air.
Behind him, Bulma packed up the camp gear and popped the scooter capsule. "Gohan, you carry Goten. I'm riding the scooter, Trunks you hang on behind me."
"What? Where are we going?"
"Back to the spring. I have some important questions to ask of Black Earth River Daughter, questions whose answers just might save our bacon." Bulma had that "I will not even listen to any arguments, so don't bother" look on her face; Gohan wisely quelled his protests.
* * *
Raditz found the Ochimo of Water at the spring, claiming his last victim. The farm girl who had been resurrected with him there sprawled face down, unmoving. The Water Ochimo snarled at him, and pointed a gauntleted hand; water surged out of the spring to envelop Raditz, forcing itself into his nose and mouth, choking him.
He refused to panic, and summoned power, forcing the animated water away and off of him. Raditz coughed out stray drops of water. "Nice try, but not good enough. Fool."
A familiar nimbus of cold blue flame surrounded the Water Ochimo. Raditz grinned evilly. "You guys like that trick, don't you? Too bad I'm on to it." He rose back into the air, gathered power in each hand, and slammed two ki-blasts into the Ochimo.
The Ochimo was tossed backwards by the blasts, and his nimbus of fire fluttered and went out. The green samurai rose to his feet, apparently undamaged.
"I know that trick, too," said Raditz. He rocketed down and into the Ochimo, brutally plunging his hand through armor, skin and bone. With his hand deep in the Ochimo's chest, Raditz cut loose with another powerful blast. An instant later, he flung the mangled, charred corpse down the mountainside.
"Thank you, Zarbon, for telling me how Vegeta took you out. It came in handy." Raditz spoke quietly, only for the wind to hear. He turned to look at the fortress. "Old Hornhead didn't like that, did he?"
Raditz saw Gohan approaching. "GOHAN! Give the kid to Bulma and intercept the Opawang! I killed his last Ochimo, and he's really pissed off!"
* * *
The Opawang stood on air, his face dark with wrath. A nimbus of purple flame crackled around him; his crystal horns glowed bright as stars. "Enough of this! This day, you die. MIT-ET EM TEHEN!"
Lightning cracked from the Opawang's fingers to Gohan's golden-haired, glowing form. He didn't even bother to raise a warding hand, but took the lightning bolt square in the chest. He didn't even blink.
A great boulder rose from the ground, circled Gohan's head, and flung itself at the Opawang faster than even Raditz's eye could follow. The Opawang never had a chance to move. The boulder smashed into him, flinging him back and into the mountainside, and shattered into a cloud of dust.
"Yep, he felt that. Feel his power bobble a bit when you hit him?" Raditz gestured with one hand; several smaller boulders rose and circled him. The dust cleared to reveal the Opawang, even angrier if that were possible, his flame nimbus still intact. Raditz flicked his hand; half a dozen small boulders slammed into the Opawang, one after another.
The nimbus went out; Gohan charged. With his full Super-Saiyan strength, he hit the Opawang, smashing his jaw, breaking his back, slamming an elbow into his gut, and flinging him to the ground with enough force to embed him in the rock ten feet deep. "That's got him!"
"No!" Raditz turned his head. The Opawang appeared in mid-air, several hundred feet away. He appeared unhurt; a shimmering, translucent sphere surrounded him. The flame nimbus re-appeared.
"His power is down--a tiny bit. At this rate, it'll take forever, and he's not going to fall for the same trick twice." Raditz frowned.
Gohan summoned another huge boulder and flung it at the Opawang, only to watch it swerve around the sphere and crash harmlessly into the mountain. "Not good. Next trick?"
"Try it, kid. Just don't touch that damn flame shield!"
Gohan dove into the fortress and tore loose a huge roof beam, and then smashed it down on the Opawang (who still couldn't dodge the Saiyans). Once again, after two or three blows, the flame nimbus went out, and Gohan rained mountain-shattering blows down on the Opawang. Once again, it seemed the Opawang was near death--and he vanished only to re-appear elsewhere.
"Raditz, I swear his power was nearly gone, but now it's back almost full again!"
"I know, he's got a reserve he's pulling in from somewhere--but where? LOOK OUT!" Raditz dodged back, almost to the village, as the Opawang flung fire in their direction. Gohan contemptuously deflected it straight back to its origin. The fire bolt swerved around the shimmering sphere and splashed against the mountainside.
"I tire of this game! Your heart's hearts are mine!" snarled the Opawang, and vanished again.
"I hate that teleport trick of his. Where'd he get to--NOOOO!" Raditz screamed. The Opawang was below him, at the spring--with Bulma and Trunks and Goten. Raditz dove.
Gohan cried out in horror, and moved with all his Super-Saiyan speed, but he knew he would be too late. He could already hear the spell.
"TAA-T AB-KEH!" Bulma stood, frozen with terror, knowing that the Opawang spoke her death. He stood on air above her, one long-nailed hand extended, evil triumph on his face.
Then Raditz flung her aside and leaped toward the Opawang, between her and that outstretched, taloned hand. She hit the boulder wall, and lay stunned from the impact. Blood splashed over her, and she dimly heard a cry of agony--and then something glowing golden flashed across her sight and the Opawang was gone far away.
* * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER XII. BATTLE'S END
[ Contents | X. The Opawang | XI. Desperation | XII. Battle's End ]
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009