[ Contents | III. The Search | IV. A Village | V. After Sunset ]
"..and the camp house, and excavation mech, and spare scooter. All right, that's all the capsules I need.. I think." Bulma counted capsules in the small case, and tucked it into her belt pouch. She watched Gohan loading supplies into the back seat. "Got enough food there, kiddo? I've got a full fridge in the Capsule Camp House, ya know."
"Well, I might get hungry. Besides, Mom insisted." Gohan looked a bit sheepish as he tossed his book-pack in last, and headed back to the house.
Bulma smiled knowingly; Chi-chi was convinced that they'd be reduced to grubbing for roots and berries unless she packed a week's supply of food for an overnight camping trip. Oh well, Gohan had nearly as big an appetite as Goku and it wouldn't hurt to have a little extra.
Bulma bent over her pocket computer, studying the archaeology reports. What to tell Gohan, and when? Engrossed in thought, she didn't notice Goten until he was tugging on her sleeve.
"Nan Bulma! Go with you? Want go with Nunk Rats." He looked so hopeful that Bulma hated to turn him down, but she knew better.
"I'm sorry, but you have to stay home with your mother; this isn't a trip for little boys. Trunks is staying home, too. Besides, I don't have any 'nunk rats'." Bulma smiled and tousled the two-year-old's hair.
Goten turned stubborn. "Nunk Rats go with, I want to go too!" Suddenly his face fell and his lip started to tremble. "I can't go?"
Bulma put a finger to her lip as she thought. Something about the way Goten was talking.. could it be that 'nunk rats' was a someone, not a something? But who? Who was Goten talking about?
Her thoughts were interrupted by Trunks charging around the corner with a full pack on his back. "Hey, Mom. Goten, come on!"
"Where are you going?" Bulma asked, feeling vaguely suspicious.
"Oh, I was going to take Goten exploring in the woods again, so he wouldn't be all upset when you and Gohan left without him. Chi-chi packed us both a lunch, too."
"We must have cleaned out the pantry, between us. Let me enter a reminder to pick up some groceries on the way back." Bulma made a notation on her pocket comp. "By the way, do you know who 'Nunk Rats' is?"
Trunks shrugged. "I think he's Goten's imaginary friend. Goten pretends to talk to him a lot when we're out in the woods." He started to lead the now docile Goten off.
"Oh, that would explain it," Bulma said, a bit distracted. What was holding up Gohan this time? She went back inside to hurry him along.
Trunks peeked around the corner. The coast was clear! He hurried over to the aircar, Goten in tow, and stealthily lifted the trunk lid. He tossed his backpack in, grabbed a surprised Goten and stuffed him in, and then climbed into the trunk himself. As he was pulling the lid shut, Goten started to protest.
"Nooo! Can't go! Nan Bulma said no; Nunk Rats said no." He tried to push the lid open and climb back out; Trunks found he had to pull surprisingly hard to keep Goten from pushing the lid open.
"Ssssh! They'll hear us if you keep yelling. Listen to me! Please, Goten!" Some of the urgency in Trunks voice got through to Goten, and he stopped fussing. "Mom is going to find a wish to bring father back. I am NOT going to miss father coming back! I AM going to be there when he returns," Trunks said fiercely. "And I have to bring you, because I'm responsible for watching you, and I can't watch you if I leave you in the woods at home, and if take you inside for someone else to watch you, they'll ask questions about why I can't watch you. It's okay, you're safe with me, like Mom's safe with Gohan. Your big brother Gohan is one of the best fighters in the whole world, and he'll protect us. Father started teaching me to fight, and your dad's been training me, too, so I can protect you from anything bad out there, even if Gohan's not around. Besides, I thought you wanted to go."
"But Nan Bulma.."
"Mom will be mad at me, not you, when she finds out, so don't worry about it. It's something I have to do, Goten. I have to help Mom bring father back." There was an odd tightness to his voice. They were curled up together in the dark, cramped space; Goten felt around and touched Trunk's face. It was wet with tears. He hugged his friend, not understanding the older boy's grief, but desperately wanting to make him feel better.
"Okay," Goten said simply, as the aircar hummed with power and lifted off the ground. After a short while, the boys fell asleep, lulled to sleep by the steady hum of the aircar.
* * *
"Whoa! Turn around, Bulma, I see it, it's right back there!" The aircar circled over the remote mountain valley.
"I see it, kiddo! Boy, talk about remote and out of the way! I didn't know there was any place left in Japan this far from anyone! No roads, no trails, nothing. I don't know why people left this place to begin with, but I can see why no one came back--without an aircar, you just can't get here!"
The aircar circled lower over the ruins as Bulma guided it closer. From the air, they could make out the overgrown foundations of crumbled houses where the village must have been in the small valley; up on the mountainside, a few walls of the monastery-temple still stood. It, too, was overgrown; bamboo thicket choked the courtyard, and kudzu crawled over everything.
"Gohan, can you see a place that is actually flat enough for us to land? I can't tell what is under all this kudzu; I'd hate to drop us in a sinkhole or something."
"How about that field over there? Wait, I'll check it out." With that, the twelve-year-old boy jumped over the side and drifted slowly down, levitating. He landed on the field in question, a ancient grain-field gone wild. He waved to Bulma; it was solid enough, and stepped aside as Bulma brought the aircar down next to him.
How long, she thought, before Trunks starts scaring the daylights out of me by doing things like jumping out of a car in midair? Vegeta and Goku have already taught him to use his ki; Goku told me it was Trunks that started the cook-fire for the fish they caught the other day. May it be a long time, she prayed, before he has to use his power to fight a real enemy.
* * *
"There's something really depressing about this place," Bulma said. She and Gohan looked around the ruined village. Not much more than foundations remained; from the old archaeology report and the aircar's camera shots, they were able to place major features such as the village headman's house, the granary, the village well, and some others. According to the report, the spring was marked by the remains of a small shrine part way up the mountain toward the monastery.
"'Depressing' isn't the word I'd use," Gohan said, as the hairs on the back of his neck stiffened. "It gives me the creeps." He looked very Saiyan at that moment, with his hair spiking out.
Trunks would have agreed with Gohan if he'd heard him. At the moment, he was sneaking around the back side of the overgrown rubble of the village, hoping no one would spot him and Goten. Goten was unusually quiet, and held Trunk's hand very tightly, as if he were desperately afraid of losing him.
'Depressing' wasn't the word Raditz would have used, either--but then, he could see what none of the others besides Goten could see. He knew why Goten was clinging so tightly to Trunks; the living are rarely comfortable in the presence of the restless dead.
"This place," he remarked to himself, "crawls." He could see the village whole and complete, houses, huts, well, path, and shrine above. And it was inhabited: the ghosts of the village walked its vanished streets. Correction; they had walked the streets, until Raditz showed up. At the sight of the tall, long-maned saiyan ghost, the spectral villagers had run for their spectral houses and hidden behind closed doors and shuttered windows.
That is damn peculiar. It's not like I destroyed the place when I was alive. This village has been dead since before Saiyans even made it into space, so they're not hiding because I'm Saiyajin. So I'm big and dangerous--if they were alive, I could understand them running; but why the hell are they scared of another ghost when they're already dead? Crud. I can guess a few possible answers, and I don't like any of them.
Raditz briefly considered kicking in a few phantasmal doors and beating some answers out of the inhabitants, but a flash of movement in the physical world caught his attention. He rose up and looked around. Bulma and Gohan were setting up camp next to the aircar--Where the hell did that domed cottage come from??--and the kids were...
No, I am NOT seeing this. Someone please tell me I'm alive and just having a nightmare! Of course, Trunks would pick the one uncollapsed area in the whole town to camp in and hide from his mother. Of course, that would be the cemetery.
*Sigh* I'm going to have a busy night.
* * *
"The village well is dry," said Bulma as she studied the map, "and I think the spring feeds the well somehow. Well," she said brightly, "we were going to investigate the spring anyway, let's go see what the problem is."
"Why are we concerned about the well?" Gohan looked puzzled as they walked up the overgrown trail.
"Because of the curse on the village," Bulma explained patiently, as if to a backward child.
"What curse on the village??" Gohan asked suspiciously. He stopped and faced Bulma. "What didn't you tell me about this place?" His hair was spiking up again.
Bulma smiled and tried to look innocent. "Oh, just a few folk tales.. But it's okay, I didn't keep any secrets from you that I didn't keep from your mom or Goku."
Gohan crossed his arms and got a stubborn look on his face. "I'm not moving."
Bulma grimaced, and handed her pocket comp to Gohan. "Look under folklore; I knew I was going to have to tell you sooner or later."
He read quickly. "But the well is dry because the kami of the spring cursed the village. She cursed the village because the greedy headman helped the sorceror capture her by blocking up the spring. So what are we going to do?" They started walking again.
"First, we are going to check out the shrine and the spring. Then I'll make my plans."
It was a warm summer day, and Bulma was panting as she pulled herself up the last bit of trail to the shrine. Gohan simply floated along beside her, offering a hand if she stumbled. "Next time, I bring a grav belt," she muttered. "Even if I have to invent it first."
The shrine was fallen to ruin like the village, and at first Bulma could see no sign of a spring. Then she noticed that the ruined shrine had covered a grotto. Rocks choked the grotto, rocks that were slick with moss and algae. She felt them; they were wet.
"It's been blocked up," she told Gohan. So, at least that much of the legend is true! "We're going to unblock it!" She stepped back into the open, cobbled area around the shrine and got out her case of capsules. "Stand back, kiddo!" She carefully chose one, and tossed it into the open area.
It grew and shaped itself into a strange, upright machine--something like a large robot frame with a digging shovel on one hand and large, industrial strength graspers on the other.
"One excavation mech, ready to go!" Bulma climbed into the driver's seat of the mech.
"Bulma, why are we doing this?"
"Can you think of a better way to get the kami's attention?"
"What if she doesn't like it, or isn't here?" Gohan called as Bulma revved up the mech.
"We'll worry about that when the time comes!" Bulma yelled back cheerily. CLANK! CRUNCH! The mech moved forward, and, after clearing away what little rubble remained from the shrine's fallen roof and walls, started pulling massive boulders out of the grotto. Once the heavier stuff was out of the way, Bulma used the digging shovel to clear out the gravel and sand, until she hit another layer of boulders.
By late afternoon, the grotto had been cleared, and a low wall of boulders stacked all around the cobbled area in front of the grotto. Gohan used his own power to lift all the loose sand, gravel and mud out of the shrine and dump it down the hill somewhere. His last sweep of the stone pavement revealed a basin under the dirt; he resumed his efforts and cleared it just as Bulma's mech pulled one last, very wet rock loose.
Water bubbled out; a trickle at first, and then a stream. It ran down the rock face of the grotto, and vanished into a crack in the rock--but a small trickle spilled out and flowed into the basin, slowly filling it. As they watched, the stream swelled to a torrent, a waterfall rushing down into the depths of the earth. Gohan listened; far below, he could hear the thunder of a mighty river.
Bulma waited expectantly.. and waited. And waited.
"Well?" Gohan asked, as the sun drew near the horizon.
Bulma sat dejected on the boulder wall. "I was so sure something would happen when I unblocked the spring. So much for folktales." She sighed. "Or wishes." One tear gathered unbidden at the corner of her eye.
Gohan gave Bulma a quick hug. "Maybe something will happen tomorrow. Let's go camp, I'm hungry."
Bulma hugged Gohan back, and laughed. "You are so much like your dad, it's scary. I'm hungry, too. Back to the hut." They worked their way back down the trail in the reddening sunlight.
Gohan and Bulma turned to watch the sunset from the camp house. "I read the rest of that archaelogical report, you know," Gohan told Bulma. "You didn't mention the part where the archaeologists found the villagers.. Something killed them all at once, long, long ago--no one was left to bury them."
Bulma smiled sickly. "That does match up with part of the folklore.. I so hoped that the part with the kami and the wishes matched up, too."
"Maybe it does, and we just haven't figured out how to talk to the kami and get a wish, yet. Remember how hard it was to make a wish with the Namek dragonballs before we knew how?" Gohan looked back at the sunset and the ruined village, as Bulma nodded agreement.
"My grandfather once told me," Gohan mused, "that if you look carefully at twilight you can see ghosts, because they become visible when it is neither day nor night." The sun was just slipping below the horizon.
Bulma said "That's ridicu---" and stopped. The whole village had suddenly appeared, transparent at first, darkening to full visibility as the twilight deepened. People walked the streets, and Bulma's hair nearly stood on end as a farmer walked right past her toward the village. It did stand on end as a young woman walked directly toward her, hands out as if pleading. Bulma could see her lips moving as if she was speaking, but there was no sound.
"Eeeeeeeeee!" Gohan caught her as she fainted.
* * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER V. AFTER SUNSET
[ Contents | III. The Search | IV. A Village | V. After Sunset ]
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009