((Author's note: Tomo-chan here! I just wanted to show off the image I did for this story. It's a 1024x768 desktop made of spliced doujinshi scans and the lyrics to the song 'Within you- Without you'. I feel so inspired...
Check it out...I hope you enjoy this chapter, and please leave a few words of response! I looove feedback. ^^;))
Papers scattered everywhere, some facing up, some down. Piccolo waited till all were on the floor before he clicked the fan off and began noting their numbers. Soon he had located the first five pages, though the rest were upside down. Nodding in satisfaction at his own handiwork, he began to scan the pages.
Duck, spin, lash out and dodge, whirling through the skies in a well practiced dance of physical balence. Gohan slipped past his mentor's defences for the first time all morning and managed to dig his fist into the taller man's supple ribcage.
Piccolo grunted, unwilling to show any weakness, and quickly pulled back for a moment to breath. Gohan, sensing an opportunity, moved closer and prepared another blow. He barely realized what was happening when a fist cracked against his skull, just above his right ear. Eyes stinging with wind and sudden pain, Gohan faltered and felt an immediate response from his opponant- a swift kick to the torso, a punch that was just too quick to block, and then-
He was on the ground, spitting dirt and wiping the blood from his cracked lips as Piccolo waited above, arms crossed.
'Merciless as usual,' Gohan sighed. He would be reprimanded for that little incident.
"Your enemy will not broadcast his physical state," Piccolo scowled with disapproval. "Do not let your gaurd down even though he looks weak. When backed into a corner, opponents may double in danger or strength."
Gohan knew that to be true, and he should have remembered that Piccolo enjoyed tricking him here and there. He himself had never fought harder than when his family and friends were near to death...
He wiped the sweat out of his eyes and mustered enough energy to rise from the dust and assume a defensive posture. In moments he was a super saiya-jin, prepared to do battle once again. He felt, as he always did, the thrill of the transformation and the glory of his saiya-jin ancestors singing in his blood-
Piccolo was on him in a moment, sensing the distraction. In moments Gohan had suffered a repition of the previous attack, and the double blows to his head and chest left him reeling, gasping for breath. Piccolo, however, didn't stop. He merely punctuated each strike with a lesson.
"They will remember where you are weakest," a fist slamming into his right shoulder- "and will take advantage of previous injuries." Somehow Piccolo managed to box the younger man's ears, making them ring with a loud buzzing sound inside his mind. Gohan tried to sidestep and threw a hastily aimed punch- Piccolo promptly caught his hand and crushed it in a vice-like grip.
Gohan's eyes flashed back to their normal black state as pain raced up his arm and he cried out- a plea- "Stop, Piccolo! It...it's just a sparring....round!"
Piccolo promptly raised both hands over his head, clasped them into a fist, and drove them into Gohan's skull. The boy blacked out before he even hit the ground.
Gohan woke from less than comfortable dreams to find that it was early morning, and he was stretched out across what felt- and smelt- like his mentor's cape. Head still ringing from the injuries he had recieved the day before (he assumed this, given the way the sun was rising in the east), he stared up at the sky above and tried to think coherently.
From the sound of it, Piccolo was already slipping into his normal routine of stretches as katas, Gohan could hear the even breathing of one deep in concentration as well as the scuff of boots on dusty stone. Curious, he turned his head and noticed that something had been pressed into his hand-
The blossoms were a faded white, blending into the cloth beneath him that Gohan had to blink several times before he could focus on the handfull of spring flowers. They were still damp, maintaining the dew of the early hours- and, Gohan realized, Piccolo had given them to him.
Against his better judgement he tried to sit up, clutching the bouquet in his hands. Yes, he had been right, Piccolo was practicing already, laboring over his tense exercises. Gohan's tentative "Ohayo, Pikoro-san" was not acknowledged, so the boy stood, wobbled, and returned to the safety of the ground. When Piccolo did look up, he did not meet Gohan's eyes, and the half-saiya-jin boy felt like he had won a small victory over the man he loved.
"Rest, kid. No rounds today."
Gohan let a smile light across his face at the words and smiled. "Arigatou, koibito."
Piccolo hated being called that, but at the moment he simply eyed Gohan, smirked, and returned to his exercises.
Frowning, the namekusei-jin scrambled around to find another piece of paper that was face-up, but found nothing, and moments later a shout of annoyance caught his attention. Gohan was standing in the doorway, eyes teary, while his mother stood behind him. "Gohan, please! She's a nice girl-"
"Mother! I don't want a nice girl! I don't want any girl!"
"But Gohan-chan, please! You'll like her, it would be good for you to-"
Gohan clenched his fist around the doorknob, the metal crunching inwards as he did so. "Kaasan, you don't understand... I. Don't. Like. Girls. I'm not looking for a replacement for Piccolo! I just want my old life back!"
Chi-chi was angry, and crying too, Piccolo noticed. She looked horribly old as she stood there pleading with her son to conform, to be what she wanted him to be- "You can't have your old life back! And you don't need him! You need a wife, a proper life, you'll see how much better it could be-"
"YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!!" Gohan screamed, rounding on her in fury. His eyes were shimmering green, and Chi-chi stepped back, terrified at her son's suddem burst of anger. "I LOVED HIM! You never could accept that! Get the hell out of my house until you understand ME!"
"GET OUT!" The glass on the pictureframes in the hallway shattered as his power rose, almost to a super saiya-jin level. "OUT!"
Chi-chi fled her firstborn, slamming the door on her way out. Gohan stood in the doorway for a few moments longer, tears streaming down his face, before his power dissipated. "Memories, kaasan," he whispered, eyes hidden under his ebony bangs, "I can live in my memories..."
Gohan wasn't even surprised when another voice spoke- a familier, cold one, harsh with anger and twanging metallicly. There was no ki to feel, but somehow Piccolo could tell Gohan had expected this visitor- indeed, when Jinzouningen Juunana-gou stepped around the corner with narrow eyes and a devious smile, Gohan didn't even look alarmed. "That's no life at all,