|Dark Star, Book 2
Author: Onyx PM
An alternate universe Dragonball Epic focusing on Piccolo and his strange conversion. A continuation of Dark Star, Book 1.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Piccolo & Goku - Chapters: 12 - Words: 45,281 - Reviews: 112 - Favs: 31 - Follows: 26 - Updated: 04-20-10 - Published: 12-04-06 - id: 3274433
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Well, here we go again. This story basically picks up right where Book 1 left off. Here's hoping this book goes more quickly than the first one did.
Piccolo's landing wasn't easy when he at last came back to the wilderness. It wasn't a crash by any stretch, but it jarred his knees and caused him to stumble half a step. He was exhausted, head to foot, in a way that had absolutely nothing to do with chi.
He straightened his back slowly, feeling sore muscles and fresh wounds cramp in protest. Then, he looked around, not even sure of where he'd landed. It was a rough-looking place – tall bluffs, scrub brush, sand…he was at the edge of the Sahara, just south of Egypt. I must have been flying all night, he thought with some surprise. It had only felt like a little while, but then again, he had been…Go on and say it, he thought sourly. You were in shock.
As if to punctuate that statement, the boy that he held in the crook of his left arm made a soft, whimpering sound in his sleep and clutched onto his tunic. Piccolo looked down for a moment, a little surprised to realize that he'd almost forgotten he'd picked the damn kid up in the first place.
"What do I do with you now," he muttered. It was ironic. Piccolo had always prided himself on having a clear head, planning each step with the careful attention that every warrior should use. Maybe that had been why Son Goku had been so difficult for him to defeat; the man seemed never to have a plan at all, instead flying by instinct or intuition – something that Piccolo would never have trusted. It had made him unpredictable as an opponent, and infuriating as an ally. Even for as briefly as they'd worked together, Piccolo couldn't count the number of times he'd been driven to the point of outburst by Son's seeming inability to understand the simple concept of action vs. reaction. And after all of the times he'd blown up at Son Goku for not thinking things through, here he was, the great demon Piccolo, alone in the wilderness with the five-year-old, half-breed child of his mortal enemy, and no plan. Plan, Hell, he didn't even have a motive that he could name…or a goal.
For the first time in his life, Piccolo was so completely lost that he didn't even know where he was trying to go.
There was nothing to do but assess the situation.
Item One: Son Goku is dead. There's no point in trying to kill him anymore.
Item Two: He, Piccolo, has just been in a no-holds-barred fight with his oldest brother, Cymbal, in which they were both trying very hard to kill each other. Going home is probably pointless, too. Or rather, still pointless, because he hasn't been able to go there for a good long while now.
Bunch of assholes, anyway, he thought, and moved onto the next item, which was…
Item Three: One or more of his brothers is bound to try to off either him or the kid sooner or later. Probably both.
Item Four: He has no idea why he has the kid.
Is that all? he wondered, tilting his head back to look at the sky, which was already graying with dawn. No, there was one more thing.
Item Six: Sooner or later, Son Goku's friends were going to want to try to wish him back. And wouldn't that be fun.
Piccolo didn't know yet whether or not he should allow his mortal enemy to be whished back to life. He'd been trying so hard to kill Son Goku for so long – and then his goal had, very literally, fallen into his lap, shot from behind by someone else. It should have been the best day of his life. Instead, it felt more like the worst. It was nothing that Piccolo could have explained in simple words. If asked to describe it, he would have said that it was a lot like getting a sword rammed into your gut…but the hole doesn't heal, it just stays there, deep and empty.
Maybe, the former demon reflected, it was just that he liked routine. It was hard to understand that he was never going to fight the man again, never going to have one of those infuriating talks where Son Goku tried futilely to convince him of the error of his ways, never again lie awake at night and wonder why the person he had tried the hardest to kill was the one who had tried the hardest to "help" him.
I want him back, he realized with sudden, stomach-sinking dismay. Even thinking that sucked what strength was left out of his legs – his knees nearly gave. How in the Hell do you miss your enemy? But he did, so much that it hurt. He'd never missed anyone before, at least not with that kind of intensity.
Likewise, he'd never felt like such an utter failure. What kind of maladjusted freak misses his arch nemesis? He was pretty sure that Freud would have had a sicko field day with that…but berating himself was NOT going to help. He needed rest, and he needed cover – and he needed enough time to sort out what he was going to do next. But first…he needed to deal with the kid.
Realizing that he was well beyond the stage of his life where he would have simply killed the obnoxious little milk sucker did nothing to improve his mood.
"You," he growled. "Wake up."
The boy didn't so much as stir. He had fainted some time ago, and at some point during their flight, it seemed to have turned into a genuine, deep sleep.
Rolling his eyes in less-than-subtle irritation, Piccolo took the boy by the scruff of the shirt he was wearing, held him out at arm's length, and gave him a solid shake. His only response was a muffled snore.
"Figures," he muttered under his breath. He gave real consideration to just punting the kid, but something that might work better caught his eye. The aforementioned something was a stream running between the rocks, clear and clean and probably cold as all Hell. It was exactly what Piccolo needed.
Smirking wickedly, he walked over to the water…going so far as to wade in as far as his knees. The water was as cold as he'd hoped – even his skin started to burn as soon as it seeped through his boots.
"Consider this your wakeup call," he said as he dropped the child squarely into the still part of the stream.
The reaction was predictably explosive. Gohan came up screaming and coughing, thrashing uselessly at the air like a cat pitched into a well. Piccolo watched the display with growing ire for several seconds before he finally snapped, "ENOUGH!" in a voice loud enough to shake the scrub bushes on the shore.
The boy froze, hands stilled in the act of clawing at the air, and stared up at Piccolo with huge, soap-bubble eyes. He couldn't even seem to gather enough of his wits together to ask a question. Instead, the boy began to sputter. "Wh…wh…wh…"
Piccolo crossed his arms, well aware that he was only intimidating the kid more, and glared down at him. "Spit it out," he said.
"Wh-where a-am I?" Gohan finally managed.
Piccolo smirked. "Nowhere you want to be."
Gohan was regaining his composure. He crossed his arms too, though it looked like he was trying harder to conserve heat than to look imposing. His lips were even starting to turn blue. "Why did you take me?" he asked in a voice teetering between hurt and bewilderment.
It was a tone that Piccolo was well familiar with – he'd heard it enough from the boy's father. Feeling his nose line in deep snarl creases, Piccolo said, "Because you weren't safe where you were."
"But my mom…"
"Can't protect you," Piccolo said.
Gohan bit his lip. "So…you're going to protect me?" he asked.
That brought Piccolo up short for a fraction of a second. Had that really been his intention? Was he really that far gone? But the answer came just as quickly. Piccolo smirked. "No," he said. "From now on, Gohan – you're going to have to protect yourself."
Gohan's eyes went wide as sacuers. "Me? B-but I'm just a kid! I can't…"
Piccolo cut him off impatiently. "Do you really think your enemies are going to care how old you are?" he asked.
"I…I didn't think I had enemies. I haven't done anything to.."
"You do have enemies," Piccolo shot back coldly. "Or your father did. That's the same thing."
Gohan swallowed harshly – Piccolo could hear it from where he was standing. Still, the former demon didn't say anything. It was time to see what the boy was made of.
For the longest moment, Gohan said nothing at all. He shivered…he sniffled…he even seemed to grow smaller, standing up to almost his chest in the cold water, Goosebumps rising on his pale arms…but finally, the boy looked up at him, eyes wet with unshed tears. "I'll do my best, sir," he said.
"Good," Piccolo said…turning his back on the boy, and striding out of the stream. "Then start walking." He didn't look behind him to see if the boy was following. He could hear the scrambling behind him as Gohan clumsily slogged out of the water. Piccolo snorted. He'd seen rhinos with more grace…but they'd fix that.
First, though, the boy needed some toughening up. And since they needed to find better cover, Piccolo figured he could kill two birds with one stone. It wasn't like it would kill the kid or anything.
Piano was leaning back against one such wall, knee deep in snow, and not really giving that much thought. He inclined his head so that he could see the tower where Tambourine had unofficially taken up residence. Normally, Piano was about as interested in that wing of the fortress as most people are in international torture chambers…but this past few days had been different. "He still hasn't come out," he said.
Drum looked up from what he was doing – namely, drawing in the snow with a stick he must have picked up. "Cymbal, you mean?"
"Yeah." Piano's eyes narrowed, as if he could squint through the windows of that tower. Maybe he could have, if they hadn't been converted to stained glass at some point in the near past. "He's never been down this long."
That was true enough. Injuries weren't an occupational hazard when your life consisted of fighting – they were an occupational certainty. Practically a job requirement. However, the rapid healing rate and the regenerative abilities of their kind usually insured that even after a severe beating, the brothers would be back in fighting trim within a day or two.
Cymbal had been down for nearly four. Drum cast a nervous glance at the far tower. "It's not like him," he said, his rough tone bewildered.
"No," Piano agreed. "So either he's playing us, or.."
"Or it's real bad," Drum finished. There was a loaded pause between them. "Y'don't think maybe he's dyin,' do you?" he asked. Frankly, he was worried. Cymbal had been leading their little band since Daimaou had died years before. Granted, he hadn't been as competent OR as powerful as Daimaou had been – but he'd given them a task to do in his absence. Drum didn't like him. He was pretty sure Piano didn't like him, and Piccolo, well, that was obvious even to him. That was all beside the point. Cymbal gave them orders...he'd been the only one of them who'd had the presence of mind to issue any. Without him, how would they know what to do?
"Suppose he is," Piano answered nonchalantly. "Maybe that wouldn't be so bad."
Drum blinked. "Who'd lead us?"
Piano chuckled. "Nobody. Think about it. We could do things our way for a while."
"The same things we were doin' before, you mean," Drum said. He was trying to wrap his head around it. No plans, no orders… "How would we keep from messin' up?"
Piano snorted. "I'd help you know what to do, wouldn't I? Besides. What if we DID mess up. Who'd punish us?"
Drum thought about that for another minute. "Nobody," he said. "But why're we thinkin' about this? Maybe he's not even dying. Maybe it's just takin' longer than usual for him to get over this."
There was another loaded pause where Drum sensed that something big was going to happen. Piano looked straight at him and smirked…but when he spoke, it was still in a hushed voice, as if he were trying not to be heard. As if he just barely dared to say it. "Supposing we helped him along."
"You want we should kill him?" Drum shot back in an equally low tone, glancing up furtively…half afraid that his eldest brother would come crashing down on them at any second.
"Who's going to stop us? The bookworm? It'd be just us, then. Think about it."
Drum was already thinking about it. No more rules. No more uneven fights. No more hard training early in the mornings or guard duties at night. It was, he was deciding, kind of appealing.
He smirked. "Maybe," he said.
Piano laughed under his breath. "Maybe," he agreed.
I should have seen this coming, he thought, sourly. What the Hell was I expecting – a clone? A miracle? A brat who could walk for more than half an hour without collapsing, whining, or just generally being a pain in the ass?
The demon sighed. The truth was, he hadn't expected anything. He hadn't been thinking, really, when he'd picked up Goku's son and taken off with him. At least, not thinking in the conventional way. The only real thing that had been in his head was the rough sense that, once Cymbal got back to the stronghold, someone would be coming for that kid. Someone would want him dead, to squash the last bit of threat that Son Goku represented.
Piccolo still had trouble believing that Son Goku was dead. The man had been a very central part of his life since it began – the goal to strive toward, the obstacle to overcome, the wrench periodically thrown into the plans, the never-ending source of frustration and confusion…the only person he'd ever really talked to. Gone. Just like that.
Well, the demon reflected, maybe not just like that. It had been a drawn-out process. There had first been the fights with Goku's long-lost freak of an alien brother, mostly caused by Gohan being kidnapped. Of course, no sooner had they fought that monster off than they had to go retrieve the boy again, this time from the stronghold far to the north. Then there had been the battle with Cymbal, the transformation – all this before the energy blast from behind had ended Son Goku's life.
Why that wasn't alright with him, Piccolo was just beginning to sound out. Like the ocean floor, the reason was well-hidden, buried under layers and layers of water and self-denial…but his first mental forays into it were starting to give him the shape of the thing, dark and ominous and full of caverns. He didn't like the look of it at all, and so he did his best not to think about it.
Still, at times like this, it was all but impossible. For just a moment, Piccolo closed his eyes against the heat of the desert sun, feeling the raw force of it of it seeping into him like the air before a chi blast. The emptiness echoed around him like a gong, resonating in every part of him. Irritably, he pushed it aside – he couldn't let it swallow him. He had to go on, pull himself together, keep moving until he could get his feet back under him – and, while he was at it, he had to get that useless brat onto his feet, too.
The demon stopped walking, not bothering to turn around.
For a second or two, the boy didn't say anything; the air was filled with the sound of his panting. "Mr. Piccolo," the boy said at last in a thin voice, "haven't we walked far enough today?"
"You'd rather fight instead," Piccolo growled. He was satisfied to be able to almost hear Gohan's flinch. The boy needed some discipline, and intimidation was just the way to do it.
"No, sir," the boy answered hurriedly. "I just don't know if I can walk anymore is all…"
"You can. Get up."
Piccolo rounded on him, glaring down at the smallish figure that was sitting on the ground, legs tucked up like a dropped apple. "You can ALWAYS get back up, boy," he snapped. "It's just a question of what it's worth to you."
The boy thought about that for a minute. His pale face – too pale and soft for the hard air of the desert - scrunched up with concentration. And, finally, he climbed to his feet. "I'm ready sir," he said, a little sullenly.
"I doubt that," Piccolo muttered, but he continued walking, knowing that Gohan was following. The boy had nowhere else to go – and no choice.
Piccolo knew exactly how he felt.
"We are all bound by the rules of the afterlife, Son Goku. Even me," Kami said. Son distinctly detected a note of impatience in his voice. Apparently even god found the long wait tiresome.
"Yeah, but jeeze, we've been here for hours."
"Days," Kami muttered.
"Days then," Goku amended. "Anyway, it's been a long time, and I'm starting to get hungry."
"You're dead," the guardian of earth pronounced tiredly. "You aren't supposed to get hungry."
"You know that, and I know that," Goku said. "But just try telling it to my stomach."
"It's good to know that some things go beyond even death," Kami responded in a sarcastic tone that even Piccolo might have been proud of.
Goku was just about to ask how being hungry could ever fall into the "good" category when he was interrupted by a small, clerklike demon. This apparition was blue-skinned from head to polished shoe, clipboard proffered before him like a weapon. "Kami-sama?" the demon asked through his nose. "King Yamma will see you now."
"King Yamma?" Goku asked.
"Shh," Kami responded, voice so low that even the clerk didn't seem to hear it. "Be quiet. This is an important person, Goku, and we need his help."
The clerk demon began walking…and Kami began following…so Goku decided he was probably supposed to follow, too. He took the time to see if stepping a few feet away had changed the scenery at all. It really hadn't. Son Goku was sort of worried to see that the afterlife was mainly composed of fluffy pink and yellow clouds. That was nice and everything, but he was pretty sure that he'd get really bored with it if he were around long enough. Which he probably would be, given that he was dead and everything.
The doors that they walked through into the judgment place were huge. It reminded him of the temple his grandpa had lived in, with all the arches and pillars. The whole place just felt religious…and it made Goku uncomfortable in a "which parts do I stand for and what do I do with this piece of bread," sort of way.
"Well, what have we here," a voice boomed. Goku looked up. At a desk that was easily the size of most houses was a very strange being. He was monstrous, bigger even than the Ox King, and inkpen red. The large man tilted his bay-window-sized glasses further down on his nose and squinted. "Kami, I'm very busy here. Can this wait?"
Kami bowed respectfully. "I beg your pardon, King Yamma, but this is very urgent. The earth may be in terrible danger."
"I can't wait to hear this," Yamma said, putting his elbow on the great desk, and putting his chin in his palm. "Go on, tell me how you're going to ruin my day."
Kami chuckled nervously. "You see, there's a very great threat coming to earth, King Yamma. And this man, Son Goku, is our only hope. As you can see, he's quite dead right now, but there are ways…"
"Wait," King Yamma said. He looked down at his book, and his great brow furrowed. "That," he said, pointing at Goku, "is Son Goku?"
Clearing his throat, Kami said, "Yes, King Yamma."
"And he's dead?"
"As a doornail, I'm afraid."
King Yamma shook his head and sat back. "That's terrible news."
"I'll say," Goku responded. "Though it really doesn't seem to be so bad once you get used to it, so.."
Kami elbowed him in the side. "That's why we need your help, sir. You see, the world is…"
"He shouldn't be here," Yamma said.
Goku thought that was probably more a problem with the clerk-demon than with either him or Kami, but he decided to keep his mouth shut. Kami, meanwhile, bowed slightly. "You're right, sir…by rights, he should have gone straight to heaven, but circumstances…"
"No," Yamma said. His voice wasn't thunderous or angry so much as it was confused. "I mean he shouldn't be here, in the afterlife."
Goku blinked. "You mean I'm not dead?" he asked.
"No," King Yamma said again, his great brow furrowing deeper. "You've definitely died. The only problem is that, according to this, you weren't supposed to."
Kami recovered first. "He wasn't supposed to die yet, you mean."
"That's right. According to this book, young man…" Yamma said, removing his glasses entirely and leaning back in his chair, "you're about four years too early."