Demon Hunt: Chapter 14 – Defense, Diversity, and Turtles
August 21st, Age 773. Satan City.
'All right, so…'
Gohan shifted his body in a quick and concise movement, easily dodging the power punch thrown his way. He glanced over to the outside of the fighting ring, his classmates standing there to see the spectacle. There was Erasa, supportively cheering him on; Sharpner, crossing his arms and wearing an amused smirk; and Videl, simply watching with an intense and studious gaze.
'This is not how I imagined my first weekend outing with friends.'
Could he even consider them friends? Both he and they were on friendly terms, but he had barely been to school for a week. Yes, Erasa seemed to always be in a kind mood, and he enjoyed speaking with her. Sharpner, too, was not a particularly off-putting character (though Gohan had his own reservations over any relationship more than friendly acquaintances). And Videl…was still an unknown. In the past week she had shown that she was pushy and headstrong, but he felt that there was somehow more to her than that.
A kick, this time, flew in from his left. With minimal effort, Gohan leaned to his right and allowed the leg to simply sweep over his head without meeting its intended target. All he had to do was stay in the ring and demonstrate Turtle School Martial Arts to Videl and Sharpner – the first fighting style his father ever learned (first from Grandpa Gohan, then from Master Roshi). Gohan only hoped he wouldn't draw too much attention to himself.
Of course, he had to wonder how he ended up agreeing to this in the first place.
August 17th. Orange Star High School.
His second day of school started off better than the first ended; people stopped whispering about him as he walked by – the lone perk of literally being yesterday's news. But even with the buzz about him making its uneventful and much welcomed death, his father's alleged shady legacy nonetheless made its impact on his school life.
He tried to sit away from Videl's circle before class began. Maybe make some new friends. The people in class early weren't at all interested in talking – at least not to Gohan.
"Hello," he would greet in the most approachable tone he could manage.
The usual response was a weak "Hi," or "Morning," before the other student returned to whatever made him or her seem too occupied to talk.
Gohan ultimately resigned to sitting by the window as he had done on his first day. If nothing else, Videl already told him that he was welcome to spend his days at school with her circle. It was a nice gesture of amiability from Satan's daughter. His trust in her offer and willingness to be on friendly terms with someone so closely related to Mr. Satan was later solidified when Videl Satan turned out to be the first person to talk to Gohan that morning.
"Good morning, Gohan," she greeted with a casually raised hand.
Gohan responded with a cheery smile and a friendly wave. "Good morning," he said.
"So I see you're sticking with the uniform," she teased, placing her knuckles on her hips as she looked him up and down. It seemed as though she were pretending the events of yesterday didn't happen, and Gohan was grateful. He allowed himself a chuckle at her little joke.
"Well, no worries," she continued as she took her seat. "It's not like anyone else here dresses in anything different from their own little personal style anyway."
"Oh, yeah," said a dramatically deeper voice – Sharpner. He joined the conversation as he slid into his own chair. "In fact, I think I saw those guys wearing the same exact thing they wore yesterday." With a grin, he jerked his thumb to a small group on the other side of the classroom.
"And all of last year," Erasa chimed in with a giggle, coming up from behind Gohan. "And the year before that."
"Well, at least Brains over here can just use the uniform as an excuse," Sharpner joked, gesturing towards Gohan.
Gohan pointed to himself, puzzled look on his face. "Brains?" he asked. "Is that supposed to be a nickname?"
"Sharp, you really think of the worst nicknames, don't you?" asked Videl, chuckling.
August 21st. Outside the fighting ring.
Videl Satan never took any sort of "detective" classes. She didn't have a degree, a license, or even some lame commemorative certificate that qualified her as an expert in reading people. But she studied martial arts her entire life. Or most of her life, rather. In her childhood, martial arts training came day and night. She knew how to throw a proper punch before most children knew their first word. As she got older, training became less frequent – particularly during her preteen years. One disaster of a 14th birthday party later and she was back to spending evenings with training weights in her hands rather than the television remote control or a telephone.
In short, she had always considered herself well-versed in human kinetics (and some non-human kinetics after learning of the diverse range of competitors in non-Wave and Rocks-sponsored tournaments). She can guess whether a person was nervous, whether someone was telling her the truth, or (most importantly) whether her opponent will throw a fist at her…and she'd usually be right. People told her that she had a natural gift – one sometimes (and often to her disgruntlement) attributed to her father.
"Come on, Brains! Stop dodging like a sissy and throw a punch already!"
'Someone is getting impatient,' commented Videl in silence, turning her head towards Sharpner. She took note of his stance – his legs at shoulder-width apart, his arms folded over his chest (but not tensed at all), and his mouth curled into his usual, confident and often mischievous grin. 'Nope; not impatient. He's just trying to be funny is all.'
Still, Sharpner would be right to feel impatient. She had expected to see a fight – one where she could take note of what she thought could be a useful fighting style to diversify her own moveset. Sure, Gohan had done well not to be hit so far, but was this really the fighting style of his father? How could he win a fight if he can't even throw a punch – not even out of some self-preservation instinct?
When Gohan climbed into the ring a minute ago, she asked him to demonstrate the Turtle School's fighting stance. The spiky-haired youth scratched the back of his head (as, she noted, he was prone to do), and raised his arms out to his sides and put his left foot forward. It looked silly – as if he were preparing some kind of clumsy bull rush or headbutt. Sharpner burst out in laughter. Erasa, uninterested in fighting and thus having no idea that Gohan was doing wrong, simply looked in awe.
Videl felt upset and impatient when she saw his lame attempt at a fighting stance. If he had no idea how to take a proper stance, he had no business being in a fight! She thought that he was either lying about knowing how to fight, or he was making a mockery of martial arts.
After a second, Gohan returned to a more relaxed position, scratching the back of his head and laughing to himself.
"The Turtle Style doesn't have a specific stance," he explained. "You just fight the way you fight."
A ridiculous notion, Videl had thought. 'A proper stance is one of the key foundations to practicing martial arts! How does he expect to defend himself when he is practically open on all sides?'
She thought back on what she had seen so far in the past minute. He looked completely vulnerable. Unless it was to avoid an attack, Gohan barely moved an inch. And when Gohan did avoid an attack, he couldn't have moved more than an inch and still avoided contact. Videl had to groan at herself for not realizing it sooner.
Yes, in a competition, the fighting style would be considered boring for those standing in the audience. But from the perspective of a martial artist, the facing the Turtle Style would both be incredibly frustrating and humbling. The sheer level of skill and fighting instinct it would take to dodge punches the way Gohan was doing…she was in awe thinking about it. Sure, Gohan's practice partner wasn't the most skilled, but he was certainly no pushover. Videl had to wonder if Gohan was giving it everything he had, or if he was hiding more beneath his lean appearance. The fighter inside her wanted to test this new rival's limits.
'So this is the style of Son Goku…' she thought to herself.
August 20th. Orange Star High School.
It's been another day and Videl had not yet found the chance to offer him the free visit to the Satan Gym. It was and continued to be difficult to find an appropriate situation. He wasn't the easiest of people to approach during class time, always so focused on the lecture or burying himself in his notes.
'And just giving him the gift would feel so awkward if it didn't come up organically, right?' she thought, scratching in doodles of old cartoon characters into the margins of her notebook. A part of her had to laugh at herself. 'Videl Satan could beat down a whole gang of thugs in a dark alley, and she feels weird about giving a boy a gift – no matter how intangible or completely impersonal. It's a damn gym trial.'
Sharpner was the one who asked about Gohan's physical ability. "You look a bit on the scrawny side, don't you, Gohan?" he suggested during one of their breaks. "Are you sure you're a martial artist's son?"
Erasa, of course, commented that not every guy had to be a hulking mass to be considered 'manly.'
"Gohan might not be able to lift as much weight as you, Sharpner, but I bet he has a lot of other strengths!" she claimed. The petite blonde turned to Videl in an effort to pull her on her side. "Videl here is living proof that you don't need to have a whole lot of muscle to be good at fighting."
"Well, come on!" Sharpner exclaimed, half laughing. "Videl is the daughter of the strongest man on Earth! Of course she'd hit hard in a fight!"
"Hey, hey," Gohan interjected, waving his hands in a pacifying manner. With a smile, he said, "Genetics isn't all there is to being a good martial artist. It takes a lot of work, too, right?"
'What a perfect opportunity,' thought Videl. "Would you call yourself a decent martial artist?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't know about 'decent'…" he replied, scratching the back of his head with a little grin.
"See, Erasa? Gohan admits that he's not even a decent fighter," said Sharpner. He decisively slammed his open palm onto the table, saying, "Gohan, you've got to start some serious exercise – not just the stuff going on in the school gym."
"Yeah," Videl agreed, curious to see what kind of potential in fighting the new boy possessed. Plus, bringing up her father's little 'free-gym day' to Gohan couldn't have been met with a more natural situation. "Besides – my dad said that, since you're new in town and all, it would do you good to have a free session or two at the Satan Gym. Not just a branch gym, either. The main one."
"Oh, that's pretty cool!" exclaimed Erasa.
Gohan stifled a weak laugh – one of embarrassment, Videl suspected. "Sorry," he said, again scratching the back of his head. "I get enough exercise playing with my little brother at home. I don't think I could handle a day at the gym."
"Gohan, that's just wasteful," Sharpner responded, shaking his head. "It'd be good to have a few tricks up your sleeve once in a while. Satan City isn't exactly the safest place, even with our own little crimefighter here."
Videl rolled her eyes. 'You had to say 'little,' didn't you?'
"Sharpner has a point, Gohan," Erasa commented. "A lot of people learn something here in Satan City. Even some of the kindest people know a good technique or two thanks to Videl's dad and the mayor."
'Ah, yes,' Videl thought. 'Mr. Satan's Self-Defense Initiative. That was one of Rude's projects, I think.'
The premise was simple; any office in Satan City with a large number of employees is required to hold a mandatory self-defense class once a year. Officially, any certified martial arts instructor would do, but most companies only want someone from the Satan School. The bigger corporations are often fighting over which group gets Hercule Satan himself to lead the session. Not only did the act promote business for the Satan Gym franchise, but it also seemed to make citizens happier.
"Yeah, but, guys," Gohan pleaded, hoping they would change the subject soon, "I think I know enough to defend myself without too much trouble."
"Really? Well, now you have to come with us to the gym. Like, this weekend," Sharpner insisted, crossing his arms over his chest and smirking – the usual gesture for his competitive side revealing itself, Videl noted. "I want to see what you can do, Brains."
"Brains, huh?" asked Erasa, her tone hinting at playful sarcasm. "You're really trying that one again?" She turned to Gohan. "He's right, though – about it being a waste if you don't go. It could be fun! It'll be the first weekend outing of the school year!"
'And just like that, Gohan is cornered…' Videl thought, mentally clenching her fist in victory. In her few days of knowing the boy, Videl suspected he was the type weak to peer pressure. He was always too kind, too eager to please.
It was clear to her how uncomfortable Gohan was with saying 'no' to people.
August 21st. Satan Gym.
'So my goal here today is…'
Gohan shifted his body back, avoiding the swinging hook of his opponent by a mere centimeter. He could tell that the fighter was becoming simultaneously tired and frustrated. Nothing was connecting, and so punches gradually became more wild and uncontrolled as the fight wore on. In another minute, he wouldn't be surprised if the poor young man fell to his own exhaustion. Fortunately, there were only another twenty seconds left in the practice match.
'My goal here today is…' he continued silently, waiting for the next attack. '…don't hurt anyone, and don't stand out.'
The half-Saiyan took slow breaths, inhaling the light, cool air of the well-conditioned gym. Those who trained in such a place must be spoiled, he thought, recalling his days training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber with his father. It took him days just to stand, weeks to walk, run, jump, fight. He had to fight through blizzards and floods of fire in equal measure.
In this gym, it was as if the air was always refreshing; no matter the condition of the fighter. Gohan found it strange, then, that anyone could even think to become stronger in such a place. Even with the air conditioning, his opponent was damp from head to toe with sweat. Dark stains colored his athletic top. He had to constantly wipe or blink away the sweat creeping into his eyes from his forehead. He could barely hold his arms up for more than the second it took to throw a punch.
In contrast, Gohan looked as fresh and dry as he had when he came into the ring. The dark-haired youth was thankful that the others weren't so close that they could see his lack of sweat, and he kept a close eye on the towel in his designated corner for when the match finished so that he could wipe away the non-existent moisture on his face to avoid arousing any suspicion.
Another wild assault was coming; he could sense it in his opponent. Gohan could see the varying tensing and relaxing of muscles in the other fighter's body, easily reading where each punch, kick, or attempted grapple was going.
'Low, sweeping kick to my right ankle…'
Gohan lifted his foot in response, allowing his opponent's foot to swing under him.
'Hard left straight to my head…'
He gently, but swiftly brought his right hand up to deflect the incoming blow so that it passed by his ear without so much as grazing him.
'Low kick to my left shin…'
Again, he raised the targeted foot up to knee-level, avoiding another attack by a hair's width.
'Right hooking punch to my head…'
The half-Saiyan leaned back at the last second, once more placing himself just out of the other fighter's reach. Gohan was leagues ahead of anything the gym could offer – that much was obvious to him. However, he still felt some enjoyment in the match. Testing his skill as he left himself handicapped, how well he could read the opponent, using even the weakest flare of spirit energy to predict the next attack before it came – it was something he never took the time to enjoy while training with his father or with Piccolo. There was a certain thrill to seeing how many different ways one could train the senses, even against an opponent far less powerful than he.
The opponent wouldn't move from his rooted position, his feet planted where he stood, his legs hardened just to support the weight of his body so he wouldn't fall on the mat. Gohan didn't want to move either; to continue the fight would be pointless. The match ended in a few seconds anyway, so why bother?
The ringing of the digital clock pulled both of them out of the moment. The other fighter dropped to his bottom, someone throwing him a towel with which to clean himself. Gohan quickly jogged to his corner, grabbing his own towel and pressing it against his face. Before turning back toward his friends, he draped the towel over his head, allowing it to lazily cover part of his face.
"Well, um…" he began, facing them. He let out an almost exaggerated sigh, as if to further convince others of his faux-fatigue. "That's the Turtle Style…"
He scratched the back of his head, nervously waiting for their response. Sharpner was the first to say anything.
"I don't get it, Brains. All you did was dodge and deflect. How can that be considered fighting at all?"
"I…uh…I guess it's kind of hard to explain…" Gohan stepped out of the mat and took a seat near his friends. It was fortunate that this training room was mostly private – a separate section from the rest of the gym. Sharpner's suggestion. He didn't want Gohan to embarrass himself in front of all the major martial artists in the city. At the very least, it ensured Gohan didn't make a spectacle of himself.
"The Turtle School doesn't have a long list of special techniques. There are a few, but knowing techniques were never as important as knowing the training philosophy. The style is about how you train your body and fighting instincts to the very limit and beyond, making you the ultimate defensive fighter."
He let what he said sink in for a minute before laughing to himself and scratching the back of his head.
"Not that I claim to be the ultimate defensive fighter or anything like that…" Gohan amended with a sheepish grin.
"Huh. So that's why it's called the Turtle Style, huh?" asked Videl, turning Gohan's attention to her. "The fighter can seem like he's not moving or just look weak, but he has a strong defense to rely on at all times…no matter how silly his stance is."
Instantly, Gohan was reminded of his "joke" stance earlier. Temperature in his face began to rise, he felt, with the slightest pink adding more color to his peach complexion. Gohan dragged the towel from his head to his face, hiding his moment of embarrassment behind it as he pretended to wipe more sweat away. 'Well, I mean…that's just the stance I heard Dad used back when he was a kid…' he thought, lightly scratching his cheek.
"Uh, yeah," he replied to Videl's observation. 'And training basically guarantees that your body is hard and resilient enough to take a hit, too.'
"Alright, great. How do you expect to win a fight if you don't use a lot of fighting techniques?" asked Sharpner, crossing his arms over his chest yet again. He, Erasa, and Videl all took their own seats around Gohan, making for easier conversation.
"Throwing a punch or a kick is easy," he explained. "I had a lot of opportunities to hit my practice partner earlier. Defending yourself isn't as simple, but your opponent can't win if he can't even touch you. And if the other guy can't win, you do, right?"
Sharpner sighed. "Well, can't say I'm not disappointed. Thought your fight would be a little more exciting." He smirked. "Or at least a little funny."
"Oh, don't listen to him, Gohan!" Erasa said, slapping Sharpner lightly on his arm. "He's just being a jerk because he doesn't think he can win against you now."
"Hey, hey, I can take Brains in a fight any day!" the blond exclaimed, slightly indignant. "How about it? Your impenetrable style against my invincible style?" he asked, turning to Gohan. His grin grew a little mischievous as he continued, "A little Turtle on Satan action? Huh?"
Gohan, confused, tilted his head to his side. "Uh…no thanks, Sharpner…" The dark-haired youth scratched the back of his head as he leaned over his knees. "I'm pretty tired…And I've got to fly home at the end of the day, too."
"Right, in your jet-plane. You should take us on a ride one day!" suggested Erasa before standing up. "Like, I don't know about you three, but I've had enough of this gym for the day. Why don't we go get something to eat before Gohan has to go back home?"
"Sounds good. I'll meet up with you guys when I'm done changing," Gohan said as he pulled his backpack from underneath the bench and slung it over his shoulder. He watched as the others headed out of the private training room, just about ready to strip out of his sweatpants and white-tee when Videl turned around.
"Hey, Gohan," she started, walking back towards the half-Saiyan. "That was your father's fighting style, wasn't it?"
"Y-yeah…" Gohan answered, letting go of the shirt that he was about to remove. He wasn't so careless as to strip himself down in front of a girl he had just met. "It's one of the three main disciplines of martial arts my dad studied during his life."
'And after,' he added mentally.
"Huh. It's like you said, then. Diversity."
'Diversity?' he asked himself. She was talking about the conversation about martial arts from the first day they met. "Right. Martial arts should be about diversity. There's no one style that's the greatest."
"Then I'd like to learn from you."
"Teach me the Turtle Style. And other styles that your dad taught you." She brought her fists to her hips, taking another step towards Gohan. "You do know other styles, don't you?"
"Yeah, but –" Gohan took a step back, feeling awfully uncomfortable. "I can't. I-I can't teach you."
Her eyes seemed to grow only more intense as her brow lowered slightly. After a second, one eyebrow rose inquisitively. "Well why not?"
'Because it'll reveal a little too much about my life? And maybe too much about yours?'
"I don't want you to think that I'm…weird."
'Because, really, how normal is it that my best friend is a green man who lives in a floating palace? Or that I know people who've come back from the dead? Or that I saved the world when I was ten years old and your father took credit for it?'
Her brow lowered once again, and he mouth hung open slightly, giving Videl the impression of someone both upset and confused. She scoffed, "It's a bit late for that, Gohan." Videl turned around, heading back out of the private training room. "I get it; you don't want to teach me. Hurry up so we can get some food, alright?"
"And, Gohan?" She turned to face him. "I didn't say this earlier, but…Good fight."
The Writer's BACK!
Hey, hey! You see what I did there? You know? With the "Writer's Block" title? Kudos to you. Anyway, I'm sorry that getting back into writing Demon Hunt took a little longer than expected. So I took my exams, started summer break, and I took a look at my notes and at once had a kind of vague picture of where I left off. Even so, I started typing and typing and had no idea what I was doing. I was definitely afraid that I couldn't write any good chapters (especially because I was starting off cold after such a long break), so I took another week or so to reread the story, notes for the future, track the dates presented in the chapters, and try to construct a decently paced chapter with a mix of martial arts and DBZ universe expansion that I love so much.
There's a lot of flashback, framing what's happening in the present (the 21st) around some of the more important parts of Gohan's first week of school after his first day (17th and 20th). My goal was to move the story along without lingering on some of the more trivial and pointless things (like which classes Gohan is taking, how he's doing in those classes, teachers yelling at Gohan for talking to his friends during class…You've all seen those sort of high-school fics before, and I wouldn't want you to have to go through that here), but still show the budding friendship of these four characters and the growing interest (though not necessarily romantic interest) between Gohan and Videl.
What I wanted was for the events of the 17th (Gohan's second day of school) to sort of "solidify" that these four are or will be really good friends, especially Gohan and Videl. I didn't think there needed to be a whole day's worth of descriptions how Gohan and Videl relate to one another over this one single day (after all, how close can you get to someone in a single day during high school?), so I left it all up to that one morning.
I really hope that this chapter lives up to you readers' expectations of my work. If not, don't worry; Demon Hunt is returning to its regular, weekend update schedule! In addition, I will be starting a second project this summer (with an, as of yet, undetermined schedule) that will launch next week! In other good news, I recently got my semester grades back and it's Bs across the board! I was sure I had a C in there somewhere, but damn it feels good to be wrong!
Also, if you check the front page of DBZ stories and filter them by follower-count, Demon Hunt is in the FIRST PAGE! That's like, what? Top 25?! How long have I been gone?! All you readers, reviewers, followers, and favoriters rock so hard that I'm just like, "Whoa. These guys freaking rock so hard."
Thanks for your continued support! Please let me know how my first chapter in two months went. I felt weird about getting back into writing, especially since I was coming in cold, but once I warmed up I started to feel really good about my writing.