Age 765 - December
Wisps of gold dispersed in thick waves, accompanied by rolling fulminations that scorched the earth beneath Shourai's feet. Every exhalation discharged more and more electricity as the half-saiyan advanced, his boots sifting through the layer of ashes that clung to the soil in the wake of his masenko. The power coursing through his veins was intoxicating and tinged with an anger the years left untouched. For as long as he could remember, he'd understood that fury was an engine, capable of powering a demon beyond comprehension.
With every breath, that demon grew, and its influence spread as ore through the air.
Fifteen darted backward through the woodland, retreating once again into the cover of the forest. Shourai's aura snapped and he cut her off just before she could clear the crater left by his masenko. She bounced against his chest and spun, unleashing a fierce kick that would've broken his hip a minute ago. He caught it with his left hand and flipped her, pouncing before she could recover her balance.
His right hand slammed into her jaw and leveled her in the air, only for his left elbow crashed into her midsection a moment later. Before she could hit the ground, Shourai's knee shot up like a piston. The base of her spine met bone and she bounced once again, this time launched upward. Shourai reached for her ankle as she left his range and caught her at the last possible second.
His feet left the ground, pulled by her momentum, and he pivoted… then whipped her across the forest floor with all of his strength. Fifteen crashed through three, five, seven — a dozen trees before Shourai caught back up with her. His body cut through bark behind her, showering the two of them in wooden shrapnel as he caught her shoulders in his bare hands and flipped her upward with a two handed toss.
He vanished again, only to reappear at her feet. Before she could right herself, his fingers were wrapped around her ankles, and suddenly they were falling toward the earth at a million miles an hour, powered by a jetstream of golden lightning that gathered and crackled in their wake.
Shourai power bombed her into the soil and shot backward as a massive crater formed beneath her. A sea of mighty pines collapsed in a wave of pressure and fell inward as the earth buckled. The screech of splintering wood and the rustle of heavily packed dirt overtook the silence, leaving the Super Saiyan to marvel in the aftermath of his own strength.
Something about the dominion he held over her in strength felt… wrong.
She was an android. She was supposed to be stronger than this. Why wasn't she crushing him? Seventeen and Eighteen wouldn't have been flinched from an onslaught like that, not while he was still warming up. His eyes narrowed as he descended to the lip of the crater that housed Android Fifteen.
She fought her way through the blanket of pine needles and well splintered wood to clamber onto the base of a broken tree trunk, which stuck up from the earth as a fragile pillar.
"You are not in Doctor Gero's database," she concluded. "Who are you?"
Shourai didn't answer her. Instead, he examined the damage he'd wrought so far. Her stockings were ripped and the edges of her dress were now frayed. Her hair, once neat, was now unruly and riddled by leaves from the forest floor. He watched her comb them out with her fingers with mild interest. Did she even feel the discomfort? Or was it a routine, programmed into her?
"Your power level appears to surpass that of Son Goku's. It does not surpass Android Thirteen's. It will not suffice."
Shourai's eyes lazily drifted to the left, where his father was still fighting Android Thirteen. He couldn't see the intricacies of their fight, but the flashes of light in the distance were unmistakable. So far, his father still hadn't transformed into a Super Saiyan… which was good, but somewhat worrying. Why was he holding back?
"We'll see about that," he said. "I've learned the overconfidence of your kind."
"I am not programmed with confidence, or a surplus of it."
Shourai cracked his knuckles over his chest and dropped into the crater, his body still shrouded in a blanket of gold.
"If this is your full power, you stand no chance against me. Surrender now. Tell me where Gero went. There's no reason for me to kill you if you're willing to help me. There is a better way."
The words, colored with regret, were the vestiges of his mercy.
"This is not my full power."
Shourai frowned and sank into a combat stance, his arms bordered by charges of dying lightning. Fifteen watched his body flush with power once again, as if he were reaffirming his strength. She threw her arms out wide and a maelstrom came to life at her feet. Gale force winds sliced through the wooden grave beneath her and scattered pine until the sound of her full strength came to a crescendo and buffeted against the Super Saiyan's own.
He couldn't feel it, directly, but he could feel its volume, the way it struggled to dwarf his own. While she was strong, she would be no match for him.
She was the first to move, crossing the crater in a blink. Her right arm shot upward at Shourai's chin, but the Super Saiyan wove out of the way and returned fire with a pair of rapid fire jabs. Fifteen, unburdened by pain, issued one of her own as Shourai's fists bounced off of her cheeks. Her first blow went wide and Shourai brought his elbow down on her nose before she could let off a second.
She staggered and brought her hands together over her chest, inches from Shourai's abdomen… and a flash of golden light swallowed him whole. Violet tendrils ran off of the wave's sides as it tore into the outer wall of the crater, accompanied by a ghastly wail that rang through the air.
Her scanners monitored the blast at her fingertips, measuring its strength and approximating the chances of its success. A ninety percent chance it made contact and a ten percent chance of instant victory, an additional five percent granted by surprise…
Shourai's fingers emerged from the wave's tail and ripped it asunder, sending its two halves careening into the walls of the crater. Fifteen danced backward through the air as the resultant explosion rang out. As Shourai kicked off she took to the sky, pouring the energy she'd gathered from his earlier blast into her escape systems.
Gaining on her, Shourai's gaze narrowed as he felt the extra discharge of his own power — and he understood. She could utilize the strength she'd absorbed from him to bolster her own attributes. He was already aware that making use of ki attacks against her would have been a bad idea, but the knowledge that she could use it against him cemented it.
He was going to have to beat her with his bare hands.
Pouring on the afterburners, he caught up to her just before she could reach the cloud barrier and smashed into her jaw with a furious uppercut. Capsizing, Fifteen brought her heel down on the hybrid's shoulder and launched herself off of his chest with a powerful heel kick.
Shourai dashed after her as she descended back toward the earth, powered by the momentum of her own blow.
He followed after her, eyes fixed on hers… He could feel the world below her, highlighted by the spread of his power, carved out and etched into his mind. Beneath her, Yamcha and Fourteen's battle raged on, still at an impasse. Far from the mountain path where it began, their new battleground was
Yamcha knocked a heavy kick down with his elbow and parried another set of incoming jabs, dancing around Fourteen with a jovial spin. He buried his boot in the Android's back and grinned as Fourteen went sprawling into a tree, headfirst.
"What the hell is that…?"
Yamcha's head whipped around as soon as he felt Shourai closing in from above, and his blood ran cold when he felt the full breadth of the Super Saiyan's power bearing down on him and the little cyborg headed straight for him. He sank into a combat stance and prepared himself while Fourteen clambered back to his feet.
Goku fell back, the corners of his lips tugged upward into the ghost of a smirk. Android Thirteen, robot or not, wasn't a pushover. He was a little stronger than Goku was, at least without transforming, and he was still holding back the lion's share of his power. Wiping a line of blood away from his bottom lip, Goku studied his foe, impressed by what he saw. He was pretty certain that the guy before him wasn't one of the Androids that haunted his son, if only for the fact that Shourai would've been capable of handling the guy pretty easily.
So, what exactly was he?
Honestly, there were too many answers. Goku barely remembered the guy, much less the way he thought. In fact — thinking about it — Goku was pretty sure he didn't know the guy at all.
He made a tough robot, though.
"You know," Goku said, a grin still dominating his face. "When I first heard we were going to be fighting robots, I wasn't too optimistic. I figured it'd be boring… but you hit pretty hard. I can see how dangerous you'd be if I weren't here."
"If's about to be when, boy," Thirteen replied, leveling both hands in Goku's direction.
Lancets of red light raced through the air and fizzled out, only to be replaced by a swelling ball of crimson ki that crackled and bit at the air around it. Goku's eyes widened as it shot toward him, but he ducked out of the way in time to watch it whizz by.
"Woah, that was something! Not really much of a signature technique, though," he said, a little disappointed. Part of him felt guilty for relishing the challenge, but he could feel the battle unfolding everywhere else. Shourai and Yamcha were both doing okay, Tien and Gohan were fine… and Krillin was suppressing his power level somewhere, his strength unreadable. With any luck, he'd be able to cover for 'em if something went wrong. He wasn't particularly strong, but experience was a huge factor in almost any battle.
Weaker than the others or not, Krillin was by far one of the most experienced fighters Goku knew. He'd be fine, if it came down to an all out brawl… but Goku doubted that would happen. They had the numbers advantage, and unless something drastic changed in the next few minutes, things were going pretty well. Unusually well, actually. Nobody was dead and even though Gero got away, they still had a chance to find him.
He was in the middle of that thought when the red ball slammed into his back and detonated.
Fourteen's head turned to follow Yamcha's gaze and leveled an arm in Fifteen's direction. Energy ramped down the length of his exposed skin and a wave of blue light ripped through the air toward her back.
"Woah, they're turning on each other! Look out, man!"
Fifteen spun and caught Fourteen's wave with her left hand, serving as a conduit for his power while Shourai closed the gap. Emboldened, she sent him crashing to the ground with a heavy, backhanded slap. His aura flickered out and faded as he rolled through the dirt, his concentration broken.
He clambered to his feet as a set of seven starlings came charging after him, their bodies rippling with power and their trails filled by wisps of blue light. Shourai ducked as the first one whizzed by and crashed into the earth beneath him, knocking him forward with enough force to kickstart his escape. Three more went screaming by him as he vaulted onward, barely outrunning the explosions daisy chaining across the ground behind him.
He felt the warmth of the fifth and sixth blasts across his back as they bloomed, and for a moment, he thought he'd escape… at least, until the seventh blast detonated over his head, sending him ass over end into a rapidly expanding basin formed by the blastwave.
Yamcha watched as Shourai fell victim to the barrage, his face rife with confusion. The girl android was somehow siphoning power from her friend — and getting supercharged by it. Grimacing, the warrior dove forward and lowered his shoulder into Fourteen's chest, stumbling him for just long enough to sever the connection he held with Fifteen.
The female android spun in response, unleashing a series of screeching blasts that wailed through the air toward Yamcha.
"Gonna have to gun it, just for a second…!"
Yamcha's body went flush with red and he scrambled out of their way, leaving a series of cacophonous explosions to bite at the earth in his backwind. Fourteen chased after him, breaking across the open ground in an effort to keep up with the human's suddenly increased power.
In the sky above, Fifteen kept a hand trained on Yamcha's location, calculating the pathway for her next blast.
Aware of her oversight, Yamcha shot through the space beneath her just as Shourai came flying back into view, wreathed in gold.
The space between them shrank and then expanded again as Shourai circled around behind her with a fierce hammerblow. A shockwave resonated off of the strike as she sailed toward Yamcha, who jumped into the air to greet her. He pulled his knees in close to his chest and drop kicked her in midair, relieving her of her momentum and letting her hang just long enough for Shourai to come crashing in from above with an axe kick to the top of her head.
A plume of dirt and smoke blossomed from the impact site and Fourteen came charging through it, his arm seeking the Super Saiyan's throat… but Shourai turned in time to catch his wrist, and sent the Android skidding across the already disturbed dirt with a thunderous kiai.
Shourai let the dust settle, his body hanging in the air while his opponents recovered on the ground. They grouped together while he drifted downward, letting his boots touch the dirt while Yamcha straightened up next to him. Their auras blended together, mixing red and gold into a burnt auburn that radiated warmth and oppressive power. Meanwhile, the Androids inspected each other for damage, patting dirt off of each other's shoulders.
Their camaraderie would've been inspiring if it weren't so strange.
"So," Yamcha said, putting his hands on his hips and relaxing his kaio-ken so that he didn't burn himself to bits. "I'm guessing these aren't the androids you're afraid of."
"No," Shourai replied.
"Yeah, I figured. These guys are kinda lame."
A sudden, distant spike in power stole Shourai's attention away from the topic at hand. Yamcha's head snapped in the same direction an instant later — he'd felt it too?
"That feels like Gohan and Tien," he muttered, voice low.
"This is going downhill really fast," Shourai said, gritting his teeth together. "None of these guys exist in my timeline… and now I can't shake the feeling that they're just a distraction."
Yamcha stepped forward, cracking his knuckles together.
"How strong you figure these guys to be?"
"No clue, maybe… about half as strong as me," Shourai concluded, factoring in as much information as he could. "Just as durable, though, and they don't get tired. It feels like they've been holding back an awful lot of their power, buying time for Gero to escape."
Another spike of power in the distance caught him by the heartstrings, and were he still speaking, it would've rendered him speechless. It was a little weaker than he was, but it… it felt just like his father's, but somehow darker, more macabre. He couldn't explain it, but it left a bad taste in his mouth. If he didn't do something, Gohan and Tien would be out of luck, especially since his father was still dueling Android Thirteen.
Shourai turned to Yamcha, suddenly understanding the implication behind the older man's question.
"You sure you got this?"
"Yeah. I've got a trick or two up my sleeve," he said, punching into the air. "Don't worry, bud. I didn't take that warning of yours as a joke. I'm not gonna let some robots take me down, especially if they're not even the ones that I should be worried about."
The smart thing to do would've been to warn him of the truth — that all of Gero's creations were worth worrying about… but something in the way Yamcha spoke calmed his doubts. Shourai spared one last look at the Androids watching them and took off in a blaze of gold for Gohan and Tien's location, leaving Yamcha behind.
The scarred bandit studied his foes and exhaled, his face dominated by a crooked, nervous grin. Red light flushed through his every pore, filling his body with an undeniable rush of energy that bolstered him beyond his typical, physical limits.
"Y'know," he said, ignorant of the ambivalence staring back at him. "I never thought I'd figure something out that someone else didn't."
The red light surrounding him suddenly cracked and sank back down, conforming tightly to the shape of his musculature and vanishing. Slowly, streaks of sparkling white ran across his knees. They crossed his elbows next, wrapped themselves around his neck and vanished entirely. Like rays of light through glass, they shimmered intermittently across his figure as his power rose again and again, skyrocketing. Fourteen and Fifteen didn't react, their internal scouters measuring the change with more than a little cause for concern as his power doubled over and over again.
"I realized something while training with Goku. The whole reason the Kaio-ken works, and I know you don't know what that is — don't worry about it, but… the whole reason it works is because you're supposed learn it under a higher gravity," he explained. "I thought it was weird. It's a simple concept, when you think about it. The technique's hard to master, but it's a necessity to survive gravity like that. You've gotta use ki to keep your body intact. Even without the Kaio-ken, I had to do that when I died… but you wouldn't know anything about that."
Yamcha's nervous grin spread into a full blown smirk.
"I'll spare you the details," he said, laughing a little. "Honestly, I just wanted somebody to know how badass I am before I broke this new technique out."
The two Androids spared each other a glance that, between humans, would've been rife with fear. Fourteen gave Yamcha another once over, his scouters pinpointing the human fighter's exact strength to the best of his abilities.
"This technique of yours increases your power," Fifteen concluded, her eyes narrowed. "That does not mean it will be enough to save your life."
Gohan shot to the left and Tien rocketed to the right, but The Beast tore after them both, splitting off into two separate halves that became two different monsters. Tien gasped, but Gohan didn't have time to draw breath. The Beast's claws wrapped tightly around his throat as its counterpart tackled Tien hard into the earth a quarter mile away. Gohan's boot lashed out hard and slammed into the green monstrosity's camouflaged head, but it didn't budge. He struck again and again as the monster's grip tightened — but it didn't flinch.
On the other side of the battlefield, Tien managed to free himself with a quick burst of ki from both feet. Streaks of white and green fought viciously through the forest as he did his best to escape and circle around back to Gohan… but as he accelerated, The Beast kept pace. He thrust his left hand in the monster's direction and unleashed a turbulent jet of green light that flashed through the woodland clearing below their old perch, consuming the world in a brilliant glow that bought him only a second.
When his foe came roaring through the torrent of energy, it occurred to him that he should've used the Solar Flare —
It backhanded him hard and he fell to the dirt, unconscious.
Gohan's kicking grew more and more feeble by the moment. Every blow took more and more of the breath he'd been squirreling away, leaving him with less and less power until…
A bolt of sparkling light slammed into The Beast's dark head, stumbling it and earning Gohan just enough time to jet into the sky. Smoke billowed around the explosion, but The Beast dispersed it with a quick crack of its tail against the earth. It was only then that Gohan saw the thing at it's full size: easily eight feet tall with a spiked tail twice as long, it was big enough to tower over even Piccolo. Its claws, now tinged with faint traces of blood from the boy's throat, drummed against its thighs as it turned to face the boy and his savior.
Shourai didn't flinch as two burning, red eyes locked with his. The golden cloak billowing around him expanded outward another inch as he put more power into the burn keeping him afloat. Reassuringly, he put a hand on Gohan's shoulder and spared a quick glance in the direction he'd last felt Tien.
"Where'd he go?"
"Don't know, we… we split off," Gohan panted.
Below, The Beast's duplicate rejoined it, stalking through the trees to merge back with its old self in a flash of light. Its already menacing power doubled, and Shourai regarded it with little more than blind fury. It wasn't that he'd failed to get there in time… it was the whole situation. Not only were there three more androids to worry about, but now he had to deal with… with whatever the hell just decommissioned Tien. Tien, though not stronger than him or his father, was definitely a capable warrior.
If he'd been even a second late, Gohan would've succumb to the same fate. Gaze narrowed, Shourai let his fingers slip off of his younger self's shoulder.
"Go find Tien," he said. Pulling a senzu bean out of his pocket, Shourai handed it to his younger self. They all carried one with them, just in case. Even Tien, but… he needed an excuse to get Gohan out of there. He knew himself. Without a reason to leave, he'd insist on staying to fight too, no matter how desperate the situation.
"I'm not going to leave you — you know I won't," Gohan shot back, his face full of fury.
The monster below waited patiently, eyeing the two fighters in the sky with little more than curiosity. Its dark, red eyes glittered, but it made no moves.
"Tien could already be dead," Shourai finally said. "If I go, that leaves you here alone… tell me, Gohan, what's the smart move here?"
Then he took the bean and shot off toward the woods below. The Beast watched him go as Shourai descended before it, his boots touching down in the dirt hardly ten feet away. Overhead, the darkening sky filled with fat, black clouds that painted the evening sky black. Inside of Shourai's chest, his heart beat a little faster. He didn't recognize the monster before him in the slightest. He'd never fought it in the future and he certainly didn't remember his father ever mentioning it.
Yet, here it was, on the day they were meant to take down Gero and put an end to the nightmares of his youth.
"Do you understand me?"
The Beast cackled, its voice low and guttural. It sounded like ten violins with different strings cut, all screeching in unison.
"I do," it replied.
There were so many questions burning inside of him, and as he stared the monster down, he could only imagine that it held all the answers within it. Piccolo and Vegeta's words lingered in his heart as he stared it down, the knowledge that there were no coincidences burning bright at the forefront of his thoughts.
"You must be wondering who I am," it drawled, its tail slamming into the dirt behind it. Shourai's eyes traced the sharpness of its claws and then noted the tail's length. Sixteen feet long with a pointed tip, perfect for impaling him or carving straight through his heart.
When Shourai didn't reply, it continued to speak.
"I know who you are, you know," it said. Shourai felt Gohan's power growing more and more distant. It stopped, and after a second, moved on… but the monster's words kept his attention. Something about the tone with which it spoke told him that it wasn't lying. Devoid of hesitation, Shourai stepped forward, cracking the knuckles on his left hand with extreme prejudice. His power was still running hot and despite a little bit of fatigue, he was still in good fighting condition.
"All I need to know is that I'm more than strong enough to beat any answers I need out of you," Shourai shot back, dismissing the creature's game.
"There's no doubt about that," it muttered. "Strong enough, of course. Your strength is just a few shades above mine… but good enough? Hardly."
Shourai kicked off hard at full tilt, blasting over open ground toward the creature and shredding the earth in his wake. Fury, he remembered, was an engine… and now that engine was going to power the demise of the monster before him.
The Beast's toes clenched and the ground beneath his feet shattered, allowing him to vault over Shourai as he led in with a heavy right hook that sailed harmlessly through the open air. He turned and the monster's tail sank down, stabbing hard at his head like an expertly aimed blade. He swayed to the right and shot up after his quarry, fist already cocked back for another hammer-like swing. The Beast managed to dodge it at the last possible second, leaving Shourai's fist to crash through a distorted after image.
It reappeared on the ground a few meters away, its fingers gathered over the massive crown that constituted its forehead.
Shourai swore and closed his eyes — too late.
A bright flash blinded him, leaving him momentarily paralyzed while light washed over the forest. The Beast's energy signature vanished, leaving him alone in a white void. For a moment, he let panic take him. Then, the lessons that he'd taught Gohan and learned the hard way came back to him. Eyes closed, he felt the monster out with his energy. It was good at hiding, but it didn't know the half of the man it was now dealing with. It may have known his name, but it clearly didn't know the depth of his skill.
It shot up to his left and he thrust his hand out, unleashing a geyser of brilliant golden fire that crackled to life with a peal of thunder to burn the world away.
The Beast, almost as if it knew his response, held on despite the storm. A well timed barrier of lightning infused energy kept it safe as the blastwave subsided. Shourai, still blind, kept his hand extended, ready to fire off another jet of light the second he felt that barrier drop.
Unseen, the monstrosity smiled, its beak twisting upward to forge a macabre grin that would've chilled the Super Saiyan right down to his core.
The Beast lowered the barrier and Shourai fired again, letting off a burst of light twice the size of the one before it. His foe shot to the side, narrowly avoiding the gout of flame as it shot from Shourai's palm, and wrapped a claw tightly around the future fighter's face. Shourai grunted as it drove him backward through the air and up the side of the cliff face Gohan and Tien were perched on moments ago. It let go as they crested its peak and Shourai slammed his leg into the creature's hip, knocking it away before it could make use of its advantage.
It soared to the left, arcing hard through the air as Shourai sent bolt after bolt of ki chasing after it. Despite his experience fighting without his eyes, leading a shot was ten times harder when he couldn't see his target. Frustrated, he let off a heavy volley of blasts that tore across the sky after his foe; each blast whistled like fireworks and battled head over head to be the first to slam into the monster's exposed back.
Its wings fanned out and it hit the brakes hard, letting Shourai's blasts fly right by and arc together. A massive, simultaneous detonation shook the sky and obliterated the otherwise beautiful scenery that served as the backdrop for their duel. Before it could recover and turn around, Shourai's knee smashed hard up against its spine. His left hand gripped the base of the monster's tail as it recoiled, jerking its body backward so that he could headbutt the soft backside of its helmet.
The impact shook his teeth, but he persevered, slamming his elbow down hard on the monster's back and driving it to its knees on the ground below.
The Beast showed no pain. It relished in the carnage, grinning like mad even after Shourai managed to pry his eyes open. By sheer power or sheer force of will it shook off all damage, confident in some hidden knowledge that must've lain deep in its heart.
"You fight well, Gohan," the Beast taunted, straightening as Shourai lorded over it. "For a dead man."
"Part of me thought you were bluffing about knowing my name," the golden fighter replied, spitting to his left.
Iron and saliva mixed in with the dirt while the two fighters gathered their breath, caught in an interlude. Shourai had no idea what the hell he was fighting against; it was green and insect-like, with claws capable of goring a man straight through. Its beak shouldn't have been able to produce such human words, and he could only imagine that the monster shouldn't have known his name. Even the Androids from before weren't so well-informed, even if Gero was tipped off to their ambush.
That didn't bring him any closer to understanding the monster's identity, however, and he could only imagine that it wasn't fleeing for good reason. If it understood the difference in their strengths, then it knew it was only—
"It's only a matter of time, now," the monster crowed.
"My thoughts exactly."
"Tell me, do you know the problem with that little transformation of yours?"
"How long has it hurt you to power all the way up, Gohan?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, but you do," the beast replied, whipping its tail against the ground.
Shourai's fists clenched.
"You can feel it, can't you? That something is amiss here," it continued. "That all these pieces aren't making a clear picture. Don't you know, boy, that time travel has consequences? You've made a mistake, an error in your calculations — and now it's time to pay the piper."
Goku craned his neck to look over his shoulder when he felt Shourai's ki spike up in response to a previously undiagnosed threat. It was almost as strong as he was — would Shourai really be okay dealing with something like that on his own?
Putting faith in his son, Goku turned back to Android Thirteen and exhaled. He'd been taking it easy and relishing the battle for a little while now, making full use of his chance to cut loose. For a man of his strength, that didn't happen often. Especially not when he was surrounded by so many strong allies who could cover for him in a pinch. Unfortunately, it looked an awful lot like he was going to have to get down to brass tacks. Shourai was capable of handling whatever it was he'd stumbled into, but Yamcha and Gohan and Tien… they needed to be protected. Every minute he wasted fighting was another minute that they genuinely struggled.
"Alright," Goku said, clenching his fists. "I've had my fun. It's time to put an end to this."
"Right," Thirteen replied, staring at the man across from him in the sky with a bloody grin. Goku's clothes were burned and a little blackened, but the Saiyan looked otherwise fine. Thirteen had little battle damage to speak of; he'd been holding back the lion's share of his strength to really feel Goku out. Now that he knew the extent of the Saiyan's power, he wasn't impressed. Unless something drastic changed the flow of battle, everything was going according to plan.
"And how're you gonna do that, chief? I don't know if you've noticed, but your heavy hitter hasn't been here for a while now."
Goku couldn't help himself — or the grin that slipped through the cracks of his serious facade.
"If you think he's the heavy hitter, then you haven't been paying attention."
The dam broke in an instant.
A rush of golden power surged out from Goku's pores, igniting the air around him with a brilliant, glittering flame of fury that burnt away all the oxygen. His teeth gnashed together and his full strength exploded out into full view, forcing combatants on all sides of the battlefield below to stop and turn their heads to face the heavens. Fourteen and Fifteen paused, their sensors locked on Son Goku while he expressed the fullest extent of his power.
Yamcha, taken aback, could only grin.
While his foes were preoccupied, Yamcha threw his hands out to the side. Lashes of white light struck through the air and tore into his skin, eating away at the man he used to be and giving violent birth to a new warrior. His power skyrocketed, reaching avariciously toward the heavens and lacerating the earth at his feet. Suddenly, the two androids before him turned, their attention torn between the golden angel in the sky and the devilish warrior before them. Lancets of slick, black lightning surged over Yamcha's face and chest as he bent his knees, pulling more and more power from within himself out into plain view.
Goku wasn't the only one capable of cutting loose.
A/N: So it's been a while. I took a break from this fic after hitting a rut with it; I'd already written everything through to the end, but I've never been a planner. This was the first thing I'd ever touched that required finesse, planning, and execution. I'm not sure when I'll come back to it full time, but in the meanwhile, here's the last chapter I finished before I took my break.
Usually, this is where I would respond to reader questions. In lieu of that, I'd like to thank the people who've stuck by this story up to this point, and the forty thousand or so folks that've read it. I wonder how many of you have read it cover-to-current, and how many of you might read it in the future? My goal has always been to write a story I'd like to read, and I hope this is something you guys enjoy, whether you're finding it for the first time or coming back to it in surprise.