AN:I had a request for another major angst-fest of a story, and it's company policy at Candyland Inc. to not disappoint the readers. So…here you go. I don't know how this is going to come out, and I also haven't decided yet if there will be closure at the end. You'll see what I mean when/if you read it. As with "A Price Paid in Blood," reader discretion is strongly advised, as this is once again some strong subject matter. The title song for this story is "You're Still You" by Josh Groban. I don't own the song or DBZ. Just my poor lil' plot line.
Chapter One—Into the Darkness
Through the darkness, I can see your light
And you will always shine
And I can feel your heart in mine
The servants that were employed at the mansion stepped back to make way for their employer's daughter. They could tell from the expression on her face and the look in her eyes that this was not a good time to cross her or get in her way. And they were right.
Her eyes were narrowed and her jaw was set as she strolled through the hallways of her home. It wasn't totally uncommon to see her angry, but there was something about the way she walked and looked that said this was something major.
Which was exactly what she wanted. She had become very good at making people think what she wanted them to think about certain things. And schooling her face and her emotions was only a part of her skill. She'd made certain that she looked her absolute angriest before heading up from her father's dojo towards her room. Nobody messed with her when she was angry.
Had she let her true emotions broadcast themselves on her face, the look would have been more preoccupied than pissed. Her intuition had been screaming at her all day, warning her with proverbial red flags and flashing lights that something was going to happen. Something terrible.
It had started that morning, right when she'd woken up. Her gut had been in a knot, and nothing could settle her stomach. Since it was a Saturday, she spent most of her day in the dojo, beating out her frustration on a good old punching bag, which was now a pile of sand and cloth on the floor. Naturally, she'd left the mess for one of her father's students to clean up. Sadly, her attempts at making the bad feeling go away hadn't done much, except leave her sweat-drenched and out of breath.
She made her way up the stairs, scowling to hide internal worry. What was wrong? What could possibly happen? Nothing, that was what. She was one of the best fighters she knew—outside of Gohan and his friends, of course. But then again, they could hardly be considered normal. Half of them weren't even human to begin with. If anything happened to her, she could fight her way out of it. And if something happened to one of her friends, she would get to the bottom of it no matter what.
Yes, that was it. It was nothing she couldn't handle. As her bedroom came into view, she managed to somewhat rationalize the insane sense of foreboding that had been eating at her all day.
Pushing open the door, she barged into her room, not even bothering t shut the door. Once safely inside let her façade of anger drop. Outside the large window on the other side of the room, she could see that the sun was sinking lower in the sky. It would be night in about an hour, maybe.
Her intuition screeched at her, but she ignored it. Why on Earth should she listen to something that was in all probability wrong?
A creak of the floor behind her was the only warning she had.
The feeling of wrongness peaked.
Her bedroom door slammed shut behind her.
She wasn't even sure what happened. Whoever it was moved fast—she didn't even have time to spin around before an arm had encircled her neck. She tried desperately to summon up a scream, but her voice didn't seem to want to work. A hand clamped down hard over her mouth.
A hand holding something. A rag or a handkerchief or something. Whatever it was, it smelled of something vaguely familiar, something she couldn't quite put her finger on.
Instinct kicked in, and she tried to put her self-defense training to use, but whoever was standing behind her obviously knew all the moves of martial arts training, and somehow evaded what she was doing. A deep chuckle reached her ears, as if the person—obviously male from the timbre of the voice, a fact which made her more determined to get away—was dryly amused by her "antics."
A haze descended over her mind, and her arms and legs suddenly felt very, very heavy. Like she was trying to walk through water with heavy weights tied to her limbs. It was getting more and more difficult to move and to think.
Finally, something in her fog-clouded mind clicked, and she recognized the smell from the rag that was still pressed over her mouth.
Chloroform…she realized, recognizing the scent from things she had encountered during her years of working in conjunction with the police. That was the last thing she remembered before the mist completely enveloped her mind, and she felt herself fall.
How…long…asleep…she wondered sleepily. She'd managed to wrestle herself back to semi-consciousness, but it had not been easy. Why was it so hard to wake up? She wasn't what could be considered a heavy sleeper.
Images danced unbidden through her mind, which was still quite fogged over. And then she remembered—coming into her room, the door slamming shut behind her, and the smell of chloroform before the word faded to nothing.
She'd been attacked. So where was she now?
Somewhere…soft…it took her a minute to recognize the familiar feel of her own comforter. So she was in her own bed? If she'd been drugged and passed out on the floor, how had she gotten into her bed? To a mind that was still laden with a heavy drug-haze, it didn't make sense.
But she was just barely conscious enough to feel a rough, callused hand running over her bare shoulder…bare? Why was her shoulder bare? How odd…
That hand then proceeded to pull her upwards, forcing her into a sitting position. She didn't have enough control over herself to resist, and let herself be pulled upward. Once she was sitting up, the hand released her, and she managed to exert an iron will and maintain an upright position.
But why? Who was there? No one she knew. It was amazing how much her mind was picking up in spite of the drugging. Gohan had taught her a little bit about sensing and identifying people by their ki alone, and she was unconsciously using that training to try and identify whoever was in that room with her. And it was definitely nobody she recognized.
It was only after she'd been sitting upright for a few seconds that she became aware of an acute pain in her whole body. It hurt like hell—it reminded her vaguely of that once, when she'd been shot three times—or was it four? Sometimes she couldn't quite remember. That had hurt, but this was easily ten times worse than that. Why did she hurt so much?
Nearby, she could hear someone chanting in a deep voice. She didn't understand the words, though. Were they in another language? Or was her mind just that screwed up?
But she didn't have time to think about it anymore. No, there was something else now.
Something hard and heavy crashed into the back of her head. It felt like her skull was being split open. She started to tumble forward, and whatever weapon was being wielded against her collided with her head for a second time. This time, she was sent flying off the bed; her feet got caught in a sheet that was hanging partially off the edge of the bed, and she ended up tangled in it as she fell.
She ended up in a heap on the floor, with the long sheet wrapped around her like a death shroud from the old days. Her ears managed to catch someone chanting something again, in those bizarre words that she couldn't make out. Then there was the sound of her window opening, and the presence was gone, having most likely gone out onto her balcony and escaped from there. She imagined that whoever it was had climbed down the trees and into the yard, just like she had done so many times when she was young and wanted to go outside at night.
Strange…why was she seeing so many images? Things she had forgotten, things she didn't really want to remember, and things she just hadn't thought about in years. What was going on?
Then the images vanished, and she plummeted down, away from the pain and the feeling of blood pooling around, into the darkness, into a cool, soothing place where she was free from pain or thought. Into a place where she was safe from whoever had hurt her.
Humming to herself, Hannah meandered up the stairs. She'd noticed that her employer's daughter was upset—or rather, pretending to be upset—about something, and wanted to see if she could coaxed the teenager into talking about it. The two had been too close for too long for Hannah to be fooled by the teenager's pretenses.
The lady of the house had died many years ago, and Hannah's husband had been gone for even longer. Thus, a deep friendship had eventually been forged between Hannah and her employer's daughter. She'd watched that girl grow up, read her bedtime stories, and listened to her problems and woes as she grew from child to adolescent to young adult. The two were as close as ever, more like mother or grandmother and daughter than friends.
So when her young friend had started acting strangely earlier that day, old Hannah had taken it upon herself to find out the cause of the problem. That was why she was on this trek to the teenager's room.
Hannah paused outside the door to catch her breath. Considering her advancing age, getting up all those stairs was getting to be more and more of a challenge. Once she was breathing normally, she knocked on the door, knowing that an uninvited entry would be much less than welcome.
For some reason, she was more than a little concerned, and not just with the teenager's behavior. A short while ago, she'd had a strange feeling of…well, foreboding was the best word she could come up with. And it was centered entirely on her young friend. But she'd shaken it off, and this trip upstairs was as much to convince herself that nothing was wrong as to find out what was up.
When she knocked, she'd expected an irate voice to come through the door and deliver a scathing reprimand to whoever dared disturb the solitude of the angry teenager. But she heard no verbal response, per se. Normally, she would have walked away, assuming the girl to be asleep or listening to a headset or some such teenage activity. But something made her take a closer look.
Sure enough, when Hannah pressed her ear to the door, she could hear a very faint groaning, like someone was in mortal pain. That was more than enough for Hannah, and she pushed the door open.
There, on the floor, was Videl.
She was crumpled in an untidy heap on the floor, tangled in what looked like a bedsheet. And, most chillingly of all, the carpet around her was literally saturated with Videl's own blood. She was groaning, almost inaudibly; had Hannah not been able to hear that soft groaning, she would have instantly assumed that the girl was dead.
Secure in the knowledge that Videl was alive for the moment and paralyzed with shock and fear, Hannah did the only thing she really could at that moment.
She screamed her head off.
Once the initial shock had worn off and she found she could move again, Hannah darted forward and fell to her knees beside Videl's lifeless body, ignoring the fact that her uniform was now blood-soaked. For lack of anything else she could do, she gently shook Videl's shoulders and repeatedly called out the teenager's name, all while fighting desperately to keep the hysteria and panic from taking control and making her lose all coherency.
As other members of the household came running to see what Hannah was screaming about, Videl's eyelids fluttered, just a tiny bit. She looked at Hannah through eyes that were barely opened, and moved her lips ever so slightly, as if she was trying to say something that just wouldn't come through. In the end, it was a futile attempt, and her eyes fell closed; her head lulled to the side as the girl passed back into the realm of unconsciousness.
Others were flooding into the room now, and each was equally as horrified as Hannah had been. Someone managed to take control of the chaos, though; orders started being given, and people started flying to obey them. One person was sent to very quickly summon an ambulance and the police; someone else attended to the hysterical Hannah; a few people ran outside to see if there was anyone around.
In all of the chaos, it wasn't until a short time later that someone found what could have quite possibly been the first clue, lying on the carpet of Videl's bedroom.
A blood-stained hammer.
AN: Flames are welcome—but be warned, I refuse to listen to a flamer who doesn't have the nerve to leave me an email addy. That's just cowardly. Sorry, but it's a major pet peeve of mine. Okay, so anyway, this is the first chapter of my latest story. I should have the next chappie up shortly, and I hope you'll come back around to my little corner of ff.net to read it. Thanks!
Candyland's Fic Pick:
I really think most of you would enjoy my good buddy Fred's latest endeavor in the fanfiction world. So, as the Supreme Overlord of all Sporkdom, I command you to read The Adventures of the Incredible Fighting Candy by Fred the Mutant Pickle. What if Vegetto had gotten changed into the jawbreaker, and then Majin Buu was somehow destroyed before our favorite fusion could be turned back into his normal form? Join Vegetto-the-Jawbreaker as he tries to find a way to get back to normal and get home. Fred only has one chapter done, but it looks like it's gonna be great once it gets going.