This new formatting really sucks.

Disclaimer: If you've made it this far into the story and still think DBZ is mine, you need more sleep.

Epilogue

A green blur flashed through the sky and came to rest on the outcropping of rock beside the small waterfall, where its smudged form grew sharp and an outline became apparent. Folding its arms across its chest, the figure frowned up at the gathering clouds. They were obviously rain clouds, but there was more to them than that. Their presence, rather than soothing the mind as usual, caused a sense of dread.

If anyone could have grown accustomed to this by now, it would have been Piccolo.

The Namek almost welcomed the soft patter of rain against his skin. The sky was dark, the wind was moderate in strength, and Son Goku was not pressuring him to spar with him and test his strength. Only that man could have made him balk at the very thought of fighting. Training was one thing, but obsessing over how strong one's ex-nemesis had become was another, and Piccolo knew that was what the Saiyan was doing. Kami knew he lived for the fight, but if Goku came around one more time this afternoon he would skin him alive. It would be interesting to try some day, another day with bleak weather and a dull atmosphere.

Piccolo smiled grimly at the thought. He might not get the chance.

Besides, Saiyan hides were tough, and he would rather not ruin his hands trying to pry the skin off of one.

That did not make the brewing tempest any more natural.

It had been two weeks since Shadow's destruction, and while convalescing Piccolo had noticed changes in the world around him. They were small, but they were still there. The quietest of corners held hushed whispers for the Demon King, each darkened room the quiet patter of feet. Shadows in the moonlight moved more than they ought. And when he crouched down, the soil beneath his fingertips seemed to crawl, and creatures alien to his world begged to be released. He found himself recoiling now from places and things he had once regarded as beautiful, natural.

He had become aware.

He tilted his head back and allowed the rain to trickle down his neck and the sides of his face and off the tips of his ears. If he opened his mouth, it would taste like sulfur. That he already knew from experience. But he did not know what else Daimao would be able to do. His sire's power was unknown to him. He could ask Goku, but he did not want to risk the Saiyan's pathetic attempts at subtly asking him for a spar.

Piccolo frowned again and turned his thoughts to himself. What would he have done in his father's place? Or more likely, what would Shadow have made him do if he hadn't been torn away?

Set the world on fire.

Let it run with rivers of blood and scorching winds. Call every demon of Hell down upon the humans and enslave whomever they did not kill. Find a way to separate himself from Kami and kill the old fool.

Dispose of Son Goku and his progeny. Find a way to make himself stronger.

He rather liked the 'make himself stronger' and 'get the foolish old man out of the way' bits, and being responsible for the end of the world did have a certain appeal, but he admitted to himself that he couldn't bear to kill either Goku or Gohan. Not any more. Gohan was his first and best friend, and Goku appeared to be making himself into the second one.

Piccolo resisted the urge to roll his eyes and settled on closing them instead. Good Kami, what had he gotten himself into? "One hell of a dilemma," he growled quietly. "And you keep going back for more." I would have been just fine if I had ignored Gohan and stayed in my own mind. I would have had true peace and quiet for the first time in years. No brat running around and dragging me with him. No brat to disturb my meditation. No brat to annoy me. But he was forced to admit, again, that it was that same brat who had saved him, the boy who had shattered his shell and opened his eyes. The boy who had convinced him that there was at least one thing in his life that mattered.

That one thing was Gohan himself. And Piccolo knew, no matter what, that he could not leave Gohan, not while life still remained in his body.

Therein lay the problem: Daimao, and his unknown allies. They would stop at nothing to take his life, by either killing him or assimilating him into their little collective.

Piccolo was no fool. His sire was up to something, and if he was able to pull the necessary strings there would be trouble. The identity of his attacker from Baba's scrying ball was still unknown, a glaring weakness if he'd ever seen one, and for all intents and purposes he had to assume that whatever it was still had access to him.

A lesser man would have been terrified of that possible connection.

And of course, said lesser man would have been dead by now.

The Namek sighed and lowered his head. Most men would have never gotten themselves into this predicament in the first place. Goku's problem, for instance. Piccolo could have let the man fly off and confront the hybrids on his own. After all, it was his fault they came in the first place. All he needed to do was keep a low profile, and he could have lived in peace. But, no, he had to go and kill the most powerful creature in the universe, which drew the attention of every species in existence to him. Defective, they called him. Weak. Pathetic. Piccolo agreed with them after a fashion; Goku was the only man he had ever come across to spare his enemies and ask them nicely to reform.

Then there was this business with his sire. After years of no interference, no signs, Daimao suddenly decided he wanted his son to make good on his promise to avenge him. He sent his lackeys to force him to do what he was created to do if he did not cooperate.

Piccolo suddenly clenched both his fists and his teeth in anger. He was no pawn to be used as desired. He could think for himself, and he did. Daimao couldn't sway him to his side any more than he could persuade Goku to kill his own son. It was his choice, his will to do whatever he desired. He belonged to no one but himself!

But he could not afford to remain a rock for the rest of his life. The events of the past few weeks had proven it time and time again. He had nearly lost his mind because he had been too proud to admit he needed help. Had he been any weaker and Daimao any more persistent, he would have been buried in the recesses of his own mind and forced to watch the destruction the demon in his place would have wrought. It was a humbling experience, one he hoped fervently he wouldn't have to repeat.

Curse it all! He gritted his teeth and growled under his breath. Their positions were locked, a stalemate of sorts, and he didn't like it one bit. Sooner or later one side would give, and all Hell would break loose, literally and figuratively. He would be ready for it, if he could. And Kami help anyone who stood in his way. Be it Son Goku, the Super Saiyan, or Vegeta, training feverishly in his gravity chamber, that person would regret it.

His grimace twisted into a devious grin. "Let him come," Piccolo hissed fiercely. "With an army, if need be. I'll be waiting for him."

"We all will."

(End.)

- - - - -

And that is the end of "From The Past". I can hardly believe how far it has come; I still have the index card that began it all, with a small blurb about Piccolo buying Goku time against two Saiyan warriors. I can only shake my head and wonder, good Lord, what was I thinking?

On a more serious note, I would like to thank all the people who reviewed this story, without whose help it would have crashed a long time ago – and who are also responsible for my compulsive e-mail checking. No matter how many times I have said it, if it was not for your constant encouragement, this story would never have made it to this site and most certainly would not have come this far. The feedback was priceless, and I must admit that trying to outthink a few of you became something to look forward to. Thank you.

I am also grateful that you, the reader, are reading this. It means that I must have done something right, and even if you choose to not leave a review, I am still glad you've made it to the end.

Any further updates on this story will be done only to correct typos and formatting problems.

Well, what more is there to say? It's been a pleasure writing for such a wonderful crowd. Keep an eye out for the sequel, "Twilight of the Dawn", which should be started some time soon. So, 'til the next story,

-Dreamwraith