Goku sits on his Nimbus. He stares off into the distance as the golden cloud cruises along. The sting of combat pulses from every nerve as the battlefield drifts further behind him.

Gohan sits in his lap staring down at Piccolo's turban. Goku starts when Gohan flips around and grabs the scraps of his shirt. Tears and mucus run down his face.

"I was supposed to stop them!" Gohan says. "Piccolo said I had the power to do it, but I was too scared. It's my fault he's dead."

Goku opens his mouth, but his voice breaks. He clears his throat.

"It's not your fault. You're just a boy."

"But you fought bad guys when you were a kid."

"I never fought anyone like this when I was your age. You were so brave out there. I'm proud of you."

Gohan curls into a whimpering ball between his legs. Goku studies him until a faint ki signature draws his attention to a dot on the horizon. After traveling a little farther, they find Krillin waiting for them to catch up. Chiaotzu's hat hangs limp in his hand. He joins their solemn silence as they continue toward the rest of their friends.

They find them gathered around the body of their fallen comrade. As the Nimbus comes in for a landing, Chichi dashes over to her husband and son. She scoops Gohan up and presses him to her chest. She sandwiches him between herself and Goku as she grabs the back of Goku's head to pull him in for a kiss.

Krillin drops in beside Bulma. He watches her for a moment, but she remains still with her arms wrapped around her knees. His teeth bite his lower lip as he finally faces Yamcha's corpse. He can only look for a couple seconds before turning away.

Yajirobe sits near Tien who is at least alive. Whether or not he will recover from the catatonic state again remains to be seen.

Bulma startles Krillin when she suddenly reaches into her pocket. She pulls out the container for her Capsules. She opens it and plucks one out.

"I hoped to never use these again," she says.

She presses the button on top and throws it. A body sized pod appears within the smoke. Shivers run down Krillin's spine as he remembers the icy chill of waking up in one of them.

She throws another Capsule to summon the cargo plane they have been flying around in for the last year. She slowly stands up.

"Well, let's get started."

Krillin watches her for a moment before following to help with the grim task at hand.

###

"What do you mean you don't know!"

An angry blonde knocks a clipboard out of a doctor's hand. The medical personnel bends down to pick it up.

"I'm sorry miss but we've run every test we can and can't find anything physically wrong with him."

"Then you need to keep trying."

Launch emphasizes every word with a hard poke against the doctor's chest.

The doctor rubs the mark.

"We'll do our best."

The doctor leaves the room where Tien lies comatose. Repetitive beeps prevent a complete silence.

"I'm sorry Launch," says Krillin from a chair by the window. "Really I am. If—"

"Save it," she says. "What's done is done."

The sound of a beeping machine takes over again.

"Well," says Krillin. "I wanted to tell you we are having our service for everyone today. You're welcome to come."

"Thanks Krillin. I think I'd better stay here though. You know, for when he wakes up."

"Yeah, totally. I get it."

Krillin hops up and moves to Tien's side. He lifts up an arm while placing Chiaotzu's hat on his stomach. He sets Tien's hand on the red pompom.

"For when he wakes up," he says.

Launch smiles, fighting back tears.

"You better get going. Wouldn't want you to be late."

Krillin nods and heads for the door.

###

Goku runs a finger along the inside of the collar of his white dress shirt. A black tie threatens to strangle him. A snug fitting suit hastily bought restricts his arms and legs. The urge to stretch the still throbbing muscles taunts him. The weight of the black attire is somehow more uncomfortable and hot than the weighted clothes he usually trains in.

The Ox King parks the car they all ride in outside of Capsule Corporation headquarters. Under an overcast sky, he and Goku squeeze out of the front seats while Gohan and Chichi exit the back doors. Ox King pops open the trunk. The four of them look inside. Their gaze lingers.

Ox King reaches in first. He lifts Master Roshi's staff. One hand cradles the knobbed end. Gohan picks up Piccolo's turban. Its weight sinks his tired arms.

They shuffle around the building to join whoever has already arrived.

###

Bulma picks up a picture of Yamcha off a butsudan with frames holding photos of Master Roshi, Oolong, and Chiaotzu. She kisses the tips of her fingers and puts them to the glass over his lips. She sets it back down in the cabinet-like structure. The dark brown wood and elaborate furnishings do not seem like enough to honor the fallen.

Her palms collapse to the table, shaking the candles. Sobs rattle her body sending flickers through the tiny flames. Little trails of smoke tickle her nose with incense.

A soft fabric dries her eyes. They open to find Puar's paws brushing away the tears. She offers a frail smile before drooping her head back to the picture frame. Puar nestles her head against Bulma's to look upon Yamcha as well.

"Hey Puar. Hi Bulma," says Krillin, stepping up beside them.

The blank looks they give him stop him from getting any closer. He waits in the anxious silence.

"Uh, Bulma, you look nice," he says.

He gestures at her slimming black dress covering everything but her arms and ankles.

"Oh thank you. So do you. I haven't seen you in a suit since the tournament days."

"Yeah that old thing probably still almost fits me."

He produces a series of chuckles that cuts off in a hoarse throat noise when neither of the other two join in. They all fixate on the pictures in the quiet. Krillin's heart deflates when his eyes meet Yamcha's happy expression. Looking over Master Roshi's, Oolong's, and Chiaotzu's makes the ache worse.

Krillin sees Goku and his family come around the building. He, Bulma, and Puar greet them before stepping aside so they can pay their respects.

Goku and Chichi look over the butsudan as the Ox King and Gohan place the mementos they carry on the table. The staff runs along the edge of the table while the turban sits before the cabinet for the pictures to look down upon from their shelves. When the grandfather and grandson step aside, Goku and Chichi step up to the table too.

They pull each other close with snug arms. The beautiful setup feels wrong against the melancholy occasion.

Something moves above their head. They find Mr. Popo descending on a carpet. He holds the staff of Kami.

"It's good to see you Mr. Popo," says Krillin.

He watches Mr. Popo set the staff alongside the other one at the bottom of the table.

"You said you weren't sure if you could leave the Guardian Palace unattended when I told you about the service, but I'm glad you made it here."

"Yes, Other World has not yet appointed a new guardian, so I don't need to do any training for now. I'll just tend to the grounds and make it ready for whoever they send. Before I forget, I brought some medicine for Tien. I hope it helps."

"Thank you," says Krillin, taking the bottles. "I'll get them to him right away."

The conversation buzzes around Goku's ears as he looks absently at the staves of his former masters lying side by side.

Eventually they all move to join the rest of the group consisting of Turtle, Fortuneteller Baba, Upa, Korin, Yajirobe, and Bulma's parents. They all stand together uncertain of what to say.

"Well if my brother was here," says Baba, "I'm sure he would comment on how beautiful all the ladies look."

"It probably wouldn't sound quite that flattering," says Bulma.

Baba chuckles.

"Too true," she says. "Too true."

"It's no wonder he and Oolong got along so well," says Puar. "Oolong always acted that way as long as I've known him."

"He may have been a little pig sometimes," says Bulma,"but he was a dependable one. He was always there when we needed him most."

"Well Master Roshi may have been an awful womanizer," says Ox King, "but he was a heck of a teacher. I remember how much Gohan and I didn't get along at all as his pupils. But somehow he got us to like each other without even knowing how it happened. And we grew twice as strong because of it."

A smile barely crests Krillin's lips.

"I remember how far he pushed Yamcha and I when we were training for our second World Martial Arts Tournament. It didn't seem like we could get any better than we were, but he helped us improve tremendously.

"That was when I first really got to know Yamcha. Before that he was just Goku's friend. But we really bonded in those couple of years. He was always so encouraging."

Krillin looks over to Bulma. She smiles through the tears forming in her eyes.

"I remember how uncivilized I first thought he was," she says. "It seemed like there was no way I could ever fall for someone like that. But even though I got really frustrated with him sometimes, he always found a way to be really sweet and make it all better."

"Most people don't know that about Yamcha," says Puar. "They just see a desert bandit instead of the nice person underneath. I think the same could be said of Chiaotzu. He was always so quiet. Made him hard to get to know, but I could tell there was a kind person behind the shy persona."

"He truly was," says Mr. Popo. "His soothing presence made him easy to get along with and able to empathize with others. Kami and I enjoyed the time we spent with him very much."

"I remember my days up on Kami's palace," says Goku. "I remember how terrified I was the first time I saw him. I tried to attack him believing he was Demon King Piccolo. You know Korin, it wasn't very funny not to warn me of what he looked like."

Korin laughs.

"He mentioned that the first time he visited me after meeting you. We both found it quite amusing. How have you been since his passing, Mr. Popo?"

"Oh I've been keeping busy waiting for the next guardian. Though I fear replacing Kami will be incredibly difficult. Of all the guardians I've worked with, I think Kami had the clearest understanding of what the role entailed. He spent so many decades working towards his vision, and I worry it may not come to pass now that he is gone. I wish he could have seen his work through to the end."

Mr. Popo looks to the sky and wipes a finger under his eye.

"I'll miss you dearly old friend."

Chichi feels a tug at her dress. She finds Gohan gesturing for Mr. Popo's attention.

"Um, Mr. Popo. Gohan has something he wants to say."

"Yes little one. What is it?"

"I just wanted to tell you … that I know Kami is a really good person. After spending a year with Mr. Piccolo and getting to know him, I found out how good he was despite what I heard. And someone that good could only come from someone really good too. That's what I think anyway."

Mr. Popo's eyes and lips smile.

"Thank you Gohan. That means a lot."

"I know Piccolo has a rough history," says Goku, "but I always sensed something better in him than the old Demon King. And I wouldn't have been able to without Kami's training and the values he taught me. And I owe Piccolo the world for saving my son."

He kneels down and hugs Gohan. Chichi bites her lower lip watching the two she loves most in an intimate moment she could not have seen without the help of their old enemy.

Thank you Piccolo, she thinks. I hope you're okay wherever you are.

They all talk into the evening. Once the sun has set, they gather around the butsudan. Bulma, Goku, Gohan, Krillin, Mr. Popo, and Baba hold sky lanterns waiting to be lit. Puar, Turtle, Chichi, Yajirobe, Korin, and Ox King each hold a candle. The respective pairs touch the tips of the candles to the fuel source suspended below the paper balloon. When the flame is burning, they hold the lanterns above their heads and let them go.

They watch as the ceremonial lights float away into the night air. Bulma watches them dance before the cosmic backdrop Yamcha once showed her atop the palace of the guardian. Goku thinks of watching Oolong's bravery when wishing him back so he could return to Earth and save his family and friends. Gohan smiles remembering his training with Piccolo. Krillin thinks of him and Chiaotzu sparring at the temple. Mr. Popo reminisces about how lively the palace was with so many students training under him and Kami. Baba reflects on Master Roshi's progress and change over the past year.

"Hey Krillin," says Goku.

Krillin starts at the sound of his name.

"How about we send them off right? The eighth kata should do nicely. Just like Master Roshi showed us."

"Okay. Yeah."

"You too Gohan. I've shown you this one."

"I'm ready."

Goku, Gohan, and Krillin take the same stance. Their arms and legs move with ease and precision as they step through a memorized martial arts routine. They end the rhythmic movements by firing ki beams into the sky. The luminous energy lights the faces of the observers as it ascends towards the heavens.

Goku pulls Chichi close to his left side, a hand around her waist. His other hand finds Gohan's shoulder. He realizes for the first time how much his son has grown, now up to the middle of his thigh instead of his knees. All three of them look over one another before turning to watch the ki formations fading into the night.

Goku remembers how eager he was to start training just a year ago. The time separating now and then seems like the dividing line between two different eras. He cannot imagine spending any time away from his family. He silently thanks Yamcha for saving his wife, Piccolo for saving his son, Chiaotzu for saving his best friend, Oolong for wishing him back to life, Master Roshi for protecting him, and Kami for helping them all.

Bulma moves close. Goku squeezes Gohan's shoulder before moving his arm around her upper back.

They watch the lanterns drift until they are small specs heading for the horizon on the breeze. Tears wet their eyes. One by one the lights go out until only the cold dark of space can be seen.


Author's Note 05/08/21: And with that, we are done with the Vegeta arc and the Saiyan Saga as a whole. After 52 chapters, over 150,000 words, and more than a year and a half, we have a story I used to only daydream about. And now that I have actually committed those ideas in written word, it looks nothing like how I imagined. It astounds me how different the final product is after stripping away the perfect fantasy that used to play out in my mind. The most challenging barrier in writing this was easily the fear of it not living up to how good it felt in my imagination. But the truth is, this less than perfect version written by a new author is better because it has its own story and character development. The struggle to plan, write, and revise this story has given rise to ideas and plot beats that never would have come to exist without that struggle. For me, it's easy to retreat into my head and just fantasize about my future and the goals I hope to achieve. When doing so, I can often forget to enjoy the struggle that comes with working towards those goals because I'm so afraid I can't achieve this perfect dream. But this story is a shining example of something I can look back on and say I'm glad I tried to write it rather than just leave it unrealized in my mind. It's not perfect, and it's better in every way for it.

I could not have written all of this without your encouragement along the way. To all those that were here from the beginning when I first posted, to all those who joined along the way, and to all those who find this long after it's done, thank you so much for reading and sharing this journey. It really means the world to me. I seriously have the best readers ever. All of the responses have been so positive and wholesome. And none of them have been outright antagonistic which is rare to see on the internet. So with all the gratitude I can muster, thank you!

Obviously there is still a ton of story left to tell, and I'm still very motivated to keep going, but I do need a break for a while. I've been working on this story for a long time now, longer than I've worked on most things in my life, and I need some time to avoid burning out on it. I'm not sure when I update again, but I hope it's not too long. I need time to draft up the next arc, and I'm going to do some writing for another story or two to keep myself feeling creatively fresh. So if you have enjoyed what you've read so far, and want more, be sure to favorite and follow to get the notification of the next chapter. And if you like, leave a review. You have no idea how it feels for me to see someone comment on this story. It immediately makes me want to sit down at my computer and begin writing more. So until the next one, all of you, take care of yourselves and remember that you're awesome!