"What now?" Hal wondered to himself, sitting on a rock floating through space as he gazed up at the two orange balls that hovered in orbit like two moons. There was no one around to answer his question. He wasn't really looking for an answer either. Mostly because there were no good options - or, at least, the one that he wanted to take came with some serious downsides. Like reinstituting a galactic spanning war, to start with.
The War of Light was over. The looming threat that had hovered over his every thought was suddenly gone. It was over. Done. Finished. The Federation had surrendered. The good guys lost. All that was left was the Reach, but…
Hal stood at a crossroads. Each choice would take him down a wildly different path. He knew what he wanted to do. But, it wasn't a question of what he wanted to do, but a question of what he should do. What was best for everyone rather than what was best for him. That made the choice vastly more difficult. Hal had no idea what the others were thinking when they put this choice in his hands. Or why they expected him to have the answer. He didn't.
It was easier when he was just another soldier. The important decisions were made by people vastly more qualified than him, and he could follow them to the best of his ability. So long as he had believed that he was a cog in the machine for a force of good, he didn't mind just being a cog.
But things changed. That much was proven when Hal looked down at his hands, seeing translucent green instead of flesh and blood. Ion was bound to him. For… forever, probably. Hal had accidentally become immortal. When you were going to stick around for forever, that… changed your point of view on things a bit.
"Hal," Hal heard, looking over his shoulder to see Ganthet behind him. One of the last Guardians of the Universe left. There were dozens before. Now, there were three.
Larfleeze, Froot, Frieza. Between the three of them, they had nearly wiped out the Guardians entirely.
"Ganthet," Hal responded, turning back around. Out of all of the Guardians, Ganthet had always been his favorite. He was the one that felt most human to him. That made it sting that much more when he learned that he had been a part of the countless atrocities that the Guardians had committed and then covered up. Hal had started a rebellion against the Guardians for everything that they'd done. For all the lives they'd taken in the name of peace. For all the lives they snuffed out in the name of the greater good.
He wasn't in a position to not give a damn about the greater good anymore, but Hal could admit to himself that he always cared more about the small picture over the big picture. He cared about people more than what was best for all.
"They want me in charge," Hal told Ganthet, turning his attention back to the two orange moons. Ganthet was an odd choice to open up to considering the whole rebellion thing, but Hal suspected that he was one of the precious few that could understand the weight that was being thrown onto his shoulders. The weight of the universe and the lives of everyone in it.
That weight was crushing, no matter how powerful Hal became.
"You are the obvious choice," Ganthet remarked, walking over and taking a seat next to him. "It was you who brought the lantern corps together and gave them purpose. More than that, you are the heart of what the Lanterns became. There are others more capable, but you are a fine choice as a leader."
Hal let out a breath. He didn't need to breathe anymore, but it was a habit he had had for thirty years at this point. It wasn't one that was so easy to shake off. "I know," Hal said. He had been told as much. The only problem was that he didn't see it. And he didn't want it. It felt like he was the very last person that should be making decisions on behalf of entire galaxies.
"It is daunting," Ganthet agreed, hearing what went unsaid. That it was. "In the end, Hal Jordan, you have to ask yourself what you did this for."
At the start, it had been rage. Rage and vengeance. He wanted to bring the Guardians low for their betrayal, for what they did and what they covered up. But, as he gathered allies, the goalpost shifted. It became about making them accountable for what they did. That the Universe deserved better than cold-hearted Guardians whose mistakes cost more lives than the vilest of enemies. Now, all these years later, he had reached the point he fought for.
"I want to fulfill my oaths, Ganthet. I don't want to hide behind red tape - when someone calls out into the night, begging for help, I want to be there. I don't want to make the mistakes that you made. And when we do inevitably make a mistake, I don't want to sweep it under the rug. I want accountability," Hal said.
Ganthet made a noise of agreement, "A fine ambition." He noted, finding the same problem that Hal did.
Those were his ideals, but they were unattainable. There was no better example than the one he faced right now.
The war was officially over, but how it ended left a bitter taste in Hal's mouth. Frieza shouldn't escape justice. Neither should Cooler or King Cold. Nor should Tarble, his brother Vegeta, or anyone that had murdered countless people. Who expunged all life from planets, driving entire species into extinction. Every single one of them should be rotting in a cell. There were no justifications or excuses for those atrocities.
But, as stubborn as he was, he knew that if he fought to bring them to justice, then that could restart the war and countless more people would die.
"Doing the right thing isn't always the smart thing. I know," Hal said, his gaze dropping to his feet. "That's why I don't think I should do this. I'd rather do the dumb right thing over the smart wrong thing every time." The stakes were so much higher than before. His choices and decisions… wouldn't just affect him, or his allies. It would affect trillions of people. The entire universe.
To that, Ganthet let out a sound that came dangerously close to a laugh. "The Guardians always tried to do the smart thing, Hal. We always looked to the future that we wanted, but… we never looked at the present. We accepted that suffering in the short term would be an acceptable price for long-term prosperity. When this war began, we saw it only as a chance to weaken the Reach and the Trade Organization."
He shook his head, "We chose to let many people die, to prevent any intervention from the Lanterns for that goal. Then, even as the war expanded in scope, we saw it as nothing but an opportunity to stabilize this galaxy."
Hal looked at him, "Do you regret it?"
Ganthet shook his head, already knowing the answer. "No. In ten thousand years, this war will be a distant memory for most races. It will only serve as a reminder of the terrible cost of war. The Federation is a promising development that has the potential to become the dominating force in the galaxy. In time, the good that came from the war will outweigh the bad."
Hal nodded, not surprised in the slightest. "I don't have that in me," He admitted without shame. If that made him strong or weak, he didn't know. He just wasn't like Tarble, who could commit terrible acts and say it was for his men.
"You don't," Ganthet agreed, giving neither praise nor condemnation.
"You guys always did the smart thing… so, maybe let's give the dumb thing a try," Hal muttered to himself. His mind hadn't changed. For better or for worse. Since the start, the choice had been obvious, but he just hadn't been able to bring himself to do it.
Hal pushed himself to his feet, "The New Lanterns will go wherever there are people in need." Everywhere and anywhere. Completely independent from the factions of the universe. They would do what heroes did best - stick their noses where they didn't belong and help anyone that they could.
Ganthet nodded, expecting that answer. "Good. Gather your strength, train your Lanterns well, and be prepared to take on the universe if you have to."
"That's the plan," Hal agreed. The New Lanterns would expand - each sector would get two of each color Lantern if he had his say. And… as the leader of the New Lanterns… he would. He turned to Ganthet, "I think it's time, Ganthet." He said, earning a nod from Ganthet before Hal opened a portal.
The two of them walked through it, revealing a modest prison cell that was shared by the remaining Guardians. They glanced at him for a moment before they went about their business. They didn't need individual cells. In the end, given who they were, Hal wouldn't be shocked if they already had a way off the Prison Planet.
"Thanks for the talk," Hal said, earning a nod from Ganthet. "It helped."
"Just make a note of it. I'm looking to get out on good behavior," Ganthet responded, sounding amused by the prospect. This prison would be where they held the most dangerous prisoners that there were. Odds were for the remainder of their lives. Hal didn't know if the Guardians could ever balance the books in terms of karma, but they wouldn't let something like this stop them from trying.
They had stepped back from being the Guardians of the Universe. However, Hal knew that if they felt the need, they would step up again.
Hal turned to the portal, sparing one last glance at the Guardians before he stepped through it.
On the other end were the New Lanterns floating in space, waiting for him. Hal spotted Lanterns of every color - green, blue, purple, and even a few red and yellows. His gaze slid to a pink Lantern, Carol Ferris. With her, the entire emotional spectrum was represented. His gaze swept over the crowd, spotting Saint Walker, Indigo, Stewart - the three that had been with him since the start of the rebellion.
Hal took in a slow breath, considering what he should say. In the end, he wasn't one for grand speeches.
"Let's go do some good."
Oh, how things changed.
"How is your tea?" Koter Ve'sk questioned, seated at the head of a long table in a room that he had practically lived in for years. The room where countless decisions were made. Where countless lives were saved and extinguished. Where he decided the fate of the Reach Empire and himself.
Yet, for the first time, the hologram projectors were off. The streams of information that came from across the galaxy were turned off. The plans and details of the Reach Empire were gone with a flip of a switch. The constant chatter from his drones and AI's were gone, leaving the room deafeningly quiet. The lights were dimmed, casting long shadows, but still bright enough that he could see.
It was a moment of peace. The first he had enjoyed in many years. Koter had almost looked forward to this moment - the peace, the quiet… what he hadn't expected was that he wouldn't be spending it alone.
"It's quite nice," Vril Dox answered, taking a small sip. "I'm surprised that you were able to find a tea that would cater to both of our tastes." It had been quite difficult. They were two very different species, to say nothing of personal preferences.
"I had it prepared to coax you into being more agreeable when I next asked for your aid, but it seems to work fine enough for a special occasion," Koter admitted. It was freeing, he noted. To speak freely. To tell the truth. All of his life, he had been forced to consider every word he spoke. Every action. For the duration of the war, that fact had weighed increasingly heavier. As did the absence of his wife and child.
Vril chuckled, "Surprisingly open of you."
To that, Koter shrugged, uncaring almost. "It's the end of the road. Why bother with pretenses?"
To that, Vril frowned and tried to hide the action by taking another sip. "It doesn't have to be," he pointed out.
He was right. It didn't have to be. "I know. I considered clones. It would be a simple thing to fake my death," Koter agreed. He had the entirety of the Reach at his disposal. He wasn't lacking options. There was still time. He could be on a ship in a moment and he would be flying after his wife and child in the next galaxy over. It would be simple. Easy, almost. All he had to do was give the order.
Yet, he didn't.
"I'm afraid that I've gotten a bit too used to power," Koter admitted. "I don't have it in me to step back. If I went into hiding, then it would only be a matter of time before I felt compelled to interfere when I didn't agree with a decision. I don't trust myself enough to not leave a back door so I could retake power." He shook his head as he let out a sigh, "It would undercut everything I've worked towards."
Vril set his cup down, "I see. The token fleet to support the Federation was a lovely touch."
Koter smiled. A token fleet that was marked as AWOL. Stolen by the rebels that plagued the Reach. It was a good thing that Koter had taken measures to protect against magic, or he would have been left searching for a replacement heir at the last moment. They accomplished little during the bloodbath, but that hadn't been the point.
The Federation had noticed that token fleet. Its presence was noted and commended. Now, the rebels on that fleet were about to seize control of the Reach Empire.
Politics was all about who you knew and first impressions. The rebels were untainted by the Reach's history. The Federation will have reservations, but those in charge would note that they had been there in the Vega system, fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Federation against tyranny. Tarble, Frieza's, and his own.
"Thank you," Koter accepted the compliment. "But, I must confess, I do have questions, Vril. Would you care to answer them?" After all, a man as intelligent as Vril would already know what they were.
He offered a thin smile, "Is that truly how you wish to spend your final hours?" He asked with a tilt of his head.
"No. I'd much rather spend it with my wife with my child in my arms," Koter corrected. "Alas, hearing why you helped me will have to do."
It was a question that had plagued him for some time. Since the first time Vril had acted on his behalf as a spy. It was clear that he was no friend of the Reach. However, time and time again, he also proved that he was no ally of the Trade Organization. Nor the Federation. It was clear that he acted only in his own interest but it was never clear what those interests were.
Vril seemed to think on it for a moment, taking a sip of his tea before of offered a small nod. "I suppose you won't be in a position to tell anyone. My goals… are stability."
"Stability?" Koter echoed and took a sip of his own team.
"Despite the war, the galaxy is more united than it's ever been compared to the hundreds of various factions there once were. There's the Federation, Tarble's empire, the New Reach Empire, the Lanterns, and lastly the Trade Organization," Vril explained, and it couldn't be more obvious.
Koter let out a breath, kicking himself for missing it. "You created a cold war," He realized. The Federation was created to check Tarble and the Trade Organization, but now all three empires were in an uneasy standoff. The peace treaty would halt hostilities for a time but all three would expect the war to resume eventually. The Lanterns would be a check on everyone. And the Trade Organization… "I suppose you'll become the CEO, eventually?"
Vril smiled and nodded, "The Cold Family is on the outs already. Once they're gone, I'll take command of the Trade Organization. It'll take some time, but the Trade Organization will bind the Federation, the Reach, and Tarble's empire together. Hostilities will fade, they will demilitarize, and in a thousand years, this war will be forgotten. The galaxy shall flourish."
He played every side. And he did so well. Koter had manipulated the galaxy and had been manipulated in turn. As had Frieza, Tarble, and the Federation. The greatest threat to their plans had been the ally they had all counted on.
"Clever. I hope it works out for you," Koter admitted to his… friend was perhaps a strong word, but he sensed a measure of respect between them. Their plans differed for what the New Reach Empire would become, but that was now out of his hands. He just had to have faith that the generations that came after would carry on his work.
Vril opened his mouth to respond, only to hesitate. He sighed before he set down his teacup, "It would seem we are out of time. It would be quite troublesome if we were found together," Vril said as he stood. Koter leaned into his chair and took a deep sip of his tea.
Their eyes met, and Vril nodded to him. "Goodbye, Koter. History will remember you poorly, but you accomplished everything you set out to do." With that as his final words, Vril pressed a button on his belt and teleported away. Koter had no clue where. Or even how. The room should block off all methods of teleportation, but Vril had always cared little about impossibility.
Koter sighed, idly swilling his tea in his cup. This was it. What would be his final moments. He would live on for a bit, but this was where his life officially ended. As Vril said, he had accomplished everything he set out to do. The Reach would emerge from its dormant state more glorious than it ever had been before. The Reach in the Andromeda Galaxy would flourish as well.
The chains to the past were broken. A new generation would lead the Reach to a better future.
Yet, he had lingering regrets, he found. Just a few born of necessary compromise. He wished his family was here, even though they were far better off in another galaxy. He wished that it hadn't been necessary that he seized control of the Reach in the first place.
Above all else…
"I wish we could have had a tiebreaker," Koter spoke, finishing his tea just as a hand tore through the door to his command room. Silver and black. A new… yet old Scarab. He rose to his feet, straightening out his robe as he breathed in deeply. Tarble had bested him once, and he had bested him in return. One final battle of wits would have settled who was the superior tactician between the two of them. A clear winner between masters of war.
The door was ripped open with casual ease, revealing the Scarab. Her body was coated in silver and black - Nth metal-infused nanites. The most powerful Scarab that had ever been created based on the designs his foolish predecessors had forced him to create to act as a symbol of strength. His designs had been perfect, but the Nth metal…
He had neglected to give it a name, but the Trade Organization already had many years before it had been created.
The Super Scarab.
Fitting, Koter thought, smiling as his chosen heir leveled a plasma cannon at him. "Surrender, Koter Ve'sk."
Koter smiled as he raised his hands in victory and defeat.
I awoke with a start and a low groan, every inch of my body aching painfully. It was a different pain from the Wrath State. With the Wrath State, my body felt like it was constantly being stretched to contain the power within me, right now I felt like a deflated balloon that couldn't recall its original shape.
Peeling my eyes open, I saw a hologram that gave me my exact location in the universe. A planet that was dangerously close to the galactic center, which was a cluster of black holes and supermassive suns. Planet Sadala. No wonder no one could find it. This was the last place anyone in their right mind would look.
"None of it was a dream," I muttered to myself, the pain in my body confirming as much. My father was dead. My brother was dead. My team was dead. Frieza was dead. The Warworld was destroyed. Planet Vegeta was gone, destroyed either by the battle, the Warworld crashing into it or by the supermassive black hole that enveloped the entire system.
I had no idea if I was the last Saiyan left alive. I didn't know if anyone other than me managed to get out in time. They should have. But I also didn't know if Frieza planned to wipe my race out to begin with, so he could have taken precautions to make sure none escaped.
Gritting my teeth, I pushed myself to my feet. My body felt weak. But stronger. Looking down at my hand, I saw bloodied knuckles and a few broken fingers - I could feel my ki. Even in this sorry state, I was still strong. Stronger than I had been. Spitting out the taste of blood, the harsh red stood out against the stark white of the spaceship. A Medicine Ball formed in my palm that I tossed overhead, the healing light soothing my aches and pains.
My gaze swept over the interior of the ship - it looked foreign and alien. Sterile. There were no identifying features, no hints of the personality of the race that created it. Everything was pure function.
The only question was what was that function?
"Ship, what is your purpose?" I asked, cracking my neck as I felt my spine shift back into place as bone mended. The same for my ribs. The ship had an AI, and given who I suspected made this ship, I'm guessing it was an advanced one.
"To monitor the Saiyan race and preserve source material," the ship answered, its tone lifeless. I looked around, searching for a door.
"Source materials?" I asked, and this time I was answered with action. A table rose from the center of the sizable room - a hidden compartment of sorts. Striding forward, I looked down at the table that was covered by a forcefield. My lips thinned when I saw what the source material was.
A Saiyan's tail.
"Whose tail was this?" I wondered, my gaze lingering. It was pinned in place with several clamps, a mechanical arm set inside that would collect cells from the tail to grow embryos. I suppose it was better than keeping a living Saiyan captive.
And… if I was the last Saiyan, then this could change that.
"Source material is from Ancient Saiyan Sadala," the ship answered my question. It would seem that we had named a planet in her honor.
"I wonder how many planet Sadala's we've destroyed?" I wondered, tearing my gaze away from the tail. The ship didn't answer me. That was good. I wasn't sure if I wanted an answer. "Open up a door for me," I instructed the ship, and the smooth white walls suddenly shifted. An outline was marked before the same ramp I used to step inside formed. Walking towards it, I saw the first glimpse of Sadala, but I withheld my judgments until I stood on the planet itself.
A thousand years was a lot of time. Apparently, it was enough to undo the damage the previous Super Saiyan had done to the planet. A lush, vibrant jungle extended as far as the eye could see. A thick canopy of trees that was supported by a dense forest - the climate was tropical. The air breathable, the gravity a little bit less than the galactic standard. I heard the sounds of nature, but when I stretched out my awareness, I felt little.
Insects for the most part. Maybe some small animals. The planet had recovered for the most part, but the ecosystem was still reeling. It would likely be thousands of years before it recovered. Then thousands more before any creature gained something approaching intelligent life.
It was disappointing. It would be a lie if I said that I hadn't hoped to find a Saiyan race that had been left behind on the planet from before it was destroyed. Unless they were so weak that they were weaker than insects, they were long gone. I looked back and forth for a moment, half hoping that a Saiyan would just step into view.
Slowly, I floated upwards, through the canopy of treetops. The rainforest stretched on for miles in every direction. Hundreds of them. A moon hovered above in orbit, but… it looked smashed. Pieces of it hovered nearby, kept together by gravity, but the pieces didn't exactly line up. Beyond the rainforest were mountains… no, not mountains. Well, technically they were, but they were also the edges of a crater.
"What am I doing here?" I asked myself, floating forward at a leisurely pace. I didn't have an answer because I didn't know. It wasn't like it was going to change anything if I saw where exactly the last Super Saiyan destroyed the world. My body felt numb without the aches of the battle. No, not just without them. The ever present pain from the Wrath State that I had suffered for years was gone. I barely noticed. My chest felt hollow and empty.
Most of my family was dead. Most of them, I ended up killing with my own two hands.
If… if I left this planet and found out that I was alone? That Elery was dead? That Mom was dead? That the Saiyan race was dead?
I'd lose it.
So, I flew towards the mountains and over the rainforest. The air was chilly and cold, my ruined suit didn't help much in that regard. But, once I blew past the peaks of the mountain, I saw the devastation.
Nature was working to reclaim the crater, but there was only so much that could be done with scorched stone. A thousand years later, it was still blackened. Additionally, I saw pockmarks. The crater that had formed mountains hadn't been the end of the battle. It went on for a little while longer. As I flew over, I didn't see any way to tell who the winner was, but when I reached the center…
Bones. They were bleached white but crumbling and broken. I had no clue if they were the victor or loser. But, I only saw one set of bones. Either the ancient corpse in front of me was the victor and the defeated foe had crumbled away to dust, or… whoever had killed them didn't die with the Super Saiyan and planet. Though, I suppose that it really didn't matter.
I took a seat at the edge of the crater that served as the last Super Saiyan's grave. My head was empty of all thoughts as I stared down at the crumbling bones. My body was mostly restored. Just dried blood left to show the battles I had been through. My blood. Vegeta's blood. Fasha's blood. Shugesh's blood. Borgos' blood. Tora's blood. Bardock's blood.
"Yo! Sorry, I usually don't get visitors here," I heard a voice speak up. At first, I thought I imagined it. However, as my gaze slowly lifted, I saw the familiar red glow of an aura. I saw feet, legs, and body clothed in rough hides and bone. I knew who it was before I saw their face. I only met him once before, and briefly.
It had been so many years ago, but it was impossible for me to forget him. The Saiyan on Rench that I saw when I had nearly been cut in half.
"It's you," I heard myself say, looking up at the Saiyan. He looked like my brother, just with a slimmer build. His aura rose from his body just like mine had when I transformed. However, his was red compared to my gold. How? Nothing in my human memories hinted at a red aura for Saiyans, not counting the Kaioken, which I had never been able to puzzle out.
The Saiyan blinked, "Huh? You know me?" He questioned, tilting his head as he took a seat, his tail serving as a chair while he crossed his legs and arms.
What? "We met years ago. I was dying on a planet called Rench, and you and a woman appeared in front of me. You… you told me that I told you that… if I didn't get up right now, then I wouldn't just be dying another pointless death. Everyone else would too." I told the Saiyan, narrowing my eyes ever so slightly.
The Saiyan blinked, his gaze adopted a faraway look for a moment. Then he blinked. "Wow, you were in pretty rough shape! I'm surprised you managed to live through that!" The Saiyan said with a laugh, earning a very slow blink from me.
"Did you just travel through time?" I asked, realizing I had just completed a time loop. This wasn't anything like I imagined. For years, I had thought on that brief exchange, on what it could have meant. It was obvious enough that time travel had been involved somehow. I just imagined it to be very… different.
The Saiyan shrugged, "Sorta? I'm not really sure what I'm doing myself, but it's more like I just projected my consciousness back a few years."
I couldn't tell if I should be impressed or disappointed.
"Who are you?" I asked, leaning back. My gaze dipped down for a moment, glancing at the skeleton, but when I looked up, the Saiyan was shaking his head.
"The name's Yamoshi," Yamoshi introduced, jabbing a thumb again at his chest and aiming a megawatt smile in my direction. "I'm the Saiyan God!"
I blinked slowly. This was the Saiyan god?
"I'm… Tarble," I answered. I wasn't a prince anymore, was I? I wasn't the Supreme Commander either. I wasn't a high commander, a general, or a commander either. For the first time in over a decade, I was just Tarble.
Yamoshi nodded, "So, what brings you here?" He questioned, and I swallowed a few of my own. If he was a god, then shouldn't he already know?
"We blew up another planet," I answered. This time, Yamoshi blinked before he sighed.
"Damn, another one? What kind of blown up are we talking about here? Because Sadala's coming along nicely! Give it another fifty thousand years and it should be as good as new-"
"It's ground zero for a supermassive black hole," I answered.
"Oh. That's… gotta be the new benchmark for blowing up planets," Yamoshi decided, letting out a breathe of amusement. "But, that doesn't exactly answer my question? What are you doing here? You clearly didn't know I'd be here, so you aren't here for a fight."
My gaze dipped down to the skeleton between us. I didn't answer. I didn't know how to answer. I didn't know where to start. The words just wouldn't come. They were lodged in my throat, unable to make it past my lips. There was a deafening silence as Yamoshi waited for my answer. In the end, a sigh escaped me first before the words followed.
"I've spent my entire life at war," I told him. "I started one when I was three months old. My father sent me and my team on a suicide mission that started a war with the Reach, which was the most powerful empire in the galaxy. But we didn't die. We should have, but we didn't." The words tumbled from my lips like water, pouring out of me.
"I've killed… I don't even know how many people. The first time, I was horrified. I puked. I cried. It was revolting. But, I got used to it because I had to. Because my team needed me. They counted on me. They trusted me with their lives and I had to be worthy of that trust. So, I got used to it. We traveled planet to planet, conquering them in the name of the Trade Organization." I sighed and shook my head.
"I fought the war. I gave it everything that I had. Because, if I gave anything less, my soldiers would die. It started off with the 501st, but then I became a general. Then a high commander. Then the Supreme Commander. Each time, the number of those under my command grew until I commanded armies of trillions. I… I… I just… became a machine. I just brought death everywhere I went. I've killed billions. Hundreds of billions, even. And my orders have caused the deaths of trillions."
My head lowered, caught by my hands. "It was… everything was for nothing. I've… I've killed trillions of people for Trade Organization branded toasters." That stung the most. The entire war was a sham. I was so focused on making it mean something, to make all the death mean something, to justify it… "My team betrayed me. They murdered my brother. And… I betrayed them because I knew that my family and they were at odds, but, I…"
A sigh escaped me before a sob lodged itself in my throat. "What… have I been doing with my life?"
I didn't know. I thought I had been doing the right thing. Doing whatever I had to do to save the lives of my men and end the war. That was my motivation. That's what fueled every action. And… all of it was for nothing. The war was a sham. All that death for something like money. My father and brother were both dead. My team slain by my own hands.
I had been so sure I was making the best of a bad situation. Now, it just felt like I had picked every wrong choice.
"Damn. I guess even one of our race can get tired of fighting," Yamoshi remarked. I lowered my hands and looked at him to find that he wore a small smirk. "Can't tell you what to do. Or what you should do. Never been in your shoes, so I don't have the right."
"And if you did?" I asked him, meeting his red eyes.
To that, Yamoshi shrugged. "I'd pick my reason."
"What?" What did that mean? And why did he suddenly scowl before he blew out a sigh?
Yamoshi scratched the side of his head, "That didn't make the cut, huh? Of all the traditions you could have forgotten, it just had to be the one I came up with…" he muttered unhappily before he started looking around before he decided to raise a hand.
A knucklebone floated to his palm before he floated over and dropped it into my hand. I looked down at it questioningly for a moment, then up at him. Yamoshi wore a lopsided smirk as he pointed down at the knucklebone.
"That bone," he began, "is your reason. Fighting for the sake of fighting makes for light fists, but fighting for a reason? Your blows will always land heavier. So, find a reason. Put it in the middle of your hand… and decide if it's worth making a fist over."
I looked down at the fingerbone for a moment before I looked up at Yamoshi. He smirked down at me for a moment, seemingly content with passing on the knowledge.
"King," I spoke up, making Yamoshi tilt his head. "I'm King Tarble of the Saiyan race."
"Heh. Come back here when you're a god, then I'll be impressed," Yamoshi said, floating backward before he began to fade from view. "I'll be waiting, King Tarble."
Despite it all, I found myself smiling ever so slightly as I received a challenge from my race's god. My eyes slowly dipped to the bone resting in the balm of my hand, staring at it for a moment longer.
I found my reason.
Then I made a fist.
And so ends Going Native. Took a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would, but with this chapter, every single loose end has more or less been tied off. The timeloop that was established way back in the Smell arc, Koter's arc was finished, Vril was established, Hal's arc concluded with the establishment of the New Lanterns.
Gone Native will pick up with a prologue that will more or less cover the aftermath of Going Native before going to Earth. Honestly, it feels weird going to Earth. I've been planning it for a while now, but it always seemed so far away. I'm looking forward to it.
As promised, here are some rambling final thoughts on the conclusion of Going Native.
Tarble's character arc so far is a negative character arc - he's landed himself in a worst position over all than when he started. This kind of character arc is actually very common. You see it all the time. However, it's just that it's typically reserved for villains. Villain is a normal guy, something bad happens, then he becomes a villain, he does a thing, the heroes stops him, then he goes to jail.
Right now, Going Native ends with Tarble pretty much losing it all. Over the course of the story, Tarble gave more and more of himself to the war and it ultimately didn't pay off. He went to Sadala, for the first time truely aimless, where he then found a reason to keep on going because that's also who Tarble is. He dosen't wait for the universe to give him a reason, he makes his own. He chooses to keep going and he'll keep going until he reaches the end of the road.
All that being said, this is the middle point for his journey. Going Native is where Tarble has slowly lost his humanity before choosing to give it up entirely. Gone Native is where Tarble finds it again. Sorta. Up until this point, Tarble has gone through the motions of living. Again, he became a machine that just killed wherever he found his enemies. He hasn't lived. People always theoriezed that Tarble would go to Earth as a vacation, and that's not wholly wrong.
Earth is where Tarble can go out and get a coffee and read a book. It's a place where he can go deep sea fishing. It's a place that Tarble can stop and discover who he is when he's not at war.
The baggage of Going Native isin't something that can be cast off so easily, but Gone Native's overall theme is that you have to carry the weight of your past, you don't have to let it drown you.
That's about it on Tarble's character. Up until this point, his character arc has been tragic and sad, but it ends on a hopeful note. Hope that Tarble gave himself.
My final thoughts on Going Native are a bit shorter. When I started the story, Going Native was very different. The war would have lasted about 50k words at most. The team were going to die long before their dreams of a coup were even introduced. There would be no Elery, Teach, 501st, and Tarble never became a general or leader, much less the scourge of the galaxy.
Here we are 84 chapters and 500k words later. There were definitely bumps in the road and some learning moments. I should have spent more time with the team to develop all of their characters much earlier. I also think I focused too much on the war, and not enough on the various characters that the war impacted and those that fought it. Character bloat was also an issue at one point. I also meandered in the beginning and middle portions too much when I was indecisive about where I wanted Going Native to go.
But, overall, Going Native is pretty much everything I wanted it to be when I started writing it over a year ago. It's the tale of a young boy that became a man, of a human that gave up their humanity to embrace being a Saiyan to survive a hellish war. So, I'm pretty satisfied with it. There is room for improvement, of course, but… yeah, it's my first completed story and I don't think it sucks after I'm done with it which is probably a first for me.
On a final note - Gone Native will be posted on July 5th. I'm taking one week off from all of my stories, then another week for Gone Native to build up my backlog and finetune my outline. I'll post a link in this thread to the sequal when it does go live.
Hope to see you all in the sequel!