By Dragoness Eclectic
For those of you who have read "Raditz's Return", the prolog will look very familiar--if from a different point-of-view. For those of you who haven't read "Raditz's Return", this story is a direct sequel; if you haven't read "Raditz's Return", go read it now! This story will make a lot more sense if you do.
The man who lept from ledge to ledge down the seared, black cliffs to the burning plain might have been mistaken for human, except for the too-large eyes of a nocturnal predator, and the stiff, upswept crest of hair that no human ever grew. The man was small, but powerfully built, and he searched for another of his race.
Yes, there he was! On the burning plain, hunting some minor demon, just as Bardock had said. The man approached him, silently; he watched the tall, long-maned warrior finish the hunt, slicing the demon apart with his blade.
The man frowned; a Saiyan warrior using a sword? "Feh. A sword, Raditz? I didn't think you'd fallen that far!"
Raditz answered without turning to look at the smaller man. "The mara is an energy vampire, Vegeta. It feeds on soul force. My blade is as steel; it has neither passion nor energy; it's just sharp." His voice turned faintly mocking. "I'd be happy to let you fight it, but then I'd have to clean up the mess." He finally turned, carefully keeping the writhing demon's head pinned with the blade, to look at his former partner and prince.
"Hmmph! So don't blast it, just hit it." Prince Vegeta aimed a vicious kick at the demon's head; the tall warrior blocked it. Anger flashed in Vegeta's eyes; he wasn't in the mood for insolence. "You dare?"
Raditz grinned unpleasantly. "The mara drains soul force by touch--yours or its. You really don't want to finish that kick!" He paused to let that sink in. "He's weak now--I haven't let him feed for days--but you should see him all charged up. Heh. The maras hang around the borderland, looking for mortals whose spirits are wandering in dreams--then they harry them all night, sucking ki out of their souls and giving them nightmares in return. Good for me Earth mortals are so weak; maras can't do much more than look really ugly from what they steal. Too bad for Earth mortals they are so weak--they die or go mad from the life theft if it keeps up."
Vegeta had little interest in the travails of Earth's weakling mortals, but the demon's powers intrigued him. Vegeta laughed; a cold, malicious sound. "So blasting the little bastard would make him stronger, would it? And he'd steal my strength if I fought him hand-to-hand? That would be a tricky fight.. an interesting fight! Are there other demons like him?"
"There are. Why do you think the Saiyajin Demon Guard--my outfit--all carry swords?" Raditz took out a small black stone, and stopped, looking quizzically at Vegeta. "When did you get here? Did you die recently, Vegeta, or am I clueless as usual?"
Privately, Vegeta thought Raditz was clueless as usual, but.. "Not much more than a week ago."
The short, dark-haired saiyan frowned, and spent some time straightening out his white gloves. How to put this to Raditz? The Prince of the Saiyajin did not go begging to anyone, much less a mere first-class warrior!
"There is a problem--I've already been wished back once with Earth's dragonballs, and no one knows where Namek's dragonballs or the Nameks are. They can't wish me back."
"I could have been wished back with the dragonballs--funny how that never happened. Sympathy isn't one of my virtues, Vegeta." Raditz abruptly clapped the black stone to the demon's head, and watched coldly as the demon's head and body dissolved into mist and seeped into the stone.
Damn! He's still bitter about that.. 'waste of a wish'. He'll be of no use to me. I had hoped his old loyalty--no. So be it. "I was better off without you," Vegeta said coldly, as he turned and walked away.
Behind him, Raditz sighed. "Wait, Vegeta."
"I shouldn't have said that. I dug my own grave, and I didn't leave many friends behind. I've no right to complain.."
Vegeta stopped, and turned back. He had trouble believing what he'd just heard. Raditz sounded.. almost.. repentant--and not bitter. "Did you leave any friends at all behind?"
"One." Raditz smiled to himself.
"Not me!" The idea that a mere warrior would be that familiar to his prince!
"Vegeta, you were my prince and I was loyal to you unto death, but you were always 'the strong man who stands alone, above all'. Remember?"
"Yes, I know. Who--"
"Nappa. He was a good friend, mentor, and teacher--and he would have wished me back if he'd had the chance. He told me that much." Raditz spoke quietly. "I would have wished him back."
Vegeta winced at the silent accusation striking home. It had not been easy, facing Nappa again. "Nappa should not have lost to a mere third-class warrior like Kakarott." Vegeta closed his eyes, and half-turned away, the regret in his face belying his callous words.
Raditz looked at Vegeta, astonished. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then thought better of it. Although Raditz's emotions were written all over his face, as always, Prince Vegeta noted with approval that Raditz had finally learned that sometimes it is wiser to keep silent.
Perhaps he can serve me in this--only 'serve' isn't the right word, is it? Damn it, I'm the Prince of the Saiyajin, I don't ASK anyone for help!
"I don't have friends here," Vegeta said. "Though my father is.. my ally in this. There's only you, or Nappa, and Nappa--"
"--is still a bit peeved at you for killing him." Raditz regarded his fallen prince thoughtfully. "When did you ever have any use for friends?"
He's learned to think, too. If Raditz had lived, he might have been truly dangerous someday, and a worthy.. ally. Let's see how he handles the truth. Vegeta smirked.
"I never had a use for them, but they're a nuisance I've acquired along with my wife and son. However, they're all alive and not here. By the way, how is Nappa otherwise?"
Raditz just stood there. "Wife.. and.. son?" He blinked. "Wife and son? You have a wife and son?"
Now I can see the resemblance between him and Kakarott! They both get that same stupid look like they've been smacked between the eyes with a large rock.
"It does happen--we choose a mate, we have children.. I have heard that such a thing might have happened with our fathers," Vegeta's sarcasm was sharp enough to cut. "Now if you're paying attention.."
Raditz recovered, managing to look and sound sarcastic himself. "Oh, you've got my attention. I'm curious as to what amazing thing I'm going to hear next."
"My wife, Bulma--an old friend of Kakarott's--is alone and unprotected without me. They can't wish me back. I will find a way back myself."
Raditz objected. "That's impossible! You can only go back as a ghost, and only if the way is opened for you..."
"I could--and I have, briefly--but I mean to go back as myself, not a powerless ghost. I have learned that it has been done before, and if some mere human can do it, so can I!" Vegeta's eyes were wide with excitement and determination.
"But how? As far as I know--"
"There are other hells, deeper hells than this. Other pasts, other peoples now forgotten went to them. There are legends of humans and others escaping, or winning their way back to life from those hells."
And they were merely weak humans; I am the Prince of the Saiyajin! No god, no demon, and no number of hells will separate me from my mate unless I will it! I will find my way back to her, and I will track that demon down to whatever hell he came from and pay him back for every tear she has shed! I swear it! Love and hate and rage churned through Vegeta's soul, a fearsome maelstrom.
Raditz sensed the unshakeable purpose and fury that drove his prince--but he also knew, he thought, more of the dangers in what Vegeta intended. Raditz closed his eyes. "Of course. The mythic hells." He opened his eyes again. "You would. You can't resist a challenge like that! You know the way is guarded, don't you?"
"Of course. I have my father's 'kind permission' to make the attempt; I also have your father's permission for one other thing." King Vegeta, Duke of the Hell of Evil Warriors, had not been overly enthusiastic about his son's proposed quest, but had grudgingly acceded. The occasionallly prescient Commander Bardock, Lord-General of the Legions of Hell, had been enigmatic but cooperative. At least he had released Raditz to the task Vegeta needed him to do, at most the rather cryptic advice he'd offered Vegeta might turn out to be of some use.
"What?" Raditz lowered an eyebrow, suspicious.
Vegeta clenched his jaw; this was so.. humiliating. Only for her could he do this--at least it was Raditz, and NOT Kakarott. "I don't know how long I'll be gone on this.. quest, but I won't be able to watch over her and protect her while I'm gone. I want you to do that."
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CONTINUED IN CHAPTER I. UPPER HELL
Disclaimer: Dragonball, Dragonball Z and all the associated DBZ characters (too numerous to list) are the property of Akira Toriyama and a whole lot of other people who are not me; a bunch of other characters belong to others, see credits page on my website for details. Everyone else is mine, and this story is mine, too. This is a not-for-profit work.
Copyright 2002-2005 by Dragoness Eclectic
Last Updated: Mar 14, 2009; most recent version at my website.