"Brainwashing seems like a jump," Raven remarked as we stood in my throne room, surrounded on all sides by holograms that fed me information about my empire. As well as a number of projects that I had - such as the Warworlds and the shield wall around my empire, to name a few. The one that I was focused on at the moment was harnessing the power of compassion so I could use it on my race to drive the concept of compassion into their heads. "I know you're grasping at straws with this, but it seems like you're going for a hammer when you don't need to."

"I'm not certain that I don't need to," I returned, frowning at a hologram. Komand'r was hiding reports from me again according to Kori - the Saiyans on Tamaran were becoming restless, and the damage on the recently repaired planet was mounting. It was becoming a problem. Enough so that I was spending dedicated resources to monitor every Saiyan within my borders to make sure that they weren't secretly destroying cities when I wasn't looking. "The Guardians have tried doing this the delicate way since the beginning of the universe. But the Saiyan race doesn't do delicate."

Raven stood next to me, looking up at the outline I had drawn up. "You experienced it before, and it didn't exactly work on you." She made a point, earning a small nod from me.

"I'm not someone that should be used as a baseline. I already felt compassion. The ring just amped it up to eleven," I pointed out.

"Did it work?" She asked, sending a glance at me with a cocked eyebrow.

"I killed about a dozen Indigo Lanterns immediately afterward. I did feel bad about it, though," I answered with a small shrug. Raven's gaze became incredibly flat at that - she got used to the mentions of killing whenever the war was brought up. I think it always bothered her less than others, but she had stood with them. Now, it washed over her back with ease and without a reaction.

"A ringing endorsement," came Raven's dry reply.

"I did say that I shouldn't be used as a baseline," I reminded. "I'm not certain the effect it would have on the rest of my race. The vast majority of them have never experienced compassion or empathy in the first place. The closest I came was in fostering a sense of teamwork between them, but that's not the same thing. I'm hoping that being exposed to the Indigo Light would allow them to develop it on their own…"

Raven gestured for me to continue while I gazed at Indigo, the current leader of the Indigo Lanterns. I did after a moment of thought, nodding at her, "The Indigo Power Rings foster remorse and compassion for other beings. Indigo herself was a renowned pirate and a murderer who completely changed after putting one on. Would she simply go back to who she was if she took off the ring?"

There were a lot of questions around the decision that I was making. Not to mention the most obvious danger of brainwashing my race to feel empathy.

The Super Saiyan transformation required a strong emotional trigger. If I wasn't careful with how I did this, I could accidentally create a generation of Super Saiyans and that would mean my empire imploded, because I couldn't handle millions of Super Saiyans on my own. The damage from their initial transformation alone would be incalculable, and it would only hasten the destruction of the Saiyan race. When I came to Earth, I had been reeling from the death of Vegeta and my team.

I had come to Earth looking for a fight, in hindsight. And I had certainly found one.

"There's never going to be a button that you can push to make someone a better person. That's not how people work," Raven pointed out, still warning me away from the course of action. "Experiencing it once won't radically change who they are. What you would have to do is brainwash them for an extended period of time until it's ingrained in who they are. Do you really want to do something like that?"

"No," came my swift answer. "But I also don't want my race to drive itself into extinction." With a thought, the holograms changed, becoming the information that had been given to me by the Guardians. There was too much really - I had an AI flag what was important, and naturally, that was moments when my race tipped past the point of no return and collapsed.

"You're treating it like its an imminent issue," Raven pointed out, making a fair point. "These examples… they took place over the course of thousands of years. You have time to push them in the right direction before you commit to something like this."

I frowned at the holograms, feeling the weight on my shoulders. The greatest threat to my empire was undoutably my own species. That stung, truth be told. I fought throughout the war to protect them, to give Frieza an indisputable reason why he should never try to wipe us out like he did in my human memories. But now that the war had ended, I saw exactly how dangerous the Saiyan race was. The weakest of us was a city buster and those were the Saiyans that I was trying to encourage - the ones completely disinterested in conflict.

"You're completely against the idea," I voiced my opinion, seeing how she was digging her heels in while retaining her indifferent tone.

Raven considered it for a moment before offering a slight nod of her head, "I think its an overreaction to a problem you don't have yet." She told me, watching me carefully for my reaction and likely how I felt about the rebuke. She did have a point. I could admit that much, but I could feel things moving in the wrong direction and I could see how many times that path ended in disaster. "There are other less extreme options you could consider."

That was true, I supposed. "It sounds like you have a suggestion," I remarked, hoping that she did. I didn't want to do it. I was just out of ideas and eager to avert the ending I could rapidly see approaching.

"I do. You aren't going to like it," Raven informed, making my eyes narrow in response. I was considering mind control at this point. I already didn't like it.

"What is it?" I pressed, my mind racing with possibilities of what it could be. Likely magic based. Raven had gotten stronger with her powers. Perhaps it was some kind of ward? A preventative measure to stop a Saiyan from accidentally killing someone simply because they couldn't be bothered to avoid their death?

"You could try not treating this as a battle that needs to be won," Raven spoke, giving a less than helpful answer. My face expressed my annoyance, so there was no need for her to read my emotions. A lesser being would have cowered in fear of it, but Raven matched my annoyed look with a thoroughly indifferent one that was borderline exasperated. "You're acting as if you're working against the clock and you're expecting perfection from your race. There isn't a species in the universe that doesn't accidently hurt one another."

"Mine can hurt a lot more than just a pedestrian on the street," I argued.

Raven nodded, "I know. But no one has died. The worst of the damage comes from pride and property value. There are no destroyed cities that you need to lament. You're jumping to take action but that's not what you need to be doing. This isn't an enemy that you can defeat." Raven stressed and in the back of my mind, I knew she had a point. However, I felt the pressure weighing me down - a familiar weight, only this one was so much worse. It was the weight of lives.

In war, I could bear it with no difficulty. It was war. People killed and died. In peace? It was harder because any death - any potentially destroyed cities, possibly even planets, and all the lives that were snuffed out because of a Saiyan's recklessness or anguish… that was much harder to bear.

Raven took my silence as a sign to continue, "This isn't the time for a decisive action like you're used to. It's time for smaller actions over the course of years to guide them down a better path instead of dragging them to the end." My first reaction was to reject the idea out of hand entirely. The second was much the same. The third reaction was to consider what she said and compare it to what I knew - that path ended in disaster. "Because you have options available, Tarble. Ones that every other version of your race didn't - good influences. Stability. And you know what has been tried before and what hasn't."

A knot of tension that had been between my shoulder blades slowly began to ease away and I hadn't realized I was toying with the bone on my necklace until I let go of it. Nor did I realize how deeply I was frowning until Raven lightly touched my shoulder and I turned to her. I thought she was being naive about it, but I couldn't deny at the core of her statement was a point.

"Mind control is something that can't be undone," I admitted to her, making her hand flinch away as if the words had been directed at her. An expression of shame flickered across her face while I continued. "I'll use it as a last resort. But I will need to take a more active roll in guiding my race."

"You don't have to do it alone," Raven pointed out. "You don't have to do everything yourself," she added, and it sounded like she was about to bring something up that she had felt for some time. Her gaze went to the holograms around us for a brief moment, as if she were debating on following through. "The Trade Organization, Sadala, the Olympian Gods, and… my father. You're making a lot of enemies, Tarble. And picking a lot of fights."

I crossed my arms, "I'm not the one that started most of them. Cooler was my enemy by default. Him and his father." The Trade Organization had consolidated and restructured in the past half year with Cooler at the helm. The shadow battles we've waged were slowly starting to escalate in the wrong direction, but things slowed down when I formalized a contract with the New Lanterns.

The Olympian Gods were quiet. I hadn't heard from them since I ate parts of Ares, but the promise of their response was looming. As for Trigon and Sadala… the former didn't know I was aiming for him while the latter was a complete mystery. I didn't know when or if Sadala would show up if my race ever met her standards for whatever reason she decided.

"You're being pulled in a lot of directions and a lot is looking over the horizon. I can feel your tension, Tarble," she interjected when I started to deny it. "Even when you are enjoying yourself, you're ready for something to start - a conflict or a fight, or just something going terribly wrong."

"For good reason," I defended. There was a lot going on.

Raven did acknowledge that with a nod of her head, "for good reason. But it's not necessary," she insisted with a gentle tone and I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about the conversation turning on me. I was regretting bringing the subject up with her. I only did because I learned to trust Raven's opinions and wanted her view before I committed to a course of action. "You may be a god, but that doesn't make you all knowing or all-powerful. You aren't in this alone. You can ask for help."

My lips thinned, "I am."

"You're asking for opinions on your solutions. Not for solutions from others. Stubbornness is an emotion," Raven reminded me, giving a stern look. Meaning she felt me dig in when she suggested my original plan for the Saiyans. Slowly, Raven reached out to me, untucking an arm so she could cup one of my hands in hers. A preventative measure, I learned when she continued, "We aren't your team. We aren't Bardock, or Fasha, or the others. What happened with them won't happen with us. Not if you learn why it happened - that you look at the forest instead of the trees."

I went deadly still at the mention of my team. To this day, only she and Broly knew the truth. The truth and the circumstances that lead to what happened. My jaw clenched and I started to withdraw my hand, only for Raven to hold it tighter. "I learned that lesson well enough," I bit out, anger bubbling in my chest.

"Perhaps," Raven allowed, "but you've also learned the wrong lessons from it, I think. You haven't taken that final step to actually trusting us. Or others. Broly still is the only person in the world you have any faith in." She told me outright, her tone factual. I couldn't say that I particularly enjoyed being told what I felt, but I could say that I liked it less that she was right. Her empathic abilities were proving troublesome. Especially when she was learning to leverage them because they were stronger with her growing power.

I wanted to refute the words, but I knew it would be a lie, and I knew that Raven would know it too. I had plans to break off parts of my power to others. I planned to have faith in other people. However, it couldn't be denied that I hadn't followed through on those plans, because I hadn't. My thoughts and ideas of empowering the Justice League had yet to materialize. Even with the smaller things, I still struggled to put faith in the Teen Titans. Not because we were enemies any longer, and not because there was still lingering tension between us. I was fond of them. I was fond of and respected them as I had any member of the 501st.

But I hadn't taken that final step. I hadn't followed through. And now Raven was calling me out on it in a way that I couldn't really argue the result.

"I'm their king. The Saiyan race is my responsibility," I dug my heels in, and I found myself annoyed when Raven nodded.

"They are," she agreed. "But they aren't just your responsibility. Just as finding the Dragonballs isn't just your responsibility, nor fighting whoever searches for them. You're dealing with a lot, Tarble. I appreciate everything you're trying to do, but-" she cut herself off and it suddenly struck me why the conversation felt off to me. If I took a step back and looked at it from her point of view… how much of what she was saying was applicable to her? How much of what I said could be about her?

Raven noticed my revelation even before a soft sigh escaped me, "I want to help." She told me outright, her lips thinning into a line as she pinned me with a sharp gaze. "In a way that's more than just a sounding board. Because you're… you've…" she fumbled her words, a rarity for her as she seemed to struggle to put them out. However, I had an idea what she was trying to say.

She hadn't forgotten what had happened in the ruins of Azarath. And I could see that had an impact on her. In the months since, not only had her powers grown in strength, but she was… feeling her emotions more. I wouldn't go as far as to say that she had embraced them yet, but she was letting some slack in the leash.

The promise between us almost became tangible in that moment. A promise to kill her father and to bring back her mother.

"Fine," I agreed, not exactly knowing what I was agreeing to, but I knew the core of it. Raven was putting herself out there, outside of her comfort zone, and… I've known for some time that I could trust Raven. I did trust Raven, but there was always a wall up, leaving me ready to be betrayed or let down in some way. A distance. I think it was time that I started having trust in her.

"Fine?" Raven echoed, seemingly caught off guard by my agreement.

"Fine," I repeated, offering her a small nod. "If you think you can help with… anything, then I would… appreciate it," I told her, seeing a slight smile tugging at the edges of Raven's lips when she felt that I meant it. I had to take that final step to really start trusting others. I don't think I would ever have it in me to relinquish the lion share of power, but it was time that I started empowering others that I trusted to tell me what I needed to hear. Whether I wanted to hear it or not.

A small breath escaped Raven that sounded a lot like a sigh of relief, "Good." She decided before her gaze started to lower, going to her hands that enveloped mine. She went still for a moment- "Oh," she uttered, as if just realizing that she had grabbed my hand. I think her emotions got the better of her with the action. And now, because she let go of my hand as if it had burned her. "I'm… going to go. And find a hole. To die in," she muttered to herself, her shadow expanding underneath her.

She was embarrassed. "I'll see you later, Raven. And… thank you," I told her, making her pause as she sunk through the floor. She offered the barest hints of a nod before she vanished from sight. I watched where she vanished for a long moment before a sigh heaved out of me as I replayed the conversation in my head once again, processing everything that had been said between us.

Slowly, I looked up at the ceiling, my mind going blank for a moment, forcing myself to confront a truth.

"I really am hopeless, aren't I?"

As if to agree with me, I got an alert from an outpost within the Empire. An alert that I had been expecting and dreading for some time now.

One of Earth's villains had been spotted. Poison Ivy…

And she had a planet full of hostages.


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