After a few more words from the Announcer, the fight was on. Almost simultaneously we began glowing. Faintly at first, Ubuu's ki aura was purest white and mine was grayish blue, like the color of the ocean underneath a cloudy sky. Ubuu's Mohawk waved steadily but began to stand up straighter as his ki rose higher. My hair lifted off my shoulders and neck, undulating with the vibration of my power. Ubuu and I mirrored each other's ki until the light from our bodies shone so bright we over shone the sun above. Washing out shadow, blinding any who looked upon us.
We moved as one, rushing at each other, our fists pulled back to deliver our blows. I swung, he swung, our speed perfectly even; we'd hit each other at the same time. But I had other plans. I used super speed and evaded Ubuu's fist. I intended to get behind him and punch him at the base of his skull, but swung at flesh that was no longer there. Ubuu used Zanzoken as well and reappeared in the spot that would have been behind me if I hadn't moved and his leg snapped through empty air.
We stared at each other briefly before we sped at each other once more. We moved slower this time, choosing caution over speed. I dodged his first punch easily but the next came at me faster, and soon Ubuu was swinging so fast I could no longer dodge and had to block each punch. He was trying to take control over the fight and I knew I couldn't let him. No more blocking.
I turned aside Ubuu's next punch by knocking the flat of my hand into the side of his wrist, and then caught the following in my hand, squeezing his fist tight. I moved in fast and delivered an uppercut to his jaw, snapping his head back. Then I brought my arm down and chopped at the side of his neck with an overhead Haito and next slammed my elbow into his left cheek. All told the entire combo took a few seconds and when it was over Ubuu went hurdling away from me. I thought I'd staggered him with my assault but Ubuu flipped in mid air and landed on the ring in a crouch. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth and he stood up smoothly indicating other than the small cut inside his mouth he was unhurt.
I narrowed my eyes and lowered into a crouch like the one Ubuu just rose from and ran at him, staying low. Ubuu reacted the way I hoped he would; by keeping low to the ground I made it hard for him to land any punches on me and forced him to either move out of the way or use his legs to attack. Ubuu used his legs. He swept his leg out and I pulled my body in tight and leaped over the kick aimed for my head. Then using flight and super speed in conjunction I rocketed at him and buried my fist in his belly, my muscles and momentum multiplying the force of the hit. Ubuu doubled over and I flipped over him, uncurled and slammed my heel into the back of his head, knocking him to the ground.
It was as I expected. I was faster than Ubuu, more maneuverable; he was stronger than me but not so strong I couldn't hurt him. I could beat him; all I had to do was avoid getting hit too much.
Ubuu was slower getting up this time and I watched him come to his feet, his back to me. I wasn't fooled, not for an instant. Ubuu attacked from behind and I turned to block before his after image faded away. My forearms, crossed in front of my chest, took the impact of his right hook and my whole body shook. Even bracing myself was useless and I was sent skidding across the ring, my shoes leaving friction marks on the tiles.
Ubuu kept attacking and got behind me again and tried to kick me in the back, but I ducked it, rose up and caught his ankle on my shoulder then grabbed his foot with both hands. I spun in place and swung Ubuu by his leg and tossed him away from me as hard I could. I wasn't going to give him a chance to recover this time and I flew after him. I got above his flailing body and with a highly controlled burst of ki I fired at him. The beam was wide enough to strike his entire figure and smash him into the ground. I dived down right after, my legs bent, heels on my butt and battered my knees into his back.
The ring exploded and bits of tile flew in all directions as I knocked Ubuu through the ring. I flew off him and landed beside the indentation his body rested in. He appeared unconscious but I wasn't going to take any chances. I reached down and grabbed his Mohawk and dragged him up out of the hole—and got a face full of ki for my trouble. The heat was intense, searing away a few layers of skin on my face and the front of my gi.
Pain made me forget to scream. It made my fingers unclench Ubuu's hair before his ki blasted me away, my body sailing horizontally over the ring at an alarming rate. But I didn't have time to deal with pain, no matter how agonizing, and fought with every fiber of my being to block the sensation of my nerve-endings on fire. Ubuu would be after me in an instant. I lowered my legs and let my heels dig into the ground, slowing my flight and exerted sky dance to stop myself entirely. Just in time too, I had just a second to respond when I saw Ubuu barreling at me. Half floating above the ground I tilted forward and pulled my fist back, ready to put my all into a punch when Ubuu got close enough. Then the strangest thing happened: Ubuu came to a dead stop in front of me.
I righted myself and set my feet down on solid ground, watching Ubuu stare at me, or to be more precise, stare about several inches below my chin. I was reluctant to look down to see what fascinated my opponent in case it was some kind of trick, but I did look down and saw what caught Ubuu's attention. My bra was showing. Frowning, I glanced up at Ubuu's face and saw he was blushing. I didn't think anyone with skin so dark could visibly blush.
I punch him in the face, launching it with all the force I could muster. Thunder sounded and Ubuu went flying this time. I let him go until I saw him about to leave the ring and Zanzokened, catching him by the front of his gi. His eyes rolled, his head wobbled--he was three seconds from passing out. I pulled him close, our noses almost touching.
"Pay attention," I said and threw him back to the center of the ring.
I walked up to him, my face still stinging. Ubuu was slowly regaining his senses and struggled to get to his feet. By the time I reached him he was upright and steady. We stood unmoving, I could sense him re-gathering his energy and I was doing the same. Ubuu was not staring at my breasts.
Ubuu moved first, swinging wide at my head. I knew something was strange about the attack but reacted instinctively and ducked. That was my first mistake. I should have got out of range and by not doing so I left my self open to Ubuu's ki attack which came from the last place I expected: His mouth. I dodged to the side, the ki shooting past me, but I couldn't avoid Ubuu's foot when it collided with my temple. I saw stars go nova behind my eyelids and tasted ozone, then almost threw up when Ubuu buried his knee in my stomach. From there it was a cacophony of agonies pounding into my body as he rained blow after blow upon me. Then the assault ended and I was still, rendered immobile by shocking pain.
There was roaring in my ears and my stomach rolled. Then I was floating, senseless, and it was quiet, but that didn't last long. I'd only passed out for a second then the howling was back and so was the nausea. I was in my own world of suffering, going in and out of awareness. At some point I lost consciousness and this time it lasted for a while. When I next opened my eyes, I was laying down, not on the hard tiles of the ring or the patchy earth around it, but on a softer surface.
Sitting up slowly, aching right up to my eyebrows, I saw I was on a hospital bed. There were four identical beds inside the room I was in—the Medical Unit inside the stadium—and I was the only one there. On the bed beside mine I saw my cape, folded in a neat pile. I swung off the bed and grabbed my cape, holding it in my hands for a moment before sliding it over my head and onto my shoulders. While I was adjusting it I started to cry.
I lost. I lost to Ubuu in front of everybody. Yeah, I've really proved myself to him. All I did was shame myself like that jerk said I would. I fell onto the bed on my back and sobbed like a baby. Hating myself for losing, hating myself for crying. Most of all I hated myself for being so goddamned weak!
"Pan." Grandpa Satan called my name softly and I ignored him. I hoped he'd take the hint that I didn't want to see anyone.
"Are you all right, Pan?" Goku asked, his voice so concerned and gentle. I wanted to roll over onto my stomach and bury my face in the mattress. I didn't want to him here. Call me resentful, petty, or whatever, but was I supposed to think he gave a shit about me all of a sudden? I didn't turn over, though, I just covered my face with my hands, got tears and snot all over my palms and cried harder.
They watched me bawl and I ignored all their efforts to comfort me. I was glad when they left and only then uncovered my face… and saw Piccolo standing by my bed. I gulped and slowly sat up. I sniffled a lot but the sight of him dried my tears. Piccolo didn't say anything; he just stared at me cool and impassively. But being the focus of that stare was enough to bring heat to my cheeks. And to lower places, which likely made the crimson tinge in my face deepen.
Piccolo reached out with his right hand and placed his palm on top of my head. There was that fluttery sensation on my body again. When I looked down my gi was repaired, pristine, even if the rest of me wasn't.
"You preformed well," Piccolo said.
I looked up and saw he was already turning away. I couldn't let him walk away from me again, something told me this was my last chance to tell him how I felt. Panic made my heart race and the aches and pangs in my body were gone.
The Namek-Jin stopped and turned back. As hurt as I was I managed to take Piccolo off guard when I tackled him. His powerful frame didn't budge and supported me like I weighed nothing. I folded my arms around his neck, my hands and forearms sliding down his broad back; his muscles felt like granite under my hands, against my chest. His skin smelled like freshly mowed grass. Piccolo's body was nothing like I ever imagined, but everything I ever wanted.
I kissed him.
His lips, lush, not nearly as unyielding as I'd thought, I made mold to mine. I managed to get my tongue inside his mouth, not to French kiss him, but to find out how he tasted. Piccolo tasted slick and sweet, kind of syrupy. I don't know why, but I always imagined he'd be cold and arid as his outward demeanor—where everyone but my father was concerned—showed, but he was warm and wet and inviting. I swirled my tongue around his trying to coax the spongy appendage from inaction to busyness.
Piccolo threw me off him and I landed on the bed, staring up at him shaken by the force he used to push me away. It never occurred to me he was rejecting me, not for a second, I thought he threw me to the bed to ravish me; the way I fantasized he would for the past two years. "What the hell are you doing?" Piccolo exclaimed. The dismay on his face was like a bucket of ice-cold water on my libido.
"I-I-I…" While I stammered Piccolo stood there looking more and more confused. I started grinning. Stoic and serious Piccolo was chiseled handsomeness, but baffled he was… I'd say boyish but I couldn't quite picture him as a child, so I'd have to describe him as being… cute.
"What was that?" Piccolo asked, his tone calmer now.
I stopped grinning. "A kiss," I said.
"I… I love you. I'm in love with you."
"I wanted to prove I was strong enough for you to love me, too."
"Impossible. What you want is not something I can give."
"Why not?" And, Kami, could I sound more like a whiny brat?
"I am not human, Pan. A Namek-Jin does not feel love."
"That isn't true!" I exclaimed. "You love my Dad."
"Yes, I love Gohan, but you're asking for romantic love. I am incapable of such emotion, mentally and physically."
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised. One more man in my life who can take me or leave me."
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself! You're a Son!"
"Yeah, a great legacy." I was getting whinier and bitchier by the second. "Tell me, do you feel anything for me? You gave me this outfit, why?"
"What's that mean?"
"What Gohan loves, I love."
"So… you care about me, my whole family, because of who my father is?"
I laughed bitterly. "Well, don't I feel special."
Piccolo sat on the bed opposite mine. I could only blink to express the suddenness of his action. His features soften, not the way they softened for my Dad, but I saw more openness on Piccolo's face directed at me than ever before. "I cannot return the culmination of your feelings, but I can offer my friendship," he told me.
"Friendship?" Did he just ask if we could be friends?
Piccolo's face turned to ice and he stood, his posture ramrod stiff. "Do you think I'd offer such a thing on a whim?" he asked, the proffered comfort in his voice completely gone. Near as he was I could sense Piccolo growing more distant. What I said next would determine if I'd ever see Piccolo again.
"No. No. I accept your offer," I said softly. It was better than nothing. I looked down and only felt a little like crying. When I raised my head I made sure I had a smile on my face. "Don't think I'm calling you Piccolo-sama, though."
Piccolo snorted and walked away, when he got to the open doorway he glanced over his shoulder. "Don't think I'm calling you Pan-chan."
I expected my parents to come in next, or Goten and Trunks, but instead it was Ubuu. He looked as bad as I felt. I knew some of his injuries I'd caused, but I didn't remember damaging his clothes to the extent they were. Then I remembered he made it to the Quarter Finals and that meant he probably had to fight either Piccolo or Vegeta. Considering the sorry state he was in, it was Vegeta.
Ubuu noticed me studying his outfit. "Vegeta, mostly."
"There was something new done in the Quarter Finals: A three way match between Vegeta-san, Piccolo-san and myself."
Damn, I missed it! "Kind of a last man standing deal."
"Yes," Ubuu said, then he added, "I enjoyed our fight."
I sighed deeply, pestering the soreness in my chest (Not for the first time since I regained consciousness, I wished Senzu were in season). I sorted through the feelings I had concerning Ubuu, my jealousy and the embarrassment of losing to him, and the exhilaration I felt fighting someone so strong. When I decided which I felt most, I told him the truth. "Yeah, I guess I did, too"
"Are you well enough to leave? Your Grandfather and Vegeta's match will be starting soon."
I leaped off the bed and raced to the door. I was unconscious during the brawl between Piccolo, Ubuu and Vegeta but I wasn't going to miss this for the world. After the disappointments I'd had today seeing Vegeta throw his fight with Grandpa Satan was the pick me up I needed. "Are you coming?" I yelled over my shoulder at Ubuu.