Author's Notes:  This story takes place in the Mirai timeline; i.e. the timeline that has #17 and #18 running amuck killing most of the cast, and covers some of the events in Trunks' Story that happened off screen.  If you haven't seen the Trunks' Story special, don't worry about it, there's nothing too mysterious going on here.:)  If you have no idea who Trunks is, though, there might be a few spoilers, so beware.

Special thanks to Laura Phoenix, aka Phoenixstar, for tackling this and doing a spiffy beta job.  Go read some of her stories when you're done.  Or, if you'd rather, go read some of them now and then come back.  I'll wait.:)

Disclaimer: Dragonball Z is the property of Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation, Shonen Jump Comics, and Viz Comics (note that I'm pointedly ignoring Funimation, in the hope that if I do it long enough they'll go away.  It could happen).  I own nothing except the story itself and don't expect to make one cent.  So please don't sue.  Seeing as I had to count pennies so I could order Chinese food the other day, you probably wouldn't get much anyway.:)

If anyone wants to archive this story, just ask.  Not only will I say yes, I'll do my happy-happy dance of supreme joy.  It's a thing to behold.

    Glossary:  There are a few Japanese terms in this story that may be unfamiliar those readers who haven't seen the subtitled version.  Nothing major, but here's a quick glossary just in case (if you've seen the subbed version, or know a little Japanese, feel free to skip this):

            -san: an honorific denoting respect, usually used when being polite or speaking to

someone of a higher status.  Children would put –san on an adult's name, for        example.

            Gomen/Gomen Nasai: just two ways to say, "I'm sorry." 

            Hai: yes

            Ki:  this is a toughy, since it really doesn't translate into English.  I suppose the

best translation would be "life force"; it's the inner power that the DBZ guys     can sense and throw around.  I believe Funimation calls this "battle power" or "power level," depending on which monkey is on the keyboard that day.:)

            Nani?:  What?

Makankosopo: Piccolo's signature attack; the spiral energy blast he used on

Radditz.  It was translated to "Special Beam Cannon" by   Funimation, if I recall correctly. {sigh}

            Okaasan: Mom; what Gohan calls Chi-Chi

            Otousan: Dad; what Gohan calls Gokou

Enough boring stuff.  On with the story!  

Shadows In the Sky

Trunks thinks I'm insane.

            Oh, he hasn't said it out loud yet, but I can tell.  It was all over his face tonight, when I sat him down and started pointing out which constellations were what.  We'd finally been able to lose the Androids; for the past two weeks it seemed that every time we'd stop to rest there they'd be, just over the horizon.  Stalking us.  Sometimes I don't know whether they're really trying to catch us or are just letting us go to make the game better.

            I was halfway through the story of Orion when I looked over and saw him fast asleep.  Still sitting up, yet.  I laid him down, gave him the blanket and just let him sleep.

            I guess I wouldn't have made much of a teacher.

            His ki level went up again today, and I don't even think he realizes it.  The sheer potential hiding in this kid astounds me anew almost every day.  I don't think there is an upper level to what he can achieve; he'll pass me by before too much longer.  This kid, the way he can soak up training is incredible, draining me dry like a giant sponge.  The zeal he brings to training is contagious; I can't remember the last time I was this excited about training.  About anything, really.

            Bulma-san thinks I'm a saint for taking the time to train Trunks, but I know the reality's a lot more selfish.  When the kid shakes me awake at dawn and drags me to the desert to train, I feel alive, more than I have in years, and more than I ever thought I would again.  The absolute joy he takes in learning even the basics, the way he looks at me when he masters a new attack…I can't even describe what that's like.  It's waking up the part of my heart that went into hiding when the Androids came and every day became a little war.  The part that lets me feel.  Training with him reminds me that I'm not just fighting for myself, to protect my family or to get revenge.  It's so that the eyes of kids like him don't have to see the things mine have.  So that they'll have futures that don't include fighting for survival and hiding while those twin monsters look for their next target.

            I don't think I can ever really thank Trunks for giving me that back.

            Is this how you felt when you where training me, Piccolo-san?  Everyday I wish I  could talk to Piccolo-san, ask him whether this heady awe was what he felt all those years ago.  I wish I could tell him that all that "training" he put me through, throwing me off mountains, making me climb up ravines, beating me until I thought finding that sabertooth tiger and letting him eat me would bring sweet relief, that now I'm re-using all that torture on Trunks.  I even caught myself smirking the other day when he made a dumb mistake and got caught by my attack.  It was so surreal I had to stop training for the day.  Okaasan would've had a heart attack if she'd seen me.

            I bet Piccolo-san would've gotten a good laugh out of it, though.

            I've been thinking about those days a lot, lately; it must be training in this desert.  I don't know whether to be amazed or amused by how different Trunks is from me when I was younger.  He can be so reckless sometimes, so impulsive.  I'm always afraid he's going to take off one day and try to fight the Androids without me.  And so stubborn; I've screamed at him more than once that he was doing something wrong until my voice went hoarse, only to have to sit back and let him figure it out on his own.  It's impossible to give him orders---he won't listen to what anyone says, and by the time he finally does do what I asked, it's usually too late, and…now I'm suddenly remembering all the times Piccolo-san tried to give me orders and I just ignored him.

            Okay.  So we're not completely different. 

            I sometimes envy how comfortable Trunks is with his power.  He loves testing his strength, pushing his limits.  He's not afraid of his power, the way I always was afraid of mine.   And he pursues training with a single-minded intensity that's almost frightening.  I don't think anyone's ever wanted anything as much as this boy wants to get stronger.

            Of course, that one-track thinking is why he thinks I've suddenly gone senile if I decide to spend valuable sleep time staring up into the sky and droning on about ancient myths.

            That's all right.  I don't sleep that much, anymore.  And I always did love the stars.

            I'll tell you a secret:  when I was little, I really wanted to be an astronomer.  I never told Okaasan because I knew she would throw a fit, but I used to spend hours mapping out star charts and teaching myself the names of all the constellations.  One of the things I loved most about training in the desert with Piccolo-san was how big and clear the night sky was.  It always made me feel safe when I was afraid at night, knowing the stars above me were the same ones I'd see in my telescope at home.

            The stars are about the only things that haven't changed.

            It's hard to believe it's been twelve years.  Part of me still expects Trunks to be a scowling little baby, crawling around and declaring war on the furniture.  It was jarring the first time I saw him again as a young man; every time I look at him I feel old.

            Twelve years…like both an eternity and an instant.  I always wonder how different those twelve years would have been had Otousan still been alive.  Everything happened so fast after that. 

            I'd thought Otousan dying was the worst thing that could possibly happen.  It didn't take too long to find out how wrong that was.

            I was outside playing the day the sky fell down.  Ever since Otousan died, Okaasan hardly ever let me out of her sight; I either had to be in the front yard or up in my room studying, no arguing, no excuses. 

            So I couldn't go investigate when the massive ki surge in the West cut through me like a knife.  It had been so long since I'd felt a fight that it left me breathless for a moment, then I felt another ki, flying fast to the West.  By this time I was hovering off the ground, and Okaasan came out of the house and snapped at me, "What are you doing?  Come back in here!"

            She couldn't feel what I did, but she sounded afraid.  I think we both were.

            Seconds later the first, stronger ki disappeared.  I felt cold dread clawing at my stomach; I'd felt ki disappear like that during that fight with Vegita and Nappa.  I'd felt it on Nameksei, fighting Freeza.

            I knew too well what it meant.

            I don't know how long I stood out there.  It only felt like a few seconds, but looking back it must have been at least a couple of minutes.  Eventually I heard Okaasan calling me, telling me to snap out of it and come back inside.  I took two steps towards the house when I heard a whisper, rustling under my consciousness like a breeze.  I concentrated, and heard it again, but in my head and my heart instead of with my ears:  "Gohan."

            The next thing I knew Piccolo-san swooped down out of the sky, his clothes torn and bloody.  He scooped me up without saying a word and flew away, so fast I barely had time to hear Okaasan scream my name. 

            Piccolo-san held me so tight I could feel his heart hammering against me, faster than I'd thought was possible. 

            "Piccolo-san, what happened?"  I'd asked.  He didn't answer; he just kept flying, his eyes locked straight ahead. 

            "Piccolo-san!" I said again, struggling to get loose.  He let me go never slowed down.  "Piccolo-san, what is it?  What's going on?  Was there a fight?  I felt it, there was, wasn't there?  What happened…."

            "Vegita's dead," he said, bluntly.  I stopped flying and stood in the air.  "Nani?"  I scrambled to catch back up with him.  "Wait, what do you mean?  What happened?"  He didn't answer.  I grabbed his arm, asking, "Piccolo-san, what happened?  What about Bulma-san and the baby?  Are they all right?"

            He paused before answering.  "They're fine," he finally said, his voice softer than before.  We flew on in silence, Piccolo-san not once looking behind him.

            We touched down in the desert.  I was disoriented at first; I hadn't been there since training for the Saiya-jins.  Our landing threw up a huge cloud of dust; the sand burned my eyes and got in my mouth and my throat.

            Piccolo-san was standing with his back to me a few yards away; he'd zapped on a new turban and cape somewhere along the way.  I walked up to him, one arm thrown up against my face to keep the sand away.

"Piccolo-san?"  He didn't turn around.  The wind came blasting out of the canyons, blowing back my hair and billowing out his cape.  "Piccolo-san…"

"Do you want to live, Gohan?"  His tone was even.

I had no idea how to respond.  "Piccolo-san…"

"Do you?" he asked, his voice harsher than I'd ever heard it.  "Answer me."

"Yes," I answered, swallowing hard.  I still had no idea what was going on.

He closed his eyes and took one deep breath.  "Enough to fight for it?" he asked.  "Enough to work harder than you ever have in your life?"

I nodded, inching forward until I could see his face.  His eyes were trained on the horizon, as if waiting for something to come.  "Yes."

He looked at me, just for a second, then continued on.  "We have a new enemy," he said.  "I don't know where they came from.  They can apparently track our ki, though they don't seem to have any of their own.  That means we can't sense them.  We won't know they're coming until it's too late to outrun them.  And we'd have to run, because from what I've seen they're far stronger than anything else we've ever faced."

He paused, letting all of that sink in.  "And from what I've heard today, they seem intent on hunting us.  Strongest first."

He turned to face me, the expression on his face so intense I took a step back.  "If you train with me, it will mean obeying me unquestioningly.  It will mean feeling battles start up, feeling the ki of your friends diminish and fall, while you will stand here in my sight and do nothing, because it's more important that you train than they live."  There was a flicker behind his eyes on the word "your," but it disappeared as quickly as I saw it.  "It will mean placing your life entirely, blindly in my hands.  Can you do that, Gohan?" he asked, his voice dropping to a rough whisper.

I clenched my fists and looked him in the eye.  "Yes," I said.  "I can do what ever I have to, Piccolo-san.  I'll get stronger, then we can both beat them."

Piccolo-san's eyes softened for an instant, and he reached out to brush back a piece of my hair.  Then he glanced back at the horizon, and by his expression alone I knew what we were faced couldn't be compared to Freeza or any other enemy.

I had seen Piccolo-san fight a lot of strong opponents, but until then I had never seen him afraid.

When he turned back to me, his eyes were back to their usual unholy mixture of determination and maliciousness.  "Then let's get started."

The next six months seemed just like old times.  I didn't realize it at the time, but I was an angry little kid; angry at the Androids, at Otousan for dying again, and this time in a way the even the Dragonballs couldn't fix, at a lot of things.  At myself, most of all.  Piccolo-san knew how to handle that.  He knew when to back off and let me blow up a mountainside to let everything out, if I needed to, and he never gave me the "I'm here if you want to talk" speech.  I never knew what to say to that.  Has anyone ever really wanted to talk in response to that?  I know I didn't.  I was actually thankful that I had schoolwork to do; it gave me a chance to shut myself down and concentrate on something else.

            No way I could get away with that during training.  Not with Piccolo-san.  It's not possible to cut off your emotions when you train; at least, not possible for me, not with the way my emotion and power is connected.  And all that rage I'd bottled up without even being aware of it came barreling out about a month in.  I'm sure I almost killed Piccolo-san once or twice; I wasn't bothering to control my blasts or give them any form at all.  It was all raw energy pouring from me, riding on my emotions.  If you go out to the desert you can still see some of the craters. 

            I finished every day drained, but at the same time I felt…I don't know.  I guess cleansed would be the right word.  It was the first time in a long time that I didn't feel like giant hands were squeezing my head every time I tried to think.  It sounds strange, considering that I was spending all day being flung into cliffs and flattened by energy blasts, but after the first month or two I was happier than I'd felt since Otousan died.

            I could never forget why I was really out there training, though.  One day about two months in I felt an ki spike coming from the east, then felt all the air go out of me when it disappeared in an eyeblink.  Just like Vegita's had.  I would feel that four more times in the coming months.  Whenever it happened, Piccolo-san and I would stop training and hang there in the air, holding our breath until the end.  It never took very long.  And when it was over, we would go back to training, as if nothing had happened.  We never discussed it.

            We didn't have to.

            And I was reminded in other ways.  We never stayed in one place very long;  sometimes we spent more time flying to new training spots than we did actually training.  At least once a week I was shaken awake in the middle of the night, and before I could even ask what was wrong Piccolo-san would haul me up like a sack of potatoes and off we'd go.  We'd be training and Piccolo-san would suddenly stop, his head cocked as if he were listening to something, and we'd head to another desert, another forest, someplace far away. 

            Looking back, there probably wasn't any place far enough away.

            One morning I woke up and saw Piccolo-san hanging in the sky above me, his eyes locked on the horizon.  When I called out his name, he didn't answer.  I felt like spiders were crawling around in my stomach; all the hair on my arms and neck was standing straight up.  I flew up and could just barely hear him whisper, "No.  It can't be.  It's too soon."

            He spun around, wildly, and said, "Gohan, listen to me."

            I swallowed hard and nodded. "Hai?"

            He was turned to me but his eyes were still watching the horizon.  "Run.  Fly away, as fast as you can, as far as you can.  Then hide."

            My voice came out like a squeak.  "Piccolo-san?"

            He was scowling now, angry; his hands were already starting to glow.  "Do it, Gohan."

            "But, Piccolo-san…" 

            "I said GO!" he roared, grabbing me by the shoulder with one hand and throwing me backwards.  "Now!"

            I stopped my momentum and flew forward a few feet.  He cut me off before I could say anything.  "I don't have time for this," he said.  "I might be hold then off long enough for you to get away, but only if you leave now."

            I didn't want to understand what he meant.  "But, Piccolo-san…"

            "Gohan, I…"  His head snapped up to the horizon.  "Here they come," he breathed.  After a minute I could see two dark shadows against the sun, growing bigger by the second.  I thought I could make out blonde hair on one when Piccolo-san grabbed the front of my shirt and shoved me.  "Now, Gohan."  He turned around, murder in his eyes.  "Now."

            I only turned back once.  The last thing I saw was Piccolo-san readying the Makankosopo, standing against those shapes on the horizon.

            I flew so hard the wind burned my eyes, so hard I couldn't see.  It's probably a miracle I didn't crash head-on into a cliff.  Piccolo-san's words were ricocheting around my skull, that mixture of pain and fear and rage, fly away, as fast as you can, as  far as you can…

            I felt the first blow land and out of the sky, reeling;  I'd had to actually look up before I realized I'd only felt it in my mind.  I could feel Piccolo-san's ki falling, so fast I couldn't breathe, like I was being squeezed.  I struck out against a mountain with my fist as a sob choked out.   His ki was slipping, getting fainter every second, and there was nothing I could do about it.  Just like when the Saiya-jins came.  It was happening all over again, and I couldn't stop it.  Even after six months of the hardest training of my life, I couldn't stop it.

            I punched the mountain again, screaming as my fist crushed rock, trying to drown out the pain in my head.

            And then I was struck by lightning.

            I can't explain it any other way.  Energy spiraled out of me, lifting me off the ground.  I could feel the air around me crackling.  For a second I thought I was going to be torn apart.

            Then I opened my eyes and…how can I put this?  Can you explain color to someone who's blind?     Everything was sharper, as if someone had suddenly adjusted the focus.  Colors popped out at me, surreally bright, colors that weren't there before.  I could hear every sound for miles, could hear a cricket chirping a mile away as if it was right under me.  It was as if I'd gone through life with my head wrapped in cotton.

            The air around me vibrated.  I was a half-step removed from everything around me.  And when I reached up to touch my hair, I could feel the energy around it.  My hands balled into fists; I didn't need a mirror to know that my eyes had changed color, or that my hair was standing up straight.

            I could feel how much stronger I was.

            I flew back the way I'd come, hurtling through space faster than I'd ever dreamed I could.  I hadn't felt Piccolo-san's ki disappear completely.  Maybe there was still time.

            I skidded to a stop when I got there.  The area was devastated; huge craters dotted the plains we'd been training in, and there were cracks running along the ground.  A whole mountain range was gone; I almost flew right over the area without recognizing it.

            I didn't see the Androids anywhere.

            I'd almost convinced myself I was in the wrong place when I saw something white fluttering in the corner of my eye.  My throat closed as I picked it up---it was definitely a piece of Piccolo-san's cape.

            And the corner of it was stained with purple blood.

            I looked for almost ten minutes before I found him.   He was half-hidden in the shadow of a cliff overhang; I'd almost walked past when the wind shifted and I smelled blood. 

            His right leg had been blown off at the knee.  He was bleeding from his nose and his ears and his mouth, and a pool of blood was slowly forming underneath him.  His clothes were soaked.  His breathing was so shallow that at first I panicked and missed it.

            I shook him.  "Piccolo-san?" I said, my voice wavy.  I shook him again, harder.  "Piccolo-san?  Piccolo-san!"

            His eyes fluttered open; I was so relieved I almost started to cry.  "Piccolo-san?"

            He blinked twice; his eyes didn't seem to want to focus.  "Gohan?" he said, in a raspy whisper.  He shut his eyes again.  "Damn it.  I told you to run."

            "I did.  Gomen, Piccolo-san, I wanted to help, I can help now…"

            He jerked his arm away and supported himself on one elbow, wincing with each movement.  He shook his head.  "Gohan…"  I squeezed my eyes shut, expecting a rebuke.  It never came.

            When I opened my eyes Piccolo-san's scowl had faded and his eyes were wide.  "Gohan," he repeated, his voice a hushed whisper.

            "See?"  I asked, tears brimming in my eyes.  "Just like Outosan.  We can win now, Piccolo-san.  I know we can win."

            He reached out to touch my hair, then snapped his hand back when he felt the energy.  "A Super-Saiya-jin," he said, with so much awe in his voice it scared me.  "Never…never got to see your father…like this," he said, having to catch his breath.  The corners of his mouth tipped up.  "Always wanted to see it.  Wasn't…sure I would get to."

            "See?  I'm strong now.  We can beat the Androids…"

            "No," he said, shaking his head.  "Too strong.  Stronger than I thought, so much stronger…." His head snapped up and he looked right in my eyes.  "You have to get out of here."

            "No," I breathed.  "Piccolo-san…"

            He put his hands on my shoulders, leaning against me, his eyes inches away.  "YES.  They're coming back," he said, his eyes fluttering for a second.

            "No," I cried.  "Piccolo-san, I can fight, I know can, please…"

            "Gohan."  His tone stopped me.  I could feel his nails digging into my shoulders.  He had to catch his breath for a few seconds before continuing.  "Gohan, listen to me.  You can't fight them.  Not now.  They're too strong."  He started coughing; when he looked back at me blood was dripping down his chin.

            "You're too important to die here, Gohan," he said.  "You have to survive this.  You will defeat them someday.  You're the only one who can, but only if you DON'T DIE.  Do you understand?"

            I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood.  "But…"

            "No buts.  You're the only hope this world has left."  He closed his eyes.  "I'm sorry, Gohan," he murmured after a minute.  "I was hoping it wouldn't come to this.  That it wouldn't be all up to you.  Wanted to hold it off.  Never dreamed they would be this strong."  His eyes cracked open, and the look in them nailed me to the ground.  "Promise me you'll live, Gohan.  No matter what happens.  No matter how long it takes to kill them."


            "Promise me, Gohan."

            I nodded.  He leaned back against the cliff wall, his mouth a grim line.  "Good."  Suddenly his eyes snapped open.  "They're coming."

            He looked to his right and shoved me.  I concentrated, trying to hear what he could.  "I don't hear anything, Piccolo-san."

            And then all of a sudden I could, a low mechanical hum infecting the wind, so faint that I prayed I was imagining it.  I glanced back at Piccolo-san; he nodded almost imperceptively.  "We don't have much time.  Hurry."


            "Damn it Gohan, why don't you ever do what I tell you?  Go!  Now!"  He winced and swore under his breath, one hand clutching his ribs and the other digging into the ground with those claws.  I took a step forward and put my hand on his shoulder.  I couldn't find any words.

            He put one hand on top of mine.  "It's all right, Gohan," he said softly.  That cynical half-smile appeared on his face.  "I've died before.  Perhaps this time the afterlife won't be so tedious."  He brushed my cheek with his hand, then closed his eyes.  "Now hurry."

            I backed away, sniffling and trying to blink back tears.  Piccolo-san's eyes were fixed on the horizon to his right; I could see those shapes coming closer, their shadows creeping along the ground ahead of them.  "You can defeat them, Gohan," Piccolo-san said, not taking his eyes off the sky.  "I know it."

            I nodded, my throat closing so tight I thought I would suffocate.  I took off into the air and flew to the top of the canyon.  Once there I stood on the lip of the canyon and looked back down; Piccolo-san was getting ready to fight.  A faint glow surrounded his hand, and his ki was inching up; he had that smile of the damned that said he would make this as hard for them as he could.  He turned his head and locked eyes with me, just for a second, then as the shadows touched him he mouthed the word "Go."

            I did.

            I was half a mile away when I felt the first blow.  I gritted my teeth and kept flying, my arms stretched out in front of me and my hands balled into fists.  Every cell in my body screamed at me to go back.  To fight, to change this, to do something.  Anything.

            But I couldn't.  I'd promised.  And that promise dragged me forward despite tears streaming down my face and pain searing into my mind.

            Then I felt his ki disappear.  Like a thread being cut.  The only thing left to feel was the stillness of the desert surrounding me…

                        The sun coming up snaps me out of the memory.  Tears are streaming down my face, my hair's gone gold, and if I don't knock this off it's going to wake up the kid.  I take some deep breaths and try to remember my meditation lessons from all those years ago.  It takes a few minutes to get calm enough that my hair drifts back down and I try to figure out where that had come from.  I haven't thought about that in years.

I wipe my eyes; it's funny, I can't remember the last time I cried.  Strange, considering what a crybaby I was when I was younger.

I stand up and dust myself off, shielding my eyes against the sun.  It's going to be another hot, dry day.  Good training weather.

Trunks is still out like a light.  I look back over the horizon.  Gomen nasai, Piccolo-san.  You were wrong.  I'm not strong enough to beat the Androids.  But I think I've finally found someone who is.

            For years I wondered why I was spared.  What it was that made me so special  I could survive this long against those twin demons.  Now, looking at Trunks, I think I know.

            This kid, he's the future.  He's hope.  My job is to make sure he lives long enough to fulfill all that potential.

            Sometimes I see a flicker in the corner of my eye and imagine it's Outosan or Piccolo-san, watching me.

            I always wonder what they'd think of me.

            I wonder if they'd be proud.

            I hear Trunks start to wake up behind me and I put on my stern, martial-arts trainer game face.  Someday the kid's going to catch on.

            "Gohan-san?"  I turn around and look into a pair of sleepy blue eyes.  "Were you up all night?"

            "Nah," I say.  I don't know whether he believes me or not.  "Are you ready?"

            "Already?" he says, casting a doubtful look at the half-risen sun.  "This early?"

            I arch one eyebrow.  "Are you complaining?  I thought it was never too early."

            "No, sir!" He bounds to his feet, wincing ever so slightly.  I have to smother a smile.  I guess I was a little hard on him yesterday.

            "Say, Gohan-san…" he starts.  "Um…."

            "Yes?"  I let an amused glint come into my eyes.  I think it scares him.

            "Um, well…are we going to be doing…well, y'know, any more of that getting thrown into a mountain stuff?  Like yesterday?"

            "Oh, no."  I wait a full second, building his hope up, before continuing, "That was just a warm-up.  Today we really do some training."  It takes everything in me not to crack up laughing as the poor kid's face just falls.  He recovers quickly though, I'll give him that.

            "Great!  Let's start!"

            I do a ki-assisted high jump to an ledge fifty feet up the sheer cliff wall.  I shout down, "Warm-up exercise!  See how fast you can join me up here."  His eyes light up, then I dash it all away by saying, "No flying.  No energy blasts.  No ki-assisted anything.  Just climb."

            I can hear the groan from fifty-feet up.  He hates this; I sit down on the ledge and mentally count off the seconds as he climbs.  He's cut his time in half over the past two weeks, and today he beats even that.  I give him a semi-approving smile as he hauls himself over the ledge, red-faced and panting.

            "Well?" he pants.  "How'd I do?"

            "Not bad," I concede.  He sits down and dangles his legs over the ledge; I nod over to the sky.  "Watch the sunrise."

            We sit like that for a few minutes, watching the sky get painted red and pink and gold, then he turns to me.  "Say, Gohan-san…"

            "Mmm?"  I say, turning my attention to him.

            "We're gonna beat the Androids," he says.  I feel my eyebrows knit up in confusion.  "I mean, not today, probably, but someday.  Right?  We gotta."  He swings his legs against the cliff as he talks and pushes his hair off of his face; it immediately falls back in his eyes.  For a brief second he looks a lot younger than thirteen.

            "Eventually we'll win.  Right?"

            I smile as I reach out and ruffle his hair.  The sun's fully up when I answer: "I promise."