Note: God, it feels good to be writing for DBZ again!
This story was, at first, a major hassle to begin. Try as I might, I just could not get the tone I wanted. Then I did what I always do – I go back to the music and find my inspiration. At one time, I had done the "opening credits" of my book using screenshots and PhotoShopped text credits to create a montage to "The Dragon Theme" from Dragonball Z, and when I went back and watched it, I realized I already had my story.
This is one of two stories that truly starts off the eventsinmybook AND THE GREATEST OF THESE (the other is 'Heaven's Power, Hell's Ambition,' not yet up on FanFiction's site, which is the story of how the sorcerers Suishoku and Shirayuri challenge the Guardian of Earth for his throne in their quest to gain power).
The wind howled a mournful, warning song amongst the rocks and the trees as it danced and raced around the woman standing on the cliff. It rustled branches, stirred up little clouds of dust, and caressed her face. It tossed her long unkempt hair, played with the hem of her ragged cloak, and chilled her to the bone, but still she stood, watching the storm as it raged over the valley below.
Five years of wandering alone in the mountains had not been kind to her, but the peace within her soul was well worth the loss of her home and her family.
With a long sigh, she lifted a pale hand and pushed back the hood of her cloak, and the wind unfurled her black hair out behind her like a waving ebony flag. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to warm herself, but she wasn't certain if the chill was from the wind… or from fear.
Then the sky above her seemed to explode with light, even as absolute blackness descended where only moments before, there had been wan sunlight.
She gasped and instinctively shielded her eyes, turning her head away, but the echoing sound of a voice like thunder boomed from above her.
"Look at me…"
It drew her gaze back to the sky, and she stared skyward in absolute disbelief.
Far above her was an enormous and magnificent figure, so high that she thought feverishly it sat among the stars, so long it could encircle the world, its long black and silver coils gleaming as lightning danced around it, its dark eyes fixed upon her with a soul-piercing stare. It seemed as insubstantial as evening mist, but as real as the earth beneath her feet, as ephemeral as the snow, and as eternal as the stars.
Her mind was filled with a single thought, over and over again.
"You have been chosen," came its voice again.
She tried to speak, but could not. The sight of the Dragon had stolen away her voice, and all she could do was shake her head.
"Yes," the Dragon replied.
The Dragon seemed to grow larger as he roared, until she thought that he filled the entire bowl of the sky.
And like a comet plunging from the heavens, the Dragon gathered all of its power into itself, and then dove toward the earth.
Straight toward her.
Before she had even the chance to draw the breath to scream, the Dragon was upon her, its coils surrounding her body, its power pouring into her, saturating every aspect of her soul. And in that instant, she understood that the Dragon meant to possess her, to use her body and her spirit as the vessel to contain his power.
Just as her parents had created the Dragonballs to bind a Dragon of Heaven.
No! she screamed soundlessly, every fiber in her being resisting the power that was invading her soul. Inside the shimmering ball of light, she thrashed and struggled, fighting the Dragon's onslaught. Stop!
She shouted ancient words, summoning the powers of the elements to resist, pushing the Dragon back with every ounce of her will, but her magic was swept aside like a child's rantings. The Dragon's power was far too strong, even as he held some of it back to keep from driving her insane.
Do not resist, the Dragon replied, and in horror, she realized that he was speaking directly into her thoughts. Heaven's power must remain on Earth until the time of evil. You will wield that power.
But I don't want it! Inside her head, she was screaming in fear, in outrage, and in defiance. She summoned every last ounce of strength she had, all the magical power she ever could wield. But the Dragon was already inside of her head, sifting through her memories, glancing over her past, altering everything that made her unique…
Everything that made her human.
It is for that reason that you have been chosen. The Dragon's onslaught was relentless, his power forcing its way into her, like water finding chinks in a dam, and she nearly collapsed from the pressure of keeping the Dragon at bay. Because you revere what others do not. You alone wield power with wisdom and humility.
How can you do this to me? she cried silently. Her human mind was not powerful enough to hold both her personality and that of the Dragon, and it was starting to snap. Terror like she had never known before swept over her as she felt memories vanishing from her mind, pieces of her past disappearing under the Dragon's assault. What have I done to deserve this?
You are the only one who can save this world from the evil your parents have unleashed.
My parents, she gasped as more of her memories slipped away. What have they done!
The Dragon did not reply.
WHAT HAVE THEY DONE! she screamed when the Dragon was silent.
They have shattered the natural order of time in their quest for power. And in a thousand years, one of even greater power will continue their work, and the tapestry of the universe will be unmade.
In her mind, she could see it – the threads of the celestial patterns would be torn to shreds, and all would fall to chaos.
But she could not remember the home she had left behind.
They have set in motions events which cannot be stopped now, by any mortal or divine means… except for you.
The blazing light of the Dragon around her began to fade, but her own body was shining more brightly than ever, like a star fallen to earth.
They are gone, and I am free.
Try as she might, she could not remember her parents' faces.
They have paid the price of their folly and ambition. And now, you must carry the burden.
She could not remember their names.
You will live forever, with all of Heaven's power within you, my avatar in this world until the time of evil.
Through the blinding haze of pain, she could feel her body changing, the human frailties of her body altered as the Dragon's power overwhelmed her at last. Immortal energy raced through her veins, filled her soul, imbuing her with eternal youth, health, and life.
Your body, your soul, your destiny…
Then a searing pain lanced through her, and she screamed aloud, her hands clawing at her chest.
… are now mine.
Her cry was choked off as the light around her abruptly died away, and she dropped to her knees, unable to stand any longer.
For what felt like forever, she knelt on the ground, retching and sobbing, as the last of the storm echoed above her, and then faded. The silence rang in her ears even louder than the thunder had, and she clapped her hands over her ears, rocking back and forth. She tore at her hair, lashed her fists against the ground, weeping as she never had in her entire life.
What terrified her was that she could not remember ever having wept like this before, because she could remember almost nothing of her life.
At last, she fell silent, her breath coming in labored gasps and choked sobs, her body trembling uncontrollably. But then a faint glow caught her eyes, and they opened wide in horror.
Looking down at her body, she saw a soft gleam through the folds of her robes, shining where a pendant might lay over her heart.
With shaking, unsteady hands, she tore open the fabric over her chest, yanking it away to reveal a tattoo roughly the size of her open hand, inked with unearthly skill and beauty into her skin. Where once over her heart had been only pale skin, now rested a glowing image of a Dragon, its black and white coils twisting and writhing, its mouth open in a silent roar.
She stared down at it in dismay, her fingers convulsively tracing over the lithe coils of the Dragon. But even as she touched it, all memory of the Dragon faded from her mind, leaving only questions that could never be answered.
Her lips soundlessly formed a word, over and over. She knew it was important, she knew that it was somehow related to the image. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not remember what the word meant.
Her fingernails dug into the skin until she drew blood. For a moment, the tattoo flared even brighter on her skin, then the glow faded away.
And with it, the last memory of her human self.
Tears streaming down her face, she staggered to her feet, howling her horror and grief and fury and the only thing she could still remember to an unresponsive sky.