Note: Here it is… I am doing what I swore I would never do – my book DBZ: AND THE GREATEST OF THESE is going to be put on display here for dissection, reviews, and improvement, so I can hopefully get this thing published at last. I am going to put the ENTIRE thing on here, chapter by chapter until all twenty-nine chapters (or more as necessary) are here. Since the story is still undergoing revision, and the reviewers here can be as brutal as necessary, I will need the help of all the DBZ fans here, and even non-DBZ fans, to tighten up the writing and make this the best damned story I can. I also know that not everyone will like it – as is blatantly obvious from all of the DBZ fanfics on here, many of you have your own idea of 'how things should be.' That's fine. But even those who see the world differently can have a valid point of view.

Please review, critique, give suggestions, be as detailed as possible. I will consider each and every suggestion made – and I am not too proud to admit when someone has a better idea, turn of phrase, or scene order than I do. (There's a thread called "Help Me Improve" in the 'And the Greatest of These Conversations via Forum' forum under DBZ just for the book so people can do so.)

Above all… tell people. Tell anyone you think might be interested that a woman is trying to do the impossible to make a dream come true. She is trying to do what everyone else has said cannot be done – take a fan fiction story born of a dream one night, and turn it into a published Dragonball Z novel sanctioned by Akira Toriyama, Toei, Shueisha, and the rest. This is not like Star Wars, Star Trek, or any other series that has actually accepted 'non-canon' writing as novels. This has never been done before – ever – for Dragonball Z. But by everything I hold sacred in this life, I am going to do my absolute damnedest to prove them wrong, and show the world it can be done. And when I get to the end of this road, I will be able to say in absolute truth that I have done EVERYTHING I can to try and make this real.

Welcome to my world…


Disclaimer: I don't own DBZ, or its characters. HOWEVER, this story concept, and the characters Suishoku, Shirayuri, Kurenai, Omega, and Shiryu ARE mine. Please do NOT save a copy of this story for permanent use, in ANY format.

One modification made in concession to FF's rules – each chapter normally starts with a quote from a song. However, given the ban on the use of lyrics, the Note from each chapter will include the song and artist, but not the actual lyrics. For the prologue, the song is EXILE by Gary Numan.

However, the full 'score' to AND THE GREATEST OF THESE is available on the SamuraikoProductions dot com website.


And the Greatest of These

Prologue

A thousand years ago…

Darkness fell upon Earth, shadowy and foreboding, but this was no ordinary night. The blackness that filled the sky heralded an incredible occurrence, one whose repercussions would echo down through the centuries to come. As the shadows fell, a gleaming, pulsing silver light rose from the ground, where seven shining orbs lay grouped together. Then the light flared once more, and a coil of pure energy shot upward toward the darkened sky above.

The sorcerer Suishoku, Lord of the Eastern Mountains, knelt trembling before the Dragon that blazed toward the sky, the Dragon that he had summoned with the magical Dragonballs. His search had been long and hard, taking many months and much pain and effort. Finally, just when he had given up all hope, he had found the seventh Dragonball, and it was time to call forth the Dragon.

My God, he's astonishing…

It had all started seven years ago, when his wife, Shirayuri, a gifted seer and sorceress in her own right, had come to him with an unusual tale…

"I had the strangest dream last night, my husband. I saw seven stars, gleaming in the darkness, scattered across the firmament. The stars seemed to form the coils of a mighty dragon, soaring across the sky, and they appeared so close that I could touch them! When I reached out and held them in my hand, I felt as though I had the strength to rule the world…"

Suishoku was wise enough to take her dream seriously, and he and Shirayuri began an arduous search through their vast collection of arcane knowledge. Time and again, they could only catch hints, whispers of such a power. They spoke to strange elementals that rode the winds of time, summoned magical guardians who could travel across all of creation.

Then together, they had learned of a mystical race of beings called the Nameks, who had created the seven golden magic Dragonballs that when gathered together, would summon a mighty Dragon to grant a person his or her fondest wish. The Nameks guarded the Dragonballs carefully, for their power could be terribly misused.

Such a concept intrigued the couple, as they had always suspected that Earth's legends of such magical beings had their basis in fact, however unlikely. At the time, however, the wizards lacked the power needed to create their own Dragonballs, but this was hardly an insurmountable problem to the determined pair. After all, they were nobility – wealthy, powerful, and gifted in magic. How could they fail?

Suishoku and his wife knew it would take years of study and effort to reach such a level of ability, something that neither of them was willing to wait for.

"We must find another way, Suishoku. Even as gifted as you and I are, our skills are not yet enough to undertake a task of this magnitude."
"I know it can be done! There must be a way of increasing our power!"
"But no one on Earth is as powerful as we are, my husband, no one who can help us."
"You are wrong, my dear. There is one person in this world whose ability is greater than ours… the Guardian of Earth."

The couple had learned of the Guardian during their extensive research, and knew that he was a man of indescribable power. The pair of wizards, in their arrogance and blind ambition, saw no reason why they could not simply defeat the Guardian of Earth and take his power for themselves.

When their daughter had first learned of her parents' plans to unseat the Earth's Guardian, she tried everything in her power to dissuade them from their reckless course of action. Suishoku, however, had no intention of listening to his daughter's counsel, and paid her warnings and pleas no heed.

"But Father, you cannot do this! You are strong in magic, yes, but to meddle in divine affairs, even you cannot be that foolish!"
"Have you no ambition, child? With the power of the Guardian at my command, I can create the Dragonballs and all the knowledge in the world shall be mine! It will be the dawning of a new era!"
"How can you even consider going through with this! If you pursue this… this insanity, the consequences will be beyond anything you could possibly imagine!"

When she finally realized that nothing she said or did could deter them from their quest, she had stood at the door of her father's library with her head held high.

"Then I have no parents… and I will never forgive you. Either of you."

Suishoku feared that his daughter, with well-meaning but disastrous intentions, would seek some way to hinder their quest, so he placed guards outside her door and all across the fortress. She quietly watched as her father ordered the men of the watch to follow her and not leave her side, and then she merely took to her rooms.

Her mother tried to see her, to apologize and explain.

"Darling, do not let us come to this. Please, put down the book and look at me. Please, my daughter, do not do this… Why aren't you listening?"

The young woman ignored her, only sitting at her desk and studying her texts.

Suishoku came to argue, stating that she was acting like a child, but she paid no more attention to him than she did to Shirayuri. He finally stormed out of her room and doubled the watch on her door.

But that night, despite the sentries placed about the castle, she successfully escaped from the family stronghold and disappeared into the distant mountains. She left no note, no explanation of where she was going or why she had fled. She had taken only the clothes she wore and her texts. Everything else, she left behind, part of a family and a life that were no longer hers.

▲▼▲

Suishoku remembered how he had tried unsuccessfully to challenge the Guardian and take his throne, which would have given him enough power to create the Dragonballs.

"Others have tried to challenge me before and failed, wizard. You may take the throne only when you have defeated me."
"Stand down, Guardian, and let a true sorcerer take the throne. I do not want to kill you, but if that is what I must do for the power and knowledge of the Dragonballs to be mine, then I will do so."
"I will not surrender my position as Guardian to one such as yourself. It is your own selfish desires and ambitions that drive you to this, not a loyalty to this world."
"So be it, then."

For almost a full day, the power of the elements shook the palace that floated high above the world. Magic against magic, strength against strength, will against will, the two battled for the throne of Guardian. But despite his considerable power and magical ability, Suishoku failed, and returned home in disgrace and humiliation. Undaunted by this, Shirayuri also challenged the powerful Guardian with her sorcery skills, but was also defeated.

Refusing to give up, and confident in their own sorcery, they decided to try and create their own anyway.

They tried to bargain with the Guardian they had fought earlier, seeking not to unseat him, but instead to learn the secret of increasing one's power. But the Guardian had firmly refused. They studied as many of the ancient legends they could, used all of their magical skills, but to no avail. Different stones were tried, various incantations spoken, but no matter what combination they used, the Dragonballs always shattered.

At last, after five years of failed efforts, he and his wife finally succeeded.

Suishoku and Shirayuri had planned this night for over a month, studying the stars to determine the most opportune time to work their magic. Now, finally, the night of reckoning had arrived. Servants were ordered to wash down and scrub the courtyard of their palace, sweeping away any dirt and leaves from the flagstones. Once the servants were finished and ordered indoors, the two sorcerers burned incense and worked their magic to purify themselves and the courtyard. Once the courtyard was deemed cleansed to their satisfaction, it was time to begin.

Suishoku looked with grim pride at the symbols etched into the tiled courtyard – four beautifully carved kanji surrounding a star – the crest that denoted the Four Lords. North, South, East and West… but now I will stand above the other Lords… I will reign over earth and heaven!

Seven sparkling crystal balls, each nearly eight inches in diameter, lay on the ground beside a silver sculpture of a dragon that stood a foot high and almost two feet in length. Bathed in moonlight, Suishoku and Shirayuri stood above the balls with hands outstretched, and together they began chanting the spell to create the Dragon.

"Orbs of magic, dark and light…"

One of the seven orbs began to glow, pulsing in a steady rhythm, and then all of them started shimmering in the same manner. Almost imperceptibly, a soft ringing chime seemed to fill the air as the crystals began to shine.

"Dragon of silver, shining bright…"

Then the dragon sculpture started pulsing in time to the crystal balls, and in the flickering light, the two wizards would have sworn that the dragon was moving.

"Mist of the Dragon, Breath of the Night…"

Each sorcerer concentrated, drawing forth as much magical power as they could possibly summon. Suishoku frowned in concentration, and Shirayuri nearly gasped as a brilliant white light gathered in her hands, while a smoke-like darkness gathered in her husband's.

"Draw from the universe power and might…"

Slowly the power spiraled from their hands, flowed and blurred together, then descended into the waiting crystals.

"Bound in these crystals, by magic enthralled,
Remain in the Dragonballs until you are called!"

As the magic poured into them, creating the Dragon that slumbered within, the ringing chime grew to an almost unbearable level, then the orbs rose to heaven and shot in different directions.

Weakened to exhaustion, the pair of sorcerers slumped to the ground, gasping in pain, and then Shirayuri noticed that the sculpture of the dragon had vanished.

"We… we did it! The power of the Dragon is ours!"
"Yes, my love, and now all of heaven's secrets will be known to us!"

Unbeknownst to Suishoku and Shirayuri, however, they had made one dreadful error, one that would cost them their ambition and their lives.

They forgot to give the Dragon a name.

The two set out to find the Dragonballs and use them for study. After a year of searching, they had at last found all seven. But not without a terrible cost…

In a violent struggle to wrest the last Dragonball away from a roc's nest, Shirayuri had been mortally wounded, and Suishoku was nearly dead himself from straining his spiritual energy to its limits in tracking the Dragonballs across the world. Now, summoning the Dragon with the last of his energy, he was forced to accept that his time was running out, and there was still much to learn before his work would be finished.

▲▼▲

With a start, Suishoku was brought back to the present as the Dragon finally formed and gazed down upon him, a magnificent, shadowy creature of darkness and light, with shimmering lightning flowing around him. Staring up at the Dragon framed against the black sky, lit from below by the glow of the Dragonballs, a wild excitement filled Suishoku like he had never before felt in his life.

Yes… the power of the Dragon is mine to command, he thought exultantly. Now immortality is only a wish away, and I will be the most powerful being in creation!

I… am alive…
I see… all of space… of time… of life and death…

Suishoku could not keep from flinching as the Dragon's voice boomed from the sky above.

"You who have DARED TO CALL ME FORTH, tell me your wish!"

I see great evil… coming to this world…
An army of madmen led by tyrants who seek only to conquer…
Demons from another worlds that wreak havoc…
Bloodthirsty warriors who come seeking battle…
Men and women of artifice, with no soul…
A creature of stolen life, bringing only death…
All of these evils… will be fought.

It all came down to this moment. His wife lay dying in his arms, his daughter was gone, and he himself was already at his limits. Still, he somehow managed to find the strength to call out his wish to the Dragon.

"Dragon, grant eternal life to me and my wife!"

But in a thousand years, the worst threat of all, a wizard and warrior who brings death and destruction for his own ends…
There will be no savior, no one to fight this wickedness.
What terrible evil you have just created, wizards, for your act of selfish ambition will lead to the universe's fall into unending darkness.

The Dragon hesitated, looking down at the kneeling sorcerer and his dying wife.

The secret of creation will be at risk…
The wizard will undo time and space if he succeeds…
I cannot trust these two with the task of defeating him… I must find someone else…

"That wish… cannot be granted, sorcerer. The life energies of you and the woman are not… strong enough. You are both already on the edge of death."

"But… but you must grant it to me!"

"No."

Ah, yes… there is still hope…

Suishoku stared at the sky in disbelief. How could this happen? How can this Dragon break free of my control? Did I not create the Dragonballs? Is the Dragon not mine?

I will grant it to one who will live until the time of the evil you have unleashed…

The Dragon saw the confusion and dismay within the wizard, and answered his unspoken questions.

"Your only mistake, sorcerer, was that you failed to name which Dragon you were confining to those crystals that you created. Since you did not see fit to do so, I chose for you…"

I will grant it to one who has never craved power, one who understands and respects the divine supremacy of the heavens…

A nearly frenetic rage came over Suishoku. "I command you!"

The Dragon loomed over them both, his glowing scarlet eyes fixed on Suishoku.

"Do not presume to command a Dragon, human…"

She will live for a thousand years, untouched by age, by illness, by injury, to prepare for this battle that is now her fate…

"HOW DARE YOU DEFY ME!" Suishoku screamed in fury. "I CREATED YOU!"

Suddenly the stormy form of the Dragon seemed to grow by a hundredfold, until even the stars in the sky were shrouded by its body.

"Then see the power of your 'creation'… and then consider your own folly for eternity… in hell."

She will not be alone…
I see others who will aid her in her struggle against the wizard…
A mighty warrior from another world…
A god, half evil, half good, wholly honorable…
A man with two pasts, of great strength and compassion…

The Dragon's eyes flared bright, and a sound like the falling of heaven echoed across the sky.

And Suishoku's entire being was filled with a devastating agony as he felt the Dragon tearing the threads of his life asunder in the moment it took him to draw the breath to scream.

"NOOOOOOOOOO!"

But his scream was choked off as his body, as well as Shirayuri's, was consumed in an explosion of light.

And when it is time, the goodness of love will vanquish the evil of ambition…

The Dragon raised his head and looked toward the mountains, where his chosen one was waiting. Then he blazed with radiance, and vanished.

And with a blinding light, all seven Dragonballs flew toward the sky and exploded, their dust scattering to the four winds.

You will wield my power as my chosen avatar, Kurenai…
You will bear my mark, my symbol, for as long as you live…
And you will fight this evil in my name…
The name of the Dragon of Death…
Shiryu.