This is my version of what happened during and immediately after Piccolo's death at the hand of Nappa, written in the first person from Piccolo's perspective. This short story was born from my disappointment that, in the Goku-centricity of much of DBZ, a healthy portion of the Saiyan Saga followed Goku's adventures post-mortem, yet we saw nothing of Yamucha, Tenshinhan, Chaiotzu, and Piccolo (and by extension, Kami) until the first four are already on Kaiou-sama's planetoid. So, this will explore what possibly happened, and how Piccolo, the self-proclaimed Demon King, was found worthy of Snake Way after only one selfless deed in his entire existence. Does saving one life balance out a lifetime of bloodshed? (Written 5/2001, polished 3/2005)
I think I knew that bastard's intention even before he did.
I saw the murderous glint in his eyes, as that thick lip curled in a nasty snarl. I've seen that kind of rage light up many a warrior's eyes... but this time, there was no helpless alarm behind the glare.
This brute actually had the kind of unnatural power to do something about it.
I took one look at that thickheaded Saiyan, and I could read his mind.
Kill... kill... kill...
Not very sophisticated, but he got points for focus.
Then, I took one look in the direction his burning gaze was directed.
The kid was completely petrified. No fault of his own; it was his first real fight. No amount of sparring or survival training could completely prepare you to face Death as it comes barreling at you at speeds that shatter the sound barrier.
Plus, the squirt was only five. He'd never raised his hand in self-defense before a year ago. The Garlic Junior incident was tough to count... the kid was acting out of pure rage and killer instinct at the time, tapping into an insane amount of ki for any mortal to possess.
But the kid's rage was spent. He'd reached his limit. He could barely stand… much less defend himself.
He was probably wishing for dear-old Daddy to pull one of those last-minute rescues he's famous for.
All this thinking went through my head in a split-second. And just as Nappa started moving, fists channeling enough ki to blow Asia out of the water, I started moving as well.
I've always prided myself in my good judgment. I've got one hell of a head on my shoulders. What I couldn't conquer with sheer force, I overcame with cunning, intelligence, and improvisation.
I never just lost my head. I always acted on cool logic and sound judgment.
Don't even ask me what the hell I was thinking as I dashed in front of the indomitable ki wave. I knew that if Gohan died, Son would wish him back. Sure, the Dragon Balls had just been used, but so what? Knowing Son, he'd made some connections in the Afterlife. He'd probably arrange for Gohan to experience some of that unique training only the gods could administer.
Then, in about a year's time, Gohan would be resurrected, ready for a new challenge, with power he could never have attained with a mortal mentor.
I knew it all, but it didn't factor into my decision. Neither did the consequences of my own death. When I bit the big one, so did Kami... and Earth could just kiss the Dragon Balls good-bye. Meaning all of Earth's dead warriors would stay dead; all the damage done by this brawl would be unhealed.
And of course, there was also the very real possibility that Gohan would die anyway. No way would I survive Nappa's attack, and with Krillin out cold there was nothing really stopping the big ape from finishing off Gohan afterward. Assuming, of course, the ki-stream rocketing toward me didn't simply obliterate me and wipe the kid out anyway.
All of this logic should have made me think twice… but it didn't. I only had one primal, almost instinctive motivation.
I couldn't just let it happen.
And I did the impossible. I outran the supernova of energy. Heh... I didn't even realize I could move that fast.
Gohan probably didn't even get to blink as suddenly, the blinding light that embodied his death was shrouded by the huge shadow the wall of my body cast.
And as soon as I was in place, I was hit.
That kind of pain is beyond description… and I'm definitely no rookie when it comes to pain. I've had limbs ripped off like paper, bones crushed, and ki beams puncture me. And thanks to the memories preserved from my Sire, the first Piccolo Daimao, I very clearly recall the feeling of having a body rip through my abdomen.
But what Nappa did to me… was beyond physical pain.
It takes a lot to destroy me. So long as my head is preserved, I can recover, or at least preserve my soul in a new body. But this blast was intense... the heat of a star searing loose fabric off leathery skin, and then scorching the leathery skin and dense muscle beneath.
But it didn't reduce me to ash.
I don't know how I did it... but somehow I managed to focus my ki throughout indescribable torture. That ki shield was stronger than any I've ever been able to muster, blocking the majority of the energy and preventing it from atomizing my physical form.
If I couldn't stop that energy in its path… Gohan would die. So I stopped it.
Oh, I paid for it, though. As a result, I suffered even more. What would have simply obliterated me slowly peeled away strength, body, and soul. What should have been a quick, relatively painless death became the agony of radiating heat that didn't destroy, but battered beyond recognition.
And I couldn't let my mind go numb; not if I wanted to maintain my concentration. My consciousness became cloudy when the blast first hit, but I didn't let the sickly stench of scorched flesh or the sensation of astral heat on unprotected skin get to me.
So long as I was alive, I would block the beam. And so I hung on.
It probably took a second or two, but it felt like hours of torture. Until finally, the heat vanished, becoming an eerie chill that was just as uncomfortable as the heat.
I felt the cold, and was cognizant enough to know what it meant. I had succeeded.
And so I fell.
No more strength in what remained of my body. And no more force of energy keeping me in place. I just collapsed.
And without the overwhelming heat of the energy blast, I could feel the thousand individual pains that combined became a perfect agony.
Everything was broken. Every bone... some shattered, some cracked, some split. My ki shield kept my flesh from disintegrating, but it couldn't stop the eventual shattering of inflexible bone when facing enough sheer force to push a planet out of orbit.
And I was so cold. Tough to tell if it was my soul leaving my body, the loss of blood that left my veins empty, or the sudden loss of the heat I had endured.
I could see, but only barely. I saw a blue expanse that must have been the sky, blotted with amorphous shapes. Who cared what was hanging over my head, anyway?
And as I looked at the sky, the most absurd thought crossed my mind. It's really... beautiful... this Earth...
Why the hell that jumped into my consciousness... don't ask me. Must've been delirious.
The kid was choked up, his throat raw from screaming. I guess I just didn't hear him before.
The kid cradled my head gently, water from his eyes spilling onto my cheek. And I despite all the muscles that protested, I managed a smile.
There wasn't a scratch on Gohan. I'd actually managed to block the entire ki wave that could've vaporized the both of us. Sure, I'd be paying for it big time, but Gohan was unscathed.
But... there was something else behind that smile. I don't know... for some reason, the tears that fell onto my skin burned... but it was a good burn.
This wasn't the first time I'd been dying, but it was the first time someone gave a damn about it.
I don't count Son. He cares about everyone and everything. When he gave me that senzu, waaay back at the Budoukai, I couldn't figure why. Did he pity me? Oh... I'd make him regret that. Well, I don't really care anyway what his intentions were. He's definitely a few cards short of a deck. No sense trying to figure out what's going through his head.
But Gohan's different. When I first met him, he was a whiny, screaming, spoiled brat. He was so sheltered he was scared of his own shadow; but for some reason, he was never scared of me.
And seeing him shed tears for me, the Demon King, scourge of the Earth, feared by the masses...
It made me feel... warm.
Honestly, I don't remember what I said to him. Something to encourage him, hopefully. You don't really remember the last moments in your life. The soul is too tenuously connected to the Earthly realm to really absorb anything for any length of time.
It was like a dream... a lingering feeling of pain that slowly grew numb, and light that slowly faded to darkness.
And a smile that faded as well when the muscles in my face relaxed completely.
"Hey Piccolo... fancy meeting you here."
My eyes opened, slowly adjusting to the brilliant white light that surrounded me. It didn't take me long to regain my mental and physical equilibrium, rising to my feet as I took in the puffy white-gold clouds surrounding me, and the grating voices assailing my sensitive ears.
I scowled, turning toward the voice that greeted me. "Great. Yamucha. So this is Hell."
The human with the ridiculously long hair frowned at me.
"What's going on on Earth?" the chalky midget demanded, floating up to peek over Yamucha's shoulder.
The triclops was right behind him. "Did you defeat Nappa, at least?"
I folded my arms, my scowl deepening. "No," was my terse response.
The human's eyes grew wide. "What? You didn't kill him?"
I glared at Yamucha, fighting the temptation to smack him upside the head. "If I killed him, then he'd be right here, on line for the Check-In station with the rest of the deceased." I shook my head. "Idiot."
Yamucha opened his mouth to respond, but thankfully changed his mind and clamped it shut.
I looked over the heads of Goku's weird little backup squad, and stared wide-eyed at the endless line of white wisps in single file, all stretching seemingly infinite miles into the distance.
I groaned. "This will take forever!"
Tenshinhan smirked. "I suppose a few years' wait is no big deal for an eternal soul."
My frown only deepened. No, I wasn't exactly in a hurry to go to Hell, but at least I'd be able to get an update on what's going down on Earth. From the Line, there's no way to get any info.
I took a tentative glance behind me. A heavy weight lifted from my chest.
Gohan wasn't right behind me. He was alive... for the moment, at least.
Chaiotzu seemed to read my thoughts. "How are Gohan and Krillin?"
"I don't know," I admitted in a grunt, "Krillin was unconscious. But Gohan was okay... when I left, anyway."
Yamucha smiled smugly. My antenna bobbed at the expression; what the hell could put him in a good mood at a time like this? "Kami-sama said Goku was closing in on them," he informed me, "He probably got there in time to save them both."
That comment gave a sharp kick to my thinking process, and I gazed once again at the infinite line of amorphous spirits in front of us. "And where is dear Kami, anyway?"
"He went to see some guy called Enma-Daiou," Yamucha reported, "He said something about pulling some strings."
I folded my arms, a wry smirk on my face. "So that's why you guys still have your bodies."
Tenshinhan stared at me with three curious eyes. "What do you mean?"
In answer, I pointed at the expanse of white puffs. "Don't you know what these are? These are human souls... just like you. When humans die, their souls ascend to this dimension. For some reason, you three have been allowed to keep a physical form; exact replicas of the bodies you had in life." I gave the surprised group a smug grin. "I take it Kami didn't explain things to you before he ran off."
Tenshinhan looked skeptical. "How do you know so much?"
I rolled my eyes dramatically. "You humans really are thick. I used to be Kami... same body, same mind. He expelled my Sire into a separate body when he was told he couldn't ascend to the godship of Earth with 'evil' in his soul. But guess who was still with him when he prepared himself to approach the previous Kami?" I tapped my temple for emphasis. "And guess who kept all that knowledge of Life and Afterlife?"
I figured that would shut those morons up... but the questions just kept coming.
"Kami-sama convinced Lord Enma to let us keep our bodies?" Chaiotzu summarized.
I nodded slowly.
"Then what about you?" the half-pint continued, "Did he preserve your body too?"
I laughed deeply at the idiot for a solid minute before I could compose myself to respond. "You're kidding... right?" I wheezed, clutching my stomach, "You think Kami would help me? Where the hell have you been for the past two decades? I've been the bane of Kami's existence since that shrimp Pilaf set my Sire free."
The sight of the little schmuck staring at me, white face flushed with anger and fists clenched at his sides, almost sent me into another chuckling fit. But I managed to calm down enough to set the idiots straight.
"I'm not human, in case the green skin and antennae weren't enough of a clue for you," I drawled. "I can regenerate. That's right... my body can heal from almost any wound. Even if my entire body is ripped to pieces, so long as my head is undamaged, I can simply grow a new body."
Yamucha frowned. "So?"
"So, that means my head is the anchor for my soul. Unlike humans, my body and soul do not separate. My body will grow back. So, when my head was destroyed, my soul ascended to this dimension. But my body followed. I evaporated from Earth, my body healing itself and rejoining my soul up here." I pinched my cheek in leering emphasis. "This is my body. The real deal. With no help from that geezer Kami."
Thankfully, before those goofballs could think up more inane questions, a little blue troll in a suit with a clipboard tugged on my cape. Irritated, I turned toward it, giving the short man a very intimidating glare.
I smirked as the imp gulped, removing his offending hand from my cape. Yep… still got a way with people.
"Uh... um..." he croaked, loosening his hideous tie, "Enma-sama wishes to see the four of you. Immediately."
Yamucha blinked at the line in front of him before looking back at the imp. "What about the line?"
This time, I did smack the idiot. "What the hell did you think Kami meant by 'pulling strings' anyway? He wants to help move you guys along!"
"He asked for your presence too," Tenshinhan noted coolly.
I shrugged. "Yeah, he probably wants to get me on my way to Hell while he's at it."
I don't know how long I spent standing outside the colossal doors leading to Enma-Daiou's office.
The little troll was standing beside me, sweating bullets. He cringed every time my beady eyes slid in his direction.
It was funny at first, but it quickly got annoying. Damn, I hate wussy paper-pushers!
I was the very picture of cool confidence. Bold smirk curling my lips, arms folded, chin held high, cape snapping in a light breeze generated by my ki.
It was just a front, because no one could know how anxious the great Demon really was.
I could imagine why Ten, Yamucha, and Chaiotzu were sent in together. They'd get the same fate. Either they'd be sent to Heaven to enjoy peace and bliss, or, if they're really lucky, maybe Kami could convince Enma to let them take their chances on Snake Way. Kaiou had been famous for expertise in the fighting arts for my entire lifetime... including my Sire and even before he and Kami split. The greatest sensei in the northern galaxy. He'd mastered every technique worth knowing.
Those three wimps didn't deserve that kind of honor… but what could you do?
I figured out the game plan easily enough. They'd train with Kaiou, and eventually Ten and Yamucha would get wished back. The short-stack already died once, so he'd have to stay with Kaiou. Not a bad break, all things considered.
Meanwhile, I'd be in Hell. Not exactly a big shocker... I knew that I'd wind up in the dark pit eventually. I just didn't think it'd be so soon! I didn't even get a chance to conquer the Earth. I didn't really get a chance to avenge my Sire, and destroy Goku once and for all.
Heh. At least I got a chance to kill him. That sure felt good, watching my Makankosappo rip a hole right through him. Poetic justice.
And at least I got killed in a good fight. Nappa was a thug, but at least he was strong. It wasn't so embarrassing losing to a powerhouse like that.
Oh well. At least in Hell, I could show all creation why I'm called the Demon King.
I began tapping my foot, my impatience escalating. Just what the hell was taking so long? Funny... from here it almost sounded like they were… arguing in there.
Impressive. Maybe Kami's got more fire to him than I gave him credit for.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, the doors slowly swung open.
Without waiting for an invitation, I confidently strode into the large room. I didn't let my gaze linger on any of the trinkets in the enormous chamber, inlaid with gold, velvet, and wood. I cared not for material things.
Besides, I didn't want to make the red giant at the desk think I was impressed or anything.
I walked right up to the desk. My arms folded, and I stared up at the red demon measuringly.
From the corner of my eye, I noticed Kami step out to my side. His face was vaguely purple with frustration.
In any other situation, I'd be hysterical at the thought of God being flustered. But we're talking about my Judgment Hour here.
"So," the giant rumbled, leering over his desk at me and fingering his rough black beard, "this is the great Piccolo Daimao?"
I opened my mouth to respond, but Kami beat me to the punch. "No, Lord Enma. This is not Piccolo Daimao. The Demon King has been destroyed forever."
I blinked. Shut my mouth. And stared at Kami in blank astonishment.
"So you keep affirming, Kami," Enma sighed, tapping his fingers against his desk irritably, "And I'm sorry. His fate is sealed."
I frowned, glancing back to Kami. Just what the hell was going on in here?
"Lord Enma," Kami continued, approaching the desk, "you cannot in good conscience condemn this soul to eternal damnation! This being is not the Demon King! Piccolo Daimao was destroyed by Son Goku years ago!"
Enma rolled his eyes, jerking his thumb to the edge of his desk. Perplexed, I followed the gesture, my stare falling upon an absolutely huge file folder, stuffed with enough bedsheet-size pages to reach the height of Nappa himself.
"Is that my record?" I asked in wonder. But I can't say I wasn't a bit proud. I never realized I'd left such a scar on humanity to warrant that kind of criminal record.
"Yes it is, Demon King," Enma grumbled, anger in the deep voice, "And you've got the blood-guilt of thousands of people that's pulling you straight to Hell."
"But if your Lordship would only look closer, you'd see that the vast majority of those crimes were committed by the former Piccolo Daimao, who was already killed. You cannot condemn the son for the sins of his father."
I frowned again, staring at Kami. Was he actually trying to get me off the hook? What had he been smoking!
Enma-Daio growled furiously under his breath, opening the massive file and flipping through the pages.
"Kami, don't insult my intelligence," Enma warned, "I'm not a fool. This Piccolo is not the 'son' of the Demon King. A father and son have distinct souls, and therefore have distinct moral burdens to bear. But in this case, Piccolo Daimao transferred his soul into a new body. New body, same soul. Same soul, same moral burden. I very well can punish this soul based on the actions of the former Piccolo Daimao."
"But my Lord-"
"When this Piccolo was born, he kept the memories, powers, and emotions of the elder form," Enma continued, as if Kami hadn't even raised his voice, "According to this file, Piccolo Senior spat the egg right before the destruction of his body. By transferring his soul, he avoided death completely. This is indisputably evidenced by the fact that, when Son Goku 'killed' Piccolo Daimao, you yourself did not die... despite the fact that your soul and Piccolo's are bound in life or death. This evidence leads me to conclude that Demon Junior and Demon King are one and the same, and therefore the younger can be punished for the crimes of the elder."
The Judge then leered at me again, eyes hard as diamonds. "Have you anything to say for yourself?"
I was speechless, wide eyes leaping from Kami to Enma like a bee. It was embarrassing that I couldn't maintain my aloof composure... but I was too shocked that my damnation was even an issue to think clearly.
"Can you honestly tell me that you are not Piccolo Daimao? Do you not share his memories? Tell me... do you remember razing cities filled with humans to the ground? Burning families alive? Crushing innocents underfoot like sand on the beach?"
I swallowed hard. I had no idea what made Enma so intimidating, but as he glowered at me, the record of all my deeds held tightly in his fist, I felt compelled to speak only the bitterest truth.
"I remember it all."
"And do you regret those actions? Even in the least?"
My thoughts turned inward, my eyes sliding closed as I reviewed the slaughter in my mind. I saw the burning towns, screaming people, strewn corpses. I even saw myself... my Sire... standing amidst the devastation, laughing deeply while swinging at Son Goku as if he were a fly.
I saw it all... and I felt nothing.
My eyes opened, and once again I met the hard gaze of the Judge. And I spoke the truth.
No regret. But no joy or satisfaction. Not even anger at Son for getting in my way.
Enma smirked triumphantly at my admission, and leaned back into his chair. He stuffed the pages back into the file, and reached for a heavy wooden stamp. With his cold gaze on me, he pressed the stamp into the red ink sponge.
"Please, Lord Enma!" Kami shouted desperately, "A moment!"
Enma growled his irritation, the stamp hovering over the jacket of the folder. "There's nothing you can do, Kami. Just let it go. Your enemy has been defeated, once and for all. He will never again threaten the people of Earth. You, of all people, should delight in the fact that Piccolo will be punished. You nearly sacrificed yourself, just to make sure he would cause no more pain to your world. How can you beg for mercy now?"
Kami shook his head, his face adamant. "This being is not my enemy."
Enma rebuked him with his clicking tongue, dropping the stamp to open the file again. He pulled out a sheet, and slid on his reading glasses. "Well, you entered the last Tenkaichi Budoukai, for the express purpose of facing this being in contest. And you fully intended to stop his destruction... by any means possible. You have a short memory, Kami."
"I... was mistaken," Kami stated. His gaze slid towards me, and I startled as he offered me a weak smile. "And Goku proved it to me. It was Goku who spared Piccolo's life. He wouldn't kill the successor of the Demon King. Perhaps Goku saw potential that no one else did. Potential... for good."
Hearing Kami say those words, I almost wanted to puke. But I was too unnerved by the entire scene to do much other than stare.
"He's a being of evil," Enma insisted, "proven by action! I don't care about potential. Here, it's the deed that counts. And his deeds were dark!"
"Not all of them!" Kami shouted, shifting from subdued to impassioned once again, "If he were truly the Demon King- if he were only the evil essence I expelled all those years ago- then he would be completely incapable of anything but evil. He would be the living embodiment of evil! But he isn't, and that's why he cannot be considered the Demon King!"
Then, Kami's heated gaze fell upon me. I felt myself flinch under that ancient, penetrating… knowing stare.
Somehow, he saw right through me. And it… scared me.
"You've done some bad things," Kami determined, "but it's not only how you lived. One must take into account how you died as well. And how did you die?"
I grimaced my discomfort, folding my arms again. For some reason, the question seemed too... personal. So I got defensive. "I stepped in front of a runaway train," I growled, "and I got squashed."
Enma leapt to his feet. "See, Kami! Listen to his snide tone! He doesn't even want mercy! He doesn't appreciate all you're doing to save his soul!"
Kami then turned to Enma. "He's a pig-headed, stubborn, arrogant creature!" he nearly screamed, "But that doesn't make him evil!"
Then, Kami turned back to me. "Piccolo," he said, forcing his tone calm, "you can feel the change. You can feel the difference between yourself and your Sire. He was pure evil... completely incapable of anything good. But you are not evil incarnate. You've demonstrated the potential to care. That is the core difference between 'good' and 'evil.' In themselves, they are only labels... but the difference is caring. True evil is utterly selfish. Good is selfless. And you, oh Demon Junior, laid down your life willingly for another living being. And I know you'd do it again. You didn't 'step' in front of the train... you leaped in front of it! I saw it all! You cared enough for Goku's son to die for him... against your own better judgment! That kind of sacrifice cannot come from a heartless being."
I stared at Kami, my eyes wide and my jaw hanging slightly open. Good thing there weren't any bugs in the next dimension, or I'd have swallowed a few for sure.
I couldn't think... I could barely breathe after Kami finished his little speech.
I wanted to deny it. I really did. I wanted to spite the old man, just like I always had. Just like my Sire had. Prove the goody-good wrong, just because he had the gall to shun my Sire from his own body centuries earlier.
But in that instant, as I stared into Kami's eyes... my hatred died.
And somehow, I think Kami realized it.
Enma-Daio sighed deeply, cradling his forehead in his oversized hand. "Kami," he scolded, "you know well enough that one good deed does not balance the scales of justice. He may have saved one life, but he has taken thousands."
Kami once again spoke in my behalf, but his eyes never left me. "The fact that Piccolo did save one life refutes the notion that he is truly the Demon King. Therefore, you cannot hold him accountable for the sins of Daimao. You can only weigh his act of love against the acts of hatred he committed."
A lump closed my throat, and suddenly I felt really dizzy. Kami… Kami said the "L" word! In reference to my actions!
"If he isn't Daimao, then where is Daimao's soul?" Enma challenged, so furious I was half-expecting him to start breathing fire, "Tell me! Where is the soul that must be punished for the wrongful deaths of thousands of your people?"
"Why does it matter?" Kami retorted, "You are not a seeker of Vengeance, Lord Enma. You are the preserver of Justice. If you did send Piccolo to Hell, it would not change things. Those killed by Daimao would still be dead. Those who were evil would still be suffering in Hell. Those who were righteous still rejoicing in Heaven. None would even notice Piccolo's condemnation. It would be fruitless! Unjust!" His eyes narrowed. "Even… spiteful."
I winced at that. Who'd have guessed Kami had the guts to accuse the Lord of the Dead of being spiteful!
I could almost see steam pouring from Enma's ears at that one. "FINE!" he roared, his powerful baritone shaking the entire office, "Then let's not hold him accountable for the sins of Daimao!"
Hissing like a teapot, he grabbed my file folder with both hands. He grabbed a handful from the top, and slapped them on his desk.
Then, his eyes burning with fury as hot as Hell itself, he tore the thick folder in half and threw it cross the office.
I watched dumbly as the sheets fluttered lazily to the floor. Then, I turned back to Enma.
He threw his most venomous glare at me, lifting the few sheets he had spared. "But there is still the matter of everyone who died during your fight with Son Goku at the last Tenkaichi Budoukai." He leaned over his desk, stabbing his chubby forefinger into my chest. "You've got the blood of one hundred eleven people on your hands."
I fought down the impulse to slap the insulting finger away.
"He was acting upon the feelings instilled in him from Daimao," Kami interjected, "His mad quest for vengeance against Goku killed those people. But by saving Gohan, he has proven his true nature. He has rejected the will of Daimao! Given the same opportunity, Piccolo would not shed more blood. That is proven by the fact that he hasn't spilled a drop of innocent blood since! That was six years ago… and all he has done is work diligently to help Goku, then train Goku's son… and finally die for Gohan!"
Enma's face twitched furiously. "I DON'T CARE!" he roared, his bellow blowing Kami a few feet back.
"You must care! You can't condemn a good soul!"
"He isn't good," Enma snarled, "There's no way I'll admit him to Heaven. That is a slap in the face to every soul who achieved that reward out of a lifetime of merit!"
I was surprised to see a small smile on Kami's face. I guess he saw victory in the near future. "You are right… Piccolo is by no means worthy of eternal bliss."
At that, Enma seemed to calm down marginally. "What are you getting at?" he sighed.
"Send him to Kaiou-sama."
My eyes bulged so wide it actually hurt. Did he just say…?
"Are you insane?" Enma roared, "Otherworldly training is a reward reserved for only the purest of fighting hearts! You can't possibly believe Piccolo earned such favor by saving one measly life."
This time, Kami remained calm and composed. "We agreed to send Yamucha, Tenshinhan, and Chaiotzu on Snake Way. True, they are far more worthy than Piccolo… but you know as well as I do the real reason why you sent them."
My curiosity piqued.
Enma released a long, exhausted sigh. "Fine," he conceded, "Piccolo's skill and power greatly dwarfs the other three. His added strength will be significant in the coming battle… and with Kai's training, he can really turn the tables."
His gaze then narrowed. "Assuming, of course, he isn't evil."
Kami grinned. "Of course."
Enma quirked his eyebrow. "And you're sure about this? You're willing to stake everything on this hunch of yours that he's changed? If he gets Kai's training, and is brought back to the living, he'll have more than enough power to wipe out your solar system."
"I'm willing to take that chance."
Enma sneered, picking up a new stamp. He pressed it into a blue inkpad, and looked around for my record.
The moron… he flushed when he recalled what had happened to it.
Exasperated, he chucked the stamp over his shoulder, and folded his arms. "Fine," he grumped, "Go to Snake Way. See if I care."
It took the entire walk from the Check-In station to the tip of Snake Way for me to recover some semblance of coherence.
I stared at the long, winding path that began a few feet in front of me. Then, I turned to my right, and locked my hard eyes with Kami's warm gaze.
I was so confused… so overwhelmed by that whole scene with Enma… I could barely see straight.
And rather than show just how unnerved I was, I hid it the best way I knew how.
"What the hell was all that about!" I fumed, fists clenched tightly as I glared at Kami.
But he threw me yet another curveball. "We need you, Piccolo," he answered calmly, not even flinching at my outburst. "When you get to Kaiou-sama's planet, you will be properly informed. But make haste… the Saiyans were only the tip of the iceberg. An evil exists in our galaxy, with power so vast it make Vegeta's ki look like a light bulb."
I winced at that. I didn't even get to see Vegeta in action… but I knew he put Nappa to shame. And Nappa tore me to pieces.
"Goku will need all the help he can get," Kami continued, "and it would be a great waste for such a fine warrior to rot in Hell during this cataclysmic fight… that may very well determine the fate of the entire northern galaxy."
I went rigid, new concerns filling my mind. What kind of evil could possibly eclipse the Saiyans? What were we ultimately dealing with?
But that didn't quite quell the other concerns this whole ordeal brought to life in me.
I turned away from Kami, my eyes peering out at the winding path I had to take.
My mouth went dry, but I managed to speak nonetheless.
"You're wrong about me," I said quietly, trying my best to sound casual.
"You're wrong about me being different," I clarified, fighting the temptation to keep my damn mouth shut, "I… remember what my Sire did in his lifetime. And I don't feel anything."
I kept staring forward, but Kami stepped close enough to my side for me to see him from the corner of my eye. "No, you don't. Not yet."
He took a breath, his hands clasping behind his back. "Caring is insidious," he commented, "You care about Earth. You care about Gohan. Now that you've proven you have the capacity to care, it's only a matter of time until you begin caring about other things. First, perhaps your allies. Eventually, even your former nemesis."
I snorted at that.
"At some point, you'll care for humanity in general. And when that happens, you'll feel pain for the lives Daimao took."
I chewed my lip thoughtfully. I so hated asking Kami questions! It was like I had to rely on him… when I was fully self-sufficient, both in mind and body.
But some things I just didn't know.
I struggled viciously against my pride before I finally managed to ask, "What does guilt feel like?"
"It starts in your mind, as you reflect on the pain you've caused. Then your conscience manages to make you feel that pain."
I frowned deeply. That was something I could live without.
Apparently, Kami seemed to read my train of thought. "It's worth it though. Caring is the seed from which guilt grows. While guilt is bitter, the other fruits of caring are sweet. Love, for instance."
I growled. Why does he keep saying that?
He smirked at my discomfort. Whoever thought God was too pure to laugh at my expense is way too naïve! "It must have felt good… Gohan crying for you?"
I stiffened. Does he really have to know everything!
"Gohan is a sweet boy," Kami commented, "He cares about everything. But he cares very deeply for you."
Kami was right… for a change. Knowing that Gohan cared for me… seeing his sorrow for the pain I endured for him… I did feel good.
And then I realized something big: if I had a choice, between the warmth I felt thanks to Gohan, or the thrill I'd feel for killing Son… I'd choose Gohan.
Funny… come to think of it, killing Goku didn't seem very appealing anymore. I mean, how satisfying could it possibly be, knowing it would hurt Gohan?
I shook my head, clearing my mind from this weird mix of thoughts and… well… feelings.
Lifting my head, I took my first step onto Snake Way. "Thanks," I grumbled awkwardly, before I went on my way.
And then, as I raced along the paved roadway, I smirked. Damn, those three idiots would sure get a shocker when they see me right behind them!