Disclaimer: I don't own any of the series mentioned below in any way, shape or form. I'm just telling some stories about them.
Author's Note: Special thanks to Vixen2 and Rowan Seven for pointing out an error in the initial version, which is fixed now.
Right Place, Right Time
Yamcha's life flashed before his eyes.
It had been a pretty good life, or so he liked to think. Certainly a pretty crazy one, ever since he had hooked up with Goku and company. But at this point it looked like it was pretty likely over. He had just blundered unaware into striking distance of not just one, but both of the mysterious, deadly Androids that he had been searching for. And he hadn't even realized it.
Desperate reflex caused him to leap away from them, and his state of mind was not helped by the unimpressed look the pair gave him as he did so. They obviously didn't consider him much of a threat to their combined might, and Yamcha suspected that they were probably correct.
"Everybody!" Yamcha screamed out. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as his mind frantically raced, trying to come up with some tactic, some kind of plan—but he could think of nothing. He could only watch as the white-haired android raised his hand and—
The words, spoken in a polite, conversational tone, threw the combatants off balance, completely ruining the dramatic moment. The androids faltered, their attack forgotten, as all three fighters turned to look at the newcomer.
Or rather, they turned to look at the bottom half of him. The top half was obscured by a large map that he held spread out in front of his face. It seemed to be of someplace called "Switzerland," which Yamcha had never heard of before. From the lettering, it also seemed to be upside down.
The three warriors stared blankly at the strange human who had so blithely interrupted their mortal combat. Taking advantage of the silence, the newcomer spoke again.
"I'm sorry to trouble you," he said apologetically, lowering the map to reveal himself as a young man with short black hair held in place by a yellow, striped bandana. "But do any of you know which direction it is to Tokyo?"
Ryouga looked across the three faces that were watching him, feeling a little nervous as he did so. In the course of his lost wanderings, he had often ended up in places where people had given him blank looks when he mentioned the Tendo dojo. These people, however, were giving him blank looks at the mention of Tokyo itself.
That, Ryouga knew from experience, was rarely a good sign.
Looks like I'm going to be late for my duel with Ranma again, he thought glumly. I really thought giving myself a whole month to find the place would be enough time.
Pulling himself back to the present, he realized that the three people were still staring oddly at him. "Um, okay, maybe not Tokyo..." he said. "How about Japan? Do any of you know which way—?"
One of the men seemed to come to his senses, the one wearing what looked to be some kind of orange martial arts uniform. "Get out of here! Now!" he yelled, interrupting the lost boy. "Those two are dangerous!"
Ryouga blinked, then looked over at the two in question. Certainly they seemed a bit odd—one had pure white skin after all. And neither of them looked particularly friendly. But dangerous? To him? "Are you sure?" he asked, dubiously.
"Yes, we are dangerous." the white-haired man said menacingly, obviously trying to re-inspire some of the fear that had been dissipated by Ryouga's untimely appearance. "I am Android 20, and my companion is Android 19. We are here to bring fire and ruin to your world, and the pitiful humans that reside in it. Beginning with you."
Ryouga's features settled into a deep frown. So, these were a couple of lunatics then. And if the guy in orange was to be believed, dangerous ones. And they wanted a piece of him.
Well. Never let it be said that he had passed on what was both a challenge and a chance to fulfill a martial artist's duty. Reaching behind his back, he drew his umbrella, then shrugged his backpack from his shoulders.
"Very well," he said, dropping into a stance. "Then you face Hibiki Ryouga!"
Yamcha swore under his breath. He had tried to warn this Ryouga guy, but instead of running the kid was doing the exact opposite. And now he was going to get himself killed.
Oh sure, he could see that Ryouga had some skill. Certainly the kid's ki was far more powerful than the average human. But it wasn't nearly as powerful as even Yamcha's own, and that meant he would be hopelessly out of his league against those killing machines.
And the androids knew it, too. The short, white one was grinning sadistically as he watched the new human brandish his peculiar weapon. The bastard is enjoying this... Yamcha thought. He opened his mouth to warn the kid again, to try to get him to see reason, but it was to late. With a loud battle cry, the boy charged.
The short one—Android 19—took a couple steps to meet the charge, placing himself directly in Ryouga's path. Using all his accumulated momentum, the boy swung his umbrella in a wide arc that sent it hurtling toward the side of the android's head.
The android's grin only widened. Leisurely it raised two fingers, placing them in the weapon's path.
A huge crash echoed through the air, and Yamcha realized that the umbrella must have been far heavier than it had appeared for it to create such a massive impact. But it might have been made out of paper for all the effect that it had. Ryouga's eyes widened in disbelief as his umbrella snapped in half around the android's fingers. The white-skinned warrior didn't even flinch.
Before the kid could recover from his shock, the android took the offensive with a single, negligent uppercut that he drove into Ryouga's torso. The blow bent the boy almost double, sending him flying back through the air with a gasping cry of pain. When his body finally hit ground it was more than ten yards away, and he continued to slide for another couple yards before finally coming to rest.
"You didn't kill him, did you 19?" Android 20's voice was tinged with reproach. "His ki level was somewhat sizeable. It would have been useful to drain him."
Drain him? Yamcha thought. What's he talking about?
Android 19 turned back to his companion. "Don't worry," he said with a satisfied smirk. "He should still be alive. He just won't be moving anytime soon."
The android looked as though he might have said more, but he was abruptly cut off. "Oh yeah?" came a harsh cry. "Well sorry to disappoint you. This fight is just getting started."
At the sound, the three fighters looked back over to where the lost boy had fallen, and saw that slowly, painfully, he was rising to his feet.
Ryouga was in a world of agony. He couldn't remember the last time he'd hurt so much. But he was conscious and he was standing—even if it only was barely on both counts.
With one punch... Even now, Ryouga could hardly believe it. He hits harder than Lime! And I don't even think that was his full strength!
The three of them were looking at him again. Finally, Android 20 spoke. "Impressive, for a human," he said. "You appear to be more resilient to damage than your ki level alone would indicate."
"You don't say?" hissed Ryouga through clenched teeth. He was pretty sure that he'd broken at least three ribs, but he forced himself to block out the pain. This was too important. These androids were dangerous all right, and it looked like it was up to him to take them down before they tried to follow their crazy plan to lay waste to the world.
And obviously, close-quarters combat was not going to favor him. That was all right. He had other options.
With a growl, he reached up to his head with both hands, yanking off double fistfuls of yellow bandanas. A simple charge of his ki, and the pieces of cloth straightened into razor-sharp blades which he spun expertly between his fingers.
Then he let them fly, sending them all whirring toward Android 19. Nor did he stop there. Even as his first wave closed in, he was grabbing more, hurling them as fast as he could, until the air was thick with the spinning yellow blades.
Android 19's smile only widened. As the bandanas scythed in from all directions, his left hand began to blur into invisibility, snatching every last one of the projectiles from the air the instant they came within reach. Stunned, Ryouga redoubled his efforts, throwing bandanas at an increased pace, but it made no difference whatsoever.
Soon, when he reached to grab the next round of bandanas from his forehead, his hand came up empty. He had used them all, and to no effect. The white-skinned android simply stood there, a large pile of limp bandanas now lying at his feet.
Ryouga swallowed, hard. This was not good. He had only one last card left to play, and he didn't think that even that would be enough. He had never felt so completely outclassed, not against Ranma, not against Happousai, never. He was certain that he had no chance. He was certain that this was a lost cause, doomed to complete and utter failure.
Fortunately, that was exactly the state of mind that he needed to be in.
He cupped his hands in front of him, focusing intently on all the miseries of his life. He embraced the black depression that was always tugging at his soul, the certainty that he was a worthless excuse for a human being, someone that no one could ever love if they understood what he was really like. He took all that despair and focused it, congealing it into the ball of glowing green energy that began to form between his palms.
If anything, the android's thrice-damned grin grew wider. "Oh, a ki blast..." he said, chuckling mockingly at him.
And that was the final indignity. "Shi Shi Hokodan!" roared the lost boy, thrusting out his palms, sending the ball of pure depression hurtling toward his foe. It was even larger than his usual ones, bearing down on the android, crackling with destructive force...
...and then the android raised his hand, palm outward, and sucked the attack into it.
Android 19 looked over at the stunned boy. "Ki blasts are my specialty," he said simply.
The sight of his most powerful attack so completely defeated plunged Ryouga to new depths of depression. That was it. He had used his last gambit, and it had proved as futile as everything else he had tried. "No..." he whispered. Then louder. "No!"
Desperately, he cupped his hands again. "Shi Shi Hokodan!" he screamed, his voice raw. The blast this time was even huger, but it met the same fate. As did the third one. And the fourth one.
By then, Android 20 was beginning to grow impatient. "We don't have time for games, 19," he snapped. "Get over there and absorb his energy directly!"
For a moment there was no reply. Android 20 frowned, noticing as he did so that Android 19's face had lost its expression of manic glee. "19?" he said. "I gave you an order!"
At last, 19 responded. "Yeah... Yeah, I heard you..." he sighed. "All right, fine. I'll go do it." With that, he began to walk toward the lost boy.
Ryouga saw the oncoming juggernaut and began to back away, trying to keep his distance, and continuing to fire his Shi Shi Hokodan hopelessly as he did so. But it was no use. Android 19 was not walking very quickly—indeed, his motions seemed a little lethargic for some reason—but injured as he was, Ryouga was even slower. And his foe's hand ruthlessly sucked in each of his ki blasts, no matter how strong he made it.
And then Ryouga tripped. His feet caught on a piece of rubble as he moved backward, and he went down, a cry of pain tearing itself from his lips as he did so. He managed to roll over onto his hands and knees, but even as he did so he saw that his android attacker had reached him, and was standing over him.
This is it. I'm done for, were Ryouga's thoughts. They're just too powerful. They're going to kill me. And then they're going to continue on with their damned mission, all because I was too pathetic to stop them. Because I failed, they're going to kill everybody they can get their hands on. Because I failed, they're going to kill...
...oh no, they're going to kill...
An abyss of horror and self-loathing like none he had ever known opened up inside of Ryouga. The concrete around him began to crumble, huge cracks spider-webbing out away from him in every direction. A massive green aura blazed around him, as he clenched his fists and screamed at the top of his lungs:
"ULTIMATE SHI SHI HOKODAN!"
Yamcha watched anxiously, as Ryouga and Android 19 played out their duel. He wanted nothing more than to jump into the fray, and several times almost did so. But each time, he saw that the other android was watching him with a careful gaze, and he knew that if he made any funny moves that Android 20 would enter the battle as well. And that would stack the odds even worse against them. No, the only thing he could do was watch, and hope the kid lasted long enough for more powerful help to find them.
But now it looked as though that wasn't going to happen. The kid had put up a valiant fight, but he was on his hands and knees now, with the android right on top of him. Yamcha glanced at Android 20 yet again, and decided that it was all or nothing time. He would fly for all he was worth, hoping on the miniscule chance that he could find help before the Androids shot him down. It was practically suicidal, but he had no choice now. If he waited any longer, they'd kill the kid, and—
His train of thought was cut off as the kid's power level abruptly spiked, hitting a level that far exceeded anything he'd displayed before. Astonished, the desert bandit turned to watch as the kid blasted a tower of ki straight up into the sky.
The ascending torrent of destructive energy went on and on, until Yamcha began to wonder if the kid would ever stop. But, finally, Ryouga slumped forward, the flow of power ceasing. Leaving only the huge sphere of accumulated heavy ki hanging high in the air above them.
And then the law of gravity began to exert its inexorable claim.
All eyes were on the falling ki attack, and Yamcha wondered if this one would be snuffed like all the others had been. Strangely, though, Android 19 didn't seem to be displaying much inclination to even try to do anything about it. He only stared up at the descending blast, an apathetic expression on his face.
"What are you doing?" shouted Android 20 from the sidelines, perplexed. "Absorb it!"
Even with his compatriot's urging, the android still looked reluctant to take any defensive measures. Indecision was written across his features—until finally, at the last moment, he sighed and raised his hand to the skies. Even as he did so, Yamcha thought he could hear the android mutter under his breath, "But still, it's not like anything we do really makes a difference, in the end..."
And then the largest Shi Shi Hokodan Ryouga had ever fired in his life fell to within range of the android's palm. Just like each time before, the technique was completely absorbed, sucked into the android's hand, causing its target no damage whatsoever.
Or at least, no physical damage.
For a moment, the scene was frozen. Yamcha and Android 20 looking on, Ryouga on his hands and knees, Android 19 standing with his palm toward the heavens. Then, slowly, Android 19 lowered his arm.
And began to wail.
To say Yamcha and Android 20 were flabbergasted would be putting it mildly. They both stared at the utterly bizarre sight: a killing machine having an emotional breakdown in the middle of the battlefield. Even Ryouga managed to raise his head to take in what was happening.
Android 20 was the first to regain his senses. "What is going on here?" he roared, beside himself with fury. "19, what's wrong with you?"
Slowly, with great effort, Android 19 managed to control himself to the point of being able to speak. "It's... it's just... I never realized... I never realized before how cold and meaningless life is!" he said miserably. "Even if we do kill all the humans, the world will still be a dark and miserable place. I mean, what's the point of it all, 20? What's the point?" With that, he broke off into more inarticulate wailing.
Android 20's eyes were bulging. His mouth opened and closed multiple times, but no sound came out of it. Finally he spoke, his voice shaky with constrained rage. "Android 19... you will cease this disgraceful racket this instant!"
"No! You don't understand what I'm going through!" sobbed the once-fearsome android. "Nobody does! Just leave me alone!" With that he turned and sped off as fast as he could, disappearing from sight before the other three warriors had a chance to fully process what had just happened.
Finally, Android 20 turned to look at the kneeling Ryouga. "What did you do to him?" he demanded, through gritted teeth.
But for his part, Ryouga wasn't even paying attention to 20. "He... he wasn't just nullifying those shots..." the kid whispered, a look of surprise and belated understanding blossoming over his face. "He must have been... he was absorbing them... and trying to use that ki himself!" With that realization the kid threw his head back and began to laugh hysterically.
That was the last straw. Android 20 blurred into motion, covering the distance between him and the boy in an eyeblink. The killing machine brought his fist down with bone-crushing force, driving Ryouga to the ground and drawing a scream of pain from him.
The boy tried to roll away from his attacker, but the android moved so quickly he seemed to vanish from sight, appearing in Ryouga's path and stopping him with a kick to his rib cage that sent the boy flying through the air like a rag doll.
And he didn't even let the kid touch the ground. Android 20 blurred into motion once again, racing in front of Ryouga's trajectory and punching him back through the air the way he had come. Then he repeated the action again, and again, continuing to batter his victim back and forth through the air in a perverse, one-man game of human ping-pong.
Finally, grabbing the boy by the throat, the android slammed him down into the concrete, then hoisted him up into the air. "This is your last chance, human," he said to the broken and bleeding Ryouga. "Tell me exactly what you did to 19 when he absorbed those ki blasts—and how to reverse it—and I will allow you to live."
Ryouga's mouth opened weakly, but the first few times he tried to speak he merely choked up blood. Finally, lifting his eyes to meet his tormentor's, he managed to whisper three quiet words, despite his mutilated condition.
"Go to hell."
Android 20's features twisted with rage. "Insolent vermin," he snarled. "Then face the consequences of your stupidity!" With that he raised his other hand, clearly intending to drive it through the boy's chest. "Die!"
He had forgotten about Yamcha.
And the desert bandit had not been idle. From the moment Android 20's attention had been distracted from him, he had been charging his ki, and now that the android had obliged him by stopping in one spot, he had unleashed it in the most powerful Kamehameha he had ever thrown.
The huge energy blast blindsided the android, enveloping him in a torrent of blue light. Ryouga clenched his eyes shut, tried to twist his head away from the almost blinding radiance as it washed over his attacker. And yet, the iron grip on his throat did not falter.
When at last the attack had dissipated, everyone except Android 20 was shocked at the result. Or rather, the lack of one. The android still stood there, unmoved, uninjured. The only discernable difference was that the blast had dislodged his hat and sent it tumbling across the ground, revealing a semi-transparent dome underneath, through which could be seen the android's brain.
Android 20 turned his head to look at Yamcha. "Futile," he said, dispassionately. "A wasted effort."
Yamcha saw Ryouga's eyes widen in shock as the boy looked at the artificial material that had replaced the android's skull. Indeed, it was the first concrete evidence that these beings were indeed something more than human, something that was at least partly mechanical.
Their enemy was continuing to address Yamcha. "Such puny power makes all you humans insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The Saiyans are the only beings worth noticing on this planet, and even they cannot match us. But you—you are less than nothing."
As the android spoke, Yamcha saw Ryouga grit his teeth in fierce concentration. Then, slowly, he began to lift his arm, inch by faltering inch, toward the android.
The desert bandit was shocked. As mangled as the kid's body was, it seemed impossible that he would be capable of movement. And yet he was doing it. What's he thinking? Yamcha wondered. He can't possibly hope to hurt that thing at the best of times, let alone in the state he's in!
Even as Ryouga fought to raise his arm, the white-haired android turned back to face the boy. When he saw what Ryouga was trying to do, he snorted derisively. "You see? This pathetic effort is the best you can bring to bear. You are bugs next to us, sideshow distractions that cannot even slow us down."
Ryouga ignored the contemptuous dismissal, continuing to lift his arm. It was clear now that he was aiming for the transparent dome. Does the kid think that's a weak spot? Yamcha wondered. That stuff may look like glass, but my Kamehameha didn't even scratch it! It's gotta be a million times stronger than any normal glass in the world! No way does he have the strength to break it!
Android 20 had turned his gaze back to Yamcha now. "In short," he said, his voice dripping with finality. "You humans are no threat. Whatsoever."
The android spoke those words just as, with a final effort, Ryouga reached out and gave the dome enclosing his foe's brain a single, gentle tap.
"Bakusai Tenketsu," he whispered.
And then the dome exploded into a thousand gleaming shards.
It would have been difficult to say who was more shocked, Android 20 or Yamcha. But Ryouga was moving before either of them could even begin to comprehend what had just happened. Putting every remaining ounce of his strength into one last action, he drove his hand into the shattered remains of the braincase, grabbed hold of the android's brain, and with a roar, tore it free.
Immediately the android's body began to spasm, its eyes going wide as its neck and spine arched backward. Its fingers flexed outward, dropping Ryouga, who crumpled to the ground.
For a few seconds, everything froze there, unmoving. Then, without any fanfare, the body of Android 20 simply tipped over backward, falling to earth with a great crash.
The androids were defeated.
"Wait a minute. So you're saying that this is an entirely different universe from the one I come from?" Ryouga asked, while at the same time poking himself experimentally in the places where there had once been bruises—for the twelfth time since he had eaten the Senzu bean. "Huh. Well that sure explains a lot. I always wondered why people back home gave me such strange looks whenever I mentioned something about visiting Central Capital or hearing stories about Saiyans flying around."
He was seated on the ground on a ledge overlooking the city below, surrounded by the standing figures of Goku, Piccolo, Gohan, Yamcha, Bulma—and the latest arrival, a young man who had introduced himself as Trunks.
Each of them were looking down at the boy with expressions that ranged from puzzlement to outright disbelief. They had all seen a fair number of strange things in their time, but the idea that someone could be so utterly and fundamentally lost in the world that he could slip between universes by accident was straining even their credulity.
"Forget all of that..." Yamcha said, turning to his friends with irritation in his voice. "What I want to know is where you guys were! I thought for sure after Ryouga sent up that big Shi Shi Hokodan that you'd find us easily! What took you so long?"
Goku chuckled nervously. "Well, uh, yeah. We did see that weird ki blast. And we did figure it had something to do with the androids. So we were all heading over there... but then on the way we actually came across one of them. I mean, he was wearing the Red Ribbon logo on his hat and everything!"
Yamcha blinked. That was right—he had forgotten all about Android 19, who had run off. "Oh, him. What was he doing? I hope he didn't cause any more trouble."
"That entirely depends," Piccolo growled, "on how ridiculous your definition of 'trouble' is. At the time we encountered him, he was shoplifting."
"Shoplifting?" asked Yamcha, puzzled. "What was he stealing?"
"Trust me," Piccolo replied. "You don't want to know."
"So," said Tenshinhan. "This is it. This is the terrible, deadly android threat that we've been training nonstop for three years to face."
"Looks that way," replied Kuririn, nodding.
The two of them were hovering over the hunched form of Android 19, standing guard in case he made any threatening moves. He showed no signs of doing so, however. His interest was entirely absorbed in using his stolen pens to write feverishly in his stolen diary. Tenshinhan took a closer look, reading some of the lines that the android had written.
Blackest darkness engulfs my circulatory pump.
Really sad sadness, too.
I'm all alone, as I sit on my rump,
And try to get through this miserable life or two.
Tenshinhan winced in pain. "Maybe we misunderstood what the future guy was trying to tell us," he wondered aloud. "Maybe what he actually came back through time to warn us about was this guy's poetry. That's certainly bad enough to kill."
"No! None of this makes any sense!" Trunks was pacing back and forth, anxiously. "I've looked at the body of the android you killed, and at the other one that you... incapacitated. But neither of them are the ones from my time!"
"Perhaps the androids you're familiar with are still out there," suggested Piccolo gravely. "Or perhaps they have not yet been activated, due to the timely defeat of these two."
Trunks frowned. "If that's the case, then we need to do everything we can to prevent that from happening," he said firmly. "You have no idea how terrible..." his voice trailed off, as he noticed that Ryouga's face had suddenly twisted into a very troubled frown. An unsettling feeling, one that he couldn't quite explain, began to gnaw at his stomach. "Ryouga? Is something wrong?"
At last, the lost boy spoke, nervously. "Um... About these... other androids?"
"Yes?" asked Trunks, trying to ignore the feeling of impending doom he was getting.
"They weren't, by any chance... a man and a woman, were they? The man with dark hair, the woman with blond hair, both about shoulder length?"
The feeling of impending doom worsened. "That... would be a good description of them, yes."
Ryouga gulped. "Oh. But... um... they wouldn't have been stored in a place out in the mountains somewhere, with all kinds of gadgets that were marked with the same logo that those first two guys were wearing on their hats... would they?" The last part was said in a very small voice.
A very tense silence had fallen. "Why don't you tell us where these questions are leading to?" asked Trunks, his voice reaching a temperature that would make liquid nitrogen seem warm.
The lost boy gave a very high-pitched, very nervous little laugh. "Well, it's nothing much really... Just that I think... maybe... I might have been... a little lost a few months back... and stumbled across a place that was... well, maybe a tiny bit like that. And maybe even... sorta... kinda... accidentally... woke up two people matching that... very vague... description?"
He then gave the group what he very much hoped was a winning smile.
"You idiot!" Goku and Piccolo had to each grab one of Trunks' arms to hold him back from inflicting bodily harm on the young man cowering before him. "Do you have any idea what you've done? You may have doomed the entire world!"
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't know!" yelped Ryouga, scuttling backward in terror, as Goku tried to calm the enraged Saiyan.
It took a little while, but eventually Trunks managed to calm down to the point of rational conversation once more. After apologizing grudgingly to the lost boy for his outburst, Trunks resumed his pacing. Eventually, he looked up once more. "It still doesn't make any sense," he said.
Goku looked over at him. "Whadaya mean?" he asked. "We know what happened to those other androids now, right?"
Trunks shook his head. "No, we don't," he said. "That's just it. If they were released ahead of schedule, then why haven't they attacked already? Their greatest desire is to destroy you Goku. I can't understand why we wouldn't have heard from them yet."
"Perhaps something occurred to change their plans," suggested Piccolo. Then he turned to Ryouga. "Did they say anything to you that might give any indication as to their intentions?"
"Um..." the boy said, looking nervously around. "They... they did mention something about someone named Goku after they'd woken up. It sounded like they wanted to challenge him for some reason. In the end, they decided to head for Orange Star City and start looking for him from there."
Trunks grimaced, then slammed his fist into his palm. "So why hasn't anyone seen them?" he asked angrily. "Why haven't they made their move yet?"
Ryouga shrugged. "I really have no idea," he told them apologetically. "From everything I heard, they seemed really eager to have their fight. I can't imagine why it would have taken them so long to show up. Heck, I even gave them directions and everything!"
Android 17 turned to glare at his sister. "We never should have listened to him."
"Shut up," shot back Android 18.
"It would have taken us how long to find the city on our own? A day, maybe? Two days, at the most? But no! You thought his little blush-and-stutter act was so cute, and you decided to humor him! And look where we are now!"
"Shut up!" snarled the blonde android once again. "It's not like it should have been that big a deal to give his directions a try! How was I supposed to know we'd end up stuck in another dimension?"
"How were you supposed to know?" demanded Android 17, who seemed on the verge of exploding. "18, those directions were weird! He was weird! There was something wrong about him!"
Android 16, their large, quiet companion, remained out of the familial dispute, choosing instead to reach down and pet the black cat that was seated in front of them. The cat meowed appreciatively, before remembering her dignity and straightening up, clearing her throat as she did so.
"Ah, yes. Now I understand," the cat said—not really understanding, or even sure she wanted to. "In any case, regardless of how you three ended up here, the fact remains that in order to return to your home, you need access to a source of magic, correct?"
"Uh, yeah," responded Android 17, his argument with his sibling forgotten for the moment. "I guess. I don't really know that much about this sort of thing."
The black cat smiled warmly. "Well you're very fortunate. We—" here she indicated the row of fuku-clad girls who were lined up behind her "—are one of the few remaining groups in this world with functional magic that might be able to help you. I'm sure that, with the Ginzuisho, we should be able to work something out to return you to where you came from."
"Okay..." Android 18 said, warily. "So... what do you get out of it?"
The black cat's smile widened even more. "Well, there is one little thing you might be able to help us out with in exchange..." she said. "You see, we've been having a bit of trouble lately with a woman who calls herself Queen Beryl..."
With a short tug, Ryouga finished tying the last of his discarded headbands back around his forehead. He then rose to his feet, shouldering his backpack as he did so, and turned to face Yamcha. "Well, looks like that's about it," the lost boy said.
The desert bandit smiled at him. "Sure you can't stay around a little longer?" he asked. "Bulma's talking about maybe arranging a little party to celebrate the defeat of the androids. It'd be a real shame if you weren't there."
Ryouga gave a little smile, his fangs showing slightly. "I'd love to. But, I'm afraid that I've got my own duel that I really need to be getting to. I'm already late for it as it is."
Yamcha chuckled. "All right. Well, anytime you happen to be in the neighborhood, drop by and see us, okay?"
"I will," the lost boy promised. With that the two of them clasped hands. Then Ryouga turned and began walking off.
Yamcha watched him go for a little bit, before suddenly calling out to him. "Hey, Ryouga!"
The boy glanced back. "Yeah?"
"Are you really sure you don't need... I don't know... any kind of help getting back where you came from? I could ask Goku to go hunt down the Dragon Balls again. Shenlong might be able to send you home..."
But the lost boy only smiled, shaking his head. "No, don't worry about it," he said. "That's the thing about me. I may not know where I'm going... but I always get there in the end."
Then he began to walk away once more. Yamcha continued to watch, until at last Ryouga was nothing but a tiny figure in the distance. Then the desert bandit turned away, and began to walk toward his own home.
After he had taken a couple steps he paused, then took one more look over his shoulder. But the lost boy was gone, and no trace of him could be seen anywhere.