To the casual observer, Uchiha Sasuke would seem like the epitome of serenity. He stood calmly outside the door to the Hokage's office, waiting for Kakashi and the others to finish giving their reports and call him in so that the Hokage could decide what to do with him. With his slouched posture and his hands in his pockets it would seem as though he hadn't a care in the world, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
'I can't believe I let them talk me into this! There's no way I'll get strong enough to achieve my goals here, and that's assuming I even survive to the end of the day!' The corners of his mouth twitched downwards ever so slightly at the thought of being executed for trying to leave the village. It wasn't so much that he was afraid of dying, far from it actually, but he wasn't ready yet. No, he couldn't die until that man had been put six feet under. Actually, Sasuke would probably just leave his corpse to rot in the sun and be picked at by scavengers. Someone who would kill off their own family, his family, didn't deserve a proper burial. His thoughts turned to his fight with Naruto, and what he'd intended to do when he'd beaten the dead last into submission. He was unable to suppress the shiver that crawled up his spine when he recalled Gohan's words to him.
'He's right, I hate Itachi with every fiber of my being, and yet I was going to...' An image of Naruto formed before him, blood gushing out of a massive hole in his chest and a look of utter betrayal on his face. Sasuke grunted and waved the image away, annoyed. 'I will not follow in your footsteps. That accursed mangekyou sharingan, I'll get stronger without it. I'll gain power my own way and sharpen my hatred into the ultimate blade, far more deadly than your bloody eyes.' He could almost see Itachi's back, so far away from him. He reached out towards him just as the door to the Hokage's office and Kakashi's face poked out, giving him that odd smile of his.
"The Hokage is ready to see you now Sasuke." His demeanor turned grim. "For your own sake, as well as the sake of your teammates, please keep your cool and accept what she has to say." He ushered the tense Uchiha into the Hokage's office, where Sasuke noted that not only were his teammates there, but also the scarred proctor from the chunin exams and a blonde haired man that looked like a male version of Yamanaka Ino. The scarred one, Morino Ibiki if Sasuke remembered correctly, was sending a rather pointed glare in his direction, while everyone else kept their attention on the Hokage. Tsunade's attention remained solely fixed on Sasuke from the moment he entered the room, making him rather uncomfortable. For several moments the room sat in a tense silence, until Tsunade cleared her throat and began to speak.
"Uchiha Sasuke, you are accused of unauthorized leave of absence with the intent of abandoning the village of Konoha and defecting to its enemy. Normally by now you would be in a cell awaiting execution, however it has been reported to me that you have surrendered and come back willingly so I'll allow an exception this time. Don't think however, that this was a decision I came to lightly. Had it not been for the testimonies of your teammates we wouldn't even be having this meeting, so I hope you realize that you owe them your life. Despite the fact that I have chosen to spare you however, don't think you'll be getting off without any sort of punishment. I hereby order you to submit to interrogation and, if deemed necessary, regular therapy sessions. Until such time as you are deemed stable and trustworthy you'll be taken off the active duty roster and not allowed to take on any missions. Also, if at any point during your therapy or interrogation you are deemed a security risk to your teammates or the village in general I will not hesitate to have you locked up. Am I clear on this?" When she didn't receive an immediate reply she focused some killing intent at Sasuke and repeated the question, to which she received a muted nod, so she released him to Ibiki and Inoichi's care and dismissed them and everyone else, save Gohan and Kakashi who she asked to stay. After everyone else had left the room, Tsunade notified her secretary that she wouldn't be seeing anyone for a while and sealed up her office. After she had done this she strode over to the window at the back of her office and spent several moments looking out over the village before letting out a frustrated sigh and sitting behind her desk, Gohan and Kakashi straightening their posture as she did so. Gohan shifted nervously, already having a clue as to what this was about, although he wondered why Kakashi would be here.
"Gohan, I've gone over your recent mission with Kakashi, and some of the things he's telling me worry me greatly. I'm told that you briefly lost control of your actions and obliterated a large part of the forest near the valley of the end. Now, I very much want to trust you but what you've told me about yourself and your actions since you've come to Konoha haven't exactly matched up very well, would you care to explain this?" Tsunade saw Gohan glance at Kakashi briefly, no doubt debating whether or not to reveal any information about himself. After a moment of internal debate, he nodded to himself and took a deep breath.
"Hokage-sama, I'm not really sure I can properly explain myself, because even I don't know what's going on right now. Recently I've felt overstressed and I haven't been handling it very well." Gohan looked hesitant to say any more, so Tsunade decided to be more straightforward.
"Gohan, from what you've told me you're an extremely powerful fighter, and Kakashi's report only reinforces that idea. Now what bugs me about this the most, is that somehow Orochimaru managed to get a crused seal on you despite the fact that you should have been able to take him down with one blow. Now if what I keep hearing about your capabilities is true there should have been no way for him to even approach you. To me this almost looks like you purposely allowed him to place the seal on you. Is that a correct statement?" Tsunade immediately saw the shame and guilt in Gohan's eyes and knew she'd hit it spot on, her realization only being reinforced by his quiet nod. "May I ask why you would allow such a thing? Orochimaru is one of Konoha's enemies, and quite obviously not someone to be trusted. Were you planning on joining him with Sasuke?"
"No Hokage-sama. The reason I let Orochimaru mark me like that, is because I need all the power I can get." Gohan could tell that Tsunade was going to berate him for such a foolish reason, but she didn't understand, couldn't understand the burden he had to bear. "Tsunade-sama please, try to understand where I'm coming from. My father has protected this planet from destruction more than once, and as his son it's now my responsibility to make sure the Earth is safe. As the Hokage you know the burden of keeping all of Konoha safe, and so you need to make sure you're the strongest in the village. For me, it goes way beyond that. I have to keep not only Konoha safe, but also Suna, Kumo, Iwa and Kiri as well as everyone between and beyond those villages." Forgetting himself, Gohan walked around Tsunade's desk and gestured out over the village.
"This is what you look over and protect, these hundred thousand people going about their daily lives within these walls, but go to the highest mountain top, and look out to the farthest point on the horizon and you still won't see but the smallest fraction of what I have to protect. Billions of people, in cites, towns, villages of all sizes and I have to be the one to make sure their liveliehoods aren't vaporized by some interstellar tyrant." Gohan spun around violently, and the look in his eyes shook Tsunade and Kakashi to their cores. His voice raising higher and higher as the damn broke and he poured out all his sorrow, his rage, his despair. "This burden falls solely on my shoulders, and if ever I'm not strong enough, then not only do my friends and loved ones lose," He stared straight into Tsunade's eyes, his expression deadly serious. "everyone loses." He turned away from them again, his eyes welling with tears. "I've failed once already, and my Father gave up his life to fix it and I will never, ever let that happen again! No matter what it takes, no matter what I must sacrifice I will be the strongest, even if I have to sell my soul to the devil!" So engrossed was he in his rant, he didn't notice Tsunade and Kakashi exchange worried looks. They each saw a bit of themselves in the boy before them, the guilt of failing to protect someone they cared for. This was not something they should be seeing in someone so young, no older than their rookie genin. This was an issue that would have to be adressed, lest it ruin his mind as it was clearly starting to do already, but first...
"Gohan, the last time we talked you mentioned a transformation, I'd like you to show me this time. We can go out to the training grounds if you would prefer to do it there." Tsunade was obviously not going to let him out of it this time, so Gohan agreed on the stipulation that they do it some ways away from the village, so as not to attract too much attention. Tsunade agreed to this, and so after unsealing her office she informed Shizune that she'd be out for a while and, on Gohan's advice, told her ANBU commander to be expecting large chakra spikes coming from outside the village. She, Gohan and Kakashi then proceeded to make their way into the forest around Konoha, far enough that Gohan could transform without causing any unnecessary collateral damage to the village or its inhabitants.
After a good half hour of travel Tsunade spotted a suitable clearing in the trees and signaled a stop, Gohan and Kakashi stopping at her side a moment later.
"This place should do just fine. Now Gohan, show us what you're capable of." She and Kakashi stood at the edge of the clearing and watched Gohan as he moved to the center and took a stance with his fists clenched at his sides. He closed his eyes and with a slight grunt of effort transformed into the first level of Super Saiya-jin, his golden hair blowing in the artificial breeze kicked up by the flaming golden aura surrounding him. Tsunade stared at him with wide eyes and Kakashi stood there gaping, thankfully having remembered to uncover his sharingan before Gohan transformed.
"Tsunade-sama, do you feel how much chakra he's putting out? He's at Bijuu levels!" Kakashi could scarcely belive what he was seeing. This was a boy no older than his genin team and he had more chakra than any other person he'd come across! Tsunade was having similar thoughts, but she had a feeling that this was only the tip of the iceberg as Gohan hadn't relaxed yet, and instead had fixed his now turquoise eyes onto them.
"Alright guys, this is what a Super Saiya-jin looks like. Since we're here though, I might as well show you Super Saiya-jin two. You might want to ground yourselves as well as you can, I don't have this next form mastered yet so it'll be a lot more...dramatic." He waited for Kakashi and Tsunade to stick themselves to the ground with chakra before once again taking his stance. This time, instad of only a grunt of exertion he began yelling, even as his muscles bulged and the ground began to quake beneath his feet. His screaming intensified and what had been a simple breeze quickly became a monsoon, blowing underbrush this way and that and pelting Kakashi and Tsunade with pebbles, leaves and other debris. Higher and higher Gohan's voice rose, and he raised his head up as though he were shouting to the heavens as his hair spiked back, save for one lone spike falling over the right side of his face. Bolts of energy began to discharge around him, incinerating the smaller debris that flew too near him and some even leaving scorch marks on the ground around him and, with a primal roar of rage he arched his back and power exploded from him in waves, blinding his two witnesses and knocking over some of the smaller trees that surrounded the clearing and nearly doing the same to Kakashi and Tsunade who both had to increase the amount of chakra they were putting out to keep from having the dirt they were standing on simply blown away with them on it. When everything had finally settled down Tsunade and Kakashi could only gape in utter awe and even some fear as Gohan stood there in his full Ascended Saiya-jin glory. They nearly flinched when he locked his steely gaze with theirs.
"This is Super Saiya-jin two, also known as the Ascended Saiya-jin. I'm sure you have at least some sensitivity to the power I'm putting out, and I'll tell you right now that it wouldn't take a fraction of this to simply wipe the continent we're standing on off the map. Think about that, Konoha, Kumo, Suna, Kiri, Iwa and all the minor villages gone in seconds with no warning whatsoever. This is why I've traveled to Konoha, to learn anything I possibly can to give myself an advantage." He gestured up to the sky, bright and blue with some slow moving clouds scattered here and there. "I'm sure you've both taken the time at least once to look at the night sky, and how truly endless it looks. I've been out there among the stars, and let me tell you it's so much bigger than it looks, and far more dangerous than you could possibly imagine." He turned to them once again, focusing his attention specifically on Kakashi.
"Sensei, I've told Tsunade-sama this before, but my Dad was not from this world. He was one of the few remaining members of a race of human like aliens called the Saiya-jins. Their homeworld was destroyed a long time ago and my Dad died only two years ago, leaving only one known Saiya-jin left alive. This is what enables me to transform like this." He stepped back a bit so that he could focus on the both of them, and as he once again began to speak his voice took on a grave tone. "In order to help you understand what I've been trying to tell you, let me tell you the truth behind the Saiya-jin race, that is what they did and why they were destroyed." He closed his eyes and thought back to when his Uncle Radditz had kidnapped him, and the things that had been revealed that day.
"The Saiya-jins were a powerful race of warriors, feared throughout the galaxy for their battle prowess and utter ruthlessness on the battlefield. They worked as soldiers for a massive empire spanning the known universe that dealt in the trading of planets. While this may not sound too sinister, what it really entailed was a client would request a planet, and then the planet trade would send a warrior or warriors to that planet to prepare it for habitation." His gaze darkened considerably, and he lowered his head so that Tsunade and Kakashi couldn't see his face. "Essentially what that entailed was complete genocide of whoever already lived on that planet." He could hear Kakashi make a sharp intake of breath and he looked Tsunade and Kakashi in the eye in turn, taking in their shocked expressions. "I'm sure after hearing that it's not too hard to put two and two together but there's more. This did not always take an army, sometimes it would only take one warrior depending on the strength and abilities of the planet's inhabitants and the strength of the soldier or soldiers doing the clearing. It didn't stop there though. The Saiya-jins were all warriors, every single one of them without exception, regardless of how old they were or whatever else they did. Even their infants were sent out to clear planets. That's what happened to my Dad, he wasn't strong at birth so he was sent here, where the populace was considered to be weak." He opened his mouth to continue but a rather pale looking Tsunade interrupted him.
"How could they possibly expect infants to commit genocide? Regardless of how weak a species is, shouldn't they be able to take out a defenseless baby?"
"I was just getting to that. Even as babies Saiya-jins are not completely defenseless, even the weaklings. Anatomically Saiya-jins are nearly identical to humans save for one characteristic. Every Saiya-jin, including half breeds are born with a tail which is a major source of power for them. The transformations you've seen from me are not the only types a Saiya-jin has. If a Saiya-jin with a tail catches a glimpse of a full moon they transform into a gigantic ape and their power increases ten fold. Not only that but they go into a berserker rage, destroying anyting that crosses their path." By this time Tsunade looked like she desperately wanted a bottle of sake and Kakashi looked like he was ready to faint. It was Kakashi who spoke first.
"So you're saying...that your father was sent here to kill every last human on this planet, so that some alien could make it their home? That's a rather...unpleasant thought. I couldn't help but notice though that you seem to be missing your tail. Did you have it removed on purpose to prevent the transformation?"
"No, Vegeta cut it off when I was only five. It was when he'd come here to clear the planet and used an artificial moon blast to transform. His tail was cut off, which made him return to normal but then I saw the blast and transformed as well and could have killed him in his weakened state, so he cut mine off as well. Anyways, as I was saying the planet trade that the Saiya-jins were part of was run by a certain family of lizard like aliens who were monstrously powerful, far more so than even the strongest Saiya-jin. This ruling family was extremely arrogant and prideful and felt they had the right to rule the entire universe, but the thing about Saiya-jins is that they get stronger every time they fight, and the more injured they get, the stronger they get. Frieza, the ruler of this area of space decided that the Saiya-jins were getting too powerful, and so he went to their planet and single handedly blew it up, wiping out all but a handful of Saiya-jins in the process. Most of them he managed to keep under his thumb in the decades afterwards, but my Dad managed to escape his notice, and when we were out in space he managed to defeat Frieza in battle. Unfortunately he spared Frieza and he came to Earth for revenge, but this time his father came with him. Thankfully, my father, who had become a Super Saiya-jin while fighting Frieza the first time, managed to take both of them out pretty easily." He gave them both a look that was dead serious, and it was only enhanced by his transformed state. "Do you see now why I allowed Orochimaru to mark me? I've seen some of what exists out in space, and it's not pleasant at all. Sure, there are some races that are peaceful, but we have no way of knowing who or what may come next and I'm the Earh's first and last defense against whatever is out there."
"But Gohan," Kakashi cut in "you've got your sensei, and while I don't know the situation with Vegeta, you didn't seem to be going at him as though he were a true threat. Also, if what I've heard from Gai is true you've had others come to try and take you home. Do you really have to bear this burden alone?"
"That's true," Gohan said. "those guys do fight with me. The problem is that none of my friends are capable of gaining strength nearly as fast as Saiya-jins do, and so they're always easily picked off by the enemy, and as for Vegeta, well he only fights on our side because it's in line with his own goals for now. Not only that but he often takes great risks to satisfy his own pride, risks that could cost everyone else their lives. Piccolo-sensei is pretty strong, but he's nowhere near as strong as I am, so if there's an enemy I can't beat he can only do so much to help me."
"Well Gohan, I really think you should learn to rely on your friends a little more," Tsunade said "but I suppose I can understand where you're coming from. Being as strong as you are makes you feel responsible for your friends' lives and you want to keep them from harm. Even so, I'm not entirely sure what it is you want from us. I know you said you want to get stronger, but just how do you think we can help you with that?" Tsunade was more than a little curious about this. After the display she'd just witnessed and the vast amounts of chakra that seemed to be flooding the area she couldn't help but wonder what he thought a group of comparatively normal humans could do for him. It was a good thing she'd told the ANBU to expect the chakra spikes, as no doubt even with that precaution most of the village's shinobi would be on edge, hell, even being right here and witnessing it had Tsunade on edge and she could tell Kakashi was having trouble wrapping his mind around it all as well. Gohan looked a bit uncomfortable at having to explain this, but he pressed ahead, steeling himself against his chaotic emotions.
"What I need the most Tsunade-sama, is to learn how to be a shinobi, to learn how to kill my enemies without letting my emotions interfere. My Father was the kindest man you would ever meet, and no matter what the enemy did he would always try to give them another chance. This came back to haunt him, as one of the enemies he let go in the past created artificial humans for the sole purpose of killing him. Unfortunately, he's passed on his kind heart to me and if I've learned nothing else from my past battles, it's that you can't hesitate to take the enemy out. But, that aside I've noticed some very interesting techniques since I've been here, and I think that I could benefit a lot from learning some of them."
"Well if you put it that way, how can I refuse. It's good luck that you ended up on team 7, because Kakashi here is the best person to help you with what you need. That is, assuming he hasn't forgotten his ANBU training?" Tsunade looked to Kakashi quizzically, and he looked more than a bit unsettled at what she was asking of him.
"With all due repsect Tsunade-sama, do you really think it's best that we..."
"I understand your concerns Kakashi," Tsunade interjected. "but you do believe what he's saying don't you? As far as I can see he's telling the complete truth here, and if that's the case can we really afford otherwise? I'm not saying you have to do this right now, but you two need to work out a good time to go out on an extended training mission. Just come to me when you're ready and I'll authorize it." She could tell that Kakashi still didn't particularly like the idea, but he seemed to have caught her point and so didn't try to argue again. She was about to say it was time to head back but Kakashi spoke up, as Gohan looked like he wanted to say something.
"Are you alright Gohan? You look like you have something to say."
"Well, I've been thinking about it a bit lately and I find it odd that I didn't see any shinobi at the Cell games. I mean, I know you guys don't really have the technology to get access to the satelite television that the rest of the world uses, but at the very least you should've been able to sense our chakra levels." Gohan watched as Kakashi and Tsunade exchanged confused looks, then looked to him for clarification. "Didn't you feel anything at all? It was two years ago. First my Dad fought and then I did, and our opponent was nearly as strong as I am now." Gohan was surprised when they both shook their heads.
'Something's not right here,' Gohan thought to himself. 'I wasn't actively manipulating my chakra at all when I transformed and yet obviously it went up to levels they're not used to feeling. Surely as high as it is now they would've been able to feel at least something. It doesn't make any sense! I'll have to mention it to Piccolo when he gets here.' Indeed, Gohan could feel Piccolo and Dende making their way to his current location. Dende had wanted to check the village out, and after everyone's return from the valley of the end he'd taken off with a rather disgruntled Piccolo, stating that even he could tell that Gohan needed some space.
That was when Gohan noticed it. A little ways into the forest surrounding the clearing, next to one of the many giant trees of the area was the biggest venus fly trap Gohan had ever seen. Or at least, he assumed that's what it was. He made his way over to it and crouched down so he could get a better look at it, making sure to stay far enough away that he didn't accidentally fall into its leaves and set it off.
"Do either of you know what kind of plant this is? It looks like a venus fly trap, but I've never seen one anywhere near this big before. It looks like it's big enough to swallow a person whole!" He looked over at Tsunade, who'd come over and crouched next to him but she seemed just as curious about it as he, and in fact she seemed a bit cautious of it.
"No, as far as I know there's nothing like that native to fire country. Kakashi, something isn't right about this plant, please take a look at it with your sharingan." He never needed to though, as the moment he started to pull up his hitai-ate a purplish cloud burst from within the plant's leaves and the three leapt back in an attempt to get away.
"That's poison gas, don't inhale whatever you do!" Tsunade ordered quickly, but it was needless as Gohan simply sent out a wave of energy that caused a harsh wind to blow through the clearing, forcing the gas cloud to disperse. Unfortunately, by the time the cloud had dispersed enough for them to see properly the strange plant was gone. Gohan tried to locate the energy of the creature but in the confusion he hadn't had enough time to get a proper feel for its energy, and he couldn't feel any other notable energies in the area.
"What the hell was that?" Tsunade bellowed angrily. "How could someone have been spying on us that whole time without any of us noticing?" It was at that moment that Piccolo and Dende landed, both looking concerned at the worried looks on the clearing's occupants' faces. It was Dende who spoke up, instantly running to his friend's side.
"Are you alright Gohan? What just happened?" He and Piccolo had seen the last vestiges of the poison cloud from the air, and had hurried to the scene to make sure Gohan was okay.
"Yeah, I just got done telling these guys about myself and someone was spying on us the entire time without any of us noticing." He frowned, disappointed in himself that he hadn't noticed another person in the vicinity. He'd kept all of his senses alert throughout his demonstration so that he could stop in the event that the wrong person came too close. And yet, he had never suspected a thing. "It's strange, I was keeping an eye out for anyone that might be coming too close, but I never sensed a thing until the spy attacked. It's almost like they had the ki of a plant rather than a person."
"Were you able to determine which way they went?" Piccolo asked, his own senses stretched out and eyes carefully scanning everything in sight.
"No." Gohan shook his head. "I lost sight of them in that cloud, and somehow they managed to disguise their ki again almost immediately after attacking. I've never seen anyone that could mask their presence so well before. They even had the appearance of a plant, and the only reason I even noticed them was because I've never seen that type of plant grow so big."
"I doubt there's anything to worry about in this case Gohan." Kakashi said, trying to reassure the genin. "You didn't tell us anything that could really be used against you, and after that little display you put on I think anybody would think twice about attacking you." Despite what he said though, Kakashi was worried. 'For them to have escaped mine and Tsunade's notice, they couldn't have been actively using chakra. That means either they were here before us and were waiting, or they actually have that appearance. Could it be one of Orochimaru's experiments, or is it something else entirely? Either way, whoever they are they're good.'
A.N(READ THIS):Well, after two long years chapter 17 is out. It's really surprising to me that it's been that long, as it sure hasn't seemed like it. Heh, I suppose the older you get the faster time goes by. At any rate, I recall some of you were concerned about Vegeta's confusion when fighting Gohan with the henge. Well, from what I've gathered from watching DBZ, it seems to me that ki sensing is mostly an active skill, where they have to actively look for someone or feel out their energy in order to know where they're at, who's in the area, etc. Mostly I get this from Vegeta, as he consistently underestimates his opponents and judges them based on the size of their body rather than their energy. If ki sensing were truly a passive skill, then when he fought perfect Cell for the first tme he would have known just outclassed he was. The same goes for when he and Goku faced down Kid Buu, he once again commented on the fact that he got smaller, rather than his higher energy. That said, I think that it is also sort of a passive ability in that if someone's energy shoots through the roof or drops through the floor, they can notice it relatively easily. Now, I think most anyone in DBZ would probably not have fallen for that trick of Gohan's, but Vegeta's pride and ego are big weaknesses for him, and he tends to stop thinking clearly when they've been insulted. I don't know, maybe I'm just over thinking things a little, but that's my take on it.
Also, please don't jump to conclusions about Gohan saying that Vegeta came to Earth to clear the planet or that Goku is the one that killed Frieza and King Cold. While he has decided to tell them the truth, he has no intention at all to tell them about the dragon balls or Trunks and his time traveling adventures. So, to be blunt, he was lying through his teeth. I know most of you probably understood this when you read it, but I'm just trying to cover all of my bases here.