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Gohan was aware of speeding through a red world with a background of deep scarlet and clouds of a red so deep they were almost black for only a second before white light enveloped him and the ground rushed up at him.
The ground in the city rumbled as a streak of golden light burst from the hole in the clouds and hit the ground with enough force to crack windows and blow out lights across the city. Everyone closest to the blast shielded their eyes. When the dragon pulled himself free of his void, he looked down at the assembled Z fighters. "Your wish has been granted. Farewell!"
"Hey!" Bulma shouted, "What about the second wish? Get back here you stupid dragon!"
The dragon was gone in a burst of light. The Dragonballs lifted into the sky of their own accord then scattered to the ends of the earth. The sky cleared and everything was back to normal. Well, everything except for the cloud of dust hanging everywhere. Bulma shrugged. "I guess ripping through space-time really takes it out of you."
"Gohan?" Chichi called, her heart pounding in her throat.
When a black shadow stood up in the pall, Chichi threw herself at it with wild abandon. "Gohan!"
"Mom?" Gohan managed to ask before he was steamrolled by his mother.
"Oh my Gohan," Chichi breathed, stroking her son's hair, "you're alright, you're okay. You're…" she took a step back and saw the small bandages here and there on his body, small leftovers of Gohan's wounds from Orochimaru. "You're a mess! What the hell do you think you're doing, young man, getting into a fight?"
"I had to, Mom," he answered, "or someone important to me would have died." He looked at the developed photo Iruka had just taken. Gohan, Sakura, and Naruto were in the center frame, smiling fondly. Gohan and Sakura were arm-in-arm, grinning like idiots and Naruto, megawatt fox grin firmly in place, was trying to climb over their shoulders. One hand was on Gohan's head, the other was in Jiraiya's face, who had tried for the cool and distant crossed arms pose, but had it messed up by Naruto's exuberance. Kakashi was on the other side of the frame, Icha Icha book in hand and not paying any attention at all to the camera.
He was hugged by his mother. "I'm home, Mom."
"Thank God," she whispered then stepped back, suddenly severe. "Now you march right back home, young man. You have months of studying to catch up on!" Chichi started walking away when Gohan's voice stopped her.
Everyone, from Vegeta to Oolong, looked like lighting had just struck them. Gohan had never defied his mother so brazenly before. At least not in public.
"What?" Chichi asked, her voice dangerous. "Listen to your mother. You are going back home and…"
"Training," Gohan interrupted. "I'm training."
"Well," Vegeta said, coming forward, an approving smirk on his face. "The son of Kakkarot has some proper Saiyan pride in him after all. And what brought on this miraculous change of heart?"
"I'm going back to that world in three years," Gohan said. His tone brooked no room for doubt and he steamrolled ahead before his mother could cut him off. "I promised everyone that I would." He glanced at the photo again and for the first time, they noticed the odd piece of armor on his arm.
It was a metal plate tied to a band of navy-blue. In the exact center of the plate was a design. It was a swirl with an odd triangle part on one end and a straight line on the other. It looked oddly like a leaf.
"Piccolo," Gohan said. "Would you mind training me again?"
The Namekian gave an approving half-smile. "Sure kid. I'll have you back into shape in no time."
"Stop right there, Son Gohan!" Chichi thundered. "I already told you I will not have another karate bum in this house! You will study and stay right here, where you belong!"
"No," Gohan said. "I know I shouldn't be saying that to you, Mom, but I'm going back. There's no way to stop me."
"Why?" Yamcha asked. "Why's it so important to you to go back there?"
"I said I promised them."
"But who did you promise?" Master Roshi asked.
"Sakura and Naruto," Gohan replied with a grin.
"Who?" Piccolo asked, raising an eyebrow.
Gohan's grin got wider.
"We'd better go inside," Gohan said, walking towards the entrance to Capsule Corp. "Have I got a story to tell you."
So ends Gohan's Dilemma. I want to thank all of you for your support and reviews. This story idea came to me in Chemistry class in High School while I was daydreaming (probably when I should've been paying attention to the teacher). It sat in the back of my head for years until I decided to write it down. This thing cleared 1100 reviews at the time of this A/N writing, something that is sure to have changed by now. I never dreamed that it would be this popular. I would've been happy with a hundred, but you all have given so much more than that and I thank you again for it. It's no small achievement on your part either. Let me put this in perspective for you. At its end, Gohan's Dilemma was 624 pages in Microsoft word. That's 312 paper pages, printed front and back. That comes out to only thirty or so pages shorter than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which sits at 341. And you read all of it. For a final time, thank you for the effort you put into reading it. I hope you enjoyed more than I enjoyed writing it. That said, we're not done yet!
I'll see you all in Gohan's Return! Look for it in October! I've got the first four chapters done and the fifth is well on its way!