Chapter 16: Ascension

-d-b-z-

The world was burning and Celutte did her best to prevent it. She fired weak ki blasts at the fires, starving them of air and extinguishing them, but soon realized the futility. She needed to stop the cause of the chaos first. As on cue, her aunt's and uncle's bodies crashed next to her, mangled almost beyond recognition, yet somehow still breathing. Up in the air, Gohan and Norc were still fighting the fiend that had started this.

Celutte felt a momentary pang of jealousy at the golden aura of power surrounding her king, but soon decided it was not important right now. Their opponent didn't seem to register the hundreds of hits inflicted on his person, his body pristine and uninjured. In comparison, the super and demi Saiyans were visibly a mess.

Frieza laughed maliciously at the futility of it all, his giant frame, twenty times Celutte's height, heaving in cruel mirth. "I am invincible!" he shouted, scowling at something in the air and suddenly snatching it.

In horror, Celutte watched as Frieza's fist slowly closed around a captured Glacia, her Icean friend letting a death wail before being crushed. "Death to the traitors", crooned Frieza, throwing the remains in the air and incinerating them with his fiery breath.

The other two Saiyans tried to attack once more, but a mess of spiked tentacles erupted from Frieza's back, slapping them away. "Death to everyone!"

Overcoming her paralysis, Celutte took to the air, hitting Frieza right in the face and causing him to stumble. She was almost knocked to the ground in retaliation, but recovered just before crashing.

"Nice try, little insect, but it won't be enough. I have defeated the super-Saiyan, what hope do you have?"

"Shut up!" replied Celutte defiantly. "I will match Norc's power. I will surpass it. I need to surpass it." Frieza laughed again, easily guarding against the ensuing attacks, and the Saiyan lost herself in the heat of battle.

-d-b-z-

The first thing Spea did when she saw Celutte was to slap her scouter back on her face and activate one of the still-working options, causing a small filter to cover her mouth and nose, frantically prompting Gohan to do the same.

Speech was a bit tricky, but Gohan managed. "What is this thing?" he asked, referring to the giant plant.

Spea sighed. "We haven't given it a name. It's actually the second specimen I know of and we destroyed the first years ago. This plant gives off a hypnotic smell particularly effective against beings with high energy. It traps its victims and causes them horrible hallucinations, leeching off the power they leak."

Gohan resisted the urge to simply rip the leafy cocoon apart, trusting Spea had a good reason to approach slowly. "To save the victims, one must slowly unwrap them and gradually take them away from the fumes. The hallucinations are so strong that cutting them abruptly is lethal." She grabbed one purple leaf's end and slowly started peeling it off. "Just keep the poison thorns off me", she added casually, and Gohan yelped, rushing to deflect a giant wooden spike that had been flying towards the older Saiyan.

"What exactly causes a plant to evolve so aggressively?", he groused, as more spikes flew at them.

Any further reverie was cut short by Spea's surprised yelp. The Saiyan had almost extracted her niece when Celutte's already active aura exploded outwards, her motions turning violent. "Help me keep her still", ordered Spea, her voice very strained.

Gohan did so, blinking when the girl's white aura started flickering golden. Her eyes opened, but there were no pupils and a particularly strong kick sent Spea flying. The demi-Saiyan kept her immobile, regarding her fascinated before he sighed. With a practiced chop at the back of her neck, she fell into deep unconsciousness, aura dissipating.

Gohan almost jumped off his skin when the main body of the dangerous plant beneath him exploded and was atomized, courtesy of a very angry Spea's energy overkill. "She okay?"

Gohan smiled. "I knocked her out", he replied, ignoring Spea's calculating gaze as she rubbed her gut, where Celutte's kick had landed. "I have a feeling she'll be more than fine", he added cryptically, Spea smirking in response. They waited a few more minutes in silence, as the fumes around them slowly dissipated.

-d-b-z-

Gohan opened his eyes after using the Instant Transmission to warp to where the lethal plant used to be. Back in the Saiyan city anyone who would look for him was either fretting over Celutte, who had settled into an uneven sleep, or way too tired.

The hybrid stared at the still warm remains in contemplation, debating whether to grab a sample while he could, when what he had really been expecting happened.

"Now that your friend is safe, I would talk to you, master Gohan."

However mistrustful, the demi-Saiyan nodded. "Lead me, then", he thought more than muttered. A beacon appeared in his mind and he was soon flying above the forest, picking up speed, the setting sun on his back. Even with his full base power, it took him an hour to reach his destination, an enormous old crater, choke-full with rampant purple vegetation. The area was dominated by a gigantic tree, located in the middle of said crater, which also happened to be the largest living organism Gohan had ever seen, towering at fifty times the height of the average Ozaru. It seemed to glow softly in the night, obscuring most of the starlit sky above him.

Landing on one of the tree's giant roots, wide enough to build an airport on, he gazed at another figure that had just appeared out of thin air. Its body was translucent and poorly defined, made out of bright green energy. The almost shapeless entity seemed to shudder, then it condensed into a rough copy of Gohan's own likeness, though still ghostly.

"Who and what are you?" demanded Gohan, still very much on guard. His instincts were calm, but he had decided a healthy dose of paranoia would serve him well against a being he couldn't quite feel.

The semblance of a smile appeared on the apparition's face. "I am Sutric. My nature is somewhat unique, to my knowledge, though I do happen to be this planet's guardian."

Gohan's eyes went wide and he focused his senses more, finally smirking in satisfaction. "You are the tree. What I see before me is just a projection."

Sutric shrugged. "I have found it is easier to communicate with entities of comparable size. This energy construct is a very convenient avatar to allow me just that."

The Saiyan nodded. "So, why is the planet's guardian contacting me? Judging from what I've seen, you've kept your presence hidden from the colonists."

The wood under their feet seemed to come alive, forming two seats and a table. Sutric's avatar made a big show out of sitting down and asking Gohan to do the same. Rolling his eyes, the hybrid complied. "First of all, you should learn some of my history, master Gohan. Eons ago, this planet had a different name and housed a native race of sentient beings. I was already old at that point and as they progressed enough to form the first primitive towns, I became the planet's guardian, under the galaxy's Kais."

Sutric seemed to sag a bit, his face solemn. "Despite my best efforts and my charges' considerable fortitude, they didn't manage to survive to this day. It was a freak accident, really, a virus mutated just so to be extremely lethal. The few survivors couldn't maintain a population and died out a couple generations later. "

Gohan rubbed his chin. "I take it you didn't mind it when the Saiyans landed."

The tree avatar smiled. "That's quite an understatement. I didn't care about the reputation of the Saiyan race, especially since these were fugitives and not raiders. I was delighted to once again share this planet with actual people. I can send my avatars to the Otherworld, of course, but actually having charges to look after appeals to my nature."

The demi-Saiyan frowned. "Look after... Were you the reason Frieza never found this place?"

The other shrugged. "It wasn't easy, covering the whole planet with magic, confusing minds and sensors, allowing only those with good intentions to come. I had my work cut out for me. "

Gohan closed his eyes. "You know about me, more than anyone on this planet. For you to actually contact me means serious trouble."

Sutric emulated a sigh. "It is not my place to dictate what you'll do. However, the galaxy owns you a great debt and I personally respect you greatly. I felt Cell's power all the way from here. I believe you have the right to know of the incoming danger. A huge swarm of Esprag, the same destructive organisms you met while coming here, is heading towards this world. We have perhaps two standard weeks left and I can't fool their senses like I would with any other incoming threat. I have not yet decided on my course of action, but I would like you to warn the other Saiyans about the impending danger. They'll be more receptive if it comes from you."

The hybrid clenched his fists. "I should have fought them in space, when I had the chance."

The tree actually chuckled. "It's a good thing you didn't, master Gohan. Without the lure of a planet to consume, the Esprag would have overwhelmed you. Perhaps you'd be able to shrug off their attacks or even drive them away, but your ship and your friends wouldn't have survived. Your teleportation technique would be the only reason you'd escape."

Gohan nodded, then smiled. "I'll help you out Sutric. I'll fight them with you."

"The Saiyans might decide to flee", tried the guardian, but was cut off before he could say more.

"It's not like you can do the same, can you? I could try to teleport your body…"

Sutric shook his head. "All teleportation powers are restricted by mass, else people would move planets and suns around all the time. Fleeing is not an option for me and I wouldn't want to abandon my home world either."

Gohan nodded. "I believe most Saiyans will want to stay, but, as you said, it's too early for decisions. I have to warn them first."

-d-b-z-

Gohan appeared out of thin air close to the Saiyan colony and removed the fingers from his forehead. The morning sun was just peaking from the edge of the horizon and the insects and small animals around him seemed as lively as ever. He and Sutric had spent some time talking, then Gohan had opted to take a nap right there on the huge root. He hoped nobody had noticed his absence.

He casually blocked a kick before he even realized someone had ambushed him. He might have been terribly distracted, but his body and reflexes were not. "Good morning, Celutte. I see you are fine", he chirped.

"Vile power-hider!" she joked, snorting when he, very maturely, stuck his tongue out. "I just realized I got a huge power boost from that bastard plant and I wanted to try it out, but you are as infuriating as always."

Gohan raised a brow. "So, why aren't you with Spea, wiping the floor with her soldiers? They can sure use the help."

Celutte kicked a pebble hard enough to embed it to a nearby tree. "My dear aunt has grounded me. Declared that nobody is to spar with me for a week!"

Gohan took a step back as she eyed him hungrily. "Oh no, I won't go against Spea, thank you very much."

The Saiyan girl rolled her eyes. "That's what they all tell me. I need to work on my intimidation to get as formidable as auntie. I did use to have a kickass sword, but some cheeky brat atomized it", she added accusingly.

He scowled at that. "Well, you shouldn't have waved that space slug skewer in my face, then. You'll need a better weapon, at least able to endure your power, never mind mine."

Celutte's smile was decidedly toothy. "Awesome! You're finally acting like a Saiyan, getting all hot and bothered. Have at me, vile power-hider!"

She tried to land more than one hits, but Gohan casually dodged everything, not landing a single finger poke, to her great ire. They were close to the spaceport when it happened. Moving a bit faster than she could control, Celutte painfully collided with a cloaked figure, whose face was concealed.

It didn't remain so much longer, as the two rolled on the ground and smashed through the trunk of another tree, a pile of arms and legs. "Get off me, you idiot!" she snarled.

At the same time, the figure spoke back. "Not my fault, you crazy… Celutte?"

Her eyes went wide as his hood fell. "Norc? What in the name of the Moon goddess are you doing here? Where are your bodyguards?"

Away from the revering crowds, Norc seemed a lot less imposing, in Gohan's opinion. "None of your business, brat! Now let your king go, I'm in a hurry."

They seemed ready to start beating each other up, when Gohan noticed some very important details. The large backpack on the king's back and the full Saiyan armor he was wearing underneath his cloak.

"King Norc", he started, stealing both their attention while hazarding a guess. "Do you intend to fight and commit suicide or run away?"

He froze at the words, his jaw opening and closing without a sound. His apprehensive glance towards the sky confirmed Gohan's theory.

"What is he talking about, Norc?" demanded the girl, her hand having trapped the king's wrist and holding tightly.

Norc eyed Gohan resolutely, then sighed. "An Esprag swarm is coming our way. Will reach in two weeks. The news just came in. By noon everyone will know."

The hybrid nodded. "I noticed you didn't answer my question…"

Norc snarled, breaking Celutte's hold. "Shut up! I haven't decided that yet. It could be either."

Celutte's other hand grabbed him from the top of his armor, just below his neck. "What were you thinking, idiot? Would you try to fight these things in space alone? Would you run away and leave all the people who look up to you high and dry? What the hell is wrong with you?"

His answer started with a vicious headbutt that knocked her off him. "You know nothing! You have no idea how it is! People see my power and expect me to be perfect. I'm expected to stop this menace easily. For a super-Saiyan, this should be a cakewalk, nothing but a chore, they will say."

Celutte rubbed her sore head. "Bullshit! If you try to rally them, everyone will fight. Do you think so little of your so-called people? Just how inflated is your head, Norc?"

Gohan was about to point out how ironic it was for Celutte to accuse anyone of being full of themselves, but was stopped short when he felt Norc's energy surging.

"Do you really believe there is anyone on this planet that can fight next to me?" he shouted. An unnatural wind picked up, bending tree branches to their breaking point. The ground started shuddering and Norc' s aura flickered from white to gold many times, before settling for the later. With an echoing shout, his hair snapped from black to gold and his eyes became teal pools of power. He let a labored gasp then glared at Celutte, who seemed to instinctively shrink away from him, before steadying herself. She absently noted how unimpressed Gohan seemed to be, before throwing caution to the wind and attacking her ascended king.

Gohan sighed annoyed as he watched the female Saiyan doing the equivalent of an average Human trying to beat a steel bridge to pieces with his bare hands. He should have stopped it before it had started, in fact he was ready to do so should Norc take it too far, but something told him to keep watching instead.

When Celutte had sparred with Gohan, he had at least made it seem like he was trying. Norc wasn't about to care for such courtesy, rebuking and neutralizing each attack with nothing but an index finger. It didn't matter if Celutte was throwing herself or uprooted trees and boulders at him. It only served to make him angrier, although he seemed able to control it, to a point.

Gohan sighed again. Norc had even less control over the transformation than Goku had had when he had returned to earth after a year's hiatus. He resisted the urge to rub his forehead when he noticed the little altercation was attracting a constantly growing audience. Saiyans of every age and build had started to gather in a wide circle around the two combatants, eager to see their king in action.

A frazzled Spea and Rasok soon spotted him and rushed to his side. "What is the idiot girl doing this time?" she spat, biting her lip. The tip of her tail, naturally wrapped around her slim waist, was twitching mightily, though Gohan couldn't say whether it was out of worry or excitement.

"Should we stop them?" asked Rasok a bit naively, wilting away when both Spea and Gohan glared at him. "I wasn't volunteering!" he assured them.

An audible hit snapped their attention back to the not-quite-fight and they turned just in time to see Celutte smashing to the ground like a ragdoll, after having collided painfully with Norc's extended finger. It wasn't enough to down the tenacious girl and she was soon flying back to the fray.

"You are expecting something", noticed Spea and Gohan nodded. "I saw what happened when we removed her from the plant yesterday. Do you think…?"

Gohan closed his eyes and extended his senses. He found what he was looking, bubbling just beneath the surface. "She must need it", he replied. "Simple desire is not enough. The plant hallucinations advanced her a lot, but the final push is hers and hers alone."

"What are you all talking about?" asked Glacia meekly. Gohan hadn't noticed her before, since the Icean seemed to be hiding her power almost completely. Her eyes were glued on the golden corona of power suspended in the sky and she seemed to be trying not to show she was shivering.

Gohan licked his suddenly dry lips, then approached the Icean girl. She latched on him like on a lifeline and he awkwardly hugged her. "It's just a super-Saiyan, Glacia", he tried.

"He is golden. I knew about the aura colour, but I didn't expect it to be so…. golden. I can feel his power weighting on me, as if the gravity has tripled." Her eyes were still turned upwards even as she kept babbling.

The hybrid sighed at how out of it his Icean friend was. "Yes, his control is appalling", he muttered, earning incredulous glances from anyone that had heard him.

-d-b-z-

Celutte could ignore the physical pain. It was only natural, of course, because pain meant power for Saiyans and the more they could endure without going mad, the stronger they'd later get. Therefore, despite plowing large expanses of ground with her face, despite getting hit by fingers that felt like meteorites, the pain was, if not negligible, bearable.

It was her shame that hurt her more. Despite her quarrels with Norc, the two had been friends. Before his trip, when she had cleanly surpassed him, she had started ignoring him. After he had returned, he had also returned the favor and she had done nothing to stop him.

Celutte failed to dodge the next, lazy, blow and was catapulted upwards, stopping herself just before she could enter low orbit.

The Saiyan girl was many things, but she had never before considered herself a coward. Yet, after Norc's ascension to king, she had frantically avoided him. Her excuse was she had been waiting to become just a bit stronger before fighting him, to have just a bit more power. Which was rubbish of course.

She felt a bone break as she delivered her next, ineffective, hit, but wasn't sure which one in the heat of battle.

She could finally gauge their difference in power and the results were disheartening. She had always been a bit more skilled, a bit faster to react, but that was back when they were pretty much equals. The transformation made all that pointless, gave Norc such an overwhelming boost that trying to counter with anything else was the height of stupidity.

Norc slapped her though a long line of trees, but she had just barely managed to take a glance at his eyes and they spoke of anger, pity and sadness, all amplified to the n-th degree.

Therefore she wanted the power for herself. There was little to no information about the golden legend, mostly fairytales and hearsay. As far as she knew, Norc was the only super-Saiyan in the universe and he hadn't breathed a vowel about how he had achieved that.

She returned to the air, trying to wipe her blurry eyes, but he was already there behind her, his attacks coming faster and faster, his wrath no longer containable, though she suspected he was still holding back, to a degree, because she was not dead yet.

Of course, there wasn't a Saiyan in history that hadn't desired the golden power after hearing the legends. Clearly, want was not enough, but what was? What actions could one possibly take to force their mind and body to change, to release the potential? Celutte needed to know. She needed to help Norc with a burden she could now understand, somewhat. She needed to help her aunt and uncle with the looming threat, which was only now sinking in. She needed to see just how strong Gohan, a true mystery since he had wiped the floor with her, then saved her the last time she was in over her head.

"What is with me getting thrashed so often these days? Stupid boys growing backbones and leaving me behind", she muttered, tasting blood.

In the end, Celutte needed to transform, because she refused to stay back, she refused to be worthless to those she was close to.

-d-b-z-

Norc's astonishment was so acute, it was actually visible on his till then enraged face. His last attack, a punch, had been caught as if it was nothing and he had been kicked away without even noticing. He wasn't hurt, of course, but the unexpected change did cut through his growing anger and he paused.

The local Saiyan king found himself watching dumbfounded, along with everyone else, sans Gohan, as Celutte, her aura golden and her eyes flashing teal, let a piercing cry that shattered the earth around her, put fire to a dozen trees and started a storm. She grabbed her head with both hands, as if trying to keep it together from splitting in twain, and her screams became keens. Her voice reached a crescendo, then her aura exploded outwards, knocking half the crowd-every Saiyan not unconscious by now- off their feet. The transformation complete, she opened her eyes and regarded her golden hair, before turning and smirking viciously at Norc.

The battle was not one-sided anymore. As far as raw power was concerned, the girl was ahead of the older teen, but Norc had slightly better control. They fell upon each other mercilessly, of course, and soon there was only rage and their opponent in their minds. Gone was the planet around them, their friends and family, the Esprag threat. All thought and worries were consumed in the martial dance, a clash that could have only one victor, as soon as the other died.

Just as they were ready to smack each other with point-blank ki shots, something they couldn't quite perceive kicked both of them off the air, sending them to form the yet most impressive artificial crater on the planet.

-d-b-z-

Glacia only registered Gohan was gone after the two super-Saiyans had crashed. Her white skin somehow turned even paler when she saw Gohan descending from above them and cracking his knuckles.

In the silence that ensued, his voice rang cleanly. "Super-Saiyans are very susceptible to negative feelings, like anger and pride. When possible, a stronger, rational party should be on hand to kick their asses and deflate their swollen heads without killing them."

Both Norc and Celutte, still transformed, recovered from his attack and were glaring at him, though they hadn't tried to engage him yet. "What the hell is your problem!" demanded the girl, her aura still producing tiny quakes.

"Yeah, this is between super-Saiyans!" added Norc, snarling. "You wouldn't understand."

The fact none of them had questioned his ability to completely outclass two legendary transformations was a testament to how muddled their brains were. Gohan groaned, knowing that his words would be wasted if he didn't do something radical.

"Funny you should say that, guys", he replied nonchalantly. "I could certainly beat you down as I am, but to avoid bruising your formidable egos, I'll change too."

The collective gasp was almost surreal. As surreal as when he shifted into a super-Saiyan midsentence, with no effort at all, while disturbing not a single leaf.

-d-b-z-

End of chapter 16

Scouter corner:

Gohan: 12,050,000 – 2000(resting) – 1,205,000,000(mastered ssj)

Glacia: 140,000 – 7,000(resting)

Rasok(recovered): 48,500

Celutte: 115,000- 4,600,000(false ssj)- 130,000(after plant) –6,500,000(ssj)

Spea: 157,000

King Norc: 111,000(base)- 5,550,000(ssj)

Average Saiyan civilian: 6,000

Average Saiyan warrior: 18,000

Sutric: 800,000,000 – 80,000(avatar)

-d-b-z-

This chapter was hard. While super-Saiyans are a dime a dozen later in the series, I wanted to make Celutte's transformation somewhat dramatic. It's nowhere near Goku's, of course, but I wouldn't want to invest whole chapters either.

After a bit of downtime, we'll get to the Esprag attack and see whether Gohan will actually be challenged. . It will en-tail a very specific hurdle;)

Sutric is the result of wanting to show more and different planet 'gods'. So far, we've only seen Guru, Moori, Dende, Kami, his predecessor and a false allusion to planet Vegeta's guardian, if I'm not mistaken. That's four Nameks and two humanoids, so I made mine a tree.

My theory on power levels is that they follow certain arbitrary thresholds. Somewhere in the first chapters I had Gohan mention that breaking the 1,000 PL barrier is very hard and that it gets easier afterwards, which is my explanation of Goku in the original dragonball. For an average Saiyan, an increase of 1,000 is a huge deal, but for someone like Gohan, it's chump change…

I'm not done with the Iceans and the planet trade organization, but it will be some time before I return to them.

Thank you all for reviewing!