The Fists of Dedication

It was a beautiful morning just outside Shine City. The designated parkland of the continent was teeming with visitors of all stripes. Two particular visitors stood at the far north-eastern end of the park in a mountain pass. One stood in the sunlight, attacking an unknown enemy. The other sat at a distance, levitating and training in his mind.

The one standing was a young girl of about ten by the name of Gochu Pitalia. Her black hair, brown eyes, and strong fighting skills spoke of a weathered warrior, having trained since she was a small girl at the Academy of Martial Arts. Her black hair flew like a dark river behind her strong head, and her white, light, fitted clothing felt almost nonexistent on her body as she practiced her fighting. Her white sneakers lay off to the side. Atop them lay a white sweat towel. A direct descendant of a legendary warrior from the past, she had vowed as a small child to be just like him, down to his blond hair. She had dyed it once, but she had given that up quickly as the dye job was all but gone the following hour. She had also been the victor of the past five Galactic Martial Arts tournaments, both in competition and technique fields. However, she just couldn't get the upper hand on her best friend and confidante in energy control. She was easily the victor in power, consistency, agility, and overall fighting prowess, where he always won in innovation, variety, and creativity.

That friend was the levitated body sitting in the shade. He had dark skin and brown eyes. His head was covered only in a white and yellow ball cap, and he sported baggy tan cargo jeans and white T-shirt with the word "Life" in blue and red cursive on the front. His name was Phoenix Levesque, and he was a master of all things energy at the young age of ten. His training consisted mainly of imagining different ways of manipulating energy and getting them to work in reality. Sometimes they worked, but sometimes they did not, though he had a near-85 success rate, the highest in the world. He was always the runner-up of the Galactic Martial Arts Tournament every year.

Gochu and Phoenix had sparred many times in the past, and the battles had always been even and full of fireworks, and always on some distant, uninhabited island. Both knew levitation and flight in some form or another. At the last tournament, hosted by the Tavercis colony in Espeol VII, both of their power levels had registered approximately 2,000 power index count or P.I.C., most often referred to as 'pic', apiece. After Gochu averaged it out, she found that year on year she had been gaining about 300 pic since she had started training. She bought a scouter, a little device one wore over their ear, and had been tracking her power since to push herself to greater gains. She had managed a gain of 170 pic over the four months since the tournament alone. She wanted to make 200 pic by the half-year point.

With the change in ages came a change in the very core of the human race. The Saiyan genome was passed down through the generations from a legendary group of Saiyans, known at this time as the Golden. These Golden gave the gift of intergalactic fighting to the human race, which has inevitably saved humanity countless times over the past fifteen hundred years. This also eliminated the need for weaponry, and all weapons except those which the human could train his or her body to harness were employed. At first, the Saiyan method of marking fighters was used – the power index count or "pic" was used to determine fighters' classes and battle prowess. However, the humans soon learned that pic wasn't as important as the fighters' own personal ability, as this allowed the person's pic to grow faster than and eventually exceed that of his greatest adversary. It was also noted by scientists that the pic was still good as a general guide, but it was the annual effort yield, or A.E.Y., that was more important. The average human would gain about 60 pic annually from a starting power level of approximately two to ten pic, as most humans trained approximately three times a week. However, further research showed that a human's A.E.Y. tripled between the ages of 14 and 25 due to the rapid pubic growth that occurred during that time. The average human registered a good, strong 8,000 pic per person at their peak of 29 years of age, weakening to about 5,000 by the end of their life should they remain in good health.

Gochu's pursuit wasn't of power. It was always to fight someone stronger than her, to find that person to push her and make her fight for her life. The thrill it gave her was immeasurable, especially when it wore her to the breaking point. She always seemed to fight better half-dead in total numbing pain than fully awake. Time seemed to slow. The world was easier to anticipate. It was like she was in an unconscious, comatose state of total wakefulness, relying solely on instinct and adrenaline to get the job done.

Phoenix, on the other hand, was in pursuit of the limits of his imagination. He was insistent on trying to find out the limits of energy control. He had already forgotten more techniques and attacks than most kids learn during their entire lives. In fact, he usually forgot all but the most creative and effective of techniques from the year before after the major tournament ended. It was because of his unpredictability that most foes found him extremely hard to counterattack, though Gochu had learned how to anticipate the unanticipated through their battles.

This year was the thousandth anniversary of the Intergalactic Battle Association. The commemorative festival was to be held in eight months' time, at the next tournament, which Gochu was going to win. She was hoping that her job would allow her to buy a car this year to allow her to go herself, but she knew she would have to ride the shuttle with her father, just like last year.

She stopped fighting the invisible opponent. Sighing, she picked up her towel, wiped her face off with it, slipped her shoes and socks on, and plopped down beside Phoenix. The boy extracted himself from his training, looked over at her, and smiled.

"So, did you get what you wanted?"

Gochu slipped on a scouter, a standard-issue eyepiece for anyone undertaking serious training. It looked like a small Bluetooth headset with a screen that covered the eye. She tapped a button and waited for its' signal. When it came, she sighed.

"No," she said. "I'm off by about three points. If only lunch hours weren't so short…"

The eyepiece came alive with an image of their teacher. "Gochu Pitalia and Phoenix Levesque! Come in, please!"

Gochu tapped the communication button. "Yes, Mr. Strike?"

Mr. Strike was a tubby man, but nobody in the school could match his fighting prowess. Despite having the lowest pic in the entire school at about 900, he had the highest instinct rating in the world. He could tell what you were going to do simply by your breathing at the start of the match! Even Gochu and Phoenix respected him because of that. Unfortunately for Gochu, Phoenix got more out of training with Mr. Strike than she did because he stressed creativity and variety, something she just wasn't good with.

"The school bell will ring in half an hour," Mr. Strike's deep voice crackled through the speaker. "By my scouter, you are about twenty-five minutes away. You should probably make your way back now."

"Yes, Mr. Strike," Gochu said. She hung up.

Phoenix stood up. "That was Mr. Strike."

Gochu nodded. "Yes. He wants us to return to school now."

"I heard," Phoenix confirmed. "But he said we have five minutes, right?"

"I'm not about to get into school late again because we got lost in a fight, OK?" Gochu demanded. "I've been late far too many times this term, and my G.P.A. isn't in the best shape either."

"When have you been concerned about school?" Phoenix asked. "Last I che-"

Gochu launched into the air, flying as fast as a jet would towards school.

Phoenix's face was crossed with a mischievous grin. He began charging up an energy blast. Gochu's scouter snapped on to the sudden increase in power. She stopped, alerted to the danger coming her way.

Phoenix launched a volley of energy strikes at his friend, laying into her with a myriad of energy blasts. Gochu quickly prepared a defence as the volley of energy began to connect. Twenty blasts connected with her arms in rapid succession. She deflected them all away from herself successfully. She generated a blast and smirked back.

"You really know how to goad a girl into a fight," she shouted.

Phoenix held up his hands. "Bring it on!"

Gochu held up her hands. "Let's do this!"

They focussed on generating energy. Their scouters started racking up the energy count, increasing rapidly as the energy they controlled increased. They passed a thousand pic… then two thousand pic passed by. Phoenix thrust his arms and declared his attack…

"Firebird Missile!"

Gochu launched her own… "Calamity Cannon!"

The energy blasts collided. Gochu and Phoenix's strength test had begun! They pushed against each other's blasts for a few intense minutes, summoning every extra ounce of strength within themselves to the battle.

Phoenix smiled. He pulled a hand back and generated a second one.

"Here's what I was working on!" Phoenix shouted. "Firebird Collision!"

His other blast came roaring down the pipeline, spiralling around his already-existent wave… but Gochu didn't look fazed.

With a loud grunt, Gochu's blast split into hundreds of little blasts. She leapt high into the air, allowing Phoenix's blast to hit the earth and explode, creating a giant hole about five metres in diameter. Phoenix looked around.

"I hope I didn't kill her…" he said, biting his nails.

The dust began to settle. He looked around.

"Wait a minute… I know her better than that," he remembered. "She wouldn't die from something like that."

Suddenly, a ball of energy pelted his back. Then two more struck him. He looked up just as Gochu proclaimed her attack…

"Calamity Hail!"

Caught completely off-guard, Phoenix was helpless as Gochu's balls of energy slammed into him and blew up. Then, another thing he didn't expect was his friend ploughing headlong into his stomach and slamming him into the earth. She backflipped, and landed on her feet.

"Now can we get to school?" she asked.

Phoenix nodded, wearily getting up from the thrashing he had just taken. "Yeah… now we can go."

Gochu took off. Phoenix huffed. He had hoped she had been slacking, but he knew it just wasn't true. Gochu wasn't that type of girl. She had been talking about redoubling her training so she could achieve the Goldens' level of power. She had done that and more. Phoenix had been keeping up with her old speed, and now he was falling behind. He looked up as his friend flew off.

"Drat…" he mumbled. "She's really picked up her training this year…" He took off. "That means I'm going to have to catch up."

Phoenix had the type of luck where he always found himself in pursuit of his closest rival, and usually on the losing end. He didn't mind coming in second. He actually enjoyed being the first loser because the champion usually had too much responsibility to take care of – touring, fan autographs, et cetera. Usually it was enough to turn even the most humble fighter into a snob, but not Gochu. She had managed to keep a level head for five straight years and continue to push herself, fighting to maintain her number one rank every year even though she really didn't need to.

Halfway there, Phoenix caught up to Gochu.

"How much time do we have left, Gochu?" Phoenix asked.

Gochu checked her clock on her scouter… "Oh crap! We're gonna be late by ten minutes! Let's step it up, Phoenix!"

Phoenix, shocked, shouted, "What!? We couldn't have battled for more than five minutes! How could we be ten minutes late?"

Gochu looked back. "I don't know, but we better step on it if we hope to make it back to school!"

Phoenix and Gochu shot off into the distance.

About ten minutes later, they saw the school. Mr. Strike was waiting outside the school for them with the rest of their class. Gochu and Phoenix looked at each other in wonder, each pondering what their coach was thinking.

A voice from the ground shouted, "Hey! Gochu! You get kissed up?"

Gochu blushed and shouted, "I'll get you for that, Peatree!"

"Yeah..." a cackling boy replied. "We're waiting to see the kisses on Phoenix's face! Come here and show us the lipstick marks, Phoenix!"

The ground erupted into a roar of laughter. Phoenix and Gochu blushed.

"Let's get 'em…" Gochu said.

Phoenix nodded. "Agreed."

Six of the people on the ground launched upward into the air toward the duo in the sky. Phoenix charged up an energy blast. Gochu stopped and prepared for the assault.

Mr. Strike's deep, booming voice exploded over the school plain.

"Take your frustrations out after school! Now is no time to play games!"

Everyone in the sky froze. At that precise moment the bell rang. The students flew into the school.

"Gochu! Phoenix! You two promised me you were never going to arrive late for class," Mr. Strike said sternly. "You're in detention. Maybe we'll undergo some endurance training after for detention."

"Drat…" Phoenix mumbled.

"What was that?" Mr. Strike shouted.

Phoenix chuckled nervously as he entered the building.

A couple of minutes later everyone was seated at their desks in the eggshell-white classroom. The gray steel granite-topped desks were high enough for them to sit in comfortably. Each desk was equipped with two things: a fifteen-inch widescreen holographic projector known as a 'priva' with which the students did their schoolwork, and a light-pen called a 'lin', the common writing utensil of the age. Most people carried a smaller priva measuring about seven inches and a lin home, plugging their privas into the school's to download the homework for the day if they didn't finish it. Every desk in that twenty-student classroom was filled. Phoenix and Gochu sat in opposite ends of the room because Phoenix loved study and didn't want to be distracted. However, today he wasn't going to get the chance. Within ten minutes, Mr. Strike was out of the classroom and everyone was berating Gochu and Phoenix for their constant 'training'. Slowly Gochu and Phoenix grew more irritated until finally Gochu snapped. She leapt out of her desk and caught one of the students by the cheek, sending him careening into the other students in front of him because Gochu sat at the back of the class. She grabbed a desk and flung it at the pile of students against the wall.

But instead of hitting the students, she hit Mr. Strike.

The teacher by this time was ticked off, so he picked the desk off the ground and looked at Gochu. He turned to the other students and breathed a sigh intending to calm his nerves and maintain his composure.

"Gochu doesn't lose it unless someone pressures her to," he spoke. "Someone in here did something to tick her off."

He looked around at the rest of the class. "If the guilty party or parties does not come forward every last one of you will spend the afternoon in detention. Regardless, Gochu and Phoenix get to go free."

He chucked the desk back at Gochu, who caught it and set it down, tidying it and her stuff up. She sighed.

"But remember, you two have defence training after with me," Mr. Strike quickly reminded him. "I'm also your martial arts instructor."

Gochu and Phoenix nodded and hummed an affirmative reply. They sat down and finished off the day without another incident. The student never bothered the little girl in the back ever again. He had felt her suppressed power and vowed within himself never to awaken such fury again. This was green-haired Peatree, the spiked, cocky son of a snake that always annoyed the crap out of everybody he crossed.

About two hours later, the final bell rang for school. Gochu, Peatree, and Phoenix walked out of school together. Peatree was drilling Gochu on her training techniques, including what she ate, her schedule, everything. Gochu kept shrugging, insisting that Phoenix kept her on her toes most of the time with his creative, quick-thinking nature. That was the main thing that kept her training.

"Oh, come on…" Peatree huffed, indignant that it could be so simple.

Gochu growled in anger, but then sighed. She sat on a park bench.

"What's up, Gochu?" Phoenix asked. "Something's bugging you."

Gochu sighed. "I've never told anyone this, not even you, Phoenix, but there's something deeper than that that drives me. It almost feels like the Golden are within me, just exploding with anger at being kept inside."

Phoenix and Peatree sat beside her, listening intently. Gochu looked at the pair, Peatree to her left, Phoenix to her right. She sighed again.

"Phoenix drives me to higher levels, Peatree… That's certain, without a doubt…"

Gochu slapped her leg. "But it's not enough anymore. Phoenix is barely beginning to challenge me anymore. This planet itself bugs me for some odd reason, like I need more resistance or something. It's almost like I need to travel to the stars to get what I want."

Phoenix looked at her. "So, you weren't using your full power when you fought me. How long has this been going on?"

"The last three months, Phoenix," Gochu said. "I enjoy the fights we get into, but it doesn't feel… I don't know… enough."

Phoenix looked up at her, who now stood in front of them. "How can I help?"

"Beat me to within an inch of my life," Gochu demanded. "Just beat the ever-living tar out of me next time. Let loose. Imagine I'm a rampaging monster."

"B-but…" Phoenix mumbled. "You're not that strong. What if I go too far?"

Gochu repled, "When I tell you to stop, stop. I don't want you to stop until then."

Peatree looked at her, eyeing her up. "You know, if Phoenix is too chicken, I can give you your beating."

"Peatree, you couldn't give a beating to a baby," Gochu said. "I need someone close to my power level to push my limits. Your power was only 650 at the last tournament and you were beaten in two rounds by a five-year-old! It's Phoenix or bust."

At that moment, Peatree resolved to fight to match Gochu. She was his goal now, without equal in value.

"Gochu, train me." Peatree said. "I want to match you in power."

"Then train under me," a voice declared from behind them.

"Mr. Strike!!" Peatree exclaimed.

Mr. Strike, now dressed in tan khaki pants and a light blue shirt and appearing very casual, stood imposingly above the children.

"No, I want Gochu to train me," Peatree demanded.

The bald man looked the boy up and down. Smiling, he shook his head.

"No. Gochu hasn't yet completed her training under me yet. She must pass my final exam before she can train someone."

Gochu nodded, but blushed. "I haven't been working on it…"

Mr. Strike's face dropped. He sighed. "I can't train an unteachable soul, Gochu. Do it or you're out of my dojo."

Gochu gasped. "No! You can't!"

The aged man sighed once more. "It's my dojo, Gochu… Those are the rules. You only have two weeks left before you can start passing my techniques on."

"No…" the little girl whined. "It's too hard…"

Without looking back, the ancient warrior replied, "You can, Gochu. You can qualify for the Adult Tournament. I never asked for a win. Just to qualify is enough."

Phoenix placed his hand on her shoulder. "I know you're scared, but you can do this. It's in your blood. Your dad was a fighter. So was his dad."

The girl gathered herself. She clenched her teeth tightly together. Looking at her master's back, she nodded.

"O-okay, Mr. Strike," she said, still scared out of her mind. "I will."

He chuckled. "Good. I'll expect to see you in the ring in two weeks."

Gochu, Phoenix and Peatree watched Mr. Strike walk away. Gochu dropped her head, also intent on walking away, when Peatree stopped her.

"Gochu," he began.

But Gochu just brushed his hand away. "Go away, Peatree. I need to train."

Peatree was left alone as Gochu and Phoenix flew off into the wild blue yonder.

Dammit, Gochu… Peatree thought, I will NOT be shirked off like this… I will make you train me.

"I want to know your strength," he said. "I will be your rival, not Phoenix."

He took off in the other direction, intent on doing some training of his own.