"We all want to be happy, and we're all going to die. You might say those are the only two unchangeable true facts that apply to every human being on this planet." - William Boyd
The Super Saiyajin created an unfathomable mess, and then he simply faded away. He disappeared into obscurity as quickly as he had come, leaving the rest of the universe to wonder over what might have happened on Nameksei. Fictions and legends and bedtime stories were spun around the events that had taken place on that muddy wasteland of a planet, though there were few left alive who could speak with any authority on the matter. Only two people could have known what really occurred; Furiza was half of the pair, but in the year between the destruction of Nameksei and his death my brother spoke very little on the topic, and only in the vaguest of terms. The balance of what he did reveal was almost certainly pure invention.
When that business with the Saiyajin came to its unpredicted head on Nameksei, one might have hoped that humiliation and infirmary would teach my brother some small measure of common sense. Instead, the failure – no less than spent alone in the black void where the planet had been – drove from him what little restraint he'd had before. He was completely unmanageable after that, jittery and brittle in a way that I understood far better than I would have wished. By that point Cold was himself running scared, though he hid it better than Furiza. They imagined threats where there were none, and took the most extreme to quash them.
It was as much for fear's sake as pride that he and Father went to Earth to make a final end to the Saiyajin race. When they failed to return Koola followed after, only to disappear himself.
I didn't repeat Koola's mistake, though I felt some trepidation that a creature capable of killing even the most powerful Icejin might still lurk somewhere at the edge of the Empire. Not even Furiza and Cold together could not put the Super Saiyajin down; I wasn't foolish enough to hold ambitions of success where my betters had failed so profoundly. I put the matter out of my mind inasmuch as I could, and hoped that the Super Saiyajin would not come looking for further victims, or that if he did that he might be somehow appeased.
My family had given me little reason to mourn them, but the months following Koola's death were a dangerous time for me. Furiza had left no clear successor for his holdings – that one acted as though he expected to live forever – and though Koola had stepped into Furiza's place without challenge, he was gone almost as quickly.
There few truly fearsome creatures left in the known universe by then – after his shock on Nameksei, Furiza was driven to remove even the most unlikely of possible threats – but if enough races had decided to turn against me as one things might have gotten precarious. My biggest difficulties came from those who failed to understand that power was often measured on a sliding scaled, and presumed that because they were considered very fine by the standards of their species, and I poor by those of my own, they could overpower me. It was necessary to make a certain number of examples, but not as many as I might have expected. In this, Frost was instrumental to my success.
Frost was… abnormal. There are those who said – with good reason, I suppose – that my race is incapable of feeling anything approaching love, but I am certain that I do not delude myself when I say that he loved me. Expectations didn't run as high in his family, yet by any measure Frost was scandalously weak. Had they dared try it, the lowliest of Cold's royal guard might have killed him without much effort, and yet somehow this weakness seemed to instill in him a sort of invulnerability. Well aware of his helplessness, he did not allow fear of death to rule him. He studied the emotions of others, and anticipating the actions and moods others with perfect skill, and, gauging each shifting current, he defused the most perilous of situations.
It was Frost's sense for the feelings of others that kept him alive, and yet it was a two-sided blade. To see suffering – to even be aware of its existence – hurt him deeply, but always he turned that pain inward, against himself, and this was something I found both confusing and intensely frustrating. It was his complete unwillingness to harm that made it so difficult for me to take any course of action that would cause him harm, even vicariously, and which made me wish to lessen the burden of guilt he took upon himself for all our race. Though when the Empire fell to me, I refused to allow his sentimentality to have an injudicious influence on my decisions, when there was no risk or great loss in it I let him have his way.
It was Frost's machinations that kept the transition from Koola's rule to my own relatively bloodless. He had a sort of sense for other creatures – even the most barbaric or repulsive of species – that I lacked completely. Often he could make it seem almost as though there was some common ground between us and them. He could guess at what concessions or threats would quiet unruly races with an eerie precession, and had a talent for finding surprising uses for species that I would have dismissed as entirely worthless. Gone are the days when powerful and feral infants were sent off to every available planet, to conquer as they took their growth, wastefully striping the planet of much of its natural and technological resources in the process, along with perfectly useful labor bases. Everything is much neater and better organized now, and in the rare cases that it came to be that a planet must be depopulated it was done quickly and with the least possible amount of discomfort for the species in question. It wasn't enough for Frost, but he took what I could give him gracefully. He would take an interest in the planet slated for conquest, and point out those cases where the spoils could not justify the expense. Many unique but valueless biospheres were set in reserve at his urging. He had a bad tendency to collect useless and infuriating pets, skimmed from doomed planets.
For both our safety, I refused to allow anything open between Frost and myself until all were convinced that Cold and my brothers were good and forever and completely gone. Icejin do not die easily. In the absence of corpses, it was hard to credit reports that Cold and his favorite son had been slaughtered on some backwards little blue rock, and by no less than the legendary Super Saiyajin. It was especially hard to make certain about Koola, whose death seemed to have been tainted with some bizarre and inexplicable mysticism.
No such ambiguity surrounded Frost's death. I found him three nights past. Before, he'd been nearly as large as my father, but the disease had worn away at him, melting him down to naught but a taunt skin over sharp-pointed bone. The same illness eats at me, paining my chest and sapping my energy. Frost clung to life to the very end, but I'm not so brave as he. I do not wish to suffer as he did, nor do I have the courage to wait patiently on death. I'm a coward and I'm terrified, and if I knew of any way that was guaranteed to be successful I would have taken my own life already. As I said, death is rarely easy or quick for an Icejin, and for the longest time I could imagine no sure way to make an end of myself.
The answer came to me some hours after our guards had taken the body away.
Three of the most powerful Icejin to ever live, beings fit to subjugate the entire universe, found their deaths on the same backwater little planet, and all at the hands of the same brute. If it means a quick and certain death I can suffer the indignity of dying under the paws of such a creature. I imagine it will take little to provoke him into performing for me this service.
So I'll go to Earth, and I'll die there, and my task now is to simply maintain my composure for the interim.
Uragiru and Aiken were asleep in their quarters, or perhaps they were awake also. I have cautioned them that they must rest tonight, but some orders are impossible to follow. Aiken was mine. She was Inujin and thus loyal to her core, and such is her nature that she will die once I am gone. Uragiru was Frost's, and of little interest to me.
I should try to rest as well, but I cannot imagine returning to our quarters. Instead, I sit in this great, stupid throne, an overdone thing built to Cold's dimensions. Regardless, my lungs ache too badly tonight to consider rest. And I'm so frighten. It is possible that the Saiyajin may by now be dead himself, or weaken by age. What hope is there for me then?
I cannot allow myself to dwell on such ideas.
Any small sound will bring Aiken running to my side, dumb, loyal child that she is. It's only her breeding, and yet when I think of how the fool loves me I am at a lose to understand it. I would like to have her near me now, but no. Not tonight. She should be allowed to rest; we all must be at our best tomorrow.
I will be like Frost. I will be brave, and I will be calm, and I will not be afraid to die. I will make my choices and be content with them. I will.
My hand finds the com button. The voice that summons Aiken is weak, and unsteady, and so very, very scared.