A/N: Once again I appreciate all the reviews I've received and it warms my heart to see everyone still reading what I update, no matter the length of time. I will make no excuses as far as the length of time I have been on hiatus, but I do see you readers; the reviews and private messages I receive urged me to continue and I will. My goal is to finish this story and The Dragon's Knight before my birthday in October. Shall we see if I make my goal? Now, without further ado, I give you the return of our very own Mad Lion, Gohan Son.
All – I haven't gotten a chance to look at any questions, but there is ONE more chapter until Videl and Gohan reunite. Thank you for your continued reading, follows, favorites, reviews and private messages that keep me going. I may put the words on paper (or Word as it is) to make the story, but you guys keep the story alive.
P.S. You guys are totally stroking my ego with all the "favorite author" mail I keep getting; and I have to admit, it's pretty cool. (^_^) I may not know all of you on a personal level, but know that you guys are the best virtual friends I've had. Yes, even you flamers!
Note: This story is much darker than the original and probably a little less random. You'll see many familiar characters from Blessings but with enough new faces and places to keep the ball rolling. Enjoy.
Next scheduled update: 1 July, TDK
Shin's heart beat was loud in his ears as it seemed to beat slowly, his body vibrating in both shock and fear. Power, pure and undiluted, literally crashed into Earth like a Spirit Bomb and the shockwave shook the world with enough force to cause world-wide natural disasters. Even now, outside of Capsule Corp., emergency response vehicles took to the streets to treat the screaming masses. The more powerful Z Fighters were wary once it passed and the less powerful Z Fighters were quivering.
Krillin shuddered again. "What was that?"
Goku frowned and furrowed his brows as he tried to search for the source of the power. "Whatever it is its powerful."
"The bad guy maybe?" Trunks piped up and Goten nodded in agreement.
Shin hid a shudder as another vibration hit him and cleared his throat to address the Z Fighters. "It seems the villains are showing their hand. Maybe now we'll be able to find them." He glanced at the blue-haired scientist. "The dragon balls are secure?"
Bulma checked her equipment and breathed a sigh of relief when the results came back positive. "They're fine. The radio waves are doing what they're supposed to do."
The Kai gave a curt nod and scanned the Z Fighters. "Was anyone able to get a read of where the power burst came from?"
Goku's face scrunched for a moment and then he shook his head in the negative. He gave a sound of frustration as he tried again. "It was powerful, but it was also quick."
"It was like Goku said," Piccolo agreed, "For such a powerful outburst it only lasted a very short time. Also, though it should be easy to pin-point because it was so powerful, the power wave itself seemed everywhere at once and because of this no one will be able to decide even the direction it came from."
Shin glanced at Kibito who typically could find any power wave and frowned when he gave a slight nod in confirmation. He hated it when things like this happened. It made him feel as if he was them. His pride surged forth in his chest and he fought hard to keep it from showing on his face. He was a Kai and thus he was still above all the mortal life forms in this universe and the next. No matter what happened he would never associate himself with those beneath him in that way. Shin took a deep breath and turned to Bulma.
"Is there any way we could try and figure out which direction the wave was released? This way we could at least send scouts in that area."
The blue-haired scientist hesitated. "Possibly, but it'll take some time."
Inwardly the Kai cursed, but outwardly he smiled. "We have the time." He lied. We don't have time for this! "In the meantime we'll see if we can search ourselves."
"Oooh! Trunks and I want the north quadrant so we can make snowmen!" Goten jumped up enthusiastically while Trunks and the other Black Tails mentally slapped themselves.
All the Black Tails thought "He's going to rat us out!" and stared at Shin nervously. The Kai stared at Goten in complete surprise, from shock at having a great idea or the stupidity of his words, when he finally nodded. "That sounds like a great plan."
"Really?" Dende squeaked before coughing loudly and saying seriously, "Uh, yes, that does. Since I'm the only one who can call upon the dragon balls I'll stay here for safety. Piccolo, do you mind staying with me just in case?"
Piccolo shrugged from where he leaned against the wall. "Fine."
"I'll take the east." Vegeta said suddenly, challenging everyone with his eyes as he continued, "Alone."
Dende met Vegeta's eyes with a frown, but gave a very small nod. Although this did change their plans it would be disastrous if any of the Z Fighters saw Videl. Of course Videl was likely powerful enough to hide herself from the Z Fighters, but the risk was still there. It would also be suspicious to see Cell with Vegeta, so the saiya-jin prince's open hostility would be the only thing that would keep everyone away. Besides, Shin didn't suspect Vegeta as of yet so of all the Black Tails he would be the safest option to openly confront the Kai on any partnering decisions.
Shin scowled, unaware of the Kami of Earth sighing in relief when he shouted, "Fine! Goku, Tien, you'll take the west. Krillin, Eighteen, you'll take the south. Don't disappoint me this time."
Krillin and Eighteen scowled, glaring at the Kai. "We won't!"
"Everyone else will stay here to help me and Bulma with whatever we need done." The Kai's eyes glanced at Kami of Earth who glared right back. It was obvious he was keeping the rest to keep an eye on Dende's activities.
"All those visiting the quadrants will maintain contact with us at all times." Shin's eyes shifted to the nonchalant prince. "That means you too Vegeta. I don't want anyone engaging the enemy until we figure out who they are and what their game plan is, so for dragon's sake keep your heads down and your power levels lower!"
As Bulma passed out transmitters and ki-dampeners, Shin took the time to catch Dende's eye. He mouthed 'I'm watching you' with a sharp glare to which Dende grinned. 'I know', the namek mouthed back and walked away with Piccolo at his heels and Chaozu at his. Dende's new dilemma included his and Piccolo's new shadow as well as figuring out how he was going to relay messages to Videl. Shin was annoyingly crafty and would erect a wall at every path he took so he would have to tread carefully.
As his thoughts consumed him Dende took the time to send a quick blessing the Z Fighter's way for old time's sake. He may hate the Z Fighters for what they did to a man that was their son, god-child, and friend, but at one time they were his friends too. They had, after all, saved his life and for that he was grudgingly grateful. Besides, he felt that power too. Whoever held it could easily kick the ass of even Goku, and while they all deserved what was coming to them he wouldn't wish that power upon even his worst enemy.
"Except maybe Shin," he muttered with a grin, not noticing the odd looks he received from Piccolo and Chaozu, "That asshole totally deserves it!"
Bardock stared in horror as he, as well as most of the other villains, looked up from where they fell amidst the shattered glass at the barely contained energy before them. Even Buu had fallen, quickly standing back up and brushing the glass off one the wave of power had vanished. Only Kazuki and Nero remained standing, but barely. There had been a brief change in their features as they struggled to maintain their composure once the blast hit them. Bibidi scrambled up as soon as he could, squealing in unconcealed joy as he bounced around his new specimen.
Bardock noticed Kazuki could hardly contain himself either. The Kai's face was twisted into an anxious grin as he stepped forward. "Welcome, Gohan, to the land of the living."
Gohan didn't answer, just stared at the Kai with a blank look on his face. His body was rigid as if he was preparing to fight them and his black tail now oddly streaked with white thrashed about, betrayed his inner emotions. Slowly and carefully, in order to prevent sudden movements, the fallen group of Shin'en stood to face one of the main reasons they were out in the middle of nowhere. Brolly and Turles muttered to one another, in awe of the power they had felt earlier that was quickly contained, while Slug, who normally voiced his opinions, wisely made no comments.
"Gohan." Necks cracked upon hearing Nero's soft voice. Kazuki narrowed his own eyes suspiciously, but decided to say nothing in order to watch his only opponent from the group. "Come, sit."
The saiya-jin gestured to the ground free of any debris. Necks cracked to the side again when, after an indefinite amount of silence, Gohan's leg began to move. However, his note-worthy entrance was short-lived. As soon as his feet touched down outside of the regeneration tank he crumpled. Before his knee could bend at a 45-degree angle Buu was quickly there to stop his descent. Nero uncharacteristically moved to help, guiding the awakened saiya-jin towards the area he had suggested.
Kazuki crossed his arms over his chest in irritation as they passed him, but willed his anger away with a smirk. The boy was awake, his powers seemed somewhat restored, and now his plan could be set into motion. The smirk left his face as he looked down at the over-excited bug scientist. When Bibidi realized the Kai was staring at him he halted his movements and flinched, looking up reluctantly in silence. His gaze eventually moved to catch the eyes of the other villains as well, ignoring Buu and Nero for the moment.
The Kai waved his hand at the debris and scowled. "Clean up this mess and prepare the extra tank for departure. We'll be leaving soon."
Bibidi was quickest to begin, being the weakest of the group. Slug scowled, muttering about 'selfish bastards' as he reluctantly moved to help. He remembered his lesson from Nero well and not wanting a repeat from Kazuki. From what he could tell the saiya-jin was a little more forgiving than the pain he would feel if he disobeyed Kazuki. Turles and Brolly reddened, but eventually got up to stop the magician from learning more of their saiay-jin heritage. Bardock refused the longest, staring at Kazuki as if he could read the Kai's plans from his mind, before glancing at his grandson with a hesitant look.
"I promise I won't bite." Kazuki grinned, gaining the saiya-jin's full attention. "Yet."
Bardock stood, glaring, before falling in line with the rest of the villains. Like Slug he remembered his lesson from Kazuki well and would comply for now. Once they began following his orders Kazuki looked at his new weapon. Gohan sat staring into the sky in silence, his tail still thrashing with his internal turmoil. Buu sat at his right, following the saiya-jin's example like the faithful follower he was. Nero, however, stood. His hand was on Gohan's shoulder, but his eyes were staring right into Kazuki's own.
Kazuki smirked and turned away. He would allow the saiya-jin to win this round. After all, he had plenty of time to twist Gohan to his side. Enjoy your time, all of you, for soon my time will come and all of you will suffer as I have suffered.
"Again." Strath ordered.
Videl's chest heaved as she wiped the pouring sweat out of her brow. Her expression was one of horror and disbelief at her new instructor. "Again?"
Strath raised one heavily amused eyebrow though his mouth maintained its perfect horizontal line. "Did I stutter?"
"Slave driver…" Videl muttered, and after a swig of water she prepared her stance once more.
Just as she prepared to start his unusual and complicated kata for the tenth time, the ground began to shake and groan. It surprised the two of them, the wave of power more so than the earthquake, enough that they had to use a little of their power to stabilize themselves. Strath recovered quickly and his head turned to the east with slightly widened eyes. Was this the one the dragons were waiting for? The power was immense and familiar. He had felt the Child of Blood's power once, but this…this was different.
Videl gasped; the power swimming over her with a familiar caress before vanishing as quickly as it came. She could feel her power pulsing, searching it out, before flickering as if in disappointment. Immediately her eyes sought the east as well and though she had waited for this moment for so long, she hesitated. Was it a lie or was it true? Was it really him? They say once you check in to Shin'en you can't check out, but what there was a way? Was he actually free? She looked at Strath who raised his eyebrow at her in silent question.
"I need answers."
Strath placed a fist over his heart and bowed, looking at her with a mischievous grin. "Then we shall get them young Abyer. I am curious as to who holds such power as well."
She gave him the first untrusting look in a long while. "We'll have to meet with the Z Fighters since it's possible they've created some sort of idiotic plan that I'll have to stop. I'd prefer if you pretended that they didn't exist, but that's up to you. However, when we find the villains that escaped I need you to let deal with them. Once I get my answer you can do as you wish with the ones I don't want."
The Abyer Guardian raised his brow in amusement, but nodded. "Of course, I am merely here to observe."
"And torture me apparently." Videl glared, her sore muscles aching as she made her way outside.
Strath laughed and followed her. "That too!"
They observed the destruction below as responders littered the streets trying to help people. Videl could only imagine who far the wave of power had gone and how much it had destroyed the closer you were to it. She felt for the people below her, but didn't stop to help since the waves of police, ambulances, and fire fighters seemed to be handling the situation fairly well. They reached Capsule Corp and Videl followed the Z Fighters' ki, not noticing the sudden stiffening of her newfound companion.
Strath crossed his arms over his chest and pressed down tightly, his mouth set in an irritated line. His senses were screaming 'Kai!' and he was doing the best he could to reign in his anger. He wasn't sure if the Kai was a friend of Videl's and if he was it wouldn't place him in her good graces if he killed the damn thing. After all, despite it being centuries since he'd even heard of an Abyer he still served them, and letting Videl down was the last thing he'd do. Breathing in and out slowly, Strath suppressed his power level that was threatening to burst free and stiffly followed his mistress.
As they rounded the corner Strath noticed a blue-haired woman handing out what seemed to be bracelets to the people he assumed were the Z Fighters Videl mentioned. He observed them, noting their significantly smaller power levels when compared to Videl and himself, when his eyes landed on the Kai. He stood next to a red-skinned creature that Strath knew obediently served the Kais for thousands of years and squeezed his fists tighter. Videl glanced at him oddly, before approaching the Kai who seemed less than happy to see her.
"Videl." Shin hissed.
"Shin." Videl deadpanned and looked at the wary Z Fighters with disinterested eyes. "I'm upset that you didn't even think to invite me."
The Kai glared. "I wasn't aware that you cared to be invited. As you can see we are fully aware of the situation at hand and are quite capable enough to confront it."
"Actually Shin," Videl scoffed, "I had a feeling that your wish was to confront a large wave of power and die valiantly. I had only arrived here in order to fulfill it."
"What do you want Videl?" Shin scowled and then realized that there was someone standing next to her. He observed the unknown entity for a moment, his brain hinting in recognition of the man though he couldn't say why. "Have we met?"
"Many times Kai." Strath said quietly, "Many, many times."
Videl inwardly shuddered at Strath's suddenly chilling tone, but noted with satisfaction that Shin had cringed at the tone as if he had been hit. The Abyer eyed her Guardian in confusion, but couldn't figure out why his mood had suddenly fluctuated. She wondered what Shin could have possibly done to incur Strath's wrath and if the irritating Kai was the cause of that sly, dangerous glint she had seen in his eyes the first time she met him. It made her painfully aware of how little she knew of Strath despite how much her gut made her trust him.
"Enough with the small talk! Are we going to find this power or not?"
Everyone turned to look at Vegeta who casually leaned against the wall with a frown on his face. Videl's eyes shot to him and gave a slight nod to let him know she received the information. Her eyes met Shin's and she raised an eyebrow in amusement. "So, you don't know where your escapees are?"
Shin gave her an offended look before it turned suspicious. "And you do?"
The corner of Videl's mouth tilted upwards and she turned, walking away from them. "Perhaps."
"Why did you even come here?" Shin protested, a vein in his forehead throbbing. So she thought she could withhold information from him? "You don't want to help us and we don't need your help, we can handle it ourselves!"
This time Strath answered for her as she paused in the doorway. "We came here for answers Kai, but it's apparent you don't have any."
"So we share our information, but you don't share yours?" Kibito asked darkly from among the Z Fighters, though they wisely chose to stay silent this time.
"I share nothing with your kind." Strath gritted out and turned to follow Videl.
"And I'll get my own answers." Videl added and walked out with Shin's frustrated shouts behind her. A grin settled onto her face. She really did love pushing the Kai's buttons.
"Well that was fun." Strath chuckled once they were back in the air.
Videl was silent for a moment before she stopped suddenly to look at her companion. "Was there something you wanted to share with me Strath?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Not in particular."
Videl followed suite with her own eyebrow. "I know why I hate the under-powered, lying, back-stabbing, overbearing, Napoleon-complexed bastard, but why do you?"
Strath's expression was complete innocence. "I'm not sure what you're talking about."
They stared at each other for a long time before she finally sighed. "Strathmore."
"That is unfair." He cringed and shook his head. "Maybe later Videl, but now is definitely not the time. So, shall we head east? The Z Fighters have just left and one of the Z Fighters seemed to have headed that way."
"Fine." Videl agreed and they returned to flying. "As for the Z Fighter, that was Vegeta. He probably strong-armed the group to go alone so he can meet up with Cell like we planned."
Strath chuckled. "Ah saiya-jins, they haven't changed a bit. So, where to know Abyer?"
"East." She whispered, knowing that he could hear her. "We're heading east."
I am free.
The sun was bright overhead and the sky a never-ending blue that was ever so slowly shifting its scattered clouds. Though the light hurt his eyes, he continued to stare. A gentle breeze blowing by him sounded like a howling wind to his sensitive ears, but he continued to listen, soaking it all in. He could feel his tail moving restlessly behind him as well as the odd sensation of the ground he sat on. His eyes locked on to a bird as it flit past, observing it carefully as if his sight alone could crush it.
We are free.
The beast and saiya-jin within him reminded him of their presence and he agreed with them. They were gone, hopefully for good, though he vowed that if he ever met Them he would kill them. He would remind them that he was no longer their prisoner and would torture them as they had tortured him for half of eternity. He and the beast would make sure they suffered for each wound inflicted on their mind, body, and soul. They would pay and he would do what he had vowed he'd do to the Voice. He would kill and no one would stop him from obtaining his goal.
He felt the pink creature that had helped him breathing beside him, the ki running through the creature's body familiar to him. He did not turn his head to look, however, preferring to enjoy being free. Besides, the pink creature's power level was significantly lower than his and was no threat. He could hear the other people moving about behind him as the one who spoke to him commented on packing. A hand touched his shoulder and he stiffened, unsure of the man beside him. Of all the people here only two were close to him in power, and one was right beside him.
He did not answer, but only due to his confusion. What did he mean by saying such a word? "Go…han?" He repeated, his voice raspy from lack of use.
The man gave a small smile and a curt nod. "Yes, Gohan, that is your name." The man pointed at him first, giving him a meaningful look, before point at himself. "Gohan. Nero."
"Gohan." He continued to look at the sky, refusing to look at the man beside him. Was this his name? Had he ever had this name or was this 'Nero' giving him one now? He was wary, but something told him he knew this man once a long, long time ago, so he accepted it. "I…am…Gohan."
"Good." The man, whom Gohan had finally identified as a saiya-jin, nodded. "You are free, Gohan."
"Yes." Gohan agreed, "Free."
"Now that you are free what will you do?"
Gohan finally turned to look at Nero. "Kill."
A/N: I hope you're all excited as Gohan is now back. I've started molding Strath a little, playing with his hate for Kais that he will struggle with for a while, in order to set things up to him being a player in this crazy game. So expect more to come as far as Strath's character building. Also, expect more random inner monologues from Gohan so you can get a glimpse of how he thinks and how damaged he is from his mind's return from Shin'en.
I have not forgotten about the pranks someone has requested, and those will (hopefully) appropriately find their way into a chapter. By now I'm sure you're all itching to find out what happens to those who head east (especially since I promised Gohan and Videl will meet), but unfortunately you'll just have to wait. Not too long this time, however, I promise.
Again I want to thank you guys for your continued reading, messages, and reviews. I don't do what I do without your support. Until next time.