Chapter 10

Vegeta growled, pouring more energy into his attack until he felt he would lose control. The ki flowing through his body burned like acid, but still he gave more, pushing his opponent to the brink of defeat. His body in its current state could hardly sustain the level of ki, but he was not going to make the transformation to super saiyan. Not unless he had to. This time he was going to achieve his goal, he was going to force her to surpass her limitations. He was not going to hold back any longer, and she was going to either meet his expectations or die.

He could hear Niparsa scream as she fell to her knees, still trying to hold off his Final Flash with every ounce of strength she possessed. Her power surged around her, as if trying to escape her body before it could be consumed by his attack. "Please stop!" she shrieked, terror tightening her throat and giving her words a tone of desperation he knew too well; it was the same tenure he had heard come from many opponents before her. This time, rather than bringing forth a sense of pride and triumph, he felt a pang of disgust with himself and hesitated in finishing her off.

He took a deep breath, casting aside his emotions, and with renewed vigor forced the last of his energy into his ki beam. He felt her defenses crumbling as he finally made significant headway toward her. She was not going to be able to hold him off much longer, maybe a few seconds, and then she would have to make a choice. It wouldn't be a conscious decision, one she would use logic to make; her body would decide for her. Either it would flip the switch or cave in defeat.

Vegeta could not see Niparsa through the blinding light, but he could feel her panic and hear her incoherent thoughts wailing in his mind. He tried to shut them out, but it was as if she was projecting her thoughts to him so loudly he could not block them completely, only succeeding in dimming them to intermingle with his own. Her fear coiled around his determination and for a second he thought he might lose the will to keep pushing, but at the same time he sensed her desperation, her need to survive. That was what he was aiming for, what he was attempting to pull out of her, what he had to ignite within her by making her realize this time he would not ease up on her. It was a fight to the death this time. He was not going to yield.

"Stop!" she screamed, voice rough with fear and pain. In response, he pushed harder against her ki beam until it was nearly consumed by his own energy. "Can't you hear me? I can't take it! You'll kill me!"

"Then die!" he bellowed, finally overtaking her completely. There was an enormous explosion as he released his ki. Shielding his face with his arms, he turned away, not sure he wanted to see the results of his attack. Once the light had faded and the flying debris had settled, he turned back to the Lookout below and sighed. He dropped to the platform and reached out, lifting Niparsa's chin to look into her eyes.

There was a roaring fire of rage in her eyes, making them shine like sapphires in the sun. She snarled at him, her white canines almost like fangs. Her skin was hot to the touch, burning with the energy she was fighting to contain inside. He sank down to one knee in front of her as a smirk grew on his lips. "You're holding it back. Let it go."

Niparsa squeezed her eyes shut. "I – I can't." Her breath came out in shallow pants. "It hurts…Kami, what's happening to me?"

Instead of explaining, his mouth formed a hard line. "Release your energy."

Shuddering, she nodded subtly and pulled away from his hand. Her hands clenched and unclenched, scratching the crimson tile. She took one final breath and relaxed every muscle in her body, opening the floodgates that had held back her power. The rush of power was both so painful and invigorating she screamed and fell forward, barely managing to catch herself before her face hit the floor.

Vegeta stood up and stepped back, watching in fascination as her aura turned from a deep purple to a blazing gold. Her hair was almost white, the spikes turning up at the ends to defy gravity as her energy soared. Uncurling from her waist, her tail stretched behind her as the fur faded to white and bristled. She was magnificent.

Once her transformation had completed, she stood up and tilted her chin up to meet his gaze. Her muscles had hardly bulked up, but he could see a slight difference. She seemed taller, though there was really no difference. What he noticed more than anything was the snarl and the way her glare fixed on him.

"Don't even think of attacking me, girl," he said firmly. "I know you're angry. Furious. You hate that I pushed you to this and you want to kill me for it. But you would be wise to remember I'm still much stronger than you."

It seemed like hours passed before his words sank in and she nodded, unclenching her fists. "Does this mean I've done it?"

He smirked again, awakening a new anger in her chest. What did he have to be so proud about? He had nearly killed her! "Yes, you have ascended to super saiyan. You will be the new legend."

Niparsa looked at her hands, turning them as if to see a sign of her transformation. Other than noticing more definition and more vivid color, she noticed no change. She allowed a small smile to tug at the corners of her mouth as her anger was replaced by pride. She had done it, she transformed and ascended! Now she was as strong as Kami!

Vegeta started chuckling, a low sound at first that grew until his whole body shook with his mirth and he roared with laughter. At first she thought he had gone insane. "Foolish girl, you have reached only a tiny fraction of my true power."

Her jaw went lax. "What? But – but I'm a super saiyan now too!"

"You may be stronger than me at the moment – maybe – but you could never begin to comprehend the fullness of my strength." To prove his point, Vegeta ascended to the first level, matching her power exactly. "To me, this is nothing."

Niparsa frowned, trying to elevate her power to prove she wasn't weak. She only succeeded in tiring herself out and nearly lost the transformation entirely. Growling in frustration, she threw her hands up and spun on her heel so she wouldn't have to face Vegeta in her shame. "Why have me ascend at all if it is so meaningless?"

Vegeta phased in front of her. "It is not meaningless, girl."

"I've spent three years training with you for this!" she yelled. "And now you tell me it's nothing!" She could feel tears stinging her eyes and fought them back. Her emotions seemed out of control, making her even angrier that she couldn't keep them in check.

"You wanted to be the strongest, did you not?" Vegeta said. "You have met your goal. Besides, it does not mean you will not continue to grow stronger simply because you have ascended for the first time. If you continue to train you will become stronger still."

Niparsa shrugged one shoulder. "I'm not the strongest. You are."

Vegeta rolled his eyes. "My strength does not matter. I am the Guardian of Vegetasei. I cannot fight for you and will not fight with you. Your strength, and the strength of all the saiyans, is all that holds meaning now. You are the strongest, and you will use your power to protect the king."

She shook her head, rubbing her eyes with the backs of her hands. "It doesn't make sense. If I'm the strongest, won't the people want me to be their leader?"

"Perhaps." Vegeta looked off in the distance, frowning slightly. "However, you will not take the king's place. You serve only to protect him and advise him as I have taught you. To do otherwise would incite my wrath."

Niparsa wrapped her arms around herself. "I didn't say I want to become the new leader. But I still don't get it. Why not make Daekon or his son the strongest? The king should be the strongest, shouldn't he?"

Vegeta snorted. "If there's one thing I've learned, it's that strength alone does not make a good leader. Can you imagine Kakarrot as king?" He shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Besides, I think it wise to have a loyal servant be stronger than the king. Not only to protect him, but to show all saiyans that the king is the undisputed leader regardless of physical power."

"I guess…that makes sense…" Niparsa suddenly felt light-headed. Before she knew what was happening, she fell down and blacked out.

The first thing she became aware of when she awoke was Vegeta's presence nearby. Her heart hammered in her chest when she felt his ki. A blush burned in her cheeks when she realized she had fainted. How embarrassing, to look so weak in front of him. He would never see her as a strong warrior if she kept making a fool of herself like that. She opened her eyes slowly, wincing when the light hit her and brought forth a pounding headache. Her vision blurred and she momentarily felt like she was going to fall into unconsciousness again, but she willed herself to stay awake and groaned.

As she sat up she felt like she had been torn limb from limb and burned alive. There were no other words to describe the aching in her body that worsened with every little movement she made. If this was what it felt like after… after ascending! She gasped and looked down at herself, expecting to see something out of the ordinary, but she was the same as always. Her vision was back to normal, and for a moment she was disappointed that she couldn't see with the clarity she had when she had been a super saiyan.

"You're awake, finally," Vegeta drawled.

Niparsa felt her heart skip a beat when she heard his deep voice. She blushed again and hid her face in her hands. "Yeah. What happened?"

She heard his boots tapping on the tile as he came closer to her. "Transforming for the first time is hard on the body."

"Oh." She dropped her hands to her lap and looked up at him. "I can't believe I really did it."

He scoffed, making her feel foolish all over again. "You thought I couldn't push you that far?"

She shrugged. "I guess I underestimated myself." Grunting in pain, she stood up and exhaled heavily. Her muscles were throbbing with the effort. She felt so weak and tired. "I don't even know what happened. It just felt like… I don't know."

Vegeta regarded her silently for a minute before turning toward the palace. "It's time to eat."

Niparsa frowned and followed him. What had she expected? For him to say how proud he was? Praise how strong she had become? Profess his love for her? She sneered and looked down at the floor. She hoped he hadn't been listening to her thoughts. If he had, she would never recover from the humiliation. When they reached the kitchen Vegeta sat down at the table and waited for her to bring food from the pantry. She resented being treated like a servant, but it was a routine they had developed the second day she had come to stay with him and it hadn't changed. She still got the food and washed the dishes afterward. At least he didn't make her cook, unless she wanted her food cooked. Half of what he ate was raw and the rest was cooked with a quick beam of ki.

She piled the food on the table and sat in the chair across from him, waiting for him to begin eating so she could start. It wasn't until she was sitting there that she realized just how hungry she felt. Her stomach growled loudly and she felt as if it was wrapping itself around her spine, gnawing on it from impatience. She watched Vegeta reach out and take a bite of a sweet-smelling fruit and immediately dug into the collection of meats she had chosen. By the time Vegeta finished eating she felt like she had hardly started to sate her own hunger.

To her surprise, Vegeta waited patiently for her to finish some time later. She guessed he had more to tell her, so when she was done she did not immediately get up to do the dishes. She rested her hands on the table in front of her and looked at him expectantly.

"Since you have reached your goal, there is no reason for you to continue training with me."

Niparsa hadn't expected that. It was so blunt and so…so sudden. She stared at him blankly for a minute before she was able to make any kind of response. "What do you mean? You said I still need to train."

"On your own," he said, as if that would clarify everything and make her okay with leaving the Lookout. Over the past three years it had become a home for her, though she knew she could never truly belong there. Hell, Vegeta hardly showed her any sort of concern, yet she had come to like him. Or more. She grabbed her napkin to fidget with while she thought about what he had said.

She sighed softly. "So you want me to leave immediately?"

"There's no reason to stay longer," he replied. She wondered how he could be so emotionless. So heartless. Hadn't he come to enjoy her company? He seemed so lonely when she first came. She was afraid he was reading her thought when she glanced up and saw him scowling at her.

"I'm sorry," she muttered. "Yeah, okay, I'll leave tomorrow, if that's all right?"

"Fine." He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "When you go, you must head directly for the royal palace. There you will meet with the king and request to be inducted into the royal guard. He will probably have you compete for the position. Once you are a member of the royal guard, you will serve your king as any other servant. Under no circumstances will you become involved with the king or his lineage as more than that. Nor will your children. Your line must remain separate from the monarchy, and you must remain the strongest. Your relationship to the king will be a precedent for future generations."

Niparsa ran her hand through her hair. "How can you be sure my line will remain the strongest?"

Vegeta smirked. "Because only you have trained with me and know my techniques."

"Yeah, that's true."

"One more thing: Never ascend during a full moon. You have not learned to fully control yourself as an oozaru, so you would not be able to control your power. The first super saiyan did this and his power completely consumed him. He was killed by his own energy." Vegeta stood up and walked to the door leading outside. "Now wash the dishes, girl."

Slowly, Niparsa pushed herself to her feet and looked around the kitchen. There wasn't much to miss, so why should she feel so depressed about having to leave? "Oh well," she sighed, picking up the dirty dishes and carrying them to the sink. "I got what I wanted, so he's right, there's no reason to stay longer." Sadly, telling herself this did not lessen the heavy feeling in her chest.

Niparsa stood outside the royal palace looking through the gilded gate. She wasn't sure how to get through; guards stood at either side of the gate eyeing her suspiciously, but so far they hadn't made a move against her. Probably many passers-by stopped to look in each day, so they were used to her awed expression and the way she nervously clenched and unclenched her fists. She swallowed back her anxiety and straightened her posture to give herself an air of dignity and confidence befitting anyone trying to see the king.

"I'm here for an audience with King Daekon," she stated boldly.

The guards looked her up and down for probably the fiftieth time in less than five minutes, then exchanged glances. Finally, the one on Niparsa's right spoke, "Have you been summoned by the king?"

Niparsa shifted her weight from one foot to the other before stopping herself from showing her nervousness. "No."

The guard who had spoken to her rolled his eyes as his hand moved to the impressive sword on his hip. "Then you are not permitted to enter."

Of course it wouldn't be so simple to enter the royal palace. Niparsa knew she couldn't expect to waltz right in without some official business, but there had to be a way to get in; after all, she had been trained for this, and this was the purpose given to her by Kami himself. Narrowing her eyes, she crossed her arms over her chest and raised her ki threateningly.

"I am here to request a position in the royal guard," she explained with a low growl.

The guards regarded her warily as the air around her seemed to warp and ripple with her growing energy. Waves of heat rolled off her as flames of ki flickered around her body. If nothing else, she figured, she could be arrested and taken to the dungeons under the palace, at least giving her entrance. She would figure out what to do from there.

The guards finally backed down, nodding as they moved to open the gate for her. "Very well, you may enter."

Surprisingly easy, she thought. Smirking triumphantly, she stepped through the gate and flicked a loose strand of hair back over her shoulder. Intimidation was a skill she had learned from Vegeta, though he had never made a lesson of it. He simply exuded intimidation at all times, and she had had ample time to observe and understand what it was about him that made her feel inferior and weak. Most notably, it was the atmosphere of power and disdain that always surrounded him, which was always heightened by his regal stance and burning gaze.

I am the strongest, she reminded herself. There is nothing to fear here; I will be inducted into the royal guard once I show my merit, and then I will begin the work Kami has planned for me.

Three years she had spent training physically and mentally. She had learned all there was to know about diplomacy, about saiyan pride and honor, and how to respect royalty even with superior strength. She had been shaped into the perfect advisor and guard for the saiyan king. All she had to do was show it to the king himself. No pressure.

After Niparsa left the Lookout, Vegeta heaved a long sigh. It wasn't a sigh of regret or loneliness, or even relief, but it felt like it came from the depths of his soul. Shaking his head, he walked to the edge of the Lookout and sat down to check up on the saiyans below. Still battling, always growing stronger, and nurturing their pride as a race. They were developing into the race of warriors he had always romanticized as a boy. They were strong and willful, and they lived by their own honor code. And now, as the king grew in strength, he took greater control of the people as a leader and any factions that opposed him lost power. Once Niparsa joined the royal guard, Vegeta was sure there would no longer be any revolutionaries able to overthrow the monarchy, and the saiyans would continue to grow as a people capable of great things.

What those great things were was the only question. Vegeta hadn't heard from Goku recently, but he could sense his fellow saiyan traveling through the galaxies, hopefully finding information about the strange disappearances of entire civilizations. As yet there hadn't been many leads to finding the ones responsible for the massive amounts of destruction, but surely something had to turn up eventually. Every day since Goku first talked to him about the mysterious genocides Vegeta had been itching to find the culprit and initiate battle; however, he knew he would not be a key player in the battle. His purpose was no longer to fight, but to lead silently. It frustrated him to know he would not personally fight, but he was eager nonetheless to see what the saiyans would do.

He stood up and walked around the perimeter of the Lookout, neither listening to the saiyans nor paying much attention to his surroundings. Vegeta was lost in his thoughts, imagining what sort of foe they were up against and wondering what information Goku had gathered or what the kais already knew and weren't telling him. For three years he had been waiting for some news, but none had come. Perhaps it was time for him to go looking on his own.

Goku crouched down and scanned the collapsing buildings around him. As usual there was no sign of life around him, but he still sensed there was something there. It was the same feeling he got every time he found such a place as this, but he was still unable to accurately describe it. There was some sort of presence, and that was the best he could say. Definitely not something he could tell Vegeta without getting an earful of insults and berating. Honestly though, it wasn't his fault that he couldn't figure out what was going on. There simply weren't any clues to be found, and even if there were, he wasn't the best at putting pieces of a puzzle together. He stood up and stretched after a few minutes, now certain there were no enemies waiting to attack.

There hadn't once been an ambush, though he constantly felt threatened. He wasn't afraid, but he sensed a mal intent, almost a sort of feeling lingering long after the deceased had turned to dust. Assuming they turned to dust; that was another of the mysteries: he never found corpses, even in the most recently destroyed cities. It was as if the people had vanished without a trace, but he was sure they were dead, not just taken away.

Sometimes he felt as though his feet were heavy, or that they were being pulled on by hands in the ground. Of course that made no sense, and he never saw such hands or felt any traces of ki to signify life, but that was how it felt. He picked his way through the crumbling city, still looking for signs of a struggle, but all he saw was simple destruction, like whoever had done this came in and killed everyone first so there was no fight for survival.

After three years of the same thing, Goku was getting frustrated. He was tired of always being a step behind the enemy, and even more tired of not knowing who or what the enemy was. Could it be a single being? Or was it an entire army? How could it or they destroy so cleanly and so completely without even a single survivor anywhere? He stomped his foot and glared at the barren landscape.

"Where are you?" he shouted angrily. Someone was behind this, someone terrible and evil and powerful, and he wanted to find them and fight them.

Niparsa stood over her defeated opponent and rested her hands on her hips. It was almost too easy taking down the strongest of the royal guards, but that could only be expected after the training she received from Vegeta. She looked toward the king, who was sitting on the sidelines of the sparring grounds with several attendants standing around him. She had to admit, he looked kingly, with his chin tilted up proudly, his back straight and rigid, and his eyes piercing with wisdom and inner strength. Yet, despite all that, she couldn't help thinking he was not at all comparable to the guardian of Vegetasei.

Still, he was a handsome man, and serving at his side would not be unpleasant. She shook her head slightly to rid her mind of such trivial thoughts. Anyway, she was forbidden from intimate involvement with Daekon. Vegeta had made that clear over the course of her tutelage. When he raised his hand, the sign that she was accepted, she stood tall and proud and breathed a satisfied sigh. So far everything was moving according to plan. Now all she had to do was move up in the ranks until she was the most trusted of the royal guard. How hard could that be?

Niparsa bowed before him, crossing her right arm over her chest in salute. She did not rise from her bow until she heard his grunt of approval. Her expression did not betray her pride as she looked into the bottomless black depths of his eyes. She had passed the test, which was simply to show the proper respect to the king.

"Am I ready yet, Kami?" she asked.

Vegeta grunted again, this time with the tone that told her "no." She grit her teeth, expecting him to explain to her what was wrong, but he said nothing to her. Finally, she shrugged it off and followed him when he turned to go inside to eat. Their morning lessons were completed. It was time to eat lunch, and then they would spend the rest of the day sparring, which was the only part of his teachings she actually cared about.

Niparsa remembered that moment with Vegeta as she bowed before King Daekon. She hadn't been ready yet at the time because she hadn't fully devoted herself to the crown. How Vegeta could tell she didn't ever know, but in her heart she was still only training for her own sake, to become the strongest saiyan with no real purpose. Since then, she had changed. Vegeta had taught her the importance of a stable and secure monarchy, and he had instilled in her a belief that Daekon was the best leader the saiyans could have. She hadn't been ready at the time; she had been foolish and self-centered, but she had grown since then.

She heard a grunt that sent a bolt of surprise through her and she rose from her bow, expecting to see the same obsidian eyes she had fallen into so many times before. This time, though, she looked into black eyes that lacked the pain and power she had come to know. These eyes were so much less intense there was no mistaking they did not belong to Vegeta.

"You have proven yourself a worthy warrior," Daekon said.

"Thank you, sire," Niparsa replied as pride burned in her chest. She was a warrior whose strength was acknowledged by the king. Probably he knew she had greater reserves of power not shown in her battle, but he still did not feel threatened. At least, he didn't show it. Instead, there was a sense of pure respect, which was all she had ever wanted.

Thank you, Kami, she thought, lifting her eyes to the sky. If you keep guiding me, I know I'll be able to do what you asked of me.

A/N: Ok, so it's been over a year…again. Working two jobs and applying for graduate school has certainly kept me busy and I haven't really been writing at all. Sorry about that… I hope you haven't given up on me. I apologize for the quality of this chapter. Quite honestly, I'm not really happy with it, and I don't feel like it does much for the story as a whole, but I just really wanted to get something out there so you all know I'm not dead and/or I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth. I promise I haven't.