Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon or Dragonball Z. Those shows/manga/etc. belong to their creators.
Goku had barely risen to the air when he felt five bodies collide against him. Gohan, Krillin, Yamcha, Tien, and Chiaotzu had all moved at the same time, crashing against the saiyan and enveloping him in a group hug as they cheered his return. They laughed as they hovered in the air, with Goku trapped somewhere between all of them, happy that their friend had returned, but in none of them was this joy greater than it was in Gohan. For almost two years the boy had patiently awaited his father's return, longing for the day when he would finally come home after their adventure on Namek. Now that day had finally come, and his family was complete once more.
Setsuna watched as the group of warriors slowly returned to the ground, and after many more shouts of joy, the others moved away and her eyes fell on Goku. It was still strange for her to see him as an adult. The last time she had kept constant watch over this world Goku had only been a small boy, riding through the skies on a cloud without a care in the world. Many years had obviously passed since those days, and Setsuna had long since kept from pouring over every single detail when she watched over the different worlds through the Gates of Time. The man before her had higher cheekbones than the child she remembered, and he had grown much taller over the years. His dark eyes had gained a new intensity but retained the warmness they had held in his youth, and his hair still shot out in each direction, seeming as untamable as it had been when he was young. In a way he had grown so much, yet had remained just the same. The thought was further evidenced by the lopsided smile that now graced his features and convinced her that he was indeed the same boy she had watched from afar in a time that seemed long ago.
"It's great to see you all," she heard Goku say as he moved closer to his friends. His gaze shifted to the lavender-haired teen first, then to where the sailor senshi stood apart from the others. "Wow, look at all the new faces. I didn't expect so many people to be waiting for me."
Bulma smiled. "What can we say? You're a popular guy, Goku."
"But how did you all even know that I was going to arrive here?"
"This guy told us," Bulma said, jabbing her thumb to the teen that stood next to her. "I think he might be a secret fan of yours. He knows all about you, Goku."
From somewhere behind her, Setsuna heard Minako state to Makoto in a low voice, "I want to be his fan, too." Imagining the girl's love-stricken features, the senshi of time could only sigh inwardly and shake her head.
Meanwhile, Goku was staring at the new fighter Bulma had pointed out. Setsuna saw his brow crease as he frowned and became lost in thought. After some time he shook his head.
"That's impossible. I don't have any memory of ever meeting him."
"Yeah, that's the same thing he told us," Bulma said. "I think he might have been tracking your ship in space, though. He knew where you were going to arrive and the exact time you would be landing."
From where he stood, Piccolo noticed the teen shift uncomfortably at Bulma's words. She had probably nailed that suspicion dead on, but just how the teen had known where Goku would be landing did not seem as important anymore. It was the message that he would give Goku that was the focus of Piccolo's attention, and sensing that the time to hear the truth was near he remained silent, letting the scene before him play out uninterrupted.
Goku seemed to ponder Bulma's words before saying, "I don't know. Frieza tried to do that, but I don't know how successful he was. I could sense his energy as his ship passed mine, though." Coming to, he turned to the others and asked, "But what happened here, guys? Who defeated Frieza? Was it Piccolo? Or did Vegeta do it?"
While the latter merely growled in frustration, Piccolo said, "Neither of us did." His eyes trailed towards the teen. "It was him. He did it with ease. He turned into a super saiyan and picked Frieza apart."
At Piccolo's words, Goku's eyes widened even more. He stared at the lavender-haired teen in disbelief, his mouth eventually splitting into a wide grin. "That's incredible! Imagine being able to become a super saiyan at his age. You must be the youngest one ever."
The teen merely lowered his gaze, his cheeks seeming flushed as all eyes turned to him. It was remarkable, Setsuna thought, how much this timid fighter seemed to contrast with the one that had defeated the two aliens earlier that day. Had she not seen him before she would not have believed them to be the same person. His reserved attitude made her wonder just which side of him that they had seen, if any at all, was truly a part of his character. His constantly changing demeanor was all the more reason to keep a close eye on him, but she decided against pursuing the subject. Now that Goku had returned the teen was sure to finally reveal whatever cryptic message he had been harboring all this time. If he would not speak of it freely, then perhaps she would be able to persuade Goku once the message had been passed. Until then, she would have to wait for the opportunity to present itself.
Pushing her trail of thought aside, she focused on the scene before her just as Goku spoke once more.
"So what's your name?"
"Don't bother asking him," Yamcha said, not bothering to hide the annoyance that crept into his tone. "We tried, but he wouldn't tell us. All he's said so far is that you would be landing here."
If this seemed suspicious to Goku, he did not show it, and his smile remained as wide as ever as he turned to the teen. "Well, if he says he's a super saiyan, then I believe him."
"Honestly, Kakarot, do you ever use your brain?"
Vegeta moved forward from where he stood near Piccolo, nodding towards Goku. "Need I remind you that you, your son, and I are the only saiyans left? There's no way he could be one of us. He can't have saiyan blood, it's impossible."
"Come on, Vegeta, I'm sure there's a way it could be possible."
"Oh? Well then, please enlighten me, Kakarot, in what Universe would such a ridiculous idea even be a possibility?"
As the argument continued, Makoto turned to Michiru. "This might sound crazy," she said, "but do those two sound familiar to you? I feel like I've heard this somewhere before."
Michiru frowned, not understanding what Makoto meant. She was about to question her when Haruka caught her attention. Turning to the taller girl, Michiru saw Haruka grin as she pointed to her side, where Rei and Usagi were watching the two fighters in silence. Understanding coming instantly, Michiru let Makoto in on the joke, all three girls fighting to stifle their laughter as Goku and Vegeta continued their argument.
The moment was short lived, however, as the lavender-haired teen motioned towards Goku to catch his attention.
"Goku, could I have a word with you in private?"
Immediately the atmosphere surrounding the group changed. Piccolo and Setsuna stood at attention, neither one aware that they were both thinking the exact same thing.
It was time.
Goku agreed to the teen's request against his friends' protests, and followed after the other fighter as he took to the air and landed a considerable distance away, well out of earshot and the chance of anyone eavesdropping on them. Setsuna cursed her luck. From where the two fighters had landed the teen stood facing her, but the distance was far too great for her to even attempt to read his lips or guess at his words. She turned to the others around her. They all stood facing the two fighters, speaking amongst themselves in low voices, no doubt wondering why the teen had wanted a private word with Goku and what they were discussing.
Only one fighter did not seem as interested.
Setsuna stared at Piccolo, surprised that he did not seem as suspicious of the lavender-haired teen as the rest of the group. He had turned his back to Goku and the teen, crossing his arms over his chest and closing his eyes, giving the impression that he was keeping to himself. She moved closer to him and addressed him, keeping her voice low as she spoke.
"You can hear every word they're saying, can't you?"
Piccolo opened his eyes and turned to Sailor Pluto, his features remaining unreadable as he slowly nodded. Seeing her chance, Setsuna pressed on.
"Will you tell us if Goku refuses to do so? It could be important."
"You have my word," Piccolo replied. "If it's something of concern I will let you know."
Confident that the information would be passed on, Setsuna stepped back and remained silent, hoping that some betrayal on Piccolo's expression would let her know if she had every reason to be as concerned as she was.
. . .
Goku stared at the teen in front of him, surprised to say the least. No sooner had the other fighter landed that he began to question Goku about his becoming a super saiyan. Goku took the time to gather his thoughts, crossing his arms over his chest as he remembered his intense bout with Frieza mere moments before Namek exploded.
"The first time I transformed into a super saiyan," he began, "I could barely control it. It just sort of happened. It took everything I had to keep my anger under control, but there were times when I felt myself just letting go."
Trunks heard the words and was immediately hit with a strong wave of nostalgia. In another time and place he saw a younger version of himself regain consciousness, alone in a mountain range, only to discover that he couldn't sense Gohan's energy anymore. After minutes of searching that seemed more like hours he found his mentor's unmoving body in the rain, battered and maimed after what had probably been a gruesome battle with the androids, a large gaping hole staring at him from the place that had once been an abdomen. Blood was still pouring out of the dead body, the scarlet substance glowing along with the gentle pulse of malfunctioning traffic lights, but that did not stop Trunks from tightly gripping the broken mess that had once been his mentor and best friend. Gohan had been like an older brother to him; he had taught him how to fight and how to value life. In the bleakness and torment that was growing up in a forsaken world, the older fighter had been everything to him.
Now Gohan was gone. He had left the world far too early, had left behind an incomplete legacy, and Trunks did not have the strength to go on.
It was at that moment, with raindrops continuing to pour over him as thunder rumbled overhead, holding the body of the closest thing he had ever thought of as a father, that something within Trunks snapped. A pressure that had been building inside of him for a long time suddenly seized him, trapping him in its overwhelming grip as he poured out his frustration to the heavens above. His screams became more manic, and his nails tore into his skin as the pressure inside of him suddenly came rising to the surface.
It had not been until much later, once the pressure within him had subsided and he began to pass out from exhaustion, that he realized he had finally become a super saiyan.
Trunks could easily understand what Goku meant. After all the long days of training, of building his power and focusing his anger in his quest to achieve the transformation, he had come to realize that becoming a super saiyan was the easy part. Keeping that newfound power under his control, however, was the hardest thing he had ever done.
He nodded in Goku's direction, his features remaining somber as thoughts of his first transformation lingered in his mind.
"Trust me, Goku," he said, "I know how hard it must have been."
Goku smiled, never doubting that the younger saiyan truly did understand. "Yeah, well, now that I've had time to practice it I can control it."
Those were just the words that Trunks had been waiting to hear. Pushing away everything else he focused on Goku, looking him over and seeming to size him up before speaking again.
"If that's true, then could you show me?"
. . .
On the other side of the cracked terrain the group stood close together as they stared at the two fighters in the distance.
"Just who does that guy think he is?" Yamcha asked amidst the silent crowd. "What's so important that he has to talk to Goku alone?
"They seem pretty serious," Tien said. He could see the lavender-haired teen clearly from where he stood, his lips moving slowly as he asked something of Goku and then remained silent. What were they talking about, he wondered, and what had the teen asked that caused Goku to frown and his features to remain rigid?
A second later Goku seemed to give his response, causing Tien to gasp as the others around him became alarmed.
A blinding flash of light surrounded the two fighters, the wind around them momentarily picking up before blowing away. Tien, having experience with a sudden rise of power, did not need to shield himself like the sailor senshi did from the coming torrent of wind and the wave of dust and gravel that accompanied it. No, it was the power radiating from Goku that had his complete attention and left his mouth hanging open.
All eyes were on Goku, who was surrounded by a familiar golden glow. His once dark hair had attained the same bright hue as the energy that surrounded him, its movement seeming as fluid as flame itself.
"What happened to Goku, you guys?" Bulma asked. "Look at his hair. It's completely blond."
Gohan, who was nearest to her and had seen such a change in his father before, was the one who answered.
"He just transformed into a super saiyan."
. . .
Trunk's eyes had widened upon seeing Goku transform. It had been so long since he had seen another super saiyan that the change had momentarily taken him by surprise. Coming to, he let his curiosity get the better of him as he gazed at Goku, the grim features he had been sporting disappearing as he took in every detail of the super saiyan standing before him with great interest.
He really does look like Gohan, he thought, the idea seeming to tug at the corners of his mouth until he ended up smiling against himself.
Seeing this, Goku asked, "I take it you're satisfied?"
Trunks nodded. "Yes. I had forgotten what looking from the outside was like. It's so unreal."
A small grin appeared on Goku's face. "What, you're telling me you've never looked in a mirror before?"
He received no reply other than a scowl, one that seemed strangely familiar to him. It was obvious that there was more to this request than the younger saiyan had let on. Deciding against further upsetting him, Goku asked, "So can I power down now?"
"Not yet," Trunks said. "There's one other thing I'd like to check."
With that, he brought his own suppressed power rising to the surface.
. . .
If Goku's transformation had been a surprise, the young teen following suit was an even bigger cause for suspicion. There was another explosion of energy followed by another trail of dust, and where the lavender-haired teen had been now stood another fighter basked in a golden glow. The aura surrounding each fighter seemed to clash with the other, a silent confrontation in which neither wave of energy was able to push the other back, each seeming to retract for a moment before expanding and clashing against the opposition once more.
Yamcha gaped at the two fighters, their combined power leaving him at a loss for words as a thin bead of sweat trailed down his face. "Look at them," he finally managed to say. "I've never felt so much power before."
Beside him Tien nodded, all three eyes bulging as he continued to measure the two fighters. "What's that guy up to? If I didn't know any better I'd say he's trying to pick a fight with Goku."
No sooner had the words left his mouth that the teen attacked. In one swift motion he had shifted his stance, pulled out his sword, and was charging at Goku, who seemed completely dazed and did not move.
"He's going to slice him in half!" Sailor Venus screamed.
For the second time that day Usagi felt the need to close her eyes and look away, but the act had been so quick, so unexpected, that her eyes had frozen wide and refused to move away from the scene before her. She tried to scream but her mouth seemed to have stopped working, and she watched in horror as the sword came rushing down on Goku.
Then the teen stopped, his sword mere inches from Goku's face. He moved away, letting his sword rest by his side, and Usagi let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding.
Farther behind Usagi, Setsuna frowned and turned to Piccolo, not seeming at all fazed by what had just happened.
"What was that all about?"
"That guy wants to test Goku," Piccolo said. As he spoke, the teen dropped into a fighting stance once more, his sword raised to his side while Goku remained as motionless as before. "This time he won't stop."
True to Piccolo's words, the teen charged at Goku once more. There was a blur of movement, and then he was over Goku, his sword raised high in the air. It came swinging down, seeming to cut through Goku, yet already its wielder was moving, retracting the blade before quickly initiating another strike. Again and again the blade struck against Goku, the act seeming to mimic the teen's earlier victory over Frieza as he deftly commanded the sword and continued his assault.
Finally, he jumped to the air, screaming at the top of his lungs as he brought the blade down a final time.
The moment the attack had begun Usagi had gone cold. Now she seemed to snap out of a trance and began to move in the direction where the two fighters stood. She had only taken a few steps when a hand clasped firmly over her arm, yanking her back and keeping her in place. She turned to Rei, succumbing to the panic she was feeling and seeming on the verge of tears.
"Let me go, Rei! We have to help Goku!"
The senshi of Mars remained silent, her eyes locking with Usagi's, and the blonde-haired girl was surprised to see an expression of bewilderment where she had clearly expected to see horror and dread.
"Usagi," Rei began in a low voice, "didn't you see what happened?"
More than anything else, it was hearing Rei speak her name that caused Usagi to turn around and take another look at the scene before her. The teen had stepped away from Goku, powering down and sheathing his sword. A few feet away from him stood Goku, unharmed and whole, grinning broadly as his hair returned to its dark color.
Usagi blinked a few times, struggling to convince herself that what she was seeing was definitely real. Goku seemed to be in one piece, but how was that possible? She had seen the sword cut through him over ten times. He should have been sliced in over a dozen pieces. How had he managed to survive such a furious attack?
She turned back to the other senshi, all of whom seemed as shocked as she felt. A quick glance at the other fighters was enough for her to notice that the feeling was shared.
"What just happened, you guys?" she asked the group at large.
"Those blows," Haruka said, her eyes remaining fixedly on Goku and her voice shaking slightly as she spoke, "he managed to block them all with his finger. He only used his finger."
"I can't believe it," Usagi heard Yamcha say to Krillin and Tien, who stood next to him with equal expressions of disbelief. "Goku sure has changed."
"I know," Tien said. "He's spectacular. It looks like he's even stronger than that other guy. How did he manage to improve so much in such a short amount of time?"
That was the same question that was burning violently on Vegeta's mind. He had obviously expected Kakarot to have become stronger during his absence and, albeit hesitantly, had prepared himself to face the fact that the low-class saiyan was still the stronger fighter out of both of them. What he had not expected was the obvious difference in their power. He himself had been training nonstop for almost two years, seeking the secret of becoming a super saiyan and surpassing Kakarot in strength. Yet now, more than ever before, the difference in their capabilities had become apparent, and he rolled his hands into fists as the realization became clear to him. For all of his effort and training, Kakarot had managed to remain three steps ahead of him, leaving Vegeta to trail him from far behind.
To add further insult to the injury, there was another power that was greater than his. Another super saiyan had emerged, and it had not been him, the prince of all saiyans, who had achieved the legendary transformation, but a simple boy who had appeared out of nowhere. This new fighter had suddenly shown up unannounced, transformed into a super saiyan, and defeated Frieza, the evil being long considered the strongest fighter in the Universe, without so much as breaking a sweat.
The thought left a bitter taste in Vegeta's mouth. This new fighter didn't seem like a person at all. He was an obstacle, one that epitomized every frustration that lay in the saiyan prince's heart. Indeed, the whole situation seemed like a bad joke. Well, he thought, the joke had gone on long enough. This would be the last time that he would be made to look like a fool by those who were nowhere near as deserving as him. In the end, the prince of all saiyans would be the one to have the last laugh.
Seeming to sense his frustration, Goku turned around, and their eyes locked from across the terrain. Pushing his thoughts aside, Vegeta glared back at him, forming the deepest scowl he could and conveying all of his anger through it towards the other saiyan. It seemed to work, and a moment later Goku turned back to the teen and seemed to continue a conversation with the other super saiyan.
Just you wait, Kakarot, Vegeta thought. Someday soon I'll show you what a true saiyan can do.
. . .
Someone had once said that patience was a virtue, one that allowed an air of grace to radiate from an individual. It was a quality that spoke highly of a person. Through patience, all things could be handled and nothing was left too difficult to overcome.
Setsuna decided that whoever had come up with such a saying had obviously never had their patience truly tested.
Time slowly ticked by as Goku and the teen continued to speak. Every so often she would turn in Piccolo's direction, almost pleading for some telltale sign that would give her a hint of what the two saiyans were discussing. Yet the namek's face remained as composed as ever, his brow furrowing deeper the longer the conversation went on. Not being able to make anything from it, and knowing that she was resigned to continue her wait, Setsuna closed her eyes and attempted to reach into the world's timeline once again. Like before, the future remained bleak and empty, and if it was because of a change to the timeline or if it represented an end to the world's existence, she could not tell. So many questions had risen the first time she had glanced into the empty future, and it frustrated her to know that the only being she thought capable of offering her any answers lay just a few feet away but remained silent to any form of questioning. It was as if fate itself was doing all it could to impede her from gaining the knowledge she so desired.
Catching movement from the corner of her eye she turned to Piccolo, who lowered his arms and turned around. Immediately she saw why; the lavender-haired teen had taken to the skies, flying off into the distance and growing smaller the farther he went.
"I can't believe that guy," Krillin said. "He just left without saying anything."
"No, no, no" Minako cried, taking a running start but stopping as the teen vanished from sight. "Come back!"
"Forget about that guy," Tien told her. Turning to the others he said, "Let's go ask Goku what they talked about."
The whole group moved together, crossing the large expanse of open terrain and quickly running up to Goku, who was lost in thought. As he saw them approach his features cleared up and he smiled.
"Hey, guys," he said. "I didn't hear you coming."
"Goku," Yamcha began, "where did that other guy go?"
"Oh, he said he had to take off. Something came up."
Ignoring Sailor Venus' frustrated cries, Gohan moved closer to his father. "What did he say, dad?"
"Nothing important," Goku said, raising a hand to the back of his head and laughing earnestly as all of the other fighters stared at him in surprise.
Piccolo, however, was not fooled.
"That's funny," he said, "it all sounded pretty important to me, Goku."
The laughter ceased almost as quickly as it had begun, and Goku's eyes grew wide as he turned to Piccolo. "You heard?"
Piccolo nodded. "Saiyans aren't the only ones with good hearing. I know everything he said. So," he added, motioning towards the others, "are you going to tell them? If you don't, then I will."
"You can't!" The words came so suddenly that Gohan took a step away from Goku. "You heard what he said. You can't-"
"I'm not asking you to say anything that would endanger his safety, Goku, but we all deserve the chance to change our futures, too. This involves all of us, not just him."
The words hung in the air, confirming what Setsuna had feared all along. The youth's sudden appearance, her inability to see into the future; it all became clear to her instantly. Something had indeed changed in the timeline. Their sudden arrival to this new world had been a rollercoaster ride so far, new uncertainties looming behind every answer she received. Now, it seemed as though the events that had taken place would only serve to herald a darker time that lay ahead of them.
She saw Goku hesitantly nod at Piccolo's words and focused on the present. It was finally time to learn just what fate the future held.
. . .
The next minutes were spent listening to Goku as he retold the mysterious youth's grave message. Every now and then he would stop to gather his thoughts, in which time Piccolo would continue the tale. No one else spoke, first out of curiosity of what words had been exchanged, but as the story went on a disturbing silence fell over the group as the true meaning of the message became clear. In no time the story had been retold, the heavy silence remaining in the air as everyone struggled to process what they had just heard.
"That's it, then," Piccolo said once he felt the silence had lasted long enough. "In three years from now all of us are supposed to die in a battle against the androids. Gohan will be the only one of us who will survive."
He turned to the boy, as did the others, all eyes resting on Gohan as he stared towards the ground, clenching his hands and gritting his teeth. Piccolo hated to put him on the spotlight, but it was important that he be able to gauge Gohan's reaction before telling them the next part. He saw Krillin place his arm over Gohan's shoulder, saw the boy smile in gratitude, and continued.
"However, now that we know what's going to happen, maybe we can change it."
There were a few uncertain glances from the other fighters. He saw Sailor Pluto frown as the inner senshi all glanced at one another. To his other side he saw Tien and Chiaotzu looking equally concerned.
"These androids," Piccolo said, "are supposed to bring an end to the Earth and life as we know it, but since we know when they'll arrive, we can prepare to face them."
A faint chuckle reached his ears, and he turned to Yamcha with a frown.
"Come on, Piccolo, this is crazy," the other fighter said. "I mean, time travel? We're supposed to believe that this guy came form the future?"
He was laughing slightly as he stared at Piccolo, but Minako could see his body trembling and knew the difficulty he was having in accepting the truth. She herself had already gone through the process of denial before agreeing to come to this world.
"I would not take the matter so lightly," Setsuna said. "To navigate the flow of time is more than a possibility. We used similar means to come to your world, and have had a similar occurrence in our own world, as well. I am known as the Guardian of Time for a reason."
Yamcha seemed to think it over, his mouth moving wordlessly in an attempt to retort, but when no words came to him he gave up and lowered his gaze.
"Regardless of how ridiculous this idea seems," Piccolo continued, "there is no doubt in my mind that it's true. You can risk your future, but I'm not taking that chance."
Gohan turned to his father. "Dad, do you think that guy really came from the future?"
"Yes I do, son," Goku said. "I know it's not what we all want to hear right now, but I believe what he said. Piccolo's right. We're going to have to do all that we can to be able to beat these androids."
No one else argued the decision. When it was clear that everyone had taken the message seriously, Setsuna turned to the other senshi. Sending them a silent message, one that they all seemed to understand, she moved towards Goku, standing before him and bowing slightly.
"It seems as though fate has destined our meeting like this, Goku," she said. Dozens of different ideas seemed to flow through her mind, and she paused as she tried to recollect her trail of thought. "We have a lot to discuss with you, and I'm not quite sure where to begin."
Goku smiled. He closed the distance between them and raised his hand so that it was level with her face. "Then maybe it'll be easier if I do this?"
The senshi of time understood. Nodding in agreement, Setsuna closed her eyes and focused on pushing away the deeper thoughts concerning their original world and the private life of each girl from her mind. Letting memories of their battles as sailor senshi and their journey through the Gates of Time linger on the surface, she called out to Goku.
"I am prepared."
Goku's hand rested against her temple, his breathing relaxed as he closed his eyes and extended his energy. Visions of battles and hardships belonging to the other group flowed before him, years of struggle not unlike their own engraving into his mind as they whirled by. After a few seconds he lowered his hand, his mouth splitting into a grin.
"That's amazing," he said with a laugh. "I can see you girls have been through a lot. You should feel proud of all you've accomplished." He lowered his voice, so that only Setsuna could hear his next words. "I kind of picked up your human names somewhere along the line. Don't worry, I won't tell the others."
Knowing that he was being sincere, Setsuna smiled. "Thank you, Goku." Then, in a louder voice so the others could hear, "We have reason to believe that these androids might represent a threat to all of the dimensions in existence. If you would allow us, we would like to join you in facing this threat."
"Sure," Goku said, "we won't mind at all. We'll need all the help we can get if we're going to win."
Laughter followed his words, and all eyes turned to Vegeta. The saiyan prince had obviously found something amusing, and they needn't wait long to find out what.
"You crack me up, Kakarot. Do you obviously expect them to be much help? I'm sure they would make much better cheerleaders than fighters."
Rei's eyes widened with indignation. She turned to Vegeta, her hair whipping back as she raised her hands and began to gather her energy. She had reached the limit of her patience, and goodwill be damned, she was going to teach this arrogant man a lesson.
She was stopped when Sailor Venus moved forward, standing in her line of fire and unknowingly keeping her from retaliating.
"Who are you calling a cheerleader?" Minako snapped. "You're one to talk, mister pink shirt."
"I wouldn't be laughing if I were you, Vegeta," Goku said, catching the two senshi's attention. "These girls are a lot stronger than you think they are."
"Oh, I'm sure they can help keep criminals off the streets," Vegeta replied with another chuckle, one that quickly disappeared along with the humorous tone in his voice. "Come now, Kakarot, how much of a fool do you take me for? These girls are as weak as the rest of the inhabitants living on this planet."
"You really think so, huh?" Goku asked, his smile growing wider. "Well, I hate to break it to you, Vegeta, but they're much stronger than that. In fact, they're actually stronger than me."
He saw Vegeta's eyes twitch slightly, the small act betraying the rest of his demeanor as he lowered his arms and narrowed his eyes. "What's that?" Clear disbelief rang in his words, but Goku could hear a hint of anger buried within them as well. "Surely you're joking, Kakarot."
"Nope," Goku said, "these girls are way stronger than me. No doubt about it."
The rest of the fighters they had recently met were staring at the senshi, the same expression of surprise seemingly etched in every face, but Setsuna's eyes remained on Vegeta as she waited for his reaction to this revelation. The saiyan prince had yet to say anything, his eyes growing large and unfocused as his mouth hung slightly open. The next moment his eyes were narrowed once more and he growled as he turned to the senshi. His eyes found Sailor Jupiter and remained on her, his dark features reflecting such hatred that the tall brunette froze where she stood, not able to tear her eyes away form him.
Rei, who was finally feeling victorious after hearing Goku's words and seeing the reaction they caused, would have loved to add further insult to injury with a final verbal assault, but the murderous look on Vegeta's face was more than enough to make her reconsider her actions.
From Goku's side, Setsuna shifted the Garnet Rod's weight in her hand, prepared to intervene should the short man decide to attack, but when Goku extended his arm to stop her she realized she needn't concern herself; once he had silently vented his frustration Vegeta seemed to regain his composure, crossing his arms over his chest and turning away without saying a word.
That was too close, Setsuna thought, sighing in relief as Makoto did the same. The tall brunette turned to Ami and smiled, yet her body continued to tremble as her eyes shifted warily towards Vegeta's back.
"Now that that's settled," Setsuna said, "we can get back to what we were discussing. This new threat is not to be taken lightly. I believe we will all need to learn how to work together if we are to succeed."
"Agreed," Piccolo said, turning to the other fighters. "Anyone who's thinking about sitting out should say so now. After this, there's no turning back."
Gohan did not hesitate. His face became set as he voiced his approval. "I'm in. You can count on me."
Piccolo nodded while Goku beamed at his son. Gohan returned the smile, his features brightening in contentment before another voice caught his attention.
"That's brave of you, Gohan, but it might be better for you if you stay out of this."
Gohan turned to Sailor Uranus. The taller senshi was measuring him with a calculating look. Her eyes bore into him as they had done before, yet he did not cringe or shrink away, surprising Haruka with the sudden intensity in his own gaze. He had lost the soft looks associated with youth, and where she had expected to see a child's gaze there was now a battle-hardened stare, one that she knew all too well. It was the same look that she had seen countless times on the other senshi before each battle.
"No way," the boy said, staring unflinchingly at the tall woman. "There's no way I'd do that. I could never forgive myself if I did nothing."
The resolve behind his words seemed enough, and Haruka, feeling Michiru grasp her hand, nodded to him and remained silent.
"I'm proud of you, Gohan," Goku said, stepping up to the boy and placing a hand on his shoulder. "We're going to have to train harder than ever before, but I'm sure you'll be able to handle it. Maybe Piccolo will consider training with us, too," he added, turning to Piccolo and awaiting his response.
"Sure," the namek said. "It sounds like a good plan."
Gohan's eyes widened at his words. "Do you really mean it, Piccolo?" he asked, excitement building within him as he waited for the response. When Piccolo nodded he jumped to the air and gave a cheer. "This is going to be great!"
The image of the battle-hardened warrior was gone, having vanished as quickly as it had surfaced, and Gohan had gone back to being a cheerful six year-old boy. The swiftness of the change surprised Haruka, but she seemed to be the only one; the other girls seemed more amused at his childlike antics than anything else, a thought that deeply bothered her. She felt Michiru give her hand a gentle squeeze, one that she was familiar with, and decided to bite her tongue on the subject, watching silently as Gohan continued to celebrate.
The boy's other companions wasted no time in voicing their agreement. Finally, Goku turned to Vegeta, keeping a laidback tone and smiling as he addressed the other saiyan.
"What about you, Vegeta? Do you think we can work together again like on Namek?"
Vegeta scoffed. "You must have me confused with one of your chummy friends, Kakarot. Why should I join forces with you? I couldn't care less about what happens to this planet."
"Do you always have to be such a jerk?" Sailor Mars began, but stopped as a hand fell on her shoulder. Turning to Goku, she was surprised to see that he did not seem as annoyed by the saiyan prince's reply as she felt. He shook his head at her and turned to Vegeta, the same smile from earlier still adorning his features.
"That's too bad," he said, making a show of sighing in defeat. "I'm sure you would have loved to challenge those androids and prove you're stronger than them. But if you're not interested in the challenge…"
He let the words linger purposefully, Rei noticed, knowing the effect they would have on the other saiyan. Sure enough, instead of appearing insulted, Vegeta seemed amused, chuckling to himself as he spoke again.
"Well, I suppose I'll be expected to do all the fighting when the time comes, anyway." Turning to Goku, his features darkened as he scowled in the other saiyan's direction. "But make no mistake, Kakarot. We work together to fight these androids, and for that reason alone. After that, everything goes back to the way it is."
Not waiting for any type of response, the saiyan prince gathered his energy and took to the air, disappearing in the same direction as the teen had done earlier.
Back on the ground, Rei scowled and crossed her arms. "These androids will kill him too and he still refuses to help," she muttered to herself. "Just who does that guy think he is? What a creep!"
"Yeah, that's Vegeta for you," Krillin said, shaking his head. "That guy's never going to change."
"Don't mind him," Goku told the senshi. "He may be rough on the edges, but I still think there's hope for him, and I'm sure I speak for everyone else here when I say that we appreciate your help."
Setsuna moved close to him once more. "Thank you, Goku," she said. "We will be glad to assist in any way that we can."
"What will you do until then? Return to your own world?"
"Yes," she said. "We will return and discuss these recent events with the rest of our teammates, but rest assured that we will return in three years' time."
"Right," Goku said, "we'll do all that we can until then to prepare."
Setsuna nodded and motioned to the other senshi. Discussions were now over, and everything that could be done to prepare for the future had been taken care of. It was time for them to return to their own world and see if their team still stood united or if any of the girls were having second thoughts about the upcoming battle. Yet she knew it was not so; they would stand together as they had done countless times before, and now there were others who would join them in battle. After a month of doubt and fear, of no longer being sure that a future involving Crystal Tokyo was a certainty, nor that any of them would live through the battles that were to come, Setsuna allowed herself to smile genuinely and without guilt. Things were finally starting to look up for them, and the future no longer seemed as lost as before.
She turned to the senshi, her gaze moving from one girl to another until finally resting over Usagi. Like the others, she had begun to move closer to Setsuna when she suddenly stopped. Her gaze remained locked in the distance, her clear-blue eyes unblinking even under the strong rays of sunlight that fell over the terrain. For a moment she seemed to stare beyond the horizon before her eyes glossed over, the blonde-haired girl exhaling deeply as they slowly began to close. She swayed on the spot, flaying back and forth in a slow rhythm until her legs seemed to give and she fell face-first over the flat terrain, colliding against the ground and moving no more.
The future ahead remained as uncertain as ever.
A/N: As many of you readers have noticed, updates are few and far from each other. No matter which fandom I'm working on, story updates seem to take a month or more in between. Even so, this does not mean that I'm not working on future chapters of existing stories. My time in real life to dedicate to writing is simply very limited, and many times I find that the ten to twenty minutes of my lunch break that I dedicate to these stories is the only time I have to work on them.
That being said, the next chapter is already on the works, and as always I hope to have it out as soon as I can. Thanks to all the readers for taking the time to give this story a chance. I hope you're enjoying it and look forward to the next update!