Disclaimer: TDS does not own Dragonball.
"So that's the last one?" Videl questioned as she watched Gohan place yet another snack into his bag. Between all the food and the equipment in there, Videl was almost positive that it had to have weighed somewhere around the twenty kilo mark. It was a miracle that the bag itself hadn't already torn.
"Yep," Gohan nodded as he effortlessly swung the bag over his shoulders. "We've got enough stuff between our bags for the trek there, and everything that we need for while we're there has already been organised."
"I still don't get how we're going to walk there," Videl said as she rubbed her hands together in an effort to warm herself up. The polar-fleece jumper that Chichi had lent her barely did enough to protect herself from the chilly morning breeze.
"It's not that hard to understand, is it?" Gohan grinned, "you move one leg forward slightly before stepping onto it and then doing the same with the other."
"That's not what I meant!" Videl glared at him playfully before adopting a serious look. "It's like a sixty kilometer trek, it'll take us at least a week to walk that!"
"Well, we've only got a day to do it," said Gohan. "So I guess we better get a move on."
"It's not like we can use our Ki to propel ourselves when we're walking," Videl huffed. "The road's pretty windy and I probably wouldn't be able to turn, never mind continuously exert myself."
"Who said anything about a road?" Gohan held back a chuckle as Videl rubbed her hands against her arms, hoping that the friction would warm her slightly.
"So we're going bush-bashing... great," Videl muttered, as she stared at Gohan, seemingly envious of his invulnerability to the cold.
"You didn't expect training to be easy, did you?" Gohan gave her an exaggerated questioning glance as he raised an eyebrow.
"No... it's n-not that but how is walking, training?" Videl stuttered slightly at the gaze he sent her way.
"Well, you answered it yourself," said Gohan, "it's a sixty-five kilometre trek—endurance training."
"Sixty k's isn't that much," Videl sighed, "when you ignore the crazy schedule you've got put down for us. At this rate we won't even be able to stop for lunch for all that long..."
"You keep on assuming things," her sensei grinned. "I never said we were stopping either."
Mark yawned for a proper five seconds as he tossed his bag by the front door of the Satan mansion. In less than half an hour the doorbell would ring and Yamcha would be standing on the other side of the door, Sharpener probably already with him. When his Sensei had informed him about their newly chosen training grounds Mark couldn't have been any happier; he felt like it would be a good thing to not have to sleep in his own house every night, some time away from the ties that bound him would definitely do him some good.
The boy stretched his arms behind in his back in an attempt to loosen his limbs before he wandered off from the hallway and towards the kitchen to grab himself a quick breakfast before leaving on his journey. For the first time in at least a week he had gotten a decent amount of sleep during the night and that was definitely noticeable. Not that he had gone to bed like any regular night and had drifted off into dreamland like any normal person, no, quite on the contrary.
As Mark rubbed the last remainder of sleep from his hazel eyes he used his other hand to open the pantry and reach for a box of cereal. It was like he was flying on automatic pilot as he shuffled towards the refrigerator to grab milk and the cupboards for a bowl, his train of thoughts running over the past week all the while through. As he poured the milk over the grainy flakes he contemplated his current situation, this time with a mind not hazed by sleep deprivation and anxiety by nightly terrors.
The more the Satan boy thought about the deal he had closed with his father the closer he came to the realisation that he might have just made a dreadful mistake. He knew that he would never be able to forgive himself if he betrayed his sister the way he did and the fact that he had done just that felt like a weight crushing down on his chest. Once again the power of money had proven itself to be an incredibly powerful thing and it had managed to take him into a dangerous chokehold. The mere idea of possessing wealth had made him turn to his own sibling and he hated himself for it. No, 'hate' was not enough to describe how he felt about himself, 'loathing' would be a better fit.
Mark walked over to the kitchen table and pulled a chair out from underneath, the shrieking of the old wooden legs over the floor making him cringe slightly. He sat down on it and stirred his spoon through the breakfast absentmindedly and heaved in the deep sigh in the process. Due to his inner conflicts finding sleep had been a rare thing for the teenager in the last seven days and as he went he could see the bags under his eyes grow larger with every day that passed.
Finally, just yesterday, had his fatigue caught up with him and he had fallen asleep the second his cheek hit the pillow. Then the boy had been in a state of near-coma for a good twelve hours and the second he had woken from his slumber he finally felt a bit rested in what had felt like forever.
Mark bit down on a spoon full of cereal, never even registering this flavor as the gears in his mind grinded like crazy, weighing down every possible option, solution and outcome.
He wanted to relieve the feeling of guilt that pained him so much and that was quite easily done if he simply told Videl was their father had been up to recently, but that meant that he had to confront Hercule and defy the man's wishes. Even while Yamcha's rigorous training had paid off dearly and had caused Mark's power to far exceed his father's, the Satan boy was still frightened off the man's response to whatever he said or did. His years of fearing Hercule's judgement were getting the best of him there and were preventing him from taking some actual steps so far. That and the continuous promise of a who knows how many figured back account.
Mark sighed again before chewing down yet another spoon of his breakfast, wondering if he could at least ease the circumstances of his current situation somewhat. He figured that the least he could do was tell his sister what their father's plan was; he could try and find a way to deal with the threat known as Mr. Satan later.
The boy nearly had a heart attack when said man's name boomed through the kitchen and called his name; a snicker escaping its owner as he noticed Mark neatly tumbling out of his chair in fright.
"What's the matter boy," Hercule laughed in amusement. "Bad conscience?" he stood in the kitchen's door frame, a newspaper tucked under his arm and his big afro hairdo even fuzzier than usual. He walked towards the table and pulled a chair out for himself, not even glancing at his son as he sat down and unfolded the paper to read the morning news.
"So..." Mark had to suppress a gulp as he heard his father address him from behind the black and white wall. "You got your bags all packed and ready, eh? Any idea how long those goofballs that dare to call themselves Senseis are planning on keeping you busy?"
"I-I wouldn't know," his son stammered, nearly choking on a spoon of cereal in the haste of replying. "All Yamcha told us was that we were moving to a new training ground and that we would be staying there for a while. He never mentioned anything on how long we would be gone."
A rustling noise sounded as Hercule flipped a page, humming in understanding.
"So that means that there will be plenty of time for you to execute your plan. You do have a plan, do you?"
This time Mark wasn't able to hold back the gulp. With a shaky hand he pushed his breakfast aside and began to twiddle with his thumbs. nervous about how to reply. Right now he could tell the Champion that he didn't want to be a part of his plans anymore, that there was no way that he would be betraying his sister again.
'Yeah, uh...about that.." he mumbled anxiously. "I-I don't think that I'll be able to go through with that, dad. It just doesn't feel right to rat Videl out like that, it's unfair."
Hercule barely stirred at the answer, firstly beginning to fold up the newspaper. Mark felt his stomach drop the second he laid eyes on the man's face, a wide grin sprawled over his face. Mr. Satan tossed the paper aside and reached into the pockets of his morning robe, pulling out something that made a faint rattling noise as he took it out.
The teenager's eyes dilated as he caught a glimpse of his father's car keys. Obviously his father was going in for another bribe and the teen hated him for it, but he had to admit that Hercule was a master of persuasion.
"Come on, son," the man snickered as he jingled the keys again in front of said boy's face. "At least be a good sport and tell me where you and your teacher are going to stay. If you do that you can take him and that Sharpener kid out to your new training grounds in your brand new Bugatti."
Mark swallowed hard. Aside from his own flesh and blood his Bugatti was his most prized possession. Him and Videl were barely even allowed to cast a glance at the vehicle before and now his dad was giving it to him? Feeling conflicted once again he tried to talk himself out of the situation, hoping that his father would leave his bribing aside and let him go without any further questioning.
"I don't think I can, dad," the Champion's son said hastily as he rose from his chair. "Yamcha and Sharpener will be here any minute and I think that Yamcha wants us to walk the whole way so the Bugatti would be of no use."
Hercule merely chuckled. 'Well, then I'll make sure that the servants have it polished and absolutely spotless when you return. All you have to do is tell me where our training group is headed."
Mark grit his teeth as Hercule jingled the keys again, the temptation to reach out and grab them beginning to overwhelm his reasonable thinking.
An exhausted Videl stumbled after the man walking effortlessly in front of her as he made his way down a windy trail. Breathing heavily, she stopped on her feet and tossed the bag off her shoulders onto the ground before collapsing herself.
As she drew long breaths, it seemed like it took forever for her sensei to notice her, however she wasn't waiting for him. Ripping the zipper of her bag open, she thrust her right hand in and fished around for her water bottle.
It wasn't the first time they had stopped by a longshot, and Videl doubted that it would be the last; her bottle was closer to empty than it was full but that didn't stop her from pressing it to her mouth and allowing the cool liquid to flow through her dry mouth. Savouring the refreshing feeling, Videl tugged at the polar fleece jacket that she was wearing as Gohan neared her.
"Probably a good idea," her teacher commented, approvingly, as she pulled it off. She had long since abandoned the thermal top she had been wearing at the start of their little journey, so with the loss of her jacket, all she had on was a long-sleeved white top.
Rolling up the sleeves of her shirt, she tucked the jacket into her backpack as her breaths evened. The chilly morning air helped to cool her down, creating an odd sensation as icy wind met warm sweat. Glancing to Gohan as she sipped lightly at her water, she hid a slight smirk.
"I thought you said we weren't stopping?" she grinned, leaning against her standing backpack.
"We're not," he said monotonously. "How're your legs doing?"
"They feel like they're absolutely shredded," Videl answered honestly as she massaged her thighs. Caressing them, she looked around slightly, Gohan had agreed to abandon the bush-bashing path he'd laid out for them not too long ago and stick to the road. There were a billion bugs on the ground and it was so disgusting that Erasa would have squealed in shock at the site but Videl couldn't have cared less.
There were various potholes of different sizes in the aging road which might as well have been paved half a millenium ago, and the path had been overgrown by all kinds of plants in some stages. Videl had learned that the hard way a little while ago when she had tripped on a lone root which she should've seen a mile away, but thankfully the road itself wasn't too hard to follow.
There weren't any unmapped random forks in the road or anything, but finding the path in itself had been an adventure.
"Good," Gohan said, almost sounding condescending, "it means that this is working."
"I-I'm not too sure about that... sensei..." Videl muttered under her breath, "all I can feel is pain and I reckon we've still got another ten kilometers to go." They weren't making bad on time but that wasn't necessarily a good thing, Videl likened it to sprinting in a marathon—while Gohan had no trouble setting and keeping to a pace, she had found herself struggling a mere hour or two in.
"Twenty five to be exact," Gohan sighed, before perking up. "You've done pretty well so far, one of the better students I've had... at least on a hike."
"Hiking's not that fun," Videl lamented as she brushed the back of her palm against her forehead, wiping away little beads of sweat that had reformed.
"It's different," her sensei nodded. "It's not a fight where you can try and turn your opponent's weaknesses against them, or capitalise on their mistakes... it's endurance training, something that's invaluable in a fight. Being able to push yourself to the limit and then push yourself some more, time and again."
"Well if you're better than your opponent, you don't have to worry about that in the first place," quipped Videl.
"You're never truly better than your opponent," Gohan said, Videl almost laughing at the hermit-like tone that her sensei's voice seemed to adopt. "There's always a trick that someone will be able to pull out of the bag, something that'll turn the tables and take you by surprise."
"You make it sound like a little spar's a fight to the death..." Videl said, not quite catching on.
"I've been in more than a few, and since you're someone that's involved with fighting crime... when everything's on the table, you want to be able to pull out all stops."
Videl could only nod at the wise-words, easily relating having been in similar situations herself. Being able to push yourself required a certain willpower, something that everything had, but something that few mastered or even began to learn to control.
"Now I reckon that's enough of a break, we can't waste too much time now—we want to get there before sunset after all."
Videl struggled to clamber to her feet, before falling back down onto her back, blowing a large breath. "My legs are still killing me..."
"Temporary pain for long-term gain?" Gohan winced as his student shot him an odd glance after he uttered the saying. "Well think of it this way," Gohan paused, "one of my teachers used to tell this to me, in fact—pain is weakness escaping the body."
"That's not a bad one," Videl gritted her teeth, as she propped herself up, pushing herself onto her hands. Holding back a wince, she looked towards her sensei with determination.
She couldn't feel her legs anymore. They felt numb, severed, as if they simply weren't there anymore. The repetitive scraping of her shoes against the dry grass of the hill they were on slowly tearing at her ears, she glanced at her sensei.
He was slightly more tensed than he had been when they began, a few trickles of sweat had begun to form on his forehead, however that was still in sharp contrast to the puddle of sweat that her body was swimming in.
The cool morning breeze that their journey began with had rapidly transformed into a great heat wave which was only just starting to fade with the sun. The heat was less intense, but it wasn't any warmer and if Videl had to take a guess, it was still an hour or two away from darkness.
She hadn't opened her mouth to speak in a long time; it was too dry. The water bottle which she had been carrying was now empty, each droplet having been sipped from it. Gohan himself had rationed the last of the water he was carrying between himself and the Satan girl an hour or two ago, but that was all long gone.
They hadn't stopped for lunch yet, hell they hadn't even stopped unless she had been too weak to carry on. Gohan was like a machine, a car running on petrol, he didn't need any food...
barely needed any water and in turn, barely reacted to the strong heat that they had faced.
Despite the fact that the end of summer was near, the coolness that Autumn often provided had not yet grasped the mountain-area that Gohan lived in. Although the mornings were cold enough, the afternoons were awfully humid and even though the sun was just beginning to descend from it's perch high up in the sky, she was boiling. So much so that all she wanted to do was fall over and drop dead on top of the straw-like grassy field they were walking through.
The only thing that was able to keep Videl footed was Gohan's promise of Fire Mountain being only an hour or so away, and after having plowed through grassy fields, rocky mountains and dense forests for hours on end the girl was dreading the thought of sixty more agonising minutes. She didn't even feel the pressure on her numb legs anymore, her feet were dragging her forwards almost as if she was on automatic pilot.
Being lost in her train of thought the crimefighter nearly jumped three feet when her sensei suddenly spoke.
"Ah, good!" Gohan exclaimed, a joyful smile adorning his features. "We're almost there, see?"
Videl's neck protested heavily as she managed to raise her head, the heavy bag on her back nearly making her tumble backwards. She brushed a wet and sweaty lock of raven hair from her face and followed her teacher's pointing finger. In between the tops of the trees the top of a mountain became visible, the giant rock standing tall and proud in the relatively flat landscapes surrounding it.
With the place being called Fire Mountain Videl had expected to see an ocean of flames dancing over it, like all the stories and rumors had told. Much to her surprise it looked like any other mountain, aside from the towering castle on top.
"Say," the Satan girl addressed Gohan as she threw the bag up on her shoulders a bit more to supports its weight more properly. "Wasn't FireMountain supposed to be engulfed in a sea of flames or something?"
Her sensei chuckled at little Videl's confusion. "A bit of half and half," he replied as he put another zip in his step, forcing his student to pick up her speed as well. "Many, many years ago the mountain was a fiery hot and blazing one, it was so bad that even the Ox King Gyu Mao himself wasn't able to reach his castle. But then one day a very skilled martial artist known by the pseudonym of Turtle Hermit released a very powerful wave of Ki, expelling the flames into nothingness and finally enabling Gyu Mao to live in his castle again. It also just so happens that Gyu Mao is the one providing our temporary training grounds which are just a little passed here."
Videl arched a brow in curiosity. "Not to butt in or anything sensei, but exactly how did you manage to get the Ox King to give you training grounds within his territory? I heard that the guy was a real grouch and that he downright terrorizes the inhabitants of the nearby villages."
Gohan laughed in his usual manner. "Well, I can assure you that those stories are false, Gyu Mao is one of the most kind-hearted people that I've ever known." He cast a glance at the castle that continued to come into view more and more with every mile that they travelled. "And about how I managed to get us these new training grounds; that will be my own little secret for now. Maybe I can tell you later on..." He grinned a little as he rubbed the back of his neck.
And with that Gohan continued to march forwards, leaving Videl to fall behind a bit with every step that he took. The gears in the girl's head were grinding like crazy as she tried to figure out just what she had been told. Who was her sensei exactly, with him being able to have royalty open up for him?
Videl heaved the deepest sigh she had ever let out as she tossed her bag in front of the gigantic hall doors. Instantly she could feel her neck, back and shoulders burn up now that the heavy ballast that had been holding her back had been removed. Without second doubt she dropped herself to the ground, giving herself a chance to rest her legs.
She glanced to her side and noticed Gohan looking at her with a smile. The demi-Saiyan remained silent as he rummaged through his own backpack, pulling out a bottle of water that he had been holding back for their entire trek, as well as two ham sandwiches made by the Queen of Cooking, Chi-Chi. The Satan girl didn't waste a second as she gulped down half the bottle of water in the fraction of a millisecond, only the viciously tear up the plastic wrapper around the slices of bread while attempting to glare at her sensei for hiding his treasures.
The large doors croaked deeply as one half of the giant wooden door swung open, revealing a happily smiling Yamcha as he poked his head around.
"Ah, you're finally here," the Wolf warrior exclaimed as he pushed the door open further. "We've been waiting for you. Guys! Come on out, everybody's here!"
A rousing murmur of voice emanated from the large hallway and one by one the teachers and their students walked outside. Videl noticed all the familiar faces; Katie, Freed, Tien, Krillin and of course her brother Mark. She barely paid any attention to how her own sibling didn't even dare to look at her as if he had done something wrong.
But there was also a new face in the crowd, one that Videl had never seen before. It was that of a young man, only a year or two older than herself at most. His hair was the same color as hers, the neatly trimmed locks ending just above his firm shoulders. But that wasn't his most outstanding feature, no. What really struck the girl were his hellishly blue eyes, ones that could easily hold the most piercing glare that anyone had ever seen.
A glance into them sent small shudders down her back, they were unnerving... scary, but she couldn't help herself from taking another peak. They didn't look frightening, more risk-taking and fearless... what she would've thought her own would've looked like except with a more mischievous dare-devil wearing them.
Suddenly looking away when he looked up at her, Videl prodded her fingers together slightly before looking towards Gohan again. "S-so this is where we're staying?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "Inside is pretty much gigantic hall with a kitchen out back, plenty of space for everyone to sleep."
"Where are the showers?" Katie asked, glancing at Gohan curiously. "I'd imagine that we'll all kind of stink..." she trailed off at the awkward looks that she began to receive from her peers.
"There aren't any," Gohan shrugged slightly. "But if you're really that desperate, Krillin's going to be doing runs to a large field about half an hour away from Satan City's airport every monday and friday for those that can't stay here all the time."
"What about in that big castle up there?" Freed questioned, an arrogant tone to his voice. "Surely there's running water in there somewhere."
This time it wasn't Gohan who replied, but rather Krillin.
"Yeah, of course there is," the bald monk answered. "But seeing that a castle isn't exactly the best place to hold our training we're just going to have to stay here. The Ox King has made it perfectly clear that he would like his castle to remain as it is now and having a horde of teenagers running around using Ki would probably result in the opposite."
A clap was heard, coming from the three-eyed warrior Tien, effectively grasping the attention of all those gathered around him.
"Well, what do you say we get started?" Tien said with a playful grin. "It's only a little past sunset anyways so there is still plenty of time to get some training in and for you to get used to the new grounds. I say we all go in a different direction and find ourselves a proper spot to work out for a bit. We also probably need to gather some firewood and make sure that we have enough water to last ourselves for a few days."
"I can take care of the water," Yamcha offered, raising his hand slightly. After being met with an approving nod from Tien he nudged for his two students to come and follow him. "Come Sharpener, Mark, let's head out before it gets too cold to stay outside."
"Not so fast!" a voice bellowed from somewhere out of sight from the group. The voice was all but too familiar to Videl and she could instantly feel anger boiling up inside. That anger threatened to develop into rage as Hercule stepped out from behind a few trees, a triumphant look crossing his face as he approached the teachers and students.
All heads turned and a few stunned gasps were heard when the World Champion of martial arts halted in front of the group, his arms crossed and a smirk curled around his lips.
"Yes, can I help you?" Gohan nearly spat. Videl was surprised to hear the venom in his voice.
Even when her sensei had shoved her father to the wall his tone hadn't been this biting and sarcastic.
"Glad that you asked!" Hercule hollered so the entire group was able to hear him. "Well I've been keeping an eye on you lot and the way that you're 'training' my son and daughter. Needless to say... I'm impressed."
"Impressed?" Gohan questioned, looking at the man as though he had grown a second head.
"Yes, you heard me correctly," Hercule said, scratching through his moustache in an attempt to seem nonchalant. "But I can't help myself from wondering about exactly how good you senseis really are."
The demi-Saiyan arched a brow in confusion. Just what was this man planning on?
"What do you mean?" Gohan asked, curious as to what Hercule was going to say. "Just how do you expect from us to prove ourselves to you? And why do we need to do that for that matter?"
Hercule laughed in a deep tone, a slightly menacing ring to its sound as he made eye-contact with each and every person present.
"Well that's pretty easy," he stated, stretching his arms, in a casual tone. "All you have to do is swap the teacher and student couples around a bit. If my children aren't making any process under a new instructor then it should be more than obvious that this 'dojo' of yours is nothing but a big hoax."
Videl wanted to jump up in protest. How dare her father say something like that? Her, losing Gohan as the fantastic teacher that he was? No way! He was probably just afraid that she would run off with Gohan, just like always thought she would with any boy she spent time with.
But, much to her surprise, Gohan gave a small nod of understanding.
"Okay," the teenager said as he looked the man in front of him dead in the eyes. "And who do you suggest will be Videl and Mark's new teachers?"
Hercule took a minute to observe the company before him, scanning every single face in the search for a fitting match.
"Well how about you pair up Videl with..." Mr. Satan said, his pointing finger finally finding a proper suit. "Mr. Pretty Boy over there."
The girl followed her dad's pointing fingers and had to suppress a little gulp when her eyes fell on the mysterious newcomer to the group. When he laid eyes on his suggested trainee he merely scoffed before looking away, not even finding her worthy of another glance.
"The name's Seventeen," the young man spoke, turning his head with a sway of his jet-black hair. His voice was hush and silky, but the underlying tone in it was absolutely menacing, causing a slight shudder to go up and down the spines of both father and daughter. "And sure, I'll train your little girl if you want me to, but don't expect me to go easy on her. She should be happy that she gets to be in my presence in the first place."
Videl swallowed hard. If this man was truly going to be her new sensei then she was going to have some rough times to look forward too. Now all she could do was hope that the guy wasn't as bad as he sounded.
"So, little girl," Seventeen spoke, interrupting Videl's train of thought. "Get your tiny behind off the ground already and start walking, we have firewood to gather."
All hope for an easy-go training had evaporated instantly. This was going to be a long training session, that much was for sure.
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