Chapter 24: From Riches to Rags
The battle began without so much as a cue, the two fighters immediately vanishing, scorching the blue grass with the force of their collisions. The rocketed across the landscape, trading blows, ripping apart the earth and sky alike. Both Yamcha and Krillin struggled to keep up with the frantic pace, their eyes darting too and fro. Cale, however, saw everything in his heightened state, keeping his stance neutral.
From what the Saiyan could see, Vegeta was thus far keeping a stride ahead of the Demon King. Vegeta's furious expression was slowly giving way to a more relaxed glare, thinking he was leagues ahead. Cale, however, could see and feel otherwise. Dabura's power, while scarily high, was just a chink of light behind the curtain. The King was holding back, while Vegeta was giving it his all.
The King was suddenly knocked from the skies by a savage axe-handle strike, careening to the ground hard enough to kick dust and debris into the air, an impact crater forming around him. "What are you doing Dabura?!" Babidi shrieked furiously, jumping up and down, waving his arms frantically. "You're LOSING! Get up! Fight! Kill him! Kill Vegeta!"
Dabura rose from the crater, dirt trickling from his shoulders, meeting eyes with Vegeta who hovered just above the nearby, churning lake. "Where's all that confidence gone, Dabura?" he crooned sardonically. "You were so sure of yourself a moment ago, but now look at you!" He threw back his head, laughing tauntingly. "Perhaps you've now come to realise what you're truly up against."
"Indeed I have, Saiyan." Dabura replied, malice dripping from his tone, his teeth flashing in a grin. "Your abilities seem far less impressive than the first time we met. Have you grown soft in your old age?"
"Soft?!" Vegeta scoffed. "You have the nerve to question my power, mere moments before I smear you across the landscape in a thin paste? Ha! You're more foolish than I thought!"
"I've barely began to tap into my power, Vegeta." The ground trembled briefly, as Dabura allowed his power to briefly spike. "While yours... Seems a little stretched thin."
This was too much for Vegeta. His eyes widened in fury, at both the revelation and the comment, and his aura exploded brightly. "We'll see how thinly stretched my power is once I've blasted you into oblivion!" He screamed maniacally, suddenly charging into battle. He clobbered Dabura with a right hook, then zoomed after him, flipping over and planting his feet deep into Dabura's stomach. The Demon let out a pained gasp, spittle flying from his lips, as he zoomed to the ground. Vegeta, meanwhile, sped to the ground, touching down for a split second before shooting straight up, his fist drawn back, and through a Ki-lined uppercut into the King's spine.
Seizing Dabura's ankles, he spun rapidly, launching the King into the sea. "Time to die, Dabura!" he screeched, a vein ticking in his forehead as he spread his arms wide, gathering as much energy as he could. The wind howled, the waters churned, the earth cracked, and the skies darkened overhead.
Cale's eyes were wide and astonished at the sudden explosion of power. He knew what attack was going to follow, and knew that anyone in the immediate vicinity would be reduced to ash.
"Move!" Cale spun rapidly, seizing Yamcha and Krillin and dragging them skyward, just as the colossal golden wave slammed into the waters.
The explosion that followed was immense, a giant mushroom cloud of smoke and water billowing into the skies. Down below, a pile of rubble shifted, and a thin yellow arm poked through the debris, Babidi's battered figure following soon after. "D... Dabura?" he croaked, panting for breath. "... Dabura?!"
"Your minion is no more, Wizard." Came Vegeta's snide voice from the clouds, and a moment later, the Price slowly descended, touching down a few feet away from Babidi. "And, now that your only protector is dead and gone-"
"I wouldn't be so sure of that, Vegeta." The Prince froze, a shocked gasp escaping him, and he swiftly turned towards the deep voice, the look of shock twisting into fury once more.
Through the smokey haze, Vegeta caught the outline of a tall, caped figure, striding towards them through the shroud. "No!" Vegeta growled in his mind, his fists clenching of their own accord. "I put everything I had into that blast! How can he still be alive?!" A sudden gust swept away the base of the pillar, revealing the Demon. Scuffs adorned his water-drenched form, but the smile on his face was enough to indicate that Vegeta's assault was in vain.
"And now, Saiyan... Now you realise just how pitifully weak you truly are." Dabura's cold, growling voice whispered across the battlefield, a light snicker passing from his fanged mouth. "I believe it's high time I put an end to our little game."
What unfolded next was almost too sickening to watch. From their vantage point on a nearby ridge, Cale, Krillin and Yamcha watched on as Dabura thrashed Vegeta up and down the broad swath of ground. Bone breaking punches, organ crushing kicks, sickening, jarring collisions... Dabura was putting on quite the show. "We... We can't just leave him out there alone... He's going to die if we don't step in..." Cale's slightly shaking voice broke the silence between the trio, while Vegeta's screams of agony echoed against the surrounding hills.
"But what can we do, Cale?" Krillin muttered, his brow furrowing. "If we attack Dabura, we'll be killed instantly."
"If we don't attack, we're going to die anyway. And I don't know about y'all, but I don't intend on dying, cowering behind a rock." Cale's voice found its strength, and he clenched a gloved fist, his knuckles cracking. "Besides, aside from Goku and my... My brother... Vegeta's the last Saiyan in the universe. I can't let my people die out, not while I can still fight..."
Down below, Vegeta fell to the ground, his eyes squeezed shut, a strangled groan slipping through clenched teeth. His body was battered and broken, his spirit crushed, yet even in this moment of unbearable pain, his mind still screamed its taunts at him. Slowly and laboriously rising to a knee, the Prince had a single, drily humorous thought. "At least the voices will stop when I'm dead..."
The Demon King appeared before him, the Prince's life blood staining his sleeves, his face twisted into a remorseless grin. "And so passes the Prince of Saiyans..." A red orb of energy zapped into life in his palm, twisting and elongating, materialising into a long, scimitar-like blade.
"Off with his head!" Babidi shrieked wildly, clapping and applauding his minion's work. "Off with his head! Off with his head!"
Dabura raised his blade, staring down into the Prince's pained glare. "Farewell, Vegeta..."
Vegeta closed his eyes once more, preparing for the end. But, a sudden energy whipped his senses, and the sound of steel on steel rang through the air. "Stand down, Dabura." a stern, emotionless voice cracked like a whip, and Vegeta's eyes opened wildly.
Standing before him, tall and lanky, golden hair fluttering in the breeze, aura sparkling and crackling, was Cale. The youth had his blade drawn, hilt grasped between two gloved hands, his teal eyes burning into Dabura's black oculars. "The fight's over. You face me now." Under the weight of his crippling agony and complete shock, the Prince was at a loss for words.
"Verily, you have skill with a sword, boy," the demon said icily, "but none have ever crossed blades with the King of the Demon Realm and lived to tell the tale."
For a moment that spanned an eternity, the two warriors sized one another up; a silent struggle of wills, fought with a gaze. With a dark, sardonic chuckle, the King yielded, stepping back, his blade disappearing in a cloud of smoke. "You have courage, Saiyan. Not many dare to bandy words with Dabura. For your daring, I will spare you this day. And your beloved Prince."
"He's no Prince of mine. But you won't spill another drop of Saiyan blood... Not while I'm still breathing."
Dabura flashed his fangs. "I look forward to robbing you of both your breath and blood. Soon."
"Come, Dabura. These weaklings are no threat to us." Babidi. The puppeteer, pulling the strings of the demonic mannequin. The order to stand down had come from the Wizard; If Dabura had his way, Cale would be sliced to ribbons by now. "We'll be seeing you again soon, boys!" The Wizard cackled, climbing on to Dabura's back and clinging to his cape. "Don't forget to write!"
The duo sped off towards the horizon, once more becoming a malevolent red speck of light in the distance, and Cale let out a relieved breath through his teeth. Too close, he thought to himself, as his golden hair returned to its usual raven black, sliding his sword back into the scabbard over his shoulder.
By now, Krillin and Yamcha had returned to the battlefield, the former grinning from ear to ear, praising Cale's efforts, while the latter skulked and did his best to appear unimpressed and disdainful. Vegeta, his hair back to its usual parameters, had retreated away from the trio, limping heavily, wincing on every inward breath. Momentarily, his eyes met with Cale's.
"Need something?" he growled in reply to Cale's inquisitive glance.
"A thank you would be nice." The young Saiyan folded his arms waspishly, raising an eyebrow.
"Thank you?" Vegeta echoed. "What thanks do I owe you? I don't recall asking for your assistance, whelp."
Cale's mouth fell ajar. How the hell could Vegeta be so damned stubborn?! "Dabura was about to-"
"About to put himself in a position for me to take him down."
"... Are you really that stupid?!" Cale spat angrily, eyes narrowing maliciously. "He was about to separate your head from your shoulders, Vegeta, an infant could see that!"
A thousand snarling insults and threats rose to Vegeta's sneering mouth, his eyes twitching with anger at Cale's remark. The gall of him! How dare he speak to the Prince of Saiyans like he was a misbehaving child?! Vegeta had killed for less than that. He clenched his gloved fists, oblivious to the pain racking his body.
But, he realised, he was just too damned tired. Not battle weary, just... Tired. He could stand here and banter words with Cale all day, but the care factor just wasn't with him. The Prince's glare found Krillin, who hastily swallowed nervously and took half a step back. "Give me one of those wretched beans." he growled at the monk.
Krillin fumbled in his pockets for a moment, producing the smallest bean he could find and tossed it to the Prince, who deftly caught and ate it. He felt the strength returning to him as the bean worked its magic, his wounds healing and pain ebbing away.
"So what's the next move?" Krillin asked, turning to look at Cale.
"No doubt Babidi's here for the same reason we are." Cale answered, raking his gaze across the horizon. "He's after the Dragonballs, but I can't figure out what for."
"You can't?" Vegeta's tone, and his superior smirk, said that he himself thought it was obvious.
Cale ignored him. "We have to get them first. Whatever he's planning won't be pleasant." He put out his senses, scanning the area, and fixed his eyes on the mountains on the horizon. "There's a collection of energy signals coming from over there." He said to Krillin, pointing.
"Nameks." Krillin informed.
"They'll be able to tell us what's going on here. How many Dragonballs Babidi has so far. I think the two of us should go alone, Krillin. The Nameks would remember you from your first visit here."
"Hold on just a second." Yamcha finally spoke. "If you think I'm just gonna let you fly off alone with Krillin, you'd better think agai-"
"We haven't got time for this, Yamcha." said Krillin. "Things just got a lot more complicated. And Cale's plan is the best one."
Yamcha didn't like this at all, but he realised under the circumstances, they didn't have much of a choice. "Fine." he spat, folding his arms and stalking away from the duo towards the ship.
"Let's do this." Cale said with a nod, which Krillin returned, and they took to the skies, their aura trails receding into the distance.
Vegeta stared glumly around him. He knew exactly what Babidi wanted here, on Namek. He even knew why he struck here, instead of Earth. If those other fools were too blind to see, well, bad luck to them. They'd learn in time. Now, though, as he watched Yamcha's retreating form, he saw yet another golden opportunity. The Dragon Radar was still on board Cale's ship. And, if he was cunning enough, he also had a lackey to do his dirty work.
"Yamcha..." he called quietly, without his usual hateful tone. "We should talk..."