A/N: Before we get going, I just wanted to say a few things.
1) This story will be dark at times. Maybe lots of times. If you didn't like how I wrote Vegeta in "Point of No Return" or in any flashback sequence I've used in any of my stories, or you didn't like the tone in No Return at all, then I don't recommend reading this story.
2) I intend for this story to fit into canon. That means that no Earthlings will be making an appearance (sadface). The focus will be primarily on Vegeta, Nappa, and Raditz. There won't be any huge time jumps or any fast-forwarding to the future. It'll just be contained in this time frame, just focusing on this part of their lives.
3) Ages. I couldn't really find anything on this, so I'm going to be lazy and say that they're all ten years apart, which puts Vegeta at 17, Raditz around 27, and Nappa around 37. Just to clarify.
Anyways, longest A/N ever. If you're still with me, then I hope you enjoy. :) As usual, I don't own any part of Dragonball Z.
The underground dungeon was dark, crowded, and humid. The air in particular smelled of sweat and blood.
It was the perfect atmosphere for a good fight.
Nappa didn't react as the bloodthirsty and rowdy crowd feverishly chanted one man's name. He thought the place had been large, but now it didn't seem large enough as more aliens packed in to watch the fight. Standing all the way in the back against the wall, he could easily see over everyone's heads. He watched the bloodied fight that was captivating the crowd – the fight that was quickly becoming one-sided.
In what looked like a barbed wire cage, one slick, green reptilian alien stood, smugly staring down at the smaller warrior who was sprawled out on the ground. It looked like the fight had been won, but Nappa knew better. He looked up briefly and made eye contact with Raditz across the dungeon. They had a silent exchange, and then Nappa grinned. Both Saiyans then looked over to the side, where two short, red-skinned alien men were standing, watching the fight with wide, blue eyes.
One of them hissed a little, his forked tongue flicking out anxiously, before he urgently told his comrade, "Remi, if you don't stop this fight soon, that boy is going to get killed-"
"No, no, look!" the other alien interrupted, gesturing back to the fight. "He's getting up again!"
Sure enough, the fallen warrior was slowly getting back up to his hands and knees. Bare chested, the tanned skin of his back was shiny with sweat. He was in loose black pants with white boots, and he was wearing a white mask that covered almost his entire head, save for his eyes and mouth. He couldn't quite stop the few strands of black hair from falling into his eyes though, even with the mask. Brushing aside as much blood as he could from his face, the warrior slowly looked back up at his reptilian opponent and offered a mocking smirk.
The reptilian fighter swooped in immediately, eager to deliver the final knock out blow and end the fight. He aimed his hardest kick right at the young warrior's neck, but his ankle was effortlessly caught with one hand. The reptilian blinked a few times in surprise. He tried yanking his foot free, but he couldn't break that powerful grip on his ankle, leaving him to awkwardly hop on one foot while trying to maintain his balance. Before the reptilian fighter could even see it coming, the smaller warrior swiftly stood up and landed a devastating blow right under his chin, sending the fighter flying backwards until he crashed hard into the cage.
The crowd fell into stunned silence when the reptilian man didn't get up from where he landed. Meanwhile, the other warrior who had been taking a beating for the last few minutes, effortlessly remained on his feet. He spit a mouthful of blood on the ground, cracked his neck once, and then glared out into the crowd. After a few seconds, the crowd came back to life and roared their approval.
The two red alien men were practically bombarded by screaming aliens.
"That was LUCK! I got 2500 yins that say this kid can't handle one more fight!"
"Let my son fight him! 6000 yins say he'll get his teeth kicked down his throat!"
"EVERYONE, PLEASE HOLD YOUR WAGERS UNTIL THE NEXT MAN STEPS UP TO FIGHT!" Remi yelled out. Inside the cage, the body of the reptilian fighter was being dragged out. Meanwhile, the victor was squatting down, watching the chaos outside of the cage with veiled disgust.
"I'll fight him!" a powerful voice boomed over the crowd. Everyone looked over at Nappa, who had stepped forward. The large Saiyan slowly unwrapped the tail from around his waist, waving it confidently behind him. "I'm a Saiyan, and Saiyans don't lose fights. I'll fight this kid, and I'll crush him like the bug he is."
Everyone in the crowd exchanged looks and whispers. They had noticed his armor and knew he was one of Frieza's men, but the tail changed the name of the game. The surviving Saiyans who worked for Frieza had started earning themselves a reputation, especially the youngest Saiyan, recognizable by his trademark flamed hairstyle. They were all relieved that this wasn't that Saiyan, but if he was going to fight, that only meant one thing. The other warrior was a dead man walking.
"2500 YINS ON THE SAIYAN!"
"3000 YINS! That kid is going to be dead before he knows what hits him!"
"Wait, damn it, WAIT!" Remi shouted, his red face even redder with the growing heat in the dungeon. He wiped the sweat off his scaly skin, and then demanded, "Does ANYONE here have any money on the boy?"
"I do," Raditz smoothly said as he stepped up through the crowd. Dressed in altered armor, his tail was tucked beneath his crotch guards as he effortlessly shoved his way forward. "The kid's my brother, and he can beat anyone, even a Saiyan. If he loses, I pay everyone here twice their wager. If the kid wins though, I get all the money."
The crowd immediately burst into a frenzy of activity, as everyone shoved forward to get in on the wager. Meanwhile, the door to the cage was opened. The young warrior didn't flinch, maintaining his squat. His arms were outstretched to his sides, where he was tightly gripping the sharp wire with both bare hands as he leaned back against it. His crimson blood was trickling down to the ground from that wire, from the skin tearing on his hands and his back. He barely noticed.
Nappa confidently strode up to the cage, chuckling as he did. Just as he was about to enter, Nappa removed his armor, exposing his massive build. In size, he almost dwarfed his opponent, who was much leaner. His action only spurred higher wagers, but he paid that no mind as he stepped into the cage.
Don't go nuts, Vegeta, he silently pleaded as the door was locked behind him. Remember that the regen tanks are down.
Don't worry, Nappa, Vegeta sent back, slowly getting up from his squat. He flashed a smirk. We'll just have a little fun before I win this competition. And I'm not talking about this fight either.
You won't win if you killed that last guy.
I didn't kill him, fool. He's unconscious and might not ever walk again, but I pulled back enough to make sure I didn't kill him. I'm not going to lose this.
Nappa subtly nodded, knowing what the prince was referring to. He then wrapped his tail snugly around his waist, glancing over through the crowd towards Raditz. The Saiyan was busy heatedly discussing things with Remi and his business associate. Of the three, Raditz was by large the most skilled negotiator. Vegeta was also highly skilled at it, but he was far too impatient and hot-tempered for the back-and-forth; he much preferred using coercion through the removal of a limb or two to get what he wanted.
Unfortunately, in this little game, no violence to the native aliens was allowed. Though Vegeta often didn't care what Frieza's rules were, in this case, he cared very much. The stakes were high for the young prince, and he was going to give Frieza no reason not to reward him once he emerged victorious.
Finally, Raditz turned around and gave Nappa the go-ahead nod. The crowd was already buzzing, yelling and chanting for the large Saiyan to destroy the lanky, bloodied teenage boy in front of him. Vegeta cradled his jaw with one hand, gently feeling the side of it. It was a bit sore, but aside from that, he was fine. He then readjusted his mask as best as he could. It was scratchy and uncomfortable with the heat, but if they were going to win the money, then he had to keep it on until this so-called "fight" was over.
Vegeta quickly ducked out of the way when Nappa sent a punch straight for his face. Nappa wound up blasting off part of the cage with the impact, sending it flying into the aliens who had been close by. Vegeta furiously cursed under his breath, hoping none of the weaklings were killed.
Idiot! he hissed mentally. We're not allowed to kill anyone! Remember?
Oops. Sorry, Vegeta, Nappa added, looking out into the crowd, which had exploded in fanaticism over the showcase of Nappa's strength. Far from being frightened, they were only further entertained. Vegeta's gaze darkened. If they wanted entertainment, he would oblige.
You might have to wrap this up soon, Vegeta, Raditz suddenly sent, making the prince look over his shoulder at him. Some of these fools don't look like they're going to stick with their wagers.
Vegeta turned back to Nappa, and quickly phased out of sight to avoid another wild right hand. The prince phased in behind his comrade, and delivered a powerful kick right to the back of Nappa's neck. The impact sent Nappa flying forward and crashing right through the cage, forcing everyone watching to practically dive to the ground out of self-preservation. The Saiyan only came to a stop when he slammed into the opposite wall, before crumpling down to the ground. Unlike Vegeta who had been mostly feigning fatigue and injury to milk more money out of the crowd, there was nothing fake about the pain on Nappa's face. He could barely move after that impact.
The prince landed lightly on his feet, ignoring the crowd which was dead silent. He settled his eyes on Raditz.
Fast enough? he mentally growled.
Yeah, but I think you might've just paralyzed Nappa, Raditz warily said, looking down at his fallen man who was still trying just to regain his motor function.
I hope I did. It'd give me an excuse to finally kill him, Vegeta sneered. He then walked out of the custom exit he had created in the wired cage. Every alien in his path quickly got out of his way. His display of power was finally starting to draw suspicion as to his true identity, and no one wanted to say anything out of fear that they were right.
"Well, guess I'll just be taking that money from you now," Raditz nonchalantly said, breaking the awkward silence in the dungeon.
"That's not fair!" a young, one-eyed alien from the back shouted. "That boy was no ordinary fighter! No one can take out a Saiyan! He has to be Ve-!" He was silenced by another alien striking him in the face.
"It is fair. My brother won. Perhaps this weakling he beat is not a true Saiyan after all," Raditz scoffed, looking down at Nappa in disgust.
The aliens whispered, and seemed to relax a little over that explanation. Raditz then turned back to Remi, who immediately extended an enormous bag filled with coins. Raditz snatched the bag up, flung it over his shoulder, and then left the same way Vegeta did.
It took a few minutes before Raditz stepped out into the night air. As soon as he did, he pulled out his scouter and put it on. Then he blasted off in the direction of their abandoned space pods. The planet they were on was rich and well off, something that was clear from the advanced civilizations he saw below him during his flight. It was just one reason why Frieza hadn't wanted anyone to die by the hands of his men. The bigger reason, of course, was that his men were simply not supposed to be on the planet at all.
Vegeta had discarded his mask when Raditz finally dropped in next to him. The prince was sitting on the latch of his space pod, using the crumpled mask to wipe the blood and sweat off his body. He didn't even look up when Raditz sat down across from him.
"Get all of it?"
"Yep. With what we got earlier today, I think this puts us as about 95,000 or so," Raditz said, putting the bag between them.
"Count it and make sure," Vegeta ordered. "If you're short, go back there and get the rest of it. Every last one of those damn coins counts." He scowled and looked off into the distance. "Where the hell is Nappa?"
"Should have told him to get us something to eat before he gets back here," Vegeta grumbled, tossing the now-dirty mask aside where it rolled on red dirt. "Haven't eaten in I don't know how long."
"We could actually buy something local with all these yins. Maybe even get a female or two," Raditz offered with a smirk. That smirk vanished when he saw the glare he received, and he quickly added, "I'm just kidding, of course. I know we can't spend it."
"Damn right we can't spend it. Not when we don't know how much everyone else made."
"You think anyone made more?"
"Doubt it. According to base, the illegal underground fighting on this planet is where the money is. But we've been there all day, and we didn't see anyone."
"Enough talk. Shut up and count the money," Vegeta growled, gesturing with his chin towards the bag. He then leaned back, before slowly laying down. Now that the adrenaline of the fights was starting to wear off, he was feeling a little soreness from the blows he had taken. It was nothing he couldn't handle, but resting his body for a few minutes would be helpful.
For a while, the only sound was coins rattling while Raditz neatly counted their stash. Vegeta stared up at the night sky, silently debating whether or not what they had was enough. The only way he was going to get what he truly wanted, was to bring back the most money to Frieza while drawing the least amount of attention. No coercion. No threats. No bloodshed. It was a trivial challenge, but that thought only made Vegeta angrily grind his teeth together. He shouldn't have even been doing this ridiculous assignment in the first place. In his mind, Frieza should have simply given him what he so rightly deserved: a spot on the elite rank qualifying squad.
Every few solar cycles in the Cold calendar, Frieza chose four of his top unranked soldiers and formed the squad. Being on the squad did not mean you were finally granted rank – it was a squad where each soldier competed with every other squad member in challenging assignments, until only one man emerged victorious. That man would then officially be a rank 5 soldier, which was the low end (the highest was rank 1, held only the four elite members of the Ginyu Force). Even though rank 5 was the lowest, having any rank meant your life was just a little less worthless in Frieza's eyes. Hell, there were even a few perks. It was barely an improvement in the lives of those who actually earned it, but that infinitely small bit of privilege in an otherwise hopeless life made every soldier desperately yearn for the opportunity to make the squad. And Vegeta was no exception.
The prince had been passed over the last time Frieza had chosen the rank qualifying squad, something that still made his stomach churn with anger and resentment. He and his men were by far the most productive that Frieza had, but Frieza still dismissed him, claiming he was too young for the opportunity. Youth breeds ignorance and recklessness, was the condescending explanation Vegeta had been given. This time around, the prince was older, and it showed. He was a little taller, his voice much deeper, half of his youthful bangs gone. And yet, Frieza had chosen only three soldiers, once again passing the Saiyan by.
Vegeta had almost given up hope altogether, when Frieza unexpectedly announced a competition for any unranked man. Win the competition, earn the last spot on the rank qualifying squad. And so here they were, trying to do just that. Raditz and Nappa weren't strong enough to qualify to make rank, but they were both loyal to their prince and wanted him to make it onto the squad. After all, if Vegeta could move up, things would get a little better for all three of them.
Or so they hoped.
"Well, look who finally rose from the dead," Raditz snorted as Nappa finally landed next to them, one hand holding his armor, his other hand rubbing the back of his neck.
"Oh yeah? I'd like to see you take that kick from Vegeta and still have your damn heart breathing," Nappa snapped, before turning his attention to the prince who had his eyes closed now. "Did ya have to hit me so hard, Vegeta? It took forever to get up after-!"
"Shut up, Nappa."
Nappa exhaled slowly through his nose, but knew better than to push further. Instead, he turned his attention to Raditz who was making neat stacks of coins in the dirt.
"Can I help with some of that? I'm bored."
"Help? You can't even count," Raditz mockingly responded.
Nappa growled, "Watch your mouth, third class! I know how to count."
"Why don't we just count all of this back at base?" Nappa asked, looking back to Vegeta. "We have to be back soon anyways…hey, I know! Maybe we can stop on Planet Giyonam and get some women at Uvi's tavern-OW!" he yelped, falling back over onto the ground while clutching his shoulder. Nappa rolled over and winced, slowly removing his hand to find the skin on his shoulder raw and blistering from a ki blast.
"I said to shut the fuck up," Vegeta sneered, his eyes still closed, one palm extended out towards Nappa. "We aren't leaving because I am enjoying the silence. In order to enjoy silence though, it would help if you two would keep your mouths shut."
Vegeta kept to himself the part where he didn't want to hear anything about women. Whenever he wasn't consumed in hatred towards Frieza or brooding over how to gain more strength faster, his thoughts went directly to females. Any females and all females, of all colors and sizes, of all races. They were all catching his eye these days on his missions, much to his frustration. It didn't help that he had never had one, but that didn't bother him. They were a weakness he would outgrow. He had far more important things to do after all, like earning rank in the most powerful army in the universe.
The three Saiyans had fallen into silence for some time. It was a rare moment of peace, but they all shot up to their feet when they heard a loud explosion not far from them.
"What the hell was that?" Nappa asked aloud while Raditz ran his scouter. Vegeta meanwhile quickly scooped up his armor, tugging it down over his head, before quickly pulling on his white gloves.
"What are you getting, Raditz?" he demanded, grabbing his green scouter. He slipped it on and activated it.
"It's Tanus and his men! What the hell is he doing? Frieza said not to kill anyone!"
"He's wiping out the city!" Nappa yelled in disbelief. "That little moron! He's going to get us all in the red with Frieza!"
"Zarbon, come in," Vegeta hissed into his scouter, turning away from his comrades. He waited a few seconds, hitting his scouter impatiently when he heard nothing but static. "Damn it, answer me!"
"What should we do?" Raditz asked, looking anxiously back at Vegeta as the prince turned back to them. "Frieza said if any of us-"
"I know," Vegeta spit out. The tyrant's threats had been specific – everyone was slated to die if anyone disobeyed his orders. The methods of death were promised to be horrifying and painful down to the last gasp. Vegeta didn't want to imagine it as his mind raced for an explanation. Finally, he concluded, "Tanus must have known he couldn't win the competition. This would be his third time getting passed over. He must want to die, and it seems the fool wants us all to die with him. It's the only explanation."
The Saiyans exchanged glances while explosions grew in the distance. Finally, Nappa and Raditz both looked to Vegeta, silently waiting for his decision. Killing another man in Frieza's army was forbidden if you were unranked, punishable with immediate death.
"Frieza won't kill me. Don't worry," Vegeta arrogantly boasted. He then looked back towards the explosion and his eyes darkened with anger. "Tanus though will pay for putting my life at risk. He is going to die by my hand, right now," he swore.
"But, Vegeta-" Nappa worriedly started, not liking his prince's impulsive plan. He staggered back a little when Vegeta blasted off, nothing but a streak of blue light in the sky. A small look between him and Raditz, and the younger Saiyan tossed their stash into Vegeta's space pod, before closing the pod latch door.
Then they both took to the air, flying after Vegeta.