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I have one note regarding the world this takes place in: I am a subscriber of the theory that the Dragon Ball world is an alternate Earth, sometime in the future after a major disaster which necessitated the use of the dragon balls to restore it back. The use od DB changed the landmasses, brought back the dinosaurs, created the animal hybrids etc. That's why the counting of years is the way it is - i.e. this story takes place in a year 774 AD. More over, a lot of the culture and knowledge from before was kept. So if I happen to mention, I don't know, Shakespeare or Journey to the West (as a sort of inside joke), don't be surprised by that.
Oh, and remember, this story is told from a 3rd person POV limited, which means we can see into Gohan's head but what others think shall remain obscured, though I might add a few peaks into Videl's head, just to shake things up a bit. And now, after the long A/N, finally on to the story.
Gohan almost slept in on Friday morning, regardless of his reassurances to his mother that his late return home - it was close to one a.m. when he had come back - wouldn't effect his schedule. The police on Papaya Island had been very cooperative with him and Videl. Apparently, their reputations, especially Videl's, had spread and so there had been no trouble for them to be admitted to the investigation. They had spent several hours browsing the police database, comparing the portraits within with the sketch of the attacker but they had had no luck. Either it had been the guy's first crime or he hadn't been caught nor suspected before. Only when midnight had come and gone had Videl admitted a defeat, a phone call from her frantic father demanding to know where she had disappeared to, also helping.
Gohan had dropped her off back at the mansion and flown back at a leisurely pace, using the peace of the night to settle his thoughts. The most disturbing fact had been the unknown identity of the attacker. He must have been a ki user but Gohan couldn't remember seeing him before. Granted, he had been taken aback at the knowledge that there had been ki users other than his group of friends around but shouldn't he have at least felt him sometimes? If Gohan concentrated, he could track down all of his friends by their ki easily. Why then wouldn't he feel someone else as well? Especially someone relatively strong like that?
Gohan had decided at last to discuss these things with Tien on Saturday, if they found some time and maybe he should pay a visit to Piccolo as well. Both Piccolo and Tien had years of experience on Gohan. They might have some idea as to what had been going on.
That problem decided, Gohan pondered his other trouble, namely Videl. She had a puzzling influence on his behaviour. She made him very nervous half of the time but he still wanted to be in her company. He considered her his friend but not in the way that Krillin was his friend. And it wasn't because she was a girl, either. Gohan was fairly sure that by then, he could call Erasa his friend as well. But when he thought of Erasa, he automatically put her in a group with Sharpener, Kopeer and Paper as his school friends. Videl should be in that group, too but his mind put her apart from them. Why was that?
Bulma knew something, he was sure of that but how could he make her tell him? She seemed to derive some amusement from his confusion and if Gohan knew anything about Bulma Briefs, it was that she was extremely stubborn and if she wanted to have a fun at his expense, she would hold out for as long as she wanted.
Asking his mother was also an option but something in him was reluctant to talk to her. Just thinking about asking Chichi brought a wave of embarrassment that he could not understand but it discouraged him from voicing his questions to her. Piccolo came to mind next but he was a stranger to humans and their emotions and wouldn't be of much help to him. It was hopeless, Gohan had decided as his home had come to sight. He would have to put the whole Videl thing aside for the time being and focus on the ki attacker. That was the best option he had. And maybe things would fall into place on their own. He could always hope.
That had been the last night and in the morning, things didn't look any better. Gohan was running late and his only saving grace had been his flying speed which got him to school just in the nick of time. He slipped into the classroom shortly before the teacher and had only time to nod a greeting to Erasa, Sharpener and a tired looking Videl. The girl that had occupied so much of his thoughts recently was leaning on one hand, yawning discreetly now and then. She obviously hadn't gotten a lot of sleep last night, either, something which didn't go unnoticed by Erasa who kept whispering questions all throughout the lesson. Gohan heard all of it and found out that Videl had stayed up for more than two hours after Saiyaman had dropped her off, doing her own investigation in the police database. With only about four hours of sleep, it was no wonder she looked that tired.
The only time she spoke to Gohan was to confirm their meeting time and place on the following day and otherwise she seemed to ignore him. There was that one time she had looked at him strangely when Sharpener teased him about almost being late and Gohan laughed, scratched the back of his head and admitted to oversleeping but other than that one incident, Videl kept to herself. Although there seemed to be an air of realization about her, a sense of accomplishment, of having figured out a long standing secret.
What exactly Videl had figured out Gohan found out soon after meeting her on Saturday morning. She was standing beside her jetcopter, dressed in her usual attire of shorts and a T-shirt and holding a small bag which most likely contained her fighting gi in one hand.
"Good morning, Videl," Gohan greeted her pleasantly.
"Morning, Gohan. Ready to fly out?" she asked and smiled at him which contrary to his usual reaction to her smile put him on guard.
"Yes. I have the coordinates here," he showed her a piece of paper, "so if you have a navigational system, you can put them in."
"Actually," Videl spoke, "I was thinking that you could fly us there."
"Me? I don't know how to fly a jetcopter," Gohan protested, a feeling of apprehension he had felt from the moment she had smiled intensifying.
"I didn't mean in a jetcopter, Gohan. Or should I say, Saiyaman?"
Gohan froze for a moment and realized immediately that that had been a mistake. Staring at Videl as a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car was as good as an outright confession. He could deny it, of course, but the knowing glint in Videl's eyes told him it would be futile. So he resigned himself to his fate.
"How would you find out?" he asked, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly and Videl rolled her eyes.
"Seriously? That gesture is what tipped me off. I am good at studying a body language. I remember and catalogue all of the strange quirks and habits people around me have. Saiyaman rubbed the back of his head anytime he was confused or embarrassed and I noticed yesterday you are doing the same. Then I realized that you are the same height and from what I could see of Saiyaman's face, I could tell he was pretty young. Add to that the fact that you admitted you were capable of flying and were trained in martial arts and it all fit together. I am good at putting things together. Good at deducing things. You said it yourself on Thursday."
Gohan chuckled. Videl was clearly proud of herself and it was hard to begrudge her this success, not when he had expected from the beginning that it would happen.
"I thought it would take longer than that, though," he admitted.
"Please," Videl replied, "You're terrible at keeping secrets and at lying."
"It might be so, everyone I know keeps saying that."
"Why would you do it, though?" she asked. "I mean, you said you are not interested in fighting and yet, you put on that costume and go out to fight criminals."
"I guess it's just in my nature," Gohan said slowly. He had never taken much thought about why he would want to help out people like that. It was just something he had to do. He couldn't just stand by and let other people be hurt, not when he had means to prevent it. But putting it into words was difficult. Videl seemed to sense his confusion because she opened the door to her jetcopter and climbed in.
"Get in," she ordered. "We'll fly this way so we can talk more. Thursday showed me that talking in a mid-flight makes for a lousy conversation."
Gohan obeyed, climbing into the passenger seat and strapping in. He handed the coordinates to Videl and they were both silent while she raised the machine into the flying altitude and set the course.
"It's on an autopilot," she explained as she turned away from the controls, making herself more comfortable and facing Gohan. "So why did you put on the costume and go out to fight crime?"
"I like helping people. I have some extraordinary abilities, as you have noticed and even though I don't want to fight anymore, not the way I had to fight when I was younger, it seemed a waste not to use them. Not when I saw that I could do some good with what I am capable of."
"A regular superhero," Videl commented. "But why the costume?"
"To protect my family," Gohan replied without hesitation. "If my identity was known, my Mom and my little brother would be in a spotlight, too. And it would be only a matter of time before some people would try to hurt them to get at me. Besides, there are my abilities. I can fly, I'm much stronger than a regular human, I'm so fast I can catch bullets with my bare hands. That's enough to scare people. If they saw that an ordinary boy of sixteen was doing that, they would call me a monster or a freak and they wouldn't accept my help. That costume made me into someone they can trust, ironic as that is."
Videl nodded slowly. The only reason why her work as the resident crimefighter hadn't backlashed at her yet was because her father was her only family and only a truly crazy person would attack the Champion and the Defeater of Cell. As for the people being scared of Gohan, well, she had had her eyes opened for her in the last weeks but the majority of people still lived believing all of those things like flying were just a trick. An ordinary looking boy using tricks would be met with suspicion. A colourfully garbed superhero, though, he was practically expected to be able to do things other people can't. It was extremely smart once you thought of it.
"That's really smart," Videl voiced some of her thoughts aloud. Gohan grinned proudly at that and she grinned back. "So, this Tien guy, what is he like?" she asked after a few moments.
"He's a good fighter and a good friend. He's brave but sometimes reckless. And he tends to hold grudges for years," Gohan said, recalling the conversation that Bulma and Launch had had a week before.
"You have realized by now that Tien is, just like me, a Z-Warrior?"
"It was Yajirobe who came up with that name and it stuck," Gohan explained. "The thing is, not all people in our group were friends at first. Some of them started out as our enemies and only joined because there was another enemy that required us to cooperate. And Tien still cannot get over what one of these former enemies had done when we had met."
"The short spiky-haired alien?" Videl asked, surprising Gohan but he nodded and confirmed her guess.
"Yeah, him. But how-"
She didn't let him finish.
"That picture from the Cell Games. That alien stood with the Z-Warriors, clearly opposing Cell. That was the common enemy that had united you, wasn't he?"
Gohan shook his head.
"That would be Freeza. You couldn't have heard of him," he added at her questioning look. "He was killed before he could do much harm to the Earth. By Cell Games, Vegeta was a part of the team, though he was still in denial back then," Gohan smiled at that. Bulma had once started ranting about Vegeta when Gohan was picking up little Goten and she had gone into considerable details regarding the Saiyan's faults and shortcomings, him being in denial of Earth being his home until well after the Cell Games being one of those faults.
"So, that's another alien living on Earth," Videl spoke. "Makes me wonder where Miss Trigger is getting her info from."
"I almost forgot," Gohan exclaimed. Videl would have had a shock meeting Tien's wife if he didn't warn her. "You are going to meet her today."
"I am?" Videl stared at him intently. "How come?"
"Well," Gohan started rubbing the back of his head before he realized he was doing it and Videl's knowing smile made him snatch his hand back sheepishly. "She is actually married to Tien," he revealed and watched as Videl's eyes widened and then narrowed.
"And how long have you known that?"
"Since last Saturday?" he offered and added. "If it helps, it was a big shock to me, too."
"I bet it was," Videl snorted but she regarded him with a curiousity. "I wonder just how many surprises and secrets there are regarding you and your friends."
"A lot," Gohan admitted and Videl smirked.
"So I better be prepared for anything. Honestly, Gohan. For such an ordinary guy, you are turning out to have more secrets than the United Governments put together."
"Seems that way," Gohan sighed. "I just wanted to be normal, you know."
"I think all of us wish to be normal sometimes."
"Spoken like a true celebrity," Gohan teased and Videl swatted at his arm.
"You are starting to talk like Sharpener."
"Is that supposed to be an insult?"
"It's supposed to be a warning not to do that. Or I will kick your ass," Videl warned but Gohan laughed, feeling reckless and encouraged by the easy banter they shared.
"Videl, you are strong and you have a lot of potential but training or not, I can beat you anytime I want," he spoke up and watched as her eyes narrowed in anger.
"Care to put your money where your mouth is, Son?" she challenged and Gohan nodded.
"Sure. How much?"
"How about this? You beat me and I admit that you are stronger than me."
"I am stronger-" Gohan tried to say but Videl spoke over him.
"I beat you and you answer all of my questions truthfully, no matter what I ask. Deal?"
"Deal," Gohan shook her hand and Videl smiled triumphantly.
"Since we want this to be fair, how about we have the match in, say, two months from now. So that I have a benefit of being able to use some techniques, too."
"Sounds fair," Gohan agreed, sure that no matter how much Videl trained, she wouldn't be able to defeat him. They were silent after that, Gohan was watching the scenery pass by at a snail's pace to him while Videl studied his profile in between checking on their flight.
The Great Mountains appeared after some time and as they came closer, they rose ever higher until they towered above them, their snowed-in peaks glittering in the sun. Videl turned off the autopilot and followed one of the passes until they emerged into a valley that was still green for the most part, even though the autumn was setting in quickly and the yellowing grass was spreading across the ground.
Gohan could already sense Tien and when he focused, he could make out the familiar ki signature of Launch. He didn't sense Chiaotzu, though and he wondered where the small man might be. And then there was the house that he had only glanced at the previous week, nestled at the side of the valley and fitting into the rustic surroundings.
Videl brought the jetcopter down in front of the house just as a tall, three-eyed man wearing a green coloured gi emerged from inside. He was looking at them with a slight smile that widened when Gohan stepped out.
"Gohan, good to see you again. You have grown tall," Tien said and Gohan went forward, shaking hands with one of his old friends.
"Good to see you, too. Sorry about the last week. I was in a hurry and well," Gohan rubbed the back of his head but Tien shook his head.
"I understand. Now, where's this girl I'm supposed to train?"
Videl hung back while the two of them said their hellos but now she stepped forward, squaring her shoulders as she looked up at the man that would hopefully become her teacher.
"Master Tenshinhan," she bowed lowly as was befitting of a student in the presence of a master. "I am honoured to make your acquaintance."
Tien, even though he looked slightly taken aback, put his hands together and bowed back, though not nearly as low.
"The honour is mutual, Videl Satan," he straightened up and looked her up and down, studying her intently. "Yes, just like you said, Gohan. Strong, with a lot of potential but untrained. We'll have a spar," he announced to the short girl. "And after that, I decide if I'll teach you."
"Thank you, Master Tenshinhan," Videl replied and Tien grimaced.
"Call me Tien, I'm more used to that."
"All right, Tien," Videl said hesitantly before noticing how Gohan was looking at her. "What?" she snapped.
"I have never seen you being so polite," Gohan said wonderingly and Videl fumed.
"It's called a basic courtesy. He's a martial arts Champion, I'm still a student. I'm merely showing him a proper respect."
"I didn't mean anything by it," Gohan protested. "It was just an observation."
"Maybe I should let you two fight it out," Tien suggested, his expression one of amusement. "I can study Videl's moves even better that way."
"Or you can ask them to come inside," Launch called out from the doorway. "You can always fight later. I swear, for all you dislike Vegeta, you're just as bad as him when it comes to training."
"Miss Trigger," Videl had forgotten what Gohan had told her earlier but now she remembered. The blonde grinned at her.
"It's Launch when we're out of school. I hate that damn alias but Bulma thought she was very clever, giving me a name like that. Now get inside before I pull my gun at you."
"Her gun?" Videl looked at Gohan but he shook his head.
"Don't ask. You don't want to know."
Something in his voice must have persuaded her because she followed him into the house without a word.
A/N: I'm ending it for now, the next chapter should be full of fighting, though. I'm going to cut down on the updating tempo. With my finals looming, I have to dedicate some time to studying so the updates will be once a week from now on. I'll try to make longer chapters to make up for that, though. And since some of you don't have a PM enabled or left an anonymous review, I'd like to respond to you this way.
A-man: I am keeping the power levels in mind, don't worry. I had the villain(s) thought up from the beginning and I believe it will make sense as to who they are. I can guarantee that no ridiculously overpowered OCs will be found in this story.
SeanHicks4: Good guesses and I wish I could say more to you but I don't want to spoil the story. But you are a sharp one, indeed :D Still not right but you came close.
ArmyofDuckTape: I think the lack of a clueless Gohan stems from the fact that a lot of people prefer a badass Gohan. I have observed that a lot of people who complain about the post-Cell story has their main beef with Gohan's attitude. He was little Mr. Badass when he beat Cell and then, poof, he's the shy new guy in a school, somewhat nerdy and then came Saiyaman with the coloured costume and Ginyu-inspired poses and it was far from the SS2 Gohan we have seen at the end of the Cell saga and people were disappointed. I have seen several great stories which have Gohan keeping up his training and remaining badass but I have a soft spot for the clueless nerd myself. Besides, I have always seen Gohan as more of a reluctant hero and I liked that about him. He was pushed into those big battles because there was no other option and he performed remarkably but that didn't mean he liked that. But he did what had to be done. That's really admirable and that's why I like Gohan so much (third place in my top ten of DB/Z favourite characters, right after Future Trunks and Vegeta).
BTW, anyone here a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire or the Game of Thrones?