The Art of War »

A/N – I am determined to update this story on a regular basis. This will be the most intense fanfic in my repertoire. There is a lot of heated action and somewhat graphic violence ahead, with angsty moments woven in between. Its name is inspired by Sun Tzu's profound novel The Art of War, a book of battle strategy that despite being written thousands of years ago still holds pertinence today as a valuable resource for every modern warrior, no matter the trials they face.

I have a lot planned for this fanfic, and I have established a schedule. I will do my best to update every five days, always writing several chapters in advance of the ones I upload so as to stay on a steady track and finish strong. Please be patient as it is difficult to balance both the responsibilities of life and my sporadic bouts of inspiration.

Acrid coils of smoke weaved thin trails through the ashen sky, drifting upwards from the smoldering ruins of what had once been a thriving metropolis. The sickly stench of death lingered heavily in the air, mingling with the reek of charred flesh. An eerie silence reigned over the grisly remains of the city and its late inhabitants, broken only by the crackle of wayward flames that had yet to die down.

Mutilated corpses were slumped across the streets, their fleshy entrails pooling around twisted bodies. Blood bubbled from the cracked skull of a child sagging against a crumbling wall, her long-dead eyes staring sightlessly at the destruction surrounding her ragged carcass.

A forlorn gust of wind rattled the trees with its unnerving wail, rustling the blood-matted tangles of the little alien girl and brushing softly against her aubergine skin. Two ruby-reminiscent crystal earrings dangled from her elflike ears, complimenting a sleek cerise gown with frilled sleeves that dipped low over her knees.

Scarlet slashes across her forehead where a delicate tiara had once rested indicated that the indication of her royal status had been cruelly extracted from her. Several feet away in a patch of carmine mud lay the silver headpiece, snapped into violent fragments that twinkled morbidly as a testament to her dethroning.

She had once been the cherished princess of the planet and the future heir to the Huzukian throne. Her father the King had developed a fondness for riches and, as he squandered his wealth on such ornaments as the earrings his daughter wore, he neglected to pay his dues to the tyrant whom he owed much to in exchange for immunity from purges.

His insatiable greed had been his downfall.

But the elegantly-adorned child had been innocent, blissfully unaware of the imminent danger that loomed above the golden orb she called her home—danger that came in the form of dual beads, glinting heinously as they sped across the horizon tailed by streaks of fire, and growing progressively larger as they approached.

They were like pearls, but with a ruby-tinted circular window in each, and the barest outline of raven hair upswept into a flame-like style reflected from within one of them…

Now, that same eccentric coiffure hovered in a wicked shadow over the battle torn landscape, some of its ebony tendrils spilling into eyes of fervent onyx that festered beneath bushy eyebrows. The young man to whom the eyes belonged reached one blood-soaked glove upwards to part the bangs that now beset his vision, snarling when they tumbled boyishly back.

Abandoning his temperamental hairstyle to its own devices, the boy pressed a white button on the side of the mechanism attached to his right ear. An emerald plate of glass extended over one obsidian iris, bathing it lightly in a jaded hue. He blinked as the appliance began to chirp in response. Numbers flashed across the glass at a rapid pace, and he snarled softly, the harsh sound penetrating the sinister silence over the land.

"Nappa, do you copy?"

Clipped static buzzed faintly in his ear before being overridden by a gruff reply.

"I copy, Prince Vegeta."

Deciding to get right to the point, as he was not fond of pleasantries, Vegeta stated sharply, "I have completed my share of the planet. If you are finished, we can depart back to base."

More static hummed distantly, and then the answer came back to him. The Prince could tell by the smug tone of voice used that Nappa was proud of his accomplishment. "There's not a single escapee left, and the cities on my side are nothing but ruins."

"Good. Meet me at the coordinates our space pods are located at within the hour."

Casting a glance of disdain at the bloodied wasteland dotted with skeletal trees and gruesome remains of the unimpressive planet's natives, Vegeta summoned his ki and propelled himself off of the dirt, the distinctly blue flares of power licking at his skin. The stink of decomposition permeated the pallid horizon, and the foul reek of gore clung to the warrior's skin and clothing.

His muscular yet lithe frame was outfitted in royal blue spandex and complimented by white boots and gloves that were now stained suggestively with deep splotches of red. The gold-and white armor he wore was likewise splashed with encrusted blood, now faded to russet as it began to harden.

He was fourteen years of age. It was bordering on a decade since he had first been sentenced to a bitter life of servitude, and he was already simmering in hatred for his tormentors. In the nine-and-a-half years he had spent submitting to the whims of the Icejin tyrant and his lackeys, he had gained for himself a plethora of enemies.

The baby fat was finally retreating from his cheeks and his muscles had adopted a more sculpted appearance. His penetrating eyes were icily distrustful—and icily calculating—of any who dared to approach him. Many of the soldiers were wary of the radical child, whose power level was astounding for his age; and all despised his innate ability to rapidly excel in strength. Those who regarded the alien Prince as a threat did their best to break him, and the corridors echoed with the taunting remarks of soldiers who thought they were sly.

Snorting, Vegeta pushed the tumult of thoughts away into the dark recesses of his mind, concentrating instead on the exhilarating feeling of the wind filtering its way through his wild mane. A smirk wormed its way onto his features as he reveled in his own strength.

If only my father could see me now, the Prince mused proudly, before scowling as another wave of fury coursed through him. His father would have been pleased if he were still alive.

Memories trickled their way to the forefront of his attention and he cursed. A scarlet orb nestled among a myriad of stars, its misty atmosphere interwoven with gold, flashed across his subconscious—bringing with it the familiar pang of loss that penetrated his being. His eyes narrowed as he attempted to force the image away, but it remained steadfast.

As he shot like a bullet through the sparse atmosphere, he retraced the bloodstained path of havoc he had wreaked upon the once-serene planet. Discriminating clumps of ash were littered upon the vacant streets beside lifeless bodies, the likes of which wrought a pungent stench that still managed to sting the exotic warrior's nostrils even though he was several feet above. He felt himself grimace in disgust.

When had he begun to torment his victims for the sake of his escalating bloodlust? His people had never been a race without honor. They were warriors, but even they had standards. Vegeta had seen those standards embodied in the proud stance of his father.

A humorless chuckle escaped his lips. He had admired his father. When he was younger, before the days he was forced to concern himself with governmental matters, his desire was to be a mighty warrior just like his sire. But those days, the days when he had never heard the name of Frieza, were long gone, replaced by nothing but hollow, humiliating drudgery.

He had been four when the world he clung to so desperately began to disintegrate. That was the year he first began to hear the name—whispered covertly among the palace guards and reflected in the increasingly more sober eyes of his father and mother.

Frieza. Frieza. Frieza.

Who was Frieza, anyway? Vegeta remembered the day that he asked that question over supper after hearing the elusive name one too many times. His mother had frowned, letting her charcoal eyes drift to the meal on her plate, her eyebrows scrunching in worry. His father had cleared his throat gruffly and hardened his gaze, resting his piercing black irises upon the four-year-old Prince with a dark expression.

But what haunted him the most about that onyx gaze that bored into him was the inkling of regret he saw dancing subtly within. In all of his four years of life, he had never once seen his father regretful. He had never known his father to make a mistake. It was one of the traits he admired most about his father and hoped to duplicate in himself, until that day.

It was the day that planted the first seed of doubt in his heart. Whoever this Frieza was, he was involved in a blunder made by his own father, the King of Vegetasei. But when he pressed for further elaboration on what exactly the mistake entailed, he was met with eerie silence. Fear clawed at his heart when he sensed his parents' reluctance to tell.

He never knew what his father's mistake was until a year later, when Frieza took him away.

He remembered standing rooted next to his father, attempting in vain to hide his trembling as the hatch of the spherical ship lowered in time with the electrical buzz of machinery, and as a wisp of dust erupting upon impact momentarily skewed his vision of the entrance. He remembered hearing the ominous thud of footsteps descending down the ramp, and seeing a flash of ghastly, fleshy pink.

He recalled the raspy effeminate voice cooing in greeting, and the slim dark lips twisted into a deceptive smile. He remembered swallowing audibly as he beheld the twinkling scarlet pupils that glittered cruelly as they shifted down to his level, regarding him with something akin to demented mirth.

He remembered desperately resisting the urge to flee from the icy fingers that reached down to pat his aloft hairstyle, and the panic that rose to suffocate him when his own eyes dared to collide with the crimson specks that observed him amusedly. He remembered watching those ebony lips stretch further into a distorted smirk, and he recollected the cold feeling that shivered through his limbs at the Icejin's touch.

He had turned to his father for reassurance, but was met with a grave, melancholy expression. It cut him to the heart.

That night, once he had been situated in the cramped and sparsely-adorned quarters that were to be his new residence, the confines of sleep evaded him. With his knees scrunched closely to his body and his arms encircling himself, he had rocked back and forth on his cot, several solitary tears daring to trickle down his cheeks. He had felt betrayed, abandoned, and destitute—torn violently away from everything and everyone he cherished. Although he struggled to reign in the cascade of tears that dampened his pillow, he could not halt the salty river and curled into a tighter ball, letting his loneliness consume him.

He had been only five years old.

Two smoking craters emerged from behind a skeletal clump of trees, each of their epicenters studded with a space pod. Shaking his sentimental thoughts from his mind, Vegeta descended rapidly toward the ground in a treacherous spiral of sapphire flame, exulting in the brief feeling of liberty that fluttered in the pit of his stomach.

Executing a flawless corkscrew, he finally let himself drop to earth, his body rocketing through the scant clouds in a radiant arc.

His dark eyes took in the sight of his burly bodyguard landing beside him, a small mushroom cloud of dust expanding slowly from the spot. Nodding curtly, the Prince turned and ducked into the spherical opening of his space pod, situating himself before hovering one gloved finger over the 'Launch' button.

His tail subconsciously curled tighter around his waist as the hatch closed with a hiss of machinery and the rockets ignited. Vegeta idly observed as the wasted stretch of land gradually receded until his final glimpse of the ruined world was cloaked by its gaseous atmosphere. He had barely enough time for another coherent thought before a cold mechanical voice informed him, Stasis gas activated.

The world swam before him as he slipped into the embrace of chemical-induced sleep.

Review! The next update is due to come on 12/22/2012. I'll see you then.