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Echoes from the Past
Gohan walked down the ancient hallway, his footsteps sending dust flying up into the air. Stretching an arm out, his fingertips brushed the wall causing aged paint to cascade down to the floor. Time had not been kind to this humble abode. Everywhere he looked Gohan saw memories. He hadn't been in his childhood home since his mother died, almost a full two hundred years ago. Now he was catching up on age, though his mind and body still strong. Laugh wrinkles were starting to creep in around his nose and mouth, evidence of a man who enjoyed a good time.
With a sigh Gohan took off his glasses and wiped the lenses, the action done out of reflex more than necessity. Gohan never needed the glasses; he just wore them to look smarter. Saiyan genetics replaced any damaged cells within a couple of hours, saiyans produced a form of stem cell that is very similar to embryonic stem cells. This enabled the body to replace any form of tissue within a certain amount of time, even total limb regrowth as shown by the frequent tail regenerations. Unfortunately the production of these stem cells were tied in directly with the release of testosterone and erythropoietin, which meant that for as long as the individual fought and got injured they would maintain a youthful body.
Pausing at a familiar picture frame, Gohan took a trip down memory lane. It was a photo of when Goten was born. Goten was wrapped in a white blanket held in the grasp of their mother, Chi-Chi, with Gohan and his grandfather, the Ox-King, behind her smiling at the camera. Chi-Chi's face was tired but her eyes shone with happiness as she gazed down at the bundle in her arms. Goten's eyes were closed and his thumb was in his mouth. His body was oddly developed compared to other newborns, which confused the doctors at first but eventually they accepted Gohan's explanation that his mother had taken growth hormones unknowingly. Thinking back on it, Gohan realized, Those doctors really were idiots. They couldn't tell the difference between a stethoscope and an endoscope.'He couldn't believe they'd bought his lame excuse.
Turning aside, Gohan continued down the hall towards the stairs. As he did so the lights flashed then went out, the bulb bursting in the overhead light. Gohan's eyes merely flicked upwards then quickly dilated as they instantly adjusted to the darkness, something ordinary humans were incapable of doing. Stepping onto the staircase, Gohan's eyes roamed the rising row of photos. Only one burned itself into his eyes, they day he and Videl were married. Everyone had been there for the ceremony, even the most reclusive of their odd band of friends like Tien and Chiaotzu. Gohan remembered well the amusement he felt when the first guests arrived: Bulma and her family. Vegeta and Trunks were both wearing saiyan style armor with a strange red crest on the breastplate right where the heart was located. The wardrobe was completed by a matching red cape attached to the shoulder plates of both armors. Bulma's face was flushed with embarrassment as the individuals who were there only for Videl openly gaped at the two saiyans.
Vegeta had merely glared at the others before looking at Gohan with a neutral expression. "It is a sign of respect to wear armor and to display a familial crest when attending a comrade-in-arms' joining ceremony," he had explained. Gohan remembered the shock that registered on everyone's faces. This was the most major outward change Vegeta started to display after the battle with Buu on Kaioshinkai. Gohan had nodded at the warrior before stepping down from his place at the altar, and after shooing away the nervous usher that Hercule had hired, personally directed Vegeta and his family to their seats. Ignoring the scandalized faces of some of the more wealthy guests, Gohan then proceeded to seat everyone who came afterward, leading some of the ignorant guests to think he was the usher and ignore him.
Krillin, Eighteen, and Marron were the next to arrive, and when they saw Gohan their eyes widened in surprise. Marron didn't know what to expect as this was her first wedding and so she happily walked up to Gohan and handed him a dandelion.
"Hi Gohan, I got this for you," she had happily chimed, which had made him smile. A tear had escaped his eye just as it did now. Her funeral had been one of the hardest to go to. Unlike the others', Gohan had witnessed her life progress from baby to an elderly woman and thus was able to appreciate the curse of saiyan longevity.
Gohan remembered picking her up and twirling the giggling child around before finally placing her on his broad shoulders. She then managed to maintain her lofty seat until the very beginning of the ceremony, much to the amusement of her parents. Eighteen had even smiled when Marron exclaimed she was taller than her daddy now which had caused Krillin to simply laugh and agree. The sight that befell Gohan next would always be burned forever into his mind.
Videl was escorted down the lane by her weeping father. A radiant smile was on her face as she gazed at friends and family, and it somehow impossibly grew bigger when she saw Gohan. She was beautiful; she was everything that could possibly be perfect and still be mortal. Gohan still kept her wedding gown, the beautiful white lace still as brilliant as the day she had worn it. When she stepped up beside him, Gohan's heart was beating so hard, he thought that it might break out of his chest. When it was time for the rings to be brought out, Goten performed his job flawlessly. He had looked like a guard, with his chest puffed out and his eyes darting every which-way as he walked. And in a way he was, the rings were very special, crafted by Shin as a thank you for Gohan's part in defeating the evil manifestation of Majin Buu. After all, if Gohan hadn't broken the Z-sword, then they never would have learned about the Potara earrings.
Videl's ring was pure silver with intertwining vines of sapphire inlaid on the outside circumference. Gohan's, on the other hand, was made out of pure Katchin, the densest metal in the universe, with a band of seven orbs running on the uppermost part. Each orb was reddish orange and translucent, with a varying number of stars. They were tiny replicas of Earth's Dragonballs, perfect down to the last detail. They even glowed faintly due to their proximitiy to each other. Gohan still wore his ring; he had almost kept Videl's as well but gave it to Pan after her death. Gohan could only hope that she still had it with her wherever she and the others were; it had been years since he had last seen any of the other saiyans.
The following years were the happiest he had ever known, as they grew older and started a family together. Pan was conceived that very first night of their married life, and it was immediately apparent that she took after her mother and grandfather. She had Videl's face and Goku's eyes, dark orbs filled with warmth that drew you into their depths. Gohan did not want her to have the childhood he had, so he refused to formally train her. That didn't stop her grandfather though; Goku's blood burned brightly in her veins and her power soared to superhuman levels in just a few short years. When her grandfather left to train the reincarnation of the evil Majin Buu, Uub, it broke her heart. He had just left with barely a goodbye and a smile on his face, oblivious to the damage he was causing to those nearest him. It reminded Gohan too much of his own abandonment issues and so he stepped in to fill the void.
Goku had trained her for fun; he had drilled into her head that fighting was a fun and exciting thing while leaving out all the nasty details. It was morbidly unsurprising coming from a man who had asked his eleven year old son to kill. After training her for several more years until he judged she was mentally mature enough, Gohan took her on her first trip to the Lookout. There the father-daughter duo had complete access to the Pendulum Room, a room that allowed one to visit a time period and watch or participate in events without the dangers of altering them; it was essentially a mystical simulation room.
There she was shown the horrible truth about fighting. Death.
Pan had heard stories about her family's adventures and the adversaries they had faced, but to see them the events unfold before her eyes was another thing altogether. Gohan had started their adventure with the easiest battle for her to watch, the Cell Games. There she wouldn't see the deaths of those she knew; the only ones she would witness would be those of the insect-like Cell and his offspring. Gohan hoped their bug-like appearance would make the experience easier as it gave them less human qualities. Android 16, who was a stranger to her, would be the only milestone for her to leap over.
At first Pan was excited; she would finally see her grandfather in a real combat situation. It was great at first. She got to see her grandfather fight like she had never seen him fight before. Each movement was so fast that if her father hadn't channeled his energy into her, she would be completely blind to the action. To her inexperienced eyes she thought her unbeatable grandpa would win, just like he always did, but when he handed the fight over to her father she was stumped. Even she could tell that Gohan didn't want to fight and yet grandpa practically forced him too. Her eyes filled with tears as she saw Cell throw her daddy around like a ragdoll, and the smile on Goku's face just made it worse. She stood there, stock still, as the rest of the Cell Games proceeded. She saw the deaths of her grandfather and the future Trunks. She saw her father, battered and broken, face down Cell in a titanic struggle to save the world and win.
"Why did you show me this?" Pan asked in a quiet voice as the world faded around her and the room brought them back.
"To show you how fighting truly is. We both have saiyan blood in our veins and we have the drive, but we don't live in a world of saiyans. If we fall, there are few others who can replace us. If we have to fight, we fight to win. Not to have thrills or fun, but to win. Do you understand me?"
Pan nodded, tears still staining her face.
"And the worst part is, all of what we just saw could have been prevented several times. The first was when we had been given the warning by Trunks, but Dad didn't want too. He wanted to fight, he said that they technically hadn't done anything wrong yet. That decision bit us all in the end. The second and third happened within an hour of each other. Krillin had been given a remote to deactivate Eighteen, but instead he crushed it. Vegeta could have destroyed Cell easily in his second form but gave into his bloodlust and actually fought against Trunks to let him achieve perfection, a decision that would have cost him his life and the life of his son if Cell hadn't spared them on a whim. Neither of them fought to win and save lives; Dad, Krillin, and Vegeta each let events pass to satisfy their own selfishness."
Pan's eyes were wide; she had never expected her father to reveal this hidden kernel of truth. She once thought her grandfather had always done the right thing, and that he was a hero for it. Even the Kais looked up to him, but if it he hadn't... if his heroic acts were done for selfish desires, did that lessen the heroism? Pan would not deny that she saw her grandfather in a different light now. She still could not shake the smile on his face as her father was beaten repeatedly into the dirt, his misconception about his own son rubbing her completely the wrong way.
Despite his high power level, Gohan always had the mentality of a child and not a warrior. It wasn't until Buu that he was fully capable of expressing himself about how he wanted to use his powers, and that was to fight crime on a local level. Being an everyday hero was just fine for him. Pan had heard stories and had seen old video clips of Saiyaman in school and while she knew it was her father, she couldn't understand at the time why he was fighting crime when he could do so much more. Her father was strong enough to be a policeman for the galaxy or even the universe! So why had he spent his teenage years fighting crime? Now she knew understood. It doesn't matter if the big tyrant was defeated, if you don't take out all the little thugs and bad people then life will still be just as miserable for the common people.
Gohan tore his gaze away from the photo that sparked so many memories. Tears had sprung up out of nowhere and he didn't bother wiping them away; it felt good to be able to cry again... it had been too long. Reaching the top of the stairs, Gohan turned down to hall towards his mother's room. The instant he touched the doorknob, it fell away from the door, the wood having rotted completely. Gazing down at another of time's reminders, Gohan sighed and opened the door as gently as he could to avoid having wood all over him. Entering the room brought forth a flood of emotions. As soon as he saw the old bed, a fresh wave of tears dripped down from his eyes. The last time he had been in this room was when his mother had died. Both the Brief and Son families had been there, though Bulma had passed away several years earlier so it was just Trunks and Bra. Vegeta had come but had stayed outside, as he had never gotten along with Chi-Chi; he had mainly come to support the families and show respect. Even Majuub had shown up. The reincarnation of Majin Buu had gotten closer to the family after the hassle with the Shadow Dragons.
Her body had wasted away, and she became so thin at the end that it was impossible to tell someone was under the covers were it not for the head poking out at the top. It was all her little body could do to bring in the next lungful of air. At the age of one hundred and seventeen Chi-Chi had lived a full life, but it couldn't last forever. Gohan believed that at the end she had everything she could have ever wanted, even though his father hadn't been there for over sixty-one years. Surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Chi-Chi was able to gaze on each member of her family. Only two members were not there: Goku and Pan's deceased husband Edgar. Edgar had been caught in an aircar crash halfway through Pan's pregnancy and it had devastated the entire family, as a result Oxri grew up without a dad. Oxri was a massive man, resembling his great-great-grandfather the Ox-King in stature; in fact he was the mirror image of the man, which was why Pan named her young giant after him.
There were no illnesses ailing his mother's body, only age. Hours passed and each member maintained their vigil. Finally, almost as if seeing that her time was up, Chi-Chi opened her eyes and whispered, "I love you all, with all my heart," and passed away, her blank unseeing eyes drilling directly into Gohan's own as her spirit fled her body. Gohan remembered picking up her lifeless form in a haze of tears and carrying her out to the garden behind the house. A small village had practically sprung up in the clearing his father had first settled in; four different households lay scattered across the clearing with a large space around the center, which housed three graves. Only two of them were filled.
Handing his mother to Goten, Gohan grabbed a shovel and stabbed into the earth. Each violent strike betrayed the maelstrom of emotion in the grieving man; happiness, anger, sadness, grief, and fear mixed together. Mortality was catching up to the Son family, and Gohan was afraid of what it meant. He himself didn't look any older than a comparable man in their twenties while his wife Videl looked like she should be his grandmother. Her long black hair had long faded to gray and her once small, powerful frame was supported by a cane. She would've been wheelchair bound were it not for the small amount of ki she constantly exerted in order to stay upright.
Tears fell down into the soft loam as Gohan kept digging, unrelenting even when he felt Videl's hand rub his back. In a matter of minutes the job was done, and soon Chi-Chi was interred into the ground, the headstone was placed, and three became four.
A massive clap distracted them all as Oxri clapped his hands together and boomed out, "Enough with the sad faces! Grandma C wouldn't want us to be acting like this, she would want us to be happy for her and to eat lots of food! And I say we should do exactly that! Now someone help me set up tables while I start the fire."
The giant man seemed to rouse everyone out of their grief, and smiles replaced frowns as everyone started to get moving. Everyone except for Gohan and Videl wandered off into the nearby abodes to obtain the necessary items; even Vegeta helped, if only to wander into the forest to obtain the food. As the buzz of activity picked up, the couple remained rooted where they were, Videl rubbing Gohan's back as silent tears streamed down his face.
"Gohan sweetie, Oxri is right. We really should get moving and celebrate. You know that's what she would want."
"I know Videl, its just... I know this is going to happen again and my life will get smaller while this yard gets bigger. This is just the beginning." Gohan's head lifted up and he stared down into Videl's eyes.
"I don't want to lose you, not now and not never. These saiyan genes are a curse! I'm ninety nine years old and I look like I'm in my twenties. I wanted to grow and feel old with you, and instead we got this bastard mockery of aging. I don't want to lose you... I don't want to lose you." Gohan moaned at the end, rocking back and forth on his heels as tears sprung forth anew. Through the watery haze he could see the same tears clouding Videl's eyes as well.
"Please Gohan, don't talk like that. Let's just enjoy the time we have left together and when it happens, it happens. We will still be together forever. You know that and I know that."
Gohan couldn't take it anymore, and he buried his face into Videl's shoulder and wept while she did too. They had been together for seventy years and it did not feel like it was enough. Finally they separated after what seemed like an eternity and with their hands intertwined, they ventured towards the setup tables together. After much good food and laughter as they all ventured down memory lane, people started to retire. Soon it was just Gohan, Videl, and Vegeta. As Gohan stood and helped Videl get up, Vegeta spoke, "Gohan. When you are done, will you come back outside? I would like to talk to you privately."
Gohan nodded and walked with Videl into the house. As she settled into their bed she whispered, "Don't be too long love. I'll be waiting," to which Gohan nodded and kissed her on the lips, every bit as passionate as the day the two were married.
Soon Gohan stood beside Vegeta out in the cool night, starlight illuminating the landscape around them. The two saiyans stood side by side in companionable silence for several minutes before Vegeta broke it.
"Tomorrow I'm leaving Earth, and Trunks, Bra, and Goten are coming with me."
Gohan raised an eyebrow at the older saiyan. After all he had done and seen not much surprised him anymore.
"There is nothing left for us here anymore. Trunks, Goten, and Bra never married, and ever since Bulma died I've felt… empty. We are going to try and find saiyan survivors. With all the others that have popped up out of the woodwork it seems likely that Frieza didn't get us all. And I doubt that the saiyan survivors settled on only one planet all those years ago. If we find anyone, we will send word. Will you, by chance, join us when you are ready?"
Vegeta's voice had hitched when he started talking about Bulma. That day had been especially traumatic for the prince. It was the second time Gohan had ever witnessed the man cry; the first had been so long ago when he had spilled his heart out to Goku during the battle with Frieza, right before his death. Afterward he had gone into a stupor, hardly moving or eating as he literally wasted away, his life seemingly without meaning now that Bulma had passed on. It had taken a visit to Otherworld courtesy of the Supreme Kai to enable him to move on.
"No. I don't think so Vegeta. Earth is my home, and with as much trouble this planet has attracted I think it would be best if someone were left defending it. I will always be here though and if you ever need anything don't hesitate to call."
Vegeta nodded as he said, "I thought that is what you would say. Alright then, I won't keep you from your home. Gohan, it has been an honor knowing you. I will see you again someday, in this world or the next. Goodnight."
"Goodnight Vegeta." And with that the two parted company. The next day Gohan was the last half-saiyan on the planet. One hundred years later, he was then one of only six people on Earth who knew what the word 'saiyan' meant.
Gohan turned away from the empty bed towards the ornate dresser on the left. Opening the bottom drawer he withdrew a small square box. Removing the top he gazed at the small stone ball inside, with four small star-shaped indentations on the top. Withdrawing it from the container, Gohan then walked down the hall of memories and through the ruins of the front door before blasting off into the air towards the Lookout where he now made his home. Not even a minute had passed before Korin's tower came into view and Gohan had to start ascending up into the air. Landing on the smooth tiles, Gohan waved a greeting at Mr. Popo and Majuub before entering the main temple-like building. There in front of a dais stood Dende. The namekian had been inspecting each of the six stones on the dais carefully before Gohan had walked in. Upon seeing his old friend, he smiled and clapped him on the shoulder before taking the ball from his grasp.
Gohan leaned over the short namekian's shoulder staring down at the assembled balls.
"Are you sure you want to do this Dende? You know, considering what happened last time?" Gohan questioned him.
"Yes Gohan. It is time that Earth had a set of Dragonballs once again. And besides, I've figured out a way to drain out the negative energy so we won't have to worry about anything like the Shadow Dragons happening, even though you and Majuub could probably easily handle them now." And with that Dende grabbed the top of the dais and detached it.
Dende and Gohan walked out onto the main platform and after Mr. Popo and Majuub gathered around, placed the dais on the floor. Once settled, Dende then proceeded to tap each of the inert balls once with his staff. The instant contact was made, each ball flashed a golden color and returned to their original transparent golden hue. Dende thrust his arms out to the side and raising his voice up into the heavens shouted out, "Arise Shenron! I summon you!"
And in a cascade of brilliant light, Shenron burst out of the balls in a column of energy and developed a corporeal form once more. Shenron had returned to Earth.