This is going to be my first Dragon Ball Z fan-fiction, ever! I couldn't get the idea out of my mind, and upon thinking about it for about a week, I concluded that it wasn't so bad an idea. I've always wondered how Gohan would've progressed as a fighter if he genuinely enjoyed fighting, and had to out of necessity—if Goku wasn't there to save the day. He wouldn't be able to rely on Piccolo, or certainly not Vegeta. Similar to his future counterpart, who was forced to survive on his own for 13 years, but that Gohan wasn't a warrior, he was a survivor. This Gohan will actively pursue his training as a martial artist, without depending on his father. Although Goku will remain an important figure in this story – for both Gohan and the other characters – this is all about Gohan finding his true warrior's spirit, and embracing it! So without further ado, let the story begin!


Full Summary: Set in an Alternate Universe, one in which Goku does not return a year after his battle with Frieza on Planet Namek, but is instead gone for six years, with his return date a mystery. Gohan takes up the task of continuing his training, assuming the mantle of Earth's protector, keeping hope alive in his heart that his father will one day return. But with numerous threats looming over the horizon, the halfling Saiyan will have to find out just how well he'll fare without the help of his father. This is the story of a young man who will have to struggle to find his own path to righteousness, while at the same time keeping his father's teachings close to his heart. Will he be able to become the paragon of justice the Earth needs?


Disclaimer: I do not own, nor do I in any way claim to own, Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, or Dragon Ball GT. They are all the works of Akira Toriyama, FUNImation, Toei Animation, and Fuji TV. This fan-fiction is for entertainment purposes only, I do not make any money in the writing of this story.


"Haaaaaa..."

Gohan's muscles relaxed as he powered down and took a deep breath. His expression faded from a hardened focus to that of softer calm, reflecting the child-like features of the pre-teen. As he relaxed, the weight of his training uniform began to bear down on him, feeling much heavier than it had a few moments ago. Of course, it was nothing that the young boy couldn't handle, but the difference was clearly apparent. He straightened up, turning to face his mentor, a small grin tugging at his lips. "How was that, Master Roshi?" he asked. The turtle hermit remained silent for a moment, his expression unreadable behind his thick sunglasses. Then he nodded, his snowy-white facial hair bobbing with the motion.

"Better. Your form has definitely improved from our last session. It's nearly flawless." he admitted. When the young boy had come to him several years ago after his return from space, his fighting technique was sloppy and barbaric. Without using his enormous ki to power his blows, Roshi was able to dance around the young Saiyan's attempts with ease. He was immensely powerful, but the only actual training he had was the year he spent with the Namekian Piccolo in the wilderness, and even then, his training focused more on the concepts of survival, ki sense, and ki control. His actual fighting technique had been extremely lacking, unlike his father who struck with practiced fluidity and precision; Goku never wasted a movement, his every attack was like a gear in the well-oiled machine that was his fighting style—his form was perfect. His son, on the other hand, often charged in fists raised, swinging madly and full of rage, knowing that whatever he hit would likely be obliterated because of his awesome power. Any opponent that was a half-way decent fighter could see his highly choreographed movements and react accordingly. The aged turtle hermit figured that the boy had realized this and sought him out in an effort to rectify to glaring flaws in his fighting style. Roshi was of course flabbergasted when the half-Saiyan child who had fought in battles against the likes of Vegeta, the Ginyu Force and Frieza, had come to him for training, but everything had become clear to him after a quick spar with the boy. Roshi had spent the next six years deconstructing Gohan's fighting style, and rebuilding it from scratch with his legendary Turtle Martial Arts.

Now, at 11-years-old, Gohan had nearly mastered the art. Roshi figured that the boy still wasn't quite up to par with Goku's own skills, but then again, who was? Not to mention, Goku had been trained by his own pupil Gohan since the Saiyan had learned to walk—this was Gohan's first true foray into the world of martial arts. As far as Roshi was concerned, the boy's progress had been extraordinary. Maneuvers and techniques that had taken him centuries to master were all but absorbed by the boy in a miniscule fraction of that time. The boy already had a surprising intellect for his age and combined with his new-found fighting skill, Roshi had figured the boy had the make of a fighting genius. He looked upon the small boy, taking in his features, allowing the sight of his sweat drenched clothes and his resemblance to his best student take him back to the best years of his life. A sense of nostalgia filled the old pervert, making his chest swell with a new-found feeling of pride. He remembered the intense training he'd put Goku, Krillin, and even Yamcha through. Training a new student gave him a feeling he couldn't properly describe.

"That's enough for today, lad. Just remember your training, and you'll surpass even Goku in time." the old-timer said. Gohan smiled at the praise, but chuckled inwardly to himself. He didn't think that there was anyone stronger than his father, but his fighting ability had surely grown exponentially since he had gone into space. Gohan clasped his palms together, bowing before the older human. "Thank you, Master Roshi. I'll continue to train every day." he responded. Roshi chuckled, shaking his head. "My only fear is that your mother finds out what you've been doing all these years. Her wrath is one unlike I've ever seen." Gohan sighed, knowing his mentor's words rang true. If his mother found out he was sneaking off to further his training with his father's former teacher – all the while skipping school in the process – she'd have a cow. As far as Gohan was concerned, his training was necessary. Ever since his father's disappearance into space six years ago, Gohan had promised himself he would dedicate himself to training; he wouldn't be as useless as he was in his previous battles, standing on the sidelines until something made him angry enough to take action. Until his father came back, Gohan felt it was his duty to protect his home form any future threats. He straightened up once more, his nose turned up at the very thought of facing his mother's wrath. "She'll understand someday. I can't sit around reading text books all day, when I have more important things to do! I have to keep getting stronger! It's what my dad would do." he said.

Roshi knew the boy was talking about Vegeta. Ever since the Saiyan Prince had settled on Earth several years ago, the young halfling never felt completely safe. He trained tirelessly in the event he had to face him again, like he had in honor of his father when they returned to Earth all those years ago. Since then, Vegeta had spent many months at a time out in space, simultaneously searching for Goku and training his body to its limits. Whenever he returned though, he would spend his time at Capsule Corporation, staying with Bulma and her family. Gohan never felt right about it, though he had never voiced his concerns to Bulma. He had learned firsthand that it was useless to voice any dissenting opinions to the woman; she was similar to his own mother in that regard. Bulma was a smart woman, Gohan hoped she was smart enough to know what she was potentially getting herself into. But he knew, that if by any chance Vegeta returned to his old ways, he would be ready—and he would stop him, at any costs.

The smaller hybrid warrior began to levitate into the air, giving the older turtle hermit a farewell wave as he shook his mind free of negative thoughts. "Take care, Gohan." the old man called up to him as Gohan began to float higher and higher above training island. "I will!" he called down, his aura sparking to life around him. He took off toward Mount Paozu, eager to get out of his filthy clothes and scarf down his dinner. His aura left a blaze of white across the sky as he rocketed away, his obsidian locks whipping about in the wind.


"GOHAN!"

Gohan cringed as he walked into his home, his mother's high-pitched screech forcing him to cringe in slight pain. From the tone of her voice, he knew he had been found out. And the ramifications of his disobedience were going to be severe. He reluctantly proceeded to the kitchen where he knew his mother awaited and was greeted with the sight of the woman in particular, her hands on her hips – a frying pan in one and a wash rag in the other – and a scowl ruining her otherwise beautiful visage.

"Yes, mom?" he asked, looking at the ground. Gohan knew what was next, he could feel it in his bones. Today was the day his mother killed him. Gohan had noticed his younger brother, Goten, in his peripheral vision. The little five-year-old scurried away at the sound of their mother's rage. Gohan couldn't blame him—as mighty a warrior as his father was, even he cowered before Chi-Chi's wrath. Roshi had made a comment several years ago alluding to the fact, a comment which almost got him killed. Gohan mentally steeled himself; today was the day he would stand up to his mother. He wouldn't allow her distractions – or any others – get in the way of his training!

Instead of simply destroying the boy, like he expected, Chi-Chi heaved a deep sigh, trying to regain her composure. "Gohan," she began, not looking directly at him; she knew that if she continued to look at him her anger would return. "Tell me the truth. Did you go to school today?" she asked in a low tone. Gohan remained silent for a few moments, his silence giving his mother all the confirmation she needed. Still, he answered, because he knew she would get even angrier if he didn't. "No." he answered truthfully, not feeling ashamed in the slightest. As far as Gohan was concerned, his training was far more important. Chi-Chi did not share the sentiment.

"Did you go yesterday?" she asked, her tone still low. Gohan shook his head, knowing his mother knew whether he told the truth or not. "No, I didn't." he answered. She closed her eyes, gritting her teeth. He could see a vein throbbing in her forehead; she was trying her very hardest to contain her growing rage. "Why are you ignoring your education, Gohan?" she asked simply. She truly did not understand. Was it so wrong to want to raise a son who grew up to be successful? Chi-Chi had figured that with Goku's disappearance – Kami rest his soul – Gohan would realize that a life of violence would only lead him to a similar fate as his father: lost in the frontier of space, or worse. She figured that he would turn away from that lifestyle, like any sane person would.

She underestimated just how much Gohan was his father's son; she couldn't fathom his next answer.

"Training is much more important to me. I have to be strong until dad comes back. That's what he'd want. It's my responsibility."

Chi-Chi stared blankly at the boy, her expression unreadable. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she spoke again. "Gohan..." she began through gritted teeth. "Your education is the only thing you should be focusing on. Your father will be back, but I have never, raised a brutish thug. You will not dedicate your life to fighting. Neither will Goten. Leave the fighting to his delinquent friends. You need to focus on your studies-"

"No." He interrupted. Chi-Chi's eyes widened for a split second, before she narrowed them dangerously at her son. "Excuse me, young man?" she asked in a very low tone, almost as if she was daring him to repeat his disrespectful interruption. But Gohan did not falter in the face of his mother's impending wrath; he knew what his responsibilities really were.

"No, mom. This is much more important than me going to school. Dad's been gone for six years now. He could be out there fighting who knows what! He can't save us here all the way out there! He needs me to be strong! The Earth needs me to be strong!" he said, his voice slightly raising with each sentence.

"You're only 11-years-old! Protecting the Earth isn't your responsibility!"

"Dad saved the world when he was my age!"

"This isn't about your father—this is about you! I am your mother, and I know what's best for you, Gohan! There's no reason your school should be contacting me about your string of absences, all because you want to pretend to play hero! Your academics should be of the utmost priority!"

"If dad were here, he'd-"

"HE'S NOT HERE!"

Before the two knew it, their conversation had escalated into a full-blown shouting match, with the end result of Chi-Chi breathing heavily after yelling down her offspring. Her last resort stunned Gohan into silence. Had either of them been paying attention, they would have seen the utter look of fear etched on Goten's features. Even though he was still a boy, yet to realize his full potential, he could feel the power radiating off of them. It scared him. He had never felt anything so scary as when Gohan and his mother got angry. Especially when it was at one another. Goten had never met his father, but he silently hoped he wasn't as scary as the rest of his family was. Goten hurried off to his room, eager to escape the ire of both Gohan and Chi-Chi. He didn't want to be there if the situation got any worse.

Seeing her son's face, Chi-Chi took a deep breath, lowered her voice, changed her tone, and spoke again. "Goku's not here, Gohan. I'm the one raising you, and what I say goes. I'm not debating with my son on how to raise my son; I know what's best for you, and what's best is for you to focus on your studies so you can become and great scholar and live a good life away from all this." she explained. "Tomorrow, I expect you to be in class as usual, and that's final. If I find out that you've cut class again, there will be hell to pay, young man! Do I make myself clear?" she asked in a strong tone. Gohan wasn't listening. He was already moving in the direction of his room; Chi-Chi figured she had hurt the boy's feelings and thought nothing of it; Gohan was very attached to his father, he idolized him. It hurt Chi-Chi to yell at him – especially over Goku – but the truth was the truth: Goku wasn't here and she wasn't sure when he was coming back. She had to raise Gohan on her own, and she would do what was best for him. Fighting was not the path she wanted for him.

Gohan felt different. Instead of going to his room to study like his mother probably expected of him, he entered his room, closed the door and headed straight for the window. Opening it up with little trouble, he took off into the air, brimming with agitation. How could his mother be so blind? She grew up with his father, she should've known very well the threats the Earth could face in the nearby future. Why wouldn't she want them prepared? Why did she want him to remain weak and helpless? If he had been strong, he could've protected Piccolo, Yamcha and the others from the Saiyans. He could have stopped the Ginyu Force and Frieza. He could have stopped his father from leaving. Remaining weak and helpless never did anyone any good, he reasoned. As a result, he couldn't agree with what his mother said. As much as he loved her, she was just...

Wrong.

'I have to keep getting stronger. I know if dad were in my position, he wouldn't wait around twiddling his thumbs.' he thought as he rocketed over the horizon. He concentrated for a moment until he found the power level he was looking for. Locking onto it, he forced himself to fly even faster, his limbs aching for a spar.


'Where is he?' Gohan mentally grumbled, scanning the entire planet as best he could for a certain power-level. He needed to work off some steam, and at the moment, he couldn't think of a better way to do it than a good old fashioned fight. Despite his exhaustion from an entire day dedicated to training, he was still in the mood for a good spar. He wanted to go all out, something he unfortunately could not do against Master Roshi—or any of his other human friends, for that matter. No, they wouldn't be able to sate his anger today. So he searched for his original mentor's power as he soared over the horizon, his aura burning bright against the setting sun.

'Piccolo! Ah, there you are! I should've guessed.' Gohan smirked upon finding the Namekian's power-level, mentally kicking himself for not finding it sooner. Piccolo was where he usually was when he wasn't vigorously training: sitting under a waterfall, meditating. Gohan had learned from the Namekian how sensitive his ears were; Piccolo could practically hear everything on the entire planet, and if he listened hard enough, his hearing senses could extend further out into the vast reaches of the galaxy. Hearing the conversations of virtually every living being on the planet of course put undue strain and distraction on Piccolo's mind, so he often meditated, blocking out the unnecessary noise over time. Whenever he meditated, he sat under a very large waterfall. Gohan had spent time with the green warrior under the same waterfall on many occasions. The young saiyan chuckled to himself, mentally chalking up one more occasion on which he would spar with Piccolo under that waterfall.

Picking up speed, he was there almost instantly, stopping just short of Piccolo's levitating form. The Namekian opened an eye, glancing at his former pupil.

"Gohan?" he thought aloud. He sensed the boy coming, and with the way his energy felt, he knew it could have only been for one purpose. His suspicions were confirmed when Gohan suddenly released a shout, powering up to his full power almost instantaneously, the shockwave emissions knocking Piccolo back a bit, his heavy cape billowing in the wind behind him. Gohan looked up at the much larger Namekian, a feral grin crossing his features.

"Piccolo," he began, his words dripping with his contained rage. "I want to fight!" and then he was on Piccolo almost faster than he could react, throwing a punch at his solar plexus. Piccolo parried the blow with his forearm, simultaneously powering up to use his aura to throw the boy away from him. Piccolo wore a worried expression as he charged his pupil, aiming a kick to his head. He saw the look in Gohan's eyes—the thirst for battle. He recognized those eyes. The same eyes Goku had whenever he was eager for battle, eyes filled with pure excitement for the thrill of battle.

'He never used to be this savage,' Piccolo thought as Gohan flew forward, dodging his kick and flying over his head. Piccolo turned, his arm swinging out in a horizontal arc to catch the boy. Gohan grabbed Piccolo's arm, balancing on it with his hands before he leapt to the other side of Piccolo's head, aiming a blow at his brow. Piccolo grunted, raising his arm to block, realizing too late it was a feint and giving Gohan a clear shot to his abdomen. Gohan seized his opportunity, punching Piccolo full-on in the ribs. Piccolo held back a grunt of pain, firing a pair of eye lasers down at the boy that forced him to retreat. 'That was smart. He counted on my reflex to guard my eyes to create an opening.' Piccolo smiled. Gohan had come a long way over the years, despite his now apparent barbarism. He was much smarter, a much more efficient fighter. Using the brain the boy's mother had crafted over the years, Gohan had used his intellect to develop his fighting sense and utilize his style much more cleverly than he had in the past. His training with the old turtle hermit was a huge advantage as well.

Gohan re-entered his stance, smirking in excitement. Only Piccolo could provide him a worthy challenge as far as actual fighting was considered—he'd be lying if he said Roshi's training was easy. Learning the footwork, the stances, the timing, all of that had been exhausting. But this was an area in which not even Master Roshi could tread. He tensed as Piccolo entered his own stance, ready to engage.

"I assume you're here because of that little exchange with your mother." It wasn't a question. Gohan wasn't surprised. He knew Piccolo heard. Piccolo was always keeping track of him, after all, because of some sort of unspoken promise to Goku and because of his genuine bond with the boy. Even though Piccolo was right, his mentioning of his mother only seemed to further frustrate him.

"Can you believe her?! She says that my training is silly!" he roared as he charged. Piccolo moved to the side, aiming a chop to the side of Gohan's ear. Gohan parried the blow, moving it aside with ease. Advancing, he aimed a kick to Piccolo's outstretched arm, hitting the joint and breaking it neatly. Piccolo grunted with surprise, instantly regenerating the broken bones as Gohan pulled his arm, intending to throw him. Piccolo simply elongated the appendage, driving the boy into the running waterfall. He retracted the arm, neatly backhanding the boy with his other hand when he expectedly came rushing out of the waterfall.

He still had much to learn.

"As powerful as you may be, Gohan, your mother still wants to raise you the..." Piccolo wasn't sure how to word it. "... Human way. She's not like Goku, she doesn't have the same saiyan instincts you do. Despite your power, you're still your mother's son." he said to the falling boy. Gohan righted himself, sending a weak blast of ki at his mentor. Piccolo caught it, and it detonated, the shock moving him into the path of Gohan's approaching knee. Piccolo lashed out with his own knee, colliding it with Gohan's.

"I... don't... care!" he said through gritted teeth. He backed off from Piccolo, giving the Namekian room to lash out at him with a vicious snap, followed by him snapping his quickly elongating arm forward like a whip, knocking the boy up, then quickly downward in a blur. Gohan flipped, regaining his balance on one of the rocks in the river. "She should know how important my training is!" he continued. "We lost nearly all our friends when Vegeta came. And even more when we fought Frieza, who he worked for!" he seethed. "We needed my father for both threats, and now he's gone. We don't know when he's coming back. It would be foolish for me to sit around doing nothing." his anger was rising just thinking about it. The logic was certainly there, why couldn't his mother see it?

He leapt up and engaged in a furious exchange with Piccolo. Their limbs became a blur as they clashed in perfect synchronicity, matching each other blow for blow. Piccolo laughed at Gohan's logic. As sound as it was, he didn't seem to understand just who his mother was. "Kid, if there's one person in this lifetime more stubborn than your father, it's your mother." he responded. And it was true. He knew Chi-Chi would face down the likes of Frieza himself with no fear if it were to protect her family. She was the bravest human he knew. But Gohan didn't find it funny. He broke off their exchange, landing a kick to Piccolo's jaw, launching the tall Namekian away from him.

"Well, I don't care what she or anyone else says! I'm going to keep training! I'm going to become a Super Saiyan!" he vowed. Piccolo wiped the blood away from his lips before Gohan was upon him again, raining furious blows with practiced precision and expert timing. Piccolo was seriously trying with great effort to block and parry them all, leaving his limbs throbbing in pain. Gohan was certainly more powerful than he knew.

'I wonder if you aren't a Super Saiyan already.' he thought. Piccolo had seen many impressive things in his lifetime, but none so impressive as Gohan's power. Ever since he blasted Garlic Junior into the deadzone and nearly crippled Raditz, Piccolo had known the boy's power was a force to be reckoned with, and a marvel to behold.

'I only hope he can control it.' he thought with a sense of foreboding as the young saiyan charged him again, roaring with the thirst of battle from the saiyan blood flowing within him.


Okay, now the stage is set! I know you guys must be wondering about Goten's existence, but in this story, Goten was conceived right after Goku got out of the hospital before his trip to Namek. Seems appropriate that Goku had one last intimate moment with Chi-Chi before his departure, because he's been gone for nearly a decade now. Goku's disappearance will of course be explained in later chapters, but for now, his absence will serve as motivation for the Z-fighters – especially Gohan – to continue to get stronger.

Hopefully you all noticed Gohan's lingering animosity toward Vegeta in this chapter. This is because of Vegeta's comment about Goku's death after the explosion of Namek, the same comment that started a fight between them. Goku hasn't returned yet, and Gohan is mad at Vegeta for not only sullying his father's honor – after he bothered to save him and have him wished to safety back on Earth and everything – but at the prospect of Vegeta being right—what if his father is gone? You'll see Gohan deal with this potential situation later within the story.

The next chapter will be more in-depth, explaining things in much greater detail—this was a simple introduction to help set the foundation of the story. Gohan's been continuously training for the past six years, to the point where he's beginning to neglect his other responsibilities. He's falling into the mindset of a warrior, much like Vegeta during the three year prep for the Androids—non-stop training. Although Gohan's training isn't as severe (yet), the idea is still the same. I had Gohan start his training with Roshi for a couple reasons: First, because Roshi didn't do much at all after Z and it was really a shame, because he really laid the foundation for Goku to become the great warrior he was. Second, I believe that Roshi's Turtle-Style martial arts is very essential for Gohan. Throughout most of his battles, Gohan simply plows through opponents, using his massive power to simply beat his opponents into submission. In this story, I wanted him to have more of a fighter's approach, much like Goku,who was never the type to simply bulldoze through opponents like Gohan did. I want Gohan to be a legitimate martial artist, on the level, maybe even above that of his father. And who better to set him on that long, arduous road than Goku's arguably most essential teacher? Roshi won't be Gohan's only mentor in this story, but he will be one of the most important.

I don't want to continue to ramble on, so upon the next chapter, I'll explain things a little bit more. But until then, see ya!