Hey everybody! I know it's been since forever, but I actually managed to cram out this new chapter for you guys. It's a big one again, 12.000 something words, I believe, but don't let that hold you back! I always appreciate constructive criticism, please, by all means.
A little word of thanks to ~Boboleta. She's awesome, always helping me through my chapters. And an excellent motivational speaker too.
Well, now that I've nagged enough, please read, review and enjoy!
Why did pet owners always talk so much to their little furry friends? Gohan sighed in relief when a middle-aged woman finally stepped out of the elevator, chit-chatting happily to an exceptionally feral cat she held contained in a small cage. Just as she began telling the feline about "what little snookums-wookums would get for dinner-winner", the heavy steel doors slid shut, leaving the young man alone with his thoughts.
His brains felt overloaded; too much had happened in too little time. He didn't even want to recollect what had happened three weeks ago. Most he could remember was the color red and menacing death threats. It had been quite the shocker, of course, but Son Gohan wasn't one to scare away so easily. If anything, hearing that thud as Sharpener fell to the floor, dead, Chiaotzu standing over him as still as a living statue, had made Moon feel vivid.
Things had gone, how to put it... awry after that. Gohan had decided to a call to arms. And what a war it became.
Having your trademark on your salesware has both its upsides and downsides, and Moon was currently on the better end of that bargain. The way he used his logo was almost like it was a sigil, the same way lordlings and kings used them in times long gone. With some help from Vegeta, he had spread the word to every single soul who found himself in his services. His message had been clear: try and find every single person out there who worked for a certain man called Piccolo. If any should be found, the only suitable way to deal with them would be to kill them.
He wanted to let Piccolo feel just how dangerous he could be.
The elevator he was in whirred softly as it continued its way upward. Gohan found himself staring at his own reflection, mirroring his every movement from the glass wall to his right. He looked weary. The bags under his eyes were as dark as his irises. His chin was like sandpaper; he hadn't shaven in at least a day or five. He disliked to admit it, but he looked like his father.
He heard an overhead beep and stopped his musings; murder plots would have to be put on hold for now. Heavy steel doors slid open swiftly, revealing a corridor with tapestries along the wall and lights flickering in overly fancy chandeliers. Gohan hadn't gotten his taste for tacky furnishings from a stranger; Gramps was also an expert on mismatching everything in the room.
Beatrice looked up from her needling work when she heard him approach. She smiled at him over a cup of tea so sweet that it would rot his teeth on the first sip. Gohan had always rather liked the elderly woman. She knew who he was and what he did, he reckoned, yet it didn't discourage her from forcing a dozen chocolate chip cookies on him whenever she saw him, muttering how he looked underfed and unhealthy.
"Shall I ring your grandfather, dear?" Unnaturally straight dentures smiled widely.
"If you wouldn't mind?" Gohan allowed a tiny grin to play his lips. No need to be sulky twenty-four seven.
As Beatrice made contact with Gyu Mao over the intercom on her desk, Moon wondered what his old man had in store for him. The Mayor had sounded quite jolly over the phone that very morning; Gohan could practically see him slap his belly as he bellowed with laughter. Moon could hear muffled voices coming from behind the door that separated him from his grandfather's office.
"He's ready to receive you, sweetling," Beatrice said several moments later. "He has some guests over, though, so it might be a bit cramped in there."
Gohan inclined his head in a manner of thanks, politely refused himself a cup of tea, and went into the Mayor's office.
It was dark inside. The blinds over the windows had been closed, the lights in the chandeliers were dimmed down to near nothing. The air in the room was thick with smoke, and the scent of expensive cigars played at Gohan's nostrils. Gyu Mao was at his desk, chuckling deeply at the jape of one of his associates. Beatrice had failed to state just how peculiar of a company his gramps had molded around himself.
"Gohan, me boy!" the big, burly man at the head of the desk cried out in delight. "Come join me and my comrades for a friendly game!" He lifted his glass, as always filled with amber liquid, and beckoned the young man by his side. As Gohan walked over, he noted the loose playing cards scattered around the desk, along with a few hundred multi-colored poker chips.
"Sure," Gohan said, confident that he'd at least be able to handle himself in a game of cards. How the rest of the night would turn out, he wasn't so certain. He sat himself down, accepting the cards his grandfather dealt him. He tried to refrain his lip from twitching as he saw the ace and king of clovers, just begging to be turned into a royal flush. He eyed his opponents over the edge of his soon-to-be winning hand, throwing in two ten-dollar chips to pay off his small blind.
"Texas Hold 'Em," Gyu Mao said, referring to the style of play. "Standard rules. While we play, allow me to introduce my good friends to you, Gohan."
The man opposite of the mayor banged his knuckles on the desk, indicating a 'check'. The competitor inside Gohan immediately weighed his chances. The man, whose smile may have well been hidden beneath his brush of a moustache, clearly didn't have a hand to brag about, yet didn't want to throw away his possibilities at the start of the game. The man's blue eyes remained expressionless.
"Okay, so that's a check from our elderly mastermind," Gyu noted, amused.
"Who are you calling elderly!" came the retort. The man sounded angry, but that may just have been part of his natural sound. "Besides, you are the one with a twenty-five year old grandson. Look who's talking!"
Gyu Mao's laughter filled the room. "Gohan, I would like for you to meet Doctor Gero," the man in question inclined his head. "He insists on being called 'Doctor', so if you do not want to bruise his withered dignity, try to show some respect for that." Gohan offered Gero his hand, which was shaken from across the desk.
"I will inform you more on why him and the others are here, after I am finished with my round of introductions." the Mayor said, seeming to sense Gohan's question coming. "Your turn, short round."
And indeed, the man after Gero was very short. Moon silently wondered if he had to sit on a stack of books to see over the dashboard of his car. He was bald, but if he shared that trait with his neighbour, Gohan did not know. One could only guess what was hidden beneath a pillar-shaped hat. He'd have to remember telling his grandfather that 'pinhead' might be a good idea for a new nickname.
The shortest person in the room seemed to have felt the same as Gero. He tapped a tiny hand onto the desk's surface, indicating that he was, indeed, checking also. Despite his excellent manners, Gohan chuckled to himself as he tried to see the reflection of his cards against the man's bald forehead. If only he waxed his scalp as well as Krillin did... This person also had a moustache, shaped into long, thin whiskers falling down his face.
"Gohan, meet Babidi," Gyu said, indicating to his grandson that another handshake was in order. Babidi smiled at him, friendly but full of obvious mischief.
"It's a pleasure to get further acquainted," the tiny man's voice was high, making the resemblance to a jolly leprechaun even greater. "Your grandfather has told me so much about you!"
Gohan found himself laughing inadvertently. Had Gramps told this guy how fantastic his performance as 'tree number three' had been during his school recital twenty years ago?
"Lastly, our noble and respected grandfather!" Gohan scrunched his brow at the Mayor's words. He was obviously referring to the last man he hadn't introduced yet, but he seemed to be far away from deserving the name 'noble grandfather'. Sure, he had a bit of the age coming his way, but the look in his lilac eyes made him out to be anything but a family man.
"I'm playing along," the man's voice was nasal, sharp, but most of all, cold. It made Gohan want to shudder. "And I raise twenty-five." Fingers covered in gleaming rings of opal, diamond, ruby and amethyst tossed two different-colored chips onto the stack in the middle of the desk. His eyes smiled along with his lips, both of them a deep shade of purple, a colour that seemed to return in the man everywhere Moon looked. He wasn't wearing normal clothes, but was draped in velvets and silks of purple and red. Beaded necklaces chimed softly as they tinkled against each other with each motion of his body.
"Gohan, this man is known by many under the name 'Oyabun," Gyu Mao said, grinning when he saw his grandson's eyes grow wide at his words. "But we have the privilege of calling him by his name, which is Frieza."
"O-Oyabun?" the young drug lord wasn't able to say anything else. He knew Gramps wasn't one to shy away from some shady friendships, but this had just taken that to a whole new level. He didn't even know yet to what purpose this Gero and Babidi were here, but Moon was beginning to get the gist of it.
It was like the Mayor had read his thoughts. "Well, me boy, let me explain why I have arranged this friendly game of poker," he said, reaching for the stack of cards. He laid out the first: a king of spades. Gohan's competitive side was very much pleased with already acquiring a pair, but his curious side kept focused on the conversation.
"Gero is here," Gyu said, motioning to the oldest man present, "because he is, with some argument, the most capable technician this world has to offer."
Gero's moustache twitched, the commentary obviously pleasing him.
"My old friend here can rig up your base of operations with the most advanced technology that money can provide." The man's eyes shined gleefully from behind his spectacles. "Free of charge."
Gohan nearly dropped his cards. "Free of charge?"
"Why yes," Gero took it upon himself to answer, his smile widening. "As of late, I have been working on the newest line of protection devices. As of now, I could very likely have the best anti-burglar alarms installed around your premises, as well as cameras with not only infra-red vision, but also facial recognition features to warn you of who is approaching."
Gohan soaked in every word carefully. This would be an opportunity too daunting to refuse. Having a 360 degree view of his surroundings at all times would allow him to work even more stealthily, and always being one step ahead of the adversary was a chance of a lifetime. He trusted his grandfather well enough, but he didn't know this Doctor Gero, so he felt inclined to ask.
"Please enlighten me, 'Doctor'," Gohan said, taking the glass that his grandfather offered him, his confidence rising as Gero seemed to be flattered by the title. He took a swig of the liquor, relishing the burn it left as it went down. "Just why are you offering me all of this without charging me for it? I reckon a working man would want to see his hard efforts paid for."
Gero snickered at his words. "You truly are as intelligent as your grandfather has made you out to be." The two other men at the table nodded in agreement. "You see, all of these projects that have consumed my time as of late have yet to be tested. I know they are in working order, and I am aware that they are superior to any kind of technology yet on the market, but I can't ship all of it off without having it tested properly."
Well, that made sense. If it actually was that easy, going into business with this man would prove to be quite a positive step for Gohan.
"Yes, I do see," Gohan said, smiling. "So, to summarize: you promise to wire my base around the clock for free, as long as that makes me your newest test subject?" Gero's nod of confirmation made Moon turn to the Mayor, who merely smiled at him confidently.
"I think we have a deal, Doctor." Gohan shook the man's hand and immediately redirected his attention back to the poker game. Gyu Mao seemed to have noticed.
"Oh dear," he said, feigning stupefaction. "It seems I have forgotten to lay out the remaining cards!" In a flash, a queen of clovers and a ten of clovers found their way to the playing field. Retaining his poker face became a little more trying to Moon; he was only a jack of clovers away from an unbeatable royal flush.
"Okay then," Gyu said, eyeing the possible combinations in his hand and on the table. "I fold." he tossed his cards aside, reaching for his whiskey instead. He nudged Gohan to indicate it was the young man's turn, who raised twenty-five to even out with Frieza, then added fifty more to up the stakes. Gero folded instantly.
"Now, what shall I do..." Babidi seemed to be talking to himself. His small fingers curled around one of his whiskers, playing with the strands and rolling them around his limb.
"Perhaps you could tell the boy how you plan to be of use, instead of talking to your other personalities." The somewhat snide remark came from Babidi's right, where Frieza sat. The short man shifted tints a little, his cheeks a little more pink than before. Gero and Gyu laughed at the expression on his face, but Moon found himself waiting with bated breath, curious to hear what Babidi could offer him.
"Well, yes, fine," the squeaky voice agreed. "Well, Gohan, can I call you that?" Upon getting Gohan's approval, he continued. "I have been friends with Frieza for quite the number of years now. You could say that we are business partners. My nickname on the streets is The Mage."
Moon listened attentively as he took another swallow of whiskey.
"Your grandfather has been so kind to give me a nice and large factory hall to practice my... 'arts', as I like to call them." He grinned. "See, me and my subordinates, my 'Majins', if you will, are the finest brewers of sedatives that you will find in this country."
"So, you cook up drugs?" Gohan said, boiling Babidi's words down to the very core. "What's your monthly output?"
"Hee-hee!" Babidi yelped in glee. "More than you can hope to sell in the meantime, I presume." He fingered his whiskers again, eyes shimmering happily at the obvious answer to come.
"Do I still need to lean over and give you a hand?" Gohan asked, smirking. It was simply astounding how fantastic this meeting was turning out to be. In a matter of minutes he had not only secured top notch alarming for his hideout, but he had also been offered a solid, reliable stream of product income. In the time it had taken to not even play one hand of poker, he had solidified his chances of being the best in his territory. Let's see Piccolo try and best him now.
"Oh, no, that's fine alright," Babidi said. "Why don't you come to my 'office' some day so we can further discuss our endeavors? We should be able to turn this into a very profitable experience for the both of us, if your grandfather should be believed, hee-hee!"
For an opportunity like that, Gohan was willing to overlook the 'hees' and the 'haas', annoying as they were.
The young man must've drifted back into his own musings. When his Gramps bopped him on the shoulder, nearly an entire turn had gone by without him noticing. Babidi's hands were now empty but for the whiskers around his fingers, and Frieza had thrown two hundred-dollar chips onto the pile. The mysterious man they called 'Oyabun' smirked from behind his hands, his teeth gleaming just as strongly as the rings around his fingers.
Gyu Mao laid out another card. King of hearts. Gohan deduced his chances. There was only a small probability that the jack of clovers would make its appearance and grant him victory, yet he seemed to be faring quite well with the three of a kind he already had to his disposal. Silence hung in the air, thick with tension, as Gohan tossed four black chips into the center pile.
"A man of confidence," Frieza spoke softly, so that Gohan had to lean in to hear him. "I like that." He studied the drug lord with irises of penetrating violet, as if to unveil the thoughts that whirled inside him like a typhoon. Onyx eyes stared back, unbudging.
"Can you blame me?" he said, feeling his upper lip twitch. "I've got my stuff covered, haven't I?"
He found the smile returned. "Yes, indeed you do." Six more black chips found their way to the center of the desk.
Gyu Mao didn't introduce this Frieza person to him, but Gohan didn't need the introduction. He was perfectly well aware what an Oyabun was.
"So, your name is Frieza," the young man said, playing a chip in fingers, "the one they call Oyabun." He added another eight chips.
"You are correct." The jeweled man reached for his glass of wine, swiveling it by the stem and watching the crimson liquid twist and turn against the edges of its prison. "Taken from your tone, I assume you know what an Oyabun is?" He took a sip of his beverage, setting his glass down with an ever so soft clink.
"The leader, or putting their own values to words, the 'grandfather' of a Yakuza clan." Gohan droned the words like from a text book. True, his knowledge about the Yakuza didn't stretch further than what he had read about them, but the image he had was quite extensive. Most people vouched that the Yakuza were a merciless group of criminals who made their wealth through extortion and murder, yet something about that organized group of 'felons' was strangely inexplicable. Members of a gang, or a 'family', as they called themselves, were always out there to help people who most needed it.
"Very good!" Frieza said excitedly. "Do you also know why they call me Grandfather, instead of boss?"
"Because the Yakuza don't see themselves as a criminal organisation divided by ranks, but rather as a family. Each clan has its Oyabun, who in turn has his Brothers, Sons and Grandsons, all in varying grades of importance to the clan."
"Excellent!" Frieza cackled, clearly amused. Chills ran down Moon's spine again. This wasn't a man to mess with. "You are quite the knowledgeable man, are you not?"
"That depends on who you ask," Gohan quipped. "According to some I am, I quote, 'an impolite little shit'."
"Ah, yes," Frieza laughed. "I had heard of your... squabbles," he said, an air of lightness in his tone. "Why, it seems that I am the exact person to help you with that." Plastic hit plastic as he added twelve chips to the stack.
Gohan raised a brow at him. "You mean with Piccolo? You know him?"
"Know him?" the velvet man laughed aloud. "Yes, I do. That pathetic freak has sought out my help on more than one occasion, but I refused him. I don't need to be associated with vermin the likes of him."
"And how did he take that?"
"Not exactly kindly," Frieza admitted, draining his wineglass. "He spat in my face and threatened my life, as all proper men do, of course. He said that I would rue the day that I ever defied him."
Moon snorted. "Sounds awfully familiar. Then what did you do?"
"I had his bodyguards murdered, took away half his money and left him with the rubble of what used to be his grand empire of a drug trade."
Gohan nodded appreciatively. He was beginning to like this guy, a lot. He was eloquent, even somewhat friendly and well-mannered. His eyes still betrayed a sense of brutality that he had no wish to unveil, but he assumed that it would only be awakened in certain cases.
"What did that green freak do to you, if I might ask?"
The young man held back his answer momentarily to drain his whiskey, gesturing for his grandfather to refill it. Realizing they were still playing poker, he counted up fifteen chips and tossed them on the pile.
"I assume you know the values of family, Frieza? Not only the ones in your Yakuza family, but also the ones molded by flesh and blood?"
"Well, Piccolo seemed to be under the assumption that he could threaten my little brother, someone who has absolutely nothing to do with this mess we're all in now." Gohan explained. He found himself gritting his teeth, clenching his cards into a balled fist.
The Oyabun seemed surprised. "And then what did you do?"
"I body-slammed him into his own desk, then stabbed him between his ribs."
Frieza giggled. "Well, Mister Moon, it seems we tend to see eye to eye a lot." He moved his hand to the stack between them, dropping two handfuls of black chips.
Gohan smirked. "I suppose we do." The game of poker seemed to be unwilling to end. They couldn't have the final card drawn until their input in chips was exactly the same, but both men kept raising the stakes. Gohan didn't know why he was acting so competitive; perhaps he wanted to impress Frieza, have him see what kind of mold he was cast from.
It was then he realized just how badly he wanted to get into business with this man across from him. Frieza simply exuded an air of authority, demanding respect simply with the look in his eyes. He had no idea which Yakuza clan he was Oyabun of, but it didn't matter. With Frieza's help, he'd be able to pulverize Piccolo like a fly beneath a swatter.
"Now," Frieza spoke. "If we were to combine forces, what would you have of me?"
"That depends. What can you offer me?"
"Gohan, please don't put the question back to me. I asked you want you wanted of me. Say the words, and I shall make it happen."
Gohan remained silent for a while. This seemed like too good of an offer.
"And what would you have in return?"
"Ah, distrust, very good," Frieza complimented. "Of course, I would like to see some of the manpower compensated for, but don't you worry. I have enough ties around the country to keep my incomes steady, so I won't be robbing you out of your profit. No, the reason I am willing to lend you my help so easily has several aspects."
"Well," Frieza began explaining. "For one, I would like to see that Piccolo six feet under just as much as you. He has never quite forgiven me, you see, so every now and again I can expect an envoy of his, carrying one of my grandchildren's limbs. Secondly, several members of my family seem to be itching to show their valor. They want to climb higher in the ranks for their Oyabun, show him that they are worthy. I want to put those men to work for your cause."
Gohan raised his glass appreciatively, the Oyabun mimicking the motion. This poker game had proven to be beyond fruitful. He added chips to the stack, downed his whiskey in one go, and talked through the bite the alcohol left.
"So, these grandchildren of yours could be used to infiltrate the Green Demon's organisation and get intel from the inside?" Moon queried.
"And just how many men would be at your disposal?" he quipped.
The rest of the group had remained silent throughout, watching the clash between the two men ensue. Tension had already disappeared for the duo, but the others waited with bated breath.
"Gohan, haven't I told you which Yakuza Clan calls me their Oyabun?" Frieza asked, sipping his wine.
"Not that I can recall."
"Perhaps you have heard of the Cold family?" Frieza said, grinning.
Gohan almost had to pick up his jaw. He had certainly heard of the Cold family! They were a Yakuza clan that had been at large for generations, being a family both in the sense of the Yakuza, as well as having each Oyabun being the blood of the previous. If the stories were true, Frieza had as much as eight to ten thousand men at his disposal. He was the biggest boss in the country.
"Your speechlessness informs me that, in fact, you have heard of us," Frieza chuckled. His jeweled hands shoved every single chip he had lying in front of him forward, increasing the inlay tenfold. "All in."
Gohan smirked. He definitely liked this guy. He too pushed every chip he owned forward. "All in." He parroted.
The two men grinned at each other. "I suppose this means we have a deal?" Frieza asked. "Hit us up, Gyu."
Gramps laid out the final card. A jack of clovers.
"Full house," Frieza snickered, laying out his king and jack to match the ones present. The man reached out with a gleaming hand to collect his profits, but Gohan slammed his cards onto his grandfather's desk.
"Royal flush," he said, raking every chip in he could fit into his arms. "And yes, Frieza, we have a deal."
Gyu Mao bellowed in laughter.
He should definitely buy himself a new television already. You shouldn't be able to count the individual pixels! Vegeta grumbled as he switched channels, annoyed that his patented inventor of a wife had enough wealth to purchase hundred-thousand dollar earrings, but not a new TV.
"Minty Mountain, for a breath as fresh as the Himalaya!" a stereotypical commercial with girls of questionable age bouncing in tight clothing. Nothing like persuasive advertising. A simple tap on the remote removed them from his view.
"Do you have a Prissy Pincer?" The speaker was a young man in a turtleneck so ugly that Vegeta would run for president just to have it outlawed. "Are you the owner of a Snapping Schnauzer, Biting Bulldog or a Howling Husky?"
"No," Vegeta answered his question. "But the wife is certainly barking mad." Grumbling, he turned off the television set and tossed the remote among the battlefield of junk on the coffee table.
Life at home was utterly and devastatingly boring. Literally all he did was lie about on some flat surface in his mansion of a house. God forbid the wife ever let him get an actual job, to take his mind off his tedious family life for a change. Certainly, his work,or as he preferred to call it, 'hobbying' for Gohan was distracting enough, but still his days had been forced into a routine. Get up at seven in the morning, make coffee, then wake the wife and son. Watch as both fly out of the house in minutes, leaving him alone with the day's ironing to keep him occupied. Every goddamn day.
His sour mood steered him towards the kitchen; food could always brighten the man's spirits. Pans cluncked dully as he tossed them onto the stove. He paid little attention to the preparation of his food, since it was his habit to just grab everything within his reach. Minutes ticked by as he absentmindedly chewed on a piece of chicken filet, waiting as another batch of unidentifiable meats sizzled in hot grease.
The back door in the kitchen opened. In walked his own son, lilac hair tumbling over eyes identical to his own. Vegeta gave no real sign of acknowledgement; Trunks was a lot more his mother's child. The father loved his young boy all the same, but his own image of being a parent was a lot more conservative than some.
"Seriously, you should ask her to hang out already!" Trunks chided, hardly concealing a smirk. "All you two do is type back and forth, perhaps if you guys actually saw each other in person, she'd let you use your thumbs for something useful for a change!" he turned round, his face shifting from joking, to mortified like the flick of a bipolar switch at the sight of his father. Vegeta laughed heartily; at least he had inherited his old man's sense of humor.
"Hey, shut up!" Vegeta recognized the voice, and the boy it belonged to came into frame seconds later, fist first and striking Trunks on the upper arm. His own child yelped, rubbing his bruised limb and dignity. Goten's scowl was quickly replaced by a guilty grin when he noticed the man leaning against the counter.
"Hey, Mr, Briefs," Goten greeted, "I mean, Vegeta." he corrected himself upon seeing Vegeta raise an eyebrow at him. He had certainly told the brat often enough.
"Long time no see, Goten," he replied, an honest smile on his face. Gohan's little brother had always been a really likeable kid in his opinion. He was smart, keen, sarcastic and cynical. Just the way Vegeta liked it. Come to think of it, the big brother in question would probably like to hear about this. It had been a while since Yamcha had stopped by his buffoon of a father's house for coffee and gossip.
"Yeah, it has been a while, hasn't it?"
Vegeta took the kid in carefully. Something about his attitude was different from the last time he had seen him. The way he carried himself was so much more determined and confident. Goten stood engraved into his memory as a sulky and quiet teen, shoulders drooping and eyes cast downwards, But it seemed that conversation came a lot easier to him now, like he had finally left his sorrows behind and had adopted a 'no fucks given' attitude. Gohan would love to hear that too.
Goten sniffed the air. "Something smells good in here!" His son nodded his agreement.
Vegeta rolled his eyes. "Help yourself to a plate and something to drink, munchies will be served momentarily."
Goten and Trunks scurried off to grab fork and plate. Vegeta's curiosity peaked upon noting the redness in the younger boy's eyes. It hadn't been incredibly obvious, but he wasn't a fool. Perhaps this was something worth making his own little secret from Gohan. Knowing this would only trouble him further.
Minutes passed as the three of them ate, nothing much more than their appetites on their minds. Eventually, Vegeta swallowed and pointed at Goten with the four prongs on his fork.
"So what is this I hear," he smirked when onyx eyes looked at him in surprise. "About you sticking your thumbs where the sun don't shine."
Trunks began to cough violently, trying to rid his airways of the half a sausage that had lodged itself inside his windpipe. Goten turned a violent scarlet and tried to hide his face with his hair; a futile effort. Vegeta bellowed with laughter.
"Just pulling your leg," he chuckled. "But seriously, chasing tail already?"
'Well I wouldn't call it 'chasing tail'," Goten said after most of the blush had receded from his cheeks. "But I have been talking to this certain girl an awful lot lately. I don't know is she likes me, though."
"Oh, for real, Goten," Trunks scoffed, crossing his arms in a manner that reminded Vegeta a little too much of himself. "You said it yourself, she kept calling you 'cutie' the whole time. If she really did say that, she's totally into you!"
The younger boy twiddled his thumbs. "You really think so?"
"Well of course," Vegeta interjected. "Just looking at those rosy cheeks makes me wanna give them a squeeze." The father made himself a mental note to never give those two orange juice again. The stains that Trunks spattered along the length of the kitchen table would certainly be a bitch to clean up.
"Hey!" Goten sputtered, growing red again. "I'm not adorable! I'm manly as hell!"
"Yes," Trunks agreed, "And I'm a penguin that can speak Chinese." Vegeta sighed at the remark, smirking slightly. Why did he have to raise his kid to be such a wise-ass? A similar grin crept across his son's face, but disappeared as quick as a chocolate cake at Fat Camp when Goten sent him a glare so cold even Vegeta could feel his spine tingle.
"Sometimes I wonder which one of you two is really mine," he laughed. Ignoring his own child's offended look, he made for the door to the living room. "Now, if you'll please excuse me, I have cleaning to do." he grumbled the last three words. He hated playing handmaid.
Ten minutes later Vegeta was scowling at his high carpet, the annoying sound of the vacuum cleaner terrorizing his eardrums. He allowed his thoughts to stray to more exciting places.
It was war on the streets. A morning wouldn't go by without at least a proper killing or two. He grinned. Gohan had been the one to call to arms, and all because of the young boy sitting in Vegeta's kitchen at this very moment. The Green Idiot had lived up to his new title and had dragged Gohan's little brother into the fight, and dumb move and certain to be his undoing.
Just the thought of actively pursuing that tattooed freak made Vegeta's pulse raise in sheer excitement. Perhaps he could put his own steel to use as well; his revolver was simply itching to play triggerfinger.
The man turned away from the television cabinet, determined to eradicate all the dust that had been gathering underneath his couch. Perhaps he should find some industrial cleaner for the stains on the cushions as well, for the two kids had left the kitchen and had seemingly taken residence.
Vegeta wasn't in the mood to argue. Without warning, he grasped the underside of the couch and lifted it with ease. Goten and Trunks slid along the length, finding themselves crammed into the nook by the armrest. Like nothing happened, Vegeta did a quick sweep underneath the piece of furniture, dropping the sofa to its original position so casually that it was almost unnatural.
"H-How did you do that?" Goten sputtered, eyes wide and mouth ajar. "How did you get so strong?"
Vegeta smirked, crossing his arms. "I do lots of sit-ups and push-ups," he said, like it was only logical. "And I drink plenty of juice." Two faces stared at him in utter disbelief; he laughed.
As the man was busy rolling up the extendable cord that trailed behind him with every step, he heard hoarse whispers coming from behind him, Vegeta was a curious person by nature, so perking his ears to eavesdrop only seemed like the normal thing to do.
"Just between you and me," the voice belonging to Goten dropped another few decibels. "I think my dad really has gone mental now."
"What did he do now?" Trunks queried. Vegeta could almost picture his son raising his brows in curiosity. "Did he pick a fight with a chamber plant or something?"
"No, no, of course not! I know Dad is crazy, but he's not that disturbed. Or well, at least not yet. He just sits in Gohan's old room all day. He only comes downstairs to eat and collect the morning paper. I don't know what he's doing up there, but I think he just ignored being laid off."
"And doesn't your mom has anything to say to about that?" Trunks asked, startled. "She won't let you walked past her with your shirt out of your pants, but your dad gets to play hermit?"
"Yeah, I don't know why she's acting like that either," the replying voice sounded sullen. "Maybe she thinks that'll be the push that shoves him over the edge. All I know is that he is up to something."
So, the buffoon was still up and running. As Vegeta carried the vacuum cleaner back to where he retrieved it from, his mind raced in circles. Despite Goku's constant failed attempts to catch him, Gohan and their associates by the scruff of their necks, who knew what the man would be capable of without a constant infringement of authority?
Today had been informative. Gohan would be delighted to hear his surprise reports.
"Okay cutie, see you there at two!"
The words were so simple, yet they contorted and wriggled in his mind, constricting around his brains, taking his sense of proper thinking. Over the past twenty-four hours he had to berate himself more than once, fighting an irrational urge to slap himself across his fingers as he stuck his cellphone back into his pocket. He tried to reason with himself; there was no use in staring at the little screen for hours on end. She had said the words; they were clearly there every time he checked them. But of course, young and inexperienced Goten just had to be doubtful. It was just too good to believe.
Yet here he was, watching a hummingbird flutter by without a care in the world. Its plumage was quite beautiful, Goten tried to tell himself, but his attempts to distract himself were feeble and futile. A couple walked by, fingers entwined and their eyes on nothing but one another. Normally he would've asked the nearest person for a foldaway bucket, but at the moment he felt nothing but resent towards them. Kicking a leg out and watching them stumble down into a pile of flailing limbs would definitely provide some amusement. Why should they be so happy together anyway? Why not him?
It was peculiar, really. Goten had always figured himself like the loner kind, the one that would live to the end of his days moping over chances lost and swinging his cane at the ruddy children on his lawn. The thought of spending his life with someone had occurred to him, naturally. His own parents were the ultimate example to showcase how a married life was a normal one. But then of course, Goten resented people, so his chances of finding himself a 'soulmate' or a 'partner' or whatever they were called nowadays seemed diminished to almost nothing.
Not that he cared, anyway.
Or, well, he didn't used to. For some time a life of solace had sounded like the best gift he could receive, away from prying eyes, stupid questions and despicable demeanors. Yet somehow that had changed. He wasn't so adamant on refraining from social interaction anymore and he even enjoyed being around people. And that was all because of a single person.
And a girl at that.
Annoyed with waiting, Goten stepped away from the bench that made his ass feel like a wooden board and began to pace, walking in ever growing circles. South City High School loomed in the background like some old and forgotten hospital in a horror movie. Normally he would've loved to stop in his tracks and verbally abuse the appearance of a building so horrendous, with its grey and square architecture, but his mind was elsewhere today.
Where on earth was she?
He had stowed his phone into his pocket once again, the numbers engraved into his retinae. One, three, five, nine. Only a minute to spare. Suddenly becoming very aware of having a throat, one with a pulse so erratic that it felt like it could swell up entirely, he allowed his brains to wander towards possible doom scenarios. Perhaps she had forgotten him? Or maybe this was all some crude jape, just a little bit of amusement for a girl who had nothing better to do with her spare time.
But no, that couldn't be, right? She had been calling him 'cutie' for nearly three weeks straight. He had yet to find a person so determined to ruin someone's self esteem. And if he was honest with himself, there could be no way in hell and beyond that anything else but sweetness resided behind those pools of blue...
Gritting his teeth, Goten raked a hand through his hair, absentmindedly pulling at their roots. He hadn't even seen this girl more than once, yet he was dying to gaze upon her features again. He supposed that this is what people meant by being in love, but to him it was mostly a proper case of stomach ache with the possibility of sleepless nights. As he wrought his sweaty palms together, he cursed humanity for making him believe this was something beautiful and fantastic. Terrifying and sickening was more like it.
Impatience was his best friend today. His phone was in his hand again before he knew it. Two white zeros stared at him, their oval eyes unblinking, right from a one and four. Two in the afternoon. She should've been here by now.
But of course, he should've known. Why would someone want to throw him a bone anyway, make him happy for a change. That would probably disrupt the balance of the Universe. Just great, at least now he knew the prospects of his future. Loneliness behind the geraniums with the possibility of ensuring the apocalypse.
He was about to turn on the spot, to walk away and leave yet another sad memory behind him. Yet when his feet pivoted beneath him to face the walking path a few feet away, something caught his eye, a fleck of gold along the horizon.
His heart skipped a beat, or maybe even two. She was approaching him, and rather rapidly at that. With every passing second she got more clearly into frame, and with every ticking moment Goten could feel his anxiety grow beyond anything he'd ever felt before.
She made it, the girl that had been responsible for all the anxiety he had endured for the past weeks, the sole reason that his insides, just like now, were swirling and dancing, although most uncomfortably. She was the one that made him feel like a walking cliche, a protagonist in a cheesy romance flick that could only be survived with a bottle of liquor at hand. She made all the love songs make sense.
Years ago, or perhaps days -not that it mattered now-, he would've berated himself for falling enamoured like the flick of a switch. The fighter in him would call him spineless and gutless, but that martial artist was removed from his thoughts with a mental right hook as Marron swept into frame.
"Hey hey!" she chimed, a hand on her hip and a smile on her face. "How've you been? I was hoping I got to see you sometime soon!"
Finding his tongue was easier than expected. "I've been great!" he said, matching up with her enthusiasm and cracking a grin from ear to ear. "I wanted to see you too," he added earnestly. "but I suppose it took me a while to rake up the nerve and ask you to hang out." he pivoted on his feet awkwardly. He was still able to talk to her and supposed that was a good thing. If he also managed to keep his cheeks as pale as they were for the remainder of the afternoon, he'd crown himself the alpha male.
"Well, I guess you just need some more confidence," Marron said, her soft giggles tinkling like bells. "but I can't say I get why though, someone as cute as you are should be forcing girls away left and right."
The title of alpha male would have to wait for another lifetime. Or maybe even two, Goten reflected as his gaze shot towards his feet, his face starting to emanate a glow that could only be a blush as fiery as the pits of hell.
"I uh, uh..." How should he respond to that anyway? Was there even a proper way to deal with flattering compliments from the other sex? Was it one of those traps they enjoyed setting, like asking whether or not they looked fat in a particular piece of garment? Why did this have to be so damn confusing?
Marron laughed heartily and any form of discomfort was erased from his mind. As long as she was laughing, everything was fine. He should take note to try and get her to do that as much as possible; he rather liked the sound of it.
"Oh sweetie, don't worry," Marron joined him by his side and hooked his arm in hers. "I meant what I said, but I didn't mean to make you feel awkward." She rubbed his shoulder, which he felt relax despite the goosebumps that lined his skin. He looked down at her face and their eyes met briefly, yet the half a second it took for him to look away was enough to catch a glimpse of those beautiful blue irises of hers.
"I, well..." Goten mumbled, uncertain whether speaking was a smart move to make. The words were on the tip of his tongue, just waiting to be released. "I think you look very pretty too, Marron."
"Oh, don't flatter me," the girl said, her shoulders straight and an air of confidence over her. Yet, Goten was certain he saw a tinge of crimson flush her features, making him smirk triumphantly. Two could play this game.
"I can hardly look that appealing in an old rag like this," Marron's voice snapped him to reality. He hadn't even noticed that they had begun walking, crunching the pebbles of the path beneath them as the slowly trotted forward. "Even an orca in a tutu has more style than this," she joked, pulling at the spaghetti strap of her plain orange summer dress.
Goten laughed an honest laugh, something he hadn't done in a very long time. This girl was sarcastic, and that was something he liked in people. Perhaps this could turn out to be a rather fantastic day.
"Nah, really," he said, leaning over to bring his lips towards her ear. "Don't tell my mom I said this, but you are the prettiest girl I've seen today."
Now it was her turn to tease his ears with sounds so sweet. Apparently playing the comedian was the right way to go. Duly noted.
Soon their steps had turned to swaggers, leaving them to wobble over the paths while flanking left and right from time to time. With Marron pressed to his side like this, it was hard to care about others around him. Women, children, they could go to hell for all he cared, as long as he could keep the girl next to him. Some people took that rather better than others, though.
"Putos desavergonhados!" A short, woman of what was likely Portuguese descent shouted after them furiously, red in the face and shaking a fist full of grocery bags in their direction. Whatever she was yelling, judging from the pulsing vein in her temple it was everything short of a love declaration.
"Perhaps we should invite her over for tea sometime," Goten joked. Music filled his ear at her chuckling, and he swooped her with him as he turned away. The duo rounded a corner when Marron suddenly halted.
"So, this is the place," she said, gesturing towards a building that could rival with Trunks's house in size. "It used to be a bank or something. We get to use the house for almost nothing as long as we pay the gas, water and electricity bills."
Goten raised a brow in curiosity. "So, you live in a squat, eh?"
Marron contemplated him for a second or two, then casually shrugged and said "Yeah, basically."
"Cool!" Goten grinned and found his feet, delicately pulling the pretty blonde with him, stopping at the front door and banging his knuckles on the woodwork.
"I should warn you," Marron suddenly noted, tugging at his sleeve. "My housemates are in, so we have to sit around them for a while. Don't worry though, I'm sure they'll be awesome to you."
Frankly, Goten wasn't so concerned about the opinions of her co inhabitants, but just for charades, he nodded and smiled at her confidently.
They heard footsteps on the other side of the door, and soon enough it swung open to reveal a boy a few years older than Goten. His clothes might have been black, but not even the shreds in the denim nor the gory landscape of what was probably some heavy metal album cover, could give this guy a somber impression. He smiled widely at the sight in front of him, a silver eyebrow ring gleaming in the sunlight.
"Hey Marron, good to see you back!" He eyed Goten without any apprehension. When he extended a hand, the younger boy shook it vigorously. "The name's Kay, but that'll be Mr. K during office hours."
He couldn't help but grin. "I'm Goten, pleasure to meet you."
"Well what're you waiting for?" Kay chided, waving for them to come in. The couple moved themselves over the threshold, into a hallway that was big enough to house Goten's entire living room and kitchen. To say that it was neat and orderly would be a blatant lie, but it was rather because of the look of the furnishings. Marron and her housemates clearly loved to decorate the walls with pictures, posters and many things more, but quite obviously a person living in a squat would have a hard time to gather the money for a matching pair of sofas.
"It's not much, but it suffices," Marron said, having seen him take in the scenery. Without warning, she grabbed him by the hand, involuntarily making him blush as she pulled him towards what was likely the the living room. Goten thought he spied Kay snickering into fist as he followed them.
The living room felt like home straight away. The furniture was mismatched, but looking comfortable. A small and outdated television set was flickering dimly. Two teenagers sat staring at it in silence, their facial expressions blank. Apparently snapped out of their trance like state, they turned their heads to take in the new arrivals. The first of them, a boy that could be not much older than Goten was, perhaps sixteen at best, rose to his feet with a hand outstretched.
"So this is the Prince Charming we've been hearing so much about," He had a stiff demeanor about him. Goten studied him curiously as his hand was shaken roughly, the other's bony fingers grasping tightly. "You can call me Tom, if you'd like, but everyone knows me as Twitch." Dilated pupils smiled along with his lips, their gaze distracted. The green ring around them had been reduced to a flint.
He certainly was a strange figure, standing in his track suit, never really standing still completely. Apprehension crept into Goten's mind. These were the people Marron lived with on a daily basis. Whatever this Tom or Twitch guy was taking, he would stay far away from it. He wondered if the girl by his side had tried her share of it as well, but that was where the brainless teenager in love suddenly took a hold of control in his mind. Of course Marron would never sink so low, would she?
"Hi, I'm Goten," he released the grip on Twitch's hand, smiling politely. "Marron told me that her housemates would be in. And who are you?" the boy directed his attention to the other girl, who had not moved an inch from the shapeless poof she had occupied. She wore simple, baggy jeans and a not all too revealing shirt, whose... printing was a total eyecatcher. Goten tried his best not to tug at his collar.
'Hey Goten, I'm Jazz!" her voice was calm and soothing, her enthusiasm genuine. "Sorry for not getting up. Do you mind?"
"Not at all," he answered, dropping his schoolbag in a corner lowering himself onto the sofa most ungracefully. Marron joined by his side, squeezing herself against him just a little too close for comfort. When she rested her head against his shoulder and sighed in relaxation, he felt his face begin to glow. Twitch and Jazz chuckled into their fists, but none of that mattered when he caught the scent of the most sweet smelling hair conditioner in existence. It had something fruity to it, perhaps lime, or lemon?
"Looks like the two lovebirds have arrived at just the right time!" Kay shouted from somewhere behind the couch. Goten hadn't even noticed that Kay had slipped into the kitchen, having returned with two class ornaments that Goten had heard of, but never seen. Heavy army boots stomped over to the coffee table as Kay set the bongs down. The water inside rippled back and forth a little.
Jazz cheered happily and drew one of the pipes towards herself. Goten watched the process intently, fully well knowing that he would have to do the same. It had seemed easy enough, close the hole at the back, light the weed, draw smoke into the pipe, release, inhale. The brunette exhaled a great big plume of white, acrid smoke, the smell tingling the nostrils. The girl shoved the bong Goten's way.
Things went very, very fast after that. He remembered how incredibly helpful everyone around him tried to be. Before he had even gotten a chance to blink twice, Twitch had cleaned all the residue out, and stuffed some of his own pot in. Jazz smirked at him, mouthing something along the lines of "Good luck,", if he remembered correctly. Kay had even patted him on the shoulder in an encouraging manner, and Marron had merely giggled, a stray hand around his waist.
After inhaling, he immediately realized he had underestimated the deadly blow the lungs that the pipe delivered. He managed to deplete all the smoke from his lungs without coughing, but by the time his face had returned to its normal colour, his head was a heavy as an eighteen wheeler. What he remembered after that were mostly bits and pieces.
Kay had smoked himself to sleep somewhere during the afternoon. Jazz had flipped open a book, the edges frayed from years of turning pages. Twitch was, well, twitchy. Goten had long since registered Tom's need to rub underneath his nose. He wondered how many years of abuse would cause a habit like that.
Marron and Goten turned out to have a lot more in common than he had initially thought. The girl had been raised by her single mother, a fierce woman who would stop at nothing to achieve her goal. With her eyes set on her own, thriving business in the cosmetics industry, the mother had begun to lose sight of her only daughter. It had been her primary reason to run away. She never knew her father. The one thing about him she had managed to weasel out of her mother was that, he too, like Goten's father, was a police officer. That was all she had, no name, no face, nothing.
She told him all of this at some point in time that he couldn't place. Late afternoon, early evening, what did it matter? He could only focus on her and the sound of her voice as she regaled her childhood to him, her beautiful blonde head tucked into the crevice of his neck. he hadn't even realized that their fingers had entwined somewhere on Marron's lap. Her presence was too overwhelming to focus on much of anything, anyway.
Oh, and not to forget, he had learned a new meaning for the term 'shotgun'. It had scared the living daylights out of him. Marron had been sitting with the final bits of a joint between her fingers, when she beckoned him for his attention. He hadn't even noticed her putting the joint between her teeth. All his senses left him for a millisecond when she pressed her lips to his. By the time he was over his shock, his lungs were full with smoke so heavy that a coughing fit was impossible to avoid.
And as he walked homeward late that evening, there were no troubles on his mind. He didn't feel anxious about his mother's response for staying out so late, or an old man's stupefied look as he nearly skipped his way along the curb.
Maybe it was thinking too big, but in some sense of the word, she had kissed him, hadn't she? Sure, it was all to the purpose of getting him higher than a kite in a hurricane, but her lips had been on his, hadn't they?
And it was with a smile on his face that he went to bed that night, to dream of sweet lips of soft giggles chiming like bells in the wind.
The crisp leather interior squeaked a little as he sat himself down, aged fingers curling around the steering wheel and gripping tightly. He was quite surprised when he noticed himself smirking from his rear view mirror. It was a strange sensation, watching himself as his lips curled upwards, expressing the peaceful joy he felt on the inside. Smiling was a little passe nowadays.
Yet Goku wouldn't allow his mood to turn sour. Today was a big day, for as far as he still experienced those. Yes, today had been the day that Son Goku had drawn himself from seclusion. The time had simply been ripe for it. There are only so many opportunities that a man can either grasp or create for himself if he never leaves the confinement of his home. It had taken far too long for him to sink that realization into that thick skull of his, but it had happened nonetheless. One could say he felt enlightened.
Goku allowed himself a moment to study his features. He hardly recognized himself. Where his face had once been a barren landscape of grey skin, stubble two weeks old and lines and creases that even the elderly wouldn't envy, he had taken it upon himself to do some proper grooming. As of right now, his chin had been shaved perfectly smooth, his hair had been combed and styled for as far as the hippety-hoppety strands would allow him and a few good nights of sleep had done wonders on his colour. He actually looked somewhat vivid, if he could say so himself.
He turned the key and heard the ignition roar. His smirk grew wider. Goku had never told his wife this, but Chi-Chi hadn't been his first love, not really. The first time he had truly marveled in indescribable beauty, he had received, from his parents, a dingy old Fiat Panda for his eighteenth birthday. It was the most disgusting beige colour ever spraypainted onto a motorized vehicle, but that didn't stop the renegade cop from taking care of it like it was one of his own children. Sure, she was dented and rusty, but she still brought him everywhere he needed to. Fidelity over beauty, he liked to think.
The wheel began to tremor in his grasp, his grin growing wider still. Right before he floored the gas pedal, he tapped his finger against the little chain hanging from the rear view mirror. From the end of it, a little figure of a green dragon dangled. Goku had always given it a little push before driving off in the past. Call it superstition of you will, but he preferred to view it as an omen of good luck. Granted, he hadn't been tapping the little Shenron a whole awful lot the past three years, but perhaps it was time that he picked up on some of his old habits.
His pocket vibrated. Goku eased his cellphone from his pocket and answered the call without taking his eyes off the road, setting the device on speaker.
"Hey Goku, this is Krillin," the voice on the other end of the line sounded. "I'm about ready, so you can head over this way."
"Too slow, baldy," Goku chuckled at the offended huff that met him as a reply. "Already on my way."
"Er, yeah, okay," Krillin mumbled, very likely unsure of how to react to this newfound enthusiasm. "Well just pick me up-"
"Pick you up at the entrance to South City Park, I know, I know," Goku said, and before giving his friend the time to reply told him "See you there in bit!" Then he hung up.
Sighing gladly that he could now enjoy his drive in peace, the man pressed down on the gas pedal just a little harder. He watched the speedometer rise into the unsafe and probably illegal numbers. He ought to give himself a fine.
His right hand strayed for the glove compartment and pulled it open. He took the pack of cigarettes that he had crammed into the far corner, the safest hiding spot that his car had to offer, and slipped one of the death sticks out of it carton prison. With his thumb he pressed the lighter right below the car radio, allowing it to warm up as he jerked the steering wheel to the right. South City Park was only a few more blocks away. Somewhat disappointed to leave the confines of his car, Goku took the lighter out and lit his cigarette swiftly.
After having lowered the window, he could now cherish the nicotine seeping into his bloodstream. His wife would murder him if she ever found out. He had tried to defend himself, many years ago, stating that he barely smoked throughout the day and two or three a day could easily sustain him. Chi-Chi hadn't agreed. She had merely tutted her lips the way she did, complaining that they couldn't afford it, not with another young kid running around the house. He rolled his eyes at the thought. What she didn't know wouldn't kill her.
The scenery through his windshield changed suddenly. Through the forest of concrete trees suddenly rose in the distance. Goku brought his car to a slow as the park came into view, stopping the vehicle completely on the virtually empty parking lot.
The door on the passenger's side opened. Krillin sat down in the vacant seat next to his friend and sighed deeply.
"You have no idea what my week has been like," the short man grunted, a hand over his face to emphasize the fatigue. "First-"
"Before you go any further, buckle up." Goku grinned and pulled up, the tires of his trusty four wheeler shrieking loudly as he sped off. Krillin barely had breath to spare, jerking at the seat belt and cramming it into the lock.
"So, you were telling me about your week," Goku reminded him, acting like nothing had just happened. "Let me guess, it was a pain in the ass?"
"Tell me about it," his friend replied, still breathing a bit heavily. "They try their best to keep me off the Moon case as much as possible," he declared. Upon seeing the other's wary look, he added. "But I still get a lot of the info, though. Apparently there's a new drug dealer in town."
The renegade cop arched a brow, flicking the butt of his cigarette out the window. "A new drug dealer?" he parroted. "You mean the breed of drug dealer Gohan is?"
Krillin nodded in reply. "Yeah, his name is Piccolo, but most call him the Green Demon. The dude's a real freakazoid if you ask me, all covered in tattoos and piercings. Turns out he's a real big shot up in the North. He's not too friendly of a guy though. He's suspected of having ordered multiple assassinations, all on people that could possibly be seen as an enemy or a competitor of his. And guess what?"
"I don't know," Goku answered. "He likes to alleviate stress by collecting stamps?"
The other narrowed his eyes a tad at the remark, then continued. "He prints his sigil on his bags too. If you find any of 'em with the kanji for 'demon' on them, you're holding something he made money off. And here's the surprise." His face turned grim as he fell silent momentarily. "We've been finding dead bodies all across the suburbs for the last three weeks. In four out of five cases, we've found ziplocks with that sigil on it."
Goku contemplated the newfound facts. "Competition?" he quipped. Perhaps there were so many corpses strewn about the streets because this Piccolo had managed to tick someone off. He had an irking who it could be, but the thought filled him with horror, so he did his best to bottle it up.
"Very likely," Krillin said, sadness in his eyes. "And you are not going to like this one. As if the murders weren't gruesome enough, their killers seem to have a tendency to leave behind a message. There haven't been a lot of them, but some of the victims had been left behind with a knife in their belly of neck. On this knife we would find that the killer had pricked a ziplock bag of his own. Can you guess what logo was printed on them?"
Silence fell. Goku nodded distantly, his thoughts elsewhere.
So Gohan had been responsible for the many deaths around the city. A part of him tried to reason that his son didn't have a hand in this, that there had just been a massive influx of petty drug dealers with murderous intent, who just so happened to be selling wares he'd sold them. But the likeliness of such a thing was just far too low. There was absolutely no way that so many killings were related to each other by random chance.
Normally, Goku's mind would've been haunted by a millions questions, and then a million more. Yet now only one lingered, on sole question left unanswered.
This was no way for Gohan to behave. No matter how long it had been since he had last seen his own flesh and blood, he knew the boy through and through. Hell would freeze over before Gohan would order mass execution. If something or someone had managed to draw out Moon's bloodlust and need to destroy, they had done a proper job of getting him pissed. Goku could fathom no other reason.
So, what had Piccolo done to get Gohan, to put it nicely, a little bit angry?
He hardly believed it could've been a matter about money. Gohan was way more cunning than that. Moon only had to whisper a few words to the right person, and the vermin would be exterminated easily, no doubt. No, it was almost certain that Piccolo had struck a chord with his son, had gotten through his veil of confidence and managed to let his emotions take hold of his better sense of judgement.
Plot scenarios and murder schemes mulled in his mind, and he wasn't feeling up to that now. With difficulty, he pushed them to the background and out of his focus. He turned to Krillin.
"So, what's the current body count?" the words sounded crude as the came out of his mouth.
"Last time I heard the number was up to fifty-seven," Krillin swallowed, a little in shock over his own input. "But I haven't heard any word about it since two days ago, so you can bet your ass that they've been raising the stakes."
Goku needed a moment to put himself past that one. Horrendous as it may be, there was no need to spend your time feeling sickened over something you have no control over. The only thing that mattered now, was trying to figure out the truth, the 'whys' and the 'whos'.
"So where are we headed anyway?" Krillin queried, his eyes suddenly on the road and their surroundings.
Goku stared him dead in the eye. "I thought you knew."
Silence again, this time awkward.
"Well," Krillin eventually said. "I might know a place we can go to. Not far from here there's a little alley where some high guy always sold knock off medicin. He's been arrested multiple times, in some cases carrying a massive amount of forged prescription forms. He is, if I'm not mistaken, also one of Piccolo's henchmen. If he's still active, and hopefully then, alive, we could keep an eye out on him and see if we get any leads to anything."
Goku nodded. It wasn't like he had anything better in mind.
Ten minutes later found them crouching into the dirtiest alleyway Goku had seen in his entire life. The walls were slick with grease and stank of urine. Graffiti tags were strewn about. The place was dark, nasty, uncomfortable.
The dealer Krillin had described was indeed still active. Neither of the two policemen knew the guy's name, but they had quickly dubbed him Slouch, given his posture.
Slouch was not a very interesting man. His personality could only be described as introvert and dull. He never spoke unless spoken to, and the only people that managed to make him use his vocal cord were the three costumers he had received over a span of four hours.
Goku was about to give up hope after watching Slouch dig for treasure in his nasal cavity for twenty-five minutes. He was already getting ready to stretch his legs and stand, but suddenly a different man entirely walked up to the alleyway to address Slouch. Krillin and Goku sat in silence, trying to listen to their whispered conversation.
"So, you still got some of that Vicodin?" the unknown buyer asked in hush tones.
"Not here," Slouch replied, his voice even lower than the other man's. "Right by that dumpster, out of the light."
It was hard not to draw in breath as Goku and Krillin heard their footsteps approach. They tried to stick low and keep their backs pressed to the gigantic trash can to avoid being seen.
"Here you go," Slouch said only a few seconds later. So, where's my payment?"
A chuckle. "Here's your payment."
"Hey, what do you-"
The rest of Slouch's words fell into nothingness. He had never gotten a chance to finish his final sentence. All the two cops heard then was the sound of knives slicing flesh and the faint chink of steel against bone. When everything fell silent, Goku felt the ground beneath him with his fingertips. They were sticky and red with fresh and warm blood.
Footsteps tapped against the pavement. The killer walked away, unharmed, unstopped, getting away with murder. When even the sound of his walking had vanished, Goku risked standing up and trotting around the dumpster, Krillin dead in his tracks.
Poor Slouch looked dreadful. His face was a ruin of bruises and minor cuts. A waterfall of blood gushed from the slices across his throat. A small, silver knife stuck out between the mountain of mangled flesh, a plastic bag pinned underneath.
Goku turned to Krillin. "Well, I guess this confirms it," he said. "It's war. And a bloody nasty one at that."
Krillin nodded his agreement. He glanced over the corpse and swiped a check into the air, no doubt raising the body count to fifty-eight in his head. "So what are we gonna do?" he asked eventually.
Goku stared at the lifeless form of Slouch, seemingly unable to look away. "Trying to find Moon simply leads us to too many dead ends. Perhaps we should try to get in touch with this Green Demon we keep hearing about. If we can figure how he has managed to upset Gohan like this, perhaps we can put a stop to this."
Krillin sighed. "Look at us, just two renegade heroes marching to what is likely an untimely and tragic death." He smirked. "Well, at least it beats having to file paperwork."
Goku laughed with him. The man finally had the sense that he was moving in the right direction. Why it had never occurred to him to find his forlorn son through other means than breaking and entering, he did not know. He did know, however, that his outlook on the whole matter had shifted somewhat dramatically. Perhaps now he was able to actually progress towards his goal.
As the two men walked off, Krillin already dialing the alarm number, Slouch gave one final gurgle. Then his eyes turned to the skies and saw nothing.