Note: This fic is based mainly on the manga, not the anime, so some details may differ from the cartoon version.
To Son Goku - he has always been our greatest hope.
Well, I'm not exactly sure why I'm writing this, but I guess it's mostly for kinda selfish reasons. I'm still awfully shaken up from the events of about a year ago (if you don't know, don't worry, it'll be in here.) and I had to find some way to work out all of the strong emotion I've been feeling lately. I hope it's of interest to you, and I promise to try not to just tell the story that everyone already knows. Thanks for reading.
~Chapter One: My early life~
I turned 50 last week.
Me. Fifty years old. I can scarcely believe it. Now, you might hear that same statement out of just about anybody, but I really can scarcely believe it - I was totally sure I'd be dead for good by now. In the course of my life, I've been beaten, blown up, turned to stone, turned into chocolate, nearly killed more times than I can count, and actually killed at least four times, so I consider it pretty amazing that I'm currently in one piece. Of course, that's nothing compared to Goku, who's probably had every bone in his body broken more than five times, so I really shouldn't complain.
What follows is basically the story of my life from as far back as I can remember to now. A lot of it you might know, some of it you don't, but I think that all of it's worth telling.
My earliest memory is of the forest. I remember that the trees were thick and let in only a trickle of sunlight. I was very young, but I'm not sure how young. As far as I can remember, I wasn't sure how I'd gotten there or what I was doing. I distinctly remember someone lifting me into their arms.
That's just an example of the little flashes of early memory I have. I wish I could tell you who my real parents are, or why there are so many little weird things about me, like my not having a nose, but the fact is that I don't know myself. I don't really have any constant memory until I was about 5. I had already been taken into the Orinji temple, and I already had at least one of the incense burns on my forehead. The place was surrounded on most sides by forest, and at least to my childish eyes, it was majestic. The structure was simple and not monstrously large, but it had a certain look about it that almost seemed to say "This is a place of learning and discipline, a place of nurturing for the body and soul. This is home."
I got everything from the temple. I learned to read and write there, and it was there that I received my first training in the martial arts. I felt right at home there for a long time. As a young child, I had a tremendous respect for their teachings and their peaceful yet hard way of life. There were a few rituals that went along with it, such as shaving the head and the incense burns, intended both as a sign of faith and to help keep our minds clear and focused. The burns stung a bit, although not as much as you'd think, but I went through with them unflinchingly in my devotion to the temple. They leave a permanent mark on your body, unable to be erased by any kind of medicine known to science or magic, or even by death and reincarnation. Come to think of it, if I'd known that then I probably wouldn't have let them come near me. Oh well.
Okay, you're probably wondering at this point how a place like that could have possibly turned out a person like me. Well, I have to be honest with you - my intentions were good, but I didn't live quite as purely as I was supposed to. Honestly, can you blame me? I was a kid, and I got restless easily. (Actually, most of the younger people in the temple acted mostly like normal kids; they were rowdy and often cruel to each other. Most of the older monks, though, were very different. They seemed to have found some sort of peace. Maybe If I'd stayed, I'd have found it as well. I guess I'll never know.) So when I was a bit older I started going out to town sometimes with a few others. They were supposed to watch me but they usually got caught up in doing their own things, so I was left to wander around town. I was curious about everything - the spectacle of even a village was really exciting to a kid who had barely left the temple before. In town I got my first exposure to real people, real food and pop culture. I became a semi-familiar sight in the village and some of the locals would let me hang around and help out with the chores in exchange for food, occasionally money, and conversation. I was a pretty friendly and talkative person, which surprised me. I enjoyed being around people, but I never quite felt like I belonged there, and I didn't make any lasting friendships at that time.
On one of those trips, I noticed a cute girl and kind of fawned over her for a while, but couldn't really work up the nerve to talk to her. One of the other monks noticed me doing this and told me not to bother, that she'd never be interested in a weird runt like me. Of course I took this as a challenge.
Thus began my life's first major ambition: to get a girlfriend. I think it was a matter of pride more than of loneliness at the start, but it was set in my mind either way. I'm emphasizing this because it figured in a big way into my decision to leave the temple and become as strong as I could.
The martial arts training I received at the temple included some strength training, but it mostly focused on speed, agility, and above all, focus. We spent a lot of time in meditation and other concentration exercises, and I first learned to sense and control ki a bit, probably before anyone else that would end up becoming part of the 'team'. I took to fighting immediately, and great strength and speed seemed to come naturally to me. My first sensei, Orin, saw great potential in me, but I couldn't see it myself. I always felt very nervous when the time came to spar with my peers. I was a lot smaller than anyone else was - I must have been not much over two feet, and I didn't seem to be growing much. I got taunted and picked on a lot, and I had absolutely no confidence in myself. I lost a lot. This really frustrated Master Orin, who told me that a lack of self-confidence was my greatest weakness, and was something for me to overcome. One of the monks especially liked to taunt me. His name escapes me now, but I was frightened to death of him then. He was the best fighter among us, better than me, and he loved to rub it in. He called me a runt, a crybaby, and a weakling, and he beat me mercilessly. He made me want to run away, hide, crawl into a corner and die, in any order. I trained and trained, but it was no use at all - I would never be able to beat him.
One day when I was 13, I just decided I had had enough. The first time someone teased me that day I exploded. I ran off and collected everything I owned, then I screamed in front of everyone that I wasn't going to be pushed around anymore.
"I'm leaving," I shouted, "and when I come back, I will be the strongest fighter that the world has ever known!"
Okay, maybe I laid it on a little thick. Anyway, I ran out of there filled with rage, pain, and an intense desire to get as far as I possibly could from the place that I had gratefully called home for the past eight years.
--END OF CHAPTER ONE--