Age 749, Monday, September 18 (Morning)
“You’ll keep an eye out for Chichi, won’t you, Ten?”
“I can take care of myself, Dad. Besides, we’re just going to be seeing Muten Roshi. We’ll be back before you know it.”
“I think not. It’s time you spread your wings, and saw the wide world on your own.”
“You really think so?”
“It was a long time coming. So, it wouldn’t hurt to have someone by your side, wouldn’t it?”
Had the man been talking about Chichi, or myself?
I stared down, watching the clouds zoom beneath us.
“It’s beautiful.” Chichi said from beside me.
I nodded, smiling slightly at the world stretching from underneath me.
“Pretty amazing, isn’t it?” Bulma’s loud voice interrupting my serene gazing. “It just goes on and on and on.”
“Yeah, but it’s not as cool as Nimbus!” Goku groused.
“Not everyone has a pet cloud, Goku!”
“That’s ‘cause you’re too mean— it doesn’t like you.”
“As if!” Bulma glared at the boy. “I’m the definition of pure innocence!”
I suppressed a snort, hearing Yamcha sigh from behind me. I did not envy the man, not one bit. Bulma would certainly be hard to deal with, and I was glad I would be far, far away from that ticking time bomb.
“How long until we get there?” Chichi asked curiously.
“Maybe another ten minutes?” Bulma said, and I saw her shrug in the mirror. “Could be fifteen. I’m not sure. We’ll get there soon, though. After the modifications I made, we’d better.”
“Thanks again— for helping us.” I said as sincerely as I could. “The trip by boat would have taken way too long.”
“I think, after everything…” Bulma said slowly. “You deserved a bit of a break.”
“You can say that again.” Chichi said, her expression wry.
“Any news?” Yamcha asked. “On the Red Ribbon. I know they sent the task forces out yesterday.”
A silence fell among us for a moment. “I’m not sure, really. I don’t think there’d be any news on them so quickly after the deployment, but I’ll try.”
Bulma began flicking through the various channels.
“It’s the ear of the lion—” “So, what you’ll need is: a T-Rex egg, salt, pepper, some oregano, and obviously, a very large pan—” “Buy now, and you’ll not only get—”
She continued to flip through channels until she got tired of it and turned the radio off.
“That answer your question?”
Yamcha said nothing, but I assumed he was nodding.
I went back to staring down at the world beneath me, thoughts going a mile a minute. Blue had been so massively enhanced that it was beyond ridiculous. He’d laid me low, when I thought I’d been beyond the human level.
And, now, he was gone.
I scrunched my eyes shut, almost seeing him in my mind’s eye, glaring with his single baleful blue eye.
Perhaps I should pay a visit to South City… I believe you have family there? A mother. Perhaps some friends at school.
My eyes snapped open. No. He is dead. I saw the experience numbers, myself.
Could he have been revived by the wish?
I had been careful with the wish I’d made. Could he count as a Red Ribbon murder victim? I could have left him there. I could have simply walked away.
He was dead, already. All I had to do was let the poisons he’d had his men release into the air finish the job for me.
Instead, I’d driven [Stinger] into his heart.
From a certain point of view, it could have been counted as a murder on my part.
It’s ridiculous! Even if it was a murder— which it most certainly is not— how could he be considered a Red Ribbon victim? It’s impossible.
…Is it? Another part of me insisted. Discounting that particular avenue of discussion, or the Dragon’s moral compass doesn’t match yours, are you even taking their incredible bioengineering and genetics department into account? For all I know, they could resuscitate him.
I sighed, realizing that I had no answer to that.
“Almost there!” The call came from Bulma, startling me out of my reverie. “Heh, that was faster than I’d expected. Damn, I’m good.”
She was right, I noted as I spotted the island in eyeing in the distance.
I said nothing, waiting until we landed, before sliding the door open and stepping out of the ship and onto the warm sands surrounding Kame House, Goku and Chichi following me out.
“Take care of yourselves.” Yamcha said, waving at us from the window.
“Until we all meet again!” Chichi said.
I merely gave them a nod and a wave, not really having anything to add to that.
Within moments, the ship was already up and soaring into the open sky.
I stared at it until it became a small speck before closing my eyes.
Just keep moving forward, Ten. If you look back, you’ll be stuck there forever.
I took a deep breath, the sea breeze filling me with a sense of peace.
A moment later, I opened my eyes and turned my attention to our welcoming committee.
The first, heading the group, was the old Master himself. To his left stood a tall woman with dark blue hair, and to his right stood a monk— he was of a build with Goku.
Launch – Lv 13
Roshi – Lv 68
Krillin – Lv 15
So, the master has done some training, huh? That’s a significant amount of levels he’s gained. I considered linking my power with his own and invoking [Insight], but thought better of it.
“Welcome.” The woman stepped forward with a smile.
This is certainly strange.
“Hello!” Goku stepped up and shook her hand with enthusiasm. “I’m Goku, what’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Goku!” The lady beamed even as the bald monk snickered. “I’m Launch.”
“So you’ve returned. The both of you— and with company in tow.” Roshi got our attention.
“Master, do you know these guys?” The monk said, looking at us dubiously— at least until his eyes fell onto me.
“That’s…” He gaped. “You’re Ten from South City! The one who won the Central Games! You are him, right?”
I stifled the wince, hiding it with a slow nod. “Yes.”
“Games?” Goku looked confused, before turning to me. “What the heck is he talking about?”
“You mean you’ve traveled with the Central champ and you didn’t even know?” The monk got into Goku’s face. “Wow, you must be pretty dumb.”
Goku glared. “You take that back, baldy!”
“Hey, the name’s Krillin, not baldy!” The now named Krillin said, sneering at Goku. “Besides, I’m not bald. It’s a sign of taking the martial arts seriously when you cut off all your hair. Look, the Master does it, as well. Doesn’t he look distinguished?”
“Actually, I’m just bald.” said the old master.
“Hah!” Goku laughed, finger pointing at Krillin. “Baldy!”
“That’s enough of that.” Roshi said, his voice sharp; Krillin went silent at once.
Roshi turned back to us. “I take it you are here for training?”
“I am, old timer— just like you promised!” Goku grinned at the old man.
“I did promise that, huh?” Roshi mused. “Very well. You can train here.”
As Goku cheered and ran around the island in excitement, Roshi continued to speak. “I’m afraid I didn’t really make plans for more than one apprentice. Now that I have two, I’m not sure I’m willing to take any more.”
Chichi actually looked despondent, at this. “I’ll just have a look around, then. Thank you for your consideration, Master.”
We watched her go to Goku and Krillin.
“It wasn’t what I came here for, anyway.” I broke the silence, smiling slightly. “While I don’t doubt your training will be useful in many ways, I’ve been informed that I’m past your initial stages.”
“Indeed?” Roshi seemed to perk up at the claim.
I felt his power link with my own and saw the aged man stiffen in surprise.
His own version of [Insight]? Huh. I supposed it made sense.
“You…” Roshi’s eyes widened behind his sunglasses. “How did you improve this fast?”
I kept my face neutral. “Old lady Baba didn’t tell you?”
“That menace.” Here, Roshi scowled. “I can never tell when she’s serious, or when she’s messing with me.”
I smiled slightly. “I know exactly what you mean.”
He eyed me, once more. “Your progress is nothing short of astounding. I remember when you came here, barely a few months ago. I heard about your win at the Central Games, of course, but to see you come this far…”
I stayed silent, not knowing how to respond to something like that.
How could I?
The past few months, I’d traveled, gotten tangled up in the webs of my family history as well as those of the Red Ribbon and closed a portal to the demon realm.
Somehow, along the way, I’d become strong enough to be able to, according to the old hag, challenge King Piccolo himself.
“But, it’s not just that, is it, child?” Roshi took a step forward. “You’ve grown— not just in power— but also in mind and heart. If even a sliver of what the old trickster said is true…”
A sliver, and then some. I wanted to say, but figured it’d be too rude.
“It feels so long ago, for me.” I said, instead.
“And here you are, now.” The old man said. “What can I help you with?”
“I need to meet someone.”
“Oh?” Roshi was a mix of amused and intrigued. “I’m a hermit. I make it a point not to deal with people…”
“Still, I’m assuming I must know this person, if you came all the way out here to see me.”
I nodded in confirmation, my expression turning solemn after a few moments. “I was told to seek someone out, supposed to be far above something called Korin’s tower. Do you happen to know anything about it?”
At that, Master Roshi grew both more cautious and eager. “Is that so?”
Oh, he definitely knows something. I thought. Maybe the trip here wouldn’t be a waste, after all.
“And who told you to do this?” Roshi stroked his beard. “If you’re referring to whom I think you are, then we both know that it takes a lot to gain his attention.”
I didn’t answer, my mind reeling with the new information.
“And he only will see those who are pure of heart.” The old man said, emphasizing the last words.
“Pure of heart.” I repeated, a sardonic smile making its way on my face. “That takes me back.”
“I remember a similar conversation as well.”
“So the damned cloud…” I said. “It’s a test?”
“Not as such.” Roshi said, sitting on the sand. “Oh! That’s a bit warm. Join me, won’t you?”
What game are you playing, old man?
I sat down quietly, ignoring how hot the sand felt underneath my clothes.
“The cloud accepts those pure of heart.” I said, remembering our old conversation. “But what does it actually mean to be pure?”
Roshi said nothing, instead staring ahead at the unending waves before us.
I kept quiet, wondering if he was ever going to say anything.
“I used to be able to ride the old thing.” Roshi said, smiling. “But that was long ago. My thoughts grew impure, and the cloud rejected me.”
Considering the man took porno mags as payment from his former student, I could come to my own conclusions as to the nature of the impurity.
“So any thoughts like those are impure?”
“No. Not necessarily.” Roshi said with a slow shake of the head. “It’s as we spoke of, in the past. Is it considered impure intention to fight for survival? To seek love? Justice?”
“I guess not.” I said, frowning. “But what if it’s not something clear cut like you say? What if you knowingly kill someone to save a thousand more? The intentions are pure, but at the end of the day, you’d have killed someone. That person would have been blameless, innocent. Would the cloud reject you, then?”
Roshi hummed in thought. “I have no idea, actually.”
That floored me.
He laughed at the look I sent him. “I hope you didn’t expect me to have all the answers?”
I kind of had. If my first scan of him had been correct, the man was over three centuries old.
He’d likely forgotten more about his life than I remembered about my own, but to expect him to know everything, well…
“Yeah. That’s fair, I guess.” I said, starting to feel a little silly. “Do you think he’ll accept to see me— pure heart or not? There’s a lot running on this.”
Nothing much, just the danger of the universe ending. Part of me thought, a cynical amusement coursing through me for a few moments.
“I suppose it’s possible. You’ll never know until you go see him.” Roshi said. “But, to do that, you’re going to need a special item.”
“What is it?”
“I believe it belongs to your friend, Goku.” Roshi said. “The extending power pole.”
I sighed and turned to look at the boy in question— chatting away with a big turtle while Krillin tried to insult him.
“A problem, I take it?” He said.
I laid back on the soft sand, the vast blue sky taunting me with its openness. “I’m not sure he’ll agree to lend it to me. And I refuse to take it from him.”
“I do hope the lad hasn’t grown greedy.” Roshi said, the faintest hint of disapproval entering his voice. “That’s not how I taught his grandfather.”
I shook my head.
“No, no.” I said. “It’s a precious memento from the man, that’s all.”
“Ah… I see.”
“Yeah. What kind of scumbag would I be if I took it from him?”
Roshi had no immediate answer for that.
I sighed and just lost myself in the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore.
“Perhaps, if you offered an equivalent trade? Something precious to yourself that he could keep as collateral.”
I blinked and addressed the old man. “You think that’ll work?”
I didn’t wait for him to answer and got to my feet. “No. You’re right. I’ll go ask him, right now.”
“Best let them have their fun, first.” Roshi got up as I dusted myself off.
I followed his line of sight— Krillin, Goku and Chichi were standing off.
We made our way to them, stopping by Launch and the talking turtle.
“A spar, I take it?” Roshi said, getting their attention.
Chichi had the decency to look a little flustered.
“Yeah, old timer!” Goku said, shameless as ever, before turning back to his two opponents.
“A free for all, huh?” I said, smiling. “This could be fun.”
Krillin went white. “Y-you’re going to join in, Mr. Ten?”
I’m not that much older than you are, kid. I stifled a scowl. “Oh, no. I’m going to watch.”
“You should join, too!” Goku grinned, the look in his eyes intensifying with anticipation.
“Overconfident, are we?” I shook my index finger at me. “You think you can beat both Chichi and Krillin, all by yourself?”
This seemed to rile the two people in question, but Chichi kept calm.
Krillin, on the other hand…
“In your dreams!” Krillin said, dashing at Goku with surprising speed.
Not bad. If Goku hadn’t been training with me… I thought as the wild haired boy leapt to the side, avoiding Krillin’s flying kick.
He quickly pivoted on the spot to take advantage of the boy’s opening, only to find himself kicked in the side by Chichi.
Goku turned and engaged his new opponent, the kick not even having phased him overmuch. He aimed a few kicks of his own at her feet, which Chichi simply dodged by sidestepping or parrying.
Changing his tactics, he threw a punch, catching the girl in the face.
“Got you!” Goku said, readying another punch.
Even as he cheered, Chichi had already taken his hand by the wrist, pulling him towards her.
This is going to get ugly.
Taken by surprise, Goku was not ready for the knee to the stomach, or the following punch to the side of the head. Krillin stood by, completely stupefied by Chichi’s absolute viciousness.
I dared say he was even scared.
Chichi wailed on Goku with a few more shots, before letting go and aiming a kick at Goku’s head.
Surprisingly, Goku managed to duck underneath that strike.
Chichi’s smile was almost devilish, even as her swinging leg missed, hitting nothing but air. She responded to the dodge by snapping her foot down.
Goku tried to block, only for the kick to overpower his hastily thrown together defense.
He moved just in time to avoid another attempt at a headshot, taking Chichi’s kick on the shoulder and using its momentum to move away from the girl.
Or, at least, he tried to. Hooking her foot on Goku’s neck, Chichi forced the boy down on the ground, and dropped towards him with an elbow meant for his stomach.
Realizing the danger he was in sent a jolt of panic through the boy, and he used the burst of energy to quickly roll out of the way. Chichi’s elbow hit the sand with a loud thump, creating a sizable hole.
That would’ve taken Goku out, for sure. I thought, staring at Chichi. Her fighting style has grown more vicious since her encounter with Pilaf.
It made sense, considering that the guy had tried to kill the group… Still, I wasn’t sure whether to be proud of her, or scared for when I’d be on the receiving end of one of her moves.
“Interesting strategy.” Roshi commented. “Taking the hit and forcing him to stay in the fight.”
“Yes.” Was all I could say to that. “She’s never used this with me.”
“Perhaps your speed is such that such an endeavor is pointless?”
I considered his words, and nodded. “Makes sense. Poor Goku wasn’t, and he ended up paying the price.”
“He is one resilient fighter, though.” Roshi said. “Very rarely do people take such beatings at their level and stay standing.”
Roshi was right. Goku was a mass of bruises, cuts and welts, but he was still standing. It was almost as if this sort of thing invigorated him.
Is this a Saiyan thing? He doesn’t look remotely tired. It’s like, the longer he fights, the more imposing he gets.
Goku, bless the boy, had only smiled wider, even as he rubbed his left shoulder. “That really hurt!”
“Smiling after taking a pounding like that…” Krillin said. “You’re crazy.”
Rolling his shoulder once more for good measure, Goku changed back to his original target and dashed towards Krillin, leading in with a punch.
Chichi stayed in place, this time, content to rest and regain her energy while the two boys tired each other out.
Krillin parried the hit, and the follow-up set of punches as best as he could, but this only seemed to make his opponent grow even more relentless.
“Ah, I see.” Roshi said as he watched the combatants with an appraising eye.
“Yeah.” I said in agreement, knowing where he was going with this.
“What’re you two talking about?” Launch asked.
“Krillin.” Roshi said. “He’s playing a risky game, here.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.” Said the turtle. “He’s barely moving.”
“Exactly the point.” I said, shaking my head as the boy weathered through another onslaught from Goku.
Chichi also looked interested in what kind of tricks the bald boy had up his sleeve.
“Krillin is inviting attack after attack.” I said, gesturing towards the boys. “He’s trying to figure Goku’s pattern out before Goku breaks through his own defense.”
“That’s a good thing, though. Isn’t it? He’ll be wearing him down.” Launch asked.
“Yes and no.” I said, watching Goku ready up another set of attacks. “It’s an energy saver for sure, but I’d never recommend anyone do this unless they’re sure they can take it— oh, damn! He got him.”
Even as I spoke, Krillin made his move: he parried Goku’s right hook, before punishing him with a few punches straight into his ribs.
Goku cried out, but, even as he fell, managed to quickly retaliate with a swift kick to his opponent’s head.
Krillin fell with him.
“Gohan’s boy improvises well.” Roshi said. “I’d say that’s the end of the fight. Get some rest, you two!”
The two boys groaned, still prone on the ground.
Chichi stood to join us, looking mildly annoyed at not being able to finish her fight. “Yeah. He does. Shame they couldn’t share in the fun.”
“You won. That’s all that matters.” I smiled.
Chichi snorted. “I barely had to do anything for that.”
“Sometimes, knowing when to stay your hand is more important than taking action.” Roshi said.
Chichi nodded. “Still doesn’t make it any less annoying.”
“Your father trained you well.” Roshi said, fully addressing the girl.
Chichi beamed at that. “Thank you, Master.”
“I’m still sorry about not being able to take you on as a student along with the boys.” The old Master said. “But perhaps I can give you something else to further you along your training.”
Chichi gave the man a quizzical look, but he shook his head.
“I’ll go get it right now. Wait here.” Roshi said, turning and moving towards his house.
“No, no.” Chichi followed the old man with a smile. “I’ll come with you.”
“Do as you wish.”
I watched the two walk inside the man’s home as Launch fussed over the two prone boys.
“You poor things.” Launch said, while the turtle went to rest beneath one of the few palm trees littering the small island.
“Hits like a truck…” Krillin slowly got to his feet, with Goku following suit.
“That was pretty good!” Goku said.
“You took me down with a single hit…” Krillin looked dejected.
I linked my power with the bald fighter and invoked [Insight].
Krillin – Lv 15
Race – Human
Age – 13
HP: 9,000/10,500 [Dazed]
Ki: 2,000 [Dormant]
Rep: 3,000/10,000 Liked
Description: Coming from the Orin Temple, Krillin wants to learn under the venerable Muten Roshi to become strong enough to not be afraid of his previous upperclassman, and maybe impress girls.
He is currently feeling slightly ashamed at his poor performance.
Battle Power: 78
Poor performance, my ass. The fact that he managed to even keep up with Goku’s onslaught when the boy has a clear advantage in speed and power says alot about this guy’s dedication to the art. I thought.
“Don’t take it too badly.” I gave the boy what I thought was a reassuring smile. “He’s been training by fighting me for a few weeks, now.”
“I guess that makes sense.” Krillin mumbled.
“You’re really strong.” Goku added, extending his hand with a grin. “We should fight again sometime.”
Krillin merely nodded his head at the boy, before walking away. “Maybe.”
“Hey, where are you going?” Goku dropped his hand, looking a little confused.
“I need to rest.” Was all Krillin said before heading inside the old man’s house, with Launch following suit, leaving me and Goku alone on the beach.
“So…” I started, my eyes fixating on the boy’s power pole.
“Want to fight?” Said Goku.
The laugh came out of my mouth before I knew what was happening.
“It’s nothing.” I shook my head, waving it off and taking a seat in the sand. “I wanted to ask you something.”
Goku sat in front of me without words, or ceremony.
I decided to just come out with it. “Can I borrow your Power Pole for a while?”
Goku shifted his shoulders. “Borrow it? What for?”
I didn’t answer immediately.
Should I tell him the truth? I thought. Should I tell him about the creator behind the Dragonballs, and how I need to meet him?
“Ten?” Goku said a little louder. Maybe I was imagining it, but his eyes were growing a little weary.
“It’s for a good reason, I swear.” I said quickly before taking a breath. “You remember when I talked to you about stats?”
Goku blinked, and then. “Something about food?”
I stifled the urge to pound the sand under me and soldiered on. “Forget about that. I have this strange power that lets me become strong. But, I don’t know where it came from. Until a few months ago, I was an average person in a school. I was barely strong enough to lift a chair, and now I can probably lift… I honestly don’t know what my limit is.”
Goku nodded, and I took that as my cue to continue. “I asked Shenron, the Eternal Dragon, why I got my power. He didn’t answer, but he told me to seek out his creator, who lives somewhere above Korin’s Tower. The Master said I need the power pole to get there. So, here I am.”
“You need it to see this really important person?” Goku asked, pulling his staff out and holding it out for me. “Why didn’t you just say so?”
I opened my mouth to answer, before shutting it promptly.
“You really are a strange kid, Goku.”
Goku, looking like an ugly gigantic bruise, only grinned in reply.