Age 749, Monday, September 11 (Very Early Morning), Pilaf Castle
“Mom?” Hearing her pained voice, I feared the worst. “Are you safe? Did someone—”
“Ten! Finally! We’re safe, we’re—” She stopped for a moment before raising her voice. “Ren, it’s Ten! He’s on the phone.”
I felt myself relax ever so slightly.
They are fine.
But if they’re fine, why does she sound like… like the time after dad disappeared?
“Ten…” She spoke. “I was so worried about you—”
“We were.” Another voice joined in, my father’s. “Son. I’m glad you’re safe. The things they said…”
“…They came for you, didn’t they? Red Ribbon.” I immediately asked, pushing away my worry and trying to focus on the issue at hand. “Where are—”
“Calm down, son.” Ren said calmly. “Dyran and I managed to stop them from harming myself and your mother. But…”
There was a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Perhaps I should pay a visit to South City… I believe you have family there? A mother. Perhaps some friends at school. Blue’s words came to haunt me immediately.
Even in death, General Blue seemingly had power over me.
“Pencil and Rula.” I realized.
I heard mom beginning to sob on the other end of the line, followed by the sound of rustling. I felt my throat constrict.
“Worse.” My father sounded tired. “Them and Kai’s dojo. And another dojo up in Central.”
“What do you mean—” I absorbed the man’s words and felt my breath quickening in response. “All of them?”
Master Kai, Rula, Pencil, Master Palm and Mark were dead?
Mom let out another sob.
“Son, give me a moment, all right?” Was all he said before I heard a small thud— he’d likely placed the phone on the table.
“Come on, sweetie.” I could barely hear my dad say. “You need your rest.”
“No!” She said, sounding almost angry, but too tired to give it proper muster. “Not until I’m sure Ten is safe.”
A rush of affection swept through me, momentarily banishing the negative thoughts away.
“Don’t worry, mom.” I replied, trying to keep my voice strong and unwavering. I wondered if she heard me. “You know me, nothing can keep me down.”
“You heard the man.” Ren announced. “Come, you’ve been up for over thirty hours, Jean. I’ll talk to him.”
Jean made some protests, but even from my end of the line, I could tell that her heart wasn’t even in it anymore.
She never could handle this kind of stress that well. I felt bad for her. My mother was strong willed, but she always took this sort of news hard.
That’s not to say that I didn’t, of course. When I’d first heard of my dad’s disappearance, I’d completely lost sight of everything. Nothing seemed to matter for quite a long time.
I hadn’t recovered as much as I’d hoped, I realized; at least, not until I received this power.
Nevermind. I am just as bad at this as mom— maybe even worse. I thought as I waited for Ren to come back, keeping my thoughts off of the news he’d shared with me in some futile attempt to avoid dealing with it.
Yet, with every step I heard him take on his way back, I felt my resolve weaken.
“Hopefully she gets some rest, this time.” I heard him mutter before he grabbed the phone. “Still there?”
“Yeah.” I replied, trying to force the weakness away. “What happened?”
There was a moment of silence. “I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll share what I know.”
That was all I could ask for.
“The Red Ribbon attacked Kai’s dojo. Your friends were there.” He revealed.
I placed my hand against the wall to keep me steady. “What were Rula and Pencil even doing there?”
“Your friend said they were interested in learning it for self-defense.” My father replied with a sigh.
A moment, and then—
“Wait, they told you?” I latched onto that. “Does that mean—”
“Calm down, son.” Was the stern reply. “I’m getting to that.”
“Sorry.” I let out a sigh of my own. “It’s been a very long day.”
“I can imagine. If we’ve had to deal with this, then what you must have encountered was probably even worse.” Ren said, his tone neither accusing nor disapproving. Only worried.
I didn’t reply.
“Kai did everything he could to keep the kids safe.” My father continued. “He fought long and hard, and put most of the attackers out of commission with the help of the older, more experienced students.”
“…” I didn’t answer, having a general feel for where this was going.
“But there’s only so much basic martial arts can do against a trained squadron of soldiers with firearms.” Ren sighed. “Kai’s… dead, and so are many of the students. Those that survived… One of the kids’ arms was blown off. Rula is in the hospital, in severe, but stable condition. Pencil survived the attack itself, but didn’t make it to the hospital.”
Pencil was dead.
Damn it. When Rula wakes up… I stopped that line of thought immediately.
I forced my breathing to calm itself even as my body tensed up to uncomfortable levels. “And Central?”
“Right.” Ren took a breath. “They blew the Central Games arena to smithereens, and launched an attack on a dojo near it—”
“Palm Karate Dojo.” I finished. “Fuck.“
How could it all have gone so wrong?
You should’ve expected this, you fool. Part of me snarled. You let yourself grow complacent, disabling the most powerful tool in our arsenal on the advice of an old hag.
It made me stronger, didn’t it? I argued back. I would have never been able to beat Son Goku in his Great Ape form if I didn’t have the power boost from my improved meditation, as well as the old woman’s magic training.
“—Ten, are you listening?” My dad’s voice finally broke through my musings.
“Sorry.” I replied reflexively without meaning it. “This is a lot to take in.”
“I can imagine.” Ren sympathized.
“How can you?” I blew up, anger filling my body. “I failed! I was supposed to stop the bad guys, but I wasn’t capable of doing even that!”
“Son…” My father tried to say, but I ignored him.
“What’s the point of it all!?” I snarled at the phone, only very faintly realizing the tears falling down my cheeks. “Palm, Mark, Kai, Pencil are dead! Rula, probably soon, too! How long until you and mom…”
“That will never happen.” Ren promised. “Between myself and Dyran, we’ll never let it happen. Plus, your mom’s no slouch herself, kid.”
I didn’t answer.
“And, I have failed, son.” He said, the words shocking me. “I didn’t save the world from destruction. I’d only delayed it. Without you, none of us would even be here.”
I still didn’t answer, understanding his logic but not willing to admit he was right— so full of grief and self-loathing, I was.
“Son?” My dad tried again.
“I…” I swallowed. “I have to make this right.”
Yes. This is my fault, and I have to make amends. I opened up my [Inventory] and stared at the orange, crystal balls so innocently displayed.
Such small baubles, and yet, the power they wielded was unfathomable. Granting a single, perfect wish— I could probably ask the Eternal Dragon to do this for me.
Doubt niggled at the back of my consciousness. What if it doesn’t work?
“What are you…” I heard his voice from the other end of the line.
I took a breath. I had to try. With the Dragonballs, I could bring them all back.
“It may not be necessary, but… If you have to, preserve the dead as best you can, dad.” I said quietly. “Don’t bury any of them. Don’t even let anyone mess with the bodies.”
It would likely have sucked if the funeral guys were stitching the kids just as they were resurrected, after all. It would be best to have no one touch them.
“What?” My dad blurted out.
“Just do this for me, will you, dad?” I got a little forceful. “I can fix this. I can make it right, I promise.”
“Son…” My dad hesitated, before nodding. “Just hurry, then. I don’t know how long I can keep the kids’ parents from burying their kids— or if I can stop them, at all.”
“Use force if you have to.” I said. “The parents will understand when all is said and done.”
I hope the Dragon can actually grant my wish. If he can’t…
“…” Ren didn’t say anything for a moment. “All right.”
I nodded and pinched the bridge of my nose.
“Thanks, dad.” I said, slightly relieved that at least one hurdle was dealt with. “I’ll be back home as soon as I’m done.”
“… I’ll hold you to that, kid.” And with that, my father ended the call. I stared at the phone, took a deep breath, and placed it in my [Inventory].
I pulled up the quest I’d unlocked when I was in Central City.
Twenty Questions— Well, More Like One
You learned what the Dragonballs are capable of accomplishing when you gather all seven. Yet, in your infinite wisdom, you’ve decided you want to gather these magic wish-granting balls to ask the Eternal Dragon a question, rather than wishing for, say… a billion Zeni.
I’m going to lose out on the chance of getting answers from the Dragon. I thought, before ultimately shrugging. What’s one year compared to the lives of my friends and all the innocents that the Red Ribbon have killed in their rampage?
That much, at least, was true. I could find the Dragonballs at any time, so long as I waited a year for them to recharge— whatever that process entailed, I wasn’t sure, but I had neither the patience nor the time to look into the specifics of it.
I heard the sound of shifting feet.
“Chichi.” I guessed, remembering her saying that she was right behind me. “How much did you hear?”
“Not much.” Chichi spoke. “Enough to know that something bad happened.”
Looks like my guess was right.
She stood next to me, trying to meet my eyes. I averted my gaze and turned away.
“Master Kai and many of his students are dead. Master Palm is dead. Mark is dead. One of my school friends, Pencil, is dead— another friend, Rula, still in the hospital.” I listed off the casualties, feeling a dullness pervade my body.
I swayed in place, but Chichi moved closer, keeping me upright. She wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close to her. “I’m sorry.”
I scrunched my eyes shut for a long moment, merely allowing Chichi to give me comfort which I desperately needed at that moment.
“It’s all right.” Her words were soothing. “You don’t have to be strong around me.”
“I’m going to end them— the Red Ribbon.” The words came out on their own. “Kill them all!”
“I know you don’t mean that, Ten.” Chichi said, still calm, though I detected a slight tremor in her words. Whether it was from concern or fear, I couldn’t tell.
“Don’t I!?” I struggled a bit in her grip, but she held fast.
“You don’t just kill people like that.” Chichi forced me to meet her gaze— a desperation set in her eyes. “I know you.”
I opened my mouth to reply, but stopped myself.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I was so lost and confused.
Not a few hours ago, I spared Krad’s life despite him being part of the Red Ribbon Army. I felt myself and Chichi slowly lowering ourselves to the ground, sitting with our backs against the wall.
She wasn’t letting go.
Was it the right move to even do that? To spare the man? I questioned. Part of me wanted to go back to that plane and finish the job.
However, was that my true self talking, or was my judgment so clouded with pain and grief that I couldn’t see beyond my own self?
Why do you even keep yourself to this ridiculously high standard, anyway? The sly voice asked. Just flip the switch on our greatest weapon and don’t worry about it. Our feelings are our greatest enemy. Just look at how we’re acting in response to a simple phone call.
I gave a mental scowl. Nothing simple about it. Stop getting in my way.
The voice didn’t answer.
Chichi was right. Killing people wasn’t something I set out to do. I’d done my best to avoid it, even going so far as to dress myself up as a member of the Red Ribbon to infiltrate them, rather than rushing in to kill anyone I saw.
I hadn’t wanted to kill more people, but I’d ended up doing just that.
I sighed, pushing my face into the girl’s shoulder, her scent calming my heart significantly.
“Talk to me.” She almost pleaded, and I felt that same heart twist.
“I can bring them back.” I said slowly.
There was a moment of silence.
“… The Dragonballs.” Chichi realized.
“Yes.” I nodded into her shoulder, the dam breaking. “But what’s to stop the Red Ribbon from killing them all over again? I have to stop them, and I’ve no idea how to do it, aside from dealing a blow so hard that they’ll disband entirely, and I don’t know how to do that without killing them.”
Chichi didn’t answer.
“I’m sorry.” I shook my head, wondering if I should have kept my mouth shut.
“You don’t have anything to apologize for, Ten.” Chichi’s voice was soft as she ran her fingers through my hair. “I’m just trying to wrap my head around it all.”
You’re telling me.
“Maybe if you simply take out their leaders, you can stop the army?” She suggested hesitantly.
I opened my mouth to reply, but closed it as I considered the possible consequences of such an action. Could it work?
“They’d be like headless chickens, at that point.” Chichi insisted. “Leaderless, fighting amongst each other.”
The idea certainly had merit, but it still involved killing people— something I was trying to avoid.
“Maybe I could kidnap the leaders.” I said slowly, grasping at straws.
Pathetic, after days of wading waist deep in the blood of your enemies, you’re suddenly squeamish? The sly voice was back again.
I wanted to snarl at it, to rage, to say anything but, mocking tone aside, it was right.
“Or kill them if you have to.” Chichi was the one who’d suggested it this time.
“I…” I don’t want to. “I want to avoid that.”
“I know. I want you to avoid it, too.” Chichi said, pulling me back from her in order to meet my gaze. I opened my eyes and saw her conflicted look. “Sometimes, life just doesn’t give us that choice.”
Almost unbidden, I replied.
“There is nothing impure when defending your own life.” The words came to me, spoken to me months before. “Master Roshi told me that, once.”
“He’s right.” Chichi immediately agreed.
“But…” I stopped. “Is it really defending my own life if I’m seeking them out?”
“Ever the devil’s advocate, aren’t you?” Chichi shook her head, her tone fond. “Yes, you’re right. But, you said it yourself: after you bring your friends back, what’s to stop the Red Ribbon from doing it again?”
“Do I have the right to be the judge, jury and executioner?” I answered her question with one of my own.
There, Chichi stilled.
“Entire nations were unable to stop the Red Ribbon Army from committing atrocities worldwide.” Chichi’s voice took on a bit of a dark tone. “The judge and jury part has been taken care of. It’s just that there’s no one to execute said judgment.”
I made to answer, only to remember all of King Furry’s— as well as King Chappa and a few others— speeches and statements concerning the Red Ribbon and the fight to end their spread all over the world.
“You’re right about that.” I admitted, a mixture of both resignation and resolve making itself known to me.
The Red Ribbon Army were the boogeymen, their story told alongside the scary stories of King Piccolo and a few others. Cautionary tales told to children to avoid making the wrong decisions in life.
That was probably the only thing people could do to resist them, considering they couldn’t destroy them, root and stem.
I put some distance away between myself and the girl and stared down at my open palm. I’d been able to turn buildings into rubble with my Ki. I’d been able to take on a monster which was arguably almost four times stronger than myself, in terms of Battle Power.
“I have the power to stop them.” I said.
But, should I? When did I become the arbiter? Six months ago, I was nothing. Just a nobody.
“For what it’s worth.” Chichi said, catching my eye. “I think stopping them is the right decision, no matter what. You’ve already taken a similar burden on your shoulder before, haven’t you?”
Demon world. Genus. The invasion.
I searched her eyes for the longest moment, before finally nodding. Chichi was right. Though I basically had no choice but to deal with the situation, I did stop Genus and his cohorts from invading the Earth.
This is just more of the same, except the demons are hiding behind human flesh.
My mind made up, I spoke. “All right. I’ll do it.”
Chichi beamed and crashed her lips against mine, making me forget about the universe for the next few moments.
When our lips parted, she glared. “You’re taking me with you.”
It wasn’t a question.
“I suppose I am.” I agreed, extricating myself from her grasp and getting us both up to our feet. “For now, there’s a wish I need to make.”
A loud explosion rocked the ground.
“Wh—” “What the—” Chichi and I exclaimed at the same time.
“Let’s go.” I said grimly and began to make my way outside to where the sound was, Chichi right behind me.
“What happened?” Chichi asked.
“I don’t know.” I replied as we reached the outside, only to see the downed forms of our reluctant allies.
“Shit.” I swore as Chichi rushed to their position.
Immediately, I reached out with what little power I’d regenerated from the fight against Goku’s ape form, linking it with theirs and invoking [Insight] while also searching for any unfamiliar ones.
Reading through their sheets, I sighed in relief. “They’ll live. Burns, head wounds, but they’re in no danger of death.”
“Who did this to them? Help me with this.” Chichi began to pull Bulma behind part of a wall which had remained standing. This position was as defended as it could possibly get within this ruin.
I followed suit, pulling Goku and Yamcha simultaneously, placing them none-too-gently next to the blue haired girl. When I was done, Chichi had already brought the rest over— Puar and Oolong, the pervert of a pig.
I scowled at his form but said nothing else. While annoying and perverted he may have been, I didn’t want him killed.
“Whatever did this…” I stopped for a moment to extend my range further. “It might be outside of my range to detect.”
“Long range weapons?” Chichi asked quickly, her eyes darkening in the light of the nearby flames. “Red Ribbon.”
“It could be.” I said. “What about those three you dealt with?”
“Pilaf?” Chichi looked around, pointing at the ruined satellite dish. “It’s possible. He’s rich and has many assorted gadgets.”
Even as she said this, I felt something approaching from straight ahead. “Company. Nine o’clock.”
“What do we do?” Chichi asked quickly.
“They don’t seem to be heading straight for us.” I kept my breathing steady even as I tracked the oncoming signatures.
“Bombed the place and are here to sweep out whoever’s remaining?” Chichi quietly suggested as we moved to hide behind a rather large section of wall.
“Probably right.” I nodded to her. “I’m not sure if we should hide or not.”
“The rest got hit from a good distance.” I argued. “They may have heat detection equipment.”
“If that’s the case, then they’d all be dead— the same goes for us.” Chichi countered with. I mulled the words over as quickly as I could and found that I agreed.
However competent Yamcha was, he wouldn’t have been able to save everyone from an explosion like that— especially when tired and caught unawares. Even I wouldn’t have been able to react quickly enough to that.
I pulled my [Status Sheet] up and stared at the numbers.
Back to full health, a bit more than half of my magic, and less than a fifth of my Ki. It’s not anywhere near ideal, but it’s certainly a lot better than what I had at my disposal ten minutes ago. I tensed up as the signatures reached us, accompanied by the sound of multiple rockets firing.
I sneaked a peek and saw them. Three blue-gray, rotund robots each with a gun arm, a grapple arm and four legs thudded into the ground nearby, making it shake with the weight of the metal.
The signatures are inside the machines. I realized and immediately invoked [Insight].
Shu – Lv 18
Race – Dog-type Human
Age – 28
Rep: 0/10,000 Neutral
Description: Having been woken up from his slumber by the great ape creature, Shu has had to keep his master safe from harm, while also ensuring that he managed to swipe the Dragonballs from the fools who dared trespass on their territory.
He plans on finishing the job.
Battle Power: 56
Mai – Lv 15
Race – Human
Age – 23
Rep: 0/10,000 Neutral
Description: Having been woken up from her slumber by the great ape creature, Mai has had to keep her master safe from harm, while also ensuring that she managed to swipe the Dragonballs from the fools who dared trespass on their territory.
She plans on finishing the job.
Battle Power: 35
Pilaf – Lv 5
Race – Monster-type Human
Age – 34
Rep: 0/10,000 Greatly Disliked
Description: Having been on the cusp of victory, Pilaf found his own castle being demolished by the vile creature. Having had to boldly and bravely retreat— for Pilaf does not run— Emperor Pilaf ordered his two lackeys to get the Pilaf Machines and come back to reclaim what is theirs: the Dragonballs.
He doesn’t plan on taking prisoners, this time.
Battle Power: 3
The battle power numbers were meaningless, I realized. They’re in machines, but they look more like sloppy prototypes rather than finished products. Else, he would’ve kept them in the castle proper.
“What do you see?” Chichi whispered softly as the sound of hydraulics being used assaulted our ears.
“It’s the three you told me about.” I said just as quietly. “They’re inside the robots. Not remote controlled.”
Chichi nodded. “Can we take them?”
“Maybe.” I looked down for a moment, trying to give her a solid answer. “If they had scanners, they would’ve found us by now— whether by heat detection or a Dragon Radar.”
The both of us chanced another peek. Two of the robots were sifting through the rubble while the third stood behind them, doing nothing.
My eyes narrowed as I analyzed the machinery from the outside. Jet-plane metal— Pilaf hadn’t even bothered repainting it. While strong enough to easily endure the rigors of flight, I could easily break it.
And Chichi could, as well. If she could dent the reinforced wall of the room she’d been in, this metal would not fare well at all.
“Get the middle one while I distract the other two.” I said.
“The gun arm first.” Chichi added, eyes glinting with anticipation.
“You know me too well.” A short smile crossed my face, quickly replaced by a frown of concentration. “Go!”
We both launched ourselves at the same time, catching the attention of the group.
Chichi’s target tried to turn towards us, but the machine’s tiny legs were too slow to turn in time to react.
I heard the sound of mangled metal and a cry of victory from Chichi, even as I barreled into— and then tore through— one of the robots’ arms, my fingers aglow with ethereal blue light— [Tiger Claw] activated.
It was the technique I created to show respect for the Tiger Style which Kai had taught me. I felt the resolve well up within me.
I’ll make it right.
“What the f—” I barely heard as I landed, pivoted to the right and tore through two of the machine’s legs, as well as the other arm before launching myself to the final target.
My [Mana Shield] burst forth as the second machine’s operator, Mai, leveled the gun arm at me and opened fire.
I drove the magically enhanced claws into the barrel of the gun arm and watched it explode with a wince.
The wince came more from instinct rather than actual pain; I pulled my arm out just in time to catch the second strike, my strength easily able to win out against whatever hydraulic power this machine was provided with.
These things must have been prototypes, I thought as I took a step forward and drove my claws into the joint between the robot’s shoulder and its grapple arm, pulling wires out without a care.
With a weak whirr, the entire machine died down.
Not just a prototype, but a shoddily designed one, at that. I tossed the wires to the side and drove my fingers into the hatch’s outline, ripping the door open with a bit of effort.
Only to stare down at the barrel of a sniper rifle. The woman behind it, tall with black hair and angry blue eyes, smirked as she pulled the trigger.
An explosion, a flash, and a strong impact sent me tumbling back into the dirt outside.
I recovered quickly and rushed her again.
In panic, the woman fired the sniper before she was even able to aim. The shot went wide, allowing me to snatch the weapon from her hands, throwing it away and leaving me staring at the woman who’d just tried to kill me.
She recoiled as I reached for her, her eyes widening with fear. I was about to say something when I felt a series of impacts against my back.
They were like pokes, but the sound of metal hitting the ground told me exactly what I needed to know. Wasting no time, I lightly punched Mai in the chin and rushed the interloper behind me, not even bothering to watch her lose consciousness.
The fool before me, a dog-type human clad in a ninja outfit, pulled out his sword and met my charge with his own.
A brave effort.
Had I tangled with this fellow three months ago, he might have been able to pose a real challenge.
As it was…
I sidestepped the diagonal slash, snatched his sword with one hand, while the other balled into a fist and laid him out cold on the unforgiving dirt.
I invoked [Insight] on the two just to make sure they were unconscious before moving to help Chichi with her opponent— only to find her sat atop a broken and mangled mess, an immobile, obviously unconscious, Pilaf by the wreckage.
We took them out in less than twenty seconds.
“What took you so long?” She even had the temerity to ask before she promptly burst out laughing.
“Give me a break.” I wanted to be annoyed, but ended up laughing as well, the blue glow around me fading alongside my claws.
Her cheer was infectious— and we could both tell that I needed it badly, right now.
“Let’s tie them up, and see if we can wake the rest up.” Chichi hopped off the pile of metal, a roll of cordage already in her hands.
“Where’d you get that?” I asked as I dragged the unconscious interlopers over to us and watched her get to work.
In response, Chichi lifted her wrist band, revealing a strange black bracelet underneath. “You never know when you’re stuck out in the wilderness and need some paracord, Ten. This thing’s got thirty feet of cord.”
I snorted. “I suppose, what with where you live…”
“Exactly. Things like this come in handy; plus, opening and closing capsules would take too long when I can just wear it on my wrist.” Was the last thing she said before putting her full focus on tying our attackers up.
Plus, a weird looking bracelet is less likely to be stolen than capsules. I mentally added. I’d have gone to look for the rest of the Dragonballs, but I wanted this to go as smoothly as possible.
It wouldn’t do for one of them to wake up while Chichi was busy and I wasn’t there to help her subdue them.
The same applies for the Capsule Corp Heiress’ group. I thought. They’d fight me for the wish. I have to take the balls and get as far away as I can.
“I’m finished.” Chichi said a minute later, getting back to her feet and dusting her clothes off.
“Nicely done.” Those knots were indeed impressive— as good as the ones I’d seen from survival documentaries.
“I’m pretty good at this kind of thing.” Chichi smiled and moved to stand by my side. “What now?”
“Now, we get the Dragonballs.” I pulled the Dragon Radar out of my [Inventory] and checked its readout. “Don’t wake them up.”
“What?” Chichi asked, before closing her mouth as she considered my statement. “Nevermind. I get it.”
“They’ll be fine.” I said. “Just unconscious, is all. You can check them just to make sure.”
Despite my assurances, Chichi did just that.
I didn’t blame her. Their status sheet listing them as unconscious didn’t necessarily mean that they were fine.
For example, if they were unconscious on top of having suffered a head injury, they could have been ‘unconscious’ for a very, very long time.
Still, Chichi had them covered, and now it was time to do my part.
So, I looked for the remaining Dragonballs.
Fortunately, the explosion hadn’t moved them very far. I found one near the Red Ribbon jet-plane I’d used to get here— it hadn’t moved an inch.
Krad must still be unconscious in there. I thought. Either that, or he abandoned the vehicle itself.
My eyes lingered over the plane for another second before I went back to regroup with Chichi. Judging from her relaxed state, I figured that they weren’t in any immediate danger.
“I’m not a doctor, but I didn’t find any head injuries. Mostly just cuts and scrapes. Bulma’s the worst off.” She said, though she frowned. “Yamcha’s beginning to wake up, though. So is the pig-man, Oolong.”
“It can’t be helped.” I said in annoyance. “Watch them, will you? Don’t let any of them get to me. I can’t mess this wish up.”
Chichi looked like she wanted to argue, but the look on my face took the wind right out of her sails. “All right, Ten. But you owe me.”
“Thanks, Chichi.” I gave her a quick hug before pulling away and rushing off to the other side of the castle, and then into the surrounding desert.
I continued to run away from the group for ten minutes at top speed and then another five, just to be sure.
Considering that both Goku and Yamcha were weakened, and the fact that Bulma didn’t have the Radar on her, I highly doubted any of them could find me, let alone get here in time to stop me from calling the Eternal Dragon forth.
What had taken me fifteen minutes would likely have taken them an hour, or more. I’d bought myself enough time.
I opened up my [Inventory], staring at the seven wish-granting balls inside. This was it. I moved to pull them out, before stopping in thought.
The wish; I needed to word the wish correctly.
I sat on the dry, desert floor as the sky slowly began to lighten, signifying the inevitable approach of sunrise.
“Can’t ask it to simply revive the ones that died.” I said slowly, the words spoken out loud helping me focus my nervous thoughts. “Any mistake and I might screw this up, big time. If I only revive the dead, the people who lost limbs or are still in severe condition won’t be healed. Maybe switch revival with undoing? Could work… Unsure.”
I got back up and began to run at a sedate pace.
No sense in giving Bulma’s group any chance of catching up to me while I brainstormed— even if there was no way in hell they could find me in the first place.
A few minutes of running later, and I had the wording of the wish figured out. Nodding to myself, I stopped in place, pulled the Dragonballs out of the [Inventory] and set them down in the dirt before me.
I hesitated for a moment, watching as the orange crystal balls glowed with a powerful, yellow light.
This is it.
I raised my hands, feeling the balls’ magical energies respond to my intent and boiling with intensity to match my anticipation. “Arise, almighty Shenron, and grant me my wish!”
I felt the magic in the words even as I spoke them and watched as the light within the Dragonballs intensified, electricity writhing and coiling between the orange wish-granting orbs.
Idly, I noticed that the previously lightening sky had turned completely dark once again.
The power continued to build until I was sure the crystal balls themselves would explode with the pressure they were under.
Just then, the energy converged into the center, before shooting up into the air, twisting and writhing with sheer force and majesty, completely overwhelming my senses.
The light eventually faded, revealing the previously hidden silhouette beneath.
“So this is the Eternal Dragon: Shenron.” I said in awe as I stared at its majestic form. I didn’t even consider the idea of invoking [Insight] on this being, lest I offend it in some way.
I had to make do with simply observing it with my eyes.
It was a long, serpentine creature, with two arms and two legs that honestly looked like they didn’t belong, I thought as I watched the creature swirl and spin in the air as easily as fish took to water.
It had no wings; such was its magical power that it could simply carry its entire body through the power of its magic alone— and do it with contemptuous ease, at that.
Finally, it turned to face me, its glowing red eyes glaring down at me.
“COME, TELL ME YOUR WISH.” The great and all-powerful beast spoke, its voice a deep boom that was more akin to a natural disaster than the voice of an animal. “I SHALL GRANT ANY ONE WISH YOU HAVE.”
I frowned in concentration and took a step forward, staring up at the Eternal Dragon.
“I wish for all of the damage done by the Red Ribbon Army to be undone. What I mean by ‘damage undone’ is this: the Red Ribbon’s murder victims revived, the ones that survived with horrible injuries restored to how they were physically before the Red Ribbon affected them.” I said as clearly as I could.
The Dragon seemed to take a moment to absorb my statement, the glow in its eyes intensifying.
“YOUR WISH CANNOT BE GRANTED.” It spoke.
“Why!?” I shouted up at the creature. “You said you could grant any wish!”
“EVEN ONE SUCH AS I.” It said slowly, its green beard-like hair rustling with ethereal grace. “ARE BOUND BY LIMITATIONS.”
I frowned, feeling worse than I’d ever felt before. Was this it? Had I truly failed in my endeavor?
“What was wrong with my wish?” I asked, hoping beyond hope that I could fix this.
“MANY OF THE VICTIMS YOU SPEAK OF WERE KILLED MORE THAN ONE YEAR AGO.” The Dragon explained. “I CANNOT REVIVE ANYONE AFTER ONE YEAR.”
“I see. But aside from that, you can do it?” I felt hope build within me once again. “Including, y’know, taking people out of their coffins so they don’t die as soon as they’re revived?”
“THAT GOES WITHOUT SAYING.” Shenron’s eyes glowed once again. “THIS WILL TAKE SOME TIME.”
“Thank you, erm… Shenron? Eternal Dragon?” I fumbled over the being’s name or title. The Dragon did even not bother replying.
Perhaps it was just that occupied with the wish. I thought, wondering if I should risk asking it about my quest to stop the destruction of the universe.
I hesitated. No, it was a bad idea. Saying anything now might cause the beast to decide to deny my wish outright. The Legends had always spoken of the Eternal Dragon in reverent tones.
Pissing it off while it was granting a wish would be a bad idea. I’d wait until it was done before giving it a shot.
The glow of its blood red eyes faded slightly as it began to speak. “THE MAN KNOWN AS PALM HAS REFUSED TO BE REVIVED, BUT THE REST HAVE BEEN RESTORED TO THEIR LIFE AND PREVIOUS HEALTH CONDITIONS.”
“Refused!?” I blurted out, momentarily forgetting about my question.
“INDEED.” Shenron explained, but did not divulge the reasons behind such a decision. Most likely, he didn’t know. And neither would I.
“YOUR WISH HAS BEEN GRANTED.” The Eternal Dragon boomed as it prepared to leave. “FARE—”
“Wait!” Still feeling flat footed from the Dragon’s previous information, I tried to get its attention anyway. “Do you know anything about my quest to stop the destruction of the universe!? Why am I The Gamer?”
The great beast ignored me, continuing its ascent into the sky until I said those final two words. It stopped, turned its gaze down at me.
“I ONLY GRANT ONE WISH, HUMAN.” The Eternal Dragon replied, a hint of anger entering its tone of voice. “THOUGH, MY CREATOR HAS HEARD YOUR WORDS, AND BIDS YOU TO SEEK HIM OUT, FAR ABOVE KORIN’S TOWER.”
Korin’s Tower? I opened my mouth to reply, only to be silenced by the sight of the Dragonballs flying up into the sky.
With one final flash of light, the Dragon disappeared and the Dragonballs exploded with power, flying off in seven directions.
I quietly watched the sky lose its darkness, replaced with the light coming off of the half-way risen sun.
I didn’t have long to ponder the Dragon’s words when the ping came:
Twenty Questions— Well, More Like One
You learned what the Dragonballs are capable of accomplishing when you gather all seven, and you’ve asked the Dragon about your powers.
In his wisdom, he bade you to seek out his creator, far above Korin’s Tower.
“The Dragon’s creator…?” I read through the quest again.
Someone created that powerful being, and they wanted to meet with me. I began to laugh, the sheer stress of everything finally making me descend into hysterics.