Age 749, Sunday, September 17 (Noon), Forest near the ruins of the Ox-King’s Castle
I felt the sun’s rays bearing down on my body, invigorating me as I took a quick step to the side, narrowly avoiding a flying kick, courtesy of Goku.
The boy landed, his momentum dragging his feet into the ground and sending dirt and grass everywhere.
“Almost.” I smiled in the boy’s direction, hoping the expression would annoy him. “But not quite.”
Sadly, it seemed as if my taunt had done the exact opposite.
Goku dusted himself off and rushed me again. “I’ll hit you! Just you see!”
I rolled my eyes for the third time, that morning.
The day had started so well, too. I’d had a great rest, a marvelous breakfast and plans to continue my studies with Bulma.
Goku, here, had other things in mind.
Why I agreed to this, I’ll never know. I thought to myself as Goku rushed me again, leading with a right hook.
I caught it in my right palm, quickly closing my hand around his fist so he couldn’t escape.
Judging by his wide grin, that seemed to be exactly what he’d been expecting. He pushed into my body in an attempt to make me lose my footing.
I shifted to the side, allowing Goku’s push to spin me almost ninety degrees to the right, holding my foot out all the while and letting go of his hand.
This should be good.
With an alarmed yell, Goku tripped and tumbled on the dirt and grass for a while, his movement punctuated by his thumps against the ground and my laughter.
He got up, sending me a glare. My expression turned mocking, in response. “What’s wrong? Finally lost your cool?”
He didn’t give a verbal answer. However, his glare deepened, and then he came again, faster and more vicious in his movements, this time. Fists and legs flying every which way, Goku’s fighting turned chaotic and primal.
I could almost feel his sheer spirit niggling at my senses.
And yet, he still wasn’t able to land a hit. Every kick went wide. Every punch, every swipe was batted away with almost contemptuous ease.
I would have been taking the fight a little more seriously, had he not tried the same thing for five days, now. I’d thought that he would get the picture and leave me alone after the trouncing I’d given him the first day, but it was not to be.
He was ready for a fight, the next day, and the next one after that. Every attempt to dissuade him from fighting with me only seemed to make him want to do it even more.
This one, seemed no different.
And, why shouldn’t he want to fight you? Part of me wondered. He’s clearly improving with every confrontation— both in power and strategy.
I frowned, sidestepped another one of Goku’s kicks, snatched his foot and threw him into a tree.
I couldn’t ignore that point, at least. Goku was improving, both in the way he fought and in his battle power. I couldn’t make sense of his stat improvements:
Son Goku – Lv 26
Race – Saiyan
Age – 12
Rep: 6,300/10,000 Well Liked
Description: Hailing from Mt Paozu, Goku was accompanying Bulma on her quest to gather up the Dragonballs in the hopes of finding someone strong to fight against.
He is currently overjoyed at fighting someone so much stronger than him, even if said person is refusing to hit back.
Battle Power: 139
I would have assumed he was a Gamer— like me— but a few offhand questions on my part only seemed to confuse the younger boy.
“Stats? Can I eat those?” He’d asked.
I snorted and readied myself for another exchange of blows, watching as Goku kicked off of the tree I’d sent him flying to.
He landed on the ground and, with an wordless cry, he ran to me once again.
Even now, he’s adapting. I sent out a left roundhouse, only to have him back away and approach me from my left side. Analyzing my moves, making counters even as the fight goes along. All of it, subconsciously. This is insane.
To be sure, if I hadn’t been limiting myself so much, the fight would have been over and done within ten seconds flat. But, where was the point of such an exercise?
“If you wish for your pupil to learn, then you must point out his or her flaws in ways that do not permanently damage either their body or pride.” Master Palm, may he rest in peace, had confided in me, once.
Master Palm, now there was a man I would miss. However little our time spent together had been, it was enough to at least form a bond of respect between us. I’d seen him as a true teacher.
The more I’d gleaned from his style of Karate over the months following our meeting, the more I realized just how skilled and dedicated the man was to his craft. If only he’d known how to access his life energy…
Maybe he wouldn’t be dead and gone.
I fumbled mid step, distracted by the sudden, jarring thought.
“Chance!” Goku cried and put his all into the next punch. His aim: my left ribs.
I snarled at my miscalculation and made a quick, sloppy defense, feeling his fist crash against the side of my elbow with a meaty thwack.
Pain blossomed in my left arm, but I ignored the feeling from experience of extended exposure and lashed out with my right fist, twisting my body to maximize the damage of the blow.
The boy raised his guard quickly enough to intercept the attack, but its sheer strength and impact ended up flooring him regardless, displacing earth and grass everywhere.
A few seconds of silence passed, but Goku did not get back up.
Did I knock him out?
“Goku.” I said. “Hey, Goku? You all right, there, buddy?”
Still, no answer.
I winced. Maybe that was a little too much, on my part. I should watch my strength.
Maybe it would have been simpler if I’d disabled the stat multipliers I received from [Meditation] and [Martial Arts], but I had no intentions of doing that anytime soon.
Dealing with the Red Ribbon had changed something in me, this I knew. I could feel it in every move I made. I’d gone through so much, it was hard to relax in any place where I wasn’t completely sure I was safe.
In my dreams, General Blue stared at me with hatred in his one remaining eye, his mangled body useless, but his mind intact enough to brutalize me with psionic attacks.
During the day, I kept expecting an incoming attack. I had no true reasoning for it.
A shifting of the grass near me would almost always be some forest critter: a rabbit, a fox or bird searching for food— whether it be the grass itself, or the worms squirming underneath the dirt, or larger prey.
But, in my mind, I saw hardened soldiers advancing onto me, their Red Ribbon insignia firmly plastered over their helmets and arm patches. I felt their nonexistent glares, I felt the heat and shock wave from their nonexistent explosives. I felt the impact from their nonexistent bullets.
They were the soldiers I’d killed without a second thought. They weren’t real, but my mind was stubborn at the best of times.
I’d thought, by leaving Krad alive and able to make amends for his actions while he was in the Red Ribbon Army, that I was redeeming myself in some way.
I’d thought I was shedding off past guilt, but life just wasn’t that simple.
The consequences and weight of my actions would not be so easy to ignore, however justified everyone says they were.
I shook the thoughts away and focused on the boy lying on the dirt floor of the forest. “Goku!”
Finally, just as I was beginning to think he was in trouble, Goku stirred himself back into a wakeful state.
I sighed in relief and knelt by the boy’s side. “Goku, you okay?”
Goku opened his eyes slowly, taking in his surroundings. “Wha—?”
His confusion was not a good sign.
I helped him up, feeling guilty and nervous. I hope I didn’t hurt him too much. I really should’ve been watching my strength.
“We were fighting. You lost.” I explained simply, hoping I didn’t do more than knock him out. A hard hit to the head like that one could result in some serious consequences.
“Oh!” Goku said, eyes now wide in surprise and… was that delight?
What a strange kid.
He quickly got back to his feet— too quickly, judging by him almost tripping over his two feet. I made no comment, letting him recover on his own time. I certainly wouldn’t want the person who’d kicked my ass to make comments on my rush to look as if I was still fine.
Goku was strange, to be sure, but we, at least, had pride in common.
Must be the whole ‘monkey’ part of him? I wondered, my eyes lingering on his status sheet; more specifically, his race.
“That was a good fight!” Goku said, gently rubbing his forehead. It seemed as if a bruise was beginning to form. He smiled in a mix of triumph and anticipation. “I landed a hit on you, this time. I haven’t had so much fun in ages!”
I smiled. “It’s pretty fun for me, too. I have to admit: you’re pretty good. I can tell that you’re improving every time we fight. It almost reminds me of a friend of mine I left behind, in Central City.”
Goku grinned in response. “Really? Is he as strong as you?”
I considered his question for a moment. “I’m actually not sure anymore, but I know that, last time I was with him, he was progressing pretty quickly. Who knows?”
This only seemed to excite Goku further. “The world is so full of strong fighters. This is so much fun!”
I ruffled Goku’s hair, my smile softening.
“Ow!” Goku backed away. “It still hurts!”
I snorted and let my hand rest at my side. “Sorry.”
But, Goku was already moving away. “I smell food. I think lunch is ready!”
“I don’t smell anything.” I said, following him anyway.
Goku’s sense of smell would turn out to be superior to mine, at the end. Not that I complained, of course; it was just about time to break for lunch, by my reckoning.
We made our way over the beaten path in the budding forestland, which had slowly, but steadily been growing in absence of the previously horrid climate of the area.
The fiery mountain certainly did not do the wilderness any favors. I thought.
This place, I knew, was humble, misty and young. So close to the Ox-King’s previous abode, it was a surprise a forest was forming at all. Its canopy was dominated with chestnut, sycamore, holly and poplar trees, leaving just enough light for grass to live, but not thrive as it would have, otherwise.
A few, tight groupings of flowers, desperately trying to avoid the shadows and outcompete their grassy enemy, added some bright touches to the otherwise brown and green backdrop.
“This place really is something.” I said, halfway back to Chichi’s home.
“Really?” Goku said, looking around. “It doesn’t look like much…”
“A few months ago.” I smiled, gesturing at the plant life surrounding us. “There was nothing but dead soil.
“Wow, really?” Goku latched onto my words, frowning in confusion. “Wait, I remember Bulma saying something about that! Fire mountain, right?”
This kid’s more perceptive than he lets on. I sent him a sidelong glance. “Yes. You’re absolutely right. Chichi told me all about it. You see, it used to be called Pleasant Mountain, and it actually lived up to its name. But, ten years ago, Chichi’s father, the Ox-King, had a wizard surround his mighty castle with fire…”
A few minutes later, the smell finally reached my nose— a strong aroma of cooked meats, accentuated by various spices and fragrant vegetables.
Goku was right: lunch was just about ready to be served.
Maybe I should add ‘sensitive nose’ to the list of abilities Saiyans seem to have. I thought. Not that I have any baseline to compare him to. For all I know, he could be the exception to the rule, in his race.
It was a weak argument, but one I couldn’t exactly ignore. I’d never met a Saiyan before Goku.
When I asked Bulma about it, a few days earlier, she had looked at me like I’d grown a second head.
It was safe to say, if the daughter of one of the foremost leading scientists of the age didn’t have an inkling about Saiyans, and taking previous knowledge of other races and planets gained from my teacher in the magics, Baba, then the chances were that Saiyans weren’t part of our planet.
I’d even gotten a point in wisdom, for that deduction.
Which brought me to my forced quest:
Figure out what a Saiyan is.
Failure: Possible destruction of the universe.
The destruction of the universe… Was the knowledge really that important?
More than that: how was I supposed to figure something like this out? I’d tried observing Goku over the last few days, and I learned quite a bit about the lad, himself.
Goku was a happy boy, with a simple upbringing. He was a true country bumpkin, who’d lived in East District 439 until recently— I hadn’t even known that people could live there in any form of comfort. Judging by the way he moved, I had a feeling that his life was anything but comfortable. My early life, in comparison, was luxurious.
More than that, his grandfather, Son Gohan, had died very early on. Goku had lived most of his life alone, in the middle of nowhere.
It was a miracle he was even able to communicate with other people.
I’d heard numerous tales of children who’d grown up in the wilderness. Their behavior had been animalistic in every sense of the world.
Maybe it was his Saiyan nature that kept him from reverting?
Or maybe it was the strong dedication he seemed to have when concerning martial arts— one of few things he had to remember his grandfather by.
I frowned at the boy’s back, feeling a mixture of sympathy, guilt and pity for him— frustration at myself being unable to figure this mystery out.
“Goku.” I said, stopping in my tracks.
“Yeah?” Goku turned to me with a smile.
“I…” I hesitated, not really sure of how I wanted to go about this. “I’m sorry.”
His smile turned into an expression of confusion as he squinted at me. “Sorry for what?”
“Well…” I said, choosing my words carefully. “I’m sorry I used your Dragonball. I know it belonged to your grandpa.”
For a moment, his gaze took on an intensity I hadn’t been expecting, but it faded almost as quickly as it appeared. “It’s okay. Bulma gave me the radar, remember? I’ll get grandpa’s ball in one year.”
I let out a deep breath. “True. I just want to make it up to you, is all.”
At that, Goku grinned. “Just keep fighting me, that’s good enough, right?”
I smiled back as we resumed the walk back to Chichi’s home. “Yeah. I guess that’ll have to do.”
“Now, let’s go! I’m starving!”
We shared a laugh as we entered through the home’s threshold.
I found Chichi sitting in the living room, her eyes glued to the book in her hands.
Beside her, Bulma sat, fiddling with her phone.
“Something smells good.” I said by way of greeting.
The two ladies blinked as they came back to reality.
“Huh, you’re right.” Bulma said, as if she hadn’t smelled anything this whole time. She laughed. “I guess I was just absorbed by what I was doing.”
“I know the feeling.” Chichi said in agreement, sharing a smile with the girl.
“How can you ignore food?” Goku seemed shocked at their blasphemous behavior.
“We’re not all black holes for food like you are, Goku.” Bulma pinched the bridge of her nose, her annoyance at the boy clear for everyone to see.
“What do holes have to do with food?” Goku folded his arms behind his head and grinned. “You’re pretty dumb, Bulma.”
The sheer irony behind that statement almost made me laugh.
Almost; I knew that, if I did laugh, then Bulma would stop the tech lessons she’d so generously agreed to give me.
She was petty like that.
Instead, I pretended to facepalm, making it look like I was irritated or disappointed.
Hopefully she won’t notice.
Judging by her giving Goku a good thunk and leaving me alone, I figured that I dodged the bullet, this time. “Idiot!”
Goku cringed at the blow. She’d hit him on the head— exactly where his bruise was forming.
“Ow!” He cringed and backed away. “What was that for!?”
“That’s for being an idiot!” Bulma shouted, making me wince. “Now shut up or I’ll hit you again!”
“What’s going on?” Yamcha’s voice came from the kitchen door. I turned to see the man… wearing a pink apron?
I did a double take.
“Yamcha, you uh…” I said, before shutting my mouth.
“What?” He turned to me, looking confused.
“You know what?” I said, shaking my head. “Nevermind. I take it you made lunch?”
Yamcha grinned. “Yes. It’s been a long time since I’ve made proper lunch, but I think I’ve still got the magic touch.”
“Yes, he does!” Piped Puar, his floating blue feline companion, from behind. “Come, come! Before it gets cold.”
“He’s right.” Came Oolong’s voice from inside.
“All right!” His annoyance and pain forgotten in the wake of the prospect of food, Goku rushed into the kitchen.
Bulma cursed and nudged Chichi, who’d slipped back into her reading haze. “Come on. At this rate, Goku will have finished everything by the time we sit down.”
Chichi sighed, placed a bookmark and closed her book with a loud snap. “I guess you’re right.”
“So, what’s this part called?” Bulma asked, pointing over a specific point in a schematic with her pencil.
I frowned, racking my mind. “The compressor. Sorry—” I cut her correction off. “The high-pressure compressor. Normal compressor is for another part.”
“Very good.” She said and pointed at something else on the schema. “And, this?”
Bulma and I were hunched over the living room table. Chichi was on the nearby couch, laying on her back and seemingly enjoying whatever it was she was reading.
Goku was still asleep, judging by the loud snores coming from upstairs, and Yamcha had already left to practice his martial arts, with Oolong and Puar accompanying him; the pig-man had muttered about boring afternoons reminding him of transformation school as he’d left.
“I think that’s the high-pressure turbine.” I hazarded a guess with very little faith in my answer.
Bulma snorted. “Are you just randomly throwing in the word ‘high-pressure’ to make it sound like a part of the schematic?”
“Is it working?”
At this, she laughed. I sent a look towards Chichi, who was also smiling.
“You’re certainly getting better, but no.” Bulma shook her head. “This, here, is the low-pressure turbine. To make it easier for you, think of it like this: the outer parts deal with low gas pressure, but once they’re inside the component, they’re getting compressed.”
“Right.” I pointed at the high-pressure compressor, as well as the two nearest parts. “Okay, yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So these are high-pressure turbines, shafts and compressors, and outside are the low pressure variants.”
“With one exception.” Bulma pointed inside the high-pressure shaft. “Inside of this is a low-pressure shaft.”
I felt the annoyance build in me for a moment, before I really looked at the schematic.
“Ah!” I traced my finger along the design. “It encompasses the entire structure.”
“Exactly.” Bulma nodded, pleased with herself. “I have to say, you’re picking this up a lot faster than I was expecting.”
I wasn’t sure if that was an insult or a compliment.
“What exactly were you expecting?” I said, frowning.
“I don’t know.” She raised her hands up defensively. “I just assumed you were big into fighting like Goku.”
Translation. My mind supplied. She thought I was a moronic, hulking brute.
I looked in the direction of the room Goku was sleeping in, thinking about the life he’s led. “I don’t think he had much of a choice in his life. A kid, like us, growing up all alone in the wilderness.”
That seemed to deflate the girl. “Yeah… I didn’t think of it that way. I guess we take things like basic education for granted. Maybe I should try to teach him some things.”
“I don’t think it’ll work.” I shrugged. “He only seems to care about two things.”
“Food and fighting.” Chichi piped up, before returning to her book.
“Yep, that’s it exactly.” I said and went back to my work, marking out several parts. “The nozzle. Obviously the combustion chamber. I guess these are made from a flexible material— flexible insofar as it can handle shifts in temperature and pressure without them affecting its shape or structural integrity.”
“Correct.” Bulma said just as I received a ping. She got off of the couch and stretched for a few seconds. “I think that’s enough for me. Looking at theory just makes me want to work, so I’m going to do just that.”
She gestured at the technical book on the table. “I think chapter five has the information on what you’re studying, if I remember right. Skip the section on turbine safety, that’s just red-tape nonsense.”
I snorted. “That doesn’t really sound like a good idea. Isn’t safety important?”
“Usually. In this case, I plan on getting you to have your calculations within a margin of error of zero-point-five percent; you wouldn’t need to worry, then.” Bulma shrugged. “I’ve never done mine wrong, and I have a feeling you won’t, either.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“The word of the best!” She smirked and departed, leaving me with Chichi, and the book in front of me.
“You know, she might be almost painfully arrogant, but she’s not as bad as I thought she was.” Chichi turned the page as she shifted on the sofa. “Bulma, I mean.”
“Yeah.” I agreed, pulling up my notifications. “She’s very smart. I’m glad she agreed to help me out with this. I wouldn’t have progressed as fast as I would have without her aid.”
“That’s what teachers are for, aren’t they?” Chichi asked.
“Wasn’t like this for my high school classes.” I shook my head and read through the most recent notification.
For achieving a new understanding in aircraft components, [Techie] has gained a level and an extra effect!
An extra effect? Intrigued, I pulled up the skill in question.
Techie (Lv 22 – 1%/Passive): Your keen interest in technology will bring you far in life, as it is the future of your race. At the moment, your theoretical knowledge is formidable and ever expanding. Your experience is good enough to allow you to make minor changes to existing machines without making them explode.
Added subskill: [Repairman].
Repairman (Lv 1- 0%/Passive): You’ve become so knowledgeable when concerning technology that you have the capabilities or repairing them.
0.5% Repair speed.
A repair skill. I just got a repair skill. I thought in amazement. And I can make alterations in existing tech.
The whole ‘making them explode’ bit was a little frightening, but I was hoping that, with enough study and practice, that particular bit would disappear entirely.
“Anything good?” Chichi asked.
“A tech repair skill.” I said, banishing the window away for now and staring down at the schematic again.
“Useful.” Chichi set her book down, got off of the sofa and sat beside me. “According to Bulma, tomorrow we’ll be heading off towards Roshi’s.”
“We?” I asked, feeling a little confused. “I thought she wanted to go home after she made whatever modifications she was working on.”
“She said she wants to give us a ride.” Chichi continued. “I guess she still feels guilty about her part in all that’s happened?”
I took Chichi’s hand in my own and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Maybe. Whatever her reasoning might be, she’s going to be saving me a good deal of travel time.”
And maybe someday, I’ll be able to build my own aircraft. I smiled at the thought of flying through the endless blue skies. Now that is true freedom.
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 37 (34,700/38,000 XP)
HP: 14,436 ; [44,620]
MP: 15,855 ; [48,911]
Ki: 19,336 ; [60,140]
STR: 135 ; 
VIT: 130 ; 
AGI: 192 ; 
INT: 125 ; 
WIS: 122 ; 
Battle Power: 152,