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Home, Once Again

Age 749, September 28 Evening, Wilderness to the east of South City

Chichi

“Let the power rise to the surface.” Chichi repeated the words often spoken to her by her teacher as she put her left hand out. “Like water flowing through the body…”

Above her open palm, she watched as the pink energy seeped out, forming into a ball. Chichi smiled, proud that she was able to call up her energy with such ease, before her expression turned into one of focus.

Not yet… She thought. I can do more.

She’d gotten this idea from the old master— one of the few things he was good for, the old pervert.

She chipped away at her energy, bit by bit, concentrating on giving it a sharp edge.

A boomerang. Chichi thought, staring at the curved energy floating over her palm.

She grasped onto one end of the boomerang and drew her arm back, aiming at the rock in front of her.

With a cry, she launched the attack. The boomerang shaped ki flew straight but true, cutting a deep gouge into the rock before ricocheting towards the tree.

Damn. Is this as far as I can go? She thought as she saw it fizzling out of existence just before it impacted against a tree. It didn’t spin, nor did it come back. What am I doing wrong?

“Ooh!” A familiar voice startled her out of her reverie. “Well done, Chichi!”

Chichi smiled, her momentary disappointment replaced with the happiness she felt every time she heard the sound of her boyfriend’s voice.

“Ten!” She greeted the boy and rushed to give him a hug. “You’re back.”

“Woah, easy there.” He said, backing away as he waved his right arm, displaying a net full of fish. “I’m still kind of wet and I’m sure you don’t want fish flopping all over you.”

She scrutinized her beau, as if judging his words. Would a hug truly be worth getting wet, smelly and cold?

She decided that it wasn’t.

“I’ll start the fire.” Chichi ended up saying, her mouth watering at the thought of dinner. “Get you dry and we can cook those fish!”

“Sounds good to me, Chichi.” Ten said, placing the net down on the ground and ignoring the flailing fish on the inside. “I probably shouldn’t have done this with my clothes on.”

Probably not. Chichi agreed, feeling her face get hot as Ten took his shirt off to try and wring the water out. But I’m not complaining!

She’d seen many boys when she’d gone to visit South City, and quite a few in her father’s rebuilt kingdom. Many had tried to court her, with flowery words that would have likely charmed the clothes off of any other girl.

But not me. Chichi thought with amusement. Words are air; light and easy to blow out of your lungs. Those men never lasted long.

Ten, however, was different from the others— and she wasn’t talking about his strange ability to turn reality into some kind of game.

She tore her eyes away from the boy’s muscled chest and moved towards the center of camp, where she began to pile the remains of the old fire together before going off to search for more firewood.

After their initial tumultuous meeting, Ten had treated her like a peer, rebuffing her advances like he hadn’t even noticed them.

Not ‘like’. Chichi corrected herself. He hadn’t noticed. I was just another kid to him.

She remembered going to bed every night feeling elated, confused, happy, angry and sad: elated that he treated her like a peer, confused that he was seemingly uninterested in her, happy that he wasn’t a lust-filled pervert, but also angry and sad that he didn’t reciprocate her attraction.

That confusing bundle of emotion had more or less become her life up until Ten had left her to journey to Central City. Then, all she’d felt was loneliness.

How one man was able to draw all of these emotions from her, Chichi would never really understand.

What she did understand, though, was that Ten was special.

Forget his mysterious aura. Forget the powers and game-like abilities. Forget his looks. Chichi thought as she continued to forage for dry wood and grass for the fire. Ten, at his core, is a caring and kind person.

She smiled as she thought of his gentle touch and his low, soothing voice.

“How’s that fire looking?” Ten called out. She turned towards him, watching as he dispatched his catches and went to work on preparing them for cooking.

“I found some more kindling for it.” Chichi smiled and raised the firewood higher in the air for him to see.

“Perfect!” Ten sent her his usual small smile. It never failed to make her heart flutter.

I love you, Ten. She thought, not for the first time, that day.

It was a thought she’d been having a lot more, as of late.

She had first dismissed it as unimportant— one of the old women in my father’s town refers to such occurrences as ‘puppy love’.

This wasn’t it; Chichi was sure of it. That particular affection was shallow and fleeting.

Chichi wanted the love that her parents once had— and Ten’s parents, as well.

It was the sort of bond that lasted for years upon years, decades upon decades.

Sitting before the flames, she began to rub sticks together, careful not to use too much of her strength lest the wood in her hands snapped from her strength.

True, I could use a lighter or something to make it quick. Chichi thought as smoke began to form at the point of friction. But, this saves up on our resources and besides, it’s pretty fun.

Placing the lit kindling at the top of the gathered firewood, Chichi carefully added more bits and pieces of wood, building up the fire long enough for it to begin consuming the main body.

“Having fun?” Chichi jumped, almost falling into the small fire pit, and swiftly turned to a grinning Ten.

“Don’t do that!” She glared at Ten. “It’s not funny.”

“It’s a little bit funny.” Ten said, his eyes glittering with mirth.

He’d changed into a long sleeve white shirt and brown pants, at some point. His wet, blonde hair was puffing up as it slowly dried in the breeze.

He looks a bit silly like that.

“Yeah, well…” Her anger faded in the wake of her own amusement. “I could’ve been hurt, you know. I can’t just regenerate like you.”

Ten had the decency to look abashed. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.”

It always surprised her when he apologized. Most men and women she knew would dig their heels in and make things worse, but not Ten.

Chichi shook her head, taking his hand and smiling to show that everything was okay. “It’s okay. It was a little funny, I suppose.”

“Oh… all right.” He returned the smile with one of his own before breaking away to bring the fish over, along with a set of skewers. “The fire looks great.”

“Thanks. I just can’t wait to eat.” Chichi said, joining Ten in skewering the fish.

“I know the feeling.” Ten said, staring at the building flames. “The fire looks to be just about ready, too. Perfect.”

Yes. Chichi thought a minute later as the two cuddled up in front of the fire, watching the fish cook with the sky slowly turning red and giving way to the darkness of the night. Perfect.

oooo

Ten, Noon, The Next Day…

“Right.” I said, adopting a look of concentration.

I suppressed the urge to run my gloved hand through my hair— didn’t want to get the motor oil all over it.

I’d been at this for almost two hours.

Familiarizing myself with the boat’s engine had been a bit of a challenge. The knowledge I’d gained from Bulma was useful in sussing out many of the inner workings of the engine, but she’d been teaching me about jet engines.

Similar. I thought as I fastened a few bolts which seemed a little too loose for my liking, filling the air with the sound of ratchet clicks. But not quite the same.

“Just about done.” I muttered, scrutinizing my work. “But it wouldn’t hurt to give it one last look.”

I checked the engine over again, looking over the repaired driveshaft, as well as the anti-cavitation plate. “Everything looks fine… but will it actually work? That’s the real question.”

The two parts had both been bent out of shape for some reason or the other.

If I’d shown this to old Peelo, he may have simply told me to scrap the engine altogether and get a new boat entirely.

However, I felt that I could make the fix and save myself the trouble.

Considering most of an engine’s parts were made from aluminium alloys, it seemed smart to give it a go, at the very least.

Of course, I’d learned the folly of my actions soon after.

Bending the anti-cavitation plate back into place had been a breeze, considering my now monstrous strength.

The driveshaft, on the other hand, had been a tricky fix, as it was one of the integral pieces of the engine body, carrying the power from the crankshaft down to the propeller. I had needed to detach it from the engine proper.

The disassembly had gone off much easier than anticipated. Once unhooked from the main body, it was a matter of careful use of strength to return it to its former shape without ruining it.

Then came the reassembly, which is when the nightmare began.

With my INT stat, I had indeed remembered how everything was fitted, which nuts went where, and so on. However, having knowledge and applying it were two different things; the engine had failed after the first try, and so I had to disassemble it all over again.

This time, I proceeded with care, paying very close attention to every single one of my actions. I didn’t dare rush the process, as I wanted to avoid making another mistake or worse, rendering the entire engine inoperable— assuming I hadn’t already done that, on the first try.

Getting a new engine or boat would cost money which I wasn’t keen on spending, regardless of my own financial situation.

Another, more important, reason was, well… This boat was older than I was, and it had seen many years of use, both from myself and my parents.

It was almost like it was part of the family, and I couldn’t bear to part with it— at least, not so easily.

“I suppose there’s only one way to confirm. Hopefully, it works this time.” I sighed, took the engine and moved towards the boat, which was lying sideways on the shoreline.

Hooking the engine back up would have been a pain for any normal person, but with my strength level, it took almost no effort.

Within less than ten minutes, and after a few extra thorough rounds of bolt, screw and nut tightenings— just to make sure— I took my gloves off before climbing aboard.

I reached forward and turned the key to start the engine.

The engine sputtered to life with a vigorous roar, before calming down into an almost soothing, steady hum.

“Yes!” I raised my arms up as far as they could go, elated at my own success. “I did it!”


Ping!

Through trial and much error, you were able to repair your ramshackle old boat!
Your skill [Techie] has gained three levels, and [Repairman] has gained two!


Techie (Lv 25 — 35%/Passive): Your keen interest in technology will bring you far in life, as it is the future of your race. You’ve gained enough knowledge and experience to be able to work on most baseline machinery, but you do not dare touch anything a little more sophisticated, as it may explode in your face!


Repairman (Lv 3- 75%/Passive): You’ve become so knowledgeable and experienced when concerning technology that you have the capabilities of repairing them.

1.5% Repair Speed.


Game’s getting cheekier with me. I thought in a mix of amusement and annoyance.

I shook my head and cut the power before stepping off onto the shore and returning the boat to its capsule.

I heard Chichi cry out ahead and made my way to her.

So, she’s practicing her boomerang move again. I thought as I watched her focus on the energy above her palm. Best not say anything to distract her.

Instead, I linked my energy with hers, invoking [Insight].


Princess of Fry Pan Mountain
Chichi – Lv 29
Race – Human
Age – 14

HP: 27,000
Ki: 10,000/34,500

Rep: 1,000/100,000 Loved

Description: The Princess of Fry Pan Mountain, Chichi is a kind and fair Princess who hopes to become a good Queen for her people. She also hopes that the man who is worthy of her charms and wit would stay with her forever.

She is currently hard at work at perfecting her new attack.

Battle Power: 155


Her progress had been nothing short of incredible.

Then again, the fight she had against Goku and Krillin seems to have lit a fire under her. And, with me as an opponent to test her strength against, she’s only bound to grow in leaps and bounds.

With another cry, Chichi drew her arm back and launched the attack. It tore another gouge in the rock before disappearing once again.

She cursed. “What am I doing wrong?”

“Maybe it needs to be attached to you?” I said, figuring now was a good time to announce myself. “Like a string or a chain.”

Chichi turned to me, the annoyed look on her face replaced by a warm expression. “Ten! I didn’t notice you coming.”

I only smiled in response.

“Attached to me, you say?” She repeated, having finally registered the words as I got closer to her. “That honestly sounds even harder.”

“You could be right.” I nodded. “I’ve noticed that Ki seems to only very loosely follow the laws of physics. It might be that your, erm… Boomerang? Maybe it doesn’t work by the traditional rules.”

Chichi raised her hand and pressed her chin down on her fist as she considered my suggestion. “That would make a lot of sense. When the master used his Kamehameha to destroy Fire Mountain, the ground beneath his feet was not affected.”

I nodded, agreeing. “It’s the same for me when I use [Ki Ball]. I feel no force pushing me back, but when the ball explodes, I can feel it.”

Chichi smacked her closed fist against her palm. “That’s it!”

“What is?” I asked, but she did not answer, instead extending her right arm forward, keeping her palm up.

I opened my mouth to say something but decided to wait and see what she’d do.

Just like before, she called up her power and formed it into the boomerang shape I’d become familiar with over the course of the past few weeks.

This time, instead of throwing it, Chichi closed her eyes.

The seconds continued to pass, but she did not move from her position. The only indication that she was still trying to do something was the gradually deepening frown of concentration on her face.

What’s she trying to… and then I saw it. It was faint, almost imperceptible, but the energy had spun.

Chichi opened her eyes, her expression victorious as she induced another minute spin. “I did it!”

The energy winked out of existence, and she dropped to one knee, her tiredness plain to see. Without a word, I moved and helped her up, carrying her on my back towards our campsite.

“You did it.” I said, feeling her arms wrap around me.

“I overdid it.” Chichi said, leaning into me.

“It’s no big deal. Some food and you’ll be better in no time!”  I said with cheer.

“I hope so.” Chichi said, giving me a weak chuckle as we approached camp. “Thank you, Ten. I…”

I tilted my head to her. “What is it?”

Chichi didn’t answer, instead burying her head into the back of my shoulder.

“Are you okay?” I said, getting worried.

She tightened her arms around me, shaking her head. “It’s nothing.”

“You sure?”

Chichi hummed in the affirmative as the campsite came into full view.

I frowned, seeing a raccoon bolt as soon as we got there. “Looks like we had a little visitor.”

“Poor guy must have been hungry.” Chichi said as she disentangled herself from me and took a few, careful steps before heading into camp to check on her things. “Didn’t find anything, though.”

“Yeah.” I agreed, checking the camp to make sure the overgrown rodent hadn’t done its business on any of our equipment. “It couldn’t have found anything to eat, even if it tried.

I opened my [Inventory] seeing a few sets of fresh fish skewers inside.

My inventory really is amazing. I thought with no small amount of mirth. Speaking of which… Lunch time.

I pulled a few skewers out, holding them in front of Chichi; in moments, the air filled with the smell of cooked fish.

“Your power never ceases to amaze me.” Chichi said, accepting a skewer and biting into her meal, slowly sitting on the ground. “It’s still fresh. You truly are the ultimate preservative!”

I sent her an unimpressed stare, which didn’t affect her in the slightest.

That name had better not stick. I thought and sat beside her, staring into the distance.

“You fixed the ship?” Chichi asked between bites.

“Yeah.” I said, nodding. “The driveshaft and the anti-cavitation plate were bent out of shape so I had to disassemble the whole thing to fix it.”

A moment of silence passed.

“I’m going to pretend like I understood that.” She said, hiding a smile.

I snorted. “Basically, we’re good to go. The engine won’t fail again. Or, at least, it shouldn’t.”

“That’s good.” Chichi started on the other skewer. “I wasn’t looking forward to walking all the way there.”

“Me neither.” I said, wincing at the thought. “Something about sailing the open sea, it just makes me feel alive.”

Chichi smiled. “Me, too. It’s so nice and calming. I can see why your parents got it.”

“Yeah.” I looked down and closed my eyes in remembrance. “Some of the best memories I ever had were on that ship.”

Those had been the good times, before my father had ‘died’ and I entered into a personal hell from which I probably would have never escaped had it not been for the power of [The Gamer].

I would not have broken out of my shell, gotten stronger, traveled and met so many people— including the woman sitting beside me.

Whoever or whatever has given me this power… My brow furrowed as I considered the possibilities. Have they been just leading me along, throwing me into the paths of these people, or was it all coincidence?

“Ten? Are you okay?”

I shook the thoughts off and turned to Chichi. “I’m fine. I was just thinking, that’s all.”

“There’s a lot of that going around.” Chichi said, but added nothing further as she leaned into me.

She’s very affectionate. I thought. Not that I mind.

Chichi was the strangest girl I’d ever met. 

Most of the girls back at school seemed interested in meaningless tripe like makeup or dieting; I remembered seeing them pore over various magazines detailing beauty products, among other things.

Chichi was unlike them. She loved to read and took a great delight in furthering her mastery of the martial arts.

And yet… I took another bite, sending her another glance. She takes good care of herself, somehow managing to look better than any of those girls without even trying.

Chichi caught my eye. “What is it? Did I get some on my face?”

“No… I just thought that you look really nice today.”

She smiled, her cheeks tinting a pretty pink. “Thank you.”

“Mm.”

Soon, we’d have to pack everything up and be on our way, but for now, I was content to pass the time in comfortable silence.

oooo

South City, Ten’s Family Home, 2 Hours Later…

I rang the doorbell and moved to stand by Chichi’s side for some time. No answer came.

“Maybe they aren’t home?” Chichi wondered as I tried again.

“Ten!” My mother’s voice came from the fence to the side. “You’re home!”

“Mom!” I had to restrain myself as she just about bowled me over with her hug.

“I’m so glad you’re safe.” She clung to me like I was going to disappear at any moment. “I’ve been so afraid.”

“I said I’d come, didn’t I, mom?” I smiled, trying to stay strong for her sake.

She’s been worried sick about me, no doubt. I thought, feeling guilty. “I’m sorry I made you worry, mom.”

Jean let out a mix of a laugh and a sob before pulling slightly back, giving me a once over. “You’ve gotten even taller… My boy.”

It was then she noticed that Chichi was standing behind me, looking a little awkward.

“Chichi!” She moved and gave the girl a hug as well. “You’ve come, too!”

“Yes, Mrs. Jean…” Chichi said, giving her an uncertain smile.

“None of that, now.” Jean said, pretending to look offended. “Just Jean will do fine.”

Chichi relaxed at that, nodding. “Jean.”

“Good! Now, come on. Everyone is waiting out back.” Jean led us to the backyard.

“Everyone?” I repeated.

“You’ll see.” Jean said, not adding anything further.

My questions were answered moments later, when a loud cry of “Welcome Home!” came our way.

“You guys…” I said, staring at all the people who had come to greet us.

“They all wanted to show their appreciation.” Jean said, taking Chichi’s hand as well as mine and pulling us towards them. “For what you two did.”

Just about everyone I knew had come: Master Kai, Rula, Pencil, the other Tiger School students, my father, Dyran, Fortune-teller Baba— hell, even Aira had come, though she stood in the background, pretending to ignore everyone.

I stood there, feeling very awkward as they all came to greet us, one by one.

The first was my father, who gave me a quick hug and a promise to talk later.

The second was Master Kai and his students, bowing deeply to show their gratitude.

What are you supposed to say to the people you essentially healed or brought back from the dead? I thought as they were followed by others who felt the same way.

Why were they grateful to me? I was the one who got them killed and hurt, in the first place!

Chichi, absolute bonafide angel that she was, noticed my distress and saved my ass from the fire as she handled every well wisher with grace I could scarcely hope to emulate.

The final two, Rula and Pencil, were easier to deal with, as I’d known them for some time.

“How’d you get a girl like that, man?” Pencil pulled me aside, a minute later, as Rula and Chichi started talking. “She is…”

“Chichi? I honestly have no idea.” I said, still trying to come to grips with the situation. “I guess we just clicked.”

“‘We just clicked,’ he says.” Pencil joked before his face turned serious. “But really. Thank you for what you did for us. They told us everything— I still have a hard time believing I was in the afterlife. It’s almost like a half-remembered dream, but I’m really here, aren’t I? Back from the dead, somehow. I’d ask how you did it, but I don’t think I want to know.”

“Ah… you’re welcome.” I didn’t really know what else to say to any of that.

“You never could take gratitude well.” Pencil rolled his eyes. “You really are the same old Ten, huh? No matter how much time passes, or how much you change. It’s still you, in there.”

I smiled, the weight on my shoulders lessening as he moved to give his gratitude to Chichi, who was being blasted with so many questions by Rula that the girl looked utterly lost.

The same old Ten, huh?

“Ten.” Baba said from behind me.

“You arranged for all of this, then?” I turned to the old woman, with Ren beside her. “Baba.”

“Actually, son.” My father said, smiling as he placed his hand on my right shoulder. “That was me. Baba just helped me figure out when you’d get here, exactly.”

My eyes flitted towards Aira, who was staring right at me with an expression I couldn’t quite place. “And her?”

“She either was bored, or she wishes to thank you for saving her from the world of demons.” Baba said. “Hard to read that one.”

I’ll say. I thought, memories of that fateful day coming back. She’d attacked me just so that she could have a one on one against Genus.

“How are you doing?” I focused back on my father.

“We’re a little shaken from what happened, but I think everyone will pull through, now that the worst is behind us.” Ren said, taking his hand off of me in order to scratch his chin.

“No, not that.” I shook my head. “I mean, how are you?”

My father’s eyes widened and he shifted with a sudden unease. “I don’t need the… sleeping aid, anymore, if that’s what you’re asking.”

I nodded and gave him a hug. “As long as you’re getting better, dad.”

“Of course.” He said as he patted my back. “The worst is behind me as well, I think.”

I could find no doubt in his words.

“Now.” He clapped his hands together after he pulled back from me. “How about you introduce me to your girlfriend?”

“All right.”

Things were going well.

oooo

Red Ribbon Base, Unknown Location…

“Status, Corporal?” Said an officer, looking over a live map of the region. A blinking red dot crept towards their base, placed at the center of the map.

“We’ve managed to lose the enemy.” The answer came back. “Heading back to base, ETA fifteen minutes, Colonel.”

“Make sure to stay hidden, Corporal.” The Colonel said, running a hand through his red hair. “We can’t suffer any more unnecessary losses.”

After General Blue’s death at the hand of a child of all things, life for the Red Ribbon had been— dare he say it— an absolute shit show.

The world government finally decided to attack them in force. The scum. They can only fight when we are weakened and unprepared.

“Colonel Silver!” Someone said from behind him. “Private Roy reporting, sir!”

Silver turned and addressed his subordinate. “At ease, Private. Report.”

“News from Commander Red and General White, sir.” The Private said, holding out an envelope bearing Commander Red’s personal seal. “Your eyes only.”

Finally, some news. He thought, nodding. “Very well. Get some food and rest, Private; you’ve earned it. Dismissed!”

“Sir!” The private saluted, turned and left the man alone in his office.

Silver broke the seal and quickly deciphered the letter’s contents.

“Safe and sound. Minimal losses to men and equipment. Gero’s project was successful. Found a strange green creature to work on. Will need volunteers to perfect the process.” It read.

“So… Dr. Gero managed to go even further than our geneticists have.” Silver mused as he pulled a lighter from his drawer and set the message on fire.

Blue’s genetic enhancement had been annoying, but the man had been a respected General, even if he had been prone to frivolities and flights of fancy.

“I suppose I’ll volunteer.” Colonel Silver smiled, watching the fire consume the paper until there was nothing left. “Then we’ll stop hiding and show the world government who the true power on Earth is!”

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