Dragon Ball/Z/GT Fan Fiction ❯ Touketsu ❯ In Shadows ( Chapter 5 )
The night sky was alive with light. The expanse of stars shimmered like cast diamonds over the snow-capped Imoy Mountains, the countless points of light coalescing into a gossamer pathway to disappear behind the looming peak of Mount Eroso. Beyond, the cold flames of the aurora borealis licked at the sky, the undulating curtains of softly flashing pinks and greens becoming one with the nebulous filaments of condensed starlight. Across from Mount Eroso the full moon shone, a luminous ring encircling it in a muted spectrum against the chill air. The snowy mountain range glowed preternaturally under the silvery light, and a lone comet shot across the sky in a blaze of golden fire.
The comet took the top of a mountain off before hitting the side of another in a deafening explosion of powder and pulverized rock. Still in Super Saiyan 2, the currents of blue voltage snapping and leaping off his radiant form, Vegeta rebounded off the now steaming mountain side, its snows completely evaporated. Roaring in rage he proceeded to wreak furious havoc on the previously tranquil landscape, punching, kicking, and blasting his way through the mountains as he fast rearranged the topography. Massive boulders and great tsunamis of billowing snow barreled down the slopes, wiping out everything in their path and covering the land in a death shroud of flat white. Vegeta didn't stop until the land below was completely obscured under the fog of snow that had been sent into the atmosphere.
Breathing hard from his vantage point in the air, Vegeta watched as the fog cleared and the land continued to crumble as it groaned in protest to his vicious attack. Finally it calmed, the latent rumbling of the last avalanche fading like the rolling thunder of a departing storm. He headed in the direction of Mount Eroso. This area had managed to escape the majority of his wrath, and he descended down to stand in one of the steep, snow covered slopes just above the timberline. He took a deep breath as he felt some of his rage finally ebb, and he extinguished his transformation. The land around him grumbled softly as it continued to settle after the onslaught, the vibrations reaching all the way to where he stood. Crossing his arms over his blood-splattered armor, his hard obsidian gaze looked out across the mountain range beyond.
A half hour earlier he had taken his rage out on the local animal population, hunting down a number of moose, big horn sheep, and bears. Combined with his fury, the full moon had had a profound impact on him. He had been feral and out of control as he slaughtered the animals with his bare hands, ripping into their raw flesh with his teeth like a beast. He barely ate any of the meat, his desire to simply spill blood much greater than any hunger. He then took to attacking the land itself, his path of destruction leading him to the mountain range. Taking his anger out on this stupid, mud-ball planet that had derailed his life so profoundly did wonders, but it could only do so much.
"We won't miss you!"
Her parting words were still ringing in his ears, and a snarl tugged at his lips. Bitch! He felt like a weakling. How the hell could that woman and the boy make him feel so…undone. Raw. Vulnerable. Vegeta was plagued by the incredible guilt and self-loathing over the incident. The way Bulma looked at him filled him with shame. Shame. Him. There was a time when he didn't give two shits what anyone thought of him, but now here he was with a family whose opinion mattered greatly to him. He hated them for that - almost as much as he hated himself. He ran a hand through his hair as he planted the other on his hip. They had made him weak. The weakness that was family compromised a warrior. Frieza himself had trained him to exploit that self-same weakness to its fullest extent. In spite of trying to convince himself how little the rhetorical opinions of the dead mattered, he nonetheless began wondering what Frieza would say to him now. What would he think of him settling down with the Earth woman and having a son with her?
"He'd laugh and tell me I've grown soft," Vegeta spoke quietly in the chill night air. His eyes cast downward. "…Then he would kill them in front of me to show me just how soft I've become." The thought made his stomach turn.
There was a time when he was still young and impressionable that, in spite of deeply resenting the lizard-like creature and his machinations, he paradoxically also found himself desiring that tyrant's approval. If an all-powerful, intergalactic warlord like that told him he was powerful…worthy…well then maybe he was in fact worth something. Maybe the stories his father had filled his head up with weren't just conflated, ethnocentric lies about his strength, significance, and potential to become The Legendary. Undoubtedly, if his own father had still been in his life he would not have looked to that pale demon as a role model.
He certainly couldn't deny what a fearsome scourge he had been when he was still working in Frieza's Planet Trade Organization. In spite of having attained the power of The Legendary years ago - in spite of reaching a level even beyond that - he felt weaker than ever. He had been harder and stronger before he had ever arrived to this backwater planet. In disgust he let himself collapse into a sitting position into the snow, draping one arm across a drawn-up knee.
…Damn them. DAMN that woman - this planet - hell, his son. He had become utterly dependent on his family: dependent on what they thought of him, committed in service to them. He lowered his head and closed his eyes as his brows furrowed in consternation. "Damn them," he whispered. He scowled and sighed, rubbing his eyes with a gloved hand stained with blood. He looked up to gaze glumly out upon the vast snowscape. It sparkled under the light of the full moon that hung high in the sky in front of him, the conifers casting soft, short blue shadows before him upon the glittering, opalescent slopes below. Then, from the corner of his eye, something in the snow caught his attention. He did a double take.
His shadow was moving.
Vegeta stood up in surprise. He stared for a moment before scowling in confusion. It was slowly rotating to his front, as though the moon was moving behind him. Incredulous, he glanced up. The moon certainly was not moving; it hung motionless ahead of him against the starry sky. He looked back down at the shadow and raised an eyebrow, perplexed by the curious phenomenon. It lengthened to about ten feet in front of him, darkening until it stood out in stark contrast on the pale snow.
Vegeta cocked his head, his brows drawing together as he took a step forward. "What the f…"
Slowly, impossibly, the shadow began to extrude straight up until it reached Vegeta's height while remaining anchored to his feet.
His eyes widened, absolutely floored by the bizarre sight. What in the 16 fucking hells?! He reflexively threw his palm out and blasted the thing. The ghostly shade disappeared in the blinding light, and the ki blast traveled a short distance before hitting a mountainside, shaking the land in the ensuing explosion. As soon as the blinding light of the ki blast disappeared, the unsettling apparition had rematerialized before him. Before Vegeta could react it suddenly rippled to take on an amorphous shape before flying at him like a striking snake.
Vegeta instantly crossed his arms up over his face in defense. He felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him, and he nearly fell backwards. Quickly pulling his arms away, he instinctively held his hands out before him to inspect any damage to his body. Vegeta could only stare as his bloody gloves fell right through his hands, landing softly into the snow along with his uniform and armor.
He was a shadow.
Gaping in shock, he screamed in horror, but there was no sound. The silhouette of the Saiyan prince's shadow stood out against the white slopes behind him for a moment before it faded away into oblivion. Distantly, the ominous rumble of another impending avalanche could be heard. Soon, it would completely cover the area where Vegeta had once stood. Aside from the destruction the prince had caused in the mountain range, there would be no indication that he was last there.
After the row they had, Vegeta took to the night sky and headed for parts unknown. When he didn't return after a day, Bulma didn't expect anything less of the arrogant jerk. When he didn't return after two, she had begun to do a slow burn. That bum could sleep outside for all she cared. When she awoke the third day and he still hadn't returned, a sharp ache had entered her chest. Was that it? Had he really left her and their little boy for good? By the end of that day, overcome with a toxic cocktail of anxiety, hurt, and anger, she felt desperate to unburden her concerns. She and Chi-Chi were never particularly close, but one thing they had in common were pig-headed Saiyan males. Bulma didn't get the chance to make the call; as it turned out, Chi-Chi beat her to it.
"Hi Bulma. Hey, um, is Vegeta with you?"
Bulma blinked. "Uh, no. Why?"
"Well…I don't want to pry, but I thought I should give you a call. A few days ago Gohan felt Vegeta's energy signature over in the Imoy Mountains. He was very concerned over how high it felt but after a bit it went back down to normal. Vegeta apparently suppressed it because Gohan couldn't pinpoint it anymore, but my son mentioned today that he still couldn't pick up on him. Anyway I thought I'd check in. If Goten wasn't grounded," she said glaring pointedly over her shoulder at the massive hole in the wall behind her, "then I suppose I wouldn't need to be asking."
Bulma's brow furrowed. Gohan couldn't feel his energy? He…he didn't finally up and leave the planet did he? After all this time? She didn't remember seeing him grab a space ship capsule after his abrupt departure, and all the space faring vehicles at the compound were present and accounted for.
Chi-Chi's brows drew together in concern over Bulma's silence. "Bulma? Hey Bulma is everything all right? Did something happen?"
Bulma relented and sighed. "I was just about to call you about him, actually. Well - ugh, we had a fight. It was an ugly one. He took off, like, three days ago. I haven't seen him since." Bulma made a snort of false laughter, suddenly feeling a need to down-play the incident. "That's what he does though - just up and leaves. Saiyans, right? Who knows when he'll be back." She swallowed. "But uh," her voice trembled a bit, and she ran a hand through her bobbed hair. "I kind of…I sort of implied he should go if he's not happy here." She squeezed her eyes shut and planted a hand on her hip, letting out a sigh.
"Oh Bulma, I'm sorry."
Bulma's eyes were beginning to burn, and she covered them with one hand. "Do you think maybe Gohan knows more about his whereabouts?"
"Yeah, yeah maybe," Chi-Chi replied softly. "Do you want me to put him on for you?"
"Yeah, please. Thanks, Chi-Chi."
Gohan got on the phone moments later, with Bulma again relaying the nature behind his departure without getting into specifics. A fight between the two hot-headed individuals wasn't anything new to the teen, but as he listened on the other end he couldn't help but feel concerned. Gohan had spent enough time at Capsule Corp over the years that he had come to regard the last full-blooded Saiyan in the known universe as something of an uncle, if a rather cantankerous one. Once a fearsome enemy, Vegeta had allied himself with Gohan on more than one occasion. After the prince had created the surprising, last minute diversion that helped Gohan vanquish Cell, they had become something of kindred spirits. Ever since then Vegeta seemed committed to his family. This recent, prolonged disappearance wasn't like him - at least, not anymore. Gohan didn't imagine that Vegeta had left, but other than the unthinkable there could be no other reason why he couldn't get a read on him.
"Do you think he went off planet?" Gohan offered.
Bulma tried to keep her voice steady. "I don't see how he could have. To my knowledge he didn't take any of the ships we have at the compound, or any capsules for that matter. ...He's probably just laying low, you know how he is," she said more to convince herself than anything. It nonetheless wasn't a far fetched notion; when Vegeta didn't want to be bothered he went out of his way to make himself scarce. Knowing full well that the other Z fighters would be alerted to any destruction he caused it made sense that he would withdraw once he got his frustrations out. He didn't like interacting with any of them on the best days.
There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Bulma… uh, I haven't been able to feel his energy at all."
Bulma felt a sense of unease worming its way into her stomach. "Gohan…what are you saying?"
Gohan reluctantly explained. "Well, a skilled fighter can suppress their ki for a time, but it's like holding your breath under water. Even if he was suppressing it for three days I should have…well I should have eventually felt something…"
Bulma felt her blood run cold. It couldn't be possible that anything had happened to the arguably strongest being on the planet. Could it? Still, that pang of worry lingered. "Gohan, what do you remember from that night?"
Gohan hesitated for a moment. "That night I was concerned. Piccolo too. We had't felt anything like that from him in years. His energy was just so…murderous. So much so that we half expected him to start attacking a city. I was ready to go over to where he was and just try to talk to him when Piccolo spoke to me telepathically. He suggested we just keep tabs on his energy and location and be ready to intervene if we had to. He thought that if we showed up we may have just angered him more. At the time, when I thought about it I decided Piccolo was right. After a bit his energy calmed down. It flared a little before it disappeared, and Piccolo and I figured he had gotten the last of the anger out of his system before he submerged his ki."
"Do you think he might still be there?"
"I'm sorry Bulma I just don't know." Gohan gathered his thoughts as he reflected back on the sequence of fluctuations in Vegeta's ki that night.
Vegeta had always been a man of few words. Over the years of visiting Capsule Corp, Gohan had taken to feeling out the other's ki to get a gauge on his mood, and he had inadvertently become quite good at picking up on the subtleties. Those few days ago over in the mountains there had been a building sense of rage and violence before it finally peaked. After that it quickly began to ebb before being replaced with fatigue and a quiet, brewing anger. It was when it had spiked slightly that the teen detected something else. Gohan had dismissed the fleeting and subtle fluctuation at the time, but with Vegeta's prolonged absence he found himself interpreting that moment in a different way.
Gohan ran a hand through his hair. "Bulma, I may have detected something else in his ki." The teen struggled to put what he felt into words. "To me - I don't know, for a moment his energy felt kind of…alarmed. Tense, maybe. Like the way it felt for me when I had to face an opponent."
Bulma was flabbergasted. "What?" She whispered. "You don't think he was attacked, do you?"
"Piccolo and I didn't feel any energy that suggested there was anyone there. If there had been I don't think I would have dismissed that subtle fluctuation in his ki so quickly," Gohan replied a little guiltily.
Bulma bit her lower lip in thought, her features tense. What the hell could have possibly overpowered Vegeta? No. There was no way anyone on the planet could have gotten the best of the prince, much less kill him. Her stomach twisted at the fleeting thought.
"You don't think it was one of the Androids, do you?" Bulma felt guilty asking that; the suggestion sounded ridiculous even to her own ears, and more than a little faithless. By all accounts Android 18 was devoted to Krillin and a loving mother to a now two year old little girl. There had been absolutely no incidents from her since the Cell Games six years ago. And while her brother was by no means considered a friend, he wasn't an enemy either. Much like Vegeta, he kept to himself. Still, Bulma couldn't think of anyone else that lacked a ki signature.
"Well I know it wasn't 18. Krillin had felt Vegeta's energy too, and he checked in with me telepathically. He just happened to mention that he was at home with his family. I can't say the same for 17, but I don't see why he would have reverted to type out of the blue. It also doesn't make any sense that he would have sought Vegeta out specifically. If he did, Vegeta would have easily overpowered him, I have no doubt. It's just…not normal that he would be suppressing his ki for so long."
They fell silent. Neither of them wanted to posit the possibility that they were both beginning to entertain in the backs of their minds: that Vegeta was dead.