Dragon Ball/Z/GT Fan Fiction ❯ Touketsu ❯ A Dark Place ( Chapter 6 )
A Dark Place
That was the first thing that registered when Vegeta drew in a sharp breath of shockingly icy air as his eyes flew open. He immediately screwed them shut again as he broke off coughing, the tiny ice crystals he inhaled turning to water vapor in his lungs. He gasped in discomfort as he lay on his back, his breath visible in the frigid atmosphere. He was freezing, and he unconsciously drew up his legs and wrapped his arms around himself when he felt bare skin. His brows knit together, and he sluggishly lifted his head. His neck felt stiff and his body numb as he briefly glanced down at his state of undress with some bewilderment. He dropped his head back down with a grunt before weakly turning his head slightly to the right, his surroundings at last coming into focus.
He was in a cave of ice, but unlike any ice he had ever seen on Earth. It was…black: slightly translucent but dark like filthy pond water. Eerily, it seemed vaguely familiar. Stranger than its shade were its properties, for the ice seemed to emanate a dim, blue-green glow in places, the only apparent source of light in the place. He was in a small clearing, and he could see out around him maybe only about 30 feet. Vague shapes of icy stalagmites in varying heights were discernible, their vertical forms looking almost like mourners at a wake. Beyond them, barely visible, were the cave walls. Their curving, conchoidal surfaces resembled the heaving waters of an approaching tidal wave frozen in time. Shivering, Vegeta lethargically turned his head so he was looking straight up again. Long, tapering icicles pointed down menacingly at him. He couldn't see the cave ceiling; it seemed to stretch up and out into oblivion.
What happened? Where the hell am I? he thought dazedly. With a grimace he propped himself up on his elbows before twisting over and planting his hands on the icy cave floor. He pushed himself up on shaky arms as he drew his knees up under himself. Quickly, he again wrapped his arms around himself, tucking his hands under his armpits as he hunched over. Shit, it was cold. Every breath of the heart-stopping, gelid air actually burned the inside of his nostrils and his throat. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on channeling his ki in an effort to warm himself.
Vegeta's eyes slowly opened as a sinking feeling developed in the pit of his stomach. Again, he tried to channel his ki, and again he was met with failure. Hugging his arms tighter around his shivering, naked form, he rose unsteadily to his feet. He brought one hand up before his face as he attempted to form a ball of ki. Nothing. Vegeta stared at his empty hand.
"…What the fuck?" he breathed. He could feel his unique ki signature trapped deep within him - the energy that comprised his soul and infused ever cell in his body - but he couldn't channel the universal life force through it. It was as though he was cut off from it…so far away it was beyond even detection. He released a shaky breath into the chill air. Something other than the cold but just as petrifying began to creep through him, and his heart started to pound with what was beginning to feel like fear.
"Welcome, Touketsu. We have been waiting for you for some time."
Vegeta whirled around in the direction of the voice and instinctively raised his palm out for a Big Bang Attack. He heard a dark chuckling, followed by more in every direction.
A looming form roughly 10 feet tall emerged from the darkness, followed by slightly shorter ones - hundreds like it - from all sides. The towering creatures were vaguely humanoid and were draped in cloaks seemingly made from shadows, their torsos and arms clad in murky, ice-like armor. A single wing of icy shards grew from the base of the creatures' backs, some on their left hand sides while for others on their right. They didn't appear to have feet, their smoke-like robes reaching all the way to the ground. They wore helmets that partially concealed their faces in translucent, smoky ice. The beings looked like corpses left on a mountainside, their pallid skin mottled and covered in frost. Their eyes were jet-black.
"You won't be able to channel your ki here," the tallest one informed him. Its voice was smooth and deep, echoing softly throughout the cavernous void. A cowl of shadows covered its head and neck, its frozen, cadaverous face uncovered. It wore a helmet of black ice studded with a crown of long, pointed icicles. A pair of rigid, obsidian wings resembling the blades of swords framed its form.
Feeling foolish, Vegeta quickly withdrew his hand. Ignoring the cold biting at his naked skin, he squared his shoulders and glared up at the thing before him. "And why is that?" he demanded.
The shadowy figure regarded Vegeta keenly. "Ki is life. Here, you are far from it".
Vegeta's bravado faltered at that. His mind raced. What? Where the fuck am I? His brow furrowed in growing concern. "What is this place?" he finally asked, doing his best to hide the tremor in his voice. "Am I…" He glanced at the creatures that surrounded him. "…Is this-"
"You are not dead," the crowned one interrupted.
Vegeta returned his attention to it, his mouth slightly agape in confusion. He scowled. "What are you?"
"Yes, you're right. Introductions are in order. We are the Kagemazoku. I am Zhernobog Daimao," he replied, bowing his head slightly. "This is our realm. It was once connected to Otherworld, and it was our responsibility to pass judgement on all souls that arrived here upon their deaths. We fed upon their darkness, and forced them to face their own. Those who harbored more light than dark were eventually permitted to move on to a higher realm. Those who harbored more darkness succumbed to a lower one."
The hairs on the back of Vegeta's neck stood on end. What did these things plan on doing with him? "If this place is no longer a part of Otherworld then what the hell is it?"
"A prison," Zhernobog answered succinctly. "After a virtual eternity of judging the flawed souls that came through here, we began to question our role. Not a single being that passed through here was without darkness. The kais created the multiverse to express beauty, yet these mortals, with their muddled, conflicting souls, existed within it. So long as they were allowed to live among the intended perfection of Creation, they sullied it. Why did we wait for these wretches to cross over to Otherworld before passing judgement? It was during their lifetimes that the poison generated through their internal discord was allowed to grow and flourish. Their inner conflict spilled out to infect others, influencing entire populations. They transformed their very ecosystems into reflections of their imbalanced, toxic hearts and sped the demise of their worlds. We concluded that we would be a far greater service to the kais and Creation by excising these numerous infections before they spread to other worlds."
Vegeta was still processing the notion of multiple universes when he realized what the creature was saying. His brows drew together as he studied the demon's oily, black eyes. "You're speaking of a purge."
"Indeed, we are. So, we sought to traverse onto the physical plane to carry out our cause. The kais did not share our vision, and we were banished back to our realm where we were cut off from the rest of Creation. For immeasurable eons we existed in this limbo. Finally, inexplicably, we sensed energy…an energy beyond this place: Yours."
Vegeta could only stare up at the thing in confusion.
"We knew not of its source or identity. Faint at first, we merely referred to this mysterious energy as the "The Nameless One." Before long, the energy steadily grew greater as it was pushed down directly to us. It resonated throughout the walls of this place. We became familiar with your constant and powerful presence, and we dubbed you Touketsu."
Vegeta frowned deeply at this. "I am Prince Vegeta of the Saiyans. Prince Vegeta is the only title you'll be using when addressing me, got that?"
Zhernobog merely smiled. "Ah - Prince Vegeta," he replied affably, offering a short bow of respect as his underlings followed suit. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you in person."
"Pleasure's all yours, I'm sure," Vegeta bit out. "How did I get here?"
"Your energy has shown to us like a beacon since the first time we felt you. As your power grew, we followed you. At last, thanks to a tenuous connection you forged with your dark psychic energy, we were finally able to reach you. While we could not actually traverse onto your plane, you enabled us to reach through your world's shadows remotely to bring you here."
Vegeta's brows knit together before it dawned on him. That bizarre shadow…
"The power you have attained during the course of your life, coupled with your raw, animal emotion, had reached a peak. You forged the bridge that allowed us to reach across your plane and obtain you at last. Thank you, Prince Vegeta."
"…You're welcome," Vegeta said dryly. "Now, what exactly is it you want with me?"
"You are our salvation, for with your aid we can leave this place. As you may now be aware, you have the ability to wield an energy that comes not from your universe but from the darkest recesses of your mind. Combined with your own individual ki, your power is capable of piercing through dimensions. It is this very ability that enabled us to bring you here."
What? Vegeta scowled at this. He had actually heard of this ability, albeit in bedtime stories as a child: tales of Oozaru Saiyans whose power could tear through the fabric of time and space itself. Laughable. Yet…the tales of the Legendary Super Saiyan turned out to be very true…
Zhernobog continued. "Cultivate this innate power, and you can create a gateway from here back to your world…to Otherworld…all throughout space and time. Through you, we will be able to begin our campaign."
Vegeta blinked. "Wait," he demanded, holding out a hand. "Your campaign?"
"Yes, Prince Vegeta. We have spent a long time here in rumination, and we have come to the conclusion that the kais are every bit as flawed as their Creation. There is no unity. The proof of it is in the mortals they created. Every single one of them houses not one but two souls: two energies that battle and rip each other apart, their violence and constant conflict spilling out around them. Mortals are two-headed monsters, all of them. They and all of Creation are of endless, spinning chaos and upheaval. There is no peace. We were created to feed off the darkness supplied by these mortals. It is their darkness that expanded our army. At last, we will use our attributes and the strength of our army to fulfill the highest calling. We will put an end to the warring and the conflict. We will make Creation a reflection of our realm: A cool and quiet place, frozen in perfect balance. With the energy harvested from our conquest of the physical plane, our army will become unstoppable. We will then subjugate Otherworld and the flawed beings that are the gods themselves. The multiverse will at last achieve everlasting peace."
Vegeta stared up at the demon king incredulously. "Peace and balance? What the hell kind of balance is that - purging entire worlds out of existence? Purging existence itself!" he sputtered. "Fool, there will be nothing left! That's not balance, it's death!"
Zhernobog Daimao's lip twitched imperceptibly over Vegeta's audacity. "This is our calling. As a mortal, you cannot understand," he replied evenly. The demon king studied Vegeta shrewdly for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice had taken a stern tone. "We have only ever judged those such as yourself. You are not exempt, Prince Vegeta. But, serve in our army, and you will be redeemed. Your darkness, like ours, will at last have purpose, and you will gain power greater than you have ever known."
Tensing, Vegeta realized that he was the only thing standing in the way of these things' twisted goals. He snorted, narrowing his eyes as he looked up at Zhernobog. "And why the hell would I do that? Just what kind of power could I possibly wield when I'd be serving you? You're not exactly selling this." Vegeta spat on the ground. "I serve no one."
A wave of grumbles and murmurs coursed through the throng of demons, and their leader frowned. Zhernobog slowly approached and began circling Vegeta, his air of hospitality at last gone. Vegeta stood stock-still, disciplining his body not to tremble in the unforgiving cold and display any weakness. He barely moved his head as he kept his eyes trained on the imposing creature.
After several moments the demon king spoke. "We wished to show you the deference we believed you deserve. How could we not, to our would-be savior? But…" Zhernobog then leaned in menacingly, "…make no mistake that this is our realm you are in, and you WILL answer to us."
The others began to circle Vegeta as well. He looked around at the advancing enemies. "Humph," he grunted. "I suppose this means we're done with decorum." They suddenly closed in, and without thinking twice Vegeta delivered a backhand punch to the nearest Kagemazoku.
It was a foolish and impulsive move; Vegeta's fist merely went through the creature as if it were a shadow. He barely registered what had happened when two demons immediately seized him, pulling his hands behind his back painfully and digging their sharp, gauntlet clad fingers into his arms. Vegeta thrashed and cried out in impotent rage. He had never experienced anything like this before: unable to channel his ki, fighting creatures that could become as insubstantial as air. Vegeta was brilliantly pissed as he tried to twist around, his attention solely on the demons behind him that were holding him fast.
"Get your fucking ice picks off me, bastards!-" He jumped in surprise, his words cut off as Zhernobog's cold, clawed, gauntlet covered hand grasped him firmly by the jaw. The demon king gently turned Vegeta's head up in his direction.
"There is great darkness in your heart. We know this much. It's why we were able to find you. Why is that? Just what is it you have endured?"
With a grunt Vegeta whipped his head out of Zhernobog's grasp. "What is this, a therapy session?" he spat. "You release me NOW or I swear to the gods I will tear you all apart and make you wish you were still in HELL!" Zhernobog ignored his threats as one of the soldiers roughly seized Vegeta by the hair, jerking his head back as the prince snarled with indignation.
"We will show you a way to tap into your power while on this plane. The key to unlocking your abilities lies right…here." He pointed a clawed finger to the center of Vegeta's forehead, the prince's eyes crossing almost comically as he followed the movement. He scowled. No fucking shit I use my mind to control ki.
Zhernobog withdrew. "Your memories and the emotions attached to them are the impetus behind your power. If you refuse to reconnect with them, we shall have to coax them from you. As long as you repress them, you will never be able to fully unlock your abilities. It is obvious you have been trying to forget. Now, where did it all begin?" the demon king mused to himself. He placed his pointed fingertips on either side of the immobilized prince's temples, the claws like ice shards just barely piercing. Vegeta growled as he attempted to jerk his head away without success. He squeezed his eyes shut. Just what was this thing doing? It didn't exactly hurt. Some pressure, then a sensation as though skeins of thread were being pulled out gently from the sides of his head.
This is what the Kagemazoku needed: his darkest memories. The memories that this ignorant fool refused to reconnect with or even acknowledge. The shadow demons could feel Vegeta's raging emotions through their realm since he was a boy, no matter how little he showed outwardly during his lifetime. Now that he was finally here before them, they could know the actual sources of his rage. His history would be the key. Vegeta growled and jerked his head away as best he could as Zhernobog withdrew. The Kagemazoku king stood motionless, eyes closed and head slightly bowed. Then, a small smile graced his rimy lips. He appeared satiated, as though he had just fed.
Vegeta glared up at the creature. "What did you do?" he hissed.
"Just familiarizing ourselves with the whole of your history." Zhernobog opened his black eyes and locked them with Vegeta's. "So…Frieza."
Vegeta froze and the blood drained from his face.
"This Frieza made a deal with your father, the king. He drafted you into his ranks in return for your kingdom's continued allegiance." He looked down at Vegeta pointedly. "He did not honor this treaty, did he?"
Vegeta's breathing quickened and he began to shake with rage.
"He destroyed your planet. He killed your father."
"Stop right there."
"He took you in as a child and forced you into servitude-"
"I recall you saying that you serve no one-"
"I SAID SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
"And there is so much more. A "Goku". Or is it "Kakarot"? His power showed you that everything that your father told you about your strength, your nobility, your birthright… was a lie."
Vegeta had ceased to shout. He was speechless with fury.
"You have been obsessed with gaining power. Time after time, it has eluded you. You have been consistently outshone and dominated by others stronger than you. WE will help you gain that strength you seek and use it at last to serve a higher power."
"You mean yours?" hissed Vegeta. "Fuck you."
Zhernobog's lips quirked in amusement. "Perhaps some persuasion is in order? I believe the information we just obtained from you will aid us considerably in cultivating your abilities. Allow me to introduce you to my old friend: Tosho."
Zhernobog bowed his head slightly. Faint, greenish particles of light began to swirl from within his chest, glowing dimly from beneath the dark, translucent armor. The light then began to separate into two different colors: one a soft yellow and the other a dim, icy blue. The yellow light was swallowed in the darkness of Zhernobog's body while the blue traveled down the demon's right arm, increasing in intensity as the light particles converged in his hand. Suddenly, Zhernobog's hand shot out to take the form of a long, vicious blade of brackish ice, bitten and corroded by time. Vegeta's eyes widened in alarm as he leaned back unconsciously.
The demon king held Tosho up between them, the particles of light eddying within like fireflies trapped in a jar. "THESE are your darkest memories, Prince Vegeta. All of them…and you will experience them once more."
Vegeta made one last futile attempt to break from the others' grasp when the demon king clapped a hand down onto his right shoulder. Zhernobog positioned the point of the newly imbued blade over Vegeta's heart.
Panicked, Vegeta uttered,"Wait-"
He made a strangled sound as the sword was plunged through his heart. It did not emerge out his back as an ordinary blade would have; it seemed to disappear inside his body. Vegeta began screaming in unbridled agony, the anguished sound rising to a crescendo and reverberating off the cave walls.
He experienced everything all over again: the death of his world; news of the death of his father; the years of humiliation and abuse at the hands of Frieza; his shocking defeat on Earth; his brutal torture and demoralizing death at his master's hands; his future son's death at the hands of Cell; his young son's near death at his own hands. He not only remembered it all, but he felt it; it was all as fresh and painful as it was the first time he experienced it. Only now, it was ALL. AT. ONCE. The crippling emotional torment was lodged in his chest, sucking inward like a black hole deep within his heart. His scream tapered off, his mouth open in a silent scream as the onslaught continued. His eyes, wide with agony, streamed tears of unmitigated pain. He squeezed them shut. His brow furrowed, and he grit his teeth. His chest felt like it was imploding. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't escape his mind. He was imprisoned in his own body, and in that moment all he wanted was death.
Zhernobog withdrew the weapon, and it was absorbed back into his hand. Vegeta, still being held by the others, gasped as he finally opened his eyes, now wide in shock as he panted helplessly. His hair was released and he dropped his head, groaning in agony.
"We know this must be a lot for your body to handle," Zhernobog Daimao said compassionately. Vegeta looked up at his torturer with some effort. "We will take this slowly."
Horror stricken, Vegeta felt as he did on Namek when Frieza was moments away from ending his life before Goku arrived. He felt terrified, helpless, and utterly broken.
"Rest now, and reflect." With that, the Kagemazoku king and his minions melted away, and Vegeta was dropped to the ground on his knees. In shock and shuddering, the prince's hand drifted up to cover his heart before he slumped to his left side onto the cave floor. Curling into a fetal position, he wrapped his other arm around himself in an effort to slow his uncontrollable trembling. He squeezed his eyes shut, his face contorting in pain and growing despair as the lump in his throat threatened to strangle him. "No," he whispered hoarsely.