Dragon Ball/Z/GT Fan Fiction ❯ Touketsu ❯ The Beast ( Chapter 8 )
Vegeta had not moved from his fetal position on the cave floor, his mind and body having succumbed to the turmoil attached to the reawakened memories. He did not know how long he had been in that state, but at long last the effects of Tosho began to ebb. He slowly opened his eyes to the darkness, and he tried to lift his head. He got it off the floor several inches before dropping it back down, his breath from the effort leaving in a gust of condensation. He was still exhausted.
While he had been incapacitated, hypothermia had crept up on him. His naked, paling body was wracked with uncontrollable trembling, and in spite of being held close to his body, his fingertips had begun to turn blue. His body felt so numb it was difficult to control; he could barely even feel the icy cave floor beneath him. His Saiyan physiology offered a degree of resiliency in harsh climates. Still, even a Saiyan could endure only so much, less so if deprived of ki energy or even so much as protective gear. He had never before experienced being cut off from his ki. He did not know how long he would be able to endure this.
"Come on, damnit," he growled under his breath as he again willed himself to move. At that moment he detected something, and he managed to raise his head a little. In the dim, spectral light he could discern movement in the slick, black ice of the cave floor around him. Something stirred beneath, like eels swimming under the frozen surface of a lake. His eyebrows knit together in growing concern. With difficulty, he finally forced his body to move. He raised his head a bit higher before propping himself up on one elbow, his right hand still held protectively over his heart. The swirling black forms grew larger before moving some distance away, fanning out into a radius around him. Then, one by one, dark humanoid shapes quickly extruded from the stone floor all around. The Kagemazoku had returned.
Vegeta's stomach dropped as he looked up at his captors. Unconsciously still shielding his heart, he began pushing himself up into a sitting position. His badly shaking arm was barely able to lift the top of his body off the floor.
"You seem to have recovered nicely," Zhernobog commented as he drifted towards the Saiyan on the floor. "I think we are ready to resume your training."
Vegeta grit his teeth with apprehension. "I don't know what it is you hope to accomplish," he stuttered, the words coming out haltingly as his body was gripped with hypothermia. "I don't feel any of this amazing power you keep going on about."
"It is all part of the process, my dear boy. You should know this well. We've seen your memories - seen how you have constantly pushed the limits of your body, how you pushed your son in an effort to achieve this "Super Saiyan" transformation. There is rarely a breakthrough before first nearly breaking. Correct?"
Vegeta clenched his jaw and said nothing. Ignoring the pain that lingered in his chest and the numbing chill gnawing on his bones, he drew upon his indomitable will. With a growl he pushed himself up to his feet and assumed his battle stance. He didn't know what the hell kind of defense he could put up against these things. Inwardly he cursed himself for succumbing to the poison Zhernobog had placed in his heart and mind. He should have been taking advantage of their absence by coming up with some sort of strategy against them. Even now he attempted to do this, furtively looking for some weak spot he could exploit before they could get their hands on him.
Zhernobog approached the defensive Saiyan. "I must say we're somewhat surprised by your behavior, Prince Vegeta," the demon king told him appraisingly. "We know your mind intimately now. You were never one to shy from the physical hardships required to attain power." He studied the Saiyan prince for a moment. "You feel powerless now, don't you?"
Indeed he did. His body was shaking so badly from the cold he could no longer control it, and Tosho's influence still weighed heavy in his heart. He thought that facing Frieza had been demoralizing. He knew nothing then. At least when he finally faced the tyrant he wasn't without his ki. He had gone up against Frieza - initially, at least - under the impression that he had a chance at winning. But this? Drained, no power, attempting to fight enemies as insubstantial as ghosts? What could he possibly do? He didn't know, but he was not going down without a fight.
His mind raced. When he had last attempted to strike one of the soldiers his arm had passed right through it. In stature, he didn't even come up to the waist of the towering demons, and his punch had connected with the ephemeral shadows that made up their bodies from the waist down. Their armor covered torsos and arms appeared solid, as did their faces. While in this state, from the waist up they may be vulnerable. Would that he could just summon a ki blast and take off this Zhernobog's head. He would have to deliver a leaping strike. He waited for Zhernobog to draw close enough. Concentrating all his effort, with a cry of rage he leapt forward towards the demonic creature with his fist pulled back.
His body, sluggish from the cold and devoid of ki, did not cooperate. He barely got off the ground two feet before going right through the demon king's ghostly body, coming out the other side of the creature in a burst of smokey black energy. He stumbled forward in surprise before recovering, and he immediately looked up over his shoulder at the creature.
Zhernobog made a quarter turn and looked down upon the Saiyan with thinly veiled amusement. "You are a stubborn one, Prince Vegeta. Even when it's in your own interests to submit."
"Submit?" Vegeta snarled as he whirled around, inwardly cursing his weakened body straight to hell. "Like hell I will. If you know so goddamned much about me then you should sure as shit know that!"
The demons chuckled and Vegeta seethed, again readying himself for another offensive. "We certainly know that you don't like being in this position, Prince Vegeta," Zhernobog spoke.
"I know what kind of position I'll put you in - with your head firmly up your ass!" Vegeta shouted. "Come closer and I'll show you!" If he could goad this creature within striking distance, he could go for its face.
Again the demons chuckled, and Zhernobog turned to face him fully. The creature sank down to Vegeta's eye level and began to glide toward him like a shark, his smokey robes billowing around him. Vegeta tensed as the ugly thing neared him, and he clenched his fist. Zhernobog's waxy, corpse-like face was now within two feet from his own. He struck.
It was like punching through the icy muck of a stagnant pond. To Vegeta's disgust and dismay, Zhernobog's visage merely rippled before the viscous flesh closed around Vegeta's fist. With some effort, Vegeta pulled his hand out, Zhernobog's face making a sucking sound as his fist came away clean. Frustrated and not knowing what else to do, Vegeta moved as quickly as his lethargic body would allow and delivered another punch from the left with the same results. He drew back and delivered a third, futile strike from the right only for his fist to be abruptly caught in the steel grip of the demon's large hand.
The sharp fingertips of Zhernobog's gauntlet-clad hand dug into Vegeta's flesh. The prince flinched, and he growled in anger as he felt his hand being crushed just enough to make a point. Zhernobog leaned in close, the demon's bemused face now only inches away from Vegeta's. The Saiyan glared defiantly into the demon's black orbs as he tried tugging his hand out of Zhernobog's grip.
"We are merely trying to aid you in reaching your power," Zhernobog told him patiently. "Submit, and you can have it all the easier. Do you not wish to rid yourself of your weakness? Perhaps you must be reminded just how weak you can feel. Maybe then you'll be more cooperative."
Vegeta gasped in surprise as his trapped fist was suddenly overcome with searing cold that completely overshadowed the chill he was already feeling. He looked, and to his horror he watched blackness creep from his captured hand down to his arm. Panicked, he attempted to pry off Zhernobog's fingers as the supernatural frostbite continued to spread inexorably up to his shoulder. The effect was debilitating: his very will was being drained from him, the chill of self-doubt and despair overcoming his mind and spreading throughout his body like a toxin. The blackness crawled across his chest, and in the next instant Vegeta felt his breath being ripped right out of his lungs. Desperately he looked back to Zhernobog, but the demon simply regarded him impassively as the blackness continued to spread up Vegeta's throat and to his jaw. His eyes still trained on the demon king, the prince sank to his knees as his strength ebbed away along with his resolve. Zhernobog slowly began to straighten, now towering over the Saiyan kneeling before him. Vegeta's free hand dropped to his side, his breath now coming out in short, shallow gasps. He lowered his head as darkness began creeping into his vision, his eyes glazing over. He stopped breathing.
Finally, Zhernobog let go of Vegeta's hand. The prince collapsed motionless onto his stomach, his right arm stretched out before him and his eyes open and unseeing. Then, the blackness began to recede from his throat and chest. Vegeta gasped, his eyes widening as he took in a desperate lung-full of air. His head on the ground as he panted in short gasps, he glanced towards his outstretched hand; with marginal relief he watched as the blackness continued to recede back up to disappear. However, the weakness and crippling despair remained. Gritting his teeth, he tried to lift his head, but he could barely move. His body immobilized, he could only watch helplessly as the smoky robes of the Kagemazoku came into view.
Encircling him, several grasped him by the arms and drew up his weakened form into a standing position before their king. Still unable to lift his head, one of the Kagemazoku assisted and gripped him by the jaw to tilt his head back. Not ungently, the others pulled his arms back in preparation for their next session. His body trembling of its own volition, Vegeta watched with dread as the icy, cold blue light traveled down Zhernobog's right arm, his hand again flattening and lengthened into Tosho.
Zhernobog raised the blade and positioned it over Vegeta's heart. "Let us resume."
Vegeta squeezed his eyes shut as he felt the icy tip of the blade barely pierce his flesh. He steeled himself for the onslaught, and once again the sword was plunged through his heart. He immediately cried out in pain, and the looming demons that held him swiftly descended down to his height to better restrain him as he began thrashing, their black robes wafting around him. The Kagemazoku holding his face quickly pulled him back up against its icy armor, covering his mouth and muffling his screams. Hot tears of rage and painful humiliation began to stream from Vegeta's tightly closed eyes as he endured Tosho's next psychic assault.
Kakarot. Vegeta's mind was flooded with images of their first battle: the shock of being dominated by this disrespectful, third-class nobody; the devastating loss of his tail; his humiliating defeat at the hands of Kakarot's Oozaru son, Gohan. Time after time that bastard Kakarot outshone him in power. He had robbed the prince of his vengeance against Frieza. It was his RIGHT to make that creature suffer for his crimes against the Saiyan race - against HIM! He would never have his vengeance. It was Kakarot who had become the Saiyan Messiah - the Legendary Super Saiyan. He had stolen the prince's birthright without even trying, then he simply left. The prince would now never settle the score with that usurping clown - never have the chance to prove his worth, never know if he could defeat him. Vegeta would forever have that hole in his heart. If Kakarot was the strongest, then what did that make of him? Had his father lied to him about his importance? Was it all just bullshit? Where was his place? If he couldn't defeat Kakarot in battle, then JUST. WHAT. WAS HE?!
The blade was withdrawn. The Kagemazoku restraining him relaxed their grip, and his face was released. Vegeta gasped, pale and trembling from the very physical turmoil of the excruciating thoughts and memories. This time though, the pain was paired with a rage that eclipsed all else, and he stared straight ahead with wide, furious, unseeing eyes.
Zhernobog studied his reaction with keen interest. "How does it feel?" he prodded. "How does it feel knowing that you are the prince of your race, but not its champion? Your kind put great stock in physical strength. It was the measure of a Saiyan's worth. In the mind of a Saiyan, it naturally followed that the strongest was the leader. This 'Goku' as he called himself had bested you in every way. By your society's standards, HE was the pinnacle of Saiyan perfection, not you. Therefore, he should have been the Saiyan king…or at least, their prince. Correct?"
Vegeta screwed his eyes shut and looked away, his face twisted with hatred.
Zhernobog continued. "He was the strongest. With power like that comes an immense amount of responsibility. Your people should have been his burden to bear. It was he who should have suffered for them, but he didn't. No, YOU were the one who suffered, didn't you? Not only did this Goku wield incredible power, but he kept his freedom…unlike you. You were handed over to this Frieza because of your title. Like you, Frieza also thought you were the crown jewel of your kind. It seems he was deceived as well."
Vegeta grit his teeth in rage and humiliation over Zhernobog's barbs. He snarled and strained ineffectually against his captors, who only tightened their grip in response. He wished nothing more than to cast them off as he wished to cast off the shackles that fate had placed him in. Always it seemed, he was ALWAYS being dominated and subjugated, one way or another. His adrenaline surged and the blood coursed throughout his body. Miraculously, his will began to rebound from Zhernobog's vampiric attack. For the first time since he had been brought to this place, he felt…hot. He took a deep breath and screamed furiously in unrelenting, unbridled animal rage.
"That's it," Zhernobog coaxed gently. "Acknowledge the beast that lives within you." Vegeta glared up at their leader, a snarl of hatred tugging at his lips. "We have seen into your thoughts and memories. These creatures - these 'Oozaru' that your kind could become - they were the true form of your race: the result of a mind unified with all its darkest animal impulses. However, not since you were a young boy have you submitted to the raw emotion and primal instinct exhibited in this form. You and your other "elite" warriors tried to control the form like a dog on a leash. That is a failing, for it is not an animal's place to exercise dominion - not even over itself. When you abandon yourself to your emotions fully you will become what you are meant to be. Only then can your power fully manifest to serve us."
Vegeta glowered up at Zhernobog. "What are you getting at?" he finally ground out. "If you could see into my mind as you claim, then you should know that a Saiyan needs both his tail and the light of a full moon in order to achieve the transformation. Are you blind or are you just a liar?"
A slow grin spread across Zhernobog's face, amused with Vegeta's impudence. "You forget, mortal, that before our exile the Kagemazoku presided over the gateways to Heaven and Hell since time immemorial. We know full well the base, animal natures of even the most refined cultures and races. It is this conflict that makes mortals the two headed monsters they are. We have judged them for it. The Saiyan race was no exception. The Oozaru is in your blood. It is simply a throwback to what you and your kind once were…deep down, still are: rabid animals."
With a snarl Vegeta attempted to lunge at Zhernobog. He was roughly grasped by the hair and yanked back as the others doubled down on their restraint, pulling him so far backwards he thought his neck would snap. Standing awkwardly with his knees bent and his back arched, Vegeta could barely see Zhernobog looming over him.
"You're growing stronger, Prince Vegeta. Excellent. We will press on, then."
Vegeta could only scream helplessly in rage as the blade was once again plunged into his heart.
Bulma awoke with a start, her hand flying up to her heart. It was a sudden, jilting pang of anxiety that cut straight through her dreams. Immediately her mind went to Vegeta. She had been waking up like this ever since the night of his abrupt departure. She initially didn't think anything of it, attributing the jarring sensation to the stress surrounding their last fight. She didn't know where he was, and for all she knew he had walked out on them. Yet…
Bulma rubbed her aching chest, her face cracking with worry in the dark of her room. In spite of what her logical mind was telling her regarding his disappearance, she couldn't shake the feeling that something terrible had happened to him. Her mind swung back to Gohan's words: "…for a moment his energy felt kind of…alarmed."
She had to find him.