Dragon Ball/Z/GT Fan Fiction ❯ Touketsu ❯ A Mirror Image ( Chapter 9 )
A Mirror Image
The next morning, Bulma left Trunks with her parents and took one of her hover jets to the Imoy Mountains. Gohan said it was this area that he and Piccolo had sensed Vegeta, and while the chances were very low that he was still here, she didn't have any other leads.
After her phone conversation with Gohan, It had later occurred to the teen that Vegeta may have gone into the long unused Hyperbolic Time Chamber. At that suggestion Bulma had brightened; Of course! She just didn't understand why that wouldn't have been the first place he would have gone, instead having a tantrum in the mountains first. It made sense though; it was a place where he could train intensely without any interruptions. Once he entered the strange pocket dimension that was the mysterious room, his ki would have disappeared. The hopeful lead was dashed however when Piccolo soon after confirmed with Dende and Popo that he had never stepped foot on The Lookout.
Bulma banked the hover jet as she made her way towards the mountain range, and her breath caught in her throat at the sight below: all over, dark, days-old blood spattered the snow-covered foothills. Peering down, she could see the numerous animal corpses littering the land, now being fed upon by opportunistic and grateful scavengers. Bulma leveled out her jet to stare straight ahead as she journeyed on to her destination. With unnerving clarity, she realized why Vegeta didn't go to The Lookout:
He didn't want to train. He wanted to destroy.
At last she reached the peaks of the Imoy Mountains. She could see clear as day where Vegeta had caused his destruction; vast areas of destroyed land and the aftermath of ensuing avalanches stood out in stark contrast to the surrounding mountains that survived his wrath. The small aircraft descended to hover low over the disturbed land. While the little jet was speedy, its landing gear was not suitable for use in the mountainous terrain. She set the aircraft on idle and opened the cockpit door. Bracing her arms against the entrance, she leaned out a bit to look around.
An avalanche had occurred here, but then there were multiple areas where this had obviously happened. The branches of downed conifers stuck out here and there through the uneven blanket of snow. Other than that, she found nothing. Her brow creased with stress. Really, what did she hope to find? She was about to cup her hands to her mouth and call for him when she stopped. The last thing she needed to do was cause an avalanche herself while her aircraft was hovering low like it was. She was going to pull up and try anyway when she realized she didn't need to call for him; if he was here he'd sense her. Whether or not he'd come to see her was another question altogether.
She leaned up against the doorjamb and rubbed her forehead in defeat. He wasn't here, was he? It had been days; if he was alive then he likely would have gone elsewhere. She felt her eyes beginning to burn and a lump form in her throat. Taking a breath, she focused on what she could do. If Gohan couldn't feel his ki, he may not necessarily be dead, but he may in fact be severely injured.
She could file a missing persons report and have a rescue crew come out here to comb the area. God, it sounded so stupid to her. There was no way Vegeta could have been killed or injured in an avalanche of all things…could he? She could at least rule out that unthinkable possibility by enlisting the help of the authorities, but then she and Trunks would without doubt have to weather the ensuing media storm if she were to do that. While Vegeta was far from being in the public eye, Bulma and Capsule Corp were not. The last thing she wanted to do was traumatize her son further.
Bulma decided she would simply ask her friends to aid her in finding him. The fighters' powers of flight and enhanced abilities enabled them to cover far more ground than any ordinary human search and rescue crew could. If it was confirmed that he was dead then there would be nothing else that could be done…for now. It would be nearly a year before the Dragon Balls were recharged and they could be picked up on the radar, but as soon as she was able, she would begin gathering them. Bulma still harbored the hope that he was off somewhere keeping a very low profile. Maybe he had in fact taken a space capsule and gone off-world. Perhaps between the search for him and the search for the Dragon Balls, Vegeta would simply come home…if only to formerly tell her goodbye so that they could both move on.
Vegeta slowly came to. For a brief moment he thought he had dreamt the whole thing until the icy grip of the gelid atmosphere dug its claws into him, piercing through his consciousness. He opened his to eyes to his frigid, cavernous surroundings, and the despair that he was still in this waking nightmare came crashing down on him. He had no clue as to how long he had been trapped here now. It could have been days.
He pushed himself up to his knees. Shivering, he crossed his arms over his bare chest as he tried to recall the last thing that had happened. Zhernobog had subjected the Saiyan to the torturous conditioning relentlessly. Unlike before, they did not leave to allow him an extended period to recover; when Zhernobog did pause in the abuse he was inflicting it had been just long enough to allow him to catch his breath. The last torture session had gone on non-stop seemingly for hours until Vegeta finally blacked out. Unconsciousness seemed to be what it took for the creatures to finally leave him and allow him a real period of rest. He had been consumed in a helpless rage, and it occurred to him that he hadn't felt that out of control in a long time. Now however, he again felt drained. He didn't know how long he had been out.
He held his hands out in front of himself before turning them over. Even in the dim light he could see that the skin had grown pale and waxy, and the blue hue in his hands and fingertips had worsened. He was relieved that he didn't appear to be developing frostbite…yet. He flexed his hands in an effort to help his circulation, the bluish skin whitening as it stretched over his tendons and knuckles. He crossed his arms again and put his hands under his armpits to warm them. It finally occurred to him that, curiously, he had not felt the need to eat, much less go to the bathroom. It was almost as though he was stuck in a state of suspended animation.
" 'You're not dead,' " he muttered, shuddering as he quoted Zhernobog. "Hn, could have fooled me. This may as well be Hell." His mind went to Kakarot. Death was no big deal to him, was it? He had even opted out of being brought back to life after sacrificing his body during the battle with Cell. He chose to leave his family behind for the supposed good of them and the entire planet. In spite of Gohan's strong and optimistic front, Vegeta could tell that the then adolescent Gohan grappled with his father's decision. When the youth visited Capsule Corp, Vegeta picked up on his facial expression, the tone of his voice, and the subtle shift in the boy's ki when Bulma would off-handedly mention his father's name. While the prince wasn't one to key in on others' emotions, that sense of a father's abandonment was one Vegeta could recognize all too well.
Vegeta stiffened as a thought suddenly occurred to him: while he had been stuck in this place for gods knew how long, Trunks would think he abandoned him. Hell, Bulma would think he fucking ran away! That notion galvanized him. "That's it. That is IT," Vegeta said under his breath. "I won't lie here and wait for these blasted things to return this time. I'm finding a way out of here."
With effort, Vegeta pushed himself up to stand on shaky legs before again hugging his arms around himself. He was weakened, and that weight in his chest was there. At least while he had been unconscious he had been spared the agony of ruminating on the darkness of his memories. However, he felt them beginning to stir the longer he was awake, and with great difficulty he pushed them away and shifted his thoughts: he had to focus on his escape when he had the chance - they could be back at any time. He looked warily around. His surroundings appeared as they had upon his arrival; vague shapes of icy cave walls dissolved into the darkness, barely discernible beyond the dimly glowing stalagmites of ice. He began to walk towards his left.
He could see the carved, conchoidal surface of the icy wall ahead, spots of the strange incandescence glowing weakly through it here and there through the gloom. With every step however it was as though the wall moved further away. At the very least his continued movement was helping his circulation somewhat, mollifying the numbness that pervaded his body. It seemed to take ages, but at last he reached the parameter. He placed his hands on the curving, icy surface, his constantly trembling body protesting when he uncrossed his arms. Could he scale it? He craned his neck up. The wall towered seemingly unending into the black atmosphere beyond the murky, wickedly pointed icicles. Would he be able to get past those icy spears? Could there be anything at the top but a ceiling? Was there a top at all?
He looked back to the wall of ice, bracing his hands against it and testing the surface with his foot. Damnit. It wouldn't matter whether or not there was anything at the top if he couldn't find his footing; the slippery, concave formations that comprised the wall made it an impossibility to scale it. He was acutely missing his ability to levitate now. He would have to search for a section of the wall that he could actually climb. He made his way down to his right, feeling along the slick, curving surface for any craggy areas - cracks, outcroppings, anything he could get a footing on. He was not having any luck. If anything the wall was becoming smoother and more vertical the further he moved down. He came upon a section of the wall that was flat and almost as a smooth as a mirror when he caught his vague reflection. He faltered when the ghostly glow that pulsed through the blackness of the ice seemed to strengthen; it had the strange effect of illuminating his very reflection. Almost in a trance from the eerie phenomenon and against his better judgement, he stopped to study it, his expression growing grim at what he saw.
His skin had become deathly pallid. The hollows of his cheeks and the skin under his blood shot eyes were tinted with sickly blue shadows. But there was something else. Vegeta scowled, and he hesitantly leaned closer. He drew a hand up to the smooth surface, as if looking for some sort of deception, before bringing his fingertips to his face. Beneath each eye, as though his tears had burned pathways, were two reddened markings etching down either side of his pale cheeks. Without conscious intent, the face of his former master flashed through his mind. He recoiled, grimacing, and in doing so noticed yet another change. He froze in shock before running his tongue experimentally over his top teeth. He finally became aware of something he hadn't before, so fixated on his escape:
He had fangs.
His eyes widened in horrified surprise and his head snapped back to his reflection. Reluctantly, he leaned closer into the cliff face, his nose inches from its mirrored surface. He tilted his head to the side, hooking a shaking finger beneath the corner of his upper lip for a better look. Yes, they were there; not too long but definitely pointed, they grew from the top row of his teeth. He drew away. "Wha…what is happening to me?" he croaked to himself.
Suddenly his reflection swam with swirling, black forms like leeches beneath the translucent surface. Vegeta reeled backwards in surprise and dismay, watching the black tendrils reach the surface of the wall to drip down to the ground like pitch. He turned to watch them crawl across the ground to surround him in a wide semicircle, and the forms of the Kagemazoku drew upwards to take shape.
His back literally up against the wall, Vegeta scanned the towering creatures encircling him. His eyes settled on their leader, and without intending to, he bared his fangs. "What did you do to me? What is happening?" he demanded.
Zhernobog chuckled. "We see your training is beginning to pay off," he said, pleased. "We are doing nothing but drawing out that which is already there. Reconnecting with the emotions attached to your memories is affecting a change in you. It is awaking parts of you that have long lain dormant."
Vegeta turned this over in his head, the tip of his tongue touching a fang behind a now tightly closed mouth. He finally spoke. "What are you saying? That I'm somehow...," he paused, raising an eyebrow. "Am I becoming the Oozaru?"
"As I told you, Prince Vegeta, The Oozaru is a part of your DNA. It is forever a part of what you are. It makes you what you are…as does your past." Zhernobog paused for a moment. "You are making excellent progress. We shall continue to cultivate your power." The Kagemazoku began to close in.
"…Like hell you will," Vegeta hissed. He didn't care if he couldn't possibly win. He'd had enough of taking this shit lying down like a beaten cur. He was Saiyan, damnit. He would fight with every ounce of strength he had at his disposal, however little was left. Unbidden, the image of Frieza standing over his destroyed body on Namek, laughing, flitted through his mind. A rush of adrenaline and renewed rage coursed through his body, and his suddenly super-heated blood made him feel as though he would spontaneously combust. With a primal roar, Vegeta lunged. Holding his hand and fingers straight out in the shape of a blade, he swung his arm in the direction of the nearest shadow soldier.
A small flash of blue and purple light laced up Vegeta's arm as it made contact with its target. With a shriek the Kagemazoku was sliced in half, the pieces collapsing with a splash into a pool of blackness before disappearing. The reaction from the remaining Kagemazoku was instantaneous; they reeled away from the prince, and even their leader receded back a pace.
Vegeta was momentarily stunned. Was that ki? Encouraged, a fanged grin tugged at his lips. Forcing his body to move as quickly as it could, he proceeded to round on the others.
He didn't make if far before they retaliated.
Quickly encircling Vegeta, The Kagemazoku manifested their weapons: the hands of several soldiers transformed into swords of obsidian ice while those of others took the form of sickle-shaped, chained weapons. The latter flung the icy, kusarigama-like blades out towards him, and Vegeta dropped to the ground as they sailed over his head. He immediately got back up, glancing over his shoulder to see one of the demons swinging a sword down on him. He dodged to one side and retaliated, grasping it by the arm before driving a hand straight into the creature. A flash of dark indigo light emanated as it made contact before his target collapsed into shadows. His hands laced with the strange, dark ki, he suddenly seemed able to grapple and engage them as any other enemy. While he was unable to deploy the energy, the enhanced strikes seemed to be enough to take them down.
He spun around just as another sword was swung towards his midsection. He leapt back and just barely dodged being eviscerated, but the blade managed to graze across his abdomen, leaving a blackened slash across his flesh. Never slowing down, Vegeta lunged as the demon was recovering from its miss, plunging his hand straight into it and reducing it to watery shadows.
Vegeta put a hand to his wounded stomach, his body suddenly feeling very slow and heavy. From his peripheral vision he saw another kusarigama sail towards him from his left. Sluggishly, he just barely leaned out of its trajectory when another struck him in his side from the right. Vegeta cried out in surprise and pain before reflexively grabbing the chain attached to the weapon. Livid, he yanked over the demon attached to it and vengefully plunged his hand into the creature, completely dissipating it in a flash of ultraviolet light. The sickle shaped blade remained lodged under his ribs, and without another thought he grasped it and wrenched it out. Like the Kagemazoku soldier seconds before, it melted from his hand into inky shadows.
Vegeta blinked, swaying on his feet a bit before realizing that the other soldiers were now holding their ground, watching him. Vegeta's hand drifted up to his wounded side. The kusarigama left behind a deep, blackened wound that dripped with smokey energy, chasing away the fire within him. The icy poison crawled through his veins, turning his limbs to lead, robbing him of his energy and will. The sensation was almost identical to Zhernobog's vampiric attack: it felt like the utmost despair he had experienced countless times in his life. His posture drooping, his hands fell to his sides.
Two of the creatures behind him suddenly thrust their hands upward. Instantly, shackles of smoky ice shot out of the frozen stone floor and snapped around Vegeta's wrists as he flinched in surprise. Jarred out of his lethargy, he grabbed one of the long chains in a knee-jerk attempt to snap it. Before he could, a sharp, numbing cold emanated from the shackles to pierce his wrists. Vegeta gasped in shock and pain as the sensation bore right into the marrow. Its intensity increased as it raced through his arms, into his spine, and up through the cervical vertebrae before drilling into the base of his skull.
Crying out in agony, Vegeta arched his back as his hands went to the back of his head. Struggling to stay standing, he staggered as he felt the energy being subdued and bound deep within him beyond his grasp. He grit his teeth, trying in vain to reconnect with that strange, elusive power he wielded just moments ago. It was gone. His hands still braced tightly against the back of his head, he screwed his eyes shut as his brow furrowed in anguish. "No."
"Most impressive, Prince Vegeta," Breathing heavily, Vegeta sluggishly lifted his head to squint up at Zhernobog through one pained, reddened eye. The demon king's form rippled and multiplied as all his fallen minions re-emerged from him.
Vegeta's eyes widened as his mouth fell open in dismay. What?
The Kagemazoku behind him made a backwards motion with their hands. The chains swiftly retracted back into the ground, nearly ripping Vegeta's arms out of their sockets as he was yanked off his feet with a ferocious jerk. A sickening crack echoed through the cavern when the back of his head rebounded off the frozen cave floor. Stunned, Vegeta's head lolled to the side, his shadow rimmed eyes vacant. He was only vaguely aware of the sensation of warm blood pooling beneath his head when he felt Zhernobog Daimao's chilling presence draw close.
The demon king knelt down beside Vegeta, his shadowy robes curling and spreading like blackened, dry ice to drift over the Saiyan's shuddering, vulnerable form. "You are willful, Prince Vegeta," Zhernobog spoke quietly near his ear.
Vegeta slowly blinked. Trembling from the hypothermia that had quickly reclaimed him upon being bound, he weakly turned his head to squint blearily up at the demon king.
"That won't be too conducive to our efforts, I'm afraid."
The chains began to steadily pull Vegeta backwards. They drew him up against the smooth wall of ice behind him, pulling his arms up over his head and out to the sides. His breathing labored, Vegeta lethargically lifted his head and watched Zhernobog drift over the trail of blood leading up to him. "Your abilities are developing quite nicely, but we cannot have you wasting your precious energy fighting us. It must be grown and stored, only to be released at the appropriate time."
Vegeta squeezed his eyes shut, his brows drawing together in pain and hopelessness as he rested the back of his bleeding head up against the wall. Then the features on his deathly pale face relaxed a little, and he snorted humorlessly. He began to chuckle. Mirthless at first, the soft sound soon developed into full-blown, mocking laughter. Zhernobog and his minions watched him stoically as tears of now hysterical laughter began to flow down over the red lesions that trailed down over his cheeks.
Vegeta finally composed himself. Grinning, his fangs glinting in the the low light, he opened his bloodshot eyes to meet Zhernobog's black gaze. "You want to keep doing this?" he asked, his speech now stuttering from the cold that had again gripped him. He chuckled. "You WANT to bring out the Oozaru? Ha ha…be my guest. The Oozaru have brought entire civilizations to their knees, leveled planets, and I can control the form. I get that power back, and I won't hesitate to crush you all," he hissed maliciously. Vegeta began laughing again, Tosho manifesting from Zhernobog's right hand even as the prince continued his delirious tirade. "I'll kill you all. I'LL KILL YOU ALL!" He laughed, the sound border-line mad.
A slow smile spread over Zhernobog's thin, cracked lips as he patiently waited for the Saiyan to finish his diatribe. "So you say, Prince Vegeta. However, you will eventually find that as your old, dark memories are resurrected, your newer, lighter memories will be displaced. You will forget about your life on planet Earth, you will forget why you stayed there, and you will once again remember what it is to serve."
Vegeta's defiant grin slowly faded at Zhernobog's ominous words until he was glaring up at the Kagemazoku king with pure venom. Without breaking his gaze, the demon positioned Tosho over Vegeta's heart. The blade, swimming with the dark light of the Saiyan prince's tortured memories, glowed between the two. Vegeta's breathing quickened in apprehension, but he refused to break eye contact with the monster, or even blink. He straightened his posture and clenched his jaw. He would not cry out. This thing would not break him.
Again, the blade was plunged into his heart.