[ Contents | XI. Desperation | XII. Battle's End | Epilog ]



By Dragoness Eclectic



Time seemed to stand still as Raditz flung himself at the Opawang. I can't see the spell, he thought. Then something insubstantial slipped through his defenses, past his armor and skin and bone to grip his heart. The insubstantial became adamantine knives, and Raditz screamed as he felt his heart rip out of his chest, tearing bone and skin and armor apart.

His vision shifted as his power faded and he fell. Raditz saw the Opawang as he appeared in both this world and the next, all at once--and he understood. Gohan, flashing with golden power, smashed into the Opawang and flung him far, far away as Raditz's dying body crashed to earth.

Trunks was the first one to reach Raditz. His face was white with horror. "MOM! Help me, Raditz is hurt bad!" Bulma groaned, still stunned from her rough rescue.

Blood flooded the pavement; Raditz reached up and grabbed Trunks' vest. "No time.. I'm dying. Listen!.. I've seen.. his weakness.. Tell Gohan.. to push.. him.. harder.." Raditz spat blood. "Weakness.. is in the spirit.. realm. Opie can't.. defend.. himself.. both realms.. same.. time." Raditz's grip relaxed, and his arm fell. "I will.. take him out.. on.. the.. other side. Don't.. let.. him.. stop.. fighting.. in this.. world.." He shuddered, gasping for breath that wouldn't come. "Take.. leopard head... soul cage.."

Bulma crawled over to Raditz. "Raditz? Oh, no! Please, save your strength!"

"Silly.. woman." He managed half a smile. "Tell Kakarott.. I understand.. him.. now." One last shudder, and then stillness.

"NOOOOO!" Bulma screamed. She felt for a pulse, but already knew the answer. "Oh, Raditz!" She gently closed his eyes.

"Nunk Rats?" Goten's lip trembled, tears began to fill his eyes. Bulma hugged him, and turned him away from the carnage beside the spring.

"He's gone, baby, he's gone." Bulma began to weep. "Damn it, what is it with you stubborn, arrogant Saiyan bastards? As soon as I start caring about you, you go and die! And you had to die saving my life, didn't you?"

Golden light washed over them; Trunks looked up. "Gohan! Raditz said--"

"I know, I heard it all. My senses are enhanced, like my strength, and power." He looked off in the distance, and nodded grimly. "I'll push him all right; the bastard won't have time to breathe!" Gohan vanished, a golden streak across the sky.

Trunks hugged his mother tightly; his tears mingled with hers. "Mom, I know we can't use the dragonballs to get Father back, but can we use them for.." he nodded at Raditz's still form.

Bulma wiped the tears from her face. "Yes! Yes, we can, and we will! I swear if we survive this mess, we will get Raditz back!" She looked around for Goten, who had wandered off. He stood near the pool of blood, looking puzzled. He looked at Raditz's body, and then up at the sky, and back again.

"Nan Bulma, how come two Nunk Rats?"

* * *

Awareness returned, or rather, awareness of being aware. Raditz looked down on his own corpse, and knew himself again.

What a mess! If I ever go back, I'll need to get new armor. That set isn't good for much anymore. Heh. Body inside it doesn't look too good, either. Damn. I liked life. At least I died for something a lot better than my own stupidity, this time.

Ah, Bulma, I've hurt you where you've already been terribly hurt--I never meant to do that. You weren't supposed to like me, damn it! And don't you dare feel guilty for living, woman! Trunks needs you on your feet and fighting--yeah, that's it. So you'd use the dragonballs for me? Damn. Didn't know I'd made THAT good an impression.

Aw, Goten! Bulma's going to hate this--especially if she ever figures out I dumped it on her, but-- "Hey, Goten! Get Bulma to explain it to you--I'm going to be real busy helping Gohan beat up the bad guy, but don't worry. Uncle Raditz will be around. Maybe not fun for a while, but I'll be there for you. And maybe after the fight's over, I can explain things a bit more."

Now how's Boy Wonder doing with Hornhead? Oh, yeah! Opie isn't too happy right now, is he? Keep him busy, Gohan. I see the skeins and weave of his power...

The ghost katana returned to Raditz's right hand, as he stalked the Opawang across the spirit plane. Silver threads of stolen power spun an umbilical from the spirit fortress to the Opawang's manifested presence. Raditz followed that silver cord into the heart of the fortress, the Opawang's throne room. Each silver thread led to one of the statues, statues glowing with the light of trapped souls. Waiting for him was the ghost of the Water Ochimo, sword poised.

"You just don't know when to quit, do you?" Raditz smiled evilly.

* * *

Gohan continued with the routine he'd worked out--grab the Opawang by a leg or arm--a gentle grip did no damage, and gave the fire shield nothing to turn back against him--and then slam the Opawang as hard as he could against the nearest chunk of landscape. The Opawang usually broke when he did that, only to reshape himself and jaunt away. Then Gohan would chase him down.

This time the Opawang appeared behind him, apparently thinking Gohan would not notice, and started to incant a spell. Gohan seized him by the jaw--again gently, to avoid setting off the fire shield--and crushed his face. That stopped the spell. This time, Gohan remembered to rip the gold leopard's head clasp off before he threw the Opawang deep into the mountain.

"Oops, don't want to let him get too deep, he might have time to pay attention to things elsewhere. Better pull him out again." Gohan gleefully plunged after the sorceror.

* * *

The broken spirit of the Water Ochimo fled, wailing and gnashing its teeth. Two swipes of Raditz's ghost blade cut all the silver cords; two more sweeping blows destroyed the statues, freeing the trapped souls, who milled about, looking for their bodies.

"Village, out through the roof, thataway." Raditz pointed, and launched himself through the new hole in the roof, looking for the Opawang.

Opie's probably noticed that--I've got to move fast, and pray Gohan keeps him extra busy.

* * *

This time the Opawang tried hiding behind illusion, but his evil ki was a beacon of blazing darkness to Gohan. Gohan grabbed him and impaled him on the roof spire of his own keep, then blew the roof away, dropping him to the floor below. He flew down and picked up the stunned Opawang, and started the routine all over again.

* * *

My, the Boy Wonder has been keeping Hornhead busy! He's still got his power reserves, though--that's what goes first.

Raditz studied the wonderfully complex cloak of energies and forms that made up the Opawang's spirit realm presence. His soul, his spirit form, his life force, that odd energy-draining shadow cloak, and his vast reserve of magical power were all bound by an unnaturally tight and unbreakable bond to his physical body. Raditz sensed that the bond itself was tied to a Name, and if he'd known that Name, Raditz could have untied the bond as easily as pulling on a shoelace.

But, he didn't. Fortunately, unbreakable didn't mean uncuttable. Two-handed grip for precision and power, destruction without anger, act without doubt, purpose true and remembered-- the ghost katana struck! The bond between that nimbus of power and the other six forms parted and snapped; Raditz ripped away that cloud of power. The flood of released power overwhelmed him before he could reject it, deflect most of it away; he reeled, stunned in the tidal bore of power.

* * *

The Opawang screamed in mortal agony, the first cry of pain Gohan had ever heard from him. He wrenched his broken form from the rocks, and teleported again. Gohan panicked; he was at the spring again! Who would die this time? He sped toward them at incomprehensible speeds, and was there in a heartbeat.

The Opawang grabbed for Goten; Gohan grabbed the sorceror by his long hair and threw him across the valley. He hit the valley wall hard, and did not get up.

"What? His power isn't coming back the way it did every time before!" Gohan glanced at Raditz's gory corpse. "You did something to him, didn't you? I wish you could talk to me the way you do to Goten."

Gohan flew towards his enemy. "He's not dead! He's way down in power, and all messed up, but he's not dying. Great, maybe he really is immortal."

The Opawang rose, his flame nimbus still surrounding him. A black aura flickered and shimmered around his broken body. Blood covered him; broken ends of bone cut through his skin. His horns were dull and lightless; he looked like a corpse walking. He lived.

"You still cannot win, for I cannot die! Your friend will pay an eternity of agony for that foul blow--his soul cannot escape this valley while I will it. Yours will join him in torment, and I will devour the children while you watch, helpless and damned."

"Shut your foul mouth!" Gohan grabbed the Opawang again, and cried out as the sorceror seized him with two icy cold hands, cold with a black cold that seared and drained the very life from him. Where his own hand touched the Opawang, there too his life and power poured out.

"AAAAAAHHHHH!" Gohan tore himself away from the Opawang's grasp, and the sorceror vanished again, but not before Gohan sensed that his power had returned--or rather, been replenished from Gohan's stolen power. "Owww! Watch out for the black aura, that's another nasty trick of his."

He sensed the sorceror--back in the fortress again. "Here we go again."

* * *

Raditz finally pulled himself free of the explosion of power, and found the Opawang again. Oh-ho, he's using that shadow-cloak thingy on Gohan? That means he's not using it on me. Let's give the bastard something to worry about. Raditz struck again, freeing the unnaturally tight bond between life force and body. He retreated, fast, as shadowy tendrils returned to the spirit realm and reached for him. "Gohan, get back in there!"

* * *

Gohan plunged into the castle, wary of traps. Then he heard Raditz's voice--"Gohan, get back in there!" His eyes went wide, and he blasted through the wall into the Opawang's private chamber. The Opawang whirled, angry, but completely healed. Flame nimbus surrouned him, but the black aura did not--yes it did, it just returned. The sorceror sneered, knowing Gohan dared not touch him, and raised a hand, started to incant a spell--

Gohan brought the roof down. For good measure, he blew the floor out, too, and let the Opawang be caught between two layers of broken stone. Oops, can't leave him to his own devices down there--but what's this? "His power is down again--and weakening! He's hurt; he's really hurt!"

* * *

Raditz struck again, at the deadliest remaining power. The shadow cloak was ripped, but didn't want to come away; Raditz struck again, and loosened the bond between soul and body.

Good, now he can't come back as an undead, life-sucking animated corpse. Once this job is finished, he can go to Hell like the rest of us evil bastards. Oh, wait a minute--I didn't loosen the bond between his spirit form and his physical body. I guess that means his spirit form will always be that of his rotting corpse. Tough break that.

Oh, crud. I might have to deal with this bastard in Hell some day. Don't need to make it more unpleasant than necessary.

Raditz sighed, and struck the final blow.

* * *

Gohan was telekinetically lifting the stone off the Opawang when he heard Raditz again. "Kid, kill the bastard. Just blast him with everything you've got, his special powers are GONE." Gohan thought he heard a wicked laugh, a laugh that gave him chills to remember. Then he uncovered the Opawang.

The broken sorceror looked up at him. "Damn you, brat! I curse you from Hell's heart, I call upon mine ancient pact, O Child of Chaos damn them to--"

"KA-ME-HA-ME-HA!" SWHOOMMM! The bright blast of energy disintegrated the Opawang, and turned the universe to a brilliant white and black negative of itself. Gohan rose through the broken roof, still pouring down destruction. Several minutes later, he finally stopped. Dust and ash billowed up in a tremendous cloud, towering high above the valley.

"Gohan! Listen--one last thing. Take the leopard's head to the spring, and break it. Hurry, Mountain Sister's getting angry at all the abuse she's been taking."

"Raditz? Oh, yeah." Gohan looked around at the destruction, noting all the holes and craters and chunks gouged out of the mountainside. "I guess she's got good reason." He flew down to the spring, leaving a sonic boom in his wake.

He landed beside the grotto, and crushed the gold leopard's head on the rocks of the spring. The earth began shake, and the waters to foam and rush. A wind howled outside.

"Gohan, what are you doing?" Bulma screamed from outside. "And how did you bring all the villagers back to life?"

"What?" He stepped out of the grotto. Bulma was holding the farm girl, who looked confused and terrified, but very much alive. He glanced at Raditz's body, but it was still very much dead. He shook his head. "I don't know, unless killing the Opawang did it." Gohan had to shout over the rising fury of water and wind.

Water rose from the spring, and solidified into the form of an inhumanly beautiful woman--moss green hair adorned with water lotus, translucent body of blue-green water-glass, carnelian eyes. Bulma's jaw dropped; it was the kami of the spring, the image in the pool brought to life.

"Mother!" she cried out. "Stop! Harm them not--they have set me free! The Opawang is no more, they have slain him--immortal no more, he is destroyed! WE ARE FREE!"

The mountain answered; Bulma and Gohan watched in awe as Black Earth Mountain shrugged, and the great crater where the Opawang's fortress once stood was buried beneath a million tons of rock and dirt--a mighty landslide that thundered down the mountain, and parted to pass the spring and village by on either side.

* * *

"Piccolo!" Goku called, "the barrier is gone. I can see a valley there now."

"Something's happening," the Namek pointed out, as dust rose high into air.

"I can sense them! They're all alive, and there's some other powers, too. Let's get down there!"

* * *

Black Earth River Daughter glided across the blood-stained pavement and knelt beside dead Raditz. She caressed him gently, washing away the blood with her spring waters. "Thou and thine hast destroyed mine oppressor and freed me, brave warrior, and released my mother from slavery. Shall I be less generous than thee, who gave everything? Alas! I am niggardly besides thee--but what I can give, I give thee."

She kissed him, long and deep; Raditz's body shuddered, and his eyes opened. She gave him one last caress, and vanished back into the spring.

Raditz sat up slowly, feeling his chest with one hand. The cruel wound was gone, healed as if it had never been. He looked at Bulma and Gohan, Trunks and Goten with wonder and awe. "That.. was one sweet kiss! I'm.. alive!"

"Nunk Rats?" Goten looked hopeful. "Nunk Rats fun?"

Raditz smiled. "Yeah kid, it's fun--" Goten jumped into his arms and hugged him before he could finish.

Trunks sidled over and regarded Raditz silently. Finally, he spoke. "Thank you. I didn't get to say that before, and--"

Gohan's head whipped up. "DAD! PICCOLO!" His joyous shout echoed off the mountains.

Goku dropped out of the sky onto the edge of the pavement; Piccolo hovered above, looking boggled.

Goku glanced quickly around, and stopped to stare half-horrified at his formerly dead older brother, who was holding his youngest son Goten. He couldn't help remembering another time, when Raditz had taken his screaming, terrified son--but this time, his youngest son was unafraid and--laughing?

"Raditz?? How?" Without waiting for explanation, he glanced at Bulma, Gohan, and Trunks. "Glad to see everyone is okay.. I think." He looked hard at Gohan's burnt gi and blistered arms, Bulma's bruised arms and legs, Raditz's shattered armor, and the copious bloodstains on the pavement.

"Kakarott, you missed all the fun!" Raditz smirked. "Demon warriors, ghouls, an immortal evil sorceror, a beautiful nature kami freed from slavery, the young prince come into his heritage, raising the dead--including my own charming self--and one hell of a good fight. You would have loved it!"

Bulma rolled her eyes. "Well, some of us have a different word than 'fun' for screaming in terror and trying to find a safe place to hide with the kids, but--" She looked at her old friend Goku.

"Goku, he saved our lives. If it weren't for Raditz, we'd all be dead--or worse. ALL of us." Bulma glanced significantly at Gohan. He nodded in confirmation.

Raditz got to his feet and handed the delighted Goten to his father, much to Goku's surprise and relief. Goten started telling his daddy everything that had happened, in his usual fashion. After about the fifth "Nunk Rats", Goku looked quizzically at Raditz.

"Raditz?" Raditz smiled slyly. Goku looked at Goten, who was pouting because Daddy wasn't listening. "Goten, who's that?"

Goten looked exasperated, and yelled "Nunk Rats!"

Goku looked at Raditz again, and then something clicked. "Goten, who's your grandpa?"

"Nox King!"

"So that's Uncle Raditz?"

"Yep, Nunk Rats!"

Goku looked suspiciously at Raditz. "He's been saying that for weeks. How did he know?"

"You didn't know, Kakarott? The kid can see ghosts--just like his grandfather the Ox King."

"You've been here, as a ghost??" Goku's jaw dropped.

"It's a long story, Kakarott--it started in Hell between me and Vegeta, and it winds up.. here, with me alive."

"You just can't rid of some people," Piccolo commented sarcastically.

Raditz glanced at his one-time killer. "No, but you can ignore them like you wish they weren't there."

Goku looked around again. "It looks like you've all been through some kind of terrible ordeal, but everyone's alive, at least. Chi-chi will be so happy to know that everyone's okay. She was worried sick about Goten and Gohan."

Bulma smacked herself. "In all this happy excitement, I forgot to see if the phone worked." She pulled out her satellite phone and started punching in ident codes. She tapped her foot in impatience; finally a connection was made. "Chi-chi, this is Bulma.." She frowned, and waited a moment. "Dad? What are you doing there? Chi-chi fainted? She does that. Listen, tell Chi-chi and whoever else is there that we're all fine, and Goku and Piccolo caught up with us, and we'll all be heading home as soon as we can get the cars loaded up. Tell Chi-chi someone needs to pick up extra groceries--if it's the usual bunch of useless layabouts, I suppose Chi-chi will be stuck with that job, because we've got," she looked the group over, "one, two, three, four, five hungry Saiyans coming home for dinner. No, we didn't get Vegeta back this time, but I've got some news of him, at least. Bye!"

Bulma looked at Goku. "Yes, it's been a terrible ordeal, and, like Raditz said, it's a looong story--one that will be worth telling AFTER a bath, clean clothes, and a hot meal!"

She frowned at Raditz, who was counting Saiyans in the group, and kept coming back to himself as number five. "Yes, you, Raditz! You're coming home with us--you need a place to stay and I have plenty of space, and you're the only one who can fill in about half this story, so you damn well better come!"

Goku looked intently at his older brother. "You're.. different. You're not like you were eight years ago."

Raditz smiled. "I'm not the only who has changed--who would have mourned for Vegeta eight years ago? I was a fool and a bully back then--but we've already had this talk, haven't we, Kakarott?"

"What do you mean?" Goku was guarded, calm.

"Have you forgotten? A demon castle, you and Vegeta and a fine selection of your dead enemies?"

"I thought that was a dream!" Goku marvelled.

"Heh. Quite the dream, then--shared between two brothers, one living and one dead. A dream that brought peace to the one dead." There was a strange look on Raditz's face.

"Yes, I do remember our talk.. brother." Goku smiled. He clapped Raditz on the shoulder. "Let's go home."

"Nunk Rats come home, be fun all time?" Goten yawned sleepily, head resting on Goku's shoulder.

"Yeah, kid, I'll be there--or maybe at Bulma's place." Raditz reached over and ruffled Goten's hair fondly.

"Nan Bulma fun," Goten agreed.

"And it's my job to make sure she stays that way, little one."

"Huh?" Bulma interjected, distracted from her task of decanting the aircar capsule and packing. "What do you mean by that?"

"I did promise Vegeta I'd keep an eye on you and the young prince and protect you as best I could. That promise doesn't go away just because I'm alive now." Raditz's tail twitched.

Bulma looked a bit stunned as the implications sank in. "That means--"

"That means you have a loyal Saiyan Royal Guardsman, my dear princess consort. Enjoy it!" Raditz grinned mischievously, tail switching.

Trunks' eyes were wide. "Cool!"

* * *


[ Contents | XI. Desperation | XII. Battle's End | Epilog ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic