[ Contents | IV. A Village | V. After Sunset | VI. Dawn ]



By Dragoness Eclectic



As it grew dark, Trunks tried to explain to Goten why they couldn't have a fire. "Mom will see it, and she'd catch us. We have to stay secret, understand?"

"Too dark. Make a light?" Goten pleaded.

"If I do that, Gohan will sense my ki! Only if it's an emergency, okay?" Trunks dug in his pack; they'd already eaten the stuffed dumplings he'd packed for supper, and spread out the sleeping bags. "Here, I brought some chocolate. Have some."

Goten happily tore the wrapper off and crammed the bar in his mouth. "Tha'k 'u."

"You're welcome."

Trunks had been too busy setting up camp to notice the spectral village appear at twilight; by the time he was done, it was too dark to see. Goten, of course, had been watching it all day. Trunks was surprised that Goten hadn't wanted to run off and explore the ruins, but he did not even begin the guess the truth.

Up on the moutainside, something malevolent stirred deep within the ruined monastery. At long last, there were lives within its reach; young, fresh, strong lives for the taking. It was bound, and could not move--but its servants could. A whisper in darkness, in darkness answered. Four dark spirits rose from their long slumber; four shadows deeper than night took form, and crept down from the ruins towards the village. Above, an ancient evil put forth its hand, and sealed to itself everything within its reach.

* * *

By sunset, Goku was worried, and Chi-chi was frantic. Search as they would, there was simply no sign of Trunks or Goten. Chi-chi had thought of the obvious, and had Goku call Bulma on her satellite phone. He'd casually asked--not wanting to worry her about Trunks yet--if they had taken Goten with them. Bulma had sounded a bit odd, but no, they hadn't taken the kids with.

Chi-chi looked at Goku. "That's all she said? Something's wrong. Your question all but shouted 'the kids are missing', and she didn't even ask about Trunks?? That's not like her."

Goku didn't have an answer for her; something even more disturbing had his attention. Search and sense as he might, he could not feel or find Trunk's ki, or Goten's ki. It was as if they were in hiding.. or dead.

He looked at his wife. "I'll go check on Bulma; if something is wrong.." He tried to sense Gohan or Bulma's ki; to his horror, he realized that he couldn't sense them, either. It was as if they, too, had dropped off the face of the earth. It wasn't him; he could sense Chi-chi and Ox King in the house, Master Roshi in his hut on the island, Piccolo out in the desert, Tien and Chaozu at their place, Kulilin, Yamcha, Karin, so many, many others--but not his sons, and not his oldest friend and her son. And not Vegeta, but Goku at least knew why he could not sense his old enemy/comrade.

"Chi-chi," he said, his throat tight, "call Bulma again." Chi-chi looked at him oddly, and punched in the number. No answer; the phone was off or unreachable.

"I'm going to get Piccolo," he said. "Then we're going to find Gohan, and everyone else." Goku's face was set and grim. Chi-chi nodded mutely, and Goku headed out the door and took flight.

* * *

"I'm scared," Goten whimpered. "Bad things out there."

Trunks didn't know what was 'out there', but he didn't like it. There were things moving and stirring all around them in the old cemetery, and the worst thing was that Trunks couldn't sense them. They had no life force that he could feel, not even the dim glow of animals.

"Don't be scared, I'll protect you," Trunks said with forced bravado. He felt all cold and crawly inside, almost like.. fear. No! He was a Saiyan prince, he would not allow himself to be afraid! He gritted his teeth, and gathered power, all thoughts of secrecy forgotten.

"Make a light! Make a light!" Goten cried urgently. "It's a 'mergency. Nunk Rats says so!"

"I'll take your word for it." Trunks' ki flared up into a floating ball of light, illuminating the cemetery. His heart pounded and his breath seemed to catch in his throat; everywhere he looked, the ground stirred and heaved. Several grey, gaunt, almost skeletal forms crouched and crept toward him. One was almost close enough to spit on; it snarled and showed sharp, pointed teeth and hideously long, clawed fingernails.

Trunks shouted involuntarily and lashed out; his foot smashed into the monster's chin, shattering its jaw and breaking its neck. The thing reeled back--and stood up, its head lolling from side-to-side on its broken neck. It reached out for Trunks, who grabbed Goten and backed away from the thing in horror.

"Nunk Rats!" Goten yelled jubilantly. What the hell? Trunks couldn't see anything but the grey ghoul-things.

"Use your ki, Trunks! Burn the damn thing, NOW!" A fierce voice snarled out of the night, and for the briefest instant, Trunks thought he could sense a very strong ki--but very, very far away, somehow. He seized power and flung it.

The white blast of ki hit the ghoul-thing like a blowtorch hits paper; nothing but smoking bones dropped to the ground. They did not rise again. Three more monsters darted forward; Trunks blocked and struck with a flurry of attacks, then blasted the broken forms that still clutched for him with hungry claws.

"First lesson, young prince, in killing jiki-niku-gaki: slow them, if necessary, with physical attacks, but burn them to destroy them!" A soft, fierce voice, whose owner Trunks still could not see. There was something eerily familiar about the way he spoke--but no, it was not Father!--that would have raised the hairs on the back of his neck if they weren't already standing on end.

The voice continued, "Goten, if anything bad gets past Trunks, hit it as hard as you can. You are much stronger than you think, youngest warrior."

Several more of the ghoul-things rushed Trunks, only to meet the same fate as their predecessors. He panted with the exertion, his heart swelling with a fierce pride: he, Trunks, was a warrior like his father! With his own power, he killed monsters, and protected his little friend Goten. "Thank you, Father," he whispered, "for teaching me how to fight. And may I remember to thank Goku-san as well, when we get home."

Suddenly the ghoul-things stopped, and fell back. Trunks sensed something.. not right. Something malefic and insatiably hungry rose out of the night, beyond the jiki-niku-gaki. It appeared in the shape of a sickly green luminescent warrior, armed and armored as an ancient samurai. It raised its hand and gestured; the earth heaved and graves opened to reveal dozens more ghoul-things. Then the demonic warrior strode forward.

"Trunks, deal with the gaki; this one's mine."

To Trunks' amazement, a very big, powerful warrior appeared out of the night and landed lightly in front of him, facing the oncoming demon samurai. Trunks couldn't see many details; they were all obscured by the huge mane of hair spilling down the warrior's back--but he recognized the armor. It was very much like something his father once wore. Once again, that sense of powerful, but very distant ki...

"Nunk Rats!" Goten cheered, and then Trunks was too busy with the ghoul-things to worry about the stranger Goten seemed to know.

The demon samurai ghost hesitated at Raditz's appearance, bringing its spectral blade into guard position. Raditz could sense its voracious hunger for life force, for ki--and he knew that Trunks had no chance at all against the thing. Unlike the gaki, it had no physical form to block or strike, and it fed on ki; it would reach right through the young prince's defenses and drain his life away until the boy fell dead. Correction: it would have, except that Raditz was between it and its prey. Raditz grinned evilly, and raised his own blade.

A quick flurry of lunge, parry, feint, parry as the two spectral warriors circled, testing each other. Yes; the demon samurai was very skilled with his blade, more skilled than Raditz--but not fast enough.

Just.. (Parry, feint, a blur..)

..not.. (Raditz *behind* the samurai ghost-thing..)

..fast.. (A backhanded strike too fast to see..)

..enough! The demon ghost's hand and blade spun away, severed at the wrist. Raditz completed the circle, reversed his blade, and the counterstroke sent the other ghost's head and body flying in seperate directions. With a soul-chilling howl, the thing faded from sight; Raditz noted that the broken spirit fled upward, toward the mountainside--and the ruined monastery.

"You won't be back tonight."

Raditz turned to check on the kids. A flaring curtain of white fire dazzled him for a instant as it surrounded Trunks and Goten. What?? He's learning fast! The kid's getting good--figured out how to do an area blast in the middle of the fight! Raditz grinned.

Trunks stood, gasping for breath. Goten hugged Trunks tightly around the waist. All around them lay piles of smoking bones. Nothing else moved. He cooly regarded the ghostly warrior; he could see him clearly now. No doubt about it; the big man was a Saiyan: peaked, stiff hair so much like father's, the shape of his eyes and face, the distinctive armor, and, if there had been any doubt, the furred tail wrapped around the ghost's waist.

"You're Goten's 'Nunk Rats', aren't you? Who are you really? And why can I see and hear you now? Goten's seen you all along, hasn't he?"

Raditz returned Trunks' stare with one of equal coolness. "You have a lot of questions, young prince. And--" Raditz broke off, seeing two streaks of pallid blue and red light dart across the sky, toward the other end of the village--toward Gohan and Bulma. "No time for that! There's two more of them! Get over to Gohan, NOW! I can't defend you on opposite sides of the village at once, and Gohan doesn't know how to fight them!"

Raditz started through the village, then turned to glare at Trunks, who hadn't moved. Goten was frozen to his waist. "MOVE! Goten, forget the village ghosts--they're too scared of ME." He laughed evilly. At that, Goten let go of Trunks and ran pell-mell down the village street, Trunks on his heels. Raditz plunged through the air, a spectral white streak.

* * *

Bulma sat bolt upright. "Gohan! Wake up! I'm an idiot! Where's Trunks???"

"Huh? What?" Goku's oldest son blinked sleepily. "Isn't he at home?"

"You idiot! Goku called to ask if we had Goten--didn't that seem a bit strange to you? Goten is ALWAYS with Trunks; they were together when we left this morning. Ooooooh! If I hadn't been so rattled by those ghosts, I'd have known something was wrong! Get up, we're going back!" Still clad in her night shirt, Bulma fumbled around looking for her phone. "I'm going to call and find out just what is going on!"

She punched the codes in repeatedly; no signal. "That's funny, I can't get a link. Maybe outside.." She wandered out the front door, still fiddling with the satellite phone.

"Don't bother, I know where Trunks is." Gohan followed her outside, his voice odd. He pointed across the village; white light flared and subsided in the distance. "I can feel his ki; he's right over there, and he's in a fight. So is my little brother. I can't sense who they're fighting, though."

Bulma could hear the fear in his voice; it paralleled the fear in her heart. What was happening to her son? Gohan glowed with power and leaped into the air--

--and a lurid red streak flashed through the air and struck him. Gohan cried out and fell to the ground, his power extinguished. Looming over him was the form of an ancient samurai, glowing with a lurid red light. Bulma screamed and jumped back as a second spectral samurai appeared and struck at her, this one glowing a ghastly pale blue. She fell back into the camp house, and the phantom warrior hesitated, as if confused by the dome house in the middle of the field.

Gohan staggered to his feet, feeling weak. That monster's blow had stolen part of his power! He leaped into the air after it, dodging and striking. To his horror, his blows went right through it, hitting nothing but air. It counterattacked; Gohan dodged the spectral blade easily, but made the mistake of instinctively blocking the thing's bare left hand. The spectral hand plunged through his arm and into his body, and Gohan screamed as he felt his life being ripped away.

He fell away from the thing, hitting the ground heavily. As blackness rolled over him, the last thing he saw was an armored body slamming into the spectral red samurai; the last thing he heard was the crack of ghostly bones; and the last thing Gohan wondered was, "Where'd the Saiyan come from?"

Bulma took cover behind the bed, hoping the blue ghost warrior wouldn't see her. It ducked through the low doorway and entered the dome house slowly. It moved and hesitated, as if the small house confused it. Step by hesitant step, it drew steadily closer to Bulma. She backed up until there was no place left to retreat to; cornered, she faced the thing. It reached for her--

--And halted as a forlorn wail echoed off the walls, its head turned sharply toward the door. It plunged toward the door, seeming less confused on its way out than it had been coming in. Just as Bulma drew a deep breath of relief at her narrow escape, it stopped suddenly at the doorway. Bulma's heart shuddered momentarily; was it coming back? Then she realized it had halted with two feet of oddly translucent sword blade protruding from its back.

As she watched, a large hand grabbed its shoulder and pulled it forward, out of her sight. A blade swung and flashed; something howled its thwarted rage into the night. Bulma collapsed, shaking in reaction from her brush with death.

Something rushed through the grass outside; words were exchanged. A small figure peeked in the door.

"Nan Bulma okay?" asked Goten.

Bulma sat and stared at him dully; Goten was here? Then Trunks...

Worried by her silence, Goten toddled over to Bulma and hugged her. She grabbed him and hugged him back as hard as she could. "Oh, Goten! Yes, Nan Bulma is okay. I'm okay!" She kissed the little boy on his forehead. "Trunks, where's Trunks?"

"Trunks 'kay. Trunks help Gohan. Gohan's hurt," Goten said, looking worried. "Nunk Rats stopped bad red ghost that hurt Gohan." He hugged Bulma again. "I was scared. Trunks burned up bad things; Nunk Rats kill bad green ghost, an' get bad blue ghost that chased Nan Bulma." He hugged her some more. "Nunk Rats go watch bad yellow ghost up on mountain, an' Trunks help Gohan," Goten finished his report, climbing into Bulma's lap.

She cuddled the little boy. "You've been through a lot today, haven't you? There is one thing I still don't understand.."

"What, Nan Bulma?"


* * *


[ Contents | IV. A Village | V. After Sunset | VI. Dawn ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic