[ Contents | VI. Dawn | VII. Secrets | VIII. At the Spring ]



By Dragoness Eclectic



"Something dark." Gohan stared at the monastery on the mountain's slope. Both kids were napping, and Bulma was yawning. Gohan still looked thin and tired, like he'd been ill for a week. He'd been staring at the monastery, apparently lost in thought. "Something with a lot of secrets."

Bulma looked at Gohan, determined. "Secrets we're going to learn; I don't know what we're facing, but it's got a weakness, and we're going to find out what it is."

"It might not have a weakness, any more than Frieza did." Gohan sounded demoralized.

"Bad example, kiddo. Whatever is here, doesn't want us talking to the outside world, and it doesn't want us leaving--it doesn't want us to bring in Goku and Piccolo and everyone. It's afraid there's someone out there that can stop whatever it is up to. Remember why Frieza was so desperate to kill all the Saiyajin?"

The light dawned in Gohan's eyes. "Because he knew there would someday be a Saiyajin who could kill him!"

"Exactly! And you know something? I know that whatever Goku and Piccolo can do, you can do, too! If we find out what our enemy's secrets are--"

"We can defeat him." Gohan looked a little better, though still pale. "I'm hungry. Are there any of those dumplings left?"

* * *

Damn. He's not in as good a shape as I thought. He should have recovered by now. Unless that demon warrior took more out of him than I thought.. But when I blew through the bastard and broke him, I didn't get that much energy--where'd it all go? Think, Raditz!

A ghost's memory: slamming into the baleful red samurai from behind, cracking his spine; plunging a spectral hand between the demon-ghost's ribs and into the heart of his essence; ripping that heart out, stealing the soul energy of the manifestation, breaking it, forcing the ghost samurai back into the spirit world, stripped of energy--yesss! Missed before, a thin shadowy thread of spirit linking the ghost samurai to.. what? Something.. up.. there. Raditz looked at the ruined monastery. Looked again, in the spirit world.

Aiyeeee! Would you look at the place--that's no monastery! Raditz took in the triple walls, the towers, the high central keep. I do not like this. Every otherworld fortress that I know of belongs to someone from the lower hells--including King Vegeta's new palace. Heh. Can't say I miss THAT place so very much. But this place! I've never heard of it before, and it's on the Borderlands--a reflection of something from the physical world?

So. Something's up there, besides Yellow-belly; something the red demon-warrior was feeding power to. It's full daylight, they can't manifest anymore than I can--no threat to the living.. until dark. Let's go get Gohan's energy back before then, hmmm? Raditz smiled evilly.

* * *

"Oooooh! If only everyone here weren't dead, or I could hear ghosts like Goten! How am I ever going to find out what is going on?" Bulma tossed her pocket comp down in a fit of annoyance. "According to the legend, the evil sorceror was either killed or imprisoned forever by some wandering holy hermit, who founded a monastery on the site. That place up there," Bulma pointed unnecessarily. "The stories don't explain what's keeping us from leaving, who those technicolor demon-warriors were, why the spring was still blocked up, or why this village is haunted."

Gohan picked up her pocket comp and looked through the files. "Well, maybe the holy hermit didn't like the kami of the spring--she did punish the whole village because of one man, the greedy headman. A lot of innocent people might have gotten hurt because of that. The sorceror sounds like he was evil enough to kill the villagers.."

"But the story of the hermit specifically mentions the villagers celebrating after he overcame the sorceror. I don't think they'd do that if they were dead, kiddo." She frowned. "We're missing something important here." She got out her case of capsules and searched through them.

"Now what?" he asked as Bulma tossed a capsule to the ground and watched it swell into a flying scooter.

"Now we're going to the spring, and maybe the monastery after that. Let the kids sleep," she said, answering his question before Gohan got any further than opening his mouth. "They're in no more danger here than they would be anywhere else, and probably safer. Just a minute while I leave a note for Trunks."

* * *

Raditz hesitated; where in this phantasmal fortress was the power he sought? The very walls blocked his senses, and when he tried to drift over the outer wall, he found himself flung to the "ground" outside the wall.

Crud. I hate this kind of crap. Whoever--whatever--built this damn place imposed his own rules on its reality. One of them seems to be fake gravity. Idiot. We're friggin' spirits here, what's with the fake physical bullshit?

He wants to play at being physical, I'll go along. Heh.

Raditz lept nimbly to the top of the outer wall. The outer court appeared to be a grassy plain; beyond it loomed the middle wall. Nothing stirred--wait! A flash of yellow, like fire, on the balcony of the middle wall. Raditz snarled, and leaped again, with a burst of power. He flung out his hand and blasted a hole through the covered balcony just before he hit it.

Something wispy and powerless fled before him. Not the one he sought. He ignored the riotous garden filling second court, and focused on the glowing warrior mocking him from the broad stairs leading up to the base of the inner wall.

Raditz's eyes narrowed. It was leading him on, deliberately. Why? He jumped, landing hard on the stairs. The yellow warrior started, apparently not expecting the sudden move, and ran. Raditz bolted after it, gaining rapidly--then it turned a corner and vanished. Two corridors, three doors, a not-very-secret door, no enemy.

Crud! Doors, walls, hidden passages, vanishing enemies--screw this! He wants to get physical, let's get physical--Saiyan style!

Raditz screamed and kicked out the side of the wall. Massive blocks of stone fell to reveal a stagnant pool filling the inner court, surrounding the central keep. He jumped straight up, tucked, rolled, and dove through the roof of the keep. Tiles and great wooden beams crashed down with him; he batted the debris aside as he landed.

"You are a powerful one." In the center of the great hall, on an ivory throne, sat something like a man. "And wonderfully wicked--a true killer. I can taste it in your soul."

He was chained to the throne with thin silver links--a hawk-nosed man, long dark hair tied back in a pony tail, dark unfathomable eyes. He wore yellow silk robes, ornately patterned; around them a leopardskin, held in place by a great golden clasp in the shape of a leopard's head. He clutched the arms of his throne with long bony hands tipped with incredibly long nails; thin lips curved in an evil smile. Twin spiral horns of translucent crystal rose from his temples. And he was alive!

The shock of it stopped Raditz cold. This was the spirit of a living man, tied to a body--and more. He looked past, back into the physical world; in place of the man chained to the ivory throne, he saw a stone statue half-buried in an empty cell of the monastery. Here in the spirit plane, the man--if man he was--seethed with power. A shadow, like a second spirit, clung to his spirit form; above and around him a half-seen nimbus of unknown power hovered. Living, but bound; living, but fully aware in the spirit world; living--and more than living.

Those unfathomable eyes looked deep into Raditz. "Yes. You have the strength; you defeated my Ochimo." His voice was vibrant, cultured, and crawled into Raditz's soul like a venomous serpent. "I know what you desire; I can give that to you. Take the place of my Ochimo, free me, and you will stand at my right hand when I stretch it out to rule. Yesss, stand at my right hand--a living man! I have the power to restore your form and your life, O lost and angry one."

Raditz did not move, did not answer. Shock, wonder, horror flashed across his face.

"You doubt me?" the demon-sorceror laughed coldly. "I am the Opawang; mine are the secrets of life and spirit. There are many ways I could restore you to physical existance--and if you desire true, breathing life, with all its pains and vulnerabilities, I can grant that as well. But only--" he snarled, "if you free me."

Finally Raditz stirred. "How?"

"Bring the living to my prison, and cause them to break the stone that imprisons me, I care not how. I will be freed, and their strength will be mine, and the Black Earth River Daughter will once again heed her master's commands and grant my wishes. Serve me, and you will be rewarded beyond your comprehension!"

* * *

"Hmmph!" Bulma stood beside the grotto with her hands on her hips. "I don't see that anything has changed since yesterday.." She trailed off as something caught her eye in the water. She stared into the overflow basin; Gohan watched her curiously.

"Umm, Gohan, could you come here and look at this?" Bulma sounded odd.

"Sure." He looked in the water, noting their two reflections--no, that wasn't his reflection! That was a girl! And what he thought was Bulma's reflection was another woman, a woman with blue skin and dark green hair. He looked over his shoulder. There was no one there besides the two of them.

"Do you suppose they know we're here?" Bulma asked nervously. She jumped as the blue woman nodded.

"You can hear me?" The woman nodded again.

"Can you talk to us?" The woman frowned, and shook her head. The girl behind her simply looked sad, and Bulma realized she was the ghost Bulma had seen last twilight, the pleading girl.

"Well, at least we can handle 'yes' and 'no'. Too bad my first question is 'Who are you?'" Bulma pursed her lips. "Work with me on this." She looked at Gohan. "Gohan, if you've got any ideas or questions, out with 'em, any time. Meanwhile," she handed him her pocket comp, "keep notes."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Okay, you there in the pool--are you the kami of the spring?" The blue woman nodded.

"Are you the one who is keeping us from leaving?" The kami shook her head angrily.

"Do you know who is responsible for trapping us here?" She nodded grimly.

"Do you grant wishes?" The kami frowned, and held up one finger, and then nodded.

"You can grant only one wish?" The kami hesitated, shrugged, and nodded.

"What did all that mean? Never mind, I know you can't answer that. Let me guess, you can grant one wish, but there's some kind of special condition or limitation?" The kami looked thoughtful, and nodded.

After a frustrating hour of yes and no questions, Bulma and Gohan knew that whatever was keeping them trapped in this valley dwelt in the ruined monastery, it was the evil sorceror of legend, the sorceror had been imprisoned by the hermit a long time ago, the brightly colored demon-warriors served the evil sorceror and had killed all the people in the valley, and--this last the worst blow to Bulma--whatever the limitation on the kami's wish was, it kept her from restoring Vegeta to life. He could not be wished back to life using the kami's wish.

Bulma almost seemed to wilt, and sat down for a while, trying futilely to hold back the tears. Finally, she wiped her eyes and nose and lifted her head. "I am NOT giving up on this! We are going to find out what the problem is, and we are going to escape this wretched valley."

Gohan looked thoughtful. "If only she knew sign language..."

Bulma blinked. "What? Sign language? Hand me that computer!" She almost snatched it from Gohan in her hurry. "Let me see... Indian signs.. American Sign Language.. A-HA! Japanese Sign Language. Gohan, I think you hit on one hell of an idea there!"

She turned back to the pool. "Hey, kami-of-the-spring! You've been real patient with us so far, let's not stop now. Can you spell? You know, write? That is, if you had paper and ink and brush? Or read?"

The kami looked puzzled, but nodded.

"Great! Watch me, and listen up, 'cause Bulma's gonna teach you something important!" She dug around in her pockets, and came up with a pen and paper, which she gave to Gohan.

"Gohan, draw the katakana characters for me." After he drew the first one, Bulma snatched it up, and held it up for the kami to view. Gohan continued to draw the characters.

Bulma made the sign for the character. "This is 'shi'," she enunciated carefully. "Repeat it back so I know you've got it."

Dawning wonder spread over the kami's reflected face, and she hesitantly made the sign back to Bulma.

"Yes! You've got it! Now, the next sign is..."

* * *

"Can't you hurry it up? My babies are out there somewhere, and no one can find them!" Chi-chi yelled at Dr. Briefs, who was working on the computer Bulma had used. "Goku, are you sure you can't find them?"

Goku shook his head. "Piccolo and I have both searched everywhere. Neither of us can sense them anywhere." Piccolo said nothing, but just stood there scowling. Goku still looked worried. "I even asked King Kai, and he couldn't find them either." He couldn't bring himself to voice the one grim possibility that would explain his inability to find them.

He didn't need to. The growing terror in Chi-chi's eyes and voice showed that she already knew of that possibility. No! Somehow, they would find them. The only clue Goku knew of was in the computer files and reports that Gohan and Bulma had been pouring over for weeks, but Goku knew about as much about computers as Dr. Briefs did about fighting. Chi-chi and Piccolo weren't much better, so they'd called Dr. Briefs to help.

Bulma's father had not been worried that Bulma was missing, at first--he was used to her disappearing on strange adventures only to turn up at home, months later, with exciting stories and weird new friends. Goku and Chi-chi's evident worry got him to worrying, too; what had happened to his little girl, and his grandson? Losing his son-in-law had been bad enough...

"Ah, here it is." Dr. Briefs stubbed out the cigarette he'd been smoking. "Interesting little place--" At Chi-chi's scowl, he cut off what'd he'd been about to say. "What you'll want are the coordinates of the place." He pulled a small device out of his pocket, spoke a string of numbers into it, and tossed it to Piccolo. "That's a handheld CIN-GPS; I've programmed the location of the village Bulma meant to investigate into it. Just follow the directional indicator until you get there; range is that number at the lower left. At the lower right is the switch for the map display, if you want to see where you are."

"Thanks!" Goku grinned, his optimism returning. "Piccolo?"

Piccolo was already on his way out the door. "See if you can keep up, Goku," he challenged in his usual slightly sinister voice.

As Dr. Briefs watched them go, he wondered aloud, "Should I have mentioned the folklore report? Bulma did have it marked 'PRIVATE', but there's some pretty scary stuff in there."

"OH, REALLY??" Chi-chi said.

* * *

Raditz stared at the Opawang, paralyzed by the enormity of the demon-sorceror's offer. To be restored to life, and power--to have a body again, to breathe, to eat, to enjoy all the pleasures of mortal life--to fight again as one living, pitting his strength and power against a foe, risking everything in the fury of combat--oh yes! That would be joy!

But the cost: to break his promise to Vegeta--to fail him yet again. To throw away all honor, all trust, all respect to restore his life--as he had once done, trying to save his own life in the fight with his brother Kakarott. To betray the innocent child--his own nephew--who trusted him--that he had never done.

So many tyrants had ruled him... King Vegeta's command: "Serve me!" Frieza's orders: "Serve me!" Young Prince Vegeta's command: "Serve me!" The Opawang's demand: "Serve me!"

..and in Hell, Vegeta's plea: "Protect THEM."

It wasn't a hard decision at all.

He raised his head, and looked behind. The yellow Ochimo guarded the doorway into the hall, watching and waiting. Raditz turned back to face the Opawang.

"What of your other Ochimo?"

"Weaklings. They could not defeat you, they are of no further use to me. You are stronger than they, and far more worthy." Dark shadows seemed to fill the hall, emanating from the Opawang's throne.

Raditz laughed. Yeah, he'd have been just an expendable tool to this bastard, too. "Go to Hell! In fact," he grinned evilly, "I'll send you there!" At the speed of thought, the ghost katana appeared in his left hand, and he dove forward--

--or started to. The dark shadows seemed to take substance, become cords of darkness that wrapped around his ankles, wrists, legs, body. Each touch was cold, draining the energy from Raditz--only the merest trickle at first, but there were so many...

"You arrogant fool! Pathetic ghost, I am the Opawang, the Dead Spirit King! You are so perfectly vulnerable to MY power--" the chained sorceror laughed chillingly. "a pity you would not join me. I could have used a spirit of your rare power and violence." He snarled. "If you will not serve me, you will FEED me!"

Raditz felt his strength draining away through the shadow cords to feed the Opawang. One chance, before I'm too weak. He gathered his strength, and slashed the katana across the cords just as he hurled himself away from the Opawang--and straight at the yellow Ochimo.

The ki-sucking cords parted, and the Opawang screamed with rage. "Stop him, Ochimo of Fire! Don't let him escape!"

The Ochimo of Fire never had a chance. Raditz slashed him across the throat with the blade even as he plunged his right hand into the ghost's chest and ripped out his heart and power. He didn't stop, but slammed through the broken spirit, and through all the walls and doors between him and the outside.

Once beyond the fortress's weird pseudo-physics, he turned to face it. It looked like a rather large projectile had smashed through it from keep to outer gate. Nothing pursued him, so Raditz took a moment to absorb the power he had stolen from the Fire Ochimo. It was not as much as had been stolen from Gohan, but it would do. Between the red Ochimo and the Fire Ochimo, he'd taken enough power back to get Gohan back in fighting shape.

Kakarott's kid would need it. The Opawang had to be the one responsible for trapping them in this valley, and Raditz knew one thing for sure; he, Raditz, could not defeat the Opawang alone.

* * *


[ Contents | VI. Dawn | VII. Secrets | VIII. At the Spring ]

Disclaimer: See Credits.

Copyright 2000 by Dragoness Eclectic