Dragon Ball - The Heart of Adventurers
Chapter 35 - Nativity of a World of Trees
Written by LastationLover5000 and Demod20


A paltry percent. Freeza was not one for bluffs - being the self-proclaimed strongest in the Universe had with it a certain je ne sais quoi, and boundless confidence came along with it. There was no need for bluffs. While all of Vegeta's reason had not entirely returned to him, and he could still feel the furious power brimming in his body, what did remain of his rational mind, honed from years of training to master the Giant Monkey transformation, balked. He'd been high on this surge of power, the shimmering golden aura which rushed around him from all sides.

He'd intended to kill this bastard with his strength.

So never once did he think, after Freeza had reassumed his true form, that it may be hiding further power. The aforementioned tyrant, who had been snarling mere moments before, had seemed to regain his composure. Freeza, like Vegeta, had years of controlling his emotions to call upon when the time came, though Freeza normally used it for a veneer of nobility.

"What's wrong? Aren't you going to destroy me, oh warrior of prophecy?" Freeza leered with his arms held behind his back, tail sinuously waving behind himself like a cat. Chuckling darkly, his haunting red eyes glowed as he curled his dark lips into a sickening grin. "I'll make it easy for you. Strike me with all of your might; and I won't move an inch from this spot. That should be easy enough for you, right, monkey?"

Reason.

The one trait that kept Vegeta grounded; for now, at any rate. He wasn't beyond words, but reason was slipping. His greater ego fought with the surging rush caused by whatever transformation he'd undergone, and the great Prince of the Saiyans very nearly lost himself in the surge.

Yet, he didn't have the patience to indulge Freeza's taunt. The rise of power was felt and was far more telling than the tyrant's words. It was a stark contrast to before, as now within the vanishing wreathe of dark violet ki came a certainty.

He was going to be difficult to kill.

In a dilation of his pupiless eyes, he launched himself forward, a streak of malevolent gold streaking behind him like a comet's tail as he maneuvered within intervals of his own gonging heart. Crashing a torn gloved fist against an open palm, a massive thuum as the air blasted past the white reptilianoid's back and tail.

"Predictable," The malicious monarch chuckled out, holding back the significant pressure with next to no tension in his hand. "What did you think this kind of attack against me was going to accomplish?"

A subtle withdrawal was felt, allowing the tyrant to loosen what he thought was a retreating grip. Instead, a lock of burnt gloved digits wrapped around his, tightening a grapple upon his palm. A violent yank forward, and Vegeta threw his other fist at the galactic ruler's face.

Only for Freeza to lean his neck away, the shroud of muted yellow burning his cheek as it shunted space over his shoulder. Smirking, he whipped his tail around, catching the prince at his side, causing his whole body to lurch under the force of the extremity's blow.

A follow-up uppercut made the torch haired Saiyan's neck crack back, anchored in place by his own grip on his ex-employer's hand. Pulled back down, a punch to the stomach several times made him spit blood. Grinning at his own comeback, the pale skinned demon pulled back a fist and thunderously impacted Vegeta's jaw. Feeling his grip loosen as he felt the Saiyan's body twirl, he narrowed his gaze at him as he let out a laugh.

"I told you, you're to predicta-"

The Prince's spin from the force of his punch added to the momentum of a counterattack that stopped Freeza in his tracks. Whipping around, the back knuckles of the hand that was holding onto him stubbornly now collided into the conical ear of the emperor. Like a wrecking ball, Freeza's vision swam and pain rocked his mind as he nearly bit into his tongue.

Staggering back, Vegeta seized the opportunity and renewed his assault on the monster. Halting his own spin, he spat blood and surged forward with a flying twin punch into the icy dictator's core, propelling him across the bluish-green horizon of Namek. Punching him again, again, and again brought out elliptical bursts in the air, the speed intensifying as he increased haste and ferocity on his foe. The echoes of kinetic shock obliterated islands in passing, lakes parted and dissolved as the meteor of molten dark starlight continued the cacophony of hastening attacks.

Amidst the punches Freeza finally lashed out, a hand in the shape of a spear poised to impale the Saiyan's throat. Slashing by a swerving cheek instead, he felt his face grasped and his whole body pushed down within a meteorite of force. Crashing through an island that detonated from touchdown, the lakes wafted into the hole as a yellow flame erupted like a geyser. Lying prone and disoriented, freshly colored by purplish-red splotches of bruises, Freeza looked on amazed as Vegeta took the totality of his multiplying aura and siphoned it into a pair of hands.

Then, with a feral yell he slapped his wrists together forth and combined both dark yellow spheres of burning ki.

"BURN!" He howled out, unleashing an immense wave of energy that blew outward in a roiling dome of light. Bright sun-like energy disintegrated the lakes, rolling over the soil of islands and destabilizing the entire hemisphere they stood upon. The sky crackled with ki, the crater sweeping for miles as deep as a canyon's base. Only a faint light was seen between the two lone figures that would be near invisible without illumination of the muted gold glow wafting off the Prince.

"That still hurts!" Freeze sneered out, his arms taking the brunt of the damage, scorched and hissing as if cooked. Unfurling his limbs only scant damage as red eyes glared into Vegeta's vacant fury ridden whites. "You are more stubborn than I ever thought possible. To think I would actually need to defend myself while using this much power...it's unthinkable!"

"Just die-!" Vegeta began to shout, gathering another swathe of seemingly endless energy. That is, till Freeza blurred forth and took the offensive.

Grabbing both of his wrists, jerking them aside and ignoring the scorching heat of the Saiyan's aura, his eyes gleamed with a swelling crimson glint.

"No," Freeza spoke with a venomous hiss, preparing to end this swiftly as he looked at the grimacing Saiyan one last time. "You will die, now-!"

Just as he intended to drill a pair of optic beams straight through the prince's sockets and out his skull, a sudden whoosh blew past him. And as that crimson flare hit his periphery, so too a boot collided into his cranium, ripping him away from his desired execution and slicing through the cratered earth of Namek. Acrobatically clawing the soil and righting himself, Freeza found himself staring at a ghost.

It can't be…!

There a Saiyan stood, draped in a sleeveless green battle jacket, flaps protecting the sides of his legs and a tail wrapped around the middle like a belt with white boots planted on the ground. Armored gauntlets flexed along with an arched crop of black hair, blowing within the wind as black eyes glared but an almost victorious smile danced upon his lips.

Bardock?!

Freeza's mind flashed back decades ago. The very same visage howling in defiance, the sole Saiyan that fought back against total annihilation. All for naught as he was consumed in the blast that resembled a molten meteor as it cracked the planet and had it explode into dust.

"Sorry I'm late," Gokū spoke softly, though the cheer wasn't there. It held a seriousness in it that even got through the barely contained consciousness of the wounded but still standing Prince. Looking over his shoulder, he let out a whistle and gauged his power through senses alone. "So, you got stronger as you fought Freeza? Impressive. What's the deal with that form of yours, though?"

"Damn it, Kakarrot!" Vegeta seethed between grit teeth. "This is my fight! Stay out of it!"

"Can't do that," Gokū replied, turning to glare ahead and balled his fists at his side. "Do you feel it? His power is rising. He still has way more. If you keep at this rate, he'll kill you before you can finish him."

"Freeza is mine-!"

"I'm not arguing this!" Gokū snapped back, angrily turning and snapping Vegeta out of his rage for a moment by sheer looks alone. "Chi-Chi's dead! The Nameccians are gone! My family is still in danger! For once, let me help end this nightmare before it kills us too!"

The Prince's pride wavered. He knew what he said was true. His subordinates were either dead or crippled. Even Raditz was out of the picture and he was stronger only hours before. Soon, he could no longer ignore his own injuries no matter how substantial his wounds were.

Releasing tension in his jaw, he felt his fury calm just enough for dark eyes to emerge from his vacant stare. Though his reddish hair and burning aura remained, his Super Saiyan power felt a bit more finite now that his senses returned. He could no longer deny his own current limits...for now.

A soft squeak of three pronged feet touching down caused both Saiyans to twist back into fighting stances.

"...Kakarrot, was it?" Freeza's voice emitted as arms were now crossed over his smooth chest. Dark lips curled into an amused grin as his eyes flickered to Gokū in remembrance. "So it was you that started this all. Without your meddling, and Vegeta's, I wouldn't be in this state of anger I'm in. To think the two Saiyans I vanquished had such offspring to challenge me. No matter. I'll take care to go after the others who you mention escaped; none shall escape my grasp!"

As he howled, a singing in the air brought their attention skyward. Dozens of kikoha as large as boulders arced in the air before dropping down on top of Freeza. The pale monarch swung his hands, deflecting the blasts to explode all around him, swelling islands of burning light covering his immediate surroundings.

Then a familiar long mane whipped around his periphery and a large fist crashed into a raised arm. Red eyes widened as he stared into black eyes and a stony gaze that was too calm for his liking. A sudden whistling came as a follow-up thrust of his other hand brought a swelling orb of ki that got past his defenses and erupted in a pinkish blast of light that threw him backwards.

"Raditz?!" He screamed out, skidding on his heels as he swipes away the smoke around him. Standing before him was the revived weakling turned foe that nearly put him through his paces, even after he transformed a second time. Had he not fought crafty, he would have not been able to emerge victorious…and yet…

"You! I killed you!" Freeza yelled out, eyes bulging with near mania from the enemies appearing from the dead or out of thin air. "How are you still alive?!"

"You can't kill me," Raditz said, a smirk emerging on his face as Vegeta and Gokū looked on in shock. "I'm the real Super Saiyan."

Vegeta growled, feeling ignored by the elder brother of Kakarrot.

All the while Gokū smiled widely with relief. Between the three of them, their chances of victory were now obtainable! They had a chance after all!

Freeza glowered, feeling his rage bubble up as did his aura of violet ki. The odds were beginning to tilt away from his favor. Even after all the effort he went through, fate was mocking him.

Super Saiyan this…Super Saiyan that...I have had enough of these so called Super forms…!

"Alright guys," Gokū spoke lowly, dropping himself into a forward leaning stance with one hand arched up with curled digits with his other hand tilted back into a fist. "This is going to need to count. With how strong this guy is, I doubt he'll give us any openings. Any hints to a weakness he has?"

At first, the shock of seeing Freeza ready his energy for attack had made the other two freeze up. They were reminded how much struggle it took to get this far, and the damage had been negligible. If anything, they had just made him angrier.

But hearing the young Saiyan's serious question brought them to speak their mind.

"Freeza is self taught, a savant and every move relies on instinct or brute force. What he lacks is skill and fighting sense; if we can outmaneuver him, we can temporarily push him into a corner," Vegeta postulated, angrily staring at his dreaded foe while keeping his voice down. "Use his lack of ki against him!"

"Freeza is arrogant, his overconfidence being his biggest undoing. Make him think he has the upperhand and he'll have that opening he's talking about," Raditz spoke in a harsh whisper, turning his head around to stare at Gokū. "Just leave it to me, and I'll give you both your opening!"

Freeza's tail whipped the ground with a loud crack, making the three twitch nervously.

"What are you three plotting? It will make no difference," The galactic emperor proclaimed impatiently, his eyes slanted dangerously thin.

Raising a hand up, the trio of Saiyans widened their gaze as a glow of blue encompassed his pale hand. "Here, let me show you why."

In a single swipe, all three felt the danger before it could be seen. Darting away, a narrow wave of red light erupted, swift as lightning carved its way through the miles upon miles long crater. By the time the glare had dissipated, the trio could see with a share of aghast reactions.

"H-He carved a hole through the planet!" Gokū gawked, floating in the air, seeing distant seawater flow into the crevasse formed past his gaze. It seemed to have no end…!

"Of course, with how strong I am, destroying this planet would take minimal effort," Freeza explained with a cruel smile. "But it is at my whim. I want to take my time punishing you Saiyans for such insubordination to me."

"So what if you can?!" Vegeta howled, his aura intensifying into a blazing dark Sun; the fourth in Namek's triage of unwavering glares somehow blotting them out by presence alone. "I'll just kill you before you destroy the planet!"

"Vegeta, we have to work together-"

"RAAAAAAAAAH!" Vegeta howled as he descended like a demon upon the white fleshed devil in his sights. Unleashing a horde of kikoha that Freeza used his hands to expertly deflect them, he vaulted over an expected tail swipe, forward flipping and twisting around to land a kick on upraised wrist. Pulling back, just out of reach of another planet swiping fissure of energy, he fired another shot of the pale devil at his feet; casting a smokescreen that obscured his view of his foes.

"You think a paltry cloud of smoke will stop me?!" Freeza yelled indignantly, sweeping his hand to dispel the smoke in a guided kiai.

Yet, as he did so, Gokū appeared in a flash of red and green.

"What-?!" He grimaced, using the same hand to catch the boot as it attempted to land a blow on him. Swinging the other boot, Freeza grasped the other and smiled evilly. Turning on his heels he spun him around, violently creating a top of white and green in a blur before throwing him into the crater filled vista.

Which left him open to a thunderous knee to the back of his head. Lurching forth, he'd attempt to turn only for a repeat crash twice, thrice, and when he staggered forward he'd turn only to see Raditz pull a boot back and catch him by the chin.

Skidding back, Freeza launched a pair of optic beams at the long haired Saiyan, only for him to deftly lean back and avoid it just barely. The top of his scarred armor seared on the surface as it lanced past him into the horizon behind him. While bent back, Raditz spiraled around, hair whipping about as he fired a pair of kikoha that redirected about to hit Freeza on either side.

Leaping up over the beams to have them explode beneath, the icy tyrant found himself struck from the glare of one of the three Suns within Namek's sky. Squinting, he tried to fire only for another moment to be hit with another, simultaneous in nature as not one but two attackers dancing in the air.

Growling, Freeza coiled himself into a ball and then let out a shrill shriek that sent a wave of supersonic pressure. The kiai was so immense that it blew back Vegeta and Gokū in the background and forced Raditz to raise his arms up in defense. Seeing his foes no longer obscured by the glare of stars, he fired two piercing kikoha to the two skybound Saiyans.

Surprisingly, they both raised a hand, forming spinning discs identical to each other-

ZZZZ-THUUM!

-and launched two Kienzans that cut through the spears of light, buzzing across the heavens with the intent to bifurcate the galactic emperor.

"No-!" Freeza gasped, a pang of fear racing through his alien heart as he sped as quickly as he could away, watching the razor discs follow him as he moved at his highest speed. Alarmed they could keep up with him, he flew backwards and hurtled ball after ball of energy at the offending light razors; for naught as they slices through each effortlessly as they closed in on him.

"No-No-No-No-No!" Freeza chanted out, his eyes wide with terror. Pulling back both hands, he filled as much psychic energy as he could manage - veins bulging along with swelling muscles and throbbing vessels across his head - and threw out a massive kiai, not unlike his earlier one.

That finally destabilized the discs, cracking them and then fluttering out into sparks as they collided into each other. Panting and wheezing with an even paler sheet of white over his face, he knew for some reason he had been only inches from death just now. Nothing he did could even stop them till he upsetted their trajectories.

That...was too close, He thought, turning his attention to the three Saiyans.

Wait, where is-?

Suddenly, a whoosh of movement and powerful arms wrapped over his shoulders in a full nelson. His body tensed, trying to move and jerk, but found himself confoundedly held in place by not just a superior mass but also a better position and greater strength.

"You shouldn't have let your guard down, Freeza!" He heard Raditz breathe down his neck, his periphery gaze allowing him to see the hauntingly familiar yellow eyes and his power now made sense. "Now you will have no way to run or defend yourself."

"Do you think you can hold me, Raditz?!" He yelled with almost incredulous anger, unaware of the nervousness creeping into his voice. "You can't kill me. Compared to you Saiyans, I am a god! None compare to me, not even close!"

"Then why haven't you powered up to maximum? Huh?!" Raditz growled out, tightening his hold, weakening the thrashing Freeza was doing. "Call me a betting man, but I guarantee you can't control your full power. If you could, there would be no need for the theatrics of multiple forms; unless you are a rank amateur at controlling your own energy!"

Freeza hissed, wondering how someone like Raditz could have read through him so well. It was true, his other 'forms' were controlled locks on his full potential. Each state was meant to rein himself in, trying not to destroy any of his own men or property in the process. The true form was so devastating that only his father had enough strength to keep him in check, and had taught him to restrain his power due to the...complications of his full potential.

"...so what if it is?" He asked in a dangerous hiss, sneering as he tried to focus on the mass reserve of strength still lying within. "Keep holding me if you must, but in a few minutes, you and the others will all be dead!"

Just as he felt himself draw on that power, his concentration halted as he finally realized why he was being restrained. Two glows, below him, of scorching gold and reddish blue. His eyes looked down and saw two star-like glares on the Namek crater they were battling upon, soil rising and cracking beneath the pressure of the two's preparing techniques.

"Ka…me...ha...me…" Gokū began to chant, cupping his hands at his sides as a swelling orb of ki formed, the bluish tint of his Super Kamehameha forming within the Kaioken's aura.

"GARLIC CANNON…" Vegeta similarly adopted a similar stratagem, pooling all of his ki into curled up hands near his head by cocked elbows. Violet light encompassing his dirty yellow mantle of energy, showing its readiness to discharge.

Wordless at the display of visual power, Raditz grimly smiled and began to laugh.

"I can feel you trembling, Freeza! You know your time is up! This is the end for you!" He barkes out, giving into his feeling of victory as he beheld what were once mortal enemies now fire their techniques: together.

"...HAAAAAAAAAA!"

"...FIRRRRRRRRE!"

Blue and purple fired off, howling as the twin beams fused at the ends, becoming an opaque white pillar of force. It was blinding to see, but Raditz held firm, gritting his teeth as Freeza howled in anger and terror at his approaching doom.

"NONONONONONONONONOOOOOOO-!"

A deafening impact followed the sky filling with fire. The blast crushed the ground beneath and sent waves upon waves of flames from the explosion that spilled out into the vacuum of space. The roar of power was unimpeded in its destructive union.

Beneath it all, the two weary warriors saw a long haired silhouette crash to the ground in the distance. Gokū, despite a wave of exhaustion apparent on his face, raced off to check on him while Vegeta's aura disappeared, following after slowly as he grimaced with uncertainty.

"Raditz! Raditz!" Gokū called out, racing over to the man, seeing him planted face first in the ashen dirt. Rolling him over onto his back, the younger brother winced at seeing the burns and blood oozing from his forearms. It was miraculous that the rest of him escaped relatively untouched from a blast like that, but he worriedly shook the unconscious looking man awake. "Raditz! Come on, wake up!"

"I'm in pain, little brother, not deaf!" He snapped, eyes straining open and lifted himself while nursing his arms by not moving them in place. "I vented as much power as I could to negate the damage to myself. I felt myself blown away as soon as it made an impact but my arms...took some injury as you can see."

"He's still alive…" Vegeta grimly proclaimed, confirming to Gokū and Raditz's sneaking suspicions. They felt it, but it was hard to tell with how wide such a power felt. For a moment, they had felt it disappear, but then reemerge like a pulse.

Looking upwards, the three could see it past the thick veil of smoke. Hanging in the air, slowly descending to them with a maddening grin, was the emperor of the known galaxy. But as his flesh was exposed, they'd know their efforts weren't completely for naught.

His face was darkened, the thin red lines leading from his eyes now split open and showing blood from red webbed eyes, the left which looked ghostly white instead of red; a sign of possible blindness. His chest's purplish sternum piece was split open, his equivalent of pectorals and abdomen burnt grey and black, with his legs and part of his tail receiving similar injury. His arms twitched at his sides, and his breathing erratic, uneven.

His body trembled in the air, all while he chuckled madly above the three awed Saiyans.

"Is that it? Was that all you had to throw at me?" He giggled insidiously, raising a single finger, erecting a black orb of red crackling energy that they could feel would be deadly if it connected with anything. "The great and mighty Freeza has not received such pain, such wounds...ever!"

Raising his hand, he prepared to throw it, his smile stretching ear to bloody ear.

"You know, I have a way to fix this little itch you've made," He giggled out, priming his attack as he maliciously threatened. "I'll just blow up this planet and watch you turn to dust! Doesn't that sound fun?!"

BA-BUM!

Raditz, Gokūu, and Vegeta all felt something, finally past the obscuring veil of Freeza's ki. It felt like a heartbeat...coming from below.

BA-BUM! BA-BUM! BA-BUM!

The crescendo of beats intensified as the ball of energy was thrown. They didn't know what to focus on and all stood rooted in place as the orb of death streaked to the ground, sinking past the charred crust-

BABABABABABABA-THUUUUUM!

Out erupted, swathed in blackish light, an enormous root that dwarfed the Saiyans in front of it, trailing forth and behind as the ground was split apart and broken by sinews of hundreds of other small branching roots. The energy absorbed, the ground quaking and causing the Namek rooted triage of warriors to leap into the air...spectating the new horror that delayed their fate.

"Wh-What is this?!" Freeza stammered, watching the planet become entangled by more monstrous roots in the horizon, each one as monolithic as the one that covered the expanse of their battle-borne crater.

"Raditz," Gokū spoke in a strangled whisper, his face pale and sweat crawling down his neck colder than his previous exhaustion made it. "Namek's ki is...being drained!"

"How is that possible?" Raditz questioned aloud, just as bewildered as his usually ignorant younger sibling is. Nothing about this situation added up, other than confirming a previous swelling feeling nagging him since landing on the planet.

Just then, in the distance, a tree sprouted. But to simply call it a tree denied its worth; it surmounted the size of any mountain or building that either of the brothers had seen. As it grew, its canopy touched the heavens and farther up still. Blotting out one of the Suns, a shadow was cast as an eerie presence was made and all three could tell something bad was about to happen.

Something absolute in its evil had taken control of Namek.

"Tullece," Vegeta let out a gritted gasp, drawing the attention of the brothers while Freeza gawked speechless at the sight. They'd see his face had a hint of knowing, as if he knew whom was at fault. There was no anger at this epiphany, or joy in it staving off an instant death by his former employer.

There was only fear.

Tullece...what have you done?!


Namek, Freeza's Ship

Chi-Chi was slowly coming to. The woman's entire body was aching, and her head was filled with fog. She could feel that she was under pressure, but didn't know where she was or how she got there. Everything was shrouded in darkness, but Chi-Chi knew this was because she hadn't opened her eyes yet. Breathing in - and she picked up a notable plant-like scent as she did so, along with a much stronger scent coming from atop her - the woman opened her eyes. Light filled her eyes, as the emerald-hued sky of Namek came into focus. Craning her neck downward, Chi-Chi saw the unconscious form of Tullece passed out over her, and memories began to take shape.

He...protected me? She blinked, remembering Tullece jumping over her, and creating a barrier of ki. At that exact moment, the ground beneath their feet exploded in a geyser of ki, and she'd known blackness until now. The woman blinked, confused. For a moment - one delusion filled moment - it was as if Son Gokū had saved her. That delusion shattered quickly once she processed the memories thoroughly once again. It was indeed Tullece, the man who had promised her safety so long as she swore loyalty to him. The man who so completely looked like Son Gokū.

Chi-Chi did not have the immediate strength to move, but the plant-like smell in the air - too strong for it to be far away - was making her curious. Furthermore, in her hand, she felt something, spherical, hard, and laden with bumps.

Slowly pushing Tullece off of her body so she could sit up, Chi-Chi brought her hand closer to her face, tightening her grip on whatever rested inside it. To her surprised, it was a fruit.

Bright crimson, as riddled with bumps as she'd expected, but looking very delicious to the woman who'd cheated death and not had a proper meal for ages now. She eyed Tullece, who remained unconscious, and, after being certain they were alone, abandoned decorum and devoured the fruit. Finding it surprisingly delicious, Chi-Chi ravenously consumed it down to the core, before casting it aside.

After a moment of enjoying the feeling of something finally in her stomach, Chi-Chi felt a sudden surge of strength. Her body bulked, before returning to its regular state, and ki was brimming from her body.

I must've been famished, she thought, surprised to feel so refreshed and strong after just that small fruit. Is that normal?

Following this sudden surge in strength was clarity. Chi-Chi, who had been in a daze from hunger and weariness, realised quite quickly that she was not on Nameccian soil. Looking down for the first time, Chi-Chi saw that she was resting on something wooden - dark, muddled green, gnarled and twisted beneath her and Tullece. And it was huge, bridge-like even. Scrambling over to the edge, Chi-Chi glanced down and saw, through thick clouds, a gargantuan trunk.

In a moment of shock, it all came to her.

The seed Tullece planted had finally sprouted, with herself and her Saiyan benefactor having been scooped up during the process.

Then that fruit, she thought, it must have come from this tree. Chi-Chi eyed the plant carefully. To say it was massive would actually be an insult to the word. Even from her perch on one of its branches, which held the weight of her and Tullece without issue, and was wide enough that she could have hosted a small dinner party on it, she still could not see the top of it. They were sitting within the clouds, and this immense tree towered higher than even that.

"It's so big," she gasped. Chi-Chi had to fight the urge to admire the tree, the planet-wide shudder occurring shortly after Tullece planted the seed coming back vividly.

"No...somethin' is wrong with this big thing."

Chi-Chi placed a hand along the trunk, moving it into the grooves of the smooth bark. It wasn't like normal trees at all, and in fact felt seamless.

Maybe if I cut it down, I can ask questions later? Whatever this thing is, it can't be good.

Costing her hand in ki, Chi-Chi plunged it into the bark, attempting to move her hand in a slicing motion along the trunk - admittedly it would be just a nick, but even a small crack could spread. To her surprise, the ki skipped from her hands before the digits made contact, being siphoned into the trunk.

"Did it...absorb my ki?"

Chi-Chi considered this for a moment to be an impossibility. After all, how could something just eat her energy? But she remembered Gokū had a technique like it, and accepted it might be possible. The black-haired martial artist turned her head skyward, gazing intently towards the thick canopy of leaves that permitted only dappled rays of light. Focusing her senses, she tried to feel for the tree's own ki, and to her horror, saw her fears confirmed.

Tendrils of ki were funneling their way towards the tree's centre, a glowing core where everything seemed to amass. Dotted at odd intervals along the branches were particularly strong concentrations of ki as well. Gasping, she pulled her senses back to herself, spinning around to glare at the unconscious Tullece. His tree was siphoning the very essence of the entire planet!

Chi-Chi found some shred of twisted amusement in the whole scenario. She'd just devoured a fruit from a tree fated to doom a planet. There was a burgeoning cult of people on Earth with a faith fundamentally similar; it could only be more ironic if this tree had been planted by a deity. But Tullece was no god; he was mortal, and Chi-Chi knew he could bleed.

But... her thoughts turned towards that tree. What if I can't kill him? That fruit...it must have been brimming with energy, its why I feel so gung-ho now! So if I eat another...or maybe two... She glared at Tullece, the man who thought he could play on her desperation to further his goals. Then I can kill him.

"If I eat this, I can take him out no problem. Then I'll find Son Gokū back on that battlefield." Just before biting into the fruit, Chi-Chi hesitated. Did the ends justify the means here? This fruit was full of stolen life energy from a planet that had done nothing to her. If she ate it, just to take out one man, did that make her a monster?

"...How good to see you're up and well."

Chi-Chi froze. A voice, very like Son Gokū's, but older, and laced with intimidation, startled her. She turned from her sitting position to see Tullece standing behind her, arms folded, face inquisitive.

"T-Tullece...you're awake!" She turned to face him fully, but did not stand up; either the shock of seeing him up already, or the dread that he'd heard her slip of the tongue, kept her rooted. She tried to keep her voice measured, concerned even. The Saiyan knelt down to lock eyes with the woman, his expression soft but unreadable.

"I'm glad my effort to protect you did not go to waste," he said slowly. "I made you a promise, didn't I? As long as you were loyal to me, I would keep you safe. I am a man of my word."

Chi-Chi relaxed. The tension in her body flooded out. He really suspected nothing. Her grip on the fruit tightened, and she tried to form the words that would make her excuse for being mysteriously gone when he'd awoken. But nothing came out besides a startled gasp, as his hand moved to her wrist quicker than she could react.

"So who, pray tell, were you planning to take out with no problem?"

It might have been comical how quickly Chi-Chi went from relaxed to utterly still again, if she didn't know her life was in danger. "I-I was talking about F-Freeza!" she choked out the excuse rapidly, and her heart sank when Tullece audibly tsked.

"Let me give you a lesson to take with you, as you may not live long enough to appreciate it," Tullece was stone-faced now, and his voice laced with ice. Chi-Chi felt the grip on her wrist tighten, and in turn she tightened her grip on the fruit.

How had it not shattered?

"When a man builds his success on the backs of others, on deceit, on the souls of his family, he develops a talent for reading people," Tullece said quietly. His free hand rested on Chi-Chi's head, stroking her hair mockingly. "You, my dear, have tells obvious enough that I need not overwork myself to read you. When I offered you sanctuary, it came with it's own stipulations. Contracts are maintained only as long as both parties observe the rule of fairness."

"You..consider our arrangement fair?!" Chi-Chi felt indignation spike within her, bubbling to the surface.

"Why, yes," replied the Saiyan cooly. "I was prepared to offer you the Universe itself; you would have been my Queen, my equal in the Empire I will rise from the rubble of Freeza's rule, if only you'd maintained loyalty. Everything you ever could have desired - money, clothes, fine wines and foods - all of it would have been laid out for you. So why?"

"Because I dont want any o' that," Chi-Chi replied fiercely. "Son Gokū is the one I love!"

"I'll regret this..." Tullece's tone was bitter.

"I won't!" Chi-Chi's free hand reached for the sky. "Bashōsen!" A powerful gust of wind followed her shout, the very fan itself forming in Chi-Chi's palm directly after the wind surged around her. She swung the fan down, mimicking a sword stroke: clouds covered the sky, rain began to pour...and lightning rushed down from the sky, striking Tullece without warning. Chi-Chi slipped her hand out of the man's grip, which slackened from the rain and lightning impact, skidding back along the branch. Chi-Chi raised the fruit to her lips, devouring it quickly, all hesitation gone. Her ki spiked instantaneously when the fruit had been entirely consumed, and she cast it aside, fan gripped as if her life depended on it.

The lightning faded away, and Tullece was still crouched, yet furious, electricity crackling around his body. He exhaled slowly, his spiked hair whipping in the storm winds Chi-Chi had summoned. He reached towards the bottom of the branch, scooping a fruit that hung from it up with his tail.

"I won't make this easy for you. Let me show you what the fruit of the Shinseijū does in the hands of a Saiyan."


A/N:
Demod20: And I retuuuuuuurn! While my life is no more hectic, my part in this chapter was a phenomenal undertaking. I'm glad it ended up working out, but I like showing that, with combined efforts, our 3 Saiyans nearly surpassed Freeza in strength. It's also neat to see how smart Tullece while poor Chi-Chi unravels in one last attempt to stop a monster from having his way.

LastationLover5000: Ah, it always takes a minute for a chapter to come out, an I appreciate your guys' patience. My co-author was able to contribute again, so we have a chapter in our regular style. I had a bit of fun writing this one - partially because I didn't have to write a battle scene after just writing a battle scene - but I always have fun writing Tullece. I hope you all like the direction we're taking this, and we'll see you soon!