This is the final chapter! Thanks for sticking with me for four years everyone! I might write a bonus chapter for this story but I'm not sure yet.
Male Order Bride
"Back for You"
The sun was just beginning to set by the time Chichi finally arrived at the mansion. Gohan sighed with relief. He was worried that something terrible might've happened. The little hover car they had owned since Gohan was a boy, touched down on the ground, making sputtering noises as it turned off.
"You must be Gohan's mom," Videl said, descending the stone stairs from the mansion's front door. "It's great to finally meet you."
"Mommy!" In one impressive leap Goten jumped from the front steps, soaring clear over Videl's head, and landing at Chichi's feet. He embraced her in a tight hug, telling her everything he did and saw that day. Gohan watched them with a smile. He felt so happy to have his family together again.
"What…Did he just…How did he do that?" Videl's eyes were wide with confusion. She'd never seen a little boy jump that far. "It looked as if he was flying!"
Goten tilted his head, giving Videl a pitying look." Well, I was flying a little. My brother taught me how to do it a long time ago. Maybe someday he'll teach you."
Videl noticed that Gohan was also giving her a pitying look.
"Normal people don't fly!" Videl hotly responded.
Chichi gently patted Goten's head." Thank Videl for letting you spend the night. We need to head home now. Where's Trunks?"
"He went home already. We saw Bulma when we went to the mall today. He went home with her."
Chichi nodded, then gently pushed Goten by the shoulders. With a sad expression, Goten slowly walked to Videl and hugged her.
" Thank you for letting me spend the night and taking me to the zoo and buying me toys."
"You're welcome. I had a lot of fun. You should spend the night again this weekend. We're throwing a birthday party for my dad. There will be a lot of food and games, of course your Mom is invited to stay too."
Goten gave Chichi a hopeful, pleading look.
" I'll think about it."
Goten bit back a sob. He knew that was just his mom's polite way of saying no. Chichi was going to take him away and he wouldn't be able to see Gohan and Videl again for a long time. He wanted to run to Gohan and hug him so tightly that they would become one person and had taken one step towards him before stopping himself.
Gohan was trembling with rage.
Videl was shocked by Chichi's response. Everyone loved Hercule Satan since he saved the world from Cell. His birthday was treated as a worldwide holiday. Most people couldn't afford to buy an invitation. Handing out free invitations was unheard of but Chichi was her mother-in-law and she wanted to be liked by her." Oh, right, how stupid of me. You live so far away. I can send my best pilot to pick you up and it would only take thirty minutes to get here." Videl started to explain more about the food and celebrities that would be at the parte4y, but Chichi abruptly stopped her.
"I'm sorry, I'll have to think about it. I really need to get going."
"Okay. Are you sure you don't want to stay the night? You've been driving a long time. You look exhausted."
"No. I'll park somewhere and sleep in the car if I need to."
"We're leaving now. Goodbye."
Gohan couldn't believe it, was his mom really about to leave without asking how he was doing, or even looking at him? What did he do to deserve this kind of treatment? He jogged towards the car. "Mom, wait!"
Gohan reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder, intending to force her to turn around. She roughly shrugged off his hand.
"Let's not do this today," she said, sounding tired.
"Videl is my wife," Gohan growled." It's because of her that I'm able to attend high school, and it's because of her that we're not in debt anymore! I know you hate me for some reason, but please be nicer to Videl—She hasn't done anything wrong!"
"You think I hate you?" Chichi spun around to face her son. Her eyebrows pinched together in confusion." That's ridiculous! How could you even think that?"
"If you don't hate me, then why don't you ever want to talk to me when I call? I wrote to you weeks ago but you never wrote me back! And I know you deposit the money I send you back into my bank account, I work hard every week to give that to you!" Gohan paused, licked his lips, then mumbled," You won't even let Goten talk to me on the phone or let him visit me. He's my brother. That's not right. Dad would never have kept Goten away from me!"
Gohan was just as surprised as Chichi that he brought Goku into his argument. But, deep down Gohan blamed his father. If Goku was alive to look after his family, then that responsibility never would've fallen on Gohan's shoulders. He never wanted to marry a stranger, move away from his family, or worry about money.
"I don't hate you, Gohan. I wish I did," Chichi whispered. Her eyes softened as she spoke." If I hated you then losing you wouldn't hurt this much. When Goku died I didn't think I had enough tears left over to cry again." She sniffed and rubbed her eyes." But I was wrong. I never want to talk to you on the phone because I know I'm not strong enough to keep myself from crying. I can't even write you a letter without breaking down!" Chichi threw herself into Gohan's chest, wailing like a baby." Oh, Gohan! My sweet boy, I miss you so much! Why did you have to grow up so fast? Why did I have to lose you too? It's not fair!"
Gohan held his mother, who now seemed so frail to him. Goten was crying too, but he had Videl next to him speaking soothing words and comforting him. In between Chichi's sobs, he heard her crying out for Goku.
Chichi spent the night after all. There were plenty of rooms to choose from, but she decided to sleep in Gohan's room on a nest of blankets on the floor, with Goten curled next to her, and Gohan snoring peacefully beside him. The two of them left early in the morning at sunrise, right after eating a quick breakfast. Gohan stood outside, watching the car disappear down the road, his hands hanging loosely at his sides. Once he was sure they weren't coming back, he retreated to a cold bench in the garden on the left side of the mansion, finding a sense of peace among a bed of pink flowers and dark green shrubs.
He focused his attention on rotating a velvet pink flower petal between his fingers. He dreaded getting ready for school. In that moment he felt guilty for ever enjoying school, baseball, work, friends, and life at the mansion. Was it really okay to stay married to Videl when Chichi and Goten obviously needed him at home?
A woman cleared her throat.
" Can I sit here?"
She pointed to the vacant spot next to him on the bench.
"Erasa?" Gohan scooted over a bit. Erasa sat down next to him." Videl is awake. She's upstairs if you want to talk to her."
Erasa smiled." I actually came here to talk to you." Gohan curiously raised his eyebrows. Erasa took this as a sign that she should keep talking. She took a deep breath." I just wanted to tell you that I'll keep your secret. I won't tell anyone you're married to Videl." She lifted her pinky In the air." I promise."
"You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that," Gohan sighed, thankful he had one less problem to think about. He raised his pinky and linked it with hers. She giggled.
"I am sad I can't ask you out now. I've had a crush on you since the first day we met."
"Oh, uh…um…" Gohan nervously scratched the back of his neck." I'm sorry."
Erasa shrugged." You can make it up to me by introducing me to the tall pitcher player on your team. I think his name is Kaname, or something. He's totally my type."
"I'll see what I can do," Gohan laughed. They talked in the garden for a while, mostly about Kaname and school. Gohan was grateful for the distraction. Erasa left for school first when it became apparent that Videl wasn't coming out of the house anytime soon. Gohan got up from the bench, dusted off his pants, and walked back inside the house.
The kitchen looked as pristine as always thanks to Dusty, the maid. The only sign that there had been a large breakfast cooked that morning was the lingering smell of sausage and biscuits. Gohan inhaled the smell, savoring the memory of his mother's last homecooked meal. There had been a lot of hugging, crying, and promises made that morning. He promised to visit her more often, and she promised to come by with Goten and visit him. They promised to have longer phone calls, too.
Every goodbye was going to be painful.
Could Chichi handle raising a young half Saiyan on her own, alone on a desolate mountain, without Gohan's help? Goten was a sweet kid, but he still was a kid. There had been a few tantrums that could've severely hurt their mother if Gohan hadn't been around to protect them both.
Gohan also wanted to be apart of his younger brother's life. A few visits and some phone calls would never be enough for him. He still wanted to share a room with Goten, share stories about their Dad, train together, play childish games, and eat at their small three-person table for every meal.
Could he succeed in school, keep his wife and in-laws happy, earn money, have a social life, play baseball, and be there for his family at the same time? Was it possible to have it all?
"I feel bad for Mom and Goten, but this is my life now. We'll just have to get used to seeing each other every other week instead of everyday, it will be fine. This is just part of growing up." Gohan scratched his head, took one final whiff of the kitchen, then hurried upstairs. He needed to pack his homework and head off to school before the teacher locked him out.
. + . + . +. + .
All thoughts about school vanished from his mind the instant he stepped into his room and saw Videl sitting on his bed, clutching something between her hands, face unreadable as she stared down at the pile of blankets on the floor.
Gohan lowered his head in embarrassment. His bed hadn't been slept in. It was still neatly made from the day before.
"I stopped sleeping with my mom when I was three. I swear last night was the first time since then," Gohan confessed, sitting on the edge of the bed next to Videl. Suddenly, a memory came back to him, and he winced." Uh, well, there was that one other time…"
Videl turned away from the blankets and looked at him with curiosity in her eyes.
"It was the night she found out she was pregnant with Goten. A doctor didn't have to tell her, she just touched her stomach after getting sick one day and knew that Goten was growing in there. She was happy for a second, but couldn't stop crying right after finding out, because my dad was dead. It broke her heart knowing that Goten would never know his father once he was born. The thought of raising two children on her own must've terrified her, too."
"I could never do it," Videl admitted. She leaned into Gohan, resting her head against his shoulder. She felt warm and soft against him, and he let himself relax against her." So, you stayed with your mom that night because you wanted her to know that she still had you to help her, not because you're a mama's boy?"
Gohan smiled at her gentle teasing. He most definitely was not a "mama's boy", nor was he attached to his mom the way a baby duckling was attached to its mother, the way Goten was. Perhaps he would've become overly attached to his mom if Piccolo hadn't abducted him for a year.
"She cried the whole night. I stroked her hair and told her the baby was going to grow up happy because he still had us, over and over. I was only eleven or twelve back then. I didn't know what else to do. I think I was just as terrified and heartbroken as she was. I couldn't go to sleep in my bed until I knew she was going to be alright."
Gohan felt like someone had punched him in the gut just then, why hadn't he realized it before? He had been so much more than just Goten's big brother. He was his father, the closest thing to a father Goten was ever going to have. It would've been Goku's dying wish had he known Goten existed: take care of your Mom and brother for me.
"You're so nice, Gohan. I like that about you, but sometimes you're a little too nice."
"I thought being nice was always a good thing."
"Not when it means getting bullied every day at school by a certain friend of mine," Videl mumbled." Or agreeing to a marriage to someone you don't love."
Gohan frowned. "I love you, Videl."
Videl pushed herself away from him, stripping him of her warmth. She shook her head." No, you don't love me. You think you love me, but you really don't."
"I love you, Videl. You're smart, brave, generous, sweet, beautiful and—"
"What's my mother's name?" Videl asked. Gohan closed his mouth and became silent." Exactly. You don't know her name because you hardly know me."
"We haven't been married long," Gohan responded." Someday I'll know everything about you."
Videl stood up and began pacing the room." That's the problem. We never should've married each other when we hardly know each other! That's, like, the first step leading towards marriage and we skipped it. Ah, I'm so stupid!"
Gohan slowly rose to his feet. He was concerned by how anxious Videl was behaving. He grabbed her arm. She stopped pacing and looked up at him. She had tears in her eyes.
"I'm a horrible person. I paid you to marry me. I ripped you away from your life with your mom and brother, buying you like a puppy from a pet store. Not out of love, but out of anger towards my dad for marrying someone I didn't like. It was childish. I'm so sorry, Gohan. I'm so sorry!"
Tears rained down her face as she cried. Gohan didn't know how to comfort her. Everything she said had been true. He knew she didn't love him when they first met. He knew she could easily toss him aside the second she lost interest in him. He'd barely been treated like a person after their first day of being married.
"You don't have to apologize. I willingly signed the marriage certificate. If I hadn't married you, then I would've ended up marrying somebody else, possibly even a man. I'm glad we're married. We never would've met if it wasn't for your dad calling together all the brides so he could choose a wife. I meant what I said earlier. I'm in love with you, Videl."
Videl forced herself to stop crying. Her eyes were red and puffy. It was the first time Gohan had ever told a girl he loved her. Videl ignored his confession. She lifted her hand and revealed what she'd been holding the entire time: folded divorce papers.
" I signed this the day after we got married." Videl handed him the papers. He robotically took them." I always knew we would break up someday. I can't go back in time and stop myself from ruining your life, but I can still make things right. Sign your name below mine. I'll go straight to the courthouse, then we'll officially be divorced."
Gohan stared down at the papers. It felt like something was lodged in his throat. He couldn't speak. Telling her he loved her had not worked. There was nothing he could say to change her mind. Their marriage was over. He searched her face for any sign that she regretted saying those words, but all he saw was resolve in her blue eyes. She was convinced this was the right thing.
Signing the papers was his last act as her husband.
"You're free now," Videl said softly, taking the signed papers back. She checked his signature, pocketed his pen, and walked across the room. Gohan's entire body felt heavy and his feet were glued to the floor as he listened to her every step. He wanted to turn around and watch her leave, to memorize her long black hair and the way her hips moved as she walked, but he stayed still. This wasn't going to be the last time they saw each other; he'd make sure of that.
"I'll come back for you!" He shouted.
Videl's footsteps came to a stop outside his room, and she held her breath.
With his back facing where she stood, Gohan stiffly walked to his closet and took out his suitcase. He felt her eyes watching him as he packed all his clothes and books into his suitcase. Her footsteps resumed their trek down the hall and down the stairs. Gohan stopped packing. He tilted his head back towards the ceiling and closed his eyes.
"I'll come back for you."
Gohan didn't fly directly home. He made a stop at Gordo Lotus' office and accepted the job offer after a few negotiations. He would be Mr. Lotus' bodyguard, but he wanted to work part-time instead of full-time, to which Mr. Lotus agreed. They would find another reliable bodyguard together later.
"I'm sorry about your divorce. I've gone through three of them. I know how tough it is," Mr. Lotus said. "Do you need a lawyer? I've got a great lawyer! I'll bet he could get you that mansion, plus an extra $5 million zeni for your suffering."
"I don't want a lawyer," Gohan growled. Getting a lawyer would mean exposing his marriage with Videl to the world. He would protect her at all costs." I've got a job now. She can keep her money."
Gordo Lotus glanced at Gohan's suitcase, then shrugged." Suit yourself."
Chichi's car looked like a moving dot from where Gohan was in the sky. He thought about picking up the car and flying it the rest of the way home but decided against it. They wouldn't be home for many hours, and Gohan planned on using that time to mourn his divorce. He kept reminding himself that their goodbye wouldn't be forever. He'd come back for her.
The sun had just set by the time Gohan made it home.
"I'm home," he whispered with a smile. He lifted the flowerpot near the door, grabbed the house key beneath it, and proceeded to go inside his house. It was smaller than the mansion, but that didn't bother Gohan at all. He felt compelled to turn on the lights in every room of the house, except for Chichi's room. The light wouldn't turn on in her room. Frowning, he tried the light switch again. Nothing.
"How long has she needed to change the lightbulb?" He wondered, turning on the lamp on her nightstand beside the bed. He understood why Chichi hadn't changed the ceiling lightbulb, she was too short to reach it, even with a stool. The closer he looked at things, the more problems he found with the house.
The bathroom sink had a small leak, which Chichi "fixed" by rolling towels around the sink on the floor to soak up the water, probably needing to change the towels twice a day to keep the floor dry. Gohan's arms bulged as he struggled to tighten the pipes beneath the sink without breaking them. After ten minutes the leak was fixed.
Gohan threw the water-soaked towels into the washer. He was surprised to see three days' worth of dirty laundry piled up near the washing machine and tossed those in as well. He forgot that his mom did more than just take care of Goten, she was his martial arts and kindergarten teacher too, leaving her with little time to do housework.
With nothing else to do, Gohan swept the floors, washed the dirty dishes in the sink, and fixed anything broken in the house. He didn't want to think about what Videl was doing at that moment, nor did he want to wonder if she was still crying or completely over him already. He could picture Mr. Satan laughing about their divorce and bashing him for being "a weak nerd." Divorcing Videl was the best birthday gift anyone could've given Mr. Satan.
Gohan got down on his hands and knees and scrubbed the kitchen floor as hard as he could with a washcloth.
Gohan put a pot of rice and vegetables on the stove to simmer while he unpacked his suitcase. His side of the bedroom was neat and clean, the bed perfectly made. Goten's toys were scattered all over the floor, and the blankets on his bed were folded over like an open sardine can, ready for Goten to slide in or out of his bed at anytime.
"So, he's starting to sleep in his bed now." Gohan smiled. He had a feeling that Goten would abandon his bed and sleep next to him like they always had. He abruptly remembered that one night Videl had crawled into bed with him, but quickly shook away the memory. He opened the top drawer of his dresser, where he kept clean socks and underwear, but he had opened the drawer so roughly that something heavy rolled forward. Gohan reached in and picked up the object. He held it within inches of his face. It was the four-star dragonball.
The four-star dragonball looked delicate, like sparkling orange glass. It was beautiful. Once again, he thought about Videl.
"I wish I could've told her the story about the dragonballs, about me, about everything…" He thought sadly. With an iron grip on the dragonball, Gohan walked outside. He stood beneath the stars and stared up at the sky, remembering Videl's emotionless face when he told her he loved her. She didn't believe his feelings were real. She didn't believe he'd come back for her either.
"There's one last thing I need to do," Gohan mumbled, clutching the dragonball. He shot off into the sky, his aura a bright white. To anyone on the ground looking up at the sky, he'd appear to be a shooting star.
The car pulled up to the house at four in the morning. Chichi became angry when she noticed that the lights were on inside the house. She knew she had turned off the lights and locked the door before leaving for Satan City. Of course, she thought someone had broken into her home. Most women would've been frightened and would've called for help, but not Chichi.
"You have ten seconds to leave before I throw you out of my house!" Chichi shouted, whipping open the door so fast its hinges broke. "I can throw you out the door or through the window, it's your choice!" Her eyes darted around the room. No one was there. Her face softened a bit when she noticed that the intruder had cleaned the floors and washed the dishes, there was even food set out for them on the table.
"Was Bulma here?" Goten asked, dipping his fingers into one of the bowls. White rice clung to his fingers as he pulled them out and shoved them into his mouth. He made a face." It tastes cold."
"Go wash your hands and change into your pajamas," Chichi ordered. She took the bowls of food and headed toward the microwave. Was the third bowl an extra, or was someone planning on joining them? She set the timer on the microwave then walked into her room. She checked and made sure that none of her jewelry was missing, then started to change out of her clothes.
"Mom!" Goten cried, running out of his bedroom." Mom, Mom, Mom!"
Chichi slipped into her nightgown. Goten jumped in place as he watched his mom slowly take out her hair bun and began to brush her hair. He impatiently groaned.
"What is it, sweetie? I'll be out in a minute."
"But I know who broke in! He's still here!"
"So it wasn't Bulma after all." Chichi's anger returned. "Where is he?"
"He's sleeping in my room. Come on!" Goten grabbed Chichi's arm and hauled her to his bedroom. With a bright smile he pointed to the person sleeping on the bed." It's Gohan. He's come home to live with us again!"
"Gohan?" Chichi whispered.
Gohan was sleeping on his side, fully clothed with his shoes still on, and was laying on top of the blankets rather than under them. He stirred awake at the mention of his name, tilting his head a little to look up at her. He gave a small smile." Good morning. I tried waiting up for you guys."
Goten pounced on his big brother." Yay! You're back! Are you back for good?"
"Yep!" Gohan got up and began tickling Goten's sides." You're not getting rid of me this time, either."
"What about Videl?" Chichi asked, visibly worried and upset that Gohan had abandoned his marriage.
Gohan's smile instantly vanished and he stopped tickling his brother. He couldn't look Chichi in the eyes when he spoke.
"Videl broke up with me. We're not married anymore."
"Oh, Gohan, I'm so sorry! Was it because of me? I knew I never should've gotten out of the car. I'll go back and make things right, I promise."
Chichi started to rush out of the room, but Gohan snared her by the wrist. His hold on her was strong. Had he been anyone other than her son, Chichi would've been worried about her wrist snapping in half. Chichi stared into her son's dark eyes, readying herself for the argument that was sure to come.
"What's wrong?" Goten warily asked after a few seconds without anyone saying anything. He scooted off the bed so he could stand closer to his mom.
Gohan smiled." I cooked a lot of food last night. Let's eat before going to bed. I'm starving." He let go of Chichi's wrist, and she quickly tucked her arm behind her so Goten would not see the purple bruise forming.
Chichi understood that Videl was a sensitive topic, so she never mentioned her again. Months later, Chichi would sometimes catch glimpses into Gohan's true feelings whenever he thought no one was watching him. Sometimes he'd go silent at the dinner table, or stare out the window at a blue flower with a solemn expression. She knew he was missing Videl during these times and would try to nudge her son into action by sending him out on an errand in Satan City, and suggesting he should stop by and say hello to his ex-wife.
To her knowledge, Gohan never visited Videl or talked with her on the phone. He simply went to work, came home, studied, trained with Goten, and did chores around the house. Chichi was thinking about arranging a proper marriage for Gohan with a girl from Mount Paozu when a beautiful blond-haired girl showed up at their front door one day.
Erasa, was the girl's name. She was polite and full of smiles when she first met Chichi, but shouted and became violent the moment she saw Gohan again. Chichi cupped her hands around her mouth when Erasa started slapping Gohan on both sides of his face, shouting curses at him for leaving Videl so easily like that. She broke down in tears and buried her face in Gohan's chest afterwards, and he simply held her.
"So, that's how it is," Chichi muttered under breath, grinning like a cat. Erasa clearly had strong feelings for Gohan, and her son seemed to be fond of her, too. Since her son wouldn't tell her the details about how his marriage ended so quickly, she came to a conclusion of her own: Erasa and Gohan had fallen for each other, and Videl found out about it.
Once a week for the next ten years, Erasa stopped by to visit them, flying in a chopper since it was quicker. Most days she came by herself. Twice she visited with a man with long blond hair. The first time the blond-haired boy came to visit, Chichi demanded to know what their relationship was to each other the second they stepped into her house. "This is my cousin, Sharpener," Erasa explained, which instantly comforted Chichi.
"He's not a boyfriend? Good!" She had retorted.
The second time Sharpener came to visit with Erasa, ten years later, was to announce that Mr. Satan was hosting a tournament, the last man standing would get to fight the champ and if that man should win, he'd get to marry Videl.
10 Years Later
Gohan massaged his temples and rolled back in his desk chair, distancing himself from his laptop. His butt was sore from sitting too long, and his back ached from leaning forward at his desk for two hours. "I need a break," He decided, checking the time on his cell phone, not daring to look at the messages that popped on his screen. Who knew writing a thesis paper based on Capsule Corp's engineering science by Doctor Briefs could be so time consuming? Earning his master's degree was hard enough, but he was so close to getting his doctorates degree that it would be foolish to quit university now.
Gohan rolled a little further from his desk all while leaning back in his chair. He peeked out of his bedroom, looking beyond the kitchen window. Chichi was standing outside watering the watermelons she had recently planted. Gohan glanced over his shoulder at his little brother's side of the bedroom. There were sheets, a pillow case, and a clean blanket folded on his bed, which Chichi probably planned on making right after watering the watermelons.
Their bedroom no longer looked like a little boy lived there. Goten threw out his toybox and bought a wooden desk that matched Gohan's on his fifteenth birthday. It stood in the corner of Goten's side of the room, empty just like his bed, collecting dust. It freaked Gohan out a little bit to be honest. How many times had he woken up in the middle of the night, startled not to see his younger brother snoring in bed, or frantically staying awake all night at his desk to finish homework he had weeks to do? Gohan checked his phone again.
"I've got just enough time for a quick walk," he decided.
The sun was so bright when he stepped outside that it took half a minute for his eyes to adjust. Once they did, Gohan put his hands in his pockets and strolled over to Chichi's garden.
"How's it going?" He asked, crouching down to get a good look at one large watermelon growing on the vines. "That sucker is huge! I call dibs on this one, Goten can have that misshapen one over there. Are you sure that's a watermelon? It looks like a giant cucumber to me."
Chichi laughed." They'll be ready to pick soon. Hopefully, we can eat them together as a family, before Goten returns to school. How's your thesis paper coming along?"
"Um, not so good. Bulma keeps texting me. She wants her dad's research journals back, but I'm not done looking through them yet." Gohan started down a path leading away from the yard and into the forest. He waved at his mom." I'm going on a quick walk to clear my head."
"Goten will be here soon," Chichi reminded him.
"I'll just take a fifteen-minute walk, then."
Chichi shook her head, focusing her attention on her garden. From the edge of the forest, Gohan studied her, remembering a time when she had black hair instead of grey, and a more controlling attitude. Except for a few defined lines by her mouth and the changing color of her hair, his mom really hadn't aged that much. She could easily pass for a woman in her early twenties. She certainly didn't look forty-six.
"If she looks twenty then maybe I can still pass for eighteen," Gohan chuckled. He forgot about his brother's pending visit as he walked through the forest. He stopped a few times to admire a spider web and to talk to a curious chipmunk that came so close he could almost pet it. The forest animals had come to know him as the human that came out of his house occasionally, smelling of thesis papers and anxiety, definitely not a threat.
He soon came to the highest point of his walk—the top of a mountain. He felt the stretch in his legs as he scaled it. An ordinary person would've needed to take breaks to catch their breath, but Gohan hardly considered this a good cardio workout.
The view from the top of the mountain was amazing. Gohan shielded his eyes as he took in the sight of the perfect blue lake below him, its gentle waves glistening white as it reflected the sky and sun. He'd discovered the lake many years ago when he went fishing with his dad. Of course, "fishing" meant luring the fish with his tail then diving in after it. He only started revisiting the lake after his divorce. The towns closest to Mount Paozu had grown significantly over the years, and more people had built houses nearby, but no one had discovered the lake yet. It was all his.
Gohan plucked a piece of tall grass, broke it in half, and stuck it into his mouth to chew on as he descended the mountain. He walked a couple laps around the lake, spotting different fish, birds, snakes, and other animals along the way. "Hello, there," He greeted, offering a friendly wave. Eventually, he grew tired and settled down on the rocks near the lake, his feet barely out of reach of the water's waves.
"Mr. Satan is holding a tournament in a few weeks, and I'm going to be the one who wins Videl," Sharpener declared. He waited for Gohan to get angry or respond in some sort of way, but Gohan had completely shut down after hearing Videl's name, as he so often did. He said nothing. Sharpener decided to cut Erasa's visit short." We're leaving, Erasa. If this coward won't fight for Videl, then I'm glad they broke up. She deserved better."
The piece of grass sticking out of Gohan's mouth bobbed as he nibbled on it. "Yeah. Videl does deserve better. She deserves to choose who she marries. Mr. Satan should've come to this conclusion on his own years ago. She's not an object to be won or given away." He couldn't help but wonder what spurred Mr. Satan to host this tournament, had Videl found someone she wanted to marry, but Mr. Satan was against it? Maybe Mr. Satan was eager to become a grandfather, just like Gohan's mother was? He was only twenty-eight, but Gohan couldn't remember how many blind dates and arranged marriages he'd turned down. There were so many! Just like Mr. Satan, Chichi hadn't learned anything from Gohan's divorce. Of course, every time he turned down a blind date or arranged marriage, his mother would point a finger at him and say," Ha! I knew you were in love with Erasa! Ask her to marry you already, what are you waiting for?"
The rocks crunched under someone's weight. Gohan quickly sat up, worried that he'd accidentally encountered another bear. Bears, he realized, didn't like it when he hung out at the lake, most likely because they didn't want to share their fish with him. Gohan always caught the biggest fish.
It was not a bear that had snuck up on him, and he let out a relieved sigh.
Goten grinned." Did I scare you?"
"I thought you were a bear."
" Everyone thinks that," Goten sarcastically responded. He threw his backpack on the ground, then sat on it." What are you doing out here by yourself? Training to become the next Master Roshi?" Goten looked around him." Alright, where are you hiding your nude magazines? You must have a collection of them piled up somewhere."
Gohan pushed his brother off the backpack." Stop."
Goten laughed."No, seriously. Why are you out here? Did something happen?"
Gohan thought about telling Goten about Sharpener's visit last week, but instead he said," I'm working on my thesis paper about Capsule Corp's engineering findings by Dr. Briefs. It's due in twenty-four hours. I was taking a break."
Gohan could feel Goten studying his face, so he focused on the lake, pretending that he wasn't just thinking about his ex-wife.
Goten nodded." Writing papers is a pain. I can't wait to be done with high school."
"You don't want to go to college?" Gohan frowned.
"Maybe someday," Goten murmured. He didn't need to bring up how bad his grades were. Gohan already knew his brother was barely passing his classes. He only went to school to be with his friends and to meet pretty girls." I want to travel the world and eat delicious food after I graduate."
Gohan dramatically sighed." Always thinking about food. Sometimes it feels like I've spent seventeen years raising a pig instead of a boy."
"Oink, oink. Hey, why did you have to say pig? Now I'm craving bacon."
"We should head back." Gohan stood up and began dusting the dirt and grass off his clothes. Goten had some grass and pine tree needles stuck on his shirt, and he wiped those away as well. He stopped what he was doing once he remembered that the boy standing at his eye level was almost a man now. " Oh, sorry. I'm treating you like a child again."
Goten shrugged." I don't mind. Just don't do it when I have my friends around. They think it's weird my dad is so motherly to me."
Gohan winced." They think I'm your dad? Do I really look that old?"
Goten picked up his backpack and started walking into the forest with Gohan. " I don't know how to tell you this, but you get so stressed out with school and work that you've lost a lot of hair. Your hairline has receded a lot. By the time I'm your age you'll probably be bald. Plus, you're always dressed in suits and turtle neck sweaters, which makes you look forty sometimes. Mom could pass as your little sister."
"It's not too late to stop stressing out about everything and start dressing cooler, is what I'm trying to say."
Gohan roughly patted Goten's shoulders. " Glad to have you back home."
The two brothers talked about school, movies, and other stuff as they walked through the forest. It wasn't until Gohan saw the chopper parked outside their house that Goten finally mentioned Erasa.
"Erasa was waiting outside the school dorm. I think mom asked her to pick me up. She's really nice. Have you guys started dating yet?"
"We're just friends."
"You have amazing self-control. I've dated all my female friends."
"How'd that work out for you?"
"All of them hated me for a while after the breakup. Some stopped being my friend. I think one of them became a stalker, but my relationships have nothing to do with Erasa. She's in love with you."
"We're just friends," Gohan firmly repeated. It was annoying that everyone was trying to push him into dating Erasa. Yes, he used to secretly harbor romantic feelings for her, but those feelings evaporated that day they kissed years ago. They had been alone in his bedroom. He was tutoring her for an important test. They made eye contact. She kissed him. He kissed her back. He enjoyed it fleetingly before a huge wave of guilt washed over him, and he pulled away. He was still in love with Videl. Erasa didn't talk to him for a few weeks, but eventually forgave him.
Gohan and Goten stepped into the house. Their mother had started cooking the big "Welcome Home" meal she had planned, filling the entire house with its delicious scent. Erasa was sitting at the table, awkwardly holding a chopping knife in her hand as Chichi demonstrated how to quickly chop a bunch of vegetables in just a few seconds. She dropped the knife and jumped to her feet the second Gohan came into the house.
"Gohan! You're back!" Erasa squealed and rushed over to Gohan, kissing him on the cheek. Gohan blushed. Chichi and Goten smirked at the affection. They were never going to believe that they were just friends, Gohan realized.
"Sorry. I went for a walk and ended up taking a nap out by the lake. I hope my mom didn't force you to to do anything weird," Gohan laughed. He could feel his blush creeping to the tips of his ears. He really hoped Erasa wasn't forced to fold his laundry while she waited for him to return. He was prepared to walk out the front door and hide out in the woods if she had. His mom was really doing everything she could to push them together.
"What do you mean weird?" Chichi huffed, digging the knife into the cutting board." If by weird you mean forcing her to help me cook, then no I did not force her to help me. She offered and I accepted."
"Actually, I said I would be happy to help if I knew how to cook, but I don't." Erasa giggled." She showed me how to gut a fish earlier…" Although Erasa was smiling, Gohan could see that she was uncomfortable. She wanted out of that kitchen as soon as possible.
Gohan gently pushed Erasa towards his bedroom." Can you have Goten take over as your helper? There's something important I need to discuss with Erasa."
Chichi gathered the chopped vegetables and threw them into the large pot she had on the stove." Don't worry about me. I can finish cooking dinner on my own. Goten, sweetie, why don't you give your brother some privacy and lie down in my room for a while, I'm sure you must be tired."
Gohan wasn't fooled. The second he closed the door and took a few steps toward his desk, he sensed his brother and mother leaning against the door, pressing their ears against the wood so they could hear every sound. What they were hoping to hear, Gohan couldn't even imagine without blushing.
Erasa sat down on Gohan's bed with a heavy sigh. Gohan smiled. Dealing with his mother was exhausting. "Thank you for picking Goten up. You didn't have to do that."
" You don't have to thank me, silly. I was on my way over so I thought it would be nice to have someone to talk to for a change. I still can't believe your little brother will be graduating high school soon. Remember when we were in high school? Those days were so much fun! Remember when…"
Gohan smiled as Erasa rambled on about when they were in high school. Since his time in high school had been so brief, there was a lot of people she mentioned that he didn't know. He patiently listened as she switched topics from high school to work, to her cute new neighbor who moved in next door, before finally steering the topic to something he was more interested in. It was the same question he asked Erasa for over ten years.
"How is she?"
Erasa grew silent. Before they had shared that kiss so long ago, she would happily ramble on about everything Videl did that week, but now her words were limited to "she's doing good" or "she's been busy." Erasa stared, expressionless, at Gohan, reluctant to say anything.
"Is she hurt? Did something happen?" He asked in a panic, abandoning his desk to sit next to her. Erasa's hands were in her lap and Gohan placed his hand on top of hers. She felt so small and warm. He stared into her eyes. Her eyelashes fluttered, then she looked down at the floor.
"You never ask how I'm doing. You only care about Videl. Don't I matter to you?" Erasa mumbled.
"Of course you matter to me," Gohan responded. So, nothing had happened to Videl. Erasa was just feeling jealous.
"The last day to signup for the tournament is tomorrow. Top fighters from all over the world have entered the tournament. My cousin is right. There's no way you can win."
Gohan couldn't suppress his smirk or the words that flew out of his mouth." Heh. I'll win the tournament no matter what."
Erasa gasped." Don't tell me you're planning to enter the tournament! Gohan, this isn't a game, those men could kill you!" Tears sprung from her eyes, and she clutched his hands tightly." You've lost her. Just give up."
"I can't give up. Even if Videl isn't in love with me, I need to win this for her. I can't just sit by and watch her marry a complete stranger."
"So, you'll marry her instead," Erasa mumbled bitterly.
"No. My plan is to win the tournament, not force Videl to marry me. It's time Mr. Satan finds out he's not the strongest fighter in the world."
"You're insane," Erasa giggled. She had never seen Gohan practice martial arts or fight for real, and he couldn't wait to show her—and Sharpener—just how strong he was. Once they saw what he could do, they wouldn't doubt his ability to win the tournament.
"Will you be in the stands cheering for me?" Gohan asked.
Erasa flashed her teeth in a wide smiled, touched that he'd want her there." We're friends. Of course I'll be there cheering for you!" At that moment, Goten busted through the door.
"I'm going to enter the tournament too," Goten declared with so much determination that it would be pointless to argue with him." I'll help you win the tournament for my sister-in-law!"
"I'm not actually going to marry her…" Gohan began, but his mother walked into the room at that moment. Chichi's face was rosy and her eyes were sparkling. She sat beside Erasa .
"I had no idea my son was still in love with Videl. If he gets married in front of the entire world, there's no way they can get divorced again. That would be too shameful. This time the marriage will last forever!" Chichi laughed maniacally.
"I'll ask Trunks to enter the tournament to make it more interesting," Goten excitedly stated.
Gohan slipped out of his bedroom unnoticed, leaving Erasa to deal with his crazy family. He needed to get some fresh air. He called Nimbus this time and flew softly into the sky, venturing far across the ocean, remembering the promise he made to Videl right after their divorce. After returning home that day and fixing everything in the house, Gohan had found his four-star dragon ball. He knew his word alone wasn't enough to convince Videl that he would be back for her. That's why he flew back to the mansion that night and left a note and gift on her bed.
Gohan tipped his head back and spoke to the stars." It looks like I'll finally be coming back for you, Videl. I hope you took good care of the four-star dragonball for me."
Gohan had paid for his education thanks to his job as Gordo Lotus' bodyguard, and he'd helped raise his little brother into a man. Finally, he could face the woman he loved without anything holding him back, and although he wasn't going to force her to marry him, he wasn't going to let her slip through his fingers again. Even if she was in love with someone else, he was going to win her heart no matter what.
He could almost hear the warmth and pride from Goku's voice in heaven." I'm proud of you, son."
- END -