"Maaan, I didn't expect such a crowd…" Caulifla craned her neck to get a better view of the warriors assembled around the gigantic ring.
"Well, it...it is eighty people." Cabba always managed to sound apologetic. Pure politeness that boy. It pissed Caulifla off something fierce.
"Yeah, well, y'know, you hear 'eight teams of ten people' and it's like, okay, those are reasonable numbers. I don't got time to multiplicate."
"Sure..." Cabba trailed off, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. With terrified slowness he turned his head—freezing as he found himself caught in a death-glare from Kale, standing directly behind them. "Ah!"
She remained silent, the venom in her eyes tempered by a lifetime of hesitation.
"Do...you want to talk to her?" he whispered, shuffling back so he was very clearly not standing between the girls. "Please don't, uh...please don't get mad again." Silence. "I'm sorry?" Silence. "Sorry."
Caulifla, oblivious to all this, was sizing up those eighty fighters. Their own team was a lot to take in, and she'd barely had a few hours to do so in Champa's palace before coming here—most of which she'd spent adjusting to the fact that it was the palace of the top deity of their entire universe. Her fellow saiyans were the only members she'd already known; there was Kale, good old Kale, and that nerd Cabba. He meant well. She hated that. The first three Super Saiyans of universe 6, though; wasn't that a cool concept? Anyway, then they had a couple Namekians whose dislikes seemed to include talking and being interesting; a big robot guy; a big round guy; a little pig guy (she wanted to say doctor…?); and of course, the celebrities.
Frost was looking pretty desperate, and after going from beloved hero to wanted criminal no wonder. Hit she hadn't seen before, but naturally she'd heard of him. Comforting to have someone that deadly on your side, at least. It was kinda surreal standing next to both of them. More surreal than the whole, multiverse, gods, erasure deal even, because it was a level of weird she actually had a framework for.
It wasn't hard to work out which team was universe 7. That cluster of saiyan hair was pretty distinctive. Seemed they had a Namek and their own version of Frost, too...meanwhile universes 2 and 11 were already doing pre-battle poses, most of 10's meatheads were shadow-boxing, 3's mechanical warriors were running last-minute diagnostics, and 4 and 9 were doing the smart thing and observing their opponents. "The smart thing" was of course defined as whatever Caulifla was doing at the moment, if you asked Caulifla. Or Kale.
Seemed they weren't starting immediately, so the group formations started loosening up. Cabba was heading over towards his team 7 buddies, so Caulifla figured she might as well take the chance to get a closer look at the competition, slouching along in his wake with her hands behind her head and a posture that emphasised how beneath her was universe 7, was Cabba, was the very concept of walking.
"H-Hey…" came Kale's voice from behind her.
"It's gonna be okay, right? Everyone looks so strong…"
"Whaaat? Don't sweat it. Promise I'll keep ya safe." Caulifla ruffled her hair and gave a wink before turning back towards their rivals.
She seemed to have a pretty good time once she got there, bigging herself up and laughing alongside a similarly-minded saiyan musclehead from their team while Cabba paid respects to his mentor, who pretended not to care.
Watching from afar, frozen from approaching like always, Kale bit into her knuckle, eyes unblinking.
That's not it, Caulifla.
I'm not the one I'm worried about.
You're gonna leap to fight everyone, and everyone's so strong.
I don't want...no-one else can have you! But I'm not strong enough. Not to help you, not even to tell you.
After all, I'm just…
She was shaken out of her reverie by an announcement from the Grand Priest overhead—fighters to return to their teams, the Tournament of Power to begin forthwith. She managed to scamper back over to team 6 before Caulifla and Cabba ended up dragging her behind them or something, slinking behind the towering forms of Magetta and Botamo for cover. The corner of her eye caught Frost flitting back over from somewhere across the arena. Knowing him for the deceiver he was, solo action was highly suspect, but before she could really consider this—
Even if they were mostly testing each others' defences, the finest warriors of eight universes going at it on an open flat plain was an eruption of awe-inspiring mayhem. Caulifla was right in the fray, laughing and barrelling into fighter after fighter as chain-explosions chased her path. Hit stalked the battlefield, his Time-Skip letting him vanish and reappear at will, someone occasionally collapsing as he spotted an opening. Frost was naturally nowhere to be found.
Someone skidded to a halt in front of Kale, taking a fighting stance—one of universe 2's leading ladies, Sanka Ku, looking extremely out of place in her neat blue dress. Kale gave a start, jumping back and throwing an instinctive ki blast in reaction, but Sanka backhanded it away and carried on, Kale yelping and cowering behind her crossed arms—then freezing up entirely as Caulifla catapulted in from behind, a flying kick sending Kale's assailant flying towards the edge of the ring.
"Yo! You doing okay?"
"No prob! I know you'll bring out your power soon! Now…" Caulifla raised a hand, lining up a shot on her airborne target, aiming to propel her out of bounds completely before she could land. Before she could fire, though, another universe 2 combatant swooped in on feathered wings and snatched Sanka away, vanishing into the melee.
Caulifla lowered her arm. "Tch! Next time."
Sanka let herself breathe again as her rescuer set her down behind universe 2's front line, gazing up at her starry-eyed. "Thank you, Vikal...I can always count on you."
Vikal held her closer. "Anything for you...Sanka Ku."
Out on the spectator stands, universe 2's destroyer god Heles clapped delightedly. "Is it not beautiful? Those two truly possess the power of love! They won't lose…" She turned a pointed gaze at universe 6's Champa. "Even if certain barbarians seek to rudely eliminate my elite warriors before they can transform, and grace this grandest of battlefields with their most beautiful forms!"
"Hah!" Champa threw his head back, jubilant. "Whine all you want, it looks like my saiyans are too much for universe 2 to handle! Go get 'em, universe 6!"
His twin brother, Beerus of universe 7, gave a snort from next to him. "If saiyans are so amazing, you've got no chance against mine. In our last tournament, mine had to teach yours what a Super Saiyan is!"
"You wanna go, Beerus?"
The slimmer twin waved a hand at the tapestry of violence unfolding in the ring. "Isn't that what we're doing?"
Universe 4's Quitela observed this conversation out of the corner of his eye, not deigning to face them. For once, Beerus, you're right about something. Universe 7 is dangerous. I wasn't gonna let our history ruin my judgement and chances of survival, but I heard you won the tournament against 6 and the Exhibition Match against 9.
So I'm not wasting any time. Universe 4 is gonna take out the favourites right off the bat.
"Really, guys?!" Gohan yelled as fully half their team—Goku, Vegeta, Freeza, 17 and 18—took off on their own to go get stuck in to the melee. "Don't we want to win?"
"It was inevitable, Gohan," said Tenshinhan, moving to cover the formation's rear. "The rest of us will still follow your lead."
Piccolo put a hand on his student's shoulder. "Honestly, our teamwork will be a lot stronger without any wildcards. They're playing to their strengths, going for the big dramatic knockouts. We can do our part by focusing on defence and survival. Wait..." He frowned at an odd shift in air pressure, then suddenly a sharp blow seemingly from nowhere drove him to his knees.
"What th—" Krillin threw up a block but to no avail, as a similarly-unseen hit pushed him into the centre of their little circle.
Gohan stepped back to catch him. "An invisible fighter...come to think of it, I only saw eight fighters in universe 4's team. Tighten the circle, guys—don't let them get between us."
"I don't sense any ki either…" the Turtle Hermit added. "Don't let your guard down."
"Gamisaras, withdraw! Well done hemming them in!" The source of the voice was an amphibious finned creature in ornate reds and purples. She clapped her hands together and several points of light sprung up around them—something she must have been planting while the invisible Gamisaras kept them occupied. Sparking lines joined the points into a circle, and abruptly the whole area sank into the ground, plunging this new opponent and the universe 7 group into a secluded, shadowy recess.
"You're pretty confident," Piccolo said, "setting up an arena against all five of us. Even if your two invisible friends are here, you're still outnumbered."
"They won't be necessary," she said, drawing herself up. "I, Dercori, will seal universe 7's defeat myself!"
"Damn Goku, drawing all this attention to us...Gohan, what's the plan?"
"She planted some kind of talismans in the stage to disrupt it," came the reply. "For now, just hit her hard and fast before she can plant any more!" At their leader's command, the five leapt to the attack, Dercori grinning as she prepared to receive them.
"I can't stand the light, you know…" she purred. "But down here in the dark, I feel...alive!" Her body rippled and warped, each limb sprouting into a huge flowing mass of tentacles, smacking the surprised fighters back into the far wall of her carved-out arena.
Gohan rolled to his feet, rubbing his face where he'd been hit. What strength! Her ki was impressive enough before, but this is something else… Too late, he noticed another tentacle snaking around to strike him, but before his unpreparedness could cost him, a Kienzan cut it short. Krillin, having recovered his balance in midair and rebounded off the wall rather than falling, skidded to a halt next to him.
"Thanks, man…" Gohan stood, sizing up their foe. There were just too many limbs, the attack pattern too unpredictable.
"Change of plans?" Krillin guessed, as the rest of the team regrouped around them, taking a more spread-out formation to divide her attention and throwing quick ki blasts to keep her attacks at bay.
"Yeah. We need to get out of this hole and back into the light, where she's weaker. But stay together, so don't jump until my signal. One...two..."
"So wait, are we jumping on 'three', or is it like—"
"Jump! ...huh?" Despite his best efforts, Gohan hadn't made it more than a foot off the ground before an immutable force had planted him back where he started. The others were similarly afflicted, and looking closer he noticed another of Dercori's talismans planted directly on each fighter's shadow, fixing them in place.
"Hah!" She reared up to her full monstrous height. "Couldn't keep track of all my limbs, could you?" At a gesture from her, a bulky figure appeared on the lip of the sunken arena. "Monna, move in! Time to knock them all off!"
"This…" Gohan gave a nervous smile. "...is a pretty efficient trap, I gotta admit…"
"Hey there!" Cabba jogged up to the girls, ducking out of the way as one of universe 11's Pride Troopers came barrelling by with an opponent on each arm. "How you getting along?"
Caulifla gave Kale a mock punch on the arm, not noticing the flinch this caused. "I'm fine, but someone needs to step up her game, huh?"
"I'm having some trouble myself…" Cabba admitted, averting his gaze. "Before I can really get to grips with anybody someone else jumps us, so I can't land any finishing blows…"
Panicked screaming drew their attention to the left, where several of team 2's cyborg warriors were fleeing from something, scrambling right past the saiyan trio in their frenzy to escape.
"We don't stand a chance!"
"What a terrifying ability!"
"That damn universe 6!"
Caulifla blinked. "...us? Hey, don't tell me…"
In the direction the rout had begun, a familiar figure swaggered into view—the bespectacled little Dr. Rota.
He threw his head back, jubilant. "Ahahaha! Now you see why it is I am called a Doctor! And for my next target—you!" He spun as if to strike, but the warrior now bearing down on him appeared directly behind his new position, delivering a quick strike to the back of Rota's neck, then kicking the stunned doctor with enough force to carry him clean off the arena.
"Im...possible...his ki was…" With a click, he was warped to the stands mid-fall, appearing with his head hung next to an enraged Champa.
"Why, you…! We're the first team to lose a member now!" the god fumed.
"Now, now," said his attendant angel, Vados, tapping his shoulder with her staff. "Rota was only targeted because he was doing so well. And his loss has given us valuable information: fighters who stand out will be disproportionately attacked."
Champa hmph!ed once more.
"Universe 6's Dr. Rota has dropped out," came the Grand Priest's announcement from on high. He turned to the throne emplacement overlooking the tournament. "Your majesties, if you would do the honours?"
"Yeah!" The two Omni-Kings compared GodPads, bringing up universe 6's page and tapping the relevant icon. "Doctor Rota...out!"
"That was super-cool!" said one.
"Yeah, yeah!" said the other.
"He was totally surprised!"
Down below in the ring, the raggedly-dressed warrior who'd taken out Rota turned to face the saiyans. "I see a desire to avenge that loss in your eyes. But I, Obuni of universe 10, am only interested in truly worthy opponents. With a universe that lost its last tournament...you'll have to prove yourself worth my attention, like your comrade did." He snapped his fingers, and a half-dozen of universe 10's fighters sprung in to shield him as he headed off in search of other battles.
"Looking down on us, are ya?" Caulifla slammed a fist into her opposite palm. "C'mon then, 10! I'll take you all out myself!"
A couple things to get out of the way:
1. If you're one of those who didn't like the saiyan girls getting so powerful so fast in the show, you're probably not gonna like this story so tap out while you can. Though who knows, maybe the way I'll write and execute that kind of thing will be more palatable to you than the show's version.
2. I generally prefer the Japanese version of Dragon Ball, which is not to say it's 'better'—the English dub has come a long way since the 90s—it's just my personal preferred version. So that's the names I'll be using; 'Tenshinhan' instead of 'Tien', and so on. The most confusing of these might be 'Master Roshi', which I won't be using on account of the fact that translated it basically means "Master Master". In Japanese versions he is referred to either as "Kame-Sen'nin" ("Turtle Hermit"), or "Muten-Roshi" ("The Invincible Old Master").
3. While I've generally enjoyed the Universe Survival arc, I was rather disappointed with Jiren and the lack of an interesting antagonist really hurt the story in my opinion. So while the rest of this story is just going to be "what if the tournament had gone differently and from a different universe's point of view", I am going to be revamping the Pride Troopers somewhat. They'll still be DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE and all, but epithets like "the Grey" made me think of Arthur's Knights of the Round, so I'm going to give them some of that flavour to blend with their existing sentai aesthetic. Hopefully you'll enjoy that, and wrapped up in it my attempt to make Jiren a bit less dull.
With all that said, please enjoy the story!