Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.
The wooden bucket, medium in size, with metal accents and a sturdy handle, was brimming with the rainwater it had collected. Soon would mark the fourteenth time it had to be emptied, and the prison guards were getting fed-up with the extra labour. This thunderstorm had lasted for three days, six hours, and forty-eight minutes - not that he was keeping track.
Why did Turles get stuck with the leaking cell?
The Saiyan laid on his shabby bed; back facing the vertical jail bars and eyes staring into the cold, Katchin wall. There was not much to think about these days. Reality was a merciless mistress. She dampened any hopes or dreams by haunting Turles with just two simple words - life imprisonment. Any plans or schedules were now wasted atoning for crimes he committed long ago.
Four-hundred counts of piracy, seventeen acts of genocide - just to name a couple. But above all else, insulting King Sadala in front of all his loyal subjects was the worst offence he could have perpetrated. And it made Turles gush with so much satisfaction.
He did not deny a single charge pressed against him. Inhumane and callous was what they called him. He preferred to be called Khan of the Space-Pirates - before that conniving, two-faced lizard ratted him out to the authorities. Now he was known as Prisoner T-31, just another inmate at a super-max security prison. The Pinneyapple Penitentiary, prided as Planet Sadala's top correctional facility, was a neglected, dysfunctional, and archaic institute. Designed to incarcerate the most powerful villains in Universe 6, and yet the warden would not invest a few hundred Zeni to fix the cracks in Turles' ceiling?
It was as though King Sadala had personally demanded for Turles to suffer for the rest of his existence, then crossed the wardens palm with gold. Ultimately, Turles knew that he was fortunate to still be alive.
I would love nothing more than to hurt that so-called "king".
"Boss?.. Boss, are you asleep?"
The Saiyan continued his fixed glare at the wall. The voice irritated him substantially, but he replied nonetheless. "No... I can't sleep. Not with all this racket."
"Racket..? Boss..? I don't hear no racket." Chokka stood across the corridor, his hands entwined around the metal bars of his own prison cell. With his elongated purple scalp and blotchy skin pigments, it was easy to distinguish that Chokka was a member of Appule's race - an octopus-like humanoid with wide mouth and short temper. There was a bewildered look about him. Turles was hearing things that he could not and it confused him greatly. "You must have super-hearing or something, right?"
Turles turned over to his fellow inmate across the hall, his gaze piercing through him like a bullet. "The racket is your unnecessary babbling, you insufferable worm..! Now, do me a favour, and shut your trap."
"Yes, boss, sir, Khan Turles! Forgive me..." Chokka said. "I just thought you'd be interested in some news... about the tree."
"Chokka, first and foremost, what have I told you about calling me Khan?" Turles replied, rolling onto his back. His eyes drifted upwards, and his mind cast back to when he was at the pinnacle of his power. "That moniker belongs to someone else now... A traitor."
The purple alien swallowed the last remnants of his dignity. How embarrassing.
"Secondly," the Saiyan continued. "Yes, tell me this news. Perhaps it might redeem you for your idiocy."
"Well, my cousin's friend told me that a woman he knew worked for a delivery business, and that she knew this guy who knew this other guy, and that he would go-..."
"STOP!" snapped Turles. Raw aggression had built up, then overflowed. His hands balled into fists and he let out a deep sigh. Relaxing into the bed again, Turles regained composure and allowed his frustration to subside. "Now... start over."
Chokka sheepishly gawked at the floor. A rat scurried by and vanished into a aperture between the tiles. Chokka was already on his third strike and could not afford another. He thought hard, quickly trying to collate all the details into a few sentences without the needless rambling. It proved more difficult than expected. Being concise was never Chokka's strong suit, jabbering continuously was just his way. He enjoyed the tortuous exaggerations and harmless white lies - they made for much better stories.
"An old friend of mine ran a deep-space salvage operation," Chokka explained. "While exploring the Northern Quadrant, she stumbled across a very odd-looking world. As things turned out... it was Champa's Planet."
Three months earlier
Raysun was a superb pilot. Her crew were equally superb salvagers. It was easily figured that together they would make the perfect team. A vibrant group of ex-convicts trying to make an honest living in the universe. Since their former leader - and ex-Khan of the Space-Pirates - had disappeared, the once mighty armada fell from grace. Infighting and politics paved the way for splinter factions to emerge and wage war on each other. Those that were recruited against their will, and whose records remained unblemished, handed themselves over the Galactic Patrol. And this motley bunch were among those.
After graduating from rehabilitation, they now earned their upkeep, rather than steal it from unsuspecting shipping freighters. Their documents and certifications made their line of work entirely legal, and they were strangely content with it. The stars offered a beautiful bounty if one knew where to look.
"You seeing this, Frazlo?" Raysun said, her voice reaching a high note. She was astonished. "Look at that!"
"Oh, I see it, girl." Frazlo answered. "I can't not see it..."
Frazlo reached down to the control panel and flipped a switch. The intercom system screeched when it came on, then he spoke softly into the microphone. "Uhh... You guys seriously need to come up-deck and see what we're seein'."
The residual crew members, all two of them, made their way up into the cockpit. The trend was similar, mouths parting with disbelief.
It was a tree - but its enormity was unfathomable. Its roots dug deep into some kind of gigantic, triangular structure - upended and split into three segments. A pyramid maybe?
"Is that what I think it is?" Raysun asked. "The legend? The Tree of Might?"
"Wouldn't hurt to find out," remarked Plumb who stood behind her. His eyes were glued on the viewing port like it was gleaming with treasure. "I say we go down there and check."
Raysun navigated her small mining vessel through asteroid fields and the eerie remains of what was once a moon. As they flew closer, the vast vegetation became more and more apparent. This place was thriving with plant life. Frazlo had never seen so much greenery. The shrubs here stretched higher than the mountains on some planets. Raysun tried putting her wonderment aside while she searched for a clearance or partition to land. It was much easier said than done.
"There!" Kieva pointed out, her finger spearing pass Raysun's ear with assertiveness. "I see an opening between those red bushes!.."
The pilot took heed and lowered the transport. The landing was a bit shaky. The ground was uneven and full of sprouting roots, but Raysun managed. She had settled ships on far worse terrain before; try an exploding planetoid. Briskly pressing an array of colourful buttons, Raysun unfastened her safety belt, lowered the docking ramp, and deployed the wall-mounted weapon rack.
Guns - plenty of them. Rayguns, laser pistols, kinetic rifles, even grenades - all licensed and legally purchased. Salvage operations could be a dangerous business. You never know what you could encounter, and Raysun was not going to take any chances.
I'd rather have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
The four soon found themselves outside of their vessel and feeling vulnerable. The jungle was endless and riddled with hiding spots. Vicious predators could be hiding in any one of them, waiting to lunge out and attack.
"I'll be waiting here at the ship," Frazlo said. "Contact me on the comms if there's any problems."
"Keep the ramp up and the engine warm." replied Raysun. "We don't want any hitchhikers."
Frazlo grunted, then nodded. The trio, consisting of Raysun, Kieva, and Plumb, steadily made their way through the thick foliage - their weapons close to chest. It was amazing. Magnificent waterfalls and streams helped add variation to the topography. Birds and butterflies fluttered across the canopy and nestled in the leaves. The perfect paradise.
"I see it!.." Plumb shouted, his voice raspy and stern. "It's one of the roots that leads to the giant tree."
"Mind your footing," Kieva said in response. The root was large and thick, but littered with holes and weak points. Oddly, the surface had been planed off, appearing more like a pathway than a natural offshoot. Someone had been here before.
After an hour of tirelessly scaling up, the three made it to the top intact. The humongous trunk dwarfed them.
"Woah," Raysun mumbled beneath bated breath. An archway had been chiselled into the wood - an entrance. Interweaving ivy vines decorated the arch, some even blossoming yellow and pink flowers. The attention to detail and craftsmanship involved here was masterful; as if King Sadala's personal carpenters were responsible. Surprisingly, a strong candlelight illuminated from within the passage, revealing a long dining table with several seats. "This place is a home..."
She did not like trespassing at all, but this world had way too much potential. Raysun never would have imagined that the Tree of Might existed, especially in the Northern Quadrant. But it looked nothing like the illustrations in the books she used to read. She thought there would be more gods and angels involved.
As they ventured further in, a distant voice made them freeze still. It sounded winy, stubborn, and entitled. "Vados! Where is my snuggles!? Garhhhh!.. You know I can't sleep without my snuggles!"
"I'll check in here, Lord Champa-... oh, my."
An elegant woman, blue-skinned and tall, wandered in to find the three huddled up scavengers, all pointing their guns at her. The mannerisms were very lady-like. Donning abnormal robes, a long red staff, and an unusual ring that floated around her head, she raised her fingers to her lips in shock.
"Forgive us!" Raysun said, immediately trying to de-escalate the situation. Kieva, Raysun, and Plumb lowered their weapons. "We did not mean to intrude. We were only checking if this place was the Tree of Might."
"Oh-ho-ho-ho!" Vados began laughing. She chimed jollier and a lot more respectful than the voice calling out to her earlier. "Goodness, no. This is most definitely not the Tree of Might. This is the home of the God of Destruction, Lord Champa."
"Hey! What's going on in here!?.." Accompanying his attendant, a large, overweight, cat-like humanoid entered the dining room. Unlike Vados, he wore no garments. Instead, he sported bright red pyjamas and hugged a stuffed teddy bear against his collarbone. "Grrrrrr!.. Who are you guys!? I should destroy you all right now for trespassing!"
The trio gasped, then hesitantly backed up.
"Please hold on, my Lord," Vados politely intervened. "It seems these three were misguided. They were under the belief that your home was the Tree of Might."
"The Tree of Might, aye?" This prompted a light chuckle from Champa. "You guys are pretty stupid, huh? Don't you know anything?"
"We're really sorry, Lord Champa!" The three said in unison, dropping their guns onto the floor. "We had no idea!"
"There's no need to be so harsh, my lord. They are just simple scavengers, after all." Vados responded. "Isn't that right?"
How did she know that?
Raysun cleared her throat. She was trembling with fear. "That's right... my lieges. We saw this tree... and thought... you know?"
"The Tree of Might is a cosmic entity, created by the Omni-King himself," explained Champa. "It does not exist in any of the twelve universes, and its whereabouts is unknown to anyone except Lord Zeno or Super Shenron."
Back at the mining vessel, Frazlo listened deeply into the transmitter. Raysun had turned on her comlink and their conversation was being continuously fed back to the ship. He couldn't believe it. They had stumbled across Champa's Planet, and Frazlo had half the mind to take-off now and desert his comrades. The next few moments of their discussion were incredibly tense. These unwelcome mortals had sullied and infringed Champa's home in the pursuit of knowledge.
"Please, Lord Champa, let us go in peace! We are so sorry we disturbed you." Kieva said, her vocal cords quivering.
"No," the God of Destruction replied. "You already know too much. The chances are... you're gonna' tell people where I live. Not that it means anything, because i'd just destroy them. But, I can't have people showing up uninvited. Hohohoho!.. You guys are in trouble now."
"We promise!" Raysun begged. "We promise, we won't tell anyone!.."
"I'm sorry." Champa said with a smirk. He lifted his hand. "I'll make it quick and painless. I'm a respectful god like that."
"I'm not going down without a fight!" Plumb yelled with fierce intent. In an abrupt motion, Plumb took up his gun and aimed at the forehead of Champa. But before he could squeeze the trigger and fire, it came:
The combined screams of the three crew members was enough. It sent chills down Frazlo's spine who listened to them from afar. In a swift flurry, and without a second to hesitate, the vessel lifted off the ground and streaked into the sky - leaving the freakish world as soon as possible. Frazlo had tears on his face and sweat trickling down his neck. Today he had lost his closest friends. No, his family.
"So... what you're telling me is that the Tree of Might, the illusive tree that grants anyone who consumes its fruits total godhood, does not exist is our universe or the next..? And that all my time searching, all those years of scouring the edges of the cosmos, has been a complete waste..?" Turles audaciously said, his hands once again balling into herculean fists. His veins bulged and his knuckles whitened. Turles could picture himself being in the same cell as Chokka. He would like nothing more right now than to watch Chokka's life fizzle away with his grasp firmly around the throat of the purple alien.
Chokka carefully nodded, then timidly spoke. "Yes, boss. The only way we can find the Tree of Might is to speak with the Omni-King... or Super Shenron."
"Then... it's an impossible task."
Turles twisted off his ramshackle bed and slowly rose. The anger had turned into disappointment. The Saiyan considered punching the wall, but the Katchin was too tough. He would only end up hurting himself like he had dozens of times before. The scars on his mitts were evidence of that - past outbursts.
Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.
The rainwater fell from the crack in the ceiling, only to be caught by the wooden bucket time and time again. Turles stared at it for a moment, he was thinking of something. Then, as if he was struck by the lightning storm outside, his pupils widened as the epiphany came to him. It was time.
Turles picked the bucket up by its metal handle. It was nearly overflowing. Some of the water came pouring over the edges when lifted. With a mischievous grin on his face, Turles floated his palm above it. The rainwater inside began to bubble. The Saiyan's fingertips glowed black. He was heating it up. From much experience, Turles knew how to manipulate his Ki to achieve various things. An alarm blazoned from outside his room, alerting the guards to Turles' disobedience of the prison rules. It was forbidden for inmates to practice with their Ki, and punishment was a bitter electric shock.
The hallway door burst open and two Saiyan prison guards marched down the stairs and towards Turles' cell. Their stun batons spat with electricity, and they were ready to dish out a good hiding. Katchin was a fantastic conductor. All the guards needed to do was press their weapon against the jail bars and watch the disciplining unfold. Sometimes they even did it for their own amusement.
"Did you think you could get away with using your Ki unnoticed, huh!?.." The first guard said, smiling maliciously. "Well, Turles, it looks like you get to do the retard dance today, huh? Hahaha!"
"Oh no," Turles responded, a vindictive smile of his own catching the guards attention. "I was merely trying to get someone to empty this bucket. It's full, you see, and the rain is not showing any signs of stopping, yet."
"Well, we're gonna' make you do the dance anyway," replied the second guard.
Then, without warning, the wooden bucket was flung forward. Boiling hot water splashed in their faces and the Saiyans shrieked in agony. They bumped into each other like blind imbeciles and raked at their eyes. They could not see. Turles stretched an arm through the bars and yanked one of them backwards. In a brutal motion, the guards head cracked off the cell and rendered him unconscious. Meanwhile, the other guard swung wildly; his stun baton getting lodged in Chokka's jail bars - sending the purple alien into an uncontrollable spasm. Meddling with his immobile captor, the space-pirate searched rigorously for a key. It was not long before he found it, unlocked the cell door, and leapt at the thrashing Saiyan. In a matter of seconds, Turles had hurled both of the stunned guards into his former room and sealed the door behind.
Incapacitated, scorched, and violently coughing up blood, Chokka was on the cusp of death. Turles frowned and dislodged the stun baton from Chokka's cell. It had short-circuited. Smoke rose from the weapon and the Saiyan tossed it aside. Turles then lowered his head and sighed heavily.
"Such a shame," Turles whispered. His subordinate laid there, motionless and dying. "Your service will not be forgotten, Chokka. Once I become a god, you will be one of the first I resurrect... And then, the twelve universes will crumble."
Universe 7 - Earth
"Woah, Vegeta!" Goku yelled. The energy beam sailed pass his orange Gi, narrowly missing the intended target. "You gotta' settle down! It's only a sparring match..."
The two Saiyans of Earth were exchanging blows above sea-level. They called it training, but Vegeta wasn't holding back. Bulma, Beerus, and Whis observed the Saiyan's violent nature to better one another through combat from the safety of the warm, island sand. A tray of pudding and margarita glasses, situated beside the God of Destruction, had been licked clean - but both Whis and Bulma were still enjoying theirs. The sun on Earth was much more pleasurable than any of the other worlds that Beerus and Whis had visited. The three bathed; absorbing sun rays and spectating as Goku and Vegeta attempted to improve their craft.
"HYARHHHHHHH!" Goku propelled his cupped hands at Vegeta, unleashing a thunderous Ki blast that seared through the air. But Vegeta was quick to react, and with the back of his gloved hand the Prince of all Saiyan's swatted Goku's attack away like a pestering insect - far into the distant landmasses of the archipelago. A seismic explosion lifted into the clouds, and this prompted both warriors to smirk with exuberating confidence.
"Not bad, Kakarot," Vegeta praised. He shifted himself upright, folded his arms, then continued his jesting smack-talk. "That one might've actually given me something to worry about... Maybe a headache... or a sore thumb."
"Try this on for a headache!" As soon as Goku's index and middle fingers touched his forehead, he vanished completely from view.
"Instant transmission..." Vegeta muttered silently to himself. "I don't think so!.. RARRGHH!"
The Saiyan Prince immediately turned on the spot and extended his leg sideways. A fierce roundhouse kick honed into Goku's re-emerging head, but Vegeta was left momentarily stunned. His foot went through Kakarot's head.
"GAHHHH!.." An elbow from above sunk deep into Vegeta's scalp; sending the Prince hurtling into the seawater below with tremendous force. Goku's mirage faded from view and the real one hovered in the sky, his brows furrowing. He was focusing intently - trying to spot any signs of movement from within the water. He had landed a decent blow on Vegeta, but would it be enough to win him this sparring contest?
"Two can play at that!" screamed Vegeta, who suddenly surfaced from behind. A stabbing knee to the kidney catapulted Goku away. It took him completely by surprise. He crashed into the waves but quickly recovered. They both wanted more. The thrill of battle ran deep through their veins. It was like a drug, and they both needed these extra hits to be satisfied. The last man standing would be named the winner.
"Okay, you two, that's enough training for today," Whis cut in. The two Saiyans came to a rapid halt, and the Angel was met with bewildered expressions.
"What!? You-... You can't be serious!?" Vegeta protested, his jaw lowering in confusion.
"Oh come on, Whis! I was just about to get fired up!" Goku pleaded. "Can't we keep going for a teenie bit longer!?... Please!?..."
"I'm sorry, gentlemen, but in order to become stronger, you must first learn to control your emotions." Whis said, bearing a dainty smile. "You Saiyan's are always a handful. I honestly cannot recall the last time I met such a driven bunch of individuals."
Vegeta looked away and huffed with displeasure. To the Prince, it was incredibly distasteful for Whis to call a halt to their spar early. They didn't even get the opportunity to turn Super Saiyan Blue.
The streets of West City were bustling with life. Car horns blared out amidst the loud chattering of citizens. Thousands of people flooded the sidewalks in large groups, all window-shopping and prattling about the hardships of life. Beerus, Whis, Bulma, Vegeta, and Goku made their way down the busy main street, heading to a renowned candy parlour that Bulma had positively preached about. The two deities were desperately eager to try its delicacies, even at the expense of filling their stomachs before supper.
"Bulma, how much longer do I have to walk? My feet are starting to ache," Beerus said. He lifted his paws behind his long, purple ears and stretched.
"Stop whining!.." Bulma replied. "Trust me, you guys are gonna' drool everywhere when you see what they keep on the shelves."
Then all five of them stopped in their tracks. It came as a great surprise. A ghost from the past - but an almost welcome one. Vegeta stepped forward.