Thunder clapped from high up above the effigy of Vegeta IV, whose menacing glower seemed to add a wrathful aura to the skies. Frigid winds were made more chilling by the crashing tides just south of the saiyan encampment. It seemed as if the entire Earth was upset by the absence of Kami and Annin, and was showing its disapproval by rebelling against its own inhabitants. Raditz and Launch had satisfied their impulses to desecrate the statue of Vegeta awhile ago, and had retreated inside of one of the structures, where a warm fire was crackling. Raditz admired the cozy abode by placing his hand on an opposing wall and stroking the smooth sandstone, which reminded him much of his own childhood home on planet Vegeta. The rounded houses had circular glass windows to see out of, and as he observed the crashing tides outside he swallowed, his dark eyes gleaming with some deep emotion brought on by the sight. Launch glanced up at him from where she sat beside the fire and sighed, gripping the hem of her fuschia dress. The movement of the tides also agitated her and it seemed clear to Kannon, who had left the room to go make them some warm tea to ease the chill from their bones.
"It's getting colder here. We don't care too much for the cold, so maybe Pinchie and I will take a vacation to the tropics until it passes. She wants to travel and I'm not against the idea." Nappa announced as he stretched his burly arms behind his head and reclined in an armchair.
"That's a good idea!" Launch agreed. Raditz came and sat down next to her, putting his arm around her shoulders.
"Just think, for once you can go places without being forced to kill someone there–!"
"Shh! Enough of that talk, Raditz." Kannon whispered, sitting down and pouring hot water into all of their cups except Nappa's, who didn't care much for tea.
"How have you been feeling, Launch?" She asked, handing her a stoneware cup full of steaming Sobacha tea sweetened with honey. Launch set it on her lap and sighed, resting the other hand on her small, rounded belly. "I've been doing ok, with all things considered. Raditz has been making sure I eat enough to keep this one happy, even though my nausea makes that difficult at times. There's just one thing that's a little…strange," She enunciated the last word, then took a tentative sip.
Raditz glanced quickly at Launch and his brow furrowed as he attempted to figure out what it was she hadn't told him yet. Launch sensed his eyes on her and looked up at him with a pleading gaze, as if she were silently begging for him to remain calm.
"You can tell me anything, doll. What is it?" Kannon asked sweetly, sitting down beside Launch and gazing at her curiously with her large ruby and pink eyes. In both of their transformed states, perhaps they would get along better; this was a good time for Launch to ask what had been bugging her for the longest time.
"When you were pregnant with me, did you ever see, hear something o-or someone strange?" Launch asked timidly.
Kannon took in her question and thought about it for a moment, looking towards Nappa as if he could help her answer the question. After a moment she answered, though reluctant, she didn't have the answers Launch sought.
"I remember having strange dreams, but as far as I know, strange dreams are a common symptom of pregnancy,"
"Oh, well this isn't a dream. I think I'm seeing something other people can't–!"
"What exactly did you see? And when were you going to tell me this?" Raditz clipped out, though he was attempting to keep his tone concerned. Launch shrunk back slightly and said nothing, closing her eyes to avoid his gaze.
Nappa suddenly stood up and glared at Raditz, making the younger Saiyan lower slightly in stature, taking his tea cup and sipping with an annoyed look on his face.
"You need to let little Launch talk, Raditz. She seems like she's been waiting to say this for some time." He intoned, his voice rumbling, then took his place back in his chair once he was satisfied that Raditz wouldn't interfere further. The expectant father was simply worried for his mate and his protective instinct was taking dominance over his patience.
"Fine. Go on and say what you need to - I'll be quiet." Raditz conceded. After examining his face and not finding any sign that he was lying, Launch nodded and began to elaborate.
"Well, I've seen this… person more than once. His name is Saavoy. I'm not sure why he keeps appearing to me, but I have the feeling it's because he wants me to help him…somehow."
Nappa nodded, recalling the day that Launch revealed to him that she had communicated with his long-dead elder brother. Raditz glanced back at Nappa and gasped, knowing well the story of Saavoy's death.
Launch nodded, but didn't answer, her mind going back to the dream she had underwater; or whatever it was.
"Oh! This man...Saavoy told me to tell you he says thank you. He said, thank you for burying him, he misses you dearly," She said, smiling to cover her uncertainty. Nappa was silent for a moment, blinking dumbfoundedly.
"Wh... What?" He stuttered, his gaze struck with pained confusion. Launch put one finger to her chin and thought about it.
"Yes... He is very sad where he is now. I talked to him a little while ago, but he wouldn't come with me. He seemed scared of whatever was there with him," She said solemnly, looking down at the bare fish carcass she had eaten from. Nappa stared down at his calloused hands as he laced his fingers together and sighed deeply.
"Saavoy is my older brother...well, was. But, he died a very long time ago. Unfortunately, he was slain without the chance to defend himself. He couldn't die a warrior's death, so he was unable to go onto the Great Warrior's Rest. I don't know, I suppose he's trapped in Infinite Hell."
"She's seeing ghosts?" Kannon whispered worriedly, her dainty hands covering her face as she agonized over the dangers of Launch being a medium.
"Yes. It's possible that our daughter has a rare power to communicate with the dead," Nappa suggested, though he had come to this conclusion shortly after Launch told him.
"Why didn't you tell me, Launch? Having ahmidsya is not something to be ashamed of." Raditz chuckled, his apprehension slowly seeming to melt away with his relief.
"Yes, Raditz is right. What you have is a gift from the gods!" Nappa enthused, yet Launch and Kannon didn't feel quite as enthralled by the concept. They shared a frightened glance at each other, then the room went silent as the wind battered against the walls outside and raindrops pummeled the roof in powerful sheets.
"I- I'm not sure I want this. I don't know how I'm supposed to help Saavoy! I don't even know why he's asking me for help, what can I do?" Launch cried, dropping her tea cup on the floor, clutching her belly as she attempted to hold back her sobs. Kannon quickly moved to soothe her, as did Raditz, stroking her shoulders and shushing her tears.
Nappa sobered out of his happy spell and looked up at the ceiling in thought, attempting to find a deeper understanding of Launch's dilemma. His daughter was somehow able to tap into the realm of the dead, using a combination of her natural Saiyan telepathic ability and her Gemini mind powers, which had endless possibilities.
"Perhaps you're meant to help him. Since Saavoy's time was cut short before he could reach his true potential, he was not able to rest with the other Saiyan warriors. He must still have business in this world that he needs to finish." Nappa said in a moment of clarity, which stunned Raditz and Kannon.
Launch took a deep inhale and nodded, quelling her tears, though an acerbic taste was building in the back of her throat with Nappa's words.
"...Maybe this is a gift and not a curse. After all, if I can use it to help others, it must be a good thing. I promised to help Saavoy in whatever way I can," she whispered the last part to herself, suddenly feeling a lessening of her nausea.
"It could be dangerous for you–that's what I worry about. How do we know this spirit means well?" Raditz growled and Launch sighed as the reaction she had been dreading came true. She had avoided telling him the truth and with each encounter she had with Saavoy's specter, her anxiety grew.
Raditz moved away from his concerned family and pushed his fingers into his hair at the temples, rubbing his cranium where it felt like the tension was growing with each stressful part of this discussion. He had a strange feeling about it all, as if he too had seen something odd, but didn't understand what until now. During the battle with Vulcane, a mysterious Saiyan had arrived at the last minute to assist them in the Blutzkrieg Blast that killed their enemy and blew up Planet Neptune. Not only that, but when Launch had her miscarriage, he had seen an unfamiliar Saiyan in his mind.
"Stop! Stop!" He screamed, clutching his skull in pain. As Raditz struggled with the agony, a dark shadow flashed in his mind and loomed over him. Its facial features were hidden, yet the silhouette was a near perfect reflection of himself, with long, spiky hair and Saiyan armor making the shadow's outline sharp and jagged. He began to notice the blood and wounds covering the man, before a wagging tail caught his eye, the appendage moving before the full moon that was casting the mysterious Saiyan in shadow.
"Don't let us die."
Realization hit Raditz suddenly, and he fell to his knees, resting his head in Launch's lap as his back heaved with each deep breath he was taking. Noone dared to say anything, though Launch began stroking his mane in an attempt to soothe him. Kannon stood up and began gathering everyone's tea cups with a shaky hand, placing them on a tray before she hurried out of the room with tears in her eyes. Nappa soon followed after, and the younger couple was left alone to allow this situation to sink in beside the fire. Raditz turned his head so that his ear rested against her stomach and cupped her remaining free hand.
"I'm sorry for my reaction, I just…I can't believe this is truly happening to you. I never dared speak of it, but I think I too have seen Saavoy. Once, on the battlefield and the other time to save your life."
Launch nodded and continued to comb the tangles from his unruly spikes, scratching his widow's peak, which always made him purr. Raditz resisted the urge to purr like a big puma, growling instead. Launch let out a giggle and kept scratching until his growls turned into deep, rattling purrs that shook through his body. Though she had little answer to why her ancestor was communicating with them, she knew that Saavoy's presence was not meant to scare them, even if it came across as frightening at times. The essence of his spirit was full of warmth, though it was tortured and writhing with dark energies.
The flickering fire before them cast a dark shadow behind them, which moved along the wall and into a shadowy corner, enjoying the darkness and warmth along with the cuddling mates.
When Kami and Annin reappeared, they were floating above Mars, which still remained suspended in Earth's atmosphere. Annin gripped her Guandao and grimaced. As the two of them stared at the planet, they were startled to see something curling around it, first the tip of a scaled tail, then a clawed foot, then another and another, until their eyes widened with realization. Ryokana had wrapped himself possessively around the entire planet as though he were hoarding a large jewel. To get to the furnace, they would first need to get through him.
Ryokana exhaled a cloud of smoke as Kami and Annin floated before him, having a long conversation with the majestic creature. The dragon seemed to not care what they said, though it was clear he understood by his growls and puffs of smoke. His long, spiked tail slammed against the planet, leaving great cracks in Mars' crust.
Kami made a similar huff of anger to the dragon and gripped his staff to keep his fists from flying out and bonking the great beast on its thick skull. Never in his life had he experienced nearly this much difficulty dealing with Shenron, and the Earth Eternal Dragon was grumpy as is!
"Please listen, oh powerful, great Ryokana! We do not intend to cause your planet harm… We mean to help your guardian, she's trapped under the crust and cannot get out unless I can shut off the fires for just a moment!" Annin begged, hoping that flattering the beast would work better than how Kami's previous demands had.
Ryokana slightly raised one spiny brow ridge and his golden, cat-like pupil shrunk in size as it examined Annin closely. His tail stayed poised in the air, representing his inability to decide whether or not to believe the tiny beings shouting at him. Now that Vulcane was dead, the dark magic that released him from his crystal orb and made him blind with hunger and rage had worn away. Now the dragon felt sluggish and confused about why he was here, instead of in the Eternal plane with the other dragons.
Ryokana sighed once again, another smoke cloud billowing out and overwhelming Annin. The tiny goddess coughed and attempted to clear the air with her Guandao staff, making the dragon's other brow lift as well as she moved the weapon. He sensed a powerful aura coming from her. Kami noticed the dragon's change in demeanor as he lifted his heavy, horned head and directed his gaze to the pair, his attention finally captured. Ryokana sniffed Annin and it cleared away the smoke clouds immediately, the large red feathers on her pom pom headdress almost going inside his enormous nostrils as she held her hat down to keep it from flying away.
"Annin! I think he's going to say something!" Kami whispered, hunching in closer to see what the great dragon had to say.
"Be quiet, wrinkled one. What else does pretty one have to say?" Ryokana growled, the heat from his mouth almost burning their garments as he spoke in a deep, rumbling voice.
Annin gestured to herself coyly, her cheeks turning pink as she realized he meant her.
"Oh, t-thank you! Ryokana, I come to you only with tidings of great danger, or else I would've never disturbed you! You see, I am the Pyre-Keeper of the Furnace of Eight Divisions. Mars is one of those Eight Divisions! So please, help us save your planet from devastation and we will return you to your realm until you are called upon!" She pleaded, both hands up in supplication as she laid her staff across her lap and bowed her head. Kami did the same, bowing his head.
"Grrahuumm." The dragon rumbled, deep in thought. He glanced from Annin to Kami and sensed incredible power coming from the two of them.
"How shall this Dragon know you are true? Before, I was set free and promised all the sheep I could eat, but I was given NO sheep!"
Annin chuckled and lifted her head as a blast of hot air ruffled her hair and clothing, yet did not set her aflame. She could see deep into Ryokana's mouth and a flame was tickling just at the back, charged and ready to blast both of them if he so chose. Instead of trembling in fear, she waved her hands to attempt to placate him, smiling demurely.
"Ryokana, you need not worry about our intentions! We are deities of Earth, who have only good intentions. If you do this for us, I can assure you that we will provide you with an all you can eat sheep buffet."
"Grrhummm. Do not think you can persuade me with your seductive tales of a 'sheep buffet'. I shan't be bamboozled again!"
"We would never bamboozle you!" Kami snapped, his ire growing as this constant back and forth only wasted more of the time that they could be using to rescue Obœ!
"Harrumph, I didn't ask for the wrinkled one to speak!"
Kami's anger grew with each insult to his wisdom and appearance and he stood up quickly to bonk the dragon's snout with his staff. The dragon flinched back and his entire being shook from the power in the staff, a cold chill running through his massive body as an amazing strength radiated from within the wrinkled one.
"You listen to me, Ryokana! I am one of the Dragon Clan and I have the power to unmake you if I so choose to! If you won't listen, I'll prove to you that we can hold our end of the bargain!"
Ryokana bared his teeth and rumbled a threat to Kami, yet his head remained low to the ground. "Prove it now then and I may allow you to pass!" He snarled, a slice of flames escaping.
Kami nodded and took a deep breath, closing his eyes. For a moment all was silent and Annin and Ryokana seemed puzzled by Kami's inaction. Then, from all ends of the galaxy, asteroids began to float towards Kami's meditative figure with a loud rumbling sound. Once they were all gathered around him in a massive cluster, he made a closed fist with one hand and all of the asteroids turned to dust within an instant. The elder Namekian opened his eyes and looked to Ryokana for his answer.
The dragon sensed the power to unmake him within the withered Namekian and realized that he would be a fool to attack such a powerful being. With a defeated sigh, Ryokana closed his eyes and his spikes laid flat along his body, representing his decision to yield.
"You may pass – on one condition. You shall do no harm to this planet I protect, or my creator, Obœ. Soon her time shall expire, as will my own, and the destruction of the dragon balls is certain if you do not rescue her. Hurry, deities of Earth. Hold to your word, unlike the one before you."
"Thank you, Ryokana. We promise to do no harm!" Annin answered. The dragon acknowledged her with a nod, then lifted himself up into the air, where he would keep watch over his namesake. Kami and Annin both took off towards the planet's surface, sensing an area that had a stronger pull than the rest. A volcanic formation stood out against the flat, rust colored planes of the planet, from which they could hear trembling coming from deep within.
The two proceed closer with great caution to see that the vent from which magma and smoke would normally erupt from was completely blocked by a rock solid, purple hued crystal that seemed alien to this planet.
Kami held his palm over the crystal for a moment before retracting it quickly, grimacing.
"This is the dark magic of Vulcane. This impenetrable crystal must be broken from within. Any other way and we risk an eruption."
"Shh…" Annin held one finger to her lips and listened to the rumbling, knowing from experience that this sound was not natural coming from the cauldron.
"We must withdraw. Something with a powerful aura is coming!" She shouted and flew backwards. Kami hesitated for a moment, then took off along with her. He trusted her judgment, after all he too had sensed that something here was off. They took cover behind a large pillar of stone and watched from behind as the rumbling intensified. A great beam of light exploded from deep within and blasted the crystal into tiny particles. They shielded themselves from the particles until it was deemed safe, then gasped in surprise when a multitude of green skinned bodies came flying up out of the open chasm. They were Namekians, newly born and still nude from hatching.
"There must be hundreds of them!" Kami gasped, astounded. This must be the work of Obœ– the answer to why she was unable to spare any of her energy!
Annin nodded in agreement, yet was not quite as stunned by their appearance. She was far more concerned by the continued rumbling of the cauldron and took flight towards the newly made entrance.
"I am diving in, Kami! Find Obœ before it's too late!"
Kami shook off his surprise, recalling their plan. With a sigh, he took off after Annin, entering the massive vent.
Annin barreled forth as fast as she could, ignoring the heat wave that hit her upon diving into the core. She flew impossibly fast until entering the flames, untouched. Annin glanced around herself quickly to assess her surroundings, grimacing in dread as she eyed the overflowing cauldron that had not been attended to in many an age.
Instead of a healthy orange glow, the flames burned a malignant barium green. The cauldron had somehow been tampered with to be much hotter than it should be, though Annin found it hard to believe any being could bear the intensity of the cauldron's flames like she was able to. Another fire-wielder must have been put up to this task - certainly no Namekian would survive this heat, let alone the elderly Obœ. Anger rose in Annin and she grew much larger in response. Now in her giantess form, she walked over to the cauldron and gripped the handle that kept the pressurized lid on to control how much heat would be released.
She pulled up, slightly flinching as the flames erupted out and with it, dark shadows followed by horrific screams. Now that the lid was removed, a pitcher of water appeared in her other hand and she quickly doused the flames by pouring it on the coals. Thick white steam billowed out and temporarily blinded Annin. What she missed in that moment was how the dark room gained an eerie, purple cast and a black, ink-like liquid spilled out of the bottom of the cauldron and dripped down the sides before dispelling into smoke.
Annin put the lid back on, then quickly reformed her guandao and took on a fighting stance. The temperature in the room had dropped rapidly, becoming chilly and freezing the steam. As it dispersed, Annin spotted fleeting shadows swarming along the corners and walls, which were nearing rapidly. A pack of formless demons with gleaming red eyes surrounded the pyre-keeper. A low, hissing laughter filled the room and sent chills down her spine, but this only made her grip tighter on her weapon.
You'd better hurry quickly, Kami! I can only hold back the demons of the netherworld for so long! Annin warned the elder Namekian before facing off against the horde of demons. She would protect the cauldron from imminent destruction at all costs.
Kami shielded his eyes from the smoke as he flew down the tunnel after Annin, searching his surroundings for some sign of Obœ. The sooner he found her, the quicker he could prevent Calliope's death as well. After leaving Gohan in the cave, her once healthy condition had rapidly declined. Kami was aware from the visions Piccolo shared with him that she was currently at death's door. Piccolo and Korin were with her and would look after her, but she would not heal fully with a senzu unless Obœ was healed as well.
He came as far as he possibly could into the core without burning himself alive and looked around hurriedly. He sensed a flickering energy and flew towards it. Once he approached the source of energy, Kami could see a large, frying pan shaped platform directly above the cauldron, the base being heated by the flames until the rock was glowing bright orange. Through the tendrils of flames, he could see hundreds of broken Namekian eggshells. At the center, a small figure was crumpled on the ground with exhaustion. Oboe had used the last reserves of her energy to create an army of Namekians to fight the demons, yet sacrificed herself in this task and in effect, could no longer communicate with Kami. It's likely she had predicted that they would come to her and had prepared herself to protect the planet in the only way she could, given her weakened state.
He flew through the flames effortlessly then landed beside her and knelt to lift her body, snapping the lingering psychic holds that chained her to this hellish place with his superior telekinesis. While Vulcane was alive, the psychic chains would've been stronger, but they had done their work even beyond his death and she was too weak now to break them by herself. He felt a sinking dread when he saw her in this state, but also relief upon sensing her faint ki flickering from within. As Kami took the guardian of Mars up in his arms, the cauldron was extinguished and he heard Annin's beckon for him to hurry. He took this as his cue and immediately dissipated into blue light along with Obœ; transporting them directly to Korin's Tower.
We were too late… Chi-Chi's words repeated in Kakarot's mind almost endlessly as they walked the path towards the end of her journey. A part of him felt as if he weren't good enough for her. If he was, perhaps he could have saved Gohan and made it so that Chi-Chi never had to fight Pseudoku. However, looking at her now, his chest swelled with a sense of pride. Chi-Chi was one spectacular woman. He was glad that he'd spent the time he did with her in the darkness, even if he was only a 'figment of her imagination.' He walked beside her knowing that soon they may be parting ways, even though he wasn't quite ready for that. He knew that Chi-Chi could handle herself. She had so far-she had battled Darkness Chi-Chi and Pseudoku and came out of it twice the woman she was before.
Once she drank the Ultra Divine water, there was no telling how powerful she'd become. Before he knew it, Chi-Chi had approached the table and was looking upon the kettle that housed the mystical water she had trekked so far now to find. She slid the tea cup closer to herself and lifted the kettle to begin pouring. Kakarot gulped and placed his hand on her shoulder as he watched, faintly recalling the events that had led young Goku here and what followed after.
Chi-Chi poured the water into the white, ceramic cup and saw that it was clear and free of any contaminants that could have possibly given it a strength boosting effect. She lifted it to her nose and sniffed, found the scent to seem normal and drank. After swallowing the water, Chi-Chi turned towards Kakarot and smiled up at him, welcoming his embrace. Kakarot took her in his arms and glanced down at the water; for a moment he wondered if he should take this once in a lifetime opportunity as well. Then, the idea was brushed away as quickly as it came to him.
This was not his moment to take advantage of, it was not his journey. Besides, if he were as interconnected with Goku as he thought, then there would be no point in drinking it twice. Kakarot's thoughts were cut short when he felt Chi-Chi weaken in his arms and she stared up at the ceiling in horror. Her life flashed before her eyes and her entire body felt like it was boiling from the inside out. Her body's first reaction was to facilitate vomiting, but she resisted it with all her might even though her abdomen heaved and a fever came in waves of unbearable heat, then bone-chilling cold.
Kakarot held her steady as her legs grew numb and her body went limp, understanding the pain she was experiencing at this very moment. He couldn't see into her thoughts, but her cries for her family and shouts of resistance told him that what she was seeing was a terrible recollection of everything bad that had happened in her life. The Ultra Divine water was testing her strength of mind and body before it granted her its use. If Chi-Chi could withstand the nausea, flashbacks and fever, then she could attain the power she needed to defend her family from any future tragedies.
Black and red flashed before her eyes and she clung to Kakarot with all her might, bringing herself back onto her own feet. Though her body trembled uncontrollably, her mind was powering through the illusions meant to make her succumb to weakness.
"I… won't… give up! Not when I'm this far!" Chi-Chi grunted and pushed Kakarot gently away from herself so she could stand on her own. Tears fell from her cheeks and her aura swallowed her in fuchsia momentarily until flickering out. It seemed like she had won the battle, though she fell to her knees and sobbed. But she survived.
"You did it, Chi-Chi. I'm so proud of you," Kakarot said, then knelt to hold her. They remained that way for only a moment, before suddenly being ripped apart as water surrounded them both in darkness and they were no longer on solid ground. They were cold, alone and blind to all things…living or dead.
A pair of dark, gleaming eyes watched the resting figure closely. Each shuddering breath of air Calliope took made her chest rise, then fall as she exhaled gently. Her body seemed incredibly frail as it laid atop a pillowy bed, covered in blankets. Piccolo sat attentively at her bedside, clasping her hand. With each second that passed since Kami had left, Calliope had weakened along with Obœ to the point that she no longer had the strength to stand. Soon, the elder Namekian would return and with that, hopefully Calliope's health.
Piccolo inwardly groaned as he struggled to think of comforting words to say. He glanced up at his female companion's face and saw that she had opened her eyes up a millimeter, as if the mere act took great effort.
"Calliope! You're awake!" He gasped and moved closer to kneel beside her bed.
"Keep your eyes open! Kami will return soon," Piccolo reassured her, though remaining stern. Calliope smiled weakly and gripped his hand tighter to show him that she still had her strength, that she would not allow this to be the end.
"Shh, you tender green bean. I am awake. I can sense her arrival… they're nearing," She whispered and Piccolo's brows rose with this announcement. He glanced up to the heavens as he always did in order to sense Kami's presence and what he felt was not only Kami, but also a great energy he'd not felt before.
"Heh…" Calliope chuckled softly.
"My clever mother…She has been up to something," She smiled, closing her eyes and resting with the renewed assurance that she would survive.
"What is that energy I'm sensing? It's unfamiliar." Piccolo questioned, rising from his position beside the bed and glancing out one of the many windows of Korin's Tower.
"It's a strange sensation because we've never lived amongst our own kind. But Obœ has told me her plan to release her children upon the planet… to protect the cauldron."
Piccolo's eyes widened with a sharp intake of breath. "Does that mean-?" He began, then stopped himself with a frown. He reached down to Calliope and gently took her into his arms, walking to the open window and leaping up onto the railing. He took another hop and landed on the top floor beside the white cat and the ronin awaiting the return of Chi-Chi.
"Do you want to wait for Chi-Chi's return with us?" Yajirobe asked, but Piccolo seemed to no longer care about the goings on within the water jug, and certainly not Chi-Chi.
"Kami is returning with Obœ first. Prepare yourselves immediately for their arrival." He huffed and Korin smiled as he turned around to take in the tall man before him.
He then licked his paw and began cleaning his ears and face, making Calliope giggle at the adorably feline action. Piccolo's gaze followed her laugh and his heart seemed to rise in his chest momentarily with a sense of elation.
"There. How do I look?" Korin asked, his face and whiskers now 'cleaned' by his saliva.
"You smell twice as much like fish and your appearance remains that of a portly, fur covered vermin." Piccolo sneered and turned away from the demented old feline.
As if on cue, a blue light appeared and took shape. Kami arrived with Obœ in tow, cradled delicately in his arms much like the more youthful pair facing them.
"The senzu bean, right away!" Piccolo shouted and Korin was quick to flick the bean directly at Kami. It seemed the cat had been prepared all along – unbeknownst to Piccolo. Kami caught the bean and handed it to Obœ and she slowly began to chew it; though, it seemed to be a laborious task for the exhausted Mars guardian. Once it had been fully consumed, Kami released her so that she could stand on her own. At first, she remained hunched over, but within a few moments the senzu seemed to have done its job and Obœ was able to regain her height with the assistance of Kami's staff.
Piccolo had been solely concentrated on Calliope, who now opened her eyes and tapped him on the arm.
"Let me down!" She pleaded and Piccolo hesitated for a moment, then released his grip. She ran to embrace Obœ and began sobbing upon entering her arms. Obœ held her with a smile upon her wrinkled purple lips, her golden topaz eyes lined with tears.
"My twin daughter, you've hatched at last. I'm glad to see you're alive and well." She soothed in a rasping, tender voice and patted Calliope's heaving back with one hand.
"What the heck is a twin daughter?" Yajirobe questioned, scratching his shaggy mop. Kami nodded and leaned on his staff to explain now that Obœ no longer needed its assistance.
"Much like myself, Calliope was born from one being. In expelling the dark half from ourselves, we become pure and we are able to then become guardians. What is left is a hatchling who is a copy of our genetic DNA, yet who may be inherently evil upon awakening. Calliope skipped this trait, unlike Piccolo."
"Hmph!" Piccolo disagreed, crossing his arms pointedly.
"She does retain her evil traits, I've seen it for myself!" He groused and the others in the room chuckled at his announcement. Calliope released herself from Obœ's embrace and turned around fully to face him.
"Ha! Much like you? I seem to recall your particularly evil 'training' of young Gohan!" She snapped and Piccolo grinned with both fangs poking out, his antenna's subtle, yet noticeable bouncing reflecting his excitement upon her return to health.
"I am evil. Don't forget it!" Piccolo responded with a booming laugh.
His Tigress had returned.
As evening approached, the dusky red sky of Mars paled to a lighter shade of blue, giving the planet an ethereal atmosphere.
A sudden roar erupted that was so thunderous and deep that it shook the foundations of the planet, and caused the sand to whirl in dozens of miniature tornadoes.
Ryokana was doing his part to banish the demons of the underworld, along with Annin and Obœ's Namekian army, by incinerating the fleeting shadows that hissed and crawled out of the opening to Mars' cauldron. Annin was slashing her enormous Guandao and taking out multiple demons at a time. The demons who decided to run from the giantess would instead find themselves face to face with the nimble Namekians, who were backed by a red, fire-breathing dragon.
Soon, the demons were eradicated with their combined power. After returning the cauldron to its desired temperature, Annin made her way out of the vent before shrinking herself down. Her last action was to wave her palm over the vent, using her magic to seal it up tightly enough to only allow smoke to escape. She then faced the crowd of curious Namekians with an endearing smile, her guandao shrinking down fully into a non-threatening baton that she attached to a garment on her hip. The newborns looked upon her in wonder, before taking to their knees in worship.
Annin gasped at their unprecedented actions and shook her hands around wildly in refusal. "No, no! Everyone, please stand!"
The Namekians clearly heard her, yet remained poised in supplication.
"...Can you understand me?" She added, wondering if perhaps they only knew Namekian. This got their attention and she was met with multiple sounds of confirmation.
"Good. Now, please stand up for me."
Upon her command, they all stood up immediately.
"Thank you all for your assistance in defeating the demons of the underworld, as your mother Obœ wished. She made you for this purpose and you have served her well."
The Namekians looked around in confusion, then back at her.
"Where is our mother? Who are you? We were told that a deity of Earth would save us, aren't you Annin? What is our purpose now?" Multiple voices clamored, and it was then she understood their confusion.
"Yes, I am Annin! Obœ is presently on Earth. She has been taken to Korin's Tower, where she will recover from her wounds. I may be a deity, but I ask that you please do not worship me or any idols of your making. Obœ is your maker and when she returns, you shall serve her in any manner she decides. For now, I believe the best plan of action is for you all to familiarize yourselves with your new home and make a peaceful living here," Annin announced, receiving dejected sounds and gasps throughout the large ground.
"But, Annin! Do you intend to leave us here alone when we've only just been hatched? What will we do? How will we live here, all alone?" Multiple voices cried out in distress, and she responded by shushing them gently as her form began to dematerialize.
"You've all done your mother proud today. I must return to my post as the Pyre-Keeper of the Furnace of Eight Divisions. I have faith that you all will flourish here and live on happily until your mother's return. Until then, I leave you with my blessing. Ryokana, I shall contact King Yemma and he will have you taken to the Eternal Realm in due time, with a flock of your desired sheep…"
With her last words, Annin vanished from Mars, the Namekians and Ryokana left with her fading vision in their minds. The dragon let out a large puff of smoke and huffed. The clutch of Namekian hatchlings stood there quietly, watching the spot where Annin had been - that is until his tail cracked against the ground and startled them all.
"Grahuum… Left with a bunch of infants with no clue about who they are or what this place is…" Ryokana muttered before turning his intimidating golden eyes on the group. Instantly, they all stumbled backwards with frightened screams and trembled in his enormous shadow.
"Hissss! You fools, cease your pathetic quivering! It appears that I am left to egg-sit Obœ's brood! Until I have my sheep, you all will listen to ME!" Ryokana instructed with a roar, and the Namekians nodded eagerly as to not offend the great creature. He sighed once again, then turned his large body about.
"Come, follow me. There are ruins left by the inhabitants of the past that you all may find useful as shelter. Once the sun goes down, you'll find this planet is not quite as warm as it is beneath your mother's belly." The ancient dragon instructed with a sigh, and paused to let them catch up with him. Some hesitated, while others made tentative steps.
"We must move quickly if we're to light the hearths before dark. If you're anything like the Gemini were, then you're not cold-blooded like myself."
Heeding Ryokana's warning, the green skinned beings gained their bearings and began to follow the dragon.
Vegeta groaned and tossed in bed, reaching his arm out and patting the cold blankets beside him. He woke up quickly upon realizing that his mate was not beside him in her bed, and had not been for quite some time. As Vegeta slowly processed his surroundings and the lack of her presence, he passed his hand over his face and attempted to decipher what Bulma could be doing up at this time of night.
He was no stranger to his Earthling partner's nocturnal activities. In fact, he'd heard her tinkering down in the lab a number of times while he'd been underneath her roof. Her tinkering caused him little concern, as long as she was being careful with all those tools she liked to play with. A quick telepathic peek into her mind told him that Bulma was currently gently tipping the crucible that held molten metal down to flow into the sprue in order to cast a U shaped item. Not wishing to disturb her delicate process, he quickly withdrew and let her finish her business.
Vegeta sighed and stood up, strolling lazily down to the kitchen in nothing but his navy blue silk boxers that caressed his skin as he walked. He truly felt a sense of luxury as the plush carpeting cushioned his feet and silenced his footsteps. He'd never lived anywhere with heated wood floors and wall to wall carpeting in most of the house. It was so comfortable that Vegeta had made it a habit to not wear his boots in the house at all, something that was an entirely alien custom to him. Mrs. Briefs had sweetly reminded him to remove his boots while inside for the first few weeks he lived with them, her passive aggressive tone and the tiny pricks in her miniscule ki indicating that what he was doing was angering her.
For a little while, Vegeta continued his little rebellion just out of curiosity; he was wondering if it was even possible for Panchy to get angry. Regardless of how many times he tracked mud through the house, Panchy had never struck him or reprimanded him. She had simply pointed to the doormat that read 'Wipe Your Paws!' and then the shoe rack with two empty rungs reserved specially for his boots with a blissful smile on her face. His boots took their residence on the rungs nightly now. He couldn't recall when it became a habit, but it had, and that was worth noting.
Vegeta filled up a glass with water from the dispenser on the refrigerator and took a long drink of it. His thirst quenched, he set the glass in the sink and looked out the window. In the dark of night, he could see a glare from the moon on the round chamber that was his new training center. Vegeta was tempted to sneak out and fit in a session of training, but the vestiges of sleep still clung to him, causing him to yawn and stretch out his limbs, his tail trembling as he extended it to its full length then let it hang in a relaxed position. His eyes lingered on the ship for a moment more, admiring its perfectly round shape and sleek design.
It was his ship, Bulma had declared it as such. If he so desired, he could get into it right now and fly into space. He could train in the ship until he reached Frieza's fleet, then he could… No. Vegeta shook his head and turned away from the window, his tail twitching in agitation. It would be folly to attack alone when he had so many allies on Earth now, not to mention his mate who relied on him for protection. Vegeta knew this, and scolded himself for even letting the idea come to mind.
The moonlight of Triton must be affecting him slightly, though he was safely inside. Transforming into his Ōozaru form while inside the house would be a terrible idea. Vegeta didn't want to damage their home, nor did he want to commandeer the ship and sneak away in the stealth of night. The old Vegeta, perhaps. His evolved self rejected such notions wisely. He was about to walk back upstairs when his senses alerted him to an unfamiliar energy.
He leaned back onto the counter and looked outside, unable to see anything out of the ordinary besides how the entire yard was decorated for the big event tomorrow. The energy was coming from space, and it wasn't far off. Mars still remained in their atmosphere, and Vegeta was certain that the activity was coming from the red planet. He thought perhaps he recognized Namekian energy in particular. He shook off the distraction and opened up the refrigerator to find a snack. At the moment, satisfying his cravings seemed more tempting than investigating the source of the energy.
The process of metalsmithing required a very steady hand and plenty of patience, but for Bulma, it was highly therapeutic. Behind her protective mask, she had a serene smile upon her face, because the pleasant distraction gave her something other than her own anxiety to focus on. She'd snuck off to the lab a few hours ago after finding sleep hard to come by; she had a brilliant idea that she needed to test out right away. Bulma had recalled how Vegeta destroyed Goku's old space pod, yet she had collected all the pieces and stored them away.
Her scientific mind wondered at what temperature the alien metal would melt down, its composition, its strength, et cetera. Seeing as it was able to mold into a rounded shape and withstand the pressure of space, Bulma came to the hypothesis that it must be a very strong, yet malleable metal. The idea fascinated her and she simply had to go test it right away. She was pleased when she was proven right and was able to melt it down and make herself a custom made necklace that absolutely no-one else would have.
The alien metal was painted white originally, but she was shocked to find out once it was melted down it turned into a scintillating shade of fulvous orange, unlike any gold she'd seen on Earth before. Her eyes sparkled almost as much as the material upon seeing its true form. Bulma paced back and forth in the lab, sipping a cup of coffee while it cooled off slowly enough to become ductile.
Once it was at the desired temperature, Bulma got to work forming the metal with tongs to make a twisted U shape. She purposefully left the center open like a torque and made two concave ends that would hold her very unique jewel – the Mars dragon ball with its two magnificent green-golden stars. Pulling back the laser, Bulma released a breath she had been holding. Her work was done for tonight. She would allow it to harden overnight, and if necessary buff out any rough edges in the morning. For now, Bulma was satisfied with her work and stretched her arms out with a dramatic yawn, the very hot tongs still in one hand. She was startled when they were mysteriously liberated from her grip. Bulma turned around quickly only to forget she was still wearing the bulky mask and whoever was in the lab with her was utilizing the multiple blindspots it had.
"Who's there? Is that you, Vegeta?" She called, her keen eyes searching the lab for any movement. Even with the bulky mask on, she could somehow gauge where he was. A blip of awareness went through her and she turned towards his direction, and giggled upon seeing him hop down from atop an old biplane that was chained to the ceiling.
"Got me. You're getting good at this game," he answered with a complimentary tone. He was impressed that Bulma was already learning how to sense his ki - once they'd fully become mates, her quick wit and willingness to learn made her the perfect student.
"Now, don't you think you should get some of your treasured 'beauty sleep'? Not that you necessarily need it,"
Bulma agreed with a yawn and removed her mask, leaving her work-station to join him on the floor. Vegeta strolled through the lab as Bulma ran to catch up with him. She reached over and grasped just three of his fingers with her little hand, and he adjusted it to cradle her hand snugly in his.
"My, haven't we been busy tonight. Do regale me with what you've learned and what marvels you've made."
"Oh, it's nothing. Well… actually," Bulma began, illustrating all she had discovered and created that night. Vegeta listened to all she had to say as they made their way back up to her bedroom, then he revealed to her all he knew about the metal and Bulma had the brilliant idea to incorporate it into future suits of armor. Before she could begin drawing blueprints, he pulled her into his arms and wrapped his tail around her tightly, kissing the chattiness out of her lips. Even though he could very well fall asleep to the sound of her voice, they had yet to see what the next day held, and so they drifted off to sleep with the promise to discuss her ideas over their morning coffee.