I breathed in deeply, holding the air in my lungs, before letting it out slowly after a long minute. Only once my lungs were empty to the point it felt like they were going to collapse did I repeat the process - taking in a long slow breath, holding it, then letting it out. Even the small action of breathing was difficult for me, sweat dripping up my brow, then down it as I hovered in the air despite the three hundred times the galactic standard gravity that tried to crush me, spinning at a stable pace.

My muscles burned with strain, my ki felt heavier than it ever had before. It was a familiar feeling but not as much as I would have liked. When was the last time I trained properly? That I pushed my body to its absolute limit and then pushed further? Not since before Earth. It had only been a few months since I arrived and forged my empire, but since then, it had just been one thing after another.

I had never properly mastered the Super Saiyan transformation. That had been due to… fear of it. Of the emotions that it would dredge up. The Ascended Super Saiyan was distant - it needed a certain… clarity that I hadn't achieved again. Now, I had the Saiyan God form to puzzle out. But, as full as my plate was, it made something extremely clear.

It was painfully apparent how reliant I was on my transformations. It had always been true - the Wrath State had been the first and without it, I never would have made it through the war. In my time on Earth, it had become even clearer, because without them I couldn't defeat half of the heroes or villains on Earth. My base form simply wasn't up to the task. That was something I had to correct quickly. My God Form was only as strong as my base form. It just gave me some extra tricks to make up for sealing my various multipliers.

That being said, my God Form was demanding. Extremely so. That, I'm certain, was due to the fact that I didn't get to have a full meal. I had only stolen a portion of Ares' divinity.

Enough to awaken mine, but not enough to make me a god in earnest. If Ares was the sun, then I was an ember in terms of scope. To become anything more than a spark of flame, I had to channel my ki into that ember to make it into god ki, and it took a lot. A whole lot.

Breathing in slowly, I drew upon the god ki that lurked within me, dredging it up. A flickering red aura shrouded me, but it was weak. Nothing compared to the god ki that Yamoshi had given me. Without it, I could only maintain the transformation for a grand total of ten seconds. Channeling all of my normal ki into it would extend the transformation for a total of one minute. That wasn't good enough.

"It's been a long time since I've felt inadequate," I admitted to myself, opening my eyes to see the smooth surfaces of my gravity chamber. It was completely featureless except for the hologram projectors that let me control the intensity of the gravity as well as give me an obstacle course. Children's games from back on Planet Vegeta that turned into incredibly deadly challenges where a single wrong move could mean certain death. As I was right now, I didn't dare activate them.

My jaw ached, the muscles sore from strain while the god transformation faded, leaving me feeling exhausted. Letting out a long breath, I took another in and prepared myself to pull upon it again. There had always been those that were stronger than me, and that was something I accepted, but I hadn't felt like this… since the days I was fighting Saibamen back on Planet Vegeta.

A feeling that I was completely outmatched and it was going to be a long, painful road before I was strong enough to win.

I forced the ember to burn again and this time, I channeled ki to it in a trickle. I had so little natural god ki and it took so much ki to make more that I had to learn to not waste even the smallest amount. I couldn't afford to. The Hellenistic gods were my enemies now and I couldn't count on Yamoshi appearing and rescuing me again - coming and vanishing just as quickly as he arrived. I needed to be prepared to take them all on. Alone. Unless I found a way to feed a god to Broly.

God ki was still so new to me that it was difficult to tell if there was much wastage on its end, but a minute and one second later, I felt the transformation drop. With it, so did I as I slammed into the ground, unable to maintain my own flight. The gravity was heavy and oppressive, trying to squish me underneath a titanic weight so great that even breathing was a demanding task. All the same, I breathed deeply and with a low groan, I pushed myself into a sitting position. Then a standing one.

My legs trembled, and my movements were stilted and feeble, but I went through a series of katas that I had created back during my days on the Warworld. All were designed to exercise the important muscle groups exactly as I wanted.

I was in the middle of a set when I got an alert. Patching it through, I saw it was Starfire. She gave a beaming smile at me as I continued my exercise, "Friend Tarble! I hope that your training has gone well?" She asked, and I nearly collapsed when I tried to speak and breathe at the same time. Bracing myself, I nodded. "Friend Robin has gotten word that Superman has achieved contact with Hal Jordan."


"I'm guessing there's a reason why you're telling me this instead of Robin or Superman," I noted, continuing my katas, sweat pouring down my body. My legs felt so incredibly weak, my arms so feeble. It reminded me of when Broly, Vegeta, and I took the Warworld - when Mongul had increased the gravity to a point that only Broly could continue the battle. All the same, I kept at it despite the growing weakness in my body.

Kori nodded, "They thought the bad news would be easier to hear coming from me!" She confirmed, and I suppose they were right about that. "Hal Jordan does not like you very much, Tarble. He says he won't help you with anything," she said, her tone mournful, almost as if the words had been directed at her.

I didn't really expect anything different. "Hal was always stubborn and there's a lot of bad blood between us," I admitted. The ambush that took a chunk of the Green Lanterns out of the war had been a blood bath for his people. If the shoe had been on the other foot - if it had been my team, my family, that had been slaughtered in an ambush that left me the sole survivor of? I wouldn't want to work with me either.

Still, with his new position, I had expected a little more practicality from him. But, that was likely a mistake on my part. Bonding with the Willpower Entity Ion likely hadn't done anything good for his stubbornness. Given what I knew of the New Lanterns' actions since they were founded, it was the exact opposite. Hal being too stubborn would explain a number of their actions. Either way, it was annoying that this couldn't be solved with a simple conversation.

"Perhaps you can apologize to each other?" Kori offered a solution, but I shook my head.

"An apology won't make good what was done. I killed a lot of his friends during the war, Kori," I told her, earning a slow nod from her. Her upbringing on Okaara had made her familiar with the nature of war, more so than her personality would suggest. "It was necessary at the time. Or, so I thought."

"You regret fighting him?" Kori questioned, sounding curious. In the months we've known each other, the War of Light had been something of a taboo subject. It was an elephant in the room, so to speak. The Teen Titans, among others, have moved past their initial opinions of me, but my actions during the war were still hard to swallow for some.

"I regret fighting for Frieza," I told her. "Knowing what I know now, I think I would have done things differently. I had suspected that the Guardians were listening in on me from the Power Ring I earned from Kylark, and instead of ambushing them… I could have laid a trap for Sinestro. I could have made a deal with the Guardians to save my race and my soldiers and their families," I said, still moving through the katas. "But, at the time, all I cared about was ending the war. I hated the Green Lanterns because they took a noninterference policy for the first ten years of it though I understood why. Their greatest enemies were fighting and killing each other after all. Still, trillions of people died in that time because they did nothing."

Kori let out a small, warm, laugh. "I think, Friend Tarble, that you should say such things to the New Lanterns. Hal Jordan only knows you from the war. He has not seen how you changed," Kori said, her voice soft as she aimed an equally soft smile in my direction.

I paused in the middle of my katas for but a moment, holding the position. "Have I changed?" I wondered out loud. Change was something very difficult to quantify. I still felt like myself. I didn't have a grand moment that made it clear that I wasn't quite the man I had been before.

"You never would have entertained a What-If about the war before," Kori noted, and… I suppose that she was right about that. "Hal Jordan wishes to meet with Superman to discuss things. Friend Robin doesn't know what, yet."

I finished my katas and stood still, my chest rising and falling with deep and even breaths. I ran the possibilities through my mind, knowing what was being offered - Hal Jordan would not react well to me dropping in on the meeting. At all. I couldn't say I knew him that well, but that was obvious. My best bet was to sit back and hope that Superman could convince Hal of my intentions. Trust that I had done enough to convince Superman to vouch for me and hope that would be enough to sway him.

Trust and hope. Two things I did not do well.

"Tell Robin I want to know when they're meeting," I decided, taking in a slow breath before decreasing the gravity to a mere one hundred times the galactic standard. It was time for my cool-down exercises. Walking over to a wall, I took hold of a pair of weights that unslotted themselves from it - a pair of dumbbells that each weighed five hundred pounds. With the current gravity, however, they weighed more like fifty thousand apiece. "Where is it happening?"

"A planet called Ranoko - it is near the center of the galaxy," Kori informed me while my holograms projected a map, highlighting the planet in question. It wasn't near the center of the galaxy, but well within the 'bullseye' of it. It actually wasn't that far away from Sadala - within a few jumps of a wink drive. It may be worth going just to swing by Sadala to talk to Yamoshi again, and ask why he simply vanished after the fight against the Olympians.

My eyes narrowed at the map while I continued my cool-down exercises - a handful of sets with the weights. "It's not in anyone's territory," I noted. The galactic center was too dangerous for any of the remaining forces in the galaxy to bother taking. From wandering black holes, to stars going supernova that, because of time dilation, had been burning since the universe was created. The planets there weren't worth the time or effort.

However, the location of the planet wasn't the only thing that the map showed. The Green Lanterns had been a policing force for the universe since there had been a universe. Billions upon billions of years. That was enough time for a number of interested parties - such as the Trade Organization - to build up a profile for how the Green Lanterns operated and, in this case, where they operated in this galaxy. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to estimate some things.

When compared to the close eye I had kept on the New Lanterns, to make sure that they were acting well enough above board for me to consider letting them police my empire, there was overlap. Ranoko was a point of interest with a number of trails marking New Lanterns coming to or from the planet. It didn't seem to be the headquarters for the New Lanterns, which left a question of what the planet was and what it meant to them.

With any luck, it would house a clue to where the Guardians were being kept. The New Lanterns had announced that they had imprisoned them, but the reaction to that was disbelief and suspicion. I was one of the few that believed Hal Jordan, but it was a question of whether imprisonment actually did anything or not. The Guardians were as old as the universe itself - they wouldn't be imprisoned unless they wanted to be.

"I won't be stepping on any toes other than Hal's by showing up anyway, and I'm tired of him dodging me," I said, bracing the weights against my shoulders and going through a set of squats. "I'm going to have to force a meeting."

"Will there be a battle?" Kori questioned and I thought about it. For all of a second. The answer was rather obvious.

"Very likely," I admitted. I wasn't under any delusions about that - Hal Jordan named me his enemy and I would be showing up on his doorstep unannounced.

Kori didn't seem like she expected anything else, "Our friends would like to go with you! To prevent any misunderstandings," she offered, and I didn't think there would be any… misunderstandings, per se. More airing out old grievances and spilling some bad blood on the floor. Still, it would be useful to have some of the Titans accompany me. If Hal saw that they were backing me up, he might think a little harder on why they would, and listen to what I had to say.

"Very well. I'll make preparations," I said, earning an enthusiastic goodbye from Kori, who sounded like she thought that this was a road trip. I finished the last of my cool-down sets before the gravity returned to normal, leaving me dripping with sweat. Taking off the spat shorts I wore, I quickly showered off and got dressed in my royal attire, shooting a message to Ada'la before I left the tower - which was nearing completion.

Earth was experimenting with FTL travel, and desired to use my space elevators to act as checkpoints for what were in essence space highways. That, I suspected, was due to their attachment to things like roads. They were getting their other planets set up - Harvest was a food production planet that they were already working on mass exporting farmers and farm animals to. There were also plans to create more food planets while others focused on industry - Lex was too smart for his own good, but I did have to admit that he was taking the opportunity presented to humanity and running with it.

Ada'la acknowledged that I would be leaving, but chose to say nothing about the confrontation I would be having with the New Lanterns. I'd like to think that was because she had complete faith in me, but I suspected it was the exact opposite. I think she had learned to expect a disaster whenever I went on a diplomatic mission of any kind, and decided to plan accordingly.

It wasn't long after that I arrived at my destination - landing lightly on the white sandy beach of Broly's island, I saw Shayera on the beach getting a tan. She watched me land with a flat glare and an impassive expression - she hadn't forgiven me for intruding on her paradise with Broly, but her glare didn't have the same ire to it as it did before.

"He's inside," she gruffly told me as I walked past her.

"I know," I replied, my tone terse. The exchange was short and indifferent. It was a little disappointing, really. Shayera was the last member of the 501st - my personal army that had spearheaded every offensive in some capacity throughout the war. Heading up the steps, Broly heard me coming because he shouted for me to come in before I could even knock.

Broly was wearing a pair of swim trunks and his chest was bare, revealing the X shaped scar on his chest. A scar that he got from his father - a man who had simply vanished after I had rescued him and Broly from the planet Vampa. He aimed a beaming smile at me, holding up a snorkel that he didn't need, "I'm going to go scuba diving! Wanna come?" He asked, and seemed genuinely disappointed when I shook my head.

"No, I'm here to tell you I'm going off-planet for a bit," I told him, catching his attention. "I need you to stay here," I told him and I saw Broly's expression harden, digging in and not liking the idea at all.

"You're going to fight someone," He voiced and he wasn't wrong there.

"I am, but I'll have backup," I reassured him, crossing my arms over my chest. "I need you here because I've made enemies of the Hellenistic Gods. Leaving now is going to invite retaliation from Ares. Possibly with the blessing of the rest of the Olympians. I need you here in case they try anything," I told him, earning a pensive look from Broly. He saw my logic. Broly might not be a god or have god ki, but as far as I could tell, that simply didn't matter to him. Broly had reached a level of strength that he could hit the people that he wanted to hit, regardless of how impossible it should be.

My family was on Earth - Elery was picking fights with the gods that she thought I didn't know about. Mom was spending time with Diana, and it was far too early to tell if that was a good thing or not. The rest of the Saiyans on Earth were settling in with minimal growing pains. Things were chaotic at first, but they all found something that occupied them - one had taken to dressing like a police officer, another kept trying to sneak into eating competitions by hiding her tail, and another had taken to fishing.

In short - things had almost leveled out. The chaos and disruption that the Saiyans caused had settled down and between Earth and Tamaran, I think my people were being influenced for good. Yamoshi's warning still echoed ominously in the back of my mind, but he had said that his attempt to reform the Saiyan race had a few thousand years of progress before it ended in disaster.

"I need you to take care of everyone while I'm gone. Can you do that for me?" I asked, making Broly sigh before he nodded.

"I can," he agreed with some reluctance, "but every time I'm not with you, you ended up picking a fight with someone else. First Trigon and now the Greek gods."

That got a small smile out of me, "I won't be making any new enemies on this trip. Just settling up with some old ones. And not because I want to, either." I reassured him, but he didn't exactly seem reassured. That was fair, I suppose. I didn't have a great track record there. A handful of ki signatures appeared on the beach outside of the building, telling me that the Titans had quickly hammered out who would be coming with me.

"How long are you going to be gone?" Broly questioned as we headed for the door, earning a small shrug from me. I didn't expect to be gone for long, but it would be the first time I would leave my empire since it had been established. I expected Ada'la to handle everything while I was gone, but it was a little odd how apprehensive I was to leave my borders. Even if only for a handful of hours or a few days at most.

"No idea," I settled on, opening the door. "But, it shouldn't be too long," I added, seeing the team that would be coming with me to meet the New Lanterns - Robin, Kori, Raven, and Kara. Kara had her arms crossed over the shielded S on her chest while Kori greeted me with a friendly wave. Raven offered a small nod of her head as a greeting while Robin was on the phone, sounding like he was trying to get permission to actually go.

They weren't my old team. Not even close. No one could replace Bardock, Fasha, Tora, Shugesh, and Borgos. But, the old wounds had begun to heal.

"Let's go see what the Guardians have to say."


The next chapter is currently available on my Pat re on and Subscribe Star, so if you want to read it a week early, all it takes is a single dollar in the tip jar. Or, for five dollars, you can read the chapter after that two weeks before its public release! I hope you enjoyed!