"This Xiram," Gohan began, one arm around Videl (who held Pan on her lap), "were you two pretty close before all this happened?"
She smiled shyly, nodding her head slightly. "Hai, we were close," she said in that soft voice of hers, "but not in a boyfriend/girlfriend kind of way. I was... sort of... interested in another guy, even though it was a long shot."
Trunks and Goten exchanged a glance, and then both began to silently sweep the room with their eyes. Goten was the first make a connection and elbowed Trunks to get his attention. After glaring at his best friend for a moment, Trunks followed his gaze. He raised one eyebrow and shot off a quick telepathic message to Zukani.
/You can't mean that you and -/
/I never was very good at keeping secrets from my Trunks, either,/ came the response before the statement was even completed. /Just keep quiet about it, will ya? I don't even know if there's a ghost of a chance with him in this timeline./
/You definitely have to tell me more about this later,/ Trunks thought to her, then elbowed Goten to get him to stop staring at the man. Fortunately, the person in question never even noticed the scrutiny he had been receiving.
"Another guy? Who else was -"
"Is this really important?" Juunana interrupted irritably. "She says the Elite are bad news, and that they could be on their way here. What more do we need to know?"
Zukani shot the cybernetic teen a grateful look and stood up. "I don't know about the rest of you," she said, "but I am way out of fighting form. If anyone needs me, I'll be out training. Ja na."
She started towards the door before anyone could protest, but was stopped by a child's arms around her waist. Zukani looked down, raised one eyebrow slightly, and made eye contact with Bra for the first time since she arrived in this dimension. The child gazed up at the older girl and blinked her eyes, but didn't look away.
"You can't go yet," she said.
"Oh?" Zukani was beginning to become curious, so she crouched next to the younger girl. "Why not, Bra-chan?"
"You aren't better yet, Oneechan."
Zukani blinked. "Oneechan?" she repeated, not sure if she'd heard the younger child correctly. "Why'd you call me that?"
Bra stepped back and tilted her head to the side, a small frown on her face. "Tousan and Kaasan are your parents, aren't they?"
"And Oniichan is your brother, right?"
"Hai," Zukani answered again, a small smile forming on her lips again.
"So that," Bra concluded, "makes you my oneechan."
The older girl smiled. "Hai, I suppose it does... Imota-chan. Okay, I won't leave just yet." The younger girl threw her arms around the older one's neck and hugged her tightly. Zukani started for an instant before returning the embrace.
"But," she continued before she got too comfortable, "I am going to have to resume my training before too long."
"I know," Bra sighed, then smiled brightly at her again.
Zukani smiled back at the child, but still couldn't help thinking, /What have I gotten myself into this time?!/
"Didja talk to her about it yet?"
"Why not?! I wanna' know how in the world any kid of Vegeta's could have ever gotten interested in -"
"I know, I know! I'm curious about that myself! But she's still recovering from a concussion, and Kaasan's been driving all of us, mostly Kani-chan, crazy with all of the precautions she's taking to ensure that she recovers completely before attempting to train."
Trunks hated lying to his best friend, but he wasn't really lying. Zukani was still recovering, and Bulma was driving everyone up the wall with all the rules she'd set up to keep her 'new' daughter rested. But what he didn't tell Goten was that he had talked to her, shortly after everyone else had left the impromptu meeting a few nights ago. Zukani hadn't been very forth coming with that aspect of her past - she said that it was basically a teenage crush, and that her affections weren't returned.
"Oh, well," she had said brightly after several seconds of uncomfortable silence passed between the two of them, "I'm still young, I've got my entire life ahead of me to find the man of my dreams and live happily ever after. I mean, if we get through this whole Andromedan ordeal, which I know we will!" But her eyes said that she had found the man for her, and he was nothing more than a memory now. Trunks felt bad for his twin, though he didn't say too much more to her that evening. He did, however, keep the link between them open the entire night, just to let her know that he was willing to talk if she needed to vent or anything.
Goten sighed and shook his head. Trunks was hiding something, he could tell. They'd been best friends for as long as he could remember, and Goten always knew when Trunks was holding back. Before he could press the issue any, he saw a now-familiar figure step outside, pull the door shut behind her, and begin to walk towards them.
"Hey, Zu-chan!" he greeted the girl enthusiastically. Trunks turned and smiled at his sister (after nearly a week, he was becoming used to thinking of her in that way). "How you feelin' today?"
"Can't complain," Zukani smiled, tilting her head a bit to look up at Goten. "My head finally feels normal again, and Kaasan actually agreed to 'release' me for a little training today. And I really need to work on my Power Blade and Sonic attacks."
"Are those your strongest attacks?" Trunks asked, a bit curious. "I've never heard of those two before."
"I came up with 'em on my own. The Power Blade requires intense concentration on my part because it's almost a purely psychic attack, and the Sonic Attack is mostly a speed/defensive maneuver. But," here she grinned wickedly, "I still like to fall back to the Big Bang Attack on occasion!"
Goten grinned at Zuka. She was a one-of-a-kind girl, all right - a beauty with all of the best traits of both her parent. She was a little scary when she flashed that wicked grin, but he supposed that she didn't even realize how much she resembled her father when she did that. Trunks sure as hell didn't know it, why would his twin be any different?
"Okay, I wanna' see these attacks demonstrated," he said, looking over at Trunks. "Let's head out to the cliffs and do a little one-on-one-on-one training!"
"Every half-Saiyan for themselves!" Zukani chimed in gleefully.
"We're agreed, then," Trunks added his vote. "Let's go."
Two flat blades of ki energy shot out from Zukani's hands, which she released with a savage cry. Both blades whirled through the air, each splitting into half before surrounding Trunks. The first blade scraped his arm; he managed to throw a block and dissipate the other three blades before countering his twin's move.
Zukani yelped as the energy wave crashed towards her, and barely managed to throw up a ki shield before it reached her. The moment the attack hit her shield, she refocused the energy and tossed it towards Goten, shouting "Think fast!"
"How's this for fast thinking?!" he asked seconds before choosing his own counterattack: "Kamehameha!"
Zukani and Trunks both scrambled out of the way just before the full brunt of the attack scorched the hillside. Zukani flew over to inspect the damage they'd done, tilting her head to the side and frowning thoughtfully, unconsciously mimicking her mother perfectly.
"Good job, Goten-kun," she said, flying back to the boys. "I think you've just given us our own version of the Grand Canyon in less than half the time!"
"Wanna' see if we can make a Mount Rushmore?"
"Nah, let's try for the Sahara Desert instead!"
"Come on, Kani-chan, Goten-kun," Trunks said, "let's get back to sparring. You still haven't shown us that Sonic Attack of yours yet."
"Oh, I'm sure that's interesting."
The three teens started at the sound of the new voice, then turned slowly towards its source. Zukani's eyes narrowed slightly - the remark was more likely than not meant to shake her confidence.
"Do you want something, Juu-kun?" she asked, stressing the name she chose to use for him.
Juunana-gou narrowed his own eyes at her and smirked.
"Hmm, you think you're a fierce little thing, don't you, little girl?" he said, managing to get another dig in. He smiled slowly as her eyes narrowed even more. "I don't think you can take me at all."
Goten heard a low growl and looked around to see where the hell Vegeta had come from before realizing that Zukani was powering up. Trunks was staring at her, jaw agape. The thoughts he'd just read from her were definitely not ladylike by any meaning of the word.
/She's Vegeta's daughter, all right,/ both boys thought, exchanging a glance.
"Sonic Attack," she hissed, barely above a whisper. And then she vanished.
/What the hell -/ Juunana thought, seconds before he felt the girl's ki signature reappear behind him. He lunged forward just as her foot connected with the back of his head.
/Good thing I moved,/ he thought wryly, /Even though she doesn't have enough strength behind that kick to do too much damage, she nearly caught me off-guard./
Zukani sped up her attack, throwing kicks and punches whenever she got the opportunity. Even though she was moving faster than Juunana, he was still managing to dodge her attacks.
/You're more out of practice than you thought,/ she scolded herself. /If you make one wrong move, Zu-chan -/
She never got the opportunity to finish her thought, because at that moment, he caught hold of her ankle and used her own momentum to slam her into the ground below. She hit hard, shattering the earth around her and finally coming to a stop nearly three feet below the surface. Zukani groaned and pulled herself out of the hole she had formed, shooting a murderous glare at the cybernetic teenager. He merely smirked back.
"You said you were out of practice," he told her coolly, "but you shouldn't be this unrefined in your fighting style."
The three Saiyan teens all stared at him in surprise. It was several minutes before Zukani found her voice enough to respond with a rather indignant, "Unrefined?!"
"Unrefined," Juunana repeated, wondering what idiot had taught her to fight in the first place. "You throw punches and kicks with complete lack of skill. You may be fast, but unless you plan to rely solely on ki attacks, your speed won't help you much in a hand-to-hand confrontation. Your Power Blades are quite strong, that much is true, but you need more focus if you intend to use that attack on the Andromedan Elite. And with the ki level I'm reading from you, you could do so much more than a few low-level attacks. I'll bet you haven't even gone Super Saiyan once since the Cell Game."
He fell silent, leaving the other three teens stunned. He'd obviously been watching their training session for some time if he'd seen Zukani use her Power Blade maneuver. Everything else he'd said was true as well - both Goten and Trunks could sense the high energy level from the girl, and Zukani had always known she wasn't a very skilled physical combatant. As for his comment about how often she'd gone Super Saiyan - well, that was right on the head as well, and she felt some odd form of respect for the boy building within her.
But her pride would never let her show it. Not yet, at least.
"So what do you suggest, oh great one?" Zukani asked with a hint of sarcasm in her voice that only thinly disguised her curiosity.
Juunana smirked at her. "I'm going to make sure you get proper training with someone who knows what he's talking about. Ja na." With that he flew off towards the city. Goten, Trunks, and Zukani looked at each other, realization beginning to dawn on their faces.
"Ano, I think that we should get back home, don't you, Kani?" Trunks said, still staring towards the city.
"Hai, sure, absolutely," she agreed readily as she brushed the dust off her clothes, suddenly desperate to get back home before anything happened.
/I can not freakin' believe this!/ Zukani shouted in her mind.
Her week had started off just fine: she was fully recovered from her time jump, she was getting used to having a real family again, and she'd resumed her training.
Then that pompous jackass had shown her up.
Not only that, he'd gone to her otousan about it. Of course, he merely said he'd observed her fighting style and found it a bit lacking, and that she could use a sparring partner who wasn't afraid to push her to her limit. Vegeta had agreed, especially when she walked in the front door looking as if she'd just been in a train wreck.
And now, to make things worse -
"Umph! Damn it, brat, that hurt!"
"If you'd been paying attention to your 'opponent', you would have been able to block that, little princess."
- Juunana was her new sparring partner.
"Don't call me princess, baka," she mumbled under her breath, just loud enough for him to hear. He smirked as he watched her pull herself up from the ground - for the third time that hour - and brush the dirt off her legs.
"You certainly act like a princess," he said in a slightly amused tone. "No matter how many times I knock you down in one day, you brush yourself off every time you stand up again. It's a complete waste of time - you'll be on your ass again in about three minutes."
To his surprise, she grinned at him. It was unnerving, but it was a little better than the scowl she'd been wearing for the past five days.
"You wanna' put your money where your mouth is?" Zukani asked him sweetly.
She was up to something; Juunana could practically hear her mind working. "Nani? What the hell are you talking about?"
"I think that I can last longer than three minutes next round."
/What are you trying to prove, little girl?/ he thought, even as he found himself saying, "Thirty bucks says you won't last more than two."
"You're on," she said with a small smile, her eyes glittering dangerously. "What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?"
Meanwhile, not very far away...
"Yes, my commander?"
"Have you managed to track that Saiyan brat's coordinates yet?"
"Not just yet, sir." The Andromedan female blinked her aqua-colored eyes and scowled. "She must have built a disrupter into the trans-dimensional time port she used to leave this world."
"That wouldn't surprise me any. Zukani always was one to plan ahead."
The Andromedan Elite's commander glared at the alien boy who had just commented. "You are only still alive because you have been barely tolerable, Xiram. Do not push your luck."
Golden eyes blinked, then narrowed. "Understood."
"How much longer are we going to be delayed? I'm bored with this world already," the forth member of the group asked, obviously eager for a new battle.
"Patience, Mikari. Once Anara tracks down the girl, we'll leave here. Not a moment sooner." A cold smile played over his lips. "I want her to know that we've destroyed her home, and that no matter where she goes, we will find her."
Back to the zone...