Juunana stared at the Saiyan, impressed by her newfound restraint. Only two days ago, she would have attacked him instantly for saying that, and truly been knocked to the ground in under three minutes. Today, though, she crouched into a defensive stance and motioned for him to attack first.
"What's the matter?" she cooed at him. "Afraid I might mess up your hair, pretty boy?"
That got a low growl from him, and Zukani smiled dangerously. He may have been stronger than she was, and able to kill her without much effort if he wanted, but she'd been paying attention to his lessons (although it meant she did, indeed, get knocked down many times), and done a lot of practicing on her own late at night. She was ready to prove her worth.
/If I can last more than three minutes,/ she thought as she prepared to launch her attack, /then I'm golden./
Zukani gave a short, sharp battle cry and unleashed her Power Blades. Juunana dodged them easily and threw a blast of his own where she was standing. She grinned and vanished.
/She's slipped into her Sonic Attack mode,/ he thought, quickly searching for her ki signature. /Good thing she isn't very skilled physically yet, or -/
His thought was cut off as a hand connected with the back of his neck, and he whirled around in time to block a punch from the supposedly unskilled Zukani. She smirked at him and swept her leg around to catch him in the side. Juunana felt it connect, and barely managed to bite back a cry of pain.
/Damn, shouldn't have underestimated her. She's improved a lot,/ he thought, landing a punch to her midsection. Zuka cried out and doubled over, but still managed to dart out of the way before he could land a blow to her head.
She gasped for breath, trying to clear her pain-filled vision enough to counter Juunana's next move. An energy wave pulsed towards her, and she managed to throw a block as it reached her. Taking a shaky breath, she charged up for her final attack.
/Please let this work please let this work please -/
The cyborg smirked at the attack she'd chosen. He had just dodged that particular attack no more than three minutes ago -
/What the hell -?!/
The twin blades that she'd unleashed split into four blades, then into sixteen - a double split - and raced towards him. He managed to dodge the first dozen, but the last four were moving too fast for him to avoid. He threw a block, but only stopped three of the blades. A wave of pain swept over him as the final blade sliced into his right leg and forced him to the ground.
/I never even dreamed that she was capable of -/
A snicker drew his gaze upward - and he found himself face-to-face with Zukani.
"You owe me thirty bucks, cyborg," she told him with a sweet smile. "Not only did I last longer than two minutes, I'm not the one who ended up on my ass!"
Juunana smiled slowly at her. "You lucked out, little princess," he responded, shoving the unfinished thought aside to mull over that evening.
"Luck nuthin'!" she retorted as she stood and offered him a hand-up. "It just goes to show how overconfident you've been in regards to me."
"Remind me to get on your good side before the Andromedans arrive," he muttered, taking her hand. She pulled him easily to his feet.
"Believe it or not," she responded in her too-soft voice, "you're already there."
Training resumed, but with renewed effort on both teenagers' part - one desperate to improve enough to avenge her world, the other hoping to awaken more new abilities within his -
/What is she to me? A student? An ally?/
- within his friend.
/That's close enough,/ he thought, blocking a kick from Zukani. /That's close enough for now./
/Has she really only been here for two weeks?/ Bulma thought as she saw Zukani enter the room. /It almost seems as if she's spent her entire life with us./
"Good morning, Zuka-neechan!" Bra chirped as she looked up from her cereal.
The older girl smiled back. "Good morning, Bra. Didja sleep well?"
As her youngest child began chattering to Zukani (who listened with real interest), Bulma took a moment to look over her eldest daughter. The girl had changed a lot during the past couple of weeks. When she'd first arrived, she had been fiery but shy, ready to fight but lacking any true combat skill. But when Juunana offered to train her, she had protested viciously, giving up only when Vegeta told her that she either train with the cyborg or remain on the sidelines when the battle came to them. She reluctantly agreed - and the improvement was drastic. She now carried herself with a confident air, moving with a smooth grace that she hadn't possessed before. She still spoke softly, but there was more force behind her voice.
And as for her relationship with her instructor....
Bulma smiled to herself as the cyborg entered the room, causing Zukani to suddenly sit up straight in her seat and glare at him. He wasn't a bit unnerved by her - he walked over to the table, pulled out the chair next to her, and slouched into it.
"Sleep well, little girl?"
"If my sister wasn't present, brat, I'd tell you exactly how I feel about that nickname."
"Talk, talk, talk." This was said with a slight smirk, and it received another glare in response.
"Give me a minute to finish my breakfast, then I'll show you what I think of that nickname."
There was no real tension or confrontation in their tones; it was simply the way they felt comfortable speaking to one another, and they had forged some sort of subtle bond in the process. Zukani, as usual, took her time finishing her tea, then stood and gave Bra a quick kiss on the forehead as she strode out the door.
"Move it, pretty boy," she called back over her shoulder. "I wanna' get this over and done with while I'm still young."
"As you command, princess," Juunana answered as he rose from his seat and followed the girl.
"Don't call me princess. You know I hate it when you call me that."
The rest of the conversation was lost to Bulma as the pair took off for the mountains, where they trained and sparred every day. She smiled again in amusement as a single thought crossed her mind.
/And just who do those two remind me of again? She's definitely her father's daughter./
"Would you rather me call you princess?"
"No, I'd rather you shut up for once, baka."
"Ooh, now Zucchini Girl is insulting me."
"Call me that again, pretty boy, and I'll rearrange your lovely features," Zukani retorted, a small smile making its way to her lips even before she'd finished the threat, and then she began to laugh softly. "Dear Dende, we sound just like my parents!"
"Nani?" Juunana asked, stopping in mid-flight and staring at his friend with a quizzical expression.
Zukani smothered another giggle and said, "The way we talk to one another - always insults and barbs that make it sound like we couldn't survive two minutes in the same time-zone - it's exactly the sort of 'verbal sparring' Kaasan and Tousan do every single day!"
The cyborg boy took this into consideration and smiled slowly. "No wonder your okaasan looked ready to laugh when we started up this morning."
The half-Saiyan giggled again, then stopped and looked solemn for a moment. Juunana watched her with silent concern. He had grown used to her subtleties, the changes in her physically whenever her mind kicked into gear over something; the sudden solemn attitude she was displaying was a sure sign that she was lost in her own thoughts.
"Zu-chan?" he asked, using the more familiar nickname she preferred. "Nani wa?"
"Hmm? Oh, gomen nasai, Juu-kun," she said, her face growing a bit red. "I was just thinking...."
She expected him to say something else, maybe make some inane comment that thinking Saiyans were a very rare breed or something along that line, but he didn't. He waited for her to continue, arms crossed and looking bored as usual. Zukani sighed internally and resumed her thought.
"You are so different from the other Juunana, but in a way you're just like him."
"Honto? In what sort of way?"
"I liked him, too." She smiled at him. "Hell, to be honest, I like you better! You're probably the best friend I've got, Juunana, you know that?"
Juunana tilted his head to the side and closed his eyes, letting this thought seep into his mind. That would explain why she let him talk to her the way she did, even though her fighting level was now to the point where, if they were enemies, she could put up a lengthy fight. Hell, she could kill him if she decided she wanted to, but she didn't. She liked him, damn it! And, in some odd way, he'd discovered he liked her, too.
"Hai," he answered slowly, "I know that. You're my friend, as well."
"I'm surprised you even know what friendship is, cyborg," Zukani answered, still smiling. "Now let's move before I decide I'd rather act like a normal teenage girl for once and go shopping!"
"You? Act like a normal teen? Is that some kind of a joke?"
To her credit, Zukani ignored that comment and fell silent. Juunana shook his head and watched her silently as they flew. There was something about her, and he wasn't sure what it was that drew his thoughts to her so often.
/Baka, you're training her!/ his mind screamed at him. /It's only natural that you would be thinking about her!/
Suddenly, the Saiyan girl stopped in mid-flight and began to look around, an expression of rapidly growing worry appearing on her face. Juunana turned around and locked eyes with her. The look in those eyes was one he'd never seen there before - not during the early days of their sparring when she was beaten daily, not when she'd talked of her past, never.
There was pure, undiluted fear in her dark eyes.
"Zu-chan?" he asked quietly, not certain that he really wanted to hear the answer. "Wha-?"
Her voice was barely a whisper: "They're here."
Back to the zone...