Chapter Three: Push the Clouds Away
Well, I'll push the clouds away
So you can have sunshine
I'll give you anything your heart desires
"No," Juunana said quietly, not wanting to believe the words his friend had just spoken. The Andromedans just couldn't be here already. They needed more time to prepare -
Zukani didn't say anything, and she didn't need to. The fear in her eyes was answer enough.
The two teens just stared at each other for a moment; then Juunana grabbed the girl's hand and they took off at top speed... heading for a small island where at least a few of their comrades-in-arms were sure to be found....
For the past week, they'd been meeting on Master Roshi's island. It was an almost unspoken agreement; first Goku, then Vegeta, then everyone (save Trunks, Goten, Zukani, and Juunana, who all had their own training methods) began arriving to train and discuss tactics. The only one who truly had any idea of what they would be up against was Zukani, and she revealed a little more information about the Andromedan Elite every evening; Vegeta then relayed this information to the others.
And today was just like every other day.
"From what she's told me, there are literally dozens of Elite. The ones she told us about in detail are merely the Inner Circle, the command force."
"What about this Xiram guy? Weren't they friends once?" Yamcha asked.
"Once, hai. She suspects that he's the one responsible for Zarbon's disappearance in her world."
"And let's not forget the fact that he was the one who prevented her from helping m - I mean, from helping her world's Goku against Kenchi and Mikari."
The group fell silent, letting this new information settle into their minds. Krillen was the next to speak.
"Do we really even stand a chance against them?"
"Hai, I think so," Goku answered. "We've been training for two weeks in preparation for their arrival, and with a bit more time -"
Everyone looked up at the sound of Juunana-gou's voice. The Jinzouningen landed and collapsed almost immediately, followed closely by Zukani. The girl sank to her knees as she tried to catch her breath. Both looked as if they'd flown halfway around the planet to get there, or at least at breakneck speed.
"Juunana? Zukani?" Goku said to the exhausted pair. "Nani wa? Is something wrong?"
"Something's... terribly wrong," Zukani panted, still trying to catch her breath. "We're... out of time...."
A chill passed over the group as Juunana drew in a breath and spoke the words they dreaded hearing.
"The Andromedans are here."
"No, they can't be!" Vegeta shouted. "We're nowhere near ready for them yet!"
"That's the Andromedans for you," Zukani said wryly. "They're always either too early or too late." She glanced up at the sky and half-smiled. "And speaking of being late...."
"Kani-chan!" Trunks cried as he landed next to his sister. "What the hell was that ki signature I felt a few minutes ago?!"
Zukani blinked in surprise, peering at her twin through the curtain of hair that fell over her face. Realization slowly began to dawn on her face. "Of course," she whispered, "I should have known that you'd be able to sense them through me. Hell, I don't even know how I do it, but I still should have known. I can't hide anything from you."
"They're here already, aren't they, Zu-chan?" Goten asked, placing a hand on her still-trembling arm. She nodded her head, biting her lip to keep from screaming in rage and fear. She wasn't ready; she needed more time if she was going to defeat Kenchi....
"We still have a chance," Juuhachi said as she quietly joined the group. As everyone turned to stare at her, she continued: "If we unleash everything we've got, we should be able to throw them off. They probably won't be expecting much of a fight from us, and if they think Zukani is still at the same level as she was when she arrived here -"
"- we'll be able to take them out before they have the chance to attack us first," Juunana finished his sister's thought. He turned his attention to the half-Saiyan girl, who was still crouched on the ground with her twin and his best friend. "Do you think you're up to fighting them so soon?" he asked her quietly, keeping his tone even despite the fact that he was, in fact, frightened for the first time that he could remember.
Zukani didn't even look at him; she shook Goten's hand off her arm, stood, and walked quietly away from the group, stopping only when she reached the water's edge. As she looked out over the ocean, she felt the tears welling up in her eyes. One escaped and slid down her cheek, and she wiped it away quickly before anyone could see.
/Gods, what am I going to do?/ she asked mentally, not sure who she was talking to. /I know damn well that I'm no match for Kenchi, and he's the one who must be stopped. I have to be ready, but I'm not./
She turned her head slightly, not willing to make eye contact with anyone right now, particularly not with this Jinzouningen who'd somehow become so very important to her. If she failed now, she would lose everything all over again. She would lose him, and that thought tore at her heart in some strange way that she didn't quite understand. So she avoided eye contact, turning just enough to see him through the veil of hair hanging over her eyes.
"What?" she snapped, her voice sounding more choked than she had thought it would. /Damn,/ she hissed mentally, /now I look like some weak child. Just the way I don't want anyone to see me!/
"You are ready to face them."
She turned completely, forgetting to avoid his gaze. "Nani?"
He tilted his head, wondering what the hell he was thinking by telling her this, and moved closer to her. "You're ready to face them, little girl," he said again. "Your ki attacks are now stronger than you've ever dreamed they could be. You've learned to use your body as a weapon. Hell, you've managed to take me down more than a few times! If you aren't ready to face the Elite now, you'll never be ready."
Another tear slid down her face; Juunana reached out and wiped it away. "And please stop doing that," he chided her gently.
"Gomen nasai, Juu-kun," she said softly, blinking back her tears. "I'm just so damned scared right now...."
Before he realized he was doing so, Juunana wrapped his arms around the girl and drew her closer to him. Zukani just leaned against him and wept, not caring for once that she looked weak, just glad to have a friend to turn to. Neither paid attention to the stunned looks they were receiving from the other senshi. The two teens stood that way on the beach for a long time, one comforting the other, and receiving some small form of comfort in return. Finally, Zukani pulled away and knelt by the water. A few splashes washed away the remainder of the tears she had shed. Only when all signs of her momentary weakness were gone did she look back up at her friend.
"Juu-kun?" she said softly, so that only he could hear her.
"Do you - do you think that I really have a chance against him?"
"Against who, Zu-chan?"
"Kenchi." She paused, thinking about all the things he'd done to ruin her life, to kill her world, and lowered her eyes. "Do you think I could ever beat the monster that killed everyone I loved and destroyed everything I held dear?"
Juunana regarded her silently, going over how much she'd changed in his mind. She had been powerful before, but unskilled, more dangerous than helpful. Then she had become almost mechanical, not letting anything through the wall she had built up around herself and striking out with her ki and her body. But now....
Now, she was technique and emotion.
She was Saiyan and human.
She wasn't just powerful; she was power.
And she was more than ready.
"If you use everything at your disposal," he said quietly, "if you use your ki, mind, and body; if you use your emotions in tandem with your skill; if you allow both your humanity and your Saiyan nature to shine through, you will be unstoppable."
The girl stood and gazed at him, finally smiling softly. She leaned forward, wrapped her arms around his waist, and buried her face into his neck. He wrapped his own arms around her shoulders again, closing his eyes and trying to figure out why this felt so right to him.
"Thank you," she whispered, then stepped back. "We should get back to the others now. We need to have a battle plan ready." She turned and began to walk back to the group (all of whom were still trying to figure out what the hell had just passed between the two half-human teens), glancing over her shoulder just once. "I'm not about to let anyone die on me again, pretty boy, so get your ass in gear."
Juunana watched her walk away, a small smile playing over his lips. The Zukani he knew was definitely back.
"Feel any better now?" Goten asked as Zukani and Juunana rejoined the small group of senshi. Trunks quickly whacked the other boy in the back of the head as Zukani lowered her gaze. If he didn't know any better, Trunks would have thought his twin was blushing.
"Hai, Goten-kun," she said. "I just needed to get some things off my chest." She looked up, a determined look in her dark eyes, and began to speak with more force in her voice than anyone (save possibly Vegeta) would have ever expected from her.
"The Andromedans won't think to go after anyone besides me first," she said. "I'm a loose end, and they hate loose ends more than anything. I'm Kenchi's number one priority at the moment. Once they have me, ano, 'contained', they'll focus their attentions on the rest of you." She paused, tilting her head a bit as if she was listening for something. Trunks peered out across the ocean, a small frown on his face.
/They're close by,/ Vegeta thought, turning his gaze to Goku. /Zukani can sense them without any effort, and Trunks is picking up on that 'signal' through her./
/Hai,/ Goku replied, nodding just enough for the other Saiyan to see. /That could be useful in the battle ahead./
"We have to act quickly," Zukani said, looking first at her father, then Goku. "We have to strike 'em hard and fast, and not give them the time to track our movements." She turned her gaze to Juunana. "I think I might have to use that new attack you taught me," she said in a voice barely above a whisper.
"The Shock Wave?" he asked, frowning. "You know how dangerous that attack can be, little girl. Are you sure...?"
"Hai, I'm sure I can handle it. And don't," she hissed in annoyance, "call me 'little girl'."
"Anything you say, Zucchini Girl."
"Shut up, baka."
Goku shook his head and smiled slightly. The half-Saiyan girl and Jinzouningen boy acted an awful lot like Bulma and Vegeta; he had the feeling that there was something more between them than friendship, even if they weren't aware of it yet. His smile disappeared before anyone else caught it; he closed his eyes, reaching out with his sixth sense in an attempt to track their new enemy.
Close by at that moment....
"Shimatta!" Kenchi shouted, slamming his fist through the wall of the transport ship. "What the hell do you mean, the girl's changed since she arrived on this world?!"
Anara looked up from her console, a cool look in her eyes. "Exactly what I said, commander," she said, her tone of voice perfectly matched with the coolness in her eyes. "Someone's been training the little beast, and even though her power level hasn't gone up too much, the amount that she's able to use has increased a hundredfold. It wouldn't surprise me any if she were able to obtain Level 2 now. And that's the good news."
"She could be at Level 3," Kenchi mused to himself. Anara simply nodded her head; when her commander was in one of his moods, it was best to remain silent.
"Damn," Mikari said, a cruel smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. "I guess that means we'll have to switch to Plan B."
"What's Plan B?" asked Anara, completely oblivious to anything other than actually fighting or using her scientific expertise. Xiram, who had been quiet up till this point, crossed his arms over his slim chest and waited for the answer he knew Mikari was going to give.
"Plan B," Mikari said with a smirk, "is when we send the alien in to finish off the brat. She'd never suspect a 'friend' of wishing to do her harm."
The other three members of the Inner Circle turned their attention to Kenchi. He was glaring out the window, his hair falling over one eye. He turned to look at his command team, a cold smile on his face.
"We go with Plan C."
Slowly, one by one, the other Elite mimicked his smile. Plan C was simple, yet effective. It had worked so many times in the past; there was no way it could fail now.
Simple, yet effective. Divide and conquer.
And the girl was Kenchi's.
"Kuso," Goku muttered, opening his eyes and gazing towards the horizon. Zukani drew in a sharp breath and copied the action, knowing all too well that her ojisan could sense what they were up to just as she could. Dozens of curses sprang to mind, but she couldn't bring herself to articulate any of them. Trunks turned a somewhat scolding gaze to his twin sister.
/If your mother could hear your thoughts right now, she'd drop dead from shock./
/Very funny, Touchan,/ she thought back, turning to her father and smirking slightly. Aloud she said, "They're going to pull a divide-and-conquer attack, trying to catch us off-guard. I don't think they realize that we've already begun tracking them."
"It won't be very long before they get here," Goku confirmed, turning back to the others. "And I've got the feeling that Zu-chan's going to be the first one they go after." He looked at the girl, who nodded, a grim expression on her face.
"Don't worry about the princess here," Juunana said, moving a little closer to his student. "She can handle herself against the Inner Circle, and if she runs into any trouble..." he trailed off, smirking as energy began to crackle in his hands.
"Hai, hai," Vegeta said, growing weary of conversation. He began powering up to Super Saiyan. "Let 'em divide us, we'll show 'em who the conquerors will be!"
Everyone agreed silently, and began powering up themselves. Zukani remained as she was, picking up a rock and tossing it from one hand to the other. She smirked and glanced at Trunks, Goten, and Juunana as she took position behind a nearby boulder.
"I'll draw Kenchi away from the others the second they arrive," she called to the group. "Once he comes after me, go all out! It's the only way we'll ever be able to stop them!"
As soon as she had finished saying this, the Andromedans arrived in a burst of energy. An alien that bore a striking resemblance to Zarbon accompanied the three Andromedans in the lead. The female Andromedan had pale lavender skin and long turquoise hair. Her aqua eyes were colder than ice. The taller male had sea green skin and short black hair; his black eyes searched the group of senshi with a calculated ease. The second male, who seemed unconcerned with any of this thus far, was a pale blue with shoulder-length gold hair. His blue-green eyes blinked, and he turned his gaze back to his three companions.
"Have you located your prey yet, oh great commander?" he asked in a condescending manner.
The tall male turned a vicious glare to the other and grabbed him by the throat. "You live and die by my will alone, Mikari," he hissed, fire burning in his eyes. "Take your pick of any of these senshi, but the girl is mine!"
Vegeta, Trunks, and Juunana all bristled at his words. They exchanged a quick glance and nodded.
The tall one had to be Kenchi.
A ki blast from Trunks drew the attention of the Inner Circle as it crashed into Xiram and knocked him back into Anara. It was closely followed by a rock that struck Kenchi in the back of the head as he turned to find out what kind of damage the attack had done. Growling, he whirled around, going into battle mode.
And found his prey.
"Hey, bakana!" Zukani yelled, tossing another rock lightly in the air and catching it again. "If you want me, come and get me!" With that, she threw the rock, holding back some of her strength. The force of the blow still caught the leader of the Elite off-guard, knocking him from his position in the air. Kenchi took a moment to recover, then glowered at the Saiyan girl's insolence.
"Oh, you will pay for that, little one," he hissed. "Your death will be slow and painful, I promise you that!"
"Ooh, I'm so scared," she mocked, powering up to Super Saiyan for the first time in almost eight years. "You've gotta catch me first!" She smirked at him and took off in a flash of light. Kenchi muttered a curse in Andromedan and blasted after her. The instant he was gone, the Z Senshi sprang into action.
"Energy Wave!" two voices cried in unison. Xiram jerked his gaze back from the disappearing form of his former friend just in time to be slammed by yet another ki attack. He was slammed backwards into the midst of the Andromedan Elite, as was Anara - she'd been caught by the second wave.
Juuhachi grinned at her brother. "Damn, that felt good."
"Sure did," Juunana agreed, smiling back.
Xiram and Anara quickly recovered from the blast and focused their attentions on the two Jinzouningen. Anara turned to her alien ally and smiled wickedly.
"Which one would you like, my friend? The male or the female?"
"Which one's which?"
"Which one's... oh, you are so going to pay for that one, pal!" Juuhachi said as she powered up to her maximum. No one made those kind of comments about her brother and lived to tell about it.
Xiram gave a startled cry as the blond-haired cyborg launched herself at him and knocked him out of the sky. Anara blinked, surprised at the speed the automaton had displayed, and turned her gaze to the dark-haired male. Juunana smirked up at her.
"Oh, I'm not the one you have to worry about," he said, still smirking. "It's him."
Anara barely had time to blink before the attack came.
"Burning Attack!" Trunks couldn't help but smile wickedly as the attack caught the female Andromedan off-guard and forced her to the earth. Anara spat sand out of her mouth and glared at the half-Saiyan boy. Her eyes widened momentarily, then her smirk returned.
"Oh, you must be that halfling female's twin, ne?" she asked in an icy voice. "I wonder if you'll suffer any when Kenchi-san kills her."
"You have some kind of death wish, 'lady'?" The familiar voice caused the Andromedan to freeze, half-standing and half-sitting. She turned her head slightly, her eyes widening fearfully as she realized who had spoken.
Vegeta, the prince of the Saiyan, father of the girl they were set on destroying.
And, quite possibly, her one-way ticket to the afterlife.
/It's begun,/ Zukani thought as she glanced over her shoulder to see Kenchi gaining on her. She pulled to a sudden stop, allowing him to rocket past her before he realized his prey was now behind him. She glanced back at the ground far below and smiled slightly.
/Good job, Juu-chan and Juu-kun,/ she thought to her friends below. /Now it's my turn./
"You little beast!"
She looked up just in time to see Kenchi launch a massive ki wave at her. Knowing she had no time to dodge, she powered up and threw a block. The attack was redirected out over the ocean, where it harmlessly exploded.
With a small smile, she turned her gaze back to a surprised Kenchi.
"What's the matter, bakana?" she asked in a sweet, girlish voice. "Did you think I was still too weak to go SSJ2?"
To her surprise, he smiled at her. That smile was enough to make her blood run cold.
/Kuso,/ she hissed mentally. He actually seemed pleased.
"I was hoping you'd put up a bit of a fight," he said, laughing slightly. "Looks like I won't be disappointed."
Zukani took a defensive stance, letting her thoughts drift to her home world. This man before her had taken all of that away from her, and he was here to take away everything again.
Her family, which had just been restored to her.
Her new friends, who meant everything to her.
Her world. Her home.
She drew in a breath, knowing that this battle could very well be her last. She closed her eyes, listening to Juunana's words in her head once more.
If you use everything at your disposal; if you use your ki, mind, and body; if you use your emotions in tandem with your skill; if you allow both your humanity and your Saiyan nature to shine through, you will be unstoppable.
Zukani opened her eyes and fixed her opponent with a cool, steady gaze.
"Bring it on," she whispered.
If she was going to die tonight, she wasn't going out alone.
Back to the zone....
Back to the beginning....