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Piologue: Neet Chapati 2
0ne: The Piophesy of the uiil-chilu 4
Two: Among the Saiyans 1S
Thiee: A Wolf in Saiyan's Clothing 2S
Foui: Panic Su
Five: Bell 0nleasheu S8
Six: visions anu voices SS
Seven: A New Bay 66
Eight: The uiavity Ciatei 84
Nine: Six yeais on Chutney-sei 94
Ten: Six yeais on Plant-sei 1uS
Eleven: Beiiitown 11S
Twelve: The Tsufuiu 1S2
Thiiteen: Inuia 147
Fouiteen: }oyful Bays, Baik Bays 162
Fifteen: Queen Noii of vegeta-sei 182
Sixteen: Biith of Piince vegeta 191
Seventeen: The Woimhole 0pens 2uS
Eighteen: Pieluue to Collapse 22S
Nineteen: The Fall of King vegeta's Kinguom 2S6
Twenty: When Woilu's Colliue 2SS
Twenty-0ne: Thiesholu 27S
Epilogue: Queen Noii of Chutney-sei 29S

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0ne: Baiico: The Enu of Times Suu
Two: Soja: Laughtei in the Baik S11
1
The Queen Nori Saga































2
Prologue
Meet Chapati

"Well, you don't look a bit like one of my kind, do you? No...Your eyes are not
golden, your rump doesn't sport a tufted tail...You don't even speak in the language of
wolves, Chutnian, do you? I didn't think so. You had best thank your gods for that
universal translator, or else all this old man's words would just be wolf-barking to
your ears."
"Well now...You say you've traveled billions of light years to see the universe? You
just arrived on this planet today? My, technology just gets more and more complex.
Why, just a few decades ago, my people could have never travelled over that kind of
space. To go that far, we had to use the wormhole, before it had to be destroyed...but
that is a long story. I've been so rude...Let me introduce myself. My name is Chapati,
Chapati of the Ghee priesthood, and I call this planet Chutney-sei my home: the home
of my people, the Chutnians, who take on the form of the humanoid and the wolf and
the wolf-on-two-legs. Shapeshifting races are probably rare in your part of the
universe, no? You see a small, yellow-eyed old man before you now, and you think
this is my only form, yes? I will show you another form in a moment, for we
Chutnians can will ourselves into our other forms......Yes! There we are! Don't look
surprised at the old coyote on two feet before you. I am still Chapati, but with fur and
the face of a coyote, see?"
"Come in, sit down, sit down. You've come so far, so let old Chapati be hospitable
and share some food and drink with you. My life here at the Ghee temple is simple,
but I will share with you food and drink. The first Chutnian you meet should be
hospitable, no?...I should tell you about my people, and about the people we've known
as well. Well-versed in your history, I hope? Haha! Good! Then you must know about
the hairless apes, those long-dead people of the monkey-tail - Saiyans, you call them -
and their bloody wars with the Tsufuru on Plant-sei, no? Then you've heard, no doubt,
of the Saiyan victories, and how it was renamed Vegeta-sei by that puppet monarch,
King Vegeta? And you've heard how he and his race were felled by their own tyrant,
Freeza? Good, good...You know them well."
"Well, let me share with you something that most of your kind would never
know...heh heh...Not even the Saiyans themselves knew it, I tell you! The Saiyan
queen, the warrior-woman of old, the mate of King Vegeta and the mother of Prince
Vegeta...Yes, you know of her? She was one of my kind!
Queen Nori, the woman who knew of nature's secrets and spoke with wolves?
She had out blood in her!
Nori, the warrior who trained with mystics, who brought the Saiyan tribes together,
who plunged deep into the earth, never to return?
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She was of my race! She was Chutnian!
"You don't believe me? You say she was all Saiyan because she too had the monkey
tail? Bah! An illusion! Don't believe everything you see and hear, for I tell you she
was as Chutnian as I and could take on the three forms of the woman, the wolf, and
the wolf-on-two-legs, or as the proper name is nowadays, the lupine form. She is
well-known now, in her maturity, among the Chutnians, and her story is is well
known among we of Chutnian blood, put on paper by scribes many years ago after
she vanquished the bloodthirsty King Kheer and Queen Darjiling on this planet."
"You don't know the tale? What good are you if you've never heard the tale? Well, I
will share with you the tale...better you should know of Nori and her race than be
ignorant during your visit. I keep a copy of it with me in my sash, yes, this one around
my waist, for it is a very special story to me...here it is! The scroll! Let me read you
her story while you eat and drink."
"Before I read you Nori's tale, I must first tell you of the wormhole...Yes, the one I
spoke of earlier that connected Chutney-sei years ago to Plant-sei, or Vegeta-sei,
whatever name you give it. Even though my planet lies billions of light years from
where Plant-sei used to be, and even though it would have taken millions of years to
reach it with our technology that long ago, some of us could go there. You see, there
once existed two precious relics called the Gateway Spheres: one on Chutney-sei, safe
with the Ghee priests in this very temple, and one on Plant-sei, hidden deep within the
earth. When some soul on either planet touched a sphere and spoke the sacred mantra
over it, a wormhole opened between the two planets - no, not a giant tear in space like
legends say of wormholes, but a small opening in reality, just in front of the sphere.
By going through that small opening in space, one could go to either planet and cover
in but a heartbeat the space that millions of years in a ship could not have covered.
Who made the Gateway Spheres? Who put them there on the two planets? No one
knows for sure. They exist no more, but it was for the best that they were destroyed."
"...Oh, I waste your time with this talk of an old wormhole! Let me read to you Nori's
tale..."
















4
Chapter One
The Prophesy of the Girl-child

"Listen now, as dawn makes way for a new day, we make way for a new life!"
A low howl poured from the throat of the crier onto the island of Gado Gado, where
the temple of the Ghee priesthood stood among the deciduous forests. The crier,
standing on the mountainous round rock that stood over the island, threw back her
head and continued with the morning's hymn of new life.
"Listen well, Gado Gado! Listen well our kin of three forms!"
Gold-eyed, wolf-tailed Chutnians who inhabited the villages just outside the temple
and who were starting the day with morning meals and chores, lifted their heads and
listened well to the crier's words, spoken in Chutnian, the smooth, beying wolf-tongue
spoken by the Chutnian race.
"Listen well, for today the Ghee Temple consecrate a new life born unto the
Chutnians!
A young princess, a girl-child born unto the monarchs of our planet Chutney-sei will
receive name a prophesy today!
Listen well, Gado Gado, for today the Ghee priests welcome new life!"
In accordance with age-old traditions, the crier had announced that day's upcoming
Consecration Ritual to all who could hear on Gado Gado, a ritual of interest to many.
A week had past since the birth of a daughter to the royal house of Chutney-sei, and
the baby would soon be brought to Ghee priests to be named and given a prophesy by
the oracle there. The tradition was an ancient one that all Chutnians revered: for
centuries Chutnians brought their children at one week of age to the Ghee priests, who
would bring the child to hear the goddess Sarama's words on its fate.
The crier, clad in the burgundy cloak, sleeveless dickie, baggy pants, and sandals of
the Ghee priesthood, stepped down from the sacred red rock and began to saunter
down the path that spiraled around the rock toward the ground. Dark brown hair,
loosely braided down her back and tied with the stem of a blue lotus, contrasted with
the gray fur that covered her body and muzzle. In lupine form she was, on two legs
and with the proportions of a humanoid, but with the thick fur, face, and claws of a
wolf - a werewolf of sorts, sleek and noble in the lupine form that reconciled
humanoid and wolf features. Although all Chutnians were born in a human-like
humanoid form, all Chutnians could be trained to assume wolf, humanoid, and lupine
forms at will. (The Ghee priests say, and it is true, that criers are able to howl hymns
louder and deeper with the strong throat given to them in their lupine form.)
At last, the crier finished the walk down the sacred rock's path and returned to the
Ghee Temple at ground level, where several burgundy-clad priests and priestesses in
lupine form were meditating, listening to the sounds of nature, or preparing
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themselves for that day's rituals. All of the Ghee priests and priestesses were
encouraged to be in lupine form, for the lupine form was considered the most sacred
of all the three forms, being the purest manifestation of a Chutnian's essence and
allowing the Chutnians to sense spirits, nature, and chi (the energy of life) with great
ease.
The chief temple, like all the Ghee temples on every continent across the planet, was a
most cosmopolitan sanctuary, with the priesthood consisting of Chutnian men and
women from the far reaches of Chutney-sei. Slim, black-furred, jackal-like Chutnians
from the southern continent; robust, gray-furred Chutnians from the east; petite, gray,
coyote-like Chutnians from the west; tall, white-furred Chutnians from the north -
devotees from all lands strolled through the Gado Gado temple and partook of
Sarama's mysteries.
The crier stepped quietly into the temple courtyard, a huge grassy clearing surrounded
on two sides by lush, fruit-filled trees and along the third side by a sapphire-colored
lake. Several priests and priestesses were meditating in the courtyard, and as the crier
walked on into the temple itself, several more were occupying themselves in the
building. Simple in architechure, the one-story temple was built out of red jasper,
seemingly the same material that composed the giant sacred rock that loomed over it,
and was marked by several outdoor terraces and pavillions holding red stone altars. At
the far end of the wide temple was the main chamber of Sarama, godess of the
Chutnians, depicted on a wall tapestry in her triune forms: that of a ruddy-furred wolf,
that of wiry, black-haired woman, and that of a tall, wise, red-furred lupine. Light
poured into the room from the glass sunroof and the glass walls, illuminating the
room and its chief inhabitant: the Oracle, the elder woman whose sacred trances
revealed Sarama's knowledge, whose prophesies guided the paths of all Chutnians
brought into the temple. The crier, who stopped at the threshhold of Sarama's
chamber, looked in as she spoke to Curri, the middle-ages high priestess of the temple
who stood just outside the chamber. A woman from the eastern continent of Raita,
Curri was a plump but stury older woman with gray fur, a wise and dignified
demeanor, and a look of constant preoccupation in her golden eyes.
"Anything?" the crier asked.
"Oh...Dal. There you are," Curri replied through a thick accent.
"Sarama send us the same dark message, over and over again. She's displeased with
King Kheer and Queen Darjiling."
As Curri and Dal the Crier listened, the Oracle walked in sacred patterns during her
goddess-intoxicated trance and uttered words from the goddess Sarama herself:
"Who are these foul ones
who voyage to my temple pure?
Who but King Kheer of my Chutnian people
prays to dark gods in his lofty palace
but travels to this temple under pretence
of reverence and tradition?
Who but Queen Darjiling of my Chutnian people
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growls and snarls from the depths of her madness
and brings her corruption unto my sanctuary?
Who but these tyrants, woe to these tyrants,
come to the holy sanctuary of Gado Gado
after fifteen journeys of Sol have been counted?
Fifteen years of oppression most foul,
of echoing cries of slaves, kindred and foreign,
of sobs of fathers and mothers for children lost
to wars of conquest and purges of hate,
of the cries of dead souls innumerable
from this planet and planets thus conquered
whose blood pours into pools of depravity
Kheer offers to obscene demons!
Bring me their daughter, yet untainted,
and knowledge about her I shall share,
but favor unto her genitors I shall not bestow."
"Sarama sees what they've done," Dal mentioned to Curri, "so how can we even let
them into the temple? The sufferinng King Kheer and Queen Darjiling have caused..."
"The high taxes, the purges, the forcible drafts of our people...The bloody conquests
across the galaxy...Enslavement of entire races...I know! It sickens me as well."
Curri looked down for a moment with a faraway gaze in her eyes, and a shudder went
through her plump frame.
"...But Sarama asks to see the newborn. Who are we to refuse?"
A light-hearted laugh sounded from behind Dal and Curri, and as they turned, they
faced a smiling old Chutnian leaning on a cedar staff.
"You're far too grave about this! I trust that Sarama hears our prayers! She welcomes
the baby princess to the temple, no? Perhaps she knows something?"
"Chapati!"
Curri folded her rounded arms over her chest and just shook her head at the elder,
who was smiling and showing a row of white teeth in his coyote-like lupine form.
"Do you think war and genocide are a laughing matter?"
"Oh, come now, look kindly on an old man!" Chapati quipped.
"I laugh not at the atrocities Kheer and Darjiling have done. I laugh because of my
faith that they'll get their reward for it someday! They make the world so ugly, some
of us have to laugh to stay sane!"
Curri shook her head. "Deal with their ugliness your way, and I'll deal with it my way.
I only pray to Sarama that this whole nightmare comes to an end someday."
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At that moment, the sound of landing air craft and marching feet could be heard
outside the temple, and as Dal, Curri, and Chapati looked down the main corredor,
they could see dozens of royal guards in humanoid form entering the courtyard and
shooing off the priests and priestesses in meditation. Bedecked in deep green armor
marked with the royal alpha symbol, these guards were none other than the King and
Queen's personal bodyguards, and as the militaristic procession moved into the temple
building, King Kheer and Queen Darjiling came to the forefront.
King Kheer, a 30ish man presently in his humanoid form, had all the physical traits of
a native of Paneer, the southern continent: tall, lean, smooth-skinned, and tanned, with
dense black hair reaching to his waist, a long and well-groomed black beard, a slim
but sharply angular nose, and chiseled features characteristic of Paneer nobility.
Dressed in deep green armor, deep green slacks, gold arm bands, and flowing robes
embroidered with the royal alpha symbol and the Chutnian glyphs for courage, power,
and royalty, King Kheer was a majestic figure indeed. His hands, ungloved, bore
small black alpha symbols tattooes on each palm, the marking of a Chutnian monarch.
Nevertheless, as he sauntered deeper into the temple with the queen, the Ghee priests
picked up peculiar sensations and scents from his person as their faces tightened and
their bodies stiffened at his approach. As all the Ghee priests were in their lupine
forms and could sense the chi of all those nearby, their first sensation was that of
overwhelming chi, of evil, baneful chi that poured from his body into the space
surrounding him. A scent flowed into the noses of those gathered near the monarch,
the intense scent of his skin, of fragrant royal incense mingled with the heavy,
metallic smell of blood. From his scent, it seemed as if the rumors were true that King
Kheer bathed in great ponds of blood collected from hapless subjects, the obscene end
of supposed rituals to demons, it was rumored, who granted King Kheer great chi in
exchange for for such sacrifices and blood-bath rituals. King Kheer threw burning
glances at the onlookers who stared too long, frowning and trudging heavily through
the main corridor beside his mate.
Beside him, wearing yellow armor and disheveled green robes embroidered with the
alpha symbol and similar Chutnian glyphs, was Queen Darjiling, a disordered form
indeed. Matted black hair fell over wide golden eyes that stared into nothing, eyes
framed by a face contorted with nameless anger. With teeth bared, tattooed hands
clenched, and shoulders slightly hunched, Queen Darjiling walked heavily beside her
husband, sending hateful looks at the Ghee priests and muttering delusional words
about "those-holier-than-thou-Ghees" and how they would bring the planet to ruin
someday. The smell of blood oozed from her skin more potently that it did from King
Kheer's, suggesting that she partook of the same obscene blood-bath rituals that he
did, the explaination behind the powerful chi that the Ghee priests sebsed from her
person as well. Madness, chaos, and irrational power seemed incarnate in the
unkempt, delusional queen, and the grave frown upon King Kheer's face probably had
something top do with the woman by his side. The instability of her mind manifest in
the instability of her emaciated body: every few minutes, Queen Darjiling shifted
from her wild-eyed humanoid form to her mangy, gangly lupine form, and most
onlookers were at a loss to secretly decide which form was more grisly. Meanwhile,
Dal leaned over to Chapati and whispered in his ear.
"Is it true that she forced King Kheer to massacre the entire Biru race?"
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"No," he whispered back. "King Kheer killed them because he feared a rebellion.
Queen Darjiling ordered all the Tsukemono race killed. She thought they were
mocking her."
"How could he have a child with a woman like that? How could he...conceive...a child
with a woman like that?"
"I'll bet she forced THAT on him too!"
Curri, who had stepped away from Dal and Chapati, greeted the King and Queen by
bowing her head and spoke with them at length about the ritual. After a few moments,
King Kheer turned and motioned to one of his servants, an older woman with graying
dark hair who carried a bundle of embroidered green velvet in her arms. As the
woman stepped forward, something in the bundle of fabric moved, and soon it
became clear that this was not merely a bundle but the baby herself, a dark-skinned,
wide-eyed baby girl with a shock of black hair upon her head. King Kheer lifted the
baby girl from the servant's arms and placed her in Curri's arms as Queen Darjiling
looked on, staring at the baby with a nausiating gleam in her eyes. Curri looked down
at the week-old girl, who looked up with blue eyes (which would not turn gold until
she was at least two years of age) and barked at Curri in primitive Chutnian language,
instinctive to every pure-blooded Chutnian. The baby drew her hands up to her
mouth, the palms of which bore the black alpha tattooes to be found on the palms of
her father and mother. Smooth-skinned and in humanoid form, she would no doubt be
handsome in lupine form when she grew older.
"A fine baby girl. Already, she's so alert," Curri said as she looked down at the
squirming bundle in the royal blankets.
"Yes, she's strong. I can tell already. I expect she'll be a fierce warrior someday.
"So..." King Kheer said, "shall we commence the ritual? Shall we find out what
Sarama has in store for the heir of my empire?"
"She'll be a warrior and a queen, and she'll make blood flow on hundreds of planets!
The empire will just grow and grow until the whole universe bows to my daughter!
And if they don't, death to all of them and their filthy races!"
Queen Darjiling's voice grew louder and louder as her exaggerated praises of the baby
grew greater. When a servant gingerly walked up to her and asked her to lower her
voice in a holy temple, her hand flew out and caught the servant under the chin,
knocking the attendant to the ground.
"Don't you EVER have the audacity to tell ME to be silent! I am Queen Darjiling and
I will speak when it suits me! Go and die if my words don't suit you! You didn't
conquer worlds! You didn't get the glory of the gods!..."
The queen's delusional insults continued to echo loudly through the temple while
King Kheer and Curri stiffened and waited until her enraged fit subsided. Dal, Curri,
Chapati, King Kheer, Queen Darjiling, and a handful of guards and high-ranking
priests and priestesses entered the main chamber where the Oracle stood, closing the
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door-cloak behind them, and as Curri gently placed the baby girl in the Oracle's arms,
Dal lifted her hands and head to the sunroof and deeply howled a hymn to Sarama.
"Sarama, great Goddess,
patroness of our race,
she who smiles upon the seekers of truth,
the seekers of righteousness,
the seekers of glory,
look upon this newborn daughter of our race
and share with us your wisdom!"
Curri turned to King Kheer, asking him if he had planted a tree and given alms to the
poor beforehand to please Sarama, which he nodde to (when in fact he had given
"alms" to some lower-class privates in his army who had captured several hundred
Kuki slaves that week), and with that established, the congregation in the glass room
waited. The Oracle held the bundle close to her, looking forward, patiently waiting for
the trance of inspiration, when suddenly her body jerked, her eyes became bright with
divine knowledge, and her feet began to move her in sacred geometric patterns across
the room, with congregants moving out of the way to let the Oracle pass. In a rich,
raw voice, Sarama spoke through the Oracle's strong lupine throat:
"Girl-child, yet unnamed, I look upon you
and promise you that honor shall be your gift
and the love of your people shall be your token.
...
To Kheer, Chutnian ruler for whom wealth and power
hold greater allure than your people's esteem,
to Darjiling, to whom the conquered prostrate,
to whom races diverse and dejected pay tribute,
to you, to tyrants of Chutnian blood,
I give tidings of an empire to fall, indeed,
at the hands of the girl-child before you today.
The girl-child who sprang from your loins
shall grow sleek, strong of limb, and well-trained
in the arts of peace and war, far from here,
and when grown to womanhood shall strike at you
with righteous fury, kindled in a noble heart.
With deadly blows shall she of your line
extinguish your lives, so wasted on gain,
and thus snap the fetters you placed on your people
of Chutnian blood and blood so diverse.
Think you, oh monarchs, can lengthen your lives one day
if the Godess decrees your death in advance?
Think you, Kheer and Darjiling,
can run from the wrath of your daughter ordained
to end your dark reign by the goddess Sarama?
I, Sarama, know all that has passed
and all that shall come to be in the future
when those of Chutnian blood come before me.
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Verily I am displeased with this reign, dark and
mad, but pleased and joyful at the birth of this princess."
The Oracle fell silent, with sweat running down her face and matting her long gray
hair from the encounter with Sarama, and as she placed the baby princess back in
Curri's arms, she and the other Ghee watched King Kheer's face. King Kheer, arms
folded across his chest, mouth closed tightly, brow knotted, said nothing as he
digested the Oracle's words, but lifted his head when Queen Darjiling spoke.
"Kill it!"
The voice pierced the air with a painful loudness, a loudness that seemed somehow
more intense the next time Queen Darjiling shouted.
"Kill it! To hell with the brat! To hell with the little usurper!"
The queen, eyes wide, lumbered over to Curri and the baby princess in her arms.
"I'll kill it here! You're not growing up to be my killer, brat!"
"No."
Curri remained where she stood, unmoving even as Queen Darjiling breathed over
here and the others in the room held their breath at her reply. In a measured tone,
Curri spoke to the wild-eyed queen.
"To spill blood on holy ground is shameful, your Highness. Besides, it would be
much more auspicious if one of the Ghee priests took the girl's life quietly, away from
the temple, rather than if you took it here and now."
Queen Darjiling continued to stand, too close, over Curri as the high priestess
continued to persuade the queen to hold back.
"Let one of our priests or priestesses take the girl's life, if you so order it. But so as
not to anger Sarama, do not shed any blood here in the temple. If you so wish, the
killing can be done in a matter of hours, in such a manner that the death will be quick
and easily forgotten. Only give the order, your Highness."
The queen, bearing her teeth and craning her neck out, eventually backed away from
Curri and the girl-child and growled deep in her throat.
"So be it. Kill the child any way you see fit. Only do it soon," King Kheer spoke.
"Consider it an order to end the child's life."
Without warning, Queen Darjiling, now in lupine form, whipped a heavy hand-paw at
her husband, knocking his face and upper body sideways and leaving a gash on his
cheek.
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"FOOL! The baby is your fault! You sired her! Fool! Someone should dethrone you,
after all..."
Queen Darjiling continued to scream as another delusional rage overtook her mind
again, and screaming as such, she lumbered out of the temple's main doors with some
of her retainers and servants, leaving King Kheer rubbing the gash on his cheek and
casting a dark look at the Ghee priests.
"Consider it an order..." he repeated in a low tone before he and his retainers exited
the temple.
After a moment, the sound of marching feet gave way to the sound of air craft engines
igniting as the king, queen, and the retainers and servants took off in their ships to
head back to the royal palace in Paneer. When the sound of the ships faded into the
distance, Curri handed the baby to Chapati and spoke to the Oracle, priests, and
priestesses gathered in the main chamber. Standing straight, looking each Ghee in the
eye, Curri voiced her thoughts.
"You all know what I'm thinking about this...How can we act on his orders? This is
the heroine we've been praying for, the one who might stop all of this madness. We
can't take this baby girl's life."
"But we can't keep her here, either," said Dal. "There's no place on Chutney-sei where
the girl would be safe. Someone would see the tattooes on her palms and the word
would eventually get around to King Kheer."
"What about one of the other planets in the empire? We could take her there secretly,
if we could sneak onto a ship with her," suggested an elder priest.
"No," Curri shook her head.
"There are Chutnian soldiers all over the conquered planets who would recognize the
tattooes. Besides, the way King Kheer is pumping them for money and resources,
most of them aren't the best place for a little girl to grow up. They're poor, there's not
enough food sometimes..."
"Why not take her through the wormhole?" Chapati piped as he nuzzled the baby girl
in his arms. "There are no Chutnians on Plant-sei. The Saiyans live well off the land.
And no one but one of us could go through."
Smiling, Chapati lightly bounced the baby, who barked with delight at the old coyote-
man.
"Yes, little one, do you want to grow up with the monkey-people?"
Curri sighed.
"I don't see many other options. But the Saiyans?"
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"I used to travel among the Saiyans and masquerade as one. Do not forget!" Chapati
said.
"They are a strong warrior race who could teach her how to fight. She will need to
know THAT if she's to fight her father and mother someday. Who among the
Chutnians knows how to fight, except the nobility and the royal soldiers? I know
warrior mystics among the Saiyans. Let her live as one of them! She can grow up well
among them. They are not all barbarians, I tell you."
"Chapati, the last time you went through the wormhole was fifteen years ago. Things
might have changed on Plant-sei. Aren't there tribal wars among the Saiyans? Didn't
you tell me that the Saiyans and the Tsufuru were hostile to each other? What if that's
escalated? What if things have gotten ugly?"
"I tell you what, Curri. If you let me go with the little one through the wormhole, I
will look at what's happened. If things are good for a little girl to grow up in, I will
leave her with a Saiyan family. If things are not good, I will bring her back, mmm?"
Curri looked at Chapati and the baby for a long time with heavy eyes. At length she
sighed again and spoke.
"I don't see many other options...All right, Chapati. Take her through the wormhole to
Plant-sei."

























1S
Chapter Two
Among the Saiyans

In the underground level of the Ghee Temple, hidden well in a locked room amidst
old scrolls, banners, and chests, was a red cedar receptacle containing the legendary
Gateway Sphere, a hazy blue orb roughly a foot in diameter. Locked in its chest for
nearly fifteen years, the sphere had been listed out by Curri during the starry hours
before dawn. Standing alone in the middle of the room, Curri stood over the radiant
sphere, throwing an occasional glance out the door in the hopes of seeing Chapati and
the girl.
What's taking him?she mused. He said he's be up and ready to go by now!
In generations past, the Ghee priests and priestesses traveled to Plant-sei through the
wormhole to worship and meditate at the places of power there, locales such as
mystical beach fronts, mountains, and glens where powerful nature spirits roamed and
communicated with mystics who were sensitive to their presence. The Ghee priests
received much wisdom from the spirits of those sacred places, and when some
disillusioned Tsufuru left the technology and sprawl of the growing cities to return to
nature, certain Ghee disguised themselves as Tsufuru and trained these wanderers in
the ways of the nature spirits. Centuries before, when the Saiyans arrived on the
planet in strange organic pods, the Ghee priests disguised themselves as Saiyans,
taking mystically inclined Saiyans under their wing and teaching them about such
places while the other Saiyans focused on fighting each other instead. Almost no
Tsufuru who remembered the sacred places were left after a few generations, having
returned to the cities, some of the Saiyans remembered well and banded together into
groups of warrior mystics known as the Salusa, reclusive and respected Saiyans who
embraced the wisdom nature had to offer.
Knowledge of the wormhole and the Gateway Spheres was kept secret by the Ghee,
who would have continued to travel to Plant-sei and worship and teach had not the
then-teenage King Kheer come to power and revealed his powerlust by conquering
planets for his empire. Fearing that he and his betrothed, Darjiling, would find out
about the wormhole and use it to conquere Plant-sei and its neighbors across the
universe, the elder Ghee his away the Gateway Sphere on Chutney-sei and spoke of it
only to wise and trusted priests and priestessesm keeping it secret to outsiders and
younger Ghee, lest knowledge of it reach King Kheer and Queen Darjiling.
Chapati, one of the last Ghee priests familiar with Plant-sei and by far the most
knoweldgeable of Saiyan culture, had not traveled through the wormhole since King
Kheer's rise to the throne, and could be heard chuckling with delight across the long
cellar hall as he prepared to travel again. Across the basement corredor, Curri listened
to Chapati's preparation, to his lighthearted chuckle, clothes ruffling, supplies clinking
together in a backpack, and his words to the baby as he prepared her for the upcoming
adventure.
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Heh,she thought. The old man hasn't changed at bit over the years.
After a few minutes, Chapati entered the room, no longer in his usual lupine form but
in humanoid form, a smallish but lithe old man with a bald head, grayish-brown fu
manchu, and a look of perpetual amusement in his narrow golden eyes. To play the
part on Plant-sei, Chapati had decked himself in traditional Saiyan garments he still
had from his travelling days: a bull-hide kilt, a tiger-hide cloak over his shoulders,
leather sandals, his cedar staff, and a bull-hide backpack for holding supplies and
carrying the baby upon his back. The baby girl in his left arm, dressed in a frock of
similar bull-hide and a cotton loincloth, yawned and carelessly stretched out a hand,
grasping at some of the old man's gray chest hair. However, Curri's eyes fell upon the
rumps of Chapati and the baby - in place of Chapati's gray coyote tail and the baby
girl's black tail were brown, furry monkey tails.
"Heh heh! You noticed, no? Now you try to tell us apart from any Saiyan! Do not
worry. I fit the tail over her wolf tail without causing our little one any pain. Juju sap
is a good painkiller for such things!"
Among the first aid supplies in the temple was a tissue replicator, which was usually
used to replicate an injured individual's skin, muscle, or bone in the event of a serious
injury. The Ghee of generations past, clever as they were, found that the replicator
had other applications for wormhole travellers, namely, to create artificial tails from
Saiyan cells. Chapati, who had saved some fur off of a Saiyan tail, had enough
celkular material to construct false tails for himself and the baby, and having grafted
the tails onto the skin and fur of their tails, Chapati and the baby were
indistinguishable from any pure-blooded Saiyan on Plant-sei.
"All right...You've got the appearance down," observed Curri.
"Do you have enough food and water for you and the baby for a few days, in case of
emergencies?"
"Yes."
"First-aid?"
"I have a small tissue replicator, and Juju sap for anestesia too. Antitoxin serums as
well."
"If you run into hostile Saiyans, can you defend yourself and the girl?"
"Do you think I would risk the little one's life if these skinny old arms and legs could
not fight a little? I can defend her."
"And if Plant-sei isn't as promising as we thought, have we agreed that she's to be
brought back?"
"Yes, yes...You worry yourself too much. And...If Plant-sei IS promising, I will leave
her with good people, come back to check on her now and then, and bring her back
here when she is grown and ready?"
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"Of course. So you're all set to go?"
"Ready! Heh heh!"
Curri reached over and patted Chapati's shoulder, moving on to look at the unnamed
baby girl.
"Good luck! Both of you! And you, little one...If you stay with the Saiyans, I'll see
you in a few years. A lot of people are counting on you...take care, little princess!"
The baby girl barked a happy bark at Curri, and after Chapati wrapped her in tiger
furs and placed her facing outward onto his carrying pouch on his backpack, the old
priest stepped toward the Gateway Sphere with a smile on his lips. The sphere glowed
with a pale, milky blue light, which turned a deep orange when Chapati exended his
left hand over it and barked the unlocking mantra.
"Samosa...Samosa...Samosa...Samosa..."
The light given off by the sphere grew a deeper orange and burned more intensly as
Chapati chanted the mantra over and over again. At length, space itself directly in
front of the sphere began to melt downward, like transparent candle wax, leaving
glistening white streaks of nothingness in the air as if reality itself were slowly
peeling away with every utterance of "samosa." With the repeat of the mantra again
and again, the vacated space fell away completely, leaving a beaming white void
roughly three yards high and three yards long just in front of the sphere. Strong
breezes issued from the bright mouth of the wormhole, brushing against Chapati's
face and ruffling his garments, and with a wide smile, the old priest stepped into the
wormhole with the baby and vanished.
What followed - the sensation of falling into nothingness, of dropping into an infinite
white darkness - lasted only a heartbeat, for before Chapati knew it, he found himself
standing before the second Gateway Sphere on Plant-sei. Facing the second sphere, he
touched his hand to the top of the sphere, repeating the mantra several times, and
watched as reality congealed around the mouth of the wormhole. As space gathered
into the void and solidified, the light and breezes ceased, and the wormhole closed
upon itself, leaving the space before the sphere as undisturbed and smooth as it had
been before.
Finding himself in darkness, Chapati reached back onto the side of his backpack and
unhooked a small electric lantern, which filled the darkness with soft yellow light
when switched on. Around him lied the familiar old sights: the tall amethyst
stalagmites and stalagtites, the gravelly floor glittering with tiny crystal particles, the
stone walls glistening with imbedded crystal dust, and the subterranean ponds made
purple by the impurities in the rocks. The cool, moist air was still, save for the sound
of dripping water, and tickled Chapati's throat as he breathed it in deeply, savoring the
earthy smell of his surroundings. Tomatillo Cave had changed very little in fifteen
years, it seemed, for undisturbed, delicate beauty remained there.
"Look, little one!" Chapati whispered with a smile to the baby on his back.
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"Pretty, no? I came here a long time ago, and it was pretty then too!"
The baby let out a wolf-whine as Chapati walked forward through the cavern's
pathways, talking as he stepped.
"Yes, I used to sleep and pray in here to talk to the spirits of the deep earth. Very wise
spirits, and gentle as well."
The baby, who could only understnd rudimentary Chutnian, didn't understand most of
Chapati's words and let out another whine in response.
After a few hundred yards of walking, rays of gold light shot into Tomatillo Cavern
from a crack up ahead, which soon became visible as a narrow passage to the outside.
With light refracting off of the large crystals around him, Chapati shut of his lantern,
hid it in his backpack so as not to arouse suspicion from the Saiyans, and squeezed
through the passage into daylight.
Blinking in the bright light of day, the old priest's eyes relaxed at length and looked
out into the landscape, a fertile mountain, covered with red-leaved trees and orange
mosses that seemed brighter against the rosy dawn sky. Summer had fallen upon this
region of Plant-sei, and the breezy warm air carried with it the scent of tree blossoms,
fresh grasses...as well as the scent of cooking fires and Saiyans nearby.
"Do you smell that, little one? Good, no? Our friends are nearby! Do you want to
meet them?"
Chapati felt the baby girl squirming around in the sachel, so removing the backpack
from his back, he took the girl out of her holder and surveyed her. Whining in very
primitive baby Chutnian tongue, the girl voiced her hunger, and Chapati laughed
sweetly at this.
"Oh, you want food again? All right. We'll eat now."
Nearby, a Saiyan woman walking silently through the woods with a spear in search of
prey heard the sound of soft barking and whining several hundred yards away and
raised her head. Sniffing the air, her nose breathed in the scent of an elder and a baby,
scents reminiscent of Saiyan scents but somehow distinct - earthier, heavier than other
Saiyan hair and skin smells - and silently stepped toward the scent to investigate.
Creeping up behind a tall stone, the woman looked upon an old Saiyan man holding a
bullskin milk sack and nursing a baby Saiyan girl, and old man who smiled and
barked at the girl like a wolf. The baby girl, enjoying the meal, whined like a wolf
pup between sucks, which made the elder laugh even more.
"Saiyans who bark like wolves?" The woman raised an eyebrow at the notion.
The woman, dressed in a gold gazelle-hide tunic with a leather belt around her waist
and a strand of leopard teeth around her neck, crept up downwind behind the oldman
to get a better look.
"Do not think that I cannot hear you and smell you!" the old man suddenly shouted.
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"These ears and nose are very keen, I tell you!"
The gravelly voice with its strange, thick accent was all too familiar to the Saiyan,
whose eyes widened and lips parted into a huge smile.
"It's you! Chapati!"
Letting her guard down, the woman ran up to Chapati and put her hands on his
shoulders.
"It's really you! I haven't seen you in years!"
The woman's excitement amused Chapati, who burst out laughing.
"Ha! Rhubar! Hello! The last time I saw you, you were but a child! Oh, you've grown
tall and strong!"
"The years were good to you as well! I knew it was you from that voice and those
gold eyes! Oh Chapati, welcome back!"
"Well, it is good to be back here again and see a familiar face. I come here for an
important task, mind you."
Rhubar peeped at the baby cradled in Chapati's left arm.
"I'm assuming it has something to do with the baby here? Hey...Do you mind telling
me why she talks like a wolf, and why you answer her the same way?"
"Oh, she is a special little girl, I tell you. She and I were both blessed with wolf
tongue."
"She has gold eyes like you...are you related? Is she your granddaughter or your niece
or something?"
Chapati chuckled at the barrage of questions.
"What do you say we go into the sanctuary and let me talk to one of the elders there? I
will tell you about her then."
At this request, Rhubar led Chapati forward through the mountainous wilderness, past
several moss-covered stones and lush trees, past a cliff looking down at the Legume
River far below, up an incline into a village nestled in a rocky niche in the
surrounding mountains. The Salusa Sanctuary, secluded amidst the mountains, had
changed little in fifteen years, and Chapati recognized and was recognized by dozens
of Saiyan faces as he stepped into the village.
"Good to see you all!" Chapati laughed as his old friends and pupils gathered around
him and the baby.
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"Supinache, you look young as ever! Cucumb, hello to you too! Is this little boy
yours? You and Collardgree married! Oh, Suquash, hello! Look at you, friend, a
Salusa elder now! Oh, it is good to see all of you!"
Saiyan warrior mystics greeted him with smiles and strong pats on the back - lean,
muscular Saiyans clad in an endless variety of furs and pelts, adorned with talismans
of polished stones, animal teeth, and dried plant fibers woven into sacred symbols.
Strong and wise they were, for many had been instructed by Chapato and his
incognito Chutnian companions in the ways of the natuer spirits and the powers of life
and death. From the surroundings, Chapati saw that the old teachings had not gone to
waste.
The mountain landscape which he had passed on his way to the village remained
fertile and beautiful, and the wildnerness near the village itself was thick and in full
bloom, suggesting that the Salusa warrior mystics had done well in protecting the land
and its spirits from enterprising Tsufuru and destructive Saiyans alike. The Salusa
sanctuary had new young faces, naturally, but had not grown too large during his
fifteen year absence, for the Salusa Saiyans knew that honoring the land meant
making sure that their numbers did not grow so large that they overran the mountain
range. Among these warrior mystics, Chapati felt at home.
After he had exchanged greetings with his old Saiyan friends and pupils (and dodged
their questions about the baby in his arm), Chapati walked on with Rhubar to her
family's set of huts, where her aunt, Turnyip, was looking out at the family's vegetable
crops. When Turnyip turned and saw Chapati, she immediately walked over,
embraced him, and took him and Rhubar past the outdoor hearth into her adobe hut.
Turnyip had lost none of her vigor in fifteen years, for she still had the wiry build and
walked with the spring in her step that Chapati remembered well. Although a Saiyan
well into her fifties, Turnyip still had the strength of a warrior and the clear, wise eyes
of a Salusa warrior mystic, but now bore the henna mark of a Salusa elder upon her
forehead. Clad in a long blue fiber robe, bedecked with talismans, with her graying
hair tied back in a bun, Turnyip pulled back the irridescent peacock-feather cloak
before the threshhold of her home and led them in.
The home was a spacious one-room hut, a white clad hut with its walls covered by
sacred drums and horns, legends of warriors and mystics written upon tanned animal
hides, and family spears, dahhers, and bows. In one corner lied Turnyip's bed mat,
and in another rested wooden bowls, goblets, and cooking utensils amidst dried herbs,
vegetables, and meats. In the center of the room lied a charcoal-colored bear rug, and
after Rhubar placed her hunting spear in a corner, she sat down with Turnyip and
Chapati to talk.
"Turnyip, it is good of you to welcome me like this," said Chapati.
"I wanted to talk to an elder about a very important matter."
"The baby girl there, I take it," Turnyip responded.
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"Yes, this very special little one here," Chapati said as he smiled down at the baby
girl, who was sound asleep in the animal hides she had been wrapped in.
"I will get to the point. I need to find a home for this little one, and I knew that the
Salusa Saiyans would be a good people to raise her."
Recalling the story he and Curri had made up the day before to tell the Saiyans,
Chapati began to recite a false history for the girl.
"You see, when my companions and I left fifteen years ago, it was to return to our
tribe and see our people again. For me, it was to see my daughter and son-in-law
again. But a few days ago...and it pains me still to think about it...some Tsufuru
rogues decided to attack our village and take our land. Many of us fought bravely and
drove them out, despite their machines. But...alas...my daughter and son-in-law died
in battle, as did all my other relatives, brave Saiyans that they were. My fine daughter
left behind her little baby, just born a week and a day ago. To pay back my daughter
and son-in-law for their sacrifice, I wanted to make sure that their little girl grew up
well. What better way to grow up than ot be raised by the Salusa mystics and be a
noble warrior, trained for battle and close to the nature spirits? So I brought her here
to live as a Salusa."
"I grieve for you and your family, and I know that Mother Plant has given them a
peaceful rest. But why did the Tsufuru attack your tribe? The Tsufuru tried to take
some nearby Saiyan lands for their forests and minerals until five years ago, when the
attacks stopped. How odd..."
"Have the Tsufuru attacked any Saiyan villages near here since then?"
"No, not in force. They've left us alone as well as the neighboring people, thank the
gods. Why would they attack your tribe, though? It's strange. Had we heard about this
in time, we Salusa would have sent warriors to help you."
"Perhaps it was not a sign of anything big. Maybe it was the only attack of its kind.
Still, I grieve. I would be better than Saiyans fighting among themselves, though, for
such fighting has no honor. Why should we proud people do that?"
"Other than a minor dispute between the Crimini and Enoki tribes across the Legume
river about a year and a half ago, very little tribal fighting has gone on near the
mountains. Don't worry...You won't see much of that."
"Turnyip, you are an elder here and know all of the Salusa families well. Who would
be willing to take this baby and raise her? Who would care for her and train her well
in the old ways?"
"We owe you a favor for all your teachings and help in battle years ago...Let me
see..."
Rhubar, who had been listening to their conversation, spoke.
"Although the final decision is yours, Aunt Turnyip, I'd like to raise her."
2u
Turnyip turned and looked at her niece. "Why is that?"
"I get the impression that this is no ordinary baby girl. She intruiges me - she's
different from any other baby I've seen. Someting about her aura around her is
different, and I want to do the best I can to raise her. Chapati, though, hasn't told me a
lot about why he and the baby speak like wolves."
Turnyip, who had seen Chapati speak to wolves and wild dogs in their native tongue
years ago, was not surprised but listened as Chapati answered Rhubar with the made-
up story he had rehearsed.
"Ah, my family made sacrifices to the spirits of an ancient wolf pack that lived on our
lands generations ago. The wolf spirits of the land gave us the gift of wolf-speak."
"Amazing...What are those marks on her hands?"
"Beauty tattooes. The women of my tribe are tattooed with the mark of their clan
when they are born. My family tattoes on the hands."
"This is incredible. And I'll bet she got those gold eyes from your side of the family.
This is incredible!"
Turnyip continued to look at her niece, already a hunter and warrior of her twenty-
fifth year well-respected among the Salusa, and moved on to look at Chapati.
"My niece is a good woman, and I believe she would raise your little girl to be a fine
warrior who respects the spirits. It's up to you, Chapati."
Chapati smiled with relief.
"Yes, yes, I agree! I trust your judgment, for you were always a wise friend. If you
say that Rhubar is well-suited, I believe you."
Turning to Rhubar, he handed the sleeping baby girl to her and put his hand on her
shoulder.
"Thank you. This means much to me."
"What's her name?" asked Rhubar.
"Alas, her mother no sooner gave birth to her than she rushed back into battle. My
good daughter was killed that day, sadly, and the girl was not named."
"We'll have to name her, won't we? What would be a good name...Let me
think...What about Snopea, my grandmother's name?"
"Snopea?" asked Turnyip with squinting eyes.
"Personally, I can't stand that name."
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"Corna?" suggested Chapati. "No...When I hear that name, I picture some freckled
overweight Saiyan woman frying bacon," said Rhubar with a grimace.
"Wait...I've got it...What about Nori? She looks like a Nori, doesn't she? That'll be her
name...Nori."
With the baby girl named and in the care of her foster family, Chapati's heart was
warmed as he spent the night at Salusa sanctuary. There was hope, hope that the girl
would live, hope that Chutney-sei would have its long-awaited heroine, and hope that
the reign of King Kheer and Queen Darjiling would come to an end, so long as little
ori's true identity was not discovered by her Saiyan caretakers. Nori would be fine,
and although the possibility of the girl taking on her wolf or lupine form when she
was older worried Chapati for a moment, the chances were slim that she would do so
without training. Once she grew to womanhood and could take her destiny into her
own hands, he would train her in the art of transforming into her wolf and lupine
forms, but that was years off.
Two bigger things worried his mind, however, the first and most immediate being the
state of her false monkey tail. With great care had he grafted that cloned monkey tail
over Nori's wolf tail, making sure that the new tail was attached so well that it would
look natural, but it worried him nonetheless. Would the tail he grafted onto her skin
and nerves grow well with the rest of her body as she aged? Would it be easy to
remove once she was brought back to Chutney-sei? Would she even want it removed?
If the false tail were damaged to reveal Nori's wolf tail underneath, how would the
Saiyans react to a Chutnian in Saiyan's clothing? The Salusa were a wise and noble
warrior people, yes, but their culture had not progressed to the stage where they
would readily accept races alien to their planet, and besides, what would they think if
Chapati lied to them?
"What can I do? I grafted it as well as I could. With luck it will stay on," he thought to
himself.
The second fear on Chapati's mind was the Oozaru form, the giant ape form that all
his Saiyan friends would assume in full moonlight but Nori never could. The full
moon had just passed over Plant-sei a month ago, if his calculations were correct,
meaning that another full moon would not appear for another eight years, buying Nori
some time. Still, preparations had to be made, so he spoke with Rhubar aside about
the matter of the full moon, delivering the excuse he and Curri had thought up
beforehand.
"Rhubar, do you remember when you were a child, how my companions and I would
not look at the full moon? Remember how we would not take Oozaru form? Even
when everyone else would? Nori must be raised the same way. My tribe believes that
the Oozaru form is a dark form, a gift from dark spirits that makes it very easy to go
mad under the full moon. I know Salusa do not think this way. I want her to know
how to pray and fight like a Salusa, but this tradition is very important to my tribe.
Please respect it, and do not let Nori see the full moon while she is in your care."
Confused but respectful of Chapati's wishes, Rhubar agreed. After reassuring her that
he would return after a while to check on Nori, after helping to repair the damaged
22
lands and damaged lives of his tribemates, Chapati left the Salusa sanctuary the next
morning, eased that he had found a home for Nori. It was tempting to stay on Plant-
sei, where no power-hungry king or mad queen would torment the land, where his
days would not be preoccupied with listening to talk in the temple of a new conquered
planet, where his responsibilities would not include the fear or heartache of giving
sanctuary to fleeing Chutnian prisoners or praying for deliverance at Ghee Temple.
The Salusa warrior mystics were close to his heart, but...wouldn't staying with them
be a cop-out? Chutney-sei needed kind souls amidst all the hate and greed of King
Kheer's empire, and his responsibilities lied there, with his people and the Ghee
priests and priestesses, always. Besides, there were rumors that King Kheer's sister,
Mulligatawny, was organizing a rebel's movement to protect oppressed Chutnians and
rescue political prisoners, so if he and other Ghee could find her, perhaps he could
help ease things until Nori's grand entrance. With all of these things on his mind, he
dug his electric lantern out of his backpack and slipped back into Tomatillo Cave,
back to the Gateway Sphere and the wormhole back home.
"Nori...Good luck, little one!"














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Chapter Three
A Wolf in Saiyan's Clothing

The warm afternoon sun hung over the low-lying mountain forests, its light splitting
into thousands of rays as it poured through the canopy of red-leaved trees. Softly, two
spear-bearing figures walked through the shrubs and trees toward the Legume River:
a lean, black-haired Saiyan woman carrying a six-foot spear, and a little girl of seven
years, wearing a sleeveless bear-hide tunic, a talisman around her bicep, and carrying
a somewhat smaller spear.
"Focus your inner eye on the land, Nori," Rhubar said to the little girl as they strided
through the vegetation.
"If you focus hard enough like I taught you, you can sense the life living on the land.
What do you see with your inner eye?"
Nori breathed deeply and narrowed her gold eyes, silent for a moment but eventually
finding words.
"I feel this big gush of chi from all around me. It's all this moving energy everywhere.
It's like fire going over me."
"Good...Look deep. Feel the chi. Can you feel the different chis?"
"Well...There's so much of it...If I really focus...Wait! Yes! I can feel the different
chis. It took a while, but if I really focus, I can tell them apart. I feel the chi coming
off of all the trees and grasses. There are seven - no, eight birds up in the trees, a bat
in the tree next to me, a herd of something down the river, and more insects than I can
count. There's something with strong chi far away to my right, a bear of a forest cat or
something. And there's your chi too...Everything's giving off chi. They're all taking in
chi from all the other things too."
For some time, Rhubar had taught Nori the art of sensing chi through her inner eye,
showing her how to feel the chi of other Saiyans and the plants near the Salusa
sanctuary, and now she believed the girl ready to feel the full chi of the land.
"Doesn't that feel incredible? Hold onto those sensations, feel them with your entire
being. Now close your eyes and look deeper into your inner eye. What do you see?"
Nori stopped, closed her eyes, and stood amidst the forest life, lookind deep with her
soul's eye into the energy of the land.
"I sense...something moving in the ground. When the wind hits my face, I feel it there
too. It's not chi. It feels different. I feel like its looking at me."
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The tip of the little girl's tail twitched as sensations flooded her.
"Those are the spirits of the air and earth you're feeling. There are many spirits
anywhere you go - spirits of the water, the stones, the thunder, the creatures who once
lived on the land - and if you respect them, they sometimes tell you things."
As the two walked on and Nori continued to look into her inner eye, she stopped,
picked up a reddish rock, and carried it in her free hand.
"Why did you do that?"
"I was watching everything with my inner eye. When I got close to that rock, that
moving power in it asked me to take it to the river. Since we're going there, I picked it
up."
Indeed, Rhubar had taken Nori to the Legume River down below to hunt and as they
neared the edge of the wooded area, Nori could see the river's waters splashing across
the cleave between the mountains, its surface covered with a thousand shards of light
from the sun. Imitating Rhubar, Nori put down the stone and knelt behind the shadow
of several large crimson leaves from a forest shrub.
"Now remember what I showed you...Hide yourself behind these shrubs, just close
enough to the river so that you can get out swiftly when the time is right," whispered
Rhubar, "What do you need to remember, Nori?"
"Don't break up a family. Don't kill a mother and a baby, and don't kill two mates."
"What else?"
"Don't fight an animal that's real, real big unless it attacks you...stay real still. Don't
make too much noise...move like the other plants do if the wind blows...stay
downwind...hit the animal so it dies fast and doesn't hurt too much."
"And?"
"In the place where you kill the animal, you have to say a prayer to its spirit to
apologize for any pain."
Rhubar and Nori silently waited in the shrubs by the river, motionless except for their
movements with the plants when a breeze blew, until the musky scent of antelope
blew downwind to them and filled their noses. After about twenty minutes, indeed, a
small herd of Beanuo antelope came to the river's edge to drink, but the two Saiyans
waited nonetheless in the shrubs for the proper moment to strike. When an
unsuspecting buck treaded too close to the edge of the trees, Rhubar gave Nori the
signal and the two burst out of the greenery, flying toward the buck with spears ready.
The two hurled their spears at the creature, which had turned its back to them and was
starting to gallop away, when their weapons fell into the buck's shoulder, disturbing
its footing and giving it reason to bellow out in pain. When Nori landed upon the
beast's back and threw her hands onto its neck, she quickly snapped its neck with
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strength from arms made strong by Saiyan life, causing the antelope to fall to the
ground. In fear, the rest of the herd had dashed off to a safer spot down the river,
leaving the river bank by the trees vacant except for Nori, Rhubar, and the dead beast.
Splattered with antelope blood, the two removed their spears from the buck's hide,
knelt down beside the animal, laid their hands flat upon its corpse, and recited the
prayer of apology to the animal's departed spirit.
"Noble creature, our intention was not to cause you pain, but merely to aquire
clothing and food, for our kind have no fur and grow spindly and week if we eat but
plants alone. We express remorse for causing you suffering and bid you be at peace
with Mother Plant."
As she recited the prayer with her foster mother, Nori focused her inner eye on the
antelope's body, sensing the tranquil energy of its soul nearby, a soul that hovered
silently over the corpse. For but a second, she felt two sharp, stabbing pains in her
shoulder, perhaps the antelope spirit's retribution, but the pain subsided as the spirit
slowly departed into parts unknown. In future days, the pain of her victims would
sometimes visit her for a moment after a battle or a hunt, serving to remind her of the
gravity of taking life and the need to spare her prey pain.
After completing the prayer, Nori ran back to the wood's edge to retrieve the stone,
which she placed in the shallow water of the river as it had "asked" her. When the
stone touched the water, however, Nori immediately felt something cool and tingling
go up her arm, and when the strange sensation reached her head, she was beset with
images of the land, of a large white pillar of ice cleaving through the mountains, of a
stream wearing down the rock and becoming the Legume River, of myriads of plants
and animals growing and dying by the mountains, and of a lighting bolt from a windy
storm striking the mountain side and blowing the rock and other stones far into the
distance. Now, Nori saw water rushing over the stone, satisfying its spirit's wish to
learn more about its world by seeing the life within the river, and took the knowledge
of the mountains' life it gave her as a reward for doing the stone a favor. All of these
events took place within a few seconds, and as Nori removed her hand from the stone
and ran back to her foster mother and the antelope, she began to hurriedly tell Rhubar
about her mind-expanding experiences.
"Momma! When we were praying to the antelope spirit, it showed me something, and
so dd the rock I just put into the river. I have to tell you what happened! I was so
neat!"
Rhubar, pleased with Nori's progress, listened as the two picked up the antelope, set
in on their shoulders, and began the walk-back to the Salusa sanctuary.
When the two returned to the Salusa village some time later, they were greeted by the
sight of Salusa men and women gathered around a pair of strangers: two bare-chested
men with wild brown hair, decked in bull-hide kilts and leather sandals, speaking in
grave voices to the elders and adults gathered in the center of the village. After
quickly walking with Nori and leaving the slain antelope at her family's huts, Rhubar
rushed back to the village square to stand beside Turnyip and listen to the newcomer's
words. Nori, having followed her foster mother partway to the square, stood at a
26
distance from the crwd of adults and waited behind an adobe hut where she could
eavesdrop on some of the words being exchanged.
"That's when they started firing on us. Some of our warriors brought down about five
Tsufuru and chased the others off, but we have a feeling they'll be back for their
drilling machines," said one of the men, a warrior in his late twenties with smooth
limbs and long disheveled brown hair.
"They can't seem to fly or fire chi, but their machines..." said the other man, a
somewhat older fellow with a hairy chest.
"Some fine warriors got crushed under them. Even our brother was stunned at how far
they've advanced since the last wars."
"He asked all the elite warriors of our tribe to take turns as sentries out in that area,
and he sent us to warn the other tribes. Have you had any troubles with the Tsufuru?
Has it been easy keeping them out of the mountains?"
Tsufuru? Machines? Such words were alien to Nori as she strained to listen to the two
speakers, when she noticed that a figure had suddenly come up to her right and was
watching the gathering as well. Standing beside her was a willowy boy of about the
same age as she, clad in a kilt similar to those of the two strangers, with a prominent
widow's peak and spiky brown hair that stood erect off of his head. The boy might
have been pleasing to look at with his handsome features, had not his stiff posture and
facial expression oozed arrogance.
"My two uncles over there killed three of the Tsufuru," said the boy, looking down his
nose at Nori,"The elites of my tribe can take on anyone."
If the spindly boy had come with the two strangers, perhaps he knew what they spoke
of.
"Who are the Tsufuru they keep talking about?"
The boy laughed.
"Don't you know anything? You mean you've never heard of the Tsufuru? They're
ugly people who live in the Tsufur gerion in big, big villages made out of metal and
glass. They're weak because they don't have tails and they can't turn into giant
monkeys when the moon gets full. That's why they fight with machines and travel in
them too. My dad says they came in machines one day before I was born. But my
tribe has such good warriors that we drove them away. My dad and uncles are the best
elite warriors of all the Saiyans."
The boy's pride failed to move Nori, who grimaced at the spiky-haired boy.
"You talk like nobody else can fight but the people from your tribe. That's not true."
"Yes it is! If your tribe had elites like my tribe, Tsufuru would never ever come to
your mountains. The elite warriors of my tribe could beat your elites any day!"
27
Nori had no clue what these 'elites' from the boy's tribe were supposed to be, but his
attitude was beginning to annoy her as she shot a dirty look at him.
"You don't make any sense. You keep talking about your dumb 'elites' and acting like
you know everything! I don't like you! You're stuck-up!"
"You can't talk to me like that! I'm a chieftain's son! I'll make you sorry!"
The boy lunged head-on at Nori with his fist raised, only to fnd that Nori had side-
stepped him, pushed his arm out of the way, and tripped him over her extended leg.
With his footing taken from him, the chieftain's son fell face-first into the dust, only
to leap up again with a scratched face and charge at Nori with angry tears filling up
his eyes. For several minutes the two children pushed and struck at each other, with
Nori blocking or deflecting most of the boy's reckless punches until a large hand
picked up the boy by the hair.
"Vegeta-buru! How many times have I told you not to fool around!? You promised to
the good if we let you come along!"
The hairy-chested stranger who had spoke in the square was holding the boy by his
erect brown hair and scolding him.
"We have two other villages to visit tomorrow before we go home! You'd better
behave with their people or your father will hear about it!"
After setting the boy down, the hairy-chested man threw a dark look at Nori and
instructed Vegeta-buru to come with him and wash up, and it was then that Nori
noticed a bandaged-up wound on the man's arm and several healing nicks on his
shoulder. Pouting, Vegeta-buru stuck his tongue out at Nori when his uncle's back
was turned and quickly followed him over to the well on the other side of the village.
Late afternoon was quickly turning into evening, and Nori noticed that the other
Salusas were returning to their homes with heavy expressions on their faces, when she
felt Rhubar's hand on her shoulder.
"Fighting is fun, but you should be more polite to our guests."
"He started it."
"I don't care. His uncles traveled a long was to tell us about important news, and you
should be polite to all of them for their trouble."
"Momma, what's an 'elite'?"
"Umm...In some of the other Saiyan tribes, people are divided up according to how
strong they are and how well they fight, and the strongest warriors are known as the
elites. I've heard that in most of these tribes, elites have the greatest authority, the best
land for crops, the first pick of war spoils, and other perks as well."
"Why don't we have elites?"
28
"Because it's not the Salusa way to rank people like that. Come on - let's help
Habanero get the antelope and vegetables ready for dinner before your aunt Turnyip
comes back from the meeting with the other elders."
The little girl ageed and walked with Rhubar back to her family's huts, which was
home to a network of Rhubar's aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins who would be
pleased with her little girl's progress in hunting and inner-eye seeing that day. To
Rhubar especially, it seemed as if the years passed by so quickly, for already Nori had
grown into a lean, vigorous seven-year old girl with streaming black hair and gold
eyes like Chapati. As the old man had told her, as a baby the little girl spoke only in a
series of barks and whines, but even as she grew older and learned the Saiyan
language, her ability to speak and understand wolf-tongue remained.
That gibbous-mooned evening when Rhubar, Nori, and Rhubar's relatives were
gathered outside, roasting the antelope on a spit over the family hearth, Nori seemed
absorbed with the howling of a pack of wild dogs elsewhere on the mountain.
"What are they saying?" Rhubar asked, always curious about what Nori knew through
her knowledge of wolf-tongue.
"They're telling everyone they're here. They're a new pack to the mountains. They're
talking about themselves when they howl. That sound comes from the mom and dad.
And those sounds come from the three other boy dogs and a girl dog too in the pack.
Everybody sounds happy, so they must have a lot of food on the mountain."
Nori's attention broke for a moment as she looked up at Rhubar with questioning
eyes. "Momma, when the wild dogs come to the mountain, no one minds, do they?"
"No, of course not. The wild dogs need a place to live like every other creature, and
there's enough space and food for the dogs here in the mountains."
"We let other Saiyans visit, and no one gets mad, right?"
"If other Saiyans want to join the Salusa and have the dedication to learn the mystical
arts, they are welcome to come to the mountains to learn. And, if they come here to
bring is important news or help us in our battles, then by all means other Saiyans are
welcome."
"Then why is it that we don't let Tsufuru in the mountains?"
Rhubar sighed and folded her arms. "Because the Tsufuru don't understand us and
would try to make us leave if we tolerated their presence here. When I was a little girl,
the Tsufuru used their machines to attack us Salusa and our neighbors, and it was only
after many bloody battles that we were able to drive them away."
Rhubar appeared distant as her eyes stared into the hearth fire.
"My mother, father, and grandmother died fighting the Tsufuru in those days. But we
drove them off...We fought like Saiyans and drove off their machines, although other
tribes weren't nearly as lucky."
29
With the dark, distant look lingering in her eyes, Rhubar looked into Nori's face,
speaking with gravity to the little girl.
"Don't ever forget how many Saiyans have died trying to prevent the Tsufuru from
taking our land and wiping us out. There may yet come a time when the Tsufuru want
to chop down the trees or mine the ground here, when they decide again that the
Saiyan race is better off dead. Don't ever forget how they swallowed up other places
and killed off other Saiyans. That's why Tsufuru aren't allowed on the mountains."
"Allowed or not, if what the visitors said was true, the Tsufuru have been coming a bit
too close for comfort to Saiyan lands," said Habanero, Rhubar's brother, a burly man
who had been eavedropping on Rhubar's words to Nori.
"I was on the other side of the mountains the other day for solitude, and the ground
spirits told me they had been upset, that someone penetrated deep into their home and
tore out its deepest part. I think they're looking to drill or mine again."
"No, it doesn't look good," said Turnyip, "The mountains always gave us a little more
seclusion than the other tribes across the Saiya region, but they also tend to attract
Tsufuru attention sometimes. Being close to Tsufuru doesn't help! I really think we
need to get better connected with the other Saiyans in this part of the Saiya region, in
case we do have to join forces and fight again."
"Do you know who I wish were here?" asked Habanero. "Chapati. Now there was a
fellow who could fight and who knew how to bring people together. If there was ever
a time we needed him, it's now!"
Nori had been listening to the adults' conversation for some time, and at the mention
of Chapati's name, Nori perked up.
"Momma, you said that Grandfather Chapati would be back someday soon."
Closing her eyes, Rhubar stroked the little girl's hair and frowned.
"I know."
That's what he told me years ago. Chapati, where could you be? We need you! Nori
needs to know you! What happened to you?








Su
Chapter Four
Panic

Wind blew hard into the courtyard of the Ghee Temple at Gado Gado, where men and
women (mostly in lupine form, so as to have the greater stamina that the lupine form
provided) worked quickly to pile the bodies of dead Ghee onto funeral pyres for
cremation. Two months had passed since the attack on the temple by royal soldiers,
and the Ghee who escaped and had not been killed or captured had returned to
properly cremate those who had been killed peacefully resisting the strike. Familiar
figures from the Ghee priesthood wore not their burgundy-colored habit, but the
cotton overcoats, slacks, and saris of Chutnian lay people. So dangerous it was for
priests and priestesses to be noticeable among the rest of the population now that
King Kheer and Queen Darjiling's soldiers were seeking them out. Less familiar
figures worked beside the survivors: laypersons from around Chutney-sei, laypersons
of all ages and races who went about their task with the same grim determination as
the Ghee. One such laywoman, a lean humanoid figure in her mid-thirties with
shoulder-length black hair, wore a handkerchief over her chiseled nose and mouth to
block out the stench of decay as she helped Dal place bodies on one of the funeral
pyres. Blood and grass stains stood out on her milk-white sari, and a bead of sweat
traced its way down her cheek as she worked.
The last thing we need here is more bad luck," Dal said to the woman as the two
carried a chi-blasted priest's body.
"How do we know that the royal soldiers won't be back?"
"We don't," the woman replied.
"I really don't want to stay too long. King Kheer knows some of you are bound to
regroup here."
"But we have to do what needs to get done. It's only respectful to our friends."
"It's also enough to get more of you killed."
With a grunt, the two women placed the dead priest's body onto the pyre, where other
Ghee incognito were placing kindling and logs among the bodies or whispering
prayers to Sarama on behalf of the dead.
"Mulligatawny, ma'am!" shouted a swarthy young man to the woman with Dal.
"The roster you wanted is ready."
S1
The young man handed Mulligatawny a hand-held silicone screen, which she
surveyed for several moments.
"144 Ghee priests and priestesses accounted for, 224 unaccounted for, 110
dead...Kheer, you got what you wanted...Why this?"
The whole incident surrounding the attack on Ghee Temple was still a whirlwind to
Mulligatawny, who was otherwise adapted to rescues and stories of royal oppression.
Two and a half months before, one of the elder Ghee priests, an older man from the
Paneer continent named Sorghum, through no fault of his own had fallen into a web
of fear and greed at the hands of King Kheer and Queen Darjiling. The innocent priest
had merely taken an airship back to Paneer to visit some relatives, but had been
apprehended by royal soldiers during a routine, random "terror" round up of citizens.
One of many instances where a handful of Chutnians were arrested and imprisoned
merely as a means of instilling fear and submission in the populous. Under
particularly dreadful interrogation, another tactic (which Sorghum refused to
describe) merely used as a mind game to distress prisoners suspected of anti-state
activities or not, the poor soul began to tell of everything he knew about the activities
of the Ghee Temple at Gado Gado. Not only acts of assistance to refugees and
escaped political prisoners, but also acts of hiding relics such as the Gateway Sphere
"that could be put to best use in the service of the empire."
Fortunately, Sorghum did not know the mantra to open the wormhole and had not
Mulligatawny's rebels rescued him and the other victims of the round up in time, the
poor man would have surely been executed for outliving his usefulness. By the time
he had been brought to safety in one of the rebel strongholds and told his story,
however, it was too late, for King Kheer had already ordered his troops to Gado Gado
Island to get the sphere and anyone who could operate it. At the thought of it all,
Mulligatawny simply sighed. "Sarama, you're supposed to protect your people, but
you won't even protect your own goddamn priesthood!"
Word had spread all over the planet about the attack on Gado Gado's Ghee priests,
and the latest news was that the royal soldiers were seeking out any Ghee they could
apprehend, suggesting to the remaining Ghee that none of the Ghee in captivity had
yet given royal authorities the mantra to the Gateway Sphere. Given the intense desire
of many younger Ghee and many rebels to understand why King Kheer and Queen
Darjiling wanted the relic, Dal and some of the other elder priests hesitantly explained
to them the workings of the sphere, including the wormhole it could open up between
itself and the other sphere, the mantra that was the key to it all, and so forth. A mood
of desperation had fallen upon many of the Ghee now under the protection of
Mulligatawny's rebels in strongholds...Would the soldiers find them? Would one of
their own crack and open the sphere? If the wormhole were opened and royal forces
could conquer the planets on the other side of it, how far would the King and Queen's
empire stretch?
All the dead bodies had finally been heaped upon massive funeral pyres, which the
remaining Ghee and volunteers were now covering with volatile oils and aromatic
herbs. A macabre sight indeed, the wooden pyres were tapestries of interwoven limbs
of the dead, of lupine priests and priestesses seared by scathing chi-blasts, punctured
by flying lupine claws, or hewed by the blades of angry royal soldiers. As Dal gazed
S2
upon the decomposing faces of the dead who had protected the Gateway Sphere, once
full of life but now inert, far too many proved familiar to her - teachers, students, and
friends of days past were all heaped on those hideous piles, even the high priestess
Curri, who was a sister in everything but blood to the temple crier. Slowly,
mournfully, Dal began to howl the hymn of passing over the funeral pyres, now lit
and slowly burning in the afternoon breeze.
"Curri, may your soul be at peace,
Mangor, may your soul be at peace,
Basmati, may your soul be at peace,
Milleti, may your soul be at peace..."
In the deep howls of Chutnian wolf-tongue, Dal sang the names of all one hundred
and ten dead priests and priestesses as the flames of the pyres grew higher and gray
smoke poured into the sky. To pour out hymns from deep within her, to sing in the
rich, raw voice that Sarama gave her, this had always been a joy and a purpose in life
for Dal, but on this ugly day, surrounded by the burning corpses of her friends and
mentors, singing the announcement of their deaths became a long, painful reminder of
the Ghee's loss.
"To departed companions whose souls so pure
now rest in Sarama's bosom eternally;
To departed companions whose bodies so still
now rest in Chutney-sei's bosom eternally..."
Dal's low voice began to crack as water filled her eyes, amidst the tears streaming
down the faces of the other Ghee respectfully assembled in the courtyard.
Mulligatawny's rebels, moved by the melancholy weight of the hymns pouring out of
Dal's throat, were also solemn-faced and heavy-hearted as the choked-up crier
continued.
"In life, the love of friends was ever your prize;
Now, in death, may honor and peace be ever your reward.
Sarama, such souls served you well in life;
Now guard and nurture your children in death."
Having completed the hymn in the midst of the smell of burning fur and flesh, among
the sobs and cries of her fellow Ghee, Dal's voice gave way as she broke down, full of
grief and rage. Quickly, another Ghee priest wrapped his arms around her and the two
sobbed together between the gray pillars of smoke rising from the pyres as a grim
Mulligatawny looked on.
"That's my brother for you," she thought to herself, "What argument did any of these
people have with you, Kheer? Is it really worth all this for a relic and some blood?"
Earlier, Dal had confided in her about her worry for the other Ghee's in captivity,
especially the Oracle and her good friend Chapati, and if she did nothing else, she
would get the other Ghee's out of her tyrannical brother's grasp. Sarama, you sure as
hell haven't been much help in all this, but even if you won't save them, I will.
SS
Under the tutelage of their families and the elders, Nori and the other Salusa Saiyans
had been learning the arts of fighting at an early age, with Nori standing out as one of
their fastest learners.
One afternoon, in the cleared-out training field of the village, Nori had been brought
together with the other Saiyan children once again to train with the elders in hand-to-
hand combat. As the other fur-clad children practiced chi-blasts, punches, and kicks in
the air or sparred with each other, Nori's practicing caught the eye of Potat, one of the
elders, who approached the little girl heavily. Potat, a sober-looking elder with
receding white hair and a henna mark on his forehead, clad in a buck-skin tunic and
fiber leggings, looked down at Nori who stopped her shadow punching and gazed up.
"Hmm...Nori...Rhubar's kid, right?"
Nori nodded.
"Turnyip tells me good things about you. That punch...Young Shoot Punch...You
learned that a few minutes ago, is that right? You're doing a fine job...thumb out, fist
turned slightly, smooth delivery and all that. Show me the Broad Leaf Punch we
taught you too."
Duly, Nori opened her hand wider with fingers loosely curled toward her palm, swept
her outward-facing palm down with elbow bent slightly, and let the hand bounce up
slightly when it hit its imaginary target.
"Good, good, a loose arm, good spring. Turnyip said that she taught you Creeping
Vegetation Form. Can you do it beginning to end?"
Accordingly, Nori began Creeping Vegetation Form by sinking her center of gravity,
bowing, and gracefully executing the flowing punches, kicks, and blocks belonging to
the form until its completion. To watch the girl shadow fight was not unlike watching
a tribal dance, so effortlessly she made her punches turn into blocks and her steps
flow into kicks, so that the entire form was but a collection of breeze like movements
in harmony. When she signaled the end of the form with a bow, Potat nodded his head
and continued to look at her with his emotionless face.
"Good form. Do you know why you did a good form?"
"Because I made everything flow together."
"Tell me what you mean."
"It's like when you punch like that at the beginning, the punch turns into Growing Pod
Block when you just bend your arm. And when you turn your body like that when you
do the punch, you're really just swinging your leg to do Fruitful Vine Kick. Some of
the other kids think they're all different moves. But they're all the same move if you
do them right."
S4
"Very good. None of the moves are ever executed apart. None of the moves in the
form can be understood alone. If one isn't done correctly, the next one will be poor as
well."
Leaning down, Potat continued to question the girl.
"You can learn a great deal from doing your fighting forms, and not just about
fighting, either. Do you know that when the ancient Saiyans were thinking up Salusa
fighting styles, they were inspired by the world around them? You see, they saw that
in nature, no plant or animal acts alone: soil became part of the grass, grass became
part of the animal that ate it, the animal became part of another animal that ate it, and
so on. They saw that people never stood alone, that what one person did flowed into
what another person did, until that first person's actions affected a Saiyan very distant
from them eventually. Everything in the world is connected. Everything flows
together, just as all of your moves flow together. If you keep practicing your moves
like the elders tell you, and if you think hard about what I've told you, you'll
understand the flow of the world around you just like you understand fighting. Does
all of this make sense?"
Nori nodded.
"Good. Now keep practicing."
All of you keep practicing, he thought.
Who knows for how long into the future we'll need every able-bodies warrior against
the Tsufuru?
Evening had fallen again upon the mountains of the Saiya region, painting the sky
particularly bright shades of blue and violet behind the emerging evening stars. In the
thick of the mountains vegetation, Nori's footsteps could be heard as she carried a
torch through the dale in search of yobho flowers: deep red flowers valued by the
Saiyans for their sweet taste and known only to drip their sweet-tasting nectar after
sundown.
Having finished a dinner of newly harvested vegetables and a timmadog bird with her
relatives, Rhubar had given her permission to venture into the wilderness with two of
Rhubar's nephews for an hour to seek the dessert out. The orange grassy dale on the
north side of the mountain was known for having he juiciest yobho blossoms, and it
was there that the three youngsters had gone with torches to look for the treat after
sundown. All ready, Nori had placed several dozen yobhos in the pouch around her
waist and had ventured quite a distance from Habanero's sons to the other side of the
dale, where a cluster of blooming yobho flowers amidst the orange grass caught her
attention. As she knelt down, scooped up the moist crimson blossoms, and slid them
into her pouch, a dull faraway sound met her ears, a bellowing sound alien to the
mountains.
Looking into her inner eye, Nori sensed unfamiliar chi coming from the north, a
sensation soon accompanied by the sound of rustling grasses and low-lying unnatural
thunder. Out of the dale appeared a pair of blinding lights that drew closer as the
SS
thunder-like sound grew more intense, and before long Nori found herself standing
before a huge floating monstrosity of metal and glass. The monstrosity was easily
twice as high as she, a streamlined, rounded contraption with its front portion
bedecked with a pair of spheres issuing light, its bottom portion sporting four wide
metal reeds puffing gusts of air down to keep the contraption floating, and its top
portion sporting a dark glass bubble in which moving figures could be seen.
Vines of metal, sparkling with some unseen inner light, stretched over the front and
sides of the apparatus, and the reverberating sound of thunder echoed from the metal
monster's humming core. Strange, stinging odors seeped out of the core and burned
her nose as she breathed them in, odors she had never smelled before in the forests
and dales of the mountain. As Nori stared at the bubble on top, she could identify the
moving shadows vaguely as humanoid figures, facing each other and shouting.
"Look at the map. Look at the goddam map! This isn't Berritown!"
"We just took a wrong turn, okay? We just need to find the Papaya Expressway
again."
"This doesn't look like the Papaya Expressway to me! We need to ask for directions.
Guav, find a place!"
"The last sanginol station was forty minutes ago. Where are we gonna ask?"
"I don't know! Go ask--LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT!"
Seeing that the contraption would ram her in a matter of seconds, Nori threw out an
open-palmed hand and struck the front of the machine with a small chi-blast, bringing
it to a violent halt as the thunder sound ceased and ridiculous screams poured out of
the bubble. Breezes stopped gusting out of the metal reeds at the bottom of the craft,
and with a thud, the craft stopped floating and hit the ground, and as steam rose from
the charred casing of the vehicle, the bubble popped open as the two figures burst out
and quickly ran behind the apparatus.
Smallish, tailless teenage boys they were, with flat, light-colored hair completely
unlike the wild dark hair of the Saiyans, and with heavy scents like those of flowers
floating off of their skin. Both were clad in body-hugging, velvety material that Nori
had never seen before, material of garish white and orange colors, and as she calmly
surveyed the two, she decided that they were by far the ugliest men she had ever seen.
"Oh, for the love of God, WE'RE IN SAIYA! Oh my God...Oh my God...The kid's
gonna kill us and eat our clothes..."
The first of the boys, a young man with pale lips and a bony face, erratically turned
his head every few seconds to stare wild-eyed at Nori and back at his companion
again.
"Now...um...Take it easy there, kid...Don't get crazy and blast us again, all right?
Banani, keep it down!"
S6
"This is what I get for letting you drive...Now we're in monkey country and there's
one of them right in front of the hovercraft and she probably wants to eat us and
Daddy won't like it!"
"Shut up! We're in the mountains, right? I thought the mountains were safe! Your
dad's company was gonna mine here, right? They were gonna take care of the
Saiyans, right?"
"Not for a while!"
Baffled by the panic, Nori simply stood in front of the steaming machine and watched
the two adolescent's scream at each other and fidget, confused at what all the
commotion was about. Their tailless rumps and chariot of glass and metal piqued her
curiosity; however, as they fit Vegeta-buru's description of the Tsufuru so heatedly
discussed back at the Salusa Sanctuary.
"Are you Tsufuru?" she asked the two boys, who jerked simultaneously at her words
as if expecting an attack.
"Yeah...We were just passing through...Don't try anything, okay?" Guav replied.
Just then, something conspicuously moved within the hovercraft and a large wolf-like
dog reared its head out of the craft's backseat, wagged its tail, and jumped out of the
craft onto the ground. Trotting over to Nori, the wolf-dog sniffed at her sandals and
legs, and Nori spoke to the canine in her innate wolf-tongue.
"Nice to meet you! I didn't think wild dogs lived with Tsufuru."
The wolf-dog barked at her.
"I do. My brothers and sisters do. My mother did, but my father was a dog of the
wilds."
Sniffing her sandals again, the wolf-dog barked once more.
"You don't smell like Tsufuru. Your scent smells a little like me. That's strange."
Nori extended her torch a little closer to the wolf-dog to get a closer look at it, when
suddenly Banani, panic stricken and red-faced, let out a high-pitched yell.
"She's gonna hurt Peachy!"
Guav pulled an L-shaped mass of metal out of his velvety orange clothing and pointed
it at Nori; his hand shaking as Nori stared casually at the odd object. A second later, a
blue-colored stream of light shot out of the hole on the object's front side, a hot, fast-
moving light that shot past Nori's ear and singed a lock of her hair. When Guav
stumbled out of hiding and ran up to point-blank range, Nori knew that the next light
that came from the object would burn her skin badly, and furiously she swung her arm
out, knocked the object out of Guav's hands, and seized a handful of fabric from near
Guav's shoulder. Turning to face the other direction, Nori sank her center of gravity
S7
and pulled the forward-leaning boy forward over her hip, throwing him over her
shoulder onto the grassy ground. Bruised, Guav fumbled back on his feet and leaned
toward the object he dropped, and would have retrieved it had not a sight from behind
Nori turned his face pale. Banani had already abandoned the hovercraft and was
running northward across the dale, and was soon followed by Guav in hot pursuit,
with Peachy running closely behind, barking his good-byes to Nori.
Nori sensed the two familiar chi's behind her, those of Habanero's two sons who heard
the commotion from the other side of the dale and came running.
"Tsufuru can't fight worth a damn," said Lima, a boy of about twelve with brownish-
black hair forever falling in his eyes.
"You okay?"
"I'm okay."
"Great. This is just great," muttered Garbanzo, a thick-built boy of about fourteen
who greatly resembled Habanero.
"It's all starting."
"What do you mean? They won't come back," said Nori.
"THEY won't come back, but more Tsufuru will. You watch. Those fruitcakes are
going to tell other Tsufuru that Saiyans tried to kill them. Before you know it, Tsufuru
are going to be bringing their metal monsters here to make sure it doesn't happen any
more."
"But we'll fight them. Saiyans are good fighters. I blew that thing up easy."
"My dad tells me that Tsufuru used machines that were bigger and tougher than that
when they fought us a long time ago."
When Nori and the two Saiyan boys returned to the Salusa village some time later,
Nori's story was met by her family with grave faces and talk of preparation. If Tsufuru
were already causing trouble for the other tribes, wandering into the mountains, and
planning to mine the mountain for its wealth, it was only a matter of time - the wars
would begin again.







S8
Chapter Five
Hell Unleashed

"Spirits, today we will fight the Tsufuru, who wish to ravage your home and steal the
flesh and blood of Mother Plant. Aid us, we bid you. Protect our sanctuary, we bid
you. For your sake we will fight the Tsufuru!"
Dozens upon dozens of Salusa Saiyan warriors chanted at the mouth of the rocky
niche that hid the Salusa sanctuary, with their hands resting heavily upon the earth,
hands pouring small amounts on benevolent chi into the stone and moss for the spirits
there to take as offerings. With so many Saiyans offering these small drops of life
energy, the stone and grass began to glow with fiery chi, and pleased with the
offering, the spirits of the earth granted the Saiyans' request. The opening to the
sanctuary, the cleave in the rocks that led to Salusa huts and fields in the mountain's
five-mile long "dimple," growled and thundered as it tighly narrowed, as the rock
pulsed with chi and living spirit energy. Nearby trees seemed to bend over to cover
the closing cleave, and after a few moments, nothing remained of the entrance but a
scar along the edge of the rocky wall. Now, no approaching Tsufuru could see the
entrance to the sanctuary, and only by scaling the rocks, flying over the rocks, or
reversing the action with another ritual could the Salusa Saiyans return to the village.
Every able-bodied man and woman had assembled that morning outside of the
sanctuary, with only the elderly, very small children, and pregnant women refraining
from battle and remaining in the safety of the village. Before dawn, a scout sent out
into the far reaces of the mountains had returned with word of Tsufuru vehicles
approaching from the north, which roused every warrior-mystic out of bed and into
battle. Saiyan men and women, some armed with weapons, abounded in the grim-
looking band, including eight-year old Nori, looking down as she wondered what the
immanent battle would bring.
Meanwhile, the sound of mechanical thunder echoed across the foot of the mountains
as dozens of Tsufuru vehicles floated across the land. The procession of machines
was lead by several twelve-foot long floating steamrollers, vehicles with long rolling
cylinders attatched to their front bumpers so as to level trees and shrubs before them.
As they cleared a wide path through the red-leafed trees, the rollers were followed by
smaller vehicles, some topped with bubbles containing Tsufuru, others armed with
metal reeds and grill-covered spheres, the purposes of which were unclear. PLUM
MINING COMPANY - SECURITY DIVISION stood out in bright blue letters on the
sides of the metal monsters, which slowed down upon reaching the small group fo
Saiyans a few miles into the mountain forests.
The rest of that day was a blur to Nori, so full it was of fierce emotions and memories
she would later try day and night to forget. The sound of Saiyan elders arguing with
an emissary of the Tsufuru who had come would be keen in her memory as the first
event of that frightful battle.
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"We're not here to fight. We simply want to do some mining that wouldn't interfere
with your lives. Plum Mining is willing to help you relocate to a nice place out in the
Citrusine Desert--"
"We're not interested in relocating, and frankly I'm disgusted that you think we would
leave our home merely to satisfy your wishes."
"Now just hear me out! You'd be reimbursed with 1,000 Cherrimarcs per household--
"
"The answer is no! We're not interested in relocating! We're not interested in your
wealth or your way of life! We do not wish to harm you or shed blood here, so I ask
that you please refrain from mining the mountain and please return from whence you
came."
"To be perfectly honest, I think it would be better for both our people if you simply let
us mine here and went somewhere else...Your people would get a cut of the wealth,
and my people wouldn't have to worry about a solid fuel shortage...or attacks like the
one our chairman's son escaped from several weeks ago."
"We want to make it clear that WE did not initiate that attack. Two Tsufuru men
harassed one of our children, who merely defended herself. The problem is NOT with
us, and for the last time, the answer is no. Satisfy your petty greed in some other
manner."
The Tsufuru emissary from Plum Mining, a pudgy, pasty-skinned man wearing
clothes of velvety brown material, stepped away from the Saiyan elders without a
word, walked over to his vehicle, and raised his hand in the air to the other Tsufuru
vehicles. In seconds, a shower of lights from metal reeds on the Tsufuru vehicles
rained down on the Saiyans, bright lines of laser light that seared whatever tree bark,
stone, earth, hair, and flesh they touched. The rest was a haze of fast-moving
memories for Nori: Saiyans taking flight into the air and firing chi upon the vehicles,
Saiyans charging and striking at the vehicles, Saiyans falling to the ground with
smoking, blackened wounds from the laser fire, Saiyans screaming with rage as they
attacked, Saiyans screaming with fury as they watched friends and kin suffer injuries.
Heart pounding, limbs numb with adrenaline, jaw clenched, Nori attacked the
vehicles as she had been trained: now she flew up into the air, now she swooped down
upon the bubble on top of a metal monster, now she shattered the bubble with a kick
or dented the machine with a fiery chi-blast, now she darted out of the line of fire to
repeat the same maneuver in another machine, over and over again until her ears rang
with the echoes of thunderous explosions and roaring engines and screams from
Saiyans and Tsufuru alike. Through her inner eye, Nori felt the rising chi of the
Salusa, as well as the dying spiritual energy of the land as it was rolled over and
seared with lasers, and she found a fear-like numbness settling into her heart,
stagnating there as all the horrors of battle burst into her mind and sank deep into the
bottom reaches of her memory.
After receiving one too many chi-blasts, or after collapsing and smoking after a well-
placed spear or knife lodged itself in some exposed wiring, some of the Tsufuru
4u
vehicles halted only to spew forth individual Tsufuru bedecked in dull-colored armor.
Some, armed with firing weapons, fought the Saiyans in hand-to-hand combat, only to
be disarmed and injured by Salusa fighting techniques, but most abandoned their
smoking masses of metal for the safety of other vehicles. However, most of the
hardier machines were still moving, notably the roller machines that drudged forward,
flattening more shrubs and trees to allow the other machines to maneuver. The lasers
continued to fly, which the Saiyans had learned to dodge by now, but what the Salusa
Saiyans did not expect was a bellowing, ear-shattering sound spilling from the grilled
speaker of one of the smaller machines. The sound jerked every Saiyan unfortunate
enough to be in front of the speaker, and as she saw writhing Saiyans fall to the
ground with bleeding eyes and ears and purplish, bruised skin, Nori understood with a
gasp that the Tsufuru had learned how to attack with sound. The bone-breaking boom
spilled out of the speaker once more, making stones, soil, and felled Saiyan bodies
before it split apart, and as Nori hurled chi-blast after chi-blast at the mechanical
abomination, she noticed Habanero and another woman swooping down at it from teh
right. That blood-stained day, Habanero and the other Saiyan did not reach their
target, for as the speaker on the machine turned to face them, it issued another boom,
making Habanero and his fellow warrior jerk in mid-air, spill blood from their
orifices, and fall to the ground, lifeless.
A rage, a writhing rage that twisted her stomach and forced blood through her veins
now gripped Nori, and with a wolf-like growl the little girl threw one more massive
chi-blast at the speaker - enough to blow the speaker off of its vehicle, silencing the
deadly sound that could tear flesh and stone apart. Rage had made Nori revert to her
wolf tongue again, and growls and furious barks escaped her lips as she fought now.
Similar desperation was now gripping the other Salusa Saiyans, some of whom began
chanting sacred hymns in battle to awaken the spirits in this time of need. Such
Salusa, indeed, were summoning their own totem spirits - personal spirits of nature
with whom each mature Salusa had a special relationship with - and as their lips
spoke the last words of the hymns, their eyes glowed with a strange fire and their
bodies stiffened with some newfound rage sparking within them. Nori, fighting near
some of these warriors, looked into her inner eye and could feel strange new chi
filling up these possessed warriors, for their guardian spirits were giving them the gift
of added chi to aid them in their battle. Inspired by their totem spirits, these red-eyed
Saiyans (among them Garbanzo, Habanero's son, who had gone through the spirit
initiation ritual of adulthood earlier that year) flung themselves down from the air
upon the Tsufuru vehicles, pounding them, kicking them, chi-blasting them without
end, so burning they were with rage and mystical energy. Nori joined them, striking at
the tops and sides of the machines and roaring as one by one, the Tsufuru metal
abominations fell by their hands.
Many times, a broken machine would spew out Tsufuru who, having few places to go,
would not fight hand-to-hand but merely run down the mountains into the distance,
and as she watched the smallish, velvet-clad tailess men flee, the temptation to hurl
chi-blasts at them was very strong. Echoing in her head, competing with the memory f
the sound of Habanero's bones cracking and sinews bursting from deadly sound, was
the voice of Turnyip, instructing her earlier Do not attack a retreating opponent, and
only by clenching her teeth and holding back the tears welling up in her eyes did Nori
find the will to obey.
41
Without warning, Nori felt pain rip through her flesh, breaking her bones, rattling her
ears with the sound of a thousand screams, and as her energy ran out of her in red
spurts, she struck the ground and lied there. A second sonic weapon vehicle had shot a
sonic blast at Nori and the possessed Saiyans, shattering their bodies and knocking
them off of teh destroyed vehicle they had finished last. Lying on the ground, Nori
focused her mind on the aching body, eventually making the agonizing pain fade
away through a pain-avoidance technique taught to Salusa by the elders, but nothing
would ease the pain that tore through her heart as she saw Garbanzo on the ground
several yards away. One of the roller machines, clearing away trees and flattening the
bodies of felled Saiyans, rolled toward him, rolled next to him, rolled over him,
mingling the dull humming of its engine with the sound of his screaming, his
crunching bones, and his bursting blood vessels.
It was too much. Nori watched crimson puddles form on the earth beside her as her
mind began to cloud and grow drowsy, the sounds of screams and engines and words
and chi-blasts and her own blood pumping through her ears mingling together into a
single hellish roar for the eight year-old girl. The blood-stained, dirty roller was
coming closer, rolling over the earth and the bodies of the fallen, and as she lied there,
unable to move and sinking into the blackness of her cloudy mind, Nori reflected on
the horror of it all.
Why this? None of us want to die.
Nori closed her gold eyes as the hum of the roller grew louder, and as she prepared
herself to die, she suddenly felt hands seize her and jerk her body up through the air
and away from the roar of the battlefield. Explosions and chi-blasts all sounded from
the scene moving farther and farther away, and as Nori wondered where she was
going, she fell into the dark nothingness of unconsciousness.
When Nori awoke, she was lying on her bed-mat in Rhubar's hut, her body, now able
to move somewhat and not bleeding, covered with a warm fiber blanket. Rhubar knelt
over her and looked at her in the soft light of the oil lamp, and as Nori focused her
eyes and looked up at her foster mother, she saw two slender scars on Rhubar's face
and a pale, deep scar on Rhubar's left hand. Evidently, it was Rhubar who had saved
her from the roller and who had healed her with mystical healing techniques and
herbs while she swam in the oblivion of unconsciousness. Still dizzy and fatigued,
Nori gazed up at Rhubar and pushed words out of her lips.
"Momma..."
"The Tsufuru are gone now. We're safe for now."
"Where is everyone?"
"Back in their huts, healing themselves."
"Will the Tsufuru come back?"
Rhubar looked grave, "Yes."
42
The notion that they would return, those horrible tailess men inside the metal
abominations, filled Nori with a nausea of the soul.
"They killed Uncle Habanero. They killed Garbanzo. They killed our friends. They..."
Nori's throat tightened as her words turned into unintelligible sobs, while Rhubar
clenched her teeth and closed her eyes as tears ran down her face, tears for her brother
and nephew, tears for her dead friends and teachers, tears for a future that seemed
dead already.
Great damage was sustained to the battlefield area, littered with bodies that were later
buried and broken machines that were later destroyed with chi-blasts, lest they take up
space that nature had reserved for plant life. That winter was a quiet one, with only a
few incidents of Tsufuru interference near the mountains every few weeks - Plum
Mining Corporation's machinery had difficulty maneuvering in the snow and ice of
the wintery land, buying the Salusa Saiyans some time before the fighting would
begin again in the spring. The days of that winter were filled with weeping and
reflection on the horrors of battle, and for Nori, Rhubar, and the rest of the family,
grief over the loss of Habanero and Garbanzo. Lima and Pinto, Habanero's wife,
someimes stayed with Turnyip's family, comforting them and receiving comfort due
to their sad loss, and sometimes returned to their own blood relative's huts. The air
was heavy with grief in the Salusa sanctuary, and many would have succumbed to
inescapable melancholy had it not been for one joyous and long-awaited event: the
Festival of the Full Moon.
Eight years had passed since the full moon had graced the skies of Plant-sei, and it
was time once again for the full moon to show itself for one night. Saiyans across the
Saiya region would be celebrating the Festival of the Full Moon that night, and as the
sun went down over the Salusa sanctuary, a feeling of excitement hung in the crisp
winter air. All ready, piles of vegetable husks were being constructed and doused with
volatile oils in the dormant fields for the bonfires that would burn that night, and
around the perimeter of the fields sat dozens of cauldrons filled with yobho blossom
wine, brewed and stored just for the purpose of celebrating the festival. Several five-
foot wide woven baskets filled with brighly-colored pain powder sat at the other end
of the fields, where young men and women, breath clouding in the cold air, busied
themselves pulverizing the last of the dried red sepircho leaves into crimson dust.
Even the frozen land itself vibrated with exhilarating energy, for spirits and animals
were aware as well that the light of the full mooon would shine upon Plant-sei in a
few hours.
The Tsufuru knew better than to attack the Saiyans in Oozaru form, and thus the night
was guaranteed to be undisturbed by the meddling of tailess fools.
When the final preparations for that night's festival had been completed, every Salusa
Saiyan returned to her family's collection of adobe huts for an evening of feasting,
and in the hut of Turnyip especially came the smells of a wide spread of foods.
Turnyip, Rhubar, Nori, and a dozen other relatives were all seated upon the charcoal-
colored bear-skin rug on the floor of the hut, filling their clay bowls with delicacies
placed in the center of the rug: dried fruits and vegetables, herbs, wild rice, and
various stews and strong drinks. The mood of the meal was somewhat quiet as the
4S
Saiyans feasted, with the memories of Habanero and Garbanzo on everyone's minds
despite the plentiful food and expectations of celebration later that evening. Nori too
was quiet as she chewed a piece of dried squash, not only because of the absenses at
the family feast, but because of something else that added insult to injury that winter.
"She looks like she could kill with that look, doesn't she?" quipped Turnyip's sister, a
middle-aged Saiyan woman with long dark hair.
"She's mad because she's not allowed to look at the full moon," said Turnyip.
Out of respect for Chapati's wishes, Rhubar remembered her promise to keep Nori out
of the light of the full moon, and after the feast had been eaten and cleaned up after,
Nori was made to stay in Turnyip's hut while the others prepared to walk outside in
time for the moonrise.
"Nori, this isn't like you. I told you what Grandfather Chapati said."
Rhubar stood over her adopted daughter and spoke in a hard tone.
"It's not fair."
"Fair or not, you're staying in here."
"Everyone else can see the moon. I trained for this just like everyone else."
"No! End of story!" Rhubar turned her back and walked through the door curtain to
the wintery outside, leaving Nori standing by herself on Turnyip's bear-skin rug,
facing the black jar of hot coals that kept the hut warm through the wintery days. The
little girl shouted at the threshold words that fell upon deaf ears.
"It's not fair!"
Outside, the Saiyans had gathered by bonfires in the fallow fields alongside the
village, stripped off their heavy animal hides and fiber clothes, and stood nude facing
the dark horizon. In moments, a silvery light began to creep its way over the edge of
the mountains and was greeted by the Saiyans with laughter and shouts of primal
rage. At length, more and more of the radiant moon began to rise up over the horizon,
and when the bright satellite had climbed over the mountain horizon to show its
fullness to the Saiyans, something primal and magical began to take place.
The sounds of sinews stretching and bones growing cracked through the night air as
the unclad Saiyans grew to mammoth heights. Taller than treetops were they in that
silvery light, fanged, red-eyed, with arms and legs covered with bristling brown
monkey fur. Oozaru form filled the hearts of the Salusa Saiyans with joyful rage, a
fiery rage that made some of the younger Saiyans cry out with gravelly screams as
ape fur and baboon muscles stood out on their bodies. An ear-splitting but measured
voice rang out from the gathering as emotions began to run high among the younger
Oozaru.
44
"Keep your minds thinking!" shouted one of the elders to the younger Saiyans, "Don't
get too swept up in the emotion. Think of songs. Think of stories."
As part of Salusa Oozaru training, young Saiyans were instructed to keep their
rationality intact amidst the swelling emotion of transformation, something achieved
by recalling words and ideas that were their tenuous ties to their rational minds. As a
safety precaution should she ever see the full moon by accident, Nori had been given
Oozaru training by the elders, and the irony of receiving training that she was not
allowed to use struck Nori particularly sorely as she staid alone in Turnyip's hut.
Outside, Oozaru Salusa Saiyans rode the rising fury that welled in them under the full
moon, singing, painting their fur with red paint-powder, and drinking wine from the
cauldrons as if they were handleless tea cups. The festivities were wild and
unashamed at the Festival of the Full Moon, for the ground itself shook under the
weight of unclad Oozaru Saiyans dancing, sparring with each other in playful combat,
and roaring with feral joy at the stars above. One woman with bristling fur stood
before the golden light of the bonfires, arched her head toward the moon, and
bellowed out a hymn to the moon that could be heard for miles:
"Lady Moon!
Indeed, it honors us to behold you
in the cool night of the eighth year,
to gaze upon your fullness
and silvery curves with adoration!
Lady Moon, stir within us our birthright,
the joys of your holy rage
and the ecstacy of frenzy!
Lady Moon, goddess of the firmament,
you awaken joyous rage
in the hearts of your Saiyan daughters,
in the hearts of your Saiyan sons.
Be with us!"
Songs of warriors triumphant in battle and mystics intimate with spirits poured out of
the throats of many Saiyans henceforth, and at length, an eloquent Oozaru Saiyan
began to recite an ancient poem about the Super-Saiyan, an abridged version of the
great Saiyan oral epic:
"Listen hard! Let us voyage now
to times long past and long forgotten,
to times when those of the sleek monkey-tail
lived and fought and made homes upon Saiya
after falling to Mother Plant-sei
from the starry heavens.
Yea, let us voyage now to times long past
when the Super-Saiyan of yore, so strong,
roamed the bosom of Mother Plant-sei
and battled foes of flesh and metal unblinking,
the Super-Saiyan, verily,
the jewel of long Saiyan memory.
4S
Ages before our revel tonight
lived indeed a mystic soul,
the pride of the Salusa Saiyans,
the warrior Gyarriku of stout heart.
When speaking with spirits
one crimson-skied dusk,
outside the glistening lips of Tomatillo Cave
came to Gyarriku a youth of gold eyes,
a man, lean of build and sweet of countenance
who spoke softly to she of stout heart.
"Warrior-woman, be at peace,
for I come to your land
not to steal or conquer,
but merely to seek wisdom and opened-eyes
among the ways of your people
and hold congress with spirits unseen.
My land is far off, much farther I say
that you dare to fathom,
and I seek a home and a mentor of knowledge
who will speak to me of battles and mysteries."
To him of gold eyes Gyarriku spoke.
"Warrior-man, be at peace,
for wise and far-seeing are the Salusa
who will teach you of battles and mysteries.
Your love of wisdom honors you
and makes you verily worthy of your monkey tail.
I bid you, make your bed in my hut
amidst the huts of my mothers and grandmothers,
and much will I teach you of my secrets."
For many summers and winters
did Gyarriku shelter the man of gold eyes
in her hut, teaching him of wonderous things
and learning from him arts strange to Saiya.
Desire filled their limbs,
for at twilight did they lie together,
and from their embraces came
a boy-child of vigor.
Among the Saiyans did he grow to manhood,
blessed by the gods and spirits
with the gift of great chi,
a Saiyan of strength and passion
and the delight of his warrior mother.
Dark promises loomed over the Saiyan race,
for Those Without Tails
were first giving life to abominations,
creatures of metal, great demons without chi
who would dare to force the Salusa
from the bosom of the mountains.
46
Livid with rage was the son of Gyarriku,
for Indignation had laid her eggs in his heart,
eggs now hatching great Anger and Will.
Anger flew from the nest of his heart
to his wild-haired crown,
and there did she light
his hair a brilliant gold,
not unlike the solar disk in its
warmth and flaming brilliance.
Will grew wings and flew behind
his eyes bloodshot with tears of rage,
and there did she tint them a radiant green,
not unlike the river's waters in their depths.
In rage did the Super-Saiyan
fling himself into unrelenting battle,
tearing apart the steeds of Those Without Tails
as the spirits and gods unseen but felt
looked on with great joy.
Many were his adventures as he roamed
the spirit-charmed lands of Saiya,
and many were the monstrosities
he felled with his kindred:
the Worm-That-Ate-Villages,
a sinewy larvae that tore with myriad teeth
the flesh of Mother Plant-sei, the homes of Saiyans;
the madman Yamm, muscled and fierce-eyed
who fell upon Saiyans and struck them
to death at the Nightshade Pass;
the Lost Ones, Saiyans and wild beasts
twisted of form and shattered of mind
from drinking lake water, putrid and foul
from the streams of venom oozing out
of the cities of Those Without Tails,
the Lost Ones who fell upon everything
to ease the rage that poured through them
from their heinous fate, their living death.
The Super-Saiyan met them in unwavering combat
and emerged victorious after much struggle,
putting their pained souls to rest
and saving Saiyan sisters and brothers.
The land of Saiya celebrated the Super-Saiyan
with great feasts and songs, overjoyed
at the prowess of a Saiyan blessed
by gods and spirits with courage
and chi most intense and most noble.
Said Gyarriku of her strange and vigorous son,
"One of his strength, a Saiyan of his
gold hair and green eyes like jade
has never been known by the monkey-tailed race.
47
No Saiyan of yore ever matched his strength,
and no Saiyan of yore bore the marks
strange and beautiful of his skin and eyes.
If not the favor of gods and spirits,
I ask of my gold-eyed mate,
then what boon upon him gave him these gifts?"
In the prime of life, our hero most proud
kept company with visitors from the heavens
and was taken to the sky, some say,
in a flying sphere to battle among the stars.
Super-Saiyan, return again and make known
the power of righteous rage in a Saiyan heart!"
The tale finished, the Oozaru Saiyans cheered and drank again from their wine-
cauldrons as someone else came to the forefront to tell another Saiyan legend. Nori,
who had heard the tale in its entirety, reflected upon her own golden eyes and
wondered if the man with golden eyes in the legend came from the same tribe as she
and Grandfather Chapati. As the loud celebration continued outside, Nori curled up
on Turnyip's bed mat, pulled the fiber blanket over her, and imagined what Chapati
must have looked like from the descriptions Rhubar had given her. Rhubar told her
that he would return to the Salusa sanctuary someday soon and introduce her to her
tribe far away, and as the little girl closed her gold eyes, she wondered why Chapati
never came.
Chapati sat on one of the cold steel benches in the cell, looking on at the other Ghee
priests and priestesses detained with him in the royal dungeon. Brusied, dejected faces
sat and stood all around him in the boxy, sterile cell, the survivors of the royal raid.
The smells of metal, blood, and heavy sweat pervaded the cell, adding to the
oppressive atmophere.
Back at Gado Gado several weeks before, many of them had tried to peacefully resist
the strike by the royal soldiers, and the ones not killed outright for their disobedience
were scooped up and flown to the royal palace's dungeon. Chapati, however, resisted
in a less peaceful way by using his Saiyan fighting techniques against the soldiers,
swinging, kicking, and throwing chi-blasts at anything in armor who came near the
cedar chest containing the Gateway Sphere. Sadly, his fighting skills were not at
seventy-eight what they had been at fifty-five, and after a royal soldier struck him
squarely on the head, he next remembered waking up amidst other Ghee in this
dungeon cell.
Most of the Ghee prisoners were older men and women, elders deemed most likely to
know the mantra to the sphere, and because guards flogged anyone in lupine form
(fearing that the extra stamina and heightened senses of the form could help them
escape), everyone had remained in humanoid form. For ages it seemed they had been
there, crowded into small gray cells, beatend, and interrogated for the mantra that no
so far had revealed to royal authorities. The Oracle, leaning up against the bars of the
cell with her arms folded, looked forward with tired eyes and was one of the few
Ghee without bruises on her, so frightened had the guards become of her when she
started spouting prophesies about them from Sarama that they refrained from harming
48
her. Closing her eyes, she spoke softly to Chapati when the sentinel on duty had
passed by the cell.
"Chapati...Last night, when we were all sleeping, I dreamed of vicious spirits moving
over this place. I feel hateful presences here, everywhere. Vicious spirits roam all
over this hateful place!"
"Well, at least we know who King Kheer's praying to now, hmmm? Come now! All is
not lost! Mulligatawny knows of us! And no one gave the mantra away, no? All is not
lost."
Chapati tried to lighten the heavy mood of the cell, but to no avail, and quieted now,
he rubbed his hairless head and twitched his coyote tail. Even inside, his heart was
heavy with grief for the friends he had watched die, and for Nori as well far off on
Plant-sei. So many thoughts he's rather forget visited him every hour: memories of
Curri's murder, perpetrated by soldiers who wanted to take out the temple's leader so
as to disorganize the Ghee; concerns about Dal's fate, which he knew nothing of; and
worries about Nori's life on Plant-Sei, Nori who was galaxies away from him. Royal
soldiers had taken the Gateway Sphere just days before he was planning to go through
the wormhole again and check on Nori, who would be eight now, he figured, and with
so much riding on the girl's future, Chapati lost himself in disappointment.
Oh Nori...Little one...Forgive me...
A pair of humanoid royal soldiers in thick forest-green armor stepped in front of the
cell, carrying a brusied, bloodied, and teary-eyed Ghee priest by each arm. A sordid
sight he was, with his tail twisted this way and that, his eyelids swollen from tears and
blows, and his arms covered with red welts up to the shoulder. The physical injury did
not arouse worry from his friends - Ghee priests knew how to heal within hours all
but the most mortal of wounds through concentrating their chi, a skill they had taught
the Saiyans in generations past - but the pain inflicted upon his spirit would take
longer to heal. The royal soldiers knew this, allowing the Ghee to heal themselves,
only to inflict pain upon them once the old torture marks had healed. Over the time of
their detainment, several suspect Ghee had run through the horrifying cycle of healing
and feeling pain, but no one had yet spoken "samosa" to any of the royal guards.
After reaching for a key around his waist and opening the lock on the cell door, the
first soldier threw the victim to the floor with a thud, and as their latest victim panted
and painfully stood up, the second soldier spoke to the remaining prisoners.
"Your friend said he didn't know the mantra, poor sap. None of you are big talkers,
are you? Hey, don't you worry. We've got ways of making you more sociable! What
about this here wallflower?"
The second soldier motioned toward a graying, emaciated old man in the corner
whom they had yet to interrogate.
"He doesn't look too talkative, does he? Come on, old timer. Have a chat with us!"
49
The wizened old Ghee shrank back as the second soldeir reached out a hairy arm for
him, when Chapati stood up and spoke.
"Oh, you will not get anything out of him!" Chapati cackled, "He never used the
Gateway Sphere like I did. Chat with me. I might be more talkative."
The second soldier turned and sneered at Chapati for a moment, eventually shrugging
and seizing him by the collar of his habit.
"It doesn't matter to me. You all get chat time one way or the other."
After dragging Chapati out of the cell, the two soldiers held his biceps tightly as the
rushed him down the steel corredor, into a larger gray room which contained several
metal and leather instruments of pain, as well as a single wooden chair in the middle
of the room. The guards sat him roughly into the chair, and as the first stood in front
of him, the second pulled a corkscrew-like instrument off of the wall and knelt behind
the chair.
"We haven't had you in here before, have we? Okay little man, I'll be brief and to-the-
point. You tell us the mantra, and you go back to your cell in one piece. If you don't
feel like talking right now..."
The second soldier slid Chapati's tail into the instrument and twisted it tightly.
"...you're going to be in here for a while."
"Really?" said Chapati with his usual white smile, sitting on the chair politely with his
hands in his lap, "I am tired of that cell anyway. I have room to breath in here, yes?"
"Oh, you're a commedian now?"
The second soldier twisted Chapati's tail even tighter in the instrument as the first
gauged the old man's reactions, looking intently at Chapati's wrinkled face. Even as
his tail grew more contorted in the corkscrew, Chapati continued to smile and look
calmy into the first soldier's eyes, apparently unphazed by the torture. Narrowing his
eyebrows, the first soldier looked up at the second and barked at him.
"You're not doing it right."
"Yes I am."
"No you're not! Do it tighter!"
The second soldier did as he was instructed and twisted the old man's tail as tight as it
would possibly go, waiting for a response. Looking at Chapati again, the first soldier
turned livid, for the old Ghee simply sat quietly in the chair, yawned, and occasionally
picked his teeth.
"YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT, DAMMIT! LOOK AT HIM! Dammit old man,
do something! Scream! Tighten up your face! What the hell is wrong with you!?"
Su
"Excuse me," interrupted Chapati, smiling sweetly, "You are very stressed. It is not
very good for your heart, you know. This job will do such things to you."
The first soldier slapped the old Ghee across the face.
"SHADDAP! Tell me that mantra NOW, or I swear to Sarama--"
"Please do not use the goddess' name in vain."
"SHADDAP! SHADDAP!"
"I am ashamed. You do not respect the goddess. Your mother must be do sad for
having an impious son."
The first soldier loudly slapped Chapati's face several more times, hoping that his
violence would frighten the elder.
"You should pray more. Sarama would bring peace to your soul. You would not be
such an angry man."
The first soldier darted over to the wall, seized a small leather strap, and ran over to
Chapati's chair, growling with rage in Chutnian obscenities. Grabbing Chapati's left
wrist, the soldier struck his forearm several times with the jagged strap, leaving large
welts across the old man's skin before he notices that Chapati was staring off into
space absentmindedly.
"I should tell you. I can ignore pain very well, yes. Some friends from a faraway place
taught me how."
The first soldier stopped his flogging and stared at Chapati for a monent before his
eyes grew wide and bloodshot as he let go of the man's wrist. Grinding his teeth, the
first soldier listened as the second slid Chapati's tail out of the corkscrew device.
"It is good that you are calm. Healthier, too. Now listen to me. You want me to tell
you the mantra to the sphere, yes?"
"...Yeah..."
The clever old Ghee priest had a plan.
"Now you know that trying to pain me did not work, yes? And even when you pained
my friends, we did not speak before, yes? I tell you what. If you do me some favors, I
will tell you the mantra, hmmmm?"
"I'm not your goddam genie! You tell us the mantra NOW!"
"I only ask for three small things. That will not be difficult, hmmm?"
"Piss on it!"
S1
"For a long time you have been unkind to my friends. Still, you have no mantra. For a
long time you have worked for nothing. My requests will take a short time to fill.
Then, you will have a mantra after very little work. I think this is wise."
"How do we even know you have the mantra?"
"My idea is worth exploring. You will lose nothing."
The first and second soldiers looked at each other and sighed heavily.
"What kind of favors?"
"I want three favors", Smiling brightly, Chapati raised three fingers up on his right
hand, "First, let me wear my lupine form. I like my wolf-on-two-legs form."
The first soldier growled and bared his teeth.
"Grant me this favor! What can a weak old man do, even in that form?" Chapati
asked.
Hesitantly, the first soldier folded his arms and bristled.
"All right, all right. Do it."
His first wish granted, Chapati quickly assumed lupine form as fur grew from his
skin, dark claws stretched out from the tips of his fingers and toes, his ears lengthened
into pointed coyote ears, and his face lengthened into a fur-covered coyote mussle.
Sensations flooded him in this form: the chi of the two soldiers, as well as the hateful
forces of evil spirits roaming the dungeon and the royal palace above.
"Ah, it is good to be a wolf-on-two-legs again! Thank you, young man! Now, for my
second favor. I want you to show me where the Gateway Sphere is. Take me to it."
"Fine, fine. What's your third?"
"Would you free my friends? I will stay here."
"NO! Piss off! In case you're lying, we'll have to interrogate the rest of your friends!"
"Something else, yes?"
"WHAT?"
" I like meat. I used to eat meat all the time. Now, I never eat meat here. You feed us
Ghee with too little, and we are all hungry. From now on, everyone gets a big slice of
meat with meals, hmmmm?"
"Meat? You want us to get you guys meat? That's it?"
"And fruit. Everyone likes fruit."
S2
"All right, fine. Meat and fruit for meals. NOW tell us the mantra."
"You have yet to do my favors. Bring me to the Gateway Sphere and give my friends
good food and I will talk."


























SS
Chapter Six
Visions and Voices

"He says he knows?"
"Yes, your Highness. None of the interrogators were able to get the mantra from any
of the Ghee, but the old man claims to know."
"What confirmation do we have from the other Ghee?"
"About a dozen elder Ghee were questioned, and all asserted that this Chapati fellow
was a veteran user of the Gateway Sphere in past years."
King Kheer, clad in a silken green robe that reached past his ankles, strode in
humanoid form down one of the long corridors of the jade imperial palace as he
conversed with one of his retainers, a pale humanoid-form woman in deep green
armor with searching eyes.
"Your Highness, the old man said that he was willing to reveal the mantra if the food
for the Ghee prisoners was improved and if he were brought to the sphere."
"All right. Bring him and the sphere before me tomorrow under guard."
"Yes, sir."
The retainer bowed and strode down another corridor as King Kheer approached a
paid of wide jade doors marked with gold-inlaid glyphs, guarded by two humanoid
soldiers with rigid expressions. Opening the door, Kheer nodded toward two acolytes
within, and after they had quietly walked out of the room, Kheer was about to stride
in alone when deep bellowing met his ears. Queen Darjiling could be heard lumbering
through one of the adjacent corridors of the palace, cursing furiously at some servant
who had displeased her.
"I saw you looking at me! You dare to look at me that way, peasant!? Why don't you
look at one of those peasant sluts who wander the palace!? Why don't you look at my
bastard husband like his retainer does!? You disgust me!"
"Your Highness...please. I did not look at you in an improper manner, I assur--"
The sound of a hand striking flesh followed, as did the sound of a body hitting the
jade floor as Queen Darjiling growled and barked at the felled servant. After another
ritual blood bath the day before, her chi had grown greater, and already with her
newfound power could she kill a full-grown Chutnian with one blow. And so, to keep
S4
up with his mad wife's chi, Kheer sauntered into his ritual chamber and slowly closed
the double doors, blocking out the sound of his queen's snarling.
Inside the spacious room, spanning almost completely across the expanse of the jade-
walled chamber was a deep pool, filled with still, wine-colored blood of thousands of
slaughtered prisoners. Chutnian rebels, random Chutnian purge victims, captured
soldiers from conquered planets, and expendable slave laborers from conquered races
had all lost their blood when royal soldiers prepared the blood bath, and their blood
still teemed with rich, flowing chi. Animals too had been hunted down on conquered
planets and slaughtered en masse for their blood and chi, for the Chutnian empire's
planets had creatures fierce and strong among them. The grim pool, reflecting the
images of the walls and ceiling in its dark fluid, gave off the odors of rusted metal and
fresh meat, odors that filled Kheer's lungs as he studied the room. Off to the side of
the pool was a much smaller circular spa filled with steaming water that emitted
steam, which floated across the room like white mist. The small white agate altar
between him and the pool had been prepared by the acolytes as ritual demanded,
Kheer observed, as it sported three lit red candles, three mystic glyphs drawn with the
blood of a prisoner tortured to death in agony, and a small stone bowl filled with the
prisoner's desperate tears.
Stripping off his robe, Kheer bowed nude to the altar, knelt down before it with
lowered eyes, and extended his arms out with tattooed palms facing up as he
whispered his opening prayer to his demons.
"Great Masters, you who reward the strong and punish the weak, look well upon my
offering. You who honor the honest, who look with unblinking eyes upon their true
desires, you who break the bonds holding back ambition, look well upon my offering.
You who honor those who honor the self, look well upon my offering."
The air was split by low, unearthly moans; moans that grew louder as Kheer
continued his prayer.
"Does not my gift win your attention? Does not the culling of the weak so that the
strong might thrive please you? Under your servant's hand do the weak fall, the blind
bleed, and the cowardly die. Hear me!"
Vile spirits moaned and whispered even louder as Kheer offered up his words, until
the room was buzzing with the presence of malevolent entities. Vicious spirits moved
over the blood pool and made ripples in the disturbed fluid; vicious spirits hovered
near Kheer and breathed menacingly against his skin and hair; vicious spirits breathed
in the odors of blood and tears at the altar and spoke as one. The myriad voices of the
demon hordes were discordant and shrill, reminiscent of the sound of unclean insects
squealing as they burned in fire, and in mocking tones did they address the Chutnian
king as one.
thE sMeLL oF tHe cOnQuERed'S BLoOd iS sWEet. LoOk wIthIN yOuRseLf AnD aSK
foR yOuR TRuE deSiRe.
SS
"Give me the chi of the fallen. Give unto me all of the chi that lies dormant in this
fresh blood. My true desire is for the Superferal form, the legendary lupine form of
golden fur and green eyes that contains great power."
sOmEdAy sUpeRfERaL fOrM wiLL bE yOuRs, iF yOu gATHeR ENouGh bLoOd-cHi.
wHY dO yOu wAnT tHiS?
Kheer let out a deep breath and spoke. "I want power. Power that knows no
competition. I want to bring planets and races innumerable under my control. I want
to know no rival. I want power, chi-power."
Power long ago would have kept his parents from striking him and hurling foul words
at him as a boy, he thought. Power would have prevented his sister and only friend,
Mulligatawny, from running off to escape the pain. Power would have prevented her
from turning against him and fighting him now at every turn. Power would eliminate
his mad wife who rivaled him for dominance every day. Power would let him laugh in
the face of Sarama herself, as it had let him years ago when he gave his daughter to
the Ghee to sacrifice. Power would take the chaotic universe, so full of meaningless
mishaps and misguided fools, and bring it into a recognizable order: his order.
"Great Masters, give me great chi! Give me the Superferal form! Give me the long
life and power that comes with it!"
wITh tHiS bLOod-cHi wiLL wE bRiNg yOu oNe sTeP cLoSEr. bAThE nOw.
Kheer stood up, bowed with clasped hands, circled the altar three times, and walked
slowly toward the metallic-smelling blood pool. With slow and deliberate steps did he
ease his feet into the blood, then his long legs, his hips, his tail, his lean torso, and his
dark arms. Shoulder-deep was he now in the thick, hot fluid that seemed to seep into
his skin, and after taking a deep breath into his lungs, he stepped deeper down,
immersing his shoulders, his long black hair and beard, his chin, and finally his head
in the blood. For but a heartbeat did he disappear under the pool of blood, until
suddenly he sprang up from the blood bath, arching his torso and whipping back his
long blood-soaked hair as he held it back with both hands. Wine-colored blood
glistened on his arms, torso, and face, and the sound of tink-tink-tink filled the room
as blood dripped from his soaked hair and beard back into the pool. Standing nude in
the hot liquid, Kheer focused until his body was covered with black fur and his head
was that of a black jackal, and in lupine form, the form of the wolf-on-two-legs, the
king drew in breath and prepared to receive his gift. Extending his arms out and
holding his head back defiantly, Kheer howled a cry to the demons that echoed wildly
off of the steam-frosted jade walls.
"POWER! GIVE ME CHI, GREAT MASTERS!"
Evil spirits rushed over the blood pool in a furious wave, disturbing the blood so
violently that some of it gushed out of the pool and splashed against the jade walls.
Specks of chi-light formed on the surface of the blood, clustering together into beads
of liquid chi that floated on the blood like foam. Then, as if pushed by the demons,
the beads of light furiously rushed into Kheer, jerking his slim body like a reed, and
for a moment Kheer's image disappeared in a burst of light, as did his scream of
S6
ecstatic agony drown in a roar of demons' laughter. After the burst of painful chi-
light, the brightness subsided, revealing Kheer standing stiffly in the middle of the
blood pool, panting as chi-light glowed within his pores. At length, the light in his fur
dimmed, and the heaving of his chest slowed down as the Chutnian king began to feel
the new chi coursing through his limbs. Alive was the chi within him, the chi taken
from unworthy weaklings who in death would make him strong. Like lava did the chi
burn inside his heart and veins, and stronger than ever before, Kheer arched back his
throat and howled with joyous rage.
The blood, drained of chi, was no longer wine-colored but instead a sickly brown, a
cesspool from which the odor of decay rose. Kheer, fur and muzzle dripping with
now-brown blood, stepped out of the accursed pool and sauntered over to the spa of
clear water to cleanse himself, not yet a Superferal but one step closer to his hideous
dream.
Three royal guards, two males on either side of him and one male following closely
behind him, lead Chapati through the green jade halls of the palace toward the throne
room. After his detainment in the flat gray dungeons beneath the palace, the change of
scenery was almost pleasant: the jade walls, the sculpted pillars, the cool floor, the
servant's silk clothes and the royal soldier's armor were all varying shades of green,
the color of the royal house of Chutney-sei. Amidst all of this green, Chapati's
burgundy habit and brown sandals stood out and turned the heads of several royal
servants as he and the soldiers passed by. After several steps, the four arrived at the
huge double doors of the throne room, marked with the golden alpha symbol of
Chutnian royalty, and after two royal soldiers swung open the heavy doors, the guards
led Chapati in.
The throne room was an expansive room, bedecked with forest green silk tapestries,
high golden pillar, and green jade incense burners that filled the room with the heady
scent of cinnamon. The spice incense, however, failed to impress Chapati's strong
sense of smell heightened by his lupine form, for the metallic odor of blood that
oozed off of the king and queen still crept into his nostrils.
At the back of the room, beholding the entire chamber, were two green jade thrones,
chiseled and polished in the form of great trees whose branches billowed and formed
the backs of the royal seats. Upon one of these thrones sat Queen Darjiling in
humanoid form, slumped back, staring through disheveled hair into nothingness with
bared teeth. Humanoid King Kheer, on the other hand, stood several feet in front of
his throne, arms folded, as he looked on at the soldiers and the elderly Ghee brought
before him.
"You let him walk around in lupine form?" the Chutnian king asked.
"It was one of his requests that the interrogators granted in exchange for the mantra,
your Highness. One of the others was to be taken to the Gateway Sphere," replied one
of the royal guards.
Chapati, smiling his trademark white-toothed smile, wagged his coyote tail and
stroked the fur on his muzzle.
S7
"Your Highness, do not worry. My wolf-on-two-legs form is more comfortable, you
agree?"
Another royal soldier struck Chapati's head. "You will speak when King Kheer
questions YOU, not before!"
"Oh, forgive this foolish old man. I live a simple life, and my manners are not good."
While speaking, Chapati focused on the chi he felt pouring off of the king and queen,
and his stomach clenched when he realized that the two were far stronger now than
they had been eight years ago at the Ghee Temple at Gado Gado. Both had grown
exponentially stronger, he assumed, through the blood bath rituals spoken of so many
times by his old friends. But how much more powerful could they become?
"You...Chapati, correct?...I think I remember you at the ceremony for my firstborn a
few years ago. You were there, am I right?"
"Yes, your Highness. I am the Chapati you speak of."
Queen Darjiling snarled at Chapati and stared at him with blank eyes.
"Holier-than-thou Ghee. You all deserve to die."
Ignoring his delusional wife, King Kheer continued.
"You told the interrogators that you were willing to offer the mantra to the Gateway
Sphere in exchange for three favors."
"Yes, yes...I am in my wolf-on-two-legs form, my friends have good food and are not
beaten anymore, everything has been good. Now I want to see the Gateway Sphere."
King Kheer waved his hand at two servants, who carried a cedar chest over to him
and rested the chest at the monarch's feet. After opening the chest, the servants
revealed the dimly glowing sphere to Chapati, who smiled before they closed the
chest again. The sphere was not damaged, and now that he knew where it was kept
and under what guard, he could possibly think up a way to steal it or hide it.
"Now you know that the sphere rests with me. Now the mantra, Chapati..."
Clever Chapati had a plan, for he knew that if he could stall things just a little while
longer, he might be able to save his friends in time for a rescue by Mulligatawny, who
was known to regularly rescue political prisoners.
"Yes, yes, the mantra..." Chapati had thought up a little lie in the meantime. "Well,
your Highness, even if I were to tell you the mantra, it is not that easy. Opening the
wormhole is a special task. It can only be done by a trained Ghee priest - like me, no
one else - and only every three years under the full moon of the first month."
"When will that be next?"
S8
"We just missed our chance last month. But, in three years time I can try again, yes?"
As the old Ghee priest spoke, the floor shook violently, as if an earthquake had stirred
under his feet, and from other corridor of the palace could be heard shouting, bodies
falling to the floor, and exchanges of blows. Two small speakers on the armrests of
the thrones burped out a male soldier's voice from elsewhere in the palace.
"Your Highness, Mulligatawny's rebels have attacked again. The dungeon and the
east wing of the palace are taking the brunt of the rebel's attack. Most of the prisoners
have been taken."
Queen Darjiling bent over the speaker and bayed at the soldier. "BASTARD! She did
this six months ago! You should know how to defend! YOU FOOLS! ALL OF YOU
FOOLS!"
"Your Highness, the rebels did not invade in the manner they did last time. They--
kkkkkkkssssshhhhhhhhh."
The speakers hissed static as the throne room lost contact with the dungeon and the
east wing, and as the royal soldiers stood at attention, King Kheer spun around on his
heels to face his entourage. He doubted not his own strength in battle, but
Mulligatawny and her forces were forces to be reckoned with, and he wanted to keep
his eyes on the Gateway Sphere and the old man so as not to risk losing them in
battle.
"Everyone, to the roof launch site. Get the aircraft ready. We're going to the summer
palace. Take the Gateway Sphere and the old man too."
Amidst the rattling and shouts coming from outside the throne room doors, Queen
Darjiling's angry cursing, and the rush of soldiers as they held his biceps tightly and
hurried him through a secret compartment behind the thrones, Chapati laughed softly.
"This is ironic", he thought, "Everyone gets saved but old Chapati. Now what?"
Winter was slowly turning into spring in the mountains of Saiya, and one balmy
morning, as Nori helped her relatives gather water from the sanctuary's well, she
lifted her head as the dawn was greeted by the howl of wild dogs in the distance. Ever
since the battles months before, the wild dogs and game had been frightened from the
area by Tsufuru machinery, but since quiet had hung over the mountains for the
winter, the wild dogs had returned, it seemed. As Nori listened intently to the canine's
soulful howls, Rhubar handed her a jar of water to carry and grinned.
"They've come back," said Nori.
"I know. It's a good thing that the animals feel safe enough to return."
"For now", Rhubar thought to herself.
"What are they saying?" Rhubar continued.
S9
"What they always say. They're telling the mountains that they're here, and that they
feel good now too. The mom and dad aren't there anymore, but the other ones and
some younger dogs, new ones, are howling. A new mom and a wild dog I've never
heard before are leading the howl."
Without warning, Nori arched back her throat and let out a perfect, soulful howl for
the mountains to hear, and at length, the wild dogs amidst the fresh red vegetation of
the mountains howled back at her.
"I want to let them know that I'm here too."
As the rest of the family walked back to the huts with their water-filled jars, Nori
whispered to Rhubar. "I had the dream again last night, Momma."
For several nights, Nori's dreams had been marked by seas of bright colors and lights
in which ran a reddish wolf that became a two-legged wolf creature, only to transform
into a fierce woman who stared at Nori with golden eyes. Turnyip, who had been
listening to the two that morning, looked at Rhubar and sighed.
"She's of age, Rhubar. She's old enough for the rite. If her spirit guide is trying to
contact her, which is what these dreams sound like to me, she's by all means ready to
meet her totem spirit in the rite by now. Don't look at me like that! Yes, I know that
they could strike at any time, now that the weather is warming up and the ice has
melted, but the place we'll take her will be safe even if they do."
Gazing down at Nori, Turnyip addressed the little girl.
"Nori, did this wolf-woman ever speak to you in the dreams."
"No. But these dreams are so bright, brighter than any of my other dreams. And the
wolf-woman, she feels so powerful. She's important. I know it."
"Do you think she's a spirit?"
"I know so. She has to be."
"Nori, you're at the right age to go through the spirit guide rite at Tomatillo Cave. Do
you feel that you're ready right now to take a totem?"
"...I think so."
Rhubar and Turnyip looked at each other as they walked down the dry paths to their
adobe huts, knowing what the other was thinking.
"I should have the mushrooms ready in a few days," said Turnyip. "Help her prepare
herself until then. It's time."
Rhubar guided Nori through the narrow cleave in the rocks, into the dark, glistening
interior of Tomatillo Cave. In the light of the torch, Nori drew in breath at the sight
lying before her, the sight of the moist cave walls glistening violet with imbedded
6u
amethyst dust, or amethyst stalagmites and stalactites reaching for each other out of
the ceiling and floor, of thousands of star-like reflections of torch light on these
crystals. This cave, this mysterious cleave deep inside Mother Plant, was like a star-
studded sky within the planet itself, and as Nori breathed in the cool, moist air,
Rhubar put a hand on her shoulder.
"Salusa sometimes call this 'the womb of the Salusa,' because it is here that Mother
Plant gestates us during our coming of age, and when we leave, it's as if she's given
birth to us anew. It's here that you'll meet your spirit guide, Nori. You'll leave here
changed, reborn, with a bond between you and your totem that will last a lifetime.
Tomatillo Cave is a sacred place, and I imagine that you feel many spirits alive in the
walls."
Indeed, when Nori looked into her inner eye, she could feel spirits coursing through
every inch of Tomatillo Cave, and the river of spirit energy grew more intense as
Rhubar led her deeper into the cavern.
"Salusa women lead their daughters, granddaughters, and nieces here. Men lead their
sons and nephews here. After my mother and grandmother died in battle, Aunt
Turnyip brought me here to speak with my spirit guide when I was your age. Now I'm
bringing you, and someday, if you have a daughter or granddaughter..."
"If the Tsufuru don't kill us all", Rhubar thought to herself.
"...I want you to bring her here too."
"It's beautiful," said Nori.
"I know. This whole cave is amazing. Do you see that dull blue light ahead?"
"Yes."
"That glowing sphere has been here as long as Salusa have been coming here.
Teachers from long ago said that it was the Gateway Sphere, a sacred relic, a gift
from another world. None of us really know why it's here, but I think it would be
fascinating to know."
Rhubar helped Nori fit her torch between two tight stalactites, and after handing the
girl an extra fur mantle to keep her warm in the cave, she wrapped her free arm
around Nori and squeezed her.
"All ready...all ready, you've come of age. You've grown so much. You've made me
so proud. Now it's time. Good luck. I'll be waiting back at the sanctuary when it's time
for you to return."
"How long will that be?"
"It could be hours or days. Meeting a totem is different for everyone."
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Rhubar kissed the little girl's forehead and handed her a pouch of dried mushrooms
that had been tied to her waist.
"When you feel ready, eat all of these and the visions will soon come."
After one last squeeze, Rhubar held her torch before her and navigated her way back
to the entrance of the cave as Nori stood in the dark back corner of the cavern, several
feet away from the dim blue sphere. In the torchlight, Nori opened the sack and
promptly ate the mushrooms: bitter, smooth-skinned mushrooms, soft and wrinkled
like elderly skin and smelling faintly like musty wood.
After sitting down, Nori concentrated on the spirits roaming in Tomatillo Cave, who
casually observed her or swam through the stone on some other business as she drew
the fur around her and waited for visions to come. Without warning, Nori felt rough
waves of warm and cold air billowing over her, a sensation soon accompanied by
brilliant, star-sequined violet light splashing against the walls and filling the cave like
clean water. Every sparkle of amethyst dust, every stalagmite, every stalactite
expanded and contracted, gently, rhythmically, as if breathing, and Nori soon
understood that she was seeing the living presence of the earth spirits breathing within
the rocks. The sensations of wind and the splashing of deep purple light grew regular
and rhythmic as well to match the breathing of the cave, pounding against Nori's skin
and ears in a smooth, even drumbeat. Turning to face the bluish sphere, Nori violently
drew in breath as burgundy and purple storm clouds swallowed the sphere and
revolved around a night-like blackness, a void that was the threshold into ancient,
primordial worlds.
Out of the void ran a wolf, a sleek, auburn she-wolf with burning gold eyes like the
sun at midday, a wolf that arched her head up and let out a howl that seemed to echo
through the universe. The wolf drew her head back down and stared intently into
Nori's face, and as Nori gazed back at her, she saw a resemblance between those
burning gold eyes and her own. The wolf now stood up on her hind legs as her legs
lengthened, her spine lengthened, her paws lengthened into humanoid hands, until
standing before Nori was a creature with the shape and proportions of a woman but
the head, body fur, claws, and tail of a wolf. Standing tall, breathing softly, with her
ruddy fur billowing in the warm and cold winds of the vision, the wolf-on-two-legs
continued her unbroken stare into Nori's face. The little girl stood up off of the floor
of the breathing cave, her stare into the wolf-woman's face unbroken as well, and
found that her thoughts were becoming sounds and images that mingled with the
violet light of the caves.
"Who are you?, she thought, the thought-words vibrating through the light.
Crimson silk fabric burst like life-blood from the void behind the wolf-woman and
enveloped her body, forming a red sari around her that reached to her feet. The wolf-
woman's features began to change again as her fur retreated back into her pores, her
dark claws transformed into pale fingernails, and her wolf muzzle shortened and
shortened until it had been drawn back into her face. No longer a wolf-on-two-legs,
the creature had now become a radiant woman, a fierce woman with billowing black
hair and a ruddy wolf tail rooted in the small of her back. Goddess and girl continued
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to stare at each other in the violet light, until the woman finally spoke in the language
of wolves with a voice like a downpour of fresh rain.
"I am Sarama."
The woman strode forward until she stood before Nori, when she extended a long-
fingered hand to the little girl.
"And you, Nori...are more than you think you are. Come."
Nori reached up and placed her right hand in the woman's hand, which felt like life
giving fore and filled Nori's soul with new chi. This woman was flaming inside with
spirit energy, an energy so strong that millions of nature spirits could not compare to
it, and yet the energy was warm and creative as it burned brightly in the woman's gold
eyes.
Nori and Sarama floated up together to the roof of the cave, through the stone to the
cool night air outside, through the sky lit by the silvery rays of the waning gibbous
moon. In the distance, Nori noticed what looked like a huge metal bird soaring
through the sky, a gray, roaring bird with no eyes, no feet, and no feet, but with small
metal cancers under its wings. PLUM MINING CORPORATION - SECURITY
DIVISION stood out in bright blue letters on the machine's smooth, hard side.
"Sarama...Sarama, please wait. I think it's a Tsufuru machine in the sky."
"Be at peace. No harm will come to you, for your flesh-body is safe in Tomatillo
Cave and this, your spirit body, cannot be harmed. Focus now on our journey, for you
have much to learn and much to do."
Hesitantly, Nori turned away from the metal bird and gazed toward the night sky,
which soon engulfed her and Sarama until everything around them was a tapestry of
black, limitless space, speckled with galaxies and nebulas of glorious colors. Nori,
breathtaken at the infinite expanse of the universe, looked beneath her at the myriad's
of galaxies passing beneath her feet, and when she looked up at Sarama, the goddess
spoke again.
"Nori, look upon the worlds before you,
worlds filled with lives innumerable
and of strange and glorious forms.
I say to you now,
girl-child no more but young woman,
that you shall end unspeakable pain
and halt tyranny most foul and bloodstained,
thereby freeing these worlds
and bearing peace and gentleness
as gifts to the races of these planets.
You will be a guide and liberator,
long-awaited, to your people,
though that time is far-off
and your destiny among your race
6S
yet to be realized and celebrated.
I look upon you, young Nori,
and promise you that honor shall be your gift
and the love of your people shall be your token."
Sarama turned her head and looked again at Nori with her sun-like golden eyes.
Stirred deep within, Nori asked Sarama if she was to save the Saiyans from the
Tsufuru someday when she had grown. The goddess only repeated her previous
words:
"You will be a guide and a liberator,
long-awaited, to your people,
though that time is far-off
and your destiny among your race
yet to be realized and celebrated."
The two flew for a long time through the expanse of space, leaving Plant-sei far
behind, and at length, Sarama led Nori into a galaxy glistening with the light of a
million stars. Deeper they went into the star cluster until they arrived over a planet
floating in the orbit of a large yellow star, and holding her hand tightly, Sarama flew
with Nori down to the planet's surface.
After passing through icy clouds, Sarama and Nori landed softly upon the roof of a
large palace, a palace of green jade that spread its shadow across a foul-smelling sea
of brown blood. Moaning spirits zipped through the air and took on tangible forms as
twisted, contorted beasts, albino beasts with teeth that grew in helter-skelter directions
and claws that dripped brown, putrid blood. At the mere sight of Sarama's fierce
expression, some of the evil spirits cowered and shook while others escaped to the
blood sea.
"What is this place? What are these spirits? I've never met anything like them before.
Why is that sea filled with blood?"
"This is the blood of the oppressed,
blood of innocents spilled to appease
these pained and loathsome demons.
Those who would bring misery
upon your race, those who live
in this blood-stained jade palace
offer innocent blood to these spirits
to win power, evil chi, for themselves.
The cries of the innocent reach me,
and in peace will their spirits
rest in my bosom and in the arms of
the gods of other races innumerable.
Think they, these monarchs,
can lengthen their reign one-day
if the Goddess decrees their end in advance?
In future days, Nori, will you end the reign
of these monarchs and bring peace
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to many worlds far from your home.
Be not afraid! I look with favor upon you,
for your heart is pure for your destiny,
and ever will I look over you, Nori."
Sarama reached out her arms and drew Nori close to her, pulling the girl into her sari,
which became a sea of rich, living blood, blood strong with chi that surrounded Nori
but did not drown her.
"This is the blood of life,
blood coursing through arteries
brimming with chi, brimming with life.
This is my blood, the blood of life,
the blood coursing through the veins
of my people as long as they live.
Death of the flesh is never avoided,
but life should be lived as is proper,
chi should pump through living veins
and living blood as is proper.
Kill only to eat or to avoid death yourself;
kill only those who would kill unjustly."
In the waves of living fluid did Sarama's voice pour into Nori's mind, and as the girl
sank gently through the fluid, she felt her spirit-body transform into that of a black-
furred wolf pup, a black-furred wolf-on-two-legs, and back into a little girl's again.
"You look at yourself and see a Saiyan.
I tell you know, Nori, that in years to come
you will wear the flesh-body
of a wolf and a wolf-on-two-legs,
for that is the gift I give to all my children.
I tell you now, Nori, that in years to come
the tattoos you sport on your palms
will reveal your past and future to you,
as will your bright eyes like fire-tested gold,
as will your gift of wolf-tongue."
Nori's back touched solid rock with a deafening boom that shook her body, only to
see the red fluid around her disappear and be replaced by the now-shaking walls of
Tomatillo Cave. Although her eyelids felt heavy, every nerve in Nori's strengthened
body was burning with new chi, and as the cave shook again with the loud sound of
thunder, Nori got off of her back and stumbled across the back of the cavern. The
flame upon the torch Rhubar had helped her wedge between two crystals had almost
burned away, suggesting that hours had passed since she ate the mushrooms. Sarama's
voice continued to pour through the cave as she spoke to Nori:
"Nori, for generations has
the Gateway Sphere rested here.
No longer must it stay here,
but rather you must take it
6S
and protect it wherever you go,
for it shall be the key to your destiny.
Nori, already a warrior, you have seen much
in your eight years, and many more
beautiful and hideous things will
you behold before I take your spirit
into my bosom for eternity.
Remember this: I am with you always,
and I watch over you as I watch over
all of my children of gold eyes.
I know of what awaits you,
and confuse and bedazzle you
though it may in future days,
I tell you that all creatures are threads
in the great cosmic tapestry of time.
Go. Live, and your fate will unfold."
Sarama's voice became silent, and stumbling onto her side, the dizzy Nori closed her
eyes and fell into a long sleep. When she awoke with an aching head and ringing ears,
she stood up, lifted the blue sphere from its cubbyhole in the rocks, and held it in one
arm as she carried her almost burned-out torch in the other hand. Walking slowly
toward the exit of Tomatillo Cave, Nori's mind swam with wonder and horror and
excitement.
Sarama...I feel you even now, within me...Sarama, what does the future hold for me?
Why did you choose me? When will it all begin? Sarama...Sarama, be with me,
because it's all so scary and wonderful.
The cave still pulsed with the energy of earth spirits, and the rush of energy from
them seemed to propel Nori forward past the purple walls of the cavern. Ahead of her
was the light of day slipping through the cleave at the mouth of the cavern, and
blinking, Nori squeezed herself and her items through the narrow slit, out of the
Womb of the Salusa into the outside world once again. After breathing the outside
spring air deep into her lungs, Nori walked outside and headed back home, her golden
eyes tired but glistening with new life.
Past the moss-covered rocks, past the budding trees and the banks of the Legume
River did Nori walk with the Gateway Sphere, but at length did she notice something
amiss: the air was unnaturally quiet in the mountains, a sulfurous smell clung to
everything, and the spirits coursing through the earth, water, air, and stones were
agitated. Animals were missing from the immediate area, as there was a lack of small
individual chi's that Nori sensed, and when Nori touched the rocks or ran her fingers
through the water to ask the spirits what happened, all she received were sensations of
blinding light, thunder, and quaking earth. An aching sensation filled Nori's stomach,
and with great haste did she fly through the wilds, up the incline and over the spirit-
made stone barrier to the Salusa sanctuary, heart pounding, breath burning her throat.
As she stood on the rocky ledge of the stone wall, her breath caught in her throat as
she stared at what lied in the mountain niche of the sanctuary.
Absolutely nothing.
66
Chapter Seven
A New Day

Tsufuru machines from Plum Mining Corporation were already approaching the
bomb site where the Salusa sanctuary had once been, so as to survey the damage and
judge where to begin mining the mountain's hidden wealth. The Saiyans there, Plum
Mining Corporation had decided, were a nuisance that lingered like a stain on the
land, and it had proven much easier to bomb them from the sky by surprise than to
attack them by land when their approach could be detected. Cargo aircraft could be
easily converted to bombers when your race was always experimenting with new
technology, and the mineral-rich land of dead Saiyans could be easily converted to
profit!
Knowing that she stood no chance alone should the Tsufuru from Plum Mining find
her, Nori wrapped the Gateway Sphere in the fur cloak that Rhubar had given her and
flew off, flew blindly from the sound of approaching machines.
Everything was gone. Everyone was gone. The Tsufuru had stolen from Nori the very
right to say farewell, the very right to see her friends and foster relatives one last time,
even in death. Tsufuru bombs had destroyed homes, crops, and people from the skies,
so that Nori could not even be consoled by ruins reminiscent of her home. As Nori
flew over the Legume River and over the other mass of mountains, similar pockmarks
dotted what had once been the villages of the Crimini and Enoki Saiyan tribes, who
had put up as much of a fight as the Salusa. Amidst the dirty depressions in the earth,
the marks of bombing, stood nothing but the proof that the Tsufuru were tired of
underestimating their Saiyan rivals.
Over the mountains, over the hills and plains along the Legume River, Nori flew for
hours with the sphere, her thoughts silent, her heart numb, her soul completely empty
- with everyone dead and everything gone, what could fill it? As if every ounce of life
had drained from her, Nori's insides were cold and silent as she flew as far as her
stamina would take her, for something deep within her had not yet realized the full
horror of it all and would not show it to her yet. And yet, something inside of her
wanted to scream, weep, tear at the earth with her fingers, throw herself head first,
howling, at the Tsufuru machines and die making them pay for the deaths of everyone
she had ever known and loved. No...the cold numbness was too great, and all Nori
could do was give in to the numbness as she soared over Saiya, an empty shell in the
sky. It couldn't be happening...no, it had to be a dream...but the nightmare never
ended, and Nori never woke up from the horrible reality, no matter how long she
waited for it all to go back to the way it had been.
Momma can't really be dead...I'll wake up and see her sleeping on her mat next to
mine...and Aunt Turnyip can't really be dead...I'll wake up and go to her hut and see
her, and everything will be fine...But why can't I wake up?...Sarama, I feel your
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power. Wake me up, please...Sarama...I'm never going to wake up from this
nightmare, am I?
Nori began to understand that the nightmare was but the hideous reality of the Saiyan
war with the Tsufuru, and as pain began to flood into her empty heart, everything
inside of Nori began to ache with agonizing pain. The pain never stopped flowing into
her, but instead gushed in, flooded in, made her soul a deluge of misery as her whole
being soaked in the horror and agony of it all.
Momma...Aunt Turnyip...Why couldn't I just say goodbye?
Into the air she screamed it, howled it in Saiyan speech and wolf-speech until her
screams tore up her throat.
"WHY COULDN'T I JUST SAY GOODBYE!?"
Far, far behind did Nori leave the Kohlrabin Mountains, the home of the dead Salusa
tribe, for the search had begun for a safe haven with Saiyans, a place where Nori
could find safety for a little whole and concoct dreams of revenge against the Tsufuru.
In darks moods did Nori's grief-stricken mind dream of reclaiming the Salusa
homelands from the tailless thieves of Plum Corporation, of making the greed-ridden
Tsufuru pay for their atrocities against her tribe, of going back to the way things had
been. Not yet, however, could she indulge these dreams, and not yet had she found
others Saiyans to take her in.
For four days Nori followed the Legume River, eating plants, bathing in the waters,
flying for hours by day, and resting in the seclusion of the tall grasses by night. The
animal hide enveloping the Gateway Sphere never left her sight, but began to feel
especially heavy as she soared with it through the plains day after day. Now, tired of
the monotony of flying, Nori tread through the blue grasses of the grasslands, grasses
swaying rhythmically in the warm breezes and brushing up against her knees as she
moved. Spirit energy was strong in the plains, and much water and earth spirits had
spoken with Nori as she sipped water from the river or lied on the ground, spirits who
showed her images of the land's peaceful and harmonious past. The surroundings
were idyllic, with the splashing of the Legume River and the breath of the wind as
peaceful backdrops to the sunshine overhead, but despite the beauty around her,
Nori's insides still ached.
Through the cloudless afternoon and night did the numbness fill Nori, into the next
morning of her journey as Nori tread across the land. At first, to hear the sound of a
sentient voice, Nori spoke to herself in the Saiyan tongue for hours as she traveled,
and then in her innate wolf-tongue, barking and whining in her own language to keep
herself company.
Sarama...You said you would be with me...Where are you now?...I can't bear to think
that it's true...I would give anything to see Momma's face again...Sarama, why is this
happening?...Why won't you answer?
The little girl had not realized how far the sound of her wolf-speech had traveled, it
seemed, for during her travels on foot, something did hear her barks.
68
At first, amidst the other sensations of chi from plants and animals across the plains,
Nori felt an entity approaching her from several hundred yards away, surely and
silently through the blue grasses. The chi-force grew closer until Nori found herself
several yards away from a grayish-black wolf, staring at her with large golden eyes
from a patch of swaying tan grasses several feet high. An adolescent she-wolf she
was, with long, slender legs and slim ears that were drawn back in an expression of
caution.
"I thought it was a lone wolf I heard," barked the wolf. "I caught your scent
downwind, and you smelled a little like a wolf. But no. You're a monkey on two
legs."
The wolf, ears still back, curled her muzzle into a snarl as her body stiffened and
moved away from Nori.
"I saw two-legged monkeys come out of the metal beasts in the hills. You're one of
them, aren't you?" she growled deep in her throat. "Your kind knock over trees and
dig up the hills so that nothing can live there. Your kind are foul!"
Nori, softened somewhat by the wolf's pain, tried to ease the creature by speaking to
her in wolf-tongue.
"No, no, please, listen to me. Don't be afraid. I'm not one of them, even though I look
a little like them. The people who came out of the metal beasts you saw, they're
Tsufuru. They don't have tails, but I do. See! I have a tail because I'm a Saiyan, not a
Tsufuru."
The wolf, noticing the difference between Nori and the creatures that tore up the hills,
relaxes and uncurled her muzzle a bit as she listened to the rest of the little girl's
words.
"I'm not one of them. I don't want to hurt you or tear up the hills. I just want to find
others like me, because the Tsufuru...they killed my family, and I need to find Saiyans
who will take me in now."
The wolf jumped at these words and barked.
"Tsufuru killed your family?"
"They did," Nori said as the numbness in her started to give way to stabbing pain in
her soul. "They attacked my family and my people lots of times before. But one day I
left, and when I came back, everyone was gone, and the Tsufuru were bringing their
machines there, right where my people used to live!"
Nori cast her eyes down and clenched her teeth as the memories of the bombed Salusa
sanctuary began to resurface in her consciousness.
The wolf took a cautious step toward the red-faced little girl.
69
"These Tsufuru, these two-legged monkeys without tails, they have wronged me too.
My family is dead because of their machines."
Nori looked up through bloodshot eyes as the she-wolf continued.
"A few days after the full moon, I ran from the hills far over there," referring to the
long stretch of the Peah hills in the far-off distance left of the river's path, "because
the metal beasts came. My family and I, my parents, sisters, and brothers ran from
them, but they kept coming to wherever we were. Some of the machines knocked
over the trees so there was no place to hide, and other machines dug up the ground
and made such unbearable noise like thunder. One evening, one of the beasts followed
us, and small two-legged monkeys came out of its back with large metal reeds. Rays
of light burst out of the reeds, and when the rays of light touched one of my brothers
or sisters, they fell to the ground and died. The rays of light fell everywhere, and we
ran as fast as we could from the monkeys, but sooner or later, my entire family fell
dead. I ran and hide behind a mound, but I could seethe bodies of my parents and
siblings. The tailless monkeys...they laughed at my family's bodies...they picked them
up and showed them off to each other...they took their bodies away in the metal
beast...they took my father and mother, my sisters and brothers...they took their
bodies away...I ran as far as I could from the Tsufuru and the hills, until I came to the
grasslands, where I would be safe. But I can never run from the memory of that day."
The wolf whined and bayed. "When we kill, it is for meat so that we can eat. But we
never kill everything in sight, and we never laugh...we never show off the bodies. The
Tsufuru didn't want to eat us. They killed my family for fun! They destroyed my
home!"
Feeling the grief of the wolf, Nori arched her throat and bayed a painful howl as well.
"They killed my family too...They destroyed my home too..."
Nori and the wolf, who revealed her name as Sleek Fur, spoke and studied each other
for a long time amidst the grasses of the plains, with Nori looking at the wolf and
asking her questions and Sleek Fur studying Nori's scent and movements. Sleek Fur,
who had never heard any creature other than wolves speak in wolf-tongue, was
intrigued by Nori's wolf-speech and wolf-scent, and soon felt comfortable enough to
lie next to the girl as evening approached. A waning gibbous moon appeared in the
blue-black sky, and as Nori lied down next to the wolf to sleep, she managed a faint
smile.
"I'm glad I found you. Would you like to travel with me?"
"I would like that."
"Tomorrow, I'm going to go across the grasslands to find Saiyans. We can talk and
hunt together until then."
"That would be good. I've been so lonely, and I've missed the sound of wolf-speech
all this time."
7u
The next day, Nori and Sleek Fur set off across the grasslands, drinking occasionally
from the Legume River and hunting down an old cow from a herd of blue buffalo
(and although Nori explained why several times, Sleek Fur never quite understood
why the girl prayed over the buffalo after they had killed it, or why she insisted on
cooking the meat with fire). Sleek Fur also sniffed at the glowing ball that Nori
carried with her in an animal hide, and when the girl explained that her spirit guide
instructed her to protect it, the wolf was confused again as well.
Around midday, while the two were sauntering past a field of four-foot high tan
grasses, Nori saw with her inner eye two chi's too strong to be those of ordinary
beasts, and with narrow eyes did she stare into the grasses. Twitching in the
vegetation was a shock of tall brown hair, standing perfectly erect as it moved closer
out of the grass, hair attached to a pair of dark eyes staring back at Nori. With a jerk,
the owner of the hair burst out of the vegetation and ran with outstretched arms at her,
seizing her tail and squeezing with all his might. To Nori's surprise it was Vegeta-
buru, the slender chieftain's son she had fought the summer before at the Salusa
sanctuary, who had changed little in the past few seasons.
Without dropping the Gateway Sphere, Nori sank her center of gravity, turned, and
struck the boy so soundly on the stomach that he freed her tail and dropped to the
ground, holding his midsection and coughing. Sleek Fur, growling at the attack,
leaped over to the fallen Saiyan boy and growled as she gnawed his erect brown hair,
while Nori noticed a second attacker rushing out of the brush. A thick-built boy of
about eight with short bluish-black hair and crazed eyes bolted out of the grasses,
roaring with laughter and preparing a burning chi-blast in his hand. However, after he
hurtled the chi-blast at Nori did she merely catch the flaming ball in her free hand and
fling it back at him, knocking him over and reddening the impact spot on his chest.
"Nappa! Get her! GET OFF OF MY HAIR, DOG!" shouted Vegeta-buru as he
struggled to get up off of the ground and shake Sleek Fur's jaws from his shock of
brown hair. Sleek Fur, undaunted, shook the boy's head back and forth as she shouted
until he freed himself with a sudden yank. When he was standing erect again, he
glanced at Nori and recognized her as the girl he fought at the Salusa sanctuary, and
with wide eyes and a tight jaw did he address her.
"YOU! The Salusa girl! You're the girl who made fun of my tribe's elite's!"
"Vegeta-buru! What's wrong with you!? Why are you fighting me!? I haven't done
anything!"
"Nappa, stop! She's just a weak Salusa girl I know."
At his friend's words, the other boy relaxed as he patted the red marks on his chest.
"Weak hell! Nappa replied. "Look at this! She threw it right back!"
Nappa, clad in a bull-hide kilt and sandals like Vegeta-buru, blew on his sore chest
and watched Nori with a frown.
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"What are you doing here?" blurted out the chieftain's son. "Tell me now, or you'll get
it good."
"I had you holding your stomach a minute ago. You don't scare me. I was looking for
other Saiyans. But why did you attack me? I wasn't doing anything!"
Brushing himself off, Vegeta-buru looked down his nose at Nori.
"Well, Nappa and I were doing what elite's do. Guarding our tribe. We fight anyone
who looks like they don't belong."
"Do I look like a TSUFURU to you!?"
"Well, no...not now, I mean...but you could have come from one of our enemy's
tribes. I didn't know you were Salusa elite, though."
"The Salusa tribe doesn't have elite's." "But your tail didn't hurt when I squeezed it.
Only elite's get taught how to ignore tail pain."
"But my tail didn't even hurt. There wasn't any pain to ignore."
"Well...um...you fought off Nappa here."
"The Salusa just made me a good fighter. But the Salusa don't have elite's."
"Well, whatever you are, these are our tribe's lands. And we've got to make sure that
no one trespasses. You just go back to the Salusa, or we'll fight you again."
"The Salusa are all dead, Vegeta-buru."
Vegeta-buru and Nappa gasped at Nori's words, and even Vegeta-buru dropped his
arrogant facade for a moment when surprise overtook him.
"The Tsufuru destroyed everything in the night, when I was somewhere else. And
they were there with their machines when I came back. I'm the only one who wasn't
killed. They killed the Crimini and Enoki tribes too. I've been running from the
Kohlrabin Mountains for days. I've been looking for other Saiyans."
Nappa stuttered. "That just can't be! How'd they do it?"
"I saw a vision of a Tsufuru machine flying in the air. It was from Plum Corporation.
When I got back to the village, everything looked like it had been burned away to
nothing. I think the flying machine had something to do with it."
Sleek Fur, who had been beside Nori all of this time without understanding the speech
of Saiyans, moved about, sniffed the air, and let out uneasy grunt-barks.
"Nori, who are these two? I can't say that I like them."
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"They're other Saiyans like me. They don't want to fight us anymore," barked Nori
back at her.
"What do they want?"
"They thought I was trespassing. But now we're talking about the Tsufuru. They don't
like the Tsufuru either."
The two Saiyan boys stared at her with open mouths at the exchange between Nori
and the wolf.
"She talks to wolves?" Nappa whispered to his friend.
"I thought it was a dog she'd tamed," Vegeta-buru replied.
"But it talks to her. And she talks back!"
"She's just a freak! She thinks she's a wolf. She even looks like a wolf. Look at her
eyes. How many Saiyans have gold eyes?"
Despite his proud words, with awe in his eyes did Vegeta-buru watch Nori and Sleek
Fur exchange barks, whines, and body gestures until the girl turned to him again.
"What's your name?"
"Nori."
Vegeta-buru assumed his usual proud facade again.
"You'll have to talk to my father. You'll have to tell him about what happened. He's
the chieftain of my whole tribe. He'll know what to do."
"But he's busy," said Nappa. "The Kalei and Parsni tribes, remember?"
"This is important. Nori, follow me. Talk to my father."
Nori turned to Sleek Fur. "They want me to go with them." "I don't think I want to
follow them. They seem so disagreeable to me," barked Sleek Fur.
"I won't be gone for too long. I promise that I'll come back to this spot tonight."
With that, Nori walked off into the grasses with the two Saiyan boys, filled with a
queasy excitement at finding Saiyans in the endless grasslands.
The Tubera were a semi-nomadic Saiyan tribe who had settled months before in the
warm Articho grasslands, where Tsufuru were scarce and game was plentiful.
Repeated Tsufuru attacks had driven them and neighboring tribes from the mineral-
rich Peah Hills, but conflict still reigned in everyday life as the Tubera and Kalei
tribes warred over territory and game rights.
7S
It was to the Tubera tribe that young Nappa and Vegeta-buru belonged, and it was
into the Tubera settlement by the Legume River that the boys led Nori in the sunlit
afternoon. Animal hide tents, some from dun-colored wild bulls and others from blue-
colored buffalo, dotted the settlement and were tended by sinewy, fur-clad Saiyan
men, women, and children. Rather than fur kilts, most of the Tubera women wore
animal-hide tunics, cinctured with grass pelts over slacks made from long-shaggy
white fur of an animal that Nori could not name. Other than an occasional grass
basket filled with drying meat or water jug sitting outside of the tents, the village was
spartan, lacking crops, domesticated animals, or almost any form of art. As Nori's
appearance received stares and whispers from the men and women, the little girl
wondered why there were more women than men about, a question soon answered
when Vegeta-buru and Nappa led her to the largest tent in the village.
"You have to be quiet," Vegeta-buru said to Nori in his usual arrogant tone. "My
father and the elite's are talking with the Kalei."
"We fight them all the time since we came from the hills," Nappa added.
The main tent, roughly twice as long as the other tents in the settlement, was marked
in brown ink with the glyph of the chieftain: three arrows rising from a semi-circle
marked with a point at its bottom. Even from several yards away, tense male voices
rose from inside the tent and often interrupted each other.
"Your attack five days ago was completely uncalled for!"
"Think of it as a reminder to stay in your territory."
"We never left our territory! Our treaty stated that the Tubera and Parsni tribes would
have free range over the upper banks of the river, while the Kalei would have--"
"You haven't kept to the treaty, mind you! Tubera hunters have been seen repeatedly
hunting the blue buffalo herds in Kalei lands!"
"The herds wandered into upper bank territory. WE did not come to them."
"I have eight witnesses who say the contrary."
"I don't care what they say. You attacked us unjustly and cost us several fine elite's,
not to mention second-class and--"
"We'll cost you more if you or your allies wander onto lower bank lands again. Our
game is not to be touched!"
After pulling back the flap of animal hide upon the tent's threshold, Vegeta-buru
peeked his head into the tent, where dozens of Saiyan men were sitting around a
buffalo hide map of the Legume River and the grasslands enveloping it. Some of the
men on the left side of the group, presumably Tubera, were clad in leather sandals and
bull-hide kilts like the two boys, while their allies from the Parsni tribe were barefoot
and wore antelope tunics reaching to their knees. Facing them on the other side of the
tent was another group of men, Kalei tribesmen clad in fiber sarongs and hemp-cord
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necklaces, which sat close together and glared at the other Saiyans. All of the brawny
men, from the young men barely into their teens to the elder warriors with gray
streaks in their wild dark hair, scowled and tightened their posture as they addressed
one another, but the group fell silent after Vegeta-buru opened the tent.
"Son, this is no place for children. I told you that you're not supposed to enter during
negotiations," whispered a tall, burly Tubera man with brown hair like Vegeta-buru's.
Adorned with a stone necklace marked with the chieftain's glyph and seated in front
of the map, the older man was apparently the Tubera chieftain, who sighed a tired
sigh as he waved for Vegeta-buru to leave the tent. When the boy protested, Nori
eased her way beside him and peered into the tent, studying the gathered company
with probing eyes.
At the sight of Nori - a dark-skinned girl adorned with Salusa stone
talismans, clad in a fur tunic stitched in the Salusa style, carrying a glowing sphere in
a fur mantle - every face slackened as the men stared. After a moment, whispers rose
from the elite congregation.
"What is she doing here by herself?"
"Isn't she far from Salusa lands?"
"What the hell is that glowing thing?"
"She's here for a reason. Something's not right."
Even the Tubera chieftain stared for a moment before he addressed Nori.
"You're far from home, little girl. The Kohlrabin Mountains are a good five days
journey from here. But the Salusa does not send children as pages. What are you
doing so far from home?"
"The Tsufuru destroyed all the Salusa. Everyone's dead. I've been looking for other
Saiyans."
At Nori's words, the men drew in breaths as more whispers burst from the negotiation
parties.
"How? Why? They were the best!"
"They can't be dead! They were fine warriors! They had spirits on their side!"
"Even the Salusa...no..."
"The Crimini and Enoki tribes were wiped out too," Nori added, agitating the men
even more.
"Little girl," the Tubera chieftain continued, "how did the Tsufuru do it?"
7S
"I saw a vision of a machine, a metal bird with bumps under its wings. I saw it when I
was away from the village one night. It was a Tsufuru machine. Plum Corporation
sent it. When I got back, everything was gone, like it got burned away. The other
villages looked like that too. I think the machine did it."
With a heavy, knowing look, the chieftain drew in a long breath.
"What's your name?"
"Nori."
"Nori...Everyone here knows the reputation of the Salusa. They were wise and noble
warriors, and to be attacked in such a cowardly manner...it disgusts me."
The chieftain began to look thoughtful. "The Tsufuru should have fought them face to
face...the Salusa, the Crimini, and the Enoki deserved no less than to die like Saiyans,
fighting, not in their beds...I just can't believe that even the Salusa fell..."
"Are the Tsufuru going to do this to other tribes?"
"They already have," said the Tubera chieftain. "Years ago, before you were born,
they tried to take the Peah Hills, and the Onio tribe went down fighting them. Most of
the Jalapen tribe was killed by fire from Tsufuru air machines when they took the hills
for good a few months ago."
"Listen, I hate to be rude, but we're in the middle of negotiations!" hissed the Kalei
chieftain. "Reminisce with the kid some other time. This is war."
The thought of the bruise in the ground where her village once stood, thoughts of the
velvet-clad tailless men in the Tsufuru machines haunted Nori as the chieftain spoke,
and feelings of pain and dread oozed into her heart again to fill the numb void.
"This is stupid," she mumbled.
Vegeta-buru tapped her roughly.
"You don't talk back to chieftains!" the boy whispered harshly.
"Well it is!" Nori's stomach began to ache. "The Tsufuru killed everyone I knew, and
they tried to kill all of you too, and they took away your home, but you don't even
care. I heard you outside. All you care about are buffalo. You don't care about your
dead friends or your old home, or--"
Nappa, who had been listening outside the mouth of the tent, yanked Nori back
outside.
"Those are elite's! They'll beat you black and blue if you make them mad!"
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Fortunately, the elite's stayed in their tent, and after the chieftain said a few quick
words to Vegeta-buru, the boy pulled himself out of the tent and led Nori back into
the settlement.
"You don't have a home now, do you?" he asked her.
"No."
"My father says you can stay here," he said, adding with a proud glance, "but he
wouldn't do this for everyone, you know."
As Nappa returned to the tall grasses outside the settlement to act as sentinel again,
Vegeta-buru led Nori past several tents with his chin raised proudly. To Nori's
frustration, she found that the boy always tried to stay a pace ahead of her, and when
Nori quickened her pace until she was striding beside him, he curled his lip and took a
double-step to stay in front of her. This silent competition continued as Nori remained
abreast of the chieftain's son, much to his disdain, until the two arrived at a blue-hide
tent with several grass baskets sitting by the threshold.
"This is where my mother's sisters live," he told her as he looked down his nose, "and
you'll be living with them."
Parting the leathery flaps to the tent, Vegeta-buru and Nori slid inside the tent, where
two furry sleeping mats, stone tools, a pile of animal hides, and several baskets of
dried meat and marrow were all that sat on the earth floor. Seated in the tent, facing
each other as they stitched animal skins into new tunics, were two auburn-haired
women in their early thirties, identical twins wearing the fur pantaloons and tunics
customary for Tubera women. Although both had fine, slender faces, high
cheekbones, and plentiful hair reaching out in all directions, the first woman's lips
were firm and serious, while the other woman's lips curled into a perpetual smile.
"You were the one!?"
"Yes! Me! I got so sick and tired of hearing them brag about how great they were!"
"They weren't so great without their kilts, were they?"
"HA! I've seen bigger worms on the ground after a rain!"
The two women burst into laughter, a loud, bawdy laughter that filled the tent as Nori
and Vegeta-buru looked on. When the two women noticed the two children in the
tent, however, they jolted, sprang up from the floor, and sauntered over to Vegeta-
buru, waving their arms.
"What's the matter with you? Don't just eavesdrop whenever you want! Let us know
when you're in here!"
"Hey, Vegeta-buru, I'll give you a piece of blue buffalo marrow if you keep your
mouth shut about the, um, bathing incident yesterday."
77
"I knew it was you! You took all the men's kilts when we were in the Legume!"
Vegeta-buru replied. "But I'll be quiet."
The boy reached up and took the marrow as the two Saiyan women turned their
attention to Nori.
"Wait. You're Salusa, aren't you? No one makes talismans like that but the Salusa. Far
from your village, aren't you?"
"I don't like this. Did something happen to the Salusa?"
"Scallia!"
"Well why else would she be here? She's just a kid!"
With a low voice, Nori recounted what had happened to the Salusa sanctuary as the
two women listened intently, and when she had finished, the two turned to each other
and shook their heads.
"That's something, you know...They even got them."
"Well that's because the Tsufuru knew that if you have angry Salusa on your hands,
gods help you because the spirits won't!"
Leek, the cheerful-looking woman, laughed a light-hearted chuckle, revealing a
mouthful of white teeth as she playfully punched Nori's bicep. When she noticed that
the little girl remained grim, she cleared her throat and spoke in a heavier tone.
"Hey, I'm sorry. I was just making fun of the Tsufuru. Listen, I know you're hurting,
and I want you to know we hate the Tsufuru too. Hey, Scallia and I fought them too.
We lost our husband and our big sister when the air machines dropped fire on us. We
know what you're going through. I don't know why you came here, though, given that
we're in the middle of a dispute with the Kalei."
"She doesn't have a home," said Vegeta-buru. "Dad said that she could stay with you."
"And why doesn't that surprise me?" Scallia muttered as she rolled her eyes. "Did he
even think to ask us? No. No one asks the women anything."
"I don't mind taking her in," Leek said with a smile. "Come on. You know you like
her."
"No, no, it's not that. She's a sweet kid and all, and sure she can stay."
"You're upset because Sorrell didn't ask us."
"Yes."
"You're always mad at my father," Vegeta-buru interrupted.
78
"Tell him I'll stop being mad at him when he finally lets the women come to council!
Maybe we have something intelligent to say about all this fighting between the Kalei
and Tubera and our allies!"
"It's tradition! Elite men talk about the important things!"
"Oh, so women are good enough to hunt and fight, but not make decisions?"
"We should steal his kilt one of these days," Leek laughed.
"Oh please! Like I want to look at his..."
Remembering the children, Scallia stopped in mid-sentence, cleared her throat, and
faced Nori again.
"...um...never mind. Nori, you can live in our tent if you'd like. Would you like that?"
"Yes."
"All right then. Let's go to work making a bed mat for you, and we'll have some
dinner in a few hours. Vegeta-buru, go back and stand in the grasses with Nappa."
Grumbling, Vegeta-buru parted the threshold of the tent, and after a final glance at
Nori over his shoulder, stepped outside.
"He's annoying sometimes, but he's our nephew," Scallia said as she lifted a blue
buffalo hide from the pile of animal skins in the back of the tent. "You, on the other
hand, seem a lot more likable, Nori."
"What's that you've got in that fur?" Leek asked as she inserted a finger into the fur
mantle holding the Gateway Sphere.
"Don't touch it, please." Nori held the sphere close to her. "My spirit guide told me it's
important."
"Spirit guide? Salusa really do talk to spirits?"
"Of course. Don't you?"
"Umm...no. Well, if you don't want me to touch the ball there, I won't, so you can
keep it wherever you want."
"Wait, wait," Scallia piped up. "I've never heard anyone talk about a spirit guide. This
sounds interesting. You can really do that, talk to spirits?"
And so Nori spent the afternoon in Leek and Scallia's tent, sharing her words with the
two Tubera women as they worked with the buffalo fur and ate meat and marrow.
Despite Leek's cheerful demeanor and earthy sense of humor, Scallia's narrowed eyes
and lowered voice still revealed tension over the dispute with the Kalei, a tension that
Nori sensed throughout the afternoon. Having escaped the Tsufuru, the girl came
79
upon other Saiyans who posed as great a danger as before, an irony that made the
girl's stomach tighten with tension.
As the orange and red evening sky gave way to the blue-black colors of dusk, Nori
knelt by a blue-leafed tree, the only tree in sight for miles on the nearby plains,
digging a hole in the soil with her bare hands. Hard, dusty soil flew about and formed
a small dust cloud around Nori, whose fingernails were now dark with trapped dirt,
until she clawed away a depression in the earth large enough to hold the Gateway
Sphere. After gently rolling the glowing blue sphere into the earth, Nori pushed dirt
back over the hole to cover it - come Tsufuru or Kalei, the sphere would be safe.
Walking past the Tubera tents, Nori stopped at the river's edge a few yards from the
tall grasses where she had fought Vegeta-buru and Nappa, and stooping down to the
water, she dipped her dirt-caked hands ad arms in and let the moving water whisk the
soul off of her skin. The sound of rustling grasses and the sensation of approaching
chi made Nori lift her head and gaze over her shoulder, only to see Sleek Fur trotting
toward her from the plains.
"You're back," the wolf yelped as she stood next to Nori and opened her mouth as a
canine gesture of good tidings. Nori scratched the wolf's back and yelped her hello's
as well as Sleek Fur lied down along the riverbanks.
"The other Saiyans are letting me live with them," the girl replied in wolf-speech.
"But I don't think things are going to be much more peaceful here for me."
"As long as there are no metal beasts, how bad can it be?"
Nori noticed a few drops of blood near the wolf's mouth. "I see you found food."
"Oh, just a jackrabbit...But I found something else, something very strange after I
went hunting."
Nori sat on a grassy patch of the Legume's banks and listened to Sleek Fur with
eyebrows raised. "After I had eaten the jackrabbit," Sleek Fur continued, "I found a
crater a long way over in that direction. Are you familiar with it?"
"No. I don't think the other Saiyans are either. They've only been here a few months.
They're still probably finding out things about the grasslands."
"I sniffed the air nearby, but I smelled almost no animals there, which is odd because
so many animals roam these lands. The vegetation was unlike anything I've seen on
the plains - grasses that usually grow tall clung to the ground there, and trees that
usually stand straight bent toward the ground, as if something were pulling them to
the earth. I walked into the crater to sniff at all of these strange plants, but the moment
my paws touched the crater, I felt as if a massive tree trunk had fallen across my
back."
Nori listened as Sleek Fur tilted her head, perplexed, at what she felt next.
8u
"My body felt heavy, so heavy that my legs gave way under my weight, and for a
long time I could do nothing but lie in the crater. It was if buffalo jaws had clamped
onto me and were pulling e downward with all their strength, but I could see no jaws
pulling me, even though this heaviness was very real and wearying. For the longest
time I struggled to rise to my fear, but it took all of my will merely to drag myself out
of the crater. Of course, once I left the crater, the heaviness left my body, leaving me
able to stand and run again, and run I did! Never again will I set foot in that terrible
place!"
"Sleek Fur, will you take me there tomorrow?"
"What!? You want to go to that horrible crater? Why? So you can be pulled to the
ground and lie there until sunset?"
"Please. I want to see what it is. Maybe if I talk to the spirits there, they can tell me
something. It sounds neat."
The sound of rusting grasses and footsteps met Nori's ears, but the approaching chi
was familiar as that of Vegeta-buru's, who emerged from the tall grasses and eyes
Sleek Fur with a stare. The wolf, rising to her feet, growled at him as she bared her
teeth, gold eyes flashing.
"Why don't you like him?" Nori snort-barked in wolf-speech.
"I don't trust him. He's not like you. His posture and eyes just make me feel very
uncomfortable, so I'd rather not deal with him. I'll meet you tomorrow."
With a bolt to the left, Sleek Fur bounded into the grasses and ran into the grasslands,
leaving Nori and Vegeta-buru by the riverbanks. The waning gibbous moon was
gliding over the horizon as stars began to glitter overhead, and the silvery light
reflected in strange patterns off of the boy's erect brown hair.
"Can you really talk to wolves?" he asked as he sat down a few feet from Nori.
"I've always been able to. Momma told me that when I was a baby, I barked and
growled like wolf before I could speak like a Saiyan. We had wild dogs in the
mountains, and I understood them when I was little."
"Is that why you have wolf eyes?"
"What?"
"Your eyes are gold. You have wolf eyes."
"You told your friend that I was a freak because I have gold eyes and I can talk to
wolves! Now you're acting different."
Vegeta-buru's posture stiffened as he put up his proud facade again.
"Well...it was weird...for a Saiyan...but I'm getting used to it."
81
"You know, you don't have to act all stuck-up around me. I like you better when
you're yourself, like you were a minute ago."
Taken aback, the boy fidgeted but eventually relaxed his face and posture.
"You always act like you don't like me," she said. "You were nasty when you came
with your uncles in the summer. You always brag. You act like you're better than I
am. I don't like that."
"Oh, I was just showing off. I mean, you looked strong when I met you. You fought
pretty well today. And you survived the Tsufuru too. All those times I wanted to show
you that I was strong too."
"You don't need to prove anything. I'm not your enemy."
"Listen...I came here to tell you something...I thought it was horrible that the Tsufuru
killed all your people."
"When you and your friend found me, you acted like you didn't care."
"But I did think it was horrible. I just didn't say it because...well, it wasn't a time to be
all emotional."
Nori rolled her eyes, but Vegeta-buru continued.
"Really! I hate the Tsufuru. And you're not the only one who had people die on you.
My mother was burned up when the air machines dropped fire on us. That was a
while ago, when we were living up in the hills. And my father's two brothers died too.
They were all elite's. I thought that the Tubera elite's could fight anything. I thought
they were the best. But so many died..."
The boy let out a heavy sigh. "I know you hate the Tsufuru too. I know you want to
make them pay for killing all the Salusa. When everyone ran from the hills into the
grasslands, I acted proud like I didn't care. But when I was alone in my dad's tent, I
cried and cried. I know you can't think of me crying, but I did. I dreamed that I would
kill all the Tsufuru for killing my mother and my uncles. Then, the land would be just
for Saiyans, and the Tsufuru would never bother us again. My father said that was
impossible...but I still dream about it sometimes. I hate them so much!"
Nori's heart softened toward the boy. "When did they do that?"
"A few days after the full moon. They sent their machines into the hills a long time
before that, but we always fought them off. The Tsufuru are afraid of us when we're
Oozarus, so they didn't attack. We could have gone to where the Tsufuru lived and
fought them when we were Oozarus. But my father told us to stay in the mountains.
He said that if we fought them when we were Oozarus, they would get angry and
attack us even harder after the full moon. But they attacked us anyway!"
"When my village got burned away, everyone was asleep. No one knew it was
coming. Did the Tsufuru attack you at night?"
82
Vegeta-buru shook his head. "Evening. That's why so many of us got away. We saw
the air machine coming."
"Couldn't all of you just fly up and hit it with chi?"
"It moved too fast. I saw it. It moved faster than anything I've ever seen. You could
never keep up with it if you flew. Some people flew chi-blasts at it. Some of them hit,
but they weren't strong enough to blow it up. It was much tougher than the land
machines."
Vegeta-buru moved around where he was sitting so that he was now propped up on
his hands with his legs crossed before him.
"My father says they just wanted the hills so they could mine there, and they don't
care about the grasslands. That's why they've left us alone since we left. But they took
our home! I hate them for it!"
"They took my home too...The mountains were always beautiful. There were trees
with these bright red leaves. The river ran through it. There was a grassy spot where
yobho flowers grew in the summer. There was a beautiful cave that had crystals all
through it. But the Tsufuru are going to tear that all up."
Dull aching pierced Nori's heart as her throat tightened and her eyes burned. "But I
miss everyone most of all..."
Nori turned quickly to face Vegeta-buru and stared into his dark eyes.
"But my tribe loved Saiyans. My tribe only fought when the Tsufuru came. Your tribe
almost got killed, but you're still fighting! The Tsufuru just tried to kill all of you, but
you're fighting each other now! Saiyans aren't the enemy! Tsufuru are! Why don't
your elite's know that!?"
"That's the other thing I wanted to tell you. Dad told me when he came back to our
tent. The Kalei tribe isn't fighting us and the Parsni now."
Nori's eyebrows arched. "How come. They all sounded angry when I heard them."
"I think you spooked them! When you got mad and said all those things, I think you
made some of the elite's think. Maybe it was just that the Salusa and the other tribes
got destroyed. I don't know. But I do know that they don't want to fight right now.
Now, there's talk about getting the hills back."
"How? They couldn't even keep the hills! The Tsufuru machines are too strong! They
can spill fire onto you from the air, and shoot noise at you that tears you apart, and
lots of things."
"I don't know. Dad says they were just talking. I want to live in the hills again,
though. We'd have to be really strong warriors to fight there."
8S
At length, the boy stood up off of the ground, brushed the dust and grasses off of the
seat of his bull-hide kilt, and started walking toward the settlement.
"I'm going home now."
"I want to stay here a little longer."
As Nori sat by the riverbanks and watched the water with heavy gold eyes, Vegeta-
buru looked over his shoulder, stared at her for a moment, and returned to the Tubera
settlement.























84
Chapter Eight
The Gravity Crater

The last wave of Mulligatawny's rebel air craft, built to dodge radar detection and
filled with freed prisoners from King Kheer's dungeons, flew into the mile-wide
cleave in the yellow desert earth where the subterranean Balti-Keema stronghold lied.
Inside the air craft landing bay, the lupine-form Dal waited as the silvery, pill-like
aircraft slid into the landing bay, opened their shuttle doors, and spilled out lupine-
form rebels (fresh from fighting), Ghee, Chutnian citizens, and dozens of prisoners
from other planets. Surrounded by the steel walls, the shouts of ground crew, and the
smell of fuel, Dal stood and wrung her clawed hands as the bay soon filled up with
men, women, and children. The first waves of rebel aircraft brought with them old
friend from the Ghee priesthood, and it relieved Dal greatly to know that companions
such as the Oracle were safe from the dungeons. Among this last wave of prisoners
too were familiar faces, humanoid Ghee faces, whom Dal greeted with tight embraces
and kind words as they walked off of the ships. Healing bruises and weary eyes
adorned those faces; marks of interrogation that Dal knew too well from the faces of
other rescued Ghee friends. Free from the interrogators' tyranny, most of the Ghee
resumed their usual lupine forms as they transformed into wolves-on-two-feet, but
one Ghee, however, was missing from the crowds as Dal watched the Ghee transform.
When a jackal-like woman in lupine form from fighting and clad in a white sari
stepped off of one of the ships, Dal immediately ran over to her and looked at her
with probing gold eyes.
"Where's Chapati?"
Mulligatawny sighed. "We couldn't get to him. Kheer and his royal guards fled with
him and the Gateway Sphere before we could get to either one of them. Some of the
other Ghee said that he promised to reveal the mantra in exchange for some favors."
At these words, Dal shuddered as cold chills went up her spine - Chapati was always
trustworthy, so he wouldn't reveal the mantra to the Gateway Sphere to someone like
Kheer and Darjiling, would he? No, this had to be a ruse, since Chapati was always so
clever and probably had a trick or two up his sleeve.
"Don't lose hope yet. We'll find him and the sphere, somehow," Mulligatawny
reassured her.
With a heavy heart, Dal folded her arms and stared at the floor.
Chapati, what are you doing?
Meanwhile, Mulligatawny walked about and studied the masses of people rescued
from this run on Kheer's main palace: Chutnians, humanoid beings from Chowmein-
sei, seven-foot-tall scaly ant-like beings from Mushu-sei; short, silver-skinned beings
8S
with black, almond-shaped eyes from Lomein-sei; and others waited in the holding
bay, all needing a place to go. All would stay at Balti-Keema for now, but most would
choose to return to their families on their home planets under the watchful eye of
rebel movements there, while others would no doubt flee the empire as refugees and
seek safety on neutral planets. What they needed now, after their harrowing time in
the dungeons, were food, warm beds, the promise of some safety in the rebel
stronghold, and a prayer that the stronghold wouldn't come under attack again from
royal forces. As her assistants guided the freed prisoners to their quarters in the
subterranean complex, a hand tapped Mulligatawny on the shoulder from behind.
Turning around, Mulligatawny faced her assistant Biryani, a twenty-ish woman from
her home continent with waist-length black hair and a curvy outline. In humanoid
form she was, holding a hand-held computer screen in dark-colored hands.
"Oh...Biryani. I was wondering where you'd gotten. We were too late...We could have
saved 4,000 more if we had gotten there a few days earlier. Two more blood sacrifices
went on. How many did we salvage?"
Most rebel attacks were orchestrated with the intention of distracting or injuring royal
soldiers while prisoners were freed, equipment stolen, or technology destroyed.
"662 freed prisoners in all. We did a head count. There were a few injuries during the
attack, but fortunately no casualties this time. But," Biryani continued, "we've got a
few orphans this time, seven to be exact. Four Lomeinians, two Mushese, and one
Chutnian. All were taken with their parents during the purges, but their parents were
used first in the blood sacrifices."
"We'll get in touch with the rebel movements on Lomein-sei and Mushu-sei. They'll
find a place for the first six on their home planets. Meanwhile, let's do whatever we
can for them here. And the seventh?"
"She's a little Chutnian girl from the northern lands...Cutest thing you've ever seen,
white hair and big yellow eyes...She says her name's Jasmati. The thing is, both of her
parents died in the blood sacrifice, but she had no relatives to go back to."
Biryani motioned to a mixed group of children being led away from the landing bay
by a rebel, where the ten year-old humanoid Jasmati stood out in her bright blue sari
and baggy pants, moving her white tail to and fro.
"It's not a problem," Mulligatawny assured her. "We can find a rebel family here in
the stronghold to take her in."
Even children, she always found herself thinking when youngsters were counted
among those rescued from immanent blood sacrifice. Now, Mulligatawny thoughts
grew angry at the thought of her brother and sister-in-law, just missed in the attack on
the main palace. No matter how many structures she destroyed, no matter how many
prisoners she rescued, there would always be more as long as those two sat upon the
Chutnain throne, and in every attack, they always found a way of fleeing.
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This never made sense, Mulligatawny mused. I know he's getting chi from the blood
sacrifices. He's bound to be obscenely strong by now. Why doesn't he fight me? He's
fully capable of doing so. Is it because it's below him? Is it because he doesn't want to
fight his sister? Is he waiting until he exceeds me in power?
A thought suddenly swam in her head. " Wait...When we were children, when Mother
and Father beat us, he always swore that he's become a Superferal so no one could
ever hurt him again. He can't be waiting to go Superferal and show me, can he? But
even for him, even with the blood sacrifices that would take years! The last Superferal
was centuries ago!"
To build up chi, Mulligatawny trained with heavy weights on her body and ate large
quantities of chi-building herbs, Sarama forbid the day when she would have to take
on a powerful Kheer or Darjiling. Her chi was strong now, but when it came to
keeping up with Kheer's growing chi, a fear churned in Mulligatawny that she was
falling behind.
Hideous dreams swirled in the mind of the Oracle as she slept, images of long-toothed
albino demons soaked in brown blood, of explosions and screaming soldiers, or
strange races falling under the blows of green-clad Chutnian soldiers. Blinding white
and green slight swirled in the haze of images like water and oil thrown together, and
amidst it all, high-pitched howls and curses rang in her ears as she stood amidst the
madness. As her lupine form rippled and her gray hair whipped around in the
maelstrom, the Oracle stood tall, for a familiar violet light appeared in the distance
and assured her that no harm would come to her.
Before her, reality itself cleaved, and from the dark slit in the air came a ruddy wolf
with fiery eyes, a wolf who snarled and threw herself, howling, at the white demons
and soldiers who ran amok in the nightmare. When all the demons and soldiers had
run off, the wold transformed into a ruddy wolf-on-two-legs, raised a clawed hand,
and made the mad swirling winds ease into regular, rhythmic gusts of warm and cool
breezes. As a red sari appeared out of nowhere and clothed the figure as she
transformed into a dark-haired humanoid woman, the Oracle sighed with relief when
the woman howled, silencing the deafening sounds of screams and explosions. Now,
amidst peaceful images of alien races and cool violet light, the Oracle and the woman
stood face to face, gazing into each other's golden eyes. At length, the red-clad
woman's sun-like eyes lit up, and she spoke to the Oracle by name.
"Lassi, be at peace. The storm will not last forever."
"Sarama, Sarama, it never seems to end. When will the reign of terror end?"
"In time, I promise you,
the princess you beheld
eight years ago will return
to her people and throw
Kheer and Darjiling off of
their thrones undeserving,
bringing peace and gentleness.
Patience. The day will come."
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At that moment, Lassi the Oracle jolted and found herself in bed, safe in one of the
refugee shelters at Mulligatawny's rebel stronghold, Balti-Keema. Lying back and
letting out a long breath, the Oracle stared at the ceiling for a long time with searching
eyes.
"But when?"
The royal summer palace was a smaller-scale version of the main palace, but was still
an intimidating sight as it cast its shadow over the city of Tarkadal, covering the city's
marble and stone buildings with darkness as the sun's rising rays fell upon its back. It
was in this jade palace that King Kheer and Queen Darjiling had fled with their
guards during Mulligatawny's attack on the main palace, so as to make sure that
Chapati and the Gateway Sphere would remain in their custody. Surrounded by three
guards, Chapati sat on a green cushion to the right of the thrones in the jade royal
chamber, looking over at the Gateway Sphere's impenetrable chest to their left,
watched over by its own set of royal soldiers.
This is not what I had in mind, the old coyote-man thought to himself. I would stall
King Kheer, and then Mulligatawny was supposed to come and save us. But I didn't
get saved! Now what do I do?
Sitting on his embroidered green cushion in the royal chamber, Chapati eyed the room
and the soldiers surrounding him, twitched his tail, and scratched his coyote muzzle.
They guard me even when I sleep. Guards are everywhere. I couldn't get the Gateway
Sphere by myself, much less sneak out. Bah! There must be a way out!
"Please get comfortable," King Kheer said as he sat in humanoid form on his wide
jade-tree-throne next to Chapati. "If we can't open the wormhole for another three
years, I insist that you stay until then. Do keep that mantra in mind." With Queen
Darjiling napping in her chamber, the Chutnian king could speak freely.
He really believes that lie! I can't tell him that I lied! He'd kill me!
Forcing a nervous white-toothed smile, Chapati twitched his coyote tail even more.
"Yes, yes your Highness. Three years from now, yes? I can open the wormhole,
heh...You want to add more planets to the empire, no?"
"Planets bring power, not only through their wealth but through their people.
Conquered races are full of life, full of chi, that is, that could be very useful to my
queen and myself."
Useful to you! Their blood-chi is useful to you! I see your eyes when she's around.
You hate her more than your people do!
"To work? Act as soldiers?" asked Chapati, playing dumb.
"Their chi makes me strong," King Kheer barked. "But you probably wouldn't
understand my means, given your loyalty to the goddess religion."
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King Kheer had motives for gathering chi from blood sacrifices that Chapati wanted
to probe, so playing the fool, Chapati's ears twitched as he asked more questions.
"I know you take blood, yes? From those you conquer? No, we do not take blood
from intelligent beings when we worship Sarama. I don't know about any of that."
"It's the chi that is trapped in blood that is valuable; it's the chi that I wish to take.
There are planets beyond that wormhole, and many are bound to have weak races.
Why should their chi be wasted when it can better benefit the strong?"
"So you take their blood. You take the chi from it to get strong, yes?"
"Yes. All that chi can help me achieve great things. You understand, I take it."
I understand, yes. I understand that you are half-mad with your lust for power!
"Oh yes, yes your Highness. That is why you value the Gateway Sphere, I see."
"I value the Gateway Sphere highly, and I value your knowledge that will help me
open the wormhole. That's why neither you nor the sphere will leave my sight. Until
the time is right, both you and the sphere will follow me everywhere. No, you're too
valuable to let the rebels get to you, I'll make sure of that."
No, no, this is not good! King Kheer will not stop! He wants more planets for more
blood! How much chi can he take from dead blood? Bah! This can get no worse. As
long as he takes fresh chi, he will live and not grow old. He will become so powerful
that no one can stop him.
Fidgeting on his cushion, Chapati came to a frightful realization. I know of legends of
Superferals, Sarama forbid if he becomes one! Or Queen Darjiling! I feel his chi. He
is not strong enough for that. But more blood chi will make him a Superferal at this
rate. No, this is not good. I do not want a king or queen with gold fur and green eyes.
Sarama, give me hope. You promised that my little Nori could stop them. If I cannot
open the wormhole away from Kheer, though, I cannot reach her.
After hunting and carving up an antelope with Leek and Scallia, eating, and helping
the twins upkeep their tent, Nori wandered out into the grasses the next day, a bright
and breezy day, to meet up with Sleek Fur and find the crater. Nori's "strange" habits -
praying over animals she had killed for food, touching stones and water for minutes
on end (so that she would speak with their spirits, she said), keeping company with a
wolf, and wandering across the grasslands - made Scallia a bit uneasy.
"You just feel that way because you don't understand Salusa Saiyans," Leek chuckled
at her sister inside their tent. "You don't think it's strange when I go out wandering in
strange places."
"When YOU wander, it's usually to steal something from someone. I know at least
what you're up to. I never know what she's up to with her wolf . . . Speaking of you
wandering around, where did you get that sack?"
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"I stole it from Sorrell. It's Susejho grass."
"He'll be furious with you."
"He doesn't know."
"He'll argue that only elite men can breathe in Susejho grass for their rituals,
chauvinist pig."
"I say we have a little ritual of our own," Leek said as she placed some of the grass in
a basket, lit it with flint, and breathed in some of the smoke. "Take a whiff."
Meanwhile, Nori met up with Sleek Fur about a mile from the settlement, who trotted
with her for several miles through the grasses to the crater so vividly described in
their conversation the night before.
When they arrived, Nori saw before her a steep depression in the grasslands, a long
dimple in the plains where usually tall blue grasses hugged the ground and the
occasional tree grew with its trunk bent toward the earth. No animals roamed the
crater, so deeply its power frightened them, and near this crater did Nori stare into the
distance.
"This is the crater," Sleek Fur barked, "although I can't understand why you would
want to come to such a horrible place."
"I just want to learn, that's all," Nori explained as she knelt down, placed her hands on
the soil and grass near the crater, and looked into her inner eye. When she felt the
spirit energy coursing through the ground, the earth spirits greeted her pleasantly,
showing her inner eye scenes of the sun rising and setting over the crater, of
generations of plant life growing in and toward the basin, of wind brushing over the
blue-tinted grasses there. One final image, however, peaked Nori's interest: the
sensation of pulling, of heavy weight within the crater, ending with the sensation of
rising chi-energy. When Nori stood back up, eyeing the crater, Sleek Fur only tipped
her head to one side and whined.
"You can't be serious. . . Nori, don't do it . . . Trust me . . ."
"If the spirits are right, it'll be a good thing. I'll be okay. Don't worry."
With the promise of greater chi from the spirits' images, Nori ran across the low-lying
grasses toward the crater, with Sleek Fur barking furiously as she looked on. Closer to
the basin did Nori come as she ran, with the boundary between tall grasses and earth-
hugging grasses in sight. With a few bounds, Nori shot into the crater to begin her chi
experiment - and immediately fell face-first into the grass.
"I told you!" Sleek Fur grunted and barked from afar. "Why did you do it!? Now try
and get out! Oh no . . . "
The weight of a mountain, it seemed, fell on every inch of Nori's body as she lied in
the crater, stunned but unable to move so much as a finger. An invisible pull drew her
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body down to the earth and made every vein, every bone feel as if it would shatter
under the pressure, and as Nori used Salusa mind techniques to deaden the pain, she
realized just how much stronger gravity must have been in the crater. Straining,
feeling as if she were pulling against the strength of ten Saiyans, Nori managed to
draw her knees up under her torso, sweating and bearing her teeth every heavy inch of
the way. Sweat dripped off of her chin and clung to her fur tunic, and digging her
numbing fingers deep into the soil, she pushed her arms and torso up off of the ground
after several minutes of grunting.
"That's right! Push up!" Sleek Fur barked.
The weight of the extra gravity fought to pull Nori back to the ground, and though her
spine felt as if it would snap in two under the pull, Nori grunted and jerked, little by
little, away from the crater's ground. With a scream and a burst of willpower in her
heart, Nori triumphed over the gravity in the crater and stood up on two feet, panting
and drenched with sweat. Gravity still pulled on every inch of the little girl's body,
and step by heavy step; she trudged away from the spot where she had fallen, toward
the rim of the crater. Heart pounding, skin whitening as blood left it, and limbs going
numb, Nori plodded for several more minutes toward Sleek Fur and the tall grasses,
and after setting foot outside the crater again, Nori's body felt light and airy in the
normal gravity. Exhausted, she sat down amidst the tall blue grasses, heaving weary
breaths as Sleek Fur sniffed her and licked her face.
"Now you see why I warned you. Why is it that you had to find out for yourself, that
my words weren't good enough? Look at you. Was it worth it?"
"When you first told me, I just wanted to know what the crater was. The earth spirits
said that chi rises here. I wanted to see if that was true."
At length, as Nori caught her breath and felt her limbs tingle with re-circulating
blood, she looked within herself and indeed felt energy pulsing through her veins the
sensation of new chi generating within her. Stretching her arms and legs and
breathing in a deep breath, Nori felt the new chi in every cell of her being, and as
exhaustion gave way to new energy, she arched her throat and laughed toward the
sky.
"HAHA! It's true! Sleek Fur, I feel it! My chi is stronger!" For some time after that,
Nori ran and played with Sleek Fur across the surrounding grasslands, not only
because of the energy brimming within her, but also because of the joy flooding her
heart.
When the wolf and the little girl were resting after a romp, Nori sprang back to her
feet and ran toward the crater for another fight with its tremendous gravity.
"Not again. Nori, once was enough!"
Nori darted across the crater and fought the pull of gravity again, this time with
greater ease as she slowly and laboriously walked around inside the basin, returning
to Sleek Fur's side a few minutes later.
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"I didn't mean to worry you. I wanted to try it again. My chi gets stronger every time I
walk around in there."
"What's chi? You keep saying it."
"Well, it's the energy inside your body. It's what makes your heart beat and your
blood move. It's what makes you alive. The more you have, the stronger you are."
The girl laid back in the blue grasses. "And I was thinking, if my chi gets a little
stronger every time I go in there, if I go in there a lot, my chi will get really strong. If
I get strong enough, then..."
The little girl's eyes flew open as she roughly sat up, beaming. "I just got a great idea.
Do you want the Tsufuru to go away from the hills so you can live there again?"
"Yes, but that won't happen."
"Maybe it will. I just thought of something. I have to go back to the Tubera."
Hopping back on her feet, Nori hovered in the air and took off flying toward the
Tubera settlement, much to the dismay of Sleek Fur who did not realize that her
friend could fly.
Back at the village of tents, Nori wove in between the tents, in between the small tents
that second and third-rank tribesmen and women were allowed to build a certain size,
as well as the larger tents of the elite warriors. Past two burly, bellowing men about to
fight over a botched hunt did Nori run, past two five year-old boys sparring in the dust
over a bone-toy, past an elite warrior woman scolding a lower-status woman over
insubordination. It seemed that the Tubera, unlike the Salusa, were always fighting
among themselves over the most petty disagreements, and the tension between the
proud, powerful elite's and the lower-ranked Saiyans added to the belligerence in the
air. (Leek and Scallia were second rank Tubera tribeswomen, Nori later found out,
and the arrogant treatment they endured from the elite's, especially the elite men who
controlled tribe politics would make the girl angry.)
Arriving at the chieftain's tent, the girl came upon Vegeta-buru and Nappa, who had
been sparring and daring each other until they noticed her approach. When the boys
noticed the light in her eyes, they paused for a moment, wondering why such a good
mood had come over her.
"You two want to be strong, right?"
"But we are strong," Nappa insisted. "We're elite's."
"She means stronger," Vegeta-buru quipped. "Nappa here isn't the brightest star in the
sky sometimes," he whispered to Nori.
"Right. Stronger. Do you want to be strong enough to...oh...take back the hills
someday?"
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"Don't make fun of us!" Vegeta-buru shouted with narrow eyes.
"I'm not. I found something that made my chi stronger. Follow me and I'll show you."
It all happened so quickly in the next few days. First came Nori's visit with the two
boys back to the Gravity Crater, where at first they fell on their faces and struggled
against the gravity as she had, but eventually learned to stand and even walk in the
monumental gravity of the basin. When the boys caught their breath outside the basin,
Nori encouraged them to move around and throw chi-blasts, and when they obeyed,
found that they were faster, stronger, and capable of larger blasts. So impressed was
Vegeta-buru that he immediately ran home and told his father, who brought other elite
men with him to investigate the crater and the claims that moving in the high gravity
increased chi. When Sorrell and his elite's found this to be true after their turn, Nori
posed a compelling idea to him: bring all of the Tubera to the Gravity Crater to train,
so that they would all grow stronger, and invite the members of the Parnsi and even
the Kalei tribes to train so that all three groups would be unstoppable. When all three
tribes were strengthened, talks could seriously begin about taking back the hills, given
that the raised chi levels of all the Saiyan tribespeople in the area would make them
opponents to be reckoned with against the Tsufuru machines.
Sorrell, having his reservations about following the advice of a child who was a
female and a foreigner at that, hesitated at first to bring even his own tribemates to the
Gravity Crater. Hatred of the Tsufuru and the tempting hope of returning to the hills
proved too great, however, and in a matter of days all of the Tubera were training in
the crater. Talks had been resumed with the Parsni and Kalei chieftains and elite's,
and in a week's time all three tribes were using the basin as a commonwealth training
area, where men and women from all three ranks sparred and grappled with each
other to stimulate their rising chi. In the coming months, Saiyans from all three tribes
grew more and more powerful, with chi filling their veins with new stamina. For the
first time since the three tribes had fled to the Articho grasslands, a spirit of
communication hovered over the three tribes, now united not by the mere hope of
regaining their hilly home from the Tsufuru, but the approaching promise of doing so.
The gravity Crater, an anomaly of nature where Plant-sei's gravity was several times
stronger than elsewhere, was the key.
One red-skied evening when Saiyans from all three tribes had returned to their homes
or gone out to hunt, Nori lingered in he crater and trained under the setting orange
sun, practicing her fighting forms and perfecting her moves in the gravity of the basin.
From the tall blue grasses outside the crater came the sound of rustling vegetation,
and as she turned, she saw Vegeta-buru standing on the rim of the basin. Golden
sunlight brought out the ruddy highlights in his brown hair, ruddy highlights Nori had
never noticed before, and as the two looked at each other, the boy finally spoke.
"Are you going to stay here for a while?"
"Mmm-hhhmm. I was going to practice my forms."
"Do you want to spar together?"
"Okay."
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After stepping into the basin, Vegeta-buru and Nori stood toe-to-toe then threw
themselves into kicking, punching, chi-blasting, and blocking, laughing and daring
each other as the sparring heated up.
"I've got good news!" Vegeta-buru shouted as he tried to take away Nori's footing
with a sweeping kick.
"Something good from your father, right?" Nori replied, jumping over the kicking leg,
throwing herself into Vegeta-buru and knocking him over.
"Right--OOF!--" The chieftain's son fell to the grass but rolled out of the way before
Nori could hurl a chi-blast at his chest. "You know how Dad and the elite's keep
talking about getting the hills back?"
"Yeah?"
"Dad said that everyone's strong enough now. We attack in four days," he said as he
threw a burning chi-blast of his own out of his right hand and toward the now-
hovering Nori.
"What?" Nori caught the chi-blast, threw it to the earth, and stopped in mid-air.
"We're picking a fight with the Tsufuru already? That's great!"
"I really want to fight them. I hate them for all the things they did. We'll make them
sorry now," the little boy remarked as he picked himself off of the ground, smiling.
The smile, however, weakened as the corners of his mouth relaxed. "Don't tell Nappa
or anyone else...but I'm a little scared...I mean, their machines did so much the last
time we were in the hills."
"But we're stronger now. We can get the hills back. You watch." Despite her
encouraging words, a strange mix of fear, hatred, and sorrow filled Nori's heart as she
thought of the Tsufuru atrocities against the Salusa. As much as she longed for
revenge, memories of lasers, sonic weapons, and rollers still haunted her, mingling
with memories of screaming Saiyans, murdered relatives, scars on Rhubar's face and
hand, and the scorched pit that had been the Salusa sanctuary. No. Things would be
different this time, she promised herself. Sarama would be with her, giving her
strength, and the memories of those she had loved would drive on her rage.
"That means we have to train more until then," she said, landing on the ground and
shuffling toward Vegeta-buru. "Come on! Let's spar some more!"







94
Chapter Nine
Six years on Chutney-sei

Six years had Chapati aged since he had been taken into the menacing custody of
King Kheer and Queen Darjiling; six years had passed since the old Ghee offered his
clever promise to open the wormhole; six years had passed, marked by loyal attacks
on the palace and its appendages by Mulligatawny and her rebels but unfortunately
not rescue. For six years had Chapati sat on his cushion next to the jade royal thrones,
eaten meals within the sight of the Chutnian king, and slept under heavy guard in a
chamber adjacent to Kheer's green, jade-plated sleeping quarters - with the Gateway
Sphere under heavy guard nearby, naturally. For six harrowing years had Chapati
been forced to linger with the sphere in the blood pool chamber as King Kheer
performed his obscene blood rites to loathsome demons, so as to keep the priest safely
by the monarch's side at all times.
The old Ghee clearly sensed the danger of King Kheer and Queen Darjiling's growing
chi, and ever the trickster, Chapati decided that he must use his closeness to Kheer for
good ends. As King Kheer kept Chapati by his side even during the blood bath rituals,
the old Ghee understood from his observations that Kheer's successful executions of
his rituals were closely connected to whether or not the demons granted him the
dormant chi in the blood pool.
On one occasion, seeing that Kheer needed to properly execute his prayer ritual to
beseech the demons, Chapati interfered with the altar while Kheer's back was turned.
After humanoid-form Kheer stripped off his robe and knelt toward his altar, the hisses
and raspy screams of demons made him raise his bowed head and growl.
"I have done no wrong! The ritual altar has been prepared as it always has!"
fOoL! LiAr! tHe riTUal iS iMpErFEct!
Demons whisked around the Chutnian king and scratched gashes into his bare skin
with their teeth and claws.
tHe tEArs oF aGoNy aRe NoT UpoN tHe aLtAr!!!
"I placed them there, I tell you!"
LiAr!
The breath of angry demons upon his skin grew too unbearable for the monarch, who
jerked up to his feet and wove geometric patterns in the air with outstretched palms,
driving the hissing demons away from him.
YoU hAvE wRoNgEd uS oNcE. ReMeMbEr!
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Demon voices and tingling demon breath spiraled away from Kheer and around the
edges of the room, over to the back corner where Chapati stood with the Gateway
Sphere's wooden case. Burning with rage, the demons hovered near Chapati and
howled into his long coyote ears, but flew away screaming when the old man spoke.
"Scream all you wish, for it does not scare me in the least. I serve Sarama, and the
goddess protects me from you even now. You cannot hurt old Chapati. Sarama frowns
upon you all."
When demonic screams no longer shook the chamber, King Kheer hurriedly threw on
his deep green robe and ran over to Chapati.
"YOU did this, didn't you?" Kheer growled as his hands clamped on Chapati's bony
shoulders and shook them. "You did something with the tears in the bowl on the table,
didn't you!?"
"Oh, but your Highness, I am an old man, and my memory often fails me. There was
a bowl full of tears on the altar?"
"Don't you play the fool with ME! What did you do with them!?"
"Oh, oh! I'm so sorry. I remember now. I found a bowl of water on the altar, but it
was salty. I thought it would be better to offer fresh water in your ritual, no? So I
threw away the salty water and took clean water from the spa over there. Did I do
something wrong?"
King Kheer threw Chapati back into the wall with a thud. "That bowl must be filled
with the tears of a tortured being! Any deviation from the prescribed ritual will make
the demons furious! I will not risk my life because of your stupidity! "Kheer stepped
toward the Ghee and thrust his face very close to the old man's. "I will not tolerate any
interference with my rituals. If you touch my altar again, you won't recognize your
own face when I get through with you."
The ritual had been botched, and the blood in the long pool was now useless, as the
demons would only grant a wish for this pool of blood-chi after a proper ritual for it.
Clenching his jaw, King Kheer threw open the doors of the chamber and barked at a
handful of royal retainers, who marched into the room and accompanied Chapati and
the Gateway Sphere back into the throne room. Despite the threats of demons and the
fierce look in Kheer's eyes, Chapati grinned and breathed slow, easy breaths, for this
was one less pool of blood that King Kheer had drained chi from.
Another incident followed several weeks later - at one meal, Chapati requested
airameva yogurt (known for its voracious live cultures), and snuck some of the yogurt
away in his habit in a covered dish he stole from the royal table. When Kheer bright
him into the next blood bath ritual, the old man quietly dumped the yogurt into the
blood pool while Kheer busied himself with altar arrangements, and the powerful
yogurt cultures wasted now time in devouring the nourishment in the blood. Although
the ritual went smoothly, Kheer's surprise could not be contained as he stared, wide-
eyed, at the blood pool after receiving the blood's chi, for the chi he received was too
trivial to even make the ritual worthwhile. Unbeknownst to him, the yogurt cultures
96
that Chapati had slipped into the pool ate up all of the nourishment in the blood, and
with it, the chi trapped in the blood. (Since Kheer had only requested the chi in the
blood, not the yogurt, the chi from the well fed, multiplying cultures was not to be
his.) With a snarl, lupine-form Kheer, unclad and dripping with brown blood, strode
over to Chapati and struck him across the face before bathing in the adjacent spa,
suspecting that the old man had done something wrong but unable to prove it.
Chapati, naturally, smiled to himself at another small victory.
After that, King Kheer made sure that a guard kept Chapati under constant
surveillance during future blood rituals. No more tricks could be performed, and
Kheer made up for lost time with the chi of new victims.
When three years had passed and the full moon of the first month was imminent, the
pressure to hide his lie about the wormhole became so intense that the old coyote-man
feigned illness, as if such an act would free him from the tangled web of his deceit.
Faking a heart attack (not without dramatic moaning and crying) at King Kheer's feet
the night before the wormhole "ritual" was to be enacted, Chapati was rushed to the
royal sickbay, where he was studied and nurtured by the palace's private healers.
Lying on a satiny sick bed the night of the year's first full moon, Chapati gazed out of
the palace window, admiring the silvery fullness of Chutney-sei's moon as it floated
across the ocean-blue sky.
Just a little more time to buy, he thought. All I need is more time. Mulligatawny will
come soon. Sarama will look over me, I know it
Suspicion floated through the palace like smoke from a sooty fire, given that Ghee
were known to live healthy lives far beyond Chapati's age, strengthened and
invigorated by their cultivation of chi. When the royal healers examined the old man's
body and assessed all of his organic statistics, the old priest's lusty health revealed his
deception to the king and queen, who promptly sent guards to tear him off of his sick
bead and drag him down to the palace's interrogation chamber.
Bearing his teeth, staring at Chapati with expanding pupils, King Kheer barked his
orders to the hairy-armed interrogator whom Chapati had toyed with years before.
With a chortle, the interrogator raised a silvery blade over the bound old man, and
with one sweep severed the Ghee's left pinky and ring fingers, wounds to act as
reminders not to trifle with the royal house of Chutney-sei.
The first full moon of the year came and passed for Chapati, as did another three tense
years by King Kheer's side, years filled with worried, sweat-dampened evenings spent
praying to Sarama to rescue him and help him get to Nori again. Now, three years
after the incident that had cost him two fingers, Chapati scratched his coyote muzzle
nervously as he fidgeted on his cushion next to the royal thrones.
"The first full moon of the year is three days away, Chapati," King Kheer said as he
gazed ahead, as if admiring some marvelous sight in the distance that only he could
see. "And I'm sure that you'll be willing to cooperate this time, for I would hate to see
another unfortunate incident like the one three years ago."
Chapati, lost in thought, twitched his long ears and sighed.
97
If Nori weren't on the other side of that wormhole, it would not be important. I could
just smash the sphere. King Kheer and Queen Darjiling could not conquer other
worlds then. But Nori has to have a way back! Had I only known of Mulligatawny's
skills in battle! Had I only known back then! I could have left Nori in her care, and
Nori could have learned to fight. But it was only a rumor! I didn't know then! I left
her among the Saiyans to learn about fighting! Now I cannot reach her. Oh, what a
foolish old man I am!
Rebel attacks on the palace were common, but Mulligatawny and her warriors were
growing subtler in their raids. That very evening, rebel hackers had already shut down
communication lines between the throne room and the dungeon, cargo bays, and
technology depots, so the rebel forces penetrated King Kheer's main palace without
the monarchs knowing at first. It was only when King Kheer and Queen Darjiling
heard shouts from their thrones outside the doors of their throne room did they show
concern, but before they could evacuate, the double doors flew open.
"Kheer!" A woman's voice shot through the throne room, and as Kheer stared toward
the double doors of the chamber, a black-furred lupine woman in a white sari walked
through the threshold, flanked by about two dozen lupine Chutnian rebels of both
sexes and various ethnicity's. Mulligatawny's lupine form was Paneerian like Kheer's,
lean and jackal-like, and King Kheer and Queen Darjiling recognized her
immediately.
"Stop running from me, Kheer," she said, fixing her gaze into her brother's face. "It's
your choice whether to face me in negotiation or in battle, but I insist that you face me
all the same."
Queen Darjiling growled deep in her throat and took a few slow steps toward
Mulligatawny. "Bitch! You come into MY home, uninvited, and make demands?
Stupid tart! I'm the strong one in this room, and I could tear you to pieces!"
King Kheer rose up off of his jade throne and quickly stepped between his queen and
his sister. "Mulligatawny . . . Mulligatawny, you don't have to fight. Just join me. Just
stop your rebellion. Don't make me hurt you. You won't be harmed if you surrender."
"No."
"I known why you ran away. But things are better now. I have power over the planet
now. Join me."
"Kheer, I left when we were young! That was years ago! I'm living in the present
now. But I won't live in a future where you're a tyrant over our people. Dammit,
you're worse than Mother and Father! Can't you see that!? Can't you see why I do
what I do? I free the prisoners who you want to massacre to your demon gods! I take
away the technology that you would use in conquest! You don't understand, do you?
I'm trying to save half the galaxy from you!"
"I don't want to hurt you. I'll give you one more chance."
"I have no desire to join you. Step down from the throne or fight."
98
"I will never step down from my throne. I waited years to inherit the throne from
Mother and Father, and I won't give up my treasure."
Queen Darjiling's bony body became black and hairy as she slid into lupine form. "Go
to hell, Mulligatawny!" she barked. "Traitor! Rabble-rouser! Coward! Bitch! To hell
with you and all of your bastard rebel friends! You don't have the chi! You can't fight
us! You're just a weakling! Your chi is miserable!"
In her lupine form, Mulligatawny could sense her brother's chi, a chi slightly greater
than her own, coursing through his limbs like liquid fire. Queen Darjiling, too, was
brimming with dark chi as great as her husband's was, and the loathing that burned in
her gold eyes suggested that she would throw herself into a storm of curses and blows
at any moment. The royal guards closing in were evenly matched in chi strength to
her rebels, and Mulligatawny could only pray that she could take down her brother as
her comrades fought the guards toe to toe. Yes, she could take on her brother and
come out victorious, Sarama willing, heart and soul willing, if she could just hold out
against Kheer without Queen Darjiling or the guards interfering.
"It's time, Kheer. I'll fight you if you won't step down. I'll fight you for the Gateway
Sphere and Chapati. Give up your running and your delusions," Mulligatawny
stepped toward King Kheer as her rebels glared with bared teeth at the royal guards
drawing close to them. "...because I can bear what you're doing no longer."
Queen Darjiling howled an ear-splitting scream at Mulligatawny, and at the high point
of the scream, King Kheer struck out at his sister as he transformed into his jackal-
like lupine form. Mulligatawny saw the black-furred, black-talon hand sweep before
her, but strode into Kheer before his tattooed palm reached her face. Extending her
right arm out to block the blow, Mulligatawny felt the impact of her brother's blow
shake her arm, shake her entire body, and when she launched her free fist into her
brother's stomach, his flesh barely gave.
Around the fighting brother and sister, rebels and guards met head-on and threw
themselves into frenzies of kicking, punching, biting, and scratching, one faction
fighting in the name of the king and queen, the other fighting to bring them down.
The dull sound of blows hitting flesh filled the room, as did the grunting, panting, and
shouting of the men and women in the center of the violent maelstrom. A stunned
soldier with cracked armor hit the floor; a screaming rebel went flying as a guard
flung him across the room; a howling lupine-form rebel grabbed the shoulders of a
guard and bit deep into his throat; and before long, injured bodies and blood began to
fall upon the jade floor of the throne room. Queen Darjiling, instead of joining the
fight against Mulligatawny, hurled herself helter-skelter at the nearest unlucky rebel,
throwing rebels through the air with a single tight-fisted punch. Already, three rebels
were lying at the other end of the royal chamber, groaning with cracked ribs, or
coughing up salty blood spurting out of shattered stomachs. Amidst the chaos,
Chapati wove unobserved between the warriors toward the unguarded case holding
the Gateway Sphere, just a few feet away, just behind Queen Darjiling's hoary black
tail.

99
Chapati slowed down his steps, stooped down, and stretched out his arms to take hold
of the cedar chest, when a fury of white fabric and green metal fell upon the chest
before Chapati. Mulligatawny and King Kheer, lying upon the splinters of the
shattered case, kicked and bit each other as they wrestled, but when King Kheer saw
the freed Gateway Sphere rolling away, he sprang to his feet and ran after it.
Mulligatawny, seizing the moment, jumped onto her brother's back and caught him in
a chokehold, but Kheer squatted down, slipped out of the hold, and elbowed his sister
in the stomach. Gasping, Mulligatawny stood her ground as Kheer spun around and
tried to land blows on her, and not forgetting the basics, the rebel leader rammed her
knee into her brother's groin.
Kheer grunted and doubled over for a moment, holding the soft parts that now
throbbed with a nauseating ache, only to rise up and knock Mulligatawny back with
an uppercut. Growling, Mulligatawny wiped the blood from her lip and lashed her
claws out at Kheer, tearing gashes into his neck, raw red meat openings deep inside
the short black jackal fur. The two lupines tore at each other, muzzle to muzzle, with
the smell of sweat and old blood stinging each other's nostrils with each heavy breath.
"Give up, Mulligatawny. You're beginning to tire. Don't you think that I can feel it in
your blows?" Kheer said, pupils dilated to nearly the size of his gold irises.
Both were sore from welts and gashes, Mulligatawny slightly more than her, and her
thoughts pumped through her head like blood as she punched, clawed, and blocked
even more. The blows, however, weren't knocking Kheer back as far as they had
minutes ago, and the breaths searing her throat and nose were more laborious than her
brother's.
"He's gotten stronger than even before. I'm losing ground. I'm running out of steam.
But I can't give up. I can't stop. I can only pray to Sarama that I can keep up!"
Meanwhile, Chapati followed the soft light of the Gateway Sphere as it rolled across
the throne room through puddles of blood and saliva. Tip-toeing around soldiers and
rebels, Chapati trotted after the sphere as it was kicked this way and that by careless
legs.

"No, wait, don't kick it! Little sphere, just stop rolling--BAH! Over there! All right. I
can just reach--don't kick it! Little sphere, come here!" Chapati whined as he chased
the ball through the maze of bodies.
The Gateway Sphere rolled just behind the panting Mulligatawny, now on the
defensive as she caught Kheer swinging arms with blocking motions. Chapati could
plainly see the sphere, just a few feet behind the sparring pair, no longer rolling but
now almost still, waiting patiently and quietly for a pair of hands to sweep it up and
cart it off. With his wicked smile, the old coyote-man wove between bodies toward
the sphere, only to find himself the next moment with his cheek pressed against the
cold jade floor underneath the weight of a felled royal guard. Sensing something soft
and alive underneath him, the green-clad guard grunted, eased his way to his feet, and
curled his bruised lupine muzzle at Chapati, who responded with a smile and a stomp
1uu
to the guard's knee. The knee snapped under the old Ghee's foot, and the royal guard
sank to the floor with a howl, his knee bent painfully backwards.
"Nice kick!" said the guard's opponent, a young rebel woman in lupine form with
yellow-gold eyes and white fur, no doubt from the Vindaloo northern continent. A
teenager in a bright blue sari and baggy pants she was, and spoke between long, deep
pants in a high and clear voice. "I'm sorry about the fall you took there, but thanks for
the help!"
"Oh, it will take more than a fall to hurt old Chapati! Help me get the sphere over
there, yes?" Chapati pointed to the Gateway Sphere with one of the fingers left on his
left hand. Without a word, the old man and the white-furred teenager ran across the
throne room toward Mulligatawny, who had lost her footing with a sweep kick from
King Kheer. Queen Darjiling, who had erratically changed from lupine to humanoid
form during the battle, was now in humanoid form, hovering menacingly next to her
husband.
As Mulligatawny slowly and stiffly stood back up, the marks of her fatigue were
impossible to ignore: the half-closed eyes, the grunts and wheezes pouring out of her
lips, and the sweat lacing her black fur and shoulder-length black hair. With stiff and
sore legs did Mulligatawny stand and face King Kheer, even as Queen Darjiling drew
closer and clenched her bony hands.
"Mulligatawny won't last much longer with King Kheer, but if the king and queen
both gang up on her, forget it! She needs help!" With those words, the white-furred
teenager burst away from Chapati and ran toward King Kheer and Queen Darjiling.
Chapati reached out for the girl, for her chi was nowhere near Mulligatawny's or
Kheer's, but already she was between Mulligatawny and the monarchs, growling.
Running behind her, Chapati reached for the Gateway Sphere with an eye on the girl.
"Jasmati! Get away from them!" Mulligatawny barked.
It was too late, for before Jasmati could land a blow on King Kheer, Queen Darjiling
howled and punched the girl in the chest, throwing her backwards. For but a moment
Jasmati felt herself suspended above the ground, with the sound of whisking air
blowing against her ears and a numbness in her chest that soon flooded with a burning
pain. Then, with a violent impact, Jasmati fell back first on something hand and cool,
something that gave slightly when it met a tender spot on her spinal column. Then
came the sound of a crack, a sound that softly came through the room amidst the
fighting. Jasmati had fallen onto the Gateway Sphere, and a large crack sneered from
the sphere's glowing surface.
When the injured girl whined and rolled off of the sphere, Chapati knelt down, took
the sphere in one arm, and touched Jasmati's shoulder with his other hand. As a Ghee,
he could cultivate chi to heal others as well as himself, and by sharing some of his chi
with her, Jasmati grew strong enough to shakily stand back up and stare at the sphere
through aching, half-closed eyes.
Guards and rebels alike sensed that something was wrong, now that King Kheer and
Mulligatawny weren't fighting anymore, and as they turned their attention t the
1u1
monarchs, the room fell silent at the sight of the sphere. For a moment, everyone in
the throne room - soldiers, rebels, Mulligatawny, King Kheer, Queen Darjiling -
stared at the cracked sphere with wide eyes and open mouths, Chapati out of fear,
Mulligatawny out of desperation, and the monarchs out of rage. After a moment, King
Kheer grumbled out a growl that grew louder and louder.
"All my work...All my effort...And now it's broken. BROKEN!" he barked at the high
point of his thundering growl.
Queen Darjiling, with a scream, threw herself at King Kheer, the nearest scapegoat.
"BASTARD! IT'S BROKEN! BROKEN! IF YOU HAD KEPT THE REBELS OUT,
IT WOULD STILL BE WHOLE! TO HELL WITH THE PLANETS WE COULD
HAVE CONQUERED! IT'S BECAUSE OF YOUR WEAKNESS!
BASTAAAAARD! IDIOT! BASTARD!"
The humanoid madwoman seized King Kheer by his long black hair and pummeled
his face, leaving indentations on his muzzle and cheeks. Howling, Kheer pushed away
his queen and barked flaming curses at her, only to have her take hold of his beard
and resume her delusional screaming and punching. In his domestic scuffle, King
Kheer had failed to notice Mulligatawny and her rebels escaping through the room's
double doors with injured rebels, Chapati and the cracked Gateway Sphere.
"I've failed," Mulligatawny said as she folded her arms, staring at the tabletop with
empty eyes. "I would have weakened him. But I led my people into a battle that left
them bruised and injured." In humanoid form after the battle, Mulligatawny's face
looked torn, and an occasional red scratch or blue bruise stood out against the caramel
color of her arms.
"Injuries? Bah! Dal and I healed some of them. Tissue replicators have healed the
rest." Chapati, still in lupine form, put his left hand (with all five fingers now, thanks
to tissue replicators) on Mulligatawny's arm. "But you have the Gateway Sphere now.
King Kheer cannot conquer worlds beyond the wormhole. I am safe. I do not think
you failed. You did not fail ME. Sarama just did not choose you to defeat them. That
is why we must get to
Nori."
Mulligatawny, her assistant Biryani, Chapati, and Dal sat at a round obsidian table in
a steel-walled room of the Balti-Keema stronghold, staring at the Gateway Sphere that
sat on a bundle of wine-colored cloth on the tabletop.
"Don't go blaming yourself," said Jasmati, who stood as sentinel at the doorway. In
humanoid form like Mulligatawny, Jasmati was a fair-skinned young woman with
short, tight white hair and a soft face. "You did get him and the sphere out of the
palace. And you stood up to King Kheer longer than any of us could have. Right now
he's probably putting ice on some of those bruises you gave him!"
"You shouldn't have done what you did. You were no match for King Kheer or Queen
Darjiling. You're too young. Your chi isn't high enough. You could have been killed."
Mulligatawny remained long-faced.
1u2
"We're not getting anywhere, taking about what did and didn't happen in the battle
today," said Biryani, humanoid at the moment. "Let's talk about this crack here.
Chapati, you known more about the sphere than anyone. Can it still be used? Can we
get to the princess?"
"No, not with the crack, no. But if I could fix the crack, then I could open the
wormhole with it. My mentors taught me long ago what to do. But it will take years."
"How many years to fix it?" asked Dal, in her proper Ghee gray-furred lupine form.
Dal had remained at Balti-Keema for years to act as a healer, chaplain, and advisor.
"Oh, I do not know. Three, maybe four? I will need to use my chi. Chi will seal up the
crack. The sphere is a holy item, yes, and it takes special means to fix it. But it has to
be done a special way. There cannot be other chi near it. Too much chi in the air will
slow down the process."
"So you'll need solitude," Biryani said. "Balti-Keema would be the wrong place
because of all the people. What about somewhere in the desert?"
Dal agreed with the idea. "Someone could help you find a safe spot out in the desert
and bring you supplies every few days. How does that sound?"
Chapati nodded. "Yes, that will do."
Jasmati goes into the deserts on reconnaissance. Jasmati, why don't you help Chapati
find a small, safe place to do repairs on the sphere?" Mulligatawny asked as she
looked over at her sentinel.
"Sure. I'd love to help. I have the perfect place in mind, too," Jasmati replied.




















1uS
Chapter Ten
Six years on Plant-sei

Streamlined, floating machines hummed through the Peah Hills, sporting not the
emblem of Plum Mining, but the words TSUFUR GROUND ARMY on their sides.
Sunlight, breaking through the blue and green canopy of leaves, shone off of the steel
machines as the floated across the ground, machines gliding with greater ease than the
more primitive Plum Mining machines of years back. Green and blue jungle was
everywhere around the machines: long, loose green leaves hung down as if to touch
them; sunset-colored shrubbery branched out as if to hold them back; and eye-shaped
mushrooms peaked out of the dark, moist corners as if to gawk at the Tsufuru.
Beautiful and hostile were the Saiyan lands in the higher elevations, but no Saiyan's
were visible in the brush.
The machines moved in a tight arc-shaped phalanx, with gun-toting hover-tanks in the
center of the formation, and orb-topped tanks alongside them. Larger machines
flanked the formation; machines with whirling blades that sliced down tree trunks and
loudly flung them to the side, making the Peah Hills shake with their impact.
Six years before, the Tubera, Kalei, and Parsni Saiyan tribes had charged into the
Peah Hills to reclaim their land. Training in the Gravity Crater had made the Saiyan's
formidable foes, and fighting off the settled miners and their machines had been easy
with the Saiyan's new chi. For another year, Plum Mining Corporation sent waves of
soldiers and tanks to reclaim the jungle-covered hills, only to be driven away by the
frightfully strong primitives. Then, as if Plum Mining had given up, the attacks
ceased, and Tsufuru war machines were not seen in the hills again for another five
years. Occasional disagreements between the three tribes marked the next years, but
for the most part the years were quiet - until the past month, when new waves of
Tsufuru machines encroached upon the Saiyan's hilly jungle.
The Tsufur Army machines passed by the twisted wreck of two aircraft, which the
jungle had already begun to embrace with new vines and shrubs. Round, blackened
holes marked the spots where flame guns and engines had once rested marks of flying
Saiyan chi-blasts. Six years ago, the Saiyan's would not have had the power to fly fast
enough or fire blasts forceful enough to take down a Tsufuru bomber, but now air
raids were almost as impossible as land raids, for the Saiyan's could fly and fire well.
Inside of their tanks, velvet-clad Tsufuru soldiers manned the controls to their
machines, hitting glowing buttons and staring into wide screens, screens showing
perfect digital views of the outside. Distress followed, for the rock formations and
jungle layout that appeared on their screens failed to match the digital maps of the
Peah Hills and before long the formation was in unfamiliar territory.
Out of the brush came the faint sound of gobbling, a high-pitched, bubbling gobbling
that grew increasingly louder as the machines approached. Then, out of a wide
expanse of blue-leafed trees came a single balm-bird, a six-foot tall chicken-like bird
1u4
with chestnut eyes and white fur in the place of feathers. Gobbling and running
aimlessly, the balm-bird hopped over one of the hover-tanks, making the tudd-tudd-
tudd-baaank sound with its feet on the roof.
Then, after a brief pause came the sound of more gobbling. Out of the same expanse
of trees came hundreds of darting balm-birds, hundred of man-sized hairy chickens
that ran in waves over the machines. Inside all of the machines thundered the sound of
balm-bird feet, the tudd-tudd-tudd-baaaank that made the tanks shake. When the
gunners in the tanks tried to fire, however, only the blinding sight of whiteness and
bird feet graced their screens to the outside. Amidst the fury of birds could be seen
two identical Saiyan women mounted upon two balm-birds, laughing and waving
pointy sticks in the air.
"Feel the - hahaha! - feel the fury of Leek!" laughed the first woman as she continued
to prod the balm-birds in their stampede.
The second twin sprang off of her bird and landed squarely on top of a tank's gun,
where she threw a chi-blast onto the tank's roof. First came the roar of chi, followed
by the light, the searing heat, and the gust of flying metal and smoke as the blast
melted a gaping hole in the tank. Peering through the jagged hole, Scallia saw four
Tsufuru men inside the now-still tank, running and screaming amidst the smell of
smoke and burnt hair. Upon seeing her, the velvet-clad soldiers wasted no time in
throwing open an escape hatch, feeling through a small door in the side corner of the
machine.
"Cowards...What are you without your machines?" Scallia thought.
Amidst the incessant gobble of balm-birds, the Tsufuru soldiers could hear the sound
of screaming: delighted, wicked screaming unmistakable as a battle cry. From all
sides, suddenly, came roaring Saiyan's, some clad in fur kilts, others clad in tunics and
fur slacks, others still clad in fiber sarongs, but all howling as they fell upon the
Tsufuru machines. As if out of nowhere, monkey-tailed savages burst out from
shrubbery and tall grasses, swarming everywhere. A cloud of chi-blasts and blows
came, and immediately the machines fired lasers and electricity at the Saiyan's, who
moved too quickly to make suitable targets.
Grapira, the gunner of the lead tank, looked through his screen and aimed laser
cannons at a pair of brown-haired Saiyan's diving head-first toward the tank: an older,
burly man wearing a fur kilt and a stone medallion, and a teenage boy in a similar kilt
with whiskers on his chin. By the time Grapira hit the fire button, however, Sorrell
and Vegeta-buru launched simultaneous punches into the hull of the tank, rupturing it
and hurling themselves into the belly of the machine. Inside, safe from cannon fire,
the father and son wasted no time in pummeling the technology to scrap metal, only
to chi-blast their way out to attack another machine.
The operators of one of the trunk-cutter tanks gazed out through his screen but saw no
Saiyan's, only the whirling blast slicing through green and blue trees in the hungry
jungle. Suddenly, a young Saiyan with short blue hair and the beginnings of a fu-
manchi tore off the long blade and stood in front of the screen, cursing and waving his
middle finger. When Monle, one of the Tsufuru inside, grew tired of this, he reached
1uS
for his hand-held laser gun and pulled down a silvery lever hanging from the roof of
the tank, popping open the hatch. When Monle emerged, however, thick hands lifted
him out and flung him to the moist ground, ground saturated with sap from severed
trees. With the tank open, Nappa and his elite Tubera companions fired chi-blasts into
the machine, laughing the entire time.

From the jungle before the Tsufur Army battle formation came chi-blasts, hot blasts
that blew the cannons off of the tanks and burned away the outer metal hulls. With
slow, deliberate steps, a young woman emerged from the vegetation, a teenager clad
in a fur tunic, hemp belt, and long white fur slacks of a Tubera woman, but adorned
with a stone armband and a necklace absent from the others. Black hair billowed
down to her waist, and through the hair stared a pair of large gold eyes, eyes that
seemed to burn right through the gunner's as he looked through his screen. Extending
her palm, which sported a small tattoo, Nori fired a chi-blast without blinking at the
tank, blowing its hull into a thousand pieces and exposing the panicky Tsufuru men
inside.
"Start running," said Nori.
The three other men of the tank crew promptly obeyed and ran out of the escape hatch
into the jungle, while the fourth clung to a level inside, staring at the wolf-eyed
woman.
"Didn't you hear me!? RUN!"
Nori gathered burning chi into her palm, and with a pounding heart, the fourth
Tsufuru man staggered out of the hatch and ran for cover. While reluctant to fire on
retreating opponents, she wasted no time in hurling gold-tinted chi-blasts at the tanks,
vaporizing metal and wire in seconds. Then, bounding toward another tank, Nori
joined the other Saiyan's in their battle, kicking cannons and dodging laser fire as they
turned the tables on the Tsufur Ground Army.
The morning's battle against the Tsufur Ground Army had been successful, with no
Saiyan casualties and no damage done to the Tubera settlement, where Leek and
Scallia sat outside their tent and working with balm-bird hides.
"You see, this is why it's great living in the hills. Balm-birds are great for
stampeding!" Leek, happy that her plan had worked, spoke quickly as she hung balm-
bird hides on a tree branch to dry.
"My ass still hurts from riding that thing, bouncing all around like it did."
"Oh, you loved it and you know it!"
"The battlefield wasn't pretty, though. Nori must have spent two hours praying over
those Tsufuru."
"Where's she now?"
1u6
"She said she had to speak with the earth spirits. She's somewhere out in the
wilderness, near the battlefield I think."
"You suppose those spirits of hers could tell her something about what's been going
on?"
"The attacks? I don't think anyone could explain what's been going on lately. Five
years of quiet followed by this doesn't make any sense."
Meanwhile, a heartbeat rhythm beat through the vegetation near the morning's
battlefield, where shrapnel and melted metal stood among grasses and tree stumps.
Fourteen year-old Nori, sitting at the foot of a vine-clad tree, beat her palms on a
leather drum she had constructed as the rhythm of her drumbeats thundered through
the air and earth. The essence of earth spirits vibrated in the ground beneath her, and
as she sensed their presence with her inner eye, Nori shouted to them.
"Thank you, earth spirits! Thank you for aiding my companions in battle! Thank you
for embracing us in thick vegetation, hiding us from the Tsufuru until the time was
right! Thank you for obscuring their way and leading them into the stampede!" By
shouting and drumming, Nori made her call seep into the soft earth to reach the spirits
there, who now swirled in the soil and plants nearby.
In the surrounding red soil, Nori had buried several offerings of gratitude to the spirits
in the form of Tsufuru bodies and river silt she had gathered from the Legume. To
make up for the vegetation destroyed in the battle, the corpses and silt would fertilize
the earth and allow new vegetation to grow again, and as spirit essence hummed
beneath her, Nori knew that the offering had been accepted.
Slowly ceasing her drum pounding, Nori grew still and quiet as she closed her eyes.
"Sarama, my guide, you have smiled upon me today, for my heart was swollen with
your power as I fought and prayed. Thank you, and ask of me whatever suits you."
A warm, moist breeze caressed Nori's face, rustling through the grasses and trees as
she continued her prayers. "Aunt Turnyip...Uncle Habanero...Garbanzo...Mother...All
Salusa, hear me. I remembered your screams and tears in battle, and I fought in your
memory. No more must suffer at Tsufuru hands as you did. Be at peace in the
embrace of Mother Plant, for the Tsufuru have not succeeded today."
Quiet inside and finished with praying, Nori slowly opened her eyes, only to see
another pair of gold eyes staring at her from a distance. Sleek Fur, a grayish-black
spot against the green flora, had heard the drumming and trotted over for a visit.
"Good to see you again," grunt-barked Nori, pressing her face to Sleek Fur's, as the
wolf stood close and nuzzled. "I take it your family's all right?" Sleek Fur, in the
course of six years, had returned to the Peah Hills, found a mate, and since become
the mother of five dark-furred wolves.
"Yes, yes, everyone's fine. We heard and smelled the metal beasts this morning but
didn't go near them. I have to say, the morning was terrifying."
1u7
"It disturbs me," the wolf continued, "to think that after all this time, the metal beasts
have returned. I won't let them hurt my family. I can't let them."
"The Saiyan's held them off today. We shouldn't have a problem in the future keeping
the hills safe. Just keep your family away from the machines. We'll do what we can,"
barked Nori. "I would never let them get to your mate or your sons or daughters. I
won't let anything happen to any of you. I promise you that."
The girl and wolf sat beside each other under the tree, and at length, Sleek Fur's mate
sat down and joined them. "But you're uneasy," grunted Lithe, who sniffed at Nori's
legs and drum. "I can tell in your voice. But who wouldn't be. I know you're
concerned, as we are."
It was true, for deep inside her; Nori felt an old ache that she had known years ago in
her battles with the Tsufuru. Even though she and the Saiyan's were strong, the notion
of more machines sickened her soul.
"It's the memory of those machines that makes me uneasy. I've seen far too many
horrors at the hands of those machines. But I swear that I'll do whatever I can to keep
them from taking your home again.
Having spoken, Nori picked up her drum and walked into the vegetation, toward the
sound of splashing water nearby. The Legume River carved its way through the
grasslands and hills alike, and at its banks this evening stood a familiar figure, a
teenage boy with erect hair, clad in a bull-hide kilt and sandals. Walking through the
pillars of light filtering through the canopy, Vegeta-buru stared down toward the
water, and the light reflected in strange patterns in his hair as always. Walking up
slowly behind him, Nori threw an arm around his waist.
"Hey."
"Hello there." Vegeta-buru rubbed the arm around his waist, albeit more slowly than
usual.
As the two walked together along the banks, talk soon came to recent battle and the
fate of the hills.
"...It's not just Saiyan's we're fighting for," Nori said. "If the land is harmed, the spirits
and animals suffer along with us. I was with Sleek Fur and her pack just before I
found you, and there's genuine fear of the machines there. We've got an obligation to
keep the hills safe."
"Why now?" Vegeta-buru said with tension deep in his throat. "If only I knew what it
was that they were after now. In years past, the battles with Plum Mining were over
land and minerals, but this? What would soldiers be seeking with us?"

"You're not afraid, are you?"
1u8
"Are you?"
"I...I can't say. The three tribes are powerful, more powerful than when I first came to
the Tubera. Fighting off machines like those that came to the hills today should be no
problem. But what is this dread? This nausea inside of me? When I battled the
Tsufuru machines this morning, all the feelings from when I was a kid came back."
"You saw those machines do horrible things, Nori."
"But this dread. I can't get rid of it. I know fully well that the Tsufuru are no match for
the three tribes. But I'm dreading something, something I can't name."
Nori drew close to Vegeta-buru, who curled an arm around her shoulder.
"I...I've lost too many people to those machines."
"The machines brought death and pain with them. We lost homes and people when
the machines came...both of us. I swear, I swear to all my gods, I will make the
Tsufuru pay. These Tsufuru will NOT come to my home, threaten my family, my
tribe, ever again."
Nori stopped walking, and Vegeta-buru stood where she did upon the green moss and
earth by the water.
"You do not right alone. You never will. I'll protect your home, our home." Nori
rested her head on her companion's chest. "Will you fight by my side?"
"Nori...Always. Those who threaten you threaten me."
Nori lifted her head up and studied her companion's face: the erect brown hair; the
widow's peak; the clear, dark eyes; the high cheekbones and the beginnings of a
brown beard. The anger and pain in that face spoke to her, as did the tinges of softness
in the eyes and lips, lips Nori pressed to her own. Lips and tongues came together
with slow ease, and for a long tome the two stood, embracing, drowning pain in the
smooth juices of a kiss.
With her arms encircling his neck and his arms around her shoulders, Nori's thoughts
wandered to happier times, to the time when they were but twelve, free from the
threat of machines, free to be young Saiyan's in the lush and blooming hills. It was
after a successful hunt and feast that the two had wandered through the thick-trunked
trees, finding a mossy spot where the half-moon shed its silvery light. A silence
followed the usual teasing and talk of the hunt, and feeling the fondness for Vegeta-
buru that had been blossoming in her lately, she drew close to him. His fondness
matched her own, and somehow that night, their lips met under the canopy and their
affection revealed itself in words. As children they disliked each other, but the
stirrings of youth brought them together at twelve, and the kinship born of common
hopes and fears bonded them at fourteen.
As Nori and Vegeta-buru deepened their kiss, Nori sensed a great chi emerging from
the smaller chis of the flora and fauna.
1u9
"Thought I'd find you here. Now enough of all this romantic stuff. Sorrell wants to see
both of you," said Nappa, smirking at the two embracing lovers. As Nappa preferred
other young men, he often chuckled at the notion of the teenage boy and girl together.
Nori and Vegeta-buru quickly dislodged from their embrace, and the chieftain's son
assumed the usual arrogant air he reserved for all but his love.
"Nappa! Give me some warning when you approach!" he growled, stiffening his
shoulders and hardening his face.
"Now, I'm sorry about all that. Sorrell has emissaries from about a dozen tribes in his
tent. It isn't good."
The three wasted no time flying through the jungle to reach the Tubera settlement in
the evening light, where the chieftain's tent was lit with a small flame and filled with
several messengers from about a dozen Saiyan tribes.
Inside the tent, about a dozen haggard Saiyan's of both sexes at the meat and wild
herbs set out form them, for it was clear that most had come from afar and needed
food. Saiyan's in long shapeless bear-hide tunics; Saiyan's in elaborate fiber tunics;
Saiyan's in familiar and exotic garb alike had gathered from across Saiya to visit the
Peah Hills tribes, as other messengers had been sent to all other tribes to warn them of
recent dangers.
The three teenagers slid into the tent and eased their way into the group of elite men
asking questions of the visitors, with Nappa seeking out his own father and brothers to
sit with and Vegeta-buru and Nori sitting near Sorrell.
Nori's knowledge of spirits and cunning tactical ideas (such as the three tribes'
guerrilla attack on the Tsufuru that day) had earned her an unusual place among the
Tubera assembly, for she was the only elite woman permitted at Tubera tribal
councils. A token woman among the elite men, Nori still longed to see the Tubera
women and low ranks raise their voices at council, but as much as she beseeched
Sorrell to grant to allow them others, she remained the only woman permitted there.

"It's about time!" Sorrell whispered to Nori and his son.
"We didn't expect a gathering like this," Vegeta-buru whispered back before turning
his proud attention to a Kalei emissary, with whom he exchanged whispers amidst the
many conversations in the tent. As his father's right hand, Vegeta-buru had already
gained experience in Saiyan politics by easing relations with the Kalei and Parsni
recently.
"Sorrell, where did they come from?" Nori asked her chieftain.
The chieftain groaned. "Practically everywhere. Tsufur Ground Army has attacked
almost every Saiyan settlement in Saiya the past week, it sounds like."
11u
"Wha-? Even the lake and plains tribes?"
"Even them."
"But that's insane! Why would the Tsufuru want to trouble them? They're not
mountain people on valuable mining land!"
"I have no idea, Nori!" Sorrell's cheeks looked hollow with fatigue. Most of them
arrived at my doorstep over the afternoon! They can't understand the Tsufuru
motivations for attacking the plains and lakes, only that they attacked in force over the
past five days. Practically every tribe in Saiya is coming under fire."
Sorrell sighed amidst the chatter between Tubera elite and emissaries.
"The tribes outside of the Peah Hills are hardly strong enough to hold out, and most of
them are seeking assistance in fighting. That's why they're here. Right now the tribes
are scrambling to ward off future attacks. There are vivid descriptions...descriptions
of a new weapon, unlike anything the Tsufuru used before on us."
"I've seen some frightful weapons - weapons of sound, lasers, rollers, devastating
things."
"It's none of these things. About half of the emissaries talked about something
completely new, a weapon of light that sears away anything it shines upon. Do you
see the man over there in the bear hide?"
Nori glanced over to the other side of the tent, where she saw the man in question,
whose left arm and cheek were scorched red and dotted with small white blisters.
"The Light fell on him for a few seconds before he could roll into a ditch and hide.
Most of the children and elderly of his tribe were reduced to ashes. It was only the
strongest Saiyan's who survived the Light, and that was because they escaped it after
a few seconds. Nori, I've never seen burns like those on anyone before. I've never
heard stories like the ones I heard today. The Tsufuru have annihilation on their
minds, but only the gods know why."
Nori shut her eyes. "I think we should grant permission for refugees to train in the
Gravity Crater."
"Nori-"
"Please listen. Wouldn't it be in our best interest to have strong allies in the future? If
the Tsufuru bring this weapon to the Peah Hills, won't we need allies as powerful as
we are to help us out?"
Sorrell slowly nodded. "All right. I've trusted your judgment before. I'll have Vegeta-
buru take it up with the Parsni and Kalei, but he's convincing enough to make them
agree to share it, I'm sure."
"What about us?"
111
"First thing tomorrow, the Tubera are packing up camp and moving deeper into the
hills. We don't migrate for fun, do we now? I just don't know...maybe we can keep the
Tsufur Ground Army guessing for now. But I have a feeling that the Light will soon
shine on us too. The episodes recently were probably to wear down our defenses.
That's the pattern they used on the other tribes."
"We have to get the message out about the Gravity Crater as soon as possible."
"I'll send Vegeta-buru and some emissaries to take care of it."
"Let me go. Please let me do this. I have to see these people for myself."
"Why are you insisting now? You know Vegeta-buru is usually my emissary."
"I have a feeling he and you will have your hands full with defense and negotiations
with the Kalei and Parsni. Let me take some responsibilities off of the two of you. A
tribe should have its chieftain and son fighting close by, shouldn't it?"
"Fine. I trust you. Only take someone with you. To guard your back should you have
to fight, of course."
"Nappa, maybe?"
"I was thinking someone older."
"I can find someone good at fighting to come along."
"Be careful. Rally the tribes and get them to the Crater."
Nori began to stand up, but then threw a hard smile at Sorrell.
"If I am successful in rallying the tribes, will you do me a favor? Let women and
lower-rank Tubera come to war council. It's war. We need input."
Sorrell frowned. "Nori, don't push it again. I let you come to council because you're
different. You're our shaman, and you're a little smarter...well...let's not go there
tonight. It's a sore subject anyway."
After spending much of the night speaking with the emissaries about the Gravity
Crater and the need for alliances to fight the Tsufuru, Nori slid out of the chieftain's
tent and walked slowly back to Leek and Scallia's tent. At the door fold to the animal
hide tent, the two women eyed Nori with folded arms and heavy faces.
"This is worse than we thought, isn't it?" Scallia asked.
"What did they say at council? Did you ask Sorrell about it again?" Leek said with
raised eyebrows.
Nori sat down by the fire inside the tent as the two women closed the flap and faced
her. "There's so much to tell. Yes, things look ugly, especially things I've heard about
112
a new Tsufuru weapon. Before I get into the details, I want to ask you two something.
How would you like to do some travelling with me?"
That night, Nori laid with outstretched arms on her balm-bird bed mat, staring at the
door-flap of Leek and Scallia's tent. Leek was faintly snoring at one side of the tent,
while the rustling sound of Scallia turning over in her sleep sounded from the other
side. Staring out through the door fold, Nori milled thoughts in her head, unable to
sleep.
"I wish I knew what was going to happen...It's so dark out there...How can everyone
sleep so peacefully tonight? Vegeta-buru, do you sleep peacefully in your father's tent
tonight?"
After rolling around and staring into the blackness of the tent, Nori's eyelids grew
heavy, and at length she curled up under the buffalo-hide blanket and sank into
slumber.
From the void of a sleep-soaked mind came dreams, dreams bringing comfort to Nori
as she slept through the night. In violet and crimson dreams, billowing clouds and
rhythmic winds heralded Sarama's presence near her.
"Sarama...Give me strength. I need strength more than ever now. I want to protect my
people, and I need to protect the hills. I was supposed to be a protector and guide to
my people, you said. Help me now."
Sarama, hair streaming, sari billowing in the wind, only looked upon Nori and smiled
an intense smile.
"Do you not feel my power
coursing through your heart even now?
Have you yet to realize that my blood
courses through your veins, my child?
I will look over your endeavors
and smile upon your noble battles,
for it is now, Nori, that the wisdom
you will use in proud womanhood
will be learned through trials and journeys.
Go. My hand is ever upon your shoulder."

11S
Nori then saw herself surrounded by the jungle of the Peah Hills, which morphed into
strange metal and jade palaces, which in turn dissolved into an eternity of stars and
nebulas.
The dream faded into blackness, and Nori slid again into the oblivion of dreamless
sleep.
A large meal, a bath in the Legume River, an hour deconstructing the tent, a long
check back with Sorrell and the visiting emissaries...the next morning was spent
preparing for the journey across Saiya to the other tribes. As other Tubera were
folding up their tents for migration, Nori, Leek, and Scallia were preparing for a
longer journey.
Leek and Scallia, the escorts-to-be on the diplomatic journey, flitted at the far end of
the Tubera settlement under a fruit tree.
"Two weeks round-trip, exotic locales...I'm rearing to go."
"Nori!" Scallia called out into the settlement. "Hurry it up!"
Back in the shrinking tent settlement, behind a tree stood Nori and Vegeta-buru in the
brush, kissing their good-byes.
"Play on their common rage," he said. "They were all wronged by this. Bring them to
the Crater to redress that. Bring them together in the name of revenge."
"In the meantime, make sure that the Tubera are still here when I return," she replied
between kisses. "Remember me when you fight."
"I will. If you face off against the Tsufuru, remember me when you fight as well."
"If something should happen in battle...to either one of us..."
A meeting of lips reassured her, and in their embrace, she felt the chi in him that
would carry him through the fights.
"I'll return in two weeks."
"See that you do. I'll be waiting."
Later that morning, Nori nodded to Leek and Scallia, and the three women took flight
toward Lake Ishrel, from where the first of the Saiyan tribes would be fighting or
fleeing. The canopy of green and blue leaves over the hills were a few feet below
them, and the sounds of plant and beast rose up from the jungle: the howls of Sleek
Fur's pack, the gobbles of a flock of balm-birds, the hissing of insects, and the voices
of neighboring Saiyan tribes. Squinting, Nori eyed up the battle damage from the last
encounter with the Tsufuru, seeing the trail of tree trunks hewed away by trunk-
cutters tanks across the hills. Wrecks of tanks and occasional jets were already being
embraced by green vegetation, and burn marks from chi-blasts and laser fire were all
around. The marks of battle, however, were localized, and the Tsufur Ground Army
114
had not come close to a narrow cleave in the earth called Cabbahewa Cave. When
Nori and the Tubera relocated to the Peah Hills, she had taken the Gateway Sphere
and hidden it deep in the tight, winding corridors of the tiny cave, where it would be
safe from almost any attack.
With the wind in their hair and the blue horizon ahead, the three women soared
toward Lake Ishrel with a mission in mind.























11S
Chapter Eleven
Berritown

Two weeks, it seemed, became a year and a half of visits to the various Saiyan tribes,
and Nori grew respected among the tribes as a diplomat and a warrior. Aiding the
tribes coming under attack and guiding them herself to the Gravity Crater; reaching
the obscure tribes at the far reaches of Saiya before the Tsufur military came; fighting
alongside the tribes when the attacks did come; all of these nerve-shattering duties fell
upon the shoulders of Nori, Leek, and Scallia as they flew across the land.
The hills and lakes, the plains and valleys of Saiya would be wrapped up in memories
for Nori later in life, and her adventures with Leek and Scallia across the land would
be too numerous to mention. There was the tense night on Uccini Island, the night of
the threesome's first encounter with the Squa tribe: isolated Saiyan's who had never
learned to fly or leave the island to encounter others like themselves. On the humid
shores of that island stood dozens of unclothed Saiyan's, aiming spears toward the
three strangers in fur clothes. Hostility greeted the three, especially Nori whom they
regarded as a "wolf-eyed freak," and Nori's words of warning would have gone
unheeded had it not been for the surprise Tsufuru attack. The Squa tribe was small,
and even the two air bombers sent would have easily seared them out of existence
with its fire rain, had not Nori, Leek, and Scallia taken flight toward the machines.
Chi-blasts lit up the night as the three moved too quickly to be seen, and when the two
aircraft smoldered and dove into the sea, the ejected pilots floating in the ocean could
hear Saiyan cheers on the shore. With the promise of battle prowess and power, the
Squa tribe were then cooperative when Nori taught them to fly and guided them over
the blue ocean toward the Gravity Crater. Moonlight over sea water, starlight in the
black sky, and cheers from Squa flying behind her, Nori decided, were all very
beautiful indeed.
There was the visit with the Kalif tribe of Ishrel Lake, a tribe in terror not only of the
Tsufuru machines that slaughtered their ranks, but of a giant black serpent that wove
along the shoreline. Nori herself encountered the massive serpent, its head as wide as
hers and its body more than ten feet long, but neither made hostile overtures as they
faced each other. At length, Nori moved toward the serpent to touch it, to sense the
spirit energy pulsing beneath its glass-like skin, for the serpent was possessed by an
earth spirit that made its host grow large and stone-hard. Distressed by the Tsufuru
destruction of the landscape, the spirit took over the body of a serpent to escape the
soil that the Tsufuru hit with bombs, and in the serpent's body, had escaped to the
lake. With Nori's promise that she would help to make the ground safe again, the
spirit left the serpent's body, which shrank back to its normal size, much to the relief
of the tribespeople. Kalif trust in Nori grew then, and guiding the Kalif men and
women to the crater was simple.
While persuading the Saiyan's to ally with the three Peah Hills tribes and train in the
gravity crater, Nori went from person to person in her free time, asking about a gold-
eyed old man named Chapati. When the old man never returned for her during her
116
childhood, she grew heavy-hearted, but perhaps he could be found among his native
tribe, although Rhubar never specified which one. Sadly, although some warriors and
mystics knew of his reputation as a Salusa, none had seen him in over thirty years,
and Nori decided that her grandfather must have certainly died of old age or Tsufuru
gunfire.
Back at the Peah Hills and the Articho grasslands, Vegeta-buru and Sorrell
administered to the huge influx of Saiyan's coming to the basin, all in desperate need
of organization. Equal time for all tribes in the Gravity Crater, as well as the need to
keep competing tribes from spilling each other's blood were issues that the chieftain
and his son dealt with tactfully. The food demands of the visiting tribes had to be met
sanely by the resources of the grasslands, but the massive hunting and gathering by
the visiting tribes took its toll on the landscape. Vegeta-buru and Sorrell established
alliances with the many tribes, and when the tribes left for their homelands after
weeks of training, a unified Saiyan front in Saiya looked promising. Vegeta-buru
possessed a charisma that his father lacked, and while Sorrell was managing Tubera
battles of sorting out the logistics of the Gravity Crater, his son was making a name
for himself. The young man was earning respect from the other tribes as a leader and
warrior, and he knew it. With each Tsufuru raid thwarted, or with each intertribal
disagreement eased, the chieftain's son seemed to stand a little taller and gaze a little
harder at others. Despite the fact that his words were ever tender with Nori, Leek and
Scallia noticed his arrogance swelling when they returned to the Tubera between trips.
"Back so soon?" Leek asked Nori one afternoon when she slipped back into their tent.
"There's really nothing to see. Vegeta-buru's just giving one of his speeches to the
Chiveu elites."
"Another feel-your-Saiyan-pride-and-shed-Tsufuru-blood speech?"
"Another inflammatory speech. I'll give him credit, though. He can stir up a crowd
like no one else can."
"Half the Saiyan I know put him on a pedestal," Scallia muttered as she finished up a
meal of wild fruit. "Nori, listen to me, and listen good..."
Scallia leaned toward Nori, who was seated by her side. "...Watch him. Watch that
ego of his. I don't like what's happening to him."
"All this anger in the air is scary. Saiya is bursting at the seems with hatred right now.
If he kisses up to that hate the right way, he can get people to do whatever he and his
father want," Leek snickered.
"He's not a bad person," Nori insisted as Scallia passed her a piece of fruit gathered
that morning. "He's just doing what he has to do to motivate the other tribes. All these
Saiyan's hate the Tsufuru for their atrocities, and he's be a fool not to play on that."
"Just listen to us. Watch him," said Scallia.
117
"You don't know what he's like when he's with me. He's not a bad person, I keep
telling you."
The twins tried to warn Nori about her lover's ego, but she would hear none of it.
Between visits to the Saiyan tribes, Nori returned to the Peah Hills to find comfort in
Vegeta-buru's arms. With the free time granted to them amidst their responsibilities,
the two often sought out a quiet, grassy spot near the river to speak of their
adventures, sigh at their frustrations, and know the pleasures of young love. Pillars of
light fell from the jungle canopy upon their secret displays of affection, affection that
did not limit itself to embraces and kisses. When Vegeta-buru would return to camp
with blades of grass in his hair, or Nori with rosy cheeks, Nappa would catch one of
them and tease mercilessly.
"Vegeta-buru, hold still. You've got a twig in your hair."
"I can get it myself, thank you."
"Out with Nori, huh?"
"Shouldn't you be on sentinel duty at the crater?"
"Rollin' around on the grass, huh?"
"That's none of your business!" Vegeta-buru stuck his chin out. "What a chieftain's
son does is his business."
Vegeta-buru returned to his father's tent, and Nappa noticed Nori slinking by silently.
"Hey Nori, what's that red mark on your neck?"
"Hey Nappa, what's that cyst growing on yours? Oh wait, it's your head."
"Right. Hilarious. I've been meaning to talk to you, by the way. The Light, you
remember that?"
"Of course. Most of the tribes I've met have described it at one time or another."
"This is weird. The Tsufuru brought that thing here in the hills while you were away
with the Chiveu."
"I know. Vegeta-buru and Sorrell told me."
"We took some heavy damage from it before the tribe scattered for the night. And you
said the other tribes did too."
"Right."
"We fought off another Tsufuru raid the night before you and Leek and Scallia came
back, but they didn't even bring the Light. It's strange. They don't use it every time."
118
"I don't see why they wouldn't. If they refrain from using it with every attack, it only
works in our favor. Just keep everyone training. High chi seems to lengthen people's
exposure time."
The Light terrified Nori, for she had seen its harrowing effects on the Saiyan's she had
visited: bodies and vegetation seared away until nothing but smoke remained; the skin
of survivors burned red or black; blisters over the faces and arms of those who got
away. Nori remembered some rudimentary healing techniques from the Salusa and
did what she could to heal survivors, and the twins used herbal knowledge to disinfect
burns and aid in healing. The Light made Saiyan's scatter and hide, lest they be
burned up in seconds, a humiliation that would not be forgotten soon. The notion of
the Tsufuru still made sour rage churn in Nori's stomach, and this bile rose up in her
throat several days later, when the Tsufur Ground Army attacked the Squa tribe which
Nori, Leek, and Scallia had escorted back to their island. The attack had been a shore
landing, with heavily armored soldiers landing on the beach, firing lasers and flames
at the Squa. Nori fought bravely by their sides, and as she made her punches, kicks,
and blocks flow together like water, she remembered what Potat had said years before
during her Salusa training.
The Squa of all castes flowed together, working as a unified tribe; she and the twins
and the Squa flowed together, working for their mutual survival; the Saiyan tribes
now flowed together, fighting for the Saiyan race's mere right to exist. As she and her
Squa allies pushed back the Tsufuru soldiers, Potat's words suddenly made sense,
clear, brilliant sense as she saw how it all flowed together.
"The crystals! The holy relics!" a wounded Squa tribesman shouted from several
yards away as Tsufuru soldiers swarmed around him. A Tsufur Ground Army soldier,
amidst all the fighting, took advantage of the chaos and now ran out of a hut, holding
water-clear crystals to his chest. As other Squa fought off Tsufuru, Nori ran after the
thief, with Leek and Scallia following close behind as the soldier darted into an empty
Tsufur ship on the shore.
From the outside, the Tsufur army airship was a compact, disc-shaped mass of metal
with an open hatch along the side, into which Nori, Leek, and Scallia dove. Once
inside, Nori flinched at the smell of fuel and metal, an unwelcoming smell that she
tried to ignore as she inspected the interior. To her left, three seats, bound to the floor,
sat before a long row of glowing buttons, switches, and levers, illuminated by the
light pouring out of the cockpit window. To her right, the soldier left ajar an interior
door behind him, evidently unaware of his three "guests" in hot pursuit. When the
three threw open the door, the soldier, who had been arranging the crystals in a metal
box in a smaller chamber, turned around and screamed when he saw three fierce-
looking women behind him. Before he could teach for the laser gun on the belt of his
black-velvet uniform, Scallia punched him in the forehead and sent him falling to the
cold floor, unconscious. Leek threw the unconscious soldier out into the cockpit and
closed the door as Nori and Scallia looked over the crystals.
"Four, five, six...They're all here," Nori counted.
"Why would they want Saiyan holy relics?" Leek asked.
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"I have no idea. Maybe to lower morale?"
Leek surveyed the interior of the chamber: a cold, fuel-stinking room with walls lined
with L-shaped laser guns and long fire guns, all hanging on tooth-like hooks. The
floor was hard and cold as Leek knelt down between Nori and Scallia and spoke of
the plan that popped into her head.
"Hey, I've got an idea. They've got so many weapons in here it boggles the mind. If
we steal some, the Tsufuru will have a harder ti--"
Just then, from outside the chamber door could be heard two male voices and the
slamming of the ship door. Shouting and footsteps were soon replaced by a deafening
hum, a sound not unlike billions of furious bees all swarming for attack. The sound
issued from within the walls of the ship, and as it began to move, the airship tipped up
and the three women were thrown into the back wall. The other two pilots of the ship,
it seemed, were retreating from Uccini Island unaware of their additional passengers.
For minutes on end the three women slumped against the back wall of the chamber,
silent. After the fear grew too great to bear, Nori stood up on shaky legs, struggling
for balance on the moving craft.
"We can't just sit here. They'll find us."
"You don't honestly want to go out there, do you?" Leek said, clinging to the hooks
and weapons to keep from being throws around.
"We can't stay in here!"
"You know they'll attack us, don't you?"
"We'll make them land, or we'll burst out of the machine and fly away. Come on!"
Slowly, Nori pushed open the chamber door and stepped out into the cockpit, with
Leek and Scallia following close behind with each wobbly step. Only a few feet
before them were three Tsufuru men sitting in the cockpit chairs, one manning the
levers and buttons to fly, one keeping a close eye on the board, and the third, now
conscious, groaning and rubbing his forehead with a gloved hand.
"Appul, look behind you. I thought I heard that door fly open," said the first soldier.
The second Tsufuru gazed over his shoulder, and when he saw three women looking
back at him, his lips betrayed him as he babbled.
"Lieutenant Cherri...we're not alone...there's three...three Saiyan's standing right
behind us...oh dear God...ABANDON SHIP! NOW!"
The other two Saiyan's looked over their shoulders, saw the three women, and cursed
as they ripped off their seat belts and made a mad dash for the hatch. Lieutenant
Cherri banged a code into the computer screen on the wall, and when the hatch flew
open, the three men parachuted out to safety. The hatch slammed shut before Nori
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could reach it, and it was so custom fit to the opening that she could not slip her
fingers underneath to lift it up again.
"Nori, stand back and I'll chi-blast it," Leek suggested.
"No! Don't do it! When we chi-blast Tsufuru ships like this from the side, they catch
fire and drop! What if it crashes and we're trapped inside with the flames?" Scallia
shouted.
"Well let's chi-blast the glass."
"We run the same danger. Who knows what'll happen?"
'Wait. He tapped his finger here," Nori said as she motioned to the terminal by the
hatch. "Let me try." Nori tapped her fingers on the terminal buttons without success.
The airship dipped, and the three women saw earth and sky spiraling around each
other outside the cockpit window as they were thrown around the interior. Screaming,
the three flew to the three cockpit seats and madly pushed buttons, without results.
Nori took hold of the level protruding from the dashboard and jerked it around, but
only made the ship dive helter-skelter left and right. Nori's foot stamped on something
cold at her feet, a pedal which only made the ship dive faster as Leek and Scallia
screamed, but when Nori pulled the level back toward her, the ship soared up toward
the sky again.
"Coconut 3, you're flying recklessly. Level that airship off! Are you having engine
troubles? Over," hissed a male Tsufuru voice from a black speaker at the corner of the
dashboard.
"Did you hear that? The machine's possessed! It's talking!" Leek squeaked.
"It's not possessed. I can't sense any chi or spirit energy from this thing!
I don't know where the voice is coming from!" Nori shouted as she jerked the lever
back and forth.
"Coconut 3, can you read? Over," hissed the speaker again.
After several minutes of screaming, darting across the sky, and being thrown over the
cockpit and back in her seat, Nori leveled off the ship. No other Tsufuru aircraft were
in sight, and the three tried to ignore the repeated words of warning from the speaker-
voice as they flew across Saiya. Beneath them, tracks of green land and water were
replaced by steel buildings and twisting streets, the rumored look of Tsufuru cities.
Miles and miles of city without end followed, and as the airship flew for another hour,
more metal skyscrapers stuck out of the gray and black city landscapes.
"Are we in Tsufur?" Nori asked in a small voice.
"I think you know the answer," said Scallia.
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"How do we get back to Saiya? How do we turn this around?"
No one answered.
Suddenly, an obnoxious honking burst from the dashboard, and as new lights began to
flash red, the airship began to dip. WARNING: FUEL LOW flashed on a screen by
Nori's lever, and a dial with numbers kept clicking lower and lower until it was in the
single digits. Slamming on the accelerator pedal did nothing, and as the airship sank
closer and closer to the Tsufuru city, Nori jerked the lever back and forth to steer the
ship away from buildings.
"Nori, right, LEFT! LEFT! TURN! NOW! Okay, right. RIGHT, DAMMIT!" Leek
and Scallia shouted directions to Nori, who wove between the approaching steel
towers. Sunlight reflected off of the tower windows into Nori's eyes, and the blinding
light almost sent her into a skyscraper. The incessant goose honking from the
dashboard continued, and the ship sank lower into Tsufuru city as the three women
continued screaming. Meanwhile, Tsufuru vendors lines the sunny streets, selling
sweets, trinkets, and flowers under brightly colored tents to the costumed passer-byers
that day. Men and women dressed as animals, demons, and mythic figures lined the
streets, walking under banners and stopping to listen to an occasional musician or
comedian on the street. It was a holiday, and
the Tsufuru populous was spending the day with gayeties. Guav and Banani were
sitting at the ivory tables of their favorite outdoor cafe, sipping fruit juice and
chatting. Clad in red velvet, Banani swept a hand over his wispy hair and smiled.
"...so when I got the acceptance letter from the Academy of Honeydu, I almost
screamed. Daddy's always wanted me to be a Honeydu man like the rest of the
family."
"So, are you staying in the city for the Masquerade Festival?"
Screaming citizens, honking hovercar horns, and a deafening engine hum distracted
the two Tsufuru men from their conversation, and turning to face the street, the two
saw a Tsufur Ground Army airship soaring down Strawbar Avenue. Manning the ship
was a black-haired, gold-eyed Saiyan woman, sweaty and screaming, who looked all
too familiar to the two. Guav and Banani screamed, fell out of their chairs, and
hugged the ground as the ship roared over them, leaving a violent gust of wind in its
wake. When the danger had passed and was now flying down South Carambola
Street, the two men lifted their heads among the spilled juice and overthrown tables
and stared at each other.
"Oh dear God..."
"Please tell me it wasn't the monkey-girl flying that thing!"
"Heh. A Saiyan. THE Saiyan we met in the Kohlrabins. Flying a military ship. Oh
hell. Why not? I think she's training to be a hovertaxi driver."
"SHUT UP!!!!"
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Back in the airship, Nori felt the aircraft bounce as it rammed a marble statue of a
moustached Tsufuru war hero. The head of the statue fell to the ground, as did the
airship as it bounced off a green landing, unfueled. Instead of black-paved streets of
buildings, Nori, Leek, and Scallia saw trees and trimmed grass whisk past as Tsufuru
ran to get out of the ship's way. A squat steel building stood before them, and as Nori
struggled to stop the forward motion of the downed ship, it crashed into the structure's
side. First came the violent impact, then the shattering of the glass windows, then the
smell of smoke as a sooty fire billowed in the cockpit.
"Everybody out! Come on! Get up!" Scallia coughed as she and the others stood on
the cockpit and jumped out of the broken window. Smoke made Nori's eyes water as
she landed in some sweet-smelling bushes, where Leek and Scallia were hiding. From
the shrubs, Nori's eyes darted over the scene: a wide building with its side caved in,
and a small mangled airship bathed in flames. Around her, trimmed grass and
trimmed trees stood beside a sign that read DON'T LITTER: PLEASE KEEP
MELLON PARK CLEAN. In the distance, hovercars on the black street floated
slowly past, their drivers straining for a look, and about a dozen-costumed Tsufuru
stepped slowly toward the wreck to gawk.
"We've got to hide. We need to get as far from here as possible," Scallia whispered.
"There's nowhere to hide! Where are we going to go!? They'll see us for sure!" Leek
whispered back.
Why is everyone dressed like that? Nori thought. Do the Tsufuru always dress like
this? Like animals and monsters? This is too strange.
"Saiyan's!" a little girl's voice squeaked from behind them.
"They're not real Saiyan's. Those are costumes," said another child's voice.
When Nori, Leek, and Scallia spun around, they found themselves face to face with
two Tsufuru children, a little boy in a lion costume and his little sister in a fairy outfit.
"Those costumes rock! Where can I buy one?"
"Ummmm..."
"But they've got tails!" the little girl protested.
"They're not real, though. They're stuffed. I'll show you," said the little boy, reaching
for Nori's waist. "See? When you squeeze a Saiyan's tail, it hurts real bad. But she's
not a Saiyan or she'd be screaming, see? It's stuffed. I can tell."
What do I do? What do I do? I can't strike him away, or I'd bring attention to us, Nori
thought as the boy squeezed the tail around her waist. Jerking away, Nori released her
tail from the boy's hands and eased back toward Leek and Scallia.
"Uranj! Currant! Get away from that wreck! And don't touch that lady's costume
without asking first!" shouted a woman's voice from several yards away. The two
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children ran away from the women to their mother, a woman clad in blue velvet,
standing on a stone-paved path winding through Mellon Park.
"Can the three of you see anything? Is anyone left in there? Are they hurt?"
The three women looked at each other and hesitated, but finally Nori spoke.
"No. We can't see anyone inside. I think they got out."
"Well that's good," said the mother as she led her children away. "And what's the deal
with the Saiyan costumes? That's not very patriotic!"
When the mother led her children out of the park, the three women looked at each
other, shrugged, and stepped out of the bushes. Huddled close together, the three
women walked past a group of on-lookers and a fire-fighting crew with hoses. When
none of the costumed masses gave the three any special attention, they breathed a sigh
of relief and walked stiffly onward.
"Where do we go?" asked Leek.
"I don't know where we're going. Just keep walking," Scallia answered.
Nori looked down at the stone path. "Who are we kidding? None of us know anything
about this place. None of us know anything about Tsufuru. We don't even know
where in Tsufur were are!"
This is a nightmare. This can't be happening. We're surrounded by enemies, we're
hours from home in a strange place, and I have absolutely no idea what to do. What if
we're found out? What if some slip of behavior gives us away and the Tsufuru fall on
us? How are we going to survive? What do we eat? Where do we sleep? Here? I don't
think so, in this parody of the wilds? Sarama, if you can hear me, show me what to do.
"Great costumes!" shouted a teenage girl in a sorry excuse for a Saiyan costume. Clad
in a fake bear skin tunic like a cave woman with a brown squirrel tail sewn in the
back, the girl waved to the three women and laughed. With her were about ten other
young Tsufuru, dancing and throwing a ball around in the summer light. Music
throbbed from a small metal box at the girl's feet.
"Hey, would you three like to join us? We're playing raspball and having a cook-out
later."
"No thank you," Nori shouted back.
Odd, they don't seem like hostile people. It's difficult to believe that a race like this
would want to wipe us out.
"Nori, over there," Scallia whispered.
But what did that little boy mean? Of course my tail wouldn't hurt, since Sorrel and
Vegeta-buru said I was an elite. But my tail doesn't feel like it's stuffed...does it?
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"Nori!"
"What?"
"Over there!"
Over at the far end of the park, a green hovercar had floated over to the side of the
street to park, and out of it emerged a woman of about Leek and Scallia's age. Scallia
had taken little notice of the woman at first, but it was clear that the woman had
noticed them, for she was staring at the three and hurriedly walking toward them.
Clad in a white velvet jumpsuit with a white sash around her waist, the woman was
lean, with slanted eyes dense black hair shooting out like an aura around her head.
Nori, Leek, and Scallia pretended not to see her and averted their eyes, but when the
woman was standing among them, she demanded attention with her whispers.
"How the hell did you get here?"
"What are you tal--"
"Stop it. I know who you are. Nori, the gold eyes are a dead give-away. And the two
of you are Leek and Scallia, right?"
The three women stiffened and spoke in hushed voices.
"How do you know us?" Nori whispered.
"You've got quite a reputation across Saiya. Why aren't you in Saiya? You want to get
killed here?"
"We had...a sudden change in travel plans," Leek replied.
"You should thank your gods you landed here during the Masquerade Festival.
Everyone thinks THOSE are costumes - I don't want to think of what could have
happened otherwise. Come with me."
"Why should we trust you?" Nori backed away.
"I'm not your enemy! Would you rather wander around Berritown by yourselves?
Come with me. Get in the hovercar. We'll talk on the way." Nori, Leek, and Scallia
obeyed and quickly followed the woman into the hovercar. Inside, the smell of
artificial leather sank into Nori's lungs, and as she tried to ignore the strange scent,
she felt the hovercar rise off the ground and speed down the street. People and
vendors and shiny buildings zipped by as the woman drove down the crowded street.
"I know this whole thing was a little abrupt. I'm just glad I found you."
"How did you find us? Among all these people?" Nori asked, staring out the window
as the city.
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"It was an accident. I heard about the airship crash in Mellon Park, about the
amphitheater caved in, and I didn't expect to see the three of you. It wasn't difficult to
pick you out - three scared-looking Saiyan's tend to stand out. What, did the soldiers
kidnap you?"
"No," said Leek. "We snuck on the ship to get some relics that the Tsufur army
soldiers stole from the Squa tribe. The didn't know we were on board when they took
off, but when we came out, the soldiers panicked and jumped out. It was, um, "fun"
trying to keep the ship off the ground, but it crashed."
"The crystals...THE CRYSTALS!" Nori remembered. "We forgot the crystals!
They're still on the ship! The box is still in that fire!"
"Calm down," the woman said. "There are ways of getting them back. It'll just take
time and cunning. The important thing is that I found you here."
"Who are you?" Scallia asked, leaning forward in the cushy back seat.
"You'll find out later."
"I like to know who my friends are."
"Let's just say that your interests are my interests."
"Do Tsufuru always dress like that? Like demons and Saiyan's and...what is
that...food?" Nori said, peering out the of the hovercar window at a man dressed as a
giant ham.
"No!" the woman laughed. "No, no, not at all. I told you before, this is the
Masquerade Festival. Once a year on the summer solstice, Tsufuru have a holiday
where they wear costumes and celebrate in the streets. It goes back to ancient times, I
think."
"I thought the Tsufuru were all nutcases," said Leek.
"Heh. I can see why. You'll see that not all Tsufuru are crazy or evil people. Oh.
We're here."
The woman pulled her hovercar up beside a building, a blue steel building of fifteen
stories.
"Get out of the hovercar, act casual, and follow me. Don't say a word until we get to
my apartment."
Nori, leek, and Scallia pushed on the doors, which refused to pop open.
"No, no...Hit the green button on the control panel. Tap it once. That's right. Just slam
the door shut when you're out."
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The three women did as they were told and followed the woman through the building
door, which split open when she slid a slip of plastic through a metal cleave in the
wall. Inside, the walls were flat, painted a sterile white that did nothing to entertain
the eye, and the women led the three up a long succession of white steps. After a few
moments, the woman led them through a corridor of white doors, up to the door at the
end of the hall, which she opened with the same slip of plastic. Once all four were
inside, the woman closed the door, turned to them, pulled off her sash, and revealed a
brown monkey tail encircling her waist.
"You're...You're Saiyan!" Nori gasped.
"I don't think I've properly introduced myself. My Tsufuru name is Loupei, but--"
"Loopy?" asked Leek.
"LOH-pay. But I would rather have you call me by my Saiyan name, Celeria."
The three women eyed up Celeria's apartment: in the living room, burgundy-colored
walls were covered with Saiyan artifacts and animal hide wall hangings, but on the
floor sat velvet Tsufuru-style sitting mats and an obsidian coffee table. Beside a tribal
wood pipe, propped up against the wall, was a case containing electronics and
machines the three had never seen before. In the adjacent kitchen, a basket of fruit and
vegetables sat on a counter beneath hanging herbs used in Saiyan cuisine, among
large machines and gadgets whose functions were still enigmas. Wide windows let in
air and light from the outside, but the noises of crowds and music still invaded from
the street.
"I can help you get the crystals back, and I can get you to the outskirts of Saiya, but
it'll be a few days. For your own safety, I need you three to stay here. Can you do
that?"
The three nodded.
"Why are you doing all this? Why are you going through all the trouble to help us?"
Nori asked, eyes still darting around to take in her surroundings.
"I don't want to see the Saiyan's wiped out any more than you do. and you three have
been instrumental, I heard, in mobilizing your people. We Saiyan's have to stick
together, huh?"
Celeria's past was a tragic one, Nori discovered.
"My mother had such a sweet name - Letti - but she was killed along with the rest of
the Onio tribe when I was a girl. You three live in the Peah Hills, right? You know
about the lost Onio tribe? I see. I'm an Onio, third-rank, or rather, I WAS a member of
the Onio when I lived there years ago."
Celeria sighed. "I remember the night when Plum Mining came to take that segment
of the hills. The Tubera, Kalei, and Parsni tribes were keeping the machines at bay -
their technology was simpler three years ago, so it wasn't as difficult - but the Onio
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fell under laser fire. I was fleeing the machines with my mother and brother - Paragus,
did I mention him? I remember the laser going right through my mother, and when
she fell down right beside me. "Run," she said to us. That's the last thing my mother
ever said to us. Paragus and I were so frightened that we couldn't do anything else, so
we ran, we flew, we did everything to get away from the machines. There was blood
shooting from my arm, and I didn't get far before the dizziness came over me. That's
when they found us."
Nori looked down. "Tsufuru?"
"That's right. I saw them, a Tsufuru man and a woman darting between the trees. It
must have been two miles from the battle, I think. Their machines hovered nearby -
not one of the Plum Mining tanks, an old-model hovercar - and I was sure they meant
to kill us. I fell on my face from all the bleeding, and everything was black for a
moment. When I opened my eyes, I was in the back of the hovercar with a tube
pumping new blood into my veins. My arm was bandaged, I noticed, and Paragus and
the Tsufuru woman were sitting beside me while the man drove. I panicked and
wanted to fight, but the woman stroked my forehead and spoke sweetly to me until I
calmed down. She told me that they weren't going to hurt us, that they weren't like the
Tsufuru who attacked the Peah Hills, that they wanted to help us and keep us safe.
She told me that she worked with a secret group of people, people who wanted the
machines to stop attacking the hills, and that they were in the hills to take pictures of
what was happening to show Tsufuru what was really going on. That evening, they
took us to their home here, in Berritown, and nursed me back to health. It turned out
the woman was a physician!"
Nori, Leek, and Scallia sat forward and listened, for the notion of kindly Tsufuru was
alien to them.
"The situation on the Tsufur-Saiyan border was very volatile that year, and they
couldn't have guaranteed our safety had they taken us back. So, they adopted us and
became our Tsufuru parents, and I've lived as a Tsufuru ever since. Oh, it wasn't easy
at first, I assure you. All my life, I had only seen destruction at the hands of the
Tsufuru, and I hated them like I hated the Plum Mining people. Their patience,
however, outlived my resentment, and they taught me that not all Tsufuru were cruel.
For Paragus, it wasn't quite as easy.
"Does Paragus live as a Tsufuru too?" Nori asked.
"No. It's been years since I've seen him. The whole transition - the Tsufuru couple, the
city, the weird technology - was just too much for him. After a month, he ran away
from my new parents' home, and even though they searched the whole city for him,
he never came up. That was when we were children, but I have no idea where he is or
what he's doing now. He was my twin, my last relative, my last flesh-and-blood tie to
the Onio. I missed him terribly after he left."
Celeria shifted around on her mat, reached for her cup of wine on the coffee table, and
took a sip. Nori, Leek, and Scallia sat on other mats around the table as well, sipping
at their own cups of wine.
128
"Well, it was years ago. It doesn't really matter now. I was grateful for their love, for
my new mother's willingness to save my life. Ever since then, I was fascinated by the
healing arts, and when I grew older, I studied to be a physician. That's what I do here
in Berritown, run a clinic with three other physicians. My Tsufuru parents were
proud. I wish my real mother had seen it. I don't know how she would have reacted to
me working along Tsufuru, though."
"Did you have a father?" Nori asked, finishing up her wine.
Celeria looked up and stared into Nori's gold eyes for a long time. "You have gold
eyes. My Saiyan mother told me that my father had gold eyes as well. His name was
Chapati, she told me. Are the two of you related?"
"Chapati!?" Nori's back straightened up. "Chapati!? You know about Chapati!?
Chapati is my grandfather! My foster mother told me about him! What do you know
about him? I've been looking all over Saiya for him!"
"Grandfather?"
"Please! You have to tell me about him! I never knew him! He promised my foster
mother that he would return for me, but he never returned to the Salusa before they
were massacred! Please! What do you know about him?"
Celeria frowned and stared down into her wine cup. "He abandoned you like he
abandoned my mother, and you still want to see him? I say to hell with him. If he
doesn't care about his own family, of what use is he?"
"But wait. If I'm his granddaughter, and you're his daughter, we're related. This is
amazing."
"Yes, we would be relatives. Wait...if I'm more of a direct relative than you are, why
do you have gold eyes and I don't? The Saiyan's I know out in the desert rumor that
you can talk to wolves and dogs. Why can't I? Something's not right here."
Scallia interrupted. "Well, you know how it is. Some children and grandchildren
inherit different traits. Our father, Leek's and mine, had brown hair, but we ended up
with auburn hair like our mother. Eye colors and powers are probably like that as
well."
"I suppose you're right. Nori, please take it from me. This Chapati isn't worth your
worry."
"You said that he was your father. Tell me more."
Celeria sighed heavily. "Well, my mother said that Chapati was running an errand for
the Salusa - a few Onio people were possessed by frightened nature spirits - and he
was sent to do the exorcism. He did what he was sent to do, since he soothed the
spirits and persuaded them to return to the earth, but that's not all he did during his
stay. My mother was in her forties, a recent widow, and she was very lonely for
company. So along comes this smiling, charismatic man, fiftyish, a little on the bony
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side but lovable, she said, and she offered him a place to stay for the week. He liked
her, she liked him, one thing led to another, and boom. Nine months later, Paragus
and I were born."
"There are flowers that grown in the Peah Hills - artusamak flowers - that Saiyan
women eat to prevent conception. Did she know about them?" Leek asked.
"Of course. Most of the time, she said, a woman could eat them and be certain she
wouldn't conceive. But there are times, rare time, when a woman conceives even after
eating the blossoms, and this was one of those times."
Celeria threw back her head and swallowed the rest of her wine. "Neither one of them
knew she was with child when he left. They parted as good friends, I think. Then, we
were born, and she waited until we were two to summon Chapati and make him claim
us as his own. Onio custom demanded that questionable children be of that age; I read
an anthropology text that said the Peah Hills tribes all have that custom, that it came
from ancient times when infant mortality was higher among Saiyan's, and it was
necessary to see if babies would live before making fathers claim them."
"What did Chapati do?" Nori entreated her.
"What could he do? He was long gone! The messenger that returned said that he left
the Salusa to return to his people, whoever they were supposed to be."
Nori's stomach knotted. Grandfather...this can't be you. Why would you abandon us?
Mother told me that you were a kind man, always laughing, always ready to fight for
his friends. How could you do this?
"Maybe Chapati didn't know. That's probably what happened."
"Maybe. But...it wasn't right. No one shunned us for not having a father. My
childhood among the Onio was a happy one when the Tsufuru weren't attacking. But
my mother raised us alone. My father should have been there. Paragus and I should
have known Chapati. Oh hell. What am I saying? Chapati doesn't matter, and he can
be dead as far as I'm concerned. Why waste stupid sentimental feelings on a lecher?"
Grandfather, Nori thought as her eyes grew wet, Grandfather Chapati, why did this
all have to happen? If I knew of you were alive or not, I'd be happier. If you knew you
had a daughter, if you met her, Celeria might be happier. Grandfather, it pains me to
know all this tonight.
Meanwhile, Leek was fidgeting on her seat cushion, as the wine was slowly filling up
her bladder. Feeling the call of nature, Leek's eyes darted around the room for a hint
as to where she could go, and spying a potted plant in one corned, she discretely
walked over. Saiyan's relieved themselves beside plants, so it was only natural that
Tsufuru would use plants for the same purpose, she decided. As Leek loosened her fur
slacks and stooped in front of the shrub, Celeria stopped in mid-conversation and
sprang up.
"Leek! LEEK, NOT THERE! NOT...too late."
1Su
Leek had already watered the plant.
"That's why she's called Leek," Scallia whispered to Nori, whose spirits lifted a bit as
she laughed.
Leek hurriedly hitched up her pants again and blushed. "Celeria, I'm sorry. I thought
that's why--"
"It's fine, it's fine. But if you have to go again, there's a better way. Follow me."
Celeria led Leek into the bathroom, while Scallia gazed over at Nori.
"Are you all right?"
"My grandfather...I wish I didn't know all this...I hurt inside..."
"It's a lot to learn," Scallia whispered, resting a hand on Nori's shoulder.
"Be strong."
Inside the bathroom, Celeria's instructions echoed off of the tile walls.
"If you have to go again, you...GO in there, and then you use that paper there...and
then you hit this button, see?" A soft beep was heard, and a loud splashing noise
sounded, followed by silence.
Back in the living room, Nori stood up and walked softly to the window, where the
noises of the night festival rose up like steam from the street. Below, huge chariots
and animals made of flowers were dragged through the streets, and costumed men and
women upon them threw sweets and gifts to the crowds on the sidewalks. Laughter
and pulsing music rose from the scene, and the smells of desserts and roasting
delicacies floated up to the window for Nori to smell. Light poured out of the
windows of countless skyscrapers, and the city seemed to contain millions of stars in
those lights. Out in the distant sky, explosions of light and color burst out of the
blackness like puffs of millions of stars: fireworks. Nori suddenly realized, however,
that the sky was pitch black, the stars absent from the lonely void.
"Scallia...Scallia, where are the stars!? The stars are gone!"
Scallia stood beside Nori and looked out into the night, when Celeria and Leek
emerged from the bathroom.
"Nori, it's all right. The stars are still there," Celeria reassured her.
"It looked as if they're absent because the light from the city drowns their light out."
Nori stared blankly into the night. "Who are these people who can rob the sky of stars
and light up their cities with them? I can't see the stars...I can't see the worlds out
there. The Tsufuru city took away the stars, the worlds beyond us." Heavy breathing
and sweating soon joined her stare, and Nori went pale at the horror of the blank sky.
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Scallia and Leek looked at each other and patted Nori's back. "You're just had a rough
day. Let's rest."
Oh, but Tsufuru do take away the worlds beyond us. Should I tell her about the Tsufur
military and the planet trade? No...not yet. I'll tell them later, Celeria decided.
"Listen," Celeria said as she laid out pillows and blankets on the floor for her three
guests. "I had off today because of the holiday, but I work at the clinic tomorrow and
the day after that. You'll have to keep a low profile here in my apartment. I'll show
you where the food and water are tomorrow morning. Don't set foot outside, and don't
open the door for anyone."
"You don't need to worry," Leek snickered. "We're in now hurry to get lost out there
again."
"I know some people here in the city who can help us get your allies' crystals back.
When the end of the week comes, I can drive you into the Citrusine Desert back in
Saiya. It's about two hours from here by hovercar, and I've got some friends there I'd
like you to meet."
"Fantastic. Thank you," Scallia said.
"I've got so many questions to ask you," Nori said as she lied down, eyes still blank
from the sight of the starless night. "The war, Plum Mining Corporation, the army, the
crystals, the Light..."
Everyone in the room cringed at the thought of the Light.
"Get some rest," Scallia said as she slipped under her own blanket. "I have a feeling
the horror's just beginning."











1S2
Chapter Twelve
The Tsufuru

The deserts outside of Balti Keema stronghold were some of the most serene on
Chutney-sei, once the night fell upon them. By day, the sands took on a yellow hue,
but under the soft moonlight, the sands were a clean and brilliant white. Like miles of
diamond dust, the desert sparkled to match the starlight above, and the sands crunched
under the feet of two wolves trotting across the landscape. One, a young white wolf
with yellow eyes, bore a leather backpack on her long back, while her companion, an
aging wolf with gray fur, trotted close behind. Jasmati and the Oracle travelled in
their wolf forms that night across the sands, and white rock formations soon appeared
before them.
Amidst the rocks, which stood no more than ten feet high, could been seen a soft,
warm light glowing from a coal fire, and the sound of Chapati's gravelly voice
hummer throughthe night air. Netting hung over a hollow in the rocks, inside which
the old Ghee's bed mat and toiletries rested. Sitting in lupine form by the fire, holding
the Gateway Sphere in his lap,
Chapati hummed in monotone as he pressed his thumbs against the crack in the
sphere. Chi appeared as yellow light on his thumbtips, and his humming grew louder
as he concentrated his life-energy on the crack. The old coyote-man's humming
stopped, however, as his ears perked up and his head turned to face Jasmati and the
Oracle.
"Ah! I felt your chi! It is good to see you again, Jasmati!" Chapati said as he strolled
over and knelt beside the wolves, stroking their backs. "And Oracle? You came as
well?"
"The Oracle has something to tell you," Jasmati barked at him, wagging her tail. "But
first, I brought your supplies. There's food, water, and a change of clothes in the
backpack, if you just open it up."
Chapati reached into Jasmati's package and removed several jugs of water, sacks of
bread, fruit, and dried meat, and a burgundy Ghee habit, listening to the Oracle as she
laid down by the fire.
"Sarama spoke through me this morning, Chapati, and I think it concerns you. Please
sit down and listen."
Jasmati and Chapati sat down by the fire and listened to the Oracle's words. "Sarama
has been speaking through me and coming to me in dreams lately, but the message
she gave me today was a revelation. Jasmati and Dal heard her words, and both
encouraged me to come to you."
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"Yes, yes. Sarama's words are always important. What did the goddess say to you?"
The Oracle cleared her throat. "The message was not a long one:
The year of liberation approaches with haste,
and my princess, my daughter most noble
will return to her people in but a few years' time.
I say to Chapati, who serves me dutifully,
to Jasmati, who serves Chutney-sei dutifully,
prepare yourselves for that day,
for Kheer and Darjiling's daughter
will need your assistance and strength
in both battle and peace.
Go into the deserts, into the ruins,
and there find the gifts of the ancients
to aid in my people's liberation.
An anklet, a jewel of dawn's colors
bound in silver, beneath the first pillar;
a bull-roarer, a long disk of fine stone
in the sands within the first chamber;
a bindi, a woman's forehead jewel
encased in crystal under my statue;
these will aid you and your princess.
Not against children of Chutnian blood
will the first two be efficacious,
but against foreign races will they act.
The third, the forehead jewel of blue,
1S4
is for Nori alone, and her brow alone
will wear it and know of its secrets.
Go, and seek out these gifts of old.
...that's the message. Sarama is telling you where to find tools to help Nori. She's
coming! The day is coming, and Sarama's trying to prepare you."
Jasmati wagged her tail. "Well, Chapati? Are you up for a treasure hunt tonight?"
Chapati slapped his leg. "Ah! Sarama always takes care of me, one way or another.
Yes, I will come with you. We must help our Nori when she comes, yes?"
"By ruins, maybe we should look in the Basmat City ruins," said the Oracle. "That
sounds like what the goddess described. That's near here, isn't it?"
"Yes, just to the west," Chapati replied. "Let's go."
"Why don't you change into your wolf form?" the Oracle suggested. "We can move
faster, and since we're smaller, there's less of a chance of being spotted if royal troops
are flying overhead."
"My wolf form...I haven't been a little coyote in years, but yes."
With that, Chapati stripped off his habit and transformed his bony lupine body into a
coyote's, and trotted off with Jasmati and the Oracle into the distance.
"You work on the Gateway Sphere day and night?" the Oracle inquired.
"At night. At night I sit by the fire and put my chi into the crack. Daytime is too hot,
and I sleep. You saw the sphere. A year and a half, night by night, and only an inch
has sealed!"
Indeed, even with Chapati's adept skills, reparing the sphere was slow, and his
mystical arts had only sealed up a fraction of the crack.
"You didn't finish your story!" Jasmati barked. "Last time, you were telling me about
the time you exorcized three Saiyans back on Plant-sei." Jasmati, who loved tales of
Chapati's adventures among the Saiyan barbarians, always pumped the old Ghee for
stories when she dropped off food and water.
"Oh yes! The Onio exorcism. Well now, where was I?...Oh yes. Night was nearing,
and the third man was still possessed. The earth spirit in him, it made his hair stand on
end and his muscles grow, but I was not afraid. Sometimes it would sit and stare at
me, and sometimes it would throw the poor man around and fight. But I spoke softly
to it, yes. You must be kind but firm with spirits. I held the man's shoulders and did
not let go. I spoke to the spirit and told it to leave, that we would quiet the earth so it
could return home. Tsufuru machines always disrupted the earth. I felt the spirit
energy, and the spirit grew calm and left him. The man fell to the floor then, but when
1SS
he opened his eyes again, he was himself. His family was happy, and my job was
done."
"You talked about Letti last time. What about her?"
"Yes, I slept one more night in Letti's tent before I left. She was such a fine woman,
so lonely, and I was quite fond of her. We talked much that night, and I thanked her
for her kindness. Yes, I thanked her for food and shelter, but also for her tenderness
and laughter. She and I had become good friends, you see, and she and I embraced
again that evening."
"Tell me more about you and Letti," Jasmati asked. "Tell me more romantic details."
"Yes, Letti. I said good-bye to her the next morning. I did so want to visit her again
and promised myself that I would again. But not long after that, a Ghee opened the
wormhole and came to us. King Kheer had come to the throne, you see, and we were
to leave the Salusa and come back to Chutney-sei. If we used the Gateway Sphere, he
might find out and conquere Plant-sei with it. He was already conquering new planets
for his empire, you see. So we had to leave. It saddened me. I had to leave the Saiyans
and all the powerful spirit places on Plant-sei. And I could not visit Letti again, not
even when I took Nori, for I had to hurry back to Chutney-sei. I was fond of Letti. I
still remember her smell. She smelled of jungle flowers and dew. I did love it so to
hold her."
"Do you think you would have married her, had you stayed?"
"Oh no! We Ghee had special rules about the Saiyans. We could take husbands and
wives from any race but the Saiyans. We could take lovers from among the Saiyans,
but only if we never had children. That is why Letti ate jungle flowers, so that I would
not sire children on her. No. I could not have married Letti. It would be too
dangerous."
"Dangerous? What, a Saiyan wife would rough you up?"
"No, no! Saiyans are not warlike all the time. Letti would have made a fine wife. It is
children that would be dangerous. That is why. There is a danger when Saiyans and
Chutnians mix blood."
"Why? Do you get a Saiyan werewolf?"
"No, not a Saiyan werewolf. A Chutnian, a werewolf child, only comes when two
Chutnians mate. When a Chutnian has children with a mate of another race, the child
is not Chutnian. A friend explaiined it to me long ago, but Ido not have a head for
science. I do not know all the details. But about these genes, my friend said that the
genes that give us wolf tails, that let us shapeshift and speak Chutnian from the cradle,
these genes are recessive. The child of a Chutnian and Mushese would be Mushese.
The child of a Chutnian and a Saiyan would be Saiyan."
"So what's the problem? No one would know that a mixed baby had a Chutnian
father."
1S6
"But they would, if fate were unkind! You know the legend of the Superferal, yes?
The werewolf with gold fur and green eyes, so powerful that no one can defeat it?
That is no legend! All Chutnians have a Superferal gene. Most, however, never
cultivate enough chi to become Superferal. When Chutnians mate with all other races,
the baby's Superferal gene is canceled out. But when a Saiyan and a Chutnian mate,
the baby would become a Super Saiyan."
"You mean..."
"Yes! A creature that looks like a Saiyan, but could have gold hair and green eyes, if
it were strong enough! Saiyans with the gene can pass it on to their children and
grandchildren as well! Generations ago, the Ghee did not know this, and some took
mates from among the Salusa Saiyans. We masqueraded as Saiyans, and the Saiyans
did not know of us. But long ago, a young Ghee priest, Utmeg, shared his bed with a
Saiyan named Gyarriku. He gave Gyarriku a boy, and the boy grew strong, until he
took on the gold hair and green eyes in manhood. He was just, and pushed back the
Tsufuru, and saved his people from many dangers. But evil men, space pirates, took
him into space. No doubt they used him to conquere planets! His power was too
dangerous. Others wanted to use it for evil ends. Who could stop such a power? The
Ghee decided that Chutnian blood, Superferal blood, must have been in him. We
could no longer have children with the Saiyans. Super Saiyans were too dangerous.
That is why I encouraged Letti to eat the jungle flowers, so I would not give her a
child when we embraced."
But what of Nori? Chapati thought. She is no longer a child by now. She will feel the
stirrings of youth now. What if she discovers the pleasures of the body with a Saiyan
boy? She will soon be of age. It is soon time for her to take a mate. What if she
marries and bears children of mixed blood? Nori, I must find you. There cannot be
more Super Saiyans. I must hurry. I must get through the wormhole to find you. But it
is taking so long! I do not want to think about it.
"Jasmati, let me tell you another story. Did I ever tell you about the time I rode the
giant river fish? I was in the Legume River. Other Salusa Saiyans were bathing there
as well. My friend Turnyip saw something down river. Her wife...what was her
name?...Garli, that was the woman's name...saw it as well. We swam up to it..."
For the past two days, Nori, Leek, and Scallia had explored Celeria's apartment while
she practiced medicine at the Berritown clinic, and a taste of Tsufuru technology
overwhelmed them. For many hours Nori would stare out the windowns of Celeria's
apartment, gazing out at the geometric city of glass and steel. Below, hovercars
swarmed through the streets like beetles, and Tsufuru men and women lined the
streets, sipping dark-colored drinks from white cups and holding hand-held
teletransmitters up to their ears.
Unfamiliar with technology, the three women explored the Tsufuru machines in
Celeria's apartment, finding unexpected joys and annoyances. There was the
afternoon when the three discovered the freezer, and spent over ten minutes staring at
the miniature winter in the icebox. There was the metronome in Celeria's room, which
Leek accidentally set off as she fingered it. When the unrelenting *tick-tick-tick* of
the metronome grew too bothersome, Leek solved the problem with a chi-blast, only
1S7
to have to explain to Celeria that evening the missing metronome and the black stain
on the wall. There was Nori's experience with the shower, where she stayed one
morning for over an hour, standing under the water, dazed. Having only bathed in the
cool waters of the Legume River all her life, Nori found the shower's miniature
waterfall of hot water all too delightful. She returned to the shower for another hour
later that morning and again in the afternoon, and when Celeria would receive her
water bill for over 500 cherrimarcs, she would be at a loss for the reason.
Nori discovered Celeria's book collection as well, filled with all sorts of medical
journals and anthropology texts on the Saiyan tribes. Tomes such as Ethnographic
Profiles of the Peah Tribes and The Primitive Tribes of Saiya intruiged her, and as she
read through the books, several essay passages caught her eye.
"Although their appearance in space pods back in the late 25th century Apricotto Era
suggests origins on technologically advanced planets, Saiyan culture still bears the
marks of premodern hunter-gatherer societies. While some communities such as the
Kohlrabin tribes (Salusa, Crimini, Enoki) and the isolated Chiveau tribe are agrarian,
most Saiyans are semi-nomadic," read The Primitive Tribes of Saiya.
"One of the remarkable aspects of Saiyan society is the variety of organized
leadership among various tribes. Although the Peah tribes center around the authority
of a single male chief and a patriarchal warrior elite, matriarchal tribes such as the
Kalif and Endiva center around the women of a single ruling family, while the
Kohlrabin tribes tend to be egalitarian," Read Ethnographic profiles of the Peah
Tribes.
"So the Tsufuru didn't always hate us," Nori said to herself. "They didn't always fear
us, if they were willing to learn about us. Why do they want us dead now?"
Confused, Nori read on but received no answers to her questions about the Tsufuru.
None of Celeria's books, however, spoke of beauty tattooes among any of the Saiyan
tribes, leaving the alpha tattooes on her palms a mystery.
Nothing, however, could compare to the afternoon of the second day, when the three
women discovered Celeria's teleprojector and saw the Tsufuru news report.
"Mmmph. Pushda buddon," Leek said to Scallia as she pointed to a green button and a
flat black square on the floor of the living room. Leek had been munching on some of
the fruits and breads that Celeria left out for them that morning, and she spoke
between mouthfuls.
"I'm not pushing it. I don't know what it'll do. You push it."
"Iffai burraikkit..." Leek paused for a swallow. "...I'll get in trouble with Celeria
again."
"Stop it. I'll push it," said Nori as she tapped the green button with her index finger.
No sooner has her finger rose up from the button did light shoot up from the flat
square, a flat image projected into the air. Startled, the three women moved back, only
1S8
to see lifelike scenes on the projected image before them: two Tsufuru men standing
against a sickly yellow sky.
"This feeling is with me all the time, Paya. I feel empty. I feel this terrible void inside
me," the first man moaned.
"EAT SOMETHING!" the second man laughed, his words followed by cheerful
music and a blue sky.
The scene changed to the two men running into a restaurant and eating giant plates of
meat, as the narrator ended with, "Come to Teaberry's for the finest dinner platters in
Berritown, starting at 5 Cherrimarcs each. Good food and great prices at Teaberry's!"
Nori, Leek, and Scallia stared at the screen, speechless.
I'm convinced this time, Nori thought. The Tsufuru are all insane. They have to be.
The projected image faded to black, only to be replaced by the image of a man in blue
velvet, gray-haired and blue-eyed, staring sternly into the distance.
"Welcome back to channel 12 Berritown News. As we reported earlier, the incident in
Berritown's Mellon Park on Concorday afternoon, involving a Tsufur Ground Army
airship colliding with Mellon Ampitheater's west side, remains under investigation.
Tsufuru military officials have not commented on the possible causes of the crash,
although inside sources suggest that anti-government saboteurs might have been to
blame.
"Anti-government? You could say that," said Scallia.
The gray-haired man in the image continued. "The top story involves the continuing
skirmishes in Saiya between Tsufur Ground Army troops and Saiyan aggressors."
"Saiyans!? The war! Everyone, listen!" Nori shouted, quickly sitting erect.
"Today, Tsufur Ground Army troops launched another ground attack on the Peah
Hills in retaliation for Saiyan attacks."
"Wha--attacks?" Leek said.
"THEY attacked US," Scallia added.
"This is insane. Listen," Nori shouted, eyes now wide.
"The Light Orb was again called into action to hold off Saiyan bushmen, whose
atrocities against the Tsufuru have made them an especially dangerous force over the
past few years."
"WHAT atrocities? Okay, like massacering entire tribes and burning up people's
home aren't YOUR atrocities!? You tailess cowards started this mess!" Scallia hissed
at the screen, clenching her fists so tightly that her knuckles were white.
1S9
Images of a recent battle in the Peah Hills flashed across the screen as the gentleman
spoke, scenes of Tsufur Ground Army tanks firing on Saiyans. Hurling chi-blasts and
dodging laser fire were Saiyans of various tribes, including Sorrell, Vegeta-buru, and
Nappa.
Vegeta-buru! You're all right! Please be all right when I get back! raced Nori's
thoughts. Sorrell, Nappa, fight. Keep each other safe, and keep my Vegeta-buru safe.
"Lieutenant Grapira of the 24th Hovertank Division was available for comment," said
the gray-haired man as the scene briefly changed to a close-up of a sweaty Tsufur
military officer with wispy hair.
"They're barbarians," Grapira said as he stood behind a Tsufuru hovertank on a dusty
battlefield. "They're barbarians, all of them. No Tsufuru is safe until we're free from
the Saiyan threat. You can see it in their eyes that they're animals."
Nori felt the hairs on the back of her neck bristle.
"And another thing," Grapira continued. "How can Tsufur give its people the space
and natural resources they need if Saiyans are clinging to the lands that are rightfully
ours? Saiya lands are prime locations for planet trade bases, and those mean jobs."
"Those lands aren't YOURS!" Scallia hissed deep in her throat.
"Saiya is just brimming with crystals and petroleum. Every Tsufuru is entitled to
those. But no. The Saiyans kill any Tsufuru who comes near allthose great resources.
That's the kind of barbarism we're here to stop. Permanently."
Liars! You bastards! Nori thought to herself, swelling with pain. Liars! DOn't you
dare delude yourselves by forgetting who started this!
"Up next after the commercual break, Dr. Pineappu Blackberr of the Honeydu
Academy will talk about the barbaric practices of the Saiyan bushmen, including
human sacrifice, child cannibalism, and rampant promisc--"
Celeria, who walked through the door unnoticed, knelt down and shut off the
teleprojector.
"Propaganda. It's disgusting. I was hoping you wouldn't figure out how to use this
thing. It would only make you angry," she said, standing back up as the teleprojector
image faded away to nothingness.
"They're liars," Nori growled. "They delude themselves into thinking that we started
this. They lied about us and accuse us of all sorts of atrocities. We're not the
barbarians. The men in those machines are."
"They're liars all right. It's the Tsufur government, telling the media to say those
things. The sad part is, most of the public believes it. Most Tsufuru believe that
Saiyans are shameless animals because they have absoluletly no idea what's
happening on the battlefield."
14u
"Celeria, none of this makes sense. I'm convinced that the Tsufuru are insane from
what I've seen. I can't see why you would want to live--"
"It's about time I explained this war to you. But before that, let's get ready. I've got
some friends in the city with a little present for you. Come on. We'll dress you three
in some of my clothes and pass you off as Tsufuru. Then we'll head to the Citrusine
Desert and head home."
Celeria walked into her room and pulled three sets of velvet clothing out of her closet.
After helping Nori, Leek, and Scallia don the new clothes and conceal their tails
beneath cumberbuns, she led the three out the door into the city evening.
The white Basmat City ruins, worn smooth by years of sandy winds, concealed
ancient treasures for Chapati, Jasmati, and the Oracle, just as Sarama had promised.
Amidst sand-worn pillars and altars from some long-abandoned temple, the three
wolf-form Chutnians dug in the sand with their frint paws. Beneath the first pillar of
the shrine, the old coyote dug into the earth until a silver anklet appeared at his feet,
an anklet holding a stone of sunset colors: yellow, amber, and red. In the first stone
bulidng of the shrine, Jasmati dug with her front paws until she struck something
hard: an ivory bull-roarer carved with sacred symbols, bound to a hemp rope. In the
center of the ruins, the Oracle dug under the primitive statue of humanoid Sarama
until her paws hit a hard case, holding a bindi of tiny diamonds and sapphires bound
in the shape of a flame. When the three brought their items together outside the ruins,
Jasmati gazed up at the midnight stars and sighed.
"Beautiful things we have here. The ancients understood beauty, I have to admit."
The Oracle, without warning, went limp as her eyes went vacant, but in a moment her
body stirred and her old gold eyes lit up with divine power. Sarama had entered her
wolf-body once more, and as she trotted in geometric patterns across the sand, the
goddess' words flowed from her lips.
"Chapati, hear me!
Fit the anklet of sunset hues
around your slender ankles
should you or Nori be threatened
by those not of our blood.
Dance joyously then,
and all of foreign blood
who lay unwitting eyes upon you
shall dance unwittingly with you.
141
Jasmati, hear me!
Lay hands upon the cord
of the bull-roarer of yore,
should you or Nori be threatened
by those not of our blood.
Swing it with strength above you,
and the hum of the bull-roarer
shall be like thunder, unbearable
save to the ears of my children.
Lassi, my mouthpiece of virtue,
my oracle most loyal, hear me!
Press the bindi to my princess' brow
should she spurn her feral heritage,
and verily will the truth of her duty
be impressed upon her soul.
Go, and seal the cleave in the Gateway Sphere."
The Oracle fell silent then as her eyes went vacant, only to be replaced by life again.
"Aha!" Chapati laughed. "The goddess helps her children, no? We should do as she
says in gratitude. Walk me back to my hiding place. I must get back to work on the
Gateway Sphere now, yes?"
"Plum Mining Corporation started this whole war on the Saiyans decades ago,"
Celeria began as she drove through Berritown's busy streets that evening. "You see,
Plum managers the fuel sales for all of Plant-sei, not only petroleum needs for the
general Tsufuru public, but mineral fuel needs for the military as well. Fuel shortages
rear their ugly heads from time to time, so Plum can either find new places to mine
and drill in Tsufur, or in Saiya. Most of the richest mineral and petroleum deposits are
in mountain areas..."
"...like the Kohlrabin Mountains and Peah Hills," Nori said.
"Right. Saiyans are expendable, at least to Plum Mining Corporation. What better
way to get fresh, cheap resources that to massacre a few bushpeople?"
142
"But the Saiyans held their own for a long time. How could it be easy to take their
lands?"
"Plum had problems with the Saiyans, but they were able to clear away enough lands
in Saiya to find fresh minerals and petroleum. You don't want to see the Kohlrabin
Mountains right now, as torn up as they are."
That was my home, the Salusa homeland. Defiled now.
"I don't think I could bear it."
"But the real shock came when the Saiyans in the Peah Hills overwhelmed Plum's
forces a few years back. When the realizes that the Peah Hill Saiyans were too
dangerous, they abandoned their attempts to regain the hills they took, and things
were quiet for a while."
"But why now? Why does the Tsufur Ground Army want to annihilate us?"
"Politics. For one, the Tsufur military has been involved in the planet trade for several
years now."
"Planet trade?"
"Tsufur soldiers travel to planets with poor, weak races, exterminate the inhabitants,
and sell the planets to the highest bidder. Tsufur military technology caught the eye of
some high-ranking officers in the planet trade, and so far the Tsufur military machines
haven't disappointed them. Someone named Freeza runs the trade, but I don't know
much about him. Plant-sei is located in a galaxy that's part of a cluster of four
galaxies, and all four have at least some areas under the planet trade's control."
"Entire races, wiped out...I never imagined something so horrific could be
happening...it's not just the Saiyans?"
"No, tragically. Anyway, all of the space travel and battle involved uses up a great
deal of mineral fuel, but it wasn't a problem because the planet Hummus was trading
fuel with the military. About two years ago, Hummus ran into fuel shortages of its
own, and Plum and the military needed more fuel, fast."
"So that's why they renewed their attacks on Saiyan lands. Fuel! But wait. Why are
they attacking all the Saiyan tribes, not just those in mountainous regions?"
"There are several reasons. Some Tsufuru are uncomfortable with the idea of the
planet trade, and this little war with the Saiyans helps distract the public from the
planet trade issue. Naturally, it makes the government and the military look like the
good guys, so public distrust in them decreases. The Saiyans are also a little
experiment, from what I hear. The military has developed some new weapons that
they want to use in the planet trade, but they needed a test subject first. If they can
completely wipe out the Saiyans, they know that their weapons are worthwhile."
"Like the Light?"
14S
"The Light Orb, you mean? Exactly. It was controversial, and military scientists didn't
know if it would work, so they've been trying it out on Saiyans first...with frightningly
effective results. The thing is, the chemical reaction that creates the heat-light is
carried out in a special kind of crystal, very difficult to find. That's why they're
seeking new mining areas, and thats why they stole the crystal relics from your
Chiveau friends."
"How do you know all of this?" Scallia asked from the backseat.
"Some friends in strange places told me, and you'll meet them in--wait, we're here,"
Celeria said as she pulled up to the curb near a light-lit city street. A cool, jazzy sign
reading CRAN CAFE shone its light onto the sidewalk, and the four women slipped
out of thehovercar.
Out in the warm evening air, Nori was sweating under the velvet Tsufuru clothes, but
she said nothing as she followed Celeria, Leek, and Scallia into the cafe. Inside,
soothing music hummed as Tsufuru sat in plush chairs, sipping drinks and chatting in
the soft light. Past paintings and dark wood panels Nori followed her companions to
the back, where Celeria unlocked a door, led the three down a long flight of stairs, and
stepped into the basement.
"Why is it I never know what to think of these people?" Nori whispered to Leek.
"Everyone here looks so calm and friendly. These don't look like the Tsufuru who
tried to kill us."
"Maybe all Tsufuru aren't the bloothirsty monsters we pegged them for. Maybe not all
of them are like the Plum Mining and army soldiers," Leek replied.
"Don't assume that just yet," Scallia added.
The basement was a cool, damp concrete gallery, filled with tables, chairs, and boxes
of weapons. About three dozen Tsufuru swarmed there, some examining weapons,
some calling up data on portable computer terminars, some talking quietly with their
fellow men and women. A Tsufuru man lifted his head at Celeria's approach, and
smiled when she addressed him.
"These are the three I told you about," she said as she motioned toward Nori, Leek,
and Scallia. "Ladies, I'd like you to meet Mr. Blueberr and Mr. Ugli, the founders of
our little...club."
"Nice to meet you," said Ugli, a man of about forty with long, braided blue hair.
"You're safe here, so don't worry. We've heard a lot about you from Loupei."
Nori, who still harbored confusion about the Tsufuru, nodded quietly at the man.
"Nori," Blueberr whispered, "we don't hate Saiyans. We mean you no harm."
Blueberr, a slim man of about fifty, scratched his bald head.
"Our little 'club' here is made up of a very diverse crowd. Doctors, hackers, scientists,
thieves, spies, and your average working Joe's belong to TANGY," Celeria added.
144
"What's this all about?" Scallia inquired as she looked around the basement.
"Subversion," Ugli said. "Subversive measures against the Tsufuru military and the
planet trade. We do what we can to slow down the military and thwart its role in the
planet trade. And, of course, we do what we can to help out the Saiyan's plight."
"My Tsufuru parents are still part of TANGY. They're working with the Nectar City
group on the coast, but I really wish you could meet them. They're both incredible
people," Celeria said with a smile.
"Oh. Ladies, I have something for you," Blueberr mentioned, pulling a box from
under the table. When the Tsufuru man opened the case, Nori saw the Chiveau's set of
relic crystals, clean and intact.
"You have them! You got the Chiveau's crystals back!" said Nori.
"Well, our mercenaries had to fight through a few dozen soldiers at the Berritown
base, but they got them. God knows we can't have them fueling the Light Orb with
them, can we? Of course not. Just take these back to whomever they belong, and keep
them out of the army's hands," Blueberr said as he handed the box over to Nori.
"Thank you..." Scallia said slowly as she stared at the box. "I...I never expected to see
them again."
"Knowing how we got lost in Berritown, we wouldn't have been able to find them
ourselves! Thanks!" Leek said, much to Blueberr and Ugli's amusement.
Celeria took Ugli and Blueberr aside to talk while the three women stood close
together and spoke.
"There's...there's hope. We're not fighting this battle alone," Leek sighed.
"This is bigger than I ever imagined. I never dreamed that a planet trade could exist.
What happens now? What's going to happen in the future?" Scallia asked, folding her
arms.
"I used to think that all Tsufuru were bloodthirsty, that they despised Saiyans," Nori
whispered.
"Most of them do!" Scallia interrupted.
"But not all of them. They don't seem to be a vicious race, just a gullible one. And
what about the Tsufuru here? They want to help our people, don't they? Don't you
see? We have hope in these people. We need these people to show the Tsufuru that
there can be another way. Hold onto that hope. It could mean peace."
"You're too much of an optimist," Scallia sighed. "Try telling that to Sorrell and
Vegeta-buru."
"Who's side are you on?"
14S
"Nori, I'm not disagreeing with you. I have the utmost faith in these people. But how
are we going to make Sorrell and your boyfriend understand? You've heard how
Vegeta-buru loathes the Tsufuru. Good luck convincing him that they're more than
subhuman."
It was true, for Sorrell and Vegeta-buru were now highly reknown among the tribes,
who sought their aid and advice in almost all battles against the Tsufuru. If she could
not convince them, convincing the other tribes might be difficult.
Celeria returned to the three women. "I just had to resolve some old business. We're
ready to go. Are you ready to go home?"
"Of course!"
And so began the long drive into the Citrusine Desert, a dry region on the border
between Tsufur and Saiya. Nori watched through the hovercar window as the metal
city yielded to desert sands, as the barren night sky escaped the lights of Berritown
and grew studded with stars once again. Before long, the hovercar road disappeared,
and Celeria drove on bare sand as the night grew darker.
"Before I let you go, I want you to meet my family. My other family. I live sort of a
double life, one with the Tsufuru, one with the Saiyans. There are some small Saiyan
groups there. Two tribes, the Mustar and Spina, to be exact."
"Yes, we met them in the Broc Mountains," Scallia mentioned.
"They travel through the desert from time to time, being nomads and all that. They've
talked about you a great deal. My family has a great deal of respect for you, and I'm
sure they'll want to meet you too."
As the hovercar sped through the night, Nori saw more vehicles surroundthem: two
military jeeps equipped with laser guns, a hovertank with a laser gun, and a blue
civilian hovercar. Celeria laughed, slowed her speed, and brought the hovercar to a
stop on a sand dune. In the silvery light of the gibbous moon, Celeria ran out of the
hovercar toward the hovertank, from which two Saiyans emerged. The first, a sinewy
man with wild black hair and a scarred face, hopped out of the hovertank hatch and
landed on the sand, grinning a devilish grin at Celeria.
"Bardock!" she shouted.
"Celeria! Baby!" the man shouted back, throwing a hard arm around her and
squeezing her. "Damn you! I didn't know you were coming! How the hell have you
been?"
"Great, great."
The other Saiyan emerging from the hovertank, a boy of about ten with long black
hair and slanted eyes like Celeria, hopped down to the ground as well.
"It's been a while," he mumbled.
146
"Only two weeks. Come here, Raditz. Come on," Celeria laughed as she extended an
arm to the boy, and he sullenly embraced her.
Nori, Leek, and Scallia stepped out of the hovercar into the windy night and stood in
the car's headlights, where they saw five other Saiyans emerging from the other
vehicles.
"Everyone, I want you to meet Nori, Leek, and Scallia, the warrior-emmisaries you've
heard so much about," Celeria said to the group. Nori surveyed the group of Saiyans,
clad in a hodge-podge of Tusfuru velvet, Tsufur Ground Army armor, and Saiyan
animal hide clothes. Three men of about Celeria's age stepped out of their vehicles, as
did a woman of about Nori's age, and an elderly woman with a toothy smile who
stared at Nori with laughing eyes.
"And ladies, this is my family. This brute here is my husband Bardock, and this is my
son Raditz. This is Toma, this is Granny Taita..."































147
Chapter Thirteen
Indra

After greeting Bardock's desert band, Celeria hooked her hovercar up to the back of
her husband's hovertank to be pulled through the desert. After taking several cans of
fuel from her trunk and giving these to the band, the four women boarded Bardock's
vehicle and took off.
Through the night did Bardock drive through the Citrusine Desert in his hovertank,
sharing battle stories with Nori, Leek, and Scallia as his wife and son sat by. There
was the tale of how he and Toma killed four Tsufuru with their bare hands, taking
their hovertank and rations as booty; how he seized a laser gun right out of a Tsufur
Ground Army soldier's hands, only to shoot him in the face with it; how Raditz broke
a soldier's legs with a few gook kicks and ran off with his clothes.
Nori sat beside the sulky Raditz in the back of the vehicle, listening to Bardock with a
heavy heart. Though wronged, though in need of needful things to survive in the
desert, Bardock and Raditz seemed too bloodthirsty, too erstwhile, and the looks on
their eyes were those of hungry animals. Although Celeria laughed at her husband's
tales, Nori occasionally glanced over at her and found her face tense.
What drew Celeria to Bardock? Nori struggled to find the answer, but could only
conjecture as she stared at the mismatched couple in the front of the tank. Bardock
was bloodthirsty, yes, but there was a rugged virility in that dangerous face that
maybe Celeria felt drawn to, something absent in the faces of Tsufuru men.
"The way I see it, if they're too foolish to stay away from Saiyan lands, they'll pay the
price. They're weaklings. Without their machines, they're nothing," came young
Raditz's voice in the back.
"But you don't blame Celeria for associating with them," Nori added.
"Of course not! Celeria's the best!" Bardock protested. "Who else tells us when
attacks are coming. Who else helps us out when we're hurt? And hey, my wife can
fight like the best of us when you get her riled up. You see this scar on my cheek? I
have Celeria to thank for that. Ha!"
"You see, I first met Bardock when I was driving through the desert back in college.
All of a sudden, this band of Saiyan's jumps me."
"We thought she was Tsufuru," Bardock explained.
"But I had been training. I studied Tsufuru martial arts, and I was ready. Some good
punches and kicks got my point across...until my cumberbun fell off in the scuffle.
We had a reconciliation then, when I explained who I was. And the rest is history."
148
Snickers filled the hovertank as everyone but Raditz chuckled.
Earlier, Nori, Leek, and Scallia persuaded the band to take them to the Spina tribe to
find warriors to aid them when they returned to the Peah Hills, where the Tsufur
Ground Army battles waged on. In the meantime, Granny Taita begged them to at
least stay overnight, as the tribe was celebrating its monthly Spirit Dance, and she
dearly wanted the three women to join them. Nori's thoughts kept returning to Granny
Taita, whose stare and high-pitched cackle made the hairs on the back of her neck
bristle. The old Saiyan woman, with her crooked teeth and disheveled gray hair, with
her Tsufuru velvet underneath a shaggy fur mantle, was by far a wretched-looking
woman.
"Who's the old woman in the hovercar again?" Leek eventually asked.
"She was staring at us, with that sneer of hers. I can't say that I know what to think of
her," Scallia added.
"She gives me the creeps. But for a Saiyan to live so long, she must be a good
warrior," Nori said.
Raditz snorted. "Taita's a crusty old hag."
"You shut your mouth, Raditz, or I'll shut it for good! Let's see if you live as long as
she has!" Bardock growled as the boy rolled his eyes.
"Easy now..." said Celeria. "Granny Taita's an old medicine woman from the Spina
tribe, and she's fought more battles than you care to know. Tsufuru killed all of her
children, so we're her children now. Please don't judge her, though. She likes you. She
likes to teach young women. When I first met Bardock and the gang, she taught me
all about my Saiyan roots. She helped me bring my son into the world with very little
pain. So remember that, Raditz!"
Celeria often visited Bardock's band during her youth, and during the wild rides
through the desert, she and the scarred Saiyan felt the first pangs of love. The two
married in a Spina ritual without her family's knowledge, and during a sensuous night
among the oasis plants, Raditz had been conceived. With the excuse that she found a
boyfriend in Berritown, Celeria's pregnancy passed without question among her
Tsufuru friends, but her swelling stomach caught the eyes of her Tsufuru parents.
When the truth of her mate and her pregnancy came forth, her Tsufuru parents only
sighed, bearing the realization that Loupei-come-Celeria would always long for her
own race. In Granny Taita's tent did Raditz ride a river of blood into the world, taking
his first breaths among Bardock's band, who took him in and raised him. Unable to
raise Raditz herself, lest the Tsufuru ask too many questions, and convinced that her
son would be best among his fellow Saiyans, Celeria left the boy with Bardock and
his band.
"I'd never live with those Tsufuru dogs anyway," the boy said.
"No one's asking you to!" his father shouted.
149
The group arrived at the Spina oasis camp deep in Saiya's Citrusine Desert, and Nori,
Leek, and Scallia immediately sought out the tribe's leader to discuss the huge battle
in the Peah Hills. When the three petitioned the Spina chieftain and his elite's, several
dozen men and women were chosen to escort the three to the hills and fight. To fight
alongside Sorrell and Vegeta-buru was regarded as an honor: an honor, Nori
discovered, that was reserved for the elite Spina Saiyans.
Bardock and his band lingered outside by their Tsufuru machines, staring into the
night, as they had not been considered for doing battle. With the exception of Granny
Taita, who had vanished upon arrival at the Spina camp, all were third-rank Saiyans,
laughed at by the elite's.
Meanwhile, Nori stepped out of the hide tent into the bonfire-lit night, and she soon
felt cold fingers wrap around her bicep.
"Nori? Quite an accomplished mystic, you are! Indra told me you were coming. Baa-
haha!" laughed Granny Taita with her high witch-cackle.
The girl's blood ran cold at her touch, and the sight of the woman's laughing eyes and
crooked teeth stirred in her a fierce desire to run. However, she tolerated the woman's
touch when she sensed her strong chi, as well as the spirit energy that swam around
her.
"You've got nature spirits around you. I can feel them. Is Indra one of them?"
"Indra? Indra is my father!"
"Your father? But how can that be, with your age?"
"Indra is every Saiyan's father! You were a Salusa when you were a girl, weren't you?
And no one told you about Indra? Every Saiyan should know her father. Come with
me!"
The old woman pulled the girl away from the chieftain's camel-hide tent toward a
bonfire in the center of the oasis settlement. There, Spina Saiyans, faces marked with
orange paste in winding patterns, beat on hide drums and danced in the firelight.
Black hair swung from swinging heads, and the drum beats grew quicker every
minute as the yellow flames licked the firmament.
"We'll talk to Indra tonight. We talk to so many spirits during the Spirit Dance. The
Salusa used to channel spirits, isn't that right?"
Nori fidgeted. "During battle. Bringing spirits into control of your body is always a
little dangerous, and my friends only did so during dire circumstances."
Granny Taita shook her head. "Life is a little dangerous! We'll talk to a spirit tonight.
You must meet Indra."
"Who is Indra?"
1Su
"Indra," said Celeria as she walked up behind the two, "is the totem of all Saiyans.
Granny Taita taught me how to call him into my body."
"But she said that he was our father."
"Indra is like a father and a big brother and a best friend all wrapped into one! He
comes to me in dreams, and we have a ball in the spirit realms together! Oh, he's a
great guy! We all love him."
Celeria had discarded her Tsufuru velvet clothes for now and was now adorned in a
fur tunic and parka, customary for Spina women. Nori was taken aback by the change
and blinked.
"You're a mystic, a Salusa girl! You're vital to the Saiyan tribes! You must share in
Indra's knowledge! He can help you and guide us all," Granny Taita said in her high,
brittle voice.
"We want you here when Indra comes. He can guide you. He can advise you. Please
say you'll stay," Celeria pleaded, and Nori conceded.
The night was filled with dancing around the bonfires; joyous, leaping dancing that
even the lower-ranked Saiyans partook of. Nori swung around the robust Spina
chieftain, slick with sweat; past Granny Taita, moving stiffly but surely in her old age;
past Raditz, howling at the sky as if he wanted to devour every star.
"I've heard about you, Nori," the boy shouted over the music. "You hang out with my
mother and the Tsufuru dogs, but you must be all right if you've fought a lot of
Tsufuru."
"I'll fight as long as it takes to drive them out!"
"Promise me something."
"What?"
"Promise that you'll show them no mercy! Kill every one of them who gets in your
way!"
Nori was silent for a moment. "...I'll fight too the bitter end. Whatever ittakes to
protect my people, I'll do."
"I want to come with you and fight in the hills! Let me join you tomorrow! The
chieftain didn't invite my father or his friends. I want to come."
"We arranged this earlier. You and your dad and the others can come." Nori knew
every warrior on the battlefield would be a saving grace, but the idea of Raditz and
the others fighting shook her. The fire in the boy's eyes burned too bright. The smell
of blood on his skin was too strong. "He'll be a beast when he reaches manhood," she
decided.
1S1
The Spina Saiyans chanted to Indra and all the spirits as they danced in the light of the
fire, and the sky overhead began to swirl like melting butter. The black of night
brightened into red and orange, and thunder shook the sky although no rain clouds
loomed there.
Just then, Nori felt Celeria's chi plummet, and as her friend's eyes went vacant, she
feared that Celeria would surely faint. Celeria's expression, however, turned into an
ear-to-ear grin, and stooping as if the weight of a paunch drew her forward, Celeria's
manner took on infinitely many changes, for indeed someone other than Celeria
inhabited the body now. Boundless spirit energy, not unlike Sarama's, swirled in
Celeria's veins.
"YEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWW!" bellowed a
bull-like voice from Celeria's throat, and the company knew that Indra had arrived.
Scratching his/her behind and belching, the Saiyan god spoke through his Saiyan host.
"Hoo-wee! Good to see y'all
under such a purty sky t'night!
Y'uns ur havin yesselves a right
good time t'night, ah reckon?
You drink up an dance an yell
all you want at the sky, an live it up,
cause y'ain't gonna be able to later!
Dark days are a comin, an it ain't
gonna be real purty, so t'ain't worth
neglectin to be wild and crazy now!
Y'all usta could be at ease, but I tell yous,
the fightin is jest startin, an things'r
gonna get all higgly-piggly fer years
t'come, ah tell you! So have yer fun now!"
Celeria-come-Indra took a swig of palm wine out of a winesack nearby, wiped his/her
mouth, and began walking up to various Saiyans and shouting.
"All right, now! You, Cyuuk, the guy runnin
this whole establishment, c'mere!
1S2
You'n all yer kin, you'n all the Saiyuns
are gonna be slaves, slaves t'yer fate,
and all that hoity-toity talka honor's
gonna mean nuthin when you start
the real killin, not jest here,
but all over th'good twilight skies!"
Cyuuk, the Spina chieftain, upon hearing Indra's words of doom, folded his arms and
sighed, confused about the details but certain of the nature of the beast. Other Saiyans
gasps and lowered their gazes to the ground upon this news of Saiyans slavery and
dark days as Indra continued:
"Leek un Scallia, yeah, yuo sweet thangs!
It sure does break mah heart t'say this,
but yer lives'r done short, cause it has
t'be that way. I reckon yer days are
numbered, but don't you sweetie pies
wurry yer heads over it. You two's gonna
have a right purty place in the heavuns,
and y'ain't gonna have t'see all the right
nasty things a'comin to the Saiyuns!"
Leek and Scallia shuddered and looked at each other, whispering low words to each
other in hurried, hushed tones.
"Hey now! Bardock! Y'ol brute, yeah!
I reckon you're gonna be a slave real soon,
an a most willin one too! Wait fer the
planit traders! Wait fer the nasty days!
Yer gonna know the most ugly thinga all,
and not a soul's gonna believe yer words!
1SS
Ah ain't telling you yet what that's gonna be,
and ah don't think you wanna know, eithuh.
But listen real good, y'hear! You'n yer womin
are gonna have nuther kid, a hellavug boy,
but he's done gonna live far from Saiya!
He's done gonna be a wild horse offa man,
livin in the woods, fightin, bein a Saiyun,
and every old cuss' hand is gonna be
against him, tryin to take his sweet life!
Yer first boy, he'll hate im!
An' Vegeta-buru and his womin,
they gonna have a kid too, and he's
gonna hate yer boy somethin fierce!"
Nori's eyes lit up. "A child? A boy? Vegeta-buru and me?" Indra continued to
Bardock:
"An yer womin's brothuh, he's gonna
have a whelp of hissown too, a right
strong one, and he's gonna hate yer boy too!
But yer heathen kid'll be avengin
the ugliness comin, he'll be avengin
the planit traders, yessir."
Indra continued to give prophesies to other Saiyans, mostly words of impending
doom, seemingly oblivious to Nori as she followed close behind.
"Indra! Please speak to me, I bid you! I must know what happens to the Saiyans! I
must know what happens to me and Vegeta-buru!"
Indra briefly turned around, snorted, and spoke to Nori in a measured tone:
"Now, Nori, you jest be patient.
1S4
I would tell you what's a comin for you'n
yer man, but t'ain't mah juristicshun!
That's what y'gotta ask Sarama bout.
Oh, she's whup mah ass if ah tried
to tinker with YER destiny, girl!
Yeah, she'n ah'r good friends, cause
she's a grand old gall, but we got
an understandin bout our childern, y'see."
"You...you know Sarama! You talked to her? Wait! Indra!"
"Course ah know Sarama!
She an ah work real close
when we gots to decide on destinies
between usselves, fer Celeria an Paragus
an all th'heathen younguns a comin.
Cause theys got parta me in em
and parta ger too, so we work real close.
I gots to be goin home! Bye now, y'all!"
Celeria's face went blank again, and with a jerk of her body, Indra left her being with
his trademark hillbilly holler. When Celeria returned to her senses, Bardock's grim
face and Nori's confusion and horror made her wince.
"How bad was it?"
"Bad," Bardock replied.
"Celeria, Indra said that dark days were coming, that planet traders were coming and
the Saiyans would all be slaves. He said that you're going to have another boy who
would avenge us. Celeria...what was he talking about...please..."
Celeria went pale, and the company of Spina Saiyans were quiet until Granny Taita
piped up.
1SS
"You and Bardock, having another kid? I'll believe it when I see it. With his watery
seed?"
Nori spun around and faced the old crone.
"Stop it! Just stop! Indra gave us dark prophesies, didn't you hear? He said Leek and
Scallia would die! He said the planet traders would come! He said..."
"Nori, I know what he said. There's a plan to it. Things will turn out all right in the
end. Laugh."
"No! Nothing's funny about any of this!"
"Nori," Scallia said as she took Nori by the arm and pulled her aside, "she's an old
woman. Ignore her."
"Indra said...you and Leek..." Nori's voice began to crack.
Leek approached her sister with wet eyes, and the two women embraced with heavy
arms.
"This is only the beginning...maybe it'll be better that the two of us won't see it..."
Scallia muttered as her sister began to weep on her shoulder.
Heavy faces were everywhere, and Nori could only stand and stare as Leek and
Scallia held each other, as Celeria and Bardock stared at each other, as Raditz only
stared at the ground.
Nori slept in Granny Taita's tent that night, plagued by strange dreams.
In her dream, Nori lied on the back of a huge sea turtle that swam across a lonely sea,
underneath a white, void-like sky.
"Turtle, who can tell me what's going to happen to the Saiyans?" she asked in a low
voice.
"Indra can explain what he means. But he'll only explain it to one of his children. Find
him and convince him that you're his daughter."
The next moment, she found herself in a strange and beautiful land, surrounded by
churning seas of red clouds. In the distance, Indra stood upon a cloud crest and gazed
down into a cleave in the clouds, as if fascinated by some scene she could not see. A
primitive Saiyan of eons past he was, pot-bellied and unshaven, clad only in a
loincloth and tooth necklace. Swirling orange and red light circled in the sky over
him, and his hoary monkey tail twitched as Nori called out to him:
"Indra!" she shouted. "Indra, speak to me! If I'm a Saiyan, I should be one of your
daughters! Indra, why do you shun me?"
Indra only looked up, fidgeted, and looked down again with heavy eyes.
1S6
"Indra! Please! Indra, aren't you the father of all Saiyans?"
Suddenly, out of a tear in the clouds rose Granny Taita, cackling.
"Bah-haha! You shout so loud that I can hear you all the way down there!"
Startled, the girl jerked, lost her balance, and began to fall backwards. Taita's cool
hands caught her and returned her to her feet, and her toothy smile told the girl that
she meant no harm. Granny Taita removed her fur parka and held the lining toward
Nori, who eyed the design drawn therein:
loops upon loops of concentric circles filled with Saiyan script and sketches of
myriad's of creatures.
"A Salusa girl, and no one taught you about the Devas? Bah-haha! I'll teach you about
Indra. The Devas - Indra, and your Sarama too - live here, in the Celestial world. The
millions of Devas, they were the first ones. They are the gods who know all and
created all. It was the Devas who created the physical realm, who created space and
matter and all the living creatures who live among them. Every race of creatures was
created by a Deva in her own image, even the Saiyans! Indra created the Saiyans in
his own image, and the other Devas created the Tsufuru, the animals, the insects, and
all the other races of the other worlds. Indra weaves our fates, and the other Devas
weave the fates of their children. It was they who created Kamis to oversee their
children in life. It was they who created death, who created the spirit realms where the
Kai-Os and the Kai-O-Shins oversee the souls of the dead. Some Devas take up the
souls of their good children to live with them for an eternity, but most given the good
souls to the heavens and the evil souls to the hells."
"Are all the Devas here?"
"Somewhere around here."
"Sarama!" Nori cried out into the billowing red clouds. "Sarama! Can you hear me? If
I am a Saiyan, why do I serve you and not Indra? Why won't Indra tell me more of
what is to come?"
From the red clouds came wind and violet light, and soon Sarama emerged in her
wolf, lupine, and humanoid form as a woman in a crimson sari.
"You are unlike any Saiyan man or woman
though you look at yourself and see a Saiyan.
The difference that separates you from your
monkey-tailed companions will soon be
revealed. You are not like the mass of
Indra's brood, for you are one of my daughters."
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"Indra said that you and he work together on Celeria and her brother's fate, and on the
fates of children yet to come. Why? Celeria is Saiyan!"
"Celeria and Paragus are unlike their Saiyan kin.
They are akin to the monkey-tailed ones
through blood, but my blood too is within them."
"Please! Tell me what you mean!"
"Go, my daughter, and live out your destiny."
Nori was still shouting to Sarama when she flew awake and sat up, sweating, in
Granny Taita's tent. The old woman, who was sleeping nearby, merely turned over on
her sleeping mat, cackled, and said, "You're different from the rest of us! Your
Sarama said so herself!"
The young woman dropped her head, covered her face with her tattooed palms, and
began to sob.
"Oh Sarama...what's going to happen? Oh Sarama...why won't you tell me?..."
Cool hands stroked her hair and forehead, and as Nori's chest heaved with weeping,
Granny Taita whispered.
"There there, child...let it all out...You must trust the Devas. No matter what happens,
they will show us the way and give us rest in the spirit world. There there..."
"Why did Indra say all those things about Cyuuk and Bardock and my boyfriend's
aunts? What's going to happen to the Saiyans? Why won't Indra tell me? Why won't
he trust me?"
"You take all of this too seriously. Trust the Devas. No matter what happens, heaven
awaits."
The next day, Nori promised Bardock and his band that they could train in the Gravity
Crater if they fought beside her in the Peah Hills, and all save Granny Taita agreed to
battle with her. Celeria prepared to depart in her hovercar, and after embracing her
son and husband, spoke to Nori aside. "Keep them safe. Please."
"I will. I promise that they'll all come back."
"I want to give you something," Celeria said as she handed Nori a square-shaped
black machine that fit into her palm.
"This? I don't know much of anything about machines, so how--"
"If you could fly an army airship through the city, you can figure out how to use a
teletransmitter! Look. If you ever need to tell me something, or if something...should
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happen...to my son or Bardock, please tell me. It's solar powered, so just give it
sunlight and it'll work. Hit this button, put this end up to your ear, and talk into here.
I'll contact you with any information I hear in the city."
"Thanks for keeping me posted. And...thank you for everything," the girl said as she
embraced Celeria.
"You're as sentimental as Leek and Scallia were a few minutes ago. Take care. Do
what you can to keep our people alive."
Nori, Leek, and Scallia rode in Bardock's hovertank for hours, alongside the vehicles
of Toma and the others, while the Spina elite's flew at a frightening speed overhead.
The Citrusine Desert turned into hills and plains, and after a quick detour over the
ocean to return the Squa tribe's sacred crystals (not without great cheering), the
Saiyans arrived at the foot of the Peah Hills. Explosions and light marked the spot
where the Tsufur Ground Army was attacking, and the Tibera tribe and its allies were
close by. As nomads, the tribes were evading and attacking the oncoming machines,
and patches of vaporized trees and blackened ground were telltale signs that the Light
was part of the aggressor's arsenal.
Nori and her company ran through the makeshift Tubera settlement, toward the tent
with a brown chieftain's glyph. Nappa stood outside, grinding his teeth, but upon the
sight of Nori, the young man shouted and laughed.
"Nori! Dammit, woman! We thought they got you! Hey! Our shaman's back home for
the fight!"
A hand slid open the door-flap from the inside, and Vegeta-buru emerged, the right
side of his body red."
"Nori...Nori! We thought you were dead! You're alive!" he shouted as he ran from the
tent into Nori's arms. "Nori...I had given up hope! Come to me."
Vegeta-buru and his beloved held each other and kissed deeply, an the chieftain's son
showed similar joy at the sight of his aunts.
"You survived the Light, I see," Scallia said as she held her nephew's shoulders.
"What's wrong? Where's Sorrell?"
"My father...is dead," he replied, and led the three women into the chieftain's tent.
Inside, Sorrell lied on his bed mat, unrecognizable: his hair had been seared off by the
Light, and all that remained of his skin were patches of black tissue and blisters. His
speechless mouth gaped open in death, and the hideous sight and smell made Nori
sputter.
"They got Sorrell. The Light killed Sorrell. No. Why like this? Please...no..."
"He took on the Light by himself," Vegeta-buru whispered, almost inaudible. "He
flew right in front of it as it was going off. He cracked the Orb with a chi-blast...but
after a few seconds, he fell to the ground. I couldn't leave his body there to be
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vaporized...I brought it here. The Light is still killing people on the battlefield,
though...he died for nothing...nothing, Nori!" Sucking air in between his teeth, the
youth stared at the chieftain's corpse and shook, ready to burst into shouts and tears, it
seemed.
"Sorrell..." Leek said, staring at the floor of the tent.
"We'll avenge you. Just wait. This war must end...now!" Scallia growled.
Nori, faced with the sound of explosions and screams nearby, faced the corpse of her
former chieftain, sighed, and walked over to the cadaver. Taking Sorrell's amulet
from around his neck, she brushed off the blackened skin, stood before Vegeta-buru,
and placed the amulet around the youth's neck. The young man shook, held the amulet
tightly, and looked into Nori's eyes.
"You know what you have to do. Lead them. Lead them into battle. We have dozens
of Spina Saiyans waiting outside. Lead them while I take on the Light," Nori said.
Scallia jerked. "WHAT?"
"Lead them! You're the Tubera chieftain now!" Nori shouted as she ran outside of the
tent.
"Listen to me! Listen, Spina!" she shouted to Bardock's band and the Spina elite's
outside in the evening light. "Vegeta-buru leads the Tubera now. Sorrell is dead from
the Light and can lead his tribe no more. Listen to Vegeta-buru and do as he advises
you! I'm off to avenge this wrong!" With those words, Nori flew off toward the
sounds of the battle nearby, covered with sweat and swearing under her breath that the
Light would fall that night.
Tsufuru Ground Army machines advanced, and like animals, the Saiyans met them
warrior for warrior. Saiyans of countless tribes threw themselves, screaming and
punching, at the hovertanks; Bardock and his band drove their vehicles into the
battlefield, firing lasers and chi-blasts all the way; and leading them all, charging at
every Tsufuru machine, ran Vegeta-buru. Howling, cursing, maniacally laughing, the
Saiyans sounded like demonic hordes against the faceless machines, and any Tsufuru
soldier unlucky enough to burst from his hovertank was torn limb from limb by the
hordes. Blood and Tsufuru corpses fell to the ground as smoke wafted through the
evening air, and for a few war-trine minutes, all reason and logic gave way to Saiyan
rage.
Meanwhile, Nori wove through hovertanks and Saiyan warriors, toward the crane-like
machine that held the white Light orb above the battlefield. The orb had been dull for
a few minutes, no doubt recharging from its last destructive blast, but the humming
sound it emitted announced that the Light would pour forth again.
I don't care if I die here tonight, Nori thought, weaving through the humid air. I don't
care what happens to me. I don't care if I end up like Sorrell, a charred corpse. This
must end! Now! Tonight! Their weapon will fall at my hands, even if I fall with it!
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The Light orb buzzed, and as the crane stretched forth the orb to the front of the
Tsufuru onslaught, soft light began to pour forth. Nori, numb inside, feeling only
adrenaline and dying chi everywhere, gathered up every once of chi in her limbs and
formed a red chi-ball in her palms. The orb grew brighter as the humming grew
louder, and Nori's skin began to sizzle.
Go ahead. Burn me up. Burn me to a crisp. Vaporize me. Your precious weapon will
fall at my hands. I swear it! My chi is enough to stop this weapon. Sorrell will not
have died in vain!
Nori's skin grew redder, and heat have way to numbness as she flew headfirst toward
the weapon, screaming. White light surrounded her, blinding her, but a single black
streak where the orb had cracked could still be discerned. Nori threw the chi-blast at
the crack, smiled when she heard the thunderous boom and crackle - and then
everything went silent. The young woman felt herself falling, silently, as the Light
faded and blackness filled her mind. Then nothing.
Nori found herself in darkness for a long time, until violet light lit up the void, and
Sarama's voice spoke like falling rain.
"Open your mouth."
Nori did so, an felt a drop of something-warm land on her tongue. A drop of blood,
Sarama's blood, sent spirit energy coursing through every cell, every atom of Nori's
body, and soon sensations tingled through her skin once more. She found her front
encased in something warm and crusty, and with the fiery spirit energy pounding
through every inch of her body, she struggled within her dark shell. Moaning, Nori
jerked her torso forward, only to burst out of a shell of burnt, blackened skin inside
the chieftain's tent, where Nappa, Bardock, Raditz, Vegeta-buru, and his aunts were
waiting. Bruised and scratched they all were, with faces grimacing in horror as Nori
burst up.
"NORI!" Vegeta-buru shouted, wide-eyed and terrified, as he knelt beside Nori's bed
mat.
Sitting up, the girl took in quick breaths as she opened her eyes, blinked, and wiped
the sweat from her brow. Her vision was intact, her skin was its usual dark tone, and
her nerves were alive with new spirit energy and chi, but around her lied pieces of
black, flaky soot. Looking down, Nori realized with nausea that her front had been
encased by her own blackened skin and clothing, and emerging from the shell with
new skin and new life, Nori laughed.
"Sarama! Thank you! You saved me! You gave me life again!"
Some of the men in the tent blushed, and when Scallia rushed over to cover Nori's
torso with a fur hide, the young woman suddenly realized that she was bare-skinned.
The front of her body and clothing had been burned by the Light, but this had fallen
away to reveal naked skin when Nori healed.
"Drink this," Leek said as she held a sack of water to the girl's lips.
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Nori brushed away the black crusts, wagged her monkey tail, and eyed up everyone in
the tent.
"What did I miss?"
"Nori, we did it! We pushed them away again! There are bodies and machines all over
the hills! And the Light is gone! We showed them!" Nappa said breathlessly.
"You did it. You took out the Light. We found you lying among shards of glass and
crystal from the Light orb. We didn't think you'd make it, charred as your front side
way and barely breathing as you were," Leek said.
"Do you know what this means?" Nori asked after a sip of water. "It just might be
over. The Tsufuru have no more weapons to test on us. We showed them that the
Saiyans are not a force to be trifled with anymore. They can't win over us as a whole.
They know it now, and they'll give up this struggle for fuel and this stupid diversion
tactic. It might be over, don't you see?"
"For now," Scallia mumbled.
Who am I kidding? Why am I getting all excited? This is only the beginning. This isn't
the worst of it. Remember Indra's words...the dark days are coming, Nori thought as
she grew sober.
"Celeria will be happy you two made it," Nori said to Bardock and Raditz, who were
standing at the far side of the tent.
Vegeta-buru dismissed Nappa with quiet words and the two third-ranked Saiyans with
a haughty wave of his hand, as Leek and Scallia carried off bits of broken dead skin to
the outside. Vegeta-buru drew close to Nori.
"I've lost my father...I couldn't stand to lose you. I thought I had."
Nori leaned forward and kissed him.
"There will be massive celebrations, once we're sure that the Tsufuru attacks are
easing up," he added.
"We'll be celebrating a great victory over the Light, and maybe over the whole Tsufur
army," Nori said.
"Actually, I hoped that we could celebrate something different. I'm the Tubera
chieftain now, but my tent is empty. It's custom that a new chieftain marries as soon
as he assumes his position, and I can think of no braver woman whom I would want
as my chieftainess."


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Chapter Fourteen
Joyful Days, Dark Days

While Nori rested, Leek and Scallia sat in Vegeta-buru's tent the next afternoon and
described all of their adventures, from the theft of the Squa crystals, to the mad ride
through Berritown, to Celeria, to their meeting with TANGY and Bardock's band.
"Tsufuru are cunning men. I can't believe you fell for such a ploy," Vegeta-buru
scoffed at his aunts.
"You have to trust me on this one. I'm convinced that their intentions are noble and
that they sincerely want to help the Saiyans," Leek argued.
"Nonsense. No Tsufuru will ever see a Saiyan as anything more than a pest to be
killed."
"What about Celeria's parents?" Scallia asked.
"Hmph. Cunning Tsufuru who turned a Saiyan against her own people."
"That's not true!" Leek piped up. "Celeria saved us, found us allies, kept us safe...are
you even listening?" The twin's attempts at enlightening their nephew were fruitless,
as he would always find an excuse to hate the tail-less city-dwellers.
When Nori recovered and walked around in the late afternoon, she and her lover
enjoyed a walk through the jungle vegetation, during which Nori spoke of the Spirit
Dance and Indra's prophesies of dark days.
"Everyone was frightened by the time Indra left her body. All of his talk about dark
days coming had us terrified, and I got the impression it had something to do with the
planet traders. But what? What's going to happen? Why can't I find out?"
"Yes. My aunts told me about what Celeria said on the planet trade. We have nothing
to worry about. Why would planet traders bother with our race? Besides, Saiya has
better things to worry about on the home front, and I wouldn't worry your head over
it." Nori found little comfort in Vegeta-buru's words, which digressed to talk of
defense against the Tsufuru and their upcoming wedding. Exhausted, Nori did not
describe Indra's words about their future son, or the hatred he would harbor toward
Celeria's future son.
In the days after Nori's destruction of the Light, she studied her lover's face and found
a strange cocktail of emotions therein: in the softness of his cheeks she saw great
tenderness and love, and in the curve of his mouth could be seen pride at his new
station, but in those eyes, she saw a look not unlike that of a man deprived of sleep by
unspeakable nightmares. Pain darkened those eyes, the pain of war, of the murder of
his uncles, mother, and now father at the hands of the Tsufuru. Hate darkened those
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eyes, and when the right light or right shadow fell upon his face, those eyes seemed to
contain thoughts of infinite mischief and plots. His bearing grew more arrogant as he
spoke down to lower-ranked Tubera and gave orders to his elite's with a stiff chin.
"Watch him," Scallia repeated to Nori within the walls of their tent. "Watch that ego
of his. I've told you this before, but listen to me now, now more than ever. The look in
his eyes frightens me, and the notion of you as his chieftainess..."
"Vegeta-buru has always treated me kindly! Of course his eyes are filled with grief
and hate. Consider what he's endured!"
"Nori," Leek began, "Vegeta-buru's changing, and not for the better. Whom you
choose as your mate is your business, but watch him."
Scallia's tone became lighter. "What about that blue-haired boy? Nappa?"
Nori groaned. "Nappa likes guys. I'm going to marry Vegeta-buru no matter what you
say, and I'm going to be happy with him. When the misery comes across Saiya, he'll
be by my side through it all."
"It's your decision, but watch him. Please. If you have any leverage with him, keep
him from doing something reckless. I'm concerned that he'll do something reckless,"
Leek sighed. Nori said nothing, but ended the conversation with cold silence.
In the days to come, the Tsufuru attacks stopped coming to Saiya, following the
numerous Tsufur Ground Army defeats and the destruction of the Light orb. From the
Citrusine Desert to Lake Ishrel, the Saiyan tribes breathed a sigh of relief, and
families could again mourn the dead and live their lives in quiet.
"The war's over! You should see the army propaganda on the news!" Celeria laughed
in Nori's teletransmitter. "They're claiming vistory, even though they have no Saiyan
lands and their weapontry was blown to bits! They've been a little too quiet about
what you did to the Light orb. Embarrassed, probably! How are Bardock and Raditz?"
"Alive and well. The band's training in the Gravity Crater and getting stronger every
day. They'll be staying for the wedding," Nori responded.
"I'm sorry I can't be there, really. It's going to be beautiful, I'll bet, and I wish I could
celebrate with you. By the way, you said your fiancee's the Tubera chieftain now,
right?"
"Right."
"Did you or the twins tell him about TANGY?"
"He's...still struggling with it," Nori admitted, "Celeria...have you spoken with Indra
in your dreams lately?"
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Celeria's voice lowered. "No. Indra hasn't appeared to me since the Spirit
Dance...nothing about the dark days or the planet trade...I don't want to think about it
now..."
"But...as much as I try to focus on the here-and-now, I can't stop thinking about it.
Celeria, you have no idea what it's like living with this over my head! I don't know
how long his aunts will live, what the planet trade has in store for us, or anything else!
I try to forget about it, but it always creeps back into my thoughts! I'm frightened
more than you know!"
"And don't you think I am as well?" Celeria replied in a hushed whisper. "Nori, you
think it's pleasant knowing something evil and miserable is coming, but you don't
know exactly what? If Indra told me more, don't you think I'd share it? I'm as scared
as you are. But I don't want to think about it now..."
With peace across Saiya, the Tubera could safely celebrate the union of their chieftain
with their new shaman chieftainess, and Nori spent the afternoon before the wedding
in the forests, beating her hide drum once more.
"Nature SPirits! Your kindness and aid helped to bring peace to the land, so that I
might wed tonight! Thank you for your knowledge and aid! The beasts, the birds, the
crawling creatures, the Saiyans look to you with gratitude in our hearts!" Nori shouted
over the beat of the drum between her crosses legs. Across the jungle, Nori had buried
animal flesh and river silt as an offering ot the nature spirits, so as to enrich the
tortured earth. Slowing down her drumming, she bright quiet into her heart and
prayed in silence.
"Turnyip...Habanero...Garbanzo...Mother...all my Salusa...all of my allies who died
by my side...if you could but stand beside me in flesh tonight and behold me! My
thoughts are with you evermore, and may my union with Vegeta-buru marke the
peace you longed for."
Nori breathed deeply. "Sarama...ever my mentor...ever my savior, accept my gratitude
for new life and new beauty. I know this peace and joy will not endure, but guide me
through the dark days to come so that I might do what you beseach me do."
As the red sun began to dip behind the Peah Hills, she felt the chi of Leek, Scallia,
and several Tubera women approach through the vegetation. Though Leek had been
graver than usual as of late, anticipating her doom, her spirits were higher as she
trotted up to Nori.
"There you are! Tonight's the night!" she said.
"And we still don't approve," Scallia added. "You're only 15, he's 16, we don't like
him, you're not finished growing up yet..."
Nori sighed heavily. "We've been through this."
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"It's going to happen no matter what we say," Leek admitted to her sister, "but at least
we get to celebrate before then. It's time for a little Tubera custom of ours! Ladies,
let's celebrate!
As was custom for a Tubera bride-to-be, Nori and the married or widowed women
had a celebration in the forests. For two hours, the women sang lewd songs, told
stories of bed adventures with husbands and lovers, and offered advice to the
chieftainess-to-be, and the forests filled with women's bawdy laughter.
"I told my delicious husband-to-be / that I had a pet panther / that he had
to come and see / so he kissed her and he rubbed her / and he stroked her
black fur / and around the midnight hour / did he make that pussy purr!" a middle-
aged woman sang off-key.
"Can we sing the Bearded Oyster Song again?" Nori asked?
"In a minute," Scallia said, "because we've got some things to give you first. Presents
for our bride-to-be. There's a Tubera saying that a bride has to have "something for
her maidenhead, something for her womb, and something for her petals." That's what
we have here. I'll be giving you something for your maidenhead." Scallia handed Nori
an animal hide, covered with soft fibers that fit into the girl's hand. "What's this for?"
"Those aren't just for the monthly flows of blood. When your maidenhead breaks, it'll
bleed for a day, so this will catch the blood."
Leek handed Nori a handful of mauve flowers, cupped in a folded palm leaf.
"These," Leek explained, "are artusamak flowers. Contraceptives! If you eat a
handful, you won't conceive any children if you make love within half a day. Yeah,
we pointed these out to you before, and now you know what they're used for. Eat up."
Nori ate the sticky flowers one by one, and found their flavor salty and smoky.
"Aaand," Leek smirked, "this will keep your petals wet tonight! It's pango fruit! A
few bites of this, and you won't be able to keep your hands off Vegeta-buru."
"She can't anyway!" said an aging Tubera woman, and everyone laughed.
Leek handed Nori fresh slices of yellow-fleshed fruit, which the girl quickly ate.
"I don't even want to think about it," Scallia muttered.
"Thank you, for everything," Nori said, and her face became pale.
"What's wrong? You were happy a minute ago. What's the matter?" Scallia asked as
she put a hand on the girl's shoulder.
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"The two of you, Leek and you, you've done so much for me. You mean so much to
me. You're my sisters in everything but blood. I want yu to be with me forever. I don't
want you to go--"
"Nori," Scallia said softly, "don't think about that. Just enjoy the here and now. Leek
and I do. It's how we've kept sane. Just celebrate with us and be our friend."
After more celebrating, the women took Nori back to the village, adorned her with the
white robes of balm bird hides, and led her to Vegeta-buru, who stood before his tent
in a kilt of white balm bird hide.
Tubera marriage customs, patriarchal in origin, usually involved the groom and the
father of the bride swearing loyalty to each other, with the bride offered as proof of
that deep bond. Nori, having no father on Plant-sei and determined to negotiate her
own union, stood in place of the bride's father and swore allegiance to her groom.
Under the stars, in the center of the Tubera settlement where a bonfire burned bright,
Nori and Vegeta-buru stood before each other and sealed their union with warrior's
vows.
"Vegeta-buru!" Nori shouted in the light of the bonfires outside, "by your side I will
fight, always! In the face of battle I will defend you, protect you,honor you with
victories! Until death will I be at your side, ever your confidant, your champion, your
sister-in-arms! My love seals this promise!"
"Nori!" Vegeta-buru shouted back beneath the moonlight, "by your side will I fight,
always! In the face of battle I will defend yuo, protect you, honor you with victories!
Until death will I be at your side, every your confidant, your champion, your brother-
in-arms! My love seals this promise!"
The two extended their arms to each other, and Nappa approached them with a strip
of animal hide. With the strip, he loosely bound Nori's left wrist to Vegeta-buru's right
wrist, and with their free arms, the couple embraced amidst the cheers of their fellow
warriors. Old friends and leaders from all the Saiyan tribes were in attendance, as
were Bardock, Raditz, and their band, all of whom cheered on the newly wed couple.
All but Leek and Scallia joined in the cheering, for the twins only stood aside, looking
at each other.
"Now then," Vegeta-buru announced, "It's time to feast!"
Nappa removed the hide strip, and everyone began to eat and drink from the food
offerings that the foreign visitors brought with them. Palm wine flowed freely, meat
was devoured, and fruits were enjoyed by the whole Tubera tribe and its visitors as
they spoke highly of their new chieftainess.
"You'll be a fine chieftainess! Few women OR men fight like you do!" swore a
Chiveau visitor, sauntering around the feast without clothes.
Mustar bards beat drums and strummed on stringed tortoise-shell instruments as the
night went on, and music lightened the hearts of the company. Nori, however, focused
her attention not on food, drink, of music, but on the sensual appetite growing in her
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loins, and felt her petals growing wet. The pango fruit was working its magic on her,
and she moved closer and closer to Vegeta-buru where they sat on the ground. In but
two years had he blossomed into manhood, she observed, for his limbs were fuller
and stronger, while his face wore a fuller brown beard, Eyeing his figure up, thoughts
of the feel of his skin and the taste of his mouth filled her head, and she drifted off
into recollections of their secret intimacies in the woods. Her beloved would look far
more radiant that evening, she decided, if his kilt weren't covering up so much flesh.
"I need it," she whispered in her groom's ear, "deperately."
"I need it too," he whispered back. "The men gave me pango fruit before the
wedding."
After sharing a knowing glance, the couple discreetly rose up and walked off, after
Vegeta-buru whispered to Nappa to watch over the night's celebrations.
"Nori and I want some time alone to...talk," he whispered.
"Right. And Basiru and I go out alone to swap recipes! Sure. Gotcha," Nappa replied.
The rest of the company was preoccupied with feasting, music, and dancing, and
hardly noticed the chieftain and chieftainess slinking back into the jungle alone. In the
darkness, trees appeared as sharp black silhouettes, and the couple felt their way
through the trees until they neared their special place, a clearing of grasses near the
Legume River banks. Just as the two were about to step into the hidden clearing, Nori
took flight in a flash of chi.
"Nori! Nori, are you playing games?" Vegeta-buru called out. "Come back!"
Vegeta-buru searched around the clearing, but neither saw nor heard his beloved
amidst the vegetation. Coming to the tip of the clearing, he spied a pile of clothing
neatly folded at the foot of a pango tree, and recognized it as his bride's robes. Racing
up to the clothes, he inspected them and glanced at the nearby jungle, unprepared for
the pair of hands that came up behind him, undid his kilt, and pulled it off in a
second's time. Vegeta-buru spun around to see Nori's silhouette standing before him,
holding the kilt in her hand.
"Boo."
The shadow and light made strange patterns on his skin, and the unclad Nori eyed him
with a grin. Vegeta-buru, in turn, eyed her bare body and entertained all sorts of
immodest thoughts of how he would enjoy those curves. Though she had seen him
bare many times and enjoyed his body on many sensuous afternoons, she had never
enveloped him with her loins, but tonight she was determined to know the feeling of
that flesh in her own. He, too, had touched and tasted her but never cleaved into her,
and thought of all the secret pleasures to be found between those thighs.
"Now Nori," Vegeta-buru whispered as he neared her, "let's make a deal. Just tell me
what you want me to do to get my kilt back."
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Nori's grin grew wider, and in great detail did she describe all the acts and pleasures
she desired from him.
"It's not much that I ask," she whispered, "Only to feel your hands, your tongue,
everywhere."
"Forget the kilt," he said softly, "I'd rather have something else."
The two fell into a tight embrace, when Nori craned her neck up, brought her lips to
Vegeta-buru's, and kissed him deeply. The next moment the two were on the ground,
Nori lying on top of her lover, covering his neck with kisses and nips. For sweat-
drenched hours the two pleasured each other with kisses, with bites, with fondling,
with the friction of skin and coarse hair, and the forests echoed with their panting.
Sometimes a gentle and playful mood would come over them, and they would tease
each other with soft touched; sometimes a beastly passion would overwhelm them,
and they would seize each other for hungry kisses and pinches; and sometimes,
amidst all of their lusts, a longing so complete came over them that flesh seemed the
most sacred thing in existence. With his lips upon her loins, Vegeta-buru felt Nori's
legs tighten around his head, and tasted her petals until her breathing quickened. Then
it came: waved upon waves of unspeakable pleasure, which made her arch her body,
throw back her head, and howl. Her appetite thus sated, Nori smiled, panted, looked
down at Vegeta-buru, and saw desire in his eyes: the whites of his eyes seemed
especially bright against the dark irises, and the look in them was a joyous, wicked
look befitting a satyr.
She bid him to come closer, and he obeyed, for he lied against her with his face close
to hers, slowly glided his flesh into hers, and began to enjoy her. At first, a piercing
pain filled Nori's loins, but her skills at deadening pain made this fade in moments,
and she tightened her loins against his flesh. Limbs entwined, tails entwined, Vegeta-
buru knew his bride for a long time on the jungle floor, and Nori enjoyed the warmth
and vigor growing in his limbs. With his cry, seed spilled upon her thighs, upon the
ground, and Vegeta-buru kissed Nori with great fervor. The couple's lusts gave way to
sleepiness, and Nori stretched out on her side, basking in the soul-deep quiet of the
night. Vegeta-buru lied with his chest to her back, with his legs cupping hers, an he
spoke softly in her ear.
"When I vowed love to you tonight, I meant it. I'll never let anyone harm you or bring
grief to your heart, ever. I'll fight by your side forever. And I promise I'll give you a
life of peace...my love..."
Nori grew warm at these words. "But I am at peace, here, now," she said, and fell
asleep on the grass.
Nori and Vegeta-buru married a month before the full moon was to shine over Plant-
sei, and for the first two weeks of their union, the couple was happy enough. The days
were filled with hunting, gathering, repairing the hide tent, and attending to tribal
politics, and the nights were filled with delicious lovemaking upon the bed mat of
their home. However, day after day with Vegeta-buru showed Nori the more irritating
aspects of his nature: his proud, stiff stance before his inferiors; his arrogant attempts
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to have the final say in all Tubera tribal matters; and the beard clipping outside of the
tent. The chieftainess' love for her groom did not fade, but rather changed into a love
for his virtues and not his haughty quirks.
Constant warfare and training in the commonwealth Gravity Crater, however, had
strengthened the Saiyan masses beyond imagination, a fact not lost on Nori and
Vegeta-buru.
Chi pulses across the land. I can feel it in the marrow of my bones, Nori thought to
herself as she gazed out of the jungle onto sprawling Saiya. And what machinations
will the Tsufur military create to match our strength? Let them bring on their metal
monstrosities someday. Let the dark days come. Let the planet traders come. We'll be
ready. We muct be ready. There is no other option.
Arms wrapped around her waist as Vegeta-buru embraced her from behind, and
breathed gently into her ear.
"You look grave," he said softly, "and what could preoccupy my Nori like this?"
"I was just thinking," she said as she rested her hands on his, "about the future. I was
thinking about how we'll be ready if they ever return."
"Return? No. They'll never return. I've been working on a plan to keep my people safe
from Tsufuru, forever."
Nori laughed. "Being a little optimistic, eh? All right, humor me. What's your great
plan?"
"It's a secret!" Vegeta-buru whispereed, grinning wickedly. "It'll be my gift to you on
the night of the full moon. I've already sent emmisaries to the other tribes to discuss
the plan."
"And you didn't tell me? You know I insist on staying on top of things myself."
"I've made my emissaries promise not to tell you, nor my aunts, because they'd only
give it away to you if they knew. It's a surprise! Besides, you ran yourself ragged
during the war with your tribal work. Let someone else take over for a while."
Nori squirmed out of Vegeta-buru's embrace and stepped aside. "Please don't hide
things from me. You know better than to keep me in the dark about tribal business.
Tell me what your plan is."
The chieftain only kissed his beloved on the cheek, an act that failed to erase her
grave expression. Nori remained with her back to her husband as he sauntered back to
camp, and the approach of familiar chi from deep in the jungle made Nori's eyes light
up.
"You hardly come to see us anymore," barked a familiar voice, and Nori lifted her
head when Sleek Fur emerged from the brush.
17u
"Sleek Fur!"
"Nori! Will you stay longer this time?"
In the past, between her emissary missions among the Saiyan tribes, Nori found time
to return to the Peah Hills and spend a few hours with Sleek Fur and her pack. This,
however, seemed but a short time to Sleek Fur, now a full-bodied black wolf well-
matured.
Nori thought for a moment, reflecting on recent tribal life: Vegeta-buru's arrogance,
her ignorance of his full moon "plan," and all of the great and small distresses of the
recent war. I'm growing tired of it all, she thought. A break from everything would do
me good. Besides, I've neglected a true friend, and all of her family to boot. And...if
the ugly days are on the horizon...and happy times are numbered...shouldn't I enjoy
the company of my friends while there's still time?
"I'd love to spend a few days with you! Let's hunt and play together like we always
did!" she finally agreed with a bittersweet heart.
Nori was soon scamping through the vegetation with Sleek Fur, Lithe, and the rest of
their sons and daughters that evening, eyeing up their territory for hunting. After
bringing down a balm bird, Nori prayed over its corpse, and the pack feasted under
the blue dusk skies.
"The prey in the hills hasn't been plentiful for a long time. Even the white-furred birds
live in small flocks," Lithe grunt-barked between mouthfuls.
"So many Saiyans have come to the hills and grasslands, and they hunt too many
animals. It's always a challenge to find something to eat," Sleek Fur added.
"We've had many Saiyans come to visit my people and use the Gravity Crater," said
Nori, "We needed their help to keep the hills safe and drive off the Tsufuru, but I
agree, the hills have been depleted. It's a pity, but if we have peace, the Saiyans won't
need to come and eat the hills' food."
"The Saiyans had good food in their camp," argued Sleek Fur, referring to the Tubera
camp, "and we tried to take some when we grew hungry. It was in your absence, or
else we would have asked you to help us hunt."
"Don't do that. The Saiyans might try to harm you."
"They threw balls of light at us sometimes, but we trotted away and weren't hurt. But
later, they began to burn plants outside their camp, and they were very disagreeable."
"What plants?"
"I don't really know. The plants smelled sweet, and when some of us breathed the
smoke, the jungle began to turn on us. I hated it. I saw trees burst into flames and the
sun fall out of the sky, and the ground felt as if it was trying to swallow me. Days
from long ago became one and the same with days now. I heard howling and chirping,
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but Lithe said that there were no animals nearby to make those sounds, as he hadn't
breathed the plant smoke. My son Small Paws said that birds flew out of his fur, and
he and I could no longer even stand after we ran for a short distance. We slept for a
long time, and the rest of the pack thought we would die."
They're burning grasses that make the wolves hallucinate. What a frightening
deterrent...
"Sleek Fur, you mustn't go near the Saiyan camp! The Saiyans could hurt you, and the
plant smoke could harm you even more. What if a jungle cat or a bear attacked you
while you were seeing things? How would you defend yourself? How would you
defend your family? Stay away from the Saiyan camp and never breath in the smoke!"
"If we need food, what are we to do, Nori? My family must eat!"
"I'll stay with you for a few days, and I'm sure we can find more for you to eat."
Nori remained with Sleek Fur's pack for two weeks, hunting and playing during the
day, sleeping under the starry sky during the night, bathing in the Legume River and
clearing her mind of all the distractions of months past. One night, Nori lied between
Lithe and Small Paws as they slept, and as she stared up past the jungle canopy, eyed
the moon with heavy eyes.
The gibbous moon is almost full. Tomorrow night will be the night of the full moon,
the time for Vegeta-buru's little "surprise." I've always wanted to go Oozaru, and the
Festival of the Full Moon is but a day away. Mother said that Grandfather Chapati's
tribe didn't believe in assuming Oozaru form, but of what relevance is that now?
When was there ever a Saiyan tribe that didn't believe in going Oozaru? Chapati is
long gone. It's settled, then: tomorrow I'll stare up at teh full moon and claim my
birthright in Lady Moon's rays. I must enjoy the few perks I have before the dark
days, mustn't I?
The next afternoon, Nori bid her farewells to Sleek Fur's pack, saying, "I'll be back to
visit soon enough. Tonight is a full moon, and the Saiyans will be going Oozaru, so
please stay away from the camp for your own safety."
Nori flew back to the Tubera camp, but when the hide tents came into view, she
blinked at the sight of hundreds of men and women flocked around the entrance to the
chieftain's tent, with Bardock's band among them. Leek and Scallia, upon seeing her,
ran over to her with horror in their eyes.
"Nori! Hurry! Stop him!" Scallia hissed, "He's going to do it! We just found out. He
kept us in the dark too. Stop him, please!"
"Stop what? What is he doing?"
Leek sputtered. "Tonight, when we all go Oozaru, he wants to lead all the Saiyan
tribes to Tsufur and...bring it all to an end."
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Vegeta-buru was distracted from his speech when Nori pushed her way to the front of
the crowd. "Tonight, brothers and sisters, the Tsufuru will be made to pay for every
life they've taken, every tribe they've destroyed, ever atrocity they've committed
against us! For one night every eight years, we can overpower those tailess weaklings,
and why, I ask, should we not take advantage of that night? In years past, we could
not be guaranteed that an Oozaru attack would not provoke further attacks from the
Tsufuru. But now, with our power, with our experience, with our overwhelming
strength, no Tsufuru machine can ever stop us! We must wipe out every Tsufuru
tonight, and be assured of peace forever! We have the strength! We have the unity!
Tonight will usher in a new age for Saiya!...Nori! You're here!"
Nori stared at her husband, shaking. "Vegeta-buru? What are you doing? What are
you saying? Exterminate the Tsufuru? Are you insane?"
"Nori, this was the surprise I promised you! Your tribe, my family, all the people
we've ever lost, they're going to be avenged!"
"This is wrong! Have you lost your mind? Why are you doing this? The Tsufuru have
no more arguments with us! Leave them alone!"
"They'll return again if we don't take this opportunity! I didn't want to tell you because
it might upset you, but I'm sure once they're gone, you'll love your new li--"
"NO! I won't let this happen! I don't want you to massacre innocent people!"
"They're animals!" came a woman's voice from the crowd.
Vegeta-buru faced the crowd again. "Will the cowards be made to pay tonight?"
"YES!" roared the crowd.
Leek and Scallia looked up at Nori. Do something, they seemed to say.
Nori faced the Tubera crowd. "Do you want to be as evil as the Tsufuru Ground
Armu? Do you want to wipe out an entire race like the army tried to do? Not all
Tsufuru are evil! Do you want to kill innocent people? Families? Children? Like your
children?"
"They've hurt us long enough, Nori! It's going to end, tonight!" shouted a man from
the Tubera crowd.
"The Festival of the Full Moon is a sacred night! You should spend it celebrating!
This is blasphemy, what you'll be doing tonight!"
"Nori," Vegeta-buru said quietly, "everything is already set and in motion. I've been
arranging this with the other tribes for weeks. Every tribe is ready to go into Tsufur
cities tonight. You can't stop it."
"But I won't just sit back and let you do this! I won't be party to this! Vegeta-buru,
what kind of animal have you become? This has to be some kind of sick joke!"
17S
"You should be happy! They've caused you enough grief! The Salusa cry out to you!"
"The Salusa would have never smiled on something like this! Don't do this! Hold the
tribe back! Vegeta-buru! Please!"
Just then, Nori sensed familiar chi and saw a black object in the corner of her field of
vision. Sleek Fur and her pack, hungry-eyed, were slinking near some of the empty
tents at the far end of the camp, looking for food. A man's laughter sounded from
behind one of the hide tents, and soon Nappa emerged, holding a large leaf filled with
smoldering grasses. Blowing on the smoking grasses, Nappa dispersed the wolfgrass
smoke toward the wolves, who snorted, turned heel, and staggered back into the
brush, howling strange and confused howls.
"Nappa! Leave them alone! Get that smoke away from them! Now!" Nori ran through
the crowd toward Nappa, who stood in place and eyed her, startled.
"Aw, Nori, we can't have your pooches raiding the tents and eating the food. Things
have been tight lately."
"Enough! Give me the grasses!" Nori snatched the leaf full of smoking grasses out of
his hands, threw them on the ground, and stomped on them.
"Enough smoke. What's going on here? You're not part of this too, are you? You're
not going to Tsufur tonight...are you? Please don't do it. Don't join them..."
Smoke from the wolfgrass mix floated up around her as she stomped on the
smoldering mess, partly to put the smoke out, partly to vent all the rage and pain
welling up in her. Sickeningly sweet fumes floated into her lungs, and dizziness
overwhelmed her.
"Don't go...Nappa...ugh...you wouldn't...friend..." Nori's sentences crumbled, and
nausea filled her as she went pale, doubled over, and let sickness burst out of her
mouth.
"You all right?" Nappa asked, backing away.
"Fine...uuughh...stop them...don't go...don't..." Nori stared at the spot where her
sickness fell, turned, and stumbled toward the crowd again. Smoke sant into her lungs
and floated through her thoughts, making them hazy. The colors of the scene before
her - the browns and beiges of clothing, the green of jungle vegetation, the blue of sky
- grew garish, unnatural, hideous as she stumbled forward. Dizziness made her trip
and fall on her side, and looking up, she saw a shower of blood falling from the sky.
Instead of blue, the sky was now covered in round patches of mauve, pink, and
crimson, patches discernable as miles upon miles of human mouths. Mouths,
thousands of Tsufuru mouths, screamed in agony as blood drenched Nori's
hallucination.
NORI! WHY DID YOU LET US DIE? the mouths screamed.
"I...I won't...I won't let you die...Vegeta-buru...stop...don't go..."
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Time began to run in circles, and for a moment, Nori thought she was eight again,
lying on the cold, damp floor of Tomatillo Cave, surrounded by amethyst pillars.
"Sarama...help..."
Time flowed back to the present, where Nori saw Leek, Scallia, Nappa, Vegeta-buru,
and several other Tubera Saiyans standing in a circle around her. The sky was deep
red, but whether this was because of evening's approach or delusional blood rain was
unclear. Everyone's words ran together in melting rivers of words, but Nori could
vaguely make out the words of her aunts: "look at her pupils...allergy...into
tent...don't go...Nori, say something..."
Then, Vegeta-buru, Nappa, and all the other Tubera save Leek and Scallia vanished,
and time oozed back to her nights in Celeria's apartment, and Nori found herself
staring at the white ceiling
"Celeria...CELERIA! RUN! GET OUT OF TSUFUR!" she screamed, thrashing
about. Time returned to the present in the chieftain's tent, where Nori thrashed on her
bedmat, sweating, as the twins struggled to hold her down and calm her. Panting,
Nori's head thrashed left and right, and the sides of the tent suddenly became layers of
charred Tsufuru limbs woven together.
"He killed the Tsufuru and took their limbs! Vegeta-buru, why?
WHY?"
Faint images of Scallai holding the teletransmitter floated across the horrific scenes,
as she hurriedly spoke into the machine. "Celeria...Celeria? She's not answering!
Where is she!?"
Air turned into water, and Nori felt herself sinking in liquid as reality became an
ocean of chaos. A single voice floated through the chaos sea: a little boy's voice, the
voice of Vegeta-buru as a child. I swore that one day, I'd kill all the Tsufuru, then the
land would be just for Saiyans...
Grief and horror drowned Nori in the chaos ocean, and with a final scream, she fell
into unconsciousness.
When Nori awoke, it was with a splitting headachhe and earaches in both ears,and
with weak limbs she rose from the bedmat. Leek and Scallia were still asleep at the
doorway of the chieftain's tent where they had watched over her, and with wobbly
knees she knelt down and tapped them.
"Mmmmmm...Nori...Are you all right?" Leek mumbled.
"Yes. Did...did it happen?"
"...yes. We heard Oozaru roars and explosions all through the night. Tsufur...is no
more..."
17S
Numb-hearted, glassy-eyed Nori walked through the tent opening and blinked in the
sunlight. Wandering through the settlement in search of Saiyans, Nori spied a cluster
of Saiyans soaring through the dawn skies, led by Vegeta-buru. When the group
landed in the middle of the settlement, she saw the traces of Oozaru form leaving their
bodies: Vegeta-buru's white fangs were slowly retracting into his gums, Nappa's red
eyes were fading to their usual color, and dozens of other Tubera Saiyans were
growing less hairy every second as the moon sank over the horizon. Naked and blood-
stained they all were from their night as giant apes, and all eyes their chieftainess with
looks of ecstasy and joyful fury. Vegeta-buru, laughing, ran toward his wife, whose
ordeal the night before left her hair disheveled and her eyes glassy.
"Nori! We did it! Tsufur is in flames! The Tsufuru race is no more! We're free now!
We're safe now! Oh Nori, if only you could have seen it! All wrongs have been
avenged! All tribes fought as one!"
The chieftain addressed his tribe with an ear-to-ear grin, with something sinister in his
dark eyes. "Plant-sei was the name that the tailess cowards gave our planet! But the
Tsufuru are no more! Days of celebration will follow this, and we will feast in the
name of a new world, not Plant-sei, but Vegeta-sei! Our planet shall carry a proper
Saiyan name from now on!"
The Tubera crowd cheered on their chieftain and howled at the sky. Nori, on the other
hand, stared into the crowd, seeing madness in the faces of her husband, her friends,
her mentor.
"No...you're wrong...you're monsters...all of you...monsters...especially you, Vegeta-
buru...Leek and Scallia...they were right all along...you're ego's completely out of
control...WHY? WHY!? WHY DID MILLIONS OF INNOCENTS HAVE TO DIE
BECAUSE OF YOUR EGO!?"
Nori swung an open hand and struck Vegeta-buru across the face.
"WHY? ANSWER ME!!!!"
Rage set Nori's mind on fire, and soon Vegeta-buru was lying face-up in the dust with
Nori on top of him, striking him as tears ran down her red cheeks. Vegeta-buru
pushed her off of him and punched back, baring his teeth.
"I did all of this for you...I wanted a world where YOU could live in peace...and THIS
is how you repay me!?"
Elite men and women struggled to separate the couple, who swung and screamed
even as several elites held them apart.
"You killed them! You're no better than the Tsufuru we fought! All the demons in hell
have more humanity than you! You're a monster! And I've been sharing my bed with a
monster all this time! I feel filthy! I'm tainted from your touch!"
"Thankless...ungrateful...turncoat bitch! If you love your precious Tsufuru so much,
you should have rotted with them! I did you a favor! I bring you peace, a planet just
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for us, and all you can think of are those murdering bastards? Go! Go live with your
Tsufuru! Go sleep with their corpses, if my touch is so filthy!"
The chieftain and chieftainess exchanged more obscene words as elite's barely held
them back, when a chi-blast ripped through the crowd. The chi-ball burned a path
along the ground just between the bickering couple, and everyone paused to look at
the blast's origin.
Emerging from the vegetation were four figures, natives of other planets, in brightly-
colored armor that resembled Tsufur Ground Army armor. Leading the group,
floating in a hoverpod, was an effeminate little man clad in pink armor, with white
and pink skin, prominent gray horns, and a long tail that hung out of the pod. Flanking
him were two young men: a handsome youth, adorned with jewelry, with green skin
and long braided green hair; and a grotesque pink youth, greatly overweight, with
thick spikes protruding from his forearms and head. Behind the trio, looming
menacingly, was an awesome eight-foot tall creature: a muscled, hairy buffalo bull
body, but with a man's torso emerging from where a buffalo's head should have been.
Being to a buffalo what a centaur would be to a horse, the human half of the man was
muscled and clad in dark armor, with dark hair and two small horns upon his head.
Enormous chi flamed from inside of the beings, with the effeminate man oozing more
chi than Nori had ever felt from a physical being.
"I'm terribly sorry to interrupt this little domestic spat," spoke the effeminate man in
the hover pod, "but we couldn't help but notice your handiwork last night. We've been
watching all of you from above! I understand you're the man who organized this
whole extermination?"
Vegeta-buru dislodged himself from the grip of his peers, growled, and hurled a chi-
blast at the foreigners. "This land is for Saiyans alone! We have no place for freaks!"
Many other Saiyans in attendance flung chi-blasts at the four aliens, shouting.
The effeminate man simply blocked the blasts with his outstretched palm and sighed.
"So powerful, and yet so primitive. What do you think of them, Zarbon?"
"No better than monkeys," said the green-haired youth.
"But still...they're quite an impressive warrior race," said the pink youth.
"Dodoria, give me some power readings," requested the effeminate man.
The pink-skinned youth tapped the side of a beeping metal eyepiece and inspected the
group of Saiyans.
"The most powerful of the group are the bickering couple. The leader has a power
level of 13,900. The gold-eyed woman's is a little higher at 14,300. A few are
between 10,000 and 13,000. Most of them are somewhere between 3,000 and 9,000."
Nori dislodged herself from the entwined limbs of the elite's, and amidstseveral
seconds of silence, found the courage to speak.
177
"You're planet traders, aren't you?"
"My, she's a smart one!" snickered the buffalo man.
"Yes dear, we are planet traders. You've no doubt heard of me? Freeza?"
Nori nodded.
"Get off of our land!" Vegeta-buru growled.
"Stop it," Nori whispered to him, "I feel their chi. It's more than we can deal with. Just
do what they say. Please."
"No!" Vegeta-buru's face reddened. "You have no right to just waltz into Saiya!
Leave!"
"I'm afraid you don't understand the nature of our visit. You see, we were at first
concerned about the loss of the Tsufuru, but after seeing who exterminated them -
with pure brute force, no doubt - we saw an opportunity. I insist that we discuss a
little something called the planet trade," said Freeza.
"I know about you...a friend told me that you exterminate weak races and sell their
planets," Nori said.
"Yes, yes, you're familiar with the routine. I think with a little technological updating,
you Saiyans could make excellent soldiers for the planet trade. After seeing your
handiwork with the Tsufuru, I've decided that ape form could be very handy in planet
commerce."
Please...no...they're not going to make us into murderers, are they? I won't be a
murderer...I won't conquer planets...never. Please, Sarama, Indra, anyone who can
hear my prayer, make them go away!
"But - Vegeta-buru, is that how you pronounce it? - you seem a bit reluctant to enlist
your people in our line of work. Perhaps some incentives would change your mind."
Freeza grinned gently, prepared a searing chi-blast in his palm, and horrified Nori
with the amount of chi it held. In the blink of an eye, he flung the chi-blast to his left,
where it vaporized rows upon rows of tents, including the chieftain's tent where Leek
and Scallia had been standing, watching. The blast reduced them to ashes in but a
second and tore a line through the jungle, leaving nothing but ash in its wake.
"LEEK! SCALLIA!" Nori's eyes flew open as she screamed. Nothing remained of
Vegeta-buru's aunts save ash. Murdered in an instant had the twins been, and already
Indra's prophesies were ringing true. A desperate, cold nausea filled her, and in her
mind did she continue to call out her friends' names.
The chieftain shouted, shook, and stared with saucer eyes at the path of the chi-blast
where his aunts had died. Speechless, he slowly turned, panting, toward the murderer
of his last blood relatives.
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"You see," Freeza began, "I'm not one to be trifled with, and I ask that you sincerely
consider my offer to join the planet trade, or else we might have to have some repeats
of that incident. I can take out an entire tribe with a blast such as that, you
understand."
"MURDERER!" Vegeta-buru bellowed.
"Oh, the pot's calling the kettle black, now? Hear me out. There are other incentives
for joining the planet trade, namely the survival of your people. My little business is
willing to supply you with technology, clothing, food, and water for all Saiyans in
exchange for your labor."
"We don't need your supplies! Vegeta-sei has everything we need! Just leave!" the
chieftain screamed.
"Oh, but you will need them! Zarbon, Dodoria, Mahisha, when we return to the ship,
prepare the Blue Snow for Vegeta-sei. Vegeta-buru, I'll give you one month to
reconsider, and I'm quite sure you'll see the positive aspects of my proposal."
Freeza laughed as he and his henchmen flew back into the jungle, and when their
giant disc-shaped ship shot upward into the atmosphere, the Tubera Saiyans stared at
it for a long time.
Vegeta-buru wasted no time in sending emmissaries across Saiya to warn them of the
planet trader's threats, and he and Nori spent that afternoon sitting in their tent,
shaking. Before the previous evening, the two would have held each other and wept in
each other's arms, but now the two sat far apart, emotionless, speechless. Death, war,
Leek and Scallia's murder, the planet trade, all of it weighed heavily on the couple's
souls, and Nori soon felt the need to return to the forests to clear her head. Leek and
Scallia, wherever you are, maybe it is better that you're not here in Saiya. You died
quickly and painlessly - I can comfort myself with at least that - but my soul aches.
I'm alone. I'm in hell while you're in heaven. I wanted to say goodbye to you before
you died...I miss you both so much...my friends. You're still here inside me. I miss you
both so much!
What awaited Nori as she stepped out of the chieftain's tent was a scene never seen in
the jungles: light blue chemical snow was floating to the ground from gray skies, no
doubt Freeza's Blue Snow. Running through the camp and into the jungle, Nori saw
tree leaves turn brown and fall from their branches as Blue Snow touched them, and
moss and trees began to rot under the blue blanket of moisture.
"He wouldn't! He can't!" Nori shouted as she ran through the jungle, where vegetation
was blackening on all sides. At the Legume River, mosses withered and dead river
plants floated to the water's surface as Blue Snow fell heavier and heavier upon the
landscape.
The first week was a trying time: Blue Snow dissolved in the Legume's waters and
gave illness to all Saiyans who drank from it; dead fish floated to the Legume's
surface, now that all the oxygen-giving river plants were rotting in its depths; animals
and birds began to grow lean as their food rotted beneath their feet; and the Saiyans
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grew desperate as they hunted the dwindling animals. Beneath her feet, Nori felt the
nature spirits dying in droves, and many days did she beat her drum in the forests,
hoping to arouse spirits that never came. The land died in a literal sense, and lying on
the ground, embracing the spirit's moist coffin, Nori wept.
The second week brought with it hunger and desperation: animals starved to death by
the hundreds across Saiya, and the Saiyans and carnivores alike fed on carrion to ease
the burning hunger in their stomachs. All the carrion could only feed so many
Saiyans, and soon the land was crawling with Saiyans, fighting amongst themselves
for scraps of dead food. Misery covered all of Saiya as the barren landscape sneered
at their attempts to live.
The third week brought with it fear: most of the herbivores of the land had falled
dead, and the Saiyans dipped into what limited food stores they had to put flesh on
their wasting bones. Sickness and starvation plagued the tribes, and the Peah Hills
people turned their eyes to Vegeta-buru and Nori to make the misery end, which they
were powerless to stop.
The fourth week brought with it despair: out of food, the Tubera began to boil the
hides of their tents for nourishment, and hungry, homeless Saiyans cursed the planet
traders in the skies above. The elderly and very young started succumbing to death,
and the Saiyans took up the distasteful habit
of eating their dead in a race against starvation. Everyone was haggard,
with sunken eyes and ribs protruding from their torsos, even Bardock, once so
brimming with muscle; even Nappa, once so burly for a young Saiyan man; even
Vegeta-buru, once so full of vitality. Nori, with bony limbs and dark rings around her
eyes, could offer no condolences to Sleek Fur's pack, who one by one were devoured
by starvation and illness. Sleek Fur was the last to die, and lying with her head on
Nori's lad, grunted and whined to her friend as evening approached.
"Nori...you've been such a good friend to me. Something deep inside says that it's
time..."
"Save your strength. Don't exhaust yourself."
Sleek Fur's breathing grew shallow, and her fur grew cool. "Don't leave me. I don't
want to be alone. Please."
"I won't leave you. I'm here. I'll stay here with you."
"Nori..."
"What is it?"
"Don't ever forget all the times we had together...don't forget us..."
"I'll never forget any of you. Sleek Fur...it's not right that you should go like this..."
Nori's voice cracked as something dark and hopeless seeped into her blood.
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"Lithe is waiting for me...I hear the howls of my children...they're calling me..."
"Go to them. Things will be better from now on. Go. Where they are is better than
Saiya." Tears fell from Nori's cheeks onto the wolf's muzzle.
Sleek Fur died on Nori's lap, and the young woman held her friend in her arms for a
long time, weeping a prayer of parting, in the silence of everything dead on the hills.
Her stomach screamed for food, and distasteful thoughts entered her head.
No...I couldn't do that...I mustn't...but this hunger is eating right through me.
Please...I don't want my mouth to water at the thought...but it is. Every bone and
nerve inside me is hungry. Sleek Fur...I don't have a choice...forgive me for what I'm
about to do.
The withered meat and bone marrow eased the pain in her stomach, but after she had
eaten her fill of Sleek Fur's remains, Nori clawed at her own face and head, sobbing.
Fingernails, caked with blood, dug into her cheeks as she cursed, as the wolf's flesh
weighed heavily in her stomach. The chieftainess felt filth encrusting her soul, the
filth of loathsome acts of weakness.
I hate myself for everything! I'm filthy from Vegeta-buru's touch! I'm filthy from
cowardice! I'm filthy from Sleek Fur's meat in my stomach! Nothing save death will
ever wash away this filth from me!
When Freeza and a dozen henchmen returned with crates of food and clean water, it
was to a half dead Saiyan nation, to the Tubera camp where emaciated Nori and
Vegeta-buru waited with the leaders of all the Saiyan tribes.
"It's been a month, Vegeta-buru, enough time I think for you to consider my offer. I
usually don't use the Blue Snow except for stubborn cases like yours. It's an awfully
poor tool for exterminating races, as it destroys the ecosystem and makes the planet
unsellable, but for this purpose, I think it works quite well!"
Vegeta-buru looked up with sunken eyes. "This is humiliating enough. Just tell us
what you want us to do."
"I want your race to join the planet trade. I want you to exterminate races on sellable
planets in exchange for food, water, clothing, and technology. I want you to kindly
allow our associated to introduce you to the conveniences of planet trader technology.
This is reasonable, I think."
The chieftain looked into the eyes of the Saiyan tribal leaders, with whom he had
conferenced earlier, and sighed. "We...consent...to joining the planet trade."
Freeza smiled. "Excellent. We'll deliver more food and water to all the tribes before
nightfall. I knew you'd come to your senses. After that, my servant Mahisha here will
manage the Saiyan modernization."
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Mahisha, the buffalo man who had accompanied Freeza on his last visit, stepped
forward and sneered. His four hooves left moon-shaped imprints in the dead earth,
and he dug his hooves in the soil as he spoke.
"Lord Freeza has asked me to whip Saiyan society into shape, and I intend to do just
that. In the coming weeks, you WILL assimilate planet trader technology, much of
which we have to thank the late and cunning Tsufuru for. In the coming weeks, you
WILL assume a new form of government that WE will mold. You WILL answer to
Lord Freeza first, and to me second, and any insubordination will be met with death!"
Mahisha trotted over to Vegeta-buru and folded his arms.
"Well! This whole tribal set-up is far too messy. I have something more efficient in
mind. And you WILL like it, I assure you. We ask that new nations in the trade take
on a more efficient form of government. We need hierarchy, authority from the top
down. A monarchy would be the perfect government, don't you agree?"
The Saiyans sighed and sat in Mahisha's long shadow as the buffalo man bellowed out
a laugh.
"Vegeta-buru? You're the one who organized the whole Tsufuru massacre, isn't that
right? The other tribes look up to you, I see. You would make a perfect monarch over
the monkeys! We'll make you into the perfect Saiyan king. So, King Vegeta, shall we
begin?"




















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Chapter Fifteen
Queen Nori of Vegeta-sei

Mahisha was a descendent of powerful families on his native Veda-sei: his father had
been a ruthless general long involved in conquest, while his mother had been an
inquisitioner for Veda-sei's occasional political purges. Raised in a world where death
and intimidation were everyday tools, the buffalo-man was well-equipped to break the
spirits of the Saiyan race, only to mold that spirit into something the planet trade
could use.
In a matter of days, the nightmare had begun: engineers and laborers from the planet
trade landed in droves on Vegeta-sei, bringing with them allsorts of mechanical
abominations. Day and night, labor continued, and metal skeletons were clothed in
plastic and mortar until giant buildings dotted Saiya's landscape. Cities and bases,
parodies of the Tsufuru towns it seemed, spread like fungus until dead Saiya was
buried under them, and Saiyans were herded into their strange new homes.
Residing in a temporary steel dwelling, Queen Nori lied beside King Vegeta on a
velvety cot, staring at the gray ceiling one night during the modernization. For weeks,
ever night demanded more and more hours of
wakefulness, not only for Nori, but for her mate, whose breathing always gave away
his wakefulness. Each night, Nori could always hear commotion outside in the public
dwellings: screaming, weeping, brawling late into the night. The quick transition from
tents and huts to sterile buildings seemed to drive half the population mad, and
Freeza's soldiers did not hesitate to kill Saiyans who fought too loudly, or who
screamed too many curses about their plight. The boom of a chi-blast or the hiss of a
laser, followed by silence, always gave away another troublemaker's fate, and Nori
shuddered each time a loud voice outside went quiet. The young queen tossed and
turned on the velvety mattress, making the springs creak, but King Vegeta only lied
on his side, staring at nothing.
"He'll kill us all," she whispered to herself, "for his amusement. Freeza would take all
of our lives in an instant. If only I were already dead and free..."
The planet was crawling with planet trade soldiers of all races, and quickly small
bases, docking bays, and power grids came up, almost as quickly as a dome was built
over the Gravity Crater for the soldiers to train in.
Instead of hemp or fur to wear, Saiyans were introduced to planet trade armor:
stretchy armor in garish colors, worn over the same velvet spandex sported by the
Tsufuru nation. Once so handsome in his fur kilt, King Vegeta now wore black
spandex, over which white armor and a crimson cape had been fitted. White gloves
and boots covered his extremities, and around his neck, replacing his father's
cherished amulet, hung a stone amulet announcing his royalty. Queen Nori, too, had
no choice but to trade in her fur tunic for planet trade armor: deep blue spandex, over
which gray armor and a black cape had been fitted. White gloves and white boots
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covered her hands and feet, while a slender band wrapped around her head, holding a
jewel over her forehead. The spandex itched, the boots tore open blisters on her heels,
but all of it could have been bearable without the armor.
"We look like peacocks," she mentioned to King Vegeta one evening as they stood
before the growing city, "and I feel like a fool. None of this is natural. I hate to parade
around looking like this, a Saiyan wrapped in velvet and rubber. We look ridiculous!
All of this is ridiculous!"
King Vegeta only mumbled something about resembling Tsufuru before trudging off,
for he and his queen rarely spoke in the weeks following the massacre.
During the day, the nightmare was nearly unbearable: thousands of Saiyans were
herded into buildings or clearings, where high-ranking soldiers or Mahisha or Freeza
themselves would instruct them in planet trade discipline. Now you bow to a superior
officer, now you say "yes sir" or "please sir," now you follow protocol and contact the
nearest base if such-and-such happens, now you move in this sort of procession, now
you move in that sort of procession. When an uppity young man shouted that all of
this protocol was nonsense, Mahisha galloped over and trampled the man to death
under his hooves. With the man's flesh gummed up in the hollows of his hooves,
Mahisha kicked the blood-splattered dirt.
"Now then, if no one else has any more comments, let's continue!"
"Yes, sir," replied the Saiyans with an outstretched-arm salute.
Bastard, Queen Nori thought to herself, eyes fixed on the buffalo-man.
King Vegeta only stared with hollow eyes at the corpse, and his face grew stiff and
pale.
Technology proved to be another nightmare for the Saiyans, for technology was
inseparable from the Tsufuru in Saiyan consciousness. One night, Queen Nori found
her husband sitting on their bed, holding a scouter in his lap. Oblivious to her
approach, King Vegeta merely stared down at the eyepiece, mumbling to himself.
"Now they give us machines that measure chi. They say Tsufuru invented it. We
didn't kill the Tsufuru, you know. They live. We are the Tsufuru now. Isn't that
ironic?" The Saiyan king them burst into hysterical laughter,
wild laughter, bellowing so loud that Queen Nori fled the room in panic.
A palace-base of gold and steel rose on the heights of the Peah Hills, a chiseled
citadel with horn-like pillars that stabbed the sky, and here the new Saiyan monarchs
bowed to Mahisha's will. For hours, the two stood at attention as Mahisha or Freeza
himself lectured them on the need to keep discipline among the "monkeys."
"Keep the Saiyans in order. We'll give you orders and planet assignments, and you'll
pass them onto your subjects. One uprising, one decay or order in the ranks, and both
of you will be, shall we say, permanently relieved of your positions," Freeza
explained with patronizing politeness.
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Every other day, Freeza would be speaking casually, only to spin on his heels and
surprise a guard or servant with a chi-blast, a means of keeping the population in total
fear. After the screaming abruptly stopped, after the chi-light faded and Freeza's
chuckles eased, Queen Nori felt sick.
"He'll kill us all. He'll do it for sport. I know it," she thought to herself time and time
again in his presence.
The lectures and drills and threats went on for hours, and when Freeza wasn't
indoctrinating the monarchs with planet trade protocol, Mahisha was demanding the
adoption of Veda-sei court manners. The bowing, the titles,
the nonsense of hierarchy wore away at Queen Nori's patience, but something bizarre
came over King Vegeta as he adopted the role as the planet's king. The bouts of
depression and fits of hysteria vanished, and King Vegeta transformed into something
arrogant, something hard and cold and stiff as a statue. While grasping for some sense
of power and meaning, King Vegeta found it in the absurd role-play of a Saiyan
tyrant, and began to visibly enjoy it.
They finally broke him, Queen Nori realized. He's a willing slave now. Freeza and
Mahisha starved him for status, and now that he has it, he gorges himself with it.
Vegeta-buru, you're dead to me now. King Vegeta took your place forever!
"And here, your Highness, is where you'll conduct royal business," chirped a green-
skinned decorator who resembled a giant catfish, leading King Vegeta and Queen
Nori into a long chamber. Long, straight, and sterile it was, mounted on thick pillars,
granting light of a thousand colors through glass-stained windows. About a dozen
elite guards, clad in planet trade
armor and shoulder kerchiefs, stood on guard between the pillars, stiff and cold as
stone. Burgundy curtains hung above the windows, burgundy carpet stretched across
the floors, and at the back of the chamber, two burgundy thrones sat on a raised
platform, flanked by two more elite guards. The largest throne, resting under a giant
gold chieftain's glyph, sported two horn-like spikes that shot out toward the ceiling.
The smaller throne, identical in design to the larger one, sat somewhat to the right of
the large throne, and Queen Nori soon inferred which throne would be assigned to
whom.
The decorator, a bony fish-man who walked with a prissy step and spoke with a lisp,
showed his fangs as he smiled. "OH! Isn't it just divine? I designed this all myself. It
was inspired by the throne room of King Boxsher III of Thong-sei, but I added my
own special touch." With a limp wrist, the decorator playfully slapped Queen Nori's
arm, saying, "Oh come now! Don't look so stunned! It was no work, dearest."
Queen Nori ignored the priss, staring heavily at the two thrones. Still for a moment,
she suddenly jerked up her arm, faced her palm out, and shot out a burst of red chi at
the smaller throne, making the guards, the prissy decorator, and King Vegeta shout.
"No! Oh, my perfect little work! My little queen's throne! It'll take hours to get that
stain out! Tsk! Women and their hormones!" whined the decorator.
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All that remained of the queen's throne was a black smear on the carpet, and when the
smoke cleared, the assembled company gasped.
"Never," she said as she lowered her arm, face grave, "never, ever, will I sit on that
throne. Don't bother building another one."
King Vegeta clenched his teeth. "Please don't make a scene."
Mahisha and Freeza can make me do anything they want, but I won't sit on that
throne. I won't revel in this joke. I won't be your perfect little tyrant, or King Vegeta's
quiet, loyal little trophy. And with this thought, the Saiyan queen turned and stormed
out of the throne room without a word.
That night, Nori rested in the royal chamber, a spacious bedroom covered in deep
green velvet. On a wide bed enveloped in silk curtains, she lied on her side beside her
mate, and the two stared into the darkness, unable to sleep.
"We can't keep on hating each other like this," King Vegeta suddenly said, a shock as
he had said very little to her in months. "Nori...we rule our own world now. We can
make a future out of this. Be my queen. Rule with me, and we can make the Saiyans a
nation together." Nori felt his hand rest on her hip as he moved closer to her in bed.
Nori abruptly jerked away from him. "Don't you touch me. And don't you delude
yourself about any of this. We aren't rulers, we're puppets of Freeza and Mahisha.
Don't delude yourself about building a nation. You call this dead planet, this race of
slaves a nation?"
King Vegeta breathed a heavy sigh, but tried again to move close to Nori.
"Please. Let me touch you again, like I used to."
When she recoiled from his touch again, his hand clamped on her arm and squeezed,
painfully.
"You can't refuse me forever."
"Let go of me," Nori hissed, and the tone of her voice made her mate obey. "I'm
stronger than you are. Try to force it on me and you won't leave this room alive," she
swore, pulling the covers over her without another word.
When her mate relented and returned to his side of their massive bed, Nori felt tears
welling up in her eyes. I want Vegeta-buru back. I want my lover back, the one who
spoke kindly to me, the one who would never hurt me, the man whom no one could
break. I don't want this King Vegeta monster. I don't want this broken, deluded
puppet-king. I WANT MY LIFE BACK!
The first planet conquests, the first mass murders in the name of the planet trade,
came up quickly on Mahisha agenda. While other teams of Saiyans were dispatched
with high-ranking planet trade soldiers to other frontier planets, Mahisha himself
accompanied the monarchs to Midrash-sei, marked for quick extermination.
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As her private sphere-pod glided through space behind Mahisha's, Nori gazed into the
distance, waiting for suspended animation to set in. "So many stars. So many planets.
It's so beautiful. Why must I destroy that beauty? Why must I bathe it in blood?"
Suspended animation froze Nori's body in a vegetative state, and when she awoke, it
was three weeks later on Midrash-sei, an ocean planet dotted with thousands of green
islands. Each island brought with it masses of small, graceful, blue-skinned beings,
almost angelic as they gazed at the Saiyan intruders with large eyes. Something in
Queen Nori longed to reach out a hand and touch the Midrashians, smooth and
hairless and childlike as they were, but fear of Mahisha held back her fingers.
Standing on a dormant volcano's slop under a moonless night sky, Mahisha, the
monarchs, and several elites observed an island city.
"Planet conquest is quite simple," Mahisha said casually as he extended a hand and
poured out rivers of chi that seared Midrashian power plants and defense bases. "First,
you must knock out structures that a race needs to sustain and defend itself with.
Water, food, power, defense, all of those structures must go. Just look at them.
Complete panic. It always amuses me so much! After that, it's simply a matter of
using the ensuing chaos to your advantage and wiping out areas of most dense
population first."
Mahisha invited King Vegeta to step forward and help him chi-blast a group of
civilians fleeing up the slopes, and the monarch readily obeyed. King Vegeta's chi-
blasts flew too fast; he smiled too readily; he laughed at the screams and tears that
rose from every city on every island, having found an outlet for every frustration and
pain he had endured over the years.
"Freeza killed your aunts. Freeza killed Celeria, and Sleek Fur and her pack. Freeza
spurred on the Tsufuru to develop the technology to kill everyone we cared about.
And yet you joyfully do his bidding now," Nori muttered under her breath.
"Your Highness! Queen Nori! Won't you join us?" Mahisha shouted sarcastically to
Queen Nori as he turned his head. When Nori only stared in disbelief at the
bloodshed, the buffalo-man snorted and resumed his gory work.
"You can only refrain for so long, your Highness," he added.
Screams. Weeping. Fires. Blood and limbs flying in all directions. Blood dotting
everyone's armor. The stench of smoke, of burnt flesh, or coppery blood mingling
with water and soil. The last night for a beautiful race. Nori stood, speechless, taking
in the carnage, reminded too much of Saiyan massacres from her childhood. They're
dying. They're dying in waves. Men. Women. Children. Everything they cherished is
going up in flames before their eyes. And I can do nothing to stop Mahisha. I can do
nothing to stop Vegeta-buru's joy. Please, forgive me. I never consented to any of this.
You're all so beautiful...you'll all be at peace soon.
From island to island, city to city, Nori watched one atrocity after another, helpless.
The screams of the damned raged in her head for days, screams accompanying
bloodstained images that lingered in her mind's eye: childlike bodies flying apart,
childlike bodies vaporized in chi-blasts,
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tears falling like poisoned rain, and the chuckles of Mahisha and King Vegeta through
it all. The images plagued her thoughts by day, and tormented her dreams by night,
making her wake up at lonely hours of the night bathed in sweat, sobbing for the souls
she could not save.
Then the day came when Mahisha approached the glassy-eyed queen, chuckling as his
four hooves echoed across the palace floors.
"Excuse me, your Highness," he began with his usual sarcastic tone, "but Lord Freeza
has a small assignment for you. Just a small extermination job on Canoli-sei. I've
arranged to have you leave in a few hours."
Nori sucked in breath. "Please don't make me do this," she whispered, half pleading,
half demanding.
"But your Highness!" he laughed, "who else could be better? Consider your
respectable power level! Surely you're not still clinging to those bleeding heart ideas
about compassion, now?"
"Please. Anything but this. I'll do anything you ask. Just don't send me to murder
them."
"Anything?" The buffalo-man lowered his voice, and his eyes wandered over her
figure. "Anything, you say you would do to avoid this? Now how far would Vegeta-
sei's ever chaste queen go to get out of her duty, I wonder?"
"This is humiliating enough. Figure it out. Don't make me murder those people."
Mahisha burst out laughing. "That doesn't sound very queenly, although I admit the
idea has...appeal. So it's true that monkey women have no morals. No, no, I don't
think I want you just yet. I'll save that for another day. In the meantime, get ready for
your next mission, your Highness."
The buffalo man trotted off, and she stood alone in the red-carpeted corridor, hurting
from pique. The blood-red sun was setting, casting its light into a million colors
through the stained glass windows in the hallway. Alone, Queen Nori rested her head
against the window and sighed, bathed in a spectrum of fragmented colors.
"I should have been bathed in the Light and allows to die the good death. In a few
hours I'll be bathed in blood instead. Leek, Scallia, Celeria, be glad that you never
lived to see this," she whispered to herself.
That night, as the starlit night hung over her, as a dead breeze blew past, Queen Nori
walked across the steel docking bay to her sphere pod as Mahisha sneered. Outside,
the steel palace and steel docking bay let one see out into miles of blackened land,
devoid of life, and there Nori felt a great loneliness come over her.
"Oh, one more thing, your Highness," he shouted as he strutted near, "this. Canoli-sei
doesn't have a moon, remember?" The buffalo man took hold of her hand and slapped
a palm-sized disk into it. "It's a little something our researchers came up with to help
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you fine, fine Saiyans in your conquests: artificial moonlight. Charge it with chi and
throw it at the sky. For ninety minutes after that, you'll have sufficient moonlight to
go Oozaru. Not that my ever chaste Saiyan queen would need it with her great
strength!" With this, Mahisha laughed and trotted back into the palace.
CANOLI-SEI: CLASS M PLANET; SUSTENANCE RATING A; SPECIES
DIVERSITY GREAT; SENTIENT LIFE FORMS AS OF TRADE DATE 02201979:
105,452,871; TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT ABOVE AVERAGE...went on
the dossier of Canoli-sei on the screen just above Queen Nori's head, as her pod shot
up into space.
After liftoff, after two months in suspended animation, Nori awoke, emerged from her
pod, and found herself in the dry crater created from impact. Before her lied an idyllic
scene: fields of grain swaying in the breeze, flanked by steel silos and steel domes of
some futuristic farming community. In the distance, more fields of gold and green
swayed in the morning light, and irrigation arcs brought water from distant river
shores. Thousands of humanoid figures in tunics surrounded her pod, and as she
emerged and floated out of the crater, the crowd was silent and wide-eyed.
Standing before the startles masses, eyes traveling over the land and the crowd, she
felt her muscles go stiff, as if rebelling against the act required of her. Silent, she
thought of the artificial moonlight resting in her armor.
To think going Oozaru used to be a sacred act. No. I won't defile this sacred act with
bloodshed.
"Listen well to me! My name is Queen Nori of Vege--Plant-sei, and I
represent Lord Freeza of the planet trade! The planet trade claims
Canoli-sei as its own, and I have been asked to rid the planet of
inhabitants within three days!"
A dozen men and women burst out of the crowd from her right, firing heat weapons--
primitive heat weapons that failed to phase her or her armor.
Look at them. Wide-eyed. Frightened beyond words. Clutching weapons that won't
protect them. Oh Sarama, how can I kill them? I can't raise a hand to them. What
argument have they with me?
"Get out! What have we done to provoke this? Nothing!" shouted a woman at the
head of the crowd, presumably a leader.
Slowly, painfully, Nori raised a flat palm before the crowd, who continued to stare,
unaware of her intentions. Chi collected in her fingers and skin, muscles and blood,
and her hand began to glow red amidst the gasps of the crowd.
"What do you want from us? What are you doing!?" shouted an aging man.
The chi grew hot in her hand, but looking out at the children, lovers, families before
her, then looking out into the distance, Queen Nori grew heartsick and closed her
eyes. The chi flew out like thunder, and thousands of screams were followed by a
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burst of light and a massive explosion. Opening her eyes, Nori saw that the chi had hit
its target: an irrigation arc about two miles away had burst, knocking out
hydroelectric generators mounted atop it and drowning the fields of grain in flood
water.
"Listen to me! Your population is to abandon Canoli-sei and fly as far as your space
technology will take you past the beta quadrant. You are all to evacuate this planet
within three days time! Considering that your electricity grid, water, and food support
have been disabled, you're in no
shape to stay. Leave Canoli-sei and you will not be harmed. I will personally kill any
stragglers who refuse to comply after three days time!"
Day and night for three days, Nori flew over land and sea, repeating the same ruthless
scene over every establishment on the planet, evoking the same fear-filled responses
in every face. As irrigation lines fell, as power grids went down, as fields and farms
went up in flames, she felt despair seep into her blood as heavy-faced Canolians
evacuated in stear-shaped ships.
"Forgive me. I did not consent to any of this. I would defend you if I could, but
haven't the strength to fight Freeza or even Mahisha. Forgive me. This was the only
sane alternative to killing you," she whispered as thousands of evacuation ships rose
from their shuttle bays. "Take your customs, your legends, your memories of Canoli-
sei with you. Start life anew in space. Go somewhere far away where Freeza can
never hurt you. You were lucky you had space travel technology. If I could tell you
that, I would."
Back on Vegeta-sei, Queen Nori wandered the palace, blank-faced, for days
afterwards, dragging her feet as she trudged from chamber to chamber. Her hands, her
words, made an entire race abandon its homeland, and the old despair was still cold in
her veins. But she had killed no one, made not a soul perish in the planet trade's sick
race for marketable planets, but what about later? What would her alternatives be
should she be assigned a race without space travel? At these thoughts, Nori's blood
burned in her brain, and she hung her head low.
Her aimless wanderings led her to a cargo bay in the west wing of the palace-base,
where Nori beheld booty piled ceiling high: gold, iron, wood, gems, food, clothing,
and more wealth plundered from purged planets. Amidst Saiyans and men of other
races moving crates of goods, she saw two familiar figures in front of one booty shelf:
a sinewy man in green armor, recording numbers on a portable screen, and a long-
haired boy sulking behind him.
"Bardock? Raditz? You're here?" she asked, approaching the pair. Bardock turned
around, and recognizing her, parted his lips into a smile.
"Nori! Damn you, girl! Look at you, a queen in every respect. I'm in awe," he said,
raising his arm in a long-armed salute.
"Put your arm down. Enough formality, you two," she muttered, and the two
complied, surprised at her gloom. "Can we talk?"
19u
Outside in one of the landing bays, Queen Nori, Bardock, and Raditz chatted in the
overcast afternoon light.
"Isn't all of this a nightmare? After the Tsufuru massacre, we get hit with this and live
this nightmare. I can barely stand it," she sighed.
"I couldn't agree with you more. After the Tsufuru massacre, life went down the tubes
for me. I hate the turn my life has taken," Bardock replied, and at first, Nori smiled at
having found a kindred spirit. Her smile faded, however, as Bardock finished his
statement.
"When me and Raditz and the band went Oozaru and helped wipe out Tsufur, I was
on top of the world. Here was action! Here was excitement! Here was retribution!
Well, when Freeza and his trade came along, what happens to low-ranked Saiyans
like us? I get stuck doing inventory in a booty warehouse! My hover tank is
confiscated, my boy here made an apprentice, and the rest of the band give desk jobs.
Damn it all! That's no life for a warrior!"
Queen Nori backed away, when young Raditz spoke to her.
"My father's right. Life sucks now. How's the planet trade been to you?"
Queen Nori sighed. "I purged my first planet yesterday."
Raditz lit up. "You're knocking off planets already? Damn! I would give anything to
find some action! I'm sick of inventories! I want to fight like the other Saiyans."
Later, Nori would be unsure of how the idea came to her, but back on that landing
bay, she found her way of planet conquest through a deal with Bardock. She took over
the tedious but peaceful task of booty inventory, while he and his band took over her
job of planet conquest, and all parties
were happy with the exchange. But late at night, she would claw her face and shake,
cursing herself for her cowardice, for taking the easy way out, for letting despair
overwhelm her life.














191
Chapter Sixteen
Birth of Prince Vegeta

The walls of the palace seemed to tighten around Nori, who felt a restlessness
squirming in her soul as she stared at the gold and steel, day after day. I have to get
out. Now. she decided one evening, and after sneaking into a booty cargo bay, let her
eyes dart around for a suitable set of clothes. The musty smell of the warehouse clung
to the cement walls, and Nori drew it deep into her lungs as she sped past ceiling-high
racks of food, minerals, machine parts, and finally clothing. Sorting through a bin of
planet trade armor, at length she pulled out a set of third-rank armor, a burgundy
leotard, and a burgundy parka, which she swapped for her royal armor in a dark
corner of the warehouse. Stepping out into the damp night, Nori trotted down a blue
stone path leading down from the palace, a path studded with pillars and guards.

"My liege," said one Saiyan guard in a respectful tone, "where are you headed?"

"Out."

Past blockish buildings and gates did she stride alone, walking upon blue stone
pavement through the lit Peah Hills residential district. Occasionally, a white tower
from a mini-base would rise up beyond the apartments, beyond the mess halls and
training centers, white towers to remind Nori that the planet trade still loomed
overhead. Dead hills stood in the distance, holding silent, eternal vigil for the old
Saiya, now replaced by mechanized cities. A stale breeze blew back her black hair
and parka, and fellow Saiyans of all ranks walked past, making conversation.

"You won't guess how much I made on this last conquest with team #052. Guess! 500
credits! Enough for an armor upgrade and a bottle of that Regano-sei berry wine!
How about it?" laughed a middle-aged Saiyan man with three days worth of stubble
on his face.

"That night was one for the legends! I cracked up laughing! You know,
when Verbena chi-blasted that temple place on Cinna-sei," chirped a teenage Saiyan
girl with violet hair.

"Kidnibi and Soi wanna meet for dinner at mess hall five. You coming? It's corned
Erzulians from last night's take-over," said one twentiesh boy to the other as she
hurried past them.

A red-nosed woman with oversized pupils lied by the side of the street, giggling.
"Red! Millions of shades of red! I painted the whole city with blood from all the
conquests. Won't Freeza like my artwork? Gimme some credits, missy? Support the
humanities?" She reached out a dirty hand to the queen incognito, who threw a
handful of credit tokens into it.

Walking past dead concrete buildings, steel buildings, blockish buildings without end,
Nori drew her parka collar closer to her face and grimaced.
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"Fools. Brainwashed fools. You enjoy this killing? You like Freeza making a profit
from your labor? You like being like the Tsufuru murderers? Or have you forgotten
them already? Give the masses a few treats, and they'll forgive any atrocity Freeza
commits. The land screams for vengeance. The dead Saiyans scream for vengeance. I
scream inside for vengeance. But the brainwashed masses do not hear," Nori
mumbled.

"Nori?" came a woman's voice from behind her. "I heard you muttering. Is that you,
Nori?"

Nori looked over her shoulder, only to see Celeria walking briskly behind her.

"Celeria!" she shouted, spinning around. "It's you! You're alive! I thought you
died...in the..."

"...Tsufuru massacre," Celeria replied, throwing her arms around the monarch. Nori
embraced her back, then eyed her friend intently and saw that she had changed: leaner
she was, with dark rings under her eyes and a red
nose. Clad in blue Saiyan armor and a cloak reserved for medical personnel, Celeria
was hardly recognizable as the suburban Saiyan she had known months before.

"Nori...oh, I didn't know how to get to you! Cooped up in that palace! We have to
talk. We have to catch up. I was just off for a drink. Won't you join me?"

Nori followed Celeria to a smooth building, down a blue corridor that lead to a large
blue room filled with hard-looking soldiers. Moving through the dim blue light
around glass tables and bulky men and women, the two came to chairs at a glass
counter, tended by an overweight cat-woman with red hair. "Back again, Doctor?
What'll you and your girlfriend have tonight?"

"Two Yellow Emperors on ice," Celeria replied, laying a handful of tokens on the
counter.

"What's a Yellow Emperor?" Nori whispered.

"Matzo-sei's famous drink. Three parts yellow malt brew, one part marisol nectar."

The barmaid took the tokens and gave the women their drinks: two tall, wide glasses
filled with a brownish-gold liquid. Celeria threw her head back and swallowed several
gulps, but when Nori sipped at hers, it tasted like fuel and made her tongue go numb.

"It's an acquired taste...but enough. I've wanted to talk to you for months." Celeria
leaned close. "Nori...when Vegeta-buru came for them..."

"I had nothing to do with it. I fought him all I could. I tried to stop him. Leek and
Scallia did too. Please believe me! I couldn't stop him, but I wouldn't be party to it.
I'm sorry...I'm sorry for everyone who died..."

"I...I just wanted to be sure. I've been trying to forget it...that's why I come here."
19S
Celeria took more gulps from her Yellow Emperor. "I don't want to hear their screams
in my head. I don't want to see the Oozarus and the crumbling buildings. After a few
drinks, I can forget it."

"You...you didn't take part in any of that? Bardock? Raditz? Granny Taita? The
band?"

Celeria shut her slanted eyes and grimaced. "Why would I kill the people I loved? Of
course I didn't take part in the Tsufuru massacre! Bardock and Raditz...I haven't
talked to either of them since. I never dreamed I'd see the two of them go Oozaru, go
killing off the Tsufuru together, laughing the whole time. The band did the same,
Toma, that skinny girl, all of them took part in those murders. I loved them. I loved
them like family...and that's how they repaid me for my love, Nori!"

"Granny Taita, did Granny Taita--"

"No. She and I stayed behind at the Spina camp. All night, she laughed
about everyone's arrogance and hypocrisy. If I could only hear her laughing now..."
Celeria finished her drink in one last gulp, and seeing that Nori hadn't the stomach for
Yellow Emperors, began to gulp the second one as well.

"Where is Granny Taita?"

Celeria's eyes were growing bloodshot. "She's in the other world now. She died when
Saiya died under the Blue Snow. It's a pity. She would have gotten a good laugh out
of this whole stupid joke that Freeza's playing on us!" Celeria began to shake, but
instead of crying, threw her head back for another gulp of alcohol. "Where are Leek
and Scallia? Still scolding the high and mighty King Vegeta?" After Celeria's nose
reddened, Nori saw that her friend was more than a little tipsy.

"They're dead. Freeza killed them to threaten Vegeta-buru. I saw it with my own eyes,
but I'm numb now, after grieving so long. Celeria...haven't you had enough of that?"

"Hell no. I intend to drink myself into oblivion tonight. It's become my little hobby,
my little distraction from the screams in my head. The Yellow Emperors will
command the screams and sobs in my head to be silent!" Celeria ordered a third
serving and began to imbibe it quickly.

"Please. Hang on to me for just a few more minutes. What has happened
now? Please!"

"What's happened? I'll tell you what's happened. Everything imaginable has happened
in the med ward they put me in. You should see the injuries some of our Saiyans
come back with. And they want more babies! They encouraged me to pump one out,
but I'll never touch Bardock again. HIC! Never. He's a murdering bastard, and the
boy's no better. But the med labs will take your eggs and fertilize them with your
mate's seed. HIC! Some of the busier women in the trade do that. I did that. They just
made their first kid from my egg and Bardock's seed. Turles will be ready to take out
of the nourishment tube in seven more months. Then they'll send him away. Maybe
he's the one Indra said would be avenging! HIC!"
194

"Celeria, stay with me. What's all this about sending babies away?"

Finished with her third drink, Celeria ordered another Yellow Emperor, a very strong
brew indeed, and was downing it as the monarch spoke. "And I saw Paragus! He's
alive! HIC! Lived in hiding, all those long, long, lonely years. He's giving his seed
too, for extra pay! I'd love to see what that baby would look like! Did I mention that I
gave eggs too?"

"You're drunk. Slow down and get a grip on yourself!"

"You're just jealous that - HIC! - I have a way out! All the pain's fading! This is why
Yellow Emperors are my favorite! HIC! Did I tell you that I saw Paragus again?"

Maybe I am jealous, Nori wondered. Nothing can touch her now. But Celeria, I knew
who you were before. Why did you come to this? I despise Freeza and Mahisha for
turning you into this!

"But I'm...I'm a nice person...an' I'll give you sommin to help." After swallowing the
last drop of liquor, the doctor reached into her armor, fumbled for what seemed like
five minutes, and pulled out a small round case with pills rattling inside.

"Thissis for you! Nori, if I had a drink for every Saiyan who took theez...my livvur
would be all rotten to hell by now! HIC! They send em to us free! To keep the
monkeys quiet and happy! No bircontropiws, no, but lots of happy pills! HIC!"

Nori reluctantly took the case, then rushed over to Celeria's side, holding her up as the
doctor stumbled to her feet. With difficulty, Nori held Celeria up as the two moved
slowly out of the bar to the outside. In the late night air, the streets were clear, the
skies were filled with dull stars, and the waning gibbous moon stared disapprovingly
at the drunk monkey. Celeria pushed Nori away, wobbled on uncertain feet for a
moment, and stumbled off down the pavement.

"Bye now! I'm off - HIC! - to oblivion for t'night! Indra doesn't talk to me anymore,
so I'll talk to the pink elephants instead! Love ya, Nori!"

When Celeria disappeared, Nori shuddered, gripped the pill case in her hands, and
sighed. They broke Celeria. Why not let them break me?

Many days later, when hopelessness and melancholy grew too intense, Nori hid alone
in the royal bed chamber, opened the case, and swallowed the sour pills. For half an
hour, her stomach churned as if bored, until the capsules broke down and flooded her
vision with colors and shapes. Voices whispered to her from inside her head, and her
thoughts spun and spun like dust devils.

Pretty! Happy noises! I'm not here, and yet I am. I'm everywhere in the room! I'm in
that hairbrush over there, but I'm still here in my skin! But I'm not in my mind! No!
All the pain is over in that little dark corner of my mind where I won't go. The voices
sing and laugh. I'll sing and laugh too! I'll let my happy thoughts float out of my
19S
happy mouth like bubbles. They'll float around the room, and I can suck them back in
later when I'm sad! Oh, hello green griffin! What big feet you have! Tell me a story!

When Queen Nori came down from her trip later that night, it was with a drowsy
mind, a mind filled with wonder at the visions she saw, filled with wonder that her
pain had subsided for a while. In the days ahead, Nori sought out Celeria, who had
transferred to the palace infirmary, and talked with her for hours when the latter was
sober. Through the doctor, she acquired the psychotropic pills that made the pain and
ugliness subside, and did not hesitate to use them.

Vegeta-sei's queen found salvation in the form of sour-tasting capsules, drudging over
inventories of the dead by day, indulging in madness by night. In King Vegeta's
absence, when the monarch was off conquering worlds or meeting with allies, Queen
Nori had the royal chamber to herself, where her habit fragmented her mind until
morning. Night after night, capsules made reality run and smear like oil, leaving a
brightly-colored dream world it its wake for a few hours. Amidst garish colors, amidst
sweet voices without owners, amidst visions of old friends and mythical creatures,
Nori discovered a world free of space and time where pain ceased to exist. Whether
guards outside heard her talking to her visions, or giggling without cause, she neither
knew nor cared as she lied on her bed with huge pupils.

One night, when King Vegeta was due to be exterminating the races of Gelato-sei,
Queen Nori let another capsule slide down her throat, and soon the colors and music
and voices returned. Lying on her green bed, she noticed a new vision gliding toward
her: that of a young man, an earth soul of wild hair and dark eyes, approaching her
with proud bearing. Clothed in leaves and blossoms, the earth-man looked down upon
her for a moment, confused.

"Gentle vision!" she called out. "Gentle vision, my husband is gone, so won't you be
my new mate?" A drug-tainted smile came over her lips, and sweet dizziness swam in
her brain as the earth man peeled off his leaf-clothes. She extended her arms to him,
finding something familiar in that build, that hair, that face, and the vision accepted
her invitation, embracing her upon the bed. For minutes or hours, she knew not, the
two enjoyed each other as she giggled and flopped her head around, intoxicated.

Then sleep came, a quiet blackness that rose like fog the next morning, when a
headachy Queen Nori shouted at the sight before her. Instead of beautiful colors, the
same green chamber as before surrounded her. Instead of garments of leaves and
flowers, her armor and a second set of man's armor lied on the floor. Instead of the
graceful earth man she made love to, King Vegeta lied unclothed in slumber beside
her.

"Vegeta-buru. King Vegeta. You. It's your seed between my thighs right now. It's
your bites lingering on my neck. It was you all along. WAKE UP!" Nori shouted,
grabbing a handful of her mate's hair. King Vegeta jerked his head away, laughing,
leaving his queen with a clump of his torn brown hair.

"You're much more receptive to me when you're STONED! How queenly! And
who did you think you were cheating with? Let me guess. Some spirit? Some god?"
196

"Bastard!" Queen Nori flung herself, swinging, at King Vegeta who flew backwards,
blocking blows. Her elbow flew forward and caught his nose, making him jerk his
head back as red fluid gushed out of his nostrils. Having fallen off of the bed, the two
looked each other in the eye for a moment, as Vegeta-buru held a hand over his
bleeding nose, and the two understood.

"I want to go back to the way it was," Nori whispered.

"I don't want to hate you. I don't want your hate. Nori, please! It doesn't have to be
this way!"

"After what you did...you have the audacity to talk so sweetly? Bastard..."

"I did what I did to get back at you! And now I hate myself for it!"

"I want to go back...but I never will. I'm not the old Nori and you aren't the old
Vegeta-buru! They've broken you! I loved Vegeta-buru, not this murderer King
Vegeta!"

And with this realization, Nori clawed at her face and curled up in a ball on the floor.
Her mate, too, sank down and sat on the floor, eyes downcast, face hard and stiff.
Blood ran down his chin, seed ran down her legs, and the two naked monarchs sat
without a word for a long time, grieving.


"Congratulations," said Celeria, "you're pregnant."

In the palace infirmary, surrounded by silver walls and rejuvenation pods and racks of
drugs, Queen Nori stood before Celeria, who held a body scanner in her hand. The
monarch stared at the ocean blue floor, a glass plate under which thousands of tiny
blue stones were packed together.

"The scanner detects a three week-old fetus in your uterus, a boy if it develops to
birth," she added, frowning. "Nori...I know you hate him. I know the boy wasn't
conceived...with your consent. I'm...sorry...friend." Celeria clasped the monarch's
hand.

"I need your help," Queen Nori mumbled.

Celeria stood, silent.

"It's not right to make more Saiyans suffer," Nori continued. "Abort it."

Celeria shook her head.

"Abort it! It's enough that we're slaves! Why enslave another generation? Abort it.
Please!"

197
"I wish I could."

"Of course you can! You're a physician!"

"No...Freeza's orders. I could be killed if it were discovered that I participated in an
abortion. I could be killed if I gave out contraceptives! It's not like I can just walk out
and grab some artusamak flowers!"

"That's insane."

"Tell me about it. Freeza wants the Saiyan race to grow as quickly as possible. It's
money to the planet trade if they have more soldiers. I'm not allowed to prevent or
abort pregnancies."

Nori sighed and bowed her head. 'So Freeza's enslaving the Saiyans for the long
haul."

"Not necessarily. I've...been asked to participate in things I never dreamed of. Babies,
Nori. They're sending babies away to conquer planets."

Nori's eyes flew open wide.

"Oh Nori...I hate it all...I'm disgusted with it all! Every day now, I help deliver a
newborn, only to have planet trade soldiers demand brain implants on them. I don't
have a choice. I do the implants - I program the babies to attack all life forms,
stimulate the limbic system to increase anger and fighting instincts. Then they cart the
babies away...ship them off in pods to conquer planets."

Celeria stared at Nori with ringed, burnt-out eyes. "Nori, do you have any idea what
it's like to take a mother's newborn away? Do you know what it's like to say, 'oh, sorry
miss, you won't see your child for the next few years because he's wiping out a new
race?' I...I can't stand it. I can't stand the look in their eyes. I know they hate me for it,
and I hate King Vegeta for it."

"My husband? Wha--"

"It was HIS idea! Didn't you know!? Freeza was pressuring him to boost planet
conquests, and it was all he could think of! The bastard...a willing slave who enslaves
our children."

Nori sighed with a heavy breath. "His idea. Why not? He's gotten used to committing
atrocities. Why not this? And what's to stop him from doing the same to my child?
What kind of woman would I be to condemn my own child to that? I'd rather have the
fetus die. Please. Abort it. We'll do it in secret. I can help you. I can cover you. I have
power--"

"No. They're listening," Celeria whispered, pointing to tiny microphones on the
ceiling, and Nori soon went silent.

Nine months came and went, nine months full of grief for the young queen. As her
198
stomach swelled like ripening fruit, so too did her fear, her grief, and her loathing of
what would be in store for her son.

"You're overjoyed to have a son, an heir?" she asked King Vegeta one evening in bed.
"I would rather that he never came to be born. My body will be the threshold through
which another beaten-down slave passes into this hell."

Sarama, Indra, anyone who can hear me, rescue this boy. Kill him in the womb. Save
him from slavery. Keep him from becoming a monster. Spare me this grief that I carry
around inside my body, but don't make me give my child to Freeza.

As if reluctant to bring another Saiyan slave into the world, Nori's body rebelled
against the pregnancy: her breasts refused to fill with milk, her body (save her
stomach) refused to fill out with added flesh, and the expected motherly glow was
replaced by a sickly pallor. Her dread grew with her stomach, until the fateful day
when the boy rode a river of blood into the world.

Pain was not an issue, as Nori had long trained to ignore it, but the misery of her soul
outweighed any physical suffering she might have known. Skin and muscles
stretched, contorted, strained as the monarch lied on a birthing couch, while Celeria
and a few assistants aided the birth. Clad in a deep blue birthing gown in the softly-lit
infirmary, Queen Nori's hair was flung in all directions around her head, with some
hair pasted to her moist brow. After hours of heavy breathing, straining, heaving, a
baby Saiyan glided out of her loins in a burst of blood and mucus.

Nori threw back her head as the newborn's cries reached her ears. "Yes, cry! Scream
and weep your head off! You're in hell now! Don't you know it yet, little boy? Cry,
yes, cry now! You'll be doing it for the rest of your life!"

"Nori, calm down. Take it easy. The worst is over," Celeria said gingerly, stroking her
friend's damp forehead. A green-skinned assistant with green pigtails cleaned off the
newborn, wrapped him in deep blue blankets, and handed him to its mother. A loud
and lean baby boy he was, with a shock of black hair and a widow's peak atop his
small head, and the queen held him for the briefest moment, long enough to bark and
whine some wolf tongue to him. Instead of replying, the newborn showed no innate
wolf tongue skills, and merely cried like any other Saiyan child.

"He's my child. He's of my blood and Chapati's line. Why doesn't he speak in wolf
tongue as I did? Why aren't his eyes gold?"

The queen stiffened her arms and pushed the baby away, moaning.

"Get him away from me. I don't want to see him. I don't want to love him."

"Your Highness?" The green woman looked at Nori, then at the crying boy, then at
Nori again.

"She's just worn out. Some melancholy is natural after birthing," Celeria said.

"No! It's not that at all! My son, he'll be a monster like King Vegeta, like Bardock and
199
Raditz, like every last Saiyan we know. I know it. He'll never know the old ways of
Saiya. He'll never know what it's like not to massacre. Freeza and Mahisha and King
Vegeta will taint him until every last inch of his soul is filthy!"

"Your Highness! Please, just relax. You'll feel better in a few--"

"No! Don't you see? I can't love him! I can't care for him, only to watch him grow evil
over the years! I can't love him now and ache when he's a monster later! If I try to
forget him now...it won't hurt as much later...take him away..."
The newborn Prince Vegeta had an impressive power level at birth, 5,000, unheard of
for a Saiyan infant, but while his father rejoiced and held feasts in the boy's honor,
Queen Nori cared not. Retreating into her old
world of conquest inventories and drugs, Nori withdrew from the boy, leaving him in
the care of wet nurses and his father. Nappa, still a close companion of King Vegeta,
became the boy's caretaker and valet, raising him with a rough spirit.

Queen Nori's prediction about her son was true, for as Prince Vegeta grew into a little
boy, arrogance and killing came quite naturally to him. Unlike weaker Saiyan
children, the prince was never shipped off as a baby to conquer weak races, but was
raised under the wing of his father, soon taking on all of his father's vices.

For five years, Prince Vegeta was raised under the shadow of the planet trade: by two,
he understood that disrespecting Freeza or his henchmen led to a sound chi-blast in
the chest; by three, he had been trained to fight and disregard all mercy as weakness;
by four, he was already accompanying his father and the elites on missions of
conquest; and now at five, the boy was predictably a monster. As the boy trained with
Nappa in a complex built over the Gravity Crater, his ferocity revealed itself through
bruises on Nappa's huge body, through haughty words to his caretaker, and the boy's
mother only sighed.

It'll be a wonder if he doesn't kill Nappa someday, with that beastly nature of his, she
reflected.

When the boy was old enough to stand still, he was allowed a place to stand by his
father's throne, where he spent much of the day looking down his nose at the throne
room. For years, the boy watched King Vegeta on his chiseled throne, sitting stiffly,
barking orders, glowering as inferiors knelt before him, chi-blasting all who
displeased him. The lesson to the boy prince was clear: all were inferior to royalty,
and all were expendable but royalty, except of course when Mahisha or Freeza was
present. When Freeza insisted on sitting in King Vegeta's throne, or when he gave the
monarch humiliating orders to hand over wealth or citizens, the boy saw this and
fumed, silently. Mahisha, too, often insulted the pair.

"And how is the monkey king this evening? Hopefully grateful for this month's food
shipment to his kingdom?"

"You gave us 2,000 fewer pounds than last month," King Vegeta replied.

"If it weren't for Lord Freeza, you monkeys would starve in weeks! It was our
compassion that gave you food five years ago! If you're displeased, I can tell Lord
2uu
Freeza that you're ungrateful and would rather have your fellow monkeys go hungry--
"

"No. We're very grateful. We thank Lord Freeza for his generosity," the monarch said
with downcast eyes.

"Hmph. I like you, King Vegeta. You always make me laugh. I don't know
why. Thinking you have any authority at all just cracks me up. Don't you find
it funny, boy?"

Prince Vegeta glowered. "We're Saiyan elites. We have authority over our whole
kingdom!"

Mahisha shot a chi-blast at the boy, sending it into the curtain two inches from his
cheek. "But I have the real authority here, boy! I give you permission to live!
Remember that!" Mahisha laughed and galloped away, the clop-eee-clop-clop of his
hooves echoing through the chamber.

As if compensating for their humiliation before Freeza and Mahisha, the father and
son grew prouder every day, confident in their station. Like a gift passed down from
father to son, King Vegeta shared with his prince every bit of delusion and arrogance
in his heart, telling the boy he was the strongest Saiyan ever born, that the boy was
valued more than the low-ranked babies sent away to conquer planets, that the boy
might go Super Saiyan someday, that his pride was not to be lost to anyone. Clad in
white armor like his father, the boy walked with head held high through his
palace, proud and violent when not conquering planets.

Meanwhile, five years brought pain to the boy's mother, who grew thinner and paler
each season from duties and melancholy. Despair ran like poison through her veins
until every inch of her was saturated in it, and years of anger were swallowed into the
pit of her stomach where it ate away her vitality. One day, all the poisons in her body
and soul accumulated to unbearable levels, and the queen threw down her data screen,
panting. "No more. I give up. I GIVE UP ON EVERYTHING! There's no point to
it anymore. Why am I living this living death? I'm going to be murdered by
them anyway. What joy am I hanging on for? None. NONE! THEY'RE ALL
GONE! EVERYONE'S DEAD! Leek, Scallia, Sorrell, Sleek Fur, the Vegeta-buru
I knew...gone!" While assistants stared in disbelief as they stood in place among
loads, Queen Nori's face grew red as she ranted.

"THEY'RE DEAD! And you're all dead too! Every one of you! Dead! Freeza will kill
you all! No! He already has! He killed your customs, your gods, your way of life!
You've been dead and you don't even know it!" Queen Nori started running, ramming
soldiers and bound loads with her body as she bolted through the warehouse.

Past transparent docking bay doors, past red-carpeted meeting rooms, past the doors
of the throne room Nori ran in her lunacy, screaming, cursing at everyone she passed.
King Vegeta and Prince Vegeta emerged from the throne room upon hearing the
noise, only to catch her bolting down the south corridor.

"They broke her," King Vegeta whispered.
2u1

"She's snapped, low-bred woman that she is," the prince added. "I came from that
woman's womb?"

King Vegeta abruptly twisted around and struck the prince so soundly across the face
that the boy fell, holding his cheek.

"Enough! You speak of your queen-mother with respect!"

"She's no queen. She's just a--"

"Enough!" his father hissed.

Meanwhile, Queen Nori continued to run through the palace, screaming. A
pain stabbed in her side, and a painful heat spread through her lungs as she ran, as
adrenaline washed away all feelings save murderous rage.

"I don't care anymore! Let them kill me! It was going to happen anyway! I'll say what
I must before I die! I hate it all! I hate the massacres and humiliation and the airs we
put on to delude ourselves that it's all some sick joke! Bastards! Freeza enslaved us
all!"

Past treasury rooms filled with gold, past guards clad in the same ridiculous peacock
armor as she, past the infirmary Nori ran, leaving a trail of shocked Saiyans in her
wake. Celeria, checking records inside the palace infirmary, raised her head upon
hearing a familiar voice roaring outside, and quickly burst out of the sickbay into the
hall.

"Celeria, why save your patients!? They're all dead ANYWAY! WE'RE ALL
DEAD NOW!" Nori bellowed as she ran past. Her mouth was wide, too wide, as
it formed hateful words, and her eyes were bloodshot with huge pupils. A chill ran
down Celeria's spine, and without knowing why, she took off after Nori down the
corridor.

"Nori! Wait! Stop this! Let me help you!"

"You can't help me! Your silly medicine can't bring back the dead! I'm dead already!
EVERYONE IS!!!"

"Nori, please! Stop! Slow down! You're just confused! Please! Talk to me!"

The queen bolted past a pair of guards and rammed down two huge, gold-
plated double doors. Into the cold afternoon she ran, across the barren soil, underneath
a gray sky, with Celeria in hot pursuit long after the royal guards had given up. For at
least an hour the two women ran or flew across dead Saiyan until Nori, exhausted,
flung herself down in what had been the Articho grasslands. By the banks of the
Legume River, she beat the ground, wailing.

"There's no hope, ever! I give up! It's all a lie! AND I DELUDED MYSELF
TOO LONG! Sarama, you lied! I'm no liberator! I'll never save my people! I let you
2u2
down! Now please reward me with a quick death!"

Celeria flew by her side, panting.

"Nori? Oh...this can't be happening...they broke you too..."

Nori lifted her head, her dirt-stained cheeks, only to see the currents of the river
before her. An idea burst into her burning brain, and she lifted herself up on her feet,
only to stumble toward the water.

"Stop it! Come back! Don't go in that water! It's toxic, remember!? You want rashes
and fevers? Nori, come back! Don't you touch it!"

"Celeria, I wish you a quick death soon! Then you'll be free from Freeza forever!
When you see Indra, spit in his face for me!" Nori tripped, kicking up gray and black
dirt as she neared the water, and already could she smell the stinging odor of Blue
Snow residue. The thick waters beckoned, and Nori set one foot, then the other into
the water, impatient to enjoy a cool drowning.

"Goodbye, Celeria! You've always been good to me, friend! Farewell!"

Celeria realized her friend's intentions and bolted after her, falling down the river
bank into the surf where Nori was walking. Clamping on Nori's shoulders, Celeria
jerked the queen and roughly tried to wrestle her away from the water, without
success. Stinging water splashed everywhere, and as their spandex became saturated
with poison, Celeria screamed and sputtered.

"No you don't! Don't you dare give up! Don't you dare take the easy way out! You
think I'm just going to stand here, right? I don't think so! DON'T DO IT."

"It's not fair! Let go of me or I'll fight you! I'm stronger than you are! Don't make me
do it! It's not fair that you have a way to die! It's not fair that your liver will rot and
you'll be free from Freeza! I want to die too! I want a way out! LET ME GO!"

As the two women wrestled in the poisoned waters, the skies above grew dark, the
color of a mudslide, and a gentle humming could be heard above. Purple light fell
upon them, making their skin tingle as they felt all weight and pressure lift off of their
limbs. The earth and water drew away from them, far away now, as the women were
drawn up to the sky, weightless in a tractor beam. The beam seemed to come from
nothing, and when the reached the end of the beam, they were overwhelmed by
silence and darkness for several moments.

Then light came: gentle orchid light revealed steel and glass walls, curving into
corridors on a strange new ship. The two women dislodged from each other and
stared, speechless, at the ship's interior, then began to walk cautiously through one of
the corridors shoulders and elbows close. At the end of the corridor, the women
walked through a glass sliding door into a plush chamber, adorned with violet carpet
and orchid silk walls. Before them stood two figures: the first was a sleek, curved
woman of liquid metal, it seemed, standing before them with a languid expression.
2uS
Hairless, tailless, and unclothed, the liquid metal woman stood silently beside a
small hover pod, in which an orchid-skinned figure in purple armor sat.

"It can't be! That's...Freeza! What?" Nori stammered, prepared to run in
any direction.

In the hover pod sat a short, graceful woman, smiling with wine-colored lips at them.
Like Freeza, she had a long tail hanging over the edge of her pod, and from her
forehead protruded two small gray horns. Holding a dainty cigarette, the woman took
a puff, exhaled a puff of smoke, and spoke in a hoarse voice.

"Oy! And oi always thought the schmuck looked maw like his fawthuh. How aw you
two girls doing?"

The women stood before her, eyebrows raised, and the alien woman with
the Brooklyn Jew accent continued.

"Don't be so shy. You like cawfee? Silva, bring out three cawfees, cream in moin."

The liquid metal woman glided out the glass doors, leaving Nori and Celeria alone
with the alien woman.

"I know you two! It's great to finally meet yaw face to face. Queen Nori, yaw'll be
happy to know that oi was once a queen myself. Moy name is Queen Nippy, at yaw
service."

Celeria's eyebrows slanted. "You're related to Freeza. You look like him."

"Well, we can't choose aw relatives, now can we? I'm his muttah, to be exact, and oi
regret it every day! But don't get yaw spandex innah bunch. Oi don't like the schmuck
or what he's doing."

"Why did you bring us here?" Nori asked.

"Aw yaw done screaming and running around?"

Nori's eyes went downcast, and she nodded. "I went mad for a little while. Life under
Freeza does that to you."

"That's bettah, dear. Yaw threw suchah fuss down there oi thought yaw were mazzo."

"How did you know?"

"Oi've been watching yaw! Freeza isn't the only one with surveilance technology!
Oi've been watching the whole planet for yeehs, but Freeza doesn't know it because
moy ship is cloaked! Let's talk over cawfee."

Silva arrived with a silver tray carrying three porceline cups, and gave them to the
three women to drink.

2u4
"Yaw see," Queen Nippy said after a puff on her cigarette and a sip of coffee, "yaw
two are special. Out of aw the Saiyans, yaw two have chutzpah, the gusto to change
things down theyah. Oi see it in yaw eyes, in the way yaw do things. Look at the
ottahs. They're either too beaten to rebel, or they're having too much damn fun
obeying Freeza. Yaw're both sick of shmoozing! Yaw want to rebel! Don't pretend
yaw don't! Oi've been watching ovah everyone, and yaw two seem hopeful."

"What do you want from us?" Celeria asked, looking down into her beverage.

"Oi'll tell yaw what oi want. Yaw might even loyk the oydea. If oi train yaw two here
on moy ship, yaw two must kill owff moy family."

Nori, who had just taken a sip of the black beverage, coughed and spit out a mouthful
of coffee.

"Family!? A whole family of Freezas? How!? Why!?"

"Now don't warry! Yaw chutzpah and moy training will make yaw strong
enough, don't yaw warry. It's about toim oi stopped all this craziness. That boy, his
brottah and fattuh too, they ruined the family business. Took peaceful planet trading
and turned it into wholesale massacre. It's got to stop."

"Why don't you do it?" Celeria asked.

"Becaws oi don't have much toim. Let's sit down and finish aw cawfee. We've got a
lot to tawk about."

















2uS
Chapter Seventeen
The Wormhole Opens

"Now the main thing yaw'll be doing on moi ship," Queen Nippy began, "is training.
Oi've gawt a gravity hologram room justfa that."
Queen Nori and Celeria followed the hover pod into a circular room with reflective
purple walls. Silva, the liquid metal woman who had served them coffee, led the two
women into the center of a wide circle on the floor.
"This is where we'll train?" Celeria asked. "But what's so special about this?"
Silva stepped out of the circle and stood before a control panel near the door, and
when she tapped a few red buttons, Nori and Celeria fell face-first onto the cold floor.
Lead-heavy gravity seemed to wrench the sinews right off of their bones, and as Nori
struggled to twitch her fingers, memories of the Gravity Crater flooded back.
Queen Nippy puffed on a cigarette. "Silva's got the powah on 50x standahd gravity, as
hoy as this thing will go. Now don't get aw vuclemped and think "oh gawd, it's
hopeless!" Yaw havtuh train in this gravity faw a while and get used to it, awright?"
Nori, with her cheek pulled tight to the floor, strained to move her lips and tongue.
"Mmmph. C'leerya. Uh muved mh f'nger a'lil!"
After a few days, Nori and Celeria could move with ease in 50x standard gravity, and
sparred day and night to spur on the growing chi in their limbs. When Queen Nippy
was satisfied with their improvement, she sent Silva
to train with them for hours at a time. Silva, a silicon-based life form, was the last of
her race and unfathomably strong, at least to the two women.
"Silva's loik a dawtah to me, y'know," Queen Nippy began one night, over dinner of
vegetables, grains, and a gelatinous substance Nori could not identify. Silva sat with
them, quietly eating a bowl of metal shavings.
"You flatter me," the metal woman replied with a deep, silky voice.
"Oi found ah on the planet Alloy-sei, hoyding from Freeza's men. An she's been good
to me! Evuh since oi stawted getting wuhss with this, she's been theyuh to help me."
"But what's 'this'?" Nori asked. As Queen Nippy's chi was far lower than Freeza's, and
she never stood up from her hover pod, Nori suspected some disease was at work
inside Nippy's body.
"Oh. Well, oi've had this Frigidski's Syndrome faw a few yeauhs. Theyuh's no cure. It
gets oldah women of moi species. Attacks the muscles and bones. Loik oi said, oi
don't have much toim."
2u6
Queen Nippy spied Celeria reaching for the bottle of wine on the table, and quickly
took it out of the doctor's reach.
"No no no! Yaw've had yaw shayuh of that on Vegeta-sei! No alcohaw faw eittuh of
yaw. Oi want yaw two strong when yaw go back to foit."
"Nippy, it's been two weeks without a drink. One drink won't kill m--"
"But yaw won't stop at one, will yaw?"
"But you're dying, and you drink wine. Every time I see you, there's a cigarette in
your mouth. Don't be a hypocrite," Nori complained.
"Hey, yaw two aw getting smawt with me, aw yah? Now just worry about yaw own
bawdies, and we'll get along foin, awright?"
Nori grimaced and struggled to finish her third glass of water for that meal. "Why do
you make me drink so much water all the time?"
"To flush out aw the poisons Celeria fed yaw! It'll aw come outtah yaw tissues in
toim. Look. If yaw two wannah defeat Freeza, yaw gonnah do it moi way!"
The women were silent for the rest of the meal, but silently worried about Queen
Nippy's illness.
In the coming months, Nori and Celeria trained together with Silva, who shared her
unique talent with them one afternoon. While Celeria was off resting, Nori and Silva
faced each other in the gravity room, when Silva's
features melted. Her skin, once smooth and metallic, now softened and turned pink,
and as her spine compacted with a moaning sound, she shrank. Two gray horns burst
from her head, and a thick tail wormed its way out of the small of her back, until she
shape shifted into a figure Nori recognized as Freeza.
"I didn't know you could shape shift!"
Silva-as-Freeza lunged at her opponent. The two sparred for an hour, and when Nori
felt the old dread churn in her stomach, it emerged as hesitation in her blows.
However, when Nori took too long to block or strike,
Silva-as-Freeza reprimanded her with blows, leaving tender bruises for weeks.
"You're not learning," was Silva's predictable reply every time Nori's fear of Freeza
had to be disciplined. But the young queen did learn, and soon her fear of Freeza gave
way to rage, then calculated cunning as she sparred longer and longer with the shape
shifter. Silva took on other forms: Mahisha, Zarbon, Dodoria, Kewie, and members of
Freeza's family whom the young queen had never met. Nori overcame her fear of
them all, except when the shape shifter assumed the likeness of King Vegeta. It was
not fear that paralyzed her, but rather some soft, painful feeling deep in the pit of her
stomach that made her think of Vegeta-buru.
2u7
"Silva said that yaw're having trouble with this whole notion of foiting King Vegeta,"
Queen Nippy mentioned one night in the gravity room.
"I don't know what it is," Nori replied softly.
"Is it that yaw love him? Oi thawt yaw hated him."
"I do hate him. I hate him for what he's become. But...all those years, when he hurt
people...that morning after he did that to me...I wanted to kill him, and almost did. I
always thought that someday I would. But when I fight his likeness, something inside
aches. It's like a bruise on my heart."
"Yaw want the old lovah back."
"Yes. Some part of me won't let me forget Vegeta-buru. Like it or not, he was Vegeta-
buru once. He was innocent once. I look at him sometimes and wish he was Vegeta-
buru again."
Silva listened at a distance, eyeing Nori disapprovingly.
"Oy! Men aw such putzes!" Queen Nippy began. "King Vegeta, King Cold, Bawdock,
they're aw the same. Oi moit have gawn queer, but oi could nevah picture moiself
with anottuh woman."
"So what's your story?" Nori asked, sitting beside the hover pod.
"King Cold? What a schmuck, that man. Now he was a real sweathawt when oi met
him, but aw that changed, yaw see. Cold was one of those schmucks who thawt
fawplay was something yaw did on a gawf course. The last toim he did anything with
the little man in the bot was when the Tsufuru made the internaw combustion
engine!"
"...you're joking, right?..."
"Oh no, we're a lawg-lived race! Anyway, we stawt off togethah, two foows in love,
with aw own little family business. Foist it was peaceful. We'd stumble across a green
planet, sell it, and we made a pretty good living
offah that. But yaw're only supposed to sell uninhabited planets! Yaw didn't go
around wiping out whole races! It just wasn't koshah!"
Queen Nippy took another drag off her cigarette. "So the schmuck goes around
making a big bloodbath outtah the whole business, stawting up this little empoir. Even
gawt the two boys into it. Yaw know, oi always thawt Freeza and Coola would be
doctahs aw lawyahs someday. But no."
"I know the pain. I know how it feels, watching your child turn into a monster."
"Oi know it hoits. Oi know all about Prince Vegeta. Moita been a sweet kid if his
fadduh hadn't fiwed his head with aw that trash."
2u8
"I know. I wanted to love him. But I knew it would be futile. It was too much to ask
for a sane family. Damn it all."
"Yeah, damn it aw. Well, oi left the putz a long toim ago. He wouldn't pay alimony,
so oi ran off with theyuh gravity ship faw compensation."
"Are you suggesting something?"
"Oi'm saying that oi couldn't live with the schmuck any longah. He wouldn't change.
Now yaw know that King Vegeta won't change. As faw as we're both concerned,
Vegeta-buru's dead. Yaw gottah stop living in the past. Yaw do realize that when yaw
go back, the putz moit not be cooperative?"
"I've thought about that for a long time. Would he fight the planet trade when it gives
him so much status? I don't know. Would he risk jeopardizing his power? I don't
know."
"And what if yaw do knawk off Freeza? And King Cold and Coola? What then? Do
yaw really want this schmuck running the show with yaw? Will the Saiyans be bettah
faw it?"
Nori was silent for a moment. "No. Even without Freeza, he'd still be a tyrant. He
knows how to massacre and dominate. But the planet trade did the rest for him. He's a
puppet. He doesn't really know how to run a kingdom."
"Yaw've gottah lottah work ahead of yaw, and King Vegeta won't be much
help.Yaw'd be bettah without him."
"So what are you saying? I should kill him? Exile him? Lock him in the attic? What?"
"Oi'm just saying yaw'd bettah decide soon what yaw're gonnah do with him, becaws
yaw can't just let him run woild."
Nori frowned, eyes tense and melancholy. Silva only stood at a distance, still
frowning at her with disapproval.
For several more months, Nori and Celeria trained on the ship. When Celeria sparred
with Silva, the liquid metal woman took on the forms of Freeza, Mahisha, Bardock,
Raditz, and anyone else the doctor might be forced to fight. For a few more weeks,
Silva assumed the likeness of King Vegeta while grappling with Nori, but seeing the
old hesitation, seemed to resign herself to the fact that Nori could never kill her
husband. After that, Silva never again assumed the king's likeness in the gravity room.
The gravity room was also a hologram room, and when Queen Nippy felt it time, she
prepared dozens of holographic scenarios. For weeks, Nori and Celeria sparred in
waist-high ocean waves, in crumbling skeletons of buildings, in winding ship
corridors, anywhere they might be forced to take on Freeza or his soldiers.
Freed from the stifling palace, from Mahisha, and from the mind-bending pills, Nori
blossomed with new strength. The dread that once shattered her spirit was draining,
2u9
and as her soul healed, her blood filled with vigor and hope. Celeria, too, grew
stronger when freed from strong drink and the horrors of the infirmary: her limbs
thickened, her eyes lost the dark rings that encircled them, and her footsteps bounced
with new energy.
Not so for Queen Nippy, and everyone knew it. With every new day, Queen Nippy
seemed to move a little slower, or spend more time resting in her quarters, with Silva
waiting on her day and night. The liquid metal woman, who seemed so cold to Nori,
was also the most tender and dutiful nurse Queen Nippy could have asked for. Indeed,
the final stages of Frigidski's Syndrome had come upon her, and it was only a matter
of time.
Roughly six months had passed, and one evening, Queen Nippy summoned Nori and
Celeria back to the gravity room. Holding a physiology scanner before them, the
orchid woman tapped a few buttons, stared at the screen, and then blinked. The smile
on her lips faded, and her eyes narrowed as she looked at the women, then back at the
scanner.
"No...this thing nevah gave me fawty DNA scans...this can't be roit..."
"What's wrong?" Nori asked.
"Um...girls..."
"What is it? What's wrong? Aren't we strong enough?"
"No...no...not that at aw. Yaw two...yaw've always grown up thinking yaw were
Saiyans, roit?"
Celeria cocked an eyebrow. "Of course."
"Um...well...oi've got good news and bad news." Queen Nippy said, staring long and
hard at the scanner readings. "The good news is that yaw're both healthy. Aw the
toxins aw outtah yaw systems. Yaw've both got powah readings of about 750,000
each."
Nori and Celeria looked at each other and beamed. "Did you hear that!?"
"Now don't get aw happy. Theyuh's bad news. Two pieces of bad news."
The two women went silent.
"Foist, yaw're at 750,000, but ONLY 750,000. One of yaw moit be able to take down
Mahisha by yawself, but that's the biggest feat yaw could handle roit now,
undahstand? Freeza has a powah level of 1,000,000 in his FOIST form! Nevah moind
the ottah transformations! Yaw're gonnah have to train a little longah."
The two women sighed.
"But...theyuh's maw...yaw two...yaw're not real Saiyans..."
21u
Celeria's eyes shot up, full of hurt, while Nori's face flushed.
"WHAT!? How can you say that? Just because we didn't get as strong as you hoped
doesn't mean we're less than Saiyan!"
"Now don't get aw vuclemped, Nori!"
"No! It's not right! We tried as hard as we could! We're ready to fight anyone! We're
warriors! We've changed!"
"Nori, listen! Oi'm not--aaaaggggghhhh!" Queen Nippy's face wrinkled in pain as her
back jerked.
Celeria ran over to the hover pod. "What's wrong? What hurts? What's happening?
Nippy?"
"Ow...moi backbone...get Silva...quick..."
A minute later, Queen Nippy was lying in her orchid bed, grimacing in pain.
"What's happening to her?" Celeria whispered to the liquid metal woman.
"The last stage of Frigidski's Syndrome," she replied, stroking Queen Nippy's hand.
Queen Nippy slowly opened her eyes. "Yaw know what's happening. Theyuh's not
much toim. Look. The ship is linked to moi vital functions, so when oi doi, the ship
powahs down, permanently. Oi didn't want Freeza foinding it and getting strongah
aftah moi death. Yaw can't train here anymaw."
"That's not what we're worried about," Nori replied.
"Now all three of yaw, look. Don't take on Freeza roit now. None of yaw aw strong
enough! Foind some safe place to train faw a few maw months, and then maybe."
"I will take on Freeza. It is time," Silva said softly.
"Oh no yaw don't, little lady! Yaw aren't strong enough eithuh! Yaw powah level
stopped cloimbing at 500,000, remembah? Oi don't know whoi. Maybe it has
something to do with yaw species."
"Nippy, we'll train, and we'll take on Freeza for you. We won't let you down," Celeria
whispered.
"That's good. Yaw've aw been good warriors. Oi know yaw won't let me down. Nori,
Celeria, oi've seen how yaw aw togethah. Yaw're each uttah's best friend. Help each
uttah. Protect each uttah. Don't let Freeza do the universe in, awright?"
"We won't," Nori swore.
211
"Silva, yaw've always been loik a dawtah to me. Oi wish oi could give yaw something
in return faw aw yaw've done faw me."
"I am alive. That is enough."
"Now how could oi let Freeza do yaw in? Come on!" Queen Nippy's face twisted in
pain, and her breathing grew more labored. "Well, girls...oi leave the rest in yaw
hands..." With those last words, Queen Nippy jerked once more, and then was silent
forever. Nori and Celeria were quiet for a long time, while Silva gently wept, with
metallic tears running down her cheeks like liquid mercury. The orchid lights on
board went dim, and all three were enveloped in darkness.<
Back on Chutney-sei, Chapati could be heard laughing in the night, shaking his fist at
the sky.
"Haha! It is ready! The Gateway Sphere is ready! Old Chapati sealed the crack, yes!
Sarama smiles upon me! Sarama, a thousand blessings be upon you! Hahaha! Nori, I
am coming, yes!"
As Chapati hugged the sphere and danced around his campfire, the desert sands blew
hard and quenched the flames, while the ground thundered from some unseen power.
The distant horizon, he saw as he fell over, burned orange from distant fires, and
explosions roared in the fearsome night. The sound of sand crunching under feet met
his ears, when he saw Jasmati racing toward him in the moonlight.
"Chapati!? Chapati, where are you!?" she howled, face smeared with sweat and ash.
"I am here! Oh, I have good news! The Gateway Sphere, it is whole again!"
"OPEN THE WORMHOLE! NOW!"
"The fires, the blasts...is that Balti Keema?" Chapati's tail twitched, and his limbs
went tense.
"I'm being chased! Open it! There's not much time! I'll explain later!" Indeed, in the
distance, two of Kheer's guards, green armor reflecting the moonlight, were darting
down the sand dunes toward her.
Chapati threw his satchel over his back, entwined one hand with the panting woman's
hand, and rested the other hand on the sphere. It has been, what, twenty-two, twenty-
three years, has it? Nori is a woman now! Please be all right!
"It is time...samosa, samosa, samosa..."
With each syllable, the sphere grew brighter in the darkness, and before them, reality
melted like wax to leave a white void in the air. Jasmati, squeezing Chapati's hand,
breathed deeply at the sight of the wormhole seared into the air, and held her breath as
the royal guards came over the
nearest dune. With Chapati pulling her forward by the hand, both were swept up into
the white nothingness, and for a moment, were immense in bright silence.
212
Then sound and form came crashing into the whiteness, and in an instant, the two
Chutnians were sandwiched between the tight walls of a Peah Hills cave. Trapped
between a struggling Chapati and a black, porous wall, Jasmati bayed with
indignation.
"This isn't the way you described Tomatillo Cave, dammit!" Jasmati bayed, scraping
her cheek against the wall.
"This is not the way I remember it!" Chapati replied. "Someone moved the other
sphere!"
Chapati reverted back to his humanoid form, and with difficulty, the two wormed
their way out of the cleave, only to emerge before a blackened landscape with barren
trees. An unnatural stillness hung over the land where no life stirred, and the stinging
odor of Blue Snow residue floated through the air from the river. At this sight of
stillness and death, Chapati's eyes sank, and his mouth hung open
"Oh Sarama...oh...the land itself is dead...this is now how I remember it...no..." The
land offered up no spirits to converse with, no chi to be felt, not even a fleck of green
or brown to remind him of life. Falling to his knees, the old man went pale, running
his fingers through the dead earth.
Jasmati wrinkled her brow. "What happened?"
"I do not know."
"All the stories you told me of Saiya...how rich and beautiful it was...are you sure this
is Saiya?"
"No, it might not be. The sphere was moved, I know that. But where can we be, then?
None of this brings back memories. Nothing stirs here. No. This cannot be Saiya."
Chapati rose to his feet and paced, twitching his coyote tail.

"Now what was this? What of Balti Keema?" he asked.
Jasmati shook her head, running a hand through her white hair. "There is no Balti
Keema. Mulligatawny and a few of the Ghee priests are on the run. Everyone fought
or fled."
Chapati need not guess the culprits. "Kheer and Darjiling...it was them, yes?"
"Right. I've never felt chi like that before. The guards...they were only there to track
escapees. Kheer and Darjiling were doing all the fighting! They threw people around
like rag dolls. I saw bodies...everywhere. They were looking for you, you and the
Gateway Sphere."
Jasmati looked at Chapati with heavy eyes. "This is it, isn't it? It can't get any worse,
can it? There's no stopping them. And they won't stop, ever."
21S
"Well now, have you lost hope? Isn't that why we came for Nori? Sarama does not lie.
Nori is the one who will stop this. I was there at the temple when Sarama herself
spoke the truth. Do not lose hope."
"But Chapati, I saw Kheer and Darjiling fight. In lupine form. Their fur was gold.
They finally did it...they're Superferals. Oh Sarama...this can't be happening..."
Jasmati sat down on a fallen tree trunk and buried her head in her hands.
"Superferals? The legendary ones? It is happening, yes. If we do not find Nori, who is
to ever stop their conquests? They will be strong, very strong, and will not grow old."
Chapati was silent for a long time, and when Jasmati looked up again, she saw why.
Staring into the distance, the man was gaping at the sight of the Peah Hills cities, steel
and mortar parodies of Tsufuru cities, but inhabited by thousands of Saiyan's.
"No...this IS Saiya...look," he whispered, pointing. "Saiyans. Living in cities. They
abandoned the land and killed it for this?"
The old man suddenly tore open his sack and pulled out his old tissue regenerator,
juju anesthetic sap, and some Saiyan tail fur. "Bah. Forget the animal skins I packed.
They are of no use now. We'll graft monkey tails onto our wolf tails. Then we're
going in there."
"You don't know what's up there!"
"And how else will we find Nori? If she is to be found, isn't it among the Saiyans? We
will soon find her. We will soon understand this. Ah. One tail is done. Hold still."
Chapati grafted the first Saiyan tail over Jasmati's tail, not without much whining and
growling from his patient. After grafting the second tail onto his own, the two trudged
up the outskirts of the city, only to hear strange voices behind them.
"Look Dodoria. Saiyan beatniks."
"Where's your armor? Rebelling against the planet trade or something?"
The two Chutnians slowly turned around, only to see Zarbon and Dodoria standing
behind them.
"I don't like the looks of either one of you," Zarbon added.
Jasmati growled, sensing hostile intentions, while Chapati squeezed her hand as if to
say, Act Saiyan. Quieting her growl, she eyed the green man and pink man, only to
sense that their chi was far below her own.
"And what's your problem, cutie pie?" Dodoria snickered.
"WhaaAAaAaat duuuu yuu waa-rrtt?" Jasmati asked, growling out Saiyan words that
she had not yet mastered.
214
Bah. What a foolish old man am I. I should have started her on Saiyan language
sooner, Chapati chuckled to himself. She sounds like a talking dog. Not a Saiyan at
all.
"Yes. Hello. My niece here has a speech impediment, you see," the old man laughed
nervously. "Can we help you?"
The two planet traders snickered. "You'll need all the help you can get in a little
while," Zarbon began. "You see, we don't take kindly to beatniks. You know what we
do to Saiyans who won't wear planet trade uniform?"
"Planet trade? Oh no, we do not involve ourselves in that, no."
"And I thought taking a stroll would be boring," Dodoria added, lumbering toward the
Chutnians. "Now which one of you will be the first? I think you will, cutie pie. What's
your power level, sweetheart?" Dodoria tapped his scouter, looked at Jasmati's power,
and gasped. "What? 150,000? No. It's broken, bec--"
Dodoria was on his back a moment later. Kicking into him, Jasmati felt her foot sink
into rolls of pink fat, but her kick hit its mark: the solar plexus. Lying on the ground,
gasping, Dodoria watched as Zarbon pointed his palm at the pair, pumping out bursts
of white chi. When the smoke cleared, Zarbon was lying face-down beside him,
bruised and unconscious.
"Jasmati!" Chapati laughed, trying to sound stern regardless. "Jasmati, you still fight
without thinking! Haha! All right. Yes. Listen. Do not fight unless you must here. We
do not need attention. Just mind your own business until we find Nori."
Jasmati growled. "They were here to start trouble. They might have hurt you!"
"What is done is done. We must hide them. Quickly now!" Chapati took the animal
skins out of his pouch, tore them into strips, and motioned for Jasmati to be silent.

"YOU'RE GOING TO DIE FOR THIS, BEATNIKS! YOU HEAR ME!? BOTH OF
YOU! I'LL DO THINGS TO YOU THAT YOU NEVER DREAMED OF!!!" Zarbon
bellowed, until Chapati stuffed a wad of animal skin into his mouth to gag him.
After stealing their armor, Chapati had taken the animal skin strips and bound the
stunned pair together - facing each other. Zarbon, completely unclothed, had his arms
tied together around nude Dodoria's back, and Dodoria's arms were bound in a similar
fashion around Zarbon. Gagged, with their ankles tied together, the two growled and
struggled as Jasmati rolled them behind a nearby boulder.
"This feels so wrong," she said, exchanging her blue sari for Zarbon's stretchable
armor.
"You attacked them," Chapati reminded her, as Dodoria's spandex and armor shrank
to fit his bony frame. "Ah. There is still a trickster in me. But we could not have them
21S
escape and give us away, hmmm? And now we have armor. We can fit in among the
city Saiyans, yes?"
With that, the two walked up the outskirts onto a blue pathway, leading into the Peah
Hills residential district as the sun set over Saiya. Soon, they came upon crowds in the
main district, crowds mostly of monkey-tailed men and women, with a foreign face
popping up now and then. Eyes darting, Chapati eyed the buildings, the Saiyans, and
then a bird-faced woman.
"They tolerate other races in their midst. Hmm! Never did I dream that I'd meet
Saiyans like this," he barked softly, distracted. "Well, I promised you adventure. And
now you'll have it! Ah. Look at that in the distance. A fortress. It could pierce the sky
with those horns, yes?"
Chapati felt crowds pressing on him from all sides, but followed Jasmati's white mass
of hair through the bar and mess hall district. Garish colors from neon signs fell on the
crowd, and the old man's eyes devoured the scene.
"It frightens you too, no? But I have noticed something. Where are the Tsufuru? They
live in cities. Did Saiyans set up rival cities? Jasmati, what do you think of this?
Jasmati? Jasmati?"
Chapati tugged at his companion's arm, only to see that "she" was someone else.
"Get a job, you bum! I don't have no credits for you!" snarled a white-haired man
instead. Looking into the man's unshaven face, Chapati laughed nervously and trotted
off. He had been following the wrong head of hair the whole time!
"Jasmati! Where are you!?" the old man shouted, pushing against the current of the
street crowds.
Several minutes before, Jasmati wandered into an empty plaza, paved with red stones
and contained within granite walls.
"Come on. There's some water. Let's sit a minute."
As the ochre sky darkened, she sat at a marble fountain, washing the dirt and cuts
from her face. When her cheeks were white again, she craned her neck up to see the
fountain statue, a sculpture of a spiky-haired man with a widow's peak and a beard.
"Hey. Chapati. Look at that pose. Isn't it pompous? And I thought Queen Darjiling's
statues were bad!" she barked. When Chapati failed to answer, she turned around,
only to find the old man missing.
"Chapati? Where's you go? Hey!" she called out, darting around the plaza. But
Chapati was nowhere to be found. For an hour, even as the sky went black, she
wandered the bar and mess hall district, without success.
Jasmati wandered into a dimly-lit building, filled with teenage and young adult
Saiyans. Everywhere she looked, she saw more monkey-tailed youths with wild black
216
hair, clad in the same planet trade armor as she. The pulse of another planet's music
pumped out of speakers, and young Saiyans bet credits over betting games on long
blue boards. Sooty smoke floated through the air as three or four Saiyans puffed on
the latest black market grasses.
The looks on those faces made her queasy, for in them she saw infinite malice. Pairs
or small groups chatted happily about recent conquests of some sort, or about bloody
brawls with "uppity" jobs. Could Nori, the righteous savior she had spent years
dreaming of, be among these savages? Impossible, she decided, leaning against a
wall. While in thought about relocating Chapati, a young man with a wicked grin
sauntered up to her.
"I haven't seen you before," he said with a smooth voice. "Did you just transfer to the
hills?"
The teenager was tall, with sinewy thighs and calves. Long black hair flowed down to
his knees, and a pair of slanted eyes laughed at her from a long, narrow face. His
armor was skimpy, covering only his torso and groin, and his heavy boots echoed
with each step. Pressed to answer, Jasmati wagered to use her poor Saiyan skills.
"OOooyyy uum neeew heerrrrrrrr," she bark-spoke, embarrassed at how un-Saiyan
the words sounded.
The long-haired youth laughed wickedly. "That's quite an accent. There's no doubt
you're not local."
"OOoOyy havff a speesh imperrdiment," Jasmati struggled to say.
"I'm Raditz. And you are...?"
"Juuushmaaarrti."
"Jushmarti?"
"Nuuu. Jaaasssmaaateeii!"
"Jasmati?"
"Yesh."
Raditz leaned against the wall, close to Jasmati. "So, Jasmati, what brings a handsome
young woman like you to the Peah Hills?"
"OoOyy umm luurking fuur Nuuri."
"Nori? Queen Nori?"
Jasmati, unprepared for news of a Queen Nori, cocked her head. "Weerrthh guuld
ooyes?"
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"Yes. Our queen had fine gold eyes. Like a wolf's. Like yours, but darker. I've never
seen yellow-gold eyes on another woman...but they're quite unique. Attractive, even."
"Wuuurrrdd yuu hurp mee find Nuuri?"
"You're here to see Queen Nori?" Raditz laughed and saw an opportunity, for Jasmati,
he thought, couldn't be all that bright. "Sure. I can help you. I know her well. We can
see her tomorrow...heh. Do you need a place to stay before then?"
"Yesh."
Raditz slipped an arm around Jasmati's waist. "Come with me, then. You can stay
with me. My father's flat has plenty of space. Do you live with your parents?"
"OoOy umm an uurphan."
"All the better. Parents are swine. My mother...only Indra knows where she ran off
to...and my father's a dog most of the time. But he won't be around this evening. Isn't
that nice?" His grip around her waist tightened.
Is this Raditz for real? Jasmati thought. I don't know who to trust here. Why not take a
chance and see if he really knows Nori? Ugh. This is embarrassing. My language
skills are pathetic!
Meanwhile, Chapati wandered the streets, looking in every building and alley for
signs of Jasmati. A yellow sky faded to black, but the young woman never appeared.
"Jasmati? Come here? Oh, hello. Have you seen a young lady with yellow eyes? No?"
Chapati found these new Saiyans far more callous than his beloved Salusa, and soon
gave up asking, turning his attention to the sterile streets. Turning a street corner,
Chapati became the object of shouts and insults when he found familiar faces in the
alley. Before him, flanked by a dozen planet trade soldiers of various species, were
Zarbon and Dodoria. With nothing on but towels around their waists, the green man
and pink man bellowed, furious.
"THERE HE IS!" Zarbon screamed. "He was one of them! Get him!"
Chapati turned heel and ran from the laser fire, only to hear the sound of a dozen
racing footsteps in hot pursuit. The planet trade armor was surprisingly light and
flexible, and he found it easy to run through streets, through buildings crowded with
Saiyans, through alleys slick with filth. Having lost the soldiers for a moment,
Chapati stopped in a white alley and panted, feeling his lungs burning with every
breath. His hunters' shouts roared nearby once more, and soon to be cornered, the old
man climbed up the side of the building, where jutting pipes and window ledges gave
him enough to clutch on to. His aching joints complained that he was too old for such
games, but panting with excitement, Chapati kept climbing, eventually finding an
open window to slide into.
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Falling on his side into the window, the old Ghee found himself in a darkened room,
where only the silhouette of a bed was visible. Footsteps sounded from the hallway
beyond the room's door, and a man's voice called out in the darkness.
"Raditz? Is that you? Are you asleep?"
Chapati, frightened that he would be seen, slid into the bed, buried himself in the
covers and pretended to sleep. At length, the silhouette of a sinewy man with spiky
hair appeared in the doorway.
"Raditz? Are you asleep?"
The old man made a loud snoring noise, and the sinewy man walked into another
room. After a few minutes, Chapati heard a door open from elsewhere in the flat,
followed by voices.
"Hey...hey! Don't be coy with me! I know it's a front," came a young man's voice,
followed by...angry growling and barking!
Jasmati! She is here! Oh Sarama, you look over us even now!
The sound of running thumped through the hallway.
"Oh, you're barking now? Does that mean you like it like dogs do it? Bwaha! Come
back here, Jasmati!"
"Grrrrrrrr...ARR! ARR! ARR ARR ARR!"
"That's right! Bark! Raditz makes the ladies make all kinds of noises! Bark all you
want. My father's gone. No one can hear you."
"ARR! ARR! ARR!"
Jasmati darted into the bedroom where Chapati was hiding, and too startled to
recognize his chi or even his presence, darted out of the window and stood on the
ledge, out of view. Raditz, panting and laughing, ran into the unlit room, where he
stalled in the doorway.
"Playing hard to get, hmm?" the Saiyan whispered, walking slowly toward the figure
in his bed. Chapati, shaking, peaked his eyes out from under the covers, only to see a
muscled young man coming for him. Suddenly, Raditz tore off the covers and threw
himself on Chapati, kissing him frantically, as the old man squirmed in his embrace.
"Off! OFF! Have care! I'm an old man! Don't hurt me!"
The young Saiyan paused and lifted his lips from Chapati's face, his brow wrinkled.
Just then, an overhead lamp flickered on, and the room was bathed in white light.
"Raditz, what the hell is going on!?"
219
Bardock found his son lying on top of an old man, and the bedmates stared at each
other with horror.
"Dad? You're home!?"
"Raditz...what the hell...who's the old fogey!? Yeah, you! You dirty old queer! You're
recruiting him, aren't you? That's what you kind do, isn't it!?"
"No! He tried to take me by force! I swear it!" the old man complained.
"Dad...Dad, just listen...I can explain everything...really..."
Bardock seized Raditz by the hair and dragged him across the room. "THIS IS
DISGUSTING! My son's a faggot! A goddam faggot!"
Chapati scrambled out of bed and ran for the window, as Bardock pummeled his son
with punches.
"Dad! OOF! I thought...OOF!...I thought he was a girl! Honest! OOF!"
"WHAT KIND OF IDIOT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR?"
Silently scurrying out the window ledge, Chapati bumped into warm skin, and soon
came unbalanced.
"Watch it! ChaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
Chapati and Jasmati fell from the ledge, howling, clinging to each other, only to land
on something soft and fibrous. Sitting up, the two found themselves surrounded by
fresh wheat, a wheat shipment being carted through the alley on a hover vehicle. The
vehicle drove on through the night, the driver unaware of his new passengers as he
rode toward the royal palace with
that part of the month's food shipment.
Late in the night, strong winds blew down on the royal palace launch pad, and a
spherical indentation appeared on one of the landing cushions. With a soft hum, a
spherical ship uncloaked and became visible, with orchid lights pouring out of its
windows. At length, Nori, Celeria, and Silva emerged with heavy steps.
"Here's 50 credits. You saw nothing," Celeria whispered to the wide-eyed attendant
on duty, who sputtered when he saw Queen Nori.
"Your...your Highness...we thought...oh, you're back...his Highness King Veg--"
Nori put a finger to her lips, and the attendant was silent.
"Lay low for tonight," Nori told the two women.
Once inside the palace, Celeria sighed. "After that, what? We've been gone for half a
year. Don't you think Freeza and Mahisha noticed that?"
22u
"I'd be an idiot not to remember that. It's time to start rallying allies and reckoning
enemies. We have to start soon."
"We're not ready and you know it. The last thing I want to do is start a mess I can't
finish."
"Then help me! We need a plan. We need to think this over, soon."
"Sleep," Silva interrupted.
"What?"
"Sleep for now. No ideas just tonight."
"I think what she means is that we can't start this right now," Celeria explained.
"We're tired. We're grieving. We can think up a plan tomorrow."
Nori sighed and shrugged. "All right. Fine. She's right. Just lay low and think up an
excuse for your absence. Silva, I can find you a place--Silva? Silva!?"
Silva was no longer behind the two women, and could not be found.
"Where did she go? Wait. Where are you going?"
"To the infirmary. Don't worry, there are very few staff during the night. I need to
check up on a few things." With that, Celeria departed down a corridor, leaving Nori
alone in the stained-glass hall.
Celeria slid gently past equipment and racks of drugs, making a crisp tac-tac-tac
sound across the stone floor of the infirmary. Tapping a code into a terminal on the
wall, she opened a steel door, leading to a red-lit room, warm and dry. Against the
walls were propped racks of nourishment tubes, wide as Celeria's hips, holding Saiyan
fetuses in rich red fluid. In some, fish-like embryos floated aimlessly; in others, semi-
developed fetuses sucked their thumbed or kicked; and in others still, babies waited
for their birthing day. Before one such test-tube baby she stood, studying a fetus
almost ready for birth. Black hair grew profusely from his head, and he sucked his
thumb, eyes closed as his mother stared at him.
"Well, there you are. Look at you," she murmured. "You've gotten strong. The day's
almost here, Kakarrot."
Celeria touched her fingertip to the glass, and the tube baby opened his eyes. Kakarrot
bore a strong resemblance to Bardock, she noticed, but couldn't really hold that
against him.
"I had a dream about you, son," she whispered. "Indra came to me again. He said to
have faith, because you would be the one avenging us. That's right. He said you'll do
great things as a man. And I believe him. Aren't you happy?"
The baby blinked and pressed his foot to where Celeria held her finger.
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"Don't you worry. Birthing day is coming. I'll send you away, far away where Freeza
will forget you for a while. Oh, I'll tell them you're off to conquered Earth-sei, but
that's not true. It'll be our secret, hmm?"
Lifting her finger off of the glass, she turned around and walked slowly out of the
chamber.
"We'll meet someday soon. Take care, my Kakarrot."
In the midst of maternal reflection, Celeria felt her stomach tighten. Wait. If Kakarrot
is supposed to defeat Freeza...then what are we doing!?
Suddenly, Celeria burst into a run.
"NORI!!!"

Ducking around the palace, Queen Nori hesitated in front of Prince Vegeta's chamber.
"Wait. Where's Nappa? He should be guarding the boy!"
Sticking her head into the boy's room, she saw nothing, and was soon tearing through
the boy's closets.
Oh no...his best armor's gone...the remote for his sphere ship, too...Oh great. Off on a
planet purge. Damn!
With Nappa and Prince Vegeta absent, Nori rubbed her brow. "What about his
father?"
Bounding quickly through the palace corridors, Queen Nori stopped suddenly, hiding
around a corner as King Vegeta passed, flanked by retainers. When he and his
entourage strode off, she burst around the corner to the inventory warehouse, now
empty for the night. Pulling off her gloves, she rubbed her hands together and
reflected.
Okay. Think. How do we lay low? Where do we train? Think. Okay, I think I've got it.
I pulled off a masquerade a few years ago. I can do it again. We can just slip into
some armor there, train in the Gravity Crater under pseudonyms, survive on our
wits...
Meanwhile, Chapati and Jasmati, buried in a bin of wheat, froze at the sound of
footsteps.
"A guard?" Jasmati murmured.
"Who is to say?" Chapati replied, raising his head a hair above the grain. In the dim
warehouse, a woman, with the scent of a wolf about her, paced up and down the aisle.
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It would be easy to masquerade as a bag lady and beg a few credits. That could buy
food. Or we could steal it. Either way, we'd only have to masquerade a few more
months before we could take on Freeza...Huh!? What's that? Queen Nori stopped,
sensing chi in the wheat bin.
"Who's there!?" she shouted. "Stowaways!?"
Chapati ducked again under the wheat.
"She saw me!" he grunted.
"I know you're there! Come out!" Nori continued.
The two Chutnians hesitated, stiffening in the bin.
"I don't need a scouter to feel your chi!" Nori shouted. "Out! Now! There's no use
hiding!"
"What can we do?" the old man decided, emerging from the grain with Jasmati. "Yes,
yes, we are here! We mean no harm. Just stowaways looking for a better life. Yes, we
are here," he began, until he looked into the woman's face.
Gold eyes.
"What? Your eyes are gold?" His heart burst, and years of relief spilled out of it. Yes,
the eyes were gold, and she looked to be about the proper age. In that face, yes,
unmistakably, were Queen Darjiling's eyes and cheekbones, but the nose, the dark
skin, the build were of King Kheer. The hands...yes, the tattoos were there,
proclaiming beyond all doubt the royal Chutnian lineage.
"Do you speak wolf tongue, young lady?" he barked in Chutnian, now wagging his
tail frantically.
Queen Nori, too, looked into the faces of the two intruders, seeing gold eyes not
unlike her own. Something stirred within her: the old man's eyes, the features, the
mannerisms, the wolf tongue were all as she had been told. The past was not dead.
The promise was not dead. Dizzy, she barked back in wolf tongue, panting.
"Yes...I speak it...quite well...oh...it can't be...is it...you...Grandfather Chapati?"
Chapati sprang out of the bin.
"Nori!"
Queen Nori screamed, then ran toward him.
"Chapati!"

22S
Chapter Eighteen
Prelude to Collapse

Holding Chapati's hands, Nori stared into eyes so much like her own, and adrenaline
sweetened her blood. Then, Nori's smile faded, and as she dropped the old man's
hands, wrinkled her brow.

"You came back..." she began.

"Oh...what is wrong? It has been long, yes, I know. But we will grow acquainted with
each other. It will take time."

"Long? It's been over two decades! Why? Why all that time?"

Chapati leaned toward Nori. "Oh...Nori...there is so much I have come to tell...I was
held back. Bad things have happened among my people. I was detained."

Nori backed away at his approach. "Don't lie to me! I traveled all over Saiya in my
youth! Where were you? Nowhere! Nowhere among the Saiyan's could I find you! I
looked!"

Crossing her arms, Nori stared at the floor and grimaced. "I looked for you. Where
were you!? You told Mother than you would come back for me. Where were you
when the Tsufuru fell on us? Where were you when the planet trade came? You
abandoned me. You abandoned your friends. No one could find you."

"No...no...I never meant to abandon anyone...you must believe me! I was held back. I
wanted to come. For years I waited to come back. You must believe me."

"Believe you? You lied to Mother. You lied to the Salusa. You lied to Letti. Why
should I believe you?"

"Letti!? How do you know of Letti? How--"

Meanwhile, Jasmati hopped down from the wheat bin and came between the two.
"Stop it. I'm sick of your bickering. This wasn't how it was supposed to be!"

Nori stared at the young woman, roughly her age, with gold-yellow eyes and skills at
wolf-speak so much like her own.

"I've been waiting years for this!" Jasmati continued. "I dreamed of a beautiful Saiya,
and a warrior who would come with us and save everything. You weren't supposed to
bicker!"

"Wait...are you one of Chapati's family?"

"No! We're not related. Why would you think that? We don't look anything alike!"
224

"Then why do you have gold eyes and wolf speech?"

Chapati began to fidget, and whispered something in Jasmati's ear. Jasmati sighed and
twitched her tail. "I keep forgetting...she doesn't know..."

"Know what?"

"Nori," Chapati began, "there is much we need to talk about. There is much you do
not know about your past. But first, talk to us. Tell us why Saiya is different."

"You're Saiyans. You know what's gone on."

"Um...we've sort of been in seclusion," Jasmati whined. "But we'll explain that later.
Please, why is Saiya like this? Why is the land dead? Why cities?"

Nori sighed and sat down on the floor with the two, and began to tell her tale, as there
were no planet trade surveillance devices in the warehouse. There was childhood
among the Salusa, the blood-stained battled with the Tsufuru, and her meeting in
Tomatillo Cave with Sarama. At the mention of the goddess, the two Chutnians
gasped, but despite Nori's prying eyes, said nothing.

The young queen talked late into the night: there was the massacre of the Kohlrabin
Mountain tribes, and the years with the Tubera. There were Vegeta-buru, Leek,
Scallia, Sorrell, Nappa, and the rest. There was the escalation of the Saiyan-Tsufuru
war, the diplomatic travels, the mishap in Berritown, Celeria, Paragus, TANGY,
Bardock and his desert band, Granny Taita, Indra, and the Light. There was the short
peace to follow, her marriage to Vegeta-buru, the days with Sleek Fur, and the
Tsufuru massacre at Vegeta-buru's instigation. There was Freeza, the Blue Snow, the
month of starvation, Mahisha, the "modernization," and the horrors of planet purging.
There was Vegeta-buru's monstrous transformation into King Vegeta, and the birth of
their equally destructive son. There was Celeria's drunkenness, her own drug-tainted
madness, Queen Nippy, months of training, Nippy's death, Silva's disappearance...and
now this.

When Nori finished, Jasmati was breathless. "Damn..."

Chapati, on the other hand, stared at the floor, speechless, eyes filled with awe and
hurt. "Everything...changed. They are all dead now. Plant-sei became hell...why?"

Looking into his eyes, Nori saw that he spoke in earnest, and slowly came to realize
that he spoke the truth about his absence.

"Hybrids," he continued. "I am the father of hybrids? Prince Vegeta is a hybrid? And
that boy, Raditz, he is one too?"

"What do you mean, hybrids?" Nori asked.

"A long story," he said, shivering. "I gave Letti...children? Oh...Letti...forgive me...no,
no, no...this is not good...this is dangerous...there cannot be Super Saiyans...not in the
22S
planet trade's hands..."

"What are you talking about? What hybrids? What about Super Saiyans?"

Chapati raised his head. "Where are Celeria and Paragus? If they are my children, I
must make amends. I did not mean to abandon them. I must warn them. They must
know of their powers."

"What powers!? What is all of this? You won't tell me anything!"

Footsteps sounded from inside the warehouse, and Nori sensed familiar chi as Celeria
ran toward her.

"Nori!...Nori!" Celeria panted. "Nori, I'm glad I found you. I looked everywhere. We
need to talk. I never told you about Indra's words to me. It's Kakarrot. If we go after
Freeza, then--" Celeria stopped in mid-sentence when she saw Chapati and Jasmati.
Gold eyes like Nori's stared back, and she slowly recognized the old man from Letti's
description long ago. Standing, staring, lips parted slightly, Celeria was motionless.

"This is the moment of truth, it looks like," Nori whispered, standing up.
"Celeria...meet your father. Chapati...meet your daughter. He came back. He's here."

Celeria was motionless, staring at Chapati as his eyes grew wide. A whimper rose in
his throat, and he wrung his small hands tightly. The old man slowly rose from the
floor, walked to his daughter, and lowered his eyes as he spoke in Saiyan speech.

"Forgive me."

Celeria was silent.

"Forgive me," he whispered. "Can you forgive a foolish, foolish old man. I did not
know I gave Letti children. Please. Forgive me."

Celeria stood still, and Nori and Jasmati waited in the silence that followed. Suddenly,
Celeria swung an open hand and slapped Chapati's face. Chapati, wet-eyed, only
sighed and rubbed his cheek.

"You never came back to see my mother," was all Celeria could say.

"I wanted to see her. I was detained. I could not move across Saiya."

"Very creative excuse. I don't buy it."

Jasmati came to Chapati's side. "Enough. He's taken enough abuse from both of you.
He came back! Isn't that enough! He didn't mean anybody harm!" she barked. Celeria,
unfamiliar with wolf speech, only heard the white-haired woman bark and whine, but
Nori translated.

"I think it is time I spoke the truth. The past years have been filled with lies. I must
speak the truth now. Nori and my daughter deserve no less." Chapati sighed heavily,
226
closing his eyes. "Nori, please listen in earnest to what I'm about to say. I...am not
really your grandfather."

Nori's face twisted.

"We are of no blood relation, you and I. But we are of the same race, yes. Did you
ever wonder why you were the only Saiyan with gold eyes, before today? Why your
skin is darker than the others? Why no one spoke to dogs and wolves but you?"

Nori fidgeted. "Mother told me it was a legacy from you. I thought...I was just
different. It was just a gift, and everyone has different gifts. I never thought about it."

"There is a reason...a reason why you look like that. There is a reason why you spoke
that way from birth. You are like me. You are like Jasmati here."

"And what are you saying?"

"You are not a Saiyan."

Nori bared her teeth. "Stop it! I am a SAIYAN! Did you come here just to insult
me!?"

"Listen to me. Your rage clouds your reason. You are not a Saiyan. You are a
Chutnian. You have the blood of a werewolf race in your veins. Your eyes are gold.
You speak our tongue. You feel chi. And you can take on the lupine and wolf forms,
though you might not know it yet. These are Sarama's gifts."

"Don't you dare take my spirit guide's name in vain!"

"Sarama is our goddess as well, Nori. She gives us life and weaves our fates. My
friend the Oracle channels her."
"Why should I believe you? How do I know that this isn't just another lie?"

"Wait," Celeria interrupted. "Wait. Do you remember what Queen Nippy said? She
looked at our DNA scans and said that we weren't real Saiyans. This was what she
meant. I'm sure of it. Whatever we are, we're not pure-blooded Saiyans."

"Celeria..."

Celeria pinched her eyebrows together. "I don't like it any more than you! But explain
something. If he's my father, why do I look Saiyan? I'm not like you at all."

"You are half-Saiyan and half-Chutnian. Chutnian genes for gold eyes and wolf
tongue and transformation are recessive. Letti's genes came out. And so you are
Saiyan in form," Chapati explained, wringing his hands. "But there is more. You both
know of the Super Saiyan legend, yes?"

Nori and Celeria slowly looked at the old man and nodded.

227
"The Super Saiyan gene is not Saiyan at all. It is a Chutnian gene. Hybrids can
become Super Saiyans. In the myth, Gyarriku takes a man with gold eyes to her bed,
and her boy is the legendary Super Saiyan, yes? The boy was a hybrid. And so are
you, Celeria. And so is Paragus. And so is Prince Vegeta. And so are all your
children, and their children someday."

Celeria folded her arms even tighter.

"It is vital that I warn you," the old man said. "If you or your family discover that
power, who is to say that Freeza would not use it for his ends. Keep your children and
your brother out of the planet trade. It is too late for Prince Vegeta. But keep the
others away."

"It's a little too late for that," Celeria growled.

"Why?"

"Paragus is in the planet trade. So is Raditz. Turles was sent off long ago to conquer
Haam-sei. His clone Kakarrot gets shipped off for Earth-sei very soon. Freeza got his
hands on them long ago."

Celeria turned to Nori. "That's what I rushed in here for. I never told you about Indra's
words to me in my dream. He said Kakarrot is the one. He'll be avenging the Saiyans
someday. But think for a minute. If Kakarrot's destiny is to defeat Freeza...then it isn't
our destiny to do so. If we go into battle, we won't be victorious. Nori, we've got to
decide what to do. We very well can't go on this suicide mission!"

Nori sucked in breath. "What was it all for? What now? I don't know!"

"Who is Indra?" Chapati asked.

"Let's just say that he's an old friend," Celeria replied.

Nori sat back down on the floor and buried her head in her hands. "This...this is too
much. Nippy dies, Silva disappears, now Chapati comes back and tells me I'm not
Saiyan. And now you tell me that we can't win against Freeza. I'm numb. This is too
much. I can't even start to process it all."

At this time, Jasmati took a dagger from a wrack of looted weapons, twisted around,
and began to slice her monkey tail.

"Nori, look at me. Look closely."

Nori sucked in breath, and gave a shout when the monkey tail fell off to reveal a
white wolf tail underneath.

"I'll help you process it. Look at my tail. I'm not a Saiyan. This tail is the mark of our
race. Chapati told me that he grafted a monkey tail husk over your real tail when you
were a baby, and it's grown with you. Underneath your monkey tail is a wolf tail
you've never seen. Is that proof enough?" Jasmati barked.
228

"Wha--? You're asking me to mutilate my tail? Never. That's a disgusting thing for a
Saiyan to do."

"If you were Saiyan."

Nori stared, horrified, at Jasmati's white tail, and began to remember events she's
rather have forgotten: why her tail never ached when young Vegeta-buru squeezed it,
why the little Tsufuru boy in the park said it felt stuffed, why Rhubar forbid her to
look at the full moon.

"Did you ever go Oozaru?" Jasmati asked.

Nori was silent a moment. "No. Never."

"If your tail were a monkey tail, that wouldn't be an issue. Why do you deny it?
You're Chutnian! You're one of us! Be proud of it!"

"My tail is real. I'm Saiyan. Enough of this."

Just then, the sound of thunder shook the palace, and Nori felt the high chi of Mahisha
nearby.

"It's Mahisha. I feel him. He's on the rampage. He knows we came back!" the young
queen shouted.

"How do you know he's after us? We don't know that!" Celeria chided, but her face
grew tense as well.

A strong chi-blast shook the palace again.

"It doesn't really matter now, does it? He's furious, and King Vegeta and I are about to
take the fall for whatever he's angry about! He'll come after us for whatever we didn't
do!"

Mahisha's voice then rang over the palace intercom system, and all four in the
warehouse froze.

"To the citizens of the Peah Hills! There has been a great offense against the planet
trade!" Mahisha's words echoed through the speakers.

Nori and Celeria stiffened. "Around 19:00 hours last evening," Mahisha continued,
"two planet trade lieutenants, Zarbon and Dodoria, were assaulted and robbed outside
the Peah Hills residential district. The planet trade will not stand for this blatant act of
rebellion against Lord Freeza! We have reason to believe that the two rebels
responsible are still in the Peah Hill. The royal house of Vegeta-sei will be held
personally responsible for this break in ranks!"

Nori groaned, Celeria held her breath, and Chapati and Jasmati looked at each other.

229
"Did the two of you have anything to do with this?" the young queen growled.

"Well...they picked a fight with us. We defended ourselves," Jasmati gingerly
explained.

Chapati snickered. "More like you lost your temper!"

At this explanation, Nori slammed her fist into a nearby crate. "No! Don't you know
what you've done!? You attacked Zarbon and Dodoria in broad daylight! You
attacked and humiliated Freeza's highest-ranking men! This is being interpreted as a
Saiyan act of rebellion! Do you know what you've done!? You've brought down
Freeza's wrath on us all!"

"The royal house of Vegeta-sei will be held responsible for this cowardly act of
rebellion," Mahisha continued. "Any retribution from the planet trade is because of
their broken promises to maintain order. But order has been thrown to the side. King
Vegeta and Queen Nori broke their promises to the planet trade, and now must pay!"

Nori swelled with rage.

"A landing bay guard informed me that the ever-elusive Queen Nori has returned
from her six-month hiatus from the planet trade, and is somewhere inside the royal
palace," Mahisha bellowed, now with a tinge of sarcasm. "I have reason to believe
that her royal Highness is behind this act of rebellion. I will tear down every room
inside the palace to find Queen Nori. Until she agrees to have an audience with me, I
intend to purge thirty subjects each hour! The planet trade is not to be toyed with!
Because of Nori, Saiyans will die in retribution until her royal Highness agrees to
submit and halt this rebellion!"

Another chi-blast shook the palace, and Nori bolted for the door.

"Nori!" Celeria shouted.

"Watch Chapati and Jasmati. Get them to safety. Just get them away from HERE!
Mahisha wants an audience with me, and now he's got it!" Nori shouted back, and
disappeared out the warehouse doors.

It's starting, the young queen thought to herself. I have no choice. The rebellion
started without me. Mahisha's already murdering scapegoats, the bastard. In a few
days we'll all be dead. But I've had enough. I won't die a slave. I'll go down
fighting...like a Saiyan!

King Kheer threw back his head and howled. The chi felt like bundles of needles
stabbing through every muscle, every bone, every vein, and the power was
intoxicating. The golden heat of his chi warmed his lupine form, and looking down at
his clawed hands, at his gold fur, he panted.
I was wronged. Life wronged me. But my rage makes me strong, oh yes. The day of
reckoning is here, and now the universe will fall into order - my order!
2Su

Dark spirits had graced him with the chi to turn his fur gold and his eyes green but
days ago. New planets were swept into the empire when he alone took on armies and
champions, and no one could yet face a Superferal's power and live.

My reign will be a mighty empire across the wormhole. Who dares to bring disorder
to my reign? No one!

...except Queen Darjiling. Elsewhere in the Balti Keema stronghold, Darjiling's
slurred words rang through the night.

"You called ME the murderer? You were the real goddam murderers! Bastards! You
all wanted me dead from the start! YOU sent scorpions across the desert to KILL me!
You stole my sacrifices so I could be weak. Then you were going to eat my organs!
I'M ON TO ALL OF YOU!" she screamed, rending asunder bodies long dead. With
the blood of rebels caking her gold fur, the other Superferal beat the walls and sunk
lupine teeth into a crate.

"WHERE IS IT?" she ranted. "WHERE IS THE SPHERE? They want to take all the
food and water across the wormhole so I'll STARVE! I'M ON TO ALL OF YOU!
WHERE IS IT? BASTARDS!"

Kheer shuddered, bolting through the mess of rebel corpses and blasted walls. Queen
Darjiling's growing chi, as if boiling her brain, made the delusions abound, and with
them the rage that sent her into Superferal form.

"Yes, my queen, scream," Kheer thought, moving through steel room after steel room.
"When I grow strong enough, you'll scream to another tune. And I will rule properly,
alone."

After several hours of tearing down walls, breaking locks, and slaughtering guards,
the Gateway Sphere and the old man never appeared. Standing atop a cleave in the
sand that formed the base's entrance, King Kheer stared out into the desert night.

Quiet. Queen Darjiling was far back in the base now, ranting where he could not hear
her. The chaos of screams and weapon fire he had silenced hours ago, and now a
deathly quiet settled over Balti Keema stronghold. Outside, sand rustled softly in the
night winds, and the stars and moon shed light on the dozens of rebel corpses.

At length, he strode out to the desert, breathed in the night air, and sighed. His rage
cooled in the cold winds, and his fur gently faded to black again as he slipped out of
Superferal form. Across the dunes, dozens of tracks - some humanoid, some wolf -
ran for miles across the land, the mark of the wise who knew better than to challenge
his strength. Following a set of tracks, a pair of royal soldiers appeared over a dune,
laughing and holding the much-sought Gateway Sphere. When they placed the sphere
in King Kheer's arms, he stroked and fondled it like a breast, beaming.

"Sir," began one soldier, still in lupine form, "the old man and one of the rebels
passed through the wormhole before we could apprehend them...but we heard the
mantra before they escaped. 'Samosa,' over and over again, sir."
2S1

King Kheer ran the padded palm of his lupine hand over the sphere. "Excellent. You
will all receive wealth and high status for this. I see the old man lied, all those years.
But it does not matter, not anymore. Ah...the sphere is intact again, and here, now, in
the proper hands!" The Chutnian king held the sphere close.

A low growl rose from the depths of Balti Keema, and King Kheer's ears twitched.

"Queen Darjiling is coming. Keep this from her sight," the king ordered, handing the
sphere to the guards again. "Quickly now. Carry this back to your airship and return it
to me at the palace. My promise of wealth and status stands if you keep silent about
this to my queen." The soldiers obeyed and quickly trotted off as Queen Darjiling
stopped behind her husband.

"What did you tell them? What did you see? ANSWER ME."

"The soldiers ratted out a few rebels in hiding. Neither the sphere nor the old man
came up," King Kheer replied, tail twitching. As Darjiling lumbered back to their
airship, he returned to humanoid form, stroked his beard, and growled.

"Order is coming for the universe. Chaos and wealth lie behind that wormhole. And I
will bring order to it, not you," he thought.

Nori howled, standing in the doorway of the throne room. Shattered stained glass was
scattered all over the floor, among the bodies of a dozen Saiyan guards, marked with
blackened chi-wounds. Standing on the throne platform, with his front hooves on
King Vegeta's throne, was Mahisha.

"Mahisha, enough! You've made your point! Leave the other Saiyans out of this!"

The buffalo man snorted and tossed his head. "Still a bleeding-heart coward. I know
how to get your attention, your Highness."

"It's me you want. Now stop your bloodshed!"

"I'm ashamed of you, Nori. To think that Lord Freeza showered you with wealth and
power! He made you a queen! All we asked was that you keep the monkeys in line.
And you couldn't even do that!" Mahisha laughed as he bounded from the platform.

"Save your breath. You started trouble, not me!"

"Don't act like I don't know what's going on. You feign madness, your closest friend
just happens to follow you far away from the hills, and then you go off somewhere to
plot for six months. Now you're back, ready to carry out your rebellion. First Zarbon
and Dodoria. Then the rest of us, isn't that right?"

"Get off your high horse! I didn't plan that attack. I think YOU just want an excuse to
off us, right?"

2S2
"I wouldn't mind seeing the whole race eliminated. Freeza's been playing with the
idea. He says the race is an eyesore. But there is something you can do, your
Highness," Mahisha said, eyeing Nori's figure. "You made the offer once. I might put
in a good word for the Saiyans if you show me some...affection."

Nori spit in Mahisha's eyes, and his face reddened.

"Forget it! This is your only warning. Go back to Freeza's ship and leave the Saiyans
alone. If you won't, I'll stop your murders with force."

"Don't flatter yourself. THIS is your only chance. Last warning, Nori. I'll kindly ask
Freeza not to torch Vegeta-sei...in exchange for a tour of your palace...and I'm not
referring to this one."

"Mahisha! I warned you once! If you want to fuck around with me..."

Nori flew up and punched his jaw.

"...you should be careful what you wish for!!!"

Mahisha sputtered out a mouthful of blood.

"How did a monkey get so strong? It doesn't matter. You'll be on your knees when all
is said and done!"

Mahisha bounded forward, slamming his massive body against Nori. Hundreds of
pounds of muscle knocked her over, and she threw her palms up, roared, and threw a
chi-blast right into his stomach. The buffalo-man bellowed like a bull, stomped his
hooves, and flung his head to and fro, then threw himself at the Saiyan queen. The
throne room shook with chi-blasts, with the two throwing each other into walls, and
before long, the walls were dented and blackened.

Mahisha's power rested in his lower buffalo body, Nori soon discovered. Body slams,
thrust by his back legs, knocked the breath out of her lungs, and kicks from his front
hooves bruised her very bones. Avoiding the deadly hooves, Nori hovered slightly off
the ground, punching and kicking his humanoid torso instead. Nori's kicks to his
stomach shattered the armor, and after her barrage of blows, his torso was a blue-
black mass of bruises.

And yet Mahisha seemed unfazed. As long as his four buffalo legs could move, he
could somehow dodge the worst blows, or swing around her chi-blast to knock her off
balance. Broken glass crunched underneath his hooves, and Mahisha seemed to dance
around Nori, meeting punch with punch.

"You can't win, your Highness," he would taunt. "I'll hang your corpse from the
rafters, so all your subjects can see. Or maybe I'll drag you through the streets and kill
you in the center square! I haven't decided!"

Blood pulsed through her temples, and her eyes could see nothing but red. Nori's
brain ached, but somewhere in her screaming head, an idea was born. Baying, she
2SS
threw herself forward, grabbed big handfuls of his black hair, and used her
momentum to somersault over his torso onto his back. Nori plopped on his buffalo
back, and his head and human torso were twisted backwards as she held her grip.

"This isn't over! I'm not a corpse yet!"

"Let go! LET GO!" Mahisha screamed, bucking like a horse.

The throne room bobbed up and down with Mahisha's bucking, and though rattled,
she clung to his hair and squeezed his buffalo body with her legs to stay on. Slowly,
Nori slid one arm around his neck, squeezing the windpipe, while the other hand sent
chi-blasts pulsing into his spine. With each blast, his body jerked, and roars were
stifled in his throat as her grip tightened. The smell of burnt flesh mingled with the
smell of sweat, blood, and animal hair, and both smelled it. From the broken
windows, dull light poured in from the horizon as night became peach-colored dawn,
and Nori wondered how long they had been fighting. When she felt his legs sag, she
made the mistake of relaxing her grip and slowing her blasts - only to be thrown right
off his back.

First came the broken glass cutting her cheek when she hit the floor, then the heat of a
chi-blast as it smashed into her lower back. Nori rolled just out of the way of
Mahisha's hooves, and the buffalo-man began to laugh, pointing at her tail.

"HA! Look at you! I don't believe it! You're not even a Saiyan! Hahaha! Look at that!
You're masquerade's over, dog-woman!"

Nori looked down at the spandex melted to her skin, at her tail, and screamed. The
monkey tail was in shards, and twitching before her, plain to see, was a tufted black
canine tail.

YOU'VE BEEN LIVING A LIE!, the tail seemed to scream. All of it was a lie. There
would be no Oozaru form. There would be no love from Indra. There would be no
honor in dying like a Saiyan. Her people, those she fought and suffered for, were
never her people to begin with. Nori held her breath, coughed it out, and panted.

"My tail..." she whispered, gingerly touching the mass of black hairs. "It can't be...I
won't believe it...it's an illusion...I'm a Saiyan...I've always been a Saiyan...I'm a
Saiyan! It's a trick! A trick! I'm a Saiyan! This isn't happening! I'm a Saiyan!" Nori
screamed, shaking, running frantic fingers through her canine tail. She trembled,
screaming, weeping, squeezing the tail she couldn't call her own. The tail bristled, and
her face contorted as her cheeks grew red, then purple.

"It's not real. It's not real. This isn't my tail. No. This can't be happening. Don't tell me
Jasmati was right. Don't tell me Chapati was right. No..."

Mahisha's eyes watered as laughter shook him. "She thinks she's a Saiyan! Hahaha!
Look at that tail! Haha! This is too good! Wait until the monkeys find out their
queen's a dog! Literally! Ha! The tail! The monkey tail flew right off! Who knew? I
didn't! She didn't! Oh, this is too much. Bwahaha!" Distracted, Mahisha laughed and
pointed at the canine tail, and never saw Nori's blow coming.
2S4

Howling, purple-faced from sobbing, Nori's fist slammed into Mahisha's front leg,
snapping it backwards. With a grunt, his massive body slumped sideways, the broken
leg refusing to support his weight. Bellowing in pain, Mahisha flung a chi-blast at
Nori, who fell to the ground to duck, only to sweep out his back legs from under him.
His rump hit the floor and shook the room, and she wasted no time throwing chi at his
hind quarters. Rage not unlike madness filled her, and as he struggled to turn and face
her, a fist broke his nose and loosened several teeth.

"Nori...don't get crazy...Nori...have mercy...I'm wounded...NORI!"

But her blows rained down, and deprived now of a front and back leg, Mahisha could
neither turn nor flee. Before long, Nori was riding on his back again, pummeling his
shoulders and head, and when his massive body collapsed, she dismounted and stood
before him.

Now, Mahisha could see Nori clearly: her spandex was torn or melted in half a dozen
placed, her armor was cracking, and her face was red-purple and slick with sweat.
Disheveled hair hung around her face, and in that face were gold eyes staring wide,
too wide.

"I am avenged. The people you hurt are avenged. How does it feel to be on the losing
team for once?"

"Bitch! Kill me off! Don't stand there like a coward!"

"Coward? I wasn't begging for mercy a minute ago!"

"Kill me off! I can't face Freeza like this!"

"No. I'm not like you. You're not a threat like this. How could I kill you, defenseless
as you are?"

Nori turned her back on Mahisha and began to leave.

"But I want you to remember this dawn. Remember me. Now go away, Mahisha. Go
away, far away, so far that I'll never hear your name again. And believe me, if I
EVER hear your name again, I'll hunt you down. I'll cross the span of space to find
you. And may the gods have mercy on you, because the second time around, I won't.
Go!"

Mahisha wobbled away on his two good legs, snorting, coughing up red.

"I know your secret, dog-woman! I know you're not Saiyan! You'd better run
yourself, before your people see you!"

Nori spun around and spit. "SPARE ME! I KNOW NOW WHAT I AM! I'm off to
fight my demons. Pray you never have to fight me again." The canine tail still hung
from her lower back, and she could feel the alien tail twitch.

2SS
"But it's too late! Freeza knows all about what happened! He took it as rebellion!
That's why he sent me! The Saiyans have it coming! Soldiers are coming! Freeza is
coming!"

It's over for all of this. Whether I live or die, things will never be the same. For the
Saiyans, or for me, Nori mused. Let Freeza come. But Sarama, grant me this. Let me
know what it means to have this tail, before I die. It's an abomination. But Sarama,
show me what it means to own this tail.

Walking through broken glass, over corpses, Nori strode without a word out of the
throne room, twitching her canine tail


























2S6
Chapter Nineteen
The Fall of King Vegeta's Kingdom

After Nori ran off to face Mahisha, Celeria led Chapati and Jasmati out of the
warehouse, down a series of empty corridors. After several twists and turns, she led
the Chutnians through a stone arch to the cool Vegeta-sei night.

Outside, an empty courtyard beckoned, a courtyard that stretched for nearly a mile
over to the next wing of the palace. Aside from a pyre and the occasional pillar, the
courtyard was a bare place, cold lapis lazuli paths giving it no warmth. Saiyan palace
guards lingered at the four corners of the expanse, with other guards standing watch
over three other entrances to the next wing.

"Good evening, doctor," one guard, barely in his twenties, whispered.

"Good evening," Celeria replied. "I'm just escorting some guests out of the palace. It's
not safe here with Mahisha's mandate."

The guard let the trio pass, and Celeria hurriedly led the Chutnians through the
courtyard. The marble pyre cast light over the courtyard, where flickering shadows
danced around guards and pillars.

Points of light appeared in the heavens, the chi-light of a hundred planet trade soldiers
soaring through the night. Weapons in hand, the squadron landed in the courtyard,
firing on the nearest Saiyan guards in the dark. Flanking them, clad in special forces
uniforms, were the five members of the Ginyu Force.

"All right, men," Ginyu began, "Freeza said that the Saiyans were ready to rebel. We
can't have that, now, can we? You know the procedure. Start with the palace.
Indiscriminately kill all Saiyans you encounter."

"To think Freeza called us out at a time like this. I'm missing my soaps!" Recoom
mumbled, rubbing his chin.

"There, there," Ginyu replied, patting Recoom on the shoulder. "Business comes first.
Don't worry your head over the soaps. Everyone knows that Monique will sleep with
Robert, not Cedrick."

Saiyan palace guards swarmed like insects out of the surrounding doors, standing
shoulder-to-shoulder as they hurled chi at the soldiers. In a flash of red and blue light,
the Saiyans disintegrated to ash, facing the chi-storm of Burter and Jeice. Soon, planet
trade soldiers advanced on another formation of Saiyan guards, and Saiyan corpses
littered the ground as fire fell like rain.

As smoke thickened and the smell of burnt flesh filled the air, Celeria scurried past
marble pillars, leading Chapati and Jasmati to safety. Just as they neared the doors to
the next wing, a frog-man materialized before them.
2S7

"Going somewhere?" Guldo snickered. Celeria grimaced at the squat, sour-smelling
creature, who waved to the attackers and laughed. To quiet the snitch, Chapati swept
his leg under the frog-man, who suddenly shouted "TIME FREEZE!" Guldo sucked
in breath, vanished, and materialized beside them a moment later.

"I found them!" he said with a wheezing laugh. "I found the two who stole Zarbon
and Dodoria's clothes! They fit the description!"

Soon, planet trade soldiers and the Ginyu Force were swarming toward the trio, and
just as Jasmati punted Guldo into the crowd, two fish-faced soldiers knocked her to
the ground. Snarling, she threw them off and sprang to her feet, and the fish-faced
soldiers gasped. Claws burst from her fingertips, white fur sprouted from every pore,
long canine ears grew from humanoid ears, and her face lengthened into a wolf
muzzle, and now in lupine form, Jasmati growled.

Soon, soldiers and weapons were flying through the air as Jasmati tore through the
ranks, punching and throwing weak soldiers out of the way. A beetle-like soldier
scuttled backwards, tripped, and fumbled with his scouter as Jasmati lumbered near.
Numbers flashed, beeps sounded, and Jasmati's rise in power from 150,000 to
200,000 flashed before his eyes.

"This is like some bad horror movie where the werewolf comes out and--AAIIKK!"
The beetle-man screamed as Jasmati's claws sunk into his collar and flung him across
the courtyard. As stars danced in his eyes, another soldier flew through the air, then
another, until a pile of bloody, moaning men formed around him.

The Ginyu Force, meanwhile, felt the fire of Celeria's aggression as the Saiyan threw
punches and chi-blasts in four directions. Ginyu, Recoom, Jeice, and Burter swung
and fired, only to be thrown back by Celeria's blows. Faster than sound, Celeria
swung and dodged, feeling the chi burn in her veins like steam.

"Check this sheila out!" Jeice shouted. "750,000 power level! Now how do you
suppose a monkey got so strong? OOF!" Celeria punted him across the courtyard.
Before long, Jeice and Burter were already lying on the ground, stunned, while
Recoom and Ginyu grew blue with bruises.

"Stop this!" she demanded. "Go back to where you came! Go back and I'll let you
live! I don't want to have to--"

"TIME FREEZE!"

Celeria fell forward in mid-sentence, as someone had torn off her physician's cloak
and tied her ankles together with it. She swore that frog-man was right in front of her,
but when she freed her feet and swung again, Guldo shouted, sucked in breath, and
materialized right in front of her face. This time, her cloak was wrapped around her
eyes, and Ginyu's fist sank in her back. The ground cut her face and hands when she
fell, and she cursed, tearing the hoodwink from her eyes. She stood back up and
heated a chi-ball, but just as she hurled it at Guldo, he sucked in air again - and the
next moment, she found herself standing on the pyre fire. Leaping off, cursing her
2S8
singed toes, Celeria growled as the Ginyu Force laughed.

"What is this? Fight me like men! Who's toying with me!?"

"MIND FREEZE!"

Syrup-thick mind matter poured over Celeria, who felt the muscles in her limbs numb.
As mind matter condensed around her in a blue cloud, she struggled to move, only to
hear Guldo's snicker.

"A woman's place is in a mind freeze! Ha!"

Chapati, standing behind a pillar, watched the fighting with a quivering lip. "This is
not good! I think Celeria sees the frog man. He is the problem, yes. Now is the time. I
know it."

Fumbling through his sack, Chapati felt around pouches of food, medicine, a tissue
regenerator, until something round and cool met his fingers. Pulling out the anklet, he
fastened it to his left ankle, and strode out into the courtyard. Jasmati was tearing
through another horde of soldiers, while Celeria was playing guessing games with the
Ginyu Force as she struggled in the mind freeze. Just before Guldo could land a blow
on her, Chapati stood before the mob, grinning.

"I say enough fighting, yes? I like dancing much better! Watch me!"

Chapati waved his arms over his head and swayed, waiting for Sarama's anklet to
work its magic. And work magic it did, for the moment the mob saw his, they too
relaxed their limbs and danced, swaying their arms with him. Jasmati dropped the
unconscious body of a soldier and looked up, only to see the Ginyu Force and the
hordes dancing and swaying, with looks of horror on their faced. An unseen power
swept through the courtyard like wind, moving the limbs of everyone there in unison.

As Guldo's concentration faded, Celeria broke free from the mind freeze, only to find
herself dancing with the crowd. The Saiyan half of her fell prey to the anklet's power,
but the Chutnian half of her helped her resist as she grimaced and stiffened her arms.
When she wrenched her eyes away from her father, her limbs twitched, and she was
free again.

What IS that thing? she pondered, looking at the anklet.

Meanwhile, Chapati jumped, bent down, and wiggled his behind as he bobbed at the
knees, and the rest of the mob followed suit. When Chapati shook his bony chest and
swayed, so did the crowd; when he kicked the air or pushed up at the sky, so did the
crowd; when he made delicate hand gestures and swept his hips back and forth, so did
the crowd of ugly, burly men.

"MAKE IT STOP!" shouted half a dozen planet trade soldiers as they were swept into
another round of the Jitterbug.

"Hey! Guldo! Do a time freeze! Quick!" Recoom whispered to the frog-man.
2S9

"Ugghh...no...can barely breathe...how...can that old man...keep up?...This is
worse...than Jeice's aerobics," Guldo panted, dark-faced.

Chapati began a round of posing, sticking arms and legs out like a cheerleader in
some ridiculous dance. As Ginyu was swept up in the movements, he felt a sweet joy
rise in his stomach. "All this posing...it feels so...me. That's it, men! The Ginyu Force
has a new calling card!"

"Haha! Yes! Dance! Watch me!" Chapati laughed. "I haven't danced like this in years!
But I still remember how! This is fun, no?" Peach-colored light flooded the night
skies as night became dawn, and the old man laughed and danced in the morning
light.

Jasmati, meanwhile, ran to Celeria's side. "Doorrnt luuk art Chapateeii uund yuu'rrr
bee fiiiine. Lerrt's peeiik them aurrfff. Poonch them assshhh they dansh. Come uun,"
the wolf-woman gargled.

The Saiyan woman looked Jasmati up and down, awed. "When Chapati talked about
lupine form...was this it? You look magnificent!"
Two pods roared through space, carrying Nappa and Prince Vegeta to the next planet
to be purged. Past stars and pink nebulas the pods flew, until a third pod appeared
behind them.

"Your Highness?" came a young man's voice. Prince Vegeta's suspended animation
system relaxed, and the boy opened his eyes.

"Mmmmm. What do you want?" On Prince Vegeta's overhead screen, an image of the
other pod's pilot appeared: a long-haired teenage boy, with one eye swollen shut and a
face full of bruises.

"My name is Raditz, third-rank Saiyan soldier. I signed up for a different planet
purging team last night. I got assigned to you and Nappa."

Prince Vegeta groaned. "I don't need any sidekicks, thank you."

"Freeza's orders. I was assigned to you."

"I don't think you'll be of much help. Look at you!"

"It's a long story...let's just say it was over a girl..."

The prince snorted. "Women are a waste of time. If you can't dedicate yourself to
battle, and battle alone, you aren't a Saiyan."

"I've given up on romance...it's only trouble. I'm a warrior, and nothing but a
warrior!"

Prince Vegeta sighed. "Fine. Come up to formation. Just don't get in the way when we
24u
touch down." Raditz maneuvered his pod next to Prince Vegeta's, and the three flew
off into space.

Freeza sat back in his hover pod, enjoying the fine view of Vegeta-sei on his monitor.
His horns had just been waxed, the Saiyans were being wiped out, and Dodoria was
opening a new bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Life was good.

"Computer," Freeza said, "give me surveillance shots of Vegeta-sei sections 1-A
through 5-A. I need a lift this morning."

The wall-wide monitor beeped, and scenes from Vegeta-sei's surface flashed on the
screen: Saiyans fighting soldiers in the center square of the Peah Hills, Mahisha and
Queen Nori dueling in the throne room, the Ginyu Force dancing in the courtyard...

Freeza sat up in his pod. "This is insane! Why are they dancing? I sent that squadron
of soldiers to take care of the palace, not to waste my time like this!" Staring, as
soldiers danced like choreographed Broadway performers, as a Saiyan woman and a
wolf-creature knocked them unconscious one at a time, Freeza bared his teeth.

"It's impossible to fine competent help these days...as you and Zarbon proved to me
last evening," Freeza said to Dodoria, who cast his eyes down. "Send a message to
navigation. We're heading down to Vegeta-sei."

Celeria and Jasmati moved through rows upon rows of soldiers, punching each in the
face until he fell down, unconscious. Jasmati picked up weapons and snapped them
over her knee, and the laser rifles broke like bones. For about ten minutes the pair
went down the line, slowly felling the entire squadron as Chapati danced. As Celeria
landed the final blow to Ginyu, she sighed.

"All of them...down. Chapati, you can stop dancing."

The old man became still, wiped the sweat from his brow, and laughed. "Sarama's
gifts help me even now! And I thank her! Ah...even in my old age I love to dance..."

Suddenly, cleaves formed in the anklet, and as violet light poured out of the fissures,
the metal and stone flew apart. Strewn at the old man's feet were pieces of the relic,
lead-colored now.

"Ah--!" he moaned. "It was too good to last!" Nudging the pieces with his toe, the old
Ghee grumbled as Jasmati shook her head. Sighing, he fumbled through his pouch
again. "We must be prepared if we are attacked again. Take Sarama's bull-roarer. Yes,
here," he urged, handing Jasmati the relic.

"All right. Hurry. We can go through here, and a corridor will take us to a back exit,"
Celeria explained.

"No. Really, I would ask you to stay a bit longer," came a voice from above, and
when Celeria raised her eyes, Zarbon, Dodoria, and Freeza's hover pod were
descending into the courtyard. When the three of them reached the ground. Chapati
laughed nervously.
241

"Ah...yes...hello again..." he began.

None of Nori's words could prepare Jasmati for the sensation of such chi, and
standing before Freeza, she grew hot.

"Please do not interrupt me!" Freeza hissed. "This is disgusting. Even my trusted
soldiers can't take a simple planet purge seriously anymore. And I have you three
troublemakers to thank for this disruption in my ranks, am I right?"

Celeria stiffened, and a cold desperation ran through her bones. Cold sweat covered
her, and her skin faded to white.

"You're looking a bit green in the gills," Zarbon remarked.

"Uuund yuuu shoord bee waaan to tarrk!" Jasmati barked.

Dodoria blinked. "I know that speech! It's you! Who knew the cutie pie was a
changeling!"

"Get the others up," Freeza ordered, and his two servants went to the task of reviving
the Ginyu Force and their underlings. Before long, Ginyu's men and about half the
soldiers were struggling to their feet, while the trio stood before Freeza, petrified to
move.

Celeria began to pant. I'm not ready. I can't outrun Freeza. It's not my destiny to bring
him down. Even if it were, I'm not strong enough! If we run, he'll kill us. If we stay,
he'll kill us. What can we do? I don't have a choice. I have to fight.

"Chapati...Jasmati...I'll take him...but you have to run! He'll kill you if you stay."

"Nuu. OoOy feeer heez chi tuu. He's tuuu struung fuur yuu! OoOOoy wirr faait tuu."

"Fight?" Freeza laughed softly. "I've always enjoyed the foolish optimism of the
weak. Now what makes you think you can succeed, hmmm?"

Freeza slid out of his hover pod, while Celeria and Jasmati braced themselves. In an
instant, Freeza kicked Celeria's chest, sending her through a pillar. Bruised, the
Saiyan woman rolled to escape a second kick, and quickly rose to her feet and swung
at Freeza. With a grunt, her fist flew at his forehead again and again, only to swing at
empty air. When the opponent grew bored with instantaneous dodging, he swung his
tail at her ribs, and a crack split the air. When she fell, it was with two or three ribs
protruding from the skin, bloody.

Celeria coughed up blood. "I told you two...get away..."

Chapati knelt by her side. "Be still." He laid his hands on her side, and concentrated
the chi in his fingertips. The bones slid back into the skin and mended, and the
ruptures in her skin closed as new vigor swam in her blood.

242
"You can heal?"

"Yes. I healed Jasmati before. I know how to heal, yes."

Meanwhile, Jasmati stood alone with Freeza as more henchmen wobbled to their feet.

"First monkeys, now a puppy dog. When will these weaklings learn?" Freeza
muttered, holding his hands behind his back.

After seeing Celeria's fate, Jasmati twitched with a cold, sickly fear. If Celeria, with
all her vigor, was little match for him, who was she to fight him? Her ears flattened,
and she whined, clenching her fists. Freeza looked over her soldier at Chapati and
Celeria, and a chi-blast grew in his palm.

"Men, get up and watch me. I'm tired of subordinates refusing to take a task seriously.
I asked you to wipe out the Saiyans, so let me show you how it's done. We do NOT
dance. We do NOT pose. We do NOT let perverts steal our clothes. We kill. Watch
me," Freeza ordered.

As his henchmen sulked, Freeza's chi-blast grew larger. Celeria and Chapati watched
the blast swell and gasped, eyes locked on the light. Suddenly, a buzzing sound
hummed in the air, a sound that grew louder and louder.

Wuuuuuuuuuuuup-waaaar-waaar-waaar......Wuuuuuuuuuuup-waaaar-waaar-
waaar......

Jasmati swung Sarama's bull-roarer above her head, and the rich sound filled the
courtyard. The sound pierced Freeza's ears like a needle, and soon the vibrations were
throbbing inside his skull. Soon, Freeza was on his knees, covering his ears slits with
his hands, moaning.

"That noise! It hurts! Someone stop that obnoxious dog-woman!"

But no one stopped Jasmati, for indeed, Zarbon, Dodoria, the Ginyu Force, and all of
the soldiers were on the ground, screaming. Jasmati swung the pull-roarer faster, and
the soldiers rolled to and fro, weeping.

"It's like Recoom's singing! Only worse!" Burter screamed.

Jeice moaned and pressed his hands to his ears. "No! It's like that Inanna-sei country
music Guldo listens to!"

Men sobbed, covering the ground with breakfast as Jasmati ran toward her friends,
still swinging the relic. Celeria squinted as the noise throbbed in her ears, but
wondered why the others were so debilitated now...and why Chapati and Jasmati were
unaffected.

"I don't understand any of this!" she shouted over the noise.

"Yuuu auuur part SooOoyan, suu yuu urr oofuucted. But yuu auur part Chootnyuun,
24S
suu it wuurnt huuurt uss mooch."

"Come now!" Chapati said. "While they are too pained to move! Find a way out! It is
getting...smelly out here...no?"

Amidst the screams of Freeza and his men, the trio ran into the next wing of the
palace, with Jasmati swinging the bull-roarer until they were well into the building.
When she stopped the bull-roarer, it shattered into a thousand pieces.

"Damn," she barked in wolf-speech. "There goes our second trump card."

"You should thank Sarama for saving us!" Chapati complained.

Celeria pulled both Chutnians as she ran, looking over her shoulder. "For now! He'll
come for us. He'll make us pay for his humiliation. And even I can't stop him. I'm not
strong enough, even now. I can feel it inside. We have to find Nori and get out!"

"When we find her, can you lead us out and take us down to the dead wilderness?"
Chapati asked.

"Of course. Why?"

"I know a place to escape where Freeza will not bother us. But that is only if we get
there!"

"Chapati..."

"Yes?"

"I...I want to thank you for saving me. Maybe...you're not as...selfish as I pegged
you."

"I should hope I'm not that selfish! But it was Jasmati who saved you."

"Thank you...thank you both...my friends."

Celeria, Chapati, and Jasmati ran through the west wing of the palace, hopping over
the corpses of Saiyans and planet trade soldiers alike. Black smudges covered the
walls, and the ceiling buckles in places where pillars had been knocked down or shot
out. Stained glass windows bore dozens of holes, and glass was strewn across the
floor. The smell of smoke and burnt flesh floated everywhere, and moving through
the carnage, Celeria shook her head.

Jasmati breathed a heavy sigh. "OoOoy uum soory. Thiish hoopuuned becuush oof
mee. Yuu huuv mee to blaaiim."

"Does any of that really matter now? Blame isn't what's on my mind."

The three turned a corner, and suddenly Celeria stopped a few feet before the royal
conference room.
244

"It took all of this to show me," sighed a woman's voice. Nori's voice.

"Nori! She's still alive!" Celeria whispered, and the trio slowly slinked to the door.
Celeria's body sank when she peeped inside: Nori, with her arms around King
Vegeta's neck, was gazing softly into his eyes. The queen's monkey tail batted back
and forth, and her unscathed skin showed no marks of any battle with Mahisha. The
red room was empty, save for a conference table bedecked in red velvet, some onyx
chairs, and the two monarchs, locked in embrace.

"It took all of this to show me what a fool I've been," Nori continued. "All those
years, I didn't stand by you. And now look what's happened. The kingdom is falling
apart."

King Vegeta gazed down at Nori. "All those years, I wanted you to see...but you
never did. But now...we'll pull the kingdom together. As a real king and queen." His
arms wrapped tightly around her, and Celeria suddenly felt sick.

"It's too late to pull it together...fool," Celeria whispered.

"Of course we will," Nori replied. "Just show me how. Whatever you see fit."

Wha--? Celeria thought, her stomach tense. Something's wrong with her voice. And
Nori would never act like this. I know her. This isn't the Nori I know.

"We've got to show Freeza that we're in control of the Saiyans," King Vegeta
continued. "If we can put down the rabble-rousers, Freeza will know that order's
returned. Help me. Fight with me."

"Of course," his queen replied.

"The masses have been edgy," he murmured. "The masses have had rebellion on their
minds, I'm sure of it. Why, just two weeks ago, I killed a third-rank woman who
refused to give her baby to the planet trade."

"Well, she should have known better. The masses should have known better."

"The masses have been refusing royal orders constantly. Some just had to be killed to
keep the peace. It wouldn't surprise me if your friend's brother was part of this
rebellion."

"Paragus?"

"Paragus. His son was born late in the night, but the baby's power was immense.
Freeza might have felt threatened. So I had it killed, but Paragus swore rebellion, so I
had to kill him. He was part of this rebellion. He had to be. There have been dozens
like him over the past few months."

Celeria's blood ran hot. "The murderer...how could he...my brother...my nephew..."
The Saiyan shot into the banquet hall, with Chapati and Jasmati behind her.
24S

"MURDERER!"

King Vegeta and Queen Nori turned their heads.

"Murderer...you killed my brother! Nori! Nori, how could you--" Celeria sputtered,
until she looked deep into Nori's face. Looking deep, Celeria read a languid
expression.

Nori never wore that expression. Nori's voice never sounded that silky.

Suddenly, another figure appeared in the opposite door of the conference hall: a
second Nori. Bruised and sweaty, with disfigured armor, the second Nori twitched a
canine tail as she stared at King Vegeta and the first Queen Nori.

"Wha--?" the second Nori whined, cocking her head.

Celeria blinked. "Nori?"

King Vegeta looked left, then at the queen in his arms, then right. "What? Wait! Who-
-?"

The Queen Nori in his arms frowned, slowly brought a hand to his chest, and gathered
gray chi.

"What are you doing!?" the second Nori shouted.

The gray chi grew bright, and the second Nori fired it into King Vegeta's chest. A
boom shook the hall as the chi burst out of his back.

"NORIIIIII!!!" Bone and muscle flew across the table, and blood spurted out of his
mouth as he screamed.

The blast threw King Vegeta backwards, and the table collapsed under him as he fell.
A foot-wide hole in his chest gaped like an empty mouth. His face contorted in pain,
and tears fell from his eyes as he stared at the first Nori.

"Nori..." He reached out to her, his face full of pain.

Tears ran down his cheeks, and life left him. Frozen in the stare of death, King
Vegeta's eyes were fixed on the first Nori. The blood on his lips began to crust, and
the smell of blackened meat hung in the air a long time before anyone spoke.

"What the hell is going on!?" Jasmati barked in wolf-speech.

The features of the first Nori began to melt, as her hair and armor dissolved, as her
skin lightened, and as the monkey tail was slowly sucked into the small of her back.
Before long, Silva was standing before them in her metallic beauty.

The real Nori slowly stepped inside, eyes fixed on the corpse of King Vegeta.
246

"Why did you do this?" she asked.

"Because you couldn't," Silva replied.

"You could have told me. You should have told me. He was my business!"

"He was evil. He hurt you. He hurt others."

Nori's tail bristled as she stared at the corpse of her husband. Stretching a hand toward
him, she closed her eyes, bathed his body in chi, and when the light faded, the table
and corpse were gone.

"I feel the spirits of the dead all over the palace, leaving their bodies. I feel his spirit
hovering near me...and I feel him leaving now."

Nori took a deep breath and ran her hands through her hair. Then, with a heavy sigh,
she opened her eyes again.

"Vegeta-buru is dead. Now King Vegeta is dead. If Sarama is forgiving, she'll let me
forget both."

"This was part of my plan," Silva announced, and the others watched as she shape
shifted again. As her spine lengthened, her chest flattened and widened, and when
spiky hair and a beard sprouted on her head, the transformation was complete.
Standing in the conference hall, in perfect detail, was Silva in the likeness of King
Vegeta. In a languid version of his voice, she turned to Nori and spoke.

"King Vegeta would have sentenced his people to death, and himself as well. But his
power as a leader is too valuable to be wasted. Today I will rally the elites and attack
Freeza."

"What! You're insane! You can't face him!" Celeria cried. "I just fought him, and
nearly died in the process! And I'm stronger than you are! How do you think--"

"I will take on Freeza. That is that."

"Silva...please listen to her. You'll die. Your power level is only at 500,000. He'll kill
you. He'll kill you and all the elites. It'll be futile," Nori complained.

"I know that. I know that I will not return. But I want to weaken him. When he is
weakened, you will be able to kill him."

"Silva..."

Silva-as-King Vegeta stood tall and folded her arms. "Freeza killed my people. And
now Queen Nippy has passed on. My life is empty now. My joy will come from
knowing that I carried out Nippy's dream."

Celeria and Nori pleaded, but Silva would head none of it. "I want you both to live.
247
Queen Nippy did not train you to be kamikazes. I want you both to succeed. If I must
die weakening Freeza do that you can survive a battle with him, so be it. Now go.
Hide from Freeza and train. When you are strong enough, fight him." Silva-as-King
Vegeta left the room.

Afterwards, Celeria grabbed Nori's shoulders. "It's Freeza. He's on the rampage. He's
training his men right now. We can't stay here. Chapati said he could find us a safe
place to train. Come on!"

Nori, Celeria, Chapati, and Jasmati took off through the crumbling palace, and terror
swept through them when they heard Freeza's voice through a wall.

"When I find those three...I'll show them the meaning of pain! Now all of you, watch
me!" Chi blasts shook the palace as Freeza slew guards and servants on the other side
of the wall.

Freeza and his men swept through room after room of the palace, but the
troublemakers never appeared.

Freeza took a deep breath. "Honestly, this is why I hired help. I really do have better
things to do than re-train soldiers. Have I made my point, men?"

The Ginyu Force and company nodded.

"Good. Now can I return to my ship and enjoy a good glass of wine, and not worry
about the state of Vegeta-sei?"

"Yes sir!" Ginyu replied. "We'll take down any and all Saiyans, sir."

Freeza sighed. "Zarbon, Dodoria, back to the ship. It's been an unpleasant morning.
Let's enjoy the view of Vegeta-sei from above, hmmm?"

When Freeza and his two servants departed, when his disk ship burst into the upper
atmosphere, Ginyu stood tall and grinned.

"Men," he said to the Ginyu Force, "we've learned a valuable lesson from all of this.
Do you know what that is?"

"That we should look out for old guys with jewelry?" Recoom replied.

"No."

"That earplugs are a soldier's best friend?"

"No! We learned something valuable from that old man...that a real warrior has
something we've been lacking all this time...STYLE!"

Ginyu suddenly dropped to his knees and pointed to the sky, imitating one of
Chapati's earlier poses.

248
"Come on! Pose, damn you!"

The rest of the Ginyu Force struck poses, and arms and legs were soon pointing in
every direction.

"That's right! Pose! And why are we posing?" Ginyu screamed.

"Because we're...THE GINYU FORCE!"

Nori, Celeria, Chapati, and Jasmati ran until they left the palace, only to see smoke
rising from the Peah Hills residential district. The morning hours were filled with
howls as Saiyans fought planet trade soldiers in the streets, and bodies and blood
stains were everywhere. With the help of the four, the soldiers were soon set running,
adding to the chaos that swirled around the scene.

Jasmati, still in lupine form, received a stare or two, but most assumed that she was
merely a resident alien, rebelling against the planet trade. Nori's canine tail, still with
shards of the torn monkey tail, received attention and whispers from her people, who
seemed either too preoccupied or too alarmed to speak of it.

Suddenly, Celeria's chi plummeted, then soared, and a familiar manner came over her
body. Thunder shook the city, and the tenuous clouds turned red and orange, swirling
like melted butter.

"YEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!" Celeria-come-Indra
bellowed, much to the alarm of most everyone in the vicinity. As Indra scratched his
behind, broke wind, and threw a planet trade soldier over a building, he ranted in his
usual hillbilly dialect.

"Now didn't ah say thissus gonna happen?
Now don't look all miss-tuh-fied! Ah done come
even when ah ain't called, cause that's mah right.
The dark days, they-a came n' went, but now,
them darkest days a-all are a-here! Yessir!"

Jasmati leaned over to Nori. "Is she all right?"

"Fine. She's just possessed."

"POSSESSED?"

"Possessed. That's Indra. I told you about him, remember?"

"Huh. When Sarama speaks through the Oracle, she's a little more...urbane."

"Oracle?"

"You'll meet her later."

Indra continued to bellow and whoop.
249

"This whole establishment's gone higgly-piggly,
and durnit if ah say it ain't too purty!
But the darkest say is done comin t'night!
Y'all will see! Let's jest say ah wouldn't
worry yer purty lil heads over the days-a-comin,
y'understand? Now ah know y'all don't quite
comp'hend all this hoity-toity talk ah'm a-shoutin,
but ah gotta 'nounce it. There's a good reason
f'all a'this. I'll lecha in on it someday.
Bye, y'all!"

Indra left Celeria's body, and the doctor found herself the object of stares.

"Off your medication, lady?" asked a lanky man with a bruised eye.

"I take it you're not Spina Saiyans. Never mind," she replied, running off.

Saiyans, meanwhile, cheered and continued their battles, when a voice rang through
black speakers in the Peah Hills intercom system.

"This is a royal mandate from King Vegeta," Silva-as-King Vegeta announced. "All
warriors of elite rank in the Peah Hills area are ordered to report to section 22-4 for
special orders. All other warriors are encouraged to continue their resistance to planet
trade forces."

As the four ran through the streets, taking on an occasional gang of soldiers, or giving
aid to injured Saiyans, Silva-as-King Vegeta's speech continued. "Freeza has betrayed
the Saiyan race, and seeks nothing less than our annihilation! But he has forgotten that
we are a race of warriors, and will proudly defend our lives and our homes! The
planet trade has enslaved us! Now is the time to break free! Fight proudly! Fight
planet trade soldiers wherever you encounter them! The Saiyan race must rage again
the dying of the light!"

The four ran past city limits, and could still hear the intercom system as they stumbled
down the slopes of the dead hills. "I repeat. All warriors of elite rank in the Peah Hills
area are ordered to report to section 22-4 for special orders. All others are urged to
fight, and fight well! This is King Vegeta, wishing you victory in battle."
"Where are we going?" Nori asked.

"Home," Chapati replied. "Chutney-sei."

As the paved path disappeared and became dead wilderness, Chapati explain the trek.
"The sphere down there, the Gateway Sphere--"

"--the one Sarama said to protect."

"--yes. That sphere is powerful. It opens a wormhole to a part of the universe far
away. So far that your space technology could not take you there in your lifetime.
2Su
Chutney-sei is on the other side. Freeza does not know how to open the wormhole.
You will be safe from him there. But I must warn you...our part of the universe is in
much turmoil. We chafe under the rule of tyrants."

As the four wound around dead trees and stagnant creeks, a figure moaned from
behind a boulder. Mahisha limped, slowly, painfully toward his space pod in the
distance, only to hear voices. Nori's voice. Talk of a wormhole. New planets.
Groaning, the buffalo-man limped after them, eyes fixed on Nori. Keeping just far
away to avoid detection, he wobbled behind the group, snickering.

Nori sensed weak chi throughout the hills. "Fleeing Saiyans, probably." When she
sensed weak chi a few hundred yards behind them, she never connected it to Mahisha,
but instead assumed that another low-rank Saiyan was fleeing the city.

Meanwhile, Celeria was lost in thought. If we fail, we all die. If we succeed and are
free, then what? We can't subsist on what the planet had to offer. The ecosystem's
dead. The nightmare's just begun. Who will help us? Can we trade? Will these
Chutnians help us?

"What am I thinking!?" she blurted out. "We can't stop Freeza! Indra said that it was
Kakarrot's job! Fate isn't behind us! Why are we wasting our time?"

"Well what else do you want us to do? Fall over and die for Freeza?" Nori cried. "We
don't know what the divas have in store for us. They work in mysterious ways. I
know! We've got to try. What we do might have something to do with Kakarrot's
success."

Nori squeezed Celeria's hand.

"I know you're hurting. Don't give up. We'll fight, together. Whatever happens, I fight
beside you, always."

Celeria squeezed back and smiled weakly.

"If I'm right, he was born late last night, a while after I left. The first staffers came in
around 4:00 hours. He would have been removed from the nourishment tube around
them. If I'm right, he would have gotten shipped off to the Ishrel district for departure
to Earth-sei around 5:00, just when Mahisha started up. He'll be off soon, if fighting
doesn't spread to Ishrel."

Celeria cringed.

"That's when my nephew was born too. That's when he and Paragus died."

Nori squeezed her hand again.

"I grieve with you. But they're free from this hellhole. Freeza can't corrupt your
nephew now. They're at peace, if nothing else."

2S1

When the four reached the cave, all stopped for breath, and all eyes fell on Nori's tail.

"Your tail..." Chapati began. "Oh...now do you see?"

"See what?" she grumbled. "See that I've been living a lie? See my Saiyan pride
crushed? It's an abomination, this tail."

Jasmati growled. "When you insult your heritage, you insult mine. Now knock it off!
So you can't take pride in being a Saiyan anymore. Take pride in being a Chutnian!
Why do you hide from your heritage?" she barked in wolf-tongue.

"I've spent all my life living like a Saiyan, fighting like a Saiyan, thinking like a
Saiyan. All of a sudden, I find out I'm not. Now I'm supposed to forget my life up to
now? It's not like a switch. You don't just turn it off. I might have a Chutnian body,
but my soul is all Saiyan!"

"Yeah. You're a queen all right. Queen of Denial! Why do you hate me? Because I tell
you things you don't want to hear? I'm not your enemy! I'm a Chutnian, just like you!
Don't resist the truth. Embrace our heritage!"

Nori clenched her teeth. "I don't even know what it means to be Chutnian."

"Then come with us. Let me show you."

Nori's jaw eventually relaxed, and she sighed. Slowly, she reached out a hand and
touched Jasmati's fur.

"What is this? Are all Chutnians changelings?"

"Yes. This is lupine form. You gain strength, stamina, and you can sense chi better.
You can take on this form too. We'll show you how, soon."

Nori's emotions tangled inside. "I can turn into this? A canine creature? The form IS
beautiful in its own way. It's not Oozaru, but it's still...breathtaking," she thought to
herself.

"Yes, yes! All that will be explained later. Now, though the wormhole! In here!"
Chapati cried. As the four slid into the cave groove, not without much whining and
pushing, Chapati put a hand over the Gateway Sphere.

"Now all of you, join hands. Celeria, hold my other hand. Now you hold Nori's, and
Nori, hold Jasmati's."

All four linked hands, and Chapati began his mantra.
"Samosa...samosa...samosa...samosa..."

Before their eyes, the sphere's glow changed, and reality melted like wax before them.
Before long, reality peeled off around a white void, and the old man gently led them
all forward.
2S2

"Now...to Chutney-sei..." he whispered.

As the four were drawn into the wormhole, Mahisha wobbled at the cave entrance,
watching the scene with wide eyes.

"So 'samosa" is the password? That's right. Go," he coughed. "We'll join you shortly.
The prospects of more conquests on the other side of that wormhole will win me
Freeza's favor."
Meanwhile, dozens of Saiyan elites gathered in a bunker, just underneath the royal
palace, where the planet trade's rampage had not tread. Surrounded by cool air and
blue walls, the elites stood at attention before their king.

Instead of his usual arrogance, the elites found King Vegeta full of serenity, full of
resolution. Looking them in the eye, addressing them with calm, their leader filled the
room with strength.

They admire Prince Vegeta. They have proud egos. Use both to stir them. Is the
prince on that ship? Or perhaps on a planet purge. Does it matter? Silva-as-King
Vegeta thought.

"Remember, the prince is aboard that ship, so try to keep it intact. You are the elite!
You are the greatest warriors on our planet. Together, you will fight, and together,
you will conquer!"

Silva-as-King Vegeta saluted, and the elites saluted back, faced filled with strength.
As their king nodded, something heavy hung in his eyes.

And together you will die.



















2SS
Chapter Twenty
When World's Collide

Nori found herself in white darkness, suspended in a shapeless limbo. The next
moment, she and the others were thrust into light and sound, and the new reality
swept over her like water.

The four stood in a steel landing bay, where the heavy smell of fuel hung in the air.
Rows of airships filled the hangar, where dozens of green armored soldiers stared,
horrified, at the closing wormhole. As reality congealed around the void, Nori and
Celeria looked left and right.

They all have gold eyes! Nori realized. And canine tails!

Celeria's limbs stiffened under the stares of the Chutnians, some of whom were in
humanoid form, others of whom were in lupine form. Most lupines were black-furred
jackal-men or gray-furred wolf-creatures.

One lieutenant's muzzle wrinkled when he recognized Chapati and Jasmati.

"Rebels!" he barked.

Celeria leaned over to Nori. "What did he say?"

Soon, all soldiers transformed into long-clawed, white-toothed lupine creatures,
growling.

"Oh...never mind. I can translate that."

"We mean no harm!" Nori barked in wolf-tongue. "We're not here to fight!"

But soldiers fell on them from all directions. Buried under fur and claws, Celeria burst
up in a flash of chi, kicking opponents across the hangar. Jasmati, fighting close to
Jasmati, swung at attackers until a neat pile of Kheer's guards were lying on the
ground. Nori, meanwhile, threw up her palms, heating a ball of chi until the whole
hangar glowed with its red light. Most of the soldiers grunted, taken aback by her
hands.

"Look at her palms!"

Chi ripped through the crowd of attackers, who fell to the floor, burnt and groaning.

"Would someone kindly tell me where we are? And why those soldiers attacked us?"
Celeria shouted, once the soldiers had been subdued.

"This is the summer palace, yes. I remember it well," Chapati said, scarfing up the
Gateway Sphere and placing it in his bag. "I will explain later! For now, we must flee.
2S4
Come!"

Sirens honked through the hangar, and more soldiers poured in as the four fled
through double doors. Outside, morning was warming the city of Tarkadal, and the
scene was like a rich dish that Nori's soul hadn't tasted in years.

I feel...life! I feel chi again! Too much...too much life! Chi everywhere! I feel plants!
Rocks! Soil! Animals! Water! Spirits! Nori's inner eye flew open, remembering the
feeling of so much chi, so long forgotten on dead Vegeta-sei. I feel life in that city. I
feel life in the fields, in the wilderness beyond it. This world's alive! I'm alive!

Laughter burst from her lungs. "I'm alive!"

"Nori...NORI! Snap out of it!" Celeria shouted, grabbing her bicep. "Come on!
Follow him!"

As sirens honked behind them, the four ran through courtyards, over gates, fighting
soldiers. Before long, the four were free, running through cobblestone streets as the
morning sky faded to blue.

Glancing back, Celeria saw the citadel from which they were fleeing: a palace of
green jade and gold pagodas, looming large on the horizon.

"The home of your tyrants?" Celeria asked.

"Yes. That is the summer palace of King Kheer and Queen Darjiling. We will speak
of them soon," Chapati replied.

The city stretched for miles, an old city of pavilions and small, flat houses. Lush trees
and ivy dotted the sides of the cobblestone streets, smelling fresh and clean. Homes of
marble covered the city, with curvy arched doorways that Nori found inviting.
Families picked plants from their food gardens and spoke to each other in wolf-
tongue. In the morning light, women in saris carried baskets of food from the
marketplace, and the smell stirred Nori's thoughts.

Smell that! I've never smelled greens like that back home. All the smells of this place
are right.

Celeria blinked. This isn't right. Too many houses are empty. Cities have more people
than this.

"Tell me something," Celeria asked. "Where are the people? The city's too quiet."

"Purged," Chapati replied. "Our tyrants offer their blood to foul spirits. Millions
across Chutney-sei have been murdered for their rituals."

Celeria and Nori shuddered.

The sour stopped running, and followed Chapati through the narrow streets. Nori,
Celeria, and Jasmati (now back in humanoid form) bore all the marks of battle, and
2SS
now bore the stares of men and women in the streets. Nori cared not, soaking in all
the sights and smells of Tarkadal.

Everyone has gold eyes like I do! And they all speak in wolf tongue! Nori thought to
herself, eavesdropping on a conversation between two young men as they passed.

Chapati led them through an alley to a back archway, where he spoke briefly to a man
inside. Stepping out, he motioned to them.

"This way."

The old Ghee led them through three more streets to another home. In the alley, he
rapped on a blue archway, and a middle-aged woman with braided brown hair
answered.

"Yes?...Oh! It's you! Come in!"

The brown-haired woman, bedecked in burgundy clothes, led the four inside. The air
was cool indoors, and the marble walls were decorated with curvy glyphs and nature
scenes. A white table, chairs, and floor cushions adorned the main room, where
several other Chutnians were waiting. Once inside, the brown-haired woman threw
her arms around Chapati and Jasmati."

"You're alive! We thought they killed you!" the woman cried in a rich, raw voice.

Chapati laughed. "I'm full of surprises, yes! Old Chapati is hard to kill!"

Letting go, the woman rushed to Nori, turned over her hands, and turned rose when
she saw the alpha tattoos.

"It's you! It's really you! After all these years!"

"Me? How do you know me?" Nori asked.

"Ah. There will be introductions, yes? This is Dal, a very good friend. She and I are
priests of Sarama. Dal, this is Nori...the one!" Chapati explained.

Another woman rose from the table: a middle-aged woman in a white sari, with
caramel-colored skin and shoulder-length black hair.

"It's you," she whispered.

"This is Mulligatawny," Chapati continued. "She leads rebel factions again our
tyrants. We helped her before. That is why they attacked us, yes."

Nori took a step back. "Why all the excitement?"

"Please, don't be upset," Mulligatawny began, "it's just that we've been waiting a long
time to meet you. Do you know who I am? I'm your aunt. You're my niece. We finally
meet."
2S6

Nori shuddered. "We're...relatives? Is Dal my relative?"

"No," Dal said, "but I remember you. You were just a baby then. I sang hymns for
you when you were presented to Sarama."

"Who? Who presented me to Sarama?"

"Your parents. It's an old Chutnian tradition," said an old woman, dressed in
burgundy clothes like Dal's, walking into the room. "Can it really be? Yes, it has to
be. The tattoos couldn't lie. Welcome back."

"Welcome back!? Chapati?"

Chapati patted Nori's arm. "This is the Oracle, a very good friend."

"But...none of this makes any sense! You all know me, but I've never seen you before.
Why do I meet you now? Why did I live with Saiyans, just to be wrenched from
them?"

"This won't be easy...sit down. It's time you knew the truth," Dal said, leading her to a
chair.

"Nori...You were born to Chutnian parents," Dal began. "Our goddess, Sarama, made
a wonderful prophesy about you through the Oracle, that you would bring down King
Kheer's bloody empire."

Memories flooded Nori's mind, memories of Tomatillo Cave, memories of Sarama's
promise that she would save "her" people. She meant...this? she realized.

"King Kheer and Queen Darjiling are our monarchs, but they disgrace the throne with
their bloodshed," Dal continued. "Much of the galaxy is part of their empire. Planets
are drained of wealth, races are oppressed, people are slaughtered...so that they might
grow stronger. I've seen it myself. They've committed unspeakable atrocities. We
need your help."

"I've seen my share of atrocities. I'll try," Nori said.

"I've felt her chi. The Saiyan's too. They're both powerful enough, I'd wager, for the
king and queen," Jasmati added.

"King Kheer and Queen Darjiling are powerful," Mulligatawny added. "They've
cultivated enough chi to become Superferals, creatures of legend. I don't have the
strength to fight them. Armies have taken them on and failed. They abuse that power
without shame."

The Oracle sat down beside them. "Darjiling was upset with Sarama's prophesy about
you. She and Kheer ordered you to be killed, but how could we allow that?"

"Who's 'we'?"
2S7

"The Ghee. Sarama's priesthood. Chapati and Dal are Ghee, and so am I. The Ghee
plotted to save you, so that they couldn't find you and kill you. We sent you through
the wormhole. We thought you'd be safe with the Saiyans. They were supposed to
train you to be a warrior."

Nori buried her face in her hands. "The Saiyans...are changing for the worst."

"I was going to say. Saiyans never wear armor like this."

"Until now. It's a long story. I'm just...overwhelmed."

Nori ran her hands through her hair and sighed. The earlier joy melted, and a new
sensation rose up inside. Something inside ached, making her sick. A hurt without a
name throbbed in her heart. The years had brought nothing but pain, but this
confusion ached in a new way, an unsettling way.

Order, belief, selfhood - all were being wrenched apart and hammered back together
in strange new patterns. The changes whipped through her brain, faster than she could
think. Soon, shock and sleep deprivation made her dizzy.

I thought I knew who I was. I thought I had life figured out. But everything's
changing, and I can't keep up. But that doesn't mean I'm leaving Saiya behind.

"But my top priority is ousting a tyrant named Freeza on the other side. He's just as
destructive as your monarchs sound. I'll help you however I can...but Celeria and I
have priorities."

"This is your destiny!"

"And THAT is my priority!"

"You're the only one strong enough to take on Kheer and Darjiling! Millions have
failed. Don't you see?"

"I said I'd help. That doesn't mean I don't have priorities," Nori sighed. "On the other
side of the wormhole, millions have died. Millions more will die of I don't stop
Freeza. He's a monster. I have to stop him before I take on anything else. Don't you
see?"

Celeria stood up against a wall with her arms folded, ignored up to now. The recent
exchange had been nothing but barking, and she grew impatient.

"Nori," she began. "Can they help us train? We can't waste too much time here."

"My friend wants to know if you can help us train," Nori translated.

The Chutnians looked at Celeria, who coolly stared back.

"She's a warrior," the Oracle noted. "She looks like she's been through a battle."
2S8

"She has. She has priorities like I do. If we agree to fight your tyrants...will you help
us grow stronger?"

"Well," Mulligatawny began, "I can help you with chi-boosting herbs, and techniques
to increase your chi. I'm sure we can find you both a place to train."

"It'll do," Nori replied, and gave Celeria a thumbs-up. Then, groaning, she rubbed her
eyes.

"Could you find a place for both of us to sleep? I didn't sleep last night."

Dal led Nori and Celeria to a cool room, where she spread out two white cots. The
two threw aside their tattered armor and bathed in the pond in the courtyard outside,
where Nori healed their wounds. Afterwards, the two put on fresh saris and went
soundly to sleep. As she floated in the limbo between wakefulness and sleep, Nori
heard voices in the next room.

"He said I'd find you here," Chapati said.

"It was a miracle we got out," Mulligatawny replied.

"Jasmati was upset. Is everyone safe?"

"Most of the staff were evacuated. The soldiers stayed. Most of the Ghee and I fought
as long as we could. We had to retreat before long. You had to see Kheer and
Darjiling. They did it. Superferal. I've never seen anything like it."

"And you fled here?"

"Yes. We have allies here. But the palace might be on to us."

"What now? They'll be looking for the Gateway Sphere, no?"

Mulligatawny sighed. "I don't know. I just don't know. We pick up the pieces. With
Nori's help, we might have--"

But Nori fell asleep before she heard the rest.

Sleep brought with it nightmares. Dreaming, Nori stood on a rope bridge between two
mountain peaks, and felt the bridge tremble beneath her feet. On one peak, Freeza and
his family waded through a sea of warriors, hurling chi left and right. No vegetation
grew there, but dozens of villages dotted the land, villages of cheap plastic huts and
blood-stained bones. In the villages, nameless races ran in circles, howling, oblivious
to everything else on the mountain. As Freeza's pile of corpses grew, Queen Nippy
floated down from the blood-colored sky in her hover pod, smoking a cigarette.

"Hey! Nori! If yaw aren't busy, would it be too much trouble to knawk awf moi son?
And while yaw're at it, could yaw kill moi husband and moi uttah son too?"
2S9

Through the sea of warriors, King Vegeta slowly waded toward Freeza. Suddenly, his
features smeared like oil, and Silva stood before Freeza now.

"I will weaken Freeza now. You must grow stronger and kill him soon.

From piles of rotting cadavers, the corpse of the real King Vegeta stood up. Eyes
fixed in the stare of death, worms dripping from his chest wound, he reached for Nori.

"Nori! When you finish that, could you please clean up my mistakes?"

Squeezing the rope, Nori wobbled back and forth on the trembling bridge. On the
other peak, blood trickled in streams down the mountain, where two Superferals tore
warriors limb from limb. Their golden fur cast the scene in an unclean light, and
wading through corpses, Chapati called out.

"Oh! Nori! Yes, I found you. Could you please kill King Kheer and Queen Darjiling?
Yes?"

Other villages, filled with flames and screaming masses, caught her eye, when Dal,
Mulligatawny, and the Oracle called out to her.

"Nori! After that, would you help us rebuild the villages brick by brick? It's your
destiny, you know!"

Nori wobbled violently on the bridge, when her feet tapped something warm: Celeria.
Sitting at her feet, Celeria looked up with a clenched jaw.

"Will you hurry it up? Are we fighting Freeza or not?" Celeria growled.

"Nori! Over here! Will you do this?" came voices from both mountain peaks.

On either side waited chaos, waiting the dead, waited the helpless, and below the
bridge waited nothing but hollow abyss. Legs, frozen, Nori threw her head back and
howled.

"DO IT YOURSELVES!" she screamed.

The cries of the dying screamed back, and she shuddered.

"Okay! I'm sorry! I'm coming! Don't hurt any more people!" she cried, but never
moved from the bridge. When Nori awoke in late afternoon, her face was wet with
tears, and her hands were white from clenching the mattress.

By late afternoon, Nori and Celeria were up and eating.

"Old Chapati knows his food! Chutney-sei is known for its food. This is Paneerian
spinach stew. I put a dash of n'madtoh spice in. Do you like it?"

Nori's eyes watered. "Well...it's...spicy..." Reaching for a pitcher, she poured herself
26u
her fourth glass of water and gulped it down.

Celeria's face was purple as she fanned her mouth. "Aaahhhhh...uuuhhh..."

Chapati smiled at his daughter. "It has a rich flavor, hmmm?"

"I...think...my...tongue...is...bleeding..."

After their meal, the two women began their training: while Celeria was training
downstairs, Nori stood alone on the flat roof, training in the Chutnian sunset.
Underneath an orange sky, she practiced fighting forms over and over for hours,
feeling the chi growing in her limbs. As she chewed some of Mulligatawny's chi-
boosting herbs, she reflected.

"How long?" she thought. "How long before we're strong enough?"

Am I really one of them? she thought. All of this is strange. Too strange. This tail is
abominable, I know. But in a way, I feel at home here. The chi of the land is delicious.
For the first time in my life, I'm surrounded by people like me. The look like me, they
talk like me...but...is this right?

A breeze blew back her hair. The spirits of the wind spoke to her, showing her images
of all their travels: through cities, over the sea, over fields of green, over golden-
brown deserts. When the breeze died down, the old ache returned.

I love it here. I missed this. But the Saiyans are my people. I'm a Saiyan at heart. I'd
be a fool to ignore that. And the other side of that wormhole is my top priority. Oh
Sarama...how did I get swept up into this?

Nori's brow wrinkled.

My son is a hybrid. So are Celeria's children. There's always the chance...Super
Saiyan is always a chance someday. Divas help the universe if Freeza has Super
Saiyans in his army. We have to find them. Guide them.

"You look radiant," said the Oracle. "Food, sleep, and a bath made all the difference.
And that sari is much more flattering than armor. It's one of your aunt's saris, you
know."

Nori dodged and kicked an imaginary opponent.

"Good evening. Up here for the fresh air?"

"That, and other things." The Oracle sat down on the opposite ledge as she watched
Nori train. "We put a lot of pressure on you. I know you feel torn. It's all over your
face."

"If you held the fate of two worlds in your hands, you'd be torn yourself."

"I suppose I would."
261

"You don't know what it's like. You've been a Chutnian all your life. Until a few
hours ago, I'd been a Saiyan all my life. I fought with the Saiyans. I suffered with
them. My heart is all Saiyan. And now, suddenly, I'm a Chutnian."

"Do you still want to fight for us?"

"It's not that I don't take your struggle seriously. I'll help you. I just don't know what it
means to suffer as a Chutnian."

"Could there be a day when you'll be proud of your werewolf blood?"

"I...I don't really know."

"You're torn about that as well?"

"I grew up thinking the monkey tail was beautiful. This tail just looks ugly to me. It
feels...unclean...I can't really describe it any other way."

"It's only ugly because you're not used to it. Surely being a Chutnian can't be all bad."

"No...it's not all bad. I do feel something here. For the first time, I see people like me.
I feel the chi of the city, and it speaks to me."

The Oracle stood up and reached into her clothes. "Years ago, Sarama showed me
something. A bindi, meant for you."

She pulled out the case, holding a flame-shaped cluster of gems no bigger than her
thumbnail. "Chutnian women wear bindis to enhance their beauty. But this one is
sacred. Sarama said that whoever wore this would connect with the Chutnians. Maybe
this would help you sort things out?"

Nori stopped and fondled the case.

"I'm Chutnian. And I don't even know what that means."

The Oracle nodded toward the land. "But they do."

Nori stared at the case for a long time, turning it over in her hands. For almost ten
minutes she held the case, eyes fixed on the bindi. Finally, she handed it back.

The Oracle sighed. "I think I understand. It's not the time. I'm sorry. No one should
force this on you."

Lassi the Oracle turned and headed for the stairs.

"Wait!"

Turning around, she saw Nori's heavy eyes.

262
"Wait."

"What is it?"

"I've got to stop lying to myself. I'm Chutnian. I can't hide from that. Come back."

When she returned to Nori's side, Nori tore open the case.

"Please put it on me. I've never put one of these on before."

"Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure you're ready for this?"

Nori grimaced. "I can't keep denying it! I'm Chutnian. And I must know what that
means. Yes, I'm sure. Please help me put it on."

The Oracle gently lifted the bindi from its bed with one finger. Slowly, she placed the
jewel in the middle of Nori's forehead, just above her eyebrows, and pressed it into
place. For a moment, Nori held her breath...until a silent sound roared in her
consciousness.

Suddenly, her perception burst out in a million directions, blooming like a lotus a
thousand times over. Nori felt her mind explode, stretching out of her skull.

"What's happening!?"

Sights, sounds, sensations, fears, hopes, dreams, all at once, so much, too much, from
all of Chutney-sei! Nori's mind stretched over the horizon, her thoughts meshing with
the thoughts of other Chutnians from all the continents.

A father wept over his son, killed for King Kheer's blood pool; a woman prayed
before Sarama's threefold image at her home altar; an official toyed with the idea of
rebellion at his post; a gardener enjoyed the smell of vegetation and the feel of chi;
an elderly couple sat before a hearth, where Paneerian cuisine roasted; a soldier
walked the halls of the summer palace; King Kheer tasted power on his lips as he
waited for the guards to find the Gateway Sphere; a group of children played a
jumping game and sang a song about the legendary Superferal; a teenager dreamed
of a better world as she unwound her sari for sleep; a man screamed in the depths of
a dungeon where green-armored soldiers tortured him for information; Queen
Darjiling swam in a violent mind full of madness; a beggar sat on a lonely road and
waited...

The rush of wisdom hit Nori square in the forehead, knocking her backwards to the
ground. Lying on her back, panting, blood rushing through her temples, she whined
and pressed her palms to her forehead, where the bindi glowed with a deep blue light.

"This...this is what it means," Nori whispered. "Being Chutnian is loving and weeping
and dreaming. It's food. Saris. Rebellion. It's nature. It's growing old and feeling the
chi in your limbs. It's legends. It's past and future. Being Chutnian is being Chutnian
NOW, HERE!"

26S
The Oracle knelt by her side. "Are you all right? Can you hear me?"

Nori's eyes clenched shut, then flew open to stare at the evening sky.

"Yes, I can hear you. I can hear everyone. I must have been deaf before. My mind is
everywhere. I'm among the Chutnians...because I AM a Chutnian! I know now! I see
now!"

Nori shot up to her feet and howled, arms open to the sky. More wisdom flooded her:
soldiers were training in lupine form; a farming man shifted to lupine form to bail
hay; a husband and wife grew fur and claws when soldiers beat down their door; a
desert ascetic stripped off clothes to walk the sand in nude lupine form, feeling the chi
of the land; an orphan's rage sent him into lupine form, beating a brick wall because
he was too small to beat the soldiers; an old scholar settled into lupine form,
meditating on the world's chi at the end of her day.

"I feel it...I feel how they do it," Nori whispered, shaking. "I feel it!"

Nori felt men and women, elders and children focus their chi on their spines, felt them
imagine the growing fur, felt them will their faces into muzzles.

"I feel how they do it...moving the chi...focusing the chi...imagining..." Nori
whispered, almost giggling. The Oracle watched her closely, watched tiny black hairs
peek out of her pores, watched fingernails thicken into talons.

"I know now!" Nori howled. "I know what they know. That I'm not bound. That I'm
not doomed to be this Nori. I can be another Nori! And always could be! I am many
Nori's in one body! But the many forms are one! Now I know!"

Nori howled over and over, as fur covered her body, as her ears grew longer, as her
face grew into a muzzle. Standing in the settling sunlight, throat arched back
triumphantly, was Nori in her lupine form: a black-furred jackal-woman, arms
outstretched to the sky.

Suddenly, the bindi grew hot and burst off of her forehead. Tiny jewels lay scattered
on the roof, but the impression of a flame was embedded in Nori's forehead forever. A
ruddy burn-scar, where no fur grew, remained in the bindi's place. Nori fell to her
knees.

"Are you all right?" the Oracle asked.

"Fine. Better than I've been in years. I'm back in the here-and-now, don't worry. It's
over. The visions are over. But...it was enlightenment...I saw their souls. I'm like
them. I'm Chutnian. I know what that means!"

Looking down at her black-furred hands, at her padded palms, Nori huffed. "Lupine
form. I feel strong as a mountain. Every drop of chi in the air feels magnified...and my
senses! I can smell for miles! I can hear!"

Nori's limbs shrank as they drew into her torso, and a moment later, she was on four
264
legs, slipping out of her sari. Standing on the roof now was a slender black jackal,
wagging her tail.

"I saw this as well!" she barked to the Oracle.

"Now you know what we know. Welcome home."

I saw too many die before, Nori decided. Not here. And they won't die for blood
rituals, no more of them. I know now of the Chutnian's misery. Let me make up for my
past cowardice. I am a Chutnian, here, now.

Downstairs, weaving back and forth between the cots, Celeria trained in her martial
arts. The barren room offered no distractions, except the tinkle of water from the
courtyard's pond. Chewing a wad of Mulligatawny's herbs, she punched and kicked
the air as Jasmati and Chapati sat on a cot. Chapati, knife and anesthetic sap in hand,
was slicing off his monkey tail, and Jasmati was sitting in a fresh new sari.

"Well! You are angry, yes?" he asked.

"Of course I'm angry," Celeria muttered.

"Aaarrrt waarrtt?" Jasmati gargled.

"Angry for not being strong enough," Celeria answered. "Angry at Freeza. Angry, just
angry."

"All of this was a shock, yes."

The room was silent as she dodged and punched the air. When the tension never bled
from Celeria's face, Jasmati stood up.

"DooOoOOo nuut bee uungrree. Yuu uuur struung ee--"

"Oh, shut up."

Jasmati frowned and stormed out.

"No...wait!" Celeria pleaded. "I didn't mean to yell at you. I'm just--damn. There she
goes."

"It is not her fault! Her Saiyan is poor!" Chapati complained.

"I know, I know."

"She speaks so sweetly otherwise. You should hear her Chutnian."

"Being here would be easier if I spoke the language," Celeria said, returning to
shadow boxing.

Chapati sighed. "So angry. It is me too. You're still angry at me."
26S

"Well...that too." Celeria closed her eyes as she went into battle stances. "I'm sorry I
slapped you."

Chapati shook his head. "Please believe me...I did not know about you...I could not
get there because of Kheer, then the crack--"

"Right, right, you said that before!"

"What do you want me to do, then? Is there no cooling your anger?"

"I don't know!" she cried. Then, with hesitation, she turned to him. "Well...maybe
make up for lost time. If I survive Freeza."

"You will survive. Then...yes...I want to know you. I want to know my daughter,
yes."

The two breathed a gentle sigh. Through the silence, there was understanding, there
was peace.

All morning and afternoon, guards swept through every inch of the summer palace.

"Did anything come up?" King Kheer spoke into his throne module.

"No, your Highness," replied a female voice. "No trace of the four or the Gateway
Sphere."

"Thank you."

King Kheer sat back on his throne and rubbed his forehead. The double doors of the
throne room burst open, and Queen Darjiling lumbered in.

"Little thieves...it was probably the little slut over the intercom...she took it and wants
to cover up...she's your little slut, isn't she, Kheer?"

King Kheer ignored the insults that followed, which heightened in Darjiling's
screams.

"FOOL! WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME WHEN YOU FOUND IT!? YOU NEVER
TOLD ME WE HAD IT! NOW IT'S LOST!"

Queen Darjiling punched the module on her throne. The right arm for the throne fell,
dented beyond repair, and she screamed even louder.

"BASTARD! YOU COULD NEVER RULE THIS EMPIRE WITHOUT ME! I
WOULDN'T HAVE LOST THE SPHERE! YOU LOSE EVERYTHING! I
SHOULD HAVE KILLED YOU LONG AGO!"

Shifting into lupine form, Darjiling beat her throne to rubble. In a burst of chi, her fur
glowed sickly yellow, and she lumbered out of the double doors.
266

"I'LL TEAR DOWN TARKADAL! I'LL TEAR DOWN THE PLANET TO FIND
IT! I'LL CONQUER THE NEXT WORLD!"

The smell of blood, cinnamon incense, and the queen's sweat filled the throne room.
As she flew through the halls, King Kheer summoned his soldiers on his module.

"...report to the north courtyard at once."

Oh no, my queen. I'll get that sphere before you do. I'll sweep Tarkadal like a
warrior, not a madwoman. The day is coming, Darjiling...

Chapati sat back as Celeria trained. "Something else disturbs you. What?"

"It's just...where do I fit in anymore?"

Every time I find my niche, it's ripped away, she thought. I lose my tribe, then the
Tsufuru, then my family. Now I might lose the Saiyans if I don't hurry.

"What does it mean?" she blurted out.

"What does what mean?"

"Chutnian. I'm half Chutnian. Am I still a real Saiyan? Or a failed werewolf?"

"What you are is up to you. You decide who you are."

"That doesn't help."

"But it's true. You must find the answer for yourself. You CAN take pride in both
your Saiyan or Chutnian blood, mind you."

"Chapati...I'm a hybrid. Then, I can be a Super Saiyan someday, right?"

"Yes."

"And my children too?"

"Yes."

"What does being one mean? That you're the ultimate Saiyan? Or a Saiyan with a
happy genetic quirk?"

"You and your children must decide that. You might reach it, you might not."

Celeria groaned and continued her kicking drills. Keep training. All the fighting's
made your stronger, she told herself. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Just a
little more, and you'll be ready for Freeza.
267
Celeria's eyes wandered outside to the sunset, when the Oracle entered with a black
jackal at her feet. The jackal, mouth open as if smiling, trotted up to Celeria and put
its front paws on her leg. On the jackal's forehead was a burn scar in the shape of a
flame, a tender-looking spot with no fur.

"Well hello there," Celeria said, scratching the jackal behind the ears. But looking
into its face, she saw something different. The eyes were too focused. The gaze was
too intelligent for a jackal.

Suddenly, the jackal's limbs lengthened, and it tripled in size as it stood up on two
legs. Celeria stared at the creature, with a jackal's head and fur but a woman's
proportions.

"Ah!" Chapati cried. "She has it! Wolf-on-two-legs form! Lassi, you got through to
her, now?"

"Look closely," the werewolf whispered, "it's me."

"Nori?"

The werewolf nodded. In an instant, the creature's features softened, until humanoid
Nori was standing before her.

"I found myself. I know now what it means to be Chutnian. And my lupine form...it
makes me stronger! With that, I think I'm ready for Freeza!"

"I've never seen you this happy."

"I can take on Freeza with this! Your training is helping too! I feel it!"

"My chi is already high. If I just get a little higher, I'll be ready. Give me more time."

"Do you want to go through the wormhole soon?"

"Very soon. The time's almost here. And Nori?"

"What?"

"Put some clothes on."

The Oracle, holding Nori's forgotten sari, handed it back. When Nori was dressed
again, she stopped, stiff.

"What is it?" Celeria whispered.

Chi was thundering closer and closer. Enormous chi. Greasy, filthy, filmy chi. Mad
chi. Soon, screams and crashing walls echoed in the streets, and Chutnians darted past
windows, carrying bundles, children, anything they could carry.

"It's Queen Darjiling!" beyed the masses.
268

Outside, smoke was dirtying the sunset, and rows of homes lay ruined as noise filled
the city. Screams mingled with collapsing homes, and Nori felt the greasy chi close at
hand. Down a narrow boulevard, a yellow light shone on the rubble.

"Where is it!? You're hiding it! I know you are! All of you! You're all plotting against
me!" Queen Darjiling screamed, tearing bodies apart. The yellow glow of her fur was
dimmed by bloodstains, but she was undoubtedly one of the Superferals.

Nori felt a second chi power, just as strong, just a bit behind Queen Darjiling. The
second chi was enormous, dark, cloudy, ominous: King Kheer.

"Everyone, run. Chapati, give me your sack, I'll run with it," Mulligatawny hissed,
appearing in lupine form in the archway from outside. The lean black jackal-woman
threw his sack over her back as she pushed people out of the house.

Queen Darjiling's chi was practically outside, but King Kheer's chi was approaching
from a parallel street. The madwoman literally ran through a row of houses nearby, so
fast that the Chutnians could flee neither the falling walls nor her talons. As they grew
closer, Nori stood in the center of the main room, turning left and right. One chi
power was rampaging beyond the window, while another was only slightly farther
away out the door.

"I smell you, Mulligatawny!" Darjiling screamed outside. "You and the old man!
YOU have it, don't you!?"

Before Nori could decide which opponent to face, the dilemma was solved for her.
Howling, Queen Darjiling lumbered up to the home and tore its south wall down with
her bare hands, and before her stood lupine Nori, poised to fight.

For the first time, Nori faced Queen Darjiling: a scrawny farce of a lupine creature.
Her fur was matted and unwashed, and the smell of blood lingered around her. Her
armor and robes, smelling of oily sweat, were disheveled as if slept upon, and her
shoulders hunched forward. Wide eyes stared at nothing, and her asymmetrical aura
covered everything in yellow light.

"Stop it!" Nori beyed. "You have no right! Leave them alone!"

Queen Darjiling laughed, the high, uneven laugh that only the mad make.

"Oh, this little lady will stop me? IDIOT! YOU'RE NOTHING BUT A LITTLE
WHORE! YOUR CHI'S AN ILLUSION! I'M THE ONLY ONE HERE WHO CAN
FIGHT!"

"Spare me the name-calling! Leave these people alone!"

Without a clear reason, Darjiling shifted into humanoid form, and her matted hair
faded to black. Nori sucked in breath and stepped back.

That woman...looks like me...how...?
269

"What have they done to me?" Darjiling whimpered. "They never wanted me to have
any power. They're all lying about me. They sent snakes into the palace to bite me..."
Darjiling began to weep oily tears, and her head sank low. Suddenly, her head flew up
again.

"THAT'S WHY THEY DESERVE TO DIE!" she raged. "ALL OF YOU! I'M
STRONG! ONLY THE STRONG DESERVE TO LIVE!"

She's stark raving mad! Nori realized.

"The sphere! I smelled Mulligatawny and the old man! They're here!" Darjiling
howled. "MOOOOVE!"

As Mulligatawnt and her rebels slid out the door, dozens of green-clad soldiers fell
upon them. Soon, the streets echoed with fighting as claws whipped through the air.
Celeria charged into the melee, breaking soldiers' bones, cracking armor, while
hovering close to the weaker Ghee.

"Chapati!" Celeria hissed, throwing soldiers like dolls. "Tell everyone to run. I can
take them on myself."

"She says to run. She'll take on the soldiers," he said to Mulligatawny.

King Kheer was close, merely feet away in the melee, and Mulligatawny felt it.
Motioning to the Ghee, she fought her way through the mob of teeth and hair, until
she heard a grunt behind her.

"Put me down. Now."

Lassi the Oracle grunted as slender hands lifted her by the shoulders.

"Be still!" King Kheer muttered, standing amidst unconscious soldiers. "And
Mulligatawny! Hello to you too."

All turned and saw King Kheer, holding the Oracle close. Celeria looked him up and
down: a tall, lean jackal-man, with long hair and a long beard, clad in green armor and
robes. His fur glowed gold, shining like sunlight.

"Mulligatawny!" he began, "I'd like to make a proposal, for our mutual benefit."

"What benefit!?"

"I'll benefit from the Gateway Sphere, and your friend here will benefit with her life."

"Don't be ridiculous. Someone tell Celeria to take him down!"

"Cuuuruurrrria. It ish Kiirrrrng Kiiirrr! TooOok huum doown," Jasmati gargled.

27u
Celeria gathered chi, but Kheer tightly held the Oracle before him. "Tell the monkey
that if she attacks, she risks the Oracle's safety. Does she understand?"

Celeria saw the human shield and bared her teeth. A chi-blast would injure or kill the
Oracle along with King Kheer, but if she tried an up-close attack, he might injure the
old woman. Twitching, she cooled her chi-blast.

"Ignore him. He's bluffing," the Oracle interrupted.

"Silence," King Kheer whispered.

"He's bluffing. Attack him."

"Enough!"

"You feel Celeria's chi. You're afraid. He's bluffing, everyone!"

"ENOUGH!"

Celeria heard barking between the Oracle and King Kheer, but no one translated. The
monarch still swung the old woman back and forth like a shield, and a safe attack was
impossible.

"Stop this!" Mulligatawny shouted. "Fight with honor. Taking a hostage is dirty
fighting."

It's real politik, I'm afraid. I tire of finding and losing the sphere, and I'm determined
to do what I have to in order to secure it. I see it in the bag. Just give it to me."

"No. No more conquests."

"I've tasted power. I intend to have more. There are lands and races full of blood
beyond the wormhole. I'd be a fool to pass this up."

"You're already Superferal. Enough!"

"Give me the sphere."

"No."

King Kheer's claws crept closer to the Oracle's throat. "Please don't make this
difficult."

"He's bluffing," the old woman said again.

I'd rather die than hand this over," Mulligatawny hissed.

"Please. If you fight me, you'll die. Then everyone else will die, and I'll still have the
sphere."

271
"Then why haven't you killed us?"

"Maybe it's what little familial affection's left in me. I'll give you a chance to live."

His talons tightened around the Oracle's throat.

"I'll say this once more," he said gravely. "The sphere, please. I know how much
Sarama's mouthpiece means to you."

Mulligatawny's eyes darted over the scene: over Kheer, over the Oracle, over Celeria
and the others. Twitching her tail, knotting her brow, she wrung her hands.

"Don't do it," the Oracle said calmly.

"Don't..." the others thought.

If I could get the old woman out of the way, Celeria thought, without me or Kheer
hurting her...

Inside the marble house, Mulligatawny felt two chi powers fight and tangle: Nori and
Darjiling. One chi was plummeting, while another was gushing like a shattered dyke,
while both women howled.

Oh Sarama, Mulligatawny thought, please let that be Nori getting the upper hand! I
can't tell! Nori, get out here! But if that isn't Nori...then Darjiling will be here
soon...no...

Baring her teeth, Mulligatawny threw off the backpack and threw it at King Kheer.

"Are you insane!?" Jasmati barked.

"Here!" Mulligatawny cried. "Just let her go and get out!"

The bag flew through the air, silently, and King Kheer's gold-furred hand caught the
handle. With the Gateway Sphere in one hand, and the scruff of the Oracle's neck in
the other, the monarch burst away, running almost instantaneously through the city.
And yet...the high chi of Celeria, and the chi he felt inside the house lingered in his
mind. Both could be troublesome, yes, but the king decided upon a plan.

"I've got special plans for you," he said to the Oracle. "Noble ends, I assure you."

"Don't flatter yourself," the old woman said, seemingly bored. "Sarama's plan will see
through. You don't have much time."

"Sarama herself will bow before me someday. Your goddess is dead. But not my
gods."

"Just keep telling yourself that."

Back in the cobblestone streets, the band was screaming.
272

"BRING HER BACK!" Mulligatawnt beyed. "LIAR!"

"How could you!?" Dal whined.

Celeria shook. "No...that's my way home...COME BACK HERE!"

The madwoman swung at Nori and missed, taking out a chunk of wall instead. As she
dodged the blow, she saw for only a moment Darjiling's hands, Darjiling's palms - and
the alpha tattooes written there. Nori threw herself at the madwoman, sinking her
teeth deep in her opponent's shoulder. A red chi-blast to the madwoman's ribs threw
her to the ground, and there Nori pummelled her face.

"You're not touching that sphere! It's not yours!" Nori growled.

The madwoman scratched Nori's face, and again the tattooes showed themselves, just
before the madwoman shifted back to lupine form and went gold. Throwing Nori off,
Queen Darjiling punched her stomach, and she doubled over, coughing, only to be
thrown back by Darjiling's uppercut. On her back, Nori threw her hands up and
warmed a chi-blast, but when Darjiling saw the young woman's palms, she gasped.
The madwoman's shock bought Nori an extra moment, enough for the chi-blast to
singe Darjiling's face.

"BITCH!" Darjiling screamed. "BITCH! It's YOU! They never killed you!"

"I know all about you! You wanted me dead when I was a baby!"

"Your HANDS! Royal tattooes! IDIOT! Look at your hands! I should have cut you
out of my stomach! You should have never been born!"

"What?"

"All you've ever caused me is PAIN! I should have cut you out of my womb! The
Ghee wanted it this way. THEY WANTED ME DEAD! ALL OF THEM! THEY
LET YOU LIVE!"

A cold desperation chilled Nori's stomach. "...What?..."

No...it can't be...this filthy lunatic...the same tattooes...why she looks like me...and no
one ever told me...

Queen Darjiling screamed and fell upon Nori, digging talons into her flesh. With
another chi-blast, Nori sent her flying backwards, skin seared.

She's crazy. None of her attacks make any sense. She shifts form without any rhyme or
reason. Well, that's an edge for me!

Nori found that she made the most headway with a cool mind, and Queen Darjiling
soon lost ground with her chaotic battle antics. When her opponent left herself open
27S
or lost control in rage, Nori was there with another punch or kick. And yet for all her
madness, Queen Darjiling stood.

"All they ever do is make me suffer!" the madwoman whined, curling up on the
ground. "King Kheer, the Ghee, the peasants, and now my daughter...they all want me
dead."

"Get up! Fight or leave! You won't get any pity from me!"

"I suffer, and suffer, and suffer!" she wept, sliding back into humanoid form. "I keep
the empire alive, and I suffer!" Darjiling bared her teeth, and as she forcefully sucked
in breath, Nori braced herself.

Suddenly, it was all clear. Queen Darjiling was mad. Mahisha was mad with pride.
Freeze was mad with power. The Tsufur armies were mad with self-righteousness.
Life was full of madness. Life was as mad as Queen Darjiling, first peaceful, then
bloodthirsty. Life had been absurd and brutal and filthy like the madwoman at her
feet. All of a sudden, Nori saw before her the epitome of life's madness, this woman
at whose hands entire races had suffered and died. Life could not be reasoned with,
and neither could this madwoman. While Darjiling was sulking, Nori raised her palms
and gathered chi.

Before she flies into another rage...before she goes Superferal again...strike! Now!

"For everyone you hurt," Nori said.

Then, a red rush of light and heat.

Nori bellowed as the chi flew out of her in a red river, as every nerve burned with the
explosion of energy. What was left of the house shook as she poured chi and more chi
into Darjiling, who wailed as the chi tore through her skin. Energy burned Nori's
palms, and raging, she shot chi until her body could give no more.

When the light dimmed, Nori fell to her knees, panting. The attack had worked:
Queen Darjiling was flat on the floor, her chi plummeting.

"I'm the strong one here...you're weak," she threatened Nori in a wavering voice.

"Just go. I'm tired of fighting you. Go away. Leave your people alone." Nori turned
and started to walk away. The other chi power was close by, and she followed it with
her mind. Meanwhile, Darjiling slowly rose, bleeding.

"Weakling," she muttered, grabbing a shard of broken marble. Wobbling, she limped
toward her daughter and raised the pointed edge.

"I can take blood from the weaklings and start all over again," she muttered, and
swung down.

But the shard never met flesh, for Nori had dodged almost instantaneously. With a
final punch, Nori sent Queen Darjiling to the floor again, and the madwoman stirred
274
no more.

Nori felt dark and heavy. "I spared you once. But not twice. Not so you can kill
again."

She felt Darjiling's spirit hover near her, shoot pain through her ribs, then disappear
like a fading smell. Looking back at the felled queen, at the tattooed hands, Nori
squinted. My husband was a monster. My son was a monster. And even my parents.
Why a family full of monsters?

Running outside, Nori felt the chi power running away, with Celeria in hot pursuit.

"COME BACK!" Celeria cried. "THAT'S MY WAY HOME!"

Over bodies of unconscious soldiers, Chapati, Jasmati, Mulligatawny, and Dal were
running after her. Nori caught up to Jasmati and grabbed her arm.

"What? It's gone, isn't it?"

"King Kheer has the Oracle! He has the Gateway Sphere!" Jasmati beyed.

With a grunt, Nori shot off through the streets, flying toward the chi of King Kheer.

"KHEER!"

A blood-red sun sank overhead, and the caved-in houses jutted out like white teeth
against a crimson sky. Destiny, it seemed, was already swallowing her life as she flew
closer to the dark chi.



















27S
Chapter Twenty-One
Threshold

For years, King Kheer has studied the tomes of ancient Chutnian necromancers,
seeking rituals that would win more favors from his spirits. Hungry for a ritual that
would kill Queen Darjiling, he stumbled upon the Rite of Rending, requiring the
blood of a diva's oracles. Centuries before, necromancers fought the Ghee and
kidnapped many successive Oracles for this rite, which the Ghee took as blasphemy
against Sarama. With the monkey woman and the second chi power close behind, he
decided that Darjiling would have to wait.

Kheer bounded up stairs, through jade halls, barking orders to soldiers as he passed.
Finally, he came upon the double doors of the altar room, and a long-faced guard
parted them open. Inside, the blood pool was quivering with new blood, blood drained
from another purge of the empire's subjects. Throwing the Oracle in one corner and
the sphere in another, Kheer then peeled off his clothing, circling the altar with prying
eyes. Blood glyphs, candles, tears - all were in place.

The Oracle merely rose, dusted off her clothes, and casually headed for the doors. In
the blink of an eye, King Kheer was standing before her, growling.

"Stay put! I have plans for you!"

"They'll amount to nothing. I keep telling you--"

Kheer grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and dropped her on top of the altar.

"Be still! I will not be trifled with!"

"Neither is Sa--"

Kheer held his hand over her mouth.

"You are NEVER to use that name in here! Be silent!"

He lifted his hand from her face, and she snorted.

"You're afraid," she said. "Deep down, you know your power's an illusion."

"ENOUGH!"

Several times more, the Oracle quietly rose and walked toward the exit, only to have a
flustered King Kheer seize her again and plop her on the altar. Through it all, he
found only boredom in her face.

"It'll all be futile," she warned. "She's here."

276
"ENOUGH! Darjiling won't stop me!"

"I'm not talking about your queen."

The monkey? Never!"

"Not her either. She's here."

"Who?"

"Remember the baby girl? Years ago?"

King Kheer growled and bared his teeth. "She's dead! Be silent!"

"No she isn't. She's here."

"Liar!"

"Wait for your daughter, Kheer! She's coming!"

King Kheer snorted, clenching his jaw. Unclothed, he bowed to the altar and knelt
with outstretched arms.

"Great Masters, you who reward the strong and punish the weak, look well upon my
offering. You who honor the honest who look with unblinking eyes upon their true
desires, you who break the bonds holding back ambition, look well upon my offering.
You who honor those who honor the self, look well upon my offering."

Low moans filled the air as spirits whisked by.

Disgusting, the Oracle thought. I felt them all over the palace. Vile spirits.

"Sarama frowns on you all," she said calmly.

At the diva's name, the spirits howled and fled from the altar. The Oracle slowly rose,
as if getting out of bed, and walked again toward the door. This time, a blow sent her
reeling, and she collapsed, unconscious. King Kheer lifted her from the floor, when
screams rang in his ears.

YoU knOw wE dEsPiSe tHAt nAMe! hOw dAre YoU aLLoW iT!

"I beg your forgiveness. I have silenced her. She will not say that name again."

After placing the unconscious Oracle on the altar, Kheer repeated the opening ritual,
and the unclean spirits moaned again. With a swipe of his claws, he tore open the
Oracle's throat, and blood ran over the altar's edge.

"Great Masters! You spoke of sacrifice to the ancients! I read of it well in their tomes!
The blood of living beings is sweet to you, but the blood of the goddess' mouthpiece
is sweeter! Look well upon my offering!"
277

THe bLOod oF an OrAcLe iS sWEeTeR, YeS! wE dELighT iN tHiS bLOod!

"I ask for the defeat of an enemy. Look well upon my offering."

oNe eNeMY, aND oNe ALoNe. sPEaK nOW.

"Tear life from the woman with the monkey tail, the one my sister called Celeria.
Give me victory over this enemy, Great Masters!"

The spirits howled and filled the chamber with hot wind. Rippling the air, a cluster of
demons spurted out of the room.

Nori and Celeria flew through the streets of Tarkadal, through the gates of the jade
palace, through the gold doors to the foyer. Soldiers saw the outline of a humanoid
woman and a lupine-form woman streaking through the halls, and attacked with claws
and teeth. All were thrown to the floor, unconscious.

A second wave of guards poured from an archway, and both women warmed chi-
blasts in their hands. The foyer filled with light, and the lupine-form soldiers squinted.

Nori showed them the tattoo on her left palm, and heated chi in her right.

"One of these ought to mean something to you."

Either the unconscious guards, the royal tattoo, or the hot chi made the soldiers yelp,
and they fled down another hall.

"I feel him. He's a few stories up," Nori said, pulling Celeria toward the stairs.

The two women tramped up gold and green jade stairs, which spiraled into a pagoda
tower. Nori felt a thick, sooty presence waft through the palace like smoke, and
shuddered.

"I hate it here already," she muttered. "It's teaming with unclean spirits. Everywhere."

Suddenly, Celeria saw the jade walls and stairs blur, and a pain stabbed deep into her
entrails. Holding her stomach, Celeria fell to her knees, coughing.

"What's wrong!?" Nori shouted, kneeling beside her. "What is it?"

The stairway echoed with moans, and Nori felt vile spirits spiral around Celeria.

wE hAVe cOMe foR tHE oNE caLLeD cELeRia! said a voice. No. Not a voice.
Thousands of voices speaking as one, voices like insect wings, like termites sizzling
in fire.

Invisible claws scratched Celeria's face and arms, and a second pain tore through her
back. Hot wind billowed through the pagoda, blowing Nori's hair in her face.
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"Leave! Leave her alone!" Nori screamed back. But Celeria was still doubled over,
coughing, covered with scratches. Frantic, Nori cursed the spirits, fired chi at the
walls, tried to shield Celeria from the scratches, without success. Amidst the swirling
spirit energy, she felt Celeria's chi slowly trickle away like drops of water.

"...Nori..." Celeria gasped, lifting her head.

"What do I do!?" she cried back.

Celeria's chi fell lower and lower.

"Please!" Nori cried. "You've got to fight them!"

Celeria's eyelids grew heavy.

"Please," Nori cried, holding her friend. "Hang on. Fight them. Please!"

Celeria's body went limp, and her chi sank low. Just as Nori began to weep, thunder
shook the jade walls, and Celeria threw her head up, cackling.

"YEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HAAAAAAAAAAAW!"

Celeria's chi soared, and the spirits screamed. Celeria-come-Indra stood up and
belched.

"Now y'all git! Y'hear me!?
Mah nammiz Indra, and ah don't take
too kindly t'heathen devils like yuhselves
tormentin mah monkey muffin!
Go on! Git! Tell em Indra sent ya!"

At the sound of the diva's name, the spirits zipped through the air, wailing, and then
dispersed.

Nori wiped a tear from her face. "Indra...thank you." When Nori reached for Celeria-
come-Indra's hand, he withdrew it into the sari.

"Not t'be rude an all,
but this ain't the place for mah girl.
Sarama an ah talked 'bout this.
Ah'm a takin Celeria's mort'l coil
out derr, cause thissus yer destiny,
not hers, y'understand?"

Nori growled. "Please. Let Celeria make this choice for herself."

Celeria-come-Indra snorted and got in Nori's face.

"Now don't you be tellin me
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bout what ah can't be doin!
This ain't her fight, that's all
ah'm sayin. An ah'm a takin her outta
this here ree-fained establishment.
Bye now!"

"Indra! Bring her back! Indra!"

Celeria-come-Indra was already running down the spiral stairs.

Mahisha felt bubbles rise all around him. The oxygen mask smelled faintly like
petroleum, and he sucked the odor in as he labored to breathe. Hot pain still throbbed
in his legs, and loose teeth tingled in his mouth, and he swallowed the blood.
Submerged in the rejuvenation tank on Freeza's ship, he floated in blue liquid, aching.

Mahisha opened his eyes, and outside the glass dome, he saw two technicians tapping
buttons on the control module.

"Just a few more hours, sir," said a fish-faced doctor.

High chi pulsed outside the door, and Mahisha lifted his head. The gray door slid
open, and Freeza stormed in, flanked by Zarbon and Dodoria.

"There he is. Drain the tank," Freeza demanded.

"But sir, Lord Mahisha won't be healed for a few more hours," said the fish-faced
doctor. A moment later, the doctor disintegrated in a flash of chi.

"Drain the tank!" Freeza repeated, and the second technician obeyed, pounding
buttons with a bead of sweat on his brow.

The fluid turned rose, and a sucking sound filled the dome. When the fluid drained,
Mahisha plopped on the tank floor, wobbling on legs still unhealed. The glass dome
rose with a hum, and he looked with tired eyes at Freeza.

"You've disappointed me!" Freeza shouted. "I expected more from a Vedese! You let
a monkey woman do this to you?"

Mahisha shook off the oxygen mask. "She was stronger. I don't know how."

"You disgust me. What use are you?"

"Lord Freeza...wait...I found something wonderful down there...a wormho--
AAAIIIHHH!"

Mahisha flew into pieces as Freeza's chi-blast struck his chest.

Outside, the palace gates swung open in the wind, creaking, as more and more people
flooded the courtyard. Chapati, now in his coyote lupine form, craned his neck up,
following the chi trails that wound through the pagodas.
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"Let me help them," shouted Jasmati, turning to the palace doors.

Chapati's fingers wrapped around her bicep. "Bwa! Always eager! Stay here. Nori and
Celeria can handle this," he said.

"I ought to fight. I ought to help--"

"Help then, down here. Watch for guards," he explained, and this excuse seemed to
satisfy her.

A second set of double doors burst open from the side of the palace, and
Mulligatawny and Dal trotted out, with about a hundred weary Chutnians behind
them.

"Found them in the dungeons," Mulligatawny said.

"It's practically deserted. They chased the guards out, it looks like," Dal added.

Barks echoed inside the palace, and out of the main doors came dozens of royal
guards, racing for the gates. Mulligatawny and Jasmati braced themselves, when the
guards suddenly stripped off their armor and threw it to the ground.

"Okay! That's it! I officially quit, thank you very much!" bayed a gray-furred captain
on the verge of tears.

The crowd growled, but he raised his hands submissively, ears folded back.

"Take it easy! I am NOT going back there ever again! Not me! Two women stormed
the place. One of them killed Darjiling BY HERSELF. I quit. That's that."

The captain ran for the gates when Mulligatawny and Jasmati grabbed him by each
arm.

"Not so fast," growled Mulligatawny. "Stay a bit."

"Why? I'm not hanging around for when THEY come out!"

"The hell you aren't!" Jasmati growled, grabbing him by the back of the head. "You
served when the going was good. You made people suffer when Kheer ran the show.
Now watch!" she howled, pulling his head back so that his eyes faced the pagoda.
"Watch it all collapse!"

City men seized the other guards and taunted them as the pagoda shook. Shouts of
"Hey, I know you!" and "Weren't you the one who killed _____?" filled the courtyard,
and something vicious stirred the air. Dal fidgeted as the yard became uncomfortably
warm.

"Enough," Dal shouted. "Enough. Listen to me. Don't turn into a kangaroo court.
Wait."
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The crowd turned to Dal, and uneasy grunts rippled through the mob. Dal looked at
their faces, then at the pagoda, then at Chapati, and did what she did best.

A low, smooth hum began. The sound rose from Dal's throat, and became a song, an
impromptu song to calm the crowds.

"The horizon fades to bluish-black
and a full moon smiles on us tonight.
In the cool evening breeze, we wait, we wait,
we wait for the sun to rise again.
And the sun will never burn red again, no,
blood-red suns will never bleed again.
Skies will be cool again, no blood rain.
Fresh rain will bathe the land,
and skies will be clear from now on."

The crowd's tension eased as Dal sang through the evening. The sky was now bluish-
black, and the full moon rose over the horizon, casting its silver light over the masses.

Chapati whined. "Please succeed."

Freeza fumed. "Interruptions. All day, nothing but interruptions."

Sitting back in his hover pod, he sipped his Cabernet Sauvignon. At last, good wine.
Robust, dry, but not bitter, the kind his father taught him to apprec--

"Lord Freeza, King Vegeta has arrived outside the ship with a squadron of his men,
demanding an audience with you," Zarbon said, having entered the room and bowed.
Monkeys again! All I ask for is time to savor my wine! But no! Freeza's stomach
growled as he took another sip. Bland. Minor aggravations always interfered with
wine tasting, esp--

"Lord Freeza?" Zarbon repeated.

"My hearing was fine the last time I checked it!" Freeza snapped. To hell with it.
Wine tasting would have to wait. Low-brows like Zarbon and King Vegeta could
never appreciate an '88 Cab.

"King Vegeta wants an audience with me," Freeza began, "and that's exactly what he's
going to get! Open the door!"

Zarbon tapped a few buttons on a wall console, and soon, Saiyans were tramping
through the ship.

Meanwhile, Silva's adrenaline rose like mercury. So far, the masquerade had worked:
Saiyans were revolting, she was finally aboard the ship, and elites were dying
everywhere in King Vegeta's name. Planet trade soldiers ran at her from all directions,
and she made quick work of them with punches and kicks. The feeling of knuckles on
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bone, of chi fire, stirred in her hunger for steel-cold revenge, revenge close at hand.

Still, she coldly reflected on her new form. As King Vegeta, she was taller, burlier,
and far more intimidating--but where was the man's common sense? Who would run
into battle trailing a six-foot cape, which any soldier could just grab as a chea--

"OOF!"

She stumbled forward as soldiers latched onto her cape. More seized her hair and
armor, and she found herself drowning in a sea of arms and legs. With a deep breath,
she burst up, pumping chi into her hand. Swiping, howling, Silva-as-King Vegeta
fired a ray of chi at the soldiers, who evaporated on contact.

Before her was a door. The door.

"Freeza!" she shouted in a man's voice. "We have some business!"

Terror, hot as molten metal, stuck in her throat as the elites trailed behind her. Only
death waited now. At best, she could hope for a quick, painless death at Freeza's
hands, but what if his mood turned sadistic? Suddenly, Silva's stomach tightened, and
an acidic taste filled her mouth.

Today I die, she understood. Her blood felt molten as it coursed through her temples.
But not for nothing. I will weaken him. Nori and Celeria will defeat him, then. Nippy's
dream will be realized.

The door flew open, and standing inside the chamber, flanked by Zarbon and
Dodoria, was Freeza. At first, Silva wanted only to run, run back through the ship and
find a place to hide. No. No more hiding. Alloy-sei had to be avenged. Queen Nippy's
dream had to be realized. Silva closed her eyes and ran into the chamber.

"It's over Freeza!" she bellowed in the king's voice. "We've come to put an end to
your reign of terror!" Did the words sound convincing? She couldn't tell, opening her
eyes anew to glare at Freeza.

I face him now. But I feel sick. I will die. I do not want to die.
Suddenly, Silva's metallic blood went cold.

What am I doing here? I cannot weaken him!

"You and who else?" Freeza hissed. "The others are so petrified they're blue in the
face!"

It was true. Silva-as-King Vegeta looked over her shoulder, only to find herself alone
with Freeza and his henchmen. The elites stood just outside the room, blushing, lips
limp with fear as they stared at Freeza.

Silva felt ill. I will die here. I will fight him and die. With no help.

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"Fools!" she shouted, lunging at Freeza.

She swung at Freeza's head, but her first struck empty air, as Freeza had reappeared
just a few inches to the left. A cold panic froze her entrails, and she suddenly forgot
the basics of combat, looking Freeza in the eye.

What am I doing?

Fear's forgetfulness robbed her of years of training, and terrified, Silva-as-King
Vegeta struck blindly. Freeza dodged, holding his hands behind his back as his
opponent overextended punches, kicked wildly, lost balance.

Then, Freeza smile grew. Silva-as-King Vegeta froze when she saw the punch
coming.

It happens now.

CRACK.

The uppercut snapped her head back, and she heard bones crunch. Silva-as-King
Vegeta flew across the room, neck bent backwards. When the Saiyans saw their king
fall to the floor, they cringed.

"The King!"

For Silva-as-King Vegeta, the rest was numbness. Floating in a black limbo, she
faintly heard Freeza mutter something about 'going where he is,' followed by the cries
of elites. When the chi-blast swept over them, Silva felt a great pain inside.

Nippy...I failed you...

Then nothing.

Vile spirits swirled everywhere, and their presence made Nori feel filthy. Amidst the
spirit energy, she honed in on the chi of King Kheer and the Oracle, but suddenly, the
smaller chi plummeted.

"I feel chi sinking. It's the Oracle's chi. It has to be. I'm too late!"

At the top of the spiral staircase was a corridor, lined with jade and adorned with
many doors. Guards stood at attention, and attacked when Nori ran through. All the
aggressors were flung across the hall, and those not fighting were scampering down
the stairs, baying.

"I quit!" they shouted.

At the end of the hall stood double doors, behind which she could feel King Kheer,
enveloped in a tempest of vile energy. Pulling one door open, she stood at the
threshold of the room, and gasped. Before her stood an altar on which candles, a
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bowl, and the body of the Oracle sat. A gash gaped in the old woman's throat, and her
blood made a soft tink-tink-tink sound as it dripped off the altar. King Kheer stopped
circling the altar and stood in place, growling.

"You killed her," Nori said. "You killed her! What threat was she to you!?"

"Evidently you don't understand," King Kheer replied. "I put her to a noble purpose."

"You murdered her. An old woman. Why!?"

"A bribe to my gods. You saw what they did to the monkey."

"You sent those demons?"

"Now you know their power."

"Celeria's fine. Her god chased away your demons. I'm not impressed."

Nori strode into the room, where she saw that Kheer was nude before the altar. In
lupine form he was, lean and fit, with long black hair and a long beard the same color
as his fur. Unclean sounds filled the air, insect noises forming words.

cOnTiNUe tHE RiTUal! hAVe yOU StOppEd tO MoCK uS, KhEEr?

Nori growled. "You killed an innocent woman for THEM?"

Kheer twitched his tail and began to circle again. Behind him was a long pool,
perhaps a swimming pool at one time, but now filled with trembling blood that stank
up the chamber. The Gateway Sphere sat in a corner, next to a smaller spa of
steaming water.

"Excuse me," he said, "but I have a second ritual to perform."

Kheer hadn't taken two steps when Nori appeared before him, braced for battle.

"Murderer...I know about you. I know about your atrocities."

"And I know about you. I felt your chi in the city with my queen."

"She's dead."

Instead of shock, as Nori would have expected, Kheer's face relaxed. "Well! A young
lady who could kill Darjiling is certainly worth my respect--"

"Spare me!"

King Kheer tried to walk past Nori, but she pushed him back, scowling.
cOnTiNUe tHE RiTUal! dARe yOU mOCk uS WiTH yOUr iDLe tALk!? wE ARe nOt
iNVokED iN VAiN! the voices howled, and something invisible tore a gash on Kheer's
28S
chest. Kheer cringed and clenched his fists.

"Who are you? What exactly do you want?" he growled.

"My name is Nori. I want the Gateway Sphere. And I'm here to end your bloodshed."

"I would be more than happy to negotiate. Merely let me finish my worship and bathe
over there. Can't a king pray before battle?"

"No."

During their exchange, Kheer felt Nori's chi, magnificent chi filling her being. If only
such blood could be added to the pool...then, when he bathed...
"Alas," he muttered, and punched her. Nori's face stung from the blow, and she struck
back, catching his chin with an uppercut. King Kheer fell on his back, snarling, and
when he looked up, Nori was holding her padded palm out, warming chi.

"Your hand. The tattoo," he whispered. "It's true? You're--"

"--your daughter." Nori breathed a heavy sigh and clenched her jaw. The chi-ball
grew.

"Nori, Nori...you wouldn't harm your own father, now?" King Kheer thought of the
blood, hot, full of life, just beneath that young skin. He reached for her. "Had I only
known! Come here. Let your father get a better look at--"

Nori's chi-blast ripped through the air, and Kheer blocked it with his hands.

"What kind of father sends his daughter to die!? What kind of father kills his
daughter's friends!?" she cried.

wE WiLL nOT ReMiND yOU AgAin! dARe yOU mOCk us? CoMpLEtE tHE riTUaL!
Another gash appeared on King Kheer's cheek.

No more stalling. No more of this nonsense. I want that blood. Kheer stood up, arched
his throat, and howled. In an instant, hi fur glowed gold. Light from his fur lit the
surface of the blood pool and shined on the walls, and as a Superferal, Kheer fell upon
her. Nori snarled, punching, clawing, howling at the Superferal.

"I will have blood. Yours and theirs," he swore, swiping at her throat.

The throat is all I need, he thought. Her life and blood will be mine. All I need is a
throat gash!

Nori held her chin to her chest, hiding her throat as she swiped back. "That's why you
want the sphere, isn't it? All their blood..." She remembered Darjiling's last words
about taking blood and starting all over again. Blood was the key to their strength.

Through the dodging, the punching, the howls of the spirits, it occurred to Nori that
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Kheer must never penetrate the wormhole, ever. Freeza was destructive enough, but a
tyrant who grew stronger with every murder would torment both sides of the
wormhole to no end. Suddenly, Nori felt new rage coursing through her veins.

None of it makes any sense, she thought, reflecting on King Kheer and every other
tyrant in her life. They all murder. They all delight in bloodshed. Innocent blood.
Why? Why do they love suffering? What pleasure does it give them? Why did my
loved ones have to die? Murderers!

The body of the Oracle was still on the altar, and she could not stop stealing glances
at it.

"Why did you kill her!? Why do you kill!?"

Kheer swung again. "Real politics! The weak serve the strong!" He blocked a punch
from Nori. "That's the way life is. Only the strong prevail! The weak fall!"

"My friends were the 'weak'!"

Nori saw in King Kheer's eyes the same eyes that she had seen in Freeza, Mahisha,
and King Vegeta. King Kheer, for all his excuses, was no different from Freeza.

She didn't know quite when it happened, but somewhere in the midst of these
thoughts, her skin began to tingle, and her breathing grew faster and faster. When she
struck Kheer again, the hand that bruised his jaw was covered with gold fur, and new
fire filled her being.

Kheer grew frenzied, swiping and biting at her throat without success. Backing away,
Nori scarfed up the bowl full of tears and threw it at him, full speed. The bowl struck
him in the eye, and fluid ran out of the socket as he bayed.

tHE ALtAr iS nOt tO bE DeFiLeD! tHE RiTuAL iSnoT tO bE DiSTurBeD! fOoLs!

Rips appeared on his skin, one after the other as Kheer howled. Making geometric
patterns in the air did nothing to dismiss the spirits.

yOu wRoNGeD uS OnCe bEfoRe, wHeN tHe oLD MaN wAs hERe! nO MoRe!

Spirits swarmed around King Kheer and Nori, tearing at their fur and flesh. Kheer
became a bloody mess of fur and blood, and fell to his knees, screaming. Nori,
meanwhile, growled as her tail bristled, as the demons scratched and bit at her.

"You fled when you heard Indra's name!" she bayed. "Then hear this! I call upon
Indra! I call upon Sarama! You're nothing before them!"

The spirits screamed and zipped away, now devoting all their rage to King Kheer.
Unseen hands ripped away handfuls of flesh until he lied in tatters, and when his fur
turned black again, the spirits left.

"Go! Get away! I call upon Indra! I call upon Sarama! Get out of here!" Nori
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screamed, until the spirits departed.

Kheer, lying in a puddle of blood, twitched as he slid back into humanoid form. For
the first time, Nori saw his humanoid face: lean, bearded, chiseled, perhaps handsome
before the bruises.

"Why...do you...obey?" he asked.

"Obey?"

"Sarama. The gods don't...care about...us. We're...their toys." Kheer groaned,
twitching. "You take...what you...can get. That's why...I...the demons..." Kheer's chi
dropped to nothing, and he fell silent.

Nori grabbed the Gateway Sphere but stopped at the altar, where she brushed the dead
Oracle's cheek. Then, with a chi-blast, she disintegrated the body and the altar.

"Rest in peace."
Nori closed her eyes, whispering a prayer for her departed spirit and all those who
died for the blood pool that night. Another chi-blast evaporated the blood, until
nothing but blackened flakes remained. Before she stepped out, she took one final
glance at King Kheer's corpse, and disintegrated it with a chi-blast as well. She could
see the resemblance between her face and his, saw that his skin was dark and smooth
like hers, but nothing warm stirred inside her.

With a sigh, Nori ran out the door.

"Celeria! We're going home!"

Freeza's day had been simply terrible, but maybe it could improve. The Cabernet
Sauvignon would be there later, but the opportunity before him wouldn't. The
monkeys were an eyesore from the start, but after their king's death, it would be all
the better to off them.

"I say we torch the whole barrel of monkeys!"

What better way to end the day than with fireworks, than a planet in flames, he
thought. Besides, this massacre would be good for planet trade discipline. Who in
their right minds would rebel after this? After the mishaps with Mahisha and the
Ginyu Force, Freeza decided that a laugh would do him good.

Bleeding, Bardock soared through the night, plowing through planet trade soldiers in
the blue-black sky. Swinging through heads and arms, he could faintly see Freeza's
ship in the upper atmosphere.

The visions burned in his brain, lingering since the conquest of Meat-sei: visions of
the baby shipped off from the Ishrel infirmary. Ishrel wasn't even aware of the
rebellion, and was peaceful enough for Kakarrot's departure, thank Indra.
288

But the band - Toma, Celipa, and all the others - was dead, a pile of bloody rags at
Dodoria's feet. Freeza's orders, he said. If so, then Freeza would naturally pay. Here.
Now.

Bardock's eyes grew heavy as he fought. The visions came and went of the little boy
growing into a man so much in his likeness, of the man standing against Freeza. His
eyes throbbed, and his head ached from the painful hallucinations. Kakarrot. Why
Kakarrot? It didn't matter. The boy was special. He knew that much.

The soldiers fell to the side, and all around him was a cloud of Saiyans and planet
trade defectors, braced to fight. Chi shimmered in the blue-black night, and the
hovering warriors were like stars, stars aflame.

"Come on!" he taunted.

"Where's King Vegeta?" a man shouted in the distance. "He should have come out by
now."

The royal dickhead's fighting as well? Old Vegeta-buru? Bardock thought. All the
better. Kick Freeza's ass, you hoity-toity son of a bitch. Make us proud.

Just then, Freeza rose out of the dome of his ship, facing Bardock with a smile.
Pointing his index finger toward the heavens, Freeza formed a sphere of chi glowing
orange like a tiny sun. The sphere swelled like ripening fruit, and a hot wind brushed
over Bardock as it grew larger and larger. When the sphere grew larger than the ship,
Bardock gulped, hearing Freeza's laughter in the distance. A ball of chi that size could
disintegrate Vegeta-sei in moments, and not even he could stop it.

Suddenly, a new fear swelled in Bardock, burning his entrails. Maybe Raditz was
down there. Celeria too. Why care? The minx left him years ago, and the boy was a
faggot; Indra knows where HE ran off to. But they might be down there, Bardock
realized. For some reason he couldn't name, fear froze his blood.

Then another hot wind struck his face, and his vision went white as the chi-ball roared
toward Vegeta-sei. Heat and light and pain all fused into one. Bardock felt himself
torn apart, cell by cell. Pain became everything, and burning pain was the last thing he
remembered feeling as he hurdled backwards.

Goodbye, Celeria. Goodbye, Raditz. Goodbye, Turles. And goodbye...

"...KAKARROT!"

Chi rent asunder plains and mountains, evaporated cities and Saiyans alike as it tore
through Vegeta-sei. Fire and light devoured the land, and all the screams of the dying
could not stop the agony. Vegeta-sei sizzle into vapors, and its long dying cry echoed
through space. Even the Gateway Sphere, tucked safely away in the Peah Hills
crevice, turned to vapors in that final ripple of chi.
Nori ran down the gold stairs, shouting.

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"Celeria! Come here! We're going home! Celeria!"

On the first floor, curled up beneath a green velvet curtain, was a sleeping Celeria.
Nori knelt beside the curtain, shaking her.

"Hmmmmph. Wha--WHOA!"

"Relax. It's me. Nori. It's fine."

"You look like him! Your fur..."

"I went Superferal. I can take on Freeza now. You're ready too. Get up."

"Is he..."

Nori sighed. "King Kheer is dead."

"How did I get here?"
"Indra possessed you."

Nori peeped out the main entrance, where night had fallen and thousands of
Chutnians crowded the courtyard. A sound hummed in the night: singing, crowds
singing, led by Dal's rich, raw voice.

"Through tears and blood,
through sweat and pain,
we will not fall, not one of us.
Hope will always bloom.
You cannot take that from us.
Hope never dies, not for one of us."

Chapati stood and swayed by the entrance, beaming, laughing to himself. Distracted
by the music, he seemed not to feel her chi nearby.

"Pssst! Chapati!"

Chapati turned and saw green eyes peeping through a cleave between the doors.
"What? Nori? NORI!"

"Ssssshhhh! Keep your voice down!"

"Sorry."

"Come in here. Quietly. Don't be conspicuous."

Chapati quietly walked away, and appeared in the palace foyer five minutes later.

"Side entrance. Few saw me," he chuckled.

29u
Celeria rubbed her eyes. "Chapati? Yes, it has to be you!"

"Yes! My lupine form. You like it, yes?"

"A little coyote man," Celeria remarked. "Why not?"

"Oh...your fur!" he cried, turning to Nori. "Your eyes! Superferal! Yes!" Chapati
laughed, stroking Nori's arms. "And Celeria! You're safe! You did it, yes?"

"King Kheer is dead. His own demons turned on him," Nori replied.

Chapati burst into laughter. "We're free, yes! No more massacres! Kheer and Darjiling
are no more! Oh...for Chutney-sei, I thank you. I thank you both. You'll be heroines!
There will be much celebrating in Tarkadal tonight! All for you!"

"Well, I don't think we'll be here to see it," Nori explained.

"Wait. Where is the Oracle?"

Nori's eyes fell. "Kheer killed her. I was too late."

Chapati's smile faded. "Dead?"

"I didn't get there in time. I'm...sorry..."

"Oh...Lassi..." he whispered. "My friend. Dead." He held Nori's hand. "Remember
her. Please."

"I will."

"Chutney-sei will remember you as heroines, and Lassi as a martyr. I swear that."

Nori squeezed his hand, stroking his shoulders for a long time.

"Please. I have to say this. Celeria and I can't waste any more time. We need to get
back to Vegeta-sei. It was a mess when we left."

"You're...going? Both of you?"

"We have to," Celeria confessed. "We made a promise. Before things get worse back
home, Freeza must go."

Nori touched Celeria's hand. "Are you ready?"

Celeria nodded.

"Chapati," Celeria began, "we'll be coming back, if we survive."

"Bah! You will live!" he coughed.

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"We'll be back. When I come back, it'll be for you."

Chapati threw his bony arms around his daughter's neck. "I wish you victory. And you
will come back to me. I know this. And I will wait for you."

"We've got a lot of catching up to do."

"Yes!"

"Oh...and tell Jasmati I'm sorry."

"Bah! She has already forgotten, I'm sure." Throwing his arms around Nori's neck,
Chapati squeezed. "Nori...all the years came together tonight. Chutney-sei will love
you."

"And I will always love Chutney-sei."

"You will come back, yes?"

Nori was quiet for a moment. If she survived a duel with Freeza, the days ahead
would be draining: burying the dead, rebuilding the Saiyan homelands, and daily
survival would tax her to the limits. But no matter what befell the Saiyans, she was
Chutnian now, and Chutney-sei was home as well.

"Of course I'll come back." She squeezed him tighter. "Thank you. For everything."

As the three of them wiped their wet eyes, Chapati patted the Gateway Sphere. "I will
guard this. I will keep it safe. So that you can return."

Celeria touched his hand. "See that you do...Father."

Chapati stepped back, a tear rolling down his cheek. Nori and Celeria held hands and
touched the Gateway Sphere, chanting in unison.

"Samosa...samosa...samosa...samosa..."

The sphere changed colors, and reality peeled around a white void. The two women
squeezed each other's hand, looked each other in the eye, and smiled.

Stepping into the wormhole, the two were engulfed in white emptiness, when
suddenly, the white flickered violently. Black, white, and orange smeared in
psychedelic patterns, and ear-splitting thunder shook the void.

"What's happening? What's happening!?" Celeria shouted, squeezing Nori's padded
hand even tighter. Then, a gust of electricity struck them in the chest, throwing them
backwards. In an instant, the two were on their backs, looking up at the ceiling of the
summer palace foyer.

Chapati whined, twitching his tail. "What is it!? What? What happened?"

292
"I don't know!" Nori cried. "The wormhole...it spit us out!"

Chapati's eyes flew open, and he grabbed the sphere, watching it closely. "No, no,
no..."

"No? No what?" Celeria cried.

"The wormhole probably closed. But this sphere is fine. Then only one thing could be
wrong. Something happened to the other sphere."

"WHAT!?"

"If one sphere is damaged, the wormhole cannot open! This one is fine! The other
one! On the other side! It must be cracked! Or destroyed! Oh, no, no, no..." Chapati
whined, batting his tail back and forth.

Celeria trembled. "What...does this mean? Can we go home?"

"Can you go home!? Can someone on the other side fix that sphere? Does anyone
there know what it is? No!"

Nori's ears twitched. "We can't go home?"

"No! Something happened to the other sphere!"

"What happened to it!?"

"I don't know! It is over there! On the other side!"

It's not true."

"Enough, Nori! Do you always deny every bit of bad news!? I cannot fix it! You
cannot go home!"

Nori began to shake, and a red-eyed Celeria was on the verge of tears. Just then,
shouting rose from the crowd outside, followed by silence. The double doors flew
open, and Jasmati walked in, if one could call it walking. Instead, Jasmati walked in
repetitive geometric patterns, weaving her way into the foyer as thousands of
Chutnians looked on from outside. Chapati gasped, for the geometric patterns were all
too familiar. Jasmati's chi was enormous but unearthly, while a strange glimmer
flashed in her eyes.

"No more congress between here and there.
A tyrant stained with blood, the tyrant Freeza,
tore land and sea apart, searing Plant-sei
with sky-fire. The Gateway Sphere there
is now vapors, a crossroads no more for the cosmos.
Saiyan blood and bones litters the expanse there,
for their father has taken their lives, indeed.
Indra decreed their time to transcend fleshy life.
29S
But seven live on, blessed with my blood.
One Saiyan, and six in whom Saiyan and werewolf
blood mix were spared the cataclysm, and live on.
Nappa, Celeria's firstborn, and Nori's young prince
race through the cosmos, unaware of the tragedy.
Celeria's two babes, one a child, one a newborn,
linger in space and grow with great vigor.
Celeria's brother and nephew, thus persecuted,
live on to persecute, so great will their strength be.
But never again shall they gaze upon Plant-sei."

Sarama spoke through Jasmati as she had spoken through Lassi, having chosen a new
Oracle.

"Celeria's youngest will be Saiyan in form,
but the gold hair and jade-green eyes
that lie latent in my children will bloom in him,
and because of my gift, Freeza will fall once.
The son of Nori's son will bear this great gift,
slaying Freeza again and no more, hair shining gold
in the sunlight of some distant day.
With the blood of Chutney-sei in their limbs,
power and glory smile upon them.
My blood runs through them, ignorant of it
though they will ever be, but I honor them with strength."

Jasmati jerked, and returned again to her old self.

"Uhn?"

Nori trembled violently.

"Nori? What...did she say?" Celeria whispered.

Nori burst into tears. "Sarama spoke through her. Freeza destroyed home! And the
sphere! Everyone's dead but our children!"

"Freeza? He..."

"Destroyed the planet! And the sphere with it! And the Saiyans!"

"...no..."

Nori tore at her long hair. "I...ugghh...no...we're never...going home...eeeiiiuuuhhh..."
she wept.

Celeria shook. "Nippy..."

Her eyes were blank, and she stared out the doors, past the crowds, at the black
Chutnian night. A full moon rose in the distance.
294

"Freeza...you bastard..."

The silver rays fell on Celeria's face, and she growled.

"Freeza...you..."

As Nori wept, Celeria's face and body grew hairy, and fangs sprouted from her gums
as she stared at the moon.

"FREEZA! DAMN YOU!!!!"

Celeria's body swelled, growing taller and hairier as each second passed. The seams
of her clothes ripped, and the crowd gasped as her sari fell.

"AAAIIIIIIGGGGGHHHHHH!" Celeria screamed as her eyes burned red, as her
head broke through the roof of the palace. Oozaru Celeria bellowed at the heavens,
beating her chest, when suddenly her fur began to undulate. Wind swirled around her,
and her fur shined gold as Super Saiyan Oozaru form was hers for a night.

"WE COULD HAVE!!!! WE COULD HAVE TAKEN YOU!!!!"

The Chutnian crowds looked on, gasping. Jasmati seemed confused, Nori wept,
Oozaru Celeria howled at the sky, and Chapati fidgeted.

No one save Chapati and Jasmati understood the women's Saiyan words.

Dal stuck her head in. "Why are they crying?"

No one answered.











29S
Epilogue
Queen Nori of Chutney-sei

Ah, you liked the story, yes? It moves me still, Nori's tale. We composed it not long
after that night, Nori, Celeria, the Ghee and myself. I think it is quite beautiful.

For thirty years, Queen Nori has ruled over Chutney-sei, and has proven much better
than her parents, thank Sarama! Yes, in the years after that night, she healed us,
healed the wounds that Kheer and Darjiling left on the galaxy. First, the palace had a
great exorcism to clear away the vile spirits, and Tarkadal was rebuilt that very
month. The Ghee were rebanded, and given our home back here on Gado Gado!
Prisoners were freed, taxes were lifted, planets were liberated - Nori is a wonderful
diplomat - and there is no more empire, only the alliance. Yes, Nori freed the slave
planets and helped them rebuild, and all stand together as a free galactic alliance. No
more empire. Peace now.

Oh! And the two palaces are great places of learning now! You must see them! No
blood pools or torture chambers, Nori would never allow that, no. Libraries.
Museums. The Chutnian Academy is based in Tarkadal, yes. Scholars from all over
the galaxy come there to learn. There is a section of each palace for housing the poor
without homes. And many Chutnians have been saved from cold nights there.

You must see them, yes. I will arrange to have you taken to the main palace. Nori will
be delighted with another visitor, especially from so far away. So the planets near late
Plant-sei have enhanced space travel. They come as far as Chutney-sei now! Ah!

Now bear with me. I am old and slow...haha, but not too old! I'm the elder here now,
yes, old Chapati heads the Ghee. Sarama has blessed me with old age, and mark my
words, I'll make it to 150! Bah, don't be shocked. Ghee live to ripe old ages. We
cultivate chi! Ghee have made it to 150 before.

Come. You must meet with Nori. It's only proper for a distant traveler.

Hello. It's a pleasure to meet you. Yes, I'm Queen Nori, ruler of Chutney-sei. Chapati
told me about you. Come to the balcony. We'll talk.

Beautiful evening, isn't it? Travelers from new planets are always welcome. Yes, we'll
begin negotiations soon, and we welcome your diplomats. I'm sure with time, we can
arrange mutually satisfactory agreements: peace treaties, scholarly exchanges, trade
agreements, the like. I'd like to meet with your heads of state and your community of-
-

What?

He didn't.

296
Chapati read you that old story? Mmmph. I told him to stop doing that.

Why? Because it irritates me, that's why. He never really understood that. I want that
chapter of my life left behind, that's why.

What?

What do you mean, what happened?

All this happened. Life went on.

More?

Fine. I'll tell you more. But it doesn't leave this balcony, understood?

Oh...where do I start? Whom do I start with? Jasmati. I'll start with her.

Well, after Sarama chose her as her new Oracle, the priesthood was her most
attractive option. A born-again goddess worshipper. Quite a transformation. It
mellowed her out almost overnight. She lives at Gado Gado, the goddess' mouthpiece,
loved and sought the planet over. Dal's still there. Chapati as well, but you already
met him.

Mulligatawny serves as my chief advisor, and I couldn't have a finer helpmeet.
Sometimes I wonder if she'd make a finer candidate for running the kingdom,
honestly!

Celeria.

I ache every time I say that name.

She roared at the sky for hours that night, and crushed the Gateway Sphere in her
rage. What use was it anymore? The other one was gone, she said, so why not? For
hours, she roared and wept in the foyer, in that golden Oozaru form. I'll never erase
that scene from my memory.

After that night, she was never really the same. Something inside hardened; I can't say
what, but I saw it, heard it in her voice. She tried at first, tried learning Chutnian -
though she never got the diphthongs right - and tried fitting in among the werewolves.
Neither worked.

I don't think it helped that she hated Chutnian food, either!

Chapati and I tried, but...nothing we did ever really helped. She cried a lot, I
remember. I remember the night she wept on my shoulder, saying how she never had
a place. First the Onio, then the Tsufuru, then the Saiyans, she said. Then she wept
about Nippy, and how she broke her promise, and how Freeza was just going to keep
on killing until Kakarrot grew up. I remember when she kissed my cheek, kissed my
lips, said I was the only one who really understood, and burst into tears again.

297
Then, one day, I found her packing. She said she had to leave, had to find her place in
the universe. She promised she'd return someday...but that was twenty-five years ago.

Celeria. My Celeria. My friend. And I wait, wait for her return. And I always will.

Those were lonely days, the days when we rebuilt Chutney-sei. If everyone loved me,
why was I so lonely? I found out why. I needed a companion. I needed a mate. And I
found him.

Aloo Gobi. What a beautiful man. He was one of Mulligatawny's rebels before that
night, and we met through her. He wanted to help rebuild, he said, because Chutney-
sei deserved to be beautiful. No Chutnian save Mulligatawny, I think, worked more
than he did to make the planet breathe again.

Aloo Gobi has such beautiful gold eyes. Pure eyes. His heart is pure, purer than most.
I think that's why I fell in love with him. I found something in his arms, and he found
something in mine, and it eased the aching in my heart. He rules beside me, and he
rules with a gentle hand.

He gave me a daughter, Hiziki, the light of my life. She just celebrated her fourteenth
birthday last night. She's quite a girl, so full of life. Her youth hasn't been at all like
mine. I made sure of that. No wars. No loved ones dying before her eyes. No running,
no hiding. Just the life she deserves.

For the first time in my life, I have a family, a real family, one that no one twisted or
poisoned or killed. I can hold Aloo Gobi in my arms and know he loves me, know he
would never hurt me or anyone else. Hiziki has her father's virtues. What a beautiful
girl.

I don't want to remember the other family.

And yet, why can't I forget them?

When I make love to Aloo Gobi, I enjoy him with all my body. But sometimes, I
think of Vegeta-buru, and all the secret pleasures we enjoyed in our tent. But then, I
remember the earth-man, remember the way King Vegeta looked that morning, and I
shudder.

I don't want to remember that morning. But I can't seem to forget.

When Hiziki was little, I would watch her play, watch her laugh and roughhouse with
her playmates. It made me smile. But sometimes, I would think back to Prince
Vegeta, and think, Does she have any idea how lucky she is to be free?

I want to live in the here-and-now, with Aloo Gobi and Hiziki. I love them. They love
me. I don't want to remember the other family. And yet I still do.

Sometimes I think about what Prince Vegeta might be doing, or Kakarrot, or Celeria's
other children. I wonder if Celeria does the same. Probably.

298
I still think about Freeza. I feel as if I broke a promise to Queen Nippy. Wherever she
is, can I ever know if she's angry with me? Disappointed? Resigned? Can she forgive
me?

I still think about Rhubar, Turnyip, Habanero, Sleek Fur, Leek, Scallia...too many to
mention. Directly or indirectly, Freeza killed them all. And I failed to avenge them.
Are they angry as well?

Does it matter, now that Freeza's dead?

Sarama came to me in a dream years ago, and told me that Kakarrot slew Freeza that
night. Some time later, she appeared to me again, and told me that my grandson slew
Freeza for all time. I felt unspeakable relief when I woke up from the second dream.
He can't hurt anyone now. His victims are avenged. But...had it only been for the
wormhole...it could have been Celeria and me. Millions of lives could have been
saved...if only for the wormhole...

I still see Sarama in my dreams. One night, she came to me, holding a magnificent
tapestry that stretched the length of the cosmos. It was blue-black like space, sequined
with stars and nebulas. She told me to look closely, and I saw the individual threads
that made up the tapestry. Each thread was a life, a person, the warp and weft of
millions of other strands. It took my breath away. Sarama said that this was the
tapestry of the universe that she and the divas wove, that everything had a place and
made sense, because it was one of the strings that made up the tapestry.

Bullshit.

The destruction of Vegeta-sei didn't make sense. The planet trade didn't make sense.
Kheer and Darjiling didn't make sense.

Sometimes, I get angry with Sarama, and fume for days. The tapestry could look
beautiful to anyone standing back from it. When you're tied up in the threads, it's not
as pretty.

Sometimes, I'm grateful to Sarama for everything she's done for me. Sometimes, I
can't help but wonder if Kheer was right, that the gods don't care about us, that we're
just toys. Sometimes I just don't know.

After thirty years, I feel very tired.

Why do I feel so much older than fifty-three?

I have many things to be thankful for. A loving family. Friends. Prosperity. Status. A
peaceful kingdom. A home.

For the first time, life is beautiful.

Then why do I still hurt inside?

299
The Second Sun
























Suu
Chapter One
Harico: The End of Times

I knew how it would all end. Years before Freeza's flaming sphere of chi burned
away my world, years before my race shrieked in the chi fire, I knew.

I had my vision of the end in the days before technology, before the planet trade
came, before the Saiyans massacred thousands of races for wealth. The Saiyans were
a corrupt race even before the end times, but five of us salvaged who we could.

The Saiyan homeland is a warped memory now. The fragrance of the soil and trees
no longer sweetens the air I breathe. The bones of beasts and birds drift in the rubble
that was once Plant-sei, as the universe holds silent vigil for the dead. But I wait, wait
for the warriors who will slay Freeza, who can face the foretold bloodshed yet to
come.


We lived in the wilds then, in the dense jungles of the south, and thought that nothing
could harm us.

As the blue-black night stared down, as the fire light in the center of the village
danced before silhouettes of trees, they made their plans. The Sun Clan's patriarchs
had conferences with Vegeta, the bearded patriarch of the Rain Clan, and his plan to
exterminate "those tailless weaklings" was to moisten the soil with Tsufuru blood on
the night of the full moon. I remember Vegeta, standing before the fire, basking in
red and orange light that made his beard and wild brown hair seem aflame. As he
clenched his fists and spoke of using our Oozaru form to lay waste to the northern
Tsufuru cities, I clenched my teeth. Vegeta was well-known among the Saiyan clans,
a young warrior seeped in hatred of the Tsufuru, ever urging their extermination for
reasons that were then unclear.

All but I smiled and nodded when our patriarchs cheered on the plan. All but I.
Later, my husband Bardock struck me when I shook my head and growled my refusal
to fight with them. I would bear the bruise for a week, but Tsufuru blood would never
cake in my nails like it would his.

I remember an evening weeks later, standing alone upon the stone disk at the outskirts
of our village, after the other Saiyans had cursed me and flown to the Tsufuru cities at
sunset. The breeze chilled my bare skin, and the
evening sun screamed against the pink sky as it set. I remember running my bare toes
over the charcoal-written words for "full moon" and "Oozaru," for on the disk was
written the legend of Caram-bola, the moon god.

Caram-bola, the moon, is a wild-hearted god, and those who look upon his whole face
swell with passions and delight. The gaze of the full moon stirs the hearts of all
jungle creatures, who howls and race through the wilds when that night of wonder
falls.

Su1
According to a medicine woman from my childhood, "the Saiyans loved Caram-bola
more than any other race on Plant-sei, and were always gazing at his radiant face,
singing songs of praise, basking in the moonlight each
night. Caram-bola's heart was warmed by their devotion, and in gratitude, he
bestowed Oozaru, the shape of the Great Ape, upon all Saiyans. Every time the
Saiyans and their descended would gaze upon his round, pale face, the Great Ape
form would be theirs, and the ancient joy-rage would glow in their eyes. In the
ancient times, the moon was always full, and thus the Saiyans went Oozaru every
evening, screaming, doing battle, running with the other birds and beasts."

"Hanuman, the Ancient Ape, father of the Saiyan and Tsufuru race, saw that Caram-
bola's wild face was creating much madness on Plant-sei, and demanded that he show
his face less often, lest the entire land be destroyed by primal rage. Caram-bola's face
darkened, and in his anger he turned his face from Plant-sei. Now, pale with
bitterness, the moon is turned from the world almost every night, and the Saiyans and
beasts can only see part of his wild countenance. But every eight years, he
remembers the devotion of the Saiyans, and turns his whole face to us so that we
might look at him and enjoy his feral gift once more."

When the skies grew deep blue and the full moon rose over the horizon, I felt the
ancient rage fill me, the mind-burning power of Oozaru. As my skin grew black and
hairy, as my mouth sprouted fangs and my limbs stretched taller than the mountains, I
arched my throat and screamed.

"Caram-bola!" I scream, tears choking the words, "why do they mock you!? Your
gift . . . your wasted gift . . ."

The days and nights were loud in the days following the Oozaru raid on the Tsufuru.
All day and all night, my fellow Saiyans of the Sun Clan did nothing but hunt and
feast and sing war chants and bellow boasts about the blood-stained full moon battle.
The acidic smell of their gemtun snuff burned my nostrils, as did the scent of new
palm wine, and many warriors tainted their blood with these poisons. The poisons
burned in their brains, and I avoided the giggly ones, or the ones with fire in their eyes
and fresh blood on their knuckles, for the poisons had made them silly or violent.
Their voices and drumbeats pierced my grass hut as I lied awake many nights, eyes
burning from salty tears. I hadn't gone - the Tsufuru were our ancestral kin - and
massacring our ancestral kin was an act that the ancestors would have raged at.

Oh, the Sun Clan Saiyans told themselves what Vegeta told them when he led the
war: the best rivers and hunting grounds were to the north, or that only the strong
Saiyan race, not the weak tailless Tsufuru, should inherit the planet. But I knew their
true reason. All those machines, all those trinkets promised power with their
humming, with their smoke and fire. Tsufuru technology was shiny and powerful.
Vegeta knew this.
Some of the clan returned with metal trinkets: metal boxes that played music at the
press of a button, or steel reeds that shot fire. Occasionally, a low growl would
rumble through the jungle, and a Saiyan who had deduced the operation of a wheeled
land machine would zip past, tearing up grass and soil in his wake.

Su2
I sat on the floor of my grass hut one morning, the third day of feasting and dancing
since the Tsufuru massacre. As I ate my breakfast of fruits and roots (animal flesh
from the feast was reserved for the "brave" who killed
Tsufuru), Bardock was outside, chatting with his brother Toma about the full moon
battle.

My husband laughed for days about Tsufuru: how Tsufuru bodies fall apart like dry
leaves when hit with chi; how they wail just like wild boars when they're injured; how
he was going to dry all the Tsufuru ears he collected and make them into a necklace.
The wounds from battle still showed all over his body - Saiyans went naked in those
times - and would soon heal into scars that he would brag about someday.

I never liked Bardock, because a hazy aura always clung to him, and sometimes,
under dim light, I saw oily fire in his eyes, where his black irises should have been.
Almost every Saiyan I knew had something foreboding about his or her person - a
dark fire around the head, the smell of smoke, or the odor of rot - but Bardock's
seemed the most unclean. I am not mad. I know what I saw and smelled. The others
could not see or smell these things, and called me mad.

Maybe it was all the noise from Bardock. Maybe it was all the noise from our son
Raditz, who wasn't more than three, jumping up and down in the dust and singing
about how he wanted to kill Tsufuru too. Maybe it was all the noise from the clan,
the men and women hooting day and night, beating drums in victory songs. Maybe it
was the stench of the drying ears in our grass hut, or the smell of Bardock's untreated
wounds. Maybe it was the hate that burned in my stomach every time I remembered
the night of the full moon, and the screams and explosions that rose from the north,
where the Tsufuru lived.

I grabbed a water skin and walked out of the hut.

"I ate the hearts of ten Tsufuru the morning after that--Harico? Harico, where're you
going?"

I didn't answer Bardock. I hated his cutting voice, and his scarred face, and his
hateful black eyes, and the odor of Tsufuru blood that had clung to him for days. I
walked past Raditz, who was sitting under a fruit tree, eating a star fruit I'd shoved in
his hands to quiet his singing earlier. The green and brown of vegetation beckoned,
and I crept between blooming trees and thick shrubs as I strode deeper into the
wilderness. Bardock's voice faded in the distance, and so did all the noises and odors
that soured my stomach.


Karro Mountain. The mountain of the mato, or the dream spirits. There. To clear the
sound of screams and war cries from my burning brain, I would journey there. A
place devoid of Saiyans. A pure place, I decided. A mountain avoided by most
Saiyans because the mato wandered there, they said, and gave sleepers frightful
dreams.

SuS
Karro mountain loomed broad and red in the distance, standing silent against the
orange morning sky. Two days of green forest and grassland stood before it, and
wind rustled through the vegetation like a whisper from the mountain itself.

Like the mountain, Saiyans avoided me. As a child, other children threw stones at
me, laughed at me when I chose to wander the wilderness instead of fight with them.
Training and fighting . . . neither held allure for me, but the silent skies, the wind
whispering through the trees, the chuckle of a splashing creek, offered worlds of
wonder. Sometimes I saw beautiful and horrific sights in the jungles - walking
corpses where a battle had been, mist tigers near a waterfall, gentle gray eyes
watching me from trees and stones - but when I told my family of these, they struck
me and called me mad!

When I grew to womanhood, Saiyans avoided me, saying my eyes were strange, that
my gaze burned right through them. "You frighten us, Harico," people would say but
it was a coveting hunger, not fear, that earned me the insult of the Mad Woman!
Their eyes were caked with illusions, and they could not see the visions I was blessed
with. They called me mad out of spite, because they could not see as I saw!

It was only because my father promised Bardock the meat of five gazelles AND a
leopard hide that Bardock took me as his wife four years before, when I was sixteen.
My frame was small, my limbs were too slender to make for good fighting, and my
"madness" earned me the frowns of many would-be suitors before Bardock.

"Eh, sure," Bardock said that day. "She's not bad-looking, and I could use a woman
to gather roots." My father smiled. Anything to get me and my gaze out of my
father's hut!

After two days of walking, of eating the berries and roots of the land did I reach Karro
Mountain, rocky, covered with red-hued soil, dotted with blue-leaved trees and the
occasional herd of golden antelope. Golden light warmed the vegetation and stones,
which seemed to reach up toward the setting sun. In the air above, I saw golden
butterflies of pure light flutter by, dragonflies made of wind as well, and I knew these
visions
marked a sacred land. A land devoid of Saiyans, quiet, vibrant with a silent life,
where I could find peace and live without Bardock's blows, or my clan mates war
chants. I found a towering red rock, climbed atop it so that beasts would not torment
me in my sleep, and closed my eyes, caressed by the cool moss and stone.

As I slept, I suddenly heard humming in the distance, and when the humming grew
close, I opened my eyes. Before me danced fragmented colors as sunlight filtered
through the iridescent wings of a spirit dragonfly, large as a tree trunk with eyes fuller
than my head. My eyes followed patterns on its deep green skin, patterns delicate as
spiders' webs or grass fibers. I knew I was dreaming, but few dreams were as vivid as
this creature.

The giant dragonfly hovered over me, sweeping winds over my body with the beating
of its tree-long wings. The humming of the wings formed words: Plant-sei's time is
short.

Su4
I stood and faced the dragonfly, and the glimmer of its black eyes reminded me of
stars.

"Why? I don't understand."

Destruction is coming. The sign of the end have already started to manifest. I will
show you the end.

The giant dragonfly bid me climb on its back, and after I mounted, it darted high into
the clouds. White clouds billowed beneath us like an ocean of mist, but as we flew
on, the clouds grew violent and bile green. When the
clouds fell behind us, I looked down to find the red mountain replaced by a great
crimson eagle, beating its fire-colored wings and crying out to the universe. The
rhythmic beat of its wings pulsed like blood through my head, and the pupils of its
eyes were as dark and deep as the night. The creature spanned continents, and as it
beat its wings, tiny particles of dust flew out from its wings and became men, women,
birds, fish, beasts, and thousands of creatures of strange colors and shapes, creatures I
could not name.

Life-Giving-She delights in creation. All life and all form come into being through
her, the dragonfly hummed. The soil brings forth vegetation through her. Plants give
forth seed through her. Beasts give birth to young through her. In her is the secret of
all life. In her is the symbol of all creation.

I saw then a great void as large as the eagle swallow part of the scene, a gray void in
the shape of a predator cat with bony limbs and a cavernous mouth. As the living
creatures tumbled through the air, the void-cat opened its maw and caught them in its
jaws, gnashing on the screaming bodies. Bones and blood fell from its teeth and
floated back to the eagle's wings, where they were swept back into its mass of feathers
and flung out as living creatures again.

Mouth-of-Death is ever hungry, and devours everything Life-Giving-She brings into
being. In him is the secret of all death. In him is the symbol of dissolution. Mouth-
of-Death is never satisfied and is always hungry for more life. That is why he is bony
and sickly.

As I stared at the carnage, the dragonfly continued. Life-Giving-She saw that the
universe was empty, and created life to give form and beauty to the limitless space
before her. Mouth-of-Death, her
brother, watched her give life to the myriad creatures, and grew jealous. "You have
too many creatures to call your own," he complained, "and I have none, for you can
create while I cannot. Let me have some of your creations, dear sister."

Life-Giving-She screeched at her brother and pecked him. "Why should I give to you
what I have created for my joy?"

"Because your creations will grow too great and will crowd the universe."

"There is enough room in the universe for all of them."
SuS
"Do not be greedy, dear sister. You have all these creatures, while I have nothing.
Perhaps we can share them between us. Keep the myriad creatures close to you for a
while, but when you tire of them, let me eat them. I'll even return to you their bones
and flesh, so that new creatures can be made from them."
Life-Giving-She agrees that her brother could devour each creature in due time. So
mad was he with hunger that he cared not who or what he ate, for the newborn young
and the aged elder were equally delicious. War, hunting, famine, disease, old age,
these are the many teeth that line Mouth-of-Death's salivating mouth.

For eons, Life-Giving-She always created enough life to keep up with her glutton
brother, but now, Mouth-of-Death grows hungrier and greedier, and wants to devour
everything, even Life-Giving-She herself, until nothing remains. Now, he devours
life faster than she can shape it, and the universe has become unbalanced because of
Mouth-of-Death's excess.

My heart pounded as I watched the eagle and the void-cat.

These are but symbols, the dragonfly added. These are things not as they are, but how
they are imagined.

Greed has made Mouth-of-Death desperate and deceitful, for now he lies to some of
Life-Giving-She's creations, saying, "If you help feed me the other creatures, I'll spare
you for a little while." But he lies, and eats them just as he eats their victims. Many
will appear who will help feed this insatiable hunger by spreading death. Freeza,
Cell, Majin Buu are but some of the names of his thralls.

Mouth-of-Death poison's the hearts of many Saiyans, for their strength and fortitude
are great, and he uses them to slaughter his food. They know not his name, but no
other race will slay so many souls in Mouth-of-Death's name. The universe will
shake with the screams and sobs of your kin's sacrifices, and blood will taint the water
of innumerable worlds.

I shuddered and felt my body grow cold as sourness filled my stomach. As we flew
on, I saw thousands of Saiyans rampaging across ice and soil, mountain and valley,
hair caked with blood, faces twisted in savage smiles as they trampled on strange
races.

But there is more, the dragonfly whispered. The end is near for Plant-sei. Mouth-of-
Death consumes even his slaves, and in his gluttony will even the Saiyans be
devoured by death. The end times of Plant-sei are here.

I stared down at the land, and cried out when I beheld the horrors beneath me. The
concrete ruins of Tsufuru cities jutted out like broken teeth from the tortured
landscape. Tailless corpses littered the ground and dangled
from barricades, some without heads or limbs, some with great holes seared through
their bodies with chi. I had never seen Tsufuru cities, for I had never traveled beyond
the southern Saiyan jungles, but the legends of metal and stone lands HAD to refer to
this. I had never seen a Tsufuru city, but knew this must be one.

Su6
The first sign has already come to pass, the dragonfly hummed.The Saiyans
slaughtered the Tsufuru. Hanuman's children turned against each other. Once, Plant-
sei's beings were brothers and sisters, but blood ties have been replaced with
bloodshed.

Night fell as we flew across the land, and I noticed a new star in the heavens, a dull
silver star soaring across the sky, counter to the direction of the others.

This is the second sign of the end. A new star will shine in the heavens, and will
herald the beginning of the end. But this star is not of nature, and does not follow the
path of the others.

I heard fierce voices shouting below, and upon the ground, illuminated by the gibbous
moonlight, was a kneeling Saiyan with a leather cord bound around his neck. Though
tall and thick-limbed, the bound man had no strength to break the cord, and his beard
grew soaked with sweat as he struggled to jerk away. The cord was tight, cutting into
the Saiyan's throat, and his cheeks grew livid as he labored to breathe. Holding the
other end of the cord was a pink-skinned creature with steel horns protruding from his
head and a thick serpentine tail twitching from his back, grinning with plum-colored
lips. The small creature kicked his leashed slave, hissinginsults with a smile. The
slave was naked as all Saiyans were then, but the creature covered the slave with
bright ornaments: a red clock, a medallion, a gold armlet, and many more tokens of a
patriarch.

"Rule over the monkeys in my name," the little man shouted to his Saiyan slave, "but
remember who holds your leash!"

I clenched my teeth at the sight until I recognized the slave: Vegeta of the Rain Clan!
I pointed to him and shouted, "Tear off that leash! Why let him humiliate you like
this!?"

The enslaved Vegeta gazed up with hardened eyes and growled. "I am patriarch!
You dare to be insubordinate!"

This is the third sign, the dragonfly hummed. A slave will rule over all Saiyankind,
and the small man you see below will choke him on a leash.

The small man grabbed the slave by the scruff of the neck and whispered something
in his ear. The slave shouted to the crowds of Saiyans who had gathered to kneel
before him, and as he gestured proudly in the air, thespians roared with joy. Then I
saw bands of Saiyans roaming mountains and valleys of strange lands, charging after
two-legged creatures like themselves and feasting on them. Blue-skinned men,
women with butterfly wings, people with bestial and fair features alike fell to the chi-
blasts of my kind, and the Saiyans grew fat from the cannibalized flesh they ate.

This is the fourth sign. Saiyans will travel to other worlds and hunt other beings to
extinction. The flesh of other beings will nourish them, but it will fuel the rage inside
them and give them an insatiable hunger for more death.

Su7
The scene smeared like soot, and before me was a new vision: rows and rows of
newborn Saiyans, kicking, crying, sleeping, sucking their fingers, hidden away in a
quiet chamber filled with soft blue light. Plump and loud, the babies were full of
strength, but I noticed that all the babies had penises.

"Where are all the baby girls?" I asked the dragonfly.

This is the fifth sign. No more female children will be born to the Saiyans. Saiyans
will forget the balance between male and female, and the wombs of Saiyan women
will bring forth only boys.

We flew past the hordes of newborns and came to a great sea, blue as lapis lazuli and
churning with fish and whales and sea vegetation. White foam floated on the crests of
the waves, white as the moonlight reflecting off of the water's surface. The salty
smell of sea water filled my lungs, and the moist breeze cooled my cheek, and I
thought that no ocean could be more peaceful than the one before me. Suddenly,
steam rose off of the ocean waves, and a hot wind blew back my hair as the sea
bubbled. The water sizzled as it boiled violently, as dead fish and scorched seaweed
floated up from its depths. Sweat poured off of my body as the air grew hot and
oppressive, and in the distance I heard the cries of Saiyans and animals alike as the
land and sea went mad.

This is the sixth sign. Because of the Saiyans' foolishness, the oceans will boil, and
much life on Plant-sei will die. The air will grow hot, the birds and beasts will be
without food, and angry rains will beat down on the land.

The air grew more and more unbearable as the sun rose, but on the other horizon rose
a second sun, a circle of light and heat that swelled until it consumed the sky with its
brightness. The light was fiery, unnatural, and
pained my eyes as everything was bathed in its unclean light. Filling the skies with
thunder, the second sun plummeted from the heavens and struck Plant-sei in a flash of
fire and lightning. As chuckling sounded from the skies, the second sun burned
through the land until everything flew apart into rubble.

I clung to the dragonfly's back, screaming as hot wind, bodies, and boulders rushed
past me, as the howls of Saiyans and animals tore through my ears.

"Why are you showing me these things? TELL ME!" I bellowed at the dragonfly as I
clamped my arms and legs around it, struggling to hold on.

The humming of the dragonfly's wings, the thunder of the second sun's impact, and
the screams of the damned all bled together into one mad voice. This is the seventh
and final sign of the end. A second sun will fall from the sky and tear Plant-sei to
pieces. All on the planet will be seared in that unclean light.

The thunder and rumbling raged for hours, and I thought my skull would shatter from
the howling winds. At length, the winds died down, the blinding light faded, and all
became quiet in that final night. I would have sworn that my very bones were bruised
from the fire storm, and I could feel where bits of flying stone and wood had cut my
skin. When I opened my eyes, I was covered with dust and soot, and before me were
Su8
nothing but chunks of rubble floating in black nothingness. Millions of stars in the
distance stared on coldly as the strange star faded into the black sky.

Pain had long dissolved into numbness after seeing those unspeakable horrors, and no
reaction could have expressed my sorrow. Tears, screams, words of terror, none of
these could capture what I felt when I stared into the nothingness where Plant-sei had
been. I breathed a heavy sigh.

"It's hopeless, then," was all I could say.

No, hummed the dragonfly, not all is lost. Yes, many Saiyans will die for embracing
the path of destruction. There will be many who will feed Mouth-of-Death's hunger.
Freeza will destroy your home. The accursed androids, Cell, Majin Buu, Broli, Bebi,
and many others will rise as the bringers of destruction elsewhere in this universe,
their hearts tainted with bloodlust. But there will emerge Saiyans who will stop them,
who will protect life from Mouth-of-Death's greed. The Saiyans who come after you
will be heroes, will thwart those who would destroy without cause, while Life-
Giving-She and Mouth-of-Death seek a balance.

"Why have you shown me all this?" I sighed, resting my head on the dragonfly's back.

You are one of the five.

"Five what?"

Five Saiyans. Five protectors. Five rescuers. Save the innocent from the final
destruction. Rescue men, women, beasts, and land from destruction's grasp. Salvage
noble Saiyans before the second sun sears them. You must make sure the Saiyan
heroes live. Saiyans will come to fight Freeza, and those servants of death yet to
come.

"Where are the five? Who are the heroes? What am I supposed to do!?"

Mother Plant-sei gave you the gift of visions. Your visions will abound now,
blooming like a lotus. Mother Plant will guide you. Be a teacher to those who will
listen.

I woke from my dream as the sun rose in the east, and lying on my back, I stared at
the sky for a long time. The sky was mauve and orange, welcoming and warm that
morning.

"The second sun will come from a sky like this?"

How could I tell them? Who would believe me when I said that the end was coming?
Who wouldn't laugh at the idea of a patriarch on a leash, or boiling sea? It was
hopeless, I decided. The end would come. All would be blackened and seared in that
final light.

The Saiyans were too foolish to learn. What good was a teacher? So what if there
would be Saiyan heroes? They couldn't save Plant-sei. Who could fight the slaves of
Su9
Mouth-of-Death? Destruction was coming on a cosmic level. No one could stop it. I
had convinced myself of that.

I had not yet understood that my mission was a request of Mother Plant, the soul of
the planet herself. I had not yet understood my role as a teacher as I stared up at the
gaping sky.

When I shut my eyes, visions of rubble and fire filled my head. The tortured sea, the
future of death and pain, the gaping maw of Mouth-of-Death looming closer - my
thoughts reeled from it all. A wet pain rose in my throat, but too numb to weep, I
stared and stared. Rocks and trees and soil suddenly became dazzling when I knew
their time would be short. I turned on my stomach and threw my arms around the
rock, running my fingers over the moss and ridges, squeezing it with all my might.

Then a pebble smacked my behind.

I turned my head and saw a blue tigress standing on its hind legs, whipping pebbles at
me from beside the rock, a few paces away.

"What are you? Frigging the rock?" it yelled in a young woman's voice, and took off
running on its hind legs.

Despair had seeped into my muscles and bones, and my body was so cold and limp
that I couldn't rise to run after her. Lying there on the cool stone, I sighed, feeling a
great emptiness in my heart.

I heard the rustle of the tigress' footsteps for a few moments, before she stopped.

"Hey! Aren't you going to chase me?" she shouted from behind me.

The footsteps rustles closer and louder, and I heard the scratching of the creature's
claws as it climbed up my stone.

"Excuse me," it began in its high, buoyant voice, "but does this sort of thing happen to
you often?"

"What?"

"Two-footed talking blue tigers throwing rocks at you."

I closed my eyes. "Leave me alone."

The creature poked my ribs. "I don't even seem a little odd to you?"

When I didn't answer, the creature frowned and cast its eyes down. "Damn, it" said, "I
thought you'd be fun."

Absent-mindedly the tigress pinched her cheek and began pulling off skin, until every
shard of fur had peeled off to reveal a Saiyan woman with long, light blue hair
underneath. We were about the same age and build, I noticed, as she threw the shards
S1u
of skin off the side of the rock. Like me, her bare skin had almost no scars, so it was
unlikely that she was the warrior type.

"Hey!" she shouted at my head. "You just saw a tiger rip off its skin and turn out to
be a Saiyan underneath! That's not . . . funny?"

I grunted. Nothing mattered now.

"All right," she said, scooting closer to me, "what's your problem?"

I stared off into space. "The end is coming." I closed my eyes again, and a tear rolled
down my cheek. "Nothing matters now. The second sun--"

"--You dreamed about the second sun too? Did you dream about the Mouth-of-Death
and the heroes and--"

My breath caught in my throat. "--How--how do you know? Where? Where did
you--?"

"I had a dream about it last night," she said, sitting tall and beaming.

At that point, I grew hot with anger and sat up. "You know it's coming too?"

"Yes I do."

"You don't even care! Look at you!"

"I don't care about something I can't stop."

I swelled and felt my face grow hot, when the blue-haired woman held up her hand.
"Let me finish, though," she added. "I do care about what I can save. I care about the
heroes. I care about finding the other four--"

"--No, no, no! I won't believe it! I won't believe you're one of the five!"

That was my first argument with Soja, who would prove to be the laughter and anger
that stirred me from my grief. An annoying trickster, a Saiyan with the gift of
mimicking glamour, and my first real friend.












S11
Chapter Two
Soja: Laughter in the Dark

I saw it coming. If King Vegeta and his lackeys had any common sense, they would
have seen this coming too. Maybe the storytellers of other planets will laugh at all
this years from now, you know, about the Saiyans getting what they deserve and all.

Ever since I was a kid, I was never one for fighting - it was boring! And . . . well,
being small and skinny didn't help when the other youngsters were beating you to a
pulp. Besides, playing tricks was a much better use of my cunning. Let me tell you,
no punch will piss off your enemies quite like putting ants in their bed, or shaving
their heads while they sleep!

People from the Wind Clan were just stupid most of the time, so how could I not play
a few innocent tricks? Almost everyone loved storming out of the village on a raid,
just to return with all these gummy, crusty gashes all over their skin. (That was when
everyone went naked before the planet trade came and--well, I'll go into that later.)
The Wind Clan got along pretty well with our closest neighbors, the Rain Clan, but all
the other neighboring clans were fair game. It was idiotic, getting all worked up in
front of a bonfire, chanting at the stars, just to go running off into the rain forest to kill
people. And they didn't need much provocation, either. An insult to one of the Wind
Clan's patriarchs, or a warning that food stock was low, or the rumor of wealth, and
everyone goes off to murder a few of the locals.

I know, I know, tough times can make anyone edgy. Always wondering if there will
be enough animals to hunt or enough fruit to scrounge. Yeah, the Saiyans were
hungry. Fighting for survival made Saiyans vicious and angry, but that didn't make
all the killing any less senseless.

Well, when I was growing up, battles meant prank time for me! When the darkness
of night had swallowed up that evening's warriors, I scuttled into the grass and mud
huts of those who ran off to fight. Dried fruits, roots,
sacred stones, I stole this and that, hiding them in a tree hollow deep in the rain forest
to enjoy later. Why? The food was tasty, and the stones were pretty, I guess, but the
main reason was just to hear the warriors curse
when they scrambled inside their huts! Let them worry about their own huts before
they scamper off to raid someone else's!

They'd all come back, get stoned on gemtun snuff, and race around the village,
babbling half-intelligent gibberish about war and glory, blah blah blah. It was too
much fun, taking a water skin and squirting the stoned
guys in the face with water. They'd sprint after me, tail hairs bristled, but they'd fall
on their faces or careen into black-bark trees. I laughed for hours about it!

Oh, they hated me for it, my clan. Everyone in the Wind Clan whispered about me
when I passed. Troublemaker. Trickster. Thief. Coward. You'd think they forgot
that my name was Soja, with all the nicknames they gave me. Even my parents - or
rather, the couple who found me in the brush when I was a baby - frowned on me.
S12
"Mischief-maker!" they'd shout. "What kind of warrior are you!? We should have left
you where we found you!"

Did it hurt? Yeah. Was it lonely growing up? Of course.Womanhood came. Nature
was pretty generous with curves, but they didn't help much, because none of the men
of the Wind Clan or the Rain Clan wanted to take me as his wife. "Her? She can't
even fight! She'd rather play pranks all day!" all the men said. The longer I lived in
my adoptive parents' hut, the more they grumbled.

When I got to be about twenty, Vegeta of the Rain Clan visited our village more and
more often. Evidently, this guy got the idea that a full-scale war should be waged
against the city dwellers to the north, and spent all his time organizing the Saiyan
clans for battle. It was Saiyan destiny, so he said, to massacre the Tsufuru race and
claim Plant-sei as our own. All the land and game would be ours. No, I didn't get it
either when I first heard it.

It was just stupid. Here, Vegeta was bringing the clans together, halting all the
bloodshed that marked clan relations. Finally, somebody created peace and
cooperation among the Saiyan race. And what did he use that organization for but to
go cause trouble for the Tsufuru!

The Rain Clan and the Wind clan lived pretty close together, so all kinds of gossip
flowed between them, and I found out soon enough why Vegeta wanted war.

One morning, I was walking back to my village with a handful of earthroot berries,
when I heard two women whispering under a black-bark tree. Distant cousins of
Vegeta, I think. They muttered between themselves that a few months before,
Vegeta's Rain Clan friends were decimated by Tsufuru near the
rain forest border. Supposedly they had been hunting boars when Tsufuru soldiers
fired on them with flame guns, and Vegeta was the only survivor . . . who then
killed the offenders, of course. No one gave a reason
why the soldiers attacked. Everyone sided with Vegeta's hunger for revenge, but
think about it for a sec! The Tsufuru never bothered us before. Ever. So why would
they just attack a band of harmless Saiyans? Even if a few bad apples attacked, they
had been dealt with! Why bring the whole Tsufuru race
into the mess? As far as I was concerned, the Tsufuru had as much of a right to live
on Plant-sei as the Saiyans or animals or anyone else did. They stayed in their cities
and left us alone. What was the problem?

Everyone knew the legend of Hanuman and Furu. You know, the ancient ape
Hanuman fell in love with the tailless spirit-woman Furu, and they made the rain
forests and plains their marriage bed. Then they had kids. The children who looked
more like Hanuman were the first Saiyans, and the children who
looked more like Furu were the first Tsufuru, and everyone got along in the ancient
times. Now I always put a lot of faith in legends, and I believe to this day that the
Saiyans and Tsufuru were ancestral relatives. What good could come out of
slaughtering our ancient relatives?

But I'm getting off the subject. Anyway, Vegeta had a tall, firm body and a beard I
could have eaten for dessert. But he made my hair stand on end! All the time,
S1S
nothing but talk, talk, talk about massacring the Tsufuru! All this nonsense about the
Saiyan clans uniting to kill, aboyt how the Tsufuru sat on heavenly lands for fishing
and hunting, blah blah blah.

"The Saiyans must protect their honor and land! The Saiyan struggle for survival is
not over yet! Are we to cower while the tailless weaklings squat on land rich with
food and rivers? Are we to ignore blatant acts of Tsufuru violence? Never! Our
pride and survival as a race come first! Fight with me!" he said once.

And you know what? The Wind Clan believed every word. Spilling Tsufuru blood
distracted them from empty food baskets and dwindling herds. And what did I get
when I complained it was all a crock?

"Stay out of this, troublemaker!"

Vegeta wanted power, pure, unchallenged power. The way he strutted, the way he
looked down his nose at the weaker warriors made it obvious. This man wanted to
rule over all the clans. Once he united the clans, he played them like flutes. The
Tsufuru, as far as I was concerned, were his convenient
scapegoats. Hell, he might have even made up that attack story for the purpose. And
do you know what Inach, the eldest patriarch of the Wind Clan, shouted when I said
that?

"Stay out of this, trickster!"
But Vegeta was all about rending flesh. The raids he led in the outskirts of the
Tsufuru cities were proof of that. I didn't know if the stories were true. Maybe he
really did collect the heads of Tsufuru victims. But I knew
that his heart was full of fear. I could practically smell the fear on him. The way he
wrung his hands, the way the tip of his tail twitched, the stiff lips and cheeks - they all
gave it away. What he was afraid of
was a mystery then. All I knew was that Vegeta was dangerous. Very dangerous.

A week before it happened, Vegeta sat in a circle with the Wind Clan patriarchs in the
center of the village, eating roots and raw hare flesh. I was walking through the
gemtun trees outside the
village, carefully carrying a twig with a flaming tip (borrowed without asking from a
neighbor's fire) to light my own fire. Just as I was thinking about the tasty roots I
would roast over my fire, I saw the familiar shock
of brown hair from behind a tree. Vegeta say with his back to the tree, facing the
open village and the other patriarchs.

"A single Saiyan in Oozaru form is the most formidable warrior imaginable," he
explained in that deep, cutting voice of his, "so imagine the fighting power of
thousands of Oozaru Saiyans! Such a force would be invincible! We must strike on
the night of the full moon, for no Tsufuru technology will rival our strength then."

Unnoticed, I decided that he could well use some humility. Creeping along the
ground, I crawled up silently behind Vegeta and lit his tail hairs on fire. The brown
hairs blackened and curled before he even smelled them charring.

S14
"The raids on the outskirts of the jungle cost the Tsufuru hundreds of lives while it--
what's that smell?" Vegeta muttered, stiffening his back. When he glanced down at
his waist and saw the tail hairs smoldering, he roared, smacking the flame.

"Soja!" shouted the Wind Clan patriarchs. About six middle-aged men in all, they
had sinewy limbs and dozens of thick white scars each, the marks of old warriors.

Once he put the fire of his singed tail out, Vegeta spun around, growling.

"You!" he barked, pointing at the lit twig in my hand.

Okay. I knew it was stupid. I knew Vegeta could sear a Saiyan to ashes with a single
chi-blast from his palm. I should have burst into a run right then and there. But I
laughed until tears flooded my eyes.

"Ahahahaha! You think you're-- wahaha!--invincible? You can't even protect your
tail!"

Vegeta and the patriarchs all heated chi in their palms, and I threw the lit twig at
Vegeta's chest before I ran. Sprinting, I saw the energy-balls smack trees and stones,
narrowly missing me as I ran through muddy puddles. The jungle became a blur of
blue, green, and bark-brown as I sprinted away from the voices of shouting men, and
after diving into a stream behind a stone, I lost them.

I lay against the smooth stones of until the air was quiet, feeling the water trickle
through my hair. I stood up and chuckled, wiping the mud from my face

I could never return to the Wind Clan. Ever. My transgression against their hero was
too great, and they'd spill my blood or worse if I ever went back. But it was worth it.
I would have done it again. For a moment, the monstrous Vegeta was humbled.

Karro Mountain was infested with mato, dream spirits, or at least that's what people
believed. Most Saiyans mentioned it with shudders and frightened glances over their
shoulders. But dreams can't hurt you, right?
What more did I have to fear than Vegeta and his Saiyan allies? All I cared about was
that Karro was isolated. I hiked toward the ruddy mountain, having decided to lay
low for a while.

I spent a few days wandering the rain forests. I could sit up in a tree for hours, just
listening to the wind and the birds. Id' sit up in a fruit tree, peering through the blue-
green leaves and swelling fruit, watching a leopard stalk its prey below, or a spider
weave its web beside me.

In time, I wandered to Karro Mountain and stayed there for a night. A beautiful place
it was, with the deep red soil, the burgundy rocks, the herds that galloped across its
face. The whole mountain stretched across the
rain forest like a sleeping body, a sun-reddened body at peace. And the dreams I had
there! Wild shit, let me tell you!

S1S
I was sleeping in the branches of this lush tree with gold and green leaves. The
animals couldn't eat me up there, and it was kind of cozy too. I stared up at the
gibbous moon in the blue-black sky until sleep came to me. The dream I had that
night! I dreamed that a little grass-green chameleon waddled up to me along one of
the tree branches, but this chameleon had the brightest eyes I've ever seen! Bright as
two moons, and just as round and silver!

From the distance came a roar that shook the whole mountain. The leaves trembled,
and the tree itself felt as if it were about to topple over. I hung onto the branches until
my hands went white, and loosened leaves rained down around me. The smell of
mold and meat floated on the wind, and my eyes watered as it crept into my nostrils.
In the distance, larger than the sky itself, was this huge void, this huge nothingness
shaped like a leopard. It opened its mouth, which was wide as the mountain, and
from its black teeth dripped the bodies of Saiyans and Tsufuru. It roared again, its
voice deep and stale.

"What the hell is that!?" I yelled.

"Oh. Him? That's Mouth-of-Death," the chameleon muttered.

The nothingness leopard vanished, and the mountain was quiet.

"He's getting on my nerves," the chameleon said. "Doesn't know his place."

"Is he one of those mato?" I asked.

"Hey, I'm a mato, thank you very much!"

"Sorry."

"Mouth-of-Death's the force of destruction. He eats everything. When things die and
break down, that's thanks to him. He's gotten obnoxious, though."

"Obnoxious?"

"He wants to eat the whole universe. Nothing would be left if he did that! Now I'm
okay with everything dying when it's time. Otherwise, there'd be too many of us in
the universe. But he wants to eat everything NOW. He even talked the stupid
Saiyans into getting him food."

I shuddered. Some big cosmic leopard wanted to eat everything. Maybe that's why
the Saiyans were so eager to fight. Maybe that big cosmic leopard got inside of them.

"Hey! Wanna know a secret?" the chameleon whispered.

I sat up and scooped the chameleon onto my lap. "Sure!" I replied.

"Wanna cause some real mischief for Vegeta? And Mouth-of-Death?"

"Is Caram-bola pale? Of course!"
S16

"Well, you see, I know some tricks when it comes to looking like things. Like that
rock down there? I could turn that color. No one would know it was me. But you're
Saiyan, so you can't exactly do that, you see?"

As the chameleon slowly walked up my arm, he shared a secret with me. "You're
different, you know. I can show you a trick that only you can do. Mother Plant-sei
wanted me to tell you."

"Yeah?"

"What you do is, you smear some mud all over you. You can turn mud into skin on
you. You can look like anyone you want. Then, you just tear off the skin when you
get tired of it."

"Cool!"

"Now remember something! Only you can do this! That's what Mother Plant
said."

"Okay."

"Now go and have fun with that idiot Vegeta. But promise you'll come back soon!
There's more I wanna tell you about Mouth-of-Death."

When I woke up, light filtered through the leaves onto my face. I climbed down the
rust-colored trunk, ran to a nearby stream, and scooped up handfuls of red mud. It
was cool and heavy and sticky on my skin, and I had to laugh because of the feeling!
When I smeared mud all over my hair and body, I drew a breath.

"All right . . . if this is true, then make me look like Vegeta!"

The red mud grew hot, then cool as it clung closer to my body. When I opened my
eyes, I looked down at my hands, only to see skin and flesh on them instead of mud!
My hands were larger, rougher, a man's hands with calloused palms. I ran fingers
through my hair, now erect and spiky with a widow's
peak down the middle of my forehead. I groped my face and found it fuller, found
my nose narrower, my chin rough from the coarse hairs of a beard. My breath
quickened, and a giggle rose from my throat as I glanced down at my body, only to
find my legs longer. Yes, I was as tall as Vegeta! My limbs
were muscled, my chest was flat like a man's, yes, down to the miniscule masculine
member, I looked like Vegeta of the Rain Clan.

"The mato don't lie! Hey! Talking chameleon! Thanks!"

My hands immediately smacked over my mouth when I heard my own voice. For all
the appearance of a man, my voice was still high and light.

"I take that back! What use is the body without the voice? Hey!"

S17
With the likeness of Vegeta, I strode back to the Wind Clan homelands, a two day
journey by foot. When I arrived, dull evening light was falling on the rain forest, and
agitated voices rose from my destination. Between the black-bark trees and flowering
vines, I could see Saiyans moving amidst the mud huts.

In the tradition of Saiyan raids, a bonfire blazed on the grassy clearing at the far end
of the Wind Clan village, and hundreds of Saiyans, tail hairs bristling, were chanting.

"The full moon rises / Caram-bola turns to us / The full moon rises / Caram-bola turns
to us / The weaklings perish / when Caram-bola turns to us / We emerge victors /
when Caram-bola turns to us."

So Vegeta finally went through with it. Orchestrated Oozaru attacks on the night of
the full moon. I wondered if all of the clans were in on the raid. Idiots!

"Vegeta! I thought you'd be with the Rain Clan!" shouted Inach, eyebrows raised.

Inach strode up to me, smiling with his arms extended. His long black hair was
streaked with sweat from dancing, and the white scars on his stocky body shone even
more brightly in the bonfire light.

All right, I thought. Vegeta organized the Oozaru raid tonight. If I make the Wind
Clan hate him, maybe they won't go through with it!

I looked up at the bluish-purple sky. The sun had almost sank below the black
silhouette of the horizon. Not much time.

With Vegeta's likeness, I smiled at Inach, walked slowly toward him, and grabbed his
testicles. Inach's eyes sprung wide open, and his body stiffened when he gasped.

"Vegeta! What--?"
I gave him a peck on the cheek and skipped off as he sputtered. Orega, the second
oldest patriarch, a man with wavy white hair and a graying moustache, ran over.

"Vegeta! What is this?" he hissed.

I looked down at my likeness of Vegeta's body and pondered the masculine member
there. Okay, how exactly does this thing work? I thought as I fingered it. Then it hit
me. I stood before Orega and took a wizz on his foot. He fell backwards, mouth
twisted in a gasp.

"STOP! This is disgusting!" Orega bellowed, shaking his wet foot.

"Vegeta's gone insane!" a teenage girl from the band of warriors giggled.

As the rest of the warriors stared and gasped, I pulled every stunt I could imagine: I
tickled one woman's neck with my new beard until she screamed and ran; I body
slammed people left and right; I jumped on a plump man's back and made horse
noises until he threw me off. I fell face-first into a thorny
S18
earthroot bush, the thorns digging deep into my face. When I pulled my head away,
bits of false skin clung to the thorns and stretched like gum. SNAP! The stretchy bits
of skin snapped off my face, whipping back into the thorns. Cool air tickled my real
skin underneath, and the crowd of warriors was pointing and roaring.

"It's the troublemaker! It's the coward! She's wearing Vegeta's skin! GET HER!"

False skin dangled in shreds from the left side of my face. Bits of blue hair hung out
of the tear. They knew.

"You're all idiots!" I laughed as I ran back into the rain forest. "Vegeta's plan is a
mistake!"

Hundreds of footsteps stormed behind me as I wove between trees and bushes. Night
had already fallen, and the full moon was already peaking up over the horizon. As I
ran, I tore off shards of false skin, leaving a wad of Vegeta's hair here, a shard of his
skin there. After a few minutes, I lost
the marauders over a hill, and when I sprinted up to a stream, I threw myself into the
stream mud, rolling around until my entire bare body was coated. As the shouts of
Saiyans rose over the hill, I hoped, I prayed, and held my breath. When I opened my
eyes, I found that it worked: the skin of a
black panther covered me, and in the shape of a panther, I looked on as the Saiyans
raced past me. A bunch of Saiyans were shouting threats of murder and worse as they
hunted for a Saiyan Soja. Heh. I slinked into the night on all fours, unnoticed.

As I trotted away from the Wind Clan homelands, I heard Oozaru roars shake the air.
The ground under me shook as the Oozaru's stomped in the distance. Until I got away
from the Wind Clan homelands, I knew I wouldn't be safe, so I kept the panther skin
on. I kept my eyes focused on the black silhouettes
of trees in front of me. Oozaru form might give me away if I snatched a glance at the
full moon.

What a shame. I'd gone Oozaru twice in my whole life - once when I was four, and
again when I was twelve - and it was great. Your heart pounds, and your whole body
just tingles with this delicious fury inside you. I loved being tall as the trees. But I
couldn't risk it that night. Poor Caram-bola. He must have been pissed when he saw
the use that the Saiyans put Oozaru form to.

After hours of walking, my curiosity gnawed at me. I couldn't help it. I looked
behind me. When I turned my head, I saw this sick-looking light on the northern
horizon. Red light. Fires, most likely. Yellow light.
Chi-blasts, maybe? The ground trembled again, and the grasses and white flowers
quivered. When faint ape roars split the air, I knew that the Tsufuru were no more.


Yep. I decided to hang out at Karro Mountain for a loooooong time. No hope of
redemption for me, nope. It wouldn't be so bad, I decided. The mountain had enough
food for me, and the way the Saiyan race was getting, maybe it was best that I didn't
hang around.

S19
I slept in my old tree when I came back, and dreamed that I was sitting on a sandy red
rock, twice as long as my body, floating in the sky. The little moon-eyed chameleon
crawled up my leg, whipped its tongue out to eat a mosquito, and winked at me.

"So how'd the mud thing work out?" it asked.

"Not so well," I replied. "I had some Saiyans going there for a few minutes, but the
skin tore. I did a good panther impression, though."

"You've got to be careful!"

"I know, I know."

A stale, putrid breeze floated through the air, that old meat and mold smell I
associated with the nothingness leopard. I saw it again on the northern horizon,
smacking its lips. Tsufuru bodies dripped from its gaping mouth
like crumbs. Its gray-black stomach was bloated, and it lumbered aimlessly through
the night.

"Hmph. Him again," the chameleon remarked. "He's full right now, but you watch.
He'll be just as hungry tomorrow."

"What is he?&qu