Chapter Twenty Eight: Reunion (2)

***

Part One: Cumber

Grand the gain and gauge the loss -
Emptied soul must last chance toss.
For choices still then must be made -
loyalty or good, the price is paid;
And result determines Black's dear cost,
To survive - burned must be the dross.

***

Cumber woke up to the thin, chilling sound of Reep panicking; he also awoke to the dull, throbbing feel of a splitting headache. Grunting, he reached up to touch his head gingerly, wincing at the grittiness of dried blood in his hair and on his fingers, and opened his eyes.

It was terribly dark in here. Fortunately, Cumber's body was still Kyuujinshu, and he could adjust his eyes with fairly little difficulty; his surroundings came into focus almost immediately.

Great. A cave. Somehow, they’d fallen into a freaking CAVE. Cumber winced as Reep continued to panic. Now, if only he could turn off his ears....

Reep was leaping up and down, making frantic sounds and failing to communicate anything effectively. His abnormally large eyes were larger than ever, and his exceedingly short fur was all sticking up on end; apparently, Reep was scared out of his mind. Cumber sighed.

"Reep," he said, struggling to his feet, trying and failing to catch hold of the small creature. Reep kept jumping, panic unabated, and avoided his grasp. "Reep," he tried louder. "Ree - "

He stopped as his boot made contact with something - something heavy, sort of soft, and not a rock by any stretch of the imagination.

Reep abruptly stopped jumping and stared at Cumber with eyes that seemed to be trying to eat up his whole face. "HIKARI TRUNKS INJURED!!" he wailed as Cumber looked down.

Trunks lay between them, facedown in the dirt and not moving.

"Oh, no," Cumber said quietly, and knelt. Trunks was unresponsive to his touch; Cumber gingerly picked him up off the floor, all too aware of the limp and colorless condition of Trunks’ body and face, colorless except for the startling slash of red stemming from a wound high on the boy’s forehead. In the bare, gray light it looked like tribal war paint.

Cumber was no expert, but it seemed to him that it took a lot of damage to reduce a Saiyan or demi-Saiyan to this condition; he ruefully wished for a regen tank, not knowing how else to treat Trunks.

Reep watched without comment, having made the transition from panic back to silent mystery now that Cumber had given his attention to Trunks. The effect was eerie; air seemed to be circulating somewhere up above them in the cave, and the result was a little too much like slow, heavy breathing for Cumber’s peace of mind.

“We have got to get out of here,” he intoned wisely, hugging Trunks to his body and standing. He could see no exit of any kind, although the furthest angles of walls and ceiling were too far away for him to make out distinctly; whatever cavern they were in, it was absolutely huge. There was SOME small light in here, certainly - Cumber could make out Trunks and Reep fairly well; but it seemed to be sourceless, and as such, was pretty much useless to him. Cumber cursed softly under his breath and turned to look at Reep.

"I don't suppose you know a way out of here," he said, still using his characteristically quiet, thoughtful tone of voice; after all, there was hardly reason to panic yet.

Reep did not answer. He was panicked, and with very good reason, although it was not something he would have been able to explain to Cumber. Reep had searched his memory and discovered a large blank; he was unsure how they had gotten in the cave. He was unsure how Trunks had been hurt. He was unsure what the others were doing up above and how his presence down here would affect the Prophecy.

This meant more than he could ever possibly express aloud; the fact was that Reep always knew what was happening - at least, what was happening to himself. Even when he was asleep, his peculiar mind recorded events as they happened to him, and so, in a very real sense, there was almost nothing that he did not know.

The fact that Reep did not know what had just happened meant that he had ceased to exist. There was no other explanation; he had actually ceased to be for the space of a few minutes – or hours, or days, or seconds… there was no way to tell. The only way he could cease to exist would be if the Black touched him, but it had NOT; which meant that something else was going on about which he did not know.

Panicking, and reacting quite naturally, he reached out to her who had been his silent companion since they were created at the dawn of time: Gai. Speaking in waves of communication so high as to forgo words completely, he expressed his panic to her in one brief thought.

Did not exist, he sent in her direction, his awareness of Cumber’s curious glance fading only slightly as he concentrated. Her response was hardly reassuring.

Yes. As did My Self, she agreed, no discernible emotion in her thoughts or tone.

But how can this be? he sent back, feeling the urge to bound in panic once more welling in his system.

The alteration of the Black, she replied, stoically as always.

Alteration? he asked, knowing what she meant but not how it applied to this situation; meanwhile, Cumber gave up getting an answer and started probing along the walls for an escape route.

In a flash, Gai explained to Reep what she knew. The tears... the rips in space that were left behind as the Kyuujinshu time-jumped had caused the Black to mutate its form and change its function entirely. It was no longer merely content to obliviate, but now also to rip, to pull, twist, and forcibly mingle remaining worlds together in its path as it went. It was destroying all in the long run more thoroughly than it ever could have done unaltered.

Add to this the fact that Reep was unique - and Gai was unique. They alone existed in ONE timeline, with no other versions of them anywhere else. Most of the beings who were already in this world were mirrored in others, and as this forced mingling took place, they were literally fused with the other versions of themselves - absorbing new memories and actually BEING more than one at once.

She gave Reep an example, one that was currently happening up above ground. Vejiita was abruptly having to absorb into his soul the acquired lifetimes and memories of several alternate versions of himself at once. Simultaneously, he would BE all of them – Vejiitas on earth, Vejiitas in space, whatever Vejiitas happened to exist in the worlds which the Black pulling together at that time. And since Mirai no Trunks’ world was the point of entry through which the Black had come, It was somehow treating this world as the senior, superior one; the other Vejiitas would eventually fade, and this present Vejiita would be left alone again, as a single soul – but with the memories of a dozen other different lives.

It gave him no permanent harm; the event might leave him dizzy, weak, and possibly in need of therapy, but not seriously damaged.

For Reep and herself it was an entirely different story.

There were no other versions of these two. None other, alive or dead, in all of reality – and so, as the Black forced timelines to merge, Reep and Gai had merged with NOTHING. During those temporary moments, they simply ceased to be, as if they had never existed. Gai then fell silent, having answered Reep’s question and explained the situation to her satisfaction.

Reep was horrified. This changed everything; if the moment came to call on Gai and there was no Gai... or Reep needed to act, to affect something, and he was not even in existence to do so...

This made everything bad. For the first time in his considerably long life, Reep looked around him filled with the mute horror that the Prophecy would not come to pass - and he felt utterly helpless in this fear’s wake.

Cumber glanced back at him again, his expression almost kind; the creature looked about ready to pass out from pure fear.

“It’s okay, Reep,” he said quietly, still holding Trunks carefully and feeling along the wall. “We’ll get out of this somehow. You’ll see.” Great kami, he was sounding like Gokuu; Cumber couldn’t resist a small smile as he continued to run his hands along the stone, looking for openings.

Reep didn’t answer, and Cumber paused again in his wanderings to look at him. Perhaps “passing out from fright” was an understatement. Reep was so tense he looked like he was ready to keel over. Not keen on the idea of Reep dying or exploding or whatever else his species did when scared witless, Cumber tried again to start conversation. “So why did you call Trunks 'hikari' Trunks?" he said. "Doesn't ‘hikari’ mean 'light?'"

Reep heard; and after a moment’s pause to get his mind functioning on the level of verbal conversation once more, he took the time to answer. After all, this was a subject on which Reep was well versed.

"Oh, yes," he sing-songed, concentrating hard on the question at hand. "Hikari he is, for he has tasted the Light and bears it in him; he is the reflection of all that is not him, of Kuro Trunks, who walks above and makes all stop being Real."

Cumber worked this out in his head. "Other Trunks? 'Kuro' trunks? Kuro means… ah… 'dark' or 'black,' doesn't it?"

Reep nodded.

Well, this was interesting; apparently, there was some logic to Reep’s train of thought after all. Cumber waited to see what other amazing things he would say, but he waited in vain. Reep said no more; apparently, his moment of lucidity had passed.

Cumber sighed; he did not have time to deal with a panicking what’s-it. He had things to do, Trunks was injured, and he HAD to get out of here. He had been in worse situations than this and had come out of them okay, so this oughtn’t to have been such a big deal; the really strange thing was the way he felt his heart changing inside.

He supposed it had something to do with hanging around Gokuu; whatever it was, it made him feel a sense of care toward Vejiita’s eldest child, a concern for Gokuu and the others up above him, and a quickly deepening loathing for Ru Sa’s less than moral method. Perhaps it was this same odd difference that had caused him to help Trunks and release Gokuu in the first place.

Cumber's mind did not go far enough in this process to realize that he was turning into a "good" person; all he knew was that he found himself changing, and that he liked it. This “doing-stuff-for-other-people-just-because-they-needed-it” thing was growing on him by leaps and bounds.

Gokuu would have been proud.

However, before Cumber’s thought process could take this idea any farther, something amazing happened. It was at this point that Gai did something she had never done before: she began to take matters into her own hands.

"GAI!" Reep abruptly shrieked, causing Cumber to jump and spin around. Reep raced right past him to a wall - from which, Cumber now realized, the dim light was coming.

"Gai is awake!" Reep continued, bounding in front of the wall as though building the courage to throw himself against it. "She moves! She hears! She sees! Early, she is, but she is AWAKE and does what she will…”

“Huh?” said Cumber, having no clue what Reep was talking about - and then he stared in blank awe as the wall behind Reep began to shimmer as though it were a reflection on the water.

"Oh, OH, it is TIME! SHE AWAKENS!!" Reep shrieked in answer, practically apoplectic in joy, and he stood back. Cumber continued to stare as the light emanating from the wall began to grow brighter, and then to add to the festivities, the room began to shake.

“Reep, what…”

"Behold mortal," said Reep, still thrilled mindless but somehow seeming more... noble... than he had a moment before. "Behold, and remember, for now you now behold she who contains eternity in her one wish… Gai, the third dragon.”

Cumber shouted in confusion and shock as the brilliantly bluish light poured over them both, nearly blinding him and almost burning his skin. One thing, however, he caught before his vision left him completely, and he remembered it for the rest of his life as one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen.

Trunks, in his sleep, smiled - and looked completely at peace.

And so began the final phase of the Prophecy.

*

Moot was terrified. Not only that, but he was alone, cold, and utterly without clothing.

When the sky had started flashing and everything went mad, he had finally decided that freedom won over dignity and scooted backwards until he was free of his robe, which was still pinned to the ground by that rather large piece of Junsei Aion. Then he had scrambled away as quickly as he could, and hidden around the other side of the building just in the nick of time; Gokuu, Gohan, and Vejiita had been slammed to the ground only moments after. He hid there for a while, huddled against the wall and trying not to make any noise, even though he was so scared he wanted to cry; it sounded like Ru Sa was doing some truly awful things over there.

He felt abandoned. Forsaken. Of course, he did not know that just to his left Bulma was busily tinkering with Gohan's time travel machine - and just to HER left the Namek party, with Dende in the lead, was doing its best to keep ahead of Kuro Trunks. All four groups maintained their relative positions around the building, and none were aware of the others.

As for Reep, Hikari Trunks, and Cumber - they were nowhere to be seen, and it scared Moot very much. He stayed where he was, trying not to bawl or shout or do anything stupid, and really, really hoped he would not be left alone here forever. To be trapped in this place with no one else alive but Ru Sa would make him go mad - and as far as he was concerned, that was a fate worthy of his worst nightmares.

Almost as an afterthought to his fear, he wondered where the eighth dragonball was. He felt guilty because he had lost it, even though it was not entirely his fault; and it was that guilt that made him peek around the side of the building just in time to prevent total disaster.

*

Vejiita woke up slowly. He was only just becoming aware of the pain in his arms and the pain in his side when he was hit with yet another wave of other Vejiita-sensations - memories from a life not his, from a past he had nothing to do with, from a world or worlds he had never seen. They were truly bizarre; some of them had him still on Vejiita-sei, the planet whole and unexploded and himself crowned as king; some of them had him as a slave on Freeza's ship, still undergoing the horrid things he had there; some of them had him in places totally different, among people he did not recognize at all... cat-looking people, and other weird things...

Vejiita shook his head hard and tried to come to. He became aware all at once that his arms were shackled, that he was apparently drooling, and that he could not wipe away the drool BECAUSE his arms were shackled. And then he became aware of something else.

"Good morning, bright eyes," said Ru Sa, and hit him in the face hard enough to nearly knock him back into senselessness. It was at that point that Vejiita realized, with an odd mixture of relief and disgust, that it was not drool on his chin, but blood. Ru Sa had almost whacked off his jaw.

Vejiita did what any healthy Saiyan would do in this situation. He spat the blood in Ru Sa's face and tried to escape.

The spitting, at least, was successful; his escape attempt, however, was not. The ki-staples, responding to Vejiita's energy surge, immediately hit him with bolts of power, shooting specially calibrated electricity that was designed to hurt and paralyze him all throughout his body. It did not stop until Vejiita stopped moving; and of course, Vejiita being who he was, he was nearly unconscious from pain by the time he gave up and hung limply from his bonds, panting like a medieval torture victim.

Ru Sa regarded Vejiita’s shuddering, sweaty form, and said nothing. Nothing needed to be said; he had won. He'd gotten his humiliation in, and with Vejiita in hand he would have plenty of "fix" to get him wherever he wanted to go. Now, all he needed to do was to borrow whatever vehicle of transportation Gohan had used to get here (a vague image was in Gokuu’s mind, and so Ru Sa had seen it; however, Gokuu, being who he was, had been unable to provide any technical details). He ought to have left already, really; but he had wanted to SEE Vejiita come around in such a humiliating position, SEE the look on his face when he realized he was trapped, that he had lost, that the mighty Vejiita had finally met his match and FAILED.

Vejiita coughed wetly.

Oh, this was just too sweet.

Chuckling darkly to himself, Ru Sa removed the still-unconscious Gohan from the wall and slung him over his shoulder. He was going to make the boy tell him how to work the time machine, and then kill him; Ru Sa had learned his lesson about feeding from half-breeds.

"Be right back," he said almost sweetly to Vejiita, and walked around the corner of the house, Gohan's head lolling limply between his shoulder blades. Vejiita waited all of ten seconds after the captain disappeared before he began struggling again. He was discovering, to his growing irritation, that it was apparently impossible to flex one's physical strength without also flexing one's ki; however, Vejiita was determined to try anyway. He'd managed to give himself three or four good shocks when Dende made his appearance.

Panting, dirty, and very tired, Dende rounded the corner of the building and skidded to a halt, Bee close on his heels. The Nameks had split up in their attempt to divert Kuro Trunks, and Dende - who now had the eighth dragonball - had been looking for shelter. The Junsei-Aion-coated Capsule Corporation had looked like a good idea to him, and so, splintering off from the main group, he'd headed there - only to find Vejiita stuck to the wall like old chewing gum.

Dende blinked. "Vejiita?" he said uncertainly, forgetting for the moment to look behind him to see in which direction Kuro Trunks was presently ambling.

Vejiita looked up. "Namek!" he snapped. "Get me out of this! Now!"

Dende stared for one moment more before coming forward. He then put the dragonball by his feet and started trying to figure out the ki-wraps.

"How did this happen? Was it Ru Sa?" he asked, ignoring the insulting looks Vejiita was giving him and prying steadily at the right-wrist ki wrap.

"No. I did it myself, just for fun. Stop asking stupid questions and hurry. He's coming back, and you don't want to be caught here unprotected, Namek."

"My name is Dende," Dende muttered a bit, and managed to free Vejiita's right-wrist. "You KNOW my name."

"Enma Daiou will know your name in a minute if you don't hurry, fool," Vejiita responded half-distractedly, glancing back toward the way in which Ru Sa had gone. Nothing was happening over there; nothing at all that he could sense, and it bothered him.

"Right, right," Dende replied, scowling slightly and prying carefully at the left-wrist wrap. Vejiita was scowling mightily; he still dared not move, or he stood to fry both himself AND the Namek. He was totally at Dende’s mercy, and if there was one thing that Vejiita hated above all else, it was the feeling of being weak. This was not putting him in a good mood. Oh, he was going to hurt Ru Sa SO badly once he got a hold of him.

Vejiita's thought process took an abrupt turn as Kuro Trunks came floating slowly around the corner. Vejiita stared, the color draining from his face as he took in Kuro Trunks’ dead expression, his black eyes, the wisps of black stuff coming up from his skin….

"Dende! Move it! Untie me! Now!" he shouted, no longer caring who could hear him or what came of it. In Kuro Trunks' eyes was death, and it was a death that Vejiita did not care to face. Dende turned and looked. His eyes went wide.

"ACK!" shouted Dende, panicking for one moment and stepping backward. He managed to trip neatly over the eighth dragonball and fall flat on his back, bumping his head; the dragonball rolled languidly away from him and to within four feet of Kuro Trunks.

"Oh, you IDIOT!" Vejiita roared, and tried to free himself. Of course, he was immediately fried by the remaining three ki-wraps; the prince of all the Saiya-jin was really not having a very good day.

Dende shook his head dizzily and stared with horror as Kuro Trunks reached the eighth dragonball. Merely acting on instinct, Trunks paused his forward motion and angled downwards to touch it, with no consideration for how this act would affect the rest of the Real.

"NO!" shouted Dende in a true heart-stopping moment of terror - and that's when Bee made his move.

Barking mightily and not even considering the danger, Bee ran at Kuro Trunks and leapt straight into the air, aiming for his enemies’ face.

“Bee! No!” shouted Moot from the other side of the building, and ran toward them – but he was too late.

Bee leapt right at Kuro Trunks – and Trunks, responding automatically, grabbed him.

Within a mere second, Bee was no more; he was gone as if he had never existed. But his death had not been in vain – his distraction had provided the extra seconds Moot needed.

Sobbing as he ran, the little unclothed Namek made a mighty dodge and slide that would have made Yamucha proud. With inches to spare, he snatched the eighth dragonball in his hands and rolled away.

Light immediately poured from the ball, momentarily blinding Dende and Vejiita and making them cry out in pain - but that was nothing compared to what it did to Kuro Trunks.

A sound came out of his mouth that was like nothing any of them had ever heard before; it was primal, inhuman, a high pitched screeching that no pterodactyl or scratched chalkboard could ever have produced. Dende immediately covered his ears, as did Moot - dropping the dragonball. Vejiita could do no more than writhe at this point, able to cover only one ear as only one hand was free.

The moment the dragonball left Moot's hands, the light went out.

Showing the closest thing to an emotion Kuro Trunks had yet, turned toward Moot with a look that could only be described as slightly lethargic fury.

"Moot! Pick it up again! Hurry!" called Dende, ears still ringing.

Moot stared for one moment, then dodged to grab the ball, just as Trunks began to lunge for him – and there was no question that he was moving more quickly than he had been a moment ago. The light came on once more, and Trunks stopped, grabbed his head and emitted that horrible, high-pitched sound. It was overpowering; Dende’s very nervous system seemed to be trying to shake itself out of his body and dance away.

Dende was nauseated. "Moot... g... get aw… away..." he tried to say, and then with no warning, Kuro Trunks turned and stumbled away, all coordination lost, not even functioning well enough to fly.

The Black - such as it was - had been hurt.

Moot stared and then sniffled; Bee was gone – and that just was NOT fair at all. Dende stared after Trunks, his mind momentarily frozen by the enormity of what they had just done. Vejiita stared for only a moment and then snarled to be let loose; “helpless” was not a feeling that he was growing to like at all, and there was vengeance to be had.

Dende hurried to free him, not sure where Kuro Trunks had gone but knowing that he had to find the Chosen One and get him that dragonball NOW; things were moving too quickly to make any more mistakes. Moot merely stood where he was and trembled, a little naked Namek appearing unutterably beautiful in the light of the eighth dragonball.

*

Meanwhile, on the other side of the building, Bulma worked almost frantically on Gohan's machine, trying to disable it in a most permanent fashion and only caring about the small but suitable revenge she was able to get. Her womanly instinct was telling her that she was running out of time, and she had to hurry - so, she did.

Bra stood back a bit, very nervous. This was wrong; this was ALL wrong. Something was happening with her father and Mr. Gokuu and the rest of them on the other side of the building, but she couldn't tell what it was; something about the nature of this place screwed up her senses.

She was aware of Ru Sa in the same way she was aware of Vejiita and aware of Gokuu – but she couldn’t touch them at all or tell where they were or even what they were doing. Taking a step back from the woman who was not quite her mother, Bra peered into the dark; she had become very vaguely aware that someone was coming.

And then, a wonderful surprise; she felt Gohan's mind, sensed just the tiniest bits and gleamings of the consciousness that was unmistakably his - even though he presently was still knocked out. Her eyes lit up, and in her youth and naiveté she did not stop to think how Gohan could be moving toward them when he was unconscious.

"GOHAN SON!!" she abruptly wailed, and disappeared toward the corner.

"Bra! What are you doing?" Bulma dropped her tools, not thinking, and ran after the child. After all, Bra belonged to Vejiita, and she had made a promise to keep her safe. She sped toward the corner, simply following the track that Bra had taken – and so received a most unpleasant surprise.

Ru Sa, inches from her, held Bra's feebly struggling form off the ground with one hand. "I'd forgotten all about you," he said dryly, dropping Gohan casually to the ground like a bag of rice.

Bulma gasped and slid to a stop.

Ru Sa smiled; and without another word, he hit her.

Bulma went flying backwards, not seriously hurt but definitely dazed, which gave Ru Sa enough time to sling Gohan back onto his shoulder and walk toward her and the machine.

"I don't know what's worse," he intoned as he tossed Gohan to the ground again, next to Bulma. "Saiyans who keep returning or humans who won't die. Perhaps both of you need to be taught a lesson." Casually, he spread them both on their backs and stapled their limbs to the ground, keeping Bra neatly trapped under one arm as he did so.

Bra was horrified. "Lemme GO!" she wailed, struggling for all she was worth and kicking and hitting whatever she could reach. She was landing blows that would have bent an adult human in half almost instantly; unfortunately, Ru Sa was not human – and he was still high on Gokuu's powers. That would fade soon enough, but for the moment he was all but invincible, and little-girl punches, half-Saiya-jin though they be, were hardly enough to be more than an annoyance.

"Oh, stop," he said to her irritably, and hit her on the back of her neck. It had the desired effect; she slumped limply, in his arms, quite unconscious. He regarded her for a moment before tossing her to the ground next to her mother. Beautiful child; he was probably going to take her with him, as well as her father. She’d provide some rather fine entertainment on the way, what with her young, supple body and her father’s potential reactions to various things he could do with her body.

Yes. That would be very sweet indeed.

Still moving with the thoughtful, self-aware grace of invulnerability, Ru Sa knelt over Gohan's body and proceeded to slap him until he showed signs of coming awake. His goal was to make Gohan tell him how to work his time machine so he could get out of here; however, he never got the chance to complete it.

A high-pitched, inhuman screeching sound came within hearing range from somewhere behind him, around the southern edge of the building. Having no clue what it was, Ru Sa turned around to look.

Still stumbling somewhat in pain, Kuro Trunks came around the corner, holding his head and making that awful sound. Once he came within sight, he stopped stumbling and stared. Resuming his blank, unfocused expression, Kuro Trunks lifted slightly into the air and started moving toward them.

Ru Sa’s eyes went wide; it took him all of one second to decide that torturing everybody took a second position to running for his life, and sending a panicked blast at Trunks for distraction’s sake, he lifted up and took off without a backwards look – leaving Bra, Gohan, and Bulma utterly helpless. Bulma, the closest to conscious of the three, stared at what was left of her son for a moment, and then started screaming.

Trunks absorbed Ru Sa’s blast without reaction or comment; his mother’s screaming seemed to make no difference to him. Blank, gaunt, expressionless, he began moving toward the three people on the ground.

*

Bulma’s scream carried as well as Kuro Trunks’ screeching had; Vejiita, his clothing still smoking a bit from the last ki-wrap jolt he’d received, was already heading around the corner when its harsh sound reached his ears. He stopped, scowling. Right behind him, Dende paused as well.

“Was that Bulma?” he asked hesitantly, trying not to look at the harsh angles of Vejiita’s face in the light of the dragonball. He looked beautiful, cruel, and utterly cold – and in that light he was scaring Dende very, very much.

“One of them,” Vejiita answered evenly, still scowling, and without another word he lifted into the air and headed around the corner.

“But… the… Wait! Oh, GAH…” emoted Dende, who promptly turned, grabbed Moot around the waist, and ran after him, the purifying light of the eighth dragonball bouncing along the path and lighting the air brilliantly along the way. At least SOMEbody here seemed to be thinking.

*

Everybody was gone when Gokuu woke up. Feeling old, pained, and weaker than he ever had in his life, he stressed and strained his body until he was able to roll himself over onto his stomach. From that position, the first thing he did was sob; his wife was gone, his youngest son was dead, and now there was nothing he could do to recover them. He understood in a vague, intuitive, Gokuu-ish way that the universes in which they had died were no more, and as such, it was impossible to bring them back.

Still shuddering, he pushed himself onto hands and knees and sobbed one more time. His arms and legs were shaking dreadfully, but Gokuu refused to fall; he still possessed the will to push himself beyond what he ought to have been able to do, in spite of his body’s utter lack of power. Vaguely aware that Vejiita and Dende had moved to the other side of the building, he pushed himself back onto his knees and weaved, physically trying to stay upright and fighting to remain conscious. Unfortunately, this was not so simple; his ki was all but gone, and his body had been robbed of its youth and seemingly endless strength. Merely keeping his head away from the ground was a gargantuan effort of will; it seemed to have almost a magnetic pull.

Perhaps there’s a higher gravity now,he thought dazedly to himself, and that was when Cumber found him.

Still carrying Trunks and wearing a look on his face of complete rapture, the weary Kyuujinshu stumbled his way above ground and toward Gokuu at once. Dropping to his knees beside him, Cumber angled Trunks into one arm and touched Gokuu’s shoulder by way of greeting.

Gokuu took a moment to respond; getting enough breath to speak took some doing.

“Cumber,” he wheezed without looking, a little surprised at the odd, unused timbre of his own voice. Unable to say more for the moment, he resumed his labored panting.

Cumber did not answer. He could not; his soul felt so filled peace and an utter unbelievable joy that even thinking in words was impossible. He merely knelt where he was, breathing as if to mimic Gokuu’s tired breaths, only a bit faster. His mouth moved, but no sound came out.

Gokuu turned and looked at him, moving his head carefully so as not to lose his balance and sprawl. His skin was as tired and colorless as his hair, but his eyes had lost none of their sparkle. In his present, joy-shocked condition, Cumber thought dazedly that Gokuu’s eyes were the most wonderful things he had ever seen – except, of course, for Trunks; but HE was the chosen one, so there was the reason for that.

Gokuu smiled slowly, ignoring the way his dry skin threatened to crack on his face. “You… you’re different,” he panted, still-sharp eyes taking in all Cumber’s details.

Cumber swallowed. “I’ve seen eternity,” he said quietly, his eyes huge and slightly moist. He held Trunks closer to his chest and forced himself to speak again. “Where is the dragonball?” he asked, still trembling and unable to stop panting.

Gokuu blinked at him, bright eyes shocking in his old, old face. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “But I think Moot or somebody has it on the other side.”

Cumber started to answer, and that was when Trunks finally came awake.

The young man moaned softly and stirred, just a bit. Wincing, he reached up and gripped his forehead, looking a little pale and still quite dazed; and as he came awake, something truly incredible started to happen.

He began to glow.

Gokuu stopped his labored breathing and stared, amazed at what he saw. Trunks, in his semi-conscious state, was exhibiting no control over the light that now dwelt in him as a visible representation of Jouten's direct power. His nearly deity-like purity was manifesting by itself.

“He… he’s so beautiful,” Gokuu panted, and Cumber was about to answer when they were both interrupted.

“Why won’t you just DIE?!?!” Ru Sa roared, and with no more conversation sent a very large blast of ki at the three on the ground.

In that split second, three things happened at once.

Trunks, his ki-sense flaring, came completely awake. He was suddenly very aware that he was going to die – and that he had not yet completed his mission.

Gokuu automatically tried to summon the power to fight back, to resist, to protect – and found that he could not. In that split second, he realized the crucial difference between savior and prey: the trait of being unable.

And in that split second, Cumber did something that he would never have dreamed of doing even a day before. He simply absorbed the blast and channeled it back at Ru Sa.

Taken by surprise, Ru Sa was nearly injured. He reacted at the last moment, taking it head on and absorbing it carefully.

“Get out of here,” Cumber breathed, and let Trunks roll out of his arms and onto the ground. He stood, eyes glued to Ru Sa. “Get OUT!” he said again, and took two steps away from Gokuu and Trunks. He understood now; he knew what he had to do.

He had to be a distracttion until Trunks could get safely to the eighth dragonball.

“But…” started Gokuu, and Trunks, who had now become sharply aware of the presence of the eighth dragonball on the other side of the building, simply picked up Gokuu’s frail body and took off.

Ru Sa let them go. His eyes were glued to Cumber, his expression a study in blazing, quiet, fury. A moment of silence passed.

“How… dare you,” he said to Cumber, the oddness of the air here making his voice carry now where before it had not.

Cumber did not answer.

“You half-class bastard traitor,” Ru Sa hissed and seethed. “How could you DO this? I have always been faithful to us and ours,” he sneered, and sent another blast at Cumber – this one calculated to be so big that re-directing it would drain Cumber’s energy considerably.

Not knowing his ploy nor being a fighter at heart, Cumber simply responded the same way, absorbing the blast and sending it back at him.

Ru Sa smiled; the idiot was playing right into his hands. Fool had never had much fighting instinct... in fact, Cumber was one of the Kyuujinshu who was different enough to alert King Vejiita so very long ago and get them banished from the planet of the Saiya-jin.

“We are the last, Cumber,” he said, reverting to their native language – a language that should, by all rights, have been dead for thousands of years. “Why do you do this and betray the last?” As if not waiting for a response, he sent a second large blast at Cumber.

Cumber deflected it, panting now as he did so. He had been well over a week without a fix, and this was tiring what little reserves he had. But that was okay; his purpose was not to survive here, anyway. He was here to distract, and he knew that as well as he knew his own name. There were tears in his eyes as he answered.

“I don’t think you can possibly understand, Ru Sa,” he answered softly in the same language. “I love, now.“ A simple statement, and honest; however, he seemed to understand how very corny that sounded without context, and so, he smiled; slowly and knowingly – a solemn, and somehow ageless expression.

Ru Sa stared; he had known Cumber for approximately two thousand years, and he had never seen him smile like that. He had never seen anyone smile like that. And so, like most sentient beings who encounter something they do not understand, Ru Sa felt a sudden upsurge of hatred and disgust for Cumber; any possible vestiges of mercy that might have been there because of long association were gone. Abruptly deciding that he didn’t want to play with Cumber as much as he had a moment before, Ru Sa bared his teeth and fired, again and again and again, wearing Cumber’s strength down so he could drain and destroy him utterly.

Cumber took it. He fought back as much as he could, which wasn’t very much altogether; forming his own ki blasts only drained his weakening energy more.

His ending is not one that should be dwelt on; it was noble, brave, and very, very quick. He died with that odd, knowing smile still on his face - which fact utterly infuriated Ru Sa, nearly to the point of madness; it robbed him of the feeling of victory. Even draining Cumber did not remove that smile, and when Ru Sa got away from him and headed back toward the other side of the building, he was somewhere beyond furious and dancing on the edge of insanity.

Chive’s formula had indeed been something special; it had, as Ru Sa felt, made him twice as strong has he had already been and given him more health and abilities than he had had in centuries. However, it also had had a terrible side effect; it sent his metabolism into overdrive, which meant that he was experiencing serious detriment to his mental and emotional control. As Ru Sa flew after Gokuu and Trunks, keeping well off the ground so as to avoid Kuro Trunks, his capacity for logical thought was rapidly diminishing, being enveloped in a sense of anger that was approaching bestial levels. In fact, he hardly felt afraid any more of anything - not even Kuro Trunks.

He closed in on both versions of Trunks, Gokuu, Gohan, Bulma, Vejiita, and Bra, unaware of Reep behind him and Gai far beneath, and unaware that with his movement the crucial members of the Prophecy would be altogether – and they would enter into its final and most unstoppable stage. Nothing was going to stop the End now.

And under the ground and bathed with light, Reep writhed in the joy of Eternal and waited, for soon Gai would rise, and he with her – and everything would then be all right.

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