"You know...when you said you were going to take me on a picnic, THIS isn't exactly what I had in mind."
Lady Chichi grumbled on the picnic blanket, her arms crossed. Ophrys didn't understand why she seemed so upset. They were in the middle of untamed wilds of Mount Paozu right next to a large lake being fed by a wall of falling water. Having left the newly completed campsite in the safety of the defense systems, Queen Clemartis had taken Goku's offer to join him on his family outing.
"Aw come on Chichi, you've always liked this picnic spot." Goku said as he took off his gii, looking eager to get to the water.
"That's not the..." Chichi put her hand to her forehead. "Oh what's the use? I give up."
"It's not so bad is it mom?" Gohan asked as he spread out his and Videl's blanket. "We've all been so busy doing our own thing that its been awhile since we've had a chance to relax like this."
"Yeah and it wouldn't be right not to invite our new friends after all they've been through." Videl added as she set down the wooden basket full of food. The poor woman grimaced as she tried to sit down. Queen Clemartis was by her side sooner than her husband could and helped lower her to the ground.
"Thank you. The baby is being a little difficult today."
"It is nothing. I just hope we can enjoy a little R&R before returning to war front. I hadn't recovered enough from the crash as much as I hoped, and with no healing chamber it will be a longer process."
"Is there anything we can do?" Goku asked.
"Hmph," the queen smiled. "No. As much as I appreciate your concern my friend, this is something I must overcome alone."
"Why? If it's a physical injury we can-" Gohan started to say.
"Oh no, it's not just physical." Ophrys interrupted, pushing his glasses up the ridge of his nose. "Remember how I told you how our bodies need to store ki? Her majesty needs to take more time in restoring her reserves than the rest of us. If she doesn't, she could have another attack."
"Then take as much time as you need." Goku reassured. "If those guys were any condition to fight you, I think they would have done it by now. And as long as they're quiet, might as well relax."
"Thank you for your kindness."
Ophrys looked at Chichi when she let out a sigh. She still didn't look satisfied but was smiling, so Ophrys was relieved that she wasn't going to lose her temper.
"I guess your right." she said leaning back on the ground. "Just remember to dry off before you sit down to eat Goku." Goku beamed as he stripped down and began running for the water.
"Thanks Chichi! I'll catch something big for dinner!" he said as he took a dive.
"Make sure it's not too big! We've got enough leftovers as it is!" Chichi called after him but he was already underwater. She lay back on the blanket picking at the blades of grass.
Ophrys decided to follow her lead and check the blades she picked up. Earth grass was certainly shorter than the grass back home, but he wasn't sure how that could be. From what it looked like, this area was uninhabited by humans and the grass was short enough to walk on comfortably. How was such a feat possible?
"Are you alright Lady Chichi?" Sorrel asked walking up behind her. "Are you ill?"
"No, dear, I'm fine." She said with a smile. "How's your rice ball coming?"
"I...attempted to mold it in the shape you instructed, but I wanted to double-check to see if I made any errors." Sorrel held out the lump of clear grain, held together by a piece of dry sea leaves. It was in the shape of a circle, compressed so hard that it looked like it was barely holding together its shape. The dried leaf was not helping any either. Chichi grimaced but tried to hide it when she saw Sorrel's disappointed face. "Forgive me for my incompetence. I will dispose of this one and make another right away."
"Don't be so dramatic its just a rice ball, and it was a good first try. You just need to be a little bit softer when you mold it. The rice can hold its shape just fine, you just gotta coax it to take a shape."
"But won't the flavor be more concentrated if the rice is closer together?"
"The flavor will be the same no matter what it looks like." She said taking a bite out of Sorrel's rice ball. He looked horrified as she bit down, like she would spit it out the second she chewed it. Ophrys had never seen his twin look so nervous before. It was too funny to pass up. He reached for his tool belt and removed his journal tablet that doubled as a camera. Slowly he maneuvered so his brother wouldn't spot him. A quick little snap, and the deed was done.
"Hmmm. Delicious." Chichi said with satisfaction. "You did a great job."
"Are you sure? But it wasn't to your specifications." Sorrel said nervously.
"Of course. You need to loosen up a bit Sorrel. It doesn't matter if its perfect or not. What IS important is the effort you put in it and the reason you made it."
"I-I see." Sorrel didn't seem like he knew how to process her response but did his best to return her smile. His inexperience in expressing happy emotions showed. Again, too hilarious to go undocumented. However, as second the picture was captured, Ophrys saw Sorrel looking in his direction. The strange smile shifted to confusion quickly followed by Sorrel's usual suppressed rage.
"Hey bro, there was a cool insect flying just behind you so...I thought I would..." Ophrys said, hoping the lie about an insect would be convincing.
"You have five seconds to delete that picture before I make you relive your most embarrassing and traumatic experiences," he said coldly. Ophrys hesitated. "One...two...three..."
"Alright alright!" Ophrys cried and holding the tablet up for his brother to see as he pressed the delete button. A goldmine's worth of blackmail, gone in seconds. Well at least the one his brother caught him with anyways. "See? Gone! I had to delete a once in a life time insect documentation, all because SOMEONE is too self conscious."
"Your lies are as transparent as your illusionary skills. Now take your worthless hobby elsewhere where it can't stain our family heritage more than it already has!"
Ophrys gave his brother a good glare before walking away and sitting behind a nearby tree. Even though he tried not to care about it, it still hurt like crazy for his own twin to talk down to him like that.
A twin that, up until 20 years ago, looked up to him. It used to be that Ophrys would have to lead Sorrel down the mansion's dark corridors to the lavatory since he was too scared to go alone. They would always train together, play together, learn together and even get into trouble together.
Those quiet days where they could just have fun were rare however, since mother dearest didn't waste any time putting Ophrys' nose to the grindstone to groom him for leading the Iris household and eventually the Yousarian empire when her ultimate plans would come to fruition. At first, he would just do what his mother asked without question, and would be over the moon when she praised his improvements.
It was when he met Queen Clemartis that things began to change. It was during the first of the many noble house gatherings that he would be forced to attend with his mother. She informed him it was the perfect opportunity for learning more about the political competition. Ophrys was eager to make an impression on the people his mother had told him were their family's sworn enemies. Observing every detail on their habits, body language, and histories per his training. The better you know your target, the easier they will be to eliminate from the political game. He systematically went from noble to noble until he managed to find the Queen, who he had found alone in one of the Ancestral Gardens.
There she was. The daughter of the evil Queen that had condemned Ophrys' father to death and had disgraced the Iris house by disregarding their insights. Ophrys had clenched his hands hard to restrain himself. He went over to one of the garden's many flower beds and picked one. Walking over to the Queen, who was sitting quietly by one of the trees. Ophrys knelt down and presented the flower.
"A beautiful blossom like you, your majesty, shouldn't be hidden away from her adoring subjects." he said as suave as possible. Lines like this always buttered up the women he met, even though he was still far too young to woo any. Though it was more than enough to earn a few giggles on how cute he was. He could put up with that as long as he got what he wanted out of them in the end.
However, much to his surprise, the Queen didn't giggle, smile, pinch his cheeks or tell him how cute he was. She turned looked him over with a stoic face before taking the flower from his hand. Instead of smelling it and pinning it to her gown like most women did, she carried the flower back to where he had found it and used her ki to reattach it to its stem. Ophrys tried to hide his confusion but had little success.
"There are better ways to getting a woman's attention then ending a innocent life before it's time." she said as she turned to face him, her expression unchanged. Oprhys had to suppress his inner rage at the hypocrisy in her words.
"Forgive me your majesty, I was unaware that such actions displeased you."
"There are plenty of things that displease me nowadays. Most of them unfortunately come with the crown. Deciding on new policies, negotiating with tyrants, and organizing parties that serve to do little more than give the noble houses more reasons to argue with each other." Ophrys took a shallow gulp. Had she caught on to his ulterior motives? Was he that transparent? No, that was impossible. His mother had given him the best training she could afford and he had made no mistakes.
"Perhaps that is because your majesty is not looking at it with the right perspective? A party is a party. And given all that you have done for our people in the past few years of your rule, it is rightly deserved." He said bowing low. He looked up when he heard her give a melodic giggle. Ophrys smiled in turn, he was beginning to make progress.
"Maybe you're right." She said gazing out over the city. "Your are Iris' eldest correct?"
"Oprhys of House Iris, at your service." he said bowing low again.
"Next in line eh? Gladolous mentioned you would be attending. Though I was never aware that Lady Iris even had children 'til today. Odd." Ophrys froze. His mother hadn't mentioned him at all? Why? She always seemed to praise him at home. Why would she never mention his name to the queen if he was going to be involved with politics one day.
"She...never mentioned me?" he asked in disbelief.
"Not that I can recall. But then again my conversations with your mother always jump to the political. Important yes, but more than tedious after awhile." Oprhys looked down at the ground as he tried to put the pieces together in his head. The Queen must have noticed. "Don't take it personally. I can't imagine why your mother would keep an interesting person like you a secret. But for as long as I've known her, there is only one thing that she cares for above all else. The crown."
"How dare you insult my mother like that!" Oprhys yelled, unable to contain himself. Queen or not, he would not let a comment like that go unattested. "She has nothing but love for our home and the interests of the Empire and yet you slander her and disregard her contributions at every turn!"
"Love for your home is all well and good, but at what cost?"
"Any cost is acceptable." Ophrys declared.
"Even the life of her eldest son?" the Queen asked. Oprhys' blood went cold. What did she mean by that? The Queen had no right to insinuate such a thing. His mother loved him more than anything. She wouldn't have given him so much if she didn't care about him...right?
"How dare you...!" he started to say but the Queen cut him off.
"Tell me. Do you have any hobbies?" she asked abruptly.
"Do not change the subject!"
"I am your Queen and I will do what I wish. And I wish to know what you consider your hobbies."
"I refuse to be interrogated for something so insignificant!"
"It is not insignificant to me. If I must make my question an order, I will. What do you, Ophrys, do in your spare time?" Ophrys shook his head at the Queen's audacity before he began to consider his answer, he would have to inform his mother of this later. He turned his thoughts to his home life to find an answer for the queen.
However, the more he thought about it, he realized that he didn't have any other interest than serving his mother's wishes. Until now that had more than satisfied him but...if he was truly nothing more than a tool to her...what did that mean for him? What had all that training really been for?
"It is not good manners to keep the Queen waiting." Queen Clemartis said. Oprhys growled in frustration before turning to her.
"My hobby is studying the history of our glorious empire and mastering the abilities of my house." He said in an exasperated tone. "Does that satisfy your majesty's curiosity?" He narrowed his eyes when the Queen looked displeased.
"Really?" she raised her eyebrow.
"Y-yes. If that is all you require of me your highness, I will take my leave." he said quickly hoping to get as far away from the woman as soon as possible.
"You're not being honest with me." She said coldly, stopping Ophrys in his tracks. "Sadder yet, you're not being honest with yourself."
"With all due respect your highness," he said angrily. "You do not know anything about me so please don't pretend that you do."
"I may not know much about you personally no, but I do understand what you are going through. Being groomed for a position that you truly have no interest in is something I am VERY familiar with."
"If you never cared for the throne then why did you do so much to attain it? All you have to do is step down."
"Hmph. If only it were that simple." The queen smirked.
"Why isn't it?"
"Because I know who I am and what I want. Both of which require me to rule this empire and care for its citizens. I do the former because it is my birthright and the latter because I have learned what happens to innocent lives when left unprotected from the likes of the Saiyans and Frieza. Though it may not exactly be what I truly wanted in my life, it is a duty that I must see through to the end. Too many have given their lives to get me here than for me to just quit. Can your mother say the same?"
Ophrys grimaced and look down to the ground. He had heard a lot about the queen's history but never like this. His mother had told him that much like her mother, she had been out to secure the thrown in order to further her mother's goal at spreading the empire too thin and endangering the people by angering Lord Frieza. Was all of this even true or was it all an elaborate lie to make him pity her? At that point, Ophrys had no idea what to think anymore.
"Forgive me if my words seem disrespectful to you, that is far from my intention. All I want is for you to, like you said, look at things from a different perspective. Your preparing to enter a world of responsibilities and consequences that will be difficult to leave. Make sure you understand what kind of person you are and if those responsibilities are truly what you want out of your life. Regardless of how your mother feels about you, it is your decision to make. Not hers." The queen knelt and put her hand on his shoulder looking him straight in the eye.
There was no hesitation when she spoke, no fidgeting, absolutely no physical sign that she was lying to him to win him over. She was completely sincere. Not sure how to respond, Ophrys gave the Queen a simple bow and had left the garden without a word.
Long after that party, no matter how hard he tried, he could get the Queen's words out of his head. Who was he really? What kind of things mattered to him? His brother for one, his mother was second, and the more he thought about it, he realized that there was one of his class topics that he looked forward to more than all the others, even more than training.
The ins and outs of the Yousari body and even of other alien species. How they worked and evolved to survive in almost any kind of environment imaginable, as long as the planet had energy. Even the insect dissection experiments revealed so much about how life had come to be that it completely overwhelmed Ophrys. He had to know more; what kind of planets existed in the cosmos and how their life had evolved to suit their environment?
The desire was so insatiable that he began to skip training in order to conduct his own experiments in his room. Experiments that even lead to the discovery of how his people's slow revitalization of their planet's energy had created a new species of insect that had never been recorded in their planet's history. It was when he went to inform his mother of his accomplishment that their relationship changed forever.
Instead of being proud for his discovery, which would dramatically change the restoration effort, his mother did something she had never done to him before.
She scolded him.
"This is what you have been wasting your time doing? Poking at insects instead of preparing yourself for your political career? And your brother has informed me that you have been skipping your physcial training sessions as well. This is unacceptable Ophrys! I will not have you waste the valuable years of your youth on such an insignificant pastime."
"But mother, a discovery like this is far from insignificant. This could change all that we understand about our planet's evolutionary process in how the planet's own energy influences-"
"I said enough Ophrys! You are the first-born son of a noble house, not a scientist. And the time will soon be upon us where you will step into the political arena and secure House Iris' future."
"What do you mean? We are already the third most powerful house in the council even if the current Queen doesn't think highly of us. We still have enough influence to make improvements to society."
"But not enough." his mother said without hesitation. "There is only so much we can do with the power we possess. The kind of changes I feel are necessary can only be put into motion from one position of power."
Ophrys eyes went wide when he realized what his mother was getting at. It made sense that she wanted her house on the Yousari throne. She had almost attained it years ago before the late Queen had beaten her to it. But with the way things were now, it was hard to say when another competition between the noble houses would be necessary.
"Fortunately for us, the Queen has already cut her lifespan in half so her reign will come to an end sooner than I had originally anticipated." His mother continued.
"However, she seems driven to endanger our people's future by seeking revenge against Lord Frieza. Wish or no wish, angering that tyrant will only serve to destroy what little of our people remain out amongst the stars. It won't be long before you will need to fulfill your duty to your family, Ophrys."
"And what is my duty, mother? You've always been rather vague when discussing it." he asked looking up at his mother. She turned to regard him, paralyzing him with her calculating gaze.
"You are just full of questions aren't you? Well, perhaps you are old enough to understand now." she said smiling, but not the warm smile that he looked forward to. It was a chilling, intimidating smile, full of ruthless ambition; she would achieve her end no matter how great the sacrifice.
"You, my son, will use your new friendship with the Queen for our family's profit and kill her when I order it." Oprhys' mind went blank. How the hell was he even supposed to respond? His mother was asking him to kill Queen Clemartis. This was outright treason, even more than that it was a betrayal of his trust in her.
All this time she had not been training him in the assassination arts for military service, as required of all noble lords at some point in their careers. He was to be nothing more than a scapegoat for his mother to have another opportunity to win back her pride. No matter how much he cared about her or how he felt about the queen, that was not what he wanted. More importantly, that was not who he was.
"I...will not." he replied. His mother paused. Looking genuinely shocked.
"What did you say?" she asked in disbelief.
"I refuse. I'll...l'll do no such thing!" he said, getting more confidence the more he said it. His mother's beautiful face twisted into an ugly grimace as her rage began to build.
"You cannot refuse. This is an order from your mother and you will do what I say!"
"You may be my mother but you can't force me to do something like this. Do whatever you want to punish me, but my opinion won't change."
"I didn't raise you to have opinions!" his mother bellowed. "You exist to serve my will, the will of our family!"
"Then I guess I don't belong in this family anymore!" he said as he turned to leave. "I wish it didn't have to be this way mother. But I can't be what I am not." He said as he began to walk out of the room.
"Don't you walk away from me young man! Where are you going?" His mother screamed.
"To the new palace. To inform the Queen of your plans, because it is the right thing to do."
"The right thing to do?" his mother cackled. "If I fall from grace, the rest of the family will join me. Including you."
"I don't care."
"But you care about your brother don't you?" She sneered. Ophrys stopped in his tracks. She was prepared to go that far? To threaten her own son if he didn't comply. No matter how much this situation disgusted him, Ophrys wasn't prepared to be disowned if it meant leaving his brother alone.
"You wouldn't dare." Ophrys said trying to call his mother's bluff.
"Oh but I would." She said as she walked over to him. Her high heeled boots clicking against the marble floor. "You may be my flesh and blood but your purpose has always been mere stepping stones to my goal, nothing more. I had hoped that you would see things my way, after what that cursed queen did to your father. No matter what it takes, I will see her and her daughter pay. Walk out of this mansion now and I promise that whatever becomes of me, I will see to it that your brother will be considered an accomplice. And I'm sure he will be more willing to defend me in court."
Ophrys glared at his mother for the first time in his life. This was not the same woman who only hours ago he had cared for and was willing to do everything she wished.
This was a monster.
"For your brother's best interest, you will remain silent about what I have told you here today and you will continue to do my bidding without question. As punishment for your insolence I am revoking your right of succession; it will be given to your brother. You will support him in all of his tasks: training, political education, and of course his duty to me when the time comes." Ophrys fists shook, tears threatened to spill over his eyes but he bit them back.
"Perhaps if you work hard enough to please me, I will allow you to continue these, scientific pursuits of yours. The more prestige our family has, the better our chances at winning the support of the people." His mother smiled as she stroked his leafy hair.
And so the worst years of Ophrys' life had began. He wasn't sure what his mother had told him, but it was from then on that Sorrel began to shun him, treating him more like a servant than a brother. The pain of sudden rejection was excruciating and Ophrys wanted more than anything than to go to the Queen for help.
His mother however, knew how much power she had over him and made sure to remind him when he grew too rebellious. It wasn't until after several years of obedience that his mother kept her word and gave Ophrys more freedom to pursue a career as a biologist even if he had to give most of it up when his mother ordered he and his brother to join the military. In a way, work helped him take his mind off his problems at home. He was over the moon when the Queen had proposed turning the squad into an space exploration team. Anything to keep him far away from that mansion and the cruel woman who ruled it.
Even the constant insults of his brother didn't hurt so much anymore. Being called weak, stupid, and a loser wasn't that bad once you got used to it. But it infuriated Ophrys to no end that he couldn't tell his brother the real stain on their family heritage.
"That is no way to talk to your brother!" Chichi scolded.
"It is no less than he deserves." Sorrel said simply, returning to his work making another rice ball.
"And what would that be?"
"You wouldn't understand." Sorrel turned away from her trying to regain his focus, but Lady Chichi simply stood up and moved into his line of sight.
"Try me." Lady Chichi insisted. Ophrys silently appreciated her concern but it was going to take a lot more prodding to get Sorrel to talk about anything personal.
"With all due respect, Lady Chichi. It is a private matter for my House and not for some alien woman."
"You make it my business when you say crap like that out loud ." Sorrel winced, ashamed of his mistake. Ophrys snickered. Finally his younger twin's eagerness to belittle him had finally gotten him in trouble. "Now spill."
Sorrel gritted his teeth and put down the lump of rice. It was a smart move considering how noisy this human female could be.
"If you must know. I am the one who will become the head of our family after our mother because HE was too weak to measure up to our mother's dream. Not only weak in ability but weak in resolve. And after he threw away all that she gave him, he regrets nothing. All that time bragging about how he would be one of our family's greatest leaders, nothing but big fat lies." Ophrys gripped his arms tighter at each word.
All he wanted was to turn back to his brother and scream the truth. But he knew, the moment he did, both of their lives could be in jeopardy. It wouldn't be hard for mother to create new heirs, ones that would be more subservient to her will than he was.
"So until he admits his folly and gives up his fantasies, I will treat him the way he deserves to be treated, family or not. As a coward and a failure."
Everyone nearby was silent, save Goku who was still swimming around in the lake. Ophrys couldn't bear to peak around the tree and look at them. With this new information they were probably looking at him with disgust or confusion, neither of which he wanted to see. Like with everyone else who had come to hate him over the years, he would just have to grit and bear it.
"Sorrel, you need to understand-" Queen Clemartis said before someone else spoke up.
"What kind of sick dream is worth treating her son like this?" Lady Chichi said in a stern voice. Both Sorrel and Ophrys looked at her with wide eyes. But Sorrel's surprise was the only one to turn into rage.
"How...how dare you speak of my mother that way." he yelled. For Ophrys, looking at his brother was like looking in a mirror, in more ways than one.
"Ostracizing her own son just because he doesn't meet her expectations? I don't care what planet your from but that just unacceptable."
"You have no right to say that! Your not one of us!" Sorrel yelled getting to his feet.
"Sorrel! Watch your mouth." The Queen shouted. "That's an order." she added for emphasis when Sorrel looked tempted to ignore her. Not wanting to stain his reputation with disobeying a direct order from the Queen herself, he fell silent.
"Maybe not, but I am a mother. You know why I pushed Gohan to be a scholar? Why I insist that Goten go to public school even though he resists me at every turn? Because I want them to have something I never did! I push them to be the best they can be so THEY can have a better life, not to fulfill an obligation to me. That is a mother's sacred duty. It sure as hell IS NOT encouraging her only sons to bicker about who is the better suck up."
For the first time in years, Sorrel was absolutely speechless. No witty comeback, no throwing words back with deadly force. Even if he had been ordered to mind his manners, that was normally not enough to keep him from getting the last word in. Here, he just looked...floored.
Could he be upset by his now wounded pride? Maybe, but he made no attempt to deny her. Ophrys found it strange that Sorrel made no further attempt to defend their mother's honor. But there was a chance that maybe, just maybe, that Sorrel had gotten the same feeling that Oprhys did. That there was something that mother had said or done that had made him reconsider his dedication to her.
"Wow, Mom. Do you really mean that?" Gohan asked, looking a bit taken aback.
"Every word sweetie. You didn't honestly think I was spending so much time encouraging you to study for my health did you?" Lady Chichi said crossing her arms. Looking ashamed that Gohan would have thought anything to the contrary.
"So all those scholarships and the money he put in to fixing up the house was...?" Videl asked. Ophrys could have sworn he saw Lady Chichi sweat drop.
Both Gohan and Videl started to laugh, with Chichi following their lead. Ophrys didn't understand the cause of their humor but he had to admit he was more than a little elated as well. No one had defended him like that in years. Both the Queen and Calla, who had informed him that they had discovered his predicament after spending years spying on his mother, had been forced to stay quiet for both him and his brother's sake.
Only here, light years away from home had he found not only a place that was ripe for exploration and discovery but also a place where he could be understood. He still felt a pang of guilt for his brother. No matter what he said, Ophrys knew that Sorrel still cared for him enough to help him when things got rough. For now, that was more than enough for him to forgive and forget whatever his brother said.
"Heellooooooooo down there!" Ophrys looked up to see Calla, Goten and Trunks as they dropped from the sky. Excited to get a second chance to get to know Trunks better, Ophrys ran out from his hiding spot and waved to the group. However the second the two made eye contact, Ophrys noticed Trunks wince, slowing his decent. Ophrys raised his eyebrow. Trunks looked fine physically and his power level seemed strong. Perhaps Trunks had a phobia of heights or water. He would have to inquire about that.
Goku popped out of the lake and waved as well.
"Hey there guys! Goten, there's a huge school of fish in here, wanna help me catch'em?" He called out. Goten smiled as he made a be line for the lake, taking his clothes off as he flew. Landing on more than a few people, namely Chichi and Queen Clemartis.
"Geronimo!" Goten cried as he landed in the water with a big splash.
"Goten! What have I told you about undressing in public! Geez, you'd think that he'd get more embarrassed about stuff like that when he got older." Chichi grumbled. Queen Clemartis laughed as she took the shorts off her head.
"He makes it look like a lot of fun though, you've got to give him that."
"Something he inherited from his father, that's for sure. No matter how old he gets, he's always running around like he's still ten years old."
"After fighting someone like Frieza to the death, that is quite a feat." Queen Clemartis stood up from her spot on the blanket, watching Goku and Goten rough house in the water.
"One of the many reasons I married him." Chichi smiled proudly.
"Even after everything you said yesterday, you don't regret it at all?" Clemartis asked. Chichi looked over and smiled at her husband and son.
"Never have, never will." she replied. Queen Clemartis returned the smile and Ophrys saw something he never seen in his Queen before. Childlike excitement. As big as she was, it was easy to forget that she wasn't that much older than he was. Calla walked over and stood beside the Queen as they watch Goten dive after Goku.
"So Azera and Forcytha decided to stay behind?" Clemartis asked.
"Just until they can get communications up and running. They said they'd return to the camp site before it gets dark."
"Good. That's one concern out of the way." Clemartis looked over at Calla and saw that she was practically dancing in place. Her duty was the only thing keeping her from jumping into the lake at top speed. Clemartis rolled her eyes when she got the hint. "Thank you for your report. Until further notice you are relieved of your duties."
"YES! You're the best Clem." Calla exclaimed as she gave the Queen an extra strong hug. Not even bothering to remove her clothes Calla sprinted to water and leapt a few feet in the air before crashing down into the water. Splashing everyone on the nearby shore.
"Well, that does it." Clemartis said as she began to remove some of her clothes, her eyes practically sparkling from excitement. Sorrel freaked when he saw her.
"Y-your majesty? What in the name of the ancestors are you doing?" his face becoming more pale than normal.
"Simple, I'm going to follow Goku's example and try out this swimming activity."
"But the depth is larger than at home your majesty, it could be dangerous for you. And you can't just...undress yourself like this! Think of the scandal!" Sorrel protested.
"Scandal-schmandal, it looks fun and I wish to try it. Besides, the only ones who will know about this will be all of you. And you don't plan on mentioning this to anyone back home...do you?" She looked back at Sorrel, giving him a mischievous smile. Sorrel blushed furiously as he covered his eyes as the queen exposed her underclothes.
"Of..of course not your majesty but there are...things that a queen should not do in front of her subjects."
"I agree. Don't you have a swim suit or something to put on?" Chichi asked.
"Suit? You mean my armor? It is capable of being worn in water I guess, but I think it would be a bit too bulky to be comfortable." Clemartis scratched her head. "No this should be enough." she said walking over to the water's edge. She looked down at the water's reflective surface and reached out a bare foot and submerged it. She reflexively pulled it back and shivered. "It's...more frigid than it looks." She said putting her foot back in, swishing it around to get used to the temperature.
Just then a humongous fish leaped out of the water with Goten riding on its back. Goku surfaced with Calla as they cheered him on. Ophrys gaped at the sheer size of the creature. He had only heard of aquatic life of that size living on water based planets.
The nutrients in the fresh water eco system must be nothing like he had ever encountered. Grabbing a vial from his tool belt, Ophrys ran over to the lake and dipped the glass container into the blue liquid and swirled it around. Holding it up to his glasses, he could see bits of sediment collecting at the bottom. Satisfied with the sample he placed it in his element scanner and waited for the results. Goku and Calla turned back to face the shore when he heard Queen Clemartis squeal as she tried to go deeper in the cold water.
"Come on Clem! Just jump in!" Calla yelled
"You'll feel warmer after you swim for awhile!" Goku chimed in.
"It c-certainly d-does'nt-t feel-l-like it-t-t." Clemartis stammered as she moved a bit out of the water. Calla covered her mouth, like she was trying not to laugh before she swam over to the shore.
"Its easy, all you have to do is just jump up in the air and let gravity do its thing. Problem solved."
"So you say, but you didn't mention anything about the possibility of freezing to death."
"Do I look like I'm freezing to death to you? Does Goku?"
"N-no but-" The queen tried to get out but before she knew it Calla had stood out of the water and grabbed her by the wrist.
"Then just get in!" Calla grinned as she pulled Clemartis to where the water was deepest. Clemartis shrieked as the water came up to her shoulders and she started to paddle to keep her head above the water. "See? Not as bad now is it?" Calla smirked.
"Calla! Why'd you?! Ahh! I could have your head for this!" Clemartis yelled as she flailed around, using the movement to stay warm. Ophrys couldn't help but laugh out loud.
"Under what charge?" Calla joked as she lead Clem over to the center of the lake where Goku was laughing his head off.
"Disobeying a direct order from your queen!" Clemartis huffed as she tried to keep up.
"But you didn't order anything. And last I checked I was relieved of duty for the rest of the afternoon?"
"Treason then." Clemartis pouted.
"Could the mighty and all-powerful queen possibly consider sparing me if I show her something cool?" Clemartis narrowed her eyes, wary not to fall for more of Calla's pranks but she could not hide that she was curious.
"Alright then. Try putting your head under the water and open your eyes. You wouldn't believe whats down there." Calla took a deep breath as she went vertical and submerged. Clemartis eyed her old friend carefully before following. It was a couple minutes later she came back up, gasping for breath. Calla surfaced as well giving her queen a 'I told you so' look. "See? Not so bad now is it?"
"Its... how could it be so big?" she asked disbelieving.
"You clearly haven't been to many water-based planets then." Calla laughed as she patted her friend on the shoulder. "Hey Goku! Show her that tunnel you found by the waterfall."
"Okay, follow me!" He called out, making sure to wave to Goten who was now holding the giant fish in his grasp before throwing it to the other side of the shore. "Nice catch Goten. Keep it up and you might beat my record."
"One of these days Dad!" Goten waved back. Goku beckoned Clemartis over before dunking his head under the water's surface with Ophrys' two female companions following suit. With the action in the lake subsiding, Ophrys took the opportunity to approach Trunks, who looked a bit disappointed. Wanting to lift the boy's spirits, Ophrys walked up to the boy and extended a hand of friendship. However when Trunks noticed him approach he jumped a few inches away. The wheels in Ophrys' head turned before the theory finally came to him.
"Oh, it's me your afraid of."
"Ya think?" Trunks said, his tone implying sarcasm. Ophrys was going to enjoy this more than he anticipated.
"Why? Did I do something offensive in your culture?"
"Try nearly poking me to death."
"Oh! Of course. Sorry about that. I just get so excited when I meet a new sentient species its hard for me not to wonder what makes them tick." Ophrys took a few steps closer and extended his hand once again. Trunks looked about ready to bolt but stayed put as he looked from Ophrys to his hand. "So is it okay with you if I ask you some more questions? You'd be making a great contribution to the Yousari scientific community."
"I'm really not the person you should be asking about stuff like that." Trunks turned away. "Talk to Gohan. He's a lot more into that nerdy stuff than I am."
"I already did. And it was fascinating, don't get me wrong, but there is only so much that you can learn about a race just from speaking to adults. It will be even greater to talk to a fellow adolescent and compare different perspectives."
"What? Goten doesn't count?"
"He told me a lot as well. But there were some things that he either didn't know or just didn't want to talk about. Particularly why his mother insists on him attending this "school" she kept mentioning last night. He did say you were attending one though. What is it exactly?" Trunks shot a irritated glare across the lake in Goten's direction. His eyes went wide for a brief second before the lavender hair boy turned toward Ophrys with a sly smile.
"Sure, I'll tell you what you want to know." Ophrys beamed and clasped his hands together.
"On one condition." Trunks held out his had raising a single finger. "I'll answer your question only if you promise to answer mine. No matter what it is. Got it?"
"Of course!" Ophrys took Trunk's hand and began to shake it enthusiastically. "There are no secrets between fellow researchers." Ophrys plopped down on the grass and got out his recording tools. He placed them at his side in an orderly manner while a confused Trunks looked on. "Might as well get comfortable." Oprhys said as he pat the spot next to him. Trunks caught on and cautiously sat down, still wary of what could happen next. "You go first."
"Of course. Its only fair since I've done nothing but ask you stuff."
"Okay then." Trunks straightened his back back as his expression turned serious. Whatever he wanted to know, Ophrys got the feeling it wasn't going to be easy to answer.
"Here goes...what do you guys know about the Saiyans?"
Ophrys eyes widened as he felt his blood run cold. It had been years since anyone of his kind had said the name of that race of murderers. The ones that had killed his father, the reason behind his mother's mad quest for power, the death of the former queen and an ongoing source of grief for the current one. Ophrys clenched his fists around the blades of grass he had been picking at. Of all planets, he would have thought this one would have been too out of the way for the Saiyans to visit, or even the few remaining after planet Vegeta was destroyed. He hoped that the root to Trunks' question would reveal itself as they talked.
"That the universe is better place now that they are extinct." he said.
"What makes you say that?"
"Experience and the extensive knowledge my people have of them. And how, thanks to them, Queen Clemartis' mother was killed and my people's grandest city is now uninhabitable. Not to mention the many years we were openly at war with them. They cost us precious resources and irreplaceable soldiers."
"Oh...they were like that?"
"Kinda funny that you know of that name all the way out here. How did you hear about it?" Trunks fidgeted a bit as he contemplated his answer.
"Uh...well. Goten's dad went out in space, when he-uh-went to fight that Frieza guy. There were, Saiyans with him?"
"And he told you about them after the fact?"
"Yeah! Thats it!" Trunks said wiping a bit of sweat of his brow.
"Then I don't see why you're surprised. The Saiyans were monsters, by ever definition of the word. They killed for fun, used every dirty trick in the book to get their way and thought they had the right to bully everyone else just because they were physically stronger. While I normally against wiping out any species, even if they are potentially dangerous...the Saiyans were the exception. Wiping them out was the only good thing Frieza ever did in his life."
"YOU TAKE THAT BACK!" Trunks stood up fists clenched. Ophrys looked taken aback, not sure what he had said wrong. He had told Trunks the truth of what he wanted to know.
"Why? What does it matter to you what I say about the them?" he asked. Trunks rage subsided as he looked around, noticing several others had noticed his outburst. Embarrassed, Trunks formed a smile and waved it off before sitting back down. After clearing his throat he tried to explain himself.
"Well, I was just," Trunks cleared his throat. "I was just thinking you, maybe, shouldn't judge a book its cover." Ophrys narrowed his eyes.
"Cover? What I've told you was the Saiyan's true nature, from the cover all the way to the last page. My people have known them for years, even before I was born. We studied their species' rise to power, decade after decade, even after we went to war with them. All of which, I assure you, I researched thoroughly before joining this squad. There is no room for error. The Saiyans were an irredeemable, violent, sadistic race of savages that deserved what they got!"
"How do you know for sure? What if they hated Frieza as much as your people did? You could have teamed up and taken him down yourselves." Trunks proposed.
"You think we didn't try? We gave them an opportunity for peace; to show us that there was more to them than just the need to blow shit up, and how did they repay us? Their own royalty stabbed us in the back and killed the former queen with their own hands!" Ophrys raised his voice, baffled to why Trunks was trying to defend the Saiyans.
"Oh, and to top it all off, it's thanks to them that my father died." Trunks looked down at the grass, defeated. He looked back to the lake as Calla and the Queen resurfaced, trying to hold on to the fish they now held in their hands. Ophrys crossed his arms and tried to calm down.
"Do you understand now? No matter how much I wish things could have ended differently between my people and theirs, I can't forgive them. And I don't see any reason to not think of them like the monsters they were."
"Yeah." Trunks mumbled, lost in thought. "But...what if. What if they weren't like that anymore?"
"What?" Ophrys said raising an eyebrow.
"What if, hypothetically speaking, they were free of Frieza and were fighting to defend their home. Not flying out into space and doing horrible things like that?" Trunks got a bit more excited as he spoke.
"Hell would have to freeze over first." Ophrys said flatly.
"Oh come on! Just think about it. If Frieza hadn't shown up then they wouldn't have gone out into space and gone to war with you right? Maybe they could have changed into something better and have ended up being your allies?"
"After committing genocide towards every other race on their planet? I don't think so. It's a combination of pure instinct and deranged social beliefs. The chances of that changing over a few generations of evolution is extremely low."
"But it is a chance! You want to be a scientist right? You're supposed to consider every possibility, no matter how small."
Ophrys closed his eyes as he considered Trunk's idea. True, the introduction to technology at such an early stage in species development had proven to make them more aggressive than those who had obtained it after millennium of research. On top of that, Frieza's influence could have amplified the Saiyans already destructive instincts to the point it had become too out of control. If that was the case, how would they have evolved if they had been left to their own devices?
Would they have become bored of war, and channeled their love for combat to fair competitions? Could they have developed their own technology to serve their needs, or medications to ease their violent urges? The more he thought about it the more plausible it seemed. Sure this potential society wouldn't have been perfect, no civilization was, but it did increase the chances of Saiyans being more open and willing for peace so long as it served their people's interest.
"You've...got a point. A VERY good one actually." Ophrys forced out. He hated admitting that creatures like the Saiyans could ever be more than savages.
"I don't agree with it...yet. I'd need to do some more research on how much outside forces can affect a budding species. But, it's food for thought." Ophrys wasn't sure how he was going to even try to prove this theory. Recorded information on the Saiyans in the Grand Library was extensive, but considering all the hate he and his people had for them, he was going to have a hell of time convincing others that there had been a chance for them to have evolved differently.
If he was successful, it could lead to new ideas on how to handle first contact with other aggressive species. Ophrys smiled when he realized such a challenging but fun theory had escaped him all because of his personal feelings. He would have to remember to try to be more open-minded in the future. "I knew you would make a good conversational partner. Thanks." Trunks smiled back.
"No problem. So...I guess its your turn?"
"Yep." Ophrys reached for his tablet and tapped on the screen opening the notes section. Revealing the extensive list of questions that he had been jotting down since yesterday. He had already filled out some of them, thanks to Gohan and Goten. But there was at least another thirty that he had been waiting to ask Trunks. The young earthling leaned over to see the list and winced.
"I guess I'll start from the beginning. Goten mentioned last night you were being forced to go to a place called a 'school'. What is a school exactly?"
"Well, its a place where parents force their kids to go in order to learn stuff I guess."
"Ahhh, an educational facility. Interesting. And you said that adults force kids to go against their will?"
"More or less. No one I know really wants to be there. Not even the teachers."
"What kind of subjects do they teach?" Ophrys asked eagerly, leaning in as his fingers flew on the tablet's keyboard.
"Lots of weird stuff: writing, foreign languages, art, math, history, science. Some of it can be interesting but most of the time it's just boring." Trunks crossed his arms in a huff as he recalled his experiences.
"Hmm, sounds similar to the educational facilities that the commoner class has to attend." Ophrys nodded.
"So you get what I'm saying?"
"Not really. I was educated at home, one of the 'perks' of being a noble's son."
"So was I, until recently. Mom said it's so I can socialize with other kids my age.""
"Really? And why does that make you upset?"
"Because its pointless!" Trunks said angrily. "I already know most of the stuff they're teaching. The rest I'm never going to need since I'm just going to be the next in line to take over my mom's company. If that wasn't enough, the other kids do nothing but tease me. And I can't do a single thing to defend myself."
"Why is that?" Ophrys raised an eyebrow.
"Because..." Trunks growled. He raised his fist and punched it into the ground. The soil underneath the grass fractured and gave under the boy's power. The ensuing rumbling startled the others but it subsided quickly as it had occurred.
"Oh, thats why." Ophrys nodded adding and addendum to his notes.
"Yeah. Not allowed to do that in the open. Otherwise Mom will have my head."
"Why all the secrecy? Can't other human children do the same?"
"No they can't."
"May I ask-?"
"They just can't okay! Maybe if they trained a lot like Krillin, Tien or Yamcha but fat chance of that happening." Trunks looked down at the ground. This looked like something that had been on his mind for a while. How long Ophrys wasn't sure but he thought it would be best to change tactics. He was more curious than ever to find out what made Trunks and Goten different from other humans. But since it looked like a sensitive subject, he was going to have to tread lightly.
"Well...everyone has their secrets. Maybe you could try to find something you have in common with your classmates?" Ophrys put his hands together when an idea struck him. "I got it! You already said that none of the others like being at school right? You could try poking fun at what you don't like in conversation."
"Only problem with that is there has to be a conversation in the first place." Trunks groaned. "I just can't walk up to a random kid and say, 'Hi, I'm Trunks. Heir to the multi-million zenni Capsule Corporation, meaning I am entitled to more money than you're ever going to earn in your life'."
"You actually said that?"
"Of course not! But I know their thinking it. I can barely make it to 'Hi' before they're running in the opposite direction." Ophrys winced while Trunks just looked annoyed. Though not very knowledgable or envious of Trunk's dilemma, Ophrys wanted to do something to help. If for nothing else but to give Trunks a chance to get his mother off his back. Another idea creeped its way into his head, one that might work. But he was going to have to rely on the finishing lessons that he had taken years ago. Ophrys just hoped that he could translate it to work for another culture.
"How do you walk?" Ophrys asked. Trunks looked at him like he had grown a second head.
"How do I what?"
"When you go up to someone to say hello, how do you do it?"
"I just...walk normal. Nothing special."
"Can I see?" Ophrys insisted. Trunks sighed and stood up. As he demonstrated, Ophrys noted several mistakes right off the bat. For one, Trunks was slouching and not carrying himself with the pride of his status. His feet were shuffling on the grass, not moving like they had a purpose and his expression was passive, with a hint of irritation. "Okay you can stop."
"So? What was the point of that?" Trunks asked.
"I'm not sure how your society handles first impressions, so I could be completely off the mark. But from where I come from, they tell a lot about a person. Because of that, when we go up to talk to someone else we watch our body language. Or how we approach someone we want to talk to. That lets them know right off the bat of what kind of person we are and what we want out of a conversation. Does that make sense?"
"Umm, not really." Trunks said scratching his head. Ophrys sighed.
"Alright. Let me try to explain it like this. Who is the person you respect more than anyone else in the world?"
"My dad." Trunks said without hesitation.
"Good. And what does he do when he, say, walks around at home or when your out together?" Trunks took a few minutes to think about it but he eventually got up and demonstrated.
"Sorta like this?" As he walked, most of the problems Ophrys had noticed vanished. The posture looked correct and his feet moved like they were on a mission. Very similar to how he had been taught to present himself. The only final issue was somewhat intimidating scowl that Trunks had. If his father looked like that most of the time, Ophrys wasn't too sure if he ever wanted to meet the man face to face.
"That's great, well most of it anyway. Just walking like that can say to someone that you're a person who demands respect. That you deserve to be heard. But I think you'd scare more people away if you make your face look like that." Ophrys chuckled.
"If it keeps people from bothering me, then I don't mind." Trunks said confidently.
"But, if you decide to talk to someone and want to be friendly, I would suggest smiling a bit more."
"I know how to talk to people. I'm not dumb."
"Just hear me out. Next time, don't start the conversation with a 'hi I'm-'. Just start talking about what you want to talk about. Like, 'Can you believe what the instructor did?' or maybe start by helping them with something like 'Do you need a hand with that storage relay?' I highly recommend that last one with the females. They love it when a guy comes to their rescue." Ophrys said getting into his instruction. Trunks just stared for a minute before he started to laugh. "What? What I'd do?"
"Nothing." he tried to stifle his laugh. "You're just a really weird guy."
"Good or bad weird?" Ophrys asked.
"Eh, I wasn't sure at first but...I think a good weird."
"I think I can live with that." Ophrys laughed.
"HEY TRUNKS, OPHRYS! Wanna help me clean the fish?" The two heard Goten shout from the other side of the lake.
"Be there in a sec!" Trunks shouted back. "Do you wanna...finish your list?" he asked leaning over.
"No that's okay. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to finish later. You go on ahead. I'll be right behind you." Ophrys said waving his new friend off. Trunks smiled and nodded before taking off and flying to meet up with Goten. Ophrys checked his list once more. He would have to improvise with some of the answers but it was a good starting point for further research.
Ophrys was just typing down the results of his analysis of the lake water when he noticed someone walk up to him. When he saw his brother looking down at him, with an angry expression, Ophrys rolled his eyes and continued with his task.
"You sure its okay to be this close to me? You never know, you may catch whatever disease I have." Ophrys chided.
"Oh shut up." Sorrel said as he took a seat next to him. Ophrys glanced over at his brother and noticed his hands fidgeting like they always did right before he did something he disliked. A few seconds of awkward silence passed between them as Ophrys put down his tablet and waited.
"Yes?" Ophrys eager to get the tension out of the air.
"Don't rush me." Sorrel huffed.
"...I just wanted to let you know, that I may have been...a bit overzealous in my remarks earlier. And I wanted to," he tried to swallow the words down. "...apologize for my behavior."
Ophrys tried to remember when his brother had apologized to him about anything. It had definitely been before his falling out with mother. Even when Sorrel had made occasional mistakes in training that had lead to an injury or two, he had never openly apologized for it. The words almost sounded like a strange foreign language coming from his brother's mouth. Yet at the same time, it made Ophrys feel wonderful. But Kais forbid that he let his brother know that.
"Eh, water under the bridge bro. No big deal." Ophrys shrugged, his expression unchanged. Sorrel nodded and continued to look down at his hands. Was there something else?
"And...if your not doing anything else, I would like your assistance with something." Sorrel barely got out. Like he was choking on the words. Ophrys eyes went wide, fingers going numb around the tablet to the point that he dropped it. Had he heard that right? His brother, his self-sufficient baby brother, his twin needed his help?
"After our argument, I think I fell out of favor with Lady Chichi. And as much as I would like to patch things up with her, I have no idea how to even approach her properly. Now don't get me wrong, I don't consider you an expert in this matter, and keep in mind you are a last resort. However, you do have more experience than me in this sort of thing so if you can possibly..."
Ophrys was barely paying attention to the specifics. His excitement for being needed was so great that any facade he had melted away. Sorrel actually seemed terrified of the sparkle in his twin's eyes. Before he had the chance to change his mind and run away, Ophrys leaned over and grabbed his brother by the shoulders.
"Just leave it to me little bro. You've come to the right place." Ophrys said smugly. Sorrel grimaced as he tried to fight back for his personal space.
"Don't get any ideas! And how many times to do I have to say it, we are the same age!" Ophrys stood up and dragged his brother further away from the picnic blankets.
"Come on! I'll give you socializing 101 while I get some samples from that fish." He said eagerly as he began to fly over the water. Sorrel attempted to resist at first but eventually gave up as they joined Trunks and Goten.
"Ophrys." Sorrel asked when they made it halfway over.
"Yeah?" Ophrys looked back at his brother who was looking more than a little conflicted. As he opened his mouth to say something, he turned his head and looked down at the water.
"Forget it. Its nothing." he said finally. Ophrys nodded. Slowly but surely, he could feel that his brother was finally starting to open up to him again. Deep down under all that spite that his mother had forced on him, he was still the same brother he used to look after. Maybe, once they were finished their current mission, Ophrys would finally be able to share the truth with his brother.