Time passed unbearably slowly as the band of warriors traveled across the globe toward the Tree of Might. On the way, they spotted several of the Yousari's ships hovering over the towns and cities. While the younger members of the group wanted to take a detour to help the innocents that were no doubt getting kidnapped, Piccolo advised against it.
"If this was an official order, the Queen wouldn't have any need to control her soldiers like this. We can worry about recovering them when we eliminate the immediate problem."
It wasn't after an hour of flying that the warriors saw the tree on the horizon. It was as large as Yamcha remembered it. Looking down below, he could see what had once been lush forest had all but wasted away. Large, healthy trees had shriveled up and toppled over. Riverbeds and creeks were dry, the fish in them still flopping desperately in search of water.
He was so busy paying attention to his surroundings that Yamcha barely noticed the others stop and he slammed face first into an invisible wall. He shook his head as he put his hand on the barrier.
"A little warning would have been nice." Yamcha grumbled.
"Is there no way around it?" Goku asked, inadvertently ignoring him.
"If there was, you think I would have bothered returning to the Lookout?" Vegeta growled.
"Alright, I was just asking." Goku said putting his hands together to prepare a Kamehameha.
"Don't bother Kakarot, I already tried that!" Vegeta said in annoyance.
"Well, how else are we going to get through?" Yamcha asked.
"You aren't." Came a voice from below. The group looked down to the ground to see Azera standing on top of one of the Tree of Might's giant roots. "Not while I still breathe."
"Then we're just going to have to fix that aren't we?!" Vegeta yelled as he dove toward the old soldier. Azera barely dodged the blow as Vegeta's fist came down and went right through the root., tearing it in two. It was only a matter of seconds before new ones grew in its place.
Vegeta continued his attack, forcing Azera to activate his beast-like ki armor. He grabbed Vegeta and smashed him against the barrier. The wall of ki fluctuated but gave the Prince of Saiyan's enough of a charge that it almost knocked him unconscious. Azera let him drop to the ground just in time to intercept a combined attack from Yamcha and Goku, with Trunks immediately flying to his father's side.
"As much as it would please me to kill you Vegeta, my queen has given me strict orders to leave you and the one called Kakarot alive."
"Why?" Goku asked halting his attack.
"I can only assume she simply wants the honor of avenging the late queen. But until she is ready, it is my duty to keep you at bay."
"Say what? Come on Azera!" Yamcha yelled. "Are you seriously okay with this?"
"It does not matter!" Azera shot back. "As a knight, my personal feelings does not change my duty to my sovereign. A duty I will give my life to fulfill!"
"Man, that's just wrong." Yamcha said clenching his fist.
"Then I guess we'll just have to knock some sense into you." Tien said assuming a fighting stance.
"Indeed. I look forward to seeing your full power, warriors of Earth." Azera replied.
"Dad!" Yamcha heard Gohan call out. "I think I know a way to get past this barrier!"
"How?" Goku looked up to his eldest son.
"We need combine our ki attacks at a single point. It'll take at least three of us, but it should make an opening big enough to get through."
"All right Gohan!" Krillin cheered. His excitement didn't last for long. Azera had over heard them and immediately flew up to stop them. Yamcha flew after him, and in a burst of speed, managed to overtake and block Azera's attack.
"You guys worry about getting through, I'll keep this moron off your back!" Yamcha struggled to say as he grappled with the knight. His muscles popped under the strain, much more than they had back in training. Azera was not being controlled as far as he could tell, but something had changed. His attacks were much more powerful than they used to be.
"But Yamcha-"Goku was about to say.
"Listen to him Goku." Tien shouted from the ground. "We're the ones who trained together. We have a better chance against him than any of the others. Just get to the tree and destroy it!"
"Let them handle this Goku." Piccolo agreed. "We can't afford to waste any more time."
"Okay. Good luck you guys!" Goku shouted back to his friends. Azera tried to push past Yamcha's defense, but the scarred warrior managed to keep him back. Giving Tien enough time to reach them. Behind them, he could hear Goku, Krillin and Gohan firing a Kamehameha blast that slammed into the barrier, successfully breaching it. The charged ki crackled as the group of warriors quickly slipped through.
"No! You won't get away!" Azera shouted as he shoved Yamcha aside and gave chase. But Tien was ready for him.
"Solar Flare!" he shouted as the attack's blinding light illuminated the sky. Catching the Yousari knight off guard and blinding him. Yamcha kept his eyes closed, using his senses to guide him to his target. He wrapped his arms around the armor's leg and began to spin Azera in a circle.
Using the momentum, Yamcha threw the knight straight down to the ground. Azera hit the dray river bed at an angle. Causing him to bounce. Yamcha could hear the crunching of dried wood as Azera skidded across the ground. Knocking over everything in his wake. By the time his body came to a halt, Azera immediately got to his feet and stared down the two martial artists. With not even a single scratch on his armor.
'Got any ideas on how to keep this guy down?' Yamcha thought, knowing Tien could hear him.
'None that we haven't already tried. With that armor on, anything less than a ki blast is just going to annoy him.'
'So what do you think will work?'
'My Tri-Beam should be powerful enough to whittle away his armor's strength. I just need time to get it ready. Think you can distract him long enough?'
'I'll try. Let me know when to hit the deck.'
Yamcha took in a deep breath as he floated to ground level. He and Azera stared each other down. The latter's gem glowed a bright green as his ki armored body thickened, growing sharp spikes around its fists and legs.
"You fight well for someone who was so eager to leave the warrior life behind." Azera smirked.
"What can I say, you pulled me out of retirement in more ways than one." Yamcha shot back.
"But a true warrior needs a reason to fight, a purpose to endure the hardship of battle. Tell me Yamcha, what is your reason for fighting?"
"I could ask you the same thing." Yamcha said, turning serious.
"I already told you. It is my duty to the Queen."
"Don't give me that crap! That's not the only reason!" Yamcha said getting in to a fighting stance. "You're the one who pushed me back into this life! The least you can do is tell me the truth!"
"And give you the time necessary to defeat me?" Azera asked. Yamcha grit his teeth when he saw the Azera glance up at Tien.
"No thanks. I've made enough mistakes for one lifetime. Surrender now and I promise to spare your lives. I'd hate to have to kill such skilled warriors."
"Just try it you bastard!" Yamcha cried as he went on the attack. Sending ki to his fists as he dashed toward the armored titan. Azera pulled back his fist for a counter attack, but Yamcha evaded using the a ki blast to catapult himself over. His legs got nicked by Azera's spiked arms as they reached up to grab him. Leaving deep gashes. They weren't bad enough that he would have to worry about blood loss but they were big enough to slow him down.
Yamcha looked up at Tien who was half-way done charging his Tri-Beam. Successful or not, this attack was going to take a lot out of him. Yamcha made a mental note to pace himself in case Tien's assault didn't get the job done. Yamcha looked back at his opponent just in time to see the behemoth charging at him at full speed. Arm spikes rotating like a chainsaw. Yamcha was forced to go on the defensive. Dodging as many blows as he could. His size made him difficult to hit.
However one move in the wrong direction would leave him trapped in a barrage of crushing punches. The sharp spikes leaving bloody scratches all over his body that were definitely going to scar.
"Well done. I see all those hours of training weren't wasted on you." Azera said proudly. "Not even my pupils back home have been able to stay standing for this long."
Yamcha screamed as he charged toward Azera, his fists primed for a Neo Wolf Fang Fist. But with a simple grab, Azera blocked. And slowly, he began to crush Yamcha's hand.
"But as impressive as you are, I'm afraid that our match must come to a close. I can't afford to waste any more energy on you when I still have one more fighter waiting in the wings."
'I'm ready Yamcha! Get out of the way!'
"Who the hell said he was waiting?" Yamcha smirked, looking up at his comrade. His trademark ki attack good and ready.
"What?!" Azera looked up. Yamcha used the distraction as a chance to escape the titan's grip. He jumped back in the air just as Tien released the first blast. Azera attempted to escape the blast radius but his armored form was too slow. Too big to escape, he braced himself as the ki slammed against his armor.
'Great job! You nailed him!' Yamcha thought to the telepath.
'Don't celebrate yet! I'm not finished!' Tien thought back angrily as he continued to fire.
'This asshole is just like Cell, I can't let up or he's going to escape!'
'But Tien, if you keep going like that your going to have nothing left!'
'As long as he uses up all his ki, that's good enough for me.'
'Oh no buddy, I'm not going to let you have all the glory.' Yamcha teased.
He cupped his hands together and pulled them back. Creating the Turtle school's trademark attack. He kept his eyes trained on Azera, who was putting as much ki into his armor as possible. Slowly turning he was turning hsi back on Yamcha in order to face Tien. Getting ready to counterattack. Through the bright light of the Tri-Beam, Yamcha could see Azera's armor slowly beginning to crack.
'When I give the signal, stop firing. I'll nail him from behind and shatter his armor!' Yamcha ordered
'Ready...steady...now!' Yamcha ordered.
The second the last Tri-Beam was released, Yamcha had his Kamehameha wave ready to fire. The blue ki surged forward and slammed into Azera's back before the knight was able to react. After so many hits, the beast-like armor was no longer able to handle the strain.
It shattered like glass and the Kamehameha kept going, colliding with Azera's body. Hurling the knight several feet in the air before he came crashing down back down. Drained of most of his energy, Tien floated down to the ground, falling his knees. Yamcha, still bleeding from his wounds, limped over to his comrade.
"Good call Yamcha. That went better than I thought." Tien smiled.
"What? You doubted me?"
"Only when you rely more on luck than skill."
"Hey, I'll have you know that was all skill right there."
"And luck had nothing to do with it?"
"Well...maybe some. But not as much as you're thinking."
Tien laughed before he fell on his back, gasping for breath.
"Dude, you okay?" Yamcha asked. Leaning down to support his friend.
"Yeah. Give me a few minutes. Didn't have use all my ki like last time but..."
"I hear ya. Chill out here while I go check on the old man." Yamcha nodded. He made his way over to Azera, who had not moved. Yamcha hoped he was unconscious. With Tien depleted of ki and with him not doing much better, they wouldn't be able to put up much more of a fight.
He was about halfway over when he saw the Yousarian knight slowly get to his feet. Though his back was scorched from the blast, to the point his metal armor had melted, he still managed to stand. With no sign of any serious injuries. Yamcha could sense that he didn't have enough ki to create his armor again, but that only meant that the knight was going to be a lot faster.
And much, much angrier.
"The last time I was pushed to this point, I was facing down the Saiyan King himself." Azera said as he dusted himself off. "That monster stole everything from me. My arm, my queen, my reputation. All of which I have regained after years of toil and hardship." Azera turned to face his adversaries. Tranquil fury in his eyes.
"I will not lose them again! Not to you, not to anyone!"
"I can't believe you!" Yamcha yelled back. "You'd sacrifice a whole planet, my home, for your reputation?! I thought knights were supposed to be noble, protecting the innocents and all that crap!"
"War changes every man, no matter his background. I am no different. I have seen countless worlds, including my own fall to ruin. As cruel as it may be, my first priority must always be to my home and its people. And in order to safe guard it from the return of the Saiyans, those who you have named your allies, your planet must be allowed to die."
"That life will mean nothing if you regret the actions that got you there." Tien said. "Trust me, that's not a life I'd wish on anyone."
"Regret? There are plenty of things in life I regret." Azera closed his eyes.
"A few more won't hurt."
He opened his eyes as he ran forward. His fists burning with ki. Yamcha was caught off guard as the first blow landed squarely in his stomach. He could feel the wind was punched right out of him. The searing pain of burned flesh with each second of contact. Yamcha was blown backward, his back slamming into a dried up tree.
Barely missing its sharp branches. As he tried to get his breath back, he saw Tien leaping into action. He and Azera were vastly depleted of ki but still had just enough physical strength to keep up with each other. However, as the fight wore on Yamcha noticed Tien starting to falter. His punches and kicks were becoming more sloppy. Azera's took advantage of his weakness. His burning punches leaving bad burns on Tien's body.
Still gasping for air, Yamcha fought to get up. He had to get back into the fight. His friends needed him. He had let them down so many times the past several years. Not being able to keep up, not being able to make a difference. But even worse was when he had stopped trying. Tien had never stopped. He had even gone face to face with Majin Buu during the worst of his rampage. Yamcha had done nothing but cower and hide. Not this time. This time, he was going to do his part. Even if it wasn't much, he was going to fight with everything he had.
Yamcha pulled every last scrap of bit of ki he had in his body. Forming it into a single ball in his hand. The single ball became several, as they expanded and grew. Each the size of a soccer ball. He had never controlled so many Spirit balls before, but he was never going to know his limits unless he tried. With a loud cry, he launched the spirit balls into the air. They darted through the sky. Moving exactly as he commanded them to. Every time he saw an opening in Azera's defenses, he would send a single spirit ball to attack.
With the strength equal to a punch, Azera was knocked off-balance. Giving Tien the chance to retaliate. Even though he was exhausted, he unleashed a improved version of his Machine gun punch. Azera staggered as he tried to dodge, leaving him wide open for more of Yamcha's Spirit balls. With their opponent on the ropes, both warriors prepared their final attacks. Yamcha readied the last five spirit balls, and Tien back-flipped to get some distance. He pointed his finger, a small glow of orange light shining from the tip. Desperate to protect himself, Azera tried to reform his ki armor. However, each time he tried the blue light would flicker and fade. Leaving him completely exposed.
"Yah!" Yamcha commanded as the Spirit Balls converged on their target.
"Dodon Ray!" Tien shouted as the surgical beam shot from his fingers and pierced Azera's leg. The old knight screamed in agony. Grasping at his injury. The spirit balls collided with his chest and back. Forcing him to the ground. Hit with explosion after explsion, the old knight's body stopped moving.
By the time the smoke cleared, Azera was lying face first in the dry earth. His leg bleeding out, his armor broken and dented beyond repair. Yamcha felt his knees buckle as he fell to the ground. Sweat and blood dripping off his arms and forehead. Tien fell face first to the ground, unable to move another step. They didn't have to hear each other's thoughts to know what the other was thinking.
This had to be the end. They couldn't fight anymore or else their lives would be at risk. Fortunately, Azera still wasn't moving. Yamcha could see his back rising and falling, but the Yousarian made no attempt to stand up.
"Damn it all. To think I, a knight of the crown, would be bested in such a manner." he could hear Azera say. "Forgive me my Queen, but I have failed you once again." He looked over to Yamcha and Tien. "Why could this world possibly need the Saiyans...when the Earth already has its own champions?"
"You still don't get it do you?" Yamcha narrowed his eyes. "Neither of us would be who are today if we hadn't met Goku. If I hadn't, I would be still a cocky-ass punk who couldn't even look a girl in the eye. Even though I'm not nearly as strong as he is...I'd still help him because I know he would do the same for me." Tien smiled at his old friend and nodded in agreement.
Azera chuckled. "Hard to believe a single saiyan warrior can inspire such loyalty, but your victory in battle is all the proof I need of the truth." Slowly, Azera rolled over on his side, grunting as his muscles popped. Sitting up on his knees as he looked down at his hands. "And my failure is proof enough of my own hesitation." He looked down at his open hands. Clenching them as hard as he could.
"Being a knight meant everything to me. It brought me up from streets and into a life equal to the nobles. But I always swore that I would never allow money or glory to corrupt me. To always fight for what I believed was right." He paused as he winced from the pain of his wounds.
"But, I will not lie to myself anymore. I cannot believe in what my Queen is doing. Even if it means that monster race will continue to thrive. I will not condemn a race that you have proven to be our equal, in both power and honor." He looked up at the two warriors, who were at a loss for words. "And for my disloyaltly..." Azera's fists began to glow with what little ki remained.
"...there is only penance."
Yamcha's eyes shot wide open. Azera's charged hand seem to move in slow motion as it moved ever closer to his own chest.
"No, stop!" he shouted. With all the strength he could muster, Yamcha dashed foreward. Grabbing Azera's hand just in time. Azera looked up at him confused.
"What are you doing?! Unhand me!"
"No way, your not getting off that easy old timer!"
"You would humiliate me still?! My life as I've known it is over! The queen will exile me from my home and family for this. Dying on the field of battle is the only way for them to respect me!"
"Are you seriously that full of yourself?! So what if your not the big hero anymore! So what if people don't look up to you like they used to! That doesn't make you any less of a person!" Yamcha shouted. "Your the one taught me that, so follow your own damn advice!"
"This is different-"
"Like hell it is! If a guy like me was able to move on and do something else with his life then so can you." Azera continued to struggle, trying to drain what remained of Yamcha's power to break his grip. Tired of Azera's stubbornness, Yamcha punched the old knight in the stomach as hard as he could. Azera gagged and coughed as his consciousness faded. Limply falling forward. Yamcha caught him and laid him down to the side.
"You'll thank me for this someday."
Exhausted, Yamcha let his muscles relax as he sat down on the dusty ground.
"You alright man?" Tien asked.
"Yeah..." he said dabbing the sweat off his brow. "Nothing a senzu bean can't fix." He looked over at their foe, lying peacefully at his side.
"What do you think we should do with him?" Yamcha asked.
"Heh, well it's not like we can do much ourselves." Tien smirked. "At least not until we regroup with the others."
"Yeah, but even if we could. I don't think killing him would be right." Yamcha breathed. Tien nodded as they tried to recover their strength. "Your lucky old man. The jury's out until that thing is destroyed." he said motioning toward the Tree of Might.
"Go get em' Goku. Once I get my strength back, I'll be right here if you need me."