Even from such a great distance away, Piccolo could sense that a life had been lost. The first of many if things continued to spiral out of hand. All things considered their approach to the tree was going better than he'd originally hoped. No losses on their side, three of the enemy fighters incapacitated, and one dead.
Still, Piccolo had lived long enough to learn that there was going to be no good outcome for either side of this conflict. Their team members were still alive yes, but most of them had used up most of their ki. If they had to fight again, they wouldn't be able to last very long, not counting potential injuries. With the next batch of sensu beans still a few days away from being ready, any wounds would have to be treated on site until Dende could see to them.
That would have to wait until the planet was out of danger.
"We're almost there." Gohan thought aloud. "It's even bigger than I remembered."
Having arrived at the base of the tree, all there was left to go was up. High in the canopy, Piccolo could barely sense Clemartis' ki. Either she had exhausted most of it from the Dominance technique, or she had something to hide. The Tree of Might had to have put out fruit by now. If her ace in the hole was ready, why hadn't she used it yet?
"Then lets not waste anytime." Goku said flying upwards, before carelessly colliding into another barrier.
"You okay dad?" Gohan asked steadying his father as he fell back down.
"Yeah, that one just came out of nowhere."
"Damn these things." Vegeta cursed. "Stand aside!"
Piccolo joined in the attack, closely followed by Gohan as they blasted the barrier. However this time, even their combined force wasn't enough to break it.
"Why isn't it breaking?!" Vegeta asked furiously.
"I'm-I'm not sure. It's worked on all the others." Gohan flew up to the wall of energy. Putting his hand on it to get a better understanding of its strength. "Its highly concentrated. The Queen may be feeding this barrier's power personally."
"Trying to stall for more time?" Goku asked.
"I'm not so sure." Piccolo said. "But if she's confident enough to fight Goku and Vegeta at once, she must be counting on the fruit to increase her powers. Possibly on par with a Super Saiyan."
"You can't be serious!" Vegeta fumed. "It is impossible for any Yousarian to use that much ki at once! Their anatomy can't handle it."
"And Super Saiyans were once believed to be a Saiyan's peak power level, but we've all seen how much that argument holds up, haven't we?" Piccolo retorted. He wasn't going to let Vegeta's arrogance cause more problems than it already had. "Whatever she's been preparing for, I can only assume she's more than ready."
"Then what's the point of this damn barrier?!"
"He's got a point, if she's ready to face us, why stall for more time?" Goku asked.
"Cause she's always been like that." came a voice from below. The others could barely make it out, but Piccolo heard it loud and clear.
Hiding, just out of sight in a knot hole in the tree, was Calla.
Piccolo narrowed his eyes as she flew into sight. He shouldn't have been surprised. They had encountered every other member of their team, so she was bound to show up sooner or later. What puzzled him was that she showed no sign of being controlled. He had assumed that being closer to the tree would give the Queen an advantage and improved her soldier's fighting ability. But here she was. Still displaying free will. For how much longer, Piccolo couldn't say.
"She always gets scared easily, so Clem's always been super careful about everything. Always following instructions, taking things slow. Heh, I think it got even worse after she became Queen. But it was that caution that made even Frieza himself keep guessing on what we would do next."
Calla was rambling again, but her voice was strained. Gone was her usual cheery demeanor that Piccolo had grown accustomed to. Her voice shook with anxiety, her eyes darting back and forth from them to the ground below. She couldn't keep her hands still. She was in constant motion, either gripping her arms, playing with her hair or placing them on her gemstone. With each word, she looked more and more pitiable.
"Calla." Gohan murmured. Piccolo couldn't blame him for being hesitant. Especially considering what her appearance meant.
"Enough of your ramblings you fool! If you know whats good for you, you'll stand aside and let us pass!" Vegeta shouted. Calla's nervous smile faded. Her shivering fits becoming more frequent.
"I really have been a fool haven't I?" She mumbled. "Maybe if I had done something sooner, said something, scolded her, been more strict...maybe this wouldn't have happened." She took a deep breath.
"You were right. About everything. I...barely recognize her anymore. Ever since she became queen, she hasn't been the same. It kept getting worse the longer the war went on. I just thought it was from the responsibility but...I was wrong." She was speaking too quietly for the others to hear, but Piccolo got the feeling she was doing that on purpose. Knowing that he was the only one who could hear her.
"Calla," Goku said, putting his hand out to restrain another one of Vegeta's outbursts. "I know this isn't an easy thing to ask of you now. But we need to stop Clemartis. Our home, family and friends depend on it. Will you let us pass?"
Calla looked back at the tree's canopy, keeping her hand on her gemstone. Tears welling up in her eyes. "I...I don't know. I don't know anything anymore."
"Please Calla! We understand why you hate the Saiyans, but this isn't justice." Gohan said.
"No. Even someone like me can understand that. But...what will you do if I do let you go? What will you do to her?" she asked. Her eyes pleading for an honest answer. Gohan looked his father, not sure of what to say. Goku said nothing. But from his serious expression, he wasn't optimistic about the situation.
"That's what I thought. Killing a planet like this, abducting its people...killing Ophrys." she paused. "Forgiveness isn't an option anymore."
"Calla-" Piccolo was about to say, but was cut off when Calla turned her back on them. She put her hand on the barrier, the force of it pushing back her hand. Piccolo could sense her power level rising, as ki gathered in her hand.
"Clem may not be controlling me now, I guess something broke her concentration. But I get the feeling that she would be ordering me to kill some of you right about now."
"Calla, don't!" Gohan pleaded.
"It doesn't have to be this way." Goku added.
"Yes...it does." she replied. Her blade extended as she brought it down in a vertical cut.
Slicing the barrier in two. Gohan, Goku and even Vegeta looked surprised.
"Go. Before I change my mind." she said simply, not bothering to turn around. "I can't promise what will happen when she takes control again. But this is the only thing I can do."
Vegeta didn't bother to question this good fortune and continued his way up. But not before looking Calla in the eye.
"Don't think I've forgotten what you did Vegeta. I will never forgive you."
"Then why?" he simply asked.
"Because I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it for that daughter you let get caught up in your mess. Now go!" Vegeta narrowed his eyes but didn't say anything.
"Thank you Calla." Goku said as he passed her. "I can't make any promises but I will stop her."
Calla nodded. Refusing to make eye contact with him. He looked at her sadly and continued up the tree with Vegeta following closely behind. Gohan seemed like he desperately wanted to say something to console her. But realized he didn't have anything that could hope to relieve her burden. He was about to follow Goku and Vegeta when he realized that Piccolo hadn't moved and inch.
"Go on ahead Gohan." Piccolo replied. "I'm going to stay." Calla turned to look at him. Eyes wide with surprise.
"Are you sure?" his former pupil asked.
"Yes." he said. He knew he didn't have to explain to Gohan. Calla would become a problem if left unchecked. For whatever reason she was free of the dominance technique, but it wouldn't last forever. Someone had to stay behind to keep her from chasing after the others. Gohan looked like he understood but refused to leave.
"Then I'll stay as well." he said.
"That's not necessary. Goku and Vegeta may need your help."
"Don't argue Gohan!" Piccolo scolded. He had hoped he wouldn't have to. But the years of peace had made Gohan soft. He was too kind to handle the grim possibilities that this fight could come to. "Now go."
Gohan was hesitant but he eventually gave in and followed the others. Leaving Piccolo and Calla alone at the base of the Tree of Might.
"You don't have to do this you know." she said quietly.
"And let you use your last few minutes of free will to take your own life? Not a chance." Piccolo began taking off his weighted cloak and turban. Calla looked down, a sad smile on her face.
"Why not? It'd save you a lot of trouble." she asked.
"Maybe. But I would never be able to forgive myself."
"Several years ago, I made a choice that cost the lives of billions. All for the good of the planet. But that was just an excuse for my weakness. One that I swore I would never repeat."
Calla smirked. "A nice sentiment. But I'm not so sure you'll have a choice this time."
Piccolo clenched his fists. The idea of killing Calla to stop her had crossed his mind more than once. But the more he thought about it, the more it repulsed him.
"It won't come to that. I'll make sure of it." he said finally. Calla looked at him wide-eyed, before looking back up the tree.
"Some bodyguard I turned out to be. Couldn't save Clem, or her mother. I can't even bring myself to follow a single order. All for a bunch of people I've barely got the chance to know." she smiled at Piccolo, tears streaming down her face.
"I really am an idiot."
Just then, her gemstone began to glow. Calla gasped and clutched it. Trying to do all she could to resist its effects.
"No! Stop!" she screamed. "Not again! Don't make me change again."
"Fight it Calla! Don't let her manipulate you!" Piccolo shouted.
"I...can't." Calla winced, the light of the gem's ki spreading through her body.
"Calla!" he tried to encourage her but he could tell she was already losing the battle. When she realized that she couldn't hold on any longer, she reached out to him.
"I'm sorry, Piccolo. Please...make it quick." They were her last words before her eyes went blank, her smile disappearing.
"Damn it!" he cursed. Calla immediately looked up the trunk of the tree. Her wings beating faster as she began to follow Gohan and the others.
"No you don't!" Piccolo allowed his arm to stretch as far as it could go. Grabbing Calla by the leg and pulling her back down. It only took a second for her to retaliate as she formed a ki blade. Raising it to cut his arm off. He let her go and flew up to attack. Moving fast enough to grab her wrists and pin her to the Tree of Might.
"Come on Calla, don't you dare give up that easy. Fight back damn it!" he ordered. Even though she probably couldn't hear him anymore. That didn't stop him from trying to reach any shred of consciousness she had left. Her gem glowed brighter, giving her the strength to kick him away.
She flew after him, a slim ki blade in hand. Thrusting its sharp tip at his stomach. Using her free hand to block his punches. The blade was long enough to create a large distance between them, making it difficult for him to retaliate. In response, Piccolo shot beams from his eyes. Causing her to break off her assault to dodge.
Calla created several blades that circled her body like a shield. She reached out and took one of the circling blades in her free hand. Crossing the dual blades in front of her face.
The Namekian warrior began to consider his options. In training, Calla always favored weapon combat over martial arts. If he managed to get close enough to throw her off-balance, he would have the advantage. However, unlike before, Calla was fighting with ruthless efficiency. Thanks to the dominance technique she wasn't making her usual mistakes; like forgetting to guard her blind spots or wasting ki by moving around too much.
Calla charged once again. Swiping her dual blades vertically and horizontally. Their length forced him to maintain his distance. He let a few grunts loose from his throat as a few lucky swipes scratched his skin. Calla's blades were sharper, aiming for vital points or anything that could cripple him. The more time passed,the more he noticed her gemstone was glowing brighter, giving her more ki to use. If Piccolo didn't stop her soon, she would become too powerful for him to take on alone.
There was a way to catch her off guard and force her to relinquish her preferred technique. Something that even the Dominance technique shouldn't be able to cover up. He hoped at least.
He had first noticed it when Calla had sought him out for a sparring match. In the beginning, before she had the opportunity to adapt to his fighting style, he had managed to emerge victorious from all of their bouts. However, there were several times where he had been caught off guard. On the brink of defeat, Calla actually became more aggressive in combat. Smiling and laughing. Not letting up until her body gave out. Though her attacks were more powerful, she would lose the focus required to form her blades. When he had asked her about it afterwords, she had apologized.
"Sorry about that. It's a...defense mechanism that I was born with." she had said. "If the fight is hard enough to be even remotely life threatening, I just...go off. Doc said it has something to do with adrenaline up here" she pointed to her head.
"I get too much at once and even the smallest thing sets me off. It was even worse when I was a kid. Thanks to Torga it barely happens anymore but I can't make any promises that it won't happen when I'm fighting."
"Is that why your family abandoned you?" He had asked.
"Yeah. Can't have an combat-crazy heir to a family renowned for healing."
Piccolo dodged the barrage of blades as he tried to get in close. For now, this was the only option he had to trip her up. It meant making her even stronger than she was already. But as long as it gave him a chance to end the fight, he had to take it.
"Hellzone Grenade!" Piccolo fired off multiple spheres of ki in Calla's direction., several missing her completely. She dodged the rest, moving in closer for another lunge, falling into Piccolo's trap. He used his ki to control the spheres, all of them converging on his unsuspecting opponent. The following explosion threw Calla back, forcing her to retreat. Piccolo used this opportunity to charge her, catching her off guard and delivering a powerful punch to her face. For a few seconds, nothing happened. Piccolo tried to catch his breath while Calla stayed motionless. Her face bruised from where he had hit her. Carefully, he moved a short distance away. Not sure how she was going to react.
He quickly put up his guard when he saw a tiny smile form on Calla's face. Her eyes were still devoid of their usual light, but her body began to trembled uncontrollably. Her smile widening as she turned to face him again.
It had worked. The dominance technique was powerful enough to suppress a Yousarian's conscious will but not their subconscious. Calla screamed as she powered up even further. The force of her released ki pushed Piccolo further back. He watched as the skin around her gem began to catch fire. The fire continued to spread all the way down to her arms and legs. The blades in her hand and around her body couldn't keep their shape, shattering around her. Piccolo braced himself when Calla made the charge, sending a flurry of punches and kicks his way. He managed to keep her at bay but even the blows he blocked began to burn him.
He used his mouth blast to force her back, giving him enough space to use his after image technique. In this state, Calla relied less on sensing an opponent's ki and more on visuals. That was his opening. Just below her and out of sight. She was a sitting target for him. The only attack strong enough to pierce her reinforced armor was the Special Beam Cannon. With no other choice available to him, Piccolo began to charge ki into his fingers. Once she discovered him, she would be relentless in trying to kill him. He had to respond in kind.
You were right. About everything.
That's what she had said. Everything he had predicted had come true. From the Yousari turning on them, the Queen's true nature, even having to kill Calla in order to save the planet. It had all happened just as he feared.
"Special Beam Cannon!" Piccolo clenched his teeth as he fired.
Never before had he wanted to be proved wrong. To be forced to take an innocent life like this was too cruel. Long ago, this wouldn't have bothered him in the least. But thanks to the influence of Gohan, Goku, Nail, and even Kami, killing wasn't as easy to rationalize.
He kept trying to tell himself over and over, that it was for the greater good. That what he was about to do was the right thing. But no matter what, he kept coming back to the idea that Calla must have thought the same thing when she made her decision to help them. The sheer strength of will to sacrifice her own life and happiness, for a group of complete strangers. The same qualities demonstrated by his closest friends. Qualities that had given him a second chance.
The wave shot up into the sky, barely missing Calla's abdomen. Piccolo cursed himself for his weakness. He had been too worried about Gohan not being strong enough for this fight. When in reality he was the one who had become soft.
Piccolo had barely enough time to prepare another attack when Calla located him.
The blast was not enough to put her down, but slowed her charge. He was able to meet her attack head on, devolving the battle into a straight up punch-out. Piccolo managed to hold his own, getting as many hits as she did. It wasn't until Calla got him in a hold that he began to feel his energy drain out of him. Piccolo struggled to get free, but Calla's grip only became tighter, her fiery hands burning into his skin.
Desperate, he threw his head against hers, causing her to relax her grip and release him. He moved away, trying to catch his breath before she would continue attacking. Calla had more ki left than he did at the moment but she was also showing signs of wear and tear. Her berserker rage was subsiding. Her eyes were drooping. Her teeth gritting as if she was working through intense pain. Piccolo looked at her wrists and legs. The fire was now burning away, leaving her skin charred and black. Like the bark of a tree.
He thought back to what Vegeta had said. How Yousari could only use a certain amount of ki at a time at the risk of damaging their bodies. Was this what he had been talking about?
Calla's gemstone glowed as more ki was forced out of her body, causing the fire on her limbs to reignite. Her power level increasing even further. Before Piccolo knew it, Calla was behind him. Hitting him in the back. Grabbing his shoulder, turning him around and laying into him. Any attempt he made to block was crushed by the force of her punches. With one blast, he was sent plummeting to the ground.
He looked up to see her making another charge. but he also saw something coming from behind her. He stared wide-eyed at Gohan, flying as fast as he could. He passed Calla, grabbing her outstretched arm. Using her momentum, he threw her in the opposite direction, making her crash face first into the tree.
"Man, I'm glad I turned around." Gohan said as he rushed to his mentor's side. "I've never seen her fight like that before." Gohan reached out his hand. Piccolo smirked as he took it and stood up. He should have been furious that Gohan had disobeyed him. But one look at his former student reminded him that Gohan wasn't a little boy anymore. He was a man with friends and family whom he was more than strong enough to defend.
"Don't worry. With you here we can even the odds."
"So...you're not mad?"
"Only that your timing is just as bad as your father's."
The two looked up as Calla pulled herself from the tree, looking down at her new adversary.
"So whats the plan?" Gohan asked.
"We need to throw her off guard. Then find a way to knock her out. Keep her incapacitated long enough before Goku and Vegeta finish upstairs."
"Got it. Let me keep her distracted. You focus on recovering for now. Once I make an opening, you can blind side her."
"Alright. She should still be a bit shaken up, but look out for her blades. Super Saiyan or not they'll cut right through you."
"Thanks for the tip." Gohan smiled before turning to look at Calla with a serious face Piccolo hadn't seen since his fight with Majin Buu. Gohan flew up into the air. His eyes meeting with Calla's.
"Don't worry Calla. This will all be over soon." Gohan called out to her. Piccolo could feel Gohan's ki surge as he prepared to transform. "I will save you. Even if I have to use all my power to do it!" Golden ki surrounded Gohan's body, his eyes changing to light blue. He cried out, forcing his power to rise even further, reaching the second level of Super Saiyan.
Piccolo watched in awe as he tried to grasp the scope of Gohan's ability. Eve since his training with the Kais, Gohan had been able to achieve incredible feats on his own, without having to transform. With the extra boost from not one but two Super Saiyan transformations. The amount of power Gohan had at his disposal was mind-boggling. Gohan was the type of person to prefer peace to conflict, but Piccolo wouldn't have guessed that looking at him now, boasting the same calm demeanor his father.
Even in the wake of such a daunting foe, Calla had regained her composure. Her power rose as she focused her excess ki into and entire armament of blades both small and large. The two squared off, an eerie wind whistling through the tree branches.
"Whenever your ready." Gohan said. Calla took his invitation and put out her hands, willing her blades to fly forward, converging on Gohan's position. With a single cry, Gohan's explosive ki spread out in all directions. Shattering the blades like glass. Calla created more and continued her distanced assault. Gohan flew toward her, using his superior speed to dodge the swords effortlessly.
In no time at all he was directly in front of her, sending a decisive punch into her gut. Calla gagged and clutched her stomach. Gohan floated next to her, waiting for her response. She attempted to use her injury as a ruse, forming a hidden blade to stab the super saiyan. The sneak attack fell flat as Gohan easily side-stepped her swift thrust. Immediately, he retaliated by elbowing her in the back and punching her back into the tree. The Tree of Might creaked as it slightly swayed from the impact.
Piccolo gaped. Gohan had managed to carry out what he had been trying to do in a just a few seconds. Though it bruised his ego, it paled in comparison to his pride in his former pupil. His time working to become a scholar had not affected his abilities at all. Piccolo was even willing to assume that at this level, Gohan had easily surpassed both Goku and Vegeta in Super Saiyan 2. The potential Piccolo had sensed in the boy all those years ago had been tapped and refined to create the perfect warrior. Not just strong enough to win, but strong enough to spare a life.
"Just try to relax. We're almost done." Gohan tried to console Calla as he got her in a headlock. Her eyes were wide with desperation. Thrashing about in any way her body could move. But Gohan held firm.
"It's now or never Piccolo!" Gohan called down.
"On my way. Keep her still!" Piccolo shouted back. He leaped off the ground, building momentum as he climbed higher. He pulled back his arm, ready to strike as soon as he got close. As he got closer, he noticed something floating above Gohan. It was a ki blade. Positioned to swing straight down on Gohan and Calla.
"Gohan! Above you!" Piccolo cried. Gohan looked up to see the blade come down. Gohan did what he could to move both himself and Calla to safety but Calla used his surprise as an opprotunity to break his grip. Moving directly under the oncoming attack.
The blade slashed through Calla's shoulder. Cutting her right arm clean off. The intense pain snapped her back to her senses as she let out an ungodly scream. Her arm fell to the ground.. What was left of her shoulder gushed with green blood.
"Calla!" Gohan screamed as he caught her in mid fall. Keeping her steady as he floated to the ground. Placing Calla on her back as she continued to scream. Gohan looked at her in a panic, too deep in shock to think about what had to be done next.
"Oh Kami! Calla! I didn't mean to-I'm so sorry!" He gasped. Trying to regain his composure. "We need-we need to stop the bleeding." he thought aloud. Piccolo was already way ahead of him. He flew over to the two immediately and knelt beside Calla.
"Gohan, tear off your sleeve, roll it up and put it in her mouth." he ordered. Gohan didn't bother to question and did as he was told.
"Calla, if you can hear me, bite down." Piccolo couldn't help but feel slightly relieved when Calla responded immediately. Biting down on the cloth as hard as she could.
"This is going to hurt, but it needs to be done. Get ready." he said as he lined his eye sight with Calla's cut shoulder. Gritting his teeth, he fired his eye beams at her injury. The heat quickly sealed her wound closed. Even with the muffling of the cloth in her mouth Calla kicked and screamed. Gohan held her down. Keeping her legs from coming up and kneeing Piccolo in the face. By the time he was done, the bleeding had stopped.
"We need to keep it from getting infected." Gohan advised. Without hesitating, he took off the rest of his non-weighted gi and tore it. Wrapping it around Calla's shoulder as she tried to steady her breathing. Gohan looked to Piccolo. Uncertain. "This is really bad Piccolo. We need to get her to Dende."
"It's too far. Maybe with instant transmission-" he theorized but a sudden shock wave from the tree's canopy forced him to reconsider.
Goku was in no position to help them now.
"They've already started." Gohan covered his eyes from the blinding light. No doubt feeling the crazy amount of power Piccolo was.
"Better move before this place goes to hell." Piccolo said.
"Sure. You want me to take her?" Gohan asked.
"No, I've got her. You keep going and go check on the boys." Piccolo said as he picked Calla up. Gohan nodded and flew to where he was needed.
Piccolo followed suit, holding Calla in his arms. Keeping his eyes on the fight above. Calla's body was tense, still shaking from the trauma. He looked down at her face. Still scrunched up in agony. Cloth clenched between her teeth. But ever so slightly, she tried to smile. His grip on her tightened. No matter how this turned out. He wasn't going to let anyone hurt her again.