Several days had passed since the battle with the Hidrana, and the Yousari fleet was preparing to depart for their home planet. No longer under the Queen's influcence, Gladolous had surrendered Earth's captives almost immediately and had been filled in of the night's events hours after the Queen's passing. With his assistence, the Earth was restored by collecting the fragmented gemstones and returning the planet's energy that was still trapped within them. He even managed to capture and round up the last of the Cold Empire soldiers who had survived the battle, removing any trace of their presence.
With their departure, life was going to return to normal for the people of Earth.
Goku and several others decided to give the aliens a final farewell at the foot of the destroyed Tree of Might. Its charred trunk had toppled over and new plant life was beginning to grow over its remains. Animals of all shapes and sizes could be seen running in and out of the once mighty hollow.
Thanks to the restoration effort, the once barren area was covered in green grass and dotted with saplings that would eventually grow into a healthy forest. Hovering high above the ruins, was the Yousari flagship, waiting for its last passengers to be transported via shuttlecraft before beginning the long trip home. The shuttle rested next to the fallen tree, where Earth's Special Forces were discussing the Yousari's future plans.
"The void of leadership won't be easy to fill. And I can't promise that the people won't demand retribution for the Queen's death." the general told them. "But I can promise that myself and everyone here will not divulge the where and who in regards to happened."
"Thank you." Goku said and reached out to shake Gladolous hand. The Yousarian general looked at Goku's hand with disdain, forcing the kind-hearted man to retract it.
"As much as it was our right to fix the damage we caused. I am inclined to agree with my former Queen. If I or any of my men should come across any of you out in space, we will not hesitate to open fire." he said coldly. "But that will only be your concern if I become the next ruler. That has yet to be decided."
"What do you mean?" Krillin asked.
"When news of the Queen's demise become's public knowledge, the struggle between the noble houses will begin again. A tournament will be held to decide which of the blood lines is strong enough to maintain leadership. And until that fight is settled, all external affairs will have to be put on hold."
"Now that would be something to see." Goku said with excitement. Gladolous raised his eyebrow.
"Dad, remember what he said." Gohan whispered. Goku scratched his head in embarrassment.
"Remember your promise, and I swear to you that the earth will be left in peace. Farewell." Gladolous said finally before turning away. Passing by what remained of the Anti-Saiyan Task Force, he gave them his orders. "We are departing in fifteen minutes people. Say your goodbyes and be on that shuttle or you're going to be left behind!"
"Yes sir!" they shouted in unison. Each member of the team, save Forcytha walked over to their friends in the Earth's special forces.
"Take care lad, and do not forget your strength." Azera said taking Yamcha's hand in his.
"You to man. If you ever get a chance to visit, I'll take you to see a baseball game. My treat."
"A great honor. I accept." Azera smiled as Yamcha shook his hand, standing a lot taller than when they had first met.
"Please tell your mother that, I am grateful for all she has taught me." Sorrel said to Goten. "And I will continue to practice the art of cooking."
"Sure thing. Actually, she wanted me to give this to you before you left." Goten said reaching into a backpack and producing a large book. He handed to Sorrel who looked it over with wide-eyed curiosity. "Its a cook book. So you can practice at home."
Sorrel looked like he was about to cry. "Y-your mother is too kind. I will treasure it."
"I'm going to miss you Sorrel." Goten said as he began to cry. Running up to the tiny alien and hugging him. Sorrel stiffened, not sure what to do but eventually he tried to smile and pat Goten akwardly on the back.
"As I will miss your...enthusiasm." he said, trying to find the right way to complement his new companion.
"What are you gonna do about your mom?" Trunks asked. "Wasn't she gonna try to take over or something?"
"Yes...but she will have to find a new pawn to do her bidding. I will renounce my rights as her heir the moment we return home."
"What? But it meant so much to you!" Goten exclaimed.
"No,it didn't. I never really knew what mattered to me...until now." he said smiling at the cook book. "No matter what hardship it brings, I'm going to explore this new world that has been opened up to me. Just like my brother."
At the mention of Ophrys, Trunks looked down at the ground. Still carrying the weight of the loss. Sorrel took notice and walked up to the young Saiyan. He held out his hand, revealing Ophrys' glasses.
"Keep them...as a memento." Sorrel said.
"No, I couldn't-" Trunks began to say but Sorrel insisted.
"Yes you can. Ophrys was willing to sacrifice everything he ever worked for to protect you and your home. So I won't let you forget about him." Sorrel said firmly. Trunks looked at the glasses nervously, but took them firmly as he struggled to fight back his own tears.
"I'll never forget." he said finally. Sorrel smiled and put his hand on Trunk's shoulder.
"Neither will I."
A few feet away Calla was speaking to Piccolo, Gohan and Goku.
"How's your arm?" Gohan asked.
"What?" she asked, as if she completely forgot. "Oh right. Yeah, well, this is not as bad as you would think. One of the nice things about going into military custody is that they want to make sure their prisoners are taken care of. I'll get home, put in the requisition order for a prosthetic arm, get it attached and I'll be as good as new."
"That's a relief." Gohan sighed.
"So stop blaming yourself. It was an accident, pure and simple. Oh! And make sure to tell Videl I said goodbye, and good luck with the little one."
"Heh, I will." Gohan nodded with an embarrassed smile. Calla looked over to see both Piccolo and Goku looking at the young man with pride.
"So...I'm guessing his highness is too uppity to say goodbye?" she asked Goku after looking around.
"I don't think that's the reason." Goku said looking over his shoulder. Vegeta was nearby, he could feel it, but it didn't look like he was going to make an appearance. "I guess he doesn't want his presence to aggravate anyone, like your general, into another conflict."
"Huh...well how about that?" Calla said looking genuinely surprised.
"He can be considerate...you just have to pick your timing." Gohan shrugged.
"So I'm learning." Calla nodded. Staring into the distance and smiling wistfully. "It's amazing how much people can change, if given time."
"How long are you going to be detained?" Piccolo asked.
"Probably a few decades if I'm lucky. Once Clem's crimes are made public...the noble houses and even the regular citizens are going to want a scapegoat to take the blame. No one was closer to Clem than me so..."
"What?!" Goku asked, outraged. "That's not fair! You didn't do anything!"
"Whatever I did or didn't do won't matter to them Goku." Calla sighed. "Iris lost one of her sons because of what Clem did. She won't rest until some one pays for the disgrace, and with Clem dead that doesn't leave a lot of options."
"Can't someone protect you? Defend your rights?" Gohan asked.
"Only if I was a member of a noble house...which I'm not anymore. Both Azera and I don't have the political standing to have someone speak out for us. But unlike me, Azera should have the support of the citizens thanks to his war heroics. If the people are going to need someone to take the heat...might as well be me." she said trying to smile.
"That's not your burden to bear." Piccolo said.
"Maybe. But if I don't, who will? I'm not going to put a bullseye on Azera's back. The guy has been through enough as it is."
"But!" Goku was about to protest, but Calla raised her hand to stop him.
"It's okay. I don't mind playing the bad guy. Who knows? Maybe I could have some fun with it? It'll give me a chance to practice my evil laugh."
"Calla." Piccolo said in a scolding tone. He had spent enough time with her to know when she was hiding what she really felt. She grinned and scratched the back of her head.
"Sorry. Bad habits die-hard I guess." Looking up at her friend. "Really. I'll be fine. It won't take them long to forget about me once we have a new ruler. And when they let me go...I'm going to leave Alastromeria for good."
"Where will you go?" Gohan asked.
"Not really sure right now. I'll have a lot of time to think it over but I was thinking of looking for New Namek. Some of Torga's old friends should still be around, so I could make a living there. Or..." she started to say but shook her head. "No... don't be stupid Calla. That wouldn't work."
"What wouldn't work?"
"I was going to ask if I could come back here but...I have no right to ask that. Besides, it wouldn't work out anyway."
"Why not?" Goku said. "We'd love to have you stay with us."
Calla smiled. "That's very kind of you but...like I said. I have no idea when I'll be released. That could be several decades or even over a hundred years from now. I can't possibly ask you to wait for me that long." Goku and Gohan looked at each other, uncertain of how to respond.
Six sets of eyes all looked to their Namekian companion.
"I can wait for you." He repeated to make sure Calla heard him. She stared at him, eyes wide with disbelief.
"You don't have to do that." she said finally.
"You're going to need to come here anyway if you want to find New Namek." Piccolo said sternly. "Not to mention some time to get back into shape after being in captivity for so long." He smirked. "Who knows? You may even get your chance to even the score. If you can beat me that is."
Calla blinked before her competitive nature kicked in. She gave the Namekian a wry smile as she stepped up to him.
"Challenge accepted." she said full of eagerness. "Just don't get mad at me when I kick your ass across the planet."
"Ha, we'll see about that when you return."
"Five minutes people!" shouted Gladolous who was already inside the shuttle.
"Looks like duty calls. Don't go dying on me until I get back!" she said pointing a finger at Piccolo.
"Same to you." he replied.
"Have a safe trip." Gohan waved as Calla gave one last wink before walking over to the shuttle. Dragging her feet, and looking back every few seconds. The other team members passed her and entered the shuttle, taking their seats and waving goodbye. Forcytha however stopped next to Calla before turning back.
"Yo Krillin!" he shouted. Krillin immediately tensed up.
"What?" he asked sounding a bit irritated.
"Take care of that family of yours."
It took a few minutes for Krillin to process what the young lord had said, given the fact it was out of character for him. But he narrowed his eyes as his resolve to be acknowledged hardened.
Even though his mouth and nose were still covered, the glint in Forcytha's eyes gave away his smile. Putting his hand on Calla's shoulder as she continued to wave goodbye, he guided her to the shuttle.
"Don't worry about the military police." Forcytha said to his old friend. "I can pull a few favors and get you released once the tournament starts."
Calla raised an eyebrow. "Is that so? What's the catch?"
"No catch I just...wanted you to know that, I've got your back."
"You haven't really given me a reason to consider that a good thing lately."
"I know. And I want to change that, if you'll give me a chance."
"And how am I supposed to know that isn't jerk code for 'fastest way to ge me into your chambers'?"
He took a moment to think things over before he spoke again.
"If you wanted to get off world, go to Namek or even come here...you'll have the support of me and my house. No one will come looking for you." he said solemnly. Calla stared at him, taken aback.
"You'd do that for me? No compensation?"
"If it would make you happy..." he said, trying to look her in the eye. "...that's all the compensation I need." She regarded him for a few seconds before smiling.
"There may be hope for you yet, Pyro." she smiled, calling Forcytha by his old childhood nickname just as the shuttle engines began to roar. The two Yousarians made it inside just as the shuttle doors began to close. With all of their passengers aboard, the tiny aircraft lifted into the air and took off toward the orbiting star ships, ripping through the white clouds as they climbed higher into the sky. In a few minutes they were out of sight.
Parting with everyone else, Goku went to check on Vegeta, who was standing with Bulma by a tree on the other side of the Tree of Might's remains. Thanks to Calla and Azera's donation of ki, Clemartis's tree had grown big in just a few days. No taller than seven feet, it was already covered with bright green leaves that swished in the breeze. Looking at it as it was, Goku could hardly believe it had once been a walking, talking person.
Vegeta was standing beside it. Not moving an inch. Wearing a more Earthly attire than he usually did, a brown jacket over an orange shirt and brown khaki pants. Bulma's arms were crossed as she looked from the tree to her husband. Goku recognized the angry look on her face and decided to keep his presence hidden for a bit longer.
"No. Absolutely not." He heard Bulma say.
"I'm not asking for your opinion woman." Vegeta grumbled.
"Too bad, I'm giving it to you anyway. And just to get this through that thick head of yours, I'll say it again. There is no way in hell that I'm going to let just go off on your own again!"
"I've made my decision."
"And I'm telling you its the worst decsion you've ever made!"
"Its better this way."
"For who? Is this family just a burden to you, is that it? Just another distraction from your ever so important training?"
"No thats not-!"
"Then what is it then?!"
"I can't lose you again!" Vegeta yelled. Bulma went silent, anger shifting to concern. Vegeta broke eye contact with her as he glanced over his shoulder. Spying Trunks struggling with his baby sister who was pulling at his hair, waiting for their parents.
"...any of you." He said finally. Vegeta took a deep breath to regain his composure. Bulma waiting silently for him to continue.
"There is no guarantee that the Yoursarians will keep their word. If that happens, they will come here in order to get to me. I won't put your lives at risk for a second time."
Bulma let out a sigh of her own. Running her fingers through her short hair. After a few moments, she turned back to face Clemartis' tree.
"Fine." she said. Vegeta looked at her, dumbfounded.
"What did you say?" he asked, to make sure he heard her right.
"I said fine. Its like you said, I can't really stop you or anything." she looked back to him, her eyes narrowed. "But just to give you fair warning, if you're set on going, I'm going to follow you."
"Wha-but! Damn it woman, you can't just-!"
"Can't I?" she retorted. "I made the mistake of letting you go before mister. I'm not going to let that happen again."
"So you'd just abandon this world? Your children?"
"Who said anything about that? I'll bring them with me. Trunks has wanted to take a trip into space anyway."
"Dangerous, I know." Bulma interrupted. Her voice becoming a quiet. "But I can't lose you either. Not after all we've been through." Vegeta stared at her. At a loss for words.
"I know neither of us asked for this family. But now that we've got it...I want to keep it together. I don't care if we're on earth or out in deep space. I'll do whatever it takes...do you understand?" Vegeta looked like he was trying to find the right words to say, but nothing was coming to him. Before he realized it, Bulma was reaching for his hand. Biting her lower lip to keep tears from falling. Without saying a word. He took her hand and held it firmly. Bulma smiled and embraced him. Even Goku couldn't help but smile. His concern about his friend leaving were all but gone. After a few minutes of quiet support between the two, Vegeta smirked.
"You wouldn't have lasted a week without your precious convenience stores anyway."
"Says you." Bulma retorted. "After making it through days stranded in the Namekian wilderness, I think I can take just about anything the universe can throw at me."
"I wouldn't bet on it."
"Well then here is something you can bet on, me getting Chi-Chi to distract the kids long enough for us to have some...private time?" Vegeta's face flushed slightly as he considered his awnser. Goku leaned further around the dead root, getting more interested in the conversation. But he lost his footing and almost stumbled into view.
"I-need a bit more time here. You can go on ahead." Vegeta said finally. Bulma looked at him questioningly before she decided not to pry.
"All right. I'll be waiting." she said before stopping and turning around. "Don't be late."
"I know, I know." Vegeta replied waving her off. Bulma smiled with satisfaction as she returned to her jet and pried Trunks free from his sister's vice grip. Vegeta's smirk dropped to its usual frown as his attention turned to Goku's hiding spot.
"I don't believe your woman would approve of eavesdropping Kakarot."
"I didn't mean to! I just...didn't want to interrupt."
"Then you had better have a good reason for keeping me here." Vegeta said angrily.
"I just wanted to let you know, the Yousari just left." Goku said as he walked up to his friend. "And according to Calla it might be a long time before they can worry about anything off-world."
"Hn, good riddance." Vegeta replied.
"Aw come on, don't be like that. They aren't all bad. If it weren't for Calla the rest, we wouldn't have been able to stop the Hidrana. Not to mention getting the planet back to normal so fast."
"And if it wasn't for them there would have been no need to restore it in the first place. Now would there?"
Goku paused as he thought it over. "No...I guess not."
"And if hadn't been for my lack of forethought, their presence wouldn't have been an issue." Vegeta thought aloud, looking up at the tree's canopy.
"Clemartis was correct. This was the only way it was going to end after what I did to her. I tried to rationalize it, that someone like her didn't deserve mercy. That she was no different from any of the adversaries we've faced. But I was just making excuses. Maybe she would have turned out the same way even if I hadn't been involved. But that doesn't change that what she did to my home and my family was a result of my own actions. And for that Kakarot...I want to apologize."
"Apologize? For what?" Goku asked, partially startled at what was actually happening. Vegeta had never apologized for anything...ever.
"Damn it, don't make me repeat myself! If it wasn't for me, none of this would have ever happened. People wouldn't have been hurt and we wouldn't have had to risk out lives fighting a giant tree. So..." Vegeta stopped as if he was choking on the words as they came out of his mouth. "I'm...sorry."
"That's it?" Goku asked.
"What do you mean that's it?! What more do you want from me Kakarot?!" Vegeta yelled.
"No I mean, that's all you were sorry for? Cause I'm not." Goku smiled. Vegeta gaped for a few minutes as he tried to understand.
"Are you out of your mind? That woman almost destroyed our home, tried to kill us! And you don't regret having to do any of this?"
"It's not like I don't have any regrets, cause I do. But, I don't regret meeting her or having the chance to fight her. I've never thought that about anyone I've ever fought."
"Really? Can you say the same for Cell? Even Freiza?"
"Yes. I'm glad I met them." Goku said nonchalantly, as Vegeta did his best to pick his jaw off the ground.
"H-how could you possibly?" Vegeta stammered.
"I know they were evil, they had to be stopped, I'm not denying that. But at the same time, I'm glad I had the chance to meet them and fight them."
"Because if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be where I am today. If it weren't for Frieza, I would never have come to Earth and met all my friends or had a family. Fighting Cell showed me my limitations as a fighter and how I'll need to make way for the next generation. Good or evil doesn't matter. Every meeting happens for a reason and makes us who we are. At least, that's what I think."
Vegeta looked down at the ground as he thought about Goku's words. Turning his attention to the tree he walked up to it, putting his hand on the rough bark.
"What are you doing Vegeta?" Goku asked.
"Get over here Kakarot. There is something I want to try."
"Uh okay." Goku shrugged as he stood beside Vegeta and placed his hand on the tree.
"Close your eyes and empty your mind." Vegeta instructed. "It should happen on its own."
"What should happen on its own?"
Vegeta hesitated. "I don't know...I haven't done it before."
"If you say so."
Goku decided to do as he was told as he cleared away his thoughts. Almost instantly, he noticed he could sense the tree's life energy more clearly, wafting off it like a pleasant aroma. However the more he focused on it, the larger it got.
Following the waves of light, he could see it interact with several different objects, the grass, the air, even the birds flying overhead. Focusing even harder, it was like he could sense every living being on the planet as they lived their lives. A whale, swimming all the way out at sea with a its baby. A couple, talking and laughing at the dinner table while the sun was setting. A pair of bear cubs, playing in the snow high up in the mountains. Goku had only ever gotten a taste of this sensation when he summoned ki for a spirit bomb, never having the opportunity to really appreciate how it connected him with the abundant life on the earth.
What was even more amazing, through his mind's eye, he could see energy forming into streams and circulating the planet. Like veins carrying blood, energy was transported to where it was needed. Leaving something that was no longer alive, and giving it to a new one.
"This is incredible." Goku breathed. "Vegeta, are you seeing this?"
"Yes...remarkably." Vegeta replied.
The two saiyans' senses shifted as their own world faded away as they became immersed in the stream of ki. Glowing in a variety of colors, the visible matter seemed to dance, moving back and forth as it continued to flow. As he watched with amazement, Goku saw the some of the energy began to merge together, forming into a distinct shape. Into the body of a woman he had come to know.
"Clem?" Goku asked surprised as Clemartis' corporeal form appeared before them. She opened her eyes, taking notice of both Saiyans. And gave a gentle smile.
"How is this possible?" Goku asked Vegeta. But the latter was too in shock to answer. Without any provocation, Clemartis' form dissipated as the mass of ki flew around the two Saiyans. Almost instantly, Goku felt like he was watching her entire life pass before his eyes. Pleasant memories, like her time with her mother, Calla, and her Namekian teacher. Before the rush of images finally faded away, came one last memory of her childhood.
Where she shook the hand of her first friend, a wide smile on her face. He looked apprehensive, but he took her hand anyway.
His appearance was unmistakable.
When nothing else happened, Goku took his hand off the tree. Taking in a deep breath as he still tried to absorb the entire experience. He turned to Vegeta, who was still looking up at the tree. His face pensive.
"Perhaps you are right Kakarot." Vegeta said, looking more at peace than Goku had ever seen him before. "Perhaps...you were right all along."
Goku returned the smile gazed up at the tree along with his companion. Life had taken them both to all kinds of places and on so many adventures. Even as they were beginning to grow older there was still so much for them to experience and grow even stronger.
No matter what their future had in store for them, Goku was glad he had a steadfast friend to share every moment of it.
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