It was late into the night by the time the Son household went quiet. After several hours of loud conversation, music and even dancing courtesy of Calla, Piccolo had welcomed the silence. Staying out of the way he was able to observe the goings on from a safe distance.
Krillin and Eighteen leaving to return home, Forcytha and Azera returning with a large mound of mechanical parts which was left in the garage, and Gohan and Videl returning to their house. By the time the last house light went dark, Piccolo began debating if he should return to the Lookout.
With both Goku and Gohan here, there should have been nothing to worry about. If the Yousari had truly been hostile they would have made a move by now. However, Piccolo couldn't shake the concern that something was going to go horribly wrong. Vegeta had been very clear about making sure Goku's Saiyan ancestry remained a secret. Given all the atrocities the Saiyans had committed in Frieza's name, the last thing the Earth needed was to be made a target to aliens who had a grudge with the Saiyan race.
The queen was the most troubling. He had sensed it when he had first laid eyes on her. Underneath the airs of nobility and kindness was a darkness that only seemed to grow larger. Whether the cause was justified or not didn't matter to Piccolo. She and her followers were still a potential threat to the planet's safety. He would play his part in finishing their little war, but only until they were off world. He only wished that he could sense what Vegeta was up to and make sure he had taken care of the planet's other unwelcome guests. No reason to stay if their enemy was already dead.
Piccolo's ears perked up when he heard movement in Goku's house. He couldn't tell who it was from the grumbling and moaning but given the power level it was one of the Yousari. The alien shuffled clumsily down the stairs before stopping in the living room.
"Having trouble sleeping?" came the voice of Sorrel. Moving into the view from the window, Piccolo could see Calla as she stared up at the night sky.
"It's always the first night on an alien planet that's the hardest." She said smiling at the stars. "I'm surprised your still up Sorrel. With all the social interaction you've had today I figured you'd be snoring away."
"Ha ha, very funny." he replied sarcastically. "Since Azera and Forcytha were too unreliable for watch duty, I volunteered. Someone has to keep an eye open in case the enemy discovers our location."
"I don't know. If they were able to find and attack us, they would have done it by now. Call it a hunch."
"The day I trust one of your hunches is the day the Asteria family surpasses House Iris in power."
"Ooh ouch. I'm not sure I can ever recover from an insult like that." Calla said putting her hand on her chest and feigning a collapse.
"Hmph. It is always the same with you. Do you really care nothing for your mother's sacred house?"
"How can I care about a family I don't belong to anymore? My uncle's the one in charge remember?"
"Doesn't change the fact you have the same blood in your veins. Though your failure to claim leadership was spectacular, your skills have improved in your service to the crown."
"My my, is that a compliment that I'm hearing? You really are breaking a lot of new ground today. We should have brought you to Earth a long time ago."
"Don't get too excited." Sorrel growled. "Thanks to your weak bloodline you are still a far cry from surpassing me.'"
"Oh well, easy come easy go." Calla sighed. "I think I'm going to be up for awhile Sorrel so I'll take over watch duty. You're still young and need your rest."
"Stop treating me like I was a sapling." the boy huffed.
"But that's exactly what you are, even though your mother hasn't given you the chance to be one."
"I don't have time for childishness when my brother is too weak for the responsibility of leadership."
"Is that what she told you?"
"Perhaps. Why do you want to know?"
"Let's just say there is more to it than that. Iris is the kind of woman who hates weakness in her own family but not too the extent that you think." Sorrel went silent for a few minutes. "Try asking Ophrys if you want to know more, but for now do yourself a favor and gets some rest. The Queen will need you to be ready tomorrow."
"Fine. If it makes you cease your pestering." he grumbled. Calla giggled as she said goodnight and walked out the front door. Taking one last look in, she saw Sorrel taking the blanket on his side of the couch and throwing it over his snoring brother's bare feet before hunkering down. Calla smiled before slowly closing the door and taking a deep breath.
She wandered the front lawn for a little bit, observing the landscape, poking at plants or fixtures that were alien to her. Her eyes grew wide when she noticed the fireflies that were abundant this time of year.
Curious, she locked on to a single one and gave chase. It did its best to evade her grasp but it didn't take long before it was trapped in the palm of her hand. Calla stared at the insect for a few minutes, allowing it to crawl around her hand and poking at it on occasion. Then, without warning, she put it in her mouth. After a second or two her eye widened, her curious smile transforming into a disgusted grimace and she quickly spat out the bug. The Yousari girl moaned as she wiped at her tongue.
"Note to self, flashy earth bugs are not food. And tiny to-ouch!" She exclaimed as a mosquito bit her arm. She swatted at it and examined the remains. "I thought they couldn't get any smaller. Could you make these taste better through cooking? Maybe Chichi would know. Wait, what if these are an endangered species. Crap! I'll just say it was self-defense. It attacked me, so naturally I had to take action and-"
"Do you ever stop talking?" Piccolo asked, preferring to reveal himself than be subjected to a pointless rant. Calla jumped but relaxed when she realized it was him.
"I forgot you were still out here." Calla put her hands on her hips and walked around the tree to face him. "Wouldn't that hurt your legs after awhile? It doesn't look like you've moved a muscle since this afternoon."
"No." He said keeping his answer simple. She raised her eyebrow, obviously looking for more but was going to remain unsatisfied. When it was clear that she wasn't going to take a hint, Piccolo decided to ask a question of his own. "Is there any reason your waking up the entire forest and not resting?"
"Well excuse me for being a bit anxious in a strange new land. Sleeping is something of a hobby of mine so if I could, I would. It's just, everything is so different from what I'm used to. Which is great, but a little hard to take it all in the first day. I need to be completely relaxed if I'm going to get any sleep. I figured since I was awake, why not do some safe exploration disguised as guard duty."
"Since when did exploration include eating insects?"
"I didn't know if it was edible or not. That's why I had to find out. Now I know and my curiosity is satisfied...for the moment."
"I'd hardly think something as insignificant as that could be so fascinating."
"Insignificant? Tell me smart guy, what qualifies as insignificant? Hmm? Who made you so high and mighty to decide if something has significance or not? Cause your so big and strong, is that it?"
"Calm down. It was just an observation." Piccolo said without raising his voice. Calla's went wide, as if what she had said was meant for a completely different person. She she took a few steps back before crossing her arms and looking away.
"I-I knew that." she mumbled. Piccolo noted her nervous body language, such as shifting wait in her feet and fidgeting with the cloth on her sleeve. She would try to look at him but would look away the second he tried to make eye contact. "You're a Namekian. Don't sit there and tell me you weren't the least bit curious about stuff like that when you first came here."
"I wasn't." Piccolo replied. It was true. When his purpose for being born was to destroy his father's old enemy, the earth was just the prize at the end of the road. Maturing and gaining strength to achieve that goal and world domination had been his only interest in those early years.
Even after looking through the memories belonging to Kami during his time at Yunzabit had focused more on surviving long enough for family that never came. Though his original self eventually explored the planet, the only things that stood out were the horrible deeds that humanity was capable of. Piccolo was sure there was more to it than that, but Kami had more than a hundred years of memories to shift through and it was painful to try to recall so much at once. Calla looked at him with surprise, a single eyebrow raised.
"Come on! Not even a little bit?" she asked again.
"No." He replied. Calla let out a sigh, her expression changing to...pity?
"It was that bad huh?" she asked, sympathy in her voice. One minute she was angry with him and now...this? It was like someone had flipped a switch in her brain. Piccolo had seen this before with human females like Bulma and Chichi but he still couldn't figure it out. Calla walked around him and propped her back on the side of his tree. "I guess I should have realized with what Gohan told us about the people here. Your appearance wasn't a big hit with the locals?"
"Something like that."
"That's a shame. Your people are usually so kind, you don't deserve that kind of treatment." Piccolo narrowed his eyes. Perhaps this girl was more perceptive than he had originally thought. "You probably heard it when we were inside but, Gohan told me a lot about you. I hope you don't mind."
"Only if you keep it to yourself." Piccolo had heard the entire conversation as Gohan had told Calla about their time training together and the many adventures that had gotten mentor and student where they were today. Only time would tell if Calla was trustworthy enough not to go and blab it to everyone she met.
"After hearing all of that, I figured out why you were acting they way you were, so I'm...sorry. " she said. She paused, waiting for him to respond. But kept talking when he chose not to. "Though you could have asked in a nicer way instead of just throwing accusations around." Her eyes lit up as she propped herself up and raised her index finger.
"Tell you what, just so we can clear the air, ask me whatever you like. Can't trust each other if we're keeping secrets right? So go ahead! Ask away."
Piccolo looked back at her with this trademark indifference but couldn't deny the opportunity that just fell in his lap. Despite her irritation with him, she hadn't tried to leave or walk away once. Piccolo wasn't the least bit surprised, a person like this actually enjoyed sharing their thoughts and feelings to complete strangers, as foolish as it was. If she wasn't going to leave him to his meditation, this was the best chance he had to get more information about the Yousari Queen.
"Alright then, explain something to me." he said.
"Such as?" Calla smiled. Already anticipating his question.
"You said when you introduced yourself that you're the queen's servant?"
"More of her guardian but I also do her errands, make sure she's healthy, that kind of stuff. Why do you ask?"
"I just find it hard to believe the daughter of a noble is working as a mere servant."
"Bloody ears of the Kai's themselves." Calla groaned. "It's really not all that interesting. My mom died, I was too weak to take her place, Clem's mom took me in when my uncle kicked me to the curb, the end. See? Dullsville."
"I wouldn't call you weak. Not after that display in the desert."
"Why thank you. Fighting is my second favorite hobby next to sleeping. I'd like to think all the time I've spent practicing has paid off a bit."
"How long have you known Queen Clemartis?"
"Since she was born. Hell, I helped raise her when her mom wasn't around and when she...well, you heard. Its been weird watching her grow up so fast, literally and figuratively. No matter how old she looks, she's still the same kid that I grew up with." Calla chuckled.
"Before she became queen she was such a crybaby. The second she got scared or scolded she would just fall to the floor, crying her little eyes out. It could get annoying but it was worth putting up with to see her happy. Other than that she was so well-behaved, I actually had to encourage her to get in trouble once or twice just to show her what it was like. There was this one time, we were visiting my uncle's mansion and the two of us managed to sneak away from our escorts. We got into the conference room and prank called every communication device in the entire estate." she said laughing out loud.
"Oh I've never seen Clem laugh so hard." Calla's laugh subsided and the smile slowly disappeared from her face. "Ever since that night though, she's been so sad. Understandably so, but its like she can't move on. I've done what I can to keep her spirits up through all of this but nothing I do works for very long. It's great to see her smile again after all this time, even if for a little while." she said sadly. Piccolo just sat, quietly listening to every word. "Oh sorry, I got carried away again didn't I?"
"That doesn't matter." He replied, thinking over the next few words carefully. "You say it's just sadness but that's not the only thing that's changed about her, is it?"
Calla's eyes went wide, but she immediately tried to cover her first reaction with a carefree smile.
"Well of course, being a queen isn't an easy job you know and she's had less time to relax like we used to-"
"That's not what I meant." Piccolo interrupted. There was no way she could have known the queen for so long and not have noticed the growing evil in her soul.
"Now t-that I think about it, she has been a bit more of a space cadet than she used to be. She'll pay attention in meetings sure, but sometimes trying to hold a simple conversation during mealtime can be such a -"
"Would you stop that!?" Piccolo yelled, finally losing his patience.
"Stop what? What'd I do?"
"Acting as if you haven't got a clue! Your queen is a danger to everyone on this planet."
"That's not true" she retorted, starting to take offense. "Like I keep saying, you can trust us. Just give us a chance to-"
"It's got nothing to do with the rest of you, she is the one I don't trust."
"Why? She's been nothing but nice to you and your friends all day. Where the hell is this coming from?"
"Don't play dumb with me! I've sensed it since we first met. She may give a convincing performance playing the diplomat but there is a darkness at her core that gets bigger with each passing hour. If you've known her as long as you claim then you must have noticed by now!" he demanded.
Calla avoided his gaze as she kept her mouth shut. She knew something, her nervous body language gave that much away. There was something about the queen that had changed for the worse, something Calla was aware of but had kept to herself. Perhaps...out of fear? After a few seconds of silence, her mouth curved into a smile.
"Haven't you figured it out by now?" she said calmly. "I'm just an idiot."
At first Piccolo wasn't sure how to react to such a statement but he growled when he realized she was looking for excuses to avoid telling him what he wanted to know. Frustrated he turned away from her.
"Ha ha ha! You should have seen the look on your face. Wasn't expecting for me to say something like that out loud were you mister 'I can see into your soul'? Did you honestly think I was smart enough to figure stuff like that out? Your giving me way to much credit. Something I learned a long time ago, if you're a fool people don't expect much from you. It's a lifestyle that I have grown quite comfortable with."
"Your being ridiculous." Piccolo said angrily.
"Another one of my trade mark character traits, thank you for noticing. I would have thought you would have guessed that already from how you can see through complete strangers. I forgot you guys were all about pure heart this, evil heart that."
"Would you shut up!" Piccolo yelled almost having to cover over his ears as Calla's voice grew louder.
"And he's got another one! Three down on the list of my extensive character defects. I'm a rambler, which you have no doubt discovered, stubborn, slow, lazy, loonier than a Makyan and topped off with a long list of failures such as failing to keep my promise to my dead mother and not being able to protect Clem's mother. And yet..." Calla paused, her voice beginning to tremble.
"...knowing that, both Clem and her mother still trusted me and accepted me as one of their own. I may not understand all of what you were talking about just now, but I want to give Clem as much trust as she gave me. It's more than just my duty, it's my purpose." She turned to look at Piccolo. "Do you understand?"
"You've made your point. Just don't say I didn't warn you." He sighed. Getting her to admit what she had seen was going to be harder than he expected. He was going to have to try a different approach.
"Alright then. Let's throw that ball of depressing away and enjoy the night. Or is it morning? How long does it take for the sun to rise here?"
"It'll take another few hours at least."
"How can you tell?"
"The moon." he said pointing the heavenly sphere out to her. It felt strange having the moon back in the sky after all the effort Piccolo had made to destroy it. But with the threat of the Saiyans gone, Dende had seen fit to restore it with the dragon balls when he became Guardian of the Earth.
"Oh wow! It's so beautiful. Our planet has two moons but they are nowhere near that big." Calla's eyes were wide with wonder and reached up her hand as if to grab it out of the sky. She took an extended deep breath as she stared into the night.
Given the condition of her home planet, seeing something as simple as the night sky must have been a rare opportunity. The two sat in awkward silence, with Calla occasionally sneaking a glace at him, look away the second he looked at her. Starting to get irritated, Piccolo was the one who broke the silence.
"Why do you keep doing that?" he asked
"Doing what?" Calla smiled with her eyes closed. Feigning ignorance again.
"Why do you keep looking at me? You said yourself I'm not the first Namekian you've met right? Do I look that strange in comparison?"
"Oh, no! You don't look strange at all. It's the exact opposite actually." Her smile remained, but she looked down at the ground, sorrow in her eyes. "You just look a lot like someone I knew once. I've tried to not let it bother me but...I'll try to be better. Getting to know you more is making it easier though. Oh, but that doesn't excuse me from being rude. Would you prefer it if I left?" she asked.
"Do what you like." was Piccolo's reply.
"I'll do just that." Calla said with a bright smile. Piccolo rolled his eyes, debating whether he was going to regret this or not. Oddly enough, he didn't. Calla stayed quiet for what seemed like an hour.
In fact, after so long, Piccolo began to wonder if something was wrong. Curious he looked around the tree. She was still sitting with her back to the tree. He was about to sit back and return to his meditation when her body fell to the ground. He looked over, startled, but let out his held in breath when he saw she was just asleep. He growled before closing his eyes and trying to clear his mind.
Why had he been concerned at all? She had done that night but annoy him and add more proof that the earth was in peril the longer she and her comrades stayed.
Yet, unlike her queen, her heart was pure. More interested in living in the moment and the thrill of a fight instead of contemplating battle strategies or thinking things through. Piccolo was still convinced she knew more than she let on, but he figured it was best to let the matter drop for now. Time would tell if he and the rest of the Earth's Special Forces were prepared enough for when the worst case scenario did come to pass. For her sake, he hoped it never would.