Work Header

Intertwined Destinies

Chapter Text

It was a beautiful day in Kamakura in the Kanagawa Prefecture of southeast Japan. The sun was out and glowing brightly in an endless expanse of cerulean-hued sky dotted with large, puffy white clouds soaring gracefully overhead, along with many soft pink flower petals falling down from the air like snowflakes and painting the area in a warm, breathtaking feel of hearth and home, as though to welcome new arrivals with a friendly greeting. And at Gokurakuji Station of the Enoshima Electric Railway, a young woman was waiting patiently on the opposite side of the stationhouse entrance. Her hair was chestnut brown and styled in the traditional Japanese way, framing the young woman's heart-shaped face and highlighting all the areas of beauty, from her petite nose to her gently curving chin leading up to the girl's full, round cheeks and ending at her chocolate-colored eyes, filled with the compelling blend of both deep, caring compassion as well as firm, resolute strength, an ocean of emotion one could quickly get lost in.

Checking the time, the young woman was surprised to discover the one whom she had been waiting for was now late. Wasn't he coming to see her? Did he forget she was here? Feeling angry and disappointed, the beautiful woman left the stationhouse, obviously intent on tracking him down. Traveling down the pathways of Kamakura she took in the familiar sights and surroundings with a lighter heart, thinking back to days gone by. It had been eight years, but very little had changed at all in the small town where she and her favorite cousin had met and played in. She smiled nostalgically. Those days she spent with him as a child were some of the happiest times of her entire life... and some of the saddest, too, she remembered as her happy grin turned into a remorseful frown. Her uncle and her other cousin had both died eight years ago, and though the pain was no longer fresh, it was still there. She may not have been as close to them as she was her cousin, but they were still her family, and she had wept for their deaths with all the pain and regret in her heart. Hopefully, her cousin managed to recover from that and make something resembling a life for himself.

The young woman was now walking up a stone stairwell sloping upward and bracketed on the right by a cliff side, all leading up to the homes of the area. Suddenly, she caught sight of a young male who seemed to be around her age walking up one of the stairways. Was it him...? She examined the newcomer more closely. That unkempt black hair, those dark eyes, his gait, the very way he moved, like someone who was sure where he belongs yet not sure where to be... her breath caught in her throat. It was him, she would recognize him anywhere, even after all these years. The young man turned to face her, and both jumped in surprise, taken off guard by the presences of one another.

"Oh! You're Kouta, right?" the young woman said.

"Um..." the young man said, blinking a bit, like he didn't know how to proceed.

The young woman fought down a wholly inappropriate giggle. "I'm Yuka. Your cousin."

The light clicked in the young man's eyes. "Oh, you're Yuka?"

The young woman nodded, and the two set off down the streets of Kamakura.

"Since I didn't see you at the station, I looked all over for you," Yuka said, a trace of annoyance in her tone of voice.

"Really?" Kouta said, and then he hung his head in embarrassment. "Sorry."

Her beloved cousin, that bright, intelligent, lively boy that Yuka had remembered from her dreams, now had the feel of being a few steps behind the world around him, like he was struggling alone in a dark and empty cave to find a candle he didn't know existed. Yuka felt her heart go out to the poor boy. What was the cause of all this? Did Kouta still mourn for his deceased family? And did he remember the promise he had made to her at the festival, more than eight years ago now?

"I'm surprised you figured out that I was here," Kouta added.

They were approaching the beach now. Walking ahead of him, Yuka stopped right aboard the stone walkway overlooking the sandy shores laid out before them, the picturesque view of the blue sea. Memories from those wonderful times played out in Yuka's mind, and she turned a genuine smile on her cousin, trying to draw him out from his shell.

"You like watching the ocean from here, right?" she ventured. "I remember."

"Yeah..." Kouta replied.

Truth be told, Kouta was able to recall the beach, and even some vague memories of his beloved little sister, Kanae, picking up seashells for him. However, any attempts at further recollection would end with his mind becoming foggy and disoriented, and in the worst of cases he would end up with a headache. All he could do was cling to what little memories he had left of his childhood, and smile in nostalgia. It was at least better than not remembering anything of his happy family at all.

Thinking back on his cousin, Kouta managed to recall a few bits of memories of their past history together. She used to drag him around playing all the time, always trying to make the most of his attention, which would often ignite an argument between her and his sister, who also tried to get her "Onii-chan" to concentrate on her instead. Looking at her now, Yuka still looked familiar enough for him to recognize her, however, one glance would be enough for him to realize how much she had grown up since, both in the way Yuka now carried herself, and by how much she had... filled in.

Blinking in surprise, Kouta caught himself before his mind could wander too far in that direction. If there was one constant memory that he could recall with perfect clarity, it was that Yuka used to have quite a bit of a temper, and he sure didn't feel like provoking her by being a pervert.

As he gazed out at the ocean with Yuka, he smiled happily. Yes, despite it all, they had had some good times here.

"The view looks the same," he pointed out. "It hasn't changed since we were kids."

"And now we're going to the same college," Yuka said teasingly. "Who'd have guessed?"

Kouta's mind then clicked as he remembered the reason he'd come here in the first place — he had finally been admitted into a very good college. He couldn't help looking forward to it. After all, for a while it looked like he wasn't ever going to catch up. He had been hospitalized in a mental ward the year following the death of his remaining family members, and his development had been very slow. The doctors were quite adamant that he might not fully recover, so the fact that Kouta had even made it this far was a miracle.

Kouta smiled as he glanced at his cousin. He had to admit, Yuka entering the same college as him was a bonus. It was a chance to get to know her again and perhaps to regain some of his lost memories. Pretty much everything about those days was a blur, and maybe with enough time, he could rekindle a familial relationship with one of his last few living relatives.

"We've come this far already," Yuka said, beaming at her cousin. "Let's go see the ocean!"

"H-Hey! What're you doing?" Kouta stammered.

Yuka grabbed him by the arm, leaving him quite flustered, and passing a cemetery on the side, Yuka led him down to the beach.

"Come on! We used to go there all the time!" the brunette declared excitedly.

Did we really? Kouta thought, but he let her guide him down to the shoreline, where they were afforded a breathtaking view of the ocean laid out before them, moving closer and closer until they could reach out and touch it. The sandy floor beneath them sunk slightly under the weight of their shoes, and Kouta suddenly wished he was barefoot so he could squeeze the sand between his toes.

For a while, the two just stood there, staring out at the ocean, the waves crashing along the shore in a never-ending rhythm of advances and retreats, tidal forces beyond their control moving the waters in a constant natural system larger than themselves.

"Remember when we used to play here?" Yuka asked Kouta.

"Yeah. The three of us," Kouta said sadly, the sight stirring up memories of his long-dead little sister. And despite how long ago it had happened, the wounds were still fresh, and painful. "You, me, Kanae-chan. We came here on the last day too."

"Kanae-chan..." Yuka murmured distantly.

The beautiful brunette grew sad and wistful at the mention of her other cousin. Being with Kouta, remembering those times, she could feel the weight of nostalgia bearing down on her, not just the good experiences, but the bad ones. She glanced over and saw that, if anything, her surviving cousin looked even worse than she felt now. He was sitting down, hunched over, as though there was a thousand-pound boulder sitting on his back, pushing him down, crushing him under its bulk.

"She was here... collecting seashells..." Kouta whispered, in such obvious agony that Yuka felt her heart splinter in two. It seemed as if he could reach out and grab the past simply by talking over what he remembered.

A girl, no older than nine, was happily presenting Kouta with her treasure, a beautiful pink seashell. The girl bore a strong resemblance to him, with violet-hued eyes, long, shaggy dark hair, and a red bow on her head.

"Onii-chan! Look! I found a ton of pretty seashells! Look! Aren't they great?!" the girl declared cheerfully.

"They don't look so pretty to me," Kouta said dismissively.

Kanae began growing very mad as her hands balled together into fists...

"Kouta!" Yuka's shocked voice interrupted his thoughts, bringing him back to the present.

"What?" Kouta asked, sitting back up again and sounding confused.

Yuka wondered if her eyesight was going bad. She couldn't be seeing what she thought she was! It was impossible! But after a few moments Yuka realized it was real. No dreams or hallucinations were this vivid.

"Look the other way," Yuka urged her cousin. "Quickly, do it!"

But Kouta, now thoroughly lost, instead looked in the direction Yuka was staring in.

"Huh? Uh, uh, what's going on?" Kouta said slowly.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Yuka replied, somewhat sarcastically. Why didn't he look away like she had told him to?

Because standing there, in the middle of the pounding waves, arms hanging lankly by her side and completely naked, was a young woman who seemed to be their age. And what a strange girl she appeared to be! She possessed long, luscious pinkish-red hair, flowing from the top of her gracefully down her bare back, cool, analytical red pupils in the same color of her hair that seemed to be watching them very carefully, and to finish this odd look, there were two cat-ear protrusions which were poking out of the sides of her head.

"Where did she come from?" Kouta asked, blinking as he could feel heat rising in his face and a slight tightening around his groin. No, not here! he moaned inside his head. Not with Yuka only a few feet away from me!

"How am I supposed to know?" Yuka said with exasperation.

"Maybe she came from one of those parties over near the university," Kouta suggested. "You know they can get pretty wild."

"Then explain that!" Yuka shouted suddenly, pointing at the girl.

Looking more closely, Kouta saw a trickle of blood running down the pinkette's head. Whatever had happened to her, it was something bad. No one came out in the middle of the beach both naked and bleeding.

"Kouta, you don't think she was raped, do you?" Yuka asked in alarm.

"I don't know," Kouta said, now growing more and more worried for the naked young woman standing in front of him.

Yuka stepped closer. "Listen, miss..."

But then she stopped.

To their surprise, those ruthless red pupils appeared to shift before their very eyes, and the girl's whole body shuddered. Her hands began moving, not to cover her nude body, but upwards, to touch her own face. Her hands and her face spread out plaintively, and the weird girl now spoke, feelingly, as though she wasn't really used to speaking.


"U-Um... excuse me?" Kouta said, wondering what on Earth was going on.

The girl whipped around to face them, looking scared and confused, and to the amazement of the two teens watching, she tried to run, but apparently this girl wasn't very well coordinated, because she tripped in the muddy sand and sprawled over, hitting the ground facefirst. The provocative sight and position of her naked body was in opposition to her reaction to the fall. Struggling upright into a kneeling position, the young woman's hands flew to her eyes as she began bawling openly. Her body may have been that of teenaged female, but her tears were those of an infant.

"U-Um... h-hey!" Kouta shouted.

Suddenly, his cousin, whom he had forgotten was even there, grabbed him by the shoulders and forcefully turned him away from the sight.

"Kouta, take your clothes off right now!" Yuka demanded.

Her request could not have been more of a shock to the young man.

"What?" he gasped, gaping at his cousin like a fish.

"Just take off your clothes!" Yuka persisted.

"But then I'll be naked!" Kouta objected.

Yuka glared at him. "Fine. Then give me your shirt. The poor girl simply can't walk around naked!"

Kouta blinked. Oh, so that's what she wanted them for.

"Point taken," Kouta conceded.

With that, he started shucking off his shirt, and once it was successfully free from his torso, Yuka took it in her hands and carried it over to the still-crying young woman. She knelt down next to the nude horned girl and placed a comforting hand on her back.

"Hey, shhh," she said soothingly. "It's all right."

The naked girl stopped crying and glanced upward to face the brown-haired woman now beside her.

"N-Nyuu?" she said through tearful eyes.

"I just want to help you," Yuka reassured her. "Can you speak?"

The pink-haired girl tilted her head to the side. "Nyuu?"

Yuka sighed. "I suppose it was too much to hope you could understand me. Oh well. I guess I'll have to do this manually."

After a few tries, in which the girl's arms didn't wanna seem to cooperate with her, Yuka had dressed the girl in Kouta's white muscle shirt. It was a poor substitute for actual clothing, since the oversized shirt fell down well over the girl's waist and lower torso, ending at her thighs, but it would ensure no one got a look at the young woman's "private areas."

"Can you stand?" Yuka asked the girl.

"Nyuu!" the girl said.

Sighing in exasperation, Yuka helped the horned teen to her feet, but then, out of nowhere, the odd girl threw her arms around Yuka.

"Nyuu!" she declared, hugging Yuka tightly.

Hesitantly, Yuka wrapped her own arms around the strange woman and hugged her too.

"Yes, yes, it's okay," Yuka said. "Come on, we need to figure out what we're going to do with you."

Kouta was walking over, seeing how it was now safe to watch, when suddenly, he came to a complete halt.

"Wait, do you hear that?" the dark-haired man said.

Yuka looked over, disengaging from the clingy girl and perking her ears, trying to listen for whatever it was Kouta had heard.

"I don't hear anything," she said.

"I could've sworn I heard something!" Kouta insisted.

And with that, he took off running down the beach.

"Hey, wait!" Yuka yelled angrily. "Don't leave me here! What are we going to do with her?"

"Nyuu?" the innocent girl asked.

Feeling her temper rising, Yuka glanced at the girl and took her hand in her own.

"Will you come with me?" Yuka asked her.

Without bothering to wait for a response, Yuka took off after Kouta, dragging the pink-haired girl along with her. The nerve of her cousin! Run off and leave her alone with a girl who so clearly needed help? She'd show him...

"Kouta, wait up!" she yelled. "Wait! Slow down!"

And then Kouta turned a corner and came to a stop. He gasped.

Yuka finally caught up with her cousin and was very tempted to give him a brainer for daring to run out on her.

"What's the matter with you?" she demanded. "We have a hurt girl here and you take off like —"

"Look," Kouta said simply, pointing at something near the bend.

Too surprised to even argue, Yuka obeyed and like Kouta, she gasped too.

There, laying sprawled on the sandy beach closer to the stone wall, were two figures. One was a teenage boy, perhaps sixteen or eighteen years old. He had messy black hair which seemed to stick up in every single direction. Maybe this boy didn't know how to groom his hair? Or perhaps he liked it that way. He wore deep purple clothing like the gi most serious martial artists wore, except they were torn and shredded, revealing much of the bare skin beneath, which was covered in many deep bloody gashes and black and blue scrapes.

The second figure was another boy, though he appeared to be much younger than the first boy, perhaps six years old. Unlike the older boy, this younger child appeared to be perfectly fine, and he was kneeling by the older teen, shaking his shoulders desperately, his head pressed to his hair while he urgently begged the boy to regain consciousness.

"Please, Nii-chan, wake up!" the younger boy sobbed brokenly.

Yuka blinked. "Nii-chan." That was what the younger boy called him. Then this must be his older brother.

"Yuka..." Kouta breathed softly.

"I know," Yuka said.

Startled by the two voices he heard, the little boy looked up and glanced at the two newcomers. His features drew down together into a fearsome frown and he leaped up, moving in front of his brother with both arms held out. It was quite clear he wanted to protect his brother from what he viewed as two strangers who had come to hurt him.

"Stay away from my Nii-chan!" he said fiercely.

"Calm down, little fella," Kouta assured the little boy. "We're not here to hurt your brother."

"That's right," Yuka piped in. "Just relax, okay? You can trust us."

The boy slumped, and he glanced down at the sand underneath him.

"Sorry," the little boy apologized, sounding very embarrassed.

The horned girl, meanwhile, was looking between both the two teens and the two new people, her confusion mounting.

"Nyuu?" she wondered.

Yuka let go of the pinkette's hand and moved closer to the two boys. Kouta put his hands on the horned girl's shoulders reassuringly.

"It's all right," he informed her. "You don't have to worry. She just wants to make sure they're okay."

"Nyuu!" the girl shared.

Yuka knelt down next to the little boy, placing a finger under his chin and forcing him to look up at her.

"Honey, what happened here?" Yuka asked, her maternal instincts kicking in full drive.

"Nii-chan... Nii-chan is hurt!" the boy said sadly. "Please, you've got to help him! He needs help!"

"I promise we'll do everything we can for your brother," Yuka vowed.

She turned back to look at Kouta.

"The first thing we need to do is get them off the street," she told her cousin. "I think we should take them to your place."

"What do you mean, my place?" Kouta asked.

"The place you're moving into," Yuka said. "We can't just leave them here."

"Er, yeah," Kouta agreed.

She turned back to the little boy and offered him a kind smile.

"You're safe," she said. "Once we're at the house, we'll figure out what to do."

Suddenly, with grateful tears shining in his eyes, the little boy leaped forward and hugged Yuka, much like the girl had done.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" the boy babbled.

Smiling, Yuka wrapped her arms around the child and hugged him back, just enjoying the feel of hugging the innocent little boy. How she longed to do this with children of her own, when she and Kouta were married with a family one day.

Setting the little boy down, Yuka stood up and looked over at Kouta, giving him a rather pointed look.

"Huh?" Kouta said. What did she want now? "Oh."

Of course, he would carry the other boy, who was older and heavier than the little boy was. Heading over to his side, Kouta reached down and put his arms around the teen's shoulders, and with a grunt, he began lifting him up, noticing something interesting as he did.

"Oh wow, this guy's ripped!" Kouta commented.

"What?" Yuka said, now distracted as she had taken the hand of both the little boy and the older girl.

"Take a look," Kouta said. "This kid must be a bodybuilder. I don't think I could get these kind of muscles."

And through the open front of the older boy's gi, Yuka noted that Kouta was correct. The older teen had exceedingly large, well-defined pectoral muscles and a strong abdomen with the beginning of a six-pack from the area the shirt cut off. All in all, Yuka wondered what he looked like beneath it... with a blush Yuka discovered herself staring unnecessarily long at it. She couldn't be doing this! The boy was hurt! It wasn't right! Besides, she had promised herself to Kouta! He was the one she wanted to marry and raise a family with!

"We can't worry about that now," Yuka said, trying to hide her own embarrassment. "Let's go."

And as they set out, Yuka turned to the little boy trotting along at her side, realizing there was something she hadn't asked him yet.

"Pardon me, but I forget to ask you your name!" Yuka said. "Do you mind telling us? My name's Yuka."

"And I'm Kouta," her cousin grunted as he struggled under the weight of the other teen.

The boy glanced up at the older kids and shrugged. Why not?

"Goten. My name is Goten."

Chapter Text

Kouta and Yuka walked to the Maple Inn. Yuka was holding the pink-haired girl's hand as well as Goten's in the other while Kouta managed the heavier weight and carried the teenage boy. Along the way, Yuka worried that somebody would come across them and make a scene, considering they were shepherding two wounded teens, one of whom wasn't even conscious while the other one was very poorly dressed for being in a public setting. Luckily for them, the streets and back alleys of Kamakura seemed to be strangely deserted, which Yuka found to be rather odd since it was only an hour after midday, and the small town should be bustling with people, but it was a fortunate coincidence since it allowed both Kouta and Yuka to return to their residence completely unmolested.

As they walked up to the house, Yuka glanced once more at the girl at her side, with her weird hair color and other oddities.

"She sure is a strange girl, isn't she?" Yuka remarked. "I mean, pink hair? I wonder if it's dyed. And red eyes. Those are probably contacts, I suppose. And that headband makes it appear that she's got horns."

Yuka glanced a bit closer at the girl, even as she kept twisting her head around in every single direction to look at everything; the trees, the falling leaves, and the sky above. It was like the girl was utterly amazed by life itself. After more closely examining her features, Yuka had a realization, and she gasped out loud. Goten looked up at her.

"Kouta, look!" she cried.

Kouta came to a stop. "What is it?"

"They're sticking out of her head!" she said. "They're real! Her horns are real!"

"Cool!" Kouta said, staring at them, before suddenly, his eyes grew wide, as though remembering something he didn't want to...

A tiny girl, around the age of Kanae, horns on her head, short, neatly cut pink hair. A single word. "Liar..."

Kouta pressed one hand to his temple as the vision disappeared, retreating back into the depths of his subconscious.

"What's so unusual about that?" Goten asked innocently.

"What do you mean, sweetie?" Yuka asked. "It's not really normal for people to have horns."

"But what about us?" Goten asked, his tone indicating his confusion.

"What do you —" Yuka began, and it was only then that she caught sight of the wagging, furry appendage poking out behind Goten's back, and she gasped again, caught off-guard for the second time that day. "T-Tails!"

"What?" Kouta inquired, sounding a bit dazed from his experience. "What are you talking about, Yuka?"

"These kids have tails!" she said, sounding irritated that he seemed to be only half listening. "Pay attention!"

"Really?" Kouta asked and then he too got a glance at the older boy's tail. "Wow, cool!"

Goten looked down, seemingly upset by the older teens' remarks.

"Is there something wrong with my tail?" Goten asked them, sounding utterly devastated.

His tone instantly grabbed at Yuka's heart, and she released the pinkette, kneeling down next to the little boy.

"No, of course not, honey," Yuka replied, already feeling guilty about her momentary lapse. "We're just surprised, that's all."

"Yeah, it's actually pretty neat," Kouta added. "It's not the kind of thing you see every day. I like it."

Yuka nodded at Kouta in silent thanks for his support.

Goten brightened considerably upon hearing this and he smiled up at the older two. Once they were sure that the little boy's feelings weren't hurt, they marched up the path towards the large structure. A nearby sign boldly proclaimed, "Kaede-Sou" in Japanese. Yuka pulled open the bamboo door and ushered Goten and Kouta inside the rather spacious building, the horned girl still twisting and craning her neck every which way to get a look at everything around her.

"This is the house you're going to rent me?" Kouta asked, taken aback at the sheer size of the place.

"It was a traditional Japanese restaurant, but they went out of business a while ago," Yuka informed him with a shrug. "My mom says as long as you clean the house everyday you don't have to pay rent."

"But, er..." Kouta said as a thought occurred to him.

"What's up?" Yuka asked him.

"How many rooms does this house have?" Kouta said pointedly.

"Let's see..." Yuka said, quickly calculating them all in her head. "Ten, if I remember correctly."

"And I'm supposed to clean them all?" Kouta said incredulously. "Without any help?"

"And the garden," Yuka added, seeming to almost enjoy Kouta's apparent indignation, but not in a smug or cruel way; it seemed like something more akin to gentle teasing than an outright arrogance.

"Wait," Kouta huffed. "So basically I'm supposed to be a free caretaker?"

"Nyuu?" the horned girl said, glancing over at Kouta and Yuka with the typical expression of confusion on her face.

"I'd be glad to help!" Goten piped up. "Me and my Nii-chan! Mommy always made us... made us..."

And with that the little boy hung his head as tears began flowing down his cheeks.

"Oh, sweetheart, what's wrong?" Yuka wondered as she knelt to try and comfort the distraught child.

"Mommy... M-Mommy!" the boy sobbed.

Feeling her heart go out to the tiny figure, Yuka reached forward and pulled him into a hug.

"It's okay, baby," Yuka cooed. "Everything's going to be okay."

"N-No, it w-won't," Goten sobbed. "N-N-Never again..."

Yuka pressed her face close to his hair and began murmuring reassurance into his soft, spiky locks, just to let him know he wasn't alone and that she was there for him. Goten felt soothed being cradled by the strong, older woman. It was so comforting, to have somebody hugging him and caring for him and watching after his welfare, like his mommy and Nii-chan did, and slowly he felt himself calming down as his sobs reduced to a few pitiful whimpers.

As Yuka was busy comforting Goten, Kouta shifted position to more comfortably accommodate the teenage boy, who, he could swear, was getting heavier by the minute, but apparently, that slight movement was enough to rouse him and he let out a low groan. Kouta jumped in surprise, almost dropping the older boy onto the floor as he did so.

"Ah, he's waking up!" Kouta yelped, startled.

"N-Nii-chan!" Goten exclaimed. He quickly wriggled out of Yuka's grip.

Yuka moved up to Kouta alongside Goten. "Set him up against the wall, Kouta," she advised him.

Kouta did as he was told and laid the teen up against the wall, relieving himself of his load. Slowly, as though it took him a great deal of effort, the older boy opened his eyes, blinked two times, and then glanced at his surroundings.

"Hello," Kouta said with an encouraging smile.

"Where... am I?" he asked as he tried to get up, wincing as mortal pain assaulted his senses. His body felt tender and sore and he could swear that he was dripping blood. His clothes felt like torn and limp rags.

Yuka and Kouta moved to help the teen.

"You're in Maple Inn on the coast of Kamakura, Japan." Yuka answered, reaching forward and placing two hands on his shoulders to help guide him up into a sitting position. "Careful, now. Easy does it. Don't overexert yourself. Some of those wounds look serious."

"Japan?" the older boy said, blinking.

I've never heard of such a place, he thought. Am I still on Earth?

"Yeah," Yuka said reassuringly. "Oh, I'm Yuka, by the way."

"Kouta," the dark-haired man said in a friendly tone.

"Oh, Gohan. My name is Gohan," the boy replied. "Son Gohan."

"G-G-Gohan?" Kouta said, trying, and failing, to suppress the mirth he felt at the rather odd name, and he burst out laughing.

"W-What's wrong?" Gohan asked him.

"Oh, sorry, it's j-just that y-your name, heheheheh, m-means... hahahahaha... cooked rice!" Kouta chuckled.

One of Gohan's eyebrows twitched. What? I was named after food? But I thought I was named after Dad's grandpa! He sighed wearily as he grabbed his forehead in dismay. Oh, Father... that's so like you.

Yuka punched Kouta in the arm. Hard.

"Stop it, Kouta!" she demanded. "Don't laugh at the poor boy! You're being rude!"

"Okay, okay," Kouta said, trying to placate the fiery girl. "But you don't have to hit me, you know."

Yuka merely sighed. Goten moved up to his older brother, eyes shining with brotherly concern.

"Are you okay, Nii-chan?" Goten inquired.

Gohan smiled down at his younger brother. "Hey, don't worry. I'm fine," he lied, trying not to remember the last few moments... before. "I'm just a little disoriented is all. You don't have to be upset now."

Goten smiled brightly and leaped forward to hug Gohan.

"Oh, I'm so happy, Nii-chan!" he said.

Gohan ignored the savage jolt of pain Goten's touch brought to his body; it felt like he had been shoved headfirst into a meat grinder, but he'd be damned before he let Goten see how badly hurt he was — he didn't want to scare him, so for now he just grit his teeth together and endured the weariness of his body and the pain in his bones as much as possible. Well, it certainly wasn't like he hadn't been hurt before.

Just then, however, the horned girl chose to make her presence known, apparently tired of being ignored.

"Nyuu!" she cried, jumping over to Gohan and his little brother. "Nyuu, Nyuu, Nyuu!"

Unfortunately, since the girl didn't have pants on (or underwear, for that matter) this created quite a nice, unrestricted view into the young woman's... private zones, and Gohan felt his face growing hotter with each passing second as blood rushed to his face and... other areas.

Oh no, no, no, no, I can't be seeing this! he thought. It's wrong!

"Ah!" he cried, covering his eyes up. "Please, no more!"

The girl stopped jumping around and looked at him, confused. "Nyuu?"

"That's enough!" Yuka commanded. "You can't flash people like that. You make them feel uncomfortable when you do that."

"Nyuu?" the girl said, now tilting her head to the side, as if desperately trying to puzzle out what she had just said.

Kouta sighed in exasperation. "She still can't understand what you're saying, Yuka."

"Oh," Yuka said, her face flushing with embarrassment. "Right."

She looked back at the Son brothers, now concerned for their welfare.

"Do you have any place to stay around here?" she asked them.

Gohan's face darkened as he struggled not to succumb to the memories now playing through his head — the return of an old enemy from their past, the subsequent battle that followed, then looking on as the monster tore Earth apart like butter, grabbing Goten, expecting to die, the only consolation passing through his mind the knowledge that he was soon to be reunited with his father...

"No, we don't," Gohan said, making a visible effort to keep a lid on his emotions. "Our family is dead."

"Oh my!" Yuka said. "Oh, I'm sorry. I-I didn't know."

"No, of course not, how could you?" Gohan said, a tiny quiver in his voice the only outward manifestation of his inner turmoil.

"Oh, I've got an idea!" Kouta said excitedly. "Why don't you stay here with us?"

"What?" Yuka said. "But Kouta, I'm not very sure that's such a wise idea..."

"Why not?" Kouta argued. "It's perfect. We've got all of this extra room, and face it, I'm gonna need some help keeping this place clean every day. I can't do it alone. It's not that big of a problem, really."

"Well, I don't know," Yuka said, sounding unconvinced.

To be brutally honest, she had been hoping for some time alone with Kouta, to get to know him all over again. For eight long years, she had been dreaming of him, of seeing Kouta again, having him reenter her life and sweep her off her feet in a romantic reunion. So far, Yuka had been disappointed by their return to each other's lives, and she kept convincing herself that she just had to give him time.

But that was very selfish of her, and she had to consider these two boys who had lost their home and family. It was the moral thing to do, to offer them a home, at least until they could find one on their own. Her burning, longing desires for Kouta were at war with her conscience and her aspiration to help two lost souls who clearly needed a helping hand, and the fiery brunette didn't know how to handle it.

"Really, you don't have to take us in," Gohan insisted. "I'm sure we can find our own place around here somewhere. And I wouldn't want to be an imposition to you. We'd probably just get in the way here."

"But Nii-chan, we don't have anywhere to stay!" Goten protested. "And you're hurt so bad!"

"It's okay, Goten-chan," Gohan said. "I'll think of something."

And now Yuka's heart went out to the brothers in front of her, their plight and struggle to move on with their lives, with their family gone and nowhere for them to stay, removing any last hint of doubt from her mind.

"You'll do no such thing," Yuka said firmly. "Kouta is right, we have plenty of room here."

"Are you sure it's all right, Yuka-san?" Gohan asked. "We don't want to trouble you."

"No, it's no trouble," Yuka said. "At least stay here until you find your own place. Besides, your brother has a point. You need to recover."

A hopeful look stole over Gohan's face, and the tailed young man smiled for the first time since waking up. Wincing as a fresh wave of agony hit him, he struggled up to his feet, fighting hard against the sluggishness of his own muscles. It felt like his whole body had been turned to Jell-O, and Kouta and Yuka reached forward with worry.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Kouta said with concern.

"Yeah, we should call a doctor," Yuka said. "Or maybe take you to the hospital."

"No, please don't," Gohan insisted. "I'm... fine..."

He finally made it to his feet and then, Gohan surprised Yuka when he clapped both his palms together and bowed quite respectfully, inclining his head deeply in thanks. Yuka was a little shocked by such courtesy.

"Thank you very much for your generous hospitality, Kouta-san and Yuka-san, and allowing both me and Goten-chan to stay here with you two," Gohan thanked them, further inclining his head in appreciation. "I promise to repay you for your kindness someday."

Such a polite young man! Yuka marveled. Indeed, it was truly refreshing to meet somebody who still treated others so honorably; it seemed less and less people acted this way anymore. It'll be nice to have somebody around who knows proper manners.

"Well, thanks, Gohan-san," Yuka said with a bright smile.

"Nyuu!" the red-eyed girl suddenly squealed.

With that, she clutched at her crotch and began darting to and fro, making everyone wonder what was wrong with her.

"What's the matter?" Yuka asked.

"Nyuu! Nyuu!" she squeaked frantically.

With every passing moment, she was becoming more and more frenzied, as if something was deeply bothering her, causing the horned girl great distress — but because none of them could understand her, the reasons for this eluded them.

"Nii-chan, what is that girl doing?" Goten inquired innocently.

"I don't know," Gohan muttered with a shake of his head. He was dismayed to find even that tiny movement hurt a lot.

"What do we do?" Yuka asked. "We don't even know her name."

"Why not call her Nyuu?" Gohan suggested, masking the agony he felt in his voice. "That seems to be all she responds to."

And the newly christened girl Nyuu knelt down on the floor, whimpering pitifully as she writhed around and twisted both her legs together, obviously feeling very uncomfortable about... something.

"That seems like a good idea," Yuka said cautiously.

Gohan reached forward, concerned over what was affecting Nyuu, trying his best to ignore the pain that even that small action brought him, shooting through his entire body like it was an electric shock.

"Hey, are you okay there, Nyuu-san?" he asked her worriedly.

Suddenly, the girl straightened up. "Nyuu..." she said softly, a satisfied look on her face.

"Look, I think she's feeling better," Kouta said.

"You think so?" Yuka said with a sidelong glance at him.

Suddenly, a soft trickling noise could be heard as the smell of urine reached their noses, and a yellowish puddle spread out beneath Nyuu's bare legs. And just like that, the reasons for Nyuu's increasing anxiety now became crystal clear — and everyone stepped back to avoid being peed on, shocked and rather startled by this bold act on Nyuu's part.

"Yuck!" Goten declared innocently. "Nii-chan, why is this girl peeing?"

"Never mind, never mind, just never mind," Gohan sighed, hoping Goten would just forget the incident.

Wow, this girl seems to be the opposite of Gohan-san, Yuka mused. He's polite and kind, but Nyuu-san seems to know nothing about social customs... either that, or she doesn't care about them. Now look how dirty she's become... Nyuu-san needs to be cleaned up. Yuka sighed. I guess it's up to me, then we can try to figure out what to do with her.

Yuka took the girl by her arm and lifted her up.

"Kouta, stay here and clean up this mess, I'll take Nyuu to the bathroom," she said. She looked over at Gohan. "Your room is on the first floor, the third down the hall, on the left. You can't miss it. You and Goten can share a futon in there together."

"Okay, thank you, Yuka-san," Gohan said.

"And once we've gotten Nyuu cleaned up, we really need to patch up some of those wounds," Yuka said, glancing at Gohan in concern. "You can't go untreated that long. You may get an infection or something."

"Well, if you say so," Gohan answered. He flinched as another pain shot through his body. "You have a point, Yuka-san."

Yuka took the pink-haired girl and led her up the stairs, hurrying a bit as she moved.

Kouta sighed. "Why is it always me...?" He shook his head. "Well, I better get started. You don't mind helping me, do you?"

"No, of course not," Gohan said. He looked down at his little brother. "Hey, Goten-chan, why don't you go outside and play?"

Goten nodded eagerly. "Okay!"

Gohan stared after him as he took off out the door, amazed at the resilience of youth. It was all he could do to contain his own emotions, and he knew he was very close to a breakdown... but he couldn't do that here. It would lead to too many awkward questions.

"Um, Kouta-san, I want to go check out my room," Gohan said. "Is that all right?"

"Well, I suppose," Kouta said. "Just don't forget to help me."

"I promise I won't," Gohan said as he headed up the wood stairway.

Walking down the hall to the room that Yuka had indicated, Gohan entered the small area, and now he was sure that he was finally all by himself, he fell in an undignified heap by the door, sobbing brokenly over all that had transpired, all that he had lost...

They were dead... everyone he knew and loved... they were gone... and it was all his fault!

After the Cell Games, Gohan had fallen into a deep, worsening depression he let no one know about. He had lost so many to that vile beast... his beloved daddy, Son Goku, who had decided to remain in the afterlife to avoid their enemies coming after him. Trunks, who had returned to his future world to deal with the androids, and helped his planet rebuild. Even Sixteen was gone; as an android, he could not be wished back to life. But for the sake of everyone around him he tried to hide his emotions and never let them see the pain he felt on the inside...

Then, something miraculous happened, which brought back hope to his life, for a while — the knowledge that he was going to have a little brother. For the first time in a long time Gohan had a genuine happy smile on his face whenever he greeted someone. Even Gohan himself was completely unaware how deeply his pain ran, and life moved on, helped by Mirai Trunks returning from the future after the death of his mother. Things seemed to be slowly getting better and Gohan felt he could truly recover from his bad experiences.

Then, seven years later, tragedy struck anew. A strong enemy, far stronger than Cell and Bojack could ever hope to become, attacked the Earth. Gohan and the others put up a valiant fight, but no matter how strong he and Vegeta had grown, nothing they did even fazed this new foe. Seven years spent putting his body through hell to try and honor his father's memory, and it was useless. He might as well have done nothing! Near the end, as the battle drew to a close, he'd expected to die, and utterly beaten, too weary to fight anymore, he had welcomed it — at last he would finally be with his dad again. The only thing that enraged him was his mom and younger brother had to die with him.

Gohan grabbed his little brother, wanting to comfort him during their final moment. He remembered clinging to him tightly as the continents ripped apart and magma erupted from all of the cracks, as the oceans vaporized and the sky went totally black... and then after a long period of nothingness, he had awoken here, in this strange world. Was it his home? How could it be? His home had been destroyed. Gohan had lost all of his loved ones, and now he and Goten were the only survivors.

And for how long he remained there, crying and sobbing and venting all the horrible, raging pain in his heart, Gohan couldn't say, but he did realize he had to pull himself together. He could not afford the others to see him this way. He... he had to be strong. For Goten.

Wiping the tears away from his cheeks, Gohan rose into a standing position. Okay, I just got to bottle up my emotions, he thought. I can't let anyone see them. If Kouta-san and Yuka-san ever found out what we are they'd kick us out on the streets. And Goten... h-he deserves a home, no matter what I've done. I owe that much to him, at least.

Well, it's not like he hadn't practiced hiding his emotions before. Feeling much more composed than before, Gohan headed out the door and made his way downstairs, annoyed to find he was still struggling against his injuries. But he found when he took it very slowly, then the pain went down to a barely manageable level. As he made his way to the front hallway, there was Kouta, just now sitting up with a squeaky clean floor surrounding him. As Gohan returned, Kouta shot a highly annoyed glance in the half-Saiyan's direction, and with a wince Gohan remembered he had promised to help Kouta clean up the spot Nyuu-san had peed on.

"About time you showed up," he said. "I thought you said you were going to help me."

"I'm... I'm really sorry, Kouta-san," Gohan said sadly. "I forgot."

Kouta sighed. "Well, never mind. It can't be helped, I guess. I don't think I could do much physical work with those wounds either."

Just then soft footsteps caused Kouta and Gohan to look over to the stairwell. Yuka was coming down the stairs, holding Nyuu by the hand to make sure she knew which way to walk. Gohan noted that the girl appeared a bit better dressed this time; instead of an old white shirt to wear, she was wearing cyan-colored boxer shorts, and a simple white undershirt.

Those must be Kouta-san's clothes, Gohan realized.

"Sorry to leave you with the mess," Yuka said.

"Well, it was kind of hard to clean it all alone, but it's finally finished," Kouta told his cousin.

"I should have helped him," Gohan said guiltily. "I promised Kouta-san."

"Kouta, were you planning to make him work?" Yuka demanded. "And in his condition? You idiot! He could have died!"

"Yeah, you're right," Kouta said sheepishly. "Sorry, Yuka-chan."

Yuka blinked at the sudden change in appellation, which generally denoted closeness between people, and blushed just a tiny bit. Feeling a little flustered, Yuka turned to face their houseguest, determined to look anywhere but Kouta. "Just don't worry, Gohan-san. Kouta-kun was able to do it himself, so it doesn't make a difference."

Kouta felt a bit touched by Yuka's change in appellation as well, and a genuine smile came over his face upon hearing it.

"Well, whatever you say," Gohan said.

"In any case, Nyuu-san is all cleaned up now, so that's something positive, at least." And then Yuka frowned a bit. "But I washed her hair completely, and it stayed pink, which means that's her natural color."

"So?" Gohan said, a bit surprised. "What's wrong with pink hair?"

Yuka gave Gohan a very weird look. "It's just not a normal hair color, Gohan-san."

Gohan flinched quite noticeably. Once again, he cursed his own ignorance of the world he had landed in. Where he came from a wide variety of hair color was quite common, but it was clearly not so in this strange dimension. How he wished he hadn't opened his mouth! Now he was only a breath away from discovery, and it was all his fault!

Seeing that Gohan looked highly nervous, Kouta emphasized with the tailed boy and quickly changed the subject.

"That's fine, but you know, you didn't have to make her wear my underwear," Kouta complained.

It worked like a charm as Yuka focused her attention on her cousin. While the two were busy chatting, Nyuu moved her clothes around in confusion, so that Gohan and Kouta could get a nice look at her rather large breasts and her bare gleaming skin. Gohan struggled to keep a level head even as Nyuu kept continuously flashing them. The cousins seemed to take it all in stride, but Gohan found that he was having a hard time concentrating. Focus... focus... he told himself.

"What else was she supposed to wear?" Yuka retorted. "I'll buy Gohan-san, Goten-chan, and Nyuu-san new clothes later."

"Oh, Yuka-san, y-you don't really have to do that," Gohan protested with a soft blush.

Well, at least he was distracted from Nyuu-san...

"Nonsense!" Yuka said, waving a dismissive hand. "You need proper clothing, those ones look pretty ragged. Besides, you're going to need to look properly dressed if you wanna find your own place after this."

"Well, okay, but I promise to pay you back somehow," Gohan insisted.

"That's okay," Kouta said. "Just take your time with that, okay? You don't have to pay us back all at once, you know."

"Thank you," Gohan said gratefully.

Kouta and Yuka exchanged a look and smiled. Another jolt of pain flared up in Gohan's body, and the hybrid tipped over, almost falling to the floor in agony. Kouta and Yuka moved forward to help the young man.

"Are you okay?" Yuka asked worriedly.

"Just try to stand up," Kouta told the younger man.

"I'm... I'm all right," Gohan said, gritting his teeth against the pain.

"We need to go get the first-aid kit," Yuka said, laying her warm, delicate hands on Gohan's shoulders. "If you don't wanna head to the hospital we should at least do all we can to disinfect and treat those cuts."

"Later, all right?" Gohan snapped, flinching at his own harsh tone. "S-Sorry! I just mean... I need some time to catch my breath, okay?"

"Okay then, just sit down," Yuka said, helping Gohan into a sitting position on the floor. "Just relax and take it easy for a while."

Gohan sat there, calming his nerves with the meditation exercises Piccolo had taught him, and pretty soon, his body felt a lot better. At least it didn't feel like one giant, throbbing ache, anyway. Just then, little Goten ran in the room, carrying something in the ball of his fist.

"Hey, hey, Nii-chan, look what I found!" he cried happily. Then he stuck his fist out, palm open, to reveal a rather large frog. "Look! Isn't he the most exciting frog ever? I named him Gohan in honor of you!"

Gohan felt the familiar grin he always felt when Goten was doing something cute or innocent. He was so carefree and happy and full of life, just like... him. Sometimes he was so similar to him that it hurt his heart just to think about him, but most of the time he really loved being near his younger brother. Whenever he was feeling sad Goten always knew how to cheer him up.

"Hey, yeah, he looks pretty neat," Gohan said.

Yuka held a hand to her mouth to stifle her giggles at this rather innocent scene unfolding. Kouta just seemed confused.

"Can I keep him? Can I keep him, huh? Please, Nii-chan, can I?" the little Saiyan hybrid begged.

"I'm afraid that's not my call to make, Goten-chan," Gohan said. "You'll have to ask our hosts about that."

"Hosts?" Goten asked, blinking at the unfamiliar word.

Yuka decided to take charge of the situation, and so she stepped forward. "Of course you can keep him, honey," she said warmly. "But you need to find something to put him in and take care of him if you want a pet."

"YAY!" Goten cried, leaping forward and hugging the older woman. "Thank you, Yuka-san, thank you!"

Yuka smiled as she laid an arm around Goten's shoulder.

Disengaging from Yuka, Goten flew over to Nyuu. "Nyuu?" the horned girl asked, tilting her head at the smaller boy.

"Nyuu-san, Nyuu-san, look!" he said, holding up the frog for her to see.

"Nyuu!" the innocent girl squealed, moving to grab the frog.

"Nuh-uh!" Goten declared, withdrawing the frog. "You'll have to catch me first!"

And Goten fled. Nyuu gazed after him confusedly for a few seconds, and then with a happy chirp, she chased Goten out into the yard, child and older woman having fun together as they raced around in circles.

Yuka sighed. "She is just like a little girl."

Gohan nodded in agreement. "I think Goten's found another play mate."

Kouta frowned. I wonder who she is, though...

Suddenly, Gohan's stomach let loose a colossal growl that could be heard throughout the entire room. The two cousins turned to stare at him. He clutched at his belly, looking very sheepish all of a sudden.

"Um, oops!" Gohan said nervously. "Sorry. I-I guess I'm kinda hungry..."

Yuka sighed. "Okay, we can eat first, but then we've really gotta treat you. We can't just leave you like that."

"Okay, after lunch, I promise, Yuka-san," Gohan agreed.

"Sounds good to me," Kouta ventured.

As Gohan moved away with the other two to eat some food, walking very slowly to make sure his body didn't flare up with agony, he stared one more time at his little brother and Nyuu-san chasing one another in the yard, happily playing with each other and genuinely enjoying life to the utmost fullest. Gazing out at the innocent pair, he made a vow.

I won't let anyone destroy your second chance at happiness, Goten-chan, he promised determinedly. He clenched a fist as he turned back to Yuka and Kouta and followed them into the dining room. I swear. They'll have to get through me first.

A few miles away from the inn, within the bowels of a laboratory facility located on a tiny island far away from Kamakura, construction crews were working together to repair all of the damage the facility had apparently taken recently. Observing the construction effort was two people, a man and a woman, gazing calmly at the destruction.

The man had several bandages, an eyepatch, and stood there haphazardly, as if he wasn't accustomed to his own limbs. He wore glasses across his eyes and possessed a calm, stoic, emotionless demeanor. The woman wore her chestnut brown hair in a tight bun. She carried herself with a professional, serious air, and seemed to be taking whatever had happened to damage the facility seriously. The man was the Chief Director for their facility, Kurama, and the woman was a personal assistant to the General Director, named Shirakawa.

"The cage, the partitions, five locks, and a security system," Shirakawa dispassionately, turning to glance at the man. "Everything was perfect. The reason the shutter system opened all on its own is still unclear."

"In time, we'll figure that out," came the cold reply from Kurama. "Right now the top priority is finding Lucy and killing her."

"Killing her?" Shirakawa asked in disbelief. "Not capturing her?"

"Yes, this incident has proven she is far too dangerous to be kept alive," Kurama answered as he glanced down at his hands. They had a strange wooden quality, as if they weren't truly hands, and slowly, as if his hand wasn't taking orders from his brain very well, he clenched it into a fist as he recalled the cause of his injuries late last night as one of the facility's most dangerous specimens escaped...

Kurama stared at the blast door, hiding horror beneath his usual emotionless facade as the door opened and a figure stepped through. His soldiers all raised their weapons, ready to fire at what emerged. The figure, a completely naked female wearing only a helmet, moved forward with slow, deliberate precision, seemingly oblivious to her own nudity. Around her lay twisted and mutilated corpses in pools of their own blood, the testament to how deadly and dangerous this seemingly innocuous girl was. Kurama noted all this with complete confusion.

How can this be? The guards had hollow reinforced steel bullets in their guns! he thought.

"Ready to fire, sir!" one of the soldiers called, cradling his gun close to his body.

"Wait for my command," Kurama replied. "Not before."

The girl headed towards the assembled soldiers, moving as if she wasn't used to walking in her own body, or as if she had been locked into one position for a very long time. She came to a complete stop before the congregation and only a single word issued forth from the concealed helmet, spoken with iciness as cold as the void between galaxies and totally devoid of emotion.


"Lucy..." Kurama whispered darkly.

Just then, someone stepped out of another door, a young woman carrying a tray of coffee. She stumbled a bit before tripping over her own two feet, falling flat on her face right in front of the girl named Lucy. Kurama's already pale face whitened even further as the girl he had personally taken under his wing stood up next to the cold-blooded murderer, completely oblivious to the danger that her life was now in.

"Kisaragi!" Kurama shouted, losing his characteristic "cool." "Move! Get out of the way right now!"

"Uh,Kurama-sempai, I'm really sorry," Kisaragi apologized, working her way back to her feet. "I messed things up again."

"Kisaragi, run!" Kurama yelled. "Just run! Now!"

"Hey, what's going on here?" Kisaragi asked, noticing the naked girl for the first time.

"Run away!" Kurama cried, growing frantic.

"Huh?" Kisaragi said, turning to face Lucy. "Who are you?"

The helmet shifted, very slightly, so slightly, in fact, that few people would even notice it, but Kurama had seen it, and he knew in his heart that Lucy had marked this girl as another one of her many victims. If she hadn't intended to before, then she would now after his emotional outburst. Kurama tried to move towards the doomed girl, to try and help her in some way, but he was held back by one of the guards.

"No, Lucy!" Kurama shouted desperately. "Don't do it!"

Underneath the helmet, Lucy's smirk was hidden, but her actions spoke for herself when Kisaragi's head twisted around and ripped itself right off its neck, that dumb, searching expression forever written on her face. The body, which should have fell, hung there in the air like a marionette as the head dropped like a stone.

"No! Kisaragi!" Kurama roared, trying to move towards her corpse, but he was still held back by one of his men. "Open fire! Shoot her!"

The soldiers complied, opening up a hail of gunfire that would have ripped through any normal human girl instantly. However, the soldiers' bullets never reached their intended mark; instead the headless body of the late Kisaragi hung there, suspended in the air, and every one of the bullets tore through it like teeth tearing through a piece of bread. Flesh shredded like meat being put through a grinder, blood spattered across the room, but not a single bullet ever made it past the human shield Lucy had created out of the dead girl.

"The damn bitch is blocking them!" one of the soldiers shouted as they kept firing for as long as they could.

Eventually, they ran out of bullets, and Lucy dropped the body, no longer in need of its protection. The corpse didn't even bear a passing resemblance to Kisaragi anymore; flesh hung limp off of completely shattered bones with blood congealed in the cracks and dripping onto the metal floor. Her limbs were all twisted and bent out of the shape from the force of tens of thousands of multiple impacts, but Lucy just stood there, still nude but otherwise unharmed! As a final insult, the human shield she had used twisted to the side with a sickening crack as her spine snapped clean in two, leaving poor, powerless Kisaragi dead, mutilated and deformed beyond all recognition.

"Hurry! Don't hesitate!" Kurama ordered. "Keep shooting her!"

"But we're out of bullets!" one of the guards said, fear filling his voice.

"You fucking bitch!" another guard cried, running at Lucy rather recklessly with his gun raised, as if to strike her with the butt of his rifle, but Lucy simply ripped his still-beating heart from his body, throwing his body towards one of the walls.

Lucy then walked up to the remaining guards, chopping them to pieces, tearing them in two, ripping off heads, cutting apart limbs, and shredding them as she slowly approached Kurama, who watched with complete horror, unable to hide his emotions like he usually could, and knowing with chilling, utter certainty that the same fate was about to now befall him.

"It's down to you and me now," Lucy said, her voice as icy as it had been before.

"You won't get away with this," Kurama declared. For his defiance, Kurama was thrown back into the wall with impressive force. A cough forced its way out of his mouth. Before he could stand, he was then tossed up at the ceiling, smashing into the unforgiving metal headfirst — he swore for a second he was seeing stars before he slammed into the ground and all the air left his lungs. For a few minutes, Lucy toyed with him, hurling him up and down and bashing him against the wall, the ceiling, and the floor. Kurama felt flesh bruise and bones dent and for a few minutes, it was like being sent through a washing machine, on rinse cycle, pounded and crushed as the world spun and twisted in his field of vision.

Then, just when he thought he couldn't take anymore, Lucy finally relented, leaving him gasping and panting and wheezing for air on the cold metal floor. Covered in black and blue marks, feeling as though he had been hit with a truck, Kurama managed to work his way to all fours and glared at Lucy through one bloodshot eye.

"Like I promised, I won't kill you," Lucy said coldly. "Such a fate is too good for you. However..."

Kurama's arm bent to the side as bone snapped in half and a loud, anguish-filled cry erupted from his throat before Lucy crushed it in her invisible grip. Flecks of blood flew from his mouth and Kurama fell to the floor with as he felt pressure building on his limbs.

"You'd be surprised what you can live through," she said with a giant smirk as the sound of ripping flesh filled Kurama's ears...

After that they'd shot her with a .50 caliber rifle, but not even that could slow her down — she'd just fallen into the ocean with little more than a head wound, while the facility had taken dozens of casualties, all brave soldiers lost in the battle to save humanity.

Lucy, what are you up to? Kurama thought. What is your motive?

"Kisaragi, I'm sorry," he whispered. "But I promise I won't let your death be in vain."

"Hey, Chief Kurama!" Shirakawa called. "Are you there?"

Kurama returned to his surroundings and turned to gaze at her.

"Is there a problem?" Shirakawa asked with some concern.

"No, no problems," Kurama replied emotionlessly. He turned away. "The Special Assault Team has been assembled. If we don't stop Lucy mankind will perish. With them on her trail, the Queen is as sure as dead."

And he walked off, leaving Shirakawa standing there as confused as ever.

Chapter Text

Yuka had led Kouta and Gohan to one of the dining rooms. The place was rather beautifully arranged with old-fashioned wooden walls, a few knickknacks scattered about, and a low-slung, scrubbed wooden table situated in the center of the small but picturesque room. As Gohan and Kouta sat down next to the table, Yuka reached in her bag and pulled out some kind of rice ball for them all. Gohan just stared at the simple treat — it definitely looked tasty, all right, but, well...

Is that all she has? Gohan thought with disappointment. That's not even an appetizer for me. He mentally shook himself. Then again, it's not all that surprising. She and Kouta-san are only normal humans.

"Well, dig in!" Yuka declared, and offered the rice balls to Gohan and Kouta as she took her own seat.

In spite of his worries, Gohan accepted the rice ball without any hesitation.

"Thank you," he murmured politely to the brunette.

He winced a bit as he reached forward to grab the rice ball, and Yuka couldn't hide the concern on her face.

"As soon as we're done, I'm getting the first-aid kit," Yuka said. "You're gonna have to take it easy for the next couple of days. And I mean it, Gohan-san!" she said, suddenly fierce. "No overworking or any physical activity. It may be too strenuous with all your injuries."

"Yes, Yuka-san," Gohan said respectfully.

Wow, she really is a lot like Mom, Gohan thought wistfully.

As all three munched on the rice balls, conversation regarding their mysterious "guests" inevitably sprung up from Yuka and Kouta.

"So, where do you come from, Gohan-san?" Yuka asked.

Gohan almost choked on his own rice ball. What should I tell them? How much do I tell them? he thought. I can't tell them the truth, but I don't know anything about this new world's geography. Should I just make up something? But Gohan hated to lie, even if he had reason to — finally, he came to a decision. I'll just tell them as much of the truth as I can and wing it from there. After all, it can't be that hard, can it?

"Well, I come from an area you probably haven't heard of," Gohan said. "We lived over near Mt. Paozu."

Yuka and Kouta just stared at Gohan, both thinking the same thing, that the name he'd given them certainly sounded like an area in Japan but, as far as they could tell, there wasn't any place nearby like it. In fact, despite living in Japan most of their lives, they hadn't ever heard of it, even once, and their curiosity was afire with this new mystery.

"You're right, I haven't heard of any place like that," Kouta said. "Is it near Mt. Fuji?"

"Not really," Gohan muttered. "It's pretty far away."

"How did you end up here then?" Yuka asked, now growing very curious about these strangers herself.

"Well, when Dad died, Mom moved us all here, but... Mom was killed recently, and we didn't have anywhere else to go," Gohan said.

Yuka and Kouta both exchanged a look. It was as close to the literal truth as he could make it without going into any great detail. However, it didn't escape their notice that Gohan wasn't volunteering any more than the basic information, and he didn't seem eager to share as much as they had hoped. Yuka was beginning to suspect that this boy had a troubled past, some reason that he was like this now. He seemed... so lost, as if he was carrying a great weight on his shoulders, something secret about himself.

"Why don't you just go to the authorities?" Kouta wondered. "If you have nowhere else to go, I'm sure they could find you a place."

Gohan just muttered indistinctly, too afraid of being discovered to say anything more. Yuka, however, had a sudden thought.

"Is it because of your tails?" she said.

Both Gohan and Kouta turned to look at the brown-haired woman.

"What do you mean?" Kouta asked, blinking in confusion.

"Well, those tails are unusual," Yuka noted. "I mean... people haven't picked on you in the past for having them, have they?"

"Um, actually, yes," Gohan said honestly, his thoughts immediately turning to Frieza and his utter hatred for the Saiyan race, a hate which had only grown the more it looked like they were going to beat him.

"Oh, you know, you really shouldn't let people like that get you down, man," Kouta said bracingly.

"I know," Gohan said, reaching for another rice ball, very slowly, so that the pain in his body wouldn't bother him again.

"How old are you, anyway?" Yuka inquired.

"I'm eighteen," Gohan told her. "Goten-chan is seven."

"I see," Yuka said. "Maybe we should have called the police when we found you three."

Gohan flinched noticeably. That would have been disastrous. The police would have interrogated him on his past, his former home, and their parents. With absolutely no background information to track in their computers, they would have quickly realized that something was wrong, and if the wrong people found it out... Gohan honestly didn't know what would happen. He certainly couldn't fight and maybe even kill innocent people who were doing their jobs and following orders.

Kouta, thankfully, just assumed that the flinch had come from his injuries, and Yuka took Gohan's hand in her own. Gohan just looked at her, startled, a bit taken aback by her friendly gesture — the teenage Saiyan noted with a hint of surprise that her hand felt very warm in his grip, too, and her honey brown eyes bore into worried charcoal ones.

"Don't worry, Gohan-san," Yuka said reassuringly, low enough so Kouta couldn't overhear her. "We won't call them now. We promised to keep you here as long as we can, and we're going to keep our word."

Gohan stared at her. How in the world could she have known he was wary of the police?

"Thank you," Gohan said, bowing his head with sincere gratitude.

"I know!" Kouta cried, sounding like he had just puzzled out the answer to a million-dollar question. "I bet you've had run-ins with the Yakuza, haven't you? That's how you received all of those injuries."

"Oh, Gohan-san, is that true?" Yuka asked with horror.

"Yakuza" must be a local term for lawbreakers, Gohan deduced. He knew he had to lie to them and say "yes;" not only would it explain his injuries, but it would divert further personal questions away from him, but he really didn't want to keep lying, especially since Kouta and Yuka had already gone way out of their way for him and his brother, and he hoped after he answered this, then the questions about him and Goten would cease altogether.

"Yeah, and they were tough, let me tell you," he lied. "They all had swords and daggers and chains and stuff. I managed to hold them off for a while, but their reinforcements arrived, and it was only by the skin of my teeth that we managed to get away."

"Was it..." Yuka hesitated. She'd wanted to ask him if it was the Yakuza who had killed their mother, but she knew that was way too personal for her to be asking now. Patience, she reminded herself. He'll tell us as much as he can, when enough time has passed. First Gohan-san has to trust us and he hardly has reason to when we're asking him all these questions!

Gohan just glanced at her in confusion. "Was it what?"

"Nothing, never mind," Yuka said. "I was just curious, that's all."

Gohan was glad Yuka seemed to have picked up that he didn't want to be asked any questions, and he sighed in relief.

Just then, Nyuu and Goten burst into the room, Nyuu still chasing Goten. However, Goten's Saiyan appetite kicked in full force when he caught sight of the rice balls they were having and he stopped cold, his tail going stiff along with him.

"Goten-chan, what is it?" Yuka asked, correctly guessing something was bothering the tailed little boy.

"Food! You're having food!" Goten cried. "Can I have some? Oh, please, Nii-chan! I'm so hungry!"

"Well, we have more than enough to share," Yuka said with a smile. "Take a seat and have a rice ball."

"Yay!" Goten said, running up and sitting down next to his brother. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Onee-chan!"

Yuka's eyes went wide at the innocent proclamation. Had... had he really just called her "big sister?" After having known her for just a few hours? And yet... there was something oddly compelling and loveable about the happy, sweet child and the knowledge that Goten apparently saw her, the strong, sometimes domineering tomboy as his big sister touched her emotions in a way she had never felt before but she most definitely enjoyed it, and tender tears started welling up in her eyes.

Gohan noticed Yuka's emotional state and smiled. Looks like Goten's innocent charm is enough to win anybody's heart to his side. His smile grew a tad more melancholy as he stared a hole in the wall. Just like Father.

Nyuu approached the table, gazing down at the rice balls with a hungry gleam in her eyes.

"Nyuu!" she declared, grabbing one of the rice balls and smooshing it up against her face.

Kouta sighed and picked up the remains.

"You've never had rice balls before, have you?" he said. "You hold them like this, and..." he instructed, but Nyuu stared at his hand and opened up her mouth, looking up at him with innocent round eyes, silently pleading with him to help her.

"You're hopeless," Kouta said, sighing again as he could see the direction this was heading. Kouta carefully reached over and helped Nyuu clean up her mouth. She smiled brightly at him, and Kouta, now resigned, picked up another rice ball as he prepared to help Nyuu eat the treat. However, she still didn't seem that adept at eating very well, and the rice ended up going everywhere on her face, coating her chin and her cheeks like a white beard.

"Look," Kouta said. "You got it all over your face."

Truth be told, helping Nyuu eat wasn't that bad. In fact, he kind of enjoyed it. Yuka stared away, tapping her finger on the table, feigning ignorance at the situation even as a part of her recoiled in jealousy.

I know I shouldn't be feeling this way, but I can't help it! she fumed inside. He's paying more attention to her than me! And I'm his cousin! What happened to the promise he made me, eight years ago? Did all those happy years mean nothing to him?

Gohan, meanwhile, was observing the whole thing with a very thoughtful stare. She really does seem like a baby, yet she's got to be near my age. I wonder what could have happened to her? Maybe some sort of trauma, or perhaps she has amnesia. Or maybe, she's an alien and this is what members of her species are normally like?

Suddenly, Goten reached up and pulled on Gohan's torn and ragged shirt. He glanced down at his brother.

"What's the matter, Goten-chan?" he asked.

"Nii-chan, I'm still hungry," he whined.

Gohan sighed and offered him the rest of his rice balls.

"I'm afraid this is all we have right now," he said in a low voice. "We can't eat any more or they'll discover who we are."

"Hm, okay!" Goten stated cheerfully, not really paying attention to what Gohan said, and he bit into more rice balls.

Gohan smiled at his little brother, and glanced out over the horizon, staring at the ocean in the distance, with the waves breaking against the shoreline and little, fluffy white clouds soaring high above in the breathtaking cerulean-hued skies. This really was a gorgeous place to live, nestled up right against the ocean, with a serene, peaceful feel.

Maybe living here won't be so bad after all.

In a computer-enhanced simulation area with laser sighting, four lightning-fast and very precise shots swiftly took down four armed and desperate-looking targets in the shooter's field of vision and skillfully avoiding the one civilian in his sights. In a control center adjoining the targeting arena, uniformed men at the controls could be seen poring over statistical data on the monitors, observing the shooter's progress.

"That's incredible," an SAT officer commented. "He locked on to all four targets simultaneously."

"It would take a monster to beat Bando one-on-one," the simulation operator muttered.

"A monster, huh?" the officer said.

"I could do without his personality quirks," the operator sighed.

Down in the arena, as Bando turned the corner, more targets came into his line of sight, and like before, he shot them all and managed to miss the lone civilian that had turned around the corner with them, a testament to this man's extreme marksmanship skills. Still decked out in full black body armor and helmet, the soldier named Bando moved around another corner as still more targets entered his range of vision. This time, however, he shot recklessly at both hostages and enemies without slowing down to check who he was shooting.

Up above, the SAT operator and officer reacted with horror.

"Bando, stop screwing around!" the operator admonished the man.

Bando removed his helmet and dropped it to the floor. He shifted position so that he was facing the control room above.

"Shit!" Bando cussed. "What the hell is the point of shooting stuff that doesn't scream or bleed? It's getting old. I'm ready for real people."

"You bastard!" the operator yelled, losing his cool with the hotheaded psychopathic soldier glaring up at them.

"I understand," the officer replied, regarding the situation in a very detached manner.

As he walked into the control room, Bando shrugged dismissively as he leaned against a railing.

"This is stupid," he said. "I'm done with this shit."

"A murderer escaped from the detainment facility this morning," the officer informed Bando.

"Huh?" Bando said, glancing at the officer.

"I want you to find her immediately and shoot her on sight," the officer told Bando.

"Kill her," Bando translated. "And I don't have to give her any warning?"

The SAT officer just stared at Bando. A happy look stole across his face and he began laughing loudly.

"Just go out and cap her, huh?" he cackled gleefully.

Behind him, an assistant approached him with a clipboard showing the results from his latest exercise.

"Mr. Bando?" she said.

As though acting on reflex, Bando savagely backhanded the young woman, who fell like a sack of potatoes. For a few seconds, the girl lay stunned and bloodied on the floor, just gazing up at Bando in horror, not entirely grasping the reason she was now hurting in an undignified heap at his feet. Bando glared down at the poor girl without remorse.

"Don't stand behind me, you stupid bitch!" he yelled.

"He's perfect," the SAT officer announced.

Judging by the expression on the face of everyone around him, the rest of the officer's staff didn't share his opinion. Bando could care less what they thought, however — finally, a new mission and a chance to put his finely honed hunting skills to the test and kill someone. And he didn't even have to play by the damn rules and give them a warning first either!

And Bando walked out of the control room, laughing his ass off in anticipation of the coming bloodshed. One of the controllers who had witnessed this stunt shook his head as he let only one thought pass through his mind.

I feel sorry for the one who has to take him on.

As Kouta set to the task of cleaning up the house, Yuka sat Gohan down in what could be called the living room, now with the first-aid kit, which included bandages, a bottle of disinfectant, and some ointment. A pile of clothes lay to the side that looked as though they belonged to Kouta, but would still be able to fit over Gohan, even if only barely.

Gohan stared at her in expectation, awaiting her decision.

"First, I need you to take off that shirt," she said.

Gohan nodded and pulled his ripped gi off his upper torso, revealing layers of hardened muscles and beautiful, gleaming bare flesh, despite the wounds. Yuka gawked a little at the sheer dimensions of this boy, marveling at how absolutely dreamy he was.

Gohan-san must have worked out for hundreds of hours to look like this! she thought, amazed. He's any girl's dream come true.

She blushed. She couldn't be thinking this way — Gohan was hurt, for Kami's sake! Besides, Kouta was the one for her.

Still looking a bit red, Yuka picked up a few towels and set to work.

A half an hour later, Yuka had dried Gohan's wounds, disinfected them, and then wrapped bandages around them, applying ointment wherever Gohan said it felt a bit sore, and she had to say, he was looking considerably better than he had before.

"All done!" she announced, relieved that she was finished.

For a while she didn't know if she could make it through. Gohan had the most amazing, solidly built sexy body Yuka had ever seen before in her life, and just touching that mountain of bare, sinewy taut muscles and attempting to conceal her true feelings from him was very difficult. She could swear that by the end of it she was blushing as deeply as a tomato. Oh, what would her mother think of her for behaving like this? One thing was certain, however; any girl would be more than lucky to be with Son Gohan. Those dark, soulful quivering black eyes, his finely shaped body, the way his muscles just rippled underneath that broad, handsome torso...

Yuka shook her head. No, no, stop it! Don't be thinking such things, Yuka! You're saving yourself for Kouta! So what if Gohan is the most beautiful man I've ever — no! No! Stop thinking that! Bad girl!

Gohan stared at the brown-haired girl, both embarrassed and confused. It had been nice to be treated by her; she had a kind and gentle touch and Gohan found himself just enjoying the feel of her hands working across him, caressing his hurt body so tenderly. Yet it seemed she hadn't like it as much, because at the end of it she was shaking and looking very angry.

"Uh, I'm sorry if this was a chore, Yuka-san," Gohan said, rubbing the back of his head. "Thank you for your kindness, though."

Yuka felt a bit guilty upon realizing that some of her anxiety must've showed on her face. She couldn't let Gohan go on thinking this despite how utterly embarrassing it was for her to be thinking in... that way.

"I'm okay, you idiot!" she snapped at him, her raging hormones making her voice came out a bit harsher than usual. "I was just a little distracted, that's all! It wasn't a chore, and I didn't mind doing that."

Gohan's eyes brightened, and Yuka felt a bit flustered by just how utterly cute and boyish Gohan looked, how this mysterious tailed boy was touching her emotions in a way that Yuka hadn't expected from such a complete stranger. It seemed every time that she expected to connect with the idealized image of Kouta that Yuka had built up in her mind, her valiant knight in shining armor riding in on his trusty steed, he kept disappointing her, and Gohan more closely fit that description!

Why am I thinking like this? Yuka wondered. I shouldn't be thinking this way! Kouta is the one I want to marry and have a family with! It's just longing to be with him. Once he gets his act together, I know we can reconnect again. We shared such a close bond as children. I know we can share that same bond again as adults. I know it in my heart.

"Yuka-san? Yuka-san?" Gohan's voice intruded on her train of thought. "Hey, um, are you okay?"

"Huh?" she said. "Oh yes, I'm fine."

She mentally shook herself. She shouldn't be daydreaming like this. She was a mature, responsible adult, or at least she was supposed to be, and grown-ups didn't totally space out and daydream this way!

"Anyway," Yuka said, standing up. "You'd better change clothes. I know I said I'd go buy you and Nyuu-san new clothes, but it's kind of late right now. How about we go do that the first thing tomorrow?"

"Super!" Gohan said cheerfully. "Thank you, Yuka-san."

Yuka blushed a bit. "Yes, well, I'll leave you to get dressed now."

Once she was gone, Gohan began stripping out of his old, ragged clothes and into Kouta's garments, reflecting on all that had happened. Despite how totally raw the pain of losing his old life was, Gohan was surprised to find just how optimistic he felt. There was just something about this place that seemed... quiet. At ease. Peaceful. Maybe here he could just forget all about fighting and saving the planet and live a normal life, like he had always wanted, despite his immense power.

Maybe I can return one day and wish them back to life, he thought. Perhaps we could move here. No more genocidal aliens, no more killer androids, no more space pirates or homicidal maniacs, but a normal, simple life. Yeah, I could live with that.

He just had to keep thinking positively. No, he was not in denial. He just had to wait and pretty soon, everything would be back to the way it was before, only better than before. As he finished pulling Kouta's dark green shirt over his head, Gohan nodded with conviction. Yes, he just had to be patient for everything to turn out all right. It would, in time.

Now dressed in new clothes and feeling much cleaner than he had several hours ago, Gohan wandered into the next room to find Goten sitting in front of the television set, watching the local TV channels.

"Nii-chan, look! Look at some of the shows they have!" Goten said. "I've never seen anything like this before!"

Gohan glanced at the screen and saw some kind of weird yellow rodent thing running at a giant blue turtle thing, gathering electrical sparks all around it as it picked up speed, slamming into the blue tortoise's stomach with a cry of, "PIKA!"

"That's great, Goten-chan," Gohan said, happy for him.

He sat down next to his baby brother and decided spending some time with him didn't sound so bad.

"What is this show called?" Gohan asked curiously.

"Onee-chan said it's called Pokémon, but I've never seen it before!" Goten said. "It's so cool, Nii-chan. They have to capture these magical animals called Pokémon in these little tiny balls called Poké Balls and some of those Pokémon attacks look like the ki techniques you taught me!"

"Coincidence," Gohan said. "But I'm glad to see you're getting along with Yuka-san so well."

"Oh yeah, she's great!" Goten chirped.

Gohan just smiled. Maybe now was the time to broach the subject with Goten. "Hey, Goten-chan, do you want to talk?"

Goten stared up at him.

"Huh?" he said. "Talk about what?"

"You know, what happened before we got here," Gohan said as gently as he could.

The boy gasped. "Oh no! I-I forgot about that! How could I forget Mommy so easily? No, Mommy! Trunks-kun!"

And Goten broke down sobbing right there. Now cursing himself for bringing this up now, even though he figured Goten might want to talk about it, Gohan drew the little half-Saiyan into a very tight embrace, wrapping his arms around his little brother protectively.

"That's right, cry," Gohan said. "Just let it all out, little buddy. I know you'll feel better once you do."

For a while, Goten just lay there in his arms, crying brokenly.

"Why? Why did it have to happen, Nii-chan?" Goten sobbed. "Now they're dead and we're not with them. Mommy's gone... Trunks-kun is gone! We're all alone! Why did they have to die on us? And why did I forget them? They'd never forget me as quickly as I forgot them! I'm a horrible son and horrible friend for doing something so bad to them!"

"No, don't say that!" Gohan insisted, moving Goten so that he was staring his older brother in the face.

"I know it's tough, but you have to remember, we WILL return to Earth someday and we WILL wish them back," Gohan said with steely determination coloring his voice. "I swear, we won't just leave them that way, Goten-chan."

Goten looked up at his older brother through teary eyes, the renewed light of hope sparkling in them. "You really mean that, Nii-chan?"

"Of course I do," Gohan said, reaching forward and ruffling his brother's hair. Goten smiled blearily at his beloved brother, even as Gohan wiped his tears away. He loved it when his Nii-chan made a big fuss over him. "We're going to do everything we can for them, okay?"

Goten nodded. "Okay!"

"As to the reason you forgot them... you're still young, Goten-chan, and that was a painful thing that happened to us," Gohan said to him. "You forgot about it because you didn't want to suffer when it was so simple to move on to something else. Besides, it's very easy for young children to get distracted by something else. Just don't worry, okay?"

"You mean you don't think less of me?" Goten asked fearfully.

"Aw, come on, you know I could never do something like that, Goten-chan," he reassured him.

"Thanks!" Goten cried, hugging him even tighter. "You're the bestest big brother ever!"

Gohan chuckled a little at Goten's enthusiasm. Then he glanced up, adopting a very confused expression on his face.

"But, Nii-chan... if we're not on Earth, then where are we?" he asked him.

"Another Earth in a parallel dimension," Gohan informed him.

"What? There's another Earth?" Goten asked. "But how can there be two Earths exactly the same as one another?"

"Different dimensional states, occupying the same time and place, but totally different from each other," Gohan said simply.

"But... what? Huh?" Goten whined, scratching his head with his tail. "I'm... I'm completely lost."

"Well, it's like going underwater," Gohan explained patiently. "You know how when you swim underwater, you can't see anything above you in the air? You are only able to see the barrier where the water and the air separate, two different physical states that we feel. That's how we can be in a completely separate Earth we never would have seen or interacted with normally."

"I sort of get what you're saying," Goten said. "We're in a different place we can't see, but it's similar to our home?"

"Kinda," Gohan said.

"Then does that mean we'll find copies of ourselves here?" Goten said excitedly. "Because that would be so cool!"

Gohan laughed at Goten's innocence. "I dunno, it could be possible, but from what it seems like, that's not likely. For one thing, we would have sensed their ki if there were any really strong warriors here on this planet."

"Darn!" Goten complained. "I was hoping I could find another friend to play with, like Trunks-kun."

For a while, Gohan just chuckled, amused and happy to find that Goten was settling in to this world so well, before something occurred to him, and he knew he had to tell Goten, so he would be prepared.

"But Goten," Gohan now told him, very seriously, "it's absolutely important that you don't tell anyone in this new world just who we are or where we come from or about any of our abilities, do you get it?"

He was just lucky Goten hadn't accidentally revealed it already before he'd talked with him, but to be fair, he had been dealing with a lot.

"What?" Goten yelped. "But why, Nii-chan? They seem like nice people! Don't they deserve to know?"

"Even nice people can have bad reactions, Goten-chan," Gohan explained. It was critical that Goten understand this. "Remember how Mother told us never to tell anybody that we have Saiyan blood?"

"Uh-huh," Goten said, sounding confused.

Gohan sighed. "Well, it's because we're different. They don't understand us, and people are afraid of what they don't understand. Sometimes, when you're really afraid, you find yourself acting in ways you never would normally, doing things that you'd usually condemn. Even the most kind person can do the most hateful, evil things for the right reasons, or what they believe the right reasons to be. And I get the feeling this world isn't as accustomed or as capable of dealing with the unknown as our world is. We're going to have to play it very safe from now on. Do you understand?"

Goten nodded solemnly. "I do, Nii-chan. You're just trying to protect me."

Gohan smiled. "Yes, I am. Just please be careful, all right, Goten-chan?"

"Okay, I promise, Nii-chan, I won't tell anyone where we come from!" Goten vowed with all the energy of youth.

"Good," Gohan said, looking at the TV. "But that's enough talking, because I think we're missing the program."

"Oh no!" Goten cried. "And Satoshi's Pikachu was just about to beat the Blastoise too!"

And Goten turned back to the television, already engrossed in this animated TV show called Pokémon. Wrapping a brotherly arm around Goten's shoulder, Gohan settled himself down and began watching it with his little brother.

In the other room, Yuka walked in on Kouta, who was rifling through his knapsack for something.

"Did you clean up already?" she asked him.

"Yeah, and that's no easy feat, let me tell you," Kouta informed her, still looking through his backpack.

Yuka's attention turned to Nyuu, who was in that same room, bent over glancing up at Kouta in a very suggestive position, but everything about the pink-haired girl, her eyes, her expression, and her posture, spoke of pure innocence, that it was nothing sexual about the way she was holding herself; she just didn't know any better.

"Nyuu," the horned girl said simply.

"Once Gohan-san and Goten find their own place, what do we do with her?" Kouta asked. "She can't stay here, you know."

"I know," Yuka sighed wearily. "Perhaps we are better off calling the authorities."

"Yeah," Kouta agreed as a tiny pink seashell fell out of his bag.

Yuka noticed it and moved closer to it.

"Is that from the time we went to the beach?" she asked, recognizing it as the seashell that once belonged to Kanae.

"Uh-huh," Kouta said as he grabbed the small seashell in his hands, holding it as if it were the most precious treasure on the entire planet, and his vision clouded as the memories started intruding upon him...

"Look, Onii-chan!" Kanae declared.

Kanae came running up and stuck her hand out, revealing the pink seashell that she had found on the shore to her two cousins. Yuka and Kouta learned forward, mesmerized by the seashell and its sparkling beauty as sunlight glinted off the perfectly carved edges.

"It's pretty," Yuka breathed.

"It really is. I'm surprised you found something like this," Kouta admitted.

"And?" Kanae said expectantly, awaiting her reward.

Kouta reached down and lovingly patted her head, tussling her hair a bit. Kanae smiled happily at the affection of her older brother.

"Fine," Kouta said. "You did a good job."

"Okay, then," Kanae said excitedly. "I'll give this to you, Onii-chan!"

"Wasn't long after that she got sick and died," Kouta said sadly.

Yuka looked at Kouta, concerned.

"She was sick?" Yuka asked. "Is that what you said?"

"This is like a memento," Kouta said, an expression of deepest mourning on his face. Nyuu watched him very closely, a puzzled look adorning her features. "Since I came back here I thought I'd take it with me."

Yuka tried to say something, but then she trailed off, unable to approach what was obviously a very tender and sensitive subject for her cousin. Finally, gathering up enough courage, she tried again.

"Kouta..." she said.

"Huh?" he replied. "What is it?"

Nyuu grabbed the shell, as though trying to figure something out, something she couldn't understand or didn't even like, but which was really, really important to her, her innocent mind trying fervently to connect the dots.

"What are you...?" Kouta began.

He never got a chance to finish the sentence, however, because at that moment Nyuu snapped the seashell between her two fingers like it was a twig, grinning broadly at what she'd done. A look of mounting rage appeared on Kouta's countenance while Yuka just stared in utter and complete shock at what Nyuu had just done. Kouta flew to his feet and roughly seized Nyuu by the shoulders, getting right up in her face and screaming at her.


"Kouta, no!" Yuka cried as she tried to restrain him, but Kouta's fury was not to be denied.


"Kouta, stop it!" Yuka pressed, more urgently than before.


As he kept yelling at her, a tearful expression began growing on Nyuu's features. Yuka, meanwhile, was totally shocked; she had never seen Kouta lose his cool this badly; the loss of his family must really hurt even more than she had initially suspected.

"Stop it, Kouta!" Yuka said. "Calm down! Nyuu must have thought the shell —"

"YOU!" Kouta said, still raging out of control. "GET OUT!"

"Wait a minute..." Yuka said, trying her best to resolve the situation and comfort her cousin, but it was just no use.


"What are you saying?" Yuka demanded.

"I SAID GET OUT!" Kouta repeated.

"You have to calm down!" Yuka insisted.

Now looking more confused than ever, Nyuu hopped down off of the table and ran as fast as she could out of the room, tears spilling down her cheeks as she cried wildly. Gohan, obviously having heard all the shouting, hesitantly entered the room, a look of concern etched on his face. Goten trailed near his leg, looking frightened and clutching to it like his life depended on it.

"Is everything all right?" he asked. "I-I heard a lot of yelling. Is everyone okay?"

This, at least, seemed to calm Kouta down. He grabbed the broken seashell in his hands as he cursed under his breath. Yuka sighed, now greatly relieved that Kouta's rage appeared to have dissipated. Yuka wouldn't admit it out loud, but seeing her beloved cousin, the boy that she had idolized and admired for eight years, break down screaming and shouting like a madman was very disturbing.

"Well, we had an accident," Yuka said, knowing that Kouta was too distraught to talk about the subject. "Nyuu broke Kouta's seashell. It was a present his little sister, Kanae, gave to him before she died."

"Oh my," Gohan said sympathetically. "I'm so sorry, Kouta-san."

Kouta snorted bitterly and shook his head. "No, that wasn't an accident. She knew exactly what she was doing! She deliberately broke my shell! On purpose! What in the hell was she thinking?"

"I think she understood," Yuka put forth. "She knew the seashell made you sad."

"Huh?" Kouta said, glancing over at his cousin.

"Wherever Kanae is I don't think she'd be happy to see you like this. Her memory ought to be worth more to you than bitterness. There was nothing bitter about how she lived," Yuka said, very wisely. "If you're sad every time you remember Kanae, Kanae will be sad too."

Gohan had a sudden thought, one that gave him a sudden surge of hope, but he had to put it away for later...

"Yeah, you shouldn't have yelled at her that way, Kouta-san," Gohan said, frowning a bit.

"But... she..." Kouta said.

"Haven't you looked into her eyes?" Gohan said. "They're innocent. She's like a baby. Something must have happened to her, something very traumatizing to set her back like this, but I... I think Nyuu-san has regressed into an infant-like personality. She wasn't trying to hurt you, Kouta-san. Nyuu-san just didn't know any better, the same way that a little girl wouldn't know better."

Kouta grew very pensive after hearing what Gohan said, mingled together with an expression of horror. Gohan turned around and made to head away. Yuka, still looking a bit concerned, moved after him.

"Where are you going, Gohan-san?" she asked.

"I'm going out to look for Nyuu-san," he said simply. "It's horrible weather out. She shouldn't be alone."

"But you're wounded," Yuka protested. "You should stay here until you recover. I can go out and look for her."

"I can't just sit around doing nothing, knowing she's out there, sad and vulnerable," Gohan said passionately. "I know I'm hurt, but I am going to do the right thing no matter what happens to me." He looked at her and smiled. "I'll be okay, Yuka-san. Honest. You don't have to worry about me."

Yuka blinked. He's so noble, she thought. Where on Earth did he pick up such a chivalrous spirit?

"Then I'm going with you," Yuka said, sounding determined.

Gohan nodded. "Let's get going."

With Goten following them like a lost puppy, Yuka and Gohan left the room to begin their search, leaving Kouta behind who, still pathetically holding onto the destroyed seashell in his hand, wept over how badly things had turned out, crying for all of the time that had been lost, for everything that had happened as Nyuu's sad, confused face filled his vision...

Through the darkened, stormy skies of Kamakura flew a helicopter, running lights piercing through the heavy rain with bright intensity as it soared closer and closer to the town itself; the sound of twin rotor blades and the roaring engine filled the night sky, interspersed every so often with the crack of thunder, and the flash of lightning. In the open bay sat a dozen or so soldiers, all of them wearing body armor and equipped with all of the latest gear.

"All right, men," one of the officers told the others. "Our target is eighteen years old, with pink hair and horns. When we locate her, do not hesitate. The target killed twenty-three men and women in less than five minutes. She's vicious, and it seems that she has some sort of a new experimental weapon. We don't know enough about it, but the limited range is two meters."

"Pink hair and horns?" one of the soldiers repeated. He clenched his assault rifle until it creaked in his grip and felt like his hands had gone numb. "So, it's one of those freaks again. After that last one, I thought I'd never get another chance to make them pay for all they've done to me."

Visions of his wife and his daughter flashed before his mind. Sayaka... I won't stop until you are avenged, and all of your killers lie dead.

The commander turned to regard him with interest.

"Name and rank, soldier?" he asked.

The man straightened up. "Private Mizuru Takenouchi, sir!"

The commander nodded. "So, you know something about our target?"

"Yes sir," Takenouchi spat harshly. "They're soulless, heartless monsters who turn on their own parents and murder them. I've been hunting them for a while now and I know how dangerous they are."

"Very well," the commander said. "You'll be invaluable in our operation."

A low chuckle could be heard, and most of the team glanced over as full-scale laughter came from Bando.

"Never thought I'd see the day when this country would let me terminate a minor," he said happily, imagining the various ways he would kill their target. "Hey, things are looking up in the world."

"You have no fucking clue," Takenouchi snapped. "You just don't know how dangerous they are."

"Yes, just stop talking, jerk," the soldier right next to him growled. "We happen to take our mission seriously."

Bando whipped out a gun and held it right up to the poor man's face, almost shoving it into his nose.

The compartment erupted into noise.

"What are you doing?"

"Stop it!"

"What are you thinking?"

"What are we training for every day?" Bando said, waving the gun in the other man's face. "Killing, right? Do you get that?"

Bando cocked the gun, even as the other soldier wondered whether Bando would finally cross the line he knew the monster longed to cross and kill one of their own men, but, just as quickly, he pulled it away, laughing as he did so.

"That serious enough for ya?" he asked.

"Remember, we want no civilian casualties," the chief said firmly.

"What the hell?!" Bando complained. "No civilians? Goddamn it! That's just no fun at all!"

"How the hell did this psychopath end up with us?" one of the others asked.

"He's just as bloodthirsty as those monsters," Takenouchi said.

"Completely insane..." another soldier mumbled.

Bando didn't care what anyone else said about him; he was back at work doing what he loved most, killing people. He hoped that this girl would present at least something of a challenge for him — it was so satisfying when he brought down someone he could fight back.

Either way, I'm getting to have fun tonight, he thought as the chopper flew closer to Kamakura.

Chapter Text

Rain poured down from the ebony skies above Kamakura. Thunder exploded and lightning flashed. It was utterly miserable weather, and steam rose from the breath of everybody outside, like it was winter. Within a hastily assembled makeshift structure of cardboard boxes and a tarp, a teenage girl sat, perhaps thirteen or fourteen. She was very poorly dressed to be out in such terrible conditions; she wore a cream-colored yellow sweater and no pants, just some white panties as well as a pair of shoes. The girl possessed brown-black hair and bangs that framed her face, as though someone was ushering her on stage, and soulful, sorrowful violet-black eyes that held a world of deep suffering and hardship, something that most typical teenaged girls never truly experienced. In her lap she held a tiny dog, which barked pathetically.

"I guess we're both hungry, huh?" the girl said to the dog.

The girl glanced back out at the stormy skies. It was definitely a bad time to be out and about and exposed to the elements, but she would not go back... she'd rather die than return to that life. She sighed as the incoming sounds of a helicopter flying nearby broke her out of her stupor and she shifted a bit closer to the entrance of the structure to get a better view of what was happening.

And there, high up in the sky, was a military helicopter, flying closer to the town.

"All right, ladies!" the chief said. "The police have already been scrambled. They're searching the city now, and once we receive her location, we'll immediately head to the site. Remember, kill her as quickly as possible. We do NOT take any chances."

Takenouchi gripped his rifle tighter. I'm going to enjoy this, he thought.

Bando yawned. Everyone else glared at the rogue soldier as he rose to his feet.

"Bando!" the commander snapped at him, sounding very angry.

"That's stupid," Bando said. "Later, chief."

The rain and wind slammed into the open bay as Bando released the landing ramp, pummeling the other soldiers with enormous force. Only their rigid discipline kept them seated in their positions, enduring the horrible weather as best as they could while the helicopter flew toward Kamakura. The commanding officer was practically trembling in rage.

"What are you doing?" he demanded.

"If this target is so dangerous we can shoot without warning, well then, looks like it's hunt or be hunted," Bando answered, flashing them all a devil-may-care grin. "I know how it goes! Drop me off already."

"You!" the officer growled, and then he sighed. "Fine, if you're so eager, then I guess you can go." He turned to face two other soldiers. "Satou, Takenouchi, I'm ordering you two to head out with Bando!"

"Yes sir!" they both replied promptly.

"Huh, you'd better get not get in my way," Bando said derisively, turning back to face the blowing storm and the raging wind. The rogue soldier smirked, still caught up in the thrill of the hunt and the desire to kill.

"You'll only slow me down."

Once Gohan and Yuka were outside the entrance to the inn, Yuka pulled out an umbrella she'd grabbed from the coat closet. She offered to find one for Gohan too, but Gohan just shook his head — even with all his wounds he could still move plenty quick, faster than the average human — an umbrella would slow him down and impede his efforts to locate Nyuu.

"I say we split up," Gohan suggested. "That way, we both have a better chance of finding her then."

"Good idea, Gohan-san," Yuka agreed, but then she frowned concernedly. "But please, be careful, alright? Those wounds haven't fully healed yet, and without an umbrella you could catch a cold."

Gohan smiled at her, touched by her concern. "Okay, I promise."

Yuka looked out at the sheets of rain pouring down all around them. "If we haven't located her in an hour, we should come back here and call the police. Maybe they'll have better luck searching for her than we do."

Gohan nodded.

"Can I come, Nii-chan?" Goten asked him.

Gohan glanced down at the little boy.

"You're more useful to me by staying here, Goten-chan," he said, reaching down and ruffling the young Saiyan's hair. "You stay behind with Kouta-san and one of you can come find us if Nyuu-san comes back, okay?"

"All right, I understand," Goten said petulantly, but he turned back and obediently trotted back into the house.

Gohan turned to Yuka. "Okay, let's head out!"

Gohan and Yuka turned in opposite directions and then headed their separate ways down the street, Gohan moving with as much as speed he knew a normal human was capable of, and when Gohan was certain that Yuka had gone and nobody was watching him, he closed his eyes and focused on his ki — the life force buried within him, which granted him all the powers he could use. An expression of deep concentration appeared on his countenance and an aura of white energy surrounded him, radiating off his body in rippling waves. Then, in a display which would have sent any innocent bystander running home and screaming for their mommies, another separate body tore itself off from Gohan, followed by another, so that standing there, occupying the space only one boy before had stood in, were three, totally identical Gohans.

"You know what to do," one of them said.

"Yeah," the second one said with a nod of his head.

"If you see her, just raise your power level and Goten will know we've found her," the third said.

"Okay, time to move!" the second one said.

Kouta remained back at Maple House, sitting in the living area, lost in his own thoughts, thinking about Nyuu and all that had transpired over the course of that long, bitter evening as tears tracked down his eyes.

"I think she understood," Yuka's voice echoed through his head. "She knew the seashell made you sad."

"Haven't you looked into her eyes?" And now it was Gohan's words Kouta heard. "They're innocent. She's like a baby. She wasn't trying to hurt you, Kouta-san. She just didn't know any better the same way a little girl wouldn't know better."

"Have I been just one big idiot?" Kouta said out loud.

And then, the image of Nyuu's eyes entered his mind. Gohan was right; Nyuu's eyes were large, wide, and bubbly like a child's, but they held no malice in them, no evil — just an innocent purity and a love for the world; even Kouta could not help but smile involuntarily as he saw it, despite all Nyuu did to him, but that happy image was shattered the next minute as he recalled how her eyes had looked after he yelled at her; they were no longer wide and innocent, but wobbling dangerously as tears filled them, and contained deep pain and suffering, but more than that, there was confusion. She hadn't known what she was doing wrong, all she knew was that she was hurting because of it.

"He was right..." Kouta mumbled. "She didn't know... oh Kami, what have I done? What have I done?"

Even if she had hurt him, he still didn't have to be so harsh on her. And as he came to realize the enormity of all that had happened that awful night, Kouta just sat there, giving full license to vent all the pain and remorse and sorrow raging in his heart, as he cried and cried; he couldn't remember crying this much since his father and sister died. If only Kanae could see him now... what would she think of him, acting this way?

"Wait, what am I doing?" Kouta said. "I can't be sitting here feeling sorry for myself. I helped create this whole mess. I have to help clean it up." Kouta sat up straight, wiping the tears from his eyes while his resolve grew stronger, and he stood up, looking determined. "I-I owe it to Nyuu. I can't let her suffer like this. She doesn't deserve it."

Kouta moved out of the living room, stumbling a little as he headed into the front hallway. He was just about to head out the front door to join Yuka and Gohan on their search when there came a knock at the door.

"Huh?" Kouta said.

As far as he knew, everyone in town thought that this building was empty; who was knocking on the door?

"Hey, come on, quit messing around," Kouta said as he headed towards the door, assuming it was Yuka and Gohan who had come back; maybe they'd found Nyuu. "You know it's not lock — huh?"

He had just opened the door, and there stood two men in overcoats protecting them against the downpour. One of the men poked his head in, looking confused, as if he didn't know whether he had come to the right place. This man was shorter than his counterpart, and he seemed to be a lot older than the other man who was standing alongside him.

"I thought this was a vacant house," he said.

"Yeah, I, uh, moved in here today," Kouta explained. "Excuse me, but can I help you?"

The second man, who looked to be larger and younger, spoke next, pulling something from his overcoat and showing it to Kouta. On close examination, Kouta realized that it was a golden star-shaped badge.

"We're the police," he said.

"If you'll cooperate with us, we need your help with our investigation," the first man — apparently a policeman — added.

"Why's that?" Kouta asked blankly. "Did something happen?" A thought struck him, and his heart twisted with sudden horror and fear. "Oh Kami, did something bad happen to Yuka-chan or Gohan-san?"

With the Yakuza after Gohan and his cousin out alone with him, they would be easy prey for the ruthless gangsters. Even if Gohan did know martial arts he was injured and couldn't take them all in a fight. Dark, horrible thoughts flashed through Kouta's brain, each becoming worse than the previous ones; that they had fallen upon the helpless Gohan and Yuka in a wave of gore and violence, slashing them to pieces with their swords and carving out their insides or just plain shooting them until they slumped over dead, or perhaps something even more awful than that, Kouta realized with growing horror, that they'd seen Yuka, his beloved cousin, had noticed how beautiful she was and backed her up against the wall as they tore her clothes off her so they could —

Kouta latched onto the front of the second policeman's shirt and began pulling on it.

"What's wrong?" he asked, his heart beating quicker and quicker in tune with his mounting fear. "Did the Yakuza come after them? Were they hurt? Tell me what happened! Oh, Kami, they're not dead, are they?"

The policeman smacked Kouta's arms away.

"Hands off!" he barked. "This is an official investigation, and we're asking the ones asking the questions here, got it?"

"Cool it!" the older policeman snapped at his colleague. "You're not helping matters." He turned back to face Kouta and offered the young man a reassuring smile. "It's okay, we're not here to tell you anyone you know has been hurt. That's not the reason we've come."

Kouta breathed a massive sigh of relief.

"We're actually wondering if you've seen this girl," the man went on, pulling out a photograph.

Kouta almost gasped out loud at what he now saw. It was Nyuu! The same pink hair, red eyes, and horns — there was no doubt that the girl these two policemen were searching for was, in fact, Nyuu. Kouta was about to tell the two police officers that his cousin Yuka and Gohan had gone looking for them when a sudden suspicion entered into his head. What if Nyuu had done something wrong? Why were the police looking for her?

"Why do you ask?" Kouta inquired. "Did she do something wrong?"

"Hey, stop asking dumb questions, kid!" the larger, younger officer said heatedly. It was such a surprising response for such an innocent question that Kouta couldn't help but be taken aback. "So, have you seen or not? Answer me!"

He made to push forward, whether to physically assault Kouta, he wasn't clear, but the older man held his hand out and held back his younger colleague, despite the apparent differences in their sizes.

"Just calm down!" he admonished him. Turning to Kouta, the older police officer drastically softened his tone. "Don't worry about it, young man. She's been lost for a day and her parents are worried about her, that's all."

He said it earnestly, quite straightforward and sincere. One could almost have believed the words he was saying, but, for Kouta... there was some subtle differences, a slight inflection missing or something wrong with his voice which led him to believe that this policeman was holding something back, whether for sinister purposes or because he just didn't think Kouta could handle it, he couldn't say, but he did get the feeling these two officers weren't telling him the complete truth.

And so Kouta did the one thing he never thought he'd do in front of an officer of the law: He lied.

"She's... lost?" Kouta said slowly. "I don't know her."

The second policeman narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing Kouta very closely, as though analyzing his very soul, trying to determine whether or not he was telling them the truth, while the first officer seemed to take Kouta at his word.

"I see," he said. "If you happen to run into her, would you please contact the police?"

Kouta nodded.

"Thanks for your help," the older man said. He turned to his partner. "Let's go."

"Right," the second man said.

The two headed down the path and out the front entrance, heading back to their car, leaving behind a very pensive-looking Kouta. In his thoughtful mood, Kouta never heard the footsteps coming down the stairs, nor that they were moving closer to him, though he did feel it when something started tugging on his shirttail, and the young man looked down to discover two innocent, charcoal pupils gazing up into his own.

"Is everything all right, Kouta-san?" Goten asked him.

Kouta shook his head. "I... I don't know," he murmured. But, one thing was sure; he had to go look for Yuka and Gohan. Things weren't right here — they had to find Nyuu before the police got to her first!

He glanced at the little boy standing next to him.

"Hey, Goten, do you think you can help me with something?" he asked the seven-year-old.

"Oh, sure!" Goten cried delightedly. "I'm ready for anything, Kouta-san! Please just tell me what to do!"

"I want you to remain behind in case Nyuu comes back," Kouta said, and the boy's tail drooped dejectedly. "I'm going to go out and look for Yuka-chan and Gohan-san and maybe together we could locate Nyuu before something bad happens to her."

"Awww, no fair!" Goten whined, pouting his lower lip. "I get stuck behind while you three go out and have all the fun? No, please, let me go! I want to go! Please, Kouta-san, why can't I go? I'm old enough! Please, Kouta-san, I just wanna help!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down!" Kouta urged him, placing two hands on his shoulders. "Just settle down, Goten!"

Kouta wracked his brain, trying to think of some way to resolve the situation.

"If you stay, I'll buy you a toy, all right?" Kouta offered slowly.

It did the trick. Instantly, Goten's entire expression changed, from crushing disappointment to total, complete excitement.

"Oooh, really?" he chirped happily. "What kind of a toy? Do you mean it? Will it be the Gold Fighter action figure or one of those transforming mecha? Or do you wanna buy me something else? Oh, I'm so excited! When will you get me a toy? Do you want me to come along when you buy it so I can pick out what I like, or is it going to be a surprise, like my birthday?"

He was speaking so fast that Kouta could barely follow it, the words just blurring together into a big stream so that all Kouta could pick out were a bunch of incoherent sentences and random words he couldn't even begin to make heads or tails of.

"Okay, okay, okay!" Kouta said, the boy's youthful enthusiasm nearly too much for him to bear. Was I ever this bad? "Just cool it, alright? I'll buy it for you tomorrow — in the meantime, just remain here, okay?"

Goten nodded. "Okay!"

And Kouta ran out the front door, heading out into the night and hoping beyond all hope with every fiber of his being he and his cousin and Gohan would find Nyuu and rescue her from his own mistake...

Once he had split into three, each Gohan went off in different directions to try and locate Nyuu on their own. Currently, one of the copies was flying in the air over a deserted patch of green countryside hugging the forest, hoping to see if he could spot Nyuu from above.

"Aw, man, nothing!" he said. "Where could she be?"

Just then, he heard a commotion from down below, and he turned to look at it.

"Please, stop!" a girl was shouting. "We didn't do anything to you!"

To his utter horror, Gohan saw a bunch of yellow-haired thugs surrounding a young man and a girl, three of which were beating on the boy as the girl watched helplessly. They were quite a distance from the nearest road, too, so it wasn't likely they'd be receiving any help.

"Please, leave Tasomu-kun alone!" she begged them, struggling against the two who were holding her back.

"Patience there, girly, you'll get your turn soon enough," one of the young punks said, licking his lips as his eyes roamed all over her body — it was obvious what he had in mind, and he chuckled suggestively into her ear, but Gohan had excellent hearing, and he was able to pick up everything that he spoke to the girl. "If you know what I mean..."

The girl apparently picked up on the meaning behind that punk's words, the same as Gohan had, and she began struggling all the more fiercely against their hold, but they were too large and strong so she resorted to screaming.

"HELP!" she shouted. "RAPE! SOMEONE PLEASE HELP —"

And then the second thug savagely backhanded her and the girl whimpered in pain. The two thugs forced her down to the ground, and the first one placed his hand over her mouth, so she couldn't call out, while the second punk pinned her legs and the first thug had her arms wrapped behind her by using his other hand — it was quite clear she wasn't going to be able to yell for help.

"Shut up, bitch, and accept your punishment like a woman!" the second punk said as she tried kicking her legs at them, to no avail. He smirked, leaning in close to her and licking her cheek. Even from this distance, her spasm of disgust was obvious. "Maybe if we're lucky, we can all have a turn..."

Gohan's blood was boiling in the way that only injustice and cruelty could bring out in him, and before he knew it, he was rocketing down to earth below, ready to teach those young thugs a lesson and make sure they never hurt anybody again. As one the gang of thugs turned to face the new intruder, drawn to the sound he had made when hit solid ground once again.

"Who the hell are you?" one of the punks beating up the boy demanded. "Where did you come from?"

"Who I am is no concern of yours," Gohan said briskly, his eyes narrowed and his skin pressing tightly against his skull, drawing his features down into a fearsome death glare. "What do you think you're doing? What are you picking on these two? What did they ever do to deserve that?"

"We don't have to justify ourselves to you, kid!" one of the thugs snarled. "Now go away before we get mad."

"No," Gohan retorted. "I am going to say this only once; release these two and get out of here and you won't be harmed."

"Did you hear that?" the tallest and burliest of the thugs laughed. He seemed like the leader. "Boys, looks like we got a hero here!"

The gang laughed, and the three holding onto the poor boy dropped him to the grass, where he lay, unconscious. Two of them kept holding on to the girl, but, they, too, eyed the young man who had decided to take them on with wicked amusement shining in their eyes, like a tiger stalking its wounded prey. The other three moved to encircle Gohan.

"Who does this boy think he is?" the leader said, placing his hand on the hilt of a katana sheathed near his belt, a cruel smirk playing across his features. "Why, he has normal black hair! How disgraceful. There's nothing I hate more than a conformist."

"He must have some sort of death wish taking us on like this," the second thug said haughtily. "I guess we should oblige his wish, then, unless, of course, you feel like begging, and we might let you live."

A disgusted look appeared on Gohan's face.

"You're despicable," he snorted. "I gave you a chance to redeem yourselves, and you mock me." Then slowly, a smirk very similar to the five thugs grew across Gohan's countenance. "But, hey, if you don't like my hair, I can always change it for you."

And with that, Gohan powered up into Super Saiyan, the transformation coming a bit harder due to all his injuries, but he had long since mastered the Super Saiyan state, which made it easier than it may have been otherwise. Gohan's aura glowed around him, and it felt comforting to be surrounded by so much of his own power.

The three gang members backed up, surprised at what they were seeing.

"What the hell?" the leader said. "What are you doing?"

"How is this possible?" another punk said. "Did he grow up too close to a nuclear power plant?"

"It doesn't matter!" the leader yelled, shaking his head. "Get him!"

"Right!" the other two chanted as the three lunged at him.

With a single smirk, Gohan moved quicker than these three thugs could even see — a punch, a kick, and a chop to the back of the neck were all that was necessary to take out the three thugs, though Gohan carefully restrained his power, and avoided using that much force; he didn't wanna kill them, after all, and so Gohan's blows were enough to render them all unconscious and would leave them in pain for maybe several hours, but spared their lives.

The other two thugs, seeing their comrades fall so quickly to the mysterious youth, decided to take extreme measures, and they pulled out a gun and a knife. The first punk pressed the knife up against the throat of the girl, whose skin had gone pale and whimpered in fear, as the other punk aimed the gun right at Gohan, who regarded it coolly.

"Don't come any closer or we'll kill her!" the thug with the knife said. "I mean it! We'll slice her throat up!"

With that, the punk holding the gun smirked and shot at Gohan in several successive rounds, all of which Gohan simply dodged. Moving faster than before, the two gang members suddenly found their gun and knife ripped out of their hands. With exclamations of shock, they looked around wildly for the weapons, only to find them both in the hands of Gohan, who was staring at them with stern judgment.

"You're pathetic, resorting to hostage-taking to try and win," he said, and then he crushed the gun in his bare hands.

Now shaking with pure terror and knowing they stood absolutely no chance against him, the two punks quickly let the girl go and both ran off, almost tripping over themselves in their haste to flee the scene. Gohan let them go, since he didn't like hurting people that much.

The girl, meanwhile, stared at Gohan with worshipful eyes.

"I don't know who are you, but thank you," she said gratefully. "Those men would have killed us if you hadn't come along."

Gohan smiled reassuringly at her. "It was no big deal. But I've gotta be going now. Will you be able to handle things from here?"

The girl nodded. "Yes, I think so."

And so Gohan took off into the air again, leaving the girl standing there gaping at the sight of him flying off, but that seemed secondary to him, now that the situation was resolved — he had to find Nyuu.

Another Gohan copy raced down the streets of Kamakura, looking in alleys and asking people if they had seen a pink-haired young girl with horns, but no one had, and Gohan was beginning to grow desperate.

Nyuu-san, where are you? he thought with worry.

Suddenly there was the roar of screeching tires on pavement, and Gohan turned to find two cars barreling down on him, the headlights flashing through the thick sheet of rain. The half-Saiyan jumped to the side and narrowly avoided getting run down as a plain-looking brown car sped off with a police car in hot pursuit.

"They shouldn't be driving that way," Gohan said. "They could hit someone. I should probably step in, but I don't want to be identified by the police later on. I suppose I could always go Super Saiyan like I did for that one girl." He smiled. "Okay, looks like the Gold Fighter is back in action."

With a flash his hair turned gold and Gohan took off after them. Meanwhile, the three thugs inside the car continued to speed wildly across streets, as pedestrians leaped out of the way and cars honked furiously as they nearly crashed into them. One of the thugs had his upper body poking out the back window as he shot back at the police car following them, forcing it to swerve to avoid getting hit with gun fire.

"Hurry up, Okubo!" the thug shooting at the cops cried. "We can't hold 'em off forever!"

"Hold on, Miyamoto!" the thug at the wheel said. "This should shake 'em!"

And he slowed down just enough for the cops to pull alongside them, but once they had, he twisted the car to the side, shoving the police to the side, where they collided with a parked car. Okubo laughed at the sight and turned his attention back to the road, where a golden-haired young boy was standing, not even attempting to get out of their way.

"Ooh, looks like target practice!" Okubo laughed as he increased the speed, hoping to run him over.

Just before he could splatter the young man everywhere in an explosion of blood and guts, Gohan put his hands on the hood and dug his feet in — and to their amazement, the car began slowing down!

"What are you doing?" the third thug screamed. "Step on it! Run him down!"

"I'm trying, Komada!" Okubo yelled. "It's not working!"

He slammed his foot down on the accelerator rapidly, but it was no use as the car finally came to a complete stop.

"What do we do now?" Komada asked.

"We fight," Miyamoto said with a grin. "I'd love to see what this boy looks like as Swiss cheese."

The three thugs exited the car. Gohan stood there, regarding them with a gimlet stare as they left. All around them, people watched with curiosity and apprehension as the four prepared to duke it out there on the streets. Several timid — or perhaps intelligent, depending on your perspective — onlookers turned tail and ran off, clearly hoping to avoid getting involved in this inevitable violence, whether they wanted to or not, but they weren't in Gohan's mind at that moment; he wouldn't let any innocent get hurt, so for now, they were simply distractions.

"That was a very dangerous stunt that you pulled," he told them angrily. "Innocent people could have been hurt!"

"That was a dangerous stunt, but not as dangerous as the one you're pulling now, kid," Okubo laughed, pulling out a pipe.

"Yeah, we're the Ao Ookami!" Komada said as he whipped out a pair of nun chucks. "And we'll be sinking our teeth in soon!"

"Now dance, kid!" Miyamoto said, aiming at Gohan's feet and firing repeatedly.

Those curious observers who had remained now tore out of there at lightning speed, anxious to be away from the mad lunatics with a gun, but Gohan just stood there, unflinchingly, eyes locked on three gang members, as Miyamoto kept on blasting away. After a couple seconds he stopped, looking crestfallen at the young man's lack of response.

"What's up with this kid?" he whined, sounding like a three-year-old whose father said he couldn't have the toy he wanted. "He didn't even try to dodge them! That just takes all of the fun out of it, you know!"

"He's so terrified he can't even move!" Okubo laughed. "The fear must have made him insane!"

"Well, I'll just have to get him to move," Komada said confidently as he lunged at him with his nun chucks.

He began swinging at Gohan, who dodged each and every blow from the twin bars. After a few seconds of merely watching Komada growing frustrated, he ducked to the side, grabbing onto one of Komada's nun chucks.

"What the?!" he said. "How'd you do that, kid?!"

Gohan pulled on the chain, dragging the criminal closer to him, and when he was near enough, Gohan buried his fist in Komada's stomach. The force from the blow sent Komada flying, who landed on his back, clutching at his stomach, as he rolled around in a pathetic heap on the pavement, completely incapacitated.

"You bastard!" Miyamoto roared, unleashing a hail of machine gun fire at Gohan's torso.

In a flash, Gohan dodged every shot and shot in front of Miyamoto. With a smirk he delivered a strong uppercut to his chin, knocking him back and sending the gun flying out of his hands. However, while he had been busy taking out Miyamoto, Okubo had come from behind and swung his lead pipe down on Gohan's shoulder. Gohan turned in time to see it coming, but not to stop it. Okubo was sure he had him.

So it came as something of a surprise when the pipe slammed into Gohan's shoulder and just vibrated as if Okubo had struck something unyielding and tough, like cement or steel. He winced as it felt like his body was shaking to the pipe's recoil, his teeth rattling in his mouth.

"Bad vibrations?" Gohan said, his smirk widening.

And then he kicked the unfortunate thug across the waist, sending Okubo smashing against the car behind him. He slid down the metal frame and sprawled on the street, unconscious, but still breathing.

It was then that the policemen from before came running up, guns drawn. During the entire fight, they had been paralyzed by indecision and disbelief at all that they were watching, wondering whether they had been dreaming. As they ran closer to him, Gohan could make out identical looks of shock on their face. Further in the distance, Gohan could hear sirens steadily approaching — their backup, no doubt.

"What... but... how?" one of officers said.

"You took them all out!" the second policeman said. "Effortlessly!"

Gohan could sense that they were unsure what to make of him, whether he was trying to help them out or a new threat that had to be taken care of. The half-Saiyan turned and gave them both a smile so that they wouldn't be scared of him.

"Just helping to keep the crime down, officers," he said with a slight bow.

The two officers exchanged twin looks of surprise, obviously taken aback by what he'd said.

"Um, yes..." the first officer said. "Yes, we appreciate the help."

"But who are you?" the second demanded. "How were you able to do all that?"

"Just tell the citizens of Kamakura that the Gold Fighter is on the case," Gohan said with a salute. "And now, I do apologize, but I really must be taking my leave of you, officers. See you again, and have a nice night!"

And he flew off into the dark and stormy night as the sirens came closer to the scene of the crime, leaving behind two very stunned and very confused police officers behind, knowing with certainty that the other officers would never believe them...

One of the Gohan copies was getting desperate. After saving a cat stuck in a tree and returning him to the arms of the beaming little girl he had resumed his search for Nyuu, but he couldn't find her. It was like she had vanished off the face of the Earth!

"WHERE ARE YOU?!" Gohan cried desperately, to no avail. "Nyuu, where are you? Nyuu! Damn it, where is she?"

"Nii-chan?" a voice near his elbow asked.

Gohan jumped around, startled out of his wits, and Goten stood there, gazing up at him with concerned eyes.

"Goten-chan, what are you doing out here?" Gohan scolded. "I told you to remain at the inn."

Goten hung his head sadly. "I know, I know, that's what Kouta-san said too, but I could sense you going Super Saiyan several times, and your ki felt really tense and scared. I was getting worried, Nii-chan. I just had to make sure you were okay."

Gohan sighed. This was all his fault. He should have done a better job suppressing his emotions.

"No, I'm sorry, Goten-chan," Gohan said, ruffling the little boy's hair. "I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. I won't lie to you, I'm really scared for Nyuu-san; I-I don't know where she is and I can't seem to find her anywhere!"

"Oh," Goten said, sounding thoughtful. "Well, why don't you just feel out her power level?"

Gohan simply stared at his younger brother, gaping. He could have fallen flat on his face from sheer "duh." Of course; feel out her ki! How stupid was he? In all his years of life, Gohan had never felt so foolish, and small, tiny and worthless.

"Oh," he said, laughing nervously. "I guess I could do that."

Gohan really hated feeling like an idiot. But that's not important now, he thought. I have to locate Nyuu.

He closed his eyes, gathered his senses, and then extended them outward, to the areas surrounding him. Fortunately, Gohan had a high power level, even in his normal form, and his ki sense could reach to more than a dozen light-years into outer space, if the power level was large enough, but the problem was that for small, underdeveloped ki, separating it from the mass of ki that constituted the population of the Earth was a difficult task — even with Gohan's own high power level.

"Nyuu, where are you?" he muttered. "Why can't I —?"

And then it hit him. Quite literally. There she was. It was tiny, but it was the same ki he had felt briefly while he was in the Maple Inn with Yuka and Kouta, and more than that, it felt sad, as if the girl's heart was breaking in two.

"Nii-chan, there she is!" Goten cried.

"I know, I feel it too, Goten-chan," the older boy said.

"But... there's something weird about it..." Goten muttered.

"What?" Gohan said, gazing down at his little brother.

Goten looked up at him. "Can't you feel it? It's like her ki is split in half."

Gohan focused his senses on her again, and indeed, he could feel it, buried deep within the sad, innocent personality of Nyuu, lay a darker and colder sensation to her ki, like suppressed hatred, all the negative and cruel things Gohan had once sensed, in Piccolo, in Vegeta, and in Frieza and all the enemies they had ever fought in their lifetimes.

But then Gohan shook his head. "We'll worry about that later."

"Are we gonna go get her, Nii-chan?" Goten said hopefully.

"Yes," Gohan said. He looked down at Goten. "Will you please go get Kouta and Yuka for me? Tell them we found Nyuu."

Goten pouted. "Aw, why do I always miss the fun stuff?"

"If you go, I'll buy you a toy," Gohan promised, knowing that that always worked with Goten.

"OH WOW!" Goten cried, his tail wagging happily. "A toy? You mean I get TWO toys? Wow, thank you, thank you, thank you, Nii-chan!"

Gohan chuckled. "It's no problem. But you'd better go. Tell Kouta and Yuka I'll meet them back at the inn."

"I will, I will!" Goten said as he ran off into the distance, and Gohan set himself about the task of going to retrieve Nyuu.

Maybe then I'll figure out what that second power level is all about...

In the rain-soaked coastline, with their vision greatly impeded and their clothes drenched, Bando, Satou, and Takenouchi continued their search for their target, and Bando was getting progressively angrier.

Damn it! Where is she? he thought. Where is my prey?

Satou turned to face Takenouchi. "So, you've had experience with this sort of thing, right?"

Takenouchi's lips tightened. "If you mean dealing with the Diclonii, then yes, I have."

"What can you tell us about them?" Satou asked.

"They're heartless, cold-blooded monsters who'll chop your heads off the moment you turn your back on them," he spat angrily.

Satou gulped. "Sounds like it's personal for you."

"Oh, it is," Takenouchi said, visions of his wife passing through his mind, and that unnatural thing she gave birth to. I swear I'll kill every last one of them if it's the last thing I ever do! I will make them pay for taking my wife and daughter away from me!

"Well, what do we do when we meet her?" Satou inquired.

"Just kill her before she gets a chance to attack," Takenouchi said, only half listening to Satou. The vengeful soldier glanced down at the marks tattooed onto his left arm. "This will make my seventh kill."


Suddenly, a bullet shot dangerously close to Takenouchi's head, courtesy of Bando.

"What the fuck was that?" Takenouchi snarled, turning to glare at the rogue soldier hatefully.

"This is my prey, so I'll kindly thank you to stay out of my way!" Bando said loudly.

"You may be in charge here, asshole, but when it comes to killing Diclonii, you don't have the experience I do!" Takenouchi fired back harshly. "They'll shred you into a bloody mess with that attitude!"

"Oh yeah?" Bando said, cocking his shotgun at Takenouchi. "You wanna try it, Private? You think you can do a better job than me? This is what we were born for — killing! If you think you could do that job better than me, go ahead, I dare you! Just try and shoot me!"

"Whoa, calm down!" Satou said, trying to restore order amongst the two hot-headed men. "This isn't what we're here for!"

"Just shut up!" Takenouchi growled. "This guy's really beginning to get on my nerves."

"Whoever's the stronger among us deserves to make the kill," Bando said, circling the two men, poor Satou being caught in the middle. "If I can't take you out then I don't have any right to try to take down the target. Now you can't get any fairer than that."

"Bring it on, asshole," Takenouchi said.

Satou glanced hopelessly between the two men, worried that hostilities were going to break out any time, with one of them dead — and with him having to explain to their superiors. But then, off in the distance, further down the beach, he caught sight of something which made him gasp.

"Guys, look," he said, nodding in that direction.

Both Bando and Takenouchi turned, and there, kneeling on the sandy ground, digging around in the dirt, was a poorly-dressed girl with long pink hair and horns, her tears hidden by all the rain pouring down...

Chapter Text

Kouta was searching frantically along the shore of Kamakura. For some reason beyond Kouta's comprehension, he suspected Nyuu was here, back where they had first found her. It was just something he felt inside his heart, something deep and intangible he couldn't really explain, like a sixth sense. But whatever it was, he knew he had to find her, and quickly.

"Nyuu! Where are you?" he asked.

Suddenly he turned around and saw a pair of innocent charcoal eyes staring up at him. Shocked, Kouta cried out and fell on his butt.

"Sorry, Kouta-san, I didn't mean to scare you," Goten apologized.

"Don't do that!" Kouta complained, rubbing his dirt-covered backside. "Anyway, I thought I asked you stay in the house."

"Oh, that's what I wanted to tell you!" Goten chirped happily. "Nii-chan's found Nyuu!"

"Really?" Kouta asked, his heart lifting.

Goten nodded excitedly. "Yes, and he told me to get you and Onee-chan to meet him back at Kaede Inn."

"Okay, let's go find Yuka then," Kouta said. "Gee, I can't imagine where she is."

"Oh, I know where she is!" Goten responded.

"You do?" Kouta said, blinking in surprised confusion. "Well, where?"

Goten pointed. "She's over in that direction, Kouta-san!"

Kouta just stared at the little boy. How does he know where she is? Did he run into her out there or something? There's something weird about this. But, Kouta decided he couldn't concentrate on that now. All that can wait. The important thing right now is returning to Maple Inn and... saying I'm sorry to Nyuu.

"Very well, lead the way," Kouta said.

"This way, Kouta-san!" Goten cried, running off. "Follow me!"

And Kouta complied, hoping his cousin wasn't too mad that he'd decided to go looking for Nyuu on his own.

Now reunited with his copies, Gohan raced along the beach, heading towards the location he felt Nyuu's ki.

Found her, at last, he thought as he finally located the lost girl.

And there the horned girl was, digging around in the muddy sand, almost as though she were looking for something, even as tidal waves mercilessly slammed into her. Gohan could smell the distress coming off her body and his heart went out to her.

"Nyuu..." the pinkette whispered sadly, her tears hidden by the rain.

"Are you all right, Nyuu-san?" Gohan asked worriedly as he walked up to her.

"Nyuu?" she said, glancing up from her work to see who it was who had called her name.

Upon seeing Gohan, Nyuu grinned in happiness.

"Nyuu!" she squealed, grabbing Gohan in a tight hug, arms wrapping around his solid frame.

Gohan smiled as he returned the hug. It was obvious the girl was a little cheered up with his presence.

"You're absolutely drenched, Nyuu-san," Gohan said in concern. "Come on, let's go. We need to get you home."

He grabbed her arm to try to drag her off, but Nyuu shrugged off his hand and dove back into the sand with relentless abandon.

"Nyuu! Nyuu!" she said determinedly.

"Nyuu... come on, don't be stubborn!" Gohan sighed, trying to pull her back again, but her will was not to be denied.

"Nyuuuuuuuu!" she squeaked, getting away from Gohan and diving back into the muddy waters.

"I don't get it," Gohan said. "What is so important to you, Nyuu-san?"

Just then, the innocent horned girl pulled out a seashell, but Nyuu apparently thought it wasn't worthwhile, because she threw it to the side and tore back into the sand and the water with renewed vigor.

Gohan smiled as the light finally clicked. "Oh, I see. You wanna make it up to Kouta-san, huh, Nyuu?"

"Nyuu!" Nyuu confirmed. Well, he assumed she did anyway. "Nyuu! Nyuu!"

She really is a nice girl, Gohan thought. She may not understand everything, but her heart's in the right place. She's truly something special. What a beautiful girl. Then Gohan blushed as he caught up to what he was thinking. Huh? Where did THAT come from? O-Okay, so she's beautiful, but... it, it doesn't have to mean... that! Just because she's the most attractive girl I've ever met doesn't mean that... And Gohan shook his head, now irritated at the direction that his thoughts were going. No, no, don't be thinking that way, Gohan! Nyuu is cute, sure, but she's too innocent. She wouldn't even know what was going on. How could we ever be together?

"NYUUUUUUUUUUUUU!" the innocent girl squealed, and Gohan watched as she held up a pink seashell that seemed similar to the fragments Gohan had glimpsed after Nyuu ran out of the house.

"Oh, you found the right one, huh?" Gohan chuckled. "Okay, now we can return to the house, Nyuu-san."

Suddenly, there was the click of a gun being cocked, and a harsh, rough voice spoke out.

"You're not going anywhere, boy."

Gohan spun around to find three people standing behind him, decked out in full body armor like the kind that soldiers wore. The man closest to him — the one who had spoken — was pointing a submachine gun at him.

"What?" Gohan said. "What's going on here?"

"Bando, you dumbass!" the one farthest to the back shouted at the soldier aiming the gun — who was known as Bando, apparently. "You shouldn't get this close to one of them! They'll tear you into pieces!"

"Shut up!" Bando snarled.

"You just have no fucking clue, you moron!" he screamed.

"Um, Bando, maybe we should listen to Private Takenouchi," the third man said hesitantly.

"I already told you to shut up!" Bando roared at both of them. "Now keep quiet or I'll put the next bullet in you!"

"All right, who ARE you people?" Gohan demanded, his patience rapidly evaporating. "What are you doing here, and with those kind of weapons?" Gohan frowned. "Guns are dangerous in the hands of the untrained."

"Just shut up, boy!" Bando said with a careless smirk. "We'll be taking your girlfriend there with us!"

"What?" Gohan growled, not liking what he was hearing one little bit. "No, I won't let you! You'll have to get through me first!"

Bando turned to face the other two soldiers, his smirk widening.

"Let's see... they gave us the green light to kill any witnesses we come across, right, guys?"

"Uh, no, those weren't the orders," the third man said, sounding a bit unnerved. "We'd have to call HQ first."

"Just shut up, Satou!" Takenouchi snapped harshly, his fingers tightening over the barrel of his gun. "If he chooses to side with them over his own kind, then he deserves all that he's got coming to him! They're murderers! Monsters! Filthy beasts and degenerates!"

He looked quite wild as he said that last part, spit flying from his mouth, as his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. Growing more and more frightened at all that was occurring, Nyuu inched closer to Gohan, like a child seeking protection from one of her parents. Gohan reached out and patted her head reassuringly, touching her horns as he did so, and the innocent girl purred softly as he stroked one of her most intimate areas.

"Don't worry, Nyuu," he said. "I'll protect you. I'm not gonna let them take you."

"Nyuu, Nyuu..." the pinkette said, latching onto Gohan's left leg and peering fearfully around it at the assembled soldiers.

Gohan turned his gaze back to the soldiers, now regarding them with cold fury and harsh judgment.

"You people are all the same," he remarked disdainfully. "You think you can just waltz in and hurt the innocent, ordering everyone around as if your power makes you the lords of the universe. You're just like anyone else I've faced, always picking on the weak. However, there is one thing which you failed to take into account as you threatened to kidnap my friend."

"Enough of this!" Bando declared. "You're just a cocky kid! Now suffer the consequences!"

And he rushed at Gohan with his rifle held back, prepared it slam it into Gohan's shoulder, however, before he could make it within even a few inches of Gohan, the half-Saiyan powered up in a burst of golden light, throwing Bando backwards and generating an intense windstorm that blew outward and knocked the other two soldiers back. And, just like that, Gohan had become a Super Saiyan, but... he hadn't stopped there; his hair had spiked up to insane proportions, with a single lock hanging down over his face, his muscles had all bulked up to immense levels, and his eyes had taken on an icy teal shade. He had become a Super Saiyan 2.

The three soldiers worked their way back to their feet, looking on in awe as golden flames licked at the teenage boy's body, humming with the intensity of a contained supernova. Electric sparks danced across his body, arcing and snapping and crackling like a current from a felled power line, and the air around him appeared to shimmer with power.

"What the hell?!" Bando said. "How the fuck is this possible?"

"What you failed to realize... IS THAT I, SON GOHAN, AM MY FATHER'S SON!" the demi-Saiyan cried, his aura flaring around him with the force of a hurricane. "Sworn defender of the innocent and the helpless! And I will NOT sit by and let you hurt somebody I care for!"

"You..." Takenouchi's voice had dropped in pitch so that it was little more than a guttural growl, and his eyes narrowed and focused on the glowing teen with ill-concealed hatred. Truly a frightening sight; they looked wide and insane, though buried beneath the anger was despair and pain. "You must be one of them! You're one of those monsters!"

"The only monster I see here is you," Gohan said.

And Gohan started walking towards the three soldiers, calmly, confidently, with all the assurance and knowledge of someone who knows that he cannot be beaten by any means. Takenouchi gripped his rifle so tightly that it felt painful in his hands. Images of his dead wife, Hazami, and the corrupted thing which had been his daughter instantly flashed before his eyes, and he swore he could see red for a while.

"TAKE THIS, YOU SON OF A BITCH!" he roared, unleashing a hail of machine gun fire on the approaching Super Saiyan 2.

Gohan came to a stop, halfway between Nyuu and the soldiers — and the bullets seemed to have no effect on him! He just stood there, arms by his head, eyes locked on them, as he stood surrounded by a storm of kinetic impacts.

"What the fuck IS he?!" Bando said.

Seeing that this boy wasn't likely to be as easy a kill as he'd first suspected, Bando decided to try and reevaluate his approach. Many assumed Bando to be a hot-heated and impulsive soldier, but in truth he was quite a skilled hunter, a predator, and he may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he did adapt quick to constantly changing battlefield conditions, one of the many qualities that made him so highly prized by his superiors at the SAT.

And then, he spotted Nyuu, still huddled where Gohan had left her, shivering timidly and eyes focused fearfully on all that was happening around her. Bando's lips curled into a sadistic and calculating smirk.

Yes, that's it!

Meanwhile, Takenouchi continued pumping as many bullets as he possibly could at the half-Saiyan with a scream building in his throat as he saw how very little damage was being inflicted on the immobile Gohan. Finally, his rifle clicked as the last round departed the barrel, and there the hybrid stood, still and unflinchingly resolute, even after being subjected to thousands of rounds of bullets, not so much as a scratch on him!

"What the fuck are you?!" Takenouchi shouted. "How can you withstand all that? Those were tungsten bullets! High caliber! Not one of you fucking freaks has EVER been able to survive those rounds!"

Gohan said nothing, just slowly held up his hands, fists closed, and when they were at eye level, he opened them, as thousands of bullets fell to the sand from his formerly clenched fists in a display of raining futility and uselessness. Takenouchi just watched the whole thing with mounting fear, masked, of course, by increasing frustration and fury.

"Who the hell is this boy?" Satou demanded from nearby, speaking to no one in particular. "Is this the weapon they warned us about?"

"HEY, BOY!" he heard yelled from behind him.

Gohan turned to find Bando standing there, a few meters away, a handgun pointed directly at Nyuu's head. He was smirking widely and acted like the man with a winning hand. He'll leap after her, giving me enough time to penetrate his defenses and land the lethal hit! Bando thought eagerly.

"Say goodbye to your precious girlfriend!" Bando said as he fired off a precision round aimed directly at Nyuu's heart.

"Nyuu, no!" Gohan cried. Wasting no time, Gohan shot across the sandy dunes, moving with a speed and agility not even Bando could have anticipated. Within nanoseconds after firing the round, Gohan reached Nyuu and pushed her down to the ground, the bullet passing harmlessly over their heads, as Bando's sneak attack blew up in his face.

"What the hell?!" Bando exclaimed. "How the fuck can ANYONE move that fast?!"

The boy just lay there on top of Nyuu for a few seconds, obviously surprised by the surprise attack on Nyuu, and Bando regained a bit of his cocky swagger upon realizing the boy had left himself vulnerable.

"You fool!" he shouted. "It's good night, kid!"

And he blasted at Gohan, expecting to see the bullets penetrate his body in a wet explosion of blood and flesh but to Bando's shock, even as he fired off several rounds at the teenager, still draped over Nyuu's prone body, something very quick and hard to see, almost like a fifth limb, shot out and grabbed each bullet before it could hit with startling speed, seemingly little more than a blur even to Bando's trained eye.

"Why — the — hell — can't — I — HIT YOU?!" Bando yelled, and he stopped firing.

Once the bullets had stopped flying, whatever had intercepted those bullets slowed down until it was stationary, revealing it to be a —

"Who are the fuck are these people?!" Bando ranted. "First some girl has horns, and now this boy who has a tail?!"

Takenouchi's eyes narrowed upon catching sight of the wagging appendage. I swear if it's the last thing I do, I'll kill you, he vowed. I'll make you PAY for what you and your kind did to me and my family!

Gohan climbed to his feet, eyes piercing slits and skin drawn back around his skull, tightening his facial features as he gazed coldly at the expert killer. Standing up to his full, considerable height, he stared in anger at Bando, who was furiously pondering his options in an attempt to somehow turn this situation back to his advantage. Then he spoke.

"Pathetic," Gohan said angrily. "You would sacrifice an innocent girl just to try and kill me. Is there no limit to your cruelty?"

"You little brat!" Bando raged, seeing no other way out of this situation now. "I'll get you for this!"

Racing across the muddy ground in a futile and vain attempt to kill Gohan with his bare hands Bando was completely unprepared when a moment later, something hard slammed into him, centered around his chest, but soon the sensation spread to most of his body, as though a slow-motion wave rippled outward from the point of impact until it had infected his entire body with pure, unadulterated agony, pain beyond words, pain beyond description.

How... does... this... affect... me? Bando thought as he pitched forward, unable to even muster up the willpower to try and fight the effects of the pain. I... am... a... killer! I... should... be able... to... withstand... a little... pain. This... can't... be... possible...

"Damn... you... boy..." Bando whimpered as he finally hit the ground, completely incapacitated.

Gohan gazed down at his defeated opponent. He would never know what he'd done to him, but truthfully Gohan hadn't hit him that hard. If it had been slow enough to watch, any observer would have seen Gohan lightly slap Bando with only the barest of taps, however... the true damage came from internal wounds. During their brief contact, Gohan had irradiated Bando's body with ki, drawing on enough force to keep him still among the living but ensure that there would be so much damage inside that he wouldn't be getting up for a while.

"You may live," Gohan told the beaten soldier, "but you won't be moving anytime soon. I hope you learn from this. I don't take kindly to threats against people I care about, and if you try and hurt Nyuu-san again, if you push me hard enough, you won't like what happens."

Suddenly, Gohan caught sight of something in his peripheral vision, and he turned to see Takenouchi aiming a bazooka at him.

"DIE, YOU FUCKING MONSTER!" he screamed at Gohan, launching the bazooka's missile at him.

Knowing that this other soldier wouldn't learn except through bitter experience, Gohan stuck his palm out and thrust it forward, hurling a wall of solid force at the incoming missile — to Takenouchi's infinite, heart-stopping horror, the wave of force had pushed the missile back, changing its trajectory, so that it was now heading straight for him!

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no!" he said, turning and running, in vain, to avoid the imminent explosion.

Seemingly in slow motion, the missile hit, and a concussive force ripped the ground apart as it tossed Takenouchi into the air like a rag doll. Flopping bonelessly through the air, Takenouchi was reacquainted with the ground rather violently, crashing into the hard surface of the earth as the world around him spun and twisted in his field of vision — it was like being on the world's most insane roller coaster ride. Judging from the pain shooting through his arms and legs, he must've broken his bones and dislocated his arm and his shoulder and he probably had more than a few fractures, too. For a few moments, he just lay there, disoriented and wishing the loud ringing in his ears would go away.

However, determination — or, as some may say, sheer stubbornness — won out in the end, and slowly, limping through the pain, with blood dripping from his mouth and smoke rising from the charred remnants of his body armor, Takenouchi writhed and squirmed and struggled up into a standing position, his whole body wriggling and jerking, as if in tune to some unheard music. With only sheer grit and will, the injured soldier limped forward, his feet dragging behind him.

I will NOT die this way! he thought brokenly. I will not let those murderers get away with it! They will pay! They must all suffer! I will make them all suffer a thousand deaths for the pain that they have caused me! For the honor of my dead wife and daughter!

Gohan just stared at the approaching soldier. It was quite clear he wasn't going to stop, that he would continue to force his body through hell in a vain attempt to get close to him, but why? Isn't it obvious to him that he can't win? Gohan thought. He's wounded, and I'm in peak condition, and even before that, he and his friends weren't doing too well to begin with.

And then, the man spoke.

"I... will... make you all... suffer... for what you have done to me..." he rasped. "There will be... no escaping... my divine wrath."

What the hell is he talking about? Gohan wondered. What could have happened to make him like this? He's talking like it's personal.

"No... Diclonius... will make it past me... again..." he continued, his strength fading the more he moved, and Gohan knew he was seconds away from blacking out, but it was his words which intrigued him the most.

"A Diclonius?" he repeated, blinking. "What's that?"

"Don't... play... dumb... you... mother... fucker..." Takenouchi growled, falling down to his knees. He glared up at Gohan, shooting daggers at the demi-Saiyan, and if looks could have killed, Gohan would have been three feet under. "You... and... all... your... kind... must... die..."

And with that, he slumped over, no longer able to maintain consciousness.

"This is getting really bizarre," Gohan said. "Who are these people? What did they want with Nyuu?" And then he turned his attention back to what Takenouchi had told him. "A Diclonius? Is that what Nyuu is? So then she really is an alien, like me and Goten. Or... maybe she is a hybrid. But, what about that soldier? Hmm... well, maybe a Diclonius hurt him in the past and now he wants to take revenge on all of them. Hey, do you know anything about this, Nyuu? Nyuu?"

But there was silence, and Gohan turned to discover that Nyuu was gone!

"Nyuu!" Gohan cried. "Nyuu, where are you?! Nyuu!"

But it was no use. Realizing she most likely wouldn't have left on her own, Gohan glanced around, focusing his ki sense on the surrounding areas. Wherever she was, she couldn't have gotten very far. After a few minutes, Gohan caught it, and he turned towards it.

"There's a faint power level moving in that direction, and it feels familiar," Gohan muttered.

And then he recognized it. It's Nyuu, he thought. His eyes widened. And she's scared. I can feel it even from here!

Taking to the skies, Gohan instantly flew off towards her ki with a burst of sudden speed.

"Hang on, Nyuu, I'm coming!"

Goten led Kouta through side streets and down alley ways, and at first, it seemed that the little boy was leading Kouta aimlessly through the deserted passages and empty sidewalks of Kamakura, but when he would pose this query to Goten, the tiny child just said, "Come on, it's only a little bit farther!" and as they moved farther and farther into the town Kouta could see that their trek did indeed have a direction; they were heading straight for the Enoshima Electric Railway Station.

As they stepped onto the platform, Kouta glanced down at the boy walking alongside him, with his tail wagging happily and seeming very carefree. I don't understand, how can he be so certain Yuka is at this train station? the dark-haired teen thought. Is he just a bloodhound or something? I don't know, I don't see her anywhere around this place!

"Um, Goten, are you sure —" he began tentatively.

"Come on, just a bit farther now!" Goten insisted as they made their way through the milling crowds.

Kouta sighed, but knew he had no choice but to follow Goten's lead.

As they moved along the platform, Kouta noticed one thing; there seemed to be an inordinate amount of police officers out tonight. He remembered the conversation he had had with those two cops who had come to his front door and his suspicion deepened. What are they all doing out here? Does this have something to do with Nyuu-san or Gohan-san? I have the feeling those two detectives weren't telling me the complete story. Kouta felt like bashing his head in against a wall. Oh, this is all so complicated! All I wanted to do was research biology in college and see my cousin again for the first time in eight years!

Maybe if he listened to some of what they were saying, then he may learn something that would shed some light on their behavior. So that was what he did — as they passed the milling policemen on the train platform, he kept his ears perked up to see if he could hear what they were saying and as he listened, some strange stories floated back to his ears.

"That's right, he took down the Ao Ookami street gang all by himself!"

"Saved a girl and her boyfriend from being killed..."

"They say that the boy had golden hair and green eyes."

"How disgraceful! Just like those Yakuza mobsters!"

"No one really knows who he is or where he came from..."

"Is it true? Can this boy really fly and dodge bullets?"

"It's gotta be some sort of hoax. No one has that kind of power."

Kouta tuned out the conversation, now more intrigued than ever. Someone with super strength and golden hair, who can fly, and goes around helping people... sounds like a superhero from one of those American comic books. Or a Shonen hero. I wonder who he is, if he's real. Perhaps that officer is right and this is just an elaborate stunt.

"Hey, Onee-chan!" Goten called, and Kouta jumped, suddenly jerked back to the present. "Onee-chan, we're over here! Onee-chan!"

Sure enough, his brown-haired cousin wandered over, carrying an umbrella with her. And if Kouta had been surprised, that was nothing to what he felt now — in a town filled with hundreds of people, with absolutely no way to know where she was without calling her on a cell phone first, this little child had somehow managed to pinpoint Yuka's location with unerring accuracy; it didn't seem to be a matter of dumb luck, either; he had seemed so calm and sure of himself. He'd known where Yuka was. He'd known. How the hell did he know that?

"Kouta-kun? Goten-chan?" she said. "What are you two doing out in this weather? And how did you even find me?"

"Yes, good question," Kouta admitted, turning his gaze back to the little boy. "How did you —?"

But he had only barely begun before Goten interrupted him.

"Onee-chan! Onee-chan!" he cried excitedly, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. "We found Nyuu-san!"

"Really?" Yuka said. "Good work! Let me guess, she's down by the beach?"

"Yes," Goten said, deflating rapidly. "How did you know?"

Yuka chuckled. "I just now figured it out." She turned to look at her cousin. "I think she was sad that she hurt your feelings, Kouta-kun, so she went down to the beach to try and find a new seashell for you."

"Oh, you really think so?" Kouta asked, now distracted from the mystery surrounding Goten as a new wave of sudden guilt threatened to overwhelm him. I have to find Nyuu! I... I have to say I'm sorry.

"Nii-chan is gonna bring Nyuu-san back to the inn, and he wants us to..." Goten began.

Just then, however, the tiny Saiyan cut off mid-sentence as he whipped his head around, staring off at something in the distance with great concentration, as though he could see it happening, even miles away.

"Goten-chan?" Yuka asked worriedly. "What's wrong?"

"Nii-chan!" Goten cried, and without warning, the little half-Saiyan took off running.

"Goten, wait, what's the matter?" Yuka asked.

"Quickly, follow him!" Kouta said.

And with that, both cousins sped off after the little boy.

Satou was very confused. A dutiful and loyal officer of the SAT, he nonetheless found himself conflicted on the issue of the young girl. He turned to stare at her, even as he dragged her down along the shore line. She didn't seem evil, or cruel, or dangerous, or any negative connotation one would use to describe her. She seemed... innocent. Terrified. As a soldier, Satou would carry out any order given to him to the best of his abilities, but... this would be the first time that he ever killed somebody that he felt a pang of conscience about it. Most of the enemies he fought were fully capable of holding their own. It was kill or be killed. This girl looked helpless.

"Nyuu, Nyuu, Nyuu!" the girl cried miserably, struggling against the stronger man's grip.

Reaching a deserted patch of beach further from the buildings and condominiums that made up the shoreline of Kamakura, Satou knew now was the time to receive his orders. Tossing the girl to the sand, he withdrew a tiny radio from his belt and keyed into the right frequency.

"Report, Satou," the voice on the other end of the line said brusquely.

Satou straightened up; never mind they couldn't see him, it was still proper discipline. "Sir, a situation has arisen with Sergeant Bando and Private Takenouchi, however, I have located the target and have her in custody. Your orders, sir?"

"Neutralize the target," the voice on the other end said. "That is your primary objective."

"Kill her?" Satou said. "But, she seems harmless, Commander. Is it really necessary to —"

"Do you wanna be thrown in the brig for insubordination and spend the next twenty years in prison?" the Commander barked.

"No, sir!" Satou said, shaking his head, even though they couldn't see him.

"Then carry out the orders that you have been given!" the Commander snapped.

"Yes, sir!" Satou said as the line went dead.

Clipping the radio back to his belt, Satou turned to glance at the pink-haired girl, now cowering there, eyes wide and fearful as she stared up at him. Satou winced. This was not going to be pleasant, but he was a master at suppressing his emotions. He would do what needed to be done, but not even his unflinching devotion to duty would prevent him from apologizing, to seek the pardon of the poor victim whose life he was now forced to take.

"I'm sorry, Miss, but I'm just carrying out my orders," he said, only the slightest hint of a waver in his voice indicating the regret he would soon feel at the cruel act that he was about to commit for his nation.

"Nyuu...?" the girl whimpered, her eyes widening, as though she could somehow understand what was going on. "Nyuu..."

Pulling out his gun, Satou depressed the safety, cocked the handle, pulled the trigger back, and...

I've got to hurry! Gohan thought desperately. He could feel a sudden spike from Nyuu's aura which could only mean that she was afraid. No, not afraid — deathly terrified. Whatever was happening to her, it was bad, and Gohan knew with a warrior's experience that Nyuu had only a minute, possibly a few, before it was all over. His new friend, a girl he had grown to like quite a lot, was going to die. No, not again! I WON'T let it happen again!

Finally locating her in an isolated stretch of sandy beach far from Kamakura, Gohan came in for a landing, aura blazing around him, but he could see that it would already be too late; he was still weak from his injuries, and the soldier from before was standing above her, pistol cocked and ready to shoot. He was going to kill Nyuu in front of him!

"NO, DON'T!" Gohan shouted desperately.

And then... the unexpected happened.

As Gohan watched, the unfortunate soldier's head popped off in a spray of crimson red blood, and the body, now totally limp without the connections to its brain, fell like a marionette with all its strings cut.

Shocked beyond belief at what he had just witnessed, Gohan shot down to land a few feet away from Nyuu — and the body. Gohan could sense it — the soldier was dead. But how? And then Gohan gasped as he sensed an increase in Nyuu's power level. That dark inner presence from before seemed to spread outwards through her till it completely enveloped her entire body as the happy, innocent, cheerful, fun-loving presence which he knew to be the sweet Nyuu was ruthlessly shoved, pushed, and pressed deeper and deeper inside until it felt as if she was no more.

"N-Nyuu-san?" Gohan asked, confused. "What's going on?"

Slowly, ever so slowly, with a deliberate looseness, as though her entire body were a puppet, Nyuu rose, moving upright until she was standing totally level with Gohan. Her head was bowed, but, with the same exact, deliberate slowness she had shown before, Nyuu lifted her head until she was facing Gohan, and as her features came more into focus, Gohan was stunned at what he saw.

Glaring gloomily at him from beneath the pink-colored bangs were twin daggers filled with malicious hatred. Gazing into Nyuu's eyes now, it was like a switch had been thrown; they were no longer wide, cute, and bubbly; they were narrow, cruel, hateful, as if they hated him and everyone and everything else in the world.

"N-Nyuu?" Gohan said, making to move closer to her. "What's the matter...?"

And then, she spoke.

"Don't... call... me... that..."

Chapter Text

Kouta and Yuka rushed down the beach, looking for Goten.

"Where is he?" Kouta wondered. "He just disappeared!"

"I could have sworn I saw him heading in this direction," Yuka said.

And just then, a strong gust of wind flared up. Unprepared, Yuka struggled against the gale as her umbrella was torn from her hands and tumbled away on the strong nightly breeze. Blinking after the umbrella for a few seconds, Yuka turned to her cousin.

"We need to find Goten-chan," Yuka said urgently. "Something's wrong with him, I just know it!"

"Yeah, he did look very worried," Kouta admitted.

No, more than worried, he thought as he recalled Goten's wide, terror-filled eyes. He was terrified. Yuka's right! Something is wrong!

"Come on, hurry, Kouta-kun!" Yuka said, latching onto Kouta's arm and dragging him down the beach. "We need to find him!"

Kouta glanced off at the far-distant stars in the night sky as Yuka dragged him, the storm having long ago cleared up, worried for Nyuu and Goten, and only a single thought crossed his mind as Kouta sent a silent prayer to any god or supernatural force which may be listening.

Please let them be okay...

Mayu was very confused. She had heard gunfire and strange, otherworldly sounds coming from this direction, and she was scared and knew deep down in her bones that this was most likely a very, very bad idea, but... she just couldn't walk away. She couldn't. In the first place, she was too curious not to. What exactly had happened? Why was someone shooting and what were those weird sounds? Was somebody trying to murder someone else? And secondly, somebody may be hurt or even dying, and if there was even a small chance she could help them and save a life, then she had to take that chance.

The homeless girl walked all down the beach, searching for clues or something else, until, finally, she stumbled upon two prone forms lying on the beach, both spread a fairly far distance apart from each other.

"Oh my goodness!" Mayu cried. "What happened?"

She rushed to the first man. He looked fine save for the fact that he was hunched over in what seemed like a very painful posture, both his hands clutched to his stomach and curled up into a fetal position, like an infant child still in the womb. Feeling both intrigued and confused at the same time, wondering what on Earth could have happened to him, Mayu placed her hands on the man and rocked him gently.

"Excuse me, but what happened to you?" she asked.

The man said nothing, and Mayu was beginning to grow concerned.

"Sir?" the dark-haired girl pressed, more insistent than before.

And then, the man seemed to stir, wincing and shivering, as though in pain.

"I'll... get you... boy..." he whimpered, sounding as if he was in total agony.

"Is everything all right?" she asked. "Are you wounded?"

"I'll kill you..." he whispered, seemingly oblivious to Mayu's words. "I'll fucking kill you, boy!"

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but is everything okay?" Mayu insisted. "Are you hurt?"

It seemed that her words finally penetrated Bando's skull, and slowly, as though struggling to make it work, he turned his head to her.

"Who... are... you?" he gasped, fighting to stay conscious.

"I'm Mayu," the homeless girl said. "Just hold on. I'm gonna try to help you."

Glancing off further down the shore line, Mayu quickly left him and sought out the other soldier. As Mayu made her way closer the girl felt her stomach turn as the scent of both burned flesh and charred cloth assaulted her nostrils. When she had gotten close enough to the other man, she gasped out loud — she really couldn't help herself.

The man's clothes were shredded and ripped with smoke rising from them and gaping holes torn in them that showed burned and bloodied flesh. Some of his limbs were poking out in strange angles, and there was probably a lot of broken bones and internal injuries as well. Mayu was trying hard not to vomit, but being this close to so much reeking flesh, it was hard to keep her composure.

"What in the world could have happened to them?" she said out loud.

However, she soon realized finding out was secondary — these men needed help, and desperately. Rushing back over to the Bando, Mayu leaned in close to him, and laid a gentle hand upon his shoulder. He stared at her through eyes glazed over with pain.

"I'm going to go get an ambulance," she informed him. "You and your friend stay here!"

And Mayu jumped up and raced off down the beach, heading in the direction of Kamakura. She knew a poorly dressed girl such as herself would no doubt be easy prey for predators and the town pedophiles, but she had to help them. Suddenly, she tripped over something, and Mayu stumbled forward, falling flat onto her face; fighting back tears and reminding herself that whatever had tripped her up hadn't done it intentionally, Mayu glanced back, looking around for whatever did so, and she found an umbrella sticking out of the tightly packed sand.

Now curious, wondering how on Earth a mundane device such as this had ended up there, the dark-haired girl reached forward and picked it up — the words "Kaede House" could be seen etched onto the handle. They must be the owners, she realized. I better keep this, at least until I've helped those poor men, then I should return this. Whoever lost it must be missing it.

Clutching onto the umbrella, Mayu got to her feet again and set off, narrowly missing the little boy that ran by a few seconds later...

"Don't... call... me... that..."

"But... but why?" Gohan asked, trying not to let the hurt he felt show on his face. "That's your name, isn't it?"

He made to take a step forward, however, before he did, something shot out of Nyuu's body, heading straight for him! Jumping backwards instinctively, Gohan managed to keep his footing and the half-Saiyan gaped in complete shock and awe at what he was seeing — intangible see-through arms seemed to be sprouting out of Nyuu's upper torso, seemingly with the texture of ghostly vapor.

"What are those things?" Gohan said. "Arms? Nyuu, what are you doing?"

The girl just regarded him with a cold gaze before lashing out at him again with her arms, and Gohan, feeling that nothing good could come from them, leaped to avoid them, observing them with his ki sense as they passed within inches of him. They feel like weird, like nothing I've encountered before, he thought. Some kind of combination of mental energy and ki? I... I had no idea that Nyuu had this sort of ability!

In his weakened state, he didn't know if they were strong enough to hurt him, but, he wasn't eager to find out. The arms were everywhere around him, jabbing at him from various angles in an attempt to gain purchase on his skin so they could harm him. Realizing that he needed to get away from Nyuu's reach, Gohan jumped back a dozen meters.

"Nyuu, what are you doing?" Gohan asked. "What's wrong?"

The girl said nothing, setting off towards him, her gait slow and uneven, as though she was out of practice walking like normal human beings did. Gohan could only stare at her with total bewilderment as she approached.

What the hell is wrong with her? he wondered.

"Nyuu, please, talk to me!" Gohan begged her. "Why are you doing this?"

The girl glared at him through her bangs.

"You... and all the rest of your kind... deserve to die. I will make you pay for what you've done to us," she rasped angrily.

"What are you talking about?" Gohan demanded. "I haven't done anything to you! Nyuu, I just want to help you!"

"Lies," the girl hissed. "You and your filthy race don't give a fuck about me and my kin..."

This is getting really bizarre, Gohan thought. Why does she sound so angry? What on Earth could have happened to her? Does she just have manic episodes of something? Maybe she is bipolar. Well, whatever it is, I have to reach her somehow.

"Nyuu, I promise, I'm not going to hurt you, but I don't want to fight you," Gohan said. "Please don't make me choose that."

Reaching out with her vectors, the girl grabbed a nearby boulder, tearing it away from the ground easily, and lobbed it at him — Gohan jumped to the side, to avoid getting hit with it, but, by that time, Nyuu had already grabbed other objects around her to use as projectiles — trees, benches, garbage cans, all of which Gohan dodged with minimal effort, and to be honest, Gohan was beginning to get a little annoyed.

"Nyuu, please stop!" Gohan said, unable to hide the hurt in his voice anymore. "Just stop! Please!"

"You're fast, but you can't escape me forever," the girl growled. "I'll hit you eventually."

"But why?" Gohan asked. "Please Nyuu, can't we just talk about this? What's bothering you? Maybe I can help."

"I will not be fooled by your lies!" Nyuu said darkly. "You're just like all the rest! No human has ever cared about me before."

"Th-That's not true!" Gohan insisted. "Nyuu, I care about you. Kouta cares about you. Yuka cares about you."

Suddenly, the girl stopped in her tracks, her eyes widening.

"What... did you just say...?" she muttered.

"What? We care about you, Nyuu," Gohan said simply. "We just wanna take you home, that's all."

"That name... repeat that name..." Nyuu said as her face twisted into an expression of mixed emotions; fear, hope, longing, dread, grief.

"Wh-What name?" Gohan asked her, surprised to see such an obvious display of raw pain on the pinkette's face.

"That name!" Nyuu yelled urgently, shocking the Saiyan hybrid with how desperate she sounded. "Tell me! What did you say?"

"Kouta and Yuka," Gohan repeated. "The ones who took us in."

Seemingly losing interest in the boy in front of her, Nyuu fell to her knees, face contorted and body limp, as though it physically hurt her just to remain standing. Gohan watched with increasing puzzlement and mounting concern. What is going on here? he wondered. When I said Kouta and Yuka's name, it's like something changed inside her. Does she know them? Or does she know people with similar names? What the hell is going on here? This is all just so confusing!

Meanwhile, "Nyuu" was now sitting on the ground, eyes watery and heart in complete turmoil as her thoughts grew pensive. It's him... it's really him... I-I never thought this day would come. I've been reunited with Kouta-kun again... but can I-I really make amends for what I did to him all those years ago...? All I ever wanted was just to be loved, and... and I... oh, Kouta, I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, but I owe it to you to say sorry. For the happy times we shared together.

But just then, a shadow fell over her, and Lucy glanced up at it, but before she could attack, the boy who had walked closer to her, Gohan, knelt down and draped a warm, comforting arm around her shoulder.

His gesture... it seems almost... almost comradely... she thought.

"Nyuu, whatever's wrong, whatever's bothering you, I promise you don't have to be worried," he said earnestly. "I'm your friend. Friends support one another. If you need some kind of help, just tell me. I'll help you in any way I can. Please, just trust me."

His eyes... Lucy thought as she stared into them. Th-They seem so... so sincere. Like Kouta-kun's...

"As if he and his kind care about us," the voice, that damnable voice that had ruined everything for her and Kouta, hissed in the back of her mind, like a softly whispering serpent, injecting venom into her mind. "He's just lying to you, my dear. Trying to use you. Like all the others. No one could love you after you tried to kill them."

Yes, you're right, Lucy thought, eyes glazing over. He doesn't care about me at all...

But then, before Lucy could do something, strong, powerfully built arms reached out and engulfed her upper torso, pulling the horned girl into a tight, compassionate hug. Lucy felt her emotions twist violently at this emotional display. She... she hadn't been hugged before, and it was a new, alien experience... so strange, but... but it WAS what she had wanted, all her life...

Why... why is he hugging me after I tried to kill him? she thought.

And then the boy spoke again as Lucy struggled to try to find out what was going on.

"I'm not lying," he whispered. "I do care for you, Nyuu. Don't be this way. Why can't you just tell me what's wrong?"

At that moment, though, something fell out of Lucy's shirt, and she glanced down to discover the seashell the fool had been gathering for Kouta lying there, glinting from the glow of the half-moon and stars. Lucy felt a thousand emotions overwhelm her, grief, longing, despair, hatred, and through it all a desire to be loved, to be accepted and held for the first time as someone just told her everything was going to be okay... and then slowly, oh so slowly, as though she were afraid, Lucy tenderly wrapped her arms around Gohan's, moist tears sliding down her cheeks as she vented all the pain and sorrow in her heart that the sight of the seashell had brought her... more pain she caused Kouta.

She needed this. She needed to be hugged, to be cared for, at least once in her miserable life; even if he was the same, and even if he was lying to her, it was still what she had wanted, and the pull of kindness being offered by this strange boy was too much for her to resist, and she just cried and cried, taking care to avoid weeping out loud, so that the teen would not hear her crying, her desire to avoid seeming weak coming through strong even now, but it was all in vain due to Gohan's enhanced hearing, and he frowned as he heard her quietly sobbing.

"Hey, Nyuu, are you okay?" Gohan asked.

Suddenly, Gohan could sense the dark presence vanishing, melting away, as slowly, a familiar, bubbly personality worked its way to the surface. And Nyuu's head shot up as Gohan sensed great confusion emanating from her ki.

"Nyuu?" the girl whispered, looking back and forth, as if trying to find out where she was.

The crimson-eyed girl caught sight of Gohan, and her arms still wrapped around him, and she grinned widely and squeezed the Saiyan hybrid as the cheerful girl let out a happy and loud squeal of delight.


"Oh, hey, are you feeling better?" Gohan said with a chuckle.

"Nyuu..." she said, pressing herself close to Gohan. "Nyuuuuuuuu..."

Just then, Gohan sensed a powerful and familiar ki approaching... it was Goten! Turning his head around, he saw his baby brother running up, looking very worried, and Gohan could sense the fear from his ki.

"Nii-chan, are you all right?" he cried, racing up so that he was standing alongside his older brother.

"What do you mean?" Gohan asked, blinking in confusion.

"You turned Super Saiyan 2!" Goten cried urgently. "Why? What was going on? Was there some kind of trouble! Please tell me!"

"Nyuu?" Nyuu said, tilting her head to the side in puzzled curiosity.

Gohan felt like he'd been kicked in the stomach as he gently disengaged from Nyuu and turned to face his brother fully. Of course he should have known that Goten would have sensed him transforming and that he'd be worried about his brother's well-being. How could he have missed something so painfully obvious?

I'm an idiot! Gohan raged mentally. I never even considered what might happen to Goten! I was just so enraged over what those soldiers were saying that I... I-I lost control! How could I have done that? I've already lost control in that form once before and my p-poor father paid the price for it... damn it... THINK before you act, Gohan! You have a responsibility to your only surviving family!

Putting on a reassuring smile that felt as fake as it was to convince Goten, Gohan reached out and patted the younger boy on his head as he grabbed him and pulled the little half-Saiyan into a tight embrace.

"Hey, you don't have to worry, Goten-chan," he said softly. "I'm fine. Aren't I always there for you?"

"Yeah," Goten said, feeling safe in his brother's arms, like he always did. "I was j-just... so afraid for you, Nii-chan. I... I've already lost my family. I never knew Daddy... you're all I have left. I... don't want to lose you too. I can't lose you, Nii-chan. I j-j-just c-can't..."

And the tiny child began weeping helplessly in Gohan's strong arms.

"You haven't lost me yet, Goten-chan," the older boy said. "I promise, I'll always try my hardest to survive, and be strong, for your sake. You need me, Goten, and I'll always be there for you to look after you and to protect you. Y-You're all I have left, too. We need each other. And I won't let you down."

Goten glanced up at Gohan, eyes sparkling with tears, but the little boy had stopped crying. "Thank you... thank you so much, Nii-chan," he said, a bright smile breaking out across his cheeks. "I love you."

Gohan tightened his grip around Goten. "And I love you too."

Just then, there was a shout from far away; it sounded like a female voice.

"Goten! Gohan! There you two are!"

Gohan broke the hug and looked up to find Yuka and Kouta both standing there, looking relived and angry at the same time.

"Yuka-san! Kouta-san!" Gohan said. "What are you two doing here?"

He was just glad he had dropped the Super Saiyan 2 transformation when he comforted Nyuu — if they had come and found him with spiky glowing golden hair and an electric aura he didn't even want to think about the consequences.

"Well, Goten raced off to find you, looking very worried," Kouta explained. "We were concerned something might have happened to you or to Nyuu-san — especially since he called your name; it was almost like he knew you were here..."

Gohan almost kicked himself; how could he have been so stupid! Goten was with Yuka and Kouta, and of course he would have come to investigate, bringing them along with him. And now... here they were, only a hair's breath away from discovery and being told to get lost, left to find for themselves in a cruel and unforgiving reality, all alone, with no one to watch out for them...

But then — thank sweet merciful Kami — a distraction came in the form of Nyuu.

"NYUU!" the pink-haired girl cried, leaping up and racing over to Kouta as she threw her arms around him. "Nyuu! Nyuu!"

Kouta looked shocked at the overemotional display of happiness the innocent woman-child was showing him, but after a moment he smiled and hugged her back, apparently taken by her innocence and joy, like Gohan had. And from the sidelines, Yuka watched the whole thing, her arms folded and her expression sour, tapping her foot impatiently.

You don't have to hold on to her for that long! the fiery brunette vented inside. Okay, I AM happy to see her too; it was very scary, not knowing where she was, but... does he have to be this happy to see her?

After a few minutes, Nyuu released Kouta, and then shifted her position, looking, surprisingly, bashful for the first time Gohan had known her — he wondered what was causing her to act this way.

"Nyuu?" Kouta said, now noticing her sudden change of state. "What's the matter?"

And then, tentatively, the pinkette held up her hand, palm open, to reveal the shell Nyuu had been searching for, the one she had picked up from the ground upon reawakening. Tears shone in her eyes as her innocent mind hoped this would make up for whatever pain she caused the boy — Kouta's eyes widened upon seeing Nyuu's shell; even Yuka glanced over with sudden interest, despite her jealousy, and Gohan stared hopefully at Kouta, wondering whether he would accept this as an apology for breaking the shell which had been so precious to him.

Kouta took the shell from her with trembling hands, a flood of memories threatening to overwhelm him, and for the first time, he realized how deep the pain from Kanae's death ran, but... with Nyuu's gift, he could also see how despite the bitterness and the pain, there was also hope, the chance for a better future.

Gazing at the horned girl with tears in his eyes, Kouta reached out and pulled her into a hug again, much to Nyuu's surprise.

"Nyuu?" she mewled.

"Thank you for this gift," he whispered into her ear. "And... I'm sorry. Can you ever forgive me?"

"NYUU!" the innocent girl chirped happily. "NYUU! NYUU!"

Kouta chuckled and let her go. Meanwhile, Yuka was now looking at Kouta sadly, wondering what all this meant. Is it possible he loves her more than me? she thought. But... but... I'm the one he promised to marry! We... we're supposed to have a family together. But Yuka also realized how selfish this desire was, and her heart seemed to be torn in two. If I really love Kouta, then how can I stand in the way of him being truly happy? It's wrong. But... but it hurtssomuch. I-I've been waiting for so long... oh, Kouta, please, I can't lose you. Do you love me, or do you love her?

With that, all the happy recollections, feelings of times long gone by and the memories buried under the years of growth slowly made their way back to the surface of her mind as, with a slightly pained smile, Yuka remembered...

A young Yuka, clad in a kimono, was standing with her mother and father at the Gokurakuji Station, seeing off her two favorite cousins as another year spent together came to a close. Her cousins looked sad, but also really happy, as the pain of saying goodbye was tempered by the fact that they would see one another again.

"Kouta, come back next year, okay?" Yuka called as he, his sister, and their father moved to catch their train. "Don't forget about me!"

"Yeah, of course I'll come back next year!" Kouta yelled back to her, smiling tenderly. "After all, I like you!"

Yuka let out a suppressed sniff as those happy times threatened to overwhelm her mind. And then she felt a shadow fall over her, and she looked up to find Gohan standing there, a concerned look on his face.

"Hey, are you all right, Yuka-san?" he asked.

"Nothing, I'm fine," Yuka insisted. "I-I was just a little disoriented, that's all."

Gohan tilted his head, wondering whether she was telling him the truth, and then he gently told her, "Yuka, I know how sometimes there are things you don't wanna tell other people, and I... I'm not trying to butt into your private affairs, but I... well, I just wanna let you know, if there's something you need to talk about with somebody, you can talk to me."

Yuka just stared at Gohan in confusion. Why does he care so much about me? Why is this so important to him?

"Thank you, Gohan," she said softly. "I'll consider that."

Gohan just smiled at her, and then, suddenly a whining little boy's voice interrupted the still night air.

"Nii-chan, I'm hungry!" he complained. "Please, can we eat?"

All of them stared over at Goten, who looked like he could positively collapse from hunger, hands clutching at his stomach.

"That's right, we never had dinner," Yuka said. "Let's head back to the inn and I'll whip something up for you, okay, Goten-chan?"

"YAAAAAAAAAY!" the little boy cried joyfully. "Thank you, thank you, thank you! You're the best, Onee-chan!"

Yuka chuckled a little at the boy's enthusiasm. "I'm glad you think so."

Kouta took Nyuu's hand, and the pinkette glanced at him confusedly.

"Nyuu?" she wondered, staring at him.

"Come on, you must be hungry too," he said gently. "It's been hours since we had those rice balls."

"Nyuu!" the girl said. "Nyuu, Nyuu!"

Yuka folded her arms across her chest and glared off to the side.

"Come on, let's get going," Gohan said. "No sense in waiting."

And with a happy Nyuu, an amused Kouta, an anxious Goten, a pensive Gohan, and an angry Yuka, the five set off back towards the inn, with Gohan still staring at the seemingly content Nyuu, deep in thought.

She is very mysterious, Gohan mused. I wonder what's up with the sudden shift between personalities? I'll just have to watch and see how this plays out. And if I have to protect Kouta and Yuka, then so be it.

He gazed up at the clear night sky, noticing for the first time how the storm seemed to have mostly blown itself out, and his thoughts turned melancholy under a million stars and the rare sight of a shooting star.

It's what Dad would have done.

"So they failed," Kurama said dispassionately as he and Shirakawa walked down the cold, sterile halls, heading to the location that Bando and Takenouchi had been taken to after the local emergency services had recovered their prone, defeated forms.

"Yes," Shirakawa told him. "So it seems. Bando's team was taken down, but the only casualty was Private Satou."

"Then are we sure they encountered Lucy after all?" Kurama inquired. "If it were her, they'd all be dead by now."

"Of the two, Private Takenouchi is the least wounded, and when he was awake earlier, he confirmed a Diclonius fitting Lucy's description was present at the scene but he wouldn't say anything more before falling unconscious," Shirakawa said.

"I see," Kurama said as they stopped before a door.

Sliding his ID card through the reader on the left side of the door, a light beeped, identifying Kurama as who he said to be, and the metal door slid open. The man and woman entered what appeared to be a medical facility, where a doctor was still tending to the wounds of the two soldiers.

"Report, Doctor," Kurama said emotionlessly.

"Well, sir, Sergeant Bando is in worse shape," the doctor informed him. "He sustained a lot of massive internal injuries, but the odd part is how carefully attenuated that damage seems. It's as if something created strong vibrations through his body that disrupted his internal organs, but the wave was specifically calibrated to ensure he didn't die, only that he was incapacitated."

"Lucy?" Shirakawa asked, glancing sideways at Kurama.

"Perhaps," he offered softly, adjusting his glasses. "It is possible the Queen has learned some new tricks since she has escaped — this kind of damage is consistent with the abilities her vectors are capable of."

"What about Private Takenouchi?" Shirakawa asked the doctor.

"That is more easily explained," the doctor explained. "His clothes seemed to have been fused with large parts of his body, and the blunt force trauma, flash burns, organ damage, and bone fractures tell me he was caught in a very powerful blast, most likely the kind caused by military-grade explosives. Private Takenouchi was very lucky that he wasn't killed."

"What do you think could have happened to him?" Shirakawa asked Kurama, interested in his opinion. "Caught by his own bomb? Perhaps the Queen stole one of Bando's grenades and threw it back at him?"

"Maybe," Kurama said. He moved closer to Bando, Shirakawa trailing alongside him.

He stopped near the edge of Bando's bed. This close to the famed rogue soldier, he could make out his frenzied mutters, uttered urgently and furiously, almost as though Bando was having a bad dream — or, as it seemed more likely to Kurama, a flashback.

"I'll kill you, boy..." he whispered hurriedly under his breath. "You damn bastard! I'll kill you! I'll... kill you..."

"Sir?" Shirakawa asked, wondering what he would do now.

He turned to the doctor. "Keep treating them, Dr. Minamino, and alert us when they are conscious. I want to begin interrogating them."

"Of course, sir," Dr. Minamino said with a bow.

Kurama left the room with Shirakawa following him, leaving behind a very thoughtful doctor.

The group made it back to Kaede Inn mostly fine. Kouta was just relieved that they didn't run across any other police officers. Once they were inside the house, Yuka headed off to make some food for Goten and their other guests while both Gohan and Kouta took Nyuu into one of the many rooms of the house. Kouta noticed that Gohan and Nyuu, in particular, seemed quite drenched.

"You should change your clothes, Gohan-san," Kouta said. "You're soaking wet."

"All right, if you say so," Gohan said with a shrug as he pulled off the shirt he had been wearing.

"Wait, what are you doing?" Kouta asked as Gohan shucked off the shirt.

"Taking off my wet clothes," Gohan informed. "You just asked me to, Kouta-san, remember?"

"Yeah, but I didn't mean right here!" Kouta insisted. "I mean, you should go somewhere else to do that!"

"Well, okay, if you insist," Gohan said casually. "But we're both boys, so what does it matter?"

"Well, true, but I still think we should... oh, wow, Gohan, you're ripped!" Kouta said as he caught a glimpse of Gohan's torso for the first time; he had noticed it before, when they first found Gohan and his brother, but now, with his shirt removed, it was quite obvious how exceedingly well-developed and muscled the boy in front of him was.

Gohan glanced down at himself. "Oh yeah, heheheh. Well, what can you say? I love working out."

Kouta just stared enviously at him for a while, then he shook his head.

"I guess," he said, turning to glance at the shivering Nyuu, who looked, if anything, to be even wetter than Gohan; her clothes stuck to her tightly and her whole body seemed to be covered in a light sheen of water, giving her the appearance of a drowned puppy.

But that wasn't what caught Kouta and Gohan's attention then, however; the clothes pressed so closely against Nyuu's skin that there seemed to be no barrier protecting Nyuu's flesh at all, highlighting all of the forbidden locations which a boy (and some girls, too) would find attractive; her large well-formed breasts, her curving hips leading up to a slim, well-toned upper build, and her long, willowy legs. It was as if, for the first time, with the threat of the soldiers gone and concern for Nyuu's welfare soothed, that they finally noticed how revealing her state of dress was.

Gohan glanced away, blushing deeply and feeling guilty for daring to think of the innocent Nyuu that way. I... I can't be feeling this way!

"We need to give her a change of clothes, too," Kouta said — he walked over to the dresser nearby and pulled out some new clothes. Heading back over, looking anywhere but at Nyuu, he handed them to the thoroughly drenched girl. "Here, Nyuu, you have to put these on."

"Nyuu?" the girl said, confused.

"Kouta-san, she can't understand you, remember?" Gohan reminded him.

"Y-Yeah," Kouta said. "Oh Kami... I guess th-that means... w-we'll have to ch-change her ourselves."

Seeing how completely uncomfortable Kouta looked at the idea, Gohan's heart went out to him; he hated to see people suffer or hurt in any form, no matter how minor, and this wasn't any exception, and before he could really think about what he was saying the last words he wanted to speak popped out of his mouth.

"If you want, I can change her for you, Kouta-san," he said.

And then, instantly, once the words were said, he blushed. How the hell could I have said that? he berated himself angrily. Now Kouta-san is going to think that I'm a pervert! I... I can't change a girl my age! I'd have to see her naked! It'd be inappropriate!

But instantly, a grateful look came across Kouta's countenance. "Would you really do that for me, Gohan-san? It'd take a huge load off of my shoulders. No offense, but I don't want to be the one to do it."

Gohan could have fallen over from sheer relief when he realized that Kouta didn't think that he was a pervert, but he was still really nervous — having to take off a beautiful girl's clothes, seeing every inch of her exposed body and bare skin, especially with Gohan's rampant teenage hormones... it felt like more than he could handle. What the hell did I just agree to? he seethed inside.

Kouta handed Gohan the clothes Nyuu was to wear, and Gohan realized with a palpable sense of dread that he was committed, he was going to have to change Nyuu's clothes, but, maybe it wouldn't be so bad... No, stop that! Stop thinking such dirty thoughts!

"I'll be in the other room if you need me," Kouta said, and with that, he fled — er, hastened — from the room, leaving Gohan alone with the beautiful pinkette, who tilted her head in a sideways glance at Gohan.

"Nyuu?" she said, wearing her usual puzzled expression.

Gohan felt the heat rising in his face and his chest as he realized there really was no escape from it.

"N-N-Nyuu, I need to g-g-get your sh-shirt off," Gohan stammered.

"Nyuu?" she said, still looking confused.

"H-Here," Gohan said uneasily, reaching over and grabbing onto the bottom of Nyuu's wet shirt — with a frustrated look on his face, Gohan pulled the shirt up, revealing smooth, glistening bare flesh of a light, pale peach color as he took it off, and his face went beet red.

"Nyuu?" the girl said, not knowing what to do with her arms. "Nyuu?"

"C-C-Come on, I-I need t-t-to g-get it th-through y-your arms," Gohan instructed, the quiver in his voice the only sign of the tension he felt.


Under Gohan's guidance, the shirt was easily removed, leaving Nyuu sitting there topless as Gohan felt a burning heat gather in his body as he literally struggled not to ogle at the girl's large, round, rather firm boobs, the way they framed her lovely, shapely torso...

NO! Don't think that, Gohan! Gohan thought. Stop that! Stop it!

"N-Nyuu, I-I n-n-need y-you to move, I g-gotta get y-your sh-sh-shorts off," Gohan said, feeling his face burn from a combination of sheer embarrassment, wild desire, and squirming, intense shame.


"H-Here, th-this way, l-l-like th-this," Gohan said nervously, positioning Nyuu so that she was laying splayed out on the floor, her arms hanging lankly above her as those adorable, wide, oh so innocent red eyes gazed cluelessly up at him, and Gohan felt a sudden stirring from within his body as his groin began tightening up...

No, no, no, no, no, NOT HERE! No, stop that! Gohan thought desperately. I can't be doing this now! She's not fully undressed yet! I... I promised Kouta-san! I have to finish this and put on her new clothes!

"H-H-H-Here, I... I-I-I just g-gotta t-t-take off your c-clothes now," Gohan said as he slid his hands inside the top of her shorts. "P-Please believe m-me, I-I d-d-don't want t-to take advantage of you, Nyuu."

The girl stared directly into his warm, kind charcoal eyes, and suddenly, a bright smile lit up her face. "Nyuu!"

And with that, Gohan had no clue how, but he knew that Nyuu trusted him. If only I didn't not trust myself... he grumbled inside his head.

"O-Okay, here I go... r-r-ready, s-set... NOW!" Gohan said.

And he quickly slipped Nyuu's shorts down her long, slim legs, not giving himself time to enjoy the sensations of stripping the girl, trying to prevent his growing arousal from getting out of control. Unable to even look at the totally naked Nyuu, Gohan grabbed the pile of clothes Kouta had taken and reached forward blindly, trying to slip the yellow shirt over her head so that he could just kind of wing it from there.

"Where is y-your head... I-I can't s-s-seem t-to find it..." Gohan complained.

But in his zeal to hurry, he overextended himself and accidentally ended up falling forward... right on top of the naked Nyuu!

"Nyuu?" the horned girl said, looking surprised at the sudden, inexplicable feelings going through her body.

Gohan, meanwhile, was rapidly losing himself to the intense sensations raging through his body, the wild, frenzied passion, the burning, fiery lust, the desire to just grab her and just begin making love to her right there; her upper torso pressed up against his bare chest, igniting a thousand wonderful physical sensations in him.

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" he muttered quickly, and the half-Saiyan flailed around helplessly, trying to urgently extricate himself without touching any more flesh. "I-I'm so s-sorry, N-N-Nyuu!"

He managed to get himself untangled and flopped away... but as he was rising into a standing position, he didn't look where he was putting his hand, too eager to get away, and it landed right on top of Nyuu's right breast!

"Ah!" Gohan yelped in horrified shock, and his arm caught under Nyuu's back as he fell to the floor, taking Nyuu along with him so that the naked pink-haired girl was on top of the shirtless boy, her boobs smooshed into Gohan's equally exposed chest.

"Ohhhh... oh my God, I-I'm so s-s-sorry, N-Nyuu..." Gohan moaned in mortification.

"Nyuu..." the naked girl purred, and slowly, she reached down and latched onto Gohan's hand, the one which had been grasping her right breast, and brought it back to the same place it had been moments ago.

"Wh-Wh-What are y-you d-doing, Nyuu?" Gohan asked.

And then, to Gohan's complete and utter astonishment, Nyuu squeezed his hand over her breast, guiding the movements so that he was effectively fondling her, as she moaned and purred in response.

What the hell?! Gohan thought inside. What is she doing? Where did she pick this up?

Seemingly against his will, as though a stranger had suddenly taken control of his body and was making him do things he had absolutely no intention of doing, he heard his mouth say, "Y-You... you l-l-like that, Nyuu?"

"Nyuuuuuuuu..." the innocent girl purred happily.

With their bodies pressed so close together, the Saiyan hybrid was hard-pressed to keep the emotions raging throughout his body at bay, and he knew pretty soon, he was going to succumb, as he lay there, groping and fondling Nyuu's right boob, with a quite noticeable bulge forming in his pants...

N-No, he groaned mentally. I can't be doing this right now... right here. But she seems far from upset. It... it's making her happy. Does she really know what's going on? He shook himself. But that doesn't matter! I can't do it! I just can't! I... I can't... I can't... I can't...

As though his hormonally charged body was acting out of its own accord, he felt his right hand slide down the horned girl's totally naked back, tracing it down across well-toned, smooth, curving flesh and he moaned with unfulfilled longing. As his brain struggled to comprehend what was really happening, he cupped Nyuu's left buttock in his palm and started squeezing and fondling it, running the bottom of that hand through the crease in her bum as Nyuu squealed in sheer delight...

And then, an angry female voice jerked him out of his stupor.

"Having fun?"

As Kurama exited the room, Shirakawa followed him. For a few seconds, they said nothing, but her mind was racing with questions and it was hard to decide which one she apparently deemed of greater importance. Evidently, she decided on one as she just asked Kurama, "Have you heard the rumors of the golden-haired hero who was going around Kamakura helping out the police and stopping petty crimes?"

"Yes," Kurama said tightly, giving no hint to his true emotional state.

"Reports from the police said he has super strength and speed," Shirakawa said. "Do you think he was present at the scene?"

"If so, it would mean we have a new breed of Diclonius out there," Kurama responded dispassionately. "Perhaps he was, perhaps he was not, but the bigger issue now is what we do about Lucy. As gifted as she is at killing, I imagine she'll find it difficult to hide quietly."

Shirakawa nodded.

"We will wait till we debrief Sergeant Bando and Private Takenouchi, but it appears that we will have to resort to our secondary alternative," Kurama said. "It seems little more than a formality now — I have no doubt it my mind we will have to use Number Seven."

"I had hoped this moment wouldn't come," Shirakawa sighed.

The two came to a stop right outside a room with the large red number "7" stamped across it. A laboratory technician could be seen close by, monitoring data being displayed on the computer screen. Shirakawa and Kurama both glanced into the room. Kurama's glasses flashed, but he otherwise said nothing, though a gasp escaped from Shirakawa's mouth.

"What's her condition?" Kurama asked emotionlessly.

The technician shrugged.

"We've been performing some pretty severe experiments on her continuously," the technician said, a slight quiver in his voice revealing the state of his emotions. "I... I don't know if we can use her or not."

Kurama nodded, and all three just stared into the room. There, with legs splayed out and arms chained to a wall, was a naked teenage girl with a deep violet-pink shade of hair and twin horns — like Lucy. She was manacled to the wall as though she were nothing a slave or a wild animal, her beautiful body spattered with blood pooling around her in a puddle from wounds that looked no older than a couple of hours. The young girl lifted her head, revealing pained but innocent-looking eyes. And as though it cost her a great deal of energy, voice raspy from pain and exhaustion, the girl spoke.

"Pa... pa..."

Chapter Text

Gohan hadn't been this embarrassed in his whole life — there he was laying there on the floor, with Nyuu moaning and writhing on his chest like some of the girls straight out of Master Roshi's Hentai magazines that he had accidentally snuck peeks at, his hand clasped over Nyuu's round buttocks, and even worse, he was topless... right at the moment that Yuka entered that room; a more thoroughly humiliating situation, Gohan could not imagine, but he knew that he had to do something, to try and explain this — since it was quite obvious what this looked like.

"Y-Yuka-san..." he groaned, working in vain to get Nyuu off of him. "Th-This... th-this isn't really wh-what it l-l-looks like..."

Even to his own ears, the words sounded lame.

"Oh really?" Yuka responded in a deceptively polite tone, and Gohan practically shuddered with terror; any time a female used that tone, it didn't bode well for him. "And what would you call it when two teens are lying naked on the floor and fondling each other's bodies?"

Gohan winced; okay, put like that, it really seemed the way it appeared. Frantically, hoping to at least try and salvage what little dignity he had left, he worked his way out from under Nyuu, ignoring the last, glowing embers of the wave of passion which had so nearly consumed him. As he struggled away from her the horned girl slid off of him to the side and just knelt there, butt naked, with her luscious, perky breasts still firmed up, her features arranged into an expression of complete puzzlement as she tried desperately to comprehend why Gohan had extricated himself from her when Nyuu was enjoying it.

"Nyuu?" she chirped.

But Gohan couldn't focus on her right then. With his body now free and their situation in danger of deteriorating further, Gohan instantly shot to his feet, now desperate to explain where everything had all gone wrong, even if no explanation was possible.

"Listen, I-I-I'm sorry, b-but it's not wh-what you think!" he insisted. "Nyuu's clothes had to be ch-changed, and well..."

How much should I reveal? he wondered — he didn't want to alert Yuka to the fact that it had been Kouta's original idea, for it may mean Yuka would turn her wrath upon him, and in that instant, he knew his fate was sealed, for Gohan, kind boy he was, could not condemn Kouta to the pain and the humiliation that would be caused if his own cousin shouted at him for being a pervert — he would just have to take it.

"Look, I don't care what you do when you two are alone," the fiery brunette said, lying through her teeth and trying to suppress the wild emotions now raging through her body, feelings which confused her, "however... there is a child in the house and you have a DUTY to your younger brother NOT to act like a pervert in plain view where he can see it all!"

Gohan flinched — okay, he hadn't exactly thought of it in that way. Yuka was right and Goten could have walked in on them at any time. That would have required some serious explaining, and Gohan, as the one now responsible for his younger brother, honestly didn't know if he was ready for the "birds and the bees" discussion. However, before he could say anything, Yuka plowed on, apparently even more angry than Gohan had initially suspected.

"And next time before you begin groping girls, maybe you should try and find a private place to DO IT!" Yuka shouted, her face flaming red as she gave in and vented to all the torn, fierce, conflicted feelings in her heart. "Someplace where the WHOLE WORLD can't see you! I may not be living here but this is STILL my mother's house and I will NOT see you behave so... so... shamelessly!"


And just like that, Yuka slapped Gohan. The blow had no impact on him, of course, but the feeling that he had let Yuka down, that Gohan had disappointed her, even when she and Kouta had generously taken them in and sheltered him and his little brother, hurt worse than any physical injury, and he could only watch sadly, tail drooping with eyes downcast, as Yuka turned on her heel and stormed out of the room.

"Nyuu?" said the naked girl, absolutely clueless.

As Yuka marched furiously down the hallways of the Maple Inn, a thousand hot, intense, conflicting emotions now started burning and squirming their way through Yuka's conscience. Why... why does it bother me so much that he was with her? Kouta... Kouta is the one I love! Oh, Yuka, you idiot, you didn't have to be so harsh on him... but he was setting a very bad example — what if his brother had stumbled upon him? He shouldn't see those kinds of things! I mean, he is just a child! Gohan has a responsibility to that boy! Then again, it's not really my place to interfere. Is this being overprotective, or am I just a big hypocrite?

It was all quite confusing to Yuka, but, she was confident that with time, it would eventually be sorted out. All her childhood dreams and deepest desires would come true if she was merely patient enough. But, unbidden into her mind, unwanted and unwelcome, came the image of Gohan's sad, heartbroken face as she berated him, looking remarkably similar to Goten's, as she vented all her anger out on him for something Yuka didn't even quite understand herself, however...

She felt herself blushing as interspersed with those images came visions of Gohan's slender, muscular torso, the beautifully glistening biceps, those deliciously hard abs, the enlarged pectorals, as now Yuka found herself fantasizing about what lay beneath, his legs, that back, his butt, and what the mysterious Gohan really looked like near —

No, no, no, no, Yuka, bad girl! she chided herself. You can't be falling for him! You can't! You don't even know him!

And then Yuka sighed as she flopped down on her bed and just lay there, wondering what on Earth was wrong with her.

What am I going to do now?

The horned girl lay there, chained to the wall, naked as the day she was born and drenched in blood from gaping wounds spread all across her body. To say she was in pain was a serious understatement; she was wracked by mortal agony so severe it felt as if she could not even move a single inch without feeling the desire to scream. As she hung there, resisting the urge to cry, and hoping beyond hope that the pain would end sometime soon, her ears suddenly picked up something — the distinct sound of a door opening.

Slowly, fighting through the pain and the electric shock of her own broken bones and beaten muscles, limp from the exhaustion, hunger, and sheer, crushing hopelessness the girl lifted her head. A blurry form met her eyes, closing the door behind it, and walking closer to her, its shoes clacking with each and every step it took. The pinkette struggled to make sense of the approaching apparition, trying to get her eyes to focus as her head dipped, dropped, and lolled from side to side despite her best effort to control her shaking limbs, so disoriented and weary was she that she couldn't even start to put two thoughts together.

"Nana..." a soft voice — belonging to the shadow, apparently — whispered as it came closer and closer to her, a voice that sounded very familiar to the pink-haired girl — she knew that she had heard it somewhere before, long ago, perhaps some time before this horrible agony which had engulfed her entire world and filled her every waking moment, but... from where? Where had she heard the voice before?

And then, through a mind numbed with pain and senses clouded by confusion, with her body flopping bonelessly from chains and her limbs shattered and spirit broken, she remembered... she remembered...

"Pa... pa?" she asked.

The form had reached Nana, and it knelt down right in front of her. This near to her, she could see, through a dark, foggy haze, that the person was covered in the rags the humans wore called "clothing," in the style that her papa had told her was known as a "suit," a bluish-gray in color, with a rectangular wedge stuffed down into it — a "tie." Now fighting through the weariness that dragged at her head, Nana glanced up at the human's face, straining through the aches and the throbs of her smashed body to try and identify the man before her.

That face... it was of a light peach color, with the two rounded ovals over his eyes that Papa informed her were for correcting faulty vision — the hair was dark, framing his face, and came down over his eyes in bangs. And... as Nana forced her eyelids to stay open and her body to cooperate with her, she managed to claim a moment of lucidity from her mind, and she could clearly see those pupils... it was him.

"Papa... has come to see Nana?" she asked cautiously, unsure whether what she saw was real or if she was just imagining things.

"Nana-chan, are you okay?" the human asked, reaching forward and placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.

The awkwardness with which the human male touched her went unnoticed by the pinkette, as the physical contact served to convince her that what she was seeing, the person now kneeling right in front of her, was no illusion, no fevered trick conjured up by a drained, weary, and tired mind desperate for a few minutes' peace, but real, a tangible corporeal entity, right down to the eye-correction devices this human being had on and the stick clipped inside his pocket and the concerned expression written on his face, the last of which finally told Nana that all of her hopes, her deepest, most personal desires, the entire reason she persevered and survived and struggled to keep on living through another day, had at last come true.

"Papa, it's Papa!" the Diclonius girl cried happily.

Her papa ran his hand down her back, seemingly examining her, and Nana winced as her entire body shuddered when he had hit a bloodied sore spot which still felt tender to the bone, and the poor girl bit back a pained, agonizing scream that the normally thoughtful, gentle touch of her father now brought to her beaten and tortured form.

"Why haven't your wounds been treated?" Kurama asked Nana.

Yup, that was sure her papa all right, always thinking of her welfare first and foremost, and it made all the hellish torture she had endured over the last several hours worth it if it meant that Nana's papa took the time to show a lost, scared, frightened and hurting girl that special side of himself that he had given to no one else but those select few.

"Nana doesn't know," Nana said truthfully, her head sagging even now as the wounds plagued her being.

"Are you in any pain?" Kurama asked, tipping a finger under her chin and lifting it back up to face her.

As she stared into Kurama's dark hazel-gray eyes Nana felt happy, secure, and warm inside, like there was a softly billowing hot updraft swelling up within her stomach and spreading outward to every corner of her soul, and nothing, not even the state of Nana's body, would ruin this moment for her as she finally got to gaze upon those dark, loving pupils once again and Nana just knew in her heart that everything was going to be all right now that her beloved father had returned to her.

"Yes," Nana answered as she struggled, for the thousandth time, not to wince from the wounds spread across her smashed body.

"Don't fret, Nana-chan," Kurama told her, reaching out and draping a warm arm around Nana's shoulder, taking care not to bump one of the spots she had been "experimented" on, and any hint of awkwardness was now completely lost on the Diclonius girl as Nana literally hung on to the older man's every word, his flat monotone belying the paternal air he emanated. "I promise I will have you tended to. You won't have to suffer much longer."

Nana beamed. "Thank you, Papa! You're the best!"

Kurama sighed as he adjusted the glasses on his face. "Nana, there's someone I need you to kill."

Nana instantly recoiled at the thought. Normally, she would do whatever her father wanted, but... NO! How on Earth could she ever take someone's life away from them? Papa had told her killing was wrong, and to commit wrong would mean she was no longer a good girl, but Nana wanted to be Papa's Good Girl so very, very badly!

"It's easy once you do it the first time..." the voice whispered.

"I-I can't kill anyone," Nana stammered.

"Nana, listen... the target is a Diclonius, just like you," her papa said. Nana looked up, suddenly intrigued. One of her own kind? And she had escaped the facility? "Her name is Lucy. She killed a lot of people and she won't stop killing, not until every human is dead. It's up to us now to find her and prevent her from hurting anyone else. Please, Nana."

"Nana can't!" the pinkette wailed. "Nana can't! Nana does not want to take a life!"

She put as much feeling into this as possible; the very second she gave in to the dark, slimy, cold, and sinister presence inside her, Nana knew there would be absolutely no escape — she would belong to the darkness forever, as if it stained her soul with its blackened taint. To give in would mean to become something else, something wicked and cruel and evil, the antithesis to everything Nana was, everything she had been taught, everything she ever wanted to be, and once she had given in, she would lose everything that had ever meant anything to her; her papa would be dead to her.

Nana was willing to die to preserve her papa.

Kurama sighed. "Nana, you're the only one who can help us. I know you Diclonius have the natural ability to sense one another — only you would be able to find her. If you don't do this, then countless people, millions of innocent people, are going to die. Please, Nana, please help your papa now. We... we need you." He patted her with the hand on Nana's shoulder. "I need you."

Nana looked up. That was as close as he ever had come to plain admitting he loved her! Her papa needed her help. Her papa needed her. For a few seconds, Nana just lay there, the pain now secondary to her, torn between a desire to protect her beliefs and the drive to help her Papa and make him happy. If I do this, maybe Papa will finally admit he loves me, Nana thought with new hope, feeling very warm and fuzzy on the inside. Through all the pain and suffering she had endured at this hellish place, Nana had lived for the chance to finally hear those three little words from her papa, "I love you," to know that her needed her as much as Nana had always loved and needed him.

Decided, Nana said, "All right, I'll find her if you want... but I won't kill her, Papa."

Nana hung her head, feeling incredibly dejected, hoping she had not let her papa down at the time when he needed her the most and could finally prove herself to him. But she just knew that to kill would mean crossing a line she could never come back from, the first step towards becoming a heartless monster. I can't do it, not even for my papa.

"Then just find her," Kurama said. "I'll arrange for you to contact us when you've found her. I'm counting on you, Nana."

Nana glanced back up, now filled with a burst of happiness. "I won't let you down, Papa!" the horned girl vowed.

Kurama nodded, but before he could leave, Nana hesitantly asked a question, something she wanted to know before she embarked on her new mission to find one of her own. "Papa... is this person someone who's making trouble for you?"

"Yes," Kurama answered, indicating his eye and the clumsy prosthetics he now wore. "She did this to me."

"No!" Nana gasped, horrified to hear that someone had so badly hurt her papa!

Kurama stood up, looking down on her, solemnly serious. "Please, just find her, Nana-chan."

And as he left her, Nana almost hugged herself from sheer joy, remembering only at the last minute that to do so would bring her more pain from her battered body, but pretty soon that would be fixed, thanks to her papa! And he had even called her Nana-chan! Whenever she heard that, she felt she could just pop!

I'll find her, Papa. And when I do, I'll make you proud, I promise.

Kurama exited the holding chamber, still reeling from the emotional confrontation he had just experienced with his surrogate daughter, like he always felt whenever he came to call on her; which explained why his rare visits to the Diclonius girl were so far and few in between. They reminded him... of what could have been, what might still be if he was just strong enough to claim it, of the oaths he had sworn, and the chains shackled around his mind and soul, chains he himself had forged with his own actions, binding him irrevocably to his a past nevermore and a future now uncertain...

However, there was little time for reflection, because not a minute after leaving the holding cell, the technician and Shirakawa came up to him, now curious over what had transpired with that Diclonius girl.

"Well?" Shirakawa asked. "Is she going to do it?"

Kurama adjusted his glasses again, and that simple act appeared to jolt him to his senses — regaining the cool, calm equilibrium the Chief Director was infamous for by the facility, his only answer to her was the same detached, emotionless stare he showed to everyone else who worked near him, but far from being unnerved, Shirakawa found herself wanting to know more, longing to unlock what lay behind those startling cold orbs. What was his past, Shirakawa wondered? Why did he act this way? Was Kurama hiding some dark secret?

"Of course," Kurama remarked softly. "You have a day. Have her wounds treated and get her ready for combat."

Kurama turned to face the technician, his eyes now hardening as he pierced through the man with his gaze; if his eyes had remained stoic and calm before, now they seemed to be filled with a sort of cold fire, a tranquil fury that made the increasingly wary technician sweat where he stood as he considered what on Earth he could have possibly done that had gotten the creepy and eerie Chief Director to be so upset with him, and then, not a moment later, Kurama finally spoke, addressing the technician directly.

"And... be warned, the next time you leave her like this, you will have to answer to me."

With that said, Kurama turned and departed from the scene as the now-frightened technician swallowed down the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat, knowing without a doubt and absolute certainty that he did not want to cross the scary man before him.

While the hapless employee standing there fretting and concerned, Shirakawa watched with mounting curiosity. Why are the way that you are, Dr. Kurama? she wondered. You must have your reasons, but... why do you care so much for this one girl that you are willing to cross Director Kakuzawa for her? Is there something personal about this?

She was left with no answers as she stared the spot which Kurama had once occupied, now more confused than ever...

Gohan lay in his bed, feeling restless, tossing and turning, unable to get to sleep. Ever since his altercation with Yuka, he had been wracked by shame, wondering if there was something that he could have done differently in dealing with her, hoping with every fiber of his being that this blunder wouldn't jeopardize their living arrangements and end up with both him and his brother being thrown out onto the street to fend for themselves alone in a very strange and unfamiliar parallel reality.

That boy deserves a normal life, damn it! Gohan thought as he struggled not to give in and cry. Remember the promise you made when he was born? You would train hard and fight so that he wouldn't have to see the kind of things you have, and now look at him. Goten lost everything he's ever known and cared about all because you were too weak, too pathetic to protect him, and now he may end up living rough on the streets because you were acting like a dumb child!

Gohan punched his pillow and it was only his weakened state which kept the pillow from blowing up into a billion fragments of feather and felt. He breathed deeply, trying to calm his racing heart and his torn emotions, repeating a calming mantra Piccolo had taught him, so long ago. I can't be acting this way, he thought. I shouldn't be acting this way now. I have to be better, stronger than this. For... for Goten. For Goten. If I'm not strong, his entire world is going to come crumbling down on him. I'll die before I let him suffer.

As he tried to sort of his emotions, his thoughts went in a different direction, and unwanted, almost reluctantly into his mind came images of Nyuu, the beautiful, innocent pinkette, visions of her nude body on display for him to see — those beautiful, dangerously curving hips; her long, flowing, feminine pink hair; those large, well-formed, appealing breasts; that unbelievably soft skin; those cute horns; and her —

Gohan shook his head, doing his best to clear it of those most stalwartly forbidden thoughts. No! No! Stop that right now! It's that kindof thinking which got you into this mess in the first place! You... you don't have the time to be falling in love! You must be strong. Be strong...

Now, accompanying those images of Nyuu came Yuka, that well-groomed, gorgeous brown hair framing her face, those soulful brown eyes, and her beautiful figure, and fevered fantasies erupted forth into Gohan's head as his brain conjured wonderfully-defined, beautifully-detailed mental pictures of just what exactly the feisty brunette really looked like beneath her clothes...

And then, oh so slowly, without any conscious thought whatsoever, seemingly without his own volition and almost against his will, Gohan could feel his boxer shorts tightening near his crotch as a wave of pure pleasure overwhelmed him down there, and he let out a loud groan.

No, I... I can't be feeling this right now! he pleaded to the heavens above him. I-I can't. I can't. Oh please, why am I feeling this way? As he reached his full, considerable height, Gohan clenched his teeth as the furious desire to relieve all that tightly wound tension now filled all corners of Gohan's body, aching, burning for a physical release. But... but they are so beautiful. I've never felt this way for anyone. Can I really be in love?

And it was then Gohan noticed his hand had been inching closer and closer, ever so closer and closer, towards his groin, and instantly, with a physical effort, it seemed, Gohan halted its approach, his body now trembling with the suppressed exertion of keeping himself in check. No... I... I just can't bottle this up, but this isn't the time or the place! he admonished himself. Goten... think of Goten! Think of your brother! Y-You have to take care of him... you have to be strong for him... you have tosqueeze Nyuu's boobs and touch Yuka's butt and...

He shook his head. No, no! Don't even think about that! Don't think about how big and lovely they are, and how they seem to just bounce and squish together like putty in the palms of your... no! Willpower! Exercise some willpower, Gohan! You can't be doing this!You can't be thinking about how shapely and pleasing Yuka's behind looks, and... no. No! No... I-I can't be doing this. Ishouldn'tbe doing this...

However, unknown to him, his hand, which had begun moving again towards that sensitive region of its own accord, now slowly and slowly, ever so slowly and slow, reached inside his boxers and with all of the manner of a train driver working the controls, he grasped the long, hard shaft as his fingers longingly closed around it, yearning, aching, burning to bring forth the furious fountain of sensations he knew would soon be coming just from rubbing it up and down, up and down, back and forth, back and forth within his grip...

Gohan gasped, shocked at this sudden turn of events, as he felt the last shred of what remained of his already flimsy self-control crumbling like a collapsing building falling headlong into the gaping void of dark eternity. No... no... he moaned inside his head. Must not give in... must not give in...

Nyuu wandered the halls of the house, a bright, childish joy on her face as she visually examined each and every facet of the new world she'd now found herself thrust into. Sometimes she played with the various contraptions and other devices, which was how she ended up near Gohan's room, carrying the toaster that she'd unplugged from the kitchen wall, a happy, satisfied smile on her face as she glanced down at it.

"Nyuu..." she purred, wrapping it snugly in her arms.

She had no clue what the strange, alien appliance did, but its surface was sleek and shiny and made the innocent girl happy just to hold it in her arms, so that alone was worth it. However, as she was heading to some quiet corner to stash it for later, an odd noise met her ears.

"Nyuu?" she said, wondering where on Earth it had come from.

Silence for a few seconds, and then she heard it again.

"Ohhh, Nyuu..." it moaned.

She tilted her head to the side, slowly, as her undeveloped brain worked very hard to connect the pieces laid out before her. She was Nyuu. Something was saying Nyuu. Nyuu was her... therefore, she needed to be wherever the thing that was saying Nyuu was. Her mind now decided, Nyuu wandered off in the direction that Nyuu had been said, hoping to find whatever it was and learn what Nyuu meant.

"Nyuu..." the voice purred, sounding extremely happy.

Nyuu felt herself fill with a childish envy. Something was having fun with her and yet she was not there? How was this possible? This must mean something was having fun without her being there! But... Nyuu wanted to have fun! Nyuu liked having fun! Thus, Nyuu must go to the thing that was saying Nyuu and invite herself to play together with it.

With the polished chrome surface of the toaster still tucked securely under her arms, Nyuu inched open the door to Gohan's room, burning with innocent curiosity and the desire to play. When she entered the room, a strange sight met her eyes. Weird motions were coming from the covers from under it as the voice from beneath it moaned Nyuu.

"Nyuu, I love you so much..."

Now more curious than ever, Nyuu slowly approached Gohan's bed, wondering what on Earth could be taking place in it. What was so fun about saying Nyuu? Perhaps Nyuu should test out saying Nyuu too.

"Nyuuuuuuuu..." she said slowly, feelingly, as she made her way closer to the bed. "Nyuuuuuuuu... Nyuu? Nyuu! Nyuu! Nyuuuuuuuu!"

Saying Nyuu was very fun! Nyuu loves having fun! Nyuu loves saying Nyuu, Nyuu! Now Nyuu needed to say Nyuu with the other thing which was saying Nyuu, Nyuu! Reaching the side of the bed, and wondering what lay beneath the covers, Nyuu slipped under the covers to try and find what was saying Nyuu so they could say Nyuu, which was fun to say, Nyuu!

"A-Ah! N-Nyuu! Wh-What are you doing?!" the occupant protested. Nyuu recognized him as the messy-haired angel-eyed boy she loved so much, the one who had helped her to do good for that other boy she hurt.

Nyuu likes boy! Nyuu likes having fun! Nyuu likes saying Nyuu! Thus, Nyuu will have fun saying Nyuu with the boy Nyuu loves so much!

"Nyuu!" the horned girl said cheerfully, inviting herself to play.

"N-N-Nyuu..." Gohan moaned. "Y-You're not supposed to be here..."

"Nyuu?" Nyuu blinked in puzzlement. Why did Gohan sound so sad? Gohan was happy before saying Nyuu but now that Nyuu was here he was not happy? Confusion. None of it made sense to the simple girl's mind. However, it was then that she caught sight of something which piqued her interest. Gohan's arm was reaching the side of his body, ending directly near the bottom of his torso.

"Nyuu, please, j-j-just leave..." Gohan moaned, half in longing, half in anger.

"Nyuu?" Now more confused than ever by the tone that the boy was using the pinkette moved down closer to the area where Gohan's hand was touching. Was this the reason Gohan was saying Nyuu? How can saying a name be fun? How can touching be fun? Were the two linked? Was this the cause? Perhaps Nyuu can have fun touching and saying Nyuu with the boy Nyuu likes.

"Wh-What are y-you doing?" Gohan demanded.

Stroking her hands across Gohan's groin area, Nyuu felt something long and hard sticking out from beneath Gohan's hand. Confusion and curiosity burned in equal measure in the long-haired girl. Long. Hard. What does this thing to do? Is it fun to play with? Her facial expression set in determination, Nyuu reached out with one of her lithe, delicate hands, clasped long, slender fingers over Gohan's own trembling hand, and started pulling it away, even as Gohan squirmed uncomfortably.

"A-A-Ahh!" Gohan cried. "Please, Nyuu, stop!"

And then she saw what it was that hand had been fondling. An erect, hardened mound of flesh. The sight stirred something deep and primal within Nyuu's body, the strange, sensuous feeling she had had earlier with this boy. Now more intrigued than ever, Nyuu moved her face closer to the fleshy cylinder, her mind alive with fire and curiosity, a desire to learn, to feel, to be happy, to have fun, to give in to it all.

"No, please, Nyuu, n-n-not th-there!" Gohan moaned.

Now totally focused on her primary objective, Nyuu slid her hand forward and grasped it tightly, firmly over the long, hardened shaft, grabbing it easily within her palms, like she was holding a banana.

"No, no, no, Nyuu! No!"

Nyuu's mind, however, was now alight with questions. Why is this hard? Hard things hurt. But it's soft. Soft things feel nice. What would it be like to move it up and down? Will that make Gohan feel good?

With a chirp of Nyuu! and a happy expression, Nyuu slid the fleshy covering of the long shaft down, and then back up again.

"N-N-No, please... N-Nyuu!"

"Nyuu!" the happy girl cried, now knowing with utter certainty she was playing some fun new game, and she enjoyed it. "Nyuu! Nyuu!"

"A-Ahh! Ahhhh! A-A-Ahhh!"

Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, up and down, up and down, up and down, it went on and on as Nyuu worked feverishly over the half-Saiyan's member, grinding it in her grasp, sliding her fingers over the rod and teasing the tip, on and on. It was hypnotizing, it was mesmerizing, and Nyuu sensed it deep down in the core of her being that something exciting, something great was about to happen.

And then...

"No! N-No! No!"

And just like that, Gohan jumped up and backed up against the wall, shaking like a leaf and unable to handle it anymore.

Nyuu just watched, her heart breaking into two. Why did he stop? Gohan moans happily when Nyuu does that, therefore, Gohan likes it. Why would Gohan stop when he likes something? More confusion.

And then he stared at her, with eyes that showed his emotions quite intensely.

"Nyuu, I'm sorry, but I-I-I don't think I can take it," Gohan said. "This... this is supposed to be something special between two people and... a-and y-you just don't understand. I can't do this with you."

"Nyuu?" Nyuu said, feeling out the word, trying to find the same wavelength Gohan was on so she could talk with him.

"Oh gosh, who am I kidding?" Gohan stated, now sinking into a complete fit of self-loathing as he slid down the hard wooden wall, colliding with his butt on the floor as he sat there, totally naked, placed his head in his hands, and wept.

Nyuu just watched the bizarre spectacle, feeling more confused than she ever had before. Gohan likes what Nyuu is doing, so Nyuu does it more, then Gohan stops and cries. Gohan is sad. Why is Gohan sad?

"Nyuu, I j-j-just c-can't pretend anymore," Gohan sobbed. "I-I like you. I like you a lot. B-B-But it's w-wrong to be with you. Y-You don't understand. I-I-I like you, but I c-c-can't t-take advantage of y-you. And then h-h-how can I even b-be thinking about th-this wh-when my whole w-world was d-d-destroyed? I'm just b-being selfish, thinking about m-m-my n-needs first. H-H-How can I be so stupid?!"

Hesitantly, feelingly, Nyuu rose from her position by the bed, the toaster still tucked under one arm, and crawled over to Gohan. Gohan looks so sad. Nyuu hates seeing sad. What can Nyuu do to make the sad go away? And even as Gohan wept bitter tears for the longing and lost dreams and crushed hope and despair he was feeling then, Nyuu made her way closer to him, inching along the ground like a worm, getting closer and closer, until she was only a few feet away.

Gohan sad. Nyuu make better. How can Nyuu make better?

And then it hit her, the brilliant solution, and Nyuu thrust her arms forward, holding the toaster out right under Gohan's nose. The Saiyan hybrid immediately caught sight of it and his sobs gradually died down as he stared at the simple gadget Nyuu was displaying for him to see.

"N-Nyuu?" he said, blinking the wetness from his eyes.

"Nyuu!" the sprightly girl chirped, eyes shining with a beautiful smile gracing her face.

"Is... is that for me?" Gohan asked.

"Nyuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!" the horned girl squealed, thrusting the toaster forward a bit.

Nyuu likes the bright and shiny thing! Surely the boy Nyuu likes will also like the bright and shiny thing!

Looking incredibly dumbfounded, Gohan took the toaster from her hands, and slowly, miraculously, a genuinely happy smile appeared on his face as he came to understand the true beauty of the girl before him.

"Thanks, Nyuu," he said earnestly.

Nyuu is happy! Thing makes Gohan happy! Nyuu makes Gohan happy! Nyuu likes making Gohan happy!

With all the boundless energy and youthful exuberance of a three-year-old girl, Nyuu leapt forward and enfolded both her arms around the half-Saiyan teen, and slowly, after only a moment of hesitation, Gohan hugged her back, his nudity now forgotten. However... a frown then dawned on Nyuu's face. Gohan's body feels weird. Gohan's body makes Nyuu feel nice. Nyuu feels nice all over. Perhaps touching more of Gohan's will make Nyuu and Gohan both feel really nice together.

And with that, Nyuu began running her hands down Gohan's back, feeling out the sleek, hardened muscles, the sinewy tautness and the utter explosion of sensations this caused the pink-haired girl to feel.

"Nyuu?" she whispered.

Gohan squirmed a little, but this time, Nyuu was not to be denied as her hands slipped further and further down Gohan's naked back, right to his buttocks. As she reached them, Nyuu marveled at the squishy, soggy feeling of the region in question. Gohan writhed a bit more, but Nyuu, now alit with both curiosity and the sensation of a burning fire spreading through her, dipped her hand inside that crevice, feeling up Gohan's ample bottom. Gohan feel very nice! Nyuu likes feeling nice!

"Nyuuuuuuuuu..." she purred happily as she rubbed her body up against Gohan's torso.

"A-Ah! Nyuu! Nyuu, I... I don't know if we can do this."

And Nyuu shifted her head so that she was staring face-to-face with the onyx-eyed boy. And then, slowly, as time seemed to slow down for the demi-Saiyan, Nyuu inched closer and closer to him, getting lost in the ocean of Gohan's eyes, as Nyuu acted on instincts she could barely comprehend, and yet, it felt like the right thing to do. Nyuu wants to feel good! Nyuu knows this will feel good!

Her forehead brushed his bangs. The feeling of his hair tickling her forehead made Nyuu giggle. Her nose bumped into his as she angled in for a better position, and then, in a world-stretching eternity, her lips finally came into contact with his own. Nyuu moaned through the kiss as her body reacted in ways Nyuu had never imagined, sliding her soft, silky-velvet tongue into Gohan's tasty mouth. And then through his resistance, through his hesitation and his reluctance and his desire to avoid being hurt, Nyuu sensed the boy in front of her reciprocate.

"Oh, Nyuu..." he moaned through a mouthful of her tongue.

Nyuu squealed excitedly and tightened her hold around Gohan, rubbing her body up against the half-Saiyan's nude chest. A sudden tightening, blazing sensation passed through her crotch, and she itched and yearned and longed for release.

However, before she could really get into it anymore...

"So, at it again, I see."

Like the squelching of a plunger being released, Gohan immediately broke the kiss and looked off to the side in horror. Nyuu just felt more and more confused. Gohan stop making Nyuu feel nice. Why? Gohan look off to the side. Her innocent mind connected the dots and realized the cause behind Gohan stopping came from the side, so she looked that way too.

There stood Yuka, arms crossed and tapping her foot as Goten and Kouta stood off to the side.

"N-No!" Gohan cried. "No... it... it's not what you think..."

And with that, Yuka turned on her heel and left the room with her nose in the air.

"Wait, no, please, let me explain!" Gohan cried desperately, working his way out from under Nyuu's grip as he took off running stark naked after Yuka. "Yuka, please, come back! Just let me explain it! Please!"

Nyuu just lay there on the floor, filled with a thousand emotions that hadn't been satisfied yet. Gohan happy. Then Nyuu touching make him sad. and then the thing makes Gohan happy again. Gohan likes Nyuu and makes her feel good then... will the bright, shiny thing make Yuka feel good? Nyuu likes Yuka too! Nyuu wants to get between Yuka and Gohan and have fun!

Goten turned to face Kouta. "Um, Kouta-san, what were Nii-chan and Nyuu-san doing?"

Kouta sighed. How the bloody hell do I explain to a seven-year-old what sex is without completely traumatizing him in the process? Kouta grumbled inside. Yuka should be the one dealing with this, not me!

"Never mind, never mind, just never mind, Goten," Kouta urged.

Goten tilted his head in confusion for a while, then she shrugged and smiled. "Okay!"

Kouta wiped some sweat away from his glistening forehead as he struggled against the doorway for balance, trying to support himself through the aching feeling in his chest. A sudden cough erupted from his mouth, and he swore it felt like it was a hundred degrees in the house as the world seemed to spin around him.

"I think I'm getting sick..."

Lying there where Gohan had been only moments before, with absolutely no understanding of the situation she was in, why everyone around her was so upset, and just what was happening to her, there was only one thing left to say.


Chapter Text

Gohan had never experienced a more uncomfortable night in his life. After chasing after Yuka, to try and explain somehow, to try and get a chance to tell his side of the story and make sense out of everything that had happened, the fiery girl retreated into her bedroom, slammed the door shut, and hadn't come out for the entire night. And now the Saiyan hybrid was left all alone with his penitent thoughts.

Damn it! he thought angrily. Why does all of this have to be so... so complicated? He sighed as he entertained a notion he had been toying with since she caught him. Perhaps they'd all just be happier if I left. I'll leave Goten here with Yuka and Kouta and he can have the normal life that I want him to have; the normal life I wish I could have had.

However, before he could ponder more on this idea...

"What are you doing?" a strong feminine voice asked him.

Gohan turned to find Yuka standing there, a stack of towels folded neatly in her arms, and Gohan practically drooped from the sadness as he realized he had let her down, betrayed her confidence, and taken advantage of the kindness she and Kouta had shown toward him.

"Nothing," Gohan said, shaking his head.

Yuka could instantly sense that that was a lie, and deep down, she wanted to get closer, to find out what was bothering him, even though Yuka had the sneaking suspicion that it was due to her actions. Once she'd locked herself in her room last night she had spent hours tossing and turning with nothing to do but reflect on everything she had said. And she finally came to realize that she was wrong, she had taken her frustration with the situation with Kouta, Nyuu, and her own feelings of shameful attraction to Gohan out on him, and she knew she shouldn't have done that. But what could she say?

"How are... how are you feeling?" Yuka asked tentatively.

Gohan sighed, rubbing at his forehead wearily. "I don't know, to be honest."

Yuka squirmed embarrassedly inside at the thought that she had caused the boy in front of her pain, no matter how small. Deciding to take the bull by the horns, Yuka set the towels down and and sat down next to Gohan. An awkward silence descended over the two, and for a couple of minutes, neither said anything, but the deeply uncomfortable moment seemed to be stretching deeper and deeper like a bottomless chasm, and Yuka was hard-pressed to know how to deal with that.

Finally, in a small, cautious voice, Gohan said, "I'll leave if that's what you really want."

Startled, Yuka turned to face him. "What do you mean?"

Being this close to him, she could see Gohan was trembling and she felt a renewed surge of intense guilt and shame at seeing him looking like this. The formerly strong self-assured young man he was before now seemed to be almost like a child, small, scared, helpless, seeking reassurance, and Yuka reminded herself now that apart from Goten, Gohan was alone in this world, no parents, no home, nothing besides the kindness of strangers to help him get past, and she felt a strong wave of pity overtake her at the tailed boy's plight, and her problems from before all suddenly felt so worthless, so petty and meaningless.

"I'm sorry," Gohan said, now looking absolutely crushed under the weight of sorrow and despair. "I know I let you down, and if it wasn't for you, me and Goten would be living rough on the street now. Damn it, I hate this! I know I wasn't thinking and I'm sorry if I'd hurt you in any way, Yuka. But don't worry, I'll make it easy on you. I'll just leave quietly. I'm a burden to you all anyway. My only request is for you to take Goten-chan in, to try and love him and give him the home which he deserves. Please don't let my actions interfere in his happiness."

Gohan's words, spoken so calmly and matter-of-factly but filled with tons of self-loathing, tore at Yuka's heart, and now she felt even more guilty than she had a minute ago. No matter what her troubles were, no matter what he'd done, she had still taken him in, and she couldn't just let him leave to bear the brunt of it all by himself. She couldn't.

"G-Gohan, listen to me," Yuka said, her voice emotional.

Gohan jumped, startled. He had noticed the change in tone too, and when he glanced up, it looked like Yuka was going to cry! And now the brown-haired girl spoke softly to him, her voice rough with emotions as she laid her heart to bear for him to see.

"Gohan, I'm sorry," Yuka said, and Gohan was utterly stunned by it. Yuka was apologizing to him? "I know I can be tough and demanding at times, but I... I-I've never been like this. I'm not cruel and mean. At least, I don't think so. But I wasn't until last night. There's a lot on my mind and I'm going through a lot of issues in my life, but I know now that I was wrong to take them all out on you. You're not the one who should be sorry, I am. I hardly even know you, and yet, I can feel you're a good person, and I'm sorry for having treated you so badly."

And upon hearing her heartfelt confession, Gohan reached out and tenderly patted her on the shoulder. Yuka glanced back up and to her complete surprise, she saw Gohan smiling! A genuine, honest smile.

"Aw, hey, that's okay," Gohan said earnestly. "You don't have to be sorry, Yuka-san. I was acting a bit like an idiot, but it's all right. Let's forget the whole thing really happened and move on with our lives."

Yuka felt a smile tug at the corners of her lips, and as she sat there, staring into Gohan's deep, soulful charcoal eyes, she felt like she had known him all her life, an old friend who had come back to visit her.

"Thank you... Gohan-kun," she said.

Gohan was floored. Yuka, a girl he'd known only two days, now referring to him by such an intimate title? And, not for the first time, Gohan found himself mesmerized by the gentle curves of Yuka's heart-shaped face, those strong-but-tender chestnut-brown pupils, the way the sunlight now filtering in from the nearby windows hit the Japanese girl at just the right angle to give her a beautiful glow that seemed to shine from within and spread out through her body, highlighting every aspect of her smooth, porcelain peach skin, that full bosom, and her oh-so-adorable figure...

She's gorgeous, Gohan thought.

"Thank you, Yuka-chan," Gohan said as he stared deep into her eyes.

Yuka, for her part, found herself to be getting lost within those clear, innocent, simply joyful charcoal-hued eyes. It was like they contained all the happiness and purity and good, noble decency which had ever existed in the world and wrapped them all up together in one package — a genuine nice boy, who cared for life and everything around him. And not for the first time, Yuka also focused on how adorable that tail was — something truly special and unique which she had never seen before in her entire life but how it seemed to be such an integral part of Gohan and who he was as she longed to reach out and touch it...

He's very cute, Yuka thought with a faint blush appearing on her cheeks.

"Gohan?" Yuka ventured tentatively, sounding more like a child than a full-fledged independent woman.

"Yes?" Gohan asked, wondering what on Earth could be behind this sudden change in a girl he thought he knew well.

What's bothering her? the Saiyan hybrid thought, tilting his head to the side in his puzzlement. What's on her mind? Maybe... maybe, it's something I can help her with to make up for my behavior the past few days.

"Do you ever think about touching my breasts too?" Yuka said plaintively. "The way you did with Nyuu?"

Why the hell did I just say that? Yuka seethed inside. What about Kouta... Kouta... Kouta...

But she knew it was pointless to resist it; a burning fire had ignited within her chest, and she couldn't fight it, and someplace down in the furthest recesses of her soul, Yuka knew she didn't want to fight it.

And Gohan just sat there, now feeling completely flabbergasted. He hadn't expected such a bold, blunt question coming from this normally circumspect woman! And yet, deep down within his heart, something had taken hold of him as his body seemed to once again be acting out of its own accord and he felt himself speaking the words that were in his soul instead of what he thought was appropriate.

"Only... all the time," Gohan confessed honestly as faint tears slowly shimmered in his eyes, so certain was he that he was going to alienate Yuka now, but he just didn't have the heart to lie about this anymore. "And not just your breasts... but your face... your hips... your legs and your butt too. Nyuu... N-N-Nyuu may be an exotic beauty, but you're the classic beauty and any man would be stupid not to notice you."

Words could not adequately describe how Yuka felt in that moment. Flattered was the closest she could think of, but even that flimsy word couldn't do justice to the emotions Yuka was feeling there. For a long time, the pretty brunette had been lusting after Kouta hoping he would be the one paying her such beautiful compliments, but instead, it was the tailed young man in front of her, but unlike she had before, now Yuka felt no confusion, no regrets, only a wonderful emotion billowing up in her like a warm updraft of hot air. Never before had the strong and independent woman felt so... so loved. So beautiful and attractive and all because of someone she had not expected to care for but felt herself doing anyway.

Slowly, ever so slowly, as though testing out the waters, unable to control her body's actions but beyond caring about it anymore, Yuka inched ever so closer to Gohan, caught up in the tidal wave of pure happiness that the messy-haired boy had given her.

Catching sight of what Yuka was doing, Gohan moved forward, very slowly, as though he sought the same thing she wanted but a second later, he glanced down, clearly wondering if he should proceed, and Yuka's answer was to gently place her finger underneath his chin and tenderly lift his head back up, so that he was facing her. As Yuka's lips descended closer, something passed between them; it was as though they both were connected together into one mind and in the oceans of each other's eyes the two saw all the love and passion and happiness that they ever felt before in their lives, calling to them, beckoning to them, urging them to consummate their growing, changing bond with one another as, finally, in a fiery explosion of emotions, sensations, and passion, their lips met.

And in that single, wonderful, long, breathtaking, eternity-spanning second that their lips finally touched one another, there were no more doubts, no more fears, no more guilt or petty worries, it was just the two of them, and this moment shared between two people now joined together into into one, and instantly all the barriers between the two were gone, and it was like they were no more Yuka and Gohan than a person was separate from their own arms, as without having to hear her even speak it, Gohan immediately knew what this sensational girl in front of him really wanted as he slid his arms around her waist as their tongues battled furiously for control within the two mouths.

"Hmmm..." Gohan moaned through the kiss. "Hmmmmm..."

Seizing the initiative, Yuka wrapped her arms around Gohan's neck while she nibbled tenderly on his lower lip. This close to Yuka, Gohan could smell the sweet aromas of her lovely perfume, enticing him to even greater levels of passion as he burned a path of fire through her mouth, sucking eagerly on her full, succulent lips, as their silk, linen tongues touched one another in a furious, wild display of passion and longing unfulfilled.

As one, Gohan let his body fall back with the outrageously gorgeous brunette guiding him to the floor, as she tightened her hold around his neck. Bodies aching, their hearts were racing, blood was burning, and it still yet was not enough, they wanted more, they wanted each other, what deep down inside their soul and bodies they knew their instincts were telling them to do, spurring them, urging them on, directing them, instincts buried beneath layers of lies, deceits, and the image most people saw them as, but here, now, there was only this moment, and the two of them, and no else in the world existed but these two parts now linked together into one whole.

Responding to the primal smells now coming off the girl before him, Gohan reached his hands down and slid them over the clothed, mushy mounds of flesh that was Yuka's behind amid loud giggles while she intensified their kiss as the two thrashed about like wild animals.

"I want you..." Yuka moaned.

"Ohhhhh, Yuka..." Gohan called longingly.

His moan was like a siren's call to her while Yuka now pressed her crotch up against his leg, stirring a thousand flames of fiery love all throughout his body as he slipped his hand beneath her sundress, grasping one of her buttocks within his palm as he cupped it gently, teasing it, caressing it, and he squeezed it firmly between his fingers, pulling forth even more fevered moans of frenzied passion from the beautiful brunette locked in his embrace.

With one swift fluid motion, Gohan reached out with his other hand, undoing the strap that held her sundress up as with trembling fingers Gohan now laid purchase upon the tender, springy, warmly yielding fleshy rump of her bare left breast while Yuka groaned, hungry, aching, burning, starving for more; hearing Yuka's pleas unspoken, Gohan gently clasped his hand around the mound of skin, caressing it, tickling it and teasing it while his fingers worked across the sensitive areas, aerola, nipple, all her folds, running them over the smooth silk velvet of flesh, massaging it beneath his grasp as Yuka perked up in reply, equal portions lust and love now burning with a fierce intensity throughout her emotionally charged, sexually overstimulated body.

Deepening the kiss between them, Gohan squeezed Yuka's two most private, intimate zones with renewed vigor as Yuka slid her leg around his own, now rubbing her groin area back and forth over Gohan's leg, the grinding friction blazing a searing trail of love between their nether regions, strengthening the furious wild desire which had so suddenly overcome the two teens.

"Gohan..." Yuka giggled, as she kicked her shoes off, ready to take it to the next level...

When, instantly, without warning and totally unwanted to the two teens now burning for release, for an escape from their lives and all the problems they were facing, hard reality chose this moment to come banging on their front door.

"NII-CHAN!" a loud voice cried from nearby. "ONEE-CHAN!"

Instantly, Yuka scrambled away from the boy that she'd almost given herself to as the wild, hypnotic, sensual wavelength which the two had been connected by was now irrevocably broken; the frenzied, burning wave of passion which had so suddenly consumed came crashing down as the two youths wildly, desperately, quickly tried to regain their wits and their sense of dignity and humility for appearance's sake as both knew with total, complete certainty that they just could not be seen in this fashion by anyone else who was currently residing in that house.

"G-G-Goten-chan..." Gohan stammered as he forced himself into an upright position to try to somehow make it appear that what had just been going on mere seconds away was really not what it seemed to be.

"Wh-Wh-What are you doing here?!" Yuka demanded, trying to calm the beating of her thundering heart, and keenly aware of how hot and flushed her body was and also how messy and straggly her normally well-groomed hair had to appear.

Please don't ask anything, please don't ask anything, please don't ask anything... Yuka prayed to the heavens above.

She might as well have tried to stop a tornado bare-handed.

"Hey, why do you guys look so messy and embarrassed?" Goten inquired.

Gohan could have kicked himself... hard — only mere minutes after reconciling with Yuka over losing his control, not once, but twice, and he had to go and do the same thing which he had promised himself he would not do all over again for the third time, and not only that, with the very woman who had spotted him the first two times!

Oh God, what does Yuka think of me now? he moaned inside his head. I won't blame her if she doesn't ever want to speak to me again.

"J-J-J-J-Just never mind, G-G-Goten-chan," Gohan said, stammering like Yuka was.

"I-I-It's not important... just forget about it," Yuka said in a clearer, stronger voice as she turned to face the tailed child, attempting to get her hair straightened up, so it wasn't sticking out every which way.

Goten just stared innocently at the two for a while, as though he were trying to see if they were lying, then he pointed towards Yuka.

"Hey, Onee-chan, what is that?" he chirped curiously.

Gohan and Yuka both looked into the direction Goten had indicated, and to their horror, both saw the strap of her sundress which had been loosened, leaving Yuka's bare breast now flopping from her clothes.

"Nothing!" Yuka yelped in mortification as she turned her back on the little boy, doing her best to get it back within her shirt.

"Are those your breasts, Onee-chan?" Goten inquired innocently.

"Never mind, never mind, never mind..." Yuka said, now completely embarrassed to find herself in such an awkward situation.

How could I have let this happen to me? she raged inside her head. Gohan-kun made me weak in the knees... why? Why does he have to be so damn handsome and cute and utterly insatiable, and... no, no, STOP THAT! Stop it right now, Yuka! You... You can't be falling in love with the wrong man! You can't... you just can't... you can't be, Yuka. You... you gave your heart to somebody else... and he... he promised me. He'll remember. He has to. If you ask him, he'll remember. Yes, that's it. Just ask him. Surely those happy times meant something to him, something more, strong enough to build a relationship with...

"They look much bigger than Mommy's," Goten went on.

Gohan gritted his teeth in frustration... the force of which could have leveled mountains. How could I have been so damn stupid? he berated himself severely. Goten doesn't need to know about this stuff, and he never would have if you'd just kept your feelings to yourself! You have bigger concerns than falling in love. You have a duty to your brother. He's all that's left of your family.

"Goten, just forget it!" Gohan said, his voice coming out much more hoarsely than usual from a combination of guilt, rage, and pent-up lust that had been brewing since he'd seen Nyuu naked the night before.

"Hm, okay!" Goten said with a rather casual, carefree shrug.

Yuka sighed as she realized that her panties were now completely soaked wet from — I... I just can't believe it, Yuka thought, shocked beyond all belief. Gohan... Gohan actually made me cum a little... The brown-haired girl sighed. Looks like I'll need to change clothes now.

"Goten, why are you here?" Gohan demanded of his sibling.

"Oh yeah!" Goten said as he remembered his entire reason behind seeking them. "Kouta-san is sick!"

"What?" Yuka piped up, now totally forgetting her embarrassment in the face of such news.

"Yuka-chan, we need to go see him!" Gohan said he rose up into a standing position. "Right now!"

And with that, the Saiyan hybrid took off down the hallway towards Kouta's room.

"Wait, Gohan-kun!" Yuka protested, as she weakly rose to her feet, chasing after the half-Saiyan teen at a very slow rate of speed due to her ruffled clothes and her wet undergarments. "Slow down! Wait!"

Further down the hallway Gohan burst into Kouta's room to see the human boy laying sprawled out within his futon. He briefly noticed that Nyuu was kneeling close to him, looking miserable, and there seemed to be an assortment of odd items in the room, but then the half-Saiyan shrugged, dismissing it as something unimportant — at the moment, attending to Kouta was the more pressing matter.

"Kouta-san, what's wrong?" Gohan asked as he knelt down next to the teenage youth.

"Water!" Nyuu squealed nearby. "Water, Water!"

Gohan looked at her in confusion. "What's she talking about, Kouta-san?"

"Nothing, just forget it," Kouta murmured. "Boy, I'm burning up..."

"Nyuu, Nyuu!" the pink-haired girl shared, jumping up and down with a sad but thoughtful frown upon her face; it was as though she wanted to help them out, but could not figure out the correct way in which to interact with the people she now found herself stuck with.

Gohan ignored her and turned to his baby brother. "Goten-chan, please get Kouta-san a glass of water, now."

Goten nodded very cheerfully. "Okay, whatever you say, Nii-chan!"

He sped out of the room, narrowly missing the tall brunette who followed Gohan inside a few seconds later.

"Kouta-kun, what's wrong?" she asked, now really worried about her cousin.

"Yuka-chan, Kouta-san is really ill," Gohan informed the beautiful woman.

Kouta blinked twice, wondering if he had really heard Gohan refer to his cousin by a very intimate title, as a powerful wave of... something welled up inside him, hot and burning, like a volcano, yet he also felt something deeper, too... but, what was it? It made him want to reach forward, grab Gohan, and warn him to stay away from... and then it finally hit him.

I'm jealous, he thought in complete amazement. Angry and hurt and confused and... and jealous! But why? Why should I be jealous?

Now sidling up next to Gohan, Yuka laid a cool hand across Kouta's forehead that ignited an even more intense, hot, burning sensation in the boy's body... something he suspected didn't have to do with his fever, and he wriggled underneath her ministrations.

"You're really sick," she said, now definitely worried for her cousin. "You should go to the hospital."

"Please, I'm not going to a hospital," Kouta objected weakly.

At that moment, Goten returned, carrying a glass of water in hand.

"But why, Kouta-san?" Gohan demanded. "If you're really sick, going to the hospital will make you feel better."

"Yes, you should listen to Gohan-kun," Yuka added, glancing at the tailed boy.

And the use of the intimate title used to refer to Gohan by his cousin had Kouta's blood burning and his body tightening.

"Well, I'm sorry if I'm not the perfect man you think I should be," Kouta said in a low tone.

"But... but, Kouta-san, why —?" Gohan wondered.

"I said I'm not going!" Kouta yelled.

Now shocked at Kouta's loss of control, Yuka and Gohan glanced around the room as Goten handed Kouta his glass of water, where they noticed a ton of miscellaneous items scattered in the room; umbrellas, a sandal, toilet paper, random kitchen instruments like spoons, knives, forks, articles of clothes, and so on and so forth.

"Kouta...what's all that stuff?" Yuka asked uncertainly. "Were you unpacking or something?"

"Yuka," Kouta began, now in a softer, gentle tone. "I'm sorry."

Yuka and Gohan turned back to face the bedridden boy.

"What are you talking about?" Yuka inquired.

"I said I'm sorry," Kouta said miserably. "I'm sorry for yelling at you two. I'm sorry that you're stuck here with me. I know you're unhappy, Yuka-chan. I... I can feel it and I'm... I'm sorry... I'm sure you have better things to do with your time than tend to your sick cousin..."

Yuka laid a soft hand across Kouta's chest. "No, please don't say such things, Kouta-kun! I don't mind it! Really!"

Goten nodded excitedly. "Yes, you don't have to worry! We're your friends, Kouta-san!"

"Thank you," Kouta breathed.

Yuka smiled tenderly down at the still youth, hoping to try to reclaim one of the beautiful moments they share as children. Should I ask him now? No, no, he's so sick... it would be wrong... but if I don't do this now, I'm never gonna be brave enough again. Okay, here goes!

"Hey, Kouta..." Yuka said tentatively.

"Huh, what?" Kouta asked, turning his head back up.

"Do you remember that day at the festival... eight years ago?" she prompted.

"Huh?" Kouta said. "Sorry, but... I don't really remember much about those days..."

And now Yuka's countenance changed within an instant as the fiery brunette smacked Kouta's chest.

"Ouch!" Kouta complained, rubbing the sore spot. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?!"

Hearing him say that was just too much for the pent-up girl; eight years... eight goddamn years she had spent waiting for him, longing for him, waiting for him to come in and reenter her life and sweep her off her feet, and not only was that not coming true, not only were all the feelings and lusts she had sought from him being now satisfied by a stranger, a boy she barely knew, but he didn't even remember those times? He had forgotten?! Did they really mean so little to him that he could treat her like this, like a common rag to throw off to the side?

"YOU'RE AN IDIOT!" she yelled at the top of her lungs as she jumped her feet, turned on her heel, and left the room.

A couple seconds later, they heard the door slamming.

"Um... what just happened?" Goten asked, blinking in confusion.

"I'm... just as lost as you are, Goten-chan," Gohan said, feeling just like his brother.

"Nyuu...?" Nyuu purred from nearby, staring at the people around her as though they were aliens. "Nyuu? Nyuu!"

Gohan sighed and looked down to face his younger brother. "Did you take your bath yet?"

Goten shook his head. "Uh-uh! I want you to give me a bath, just like old times, Nii-chan! Please? Pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaase?"

And he stared up at his big brother with the biggest, most adorable puppy dog eyes which were practically guaranteed to get people to do what they sought of them every single time that they were used on someone.

"Well, okay, I suppose so," Gohan allowed with a gently soft smile.

"YAAAAAAAAAY!" Goten cried. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nii-chan!"

Gohan chuckled while he turned back to face the bedridden Kouta.

"Are you going to be all right on your own, Kouta-san?" Gohan asked him.

Kouta, however, was now distracted by what he had seen. It was obvious that, for as mysterious as the two tailed boys were to Kouta and Yuka, that they clearly were brothers; in fact, he hadn't seen such a strong bond since... since... since Kanae-chan and himself, and he now felt himself reminiscing helplessly on days long past...

Two kids, a boy and a girl, splashed around in their bath together.

"Watch me, Onii-chan!" Kanae squealed happily as she dove beneath the sudsy surface of the water.

A few seconds later, she popped back up, now sopping wet as the happy little girl gazed lovingly at her older brother.

"Yeah, that's nothing, look how long I can manage!" Kouta said as he, too, dove underneath the soapy water.

Seconds passed, which soon turned into minutes, and Kanae was starting to get worried.

"Onii-chan!" she called. "Onii-chan, are you all right?!"

Still Kouta wasn't surfacing, and now Kanae was starting to get very frantic.

"ONII-CHAN!" she screamed. "ONII-CHAN!"

And Kouta now burst up in a splash of foam, bubbles, and water spraying everywhere, laughing.

"Hahaha, scared you, huh?" he said, sticking his tongue out at her.

"Ohhhhh... you!" Kanae said angrily as she stuck her hands under the water and threw a huge splash of water at Kouta.

Instantly, Kouta found himself being drenched by the excess water. Blinking there for a couple minutes, he suddenly got a devious smirk on his face as he reached below the water and splashed toward his little sister too.

"No, come on, that's not fair!" Kanae squealed as he got her even more wet than she already was.

"All's fair in love and war!" Kouta teased as he continued splashing his sister.

And with a mischievous grin, Kanae pointed to the side. "Look over there, Onii-chan!"

And hook, line, and sinker, Kouta fell for it as Kanae now unleashed a massive surge of water on her helpless brother.

"Aww, hey, you tricked me!" Kouta protested, sounding annoyed.

"All's fair in love and war!" Kanae said as threw his own words back in his face.

"That does it!" Kouta said as he now splashed bucketfuls of water at Kanae...

Kouta sighed, feeling his mind slowly drift to memories he held deep within his own subconscious...

Kanae-chan... he thought, melancholy. Has it really been that long? he asked himself.

Wanting to recall more of his deceased little sister Kouta's thoughts grew foggier as he slowly fought, struggled, and clawed his way to try and draw more memories from his forgotten childhood back into his mind.

It was eight years ago... he realized. Kanae and father... they both died back then...


An explosion of blood and guts, spraying red everywhere as far as the eye could see, as a single, hoarse whisper could be heard...

"You liar..."

Kouta whimpered as he felt his mind suppressing the memory he'd just now managed to retrieve from his subconscious... and the world surrounding him grew hazy and stained with darkness as he felt his body shudder from the sheer efforts of trying not to remember what deep down in his heart... he knew he should not be trying to recall.

"Kouta-san?" a voice suddenly broke in on his thoughts. "Kouta-san! Are you all right?"

Kouta felt himself return to his environment with a jerk of his body.

"What?" he said, blinking rapidly to keep up with what was happening around him. "No, no, I'm fine."

"Are you sure you're gonna be all right down here?" Gohan pressed.

"Yeah, you looked kind out of it for a moment," Goten agreed.

Kouta gave a weak laugh. "I'll be fine with Nyuu here to keep me company."

"Nyuu!" the horned girl shared cheerfully.

"Okay," Gohan said as he took Goten's hand and led the boy upstairs. "We'll return in a half-hour."

Kouta sighed as he laid his head back on the pillow with only one thought now in his head to guide him through his illness.

Kanae-chan, I'm sorry.

As he was leading Goten to their bathroom, Gohan felt a little better than he had thirty minutes ago; trying to sort out his feelings for both Yuka and Nyuu was a really hard thing to do and it made the Saiyan hybrid feel so confused. But now, in this moment, there was only him and Goten, and he'd always greatly enjoyed the time which they spent together. With enough concentration and by just attending the needs of his little brother, he could put all the concerns and worries and thoughts of the future out of his head and focus on something which had always made him happy; family bonding with Goten, who was just so like his father in appearance and personality that it made Gohan's heart ache sometimes.

This is the way it should be, he thought. No distractions, no confusing feelings, just me and my little brother. He is all I have left.

Just then, he heard something coming from the other room.

"... estimates say that there are perhaps sixty or seventy people still trapped in the burning building," someone said in an official voice that sounded a lot like a TV news castor. "All exits are blocked by the fire, and firefighters are hard-pressed to deal with the situation..."

Gohan blinked as he stuck his head around the corner, glancing in to look at the TV someone left on.

The set showed images of a building on fire with people running around screaming as the firefighters desperately tried to contain the blazing inferno, and prevent it from spreading to other buildings nearby.

Gohan could only stare in horror at what he was seeing. On the one hand, he just wanted to have a normal life for once and getting himself involved in firefighting and crime-fighting operations could seriously put a damper on that.

But on the other...

So many innocent people are gonna die there, he thought. Innocent people that I could have saved... people I had the power to keep from dying... and if I have the power to act, but don't ever use it, then I'm just as guilty as everyone else with the power to make the world much better than it is, but don't ever act on it, and there is already way too much suffering and lost lives as it is right now. The black-haired boy shook himself. Come on, Gohan, do you really need to think about it? It's obvious what your choice is now — I mean what would Dad do?

Well, when the voice of his conscience put it like that then what else could he do?

Suddenly, he felt Goten tugging at his sleeve, and he turned to glance into the charcoal eyes of his younger brother.

"Hey, Nii-chan, are we gonna take a bath now?" Goten whined, like the little boy he was.

Gohan smiled tightly down at the perfect carbon copy of Goku.

"Sure thing, little man," he said, ruffling his hair. "Just go up to the bathroom and I'll be there in a few minutes, okay?"

"All right!" Goten chirped happily as he flew up the stairs with the exuberance and energy of youth.

Gohan chuckled after him, and then shut his eyes as he focused his thoughts inward. For several minutes, the half-Saiyan just stood there in the entrance hall, glowing with power in a very familiar technique, with the sweat breaking out all across his body and the air around him shimmering from the sheer intensity as finally another, identical copy to Gohan split from his body, turning to face his doppelganger.

"You know what to do," the first one said to the second one.

"Yes," the other Gohan said. "I'll go under the alias of the Gold Fighter. I doubt people have forgotten about him so soon."

"Better change your clothes first," the first copy told him. "That way, no one will recognize you."

"Good idea," the second Gohan said. "I'll go right now."

The second Gohan raced up the stairs as up above he heard Goten calling. "Nii-chan, are you coming?"

"Yeah, be right there, Gohan!" the first Gohan said as he headed back up the stairs now.

And the two Gohans set about their separate business for the day; one, to spend some time with his little brother.

The other, into the fray to save the citizens of Kamakura.

Just like back home.

"... and then that brat did something freaky with his hair!" Private Takenouchi growled. "It stuck up and turned golden as hundreds of electric sparks surrounded his body, and you could feel the power coming off him."

The two fallen soldiers — Sergeant Bando and Private Takenouchi — were still being treated in the Diclonius facility's infirmary. Just twenty minutes ago, Dr. Minamino reported that he had finally been able to stabilize Takenouchi, although Sergeant Bando was still in very critical condition and he wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to walk again. Chief Kurama had taken the news in stride and headed down to the medical lab to interrogate Takenouchi; as he spoke Sergeant Bando could be seen to the side, heavily drugged as Dr. Minamino worked on him.

"Interesting," Kurama said, writing the information Takenouchi had revealed down on a notepad. "And he had a tail, you say?"

Takenouchi spat. "Yes, motherfucking freak! You guys are the experts here. Was that thing a Diclonius?"

"Possibly, yes," Kurama allowed tentatively. "But please, continue."

"Well, realizing what I was fighting, I began blasting away at the goddamn beast!" Takenouchi swore. "All of them were heavy rounds too, tungsten bullets — they had always fucking worked on those mutants before!"

"But not this time?" Kurama inquired.

"No," Takenouchi said, gritting his teeth against the pain the SAT soldier still felt even now. "Somehow, he caught them all faster than the eye could follow! I didn't even see him catch them until the fucking freak opened up his fists and let all those bullets drop to the ground. That goddamn brat was mocking me!"

"Calm yourself," Kurama intoned coldly. "You'll accomplish nothing with this attitude."

"Damn little brat..." Takenouchi muttered as he trailed off into a string of foul curses.

"Good," Kurama said, straightening his spectacles. "What happened then?"

"Sergeant Bando shot at the Diclonius girl to try and distract him," Takenouchi continued. "But that damn boy just sped over to her and knocked her to the ground before she could get hit. Then he tried shooting him again, but he caught all the bullets with his tail."

"Interesting, very interesting," Kurama mused as he scribbled on his notepad. "Go on, please."

"That's when that damned freak got up, and hit Bando right in the chest," Takenouchi said. "I don't know what he did, but Bando went down like a ton of bricks — that, however, was when I'd found our rocket launcher, and I fired a shot directly at the monkey."

"And what did he do?" Kurama asked.

"He used some kind of wall of force to propel the rocket launcher back at me," Takenouchi growled. "I couldn't get away in time."

"So that was how you'd sustained those injuries," Kurama noted. He finished jotting the information down on his notepad and glanced up at the helpless soldier now confined to a sick bed. "And... is this all you have to say? Nothing further to add?"

Takenouchi shook his head. "Nothing I can think of."

Rising smoothly and silently from his chair, Kurama said, "Call me if you think of something else."

And then he left the infirmary, leaving a very pensive and furious Takenouchi behind...

Once he'd exited the infirmary, he ran into Shirakawa.

"The golden-haired hero has appeared again!" she said breathlessly; from the way she was holding herself over, it was clear she had run to deliver him this truly important news. "The TV says he helped to put out a fire and he's going around Kamakura helping out the police."

"Obviously, this must be further investigated," Kurama said with his customary emotionless tone. "But we cannot afford mistakes from this venture; if the boy is indeed a new breed of Diclonius, he is a highly lethal and cunning specimen."

Shirakawa glanced up. "What do you mean, Chief Kurama?"

Kurama adjusted his glasses. "I've come from interrogating Private Takenouchi and I have the feeling the boy is far more formidable than we first suspected him to be. He has super strength, super speed, he can catch bullets in the blink of an eye, and he is capable of deflecting rocket-propelled missiles with ease. Those are substantially stronger feats than anything the Diclonii are capable of. But the fact that he was near the Queen is telling. Perhaps we looking at the king of their race; while the females have horns, this boy has a monkey's tail — perhaps the same as other male Diclonius."

Shirakawa's eyes widened behind her own spectacles. "The Director must be informed of this right away."

Kurama nodded. "Good. Go tell him. Meanwhile, I must attend to Number Seven now and prep her for combat."

And Shirakawa watched him go with trepidation. Is the Gold Fighter really the King Diclonius? I hope not. The Queen herself has given us so much trouble over the years. Imagine if she had the power this boy apparently does. She shivered at the thought, imagining whole cities being laid to waste. We can't afford to be careless with this. Too many lives have been lost due to reckless mistakes already. She shook her head. First things first, I must inform the Director.

And she turned on her heel and sped off.