Just a Nightmare
(Part II: Enter the Nightmare)
Rain fell steadily in large drops, turning the dirt into mud and soaking everyone through to the skin. Goku and Vegeta faced off against Nightmare, with the silent support of Goten, Trunks, Gohan, and Piccolo in the background. The demon appeared bored with the confrontation as if the people standing before him were of little interest.
"This is it," Goku said with no anticipation whatsoever. He didn't quite dread the coming battle but nor did he tremble with excitement. Too much was at stake for him to be thrilled, but there hadn't been a time when the good guys lost. He only wished for the entire ordeal to end.
"Bra hasn't returned."
"She will. I doubt we can stall for much longer. She'll get here eventually." Bra's arrival would signify the moment that Kaioshin allowed the priestess to aid them. They both knew, because of his fusion with Kibito, that he had obtained the power of teleportation.
He nodded once. "Let's do it." Simultaneously, they launched themselves at the demon and the fight for Chikyuu-sei began without delay.
A few minutes into battle, Kuririn and Yamcha appeared on the horizon. They landed beside the already assembled warriors and silently watched the fight with grim looks on their faces. Nightmare easily dodged every single punch and kick that the two Saiya-jin threw at him, but they could only barely dodge his.
Vegeta, more than a little angry that his attacks were being blocked, powered up the first level of Super Saiya-jin. Goku quickly followed suit.
"What are we going to do?" Kuririn asked quietly, his eyes darting back and forth as he observed the battle.
Trunks looked at him sharply. "They won't fail."
"How do you know that for sure? There's always a first time."
"You better hope that they don't or we're all going to die." Gohan stared up at Nightmare, an unreadable expression on his face. Not for the first time he regretted his decision to stop training. He knew that the power contained deep inside had been enough in the past to tip the scale in their favor, but there was no way he could help them now.
Goku raised his ki to the second level of Super Saiya-jin in the remote chance that he could gain an edge over the demon. He attacked with renewed vigor and a few began to land. 'Why is this happening? I went up to two before and I didn't hurt him... What's different about this time?'
"How long has it been since you last killed, Nightmare?" Vegeta asked suddenly from behind. The demon spun around to face him, anger in his eyes.
"It isn't any of your business!"
"That long, eh?" He smirked. "You're losing your edge. You can't go very long without reveling in death, I bet. It's a source of power for you. Without it you're weakened."
He glared at him, hatred in his eyes. "You know nothing of what I am."
"I know enough."
Was that true? Could they actually defeat him now? Goku didn't know but he was sure going to find out. He powered up to the highest transformation that he could obtain and silently prayed that it would be enough.
Sensing that there was more to the change than just appearance, Nightmare began to back off in the hope that he could find enough time to create an escape portal. Vegeta grabbed him by his long, sinuous tail and held tight. "Oh, no you don't. You aren't going anywhere."
Nightmare panicked. He didn't want to go back -- there were still many people alive on the planet! In his mind, he quickly ran down his options. a) He could try to fight off Vegeta and Goku. b) He could try to create a portal. c) He could try to force the healing to speed up. d) He could ensure his victory by killing someone. The demon smiled as he considered the fourth option. If he found a good enough victim, the death would give him a large power boost as well as heal all of his injuries. No one would be able to stop him then.
He concentrated until he could see the auras of the people around him. Several of them were filled with a bright white, but only one person's contained more white than all the others. His smile became larger as he stared at him and imagined destroying his perfect purity as if it had never been. Oh, what joy he would receive from snuffing out a spirit such as this!
"Why is that look on your face?" Goku asked, starting to feel uncomfortable beneath his gaze. There was no response, only a larger smile.
Quietly, almost beneath his breath, he began to weave a spell around them that left all in a trance. It took most of his remaining energy to do so, but he knew it would be worth it. Only Goku remained alert and very, very confused. He knew that nothing good could come from it, but knew that he had no chance to stop the demon by himself. Besides, his eyes could not leave the black-scaled form no matter how hard he tried.
In the midst of his chanting, Nightmare unleashed some of his dark energy and sent it to his enemy faster than the eye could see. Like a living wave, it flowed toward him in a loose formation. He saw it coming but couldn't fathom why his body refused to move. His brain eventually sent the command throughout the rest of his body but it was too late. Goku, slow to react, twisted aside to avoid it and cringed when it followed his movement and struck him deep within his chest, narrowly missing his heart.
Nightmare set the rest of them free of his incantation so that they could witness the death of the one they loved so much.
Time slowed and Vegeta felt as if he had forever to catch his lifemate before he fell to the soggy ground below. He released Nightmare's scaly tail and launched himself forward as fast as he could.
It was like a bad dream. His hand seemed mere inches from Goku's body but he just could not close the gap between them. With a burst of speed born of desperation, he grabbed hold of the younger man's arm and brought him to a stop. Time sped up to a normal pace. "Say something," he pleaded, fearing that he'd been too late. "Onegai, Kakarotto."
Goku's eyelashes fluttered for a few seconds before his eyes opened. "I'm sorry I broke my promise."
He brought him close to his body, arms wrapped around his chest. "Don't say that. You didn't break anything!"
"It's okay, 'geta. I can be wished back with Dende's dragonballs." He sighed and shuddered with pain. "Ai shiteru." Then his eyes closed once more and the ouji felt his mate's heart cease to beat.
Silently he dropped down to the earth, Goku's body cradled in his arms. He laid him gently upon the grass and kneeled beside him. "I couldn't stop him," he whispered as he placed a tender kiss onto his cold forehead. His heart and soul felt as if they had been torn into two, half of each dying along with Goku. He could never replace them with anyone else.
Hot tears cascaded down his cheeks and mingled with the still-falling rain. Vegeta looked up to the heavens, emotion welling up from deep inside of him. It grew greater and greater in intensity until he howled his grief at the uncaring sky. The pain of severance was becoming too much. It weighed heavily within his body, making him lethargic and depressed.
There was nothing he could do for Goku now, but something had to be done in retribution for his death. Killing his lifemate and destroying the bond were crimes that could not go unpunished.
"You are dead," he said in a voice so cold that it left all within earshot shivering. Nightmare did not falter. Having regained a lot of energy from Goku's death, he had faith that Vegeta wouldn't stand a chance against him. The small Saiya-jin rose and stalked over to where the demon still floated. He looked upward, eyes hard chips of obsidian ice, and spoke again. "You will pay with your life."
"Promises, promises," he chuckled. "But can you back them up?"
There was no response, only a dark smirk touched his lips. He took one calm step forward, then another, but was stopped by an unusual occurrence.
Kaioshin had teleported in front of him.
The deity kneeled, head bowed sadly. "I am sorry, Vegeta. Nothing I can do will make up for this."
Bra sniffled as she looked over at her step-father's corpse, but then she looked up at her father, hope in her eyes. "There's one thing, Papa."
The kaio nodded. "Hai. I'm going to let the priestess aid you."
He glared in response. "Is it because I'm the weaker Saiya-jin and you're afraid that I'm going to lose?"
"Iie, it's because I waited too long and a wonderful person was taken because of it. He was one of the people I'm sworn to protect."
Everyone fell silent for a long moment while the demon looked curiously on. "K'sorde?" Bra said finally.
"I am here." Her gentle voice, originating within Bra, entered the minds of Kaioshin and Vegeta as well.
"Please help my Papa. He needs it more than I do."
"I understand. Please place your hands upon your father. It will just take a moment."
With tears trickling down her cheeks (forming as the stark reality of Goku's death caught up with her) she laid her hands onto Vegeta's abdomen, palm down. There was a great warmth as K'sorde's link with her was transferred. "Get him, Papa," she whispered as she took a step backward.
"It will take great strength to seal him. Are you prepared?"
He paused a moment to think back to all the happy memories he'd shared with Goku both before and during their short relationship. It also made him, consequently, remember that Nightmare had prematurely ended his mate's life. "Oh, I'm prepared. I'm more prepared for this than anything else in my entire life."
"Then we shall begin. Follow my instructions and he will trouble you no longer."
K'sorde hummed as she swept the walkway that ran around all four sides of the church. It was easy work that allowed her mind to wander onto more interesting things. She wondered how her brothers and sisters in Ikar fared with the construction of their new school. They had heard nothing from them since late fall, which wasn't unusual since heavy snowfall in the mountains often prevented messengers from heading their way. When the merchants arrived to hawk their wares, all would know that the roads were, at last, clear.
A soft sound caught her attention. Bells tinkled as if moved by wind, but there was none to be had. The priestess cast worried eyes to the sky. Why was Etha visiting her in these times of peace?
"Be at ease, my child," the goddess' voice soothed. "Trouble has not befallen your world."
"Great Mother, excuse my impertinence, but why have you come? I have never heard of you giving casual visits."
She chuckled. "I cannot be angry with the truth. While it is true that Remnar is at peace, another world is not. This world has many defenders, but none match the power of their newest foe."
"I assume that this concerns me. Why, Great Mother?" She was confused. Of course K'sorde had known that there were more worlds out there than just fair Remnar --it would be self-centered of her not to think so --, but never had Etha spoken to her about them.
"Their enemy is your own, my child."
Gasping softly, she covered her mouth in absolute shock. "You can't mean...?"
"Yes. Nightmare has escaped his imprisonment and is currently terrorizing the people on another plane."
"They are fighting him?"
"With all of their strength, but none can hope to injure one that is invulnerable."
She was beginning to see why she'd been contacted; someone needed her help. "I have to seal him away again because they cannot do it themselves."
"Yet I cannot help you get there. The highest of the high gods has placed restriction over me, my child. This is something you will have to do on your own."
"I understand. There is one I believe who can help."
Warmth spread throughout her body and she could almost feel the arms of the goddess embrace her. "You are a good woman, K'sorde. There is a place of high honor for you in the Shining Kingdom when you decide to move on."
Tears sprang to her eyes. "I am eternally grateful." She felt Etha's connection with her fade, but not entirely. It was a comfort to know that she would be watched over.
The following day, K'sorde packed for her trip into the nearby Khalkilist Mountains. She didn't have many personal belongings to begin with so it took her only ten minutes. After saying goodbye to her friends, she shouldered her pack and, staff in hand, started off to the magician's house.
Long ago, before she had taken the vows of the Church, she lived in a small coastal village of farmers and fishermen in the northern hemisphere. Many of the people there hated change and would rather remain stagnant than to differ in any way. Over time, this mentality grew so terrible that anyone different from the main populace were usually driven from the village.
When she was thirteen, a family moved into the area with their twelve-year-old daughter, Meilyn. All three had dark complexions that lasted even in wintertime. At first the villagers were wary of them, but it eventually faded over time. Soon, the family was as much a part of the community as those who had started it in the first place.
K'sorde had become friends with Meilyn; they had much in common. Soon, the two were inseparable and knew each other so well that they'd begun to finish each other's sentences. However, when Meilyn was fifteen she started keeping secrets from her best-friend and would stay out all night long doing who knows what. K'sorde was worried about her, but could never get a straight answer about what was wrong.
On the night before she was to leave for Lemnos to begin her training, Meilyn asked her to sneak out after dark. Despite reservations, K'sorde did as she requested. She had a feeling that the midnight meeting would explain why her friend had been acting so strange lately.
They met in a clearing just outside the village. It was far enough away that the villagers wouldn't see them, but still close enough that they could escape to safety just in case danger decided to find them. K'sorde took a seat on a fallen tree and waited patiently for Meilyn to speak.
"You probably want to know why I've been acting so strange," she said. "Well, mother and father have been hiding things from me. Two years ago something strange happened; I set a tree on fire."
"That's serious, but not serious enough for you to avoid me."
Meilyn blinked confusedly for a moment then laughed bitterly. "No, I did not set flint to striker. I was angry at my parents and found myself glaring at a tree. Then I set it on fire with my mind. That was an evil act, so say the Priests of Mirr. You're destined for the church; I thought that you would hate me."
She rose and went over to her friend. "How could I hate you? You're like family to me."
"My parents didn't tell me that they knew I would have powers. They do, too, but they aren't as strong as mine."
" 'Two mages should never procreate together; to do so is to give birth to a being powerful enough to destroy kingdoms.' It is written in the Mestha, that is true, but the Mirrian priests are notoriously known for misinterpreting the ancient texts." She placed her hands onto Meilyn's shoulders. "You are not evil nor do you have enough unchecked power to kill us unintentionally. The odds of a child being born with such strength is a million to one."
"Thank you, 'sordy," she sobbed in relief. "That had been bothering me for so long..."
The memory always made her both smile and frown. From that point on they'd resumed their closeness, but she hated that it had to come at such a price. Meilyn had been in so much emotional pain that night.
The hike up the mountain was a fairly easy one since she was not an indolent person. It was around noon when she reached the small cottage that belonged to her dearest friend. While they corresponded on occasion, she hadn't actually seen her since two Springs before.
Her friend's face broke out into a sunny smile when she saw who was at the door. She wore a white robe typical of the Mages of Light and the scent of herbs hovered around her. " 'sordy! Long time no see!" She ushered her in. "Sit down, I'll bring out snacks."
Doing as told, the priestess looked around the tidy home. It hadn't changed a bit. Meilyn had an odd sense of style and it was reflected in how her home was decorated. Pale colored curtains clashed with brightly woven rugs and funny little knick-knacks from all over the world lined many, many shelves. K'sorde smiled when she saw the Solstice gift she'd sent to Meilyn last year sitting on the mantle.
"So, what brings you my way?" her friend asked from the kitchen. "I've heard that this year will be a busy one for the Church. Aren't you needed in Lemnos?"
"Etha sent me," she said simply. In a way, that was true. In the many years of Meilyn's life, she had appeared in more than one history. It documented her bravery and power, her willingness to help others, and her tireless efforts to recover what had been lost during the Nightmare Years. Her friend was heralded as a hero of the highest order.
The clattering of dishes stopped and Meilyn looked at her from around the doorway, surprise clear on her face. "She what?"
The problem was explained over tea and cookies. The mage had a thoughtful look on her face throughout and was silent long after K'sorde ceased to speak. Abruptly she stood up and went over to a bookshelf. "Where is the book?" she mumbled to herself as she searched. "It should be in there... Ah!"
Hope dawned in the priestess' eyes. "You can really help me?"
Flipping gingerly through aged pages, she answered, "I believe so. There is a spell, seldom used, that the Mages of Darkness often used to visit other planes."
"Why do you have a copy of it?"
She looked over and winked at her with a smile. "For curiosity's sake, of course."
"Here we are." She handed her the book and perched on the chair arm beside her. "Lae's Mind Transport. While not specifically a dark spell, the Mages often used it to learn from other cultures. They have always been more studious than the rest of us. You won't physically be able to travel there, but I don't believe that's necessary in this case."
K'sorde nodded and then began to fidget. She needed to ask the question but didn't want to risk offending her friend. Sighing, she gathered up her courage and asked, "Can you-"
"-cast the spell? Yes, I believe so." She started to laugh. "Oh, don't give me that look. I can't read your mind."
"I saw the look on your face and I know you well enough to know that you tap your feet when uncomfortable." Meilyn placed a marker between the pages and rose. "Come, 'sordy. Off to the lab."
"I used a staff to focus my energy, but I doubt that you need something like that. Call for the power, Vegeta. I will transmit your plea to my goddess, Etha."
He felt more than a little silly praying (Saiya-jin had never been particularly religious), but it would save Chikyuu and stop Nightmare in one fell swoop. "Um, Etha? If you're listening, I need a little help over here."
Covering her mouth, Bra started to laugh a little despite the circumstances. "Papa, you're not being very humble."
"She is right. Please treat the Great Mother with the respect that she deserves."
The word humble made him tense up, but he knew that they both made sense. "Oh, alright. Etha, please give me the power to get rid of Nightmare. He killed my mate, as well as a large group of other people, so he needs to be dealt with."
K'sorde sighed. "Is that the best you can do?"
"Hai. I do have my pride, you know."
"Very well. It will just take a moment."
They began to wait.
Several moments went by, the onlookers growing more nervous by the second. Yamucha and Kuririn could hear nothing of what the small group was saying despite having moved closer when Goku's body was placed on the ground and was wondering just why Vegeta decided not to fight.
"Is he afraid of him?" Yamucha asked, secretly pleased that it may be the case. It was pretty bad that he had to discover it when he did, though. If it was true, then he wouldn't be living much longer.
Gohan glared at him and the older man shrank backward a little. "I may not like him, but you can always count on Vegeta's courage. He's waiting on divine assistance."
They exchanged looks and exclaimed, "VEGETA?!"
"Yes, 'Vegeta'," Trunks frowned. "What part of, 'He's trying to help us' don't you understand?"
Goten looked at him with a sad smile. "Let it go, Trunks. You know in your heart that he's a good person, and so do I. Who cares what everyone else thinks?"
Movement caught their attention as Vegeta abruptly lifted his head to the sky. They saw him nod and then he was engulfed in white light, the purest any of them had ever seen other than in dearly departed Goku's aura. He pointed his index finger at Nightmare's body and concentrated. Only the Saiya-jin and Piccolo heard his next words. "Return to Hell where you belong!"
Ruby-colored eyes opened wide in shock. "No! You won't do this to me again, Priestess!" He turned to fly away, but the holy light struck lightening quick. It wrapped around his body and restrained him in shining purity. A small hole about the size of a dinner plate opened below him, one that quickly grew so large that the Capsule Corporation in it's entirety could fit through. It did not touch the ground but hovered between the demon and his almost-victims. Darkness as deep as starless space swirled on the other side of the hole and appeared to be sucking the demon down into it. He struggled, thrashing around frantically, but Etha's power refused to relinquish its hold. "No! No! NO!" He disappeared completely within the portal, still screaming protests. It closed behind him so completely that no sign remained.
All was silent for quite some time as if they expected Nightmare to return at any moment. Then Kaioshin sighed and bowed to Vegeta. "I have things to attend to. I give you my word that he will trouble you no longer."
Vegeta nodded absently as he silently stared at his mate's body. During the excitement of the final battle, he had almost forgotten that he was dead. He'd even half expected to see Goku grinning at him as the demon vanished. But now that there was nothing to distract him, the pain of loss once again made its presence known. "Where are the dragonballs?" he said hoarsely.
Kuririn and Yamucha exchanged glances, but neither answered. Seeing the proud Saiya-jin no Ouji in such a state shocked them nearly beyond belief. When no response was forthcoming, he asked again with an accompanying glare.
"Backpack," the short ningen stuttered. He was still very much terrified of Vegeta. He slipped the straps from his shoulders, and offered the black bag to the older man. "H-here." There were only about ten feet separating the two, but it was land that Kuririn was unwilling to cross. With a roll of his eyes, Yamucha took the pack from him and handed it to the distraught prince.
Vegeta grasped it tightly in his hands for a moment before removing the dragonballs. He smiled to himself slightly as he thought of Goku alive and well once more. "Soon, koibito," he whispered. "Soon."
A/N: Hai, I'm stopping here =). Stay tuned for part three. It's coming to a monitor near you sometime this year.