Age of the Empire
The First Tale of Shukumei: Ghosts From the Past
Chapter 4

It was decided that they would auction it off and give the proceeds to several charitable foundations. Yamucha felt very good after seeing underprivileged families receive support that was sorely needed.

"I have to admit that you were right, Goku," he'd told the boy. "Putting a smile on a little boy or girl's face is much better than theft."

Buruma's radar led them to the nearest dragonball... at the bottom of an ocean. There was something odd about this ball, however; it constantly moved. Every single time they stopped the hydroplane over the water and started to get out, they had to move again.

"Something funny is going on," Yamucha said as he stared down at the water from his window.

"You think?" the pilot asked sarcastically as she, once again, started the engine. "It's almost like something has it... That's it!" She grinned to herself and cut the engine. "I'm such a genius I even amaze myself sometimes."

Her words were met with three blank looks.

The teen slid open the door and pointed to the glassy surface. "We're going down there to retrieve the dragonball. There are wet suits in the back so suit up."

Pu'ar floated in front of her face. "Can I go, too? Please!"

"Well, I don't have a one small enough to fit you..."

She smiled and shape-shifted into the form a human woman with short-cut dark blue hair. Only her small black eyes remained unchanged. "You do now!"

Showing them all how to use the scuba gear wasn't the hardest task of the day and neither was allowing her assistants time to get used to the unfamiliar weight on their backs. No, the most trying of moments was bound to be the search for the dragonball itself. Being that it wasn't the least bit waterproof, Buruma had encased the radar in a shallow plastic box that had been liberally coated with water-repellent.

"Before we go down, I want you to all know that you can't come back up too fast. You get what's known as the bends and it can kill you."

"How far down are we going?" Yamucha asked curiously.

"It depends on what has the ball. Could be anywhere from ten feet to one-hundred thirty. Anything past that and I'll have to try to use my mini-sub." She made sure that her equipment was secure and asked, "Everyone ready?" Receiving nods, she pushed herself down into the water with a splash.

Buruma had only been deep sea diving a few times, but she skin-dived like an old pro. Out of the other three, only Yamucha had scuba dived before. Pu'ar had watched from the beach.

She switched on her high-powered dive light and motioned for them to follow her down into the murky depths. Schools of brightly colored tropical fish swam by, over, and underneath them while larger fish and mammals steered clear. They swam for nearly two minutes before Buruma realized what had the dragonball.

Pulling free her communication slate, she quickly wrote down that a killer whale had swallowed the ball. Yamucha wrote back, 'Don't killer whales eat people?' Buruma nodded and then answered, 'Sometimes, but this is for Goku. We have to try.'

The whale rested in the water, its flippers waving gently, as if casually waiting for prey to happen along. Buruma made sure that they approached it from behind and waited until it opened its mouth to eat something else. 'It has teeth so we'll have to be careful to avoid them.'

Pu'ar paled visibly and her eyes widened behind her mask. She took the slate and wrote down with a shaking hand, 'TEETH?! I'm too young to die!'

'Hold on to my tail,' Goku wrote to her. 'I'll pull you through.' She smiled as best she could around the regulator and hugged him briefly.

A large school of blue-spotted sunfish swam above the whale, seemingly not noticing the predator. In a sudden movement, the marine mammal was behind them and opening his mouth to consume his unsuspecting meal. Buruma saw a chance and took it.

The four of them swam as quickly as they could towards the whale and inside of its mouth just as the powerful jaws closed around them. They made sure to stay clear of its teeth as they made their way deeper inside of its body.

'So far, so good,' the teenage girl wrote down. 'Follow me.'

It was relatively dry inside its body as all of the excess water was forced out through the whale's blowhole. They all closed the air valve on their tanks to conserve air and removed the regulators from their mouths. "That wasn't so bad," Pu'ar said with a relieved sigh. "I have one question, though."

"Hai?" Buruma asked.

"How in the world are we supposed to get out?!"

After a moment of though, the girl shrugged. "I have no idea, but a way should present itself." Without any further conversation, she started off.

Deeper and deeper they went until the light flashed briefly over the object they were searching for. With a muffled cheer of happiness, she went over to retrieve the one-star ball. "Success!"

Goku grinned. "This is great."

Just when she was about to try and figure out a way to escape, her dive computer began to beep, signaling that she was running out of air. She cursed vehemently when she realized that she hadn't closed the valve tightly and that air had been escaping uselessly. "The whale should have to surface for air soon and we should be able to exit through its blowhole. I don't want to wait down here too long so if it doesn't do it within five minutes, we're going to have to ascend another way."

"Okay, Buruma," Goku told her as he wandered off to explore for a little while. She gave him a look while tapping her dive computer with an index finger and he nodded.

He found himself further than he intended to go, but when he heard a sigh, it felt as if something (or someone) had guided him there. Searching with his small flashlight, he found a giant sea turtle staring up at him with depressed eyes. "Hi," he greeted. "I'm Goku. What's your name?"

The depression instantly changed to hope. "You-you're not a mirage?"

"Nope. At least, I don't *think* I'm a whatever-you-called-it. I'm a boy." The turtle sweatdropped slightly.

"My name's Umigame," he said. "I was swimming on the surface when this whale came out of nowhere and swallowed me! I have no idea how long I've been down here."

Goku felt sorry for him. "I can take you home, Umigame. My friends and I came in here for a dragonball and it was lucky I found you, too."

"Goku! We're leaving!" Buruma called.

"Okay!" He kneeled down beside Umigame. "Are you hurt or anything? Can you move on your own?"

"My right flipper struck one of its teeth and it hurts to move it."

"Hmm," he thought for a moment. "I think I can carry you on my back, but you have to make sure not to move the big metal thing. Buruma says that's where all the air is."


He kneeled down so that Umigame could climb up and pushed himself back to his feet. For a moment he swayed, almost toppling over, but Goku was able to steady himself. "All set."

The others were ready when he returned. "Can someone help me? My hands are full."

"You brought back a turtle?" Yamucha asked, a look of surprise on his face.

"Hai, he needed my help."

Buruma crossed over to him to replace his regulator and open the air valve on his tank when a vibration so strong shook the body of the whale that they were all almost knocked from their feet. They next thing they knew, a gigantic force of air was pushing them upward and through the mammal's blowhole. The five of them were suspended over the water for a few seconds before falling back downward into the ocean. Yamucha whooped as he removed the regulator. "That was fantastic! Let's do it again!"

"I'd rather not," Pu'ar said, shaken from the journey downward and the hard impact she made against the glassy water. She treaded water as she looked around for the hydroplane. It was off in the distance about half a mile away from their current location. "The whale must have swam for a little while." With a poof, she transformed back into her true form and took to the air. Her legs had been getting tired.

"Pu'ar, can you turn into a speed boat? It would really help us out a lot." Yamucha smiled encouragingly at her and the little blue cat couldn't help smiling back.

"Okay, Yamucha." She would do anything for him. With another poof, a small boat appeared in the water. Everyone carefully boarded and she returned them safely to the plane.

After a brief lunch, Goku informed them that he promised Umigame that he would take him home. "Where do you live?"

"It's an island not that far from here. I live there with Kamesennin[1]. Someone has to keep him from becoming too lecherous."

"About how much of a lecher is he?" Buruma asked. "I'm not getting off this plane if he's too bad."

"Oh, he's not as bad as he used to be. I think I've had a positive influence on him."

They disembarked on the beach, Goku still carrying Umigame. Kamesennin, and old man with a long white beard, sunglasses, a loudly-printed tropical shirt, and a shiny bald head, came to the door on the first knock and his eyes widened to see his turtle safe and sound.

"You were gone for three days! What happened?"

"It's a long story, Kamesennin. This is Buruma, Yamucha, Pu'ar and Goku. Guys, this is Kamesennin Muten Roshi, the strongest martial artist in the world." He turned back to the turtle hermit. "I owe everything to Goku, Muten. He rescued me."

"Oh, really?" Kamesennin stroked his beard thoughtfully. "An act of kindness deserves a reward and I think I know exactly what to give to you." He walked out onto the beach, cupped his hands around his mouth, and shouted to the sky. "Come here, cloud!"

For a moment absolutely nothing happened. Everyone except Umigame looked at Kamesennin as if he'd lost his mind. Then, a flying yellow cloud appeared on the horizon and stopped directly in front of the old man. "This cloud was given to me a long time ago but, unfortunately, I can't ride it." He looked away in slight embarrassment and then cleared his throat. "I would like to give this flying cloud to you as a thank you gift, Goku. First, let's see if you can use it."

Goku climbed up and stood on top of the puffy yellow cloud, half afraid that something bad was going to happen. When nothing did, he sat down and shouted, "Go cloud, go!" He zoomed around the island, laughing joyously.

Kamesennin smiled. "It's now yours," he called. "You can name it whatever you want."

"I'm going to call it Kinto'un[2] because it looks just like a big wad of cotton candy!"

Leaving the boy alone with his brand new toy, the group went inside Kamesennin's home and made themselves comfortable while Umigame's wound was taken care of. The sea turtle attacked his meal of chilled seaweed with ravenous hunger. "Oh thank you, Muten Roshi. You have no idea how good this tastes."

Buruma checked for the locations of the last two dragonballs and was shocked to find only one. "Where in the world is that dragonball? How can it hide from my radar like this?"

"I may have a way for you to find your whatever-you-call-it," Roshi informed her as he served them tea. He squeezed into the remaining space on the couch between the arm and her body and made sure to touch her at every opportunity. "My sister, Baba, is a fortune-teller. Ask her any question in the world and she will know the answer."

"Where can I find her?"

"I will have to show you. It's hard to describe." He finished his tea and placed the mug down onto the tray. "I'm going to freshen up, it will only take a few minutes." A giant perverted grin stretched across his face and he looked at Buruma. "Unless you would like to shower with me?"

His response was a hard slap across his left cheek. "I didn't think so," he said while rubbing the red mark. He smiled at her again and disappeared into the bathroom.

Buruma glared at Umigame. " 'He's not as bad as he used to be', eh?"

"Definitely," he nodded. "Before, Muten Roshi would have hit on you every few minutes from the time you walked in the door."

"Oh. This *is* better, then."

Roshi emerged ten minutes later in a completely new outfit. He'd ditched the bright shirt and khaki shorts for something more befitting a sensei. He wore a black Mandarin style pants suit with a wide white vertical stripe running up the center to end at his collar and white cuffs. Going to the closet, he retrieved his wooden cane. "All ready," he said as he placed the empty mugs in the kitchen sink to be washed later. "I assume you have some method of transportation."

"Of course," the girl said with a slightly offended sniff. "I *do* have my capsules, after all." She pressed the button on the capsule and threw it out onto the sand. The plane appeared in a puff of smoke. "Everyone climb aboard."

The first one on the plane, Kamesennin claimed the front passenger seat right next to Buruma. She rolled her eyes but remained silent on the matter. Yamucha and Pu'ar took the seat on her side of the plane while Goku took the one by the door.

Umigame waved to them with his good flipper as they took off. "Ja ne, Umigame!" Goku called, his face pressed to the window. "See you soon!"

[1] = literally "Turtle Hermit"
[2] = the original Japanese name for "Nimbus"; it means "candy cloud"