Age of the Empire
The Second Tale of Shukumei: Little Child Found
Chapter 5

The ride back out to the desert was a long one. As the plane flew over the golden sands, Buruma struggled to keep her eyes open. She'd been flying for three hours without any sign of Baba's palace. Soon, they were going to have to land whether they found it or not. She could only go so many hours without sleep.

"There," Roshi suddenly said as he pointed to what appeared to be a speck on the glass. As she drew closer to it, the forms of tall spires materialized and she wondered how he could have known what it was from so far away.

"We're almost there, guys," she called to the three passengers in the back. Yamucha and Pu'ar each gave a sleepy nod, but Goku didn't move. He remained fast asleep even when Pu'ar flew over and patted his cheek.

Her eyes widened in surprise. "Boy, can Goku sleep." Then, receiving an idea, she leaned close to his ear and shouted, "GOKU! WAKE UP!"

Not a murmur or a twitch. Yamucha laughed. "Nothing short of a bomb going off can wake him up, I guess."

Buruma let him sleep for a little while longer, but just until they landed. Then she climbed into the back and demonstrated the proper way to wake the boy. "GOKU, IT'S DINNER TIME! YOU BETTER GET IT BEFORE IT'S GONE!"

"Food?! Where?!" His eyes snapped open as he jumped from his seat. Goku looked around eagerly, his tail wagging behind him. Then he frowned, disappointed, when he realized that he'd been tricked. "That was mean."

"Just a little," she responded. "We're at Baba's castle so, unless you want to stay and sleep some more, I suggest you get a move on."

Goku couldn't pass up the chance to meet someone new and see something different. He hopped from the plane and followed everyone to the front entrance. There was a line of people waiting in the twilight, each one probably there to ask a question. An assistant opened the door and shouted to the crowd, "Uranai Baba[1] will be with you all in just a moment. Please wait your turn."

"I guess we're going to be here a while," Yamucha sighed.

"Iie, we're not. As her younger brother, I have a right to cut in front of all these people." Roshi marched to the front of the line and knocked on the door. "Konnichi-wa. I am Kamesennin Muten Roshi. Please tell my sister, Baba, that my friends and I are here to see her."

The man studied him for a second, nodded, and shut the door. Roshi hummed underneath his breath as he waited and smiled as the door opened again. "So?"

"She said, 'Let the old fool wait his turn like everyone else'." Then he shut the door in his face.

Roshi blushed and tried to hide it as he walked back to his assembled friends. "Uh, I decided that it wouldn't be okay to cut in front of everyone after all. We'll just have to wait our turn like everyone else." He received nods and was relieved to be asked no questions.

Yamucha whispered to Buruma. "I think his sister dissed him."

"You're probably right."

The old man overheard and turned around to face them with a frown on his crimson-colored face. "She did *not* diss me!"

"Sure, she didn't," was the choral response of disbelief.

The door opened and a middle-aged couple in fine clothing came out. "I told you that the maid hadn't stolen your necklace, dear," the man told his wife. "Aristotle is merely fascinated by shiny baubles."

"That cat is going to the shelter as soon as we get home!"

"Don't blame him for your mistakes, Gwynn. If you hadn't left it out on the dressing table then he would have never taken it." The wealthy couple climbed into a black limousine and drove off.

"Next!" Baba's assistant called. The group filed through the doorway single-file and, unfortunately, it wasn't their turn. Goku sighed and began shadow sparring to keep the boredom away. The pale light of the waning moon shone behind him, casting a deep shadow onto the sand. When Buruma saw this happen, she tensed up for a moment and turned wary eyes to the sky.

"Whew!" she sighed in relief. "It's not full."

"What's wrong with a full moon, Buruma?" Pu'ar asked curiously. "I think they're pretty."

"Pretty deadly to anyone in the same vicinity as Goku."

By the time she'd caught the attention of Roshi and Yamucha. "Why?" the former desert bandit asked her.

"Because I transform and kill people." Turning, they found Goku standing nearby with a pained expression on his face. "I'm trying to find the dragonballs to wish my jiisan back. I killed him last month on the night of the full moon. Something just came over me when I became that giant monkey and I couldn't stop myself."

Roshi placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "You shouldn't feel bad because of something you had no control over. I sense that you're one of the purest people I've ever come across in my lifetime." He smiled. "You have to be in order to ride Kinto'un."

His forehead creased in confusion. "I don't understand."

"The magical flying cloud can only be ridden by those pure of heart. I can't use it because of my, um..."

"Perversion?" Buruma suggested with a smirk. "Degenerateness? Immoral behavior?"

"Because of my appreciation of the nude female form," he finished with a glare in the teenager's direction.

"Oh," was the reply. "Why would you want to look at naked girls?"

Roshi leaned in an whispered to the boy, "I'll explain when you're older."

Just then, the group of young men from before exited looking as if they'd gotten the beating of their life. Covered in bandages, they leaned on each other has they headed to their minivan. "Oh, Kami," one groaned. "I'm never coming back here again without the money!"

Buruma stared at them for a moment and then stared at Roshi. "How much money are we talking here?"

"Oh, you'll see soon enough."

Through the door was a small square room and yet another door. On the other side of it was a stone pathway that led between two large crystal-clear fountains. It ended at a third door.

Before reaching the door, however, Baba herself waited for them. She sat cross-legged upon her crystal ball, dressed entirely in black with a pointed witch's hat atop her head. "Greetings," she said in a low, gravelly voice. "Before we begin, I must take payment from you."

"How much is it?" Buruma asked as she reached into her backpack for her checkbook.

"One-million zenni." That froze her hand mid-reach.

"NANI?!" she screeched. "I don't even get that much in allowance in a year!" She thought for a moment. "Maybe I could ask otousan to loan me the money..."

Yamaha snorted. "You're going to ask him to loan you a million zenni so that an old hag can read your fortune?"

"HEY!" Baba protested as her brother snickered. "I am *not* that old!" Then she blinked. "Wait..."

Buruma sighed. "Yeah, it does sound a little stupid."

"I call in my favor, Baba," Kamesennin said suddenly, causing everyone to look at him. "Do you remember?"

The old woman's face twisted in disgust. "Hai, I remember, Roshi. It doesn't earn you a free telling, though. Only a 50% reduction of the fee."

"500,000 zenni isn't too bad," Bulma said. "Do you take checks?"

"I take debit or credit only. I've had too much trouble out of people that write me checks." She held out her right hand as a credit card machine appeared in the other. She slid the Capsule Corp. card though and inputted the amount. "Everything's all set," she said as she handed Buruma her receipt. "Would anyone like refreshments before we begin?"

"I do! I do!" Goku said, his hand raised. He rushed forward eagerly. "Do you have any chocolate chip cookies? I really like those."

Baba smiled at the boy. "I'll see what I can find."


Ten minutes later they were gathered around the old woman in a semi-circle and watched as she searched for the dragonball. The lights were off in the small chamber and the only light came from the dozens of small candles lit everywhere. Baba told them earlier that she didn't really need the atmosphere, but it usually helped to make people feel that they had gotten their money's worth. Buruma had to admit that it was working.

"Oh great spirits hear my words. Show me the location of the hidden dragonball." She hummed underneath her breath and winked ever-so-slightly at her brother. The ritual wasn't really necessary, either.

Mists parted in the crystal ball and all present could see a thick, lead-lined black box. "The dragonball is inside."

"Where is the box?" Buruma asked.

Baba turned to regard her. "That information will cost you one million zenni, m'dear."

"NANI!? I can't afford that!"

"Too bad." The image started to fade. "You would have found it easily."

Roshi fixed her with a stern look. "Baba, tell the kids where the dragonball is."

"You'll owe me a favor..." she said in a sing-song tone.

"I don't care; just do it."

"Alright." She concentrated and cleared the fog away from the image once more. "This creature has it somewhere in the jungle west of here. He is a pig that walks and talks just as a ningen does. It should only take you a day or two, at the most, to locate his exact whereabouts." She bowed her head. "This is all I can tell you."

Buruma thanked her and led the group from the palace.

"Do we retrieve the ball I can find or go after the pig?" she asked.

They were split down the middle. Goku and Yamucha said to go after the pig while Buruma and Pu'ar said the exact opposite. Roshi was impartial.

"You're the tie-breaker, Kamesennin." Pu'ar said. "Cast your vote, onegai!"

He studied each group as he thought. "Hmm. I guess I'll have to go with Goku and Yamucha. I sense that we may have to fight this pig and I'm always up for a good battle."

Goku perked up at the words. "Did you say we would have to fight?"

"I said 'we may', Goku. Don't become overly eager." He lightly rapped him with his staff. "If I am to become your sensei, you must listen to me."

"You are?" he asked while scratching his head. "I didn't know that."

The old man nodded. "I have yet to make a final decision but, so far, I've sensed great potential within you. By the end of this quest I'll be able to give you a final answer."

Buruma was too tired to fly them anywhere, so she put up the capsule house instead. The only model she had with her was a one-bedroom, unfortunately, so she shared it with Pu'ar and Goku while Yamucha and Roshi camped in the living room.

After breakfast the next morning, they headed west. The vague description of travel time from Baba wasn't very helpful. Fuel was running low in her plane and she was worried that they would run out in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully the pig was located in a town of some sort -- one that had a gas station.

"Is that the jungle?" Goku asked. An expansive dark green swathe that was dotted here and there with various other tropical colors stretched as far as his eyes could see. "It's huge!"

"Stupid Baba and her vagueness." Buruma grumbled. Just as she spoke a light on the console began to flash, signaling that fuel was down to a quarter tank. "I'm going to have to land. Help me find a village or something."

The four passengers set about the task of locating some kind of community. Pu'ar excitedly plastered herself to the windshield and pointed to something off in the distance. "Over there! I see something!"

It turned out to be a small city and they were all grateful for that. Buruma landed the plane, using a wide street as a runway, and slowly taxied to a stop. "Domo arigatou for flying Briefs Airlines," she joked. "I hope to see you again soon."

They all blinked in the bright sunlight of mid-afternoon after disembarking. "Okay," the teen girl said. "I'm going to buy some gas while you guys look for the pig." She handed Goku the dragonball radar. "He might take it out of the box. Unlikely, but possible."

He pressed the button and immediately saw two dragonballs blink on the screen. Just as he'd figured out the approximate distance, one of the small round lights disappeared. "About a mile that way," he said while slowly turning to point in the correct direction. "Are you guys coming with me?"

Yamucha and Roshi both said yes, but Pu'ar shook her head. "I'll stay here with Buruma," the cat said. "I don't want her to be lonely."

"Aw, that's sweet," the girl said in response. "I'll buy you something special later, okay?"


Waving goodbye to the pair, Yamucha and Roshi followed Goku's lead.

"You want to play a game? My jiisan taught this to me when I couldn't talk yet."

Yamucha was amazed. "You remember that?!"

"Sure. It was only four years ago." The boy didn't see the look he and Roshi shared. "This is how you play. When I do something you have to copy me exactly. It can be anything."

The teenage boy had to admit that it sounded interesting. "Alright, start."

Beginning with an easy one, Goku took his right hand and patted the top of his head with it. He turned around to see the other two copying him exactly. "Good. Just like that."

"Does this get any harder? Please tell me it gets harder."

"Of course it does!" While walking backwards, he did three back flips. Roshi and Yamucha copied him easily. Knowing that they were both accomplished martial artists, Goku realized that more would have to be done to trip them up. Just as he was about to try something else, his foot came into contact with only air and he started to fall backwards.

"Uh, oh," he got out before he began tumbling down a slope. Collisions with rocks and sharp sticks left bruises and scrapes, but nothing really hurt him that badly. With a splash, he found himself face down in a shallow creek. "Ugh," he groaned as he pushed himself upward with his hands. "That wasn't very fun."

Roshi made sounds of disapproval as they came down the incline. "We'll have to work on your awareness."

Over the small bridge across the creek, they followed the small path until it broadened into a road. Along it were two large houses, each on opposite sides and about half a mile apart.

"This is about a mile away from the city," Goku said. "Which house do you think it is?" His question was answered when the front door of the house on the left opened and a little pig stepped out in a dark green military uniform. He looked around for a moment and spotted them standing in the road.

"Konnichi-wa," he said, leaning on his fence gate. "Can I help you?"

"We're looking for a dragonball. It's about this big,--" Goku shaped his hands in something that resembled a sphere. "--and has orange stars on it. Do you have one?"

The pig's eyes widened and he quickly tried to hide his reaction to the boy's words. "Uh, iie," he said unconvincingly. "Why would I have something as weird as that?"

Goku's eyebrows drew downward. "I think you're lying. It's not nice to lie."

"Uh, okay," he sighed. "I have it. But!" The pig's eyes turned sly. "You have to do something for me, first."

"We're listening," Yamucha said.

"There is a certain magazine collection that I've had my eye on for months now. It's called Hot Girls Gold. If you can get the entire set for me, I'll give you the dragonball thingy."

Roshi looked at him as if he'd lost his mind. "Do you know how valuable that is? I have a set and it took me years to find one within my price range!"

The pig smirked. "I know. No collection, no dragonball. That's the deal."

"Where do you expect us to find it?" the old man asked. "Is a little bird supposed to drop it from the sky or something?"

"There's a man in town that goes by the name of Korekuta Waihon. He has what I want displayed in his shop, but won't sell to me. If you trade with him, I'm sure he'll let it go. Tell him that Oolong sent you and you won't be cheated."

"Why can't you just do this yourself?" Yamucha asked. "You seem to be on such good terms with this Korekuta after all."

Oolong shook his head. "I can't find what he wants. No vintage kimono for his wife, no Hot Girls Gold."

"We'll be back by the end of the day," Goku told him as he ran up the road. "Come on, guys! We've go work to do!"

[1] = Fortune-teller Baba