Bulma slumped her shoulders in disbelief. "HeísÖnotÖhere?"
"Not in Heaven, he isnít."
Piccolo appeared behind her, startling her. All of these faces, some welcomed and some not, beginning to blend into her realization of her life Ė or afterlife Ė now. But Vejita wasnít here.
"Goku, itís been over thirty years since Ė since he died. Heís been sitting down there in Hell for that long?" she asked in a monotone.
"Uh, yeah," her friend replied, scratching his head awkwardly. "Iím sorry."
"You havenít tried getting him out yourself?" she said, her voice rising.
Goku waved his hands vigorously in front of himself. "Whoa, whoa, you think I havenít? Iíve been without a decent sparring partner for ages! AhÖgomen Piccolo, no offense."
"None taken," he said gruffly, but focusing his sharp eyes on Bulma. "Bulma thereís nothing you can do to save him. Frankly he brought his damnation upon himself during his vile life."
Bulma paused. Her eyes narrowed. "You repented for your crimes, Piccolo. Why canít he?"
"I changed while I was living. Heís dead. He canít change."
"He would if youíd give him a chance!" she said defensively, although she was beginning to see the futility of her words.
"Bulma, I can see that youíre really not used to being dead yet," Goku cut in cheerfully. "How Ďbout I take you around a little and meet some people here? I think it would be good for you."
"Goku, canít you help me see Vejita again?"
"Uh, that might be hardÖ"
"Then at least let me see Trunks! I have to see how heís doing!" she remembered suddenly.
"Thatís easier," he said, smiling. He closed his eyes and concentrated for a few seconds. When he opened them, another voice was ringing in Bulmaís head.
"You have so many demands, Bulma Briefs. Youíre never satisfied," Kaio-sama said grumpily.
"You can help me, Kaio-sama?" she said hopefully.
"Goku tells me you want to see your son already. What couldíve gone wrong, sheesh?"
"Let me see him please. I just have to make sure heís all right without me."
"Little motherís boy, I guess. All right, here goes."
The link was silenced, and Bulma began to see images in her head. First, she saw her own death.
Trunks trained on and on, never ending for hours, with the new invention she had given him. She saw the inside of the gravity room. It was literally sundered in half by the powerful blasts and movements flying around the tight space. Ceiling chips falling, wall cracked, the gravity machine itself breaking apart. And there was her son, panting heavily on his knees. The machine beeped over his ear.
He exploded in anger and struck the floor. A formidable shock wave rolled through Bulmaís mind. She died all over again.
But it wasnít over. Trunks walked out of the room, half-dazed, and entered the house. He saw her on the kitchen floor.
Now she felt his raw emotions, as he carried her to the hospital and awaited news of her condition. She felt his overwhelming grief and anger when she was announced dead. She felt his tortured guilt in the dark of the night, when her death stole away his sleep and haunted him in the depths of his soul. She felt his resolution when he decided to work again soon after, but never being able to fully concentrate on business. She felt his confusion at Rionaís offering of help, and relief when she took over his job.
Trunks walked into his bedroom and lay down on his bed. He was thinking of her again. No matter what he did he couldnít forget her.
His eyes were moist again, threatening to flow over with water. Then he straightened his face like a mask. A cold, empty expression, just like Vejitaís had been so long ago. He left the room and went outside, heading for the gravity chamber. Bulma saw him pick up the device again from the floor.
She jerked out of her trance. Oh Kami, is that what heís going through now? And heís going to pick up that machine again?!
"Yep. Sorry, Bulma. Nothing much we can do now," Kaio-sama said, sighing.
"ButÖno, thereís got to be something. I have to help him! Let me talk to him!" Her voice was urgent.
"Donít I get pay for my services or something? Okay, Iíll let you talk, but make it brief."
Another link formed. Bulma spoke immediately. "Trunks, Trunks, stop!"
Silence. A deafening boom.
"Trunks? Are you there? Itís Kaasan!"
Screaming. Another crash.
Bulma was deathly worried. He wasnít answering her. "Say something! Itís your mother!!"
A mechanized voice. "Gravity times 400."
"No. Heís already started training," she mumbled. Then, in an angry voice, "Itís all my fault. Why did I ever chance giving him that machine? I would still be alive too!"
Goku tried to comfort her. Ignoring him, she suddenly got an idea. "You still have that shunkan idou move, ne? Why donít you send me to him right now?"
"Ah. Sorry, using that is against the rules of Heaven. Iím really not allowed-"
"Who cares? Thatís my son there in the worst kind of torture! Iím not going to let him just kill himself!" she fumed.
Piccolo cut in harshly. "Listen Bulma, even if Son could bring you to the living world, youíd be under 400 times gravity."
"But Iím dead. Nothing would happen to me."
"All right, all right you three, let me say something! Bulma, thereís no way youíre leaving Heaven, even for a second. Iím sorry," King Kai said.
"Give me the link again. I have to get to him. Now," she said tensely.
A dull droning sound of the machine running over Trunksí ear. Feeding more rage and anger into his brain, fueling the hatred he had developed for himself.
"TRUNKS, LISTEN TO ME!!!" she shouted as loudly as she could.
"BAKAYARO, YOU GET-"
"Bulma, give it up. He canít hear you," Goku said softly.
"Iíll make him hear me!" her last words choked off in a sob. "My poor Trunks!"
A sudden influx of thoughts washed through her. Gotta keep going, gotta drown out the guilt. Donít stop to think, itíll only hurt where you canít heal it. I killed her. I did it, Iím responsible. Whatís the point of living now? There is none. I canítóI canítógo onÖanymoreÖ
It was enough for her to break into a greater panic. "No! Heís not going to die! Oh Kami, what am I supposed to do?"
"Bulma. Thereís something else at play here," King Kai said gravely. "His emotions have gone completely out of control. Itís this invention of yours that is bringing him the pain. He tried it once, after already being under much mental stress. The anger lasted, and so did a sort of evil. Frankly, I donít know why you built such a thing. Itís damaged your son almost irreparably."
"Tell me what Iím supposed to do then. Iíll do anything to help him. Iíve got to get to him before he kills himself."
The Kaio was silent for several seconds. His reply was hesitant. "There is a way. I do not know if you will be willing to go through-"
"Tell me what it is. Iíll do it," she said firmly. Goku put an arm around her shoulders.
"Okay. This is what you must do."
He was silent again, contemplating deeply. Bulma was obviously impatient, so he hurriedly began to explain. "You can heal hisÖerÖpsychological problems. It will destroy the vileness growing inside of him. However, it requires a great sacrifice you may not be so willing to make. And, it requires anotherÖ"
"Iíll do it," she repeated.
"Listen. Your soul is relatively pure, free of the wicked sin that so plagues Trunks now. You must sacrifice it. You must kill your soul."
"Kaio-sama. Iíll take her place," Goku said, already knowing where King Kaiís explanation was leading to.
"Stay out of this, Son Goku. Bulma must make this decision on her own. Bulma, you may be perfectly willing to go through with your part. But the other part is the difficult one. Another soul is needed, one that is darkened with a permanent evil, one that is also willing to unite with your soul in this sacrifice. This soul must die with you. Do you know what this means? Both of you will be wiped out of existence completely. Youíll no longer be dead. Youíll be totally gone."
She forced down the apprehension rising in her throat. She knew whom the union required. "Take me to him."
"Now, Son Goku," King Kai finished. "You may use shunkan idou."
They were gone in a flash, out of Heaven.
Chains. So heavy. He could feel them pressing into his skin, breaking his back, weighing him down all over again. He was powerless to stop it. What was the point? He would never be relieved. It was just part of his eternal agenda, damn it all. How many times had they asked if he was repentant? He had always answered no. This was his punishment, and he knew he deserved it.
They broke him ten thousand times over. Silent whips. The haunting illusions. So many nightmares that he didnít know when one ended and another began. He never wept.
Silence. He was alone. Incorporeal, breathing shallowly, alone in darkness. What new game were they torturing him with now?
Then, a blip in a long-forgotten sense. Kami, was it ki? It was. It wasÖKakarotto? How could it be? There was no way. Perhaps the demons had finally broken him down, perhaps they had driven him insane.
His coarse laugh pierced the silence. Kakarotto indeed. No such luck.
A light in the darkness. He shielded his eyes, not having seen such brightness in ages. How could this be? It just couldnítÖ
His Saiyajin vision still had retained its adaptations. Quickly his eyes adjusted, and beheld the most welcome sight he ever couldíve asked for. But was this just another mind game of Hell?
He jerked as a solid hand tightened on his shoulder. He felt flesh again, not air, not mist.
"Vejita." A sound, a voice! A voice of another, not his own, a voice which he knew and ached to hear again.
"Kakarotto," in a whisper, and he saw. The man he had known and hated eons before in life, the man he had long since envied, the one who had driven on his lust for power, always being a step ahead.
Goku looked into Vejitaís blind eyes, roving for a focus, and felt a great pity rise in him. At the same time, he felt the stirrings of anger light up in his heart. Why did they do this to him?
She pushed past him carelessly, the tears already welling up in her eyes as she threw herself onto the ground. She wrapped her arms around the soul lying there, and held him as he had for her one night long ago. "Vejita, what have they done to you? Oh KamiÖ"
Vejita first caught her scent. Light and flowery, so pure. Then, he felt her delicate body against him, and suddenly grabbed onto her with hands like a vise. "BulmaÖ" he whispered, his quivering palms feeling her soft flesh again, all over, all at once.
"Itís okay. Iím here," she sobbed. "Goku, weíve got to get him out of this hellhole."
"Bulma, how did you get here?" he asked, finally finding the words in his voice.
"Iím dead! Oh Vejita, Iíve come to end thisóthis suffering for you."
Through her reddened eyes she forced a smile and kissed his face.
"Bulma. Hurry and tell him what he needs to do," King Kaiís voice said urgently.
The link opened again, exposing her to Trunks once more. All she heard was a deafening scream, ringing with pain in her head. Holding onto what little composure she had left, she opened her mind and heart to Vejita. Steadily she poured all her memories into him, of his death, of their son, of seventeen years of apocalyptic destruction, of every single emotion she had felt along the way. Every time she had cried, every time she had forced herself to dry her tears, every sad smile, every bit of endless pride she had felt for Trunks. She showed him her death then, and lastly, their sonís tortured state.
"Whyówhy are you doing this?" he rasped, shaking from the overwhelming sea of images flooding through him.
Bulma laid her head on his shoulder. "We have to save Trunks."
"Yes. Our son. Heís going to die if we donít stop him."
As if snapping out of a trance, he pushed her away and laughed coldly. "Save him? How?"
"Vejita, please," she reached out to him again. "WeÖwe have to sacrifice ourselves."
"Die? Weíre already dead, idiot woman," he said contemptuously.
So this is what Kaio-sama meant by permanent evilÖ
"We have to kill our souls. Become nothing. Itís the only way, and we must do it," she pleaded.
"I havenít even seen the brat for thirty years! He means nothing to me. You expect me to obliterate myself for him?" Another heartless cackle. Goku flinched but kept himself out of the way.
"I just showed you his life! Oh, Iíll show you it again, Iíll show you everything!" she cried, and forced the memories solely of Trunks through him. She accentuated the images of his strength, his power, his triumph over the Jinzoningen, his caring, his love.
Vejita saw his son lose everything he had a chance to hold onto. He saw him brought up in a world where hope was lost, without comfort besides his mother. He saw him erupt into Super-Saiyajin for the first time out of grief for his only friend, Son Gohan. He felt his hopelessness at the hands of the androids. He witnessed a trip into the past, where his father still existed, where everything was well. Again, everything torn away upon his return to his despondent time. And after the precarious peacetime, his mother had been killed by his carelessness. Living in a hell like Vejitaís right now, not caring about his own life or anything else anymore. This was all out of sorrow for Bulmaís death? Was this how Bulma had felt when he had died so long ago? But no, she had barely known him anyway. He had never shown her any unguarded part of himself.
He didnít know if he could love. It had been plain to see that she had needed him like nothing else, and he had always pushed her away.
Bulma cupped his face in her hands and kissed him on the mouth, letting her tears run down his cheeks as well. "Do this for me. Itíll be your only escape from this hell."
He made his decision.
Riona stumbled and fell against the wall of the narrow hallway. The next shock wave bowled her over completely, knocking her into a table with a fragile vase on top. The vase shards cut into her skin, but she stood and ran outside, hurrying with the need to reach him before heóoh, she didnít want to think about what he could do to himself.
Now she knew where he was, and raced across the ruined lawn toward her dreaded destination. A quake rumbled through the ground, throwing her off balance again. Brushing the mud off her face, she felt a panic in her heart when the capsule building rocked on its supports and nearly tipped over. She ran clumsily to the dented metal door, desperately trying to wrench it open while shouting Trunksí name at the top of her lungs.
Then, the whole room exploded.
"Kaio-sama. Tell us what to do," Bulma said, emotionlessly determined.
"You are ready, now?"
"Wait," Goku interrupted. Both she and Vejita looked to him, and he hugged her briefly. "Aishiteru. I canít tell you how much I love you, Bulma. I canít say how much Iíll miss you, either. "
He turned to Vejita, and sighed. "I was hoping we could have a spar, Vejita. But I guess this is the end. Farewell, my friend."
Vejita nodded wordlessly.
"Now eliminate all thoughts from your minds, and let your hearts run as one," King Kai instructed.
Bulma willed away all the final thoughts she would ever be thinking, and forced herself to forget about the finality of this moment. She exhaled calmly, and leaned against Vejita, who held her tightly. Then she unlocked her soul to him, this time revealing everything she had. Gently she coaxed him into opening up to her. He didnít resist, and she gasped when she felt his heart beating against hers. She could feel his genuine raw emotion, shadowed with an ominous darkness that he always had had and always would have.
"Now, you leave the rest to the Gods."
Her arm was broken. Forcing herself up on her one able arm, she dragged herself to where he lay. "Oh Kami, please be all rightÖ"
He was conscious, but dazed. His eyes blindly passed over her, and the monstrosity controlling him emitted a weak beep. She snatched it with one dirtied palm and threw it against a rock. It broke into two pieces.
"Trunks." She ran her hand over the bleeding, self-inflicted wounds on his face. Crying freely, she wrapped her arms around him and wept on his shoulder.
She kissed him softly, for one last time. Looking into his midnight eyes, she smiled at the light she saw shining there. He had learned to love her at this last hour.
He smiled back.
The Gods did their work.
In a beautiful flurry of light and dust they vanished, trailing sparkles of dwindling consciousness behind. A selfless sacrifice. A union of good and evil. Their souls were gone.
And on Earth, a tortured soul awoke from its slumber and found love anew. Riona and Trunks held each other with utter deafness to the outside world. Their souls would live.