Author: As promised the story is picking up. This chapter is full of action, as well as a few surprises.
10.19.## continued . . .
All the time since Dende had linked me to Shenlong, I could feel his presence faintly in the back of my mind. But as Dende had said, I adjusted to the dragon being there and nearly forgot he existed. Until he awoke and I felt the full bearing of his mind in my own. A mind so powerful it almost made my head explode. Iíll tell you this though: Iíll never forget the existence of the Eternal Dragon again.
We were running, racing to survive. But not all of us would make it to the finish line.
With a powerful dragon on the rise
Death begins to close in
As friends lose their lives
Where are all the heroes?
"Heís . . . heís in my head . . . I can hear him . . . I can feel him . . . Its . . . its Shenlong. Heís finished healing . . . and . . . and heís ready to rise."
It took a moment for what Ali Mystic said to register in all their minds. When it did, the group exchanged worried and scared looks, to which Ali Mystic was oblivious to because of the pain she was currently feeling. Unconsciously she began to rock on her knees and whimper under her breath, while beside her Marron watched helplessly. "Why is she in so much pain? You didnít say anything about the link hurting her, Dende."
Dendeís eyes were troubled. "I suppose Shenlongís mind is too powerful for her to bear. If she had the powers or discipline of a warrior, maybe she could handle it. If Shenlong doesnít let up it might kill her."
"You couldnít have thought of this beforehand?" Eighteen asked, her tone biting.
"So what do we do?" asked Pendril from the corner of the nest he was holding up. The pterodactyls moved restlessly in the nest, sensing the tension in their human companions.
Dende leaned closer to the shuddering form of Ali Mystic. "I know it hurts Ali but I need you to work through the pain and speak to Shenlong. Concentrate on your thoughts going to his mind."
Ali Mystic shook her head, her fingers tightening their hold on her head. "I Ė I canít! His thoughts are too loud."
At her knees, Embyr crooned in worry, half-glaring reproachfully at the little green Guardian. Dende would have cringed, had he noticed. "I know you can do this Ali. Concentrate on filtering his thoughts and only getting the ones you need. Itís the only way to stop the pain. Come on Ali."
"Canít you remove the link now? I mean, Shenlong doesnít need it anymore to heal right?" asked Marron as they watched Ali Mystic struggle inside her own mind.
Dende shook his head. "We need to be in Shenlongís presence. He has to return to Ali what she gave to him."
In Ali Mysticís enclosed world, all she knew at the present moment was agony and a great voice in her mind, too loud and fast to be understood. She was hardly aware of the presence of Marron, Embyr, and Dende nearby. Biting down on her bottom lip, Ali concentrated, trying to get a thought through to the voice inside her mind. \ Can you hear me? \
The voice paused, as if the Eternal Dragonís thoughts had halted in surprise. She had gotten through! Then the voice started up again, nearly making Ali Mystic scream agony. Ali bit clear through her bottom lip, tasting blood as she struggled to stay conscious and listen to the voice, attempting to understand. / Could you tone it down a little, please? Any louder and my brain might explode. /
Again the voice paused. Somehow, Ali Mystic could sense, no feel, the dragonís anger and indignation. At her question or at something else, she couldnít exactly tell. The voice returned, no quieter but a little slower. Ali Mystic concentrated, trying to filter the excess noise and get just the words. She succeeded partially, finally attaining some understanding of the powerful mind she was linked to. / Iím sorry. Could you repeat that? /
There was what seemed to be a rumble, as if the Eternal Dragon was grumbling. \ WE SHOULD NOT BE LINKED AS WE ARE. IT MUST BE SEVERED IMMEDIATELY. \
/ Nothing would please me more. But until we can do that, would you mind returning to your slumber? Iím only human after all and I canít take the weight of your thoughts in my head. / Ali Mystic winced as Shenlongís thoughts sped up again, as he considered what she said.
\ I WILL DO AS YOU ASK \ was the thought he sent finally. Ali Mystic sighed in relief. \ BUT HEED WHAT I SAY. I HAVE SEEN INTO YOUR MIND. I KNOW YOUR TRUE SELF AND I FEAR THE WILL OF YOUR SPIRIT WILL NOT LET THE LINK BE SEVERED. \
/ Whatís that supposed to mean? / But she was too late. The Eternal Dragonís thoughts had silenced and his presence had settled to the back of her mind once again. Ali Mystic rocked back on her elbows in shock form the sudden relief of the pain and pressure on her brain. Slowly opening her eyes, she found herself looking up into the concerned faces of Marron, Embyr, Dende, Mr. Popo, and the baby runt pterodactyl. In the background she could hear the panicked voice of Pan shouting, "Is she okay? Is she okay?"
"Are you all right Ali Mystic?" Mr. Popo gently asked. Beside him, Bra was fidgeting in nervous worry.
"Say something," insisted Marron a few moments later when Ali Mystic failed to respond and continued to stare.
Ali Mystic blinked, as if awaking. Carefully she sat up, coughing lightly. Iím okay, I think." She wiped her nose, then realized it was bleeding. Dende handed her a handkerchief, which she used to wipe her nose and then plug it, to keep it from bleeding all over the place. "Shenlong has gone back to sleep until we come to summon him."
Dendeís posture relaxed in relief. "So you were able to communicate with the Eternal Dragon then?"
"Yeah. Definitely a weird sensation, talking to a voice inside my head," replied Ali Mystic. Realizing her nose had stopped bleeding, she removed the handkerchief, making a face at all the blood. "And definitely something I could have lived without experiencing. Next time Iím told to link, bond, whatever to anyone, Iím gong to run for the hills."
"It needed to be done Ali," said Dende. Bra cut him off before he could say more. "And besides itís almost over now. Soon weíll be at the Lookout. Weíll summon the Dragon, remove the link, get our parents back and find a way to destroy the bad guys. Right?"
Ali Mystic gave a tiny smile at Braís words. "Yeah. Youíre right. Itís almost over."
"What did Shenlong say when you spoke with him?" Lidal asked curiously.
Ali Mystic frowned in thought, then regretted doing so when her head began to ache dully. "At first he seemed angry that I was inside his head. I was afraid he was going to refuse to do what I asked of him but then he agreed. And then he said something really strange before he went back to sleep."
"What was that?" asked Pendril.
Ali Mystic shook her head. She didnít want to admit that she was disturbed by what the Dragon had said, afraid of what it had meant. "Its not important. Whatís important is that we get to the Lookout as fast as we can."
Eighteen narrowed her eyes in suspicion but didnít say anything. Subtly she and the twins and Pan began to speed up their flight. For the rest of the journey the passengers remained rather quiet, filled with tension that stemmed from worry and fear, and none of them even bothered to try to alleviate that tension.
They arrived at the Lookout faster than Ali Mystic expected. But she wasnít about to complain. Eighteen and the kids set down the nest carefully among the rubble of what was Dendeís home, trying not to jar the nest and shake up the already anxious pterodactyls. Bra and Marron climbed out of the nest first, followed by Dende and Mr. Popo, then Ali Mystic with Embyr latched onto her shoulder. Toby and Dona stayed with their babies, who were too scared to even cheep. I hope they arenít traumatized Ali randomly thought.
Gazing around at the destruction of the Lookout, which had only occurred the day before, the group felt a little surrealism in their situation. As they cautiously picked their way through the rubble to get to the aircar that held the Dragonballs, Ali Mystic flashbacked to the day before.
It had begun so much simpler, with the only worry she had was whether Trunks and Goten would become suspicious of her during their visit with the pterodactyls. In the course of the next twenty-four hours she slid down a cliff, got attacked by a saber-tooth lion, was healed by the Guardian of the Earth, discovered the dead body of her supervisor, attacked Dr. Aleks (something that probably would have happened eventually considering), made a wish that inadvertently released several dead warriors from Hell and trapped the warriors that had defeated them in their place, and then became linked to the Eternal Dragon. All in all, a very long twenty-four hours. Hopefully this adventure would end soon or she might go bonkers.
Bringing herself back to the present, Ali Mystic found they had reached the aircar. And nestled in the backseat were the seven Dragonballs, still intact. The four kids, three adults, and Ali Mystic with one red mini dragon hanging on her shoulder stood there a moment, just studying them. Then Dende glanced at Ali. "Would you like to do the honor of summoning him?"
Ali Mystic jumped back, instantly putting up her hands in protest. "Oh no! You saw what happened when I did the summoning and wishing! Iím probably jinxed now. You created him, you summon him."
Dendeís lips twitched as he tried to keep from revealing his amusement. "All right." He turned back to the aircar and raised his arms. "Arise Eternal Dragon! I summon you by your name. Shenlong!"
Lightning crashed and the sky darkened until it was as black as night. And from the glowing Dragonballs, zooming and looping into the sky, arose the almighty form of the Eternal Dragon. Looking down upon them, Shenlong immediately located Ali Mystic, his great red eyes boring into her small brown ones. Ali Mystic stepped back, cringing as his thoughts entered her mind again. Her head began to throb but it wasnít nearly as bad as before, as she was able to remain on her feet. Ali Mystic stared up in surprise. / Did you quiet your thoughts for me? /
But Shenlong did not respond to her question. He said what he usually said to those who summoned him. "You have disturbed me from my slumber. Name your first wish."
And again, everything went to hell.
The ground exploded in front of them, knocking them all away, except for Mr. Popo, who was caught in the explosion. He screamed and then he was gone, just like that. Knocked onto her back, Ali Mystic stared in horror at where Mr. Popo once stood. "Mr. Popo," Dende whispered shakily from beside her.
"Not Mr. Popo," whispered Lidal tearfully. All the kids were close to tears. A chuckle came from above and they all turned their heads, not wanting to see what they knew theyíd see.
It was the undead brigade. Cell, King Kold, Cooler, Frieza, Captain Ginyu, and Dr. Gero. The chuckle had come from Cell, who had his arm raised high. He had caused the explosion. "Thank you for raising the dragon for us. I think we can take it from here now."
Pendril quickly stood. "You think weíre just going to stand by and let you make a wish? I donít think so."
Lidal came to stand at her brotherís right side, Pan at the left. They all moved fluidly into fighting stances. The dead warriors in the sky looked ready to laugh. "You think you can take us on?" sneered Cell.
"You bet we do." Pan leapt into the air and made a roundhouse kick at Cellís head, taking him by surprise. "Thatís for trying to suck out my energy." She laid a heavy blow into his abdomen. "Thatís for taking away our parents." She raised her arms and quickly let loose an energy blast at him. "And thatís for killing Mr. Popo."
The blast was strong enough to carry Cell all the way back to Earth, way below the Lookout. But they all knew it wouldnít incapacitate him for long. The battle had just begun. Pendril and Lidal leapt into the air to join Pan as Eighteen rose to her feet, her mouth set in grim line. "Take cover quick! Donít let them near the girls!" barked Eighteen at Dende. She sped into the air, entering the fight.
Dende grabbed Marronís hand while Ali Mystic scooped Bra into her arms. They ran for cover under a partially standing building near the aircar. Their odds were not good. It was four against five, with there of them only children. And when Cell recovered, it would be four against six. Letting Bra slide down from her arms and join Marron, Ali Mystic covertly watched the fight with Dende. A murmur in her mind made her glance away, at the huge dragon waiting in the sky.
"Fighting will get us nowhere," said Ali Mystic. "We canít stay here. We need to make a wish before they do."
Dende looked into her eyes, seeing the solemnity but also detecting the fear hidden behind it. She could see his fear as well. He knew she was right. "Okay. Iíll go. You stay here."
Dende was already hurrying back to the aircar and the Dragonballs before Ali Mystic could think to argue. She and Marron exchanged glances, both afraid for his life. The teen hugged Bra to her tightly, who was crying softly for Mr. Popo and wishing her parents were there. Ali returned her gaze to beyond their hiding spot and gasped as she saw what looked to Cooler swoop down at Dende.
"Dende! Noo!" Ali screamed but it was too late. With a single finger blast, Cooler had taken out Dende. A swagger in his movement, Cooler stepped up to the Dragon, tapping his chin as if pondering what to wish for. Shocked as she was, Ali Mystic almost missed seeing Dende move his hand. He was still alive! But badly injured. Which meant Cooler could still make his wish. Ali Mystic stared, stunned. What do I do?
In desperation, Ali Mystic reached out to the Eternal Dragon, seeking a way out of this. / Shenlong! Please help us! /
The Dragon did not twitch. \ I CAN ONLY GRANT THE WISHES OF THOSE WHO SUMMON ME. IT WAS WHAT I WAS CREATED FOR. \
Ali Mystic was frantic. / But you canít grant Coolerís wish! Heís evil! Who knows what heíll ask of you! /
\ I AM NEITHER GOOD, NOR EVIL. THAT LINE IS DRAWN BY MORTALS AND DOES NOT AFFECT ME. \
Ali was ready to scream in frustration. Then Shenlongís booming voice rang out, making the warriors pause in their fight. "That wish is well within my power." His red eyes began to glow and they realized Cooler had made a wish. And that was when Ali Mystic lost her temper. Diving into the Eternal Dragonís mind, she shouted out loud and in her thoughts: "Donít you dare grant that wish!"
The pain slammed in instantly, much worse than before. Ali Mystic screamed as she fell to her knees from the pain but she refused to give up, her will rising to match Shenlongís. Her hands fisted tightly, her nails drawing blood from her palms. Lost in agony, mere moments seemed like days. She screamed again as Shenlong raised his head, letting out a deafening roar. Slowly a bright light streamed out of the Eternal Dragonís mouth, forming a ball of light in the sky. Once finished, it flew at top speed to Ali Mystic, slamming her body into a wall as it was absorbed inside her.
Bra screamed as Marron yelled Aliís name. After what seemed like hours but was only a minute, Ali Mystic raised her head, meeting the gaze of the Eternal Dragon head on. Speaking in her mind and out loud, she said, "Donít ever grant a wish unless I approve of it first. Are we agreed Shenlong?"
And to Marronís great surprise, the Eternal Dragon nodded. Staring at her hands, Ali Mystic felt confused as to what exactly just happened. Iíll ponder over what the hell I did later thought Ali. Carefully she crawled back onto her feet, letting out a small moan as she did so. Her body ached everywhere, even in places she didnít know existed. "Are you guys okay?" she asked the girls.
Marron and Bra nodded silently, in slight awe of their friend. Ali Mystic moved forward, once again looking out beyond their hiding place. She was just in time to see Pendril barrel into Cooler, taking him away from the Dragonballs, and effectively restarting the battle. Ignoring the battle, Ali Mysticís eyes alighted on Dende and she felt guilty for forgetting him. Without pausing to think, she ran out.
"Ali!" cried Marron. What is she doing now? On her shoulder Embyr shrugged, equally confused.
Dodging the rubble, Ali Mystic ran straight to Dendeís still form, dropping to her knees beside him. There was an ugly hole in his chest and purple blood everywhere but amazingly, he was still breathing. Gently she took his small green hands into her light brown ones. "Can you hear me Dende?"
Dendeís eyes flew open as he coughed in surprise. "Oh Ali. Iím glad youíre here."
Ali Mystic glanced around at all the blood and although she had just bested the Eternal Dragon, she felt small and scared. "I donít know what to do, Dende. I just Ė." And Ali felt a lump in her throat as she fought not to cry.
"Iím dying," said Dende bluntly. "And when Iím gone, so will go the Dragonballs."
"And we still need them," concluded Ali, feeling a bit numb.
"Yes. Thereís only one thing for me to do. I must pass on my link as creator and the power to someone else. You are the only one within reach."
Instantly Ali Mystic began rapidly shaking her head, her eyes wide behind her glasses. "No. Not me. You should choose someone from this time. Someone stronger, someone who can handle Ė."
"Ali!" Dende coughed harshly and Ali felt ashamed. "There is no time! Just accept it! You can handle this."
High above them, the fight raged on unnoticed. Ali Mystic took a deep breath. "Okay. I can do this."
"Relax Ali. Just accept the power." Dende closed his eyes and soon both were awashed in a light glow. Bewildering sensations danced all across her skin as Ali attempted to stay calm and just absorb what Dende was passing to her. Energy flooded her veins as they mutated slightly to accommodate it.
Just when it was beginning to hurt, it ended, the glow fading away as Dendeís hands went slack in Aliís. Ali Mystic hunched over, panting from the rush she felt. Raising her head to look to reassurance from Dende, she realized he wasnít breathing. "Dende?"
Trembling, Ali Mystic checked his pulse and found none. Feeling overwhelmed by the dayís past events and the strange energy coursing inside of her, Ali let out one heartfelt sob before swallowing back her tears as usual. I will never let anyone see me cry. Forcing herself to her feet, she looked to the sky where Eighteen and the kids still continued to fight. She could tell they were tiring.
Turning back to Shenlong and the Dragonballs before her, Ali remembered that there was still a wish to make. But she barely took a step in that direction before a figure zipped in front of her at incredible speed, blocking her path. With a start, Ali realized it was Frieza. "If anyoneís going to be wishing on those Dragonballs, girl, itíll be me, so back off!"
Prickling at being called girl, Ali Mystic opened her mouth to give a nasty retort when another figure appeared in front of her, only this time it was the welcome sight of an angry Pendril. "Stay away from Ali, creep."
"So the green pipsqueak thinks he can protect his friend," Frieza said menacingly. "How sweet. You can die together then!"
Frieza raised his arm, hand glowing brightly as he powered up an energy blast. Drastic to save her life and Pendrilís, Ali Mystic used the only weapon she had: knowledge. Knowledge she had learned last night beside a campfire. Ali threw up her hands in a ceasing gesture. "Stop! Donít you know you two have the same mother?"
Her words effectively halted Friezaís actions, leaving him utterly stunned, his mouth hanging open in an unrefined manner. Pendril looked back at Ali in fear, feeling betrayed. But Ali paid him no attention, keeping her on Frieza. At the moment, he still posed a threat. "Whatís the matter, Frieza? Didnít your father ever tell you your mother was a human from Earth?"
Frieza took a step back, shaking his head in denial. Attempting to regain his composure, Frieza tried to sneer at them but failed miserably. "Itís not true. It isnít possible. What do you hope to accomplish by telling such a lie?"
"Itís not a lie! Itís the truth," Ali responded, pressing her advantage. Pendril watched on in bewilderment, wondering what Frieza would do. "Havenít you ever wondered why youíre so much smaller than your father and brother? Why you have more transformations, why you are so much more powerful than they are? Itís the human blood in you that makes you so special!"
"Enough! I wonít have you telling anymore lies!" bellowed a voice from their left. From that direction came an energy blast, exploding between Pendril and Frieza and sending all three of them flying. Frieza recovered first, immediately getting to his feet. Pendril groggily raised himself up on his hands and knees, looking up to see King Kold glaring fiercely at Ali Mysticís unconscious from lying a few yards away.
Raising his arm high, King Kold readied another energy blast. "No more ridiculous tales from your dishonest tongue." Releasing the energy, it blew apart a section of the Lookout. And as it crumbled into the sky, Ali Mystic fell.
Pendril weakly outstretched his hand though he was too far away, desperate. "No! Ali!"
The explosion drew the attention of everyone at the Lookout, just in time for them to see Ali Mystic fall. "Ali!!" shouted Lidal and Pan in unison. The girls charged forward, only to be blocked by Dr. Gero and Captain Ginyu. "Going somewhere, my pretties?" said Ginyu.
Eighteen also tried to fly to Aliís rescue but was stopped by Cooler, who latched onto her leg and then threw her with great force into the rubble of the Lookout. Marron shrieked and ran to her motherís aid, with Bra and Embyr close behind her. Marron reached Eighteen to find that she was alright, except her arm was badly injured. Then suddenly they all heard a cold, boisterous laugh and looking up, saw a chilling sight.
It was Cell, returned from his drop to Earth, with the last thing they ever wanted to see cradled in his arms: the unconscious form of Ali Mystic. "Look at what I caught. Quite a prize, isnít she?"
Without warning, there was a great flash of bright light at the edge of the Lookout. It lasted about half a minute, temporarily blinding everyone. When it dissipated and everyoneís sight was restored, the children and Eighteen were presented with the most welcoming sight. It was Baba, on her giant, floating crystal ball. And arranged all around her were Piccolo, Kya, Vegeta, Bulma, Gohan, Videl, Krillin, Trunks, Goten, Sixteen, and Dr. Aleks. They had returned!
The warriors of the group quickly glanced around, assessing the situation. And they did not like what they saw. Vegeta stepped forward first, loudly cracking his knuckles. "Alright. Who would like to be sent back to Hell first?"
"You canít kill us Vegeta!" boasted Captain Ginyu. "Weíve already died once before and canít die again!"
"You stupid fool!" hissed Dr. Gero. "That old hag down there is the witch Baba. She can easily return us to Hell! How do you think they go out?"
"Thatís right!" cackled Baba from atop her crystal ball. "So are you going to come quietly or do these nice strong men have to beat all of you into submission first?"
"We will not go back, crone!" shouted Cooler.
"And Iím not about to give up this lovely specimen just yet," added Cell, indicating the young woman in his arms. For the first time the newcomers noticed her precarious position and with a start realized it was Ali Mystic.
Before anyone could stop them, the undead brigade clustered together and then disappeared, using what could only be assumed was instant transmission. Vegeta growled but was stopped from saying anything particularly rude by Bra, who a running leap at him, crying in relief. Bulma and Trunks quickly joined his side, reassuring themselves that Bra was indeed okay. Pendril and Lidal ran to their parents as well, creating a big group hug despite Piccoloís reluctance. Gohan, Videl, and Goten clustered around Pan, who tried to tell all that had happened at once. Krillin and Sixteen ran to Eighteen and Marron, where Sixteen began treating Eighteenís injured arm almost immediately. Dr. Aleks stay beside Baba, feeling extremely out of place.
"This is all well and good," began Baba, interrupting the reunion. "But thereís still the matter of returning some certain dead folk to their proper place in the Otherworld."
Lidal gasped, remembering. "Those guys have Ali Mystic!"
"We have to get her back!" said Pendril.
"We owe her," Pan added.
"She saved all of us," Bra explained.
"Who knows what theyíll do to her," said Marron, glancing imploringly at the adults.
"She was of great help," said Eighteen, agreeing with the children. Embyr, who had returned to Kyaís side, trilled an agreeing opinion as well.
After exchanging communicative glances with the other adults, Gohan kneeled down in front of the kids, who had grouped together while voicing their statements. "Donít worry. Weíll save Ali Mystic before any harm comes to her."
Elsewhere, in an unknown place . . .
Ali Mystic regained consciousness slowly, her head pounding. What happened? Opening her eyes, she found herself lying on a cold hard floor that seemed to be made of rock. Realizing that this was not the Lookout, she scrambled to her hands and knees, examining her surroundings warily. It appeared to be a cave. How did I get here?
"Oh look. The prisoner is awake," remarked a cold smooth voice.
Upon hearing that voice, Ali Mysticís heart began to beat rapidly in trepidation. This is not good.
From the shadows of the cave appeared the hulking forms of Cell and Captain Ginyu. It was Cell who had spoken. Ali Mystic swallowed audibly, trying not to give in to panic. But it was rather difficult not to. "What are you going to do to me?" she asked, her voice unsteady.
Ginyu leered at her, causing her to hurriedly back away, although there was nowhere to go. "Weíre going to have fun with you, thatís what weíre going to do."
As the two men approached her, Ali Mystic felt what it was to be truly afraid. And she found herself screaming what was to be the first of many screams.
I said earlier that when the Z warriors had taken and Cell and the others had escaped from Hell, that at that point I thought I had experienced the worst moment of my life. But waking up to find myself alone among the enemy, that was truly a horrible moment. And the worst was yet to come.
For a long time afterwards, I wished Cell had let me fall.
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