Published: 8th Nov 2003
Disclaimers: DBZ is not mine… But this story is, even if it’s not intended for profit.
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Chapter 5: An Invitation
A week after Moon Week…
“I think it’s a good idea,” Trunks said, his eyes locked on at the scouter in his hand. Occasionally, he would thumb a button at the side, scrolling the translucent text down further. He had read all of the data available on the subject, of course, but the simple statement he had just uttered came loaded with so many implications that he felt compelled to check and re-check the reports.
The meeting was held in a spacious, brightly lit room. The furniture was simple and sparse: a large oval table with comfortable chairs around it and a sideboard with snacks. Other personal scouters lay scattered on the table and left set to record the minutes of the meeting automatically.
Zarbon shook his head, crossing his arms as he leaned back in his chair. “No. The tournament is held on Icenia’s home base.”
“Every report we’ve had so far of her is quite favorable…” Gion offered hesitantly. Most of the others were seated comfortably, arms crossed and brows drawn in concentration as well. The facts had all been laid out; now was the time for a unanimous decision.
“For an ice-jin.” Zarbon remained stubborn.
Of the known ice-jins still in power, Icenia had a reputation for being hard-handed but fair. The people she had working under her were reportedly fearful of her, but extremely loyal.
Vegeta drummed his fingers on his biceps thoughtfully. It was strange. There were always defectors from a tyranny. In any large organization, even if it is just, even if the majority were content, there were always people who would want to leave, for various reasons. Yet, even though the sector of the galaxy that Icenia controlled was just next to Coolant’s, which the Saiyans had annexed, they had had no reports of any under her who rebelled.
She was either very, very good… or very, very bad. Yet, if it was the latter case, how could one maintain such absolute control over all of her troops?
“We will go.” The others turned to look at their prince when he abruptly spoke.
“Perhaps we were mistaken about her; maybe not every ice-jin is like the ones we’ve met,” Goku ventured.
Only the demi-Saiyans nodded. The others looked doubtful. “I’ve had more experience with the ice-jins than most of you,” Zarbon said. “And their culture, their basic nature is a very cruel one. They are bred for it and they are taught from youth. Why do you think there are so few of the ice-jins around, if they are so powerful?”
It was well-known the ice-jins hated interacting among their own kind; they were simply too territorial to get along. Sectors of space were unofficially carved out among the ice-jins, defended by raw might and sheer troop numbers, and jealously guarded. They might tolerate family members, but even so, most preferred to establish their own base.
The three ice-jins that previously controlled this region of space; Coolant, Tundra and Icenia, had formed an alliance, but it was a rudimentary one. They had agreed not to trespass on each other’s borders and had allowed free trade between their planets, nothing more. When Coolant had had his hands full with the rebels, no assistance was offered, though it was certain that the rest of the galaxy had kept a close watch on the proceedings. After Vegeta killed Coolant, the other two cautiously remained quiet.
Though the Algeran and Dagoon home worlds lay within Icenia’s jurisdiction, their governments were given general autonomy in the running of their daily affairs. The trade agreement the Saiyans had just signed with the other two races apparently need not have her approval at all. Though initially wary about dealing with any race with dubious loyalty, the rebels realized that they couldn’t really avoid it. Open trade would accelerate the fledging empire’s growth and economy, bringing in much-needed technology and credit.
Just before the delegates left, they relayed a surprising invitation. A martial arts competition was held annually on Icenia’s home base, Melwar, and the Saiyans had been invited to take part. The next competition was being held just a month and half away and that was the main reason for the current meeting.
Vegeta nodded, explaining more for the Earth-raised Saiyans’ sake than the non-Saiyans in the room. “Saiyans have a tough, vicious culture too, but we generally frown on senseless cruelty. We’ve never kept slaves. More than that, we’re at least loyal to our kind.” He shook his head in disgust. The Saiyans preferred to maintain their privacy and although their warriors were known throughout the galaxy, little was confirmed about them other than their famed fighting prowess and their fierce pack loyalty.
“Exactly.” Zarbon nodded. “Which makes this Icenia an anomaly; a wildcard.”
“Which could be a good thing.” Goten was much like his father; both were pacifists and tended to be trusting. “Gion said that reports of her were generally good.”
Trunks shook his head. The lavender-haired prince too, had a more positive view of the ice-jins, but he was more cautious. “Too little is known about her.”
“Another reason why we should go,” Vegeta pointed out. “This is an excellent opportunity for reconnaissance.”
“Another reason?” Momo grinned at the prince. “What was the first?”
“The promise of a good fight.” Vegeta smirked back wolfishly, flashing his canines. The others broke out into loud laughter. Moon Weeks were always fun, but the Saiyans were starting to get restless for a meatier challenge.
“It is suspicious however.” Though Zarbon recognized that the stubborn prince had already made up his mind, he continued his objections. Compared to the hot-blooded and hot-headed Saiyans, he often found himself playing Devil’s advocate. Turning to face the prince, he continued, “Why would she only invite the Saiyans? In particular, why would she mention you?”
“Good point.” Vegeta nodded at his old friend, appreciating his frankness.
Gion proffered an explanation. “We could assume that the invitation was worded for the Saiyans because the other races here formed a minority…”
Zarbon snorted in disbelief.
“But we all know that it was deliberate.” Vegeta smirked. “We are posing more and more of a threat. More Saiyans are achieving ascension…”
“Three so far, not including the four of us.” Goku smiled proudly. Together with his son, he had spent a considerable amount of time training their fighters.
“And our borders are expanding,” Trunks noted. As word of the Saiyans’ physical might spread, more planets were rushing to sign agreements with the New Order. Even if these agreements were not alliance or trade treaties, they were quick to declare their neutrality in regards to the Saiyan Empire.
“Still, we cannot be complacent; Icenia and Tundra’s combined territories still exceed ours,” Momo cautioned.
“That’s why we have to go.” Trunks was of the same opinion as his father on that aspect. “We cannot not know about her. If she is as fair as the reports say, we might be able to work out a treaty…”
Discontented exclamations of protest greeted that idea and the younger prince hastily went on, knowing that those who had worked under an ice-jin held only the worst impressions of the Ice race. “I’m not saying we’re going there on a diplomatic trip; this is purely a recreational trip to show off and to gather information.”
“It could be a trap.” Zarbon looked pointedly at Vegeta. “Why ask for you specifically?”
The flame-haired prince smirked. “Why? Because even she has heard of my strength and fighting prowess…”
Zarbon snorted again, his eyes rolling in derision. Vegeta’s smirk deepened as he flipped off the green-skinned male and went on blithely, “But even if it is a trap, I’m sure we can handle it. And if it is a trap, it would be a good time for confrontation anyway.”
The other Saiyans in the room nodded and grinned rakishly in agreement. Tails fluffed out and twitched in excitement. After the stunning coup a couple of years ago and their success since then, morale was running high and many were starting to believe that it was time to think about challenging the other ice-jins. Having grown up with tales of the legend of the Super Saiyan, and then actually seeing that fabled strength in action, they were convinced of the invincibility of their prince and his family.
“That’s probably true.” Zarbon’s lips twisted wryly. Even Coolant had not been able to defeat the ascended Saiyans. “Icenia isn’t known as a particularly strong fighter. What little we could find out says that her strength comes from her battle strategies and her troops’ loyalty.”
“All right, then Kakarotto and I will be attending.” Vegeta looked squarely at his son, who had appeared ready to protest. “You and Goten will have to remain behind.”
Trunks closed his mouth and agreed sullenly. His father had a valid point; they could not leave New Vegetasei undefended. Their planetary defenses were barely adequate and their troop strength was still sorely lacking. That was one of their main weaknesses; they were still too heavily reliant on the four ascended Saiyans.
Kon was a close friend of the younger prince and his mate and trained with them regularly. He had recently broken through the first ascension level, but still, he did not come anywhere near the demi-Saiyans’ standards. Trunks could still defeat Kon without having to transform. And their fathers had needed to be in at least the third level before they could defeat Coolant in his final form.
/Trunks./ He started when he heard his father’s mental voice. /A month or a little more should not be a problem for you to handle by yourselves./
And the younger prince suddenly understood; it was in a way an unofficial test as well. /Hai./
His father always had harsh standards for him, but he knew that it was because his father also had the highest expectations of him. A small smile tugged at his lips, knowing that by leaving him behind and in charge, his father was paying him a high compliment.
After some discussion, it was decided that only Zarbon and Momo would accompany Vegeta and Goku, and only the two ascended Saiyans would be participating in the competition.
“But why?” Goten asked. “We were told we could enter as many people as we want.”
“There are two ways to handle this when it comes down to battle strategies in a long-running war.” Vegeta took on a lecturing tone. “One is to put on an overwhelming show of power. You’ve got to dominate. Totally. So much so that they won’t fight back.”
Zarbon nodded. “Let them think that you’re still holding back, even if you’re on the verge of collapse.” He tapped the side of his head. “Half of the fight is up here, really.”
“Yes…” Vegeta whispered softly, his face twisting in tortured recollection. ‘That was the reason why I practically gave the fight to Frieza.’
Zarbon shot his old friend a knowing, sympathetic look and went on. “The other way, if you’re more evenly matched with your opponent, is to suppress your power until you need it. So that others will underestimate you and tip the fight in your favor.”
“But this is just a friendly competition…”
At Goten’s frown, Vegeta gave a hard laugh. “It’s never just a friendly competition. Nothing’s fair in life, brat. We’re in a war and there is more at stake than just sportsmanship. If we can gain any little edge by any method…”
Zarbon, Gion and Momo; the three most senior leaders among the rebels, all nodded grimly. The trio, together with the prince and his small family, had become very close in the past two years, drawn by both shared responsibilities and growing friendship.
“What’s at stake as well is our reputation. Mostly that of the Saiyan race.” Momo gave a quick smile to her lover to assure him that she meant no disrespect by that statement. “Our race is decimated and much of our vaulted strength is now suspected to be just a legend.”
Vegeta growled. “We need to re-establish our reputation; we need it to bring in new alliances and trade deals and most of all, we need it for our honor.”
The three Saiyans who were raised on Earth had looked slightly shaken and more thoughtful after that conversation.
The journey to Melwar was long, almost a month despite the new fast-traveling ships bought with profits from their growing trade agreements. The four arrived at Melwar a week and a half before the competition was due to begin, and spent the time settling in and sniffing around.
The competition was held at the edge of Parg, the largest city on Melwar. Landing at the main city’s spaceport, they were initially overwhelmed by the chaotic sights, sounds and smells that were ever present whenever large numbers of people were crammed into a tiny space.
The area where the competition was to be held, however, was far from the main bustle of the city and very quiet. A sprawling complex housed the fighters, and an extensive tract of cleared land in front of the building was clearly meant to be the competition arena. Dense forests bracketed the building, giving the area a tranquil setting.
All fighters who qualified for the competition were given free lodging and meals. The Lady, as she was known on Melwar, had personally extended an invitation to the four and they had no need to go through the qualification rounds or the mandatory health-screenings. They soon discovered the invitation accorded them more privileges than were due any other regular competitor as well.
Instead of tiny cells, the rooms they were assigned were large and well appointed. There were two luxurious bedrooms, separated by a fully equipped communal area. Stepping outside on the balcony from their bedroom, Vegeta noted that they were located far away from the main hub at the rear of the building just beside the forests. The building they were in was not high; it was only a few floors, and they were located on the top-most level.
Quickly, he scanned the surrounding areas for any surveillance devices. Inside, Zarbon was going through the bedrooms while Momo was checking their communal area. In addition to the standard scanning equipment in their scouters, she had also brought along a jamming device. Goku winced as he rummaged through the well-stocked pantry; the frequencies at which the device was cycling through right now were supposedly too high for ordinary hearing but still he felt the hairs of the back of his neck lift. The ex-scout fiddled with the settings on the small white box, increasing the intensity till the feedback could short out most sensitive surveillance devices.
The Earth-raised Saiyan watched in amazement as he stood in the middle of the communal room and munched on a packet of junk food he found inside the pantry. The other three crawled all over the rooms, throwing open cupboard doors and emptying the contents, checking behind mirrors and even going so far as to disassemble the electronic appliances.
“Kakarotto!” Vegeta poked his head from their bedroom, an annoyed scowl on his face. “What the hell are you eating?”
Goku held up the large crinkly bag, his cheeks bulging. “Some chips I think. I can’t read the writing but it sure tastes nice.”
Vegeta snatched the bag away with an exasperated look. “You mean you just ate the first thing that looked like food?” His eyes skimmed over the neon orange lettering on the indigo foil packet and he broke out in laughter. “Do you know what this is?”
“Hm?” Goku reached his hand into the pack for more chips, shaking his head.
“Jitaikvak.” Vegeta grinned evilly as he read the packaging. “Assorted plump insects of the highest quality deep fried in a special recipe sauce of insects’ own innards.”
Goku turned green as his jaw movements slowed down. “You’re kidding, right Vegeta?”
“Specially force-fed for extra juiciness.” The grin grew wider. “Fasted for two days to ensure excrement is cleared.”
Zarbon peered over the shorter prince’s shoulder delightedly. “Oh! Jitaikvak! I’ve not eaten that in a long time!”
Momo helped herself to a handful as well. “Mmm… this brand is not bad! You can hardly taste the bitter keratinous shell that usually spoils the taste.”
“Hey, Kakarotto!” Vegeta mumbled around a mouthful as the tall Saiyan ran towards the toilet. “You sure you don’t want anymore?”
When they weren’t making use of the training rooms in the complex, they would go out to the main city. What they saw impressed them.
Parg was the largest and most densely populated city on the large planet, yet the living conditions were decent. The streets were clean enough and the general populace seemed contented. Prosperous even. Taxes were not outrageous and the policing forces were heavy-handed but not too corrupt.
“Well, what do you think?” Vegeta lay draped over one sofa, his head pillowed in his mate’s lap. He turned his head lazily to look at the other couple, taking in the sight with a snort. “No wonder you two got together.”
Shopping bags lay littered around the other couch as the said couple went through their latest acquisitions happily. New Vegetasei was beautiful and peaceful, but it was also remote. Glittery fabric, high boots, tiny book and music discs were strewn over the low table in front of them.
Momo held up an amethyst head-chain, placing it against her forehead as she turned to look at the mirror behind. Zarbon was already wearing a matching chain, only in emerald. “Looks good.”
“I meant Parg, baka!”
Momo turned back around with a look of annoyance. “I was referring to Parg.”
“Yeah.” Goku ran his fingers through the ouji’s flame-like hair soothingly. “Icenia looks to be a pretty fair ruler.”
Zarbon nodded absently as he fiddled with a music disc. He slid the tiny silver disc into a slot on his scouter and clipped the scouter on. “The general population is well-fed and content. Her troops are everywhere, but surprisingly well-trained and not belligerent ”
“Sounds almost too good to be true.”
“Don’t be such a cynic, Vegeta.” Goku stroked the lush royal tail, wondering if he should have bought a tail cuff for the prince. He had seen a shop selling accessories of all kinds for tails, but Vegeta had been in a hurry to leave the shopping mall.
“He has a point though.” Momo covered her mouth with a hand to hide a snicker as the grumpy prince closed his eyes and started purring unconsciously. She almost lost it when Goku looked up and gave her a wink. Forcing herself to be serious, she went on. “We need to know more about this ice-jin: whether she’s aggressive or not, whether she’ll post a threat to us. We’ve not seen her yet, but just looking around us…”
“I don’t think she’s so bad after all,” Goku concluded.
Onto Chapter 6
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