Chapter 3: Discomfiture
Author: Rocket (a.k.a. Roketto/RyunoOhi); Editors: American Vigor, npberryhill, and Saucemonkey
I don't own DBZ or its associated franchises. That's Akira Toriyama's product and pride. I only tenuously own my own O.C.s created for this fandom, and my speculative theories on Arcosians and other things DBZ never delved into. If you would like to use either, feel free, as long as you give me credit and a link back! I'd love to see my ideas become accepted fanon. So with that, welcome back to the action!
The air seemed to carry a weight even greater than that of the oppressive desert heat as Son Goku floated like a shimmering mirage, alight in golden flame, body tensed. Below him, King Kold was beginning to stir under the jagged fallen rocks he'd been sent crashing into moments ago, his aura rising, steadily adding pressure to the atmosphere. Any desert fauna present were currently slithering, crawling, or running away instinctively.
"Man...I hope I don't run out of power if he tries to pull that again..." Goku said out loud to himself. It wasn't that he hadn't trained since he'd achieved Super Saiyan, but that it was so hard to regulate his power, focus on two opponents, and effectively use his new technique, all at once. As serious a fighter as he was, he had strained his abilities significantly in that last skirmish. He narrowed his eyes as he focused on the huge Arcosian's ki. 'Here he comes..!' he thought as the rumble built to a roar.
Kold burst from the rubble, glowering through a trickle of blood running down his face. "You'll pay for that, Saiyan!" he growled, furious. Tail lashing, he charged at Goku with a battle cry and shocking celerity.
Meanwhile, Frieza had recovered from being tossed through the air, and was now flying at top speed back towards the battlefield. Coming into view of the two fighters, he stopped suddenly, watching in awe. His father was fighting all-out in his second form, matching the Super Saiyan equally...no, easily! Frieza grinned with relief. 'I was wrong to be worried...Papa's going to destroy the Super Saiyan with no trouble!' He did notice, however, the bright streak of crimson on his father's brow, his visible breathing. Frieza couldn't remember if he'd ever seen him bleed. This observation was enough to trouble him back into paranoia and unease, as his smile evaporated.
The two fighters clashed, sending up clouds of dust as they contacted the ground, the air ringing with the monumental force of their blows. Goku gritted his teeth, bringing his shin up to block another vicious kick. Kold hammered the blond Saiyan down, before sending a blast to chase after his rapidly falling form.
SSHFFT! The familiar swishing sound, barely audible above the noise of the blast, alerted the towering Arcosian. 'Just as I thought, once he gets far enough away, he only likes to use that technique to escape the danger.' Kold scowled, scanning up, down, and around him to discern where the Saiyan would pop up next. A small ki blast hit him in the small of the back, burning a hole through his deep blue cape and causing him to lurch forward. 'Argh..! That damn Saiyan..! He's expecting me to turn around and snap at him, is he? Well, I'm not as impulsive as Frieza, and certainly not foolish enough to fall for such a simple trick!' He forced calm into his being, and waited patiently.
The small blast, meant as a distraction, had failed, Goku realized. 'Sheesh, this guy's fast, pretty strong, and it looks like he's got better control than Frieza! I was sure that would get him to turn around!' He frowned, bringing his brows together. 'There goes that plan', he thought, 'I guess I can't bait him like Frieza...he's way too cautious...' Still, he was holding back, just as Goku was. That much was clear. What the Earth-raised fighter didn't know was how strong he'd be if he decided to take this fight seriously. 'I shouldn't take any chances...' he thought, though he was also weighing his options, considering if he'd ever get to fight someone this strong again. 'No, I can't be thinking like that...if it's someone in a friendly spar, that's one thing, but Frieza and his father want to destroy the Earth.' Still, his Saiyan blood whispered at him to savor this fight.
"Rrrrgh..! What's taking Kakarot so long? What's he doing?!" the prince of Saiyans spat, watching the battle with increasing concern.
"What are you talking about, Vegeta?" Krillin asked. "He's holding his own against that monster."
"No, he's right," Piccolo interjected. "Just look at him. Goku isn't taking this seriously, despite the power emanating from his opponent. The question is, why?" The green alien narrowed his eyes at the scene, trying to find the reason for Son Goku's hesitance.
"I have an idea why...pah, it figured that now of all times his Saiyan nature would finally serve him well..." Vegeta muttered. "Saiyans have an unparalleled love of fighting, and the stronger we get, the harder it is to satisfy the urge to battle at our full strength."
"Oh! I get it now!" Gohan piped up. "So you're saying my Dad wants to fight this guy at his full strength?"
"Hmph, maybe," the prince spat, rolling his eyes. "It's possible, however unlikely, that even your clown of a father could follow his warrior instincts for once, though I doubt he has any semblance of true Saiyan pride within him. Facing Kold at full power must be quite the enticing prospect, though it's certainly the worst case scenario for you Earthlings and your pathetic planet. Even so, he could just as likely be biding his time for some other reason...like being afraid of losing control, or something equally foolish." Vegeta crossed his arms.
"I don't think Goku would lose control, even as a Super Saiyan, Vegeta. He's not like that." Krillin said pointedly.
"Oh? And just how many other legendary beings have you had the chance to observe, human? I think that I'd know my own peoples' legends better than the likes of you." the prince growled, sounding on the verge of annoyance.
"Well I," the short human gulped, "—I know Goku better than some old legend, no offense," Krillin ventured cautiously, wary of Vegeta's temper, "and I know that's not something that would ever hold him back." He stepped back as Vegeta bared his teeth, turning to fully face him. "But...uh...hey, why'd you say earlier that if he's holding back, that'd be the worst case scenario? What's it matter if he drags this out a bit? I mean... He can still win against those two..."
At this, Vegeta's face, previously angry, turned to a hard mask of indifference yet again. "Tch. You may know Kakarot, but I know Frieza. And I know something of Kold's power as well..." He paused, and the others leaned closer, curious. "I never met Frieza's father, not personally, though I knew of him, from the other high-ranking soldiers aboard Frieza's ship. Everyone who'd met him said that he was at least as dangerous as Frieza, if not more. But I'm getting ahead of myself...anyway, I encountered his power when I was still young, a few years after Frieza destroyed my planet."
Gohan was surprised at how calm Vegeta was, talking about the destruction of his planet so casually. 'I can't believe his attitude towards it...if someone...if Frieza destroyed the Earth, I know I couldn't be that emotionless, talking about it.' Eyeing the aerial battle his father was engaged in, he hoped he'd never have to test his theory. He turned his attention back to Vegeta, who began his story.
"I saw weakness where no-one thought weakness existed—in Frieza. I had finished my training for the day, when an announcement went out on all the scouter frequencies, and the ship's speakers. That redundancy, in and of itself, was odd. We were ordered to go back to our quarters before the doors auto-locked in five minutes, and any soldier found outside the locked doors would have been killed. It even specified that essential personnel were including in the lockdown. That was my second tip-off that something was up.
By chance, earlier that day, another new recruit, this ugly filth called Cui, and I had a...disagreement...outside my berth, resulting in a dent in the door above the small, round window. Young as I was, even then I had emerged with only minor bruises, while that slimy simpleton was rushed off to the infirmary." Vegeta smirked at the satisfying memory. "That was the beginning of his perceived 'rivalry' with me, but more importantly, if I hadn't smashed his head into the door, I might not have seen something that changed my perspective, and gave me a reason to survive that hellish place." Vegeta's smile then faded, becoming a much more serious expression. "The dent from that cretin's skull meant that when the doors auto-locked, the shield that was supposed to block the window didn't fully extend, leaving me with a look at the main hallway."
Something in Vegeta's change of facial expression made Krillin and Gohan both shiver. His moods, usually worn fully on his face, were always a handy gauge of how dangerous he was at the moment, but now, with no glimmer of emotion as he continued his tale, he seemed all the more menacing, a harbinger of unsettling news.
"After a while, my scouter beeped, alerting me to a power outside in the hallway...but I thought, 'who could be outside under lockdown?'" He leaned forward, towards his audience. "It was Frieza. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, couldn't make sense of it at all. This was someone I'd been told my whole life was...nothing short of a god, invincible. He looked like he'd been chewed up and spit out. His armor was cracked and broken, he stumbled and limped like all the other soldiers who sparred against someone and got their asses handed to them, and above all else..." Vegeta's eyes widened for emphasis, "...he was bleeding. Not just a little, either. He was leaving a trail of the stuff behind him, coughing it up, smearing it down the wall as he leaned against it... It was..." He searched for the word, almost grinning. "...surreal. That's what it was to me, back then."
Everyone, even Piccolo, looked stunned. Gohan's mouth hung open in shock. Krillin was the first to respond to the revelation. "Wha... So, what happened to him? Are you saying that...that this Kold guy..."
"That's exactly what I'm saying, you moron. At the time, I hadn't yet become aware of Frieza's potential to transform, but I see now that it makes no difference—I'm sure his other forms aren't something he gained in the past twenty years, so that means that, however strong he is, his father is capable of much, much more power." He said the last words in a hushed voice, dropping off into a whisper.
"I had heard rumors from other more seasoned soldiers that the lockdown was because Frieza's father had come to check in on his son, but after what I saw, I put the pieces together, deducing two things: one: Frieza was not as invincible as his propaganda made him seem, and two: someone existed who could make him bleed." He clenched his fist in front of him, staring at it.
"In that moment, I, on my way to becoming a supine follower of Frieza until my dying day, instead resolved myself to be the next person who would make Frieza bleed. I trained in earnest for the next decade, striving to reach the kind of power to make a physical god cower in fear before me. To avenge my planet, my father, and my race. To become the one thing that could possibly stand against Frieza...a Super Saiyan..." He closed his eyes, lowering his fist. "But all that's been stolen from me, by Kakarot's upstaging...Rrrkk, to think, someone so ignorant of his roots would be the one to avenge us..." The bitter words seemed dry as dust now, empty.
"...What are you saying, Vegeta?" the Namek's low voice interrupted. "You think Frieza's father might be on par with your own legendary warrior? Hmph. If this Kold is capable of so much more, what's taking him so long to use that power?" Piccolo intoned.
"I don't know, Namekian." Vegeta snapped. "But the facts speak for themselves...Kold could only control his son if he was still the stronger of the pair, so even as powerful as Frieza has become, I reason that Kold has made sure to stay several steps ahead. If this is the extent of Kakarot's power, and Kold's only in his second form...we may all die. Plain and simple."
Gohan's face fell. Krillin sat down hard on a sun-warmed rock, clenching his fists in his lap. "Damn... I don't want to die again... Is there any possible way that you're wrong, Vegeta? Any weaknesses this guy could have? Anything?!" The short monk had a look of desperation in his eyes.
Before Vegeta could open his mouth to reply, Piccolo said sharply. "We will fight. No matter what, even if Son Goku loses here, we'll fight to the end. It's all we can do. Until that time comes...if it comes...we'll be witness to this battle, and be ready to support Goku if he asks us to." His cape snapped in the hot wind, punctuating his hardened tone of voice.
"Mr. Piccolo's right," Gohan said, sounding surprisingly brave again. "We just gotta help my Dad, and make sure these bad guys don't win!" His mentor couldn't help but give him a very brief, small smile.
"That's the spirit, Gohan. If Goku needs our help, he won't hesitate to ask." Piccolo stated.
Goku's battle with Kold, a duel of greater intensity than any the Earth's fighters had ever seen, still seemed to be on relatively even terms, the Saiyan having gone back to directly attacking his towering opponent.
"Yaaah!" he cried as he aimed a punch at the Arcosian's head. Kold merely smirked, deflecting the fist with a side block. The impact pushed him to the side, but whatever he was, 'incapable of taking a hit' wasn't on the list, Goku thought. Determined to knock this guy down, the Saiyan powered up in a flood of golden light, grinned, and used Instant Transmission to reappear back-to-back with his foe. Remembering that he couldn't sense ki, Goku grabbed the deep blue cape behind him, and pulled it to alert Kold to his position. At the tug, Kold wheeled suddenly, looking appropriately ticked off.
The monkey had vanished yet again, but...where? Kold searched the sky and the ground before feeling a pull at the fabric of his cape. "How dare you touch me, you filthy—!" he turned, goaded into a rage that dyed the corners of his vision red, forgetting to be on his guard. He immediately regretted his impulsivity, seeing a ball of neon blue ki inches from his nose.
"Here, catch!" Goku said gamely, with a small hint of cockiness. He wondered if he could test Kold's speed, see if he was fast enough to evade this. The blast exploded brightly, as Goku floated backward, away from it.
A growl built into a roar from Kold, his eyes narrow slits of unadulterated rage, fangs fully exposed in a snarl. "Well, I guess that he couldn't dodge it..." Goku thought out loud, "but wow, I put some power into that one, and he's barely even annoyed!" The tyrant's face was covered in residue from the energy ball, but other than that, he seemed wholly undamaged.
"You'll pay for that, Saiyaaaaaan! Raaaaaargh!" Kold screamed, bearing down on his shorter opponent, tail lashing with undisguised anger. They met, clashing again in a flurry of strikes, bone-rattling blocks, and ki blasts. They clashed, fist-to-fist, and the resulting shockwave drove them both back. Goku caught his breath, still watching Kold to see what his next move would be.
"Frieza!" Kold roared to his son. "I thought I told you to hold off this scum, and yet, here I am, having to fight this ape myself!" Frieza visibly cringed at the huge Arcosian's words and tone of voice.
"Sorry! I'll try harder this time Papa, I was just—"
"Damnit Frieza, I don't want to hear excuses!" Kold seemed to say something then in a language the others couldn't understand. Whatever it was, Frieza's reaction to it was nothing short of terrified.
"...Yes, father." Frieza said quietly, seeming to cower as he hung in the sky. In the next moment, his shoulders straightened, and his aura blazed. He looked determined now. Piccolo alone, with his superior hearing, could hear the alien response, half-mumbled under his breath. He didn't understand the words, but he knew the tone.
"Goku! Look out!" Piccolo called to the Saiyan from Earth. Frieza made his move.
The Super Saiyan turned to where Frieza had been floating behind him, on the borders of his attention. He hadn't been concerned with the cyborg, but now, as Frieza flew straight at him, Goku saw no fear for him in his eyes.
"Damn!" Piccolo cursed, watching the three fighters above them. "Frieza's not afraid of him anymore."
"What? Why?" Krillin asked, perplexed. "He seemed pretty rattled before, what changed?"
"I don't know, exactly. Something they said, I couldn't understand it. Must be whatever their native language is." He stared pointedly at Vegeta.
"Why are you staring at me, green man? What, you expect me to translate for you? Like I'd know what they're saying!" he scoffed, scowling back at the Namek.
"Anyway," Piccolo continued, "whatever Kold said, it set Frieza off, big time. It must have been an insult, a reminder, maybe a threat...but whatever it was, when Frieza responded, he sounded like he's ready to die to follow that order. That means that his fear isn't holding him back any longer."
"DIIIE!" Frieza screamed, diving at Goku from above, bringing his foot down in an axe kick. Goku blocked, but felt the power of the kick in his forearm. 'What the...it's like he's gotten stronger, somehow!' he thought.
Frieza disappeared in a blur of speed, reappearing at Goku's side to drive an elbow into his ribs. The Saiyan flowed with the strike, allowing his body to bend sideways, reducing the impact. He used the momentum to aim a hammer-fist at Frieza, but the small Arcosian disengaged, speeding up and away. Frieza released a barrage of energy blasts, clouding the air. Goku prepared to drop the shield he'd put up, when he sensed Frieza circling behind him. A second later, and the tyrant crashed into the globe-shaped barrier, scrabbling and pounding furiously at it.
"Fight me, damn you!" he cried. He stepped back, put his hand, palm up, over his head, and charged a larger ki blast. Upon release, this one shattered the barrier, and Frieza followed it, yelling as he kept Goku occupied.
"Hmph, finally, it seems that Frieza's finally doing what he is supposed to." Kold noted. While his son was far from strong enough to challenge the Saiyan, of that he was sure, his tenacity would be advantageous. Kold flew backwards, putting a good amount of distance between himself and the other two powers clashing. He smirked, watching his son raging against his foe, before concentrating fully on summoning his power.
Piccolo had been watching Frieza's renewed attack against Goku, but his head suddenly snapped up, eyes wide with concern. His pupil noticed his fearful expression, simultaneously sensing what had his attention.
"Gah...man...that power..." the child mouthed, his whole body feeling smothered by the roiling wave of ki.
"It's...enormous..." Piccolo gaped. Vegeta and the other fighters were similarly shocked.
"Pff...Kakarot, the fool, doesn't he realize the danger?!" Vegeta spoke, voice wavering with barely-concealed panic. He'd just finished explaining to these simpletons just how powerful Kold was, but Kakarot, it seemed, was preoccupied: Frieza kept pushing him back, bashing into him, hurling bolts of ki, anything to keep him busy.
A sizzling ball of ki grazed Goku's cheek, leaving an angry red burn line. "Not good! I just don't have time for this!" he said, frustrated, blocking the diminutive Arcosian's axe kick. He could feel the monstrous ki stretching out from where Kold was floating, even from here he could tell it was swelling, threatening to overflow. He knew what that probably meant. He tried to transmit away, but Frieza slammed into his face as he raised his hand, two fingers extended, disrupting his concentration again.
"I won't let you near him!" yelled the cyborg, eyes angry red slits in his pale face. 'I have to keep this up...to protect Father at all costs..!' he thought, ignoring his exhaustion. Already, his muscles were feeling the strain of pushing his limits like this, made worse by the irritating ache he felt in his exscinded body parts that he found increasingly hard to ignore. 'Not now...I can't let my focus waver!' He gritted his teeth, preparing to strike again.
"Gah..! Damnit!" Goku cursed as, once again, he found his focus broken by Frieza's tenacious attacks. He knew now that Frieza was stalling him. 'Gotta admit, I didn't think Frieza could be a team player...but he's bound and determined to protect that other guy no matter what!' he thought as he blocked an incoming punch, before redirecting the movement, throwing Frieza past him. 'Now's my chance-!' he dashed forward...
"No you don't, monkey!" ...Frieza was already in his path, panting but looking determined to block him.
"Ksshh..!" Goku grit his teeth, thoroughly vexed, but also increasingly worried. He looked down at Piccolo and the others, an idea striking him. 'They may not be at full strength...but neither is he..!' He shouted down to them, "Guys! Attack Frieza, now! You have to hold him off, or we're all sunk!"
Vegeta seemed to be the first to react, rising into the air quickly, fists raised. Piccolo and Gohan followed behind, with Krillin and Tenshinhan not far behind, their auras flared despite their apparent exhaustion.
Frieza's expression turned murderous, as he realized the Super Saiyan's intentions. "...No! You won't get past me!" he screamed, drawing his legs and undamaged arm in, then releasing a sphere of crackling energy, livid and red. The aura sphere sent out bolts of buzzing energy towards the flight of fighters approaching from below. Vegeta rolled midair, avoiding the first finger of lightning, shooting up towards the tyrant.
"Payback time, Friezaaaaa!" the prince roared, as he readied a side kick. His foot struck Frieza's spherical barrier, their auras briefly clashing, before it caved, leaving Frieza open to Vegeta's boot. The attack hit home, Vegeta burying his outstretched leg in Frieza's gut. The Arcosian coughed, blood dripping from his mouth.
"Why...you..!" the metallic alien croaked. With Vegeta's leg still extended, he took advantage of that oversight, gripping the Saiyan's leg by the calf, and swinging him around like a club. Gohan, who had resolved to hold nothing back, was flying straight at Frieza when Vegeta, flailing, was sent to meet him. The two's heads collided with an audible THWACK! Gohan was knocked backwards, eyes rolled back, and Vegeta moaned in pain, forehead streaming blood, as Frieza relinquished his grip.
"Ghuck..." Frieza coughed weakly. "Now...where...did he go..?!" he mumbled, looking for the only opponent who mattered: the Super Saiyan. 'There you are, you damned monkey!' he thought as he spotted the golden warrior behind him. As he inhaled, trying to gather his ki for another burst of speed, he heard one of the humans cry out something from above him. He suddenly felt his whole body go rigid, pressed against a tremendous weight from above. Whatever it was, it wasn't just forcing him down, it burned. He screamed, trying to break free.
'That worked perfectly!' thought Tenshinhan, 'but I can't perform the Kikohou again, not without draining my life energy too.' Still, it seemed like Frieza was completely blindsided, which was good. It would take him much longer to recover from attacks he didn't see coming. 'Time to go back to basics...' he thought to himself, as Frieza, now recovered, stormed back towards Earth's defenders. He recalled his old master, who had first trained him in martial arts. With sudden clarity, watching Frieza lash out at Krillin and Piccolo, who were doing their best to attack and parry his blows, he realized his unique advantage.
"Guys, fall back! Let me handle this!" the bald human ordered. Krillin glanced up at him, puzzled, as Piccolo blocked an elbow strike from Frieza.
"Are you mad?! You've got no energy left, Tenshinhan! What can you do?" the monk asked pointedly.
"Trust me, I'm better suited to being his opponent...no offense. You can back me up, if I need it!" the three-eyed warrior said confidently. 'What's he doing..?' thought Krillin apprehensively.
"Now, Frieza, let's see if you can get past me!" Tenshinhan shouted at the cyborg. Frieza turned to him, hate shimmering in his blood-red aura. 'That's it, focus only on me...' the fighter thought as he relaxed his stance.
"I don't have time to deal with you insects, so if you want to live a little longer, just let me through! My business is with the Super Saiyan!" Frieza growled tersely. Lightning crackled around him. "But if you insist...I'll go through you!" he screamed, charging with a wildly swung punch.
Tenshinhan gracefully, almost nonchalantly stepped aside, hooking his hand just behind Frieza's fist as it whizzed by, and stuck his leg out to catch Frieza's feet, forcing him to stumble midair. The angry tyrant spun around.
"What was that?!" Are you going to fight me, or just trip me up, you worm?!" he hissed.
'Don't react...' Tenshinhan urged himself. His heart wasn't as calm as it ought to be for this style, Master Shen had seen to that...but corruption aside, he still had the skill. He exhaled, willing his body to relax, his senses to extend, until he could feel everything.
"Don't just stand there, you...you pest!" Frieza angrily sputtered, thinking the three-eyed human was mocking him with his calm, indifferent attitude. "Aaaaaaaargh!" he screeched, rushing forward again, forgetting his orders, his other opponents, and everything else in his blind rage.
Tenshinhan waited until the last moment, turning his body with a minimal movement, and used the momentum to clap Frieza on the back of his head with an open palm. Like an angry bull, the Arcosian wheeled, tail lashing, and charged again. Once again, the bald human dodged, jumping nimbly above the alien. He quickly snapped his leg out, kicking Frieza in the temple, then cartwheeled over his head, turning as he did to deliver a bladed hand to the base of his enemy's neck, again using his foe's momentum for devastating power.
During this display, Piccolo, Krillin, and Vegeta watched in silence, their expressions proof of their surprise. Gohan, who had recovered on the ground from being briefly knocked out, floated up to join them. "Wow...I didn't know Tenshinhan was so strong..." the young child said with awe, still rubbing his aching head.
"Tch. Gohan, you should know better than to trust your eyes." Piccolo said. "He isn't strong, not compared to Frieza. He doesn't have to be. Look." Gohan scrutinized the fight, noticing how his father's former rival slipped past Frieza's defenses almost effortlessly, then used Frieza's own weight and momentum to wear him down. He could feel Frieza's raging energy, but could only barely sense Tenshinhan's. The Arcosian was practically beating himself, while Tenshinhan merely provided the target.
"Ah! I think I see it now, Mr. Piccolo! That's really cool!" Gohan remarked brightly. 'I guess strength isn't everything after all...' the half-breed thought.
'All right! Tenshinhan has him completely occupied! I knew he could handle things!' Goku thought with relief. He sped back towards the huge crater valley where Kold and Frieza's ship had touched down, back to where he sensed the giant gathering his ki. 'Now I can focus on the real problem...' he thought. The wind whipped through his blond hair as he flew, senses focused on the angry ki of his opponent. Rounding a spire of rock, he halted midair, eyes opening wide in shock.
"No, damnit, get out of my way!" Frieza screamed, beyond frustrated that he couldn't make any progress against these minor pests. The tall, bald human had taken him for a fool, distracting him, goading him into a blind fury, but after another fruitless attack, Frieza spied a golden figure, far in the distance, now disappearing around a sharp vertical outcropping of stone. 'No...father..!' he thought with panic. It wasn't just fear of punishment that snapped him out of his distracted scuffle with the humans, but the thought that his invincible father might not be as such, when met by a being of legend... He leapt into the air, swerving and twisting to avoid all of the humans' feeble, meaningless attacks, and willed himself to fly faster, to catch up with the receding golden trail of light.
"Oh no! We've gotta slow him down!" Gohan yelled, already speeding after the Arcosian. He didn't know what he could do once he caught up, but he'd try his best to stall him. Krillin and Piccolo took off rapidly, preparing to cut Frieza off on either side. Tenshinhan, long past exhaustion, struggled to keep up with the ragtag bunch of fighters. Vegeta, meanwhile, had charged up an angry buzzing blast in each hand, not bothering to give chase.
"Take this, Frieza!" the prince lobbed both attacks, one after the other, with enough force to send them screaming past the other fighters. The first one struck Frieza in the back, but as he fell from the impact of the first blast, the second missed him completely.
"Gah! Watch it, Vegeta!" Krillin cried, as the errant blast almost hit him. Frieza had recovered, though he looked burned and more exhausted than ever. 'He's gotta be on his last legs now...we just have to keep pushing!' the monk thought with determination. "Yaaaah!" he summoned a huge, pale blue energy ball, crying, "Eat this!" Frieza stared at the blast as though frozen, unable to gather enough strength to dodge. He braced for impact, turning his body to the side and putting up a block with his undamaged hand. However, before Krillin's blast could reach him, he heard, and saw, another orb headed towards his unprotected flank. 'Damn that Namek..!' he thought, following the ball's trajectory back to its origin. The slug had a self-satisfied smirk on his ugly face. "Arrrrrgh..!" he curled in on himself, the only thing he could think of to weather the blast, dignity be damned.
"We got 'im! Alright!" Gohan cheered with a child's enthusiasm despite his injuries. Krillin let out a little laugh, careful not to tax his bruised ribs, and Piccolo smirked at Vegeta, who was just now catching up. The smoke cloud that obscured their target began to clear. "I think he's pretty beat up by now." Gohan said. Wisps of smoke slowly abated, revealing Frieza, curled up in a fetal position as best as his mechanical lower body would allow, the telltale burns of their ki blasts marring his ivory skin.
"Rrrrrraaaarrrrgh..." It hurt. It hurt more than any pain he'd yet experienced on this wretched planet, and Frieza knew that half of the sting came from who dealt him the blow. Humans. Weak, fragile, insignificant, and worthless, every last one of them. They had the gall to challenge him, to attack him, to injure him! He almost let his anger retake control over his mind, but then he sensed his father's energy, starting to change its rhythm. 'He's almost there...oh no, where the hell is the Super Saiyan?!' Without taking a moment to recover, he shot off, fueled by pure adrenaline now. His opponents were caught off guard, their energy almost fully depleted this time, and could only fly at a reduced speed towards where the two superpowers were seemingly prepared to clash.
Goku stared in horror. Before him, hovering in a shimmering haze of pure energy, King Kold was in the midst of transforming. Though he hadn't witnessed Frieza's transformations on Namek, Goku had felt them, and this...this was more energy than Frieza had ever put out when changing forms.
"You're too late...Saiyan..!" Kold growled, straining to keep control while speaking. "Hehehehe...in the end...you pitiful apes...will all fall before a real being of legend..." He clenched his fists, his armor cracking, large chunks of it falling away from his expanding body.
'No...' Goku stared in mute horror, 'I'm too late...' Thoughts of Namek came to him, interspersed with flashes of Earth's fate: the planet destroyed by one well-aimed attack, aided by his own hubris and naivete, everything destroyed, the Dragonballs gone, all hope lost... 'No. I won't let that happen to Earth!' he thought vehemently, his brows pulling into a determined expression, his jaw set with tension. The tyrant before him laughed, taking in his show of resolve. 'He's not done yet...' the Super Saiyan noticed, 'he's dragging out his transformation...can he not control it? Or does he want me to be afraid?' Whatever the case, the pure-hearted Saiyan from Earth saw a small glimmer of hope, a faint chance to escape this hopeless situation...but he'd have to to act quickly.
"Ka...me..." he intoned, keeping his eyes on the bulging Arcosian.
'What's he trying to do..?' Kold thought condescendingly, 'he's too far away to affect me with a simple ki blast!'
"Ha...me..." Goku's eyes narrowed. He felt Frieza's ki, approaching. He didn't want to do this, but...
"Take your best shot, Saiyan!" Kold grinned, his blood racing, surging along with his energy. "It's futile!"
Suddenly, the Saiyan disappeared. Kold had but one moment of confusion, before the golden warrior appeared, directly in front of him. the king's armor had all but fallen apart in his transformation, the realization hitting him...
"HAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Son Goku roared, pouring energy into his trademark attack, willing it into a thinner, more refined beam that would pierce through the evil being's unprotected body.
The cyborg prostheses seemed to absorb the heat of his ki as he flew, painfully burning his flesh. Frieza grit his teeth against the sensation, finally rounding the last visual barrier of rock between himself and his father's battle.
He was just in time to see the Super Saiyan, a huge ball of blue energy in his cupped hands, vanish and reappear in front of his father's crouched form. Even before the blast hit, Frieza was flying towards the two, screaming in warning. A bright flash of ki almost blinded him, as the Saiyan released his attack. In slow motion, he beheld his father, the stream of energy neatly piercing through his chest just below his collarbone, the plume of blood escaping from his lips, the startled, pained expression that played across his features, and then his eyes rolled back to whites, his body falling, falling, falling...
"NOOOOOOOO!" Goku turned from Kold's falling body at the anguished cry. Within moments, Frieza was on top of him, lashing out with more fury and energy than the Super Saiyan had seen out of him on Namek.
"You'll pay for this! You'll pay, you'll pay, you'll PAAAAAY!" roared the enraged Arcosian, his body completely consumed in lightning as he pummeled his foe. All thought was focused on killing, ripping this upstart ape apart, sinking his fingers into the flesh, hearing him scream, pulling out the quivering organs, crushing every bone to bloody fragments, utterly breaking, no, destroying him! He wanted to make this Saiyan not exist, wanted to punch and punch until those unnatural, hated eyes disappeared into a mass of ruined flesh where his face once was, yearned to tear apart the body with his bare hands into smaller and smaller pieces until it ceased to resemble what he loathed so much. His adrenaline and hatred held him in a state of mind where all rationality, all fear, all pain, simply did not exist. He was without limits, oblivious to anything but the opponent before him.
Goku was aware that if he killed one, he'd likely have to deal with the other's wrath, but still, Frieza's newfound bloodlust took him by surprise. He weaved and dodged what attacks he could, but couldn't stop all of them. "Grah..!" he cried out, as Frieza's fist slammed into his jaw, whipping his head to one side. He felt some of his teeth come free from their roots, tasted the blood. A trickle of red dribbled from his mouth, and he had to act fast to block the next enraged strike, grunting with effort against the weight of the punch. 'I don't believe this! He's stronger than he was before! ' he thought as a strong kick from the Arcosian doubled him over. "Keaghk..!" he coughed up blood, wincing at the pain radiating from his gut. Frieza screamed, a terrifying sound, and hit again.
Finally, they had caught up. Krillin and Gohan flew as fast as they dared, their energy barely holding them aloft, with Piccolo and Vegeta right behind them. Tenshinhan struggled to stay airborne, panting with exertion.
"Guys, look!" Gohan shouted, pointing at the scene before them. All of Earth's fighters touched down on a high cliff, and stood, motionless and silent except for the sound of their ragged breathing.
"Oh wow...Goku got him..." Krillin breathed, as if in disbelief of their victory. They'd felt the bigger Arcosian's power growing dangerously, then wink out suddenly...and sure enough, far below them lay the alien's enormous body, splayed facedown on the sandy ground of the crater floor.
"I don't believe it, Goku did it, he actually defeated him." Piccolo intoned, realizing that this was the first instance he was aware of since his father's demise that the Saiyan had killed. He was always so disarmingly friendly, and it was that attitude that still irritated the tall Namek, but seeing this...it seemed as though he was not without the will to kill his enemy, if they truly posed a threat. "Guess you're not so forgiving after all, Goku..." he smirked.
"Heh, and it looks like Frieza's not going anywhere either...take a look over there, he's trapped!" Vegeta grinned. The others followed his gaze.
"Th-the ship! I guess Goku got that, too!" Krillin exclaimed. The round ship now had a gaping hole through it, the Kamehameha having torn a gash from the bridge to the central engine before exiting the opposite side.
"Now that monster won't be able to run..." Tenshinhan said in a low voice, still trying to catch his breath, "...you're right Saiyan, unless he plans to just fly through the atmosphere, he's stuck here with us."
"Ha. Even Frieza isn't stupid enough to just fly into space. He's tough, but even he can't keep his energy up for as long as it would take to reach another habitable planet." the prince scoffed. "Not in this star system, at least."
Now that they had determined that all avenues of escape were blocked, Earth's defenders turned their attention to an explosion of grit and rubble as Frieza and Goku clashed, slamming into a rock face.
"Wow...and I thought he was angry before...I hope Goku's not too tired to finish him off, I sure don't want to fight him again..." Krillin rubbed his side, massaging the bruised ribs there, checking for worse injuries.
"Don't worry, he's not doing that much damage," Piccolo replied, "though he seems like he is because he isn't holding anything back anymore. If I had to guess though, he's doing more harm to himself, judging from his ki."
"I'm going to rip you apart, Saiyaaaaan! Raaaargh!" Frieza screamed again, meaning every word. Goku ducked under his punch, feeling it whish through his hair.
"Gah!" the Saiyan ducked again, to the right, as Frieza's tail came around. "Look, I don't need to fight you any further! Come on, you've lost too much power to be a threat, just give up!" he pleaded, realizing how meaningless his words were to Frieza now.
"Never! Not until I see you bleed!" Frieza punctuated his next kick. "I'll kill you! You mangy, worthless, stupid-!" Goku finally countered, letting Frieza's kick graze his leg, then using the opening to spin around a half-turn, slamming a backfist into the other fighter's temple, effectively cutting off his stream of insults.
Frieza was sent hurtling into a rock face, shards of sandstone exploding from the point of contact and clattering down to the ground. He hung there, embedded in the rock and panting furiously. Son Goku noticed, when he brought his head up, the look of hatred, but of a different kind than before. It was desperate, furious, and above all else, pained. 'Is he..? Could he be?' He had no time to sort his thoughts, as Frieza broke the mountain apart as he blasted outwards, bellowing as he flew back towards Goku.
Before the Arcosian could reach his target, an unseen current suddenly crackled around him. He screamed, halting his forward flight and losing altitude. His opponent watched in confusion, as he brought himself back up.
"What was that, Frieza?" Goku asked, more curious than anything.
"Shut up, monkey, it doesn't matter, because I'm going to end you!" he yelled, before charging again.
Goku furrowed his brow in confusion, continuing to block and defend against the smaller fighter's assault. "Maybe you ought to quit while you're ahead, Frieza—" he started, before dodging another wild swing, "—maybe you're malfunctioning or something!" The tyrant narrowed his eyes in anger, and Goku had to duck under another powerful swing, followed by a Death Beam that careened off into the distance. 'He just won't quit!' Goku thought, 'it'd be pretty admirable, if he wasn't so damn stubborn...' He caught himself thinking of all of the times he'd given Frieza a chance to cease his murderous ways, but to no avail. He had given so many others a chance, and yet now there seemed to be no way to change his mind. 'Nah...he'd never do that...Piccolo, yeah, Vegeta, maybe, but not him. He won't change his ways...'
Easily parrying each blow while lost in thought, Goku's reverie was interrupted by another scream from Frieza, this one of pain instead of rage. He looked on as, once again, Frieza seemed to be gripped by an electric shock, his muscles taut, his extremities twitching as he fell. This time though, he couldn't stop his descent.
'W-what i-is t-this?!' Frieza's mind raced, as he tried to figure out what was happening. His body felt as though it was being bathed in fire from the inside, a pain so intense that he had to bite down with all of his might to avoid crying out in agony. As suddenly as it had consumed him, the inner fire went out, leaving his brain buzzing, and his ears ringing. He was dimly aware that he had crashed into the ground, and that the Saiyan had landed beside him.
"Hey you guys, look! They're on the ground now!" the blue-haired genius exclaimed, sounding a little too excited for Yamcha's taste.
"Babe, I told you, we're not going over there. Seriously, I can't thank you enough for patching me up, but I can't protect you if we go any closer than we already are." The scar-faced human sighed, shifting his weight against the rock the three of them hid behind. Chiaotzu was watching the battle, more with his finely-tuned senses than with his eyes, informing them of things they couldn't readily discern.
"Well, if you want to, it's safer now...Frieza's really weakened..." the diminutive human ventured.
"Ah! Perfect! See Yamcha, Chiaotzu says it's okay, so let's go! I wanna see this 'Frieza' guy up close!" the young woman was already climbing the rocks to their left, keeping an eye on the fight.
Yamcha started to protest, before shutting his mouth again. Arguing with Bulma, especially lately, was one fight he could never win. Wincing as he stood up, he adjusted the sling around his arm, courtesy of Bulma's med-kit capsule, and started to follow the rash woman over the boulders. "Chiaotzu? Aren't you coming?" he asked.
"Well...now that his role in the fight's over, I'm going to go to where Tenshinhan is now." the jianshi replied.
"Oh...okay, I don't blame you. Hey, tell Tenshinhan he's awesome for me, will you? Not that I won't congratulate him later myself, but I'm in no shape to climb up there right now." he gestured at his arm and gave the red-cheeked fighter a lopsided grin, before carefully following Bulma through the maze of loose rocks.
"Guh...ha..." Frieza felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him entirely, and his whole body ached, his muscles seeming to jump around independent of his will. "Wha...what's happening..?" he spoke, voice wavering.
"Dunno, but it looks like your energy is fading fast. You should give up now, Frieza. I've been going easy on you this whole time, and anyway, it's no fun fighting you when you're like this." the Super Saiyan said.
Frieza scrambled to his feet, ignoring the residual pain of the shocks. "Khhh...what are you playing at, Saiyan? You and I both know that I can't just admit defeat here!" he stood fully, taking a defensive stance.
"And I know that you're as good as beat. Why drag it out? Haven't you had enough of losing?" Goku asked.
Frieza seethed with anger, grinding his teeth together, and raised his fist to gather energy, when suddenly -
"Gyaaaaa! Aaaagh! N-n-no..! W-what's g-going on?!" Again, another unseen electric shock rippled through the Arcosian's body, forcing him to one knee as he rode out the waves of pain. 'This is...this is...' he tried to grasp the thought, but the white-hot pain seemed to drill into his brain, making thinking a Herculean task.
Goku stood, as much in shock as before, trying to figure out what was happening. 'He doesn't even know what's happening to him, does he? I wonder what's responsible for...whatever this is.' The shocks ceased, and Frieza rose again, panting, his eyes screwed shut momentarily from the pain.
"Oh wow..." Bulma breathed, more from curiosity than shock at Frieza's mysterious predicament. "That's gotta be some serious voltage, if it's affecting him...then again, he's mostly metal, so maybe—"
"Come on, Bulma!" Yamcha called, "Get up here and at least stand with us so you're not out in the open!" He gestured, waving his good hand in a come-here motion to where he had joined the rest of Earth's warriors, Piccolo, and Vegeta. He frowned, looking annoyed and irritable.
"Alright already, I'm coming!" the blue-haired woman snapped, "It's not like I can fly up there like you can!" She grumbled some more as she carefully found hand and footholds to scale the rocky outcropping. Once up there, she looked out at Goku and Frieza, shading her eyes from the harsh sunlight. "Whew, wish I'd thought to bring some sunglasses..." Vegeta snorted at her, obviously unimpressed with her perceived weakness.
"Good to see you're okay, Bulma." Krillin waved tiredly at his old friend, the other hand wrapped around his ribs.
"Yeah, we were fine the whole fight, they didn't even pay attention to us." Bulma replied. "So...what's happening now, guys? Do you know what's up with Frieza?" They all shook their heads no. She frowned, brows furrowed in thought. "Well...maybe he's malfunctioning? I mean, he looks like a cyborg...Hey, maybe Goku knocked something loose, and he's going haywire! Wouldn't that be a handy victory!"
"Idiot. Kold had access to the Universe's best scientists, and heads would literally roll if Frieza's rebuilt body wasn't able to perform perfectly." Vegeta growled, arms crossed, not bothering to take his eyes off the scene below them to look at her. "Still," he continued, "it is odd, and I have no idea what's going on...Frieza doesn't know either, from the look on his face." He smirked. "Look at the fool, he has no clue how beat he is."
The pain throbbing through his veins seemed to finally ebb. Frieza again took a defensive stance, preparing to proceed cautiously, mindful of his lost energy. 'Still, I'll never give up', he thought, 'because I have a duty to fulfill now.' The Saiyan still stood there, casually...off his guard. "You dare to mock me..." he growled. "Fight me! You blasted monkey, don't just stand there! We have a score to settle, and I won't rest until you're dead!" With a final scream of resolve, he charged forward. He swung wild, missed, turned to kick, but Goku was gone.
"Frieza..." Goku started, sounding almost sad, "this is pointless, don't you get that? You can't kill me, you don't even have the energy to fight me at your full strength." Frieza was about to retort with something vicious, when suddenly, another shock gripped him. He fell to the side, convulsing, gritting his teeth together with all his might to try to stop the scream threatening to escape his throat. The electricity died down, and in its place, something even more odd appeared. Goku raised his eyebrows, stepping closer. On the cliff above, everyone strained to see, and listen to the focus of his attention.
"Ea tie, Frieza." A slightly distorted-sounding voice emanated from a hologram, projected from one of the sensors lining the fallen tyrant's badly burned chest. It was none other than King Kold, a glaring spectre.
"Fa...ther..?" Frieza said, barely whispering. 'This...no...this makes no sense!' his mind still reeling in pain, he struggled to sit up, keeping his eyes fixed on the hologram.
"I suppose that you are wondering about the electric shocks right about now, isn't that right, son?" The huge Arcosian, projected in miniature, nonetheless radiated intimidation. "In the case of my energy signature disappearing before your own, I had certain "fail-safes" put into place...Your state-of-the-art cybernetic body is equipped with sensors that detect power levels, and they are programmed to deliver an increasing level of electrocution if two criteria are met: If my own ki signature disappears entirely, it counts down until an hour passes, and then if a power greater than yours is identified on the planet, the timed shocks will commence, increasing in power every five minutes until one of the remaining high powers is extinguished." Frieza looked shocked at this revelation. Goku wore a mask of confusion, unable yet to comprehend the reason for this.
The hologram continued, "You, Frieza, have failed, but if you are alive to see this, then you have not been killed by your enemy yet, meaning that you have either fled, or you've been spared or taken captive by the Super Saiyan. Neither of these fates are...acceptable." The tone of voice was the same he used just before he was about to mete out a punishment, Frieza knew, and suddenly, he felt a cold chill of fear, despite the unrelenting desert heat. He shivered - this did not go unnoticed by Son Goku, still watching the bizarre speech unfold.
Kold's hologram remarked, seemingly to whatever audience existed besides his son, "Frieza's greatest flaw is his inability to decisively end his opponents, instead of toying with them. As a punishment for any of these unacceptable scenarios, my son faces a choice." Here, he leaned in to the camera, looking serious despite the smirk that punctuated his features. "Restore your honor and avenge me by killing the Super Saiyan, or suffer the consequences of failure." To punctuate this, the electricity again surrounded Frieza, still in a trance, listening intently. This time the surge of energy was more intense, causing him to actually cry out in pain.
Goku stared at the writhing body before him, absolutely horrified. 'This...this isn't fair! Making Frieza fight whether he can win or not, and setting him up to be punished if he can't...it's insane!' Frieza screamed again, his limbs flailing, tail thumping the ground and sending up small puffs of dust.
The hologram flickered before dissipating with a final suggestion, Kold's digital expression hardening to a disappointed frown. The posthumous king crossed his arms, his massive, ghostly tail lashing behind him.
"If you truly cannot overcome your opponent, Frieza, then being the weakling you have proven yourself to be, you ought to beg for death from the Super Saiyan, to avoid a prolonged demise." The cyborg's eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in a grimace, as he stared at the ground, unable to accept his father's accusation.
"Whatever happens, it is a fate befitting such a...disappointment." The hologram flicked out of existence, as quickly as it had appeared. Frieza, still staring at the ground, was still reeling from feelings of shock and betrayal, along with the residual pain. 'No...no...no...' he couldn't think straight, his mind was numb. 'This whole time... He didn't trust me to finish the job at all! But...I'll show him! I will win, no matter what! Even if it destroys me!' With a cry of desperation, he launched himself again at Goku, determined to redeem himself at all costs.
Goku dodged almost effortlessly, now that Frieza's energy was nearly gone. "Stop! Frieza...just...Agh!" A punch managed to find him, doubling him over momentarily, before he jumped away. "Stop it!" he pleaded, as he weaved around more of Frieza's attacks. "Let me help you!" he cried, blocking a ball of ki hurtling at him.
"Yaaaaaah!" Frieza came in at a sharp angle, twisting through the air, shoving a snake-hand past Goku's defenses towards his throat. With a SHHFT sound, before the tips of his opponent's fingers could make contact, the Super Saiyan was gone again, reappearing out of reach. "Damn you!" Frieza screamed, more desperation than anger in his voice at this point. "Get back here, you—" Stars exploded in his vision, and he was screaming again.
"Damn..." Piccolo said flatly. "It seems that Frieza is surpassed only by his father, in terms of cruelty."
Vegeta's face bore a blank expression, his eyes unwavering from the scene beneath their vantage point. "You have no idea, Namek. You and these humans are all so sheltered, not comprehending the amount of violence that occurs in the greater universe. It's just that Frieza and his ilk are more creative about their torture."
Bulma stared at Vegeta, before returning her gaze to the horror on the ground below. "Maybe we're sheltered...but...that's not such a bad thing if this is what the rest of the universe is like..." She shivered, witnessing Frieza's pained cries, how helplessly he flopped around on the ground. And Goku...she looked at her childhood friend, searching his expression for answers. He looked as disgusted and horrified as she felt.
Collapsed on the ground and twitching, the Arcosian nevertheless summoned the strength of will to stand again, and resumed his fruitless assault. The rest of the fight continued in a similar vein, Frieza ineffectively trying to land a strike, punctuated only by the crippling shocks that brought him down with increasing brutality. Goku was doing his best to merely defend, refusing to attack his highly vulnerable opponent. It was a losing battle for both, but mostly for Frieza.
"Kkhh..!" Frieza grit his teeth, making a sound of pain as Goku again deflected his kick. A strike with his tail, and the monkey was flitting backwards, forcing Frieza to give chase. "Get...back here..!" he huffed, feeling exhausted, but with his mind still screaming at him that time was running out. He was battered and burned, bleeding from numerous small cuts over his body, and having trouble even staying conscious, much less fighting. The next shock came over him, the most severe yet, making him convulse and scream on the ground, as Goku and the others, not far away, watched in morbid curiosity.
"Aaaaagh...guh..." He couldn't get up, all efforts nullified by his lack of muscular control. His mouth felt as dry as cotton, his throat sore from screaming. Everything seemed too bright, oversaturated, blooming with otherworldly colors. 'I must...defeat...my enemy..!' he thought doggedly. 'No matter what, I have...to...' He made the attempt to crawl towards his opponent. "I will not give up, and I will NEVER beg..!" he gasped.
"Frieza...can't you see, it's hopeless..." Goku couldn't help but wince in sympathy, watching the Arcosian drag himself over the rough stones, hissing in pain, but inching forward, ever forward.
Another shock, announced by the faint buzzing sound, like a live wire, and the smell of ozone hit Goku's nose. Frieza screeched in agony, his whole body jackknifing, bending his spine backwards painfully. His eyes were bulging, the pupils dancing around erratically. Goku swallowed a sudden wave of nausea, watching as one eye suddenly bloomed scarlet from a broken blood vessel. His fists shook, his brows knit together in frustration, pain, and anger. 'Who would do this?' he thought, 'who the hell would torture their own child like this?'
He was only answered by Frieza's tortured screams. Son Goku looked up at his friends, who he knew were also watching this, unable to turn away. Vegeta and Piccolo both looked expressionless and unmoved, but everyone else's face was a mix of shock and horror. He knew his own face must reflect the same. Eventually, the screaming died out. Everyone seemed to let out a collective breath they didn't realize they had been holding. The only sounds were Frieza's uneven, panting breaths.