CHAPTER FOURTY-EIGHT: THE HEART OF A SAIYA-JIN
The only reason why Gokou was not reduced to a mere bloody smear in the rocks was because, in his desperation to defeat his father, the force of his ki had carved out a little Gokou-sized crater in the ground, and in that hole he had lain when Bardock fell on top of him. Gokou had been crushed, true, but not even enough weight was exerted to break a single bone in his body. Gokou passed into unconsciousness with the smell of his father's smoldering fur overwhelming him.
Bardock slowly got up. he felt as though he had been thrown into a volcano. Every inch of his body felt burned, his left hand was broken and mangled, and there were now several bald spots all over his body. With a painful realization, Bardock knew that his son had bested him in that fight. Last he had checked, Kakarotto was five thousand short of where his father was, and the Oozarou transformation always increased a Saiya-jin's power tenfold. Kakarotto had used enough of the Kaiou-Ken technique to multiply his power by six. But, somehow, he had still managed to win.
Bardock looked round himself, his ears still ringing with the pain, searching out his now doomed son. He had finally crossed the line. Kakarotto could fight like a Saiya-jin, but he did not share the same motivations- he did not have a Saiya-jin's heart or pride. And that was dangerous for all. Someday, if left unchecked, he could rise up against King Cold and King Vegeta, and maybe, just maybe, he would defeat them and destroy the kingdoms that they had put so many years into building.
Wait. Cold and Vegeta were powerful, very powerful. King Vegeta himself was, in all actuality, about a hundred times more powerful than Kakarotto at last check. 50,000 to 5,000,000, although why the King had reached that power level in literally a few months was completely unknown.
But, wait again. What if, by some strange, impossible means, Kakarotto managed to become...
Bardock's thoughts left him as he saw his son lying unconscious in the ground, neatly in his own little crater. Bardock growled at the unconscious man and charged up some ki in his remaining good hand.
Now, now he would-
Bardock's thoughts were cut off as Piccolo, bruised and battered, flew up in front of his face.
"Hey, ugly. I've got a surprise for you," he said as he extended his right arm in a Makankosappo- aimed at the moon.
"NO!" Bardock shouted as the blast went of in the distance and disintigrated the white, round, uncaring planetoid. If the moon had had life with ki on it, it would have been more difficult for Piccolo to destroy it, but it was a dead world. Nothing more than a lump of rock.
Bardock felt himself shrinking, deprived of the brute Rays that made him strong.
In desperation, he changed the focus of the ki in his hand and fired it up into the sky. it exploded and stayed there, hanging like a lamp. Hanging with a cold, uncaring light.
As he regained his lost height, Bardock laughed at the astounded Piccolo. "A little trick we Saiya-jin learned a while back. It recreated the element in the moonlight that transforms us. It's not as effective as the real thing, but-"
Bardock trialed of as he brought his fight hand up in a very large and wide slap, sending Piccolo crashing and skidding along the ground.
He turned back to Gokou with a devilish grin.
"Now, my son," he sneered, "I have a surprise for yo-"
Bardock stopped in mid-word, mid-sentence, when he felt his tail fall off. He heard it hit the ground like an extremely large and thick length of rope.
He felt himself shrink, in spite of the fake moon that was lighting up the night sky.
"NOOOOOOOO!!!" Bardock let himself shout, grabbing his head with both his good hand and his damaged one, as he slowly became normal again.
Bardock turned around to see Kuririn, one hand extended, a triumphant grin on his face.
"That," he said as he extended his right arm above his head, "Is what a Kienzan can do. Want another one?"
Bardock roared in an animalistic way not befitting of his humanoid form as he charged at Kuririn, making a crater in the ground where he stood at takeoff, intent on killing the short, bald man.
Kuririn finished his Kienzan and threw it at the Saiya-jin at point-blank range.
Bardock saw it coming and just barely avoided it, feeling the large, round, razor-sharp disk cut through the right side of his armour and into his flesh as he dodged it.
Bardock landed, clutching his cut side, letting the blood run through his fingers.
"YOU'RE DEAD!" he shouted as he made another pass at Kuririn.
Kuririn simply put both of his hands in front of his face and shouted "TAIYOKEN!" at the top of his lungs. A blindingly white flash of light filled the landscape, blanketing the entire surrounding area in its pure brightness.
Bardock stopped completely in his tracks as his sight temporarily left him, the after-image of the flash burning into his retinas like hot coals.
He clutched his face, clawing at his eyes to stop the pain, shouting and bellowing the entire time.
Kuririn prepared another Kienzan.
"Okay, alien. You hurt Gokou and Gohan and Piccolo, and now you're going to pay," he said as he let the Kienzan loose, but it just cut empty air. Bardock was no longer there.
"I don't need my eyes to see," came a voice from behind him, "Kakarotto taught me to sense ki, and we Saiya-jin have a wonderful sense of hearing."
Kuririn turned around just in time to block the side-chop that would have severed his spinal cord had he not moved. As it was, it merely broke both of his arms and sent him tumbling across the trampled and scorched grass.
Kuririn started to get up as he saw Bardock, a bloody and burned mess, leaping at him like a wild animal.
He braced himself for his doom when Piccolo came diving in with a flying kick, catching Bardock directly across his broken rib, sending them both down to the ground.
"KURIRIN! GET GOKOU!" Piccolo shouted, throwing a small bag at him.
Kuririn opened it with his teeth and found some Senzu beans inside. So THAT was how Piccolo kept getting back up! Smart... very smart. Kuririn lapped one up with his tongue and felt his wounds heal, and both of his broken arms mend. He picked up the bag and took it over to where Gokou lay.
Only Gokou was not there anymore.
There was a small Gokou-shaped dent in the ground, but no trace of the man himself, with the exception of some blood and orange scraps of cloth.
Kuririn turned around to see Bardock and Piccolo going at it again, neither one wanting to give up in the awesome struggle.
Piccolo grinned. Bardock was reduced to one hand, was badly burned, had a broken rib, and had a huge gash in his side. Now, finally, it was an even fight.
Piccolo lunged in and intentionally missed with his punch, extending his arm around and grabbing Bardock from behind, slamming him into the dirt. Piccolo lept on him only to be stopped by one of Bardock's heavy boots, raised up in the air. it took the wind out of him.
Piccolo landed on his feet at about the same time that Bardock jumped up to his. This time the Saiya-jin was the aggressor, and he led with a punch that connected with Piccolo's jaw.
Piccolo recovered from the hit and kneed Bardock in the stomach, trying again for the advantage. Bardock simply flipped him from where he stood, doubled over from the shot in the stomach. he grabbed Piccolo's leg before the Namek could hit the ground and slammed him into a nearby hillside.
Bardock charged in again and was met with a ki blast from the Namek's mouth. The two went at it again, fighting at what seemed to be a completely even level, until Piccolo tripped.
Bardock took advantage of the situation, and was on Piccolo in a flash, beating him mercilessly with his one good fist. He stomped once, intending to smash piccolo's head, but his boot only hit the earth as the Namek rolled out of the way. Bardock fired a one-handed ki blast at him before he could dodge that one, too, and grabbed him by the collar.
"It's over," he said, quite calmly, as Kuririn came in from out of nowhere with a flying kick and nearly connected with the side of Bardock's head.
He would have hit had the Saiya-jin not seen him coming from the corner of his eye and had done a perfectly timed roundhouse kick, sending the poor little man rolling across the ground.
"Now," Bardock grinned, "Where were we?"
"LET GO OF HIM!" Came a loud, commanding voice from just out of Bardock's range of vision.
He turned around to see Gokou, holding the bag of senzu beans in one hand, chewing on one, and something else curled up in the other.
Bardock sneered and threw Piccolo to the side. He turned and faced Gokou. The fake moon gave out its cold, white light above the two of them.
"Hello, son. Here to finish off dear old dad, I assume?"
"Yes, and no," came the response.
Bardock cocked his head. "What do you mean by that?" he asked.
Gokou unfurled his closed hand. In it was a blood-stained piece of cloth.
"What?" Bardock smirked.
"Do you remember who this belonged to?"
"All that I see is a bloody rag. I don't know anything about it."
"It belonged to Toma before he died."
Everything clicked in Bardock's brain. He remembered the bandanna. "Toma? What about him?"
"He gave me this before he died," Gokou said, "He told me to give it to you so you'd respect me. Toma respected me, Bardock. he respected my abilities as a fighter, and also my spirit as a Saiya-jin."
Bardock laughed. "What? Your Saiya-jin spirit? HA! I don't believe you!"
"he gave this to me so you would see who I am!" Gokou went on, "Even though he had completely defeated me in the fight, and it took help from both Piccolo and Gohan to win, he recognized something in me. The true Spirit of a Saiya-jin. My True heritage."
"And what may that be?"
"My refusal to give up, or to surrender! My willingness to fight on for others, even if it means my own death, to fight for my son even though his power level was low for a human!"
"His power level was high!" Bardock interjected.
"I didn't know that!" Gokou shouted, "I knew that there was something special about him, he demonstrated that a year ago- but that wasn't why I wanted to save him. I tried to save my son because he was my son. because he was my flesh and blood, and because I loved him. I would have tried to save him had he been retarded, disfigured, deaf, and mute! I WOULD HAVE DONE IT ANYWAY, BECAUSE I LOVE HIM, AND ALL THE DAMNED SAIYA-JIN PRIDE IN THE WORLD CANNOT TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME!" Gokou shouted, "I am proud of my son, and he is my pride! HE IS MY SAIYA-JIN PRIDE! I remember when I first saw you, Bardock. You say that you had lost your Saiya-jin pride, and only found it right now. I say that you found it the day you met me, and you lost it when you decided to kill me and my boy!"
Bardock stepped back at that last statement, spoken with such power that even the mighty King Cold would have had to have recognized it.
Gokou thrust the blood-stained bandanna forward. "SEE THIS?" he shouted, "IT MEANS THAT TOMA, EVEN TOMA SAW THAT I POSSESSED ALL OF MY SAIYA-JIN PRIDE, ALL OF MY HERITAGE, THAT I'LL EVER NEED! I don't know about you, but my Pride and Joy is right now lying in the crook of a tree, wrapped up in his father's shirt, fast asleep. I don't know where yours is, but it doesn't belong anywhere near me."
Silence filled the air with such an intensity that it felt ready to burst. Gokou's words echoed throughout the plains, throughout the forest, throughout the world, with a commanding finality. it was over.
Bardock looked at the tattered and torn bandanna that had once belonged to his friend, and took it from his son's hand. He held it up in front of the fake moonlight, not looking at it but instead directly into Gokou's eyes.
He folded the bandanna and wrapped it around his forehead.
"I respect you, Kakarotto," Bardock said, somewhat quietly.
He had found his Saiya-jin pride and it was standing right in front of him.