"Buruma, you've changed your hair!"
I look Chi-Chi's way as she exclaims this, and I'm certain my eyes are as wide with surprise as hers are with shock. Across the table of her dining room, she is pointing her chopsticks at me, mouth agape in horror. It’s a very disconcerting image. To her left, Eighteen is as unshakeable as ever, eating calmly and paying us no mind.
"I haven't really changed it," I say truthfully. It isn't my hair that I have altered, after all. That's just the most noticeable side-effect. It's now growing in a very deep purple, almost black but not quite: the shade you would get if you crossed my son's hair with my husband's. I haven't bothered to dye out my previous color from the ends, I'm not even certain if the dye would take to it now, so I'm stuck with two-tone hair until it evens itself.
And, of course, it's slowly beginning to defy gravity. It hasn't completed that metamorphosis yet, and I suspect it won't until it has fully replaced my previous color. I'm well-aware that I look like a woman trying to cling desparately to her twenties when she is well-past that decade of her life.
"Not changed it?" Chi-Chi cries in disbelief, "It looks like you electrocuted yourself working on one of your inventions and didn't bother to clean yourself up."
"That's not all she's changed," Eighteen finally pipes in. Chi-Chi and I both look her direction. Without looking at us or even breaking stride eating her rice, she states matter-of-factly, "Basic black has never been a staple of your wardrobe. Are you merely trying to accessorize with that painful new hairstyle or are you in mourning?"
I am wearing all-black. It hadn't occurred to me that this was unusual. The blouse and skirt are new, just purchased yesterday. Now that Eighteen has brought it to my attention, I don't remember perusing any other color while I was out shopping.
Eighteen's comment about my hair angers me momentarily, and I have to stifle any rude comments I wanted to toss back her direction. She said that to bait me, and I'm not going to let her win.
"It's new," I admit, "and just something I found on sale yesterday." Also true.
"Your clothing or your hair?" Eighteen continues in that same, infuriatingly calm tone.
I frown unavoidably.
"Must be nice," I retort, "having eternal, if artificial, beauty."
That manages to get Eighteen's attention. As she glares at me I am suddenly flooded with memories of how destructive she once was, and how unwise it is of me to try drawing that anger. I am surprised by how little this bothers me, and meet her gaze unflinchingly.
Slowly, Eighteen begins to smile.
"Wit and spine as well," she says, turning her attention back to her rice. "Tell me, how much did you pay for them? And do they come in men's sizes, as well? My husband is in dire need of some replacements."
This catches both Chi-Chi and I off-guard, and we all laugh together. For the remainder of the afternoon, everything seems the way it used to be. I talk about Trunks. Chi-Chi talks about Goten. Eighteen talks about Marron. We finish lunch. We complain about our husbands. We all hug, and then Eighteen and I depart from Chi-Chi's home.
We walk in silence towards my vehicle. Eighteen has no need of such transportation, so I assume that she wants to speak with me further.
"Might you take me home today?" she inquires. Her home is a significant distance away from mine, and I don't have the fuel to fly both ways. I tell her this.
"No, I mean may I accompany you to your home? I can return to mine when I am ready."
Eighteen has never visited my home before. She has come with Kuririn on the occassional visit, but she has never come alone.
"If you wish," I nod, and after I power up the craft we both lift off into the sky. We are several miles away from Chi-Chi's home when Eighteen finally breaks the silence.
"How did you do it?" She says this without looking at me.
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean." Now she looks at me. "It is impossible for Chi-Chi to see it, and I doubt her husband will notice. He is rather blank when something doesn't concern a challenge. Your son will not see it, for he accepts you unconditionally and will not think anything of your appearance. Kuririn won't notice, as he is accustomed to your changes of style and will think it only a passing fancy. The others don't see you enough to care. But I can see the difference. And if I can see it, you can bet your husband will be able to see it."
I smirk. "What exactly are you seeing, then?"
"You insist on deception, then?" She smirks back at me. "Very well. I will play along. You are a strange woman, Buruma."
She nods. "Most human women believe that they can change their men to suit their own personalities. Most would probably say that you have changed yours."
I pause before looking at her. "There are limits to how far he can change, Eighteen."
"Can change or will change?" She watches me carefully. I watch the horizon through the cockpit window instead.
"Does it matter?"
She turns away from me, watching the sky as well. "So you have chosen instead to change for him. Like I said, you are strange woman, Buruma."
We fly in silence again. But she can't let it die there. I suppose no one could, really.
"This will not be enough. You do realize this, I hope." She looks back to me. I'm not certain if she honestly knows the truth or is just trying to draw it out of me. Either way, honesty won't hurt.
" I know." I do know. The changes are all superficial so far; minor little differences in appearances. Appearances won't mean anything to him, though.
"How do you plan on doing the rest? Unlike your hair, the rest will not come to you naturally."
She isn't bluffing, then. She knows.
"I suppose that depends on how far you're willing to take this," she shrugs. "What are you hoping to gain from all this? You will never be able to catch up."
“That isn’t my goal,” I insist. I believe this is the truth. I never thought it possible to catch him, and honestly, the thought never even occurred to me. I simply wished to be closer to him.
Eighteen’s lips curl upward in a very amused fashion. “You say that now. I don’t think you realize what you’ve brought upon yourself.”
“And you do?” I chuckle. She has her arms folded over her chest, still smirking as she nods once.
“Soon, you will too.”
I have just finished preparing dinner when my son walks in. He hops up onto his chair effortlessly, grabbing his napkin stuffing it into the front of his gi. He’s been training all day with Goten. Soon, I’m going to have to send him to school and hope he can get along with other children his age. While Gohan didn’t have any trouble adapting, he was also raised by a father of significantly less temper and arrogance when compared to Vejita. I have nightmares sometimes that I will get a phone call from a school official to let me know that my son inadvertently hurt or killed a classmate over a very small childish matter. Most mothers never have to deal with these types of worries. I’m also acutely aware that if he ever wanted to rebel against me, there’s very little I could do about it.
For the time being, anyway.
Trunks gives me a cursory look up and down as I begin setting food upon the table. I stop, and I meet his eyes. He quickly averts his gaze and focuses on the food.
“Something wrong?” I ask.
“Are you trying to look like dad?” His reply is garbled by a mouthful of grapes, but I’ve become accustomed to hearing him speak like that.
So much for Eighteen’s notion that Trunks wouldn’t pay attention to my appearance.
“Why? Do I look like your father does?” I sit down at the table at the chair adjacent to his. Even though I’m ravenously hungry, I don’t start eating just yet.
“Yeah,” he answers, mouth still busy chewing.
“I’m not trying to,” I reply and again this is not a falsehood. If appearance was all I was after, I could have managed that with hairspray and dye. “And anyway,” I chide him playfully, “it’s not nice to say that a girl looks like a boy.”
“Sorry,” he blushes, likely afraid that I’m gonna blow up in hysterics as I often have done. After he sees that I’m not going to do that, he resumes eating. I begin eating myself, and both of us focus on that exclusively. Before I realize it, both of us have consumed everything I set out. There’s nothing left at all.
Trunks looks at me with very humored eyes. “Gee, Mom, you must have been real hungry to keep up with me like that.”
I laugh. “Yes, I guess I was. Now I’ve got all this energy and nothing to do with it.”
“That’s funny,” he replies. “I was thinking the same thing. Dad’s off training by himself, Gohan’s off with Videl, and Goten had to go home.”
“Are you telling me that you were planning on training again?” I almost feel bad about baiting him like this. He’s so innocently walking into exactly what I want.
“Of course,” my son exclaims, “what else would I be doing?”
“I see.” I raise one eyebrow just to play along. “Why don’t you train alone like your father does?”
He looks at me strangely. “Because, Mom, that’s just not as much fun!”
I nod. “So if you had a training partner, you’d go back to training again?”
“Isn’t that just what I said?” He looks a little frustrated. I resist the urge to say how cute he is or pinch his cheek, though he is cute and I do want to pinch his cheek.
“I will train with you then,” I say as I stand up, taking all the plates and bowls with me.
“What?” My back is turned when he says this, and I wish I could have seen his face. “Are you serious?”
I place the dishes one by one into their proper slots in the washer, deliberately drawing out the process to keep Trunks impatient.
“What’s wrong with that?” I ask with complete innocence.
“Nothing,” he looks down, confused. “It’s just that you’ve never done anything like that with me before.”
“Goten’s mother used to train with him,” I glance over my shoulder as I continue placing the dishes.
“Yeah, but Goten’s mother knows how to fight.” He looks back up at me, afraid he said something that will upset me.
I wink at him. “Maybe I have a trick or two up my sleeve that you don’t know about, hon.”
I’m not bluffing. Not entirely anyway. In the three months since my experiment, I have been training nightly at three different dojos, under three different masters. I am far from being good at any of the disciplines I’m studying. To someone of my son’s skill level I would not even be a warm-up. But at the same, I feel I can do more. My body craves activity, even now as I enter my forties, as it never has before. I just need to keep moving forward.
“Okay,” he agrees tentatively. We go outside and begin.
Almost immediately I realize what a mistake this was. He’s simply too good for me to actually spar with, and I’m not good enough to keep him interested for very long. He actually has to slow down just to demonstrate techniques to me. And while I am learning, I know that he isn’t having any fun and is getting impatient with me.
At the same I watch his body move, I watch the blowing of his hair, and his youthful exuberance with the sudden awareness that I will never bear another child like him. He carries with him my human legacy, everything that I don’t possess now as I once did. My human blood will pass from him to his children, and so on.
He is more human now than I am.
My concentration falters, and his foot connects quickly with my face. It hurts, but thankfully won’t leave a mark.
“Oops,” he blushes. “Sorry, Mom.”
“Don’t apologize,” I mutter under my breath as I rub my reddening cheek.
“This is the most pathetic sight I have ever seen,” the voice of my husband booms from above us. We both turn and look to see the Saiyajin Prince hovering nearby.
“Dad!” Trunks exclaims as he takes flight in my husband’s direction.
If it had just been the humiliation of boring my offspring, I could have handled it. That this was witnessed is too much, and I turn my back to them. I feel my fists and teeth clenching in anger, uncertain why this bothers me as much as it does. I’m thankful that neither my husband nor my son can see my face.
“Let me speak with your mother alone,” my husband says quietly, still in the air behind me.
“Aw…” Trunks protests, but obediently leaves and heads back into the house. When my son is out of earshot, I turn and face my husband. He descends to the ground and walks over to me.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” His voice is not as stern as I was expecting.
“Spending time with our son,” I answer, keeping my tone just as stern as his, which is to say just above disapproving.
“You’ll only ruin what he’s already learned by pretending to be interested,” Vejita chides me. I feel the hair on the back of my neck stiffening. Which isn’t saying much, considering that it is already beginning to stand on its own. “Leave fighting to those who truly care about it.”
“How do you know I’m not interested?” My response catches him momentarily off-guard.
“Is this some sort of joke, then?” He folds his arms and regards me carefully. “After everything that you’ve seen in your life and you decide now it’s time to learn to be a warrior?”
It does sound ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I’m not ready to tell him everything yet. It’s too soon, and I don’t have enough to show for my efforts.
“Maybe,” is what comes out of my mouth.
“Feh,” is his response. Then he catches me off-guard. “Is this what you humans call a mid-life crisis?”
I laugh. I can’t help it. Hearing those words from his lips is priceless. He doesn’t look even slightly amused.
“The way you’ve been dressing, what you’ve done with your hair,” he resumes, but I can’t stop laughing. It just gets worse. My husband, the great Saiyajin Prince, attempting to psychoanalyze me? Who would have ever thought that day would come? The truth of the matter is that he might be correct. What if all of this, what I’ve done, what I’m doing, and what I will do, is simply a mid-life crisis?
Whatever. I banish the thought immediately. I suddenly realize I’m being belittled, even if the method is humorous to me, and I’m not happy about it.
“You don’t think I can be a warrior?” That came out all wrong, and I wish I could take it back.
Now he laughs at me, and has every right to. I’ve never given him any reason to think that I can do anything like this, cowering in fear whenever something dangerous appeared, and I’m certain he thinks I look ludicrous. Which I do, and I will continue to look this way the natural changes have all been completed.
I turn and walk away. My fists are still clenched. Even through my humiliation my anger is growing. I will prove him wrong. I will make him eat every last chuckle. As I enter my aircraft and take flight again, these are the only thoughts I have.
She is waiting for me when I land on the island. Arms folded, just as my husband’s would have been. Kuririn and Marron come out of the house to greet me as I touch down.
“Buruma!” Kuririn waves madly to me with his free arm, cradling Marron in the other. Then he looks me over and pauses. “Is that you?”
I hop out of the craft and walk up to Eighteen, ignoring my long-time friend. The long flight here did not abate my anger.
“I was wondering how long it would take for you to come to me,” she says, thankfully without any hint of smugness.
“Huh?” Kuririn walks over to us, more confused than he was before. Again, I ignore him.
“I need your help,” I say to Eighteen without looking at my old friend. I know I can trust her. After her performance against Sataan in that farce of a tournament, it’s obvious that not only can she can keep a secret, but that she can be bought.
“Three million zenni,” she says without flinching. She knows I have that much to throw away, and knows I will do it. One of the benefits of being wealthy.
“What?” Kuririn now looks completely lost. “What’s going on here? I’m missing something big, aren’t I?”
I nod to Eighteen. “Done. Let’s go. Now.”
She grins wickedly as I turn and walk back to my aircraft. She follows me.
Kuririn catches her by the arm. “What’s going on here? Where are you going?”
“To make us more money, you shiftless lay-about.” Ouch. I’m glad I wasn’t looking their direction when she said that. I power the craft back up and wait for her.
“I will be back soon. Take care of Marron while I’m gone.”
She hops into the craft with me, and we depart, leaving my friend behind with his daughter. I know he won’t be able to keep silent. He’ll talk to the others, but he won’t have enough of a clue to understand what’s happening.
“I was right,” Eighteen states. It is not a question.
“Not precisely,” I shrug, “but you might as well have been.”
She nods. “Where would you like to do this, then?”
I don’t tell her, but I don’t really need to. I fly the craft to the island where my rebirth took place. As we hop down the ground, I return the aircraft to its capsule form and place it in my pocket. I lead her inside the maze of caves that house my equipment.
“I stand corrected,” she states as we wander through the tunnels. “You knew exactly how far you were going to take this.”
She means the device the two of us now stand before.
“I knew I was capable of building it,” I tell her. “I’ve been trying for several years just to see if it could be done. It just happens that it will come in handy now.”
The Room of Time and Space is the perfect location. Six hours spent inside equals only a single minute of time outside of it. Four minutes in the real world become a day inside of the Room. I can spend months, even years in there, and the two of us will only be gone a scant portion of time to everyone else. Except that it was destroyed by Majin Buu. Rather, it was rendered unusable.
Unless you can travel into the past where it still exists, or unless you have a time machine to do that for you. Which I was able to create once I knew that my future self could do it. It’s been sitting here waiting for me to have a need to use it since before I made Gohan that silly costume.
I’m thankful that I constructed it before all of this began. I’m not certain I’d have the patience to do it now. Trying to be creative has been difficult of late. I don’t have the energy for it. Well, that and I’ve been devoting most of my free time to…
We climb inside and I set the timer to take us back to just before Majin Buu was awakened. Not much time in the past at all. The interior of the cave remains the same, except now there are two time machines where there once was one. I know it will remain undisturbed here. I didn’t come into the cave during this time before, and no one else will either.
From there, Eighteen flies us up to The Lookout. Unlike the aircraft Eighteen will be silent in her approach, and she will not leave a chi signature. It’s essential that we get in without Dende noticing. He would never let us use the room for such an insignificant reason. Once we land, it’s a simple matter of walking quietly to the entrance and slipping inside.
During that time, that seemingly two-year span, she shows me everything she knows. I hurt more than I have ever thought possible. I learn more fighting styles and defenses than I can possibly count or name. And I master them. It helps to have a teacher so tireless, so patient. My muscles become strong and defined. My instincts become sharp. Throughout all of it, I hunger for more, as though there is an unfathomable void inside me that yearns for these skills, these techniques.
However, Eighteen cannot teach me how to focus chi. I am learning that slowly, on my own. But that’s not going to be enough. I have the moves and the presence of mind, but I don’t have the energy. I’m going to have to find a new teacher.
Eighteen’s hair is the exact length it was when we first entered. She has flawless, but unchanging beauty. That’s a far cry compared to me, and to what mine has done. The former shade is gone. It’s completely dark violet now, and buoyant in that fashion that only Saiyajin hair can be.
“What remains for you now?” She waits until we are well-away from The Lookout before saying anything.
“I take us back to the present,” I answer. “I pay you your fee. Then I find another teacher.”
“Are you going to leave immediately upon paying me?”
“I hadn’t planned on it,” I reply. “It would be nice to rest for a day or two before going it again. And I’d like to see my family before I go. I know they won’t have noticed any time passing, but it’s been a long time for me.”
“Unless you’re ready to reveal everything to them, that’s not the wisest of ideas.” She speaks very solemnly, giving me a firm yank. I flinch, realizing how very true that is. The hair I can explain away. At least it looks better now than when it was half-grown. The Room of Time and Space did that favor for me.
Unfortunately, the tail I have grown while training is another matter entirely.