The actual transformation was almost instantaneous. Like blinking, I simply closed my eyes and then opened them and it was over. No pain, as I had feared, and no loss of time. For the first few days I even feared that nothing had happened to me despite what the recorder logs told me of the reconstruction process.
I suppose I should have been more aware of the changes over the 3 months that I have been different. Increased appetite and metabolism, for example. I never used to eat food in quantities like my husband and son, yet now I do. Greater energy for physical activity, with far more strength in my arms and legs than I once did. The capsule hatch that I had to struggle to close presents no challenge to me. More importantly though was the desire for physical activity and even more specific than that, the desire for physical challenges. I had attributed much of this to just being overzealous in my desire to become closer to my family.
My tail, though…
This is something completely new and utterly foreign to me. There are muscles in my lower half that I didn’t used to possess and have had to learn how to control. It is capable of fine degrees of articulation and manipulation, very much a useful extra limb even if it has a tendency to make some clothes difficult or impossible to wear unless I fashion a hole for it. I’ve grown accustomed to it by now, and I know that it is supposed to be part of me, sufficiently so that the thought of having it removed is absolutely repulsive. I’m disgusted with myself now that I was so insistent that we sever my son’s tail when he was young, and even more reviled that the other Saiyajin have all had their tails removed too. My opinion may change come my first full moon, but for now, I rather enjoy the way I can wrap that furry thing around my torso or slide the tip up and down another’s body. Well, I imagine doing that would be fun, at least. I haven’t allowed my husband the chance to see it yet.
I’ve no idea what his reaction is going to be. Until my tail grew in, I assumed he would be overjoyed to have a Saiyajin mate but upon reflection, he might be quite angry that I went to such lengths without his knowledge. After all, I did use his genetic material as a template for my metamorphosis without his consent, and he might consider it a great offense to his pride that his wife would have a tail and he would not.
My appetite, my metabolism, my hair, and my new strength were all things that I could passively dismiss, but now that I have a tail, I must begin to embrace what it will mean for me to be Saiyajin and not human. There is an important distinction that I must make here if I am to be accepted by my husband. Gokuu…Kakarot… was raised upon this world and for all consideration, I must know that he is a human with the power of Saiyajin blood. The same must be thought of Gohan and Goten. I must do this because this is what my husband has done, and the absolute last thing I wish from him now that I have taken things this far is the rejection that he holds for them. I must learn what life was like for my husband. I need to see what life was for the Saiyajin race, my people, aside from the example that Kakarot set for me throughout our long friendship. And that means visiting the past again, and going to planet Vejita before it was destroyed.
I learned the Saiyajin language by converting the data in the computer systems of Kakarot’s original ship to my own and back. I fashioned a new scouter from the scraps of Radditz’s so it does not look like his. Not that I am worried about its origins being discovered, but it makes me more comfortable to have something unique to me. I fashioned Saiyajin armor out of the same material Gohan brought back from Namek. I also reconstructed a Saiyajin space pod from the original design data my father saved from Kakarot’s vessel with pieces from Nappa’s ship. I did all of this in a two-week time frame, during which I existed entirely inside a room of 10 times Earth’s gravity. It helps that the technology I needed to do all of that was already created, but I’m confident I’ll be able to function normally in the rough Vejitan gravity. Being the world’s smartest woman has its benefits. It was a very long two weeks, however. Two weeks that I have not been home to see my family, and during which, I’m certain they’ve looked for me.
Kuririn would not have kept his mouth shut. Eighteen won’t have said anything to incriminate me, but Kuririn might have mentioned it to Gok-Kakarot or the gods-forbid, Piccolo or my husband. I am fortunate that I will be able to return to the exact point in time that I left, or what I’ve done might be discovered and the repercussions waiting for me.
The time machine is currently in a capsule, hidden into a compartment I built into my armor. While I wait for the Saiyajin craft to take me to the homeworld, I look out the window at the stars and wonder just how insane I must be to be doing any of this. My relationship with Vejita certainly wasn’t in danger of falling apart. Though he could never say the words, I know he does love me, even if he might secretly wish things turned out differently. When did this transform from a passing fancy into an all-consuming obsession for me? Why did I decide such radical methods were required?
I don’t have those answers, even if I thought I once did.
I’ve never seen a planet with red clouds. As it grows nearer, I feel a tightening sensation in my stomach. This is the birthplace of my husband and my oldest friend. It is what I must consider my ancestral homeland. Yet, I’m terrified to be this close to it. I may have the blood and the biology, and I’ve been trained by the woman who handedly defeated my husband many years ago. This doesn’t mean I’m a warrior yet, and I’m probably going to stick out like a very big sore thumb to the residents of this world.
When I’m in orbital range, the pod’s navigation systems are automatically taken over by the relays on the surface. I wasn’t expecting that to happen. I’d hoped that I’d at least get a few days to get acclimated to the world before having to speak with another person. Before I can come up with a way to override the automated pilot the pod has already broken through the clouds. The ground comes up frighteningly quick before the braking mechanisms kick in.
But the city, my word, the city is enormous. Not only enormous, but elegantly designed and crafted. Hardly what someone from Earth would consider a Utopia, but at the same point, it’s magnificent. Breathtaking. I see Saiyajin life happening in front of me, getting larger as the pod moves towards a port of some kind. Other pods are arriving and departing from this central terminal. Small figures are moving from building to building.
They all have tails. I don’t know why I find this as pleasing as I do, but nonetheless it’s how I feel. The tightening in my stomach slowly lessens, only to be replaced by anticipation. Am I home? Is that what I should be thinking? I’m about to see something that only Vejita remembers. None of the others, Kakarot, Trunks, Gohan, and Goten have never seen this and likely never will.
The pod finally comes to rest, settling on the ground without so much as a thud. The sighing sound of depressurization follows, and then a gentle creaking as the main hatch opens. Two figures are waiting just a few meters beyond the pod. Both of them are male and both are wearing scouters. My heart pounds as I push my body off the chair and out into the Vejitan air. I walk towards the first Saiyajin I will meet during my stay here.
One of them holds something resembling a notepad which I assume holds some kind of flight itinerary. His hair is similar to Gohan’s when he doesn’t cut it, except that it is closer to brown than black. He is twice my size. I had forgotten that some Saiyajin could be as large as Nappa.
The second is roughly Kakarot’s height, arms crossed menacingly and with the muscle build to apparently back that attitude up. His hair is closer to mine in color, but doesn’t elevate itself anymore than my son’s does. He is the one to speak first.
“Your ship isn’t listed in the register,” he growls, but not too overbearingly.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Saiyajin in the time with my husband, it’s never back down. You must show respect when needed, but never weakness. Never weakness.
“I wasn’t aware it had to be,” I snap back, keeping my tone equal with his.
“You must be a visitor, then,” the second mumbles as he records some notes.
My scouter quickly examines their power-levels for me while I wait. The results are presented to me in the Saiyajin language. I couldn’t take the risk of someone using my scouter and seeing unfamiliar characters on the display.
Hmm…the big one’s level is about what Gokuu’s was during his fight with Radditz. The smaller one is slightly more than that. I silently curse myself for calling him Gokuu again.
“Name?” The tall one demands. I have to stop myself from saying Kakarot. I’m lucky the name I have chosen starts with the same sound.
“Kansha,” I answer. It was the name my husband had chosen if our child had been born female. That was the arrangement, then. Male received a human name, female a Saiyajin name. Well, actually, I had chosen it from amongst the few Saiyajin names he’d proposed. But I agreed because his heart seemed set it on it.
Biggie records it, and as he does I walk by them. He tries stepping back in my way, but Shorty stops him. I don’t hear what is whispered between them, and I don’t really care. I’m away from them and they didn’t stop me or take me into custody or anything.
I smile once they’re behind me and can’t see my expression.
Within a few hours, I realize I don’t have any place to stay. I also don’t have any currency. My husband never needed it, and since I’ve never seen any, I had no way of replicating it. I end up wandering the city without much destination.
Contrary to the example I was given in Radditz, Nappa, and Vejita, the Saiyajins appear to be more civil than I expected. There is not constant fighting happening everywhere, though I’ve seen too many training sessions to count and a few actual combats. Nothing taking place in the streets; they have arenas and designated areas for such things. In public, the Saiyajin appear civil to each other, at least. They speak to each other as humans would speak. Signs of their warrior nature are evident on the surface. Everyone here wears scouters. Everyone wears armor. Conversation does tend to center around battle or missions, but still, I’ve seen males with their arms around females. I’ve seen what are obviously groups of friends enjoying each other’s company. While they are obviously a proud, warrior race, they aren’t the malicious killers I’ve been told they are.
At least amongst their own, anyway.
Everyone that bothers to give me something more than a cursory glance has a tendency to stare at me. That isn’t unexpected, but I wish I knew what it was about me that’s making them suspicious. Is my armor styled too bizarrely? I did design it after versions that won’t be fashioned for a few years.
I’m so caught up in taking in the world that it takes me a while to realize that I’m being followed. Not only am I being followed, but I have been subtly guided by terse onlookers and suspicious glances. I have come to a T-junction between the central terminal and the medical district. My scouter has been monitoring three signals that all are beginning to converge on me. I have a feeling that if I continue in the direction that I was walking I will come to a dead end. Better to let them come to me here, where I will have one avenue of escape if I can get by one of them.
The first of them is behind me, and he makes himself known by a very loud and ominous snicker. I glance over my shoulder to see the big Saiyajin who tried stopping me at the terminal. He winks at me as he steps very slowly in my direction.
Seconds later the second and third appear on my right and left from the connections at the T-junction. The one on the left is a female with dark brown hair the length of Radditz’s and a very nasty scar running down her left arm. On my right is another male of my approximate size without any hair whatsoever. I spare a moment to look at all three of them. My scouter tells me that none of them are concentrating their energy.
“This her?” The bald one points to me. Biggie behind me nods.
I don’t say anything. I don’t think it would do any good, regardless, but I’m just not in the mood to make excuses. I know I’m the foreigner here, and if they’ve found me out I have to accept the consequences.
“Doesn’t look like much,” Baldy says with a toothy grin.
The female looks at me, likely through her scouter. “Mine is saying the same thing that Biito’s was. I don’t think both of our scouters can be wrong.”
It hadn’t occurred to me that they could tell that I wasn’t a Saiyanjin by birth from the scouters. Something with my energy, maybe? Something I’d overlooked? Something that would distinguish Trunks from Vejita if the scouter wasn’t looking for power?
Biggie is snickering still, taking very slow steps towards me.
“Look at her hands,” he says darkly. “Look at her skin. Practically unmarked. Almost like a baby’s. A little princess.”
“Caught on three sides and not even raising her guard,” Baldy pipes in. “She’s either going to kill us or has never been in a real fight before.”
Stupid woman, not having the presence of mind to adopt a defensive stance. Doing it now will only make them more likely to attack me; make me look even more of a novice. Must try to remain focused and unshakeable.
And no matter how scared I get, no matter what they do, don’t tremble.
“I suppose it’s out of the question for me to offer you your lives now,” I say to Biggie.
“I don’t think she’s bluffing,” the female says to Biggie. “Think for a moment! If the scouter is-
Biggie doesn’t let her finish. “Nobody named Kansha has been off-world recently. There is no record of her departure.”
I had considered that, but couldn’t think of a way around it. Computer manipulation only goes so far. There might have been hardcopy records that would contradict the electric records.
How should I know how the Saiyajin kept records? It’s not like my husband ever had need to know, or to tell me if he did.
The female remains unconvinced. “But…if she’s working for Lord Frieza…?”
I’m certain the shock registers on my face at the mere mention of that name.
Frieza. Of course he’d still be alive. Why hadn’t I bothered to consider that? In that moment of surprise, of obvious weakness, Baldy springs forward at me. My head turns as though in slow motion as I notice the blur in my peripheral vision. I am momentarily amazed at how slow he seems to be moving. Even with the advantage of my distraction, I have plenty of time to throw myself to the ground and roll underneath him as he passes over where I once stood.
In front of me is an open pathway that leads back to the medical district. I can flee now and force them into the open where they might be less likely to attack. Or so I would hope. With luck, someone seeing three-on-one odds would try and even the situation out.
This thought passes with frightening alacrity. Retreat? Flee? The ideas of these choices seem to dissipate from my consciousness as my adrenaline kicks in. I’ve got the genetics of Saiyajin nobility and no three carbon-copy hoodlums are going to make me back down.
I suddenly realize that I’m not scared and I have no rationale explanation for it. I should be terrified. I’m the woman who cried over very simple things when but a girl. The girl who hid cowering behind stones while gods battled to the death on Namek, who shivered and wept while Kuririn stood fast and defiant in Frieza’s face. I’ve always allowed others to fight for me, and to protect me.
And this makes me indescribably angry at this moment.
Baldy is on me quick, but not quick enough. I spin around on my toes and plant my foot squarely into his face before he has the chance to jump me. The force of my blow is strong enough to send him sailing back into Radditz-girl, and the two of them come to rest several meters back.
I smile. Both inwardly and outwardly, I feel expression and spirit react to the spring of joy that leaks into me.
I feel alive, very much alive, in a manner I have never felt before.
Biggie steps forward and into the T-junction, turning to face me while his two companions dust themselves off and rise to their feet.
“She’s very quick,” Baldy concedes as he stands beside Biggie. His face is already bruising.
I bruised a Saiyajin warrior with my very first offensive strike. I created that offending black-and-blue mark. Me. With my foot.
“She just caught you off guard, Naanba,” Biggie cracks his knuckles. I should have expected no less from him.
“I really don’t think she’s bluffing, Kobach.” The female, again, though she doesn’t look like she has any intention of backing down.
Having no idea where the urge comes from, I grin at her, as threateningly as I can. I have read that when apes grin at each other they are actually being threatening, despite what comedy would have us believe. I find that apt. I slowly assume another defensive stance.
Biggie, I guess his name is Kobach, comes for me. Right hand first, and I block. Briefly, I’m shocked that I have the strength and leverage to block someone of his size. Then left foot, and I block again. Right hand, block. Over and over again.
It’s almost too easy, like a child’s game where you have an absurd amount of time to decide how to proceed. He leaves his stomach wide open and my foot finds it. He crumples over and I leap off my toes, spinning in the air as I shove my other foot directly into his nose. He falls backward, with his two companions wisely getting out of the way this time.
I know I spent the equivalent of two years training with Eighteen, but it shouldn’t be this simple, should it?
“Her power level didn’t even fluctuate,” the female says gravely. “Not a single iota. Naanba,” she tries to protest to Baldy. I can tell this. But Biggie is having none of it.
“Shut up, Kyri,” he barks. As he gets to his feet, I can see he is bleeding from the nose.
And he does not look happy.
My heart skips a beat.
Biggie comes at me. I block, and block, and then Baldy is there, sweeping at my legs. I leap up, catching him in the throat with another kick, dodging a chop from Biggie, but Kyri flies right past me, leveling me squarely in the chest with her extended arm.
I’m extremely lucky she didn’t take my breath with that strike. As it is, I have enough focus to grab her foot as she goes past and throw her into Biggie before I hit the ground.
My chest hurts. A lot. I’m very angry again.
I’m back on my feet before they are, and I’m hitting them with abandon now. As much as I can, and as hard as I can. It’s dawning on me how better Eighteen was than these fighters. After all, she can go toe-to-toe with a Super Saiyajin and win.
Thank you, my friend. I could not have chosen a better master.
It’s precisely that moment, when I’ve beaten them all to an inch of their lives and their faces are swollen and their scouters shattered and their armor in pieces that I realize how liberated I feel.
So this is what you have felt, my husband. This is why you do what you do. You and Kakarot and Gohan and Trunks and Goten. If I had only known.
And it’s precisely at that moment that Baldy releases a globe of radiant blue energy that I hadn’t seen or sensed him charging. It hits me flat in the stomach.
I hear my armor cracking. I watch them grow very small as I sail out of the T-junction. My belly feels like it is being incinerated. My eyesight is getting dim.
Was I this much of a fool?
I’m going to die here, years and untold kilometers away from my family because I couldn’t let well-enough alone. What the hell was I thinking? How crazy am I?
I’m sorry, Vejita. I’m sorry, Trunks.
I never meant to abandon you…
I’m just barely aware of the impact of my body against a nearby building. When my neck whiplashes back and hits the wall, my consciousness fades completely.
Voices. I can’t open my eyes. Too heavy.
Male: “They really worked her over.”
Another male: “Her? Have you seen the other three? It’s a clear-cut matter of self-defense.”
Female: “On whose part, though?”
Yet another male: “Of course you’re gonna take her side, Seripa.”
Female again: “Watch it. I’m not in the mood today.”
First male: “Either way, she needs serious help. The other three can walk away. Get her to a recovery pod immediately.”
I’m picked up and cradled. Then someone turns the volume off again.
I open my eyes and liquid touches them. Shutting them immediately, I realize I am immersed in it. There is something over my mouth and nose that is allowing me to breathe. My hand immediately goes to my stomach, expecting to find a massive hole. But it’s smooth and without suture. After, I feel out my surroundings. Metal on all sides, except for a plate that feels like plastic. Probably a window of some kind. I’m not in any danger of drowning, but I don’t like the idea of being contained like this. I tap on the plastic.
Soon the liquid is drained, and I open my eyes. My sight is blurry and takes its own sweet time focusing. I hear a door hissing and sliding open. I’m reminded, oddly, of my own splicing capsule where all of this started as a cold draft of air envelopes me and forces my naked skin to goosepimple. The door makes the exact same sound.
A figure is in front of me. I squint as the outside light temporarily blinds me. I step out of the capsule. Were it not that I just stretched my tail I would have thought that I was dreaming. I can’t believe that he’s here. How?
I hear laughing. There are other people in the room with us. A very large individual with short hair steps behind my friend.
“Gokuu?” he asks. “What kind of word is that? I think they might have damaged her a little bit more than you thought.”
Gokuu looks at him. “Could be. She did hit her head pretty hard.”
“Left a nice hole in the wall,” a female voice agrees. I recognize her voice. They called her Seripa.
“Hole in the wall?” The tall one next to Gokuu chuckles, “There’s no wall left.”
I’m suddenly aware that I am naked for the first time in front of other people since my tail appeared. I’m also aware that I’m not bothered by this. I look at Gokuu.
“My armor?” I look directly into his eyes as I ask.
“So, she can speak normally,” Seripa winks at me. “Baby talk doesn’t suit a warrior, after all.”
“Ruined,” he answers. “We’ll get you a replacement.”
There’s a scar on his face where I don’t remember one being. He also has his tail wrapped around his waist.
“Thank you,” I answer, more confused than ever.
I spot what’s left of my clothes and walk over to them. Nothing that I would have worn above the waist survived the blast that Baldy shot at me.
“I suppose I’m also in your debt for bringing me here,” I say as I begin dressing.
“What’s your name?” The tall asks this.
I almost say Buruma, but I catch myself.
“Touma.” He grins at me, placing his hand on Gokuu’s shoulder. “This is Seripa and Bardock.”
“Bardock?” I’m certain my expression is confused.
Bardock, if that’s his name, nods. The resemblance between him and my friend is eerie.
“You’ve heard of me?” He smirks confidently.
“No,” I admit, “you just remind me of someone else.” Just a friend that none of you could possibly know since he’s several years…
Oh no. Oh no. No no no no no no no no no .
“Where is my armor?” They said it was ruined, but it isn’t here. Oh please, this could be very bad.
“It wasn’t salvageable,” Seripa shrugs. “We’ll get you a something new.”
“No,” I am trying very hard not to panic. “I had something hidden in it. I need to retrieve it.”
“Oh,” Touma looks uneasy. “I’m sorry then. We didn’t know. There was so little left of it, we couldn’t imagine it being of any use. It’s been disposed of.”
“Disposed of?” I will not burst into hysterics. I will not burst into hysterics.
“Incinerated, atomized,” Bardock shrugs. “Whatever happens to things you dispose of.”
My armor is gone. No. No. My only means of returning to the present is gone. Just like that. Gone to a freak fight that I couldn’t have…
The time machine was hidden in my armor. Now it’s gone.
I’m stuck here.
On Vejita. In the past.
My knees go weak as Touma hands me new armor. I put it on like a zombie. My heart is weak and barely hear everything they explain to me.
They are going on a mission, to another planet, on orders from “Lord Frieza,” to eliminate all life there. They tell me I can repay them by going with them. And I have no reason not to accompany them. I’m practically honor-bound to do so.
I protest initially, of course. Tell them I wouldn’t be all that valuable to them in a fight. At this point, I am too broken to be anything but honest.
And they laugh at me.
They think I’m joking.
I’m told that I am an elite-class warrior, and that I have to be in order to possess the power level that I do. Touma is quick to point out that I nearly took out three Saiyajin warriors by myself. My reply, that their power-level wasn’t anything too threatening, only garners more laughs.
“To you, maybe,” Seripa laughs, but it was a laugh that said she couldn’t have done it. After that, I realize it was time to shut up or they’d really think me crazy. I don’t have much choice at this point but to agree. Best I can figure is that since I was “created” from my husband, a Super-Saiyajin, and trained by Eighteen, who has bested Super-Saiyajin, that maybe, just maybe, I have more power than I’ve let myself believe. Which would explain the speed advantage I didn’t realize I had over the three who jumped me earlier. It would also explain why my kicks had so much of an effect on them. I have more innate chi than I ever knew.
Which does me absolutely no good, since I have no idea how to harness it. Perhaps whoever we’re being sent to deal with will kill me quickly. At least then I won’t have to deal with the grief of being a murderer.
I walk with them, not really hearing anything they are saying. Kobach, apparently not taken to a recovery pod, glares at me through a broken face while Touma tells him to get my ship ready for departure. The four of us are gone soon after.
The flight there seems to pass without warning. As we soar through space, all I can do it consider how I can get home. I can rebuild the time manipulation device. It’s not so much a matter of if I can do as it is how long it will take me, and what I will have to do to acquire the parts. Having none of my original designs, or my laboratory, I know it will take months. Many months. Maybe even years. So long…am I gonna have the patience for that?
When I step from the pod, looking around at the crater its impact created, I realize that we have landed on the side of the planet where darkness is about to fall.
This world’s moon is full.
Any second thoughts I might have had flee instantly. Whether or not I want to cooperate now, I’m going to end up doing it regardless.
It’s sad, and scary, how easily we can resign ourselves to our fate…
We walk just far enough away that our ships will not be in danger of being stomped flat. Bardock looks up. Seripa looks up. Touma looks up. I don’t.
But it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever.
I don’t dodge quick enough, and the lance of energy one of the final defenders of the eighth world we’ve visited spears me cleanly through the shoulder. He follows up immediately with a lightning-quick double kick combination. With my good arm, I easily block his attack. When he comes in for another strike, I catch his arm at the wrist and quickly swing him around, leaving him plenty open for me to shatter his elbow with my foot.
One of his comrades leaps on my back, digging his fingers into the wound on my shoulder. I scream out, no point in denying that it hurts after all, and reach behind me. My fingers find his hair and pull hard, hard enough to rip him off my back and hurtle him into the canyon wall. He hits hard, and I focus my chi into two bolts of light from my palm. One smashes his left leg, the other his right arm.
A third attempts to sweep out my legs from behind, but she’s far too slow and I have ample time to spin and break her nose with a simple forearm swipe. She collapses into a ball, holding her wounded face with both arms.
The fourth is successful. She had been flying with as much velocity as she could muster and tackles me at the waist before I can leap out of the way. I feel ribs break with the impact.
She intends to carry me into the canyon wall and then let go at the last moment. Unfortunately, her species isn’t anywhere near as strong as mine, and I’m not only able to keep a hold of her but twist our positions so that she impacts first. I hit the ground right after, landing on one knee. Breathing is getting difficult now. I can feel my broken ribs shifting with each breath, and left arm is still hanging uselessly at my side.
Two more to go. A male and a female, obviously lovers, take a final look at each other before coming at me. My heart breaks seeing them look at each other like that. It’s enough hesitation that they manage to fire off two blasts of energy before I’m able to react.
One hits the canyon wall behind me, raining boulders that batter and bruise me. I’d have been able to keep my feet if the second blast hadn’t hit just before them, opening a crater that I fall into just as the boulders slam against my body and bury me. As the debris collides with each other, the impact travels through the rocks on top of me and rattles my senses. It continues for a few moments until all the loose rock has settled.
I can’t find the strength to free myself. I have to use chi, and doing so, detonate the earth around me as well as the boulders above me. My final two opponents look at me in shock as I emerge, bleeding and broken, but still alive.
They stare at me sadly. There’s nothing more than can do unless they can surprise me, and they know it. Holding back tears as best as I can, I stare them down.
Please attack me, I beg silently. I don’t want to hurt them without defending myself.
And it’s no way for a warrior to die, regardless.
Perhaps they hear my plea. Both of them rear back for one final assault, focusing their own energy.
They never get the chance to use it. Touma and Seripa come out of nowhere and break their necks before the energy is released. The lovers’ lifeless bodies fall to the ground.
Finally, mercifully, silence.
I fall to my knees and heave heavy sighs. For those whom I hurt today. For the pain my ribs are causing me.
But mostly, because I lived yet again.
It’s odd that sometimes, when you seek death the most, it will not allow you to find it. Every time I’ve accompanied Bardock’s crew, I volunteer for the most dangerous position. Every time, I do so in the hopes that I will find something that can kill me. Every time, I manage to live through it somehow. Usually beaten within an inch of my life, but somehow alive.
I can’t just let the inhabitants of whatever planet we are attacking kill me. Doing so might mean that any one of my comrades could die as well. Morality is somehow ironic that way: I have somehow allowed myself to do horrible things to these strangers on each world we’ve gone to but can’t bear the thought of my inaction hurting the people who saved my life.
The possibility of my death in combat is getting further and further away. Every time I recover I’m stronger than before. I somehow knew this would happen but didn’t allow it to sink in. I let myself believe otherwise. I’m becoming very good at what I do. You have to be good, when you’re doing everything you can to keep from killing others. I’ve hurt more people than I can remember. Some of them I’ve hurt badly. There is a small amount of comfort that I can take knowing that I’ve never consciously delivered a killing blow. This, unfortunately, has not gone unnoticed and my teammates are getting suspicious of me.
“For crying out loud, Kansha,” Touma sneers at me, “get on your feet.”
As I struggle to do so, I hear the quiet moaning of those I didn’t finish off. So do my teammates.
“Left more alive again?” Seripa shakes her head as she walks over and delivers the killings blows that my conscience wouldn’t allow me to do.
Consciously delivered the killing blow…
I don’t know how many I might have killed on the full moon. Once the transformation starts you have to ride it out, since you’re very much trapped in the rage after that. It’s hard for me to discern what happened when I become the large Saiyajin primate. Not because of amnesia, but because the memories are all colored with bloodlust and rage, very much like trying to look at a painting while wearing glasses with thick red glass lenses. The picture is visible, sure, but you can’t be certain that you looking at it correctly since it’s all red and twisted.
Regardless of whether or not I can remember those nights with clarity, I know lives must have come to an end because of me…
I’ve tried telling myself it’s like being in the army. You either fight or you will die. But that only works once on the fight starts. It’s easy to forget everything when scores of beings are trying to kill you. Once it’s over, and you see the carnage and know that you’re responsible for it…
I’ve tried convincing myself that I’m not important to any of this. All of these planets were going to die anyway. I’m in the past and all of this has already happened. These people were going to massacred without my involvement. They’re all just future ghosts.
But then the part of me that is still a scientist kicks in, and I think about temporal physics and I wonder if these planets died because I was involved. Maybe coming into the past allowed all of this to occur. Maybe these planets would have resisted successfully without me. Maybe Saiyajin would never have been sent there if I wasn’t part of this team. And even this is the way history has always been, and I’m changing nothing by being here…that it was destined that I do it, it remains that I’m responsible for all these planets falling in Frieza’s name.
Bardock joins us now. Of the four of us, only he fights harder than I do. But he kills without a second thought, and he fights because he enjoys it. He also has the same tendency to barely make it out alive of each battle. Limping, and holding an arm, it looks like I actually came out worse than him this time.
Seripa and Touma are a little bit more cautious. That’s really the only reason I’ve been tolerated up to this point: I fight just as hard as Bardock and take the risks they’d never admit to being hesitant of taking. If I didn’t, I’d be left with the grunt work that they normally handle.
Otherwise called mass slaughter.
Bardock looks at the three of us, and appraises the situation. Then he looks directly at me.
“You’re off the team.” I wonder what it looks like to Seripa and Touma, having the two very wounded people eye each other carefully while they, the two relatively unhurt people, simply watch.
“I’m sick of the rest of us cleaning up your messes,” he says under his breath.
“Fine,” I mutter. In all reality, this doesn’t hurt my feelings. I’ve made little progress on building a new time machine since I’m always on mission with the team.
“I do the work of two warriors. It’s your mistake.” That doesn’t mean I won’t try and save face.
“Then we’ll get two warriors to replace you,” Touma adds.
“Ones who don’t leave us clean-up work,” Seripa nods.
That is where the conversation ends. We make our way back to the ships and then to Vejita. When we arrive, Bardock and I are taken to recovery pods. When I emerge from mine, he’s already gone, and there’s no sign of the other two. It appears that I’ve been abandoned. As happy as I am that I’m not part of that terrible work anymore, I’m nonetheless overcome by loneliness. Those three have been my only companions since I’ve been here.
I finish fastening my armor back into place when I receive a visitor. He’s not Saiyajin, and he’s nobody that I recognize. Big and alien and feminine looking with green skin. My blood chills instantly. I remember him from Namek all those years ago, but can’t remember his name.
“You are Kansha, correct?”
“Your presence is requested,” he indicates toward the door as though I’m supposed to follow him. He also doesn’t look like I’m supposed to refuse him. My scouter tells me that his power level is well-above what I suspect mine to be.
I will never finish the time machine. I’m never given the time to acquire the materials or too simply work on it. If not on mission, I have to be training. If not training, I’m eating or sleeping. At this rate, I’ll be as old as Kamessenin before I’m able to return home.
I bite my lip and nod, following his lead as he heads out the door.
“Am I being given a new assignment?” I keep my voice even.
He nods. “In a manner of speaking,” he begins, “you could say that. You’re the Saiyajin who tends to leave their opponents alive.”
I grit my teeth, thankful he can’t see me. “I hadn’t realized I’d become famous.”
“We hear everything,” he says as though he should be shrugging, but doesn’t.
“I see,” I mutter. “And this new assignment is because of something you’ve overheard?”
He stops and turns, glaring at me. “You shouldn’t belittle any task that Lord Frieza gives to you.”
My heart stops momentarily. “Frieza…Frieza is giving me this one?”
I should have suspected that. Of course he’d be here representing Frieza. Why else would he be on this world?
Green man frowns, obviously noticing the lack of “lord” in my speech. I manage to say something to make up for it.
“I’m honored that Lord Frieza believed me worthy.”
He laughs. “You? Worthy? Don’t flatter yourself.”
He takes me to his ship, and then we fly up to Frieza’s mothership in orbit around the planet. After leading me through several corridors, a pair of doors part and I find myself amidst Frieza’s elite. And in the middle of them, sitting contentedly in a swivel chair is the monster himself. His back is thankfully to me at the moment.
“Lord, I have returned,” green man announces with an arm-across-chest salute.
“Thank you, Zarbon,” that terrifyingly quiet voice utters smoothly. And then the swivel-chair turns around, and those eyes focus on me. As soon as I see them, I drop to one knee and lower my head. Anything not to look directly at him.
“Kansha,” Frieza says to me.
“Lord Frieza,” I reply without looking up.
“The Saiyajin that leaves enemies alive,” he smirks. I can feel him smirking, even if I can’t see it. “How quaint.”
I say nothing. I just remain on one knee with my head lowered and will not look up for anything.
“Tell me,” Frieza continues, “why don’t you finish them immediately?”
I have an answer I’ve rehearsed-well for moments like this. Bardock and his team didn’t seem to care for it.
“Because,” I begin, “it is easy for them if I kill them outright. It’s worse, much worse, if their enemy thinks them unworthy of a warrior’s death, and leaves them to perish in a broken mass from their wounds.”
I’m lying, but I’ve practiced it enough that it doesn’t seem like it. Or so I’m hoping.
“When we have sent you to these worlds,” Zarbon interjects, “it is to eliminate the life there.”
“They are still dead, aren’t they?” I snap at him unintentionally. Sometimes my mouth gets the better of me. “The result is the same.”
Zarbon snarls at me. “Watch your mouth you filthy Saiyajin-
“Zarbon,” Frieza interrupts, “that won’t be necessary.”
Green man nods, saluting again. “Of course, my lord.”
“Vejita,” the monster says softly, “would you come over here?”
Oh my…I raise my eyes just enough to look upon my future husband as a child, a child younger than my son is now. And his expression is so…cold…even more arrogant than he is now, if such a thing is possible.
I catch a momentary glimpse of Frieza as I look up. It’s the first time I’ve ever met eyes with him. My soul itself seems to shiver. I pray that my body didn’t do the same.
Frieza nods in my direction, but he is watching Vejita.
“This one will accompany you,” he states with a voice that does not expect contradiction. My future husband gives it to him anyway.
“I don’t need a babysitter,” he grumbles.
“You’re powerful, yes,” Frieza nods, “but a child nonetheless.” Vejita bristles as Frieza calls him a child.
Frieza ignores him. “I’m not sending you to planets I’d normally send elite teams to without someone to accompany you.”
“Her?” He almost spits at me upon saying that. “A weakling that doesn’t understand that the only way a fight ends is in the death of your enemy?”
“Vejita,” Frieza begins patiently, “collect yourself. This one understands that there are fates worse than death. She will suffice.”
“Feh.” The little one crosses his arms in anger, but doesn’t say anything more.
“You do understand that, don’t you, Kansha?” Frieza smiles. It is the most evil smile that I can imagine anyone making. It’s also a warning to me.
I nod, lowering my eyes again and keeping them there.
“Yes, Lord Frieza.” I hate myself for every second of respect, even fabricated respect, I pay this tyrant.
“Good,” the monster coos as his chair spins around. “You may go.”
I rise to my feet and turn to leave. I wait for Vejita to leave first. He is, after all, the Prince of the Saiyajins, and it would be disrespectful to exit first. Not to mention that he’d probably kill me.
“Oh, and Vejita?” Frieza’s voice makes Vejita pause. The little prince turns around.
“Fight hard for me,” Frieza answers. Vejita smiles. It is an arrogant smile, but an honest one nonetheless.
“I will,” he replies, still smiling. Then he turns and leaves. I follow close behind.
He smiled at Frieza. My future husband smiled at Frieza. Almost as if…and Frieza seemed to actually be kind to…
This bothers me on more levels than I care to think about. All the times I’ve heard Vejita softly curse Frieza’s name it never occurred to me that the monster had raised him. The monster had been the closest thing to a father my husband ever had. He probably never had a mother that he knew.
That’s why when he came to earth he was just like Frieza. Perhaps angrier, more wounded than the monster ever was, but so bloodthirsty and brutal. That’s the only example he had to follow. He was rewarded for doing exactly what Frieza wanted.
And how much he’s changed…I find my heart breaking just pondering how far he’s come from this moment in his life. This bloodthirsty brat will one day love me enough to give his life for me.
“I don’t care what Frieza says,” Vejita grumbles without looking at me, “when the fighting starts you’d better stay out of my way.”
“Of course, my Prince,” I answer dutifully. I somehow resist the urge to pick him up and hold him tightly against me.
The annoying little brat is going to get us both killed.
Rushing into battle without so much as single forethought to strategy or consideration, it’s very hard to hold back while he does most of the work. I have to trust that he’ll be powerful enough to win alone until the last possible moment.
I watch him shoot energy left and right, a literal kaleidoscope of light in action as he incinerates two blue-skinned, three meter tall, furry things that are the dominant lifeforms on this backwater planet, then three more, and the numbers just keep rising. They just keep coming. We’re going to be overrun soon if I don’t do something to even the odds. At this age, Vejita is tough, but he isn’t very bright, and these things are tougher than he’s giving them credit for.
It has occurred to I’m currently involved in one of the most dangerous paradoxes ever. If he dies now, as a child, I will never have existed as I do now. I’d still be born of course, but all those things that made life so difficult might never have happened. Nappa and Vejita wouldn’t have come after Piccolo killed Radditz. We’d have never gone to Namek. Perhaps Kakarot would be the only Saiyajin left in the entire universe, and would be woefully under-prepared for the day Frieza did arrive on Earth. It’s so mind-boggling. And while I know that I might simply be living in a divergent past and not my past, it doesn’t make the little voice in the back of my head go away.
If you knew that your husband was a murdering monster no better than Frieza before he met you, and had the opportunity to prevent all the deaths he would cause if only you would sacrifice your entire life with him as though it never happened, could you do it? Would it be selfish to choose that thousands die just so you have a few years with him? These are questions I’m terrified to answer, and yet, in my action or inaction, I will answer them.
The little brat doesn’t realize that he’s going to die if I don’t intervene. But then, he’s young, and has years to learn how to be the perfect killing machine. I raise my hand and focus my chi.
Learning how to harness my own energy was simple, far simpler than I imagined. I’d already begun to do in the time I studied with Eighteen, and my Saiyajin body seems more open to it than my human body was. My punches and kicks delivering more force than the three idiots who jumped me all those many months ago was just a matter of focusing chi. Just focusing it within the body. After you understand that, it’s just a matter of learning how to manifest it outside yourself. It just takes practice. Even Videl learned how to do it in a matter of hours.
I have to admit that learning it was incredibly liberating. Once I could project my energy outside my body, I was on a plane with everyone that’s ever protected me. Never again would I be completely helpless.
The energy arcs out from my palms in braiding twists of light before separating and smacking into four of the blue meanies. It’s not enough; their numbers are too great. I actually have to get serious.
I go into motion then, kicking and punching and shooting bolts of light. One to the throat, one to another’s stomach, another’s head is severed, one to the spine…I eventually lose myself in it, and go with it. It’s so much easier if you just let go ride out the rage. I understand my husband so much more now than I ever did.
I smile to myself, knowing that I am fighting beside him, even if he doesn’t know who I am or what the future holds in store for us. Vejita fights on, saying nothing. Hours pass before they retreat, but I know that means little. When the moon comes out, our real damage will be done. Retreating only gives him time to yell at me.
“Why did you interfere?” He walks right to me, looking up as though I wasn’t any threat to him. “I gave you specific orders to leave all of the fighting to me.”
I wipe my blood off my lips with the back of my hand. One of those fuzzies got in a good shot before I could break his shoulders. I gesture out to the mounds of corpses and wounded we have left in our wake.
“More than half of this is my work,” I spit the remaining blood from my mouth. “You should be thankful I didn’t leave them to you.”
“I was more than capable of handling them alone!” He is cute, balling his little fists in rage like that.
“Of course, my Prince,” I reply. The sarcasm is thick in my tone.
He frowns. “Don’t speak to me with that voice.”
“Do you have any idea how close you came to dying?” I have my hands on my hips, looking down. “How long did you want me to wait?”
“I would not have died to savages like this,” he sneers.
I know I’ve only made a mistake by helping him, now. I should have waited until they’d almost ripped him to pieces before saving him. Maybe then he’d have appreciated the idea of teamwork a little bit more.
No. Who am I trying to fool? He’d have just trained harder so he wouldn’t need my help the next time. Even at this age, his damned pride is blinding him.
“Whatever you say,” I mutter, no longer in the mood to be civil.
His face twitches, and he snarls. He leaps at me, throwing a punch that I easily catch. Then another and another and another, and I catch each of them. He kicks and I block just as easily as I did his fists. He throws absolutely every move he has at me and I do nothing else until it’s painfully obvious that he can’t land a single blow. When he’s finally worn himself out, or has given up, he sits down and crosses his arms.
“You might be stronger than me now,” he snaps, “but soon I will surpass you and everyone else on our world.”
I smirk. There’s truth to that, even he’s an arrogant brat.
“This is true,” I nod, “one day you will be the strongest Saiyajin that ever grew up on our world.”
Not a real lie, just neglecting to mention Saiyajins raised off-world. No need to explain about Kakarot. He’ll find out in time.
“But only if you live long enough,” I shrug. “One day you’ll have the power to make the rest of us look like insects. Until then, you’ll just have to put up with me.”
“Heh,” he sneers, “I only have to put up with you until Nappa gets back. After that, you go back to being the low-class scum that you are.”
I growl. I’ve got the blood of Saiyajin nobility in me and I will not be spoken to as though I was to be grouped with Kobach and Naanba. Not even by him.
For a fleeting moment, I almost walked over and choked the life out of him. I compose myself after seeing his haughty face reacting to my brief flash of anger.
“Well then,” I reply, “I suppose I’ll just have to let you fight the next one by yourself.”
And after the moon rises, and we transform, there’s very little remaining for him to destroy the next morning. What is left is enough for him to handle alone.
I hate being proven wrong.
With Nappa’s return only one world later (during which I had to do less than I did on the previous one), I was officially without a team and without a job. Which, I’d hoped, would give me ample time to work on a new temporal machine. And it did.
Until Frieza’s cronies assigned me a new task. And then another. Then one more, and they never stopped.
Including the months I was with Bardock’s team, it’s been two years since I’ve been stuck here. This life is akin to slavery, servitude at the very least, to that monster. In two years, I’ve only been able to acquire the necessary pieces for one-quarter of the machine. I could expect, if I’m lucky, to finish it within six more years.
I look at the scattered wires and half-assembled fragments I have littering the floor of my home, and sigh.
Not enough time.
The planet Vejita won’t last but a few more months, if my calculations are correct. Frieza will destroy it for whatever reasons he did it, and if I’m not off-planet when it happens, that’s it. Everything I’ve learned, all the power I’ve acquired, will be for nothing.
I can barely remember my old life. It seems like it was nothing but a dream. All the death and violence and blood on my hands now makes it seem that Buruma was an illusion, Kansha is the reality, and I’ve simply been asleep for years.
I find it very funny that I don’t remember the names of the planets I’ve been to, or the species I’ve helped eradicate. Subconscious defense, maybe? Without names it isn’t as real, or as condemning?
In hindsight, I don’t know what good I expected to come by traveling here. I just…I just had to be enough for him. I wanted him to be happy with me. I wanted to be as authentic as possible, a true Saiyajin mate…I suppose I have become that, even if I regret in ways no true Saiyajin woman ever would.
The bell at my door rings, and I open the door by tossing a tiny ball-bearing at the button. My aim has gotten very good. It’s had to be.
Seripa walks in. The door slides shut behind her. I had considered hiding the fragments of the time machine, but I see no point to it now. She peruses the absolute disaster area that is my floor.
“I have no idea what you’re doing,” she states slowly, “but I’m not surprised that it isn’t related to training in any way. You’re probably the strangest warrior I know.”
I shrug. She contacted me out of the blue last time Bardock’s team was here. I think she was lonely for a girlfriend, though her pride would never let her admit it. She is after all the only female among four males. Touma was true to his word, they did replace me with two warriors. Two more men, to be exact. It was nice to speak with her, but we’re not exactly friends either.
“It relaxes me,” I say quietly. “Helps my mind put things in order.”
She laughs, very amused apparently, before finding a spot to sit.
“How are Toteppo and Panbutto working out?” I’m not really that interested, but it’s small talk.
She shrugs one shoulder. “Well. We’re being given harder assignments now, so we must be a good crew. What about you?”
I shrug one shoulder back. “About the same, just waiting for yet another ridiculous assignment.”
“Just another…” she starts but then changes her mind. “You can’t be serious. You helped train the Prince. You’re given tasks by Frieza himself. What the hell are you complaining about?”
I shake my head, “You wouldn’t understand. You can’t understand.”
“Try me,” she offers. In no mood for playing subtle games of lying and misdirection, I find being honest very satisfying.
I point to her scouter. I know Frieza’s people sometimes listen in with them. It’s how he knew to go to Namek after Vejita came to Earth. She removes it and switches it off.
“I hate Frieza,” I say, and the words feel so good leaving my lips. “I hate him more than you can possibly guess.”
Seripa just looks at me with semi-wide eyes.
“I hate all the killing and destruction we’ve done in his name. I hate that we are subservient to him even though he and his inner circle despise us all. I hate-
“Do you have any idea what you’re saying?” she interrupts. “How crazy you sound?”
“I know exactly how I sound,” I nod.
“You are mad,” she chuckles. “I know you’re a bit odd, but this is pushing the limits. You hate Frieza?”
I nod again.
“I suppose everyone hates their boss,” she shrugs. “I’d just be careful who I say it around.”
“Well, keep your mouth shut, then.” I rise to my feet, placing all the myriad pieces of my forever-to-be-unfinished time machine into a larger container. “If you and the others had kept your mouth shut about my fighting practices on missions, I’d never have come to Frieza’s attention.”
“Nobody else pulls the stunts you do,” she smirks, “it was a good conversation piece.”
I smirk back. “I’ll bet. Good enough to have me assigned to that little terror.”
“The Prince?” Her lips curl in an amused smile.
“The Prince,” I nod. “I’m glad that’s over. Let that idiot Nappa deal with him.”
“You don’t respect Nappa, either?” Mild tone of surprise as she raises an eyebrow. “Is there anyone you do respect?”
I drop more junk into the container. The room is half-clean now.
“Only you, Bardock, and Touma.”
“We hated you,” she snickers. “Still do.”
“I’ve fought beside you,” I shrug. “That tends to endear someone to you.”
“Don’t get overly sentimental,” she states evenly. “Did ever wonder why we got rid of you?’
I stop putting the junk away and face her. This is about the civility of her last visit, so I’m guessing she doesn’t know any other way to act around people, even those she might wish to be friends with.
“As I understand it,” I begin, “you were tired of cleaning up after me. That no true Saiyajin warrior would leave their enemies living.”
She nods, “That’s part of it. No denying that. Another part of it is that your explanation seemed like a crock. You didn’t really believe it.”
I shrug. “If you say so, Seripa. My reason was a true one.”
“I never said it wasn’t true, Kansha,” she bites her lip, frowning. “I said you didn’t believe it.”
She looks over the remaining junk.
“But that’s not the truth, either.” Seripa meets my eyes and stares me down. “It’s because you insulted us by doing it.”
“Insulted you?” I snicker. “It had nothing to do with you.”
“Oh really?” She shakes her head. “You were stronger than all of us. Bardock will never admit that, and maybe he was on the verge of catching you before that final mission where we told you not to come back. We really had to replace you with two warriors, after all.”
She leans over and picks up the tube of ball-bearings I have yet to put away. She dumps a few in her palm and rolls them around with the fingers of her other hand.
“You have strange toys,” Seripa chuckles. Then she gets serious again. “You were more powerful than us. You were elite two years ago, it’s almost terrifying to think how powerful you are now.”
She smirks, “You were stronger and faster than the rest of us. You didn’t use energy for the longest time as though it wasn’t necessary for you to win. Once you started using it, you were twice as deadly as you were initially. You’d always insist on having the hardest tasks, and you’d always come back alive from them. And leaving all those opponents them alive…”
Her eyes narrow. “It’s as though we were nothing more than your pets and you were leaving us your table-scraps. And that attitude of yours, constantly making yourself out to be no more than any of us, letting us believe that we could have actually defeated you if necessary…” She shakes her head. “And…and…that you seemed to genuinely believe that you weren’t as good as we all knew you to be…that was tough to swallow, you know.”
I hadn’t thought about that, back then. It seems so clear to me now. I know why she and the others felt that way. But back then, I was just Buruma pretending to be Kansha. I wasn’t Kansha yet. My Saiyajin pride was still in its infancy. I was resisting the changes that have inevitably happened to me.
“I’m sorry,” I mutter, returning to the junk I’m cleaning up. “That was never my intention.”
She raises an eyebrow. “So that’s the real reason, then? You hated ending the lives of all those people because we were doing it for Frieza?”
I nod. Not a complete truth, but nonetheless a truth. “Not exactly something I can freely admit, you know.”
“True,” she concedes, “though I don’t know why you hate him as you do. He’s never been anything but reasonable with our people.”
“It won’t be that way forever,” I look over at her. I have to be careful with what I say about this, and I choose my words one at a time. “The time will come, many years from now, when he will die by Saiyajin hands.”
Seripa laughs. “Frieza? Killed by one of us? I was only joking when I spoke of you being mad, but if you really believe that, then-
I interrupt her. “My son will kill Frieza.” I’ll just neglect that to mention that it was Kakarot who actually handed Frieza his first defeat. And that it was my son from another time, and not truly my son.
She looks at me incredulously, and then laughs again. “Your son? Forgetting the fact that you’re childless, are you now a seer?”
I shrug. “Perhaps.”
I’ve finished putting everything away but the ball-bearings. I open my hand, indicating that she should toss me the tube. Which she does, without putting the cap back on the tube. As I catch it, a few spill out on the floor.
One, two, three, four, five, six…seven of them.
Seven of them…
I fall down onto the floor and start laughing. More like crying, actually.
“What’s wrong with you?” Seripa eyes me warily.
I can’t answer her, my tears and laughter still flowing freely. All this time I’ve had the means to get home and I’ve just never even thought about it. It will take a little bit of work. Removing the tracking equipment on my ship so that Frieza and his cronies don’t know where I’ve gone, turning off my scouter so that I can’t be observed.
But the earth of this time would still have seven dragonballs…as would Namek…
I absently dump all the bearing in the tube into the container. I can build a dragon radar from that junk. I can find them and go home…
I stand up, walking over to Seripa and embracing her tightly. She stiffens.
“What has gotten into you, Kansha?” Her eyes are wide with suspicion.
“Thank you,” I say warmly. “You’ve helped me more than you will ever possibly know.”
“Alright,” she mutters. “Can you please let go of me now?”