Apr 16, 2021 6:37 AM
Goku dies, for real this time
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Goku's dead.

It's not the first time. That doesn't make it any easier, or any less permanent, this time.

After Goku teleported Cell onto King Kai's planet, the least inhabited location still detectable by ki, his friends held out the hope that his heroic sacrifice might yet be rendered less of a sacrifice, if no less heroic. The new Dragon Balls can, supposedly, revive someone more than once. The Namekian set definitely can.

It doesn't matter. King Kai delivers the news in hushed telepathy, not-quite-hiding his worry. Goku's soul failed to arrive in the afterlife. He's not here. He's not, as far as they can tell, anywhere.

They try anyway. It should take a wish to reach New Namek, but King Kai's telepathy makes it easy, and however he may bluster, he's more worried for his student than over his own death. But attempts to revive Goku only confirm the worst. Even Porunga cannot find him, wherever he's gone.

Cold realization sets in.

Chi-Chi doesn't know. No one wants to be the one to tell her. To the surprise of many, Bulma volunteers. She knew Goku longer than anyone living. She started him searching for Dragon Balls, started him saving the world; in a small way, she is the reason he's gone.

She tries not to think about that as she flies the wounded Gohan home. She doesn't quite succeed.

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Gohan is still pretty out of it, his half Saiyan biology is incredibly robust and he can ignore a hell of a lot of pain, but his left arm and two of his ribs are shattered and his dad just died to save him. It's a lot for a 11 year old to process and deal with. He had never let himself get so full of unbeileivable rage as he did during that fight and that has left him even more emotionally drained, with those hormone byproducts crashing through his sytem. He mumbled an apology for getting blood and dirt on Bulma's carseat as she strapped him into his seatbelt and hasn't said a word since. He hasn't quite fallen asleep in the car but he is at least dozing.

If Bulma could sense Ki she would notice the boys Ki flare up a few times during the trip as a twinge of pain or another catches gohan off gaurd, but he controls the Ki perfectly even in this state, to stop it from danaging the car around him. 

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Bulma doesn't talk much either, other than to reassure the boy not to worry about the seats. And she decidedly can't sense Ki; she left her spare refurbished scouter back at Capsule Corp. 

Her mind is elsewhere anyway. She used to fly Goku around in air-cars like this, once upon a time. They were little more than children then. She had wanted to find the world's most powerful artifacts so she could get a boyfriend. Goku just wanted to eat and fight, as near as she could tell. She suppresses a smile; her childhood friend hadn't changed much, in that regard. 

And now she's taking his son to meet his widow. The smile fades. 

Engines whine. Clouds pass. More than once she thinks she sees a man atop them, grinning, unkempt black hair blowing. 

White clouds, though. Not yellow. And nothing rides them but the wind. 

There it is, a little house in a big forest. 

"Gohan? You're home." 

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"Oh... Okay then..." He rouses from his dozing, he unbuckles himself and uses his Ki to float out of the flying car, not trusting his own legs right now. He gives bulma a smile for helping him get home but it doesn't reach his eyes.

"I'm just gonna go to my room if that's okay? I don't think I can talk to mom right now..." He looks up at her for approval, seeking the permission of an adult, because he is only a eleven year old boy after all. Still asking permission even though he just killed one of the greatest threats to the galaxy just a few hours ago and is currently the strongest being on Earth.

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Her heart breaks, a little. He's younger than Goku was, when they first met. She nods; she doesn't trust herself to speak right now. 

Of course, there's still just the one door. She takes a deep breath, and knocks. 

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There's a clinking sound from inside, then a pause. The door opens. A woman stands in the doorway. The soft, homely fabric of her purple dress and orange shawl entirely fail to conceal the athletic build beneath. But her face is tired and creased with worry. 

"Bulma? What's - oh my sweet Gohan, what did they do to you this time -" 

"Chi-Chi," interjects Bulma, voice quavering slightly, "he's - he's exhausted, please, let him rest, I'll tell you everything. " 

Chi-Chi glances at Gohan's bandaged form, absorbing in one glance every bruise, laceration, and bloodstain. Her eyes are hard when she looks up again. There is a long pause; silently, a different sort of battle wages. Blue eyes meet brown. 

 

 

 

"Fine." 

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Bulma makes a surreptitious shooing motion at Gohan. She hopes Chi-Chi doesn't notice. (Chi-Chi does). 

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Gohan goes up to his room and flops onto the bed, he doesnt even bother to take his shoes off, even though he knows mom will get mad at him for going to bed still dirty and fully dressed. He passes out and sleeps dreamless sleep, finally having respite from this horror of a day in the sweet embrace of non thought. 

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It's quiet downstairs, for a long time. For once there's no screaming. Not that Gohan would hear it, while he sleeps the sleep of the barely-survived. 

 

 

In the morning, Chi-Chi brings Gohan breakfast on a tray. She's used to feeding Saiyans; there's a lot. 

There are bags under her eyes. 

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Gohan with his half Sayain biology has recovered a lot with just a single nights rest. He is still filthy from the fight but all the various gashes have healed up like nothing happened, and his muscles are much less stressed and painful. His broken ribs and arm will still take a few weeks to heal up however. He hears his mother open the door and sits up with only a slight wince.

"Hey mom... I'm sorry I went to fight without permission..." He doesn't mention the other obvious thing that happened, it was too raw to mention it right now.

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It seems his mother agrees. She sets the tray down on his bedside table and sits down at the foot of the bed. There's a bowl of warm water on the breakfast tray; she takes a cloth from it, wrings it, and starts dabbing the dried grime from Gohan's face. 

She makes as if to speak, but pauses, frowning. At last: "You scared me, Gohan. But right now you need to rest, okay? Let's get you cleaned up. Have some breakfast, you must be starving." 

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Gohan makes to get out of bed. "Mom you don't need to do that, I can manage to take a shower, Im feeling a lot better now than I did last night." Gohans stomach grumbles loudly at that moment. "Yeah I guess I am pretty hungry." 

And like his father before him, Gohan without thinking shovels the food into his face without even bothering to taste it, a bottomless pit for food because his body needs the energy to fuel its accelerated healing. He normally would have much better table manners but he usually isn't trying to heal from a fight.

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"Gohan, I know I taught you better manners than that. Now you get cleaned up and - and then rest. I'll bring you your books when you're ready." 

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“Ghffokay” He mumbles through a mouthful of egg fried rice.

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Chi-Chi observes with worried fondness, then leaves so her son can bathe in private. She's back later in the day with lunch and some light reading so he won't be too bored. She fusses over his wounds, but can't find fault with their rapid healing. 

She makes it her mission to let Gohan rest, and mostly manages to only cry where he can't see her. 

She tries not to think about how much of her son's life she's missed. 

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As he spends time recovering Gohan tries to keep his mom happy and does some of the homework he missed in his year in the hyperbolic time chamber. He had already been studying material multiple years ahead, but mom always told him he was special and needed harder homework than other 4th graders. Well, 5th grader now he’d spent a year training in the time chamber. 

Gohan notices mom cry sometimes but doesn’t really know what to do about it, he just tries not to mention dad at all in case that makes it worse, and acts like everything is normal. He does spend more time doing homework in the same room mom was working in to keep her company, rather than alone in his room like he normally would.

 

As emotionally mature as Gohan is he doesn’t really know how to handle a grieving parent, and is mostly putting off his own grief by just thinking about it like the time dad decided to stay in space training rather than come home to be with his family. Being around the dragon balls so much also has given him a bit of a skewed perception about the permanence of death, dad has been dead before after all, so have most of dads friends.

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She's quietly grateful for the extra company. She gives Gohan as much work as ever, though, if not more. Making up for lost time, as it were. 

There's a funeral. No one else is used to death being so permanent, either. It's awkward, but sincere. Even Vegeta and Piccolo come to pay their respects, albeit briefly. Krillin delivers a heartfelt eulogy, mingling equal parts respect, admiration, and humor.

Son Goku didn't just save the world, he points out. He saved us. So many of his rivals - his onetime enemies - who had lost their way, now gathered to mourn his passing. 

They get visitors, occasionally. Ox King shows up to hug his daughter and ruffle his grandson's hair. Bulma checks in once a week. Sometimes they bring gifts or groceries, or light reading for Gohan. 

Gohan's smart and capable, and old enough that 4th grade work comes relatively easy. Naturally, this means more and harder schoolwork is in order. 

In her own way, Chi-Chi is as demanding a teacher as Piccolo. She trains Gohan's mind. Philosophy, math, history, science, literature. He shall have it all. 

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It has been almost a month since the Cell games, and Gohan has been thinking alot about what happened, in between all the studying mom was making him do.

Fighting was scary, he hated it, the vibrations through his fists on contact, the taste of blood in his mouth, the sound of his heart in his ears, the ever burning rage of a saiyan he was always scared would take him over, he hated all of it. He just wanted to keep studying like mom wanted him to and be a normal kid and never have to fight again, and if dad had come back maybe that's what he would have done. He wanted to just hide away and let the grown ups take care of everything, but the dying words of android 16 echo in his head every time he feels like running away from his responsiblity.

"Gohan. You are gentle; you do not like to hurt. I know because I, too, have learned these feelings, but it is because you cherish life, that you must protect it. Please, drop your restraints. Protect the life I loved."

So he will, and he will not stand idle waiting for the next threat either.

As far as anyone knew dad was gone for good, and the next monster that was bent on destroying the Earth probably wont be so idiotic as to give him time to train for the fight. Cell was created by a normal human, not some super advanced alien threat, not some magical demon from the dead zone, but a normal human scientist. Something like that could happen again, easily, and he needed to be ready for it. He needed to train, and despite his terror at how angry it made him, to see if he could get back into that level beyond super saiyan that he reached during the Cell games.

He puts on his Gi and knocks on moms door.

"Mom... I'm going to go out... My arm and everything is all better now so I thought I'd go and train... I promise i'll do my homework when I get back."

Gohan was dreading this, he knew mom probably would react badly, she always yelled at dad for going out to train and he knew she hated the idea of him becoming a warrior. He hoped the promise to still do his homework would convince her he wasn't giving up on being educated and going to go train for months like dad would or anything like that.

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After a beat, the door opens. "Gohan, whatever for? Do you...do you just need some time alone, is that it? Am I working you too hard?" 

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“Uuhhh... no mom, the work isn’t too hard mom, I promise I’ll get it all done when I get home don’t worry.” Gohan scratches sheepishly at his head, it was nice of mom to worry about him.

“I'm going to go find mr Piccolo, and maybe also say bye to Trunks before he leaves for the future. I’ll spend the day training with them probably.”

 

He doesn’t actually answer why he wants to go train. 

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Trunks: monstrously powerful son of a mass-murdering narcissistic psychopath with a hate-crush on her husband. Child soldier and guerrilla resistance leader from an apocalyptic future. Mentored by maimed adult version of her son. Likely severely traumatized by murder of nearly everyone he loved, including future-her-son. Threat level: moderate. 

Piccolo: former self-styled king of demons, actually the only psychopathically violent member of a normally peaceful alien race. Tried to kill her husband on several occasions. Actually killed him once. Kidnapped her son and abused him for months with the explicit goal of turning him into a child soldier against even stronger alien monsters. Developed some kind of bond with him anyway, possibly Stockholm Syndrome. Ostensibly a good guy now for some reason. Threat level: extreme. 

 

 

 

 

Fear grips her heart in a clawed green fist. 

"...Gohan, dear, I don't think you should associate with those people. The crisis is over and you can focus on your studies now. If you want to work out on your own, that's healthy, we can figure something out." She still does, not that she'd let Gohan know. Has to set a good example. "Maybe we can find you someone your own age to hang out with!" 

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Gohan clenches his hands. This is a better reaction than he expected but it’s not... Allowing him to do what he needs to do.

”Mom... I’m not just working out. I need to train. Get stronger. I am literally the strongest thing on the planet right now. There is nobody my age who I wouldn't accidentally injure, or worse, while sparring. I couldn't even eat without breaking the cutlery or stop myself breaking off parts of the house while in Super Saiyan form before, It’s a lot less funny when that spoon or plate or piece of drywall is a bone instead.”

 

He looks at the ground. Saying the thing left unsaid this past month. “Mom... dad’s gone, he's not here to defeat the bad guys anymore, and what if the next crisis is even worse. I-I’m not going to watch people die again because I wasn’t ready.” Gohan tears up.

 

His dad might still be alive if he was stronger, and if he hadn’t pulled a Kami damned Vegeta move and put off killing Cell. He knew that was a stupid thing to think and that survivors guilt was unhealthy. Cell might have used his self-destruct move anyway. But the thought often rose up, unwanted, when he was thinking about the Cell games. It wasn't just his father he thought about, Android 16 definitely wouldn't have died if he hadn’t held back. And if he had gone straight to Cell after coming out of the hyperbolic time chamber instead of letting Cell just play around and set up his Cell games a lot more people wouldn't have died. 

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Oh. 

Oh no. 

 

It's not fair. 

Goku was a hero. She knows that; she loved him for it, though it killed him in the end. But her husband was a grown man, an adult, and he chose to shoulder the burdens of the world, for as long as it was necessary. He was strong enough to bear it. 

Her son is eleven. He's too young to be a hero. Too young to be the strongest there is, the one everyone depends on. Too young for so much power, so much stress. He'll drown in it, swept away by everyone else's need until there's nothing left but a singleminded destroyer, wreathed in yellow fire. It will consume him, burn him from the inside out, replace the boy with the hero. 

She can't let that happen to her child. 

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"Absolutely not! You're too young to be fighting. It's not right! Goku never should have dragged you into that fight, you shouldn't have to watch people die!" Not again. Not her son too. 

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“Dad’s plan was reckless and poorly thought out, and had way too many points of failure, there were so many ways to make killing Cell way more of a sure thing. But if dad hadn’t brought me, we would all be dead, everyone in the world snuffed out, forever.

 

Not just the Z fighters mom, but Bulma, Dr Briefs, Missus Panchy, baby Trunks, Grandpa, Mr Roshi, even y-you and me, if i was here hiding out with you during the fight then everyone on earth would be wiped out. And not just earth, Cell would probably do the same to other planets out there when he got bored toying with its people. Billions, maybe trillions of lives gone because I stayed home!

 

Not personally watching them die wouldn’t make letting them die any less terrible. Y-You made me read all those philosophy and ethics books, was it just to ignore them?” 

Gohan isn’t even trying to hold back his tears now. Getting the words out was hard. He hates even verbal fights, especially with his mom. But he has to do this.

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Not according to his mother, he doesn't. "There has to be another way! You're telling me the fate of the world rested on a child and there was nothing they could have done about it? They should have...should have wished Cell gone, or all fought him together, or something!" Or anything. Anything but this. 

"If Cell was going to blow up the planet then we should have evacuated it! The Dragon Balls can bring back people, can put planets back! You don't have to do this...!

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