“Oli. Oli! Hey! Wake up. Come on, Oli, there’s a customer.”
Her hands on her hips, Chari scoffed. “I thought that’s what you wanted.”
“Why are you whining?”
Light from the kitchen sliced through the cracks in the doorway, the milky yellow rays, tarnished by dust, swarmed and dimmed the falling, slender forms.
“Whatever, dude. You’re the one who wanted to do this.”
A sleep-crease on his cheek, Olivien gave her a look. “You better keep them busy if they order one of my new tacos. You know what I said before we started: I’ll spare no expense. I’ll use only the freshest ingredients, Chari… I warned you!” When his sister merely shrugged, his fire cooled. “Well then, are you going to be my line cook?”
“Not a chance.”
“That’s what I thought.”
She was always like this. The ramen shack was empty save for the old familiar space fox fidgeting with his claws at the cash register. That guy was in there everyday (Oli probably should have known his name by now). Not many others were. In some way, that energized him. “What do you want?” the boy asked awkwardly, with less grace than an Inovian pit viper.
“I’ll have a number two, a number five, and a side of space ice, please.”
“I can’t understand you.”
His puffy lavender antenna sprung viciously this way and that whenever the alien’s head twitched. “I’ll have a number two, a number five, and a side of space ice.”
The register’s lights burned green and red in his retinas. It felt as if the blood had been sucked out of his fingertips. “Oh I gotcha. And I must warn you–it will take me a few minutes to prepare your Aloixu Fish Taco platter. So, um, please…” the boy gestured to the plastic tables behind the fox, “have a seat.”
Yawning, his brown furry tail spasming at the tip, the boy with the messy black hair jumped the counter and ran out the front door. He didn’t have time for that customer, whoever the heck he was. He had to get fresh ingredients for the number five–the Aloixu Fish Taco platter. Being the purveyor of a ramen shop, Olivien indubitably cooked ramen for a living. Yet, he had that nagging desire every now and then to whip up a mean space taco. Two of the seven dishes on his menu were tacos; one was a locally-inspired vegetable soup; the rest were ramen bowls of various flavors.
That’s why he wanted to call his little shop ‘The Pink Taco’. Chari had been none too pleased with the name, insisting he instead call it ‘Oli’s Ramen Shop’. Her suggestion, like always, was boring as refractory periods, so it would never do.
As a high-quality purebred, Olivien would settle for nothing less than the freshest ingredients. That’s why he got most of his ingredients from nearby Planet Xii. The Pink Taco had been erected on Xii’s moon of Xharon; his ramen shack was actually the only building on Xharon’s purple-pocked surface. His father’s old Starchasers Bounty Hunting Group had made their base on Xii’s other moon, Xikal.
The space pod took two minutes to reach the surface. He landed where he always did–on the edge of the Peyelupo Forest, on a cliff-face overlooking the Xuai Ocean. His pod ran aground down the usual patch of dirt, a deep gash leading from near the cliff’s edge to the forest. Jumping out, Oli pocketed his ship in the capsule Bulma had given him and flew back to the edge of the cliff.
There were ten ingredients in the authentic Aloixu Taco. Four of them–the tortilla, cheese, cilantro, and pepper–he had brought with him from home. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Chari and he created the tortillas fresh, but the ingredients were from Earth.
The remaining ingredients needed to be found on the surface of Xii. He hadn’t chosen this particular cliff for no reason, either. Past the landing strip, on the forest’s edge, he found a patch of meddal growing. He ripped two heads of the lavender vegetable from the ground, placing them in his bag. The Xili of the Xuhun tribe had showed him which plants were edible, and which were not. Meddal was not unlike lettuce; he enjoyed the fresh crunch it provided from a texture standpoint.
A short flight into the jungle left Olivien face-to-face with an engorged, twisted Xagi stalk, vibrantly orange, its branches wrapped around a leafless tree, burrowing into its white bark like a parasite. Vai’Dao, the Xuhun Shaman used Xagi peppers in his ceremonies, and that had been how Olivien had discovered their brilliant spice. The Saiyan teenager was admittedly a little bit of a spiceboy himself. And as good as spice was, the tangy, almost fruity flavor to go along with the orange-flesh Xagi produced an aftertaste that both he and his sister agreed was more than pleasant.
Hanging on the stalk, Xagi were ugly. Like wart-covered, squished balls, misshapen as half-melted plastic, the peppers shone with a venomous luster. Unlike the branches of the nearby trees, which had been picked clean by the native fauna, Xagi were left to fruit, spoil, and rot. Whether that was because the animals found its spice unbearable, or the taste, Oli didn’t know. It was nice for him, though.
Further into the forest, he found a Xhaichi Tree. A few fruit remained near the top of the tree, more than fifty feet up. He was there in a breath, spitting out branch-ends and leaves when he came to a stop. Its outer shell was not unlike the spiky Xan fruit. Indeed, Oli suspected these fruits were related to one another, for they were both sweet, with red-pink flesh. He supposed the Xhaichi was a tad more savory, its taste tropical, but more reserved, less watery, less overpowering. He had found it to be an excellent accompaniment to many things, not just the taco. He took three of them, knowing that he wouldn’t need to use that much for that fox’s order.
That left only the fish, the fish sauce, and the salsa. The latter two he would need to get from the Xuhun themselves. Oli wasn’t one to steal, so he would be bringing them a present. But first, he needed to catch the star of his dish. He hadn’t been on Xii for more than a minute yet, and already he had returned to the cliff. Taking off his clothes, Oli stuffed them into his bag, and dropped it to the grass. He leapt to the furthest rock, the wind blowing so hard in his face, he felt the adrenaline kicking in. His anxiety, Earth, all the people… they wilted under the wild, comforting roar. Oli took a deep breath, closed his eyes, felt it on his face, and jumped.
The thing he always hated about water was how cold it was. The tropical waters of Xuai Ocean, especially here, near the equator, were amongst the warmest on the planet. He shivered. For a long while he kept his eyes closed, following the familiar descent. The waters below the light level were drastically colder than those directly above them. When he hit that point, his eyes opened, a sizzling pink ball of ki floating before him, lighting the way. He could feel many creatures around him–some larger than others–but it wasn’t like he could tell an Aloixu from its power signature alone.
They liked to congregate near the ocean floor; some would even burrow into the small cave-like holes in the continental shelf. He took the slow way down, making sure to check every hand-sized cave for signs of the fish with the blue-black scales. They weren’t usually larger than his head, but he’d occasionally come across ancient ones the size of Chari and him combined.
Bubbles obscured his vision as he descended. This was the worst part. His energy and patience could not long withstand the cold. Not finding any Aloixu in the caves, the boy flipped, angling himself headfirst as he shot to the ocean floor, pressure building up annoyingly in his ears. It was no matter. Olivien was a Saiyan, the son of a Super Elite, the only one capable of continuing his family’s bloodline. A gulp of bubbles leaked from between his teeth. He caught himself, re-focusing by creating a new light source. It was murky down there, more frigid than his mom’s tits. Slimy, sleeping things drifted by, while trails of bubbles left the only marks of those who had fled from the furthest reaches of his light. Oli closed his eyes again, focusing on the nearest patch of lifeforms. The Aloixu liked to gather in groups, so…
“Gotcha!” he screamed, bubbles streaming up his face. Elated, Oli jumped, spinning around as he ended the Aloixu’s life with a simple ki blast to the side of the head. He’d grabbed it by the tail; its friends were long gone into the darkness.
It was only Oli’s ability to sense life-force that he noticed the Ganau creeping up from behind. Its detachable jaw shot from the surrounding blackness, tearing through the boy’s afterimage. The Xuhun should appreciate this guy. He’ll last them weeks.
The beacon faded. In the darkness, the Ganau shark shuddered, twitched, and flopped to the side before coming to an unnatural stop, being carried along only by the current. In the darkness, nobody could see it was belly up. As Oli learned that day, it did not take a ki blast larger than the one he had used on the Aloixu, still clutched in one hand, for the shark.
The Xuhun tribe was located a tad south of the cliff. Their village being located along the water’s edge made them easier to spot from the air. Up there, the wind coursing through his wet hair felt good. It must have been nice living here, he thought. But his father’s stay had been veritably that of a slave’s. Even so, if Oli had to be a slave on any planet, Xii would be his choice. Who didn’t love this weather?
He landed in the town square, or something like that. It was the place where every road came together, surrounded on all sides by wooden huts and buildings. The Xuhun numbered seventeen. Four of them had walked out to see him land. By this point, they weren’t scared of him anymore. He had spent a good deal of time with them. Perhaps he was the only alien in the history of the universe who had ever gotten this close to the Xili.
Over the past year, Oli had taken lessons with Vai’Dao in an attempt to learn the Xili language. While he couldn’t speak it, due to his accent being too foreign, he had been able to learn a sort of sign language version of Uydo. He’d wanted to master their language in order to learn about about the history of cuisine on Xii, which ingredients were good, which were poisonous, which went well together, and so forth. The shaman had been quite talkative (a rarity, for no one else in the village would speak to Oli, opting to use the sign language form of their language when he was around), and had educated him about many of the numerous ancient traditions of his people. That was how the boy had learned about the Xhaichi and Xagi.
He communicated to the nearest woman–a young lady named Relwu–that the Ganau was for them–a gift.
She ran off.
When word got to the shaman (it took approximately three minutes and twelve seconds), he called Olivien forth to his hut, just as the boy had hoped. A quick conversation was all it took to convey what Oli wanted. The shadows of his fingers danced across the walls in trance-like rhythms. The thick aroma of Ulur spice burned his nose. The old Xili grunted, his face placid, his eyes wide, undilated, the Ulur stick slowly sliding down his face from the corner of his mouth. He reached for something in his indigo robes, and then Olivien was holding an unmarked jar of ‘Aloixu sauce’.
Smiling, color surging into his cheeks in triumph, the boy thanked the shaman graciously. It was a savory sauce, not unlike a barbeque sauce, but more cutting, and more of a fruity flavor. He had asked Vai’Dao once to reveal the ingredients of this sauce, but the old man had refused. Grilled Aloixu in sauce was the first meal he’d shared with the shaman. He always tried to bring something for the Xuhun when he needed the sauce, for they were too generous, and if he were not careful, they’d give him everything they owned. He had to be prudent about things.
The meal they had shared the last night of his two-month stay had been Xuvi bird with a mild fruit salsa which Olivien had fallen in love with. He hadn’t ever asked for it again, but that was also because he’d never put it on his menu before. When crafting the perfect taco, the subtle, yet rich flavor of that salsa had come back to his mind, and he knew he needed it. His chest felt light, his throat dry.
Communicating what he needed to, Oli was filled with trepidation for a moment as Vai’Dao paused, looking away, running his hand over his breast (his nervous tic). He leaned out the tent, shouted something Oli thought he half understood, and then offered the boy a seat on the knitted magenta pillow opposite him. The boy politely obliged. He’d only been gone ten minutes at this point. He had time. He knew he did. He had time.
The humidity, and the thickness of the spice made him sweat. Thankfully, it didn’t make him recollect. Wiping his brow, the Saiyan exchanged smalltalk with the Xili for a few minutes, until a small boy appeared at the door with a jar in hand, its contents shimmering red and gold in the morning sun’s falling light.
Again, Olivien thanked the man profusely, promising to next time bring them an even larger sea predator to feast upon. The man patted him on the back, grinning for a second before passing him the Ulur stick. At first, Oli wasn’t sure he wanted to puff, but overcome with gratitude, his reservations had been weakened too much. He took three puffs.
The two jars went into his bag; he shook the water from his hair, inhaling deeply the humid grasses; he tossed the capsule into the air, hopped in the space pod, and shot off back to The Pink Taco. He usually returned through the back door, going directly past the bedroom in the back to the kitchen. Yet, feeling confident, his mind light, his chest taut, Oli decided to march in through the front door to honor the first alien to order the Aloixu Fish Taco platter in the history of forever. Maybe now his sister would stop making fun of his culinary ideas…
The Pink Taco was little more than a shack–it wasn’t meant to be a restaurant to seat a hundred people. There were three tables with two seats apiece, the cash register, the condiments corner, and that was it. Most people bought their ramen for the road, he had learned in the short time he’d worked here, and the more seats he put in, the more all the seedy aliens would stick around in the shop for far longer than he was comfortable with. Olivien was not paranoid, but that was not to say he was naïve, either.
What lay before him, the Saiyan had not expected. Two of the tables had been flipped, their chairs cast aside and broken to pieces. A hole big enough to birth the twins at their current age had formed in the middle of the third table. The space fox–Dhuka, he suddenly remembered, or was it Dhuak–had been thrown into the wall with all the condiment dispensers. Something wet and red was dripping onto his forehead. It didn’t take long for him to realize the alien was unconscious.
There were a couple of deep holes in the walls. One was leaking air. The cash register had been knocked over, spilling out coins and bills onto the orange-tiled kitchen floor. He gulped.
Chari stood on the other side of the remaining table. Her hands on her hips, she turned to face him when he entered. Her jeans were torn above the knee and charred black in spots. The black hoodie she was wearing–Oli’s hoodie, he noticed–was torn in several places, and the sleeves had been burned off up past the elbows.
What surprised Oli the most was none of these things. Indeed not; these were mere trifles. His sister got into fights all the time. That was in their Saiyan blood–these two who had been raised on Mrov and Earth, planets separately foreign, but equally alien to their natures. They had the money to fix the shack, and he didn’t care a bit about that space fox. What surprised Olivien most was that his twin’s eyes had gone red, and a lavender, fluffy antenna had grown from her forehead, swaying gently back and forth, even as Chari remained motionless.
She was bulked up–her muscles were amazingly pronounced. He’d never seen her so ripped. When did she get this strong? How long has she been hiding this from me? “Chari? Yo, what happened? I leave the shop for fifteen minutes and–”
“Shut up, dick!” Her voice was raw and low. “I don’t know why I’m feeling this way… but I’m feeling a lot more powerful, a lot more in control ever since I talked to that furry dude… ahahahahah! Now then, nerd.” She narrowed her eyes, baring her teeth in a feral display. The girl’s tail snapped to the left, then to the right, and back again. “I’ve been wanting to cave in that stupid skull of yours for a long, long time! You don’t know how eagerly I’ve been waiting for the right time to pounce, motherfucker!”
Her swearing so cheaply caught him off-guard. The first punch was firm, pushing him back, yet it hurt him not. She threw not just a single punch, but a flurry, in her assault: as Chari lunged at her brother, Oli couldn’t help but revel in the disheartening realization that as his sister’s attacks became more numerous in their savage speed, so too did their power grow astonishingly with each blow.
The seventh punch sent a spire of blood spurting down his neck, staining his shirt. The ninth took him in the ear, and he stumbled, nearly smacking his forehead on an upturned seat. It had all gone wrong–all, all wrong. The Pink Taco was broken; he was broken; they were broken. Sleep called for him. He heard them laughing, saw them swirling before the gate to the dream world. Those Earthlings with their cheap, pale faces meant nothing to him. Nothing! His vision was coiling and uncoiling, and the rush of force he felt in his skull was enough to send him either directly to space or to the floor to join Dhuka.
Nevertheless, Oli held on. That last shred of consciousness, that last core of his being that had remained awake, whether it be his ego or subconscious or whatever, had used whatever will he had had left to keep him in this world. Catching her fists in his palms, Oli pushed Chari away, back-flipped to the door, and set his bag down. Wiping blood from his nose, he spit.
“Damn, dude. What the hell was that for?”
“All this power…” Chari growled, staring fixedly at her fingers, flexing them in astonishment. “I never thought this was possible… Now!” she screamed, looking up at him. “I’m going to beat you bloody, nerd!”
He still hadn’t caught his breath; this nosebleed wasn’t going away anytime soon. “What’s wrong with you, Chari?”
“I’ve had enough of your drama! I’ve had enough of you hogging all of Dad’s attention! I’ve had enough of your STUPIDITY!! Olivien!! Enough is enough!! It’s time we end things once and for all! This is the only way!”
He chuckled. Maybe the ear-strike had concussed him, but in that moment, the teenager felt a sense of serenity. Not knowing why her eyes had turned red, or why she had that furry antenna now were not important mysteries for him to solve. Oli was a pureblood Saiyan–perhaps the last to ever be born in the universe. He was a Super Elite. He was honoring his father’s bloodline with every action he performed. He would not lose, not to her. Oli had trained all his life; his sister had lived the life of luxury for the better part of the past decade. She raised her fists again, and so did he.
Only, this time, Oli, who had just sucked in a mighty breath, exhaled long. His vision trembled; the rush poured into his skull, sloshing from one side to another, and for the slimmest of seconds, he didn’t know who he was, where he was, or what he was doing–but he knew he was alive, was part of the universe, was another pair of eyes and emotions in this vast collective unconscious. His hair turned golden as the last of the air left his lungs, spiking up from its usual black mess. Electric bolts flashed in and out of existence around his golden aura. Now he would show her what would become of her hybris.
All of that was nonsense. Euphoria can produces tangents of abstract concepts that may appear profound in the moment, but lose any weight when reflected upon at a later date. Oli would soon regret these thoughts, but not today. He was a Saiyan; the blood of legendary warriors flowed through his veins. His father was the leader of the Starchasers, a battle-hardened champion who never gave up, who was one of the strongest Saiyans in existence, and yet who was one of the kindest people he knew; his grandfather had been a great man (or so his father had told him), distinguishing himself in the Tuffle War, and had been King Vegeta’s best friend and Captain of the Guard; his great-grandfather had been an honorable and skilled warrior too–the very same man who had taught Oli’s father and Prince Vegeta how to control their Great Ape forms. He knew little of his family’s generational history beyond that point, but that didn’t matter.
All that mattered was Olivien was a Saiyan, and he was being challenged to a fight. A Saiyan never refuses a fight, regardless of who their opponent may be. The sensations of exchanging fists, of blood flying, of sweating and working, and struggling were excellent, compelling emotions in their own right. But, it was always nice how fighting cleared his mind, and how he never had to think about anything except the here and now when he stepped up against an opponent. That Oli’s opponent was his sister made no difference.
Fifteen minutes earlier…
“You ordered a number… two, right? In addition to the space tacos, I mean.”
“That’s right,” the fox replied. “And a side of space ice. Don’t forget.”
“Alright, cool.” Chari put on a fake smile to stop herself from biting her lip. “I can get those ready for you now if you want. My brother won’t be back for around twenty minutes, so…”
His red eyes narrowed to slivers. “Yes, do it. Go on, go on, I’m starving!!”
Returning to the kitchen, she sighed, put on a hairnet, and rolled up the sleeves of her black hoodie. One thing you should never do is insult the person making your food, she thought bitterly. Never know what I might put in your bowl, buddy.
The number 2 was the Xuvi bird ramen. There was also the fish ramen, the vegetable ramen, the hot and spicy ramen, the fish tacos, the Xuvi tacos, and the vegetable soup. Glancing up at the menu on the wall behind the cash register, she remembered that at least half of the items on there were her own creations. This would be easy. Every ramen flavor was one she and Oli had come up with as little kids. Now they added all sorts of extra things into their ramen dishes–eggs, pepper, vegetables, tomato soup, and even sometimes cheese. The number two especially was based on her version of chicken-flavored ramen, although Oli had added saké and ginger to spice up the flavor, apparently.
It had only been a month since Dad had let Oli set up shop on Xharon. He wasn’t getting so much business, but he was doing alright for a single-cook operation. Well, that was when he wasn’t getting her to help. Chari had no idea how she kept getting roped into this stuff. The fox was muttering to himself, swaying as he gripped the table. He wasn’t looking at her, at least.
How could her brother be so entrepreneurial? He had always been the lazy one, the quiet one, the… Her vision flooded with gold-rimmed guilt; the smell of fresh saké burned her nose. Had not her brother stuck with his training all these years? He could turn into a Super Saiyan–he could do it with ease! She’d seen him do it a million times. She’d given up a decade ago.
“Here you are. Number five with a side of ice.”
“Oh very good. This’ll do for a moment. Now where’s my space tacos? I’ve been eyeing that space taco for a week now. You know I come in here everyday? I’m here all the time.”
“Really? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before, but I’m not here all that often, either…”
She hadn’t needed to make that awkward. He grasped the bowl with both claws, raised it to his snout, and gulped down the ramen, broth and all. Dropping the empty plastic container, he swallowed the space ice too, not bothering to crunch. Casting his cup aside, he slouched back in the chair, and moaned.
“Ahh, that’s better.”
“Y-you liked it, did you?”
“Eh, it was alright, I guess. But Dhuka’s wantin’ a space taco now! Mhm, damn. I came all the way from Dalon IV for my space tacos! I have waited far too long already, lady… get back in the kitchen and make me my damn tacos!!”
By the end of his little tirade, the fox had jumped up, bared his teeth, and begun pointing rudely in Chari’s general direction. His eyes were nearly bulging out of their sockets. The amount of spittle he was releasing with every exhale was obscene. She hated the color of those plastic tables.
“My brother’s been gone twelve minutes. He’ll be back soon. There’s nothing I can do. I don’t have all the ingredients here to make it, even if I wanted to.”
“It says made to order, damn it!!” the alien spat, thrusting a claw up at the hanging menu. “I want my order made!”
“If you have some patience, maybe it will be.”
“I’ve waited long enough! I waited a week before deciding I wanted to try the number five! There, I made my decision! What more do you want from me? I paid you already, you thief!”
He slapped her.
Her head jerking to the side, Chari thought, Never let your guard down. Something Oli could use to learn, and he supposedly trains everyday. Hah! She had expected more from sweet, feeble Dhuka. No customer was going to slap Chari. This was her shack, her moon, her planet. She got to decide what happened to those who came here. The fox would feel her wrath unabated. She did not care what Oli would have to say about this. He’ll whine. What’s new?
“That was not wise.”
“Shut up, bitch! Get me my ta–”
Ducking under Dhuka’s reckless punch, she elbowed him, stunning the fucker. Then it was his turn. Rage on his breath, the fox kicked her into a table. As she rose to face him, he unleashed red hellfire on the shop, decimating the remaining tables, smothering everything in heat and dust. No. You’re not destroying Oli’s Ramen Shop. Damn space fox!
“Enough!” A jade-colored shield erupted around the girl’s body, her hands and arms covered in throbbing green fire from which more energy continued to flow into the shield. Dhuka collapsed, panting, the last of his ki balls sizzling away as they impacted against her shield.
Her energy compacted and spread slender as a razor, no wider than her hand. Before red-eyed Dhuka could get up, she released her attack. That was one she had been working on with Master Okinaro. Pride swelled into the girl’s chest. Getting to use her Danfu technique on a real foe for the first time left her fingers tingling.
The dust cleared; the space fox coughed, struggling to his feet, spinning around, his clothes hanging in tatters. Chari grabbed his neck, lifted him up, and threw him into the condiments corner. The hanging sauce dispensers shattered, draping Dhuka’s fur in several colors of sticky spiciness. The rush felt good; this was all that mattered.
She was at his throat again, this time smirking as she stared down at him. I should get rid of him. Bring an end to things…
And that was when she felt it–a foreign, eerie, slithering feeling cascading down the back of her spine, and she shivered, letting go. His eyes were no longer red. What was going on?
No, none of that mattered. Her chest was heaving. She felt a spike of adrenaline, and a burning pain to power up to her maximum strength. Power had never felt so comforting. She sighed as her muscles expanded, bulked up, popping her bra open. Catching her breath, Chari stared at her hand, moving her fingers about. When did I get this powerful?
It didn’t matter. No, that wasn’t what mattered. She was powerful… she was hungry… she was done taking shit from her brother. Here she was again, being forced to play chef with him, the little maggot. He always seemed to get his way. Why had Father allowed that? No, it wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. It was never fair! He’d always liked Oli more because Oli had liked to train with him. Oli had been Saiyan-like, as he was supposed to be. Why am not Saiyan-like? Her mind drifted to Bulla, and she shuddered.
The front door opened with a jingle.
“Chari? Yo, what happened? I leave the shop for fifteen minutes and–”
“Shut up, dick! I don’t know why I’m feeling this way… but I’m feeling a lot more powerful, a lot more in control ever since I talked to that furry dude… ahahahahah!” Chari showed him her teeth, feeling the heat of rage in her cheeks as she advanced towards her twin. “Now then, nerd.”. “I’ve been wanting to cave in that stupid skull of yours for a long, long time! You don’t know how eagerly I’ve been waiting for the right time to pounce, motherfucker!”
His uncertain gaze made her blood boil. It was nothing for Chari to throw herself at Olivien. He never kept his guard up. How could someone so stupid have lived so long? She punched him and punched him and punched him. Though he tried to block her assault, she got him good in the nose–enough to make him bleed–and clobbered him real nice in the ear, sending him skidding into a chair. Groaning, her brother staggered to his feet as blood poured out his left nostril.
She attacked; he parried, back-flipping to the door.
Wiping the blood from his mouth, Oli whimpered, “Damn, dude. What the hell was that for?”
A surge in her chest soured Chari’s mood even further. Her heart was beating so fast she could hardly breathe. She couldn’t stand to look at the bastard any longer. Like for Dhuka, this would be Oli’s end. She had put up with his condescension, his aloof elitism, his maddening introversion for too long. Enough was enough! “All this power…” Her fingers flexed, feeling the power they ran with. What happened? Did my training with Master Oki really make me so powerful? There was doubt, on the edge of her mind, powerless, but not forgotten. But no… that’s all this was. Why was she complicating matters? She felt strong; she’d made him bleed already. Maybe she was the more determined of the two. “I never thought this was possible… Now! I’m going to beat you bloody, nerd!”
“What’s wrong with you, Chari?” He spat blood onto the floor; the shack reeked of Oli’s blood now, a much more pleasant aroma than sweat.
Memories flashed before her eyelids: of the boy making a shrewd comment about aged lesbians; of the boy currying favoring with Dad after revealing that he’d learned how to go Super Saiyan; of the boy suddenly becoming a chef out of nowhere, suddenly figuring out his life, and what about her, why did he have to leave her behind?
“I’ve had enough of your drama! I’ve had enough of you hogging all of Dad’s attention! I’ve had enough of your STUPIDITY!! Olivien!! Enough is enough!! It’s time we end things once and for all! This is the only way!”
He scoffed. “Fine then.”
His aura exploded with electricity, golden flames erupting around them and lighting up the ramen shack so much she had to wince to keep an eye on the boy. Of course he would mock her now. Of course. Just as she was about to kill him, he did this… The nerve. He’ll spend a good long eternity in hell thinking over what he’s done tonight.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Oh, brilliant Oli! Well done, you’ve gone Super Saiyan again.”
“Super Saiyan? No, this isn’t Super Saiyan. You see Chari, I’ve been training with Okinaro in the gravity room. A lot, actually. And with his help, I was able to finally reach the next level… this is Super Saiyan 2. Tell me, sis, can you even go Super Saiyan?”
She hated him; he needed to die; he had to go; this wasn’t fair; this wasn’t right; this wasn’t okay. She threw herself at her brother, fists pulled back. He calmly stepped to the side, a look of nothingness in those grey eyes of his, swept her legs out from under her, rammed her side, and pinned her to the floor. She couldn’t believe how fast he moved. It wasn’t fair.
The tiles felt cool, grimy as they were, against her sweaty pink flesh.
“Chari, seriously, what the hell?” he whispered, staring her in the eyes.
Breaking their gaze, she thrashed, trying to break free. He hardly had to try to keep her down.
“Y-you…! I… I… I…” At once, Chari’s vision started to fade. The adrenaline in her chest was running cold, as if it had oozed out of a puncture wound in her side. “No… no, not yet! No, please! I’m not ready! I’m not… not…”
She tried to break free, but he never moved. The confusion in his face made her hate him even more. Bastard. What are you waiting for? If this was to be her end, so be it. She would not go out like a coward.
“Chari… what are you…?” he breathed, and as if someone had reset her brain, all the rage and emotion vanished, and she was so unbelievably tired. She could hardly move.
“Oli…” the girl said weakly, looking up at him again, her cheeks warming. “What’s going on… Oli…? Why are your eyes red?”
The shop wasn’t exactly how they’d left it.
Some guy had been thrown into the condiments bar, making a right mess of himself. Chari, her clothes burnt and torn, had collapsed against an upturned table. A gash in the wall was leaking air. Pale and sweating, Oli was sitting next to it, his eyes red, a fluffy lavender antenna sprouting from his forehead, munching messily on a rose-colored Xhaichi fruit from the planet’s surface. It looked fresh. His shirt was gone, and his muscles were puffed out, as if he were in his maximum power state. That’s what it felt like, at least to him.
Ledas’ voice rose. “Oli? Oli, what’s going on?!”
The teenager looked up, squinting with the ire of a thousand suns before throwing his spiky fruit aside, jumping up, beating his chest. “Leave me alone!”
Screaming, Olivien fired a mouth beam at them. Okinaro stepped forward, catching the attack between his paws and dissolving it. “He’s not right, Ledas. Something’s gotten ahold of him.”
“I know. That thing on his forehead. Let’s take it out. You ready, buddy?”
The Inari clicked his tongue. “Don’t go too hard on him. You don’t want to kill him.”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t worry about that,” the boy said, waving him off. “Follow my lead.”
As the Starchasers split off, Okinaro going right, Ledas going left, Olivien gnashed his teeth, retreating until his back was against the wall. With a scream, his body was enveloped in red light and his form began to contort into something much different. Ledas paused on his toes, ordering Okinaro to wait. They had no clue what was happening.
Midnight blue fur grew over every inch of his son’s body sans the chest and face. His tail split into three; his spine elongated, and he grew to fifteen feet tall.
The boy’s mouth was gaping. Okinaro must have seen. “It’s a parasite! I’ve seen these before… nothing on this level, but still… We need to get it out of him now, before it transforms him again!”
The Saiyan yawned. “Alright, alright. Let’s try that new technique, alright?”
Oli tried an explosive wave to keep them at bay, but Ledas cut through it with a one-handed Kyorra Flash. Okinaro was with him. This was fun. The wind in his hair, the thrill of battle… nothing else mattered. He hardly cared that his foe was his son.
He tried to swat Okinaro out of the air, but the Unshriven was too nimble. Ledas moved behind the boy just when the Inari threw the Shanali Ball into the air. Its light blinding, its heat intoxicating, the energy drew in Olivien’s attention for just a moment–and then it exploded, sending shrapnel of energy flying into the Saiyan’s face. Ledas charged from behind, his fist gloved in blue ki. Punching the teenager hard in the back of his ape-ified head, the Super Elite teleported in front of him, just in time to release his Kyorra Flash with Okinaro’s Karui Beam.
White joined cyan in the whirlpool, and all there was was light.
The smell of burning plastic lingered in the chipped tiles. Their quarry flung itself from the boy’s body, crashing against the door. It was an ugly parasite, if that’s what it was: a lavender clump of goop with all those tentacles and the unseeing red eyes. The tip of its lavender antenna was singed.
As the thing struggled with the door (Ledas suspected it hadn’t seen the ‘pull’ sign), Okinaro walked over to it, unimpressed, holding the unconscious Olivien in his arms. “Well, are you going to let it get away?”
“Not a chance,” Ledas smirked, teleporting over to the purple goop monster, and pinning it to the floor with one boot. “I’m a Super Elite, after all. I’d never let something as dangerous as this thing live to see another day!”
The plasma-sparking tips of the indigo energy sword stuck through its lidless red eyes, and the parasite stopped trying to get away.
Still asleep. That’s good. Maybe when they finally awoke, Chari and Olivien would tell him all about their harrowing battle against the Mind Parasite. Or maybe they would concoct some grand lie about how they fell into the situation they did (that’s what he expected most of the time). Either way, it was a shame.
He flew over to his daughter, picked her up, and followed Okinaro out. They’d regroup back at the base on Xikal and talk in the morning. His stomach rumbled. Ledas winced; he hated that feeling. It’s a shame there wasn’t even a half-empty bowl of ramen or something leftover from another customer. Dang, I’m so hungry. I’m gonna starve. What kind of luck do I gotta have to show up just after the shop gets trashed?
He felt like crying, but that’s something girls do, and if there was one fucking thing Ledas was not, it was a girl.