If the Sailor Senshi were surprised by the changes in their leader, they did a very good job of hiding it. Each morning her strength and confidence increased. She didn't seem to be getting too much smarter, but she was becoming wiser, as well as physically stronger. In the matter of three days it took them to prepare to leave, she had increased her fighting skills to Haruka's par, surpassing even Makoto.
Her color taste and clothing choices changed as well. Suddenly Usagi could only be seen in clothes that could be fought in: pants, plain shirts, tennis shoes, even more than once in leggings. Where her choice of colors typically ran to white and pink, it was now blues, black, and the occasional white men's dress shirt. She seemed to have grown a few inches, her hair was at least a foot longer, and she was beginning to become leaner and trimmer. In short, she was becoming a better fighter.
Said princess was asleep at the moment, stretched across two seats on a south-bound bullet train. Her senshi occupied seats all around her; Haruka stood in the aisle, as Usagi had taken her seat as a pillow. It disturbed the leader of the Outer Senshi how much their princess had been sleeping lately. She'd always been able to drop off at a moment's notice, but never more than once or twice a day. Now she seemed to be constantly sleeping; Usagi moaned, and Haruka returned to her seat, cradling the blonde woman; and she also seemed to be dreaming every moment she was asleep.
A small girl peered through an open doorway, following her brother's lead. He was already walking into the center of the room, taking careful stock of everything around him, as much to be able to protect her as to be familiar with his new surroundings. She ran to catch back up with him, clutching her small fingers around the back of his loose gi and whispering nervously, "Oniisan. . ."
He looked over his shoulder. "Hush, imouto."
"Demo, this is the only place otousan and okaasan said we can never go, oniisan."
"Are you scared?"
"No! Well, not really." She stepped up to a machine that looked rather like a pod. "What's in there, oniisan?"
"A brat, of course. That's what we're here to see, remember?"
She stuck her tongue out at her older brother and slowly traced her fingers over the characters depicting a name. "Kakaroto," she read aloud slowly and carefully. She climbed up and peered through the glass of the incubation tank. "Oniisan, this one looks just like Bardocku."
"Come take a look over here, imouto." She dashed across the room to peer in the same tank as her brother. "Brolli," her brother informed her, "Paragus's brat. He's probably going to have a very high fighting power."
"That's a male?!?" the little girl exclaimed. "But he looks so. . . girlie!"
Her brother chuckled, and she grinned back at him. "Imouto no baka."
She made a face at him and moved over to another pod. "Oniisan! Oniisan! This one has blue hair!"
"Nani?!?" He was suddenly beside her and frowning. "It's defective," he declared.
"Oh. That means they're probably going to kill it, ne, oniisan?"
"Unless it shows a high fighting power--" He froze, apparently listening. After a second, she heard footsteps. "Ikuzo, imouto," he ordered, grabbing her hand and dragging her from the room. "Know anywhere we can hide out, imouto?"
"Don't want to kill anyone today, oniisan?" she teased. "Bardocku's lab is near here. I heard Nappa say he's been ordered to stay in there until he finishes the artificial moonlight. . ."
She sat up slowly, looking around her as if confused of her surroundings. "Usagi?" Haruka asked softly. She didn't respond. "Koneko-chan?" Silence and a blank stare. "Serenity?"
"Hai, Haruka?" Dark blue eyes turned to meet Haruka's. "Is there a problem?"
"No. You just looked a little lost there for a second, koneko-chan," she admitted. "I was a bit worried about you."
"I'm fine, Haruka. How much longer do you expect this part of the trip to be?"
"Another hour, then we'll switch trains to head to our last stop."
"Good." She glanced out the window. "We're close to my oniisan; I can feel him, Haruka. He feels closer every second."
"Are you sure, koneko-chan?"
"I know it in my soul. A little further south then due west." Her eyes turned wistful as scenery flashed by the window. "Oniisan. . ."
She stretched as far as she could so that she could see over the counter. Her brother stood by the door, keeping an eye on her and still listening out for anyone following them. Finally she pulled out a drawer and stood on it.
"Nanigoto desu ka, Bardocku?" She was always asking things like that. It made her stand out even more among the Saiyajin. To quote Nappa, the princess and her mother were "too damn nice." He smirked to himself; Nappa hadn't seen what she'd done to the low-level fighter who had pulled her blonde hair.
He focused himself to the moment at hand. The older man did look like he'd been without sleep since he'd been ordered in this room over a month ago. Surely comprehensible thought couldn't be accomplished in such situations.
"Nothing's wrong, Oujo-sama," Bardocku answered.
"O genki desu ka?" she asked next.
"I'm fine, Oujo." Her brother smirked once more. He'd never understand his sister's fascination with the soldier in front of her, who was clearly so exhausted he probably couldn't even see her yet somehow managed not to snap at her for her curiosity. Blood-shot black eyes met the princess's blue eyes. "Why are you two in here this time, Oujo?"
The princess smiled as her brother snorted. "We don't want Nappa no baka to find us, do we, oniisan?"
She turned to face him, suddenly covered in blood. His blood ran cold at the sight. He felt what seemed like panic spread through him, freezing his entire body. "Imouto?" he could only whisper.
"Why didn't you come for me?" she accused. Behind her, he could see first his planet then hers explode. She lifted one blood-covered arm toward him, her finger pointed at him accusingly, her blue eyes filled with with an unnatural hate. "Why didn't you save me," she sneered, "oniisan?"
Vegita jumped awake, paniced momentarily as he glanced around him. The gravity room, outside Capsule Corp. Of course. he should have known so; Vegitasei was long gone, and she. . .
He hadn't really thought of her in years; she'd never really left his mind, but he'd tried to place her in a dark corner so that he didn't think of her, of how she surely had to be dead now. Now that Piccolo had destroyed her planet. He'd known where it was, of course, but when he'd seen it was gone, nothing left but particles of dust. . .
Her planet was gone, his planet was gone, and yet he still survived. He'd outlived his little sister; he'd outlived both his parents; hell, he'd outlived almost all his race. Nappa he had killed personally; his sister had never liked that man; but the others. . . Bardocku, who was supposed to guard the princess then had been returned to conquering planets after her disappearance, gone.
He sighed, a very uncharacteristic expression on his face. "Imouto," he whispered, "gomen ne."
15 April 2000
Note: "Oniisan" means "elder brother. "Imouto" is younger sister. "Nanigoto desu ka" is Is everything okay? And "O genki desu ka" is Are you all right?
Note 2: I never meant for this chapter to take so long! Gomen, minna!!!