After years of training and hardship, Piccolo feels he's ready to finally avenge his father's death, kill Son Goku, destroy humanity and rule the Earth. A few quiet moments the eve of the Budoukai ...
The wind was definitely picking up.
The desert sands still radiated heat, having baked under the blazing eye of the summer sun for another long day, but the air was chilling quickly. The full moon and first evening stars winked to life in the east as the last of the sunset colors drained from the western sky. Stray dust clouds stirred to life, only to be blown apart by the lone figure streaking through the cactus-lined valley.
Piccolo blinked the grit from his eyes and flew a bit higher, his wake swirling short-lived dust devils into the air. The cold wind at his back tugged at the rents in his battered gi and pressed heavily against his tired muscles. Long, hard days of training had come at a cost; his left shoulder still twinged, resisting regeneration. "There's nothing more I can learn before tomorrow", he sighed, slowing his flight to sniff the air.
There's always something to be learned, boy.
Dark eyes narrowed as Piccolo's nose picked up an unpleasant smell on the wind, causing him to change course. The invisible "Old Devil" had been quiet since he'd paused at the hidden spring, allowing the younger demon time alone with his thoughts. The reprieve was now over and the papery voice was sour with scorn. Sunrise is still hours away, hours you could spend honing your skills! Why are you wasting time here?
Piccolo shot beneath a natural stone arch and headed for the canyon ahead. Moonlight shining on the billowing steam clouds made it look as if it had been stuffed with silvery cotton. "You should know by now", he replied curtly and descended, coming to a halt mid-air before the wall of noxious-smelling mists.
Most beasts avoided the canyon that sheltered boiling hot pools, geysers and bubbling mud pots. Bold and stupid humans, on the other hand, sometimes found their way in. He listened carefully before plunging into the steam but heard nothing other than the expected sounds of overheated water and earth. He passed pond after pond of thick, greyish mud, trying to ignore the thick fumes that most would willingly avoid. "My nutrient levels are too low and it's slowing down my healing. I don't have the strength I need for tomorrow. The pools have what I need."
Young fool. What do you think your fangs are for? You ate when you were younger and it took far less time.
A boiling pot of magenta mud sprayed into the rank air, narrowly missing Piccolo. He was through the worst of the canyon now and eager for his reward. "Go away, Old Man", he growled, speeding towards a sharp bend in the rock walls. The voice retreated, at least for the moment.
Curls of pungent steam followed Piccolo as the canyon opened into a small valley. The air was warmer than the desert and the air almost clear, allowing moonlight to shimmer across a series of small, bubbling pools. Curtains of mist drifted across the hot water as he landed beside the largest one, then shucked off his tattered gi and shoes. He wasn't bothered by the loss; he'd needed to create new clothing constantly to replace ones shredded from training, each set slightly larger than the last. He stepped in the steaming pool and quickly found the flat-topped boulder he used as a seat. Leaning into the natural jet at his back and feeling the tickle of bubbles beneatht his chin, Piccolo closed his eyes and allowed himself the luxury of a sigh.
Lazy, young idiot! This is not something a future Demon King would waste time with when there are enemies to be conquered on the morrow! Do you really think Son Goku is wasting time in self-indulgence?
Piccolo glared at the froth on the far side of the pool. The voice was back, the "Old Man," both teacher and torturer. It had been his constant companion since his birth, giving orders, pushing him to train harder and chastising him when he faltered. Lately the Old Man had become more insistent and a damned nuisance. The first time he'd roared back in frustration the voice had backed off, momentarily stunned. It didn't take long to realize the Old Man, while intimidating and downright terrifying at times, could be resisted. Stop nagging, the younger demon finally barked, sinking deeper into water.
The Old Man, however, had other tricks. Vivid images of violence, fire and destruction seized Piccolo in a waking dream. The story was always the same; the death of all humans and the world repopulated by demons of every shape and size. Piccolo was surrounded by worshipful legions of monstrous fighters, a crimson cape rippling behind him as he led them in conquest of other worlds. Bones and human skulls crunched beneath his feet with every step forward.
Yes...think about it. Humanity, burned to ash and crushed to dust. Smell it on the wind, heir of mine! Their screams of terror will only multiply as their strange technology spreads images of death and destruction across the planet. The images changed and a series of faces streamed by, each one familiar and contorted in pain and fear. All those who hunted you...tortured you...they will be the first to burn!
Piccolo frowned. A memory - a real one, not one planted by the Old Man - sprang up in front of the faces that kindled his hate. A grey-haired ancient human, eyes white with cataracts, smiled down at him. "That old farmer...he left food out for me at night until the hunters came."
Heh...and his 'kindness' led the hunters straight to you, didn't they? The face suddenly twisted in a silent scream as the flesh melted from tendon, then vanished.
A second face came forward. Brown eyes and round cheeks were framed by a cascade of dark, wild curls. "The human female child...the water she gave me kept me from dying."
The rasp of tearing paper that was the Old Man's laugh rang through his mind. And I'm sure her father thought the waste of water was useful when he snared you in that trap. The child screamed and turned white, then fell to ash.
A last face appeared. Fearless gold eyes looked at him sidelong, lips tweaked into a challenging but friendly grin. "That...that strange female...when I snuck into that tournament...she offered to..."
What, help you? She left! The face disappeared behind a wall of fire. Do you really believe she'd waste another thought on you?
Three years, and only three faces. A mere three people that had shown him a brief glimpse of something other than fear and hatred the moment they saw him. Certainly not enough to justify letting the insufferable vermin infesting the planet live! Piccolo felt his muscles tighten in growing anger at the reminder, his fury deafening him to the Old Man's soft whispers of encouragement. So much of his time had been spent running, hiding and simply surviving, consuming time he could have used to train and finally kill Son Goku.
And nothing will stop you from that glorious goal, the Old Man whispered smoothly. Tomorrow you will fight Son Goku, and you will win. I...you will rule a new Earth, a Shadow Earth, where hordes of demons will answer only to you. If, he added coldly, you want it badly enough.
Piccolo struggled to control his breathing. "Oh, I want it all right," he hissed. His rising chi boiled the water in the pool and sent great spouts of it into the sky. "And when Son Goku and all of humanity is dead and I am on the throne of Earth, I will have the power to seek a way to be rid of you!"
The Old Man fell silent in the face of Piccolo's rage. The water in the pool completely boiled away, exposing the underground hot springs that now tried to refill it. He leaped out of the empty pool and conjured a fresh gi, cloak and turban, now larger to fit his growing frame. "You want me to train, Old Man? Fine. I'll do it as long as you keep your damned mouth shut!"
The voice knew better than to chuckle. Wise decision, Youngster. There is still much that can be learned before morning. And I would like you to do one last task...
The moon had vanished behind a cloud bank when Piccolo rocketed out of the valley. Damn...what I'll do to keep that Old Man quiet... He raised two fingers to his eye ridge and used his fury at his personal demon, the old farmer, the female child, the strange woman and humanity to fuel his building energy. The spiraling beam hit the top of the valley and knocked through the canyon, shattering stone and lighting the desert with a thundering boom. The fragile crust that kept the geysers and mud pots in check gave way and freed a massive surge of magma, turning the area into a temporary version of hell.
Piccolo felt the Old Man watching the rising heat and ash through his eyes. He couldn't quite hear the whispered word but it sounded like 'impressive.' "Satisfied?"
The papery voice sounded strained. Yes. Now I will keep to our bargain...will you?
Piccolo didn't answer. This was the last night he would ever have to worry about attracting Son Goku's attention by exercising his power. One more night, he promised himself as he headed deeper into the desert, reminded of a mountain or two that he'd forgotten to turn to rubble. After tomorrow, more than the mountains will have a reason to tremble.