Town of Ashes
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The sun started to set, alerting the boy with black hair in purple that, as the light from the giant solar sphere above began to vanish, so would another light. The boy, who appeared to be around eight or nine, knew there wasn't much time. This was the time to be beside his father during his final hours. Unfortunately, this was the most he could do. He still had his mother to look after, once the man she loved was gone forever.
“I can't believe this is happening…” the boy murmured somberly, sitting up from the grass he was laying on. “I guess all there is left to do now is say farewell...and be there for Mom. I know he's counting on me to do that much.”
After hoisting himself up, he began dashing towards the direction of his house...or would have, had it not been for the sound of screams coming from the far right of the boy's direction. This caused the boy to skid to a halt from what he hadn’t sensed just moments before.
This was not the time for detours, but he was full of compassion, brought to answer calls of distress. The boy was troubled by this new dilemma: be by his father's side during his final hour, or save a stranger who, thanks to his aid, might live to see another day.
“I-I...” the boy sputtered.
Swallowing hard, the boy reacted to his nature and followed the sound of screams. Black smoke appeared to be rising from the hill, and he dashed faster than he had ever recalled.
“Please, let me get there in time!”
He didn't like seeing anyone or anything destroyed—especially when there was no warning of damage inflicted.
As soon as he arrived at the small town at the top of the hills, he could see his wish had not been granted.
“Oh my gosh!!!” he gasped, eyes widened and mouth hung open in disbelief to what he saw.
Piles of ashes from destroyed homes and charred corpses blew passed his feet. Trees tattered from left to right; roofs of houses began to cave in. Though the boy knew the odds were stacked against the situation, he could not give up. Not yet.
“Can anyone hear me?!” he shouted over the crackling flame at the top of his lungs, hoping there would be a survivor or two that would respond. “Hello?!”
As the smoke and smell became too much for him, he pulled up the scarf-like article hanging from his neck to cover up his nose. Next, he shielded his eyes from the heat waves, keeping one eye open and rushed towards the nearest house—surprisingly still standing.
“Is anyone in there?!” he called out again.
Again, there was no answer.
“They never had a chance…” he thought aloud, eyes shut tightly and fists balled up. “This isn’t fair!!”
Just then, a shadowed figure appeared behind him. The boy quickly opened his eyes and whirled around. There, in front of him, stood a woman. She was covered in burnt marks and fresh cuts of different sizes. She gasped for air, in desperate need for water as well as medical attention. Despite her condition, she was hugging a small bundle of dirty white rags to her chest.
The boy quickly got over her appearing out of nowhere.
“Ma'am! We’ve got to get you out of here, quick!”
As gently as he could, the boy reached for her wrist to lead her to safety. But before he could, the woman collapsed to her knees and would’ve met the ground if the boy hadn’t caught her.
Her eyes were closed, but she slowly opened them to see the boy’s face. Her breathing became shallow with every effort to draw more air in.
"Ma'am, stay with me here,” the boy pleaded, frantically rummaging his pocket for something to help. “I got something that will save you! (1) Please, just—”
Before he was able to finish, the woman held up her hand as if to say, “There’s no need”.
Next, she carefully flipped over a small portion of the cloth to reveal a baby, its small eyes still closed from the danger occurring all around them.
“Please...” the woman managed to say before a cough interrupted. “Save...my baby.”
The boy realized the woman was the mother; a mother who had very little time left and as a final request wanted to know her child would have a future. The boy tightly shut his eyes and nodded.
Upon seeing this, the woman smiled contently, regardless of her condition. She lightly kissed her baby on the forehead before her eyes dulled, then whispered a faint, “Thank you,” to the boy of whom she wished had the time to learn his name.
After the boy took the infant out of the town set on fire, knew he would have to run non-stop if he were to make it in time.
“I know I did the right thing,” the boy thought aloud. “But I can't get my hopes up too high. If I'm going to make it, I can't delay any longer!” He looked at your little sleeping face and would have smiled, but had other things occupying his mind. “Don't be scared. I'm about to go really fast, but I promise not to drop you,” he said as a warning in advance to you.
With that said, he quickly took off, with you still asleep in your torn, but otherwise secure, bundle.
A group of people, whom were close to the boy’s father, were gathered outside of their friend’s house, intense looks on all of their faces. While inside, the man's wife and father-in-law sat by his bedside. The man, however, was currently in bed with a new kind of heart virus, causing his hour to grow short.
The baby boy outside was making such a fuss, most likely hungry or simply cranky. A short talking pig and strange blue cat, which was floating, were the first to notice a small figure scurrying towards them all.
“Hey! Gohan!” greeted the pig, relieved to see that the boy did manage to come back.
Gohan would've waved to the pig and his other friends but of this wasn't the time to return greetings. Not to mention he was still holding you.
Gohan swung the front door open, in hopes his father would still be alive. “Father?” he called while still catching his breath.
Just then, his mother and grandfather immediately turned their heads towards the door to see their son and grandson standing at the entrance.
Not knowing how to control her emotions, for what had to be said, the mother buried her eyes into her hands and began breaking into tears. “Gohan,” she sniffed. “I... I... Oh Gohan, I'm so sorry, son.”
Her husband was no longer breathing. The woman's father came to her side to comfort her, which she didn't reject.
Gohan didn't want to see his mother in tears like this, especially since he knew if he hadn’t run towards the smoke, he could have been there to say goodbye. But this was one of those situations where one would win and lose. Gohan lowered his head, as tears began to fall from his eyes.
There was an outburst among those outside.
“He's gone, you guys...!” said a short, bald fighter in an orange gi, whom everyone knew as Krillin. “Goku's gone!”
There were gasps of disbelief and devastation from the rest of Goku's friends, whom he had known for years; among them was a man in armor not of their world. When unable to sense his long-term rival's ki, he jerked his head up from staring at the pond, completely shocked. “Ka…karot...” that was all he seemed to be able to say at the moment. “No…”
Krillin tightly closed his eyes, fighting back the tears from coming. After regaining control over it, somewhat, he looked inside to see how Goku's family was taking it.
“No, Krillin,” said the tall figure in purple, with green and pink skin, and a white cape with heavy weights adorning the shoulders. “Just let them be.”
Krillin turned to the voice owner, but didn't argue. Instead, he stepped back and stared up at the sun-setting sky, seeing a mental image of his best friend since childhood fade away.
After the others left, Gohan decided this would be the best time to show you to his mother. He was in his room, sitting Indian-style on his bed. While you, still in your bundle, lied on a bed composed of folded clothes and spare sheets in a laundry basket. Gohan rose up from where he was sitting and walked over to you, watching as you slowly drifted into consciousness. Your small eyes glanced around the unfamiliar room until they met with a pair of friendly onyx eyes, then a face.
Gohan watched and smiled when you let out a light yawn and sneeze. Gohan then reached down and carefully picked you up. “I better show Mom now.”
As the young boy walked down the hallway, following the sounds of weeping, he came across the closed door to his mother's bedroom. The woman's father, Ox King, was also in the room, trying to console his only daughter.
“There, there, now. Chichi,” Ox King said.
Both heard a knock from the other side of the door. Chichi wiped her eyes and slowly rose from her chair to open the door, after assuring her father she could.
“Gohan? Is there something you need?” she asked.
The boy noticed his mother was trying her best not to cry anymore—not in front of her son, at least, but didn't say anything to that.
“Um, Mom? The reason I...was late, is because…” he paused, wondering how to finish. Instead of using words, he held out the bundle in front of him for Chichi to see.
Chichi was a little upset and puzzled about this, thinking this was unimportant, but kept it to herself and scooped up the bundle from her son's arms and into her own. She lifted a loose piece of the dirty rags and in it was a baby who looked to be under a year old. Chichi's eyes widened. Once she found her voice, she turned her eyes to her son once more.
“Gohan, where did you find—”
“Up in the mountains, on the way back,” Gohan slowly replied.
Realizing his answer was rather vague, he shuttered and took a deep breath to continue.
"I was in the mountains, until I realized how late it was getting, so I started to head home. But then I could hear cries for help; and the fire...it was just awful," Gohan paused. The recent morbid scene started to replay in his mind.
Chichi began to look concerned, as she could only imagine what it had truly been like for Gohan, and for you.
Yet, he continued.
“I couldn't decide if I should see what were causing those screams, or come home...” he sighed, his shoulders hung limply on either side.
“And you rushed to the screams,” Ox King finished for him, after coming in from behind Chichi.
Gohan nodded then hung his head, his unruly bangs hiding his eyes.
Chichi was able to understand the rest of this. She knelt down with you still in her arms then used her left hand to gently reach for Gohan's now pale cheek, causing him to look at her once more. “It's alright, Gohan, you did the right thing. I'm sure your father would’ve understood,” she said with a smile, while gently embracing him, and once he calmed, Gohan returned it.
“Have you come up with a name for the baby yet, Gohan?” Ox King asked, crouching on one knee to get a better look at you. (2)
Before Gohan was able to answer, Chichi looked up at her dad. “Dad, will you go into the kitchen and get some pots out? Gohan, run some warm water.”
Chichi sat in a chair, finished cleaning you up and feeding you through a bottle. Gohan sat in a chair on the opposite end, his chin resting on his overlapped arms, trying to think of a name, which was harder than he had realized. He didn't even know if you were a girl, or a boy.
Then Chichi suggested, while looking at your little face, “How about, ‘___’?”
You looked up at her upon hearing your new name, making baby giggles before reaching up for her black hair hanging in front of her ears. Chichi tucked them behind her ears before you managed to grab one of them.
Gohan walked over to where his mother sat. “I guess ___ will do.”
Gohan held out his hand, allowing your tiny hands to grab onto his fingers. He smiled then noticed something, and wasn't sure of what it meant: your arms outstretched forward, showing you really wanted to go to him while making small, baby noises hinting it. Chichi lifted you off her lap and gently placed you into Gohan's arms once he realized and held them out. Chichi then asked Gohan to prepare something for you to sleep on for the night. He told her he’d already made something then found himself busy by trying to prevent you from tugging on his hair.
After her son left the room, and her father elsewhere, Chichi walked over to the nearest window and looked up at the night sky. “Goku... I'll miss you,” she whispered, visualizing her husband being up there looking down on them.
She let one last tear roll down her cheek and headed off to bed.
Closing: No Giving Up (Crossfade)
End of Ch. 1
(1) Senzu beans
(2) I’d think this would be a scary experience for a baby.