He'd never wanted to piss his father off, but getting expelled from school did a very good job of it. Because of the nature of the prank he'd pulled, the principal of the other elementary school (S.S. No. 19) refused to accept him. The only choices he had for education now were private instruction or attending a school in another sector.
Of course Trunks had hoped his father would finally hire a tutor, but that would mean that he had gotten what he'd wanted by being a brat and there was no way in hell that Vegeta would make him happy after he'd been so evil. The eleven-year-old knew this as well as he knew that he should have just dealt with being at S.S. No. 18 until he graduated to middle school. It had only been four more months, after all. Now he was going to have to add a thirty minute walk to his daily routine and his father wasn't speaking to him.
For the entire time he had been at home Vegeta had hired a middle-aged woman named Katherine to watch him while he was at work just like he was a little kid. When he protested having a baby-sitter, Vegeta told him that he had proved he couldn't be trusted. This had hurt him deeply but he knew that no one was hurt more than his father. So he didn't say anything else about it and tried to find things to do that would make the days pass quickly.
His first day at S.S. No. 17 in the Aros sector began quietly and uneventfully. He and Vegeta had gone to the school a few days before to register him after obtaining special permission from Solaris' Department of Education. It was still dark outside and his eyes were barely open as he took a shower and dressed in his favorite t-shirt and jeans. He was desperately searching for things to make him feel better and the clothes helped a little.
Vegeta had made a real breakfast with his limited cooking skills and it sat hot and ready on the table. Eggs, bacon, and toast. Although it was simple, it put a smile on Trunks' face as he saw it as the tentative step toward reconciliation that it was meant to be.
"Ohayo," Trunks said, taking the seat nearest to the living room that had become his own.
"Ohayo," was the low reply. Vegeta's face was completely blank.
"Uh, Pa-pa," he stuttered slightly, "I'm really, really, really sorry for behaving like a spoiled brat. I promise not to get kicked out of this school." He fell silent, waiting for a reply. Vegeta said nothing.
Breakfast was over and the dishes were in the sink before Vegeta spoke again. For days he'd wondered if Trunks was really better off with him than with his mother. All signs indicated that perhaps he wasn't cut out to raise a child. "Do you want me to walk you to school?"
The boy bit his lip slightly then nodded his head. "Yeah, that'll be cool."
S.S. No. 17 looked a lot like his old school. He wouldn't be surprised if every Solaran public elementary school was designed by the same exact person. His father not only took him to school but he also walked him to his classroom. Trunks figured he should be extremely embarrassed that his father was all but holding his hand, but he only felt relief that he wasn't still angry at him. At that moment he mentally swore to never disappoint Vegeta again. He wanted to make him proud of him in ways that his mother had never earned.
"Well, um, be seeing you," he said, turning to walk into the classroom.
"No walking out of class. No leaving school early. Promise me."
Trunks looked over his shoulder and his stomach sank at the stern expression on his father's face. "I promise."
Vegeta allowed his residual disappointment and anger to fade and a tiny smile twitched the corners of his mouth upward. "You sure you know how to get home by yourself?"
"Uh huh." A big grin stretched across his face. "How old do I look to you? Five?"
"No, you're eleven. Almost twelve." Vegeta gave him a gentle push forward into the classroom, turned around, and walked away.
The lavender-haired boy looked around for a moment, searching for an empty desk. Most of his classmates had already entered the classroom and were chatting with each other. The teacher was nowhere to be found. He walked down the first aisle until he reached the back of the class and sat down at the last desk in the row. There was a human girl with long black hair pulled into two pigtails sitting beside him. She wore a white t-shirt with tiny flowers around the collar under a denim jumper.
The girl shook her head at him. "That's Nomi's seat. See, look inside the desk. Her stuff is in there."
"Oh," he said. "Is there an empty seat somewhere?"
"Yeah, in front of me. It used to be Jack's seat but he moved away." She was quiet for as long as it took for Trunks to move then she asked, "Is that short guy your dad?"
"You don't really look like him."
"Yes I do. Our faces are the same." He was more than a little ticked off that the girl was being so blunt... that was his job.
"Where's your mom?"
Trunks turned around in his chair and glared at her. "Look, none of this is any of your business. You don't even know me."
"That's why I'm asking you questions." She gave him a "duh" look that brought a reluctant smile to his face. "What's your name? Mine's Kira."
"It's Trunks." He waited for her to say something stupid about his name.
"That's cool," she told him. "Where'd you move from, Trunks?"
They talked until the teacher entered the classroom then proceeded to ignore the woman and talk some more. When they were caught and reprimanded, they began to pass notes back and forth. More than a few times Trunks caught the kids around them giving him strange looks as if it was weird of him to voluntarily talk to the girl behind him and he didn't know whether it was because she was female (and eleven-year-old boys generally avoided girls like they carried the plague) or because she was Kira. Something in their faces made him think that it was a little of both.
When lunchtime came he lined up with his classmates and they went to the cafeteria. Each class had two tables all to themselves (officially, at least), but he found that everyone sat where they wanted to. He and Kira took their lunches and sat at the end of a table mostly populated by eight- and nine-year-olds who looked nervous about having older kids sit near them.
Trunks pulled out the ham and cheese sandwich he'd made himself along with a plastic baggie of potato chips. For dessert he had another baggie full of store-bought chocolate chip cookies. Kira was eyeing his food longingly as she removed a plastic container and a baggie of celery.
"My mom's a health food nut," she explained as she pulled off the plastic lid of the container to reveal a green salad. "And a vegetarian. The only time I get to eat meat is when I sneak some money and buy my lunch."
He really felt sorry for her. "I'll give you half my sandwich if you give me half your salad."
"Really?" she asked. "You don't even know me. No one's ever wanted to share with me 'cause they say I'm contagious."
"Contagious? What are you supposed to have?" He handed her half his sandwich and she reciprocated by using her fork to share her own lunch. Trunks briefly got up to go fetch a set of plastic silverware and Kira began to explain once he returned.
"I have cooties," she said with a grin. When Trunks rolled his eyes, she said, "I know, I know. They don't know what they're talking about. Didn't cooties pass with the third grade?"
"Fuck them," he told her and she gasped a little at his language. "There's nothing wrong with you. They probably don't understand that there's nothing wrong with being different."
Kira nodded in agreement. "That's what my mom says."
They ate in silence for a little while until two other kids took seats noisily near them after exiting the lunch line. Trunks looked up and started to glare at the person now sitting beside him and felt the breath leave his body in a big whoosh. The boy was small and dark haired with impish features and was wearing an oversized t-shirt that almost swallowed him whole and a pair of worn jeans with holes in the knees.
"Sorry," he said as he made himself comfortable. "Didn't mean to bump you."
"That's okay," Trunks said, his voice cracking. He couldn't take his eyes off of the other boy. Kira noticed and smirked to herself, deciding not to comment at the moment.
Before they returned to class, Trunks took Kira aside and began to interrogate her about the boy who'd captured so much of his attention. "What's his name? How old is he? What grade is he in?"
"Son Goten. Ten. Fifth grade." She said this succinctly as if she was being interrogated... which, in a way, she was. Then she volunteered more information. "He's in Mr. Hauper's class right across the hall." Trunks' head immediately turned to the open classroom door and he peeked inside with the hope of catching a glimpse of him. "You want to be his friend really bad, huh? Or do you want to be something more?" She gave him a secret smile then shoved him into the classroom. "Talk to him!"
The next thing he knew he was standing in front of Hauper's fifth grade class with nearly twenty pairs of eyes on him. Fortunately the teacher hadn't returned to the classroom yet. "Uh, hi," he said nervously.
"Talk to him!" Kira hissed from the hallway.
Not having any other solution to the embarrassing situation he was in other than to flee, he strolled to Goten's seat as casually as he could. "Hi," he said, stopping beside him.
"Hi!" Goten replied, smiling up at him. "I'm Goten. What's your name?"
"Trunks. Um, my friend Kira told me who you were." He fidgeted for a few moments before speaking again. "Are you doing anything after school? We could, you know, hang out or something." His brain began screaming at him that it sounded like he was asking Goten out on a date. Not that going out on a date with him would be a bad thing, but they were kids for pete's sake!
"You want to hang out with me?" Goten definitely looked surprised. "But you're a sixth grader."
"So? I like you." As soon as the words left his mouth he wanted to cringe, but Goten wasn't offended by them. If anything, his smile grew even wider.
"Okay! We can go over to my house and play! Can my friend Chisa come too? She stays over at my house until her parents get home." He motioned towards the quiet felid girl sitting beside him.
"Okay, sure." He was disappointed that they would have company and hoped it didn't show. "I'll met you outside after school."
"Great! See you then!"
Trunks gave a little awkward wave and walked away. Behind him he could hear Goten's voice saying something quietly to Chisa, who giggled in response. Once he was back out in the hall, Kira grabbed him and immediately pumped him for information. "Well?"
"We're going to hang out after school," he said with a dopey look on his face.
She squealed with excitement. "It's so cool you found a boyfriend on your first day of school!"
"Huh?" Trunks blinked the fog surrounding his brain away. "What? Boyfriend? He's not my boyfriend. I don't like boys like that." Kira gave him a look to indicate that he wasn't fooling anyone, least of all her. "Okay, so I like boys like that. You know most adults would say that I'm too young to know what I want."
"When a boy likes a girl or vice-versa they never say that. They just think it's cute. Anyone who thinks differently just because you're two boys is an idiot. C'mon," she said abruptly, "we have to get to class before we're late."
"Uh, yeah. Right." But as Kira tugged him down the hall, he couldn't keep his eyes off the now-closed door of Goten's classroom. Boyfriend? If only. He didn't even know if Goten would be amenable to a relationship deeper than friendship.
But he could definitely hope.
He never told Raquelle about what else he'd found in the box. Instead, he'd pushed it to the back of his mind while they hammered out the details of him working for her. He really hoped that she hadn't put the book and the metal slab in there for some nefarious purpose.
Even though he mentally scolded himself for giving into the pull, he couldn't help but to reach out to touch the etched surface of the metal again. The more his fingers came into contact with it, the louder something whispered to him. The first few times he hadn't heard a thing, but then something like white noise began to fill his mind. After a while he thought he could hear individual voices but still could not quite make out entire words.
Goku thought he should be alarmed, but curiosity overrode that. His grandfather had said many times when he was a child that he had more curiosity than common sense and those times had always been when he was recovering from an investigation gone wrong. He personally didn't think his curiosity was a bad thing as it gave him the passion to be a mechanic since he loved taking things apart to see how they worked. Putting them back together was fun as well since it was always a challenge to make improvements.
He wanted to put back together what the steel piece belonged to (after he'd studied it extensively, of course). There was nothing about it that indicated that it was a part of something larger, but he had a feeling that it was. Goku imagined for a moment an ancient temple wall covered completely in strange embossing but then the thought occurred to him that ancient temples weren't normally made of steel. Whatever it belonged to was far newer than the long ago time before electricity and plumbing.
Finally convincing his body to leave the steel slab alone, he picked up the book and studied it more closely than he had before. There on the spine, in faded black lettering, were the words Anei no Hon. His mind automatically converted the title from Japanese to the more common Standard. He was apparently holding in his hand the Book of Shadows. That name, combined with the words printed on the first page, made him shiver.
If the book spoke of the steel slab he would be a fool not to look through it. But what if there were truths he would rather remain ignorant about in those vellum pages? He was only a simple mechanic, nothing more. He had little power and little money and also little desire to change the world. He just took life one day at a time like everyone else.
Goku laughed at himself softly as he thought about the likelihood of the Book of Shadows containing the key to universal prosperity and peace. Not only did the title have nothing at all to do with either topic, but he seriously doubted that such a thing even existed. It was up to people to create a haven for themselves. If only they would stop fighting with each other over petty disputes and realize this.
Finally coming to the conclusion that he was being silly, Goku opened the book once more and flipped through its pages. The information he found there was far beyond his expectations.
It was almost unbelievable. If not for the fact that he had one of the relics it spoke of sitting on the coffee table in front of him he would have discounted it as nothing more than fiction. There was a hand drawn map in the Anei no Hon as well as detailed information about where the relic had been found. It had siblings, apparently, but the author had only a vague idea as to their usage.
It would be interesting to go in search of the other Pre-Amida relics, but he didn't have the time or the money to do so. Sighing with disappointment, he put the book and the relic back into the box and pushed it to the back of his closet where he, hopefully, would forget all about them. Figuring that he might as well do something productive, he gathered up his automotive parts and headed off to the shed behind his apartment building that the landlord was allowing him to use as a workshop for a nominal fee. It was the first time he'd been able to work on his latest project that entire week. Soon Goku was up to his elbows in grease and, quite happily, shoved the book and the relic into the far reaches of his mind.
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