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The Demon King and the Half-Breed Hermit

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King Yemma's Office

Nearly every religion has certain beliefs regarding the afterlife, and all believers are certain that their beliefs are correct. King Yemma has no time for belief or disbelief, however; he has an afterlife to run and so long as his rules are held sacred, everything runs smoothly.

Those who lived virtuous lives go on to Heaven to be with their loved ones; those who lived without virtue are sent downward to their own personal section of Hell. Those straight-shot cases are not common, though, as most beings are a complex combination of sinner and saint. These souls are judged separately from the rest, their virtues weighed against their vices. If a soul was not horrible enough for Hell and not honorable enough for Heaven, they are instead sent to one or the other to await their sentence: being reborn to try again…because people never get it right the first time.

That was just the sort of soul Yemma found himself faced with ten years before. Ten years before, Old Earth was destroyed, and with it, the son of the Demon King who once conquered the planet. Piccolo Daimao once wanted only to follow in his father's footsteps, sought only to destroy the planet his father wanted to rule. That all changed, though, all because a naïve young boy saw the man behind the monster.

When Piccolo died to save the world he once loathed, his virtues outweighed his vices and he was sent to Heaven. Of course, the Namekian just had to raise a ruckus about being more useful in Hell. The very memory made Yemma's head ache. After all was said and done, the Namek wound up in Hell like he wanted…and that was the problem.

With Piccolo in Hell keeping the occupants in check, the ogres were getting lazy, and lazy ogres meant Yemma was paying them to sit on their collective asses. Something, the old deity realized with a scowl, had to be done about that blasted Namekian. He couldn't go back to Heaven—once sent downstairs, one couldn't simply waltz back upstairs again—what would be the point of having that impenetrable golden atmosphere if souls could simply fly back up to heaven whenever they wanted?! Piccolo couldn't be left in Hell, either, or the Ogres would continue to grow lazier and lazier, and if they got any lazier, the whole afterlife would come crashing down around Yemma's horned head!

Thus the ancient god found himself glued to a projection screen, watching the life of the big green pain in his ass, judging him a second time. After all, before souls could be reborn, they must be recycled, and before they could be recycled, their cases had to be reopened and re-judged all over again to determine what they should be reborn as. A lesser mortal would have been safely in the hands of one of Yemma's many ogre assistants, but not Piccolo—no, that Namekian numbskull had wreaked too much havoc to be trusted to anyone lower on the payroll. So far, Piccolo's new body was up in the air. He was too virtuous to be reborn a cat, but not virtuous enough to be a dog—too honest to be a snake or lizard but too big a smart-ass to be anything cute and fluffy—and no way was Yemma setting that pest loose in a human body! He'd caused enough trouble as an alien!

"Huh?" Though he'd been nodding off during the last several years of footage, Yemma lurched upward in his chair and rewound the tape. Onscreen, a flat-chested person with scruffy black hair lay locked in the Namekian's arms in a sleeping embrace, their black ape-like tail clumsily coiled around one bulging green calf. Yemma found himself thankful the IT ogres had set the projector to censor out nudity—the last thing he wanted to see was a full moon under a sickle moon—but he was not amused by the cartoonish drawing of his screaming face they used to block out the naughty bits.

The person onscreen was one he recognized from the first time he judged the Namek, but it never hit him just how much that person had changed over the years. In the last chapters of Piccolo's life, the eccentric half-breed mountain hermit had barely aged but had grown leaner and stronger. Before, Yemma had believed the hermit to be simply a rather reclusive member of the Earth's defenses; now, though, Yemma realized the person was not whom he'd thought they were. Despite the nearly flat chest, it was a woman; if he hadn't upgraded to HDR recently, he might never have realized the truth. With the video paused, he shuffled through the paper copy of Piccolo's file for answers.

"Hem," he muttered to himself as he thumbed through the door-stop of a file. "Piccolo hatched, Piccolo swears vengeance, Piccolo starved in the wilderness…ah, yes, here it is: Piccolo saved from starvation." A quick glance up at the screen verified that the woman onscreen was, indeed, the hermit who took in the starving Namekian child. "Aubergine, eh? Saiyan name, Saiyan tail, Saiyan hair…but only half-Saiyan? What's the rest of—" The question fell silent as his eyes lit on the answer; his blood ran cold.

"Hīrā-jin," he mumbled in disbelief. From appearances, the woman at the corner of the screen had little in common with the nearly-extinct race; despite these drastic differences, he could still see a few similarities. Her hair was pitch black, spiky, and scruffy, not sleek and ivory white; her body type wasn't nearly as elegant or slender as her predominantly effeminate brethren, but she had the same vivid eyes and long canine teeth. Those eyes and hair were why so many of her kind were killed—scalped, blinded, and left for dead to supply a vast black market with body parts that cured nothing but a heavy wallet. "She's half Hīrā-jin…how did I not realize one made it to Earth? How has she lived this long?! MAX!"

"You bellowed, Sir?" the unimpressed blond ogre grumbled as he trudged up to his boss' desk. Yemma fixed a dark scowl on the bespectacled ogre currently digging wax out of one pointed ear.

"I need a population report on a race called Hīrā-jin." Max heaved a long-suffering sigh, dug his smartphone out of his rumpled tigerskin trousers, and tapped away at the screen to pull up the data.

"Population is 139, Sir," Max replied in his almost monotone voice. "Their home world is long gone and that population is scattered across the universe, generally only mixed-breeds. That's a 52% decline from ten years ago and 89% over the last century. They're toast."

"Dammit!" Yemma's outburst didn't even make the ogre blink. "What about that one, Max?" He fumbled with the projector remote attempting to zoom in on the half-breed hermit but only succeeding in frustrating himself. "Bloody here!—what're her odds of survival?!"

"Approximately 27% if she has a decent protector—Earth does get invaded a lot…She's probably the only one in that galaxy. If she lives alone, she's toast, too." Clearly, Yemma realized with a dark scowl, it was time for another mandatory cultural sensitivity lecture for the office staff. Putting that thought aside for the moment, he flipped back to the beginning of Piccolo's file, snatched the cover page, and shoved it at the blue-skinned ogre still picking at his ear.

"Bring me that soul, STAT!" he spat. Max stared up with a deadpan expression.

"If you keep snacking between meals you'll get fat."

"I'm not eating him!" Yemma practically roared. That ogre was becoming more of a pain every eon; maybe, the deity considered with a snarl, he should reassign him to customer service. "Just bring me the damn Namek!"

"Grumpy, grumpy," Max groused scanning the strange little box-code on the cover sheet with his phone then walked away with his eyes glued to the screen. Without ever looking away from the screen he deftly sidestepped a sarong-garbed ogre carrying a ten-foot tall stack of paper files. "I'll be right back, don't get your horns in a twist." While he waited for his insubordinate subordinate, King Yemma pulled up Aubergine Vis' soul-file on the obsolete data-retrieval device connected to the projector. It seemed almost a year later, but Max finally returned with a familiar soul in tow watching him warily. "Anything else, Sir?" Max asked scratching his tiger skin clad behind.

"Yes, you're reassigned to customer service—and go find me someone who knows how to take orders!" Max rolled his glass-shielded eyes and walked away shaking his head. "As for you, Piccolo," Yemma growled down at the equally unimpressed Namekian and jabbed a finger accusingly at the muttering ogre slouching out of the room. "That's what happens when you take over Hell—the ogres become lazy and incompetent!"

"If you're waiting for an apology, you're not getting one," Piccolo rumbled up at Yemma only to freeze. The screen showed a familiar face—one he knew as well as his own but hadn't seen in years. Last he saw, her eyes were just as deep a violet as they'd always been, and the large, self-inflicted burn scar between her eyes was still healing. Now, years later, a long, wicked scar stretched from her hairline down across her left eye; the injury had rendered her eye foggy and most likely blind. What happened to her? He never saw such an injury after the battle with Majin Buu…she didn't travel the galaxy with Goku, Trunks, and Pan, so she didn't obtain the injury at the hands of one of the Shenrons or the multitude of alien races the bumbling trio managed to piss off. "Aubergine…did she…?" His expression and hesitance told Yemma everything.

"She hasn't died yet, surprisingly enough—that idiot said she has a 27% chance of survival but only if she has a decent protector." The Namekian only blinked, but Yemma could hear his heart pounding; that soul and the half-breed hermit were linked together, but to what extent, only they knew. Yemma knew they kept in contact until the Cell Games but after that neither had spoken to the other. "She doesn't have one, does she?"

"She doesn't need one," Piccolo snapped at the smug deity. "She's not a fighter at heart but she's not a weakling—she can take care of herself."

"Several thousand of her kind were the same way—pacifists who couldn't stomach violence but still supposedly knew how to defend themselves—they're all dead, killed by intergalactic headhunters for their hair and eyes. Your little half-breed is one of the last of her kind and possibly the only one in her galaxy so the headhunters will be getting desperate. Would you stake her life on those odds?" Piccolo had no answer, unable to do anything but stare through the solemn woman on the projector screen.

"What can I do?" he finally asked. "I'm no use to her dead and bringing me back to life would mean the return of the Black Star Dragon Balls."

"What sort of lesser god do you take me for?" Yemma sneered down at him. "Leave the Black Star business to me. MAX!" Once again, the blonde ogre trudged into the office scratching his behind.

"Yes, Sir?"

"I need an alternate rebirth form and an afterlife eviction form pronto—and why aren't you working customer service yet?!" Piccolo's eye twitched at the farce playing out before him; with any luck, he wouldn't have to see this place again for another few decades.





Next time: The Demon King!