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Sweat Saves Blood

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Her fingers go still only when she presses them to the glass, but the tremor lives on deep under her skin, tectonics in her bones. In the distance, somewhere out in the mess of the world, there is the sound of screaming, and fist meeting fist; the sound of feet moving in unison, formation.

They stand quietly—not in silence, though, because there is never silence anymore. There is the sound of the waves, the shrieking seabirds, the unhappy murmur of the wind, and the reminder of what lies beyond the beach, drenched in blood and words and architecture.

“It’s not going to be enough,” Piccolo rumbles, gaze dispassionate where he stares out the window.  "We’ve beaten impossible odds before, but this… this is where it ends. Not even Goku can take on all of them.“

She nods, because Piccolo—once something to fear and now someone to cherish the way she does any of them—is right. Goku can give all the rousing speeches he wants, but at the end of the day they don’t have nearly the firepower to win this. Somewhere out there amid the red fog and the gnashing of teeth lies her little boy, ripped apart, ripped from her arms, dead. Somewhere, the love of her life is being made example of, and with every moment he pulls a little further from her, a little more lost, a little more gone.

They’re going to lose. No, they’ve already lost.

Piccolo grumbles under his breath, exhaustion pulling at the corners of his eyes and downturned lips, and crosses his arms. “It’d take an army to even stand a chance.”

Her mouth opens, but whatever she’s about to say fizzles and dies on her tongue, and her teeth click shut. But only for a moment. “An army.”

“Mm.”

“We need an army,” she echoes breathlessly.

He spares her an irritated look. “That’s what I just said.”

But she can’t hear him over the whirring of servos in her own mind, nerves and blood and strings and strings and strings of code. Her thoughts reconcile themselves into something firm and absolute, a task performed well, and suddenly all Trunks’s jokes about her being secretly a supercomputer in a human shell make sense because it takes no time at all to process a result.

“Piccolo,” she murmurs, her voice coming from beyond a veil, “I need you to do me a favor.”

She watches his reflection turn to look at her, all his considerable attention on her.

“I need you to kill me.”

At that, he startles. “What?”

Her mouth is filling with saliva faster than she can swallow it and her heart is beating hard enough to break a rib, but the trembling in her hands is tinged with excitement instead of terror.

“I figured it out. It’s the only way we can win.”

“If I kill you?” Piccolo snorts and steps away from the window, turning his back to her. “I knew losing Trunks would send you over the edge—”

“You idiot,” she snarls. “Think bigger than that. Bigger than either of us. Don’t you get it? Don’t you see?”

“See what?!”

“We need an army. I can get us one.”

He whirls around and bares his teeth at her. “There’s no army strong enough—”

Exactly. Exactly. “Not on Earth. Not in this dimension. Not alive.”

“What are you—” But he stops, and she watches his antennae twitch in shock as understanding dawns. “You can’t possibly mean—”

“They’ve been there for decades, no doubt training for this very moment. Three billion of them, if Vegeta’s to be believed. And I bet all of them have ascended.” She’s too hot with the triumph of discovery, too manic. Any second now, she’s going to explode. “They’re all due one day back in the land of the living, right? And I’d bet my life that they’re itching for a good fight. It has to be me, Piccolo. I’ve got nothing left to lose. I know I can do it. I can mobilize them.”

He stares at her like he can’t recognize her, which makes her laugh a little, because even after all these years they still underestimate her. “Bulma, even if… There’s no way they’ll listen to Goku.”

“Goku? Who said anything about Goku? They’ll listen to me.” Her reflection lifts its chin a little higher, shoulders back, spine straight. Regal. “I am their queen, after all.”

Piccolo says nothing for a long moment. “Vegeta won’t be able to handle this.”

“Vegeta will get over it.” Especially if it means reclaiming the crown he lost so long ago.

But Piccolo just laughs, raw, like his heart is breaking, and his hand begins to glow with the crackle of power. “No, Bulma. I don’t think he will.”

“Just tell him I smacked you,” she says, and meets the gaze of her murderer with a smile.

This is it.

This is how they win.