Safe... or Not?
It wasn't a delirium caused by their thirst. There was really a smooth, gentle sound of water running, now almost muffled by the screams of relief of the very anxious Krillin. Forgetting all the cautious movements he had taken until that moment, Krillin ran through the last trees at the brink of that part of the forest.
He and Gohan now found themselves in another clearance, much wider than the one they had previously hidden the dragon balls. A large river framed by small rocks ran in front of a tall, huge stony wall, from where a beautiful waterfall was falling. It was behind that water curtain that Bulma and Oolong concealed themselves since their warrior pals had left in the last day with the dragon balls.
Unlike Krillin, Gohan calmly walked through the trees, happy because their long journey had ended. He found Krillin on his knees on a rock less part of the shore, drinking as if he wanted to empty the entire river. Gohan knelt to drink, too, but felt something hard under his knee.
He glared at the wet grass, thinking that he probably had knelt on some kind of stick. His eyebrows raised as he picked up the offending object - it was not a piece of branch, but a long staff, with a thin line attached in one of its points.
"A fishing pole?" Krillin asked in surprise. He had just taken his face from the water to stare at the object in Gohan´s hands.
None of them had time to say anything else, because a loud, goose-fleshing roar made both jump around, their fists automatically clenched for the attack.
A gigantic, hairy, hideous ogre stood menacingly in front of them, apparently came out of the blue. He wore only a thong made of spotted fur, and had two long, pointed horns at the top of his head. His frightening appearance contrasted strongly with his ridiculous weapon: instead of a big club or something more proper for such a big guy, he held a human-size sword, whose point was the only thing that could be seen in the ogre’s big hand. Anyone could think that the monster used that to clean his teeth. In the other hand, he carried a tiny, long thread with six freshly fishes hanging.
The monster opened his huge, cave-like mouth, showing two rows of yellow teeth as sharp looking as his horns.
"I am the lord of this river! How do you dare to enter my kingdom?" he boomed, his voice rough and loud.
Krillin and Gohan exchanged an amused look.
"Well", the monk replied playfully "I'll answer your question if you´ll answer mine: how did you get a thong made of leopard skin in this place so far from Earth?"
The ogre’s eyes bulged and he looked down, more attently, to the two newcomers. A kind of bang was heard as clouds of smoke appeared. When they vanished away, the ogre was Oolong again, still holding the thread with the fresh fishes and the green dagger that Gohan had yanked off a rock at the day before. On Oolong´s belt, one of the laser pistols taken from the pirates that Krillin and Gohan caught trying to invade their ship.
"At last!" the pig complained, "Where have you been all this time? I was starting to think you both had been caught."
"You shouldn't have transformed like this, Mr. Oolong", Gohan rebuked softly "If we hadn't recognized your ki, we would have attacked you."
"You guys gave me a big scare, kid" Oolong replied, "I was fishing for dinner when Mr. Moonhead´s screams almost gave me a heart attack! You two are so dirty that I didn't recognize you..."looking more carefully, he noticed Gohan´s shredded clothes and reddened face "What in the world happened to you?!"
"We´ll explain it later" Krillin cut them off impatiently "Where is Bulma?"
"Inside, of course" Oolong mumbled, his snout twisted with disdain "Where else that lazy woman would be? Since you were gone, she was there fumbling with her gadgets and bossing me around: ' Oolong do this, Oolong do that'... I only could get some now because she´s napping."
"And you took the advantage to steal her panties, huh?" Krillin teased as he spotted the point of a white thing peeking from one of Oolong´s pockets "No wonder Bulma has kept you busy!"
"You shouldn't steal, Mr. Oolong" Gohan lectured "If you need clean undies, I can borrow you. My mom made me bring lots of them..."
Krillin´s laugh muffled Gohan´s innocent offer, as well any other sounds around. The monk fell on the grass, and as more he tried to explain it for Gohan, more he laughed. He was stopped by the fishes that Oolong tossed angrily on his stomach, saying that if Krillin had time enough to make jokes he could clean the fishes as well. Protesting, arguing and cracking out, the trio entered the river jumping on some rocks strategically placed in the water, to go through the waterfall.
A pair of wide eyes showed up in the bushes closer to the river. They could belong to a lemur or an owl, if such animals existed in that planet... and if they had eyebrows shaped like a "V".
The bushes opened revealing a very astounded Vegeta.
"Wh... What kind of people... are these?" these words leaved his mouth almost by themselves.
It hadn't been easy for him to follow the bald dwarf and the brat, after the two ran from Coffee's wrath. Just like Coffee, Vegeta had been temporarily blinded by the baldy´s attack; but, unlike the dark-skinned giant, Vegeta didn't rely only on his eyes for orientation. Both the racket caused by the two fugitives and their subtle smells outstood among the regular noises and smells in the forest like a black spot in a white paper sheet. Well, at least for him. However, his temporary blindness and, mainly, the pain in his intimate parts, had slowed him down. More than twice he had lost their tracks; luckily, their flying vehicle was apparently malfunctioned, forcing them to walk.
He glared at the waterfall, his heart full of anger. That talking animal had Vegeta´s treasured luthaniun dagger - all right, he had forgotten it stuck in the rock, but it was HIS! His cave had been ransacked by Turles´ me, and now his last refugee, his sanctuary, was taken by that group of nuts. "Whenever I get something precious, somebody takes it from me." he thought bitterly.
But... so? If he succeeded it, he'd never see that place again, so why was he irritated? He waited a few moments to make sure that nobody would go out, before entering the river. Vegeta wasn't surprised for having the strangers vanishing away under the water curtain, because he had found the cave concealed behind it long time ago. He would have moved to the place, if it wasn't so humid and cold. Still, it was the perfect place for hiding. He listened very carefully, but no sound signaled they were coming back. "There´s plenty of space in there. Probably they are in the back of the cave." Taking courage, Vegeta started to wash himself, just taking care so his silhouette wouldn´t be seen through the waterfall. He hadn't taken a bath since the day he had killed those two langozaurs... Looked like ages now.
Hm... Even with all the noise produced by the running water, he´d supposed to hear the three chattering inside. The cave wasn't that deep, and those three were as noisy as a bunch of tetrahorns! Pushing cautious aside, Vegeta walked through the river towards the waterfall and peeked through it.
And he backed off.
Blinking to make sure that the absurd vision hadn't been some kind of optical illusion caused by the water on his eyes, he cautiously pushed his head through the waterfall again. Putting one very slow feet in front of the other, he baby-stepped through the waterfall, still in the dark about how to cope with that uncanning vision.
In front of him stood a door attached to something that looked like a giant pink fruit. The pink round thing occupied every space in the cave. Looking more carefully, Vegeta noticed some see-through things here and there, attached on it - windows, no doubt about this. He took a few more steps, one after another, as if he feared that big thing could explode on his face at any moment. Before getting closer he already suspected that was a house, but he wanted to make sure, maybe because it was ages since he had seen any shelter that wasn't built with branches, mud or caved in a rock. Very, very slowly, he held out a hand and touched the pink material. It was smooth, pleasant to the touch, without any apparent imperfections. Deliciously synthetic. A sigh escaped from Vegeta´s lips as he was taken by a wave of nostalgia, like those he felt whenever he saw his old clothes again.
It was really a house, apparently built in a way it took every space in the cave, but still... those guys hadn't been in the planet for more than two days. What kind of technology had they used to build such a big construction in such a short time?
The sound of muffled voices coming from the building interrupted his musings. Realizing he was still caressing the wall, Vegeta held his hand back shamefully. Now he felt the smells of the brat, the baldy, that bizarre talking animal and others he couldn't identify. Some smelled like food.
The reason why Vegeta hadn't heard many sounds was because Bulma was still sleeping. Surrounded by Oolong, Gohan and Krillin, she snore on a table entirely covered by scribbled papers, electronic components, empty snack sacks and lots of empty cups. According to Oolong, Bulma hadn't left that spot since she uncapsuled the house, save for going to the bathroom (he smirked when he said that). Oolong added that she had ordered him at least thirty coffee cups during that period. Gohan remembered that Bulma had said something about an important project. He pointed at a scouter among the mess. It was one of the scouteres Krillin had retrieved from those pirates who found their ship, and it was attached to Bulma´s computer and a kind of device they couldn't recognize.
Obviously, Bulma was still trying to decipher the mysterious language the pirates were using to talk through radio. When the four Earth travelers left their ship in order to find a new shelter, they had tried to listen the scouter transmissions in order to know what the pirates were scheming. However, all they could hear was a cacophony of unpleasant, incomprehensible sounds able to give anyone a headache. Even the translator created by Bulma hadn't worked, although it was supposed to translate any kind of language.
"Poor Bulma" Krillin said, half-ironic, half pitifully "She'll die trying to figure out this thing but she´ll never admit that even her genius has limits. Well, let's leave her resting and have a bath. We're both looking like two beggars..." he trailed off, noticing that Gohan looked downcast "Sorry, I was just kidding..."
"No, you're right. “the kid reassured him "It's just that I haven't any change of clothes here" the little boy explained as he looked down sadly at what was left of his clothes, turned into tatters during his fight against Coffee. The puffy Namekian collar had been ripped off, and Gohan´s shirt now hanged from one shoulder " I left my bags in the ship when we left it... and there are only the clothes my mom has chosen in them."
"Eeewww!" Krillin and Oolong chorused, their faces wrinkled with equal disgust. They remembered well the ridiculous suit Gohan was grudgingly wearing when the group left Earth, because of his mother. Chichi's taste for clothes came from several decades ago. Besides, they definitely were not fit for someone so active, who flied and fought hostile aliens.
"Why didn't you order a spare copy of your Namekian outfit?" Oolong asked.
"It never occurred me that" Gohan explained, slightly surprised for never having thought of such thing "It was hard for me to find an occasion and ask Granpa to order this one, because mom wouldn't leave my room in the hospital. I asked Granpa when she was sleeping."
"And I thought that MY childhood was hard" Oolong shook his head pitifully "I'm going to lend you my clothes, but you owe me." he demanded as he led Gohan and Krillin toward one of the bathrooms in the huge capsule house "While you´re at it, wash out that stuff off your hair, boy! It makes your hair look like a helmet."
Following a suggestion of Gohan, the two little warriors shared the bathtub. The boy missed the baths he took with his father at home, and Krillin used to take part in collective baths during his early life in the Oorin temple. It would nonsense one having to wait another finish just because of modesty. They were playfully tossing water on each other when they heard the door opening and closing - Oolong bringing clothes for Gohan, obviously. That reminded to Krillin the pig´s next comment.
"In one thing Oolong is right", he began "You really should stop using gel. Your hair would look much better without it."
"But... my mom..."
"Tell her you were out of gel," Krillin offered for his friend. The kid frowned at the suggestion, so Krillin tried to fix it "Okay, okay, lying is wrong. Then... let me see... Tell me, Gohan, were you planning to get back on Earth dressed as a Namekian?"
"Of course not. I would change my clothes before we go back to Earth. Mom would be mad if she saw me dressed as Mr. Piccolo..." Gohan´s eyes twinkled as it dawned on him "Got it! I´ll keep the gel for the day of our return."
"Exactly!" Krillin agreed emphatically. He would add something else, but Gohan interrupted him.
"Did you hear the door closing?" he asked, as he tried to listen.
"No. Must be Oolong again."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, listening. Gohan pushed a bit of the curtain that separated the bathtub from the rest of the washing room and peeked. Nobody was there.
"I´m sure I heard something. But it didn't sound like Mr. Oolong." he insisted.
"Then it was Bulma. Probably she needed to pee off all that coffee but gave up when she noticed we were here." Krillin concluded, as he carelessly pushed the entire curtain aside and jumped out of the bathtub.
Drying himself with a towel, he made a beeline to the door, where he had hanged his change of clothes... and stopped.
The clothes Oolong had promised for Gohan were there, piled orderly in a sort of balcony. But Krillin's change of clean clothes - a pair of boxes and a copy of the orange gi he had worn in the woods - were now scattered on the floor, his pants missing. So were their discarded, dirty clothes. Krillin would have to go out the bathroom in shirt and boxers.
"So that's why he sneaked his way here." Krillin mumbled as he frowned at his messed clothes “He still must be pissed because I mentioned the undies he’s stolen from Bulma.But he's gonna have it!" dressing quickly the only pieces of clothing he had, Krillin screamed his way toward the kitchen.
"OOLOOONG! Where are you, little rascal? OOLONG!"
Oolong sat on a stool, removing the scales of a fish, when he jumped at Krillin's shouting.
"What´s wrong with you? “he lectured "You almost made me chop my finger off!"
The monk stood in front of him, hands on hips and a very forced grin.
"Hahaha! That was a good joke, I admit it." he started "But, to make it really good, you should have stolen ALL my clothes, and the towels, too, so I would be stuck naked in the bathroom."
"Are you crazy?" Oolong gaped at him "Why are you standing there in boxers?"
Gohan arrived just that moment. He just stood at the door of the kitchen, not knowing if he should try to stop the fight or just laugh.
"As if you didn't know," Krillin hissed, "Where are my pants?"
It finally dawned on Oolong. His eyes bulged out in shock.
"W... You are acusing me of scheming to see YOU in underwear?! That's really crazy! If you had accused me of stealing Bulma's, then... hey! Of course, she did that to you! She spent all the time moping around how irresponsible you and Gohan were for taking so long!"
Krillin calmed down a bit.
"Makes sense",he looked thoughtfully, not noticing the nervous signals Gohan was doing for him to look behind"Bulma loves scheming this kind childlish revenge when we make her angry. But would she steal my pants just because we're late? That's ov...ouh!"
A fist conked on the top of head, producing a loud "tunc." Oolong´s eyes widened up in fear, but before he could run, an even stronger conk made him fall on his bum.
"OF COURSE I WOULDN'T DO THAT!" Bulma roared behind them. Obviously, Krillin's yelling in his way to the kitchen had woken her up "How do you dare, Oolong? Blaming me for your dirty schemes! And about you, Krillin, I´m very disappointed! I could expect that Oolong talked on my back because he's a fake, but you..."
"Bulma, what have you done to your clothes?" asked Gohan.
His question caught everyone by surprise. When you are frozen and staring someone in fear, your eyes catch the most stilly details. So Gohan couldn't help but noticing that the stern outfit Bulma wore their entire travel - black tights covering her from neck to toe and a sort of brown vest - had been radically transformed. Her shirt had its long sleever removed and received a large, U-shaped low-neck. Her pants now reached the middle of her tights, partially covered by a sort of brown short skirt - which obviously had been once the vest. Krillin and Oolong exchanged a "Is this time to care about clothing?"look, but Gohan´s question turned off Bulma's anger almost instantaneously.
"Do you like them?" she asked, giving a large, vain smile "I could no longer stand the heat of this place, so I did a few alterations. I feel more like myself now..." the boys started to look relieved, but Bulma glared at them again "But, if you think you can escape with that, you're very wrong! I was pretty worried about the two of you, young man! What possessed you both into disappearing and leaving the dragonballs for the pirates?"
"W...What?!" Krillin opened his mouth wide in shock "How do you know?"
"It’s so obvious" Oolong sneered, "If you two are here, who is looking on the dragonballs? The Invisible Man?"
"Mr. Krillin had no choice" Gohan said, quick into defending his friend "A group from those bandits came too close to the place we were hidden. I tried to distract them so Mr. Krillin would move the dragon balls away, but one of those pirates almost killed me, as the others..."
"...tried to get the dragon balls, but they were disintegrated." Bulma finished with a smirk "By Krillin, I bet."
This time, even Oolong was speechless. For some instants, the three wondered if Bulma hadn't stolen Uranai Baba's crystall ball and brought it with her. "I always saw Bulma as a witch, but not... well, not literally" the pig thought as he worried put a hand on his stuffed pocket "She must know that I've stolen her panties... and also that I..."
Bulma giggled at their shock and fear.
"Easy, guys, I haven't become a seer." she reassured them” It's just I was following the transmissions exchanged among Turles’ men."
"So, did you figure out what kind of language they are speaking?" Krillin asked, feeling a pang of shame for having doubted Bulma's habilities.
"Actually, it wasn't a language. That's why the translator didn' t work. I had to turn it into a decrypter. It took me forever to create a system able to find all the random keys the pirates could be using..."
"Decryp.. what? "
"Decrypter, Mr. Krillin" Gohan explained to his bald friend, his eyes shining in enthusiasm " Of course! It should have ocurred us that. Turles must have realized that it were us who eliminated those two guys and that we probably had their scouters. So the pirates are having all their messages encrypted, to keep us from intercepting them." noticing Krillin and Oolong's blank looks, he tried to explain it in a more acessible way "Encrypting is distorting the messages you want to send, so whoever intercepts them can't understand."
"Like pigpen or writing reverse? “Oolong asked "Y'know, these secret codes children use to exchange messages on school. “he explained, noticing that Gohan looked confused.
Gohan never had been in a school, neither had other children for friends because the place where his family lived was too far away from the nearby town. But he had learned some codes during his period in the hospital, in order to exchange messages with his father and grandpa, without his overprotective mother noticing. Therefore, he understood what Oolong meant.
"Well, more or less" he agreed "But it's kind of more complex. Just imagine yourself writing reverse and... This pigpen at the same time, for a first message, and then the next you'll use another different code and combine it with some numbers. It never comes the same way. Am I right, Bulma?" he looked up at his female friend for approval, remembering that she could be upset because it had been him to do all the explanation.
"More or less" Bulma said in a restrained tone. She really would have liked to explain what encrypting was with more details, but she realized that Gohan's down-to-earth explanations were more accessible for Krillin and Oolong´s minds. Sometimes it was hard that any of her friends never got interested for subjects more complex than fighting, food and girls "I would have been more acurated, but... yes, you got close to it."
"Now I got it! This is amazing, Bulma!" Krillin exclaimed, his enthusiasm sincere "You are a new Mata Hari! Now we´ll be able to watch the pirates' moves..."
"...and anticipate them "Bulma finished, her voice full of pride "I am really a genius!"
"You are a sneaky, that's what you are!" lectured Oolong, the only one who didn't look happy"You call me a fake, but you've kept me busy these last two days so I wouldn't know what was happening to Krillin and Gohan! Never ocurred you that I could be worried about them, too? More importantly, you all have forgotten that the spheres we worked so hard to get are lost now!"
Everybody looked guiltily at him.
"It is all my fault", Krillin admited "I had to choose between flying away with the dragonballs or having Gohan getting slaughtered. Later, when the moto was out of gas, I thought of calling you for help, but I didn't want to have Bulma risking her life in the jungle after us" he explained, empathizing Bulma's name to make it clear that he knew that Oolong wouldn' put a foot out of the capsule house for them, despite his apparent worrying " Besides, if you were really that worried,why didn't YOU call me? Bulma told us that you left the walkie-talkie on her table!"
"And that's why" Bulma added sternly "I thought that you weren't that worried. Actually, I was afraid that you could pretend interest in the messages just to look upon my shoulder and peek into my shirt."
"You shouldn't have cut it so low" the pig confirmed impudently "I've got the blue balls since we left Earth, you know."
Krillin and Gohan sweatdropped."I'd rather not ask," the kid thought, "If mom ever learns some of the things I have listened and seen in this travel, she’ll never have me anywhere around daddy's friends again."
Bulma changed for the most important subject.
"And the dragonballs aren't lost, technically. Of course, the pirates found the spheres in the hole Krillin tossed them, but they HAVEN'T TOUCHED them! They just left two guys watching... probably to follow Krillin or Gohan to our hiding place. Or to capture them, of course. Some of those bandits want to avenge their dead colleagues."
Krillin gulped at this.
"Others insist that those guys deserved to die because they disobeyed Turles’ orders” Bulma carried on "Apparently, he has forbidden everyone to lay a finger on our dragon balls. That small group that reached you guys shouldn't even have gotten close... they'd supposed to collect plants and living animals...” she was about to add something else, but stopped for a second and just concluded "Hard to believe, huh?"
"I believe in you," Gohan said" Before we started fighting, that big bully... Coffee... offered me... stuff in exchange for the dragon balls, but one of his cohorts said that Turles had told them not to touch the spheres. Then another bad guy laughed and said that Turles had forbidden of looking for the dragon balls. And that he wouldn't be mad if they just happened to find them. That's why they tried to take them from Mr. Krillin."
The group exchanged confused looks, not knowing what to say about Turles' strange behavior. Apparently, it was a trap, but there was something else there that didn't fit at all.
Krillin was the one to break their silence.
"Well, whatever Turles' got in mind, he clearly isn't in a hurry to summon Shen-Long. That gives us time to take some action.. and to eat something, what do you say! I am starving... and I'm still only in underwear!"
Since they were all too hungry and nobody was in the mood to rip scales off, the fishes caught by Oolong were put in the fridge for the next day. Instead, they all ate noodles, sitting cozily in the sofas and armchairs of the living room. Deep down, all of them dreamed of dumplings and other more elaborated food from Earth, but their mutual relief and optimism lifted up their spirits. This light mood lifted much more when Bulma told them the news she had kept for Gohan and Krillin's returns.
"GOKU IS COMING?!" the three males chorused in happy disbelief.
"My father told me as soon as we set foot here." Bulma confirmed, "He was trying to contact me for days, but you remember how bad the transmission was. Daddy found the ship that brought Goku to Earth when he was a baby... well, what was left of it... and rebuilt it, mixing it with whatever was left of Radditz' ship. Now Goku is close to Namek, but he told Dad that he is moving forward. Daddy was very confused about how Goku knew that he wouldn't find us there and..."
"Mr. Kaioh must have warned him!" Krillin cut her off as he jumped to his feets, in such entusiasm that he almost dropped his plate of lamen" With Goku here and the sap to heal us, we got a chance to survive! Hurraaah!!" he cheered as he picked up Oolong's hand and both started dancing.
Gohan joined them in the dance, as he singsonged "My Daddy is coming, my Daddy is coming". It was quite a weird scene, the three singing and dancing like crazy people in the middle of the circle formed by the sofa and armchairs of the living room, a tray with forgotten food on each of them. Only Bulma didn't look so happy. Instead of joining the celebration, she remained on her place, looking very thoughtful; a strange behavior, given her cheerful nature. It didn't take much long for the sensitive Gohan notice how silent she was.
"Something's wrong, right?" he asked "Something about Yamcha?"
At the sound of his voice, the others stopped dancing to listen. Bulma nodded sadly.
"When Goku received Yajirobe's senzus, back in the hospital, he ate one and left another with Mutenroshi, for Yamcha. However, Yamcha couldn't eat it because he was recently operated... my father, who is paying the hospital, could no longer delay the operation because Yamcha could die. Now Yamcha's receiving food through a , and his face is completely wrapped in bandages." she told, covering her face with a hand to hide the tears.
Surprisingly, Oolong offered her his own handkerchief, even though he was sniffing himself. After picking it and cleaning her face, Bulma took a deep calming breath, before continuing.
"Mutenroshi tried to rip the bandages off Yamcha to give him the senzu, but he was caught and thrown away from the hospital. But Puar and Chichi still can visit Yamcha, so they promised to find a way to make him eat the senzu." she finished.
"That's horrible..." Krillin said, his head bow with pity for both his friends "I should have known that it was too good to be true. But don't worry, Bulma. You know how determined Chichi is; when she gets something in her head, not stands on her way. I am sure that she and the rest of our friends are going to save Yamcha. If not, the Namekians have promised that the next wishes for Porunga will be ours, as soon as their spheres will start to work again."
Gohan hummed in agreement, as he touched Bulma's knee in a comforting gesture.
"I hope so..." she sniffed, remaining silent for a few instants before changing the subject with her usual decided stance "Speaking of wounds, you and Gohan said repeatedly that Gohan was very hurt, but he looks okay for me, save for a few scraps and this red cheek."
"Poisoned leaves. I had my face rubbed on them", Gohan explained briefly, not wanting to enter into details, since he was still confused about Coffee's contradictory behavior"But I was really hurt. Coffee hit his head on my stomach, and it was really painful. But the worse was to be hungry and tired... couldn't even keep up with Mr. Krillin. Then he stopped to find me some water and we found..." he trailed off to take both hands to his mouth, in a perfect parody of Edward Munch's most famous picture "Oh, no! The package I made to bring the sap was in my dirty clothes... if Mr. Oolong put them to wash..." his eyes become bigger in horror at the image of the sappy clothes in the washing machine.
"Get a grip, boy", the pig said, "Did you really think that I would do all the hard work for you guys? I put your filthy stuff in a basket."
Everybody laughed in relief. As Gohan ran to the laundry in order to retrieve the sap, Krillin told more about how they had found the mysterious medicine. Unfortunately, the little package that Gohan had made so carefully proved itself improper for analysis, according to Bulma. She explained that he probably had contaminated the sap with his saliva, dirty hands and even some substances of the leaves used to wrap the sticky thing. Still, Gohan and Krillin's discover was priceless. Bulma would provide them the right collecting material later, so they could collect the sap from the trees (Guess who's going to do it, Oolong whined)
Bulma also found strange the way the sticky substance had been introduced to them.
"Do you really think that it was an animal who tore off the bark? “she asked to Krillin, her forehead wrinkled.
"Well... none of us got to see it, because it ran too fast. However, it could not be a pirate, or we would have felt his ki. They can't hide it like us."
"Maybe, but I have another theory. The first messages I could decrypt were mentioned a man who lives in these woods - a savage one. “Bulma paused for an instant, savoring the surprised expressions her bombastic news had caused, before she continued, "Do you remember that dragon ball we saw isolated in the radar before we landed? It was in his cave. The pirates captured him once, but he killed the bandit who was watching him and ran away. Turles has sent many hunting parties after him, including that one that ran into you."
"And they never found him again?" Krillin asked, although he already knew the answer.
"No. Last time I checked, some of the pirates were saying they should stop looking for him. They think that the man probably died accidentally in the destruction caused by Coffee and Gohan. Or that he has ran for the mountains, or another faraway place." the scientist said, with admiration in her voice.
"You mean that this man could have been following us and that he might have been the one who helped us?" Gohan asked in disbelief "But that's impossible" We would have felt him!"
"Huh-uh" Bulma said playfully, shaking one finger "What makes this mystery man so difficult to find is that his fighting power is so small that NO SCOUTER CAN DETECT HIM."
The two warriors gasped involuntarily.
"...And... even with such a small ki... he killed one of those pirates?" Gohan dropped his jaw. He exchanged a quick look with Krillin, who was thinking the exact same thing as Gohan.
"Oolong, how many times did you enter the washing room as Gohan and I were bathing?" the monk asked hurriedly.
"That again?" the pig started to complain, "I told you..."
"I'm not accusing you!” Krillin cut him off "Just want to know if you entered a second time, after you brought those clothes to Gohan. To recoil our dirty closes, maybe?"
Oolong stared at him as if Krillin was crazy.
"I got your rags when I left my clothes there. Then I went straight to the laundry space. It would be stupid to go twice..." he trailed off, his snout getting pale as it dawned on him "Is... Is that what I'm thinking?"
However, Krillin had already turned around.
"Bulma, didn't you enter the bathroom while Gohan and I were there?" he asked to the scientist.
"Of course not. I was sleeping when you two came back, remember? But what are you guys so worried that somebody has peeked on you?" she smirked playfully and winked at Krillin "I had no idea that you two were so timid."
"If the savage man you mentioned has followed us, he's probably here now", Gohan explained"It was HIM who's stolen Mr. Krillin's pants!"
"Oh my..." Bulma trailed off, her hands raising to cover her mouth.
Both Gohan and Krillin stood in the middle of the armchairs and sofa circle, looking around and trying to feel anything. Oolong had ran off earlier, when Krillin was interrogating Bulma.
"Gohan, go with Bulma and check the west part of this house." Krillin commanded "I check the other half part."
"W...Wait a moment", Bulma stammered, trying hard to stay calm "What if that... that man is on our side? He killed one of Turles' henchmen. And even if he was really here, he might have left by now..."
Gohan nodded in agreement, but Krillin kept his stern frown.
"He killed in self-defense. If that guy was on our side, he would have shown up to us, instead of tip-toeing here to steal our stuff. "he hissed "We can't go easy on him like we did to those fake Namekians."
"Fake... Namekians? I thought... that you were the ones pretending to be Namekians" a voice sneered from the other side of the living room. It was a raspy, rough voice which started hesitantly, choosing the words, since its owner was no longer used to talk to other people. Before he finished his speech, Krillin and Gohan had already turned around, their kis raising, as Bulma stood behind them fearfully.
At a few meters of distance was a brawny, strong-looking man, who was roughly as tall as Bulma. He dressed only Krillin's pants and a sort of filthy belt, where the of a laser gun could be seen. In one of his hands, a half-eaten fish, which he obviously had stolen from the fridge. His black, hard-looking eyes stared disdainfully at the people reunited into the furniture circle, as if they were the intruders and not him.
He bit the fish, munched and gulped, before carrying on.
"The little baldy is right. I'm only at my side. But, if I wanted to kill you all, I... I would have done it while these two useless shorties were busy on the bath. They are both too careless to be good warriors." he added, his voice more confident now.
His answer were the subtle humming produced by the local electric devices and the smooth sound of the waterfall outside. Krillin had his eyes set on his stolen pants, which looked very tight and short on the stranger's brawny legs. He noticed that its sewings looked about to rip off on the thighs.
"I owe some apologizes to Oolong", Krillin whispered to Bulma.