V worm in the chrysalis

Frieza

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Though Frieza may have fought his fate to the absolute extreme, refused to surrender past the point of sanity or reason, driven on by sheer force of will, the moment the poisoned needle pierced his flesh, he knew. This was it. Game over.

He was going to die.

He was going to die.

The chaos in his mind was all-consuming, that when his former ally sliced off his other arm the pain barely even registered, and the soft thud as his forearm hit the ground felt like a thousand miles away. His body moved on automatic pilot, dragging itself towards Mickey and raining blows upon him again and again and again as if it were as natural a bodily function as breathing. Even past the point where he couldn't breathe, he kept attacking. Not that it mattered, though; the mouse was as dead as he was, and if anything, he was just speeding up his own death. But he hadn't the presence of mind to care.

He wasn't sure if it was his mind that broke first, or his body, but one by one his senses failed. First his hearing, then sight, then touch. Smell and taste stayed, though, and the only reason he knew he was still alive was the ringing in his ears and the blood, saliva, and vomit expelled by the poison destroying his insides. He lasted longer than a human might have to the poison's effects, but that wasn't necessarily a good thing. Was his body still moving, or had it finally given out? He didn't know. Whatever his body was doing, the outside world had faded to deafening white noise. Mentally, he was in a state beyond shock, curled up in a fetal position in the corner of his brain and gripping to the skin of his arms until his nails drew blood and the bones in his knuckles threatened to rip free of his flesh.

I'm going to die.

I don't want to die.

I don't want to die.

He'd feared death, when he was younger, hadn't he? He'd pushed it far from his mind, because he used to be strong enough that there wasn't anything that could kill him. But being plucked from his universe and dropped into the Crossroads had changed everything. He had managed to gather a following and make a tidy profit back on Inverxe, yes, but it wasn't until this moment where he lay dying that it truly sunk in, down to the skin of his intestines and the marrow of his bones, that his days as Emperor of the Universe were over. That they'd been over ever since that first day he'd woken up here.

To the extent that he could comprehend that, anyway. Power was his lifeblood, not a petty ambition. All that meant was that he'd need to get that power back.

And even then, even as he lay paralyzed and dying, that despair wasn't enough to quell the all-consuming fire that was Frieza's very being. Giving up on something he wanted was something he fundamentally could not register, and what he wanted was everything. If whatever cruel fate had landed him here had reduced him to nothing, then he would destroy everything else that existed until he reigned supreme over the ashes of the universe. If he broke, he would put himself together again and again and again until he won. If death was a law of reality, then he would break reality itself. That was who he was.

But he was also just a mortal like any other.

The despair and anger surged through his veins like the poison that tore his body apart, and he could only watch, mind blank of any coherent thought, as they clashed against one another until, finally, he had no energy left to resist the fatigue that dragged him into the abyss.

He'd never been one to believe in afterlives. The only world that mattered was the one that was readily observable, where power over one's surroundings was everything. Anything beyond that was a fairytale, foolish stories with no basis in reality which the weak told themselves around campfires to delude themselves into believing their lives had any meaning. Death, he believed, was the extinguishing of a flame, and there was nothing that awaited him, or anything else, beyond eternal nothingness.

But, if Heaven and Hell were real, he'd never held any delusions about which of the two he would be destined for.

(And as it turned out, they were, and he was very, very right. However, he was quite wrong about whatever he thought "hell" might have entailed.)
 
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Frieza

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Waking up in the afterlife after dying was a bit like waking up from a deep sleep, but infinitely more disorienting. It took a moment for Frieza's mind to come into focus, to catch up where he was and what had happened.

He opened his eyes, blinking back the bright light that flooded his vision. He'd... died, hadn't he? He definitely remembered dying, though his memories of the battle were hazy past the point where he'd had his arm hacked down to the bone. There was a lot of blood, a lot of pain, a lot of anger, and--oh, right, the poison. The memory came back as waves of phantom pain radiating from where the needle had pierced the nape of his neck, persisting beyond the physical wounds that had caused them. His veins and intestines churned fire so intensely he wanted to vomit, but found himself unable.

Where was he?

He tried to move. He couldn't; at least, not much. He craned his neck downward, and realized why. He was suspended in what seemed to be a cocoon, limbs locked into a fetal position. From his current position he could only make out what seemed to be an empty field of... flowers? But with some effort, he was able to twist his cocoon around, and found that he was attached to the bough of a large cherry tree. Whatever he had expected from an afterlife--fire and brimstone, eternal torture, reincarnation--it... wasn't this. What was this place? It couldn't be Hell, could it?

Not one to be dissuaded, he struggled in the cocoon. Harder. He could move his limbs within the sinewy shell, enough to deform it, but not enough to break it, and his limbs always snapped back into place as soon as he stopped applying pressure. So he kept struggling. Harder. Then harder still. He had no way of measuring time, but his maddening struggle to break free of his chrysalis lasted for what felt like hours.

Finally, after pushing with all his strength to no avail, he let out a sharp cry, then stopped, panting heavily, expression frenzied. He wouldn't be stuck like this forever, would he? He would have taken pain and torture over solitary confinement, would have taken forced labor over being trapped and unable to move. He could still feel pain, at least--he dug his nails into his skin, but had no way of knowing if he could still bleed.

Panic began to set in. No. No. This couldn't be real. He couldn't just be... stuck like this forever?! Unacceptable. He would find a way out, or he would break himself to pieces trying to slam down the door. And so he went back to struggling, desperately, fervently.

Perhaps the commotion of him thrashing about in his personal prison did not fall on deaf ears, or maybe it was just routine, but eventually, a figure appeared in his field of vision. She was humanoid, with blue skin, horns, work clothes, and a tired expression.

"Alright, who's next, let's see here..." She spoke flatly, almost bored, like it was just another day on the job, and flipped through a few pages of her clipboard. "Mkay, here you are. Frieza, right?" She clicked her pen, and scribbled something down. "Welcome to Hell."

The blood drained from his face. So this was Hell.

"As part of our policy," she continued, "we're obligated to inform our visitors what they did to earn a stay here, what their sentence is, and what they need to do in order to get out. We're not interested in keeping you here forever, we're just trying to keep the cycle of death and rebirth flowing without too much corruption in the pool, y'know? So, let's see, you're in for..."

The oni lady flipped a page, and her flippant expression immediately plummeted to a wide-eyed rictus.

"Wow. Uh. That's... quite a list." She cleared her throat. "So. You're in here because you've personally, with your own hands, killed 53,892,787,289 sentient beings, hold indrect responsibility for the deaths of 1,729,585,373,389 sentient beings, personally destroyed 38 planets, stripped 1,382 planets of their natural resources and left them barren, as well as additional crimes of torture, arson, theft, exploitation of forced labor, employment of child soldiers and laborers, funding corrupt political regimes, gerrymandering, tax fraud, and--whoo boy, that's just the first page."

She cleared her throat to speak again, but Frieza interrupted her. "Yes, yes, alright, fine!" he snapped. "How do I get out?!"

"For you? Easy. Just gotta repent."

He blinked. "Repent?"

"Yeah. Your soul will be purified and wiped clean for reincarnation, and you'll be born again as a brand spanking new person who won't be responsible for untold amounts of death and destruction. Until your soul is sufficiently purified, though, you've gotta stay here."

His mouth hung open as her words hit him. Repenting, fine, whatever, he could bullshit his way through a false apology if it meant getting out of this infernal cocoon, but... to have his soul wiped clean? To lose himself entirely?

Impossible. Out of the question. He would rather suffer for eternity than stop being himself.

"Repent?" he scoffed. "You must be joking."

She sighed. "Yeah, figured you'd say that. Normally there's just a fixed sentence down here, but really evil folks like you are special cases, and require special intervention. So, you'll be stuck here until you're ready to repent and be reborn." She clicked her pen again. "Any questions?"

"Just one," said Frieza. "Can I at least get out of this damned cocoon?"

"Sorry, no can do," she said. "It's policy. You're too dangerous to let loose. Also, the idea is for your twisted, rotten soul to metamorphose into a beautiful butterfly. It's symbolic, or some shit. If that's all, I'll be going now."

As she turned on heel to leave, she stopped. "Oh, right, just remembered something. New idea from management. We've had some problems lately with evil folks like you refusing to repent and just taking up space down here, so we're implementing a new system to try and inject you with as much raw, sugary goodness as possible. Something to help balance out all that evil, y'know? According to management, not even someone like you should be able to resist having your heart swayed. So, meet your new best friends."

With a snap of her fingers, a small swarm of fairies flew into his field of vision, followed by animatronic stuffed animals with cutesy, colorful instruments. Frieza shrank back into his cocoon, an expression of pure horror blossoming on his face as he realized what was in store for him.

Oh. Oh no.

Something this asinine couldn't possibly be real.

"Welp, that should be everything," said the oni lady, scribbling down a few more notes on her clipboard. "If you're ever ready to repent, just let us know, and we'll send a representative over immediately."

And with that, she vanished as suddenly as she came, leaving Frieza to the mercy of the saccharine monsters.

One of the fairies flew up to him. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Frieza!" she said, in an absolutely sickeningly high-pitched voice. "As long as you're down here, we'll keep you company, so there's no need for you to feel sad or lonely! I hope we can be friends!"

And then the music started.

And the dancing.

And the teddy bear parade.

And Frieza screamed.

This... this truly was Hell.
 
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Touko Fukawa

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The wildly pitched and hyperactive voice of a video game streamer exploded out of the poor PepsiCo™️ worker's laptop speakers even while she slammed the volume keys desperately.

"Hey guys and gals and other such pals, it's me. The coolest kid in the metaphorical school, Cool Toolbars. So cool it's literally my name!"

This was punctuated by the blue and white alien doing an exaggerated series of dabs and similar 'trendy' gestures at the camera while Darude - Sandstorm blared in the background, the streamer's microphone quality not doing the music any favors. For fuck's sake, was he playing that out of his phone directly into the mic?

It was, how do you say, 'incredibly cringe, bro.'

Once her ears were done being violently shat into, the volume now at the lowest setting it could possibly go without totally depriving her of the crunchy, space-Walmart quality audio, (what would she be if not the subject of eternal torture for her employer's amusement?) she took a deep breath in through her mouth and out through her nose. Just grin and bear it, Darlene. After you're done with this lunatic, you can go home and drink to forget.

"Anyway, today we'll be reacting live to this video I found, 'Best of DAC20!' I don't really get sports that much, but xXDemonKilla237 gave me 26 Space Bits to react to it, so your wish is my command!" His tail twitched eagerly as he audibly slammed the keys of his keyboard, not even having pulled up the video in advance. His whole screen was visible on the capture, revealing about a dozen tabs of social networks and multiple video games open simultaneously as he fumbled to make the video bigger. "My music already has me demonetized," he tapped his phone as he said this, playing a long descending slide whistle, "so it's not like Syntech can really do shit about me streaming this. So to fight back against these big corporations silencing the little guy, remember to smash that subscribe button and donate to my Spacetreon! Every coin helps."

His call to action done, he pulled a massive bag of Doritos from under his desk and started shoveling them in his mouth like the world was about to end.

The video, for its part, was an inoffensive (if somehow even more advertisement-littered) reshowing of the most important events of the recent Dante's Abyss. Cool occasionally paused the video to spit comments with his mouth full of masticated extreme nacho corn chips, like "Man, thish Okuyashu guy'sh really got shome great shtyle," or "Mickey Fucking Mouse?!" or "And what the fuck ish he? Shome kinda like-" pause for audible gulp- "Some kinda fucked up punchbag guy?" Standard fare.

That is, until his eyes landed on the man of his own race, and he smashed the space bar with his whole fist while making shocked grunting noises with his mouth for once. Eventually he swallowed his mouthful of snacks, chasing it with about a quarter of a two-liter Mountain Dew Code Red which he slurped directly from the bottle. "Shit, man! It's Cousin Freezy!" He tapped the image on his computer's screen with one finger, though that didn't really do anything to the stream itself. "Man, I remember growing up with him. I hated that fucker! My dad bought me this kickass set of crayons, and the little bastard stole them all! I'd barely even gotten to use them. BibbleThump." He shook his head, clicking his tongue. "Knowing him, he probably didn't even want them. I bet he just snapped 'em all and tossed 'em in the trash. What a bitch."

Finally, at least that was some confirmation. She'd honestly wondered if Bepis had been a little bit racist assuming some random streamer of the same race as the dead competitor had any relation to him at all, but there it was. And honestly, she didn't have the patience to be chasing down anyone else who may have had claim to this money right now. Plus, it was all so convenient with the premade donation button set up for his stream...

A flashing, rainbow gradient notification covered the entire stream, accompanied by a gif of Cool dabbing rapidly flipping from left to right as it did. The text was so large and eyeburning it was impossible to actually read. It was a good thing that it was immediately followed up by a tinny, robotic Text-to-Speech voice reading out the following:

"7000 Coin from Syntech-Pepsi Branch Office. Hello Mr. Toolbars, I'm an official representative of Syntech here. I'm just tuning in for the time being, but when you have a moment, I'd like to discuss a few things with regards to your Cousin and his participation in the recent Dante's Abyss Convention. Please get in touch however you possibly can, signed Darlene."

There was a long pause as that hung in the air, along with what was entirely more coin than the unemployed video game streamer had ever seen in his life.

"Oh fuck," Cool said at last, his tail smacking against the desk anxiously now as one would jitter their leg. "They're either suing me for millions in damages, or... Oh shit, did he win something?" He seemed almost in disbelief- then again, he hadn't actually watched the damn tournament, so of course he didn't know. A smile wormed its way onto his reptilian features. "Fucking Pogchamp? Bee Arr Bee folks, I'm gonna handle this real quick."

His stream went dark for all 3 loyal viewers who were watching.
 

Touko Fukawa

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She stared at the secretary like a deer in headlights, perhaps fitting based on the massive, open traumatic brain injury that had split right through her skull and still leaked and itched through her greasy, blood-sticky hair. It wasn't quite clear to her if the concussion had lasted her all the way to the afterlife or if she was just startlingly stupid in the first place (perhaps six of one and a half dozen of the other), but her brain seemed to be running in circles as the words of Hell's worker-bee secretaries shuffled papers and shoved forms in her hand.

Bureaucracy. Yeah, that was kinda what she expected Hell to be like.

God, it was just like school.

The blue-skinned Oni secretary that was sitting across from Fukawa chewed the inside of her lip, barely paying attention to her as she skimmed her clipboard. “So, you’re Touko Fukawa, right?” Though Touko's nod was weak and dizzy, she continued anyway. “Look, I’ll be honest. We really have no idea what to do with you." She pursed her lips as she tapped the paper with the back end of her pen, running it along the words as she read. "Like, you’re kind of a bad person, but not really outright hell material under ordinary circumstances. You just happen to be sharing your body with a literal serial killer, and we don’t have any way to physically separate the two of you. Hang on, let me get on the phone with my supervisor.”

Fucking incredible. What god did she anger to deserve this shit being thrust upon her plate? Man, being dead fucking sucked. She wished it were just the unceasing and empty nothingness she'd dreamed about for so long.

Maybe if all those Shakespeare characters had known how much paperwork they'd be doing, they wouldn't have found suicide quite as romantic.

Her gaze shifted to a vacant thousand-yard stare as the secretary stood and put a few paces of distance between the two of them, pulling out a bedazzled flip phone with ornamental devil horns on the top. With a push of the speed-dial button, she lifted it to her ear and started chattering into it, leaving Touko just as lost as she'd been when she'd gotten here. Only hearing one half of the conversation didn't really help her, as the secretary was undoubtedly the more passive voice in it.

"Hey boss, so I'm dealing with that weird case right now- yeah, that one- mmhmm? You think that's like... the right thing to do here? No, sir, I'm not arguing- No, sir. I'm just asking if we don't have like, any better ideas for her? It just kind of seems like you're exploiting the situation for profit, sir. ...No sir, I don't have any ideas, that's not my job, I'm just filling out the paperwork. ...Yes, sir. I'll call you back and tell you how it goes."

With a resigned sigh, she shut the phone with a distinctive mid-2000s CLAT, slipping it back into the breast pocket of her suit. "Well Miss Fukawa, how good were you with your community service hours in high school?"

"...huh? My... M-my what?"

"Well, prepare to put in a couple thousand more."
 

Frieza

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About ten seconds after Cool's stream ended, a call was placed to the main office of PepsiCo, which was then transferred to the Syntech branch, and then to Darlene. She took a moment before answering to sigh in relief. Hopefully, this ridiculous excursion would be over sooner rather than later.

As she answered the phone, she expertly metamorphosed into her customer service persona. "Syntech-Pepsi Branch Office, this is Darlene speaking. How may I help you?"

"Dude--" came the strangled voice of Cool Toolbars, "what's going on? Is this about Cousin Freezy? I swear, whatever he did, I don't know anything."

"Mr. Toolbars, I presume?" She leaned back in her chair. "I am deeply sorry for your loss."

A pause. "Uh... what?"

"Were you unaware?" said Darlene. "Your cousin, Frieza, has tragically passed away."

The gears whirring within Cool's mind were almost audible from across the line. "Ohhhhhhh. Oh. Uh. Rip in peace, bro?" He didn't sound very distraught. "So wait, what's this got to do with me? Do I like... get all his stuff now? Is that how this works?"

"Not exactly," said Darlene. "Well, that probably is indeed the case, but that's not within our purview. However, it's standard policy for Syntech to deliver prizes won from Dante's Abyss to the deceased contestants' next of kin--that being you."

"...Huh." Cool went silent, taking in all this information (and possibly taking a moment to process the big words Darlene had used). "Didn't Freezy have an older brother, though? Cooler, his name was. 'Cooler,' my ass. Did you know he was named that just to spite me?! Like, 'oh, my in-laws named their kid Cool, so I'm naming MY kid Cool-ER!' Can you believe it?! No WAY is anyone cooler than me! I'm the OG, baby!"

Darlene put her hand over the speaker so the call wouldn't pick up her pained sigh. "Cooler was, indeed, the first person we tried to contact, but his whereabouts are as of now unknown, as are those of his father. You were the only surviving family member we could get in touch with. However, I hope you understand that you are only authorized to the monetary reward. And the action figure. Expect it to arrive in the mail any day now."

"Freezy's got an action figure?! No way!" Cool's brain then managed to catch up to the rest of what Darlene had said. "Wait, what do you mean, not authorized?"

"As you may have surmised, Frieza was not the winner of Dante's Abyss," said Darlene. "However, he caused... quite a stir, during our sponsored event. In short, we want him back, and we're looking to sponsor his participation in next year's Dante's Abyss, and as you can probably imagine, any awards associated with that sponsorship need to be claimed by him personally. Unless you, yourself, are personally willing to enter next year's Dante's Abyss."

"What the FUCK?! No way, no how! I'm a lover, not a fighter!"

"I thought not. That being said, should you be willing to assist us in bringing Frieza back to life, you'll still receive a share of the benefits."

Cool smacked his lips together audibly as he mulled it over. "Hmmm... bring him back to life? I dunno, he'd probably want that seven thousand coin for himself... what's in it for me if I agree?"

"A lifetime supply of Pepsi products."

"SOLD!" Cool dramatically slammed a fist down on his desk. "Alright, what do I got to do?"

"As for reviving him," said Darlene, "there are many methods available to you. I'll leave that to you to figure out. As for the sponsorship deal, there is indeed some legwork required on your part. A financial representative will be in touch with you shortly. In the meantime, I suggest looking into whether you've inherited any more of your cousin's assets. Until then, good day, Mr. Toolbars."

Darlene hung up before Cool had a chance to ask any further questions, and pinched the bridge of her nose, exhaling slowly. Whatever happened from here on, Cool Toolbars was no longer her problem.

Meanwhile, Cool was scrolling through the apps on his phone, and opened up his voicemail.

He gawked at the screen.

"I have HOW MANY unread messages?!"
 
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Touko Fukawa

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The teleportation chamber buzzed to life as an underpaid delivery employee stepped into his personal hell for the next five to ten minutes.

Inside the FF Baja Blast was a labyrinthine assortment of black and neon blue gamer furniture and piled up garbage. It took the delivery man a good twenty seconds to spot the ship's sole occupant among the clutter, his ratty sweatpants and a Three Days Space t-shirt about four sizes too large for his body concealing him against a chintzy-looking fake leather couch as he sat absorbed in a Sex and the Space City rerun. Maybe he'd... gotten his hopes up too quickly, thinking PepsiCo had some kind of reason to trust this guy.

He cleared his throat, begging the alien's attention.

Though he hadn't been asleep, Cool was woken from his stupor with a start, scrambling to his feet like a cat who'd just been snuck up on by a cucumber. He stared straight at the intruder like he'd just been caught with his pants down on camera, before slowly releasing the tension in his shoulders as he realized he wasn't about to be robbed at gunpoint. "Oh, um... Hey... Dude? May I ask why you're uh... In my house?"

This was somehow not apparent by the PepsiCo branded jacket plus baseball cap, jeans with contrasting red pockets, and sneakers embroidered with Pepsi logos the parcel master was wearing. "Mister Toolbars, sir. I'm the deliveryman from PepsiCo. You scheduled twenty two hours ago that now was the most optimal time for product delivery, and so I have arrived with your promotional gear in addition to your earnings." He motioned to a large palette of cardboard boxes and stacks upon stacks of Mountain Dew cases, keeping up his professionalism the whole time.

"Aw fuck, that was like... now?" Despite his recognition of the problem, Cool did nothing even remotely close to lifting his ass off the couch. Instead, he motioned towards the low coffee table between himself and the massive home entertainment system haphazardly installed into a random wall with a flick of his tail, slapping it twice as one would motion a pet to hop up. The half dozen or so empty Dorito bags that adorned it crunched pitifully as he did. "Just put it here for now, I guess. I'll deal with it later."

"I do not think that table is structurally capable of holding the entire shipment, sir."

"Uh... Just put the good stuff there then, leave the soda on the woody rolly thing in the hall."

"I cannot give you the palette jack, sir." This went in one earhole and out the other, the alien just tilting his head. "...I can leave the wood, but not the... 'rolly thing.' They are separate."

"Shit... Guess just... Leave it, then. Damn it, why'd I have to be the one person in this family that doesn't have psychic powers?" Cool heaved a great sigh at the thought, partially of his own incompetence and partially at how much time he'd have to spend getting that soda into a fridge. How would he even manage to fit it all in there? Problems for Future Cool to deal with, he supposed.

Surprisingly, the deliveryman obliged his request to bring the best stuff over. He hefted a moderately sized box atop the table. Peering into it, it was full to the brim with assorted Dante's Abyss-themed paraphernalia. What must have been fifty posters of five or six different designs, a Frieza-themed action figure, and... Cool sat up just so he could pull out the last item and lift it up with one hand. It was a life-sized half-body pin-up of Karl Jak, thankfully the top half. On the back, there was a website that advertised the option to purchase the full image on various other... items of ill repute.

He was almost too distracted by this object's existence to notice the last delivery to his table- a small tray of muffins, each adorned with Frieza's face in amateurish buttercream icing. They looked... Boneless? Un-deadly? Inoffensive, his mind settled on. Well, at least he had something to eat later to go with all this Mountain Dew.

"So these muffins are imbued with healing energ-"

"Hey man, did you make sure to make some of that Mountain Dew red flavor? I mean, I know I said my favorite was Baja Blast, but I was kinda hoping for some red too." Clearly he was not paying attention to whatever he was being told. No, Cool was off in his own world as usual. "Red's just a more muffinlike flavor, in my opinion. Don't you think so?"

"...No, there was no red in this shipment. If you'd like, I can mark down that your next order should contain a suitable amount of... Red." The postman scribbled something on his clipboard, before pulling a packet of informational materials from behind it and setting it atop the palette of soda. "However, that next shipment is not set to arrive until after you've provided proof of Frieza's resurrection. So, please get in contact with us as soon as you're done with that."

"Aw man, but the muffins won't last that lo-"

The man had already grabbed the palette jack and teleported back out before Cool could finish his sentence, thoroughly finished with this interaction.

Cool smacked the tip of his tail against the floor irritably at his disappearance.

Fuck, he'd better hurry this up then. He couldn't eat these muffins without some sweet crimson ambrosia to go with them, and they wouldn't last that long.

Well, time to find those Dragon Balls!
 

Frieza

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Frieza had absolutely no way of measuring how much time had passed since he'd been trapped in this torturous saccharine nightmare.

It was always daylight, so there was no way of counting days. Even if he could, his cocoon rendered him immobile, so he couldn't actually keep a running tally. The only thing that did change was the cycle of fairies and automatons, who were clearly on rotating shifts so as not to leave him a moment's respite. Not that this did him any good, because he didn't know how long a single shift actually lasted.

Because every. Goddamn. Moment. Felt like maddening eternity.

Honestly, the worst part was the boredom. The awful music, the blinding colors, the fairies incessantly pestering him to "stop being such a sourpuss and come play with us"--that was all perfectly good and horrible, but it eventually faded to white noise. But being restrained, being unable to hold any train of thought without it being violently derailed by another verse of shrill, caterwauling "song"... that was torture. There was nothing he could do to distract himself, nothing he could do to endure it, except steel himself through rage. Rage against whatever cruel god had landed him in the crossroads, rage against that self-satisfied Karl Jak, rage against that detestable rodent who'd made him taste defeat, rage against his treacherous spandex-clad partner, rage against--

And another verse picked up and pierced through his train of thought. Again.

Frieza grit his teeth until his jaw threatened to break, struggled against his bonds until his body threatened to break. How something could be simultaneously so maddening and so boring, so asinine, he truly had no idea. It all blended together, one moment after another, in agonizing, mind-numbing cacophony.

Until something out of place caught his eye. Or, rather, someone.

Whoever this disheveled, gaunt-looking girl was, fidgeting like a plucked, shivering bird on display at a butcher's shop, she seemed about as out of place in this cheery meadow of sunshine and flowers as he did. She wasn't an oni, as far as he could tell, and definitely wasn't a fairy. That alone ranked her miles above literally anyone else he'd interacted with since coming here.

"You there," he called out. "Who are you?"

It seemed to take her a moment to realize she was being addressed, but when she did, she all but jumped out of her skin, bouncing about a full meter backwards and screeching something incomprehensible.

"W-Who am I? Who am I?! D-Don't act like you care!" she cried. "I can see through your tricks! You're only asking because you think I'll let you out of h-- uh, I mean... I don't know if I'm allowed to talk to you." Her voice shriveled to barely above a whisper.

Frieza gave her a slow, perplexed blink. What a strange character. "Please put whatever worries you have at ease," he said. Being let out would be nice, sure, but he was going to keep his expectations realistic. "I only ask because you're clearly different from the usual ilk."

"H-Huh?" She seemed pacified by his comment, staring up at him in surprise, but then she grit her teeth and went back on the defensive. "What's that supposed to mean?! I-Is it because I'm so much uglier than anyone else here?!"

"No, I..." What did that have to do with anything? Mammals weren't usually his type in general, sure, but at the moment his standards amounted to 'not a fairy' and 'capable of holding conversation.' "What I meant, is that you don't seem completely insufferable."

"Wh--" She gave him a wide-eyed stare, instinctively tugging on her braids. This turned out to be a terrible idea, because it was enough to dislodge a fragment of her damaged skull, which plopped onto the meadow below within a gooey chunk of brain matter. But she didn’t seem to notice. "That's... that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me..."

...Right. That sounded like it wasn't his problem. "Now that we have that straightened out, let me ask again: who are you," he glanced down at the lettering on her uniform. "Hi... phil?"

She blanched, and stretched out the fabric in question. 'HFIL,' it said. "Wait a minute, t-that’s not my name!” she squeaked. “It’s supposed to say ‘hell.’ T-They just gave me one with a misprint because...! Because they clearly don’t think I’m worth a proper uniform...” Her rage was bubbling under the surface again, but now her glare wasn’t directed at him, only at the uniform itself. “My name is Touko Fukawa.”

Finally, he was getting some answers out of her. “Miss Fukawa, is it? Well then, I don’t suppose you could tell me what you’re doing here?” He seriously doubted that she’d done anything to earn a punishment as severe as his. She didn’t particularly strike him as the truly heinous type.

It was hard to tell from this distance, but it seemed like the simple act of addressing her respectfully was enough to kill her on the spot. Again, not his problem.

“...Community service,” she grumbled so low he could barely make it out. “I should be out of here already...! I’ve already repented, but of course she has to fuck things up for me even after we’re both... d-dead...”

Her attention seemed to fade away as she spoke the last sentence as she stared at the ground below her feet. Namely, at the chunk of her brain and flesh juices splattered all over the flowers there. She squawked like a strangled, dying parrot, before covering her mouth with a hand as she dry-heaved, clenching her eyes shut and shivering violently. Before Frieza could even bother to ask what was wrong, or what she had meant, she had already collapsed forward onto the ground, unconscious, into the fetal position. Seconds later, she teleported away.

...Huh.

What a strange girl.
 
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Touko Fukawa

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He had gone through three six-packs of Mountain Dew and two muffins already, but there was no sign of any Dragon Balls anywhere.

Of course, it didn't really help that he was looking through butt-ass nowhere in space. Every little meteoroid could have theoretically been a mystical wish-granting artifact, but the proportion of them that actually were? Probably less than a tenth of one percent. It really would have helped if the Frieza Force had the sort of technology to track them, but given how royally fucked they'd been every time they got within spitting distance of Earth or Namek... Well, it had not been the top priority, to say the least.

It did mean Cool's collection of "space rocks shaped like alien wieners" had grown exponentially, though. Now THAT would absolutely bring in the big viewer numbers next live stream.

That being said, the search itself had worn him out to exhaustion. He had briefly considered stopping on Cevanti for a break, but after seeing the state of the planet on the recommended feed of Twiterra... Well, let's just say he noped the fuck out of that situation faster than you could say "baja blast." He certainly hoped the ship would be safe from that fate if he kept it in space for the conceivable future. That mess was not his problem and, Kaioshins willing, never would be.

The plans open on his laptop, in a notepad document, said that he'd probably have more luck near Inverxe for finding Frieza-related objects. After all, the PepsiCo sponsor had told him that was the planet he'd signed up for Dante's Abyss from. But that all seemed like an absurd amount of work for right now. Sure, his anatomy was designed for his own icy alma mater planet, but... the ship sure wasn't designed to travel over land fast. And he'd be damned if he was walking any sort of long distance on his own.

This ostensibly-royal blood of his was designed for a life of luxury, dammit! Luxury and cheap snacks!

...Man, his meals of entirely soda and chips weren't exactly satisfying, though.

He sighed as he opened up a program on his newly-purchased tablet, complete with obnoxious PepsiCo branding all over the back. It was an app that looked like something between Google Maps and an astronomy chart, albeit the landmarks were few and far between. There wasn't a lot of choice when it came to break stops in The Beyond- most of them were either glorified space truck stops that wouldn't have anything much better than what he was eating already, or stations owned by the big shipping or resource companies that were private only to their employees.

There was the Syntech main office a short jaunt away, but... He wondered if the eateries around the meteor were even open to the public when Dante's Abyss wasn't currently in session. From what he understood, the place was basically a constant amorphous construction zone when not in use to keep things a surprise for next year. That was nice and all, but it didn't really help the problem of a tummy filled with empty calories.

And no, he wasn't in the mood for SpaceDonalds. The company had just lost so much of its soul when they'd switched to that new mascot after Ronald's so-called incident half a year or so back... Plus, he was pretty sure his contract stated he was never to patronize a restaurant that hadn't fully bent the knee to his corporate overlords ever again in his life.

With some trepidation, he tapped the next closest light on the screen- one simply labelled "SPACEY'S. It's Good Food, In Space." The whole ship jolted and shifted as its autopilot switched on, sending it hurtling towards the restaurant far faster than he had been cruising beforehand. Sure, it wasn't his first choice, but...

Well, he guessed he could kind of go for a Grand Slam...
 
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