Serendipity: Shifting the Paradigm

BY : Ghost-of-a-Chance
Category: Dragon Ball Z > AU - Alternate Universe
Dragon prints: 1213
Disclaimer: I don't own DBZ, any of its characters/devices, or any books/movies/song mentioned; no money is being made from this story. I DO own my OCs...and a very fat cat named "Heifer."

There's good news and bad news. The good news: I'm going to post the remaining chapters (hopefully) over the rest of the month. (...don't hold your breath.)

The bad news? These won't necessarily be edited or improved chapters...there will be grammatical errors, to say the least. Right now my time is pretty booked and I'm dealing with some health issues which are restricting how much free time I have. This story is up to 12 chapters total on FFN and AO3; if I went through and got every chapter up to my current writing levels, it'd probably take months. Fortunately, you'll start seeing real improvement in the next few chapters, and by the time you reach, say, Bonds, you'll see be some major improvement. Once you hit Catalyst of a Looming Crisis it'll feel like an entirely different person wrote the story. Though I didn't post anything of it until 2017-ish, I started this story during my final years of college - I won't say just how many, but that's a lot of years worth of improvement and study. It's weak now but it gets better.

No serious warnings for this one other than language, angst, and Dakota. (Dakota needs a warning, trust me.)

Suggested Listening: The Rasmus "Chill," Linkin Park "What I've Done," Green Day "Still Breathing"

Lessons Learned and Bridges Burned

Any other day of the year, the Lookout was still and serene – an ivory tower above the insanity of the fast-paced world below – but not this day. This day, the marble halls echoed with crashes and non-explicit oaths in a foreign tongue, all emanating from the sanctuary's impressive library.

Over a week ago, Piccolo and Gohan brought a strange woman to the Lookout—a human woman in critical condition from what sounded like a training mishap—and for lack of a better phrase, Dende picked up some very strange vibes from her. Somehow she knew who he was, or, rather, what he was; strange unheard whispers on the very edge of Dende's senses told her what she should never have known. Once Piccolo and Gohan left with the dazed woman in tow Dende threw himself into finding answers. His first hypothesis, that she might be an Elemental, was dashed by the absence of any identifying markings, but apparently only Willow Clan Elementals were marked. After seven full days of increasingly frustrated searching, Dende was no closer to an answer than the day Sierra nearly bled to death at his feet.

Initially, Mister Popo was hesitant to intrude no matter what horrible crashing noises he heard; after all, Dende-Kami was a very busy guardian and surely he had everything under control.* A sudden panicked squawk dashed that belief to bits, though, and the Djinn rushed to his master's rescue. At first, the nervous Namekian felt sure the latest mountain of books was truly about to come crashing down on his head. When nothing happened, he hazarded a wary peek up through his elbow. Several centuries worth of texts – logs and journals kept by many previous Kami of the Lookout – hovered overhead courtesy of his perpetually cheerful assistant. With a sigh of relief, Dende gave him a sheepish wave.

"Thanks, Mister Popo," he greeted as the other effortlessly banished each text back to its original spot without so much as lifting a finger. "I thought I was a goner!"

"You should be more careful, Dende-Kami," Popo admonished cheerfully. Exhausted from his long search, Dende trudged over to his favorite armchair and slumped into the overstuffed cushions, his mind spinning from the fruitless searching. "Something has been troubling you." The young Kami gave the Djinn a weak smile and tugged at his neck sheepishly.

"It's that woman Piccolo-san brought by," he admitted softly. "I can't figure out how she knew me—how could she possibly know me, Mister Popo?" Dende's bare eyebrows pinched tightly together, his dark eyes searching the shelves for any logs or journals he'd missed. "My first thought was elemental—there are people on Earth who are born with extraordinary abilities based in the five elements, and a spirit-based elemental ability would explain what happened…but she's unmarked! I found no evidence of any such markings—no moles, no birthmarks, not even a freckle!" Suddenly his eyes flew wide open. "Wait—she had a mole by her upper lip, didn't she?" Popo gave him a slightly condescending smile and hovered to reach a high shelf Dende hadn't checked yet.

"To every rule," he reminded approaching with a sizable tome, "there are exceptions. Humans, especially, are full of such exceptions. The young lady is not elemental." Dende's shoulders visibly drooped at the statement; if anyone would know, though, it was Mister Popo, the assistant to every Kami who came before Dende. "Perhaps she simply has extra sensory perception? It does occur on occasion."

"ESP?" Dende parroted back in surprise. "I…guess she could…anything's possible, right?"

"When the Human race is involved," Mister Popo affirmed with his trademark grin, "anything is truly possible." Both jumped at a sudden shout outside the Lookout, exchanged a worried glance, and took off to investigate. Piccolo paced the tiles muttering to himself, every now and then glancing sharply over the side to the world below, only to start swearing under his breath anew.

"What's wrong, Piccolo-san?" Dende asked only to receive a venomous snarl back.

"What's wrong?!" Piccolo snapped back as Dende inched away, glancing awkwardly at Popo. "That damn woman's wrong!" As the older Namekian launched into a loud tirade about Sierra's latest misstep—something about throwing her back out by insisting on helping Bulma with groceries—Dende struggled to hold back the smile pulling at his lips. As much as he supposedly detested the human woman, Piccolo sure spent a lot of time complaining about her…and he wasn't normally the sort to waste time on people he despised.

The warrior doth protest too much.

Like so many times before, Sierra found her eyes drawn to the window—or, rather, the inexplicable sudden bursts of movement in the skies outside that window. As she'd met Bulma for coffee on the top floor of Capsule Corps, she couldn't believe that she was seeing anything significant when her eyes caught movement; surely it was only birds.

"Those boys are sure impressive, huh?" Bulma commented knowingly. Sierra's empty brown eyes met hers, seemingly void of any reaction.

"Boys?" the Latina asked in her slight monotone. "Whadda you mean?" The heiress glanced pointedly out the window.

"That's Trunks and Goten training out there. I'm surprised you can keep track of their movement—most of the time, I can't keep up with them for the life of me." Sierra looked back to the window, considering the brief glimpses of movement with a skeptical frown. "It's a lot to get used to, huh?"

"Yeah," she admitted into her coffee. "I've lived here several years now but I'm still gettin' used to the technicolor hair an' flyin' cars…flyin' people an' aliens is pushin' it. 'Til my folks moved to Gingertown, the strangest thing I'd ever seen was Dakota—that pyro was born with grey hair, but she wears it well."

On a lonesome highway at the other end of the continent, a battered grey VW microbus rattled down the road hauling a long moving trailer behind it. In the cab, an off-key voice wailing "Bark at the Moon" suddenly cut off in a loud sneeze. "Ah, dammit," Dakota swore sniffling, her grey eyes leaving the road. For a moment she rooted through the console with only one eye on the road. Wait…didn't she move the tissue box to the glovebox?

A loud blaring horn cut her search short; realizing she'd drifted into the other lane, she swerved back into her own and sent the driver of the SUV a sheepish grin behind her long spiky grey bangs. Perhaps because she had snot-nose, he simply flipped her off and gunned the engine. "Yeah, yeah, go fuck yourself," Dakota grumbled at the unhearing driver and finally locating the tissue box under the front edge of her seat. Of course, she remembered swiping her nose clean, she'd moved them there so she could reach them easier. "Damn Hummer-lover—probably compensating for tiny man-bits." Resolving to put the driver's manners out of her head, she swept her spiky bangs back behind her ears with a manic grin. "All this sneezin's gettin' annoying—people need'a stop talkin'bout how awesome I am when I ain't around t'agree!"

The garden was full of life and beauty, and to anyone else, it would be a calming, cheerful place to relax. Sierra wasn't 'anyone else,' though…instead of relaxing her, it was a glaring reminder of the long list of mistakes she made which led her there.

Rio…Rowan…Cor…their names were evermore on her mind in moments like this, their presence a taunting reminder of her failures. Those women, after all, were her family—the only family she had left—and she shut them out without a backward glance. Now she knew the truth, that she was suffering from depression and struggling under her ever-worsening back problems and joint pain, but it didn't make her feel any less of an idiot. She'd make it up to her family someday—someday they might forgive her for shutting them out and running off—but in the meantime, she needed to at least let them know she was still alive.

The phone buzzed against her ear, a harsh sound amidst the birdsong overhead. Seriously, she thought wryly, only the Briefs family were hardcore enough to import songbirds for an indoor garden. Finally, the ringing ended in a disconnect tone. She pulled back to study the screen in disbelief, that disbelief falling to dread. The botany shop's phone was out? When she still worked there, it never lapsed…surely the shop wasn't closed…was it? Shaking off her worries she speed-dialed another number—the cellphone number of her sister and the co-owner of the shop.

In the otherwise cheerful garden, the somber Latina sat silently, an endlessly ringing phone her only companion.

A fixer-upper outside the outskirts of Ginger Town

When her cell phone began to ring, Cordelia Stone knew for sure it was bad news. After all, she reasoned knuckling one bloodshot blue eye, when you're broke, unemployed, and still dealing with the aftermath of having your uninsured shop go up in flames, all you ever got was bad news. Sweeping her long, curly black hair out of her face, she stared down at the cracked smartphone on the coffee table. It was hard to determine the ID photo between the spider web of lines crisscrossing the screen, but she knew the number by heart.

Sierra. She winced, instinctively backing away from the device. Her older sister Sierra was alive, somehow, and trying to reach her. Perhaps something happened…perhaps she was hurt, lost, even dying and needed help! Perhaps—Cor cut herself off, steeling her nerves.

When Stone Botany Shoppe opened, she and Sierra shared the job equally according to their skills. Sierra managed the finances, hard decisions, advertising and customer service, and Cordelia managed the plant care, stocking, upkeep, and custom floral arrangements. Under their care, the establishment was a success and they were even looking to expand their services. Then Sierra started acting strangely…she couldn't handle physical tasks, she kept throwing out her back, and she started spacing out during the bookkeeping. Worst yet, she forgot to mail in their last quarterly insurance payment and their coverage lapsed without so much as a reminder or warning from the company.

Then, as if everything else wasn't going to pot, she vanished…just stopped showing up to work. A week later, Cor got a letter of resignation from her and a notarized document signing over all shares in the property, business, and any and all future profits. Sierra's twin sister, Susana-Ria, went nearly out of her mind trying to find her twin, and Rio's daughter Rowan was left picking up the pieces.

At first, Cordelia was horrified by Sierra's vanishing act and intent on finding her, dragging her home, and at the very least boxing her ears. When an electrical fire broke out in the shop next to theirs and spread to every building on the block, Cordelia gave up caring. If she was honest with herself, she still didn't care…and that lack of caring should concern her.

At her knee, Ralph Barfallonyou—a rather scruffy German Shepherd-Irish Wolfhound mix—whimpered and pawed at the already worn sofa. "Don't gimme that look," Cor argued as his expressive pointed ears went from flat to upright, to half and half, and started over again. She pointed feebly at the phone, well aware he couldn't comprehend her reasons. "Dai made her choices—she made her bed—I ain't gonna lie in it with'er! She's a big girl, Ralphie, I'm not—"

Without warning, the oversized lapdog leapt up onto the sofa next to her and crawled over her lap, nudging her round cheeks insistently. Just like that, all the wind was sucked out of her sails. Choking up, she wrapped her arms around his neck and cried. "Dai," she whimpered into Ralph's smelly fur. "What'd I do wrong? Why'd you have to leave?"

On the table, the phone finally went to voicemail; on the other end of the line, the broken caller realized yet another truth she shouldn't be able to. Something happened to their shop, and Cordelia was left alone to shoulder the burden. If she ever forgave her, it wouldn't be anytime soon.


ende startled at the sudden voice—tentative, soft, and incredibly feminine—and glanced every which way to find the speaker. Only when he found himself completely alone in the Lookout's library did he remember the obvious. He was the Earth's (still somewhat new and very overwhelmed) guardian, and unlike on planet Namek, Earth's inhabitants often sought the guidance of their guardian, whether or not they knew just what he was.

Sometimes these people called simply for 'God;' sometimes they specifically asked for 'the kami of Earth' or 'the guardian of Earth.' More often than not, though, those who sought his help were completely oblivious, felt pretty silly for asking for help from a being that may or may not be a flying pile of spaghetti, and only turned to him because they had nowhere else to turn.

Feeling sure this was another such instance, Dende hurried outside to the edge of the Lookout to locate the caller…and, of course, to get a clearer signal. Unfortunately, while a Namekian's ears seemed large enough to receive satellite broadcasts from galaxies away, they were about as helpful in that manner as a tinfoil hat.

Are…are you there…um…Kami-sama? The speaker mumbled to herself, clearly feeling like an imbecile for speaking to thin air, and Dende followed the faint grumbles like an invisible trail of breadcrumbs. It is Kami, right? Mama said I shouldn't call ya Kami, that I should call ya God…but you're not really God, are ya? That'd be just weird as heck…I mean of all the planets you could become God of, ya got stuck with this one—I'd want a refund.

As she rambled on and he searched the masses of souls for hers, Dende found himself vividly picturing the girl calling for him, filling in the blanks with details supplied by his imagination. She was young—probably pre-pubescent—and had big, innocent eyes. He imagined a sweet heart-shaped face framed with soft curly blonde hair tied in bows, and a dainty childish figure clad in some frilly pink dress.

This's stupid, the soul sighed in defeat. I'm wasting my time…you probably can't hear me anyway, even if you're there. At moments like this, Dende loved his job more than anything…after all, part of his job involved bringing hope and comfort to those who cried out for it. With practiced ease, he closed his eyes, reached out to the soul in need, and sent forth a small psychic 'nudge.' That nudge manifested differently with each soul. Some experienced a sudden feeling of comfort and warmth, some felt as though some unseen person had clasped a supportive hand on their shoulder. Reportedly, there were even instances when that 'nudge' manifested instead as unexplained anomalies in their environment—pages turning in a book, unexplained footsteps or whispers, sometimes even the apparition of a lost loved one—but Earthlings loved to talk, and Dende suspected many of these 'occurrences' were exaggerated.

WHA?! He could practically see the cherubic child's wide-eyed expression as she received the sign she needed; he wondered how her version of the psychic comfort manifested. I did NOT have that radio on – an' why the heck did it start playing "Broken Hallelujah?" I mean, if it was a hymn, I'd get that, but that was Leonard Cohen's version—that ain't exactly a good case for divine guidance! Dende gaped down at the world below, speechless. Huh…maybe those reports of bizarre phenomenon weren't so exaggerated. Well, one thing's for sure…if that's your way'a provin' you're there, ya got a weird sense'a humor—I like ya! Oh, how precious…

Without warning, the young guardian's every thought ground to a sudden screeching halt. He finally found the soul calling for him…and she looked nothing like he'd imagined. No chubby-cheeked child, she was nearly a woman—a senior in high school despite her endearing naivety and unfiltered speech—and she looked every bit the adult, if a little too thin and petite. Long, sleek carrot red hair spilled from her high ponytail, side-set spikey bangs brushing thin eyebrows. Big, guileless eyes—greener than grass, almost as green as the guardian's verdant skin—stared warily at the radio as though expecting it to suddenly start belting out something even more sarcastic.

As he studied the woman-child kneeling beside her unkempt bed, the history hidden in her soul filled in the blanks. She was a sickly child unexpected to survive infancy, and though she was nearly eighteen, she was still weaker than her peers. Her mother was still a child herself when the precocious redhead was conceived—barely sixteen and in an illicit relationship with a much older man with a long criminal record. The little redhead had a rough start in life and still had it rough…and recently, she found herself with nowhere else to turn.

She was…she was lovely…this was not good. Sweat broke out on Dende's brow as he waited for the redhead to speak again; she didn't disappoint. "Well," she mumbled aloud staring down at the messy sheets of her twin bed with an incredulous expression. "Uh…my name's Rowan…but ya probably already knew that, didn't ya?" Rowan…the name was English in origin, he recalled distantly—maybe a reference to a species of tree? "It's about my aunt…an' my mom…" She shook her head, her shapely face twisted in irritation. "Aw, Hell, to be honest, my whole family's screwed right now."

Tell me, he urged silently, careful to only send her comfort, not insistence. Tell me how I can help you.

"Things haven't been the same since Gram'pa died," Rowan admitted weakly, her eyes downcast. "Then Gra'ma died too…Mom started backsliding again. Usually Aunt Dai's there to pick up the pieces and get Mom back on track…but she's missing." Green eyes watering, Rowan choked up. "Aunt Dai's missing, Kami-sama—we don't even know if she's still alive…an' Auntie Cor's given up entirely…please, we need your help—we need your guidance!"

As if he wasn't already surprised enough by her deceptively mature appearance, Rowan threw him for a loop again; an image of a familiar woman filled his mind, broadcasted to him by the hopes, prayers, and wishes of a loving niece. Rowan's Aunt Dai was the very woman Dende healed not that long ago…Sierra Daiyu Stone. The woman who nearly bled out at his feet was the redhead's missing aunt!

What to do…what to do, what to do! Dende found himself pacing restlessly, sweat beading on his skin and his heavy cloth habit becoming unbearably constrictive. He wanted nothing more than to tell the young woman the truth—that her aunt was alive, if not well, and that he was keeping an eye on her—but such communication was taboo! If every mortal who cried to him for answers GOT those answers, they would begin relying on him for everything—even things they were completely capable of doing for themselves! What to do…what to do…

At the very edge of the Lookout, he came to a sudden stop, his senses tuned to the young woman still pouring her heart out in hopes he heard her. "Please, Kami-sama," she whispered, her wide eyes locked on the radio, hoping for a sign from the silent appliance.

Dende stared down at Rowan, silently taking in the sight of her—from the shadows under her eyes to the messy state of her hair. 'The rules' stated that he couldn't answer questions asked of him, that he couldn't interfere with the people of earth finding their own paths. Until this particular earthling begged him for help, he had never even known the answers to their questions. 'The rules' forbade direct, intentional interaction with mortals…but the young redhead was counting on him for comfort…she had nowhere else to turn…and technically, he'd already interfered by healing her aunt...

Screw the rules. Focusing with all his might and ignoring that little voice in his head that insisted he was playing with fire, Dende looked in on the radio stations she might pick up. Finding one that would work, he reached out another, stronger psychic nudge, this time aimed directly at the radio in Rowan's bedroom. Just like before, the appliance came to life, this time broadcasting something more appropriate for an answer.

'Cause I'm still breathing,
'cause I'm still breathing on my own!
My head's above the rain and roses,
making my way, away—
my way to you.

Rowan stared at the radio in disbelief as the song ended and a commercial break came on. She knew that song—knew the rest of the lyrics—and above all, she knew it was her answer. "Alive?" she whispered aloud, her verdant eyes tearing up. "Dai's…alive…?" The redhead choked up, whispering her thanks, and promising to stay strong until her aunt showed up again. Dende broke the rules—for the first time since he took the job, he broke the rules—but he couldn't yet find it in him to regret it.

"Some rules are meant to be broken." The sudden remark made Dende spin about to face Mister Popo.

"H-How did you—?!" he stammered, a flash of muddy red streaking across his cheeks. Popo just gave another of his awkward, vacuous smiles.

"Some rules," he elaborated slowly, "are not absolute—they are meant to be broken when the time calls for it. Your job as Kami is to determine when those rules are to be broken, and when they are to be kept." Without another word, the djinn strolled off toward the garden, leaving Dende completely stunned. He wasn't in trouble…he hadn't done anything wrong…His face split in a big, toothy grin, he turned back to the edge, seeking out Rowan's aunt amongst the rest of the mortals below.

Sometimes he really, really loved his job…moments like this one made up for everything he had to sacrifice for it.





So now you've met a couple more of the major players in this story, and a few more minor faces, too. The question is which is which? ;)

*Dende-Kami - Head-canon. Mister Popo was the assistant to every previous Kami, but he seemed most attached to the one we knew simply as "Kami." When Kami and Piccolo merged, Popo had to say goodbye to a dear friend. Then, Dende took on the mantle of Kami in his stead, but everyone still called him "Dende" instead of "Kami." I've got Popo calling him "Dende-Kami" for many reasons, but the main ones are: 1, Dende still prefers his name but Popo feels it improper to address him without his title, 2, Popo may still see 'Kami' as his favorite master and feel sad at the idea of really moving on to another, and 3, though he is now Kami, Dende took on the mantle of authority without all the training other Kamis had to undergo - he is still in training to make up for that. This last one also explains his interactions with Popo in the beginning and end of this chapter.

**Green Day, "Still Breathing"

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