One small light began twinkle gently deep on the stage. It was a candle, lit by nothing but the cool might air. The audience gasped as one, thrilled by the magic present.
A slender figure crept along the boards which made up the stage. Covered in a blanket of blackness, the crowd could not discern what sex or even at all what the figure looked like. Stealthily, the shadow person lingered just outside the flickering circle of candlelight, preventing any insight to their existence.
The audience peered into the darkness, trying to uncover the mystery person’s appearance, their curiosity growing every second a thousand times.
They waited no longer however, when the figure stepped beyond the edges of the pale yellow circle of light to reach the candle and raise it with their hands to illuminate their face.
The people gathered feasted their eyes on the strangest looking woman they had ever seen.
"Gods," whispered one woman to another. "She’s odd-looking. Who ever heard of a woman who had blue hair?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
As she crept around the candle, Bulma tried to guess how long it would be before her parents came home. "Not long enough," she whispered to herself. She held the candle up, calculating in her head how far the wick had burned down. This was the only way she knew to tell lengths of time. It was easy enough to make equal candles and Bulma had long ago learned how to judge how much time had passed by how far the candle had burned down, telling time in quarter, half, three-quart and full-wicks.
"It’s already gone a half-wick and I haven’t even managed to conceive of a way to climb down from this godforsaken tower," Bulma ground her teeth in annoyance. As punishment for a trick played on a friend of hers, she had been locked in their castle’s highest tower on the night of the year’s biggest party.
"I will not miss Chichi’s party. I have my dress ready and brushed to wear downstairs in my room. All I need to do is be down there!" Bulma cried out in frustration. She closed her eyes in an effort to calm herself down. "Come on Bulma, think!"
She walked over to the window and looked down. Below were the grounds of her parents estate, liberally dotted with trees and woods and water holes. "Ooooooh," she murmured before pulling away. Not one to admit fear of anything, even heights, Bulma stepped back for only a moment and then leaned over again. Curtailing her nausea, she searched for anything that would help her down.
There were no footholds or grips for her to climb down, although Bulma was torn between anger that she couldn’t escape that way and relief that she wouldn’t have to try. Even she was a bit weary of scaling extremely high walls in skirts.
"I also don’t fancy giving the entire world a flash of my undergarments," she laughed quietly. "Though it wouldn’t be the first time." Looking back to the candle, she swore under her breath. She was running out of time and soon her parents would be home. If her parents were to arrive home from their dinner with friends, there was no hope that Bulma would be able to go the party. They had taken all the servants from the castle and sent them home in fear, and resignation, that Bulma would be able to entice them to let her out from her stone cage. This was their last resort as punishment and were finally taking extreme measures.
"But it’s Chichi’s birthday. I can’t miss it!" She had yelled in protest, upon hearing of her punishment. "Do you even realise how many good-looking harming men are going to be there!?" Her parents had shaken their heads in disapproval before her mother spoke. "Bulma, we do this for your own good. You are far too wild and while anyone appreciates liveliness and humour in a person, you are taking events too far. That horrible joke on Yamcha was not funny, dear one." She had to look away to prevent herself from laughing at Bulma’s face of humour and mirth at her friend’s misfortune. "But it was! It’s just that no one got it," she trailed off. Her parents just nodded to the two servants waiting nearby, and the servants had ‘escorted’ Bulma to the tower she now resided in.
"Escorted my arse. Those bastards dragged me up those stairs and I shall show them the bruises tomorrow to prove it," Bulma decided indignantly. "Now to escape from my lofty chains and get to that party!"
She spent another quart-wick looking for a way down before hearing the ‘helloooo’ from outside. "Whoever could that be?" Bulma wondered in delight as she skipped to the window. Whoever it was would now help her to escape and find a way to the damn party. Bulma prepared herself to be as charming as the morning dew, as a few people knew she could be when she chose to.
Peering out the window and to the ground below, she started when she realised who it was. "Oh, hello, Yamcha," She said loudly but hesitantly, not sure whether he was here for revenge. "Uh, how are you?"
The normally black-haired handsome man smiled sweetly back up at her. "Oh I have been better. Despite what you seem to think, I liked the colour of my hair!" He finished angrily as he shook the bright purple locks of his thick hair, the result of Bulma’s latest joke and an altercation with the right mix of herbs. "However, I think I’m better off than you at the moment. Only a little while till your parents are home and you still haven’t found a way down from your stone tower. Oh well. I’m off to Chichi’s party," he added with a cheeky smile. "I’ll come back tomorrow and tell you about it."
He turned to walk off but turned back at the sound of Bulma’s voice. "Okay, okay, I’m sorry, Yamcha. I promise to fix your hair if you will only let me out of this damned room and take me quickly to the party before my parents arrive home," she begged to him imploringly.
Yamcha hestitated maddeningly in his answer, "We have this game many times before, the result always being that I am the treacherous villain taking you away. Excepting your parents, all the members of this town wish you to remain seen as a poor lost heroine who falls into my devious trap. Well, not this time, you impudent monkey," He cried with determination. "This time it is you who is the villain and I am the.."
Quick as a snap, Bulma yelled cheekily, "And you are the heroine? Yamcha, I always knew you had a hankering for woman’s clothing, though I never expected you to be so forthright about it." She laughed heartily as her good friend puffed in indignation and strove to make amends, "I laughed at your expense and I now regret it for you deserve no such accusation. Indeed, there is no man more brave and strong as you, my good prince." She smiled down at him, and Yamcha, unable to remain angry for longer smiled back.
He answered finally just as he had planned. "I’ll have you out of that room before the moon rises another notch, if," he added quickly, "if you will fix my hair tonight, you damnable wench! For being the best friend a person could hope for, you have repaid me with hair that looks like one of your mother’s flowers!"
Bulma smothered a giggle before answering, "Fine, good sir, that is fine for me. Rescue me, you brave prince, only you will receive no kiss in return. Instead, you will receive your dignity, which I stole from you and now am I much ashamed for it. Rescue me quickly, allow me time to retrieve my clothes and we shall prepare together at your abode for the party which awaits us tonight."
Yamcha, much pleased by this pretty speech, ran like the wind up the stairs and quickly lifted the bolts that prevented Bulma from leaving. The door, once pushed open, was rushed past by a young woman with blue hair and bright blue eyes to match. She leapt onto Yamcha and enveloped him in a hug.
"Dearest friend, I apologise a thousand times for the deceitful trick which I played on you and I shall soon make amends. Come, to my rooms where my clothes reside, then on to immortality, for that is what we shall find in the joy and high spirits of our planned party of tonight." Bulma pulled Yamcha by the hand and led him down the many stairs where from her rooms she took her clothes.
They left together, with Bulma pausing only at the door for a second in apology to her parents, "I wish I could be the daughter who would behave for you, but I cannot be that way." Leaping out with Yamcha, skipping into the night, she said to herself,
"I am destined for greater things."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The stage caller paused for a moment from his narration, looking over the crowds. The stage went black again as the lights dimmed.
"And now we leave our mischievous young heroine to join another journeying soul." A cold wind blew through the crowd, leaving them shivering and afraid in the tempestuous atmosphere of the cool early night.
On stage, a silhouette appeared on stage, though this time it was quickly followed by another. The crowds waited with bated breath to see where the story would lead them.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Kicking the ground ungratefully, the tall man lagged behind his friend. He leant over to pull up a flower and stare into its depths as though he was trying to read its secrets. The scenery was beautiful and tranquil, there were birds chirping prettily and enticingly to human ears. The deep forest was in its full spring bloom and was so charmingly innocent yet seductive that the young man was having trouble walking in a straight line. He knew soon he would have his story, his muse would help him. It was so close, he had only to reach it and snatch it out of fate’s grasp….
The young man jumped out of his daze to face his shorter companion. "Yeah, Vegeta?"
"Would you stop staring idiotically into the foliage and hurry up?! I want to be out of here by dawn!" Vegeta yelled at him, frustrated by their slow progress through the strange woods. "And your wonderful idea of supporting us with your mad scribblings is working wonders too, isn’t it?" He asked sarcastically.
His companion replied with a scratch of his head and a cheesy grin. And then, "The muse was with me, Vegeta, I felt her warm touch. I was so close to my story….."
"Ha. More likely you were daydreaming about some wench left behind. And that is the only warm touch you will ever be graced with, for the muses are obviously loath to dirty their hands on such uncleanliness as yourself," Vegeta smirked at him.
"Scoff all you want. It is my mad scribblings that will save your royal body from any more fights." Goku kicked again at the ground, laughing quietly to himself. "That last fight was definitely the most interesting however, and I would not mind being witness to more."
"Heh," Vegeta cackled. "I did not think men of that age could scream so highly. I think even the Gods were smiling upon us that day, old friend."
"And they shall again. My muse will give me a lingering kiss from which inspiration will spring and then.."
"And then the cows will dance us a merry dance while the grazing sheep sing a sea shanty." Vegeta left the mocking words behind him to reach Goku’s ears. "I care not for your whimsical mutterings of muses and stories so don’t continue the longwinded speech I know is coming." He began walking faster, "Like I said, all I want is to reach the next town and find somewhere to rest my head and gain some supplies. I suppose it will have to be the usual way since your muses," he spat the last word out sarcastically, "have abandoned you."
"Fine, fine, I will move along faster. How long must we stay on the roads? It is a poor fortune passed to me that sends this non-abating path ahead of my weary feet. His Lordship can not follow us for ever. There are certain to be matters that must be attended to at his….your estate. Surely, he will desist soon," Goku said, believing it to be true.
"He will follow me to the ends of the earth, and if not him, then his ridiculous henchmen. You know that while I am alive, I am a threat to his fortune, that which is rightfully mine. And that which I shall regain to my trust when the fates decree it so. Until then, " Vegeta paused, turned and snarled Goku’s shirt around his fingers and dragged him faster along behind him. "Until then, we remain on the roads, travelling where our waxing and waning fortunes take us, just as the moon travels across the sky."
Goku sighed in resignation but quickly smiled when he saw a meandering, clear river where he could quench his growing thirst.
"Don’t even think about it." Vegeta didn’t even turn around.
"How could you…..how did you….it’s not….I’m….." Goku sputtered in reply.
"I will not let you waste time at a piddling river, when a town full of women, money and alcohol awaits us. You may thank me later," Vegeta called over his shoulder as he strode on.
"Oh may I? Really?" Goku muttered under his breath as he cast longing looks to the river he left behind.
"And would you hurry up!?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Now as the candles, those flickering sparks of life, faded away, the moon hid it’s pale mourning face behind a dark cloud sent by the gods. The stage, before full of greenery and life, discoloured to a pitch black. Nothing could be seen beyond the void of light.
Until snakes of ribbon fluttered gently on a light breeze over the heads of the people. From shades so pale they were almost white to the brightest hues of orange and red and blue, they made a sunset, a riot of colours which hung themselves all over the stage, brightening it with their own luminescence. And as the stage filled with light, so did people become obvious to the eye. Each wearing beautiful clothes and a mask to hide their face.
The Masquerade had begun.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Yamcha and Bulma waltzed each other about the room, gallivanting happily. Yamcha looked very dashing in his black pants and loose white shirt. His black mask was stark, without adornment but left any observer wondering who he might be. Bulma drew eyes to herself like the morning star, in a lacy, bead embroidered dress, coloured pale blue although it shone silver when the light struck it in a certain way. Her mask was white with opals embroidered around the eyes, flashing fire and ice every time she moved. Laughing joyously together they slowed and stopped with the music, moving to join a striking woman with black hair.
"Chichi, you have outdone yourself this time. People will speak of this party for years to come with envy in their hearts if they did not attend. It is simply magnificent!" Bulma smiled to her.
"Well, I thought it best to celebrate my birthday in the style of a queen this year as that is what I have decided I shall be," Chichi said back, sure of herself as the coming day.
"The best of luck in your endeavours to achieve your goal in becoming our ruler, Chichi, and a wonderful birthday to you too," Yamcha said charmingly and smiled his dimpled smile at her. Holding out a hand, they left Bulma to go dance together. Neither worried about her, knowing full well she could take care of herself.
Smiling at acquaintances, she declined two men who wished to dance and walked out into the starry night. Breathing in deeply, she watched as a wind whipped some leaves off the ground, leading them in a graceful wild dance across the sky. A tickle of foreboding struck her and trouble hit her sparkling eyes. "I have some terrible feeling that tonight will seal something in stone, that tonight I will begin to walk the thorny path that leads to my destiny." She looked up into the night, then smiled in determination. "Why should I fear this, if it should be so. For mortals do often know when their fate is set and realise it with less trouble then I." Picking up her skirts, Bulma spun in circles until the world tilted around her and she fell to the ground. The stars spun above her…..with the moon…..and the trees……. Chichi’s head……
Bulma sat up and promptly groaned.
"Yes, you do insist on making yourself sick with spinning." Chichi laughed down at her. "Come, friend, there are two young men who are challenging for a fight. It’s so exciting and they are very, very dashing." Chichi held out her hand and Bulma hauled herself up.
"By all means, let us go and witness the fight. It shall liven everyone up and perhaps we may place a bet and win some money for ourselves," Bulma giggled as, arm in arm, the two girls tripped away together.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Vegeta peered through the trees at the brightly lit house, listened to the cheery music and smirked evilly. "Kakarrot, we have found some luck. And a house full of drunk souls who will not mind a fight and a loss of money to us."
"To the Gods, Vegeta why do you insist on continuing to call me Kakarrot? You know I do not appreciate it," Goku snapped. "I am tired and wish to sleep. You know I love fighting as much as you but I am hungry and sleep drags my eyes. Can’t fighting wait til tomorrow?"
Vegeta’s reply was to drag him closer.
"Ugh, fine," Goku moaned.
"Look, it is a masquerade. The gods are smiling on us, to give us this stroke of fortune. Come on," Vegeta hurried to the two closest party goers, hit them soundly on the back of their heads and snatched off their masks before they hit the ground. "There is a roof and two firm beds in store for us tonight." He handed Goku one of the masks and placed his own over his eyes.
The two men walked quickly and silently towards a group of men gathered outside the house.
Vegeta announced his presence as subtly as he always did. Without subtlety.
"Young boys, where are some men I might challenge for a decent fight?" He asked loudly. The men turned in outrage, each being around his age and some older.
"Foolish churl, there is not a man standing here who could not beat you with one hand behind his back!" One man roared to him in anger.
Vegeta grinned and beckoned to him. "Fine, good fellow, I will take that as a challenge. Let us see who is the better man then."
Goku had begun making the rounds, taking and making bets, already knowing what the outcome would be.
The fight was over almost before it was begun. The man had lashed out and Vegeta knocked him out cold with a deft flick of his wrist. The crowd gasped and moved closer as one.
"Can this town offer any better than that?" He yelled in challenge. Out of the corner of his eye, Vegeta saw two women detach themselves from the crown and run to the mainstay. Not caring in the least, Vegeta smirked at the crowd and waited for an answer.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Bulma watched in awe as the masked stranger struck down a man from the town. She congratulated herself for her fine judgement on betting on the dark stranger winning. "His hair is so odd," she whispered to Chichi who stood close by. "Like you can talk," Chichi scoffed back," And anyway, while you may have your eye on him, I find his companion much more intriguing."
Bulma just knocked Chichi with her elbow. "I do not have any part of my body on him. He is far too intense for my liking." She quietened when he spoke again in a gravelly deep voice.
"Can this town offer any better than that?" He yelled in defiance. "It certainly can," whispered Bulma wickedly to Chichi. Then inspiration struck. "Chichi, let’s away. I have an idea."
"But I wish to watch the next fight," Her friend had protested.
Bulma just dragged her up to the house, past the remaining guests and into her room. "Chichi, I will be the next fight."
Chichi just stared at her.
Bulma sighed and continued. "I can fight as well as any man, though for the circumstances at hand I am the wrong sex. Dress me, hide my gender and I promise this will be my only adventure for tonight. No more trouble will I cause you, only I have a hankering for a decent spar."
Chichi rolled her eyes and shrugged. "I am not of the disposition tonight to argue with you, though I shall not be blamed when you are laid unconscious on the ground. That man fights like none I have seen before, and while you can match any man around here, I can feel he is different."
"Enough diddle daddle, by the time we are done he will be gone. Quickly now, we must make haste," Bulma urged and so the two girls stripped her clothes, dressed her in male dress and hid her vibrant hair beneath a cap.
Chichi nodded, "You look very effeminate but it will have to do. If this is what your mind has made up then lets to the fight."
They ran down quickly, and saw the man had laid another two men down on the ground. He now stood waiting for his fourth challenger.
Bulma eyed him, studying his physique. "Not bad," she murmured to herself, looking from a woman’s point of view. She rolled her eyes at her own foolish behaviour and strode forward, shouldering people out of her path in as manly a way as possible.
The man turned and smirked, "Have you sent for boys not past their child years to fight me now? Away with you, boy. I do not fight children."
"I challenge you, brave fool. I am no child and I promise that before long you will be on the ground," Bulma ground out, rage building in her veins at his dismissive tone.
He only smirked again and settled into a fighting stance that was obviously familiar to him. "Come then. Show me how well you fight."
* * * * *