DISCLAIMER: I do not own DBZ nor do I claim to. Please don’t sue me, I’m only borrowing the characters and I have no money.
Vegeta watched the young boy as he swaggered forward, obviously trying his hardest to look like a grown man of twenty seasons. "You’d do well, lad," he chuckled unkindly, "to ran back to your mother’s skirts."
The boy frowned at him, anger written clear as a blue sky over his face. "You’d do well, old man, to find a maid who will clean up your remains after I am done with you!"
Vegeta only smirked and waited in his fighting stance for the boy to try his luck and find out the misfortunate fate thrown in his path when he found the bravery to challenge Vegeta.
"Will you not act, old man? Are we going to fight or imitate statues?" The boy goaded him and Vegeta snarled in response, "Do not tempt fate, boy. I will have you flat on your back soon enough. Do you wish to have a blanket of bruises?"
The boy glared at him. "I wish to fight!"
Vegeta smiled evilly, "By the fates then, your wish is granted." Then he struck forward, knocking the boy to the ground with a punch to the side of his head.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The audience gasped as one, as the flame-haired man moved with fluidity and grace and felled the disguised young woman.
The stage caller smiled at what was to come. "Worry not, good people. Our heroine has yet to have her say."
The woman arose from the ground.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Bulma groaned as she hit the rough, stone covered forest floor. Trying to maintain her manly persona was proving difficult as stars and intense young men filled her vision in spinning circles. She lay still for only a moment before recovering her wits and she stood slowly. She wiped a trickle of blood from her mouth and spat the remainder to the ground.
The shadowed man stood before her, smirking still, which served to only infuriate Bulma further. Their challenge of words was past, now she was going to hurt him.
She mirrored his wicked smile and sauntered arrogantly to stand beside him. He stared down at her, a bored statement beholden on his harsh features. Bulma sneered at him and pulled her delicate hand back.
And punched him in the gut.
She stepped southwards away from him, expecting a well earned groan of pain and maybe he would even fall downward. She waited in vain. At best he grimaced lightly, although Bulma wasn’t quite sure if it was because he was in pain or if he needed to sneeze.
"This is a terrible waste of the God’s and my time," the man rumbled mockingly in his gravelly deep voice. "If this is all you pitiful people can offer, I really must be going." He bowed to Chichi, "Lady of the house, I thank you for providing the refuse that call themselves men." He turned to walk away but paused and said over his shoulder in afterthought, "Although for your next gathering, perhaps you might prefer to invite children. At least they’re able to form intelligent insults," casting a quick glance at Bulma, he then strode off. The tall, untidy man bowed hurriedly to Chichi and stuttering a quick apology he took after his companion.
Bulma was unable to speak as the insults clogged in her throat in a mad dash to escape her thoughts and launch themselves at the rude man who was now disappearing into the forest paths that led to the small town that lay northwards.
She fumed and as Chichi lay a consoling hand on her shoulder, Bulma yelled in frustration.
"Come along, Bulma," Her friend whispered consolingly. "You never had a hope from the start, that crazy rogue must’ve been far stronger than any of us had imagined."
"Thankyou," Bulma muttered sarcastically, "You really know how to make me feel good about myself. Now, if you wouldn’t mind excusing me, I’m just going to throw myself in the God’s pit of Humiliation and Disgrace."
Chichi tugged lightly on her arm and began leading her to the mainstay. "Don’t be such a fool child" she chided, "No one knew it was you. And even if they did, who would take the slightest notice? Everyone knows about your little misadventures."
Bulma sighed and followed Chichi meekly towards her house and back to the party.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"So our hero and heroine have crossed paths, although neither knows the other’s true identity. Is their future yet set in stone? Only time will tell as the fates weave their fabrics of life and death and the in between."
The audience watched silently as the stage faded to black and brightened slowly to reveal the same scenery from the scene before. Only now, there was no crowd of guests. Instead, two men walked onto the stage and began their scene.
"That brat prince, he’s been here." One man stated calmly as he looked over the stage.
"Pfff, how would you know, by the gods, are you psychic now? Can you see into the past?" Muttered the other in annoyance.
"I have many talents," the first replied coldly, "However, I believe the body count is an indication of our preys presence." He gestured at the three men who lay comatose on the ground, remaining from Vegeta’s gambling ring. "Can you hear music? I will lay money on there being a party and someone having heard or seen the boy."
"Aach, what in the hells would you know?" his companion mumbled but followed him quickly as he swept up the path to the house. Fog rolled on stage behind them, covering their retreat and their disappearing figures.
The audience whispered amongst each other, each trying to decide where the stage was taking them, who the two men were and who exactly was Vegeta. The stage caller stepped through the mist, as though he was created out of the swirling vapour.
"I hear your questions!" He eyed the gathered crowd keenly. "The gods hear your questions. You will have answers! Listen, my good people. Watch as the stage unfurls its story and you will know the truth." The mists and winds blew each other in tight knots and formed into shapes resembling people and structures. Thunder rumbled heavily in the summer night and as it faded, sound came slowly to the audience, sounds of joy and mirth. Lightning struck once through the clear sky and the misty forms became people and buildings.
"The stage is set. Let the play continue."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Chichi and Yamcha were dancing slowly to the elegant music played by talented bards as Bulma discussed the evening’s events with another friend, Tien. "The man was astonishingly strong. I myself punched him and it was as though he didn’t even feel it!"
Tien chuckled down at her. "Well, it all sounds very exciting Bulma. Now I would love to take you for a turn on the floor but unfortunately you have seemed to have transformed into a man, and I would be utterly confused as to who would lead and who would follow."
Bulma looked down and remembered that she hadn’t changed into her formal attire as of yet. Blushing slightly, she smiled foolishly at Tien. "I apologise. In my excitement and haste, it appears that I have forgotten which gender I am. Allow me a moment and I shall return dressed in a manner more suitable for an occasion such as this." She whirled around and in her haste, Bulma dashed straight into a young couple, knocking all three to the floor. Standing quickly, she straightened her pants and took off up the stairs. Tien laughed at her unintentional impersonation of a jester and walked over to join Chichi and Yamcha who had finished their dance.
"My dear Chichi, might I inquire as to why you allowed Bulma to involve herself with devilish young men who fight for money?" Tien asked with a ghost of a smile wisping about his lips.
"Tien, by all means, next time I will set Bulma on you when she grows an idea in her head such as that." Chichi poked his chest in mock anger and continued, "If you feel you would be able to restrain her. Although, if you are able to manage that I believe your next employment will be as a temperament for the Gods."
Yamcha was about to speak and add his own input to the light hearted conversation when the words died on his lips. Chichi and Tien turned to follow where his eyes led theirs. In the doorway of the room, two men were standing about looking overtly menacing.
Chichi grimaced and shook her hand from Yamcha’s. "Gentlemen," she began slowly, looking them over and generally implying by the tone of her sweet voice that they were the most undesirable of undesirables, "May I inquire as to why you have decided to attend my party without," Chichi’s eyes narrowed and suddenly she became the she-devil few people knew she could be, "without an invitation? I really feel it is quite impolite."
The two men backed up a step but held their ground and reflected her glares in their own eyes. "We are the Lordship of Vejjitasei, Lord Freeza’s personal guards and we come on official business," said one with such self-importance that it only served to stoke Chichi’s annoyance to higher levels.
"Well, his Lordship’s men, is that so? Unfortunately, I have heard of neither Vejjitasei nor have I heard of his Lordship Freeza. Tell me your business quickly so you may leave that much sooner."
"Vejjitasei is a far land and it is not surprising that you backwater people haven’t heard of it. It is a powerful, dangerous land and Lord Freeza is a powerful, dangerous person. Step carefully." The taller man bit out words of steel.
Chichi raised an eyebrow as an indication for him to continue.
"My companion and I are hunting for a fugitive of the Cold Empire. We believe he may have journeyed through this area recently. We are making inquiries and thought a gathering would prove fruitful in our quest." He bowed slightly here, "With your Ladies permission, we would like to ask you guests if they have seen this man." He unfurled a dusty poster and held it out for inspection.
Chichi frowned and looked it over. When she saw the man’s face, she couldn’t restrain the gasp that escaped her.
"What is it, my Lady?" The taller man questioned. "Do you recognise him?"
Chichi fanned her face to bring cool air to her skin. "I certainly do. Only a little while ago, he and another man were at this very party!" Chichi broke off for a moment and muttered to herself, "Fighting for money and he moved like no fighter I’ve ever seen."
The shorter man whispered in his companion’s ear, "It must be him, journeying with Kakkarot."
The tall man nodded and responded to Chichi, "His name is Vegeta and he is extremely dangerous. We are on a search mission to return him to Lord Freeza. Alive preferably, but dead would do in a pinch."
She swallowed and asked in a shaky voice, "What of his companion? Is he……."
" Kakkarot, we are to return him as well, though his crimes are not as severe as Vegeta’s. However, they are both wanted for treason against his Lordship. We need to find them as soon as possible. Can you inform us of their whereabouts?"
She nodded, pale, as Yamcha and Tien joined her. "Chichi, you keep these men all to yourself. Why? Are they so very interesting?" Yamcha laughed.
The two men glared at him as Chichi told them of the direction Vegeta and Kakkarot had taken after the fight. "We thank you , good lady. And worry not, the two scoundrels will be caught and made to serve a punishment." With that the two men, turned and exited the room, apparently in hot pursuit of the fugitives.
"What is happening, Chichi? You look as though the Gods themselves had sucked the very blood from your veins." Tien asked.
"Those men, they are….. they are…..they are……." Chichi stuttered.
"Hmm, a guessing game. Those men, they are……." Yamcha sighed. "I am too weary to play at being witty, Chichi. Could you just spit whatever it is out of your mouth?"
"CRIMINAL!!" She yelled. The entire room dropped into silence as the people turned to stare at her incredulously. "Uh, heh…..oh, for the love of the Gods, stop staring at me!"
Yamcha and Tien were also staring at her like she was an escapee of some doomed tower. "By the fates, Chichi, how much have you had to drink?"
Chichi rolled her eyes at the two men and laughed suddenly as Bulma rejoined them. "Bulma, why are you still dressed in that ridiculous attire? I thought you were changing into your beautiful dress."
Bulma flushed red and wiped her face. "Your abode is far too large for me. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to remember which room I left my clothes in."
The room was once again disturbed by gales of laughter.
Chichi calmed down firstly, grasped Bulma’s arm and brought her close for a conspiretal whisper. "Those men were fugitives, Bulma! They are being hunted like dangerous beasts. Can you imagine?! Criminals at my party?! I pray no-one hears a whisper of that news!"
Bulma gaped at Chichi. "Are you acting within all honesty, Chichi?"
"I swear on Yamcha’s life." Chichi smirked.
"Well, then it could be true or false." Bulma laughed. "Come then, prove it to me. Let’s go see those dangerous fugitives and ask them of their crimes." Bulma’s eyes practically glistened in excitement.
Chichi was rapidly shaking her head and much like a butterfly caught in a strong wind, she struggled against Bulma’s plans already knowing she would give in. "You promised me there would be no more of your antics if you could only fight one of them."
Bulma smiled, "And how I prevailed."
The smile faded from Bulma. "Well, now is my chance to regain my honor."
Chichi was about to argue again but thought that if she went with Bulma, she would be able to see the tall man called Kakkarot again. No men in the town seemed to interesting to her now but he was exotic and different. Chichi allowed herself to become caught in Bulma’s excitement and agreed to join her in her search.
Bulma smiled in achievement, "That was much easier than most times, Chichi. Are you finally developing a sense of adventure?"
Chichi, ignoring Bulma, turned to lie to Yamcha and Tien so they could make their escape but when she looked for them they were already across the room with two beguiling young women. Chichi shook her head and gestured for Bulma to leave.
Bulma smirked as Chichi led her out of the magnificent room. "Why Chichi, I think I’ve been a bad influence on you."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Two young ladies venture into the forests that belong to beasts and the darkness of a moonless night." The stage caller swept his arm across the stage and the lights extinguished and the room was smothered in an absence of light. Out of the eerie stage came whispers of noise, so light the people gathered almost thought they had imagined them. Almost. Small flickers of adjoining lights gave away the presence of animals by their glowing eyes and wind began to make the leaves on the trees dance and murmur quietly and secretly to each other.
One light rose from a stage, revealing that it was carried by a delicate hand. Bulma walked slowly out of the darkness and was followed by a very nervous Chichi.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Bulma stepped carefully over the uprooted stones and roots of fallen trees. "Chichi, I mean no offence, but I must admit I prefer the forests surrounding your house when the sun is shining and I can see more than a candle ring beyond my feet."
Chichi groaned as though she were a hardened warrior leaving a harsh battle. "I don’t know why I allow myself to be dragged into your odd schemes."
"You were hardly dragged, Chichi. And don’t even try to pretend you don’t wish to find the dark strangers. I know you have your eye on that tall fellow." Bulma looked at Chichi slyly out of the corner of her eye.
Chichi only shook her head, choosing to ignore Bulma. After what seemed an age of walking and tripping over tree roots, Chichi began to hum a soft melody to herself. Her song stopped rather quickly however when Bulma ended it with an elbow to her stomach. "What do you think you’re doing?" Chichi hissed.
"Can’t you hear something?" Bulma whispered back.
Chichi shook her head.
"You must be stone deaf." Bulma dragged her into some nearby bushes and pushed her down. "We’ll hide here. I hear footsteps so stay quiet. Someone approaches."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Vegeta pushed Goku out of his path as he cocked his head. "Do you that, Kakkarot?"
Goku rolled his eyes and sat down. Vegeta had spent the half the moon’s span thinking he could here Jeice and Berta’s voices. Goku had heard nothing and had seen no one. He was starting to think maybe Vegeta had managed to find some alcohol to drink while he wasn’t aware.
"Stop your theatrical nonsense and listen!" Vegeta whispered harshly. Goku sighed and stood. He supposed Vegeta had somewhat more to worry about than himself. If he was caught, he would be killed. Probably quickly. But if Vegeta was caught, he wouldn’t be killed, worse luck to him. Freeza had taken a liking to Vegeta after stealing his crown and was hunting him down. Goku withheld a shudder at the thought of being a captive of Freeza’s sick tastes.
He closed his eyes and listened carefully. There was nothing obvious, but on the winds there were whispers of voices not too far away. "I hear voices. They are feminine so we aren’t to be discovered yet."
Vegeta grunted. "That was as I thought. Come on, we can ask for directions to the nearest hostel. You have managed to lose our way and we are off the path." He began walking with surety in the direction the voices came from. "Try not to scare the young women we are about to find. Perhaps it would be better if you remained in the shadows so as not to disturb them with your hideous face."
Goku swallowed his cheeky reply. Vegeta was frustrated and angry and while he would never admit it, he was scared. Potential lifelong torture will make a person slightly out of temper, Goku reminded himself.
They walked side by side for moments only before stopping simultaneously and stared at a shaking bush. Vegeta trod soundlessly around one side as Goku did the other. Then they moved the bushes apart and two shrieking females burst out.
One, a black haired woman ran off into the bushes before either man could detain her. The other was of strange appearance. Vegeta immediately recognised the last boy he had fought at the masquerade party. Knocking him over the head to slow his escape, Vegeta grabbed him by his collar. Lifting his face into the light, Vegeta scowled. "I seem to have put him to sleep. And what a strange looking boy. He hardly seems a boy at all."
Goku walked over and lit a spare candle to shine in the boys face. The boy stirred and shook his head. His cap came loose and fell to the ground. With it fell long locks of shining blue hair.
With a gasp, Vegeta dropped the boy……girl to the ground where she immediately began yelling in anger.
"What in the name of the Gods do you think you are doing? Wandering around knocking helpless women off their feet like crazed maniacs! I should scream for help and tell those odd looking men where you are instead of trying to help you!"
With the mention of two odd looking men, Vegeta froze. Goku knelt down beside the girl and said gently and quietly, "We’re not going to hurt you. We didn’t realise you are a woman. I’m sure my companion is sorry to the extremes of his mind."
Vegeta, lost in thought and his own private nightmare, didn’t seem to hear him.
Goku eyed him in concern for a moment. Vegeta hadn’t had sleep for a few days now. This couldn’t be good for his health. Turning his attention back to the woman he asked, "The two men, what do they look like?"
The girl stared at Vegeta for a moment, then stared at him. "Why? Are you really fugitives? What did you do?""
"Girl, stop your idiocies! What do the men look like?" Vegeta demanded. Goku started at the sound of his voice. Apparently he was out of his daze.
The girl narrowed her eyes obstinately for a moment before shrugging. "I didn’t really get a good look at them. Chichi was the one who talked to them. But I didn’t notice that one was a really unhealthy pall of orange."
Goku sighed and stood to talk to Vegeta. "It’s them. Burta and Jeice are close."
Vegeta rubbed his eyes in exhaustion. "We have to move quickly. If we remain too long, no doubt they’ll have the local villagers in an uproar about our presence and will have no end of volunteers to help in our capture."
They were about to start running away when a voice interrupted their flight. "Pardon me? Were you even going to tell me why you are fleeing these men?" The girl cried.
"No." They both said.
"Well, I demand to know or I shall find those two men and tell them where you are." The girl stood up and glared at them. "And I know the paths of this forest like the back of my hand so I’m sure they would appreciate my efforts to help. Although," she continued cunningly, "the same offer could be made to you. I could help you escape in return for your story."
"Girl, why would we wish to be bothered with your presence when it would be far simpler to just kill you." The shorter man said angrily in his harsh voice.
Bulma wasn’t sure she had a come back for that. "Well……"
"Forget this argument. The girl comes with us, Vegeta. There is no time for debate."
Vegeta glared at the blue haired girl who had the audacity to demand his story. "Fine. But do not expect me to speak with her. I would not lower myself to do so." He picked his pack off the ground and stormed off.
Goku picked his pack up and smiled at the girl. After all, it couldn’t hurt to be friendly. "I am Goku. I will tell you why we are hunted after we are out of our hunters reach." He gestured ahead. "Lead the way."
The girl smiled at him and walked off, following Vegeta’s trail.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *