Disclaimer: Again, I do not own, nor will I ever own DBZ.
Note: Again there will be a glossary of Japanese words used in this story after the end. This is Part Two, I hope you enjoy it. Also Kami, in this story is not in reference to the Kami from DBZ, not this time… Kami is merely a God and will simply be referred to as Kami. Also, Bulma’s path in the dream will be in italics and Vegeta’s path will be in bold for easy clarification. When the path converges, they will be normal again.
Part Two: The Dream
"The essence of the art of the sword
is to be free of the fear of death."
Koremori stared down at the entwined lovers sprawled across the bed. This was his chance; his one opportunity to make amends. He had broken the Bushido all those years ago when he had forced Masako to stay behind, he had denied her, the Bushido for herself and because of it, not only had she been dishonored at the hands of his enemy, but she had been captured, killed by another’s hand, by Kiyomori. It was the worst, possible thing that could have happened.
Koremori’s hand fisted against his leg. Still after all these years, the knowledge of what Kiyomori had done to his wife ate at him and left his heart aching and raw. For over eight hundred years he had dwelt in this mortal realm, a lonely spirit forced to relive his mistakes day after day, unable to reach his Masako and destined to haunt the world alone, unless…
He had one chance, one chance to do things differently, to make things turn out all right. True, they wouldn’t actually be re-doing history. It stood as it was, and it would remain so for all time, but if he could show that he understood the mistakes he had made; that he had been wrong to deny Masako an honorable death according to the Bushido, instead of forcing her to stay behind and allowing her to be captured by his mortal enemy, than perhaps he would be forgiven, not just by the Kamis or the Gods, but by Masako herself, and perhaps then they would be reunited forever.
Now, he had only to make it happen. Koremori stared down at the two lovers who lay in silent slumber and lowered his head. "You are my last hope."
Turning away from the bed, he shut his eyes and bowed his head; dropping to his knees, searching for the center of his soul, of his very existence. If he could reach a point of complete peace, he could contact one of the Kami’s and set events into motion.
"So it starts." The Kami stared down at the bowed warrior lost in deep meditation. Holding out his hand, he motioned the young woman forward. "Masako, come. Your pleas did not fall on deaf ears. Your warrior has one chance to make things right, but to do this thing he will require your help. Do you offer it willingly?"
"Great Kami," Masako stepped forward to stand next to the Kami. "He is my husband, I would do anything to help him."
"Yet, in life, he failed you, denied you your Bushido as a samurai and because of it you both died far sooner than you should have. Why is your heart still so loyal to this man?" The Kami turned his aged face to look at the beautiful woman that stood beside him, her face the picture of absolute serenity.
"Kami, I have attained a measure of peace in the afterlife, but Koremori has been punished for his actions, doomed to never know peace and I—" Masako bowed her head in sorrow, soft voice trembling with emotion as she continued on. "Oh Kami, I love him and I would see him walk beside me in the afterlife. I would see him rest in peace."
Kami smiled benevolently at the young woman. "Than it shall come to pass, Masasko, that we give this warrior a chance." Kami turned, motioning his arm towards the scene below. "When Koremori first appealed to me for this opportunity, my first thought was to say no, to deny him his peace, but Koremori is a persistent man and you, young lady, are a persistent young woman. If Koremori can show that he understands what he failed in how he turned his back on his Bushido—his warrior code; how he denied you your own, then he will have his peace. I told him what he must do and how it could be accomplished. History itself may not be changed, but there are other means by which I may judge Koremori."
"How is that Kami?" Masako looked down at her husband’s head and smiled. They were so close, so very close to being reunited. "And who are the two with my husband?" She motioned towards Bulma and Vegeta, who lay silent and slumbering on the bed.
"Ahh, they are the two that shall help Koremori achieve that which he must. He has waited along time for such a pair to aid him in his quest, and the time has arrived. The man you see is a great warrior, proud and strong, like Koremori, yet resistant to that which makes him happy. I have looked into this one’s heart and strong it is, but damaged as well, his honor tarnished. The warrior, Vegeta, believes it is damaged beyond repair, but the girl does not believe that; yet as strong as her faith and her heart are, she falters, unsure as to whether it is safe to give herself completely to this man as you gave yourself to Koremori. Her name is Bulma and you will guide her."
"What do you mean?" Masako turned wide black eyes to the Kami. "Guide her through what?"
"I have searched their memories, found that which is familiar to them, that which they have fought against and I will use this to recreate the choices that were once yours and his." Kami nodded at the bowed Koremori. "I will give them a dream, a dream that will become their reality—for a time, but yet in their dreams they must tread a solitary path towards each other and they must acknowledge the Bushido; must not make the same mistakes that you and Koremori did, in your own life. If they can be guided and if Koremori can guide the warrior Vegeta and show him the way of the Bushido is not lost within him, then Koremori’s sins will be forgiven, for it will show that he finally understands what he did wrong, how he failed as a warrior and you will be reunited. And Masako, these two must not know why this happens, only that it is happening to them. You will know all, yet they not. They will see you as an everyday person in their life, not as a teacher. This path will not be easy."
"A daunting task to be sure, Great Kami." Masako frowned. "Yet, one that must be taken on. Will I see Koremori during this trial, will I be able to touch him, to speak with him?"
"You will be a companion to the girl and you will inevitably run into Koremori, see him, speak to him, but it will be nothing more than that, and it will only be a temporary thing. If he should fail to help this warrior, then you will return here alone."
Masako bowed her head in deference to the Kami. "It is understood."
"Then let it begin." Kami waved an arm and in a flash they were gone.
Vegeta startled awake, his mind cloudy with the heavy fog of confusion and his mind spinning in a myriad of directions. What in the hell had happened? And who in God’s name was shaking him? From a distance he could hear his name being called, the sound and urgency of it jerking him from his hazy delirium.
"Ouji!" A sharp voice rang out near his ear and he felt large hands grab his shoulders, shaking him roughly.
"Ouji-sama, please you must wake up sire! The fortress is about to fall! What do we do?" The voice was thick with fear and urgency. That voice, didn’t he know that voice?
Around him, Vegeta began to notice the fierce sounds of battle as men fought and cried out; the strong stench of smoke burned his nostrils as it hung thickly in the air from the burning buildings. He choked before he could stop himself and gagged. What in the hell was happening?
Opening his eyes, he peered through the smoke, seeing images at first, men with swords and men in open battle before memory flooded back to him. Frieza—they were trying to keep Frieza from invading the capital city and somehow he had been knocked unconscious in battle. He could recall dreaming of his woman and of her eyes, as blue as the sky, burning into him, dark with passion. He growled in anger. He didn’t have time for this.
Shaking off the image, he leapt to his feet, drawing his wakizashi. "Where is Kakkarot?" Vegeta turned to face the warrior that had dared to touch him—Nappa. Behind him, stood the equally tall samurai Radditz, tail lashing wildly behind him in agitation, desperation and exhaustion etched deeply into their soot-lined faces.
"N-Nappa?" Vegeta struggled for a breath, a task made more difficult by the thick roiling smoke. What in the hell was going on? Why were they both standing around him as if he were dead? "Where in the hell is Kakkarot?"
"We don’t know, Ouji. He rode out to confront Frieza himself when you were knocked unconscious, full of fury. He thought you were dead!" Radditz hacked violently as the smoke filled his lungs.
"Ouji?" The bald giant said cautiously. "Are you alright? You took a vicious blow to the head. We did think you were dead. "
Vegeta watched the bald man through half-closed eyes as he spoke. "Don’t be ridiculous," he snapped, "it takes more than a head wound to kill the Ouji."
"Ouji," rasped Radditz, his voice raw from the smoke. "Your sword, my Ouji. " Radditz handled the blade with something akin to reverence as he handed it over to his Prince.
Vegeta accepted it, holding it up before him in the hazy atmosphere. Without it he would be dead, the sword was his other half in battle, his very soul.
"Ouji!" Vegeta watched as a thickly armored, helmeted warrior streaked towards him, Daisho in place. "Ouji, thank the Gods you are alive." Kakkarot slid to a halt before the Prince, bowing low.
"Kakkarot," He rasped roughly, "Did you see Frieza? Were we able to turn him back?"
"No!" The Daimyo has already moved northwards, tearing a trail towards the capital city." Kakkarot shook his head in despair. "Even with the sohei we are outnumbered, two to one. "
"Dammit," Vegeta growled, " he will reach the capital within three days. We must finish this now."
"Sire, if we stay we die. We must retreat if we hope to have any hope of victory against Frieza himself." Kakkarot coughed harshly, face showing starkly white and stained with soot and blood.
"Ouji!" The warning scream that issued forth from Nappa turned Vegeta’s attention immediately, causing him to pivot. From the corner of his eye he could see a heavily armored man lurch out of the smoke, one of Frieza’s samurai, sword raised to take his head.
Without thought or word, Vegeta acted, his sword a mere extension of his hand. Leaping forward to meet the would be assassin, flinging his sword outwards in one swift movement, severing the assassin’s head from his body. Vegeta stared impassively down at the body as it convulsed on the ground before him, before slowly turning back to Kakkarot.
"Ouji!" Kakkarot cried. "We must retreat! We are the only hope left to defeat Frieza, but not if we die here, fighting these inferior forces. There are just too many of them."
"The Ouji does not retreat!" Vegeta screamed, instinctual pride ripping through him at Kakkarot’s suggestion. His mind was too far-gone on the bloodlust and desire to fight to even consider retreating. Retreating was for cowards, not warriors such as he. Besides, there was honor in death, one had only to embrace it. Hadn’t his old swords master told him that as he learned the art of Ken-jutsu.
"Ouji," The old man had said, "He who is free from the fear of death has already learned all that he needs to be master of his sword."
Well it was time to see if the old man had been right. It was a point of honor, and he would not be daunted—death be damned.
"Ouji-sama," Kakkarot yelled, pride filling his eyes. "There is no shame in an honorable death." Turning he leapt forward, preparing to meet more enemy swords by his Ouji’s side.
Hefting his wickedly curved sword, Vegeta followed, engaging the enemy like a man possessed, swinging and hacking, the beginnings of a small grin forming on his mouth. "Yes, Kakkarot… an honorable death."
Bulma leaned wearily on her naginata, breathing heavily, the sounds of trickling water, invading her senses as it ran its course from the small creek bed to the pool that contained it. The garden she and Masako had designed and nurtured out of the thick foliage that surrounded the small home they lived in, was her sanctuary; the place where she had first seen her husband, and a place that she felt unleashed all her latent abilities and allowed her to reach her full potential. The sunlight that filtered through the thick band of trees that surrounded them only added to the strong sense of serenity that seemed to permeate the entire area. Usually, it brought her a peace of mind that she had never been able to achieve in any other place, except today.
"Bulma-san," Masako stepped forward. "How do you expect to be able to defend ourselves against Frieza’s forces if we don’t practice. As good as we believe ourselves to be, he is much better. She swept back a lock of black hair that had fallen loose from the bun she had knotted it in. "We must press on."
"I’m sorry, Masako-san," Bulma ran a nervous hand down the front of her grey robe, straightening the purple band that was wrapped tightly around her waist. "My worry over Vegeta blinds me to anything else. I wish he didn’t have to fight."
"He is the Ouji, Bulma; a man of honor and courage. You have no need to worry for him. If he dies in battle, then he dies with honor. You should be proud of that, not worried because of it."
Masako’s gently worded rebuke brought a flush to Bulma’s face. She was right, of course. There was no honor in defeat or surrender to your enemy and it was against his Bushido; against her own to fear death, yet she was selfish; the desire to keep him with her in this life overruling rational thought, to the point where she even thought she could break her warrior code if it meant keeping him alive.
"I know you’re right. I just," Bulma looked down, allowing the long strands of her hair to fall forward, blocking her from Masako’s view. " It is just… I am pregnant, Masako and I haven’t even told him yet. I want him to come home." She sighed heavily. "I love him, yet he pushes me away… sees me as something weak and fragile, not useful in the least."
"As I love Koremori and wish for his return, yet I know that his duty is to his sword and to his code." Masako smiled slyly. "Besides, I already knew you were pregnant, the signs have all been there, but we cannot allow that love to shelter our minds from that which must be done, nor can we allow our insecurities and doubts to stop us from doing that which we know we must. Our own selfish desires are not reason enough to ignore the Bushido, nor wish it away. It exists for a reason and as such we must follow it. We are all warriors; we must all act as one in harmony." Masako laid her naginata down, stepping forward and turning to face the gentle breeze that drifted over them. "You are full of courage, Bulma-san, you will find a way to deal with this, you must."
"I suppose you are right. When the times come there will be no choice but one, right?" Bulma smiled wryly. "I will never stand between him and his Bushido. I swear that Masako-san." She sighed, slumping for a moment before straightening to her full height and facing the other woman. " Are you ready for more?" Picking up her naginata, she readied herself for the exercises, blue-hair blowing wildly around her, as a strong gust of wind blew suddenly across the garden.
Masako picked up her own naginata before turning her face into the wind. Shuddering at the sudden coolness that enveloped her, she hugged her own grey silk robe more tightly around her. An ill omen a wind like that was--sudden and cold, the scent of danger clinging within it. She prayed that it did not bode ill for Koremori. For this girl and the warrior it was a mere dream, real to them now, but over when the Great Kami deemed it time, for Koremori, the fate of his eternal rest hung on what happened in this dream. Shivering once again, she pushed her anxiety away and turned to face the girl she would be guiding. There was not time for such petty worries. The only way to help Koremori was to guide this girl down the right path, to help him in the quest that the Kami had given him and to that end, she would do whatever she must. "I’m ready."
Vegeta sank down wearily amongst the heaps of bodies that his samurai were piling and burning, trying to ignore the foul stench of death that hung in the air with an unrelenting grip. Around him, he could hear the low murmurs of his men as they regarded him with something close to awe. How many men had he struck down in his mindless fury? He wasn’t sure.
"Ouji-sama." Nappa’s deep voice cut through the exhausted haze he found himself in and he turned an ash and blood stained face towards the man.
"What do you want, Nappa-sama?" Vegeta steeled his face to remain coolly impassive, not wanting to give Nappa any clue as to what he might be thinking. Truth be told he wished the man would leave him alone. He had no desire to be bothered right now. All he wished for was some time to quietly reflect on what he had achieved and that which still eluded him. It was at times like these that he wished his father were still alive to guide him. It was instinct and pure rage alone that led him down his course now. He was a leader, not some half-mad youth venturing about the countryside in search of retribution and trouble. Things must be weighed and considered for a time, before throwing one’s self into battle. Frieza was a deadly foe but his time was at hand. Soon, the final battle would be played out and his father would be avenged, his lands would be returned and his people would be free.
"The men wish to know when we leave for Kyoto. Daimyo Frieza will reach it within three days." Nappa bowed before his Prince. "Your honor and courage have led us to this victory, Ouji. Even now the men talk amongst themselves of your greatness. You will defeat Frieza and you will rule as your father would have."
"Hmmph…" Vegeta replied with more than a little irritation. He didn’t mind that they thought him great, though he knew it for the lie that it was. Certainly he was strong of mind and body, but his soul—his soul was no more than that of a broken man. Left alone to survive the horrors of Frieza’s court had tainted what honor he had; had turned him into another one of Frieza’s murderous, greedy Shogun, until he had finally broken free and met her.
Bulma had been the balm for a heart that had stopped beating and much to his great shame and chagrin he had fallen in love with her. Granted she was a samurai, trained in the martial arts, but yet that did little to change the fact that she was a woman, a weakness and if Frieza were to ever find out what he felt for the woman, what small amount of honor he had managed to reclaim would be dashed.
Reaching into the folds of his heavy armor, his fingers brushed lightly against a silken scarf, the only memory he had of a mother long dead. He had kept it with him always as a reminder of what he had lost and now--now he would pass it on to his Queen. It was the only way he could bear to show her his feelings. To openly admit them was tantamount to publicly shaming oneself and to allow her any foothold into his heart was something he could not fathom. He had done a good job, up till now, keeping the burgeoning feelings at bay and denying their very existence. Lately, after three long months away from her, he had began to feel the desire to be near her for at least one night, perhaps get himself an heir, should anything happen to him in battle.
"There are things I must attend to." Vegeta murmured, unwilling to share anything of substance with Nappa. "You were my father’s most trusted Shogun, Nappa-sama, and now you are mine. Lead the men onto Kyoto, I will meet you there." His fingers traced along the smooth silk of the scarf. "Take Kakkarot and Radditz with you."
"Ouji-sama! You must not travel alone. There could be an ambush." Nappa would have continued, but Vegeta halted him with a furious glare.
"I have been alone for the better part of my life, Nappa. Don’t question my judgment again. Now go and do as I say. The sooner we leave, the sooner we reach the city and take back that which is ours." Vegeta stood abruptly and walked regally towards his horse, head held high, angered that his ability to protect himself would be questioned by a weakling like Nappa. Vegeta had trained under the best when it came to underhanded fighting techniques; there was no one that could match his skills, except for perhaps Frieza himself.
Swinging himself up, he rode out, determined that this time he would purge the weak-willed woman from his system today. She was merely the means to an heir, a woman to pleasure him and see to all his needs. He did not love her and he certainly had no need for her. It was just his traitorous body that led him astray and made him imagine feelings that were not there. A woman could get man to feel a lot of things if she used her body in just the right way and Bulma’s abilities frightened him. Vegeta would have believed her the most skilled of courtesans had he not known her a virgin the first time he had taken her over a two years ago.
Perhaps it was a sense of gratitude that held him. Bulma had saved his life and nursed him back to health, sitting beside him and holding his hand when the nightmares had come and arguing with him when he had desperately needed the distraction, mindful to preserve his pride. She was fiery and temperamental, there was no denying that, but she was also weak, prone to sobbing and for a samurai, let alone the wife of a samurai, that type of behavior was unthinkable. It brought him shame to think that he had been pathetic enough to take a woman so weak as a wife. What would his father say? Nothing pleasant, Vegeta was almost positive of that. He needed a woman that could fight beside him, who would not cower when it came to facing her duty and he wasn’t certain that Bulma would ever be able to do that. And this was all based on the theory that he had time for a wife, when in truth he had nothing ahead of him but the desire for vengeance. There was no room in his heart for anything save the cold memory of the past and all that he had yet to achieve.
By rights, she should be going to face their enemy by his side, but she would be a liability and she would inevitably end up killed and Vegeta found that for some reason, the idea of her death left him cold. She would be prepared to leave with him, but he had already made up his mind, he would allow himself one night with her and then he would proceed alone to meet Frieza.
The skittering of pebbles brought an abrupt halt to his reverie and he stopped the horse, cursing himself for becoming so distracted. The woman would be the death of him yet, damn her. He paused, cocking his head to get a better sound. Around him, the silence was quiet and empty with only the occasional chirping of a bird to break the heavy atmosphere. Still, he had heard something not right, something that warranted checking out. Swinging off his horse, he strode forward into the line of trees, pausing again to listen. Only the slightest rustle of leaves gave any hint to the intruder that watched him. Oddly, Vegeta felt no danger, only a presence lurking the vicinity.
Carefully, hand resting casually on his long sword, he took a step backwards, deliberately turning his back on the area that he knew the watcher to be at. "You can come out now. You’re ability at spying is sorely lacking." Vegeta waited impatiently for the watcher to show themselves.
A slight rustle of the trees was the only warning he had before he saw the man appear before him. Shocked, Vegeta drew his sword.
"You have no need of that, warrior." The man held up a hand, making no move towards his sword. "I am no enemy to you."
"Everyone is my enemy." Vegeta snarled. "Who do you work for—Frieza?" Vegeta raised his sword, placing the tip against the man’s chest? "Is he near here? Why don’t you tell me before I send you to Hell."
"I’m already in Hell." The man spat. "So do your worst. I told you that I am not your enemy, nor do I work for this Frieza whom you battle. My word as a warrior should be enough for you. Have you no honor?"
"Whatever bit of honor I might have had died long ago." Vegeta sneered. "The only thing that matters to me now is killing Frieza and avenging my father, my people and my land. For twenty years now, he has ruled my lands, taxed and killed my people, controlled everything that should have been mine; and you ask me about honor? What do I need with honor?"
"You are a bigger fool than I thought." Koremori snorted, hand resting lightly on his own sword. "Honor is everything to a warrior, his very reason for existence. Without it we would be lost."
"Bah—you speak of the Bushido. Should we test your commitment to yours? Have you really mastered the fear of death, samurai?" Vegeta sneered; displeased with the way the fool spoke to him. He pressed the point of his sword into the man’s chest, watching as a thin trickle of blood appeared. "Are you willing to die for your honor?"
"If need be. I no longer fear my death." The warrior stared dispassionately at him, leaving Vegeta with an odd feeling in his stomach. There was no fear, no anticipation, just an odd look of acceptance—almost of a man whose very heart and soul were already dead.
Vegeta lowered his sword slowly, ignoring the odd churning in his stomach. What in the hell was wrong with him?
"What is your name?" He asked, his voice calm and cool. "And why do you lurk in the woods?"
"I am called Koremori and I am a warrior who’s lost his way."
"Your skills with the naginata have grown tremendously since I first started training you Bulma-san." Masako sat on her knees at a low table, sipping tea. "You bring honor to your husband, the Ouji." She smiled shyly, enjoying the way the other woman’s face lit up.
"Do you think so? He always calls me weak." Bulma smiled wryly. "I can’t say that I am particularly talented in fighting nor do I have any real desire to do it, but I have to keep trying."
"Why do you do that which you have no desire to?" Masako leaned forward, watching the woman’s face. "Ouji Vegeta does not expect you to fight."
"It’s really a point of honor, Masako-san. I made this commitment to growing as a warrior, to showing Vegeta that I was not some weakness that would get him killed. I wanted him to see me as his equal, to allow me a chance to show my worth."
"Bulma-san, he already knows your worth."
"Yes, as his bed-warmer." Bulma snorted. " It isn’t enough, Masako-san… I need more." She looked wistfully out the open window, watching tiny particles of dust float in the air as the sunlight illuminated them. With a sigh, she turned back to the controls. "I need his heart."
"Warriors do not give their hearts lightly, nor do they give them often and Vegeta-sama has been hurt badly in his life." Masako warned. "Tell me, have you offered yourself to him, all of you, completely?"
"If I did that, I would be hurt. Vegeta would just toss them back in my face." Bulma sighed, sipping her tea. "Vegeta has already told me not to expect anything from him beyond his name and a title, if he is successful. How can I give myself to a man who cannot give back to me?"
"Who said he couldn’t?" Masako queried. "Do you think a warrior would admit to it one way or the other?" She shook her head. "They are committed to their code, there is little time for distraction. Vegeta-sama has yet to admit to himself that he could be a far different man than what he has come to believe. "
"What about Koremori? Did he admit that he loved you right away?" Bulma asked curiously, taking another delicate sip of tea.
"Most assuredly no, Bulma-san." Masako laughed, black eyes taking on a far away look as she spoke. "He was as stubborn as a mule and certain that he had no time for a woman. As far as he was concerned, I existed only to serve his needs." She sighed and reached over to pour herself some more tea. "Finally, he was left with little option but to confront all that was in his heart. But by then, it was too late."
"Masako-san, I am so sorry." Bulma reached out a hand, clasping the woman’s arm gently. "I know that he brought you honor, but I am sorry that there was not more time for you to know."
"Time matters little, Bulma-san and don’t feel too sorry for me. I am content with the knowledge that I knew, that he honored me with the truth." Masako looked away.
"At least you have eternity to look forward to, Masako-san." Bulma smiled, moved by the woman’s words. Perhaps she was right, perhaps she should tell Vegeta all she felt, regardless of any pain it might end up causing her.
"Yes, Bulma-san… we have an eternity." Oh Koremori.
"Is there some reason you’ve decided to follow me?" Vegeta growled to the warrior who walked calmly beside his horse. He should set the horse to a gallop and leave the fool behind, but something held his hand. Vegeta could not explain what it was, only recognize that it was there and that the feeling left him feeling more than a little bothered.
"I told you that I am a warrior who has lost his way. I seek only a way out of these woods." Koremori said evenly, flashing Vegeta a tight smile.
"Some warrior." Vegeta snorted in derision.
"Yes," Koremori ground out through clenched teeth. "Well we can not all be great like you, Vegeta-sama." Damn the man’s tongue.
"Yes, well," Vegeta smirked, enjoying the look of irritation that settled on the warrior’s face, "we can’t all be on the same level that I am. At least you can recognize that."
"Oh, most assuredly Vegeta-sama, I can certainly recognize it." Koremori rolled his eyes. Such arrogance in a man was unhealthy. He would get himself killed if he didn’t tone it down a bit. "Where is it you journey to?"
"Why should I tell you?" Vegeta snapped. "I don’t recall inviting you along. "
"I merely asked a question, Vegeta-sama. I have no real interest in where you go." Koremori’s hand settled comfortably on the handle of his sword as he walked.
Vegeta watched the man for a moment through veiled eyes, regarding him speculatively. What was it about this warrior… it was as if they had met before… but that couldn’t be it? Still there was something about him. Vegeta shook his head. "I travel to my wife’s home." He said sullenly, still unsure as to why he was telling the warrior things he had no business knowing.
"It isn’t your home as well?" Koremori looked at Vegeta curiously.
"I have no home!" Vegeta spat angrily. "And certainly that little shack is not my home either, only a place to stay when I need one."
"Still, do you not miss your wife?" Koremori watched Vegeta peripherally taking note of the quick play of emotion that flitted across his face before he shut them all away.
"What business is it of yours, what I feel for my wife?" Vegeta snarled. "Now leave off with your questions before I strike you down."
"I meant no offense, Vegeta-sama," Koremori held up a hand in peaceful gesture. "I was merely curious. I had a wife once—a beautiful one." Koremori’s voice held a note of wistfulness. "I denied what I felt for her until it was too late."
Vegeta turned his head to stare at the man, sharp ears not missing the hint of self-loathing in the man’s tone. Curious, but refusing to ask, Vegeta turned away, pretending he had not heard. After a moment, Koremori’s deep voice cut through the heavy silence.
I realized too late what I felt for my woman and it cost both of us, our honor." Koremori bowed his head.
"What happened?" Vegeta asked tonelessly, unable to resist the story. Why did this sound vaguely reminiscent of he and his woman?
"She was a samurai, like I, quick and beautiful. I lusted after her the moment I first laid eyes on her. I was unable to resist her charms and the many things she offered, so we wed and I got her with child. Still, how could I accept such a weakness? If my enemies knew that I had such a weakness she would be used against me and I could not have that. It was unseemly for a warrior to have any weakness at all. A woman’s place was at the home or if she were a samurai, then protecting her husband’s honor. Yet, I denied her even that, believing her to be of no particular use, merely a woman to serve whatever my needs might be. " Koremori snorted. "What did a woman know of honor? At least that is what I told myself." He shook his head with disgust.
"What happened to her?" Vegeta needed to know, an odd sense of dread settling over him.
"I stopped to see her before a battle, even then denying that I might love her, and not understanding why I had this fear embedded in my soul at the thought of losing her, at the thought of having her face danger. It was shameful, such fear; yet I was helpless to fight against it and I refused her pleas to fight beside me, give her life if necessary for our common goal. As I rode out, I could hear her cries and it hurt me, yet I still did not understand the desire I had to ride back to her and give her comfort. In my desire to see her safe, to see our unborn child safe, I denied her code of honor—I shamed her and myself in the process with my irrational fears and the penalty for that was far greater than I ever imagined."
"She died?" Vegeta asked, not sure he really wanted to know.
"My enemy had tricked me, all the while leading me to believe that he had marched on, but instead he had lurked with cunning close to me, taking her once I had gone. She had no chance to commit seppuku, he denied her even that honor, instead, taking her to our place of battle; dressing her as if she were his whore and using her to taunt…" Koremori broke off with an anguished cry. "What she must have gone through… before I got to her. Kiyomori stabbed her before my eyes; she died in my arms and it was only then that I could tell her I loved her."
"Did you kill the man that did this?" Vegeta asked, a tight knot forming in his belly. Was it possible that Frieza would try something like this? Should he worry about Bulma’s safety? He had no plans to take her with him, yet this warrior’s story was compelling.
"As she breathed her last breath, I struck him down, so that she might know some justice—some vengeance and now, I am lost."
"Don’t be foolish." Vegeta snapped. "How long has it been since this occurred? You needn’t grieve for her for an entire lifetime."
"I have grieved for her far longer than that." Koremori snapped. "Have you heard nothing I said to you, stubborn fool?"
Vegeta leapt from his horse, long sword drawn and pointed at Koremori’s face. "Do not call me a fool again." He hissed angrily. "I am the Ouji, not some low class warrior you may speak down to."
"Fine kill me, for you are still a stubborn fool." Koremori’s black eyes flashed. "Now unhand me, Ouji." He sneered the title. How was he supposed to guide a man that would not listen? Shoving the younger man off of him, he stalked forward. "Get on your horse, Ouji and ride on. Your wife awaits you."
"How dare you dismiss me?" Vegeta turned to stalk after the man, but drew back in shock. The warrior was gone. Feeling a chill creep down his spine, he reached for his horse, all the while scanning the area for any trace of Koremori. The man had vanished into thin air. Suppressing a shudder, Vegeta forced himself to mount his horse slowly, refusing to give in to the desire to be away quickly. Still, once mounted, he set the horse to a gallop, wanting to reach his destination as quickly as possible.
"So this is your commitment, Koremori?" Kami frowned at the warrior that stood before him. "I was under the impression that you wanted a second chance. Was I mistaken?" The Kami’s eyes bored into Koremori’s obsidian ones. Koremori fought back the urge to look away.
"The man is stubborn and full of arrogance, positive that the course he is on is the only one. He has given up on any other way of life." Koremori replied. "How can I possibly help him when he refuses anything that might aid him."
"The man is a Prince from a warrior race, Koremori." Kami spoke evenly. "I cannot change his personality to suit your needs, not even in a dream. He is who he is and he must be shown a better path. I never told you atonement would not come easily. I believed that your love for Masako would show you the way, yet here you stand before me ready to give up your only hope of salvation. Perhaps I was mistaken in believing that you had come to understood the meaning of honor."
"I understand honor, " Koremori spat, "but this one believes that he has none. That truth shines forth from him like a beacon as much in the dream world as it did in reality."
"Then you must help him find it, Koremori." With a wave of his hand, The Kami invoked an image before them. Koremori saw Masako staring forlornly out into the gardens that surrounded the small house. "She believes in you—more than that, she is counting on you. Masako has no desire to spend eternity alone. Use that as your inspiration. Do not be so quick to give up."
Koremori bowed his head as the image of Masako disappeared. It mattered little that it was gone. She was still embedded within his very soul; he had only to think her name and a thousand images sprang unbidden into his mind. "Very well, Kami. I will try again."
Bulma sat on her knees, dressed only in her kimono, brushing her hair out before bed. Absently she rubbed her hand along her belly, wondering if the child she carried would be a son or a daughter? She prayed fervently for a son—an heir for Vegeta. It was what he wanted. With a little luck, there would be time enough for a daughter. What kind of mother would she make, for that matter, what kind of father would Vegeta make? He was a man given to harshness, having known no other way of life, yet there was a compassionate streak in him, a gentle streak if one looked deep enough. It was rarely given the light of day, but yet she knew it was there all the same.
During the year of his recovery, after he had been ambushed by Frieza’s men and nearly killed, she had been given a chance to see the man that lay within, first as he struggled through nightmares of a hellish existence and then as he began to grow strong and face that which lay before him. He had driven her crazy, of course, sending her into fits of rage with slyly worded comments and insults, and yet confusing her with an occasional kindness—forcing her to see that he wasn’t quite the bastard she had pegged him as.
"Are you thinking of me, little one?" The rich, deep voice penetrated her thoughts and she whirled, seeing him standing in the doorway to her room, arms crossed over his chest. He was still dressed in his armor, she could see and filthy from battle. With an exaggerated frown she stood, bowing slightly before walking towards him.
"Not looking like that." She teased him saucily, knowing he enjoyed matching wits. "Perhaps you should find some other wench to see to your needs."
"Or," his arms shot out and snaked around her waist, "perhaps, lusty wench that you are, you could wash me."
Bulma shivered violently in his arms as a warm hand slid inside the kimono, loosening it. The idea of running her hands all over that muscular body left her mouth dry.
"Better yet," Vegeta breathed against her mouth, pressing himself against her, "perhaps you would bathe with me. The water is unnaturally warm in this part of the land."
"I’d like that, Vegeta." Bulma reached up with shaking hands to unfasten his armor plates and strip of the heavy padding. It had been three months since she had been with him and she wanted him, wanted to feel that body pressed against her in passion, wanted his hot, sexy mouth all over her.
Smirking, Vegeta aided her in her quest, shrugging out of the remainder of his clothes and divesting her of her own kimono, allowing his fingers time to explore the silk of her skin. Grabbing her up in his arms, he tread softly out of the silent house, not wanting to wake up the other woman that stayed here—Masako. "Where was that pool at?" Vegeta teased, as he carried her to the pond. He set her on her feet before it, taking a moment to appreciate the round curves of her body illuminated by the moonlight.
Bulma blushed as his black eyes burned into her, roving hungrily over her exposed figure, but made no move to cover herself. Her body was good, of that she was positive and she knew he appreciated it. As far as she was concerned he could look his fill. Latching onto his hand, she led him into the pool, sighing as the deliciously warm water lapped at her skin.
"I take it you prevailed in battle." She ran her hand up the ridged plane of his belly, marveling at the taut muscles, smiling inwardly at his sharp intake of breath. He seemed to need her as much as she needed him, though she knew that he would never admit to that. He was a beautiful man, all hard angles and planes, beautifully muscled, not to mention devastatingly handsome. She sighed, wrapping her arms around his neck and running her fingers through the base of his spiky, black hair.
"Of course," He murmured arrogantly, trailing a delicate hand along the base of her neck and down her spine, smiling as she shivered. "Did you expect any other outcome, woman?" His mouth slid lightly over her jaw line, caressing downwards to her neck.
Bulma moaned at the feel of his tongue flicking gently against the rapidly beating pulse of her neck. "No," She whispered, unresisting as he lifted her against him. "I never doubt you."
With a strangled moan, Vegeta sheathed himself within her, moving against her in a leisurely pace. He held perfection in his arms, he realized, absolute perfection. Some might see her as riddled with flaws—temperamental, prone to crying, stubborn, but with sudden clarity he realized that they were a perfect fit, both physically and mentally. There was no other woman who could take him to the level of pleasure that this one did, no other woman who matched him word for word. The knowledge left him shaken; the words of the warrior he had encountered in the forest echoing through his mind.
"I realized too late what I felt for my woman and it cost us both our honor."
Vegeta quickened his pace against her, determined to burn whatever words the man had said from his mind. He didn’t love her, merely tolerated her; and he could readily acknowledge that despite her flaws, she was the only woman who could deal with him, there was no love in that, merely acceptance and then there was this mind-blowing pleasure.
Bulma felt her climax building rapidly, could hear his panting breath in her ear as he quickened his pace, pounding against her fiercely. Around her the water sloshed, but Bulma could think of nothing, could not form any rational thought save his name which erupted from her in a loud, keening cry as her climax erupted through her. She felt him tighten against her, heard her name rasped hoarsely into her ear as he joined her over the edge.
With a sigh, he pulled away from her, lowering her gently into the water. Silently, he cupped his hands, filling them with water and massaging her body with it. He watched as her head fell back, blue strands of hair floating around them both as he tended to her, never once giving thought to the idea that he was humbling himself by doing this. He loved to touch her, wanted to touch her, it was the one soft thing he could claim as his own.
Bulma returned the favor, washing dirt, smoke and blood from his body with her hands, gently kneading his tense muscles, occasionally bending to place a soft kiss against his skin and enjoying the peaceful silence. It would have to end, though, she knew inevitably—it would always have to end and there were things she still needed to say to him before it was time for battle.
Gathering her nerve, she pulled back from him, opening her mouth to speak, but before she could, his finger halted her.
"Not now, woman, not now." He breathed huskily. "There will be time enough for words in the morning." Scooping her up, he carried her to their room, for once completely unmindful of the eyes that watched them.
"Masako," The deep voice drifted to her through the window and for a moment, she thought she might be dreaming. Sitting up, she glanced around, thinking that it must have been her imagination before it came again, floating soft and gently to her on the cool breeze.
Heart quickening, Masako ran to the window, peering out. He stood a few feet away, dressed in a simple robe and sash, eyes furrowed with concern and fear, face lined with worry. She thought she had never seen anything more beautiful.
"Koremori," She breathed, watching as his face lit at the sight of her. With trepidation, he walked towards her, holding out a hand warily.
"I wasn’t sure if you would welcome me or not." His black eyes searched her face, looking for any clue as to what she was feeling. "I have not laid eyes on you for over eight hundred years and you are more beautiful to me now, than I can ever recall of our mortal life."
"Oh, Koremori," Masako sighed, laying a hand alongside his cheek. "I have missed you. I long for your presence beside me in the afterlife."
The feel of her hand was like a balm to his diminished spirit, infusing him with hope and happiness—happiness he had not felt since he had last held her body to him. "I was unsure if you could ever forgive me for messing our lives up the way I did." Koremori mumbled, grasping her hand in with his fingers. "I…" He trailed off as she placed a light, lingering kiss on his against his mouth.
"I forgave you then, fool. I forgave you with my dying breath." He opened his mouth to speak, but she shushed him, placing trembling fingers against the soft, full lips that had once ignited her body on fire. "It no longer matters, Koremori." Masako whispered, choking back tears. "All that matters is that we complete this task so that we may be reunited forever."
"Will you walk with me, Masako?" Koremori’s face relaxed, smoothing into the handsome countenance she remembered so well.
"Of course I will." Agilely she climbed out the window, swinging her legs out and landing softly beside him. She smiled up at him, black eyes shining bright, nearly luminescent in her face.
Koremori smiled, moved at the sight of her graceful beauty. Taking her hand with trembling fingers, he pulled her gently along into the gardens. There was much he would have said to her, much he had to atone for, but what was the point now. If this was the only small bit of time they would have together, he had no desire to relive the past, wanted only to talk of happiness and of joy, for this one sparkling moment of time might be all he ever had with her.
"Tell me of the afterlife, Masako, talk to me of peace."
"Woman," Vegeta growled, "You are not going with me and that is final." He turned to stalk away from her, belting the short robe he wore over his pants. "You are not a strong enough warrior to fight beside me, let alone face Frieza. I do not need such a liability." He strolled barefooted across the floor, moving to the door. Grabbing up his sandals, he stepped outside to put them on.
"Vegeta, it is my duty to fight beside you, to die for you if need be—for your honor." Bulma quivered at the thought, but if given the choice between her life and his, she would gladly sacrifice her own. She had even refrained from telling him about the baby, thinking that if he knew he might insist that she stay away. Bulma had no plans to do that. She was going whether he liked it or not.
"Damn you woman, you will not go and meet Frieza with me. I will not allow it. Do you have any idea what he will do to you, do you know how deep his hatred of me runs? I betrayed him, I took all he had to offer and I used it against him and dishonored him. He will use whatever he can find to bring me to my knees." Vegeta glanced away from her brimming blue eyes. "I must fight this battle on my own."
"You don’t have to do everything alone, Vegeta." Bulma cried, watching the gentle sway of his tail as it moved from side to side.
"Enough prattling, woman. I am tired of your presence." Vegeta waved her away with a hand, trying to ignore the pained expression on her face in hopes of being convincing. Truth be told last night had hardly been enough time, much to his dismay. They had made love into the wee hours of the morning, alternating between rough and gentle, each trying to get closer to the other in the darkest hours and when the morning had come, Vegeta had been left with the desire to run as fast as he could to escape the tightening noose he felt around his heart. The words of the warrior again came back to him, but he pushed them away with a growl.
"I’m going with you, Vegeta, one way or the other. I have been practicing every day with my naginata…"
Vegeta laughed sharply, interrupting her. "And you think that your naginata will be enough to defeat Frieza? Oh, that is rich."
"Damn you Vegeta!" Bulma yelled, lashing out with a hand. She winced as he caught it, squeezing it lightly before shoving it back towards her.
"Woman, I have had enough of you." He spat; despair running through him at what he was going to do. It was necessary, though, to her well-being. He had no desire to see her dead, wanted her to live a long full life and if she went to face Frieza with him, she would be dead in a heartbeat and he hadn’t the time to protect her. There was too much riding on this victory to be distracted with anything save battling Frieza. "As a matter of fact, " He sneered, "When this is all over, I will look elsewhere for a more fitting Queen—one with some backbone." He turned his back, lips compressing into a thin line.
Bulma gasped at his harsh words, blanching white and pressing her lips tightly together. Swallowing past a painful lump, she spoke softly. "That is your right of course, Vegeta-sama, but…" She couldn’t go any further. Pressing a shaking hand to her mouth, she turned and fled, unable to have him bear witness to her sobbing like a child.
Vegeta heard the choked sob, felt his heart tighten, but refrained from turning back to her. If he did, if he saw her face, his resolve would fail. Finally after a few moments of silence, he turned to where she had stood and found, with a sinking heart, that she was gone. Surprised that she had given up so easily, yet a deep sense of relief mixed with disappointment mingling within him, he sighed, strapping on his Daisho. It was unlike the woman to give up so easily. That she had left him with a strange sense of foreboding.
"I see you didn’t heed my words." The deep voice rang out through the words and he jerked his head up, black eyes meeting those of Koremori. "You are a fool to leave her here alone. How can you deny her the right to go with you? Are you so honor less that you will not allow it in others?"
"You," Vegeta breathed, anger creeping insidiously up his spine at the man’s words. How dare the warrior speak of him that way? "How did you get here?" He drew his sword, prepared to kill the man where he stood.
"I came to fight beside you today, Ouji-sama." Koremori stepped forward, black eyes raging with fore for a moment before they cooled to cool obsidian. Resting his hand on his sword, he spoke casually. "Rumor has it that you will need all the men you can get and that includes," He nodded towards the small house, "your wife."
"What I do with my wife is my concern. If you value your life, you will not speak to me of her again." With a snarl, he turned away, sheathing his sword. "Why do you wish to aid me and how is it that you disappeared into the forest yesterday? What manner of creature are you?" His black eyes, alight with their own intense flame never left Koremori’s.
"I am merely a man, Vegeta-sama. A man who seeks forgiveness, a man who wishes to reclaim his honor." Koremori spread his hands wide in mock appeal.
"I told you, you put too much stock into honor." Vegeta snarled, walking to his horse. "What good is honor when it can be driven so easily away? I have seen men forsake their honor to rape women, pillage villages—what good was honor then?"
"Honor serves the greatest of warriors, Vegeta—sama. Men that do evil never had honor to begin with, they are not warriors, merely cowards who deserve the harshest of deaths, but a true warrior," Koremori tapped his chest with his hand, "The truest of warriors lives by his code and does not falter."
"Bah…" Vegeta muttered.
"It is true Vegeta—sama and I believe you to be one of those men. You believe you have lost your soul, that your honor has been purged from you, but it shines within you brightly. You are the only one who does not see it."
"And I told you, that I don’t care." Vegeta turned from the man, disturbed by his words. He had a code of honor, one that he lived by—one that would help him achieve what he needed to, vengeance for his father. He didn’t need this mindless warrior filling his brain with nonsense.
Koremori stepped forward, bowing before Vegeta; speaking bitterly. "You are a stubborn man, Vegeta-Sama, and your woman will pay a high price for your lack of vision."
"So you say." Vegeta snapped, growing tired of the man’s mind games. "My life and yours are not on the same course so do not compare them. My woman will be fine here, safe and away from the battle."
"Are you certain of that Ouji?" Koremori held Vegeta’s smoldering black gaze unwaveringly, electricity arcing between the two men. "Are you willing to gamble with her life? Does she mean nothing to you?"
"Enough," Vegeta snapped angrily, watching Masako step out onto the front porch. "Do you go?" He asked, turning away from Koremori, unaware of the lingering glance that passed between them.
"Yes, Ouji-sama. Are you certain that you do not wish for Bulma-san to go with us? She has practiced long and hard to prepare for this battle. It is a dishonor for her, as your wife, to be left behind." Masako faced him calmly as he turned burning black eyes on her.
"Would you rather she be dead?" He shot back in reply.
"If it was her destiny, then yes. There is no shame in death, nor must we fear it. Bulma-san no longer hides from hers, she is strong of mind and heart—much more so than you give her credit for. She would fight to the end for you if you would but open up your eyes. You shame her Ouji-sama, for your own selfish issues."
"How dare you," Vegeta snarled, stepping forward with fists clenched. "Who do you think you are to lecture to me about dishonor? I do not have the time to argue this point with you, nor do I plan to ever again. I also do not have the time to worry that she will get herself killed while I am trying to strike down Frieza. I have no need of her in this battle. The woman stays."
"That is enough," Vegeta spoke sharply to Masako, whose mouth had opened to speak. "If you value your life, then say no more. I haven’t the time for a fight. Let’s be on our way." Vegeta cast one last lingering glance back at the house, hoping that he would live to see her again.
Bulma knelt quietly on the mat, listening to the sounds of receding horse hooves as they rode off, wishing that she had taken Masako up on her offer to stay with her. She had encouraged her to go, knowing that Vegeta would need her more. Besides, she had other things to do. She had counted on the fact that Vegeta would not take her with him, and had planned accordingly for just such an event. Calmly she walked to Masako’s bedroom, taking the woman’s wakizashi, an extra one that she had kept in a chest. Quietly, with no emotion, and without though, she twisted the long locks of her blue hair into a knot so that they would not hinder her in any way.
Walking back to her own room, wakizashi in hand, she inhaled sharply, an odd sense of foreboding sweeping over her. Perhaps it was her sense of zanshin alerting her to something off. Quietly she padded across the floor, hurrying back to her room. There was something odd in the air; one could almost hear it. The sooner she was away, the safer she would feel.
Reaching her room, she dug through Vegeta’s discarded armor, searching for any extra weapons he might have secreted within it. Again a tingling in her neck set her nerves on edge but she ignored it, hoping that it was merely the strangeness of having her hair so short. Her hands grazed something soft and silky and she freed it from its confines, pulling out a red silken cloth, decorated with the tiniest of flowers. What was this? Frowning she lifted it to her nose, smelling only Vegeta’s musky scent. It looked old—far too old to be anything of Vegeta’s. Shrugging, she pushed it into the band at her waist and stood, fighting back the desire to run away. There was something else in the house with her, she would bet everything she had on that fact. She had spent many long hours working on the art of zanshin with Masako and right now the instinct was screaming at her.
Turning to the window, she moved to climb out, but was halted by a figure in clothed from head to foot in black swinging in though the opening—a ninja.
Panicking, Bulma turned to run the other way, but found her path blocked there as well as another ninja entered the room. Both ninja advanced on her, faces concealed except their eyes, which she could see quite clearly. She shuddered as she met their gaze, seeing nothing but an almost joyful euphoria at knowing she was affectively trapped. Neither made a move towards her, nor did they speak, merely stood watching her patiently.
"What do you want?" Bulma cried out shakily brandishing the wakizashi. "I have nothing you need here… please leave me in peace." Were they here for a reason, did this have something to do with Frieza? He was notorious for his use of the ninja and she was Vegeta’s wife. If he had found out where she lived, he might very well try to use her against her husband. No, she could not let that happen. She would end her own life before she would allow them to capture her. She had the wakizashi in her hand she would commit hara-kiri. There was no other way. Raising the knife, she pointed it at her belly, preparing to drive it in. "You won’t take me alive, I swear it."
Before she had moved they were on her, one capturing her hand, gripping it until she felt the bones begin to break. Crying out in pain, she watched the wakizashi fall uselessly to the ground before she felt herself being forced to her knees. Dazedly, she felt a cloth go round her mouth, and she struggled to breathe, fighting against her captors despite the searing pain in her hand. No, she could not let them take her, not this way.
Somehow she managed to rip the mask off of one—revealing a beautiful man, with long, flowing green hair. She recognized him immediately. He was Zarbon, Frieza’s Shogun. "You," She breathed into the cloth, blue eyes widening. Becoming aware of a creeping heaviness seeping through her body and into her bones and muscles, she panicked, knowing they had drugged her. If she gave into the desire to sleep, they would win and yet it was growing harder and harder to move, but still she fought on, only stopping when Zarbon applied pressure to her injured hand.
With one last strangled cry of outrage, Bulma collapsed against them, her world closing in as blackness invaded it.
We have failed," Masako sighed, watching Vegeta as he rode into his army’s encampment. "He has not been swayed even one small bit from this course of disaster." She slumped wearily against Koremori, melting against him as he wrapped a strong arm around her waist.
"All is not lost yet, Masako." He whispered into her hair. "We know what happens, you can help her."
"How? And what good will it do if he refuses to see the light." Masako turned wide black eyes to her husband, searching the obsidian depths for an answer.
"I don’t know, Masako." Koremori sighted, pulling her closer. "All I know is that I must not give up." He bowed his head. "I can’t give up."
"Then what do we do?"
"We must sneak into the enemies camp, find her—perhaps we can get her a weapon, something she could end this Frieza’s life with."
"There is no way that you could sneak into the enemy’s camp." Masako chided. "You are too big, but I could. Don’t forget, my grandfather was a ninja in the day of your father’s reign. His art did not go unappreciated."
"It will be dangerous, Masako. Not even the art of invisibility can protect you." Koremori looked down at her in concern.
"Koremori, I am already dead. You must trust me, Koremori to do what is right, or have you learned nothing from your mistakes in the past?"
His black eyes flashed with fire before he answered tersely. "I said that it would be dangerous, I did not forbid you to do it. I ask only that you are careful."
Masako leaned up, pressing a light kiss against his mouth. "I will take the greatest of care, my love." Squeezing his hand lightly, she was off, weaving in and out of the army that had set up camp.
He watched her until she was out of sight, before turning with a sigh to go and track down the ever-annoying Ouji, wondering how in the hell he was going to get all of this to turn in his favor.
Bulma came awake with a start, listening to the soft, mocking laughter that filtered in from somewhere in the distance, mingled with the occasional murmur of conversation. Where was she?
Glancing downwards, her eyes widened as she saw that she had been stripped of her clothes, the traditional robes she usually wore replaced with a revealing, purple dress—a courtesan’s dress. Sitting up, she gasped to see long slits on either side of the gown, revealing her leg up to her bottom. Someone had been very busy.
So the ninja had brought her to Frieza. Apparently, he planned on having a good time with her. She pressed her lips together, so hard they turned a shade of white. She was no whore and she would be damned if any man used her as such. She would not be shamed in this way. There had to be something she could do.
Slipping off of the mat, she hunted around for something she might use to protect herself, but came up empty. Peering out the door, she realized to leave meant to stroll right out in front of the soldiers that lazed about in the encampment. It looked as if Frieza had already taken over a part of the capital because he had confiscated the properties and was now using them for his own personal camp. Stepping back from the door, she slid quietly into the shadows, trying to come up with some plan of action.
Her name whispered fervently from the window caught her attention. Scurrying to the opening she peered out, seeing a figure swathed from head to toe in black. "Great," She murmured, "another ninja."
"Bulma-san," The voice whispered again, this time not bothering to mask her voice.
"Masako-san!" Bulma cried quietly. "What are you doing here?"
"I’ve come to help you." The woman slid through the shadows, unnoticed by any who looked. She slipped silently in through the window, ripping off the black cloth that covered her face. Hugging the blue haired woman, she stood back, raking her eyes over her figure. "Are you all right? She asked pointedly, eyes glancing at the dress.
Bulma followed her gaze and blushed. "When I woke up, this was on me… I don’t know how it got here, but no one has bothered me."
"Yet." Masako stated bluntly. "One can assume that Frieza expects to, probably to bait Vegeta." She sighed quietly before pulling out a wakizashi. "Here, use this to defend yourself. Use it well."
"Does Vegeta know I’m here?" Bulma asked, praying fervently that he did.
"I would expect that by now, yes, Frieza has sent word." It had taken her the better part of the evening to come up with the required necessities to sneak into the enemy camp. If battle were to be waged in the morning, then Frieza had most certainly gotten word to Vegeta.
"Come on," Masako whispered, drawing another wakizashi. "We need to find a way out of here. I can’t hold off all of Frieza’s army and I doubt he will leave you alone for much longer." Masako shuddered, remembering the feeling of Kiyomori’s hands on her as he had taken her against her will. Even after eight hundred years the feelings ran raw and deep. She would not allow Bulma to go through the same thing, even if this were only mere dream.
They crept silently to the window, Masako peering out before swinging her legs out and over the sill. Dropping down, she motioned Bulma to follow.
Slipping the wakizashi into the straps of her shoe, she moved to follow Masako, but the sound of an amused chuckle halted her.
"Leaving me so soon?" The voice was soft and mocking, almost feminine.
Turning around she saw him, leaning against the door, arms folded casually across his chest, white tail lashing behind him. "Frieza." She murmured.
"Bulma!" Masako called. "Come on!"
Bulma stood rooted to her spot, before making her decision and throwing herself at the window, clamoring to get out of it, but he was on her in a flash, wrapping strong white arms around her waist and hauling her back. Leaning out the window, he laughed. "I’m sorry, you’re little friend just got here. She’s not ready to leave. Why don’t you give that message to the Ouji?" He laughed mockingly.
"Masako go!" Bulma cried. "Get Vegeta." She had to have faith that he would come for her; she had only to hang on. Somewhere deep down, despite his angry words he loved her, she was sure of it.
She shut her eyes as his white hand ran up the exposed flesh of her leg. "You are a beauty, Bulma-san." His mocking voice whispered lightly into her ear. "I see why Vegeta chose you. I’ll have to thank Dodoria for choosing such a wonderful dress. It shows you off to perfection. Tell me, should we put on a show for the Ouji when he arrives?"
Bulma tried to control her trembling as he placed purple lips against the soft nape of her neck. Please Vegeta, please come… she gasped as he pulled her back hard against him, making her aware of his very strong desire, reaching around with the other hand to massage a barely concealed breast.
"I want you my dear… I want to take that which belongs to Vegeta and I want it willingly. I want him to hear you beg for me, not him. I want him to understand betrayal as he betrayed me, taking all that I offered him and stabbing me in the back with it the moment he had the opportunity."
"You killed his father and took his land." She grated out, clenching her teeth as his hand roamed over her breast again. "Did you think he would forget that?"
"His father was worthless; barely strong enough to rule for the time he did. I had much to teach Vegeta and I did." Frieza’s mouth traveled along the soft skin of her neck, purple tongue darting out to caress her ear lobe. Bulma shuddered in disgust.
"You taught him not to care, to suppress the man that he was inside." She retorted angrily, crying out in pain as his hand twisted her arm violently.
"What would you know? You are only a worthless female." He shoved her away from him, pushing her towards the mat on the floor. "And by the time Vegeta shows his face here, you will be mine."
"Ouji," Nappa called. "Everything is ready. We will strike tomorrow at first light."
"Good." Vegeta mumbled over his shoulder, not wanting to get into the discussion right now. He had been over every possible battle plan since he had arrived and was now lost in a delirium of exhaustion. The last thing he wanted to hear was Nappa talk his ear off. "Get some rest, Shogun!" He called, hoping that Nappa took the hint. "You will be needed at full strength tomorrow."
"Yes, Ouji-sama." Nappa bowed, before turning back to the camp, tail twitching with excitement behind him.
Lifting the flap to his tent, Vegeta staggered in, exhaustion hitting him full force as he made it in, only to see Koremori waiting for him. "You," he hissed, clenching a fist, "what in the hell are you doing in here?" He moved to grab the warrior and toss him from the tent, but was stopped by Masako as she threw herself through the opening, eyes wide with terror.
"Ouji!" She called urgently. "Ouji, Frieza has taken Bulma. He holds her in his camp right now and I think he is…" Masako broke off, breathing heavily from the three-mile sprint she had ran trying to get to him. Despair coursed through her as she turned her eyes to Koremori. They had all but failed. The events were playing out almost exactly as they had in life.
"What?" Vegeta staggered forward, dread shooting through him. "Frieza has taken her? No." He turned stricken eyes towards Koremori, recalling the story he had told him in the forest. "How did you know?" He lunged at the warrior grabbing him by the front of his robe. "How did you know?"
"I can’t tell you, Vegeta-sama." Koremori said regretfully. "But I can help you get her back." Looking at Masako, he spoke again. "This might just be a dream, Masako, but it doesn’t have to end up the same way."
"What are you talking about?" Vegeta snarled, grabbing up his sword. He would rip Frieza limb from limb for taking his wife and if he had touched her in anyway, defiled her, Vegeta would make sure that his death was as excruciating as possible.
"There is no time to explain." Koremori cried, grabbing up his own sword. "Masako, can you lead us to her?"
"Yes, but we have to hurry. His camp is three miles away. By the time we get there, it might be too late."
Vegeta felt desperation shoot through him. She had to be all right, she had to survive. He had not even told her that he loved her, hell, he had barely began to admit it to himself, merely pushing the unwanted emotion out in favor of more comfortable feelings, such as anger, pain and rage—emotions he understood.
"Take me to her." Vegeta said, voice deathly calm. "I—" He broke off, not knowing what else to say. His feelings for her confused him, frightened him, but nothing like this feeling of terror… the idea that she might suffer in anyway, that she might be lost to him for all time was more than he could bear.
"She is in the main house of his encampment. He has her in a small room, dressed as if she were—" Masako broke off, seeing the look of utter desolation that crossed Vegeta’s face. "Vegeta—sama," She whispered. "It isn’t too late."
"Then lead me to her." He replied coldly, his face once again hard and cold. "Frieza has taken one too many things from me. He took my father and my land, but he will not have her."
Koremori nodded once. "Then let us go."
Bulma tried to ignore the feeling of Frieza’s cold hands roaming over her skin as she attempted with little luck to reach the wakizashi stuck in the ties of her sandals. If she could only reach a little further she would have it. He had failed to notice, staying preoccupied, for the time being with her mouth and neck, pressing kiss after kiss upon her. He was determined to seduce her and she was equally determined to resist, not that it would be hard. She loathed him, not just for this, but for all that he had done to Vegeta, for all that he had stolen from him and for all he had denied him. It was because of him that Vegeta could not love her—refused to love her. The thought sent a renewed sense of determination shooting through her. If she could only get him to move off of her leg, she could raise them up and grab the knife and with a little luck, bury it deep in Frieza’s smooth white back. An idea in mind, she pushed her pelvis up against him, rewarded as his hand slid up her bare leg and grasped her bottom, holding her firmly against him.
Swallowing back bile at the close contact, she lifted her legs, wrapping them around him. Sliding her hand down his back, she reached up, snagging the end and yanking it from the straps. Inhaling deeply, she held him against her before, raising the dagger up and plunging it downwards into the white flesh of his back.
Frieza gasped as the blade buried itself into his back. "You bitch!" He roared, wrapping his hands around her neck. " I will kill you for this." He squeezed, feeling the sharp pain of the dagger again as it stabbed into him repeatedly, staining the white flesh of his skin purple with his blood.
Bulma struggled against the hold he had on her neck, amazed at how strong he still was despite having been stabbed repeatedly. She struggled against him, wheezing and gasping for air as his hands closed off her windpipe. Releasing a hand from her neck, he reached for her hand, which had dropped limply to the floor as he slowly strangled the life from her. Latching onto the wakizashi, he drug it towards him
Rearing back, but keeping her tightly pinned to the floor.
"If I die," He snarled, "then you go with me." Raising it into the air, he brought his hand down, driving the blade into her belly.
Bulma coughed violently as the knife entered her body, gasping at the searing pain. Distantly she felt Frieza being lifted from her, heard the quiet sobbing of some feminine voice and the more ragged voice of a man as he knelt beside her.
"Bulma!" Vegeta cried hoarsely, placing his hands over her wound. "Bulma, no, you can’t leave me, I’m sorry… I should have brought you with me, I should have—" He broke off as she coughed again, a think stream of blood trailing down her mouth.
"Vegeta," She whispered, reaching up a hand to stroke the handsome, sharp angles of his face, nearly losing herself in the beautiful black depths of his eyes, the window to his soul, she had once laughingly told him and looking into them now, she realized she had been right. "Don’t—I die with honor." She rolled her head in Frieza’s direction, seeing the white form lying silent against the wall. "Is he…?"
Vegeta stroked her face with his fingers, swallowing back the urge to sob. "He’s dead, I finished him off. Bulma," he rasped hoarsely. "You brought me great honor," Vegeta swallowed past the lump clogging his throat. "Not just in this, but as my wife. I love you." He pressed a heated kiss against her mouth, wrapping his arms around her slim body and lifting her into his arms, cradling her against him, his tail wrapping gently around her wrist. "When you die, woman, you will take my soul with you."
"Vegeta," Bulma whispered hoarsely, unable to fight the urge to close her eyes. "I will always love—" She went slack in his arms, the breath leaving her body in one deep, wracking shudder.
"Bulma!" He screamed, lifting his head to the sky, not caring whose attention he caught. He had lost her. His wife was dead. "Bulma!" He called again in anguish.
Tipping his head back once more, he vented his pain and fury to the sky in one last keening cry.
* * * * *
Bushido—way of the warrior
Daimyo—Powerful feudal landowner
Daisho—The two swords wore by Samurai
Daito—sword over 2 ft. long
Hara-kiri—suicide by cutting into stomach
Kami—spirits and gods
Ken-jutsu—the art of the sword
Ninja—Assassins and spies; practioners of the art of invisibility
Shogun—Barbarian subduing general
Wakizashi—sword 1 to 2 feet long
Zanshin—Ability to sense danger
Again this is a figment of my imagination, based partly on fact, but also a work of fiction.