DBZ? Why, yes, it is my exclusive property! I also have a very nice planet for sale, if youíre interested. . . (DBZ=AT =not me!)
20 years later. . .
Vegeta spurred his horse into a faster gallop, reveling in the feeling of the wind through his spiky black hair. His horse, Auroris, tossed his head and let out a neigh. Vegeta was the only person in the whole province who could ride that stallion; he had proven too wild for anyone else. At Vegetaís side rode his strongest samurai and oldest friend, Kakkarot, who was almost six years younger than he was. They had practiced together for years, and neither was fully certain which was stronger. Most believed it was Vegeta, but Vegeta harbored a secret dread that it was, in fact, Kakkarot; he never spoke of it, and it didnít matter all that much, but it bothered him from time to time. The two stallions flew over the grass, their riders leaning into the wind.
"Your Highness!" Kakkarot called out. Vegeta didnít answer. "Prince Vegeta!" he called louder.
"Iím not going to wait up for you, Kakkarot!" Vegeta yelled back at him. Kakkarot blinked as he pulled up next to his prince.
"I donít need you to wait for me!" Kakkarot objected.
"Then whatís the problem?" Vegeta asked, smirking. His horse neighed again as they jumped over a small creek.
"Arenít we supposed to be going to the Takanama Province?" Kakkarot asked after they landed.
"Yes," Vegeta frowned and nodded.
"Isnít the Takanama Province that way?" Kakkarot prodded as he pointed to the west, a direction they were certainly not going.
"Yes, I believe it is," Vegeta nodded, and then purposely turned Aurorisís head east. Kakkarot followed, surprised, and then laughed.
"Weíre taking the long way, then?" he asked cheerfully.
"If I have to meet one more fragile, weak, empty-headed noble woman, I will do something unspeakably violent. . most likely to you!" Vegeta answered, his smirk returning.
"I understand there are some amazing sights to see around here, though most are farther to the east!" Kakkarot said with a quick, nervous grin, and they rode off laughing.
Their horses couldnít maintain the speed they had them going for long, and soon slowed down to a trot. They passed by villages and farmed fields, and watched the peasants go through their daily routines. As the sun began to sink into the western horizon, turning the clouds bright colors, Kakkarot began to get uncomfortable.
"My lord, I know you hate these marriage meetings, but shouldnít we be going to the Takanama Province now? Theyíll be angry if weíre later than we should be," Kakkarot asked quietly.
"Let them be angry! I donít care about their pathetic province, it has nothing of any worth to the Vegetasei Province. Besides, I met the princess, briefly, a few years ago, and sheís not worth my time!" Vegeta growled. "I have no intention of going there." They continued riding until the sky became deep blue and black velvet, cloaked in gray clouds.
"All right, weíll make camp here," Vegeta said as he pulled on his reigns and brought his horse to a halt. He climbed down and gave Aurorisís red throat a pat.
"So what, exactly, is your plan, Vegeta? We have to go home sometime, donít we?" Kakkarot asked as he took a tent down from his own horse.
"The plan is we travel for a while, and then head for home. Iíd rather see the country side than that pathetic woman a second time," Vegeta answered as he fetched some food rations from the pouches slung over his horse.
"I just hope Iím not blamed for you not arriving in Takanama," Kakkarot muttered as he started gathering firewood. "They let us go on our own because they trusted me to deliver you in a safe, timely manner."
"Donít worry about it, Kakkarot. Iíll take the blame; not that it matters, youíll still get a chewing-out," Vegeta shrugged. Kakkarot sighed as he put the wood he had gathered into a pile. Vegeta lit the fire and Kakkarot set up their tent, and then they both prepped their rations to cook. The full moon beamed down on them dimly through a thickening curtain of clouds. As Vegeta leaned over their cooking fire, obviously displeased with the amount and quality of the food, a small, beaded necklace slid free from his kimono top.
"Next time, we go on to the next town. These rations arenít a fit meal," Vegeta grumbled. "If it werenít so dark, Iíd suggest we go hunting." Kakkarot nodded in agreement, but couldnít help but look at the strange piece of jewelry around his princeís neck.
"Whatís that, Vegeta?" Kakkarot asked, motioning to the necklace.
"This?" Vegeta replied, holding up the half-pendant on the necklace. Kakkarot nodded. "Iím not sure. Iíve had it for as long as I can remember, but I donít remember where or when I got it. Itís some kind of good luck charm for traveling, I know that. I wear it out of habit." Vegeta shrugged and released the piece of jewelry, letting it fall back onto his muscular chest.
"Huh. Why does it have a ĎBí carved into it?" Kakkarot tilted his head as he noted the small engraving.
"I have no idea," Vegeta admitted. "The rice is ready."
They ate in silence, and then practiced their swordsmanship and hand-to-hand techniques until the moonlight was completely swallowed in clouds and they decided to turn in for the evening. The tent was large enough that they could sleep at opposite sides of the tent and have plenty of room between them. They were asleep when the wind began to howl, and the first few drops of water began to come down on their tent. They continued sleeping until the rain became a loud downpour that shook the whole tent, with the wind whipped water droplets into the tent. Vegeta got up and went to pin the tent down more firmly.
"Kakkarot, check on the horses, make them some kind of shelter of you can," he ordered. Kakkarot stretched and moved past him.
"Yes, sir," Kakkarot said. He stepped into the rain and ran over to where they had left their horses, who were neighing unhappily at being so wet. Kakkarot pulled some spare blankets from one of their packs to make a small shelter for them. As he was stretching the blankets across some of the branches over the horses, a small flicker of movement caught his eye. The horsesí ears twitched and they glanced backwards as well, confirming that he wasnít seeing things. He slipped back to the tent for his sword.
"What is it?" Vegeta asked, going on the alert as Kakkarot grabbed his sword.
"Someoneís out there," Kakkarot answered lowly, and Vegeta pulled out his own sword. They walked through the rain carefully, past their horses, and looked deep into the darkness. They couldnít see anything.
"Feh! You imagined it!" Vegeta spat in annoyance. He had been looking forward to a good fight.
"I saw something move," Kakkarot insisted. A small sneeze suddenly hit their sensitive ears, and they snapped back into full alert. "You were saying?" Kakkarot said quietly.
"It seems I judged you a bit too quickly," Vegeta admitted, and they crept toward the source of the sound, which appeared to be a large tree. As they got closer to it, they heard soft voices muttering. If these were assassins, they were very incompetent; probably cheap, too. ((You get what you pay for.)) Vegeta thought. The rain was still cold and heavy, and dawn was still hours away; there was no light to reflect on their drawn blades, no light to show them who they were approaching. If it werenít for the rain, Vegeta would have brought a torch or a lantern, but at the moment, either wouldíve been put out the moment it was taken outside the tent. Depending on their other senses, they inched around the tree, where they could now discern heavy, frightened breathing. Without meaning to, Kakkarot scrapped his sandal across the ground loudly enough for whoever it was to hear, and one of them suddenly sprang up - and tried to run, letting out a high-pitched, feminine scream. Both samurai jumped back in surprise, and a small body collided with Kakkarot. Instinctively, he grabbed the personís shoulders, and squinted through the darkness to see a pale, dark-eyed, dark-haired girl in his grasp, who looked frightened, cold, and wet. Kakkarot seemed to freeze, as did the girl. Vegeta looked at both in bewilderment.
"Chi-Chi!! Are you all right?!" a second female suddenly jumped up from behind the tree. Vegeta looked to her as Kakkarot and the first girl continued to stare at each other. Even in the darkness, he could make out a blue main of hair and pale skin.
"Women?" Vegeta finally said.
"Samurai?" the blue-haired woman answered. Kakkarot and the dark-haired woman seemed to snap out of their trance and regarded their companions.
"I-Iím all right, Bulma. Iím sorry about panicking like that," the girl in Kakkarotís grip, Chi-Chi, said.
"What are you doing out here?" Vegeta asked.
"None of your business!" the blue-haired woman, Bulma, said. "Why are you out here?"
"Woman, you answer when youíre asked a question! Why are the two of you out here alone?" Vegeta snarled. Bulma made no move to back down.
"Why donít we go into the tent where itís dry so we can talk?" Kakkarot suggested. Chi-Chi suddenly looked nervous, but her companion nodded slowly.
"All right, anything to get out of the rain," she said, and Vegeta and Kakkarot led them back to the tent. Once inside, Kakkarot lit a lantern and they got a good look at each other for the first time. Vegeta stared into eyes as deep blue as the richest jewels heíd ever seen, and admired the soft, pink skin and soft features, well-rounded curves and blue hair that was currently sticking to her face and neck in wet strings; the woman was lovely, even while still soaking wet. Kakkarotís eyes never left Chi-Chi, with her dark brown eyes and black hair, and her own fine body. He noted, with some confusion, that she was dressed in the kind of kimono a bordello girl would wear, and it had been torn and patched together messily. Bulma, herself, was dressed a little oddly; it looked like a nice tea-ceremony kimono, not a traveling kimono. The women, in turn, stared at the men. Bulma felt her mouth open a little and her cheeks redden as she looked at Vegeta; he was so handsome, with his tanned skin and dark eyes, the angles of his lean face and his muscular frame. Chi-Chi gazed at Kakkarot, at his wild black hair and dark, kind eyes, his lean face and tall, well-muscled body, and felt herself blush.
"Now," Vegeta said, pulling himself back together, "letís try it again. Why were you two out there alone, without horses or supplies?" The two women stared at them, tight-lipped. They stared back for a few long, silent moments. "All right, youíre running from something. What is it?"
"We might help you if it isnít anything illegal," Kakkarot observed. The women remained silent for a few moments more, and then Bulma let out a long breath.
"Weíre actually running from two separate things. Iím the daughter of the Briefs family, a wealthy family, and my parents arranged a marriage for me to a man I despised. He seemed charming when others were around, but whenever we were alone, heíd threaten me, and once he grabbed my wrist and held it so tight it bruised. So I ran," Bulma admitted.
"My family is very poor," Chi-Chi spoke next, her eyes down-cast. "My father owed a great deal in taxes. A few weeks ago, the tax man came when my father wasnít home. I told him to come back later, and started to turn away from him. . .he hit me over the head and kidnaped me, and then sold me to a bordello." Kakkarot looked horrified, but Vegetaís face remained still and stony. "Bulma saved me from my first Ďcustomerí. . .I was fighting him off when Bulma showed up and distracted him. We managed to over power him, and then we ran out of town." Kakkarot drew in a slow breath; this explained her clothes, and why she looked nervous to be in a small tent with the two of them, and, for that matter, why she screamed, jumped, and ran when they first found them.
"I couldnít leave my best friend in a place like that," Bulma said modestly. "Weíve been on the run ever since." Kakkarot and Vegeta leaned toward each other to confer. The women couldnít make out what they were saying clearly, but they had a strong feeling these men wouldnít return them to their home town. After speaking for several minutes, the two men looked back to the two women.
"We wonít report you or return you; you both had good reason to leave," Vegeta finally said. Both women breathed a sigh of relief.
"Are you headed anywhere?" Kakkarot asked gently. They shook their heads.
"Only away," Bulma admitted.
"And what were you going to do when you found a suitable place, hm? There arenít many jobs for single women, you know. Youíd be lucky not to end up in the local whore house anyway," Vegeta said roughly. Bulmaís eyes flashed blue fire, and he blinked.
"Who are you to say that to us?!" Bulma demanded loudly, and Vegeta pulled back the tiniest bit, surprised at her outburst. "We have skills we can market, we will find something. . .and you have no right to speak so cruelly to us!" A small smirk pulled up his lips; heíd never seen a woman with such fire before.
"I will never go back into one of those places again!" Chi-Chi added with venom. Vegeta gave a small grunt, his eyes still on Bulma, and Kakkarot cleared his throat.
"Itís late; why donít we all get some sleep?" he said, hoping to make some peace.
"Our spare blankets are currently acting as shelter for the horses," Vegeta pointed out.
"Weíve been sleeping without blankets just fine, thank you," Bulma waved it off. Vegeta frowned a bit.
"Weíll be okay," Chi-Chi agreed when she saw Kakkarot move to offer her his blanket. They blew out the lantern and found comfortable places to sleep. Less than an hour later, Vegeta woke up because of a strange sound. It took him a moment to place it; Bulma was shivering in her sleep. He looked at her for a few seconds, and then got up quietly. He wrapped his blanket snugly around her, and watched her until her shivers ceased. He touched one of her drying locks of hair for a moment, thinking about how beautiful she was, and then pulled back and went to his sleeping area. This woman was having a strange affect on him. He looked over to Kakkarot, only to see his fellow samurai getting up to put his blanket around the Chi-Chi woman. ((Well,)) he reasoned, ((at least Iím not going insane alone.))
When morning came, Bulma awoke and looked at the blanket in surprise. It smelled strongly of Vegeta, a rich, spicy, male scent she found surprisingly pleasing. She went to look at him, only to find that he wasnít in the tent. Neither was his companion. Chi-Chi was still asleep, and had gained a blanket as well. She woke her friend up and they stepped out of the tent to see the samurai already getting ready to leave. The two women quickly noted that no new camp fire had been started, so no breakfast had been eaten yet, though the cooking pot was out with some raw food in it. To thank the men for their kindnesses the night before, Bulma and Chi-Chi started breakfast as Vegeta and Kakkarot broke camp. It took a few minutes to find dry enough wood, but they managed it, and started a fire with little trouble. As the smell of cooking food filled the area, the two men paused for a moment to watch the two women. Now that they were dry and comfortable looking, they were even more beautiful. The soft breeze tossed their silken locks around, and the fire glowed off their skin. Kakkarot swallowed dryly, and Vegeta drew in a slow breath. Forcing his mind back onto the task at hand, Vegeta motioned Kakkarot to help him take down the tent. They started to dismantle it and the women looked over to them.
"Good morning!" Bulma called over.
"Good morning!" Chi-Chi said at the same time.
"Morning," Kakkarot said with a smile and a nod.
"Morning," Vegeta said more coolly.
"Breakfast will be ready shortly," Bulma told them.
"Good, Iím hungry," Vegeta answered. Bulma frowned a little at his rudeness. Vegeta and Kakkarot finished taking down the tent and stowed it back on Kakkarotís horseís back. Then they joined the two runaway women at the camp fire.
"Thank you for the blanket," Bulma said as she handed Vegeta a bowl of warm rice and vegetables. He went to take it, touching her hand as he did. The more he looked at her, the more familiar she seemed.
"Youíre welcome," he said as he took his bowl and pulled out his chopsticks from a bag on his side. The chopsticks were made from rich red wood and had gold carvings in them. Bulma stared at the beautiful eating utensils in surprise. ((He must be someone very important and wealthy to have chopsticks like that.)) she thought. "Honestly, thinking youíd be fine without blankets when you were soaked to the bones with cold rain!" Vegeta continued.
"I didnít want to impose more than I was! Besides, you were wet, too!" Bulma snapped, and turned her head away. Vegeta smiled against his bowl as he watched her. He had never met a woman who would argue with him before; it felt good. He also loved how her eyes flashed and her cheeks flushed when she was angry. All the women he had met were so subservient and quiet they annoyed him. It wasnít that he didnít want an obedient wife, he wanted a woman who would make his life interesting, who had a mind and spirit of her own to add to his.
"Thank you for your blanket," Chi-Chi said, looking at Kakkarot almost shyly.
"Not a problem," Kakkarot said smiling at her gently.
"Say, you never answered my question last night. Why are you two out here by yourselves?" Bulma suddenly turned back to Vegeta. Rude as he was, he was still attractive, and she had the feeling he was being gruff to cover up how he really felt. Besides, he looked more familiar all the time. She had no idea where she couldíve met him before, she certainly didnít remember meeting him before.
"Weíre sort of running away, too," Kakkarot chuckled. "Except we arenít running from home, weíre running from a marriage meeting!"
"Marriage meeting?" Bulma and Chi-Chi echoed.
"Iím supposed to go to the Takanama province to meet their princess and discuss marriage possibilities. But Iíve met her before, and I already know I donít want her for a wife," Vegeta explained gruffly.
"Meet the princess. . .? Youíre a prince?!" Bulma just about jumped to her feet in surprise. Vegeta smirked as he handed her his empty bowl to refill.
"Thatís right, Iím Prince Vegeta of the Vegetasei Province," he said, his eyes glinting. Bulma took the bowl, though she was clearly unhappy at being treated like a servant, refilled it, and handed it back to him.
"Iím his strongest samurai, Kakkarot," Kakkarot added. "With everything that happened last night, we didnít think to introduce ourselves."
"Iím Bulma Briefs," Bulma said, bowing deeply.
"Chi-Chi Ox," Chi-Chi also bowed deep.
"Sit up, I prefer seeing your face," Vegeta said as he put his hand under Bulmaís chin. She looked up and into his eyes, and they felt themselves turn red for a moment when they realized what heíd said. Bulma felt her heart speed up.
"You, too," Kakkarot said, and Chi-Chi sat up and smiled at him. Vegeta cleared his throat uncomfortably.
"Weíll take you to the next town on our horses, and then weíll decide what to do next," Vegeta told them, and they all nodded. They could live with that.
Chapter 2 is on its way! Want to tell me what you think so far? E-mail me at NansJns@aol.com!