Oh Great Dragon Shenlon, grant me my wish! I wish to own all rights to Dragon Ball Z! And, I wish for a real-life Goku and Vegeta to play with as I please! What? What do you mean I canít have either?! Why not?! Surely something so simple isnít beyond your abilities! But. . .! Oh, fine! Be that way! I guess this means it still belongs to Mr. Toriyama and the rest.
It took only a few minutes to get everything packed and stowed again. Kakkarot helped Chi-Chi up onto his horse, and then climbed on in front of her. He smiled a little at the feel of her arms as they went around him. He glanced to his prince, who was still rubbing his own horse down to help dry him after the previous nightís rain.
"Heís beautiful," Bulma observed as she came up to the red stallion. She reached out her hand for him to smell, and he snuffled it a few times, then snorted. Taking that to mean she was okay, she pet his nose and neck.
"Thank you. But donít get the wrong idea, youíll be riding with Kakkarot, too. Auroris wonít let anyone but me ride. . ." Vegeta started, then stopped as he watched Bulma struggle into the high saddle. It wasnít the most graceful thing heíd ever seen, but she did it, and Auroris, who had never let anyone other than Kakkarot even get near him, stood perfectly still while she did, and simply tossed his head once she was comfortably seated.
"There. What were you saying?" Bulma looked down at Vegeta, who stared back in shock. He went up to Aurorisís head and looked at him curiously.
"Are you going soft on me?" he asked the animal quietly. Auroris twitched his ears and snorted in response. Vegeta shook his head and climbed up behind Bulma. "This is a first," he told her quietly.
"A first for what?" Bulma asked, looking back at him, and he had to fight not to lose himself in her eyes, as she had to fight not to lose herself in his.
"Auroris has never let anyone but me ride him before," Vegeta told her. "Heís too wild."
"Doesnít seem very wild to me," Bulma answered, petting the stallionís neck again. She felt more than heard Vegetaís chuckle.
"Thatís because he isnít moving yet," he said by her ear.
"Which way are we going?" Kakkarotís voice suddenly cut in.
"We came from that way," Bulma said, pointing off to the south.
"Well, that way, and to the left," Chi-Chi added, pointing to the more accurate direction.
"All right, then," Vegeta answered with a nod of his head. "Follow me, Kakkarot!" he said over his shoulder, and then gave a cry that sent Auroris flying northward. Bulma let out a surprised cry as they went.
"Hold on tight," Kakkarot said to Chi-Chi. "Horushu, go!" Kakkarot called to his own horse, and Chi-Chiís grip tightened as the horse ran after his companion.
"Are you crazy?! Slow down!" Bulma yelled at Vegeta.
"I told you he was wild! If you donít like it, you can get off and walk!" Vegeta answered, and they went into a long argument that quickly veered from the original subject of the speed of the horse.
By the time they reach the town that afternoon, Bulma and Chi-Chi had gotten used to the speed, and were even enjoying it, so long as their male companions kept the horses in check. They had even laughed and yelled when Vegeta and Kakkarot made their horses jump over a fallen tree. When the town came into view they slowed down and rode into it at a slow trot. They dismounted when they neared the market place and Vegeta and Kakkarot led the horses by their reigns.
"Well, now, what have we here?" a large man with straight, dark brown hair said as he eyed the women in their dirty, torn kimonos. "Such pretty young women should have nicer things to wear. I know a quick way for you to make some yen. . ." he smiled nastily as he grabbed Bulmaís wrist and pulled her closer. "Yeah, you and your friend are nice."
"Let go of me, you disgusting creep!" Bulma yelled at him.
"Huh. Youíre a bit temperamental," he grunted. Then Vegeta grabbed his arm and pulled Bulma from his grasp. "Hey! What are you doing?!" the man snapped at Vegeta. He had over a headís worth of height on the prince, and had no idea who he was looking at, and thus assumed the advantage was his. Vegetaís face was stone, but fire flickered in his eyes. He physically threw the man into the crowd, sending him sprawling onto his backside. He stared at the prince in surprise, and then Vegeta drew his katana.
"Apologize for the insult to her honor," Vegeta said lowly.
"And hers," Kakkarot added, his own sword out, as he motioned to Chi-Chi. The man spit to the side.
"Honor? A couple of street women? Donít be. . ." he started, and then metal was against his throat.
"They arenít street women, theyíve been traveling. Now, apologize before you have to learn to breathe through a hole in your throat," Vegeta hissed. The man only stared back like Vegeta was the one who was acting inappropriately. The blade began to cut his skin and he jumped.
"Iím sorry! I meant no insult! Please, forgive me, ladies!" he said quickly. Bulma and Chi-Chi Ďhumphedí in response, but it was enough for Vegeta to back off. He and Kakkarot re-sheathed their swords and the man ran off into the crowd.
"You need new kimonos," Vegeta said as he turned back to the women. He wasnít sure why he had reacted the way he did, he barely knew this woman. He assured himself it was only because of how strongly he believed in honor, and there was no honor in treating a woman that way. Bulma smiled at him gently.
"Thank you for saving me," she said. "As for kimonos. . .we have very little money left. Thatís why we were in the forest last night and not an inn. We barely have enough for our next meals." Chi-Chi nodded sadly, pulling lightly on her revealing clothes. Vegeta looked at her evenly, trying not to be affected by her eyes and face.
"Youíre welcome. Kakkarot, we brought some gold with us, did we not?" Vegeta turned to his trusted samurai.
"Yeah, for food and inns along the way. More than enough," Kakkarot smiled and nodded.
"Fine, then, lets find someone selling kimonos," Vegeta said, and Bulma and Chi-Chi glanced at each other happily. They could finally get some clean, whole clothes!
They chose some simple kimonos that were good for traveling, a plum purple one for Bulma and a dark yellow one for Chi-Chi. Once the kimonos and some supplies were bought, they went to the public bath house so they could all bathe and Bulma and Chi-Chi could change. They went to the separate areas for men and women and stripped down, Bulma and Chi-Chi throwing their old clothes aside. As was the tradition, they washed the dirt and mud from their travels off of themselves before climbing into the bathtubs.
"Goodness, dearies, it looks like youíve had a time of it," an elderly woman said as Bulma and Chi-Chi sank into the tub.
"Yeah, we have," Bulma nodded.
"Your husbands should have found a better way to travel than just those horses. It was terrible for your kimonos and skin," a younger woman observed.
"Husbands?" Bulma blinked.
"Husbands?" Chi-Chi echoed.
"Yes," the young, red-haired woman nodded. "I saw you come in with them - two handsome young samurai." Bulma and Chi-Chi first paled, then blushed.
"Theyíre. . .not our husbands," they said slowly. The other women stared at them for a moment.
"Fiances, then? You didnít treat them like brothers. . ." the woman tried again. Bulma and Chi-Chi shook their heads.
"Neither, actually. . .um. . .they. . .uh. . ." Bulma fumbled for an explanation as the women around them got slightly darker looks, starting to assume the worst.
"Are you still courting?" one woman offered, and it seemed as good a story as any.
"Yeah, weíre all still courting," Bulma nodded. "We were traveling and got caught in the rain last night." The women all seemed to relax then.
"Oh, you poor things," the elderly woman said.
On the menís side, Vegeta and Kakkarot settled into the warm tub with soft sighs of contentment.
"Feels good to get all that mud off," Vegeta observed, though his face showed some discomfort.
"Sure does. This is a nice bathhouse, too. Brings back memories," Kakkarot stretched a bit, perfectly relaxed.
"Youíve been in a public bathhouse before?" Vegeta asked, surprised.
"Yeah, havenít. . .oh, no, I suppose you havenít," Kakkarot sat up straight. "My father would bring my brother and me to a bathhouse when we were small, and weíd get into water fights and bug everybody else. Mom wouldíve joined us in the fights, Iím sure, but she was on the womenís side," he continued. Vegeta frowned.
"I get very tired of hearing how well your family gets along, Kakkarot," Vegeta grumbled. Kakkarot frowned then.
"Just because you and your dad donít always see eye to eye. . .," Kakkarot muttered. "So, you never bathed with your parents when you were a small child?"
"Iím sure someone bathed me when I was too small to do it myself, but I donít know who. . .and I only remember my father being with me once, and not on purpose. He just happened to decide to take a bath while I was already in the royal baths. He actually offered to wash my back, but I said no," Vegeta said, just loudly enough for only Kakkarot to hear. Kakkarot let out a little, thoughtful hum. Vegeta strove to relax, but he just wasnít used to bathing with so many other people around. The royal baths were big, but typically empty except for the servants. That time with his father was the only time in his memory of bathing with anyone. For a moment, his mind filled with the image of Bulma, and bathing with her, but he quickly shook it free, startled by the thought. He had only met the loud-mouthed, disobedient woman the other night! So what if she was the most interesting, exciting, and lovely woman he had ever seen? That was no reason. . .Vegeta blinked and splashed some water in his face. Heíd never felt like this before, and it confused and worried him.
Bulma and Chi-Chi stepped into the lobby of the bathhouse feeling much better all around, and looked for their new friends. A few minutes later, Vegeta and Kakkarot emerged from the menís side, and froze for a brief moment as they saw the ladies clean and in their new kimonos. They managed to start moving again when the women saw them, and moved up to their sides.
"Letís see if thereís a decent restaurant in this place," Vegeta said, keeping his eyes off Bulma. "Iím starved."
"Sounds good to me," Bulma replied, curious as to why he seemed to be trying not to look at her. They walked out of the bath house, fetched their horses, and headed down the street.
"That kimono suits you," Kakkarot said quietly to Chi-Chi.
"Thank you," Chi-Chi answered.
"I smell beef and chicken," Vegeta suddenly said, turning to the right. Bulma inhaled, but smelled only dust, grass, and people.
"I donít smell anything," Bulma shook her head.
"Your sense of smell probably isnít as strong as mine. This way," Vegeta shrugged her off.
"Oh, yeah, I smell it, too," Kakkarot observed, and Bulma and Chi-Chi balked.
"How can you possibly. . .?!" Bulma started.
"Our people have better senses than most. Donít get angry with us just because yours are weak!" Vegeta snapped.
"How dare you! I have some of the best eyesight in Japan, and I hear perfectly! Just because I canít smell food in a large crowd doesnít mean my senses are weak!" Bulma snarled at him.
"Well, obviously your sense of smell is. . ." Vegeta prodded, and they flew into another argument. They had escalated to yelling as they came to the restaurant, a small building near the outskirts of the village. It was actually a combination inn and restaurant, and the smells emanating from it were very promising. Vegeta and Bulma continued their verbal spar over the meal, and had settled into a few quick barbs every other word as Vegeta and Kakkarot arranged for some rooms for the night. After the unpleasant stay in the rain, they all wanted a warm bed for that night, and since the next village was close to two daysí ride away, they decided to stay where they were for the day, and explored the village to pass the time. The brief stay also gave the horses time to rest. Without actually talking about it, they had all somehow reached the conclusion that the four of them would travel together a while longer.
They traveled together for weeks, going from village to village, and across several provinces. Bulma and Chi-Chi became completely used to the speed Vegeta and Kakkarot preferred to ride at, and liked it. Bulma and Vegeta argued frequently, but it hadnít taken long for Bulma to realize Vegeta enjoyed locking wits with her. At times, he was obviously trying to goad her into a fight. In one town they came to, the people were having a small Shogi tournament. Bulma happily told Vegeta about what a good player she was, and Vegeta indicated that he was probably better. After arguing the point for a few moments, they fetched a board to play with. Five hours and fifty games later, the score was Vegeta 20, Bulma 20, and 10 stalemates. Kakkarot and Chi-Chi had watched them while they played, until Chi-Chi decided she wanted to go to the tea house, and Kakkarot followed after her. When the final score came up with Bulmaís last victory, she smiled as she held up her winning piece.
"It seems weíre evenly matched, my prince," she chuckled.
"Yes," Vegeta agreed quietly, a small smile gracing his lips, "it does."
They grew closer as time passed, and for a time, Vegeta filled with the wish to just stay on this journey with her forever; he even thought about getting a boat and crossing the sea with her, but he knew he couldnít. He had to go home eventually, to gain his promised throne and power. He knew, though, what his father would think of Bulma. The daughter of rich parents or no, she wasnít of any noble blood, and that automatically dropped her off his fatherís list of possibilities. Vegeta was at a loss for the first time in his life; he could openly defy his father and risk the anger of all his people, or go along with his father and lose the one woman in all Japan, in all the world, he wanted for his own. Bulma didnít know what to do, she was in love with the prince, but she was a commoner. He was such a perfect match for her personality, and he actually liked her temper and that she had a mind all her own. She impressed him repeatedly with her ability to build things. She knew sheíd never find another man like that, and the idea of losing him tore her heart.
They were still riding basically aimlessly, staying only to the north and east, to avoid the Takanama Province (though they were all pretty sure theyíd passed it some time ago) and to keep from going back to Bulma and Chi-Chiís home province of KapuKopu, when they came to a small village nestled at the base of some mountains. The people were in an uproar when they arrived, many packing up and getting ready to run from the village.
"What is going on here?" Vegeta demanded of a man who was throwing things into a cart. The man looked at him strangely for a moment, until he realized they were strangers.
"You chose a bad time to visit here, strangers. The great dragon Shenlon is angry for some reason!" the man answered.
"Great dragon?" Chi-Chi repeated.
"What dragon?" Bulma said.
"This area is protected by a huge, emerald dragon with ruby eyes named Shenlon. Normally, he is kind, and keeps away invaders. But something has angered him - heís been attacking the village!" the man explained. "Get out of here as fast as those horses can take you!"
"Emerald and rubies? Are you being attacked by a statue?" Vegeta spat, annoyed by the manís seeming cowardice.
"Vegeta, gently. If the dragon is really huge, he has reason to be afraid," Bulma whispered to him, and Vegeta muttered softly to himself. Even with her own temper, Bulma had taken to acting as a steadying influence for him.
"That is just how we describe him, sir. His scales are green and his eyes are red. . .and oh, Kami, here he comes!" the manís voice rose with fear, and he climbed into his cart and sent it flying down the rode. They looked up to see something huge coming from the west, the sky darkening around it as it came. It took only a few moments before the enormous green dragon was over the village, and the foursome abruptly split apart to make a smaller target. The dragon roared and grunted, letting out a stream of fire across the sky. As the man had said, his scales were green and his eyes were red, and he had antler-like horns on his head and a mouth full of sharp teeth. His body had to be a at least three miles long, and slender as he coiled across the sky. He dove downward twice, and then turned to fly away, two women screaming from his claws.
"VEGEETAAA!! HEELP!!" Bulma shrieked as she was carried away.
"KAKKAROOOT!!" Chi-Chi howled at the same time from Shenlonís other claw. They reached, uselessly, toward the ground, where Vegeta and Kakkarot still stood, shocked and angry.
"BULMA!" Vegeta bellowed as he leapt onto Aurorisís back and made him run after the dragon.
"CHI-CHI!" Kakkarot nearly howled in rage as he mounted Horushu and sent him after both the dragon and his prince. The two samurai tore across the countryside, quietly grateful the dragon was so big that it was never out of sight, even when it landed in the mountains.
Well, who else would I have as a dragon in a Dragon Ball Z fic? ;).
Horushu - a play on the word horseshoe.
KapuKopu - a slight reworking of "Capsule Corp." ;).
Shogi - Japanese Chess.
I take comments! NansJns@aol.com!