Dragon Ball Z is miiiine! My precious! Precious! Okay, Iím back. . and, as much as Iíd love to say it was mine, thatís a negative.
Chi-Chi steered Horushu as best she could with only one hand holding his reigns. Her other hand was holding her best friend, who was bleeding badly. She had barely managed to get Bulma onto Horushu and then herself. If it werenít for the fact that going by horse was faster than by foot, she wouldnít have tried it. She knew getting shook up was the last thing Bulma needed, but she didnít have a choice. The nearest doctor was still far enough away that dragging Bulma through the streets would have accomplished nothing. Horushu was a little confused to be going somewhere without his master, she could tell, but the horse already accepted her as his mistress and was willing to go where she told him.
"Almost there, almost there," she muttered. She looked around the streets where the only guides were occasional torches and the lights in the buildings. Her breath left her in a rush when she finally spotted the two-story building the doctor worked in. Chi-Chi put Bulma down across Horushuís back carefully and then got down as quickly as she could. She then gently lifted Bulma down and counted her lucky stars that she was stronger than most women, or lifting Bulma would have been more difficult. Chi-Chi carried her semi-conscious friend and kicked at the door to get someone on the inside to open it. A few tense moments later, one of the doctorís assistants opened the door.
"What. . .good heavens! What happened to her?! Get her inside, quickly!" the young woman said quickly when she saw the increasingly pale Bulma. The nurse helped Chi-Chi get Bulma comfortably on a bed and then ran for the doctor, who came into the room with an armload of supplies. He looked her over quickly to determine the number and extent of her injuries, and then set to work, cleaning and bandaging.
"What happened here? How did she get cut like this?" the doctor asked as he wrapped Bulmaís chest in a cloth bandage.
"Uh. . ." Chi-Chi said, not sure how to answer. "There was a fight. . .we got caught in it. . ." She fumbled a bit, not wanting to lie, but unable to tell the whole truth. The assistant was looking at them both carefully, as was the doctor.
"A fight?" the doctor echoed. Chi-Chi nodded numbly. "Between who and who?"
"Some samurai. . .and some bounty hunters. . ." Chi-Chi said slowly. Then the door was roughly flung open, and Vegeta and Kakkarot came running in. They went straight for the treatment area.
"Whereís Bulma?" Vegeta demanded before seeing her on the bed.
"Please, honorable sirs, weíre in the middle of treatment! Stay in the waiting area!" the assistant stepped in their way and Vegeta scowled at her. Kakkarot pulled him back to the front to wait unhappily. Several minutes later, the assistant came out. "All right, you can come in now. Sheís unconscious, but the bleedingís stopped, so sheíll be fine." Vegeta didnít answer as he moved past her to see Bulma.
"Thank you," Kakkarot told the woman as he went past. Once inside, Chi-Chi flung herself into Kakkarotís arms as Vegeta sat by Bulma and took her hand. Her face was twitching in her sleep from pain and possibly bad dreams. Her stroked her face gently and her face smoothed out a little.
"Woman, wake up," he murmured. None of them noticed the doctor and the nurse speaking quietly, or the nurse leaving.
"What happened? How did those bounty hunters find you?" Kakkarot asked Chi-Chi, and Vegetaís ears went to them while his eyes stayed on Bulma.
"Iím not entirely sure. I know part of it was they smelled the smoke. . ." Chi-Chi started, and Kakkarot stared at her in surprise that sheíd do something so foolish as to build a fire. "It was dark and cold! The fire was tiny, just a few burning twigs, not enough to actually give any real light or warmth! But they smelled the smoke, and followed it. . .we tried to fight. . .but they outnumbered us, caught us from behind . . ." Chi-Chi buried herself into Kakkarotís embrace as tears threatened her. Kakkarot held her tightly to show his forgiveness.
"How long until she wakes up?" Vegeta asked quietly. "We have to leave, soon. Those bounty hunters wonít be the last to come after the two of you."
"The doctor said it wouldnít be long," Chi-Chi said. "I want to get out of here. I canít take it anymore," she whispered against Kakkarotís chest. "All because my family is poor, Iím not worth anything except as. . .as. . ." Chi-Chi bit back a sob as the horror of what had nearly happened to her came back. Kakkarot rubbed her back soothingly. Vegeta tuned them out and let them have a little privacy.
"Chi-Chi, no one will ever hurt you like that again, I swear. . .come back to Vegetasei with me, be my wife. . .Iíll keep you safe forever, and anyone who shows you disrespect again will feel my blade," Kakkarot said softly in to her hair. Chi-Chi gasped at the proposal, and then smiled and lifted her head.
"You really mean it?" she asked. Kakkarot nodded and smiled a little for her. "Yes! Iíll gladly be your wife!" she said, hugging him tightly. Kakkarot smiled widely.
Vegeta continued to focus on Bulma, and cursing himself for not protecting her better. When the man turned from him, he had simply assumed he was turning to run. The sight of the blade coming down on Bulma flashed before his eyes again. How could he have been so stupid, so slow?! He had allowed her to be gravely injured, in a place he dare not let her stay long. Who knew what her would-be fiancé would do to her while she was weak and couldnít really fight back. It gave him little comfort that the blood on her bandage was minimal, or even that her breathing was fairly steady. She was still so pale, and her skin was cool to the touch. They sat, waiting for Bulma to wake up, for what felt like a long time, but was closer to an hour.
"I have some tea for her when she wakes up," the doctor said, startling Vegeta out of his revery. He placed the warm cup of tea on a small table beside Bulmaís bed. "It has some special herbs in it that will dull the pain. She mustnít move very much for a bit, either. It would be best if she just lied still and rested for the rest of the evening. Sheíll be able to move tomorrow, but she still shouldnít move too much."
"All right," Vegeta nodded, far more compliant than he normally was. Kakkarot would have been surprised, if he didnít already know how much Bulma meant to him.
"Oh, and I had to remove her necklace while I was treating her. Here, you can hold on to it - I almost forgot I had it in my pocket," the doctor smiled a bit as he handed Vegeta the necklace before he left again to give them some privacy. Vegeta stared at the necklace in shock. It was made of clay beads and cherry seeds, with a half-stone pendant on one end, just like his. Vegeta reached into his shirt and pulled out his own necklace, a perfect match. Kakkarot looked at the matching pieces of jewelry in almost as much surprise as Vegeta.
"How strange! Chi-Chi, do you know where she got that?" Kakkarot asked the woman in his arms. Chi-Chi was looking at the two necklaces in mild confusion herself.
"No, not really. . .and neither does she. Sheís had it since she was a little girl, but she doesnít remember where she got it. She just knows itís a good luck charm of some kind," Chi-Chi answered. "She always wears it when she travels, she told me."
"Theyíre not identical," Vegeta said slowly. "The letters are different." He held up the two pendants to show them. Bulmaís didnít have a "B" like Vegetaís, it had a "V". That, however, made Vegeta even more confused and surprised. His had Bulmaís initial on it, and hers had his initial. . .what did it mean?
"If. . .if I didnít know better, Iíd swear that those were two halves of the same stone," Kakkarot observed slowly. Slowly, Vegeta put the two pendants together. The two halves fit together perfectly, re-creating the round, tan stone they used to be, a "B" on one half, a "V" on the other. ((What does this mean?)) Vegeta wondered. Something from a very long time ago was calling to him, but he couldnít quite recall what.
"Excuse me," a new voice suddenly cut in, and they looked up to see three older men standing a few feet away. Chi-Chi tried to hide behind Kakkarot. "We donít mean to interrupt, but we hear that you have something of ours."
"All that we have belongs to us," Kakkarot answered coldly, sensing who they were.
"Not entirely," said the second man, tilting his head to look through the room carefully before he caught sight of Chi-Chi. "She belongs to us," he pointed to Chi-Chi. "We paid for her, nice and legal. Hand her over."
"She was kidnaped!" Kakkarot snarled.
"So are most slaves," shrugged the third man.
"Sheís not yours," Kakkarotís voice dropped low, heavy with menace.
"Yes, she is," the other men frowned deeply. Kakkarot grasped the hilt of his sword, ready to fight to protect her, and Vegeta moved to shield Bulma, who was beginning to stir. Before violence could erupt, Dr. and Mrs. Briefs, as well as Rukin, arrived.
"Where is she?! Whereís my little Bulma?!" Mrs. Briefs demanded quickly, pushing past the men from the bordello.
"Bulma, sweetie, are you here?" Dr. Briefs called as he helped his wife push through the small crowd into the treatment area. Rukin was on their heels.
"Wha-you two again?" Mrs. Briefs stared, wide-eyed, at the two samurai.
"You knew where she was?" Dr. Briefs asked, not sure whether to be angry or happy. Rukin was glaring daggers at Vegeta.
"Yes. . ." Vegeta said slowly. Bulma moaned softly then, and they all turned to watch her dark blue eyes flutter open.
"Mama? Papa?" Bulmaís voice was a little weak, but otherwise fine.
"Oh, my baby!" Mrs. Briefs forgot about the two samurai and ran to her daughterís side. "What happened?"
"Bounty hunters. . .trying to keep me from running. . .Vegeta?" Bulma turned her head to Vegeta.
"Iím right here," Vegeta said quietly, soothingly. He reached over and picked up the tea the doctor had left, then carefully tilted her head up. "Here, the doctor said you should drink this," he said, and Bulma sipped the tea until it was gone.
"Bulma, where did you go? Weíve all been so worried!" Dr. Briefs joined his wife at his daughterís side, rather curious about the familiarity between his daughter and Vegeta.
"Around. . .all over Japan, really," Bulma smiled a little.
"Iíd rather know why you went! Our wedding will have to be postponed for awhile, now!" Rukin said as he leaned closer, sounding concerned, though his eyes were hard. Bulma saw him for the first time and tried to pull away in terror, her hands gripping weakly for Vegeta.
"R-Rukin. . .n-no! No! Vegeta!" she rasped as she grasped Vegetaís kimono top. Vegeta, uncomfortable with showing so much emotion with so many witnesses, swallowed down his pride and wrapped his arms around her shoulders and held her.
"Itís all right, Iím here, he wonít hurt you," Vegeta said by her ear. "And donít move so much, woman, youíll make your injury worse."
"Hurt her? What do you mean?" Dr. Briefs stepped back into the conversation.
"He threatens me, Papa, and hurt my wrist once!" Bulma explained.
"What? But. . ." Mrs. Briefs started.
"I donít want to marry him! And I donít have to!" Bulma said, pushing herself deeper into Vegetaís arms.
"Excuse me? The deal is already done. You are my fiancee, Bulma, and weíll be married in the fall," Rukin said, his voice a knife. Her parents noticed the change.
"The deal is broken. I am Crown Prince Vegeta of the Vegetasei Province, and Bulma will be my wife and empress," Vegeta answered, his voice a growl.
"Say what?!" Rukin and the Briefs, except for Bulma, all cried out in surprise.
"Ah, look, this is none of our business," the men from the bordello cut in. "We just want Miss Chi-Chi. Weíll take her and be on our way."
"Like hell you will!" Kakkarot snarled loudly.
"Please! This is a doctorís office! If youíre going to fight, do it outside and come back in when youíre ready to be treated!" the doctor snapped.
"I donít care anymore!" Rukin suddenly growled. "She ran away to be with another man? Fine, thatís her choice! You can have her for your bordello, too, the slut!" he all but bellowed, looking to the men and pointing to Bulma.
"How dare you!" Vegeta released Bulma and jumped to his feet.
"How dare I? How dare you! What sort of Ďprinceí steals another manís fiancee? Come to think of it, what kind of prince goes hunting for stolen property in a dirty kimono and filthy armor?" Rukinís eyes flashed malice. "Youíre no prince! You want the who-" Vegetaís fist to Rukinís face cut the insult short. Rukin stumbled back and almost fell over, but caught himself before he did. His face contorted with rage as he stared at Vegeta.
"I stole nothing," Vegeta said, his voice a low rumble from the back of his throat. "She ran away from you, and we met. Weíve traveled together these past few months and we both decided we wanted to get married. As for my clothes, you donít always get a chance to wash while traveling. And if you wish to keep your tongue, you will not insult Bulma or myself again!"
"Youíve been traveling together? You just picked up a woman youíd never met before, and traveled with her? Paid for her food and lodgings? Out of the goodness of your heart? Iím sure! Since it seems Iíll never get to know, tell me, how is she in bed? Does she moan or scream or both? Does she taste sweet?" Rukin spat, too angry to care about the repercussions. Vegeta grabbed him by the throat and dragged him out of the doctorís office. He threw him out the door and into the road. Auroris and Horushu neighed at the man; anybody that made Vegeta so mad was obviously a bad person, in their point of view. Rukin got up sputtering.
"I warned you about the insults. And know this before you die: Bulma is still untouched," Vegeta said coldly, and drew his sword. Rukinís eyes widened as he finally realized his life truly was in danger.
"I donít have my sword with me!" Rukin objected.
"Makes the advantage mine, doesnít it?" Vegeta answered, advancing on him slowly, relishing the other manís fear.
"Whereís your honor? Killing an unarmed man in cold blood?" Rukin backed away a few steps. Vegeta frowned; he was right, it was dishonorable. Thankfully, he was even more skilled in unarmed combat than he was with his katana. He re-sheathed his blade and set it aside. Rukin started to look relaxed, until Vegeta shifted into a combat stance.
"Fine, then. Bare hands make no difference to me," Vegeta smirked a little as Rukin continued sweating in fear. ((The bastard doesnít know much hand-to-hand, does he?)) Vegeta thought. Then the three men from the bordello went flying out the of the doctorís door, Kakkarot behind them. Dr. Briefs, his wife, and Chi-Chi moved up to the door cautiously to watch. The two horses backed away slowly, sensing the coming fight. The six men stared at each other for several long moments, each sizing up their opponent. Vegetaís patience ran out first. He charged at Rukin, swinging several punches and kicks that were too fast for most to see. Rukin only managed to block one blow, the rest connected painfully. Vegeta felt two of Rukinís ribs crack from one blow, and his shoulder dislocate with another. Kakkarot and the bordello men fell into a sword fight with hand-to-hand in a few places. Kakkarot side-stepped a swinging sword and watched as it struck one of its companions. In the moment of surprise and confusion, he struck the first man upside the head and knocked him out cold. He then focused on the final man. Vegeta struck Rukin a final time and watched him fall to the ground. Rukin flopped around a bit as he tried to get back up. Vegeta began debating the best way to end his miserable life, when he noticed the final dragon ball still in Rukinís pocket. He stepped forward and nudged it out completely. Rukin saw it and grabbed it weakly.
"Here!" he said, holding it up to Vegeta. "You can have it!" Vegeta frowned at his display of cowardice and weakness, but took the ball. Then he smirked again.
"And here is your payment: your life, such as it is. And you are never to approach Bulma or her parents again, or I will finish you," Vegeta said, and walked away. Rukin lowered his head in shame and defeat.
Kakkarot was still dueling with the last man from the bordello. The man was surprisingly skilled with a blade, though Kakkarot was rapidly gaining ground. Then Kakkarot stumbled over one of the bodies at their feet. He regained himself quickly, but the other man was already on him. Then a new voice echoed from the street.
"Whereís my Chi-Chi?!" The man from the bordello turned his head just in time to see a giant man with black hair, a black beard and mustache, and dark brown eyes come running up. The giant punched the man from the bordello and sent him flying a few feet down the street. Kakkarot immediately went back into a defensive position.
"Who are you, and what do you want with-" he started.
"Daddy!" Chi-Chi cried out joyfully as she ran into the big manís arms.
"Chi-Chi! My little girl! I was so worried!" the giant answered as he hugged her tightly.
"Daddy. . .?" Kakkarot blinked, easing out of his combat stance. Chi-Chi turned to him with a tearful smile.
"Yes! Kakkarot, this is my father, Ox-King. Daddy, this is Kakkarot. Heís asked me to marry him!" Chi-Chi said, looking back and forth between the two men.
"Marry?" Ox-King repeated, and then looked at Kakkarot closely. "You want to marry my little girl? Where are you from, son?"
"Iím from the Vegetasei Province, sir," Kakkarot answered. "Iím the best samurai from there, and come from a good family. Chi-Chi will be well provided for."
"Well, thatís good to know. Before I give my approval, though, I need to know how you two met and a little more about you," Ox-King said with a smile, showing he already had some approval for Kakkarot.
"How did you know I was here, Daddy?" Chi-Chi asked.
"I heard people saying theyíd seen you riding toward the doctor with a bleeding Bulma," Ox-King told her. "Iíve been looking for you; it wasnít until I saw the posters that I realized what had happened to you."
"Enye didnít tell you?" Chi-Chi said, her eyes wide with surprise.
"No, he didnít. And he wonít be telling anyone much of anything anymore," Ox-King said, looking a little uncomfortable.
"Enye?" Kakkarot stepped in.
"The tax man. What happened, Daddy?"
"When I found out what heíd done to you, I confronted him. I was shaking him, then threw him against a tree. . .which he hit wrong," the Ox King admitted. Vegeta was already back inside the doctorís office, speaking with Bulmaís parents.
"I never knew Rukin was like that," Mrs. Briefs said to Vegeta. "He always acted so nice and polite around us."
"If weíd known about him sooner, we never would have agreed to the marriage," Dr. Briefs agreed. "But, you say you want to marry her?"
"Yes, I do," Vegeta nodded.
"You understand, weíre not nobles. Weíre as rich as most nobles, but weíre not of noble blood," Dr. Briefs observed.
"I know that, and I still want to marry her," Vegeta said.
"Well, far be it for me to refuse a prince. That is, if itís what Bulma wants," Dr. Briefs looked to his daughter.
"Yes, dear. If heís the one you want, then weíll be happy to approve," Mrs. Briefs said. Bulma smiled and gave a nod.
"Yes, I want to marry him," Bulma said, then turned her eyes to Vegeta. "I love him." Vegeta smiled.
"Then thatís that. When shall the wedding be?" Dr. Briefs smiled brightly, as did his wife.
"Well, I still need to tell my own parents. . .my father may prove. . .difficult," Vegeta admitted.
"You havenít told them yet?" Mrs. Briefs asked, surprised.
"We havenít been back to Vegetasei yet," Vegeta said.
"Why not?" Dr. Briefs asked next.
"Thatís a long story," Bulma chuckled.
"One Iím sure weíd like to hear," Dr. Briefs said.
"Before we get into that," Vegeta cut in, "do you know where Bulma got this necklace?" he pulled the necklace out of his pocket, where he put it when the trouble started.
"Oh, my necklace!" Bulma half-gasped as her hands went to her throat. She hadnít even noticed it was gone.
"That?" Mrs. Briefs said. "What does it matter?"
"It just does. Where did it come from?" Vegeta pressed.
"It was a gift from a friend," Mrs. Briefs answered.
"It was?" Bulma blinked.
"Yes. You were five," her mother nodded. "Thatís probably why you donít remember. It was back when we lived in the Vegetasei Province." Vegetaís eyes nearly bugged out of his head.
"You lived in Vegetasei?" he said slowly.
"Yes, for not quite a year," Dr. Briefs said. "We were poor then, and I needed more room for my lab, so we had to move from our families. We lived right across from the royal cherry trees."
"And Bulma made friends with a little boy from the palace. Theyíd play under the cherry trees. He must have been a nobleís son, because he gave her a fancy kimono for her birthday," Mrs. Briefs continued. "Then we were told we had to leave the province. We still donít know why. But Bulma made a necklace for the boy as a gift. Before we could leave, he came running up. Heíd made the one necklace into two, using cherry seeds to make up for the lack of beads, and having broken the center stone into two equal halves. It was very cute and sweet, really. He told her that when they were all grown up, heíd go look for her, and heíd know heíd found her by the necklace."
"Each half had an initial carved into it; his had a "B" for Bulma, and hers has a "V". . .we donít know what itís for, she never said," Dr. Briefs finished.
"Say, now that I think about it, you look a lot like that little boy," Mrs. Briefs observed as she leaned a little closer to Vegeta.
"I should. . .that "V". . .itís for Vegeta," Vegeta said, a faint hint of wonder in his voice as he pulled out his own necklace for them to see. They all stared wide-eyed. Vegeta could remember a little, now. . .a little blue-eyed, blue-haired girl who was his friend. Nothing distinct, but he knew it happened. Bulma just stared at him in surprise. She could remember a little, too. "I didnít remember where I got mine, either. . .I just knew it was a good luck charm for traveling that Iíd worn for as long as I could remember."
"Unbelievable!" Dr. Briefs exclaimed.
"Amazing!" Mrs. Briefs agreed.
"You kept your word," Bulma laughed softly, then winced in pain. Then her eyes lit up as she remembered one thing more. "Promise for. . ."
"For always," Vegeta nodded. He was a little numb with the surprise of it all, but felt happy, all the same.
"Now, about why you havenít been home. . ." Dr. Briefs still had some questions he wanted answered.
Bulma was deemed fit to travel a few days later, though none of the four was all that wild about the long trip back to Shenlonís den. Kakkarot had won full approval from the Ox-King, and had even managed to convince Vegeta to let Ox-King have some of the gold Shenlon gave them to help him along. They had a final meal at Bulmaís house and made ready to depart.
"First we have to return Shenlonís treasure to him, then we go back to Vegetasei," Kakkarot sighed as he pack up his things. They had been staying at the Briefsí place for the past two nights. Chi-Chi was there helping them pack.
"Thatís the plan," Vegeta said. The three balls sat, flashing, on the table in a triangle. Bulma held up the tracking jewel.
"Iím kinda glad it led us here," she observed lightly. "Now Iím truly free of Rukin forever." The jewel pointed to the balls. "Yes, yes. Theyíre all right there. We know," Bulma chuckled to the stone. The tracking jewel pulled itself free from her hand in response, and snapped straight up over the center of the ball-triangle.
"What is it doing?" Vegeta asked as the jewel began spinning, slowly at first, then faster.
"Itís speeding up," Kakkarot observed as it began to become a blur.
"Shenlon didnít say anything. . ." Chi-Chi observed as the tracking jewel began glowing gold while it spun. A blinding flash of gold suddenly burst from it, and they felt the world shift out from under their feet. A few seconds later, they felt solid stone under them again, and the light faded away to reveal they were all back in Shenlonís den, including their horses.
"What?!" they cried out in shock.
"How did we get back here?!" Vegeta demanded.
"Ah, youíre back! My balls!" Shenlon said happily as he scooped up the three dragon balls and the tracker and put them back in their rightful places.
"You didnít say the tracker would return us here once we were done!" Bulma snapped loudly.
"Didnít I?" Shenlon asked.
"No!" Chi-Chi bellowed.
"Oh, well. I thank you for your services, and hereís the rest of your payment," Shenlon said as he gave them three more bags of gold.
"Youíre welcome," Kakkarot said, still confused, and he and Vegeta loaded the treasure onto Auroris and Horushu. "Say, we were told that someone with green hands stole the balls. . ."
"That mischief-maker Piccolo again. That figures. Donít let it bother you," Shenlon waved it off.
"How do we get out of here?" Chi-Chi asked quietly. "The mountain side is too steep for the horses to climb down." A low, rumbling sigh from Shenlon filled the room.
"Hold on," he said, and then picked up all four humans and the two horses and flew out of his den. He set them all safely on the ground and then turned around to fly back. "Goodbye, Thank you again!" he called as he left.
"Goodbye!" they called out, then looked to the road ahead of them.
"To Vegetasei?" Kakkarot asked lightly as he and Chi-Chi got onto Horushu.
"Where else?" Vegeta smirked as he and Bulma climbed onto Auroris. "Come on, itís time to go home!" With that, he sent Auroris running down the way, and Kakkarot was at his side again in moments. The idea of going home actually sounded really good. He even missed his father, though he knew his father would be angry with him when he got home. ((Especially when I tell him Iíve found my empress, but sheís a commoner. . .letís see how well the old man deals.)) Vegeta smirked even deeper to himself at the thought of his fatherís face when he met Bulma.