Okay, I forgot to mention at the end of the last chapter that "Enye" - the name of the tax man - is a play on the word yen. Rukin I just made up, there’s no pun there.
No, I don’t own Dragon Ball Z, not even a little.
Auroris and Horushu seemed to be as eager as their riders to get home; they ran longer and harder than they had before. Vegeta found himself daydreaming about the fine feasts his cooks prepared, and sleeping in his own bed again. A small smile graced his face as he realized that soon, he wouldn’t be sleeping alone ever again. Kakkarot was merrily telling Chi-Chi about his family, his brother Raditz, father Bardock, and mother Okarana, as well as his grandparents and some of his more interesting uncles and aunts. Vegeta had warned Bulma of his father’s most likely reaction to her, and she was as prepared as she could get. Vegeta’s one hope was his mother. Empress Lesessu was a very understanding woman, and had told Vegeta that the woman who was right to be his empress was the one that set his heart and soul aflame, and could help him rule wisely. ((How right you are, Mother. How right you are!)) Vegeta thought. Empress Lesessu had been busy helping with some treaties when he had left for Takanama. ((She’s probably worried about me.)) Vegeta frowned a bit. His mother also tended to be a bit overly emotional at times. Still, if he could convince her that Bulma was the one he really loved, the one he felt was the best choice, then she’d stand up for her to his father. Now it was just a matter of close to three months travel to get home. They hoped that going straight there, as opposed to the wandering they’d done before, would shorten the trip.
"Will we still be camping, or can we go into towns again now?" Bulma asked out of the blue as the sun began to set.
"Hmm, good question," Vegeta muttered.
"I somehow doubt the searchers will be very easy on us even if we say ‘oh, we’re headed home now,’" Kakkarot observed.
"So, perhaps it would be wisest to not go into towns too often?" Chi-Chi said. Tired nods were her response.
"Unless the weather doesn’t permit camping," Vegeta grunted unhappily.
A few weeks passed as they traveled, riding all day and into the night, camping under the stars as the nights grew cooler with the coming winter. The closer they got to home, the more excited Kakkarot and Vegeta were, though Vegeta didn’t show it at all. One evening, when the sky was clear and the air was brisk, Kakkarot and Chi-Chi were sitting away from the main camp discussing their future. Both couples had wanted a while alone, and Kakkarot and decided to take Chi-Chi for a walk, then they decided to sit down. They were murmuring to each other happily when they heard hoof beats. Then neighing, and the alarm going off. They started to jump to their feet when a booming voice stopped Kakkarot in his tracks.
"Kakkarot!! There you are! We’ve been searching everywhere for the prince and you!" Raditz bellowed as he leaped off his horse and ran up to his younger brother. Behind him, Nappa and their fellow samurai dismounted a little more slowly.
"R-Raditz? Is that you?" Kakkarot stared, surprised that his brother was amongst the searchers.
"Your brother, Raditz?" Chi-Chi asked slowly as the tall man ran up to her fiancé. She had thought Kakkarot was very tall, but his brother was almost head-and-shoulders taller. Raditz reached his brother and gave him a quick, relieved hug before cuffing him upside the head.
"Ow! What was that for?" Kakkarot snapped as he rubbed his sore head.
"You idiot! Where have you and the prince been?! The Emperor will skin you for not taking him to Takanama as you said you would!" Raditz snapped in return.
"And where is the prince now?" Nappa demanded as he walked up to the brothers. Then he noticed the small woman standing behind Kakkarot. "And where did you find her? You must be offering a bundle to get her to come all the way out here." Raditz looked around his brother to the black-haired woman, who suddenly started to shake with anger.
"How dare you!" she snarled.
"Apologize at once, Nappa! She’s no whore!" Kakkarot drew his sword in her defense.
"Then what is she?" Nappa asked, arching an eyebrow.
"She’s my fiancee," Kakkarot answered.
"Fiancee?!" Raditz and Nappa both jumped in surprise.
"My name is Chi-Chi Ox," Chi-Chi said with a slightly strained bow. Raditz she didn’t mind, but that Nappa was grating on her nerves already.
"Chi-Chi, huh? Where did you find her, brother?" Raditz said. "I can’t believe you found someone dumb enough to marry you. . ."
"Excuse me?! Kakkarot is a great warrior with a good heart! I couldn’t ask for a better husband than him, and I’ll thank you to keep your insults to yourself!" Chi-Chi said nice and loud as she walked right up to Raditz and looked him in the eye. Raditz blinked, then laughed.
"You found yourself a fiery one, brother! She and mother will get along just fine!" Raditz laughed. "I’m honored to be the first to welcome you to our family, Miss Chi-Chi," he said with a bow. "I’m Raditz, Kakkarot’s elder brother. I meant no true insult earlier, I was just being an older brother." Chi-Chi, mollified, smiled a bit.
"Oh, I see," she said.
"Enough of this nonsense! You were supposed to be finding the prince a wife, not yourself! Now, where is he? He’s long overdue for his trip to Takanama, and his father is angry with him - and you!" Nappa barked in annoyance. Kakkarot frowned a bit before motioning toward camp.
"He’s there," he said.
"Correction - I’m here. We heard the alarm go off and then yelling," Vegeta said as he walked up to the gathering with Bulma at his side. "And the trip was a success anyway, without wasting time in Takanama."
"Say what? Who’s she?" Nappa said, pointing to Bulma. The other samurai moved in too.
"Your highness, we’ve been searching for you for nearly three months. Where have you been?" a man Vegeta recognized as Biinu, a youth with a lean face and shoulder-length spikey black hair, said.
"A success, you say? Then you’ve found your empress?" a second man he knew as Horada, a man Nappa’s age with a beard, said, looking to Bulma. "What province are you princess of?" he asked lightly.
"Uhh. . ." Bulma squeaked. "I’m not a princess."
"A noble’s daughter, then," Horada nodded. "Which province?"
"KapuKopu. . ." Bulma said. "But I’m not a noble’s daughter, either." The samurai all stared at her and Vegeta for several long moments in stunned silence.
"She’s the daughter of a very wealthy and influential family in KapuKopu," Vegeta said coldly. "And she will be my empress."
"Be that. . .as it may, your highness,. . . we have orders to bring you back to Vegetasei," Nappa said, obviously still recovering from the shock.
"How surprising. We were headed back there, anyway," Vegeta waved him off. "We’ll leave in the morning," he said as he took Bulma by the hand and went back to the camp.
"And just for the record, it was Vegeta’s idea not to go to Takanama. I tried to convince him otherwise," Kakkarot observed as he and Chi-Chi followed them.
"Uh-huh," Nappa muttered. Then he turned to the others. "Everyone, set up camp around them, make sure they don’t sneak off on us."
"We’re talking about our prince, here, not some criminal," Raditz said.
"He ran off once, he might try it again. If he’s lost his mind enough to want to take a commoner for his wife, there’s no telling what he might do," Nappa answered coolly. "His father will be. . .most displeased."
They finally arrived in Vegetasei a month and a half later, and the news of their arrival reached the palace before they did. The Emperor and Empress stood just within the palace walls waiting for them, Kakkarot and Radtiz’s parents to one side. The errant Prince and his guard, their two women half-hidden behind them on the backs of their horses, rode into the palace grounds calmly and dismounted. They helped their women down and then stood with their heads high and waited. The Emperor walked to his son casually.
"Where have you been, son?" Emperor Vegeta asked, deceptively calm.
"I’ve been traveling across Japan," Vegeta answered in similar tones. "I would have been back much sooner, but I was. . .pressed into helping a dragon retrieve some stolen items."
"You were supposed to be going to Takanama," his father said, a faint hint of edge to his voice. "And what dragon?"
"I know. I didn’t want to go. I’d met their princess before, and already knew I didn’t want her," Vegeta said. "And the dragon is named Shenlon and he lives far north from here."
"You understand you’ve made me look bad before Takanama?" his father continued.
"I’m aware. I’ll issue an apology to them, if you like," Prince Vegeta said.
"Who is this?" his father pointed to Bulma then, his eyes hard and cold, his anger glowing behind them. Somewhere deep down, he thought she looked familiar.
"I’m Bulma Briefs, My Lord," Bulma said as she quickly bowed.
"She is the one I want for my Empress," Vegeta said. Emperor Vegeta’s head snapped back to his son, and hard black eyes met equally hard black eyes.
"Really? Which Province is she princess of?" Emperor Vegeta said, still maintaining his calm outer appearance, though it was becoming obviously strained.
"She’s not a princess. Or a noble. Her family is as wealthy as most nobles, but are of common blood," Vegeta stated bluntly. No sense beating about the bush, it was better to just have it out. He watched his father’s calm surface crack wide open.
"Say. . .what? You wish to marry a commoner?" Emperor Vegeta barely managed to keep his voice from becoming a growl. Empress Lesessu moved forward quickly to keep her husband and son from physically fighting.
"Why, Vegeta?" Lesessu asked as she looked Bulma over carefully. Bulma swallowed dryly. She was very nervous. What would happen if Vegeta’s father totally refused to allow their marriage? She found Empress Lesessu a little calming, strangely. The woman was a little taller than her with wide, dark brown eyes and long black hair that was, for the most part, hanging loose. Several heavy locks were held in loops on the back of her head with gold combs and a hair pin, and she was dressed in a rich, flowing gold and red kimono and obi. "She is beautiful." Lesessu said, still looking at Bulma.
"She is. She is also brilliant, spirited, not afraid of sharing her mind, and wise," Vegeta said, more to his father than to his mother.
"She is a commoner!" Emperor Vegeta said forcefully.
"She is my choice!" Prince Vegeta barked back.
"You have defied me in the past, boy, but this I will not tolerate!" Emperor Vegeta snarled. "I will not allow you to marry a low-born woman! You deserve better!"
"She’s better than every high-class woman I’ve ever met!" Prince Vegeta retaliated. "My mind is made up! I will marry Bulma, or I will never marry at all!"
"You little brat!" Emperor Vegeta snapped.
"Calm down! We can find a solution!" Lesessu stepped in.
"There’s only one solution! Start preparations for my wedding," Prince Vegeta stated sharply. Bulma jumped forward and grabbed Vegeta’s arm, causing her necklace to swing into view. Emperor Vegeta stared at it. ((Her?! It can’t be! I sent her family out of this province to keep her and my son apart!)) he thought.
"Not to her!" Emperor Vegeta barked, and then drew his sword. The prince drew his in return. They were about to fight when. . .
"STOP THIS NONSENSE AT ONCE!" Lesessu bellowed, surprising all present. Many there had never heard her raise her voice before. Her husband and son looked to her.
"Stay out of this, woman," Emperor Vegeta hissed lowly.
"I will not! He is my son, too, and I have some say in this!" Empress Lesessu said. "Vegeta, you love this woman? Truly love her?"
"Yes," Vegeta nodded. He was very uncomfortable having his feelings known to the world; he’d always been taught that showing emotion could be a weakness.
"And you," she turned to Bulma, "you truly love my son? Wish to marry him? Bear his children?" Bulma was a little surprised with the Empress, but overcame it quickly.
"Yes, yes I do. All of it," Bulma nodded quickly.
"Well, that’s a very good beginning," Lesessu said. "Now, what does your family do that has earned them as much wealth as a noble family?"
"We own and operate an iron mill, and invent new devices," Bulma answered quickly.
"An iron mill?" Emperor Vegeta said, his interest perked.
"Wait, you’re a part of the Briefs family from KapuKopu?" Lesessu said, her eyes widening with surprise.
"Yes, I am. You’ve heard of us?" Bulma said with a smile.
"We have some of your tools and weapons here in the palace!" Lesessu smiled in return. Emperor Vegeta cleared his throat uncomfortably.
"She is still a commoner, and thus an unfit wife for our son," he said. Bulma frowned, she’d had enough.
"He thinks I’m plenty fit! And since he’s the one who’s going to marry me, I think his opinion is the one that really counts!" Bulma said sharply, and watched the Emperor’s eyes narrow.
"How dare you speak to me like that, you disrespectful wench!" he growled, raising a clenched fist.
"Lay a hand on her, Father, and it will be the last thing you ever do!" Vegeta warned.
"My dear, you are being too harsh," Lesessu said. "Our son obviously believes her worthy, or he wouldn’t have brought her to us in the first place."
"The boy is blinded by love," Emperor Vegeta grumbled.
"Is it so wrong to love the woman he will spend his life with and be the mother of his children? Don’t you love me?" Lesessu answered. Her husband stiffened.
"Of course, I love you, but. . .but you are. . ." he sputtered. He didn’t like talking about his feelings any more than his son did.
"I am what? The daughter of an Emperor? Vegeta, our son has chosen otherwise. Some fresh blood in the royal lines really isn’t all that bad an idea, now, is it?" Lesessu continued, her voice low and soothing. Emperor Vegeta muttered something that couldn’t be understood. "If she makes him happy, and is as intelligent as he says, isn’t that important as well as who her family is?" More muttering in response. "Vegeta, my love, let it be. It’s what he wants, and we’d get attachments to another iron mill in the bargain." Emperor Vegeta was quiet for a few moments, and then let out a long, tired sigh as he sheathed his blade. His son then sheathed his own sword.
"All right, all right. But she had better prove to be a great Empress," Emperor Vegeta said, obviously still unhappy. Still, it was enough. Bulma sighed deeply in relief, and Prince Vegeta clearly relaxed. Kakkarot’s parents moved over to him and Chi-Chi during the argument and some quick introductions were made. The Emperor suddenly turned to them. "Kakkarot! You still failed in your duty, and as such, must be punished!"
"Father, the whole thing was my idea," Vegeta said.
"He still didn’t do as he vowed. Since he was following your orders, the punishment won’t be lethal," Emperor Vegeta said, and Kakkarot moved forward solemnly. He knew this was going to happen. He just hoped it wouldn’t leave too many lasting marks. Two of the guards led him off to his punishment, Okarana holding back Chi-Chi and keeping her from running to him.
"He’ll be all right," Okarana said to her future daughter-in-law quietly. "The Emperor himself said his punishment wouldn’t be lethal, and Kakkarot is strong. If they hurt him, he’ll heal from it and be fine before long."
"Start preparing for a royal wedding!" Emperor Vegeta ordered some of his servants, who obediently and quickly scurried off. "And start writing a nice, long apology to Lord Bamu of Takanama, son!" the Emperor turned back to his boy, who smirked.
"Right away, Father," he said, and went to find a brush and some paper, sending a smile to Bulma.
"Come this way, dear, we need to start fitting you for your wedding kimono," Empress Lesessu said as she led Bulma in a different direction.
"We’d better start working on some wedding plans, too," Bardock observed. "Once my youngest son comes back, anyway."
"So, tell me, my dear, are you a samurai?" Okarana asked sweetly as they led Chi-Chi off to start working on her wedding.
The royal marriage came a few weeks later, and the samurai’s wedding some time after that. Many were uncertain about a commoner being Empress, but it quickly became clear she was a good choice. Bulma’s brilliant mind proved invaluable to the Vegetasei government, as she helped Vegeta work through treaties and trade agreements that made Vegetasei ever stronger, and their territory began expanding. Vegeta and Bulma together were an unbeatable team, and within two years of their marriage, Bulma gave birth to a healthy little boy, who had his mother’s coloring and his father’s features, and they named him Trunks. Often in the spring, to the annoyance of the guards, the royal family would slip away to walk amongst or sit under the blooming cherry trees in the royal garden, enjoying the peace, the beauty, and each other. Occasionally, Kakkarot, Chi-Chi, and their son, Gohan, born shortly before Trunks, would join them, and they’d ruminate about the strange adventure that brought them all together.
Prince and his Lady
Cherry blossoms blooming pink
Promise of Always
Lesessu- a play on the word lettuce.
Biinu (Bee-new) - a play on the word bean.
Horada- a play on horseradish.
E-mail me at NansJns@aol.com!