Okay, this is for Admiraís third contest. I donít own anybody here unless I made them up myself (and thatíll be mostly background characters; Kami, I wish I could say I made up Vegeta, Bulma, Goku, and Chi-Chi out of my own mind, but I didnít, and I canít seem to convince anyone I did, anyway. . .) Oh, yes, this fic shall see the return of Auroris, Vegetaís horse from my other contest fic, "Saved by Love"! What can I say? He needed a horse, why make up a new one?

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A Promise of Always
By: NansJns

Prologue

The cherries were fresh and ripe, and simply too tempting to leave be. Bulma Briefs, not quite five years old, climbed up the trunk of the cherry tree to reach its fruits. They glistened redly, just beyond her reach. She knew sheíd probably get in trouble, she was wearing her only nice kimono, the blue one that matched her eyes with the pictures of white flowers, but she hadnít had anything as sweet as cherries in a long time. She crawled out onto a branch with no cherries on it carefully, and reached for the cherries over her head. Her little fingers still couldnít reach, so she pulled some twigs and leaves of the branch she was on and after a few moments turned them into a little cherry-catching arm and net. She reached her little device up ward and knocked some cherries lose and into the small pocket of leaves. She put the make-shift invention in her lap and started to eat the sweet fruit.

"Hey! Those trees and their fruit belong to the royal family!" a little voice suddenly snapped at her from below. She looked down to see a boy her own age in a rich blue and black kimono. He had dark eyes and dark hair that stood up on end and had a widowís peak, round cheeks, and a stern look on his face. Bulma looked at him for a moment, cherry juice on her fingers and lips. She swallowed her mouthful slowly before speaking.

"I didnít see a fence. I thought they were public trees," she told him. "But if they really do belong to the royal family, Iíll get down," she added, and started to crawl back toward the trunk. The branch, already bent with her weight, let out a wailing sound as it cracked, dropping to the blue-haired, blue-eyed little girl to the ground. Bulma let out a high-pitched scream, and then felt herself get caught. She panted for a few seconds, and then looked at the little boy, who had caught her in his arms.

"Are you okay?" the little boy asked. "I wanted you out of the tree, but you couldíve taken the longer way."

"Iím all right," Bulma nodded. "Thank you for catching me." She smiled at him, and his little cheeks became red. He put her down quickly.

"Just donít climb those trees again," he said, trying to sound big and important.

"I wonít. My name is Bulma Briefs, whatís yours?" Bulma said with a little bow. The boy looked a little displeased, as though she hadnít bowed deeply enough.

"Vegeta," the boy answered bowing to her slightly.

"Vegeta, are you sure those trees belong to the royal family?" Bulma asked sweetly.

"Yes! Papa told me they belonged to us, so they belong to us!" Vegeta said sharply, and Bulmaís eyes widened.

"Youíre the prince?!" she gasped.

"Uh-huh, of this whole province! Someday, of all Japan!" he said with a proud smile. Bulma bowed deeper to make up for her earlier near-insult.

"Iím sorry for stealing some of your cherries!" she said quickly, her face pointed at the ground.

"Thatís okay. Youíre right, we donít have a fence, so you canít tell itís owned property. You can think of those cherries as gifts from me," Vegeta tilted his chin up a little, obviously proud of how he was handling the situation. Bulma smiled again, and his cheeks reddened again.

"Thank you!" Bulma almost squealed. Vegeta looked her up and down.

"I donít think Iíve seen you around here before," Vegeta said slowly. Bulma shook her head Ďnoí, making her blue hair fly.

"My family just moved here," she told him. "My mommy and daddy are still unpacking, and I went to explore."

"Oh," he said, looking thoughtful. After a few seconds, he smiled. "Want to play?" he asked cheerfully. He had few playmates his own age to play with, and he was lonely.

"Sure!" Bulma replied; she hadnít found anyone else her age to play with yet.

"Great!" he said, and took her hand to lead her to a more open area. They played several games, from hide-and-go-seek* to a new game Vegeta made up on the spot, ĎSamurai and his Lady,í where heíd be the Samurai who had to complete a task to win his ladyís (Bulma) honor, and they played with some of Vegetaís toys, which he had brought out and was playing with when he saw her in the tree. His toys were the best made Bulma had ever seen. After a few hours, they heard a womanís voice calling out.

"Bulma! Where you? Bulma! Time for dinner!" the womanís voice echoed.

"Thatís my mommy! I hafta go now," Bulma said as she stood up. She jerked a little when she remembered who she was playing with. "May I have permission to go?" she asked as she bowed. Vegeta frowned.

"I donít want you to go! We was haviní fun!" he objected. "But if your Mama is calling you, then you hafta. You can go. But you gotta come back tomorrow to play some more!" he said, putting on royal airs again. Bulma giggled a little, but hid it behind her hand.

"Okay, Your Highness, if you say so," she said, and then turned and ran back the way they came. "Bye-Bye!" she called and waved. Vegeta waved back.

"Prince Vegeta! There you are! Weíve been looking all over for you!" three guards, led by a large, bald, mustached man marched up to the little prince, who looked up at them with annoyance and a near-pout at having been found.

"Hello, Nappa," he said to the leader of the guards.

"You should have been at practice an hour ago, Your Highness!" Nappa said, taking the boy by the arm and leading him back to the palace.

"I was playing and lost track of time," Vegeta said unhappily.

The days passed quickly, and Bulma would sneak in through the cherry grove to play with Vegeta often. They would play and talk, and Bulma surprised Vegeta repeatedly with her ability to build and fix things. They played with the autumn leaves and the winter snows, and when spring made the cherry trees bloom again, they played ĎSamurai and Cherry Blossom Princess,í which was the same as "Samurai and his Lady" except that Bulma had a cherry-blossom crown in her blue hair. Vegetaís bodyguards discovered the friendship and reported it to Vegetaís father. Emperor Vegeta watched his son and his little friend and debated. He wasnít sure this friendship was in his sonís best interests. He reached a decision when he overheard them talking one day.

"My dad told me Iím going to need an empress when I grow up," Vegeta said to her as he ate a rice ball. Bulma swallowed her own bite of rice ball before answering.

"Whatís an empress?" she asked.

"Well, itís a lady to rule the land with the emperor, his wife. Dadís already looking at the daughters of some of the nobles to be my empress," Vegeta frowned, obviously displeased with the thought.

"You donít like that?" Bulma asked as she took another bite of rice ball.

"He told me my empress has to be someone I like and can trust, and I donít know any of those girls, so how can I like Ďem or trust Ďem?" he answered. Then his eyes lit up. "I know!"

"What?" Bulma blinked in surprise. He couldnít have just thought of what she was thinking of.

"I like you, and I trust you, and youíre really smart. . .you can be my empress!" Vegeta declared with a beaming smile.

"Really? You want me to be your wife?" Bulma smiled in return.

"Sure, why not?" Vegeta said with a nod.

Three days later, Bulma went to Vegeta with tears in her eyes.

"A soldier came and told my parents we have to leave," she told him.

"What?!" Vegeta yelled.

"He said weíre to go at once," Bulma sniffled. Vegeta gritted his teeth.

"No! Youíre not going! I order you not to go!" Vegeta stated firmly, stomping his foot.

"The soldier said the Emperor himself ordered us to go," she said quietly. "And weíre not to come back to this province." She reached into a little pouch at her side and pulled out a small necklace made of clay beads with a large, flat, round stone in the middle. She handed it to him. "I made it myself, so you wonít forget me. I made the beads under full moonlight, so theyíll give you strength, and the stone I found the day I met you, so itís lucky," she told him. He took the necklace quietly.

"I donít. . .have anything to give you right now. . .but I will, before you leave!" Vegeta said quickly. Bulma nodded. She didnít really want anything, except to stay.

Her family had loaded up their cart and were harnessing their horses when Vegeta came running up. He held out his hand, in which he held a necklace. It was made of clay beads, like Bulmaís, except it also had cherry seeds between the beads, and only half of the flat stone that had been the center piece of Bulmaís necklace. She stared at it in confusion.

"Whatís this?" Bulma asked slowly.

"My gift. I remade your gift into two necklaces, see?" he said, holding up the necklace he wore, which now only had half the stone. "My half of the stone has your initial, and yours has mine," he continued, showing the "V" and "B" carved into the stone. He put the new necklace over Bulmaís head. "When weíre all grown up, Iíll look for you, and Iíll know Iíve found you by the necklace," he finished, showing her how the two halves fit together.

"Ohh, I see! Okay! Thatís great!" Bulma nodded. "Do you promise, for always, to come look for me?"

"Uh-huh! Promise for always!" Vegeta nodded.

"Bulma, we need to go, dear," her father said. "Oh, is this your little friend you spent so much time with?"

"Uh-huh. We was saying goodbye," Bulma told him. "Iíll be ready inna moment." She turned back to Vegeta. "Goodbye, Vegeta," she said softly.

"Goodbye, Bulma," Vegeta said quietly. Then her father helped her up onto the cart, and they drove away. Vegeta watched them go, and then headed back to the palace before anyone noticed he was missing. He was expected at practice soon.

End Prologue

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I have no idea if there was a game even remotely like Ďhide-and-go-seekí in ancient Japan, but itís not like Dragon Ball exists in normal history anyway. . .

Want to share your thoughts with me? E-mail me at NansJns@aol.com!


Chapter 1
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