Disclaimer: "Like sands through an hour glass, so is Toshiba_san running from the evil copyright and corporate lawyers." * Insert cheesy music here *
Notes: Warning, the following chapter contains scenes of a violent, sexual, angst-ish and ridiculous nature, read at your own risk. Also, all of the flash back or remembrance sequences will be written either in bold type (ie, Vegeta's thoughts or words) or italics (Bulma's) as per the last chapter. One of the scenes was also written in the style of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, but it has nothing to do with this story or DBZ, it's just the inspiration for writing that scene that way. A certain amount of credit much also be given to the authors of the Mythology books I deprived the public library of during the researching of this story. And one final note, or mistake on my part, the goddess of Chaos is not named Strife, but Discord, I couldn't remember so I made up a name that sounded close and I'm going to keep it for the rest of the story.
It was earlier that morning, his eyes still closed and his mind in the realm of Hypno, before the sun had even given out its usual wake up call, he felt it, the lightest of kisses against his still lips. He knew what it was even in his sleep, the taste that seemed always with him was again in his mouth and the softest of whispers caressed his ears, the sound so utterly promising, his heavy arms almost wound around her waist to keep her against him. It was not meant to be though, the first morning since that first day she had waken before him and had not bothered to wake him up; she was quicker than he this morning as she eased herself out of his arms and spoke to him once more. There was nothing he could do then, his mind and body too exhausted, caught up in sleep to stop her, only taking in the quiet sounds of her leaving, of the whisper of cloth as it hid that skin and her padding off towards the bathing room. And he laid there, taking it all in in some semi-conscious euphoria until his lover was gone, all that was left was a lingering memory of her presence, the heat off the sheets, the scent of her with his mixed together and her final words whispering in the air.
"I will give you everything you dreamed, and help you fulfil your destiny."
Shaking himself out of his reverie, the demigod couldn't keep the memories at bay, even now he was in a state of confusion as to what she had meant, only knowing that something had changed and it would bring more change in its wake. Looking out upon the sea that sheltered his refuge, his home he guessed now it was, he tried to lose himself in his surroundings. This place really was starting to become a home for him, the first one since he had reached manhood, the one that he had stayed at the longest, the one that gave for him the best of feelings, pride and loyalty, and the first true strings of contentment. The rolling hills and the meadow lands, the sentinel trees, the rivers, lakes, mountains and the rugged coast line becoming as familiar to him as his own body, and so to had the island's mistress. He also smirked in silent amazement in this development, something he had never anticipated but in the end, it probably wouldn't have mattered. As rare as it was, he had heard of it before and none, no man, woman or deity above could stop it, and it had hit him harder and more unexpectedly that he had no defence, not even the first time he caught wind of it could he prevent it. Maybe that was why he couldn't think quite clearly, or was he thinking more clearly now than he ever had, seeing everything differently. Even if it was the same sea, the same land, the same sky, it was different now, and she was not here for him to speak of it. Where had she gone, what had she meant, what had happened? Something happened this morning before, something that even now alluded him, much like the reason behind Bulma's disappearance. Whatever it was, it had caused in him this change, and in her as well, for it had made her leave this morning without a word, something she had never done. It was a mystery to him still, much like his goddess had always been, growing more familiar by the day and yet she still held such puzzlement for him; he knew only that her departure and last night were connected, one inspired by the other. He know, the whys and hows or whats that made last night so special, really only one thing differing in the normalcy they had established in the past five months since they became lovers, she had asked him again.
"What do you think is the true nature of woman?"
"No, little nymph," he replied. "What is the true nature of man?" This time it had not stopped with awkward silence or sleep, but inspired both the most intense discussion, and most intense love making in his entire life. By his father, what had he done; he knew it could not have been bad, just earth shattering and life changing, changing, he thought, ever changing. The keys were in front of him, his destiny his own, even if that old woman had somehow thought it fixed, he would not be the patsy to any fate, he would control his own destiny.
"I will give you everything you dreamed, and help you fulfil your destiny." What had she meant, where was she, and what had she said before; the words she said against his very lips, like the most thoughtful kiss were still a blur in his own alert mind. Hmph, what was he really doing, spending so much thought on a woman, a woman who had placed herself so completely under his skin that even one day without her presence had made him wonder whether he had fallen too far, and maybe she had grown tired of him. No, there was something said the night before, said and done with such a rapture that it would not get out of his mind, even as he couldn't clearly recall it. The key to everything was in his memory, he just had to find the right lock. His mind fully intent upon this now unattainable goal, he walked out of the temple, his gaze lingering for but a moment on the spots of red that stained the smooth stone of the steps, the last reminder of his fight with great sun god. The sight of his last great defeat, well almost defeat, it was both a victory and a failure, or maybe a turning point was a better word for it. It was one of those times when the time before it and the time after had been changed forever, never to regress back to what it once was. Bulma had attacked her brother and thrown her only sibling and her godhood out of her life, all for him, at least he assumed, all of that for him and what could he do for her, why had she done it? It was something else that they had brushed under the carpet, he never bringing it up and she never speaking of it, of anything of Olympus or Goku, but from the tears that would sometimes stain her cheeks in the morning, he knew that pain would not soon dim. Besides, she did not need to talk of the kingdom of the gods, he spoke enough of it, about his wish to return to his father's favour, and earn his forgiveness and respect once again, to one day join him atop Mt. Olympus. His beliefs about the place was a source of argument between he and Bulma; the truth is very much different, she would always say, the gods are more petty and cruel, more human than even the humans, and by far more horrible to each other. It is nothing but a place of scandal and gossip, controlled for the most by Aphrodite, her petty lackeys, her loose morals and vicious tongue. After seeing her reaction merely to the name he could finally understand the depth of the insult Goku had made when he had compared her to her worst enemy, not that he didn't take pot shots at her about the subject. Yes, it had changed that day, inspired by the events in Mycenae, and they by the questions of the night before, such philosophical ponderings as the very truth of man.
"It has always been my experience that the true nature of man is to be destroyers, driven by their greed and their lust, it is the woman who is the creator, she is the bearer of children, the giver of life, the provider of food and comfort, the maker of the home. Men, to me and my followers, have only ever been of the greatest evils, the bringers of women's downfall, the creators of wars, murder, rape, rich and poor; all products of man and his greed."
Greed indeed, he should have introduced her to some of the women of his grandfather's court, the pettiness that some women could reach, his mind automatically flashing towards the image of a sultry, and dangerous beauty cloaked in mahogany. Clenching his fists just a little tighter, he noticed that his shoulders did not hold the same tension at her facsimile, the idea of Merope bringing his blood to a boil but the hatred was gone, or lessened in any event. Another evolution of his time here possibly, or maybe his view of the nature of women had changed, or maybe the island's air had finally rotted out his brain completely. How had he possibly gotten to this point, that he would be doubting his former hates, that he would be questioning his own beliefs; changes, he sighed, all of these uncontrollable changes.
Slipping from the grassy, open plain that cut through the island, into the surrounding woods, he walked without direction, working through the jumble of thoughts in his over taxed patience. There were too many questions in his mind that morning, and the answers would certainly not come to him if he allowed his mind to remain in such a torment. The was the first day since Goku's untimely visit that they had been apart, the only other time being that day in Mycenae, it was a true rarity, having time completely and solely to himself, well, that Bulma was not there to pester him. Chuckling, he could almost picture her outrage, her face alive and flushed with anger, eyes snapping, he would never admit it to her, it was hard enough to admit it to himself that he liked her when she was angry. Or screaming, he grudgingly added, as well as laughing, or when the flush of embarrassment touched her face, or even in the daze of sleep. He was growing accustomed to her face and the intricacies of her moods, just the simple pleasure of seeing her smile for nothing more than the warmth of the sun on her face, the beauty around the temple, or when he walked into a room could bring him peace. So much time they had spent together, this discovery of mutual sexual desires getting stronger, but it now included mental desire for the other, and emotional as well. They had actually taken to talking, unafraid to ask the other anything, though whether she would get a straight answer out of him would be another thing. Again he thought of her angry, snapping at him and full of rage, the amusement that mood brought him, the two of them sparring mental and verbally with the other, that competition as satisfying as their hunts, and love making. He would badger her on every topic, from technique of fighting, the impossibility of women as hunters, the stupidity of mortals and gods alike, well, almost every topic. There was something about that question, like a test for him that she wasn't sure she was ready to give, and neither was he quiet ready to take it.
"That is a very simplistic view, to believe all men evil, without looking at the cause, or believing that all women innocent by the virtue that men have sinned in the past Ö ."
Damn it, where was that woman, something was happening, something that made the hairs on the back of his neck perk up with dread and anticipation, his mind both clear and yet clouded. All he knew was that he wanted her here with him, pestering him, soothing him, challenging him, near him, that fleeting peace he had found was receding and he wanted more than anything to have it, to hold it in his hands and make it his. He had gone too long and experienced far too much pain and misery to lose sight of his prise now, though even what it really was had become a mystery to him. He needed to think, not here in the forest though, or in the temple, where her influence was the strongest, where the memories could too easily grip him. It wasn't long before he was looking out over the expanse of the ocean, the blue of the water like that of her hair, he noted, but quickly dismissed, focusing instead on the enormity of his father's kingdom and that of the task now thrust upon him. Shutting out everything but the peace of his surroundings, calmness of the salty air against his skin, the heat of the sun, the gentle lapping of the water, everything in a state of serenity but he. Taking refuge upon the edge of the rugged coast, looking out over amazingly calm water, he allowed his mind to focus on the night earlier, her kiss still on his lips, her touch on his body and the confusion of her words still very much in his head.
"If you wish to know the truth, woman, I shared nearly the same vision of your sex, for all that they are creators, they are the destroyers as well. In truth, they are worse than males when they commit such sins of hate, envy and lust, for I have not met a woman who was not petty and small minded about the things they create. You can't, in all honestly, simply load those charges you have upon all men and not believe that women are completely innocent. Lust, greed and violence are not solely reserved for the male species, some of the most violent beasts I have ever known are women. And, as I said before, little nymph, their crimes are made all the worse for the fact that their nature is supposed to be as the nurturer; do you mean to talk of what should be, or the very different existent reality?"
Reality, Bulma sighed, he doesn't understand the greater reality, this reality, the one that she lived, slept and breathed every day, the one she was born to and hated all of her life, well, this part of it, the part he so wanted to enter. Readjusting her toga to have it as demure and dignified as possible, to look the same as she did the last time she walked through those hallowed doors and stood amongst her own. But it wasn't the same, it wasn't just like every other monthly summons, this was the first in those five months that she had taken up, and now she had to present herself and walk amongst them like nothing had happened. She had to pretend like it was any other boring meeting, that she had not changed, evenly while that was such the opposite of the reality. How could she face them all when she had changed so much, would they be able to smell the scent of lost virtue on her, sense that she was not what she once was, and worse yet, that she had no remorse for her fall? It was not even for her own benefit that she was here, so many names and faces against her, none so pressing as that of Aphrodite, what would she do if they pointed her out and proclaimed unclean; not that Aphrodite would have a leg to stand on with a charge like that. After Goku's visit three months ago, she had given up the reality of her former existence for another, one more challenging, difficult, demanding, rewarding and completely satisfying than her old life. How had he done it, she mused to herself, how had he inspired in her to take the life, these beliefs so far removed from her own and take up a life with him, become so a part of it that she now sacrificed it to return here, to Mt. Olympus. Somehow, through the fighting and hunting, physical desires and even the rare quiet times they had forged some kind of life and contentment with each other, everything changing though last night. Why did it have to happen, no, that was the wrong question, it had already begun long ago, only the evening previous did it all come out in the open, why did it have to come out then, she though, nearly weeping at the thought of it. It was like that first time, blinded by lust and excitement, the reality hitting her so hard, but it was harder this time, dear mother; she might never recover. Already she was in the grips of the most wonderful madness, it brought her here, to beg of the man she thought the most ill of for the one thing that she above all women could give him. The bastard, she growled, he didn't deserve it, the life she was trying to secure for him was not the euphoric existence that he believed it to be. What if he became overwhelmed with it, the anxieties of her decision laying so heavily on her mind, but in the end, she could only think of giving him the one thing he most wanted, wishing for nothing more than to see him happy. Her mind was screaming at her to stop and consider what she was doing, what if they question her reasons behind such a request, if the truth becomes known, are you willing to sacrifice your pride and ever belief you hold dear for the sake of one man? Yes, she sacrificed it long ago to him, besides, what are beliefs if they cannot bend with the discovery of new knowledge?
You can't really be serious, that the sins of men, the countless crime against humanity and the gods, the evils and corruption of power are absolved because of the light offences of women? If a women so gravely sins, it is the result of a man, it was by the sins of a man did Medea slay her own children, and even Hera so hated my mother for the sins of her own husband. When I speak of men's nature, I do speak of the reality, a man should be a protector, a carer and giver to his family, friends, his beloved and the children that come from that union. The nobility of his nature should be in the beauty of his humanity and the ways he displays those qualities to the world. It is not the fault of women that man strays so far from the ideal."
Straightening her shoulders and setting her brow, she hesitate for a second, her hand on the door to Zeus' palace, there was still a chance to escape, to run, no one knew she was here, and they certainly didn't know why. But just the thought of him, that dark handsome face, and dark haunted eyes looking upon her in such happiness, to give him reason to give that look again, one she was sure he had hardly really known in his life. You are not a coward, Bulma, she said to herself, determined that she would not prove Aphrodite right in this, to not prove her right in anything, and she pushed opened the door with the authority of a queen, and the room went silent at her presence. Five month she had been absent from them, one hundred and fifty days for them to wonder and gossip about her disappearance, to ponder about her defiance and why she had ignored direct summons. Holding herself as the stoic and unaffected as ever, inside her heart was racing and her knees almost turning to jelly. She had been away for so long, and her absence so mysterious that she knew she would not escape unscathed, it was only a question of who would take the first shot. Gazing out at the sea of familiar faces, staring each one square in the eyes, a hundred silent inquiries shining out at her, all of them wondering the worst of her, all suspecting the worst of her, Zeus, how many of them would be right?
"As women may have strayed, so too have men and their crime should be no less absolved for it; man's duty is to be the protector and provider for a woman in a marriage, and in all other avenues to be an agent of the good and moral."
The arguments of the night before jostled through her head, this is where it had begun, this debate, of what is the good and honourable nature of woman, everything travelling full circle, except her really, only she had changed. But she would be damned, completely damned, if she allowed anyone to know, to even catch a whiff of shame upon her, looking squarely into the violet eyes of her enemy, she'd be damned if they smelt fear as well. Staring down her libidinous rival, a look of conceit and arrogant knowledge plastered across her face, Bulma knew that look, one that every hunter knew, the one that the predator gave to the prey. Not today, she thought, speaking in her mind the words that she would never say aloud, better to strike first, and have the thoughts in every one's mind be her triumphant return, not Aphrodite's slander.
"Silence in the hall of Olympus, and I thought that miracles were only reserved for the mortal world. To think I went in search for greater enlightenment for five months and the gods of Hellas have already begun their quest, there may be hope for you all yet." No such luck, she chide herself, the last of her words hanging in the air soon drowned in a sea of noise, the world of the gods stopping for that briefest of moments, only to being again at full tilt. Slipping into the fray, she dodged and wove through the crowded room, well aware of the eyes that followed her progress, of the talk of her absence, and whether her story of enlightenment had been believed. Well, it was the truth, the truth as she had begun to see it, if nothing else her understanding of the world was greater for these five months, and what was the search for enlightenment but to find the path to happiness. No, don't start in about such things, what you have done with Vegeta, in so many different ways was not the path to happiness, no matter how joyful it was making her, and insane with something to be making such a gamble with everything. She did, however, take a certain degree of solace as she felt those accusing eyes begin to fall away to centre back towards themselves, and the once speculating voice soften, lighten and then dim away to all but the most inconsequential conversations. Passing her eyes over the crowd once more, she was both lightened and saddened by the look of contentment on her wise friend Chichi's face, only to regard his impassive brother standing behind her. Those hurtful words, both from their last meeting and five months ago stung at her, so much that she could hardly look upon his glowing face; afterwards, she promised herself, afterwards she would confront him, and beg his forgiveness. She missed her brother, her little brother, she thought with a half formed smile upon her lips, the thought of his as a little anything almost too much to believe, that with such amazing strength that anything could hurt him at all was a miracle. By their mother, she had hurt him so deeply, the wound with her arrow just the tip of the mountain, but surely he could see and understand what have driven her to her actions, how could one lover not understand the affections of other lovers? Trying to push aside the insults she had hurled at him, words that might easily be used against herself now, she didn't want to think about what she would do if he continued to look upon her foully, or wish to consider what she would do if Chichi took the same stance. Worst still, her was gripped by the fear that had plagued her since she opened that door, that the someone could smell or see or sense her lost virginity and declare it out to the whole room, and every one of them descending upon her, ripping her to shreds for her sin. To imagine her brother and Chichi, her mother and more kind hearted relatives and friends turning their backs on her, or opening her old wounds and leaving her naked and exposed for all the world to see. And all the while, she kept looking back to Aphrodite, there was something on that too perfect face that made her fear, the butterflies in the pit of her stomach fluttering like mad when anxiety. Why in the realm was she so happy, did she find a new way to get laid, or possibly two men at a time, yet another means for her to satisfy those insatiable appetites, her eyes glowing like the cat that caught the canary. Feeling a pull to make war against such an overconfident opponent, she let go of it as she had her desire to speak with Goku and Chichi. She was here for a reason, a reason with a name and a face and a gift that only she could request, and she could not let herself become side tracked with friends, or enemies. She had to get into that room, in to see the shame of her existence, to seek the council of the man who shirred her and hoping that the father who had dismissed him would not balk too loudly at her request, and that no one guessed the thought behind it.
"He should think not just of his own best interest, but to those of all, for it is through the love of all, along with that of himself shall he save his soul. To blame the sin of rape and murder on the head of a woman, no matter how unrighteous they might be is comparable to blaming the innocent victims of war for the conflict which killed them. No matter what crime they had committed, it cannot compare on the grander scale to the evil that was visited back on them."
"Cannot the same be said of men, they don't deserve the contempt that you seem so happy to give them simply because they are men and their opinions differ from your own."
Was that his way of saying that he didn't deserve her contempt, or that the punishments given to him were far worse than his crime, to lose one's eyes and a father's love all at once, she couldn't imagine that kind of pain. Remembering the first time she saw him, how hard his face was and the haughty attitude he displayed to the world, she wondered how much of it was his stubborn nature and how much he hid from the world. It was so rare to see him simply smile and be truly content, only a few fleeting moments since they had known each other had she seen it so, he was always in the grips of hatred for the world. Bloody bastard, she hoped he appreciated what she was risking for him, what she had been risking since they had first met.
"Silly woman, to say those women might possibly be innocent, they are just guilty of those crimes, because a man inspired them to that doesn't absolve them of the blame either."
Walking through the room, her blue eyes not lifting from her prise, or her means into it, she gave the smallest of smiles as she approached the youthful goddess, the cup bearer of the gods and a favoured daughter of Zeus. Flashing a smile to her winsome sister, she embraced the other woman, taking the opportunity while they were close to whisper her intent, hiding it from the listening ears of the room.
"Please, Hebe, let me have a council with father, I have something I wish to discuss with him." She held back a disappointed sigh as Hebe paled and went rigid in her arms, so the gift of subtle deception did not pass from father to daughter. She could not handle simple minded fools, or ones that could not see the forest for the trees, and every moment that she stood in waiting for an audience, or Hebe looked like she had just be asked to kill her mother was eating away at her fragile patience. Pulling away from the stunned woman's grip, the kindness in Bulma's eyes transformed into a look of smug humour worthy of Vegeta and she decided to do good by her arrogant mate and try a more direct tactic.
"Silly, silly Hebe, I am not asking you to part the seas, or for you to betray your station, or even hand over a pound of father's flesh; I wish only to speak with him, it is every gods' right, and it should be doubly mine since he had made sport of so many of my followers. Now, go into his chamber and tell him that Bulma the Returned wishes to speak with him on a matter of grave importance, before I make a bigger scene than I did when I walked in this room. Am I making myself clear?" The poor goddess of youth could only nod and nearly rush out of the room to give her beloved father the request, the less than skilful move act attracting a few open gawks from the assembly. Taking a hold of a goblet and filling it with the ambrosia from Hebe's cup, she slowly sipped her beverage as she looked out over the crowd, giving her best impersonation of Vegeta as she could. Those that dared to glance over at her got a smug smile, and a look of complete disinterest, one eye always at the door of Zeus' chamber waiting for her chance to plead Vegeta's case. She was almost wondering what reaction she might get if she blasted it open, when Hebe walked out the door, her lovely face, while still pale had lost its strained quality and was smiling down across the room at her. About to make a snide remark back, she halted herself before the words could form in her throat, as much as she was starting to care for Vegeta, she certainly didn't want to become him, even if it did get results. Smiling back warmly at her half sister, Bulma hugged and thanked her again, holding back the sadistic influence the water monkey had taught her over those five months. Assuring herself before she entered the room, she let her own natural tenacity and more kind-heartedness come through, she would need her wits and possibly more feminine wilds about her now. Besides, she thought, walking head long into the grand chamber of the king of the Gods, she doubted the world could handle another Vegeta.
Oh to be a fly on the wall now, what talk and conflict must be happening in that room now, already chaos, suspicion and its sister emotion malice were sweeping through the room. Every mind on the great founder's chamber, every voice whispering a silent rumour or innuendo and every ear was trained to hear what theory every one else had about it. Strife couldn't hold back her smirk of complete satisfaction, there was not one god present who didn't wonder why Bulma was in there, that knew the whole story, and that not knowing was eating them up inside. It was going to be a good day, the goddess of chaos replied to herself, and really she didn't know what was better, the suspicion she was now breathing in the air, or that she knew only she knew the truth, and it was worse than every fiction. Only she, and the stupid lump in front of her, damn it, what did that egocentric sex pot think she was doing, she was suppose to destroy Bulma with this forbidden and damning knowledge. By chaos, she had watched with utter delight as the two of them ripped each other apart, it was the only reason that she had taken up company with the noxious woman, and endured her stupidity. There was so much potential for hatred and seething, loathing and envy between the two, and enough power to set Olympus ablaze, but no, the simple minded lump was just that, literally. That would teach her to join forces with anyone whose whole life was dedicated to love and sex in all its different forms, what need did she have for philosophy, chaos knew no morals, or scruples, or code, than why should she? What difference did it make to her whether women were meant for one life or the other, the world was chaotic, why try to make sense of a disorderly life with torpid rules as to how to live it. If there is any advantage to such thought, it is in those that could exploit the weaker minded fools that actually believed their own tripe.
Looking over at the anticipatory glint in Aphrodite's eyes, there might be some hope for the wench yet, maybe she wasn't as dumb as Strife had once thought. No, the goddess corrected, she was, she actually believed that this little partnership was for her benefit and that Strife was some kind of dolt servant. The time she had spent with the great and vapid goddess of love almost made Strife wish to switch sides in midstream and offer to help Bulma to destroy Aphrodite. But, she doubted Bulma would be so trusty, or so malicious to take up such an offer of help, oh well, we play the hand we have, and she certainly couldn't complain since she had stacked the deck. All of her players were lined up in a row now, Bulma, Goku, Chichi, Aphrodite, the mortal Vegeta, and who ever else would be trapped in the web that had been woven. It was all a matter if Aphrodite played her part as the others seemed to have played theirs', no matter what there would be a casualty, and it would not be her. Really she should have been thanking Bulma, had she not decided to take up with that demigod, had not incurred the wrath of Aphrodite or the animosity of her brother, none of this could have happened. At this point she would be far better company than Aphrodite, the egotism of the love goddess beginning to rake on her nerves, the look on her face one would think she had orchestrated the whole scheme, instead of playing the part of a simple pawn. Remembering the insults and moronic dismissals during her tenure, Strife was glad that the game was soon coming to its end, there was only so much of that she could stand. Stupid bitch, thinking that Strife was on side, should have known, Chaos works only on its own side.
Looking out over the room, taking in the hardened expression of Goku, she smiled, that had been another completely unexpected addition to her grand design, to see the god of the sun, or mirth and goodness brought so low. Oh, there was something to be said for family relations, and for moral contention; and watching the vaulted goddess of wisdom at his side, giving him as much comfort as she could under the veil of acceptability. What amusement she could have had with them, next to Bulma and Poseidon's bastard, those two were just about the most star crossed pair she had ever seen, but one thing at a time.
"This will be a good day, Strife, a very good day. Which do you think would be better, to just take Vegeta back to my palace before she even returns to Delos or just seduce him and have her find me fucking him?" Like she cared, well this little birdie had lost its usefulness, if she wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself. Her pawn still thought this was about her, and her revenge against Bulma, she truly was blind; the woman not even bothering to look at Strife as she questioned her. Wrong move, turning your back on chaos, it was not a passive force, content to sit still. If she did not have more pressing concerns she would have given quite a lesson to Aphrodite on that matter but there were far larger and more interest opportunities out there. Not even bothering to answer the haughty goddess, Strife turned on her heel and slipped away from existence and any sort of physical form, the last lingering words in her ears was Aphrodite's voice growing more and more annoyed with her silence. Oh well, on to bigger and better things, the fireworks between Zeus and Bulma as the proverbial fly on the wall. Walking past the ever vigilant Hebe, the young beauty pouring out a goblet of ambrosia for her mother, Strife eased hidden behind the pair, and ever so slightly tipped the cup from which Hebe was pouring from, causing the sacred drink to spill everywhere. Chuckling lightly at the sight of the Queen of Heaven covered in ambrosia, and that of the sacred cup holder so pale with shame and fear; failing in her duty, Strife chide, wonder what kind of punishment that one would fetch. With everyone's eyes now on the dishevelled queen, the chaos deity began to walk through the wall that separated the subjects from the King, and the now prodigal child that must plead the case of her mortal lover. Let Aphrodite be content with her stupid game of ideologies, this was for a far more important endeavour, Strife's own personal amusement. It was rather surprising that she had never thought to come into his inner sanctuary before, merely for the thrill of going where she was forbidden, but then again, what discord could she create that Zeus had not partaken in already. His affairs and indiscretions were so many they could not even be counted on one hand, half the divine beings in this palace now were a product of his overwhelming lusts. Bulma must really have it bad, if she would actually suffer his presence, not that she was much better than he now, not that it appeared that way on the outside, how does the shame of betraying everything you believe feel like? Who could explain anything that people, celestial or otherwise, did; not even she held all the answers, giving a grudging thought to how much power Aphrodite might actually wield. Bah, love was for the weak, and those stupid enough to believe that perfection and truth could exist, it was all a lie.
Finally stopping her procession in the farthest corner, where the shadows were the deepest, Strife stood in wrapped attention, just taking in the appearance of the room around her; it was nothing that she would have dreamed. Before her was a simple sparse chamber, at odds with the man who was its master; only one large ornate table in the centre, a shelf of scrolls, and a trio of couches were all that were present. Sitting upon one of the couches, a single low lamp lighting the intimate chamber, the king of all the heavens looked upon this ever wilful daughter proudly, if not a little smugly. The shadow that half covered his face seemed to both hide and accentuate something in his manner, there was a knowledge in those eyes that Strife had hardly ever seen in another being's eyes. Stunned for a moment that it could possibly be because he had detected her presence, all her anxiety washed away as Zeus' attention was firmly on the other occupant of the room. Sparing a glance at the goddess of the hunt, she took in the lovely, unemotional set of her face, the blue eyes that gazed out in pure defiance to the man who sired her, her chin and jaw stuck out stubbornly. Arms crossed over her chest and looking for all the world as the cool unaffected virgin ice goddess she always was, it was obvious to Strife that she wasn't fooling either of them.
"As much as I would like to start this audience by saying that it is a pleasure seeing you again, Bulma, I doubt you have the same opinion, so why don't we just skip the small talk and I let you get to your point. You obviously have a request for me, child, something very pressing if you are actually making a request to me; I would very much like to hear what possible motive might have brought you to this point." Oh, she had to hear this one too, 'well father, I'm doing it with your bastard nephew', what request would one make first, to stop laughing at the utter absurdity of it or see if she could still legally keep her virgin status? A play of emotions, all fleeting and well concealed passed over Bulma's face, so she was gripped with how to break the news to her father, or maybe how to not reveal it, after all, what must be the punishment for going against a chaste vow? The question sparked a curiosity in Strife and she began to wonder about what the other woman present really had given up when she took that Vegeta as the most forbidden fruit as it were, besides that superiority complex over Aphrodite. The vow was forever, it could not be broken by any means, it was stronger than any other vow a god or goddess could give, to give up one's life totally to the service of others, and to never know that part of life. Those of the chaste order were expected to live and embody the principles of the life, much as those that Bulma had spouted out during the first big philosophical argument between the conflicting ideologies. It was something that one based one's life on, not to be easily turned away from, oh by the kingdom of Hades itself, this had ended up better than she could have dreamed.
"I have come here to petition for the deification of the son of Poseidon, Vegeta the hunter and demigod. He has well proven himself in battle, in the hunt and should be a candidate for full godhood, a far better specimen than many that are part of the Pantheon now. He has been punished long for sins no more under his power than the circumstances of his birth and fickle nature of a woman, crimes that have caused him his own father's respect and his rightful place amongst the gods."
"The fickle nature of a woman; okay, who are you and what have you done with my daughter? A rather unusual request, is it not, Bulma, to petition for the godhood of another, and a man who has been known for his violence against women and rather disregard for them altogether, especially by a virgin goddess. Beyond the obvious questions of why you are making this request at all, please tell me, daughter, why him; or do you have a soft spot in your heart for the young warrior?" That one took her back, feigning shock, or genuinely experiencing it at Zeus' reply, she tried to recover the iciness that enveloped her earlier but it was all for not, the damage slowly being done.
"I am the goddess of the hunt, is it not my duty to show concern for all of those under my charge, besides other circumstances. Can I not feel sympathy for an individual whose birth was so similar to my own, sired to a loving but independent mother by a thoughtless, and at the time, lustful god, one that cared nothing for the consequences of his actions. But, past that he is one of my charge, a loyal and noble hunter and a worthy aspirant for such a lofty height, far more than Psyche, and you granted her eternal life."
"Yes, and the girl was in love with Eros, and he with her, to the point that she was with child, it was a matter of righting a wrong done by Aphrodite. But what of Acteaon, you turned him into a stag and sentenced him to death for a crime far less grave than Vegeta's, that one wins your hatred and the other your regard. Besides, I have heard of young Vegeta, the very spitting image of his father, right down to the insufferable arrogance and pride, his only redeeming value would seem to be his sense of honour. While I'm sure you could argue than most of the gods atop Olympus share his faults and not in one virtue there is still a mystery to this, daughter, why this man, you hate men all together, you've even begun to alienate Goku, so why this man?" Damn, he does know, Strife thought to herself, he might even know more than she, never revealing that knowledge, but with the most calculated hints, far more believable than Bulma's unspoken denials. The conversation was like a chess match, switching back and forth, and now the peeping goddess turned once more to Bulma, awaiting her next move. The hidden message within Zeus' statement had not gone unnoticed by her either, and the once confident faÁade was fading, slipping away like everything else that seemed at one point to define her whole being. Getting into the discussion itself instead of what she could benefit from it, Strife watched with great interest, now this was far better than pretending to be Aphrodite's lackey. Sighing, trying to recapture the stubbornness that she had when she walked in, Bulma attempted to convince Zeus of her lover's suitability without revealing to the man that he was her lover.
"Vegeta has already received his punishment for his arrogant ways, does not the harshest betrayal by a lover, the very taking of his sight not constitute a severe enough sentence. Vegeta is also of divine blood, by that alone he would qualify for Olympus, the mortal part of him has already proven itself as well, his very deeds in battle have made him a hero over Greece. He is content with the spoils of his benign conquests, but he is using his power to win his way amongst the gods, would you care to think of the havoc he could cause if he begins to think it is a lost endeavour. How would you answer for that one, oh mighty father of the Gods, if you allowed an enraged and powerful demigod to roam the world and could have prevented all of it?" Oh, she was good, fighting like a panther even at a lost cause, if this keeps up, she might actually get Vegeta in, if Zeus could possibly persuade Poseidon to recognise the demigod Prince that he is his son. Considering the fun she would have with this newest pair in heaven, and the oversexed third that might still wish to take the man as hers, she continued to listen intently to the subtle brawl.
"His sins cannot really be compared with Acteaon, that man was smug, arrogant and took liberties that were not granted to him or any other male, mortal or notÖ "
"And has not Vegeta done the same as well, his crime in that area is far worse than anything Acteaon had committed, but then again, that is why you are here, isn't it, so that I will grant you the permission to have him that your own vow does not allow you? We both know that he will not do anything that you have threatened, you would not allow him, and you are too committed to him now to ever have him sacrifice himself for you. Did you think I did not know, child; you knew it was my eagle that came to you three months ago, it told me everything, where you were, who you were with, in what state it had found you. By Olympus, you have committed the only two grave sins in the chaste code, I had thought at first you had only allowed him to touch you, but it has gone farther than I have ever could have dreamed." So he really did know, hmph, he should take a number. Looking over at Bulma though, the effect was full felt by her, the words now said to the air and she seemed to go white with shock, her eyes wide in disgrace, her body almost trembling in shame. To have a secret affair a man was one thing, but to have it so publicly announced, by one man she must have hated over almost all others, she was stunned, and did nothing to hide it. Strife was sure that Bulma would have bolted, all power she wielded was gone, both as an combatant in this fight, but as a virgin goddess, her so highly praised virtue was gone, given to a man in the most abhorred means that could exist to them. Her legs looked as if they had lost all power, that she might have fallen if Zeus hadn't grabbed hold of her in an embrace almost resembling a comforting hug, stroking her hair as he seemed to playful chide her.
"Silly child, the whole thing could have been forgiven and forgotten if you had only cast him aside, or shot him before you had allowed him to have you, even that could have been pardoned, but not this. You've actually begun to care for him, haven't you, too deeply now for it to escape notice; lust can be hidden, Bulma, but what you have entered cannot. You are not a mortal, you took the vow of chastity long ago, at one time it was to erase your shame and your mother's for your bastardhood, and to sway Hera's hatred against your family. Whatever reasons might have been behind it, you chose that life, embraced it and the morals and virtues that went along with it; your vow was not a simple one made by a mortal that can be broken on a whim. The goddess' of chastity are never to falter or bend in their virtues and purity, theirs is for life, not just for themselves but for the others that follow them, they are leaders and examples, whose life is one of service, one that is not wholly their own. It cannot be known that you are no longer chaste, the havoc such a move could wrought I cannot even imagine; this man is a danger to you, to Olympus and to the stability of your reign, and the beliefs that you and your followers hold dear. I cannot grant him eternal life, Bulma, it was long ago decided that he could never enter Olympus, he has only proven our point, he may have just forfeited his life for his crimes. I will have to discuss this with his father and Hades, but it is only a question of where he will go, though he could not have picked a more lovely means to his ends." With that he gave her a fatherly kiss against her forehead and Bulma could not keep the tears from her eyes, one tiny trail of clear sorrow flowing down her cheek, disbelieving of what she had been told.
"No," she whispered against the body that held her. "I won't let you touch him, I won't let you hurt him, it is my crime, I'm the one that gave in, I'm the one that allowed him to sleep with me, I gave away my virtue, don't punish him for my crime."
"If that were the only one committed than it would be a far more simple matter, but he has done something that no one could even believe he could possibly do, and for that he cannot be allowed to live." He could have gone on but was quickly cut off by a loud cry of pain from the woman in his arms, and the two fists that pounded against his chest, the force of the blows enough to even cause Zeus to loosen his grip. Every emotion that those words had inspired in Bulma were now shining out of her eyes, rage at him, shame at herself and fear for Vegeta. Strife was sure if Bulma had the inclination, the silver arrows that graced her quiver would have made short work of the King of the Gods, but she was too gripped in her fear, she had to get to Vegeta, she had to protect him. The room was deathly silent now, only the echoing of Bulma's murmurs of 'no, not him' filled the thick air.
"You cannot save him from his fate, it was decided for him long ago with the weaving of his string of life, none could change his end, only alter the course of it. Do not stand in my way, Bulma, it is too much that it has happened at all, that I know is almost too much, be rid of him, child, before it is the end of you." That one did get a reaction, Bulma screaming in rage and grabbing an arrow from her quiver and levelling it right at Zeus' head, her voice trembling as her arms held still and taught, ready to fire the bolt at any moment.
"If you think you can bully, or threaten me so to do your bidding then you do not understand anything about me, that you would dare mock him so after all the evils that are on your head. You disgust me, 'father', and I would watch yourself, or if you dare harm him, it will be the end of you." She didn't even flinch as she threatened her father at arrow point, her own words mocking his own; it took her less than a millisecond to redirect her aim from his head to a far lower target and to let the arrow go. Her aim was true but short of doing any real damage, well if you called frightening the king of the Gods to death and nearly burning the inside of his thigh damage, but that wasn't meant for what she was seemingly aiming for. It was a warning shot, Strife noted, the next one would not be so short of its mark, though it may make its mark shorter. Backing up towards the door, her hand poised at the tip of another arrow, she flashed Zeus one last look that promised pure murder if he dared do anything against her before she finally bolted out the door, leaving the chamber in a state of shock. Strife straightened herself and smiled wickedly at what had happened before her, oh, this was turning out far better than she could have dreamed, the gods were now at each other's throats, and soon, the fragile structure that held the Pantheon together beginning to crumple. Zeus had been made a fool by a disobedient goddess, Bulma had lost her virginity to a mortal, Goku was in a state of personal chaos and Aphrodite was eating out of Strife's hand, maybe patience was a virtue. Looking over at Zeus, she realised that it might be best to gloat under less dangerous circumstances, it was never a good thing to be around a man who could throw thunder bolts at will when he was enraged.
"Did you enjoy the little show, Strife, if you value your life, you will stay for the encore." The austere, commanding voice rang through the room and the goddess of chaos stopped in her tracks, though still remained invisible to the eye. It was definitely not good to be the object of rage for a man that could throw thunder bolts at will, but it was even worse to give him an easy target.
"Seeing you so humbled, I will admit that it was a wonderful little show, your little Bulma, full of spunk, and something else I'm sure you're thinking about right now. I wonder how loud you would have yelled had that arrow flown a few inches higher? What do you possibly think you can really do to me, you have no control over discord and chaos, I am beyond your realm, and you have no power where I am concerned."
"No," Zeus said thoughtfully, grabbing a goblet from which to drink, to fortify his nerves probably. "I don't have any direct power over you, but Hades does, and by right, I have influence over him. You forget, Strife, that divine blood flows through your veins, and by that right alone, I have power over you, or would you rather I showed you the old fashion way with a thunder bolt through your body? If I were you, I would stay where you are, I know at least as much, if not more than you, but I cannot trust that you will not tell any one of this."
"You're a little too late for that, I'm afraid, unless you actually considered that I would spend time with your conceited daughter for the company." That one got him, those cold, calculating eyes going wide, the minor issue of sweeping the whole mess under the carpet had disappeared, there was no way that Aphrodite would keep a scandal like this silent, and they both knew it.
"Damn it, then you are definitely staying here, I have a job for you, Strife, something that I'm sure you will enjoy, but you will do it, without question or complaint, or I will make your life a far worse hell."
"When you say it like that, how can a girl refuse?" She replied in her most sarcastic tone, outwardly returning back to her hidden place in the dark corner, inwardly railing at the man for keeping her from the confrontations and mayhem that she just knew would be happening beyond the chamber walls.
There they were before him, locked in an embrace worthy of Aphrodite and Aries, or he and any number of his conquests, pale skin and dark olive so intertwined he could hardly see where one ended and the other began. Blue hair clinging to her soft, sweaty back, the two oblivious to his presence until the male turned his attention from Goku's sister to himself. Turquoise eyes flashing with rage, he glared at the man that dare to defile his sister, to cost her her innocence and virtue, all to satisfy his lust.
"Take your filthy hands off my sister!" He yelled out, letting his power flow around him, the move only causing the man to smile even wider. Screaming out something far more feral, he charged at the pair, only to have them vanish before his eyes. Stunned, he was brought back to a semblance of normality as his sister's voice, in the form of moans and sighs, began to fill his ears, and soon he found the source of the sounds, the whole thing disgusting to his eyes.
"What's the matter, 'Goku'," the dark haired male growled. "Upset to find that your sister is just as human as you are, or that you really have no control over anything, including yourself. You feign at complete control and discipline, and yet act so unaffected by everything, how does it know that it is all a lie; maybe that is why you are such a favourite of Eros' arrows, eh Goku , Goku Ö ."
"GokuÖ ." The sun god almost visibly flinched as the mocking black eyes of the bastard that dared to touch his sister lightened to a rich brown, the hard angles of that despicable visage smoothing into the soft familiar lines of Chichi's face.
"Goku," she repeated, her voice finally pulling him from his waking nightmare. "Are you alright?" He would be a lot better if he had never had to see the two of them in the first place; since that time he had tried to keep the image of his half naked sister embracing a nearly as naked man. His imagination was not so willing to stay down, and it was far more sadistic, conjuring up images of what they could have been doing before. After the first month he had learned to suppress it but the infuriating pictures still stubbornly refused to leave his head, and once more had they returned, coming back as he beheld her walking through the door.
"She's been in Zeus' chamber for a while, what do you think she's doing in there?" Again Chichi tried to worm some form of conversation out of him, and again he remained silent, trying to hold back the flood of unwanted scenes in his head. He almost began to live in fear that she would ask him what he was thinking so intently about, and him answering her cheekily by saying he was thinking about sex. That particular topic of conversation had been his favourite between his chaste sister, his adopted sister and himself, that one and his views about male superiority always getting a rise out of both of them. Watching his sister go red with anger was never as enjoyable as watching Chichi give a fake rendition of the same anger at him but blush furiously at the mention of such forbidden thoughts. He had always had a soft spot in his heart for the know-it-all brunette, would always look after her, but always he would respect her vow, she had lived to it as strictly as Bulma, or as strictly as Bulma once had. Chichi had always thought only of the betterment of those under her charge, he was the only male she seemed to really notice as a male, or look at with anything close to the same expression as what a woman would give to a man. But it was and always would be like a brother and sister with her, he doubted she even knew what males and females did together, so innocent and trusty she seemed. It could never be more, he had long ago realised, he would not dishonour her that way, even if he had considered it often enough.
"Goku, are you sure you're alright, I mean Bulma just appears out of the blue after five months in exile and you have nothing to say?"
"Yes," he finally said. "Never change." And before she could begin questioning his meaning again, he kissed her lightly on the cheek, the most forward expression of affection he could ever show to her. Watching her amusedly by the unexpected move, he looked over at the people in the room who might have caught a sight of them; thankfully everyone else was caught up in themselves and Bulma's return to show them any attention. Only Aphrodite was really looking at them, probably jealous, Goku smirked to himself, Chichi would have more of him than Aphrodite could ever wish for, and Goku had made it painfully clear to the always eager goddess. Malicious bitch, he could at least be thankful of one thing, she didn't know about Bulma's fall from grace, but there was something in that too perfect face that made the sun god edgy.
"What was that for?" Chichi asked, finally regaining a sense of herself, but the blush was still evident on her face.
"I don't know, am I not allowed to do crazy things when I wish, not all of us can be as prim and proper as you, oh ever virgin daughter of knowledge. As to your other questions, I'm fine, I'm not my sister's keeper and couldn't say where she's been, or what she might have been doing." Goku replied, inwardly groaning as he imagination came up with several scenarios of what had been happening. Trying to dismiss it, he began to speak again, hoping to get himself to another topic, or that Chichi would do that that for him, anything but Bulma and those five missing months.
"She's a big girl, I'm sure she can take care of herself." Every word was twisting him in knots, he had given his sacred oath of honour to remain silent about the whole affair but he hated lying to his adopted sister and his dear friend, wishing he could share his pain with someone.
"As to what Bulma is doing in there Ö ." Goku stopped in mid sentence, as did every conversation when the door to Zeus' personal study burst open, and the woman of the hour strode out, fuming, her cheeks flushed, but her eyes looking so dejected and horribly afraid.
"You can ask her yourself." Goku finally finished after the initial shock of the slamming door wore off and the room returned to doing what it did best, gossiping. About to turn his attention back to Chichi, he instead found her not where he had left her, but in fact walking past him, towards Bulma and in a direct path so that at some point the little twosome was going to be invaded by Aphrodite. Holding the goddess' violet eyes for a moment, he warned her with nothing but a look to keep her distance, and her tongue, if she knew what was good for her. Not to be one to be intimidated, the woman nodded her acceptance to keep her distance, but as soon as her back was turned she would pounce, and the results would not be pretty.
Parting through the sea of bodies, all of them watching with baited interest while trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible, the pair moved towards him. The smile that was plastered across Chichi's sweet face displayed her apparent happiness while Bulma's expression was far removed from her friend. Looking at his sister for the first time in three months, it was hard to believe that she had changed so much, she was still as lovely as always, but then again the changes wasn't physical, on anything that could be seen by the world. Only in her eyes did she appear different, those blue windows of her soul a mixture of good cheer, nervousness, fear, suspicion, and still they seemed to glow with a life and a joy that he had never seen, never even knew as missing in her. In truth, he was curious as to what would make her return to this place that she most despised, and more importantly, what had made her request an audience with Zeus himself.
"The missing daughter has returned to us from the dead." Chichi said when the two stood close enough that she did not have to yell over the whole room to be heard, or that her words could be heard by the whole room.
"With a soul full of sins." He absently replied to himself, his murmur not as low as he had originally thought.
"And with the wish of forgiveness to all that she has harmed." Bulma answered him back, her voice and eyes low and solemn; she stared back up at him, with that look he couldn't help but melt at.
"And a bag of tricks and the willingness to use psychological warfare." Goku chided her, his words spoken with mock exasperation, no hint of any malice behind them, and he opened his arms and let his sister return to his embrace, one that Bulma readily accepted, smiling and hugging him tightly.
"It's been too long, Goku, please forgive me, even if I was right, on all accounts." She whispered to him, his arrogance causing him to bite back.
"Yes, it has, I've missed you too, Bulma, but I wasn't the one that abandon their life, for a sinful life with a mortal bastard."
"As opposed to one where I chastise immortal bastards for living a sinful, empty life; as hard as it might be for you to understand, I have found a measure of happiness with him Goku, and I would like to re-find that with you and Chichi. Please don't talk about this right now, they'll be enough time to fight about it later, and I still haven't heard my apology." She was still as skilful as ever at turning the tables on him in an argument, but he was not yet ready to give up his dislike of his sister's relationship, and the fact that she was in one at all.
"What, can't I hate him on principle; he isn't good enough for you, Bulma, by the right of your vow no man is good enough. I will forgive you though for your insults that drove the first wedge through us, but as to this latest one, I'll forget about him, Bulma, but make no mistake that I don't approve of him." She stiffened then in his arms, catching the veiled threat in his acceptance, but she would not argue with him now, he knew, not with this new peace finally between them. He actually felt nice to just be a part of his sister's life again, he had missed her presence and knowing that she could feel comfortable with him, though, he realised, there were still many hurdles to overcome before the two of them could ever at total peace.
"Just keep to your promise on this one, Goku, you vowed to me that you wouldn't hurt him; please, do not touch him, I'm a big girl, I can take care of myself, a fact that Zeus has now realised, almost painfully I might add. This was my decision, my choice to break with my vow and it will be my responsibility, but I really don't think it will be as awful as you seem to believe, he is very good to me, special in a way I didn't think any man could be. Goku, I really think I'm Ö ."
"Well, well, well, it's almost touching really; gets you right here." Aphrodite called out the last part said as she pointed to her opened mouth, the sudden presence of an observer stunning the gathered three and Bulma and Goku broke apart.
"I'm sure that's not the only time something has gotten you there." Chichi bit back, earning a look of shock from Bulma, a chuckle from Goku and a glare of murderous rage from the woman to whom the joke was being made. Never imagining that his little brown haired Virgo Intacta would have such a mouth or the knowledge, but maybe she had took it upon herself to learn more than just the principles of war and justice.
"And what do we owe the pleasure of your company, Aphrodite, do you think that now you and Aries are having trouble that I will come at your beckon call, you are either over estimating yourself or underestimating me I'm afraid. Though I must say that your choice in company has gone through several improvements over the last little while, taken to enjoying the camaraderie with Strife have you, what's next, the eyeless fates?"
"Well, you know how us girls are, don't you, Goku, well maybe my son knows more about that where you are concerned. But yes, this time has brought about the strangest 'bed fellows', wouldn't you agree, Bulma, how the times have changed, why even the mortals think they are gods, and the gods are not much better." It took all of his control not to attack the woman where she stood for her spiteful words, but it was there, his worst fear, and not for himself, but for his sister, Aphrodite's words hitting deep and in an area he never thought possibly. Inclining his head a little to the left, he took in his sister who seemed to be in much of the same state that he was in, only the flush of embarrassment on her cheeks was countered with pale mortification that her secret might now be known. Disbelieving over how the love goddess might have learned of Bulma's shame, the look in her eyes clinched it for him, the violet depths not hiding her pride and the knowledge that she was not so subtly hinting at. It was a credit to his sister and her pride that she held herself so high and answered back the charge against her, even though but she and he knew that something had gone horribly wrong.
"Yes, it is strange times, that you would associate with anyone smarter than yourself, and granted there aren't many that aren't, is strange enough for me to think that Olympus might be changing, and not for the better. Of course, that's what I've always believed, isn't it, Aphrodite, or did you wish to get into this discussion again, maybe I can even include Hera in our talk of the 'true goddess'." Bulma came out attacking from both sides, the experienced hunter shooting down the rank amateur with the ease with which she shot an arrow from her bow. All around them, the multitude of other gods, from the highest to the lowest gathered around, ohhing, ahhing and murmuring in curiosity as to what would happen next, the long held feud of the two women missed over Bulma's disappearance. They all seemed to watch in breathless anticipation as to what would slip from either woman's mouths this time, the stakes higher now than any of them could believe, and this time, Aphrodite didn't flinch. She had ammunition now, and she meant to use it to its fullest extent, and there was no shield or service that he could offer to help his sister. She was a big girl, she had said, she had chosen this path, but he didn't have to enjoy watching her experiencing the pain of her rash decision. Questions about what possible reason she might even have for returning crept into his mind, what ever it was had made her desperate enough to return to such a hostile place, to face a man she so completely hated. Remembering the look of fear and pale pallor to her skin after that meeting, he worried more and more about how many people he had revealed her relationship to, and what the outcome would be of such actions.
"Well, at least I'm not the only one who likes to associate with the handsome and stupid, sorry to you too, Goku." That smooth, too cool voice chimed out, only to have the woman lean in close to his sister, her next words spoken like a stage whisper in a Greek tragedy.
"Tell me, Bulma, have you been enjoying the real thing, or is he so embarrassed for you that he hasn't even touched you, I doubt you would even know how to please a real man. Gorgeous creature he is, isn't he, even you couldn't deny something like that, the very spitting image of his father I'm told, rather intelligent, and a giant as well; or is it just one part of him? How does it feel to scream out his name, to have him say yours and know that it will only be a matter of time before he is calling out mine?" The words were so soft, so sweetly said that it could have been a tender exchange between friends to any that had heard, but unlike Goku, it was not the tone but the words that were the message. It must have been a toss up then what affected his sister more, to have her shame presented to her for all the world to see, like suddenly being stripped naked of all honour and dignity in front of all of these people, or to have Aphrodite speak so of that mortal. Regarding the gaze of pain that crossed over Bulma's face in that one instant, he felt the bile gather in his throat, as the smile on Aphrodite's face grew wider every moment. He could hardly take his eyes off them long enough to hear the choking sigh of Chichi, the malicious words travelling even to her ears and she was in a state of confusion as to what they meant.
"Oh, don't look so sad, it was bound to happen sometimes; I mean really, embracing him in public, showing your affections like a couple of mortal peasant lovers, you could have been careful, but I'll give you a chance to redeem yourself now. All you have to do is say that I'm right and give up all rights to that mortal lover of yours, Vegeta I believe his name is. If not, I might find the need," the other woman said, her last threat growing in volume with every word, causing the room to concentrate even harder on them, now not even hiding their attention. Looking down again at Chichi, he saw her eyes flit between the stand off between the two rivals and the overly eager crowd. Only he and she were not staring intently at Bulma and Aphrodite, like sharks they were smelling blood in the water, more specifically Bulma's blood, and it had been a long time in coming for many of them. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction of playing her cards too soon, and again she began to whisper, saying the words she had wanted to say for so long.
"To tell everyone about your indiscretion, your shame, your lover, but really, I have to know, what attracted you to him first, his body, his face, or the fact that you are both bastards?" That did it, the finally drop of water that burst the damn, and out came of flood of pure rage, the scream of fury echoing through every hall, filling everyone's ears, causing the entire palace to shake and ring with the sound. Before anyone could move or react Bulma was on the attack, striking out at the woman who threatened her with so much pain, who threatened the fragile peace she had created for herself and the image of a life she no longer led. The scream of rage soon mutated into that of pain as she punched Aphrodite in the jaw, chaos and hysteria ruling the fray now. Almost hoping to get into it himself, possibly take some shots at a few rivals himself, Goku was held back, literally, as a small hand gripped his elbow, like a link chaining him back from the mindless thrill of the fight.
"Damn it, Chichi, I don't care whether I should do this, let me just enjoy it Ö ."
"That might be true, but you are telling the wrong person." A most unexpected voice rang out, and he turned to find himself being held back by one of Zeus' favourites, the goddess of youth, Hebe. "Father wishes to speak to you and it will do him no good if you are a mess of blood." Angered that he was kept from the ensuing fight, he nodded his acceptance, following Hebe towards the foreboding door to Zeus' chamber.
What of Medusa, and the sisters of Psyche, or the other women whose greed and envy have caused wars, brought men to such lengths, should they be forgiven because of their sex? You say you believe in the truth and the eternal vigilance of it, but you can't see beyond your nose, are you afraid that you will be proven wrong. Tell me, little nymph, what are you hiding from, what do you refuse to see?"
"Where are you hiding, little nymph?" Vegeta asked himself, his concern growing with every moment, even as he tried to beat it down; she was probably hiding from him now, unwilling to stand that he had beaten her at her own game, he smirked devilishly. Then why has she not retaliated in some way, he was still expecting her to leap out of one of the bushes and pounce on him, or that an arrow with his name on it was flying towards his bare back as he was thinking. But no, she wasn't here, he knew that she was gone, the island less calm, the forests, trees and the animals that inhabited the island far too silent, even the sun was cooler on his skin in her absence. Giving a flicker of a thought to that particular entity and the god that ruled over it, he growled and wrapped his tail even tighter around his waist, no wonder those few stray rays of light always woke him in the morning; the golden haired bakayaro, taking some delight in slowly torturing him every day. Holding on to his rage with the brother, he found he could not go long before beginning to shift his focus to the sister, specifically where she could have gone. Damn it, what was happening to him, that he gave a care to her at all, that he acknowledged her so openly to himself, to the point where he would mope about if she were not in his presence. What had become of the great hunter, to the ruthless, unfeeling killer, the slayer of Recoome; if his enemies or father saw him today they would laugh, mock him for his weakness. Clenching his palms, his mind creating the images in his head and allowed his imagination to take care of the rest, feeling the shame and bitter sting with every word from their mouths. And yet, he couldn't not keep her somewhere in his thoughts, picturing her approaching him and washing away all that pain with a sweep of her hand; cool, patience eyes boring into his, relieving him of every anguish he had been subjected to during his harsh life.
"You bastard, I invite you to my home, let you live, give you all that I have to give, more than I have ever given to another and you dare to suggest that I am afraid?" Well, maybe he should amend that position, for all that she was a comfort to him she was still a holy terror, but that too was his own doing, provoking her anger and then soothing it, or bring her further to a rage. The break from her temper was a blessing, not that she ever really got the better of him in their war of words, but still, his sensitive ears needed a break. Last night though, how they had battled with words and with their bodies, he didn't even mind how loud she was, and though he took one victory from her, she captured the greater prise, the worst being that he had given to her.
"Are you not afraid, you definitely fear something, you cowered in fear of that eagle and what it represented, you feared your brother, even as you obviously care quite deeply for him. And you continue to fight with me on this meaningless topic, to put such hatred on to men, grasping unto an ideal and a belief that you have now abandoned. So tell me, little nymph, what are you afraid of?"
"What are you afraid of?" Vegeta absently asked himself, the debate from last night drudging up questions he could not answer, or was not yet ready to face. He feared nothing, not even death, only his memories and nightmares made him take pause, remembering Merope's betrayal and the searing pain of the hot poker. With the thought of his blinding, the harshest of his punishment came to his mind; the feeling of shame when his father took sight of him, the sight of his turned back when Vegeta returned to him with eyes restored but his honour forever in tatters. No, he couldn't think about that, he felt no fear, it was not a part of him that he would even acknowledge, what of his pride, his self-respect, the very sense of himself; he would denying them, he felt no fear, he felt nothing but Ö, what about Bulma? No, he didn't fear her either, he replied to himself, knowing that he was lying to himself, there was a fear of her, just as she had a fear of him. In the end, even his fear couldn't shield him, he had struck him harsher than the worst of her arrows. He had lain himself helpless and bare before her, and he could no sooner take that back then he could change the flow of the tide. What would father think, what would he say, if he had ever learned of his betrayal, taking more of him than even Merope, and she was completely unaware of her power.
"You bastard, what are you, a man that believes a woman's worth is only between her legs? What I choose to believe is my own choice and it will not change, no matter what you think."
Ah, but are you so unaffected, five months he had been here, slept in her bed, lived a life and existence in a realm that should by all accounts not be. And in that time he had changed, and so had she, this time and place altering them in ways not seen by the simple eye, morals and beliefs had changed, even as she denied it. What came before was gone, the belief that one day they might walk away put to shreds by last night, or maybe it wasn't for her, maybe she had walked away, the pull of her vows finally greater than the pull of them.
"I chose this life because I saw it as the only way I could live, I saw it as the truest happiness, the very search for itself, of self improvement and the service to others. That was all I know and in turn I saw only the pains caused by the lust and greed of men."
And now, there was no going back not for him, the truth had changed, as it always did; silly woman, the truth is not something that can be sought, not like that. The truth is an elusive beast, one that hid the recesses of the mind only to spring out at the most unlikely moments, a flash and a glint and it was gone, or so was his experience. There was no right or wrong, only true when the truth came, and if one was willing to see it, maybe that was why he felt such fear now, there was nothing more frightening than a truth that cannot be pushed aside. He had seen it last night, in the soft pull of her arms did it come to him, horrible and wondrous, more than he could imagine, even now he could hardly get over it, the meaning of what he had done. It seemed both blessing and curse that she was gone now, the feeling still too raw in him, confronting the source of so much emotion could topple him again from his self-created peak. Not still, he could not hide it all, the emotion pouring out of him like rain, like a man tortured by his greatest desire he returned to the moment, hoping that reliving it will make him see, see him, see her, to see the truth. Live only in the memories, he rationalised to himself, in them could he see his actions. Closing his eyes, he let his mind take him back, losing himself in the lullaby of the gentle lapping waves, even his father's fury at bay; that left only Bulma's, he thought, laughing as he saw her again before his eyes, beautiful in her rage.
"Don't flatter yourself, I haven't changed my opinion of the world and its order with your presence. We bother know this is temporary, a madness of the blood and nothing more. You're just lucky I haven't decided to take my blood price yet."
At the words, his mind thought up the image of her standing by the river that first time, the same flush of anger and passion touching her cheeks as she made that first promise to him; to cut off his balls, she had yet to do that, though he did get her to scream his name. And how she laid so contentedly in his arms, how she began to spread into every part of himself; there was no escape, no defence against the inevitable, how stupid he was to enter this battled when he was doomed from the start. In the end he had won the battle and lost the war, and the victor wasn't even there to claim her prise, if she wanted it; he replied lightly under his breath, tensing himself a little more at the unwelcomed thought. Brushing his hand across his lips, he could still feel the soft plush of her lips on his; no, there was a fear in her last night, only he had given it words, brought it to life.
The softest of whispered caressed his ears, the sound so utterly promising: I will give you everything you dreamed, and help you fulfil your destiny. Everything he had dreamt of, what untold riches she could bring to him, what great ironies did truth deal in, she had left to get him everything when he no longer wished for it.
"Oh, if that so, you really think of it as so casual, can you even do that, can you look at your reflection in that bathing pool and tell yourself that this has been a game?"
Your destiny has been written out in the stars, the old woman had said, already he was beyond care or belief as to what that meant; he had saved himself she had said, but was the price worth this? Damn it, woman, where was she; of all the days of the year, she chose this one to be mysterious. Typical, he growled to himself, women, maybe he was a little hasty switching his assumption; his only hope that she was suffering as much as he was at this moment.
"To tell everyone about your indiscretion, your shame, your lover, but really, I have to know, what attracted you to him first, his body, his face, or the fact that you are both bastards?" The words seemed barely out of Aphrodite's mouth before Bulma's anger sent her into a rage, and sent one clenched fist into that too perfect face, the feeling of skin against skin, bone crushing cartilage in the violence exchange so satisfying. Every harsh word, every insult, taught or pain that the woman had caused her came out in that swing, it was a long time in the making, all it needed was the right passion to enflame it, the right fuse to let it burst forth into life. SHE, Bulma thought as she clenched her fist again, revelling in the feeling of pain, WILL, letting out her air and tightening her muscles, NEVER, nothing existed but the sting of her hand and the rush of air, HAVE, her hand seemed to cause the air around it to sing, until it once more came to a smashing halt against Aphrodite's face, VEGETA!!!! At that one, the other woman screamed out, first in pain, then in rage, and finally in attack, and Bulma rushed to met her, needed the emotional release of a good pounding. Damn you, Zeus, that you speak to me so, threaten me; damn you, Goku for judging her so such a human fault; damn you, Vegeta, damn you for doing what no man could. At the mention of the spiky haired demigod, the reason why she had allowed herself to feel the pain of her return, she stepped back, with her enemy howling in pain in defeat she held back the last fatal attack.
"This has never been a simple game, Bulma, not since the first moment when I laid eyes on you. And you can't admit that it means nothing to you either, why did you attack your brother only for my sake. You cannot mask your emotions, little nymph, they flow like a spring from you, ever tumbling from those endless eyes."
Stop it, stop it don't you see, she mentally wailed, her body yet tensed to strike out that one last attack as Aphrodite writhed and screamed on the floor, cradling her probably broken nose. All around her the room was in the grips of chaos, shouting and fighting with the madness that had just held her a moment ago, but all she could see was the blood on her hands and Aphrodite's figure. No, it wasn't possible, she screamed at herself, standing over her opponent, the feeling of her nose breaking under the power of Bulma's strike still in her nerves; she couldnít hold back her anguish. Her reason was splintered in a thousand pieces, she had attacked her rival, not for anything more than a man, for a man, for an entity that she was not supposed to know or feel or love. She wasn't supposed to have these emotions, this petty hatred and lust, possessiveness and violent nature wasn't her, she had turned into the thing that she had most despised, she was Aphrodite. No, she wasn't that horrid, and spiteful, but at last the full weight of her sins, her affair with the most forbidden fruit had hit her, after everyone she had hurt and the damage she had done to her own name, her life before now broken in a million pieces. The cruellest rub was that it wasn't the doings of one of the most hated gods, or the fates above, it was her, she had allowed herself to stray, to commit the ultimate sin, as Zeus had called it. And worst of all, she felt no guilt or shame, it was what she had always wanted, a part of herself that she didn't realise that she was lacking; maybe that was why she felt so strongly the loss of every woman that took her own mate.
"You are afraid of something, maybe me, or those people atop Olympus that you have been hiding from, maybe it is yourself, but there is a fear in you. Is that why you are asking me this pointless question?"
"A pointless question, you would call the very reason why I live and breathe a pointless question. I ask you this to see if you are worthy of meÖ"
Five months did she spend arguing that, debating and attacking that very question, her very belief and sense of herself found in its answer, that was all she had thought, all she had known, until he came into her life, like tidal wave to the shore, whipping out everything in its stead. A coward they had called her, both Aphrodite, Goku, even Vegeta, and it stung her all the more to know that they were right, a fear of knowing a truth other than the one she knew, but it came to her anyway and now, and now... .
"Damn you, you bitch, you whore, yes, that's right, the slut to an immortal blow by, the whore and lover of the deposed Vegeta, a half breed, you couldn't even fuck a full blooded god. Why don't you tell us, Bulma, tell everyone of your great conquest, I mean it's not every day that a virgin goddess gets screwed."
"Only you know that, and it is not simple words that will tell you but actions, they speak louder than any meaningless words you could ever ask me."
In five months had she spent proving her virtue, her honour, and in one moment she lost it all to him; in the five months after she existed without thought to it all, and in one night, he returned it to her. By her mother she had to get back to him. Yesterday, ten months ago and every day in between shifted and raged through her head, all of it a wash but those words, actions over words, actions over words.
"I say nothing more to you than you should hold your tongue, you who are the goddess of love and have never known it for another but yourself. Woman must believe in truth, must live it, see it, know it, for nothing can grow without knowledge and knowledge is truth. The greatest truth is that which is in themselves, I've found a truth that you, for all of your experience and conquests have never known. Live with that knowledge, Aphrodite, that in one being I found what the goddess of love and beauty herself has never had." Looking cool and confident on the outside, her heart racing like a wild thing, Bulma turned from the crowd, the madness dying with Aphrodite's words and her own, shock hanging heavy in the air at the announcement. There was nothing now, the blow too fresh in the collective conscious of the gods and goddesses that were gathered around from them to react; it would come, strong and furious but she couldn't give thought to that now. Prove it with actions, not with words, he had said, and she had done so with both, but the cost was more than she had imagined; be rid of him, Zeus had said, as if one could throw away the very soul within their bodies.
"If I'm 'worthy' of you, no simple inquiry will tell you. So tell me, why this question, why this of all of them."
Because he had set her world upside down, leaving her without a centre and she wanted him to tell her, what should she be now, who was she, now that she had lost sight of the person she once was? It didn't matter now, later she would worry about it, later; now she had to go back to Delos, she needed to be with him, the forces of the world would soon be upon them and she had to be near him, to stand by his side.
"Do you understand?" The austere voice spoken low and firm rang through the darkened room, the very thought of the task bringing a pause to even Strife's hardened sensibilities. Looking over at the two occupants, it was almost hard to believe that they were related, the dark giant of a man standing a head's height over the golden man that he sired out of wedlock. The air seemed to crackle with the power of the two of them and the seriousness of the trust put towards them, any dislike that might have exist between them as it had for the sister was ignored. They both had a common goal, and Hades have misery on they that stood in the duos way, even if it was this said sister. Once she had encountered mortals talking of the gods, speaking about how they seemed organised against them, plotting atop Olympus and doing everything in their power to get them. Hardly remembering the irate peasant who had spoke such blasphemy, the irony of the situation was not lost on her; bastard was only half right.
"I understand, but I cannot obey, not in they way you wished. When I found them, when she struck me with her arrow and ran to his side she wrenched an oath from me, not to speak of what I had seen, or injure that mortal. I gave my vow to her, father, that of one warrior to another, from one sibling to another; I cannot go back on my word, not you, my mother, or a threat in eternal damnation can change it." She didn't know for sure, but Strife was almost sure her mouth dropped at that one, if she even had a mouth in this form. Actually refusing the king of the gods, definitely one to rank amongst the stupidest things in all existence to do, unless of course, you are the god of the sun, she smirked to herself. Outside the sounds of battle and Bulma and Aphrodite screaming had died, she had missed the battle, all of her planning for naught in the end, but this was a far better opportunity. Most important of all, Aphrodite had finally played her part; even through the thick magical walls it had come, the yell that ripped Bulma's chastity away from her in the eyes of all Olympus, and took the matter inside from mild discussion to critical. As she had so cleverly researched and planned, the war of words between the two goddess had moved into the realm of a fight of brother against sister, and god against mortal. Such a deadly chaotic game she had begun, and soon she would see it to its end, if she ever learned what her 'job' was!
"You would dare bring up the excuse of honour to me, boy, this is beyond honour, or the silly watch words that the higher minded gods like to throw around like so much refuse. I am speaking about the stability of the very earth itself; Bulma's vow and following is to chastity, and she can never stray, she is not free to ever take a mate, she is to remain pure, and now it may be too late." Too late to keep her pure, the boat sailed on that one at least three months ago, Strife crooned, stupid men, she replied, believing that they can merely state a fact and make it so. Even if they wished to keep it a secret Aphrodite had made that an impossibility. Looking over to Goku, she knew from the angered expression on his face that his opinion matched hers as well on this matter, unless Bulma could re-grow her virginity, there was nothing they could do, short of reversing time itself.
"I will not betray my honour or my sister's faith in me, if Bulma has made this decision then she can live with it, and if she is willing to go against her better breeding and punch Aphrodite in the face, she will certainly not let us do anything to Vegeta without a fight. She's already struck me in the arm with one of her arrows, would like to give her free reign to try and hit us else where?" Oh, he already knows her prowess with that bow, and where she is willing to aim it, Zeus must be a genius, or an idiot to think that he can get out of this with such limited casualties. Growling at Goku's mockery, both the sun god and the goddess of chaos were shocked when Zeus attacked the younger man, striking him in the ribs before Goku could even see to block. Gasping at the force against his ribs, he felt to the floor on his knees, gripped in obviously mind numbing pain. Not giving the golden god a chance to stand or even recover a little from the blow, Zeus hauled him off his feet, lifting him into the air with the ease of a child picking up a skipping stone.
"You will do as I say, boy," Zeus all but shouted, shaking his son for good measure. "What do you care about more, your sister's life and her honour or your own, for I tell you, if we do not do something, she will be ripped apart, made an outcast and a pariah. You will kill that mortal by whatever means necessary, I'm sure Poseidon will get over the loss of one more bastard. Your sister has committed a sin with him that no one can forgive and if you do not take care of that 'intruder' upon the affairs of the gods, and I cannot vouch anything for Bulma now that her secret has been revealed." With a flick of his wrist, he released the caught sun god, but Goku was by far a better fighter than most, landing on his feet as he hit the ground, seemingly ready to take on the god of thunder again for his sister's wishes. But he seemed to lose all the fight in him, maybe listening to reasoning, either Zeus' or the one in his head telling him that he didn't have a hope. Nodding his head, he still started directly at the King of Heaven with more spirit than any man should have right to.
"If I agree, you will take care of Bulma, you will keep her from the ensuing harm?" Somehow the scowl on Zeus' face smoothed at the question and he too nodded his acceptance of the terms put forth to him.
"Once the formal complaint has been, I will request that Chichi attend to your sister, if there is anything that can be done to save her, Chichi would know of it, or a good means with which they could fight against it. I give you this, by my honour."
"You should be careful where you use that word, it obviously means nothing to you." Goku finally answered back, his jaw tight and his whole body tense, expecting retribution for his insult and yet the need to say it was greater than the apprehension about the pain. It was a credit to his father that Zeus stayed his hand, maybe he thinks the boy has a point, and he does, she thought, remember the exact words out of the older gods' mouth. That still did not explain why she was given the unique privilege of sitting in on this conversation, her presence all but forgotten until the door slammed shut.
"Strife, follow Goku to Delos, that must be where Bulma is, and this Vegeta will probably not be far behind. After that your mission should be clear." Men, believing their every decree is to be understood before it even comes out of their mouths, they also think that she might actually care anything about them.
"And my mission, sir?" She answered his an invisible mock salute and the distinct bit of sarcasm in her voice. That one was greeted with yet another growl, ah, ah, ah, temper, temper, his patience was definitely not improving. But, unlike the young male in the room but a few moments ago, she was smart enough to keep her mouth closed and herself invisible.
"You are to kill that mortal in whatever method it will take, I don't trust that the boy will do my wishes, but you would not fail me because I can tell you quite simply that I will take this out on you, and it will not be very pleasant. You will go to your current assignment, follow him to Delos and convince him through some means to kill Vegeta, kill himself yourself if you have to. By tonight, I want that man dead." Never send a boy to do a woman's job, she mused, and was about to nod, until she halted, realising such an action would be fruitless.
"And by what reward will I get when I kill him?" She finally answered, Goku he might have bullied but not she, she would not take on this challenge without some form of payment; when it came right down to it, Zeus had no true and complete power over her. But then, how can you have utter control over the uncontrollable?
"You can have of me one favour, one oath of honour to recall whenever you wish."
"You know, Goku is right, you should be careful when using a word that has no meaning to you. I accept your offer though, not that I really have much choice in the matter, but when I come calling, I will be expecting a prise. Remember, old man, you can't bully me like you did that boy, and when the time comes for me to collect, you know I will take what I want." At that she allowed herself to appear to the king of heaven, and bowing with the greatest mockery, she disappeared once again, slipping through the walls after the dismissed sun god.
"You will do as I say, boy," Zeus all but shouted, shaking his son for good measure. "What do you care about more, your sister's life and her honour or your own, for I tell you, if we do not do something, she will be ripped apart, made an outcast and a pariah. You will kill that mortal by whatever means necessary Ö" Whatever means necessary, never in his long and carefree life had Goku felt pain like this, a sickening feeling of hatred and dread, the impending sense of doubt that seemed to gnaw at his insides. Something was going to happen, something that he couldnít stop or halt but only help along its way, something was going to happen, and no matter what, he would be in the thick of it. Your sisterís honour or your own, as if he didnít wrestle with this knowledge since he had caught them together. Gripped in shame, he couldnít even speak of the shame he felt, being spoken to like a disobedient child, Zeus slapping him in the face with his contempt, his ribs still aching from when he had made his point all the clearer. You will do as I say, boy, your sisterís honour or your own? What of her happiness, remembering the glow in her eyes when she struck him, the look of her in that sheet, and contentment he had never seen in her just a few moments before.
"And with the wish of forgiveness to all that she has harmed: he is very good to me, special in a way I didn't think any man could be: I have found a measure of happiness with him, Goku, and I would like to re-find that with you and Chichi." A measure of happiness that he was about to take away, and with it his last chance to reunite with his twin. Your sisterís honour or your own, who was he to speak of honour, he who had none, he didnít understand what torments were going through Gokuís mind at the thought of his sisterís sin, and worse, the thought that he could bring this happiness he had found to an end.
Returning to the light outside that dark chamber, his eyes squinted under the glare of the sun after being so long in the darkness, he gave a slight notice to the mulling crowd, a few eyes cast upon Aphrodite and her swollen face, as she cried and fused in her hapless husbandís arms. The excitement was over, it seemed, Bulma was gone, but not without leaving a path of destruction in her wake, damn it but he would have loved to have seen that.
* Me too * a voice seemed to whisper around him, and he stopped, getting the distinct feeling that he was being watched but there was nothing around him, no one that could have said those words. Nerves, he chided to himself, that gnawing feeling growing stronger into the realm of paranoia. But he was not mistaken as his ears soon caught the faint clips of words, all of them directed towards his sister, and none of them wished her well. Aphrodite had told, all of Olympus knew of Bulmaís shame, there was nothing that could be done, nothing but killing what she held dear. Why was this responsibility placed on his shoulders, why he; because you are her kin, her sibling, youíve been together since you were conceived in their motherís womb.
"I am not my sisterís keeper." He murmured to himself, but he could not let Aphrodite get her revenge, could not let her and them destroy her. How was he going to do it though, how could he kill that man, his honour and loyalty at odds, and the threat of more pain and humiliation still hanging over him.
*Leave that to me * the whisper said once again, and he looked around again, a cold shudder travelling up his spine, that feeling still there, and now stronger than before. Maybe the situation was getting to him, the knowledge of seeing his sisterís eyes full of sadness, or hate; they had gained a measure of happiness once more, could he stand to break them apart again? He would have to cross that bridge when he got to it, and hope that he wonít burn it once he had gotten there, hoping that once he had found her that they could find something, someway to spare her such pain. Waiting for another reply from the mysterious voice, the air around him was silent, maybe it was his conscience, telling him that his way was right, that there might be a way to get through this intact.
*Just get yourself there, and leave the rest to me *. Not giving another thought to the other gods around him, he simply took flight, following the trail that his sister had made on her way back to the mortal plain, to go back home.
The lightest of kisses against his still lips: the softest of whispered caressed his ears, the sound so utterly promising.
"Not until you give me an answer."
He had told her the night before that actions spoke louder than words, the demigod sighed, maybe she was taking it to heart, still no sign of her, still nothing to tell him whether she had accepted what he had offered or chose to run. Youíve sinned against her you know, the voices of doubt whispered to him, you made her break her vow, maybe this was all a plan, to see the tables turned. But even as he was being eaten away by the doubt he couldnít except that easy answer, she had not rejected him, not thrown him side, she would come back, it was only a matter of time. And then, and then, what kind of answer could he give her, the full weight of what they had done descending upon now that it had changed, now that he completely acknowledged that he gave a damn about her. Heíd made the ultimate sacrifice, but in words, only in words, it didnít change that what they had done; he wouldnít erase the past, with actions, with actions could he make it right.
"My answer is yours, woman, or what you should have already found out. What is the true nature of men?"
The answer had come to him, actions spoke louder than words, and there was only one true sacrifice that he could make, the one thing that he had defied doing for his pride. Hmph, it was all he had left of himself, everything stripped away from him before, there was nothing there of him but his pride. How ironic it was that when he had found more in his life, these things he had never wanted and never looked for where given to him that he had to give them all away. This was the worst type of blinding, not to take away sight but to make it greater to see more, like a cloth pulled away from his eyes and suddenly he could see the light, the sun, more beautiful than he could have imagined. Slipping off the rock which had been his perch since he had begun this personal exploration, or hell as he rather thought, he walked towards the water, since the first time that morning set upon his chosen task.
"My answer is yours, woman Ö" The wind whipped her hair and rushed in her ears, the sound of that mixing with the thumping of her heart, damn it, what if she was too late, what if Zeus had already destroyed him, what if it was all a lie. She had no centre now, her sense in shambles, all that was there was the need to get back to him; what had she done, she had destroyed everything.
What is the true nature of men, what do you believe, what are going to do, she couldnít let him suffer for her mistake, he had already suffered so much, and at the moment he had finally found peace she brought the dogs of war upon him. And when she woke that morning, she said gave him the same, gave all that she could to him, of all the words she had screamed at him, all of the times those words had been shouted out to the world, she had only whispered them. It seemed almost unreal to her, waking up with the knowledge wholly and unwavering that he cared for her, those words ripped from his throat the night before, the smell of their activities and the echo of his confession still heavy in the air. Then, she answered him, responding to his yell with a whisper, hardly more than a baited breathed, and everything seemed right with the world, like she would never want to leave his arms. Now she was a broken woman, condemned by Aphroditeís words and her own actions; what was the true nature of women, of men, of humans, gods, or life, what was the answer, what was her answer?
"My answer is yours, woman, or what you should have already found out. What is the true nature of men?"
"I Ö I donít know."
"That is your answer."
Be rid of him, child, before it is the end of you, she would not leave him, she would not, in death would come rebirth. From the ashes of her life amongst the gods, of her chastity, her simplistic view of how the world should operate she would rebuild, she would survive now that she could see the sun.
Damn it, she was not getting paid enough for this, cursing at the wind, the surf, the annoying, pigheaded idiot that he had been nearly attached to the hip to since she had been sent on her way like a dog dismissed by its master. This had better be worth it, she muttered, the strain of staying completely outside reality beginning to give her a headache. From Olympus, she and he had flown over the land, the beauty of the pasturelands and coast lost on the two of them, he in deep thought, she in deep grumbling. Now over the deep blue of the Aegean, she could almost make out the outline of their ultimate prise in the horizon, and in the sky, a speck of blue and white against the brilliant red of the morning sky. They were so close now, the smell of victory and blood filling her nostrils; it wasnít often that she could pay a game to the end, and with Goku listening to her mental implants, it would only be a matter of time.
There it was, sitting like a green jewel upon the blue ocean, the island of his birth, and first few years of life, his most wonderful memories of the times when he played in the forest as Bulma tried to hunt him down. Even as he transformed and grew to manhood, this island never seemed to change, always the same untouched beauty, much like that young girl that hunted him, but now, that image and that girl was gone, whipped away in a sweep of eye. Delos, which had once been such a sanctuary for him and his kin now seemed like a den of shame, your sisterís honour or his own. It was his sisterís honour that he cared for most, nothing would affect him if he took the mortalís life, he could take the attacks that any of those who would attack Bulma, and he knew that they would come. His sister was not well liked amongst their peers, and Aphrodite was not the only deity who wished to see her fall. But what of your honour, you gave your word not to hurt him; what of Bulmaís happiness, that warm glow in her eyes haunting him.
*It is the only way, the mortal is an evil that must be destroyed, do it. There is no time for this, it will be the end of everything; just get yourself to Delos, and leave the rest to me. * And there it was, all before him, the island below and in the sky, his sister flying back towards it, back to that man, no, he couldnít let her.
"Bulma!!" He cried out, this voice roaring like thunder over the fierce wind, the slight creature flying in front of him stopping in mid flight and turned, her eyes full of worry until she caught sight of his golden aura.
"Goku!!" The reply came, just as strong as his own, and he began to fly towards her, his sister smiling brightly at him, the worry in her eyes now gone, she knew he would not harm Vegeta, that he had given his word, by Zeus, how was he going to face her?
"Tell me though, why that question above all others?"
"Long ago now, Aphrodite and I debated it, me on the side of chastity and she for the uninhibited life style, I wished to know what you think, what to you is the greater good?
How long he had resisted this, long before he ever met Bulma, since Merope and his shame, the loss of his fatherís pride making him fear it, but now, it was all he wished for, and the traps of older life now were a blessing. Last night, as he drifted off to sleep with her in his arms, he dreamed about more, living on this island with her, of claiming her for his own, in the open for all to see. He didnít just want this life, he wished to see her swell with his child, to be, to be his wife.
"Silly woman, I think it is far too late for chastity, but answer me, has your opinions changed?"
Shedding himself of his tunic and sandals, he walked towards the ocean, to give her the only gift he could, he would beg his fatherís forgiveness and his blessing for him to speak with Zeus and ask for Bulmaís hand.
"Then you tell me, what is the greatest good from a woman?"
"Bulma!!" She heard the shout like a slight whisper against her ears, almost lost against the myriad of sound around her but she turned, and she smiled, like a weight was lifted off her shoulders. Goku would help her to keep Vegeta from harm, he would help her think of a plan, she could almost cry in grief, knowing that she wasnít alone in this fight. What difference did it make if he didnít approve, he would have to help her, he gave his word, how could he not help her save the man that had brought her such happiness?
"I donít even know anymore."
"Then show me."
The two gods came speeding towards the other, the whole scene rather sickening to the senses, damn it, he was going to falter, he would never be able to do it if she gets him on her side. Kill the mortal, was the command, by any means necessary; but she would not get blood on her hands, when there was a will there was a way. Ignoring the disgusting sibling reconciliation, she turned her attention back to the island, spotting the source of this whole conflict, the man himself walking into the ocean completely naked. How absolutely primitive, the sooner he was destroyed the better. Looking back at the embracing twins and the weapon slung over Bulmaís shoulder, letís see how good her aim really is, Strife smirked, as she allowed her power to envelop them both.
There it was again, that cold feeling on his skin of someone or something watching him, even as there was no one for miles around, it must be the wind, he surmised, feeling Bulma shiver as well in his grip and his eyes began to sting for a moment. The small voice in his head was gone, leaving only his sense of doubt and honour to battle against his outrage and sense of duty. Holding her in a brotherly bear hug, he heard Bulma murmur and mutter to him, her words half lost to his ears about saving Vegeta and protecting him from Zeus; she didn't know, dear fates, how was he going to tell her.
*Do not worry yourself, leave everything to me * that cool even voice whispered into his mind, and suddenly his eyes beheld a black serpent slithering out of the waves towards the island, and an indescribable sense of hatred ran through him.
*Do it, do it *.
At first she seemed stunned, like a woman suddenly given an impossible task, unsure even how to begin, but she walked up to him and smiled softly before she wound her slim arms around his waist. Bringing herself flush against her body, he could actually feel the heat of her blush against his chest, only to have the sensation replaced by her lips brushing along his skin followed by a low sigh. Vegeta couldn't help but sigh a little himself, her touch so soft, and so new, in all of their times together he had always made the first move, and she was the willing participant. Bringing his arms up around him, he felt his breath stop in his throat and a low purr as her hands slipped lower and with the gentlest touch, stroked his tail, almost leaving him without strength. Not moving against her advance, he let her kiss him up his neck, skitting close to his mouth, only to brush his cheek with butterfly kisses, finally ending at his ear.
"Actions over words." She crooned to him, gripping his tail and he knew then that he was lost.
Easing his body into the water, he hardened his resolve with every step that he took towards his father's domain.
"Then show me."
What could she show him, how could she show him how different everything was, of the beautiful peace that was rushing through her head, all because of him, his presence just shattering everything. All of the exquisite things he had done to her in their time as lovers, the pleasures he had shown her in bed, the expression of his affection when no words would do. It came to her then, the one way she could show, show him everything, and walking into his embrace, she did what she never thought possible, she began to make love to him.
"Bulma, look below." Rough with an unseen sense of anger, she turned out of Goku's grip and looked down at her beloved island, not understanding the tone of her brother's voice until she saw it. Writhing in the ocean, giant and black, nearly the size of a man, a creature was coming, going towards the shore. No, they had come, come for him, Poseidon himself choosing to end his son's life. She couldn't let them, she would not let him die.
Slowly and sweetly, every stroke of her hand upon his person, of her lips, hair tongue, even her body against his made him moan and growl, just the sounds of him feeling so much made Bulma nearly writhe in ecstasy. It wasn't long before they were bathed in sweat, clinging to each other as he brought them to the bed, rolling on the top until she could straddle his hips.
Yes, yes, Strife cried out to herself, watching the twin, like puppets for her amusement. Already they had caught sight of her illusion, a simple trick of blindness covering Vegeta's image from their eyes, leaving only the glamour of a snake instead. After that, it was only a few mental suggestions and they saw what she wanted them to see, did what she ever so carefully insinuated, to the point where both thought it was monster, a creature of unspeakable horror. Well, really though, was it not, all the damage that mortal had done, and now, all four of them would get to see her triumph, the goddess growing ever more excited as Bulma aim the bow at the sea and slip an arrow from her quiver.
*Do it, do it * grew louder and louder in his head, like a mantra growing beyond his control, taking over all of his reason. Somewhere inside of him was screaming to make her stop, that it wasn't right but he didn't listen, his reason blinded by this unimaginable wave of hate. Nothing mattered but stopping this monster from the sea that dared to violate the sanctuary of his family, of his childhood home, watching Bulma aim the single silver arrow at the offending beast like she did so many years ago.
She took him then, there wasn't any other word to describe it, the thundering pleasure of her body against his own, her touch searing his skin worse than even the flaming pokers, laying him to waste inside. With every caress of her against him he lost a piece of himself again, dear Zeus he would never heal, and finally she took him in, enveloping him inside of her and the floodgate opened up. Moving up and down upon him, he strained against her, every cell of his body burning, drowning in her.
Cool and clean, the water splashed against his skin, he would have to take her here, he thought to himself, bring her to his father's realm. Again his mind was filled with the image of her as his, as his wife, of carrying his children and sleeping in his bed.
She couldn't think, speak, could hardly find the sense to breathe, it felt so wonderful, and watching him in his pleasure, knowing that it was her, her touch, her alone that was bringing him to such heights, it almost made her weep. With every stroke of her body against his own she was coming closer, closer to the end, to that burning beautiful feeling that was now invading her blood. And when it came, she could do nothing but hold on as he thrust himself up into her one last time and yelled out in his ecstasy the words that finally brought her to tears.
She would not lose him, not now because of her mistake; she had only now begun to accept the truth, she needed him, she needed him so much. She would not let anyone, his father, her father, all the gods in Olympus and the souls in Hades to touch him. Feeling the familiar tension in her arm, she drew back the bow string and set her arrow.
This would be her revenge, her payback, the toll for every insult and put down that she had taken from Aphrodite, and every god and mortal who shielded their face from chaos, thinking that they could rid themselves of that part of their nature. And here, with the two deities of light, the sun and moon, helpless under her power, victims of her will. Do it, do it, Strife cried into their heads, knowing that they would listen, but that they were blinded and could not see the truth. Waiting for the moment when the arrow left the bow, Strife took away the magic before their eyes and let them see the enemy that they meant to kill.
He was too caught up in the moment, the burning hate, the need for blood to stop and consider what was happening, until it was too late. Switching between his sister's ready attack and the creature that had incurred it, he watched as the silver bolt took flight towards the sea before turning back his gaze and seeing for the first time seeing the true form of the snake. It came too late the knowledge the deadly bolt aimed with deadly accuracy at the man for whom the arrow was trying to save. Grabbing out at his sister, he tried to shield her from the sight, only to have her voice echoing in his ears, screaming in anguish at what she had done.
It was earlier that morning, his eyes still closed and his mind in the realm of Hypno, before the sun had even given out its usual wake up call, he felt it, the lightest of kisses against his still lips. He knew what it was even in his sleep, the taste that seemed always with him was again in his mouth and the softest of whispers caressed his ears, the sound so utterly promising, his heavy arms almost wound around her waist to keep her against him. It was not meant to be.
Just about to slip beneath the water's surface, he paused for a moment on the edge of Delos' coast, hoping for a moment that she might have returned, remembering that morning, the peace of the ocean clearing up his foggy mind.
No, what had she done, what had she done, she could not lose him, not now; what had she done, all that her mind had conjured up images of monsters and creatures attacking him, it was she, she that had taken his life. No, she couldn't, please anything but this.
"I LOVE YOU!!!" He screamed at the peak of his orgasm, crying out for all the world to hear.
By his father, he was even hearing her voice, high and loud, so in contrast with that whisper that morning.
The softest of whispers caressed his ears.
Like a streak of light it flew through the sky, flying with none of the love and hate that caused its birth into the sky, whistling as it sailed through the air, singing a song with no name, the most mournful song of all, that between two lovers.
Never in her life had she flown so fast, the air current so strong it was almost taking the skin off her bones; but damn it, never had it been this slow. Trying to grasp another arrow from her quiver, she could hardly even see for the tears that distorted her vision.
"I love you!" He shouted out once more, so caught up in the waves of feeling that she could not even think to reply.
Slipping finally into the cool ocean water, he smiled at the thought of her, so warm and innocent in his bed, giving him all he had ever wanted without even knowing it.
"I love you." In the grey chill of morning he heard the words that he never thought he would ever know, or feel the greatest promise from having them said to him by that sweet sleepy voice.
Dear fates, she couldn't watch.
Taking her face in his hands, he brought her down to his own, kissing her with all the strength he still possessed, making her shudder even more after the intense experience they had had just a moment before.
"I love you." He whispered once more, before drifting off to sleep.
So perfect and straight was its aim, the arrow didn't pause, even as it moved from one medium to another. Hearing a slight whiz near his head, Vegeta didn't even turn around, didn't move at all as the deadly shaft pierced through skin, bone, muscles and nerves, in one fatal strike taking away the most precious, elusive sensation that was life. At that moment he was actually smiling, something that was against his very nature to do, the expression so beauty on that life hardened face, just remember those whispered words and that last kiss.
He never saw it coming, but then, they never do, oh fate, how bittersweet a lover are you, so cruel a mother, so hopefully a dreamer, and never understood. You who so love your children, so giving to your favourites, so kind and loving of your own, never can they see love coming, until it has come. But worst still are you in death, so much your children do you love, that you take them to be near you, take them too soon from the life and leave those that care for them behind.
Flying down to the very edge where the ocean met the shore, she didn't stop or give a care to the silken clothes that were getting ruined in the salt water, all she could do was run, run to the still body washed upon the shore. He almost looked like he was sleeping, his eyes closed in thought, his skin so smooth and still warm from the life that once beat so strongly in the beautiful vessel, he was like she first remembered him by the stream. Thinking back to that first time she couldn't keep the tears from her eyes, the tiniest scar from that encounter still marring his shoulder was now joined by a fingernail breadth puncture wound almost through his heart. Dear fates, even in death he was still so perfect to look at, and on his face, a smile, an easy grin of pure happiness, and now that life was gone. Stroking the lifeless face, she took up his face with her hands and kissed his lips, the one last goodbye that she could give.
"I love you." She whispered to him once more, her words once more never to be heard by the man that had inspired the most forbidden crime. Releasing his body, she stood upon the shore until the ocean claimed the body, the father reclaiming his son, until the daily cycle of the sun ran its course across the sky, at last dropping to her knees and weeping.
"Bulma, Bulma, please, wake up." Chichi pressed upon her friend when she found her the next morning, sleeping in the forest on a bed of moss and cypress neddles. Where once there was a vibrant woman now laid a creature in mourning, the pain she must be going through, Chichi could not even imagine.
"Vegeta?" Choking back a small cry, the goddess of wisdom chose simply to rub Bulma's back and soothe her, soon enough would she have to tell her the truth. Goku had revealed her what had happened, how Zeus had commanded him to kill Vegeta, how by some sort of magic or trickery did they believe that some big snake was Vegeta; the truth only being revealed when the deadly arrow had been fired. He said she had been wailing and screaming when he had found her, the tears of sadness only out done by those of guilt over what she had done, that by her hand did he find his death. What was she going to do, what could she say, how was she going to prepare her for what lay ahead, Aphrodite's petitions finally paid off, Bulma would have to be tested to determine whether she was still pure. If she were found lacking then there was no other option than death, she had vowed by her life to keep her virginity and by her life would she pay for it. It was Chichi's job to prepare her for her testing, but at the moment, the biggest challenge just seemed to be getting her up.
"Bulma, wake up, it's me, Chichi, you have to get up and get ready; Vegeta is dead Bulma, he is gone and you have to get ready." At her words, Bulma's eyelids slowly opened, only to close again at the harshness of the light, by Zeus, they were almost red with her tears. Lifting her into her arms, one goddess comforted the other, rocking her like a small child as she let the full weight of everything descend upon Bulma once again. At first the words came out nothing but frantic sobs, then whispers, and pleas and finally near shouts as she damned the world for her loss, herself for the crime and him for allowing himself to die. Grabbing hold of her screaming sister, Chichi held her steady, using the strength of her blood to hold Bulma still and screamed back into her face so that she might finally hear.
"Stop it, stop it, there is nothing you can do, Bulma, he's gone, dead, you cannot change that, not even Zeus can bring to life those who have died; worry not about Vegeta, Bulma, worry about yourself. Aphrodite has used her final ace, she's called you out for a formal challenge, called you a whore and a traitor to your vow and now you will be tested by Zeus for your purity and if you are found lacking will be put to death. Would Vegeta want you to cry so much, to show such weakness and cowardice, what of Goku and your mother, you have shamed yourself before them and all of Olympus, what would they say if they say you in such a state of pity?"
"Damn you," Bulma yelled back in a voice so hoarse and strained, it hardly sounded like her. Taking a swing at her friend, Chichi released her hold and without the support, her cramped legs could not handle her own weight and she fell upon her side, trembling with the emotion.
"Don't you understand, I've killed him, there is nothing for me now, Chichi, I Ö I love him; I never thought it would ever be possible but I do, with every part of myself. You asked me once what was the true nature of woman, and the answer that I gave you is gone, it doesn't exist for me anymore. I gave away my chastity, my virtue, everything that defined myself to him, and now he is gone, what am I going to do?"
"You are not nothing, you still exist, you live and breathe, you are still you, just different, wiser, this was an experience for you, like all the others, it has made you greater. Through those red eyes of yours you can see better today than you did before; you told Aphrodite once that she could not see the light, and neither can we, it is not life style that lets you see the light, it is here," she said, pointing to her head. Her finger then moved downwards to touch over her chest, "and here, your eyes are more opened than hers, so when the light comes, you can see it. Tell me again, Bulma, what is the nature of woman?"
"You are asking the wrong question, Chichi, it's always been the wrong question, you can ask me what is the nature of woman, of man, of god but in the end it doesn't matter, the answer is all the same. The nature of life is to live, is to search and find, to hope and dread, to love and hate, to experience all that they can and hope at the end of the day that it will make them content. There is no truth, only the best answer, truth is never set in any context but must be learned through patience, thought and experience, but always there is to live."
"Then that is your answer." She replied, completely caught off guard as she began to sniffle and then swallow down her shame.
"Yes," she sighed, "It is." How much she had suffered, Chichi realised, to reach the greatest of highs to the lowest of lows, with nothing for her now, as Chichi expected, her physical virtue was gone. She couldn't even give her the comfort of hope, or speak of Goku's promise that he made to her when he asked her to check on Bulma. Gone to the very mouth of Hell he was for her, the chaos 'demon' Strife at his side, he was on a journey, he told her, to find him for her.
"Why are you waiting for him, Chichi?" The sudden question pulling her out of her reverie.
"Who?" She asked, knowing without a doubt who Bulma was referring to, just the thought of him making her blush.
"Goku, why do you wait for him, he will never change, he is too set, too in love with his life, and too respectful of your vow to ever do anything. He cares for you though, more than just as a sister, if you would ever give him a chance." Blushing even further at the comments, she held back on her thoughts of him, wanting so much to tell Bulma of his quest but biting her tongue, he was so set on not speaking of it to anyone until he had completed his task. The thought was not a horrible one, could she do what Bulma did, could she give up her vow for him, could she stand the hatred of her peers. Shaking her head, she knew the answer was no, she couldn't give up her life, it was the choice she had made and it would be her life, the call to service greater than anything. Bulma had always been the romantic of the two of them, she could not just go up to a man, or take one as her lover, she was meant to be an admirer and watch her infatuations from a distance. She couldn't even think of such silly notions as that, there was a more pressing matter now, she could not change the past, what was done was done but if they did not think of something Bulma would be doomed. Slipping on to the ground next to her friend, she tried to think; she was the goddess of wisdom, she had to think of something.
"When am I to appear before the council?"
"And how do they test my virtue?" Bulma asked, and again Chichi blushed, the thought of it rather gruesome and shocking to her sensitive sensibilities.
"You will be handed over to the three fates and they will, umm, physically check if your, umm, hymen is still intact." She didn't know how or why but at those words Bulma's eyes lit up with the mischievous nature found only in the very young.
"Is that all, I have a way to fix that, come, I find that I need to rid myself of the salt off my skin." Slowly getting up again, tenderly now until her legs could become accustomed to the weight, Bulma turned back again towards Chichi and smiled, sadness still in her eyes but a hunter's spirit still shining through.
"What rumour is Aphrodite spreading about my honour? What proof does she have that I have broken my vow? All of our 'activities' were done on this island which is protected from divine eyes, so how does she know?"
"She said she had evidence that you embraced Vegeta in Mycenae, that this was the proof of your relationship." At those words, Bulma smiled even wider, her grief momentarily put aside for a challenge, the chance to defeat Aphrodite once and for all. Not questioning her means or plan, Chichi simply followed her friend, and hoped both of them would get out of this one intact.
It was under a far different atmosphere that Bulma returned to Olympus one day later, the charges had been made, the challenge set out and now was the time of judgement before the coming trial. Again the palace of Zeus was silent as she walked in, this time though she couldn't even offer a word in her defence before they were on her, enemies and antagonists alike ripping into her when she had fallen. A particularly brutal comment about Vegeta's untimely death touched her ears and she actually flinched, the expression of pain causing only more slurs to be made. No, she could not let them know her pain, in time she would mourn him, but he taught her something, albeit in the hardest manner; she could not give up, just remembering his courage in the face of the most impossible odds. Looking over to her enemy, she actually smiled, Aphrodite might have gotten her revenge, but the look of her with two black eyes and the crooked nose was worthy every insult and shame. Walking into the inner sanctuary, she gave Chichi a little smile, noticing sadly that Goku could not even show up to give her moral support.
"Bulma, goddess of the Moon and of the Hunt, you have been charged with the most horrible crime imaginable, that of fornication and the desertion of your vow. In accordance with the laws of Olympus, you must be tested for your purity and if found lacking you will be punished to an eternity in the River Styx, do you understand?" An eternity in torment, was that where he was right now, suffering in that river of pain, just the thought of him there, and that she could be with him made her consider the possibility of actually saying yes, of confessing everything. No, you will not take the coward's way out, you will stand tall and proud, and win against your enemies.
"Yes, I understand." She stated back, and allowed herself to be pushed into the chamber by her father's huge hand, until she was standing before the three fates, the trio of women looking at her with no more care or concern than they see with any other living entity. All she could think before she was knocked out by her father's hand was to please let this work.
Strife watched over the anxious crowd, waiting patiently, or not so patiently for Bulma to be condemned, Aphrodite grinning a eager child, well, grinning as well as a swollen jaw would allow her. Odd, she thought, looking back at the door, she was almost indifferent about the whole affair, though maybe trouncing through Hades to search for one lost soul with the brother of the accused has made her see everything different. No, probably not, but suddenly she had the grandest desire to see Bulma win and Aphrodite lose, though the effort that she went through because of the accused girl did give her a vested interest. In the end her deeds had been for not, she had returned from the slaying, the matter going better than even she could have dreamed but Zeus would have nothing to do with her, not willing to have his name associated with the killing of Poseidon's son. Oh well, Strife mused, she had her ways, chuckling as she juggled a golden apple in her hands, every once in a while brushing her thumb against the engraving. Whatever happened she would always been on top, it was like the law of inevitability, everything descended into chaos. About to muse more about her plan, she was pulled away from her golden trinket by the sound of a door opening and Zeus stepping out into the palace's main hall.
"It is the decision of the council of fates, after an examination of the accused that Bulma has not betrayed her vow and is in fact still a virgin. As to her accuser, your punishment, Aphrodite, has already been given to you." Zeus replied, the news first shocking to the crowd, only to have them all descend into laughter, glancing over at Aphrodite's bruised face. Watching Chichi walk up to assist her friend, Strife wondered for a moment if she might have been wrong, if that hug was just a hug; hmph, hers was not to ponder life, just to make it difficult.
"To the fairest one of all." She murmured, reading the inscription, maybe at the next monthly summons this would come in use.
Wrapped tightly in a wound of sheet, Bulma hugged herself just a little tighter, the nights were the hardest times, just remembering the warmth of his body and hands against her; no, she caught herself, she would not begin to weep. She almost wanted to smile though at one thing, her greatest victory, even if it was a lie, Chichi said nothing could turn back time, obviously she had never encountered the healing spring, it turned back anything, made the lost found again. She sighed again, lost once more in self pity, it would not bring him back again, oh Vegeta, even the subject of him brought her close to tears. Soon after her victory she had left Delos, possibly for good, the ghosts of her past to strong and real to ever return to that island again, she didn't want to remember, about him and her and what they had done. Oh Mother, it hurt so much, this ache for him, it was almost too much to know that she would never see his face or hear his voice, never be in his presence. He was one of the innumerable souls in the River Styx now, she couldn't even save him from that fate, that sick feeling of horror that she felt when she saw him after she had shot that arrow, that she had condemned him to death. He was gone, nothing would bring him back to her, the wounds that never healed still freshly bleeding inside of her. So caught up was she in her thoughts that she didn't hear the flapping of wings of the hoot of the owl until it had entered her inner sanctuary on the mainland, only her closest companions knowing of its existence.
"Wake up, Bulma, it's time to go." Easing herself up into bed, her eyes went wide as she looked at a majestic owl that stood perched upon the frame of her bed, the creature speaking to her through her thoughts.
"Wake up, it's time to go, you must light the night sky, come come, the night and he awaits." It said once more before flying away into the approaching dusk, the owl's world catching her interest; he, who was he and what did he care what she did. Still in a state of unrest, she crawled out of bed and dressed in her traditional garb she fell into the night sky and with a ability as unique as Goku's, she let her power flare around her, lighting the night sky. Flying out across the night sky, she absently watched the stars, even the flares of beautiful light, the rewarded existence of the greatest heroes and most fearsome creature did not excite her tonight, seeing all the same warriors and battles that she had every night before. So enveloped in her grief, she hardly noticed the huge constellation of stars that seemed to now fill the sky which was not there the night before; who could they have given such a reward to, she had not even heard of candidates. Passing by the collection of stars, she was about to dismiss the cluster all together, looking back only to take in their beautiful light, for they seemed to shine brighter than any other stars in the heavens. It was at this second glance that the figure looked back, and gave a smirk, and slowly a face and body that she knew as well as her own began to form in the stars.
No, it couldn't be true, she must be dreaming, the happiness overcoming her was so wonderful she wished never to wake up.
"Vegeta." She whispered and the cluster of stars nodded and smirked even wider as the form took on shape, then width and depth and he was before her, like an ethereal being clothed in the light of his newly formed stars.
"Yes, Bulma." He replied back, opening his arms to her and she ran into his embrace, feeling him really there against her, real and alive and eternal, his reward greater than even Olympus itself. Not holding back her happiness, she screamed out, the world almost seeming to smile at their reunion, particularly one golden god atop Olympus.
And so was the story of Bulma and Vegeta, every night they would join together in the sky, hunting the great mythical beasts of the sky, partaking in the wars. And in the day, they lived their lives hidden from even the god's themselves, the love they could not have on earth now in the stars, protected from dawn to dusk by the daily race of Goku's chariot.