The game of Forium had been played on a pitch about twenty metres wide and several hundred feet high. The colossal stadiums had been visible miles away as transparent funnels that jutted into the sky, surrounded by ridiculously large spectator galleries. When the burning sun was in its last fall, the rays would reflect the harsh Vegeta-sei light, and create great rainbows across the desert landscape. It had been a kind of natural advertisement to the teams, and to some, a celestial homage to the players insane enough to compete. These vast structures had dominated the horizon of Vegeta-sei for centuries, towering above the dwellings and giving each city its dignity and right to dictate the choice of rank.
Forium was not so much a sport, as a bloodied field battle that had re-determined each fighter's rank after they reached maturity. At some point in the royal legacy, one of Vegeta's ancestors had fed his warrior instinct by the invention of something for lower-class fighters to do in times of peace. Combining necessity with inspiration he had commissioned the sport to give all those fighters who failed to reach elite status predictions at birth, one last chance to gain entry into the elite ranks. This honour had only been bestowed on those fighters, fortunate enough to successfully survive twenty matches on the Forium field and slay at least five elites in the process. A feat that not many were privileged enough to witness.
As a youngster Vegeta had been taken to many a match. Had Vegeta-sei not been destroyed it would have been part of his duty, as king, to oversee the progression and equate the risk of potential Saiyan elites. In his brief life on the planet, Vegeta had never been fortunate enough to witness the accomplishment of the twenty, but he had heard many stories of past successes and glory, learning that the last fighter to achieve the coveted elite status, had actually been executed for treason not many months after his ascension to the palace guard.
That in itself was nothing very extraordinary. It was the fate many of the palace guard had to suffer towards the end. Under Frieza's continued presence and as the noose tightened, suspicion had been rife, and the penalties, swift and deadly. There was no time for trial, no time for protestation, only enough for stealthy assassination, usually at the hands of the king himself. It was a side of his father that Vegeta was never protected from. On the contrary, his father took every opportunity to make him witness the brutality of his race firsthand. Vegeta had never known any differently.
That was what competitive sport meant to him, and that was why (after several minutes of the bizarre Chikyu-jin game had passed) Vegeta was bitterly disappointed there had been no blood spilt. His eyes squinted down at, what he could only loosely describe, as the action on the playing field.
"What the fuck? Why the hell has the prick in black stopped it this time?"
Bulma didn't answer, but then he hadn't expected she would. She hadn't said a word for the last twenty minutes, not since her particularly interesting reaction to the bet he had made. He chuckled slightly, remembering the string of perfect curses she had thrown in his direction, once her brain had fully caught up to her mouth. It had taken every ounce of control he had, not to lower himself to flinging them back, and risk the destruction of his plan by igniting even more of that amazing and tempestuous fire.
"He just kicked our player in the head, Monsieur," exclaimed the man seated next to Vegeta, and who had been sweating profusely ever-since he'd realised the short, bad tempered, bet forcing man, who had terrorized half the stadium before the game, was going to be sitting next to him. "He'll be lucky not to be sent off."
At first the unfortunate Parisian had tried abandoning his seat and standing on the steps for the entire match, but the stewards hurried him to his seat, saying that staying where he was, was a potential fire hazard. So in the knowledge that escape just wasn't an option, he'd contented himself with being as pleasant to the guy as possible, guiding him in a way through his (very obviously) first ever soccer match, and hoping to survive the ninety minutes by earning his favour.
"Sent off the field! For that?" cried Vegeta. "Preposterous! It was a perfectly good roundhouse, albeit lacking in power and precision. The adjudicator should have let it continue, then at least there might have been something to actually get excited about."
"Yeah well," Bulma harrumphed, from next to him. "Normal people don't get excited by the same sick things you do, Vegeta." She was still turned away from him, sulking with her arms crossed just like the spoiled brat he had discovered her to be, but her true state was underlined in the nervous biting of a nail. "I should know."
Vegeta simply snorted and tried to concentrate on the game. It was still goalless after fifteen minutes, and even though his attention was divided between the pitch and that one member of the crowd that confused him most, he was starting to understand the main principles. Bulma, however, still managed to drag his attention away, but realistically, her odd behaviour was none of his concern. She had already objected to one course of action and he had stopped. He wasn't going to afford her the same luxury twice.
The woman was clearly behaving irrationally. Besides… that glimpse of nervousness she had treated him to, had given away a little more of herself than she had realized, and Vegeta was still convinced that this was the correct route to take with her. She was just so blinded by the possible end result that she wasn't thinking straight. Foolish girl! But then… she would realize her mistake soon enough, at least he hoped she would, after all how would he get his end of the deal if she were dissatisfied with the result.
The truth was that he had no option but to take it to the next level.
Glancing up as the clock ticked down to halftime, Vegeta was so distracted that he completely missed the wonderful piece of build-up play, passed in a triangle formation and falling to the feet of Paris Saint-Germain's star left winger. All he saw was the final delivery into the box, dinked over the last defender as the sprinting centre forward latched onto the end, and volleyed it passed the stranded Marseille keeper.
Vegeta chanced a side-glance at Bulma as the supporters around them left their seats to jump up and down in delight. One or two of the braver creed at the back even started to sing 'get your tits out for the lads.' A chant that managed to elicit a wicked smirk from Vegeta, and for the woman beside him to stand up in her seat the moment everyone else had sat down, and show the whole crowd a timely middle finger.
"Sit down, Whore," he chuckled. "They get the message."
"Fuck off, Vegeta!" she spat into his smirk. "I've never been so humiliated in all my life."
"You're going to burst a blood vessel if you keep this up. It's not even half time. I will be extremely disappointed if you're not here to collect on the bet, one way or another, after having to waste my ki so flippantly earlier."
"Idiot! You're only so calm because you have absolutely nothing to do with this bet. Ugh! How happy would it make you to streak across the pitch in front of thirty thousand spectators? I bet you wouldn't be so smug then! Do you really think so little of me that you'd willingly let someone as pretty and intelligent, as I am, have all these strangers stare at me naked? Well let me tell you that isn't what people do to their friends. Shit Vegeta! I thought…."
"Thought… thought what? That I care about people looking at you? That I have some sort of duty to protect whatever scrap of innocence you might have left? The idea is absurd and you know it."
She looked a little wounded at that statement, but didn't rise to it. "You skipped the point, Vegeta. This isn't excitement… this is humiliation!"
The woman's voice was squeaked to a pitch above normal, and Vegeta was losing patience - fast. "Then why don't you leave?"
"Yeah," she snorted. "Like you'd let me?"
"Look human! If you don't want to be here it's no skin off my back. Leave, go back to your life of mediocrity, see if I give shit."
Her eyes were slanted and cut with distrust, and rightly so. Despite his relative unconcern the word 'humiliation' had crept into Vegeta's head and had somehow stuck there. It was an aspect to the situation that he had honestly not thought on. As far as he was concerned there would be no humiliation involved. She had one of the best figures he had seen a human posses, why would showing it off cause her humiliation?
As usual, however, he feared that his view had been blinded by the remnants of his old life, where beauty was coveted, and inhibition was something that was beaten out of you. Modesty, like any other weakness, was dangerous to a warrior, and had been purged early on in his life. As his father had once said, "A warrior is nothing if he cannot defend himself in every situation," and something that Vegeta had learnt many years ago was that getting caught with your armour down almost always required a quick defence.
In short it was all too easy to forget how prissy the human race really was.
Then again, wasn't this what he had been planning all along, wasn't that what she wanted, to break the boundaries of her adult self, and indulge in something that would give her a break from conventionality. No. He would stick to his original decision. Retraction was not a trait his character would suffer. There was no way he was backing out of the agreement now, but perhaps, perhaps there was (he conceded) a little room for concessions. It was well within the ranks of his pride to do so, and might well calm the banshee down enough to let him make his original point.
"Mediocrity is a hell of a lot better than insanity." Bulma said as she turned; ready to leave her seat and Vegeta.
Vegeta frowned. His displeasure at Bulma's own was unaccountable, but it was there none the less. He grabbed her wrist, just as she was about to move away, stopping her escape.
"Wait!" he ordered. Then after a minute, (when she was still struggling to get loose) he closed his eyes, breathing the indignity out through his chest. "Please."
To a disinterested bystander, it would perhaps, be difficult to tell who was the more shocked. Bulma by hearing the word, or Vegeta, for feeling obliged to utter it in the first place. Each blinked their own astonishment, and were so stupefied that the halftime whistle blew unnoticed. The crowd cheered around them, and spectators left for the bar, leaving Bulma and Vegeta to stare each other down.
"Well…?" said Bulma eventually. "I thought you said you didn't give a shit?"
"I've changed my mind."
"Because you still have a lesson to learn, and I am still willing to teach it."
Bulma looked resolutely at him. "I'm not staying to be humiliated, Vegeta. I mean it."
Vegeta nodded his head in agreement, and let her wrist go. "You once said that you were my friend. Is that still true?"
"I… I guess."
"And as a part of this friendship, you trust me?"
"Now hang on a minute… I wouldn't go…"
"Yes or no," he interrupted.
"Yes!" she sighed.
"Then what is the problem?"
"Perhaps… perhaps its because my trust of you isn't as strong as it should be yet," she said, disappointedly. "You don't seem to understand what friendship means. You don't think on it properly, and I… I don't know how to get the concept through to you, just like I don't know how to go about teaching you compassion. The two, somehow, seem to go hand in hand. You don't feel compassion in my friendship for you otherwise you wouldn't have made this bet, and that's what upsets me. Friends… friends stick together, they don't set each other up for a fall."
"Very well then. If the bet upsets you then there are ways around it."
"Yes. You have two options from here on in. We can both forget this whole insane deal right now, and the friendship along with it, or we persevere together, and let the bet stand. I am nothing if not unreasonable, but in this one instance I am prepared to make a compromise…"
"What kind of compromise?"
He smirked, his eyes gripping Bulma's from under heavyset eyebrows. "A very simple one. If Marseille lose - I will streak with you."
King Kai had been busy polishing his car when the scarred human had thundered to the ground from the end of Snakeway, making yet another large indentation in the grassy surface of his small planet. He wasn't angry, not in the least, but he was concerned. Yamcha had been falling behind the others for weeks before he had finally lost his cool and abandoned training altogether, and there had been little he could do to prevent the inevitable.
Yamcha was a nice lad, he was honest and good, and extremely talented for a member of the human race, but he lacked one important characteristic - constancy. From what the Lord of the Worlds could understand from the fighters past, it had let him down before, and he had no doubt that it would haunt him in the future as well. It was a pity really. With the right mindset he was convinced that Yamcha was more than capable of catching up to Tien and Krillin's levels, and to push for being the most powerful human alive. As it was, he was still a fair distance off either of them, and perhaps King Kai felt a little angry at himself, for not stepping in sooner, when it was plain to see that Yamcha wasn't acclimatizing to the training as he aught.
Laying the sponge on the shined hood of his car, King Kai abandoned his chore and looked up over the rim of his glasses to watch as his other students rushed to get reacquainted with their friend. Tien laid a friendly hand on his shoulder and asked, "What happened?" and when there was no reply he continued to say, "We were worried about you."
"I… I'm sorry guys," Yamcha replied. "I didn't mean to make you worry. I just needed to be by myself for a little while."
At this point he looked up, and King Kai decided it was time to walk forwards.
"Sorry King Kai," he said scuffing his feet on the grass. "It was wrong of me to disrespect you by leaving and I apologise for that."
"It's okay Yamcha. I understand. You needed your space. We all do once in a while I just wish you had told me what you were going to do." He smiled, "So tell me… why did you come back? You didn't have to. King Yemma would have let you keep your body."
"I want to train," Yamcha said with a passion he had never heard from the human's lips before. "I need to train. I want to be strong enough to be able to protect Bulma, no matter who my opponent is."
King Kai studied the fighter's thoughts for a second and then nodded in understanding. "It's a noble thing to do Yamcha, but I'm afraid you're never going to be that strong."
"What!" he said, anger spilling into the manifestation of ki, which glowed poignantly around his body. "You're a teacher of the martial arts, one of Other World's finest. How can you possibly say that?"
"Forgive me. I didn't explain myself as well as I should have. It is true, you can become a better fighter, and your ki can become more powerful. That is not the problem. It is your discipline I am worried about. Your mind isn't as strong as his, and I don't think you have the ability to improve it. In that respect I fear you'll always be second best."
"I can change that," Yamcha protested. "I know I can."
"Well, perhaps you can," agreed King Kai. "And perhaps I can help you, but you have to be one hundred percent committed, otherwise it's not even worth starting. We'll just be wasting both our time."
"King Kai!" Yamcha said with new determination as he powered down. "I promise you. I have never been more committed to anything in my life before. If you put your faith in me, I won't let you down."
The Lord of the World's smiled up at his pupil. "Very well then. Your intensified training will start first thing tomorrow, but first come inside and rest. You must be tired and I have a meal all set out ready for you."
Vegeta was absolutely dumbfounded!
Every time he thought he was getting closer to understanding the blue haired ningen, she just had to go and throw every single pre-conception he held about her, out of the window. He had expected a battle, a hot-headed, knife-wielding collision of wits, and most of all he had expected obstinacy, but for some reason it never materialized. His surprise was very real, and also shamefully visible, as the frown and concentration pursed on her lips had melted into a dazzling smile, which stunned his senses, and confounded his composure.
The witch had even had the audacity to laugh at his predicament and make some snide comment about him looking like a 'goldfish' whatever the hell that was!
Halftime had been and gone, and Vegeta still hadn't managed to work out her rationalization of the situation. How did such a woman, transform from such determination and iron-willed resentment, to the carefree and (comparatively speaking) happy woman he was sitting next to now. Nothing had changed. Marseille hadn't miraculously scored an extra fifty goals at halftime to make her secure of her end of the bet, and yet she was acting as if it didn't matter any more, when it had been everything before his concession.
She was up to something. It was the only logical interpretation of her behaviour. It had to be. In a moment of human influenced weakness he had let his defences down and here she was in full flow, just waiting for the right moment to make him suffer for it. He knew it.
After twenty minutes of completely uninspiring second half soccer, Bulma was in mid explanation of the 'offside rule,' and quite frankly, Vegeta couldn't keep his curiosity at bay any longer. Time was running out, and he knew that he had to find a way of sussing out what she was up to before the match finished, more especially if the score remained the same as it was now.
"… So you see," she said brightly. "The Paris player had to be offside, because he was past the last defender when the ball was played to him."
Bulma slapped a hand to her forehead, "Ugh! For fucks sake! It's like talking to a brick wall! I've explained it five times already. Are you even listening to me?"
"Shut up, Witch. I'm not talking about the game. I'm talking about you. Why are you so goddamned happy all of a sudden? What happened to little miss 'I don't want to do this because it's humiliating'?"
Much to Vegeta's astonishment her anger dissolved and once again he was greeted to two rows of perfectly white teeth.
"You mean you really don't know?"
"I wouldn't ask if I knew would I, simpleton? Explain!"
"Okay. I'm happy because you did it, Vegeta," she praised, her eyes alight with pride. "You had a choice between compassion and ego and you picked the right one."
Vegeta was left speechless.
"Now don't get me wrong," she continued. "I don't like the conditions of this bet. I never have, and if I had the power to do it I'd Kamehameha your arse into the next dimension for this, but…" she winked. "I don't mind doing anything if it means you understand what it is to be my friend."
Vegeta couldn't believe what he was hearing. She had played him! The damn Witch had managed to do what whole armies had never managed to do, find his weakness and exploit it to get what she wanted.
"You little bitch!" he spat at the discovery, causing Bulma to burst into resounding peels of laughter, and the damn sound was so infectious, he couldn't help but let his lip curl up under the influence as well. "I'll make damned sure you suffer for this!"
Bulma controlled herself long enough to say. "I look forward to it."
The game continued, but there was very little to hold the interest of a neutral supporter. It was a lacklustre affair that was confined to midfield-nothings, and without a clear-cut chance at either end. Marseille didn't look anywhere near like getting the all-important equalizer that would neutralize the bet for all those involved. There had been a vague appeal for a penalty when it looked like one of the Paris Saint-Germain players had handled in the box, but the referee waved the protests away, and let the game continue.
After three minutes of added on time, the fulltime whistle finally blew. The nervousness in Bulma's posture had returned. The whole crowd behind them knew they had won, and were now making as much verbal noise as possible to remind them of it.
Much to Vegeta's surprise, however, Bulma stood calmly up from her seat, and turned to face the supporters to speak. "A bets a bet," she said calmly to them. "And I fully intend to keep my end of the bargain. Leave your names and addresses at the front desk and I will see to it that your prize money is sent to you. As for the other part…" she looked across at Vegeta, "Are you ready?"
He nodded once.
"Then all you guys are in for a treat! Take a good look because you are never ever in your life going to see a body as good as this one again."
Vegeta chuckled low in the throat. The woman was just as egotistical as he was, and there was something in her brash and decisive behaviour that held his attention more than it had ever been held in his life before. She might not have strength but she had more balls than all of her species put together. Tantalizing witch!
Walking down the steps together, Vegeta looked at Bulma, who nodded back once in reply. "I can't believe I'm actually going to go through with this. You're a wanker, Vegeta, don't you ever forget that!"
Simultaneously they removed their clothes, the warm Mediterranean air making it more than comfortable to do so. Each stood for a moment in equal appreciation of the other's body. Vegeta could feel her eyes tracing over the muscles of his chest, none of the inhibitions she had suffered under that morning, coming into play. He silently conceded, therefore, that this 'friend' concept was indeed very powerful after all, and more especially rewarding with the view he was treated to now.
"Can you quit perving and power up for me, Vegeta?" Bulma whispered, tilting her hips to the side, as his eyes disobediently roved over her exposed flesh.
"Why?" he smirked. "I like perving, and I don't see any need to power up."
Bulma frowned, and the jeers got louder at their inactivity. "I'm prepared to go through with this bet, but there are camera's everywhere and I doubt dad would appreciate me being nude on the front page of every newspaper on the planet. Can you sort it for me?"
Vegeta chuckled and closed his eyes, "As you wish."
Manifesting his power into an electrical pulse, they both waited for a moment, and at the precise moment loud explosions could be heard rocketing through the ground, they jumped over the railings and ran across the pitch.
Before the stewards or police knew what was happening, there was a ruckus from all sides of the ground. The spectator's attention was divided between the explosions emanating from the television gantry, and the naked couple running confidently across the pitch.
Amongst the confusion a blue/white aura had sprung into life around Vegeta. He sprinted forward, and grabbed Bulma around the waist. In an explosion of light he rocketed back across the ground to retrieve their clothes, powered back up into the air, over the side of the stadium, and off into the distance, leaving nothing more than a vapour trail in his wake.