Chapter 20 – Sakuritsu
Bulma and Vegeta entered the enkaijou just under an hour after the Sakuritsu began. Radditz had taken a post at the back of the hall with the other stationed guards. Only members of royalty were allowed seating on the ground floor, any other spectators, such as Chi-Chi and Kakarrot, witnessed the ceremony from the terrace above. Quietly taking seats in the rear of the hall, Bulma and Vegeta tried to exercise some discretion, wanting to avoid drawing any further attention to themselves after their display on her balcony this morning. Since then, rumors had been spreading around the castle like wildfire, truncating any suspicions that Bulma had once been engaged to Juunanagou.
Exchanging exhausted glances, both king and princess, were fully aware of how longwinded the opening ceremony would be. As per tradition, every year the newly born, the recently crowned, and the politically married would be introduced formally to the alliance of kings. Vegeta had been through the process three times. The first was his introduction as the Saiya-jin heir, the second was his recognition as the newly crowned king of Vegeta-sei, and the third was his acknowledgment of Bulma as a formal princess of Vegeta-sei. Becoming his ward had allowed her to maintain her title, and the right to attend all conferences as a recognized member of the aristocracy. Though he knew the title meant little to her, it ensured, should anything ever happen to him, that she could not be removed from Saiya-jin hierarchical society.
"Did you do this?" Bulma asked as she leaned quietly over to her warden, interrupting his musings.
"Do what?" He asked curiously, he knew she was well aware of his former involvements with the process.
"When you were married, did you announce her at the Sakuritsu that year?" she clarified her question while averting her eyes, she was not certain why she wanted to know, but she did.
Vegeta was stunned by her question; she had scarcely dared to speak of the matter, save a few malicious comments, since she had learned the truth. "No, I did not," he kept his voice low so no one around them could hear. "The Sakuritsu that year was not for another three months after our joining. She did not live long enough for it to even be considered."
Bulma could hear the regret laced in his voice. Whether that pain was from his murder of her, or losing the onna he loved, she was unsure, all she knew was that she hated the sadness engulfing his eyes. Reaching out her hand, she grasped his, which was rested upon his knee. "I am sorry, I did not mean to pain you with my question," she explained while tightening her hold slightly, letting him know she was serious about her intent.
Raising a half smile, Vegeta grasped her comforting hand and raised it to his lips to impart a gentle kiss. "I know you did not, the pain has just been so fresh for me since Juunanagou’s arrival."
"You must have loved her very deeply," Bulma suggested lowly, "I can see it in your eyes."
Vegeta was surprised by her deduction; it seemed she had some misconceptions. "I cared very much for her, yes, but I was not in love with Juuhachigou. Our marriage was a political measure my father arranged with hers, when we were both children. We had a youthful friendship, but it never grew into anything deeper. She always had many admirers, for she was a beautiful onna, but I was not one of them. I had never believed in the concept of ‘love,’ so when we were married, I had thought it a simple solution to the problematic responsibility of finding a mate."
Bulma hid her surprise poorly. So it seemed when Kakarrot had mentioned Vegeta’s love for this onna, it was a love between friends as opposed to aikoukas. Perhaps her hope was not all lost. "But, Vegeta, you said you ‘had’ never believed in love, which implies that you do now, so what changed?" she questioned nervously, was it possible there had been another onna in his life to change his mind?
The Saiya-jin no Ou felt his jaw lock, the onna was much too perceptive for her own good. "I suppose I have just become more optimistic," he suppressed a knowing smirk, "I would say it happened around the time you came into my life."
The young princess felt a blush creep across her cheeks as she heard the flattering compliment, "you give me too much cred—" Bulma’s thought was suddenly cut off as a surprising sight entered her line of vision.
"What is it?" Vegeta questioned as the blatant distraction in her demeanor caught his attention. Twisting his head to look over his shoulder, he tried to catch a glimpse of what had diverted her. When he had no luck, he turned back towards her, asking once more, "What did you see?"
"I—" Bulma stuttered as she tried to make sense of what she had just witnessed. "Was Juunanagou traveling with anyone during his stay here?"
Flabbergasted by her question, Vegeta quickly responded, "he only registered himself for the events, though I do hold some suspicions that he has a longtime trusted associate with him, I have not been able to confirm the other man’s presence. Why? Did you see him with someone?"
"Yes," Bulma explained rather carefully in a stunned manner, "but it was not this associate you suggest, it was an onna. I did not see her very well, for she had a cloak covering her, but… but there was a moment when she turned towards our direction, and I would almost swear she looked right at me. And then, as if sensing I had seen her, Juunanagou grabbed a hold of her arm and directed her outside. He must have known her. Who could she be?"
After turning one more time to take another look towards the entrance, Vegeta returned his gaze, shaking his head in uncertainty, "I have heard nothing of any female diplomatic associations of his since the beginning of the conferences. Perhaps, he has simply found some poor princess to wash away his failure with you. Did she seem familiar? She may simply be the daughter of a dignitary you met at some point during these forums and, afraid of being recognized with that scoundrel, she left with hast," Vegeta offered realistically, he knew of no other relations or engagements his rival held, therefore any onna he has taken company with must be a new target for him.
"No," the young onna was quick to disagree, "I did not recognize her from any past gathering, I would remember a face like hers; she was very beautiful."
"But I am sure she is not in a league with you, onna," Vegeta offered softly, before questioning more seriously, "You are not jealous are you? This inquisition is not because it pains you to see Juunanagou with another female, is it?" The irritation in his voice was quite obviously heard. "Is that it, onna? Are you wishing it were you?"
Taking a moment to contemplate the suggestion Vegeta had offered her, Bulma could not help but wonder if perhaps he was right. Was she jealous? ‘No, I cannot be jealous! Vegeta and another onna, that is cause for jealousy, but Juunanagou?’ she wondered shortly before coming to a depressing conclusion. "I guess I am just a little surprised that a man who claimed to love me found someone else to ‘love’ in such a short amount of time," she offered very candidly.
Vegeta’s fist tightened as the emotional damage the bastard king had caused was so blatantly obvious. He had known that Juunanagou played on Bulma’s vulnerabilities to the point where he had her believing he was in love with her, let alone passionate enough to make love to her. He could only imagine how devastating a shock it must be to realize that after saving herself for so long, she had finally yielded her virginity to such an unworthy man. ‘Gods, I could kill him for this!’ Vegeta thought with restrained anger, not to mention jealousy, before reaching a disarming hand to grasp that of the elegant creature once again. It was the only affection he could offer while in such a public setting. "Look, onna, I am sure you must feel defiled by the truth, but do not let Juunanagou’s deceptions poison you against the bliss of coupling—"
"Coupling?" Bulma stopped him quickly, confused by his direction of comfort. But, after shortly realizing that he still had false impressions about her interactions with Juunanagou, she decided to explain. "Vegeta," she placed her hand atop his as she finally admitted, "I did not mate with Juunanagou. I could not."
As if she had just confessed her undying love for him, Vegeta shook his head in disbelief. "I saw you two, onna. You rode back together on the same steed, you said you were sore, you called him ‘amazing,’ you agreed to his meeting you in your room that night, and he even praised his scent being all over you, how does that not add up to mating?" he demanded in a hushed voice, still very aware that they were in a formal setting.
With a low sigh Bulma began to explain, "My soreness was from the bruising I had suffered two nights ago when the bastard who tried to violate me was forcing my legs apart. The rough ride had incited them further, so after discovering riding sidesaddle was less painful, I joined Juunanagou on his mount. You know Hakari does not like being steered in such an effeminate position; she becomes disoriented by the shift," Bulma offered reasonably before continuing, "As far as my referring to him as ‘amazing’ goes, I was referring to his understanding," she paused as if to gather strength for that which she had to disclose next. "I was so upset by all that had been happening; I had truly wanted Juunanagou to make love to me, to help me stop feeling the pain for at least a little while. And he had agreed to, he was very gentle with me and… and we did some things, hence why I carried his scent, but when it came to the act, when it came to his taking me, becoming a part of me, I just could not let him," she broke for another deep breath, it was not easy to confess feelings she had yet to sort out herself.
"Perhaps it was aftershock from the attack the night before, or maybe some long-term emotional damage towards mating from my tumultuous past, but I panicked. So, I pushed him away, and made up some excuse about wanting my first time to be in a more appropriate location or something like that. He, of course, did not in any way pressure me to change my mind, though I could tell he was disappointed, he promised to do whatever would make me feel most comfortable. That is when we made plans to meet again that night; I thought if I was in a more comfortable setting, everything would just fall into place. I mean, everything he said, every gesture he made was just so romantic and sensitive that he actually had me believing I was doing the right thing." She forced an almost comical laugh, "And I probably would have gone through with it had you not come in and scolded me as you did. I guess I should thank you for giving me a wake up call." She finished on a playful note as she raised her eyes to finally lock with his. She was surprised to find what could only be described as a sparkle in them, as if he were a dieing man who had just been told he would have a second chance at life.
"But why did you let me believe otherwise?" he asked finally, though he did not seem the least bit upset in his tone, mostly curious.
Winded by his question, she could only wonder why that of all thoughts was the first to reach him. "I was angry with you, I guess I thought by allowing the lie to perpetuate, it would in some way hurt you as the truths you kept from me had done the same."
"Then what changed?" He could not help but ask, the day before they had shared nothing but painful words, and yet this morning her feelings were highly apologetic.
"Well," she bit her bottom lip rather embarrassedly. "Radditz had a lot to do with helping me obtain some perspective on the matter. He facilitated my seeing how unfair I was being with you. Not to say that I did not have a right to be angry, but it certainly was not worth losing you over; especially when I was the one being too stubborn to listen."
Parting his lips to offer a rebuttal, Vegeta’s response was too softly voiced as a roaring applause forced the king and princess’s attention back to the Sakuritsu.
"Having now inaugurated all the newly born heirs and kings into our society, we will take a two hour break for the lavish feast King Vegeta has so generously prepared for this gathering, and then we will return for the conclusion of our ceremony by inducting all newly joined spouses," the speaker of the senate explained briskly before being the first to take his leave for the ceremonial dinner. Shortly after, the rest of the sovereigns began to file out of their seats, followed by the lower classes on the levels above.
"I guess we missed more than we had thought, that only felt like an hour," Bulma suggested as she rose from her seat and latched onto Vegeta’s arm to guide her out of the enkaijou.
"Yes, I suppose so. Not that I am complaining, of course." He smirked briefly before realizing that a third party had fast joined them.
"Radditz," Bulma greeted sweetly as the pair moved to separate themselves from the crowd so they could speak more privately. "You must be bored out of your mind by now."
"Or at least damn near it," he responded briskly, "Though I must say you two seemed well entertained; any particular topic of interest?"
"That is none of your damn business," Vegeta snapped coldly. "Why do you not scamper off, Radditz? The onna does not need a lackey like yourself following her around all evening. I will not be leaving her side, so perhaps you should go try and track down your brother and his mate. Go spend some time with them."
"Vegeta," Bulma pinched his shoulder, "do not be so mean!"
"No, it is all right, princess. I would not mind the time with my brother and his expecting mate, anyway," Radditz offered thoughtfully before taking a quick bow in front of the two. "I will see you later then, saiai." He then turned on his heel and departed from the pair casually, having little clue that he had accidentally addressed the young onna so intimately.
Vegeta, however, did. "What did he just call you?"
Rouge adorned Bulma’s cheeks yet again as she cleared her throat before answering, "It is merely a term of endearment, Vegeta, nothing more."
"Is that so?" Vegeta asked skeptically, "and do you use the same intimate term in regards to him?"
Bulma noticed the almost jealous sound in his voice and, unable to hide her excitement at the possibility, she asked, "Why does it bother you so much, Vegeta? Are you envious that I may use such an affectionate word with another man?"
Scoffing at the suggestion, Vegeta fired back, "That is preposterous, onna. I merely find your interest in that man absurd."
"Is that so?" Bulma reverberated his distrustful words from earlier, "And just what is so ‘absurd’ about my ‘interest’ in Radditz? He is a very compassionate man."
"He is also thirteen years your elder," Vegeta snapped quickly.
"And what is so wrong with that?" Bulma asked pensively, "I do not see why age should be of any consequence if two hearts align in their desires for one another. Do you?" her voice held a hint of worry. "I mean, Kakarrot and Chi-Chi have all of fourteen years between them, but they are both blissfully happy. Do you not think you could feel the same for someone much older, or younger, than you?"
Unsure whether or not her question was meant to be reflexive of them, or simply a general observance, Vegeta dared to respond, "Age has never been a prerequisite for me, but then again, my experience with such emotions are limited to say the least."
"I find that surprising," Bulma admitted softly as she reached out to touch his fallen face. "You must have had so many onna’s offer you their hearts. You are quite the catch you know."
"You are one of few who actually believe that," he chuckled lightly as he reached out a hand of his own to encompass her face. "But, perhaps, my problem is merely that the right onna has yet to offer me her heart."
"Oh, yes?" Bulma questioned playfully as her eyes began drifting back and forth from his approaching lips to his eyes. "Anyone in particular you are hoping for?" she asked breathlessly.
"I do not know," he responded with a smirk as he carefully wrapped his free hand around her waist to pull her closer to him. "What do you think?"
Before an answer could be offered, the pair found themselves in yet another heated kiss; though this time it was fairly obvious that both sides had willingly joined in the embrace. Pushing her heated body against a corner wall, Vegeta allowed his hands to push her long tresses away from her exposed flesh so he could feel more than he had a chance to this morning. Her skin was truly softer than any silk he had ever touched. He wanted to feel more, to feel all of her, "Onna," he broke from their searing kiss and began moving his lips down her neck. "If we keep doing this, I do not think we will make it to the rest of the Sakuritsu." His voice was strained, clearly out of breath.
"Then stop," Bulma challenged, though making it clear in her tone that the taunt was not a demand; she would never, could never, ask him to discontinue such pleasure.
Feeling bold enough to match her challenge, Vegeta was about to demand her intentions, when the sound of a throat being cleared interrupted the pair. Swinging his head around to look behind him, the Saiya-jin no Ou growled as he saw who had interrupted them. "Juunanagou!" Vegeta begrudgingly pushed himself away from the wall he had pinned the princess against. "What the hell do you want now!?"
The sound of Vegeta’s boisterous voice shot Bulma out of her lust filled daze. Pulling herself off of the wall she had been pressed against, she began to straighten herself out, though still unsure as to what was going on.
"I merely came to transfer a message to you," the ominous voice of Adajinzoun explained. "Members of the senate having been looking all over for you; you need to be prepped on the procedure you must follow for the second half of the Sakuritsu."
"What the hell are you talking about?!" Vegeta demanded, "I do not have any direct involvement in the latter part of the ceremony. You are clearly fabricating some lie to try and sever me from the onna so you may have a moment alone with her, but since there is no way in ten hells I would allow that to happen, you may as well depart right now!"
"Oh, I do not think so," Juunanagou objected as he walked a half circle around Vegeta so he was standing between the king and princess. After taking a moment to look his former fiancé up and down, he explained. "Though the perks of my spending some time alone with your ward are very tempting, the information I bring you is accurate. You are to report to the speaker of the senate so that he may instruct you on the linguistics and gesticulations you must know for inducting your wife into hierarchical society."
Shaking his head with a mocking chuckle, Vegeta responded icily, "Does that not sound a little absurd? Especially considering that I am not married."
"Aren’t you?" Juunanagou spread a long smile across his face. "What do you think about that, dear sister?"
"I think it is quite the slap across my face," a hidden female voice shot chills down the Saiya-jin no Ou’s body.
Bulma then looked on helplessly as both she and Vegeta turned to see a fourth party join their grouping. It was most certainly the woman Bulma had made eye contact with earlier during the Sakuritsu, only this time she was not hidden by the massive cloak she adorned earlier. No, now Bulma could clearly see the blond haired, baby blue eyed bombshell. Her shoulder length hair was elegantly styled with white diamond clips that matched her ivory, also diamond laced, floor length gown. Her every curve was flawless, leaving the young princess suddenly filled with a dreadful fear that this easily envied onna was a ghost from the dead.
Then, as if having her worst nightmare made real, a vocalization from her warden eliminated any doubt.
* * * * *
Sakuritsu - Imperial Investiture
Enkaijou – Banquet Hall
Aikoukas - Lovers
Saiai - Beloved