Chapter 21 – The Truth Comes Out
"Well, good evening to you too, Vegeta," the entrancing voice of the blond beauty responded casually after being finally recognized. "It has been a long time, has it not?"
Physically and emotionally stunned by the female standing alive and well before him, Vegeta found himself helpless to react to the impossible sight he was suddenly witnessing. "I believe you have rendered him speechless, dear sister," Juunanagou noted in a pleased tone as he observed Vegeta’s frozen stance. "Well, if he will not be so courteous as to offer introductions, then I shall," he took a few steps back so he was along side an equally astounded princess, "Bulma, it is my honor to introduce my sister, the Saiya-jin Queen, Juuhachigou. Juuha," he glanced over to his sister, "this is your ward, Bulma."
Strutting past her numbed husband, Juuhachigou extended a hand to embrace that of the younger onna. "It truly is a pleasure, princess, for as much as my brother has spoken of you, I feel we are already well acquainted."
Taking a long breath, Bulma prepared herself to speak with a walking ghost. "Then he has blessed you with an impressive advantage, since he has failed to ever mention you to me."
"Please, do not fault him, that was entirely my error," Juuhachigou was quick to justify. "My brother has been protecting me these past several years. It was under my request that he deceived you, so please do not take grievance with him for what are in earnest my trespasses. He was merely trying to secure my safety."
"Safety from what?" Bulma demanded somewhat agitatedly. "You will have to pardon my ignorance in this situation, but I am having difficultly comprehending any of this. I was under the impression, an impression bestowed upon me by your own brother, that you were dead. So please, if you truly wish no ill favor between us, then you will have to explain this all to me."
"And me as well," the deep voice of the Saiya-jin no Ou emerged as he walked over to rejoin the group. Wrapping an arm around Bulma’s waist, he pulled her away from the brother and sister pair. "So, why do the two of you not start explaining what the hell is going on," Vegeta insisted as he locked eyes with Juunanagou. He was not in the least bit clear on what was going on, but if there was one element he was certain of, it was Juunanagou’s manipulation in the matter.
"Well, shall I explain, or are you feeling up to it, dear sister?" the king turned to his sibling, who clearly appeared enflamed by her husband’s accusing tone.
"More than up to it," she focused her eyes on the Saiya-jin no Ou, "I have been waiting for this moment for ten years." Averting her eyes she fixed them on Bulma, who seemed much too comfortable in her husband’s embrace. "Do you wish the audience, Vegeta, or shall we dismiss our ward?"
"My ward," Vegeta growled the correction as he tightened his hold upon Bulma.
Juuhachigou only nodded as she decided to save her argument for later. She would have plenty of time to sort out all of the technicalities; right now, she needed to plead her case. "Very well, but if we are going to dredge up the past, we should not do it in the middle of a hall where any party could come and interrupt us. What say we adjourn to your study, Vegeta?"
Agreeing that this scene needed to be kept as private as possible, Vegeta gestured for all to follow him towards his chamber. In a silent transition, the quartet moved from the hall to the privacy of Vegeta’s study. Once inside, Vegeta guided Bulma to take a seat upon the settee before moving to take a seat of his own on an adjacent chair. Juunanagou followed suit as he guided his sister to sit across from Bulma, and then lowered himself into a chair next to Vegeta.
Once all were situated, Juuhachigou began her explanation. "I am not certain how much my brother and dear husband told you, Bulma, but please allow me to fill in all the details that I am certain have been omitted in their tales," she decided to direct her account to the least informed of the party. "Just a bit over ten years past, Vegeta and I were married. It was a completely legal and consensual union in the eyes of the alliance. Being a princess I am certain you are well versed in the essentiality of marriage within royalty that will better the standing of both parties involved. That was what my union with Vegeta was to be, and I believe it would have been, had a rather unfortunate incident not taken place." Juuhachigou paused a moment to send Vegeta a venomous glare before once again returning her address to the young princess. "Are you at all familiar with a Saiya-jin soldier named Kakarrot?"
"Kakarrot?" Bulma gasped his name. "Why yes, he has been my personal guard since the beginning of my stay on this planet, up until just yesterday in fact. What does he have to do with any of this?"
"He has been your personal guard?" Juuhachigou could not help but release a chuckle upon hearing the announcement. "Oh, Vegeta, aren’t you just a glutton for punishment." The comment evoked a scowl from the king as he averted his eyes; clearly the topic pained him in some manner.
Noticing his embittered mood, Bulma shook her head, desperately wanting to know more, "I do not understand."
"Allow me to continue, my dear." Juuhachigou was more than willing to carry on her discussion of the Saiya-jin. "Kakarrot was also my personal guard before and after I became queen of Vegeta-sei. He and I were always close friends, very close actually. We were lovers."
"Lovers?" Bulma could not suppress her shock at the bold admission. A swell of pity welled inside of her as she thought of her poor governess. If this were true, she would certainly not take it well.
"Yes," Juuhachigou nodded, maintaining a pleasurable reflection in her voice, "having experienced his protection first hand, I am certain you can imagine how easily an onna could fall for him. I mean he is handsome, witty, compassionate, adoring, tender, s—"
"Enough of these useless details, just get to the part where you rose from the dead!" Vegeta snapped with restrained fury. There was only so much praise of Kakarrot he could take listening to.
"It seems the years have done little to snuff your jealousy, Vegeta," Juuhachigou mocked as she threw a knowing glance towards Bulma. "So as I was saying, it was only natural that we developed feelings for one another, considering all the time we had been spending together. But, neither of us was so naïve as to be blinded by what we were to one another. I was to be married to Vegeta, and thereby would have to relinquish all other lovers for the sake of propriety. And so on the day of our joining, I made a promise to both Kakarrot and Vegeta that I would not falter in my vow of monogamy. And to this day, I can honestly tell you, without a doubt, that I would have never consciously broken that vow had I been given the chance. But unfortunately, it was that very intention that caused me so much grief." Taking a brief moment to shoot a deadly glance at her spouse, she then dared to continue. "I am not certain what your warden has told you of our relationship, but we were actually once friends. I had thought he understood the sacrifice it was for me to give up Kakarrot just to honor our vows, but clearly he only cared for his own selfish desires."
"That’s a lie!" Vegeta jumped from his seat to dispute her claim, but a quick hand of Juunanagou to hold him back, stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Allow my sister to speak her part. If you wish to make any objections, save them for the end," he advised reasonably.
Once Vegeta saw the pleading look that crossed Bulma’s face, silently begging him to settle down, he decided he could bite his tongue temporarily. Taking his seat once more, he wordlessly allowed his wife to continue. "It was only a matter of weeks into our union that all went astray. Kakarrot and I had taken dinner together, Vegeta was tied upon with diplomatic issues, hence the reason for his absence. The last few moments I remember of that evening were of moving into the lounge for a nightcap and a romantic novel to read. The next memory I have was waking up in bed with a man I had sworn to never make love to again. I had no recollection of how I had arrived there or what had happened, but the telltale signs of being naked under my bed sheets more than seemed to fill in the blanks. Or so I thought," halting her thoughts, Juuhachigou spent a few pensive moments gathering her strength, signaling to Bulma that the next part of her story would not be a pleasant one.
"That same morning, after I dressed and went downstairs to try and retrace my steps, to try and understand what had happened, I was greeted by you," she turned to look upon her husband with icy eyes, "who without explanation proceeded to call me nothing short of a whore in front of the elite of society. He branded me a traitor to him and his people," she turned back to angrily admit the events to Bulma, "there was no reasoning with him. He seemed to know all that had happened when even I had not. He vowed to strip me of my title, to banish me from my heritage. I would have had nothing! I would have been a disgrace!" her voice dropped off as she turned to look upon her brother with a soft smile. "That was when I implored Juunanagou for his aid. He did not judge me, or even ask for an explanation. He immediately vowed to help spare me the shame of the scandal in whatever way he could. And so, it was then that we, together, decided that my impromptu death would be my only means of escape."
"You faked your own death?" Bulma surmised the conclusion before it could be voiced.
With a slow nod of her head, Juuhachigou admitted, "Two days later, when the conference was called to have our marriage ended, my brother was to start a fight with Vegeta. And then I was to interrupt the battle, making it appear as though when my brother was near defeat, I stepped in and took a sword through my chest for him. Vegeta, of course, was all too eager to play his anticipated part. I still remember the jovial look of triumph as you thrust the weapon into my chest," she again spewed her venom at her husband. "Fortunately, the body guard I had worn was thick enough to shield my skin from any serious damage, yet believable enough to make my death look real. After the duel, my brother successfully managed to steal me away from Vegeta-sei and bring me back to our home. I have been forced to live in hiding these last ten years, but all things considered, it would have been better than the life Vegeta intended for me."
All three heads drifted towards the silent king as he sat with his arms crossed over his chest, seemingly taking in all that his wife had said. Narrowing his eyes, he quickly began to comprehend where her misconceptions had developed. "You are poisoned by your brother’s lies, Juuhachigou," his tone held a note of disappointment. "I gather from your scenario that you believe I was the one that set you up with Kakarrot, just so I could publicly divorce you on the grounds of adultery. But, as much as I hate to burst you protective bubble, I was not the one who set you up. Your precious, ‘protective’ brother set both you and Kakarrot up. He then made me believe the affair you were partaking in was in fact real, and thereby grounds for your banishment. I never would have jumped to such a conclusion without his aid."
"Now who is the liar?!" The infuriated onna jumped to her feet in defense of her brother. "Juunanagou was right to warn me you would insist upon these falsehoods. I know you were the one who set me up that evening. I know you did it so you could be let out of a marriage you never wanted any part in. And I most painstakingly know that my ‘death’ these last ten years has been nothing but a convenience for you, but no more!" she finally was ready to release her motives for all to hear. "I have come to put an end to it, Vegeta. I want my title, my power, and my respect, that you destroyed, restored to me, and I want it done tonight!" she paused as she watched the proud man stand before her, attempting to stare her down, but she was not about to allow him to. "Whether you like it or not, Vegeta, I am still your wife in the eyes of this congress, which means, it is your responsibility to formally induct me as the Saiya-jin queen."
"I will not!" Vegeta was fast to his objection. "I will not be manipulated by you or your brother! You cannot spend ten years living a lie and then expect me to welcome you back with open arms. I have a new life now, one which has no room to include the manipulative bitch your brother has so blatantly molded you into."
"That is enough!" It was Juunanagou’s turn to jump to his sister’s defense. "I will not stand by and listen to you speak to my sister, your wife, that way! She has done nothing to be deemed unworthy of her title and honor, which means you have no grounds to reject her right to be inducted as the Saiya-jin queen."
"Over my dead body," king and king stood toe to toe. It seemed it would only be a matter of moments before blood was shed.
"Stop this!" The loud resonance of a voice that had been silent for the most part, finally spoke up. Grabbing her warden by the arm, Bulma turned Vegeta to face her as she made a daunting decision. "You have to do as she asks."
Feeling his jaw drop slightly, Vegeta demanded she repeat herself, but when he was certain he had heard her correctly, he shook his head in disbelief. "You can not be serious!"
Slowly closing and opening her eyes, Bulma nodded her head in rejection of his conclusion. "Look, I was not around when all this happened, but by both yours, Juunanagou’s and Juuhachigou’s admission, she was not at fault in the matter. Now regardless of who set her up, whether it was you or he, the point is that she was set up. She was the innocent in the matter, which means she deserves to have her reputation restored. And being as though the two of you are already married, what difference does announcing her make?" her voice dropped off near the end. She just barely managed her thought while hiding all the tears she wanted to release at the realization of what she was saying.
"Onna," Vegeta gently whispered her name as he clenched his fist to restrain himself from reaching out for her. The devastation was ever so obvious in her eyes. He could not begin to imagine what thoughts of him were running through her mind. "You are not thinking clearly, you can not believe that—"
"Perhaps you should listen to her, Vegeta." Juunanagou was more than happy to interrupt. "Even if you have deluded yourself into believing I was the culprit behind my sister’s disgrace, you should still feel a responsibility to restore her name and title. As your ward said, Juuhachigou was at no point in the wrong."
Growling in frustration, Vegeta decided it was time to end this evening from hell, "I will do nothing until this is all sorted out! For all I know this is not even truly your sister, but instead some impostor who bears a striking resemblance to her—"
"How dare you!" The queen challenged, but was swiftly ignored as her husband continued.
"I will not be forced to make any hasty decisions on this matter!" he promised as he sent a warning glare towards his rival. "If you wanted your name and title restored, Juuhachigou, this was not the way to go about it. I do not respond well to manipulations, and threats. I will not announce you tonight, nor any other night until I am satisfied that this claim of yours is genuine. So, if your intentions are as pure as you would like me to believe they are, then you will continue to keep the low profile you have so successfully maintained, until I can determine what is and is not real."
"The hell I will," she promised while walking forward to meet her challenger eye to eye. "You stole the last ten years of my life; I will not allow you to take a moment longer. If you want time to sort everything out, fine, but as for me, I am crystal clear on who I am, and what I can do. So take all the time you need and contemplate the situation to nauseating lengths for all I care, but I will not spare you anymore courtesy than I already have tonight," sidestepping her husband, Juuhachigou then slowly curtsied in acknowledgement of Bulma. "It was a pleasure meeting you, princess; I do hope this will not sour a relationship between us."
Reflecting the gesture, Bulma watched as the irate woman stormed out of the room with her seemingly pleased brother following close behind. Once the door had been raucously slammed shut, Vegeta released a breath he had not realized he had been holding. "Unbelievable," he muttered aloud. Finally he had thought everything was shifting towards his favor, and then this happens. Turning around, the king looked upon his ward with worried eyes. Her back was facing him, as her head was visibly fallen. The slight shaking of her torso led him to believe she was suppressing tears. "Bulma," he used her name to reinforce his sincerity. Walking over to where she stood, he reached his hands out to wrap around her waist.
"No," the soft demand was followed by Bulma jerking her body away from his pursuant embrace, "Please don’t touch me." She continued to keep her back to him as she walked towards the exit to make a fast escape.
"Onna!" Vegeta called after her as he grabbed her arm just in time to stop her from leaving his study. Turning her around he lifted her chin to force her eyes to meet his. When she tried to pull away again, he stopped her by enfolding her in his arms, almost possessively. "Don’t," he ordered as he pressed her body into his, willing her to remain a part of him. "I need you right now."
Upon hearing his plea, Bulma relinquished her fight. She never had any success in denying him anything; she was not about to start now. Burying her head in the crook of his neck, she allowed a few stray tears to fall. Why did her life always have to be like this? Why, whenever she began to allow herself to believe happiness was in her grasp, did it all seem to fall to shambles? Unable to repress her thoughts any longer, Bulma finally pulled away from Vegeta’s grasp. "We can’t do this," she took a few steps away from him. "You are a married man," she whispered barely, "this is not right."
Blocking her exit a second time, Vegeta grabbed a hold of Bulma’s arms as he forced her to face him. He had to make her understand. "No, onna, I am not a married man; neither in the eyes of my people, nor my own. Even if that female we both just met does turn out to be the reincarnated version of Juuhachigou, I do not care. I will not remain in a marriage with her. I am not a powerless prince like I was all those years ago. The Saiya-jin people are much stronger now. We do not need a marital merger to better ourselves. I do not need a queen," he paused to encircle his ward’s soft face as he corrected his statement, "at least not one that I feel nothing for."
Closing her eyes, Bulma lifted her hand to regretfully pull his from her face. "You do not have a choice," she reminded while blotting her eyes to shield herself from further embarrassment. "You may have the power to do many things, Vegeta, but you can not just wish a marriage away; especially not when your wife in question seems determined to bleed you dry."
"Onna," he groaned, desperation gradually building in his voice. "I do not care what sick plans Juuhachigou or her brother have in mind to bring me down; none of that matters to me right now, all I care about is us—look at me," he broke from his thought as he ordered her to lock eyes with him once more. He needed her to see the honesty his words held as he apprehensively admitted his desires. "Bulma, something was happening between us, something I feel we need to explore, but we can not if we let this plot of theirs to separate us succeed."
"This plot?" Bulma could not help but repeat. "Getting married is not a ‘plot’ Vegeta, it is a legal fact. We cannot just ignore that to pursue whatever it was that was developing between us. That would be adultery, an act that you humiliated your wife for taking part in!"
"It is not the same!" Vegeta insisted, though a nagging feeling foreshadowed the response he would thus hear.
"How is it not the same?" she asked with restrained anger. "Juuhachigou just minutes ago sat here and admitted that she gave up the man she loved to be with you, and how did you repay her? You publicly stripped her of her power and title. How can you now vow to take part in such a hypocrisy?"
"Because I do not care!" he was quick to confess, reaching out to grasp her again, he felt his stomach clench as she pulled away from his touch. "I will not pretend to have a grasp on the situation with Juuhachigou, but what I do have an understanding of, is what is right before me, what is right between us!"
Shaking her head, Bulma turned her back towards her warden; she could no longer face the truth before her. "I know exactly what is between us, Vegeta. I am your ward, and you are my guardian. I am, in title, a princess of Vegeta-sei, and you are its king. I will be some day married for no other purpose than to better relationship with a fellow nation, while you and your queen will produce an heir to the Saiya-jin throne," choking on her words, she forced out her final conclusion. "There is nothing more between us, not now, not ever." No longer able to withstand the surmounting tension in the room, Bulma finally made an uninterrupted exit.
Once she was gone, Vegeta took his lingering rage out on his office. Breaking glasses, smashing tables, throwing chairs, and thrusting his arms at anything in sight, the Saiya-jin no Ou, after several long minutes, found himself collapsed in the middle of his study, his head in his hands as he realized fate seemed to wish nothing more than to keep him secluded from love.
Fumbling her way down various corridors, it took Bulma several minutes to arrive outside of an unconsciously chosen destination. Taking a few moments to calm her breathing, she slowly raised her hand to knock on the door. After a brief moment of waiting, the room’s occupant pulled open the door. Grazing her eyes over the partially nude form of the man she now stood across from, the only thought that crossed her mind was to drown all of her pains as she had tried to the afternoon she had found out her secret love had once been, and now apparently still was, married.
Extending her arms to wrap around his neck, she pressed her lips upon his as she pushed her body flush against his. There would be no rejection this time. Kicking the door closed behind her, Bulma intended to finish what she had started a few nights ago.
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