Chapter 23 – Innocent Encounters
"Juunanagou, no!" Bulma screamed as her guard was swiftly ripped from her body; the sudden appearance of her once fiancé chilled her to the bone.
"What the hell is wrong with you low level Saiya-jin guards!?" The infuriated king screamed as he held a dagger to the defenseless Radditz. "What will it take to make you all learn that you are unworthy of laying with royalty!?"
Taking several long breaths to control his rage, Radditz roughly countered, "and who the hell are you to burst into my room like this?! You hold no jurisdiction over Bulma or myself. What we do and do not do together is none of your damn business. So why do you not try and salvage what little dignity you have left and leave before a scandal erupts from this."
Juunanagou’s eyes widened, he never had been spoken to in such an insolent manner by such a low level soldier. "You need to be taught some respect, low class." Raising the dagger to slice across the man’s chest, Juunanagou was briskly stopped by a violent scream from one very frightened princess.
"Do not hurt him!" she begged as she rushed from the bed, the sheets tightly wrapped around her as she forced herself between the two-angered men. "Radditz is my guard, you have no right to deliver punishment to him, especially when he has done nothing wrong!" her voice rose several decibels as she spoke.
"Done nothing wrong?" Juunanagou repeated in disbelief as he reached out one hand to grab Bulma’s arm. He used his other to press his dagger more tightly into the large guard’s throat, effectively stopping him from any interference. "He touched what is mine. That alone deserves a punishment of death."
Bulma narrowed her eyes as she whipped her arm away from her oppressor. "I seriously hope you are not referring to myself as yours, because I have never been and will never be any man’s property! And in your case in particular, I very clearly recall breaking off our engagement, which means my affairs are not any concern of yours!"
"Now that is where you are wrong," he gritted his teeth in repressed fury. She would not be allowed to push him away, not after all of the manipulations he had put into play to bring them to this point. "You will soon be my wife, as has been declared by your newest warden."
"What?!" Radditz and Bulma screamed in unison.
"I see, so you have not heard," Juunanagou taunted, he was more than happy to explain. "My sister has declared open contest for your hand. She feels having a four plus years of marriageable age ward living under her roof is simply too much of a temptation for her husband. You will be married before the close of this conference, sold to the highest bidder; which, of course, will be me."
Shaking her head in disbelief while taking several steps away from the king, Bulma objected, "No, Vegeta would never allow this. He would never do this to me!"
"Well, it is not in his hands," the handsome man shrugged as he finally removed his dagger from its close proximity to Radditz’s neck. "My sister has already cleared the matter with the senate, which if you have forgotten, you are a part of, thanks to your dear warden. So consider yourself warned, Bulma." He lifted his hand to touch her cheek, he was irritated to see her jerk her face away from his grasp. "I will be your husband before the close of the week, so if you wish to start that union off on good footing, you will ditch your sub par lover here, and seriously consider coming to me before our joining, as a sign of good faith."
"Like hell she will," Radditz took a protective step in front of her. "You will not lay a finger on the princess, not while I still draw breath."
Unable to repress a chuckle, Juunanagou locked eyes with the impertinent guard, "be careful what you vow, soldier. Low-level warriors like you are expendable. Remember that."
Grabbing his arm before he could move to assault his superior, Bulma quietly whispered to her guard that the cruel king was not worth his effort. "I suppose I should thank you, Juu," the princess called after him as he turned to leave. "You finally have shown your true colors, just as Vegeta said you would."
Stopping dead in his tracks, he partially twisted his head back towards her, displaying a somewhat regretful look upon his face. "You know it did not have to be like this princess, if only you would have left with me as we originally planned," he left the result to her imagination as he slammed the door behind him.
As soon as they had their privacy once more, Bulma sunk to the ground, holding herself tightly. "This is some kind of horrid nightmare."
Collapsing next to the sunken onna, Radditz wrapped an arm around her in assurance. "You will not be forced into a marriage with Juunanagou; do not even think about it, saiai. Vegeta will not allow it, and the Saiya-jin people will not accept it. You were promised a new life when you came here, one where you were free from the oppression of a self obsessed dictator who made arrangements for the benefit of no one but himself. And I fully intend to help Vegeta maintain that promise. Even if it means I have to marry you myself, I swear to you, this will not take place."
Raising her head to look into the loving eyes of her guard, Bulma laughed at his suggestion. "Yes, what a sacrifice it would be for you to force yourself to marry me."
Reflecting her laughter, Radditz smirked mischievously, "well, perhaps it would not be so much of a measure of protection for you, as it would be a benefit to me, but the result is the same. You will not be forced into an domineering relationship. Not a chance," he finished with a quick kiss on her forehead. "Now," he helped her to her feet. "I am going to go dress since I can not very well spend the rest of the evening in a towel. Afterwards I will take you back to your room. You need your rest after yet another long day."
"Radditz, wait," she grabbed his arm before he could depart from her. "Can’t I just stay with you? I do not want to be alone tonight."
After taking a few moments to consider her request, Radditz answered with a firm, "No. I am sorry, saiai, but it just would not be right. I will sleep by your side in that ever so uncomfortable chair beside your bed, but I do not believe it is wise, with all that has been going on, to be discovered having spent the night in the quarters of a lowly guard."
Bulma opened her mouth to refute the demeaning title he used to refer to himself, but was stopped as he placed his fingers over her lips. "Get dressed," he ordered softly before heading into his washroom to change. Once he was out of sight, Bulma dropped the sheets that covered her, and walked back over to pick up her dress. Stepping into the neat circle of fabric she had left, she leaned down to pull the garment back up around her slim body. Grabbing the two straps, she fumbled to tie them behind her neck. ‘Where is Chi-Chi when I need her,’ she thought unconsciously as she continued to fiddle with the knot. Then almost as though her request had been answered, two soft hands split her long blue tresses and pushed them forward over her shoulders before completing a perfect tie with the straps.
"There," an all too familiar voice sent a chill down her back as she turned around to find herself face to face with her impassive warden.
"What are you doing here?" she could not help but ask; this was now the second person that seemed to know exactly where to find her and without any qualms barged right into the room.
Averting his eyes, Vegeta responded briskly, "I thought you deserved to know what Juunanagou and his sister have been up to since their departure earlier."
Biting her lips to prevent a moan from escaping her throat at the uncomfortable situation, Bulma softly admitted, "I already know. Juunanagou was here just moments before you arrived. He told me his sister intends for me to marry before the closing of the conferences. He also told me, more specifically, that he is practically already guaranteed the duty, and even had the gall to suggest that I offer myself to him as a show of acceptance for my impending doom." She sighed as she walked over to Radditz’s bed to sit down haphazardly. "Gods I was such a fool," she dropped her head into one of her hands that were propped up by her knee. "I should have listened to you from the start about that man. He does not care at all about me; I am just some game to him."
Lowering his gaze so he could see the sunken form of his ward, he found his eyes falling shut again as his focus was far from where it should have been. "Where is Radditz, you are not safe alone." He scanned around the room, unconsciously cringing at the sight of the disheveled sheets on the floor.
Bulma noticed the discomfort in his stance, but dared not comment on it. "He is getting changed," she announced honestly. "Kakarrot had spilled a platter of food on him earlier, so Radditz came back here to change."
"I see," Vegeta forced out in a monotone voice. "And the reason your dress was on the floor moments ago?"
Bulma felt her stomach clench with anxiety as she gulped nervously, "You watched me dress?"
Suppressing a groan as he realized his own stupidity, Vegeta was a little too slow to respond. "Do you believe me so disrespectful that I would gawk at you while you dressed? I averted my eyes as soon as I realized you were indecent."
"Oh," Bulma whispered, unsure whether she should be relieved or disappointed. "I was hoping Radditz would allow me to stay the night with him, I do not want to be alone, but he seems to think it would be inappropriate with all that is going on. So, he was going to change and then escort me back to my room," she left out the more embarrassing details. There was simply no need for him to know anything else that had happened.
"If you do not wish to be alone, I will stay with you tonight," Vegeta offered decidedly as he walked forward and knelt down before her. "You know helping you through the nights are what I am best at," he reminded while placing his warm palm against one of her cheeks.
"Vegeta," her mind told her to push him away, but her heart begged her to allow him to lead her back to her room, just to experience his presence for the night. "I do not think it is wise," she forced herself to reject his advance. Rising from the bed, she took several steps away from him before continuing, "I should not have to keep reminding you that you are a married man! Our being together will only cause scandal, and fuel Juuhachigou’s claims to get rid of me—"
"Then we will be discreet," Vegeta promised as he turned her around to face him once more. "Now, I do not want to hear any more excuses from you. I do not care what I am on paper, or what the senate intends. You onna, are my wa—" he halted mid word, suddenly the term did not sit well with him. "You are very precious to me, onna," he admitted to a more neutral truth, "and you know I will do everything in my power to protect you. So your fears are tenuous, I will never allow them to come to fruition."
"But—" she tried to protest, but was not allowed.
"No buts," he put a finger over her lips. "I can not take any more of these games, onna. What we need is time alone with each other, and if I have to throw you over my shoulder and drag you into your room to do it, then I will," he watched as a smile graced her lips. Clearly she took the joke as it was intended. "Spend the night with me," he requested while taking her hand in his and placing a gentle kiss upon it.
Bulma felt a heat, beginning in her loins and rising to her stomach, speed through her body as he voiced those beautiful five words. Though she knew he was literally asking for her to stay with him that night, not actually do anything with him, the offer was still too much to refuse. "All right," she agreed after a long breath. "Just let me tell Radditz that he does not need to escort me to my room," she insisted before walking over to knock on the washroom door. "Radditz, I am leaving with Vegeta, is that all right with you?" she wanted to make it sound more like a request than a demand. After all, he had been so kind as to offer to stay with her, she felt guilt in now refusing his offer. "Radditz?" she called him again, but when he did not answer in what she deemed a reasonable amount of time, she dared to turn the doorknob. To her shock it was open. Stepping inside, she looked around the small room to try and locate her guard. "Radditz?" she called for him one last time before realizing he had snuck out the back entrance. ‘Why am I not surprised,’ she thought with a mild chuckle as she returned to inform Vegeta that her guard had evaded her presence, and thus she would have had to leave with him regardless.
"Smart man," Vegeta briskly complimented before accepting the arm of his ward to guide her towards her chambers. He wanted, no needed, her to understand all that was happening, but most importantly, he needed her trust in him to be stronger than ever before, for them to fight united against the forces attempting to tear them apart. And he wanted to solidify that unification now.
"Why don’t you try watching where you are going, you stupid mon—" the newly arrived Saiya-jin queen’s words were quickly stopped short as she raised her head to look upon the strapping man she had just had the pleasure of running into. "Well, hello," she switched to a more seductive tone, as she looked the man up and down.
Radditz discreetly took notice of the attractive female he had stumbled upon, before apologizing, "It seems I was lost in thought, I did not mean to accost you. I am sorry for the interruption." Nodding his head in respect, he then intended to continue on his way when the female stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Have we met before?" a note of genuine curiosity was in her voice as the man turned around to contemplate his answer. "You seem awfully familiar to me."
Shaking his head, Radditz decisively disagreed, "No, I usually do not forget the faces of the most beautiful females I encounter." It was simply in the man’s nature to be so charming; he could not help the compliment.
"Well," Juuhachigou felt a slight rouge cover her cheeks, "it has been a long time since I have been spoken to so flatteringly from a man. But I’ll bet you have used that line many times on all the females you encounter."
Radditz found himself chuckling at the almost depressing thought, "No, actually, quite the opposite. I have been for some time pining over a specific female whose heart, unfortunately for me, belongs to another. So consider yourself lucky, it has been many years since I used such a line on any onna."
As her face lit up in surprise, Juuhachigou could not help but comfort his pain. "Well, it seems we should form some sort of a club. I too am in love with a man whose heart belongs to another," she paused as the words seemed to sting her more than she had imagined. Leaning against a nearby wall, she finished with blatant somberness. "Of course, there is always hope."
"No, not always," Radditz dropped his back against the wall next to the disappointed female. "In my case, the most I can ever hope from her is a friendship. Only one man can make her happy, and it is not me, and I think I may have finally made peace with that fact," he reflected on the end of his encounter with Bulma. Her words of regret had gone far to easing his shattered soul.
"Well, it sounds to me like you are simply giving up," she turned sideways, though still leaning against the wall, as she looked up at her new acquaintance. "The man I am so enchanted with, my aikouka, once loved me as well. We were separated from one another for some time, but now that I am back, I intend to stay in his life until he realizes that we are made for one another, like I know in my heart that we are."
Sighing, Radditz found her words all too familiar. "I once thought like you. I had spent a few years away from my saiai, and even though I had known she did not reciprocate my feelings, a part of me hoped when I returned she would come running into my arms and confess that our time apart had only made her feelings for me more powerful. But that was only a delusion of mine, shattered the moment she once more confessed her love for the other man. And that, my lady, is a feeling I would not wish upon anyone, especially an onna as attractive as you are. I am certain you could have any man you wanted, so why not try and pursue one who is not already taken?"
Biting her bottom lip to withhold a laugh, she felt another blush return to her cheeks. "You know, if you keep talking like that, I will begin to think that you are suggesting yourself for the daunting task."
"Are you really that bad?" he mocked as he pushed himself from against the wall. "You know it sounds like we could both use a distraction, how does a moonlight ride sound?"
"It sounds awfully romantic, what will your ‘saiai’ think?" Juuhachigou questioned with an amused tone.
"I think she would be happy to know I am moving on," Radditz crossed his arms over his chest as he countered her question, "What would your ‘aikouka’ think?"
A slow frown fell across her lips as she contemplated his question. "I think he probably would not give a damn." The realization stung almost as much as the cold shoulder she had received from him earlier. "So, you know what," she pushed herself off of the wall as she nodded her head in agreement. "Let me go back to my room and change into some riding clothes, after that, I will meet you in the stables. Agreed?"
"Agreed," Radditz nodded as he watched the onna disappear down the hall. Turning to head towards the stables, he could not help but wonder if fate was bestowing upon Bulma the strange luck it had laid upon him.
"Feel better?" Vegeta asked once Bulma had stepped out of her washroom, having bathed and changed from her evening dress to a curve fitted, thin strapped, ankle length white nightgown.
"Much," Bulma commented as she placed her dress in a pile for it to be washed, and then returned the jewels she had removed to a small chest upon her vanity. When she finished, she somewhat nervously turned back to the king, who was casually sitting in the chair next to her bed. "Well, I guess I will just turn in then," she announced before crawling onto her bed. She stopped her momentum as she watched Vegeta rise from his chair, and move to sit next to her on the mattress. "What is it?" she asked as she pulled her knees into her chest, and stared at him in anticipation.
"I," he slowly lifted his eyes from the spot on the floor they had been focusing on all the while she had bathed. Coming to the conclusion he had reached took some effort, but he was now certain of the result. "I know it seems a little late, but it is time that you hear the whole story. You deserve to know why Juunanagou hates me, why he set up his sister, and why he now is after you. If you are willing, I will tell you the whole truth. No omissions, just the cold hard facts; at least as I recall them."
Bulma felt her heart leap as he finally offered to tell her everything; no one to interrupt them, no fears of rejection or insult as result of the truth, just honesty. That was what they had needed from the start, and now, it was more than time to hear the whole story. "Alright Vegeta, tell me everything."
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