Chapter 31 – Bulma’s Revelation
"Are you certain you are all right?" Radditz asked softly as he wrapped a consoling arm around the young princess as she looked emotionlessly upon the bed that supported the dying king. She could see the healer was working diligently to try and salvage the man’s life, but after all of the blood that had been spilt, she wondered if that was in fact still possible.
"I am fine," Bulma answered minimally as she gently touched her bandaged bicep. After the scuffle with Juunanagou, he had pierced her arm, but fortunately, the damage had been minimal. Aside from minor fatigue from blood loss, she experienced little pain after ingesting the herbs the medic had given her. "Is he going to survive?" she asked after a long pause, uncertain whether or not she desired to hear the answer.
"It is too soon to tell," he responded somberly before guiding the young female out of the room. She should not have to be subjected to the gory scene any longer than necessary. Once the pair was securely outside, Radditz advised, "you should go seek out Vegeta, he needs to know what has happened."
Nodding her head slowly, she broke from his grasp to counter his suggestion. "You will stay with Juuhachigou, won’t you?"
"Of course," he promised as both pairs of eyes wandered over towards the dazedly sitting female across the hall. So many changes had been quickly occurring to the queen, it worried him how the possible murder of her brother would factor in. "I will not leave her alone."
The promise was all that needed to be voiced for Bulma to silently retreat from Juunanagou’s room to find her warden. So much has happened so suddenly. She was not certain how she would begin explaining it all to him. Starting with her faked pregnancy, her lying about her coupling with Juunanagou, his blackmail of her, and now his possible death, it was simply all too much.
It still gave her a chill to replay the ominous scene. Never had she intended to kill the bastard. Threaten, scare, intimidate, yes, but inflict serious bodily harm? That was never her plan. Of course, she never expected her feelings of loathing and disdain to overpower her sense of rational judgment as it had when she pressed the dagger against the king’s throat.
It all came back to her. The thought of every slimy thing the bastard had done to her, Vegeta, and even to his own damn sister made her ill. She knew the man was pure evil, and for a split second she had felt the willpower to kill him, but she could not, a weakness that brought her to fight for her own life as they struggled to claim the weapon. She had of course lost. Even with the slice he had taken in his hand prior to stealing the knife from her, he was simply too strong for her.
It all happened so fast, but she distinctly recalled feeling him throw her body to the floor and straddle her waist to prevent her from moving. It was then her turn to feel the blade against her throat as he vowed to make her pay for rejecting his ‘generous’ offer to be with him. He spewed a series of insults and promises to make her life a living hell after that. But when she refused to cower under his glare, he thrust the blade into the tender flesh of her bicep. She had screamed, and again tried to throw him off of her body, but instead she felt his control of her become all consuming as his body fell limply atop of hers. It was not until she had felt the blood dripping from his head down her neck that she realized he was unconscious. With some effort she rolled his body off of hers, finally giving her the freedom to look upon her liberator. It was the last person she would have ever expected.
"Juuhachigou," she had choked out her name as the female stood numbly staring down at the unconscious body of her brother. What was left of the vase she had used to break over his head was still securely in her hand. Forcing herself to stand up, Bulma had walked over to the onna, cradling her arm as she quietly thanked her. But there was no response to follow as the elder onna dropped her weapon and ran to her brother’s side, cradling his bleeding head as she begged him to wake up.
It was at that point Bulma had left to find the healer. To her luck, he was not far, and in the company of Kakarrot and Radditz no less. The two had begun to try and explain to her something about Nappa, but whatever it was became an afterthought as she told them of Juunanagou. Radditz, along with the healer had immediately returned with her to the scene of the crime. Together, with the help of Juuhachigou, they had lifted the injured king onto his bed so the medic could work.
Even now he was still trying to save the broken man. Though she felt little remorse for his injuries, she knew if he died, the effects upon his sister would be life altering. If for nothing more than to ease the conscience of her savior, she hoped the ungrateful bastard would live through the night. If not, she hoped Radditz could offer her some comfort. He does have a way with onnas.
Stopping in her tracks, Bulma had finally arrived at Vegeta’s private chambers. A part of her was too nervous to face the man, to explain all that had happened, but she had to make him understand. She did not know what she would do if he could not forgive her. Raising her hand, she nervously knocked on the door twice before pausing to wait for his answer. She gave him a few minutes to respond, assuming he had already turned in for the night, but when a few minutes became several, she pounded on the door again, this time calling his name as she did. "Vegeta, it’s Bulma. I—I need to talk to you." Silence permeated again. Glancing down at the doorknob, Bulma hesitantly wrapped her fingers around the key to her entrance.
It was a strange moment for her to contemplate, entering his room. His chambers, just steps away from hers, had been a bizarre taboo for her, a line of sorts that she never dared cross. Where as her room had been a comfort zone, a place where she and he had spent many consoling nights together, where their friendship had grown, just as she had grown from the awkward child into, well, the still somewhat awkward adult she was to this day. But, his room, his room was different. Just the thought of the room that housed the bed he slept in every night made her body quake. Many nights she had dreamed of his private chambers, or more specifically, the two of them, together, consecrating a new bed, one without all old memories, without an eeriness of her youth, a place for them to start something new.
She could not withhold a short monotone laugh at the realization of how impossible the fantasy seemed now when they were bouncing back and forth from exploring their feelings to losing touch with one another. It still amazed her how things had changed in such an augmented amount of time. Never would she have imagined the lengths her warden would go to just to protect her. One minute being willing to marry her, and then the next offering to claim the child of his enemy, just so she would not have to leave the beautiful life he had laid out for her. She could truly live a thousand lives and never repay him for all he has done for her.
Taking one last long breath, Bulma twisted the doorknob and cautiously walked into the dark room. "Vegeta?" she called in a gentle voice as her hands groped the adjacent wall for a light to illuminate the space. Once she found it, she felt an uncontrolled frown grace her lips as she gazed upon the massive area.
The room was not nearly as lavish as she had imagined, in fact it was the complete contrary. The dark walls were completely bare, save for a dresser and a desk tucked away on opposite sides of the room. The massive glass doors to his balcony that should have been able to usher in ample light during the day were covered by ominous black drapes. And his bed, the one she had imagined so vividly in her dreams, was also depressingly plain. It bothered her that the room was so empty, as if it had some symbolic meaning she wished not to address.
Forcing the contemplation from her mind, she paced over towards the bed. Running her fingers over the silky black covers, she desperately attempted to repress the image of it gliding over his perfect muscles. Gracefully lowering herself onto the mattress, Bulma smiled as she traced the contours of his pillow. Leaning forward, she closed her eyes as she inhaled the potent scent that was imbedded in the linens. Before she knew it, her cheek was resting against the pillow as she closed her eyes, allowing herself a moment to let her mind wander before reality kicked in and she realized where she was.
Pushing herself regretfully back off the bed, she rose, suddenly embarrassed that she was invading his privacy. ‘Just what I need, another reason for him to be angry with me,’ she realized with the intention of leaving. Since clearly he was not in his room, her presence there was unwarranted. Straightening herself out, she was about to turn and leave, when a drapery hanging from the wall behind his bed caught her attention. The sheer absurdity of its placement was enough to peak her curiosity.
After fumbling a few times to split the curtains, she noticed a lash hanging from the side, and just barely managed to reach up to grab it. Pulling on the rope served to successfully part the curtains, allowing her widened eyes to take in the shocking sight. "Oh Vegeta," she whispered while reaching out her fingertips towards the massive portrait that hung on the wall.
It was of her, in the silky white dress she had worn to his thirty-second birthday celebration. The celebration had not been an easy one for her; in fact, it was perhaps one of her most difficult events, save for those of recent, that she had to attend during her stay on Vegeta-sei.
Beginning with Vegeta’s thirty-second birthday, the Saiya-jin pressure for their king to take a queen had begun to heat up. Vegeta was an exquisite monarch, but unfortunately, he could not live forever. It was unheard of for a Saiya-jin king not to have been mated by at the latest his twenty-fifth birthday, making Vegeta’s wedlock long overdue.
It had been a brilliant deception conjured by Kakarrot. He made the celebration deceptively swarmed with available Saiya-jin females of the elite classes. With the political and financial success Vegeta-sei was flourishing from, there was no need for their king to marry a strategically allied princess or widowed queen.
Bulma had not realized the setup until she arrived on her guard’s arm to the surprising scene. It was only then he informed her of the ploy to help his longtime friend find his soul mate. It ripped her apart to see female after female flirting to gain the attentions of her warden. Though for the most part he had appeared uninterested, there were a few instances when she had seen a woman leaning a little too close to him, or another resting her hand upon his chest playfully.
The scene had been too much for her to handle at that point, so she discreetly exited the party. On her way out, she had overheard a group of disappointed females cursing to one another about some young exotic beauty that was rumored to have attracted her warden’s eye. It was enough to make her ill.
As with many other distresses in life, Bulma had decided to seek solace in an activity that brought her peace. So she headed for the stables to brush Hikari’s mane, just as she had done the night of Juunanagou’s arrival. By the time she had begun grooming her mount, it was only a matter of minutes before an expertly sarcastic voice had broken her concentration. "Mind if I join your retreat from the festivities?"
She had been shocked to the core by his appearance, and dared to ask why he was passing up the chance to be immersed in dozens of fetching females. His answer had been uncomfortably offered, claiming none he had seen that night were of any interest to him. She had then dared to challenge him by citing the rumor she had overheard from the females at the celebration. His entire face had paled when she did. He had to say nothing further for her to know it was true.
"Who is she?" the question had been asked while she turned her back to him, stroking Hikari’s locks. She knew she could not bear to see a glimmer in his eyes at the thought of another onna.
"It does not matter," she recalled so vividly the feel of his body lining up next to hers as he solemnly explained, "She does not return my feelings. So there is no purpose in contemplating the situation any further."
It had been a bittersweet response. It eased her mind to hear he was not taken, but tore her to pieces sensing the disappointment he poorly tried to cover. It was then she had turned back to him, and did something she had never expected herself capable of; she offered to help lose him forever. "Why do you not tell me who she is? Perhaps your assumptions are wrong. Let me speak with her, this situation my not be as hopeless as you believe."
His response had been in the form of a lopsided smile as he gently embraced her cheek and placed a soft kiss upon her forehead. "You are very generous to wish to help me, but I am certain your knowing would only make matters worse. I know how she feels, and I am too realistic a person to waste my time hoping for a fantasy that is impossible."
It was then she had wound her arms around him, as it was for once her turn to console him. It angered her to think of some onna rejecting her warden. He was so generous, and strong, and confident, and powerful, and compassionate, not to mention handsome and gentle and, gods, the list could go on for hours! Who was this female to believe Vegeta unworthy of her!?
When he had pulled away from her, she had felt compelled to tell him that if this onna was too blind to see the incredible man he was, then it was she that was unworthy of him. He had seemed to get some sort of twisted pleasure out of her comment, but it was just enough to bring about a lighter mood for the remainder of the evening. The pair had then decided the party was not worth returning to, so they escaped together on a moonlight ride.
But a few miles outside of the castle grounds, an unexpected storm brought fierce rains upon them. Fortunately though, there was a cave not far, so they could seek shelter for the night. Once the horses were tied down, both had taken the blankets in their mount’s knapsacks, and laid them on the floor. It was only after that task that Bulma recalled she was wearing a sheer white dress and with the bath she had just taken in the rain, she embarrassingly grabbed one of the blankets and wrapped it around her securely. When she had turned towards Vegeta, she expected an amused smirk to be plastered across his face, but instead his eyes were averted, and what she would have dared say was a slight hint of rouge was on his cheeks.
Another few awkward moments passed before they had settled for the evening. Neither saying much to the other, until the temperature began to drop, and compiled with wet garments, both began to shake somewhat frozenly. "Onna, come here," Vegeta had ordered in his deepest baritone. His voice alone had heated her frozen limbs.
Following his instructions, she had combined their blankets, and joined him under the warmth, meshing their bodies to create as much heat between them as possible. It amazed her how quickly the cold drifted away. Before she knew it, she was resting her head in the crook of his neck, and drifting off to sleep; unable to recall a time she had felt more contented.
When she had awoken the next morning Vegeta was already gone, hunting for morning breakfast, as she would later find out. With the morning sun shining down, she had been drawn to its warmth. Exiting the cave, she had found her beautiful white steed lying down peacefully in slumber. Walking towards the beast, she had knelt down beside her, and began stroking the stunning creature. It was a few minutes later she was startled by a surprising question from her warden.
"Do you have any idea how beautiful you look right now?" Even he had seemed surprised once he voiced it, but as she looked up to see him walking towards her, almost as if in a trance, her heart had stopped in awe of his almost lusty appearance. His eyes had slowly walked over every inch of her body, as if to imbed the image in his mind for an eternity before it was inevitably broken as the pair had to return to the castle. Little had she known at that moment the image was being memorized by him so he could have it immortalized in a painting.
‘Is this really how I looked to him?’ Bulma wondered as she noted the almost angelic glow that the sunlight surrounded her body with. She could not believe he had had the painting made, not to mention, had it hung in his bedroom. ‘Why would you want a portrait of me, Vegeta?’ her self-depreciating nature simply would not allow her mind to think deeply enough to realize the truth.
"What are you doing in here?" the gentle voice of her former guard questioned as he alerted the young princess of his presence.
"Did you know about this?" Bulma ignored his query as she offered one of her own. Her curiosity was much too prevalent to be disregarded.
After stuttering for a few moments to reorient himself to what she was speaking of, Kakarrot finally managed an answer, "Yes, Vegeta ordered me to place it in here about a year ago. He had been away on diplomatic matters at the time," the tall man explained, somewhat surprised the princess was unaware of the painting. "Did Vegeta never tell you about it?"
Shaking her head, she questioned inquisitively, "I knew nothing of it before this very moment. Do you have any idea why he had it commissioned?"
The equally befuddled man shrugged his shoulder, as he guessed, "I thought he was going to take it to be placed with the others in his chambers in the northwestern fortress. It made more sense since he spends more time there."
Grasping her former guard’s arm, Bulma demanded his repetition, "What ‘other’ ones?"
"His other portraits of you," he answered in a still highly bewildered tone. "You act like you have never seen them before."
Shaking her head as she tried to piece all this together, Bulma took a deep breath before answering, "Kakarrot, I haven’t. Vegeta never once mentioned to me that he was having portraits painted of me. How long has he been doing this?"
"Ah," Kakarrot was startled to hear her revelation; it seemed perhaps Vegeta’s intentions were not what he had originally surmised. But, then again, nothing Vegeta had been doing of late in regard to Bulma made particularly any sense. "About two years ago. Yes, it was not long after Radditz left and Vegeta started spending more time away from the castle. I assumed he desired the portraits as a sort of token to console him in your absence, but I do not know why he would have wished to keep one here when he can simply walk next door to see you. Seems rather odd, don’t you think?"
"Yes, it does," Bulma nodded slowly as her mind began to wander once more. It made little sense that while her warden was nursing a broken heart over some mystery female that he would be having portraits done of her, not to mention ordering one the very night she learned of his rejection. ‘If he was truly as broken hearted as he had seemed over this onna, it would make more sense for him to be commissioning portraits of her instead of—’ Bulma’s entire demeanor stiffened as she refocused her thoughts on that very night. ‘Some young exotic beauty… She had then dared to challenge him by citing the rumor she had overheard. His entire face had paled when she did… She does not return my feelings. So there is no purpose in contemplating the situation any further. Oh by the gods, he sounded just like me when I was speaking of my feelings for him!… You are very generous to wish to help me, but I am certain your knowing would only make matters worse. How could my knowing make matters worse, unless… I know how she feels, and I am too realistic a person to waste my time hoping for a fantasy that is impossible. Almost my words exactly! Gods, Vegeta, it just cannot be possible! We could not have been this oblivious to one another’s feelings for so long, could we?!’
"Um, Bulma," the elder man asked worriedly as he watched her entire body recoil in shock. "Is everything all right?"
Shaking her head to focus herself, she grasped her guard’s other arm, forcing him to face her. "Kakarrot, did Vegeta have paintings done of anyone else? Another onna perhaps?" She knew she had to be wrong about this.
"Ah," the tall man scratched his head absently before concluding, "Not as far as I know." He was far from following the princess’s train of thought.
"Kakarrot, think back," Bulma shook him slightly as she insisted, hoping he could have an answer to her pressing question. "Do you recall Vegeta’s thirty-second birthday celebration? I was wearing that dress," she pointed to the picture. When he nodded, confirming his recollection, she continued to question, "all right, now think hard, do you know of any rumors floating around about some female Vegeta was infatuated with?" Gods, was it safe for her to get her hopes up?
Not needing much time to contemplate his answer, the guard very vividly recalled the event. "Oh, yeah, it damn near ruined my party!" he said in a somewhat angered tone as he crossed his arms. "Here I go setting up with a perfect matchmaking situation for Vegeta’s birthday, and the entire event is botched by one onna who mistook Vegeta’s attentions to you as being something more than—"
"Me?" Bulma demanded the confirmation in hopes that her heart would start beating again. "Then it was me that was the focus of the rumor then?"
Nodding his head, the guard continued, "I know how ridiculous it must sound. I mean, even I caught him staring at you during a few different occasions throughout the evening, but it was hardly anything abnormal. Vegeta’s attentions always seemed to fall on you in social settings. Not that those drop dead gorgeous dresses you select help, Vegeta would have to be blind not to notice how stunning you are."
"But—" the princess was quick to object, "but he is my warden, he sees me as a child," she found herself repeating the excuses she had used to convince herself of hers and Vegeta’s impossible coupling. Even now, knowing she was the focus of the rumor, and after recalling him confessing his enchantment for that onna, she was still hard pressed to believe it. ‘Gods, is this why he leaves me? Has he been experiencing the same pains I have? The same hopeless dreams?’
"I do not know where you got that idea, but you are by no means a child in Vegeta’s eyes," Kakarrot answered her question, oblivious to the fact that it was rhetorical. "Especially after all that has been happening between the two of you, how could you think that?"
Closing her eyes as if to try and block out her own stupidity, Bulma began laughing. "I do not know," she dropped her head into her hands as she covered her face to muffle her sudden sense of liberation. "Gods, I do not know how I could have been so oblivious for so long!?! How we both could have been."
"Oblivious to what?" Kakarrot asked with a raised eyebrow as he observed the suddenly irrational appearing female.
"Our love!" Bulma shouted as she threw her head back in disbelief. "I have been such a fool, Kakarrot! I was so protective of my own feelings that I completely ignored Vegeta’s! Gods, we have wasted so much time!"
"Um, ok," Kakarrot walked over to grasp the line that would close the curtain to cover the painting. Once he finished, he turned back to his once protectorate, and clutched her arm to guide her out of the room. "I think we have overstayed our welcome here," the Saiya-jin explained, hoping the change of locale would help clear the seemingly confused mind of the princess. It of course made no difference.
"You are right!" Bulma nodded swiftly as she felt Kakarrot release her arm once they were outside, "I can not waste another minute. I have to find Vegeta! I have to tell him, gods, there is so much to tell him; where will I ever begin!?"
"Well, I surely wouldn’t know," the warrior opted to flow with the change in subject, not bothering to guess what was running through the young onna’s mind. "I need to speak with Vegeta as well; he needs to know that Nappa was murdered early this morning, so he can instruct me as to how I should proceed from here."
"Nappa was murdered?" Bulma gasped as she learned the truth. "What happened?"
"I am not certain, but Radditz seems to think it was the same man who attacked you, so it is perhaps wisest that we combine our search for Vegeta," the guard offered in the absence of his brother; he knew Vegeta would not want Bulma to be left on her own with a murderer on the loose.
"Of course," Bulma’s mood sobered as the pair took off to locate the king. It worried her to no end that her warden was missing in a time of crisis, not to mention, just when she finally realized the truth. A truth they had denied one another for too long. ‘Damn it, Vegeta, you had better be all right.’ She briefly closed her eyes to make the demand. She did not think she could bear knowing that once they truly had a chance to be together, it was stolen from them before they could explore it.
* * * * *