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-X- Reality: Illusion

Illusions are what they appear to be only in the context called reality.
-Michika Tenshi 00/06/18

The small room quickly became hot and stuffy. The fighters had calmed down, no longer boasting their skills, but had either sat down to meditate or exchange low comments with fellow soldiers. Bulma sat alone, leaning against the wall, not knowing anyone. She felt quite alienated and began to think over her plan. Was it right for her to try and claim the prize she didn't want? She didn't know the Prince and she certainly wasn't dying to get her hands on him like the others were. Was it wrong for her to be here? She was supposed to be back on Earth in Yamcha's strong arms with nothing more to think about besides her next project. Why is it that she was stranded here, on some alien planet, bonded to their next monarch?

Bonded? She though the term over in her mind, rolling it around the inside of her mouth. She leaned her head back on the wall and thought through the conversation with her former guards; the weaker one gets the mark. Then why does he have it too? Speaking of guards, where were they? She hadn't seen them in; she counted on her fingers, eight days. 'Bulma!' she mentally swatted herself for running astray with her own thoughts.

There was bustling in the room that caught the Chikyuu native's attention. "The games are beginning." she heard someone say. Bulma waited patiently at the back on the line to exit the room. 'No reason to hurry to you death.' she though solemnly, somewhat losing faith in her meticulously thought out plan. She trudged out, following the others who'd all seemed to have perked up at the thought of battle.

They were led out into the battlefield where they all stood facing the Prince and an older man who Bulma assumed to be the king. The distinguished man stood and made a brief speech in his native tongue, the fighters bowed on one knee, showing their respect for him. Bulma followed suit, not wanting to draw attention to herself. As if on cue, all the fighters found a place on the low ledge surrounding the battlefield, it was just large enough for them all to fit. The King jumped down from his seat to float just above the center of the ring. With his left hand he raised a short dagger and drew its sharp blade across his palm. Blood welled up and spilled onto the ground. The field erupted in cries of bloodlust and war. Bulma stayed pressed to the side of the wall, paralysed by fear.

The fight reflected in her eyes for a brief moment before she regained her senses. She slid the watch out from under the sleeve of her shirt and turned the faceplate. The small screen flashed 'READY'. Bulma swallowed hard once and sent a silent prayer to whoever directed her fate. Her hands where shaking as she pulled the vile out of her boot and let it fall to the ground where it shattered into thousands of pieces. The liquid pooled out on the hard packed soil before changing states into a thick creamy white gas. The cloud of fumes began to widen and spread filling the arena, but it was unable to cross the boundary of the ring. The gas was thick and Bulma became confused, where was the wall? It should have been right in front of her. She stood a few steps forward in the white world.

A few of the fighters stopped when they were engulfed and began to cough and sputter, others jumped out of the ring being disqualified immediately. A few were so immersed in battle that they didn't notice the fumes until it was too late. Minutes after the vile had shattered at her feet everyone in the ring lay unconscious on the blood-splattered earth. The gas began to disperse harmlessly as Bulma stood, her fingers crossed and her eyes clenched shut in a silent plea. Silence. Nothing moved or broke the sound barrier. The blue-haired woman cracked opened an eye to look around. The other slowly opened in shock; all the spectators in the stands stood watching her. Suddenly she didn't feel so good, it was just too much, the silence and the staring. Her watch beeped, making her jump. She turned the dial to the off position and stood where she was. Somehow she'd ended up in the middle of the ring, completely untouched and utterly alone.

From his seat the King watched; he was intrigued at this sudden and rather disturbing development. Some blue-haired woman, obviously an off-worlder, had decimated what he thought was going to be a glorious battle. He stood, an air of displeasure surrounding him thicker than before. "The battle is over!" He spoke to the crowd. They bowed and began to shout at Bulma, who stood rather frightened in the field. The Prince stood and glared out over the crowd, they fell silent and watched. The Saiyan heir jumped down from his place and stood on the outside of the wall, not sure if the 'weapon' had faded. Bulma caught his eye and nodded slightly. He jumped over the wall with ease and came to stand next to her.

She turned to face him, not sure of what was to come next. The man beside her began to speak in English or what he called 'Standard' to the crowd. 'Such a alien planet, with such alien ways,' she thought, not quiet paying attention to him as he spoke. Suddenly he turned to her and grasped her by her frail shoulders. Blue eyes met dark pools of ink; she was afraid. He leaned in closer to her then he'd ever been. Her eyes darted over his face, trying to read the stony features covered in olive skin.

It was the strangest feeling that had ever come over her; it was like she was an observer in her own body without control over herself. She saw through her own eyes as Vegeta's face came closer to hers, she blinked. Then she felt it, a searing pain flashing through her, emanating from her neck. He'd bitten her, another of the strange rules of this planet. It hurt at first but then is changed, it crossed the line and blurred from pain to pleasure, then it was over. She looked up at him, unsure of what would happen next. A small trickle of her blood trailed from the side of his mouth for a second before he wiped it away with his gloved hand. Bulma swallowed hard. The crowd erupted in noise, though not the usual cries of pleasure from a well-fought battle. They screamed for blood and the death of the off-worlder. They wanted for one of their own to take her place as rightful mate to Vejiitasei's throne.

After the battle, Vegeta had personally escorted her back to her room. He was silent the whole way, nothing new, though his facial expression had taken on some subtle changes. The lines around his eyes had deepened and his mouth was set firmer than usual with his jaw slightly clenched. What bothered her the most was his stride, it was usually so proud and arrogant, now it seemed like it took an effort to look so aloof from everyone else. She'd glance at him out of the corner of her eye every few steps. "What?" he questioned without the usual hatred for life behind it. "...Nothing..." She mumbled and turned her gaze straight ahead.

Her room gave her tingles up and down her spine, like she wasn't alone in the chamber. "Stataris?" she half whispered, half spoken. No response came. Bulma shuttered as her imagination took the idea of there being less friendly creatures similar in kind to Stataris and ran away into the dark. The curt knock on her door scared her into thinking it wasn't her imagination that was playing with her mind. The door slid opened slow and in stepped a pair of cloaked people. "Come with us." one spoke. Bulma hesitated to leave, but gave in; there wasn't much she could do if she resisted. The Earthling followed the two down more hallways until they arrived at a single wooden door. Come to think of it, she'd never seen wood on Vejiitasei before; it must be rare. The door creaked open and the threesome stepped inside.

Steam swirled around in the air; it floated off pools of water situated in the floor. More of the cloaked people came to Bulma and began to pull and tug at her clothes. They shoved her towards one of the glistening pools of steaming water and she didn't resist. The water swirled around her as she tumbled into its heated depths; it closed around her giving her a slight tinge of hydrophobia. She kicked her legs to stay on the surface and looked down, there was no bottom to this pool. The vague thought of just letting it all go, sink to the bottom and never to resurface again crossed her mind.

Nothing was the same anymore, or what it should be. She'd beaten the most powerful fighting race in the universe. The mean spirited Prince was gracious towards her. 'Illusions are what they appear to be only in the context called reality.' The phrase jumped into her head making it spin with confusion. She just let herself float in the dark warm water, her eyes closed as she heard the robed figures retreating. The water lapped against the sides in quiet slaps when she moved in the water letting her mind drift into its own private prison. What had she gotten herself into? Her body drifted to the edge and she bumped against a ledge in the water. Bulma sat on the ledge, head bowed down looking at her own reflection in the water.

Cerulean eyes searched for a reason to go on. The usual love of life had changed to a deep survival instinct, blocking out most of her emotions and making her numb. The water pushed against her as she let it force her back into the ledge. Bulma's bare skin felt the caress of cool tile, a contrast of the warm and soothing water.

He stood at the door, watching. Her hair was wet and it had tumbled over her face, the tips hung in the water, swaying back and forth with the subtle current. The two robed figures on either side of the Prince began to walk forwards towards the edge of the central pool. They turned and waited for him where the water met tile. He took a step forward and immediately regretted it, his dirty boot in combination with the wet floor ground into the shiny tile, making a loud unsettling sound in the empty room.

Her head jerked up and a wildfire of panic spread over her face. Bulma wisely held her tongue; at this stage of the game a word could mean life or death and she knew it. The two cloaked beings reached out with their hands and tugged on Vegeta's armour. He shrugged them off and pulled his own clothing off while Bulma turned her head away. The robed creatures took the clothing, bowed deeply and left. The Chikyuu woman kept her eyes averted, not exactly comfortable with this situation.

He entered the water without a sound. Silently, he approached his mate and reached out a hand from the water. He caught her chin in his callused palm and turned her face to his. She'd been crying, her eyes were outlined in red and streaks of dried tears left salty paths on her cheeks. Bulma tried to pull away but failed and sobbed once, heart-wrenchingly. The Prince who'd never been confronted with something like this was at a loss of what to do. The dishevelled woman became conscious of herself and pulled her arms out of the dark water and pulled them around herself as not to expose anything. Her fingers found the bite mark on her right shoulder and fingered the tender skin. The Vejiitasei heir let his hand drop into the water and propelled himself away from her.

From the depths of the pool bubbles began to rise and cause a stir on the surface. Bulma turned and grasped onto the wall, unsure of what was happening. The Prince, who had a vague idea of what was happening, treaded in the churning water, knowing he was never in any danger from this cleansing ceremony, though the woman was something else. The water frothed and began to create its own whirlpool, the current picked up and Bulma began to pull herself out of the water. The hydro twister grabbed on to her legs and sucked her into its depths with her. Vegeta watched as she vanished beneath the surface for a fraction of a second before diving down after her.

He pushed himself deeper into the bottomless pool after her retreating form. The Prince could clearly see her face, frightened and full of the knowledge that she was going to die. Her lungs screamed for air and she made of last fight against the impossible. Eyelids heavy, she looked up once more at the surface. There was the faint feeling of something pulling on her arm, she forced herself to look up; the Prince, her prince was trying to save her. He got a good hold on her around her waist and powered up, blasting towards the surface.

They broke the surface and bobbed on top of the water. Bulma pulled in life giving breaths gratefully. She gave up; her walls of self-preservation crumbled and fell. She leaned into his warmth and cried, all the tears and frustrations she'd been holding back came free, spilling forward over her cheeks and down onto his chest then rolling off and tumbling into the now quiet water. Vegeta just let her cry on his chest, revelling in how well her small and fragile body fit against his. He sharply reprimanded himself; emotions and feelings are for the weak. He looked around the room, avoiding thinking about his mate crying in his arms. It was useless to try and escape this room, he knew that it would do him no good; it would be a waste of energy to try. So they stayed in the warm water. He floated in the water with his queen who had been lulled into a catatonic state by his heartbeat.

Elsewhere in the medical ward, Corais watched as Potatirs floated in the spherical rejuvenation tank. Her short hair floated around her face in a dark halo, perhaps a foreshadowing to fate's will. Something twinged deep down in her heart as she watched her mate float listlessly in peaceful slumber. A scientist approached her from behind and handed her a scouter. "Radditzu wishes to talk with you." She took the scouter silently and affixed it to her earlobe. "Yes?" Radditzu's face appeared in the scouter's eyepiece, "You are to report to the cleansing hall immediately." Corais nodded and gave one last look at Potatirs before leaving the Med ward.

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Table of Contents
Chapter 9
Chapter 11