[ Contents | VII. City of Illusion | VIII. The Ghost Prince | IX. Serpent's Dowry ]
"Brother mine, you may be my elder, but you are not the king!" Princess Sinhika the Rakshasa bared delicate fangs at her brother, Prince Khara. She was dressed in jeans and cotton blouse, for travelling, all her Lankha finery put away. Amber cat-eyes flashed angrily as she defied her brother. "I will NOT stay home safe in Lankha while such things are afoot--besides, I have been out in the world before. Where do you think I got that?" she pointed to the framed baccalaureate degree hanging on her dayroom wall.
"This isn't the twentieth century anymore, and you are not planning a trip to California, dear sister! The world is not so safe for our kind as it once was, and.."
"It's not the sixteenth century, either! I swear, you'd have me in veils in proper purdah if you could!" The orange-haired rakshasa girl grumbled under her breath something about "Neanderthals".
Prince Khara frowned; sometimes his sister's manners were atrocious. "If I were the king, I wouldn't have let you go to college in California, either--you've been so.. common ever since!"
"COMMON! THAT DOES IT! GET YOUR SNOBBISH ROYAL BUTT THE HELL OUT OF MY ROOMS, YOU--YOU MALE CHAUVINIST PIG!" Sinhika's beautiful dark face changed into something hideous and scaly with snakes for hair.
Prince Khara got the hell out, followed by a flung chair -- solid mahogany. He didn't run, but hurried down the hall as fast as dignity would permit.
"AND STAY OUT!" Princess Sinhika stomped into the hall and screamed after her departing brother, face back to normal.
"Well, well. Quite the show," commented Prince Vegeta, his tone faintly mocking. "You remind me of someone I know."
"Eeep!" Sinhika jumped and whirled. Her father's guest, the ghost prince, watched her, amused. Apparently he had been coming down the hall from the other direction when she and Khara had their.. difference of opinion.
Her ebony face flushed with embarassment. "Umm, it's not as bad as it seems. We, um, argue a lot--brother-sister thing, you know?" Oh gods, don't let him have heard all of it! If he tells father, I'm sunk!
His eyes flicked in the direction of her room, where the loaded backpack was plainly visible. "Going somewhere?"
"Um, no, just a short daytrip into the mountains--visiting the old temples," Sinhika lied.
Prince Vegeta smirked. "Have.. fun." With that, he continued down the hall.
Sinhika slumped against the doorframe in relief. Whew! I think he believed me! That guy gives me the creeps--and not just because he's dead. Time to get out of here--before dad finds out. He hasn't explictly forbidden me to leave Lankha, but once Khara tells him my plans, he will! At least my trip starts in the mountains like I told Prince Vegeta... I just didn't mention the part where I fly down to Colombo and catch a plane to my destination.
Far down the hall, Prince Vegeta smirked to himself. Really, the princess shouldn't tell lies like that--not when she's left her passport and a Satan City guidebook lying next to her open backpack. It's just too obvious.
* * * *
Vegeta spent several weeks in the city of the Rakshasas, learning what there was to learn. Among the hidden treasures and lore of the Rakshasas, Prince Vegeta found paths to both his goals--and as old Maricha had predicted, they diverged in opposite directions. To be returned to life, his spirit had to return to Earth; to discover the secret of his enemy, he had to pursue it to its origins, to the very edge of Chaos, beyond the bounds of Time.
Chaos--to the Rakshasa, a philosophical concept: the formless void before creation, before time, out of which the universe was formed. Not nothingness, but rather formlessness, complete randomness, all possibilities, and no actuality. In the Underworld, which was itself purely philosophical to the living, and hard reality to the dead, Chaos was more than philosophical. As best he could grasp it, Chaos was what lay 'outside' the universe, 'outside' time, if one could conceive of such a thing--or if one could reach such a place.
What neither he nor Vibishana could believe was that something like life could exist in Chaos. And yet.. one common thread linked the broo, the demon, and the demon's mutant creations. All of them were mutated and corrupted; changed randomly from the true in some fashion.
Prince Vegeta brooded long in thought. I MUST learn more. I do not yet know the thing's secrets--I'm not ready to fight it yet. It will not be easy pass by it and warn them--it lurks too close to this world; if it were not for Rakshasa illusions hiding Lankha, it would know I am here, and it WOULD come looking for me! Even were I returned to life, I am not ready! Damn this! At least when Kakarrot was dead the first time, he knew he had a year to prepare for my arrival--but I know no such thing. That demon could return to Earth at any time, and I would be too late!
He arose from his brooding. I know what I have to do, and the path I must follow. "King Vibishana! It is time."
* * * *
"Chi-chi! Ox King! This is a wonderful surprise!" Bulma greeted her friends as they piled out of the aircar, Chi-chi carrying Goten. Goku and Gohan had already arrived, flying ahead.
Goku grinned. "I was coming over to train Trunks, and Goten wouldn't be left behind, and Chi-chi's been worrying about how you were doing, so we just brought the whole gang!"
"Yoo-hoo! Goku, Gohan! I've got cold drinks for everyone!" Mrs. Briefs came out carrying a tray of tall iced drinks.
"Mom! You knew!" Bulma jokingly accused. She looked around. "Speaking of Trunks, where'd he get to? I thought he'd be out here..."
"Yes, dear. Chi-chi called ahead." She smiled at her daughter. "I sent Trunks to tell Raditz that Goku was here."
"Nunk Rats?" Goten asked. "Where Nunk Rats?"
"Right here, kid," Raditz announced as he came around the corner. Trunks ran to keep up with the tall Saiyan.
"Goten stop squirming---oh!" Chi-chi exclaimed as her youngest wriggled free of her grasp and jumped to the ground, only to run over to his uncle and start climbing his hair.
Raditz suddenly gasped in pain; Goten, in his determined climb, had put a foot firmly on his tail. Eyes watering from the pain, Raditz seized Goten by his hair and held him at arm's length, bouncing him a bit.
"HEY! HAIR HURTS!"
Raditz pulled him closer and held him nose-to-nose. "Tail hurts, kid!" he growled. "Do NOT step on, swing from, pull on, bite or mess with my tail! Got that?" He uncurled his long tail and gently wrapped it around Goten's waist, taking some of the weight off of the child's hair.
"Oops. Sorry." Goten tried making a very sad and pathetic face.
"Yeah, I bet. Tell you what, kid--everytime you hurt my tail, I hang you by your hair for a while. Sound fair to you?"
Goten brightened up. "Fair!"
Raditz set him down, and Chi-chi promptly snatched Goten up and glared at Raditz with an aggrieved look. She opened her mouth to say something--
"Ah, don't yell at my brother," Goku interrupted cheerily. "He went easy on Goten. I remember how much it hurt when my tail got crunched--if he'd REALLY been fair, he'd have grabbed him by the tender spot on the other end!"
Gohan winced; he didn't remember how much tails hurt--he'd never had his bruised before it was removed for good, but he sure knew about the other tender spot!
Chi-chi glared murderously at her husband, her son, and her brother-in-law, and marched inside without a word--or started to. Once again, with surprising strength and agility, Goten wriggled free and jumped down to assault his uncle's hair. This time, he was very careful not to step on Raditz's tail.
"Umm, Goku-san?" Trunks piped up. "Is it time to train now, or.."
"Yes, that's what I came for," Goku smiled. "Raditz, keep an eye on that little wild man for me, okay?"
"Maybe we sit in and watch, hmmm?" Raditz didn't bother holding Goten; the child was sitting on his shoulder and kept his balance.
"Good idea. He'll be three next week; Gohan's going to start him on the basics in about six months; I'll be working with Trunks and Gohan on their advanced training."
"Kakarott, about that advanced training..." Raditz hesitated, seeming almost embarassed.
Goku gave his brother a knowing look. "Ah, you want to train too, don't you?"
Raditz flushed slightly. "The first time I came to Earth, I called you ill-trained. That was far from the stupidest thing I said back then, but it wasn't one of the few smart things I said, either. You and Piccolo were much weaker than I, yet you k--defeated me. You are right--power isn't everything."
Goku looked his brother over. "I think that's a yes. Come on, then. We were going to use Vegeta's gravity room, okay?"
On the roof of a nearby building, flattened down and camouflaged, the perfect chamaeleon, Scout, watched and listened and learned.
* * * *
"Mr. Hiregumi," Bulma addressed the Capsule Corp. Chief of Security, "I called you to my office to brief you privately on a new.. employee."
"That would be the long-haired gentleman I've seen around the grounds?"
Bulma nodded. "Raditz is.. one of my late husband's people, and his sworn vassal." Yes, the simple truth was the best way to handle Hiregumi--he was such a traditionalist.
"Go on," the security chief's face was impassive.
"He had sworn an oath to Prince Vegeta to protect Trunks and myself with his life, until his prince releases him from that duty." Bulma paused, looking at Mr. Hiregumi.
His face brightened perceptibly. "Ah! I am glad you told me of this, madam. That explains much. I would not stand in the way of such a duty; indeed, I must know how I may smooth the way."
Bulma smiled; this was going very well indeed. "Raditz needs to be brought up to speed on our security operations and procedures, and--" she leaned forward, "most especially local laws!" She sat back, and looked a bit apologetic. "If you remember the Prince..."
"Ah, yes." Mr. Hiregumi was always discrete. "I assume that the noble prince had broad judicial authority in his own country--he reminded me of a daimyo of old Japan in his treatment of transgressors."
"That," Bulma noted, "is very perceptive." She rose from behind her desk. "Also, if Raditz..", she wrinkled her brow--how do I phrase this? "..ever thinks there's trouble on the way, listen to him, and do what he says! He's very capable, in his own way."
"Hai! I shall keep that in mind, madam." He bowed, and departed; the interview was over.
Bulma sighed as the door closed behind Mr. Hiregumi. She'd manage to talk about Vegeta for five minutes without bursting into tears; but oh, how her heart ached! It was a lump in her throat, it was a dreadful hollow rip in her soul. She rested her head on her hands, tears trickling down her face now.
"Can't do this now, got to be cheerful for Mom and Goku and the kids!" she told herself fiercely. "I'll just wipe my face and read through my business e-mail--that's just the thing to calm me down. If it doesn't put me completely to sleep."
Unfortunately, it didn't calm her down. Bulma's executive assistant came running at her scream of outrage (Bulma didn't believe in calling her female secretary a 'secretary'; too many sexist, demeaning connotations for a valuable, skilled job. Why was it that 'secretary' was a high-ranking title for men, and so looked-down-on for women?).
"WHO DOES THIS VIRTUAL-BLACK TWERP THINK HE IS?? HOW DARE HE MESS WITH MY COMPUTER SYSTEMS!!" Bulma was red and steaming. "Ooooh! And he has the nerve--THE NERVE!!--to tell me he can 'fix' my problems! If I PAY him, of course! The little twerp! When I find out who he is...!"
Bulma snarled, "Well, I don't need to be a Saiyan warrior to deal with little twit hackers! You just made a big mistake, creep, messing with Bulma in her own territory!"
* * * *
Goku awoke suddenly. For a second he was disoriented; this wasn't his room! But Chi-chi was curled up next to him as if they were at home.. Then he remembered that they'd decided to spend the night at Capsule Corp after training hard all day and eating the huge supper Bulma's mom had prepared--they'd finished late, and neither Chi-chi nor Gohan had been up to driving home safely.
But what woke him? He calmed himself, and listened, feeling the world around him. There was something.. out.. there. Ever so softly, he got out of the bed, careful not to disturb Chi-chi, and padded to the window.
A half-moon shone down; it was still early in the night. Goku idly wondered how many times Kami had replaced the orb.. and dismissed the thought as he sensed a presence close at hand. What was this? He turned his head toward the one; distant, powerful, evil.. and gone again. It was that dark presence that had woken him from sleep weeks ago! What was it? It never stayed around long enough for him to truly find it, but it made Goku very uneasy.
Closer to hand.. something not-quite-there, and a certain familiarity to it that raised the hairs on the back of Goku's neck. Could it be? He stepped outside the room, so as not to disturb Chi-chi.
"Vegeta?" Goku asked hesitantly.
"Very good, Kakarott! I didn't expect you to notice me so easily!" Vegeta's voice echoed in Goku's mind.
"Ah, Frieza isn't beating me over the head this time. Makes it easier to hear someone who isn't.. here." Goku relaxed himself a bit more, let his mind 'listen' the way it did when he talked to King Kai. As before, on Namek, he looked 'sideways' a bit (as he thought of it) and could see, very dimly, Vegeta.
"Hmmph. Pay attention, Kakarott, I don't have much time. You didn't finish off that demon; it can cross over from the spirit world and reform its body, and start all over again. I don't know when it will come back, but it WILL come back!"
"No!" Goku's eyes went wide with horror. "But.. if we kill it again--"
"It will come back, AGAIN, Kakarott! You can't kill it, I couldn't kill it, no one, not even Gohan, can kill that damnable thing! Not permanently."
"There MUST be a way!" Goku's face was stern, none of his usual cheerfulness showed. He clenched his fists. "I won't let that monster win!"
"Glad you feel that way, Kakarott." Vegeta said dryly in the other Saiyan's mind. "We're of the same mind on that!" the ghost prince snarled. "I intend to find out the thing's secrets, Kakarott--and when I do, I WILL kill it!"
"Before you find your way back to life?" Goku asked, the hint of a smile on his face.
"WHAT?? What do you know about that?" Vegeta seemed genuinely surprised.
"Raditz said you were trying to find a way out of Hell, back to life. He thought you were up to something more, too." Goku said nonchalantly, mischief in his eyes.
"RADITZ?? How have you been talking to--?? Where is that baka ghost?--I couldn't find him around here!"
Goku grinned. "You haven't heard? My brother's alive!"
"ALIVE?? Alive? How did that idiot manage to--? Kakarott, what has happened?" Vegeta seemed bewildered.
"It's a long story, Vegeta, but Bulma found a wish--wasn't strong enough to bring you back, she tried, but by accident she wished Raditz back. Lots of strange things happened, Gohan and Raditz killed a bad one, you got to hear the story from Bulma when you get back!"
"Obviously." Vegeta seemed to have recovered his composure. "What is he doing now?"
"Ah, he's Bulma and Trunks bodyguard--said he promised you he'd protect them."
"He did. Well, well, well." Vegeta laughed soundlessly. "That's one thing that turned out better than I expected!" He turned serious once again. "Listen, Kakarott! If Bulma finds any more wishes, or you get Namek's dragonballs, or whatever, don't wish me back yet! I'm not ready; first I've got to find that damn thing's secret!"
"But how? If you're in Hell, and that thing is here..."
"It came from beyond the Lower Hells, Kakarott! And it left a trail, a trail I will follow--have followed--am following! Just wait until I tell you--and send that monster back to Hell as many times as it takes until I get back! Do you understand me, Kakarott?"
"Yes! Don't worry, I won't let anything happen to them." Goku nodded, a determined look on his face.
"Daddy? 'Geta?" A sleepy Goten peeked around the frame of the boy's bedroom door, then ran down the hall waving his arms. He ran past Goku, and stopped, frowning. "'Geta no fun!" Suddenly anxious, he grabbed Goku's leg. "Daddy fun!"
Goku swept up Goten. "Little wild man, what are you doing out of bed in the middle of the night? Shhhh, you'll wake Mommy and Bulma up!"
"Thirsty. Want a glass a' water."
"Kakarott, am I imagining things, or DID THAT KID SEE ME??" Vegeta seemed shocked.
"Oh, Goten can see spirits," Goku chuckled. "Raditz found that out first; Goten saw my brother and kept trying to tell us about him, and for weeks none of us had any idea what he was talking about!"
"See 'Geta!" Goten confirmed vigorously. "He talks like Nunk Rats--call daddy 'Carrot'." Goten giggled. "Water now, daddy?"
Goku felt Vegeta's silent astonishment. Finally, the ghostly Saiyan spoke again in his mind. "That.. is interesting. I have little time, Kakarott, and things to do before that damn demon gets wind of me. Remember what I told you!" With that, all sense of Vegeta's presence vanished.
"Where 'Geta go?" Goten exclaimed, confused.
"I don't know," Goku said slowly. "Let's get you that water, okay?"
* * * *
Bulma dreamed a sweet dream. No more nightmares, but a dream so poignant-sweet... She dreamed Vegeta lay beside her, and caressed her hair as she lay sleeping. In her dream, she opened her eyes, to find her lost prince looking at her with such a sweet-sad expression of longing.
"Silly woman," he said, in his rude-affectionate way, "you cry too much. I'm not that easily gotten rid of!" Vegeta grinned wolfishly, and held her tightly.
"Vegeta.." she wrapped her arms around his strong neck, feeling his hard, muscular body next to hers. "Damn you! Come back to me, you bastard!"
He rolled over, still holding her, coming to rest with her atop him, looking down. "I will, I promise you that!" Vegeta reached up and gently brushed Bulma's hair back from her face. "But not yet." He ran one finger lightly down the line of her jaw, her neck, her collarbone, lower still...
"Why not?" A tear dropped from her eye onto his bare chest. "There are other wishes..."
He shook his head. "Not yet! First, I make sure you and Trunks are never threatened by that demon-filth again! Not ever!" Vegeta snarled, and then relaxed. He rolled Bulma over again, stopping with himself on top this time.
"Trust me." He closed her mouth with a kiss as she started to ask him again, a long, passionate kiss that went on and on..
Bulma started awake. She was alone, but the dim light of the half-moon revealed the tossed and turned sheets on her bed--as if two people had rolled around on it. And the scent of him lingered in the air...
"Come back to me, you sweet bastard," she whispered to the night. "I'll be waiting for you."
* * * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER IX. SERPENT'S DOWRY
[ Contents | VII. City of Illusion | VIII. The Ghost Prince | IX. Serpent's Dowry ]
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009