[ Contents | I. Hell | II. Earth | III. The Search ]
"Bulma, why don't you just pack Trunks and yourself up and come stay with us for a month or two?" Chi-chi offered, her dark eyes full of concern. "Please. I have some idea what you're going through, and you need friends now. Come home with me--it'll be so much better with me and Gohan and little Goten and Dad and Goku, instead of rattling around this big empty place alone. I can help you with Trunks, too--he'll have fun playing with Goten."
"That would be nice," Bulma said sadly. She looked up from the picture she clutched in her hands, eyes red from crying. "But.. this is where we were together, and--" the tears started running down her face again. "--everything here reminds me of HIM--" she started sobbing openly, "--and it'd be like leaving him!"
"Oh, Bulma!" Chi-chi hugged and held her grieving friend. She hugged Bulma tight until the sobs subsided, and gently turned her to look her in the eye. "Bulma, he's not here. You know that in your head, but your heart doesn't want to listen. I didn't want to, when my sweet Goku was gone, and little Gohan was kidnapped, but I had to. You have to, for your sake, and for little Trunk's sake." Chi-chi stood up, and looked down Bulma. "And maybe for his sake, too."
"His sake?" Bulma looked forlornly at Chi-chi.
"You think he doesn't know how you feel about him? Wherever he is, he knows how you miss him, and he misses you just as much. But Vegeta's not here. Not now. And you aren't doing him, you or Trunks any good burying yourself in solitude and tearing yourself up like this." Chi-chi put her hands on her hips. "Girl, have you looked at yourself in mirror lately? I'm not sure you've been eating, and you sure haven't been sleeping! At least if you come home with me, I'll make sure you eat." Chi-chi made it sound more like a threat than an offer.
"I haven't been sleeping, much." Bulma said tiredly. "And when I do, the nightmares.." She shuddered. She stood up, her decision made. "We're coming with you."
Nightmares? Raditz did not like the sound of that. He seated himself comfortably in mid-air, immaterial and invisible, a ghost. He did not like the hollowness under Bulma's eyes, or the way her clothes hung loosely on her. Grief, or something worse, was consuming her--and that worried Raditz. So did the fact that it had been three weeks, not one, since Vegeta had joined him in Hell.
Raditz had come close to complete panic when he first realized the enormity of the responsibility Vegeta had laid on him, when he first beheld the tantalizingly familiar blue-haired girl that Vegeta.. loved. There was no other word for it--her grief was too deep and genuine for her not to be loved; it cut Raditz like a knife and it wasn't even directed at him. That odd hesitancy while Vegeta explained his dilemma to Raditz, and his unshakeable determination to get back to her no matter what; it all added up: Vegeta, Prince of the Saiyajin, loved this woman heart and soul--and his pride would not let him admit it to anyone.
Why did you lay this on me, Vegeta? It is too great a responsibility for me! You must have been completely desperate! Of course you were desperate--there was no one else you could even remotely trust, not in that realm. And yet.. I agreed. I promised you I would watch over her, and protect her in spirit, until you returned. Which of us was the greater fool?
I know her, my prince. She stood with Kakarott, bold and beautiful, when I first came to Earth, so many years ago. She had the nerve to look me in the eye and tell me how vile I was--rulers of entire worlds had less courage than she did. And.. she has the courage to love you, Vegeta. Was there ever anyone of our race so brave?
* * *
"Trunks can sleep with Goten, and I had Gohan put your stuff here in the guest room." Chi-chi showed Bulma around the house. "Don't worry if you hear something like an elephant tromping around the house at night, that's just Daddy--his room is across the hall from you."
Bulma looked around, a tentative smile on her face for the first time in days. "Thank you very much, Chi-chi. You are so kind to me, and you and Goku have such a wonderful, cozy house up here in the woods. I don't want to be any trouble, though..."
"No trouble at all. Gohan was way too big to share a room with Goten, so we attached a new addition onto the house. It's fun to have friends over, and now we actually have room for everyone. Go ahead and make yourself at home, dinner is in one hour." Chi-chi breezed out, leaving Bulma alone to unpack.
She almost felt cheerful for a while, until she came to the picture. It was her favorite picture of Vegeta--he was wearing that devilish smirk of his and that silly pink shirt she'd given him. She set it gently on the nightstand beside her bed, tears running down her face.
Later, after dinner, she sat with Chi-chi, Goku, Gohan and Ox King to watch the sunset. (The babies were already in bed). Goku, she thought, was looking pretty good in spite of everything they had been through. It never ceased to amaze her how equally at home Goku was here, in his peaceful forest home with his wife and sons, or in the middle of the most savage mayhem imaginable. He loved to fight, and yet he was just as content to live peacefully with his family. Not like Vegeta, who was always restless without an enemy to fight. Vegeta.. she wiped two hot tears from her eyes, and gritted her teeth. No! I will not start bawling like a baby in front of Goku and everybody!
She looked at Gohan, who was looking back at her sympathetically. He'd grown; he was twelve now, and starting to sprout up. Chi-chi still kept him hard at his studies; he'd barely finished his homework in time to join them at sunset.
"How's the report going, kid?" Bulma said affectionately.
Gohan sighed. "Just finished the rough draft. It's not due until next week, so mom's letting me wait until tomorrow to clean it up."
"What's it about? The books looked interesting."
"It's my semester report for Literature, and I'm doing it on Japanese Folklore. There's some really neat stories in there--reading them was the fun part--but writing the report is a lot of work. It almost takes the fun out of the reading," Gohan sighed again.
"Kid, take it from Bulma, don't ever let the bad parts make you forget how good the good parts are." You know, I should listen to myself sometimes, Bulma realized.
Chi-chi smiled; Gohan was good company for Bulma. He cheered her up already. She still wasn't eating as much as Chi-chi would have liked, but maybe after a good night's sleep and a day in the fresh air...
Ox King kept his thoughts to himself, and got up as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon. "I think I'll take a stroll around the house before turning in," is all he said as he strode off into the gathering gloom. The others chatted and joked a while before gradually drifting inside.
Ox King looked around in the twilight. He must be somewhere around here.. Yes! There he was! Ox King could see the visitor now, for it was twilight, the time when ghosts and spirits became visible to those who knew to look. The stranger spirit seemed to be a big, tall man with a great shaggy mane of hair, dressed in strange, battered armor. He wore a long katana slung across his back, the hilt just peeking out from under his hair.
The ghost stood watching the others, and did not heed Ox King's approach, which did not surprise Ox King. The ghost was not a local spirit, and probably didn't know that Ox King could see both worlds--typical for a retired General of the Animal Kingdom, but not at all common for most people. Ox King feigned ignorance as he moved closer.
Standing very close to the ghost, almost next to him, Ox King watched the spirit out of the corner of his eye. A powerful ghost, he sensed, but not hostile. Why was he here? Ox King stepped and turned to face him.
The ghost started, and stared at him wide-eyed, realizing with obvious dismay that Ox King saw him. Ox King noted his fine, almost handsome features, peaked hair, and.. tail! Then twilight deepened into night, and the ghost was gone.
"Hmmmm. A Saiyan warrior. Who are you, I wonder? You're not Vegeta, but you're here visiting with Bulma. Does she know you? Should I ask her?" Ox King addressed the night.
No, whispered a cold wind. Do not tell her! She would be afraid, and I mean her no harm. Rather the opposite--and the wind tasted of irony.
Ox King's eyes narrowed, and he asked slowly, thoughtfully, "Are you one of Goku's friends?"
The wind was still. At last, a wistful sigh--I'd like to be. I wish I had been...
"That's all right, then." Ox King continued his stroll.
* * *
Bulma regarded the soft bed with trepidation. Goku and his family went to bed earlier than she was used to, but she was so tired. It would feel so good to lie down and sleep--but then what nightmares might come? Nightmares so bad that she was afraid to sleep anymore. But.. things were different here, in Goku's house. Weren't they?
At last, she lay down and fell asleep almost immediately. Then she began to dream.
* * *
Eeeee! Chi-chi's father can see me! He senses spirits, like my brother senses living powers, and like I can sense other spirits. What is he? He's not human, I can sense that much--and he's Gohan and Goten's grandfather, so.. Chi-chi seems to be part human--more human than her father, at least. That makes my nephews half-saiyan, part-human, and part-what? Whatever Gohan is, it makes him stronger than any child I've ever seen. I can feel his power even from here, in the borderland. And for a two-year-old, Goten's power is, ah, impressive.
What's that? Spirits, and I don't like their feel. And one other.. familiar. Raditz almost unconsciously raised a hand to his face, to tune a scouter that was not there...
He found her wandering the bewildering mists of the borderland, that shadowy realm where the otherworld and the world of the living touch. The realm that the living sometimes walk in dreams; she was walking there.
Bulma walked open-eyed but unseeing, calling for the one she had lost. "Vegeta! Where are you? Please, come back! Vegeta, answer me! I can't find you!"
Oh, great! She's gone looking for him! If she keeps this up, she might find him--and not come back. Or something might find her.
Then he saw the other spirits following her. Maras. Of course; now he knew the source of her nightmares. Raditz grinned wickedly as he unsheathed the ghost katana at his back...
* * *
The morning sun woke Bulma. She yawned and stretched; goodness, it was broad daylight! She'd slept the whole night through! It felt so good--the first full night's sleep she'd had since.. since Vegeta died. She glanced at his picture beside the bed, and let the tears flow freely; they were good tears, tears for the one she loved and missed so much, not the tears of broken despair she'd been weeping for the last two weeks.
"One way or another, we'll be together again," she promised. "There are other legendary wishes besides the dragonballs; if their legend was real, maybe some of the others are, too. I've only got an entire lifetime to find one, and if I fail, well, I still win, because you'll be there waiting for me." She thought of something, and added, "Don't worry, I won't do anything stupid--Trunks needs his mother alive and well."
A bit later, she joined Gohan for a late breakfast (it was not a school day, and he had also slept in) after making sure Trunks held still long enough to eat something that wasn't moving (What was it with little saiyan boys and bugs? Chi-chi said Gohan and Goten had been the same way, and Bulma remembered young Goku's propensity for eating anything that held still long enough--wolves, pterodactyls, airplanes..)
As soon as his mother let him go, Trunks all but dragged little Goten out the door, anxious to explore all the neat places he'd seen out the window. "And don't eat anything unless Chi-chi or I say it's food!" she yelled out the door after him, knowing she was wasting her breath.
What a night! She'd slept well, but her dreams had been bizarre. First, it seemed like the same old nightmares; she was wandering about in the fog, looking for Vegeta, calling and calling him, then the monsters started to appear. The monsters that looked like twisted copies of Vegeta, and the thing that killed him, and that horrible frog--and then the samurai had appeared. With incredible grace and speed, the warrior had sliced all the monsters to pieces. Then the samurai had turned to her, and said, "Go back. You're not safe here, and you won't find Vegeta here. The monsters tricked you into coming here so they could get you. Don't come back here alone." In the dream, she'd taken the samurai's advice and gone back--to where, she wasn't sure, but she'd slept well. The really bizarre thing, though, was that the samurai had looked exactly like Goku's evil brother Raditz.
Raditz had been dead and forgotten for the better part of a decade.
* * *
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER III THE SEARCH
[ Contents | I. Hell | II. Earth | III. The Search ]
Disclaimer: See Credits.
Copyright 2000 by Dragoness EclecticLast Updated: Mar 8, 2009