They named the planet after him. It was something he still felt was completely uncalled for, there was no reason for it. He could see the point of not keeping calling it Planet Plant – goosebumps bloomed on his skin without his permission – but Planet Saiyan would have sounded a hundred times better than Planet Vegeta. What for?
Zorn, the kind and loyal soul he was, reminded him every chance he got that the plan that allowed the Saiyan race to take their malevolent oppressors by surprise and finally make them meet the end they deserved, had been his. Vegeta usually nodded gravely, as if carefully considering his point; internally, he never allowed himself to forget that the Saiyans deemed fine having their planet named after a person who, when the final battle for freedom was finally being fought, was not even present. They were utter-
He jumped up from the Ottoman he was sitting on, cutting out the thought before it could be completed. They are my race, he reminded himself firmly. My race. He fastidiously adjusted the heavy black cape that pooled around him starting from the shoulder pads of his brand new armour, slowly walked towards the curtained balcony and spied the spectacle outside. The plaza in front of the newly built Royal Palace was slowly being invaded by a large crowd: men, women, even children, looking up expectantly at the French window he was hiding into. Their faces seemed to be constantly dirty and covered in scars; they shuffled uneasily in their new armours, the fine material stolen from the Tuffles obviously feeling foreign to them after a lifetime spent wearing itchy fur. He made sure the curtains covered him completely before risking opening the window, being careful no movement could be detected from the outside. The Saiyan people's unkempt hair had its natural colour dulled by layers of unwashed sweat while their bodies glistened with perspiration. The smell rising from the crowd was pungent, feral; here and there, fights were already being started, because... because that was what Saiyans did. That was what his people did. He felt nauseous.
He shakily abandoned the balcony and dragged himself to the other side of the room, throwing open the window over the beautiful, just completed garden. He took a deep breath and, as the rich perfumes invaded his senses, immediately felt better. Bardack and Paragus had looked incredulous when he'd first presented them with his idea; they could simply not figure out what the point was. "Listen," Vegeta had patiently explained, "A Royal Palace needs to look right and no Royal Palace would look right without a Royal Garden." In the end, they had left utterly convinced that Vegeta had suddenly discovered a passion for botany. He could not get them to understand. "It has to look right to who?", they had asked and Vegeta had to bite his tongue to refrain from correcting them. "To visitors, obviously", he pointed out tiredly. Bardack had looked almost ridiculously surprised. "Who the hell would even come here?" Vegeta felt like screaming. He still did.
Someone cleared their throat behind him and Vegeta hurriedly turned around, cursing himself for being caught by surprise. He sighed in relief when he realised it was only Zorn. His long-time friend had donned the new armour as well, wearing it with much more ease than the rest of the Saiyans waiting outside; however, Vegeta instantly noticed that he too forwent the body-covering battlesuit. The young Saiyan absent-mindedly caressed the black one he was wearing. It was custom-made and covered him from neck to toes. Truth be told, he would have preferred it not to be black, it would have been easier to masquerade his unnatural paleness with any other colour, but their scientists had just gotten the hang of how the material was produced and he could not push them further than that yet. He ignored the small voice in his head that pointed out he could have made one himself, in better quality even, because it obviously did not know what it was talking about.
Zorn took a hesitant step forward, arm outstretched as if to touch his shoulder, a gesture he'd often used in the past to console a frequently morose Vegeta; he stopped half-way, though, and embarrassedly cleared his throat again. "Is my Lord feeling unwell?", he enquired instead. Vegeta was not really listening, still staring at Zorn's right arm as if it had personally offended him. The newly appointed advisor blanched, mistaking the meaning of that pointed look. "I-I did not mean to be disrespectful, Your Majesty…", he blabbered, only to be interrupted by Vegeta's raised hand. The Saiyan lowered his hand again and crossed both arms in front of his chest in a gesture that was quickly becoming a habit. "Well, that went much faster than anticipated", he quipped wryly, face solemn. Zorn blinked, uncertainty painted over his features. "The coronation", the other elaborated cheerfully. "It felt like it did not even happen." Zorn gulped and bit his lip. "Apologies, my Lord, it was not my intention to upset you…", he tried again, but Vegeta had had enough. "Will you finally stop treating me like a China doll?!", he exploded, only to regret his outburst a second later; there was no way Zorn knew what a China doll was, after all. "Just – Let's just get on with it", the King-to-be muttered and marched out of the room, a repentant-looking Zorn in tow.
The Throne Room had brushed up rather nicely, Vegeta noted distractedly. The extremely high ceiling made it both grandiose and intimidating, dwarfing any fighter who dared to enter it, no matter how tall and powerful; it was exactly the effect he'd strived for. The decorated, multi-coloured glass windows allowed only a small amount of light to filter through, magnifying the shadows projected by the imposing columns that flanked the central nave. During the day there was just enough light to see, while in night-time the only solution they found so far that would not completely ruin the solemn look of the room had been torches. It was not ideal, but it was a good start. All in all, he was satisfied. His white boots touched the red carpet – as red as blood, he'd been very specific about that – that led to the podium where the throne had been mounted so it could see and be seen from any angle of the room. As he slowly made his way to what would become his reserved seat, he was acutely aware of the rows of armoured Saiyans that silently flanked the crimson road, waiting. They were the strongest and most astute fighters on the planet or, as Vegeta had started to think of them, the newly-formed Saiyan aristocracy. Well, not really new per se. They had always been one step above the others, so that they already enjoyed a great amount of respect, but now it was official – they were the best, they were the chosen, they were another, finer breed, they were the Elites. The only ones fit to deal with the King himself.
Nappa, Bardack and Paragus were the closest to the throne, offering slight smiles to Vegeta and Zorn as they passed them. Bardack, smartass that he was, even had time to move his index in a circular gesture that encompassed the whole spacious room and nod in a satisfied fashion. Vegeta felt himself smirk and returned the nod, glad that someone else could recognise a job well-done when it stared them in the face. Then he came to rest in front of the four steps leading to the throne and all expressions vacated his face. Zorn stopped beside him, having accompanied him as far as he could; now, he was on his own. The King-to-be straightened and slowly ascended the four steps, the cape pooling around him. He stopped once he was in front of the throne (the throne) and turned around to look at the silent figures. Royalty, much like aristocracy, was a novelty for Saiyans. They were a war-prone people, pretty content to skirmish among themselves, each clan keeping on its own, instead of being united under a common cause; in the Tuffles' words, weak, divided and all in all easy to control.
"My Lord", Zorn's quiet voice cut through his train of thoughts. "We are ready to proceed." He turned and stared; the inexpressive faces of the Saiyan nobles were all fixed on him or, more specifically, on the throne right behind him. It would have been his reward, that was the agreement. He would put his genius at the service of his people to ensure their final victory and, should he be successful, he would be their king; should he fail, he would pay with his life. It was too good a bargain to resist and Vegeta had always been a gambling man. He smirked at the gloomy crowd, moved aside and theatrically pointed to the throne. "Any takers?", he enquired sweetly, his grin becoming larger at the dumbfounded looks he was receiving. "Now now, don't be shy", he went on with mock-cheerfulness. "We all know each other here, we know what kind of creatures Saiyans are. Is anyone dissatisfied with the state of things? Would anybody else like to be sitting on the throne? Think they are more deserving?" He gleefully met Paragus' eyes then, revelling in their shared joke. "Would anybody like to challenge me for it?", he finally bit out, his courteous mask never breaking. There was a tense moment, then Paragus huffed, rolled his eyes and made a gesture that might have meant "get on with it" or something ruder. Either way, Vegeta nodded and, knowing perfectly well that no one else could be of any threat to him, gently sat down. He made a show of getting comfy, put both hands on the armrests and fixed a dark stare on his audience. "I am Vegeta, King of all Saiyans", he stated. The court hesitated; the court nodded; the court bowed. Saiyans were a pragmatic race. As a Coronation Ceremony, that was more than enough.
The crowd was a bigger obstacle to overcome. King Vegeta stood motionless on the balcony overlooking the full plaza, expression stony as he studied the hushed audience. They were his people, his subjects. He'd always thought of them as his, but from today it was official. Only, he did not remember them being so… smelly. Behind him, Zorn politely coughed to catch his attention; the King ignored him. Whispers started to slither through the crowd like snakes and soon enough the whole plaza was in an uproar, conjecturing what could be wrong with the Royal. They have never seen a King, Vegeta thought dazedly while they observed him as if he was some kind of bizarre freak. He truly was.
Furutsu had been a legend for his people, a veritable god had the Tuffles been inclined to consider the existence of the divine. He was their King, but by his own admission most of the Tuffles had never even seen him, only heard stories of him, and that was just how he liked it. He was not only a genius, he was an artist, a capricious master, the very soul of Tuffle culture, the living and breathing incarnation of the scientific thought they held so dear… And Vegeta spent most of his time in his clutches swearing to himself that, should he make it out alive and become King, he was never going to be like that; he wanted his people to know him, to be very well aware of what their lord looked like. He'd rather die than admit it, but suddenly the idea appealed to him: being an invisible, omniscient and ever-present deity, a puppeteer that could pull all the threads without being seen looked like an excellent deal from where he was now standing. The wind started to blow in the direction of the balcony, bringing along a throttling whiff of the potent smell the crowd was giving out. The King was taken completely by surprise and fought not to gag as his eyes filled with tears. He gripped the handrail with crushing force and felt more than heard the people suddenly growing quiet. Zorn hurriedly took a step forward, opening his mouth to try and salvage the situation. "People of Vegeta-sei…", he started feebly, but Vegeta imperiously raised a hand to prevent him from saying more. The Advisor threw a look at him and, much like those standing closer to the balcony, gasped; tears were flowing freely down the King's cheeks and his mouth was forcedly shut, jaw trembling as if he was struggling with an overwhelming emotion. As Zorn stood stock-still in mind-blowing panic, the crowd went mad, people craning their necks and those further away even risking flying to get a better look of their newly-appointed King crying his eyes out like a frail child. Already, the first sniggers could be seen blossoming on some faces, already laughter could be heard, already…
The King flickered the wrist of his raised hand with snake-like speed and a sudden explosion in the sky both blinded and deafened the Saiyans. People instinctively dropped on the ground, some raised their arms to shield their heads, others went in a defence stand, others readied themselves to strike at the enemy; all of them still had the memory of the Tuffles' aerial attacks burnt in their minds. As no other explosions followed, though, they cautiously looked upward. The King, having abandoned his spot on the balcony, was now hovering in the air over their heads, the side-way wind blowing his scarlet cape over his right shoulder. "People of Vegeta-sei!", the Royal Saiyan shouted again, once sure that all eyes were on him. He took a deep breath then and smirked as widely as he could. "Good evening", he casually mentioned, glancing at the darkening sky. "Did that scare you?", he then wondered, sounding genuinely curious. A few Saiyans, their scarred and battered bodies signalling their status of veteran fighters, immediately jumped to their feet at what they saw as a clear provocation. However, Vegeta hovered closer to the crowd, his features not betraying any hint of disdain. "It was an honest question", he said loudly, studying the still huddled people and flying closer to a woman who was still shielding her small children with her body. "How many times have you feared having to give up your life to save theirs?", he questioned her. "How many times have you told them to run for cover when the explosions started, how many times have you shouted at them to cower like cowards because there was no hope of winning?" The woman rose to her full height hearing that and fixed a hard stare on the King; she was tall, her muscles well-defined, the body of a fighter. "Too many", she enunciated clearly, her voice carrying over to reach the whole crowd. Vegeta nodded gravely. "Too many", he repeated. "TOO MANY!", he shouted on the top of his lungs as the Saiyans gazed at him with rapt attention. "Too many times we've hidden. Too many times we've run. Too many times we've lied on the ground, pretending to be dead, like cowards!" There was another, meaningful silence, then…
The powerful shout had those closest to the King jump. It echoed through the whole plaza. "We do not have to hide anymore", the Royal went on in a calmer, almost caressing tone. "This is our planet now. This is our home and no one, not even the Gods will be able to take it from us. There won't be any more hiding in the shadows at night, terrified that their raids might catch us unaware in our sleep. We will finally be able to savour the light of dawn without wondering if the silence will be broken by their cursed blasts. No more puny, know-it-all scientists to tell us how beastly, how savage, how inferior we are. We have destroyed them. For all their science and technology, they could not see the inside of our heads, they could not breach our indomitable hearts and the stubborn silence of all the proud warriors that preferred giving up their lives instead of revealing our secrets…" The King fell silent and the hush that had fallen upon the crowd during his speech grew even louder. Many were missing from their ranks; many did not live long enough to witness their first day as free people. "You all know I was captured", the Royal finally spoke again. "I was kept a prisoner and tortured for information for over six months after putting into motion the plan that eventually destroyed the Tuffles. Ten years. Ten years of incessant work, only to miss the party." He shook his head in mock sadness and a few faces opened up in tentative smirks. "But it does not matter now, does it? You took care of that, did you not?" The smirks on the Saiyans' faces became positively devilish; the King mirrored them. "A few minutes ago, I was crying", the Royal mentioned casually. "It was stronger than me, I must confess. I was trying to picture the faces of all those so-called "savants" as their "pet monkeys" transformed into giant monsters… and it was just too funny!" He started to laugh aloud, a gleeful, coarse sound that had all the other Saiyans join in so that, in a matter of minutes, the whole plaza was filled with laughter. "Have you savoured their horrified expressions? Have you committed them to memory? That is good, but also completely unnecessary, because from now on… From now on, you will see plenty of those expressions! This is the day we become what we were always meant to be! This is the day we start putting all those who stared down at us back in their place! This is the day we start our new life as Lords of the Universe!"
The crowd roared like a victorious lion and Vegeta floated above it, soaking up all the praise. He happily flew around the plaza, enjoying his triumph, and finally went back to his balcony; he stood on the railing and regaled his subjects with a mocking bow that dislodged his cape, letting it fall on the cheering crowd. As the cloth was immediately ripped apart by greedy hands who wanted a piece of it, the King called out a final "You can keep it!" and disappeared inside the Palace.
Zorn was speechless till they reached Vegeta's room; the second the dark red door that marked the entrance to His Majesty's private chambers came into view, Zorn miraculously recovered and started sprouting praise. "My Lord, that was truly remarkable! I apologise for my hesitation at the start of your speech, you were quite obviously extremely prepared. Those false tears were a really impressive touch, they had everyone fooled, myself included I must say…" A raised hand stopped the river of words. Vegeta smiled blankly at him as he slowly lowered his appendage. "Thank you Zorn, I am glad you appreciated my little trick. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to be on my own for a while. I need to meditate." The Advisor mentally erased the rest of the commentary he'd prepared on the way there and nodded. A slightly warmer smile was sent his way and his former comrade and closest friend disappeared inside his room.
Finally alone, Vegeta took a deep breath, trying to collect his thoughts. Sensorial memory traitorously evoked what transpired before the start of his speech and he once again felt the need to retch. He rushed to the balcony facing the beautiful garden and wrenched the window open, gulping down the sweet smell as if it was fresh water. It had been that damn wind's fault; the acre stink coming off the crowd had hit him with full force the second the breeze changed its direction. It had been a miracle there had only been tears. How could they tolerate being so disgusting? He let himself fall upon the bannister, energies completely sapped by the show he was forced to give. As the perfumes permeated the air around him, he felt his mind becoming clearer. He would do his people right, he promised. He would do his best to ensure a comfy life for his subjects no matter what. But… god… he hated…
Thank you very much for reading! Sorry for the delay, but work drained me so much in the last months that I only now managed to finish and post this chapter. Do let me know what you think of it!