..................................U N F A I T H F U L

________________________~*Part One*~: Memories
The little girl's silky skirts rustled as she hurried from her lessons with her governess to the church. The palace guards stared at her as she ran past, disheveled and shamefully late. She stumbled and slipped a little on the smooth ivory marble of the floor, but she did not hestitate for a second. When she reached the wide wooden doors of the church, the guards stationed there stopped her. The girl stared up at them with wide, impatient blue eyes, the like of which had never been seen before on their planet. After recovering from their initial shock, one of them spoke.

"You're late, miss," the one on the right informed her sternly. "Tardiness is not tolerated in the kingdom of our king and queen."

"Begging your pardon, sir," Bulma began coolly with the ease of someone older than her years. "But I'm only seven and half minutes late. The official rules state that ten minutes and ten minutes only shall be worthy of punishment."

The guards scrambled to think of answer, but could not. Bulma noted their surprise and smiled sympathetically, clasping her hands together behind her back innocently.

"I've just come from my lessons with Lady Rosaline," she explained with as much smugness as a seven-year-old girl could muster. "We went over royal protocol today, and I got the tardiness question correct on the first try."

Reluctantly, the guards stepped aside and opened the heavy doors for her. The inside of the church was revealed, along with two hundred disapproving faces, including the ones of the priest and Bulma's parents. The priest continued his sermon as if she weren't even there, weaving in and out of the aisles to her family's pew in the front. She was usually proud of their position in the church-- front pews meant that you had a higher social standing-- but she was not today. Her fellow nobles stared and frowned at her as she passed to the very front of the church.

Her mother seized the ribbon tied around the waist of her daughter's dress and pulled her into the pew, her powdered face stern. "How dare you dishonor our family in this manner! You shall be punished substantially for your actions when we get back to our chambers, girl!"

Lady Briefs was talented and experienced enough to hiss this without a single person taking notice. Bulma glared at her with the stubbornness of a typical child and adopted a brooding expression all throughout the sermon. When the church members stood to sing, she sang deliberately off-key, even though she was naturally good singer. She squirmed and sighed until the very last 'amen'. Being a proper, God-fearing noblewoman, Lady Briefs did not chastise her until they were out of the church and well on their way down the palace's hallways. Lord Briefs trailed behind quietly, never one to get involved in arguments.

"You are an embarrassment to our good name!" Bulma's mother scolded, dragging Bulma along by one small hand. "You are messy, stubborn, disobiedient, and for goodness' sake, Bulma, you are always late! Lady Rosaline releases you early every morning, so there is no excuse for being late to church!"

"I did not mean to be late!" Bulma protested. "I was on time yesterday!"

"Just barely," Lady Briefs reminded her bitterly. "I am sick and tired of making up excuses for you, Bulma. I try and I struggle, but you never listen! You are expected to behave like a good, proper young lady, not like the fishwive's daughter!"

"I told you that I'm sorry," Bulma mumbled, looking down at her feet. "It won't happen again, Mother."

"See to it that it doesn't." Lady Briefs released her daughter's hand.

Bulma winced and fondled her hand, which felt as if it had been crushed. This was not the first time she had gotten herself into trouble for this very same offense. It seemed that no matter how hard she tried, there was no pleasing her strict mother. Bulma, in truth, had almost completely forgotten about church that morning. She had been so engrossed in examining the lovely colored fabrics that one of the palace servants had been mending that it had just... slipped her mind. Bulma was curious by nature, so it happened quite often. While her father adored his daughter's innocent interests and spunky personality, her mother had never been able to come to peace with it. Bulma couldn't even recall how many finishing schools she had been shipped off to over the course of her early childhood. She had ended up being kicked out or running away from most of them. Her mother had not been pleased.

"Mind that you hang up your dress, Bulma," Lady Briefs called as they entered their palace suite and disappeared into her dressing room. "I won't tolerate any wrinkles this time!"

Bulma sighed heavily. Her father heard her sigh and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Don't let her get under your skin, dear," he advised tiredly. "She's only doing what she thinks is best for our family. She's trying to turn you into a respectable young lady."

"But I do not want to be a boring lady!" Bulma grumbled, crossing her little arms across her chest. "I want to play outside with other children, Daddy."

Lord Briefs sighed and shook his head. Little Bulma had always wished to play in the sunshine with the peasant girls that could be seen from her balcony, but no matter how much the child wished for it. "I am sorry, Bulma, but nothing can be done about that. You have plenty of wonderful toys in your chambers to play with." The middle-aged man placed a fond hand on Bulma's curly head and disappeared after his wife into their chambers.

Bulma watched him leave, her young heart's desires seemingly forever out of her reach. The girl let her arms fall limply to her sides and trudged to her room. It was furnished completely in tasteful shades of pink, the customary and almost required color for a noble girl's bedroom. It was light and feminine, with plenty of lace trimmings. It was littered with stuffed animals, embroidery needles and thread, and more toys than an average kid could even dream of. But none of this meant anything to Bulma. She ignored all of her material possessions and headed out to her balcony, where she had a clear view of the town below.

Sun-tanned children in dirty, comfortable-looking clothing ran through the streets, giggling and chasing each other in a very unladylike manner. Bulma fingered her own expensive, uncomfortable dress and wished for a simple, homespun garment of her own. She also noticed that the little girls had their hair down and free. This was a practice strictly forbidden in first-class society. It was a sign of a 'loose woman', whatever that meant. A proper lady only let her hair down before her husband, and her husband only. Bulma fingered a bouncy, restrained curl and sighed discontentedly.

One of the children, a raggedy-looking girl of about Bulma's age, stopped in her tracks as she noticed Bulma's dreamy staring. Her playmates stopped also and offered Bulma the customary curtsy or bow that peasants were expected to do before noble blood. Bulma nodded casually, wishing that instead of being gaped at, she could be down there playing with her lower-classed peers.

"Hello!" she called down daringly, waving a hand excitedly.

The third-class children noticed the sparkling bracelets she wore and the golden ring her father had given her a year ago and tried not to stare. Not a single one dared answer for fear of strict punishment. They curtised one more time, then ran along on their way, leaving Bulma alone on her balcony once again.

The little girl watched them leave wistfully, then returned to her room to daydream. She knew that she would never be able to join those children in their innocent games, but nothing was stopping her from pretending that it was so.
Bulma stood out on that very same balcony years later, her infamous blue eyes searching the dirty streets for her long-lost playmates. Even if they were still living, she very much doubted that she would be able to recognize them. The young woman sighed and stepped away from the railing to face her handmaiden, who had been waiting for her acknowledgment.

"My lady," Nataliah greeted with a respectful curtsy. "Your mother left for morning mass. You have slept late, I am afraid."

"Late?" Bulma repeated, thinking of the irony of the situation. "How late?"

The other woman smiled nervously. "I am afraid that you missed the entire sermon, it should be nearly over by now--"

Bulma squeezed her eyes shut, hardly believing her luck. The day she had chosen to visit her mother had to be the one day she was late for church. She could picture the scolding that she would no doubt recieve already. "Please notify me when she returns."

Nataliah nodded, then took a closer look at Bulma. "You look exhausted, m'lady. Did you sleep well?"

"Not really," Bulma answered quietly, looking at the familiar surroundings. "I was haunted by my memories all night long."

"I wish that I could remember that much of my childhood," Nataliah mused. "You have a remarkable memory."

Bulma turned away from her maid. The images were starting to plague her again. The reason that Nataliah could not recall most of her childhood was because she had experienced a normal, uneventful one. Bulma massaged her temples and forced herself to reply politely, as was expected of her. "Thank you."

"Is there anything that you require of me before I leave?"

"Yes, you can prepare me a cup of tea, please." Bulma went to the railing again and immersed herself in her memories of the peasant children again. She envied them still. "You may leave."

Nataliah left to make the tea silently. Bulma returned her attention to the street below. Her mother's residence was situated to overlook the busy market, as she had requested so long ago. Lady Briefs despised surprises of any kind, and surprises in the economy was included with that. Bulma had not minded at all. The spicy scent of cinnamon and the exotic aromas of fruit had floated up to enchant her all throughout her childhood, and she had always had a clear view of the merchants' children playing. It was rather pathetic, how she had daydreamed as a child, but it was all she had had to hold on to. All she still had. Most of what Lady Briefs considered to be 'respectable' society, however, would disagree.

They recognized Bulma as the alleged most beautiful woman on Earth, and possibly in the universe. It was what attracted people to she and her family, which her mother adored, and it was what had condemned her to a miserable, love-less life with her husband. Because of this, Bulma considered her beauty more a curse than a gift.

She was sure that as a child, she would have relished the idea of somebody becoming the Queen of her planet. But then again, Yamcha would hardly have been included in that fantasy. Even decked out in heavy jewels and elaborate, expensive clothing, Bulma could not find inner peace. Perhaps if Yamcha had allowed her to become more involved in the diplomatic part of her position, she might have gotten some happiness out of her life, but it had been determined quite early on that Bulma was a trophy wife, forever destined to stand beside Yamcha to be used as a method of making other men and leaders jealous. And to satisfy his own selfish needs.

Bulma shuddered. She couldn't even count how many incidents where Yamcha had violated her both mentally and physically. The Queen of Earth closed her eyes with the effort of pushing the memories back into the dark recesses of her mind.

"You've always loved to watch those heathens wallow in the mud."

So much for Nataliah giving her fair warning. But then again her visitor had always been quite good at sneaking up on people. Bulma would have recognized Lady Briefs' voice in her sleep. She opened her eyes and turned around to acknowledge her elderly mother. She was still dressed in her church clothes-- a demure black gown with diamonds at her ears and throat. As always, her posture was straight and confident, but not overbearing. The very essence of a trained lady. Bulma curtsied to her mother, though she was now considered socially superior. Her title hardly mattered-- her mother would always be the one running the show.

"Those heathens are the people that I represent now," Bulma replied. "You've never understood."

"You are right," Lady Briefs snapped. "And I never will. Nor will I understand why the female monarch of this planet failed to make an appearance at mass this morning. I nearly had to beat off all of the courtiers who were wondering where you were."

"I hope that you hit them hard," Bulma muttered, then raised her voice so that her mother could hear. "I did not sleep well last night and was ill this morning. You wouldn't have wanted me to appear with mucus smearing my makeup, now would you?"

"Watch your sharp tongue, Bulma," Lady Briefs warned dangerously. "I have had to deal with your sarcastic comments for your entire childhood. I thought that we had broken you of that terrible habit."

"It appears not to be so." Bulma set her lips in a thin, hard line to resist the urge to make another bitter reply. "How has your health been as of late?"

"You would not know." Lady Briefs frowned disapprovingly. "I am the only reason that you've become the woman you are now, and what do you do? You run off and ignore me the moment you strike gold. You are a rather ungrateful girl, Bulma."

Bulma graced her mother with a frown of her own. She put her hands on her hips in irritation, a habit that she knew her mother loathed. "If I had had a choice, I would never have put myself in this position and you know it. You created this, and now I'm afraid that you're going to have to deal with it." She brushed past her mother and back inside. "Nataliah, is my tea ready yet?"

Her mother followed her into the kitchen, chirping all the way. "If I hadn't interfered with your life, you would be on the streets with those pathetic, dirty children that you are so fond of watching."

Bulma flinched at the nasty comment, but otherwise displayed no emotion. Her mother had trained her well. She concentrated on busying herself stirring sugar into her blackberry tea.

"Yamcha was not pleased," Lady Briefs continued, signaling for Nataliah to pour her a cup of tea also. "I still cannot understand why you loathe your life so. You have everything that you've ever dreamed of, and yet you still sulk around the palace like a lost soul. You're supposed to be the role model for the women on this planet. You're doing a terrible job, if I do say so myself."

Bulma stared at the polished marble floor. "I have never dreamed of living in cage, Mother. That was always your dream for me."

Lady Briefs snatched her cup of tea from Nataliah and stirred it coolly, uplifting her pinky finger as she handled the spoon. She opened her mouth to speak when the door of the residence slammed open to reveal an angry Yamcha, followed by two bodyguards and a nervous-looking advisor. Bulma's mother smiled, satisfied, and allowed Yamcha to take over the show.

"Where the hell were you?" King Yamcha demanded, storming over to face Bulma, who sipped her tea numbly. "The priest approached me afterwards and informed that even though you had committed a sin by failing to appear in mass, you can still redeem yourself in confession this afternoon! Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was for me? Half the fuckig court must have been looking on!"

"There is no need for language, Your Majesty," Lady Briefs scolded smugly.

Yamcha ignored her and waited anxiously for his wife's reply. Bulma took another sip of her tea, then looked up at her husband impatiently.

"I apologize most sincerely," she began softly. "But it could not be helped. I was ill this morning."

"Do not lie to me!" Yamcha said in a low, dangerous voice. "You have no right."

"I am your wife and the Queen of this planet," Bulma replied. "I have the right to do whatever I please."

Yamcha turned away and ran his hands savagely through his hair, trying to rein in his temper. This was the only situation in which Bulma was grateful for her mother's presence. Yamcha would never strike her in front of her domineering mother. When he turned back to face her, his face was red, but his fists remained safely at his sides.

"I am your husband," he explained through gritted teeth. "I demand your respect."

"That hardly qualifies me as your slave." Bulma pushed her tea aside and regarded Yamcha seriously. "I told you that I was ill this morning. You should trust me enough to accept my word."

Yamcha studied Bulma's delicate features. "You don't look sick."

"Of course not," Bulma scoffed. "I have never looked haggard a day in my life, and I do not plan to start."

Yamcha's anxious advisor gestured wildly, and Yamcha sighed in frustration. "I have some important matters to attend to. I shall see you at dinner later tonight." After one last look at his prized wife, he turned and hurried from the room, followed by the advisor and his two bodyguards. Nataliah jumped when the door slammed back onto his hinges.

"I... I suppose that you'll be wanting more tea, my lady?" she asked nervously.

Bulma clasped her hands in her lap, fighting to maintain her composure for the sake of her mother, and forced a tight smile. "Of course."

Lady Briefs smiled smugly, then took another dainty sip of her tea.
Bulma, ripe at the tender age of sixteen, gripped the edge of a full-length mirror as her mother tightened her corset mercilessly. She was preparing for Lady Madelyne's dinner party, a choice event with a long list of honored guests. She hadn't wanted to go, but her mother insisted that it was what she considered to be a 'prime opprotunity'.

"There are going to be splendid amounts of eligible young men at this party," she was saying contently, pulling on the ties brutally. Bulma winced in pain. "Prince Yamcha himself is rumored to be making an appearance."

"Mother," Bulma gasped, breathless as the corset was adjusted. "You know that I do not like that arrogant man."

Lady Briefs gave the corset an unnecessarily strong tug. Bulma cried out in pain. "Don't be stupid, girl! Once that old, senile father of his dies, Yamcha will be King, and you'll be his Queen. Tell me that you do not like the thought of that."

Bulma rolled her eyes. "Truly, Mother? The very thought of becoming that man's wife makes me sick to my stomach."

Lady Briefs seized Bulma by the shoulder and whipped her daughter around to face her. She glared at her, then delivered a swift, stinging smack across her face. Bulma recoiled from the blow and didn't dare to move, though she was now looking at her mother out of the side of her left eye. Her hand cupped the side of her face tenderly.

"Don't you realize what is happening to us?" her mother hissed. "When your father died, our social standing remained strong, but our financial situation did not. Without your father here to support us, we have nothing. I-- we cannot survive such a blow and maintain our reputation. Unless you marry, we will be on the streets in a matter of months."

"It is not fair," Bulma whispered brokenly. "Why can't you remarry? There are plenty of noblemen who are interested. Far more than are interested in me."

"Don't be ridiculous," Lady Briefs corrected her bitterly. "Those men are foolish and fake. They have no more than a few million dollars behind their names. No, my dear, it shall be you who decides the fate of this family. You are the most desirable girl that I can think of, and the rest of the world knows it. A man would give his left arm to wed, not to mention bed, you." The woman spun her back around and began to finish up her corset.

Bulma seized the mirror again and stared at her reflection hollowly. Her body was slender and petite, as was fashionable, and her skin was ivory-and-cream pale. Her hair fell in pretty ringlets to her waist when it was down all the way (which it rarely was, considering that she was not married). Her high cheekbones, small nose, bow-shaped lips, and rosy complexion were glowing, but her azure blue eyes were by far her best feature. They were almond-shaped and slanted slightly up, as a result of some exotic blood far back in her bloodlines. But even their extreme beauty could not hide the hopeless, defeated expression that they held. They stared back at her, empty and depressing.

"Done," her mother announced, stepping back to get a better look at her handiwork. "Perfect."

Perfect. What her mother had always strived for her to be. Bulma studied her numb expression and then turned away from the mirror so that Lady Briefs could give her approval. The smug, satisfied smile confirmed the quality of her appearance.

"You look stunning," Lady Briefs gushed. "That corset accentuates your figure marvelously, and that dress..." She glanced over to wear the outer garment was hanging, waiting for Bulma to slip into it and turn into her mother's little puppet. "Yamcha will not be able to resist you."

And she had been right. He hadn't.
Later that night, Bulma joined her husband for their customary dinner. Surprisingly, Yamcha had not invited any guests to dine with them. Usually he did so to avoid having to make conversation with Bulma, who answered softly and montonously, which always reminded him that she did not love him. Bulma certainly invited no guests, for she had no friends to ask. Bulma took her seat silently and stared down at her meager helpings of fish and steamed vegetables. She longed for something a bit more substantial, but had long since learned that it was not possible. Earth's queen was expected to constantly maintain her impossibly tiny figure, despite her temptations.

Yamcha did not not touch his own plate of hearty food. He instead studied Bulma, clearly thinking of a way to put his thoughts into words. Bulma awaited his announcement, only half-interested. Most likely he had found some other planet to dominate, some other person to belittle. Things never changed. But tonight, she was in for a surprise.

"Do you know of the Saiyans?"

Bulma looked up sharply. Of course she knew of the Saiyans. They were the universe's undeniably dominant race, purging and destroying whoever and whatever got in their way. They were a war-loving, bloodthirsty people that most humans were raised to hate. Earth was one of the few planets that they hadn't conquered, for reasons that nobody could quite fathom. They had very recently broken away from Lord Frieza and his fellow invaders to become an independent empire. The Saiyans were currently under the control of the Queen of the planet, Magdalene. Her husband had been killed by Frieza, so her hot-tempered son, Vejita, was next in line for the throne.

"Of course," she replied, carefully masking her interest. "They live on Vejitasei, am I right?"

"Yes," Yamcha replied. "They are a population of heathens, as your mother would say. They murder each other and anybody else they can get their dirty hands on."

Bulma waited expectantly for the point of the conversation. She could have heard those comments anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the courtiers. It was common knowledge. Yamcha cleared his throat a bit nervously.

"Well, um, yes..." He toyed with his silverware. "Our interactions have been strained as of late, and war is unavoidable. Despite that fact, I am going to attempt to put it off while supplies and soldiers are gathered by proposing a treaty."

"A treaty?" Bulma was shocked that Yamcha hadn't just lost his head and gone blindly after them.

"One of my advisors suggested the idea, actually," Yamcha admitted. Bulma recalled the anxious advisor that followed him into her mother's residence. "I am leaving for Vejitasei in a few weeks, and I plan on taking you with me. I have notified their foreign policy leaders already, and accomadations are being made."

Bulma sat in quiet shock. A treaty with the Saiyans? The very idea of putting the words 'treaty' and 'Saiyans' in the same sentence was prepostorous. Everyone knew that Saiyans were not to be trusted with civilized things such as diplomacy and accomadating another planet's leaders. Bulma's heart raced with fear for herself. Yamcha meant to take her along to impress them, to make a good impression. The woman closed her eyes, struggling to keep her composure, and then looked up to face her husband.

"I am not at all sure that this is a wise idea," she said. "If war is inevitable, then why bother? Our technology is far superior."

"We do not know that for sure," Yamcha said defensively. "It would be to our advantage to go and scope them out, get a better understanding of what we'll be going up against. They outnumber us by the thousands."

"A war with the Saiyan empire would be a major blow to every aspect of our planet," Bulma protested. She normally would not have spoken out against one of her husband's ideas, but this was different. She was the Queen-- she would not sit back and watch Yamcha get them all killed when something could be done. "Queen Magdalene does not seem to be a particularily war-loving woman, but it is her son that you are going to have to contend with. I have heard many stories describing his prowess in war."

"Stories," Yamcha repeated doubtfully. Bulma could tell that his tender pride had been hurt. "Thats what they are-- merely stories. From what I hear, he's all talk and no action."

A servant hurried in to take their plates and replace them with a steaming cup of tea for Bulma and some black coffee for Yamcha. He gripped his cup until his knuckles turned white.

"I will have my war with those bastards," he growled.

"What have they done?" Bulma asked, in attempts to understand her husband's anger.

"Nothing and everything." Yamcha scowled. "They violate our trade laws and airspace policies as if they are laughing at us."

"Perhaps they are," Bulma suggested calmly. "Some of the laws are rather ridiculous. I have said the same thing many times before."

Yamcha shoved his cup of coffee off of the table, then jumped out of his chair and knocked it over also. His face was growing increasingly red with anger, and Bulma knew that she had said the wrong thing.

"How dare you!" Yamcha shouted, the veins in his forehead pulsing. "You stupid, meddling BITCH! I am the king, and whatever I say goes! We will go to war with Vejitasei in matter of months, and there is nothing that anybody can do to stop me!" He stormed over to where she was sitting and raised a menacing hand. "Not even you."

Bulma sat in her chair expectantly, her lashes fluttering against her cheeks as she awaited the crushing blow. It would not have been the first time Yamcha's volatile temper had been taken out on her, and it would likely not be the last. Yamcha stared down at his wife for a few minutes, his left eye twitching, then lowered his fist and used it to shatter her teacup noisily. Bulma opened her eyes timidly, shocked. Yamcha had just spared her the trouble of covering up her bruises in time for mass the next morning, something that he rarely did. Instead of hitting her, Yamcha reached down and caressed her rosy cheek on one hand, studying his wife with a crazed look in his brown eyes. Bulma's stomach turned, but she made no move to stop him. She had long since given up the fight.

"You are so beautiful..." Yamcha's hand moved to her hair, stroking the neat ringlets. "And you are mine."

Bulma dared to turn her head away from him the slightest bit. She could smell liquor on her husband's breath, and instantly understood his odd mood swings. The human body was not capable of containing as much alcohol as Yamcha consumed without severe consequences. She wondered what she had ever done in her life to deserve this fate.

Yamcha gave her one last, long look, then stepped back and exited the room, leaving Bulma alone with her dark thoughts.
+ A/N + I am so relieved to finally have this posted! I've been working on it since December, so I hope that its up to par. I will be going on vacation until Sunday evening, so the next chapter probably won't be posted until Monday or Tuesday, but I already have it half-way finished and edited, so you won't have to worry about any delays. I would appreciate any and all feedback, so please leave a review!

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