A Monster's Apprentice
Part I: A Child
"An exquisite specimen." He looks up at me, his small frame trembling in fear. Those eyes, dark as the vastness of space, are watery and full of life. His chubby hands rub them vigorously in a vain attempt to hide his tears. It is marvelous to see a boy so young already so prideful. Beyond his fear I can sense his hatred. What have they told him of me? I step closer to him. He takes a step back, bumping into the sturdy leg of his so-called bodyguard. He is unperturbed by his sudden stop. "Absolutely exquisite."
Indignation flashes through those obsidian orbs like a tongue of fire. Such pride, such arrogance, a wonder to behold. He lowers his fists to his sides and rolls his shoulders back as he scowls at me defiantly. In this moment I decide I love this child. He will be mine. He need not say a word to me for me to know what he thinks. They say eyes are the windows to the soul, and through his I can see a darkness creeping, a darkness that I will cultivate. He is so perfect. Never in my years have I seen anything so stunning. This child, this little child, I know, will be my masterpiece. I can see my reflection grinning back at me in his dewy eyes and know that someday long from now he will see the exact same reflection.
There is much I have to teach this young warrior. He is strong – considering his age and race – but he must grow much stronger. One day, perhaps, he will be at the top of my ranks and will stand at my right side. But first he must learn to kill without remorse or pity. He will be my agent of destruction, obliterating civilizations across the universe in my name. He will forget his pitiful honor code. He will rend himself free of all attachments, except for one. His attachment to me will be unbreakable. I can see already that he will never care for me as I do him. He will never even like me, let alone appreciate what I am going to do for him. It pains me to know that such a creature will always be in opposition to my will, but alas, that is part of his beauty. He is untamable, like a wild beast, but he is not unimpressionable. He may never willingly bow before me (No, he is far too proud for that), but he will be my life's work. In the end he will see that we are not so unalike.
I smile as genuinely as I can and turn my back to him, folding my arms behind my back. I realize how I insult his honor by doing so, showing him I see him as no threat. My eyes shift to the boy's father. A tall man, much too tall. I do hope that his son will never grow into such a beast. "Give me your son two days from now, and I will spare your kingdom." I hear a collective gasp cutting through the silence of the hall, followed by a hushed murmur filled with barely suppressed rage. It delights me.
His hesitation is obvious. Could it be that he cares as I do for the boy? I hold back the laughter bubbling in my throat. The boy will be mine. I already know they are counting on him to be their salvation from me. Me, the tyrant overlord. What a joke. They knew what they were getting into when they made their alliance. They strain against their bondage and put their last hopes on a small child, the very child I have chosen. The fools.
"As you wish, Lord Frieza."
I can hardly contain my joy to see the proud king of the saiyans brought down to humble servitude for the sake of his monkey race, willing to go so far to preserve them as to hand over his only son, the crown prince! The corner of my lip rises in a smirk of triumph as I turn away from him and calmly leave his throne room. Each armed guard I pass by growls with a ferocity that makes chills run down my spine; not of fear, but of pleasure. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction that instigating the monkeys. As I reach the guarded doors, I turn to look over my shoulder at the king, who has collapsed in his throne with his face in his hands. "Oh, and Vegeta, do not think of going back on our agreement." I leave in high spirits.
Two days, two long days have passed and it is finally time for me to collect my dues. I will at last have the monkey prince in my clutches. I wait eagerly for the ship with my precious cargo aboard to dock. My heart is hammering in my chest as my excitement gnaws at me. I cannot wait to begin his training. My dear little prince, my pet, is finally mine. I will never give him up. It seems like hours pass as I wait for the saiyan embassy to arrive at my throne room. The doors open agonizingly slowly, but I am filled with joy when the first thing I lay eyes on is the young prince leading the parade of soldiers three times as tall as he. I cannot help myself. I smile and beckon him in.
He comes before me, but he does not kneel. The soldiers behind him give me that courtesy, but his pride has not been broken, nor will it ever be. I see defiance glittering in those eyes, those entrancing onyx eyes. "Hello, Prince Vegeta."
He does not tremble this time. Either his courage has increased or he has learned to hide his fear since our last meeting. He sneers at me. I marvel at the way his lip curls, revealing his perfect white teeth, his long canine. These saiyans really are nothing more than animals. I do care for this child, I tell myself. He is such a wonderful little beast. But such insolence will not be permitted whether or not I favor him. I rise out of my throne and approach him. He does not back away. I am astounded that despite my obvious rising fury, he does not break eye contact.
"You will show me proper respect, my little pet," I tell him. My voice is calm and cold, as I have practiced it to be. The calmest threats are the most terrifying, I have found through my years of experience in intimidation techniques.
I can see him swallow, yet he does not yield to my will. He remains standing upright. Five years old and so regal, I silently praise him. He will be my greatest treasure. Still, I do not show my feelings to him. Instead, I phase behind him and grab his right shoulder with my left hand and dig the nail of my right forefinger into his left shoulder. "My subjects are to bow to me when in my presence unless otherwise instructed," I say. I see his body shudder with pain as a thick rivulet of dark red blood oozes from his wound and down his back. Slowly, I move my nail through the skin of his back, tearing his skin and muscle inch by agonizing inch. He screams in pain and his knees buckle. He falls to the floor on his knees. "Now was that so hard?"
I release him and walk around him, appraising his young body. Such a beautiful child. I raise my finger to my lips and taste his blood. It is better than the finest delicacies of the galaxy. I catch some of his men watching me, lips curled in disgust. I smirk at them, knowing they are helpless to defend their precious prince. No, my prince. My attention returns to Vegeta, who is trying to cover his wound with his hand to stem the bleeding, but he cannot reach. His breathing is harsh as he tries desperately to maintain control of himself. I imagine how his eyes must be stinging with tears as pain rips across his back with every movement. It is a harsh lesson, my pet, but it is one you must learn. Never cross your master, Vegeta, and you will live well.
My right-hand man, another magnificent jewel I plucked from the galaxy, steps into the throne room at my beckoning and strides in with barely concealed contempt for the saiyans. He bows before me. "Yes, my lord?"
I gesture with my head to the boy prince. "Take my little monkey to his quarters. I would like for him to dine with me this evening. See to it that he has proper attire for the occasion."
"Yes, Lord Frieza." He straightens and yanks Vegeta to his feet. I can see the hatred burning in his black eyes. So the little monkey does not like Zarbon, no? I chuckle as they take their leave. What a waste it would have been to have allowed the monkeys to keep him. With me he will meet his fullest potential. I conclude now that I can never let him know my true feelings for him. That would never do. If I am a cold, callous master to him, then he will learn to become a calculating, masterful killer. I have been described in many ways through my rise to galactic domination. My favorite, and possibly the most accurate: A monster. My pet will be a monster as I am. He will be favored, but he will not know it. I will have to protect him for some time from my stronger soldiers aboard my ship. Only enough to prevent them from killing him. I won't be soft. He must learn the art of cruelty. I dismiss the saiyans, and in the silence they leave behind I can still hear the beautiful screams ringing in my ears. I long to hear them more, soon.
I sit in my throne, waiting for my little prince to arrive for his audience. I feel impatient; it has been far too long since I have seen him. Days, weeks, time passes so slowly without him to entertain me. He has been away on a training mission and recently arrived at my ship for a time of rest – ah, rest, what he surely wishes for! – before his first real purge. I drum my fingers on my throne. The soldiers lining the walls of my throne room are fearful, I can smell it. Cowards. I raise my glass of wine to my lips and sip it, swirling it in my mouth before swallowing to savor its bittersweet flavor.
Finally, the doors open. My pet walks in flanked by two warriors who make his stature appear even smaller. He scowls at me. I think how awful it would be if he got a crease between his brows so young if he never changes his expression. I dismiss that thought and smile at him, which I have found unnerves him in a way no snarl ever could. I wait for him to kneel before me. His movement is mechanical, awkward, reluctant. I pretend not to notice. I take another sip of wine before addressing him. "How was your mission, Vegeta?"
"It went well, Lord Frieza," he says. I do love his voice, so rough, like that of a full grown man, not a child. He is only six years old, after all. I set my glass of wine down and lean forward, interested.
"Tell me more," I say.
Under his dark bangs I can see his expression brightening, if only a little. "It was an easy mission, my lord. I killed more than these two idiots combined," he says, indicating the two soldiers on either side of him. He is practically beaming with pride now, despite the fatigue coming off him in waves. "It only took four days to clear the planet of all life."
I hear no trace of remorse in his voice, but I am not satisfied quite yet. The planet had no fully sentient life forms. It was his last training mission before he is instated as a soldier in my army. Once he is, he will be sent to planets rich in resources or marketable on the Planet Trade where he will be forced to kill sapient beings; men, women, and children, he will murder them all in cold blood. But still he clings to his saiyan honor code. He does not think it honorable to kill those who pose no threat and cannot defend themselves. He will have to overcome that bit of conscience soon lest he lose his usefulness to me.
"Very good, my pet." I pick up my wine and take another drink. I want to consider how best to reward him for his success. I know what a saiyan cherishes: food and battle. He is yet too young to be rewarded with whores. He holds back a yawn. Poor child, so tired. Likely he has had little sleep since leaving for his mission. I will not have a lazy soldier, though. "You are to train with Dodoria for the next five hours, Vegeta, and then you may return to your quarters."
He looks up at me, eyes wide. Is that fear, little one? Don't you want to train with one of my best warriors, one who is rising quickly through the ranks? You could learn much from him, my dear prince. He nods, so subtly it could have been a trick of the eye rather than any real movement. "Yes, Lord Frieza." He sounds tired, so very tired, as if it took all the strength in his body to utter those words. I am so glad he has learned to at least feign respect. Humiliation is the key to controlling another's pride. There is little else I can do with him. He will not break.
My heart skips a beat when I receive the report. Vegeta has been taken to the medical bay for immediate treatment after arriving from his first purge mission. My prince cannot be hurt. I made sure that he was sent to a planet where the natives were weak, where he could not be defeated. How, then, did he end up injured severely enough to require emergency medical care? Panic surges in my chest. The saiyan prince in my prize possession, my greatest treasure, a gem among garbage in my army. I take a deep breath, calming myself. He is a saiyan, he will recover shortly, though his pride likely took a beating. I lean back into my throne and dismiss the medical technician with a wave of my hand. He runs out from the throne room and the doors close behind him. I prop my elbow on my armrest and hold my chin in my hand to wait breathlessly for the next report from the medical bay, updating me on my prince's recovery.
I am startled by a commotion in the corridor. A loud explosion, shouting and screams, and a roar of fury that could only be the saiyan prince himself. The doors fly open and Vegeta strides in proudly despite his limp. I see a deep gash, still bleeding, on his left thigh. My eyes move up his body, assessing his condition. With his full bodysuit it is hard to tell how badly injured he is. He kneels before me. I watch his blood drip to the floor. Drip. Drip-drip. Drip-drip. Drip. He breathing is labored, and for a brief moment I pity him. I shift my gaze to the entrance to my throne room. There is smoke billowing in the corridor. I raise an eyebrow.
"Lord Frieza, the purge was completed in nine days. There are no people left alive. The planet is ready for sale."
"Nine days?" I ask. "That is a long time for such a weak planet." I see his shoulders tense as anger courses through him. It makes me feel giddy. "But, for your first real mission I suppose it is adequate." His body is shaking now, not from fear, but from his frustration. He wants so desperately to lash out at me, I can feel it. Sadly, he regains control and calms himself. I had hoped for an excuse to make him cry out in pain. There is still time for that, though. "Tell me, how did such pathetic creatures manage to hurt you?"
I hear a faint growl resonating through his chest. "It wasn't the civilians who hurt me," he spat. "Another one of the soldiers threw me into a concrete building. One of the broken support beams cut my leg and the impact cracked some ribs. They are minor injuries, Lord Frieza."
"Indeed." I narrow my eyes as I turn again to the open doors, expecting the other soldiers from the mission to make an appearance. None do. "What happened to the other soldiers in your squadron?"
Vegeta chuckles until he starts coughing. I patiently await his answer. I am eager to hear it. He glances over his shoulder where the smoke is clearing in the corridor. "I killed them."
My first instinct is to praise him. That is exactly what I want him to do! Kill, ruthlessly and without regret. However, I cannot praise him for killing my soldiers, unworthy of my service as they may have been. I will not let my prince's bloated ego get out of control. If he knows I approve of him killing anyone he wants, he will have no discretion and will end up killing everyone weaker than himself. That is not what I want from him, not yet. "Why did you kill them?"
He looked up at me incredulously before he masked his face with stoicism. So he was learning that showing his feelings was dangerous, good. Showing nothing, not even anger, was the best defense against all enemies. "They attacked my honor, Lord Frieza."
I cluck my tongue. "What honor, monkey?"
He has no answer. He can only shrug as he turns his eyes to the floor in shame. I am sorry, my pet, that I have to do this to you. But you will not be coddled. That will not make you into the killer that I want you to be. "Go back to the medical bay for treatment," I order him. "When you are healed you may return to your quarters. I will have food delivered to you."
"Thank you, Lord Frieza." He stands and leaves, trying his hardest to hide his limp. Drops of blood mark his path. I grin and turn my throne to see out the window, overlooking my vast empire. He has made me proud this day. I caught a quiver in his tone as he told me his purge mission was completed. He is unsure about killing people. Take heart, my prince, for you will soon learn to cast aside your conscience and condemn your soul to hell. Killing will be your second nature and you will take pleasure in it, as I do.
What is this yearning I see in your eyes, my pet? Why do you sigh longingly as you look out the window of the ship? Why have you lost interest in training, in fighting, in battle? I hate to think what could be causing you this distress. I believe I know what it is, but I don't want to believe it. Are you so ungrateful for what I do for you? Would you really turn back? It hurts me, little one, that you should wish to return to your home planet, to your foolish parents, and the saiyan ranks who bow down before you, a child. They are weak. They are scum. You are different than them, Vegeta. Don't you see that? You don't belong with them. You never did. You belong with me. You are mine.
I watch as his shoulders droop and his tail loosens around his waist until it falls limp between his legs. I admire the light shimmering on the silky brown fur. Saiyans are overgrown monkeys, but they are a fascinating species. Who could imagine that that tail, that silly extra appendage was the source of their true power? It would be laughable if I hadn't seen the changes that saiyans undergo under a full moon. Has my pet ever had the opportunity to transform into that ape beast? Has he ever felt the primal power coursing through him? Have those onyx eyes ever reflected the silver orb of a full moon? Could my beautiful little prince ever transform into such a hideous creature? A ridiculous question. Of course he could. His body probably anticipates its first transformation. He will be wild, free, uncontrollable. Is that so different than he is at this moment, even when he stands so still, when he seems so placid? Vegeta will never be tamed, in this form or the other. That is why I chose him.
I set aside these thoughts and walk up behind him. I stand so close I can feel the warmth from his body. Opposites, yet the same. He is like a blaze of fire, and I am a bitter chill. We are complements. My name freezes the hearts of my enemies, he sends them to burn in hell. Complements, yet always in opposition. He hates me. I can see it in his eyes, I hear it in the way he speaks to me. Do you care that you hurt me, child? I will not let him see what he does to me. I know by the tensing of his shoulders that he knows I am behind him. Did he see my reflection in the glass? Does he feel my presence?
"Would you like to see Vegeta-sei, my pet?"
He turns to me, lips slightly parted, eyes marginally wider than normal. He is bursting at the seams with excitement, yet he hides it well. A few more years and perhaps even I will not be able to read him. I am proud of the progress he has made since I first laid eyes on him. Soon his expression will be a stony mask, emotionless. I reach out to him and frown when he flinches away from me. Oh, Vegeta, do you think I mean to harm you? Is it because this is the same hand that has disciplined you in the past? It is good that you fear me, I know, but I still wish that it were possible for you to love me in the way I love you.
"I will arrive there in three days. Perhaps if you are punctual in finishing your next purge you will be able to see it again before I am through with my business there."
He cannot stop the upward turn of his lips. He is happy, elated. "Thank you, Lord Frieza."
I huff. "I do not go there for your sake, Vegeta. I have business to discuss." His smile falters. I turn on my heel and cross my arms behind my back. "Go train. I do not want to see you wasting time again before your departure." I hear him murmur his apology as I walk away from him. It is better for him not to know that I am finished with the saiyans. They have become too rebellious for my taste. Even after the death of their beloved king three years earlier they continued to strain against my hand of oppression, still hoping their prince will rise up as a savior to free them and take the throne in his father's stead to lead them. Fools. It is time to put an end to their rebellion and use them as an example to any other of my subjects who dare entertain the idea of betraying our alliance.
I turn my throne to see the ruby red planet shining brilliantly in the dark vacuum of space. Vegeta-sei truly is a jewel of the galaxy; its inhabitants are hardly worthy of its splendor. I hear the doors to my throne room opening with a metallic groan, then the swift footfalls of Zarbon as he approaches my throne. "What is it, Zarbon?"
"Vegeta has finished his purge and is awaiting further orders, my lord."
Finished already, my pet? It is as if you can foresee the fate of your kingdom and hurry to see it one last time before I crush it. Do you know that your father is dead, that I killed him shortly after he turned you over to me when he tried to steal you away? I had thought I kept it a well-hidden secret, but so often you have proved yourself to have a sharp mind. Your piercing black eyes, I sometimes believe, see more than what is in front of you, as if you have the ability to discern lies and half-truths with a wisdom beyond your years. I shrug when I see Zarbon is still waiting expectantly for a reply. "No orders. He will remain there until I am through with this bit of 'business.'"
"Yes, Lord Frieza."
As I look down at the planet, I see a ragtag army of saiyans gathering below, preparing one last attack to go down in a blaze of glory. Foolish, really, but they are a prideful race. That pride that I hate so much in a people is what I love so much in a young boy; I am not blind to the irony. I want this race to bend to my will, but I hope that the boy will never break. Men from my ship started resisting their attack in a pointless battle that was already over, really.
"There's no need to chase after the bee anymore. I've decided to go straight for the hive."
Waving off Zarbon's question, I guide my throne out to the corridor and head for the top hatch of the ship. I am no longer willing to turn a blind eye to the saiyans and their individual insurrections against my authority. They have been a useful weapon for my empire for decades, but the time has come for an upgrade, but first I have to rid myself of the old. As the hatch of my ship opens I can hear the din of battle more clearly; it plays like music to my ears. How I love the song of mayhem and death. I raise my throne to a high vantage point over the doomed planet. Both armies are stretched out before me, turning in fear when they sense my illustrious presence.
One saiyan with wild hair splaying in every which direction is at the forefront. I laugh as he gathers the last reserves of his energy and hurls it at me. Before it can even hit its target, I start forming my Supernova attack, a brilliant technique that I have used to destroy countless planets before this one. I laugh, tossing my ki with ease directly at the center of the planet, watching with glee as its power envelops all the warriors in its wake until it crashes into the crimson sphere and shatters it in a blinding explosion. The brilliant display fades slowly until only darkness exists where once there was a thriving empire. All the saiyans are gone now save one: their savior, my slave. I know this news will be crushing, but I have faith that he will not break. I would not have chosen him were this enough to undo him.
He strides toward me with his chin held high, defiant and proud as the day I first laid eyes on him. All that has changed are his eyes. His eyes, so enthralling, are no longer filled with childish innocence and laced with fear. I see only pain and determination swirling in those endless black depths – and hatred. How he hates me! No matter the excuses that were offered, he knows it was I who took from him all he had. His kingdom is ash drifting in space because of me. He has nowhere to go but to me, and he hates it. I mold my expression into one as sympathetic as I can muster despite my joy.
"I am truly sorry for your loss, little prince," I say.
He sniffs – disdainfully – and kneels as he reaches my throne. "It is no matter."
So callous! So marvelous! My lips turn up in a grin and I see his hackles rising with them. I am so pleased I decide to even let slip his failure to address me with proper respect. "Report."
Vegeta's hands tighten into fists. I hear no tremor in his voice as he says, "Life has been cleared from the planet as you wished, my lord. It is ready for sale."
I am delighted, but I show no such affect. Instead, I nod once, satisfied with his completed mission. This time when he looks at me, bravely meeting my gaze, I see a familiar darkness in his eyes; not the color, but the darkness of his soul creeping beneath the surface. I dismiss him and he stands, turning on his heel to leave my presence. As the metal door clangs shut behind him, I break into boisterous laughter. I can sense that he loathes me with every fiber of his being, yet he is the same. Perfection, an exquisite creature indeed.
A/N: I started this months ago, probably over a year actually, and I just now finished it. Well, this part anyway. There's more to come. Anyway, I just wanted to explain the timeline of this since it's perhaps a bit confusing. It starts with Frieza taking Vegeta when he is five years old. Though it is not narrated, Frieza kills King Vegeta at this time, as in canon Vegeta is seen on Frieza's spaceship at the time of his father's death. But, in keeping with Bardock: Father of Goku, Frieza doesn't destroy Vegetasei until Vegeta is older and on a purge mission... I took the liberty of saying three years later, when he is eight.