He danced alone in the rain. Shirtless, his hair in seaweed strands upon his shoulders, he punched the air. Lightning cracked in the ebon sky. He kicked, rolled, jumped, and screamed. The winds blew the trees almost sideways. He was a fool to practice in the storm.
Half an hour later, he came inside, sopping wet. His muscles glistened. His brown, furry tail drooped with water weight, though it hung free. His eyes were wide and raw and grey, with flecks of indigo. Dr. Brief’s fitness tracking device was wrapped around his right wrist. He held a spotless white towel in his hands. There was that same far-gazing look on his face, like he was lost in an ocean of fog.
“You’re a madman, you know that?” Chari would not hide her indignation this time. “What are you trying to prove?” He looked up at her glumly and yawned. “Well?!”
“Ugh, you’re hopeless, Olivien. Go dry yourself off. We’ve got company.”
She stepped aside to reveal Bulla. The young girl was sitting at the dining table, texting rapidly. Her twin shrugged and walked off. “He’s awkward, sorry.”
The rain did not let up. “Well, I’m not in the mood for adventuring out into the storm,” Bulla complained, “so we may as well stay here.”
“I agree. We’ll play some games.” A devious smirk formed on Chari’s lips. “We’ll invite Olivien to play!”
One of the CLEAN-BOT 6000s came strolling by just then. Seven feet in the air, the medium-sized floating sphere sprayed the walls with dust repellent or something like that. “That thing’s a major convenience. It makes living with boys manageable.”
“My grandpa made that robot years ago. I bet I could make you a better one.”
“Aw, that’s so nice of you, Bulla.”
“I didn’t say I was going to do it.”
“Chill out.” A grin was on her mouth now, and she looked just like her father. “I was just kidding. I’ll do it. I will.”
Water droplets pitter-pattered on the kitchen’s ceiling window, but they didn’t mind. Hanging gardens of honeysuckle, lavender, and rose grew overtop the long dining table, and their blended aromas always reminded Chari of her father. It was a pity he wasn’t here.
She cleared their dinner plates from the table and banged on her brother’s door. “Hey Oli! Come and hang out with us!”
He didn’t answer immediately. The door cracked open slowly, and her brother’s gaunt, girlish face greeted her. “Yeah, I’ll be out in a second.”
His cheeks were flushed. She did not wait for him.
They had hot tea, unsweetened, with their games. As Bulla sat bundled up in a blanket, Chari rocked an extra large hoodie with the hood pulled up. She wore fingerless gloves of grey wool. Her nails were polished and painted white – self-done. Oli sat on the other side of the table from them, wearing a black long-sleeved shirt with some colorful patterns on its face, and faded, torn jeans.
The trio played card games and board games and soon Oli was up and reaching for something in a hidden cabinet somewhere in a back corner of the kitchen. Pulling out a bottle of aged vodka, he offered them some.
“Are you crazy, Oli?” He was just fifteen – they were just fifteen. And Bulla… the princess was only thirteen. “None of us should be having any.”
“Dad has m–”
“Don’t bring him into this, you know that’s different! Oli. Seriously.”
“Oli, Oli, Oli,” he mocked in a bored tone, pouring vodka into a shot glass, which he then poured into a red plastic cup already mostly full of soda. “Oli this, Oli that, Oli Oli Oli! You need to lay off me sometimes, Chari. I’m just having a little fun.”
Her cheeks grew hot. “I need to lay off you, do I? Should I just sit back and watch as you drink yourself to death?”
“Now you’re being dramatic,” he replied sullenly, abandoning the shot glass so he could pour the rest of the vodka he wanted into his cup.
“I don’t want to have to take you to the hospital is all.”
He always looked tired. Bulla’s face was buried in her phone. Chari wiped her hands on her apron and cleared the table. They decided to watch a movie, so Bulla and Chari went into the living room. There, they took their seats on the couch, which was wide enough for a dozen people. Chari made sure to close the distance with Bulla, not letting her get too far away. The girl made sure she could keep her eyes on Olivien too; he was drinking from his red plastic cup eagerly.
Bulla was warm. She was wearing a skirt so short, Chari could scarcely breathe. Her fingers were tingling. She hardly knew what was happening to her. Short of breath, her head feeling like it weighed a thousand pounds, the girl remained still. Their legs were touching.
The television strobed light and blasted sound. They watched together. Chari’s hand slid to Bulla’s thigh, rubbing it fleetingly. The blue-haired princess leaned back against the couch, but did not look at Chari. From the kitchen, a crashing sound could be heard. Something had shattered.
“Oli, what are you doing?!”
He was a random boy in that way. Chari was only surprised that his excuse had surprised her at all. “What did you break?”
Leaning forward, the girl got a good look at him in the kitchen, standing behind the island, where he had taken out a variety of ingredients – cheeses and dough and cups and pots and vegetables. He was rolling the dough himself. Her brother was quite the oddity.
“Why are you even doing that?”
He shrugged. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to make homemade pasta.”
Bulla was looking at her. Trunks had once told Chari that his and Bulla’s mother had been a rare beauty in her youth. He’d then gone on to say that his sister was even prettier than their mother had been at her age. Chari couldn’t disagree. It took significant willpower to hold back in that moment.
Smiling, she said, “Like it?”
“Yeah, it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be.”
Chari didn’t remember what they were watching. There was a woman kissing a man on-screen, as music swelled in a passionate crescendo. It looked more like a movie than a TV show to her. There was a dull, pressing feeling in her lower abdomen.
The house was large and spacious – won by her father several years ago. She liked it. It was nice being taken care of, financially-speaking. But there were too many rooms – too many bedrooms especially. This mini-mansion, in the heart of West City, located a short walk from Capsule Corp., was extravagant and gorgeous, but it was so grandiose and empty and lonely too.
Chari’s hand was on Bulla’s thigh, unmoving. Her intent was perhaps unclear to the younger girl; yet, Bulla had not recoiled, nor had she pushed back on any of Chari’s advances. They watched in silence, sipping steaming tea as hover cars zoomed by in the rain outside and willows swayed back and forth beyond the darkness and beyond the windows.
It didn’t take long for Bulla’s hand to find Chari’s underneath the blanket. Her palm was smooth, her grip gentle, but not loose.
The movie was two minutes from conclusion when Olivien sat down next to her, a bowl of tortellini and pesto clasped between his pale, long fingers. “What’s this one about?”
“Shhhh!” Bulla gave Oli a look and a gesture, and there was no more talk for at least an additional ninety seconds.
Immediately after it was over, Bulla said, “Do you think we should go out?”
“No, it’s raining too hard,” Chari said quickly. “We’d get soaked. Besides, Jia’s coming home soon, and I don’t want to worry her if we’re not here.”
“Fine.” Her tone was light – flittery, even. “In that case… can you get that bottle of yours, Olivien?”
“It’s not empty–” Chari began, disbelief thick in her tone.
The boy teleported away in one breath and was sitting down again in the next. The bottle was in one hand; his steaming bowl of food was balanced delicately in the palm of the other. He looked like a monk. All he needed now was a tiger to lean up against. “Here.”
He tossed it to the thirteen year old girl, who caught it with ease. The bottle was indeed empty.
“Olivien!” Her spine was erect. There was heat on her cheeks. Her gasped whisper drew his eyes to her’s, but that bored, lazy face of his never grew concerned. “You didn’t drink the whole bottle, did you?”
“No.” His chopsticks clanked against the bowl.
“It’s an old bottle.”
“So you have multiple bottles.”
“Can we not get into this right now?”
“Alright you two, because this day’s sucked and been super boring, we’re gonna spice things up a bit!” Princess Bulla hopped over to the other side of the living room table (which was essentially a coffee table) and placed the glass bottle on it, lowering the bottle sideways. “Truth or dare.”
For an instant her heart had fluttered at the mad thought that Bulla meant Spin the Bottle instead.
“Yeah, sounds like fun.”
The first spin landed on Chari.
“Truth or dare?”
“Alright… I’ve got one for you!” Bulla bowed her head excitedly; there was a glimmer in her blue eyes. “Tell us your number one crush at school!”
“I don’t have any.”
Her brother rolled his eyes. “Oh come on, Chari.”
Scoffing, she turned to him. “Really? You don’t believe me?” He didn’t answer. “How’d your pasta turn out, dude?”
“You’re hopeless, you know that? Absolutely hopeless!”
“Stop deflecting,” Bulla interjected. “I want to know.”
“Okay, okay. There’s this boy… Billy Shears, yeah. He’s in trig with me. We, uh, sit next to each other.” She glared her brother down. “He’s not so bad.”
Bulla giggled, covering her mouth with a long black sleeve. “Have you two gone on a date yet?”
“No!” Her reaction was so guttural, she could hardly hide her disgust. “I mean – it hasn’t gone that far yet. I’m taking things slowly for now, you know? I don’t know if I want to be his girlfriend or not.”
The bottle spun again and landed on Chari for the second time in as many turns. “Truth or dare?” It was her brother asking.
She didn’t know which she feared from him more. He was acting more sober than he actually was, and she wondered if this was a ruse, or sign of a high tolerance. She didn’t want to risk anything too humiliating, so Chari replied, “Truth.”
His bowl was empty upon the table. She poured them each another cup of tea. The scent of honeysuckle was yet in the air, sweet upon her lips.
“How many guys’ve you sucked off?”
“Oli!” Her teeth bared, she barely felt the blush come on. “Check yourself.”
“You said ‘Truth!’ If you won’t answer, then it’s a dare.”
The rules of the game were sacred. She would never deny that fact. Bulla was on Olivien’s side. “Four.”
“Four?!” Bulla covered her mouth again as the humor made her convulse like a sick child.
He was eyeing her comfortably. He seemed entirely unconvinced. “Really?”
“I’m not lying.”
The next spin landed on Chari’s twin. “Truth or dare?”
Chari bit her lip in annoyance. “A dare. Really, Oli? This early in the game?”
“I’m not going to be stupid about it. I know what you know about me. Don’t need you telling her about that stuff.”
“In that case, why don’t you take a little stroll out in the rain? You have to stay outside for at least ten minutes. I hope you don’t mind, it can get a bit wet this time of night.”
“Chari, come on, that’s a–”
“Truth or dare, dude.”
The boy stared at the nearest sliding glass window. Misery loomed in those grey eyes of his. He knew the cold that awaited him.
He stood and sighed and ruffled up his hair. “Well, I guess you won this round, sister!” he said in mock congratulations, bowing excessively and regally, and putting on a bit of a posh accent. He did not wait for her to reply. The boy flew to the sliding glass window, wrenched it open, and was lost in the howling dark.
“Well, I guess it’s a bit hard to play this with only two people,” Chari laughed nervously.
“Yeah, but he’ll be back, right?”
“Maybe. Oli’s a bit odd like that.”
Her sleeve was to her mouth again. “I think he’s alright.”
“Do you? Do you like him? Like, like like him?
“O-oh.” Bulla’s cheeks faded to fuchsia. “I mean… no. I don’t. I mean, Oli’s my friend and all, but I never thought of him like that.”
“I mean… he’s not really my type is all. He’s not especially my type.”
Chari spun the bottle half-seriously. When it landed on Bulla, the pure-blood Saiyan announced in a faux-authoritative tone, “Alright, Princess. Truth or dare?”
“What kind of dude is your type?”
“What are you on about, Chari? I guess I do deserve it though…”
“Yeah you do. You made me talk about Billy!”
“Yeah, sorry. I didn’t think you’d freak out about it so much.”
“I didn’t think you would.”
Her smile was like spilt roses. “Hey, did your brother leave any of that vodka?”
“I could reeeeeeeeally do with a buzz right about now.”
Chari sat up. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Yeah. I’ve done it loads before. It’s fine.”
It was her turn to rise from the couch. “Yeah, sure, I’ll go get some.”
She knew where Olivien hid the good stuff. Sometimes she had some too. Usually on shitty days. But there hadn’t been many of those in a long time. His keys and phone were on the counter. Oli must have forgotten them.
She went to the bathroom before returning, locking the door behind her. Before she sat down, Chari brushed her fingers across herself to see how wet she was. It was a lot – more than she was used to. It felt right, she thought. This was right.
The storm was beating down upon the mansion with a thrumming spirit. “Has he returned?”
“Nope.” She was buried in her phone again.
“I should probably go find him.”
“Now? In the pouring rain?”
“He’s drunk. He could be lost and confused. I can sense him, it’s fine. It shouldn’t take long.”
The front door unlocked, and in came Jia, her overcoat dripping with rainwater. She stepped inside briskly and locked the door behind her. “Hello.”
“Hello,” they replied.
“Are you staying the night, Princess?” Jia asked with grace. Her coat was already on the rack. She was their chief servant, paid well and taken care of by Chari’s father. She was always so polite. “It’d be good to have you.”
“I… yeah, if it’s okay, yeah. I’ll let my mom know.”
“Of course! You know you can always stay over whenever you’d like, Bulla. Have you two had dinner yet?”
“Um, we ate a few hours ago. Chari cooked dinner!” Her tone was cheerful. “We’re probably just going to have a snack.”
“Okay.” Jia set her purse on the counter. Chari edged out of the living room, setting the bottle of vodka down behind the door, so the caretaker couldn’t see. She wouldn’t approve. It’s not like she could exactly do anything, but she’d tell Father, and Father’d raise a ruckus about it, and that would just be unpleasant on the whole. “Where’s Olivien? Is he here?”
“He was. He left, though.”
“These are his keys? And his phone? Where did he go?”
She didn’t want to explain. “I’ll find him. Don’t worry. You should get to bed, Jia. You look very tired.”
“I know,” the woman replied, stifling a yawn. “Well, if you two don’t need me, I guess I’ll be off. Good night Lady Chari. And goodnight Princess Bulla.”
The servant woman was off, and after her door shut the final time, it was just the two of them again.
“Are you going to get Oli?”
“Not yet,” Chari admitted. “You know, you’re right. If he’s not coming back, it’s because he chose not to. I shouldn’t be so worried all the time.”
“No, it’s cute that you’re so worried about your brother. But I’m sure he’s fine. He’s just a little strange.”
“Not your type, huh?” Chari smiled, sitting comfortably next to Bulla, quite close. She poured them each a drink, mixing the alcohol with soda and ice. “You haven’t told me a truth, Bulla. Am I going to get one?”
“Alright, alright. You don’t have to be so nosy, though.”
“Rules of the game, girl.”
Sitting back and drinking was the best. The fire coursed through her veins, and she felt suddenly alive and happy and lightheaded. It was an extraordinary feeling. Bulla was pink-faced as she sipped her drink. She never complained about the taste.
“What’s your deepest, darkest fear?” Chari asked her at last. They were both getting drunk by then.
“It’s my turn to ask you a question.”
“Same question you asked me.”
The storm had died, and the crickets were returning to their music. A strand of moonlight was peeking between holes in the cloudscape to illuminate a spot on the sliding glass window.
“That I’ll disappoint my father.”
Silence filled the living room, and they drank again and again. “I guess that’s mine too, or more or less the same. I have more pressure to follow my mother’s brilliant life than my father’s, I suppose.”
Chari sympathized. “It’s not fair. You have to live your own life. No one can expect you to be your parents’ clone.”
“That’s how you think of it, Chari?”
“Well… I dunno. I just want to do something with my life that’ll make my dad proud of me. I just don’t know what that is yet.”
“What about your cooking? And your dancing?”
“Those aren’t careers.”
“They could be.”
“I guess.” She poured them each another round. “How are you feeling? Can you keep going?”
The walls were gorgeous. The house was so clean and spacious. Flowers and houseplants graced every room and there were hanging paintings of exquisite taste and fine imported rugs thrust over every dark wood floor. A cleaner bot patrolled seven feet in the air, looking for anything to clean or water.
Bulla hiccuped and returned with it in her hand, teleporting around as freely as Olivien had. “I’m gonna… I’m gonna make thhhhhhhhhhhis one better, okay?!”
“Yeaaaah, it’ll only take a little bit.” She threw it at the wall, shattering the robot and causing a painting of some light blue and dark grey and black pattern fall to the ground, its cover falling away in a thousand pieces.
The next thing Chari remembered, she was standing with Bulla in the backyard. They were both throwing up into the grass. It was raining again, lightly at first, but they were so drunk that they stayed out until it started to pour. At that point, Chari, who had a little sense left, grabbed Bulla and ran for her father’s gravity training unit, which was parked up against the house. A quick swipe of her hand unlocked the ramp, and she flew inside, Bulla snuggling drowsily in her arms.
“Welcome, Master Ledas. Shall I begin with the regular training exercises?”
This was the new AI Dr. Brief had installed three months ago. He went by the name Theodosius (her dad called him Theo), and he was quite the queer construct. “No,” Chari told him. “It’s me, Chari. Power down completely. I need bots to dry us off, and a bed for two.”
“As you command, my lady.”
The bed popped out of a wall. Smaller worker bots shot out of slits in the walls, carrying towels and readying their blow dryer ports. It took no more than three minutes for the girls to be completely dried off. At that point, Chari carried Bulla over to the bed.
“Heeeeaaayayayay… we should spar, y’know?” Bulla was saying wildly, her arms swinging about. Clearly she had lied about being experienced with liquor. Chari should not have allowed her to have had so much. “Less see who’s stronger!!”
“You just lay there and don’t move, okay love?”
“Shut up!” Bulla swung a wild fist that connected with Chari’s nose. The older girl fell onto the bed, holding her nose as blood rushed from the wound down her fingers. Bulla was passed out already. She rolled off the bed, looking for tissue paper, or some napkins at least. There was nothing in sight.
The entrance to the pod opened. There stood Olivien, her younger brother by about a minute. His hair and shoulders were wet, but not that much. Someone had drawn a colorful pattern on one of his cheeks. He approached her suddenly in the blink of an eye, moving with inhuman speed.
“Tissue paper and bandages, Theodosius,” Oli said in a commanding voice.
“I live to serve, Master Olivien.”
Bots descended from the ceiling with just the supplies her brother needed.
“Are you drunk?”
She nodded, lurching back and forth woozily.
“You’ll need her to drink some water. You too. That’s if you don’t want to get a hangover tomorrow.”
“Theodosius, prepare a glass of water for Chari and Bulla.”
“At once, Master Olivien.”
“Chari will let you know when she wants them.”
He dabbed the blood from her face with the wetness from his hair, and before long, she looked mostly like new. Her nose was still a bit messed up. It had been broken, she knew. Broken and battered, but not destroyed. Bulla would owe her big time for this.
His touch was mild, but loving. Olivien wrapped the bandage around her nose, holding it in place, but not preventing her from breathing. He tied it off on the nape of her neck and applied some kind of ointment to the insides of her nostrils that burned for just a moment. It all took the blink of an eye.
Incinerating the dirty tissue paper with a ki blast, her brother stood. “What are you two doing out here anyways?”
“I don’t know!” she guffawed loudly, nearly falling over. He held her up with a sudden move forward.
“You shouldn’t have had so much,” he murmured in her ear.
“Your lips smell like Acqua di Giò,” she replied in a near trance. Sleep was fast approaching. “You don’t have any Acqua di Giò… Whose did you steal…?”
“Don’t do anything stupid.” His voice sounded like it was coming from a hundred feet away.
“I-I-I… I won’t…” He fell to a chair, his sister in his arms. “Mmmm… you smell so good…” she muttered drunkenly. “Acqua… di…”
“We’re both messed up,” Oli replied solemnly, his nose against her scalp. “That’s how I know we’re twins. We’re both messed up in the same way.”
“What’re you talking about…?”
“You know what I’m talking about. Don’t do anything stupid.”
She didn’t remember being carried to the bed. When he set her down, she felt as if she were falling eternally, jerking suddenly against the bed sheets.
“Watch them, Theodosius. Make sure they don’t choke on their own vomit or anything like that. I’m not entirely sure how much they’ve had to drink. If either of their conditions get serious, do something.”
“It already appears that they have consumed an excess amount of alcohol, Master Olivien.”
“Yeah, well, they’re your problem now.”
He shut the door gently when he left. Theodosius dimmed the lights. Her head was pounding. The room was swirling. There were little tables next to either side of the bed. Glasses of water sat atop them. How those got there, she did not know. She knew she had to sip. So she did. Bulla was groaning on the other side of the bed. Fumbling for the glass of water (and spilling a moderate amount of it everywhere), Chari reached over, sat her friend up, and made sure Bulla drank a good deal of water before letting her lie down again.
“Power down, Theodosius.”
“As requested, Lady Chari. I will remain in standby mode, only monitoring your vital signs. I will not resume total functionality unless ordered, or unless there any severe changes to my lady or her companion’s vital signs.”
The lights dimmed further. Breathing hard, Chari slid into bed. She missed this place, in a way. It had been a while since she’d last trained. She missed it.
Bulla was snoring softly next to her. The Princess’s little heart was pounding. At once, primal urges silenced all other thoughts and feelings. She was drunk; she was a slave to passion. Chari rubbed Bulla’s shoulder, then her back, then her stomach. Her hand rubbed down until she felt hair sprouting below Bulla’s belly button.
But it was at that point Chari stopped. She could go no further, though her blood was screaming for more. It wasn’t right. Not like this. She loved Bulla; she wanted Bulla to love her. It would never be. The younger girl liked her, but there were no signs of affection when they hung out. It was entirely a friendship between them, nothing else.
This would be her one good chance. She knew it wasn’t right. She could do it if she wanted to. Feeling herself, Chari was unsurprised at how wet she was. Nothing had even happened yet. Her hand found Bulla’s thigh. Under the covers, her skirt felt even shorter. Bulla’s skin was smooth and warm and it felt good to crawl up against her as the room swayed back and forth.
Bulla’s scent was all flowers and linen, clean and girlish and completely unique. Chari sighed against the younger girl’s neck.
Her hands moved on their own, first to Bulla’s breast, giving the left one a nice squeeze, then to her stomach, and then lower. Her one hand was on Bulla, the other in her pants. It was now or never. She could lift up Bulla’s skirt and go further, or…
Lightning flashed outside. The rain was so unbearably loud until it wasn’t.
The ground was sodden, muddy leaves defiling the path. The trail went from her dad’s house to Capsule Corp., cutting through an untamed park in central West City. Her head throbbed; she didn’t entirely know where her feet were taking her.
All of the trees had lost their leaves; a bluebird was perched on a nearby branch. It cried out twice before alighting and diving for a worm wriggling amongst dead leaves. There were coyote tracks along the trail. The sky was the color of mid-Atlantic fog.
Ponds were scattered across the landscape on either side of the road, where bugs and frogs and disgusting, slithering things lurked. There were lilies in the one to her left. One such lily, molted and dried out, had washed ashore on the marshy, salty spiked-grass. It had had a flower on it – pale white with just a touch of the most delicate pink. It was too far away for her to reach without getting a bit muddy, so she left it.
A bearded, well-dressed man sat on a stump, ripping out papers from his briefcase and turning them to ash with his lighter. The park was empty – the playground was rain-soaked and dreary. Derelict swings creaked and swung slowly, like broken pendulums.
She counted her steps for a while, thinking of Billy Shears. She could’ve used some unsweetened tea right about then.
It was the same tired old path she’d been taking to Bulla’s house for nearly a decade. Every step of this journey was familiar.
“Hey Chari,” Bulma smiled. “Uh… where’s Bulla? Did she come back with you?”
Chari had not woken up next to Bulla. She thought her friend had returned home. “She’s still at my place.”
“Oh I see, so what’s up?”
Rubbing her eyes, Chari began, “So, it’s totally fine if you’re too busy or anything, but uh, I kinda need a new set of armor. My last one was… how should I put it… um, made for a smaller girl.”
“Oh, of course, Chari. I’ll get right on it. You can count on me! Did you want yours to be the same model Vegeta trains in?”
“That would be lovely.”
“Any color preferences?”
“I haven’t thought about that. Um… black and white is fine, unless you can think of anything more stylish.”
Bulma bit her lip. “Mhm, I’ll see what I can do.”
Embarrassment made her turn back. “I… sorry, Bulma. I-I shouldn’t have asked you to do that for me. You’re not my maid or–”
“Hey, don’t worry about it kiddo. Really, it’s no sweat. And besides, it’s really great that you want to start training again. What’s gotten you motivated?”
Chari’s ears felt like they were being ravaged by fevers. “Yeah, she suggested we start sparring together. I guess she has a lot more practice, though. I haven’t trained since I was a little girl.”
Bulma was shaking her head. “No, no, no. That’s not Bulla! You should’ve seen how hard Vegeta tried to get her to train with him. He even offered to buy her a toy if she sparred with him, but she always refused. The only thing she’s been doing recently is helping me try to reboot these dormant androids I found in Dr. Gero’s lab. She hasn’t been sparring. My little baby doesn’t even have a set of training armor!”
Her index fingers were poking against one another nervously. “Oh, well, if she doesn’t have any armor… could you make Bulla a set too? Please, Bulma?”
“You got it, kiddo.”
She felt bad not staying longer. The man was gone from the stump on the way back. Her head was feeling better now, but even so, she felt like she was a little bit out of it, and it had been like that ever since she had woken up.
A plane was toiling through the grey expanse overhead. Water dripped from everything. Mosquitoes buzzed near pools of water in the path. She thought she saw a blur of black out of the corner of her eye. Chari froze. For a few moments, only the sounds of bugs and the wind held the world’s attention.
A squirrel flung itself from a tree behind her, flopping onto the ground and slipping in the mud as it attempted to flee some unknown horror.
Something rustled in the bushes to her left. She was in the air, arriving home only a few seconds later. It was cold enough outside to burn her cheeks. Inside, she found Bulla at the dining room table, a box of tools beside her. The blue-haired girl was working on the broken cleaner bot. The crater in the wall was still there.
“Are Jia and Oli around?”
“Just wondering.” Chari took a seat with an unseemly sigh. “So… how are you fixing our cleaning robot thing?”
“Its hardware is pretty good. I’m just updating its patrol patterns so it’ll be more efficient in its duties.”
“You don’t have to do that, Bulla.”
“No, it’s fine. I like this kind of stuff anyways.”
Sitting wasn’t working. This house was so empty; her feelings were as distant and Brobdingnagian as the sky – she had nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. She poured herself another glass of water. Oli hadn’t taken his phone and keys off the counter for some reason.
“We should spar, Bulla,” Chari finally said. “At least once. I think it would be fun. We haven’t fought since we were little girls!”
“You brought it up last night.”
“I did?” Genuine puzzlement colored her face.
“You don’t remember?”
Sparks took flight from the pile of metal before her. “Nope.”
“Well, I asked your mother to make us both a set of training armor, and she agreed to do it. So… when the armor’s ready, we can fight. Just you and me.”
“You did… what…?” Bulla looked up for the first time and noticed Chari’s face. “Whoa… Chari! What happened to your nose?”
“You’re stronger than you look, Princess. And you’re sneaky as hell when you’re drunk. I’ve got to keep that in mind next time. You got me with a left hook that came out of nowhere when I was trying to put you to bed.”
“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. Chari, I am!” There were tears brimming in her eyes. “I-is it broken?”
Chari shrugged. “It feels okay. But there was blood everywhere.”
Sparks flew, and they were talking, just two friends. It was natural; it was beautiful; it was stark. Their conversation was all fluff, and yet it meant more to Chari than anything. “When your mom finishes with our armor, we’ll go. You. Me. My father’s gravity pod.”
“Chari, you’re acting weird!” The blue-haired girl was half-buried in the bot’s innards again. “I’ve never even trained before.”
“Me either… well, I haven’t trained in a long time. Not since I was a little girl.” Her cup was empty. Walking over to Bulla, Chari paused behind the girl, her hands moving to Bulla’s shoulders. The Saiyan girl massaged her friend’s shoulders gently. Bulla didn’t say a word about it. “You and I used to spar when we were really little. Don’t you remember?” Her lips were pressed against Bulla’s scalp.
“I don’t.” Bulla sounded shocked at her own poor memory.
“Well, then it’s a date, Bulla. We’re gonna spar for the first time in your memory. How’s that sound?”
“Nng… just… if you’re way stronger than me… please don’t burn off all my hair.”
“I’ll make sure I’m careful,” Chari promised. “But your nose is looking a little too straight for my liking.”
“Oh, Chari, please no! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it! I’ll make it up to you! Just don’t mess up my face! I absolutely cannot deal with scars or facial asymmetry!”
“Don’t worry about anything, Bulla. I bet you’re stronger than me anyways.” Her nose was burning and raw, but she nuzzled it against Bulla’s head all the same.
“Your maid’s gonna be pretty mad when she sees the wall,” Bulla muttered suddenly.
“Yeah, well, when she finds it, I’ll just tell her who really messed it up.”
Shocked, Bulla looked up. “No! Please, Chari, you can’t! I don’t even remember throwing it! I was blacked out!”
Maybe that was true. Her heart beat lightly. “You owe me. You owe me big.”
Chari couldn’t help but beam. “Alright, well, I’ve got to pick up some stuff before my dad gets home. I’ll be gone for a few hours. You can stay here, or come with me, or go home. It’s all fine with me. Jia should be around, I think, if you need anything.”
“Yeah, I think I’ll go. I’ve got some homework to finish up… and an android lockdown code to crack!”
“Oh, okay. Well, see ya then.” Chari waved. Bulla returned the gesture.
“Just so you know, I’m taking the CLEAN-BOT 6000,” she nodded to the bundle of metal in her arms. “I’m not done with him yet.”
“You’re nearly there,” Chari observed.
“Thanks. Bye.” She exited through the sliding glass window, intending to take the same trail back home that Chari had traversed earlier. Sometimes that way was better. It was debatable at best as to if that way was faster than taking the streets back to Capsule Corp. But there were never as many people on the way through the park, and sometimes that was enough of a reason.
A sudden wave of energy came upon her. She marched over to the cabinet Oli hid all his liquor in. Opening it, she moved the old blender out of the way. Back in the corner, behind a frappuccino maker, was where the boy liked to hide his booze. It wasn’t there anymore. The imprints in the boards were still there, as were the dust lines. He had just moved the bottles.
“Nice one, Oli,” she whispered to herself, slamming the cabinet door closed in disgust. “I never should have let myself give in.”
He was in his boxers and socks (one with a black toeline, the other with a grey toeline) and seemed more than a little drowsy. “I thought you had to leave,” Olivien yawned.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be going soon.”
“What were you talking to yourself about?”
He didn’t smile, but he didn’t need to. She could feel his glee in the air. As it was, her twin was standing at the fridge, scratching his stomach. He had a six-pack and some semi-defined muscles. But that was because Oli trained, and she didn’t. She was a little jealous of him, she supposed, but not enough to want to train everyday – even in the rain! – just to look like that. She didn’t find him particularly attractive to begin with. He was lanky and round-faced with large eyes and a little button nose. He looked like a nerd. His long, spiky hair was disheveled and there was a sleep crease on his right cheek. His tail was dragging on the ground.
“What happened to you?”
“Didn’t drink enough water,” he said simply.
“Where did you go last night?”
The little hand-painted design was faded from his cheekbone. “You should just tell her how you feel.” He shut the fridge door, a bottle of mango and pineapple juice in one hand. “It will hurt a lot more if you keep it buried inside. You gotta tell her. She deserves to know. And you deserve to know the answer.”
She didn’t know how to respond to that. She wanted to yell at him or slap him or turn back time. It was supremely embarrassing what he was suggesting she felt towards Bulla, however true it might be. She wasn’t able to talk about her feelings openly like that. And he was one to talk. He had more secrets than everyone else in this house combined. But Chari didn’t want to go there.
She watched her brother slink off back to his room. She missed when they had been closer. That had been years ago, almost beyond the reach of memory. Now they hardly tolerated one another. It wasn’t as bad as it could be… but it wasn’t as good as it had been.
Looking out the window, Chari shivered. She wasn’t cold, but she could empathize. All the trees’ beauty had faded with their leaves. She knew Bulla was not like her. Bulla did not like her. She couldn’t, she wouldn’t, and nothing could change that.
Dim red lights, creaking metal, two girls breathing erratically – this was almost how Chari had envisioned it.
Her’s was white and black, with red straps and laces. Sweat trickled to the floor. Chari blinked her hair out of her eyes. Bulla’s was crimson with yellow straps and black laces. Chari thought hers was prettier.
The second kick was easier to dodge than the first. Bulla was bullish, willing to take chances. Chari caught Bulla’s fist, flipped over her, and pinned the younger girl to the floor. In one fluid motion, Chari had disarmed her opponent.
The explosion that followed burned yellow in Chari’s retinas.
“What the heck, Bulla?! We agreed there’d be no energy attacks!”
“You hurt my shoulder!” the girl retorted fiercely. She was rubbing her wounded appendage. “What am I supposed to do, just take it?”
“You should’ve tapped out.”
“Not a chance, Chari!”
She was in Chari’s face in a blue blur. Her punches were wild and sloppy, but in their unexpectedness there was cunning, and so Chari was hit and hurt and forced to back away. Chari had to admit that Bulla was stronger than she had expected.
“Come on, Chari, she’s two years younger than you!” Olivien complained. “You’re disgracing our family in a big spot, sis.”
“Shut it!” She hadn’t wanted to bring him. Bulla had demanded a referee.
“Ding ding ding,” her brother’s careless voice droned. “Round two.”
They were on one another like Yim Yim’s pet rascals in mating season. Punches, kicks, slaps, headbutts, and shoves were traded in close quarters as the two girls decimated one another. This was like when two Yetis will fight over a frozen human ‘splorer in the Alps, or better yet, the Himalayas. However, Chari trims her pubic hair, which must be said, but she does not go full shaven, which is a shame. She has a lot to learn from her brother.
Chari ducked low, spinning her legs in an attempt to trip Bulla. Bulla jumped away just as Chari teleported forward, catching Bulla by surprise. The younger girl tried to kick Chari away, but Chari merely shifted her weight to avoid the half-hearted blow.
She saw her chance. Drops flew from her jaw. She was in the air, launching herself at Bulla’s nose. It was over before the princess realized what was coming. She flew into the far wall, spinning end over end, before careening into a rack of weights.
Oli began the count. He got to seven before Bulla stood. A chunk of her armor on the left side had been chipped off. There was blood leaking down her left nostril. “I thought we agreed… don’t attack my face!!”
Her cheeks were rosy-pink. The ire in her eyes went well with the blood leaking down her mouth.
“I told you, you owe me.” Chari wasn’t sure how tight she wanted to walk this line, or if it’d work. But it was worth trying at least. “Now we’re even.”
“No, now you’ve ruined my face! How dare you! You promised me, Chari!”
Bulla teleported away; she was gone like smoke over a prairie. Oli leaned back in his lawn chair, grinning softly and sipping his steaming black pepper tea like a dainty duchess. “Where the fu–”
Like an unfurling sunbeam, the other girl materialized before her. She was a fairy, radiating love and light. Chari’s fists wavered for a moment. The hit that followed left her stunned. Clutching her right ear, which was ringing louder than it ever had, Chari fell to a knee just to be kicked in the chin viciously.
Tasting blood, Chari collapsed to her hands and knees. Spittle trickled from her lips, mingled with blood. She could barely move, barely feel. Everything was ringing and throbbing, and she couldn’t think. And despite all of the pain, that was the best of all. No thoughts. Not one. What a concept.
Bulla’s soliloquy was probably really great. She paced in front of Chari like Maul in front of Obi-Wan after he killed that dude from that one decent movie. Her arms flailed. Her hands made gestures like Mussolini from the balcony. The princess was pissed off. She was having herself a proper tea party.
Chari’s lunge was unexpected in its reach and power. Reckless though it was, Bulla lacked adequate preparation for such a maneuver and took the brunt of it. Chari managed a bone-rattling punch to Bulla’s hip that made the other girl bellow in anguish.
She still tasted blood; sweat fell from her jaw. Oli’s comfort annoyed her so bad, she nearly wanted to punch him.
Bulla slapped Chari across the face, scraping her eyes with her nails. Screaming in pain, Chari fell away, but Bulla did not let up. She kicked Chari across the floor over and over again until Olivien, who was shouting at her to stop, began blowing his whistle. That’s when she calmed, and her bloodlust briefly abated.
He began the count. She could smell Bulla’s cunt. It wasn’t enough. She grit her teeth, tears of determination and pain in her eyes. And when she found her feet, Oli alerted them in blasé spirit that it was round three. Panting, iron yet on her tongue, Chari readied herself for what had suddenly turned into a very serious and very savage affair.
“Give it up, Chari. You’re the granddaughter of a King’s Guard. You’re not royalty like me.”
That’s when the room exploded with color; a burning light spun toward Chari. She didn’t have the reaction time to move out of the way, though she could watch it approach with grim intent.
She never felt it, nor the heat. The energy attack angled off her armor, bounced off the ceiling, and dissipated in midair like dissolving confetti. Bulla’s blast had torn open her armor just below the heart.
“And now my sister’s decided to retire from sparring and become a stripper!” Oli announced mildly. “I always knew she had it in her.”
Bulla looked for a glance, looked away, and stole a second glance. Then she looked away for good.
Chari was on her knees, panting, holding her side. Her fingers were sticky and warm where she touched the wound.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Her brother was on his feet. His grey eyes were wider than usual. His brow was furrowed in concern. “Let’s not get crazy now.”
Chari looked down and noticed the ground was all red. Whose blood was that she was about to wonder, I assure you, but that was when she realized it was her blood. It was a wonderful moment of realization. There was a massive hole in her side where Bulla had hit her. One of her breasts was bare, yeah, but this pure-blood Saiyan was about to bleed out.
Lovely Rita, meter maid.
Lovely Rita, meter maid.
She was on the ground, the ceiling pretending to be her sky. It wasn’t fair that she didn’t get a proper sky.
Bulla stood there like a stick figure, shaking, holding her eyes as they leaked. Gravity was cruel that way.
This wasn’t right. Olivien was standing over her, telling her things that she couldn’t hear. It was suddenly very cold, and she felt very numb, and then immense pain slammed her from the side. Like an avalanche unloaded upon her, it made her scream. Like a burning steel pike puncturing her ribcage, it assured her of her fate.
“Oli… wh-what’s happening…?” she asked. Her tone was very tired; she didn’t know why.
“Chari, we’ve gotta go. She’s nicked you bad. It’s real bad. I’ve gotta take you to Korin. You ready?”
Bulla sounded regretful. She went to speak and choked on blackness. A dark pool was fading in, isolated, cut in a block of slate, stark, bloodless and grey, where every lily pad sunk beneath the surface and never returned.
Later on, as it so happened, both Chari and Bulla agreed to recognize this sparring session as their official first date.