Sacrifice
by Xero Sky     More by this Writer
Rejecting your fate is a privilege of power. Sometimes, however, the price may be too high to pay.

DBZ Vegetasei AU fic.

Art Source :

https://www.pixiv.net/member_illust.php?mode=medium&illust_id=25851248
Graphic Violence Deathfic



Chapter 01
The Prince of Saiyajins watched the sun rise over the capitol of Vegetasei. From his altitude the city sprawled out almost gracefully, spilling over the hills in a faint wash of color. No air traffic was allowed over the city itself (except, of course, for those above such laws) and so the brightly-lit flurry of activity at the distant spaceport did nothing to counteract the illusion of an ancient, peaceful metropolis. Which was bullshit, because at ground level it was a rough mix of arrogance and practicality, of magnificence and ruin and furious activity, much like the young empire he would one day inherit.

As he had many times over the years, he thought about destroying it. It wouldn't take that much effort, really, to stretch out one hand, let the ki gather in his palm, and erase the city of his birth. He smiled bitterly, not even bothering to imagine it this time. When he was younger and angrier, he might have tried it, simply out of rage. Being the prince was a tighter cage than he had ever imagined. Now that he was older and had the actual power required, his pride and his sense of responsibility would never let him do it.

Or maybe he just understood the futility of it all now.

When the sun cleared the horizon, it would usher in his 19th birthday. It was his official coming of age today. Below, the city would be waking up to a day of state-sponsored celebrations; in fact, some sort of observance would be held practically everywhere that saiyajins lived. His staff had been buried under gifts and official congratulations for the last few weeks. There would be tournaments all day, and the palace itself would be open to all saiyajins, with the traditional tables stocked with free food and drink.

There were offerings being made at temples throughout the city right now, he was certain. Precious things would be placed on altars and gathered all day, until the priests began to destroy them as the moon rose. Living sacrifices were forbidden – that filth had been a practice of the tsfurujin, and was beneath saiyajins – but almost anything else, as long as its loss meant something to the worshipper, would be stacked high under statues that were all alike: white skin, golden hair, and green eyes. The Legendary would no doubt be pleased at what they gave today, and bestow his blessing on the prince and the Saiyajin Empire. Maybe he'd even be pleased enough to return to them again.

Vejiita smiled down at his city, hating it and everyone that had ever lived there. He knew for a fact that their prayers would be answered today.

Kakkarot had promised, after all.

The thrice-damned, all-powerful Legendary, bane of Vejiita’s existence, was worshipped like a god by the common folk. There was no shrine inside the palace, but Vejiita had still been forced to stand respectfully through more ceremonies in Kakkarot’s honor than he deigned to count. He’d even been responsible for several changes in the liturgy; careful note had been taken when he scoffed at things that he knew Kakkarot wouldn’t have liked. Kakkarot, in fact, wouldn’t be very happy to find out that he was a god at all, but then religion is for the worshippers, not the worshipped.

There was no reason for him to know any of these things. It wasn’t as if Kakkarot had been with them for long enough for anyone to come to know him. Vejiita had barely even seen him.

Kakkarot had appeared in their skies without warning, burning brighter than the suns, and crushed Furiza just as the icejin was about to end the threat of the future super saiyajins forever. He'd saved them all. It was a perfect victory, violent and glorious; the essence of everything saiyajin. The Legendary had come as foretold. The saiyajin race had gone mad with delight. Then, barely a day later, he had promised them that he would be back someday, and with that, shockingly, he’d disappeared again.

Vejiita had been seven years old. And still he knew Kakkarot better than anyone else could, for no possible reason at all. Somehow the nonsensical nature of his insights made them all the worse. He hadn’t spoken a word to the man, not once during the day or the night or the morning he’d been here with them. He’d been a child; he hadn’t understood then what Kakkarot would mean to him.

He'd spent the next twelve years of his life waiting for today. Twelve years of training, of working himself until the blood ran. Twelve years of perfecting himself, of refusing no challenge, of throwing himself into battle so he could find the edge of death again and again.

He had done all of that in the hope that today he would be able to say "No” when the time came.

All of it had been wasted.

*******

The thought of being hunted down by anyone today, even his own staff, was revolting, and so he didn't make anyone at the palace look for him. By the time the morning sun was in his eyes, he was on his way back. Before more than a few hairs had been ruffled, Vejiita landed on the wide balcony outside his rooms. He grimaced at the scene inside, where the staff was fussing over last minute arrangements for his birthday, yelling at the clumsy or the slow, threatening people over video phones. None of his other birthdays had been anything like this, but this was an occasion of state: the day the heir to the throne legally came of age. The celebrations were less about Vejiita himself than it was about the monarchy, the empire, and the simple fact of being saiyajin. He accepted all of it as yet another of his duties, but he had no enthusiasm for it. The sole consolation was that no one outside his family knew the real significance of the day. His secret had been kept.

The staffers scattered before his scowling face as he moved through the crowd, but none of them gave it a second thought, really. The prince had always been a pain in the ass. Why should he be any different today? Harsh, irritable, and relentless: that was the saiyajin they expected, and that was what they got. No one was surprised when he slammed the door to his private rooms in their faces. Neither were they foolish enough to knock, afterwards. Given the stiffness of his back, the prince was obviously not in a mood to be crossed. There were a few moments of silence in his wake, but the pressures of the day were too great, and the whirlwind slowly resumed.

Vejiita didn't notice; they might have all ceased to exist the moment the door closed on them. He wasn’t in the habit of granting the outside world more than a passing thought once he was in his personal chambers. Besides which, this time there were visitors waiting for him, perhaps twenty of his closest family, all of them already dressed and ready for the day. They had to be here, of course, to attend to him and get him ready. It was traditional, for at least one of the day’s events.

He stood with his head held high, his arms crossed over his broad chest. He'd known there would be no sanctuary for him today, no respite even in the privacy of his rooms.

"It's time," his father said, unnecessarily. An awkward silence filled the room. He knew they meant well. This was a private matter, and they’d been discreet. The royal quarters were all linked, one way or another, with secret passages, and they'd all had the courtesy to gather here unseen by curious eyes. Until the secret no longer mattered, Vejiita intended to keep it close. All of them knew he did not want this; they'd watched him struggle almost his whole life to prevent it. Some understood, and some did not, not really. From love and respect, no one argued with him anymore. No one told him what an honor this was, or that his steely pride was wrong this time. Instead, they prepared to go ahead with their tasks, laying out his clothes and such. Not one of them demeaned him with pity.

Rubbing his hands together, the king set them to work. Vejiita was sent to the private baths, with three of his cousins, who scrubbed him to within an inch of his life. They tried to joke with him, to infect him with their high spirits, but he was unreachable. A glacial calm had descended on him, and he welcomed it. He dried himself off with a burst of ki, an extremely precise display of power. They laughed, calling him a show-off, but he'd only done it to avoid having them towel him dry. He wasn’t in the mood for rough play; if the ice inside him broke, there would be blood, and he had no real desire to hurt them. All four cousins were close in age, and he’d grown up with them, but he was crown prince and they were not, and today that mattered more than it ever had.

Wrapped in a bath sheet, he returned to his rooms. Pausing a moment at the door, he listened to the conversation falter at his appearance and then pick up again. They weren’t denying his mood, just accepting it and moving on, which was oddly comforting.

His clothes had been laid out for him, and he stared at them for a moment before making himself look away. He would be dressed all in shades of blue, of course. It was the color of hope, of the spring sky after a long winter, and of new beginnings. It was traditional for such occasions, for celebrations of the milestones in a saiyajin's life: naming ceremonies, all the different Rites of Battle, comings of age, birthings…

Claimings.

He let them do what they wanted to him. He was a null-spot, a void in the midst of their poorly-restrained excitement. Hands massaged his shoulders, spreading faintly aromatic oil over his skin. He heard his cousins speaking quietly, admiring the scars on his back and chest. He had fought in every conflict available to him, and as the heir, there had been many; he had born the scars like trophies, but they only spoke of futility to him now. His reputation as a ferocious fighter was worthless, and that was all his battles had really earned him.

Never enough. He was stronger now than any other living saiyajin except one, and that one made all the difference, even in his absence.

Vejiita had to force his fists to unclench.

They brushed his hair and tail to a high sheen, and one of his uncles painted thin, black lines around his eyes, a long-time fashion of the saiyajin elite that the prince usually ignored. His father looked at him appraisingly when it was done, then brushed one eyelid with a fingertip, smoothing the dark line. It enhanced his son's darkly handsome features quite a bit, and the king smiled a little wistfully, knowing why Vejiita paid so little attention to his looks.

A thin, acrid smell drew the king's attention, and his smile grew. A wide, shallow bowl had been set on the table, and a mixture of dried, ground seeds and various oils was being ground into a paste. Biting into his thumb with one sharp fang, the elder Vegeta added several drops of his own blood to the bowl, a blessing as old as the reign of kings. These were quickly blended in, and the concoction, now a dull black in color, was brought over to the prince. His father, using a thin stylus, painted the symbol of the royal house on Vejiita's bare chest, a crest about the size of his palm, just below the base of his throat. Vejiita closed his eyes at the cold burn of the paste on his skin. It was less painful than… exhilarating, and he didn't want that emotion now.

The senior ranking members of the family drew closer to him, and passed the bowl around as they carefully painted the paste on his skin. The symbols, invoking power and glory, health and valor, were laced together in a design that circled from his chest across both shoulders and down his back, with a starburst of eight arrows, invoking the blessings of heaven and earth, drawn on his stomach. Bands of ancient text circled his upper arms, proclaiming his royal lineage.

The next step was to let the paste dry, or to dry it with ki-charged palms hovering over his flesh, but Vejiita was repelled by so many hands on him, and once again he used his own ki to finish it all at once. Without missing a beat, his father took up a warm cloth and used it to rub the dried paste away, revealing the stain it had left on his son's skin. The others backed away, giving him space.

"Well done," the king said with genuine pleasure as the design became clear. Vejiita stared at him a moment before looking away. It was easy to forget that his father had been an artist once, before adolescence had sent his power levels soaring and made it clear that he was the prince who would inherit the throne. The tattoos were often his father's favorite part of any ceremony, and almost the only outlet he had left for his talent.

Now the prince was ready for his clothes. They were finely-made, of course, but no less was expected. Hand-woven and hand-dyed, each piece had a very subtle iridescent quality. The colors, all shades of blue, were vivid, in accordance with saiyajin tastes. The loose pants were dark and tucked into even darker boots of blue hide. A sleeveless shirt in a brilliant turquoise blue went halfway to his knees, crossing at the waist, and was held closed by a deep sky-blue sash. Jewelry was briefly debated but judged unnecessary, except for the gold cuffs on his wrists, which had been handed down through his mother's family for generations. Those were included without question; they were almost all he really had left of her.

Finally, they brought him to a mirror, and he saw what they'd made of him.

The dye paste had stained his skin a dark blue. The shirt was cut wide to display the tattoo that now twisted elegantly and boldly across his chest. It would only last a few weeks, but until then, it brought out the fineness of his physique. All that blue complemented his tanned skin.

His face was handsome. His body was strong and fine. His hair and tail gleamed. His power was evident in every line. Vejiita was the perfect image of a warrior prince.

He could see his family in the mirror, could feel their pride in him like a fire at his back. They had kept his secrets, and had supported him in every way.

And yet, they had sold him.

He was the price the Legendary had demanded. He was the prize, the compensation for Furiza's death. Kakkarot had given them their future, in exchange for the rest of Vejiita's life. The prince hadn't understood at first. He'd only been seven years old, and the idea of being chosen by the golden saiyajin had been insanely exciting. Of course, he was the crown prince, and used to being singled out as special, but this… this was the Legendary!

It had taken him some time to realize what he'd been chosen for.

Even at that age, he'd been aware that his mating would be a matter of great importance. He'd vaguely expected to have at least the first of his future consorts chosen for him; that was a matter of breeding, of choosing the most powerful female of the most influential family to continue his bloodline. Beyond that, once he had an heir, he would do... whatever it was that adults did, but politics would still control his choices. That was how it was done, and he didn't question it, or even think about it much. It was all too far into the future for him to worry about, although it seemed endlessly fascinating to the adults.

None of them had really bothered to explain to him what claiming meant, or how that was any different from the matings they so liked to plan for him.

Claimings were rare and the ritual was venerated, held almost as sacred as the idea of the Legendary. There had been no such bonding in the royal house for centuries, but no one could really expect such a thing, not even as a right of kings. It wasn't about heirs or bloodlines; it was a joining of souls, and couldn’t be predicted.

That was what all saiyajins knew.

There were rumors, though, that a saiyajin of sufficient power could claim a weaker saiyajin just by force of will, breaking down the barriers between them. It was unlikely, of course; the claiming saiyajin would have to be immensely strong, with willpower bordering on madness. Still, the rumors persisted… and by the time he reached adolescence, Vejiita knew them to be true. His own family had done it in the far past, forcibly binding other clans to their own with what amounted to rape and slavery on a level far more intimate than the body. Partners claimed in this way were incapable of betraying their new bondmates. Moreover, injury to one brought a weakening of the other, making it impossible to tear them apart.

It was grotesque, and shameful, and it had been forbidden in the royal house for generations now. Still, it was the foundation of their primacy. Later on, their superior genetics and nearly matchless power would be reason enough for the House of Vegeta to rule, but at the beginning their power came from a secret it was forbidden to even speak about.

Vejiita had ferreted this secret out of the royal archives, which he had access to upon turning age ten. Up until that point, he had trained very hard to improve himself, to be worthy of Kakkarot. Afterwards, he understood what was coming, and primed himself relentlessly to fight it.

It was a miserable, humiliating fate for the heir to the throne.

And yet, when Kakkarot had told the King what he wanted from them, they had conceded immediately. Even knowing the Legendary's intentions, they had sworn to give him the prince of Vegetasei.

The Legendary had sworn to return for his prince on the day he came of age.

Twelve years.

No one ever asked for the prince’s consent. Nor had he asked theirs for his harsh, unforgiving struggle to grow strong enough to rebel against his fate.

Today, sometime today, the prayers of Vegetasei would be answered, and Vejiita would lose ownership of his soul.

And yet, looking at his father's face now, seeing love and pride and trepidation, he found it increasingly hard to hate him. What would he have done, if he had been king? If the Legendary, a god in the flesh, the savior of their race, had asked for his son?

He'd known the answer to that, once. Now, fully grown and utterly out of time, he wasn't entirely sure anymore.

*****

Screaming. Wild cheers. Hoarse shouting. The throb and pulse of drums. Huge video screens in the gigantic main square outside the palace showed either the royals lined up on a balcony, enjoying the chaotic spectacle before them, or views of other celebrations across the empire. The royal insignia glowed on every screen. Overhead, banners flew, and fireworks erupted, bright even in the noontime sky.

The gates of the palace were open, soldiers lining the way to the large tables laid out for visitors. Security was tight, and superb discipline kept the palace grounds clear of the general brawl. The buildings in the square still bore the scars of earlier festivities, but damage had been light so far today. The crowd was in a good mood, and the soldiers lining the square, all of them combat veterans, weren't letting them get away with anything at all. Yet they were all still saiyajins, and the crowd pushed forward and was pushed back, fighting and celebrating alternately until no one really knew or cared if there was a difference.

They were celebrating Vejiita's coming of age, but also themselves by extension. The years since Furiza's death had been harsh, and yet the new Saiyajin Empire was strong. In the rush to dismember Furiza's domain, there had been many who thought the saiyajins could be plundered like the rest of his belongings. Proving them all wrong had taken more strength than the saiyajins had realized they had. The battles had been hard, but they'd been inspired by the examples of the Legendary and, increasingly, of their young prince. Vejiita's reckless valor had earned him many admirers, and the royal house had regained most of the respect and veneration it had lost when the Legendary had saved them all from the same enemy with whom the king had just signed a new service contract. That mistake had been gradually forgiven over the years as the prince had gained in popularity. Only Kakkarot himself passed the royals in public affection, and of course he wasn't here right now, was he?

Vejiita watched the near-chaos generated in his honor, but he didn't see much more than a vivid blur of color. His senses were allocated elsewhere, searching for the ki he knew he would find. It was just a matter of time. Kakkarot, after all, had promised.

*******

They hadn't known what to make of him when he first arrived. That ship of his didn't even look capable of spaceflight, and yet he'd landed it inside the castle gates without anyone witnessing it. He'd just stood there then, waiting, letting the guards try uselessly to take him away, until the King had sent for him. By that time, a very young prince Vejiita had managed to squeeze his way into the throne room to hear the elites nervously laugh at the stranger. His name was Kakkarot, and he had come on a great journey to kill Furiza and set the saiyajins free. It was bizarre, it was beyond belief and yet… and yet there was such sincerity and simple confidence in this saiyajin that it was possible just to be on the edge of belief when the moment came that made disbelief irrelevant and, later, in their fears, a mortal sin.

Kakkarot was the Legendary. He ascended not once, but three times in front of them, sending them reeling, as much in spirit as in body. "I'm sorry," he said after that, giving them no time to react, "but I have to go kill him now."

He smiled coldly, anticipating bloodshed, and Vejiita would remember being comforted by that smile somehow; it was the most normal saiyajin thing he'd seen this stranger do.

They watched him go, tracked him on satellite, and sent people up to witness what he would do. Kakkarot called Furiza out, into the high atmosphere, and forced their overlord through a series of transformations they'd never realized he was capable of. Furiza was confident, so utterly confident, right up to the moment Kakkarot killed him; it was enough to take their collective breath away. A moment of perfect violence, and then everything, everything changed.

A thousand planets found themselves free, and that news was still rolling across the galaxy like a shockwave today.

Kakkarot was a god, and saiyajins everywhere would have thrown themselves at his feet, swearing eternal fealty. The deity himself, however, had apparently had different plans.

"I didn't come to rule you," Kakkarot had told them all, in the throne room and across the video nets to wherever saiyajins lived. "I came to stop Furiza. The House of Vegeta rules Vegetasei. I defend it."

No one understood his reasoning. It didn't seem right. He was the Legendary; he should lead them. But he wouldn't change his mind, or back down, and eventually cooler heads realized that perhaps the pinnacle of saiyajin achievement, the ultimate in saiyajin violence might not be the best statesman, something that the saiyajins would need if they meant to create their own empire now. Vejiita remembered the arguments, all of them pointless, because Kakkarot could not have cared less what the elites thought. And he remembered the rest, the part that only his family had heard. "I have to go now, and I'll be gone a long time, but I can tell you exactly when I'll be back."

Twelve years, three months, and four days. And in the midst of the shouting, the arguments, and the pleading, Vejiita had thought he was the only one who realized what that date was: his nineteenth birthday, the day the Prince of Saiyajins officially came of age. Then he saw the look between his father and Kakkarot, between his king and the Legendary, and understood exactly what price would be paid for the House of Vegeta to keep the throne.

Kakkarot had climbed back into that strange little craft he'd arrived in, waved at them, and then disappeared.

And for twelve years, three months, and four days, Vejiita had driven himself to the edge of death and back again, over and over, in the hope that when this day dawned, he would have a choice in the matter.

The mob screamed his name, and he wondered idly if mass murder was really out of the question. A few thousand wouldn’t be missed, surely?

He felt a hand settle on his shoulder. “Stop fantasizing about slaughtering our own people,” his father said quietly into his ear. “Save that for when you’re actually king.”

Vejiita blinked and turned to see the wry smile on his father’s face. He didn’t know what to say. His relationship with his father had not so much grown difficult over the years as it had simply faded; he knew his father loved him, but if it hadn’t been enough when it really mattered, what good was it now? How much did that matter?

“The harder you glare, the more impressed they are. Actual murder would make you the most popular of us in two hundred years,” his father continued, shifting his gaze to the crowd.

“Then I’m about thirty seconds away from sainthood.”

A snort of amusement. “I’ll have the clergy notified.”

They didn’t say anything after that, but it didn’t matter. What had been said and what had been meant were different things, and both had been perfectly understood. It was simple enough: I’m here with you. And: I know. That was all there was left to say.

Drums throbbed in the distance and the crowd roared suddenly, caught up in something. Vejiita heard his father’s sharp intake of breath, but he didn’t react. Who knew what the idiots below were responding to? It wasn’t Kakkarot. He had spent so long waiting for the bastard that there was no way Kakkarot could finally show up without him knowing.

He would know the instant the Legendary appeared. Vejiita was sure of it.

He would know.

His sanity depended on believing that. The thought of Kakkarot suddenly appearing in front of him, without any warning at all, brought with it something very like despair, and he couldn’t stand it. So he believed.

The crowd was churning again, responding to something else, and Vejiita felt his father and the small cluster of family around him relax. The prince bared his teeth at the crowd in a kind of defiant amusement. The media picked it up and the crowds shrieked in delight as his proud, apparently pleased image came up on the video screens around the square. His name echoed across the square until the crowds out in the city took it up, and then the video feed switched over to the crowds, who screamed even louder when they saw themselves on the screens.

Just perfect.

The sun wasn’t even close to its zenith yet, and already this was the longest day in the history of the world.



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