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Chapter 19 Main Chapters Chapter 21

No Need For Supercriminals

Late 1285 A.D.

"I'm Misaki, a Queen of Jurai, the mother of Ayeka and Sasami, and the daughter of Seto," Misaki introduces herself peppily, "and Dragonwiles asked me to be your DJ for this episode. I wanted something fun for this episode, but it's going to be somewhat grim too, so I picked the theme song from Tenchi in Tokyo, 'Yume Wa Doko e Itta,' for this episode's theme song!"

The meeting of the Council of Jurai came to order very quickly. It wasn't a very large group, historically or in the present. Presently, there were only seven members: Azusa, king of Jurai, being the head. The others were his wives, Funaho and Misaki, who were also the minister of intelligence and commander of the royal bodyguard respectively. Lady Seto, the "Devil Princess of Jurai", was the fourth member. Crown Prince Yosho, Funaho's son, had been made a member a decade ago, as was traditional for the heir. Two other Juraian nobles from the other royal clans made up the remainder of the Council.

Funaho stood; her briefing was the first item on the agenda. The second and last item on the agenda was what to do in response to the information intelligence had gathered. The threat was serious enough that enormous resources and much deliberation would need to be applied.

"King Azusa, Queen Misaki, my lords and ladies, I have the privilege to present the information our intelligence services have gathered on the criminals who have so recently risen to prominence."

A hologram in the center of the table displayed pertinent information, such as starcharts, what biographical information was known on the criminals, and images of their starships.

"All present are aware we have been battling various independent pirates and criminal organizations for some decades," Funaho continued, "but within the last few months, two criminals have appeared on the scene, causing enough damage to merit the colloquial designation 'supercriminal.'"

"First, the Souja has raided multiple research outposts and archaeological sites, destroying 411 ships defending these sites and slaying over 4000 lifeforms as of yesterday. The press has dubbed the pirate the 'Ruins Buster.' The pirate has actually stolen relatively few artifacts or items of value, but has taken enough time in orbit to extensively study these artifacts: after, of course, destroying all defenders of the sites." As Funaho spoke, images of the Souja destroying large fleets of ships and annihilating space stations were displayed on the hologram. "The targets are uniformly artifacts reliably dated to before, or shortly after, the establishment of the Juraian Empire."

She let that sink in a moment before continuing, "This vessel was last known to be captained by Kagato and Washu. Unfortunately, we cannot be certain of who is in command at the moment. Souja does not communicate with the outside nor respond to hails. By the time anyone or anything disembarks to collect or examine the artifacts, most camerabots and witnesses have been disabled or destroyed. Some survivors have reported seeing someone who answers to Kagato's description."

One of the lords bowed to Funaho, a signal, in this setting, that he wished to ask a question. She nodded, and he asked, "What of Washu, and Yakage? Have they been sighted with Souja?"

Funaho answered calmly, "We have had no confirmed sightings of Washu, Yakage, or Yakage's partner ship Shorai for the past decade, and cannot confirm or deny their collaboration with Souja. I can say with certainty that Shorai has not been seen with Souja since Washu escaped from custody at the Academy."

Lady Seto now bowed, and when acknowledged, looked piercingly at Funaho. "What, in your opinion, does the pirate stand to gain from the ancient ruins?"

Funaho answered deliberately, "Souja has been noted to stay longest near those ruins that make many references to the physical characteristics of Juraians before the founding of the Empire, as well as records of Tsunami's first appearance and the abilities of the first emperor. The probable goal of the pirate is to obtain the powers of Jurai's royal family."

Lady Seto leaned back, satisfied, and proud of Funaho. It took guts to suggest something like that to this group.

The same lord who had earlier spoken placed his hand on the table, signifying a wish for a comment on the record. When Azusa nodded, the lord stated, "I grant that this theory explains the facts, but I find it hard to believe. Is it even possible to simply assume our powers? And if so, could it really be done by perusing the ruins?"

Everyone was silent, for no one actually knew the answer.

Misaki requested and was granted her own comment, "A motive of gaining the royal powers would suggest that Washu or Yakage would be the culprit. Kagato is a member of the royal family; he has the powers of the royal family."

Yosho now made his comment, though his father seemed to grudge it: "Kagato does not have the full powers of an heir to the Juraian throne. This may be his ultimate goal. The absence of Yakage's partner, and the lack of sightings of Washu, suggest they are not the culprits."

After that, Funaho proceeded with the briefing. "The next criminal is an almost total enigma. We do not even know her species or name."

The hologram revealed a cyan-haired teenager, with green glowing eyes and a red energy saber in her hand.

Lady Seto asked, "Why haven't we been able to make a species determination?"

Funaho answered that question easily by detailing the unprecedented combination of abilities possessed by the cyan-haired supercriminal, such as teleportation, phasing through solid matter, and creation of energy sabers. By the end of this listing, all shared an unspoken agreement that few, if any, known species had even one of those abilities, and none had them all.

Funaho next stated, "She travels in a black and grey pocket battleship. The vessel has been known to mysteriously disappear when landing on a planet and then reappear later. Despite its small size, two days ago it succeeded in destroying a Juraian ship of the line patrolling near the Karullian Second Bank's asteroid belt stronghold, killing the tree and 200 Juraians aboard." Everyone nodded; this was the event that had unofficially triggered the meeting. Juraian space trees were the preeminent vessels in space. There was a slight chance that an armada of pirates might bring a Juraian space tree down, but a lone pirate destroying one was unheard of.

Funaho continued, "The pirate proceeded to loot the strongbox's entire contents before leaving. Total casualties from all of the pirate's raids to date are 724 ships and 8029 lifeforms. The targets for the pirate's theft vary between pre-Juraian artifacts, banks, agricultural products, biomedical research firms, weapons testing grounds, and energy production facilities."

"This concludes the briefing," Funaho said.

The lord who had not yet spoken blinked at Funaho a moment before doing the ritual and asking the question, "Is there nowhere that she spends her ill-gotten gains?"

Funaho shook her head. "All our contacts indicate that the stolen property has not resurfaced on the market. The new pirate is unknown in criminal circles."

King Azusa now stated, "We now must determine what to do about these new criminals."

The lord who last spoken commented, "I think it clear that we must call out the fleet. The Galactic Police can't handle these threats alone."

There was much nodding around the table. King Azusa then proposed, "The unknown pirate seems to be a slightly greater threat than that Ruins Buster. We should send slightly more than half of the fleet after the unknown pirate; the remainder will conduct a sweep of unplundered ruins in an attempt to catch the Ruins Buster."

It took a bit more discussion, but that was eventually agreed upon. Also agreed upon was Lady Seto's idea; posting an incredibly large amount of reward money for information on either criminal.

This seedy bar was one of millions on the shipping lanes, but it was one of Nagi's favorite places to relax. She actually enjoyed the atmosphere here, the fact that everyone minded their own business. Unfortunately, she was getting good enough at her job that she was no longer automatically shrouded with anonymity. The local criminals were starting to get nervous, suspecting that there was someone who was listening in on their conversations in the bar. Someday they'd figure out who it was. Perhaps there'd be a rousing bar fight when that happened- that was something to look forward to.

Nagi listened with interest as a male humanoid and female humanoid entered the bar. The male recognized a friend, and after some preliminary greetings said to his friend, "Hey, have you heard about the Juraian reward?" His friend agreed, "Yeah, she must've made someone mad to get that much money offered for her!"

The first speaker's date hadn't heard of this before, and requested an explanation.

The friend of the first speaker exclaimed and gesticulated, "I can't believe you haven't heard of her! The one who pulled off the Karullian bank heist? She came outta nowhere, and now the Juraians are offering top dollar for information about her!"

Nagi didn't care one way or another about the Juraians. She'd never actually met one, and certainly none in the government or nobility. She knew enough of their traditions to be wary of offending them, but they kept to themselves enough that she wasn't at much risk.

"So where does she hang out?" The female was obviously trying to make the guys feel self-important. She and Nagi doubted he actually had any idea of where the mysterious new supercriminal made her hideaway.

The first guy leaned close and said in an overdramatic voice, "Nobody knows."

His date blinked, and Nagi did a mental double take. He couldn't possibly be serious.

"Surely she hangs out with somebody? Runs with a gang? Has a feud with a rival?" The female tried question after question, but her date and his friend insisted that the mysterious supercriminal had none of these.

This was odd, and Nagi was now intrigued. A completely asocial criminal? She'd do much more checking before she believed it, but where could this supercriminal hang out without even rumors being started? The lack of rumor did suggest that the supercriminal had no social connections.

As Nagi pondered these things, the threesome had become involved in an enraptured discussion of some of the supercriminal's esoteric raids. They were just finishing up the tale of the supercriminal's assault on a biomedical research company when the female complained, "Now wait a minute! Who could she possibly fence this stuff to! Genetic research? What kind of kingpin wants that?"

"Yeah, a criminal would have no need for it," the friend of her date agreed, "but a corporation would." A knowing look crept over his face. "She's a new product that some corporation developed in their genetic labs. They're using her for industrial espionage, to steal all the secrets from their competitors."

Nagi doubted this fellow actually understood genetic research. If creating a new life form at all, let alone one of the supercriminal's power, was possible simply by rearranging genes, then any corporation that had made her would be far ahead of the current technology curve. Their competitors would be in the stone age by comparison, and their products would hardly be worth stealing in that case. It'd make more sense to market whatever technology had made the supercriminal. Besides, if the corporation were to sell products based off stolen research, the theft would be obvious enough that they could get sued or prosecuted.

The female looked at her date as he said in his overly dramatic voice, "No, that's what they want you to think. It's a conspiracy." He dropped his voice for effect: in reality he very much wanted to be heard. "The Juraian government is behind it all. They've made a new superweapon and are beating up everyone who doesn't support their hegemony. They say that she blew up a Juraian ship, but they actually had it rigged to look like she destroyed it."

Nagi wanted to laugh, but refrained. That didn't really make sense. If the Juraians wanted to destroy those who opposed them with a mysterious superweapon, they'd send the superweapon after the pirates, or perhaps some of the more dodgy worlds within their sphere of influence. From the gossip the guy had just shared, it was clear that the supercriminal was attacking interests owned by the general public, as well as Juraian allies like the Kuramitsu family, in addition to businesses in which Juraian nobility had a large stake. No Juraian would attack his own pocketbook.

But the question still remained. The supercriminal was stealing items hard to sell even on the black market. If the supercriminal wasn't selling them, what happened to them?

Her mind was made up. She'd have to pursue this supercriminal.

1287 A.D.

Nagi's mind had, over time, become intimately connected with Ken-ohki's. They each knew what the other was thinking and feeling at any moment, without even having to bother transmitting it. The only side effect, unknown to either of them, was that occasional intense bursts of thought or emotion would cause Nagi's eyes to flicker upwards and to the right, and reciprocally Ken-ohki might mew aloud the words he thought. Nagi knew of no species, including her own, which had a level of telepathy or empathy sufficient for such a close bond. It had to be an ability of Ken-ohki's.

Despite this bond, she had learned little of his past. He obviously didn't enjoy thinking about it; whenever the subject came up, raging anger and deep sorrow arose within him. Nagi did not have access to his memories, nor did he appear to have access to hers. She wasn't sure whether this was because of an imperfect bond or because they both enjoyed their privacy, but the arrangement suited her. Only sometimes did he recall things strongly enough for her to see them - or was he trying to show them to her, to help her understand him, in an awkward way?

He was only a small lepinoid, but he was tough and a good fighter, and they'd saved each other's lives on occasion. At least, she thought she'd saved Ken-ohki's life, and he was grateful for her aid. He was still tough enough that he might've survived that death ray a particularly desperate criminal shot at him.

For some time Nagi and Ken-ohki had been capturing many different criminals, unable to pursue the cyan-haired supercriminal due to lack of information. They had gotten a new lead on the cyan-haired supercriminal in the last month: she had attacked a farming world. Nagi and Ken-ohki were now patrolling this area in their ship, hoping to encounter her. Ken-ohki became angry and sad often when thinking of this supercriminal, and her battleship as well. Nagi didn't know what to make of it, but it wasn't her place to intrude in his mind.

"Searching for her hasn't gotten us anywhere," Nagi said mentally to Ken-ohki. "Let's assume she'll hit the bank in the region, and wait in ambush there." He agreed indifferently. Nagi had hoped Ken-ohki would reveal some knowledge of the supercriminal's motivations, if this supercriminal was part of his past, but instead accepted some disappointment.

The waiting sometimes involved in being a bounty hunter was sometimes quite incredible. Patience was essential to a successful stakeout. As they waited for forty days, Nagi and Ken-ohki had sparring practice (his leaping abilities made up for his size, so his jump kick was quite amazing.) They also watched the news and made profiles of criminals, and educated guesses as to where the criminals might strike next.

It was as the forty-first day dawned on the nearby planet that their patience was rewarded. The grey and black battleship entered the star system at incredible speed. Fortunately it was entering the system from the side opposite Nagi and Ken-ohki's vessel; otherwise, the battleship would've destroyed them.

Nagi appeared totally calm, but she was astonished. Her yacht was one of the fastest vessels in existence, but it was only halfway to the planet before the supercriminal had destroyed the planet's disarrayed defense fleet and made a landing. She hoped she'd have enough time.

The green glow from Ryoko's eyes reflected off the bank vault. With a few well practiced motions, she used her energy saber to sever its door. Tossing her cyan hair, she started stuffing valuables into a sack. Ryo-ohki hopped from point to point in the room behind Ryoko, serving as a lookout. No one had yet managed to seriously endanger them, but Kagato would be angry if they were careless.

Ryo-ohki froze in astonishment, and Ryoko actually gasped. Ryoko could see in her mind what Ryo-ohki saw. It was impossible. He was dead-

With a cry of anger more fierce than he had ever uttered before, Ken-ohki lept upon Ryo-ohki. She dodged just in time, avoiding him by only centimeters.

Nagi blinked as a million thoughts and emotions swarmed at her from Ken-ohki. Somehow he had guessed that this animal and the battleship were one and the same. She didn't understand that. And somehow he had guessed that the small animal was the same individual, Ryo-ohki, whom he remembered sometimes with great sadness and anger. That was an easier connection to grasp; this Ryo-ohki's adult form looked much like she had as a child, simply larger.

Nagi ran into the room as her partner kept Ryo-ohki occupied. If that were Ryo-ohki, then could the supercriminal possibly be the Ryoko that Ken-ohki sometimes remembered?

Nagi lashed out her whip at the form that emerged from the vault, but it dodged at incredible speed and flew into the air. There was no doubt in Nagi's mind now. Evidently whatever species Ryoko was included changing eyes from yellow to glowing green as part of puberty. In any event, this was clearly the Ryoko he recalled. The resemblance was too strong to be a coincidence.

Ryoko, from her aerial position, launched a series of energy bolts at Nagi. Barely dodging them, Nagi leapt onto a nearby statue, then leapt off of it to reach Ryoko's altitude. Nagi swung her whip at Ryoko while also shooting with a high-powered stun pistol.

The stun pistol had little or no effect. The whip connected with Ryoko but didn't seem to especially pain her. Instead, she grabbed it and used it to pull Nagi towards her. At just the right moment, Ryoko delivered a forceful punch to Nagi's head and released the whip. Nagi was hurled backwards and down, striking the wall with her back before falling face-first on the floor. Ryoko laughed.

She had been knocked unconscious for the first time in years, Nagi realized a few seconds later. Many creatures would probably have died after being hit like that. If she weren't of such a durable species, Nagi reflected, she would not have taken up such a dangerous career.

Ken-ohki quickly filled her in mentally. Ryoko and Ryo-ohki had left a few moments ago. Ken-ohki was concerned for Nagi's welfare, but Nagi could also tell that he felt a sense of grim triumph over the damage he had been able to inflict on Ryo-ohki.

Nagi struggled to her feet. For the first time in her life, she'd encountered a criminal that she might never be able to capture. It was entirely possible that no amount of strategy and no technology Nagi would ever wield could restrain or kill Ryoko. If she continued pursuing her, she risked serious injury or death, for herself or Ken-ohki. Even if that didn't happen, every moment she spent chasing Ryoko was a moment she was chasing an unwinnable bounty and forgoing many achievable bounties.

With a grim smile, Nagi set off after Ryoko, and Ken-ohki kept pace with Nagi, sometimes even leaping ahead. Nagi could hardly believe she'd even considered giving up. This wasn't just about money or proving who was strong. It was about justice. She'd see that every criminal received their just deserts.

Nagi emerged from the building. Ryoko's battleship hung in the sky, and Ryoko herself was flying just above ground level, away from the building and towards the battleship. Ryo-ohki moved away to deal with some of the defense fleet that had just arrived at this location, and Ryoko flew about in the town, apparently hoping to lose any and all pursuers. Nagi ran towards the area where she saw Ryoko last.

Ryoko flew through the outskirts of the city, dodging some of the blasts of energy that Nagi sent her way. Ryoko attempted to fly faster, to lose her pursuer, but Nagi kept doggedly on her trail. Every time that Ryoko tried to fire back, or to ambush Nagi, Nagi and Ken-ohki would disappear. Every time that Ryoko tried to leave, she realized that the two of them were following her again.

Ryo-ohki felt such sorrow at seeing Ken-ohki again, and seeing him so angry. Ryoko wasn't sure why. Both their memories were very fuzzy on the early days. Ryoko didn't remember Ken-ohki at all, and Ryo-ohki remembered him as a childhood friend. There was a time when he left, for some reason, and then Ryo-ohki remembered nothing more of him. There were times when other, more horrible memories threatened to resurface, however.

Where Ryo-ohki felt sorrow, Ryoko felt deep fear. Nagi might not have the physical strength to harm her, but she had cunning that Ryoko distrusted. For the first time, she faced an adversary other than Kagato who might find a weakness in her.

More than that, Ryoko feared that Nagi would be able to follow Ryoko off the planet. Kagato had always impressed on her the need for secrecy, and for no one to be able to follow her, or observe the rendezvous when she transferred the stolen goods from Ryo-ohki to the Souja. His anger would be terrible if Nagi kept up her pursuit, and Ryoko rightly feared his anger.

Ryo-ohki had destroyed the last of the defense fleet, but Ryoko couldn't leave yet, for Nagi still followed closely. Ryo-ohki suggested a course of action to Ryoko, and Ryoko took it. Ryoko tried to look behind her at every chance she could, to catch every glimpse of Nagi and Ken-ohki that she could.

Ryo-ohki used Ryoko's senses to locate Nagi and Ken-ohki. She aimed at them and fired at full power.

As quick as could be, Ryoko teleported aboard Ryo-ohki and they fled the planet with all speed. Ryoko hoped desperately that even if somehow her enemies had survived the blast, they would not be able to follow them in time. She hoped, she hoped, she hoped-

Souja was there, hanging in orbit, bearing Kagato. He must've been watching. He would be angry.

Ryoko had a sudden inspiration, to flee, but Kagato crushed that thought easily. He opened a channel of communication to Ryoko and said in a voice of such icy anger that she had not dared provoke in years, "You would run from me, garbage? At last you show some signs of intellect. I'm inclined to transform you and your furry counterpart into the slag from which you came. Slag would be more useful to me than the two of you. You can't even kill a bounty hunter."

Ryoko knew it was no use begging for mercy. She gritted her teeth and prepared herself and Ryo-ohki.

Kagato lashed out with the Souja, once, twice, thrice, firing a single green beam at Ryo-ohki each time. Kagato could sense no emotions from his thralls, and only the general bent of their thought, but he had very good knowledge and control of the portions of Ryoko and Ryo-ohki's mind that gave them the ability to move. He clamped down on Ryo-ohki's ability to move and prevented her from dodging as he scored her with his beams again and again. Ryoko wept as she heard the screams of Ryo-ohki, and shuddered as her bond with Ryo-ohki caused her to share the pain.

Kagato snorted as this went on, and told Ryoko and Ryo-ohki with disgust, "Take that for your cowardice and weakness! To run from a bounty hunter! They are vermin, you two are nothing!"

He had never been this angry before in her life. Ryoko was too full of pain to wonder when the end would come, and what sort of end it would be.

The barrage ended suddenly, and Souja began to leave the planet. He carelessly compelled Ryo-ohki to follow him, and said nothing more. This made Ryoko shiver. It was his way. He cared so little for them that he did not even bother to warn them that if they allowed themselves to be pursued again, he would kill them.

Two Weeks Later

Deep in the heart of the great tree palace of Jurai, Princess Ayeka stepped forward and bowed as her brother introduced her: "Nagi, Ken-ohki, I'd like you to meet my sister, the Princess Ayeka. Princess Ayeka, this is Nagi and Ken-ohki, the bounty hunters who gave us the information about the connection between Kagato and Ryoko."

Nagi nodded and said politely, "I'm pleased to make your acquaintance." Ken-ohki made an affirmative meow.

Ayeka replied, "I'm very glad to meet you both, to whom Jurai owes so much."

Now that he had introduced them, Yosho apologized, "I am sorry to leave you, but the council will reconvene shortly, where I assure you, we will act on this information."

"I'd be happy to give them a tour of the palace," Ayeka offered. Yosho thanked her, and bade the three farewell. Nagi nodded, and Ken-ohki dipped his head.

When the tour was done, Ayeka invited Nagi and Ken-ohki to sit on with her on a bench in front of a cunningly wrought wooden fountain. After a moment, Ayeka asked Nagi, "If I may ask, however did you survive the attack?"

Nagi gestured at Ken-ohki, "To be more accurate, he survived it for me. He shielded me from Ryo-ohki's attack." She paused a moment and added, "And before you ask, I'll just tell you that I knew it was Kagato because I set my yacht to intercept and record all communications in the area. That Kagato chewed out Ryoko without even bothering to scramble his communications." She waited for Ayeka's reaction.

"His arrogance will be his undoing," Ayeka said confidently. "He cannot stand against the full might of Jurai."

Nagi said in a matter-of-fact tone, "If he can boss around Ryoko and Ryo-ohki, he's not arrogant- he's appropriately confident."

"That's your considered opinion?" Ayeka said, searching Nagi's eyes. Nagi raised her eyebrows. Ayeka, accepting her statement, followed up with another question, "You've fought this Ryoko yourself, you said. How strong is she?"

Nagi framed her answer carefully, stating neutrally, "She's strong enough to challenge even a member of the royal family of Jurai in single combat."

Ayeka considered her studiously, then said, "If you and Ken-ohki are quite rested, I will conduct you to the treasury, where we shall disburse your bounties, and then to your accomodations."

Ken-ohki leaned forward, and Nagi agreed, "We're ready, Princess Ayeka." They followed her out of the room.

Kagato looked at all the foodstuffs Ryoko had captured on her latest raids, and sealed it within large biological isolation vats. That should be enough to last him centuries- his plans shouldn't take that long, but it was best to be prepared.

He checked the locks on the treasure vault, the munitions room, the genetic research lab, the artifact museum, and the energy production equipment. He'd stocked them all with the artifacts and technology he and Ryoko had stolen from the various worlds, and studied how he could use them to his own ends. Kagato had investigated biomedical technology to learn ways to change himself and make himself stronger. He had reverse engineered the captured energy production equipment and weapons to gird Souja. The artifacts had not been nearly so helpful- most of them did not reveal the secrets he was interested in.

Kagato made his decision. This stage of his plan would wind down in the next few years- there was only so far he could weaken Jurai even with such spectacular raids as he performed. Once this phase of the plan was done, he would close in on his final objective.

His ultimate target was the sphere that had given him life.

The prize he hoped to attain there was power.

Next Chapter

Washu eats a chip casually and comments, "Oh, hey. I'm supposed to do the next chapter preview. I don't know why; I'm still supposed to be frozen in Souja's antilayer. Or maybe that's why I'm supposed to do the preview." She has an idea. She sets down the bag of chips, quickly calls into existence her phantasmal keyboard, and reads the full copy of the script.

"Huh, well whaddya know. Kagato does have a lot to do with the next preview. That jerk! He's going to kidnap her! Isn't mind controlling my daughter for years enough! Somebody bust me out of his prison already so I can teach him a lesson. Better yet, maybe Ryoko should teach him a lesson."

Washu clenches her fists as she announces, "The next chapter is No Need For The Prideful One."

Continuity with Dragonwiles

Dragonwiles reposes in state in the library of his lair. Looking up from his book, he greets, "Welcome to this special segment, in which I give a few brief continuity notes."

"In order to fit my backstory, I've made up nearly everything that happens in this chapter, and modified, probably beyond recognizability, the first time that Nagi pursued Ryoko."

"Oh, and for clarity's sake, I made up Ken-ohki being shot at with a death ray. I don't think the Tenchi series even has a death ray, I made that up too."

Chapter 19 Main Chapters Chapter 21