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Chapter 20 Main Chapters Chapter 22

No Need For The Prideful One

Four Months After Tenchi Rescued Mihoshi

The Galactic Police's 31st fleet was patrolling the area for pirates. Kagato kept focused as he moved the Souja to intercept them. He thought of nothing other than the combat to come. These were minor opponents, but discipline in combat was essential.

The commodore of the fleet called up the Souja's records with horror. Kagato's records were current, for every few decades he surfaced from hiding in a random region of the galaxy to attack some luckless shipping.

The fleet would not be able to escape in time, the commodore knew. The Souja had been at very high storming levels, and so had come undetected until the entire fleet was well within weapons range.

Retreat was cut off, and victory could not be obtained by arms. The commodore knew within moments there were only two things to do. He ordered all the vessels to transmit distress signals and use all of their weaponry on Souja.

Kagato watched carefully, but they hadn't any new weapons. Souja withstood all the attacks. He began his counterattack, using massive green beams to destroy every vessel except one. That lone vessel he simply disabled.

Moments later he had teleported aboard its bridge. The crew was surprised but well-trained, drawing their blasters and firing on him. Kagato had to admit, lately the quality of the officers had been improving. Marshal Kuramitsu's efforts were paying off. Kagato formed his energy blade and made short work of the bridge crew, then turned to the ship's databases. He transmitted the sections that most interested him to the Souja- the entries on the Galactic Police's best officers, the doings of the Juraian royal family and the Kuramitsu family, and the latest research on archaeology and weapons.

Kagato returned to the Souja and moved back into the wilderness of space as he began reviewing the data. The disabled vessel wasn't worth destroying. The fleet's distress call had already identified him positively.

About Two Weeks Later

Dinner at the Masaki house was going sour. Sasami's cooking was scrumptious, as usual, but Ryoko and Ayeka's fighting had reached the boiling point rather faster than usual.

Ayeka finally snapped, "Your insolent attitude is just what I've come to expect, you green-eyed monster!" That said, Ayeka quickly turned her head away with a sharp "Hm!"

Ryoko froze and stared with vast anger at Ayeka.

Mihoshi pointed at Ryoko, "But her eyes are yellow, not green."

Ayeka gaped at Mihoshi.

"Maybe Juraians see light in different wavelengths than humans do," Nobuyuki put his hand to his chin as he speculated.

"Oh, wait, Ayeka must've been speaking metaphorically," Mihoshi decided.

Tenchi started eating a bit faster, hoping that he could finish his meal and get out of the room soon. He really needed some relaxation after his exams. Sasami was making herself as scarce as possible, and Yosho was eating with deliberate calm.

Ayeka started to feel uncomfortable, as though some sort of line had been crossed, one which she hadn't even known existed. She forced herself to look at Ryoko's eyes. They were indeed yellow, with black catlike slits, just as they had been for months. Ayeka realized that in the heat of the moment she had seen Ryoko as she was seven hundred years ago, when her eyes glowed bright green.

Ryoko slowly ground out, "My eyes aren't green anymore."

"Of course," Ayeka said slowly, "I apologize," though she did not know why she apologized.

Ryoko began to say, "I'm not going to -" but Tenchi cut her off, "No, the two of you are not going to blow up the dining room this evening, so you're going to forgive each other! Look, the two of you let it go last night when it was you who said something, Ryoko!" Ryoko grumbled, "Fine then. I accept it," and resumed eating.

Ayeka resumed eating as well, but she was now silent, distracted by her own uncomfortable emotional state, and the nagging question: Why did mention of her previous eye color provoke such anger in Ryoko?

In her survival shelter on Venus, Kiyone ate another ration. She had just enough, she figured, to hold out a few weeks more. Hopefully that would be long enough to get a rescue approved by bureaucracy. Her cube had proven irreparable with the components on hand, so she had been unable to contact anyone. Fortunately, by this point, she and Mihoshi had missed a scheduled report, so headquarters would be arranging a backup mission. Unfortunately, a rescue mission into the protected zone required some of the most voluminous paperwork ever conceived. She now faced a race against Galactic Police and Juraian bureaucracy for her salvation. Kiyone sighed mournfully.

Capt. Nobeyama pushed a button in his office in the Galactic Police headquarters. The button sent off the last form, and Capt. Nobeyama was quite relieved. That should be it. When Kiyone and Mihoshi didn't send their report last month, he had set off on a mountain of paperwork to get a rescue mission approved. He had to fill out the forms indicating that the officers were missing, find personnel suitable for a rescue mission, get these personnel cleared for entering the protected zone by the Juraian government, and prepare a plan to search the protected zone which would not alert the people of Earth to extraterrestrial presences. All of this had taken until now for him to get filled out. His commander not only had to approve all of those forms, but also had been filling out the requisition forms for all the supplies the rescue team would need. Now the last form was on its way to his superior, where it would be countersigned and sent to the Juraian government- since the protected zone was their territory, their bureaucracy would sign off on the form as well. Still, it was almost done. If the officers could be saved, it would happen fairly soon.

The commander suddenly knocked furiously on the door of his office. Capt. Nobeyama was surprised into motionlessness for a moment, then stood and pushed a button to open the door. "Captain, have you heard the news?" the commander asked quickly, breathing heavily. Capt. Nobeyama was startled- his superior usually signaled to request entry to his office, and was always the picture of calm. Capt. Nobeyama shook his head silently; he'd heard little news, he'd been doing the rescue paperwork day and night for weeks. The only thing that he could remember recently was Kagato's resurfacing about two weeks ago, when Kagato annihilated the 31st fleet and harvested its data, a fate which befell some unfortunate officers every few decades.

The commander said, "Kagato's resurfaced. Again. He broke through the line of the 62nd fleet. He was apparently in too much of a hurry to destroy the whole thing. His vector was 34-24-9."

"That's," Capt. Nobeyama gasped, and was unable to speak any more words. The commander nodded. Capt. Nobeyama gulped. Dread crept inside them both. They hoped against bitter experience that Mihoshi and Kiyone would need a rescue team, and not a team to extract their remains.

The next day, Ayeka unexpectedly came upon Ryoko on the couch. Ryoko was lying there, smiling in a serene way that Ayeka had never seen before. Snow was falling softly outside.

Ryoko slowly turned to look at Ayeka, and Ryoko's smile shifted to her usual mischievous one as she noted Ayeka's arms, in which she was carrying a basketful of laundry. "More laundry, Ayeka? Why bother? It seems to never end. Besides which, no matter how much laundry you do, it won't help. I'm the only one who can make Tenchi happy." Ryoko laughed.

Ayeka sniffed and retorted, "I do this to show my appreciation for our continued lodging here." Ayeka felt somewhat off-balance, though. All of the Masaki family seemed to appreciate her help around the house, but Tenchi's gratitude had become more important lately. Perhaps Ryoko's ceaseless implications were true.

"Just what is your interest in Tenchi, in any event?" Ayeka asked. "To hear Tenchi tell the story, you should hate all of us, because of our relation to my brother Yosho, seeing as he did seal you in a cave."

Ryoko began to assume the serene smile again. "Why not tell you? I just had such a good dream remembering too. I bore that grudge against your brother for years. My body was stuck in that cave, but somehow my mind could see- well, within a few miles of the cave, anyways. I watched your brother and his family ceaselessly. I think he was aware of it too, vaguely."

Ayeka slowly, almost unwillingly, sat down to listen.

"Not even I can stay angry forever, though. I still have a bone to pick with Yosho, but it's not nearly so bad as it was back then. Back then, being alone in a cave for so long, seeing so many people but not able to interact with any of them, it got to be all I could think about," Ryoko said, sadness ingrained in her voice.

Ryoko's voice grew slow and happy again, "Then Tenchi was born. I'll never forget watching him. He was the cutest baby you ever saw, always laughing and cheerful. When he was little, he put out his arm toward my cave. Most people in Yosho's family stayed away from the cave because of my legend. To see him reach out to me, it was, well, it was love at first sight!"

Ayeka raised her eyebrows, not quite believing Ryoko's words, and questioned her, "And so when the one person who truly accepted you, whom you had watched for years, set you free from seven hundred years of imprisonment, you tried to kill him?"

Ryoko flinched, and laughed nervously, and awkwardly stated, with many pauses, "Well, I was just kidding. I wasn't really going to hurt him. I was just playing around. I wanted to, well, impress him. And I was so happy to be out, I just had to get moving again, and well, fighting is moving a lot! It wasn't really fighting, it was more like, er, dancing!"

"He had to cut off your hand to get you to stop," said Ayeka dully. She picked up the laundry basket again and stood, saying in disbelief, "You really are a monster. Worse, you're ungrateful. I can't understand why you think Tenchi would prefer a dried-up mummy like you over someone like me, with," Ayeka smiled and moved her arm, "the smooth skin of youth."

"You are so mean!" Ryoko yelped, a small tear beginning to form in her eye.

That tear, the only one Ayeka had ever seen Ryoko cry, did make Ayeka feel a pang of guilt, but she quickly shoved the pang aside and left, saying, "Spare me your false tears."

More tears began to run down Ryoko's face, and she retreated from her own guilt over what she had done when she was set free. She sought for solace in her memories of Tenchi- as a baby, as a child playing near her cave, sometimes looking inside it longingly, at her as she imagined. She remembered him resting in its shade as he worked, not so many years ago.

Then with a shock, she remembered something she had forgotten. It was the first time his mother had brought him out to the cave, as an infant strapped to her back. That was when Tenchi had first reached out to Ryoko's cave. Ryoko suddenly remembered what had happened next. Tenchi's mother, Achika, had looked at the cave with an expression of intense sorrow, and said, "Please, take care of him for me, when I cannot?"

Ryoko was still as confused about that now as she had been then. Had Achika been able to sense her? Who else would she have been talking to? But protect Tenchi from what, and when? Achika had died a few years later, perhaps that had been what she had meant about "when I cannot." But surely Achika hadn't known about her own death. And what threats did Tenchi face that he needed any protection from?

Mihoshi plopped down on the second sofa that was perpendicular to Ryoko and brightly suggested, "You know, I think we should make a hot springs resort near here!"

Ryoko stared at her a moment. Ryoko's train of thought had totally derailed.

Mihoshi mistook this as encouragement to continue, and went on, "Yeah, this is way out in the countryside, perfect for a resort! I know I love the hot spring resorts on Beta Cygnus II, and they make tons of money, and they're really fun to visit. Gee, maybe I should tell Mr. Tenchi's father, and then he could start one, and then..."

Ryoko wondered how long Mihoshi was going to prattle. She hoped Mihoshi would lapse into her habitual afternoon nap soon.

Ayeka passed through the room again empty-handed, and Mihoshi leapt up when she saw her. Mihoshi called across the room, "Say, Princess Ayeka! Do you have a minute! I've got a secret to tell you and Ryoko!"

With some strain, Ayeka assumed a smile and suggested, "Mihoshi, secrets don't long remain secret if you call them out across the house like that." At one point in time, it would've been against Ayeka's better judgment to cross the room and enter into secret congress with Mihoshi. Over the past few months, however, Ayeka had decided that it was best to accede to Mihoshi's more harmless whims. Mihoshi was well-meaning, but could create all sorts of accidental mischief.

Taking Ayeka's advice, Mihoshi sat Ayeka down on the couch beside her, put one arm around the shoulders of Ryoko, and the other around Ayeka's shoulders, and leaned them both in towards her head as she whispered, "You know, I can't believe I'm telling you two this, I mean, since I only just met you and all, but you've both been so nice to me, oh, and I've just gotta tell somebody!" Mihoshi giggled.

Ayeka stared dully at Mihoshi while Ryoko fidgeted.

"I mean, ever since I heard how Tenchi saved me," Mihoshi began to blush, "I've been thinking that Tenchi might, oh, hee hee, might be my destiny!" She released them both to stifle her giggles.

She didn't notice that Ayeka and Ryoko were nonplussed and displeased, and wore looks that obviously indicated that they had, in fact, divined this so-called "secret" four months ago.

Sasami entered the room and huffed, "There you three are! Ayeka, you've only done half the day's laundry, and the rest of you have been shirking too!"

The threesome gained an unexpected reprieve from these reproofs, in the form of a hole in space. The hole opened near the door to the porch, in front of the couch where Mihoshi and Ayeka sat, and the couch where Ryoko lay. The hole was perfectly circular, and about the size of a person. It opened in just the twinkling of an eye, leaving only an impression of darkness inside it, and closed almost as quickly. Before the hole closed, a man in green robes entered. His white hair contrasted sharply with his robes, but matched his pale skin, and his yellow eyes rapidly surveyed the surprised faces in the room.

"So this hunch paid off," the robed man said. "You were all here. Come, Ryoko."

"Die, Kagato!" Ryoko screamed, and launched herself at the man with incredible fury. Kagato formed a green energy blade and warded her off at the last moment, his face twisting into a snarl.

Ayeka leapt to her feet, drawing her key and commanding, "Sasami, find Tenchi!" Sasami began to stumble backwards.

Kagato slashed and parried at Ryoko viciously. He spat at her, "You filth," and his face twisted aside as she punched it with full force. He extended his palm and the hole in space formed again. With another hand he grabbed one of Ryoko's arms and hauled her inside the hole. Soon they were both gone.

Sasami ran from the room wailing, "Tenchi!"

Minutes later, Tenchi ran outside with Ayeka, Mihoshi, and Sasami. Azaka and Kamadaki flew beside Sasami and created a shield around her.

Katsuhito, Tenchi's grandfather, was walking in the woods and unreachable, and Nobuyuki was at a meeting at work. Tenchi had desperately wanted to warn them that their first unfriendly alien had come to the house, but it was impossible.

Funaho the space tree told Tenchi and Ayeka through their keys, "The Souja has only now dropped its storming level, just enough so I can sense it. This is a trap, or a challenge."

Ayeka shook her head and said, "Nevertheless, we must do something."

Funaho suddenly related in alarm, "There's a distortion forming near my position!"

They ran faster, and were just in time to see Kagato emerge from a hole which he created in the air near Funaho's uppermost branches. He hung motionless in the air, moving not a bit. Kagato held Ryoko's limp body in his arms a moment longer and then tossed her to the ground.

"Ryoko!" Tenchi, Sasami, and Mihoshi exclaimed. Sasami and Tenchi rushed to her still body.

Kagato ignored Tenchi and Mihoshi. He bowed to Ayeka, and Sasami, greeting them thusly, "Princess Ayeka, Princess Sasami, it's been far too long since I've seen the younger half-sisters of my dear friend Yosho."

Ayeka replied angrily, "Your visage has certainly been marred. The evil in your soul is made manifest." She was in her battle armor, and her shield network of small wooden logs surrounded her.

"This is self-improvement, based on sophisticated bioemedical research," Kagato disagreed mildly. He turned his head as Mihoshi pointed her blaster at him and challenged, "Most Wanted Criminal Kagato, you are under arrest! I am authorized to use deadly force against criminals of your designation!"

Kagato wondered aloud, "Can this really be the great Mihoshi? Have you read no history or catalog of my abilities? Do your worst." Mihoshi fired and fired at him, but he simply phased out, turning nearly transparent, and the shots passed through him harmlessly.

Returning to solidity, Kagato adjusted his pince-nez and said maliciously, "I was quite disappointed to learn of your fall from grace. You used to be quite an efficient cop. Now you've let down your grandfather. What a disappointment to Marshal Kuramitsu you are. And what have you done with your far superior partner? Where is she?"

Mihoshi broke down into sobs and cried, "I don't know! I thought by now she'd have come for me! Kiyone, where are you?"

Kagato returned his regard to Ayeka and Sasami. "I think we should renew our acquaintance, seeing as it's been some seven centuries since last we met. Please, come join me aboard the Souja." He began to float down towards them. Ayeka drew her key and extended its energy blade. She leapt up to attack him.

Kagato extended his own energy blade and blocked her attack, saying, "Where are your manners?" when he suddenly noted Tenchi also leaping at him, energy blade extended. Kagato swept back up into the air, dodging both attacks.

"What does an Earthling do with the king's blade?" Kagato demanded harshly of Tenchi.

"What have you done with Ryoko?" Tenchi demanded.

"I shall not ask again," Kagato warned, "what right have you to a blade of Jurai?"

Tenchi leapt at him again, and so did Ayeka. Kagato kept both at bay and watched them carefully. Finally he commented, "So you, boy, are an adept of Juraian sword techniques. Yosho did come here. But I doubt you inherited your ancestor's durability." He pointed his palm at Tenchi and blasted him away with his forcefield. Tenchi fell upon Ryoko with a grunt. Kagato bore down upon Ayeka, pressing her hard with swift attacks, and phasing out whenever she tried to strike a blow.

"Tenchi!" Sasami and Mihoshi worried.

Tenchi recovered from the stunning fall and got up as quickly as he could from Ryoko's prone form, asking her, "Ryoko, are you all right?"

At a break in the swordfight, Kagato questioned, "Why do you care for that waste product?" Ayeka aimed a vicious lunge at his head, and he floated off to the side, stabbing at Ayeka's gut before she could react. There was a horrible crashing noise. Tenchi turned towards them and shouted, "Ayeka!" The shields protested mightily, but withstood the blow until Ayeka could leap to another branch. Kagato decided that now was an appropriate time to use his secret weapon, and told Tenchi, "Ryoko is fine."

Tenchi blinked, and uttered, "Huh?" and turned around to see for himself. That action saved his life. It gave him just enough time to whip up his sword and block Ryoko's energy saber. He saw to his astonishment that she was standing, with a feral snarl on her face and a green glow in her eyes. Tenchi had just enough time to ask, "Ryoko?" before she attacked again. Tenchi blocked this attack, and barely managed to intercept the flurry of blows that Ryoko rained down on him. Bewildered, he shouted, "Ryoko, come to your senses!"

Sasami clapped her hands to her face, screaming, "Ryoko, no!"

"What's that noise?" Mihoshi asked frightenedly. The far off yowling came steadily closer, and soon there was a crunching of the new-fallen snow, coming from the direction of the house. Mihoshi saw a small brown being approaching them from that direction and said, "Oh, it looks like Ryo-ohki-"

The green lights from Ryo-ohki's gem and eyes streaked as Ryo-ohki lept off the ground and onto Mihoshi's face.

"Mihoshi!" Sasami shrieked, and ran to her. By main force she shoved Ryo-ohki off, but once Ryo-ohki had her bearings back, she leapt at Sasami. Ryo-ohki rebounded off the shield, but this time landed on her feet and yowled.

Tenchi was unwilling to attack Ryoko, and yelled, "Ryoko, you've got to come to your senses!" She did not heed, but began to float above him. She dissipated her energy saber and prepared to fire bolts of energy on him.

Ayeka leapt to the ground and whirled aside, only barely dodging Kagato's latest blow. His attack struck the side of her shield, but several of the logs in the network had expended all of their energy, and fell to the ground, spent.

Katsuhito slowly trudged up. He was unnoticed by the combatants until he requested, "Would you mind leaving my family and guests alone?"

Kagato resigned himself to addressing the old fool- best to dispose of this distraction quickly. Kagato told him, "Leave us, Earthling. This is a matter of power beyond your comprehension."

"Really?" Katsuhito inquired lazily.

Kagato didn't answer. Katsuhito, instead of leaving, leapt, and as he passed behind Ryoko, cuffed her on the neck sharply. She fell, and Katsuhito landed beside her.

Kagato's eyes narrowed, then he realized something about Katsuhito, and his whole face showed his astonishment.

Tenchi blanched and admonished him, "Grandpa!" Katsuhito smiled and reassured him, "She's a spry young lady, she'll be fine in a bit."

Disbelief was writ large across Kagato's face. He asked, "Yosho, is that really you?"

A sudden gust of wind howled and brought the normal smell of the forest. Bits of snow on the ground were disturbed.

Ayeka stood stock still, with her mouth open, staring at Katsuhito with large, horrified eyes. Sasami was looking at him as though he were about to sprout branches and become a Juraian tree. Tenchi looked at him as though his grandfather was admitting to being Sasami's ten-legged lion. Mihoshi looked cold and confused.

Kagato shook his head and continued in some amazement, "Yosho, you look so old. I almost didn't recognize you."

Katsuhito did not deny anything by facial expression or body language. Instead he replied, "Time has also changed you, Kagato, and not for the better."

In answer, Kagato said, "Oh, no, it is you who have decayed, while I have become greater," and then pulled up his sleeve on his right arm. Mihoshi screamed, and Sasami put her hands to her mouth. Ayeka's eyes narrowed.

Kagato's right glove appeared to be floating in thin air. There was no arm or hand visible at all, yet as Kagato moved and flexed his arm, the glove moved as though an arm and hand were present, and he wiggled the fingers of the glove at Mihoshi.

Katsuhito nodded. This explained much.

"You can clearly see the lovely scar you left me, Yosho," Kagato sneered at Katsuhito.

Mihoshi's face had turned pale, but her confusion got the better of her terror, and she pointed out, "Um, but your arm's invisible. We can't see any scar."

Kagato glared at her.

Katsuhito, or rather, Yosho, smiled at her. "He's telling me he has a new body, and no longer has the scar. I'll explain later."

Kagato flew forward at incredible speed, swinging his sword at Yosho. Tenchi leaped, and just barely managed to block the attack with the sword Tenchi, but Kagato's momentum shoved Tenchi to the ground. Kagato flew on for several meters, unable to finish him off, a prisoner of his own momentum. Yosho reached down and helped Tenchi up, asking, "My boy, may I borrow that a moment?" Tenchi nodded and handed the sword over, looking with dismay and a lack of comprehension at his grandfather. Yosho smiled at him and turned to leap at Kagato while Kagato reversed course.

Kagato blocked the attack, and Yosho immediately executed another attack. Kagato levitated to give himself the advantage of height, but Yosho used the opportunity to strike at Kagato's legs, which were harder for him to guard but easier for Yosho to strike. The two rained fierce blows on each other, constantly shifting and vying for position. Several times Kagato tried to use his hands' forcefield to blast Yosho away, but Yosho barely managed to sidestep these attacks.

The shock of Yosho's revelation began to wear off Ayeka, and she would've gone to help her brother, but she saw him shake his head slightly. Her fists clenched. Couldn't he see she wanted to help? She forced herself to calm down. Rationally she knew that with her shield network compromised, she'd only get in the way of her brother. She couldn't bear to turn her face from the fight and begin to repair her shields, however. She hadn't seen her brother in so long. Nothing else mattered, not even the chilling tears on her cheeks.

The fight carried Kagato and Yosho near to Funaho. Yosho began to leap upon the branches, using their height to nullify Kagato's previous advantages. His attacks nearly struck home several times. In the past, Kagato would've become angry or frightened, but years of not caring for others' hearts had dampened the fires of his own.

Kagato instead sent a mental command. The unwilling body of Ryoko revived and hurled itself at Yosho's back. The onlookers cried out, and Yosho barely managed to leap to a lower branch. As soon as he was there, he blocked Ryoko's next attack while trying to keep an eye on Kagato. Yosho looked into Ryoko's glowing green eyes as they held their swords athwart each other, and shouted with righteous indignation, "You coward! You've always been using her as a shield!"

"Cease your posturing. You abandoned your responsibilities seven hundred years ago," Kagato said in an unruffled tone, not caring a whit for the insult. He positioned himself behind Yosho and prepared to blast him with the forcefield. As he released its power at Yosho, he added, "We both did what was in our own interest."

Yosho reached around Ryoko's energy saber and grabbed her shoulder. He threw himself and her down, he landing on the wide branch upon which he had stood, and she simply hanging horizontally in air. The blast whistled above them both. Yosho tried to regain his footing without slipping on the icy limb and falling to earth. He threw the sword Tenchi into the trunk of Funaho. Fortunately for him, Ryoko showed no inclination to attack again, though her eyes still glowed green.

Kagato's gaze had fixated upon the sword Tenchi, embedded in the trunk. He greedily swooped upon it, and applied himself to the trunk like a woodpecker. He reached out to grasp it, and was literally shocked when its security field activated and caused pain excruciating enough to make him utter a howl.

He pulled himself away and adjusted his pince-nez. He thought aloud, "How clever, to limit access to the sword so even close relations like I cannot touch it. And I must say, it put up quite a fight. The sword hasn't decayed as much as its owner."

Yosho carefully tried to regain his footing as he pointed out, "I thought you would find no ancient source of power, though you pillaged all the ruins in the galaxy. And without that sword, you have no other way to access Juraian powers. You are the one fighting the losing battle with time."

"Not so," Kagato pushed his pince-nez even farther up his nose as he demanded, "Within one hour, come to me bearing the sword, with its security field deactivated, or I shall destroy this planet, your mother's homeworld." Ryoko teleported away from Yosho and reappeared next to Kagato. Both of them moved backwards into the dark hole, and were quickly obscured from view. The hole closed, leaving nothing.

Yosho carefully clambered down the tree. Tenchi ran forward to help him down. Now that the fight was over, Yosho was breathing heavily. He was uninjured, but he could not mask the pain that his aging body provoked by his movements.

Ayeka stared at his back as Tenchi helped him alight to the ground. She called out, "You are not Yosho, are you? It's not true, is it?" He said nothing, and again Ayeka cried, "Is it?"

Yosho did not turn around, but he lowered his head and said heavily, "I am so sorry, my sisters, for what I have put you through."

Ayeka fell to her knees. "No! You knew I was looking for you! I looked for seven hundred years, every opportunity I had! I lived in your home for months! We talked of my plans to find Yosho, and it was you all along!"

Yosho finally turned to face her, wheezing a bit and leaning on Tenchi's arm. "I owe you many apologies for that. The pain I felt when you told me those things, and the pain I feel now, are not nearly enough penance for hurting you and Sasami so."

Ayeka hid her face and began to sob.

Sasami asked in a small voice, "Why?"

Yosho shrugged. "I never imagined it would be your ship that would receive Funaho's message about Ryoko being released. I thought it would be better for everyone if I remained dead. I thought you'd soon be rescued and forget all about this world. Once you crashed, I should've realized this remote region of space, enclosed in Father's protective zone, and so far off your course, would never be a zone the Juraians would search for you when you went missing."

"You can't mean that! We love you! Father, your mother, my mother, we've all missed you for seven hundred years!" Ayeka shrieked.

Yosho said softly, "It has not been easy for me either. But it was the only thing I could do for all of them. There was a civil war coming, Ayeka." Ayeka shook her head vehemently and said, "No! Father's law allowed half-Juraians to assume the throne! Your right as firstborn would've been upheld!"

"Father's law was begrduged by many," Yosho disagreed gently. "Those who hated me would've fought against me and, without your consent, made you a figurehead to be placed on the throne. Or perhaps some new faction would try to claim the kingship. In any event, such contest for the throne could only harm the empire, and my family."

Tenchi spoke, for the first time. Yosho was still leaning on him, and Tenchi turned his head to look at him, saying "So that was how you knew, all along, everything that was happening. And Ryoko knew it was you too." Yosho nodded.

"While we're all explaining stuff," Mihoshi requested, "you said you'd explain Kagato's ghost arm?"

"I can't be sure of the details," Yosho hemmed. "I know he was trying to show me that the scar I gave him was gone. And he isn't aging. But I didn't say I could explain the ghost arm!"

"Oh, brother," Ayeka sighed despite herself.

"Maybe he somehow became the same sort of creature as Ryoko?" Sasami suggested.

They all considered it a moment. Mihoshi's contemplation was so depressing that she cried, "I wish Kiyone were here! Or Misao! Or Grandpa!" She mopped at her eyes.

"What are we going to do?" Sasami asked the world in general. "We have to help Ryoko!"

"I see no reason why, sister," Ayeka said, standing at last. "She's been Kagato's tool for years. She ravaged our homeworld, and she would've killed our brother if she could."

"But you saw! Something was wrong with her! And Ryo-ohki!" Sasami protested.

Tenchi blinked and asked, "Uh, where is Ryo-ohki?"

Mihoshi sniffled and picked Ryo-ohki up out of a large pocket on her uniform. "I put her here for safekeeping. She was acting a little crazy. Maybe she was hungry."

Tenchi sighed, then looked closer at Ryo-ohki. Ryo-ohki's eyes were their normal color, and looked determined. In fact, she seemed to be trembling all over. Looking at them all, she gave a steely meow.

"Ryo-ohki, you're better!" Sasami said joyfully, and petted Ryo-ohki's fur.

Tenchi looked at Yosho- no, at his grandfather. "Grandpa, I know I can't let Kagato keep controlling Ryoko and Ryo-ohki. And I definitely can't let him blow up the planet. But how can I stop him? I don't have the strength."

Yosho looked back at him seriously and told him, "Perhaps not. But I think there is more strength in attitude and intentions than most people give credit for. This is a time when your purpose can't waver. Now is the time when you must decide whether you'd rather die failing or die having never even tried."

Tenchi gulped. Then he nodded, and put a look of steely determination on his face.

Yosho smiled, and told him, "You probably ought to get your sword out of the tree. It is yours by rights, after all."

Tenchi looked at his grandfather, about to protest that he needed to help him stand, but Ayeka understood and came and supported Yosho. "Thank you, sister," Yosho said. She smiled sadly and replied, "You're welcome, brother."

Mihoshi looked at Tenchi with concern as he leapt up the tree and got the sword. He would be in such terrible danger if he faced Kagato. "Hey, wait, Tenchi!" she yelled, running towards the tree. She forgot about Ryo-ohki and dropped her, making Sasami wince in sympathy. Mihoshi continued, "Let me come too, please!"

"How exactly are you going to reach Kagato?" Ayeka pointed out severely. "Kagato failed to note that we do not have a spaceship."

Ryo-ohki dashed up to Ayeka and meowed at her. Ayeka blinked, uncomprehending. Ryo-ohki dashed to the lakeshore only a few feet away and began to meow rapidly, somehow forming a pattern, and then a cadence. As if in answer, a narrow beam, colored along its length by the colors of the rainbow, shot out from nearby Funaho, and another shot out of the lake.

"Ryu-oh," Ayeka said in surprise.

Ayeka's key grew warm, and from under the lake Ryu-oh answered, "Don't worry so, Ayeka. I trust her."

Ryo-ohki hunched her back and all her hair stood straight on end, as though she were afraid, but she made loud, fierce exclamations, ready to fight anything and endure all to save her lifelong friend.

A large beam of energy shot out from Ryu-oh beneath the lake, and another from Funaho beside the lake. Both beams intersected Ryo-ohki at the gem on her forehead. Ryo-ohki meowed piercingly.

Sasami worried, "Oh no, Ryo-ohki!" Ryo-ohki withstood the influx of energy and was efficiently absorbing it. The beams ceased abruptly, and Ryo-ohki made a startling leap in the air, simultaneously curling into a ball. Her body began to morph and grow, mass appearing from nowhere. Within seconds, she had assumed her spaceship form. Ordinarily, her regenerated body would've needed a few more years to mature to the point where she could transform from her normal cabbit form to a spaceship, and back. Ryo-ohki had, however, used the energy from Funaho and Ryu-oh's beams to mature by years in the space of seconds, developing to the point where she could transform.

As everyone stared in wonderment, Ryo-ohki plunged beneath the waves. She reappeared shortly thereafter, bearing one of the major sections of Ryu-oh within her lower spines.

"One last venture into space," Ryu-oh explained encouragingly to Ayeka. Ayeka had been staring enraptured at the sight of her friend in flight again, but now made a moue and said, "Please do not phrase it that way."

"Well, I guess that'll work." Tenchi had finally recovered from his surprise.

Mihoshi had already begun to run towards Ryo-ohki, who obligingly came near the snow-covered earth and formed a portal for entry.

Ayeka stared at Ryo-ohki a moment longer, then requested formally, "Lord Tenchi, may I have the honor of aiding you in this sortie?"

"Sure," Tenchi agreed. He put a hand to the back of his head as he hoped that sortie meant what he was guessing it meant from the context.

In her brother's ear, Ayeka whispered, "About what you said before brother...we do forgive you."

Ayeka turned to her sister and the robots. "Sasami, Azaka, Kamadaki, please remain here and help our brother." Sasami came forward to help Yosho indoors, and the robots chorused, "Yes ma'am!" as they placed themselves defensively around Sasami and Yosho. Ayeka walked towards the combined craft, and made to enter Ryu-oh. However, Ryu-oh informed her, "I still have lingering structural weaknesses. I'm airtight for the moment, but combat stresses could change that quickly. You should enter Ryo-ohki." Reluctantly, Ayeka did so.

"Come back quickly!" Sasami called in farewell.

Tenchi waved goodbye to her, smiling reassuringly. When he, Mihoshi, and Ayeka were inside, Ryo-ohki immediately took off, securely grasping Ryu-oh's capsule.

Ayeka paused aboard Ryo-ohki. She had been about to repair her shield network, but the thought had led her to a realization. "Lord Tenchi," she called him over. When he approached, she withdrew a spare ring from a pocket on the belt of her armor, similar to the one she wore on her own finger. She explained, "It will form Juraian battle armor on you."

"Thank you," he said gratefully, "I'm going to need that." He set it on his finger. He was about to ask how it worked when, in the course of fitting it, he twisted it just so. A brief martial theme played, and he was rapidly enveloped in brown armor on his torso, arms, and legs. Like Ayeka's armor, it allowed great range of motion.

"So, why the music?" Tenchi asked.

"Do you not like the tune?" Ayeka asked in surprise.

"No, no," he said hastily, "it's just, uh, never mind."

Ayeka was distracted by the sight of Mihoshi playing with her cube. "Mihoshi, what do you think you're doing!" Ayeka reprimanded her. This was not the time to be fiddling with the laws of the universe.

"What? I like to do this on takeoff, it's very relaxing. And I need my equipment, but I-ooh!" Mihoshi was startled as orange and black armor encased her. Her fingers were encased in durable, light blue gloves. A matching bazooka was conjured out of nowhere and strapped to her back. Mihoshi looked herself over and exclaimed, "Oh, isn't that neat! I'd forgotten how to get the cube to give me my armor! Wow, and that's where my bazooka went to!"

Ayeka utilized all of her discipline and self-control to avoid saying anything intemperate.

Ryoko was in a prison of despair that bound her even more tightly than Kagato's mind control. Ryoko could hear Ryo-ohki's free voice in her mind, trying to help her, but Ryoko had realized that she was beyond help now. How could she not have seen it? Once again she had fought against Tenchi, the only person she had ever cared about other than Ryo-ohki. Ryoko realized now that she really was too weak, too weak to prevent Kagato from taking over her mind again. All Ryoko had was bluster: when it came time to actually be strong, she had failed.

Kagato had cemented Ryoko's body in place with crystallized biological isolation gel, in case his mental hold over her should break. For the moment that seemed to be a small risk- her will was already broken. Kagato was doing an excellent job of lying to himself, presenting Ryo-ohki's resistance to his control as something he had planned.

The information that he had obtained from the police fleet was invaluable, he reflected. Laid out clearly in the databanks of the ships he had raided was the search pattern to locate Ayeka and Sasami. The search covered the entire intended course of the princesses, but only he had been able to make the guess that they would detour to Earth. It was the only planet of interest to a Juraian in the whole area.

He watched, and forced Ryoko to watch, as Souja tracked the progress of Ryo-ohki towards their vessel. Kagato opened a communications channel to them.

Kagato's imperturbable face was projected into the air of Ryo-ohki. He looked carefully at the crew on Ryo-ohki and asked, "Have you come to deliver the key?"

"No, we haven't! Let Ryoko go right now!" Tenchi demanded, but Kagato had already turned off the transmission as soon as he heard the "No." The bridge lurched as Ryo-ohki dodged a beam weapon from Souja. Ryo-ohki began to change course rapidly to avoid the barrages that were now emanating from Souja.

Ryoko felt deep horror and sorrow within her. Why did she have to be so weak? She could see the danger Ryo-ohki and the others were in. Why couldn't she have stopped Kagato before?

"I know you can understand me, Ryo-ohki!" Ayeka shouted, "please, return fire!"

Ryo-ohki was dodging the attacks from Souja, but not making any of her own. It was unclear whether this was due to a reluctance to potentially harm Ryoko or an inability to accurately target Souja while avoiding Souja's many beam weapons.

"What about your ship?" Tenchi asked Ayeka. "Can we do anything from there?"

"We could use the Light-Hawk Wings," Ayeka nodded, then stepped quickly to regain her balance as Ryo-ohki veered.

"We're already flying, we don't need wings!" Mihoshi pointed out. Ignoring her, Ayeka explained, "It is one of the Juraian space tree's most powerful abilities, to create a powerful shield. We could use the Wings to block the attack, then launch an attack of our own. Unfortunately, the Wings aren't designed for attacking, so we'll have to reconfigure them briefly- which means they won't be able to defend us for a time."

"Okay, tell me how to make it work," Tenchi said.

"Tenchi?" she asked in surprise. He explained, "You two know more about how to fly spaceships and defeat Kagato. I'll take the risk here so that you two can take those risks."

Ayeka accepted his decision with a sense of foreboding and told him how to use the sword key Tenchi to activate the Wings on the portion of Ryu-oh they had brought along. She also taught him how to use his sword key to access Ryu-oh's teleportation system and transport himself onto Ryu-oh's bridge, clutched in Ryo-ohki's spines. As soon as he understood, Tenchi nodded and smiled at the worried faces of Ayeka and Mihoshi, and teleported away.

Three glowing blue swathes of light emanated from the capsule Ryo-ohki clutched in her spines. These Light-Hawk Wings arranged themselves equidistantly from one another, all three residing on the vertical plane in front of Ryo-ohki. As one of Kagato's beams hurtled towards the craft, all three of the wings rotated, maintaining their distance from one another, like a giant windmill or pinwheel. The effect of this rotation was to place one of the Wings in opposition to Kagato's beam, and the beam was harmlessly absorbed.

Kagato ceased his barrage. He needed to power up a more intense weapon system. For good measure, he'd power his attack with the gems he'd stolen from Washu.

"The attack has ceased," Ryu-oh informed Tenchi through the sword he held in his hands.

"Right," he agreed, and used the sword to begin the next series of control manipulations Ayeka had described to him. While Ryu-oh maintained the Wings, Ryo-ohki took the opportunity to move them closer to the Souja.

Tenchi and Ryu-oh worked together to make the Light-Hawk wings expand and connect with each other to form a circle, then bend backwards to form a cone. Tenchi concentrated as hard as he could. Ayeka had told him that only his Juraian energy synchronized with Ryu-oh's energy could make the Light-Hawk Wings work, and that changing the shape of the Wings in the wrong way would make the attack less powerful. They needed to hit Souja as hard as they could.

Ryu-oh and Tenchi compressed the Wings into a brilliant, glowing blue sphere hovering before Ryo-ohki as she hurtled towards Souja.

Souja's telepathic interface informed Kagato that the weapon system he needed was fully charged. Kagato ordered the strike, targeting the capsule of Ryu-oh that Ryo-ohki tightly clutched.

"Go!" Tenchi shouted, and the blue glowing sphere he and Ryu-oh had made surged forward, speeding towards Souja.

Several ports on Souja opened up, and green rays focused into a giant ball of green energy, which was sent hurtling towards Ryo-ohki.

The missiles were too fast and too unexpected to dodge, and so there was a massive explosion on both ships.

The Souja's shielding system had been broken, and a hole roughly the size of Ryo-ohki had been gouged into it. Souja, however, was about twelve times the size of Ryo-ohki, and could survive the hit.

Ryo-ohki whirled and screeched, heard only by her occupants and Ryoko. Most of her was unharmed, but there was a trail of wreckage in her wake from her lower spines and from Ryu-oh's capsule.

Ryoko watched this with deep fear. She wanted to help Tenchi, she needed to help Tenchi- oh if, only she could!

She was shocked to see that she had teleported out of her confinement and into the area of space where Ryu-oh's debris still floated. Without even realizing it, she had broken free from Kagato's domination of her mind.

This thought was quickly shoved away. She had to find Tenchi. He couldn't survive in vacuum like she could.

"What happened to Tenchi?" Mihoshi pleaded of the world at large.

Ayeka clasped one of the gems which floated about in Ryo-ohki's cabin and begged, "Please, Ryo-ohki, we need to find him. Search for Lord Tenchi." Tears ran down Ayeka's face as her key remained cool in her hands, and no word came from Ryu-oh or Lord Tenchi.

Ryo-ohki called up several views of the surrounding area, and moved back towards the area where Ryu-oh had been struck.

Ryoko sobbed soundlessly. It was too late. It had been too long. Ryu-oh's capsule had been dashed nearly to splinters, and her life-giving atmosphere had dispersed into the void. No matter where Tenchi was in this ruin, he couldn't have survived this length of time in the chill of space.

She felt the tendrils of Kagato's mind trying to reclaim herself and Ryo-ohki, but their minds were too full of grief and rage to allow him so much as a toehold.

Ryoko made a fist and glared at Souja. She couldn't let Tenchi die for nothing. She would save his planet, and have her revenge at last.

Next Chapter

Ryoko breathes heavily, looking at Kagato's giant starship Souja, hanging opposite her in the void of deep space.

Mihoshi is sobbing aboard Ryo-ohki.

Nearby, Ayeka slowly wipes her eyes with a handkerchief. Ayeka tells the audience in a voice of sadness, "Lest you think this is the first of Kagato's murders, read in the next chapter how he slew many fellow Juraians in a treacherous attack on his own homeworld. The next chapter is 'No Need For Jurai.'"

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."

"Most everything is just the same as the OVA episode, with only minor modifications to fit my backstory."

"There are only a few big differences I can think of. One is that I had Ryoko always know Yosho's secret- the OVA sometimes gave the impression that she had lost track of who he was. Another is that I had Ayeka battle Kagato- in the OVA only Tenchi did until Yosho came, and then only Yosho fought. The way I was writing Ayeka, it made sense for both Tenchi and Ayeka to fight Kagato for as long as they could."

"A minor difference involves the armor ring. I don't think the OVA covered quite how Tenchi got it. I haven't quite decided why Ayeka had a spare ring, but I decided she did and she gave it to Tenchi. In a later OVA episode, Tenchi twists the ring and it creates the armor on him while cool music plays. It isn't clear that the ring is making the music, but I decided for this fanfiction it was making the music. So far in my fanfiction Ayeka's ring hasn't played music when she activated her armor- perhaps she has set hers to a more practical silent mode."

Chapter 20 Main Chapters Chapter 22