Set page style to Cave Set page style to Fanfiction Set page style to Parchment
Chapter 22 Main Chapters Chapter 24

No Need For Life Without Tenchi

Sasami looked at her newly-discovered brother as she helped him into his home. She almost opened her mouth, then looked away quickly.

He had seen it, and said to her, "You wanted to ask me why I'm so old, didn't you?"

"I'm sorry," she responded meekly.

"I'm not offended," he told her as he smiled reassuringly. "I would've had to worry about you if the question never occurred to you." Yosho went on to explain, "My lifespan estimates were the best scientific guesses possible, based on the assumption that I'd live most of my life on Jurai. The stresses of Earth and its medical technology are different. So, I entered the final stage of Juraian lifespan early, while Tenchi's mother was growing up."

He chuckled, "It's a relief in some ways. You see, it's a relief, after 700 years, to no longer have to keep planning and faking my aging and death to keep the neighbors from getting suspicious!"

They were silent most of the rest of the way into the house, Azaka and Kamadaki flanking them. When they reached Yosho's bedroom, Azaka and Kamadaki used their forcefields to help Sasami lower Yosho to a horizontal position on his futon. Yosho closed his eyes and smiled peacefully. Sasami sat down, watching him, and Azaka and Kamadaki stood by her side.

Yosho opened his eyes and said gratefully, "Thank you, Sasami, but you don't have to watch an old man sleep. You've done more than enough for me."

Sasami nodded and stood. "Azaka, Kamadaki, please stay with him," she said as she left.

"We are honored to be at your service, Prince Yosho," Azaka said after she had left.

"We're very happy that you are safe," Kamadaki added.

Yosho smiled. It was nice to hear, even if they were just personality simulations. "Thank you. But if it becomes necessary, please do not hesitate to go where you are needed."

As he drifted off to sleep, Yosho wondered why he had told his sister and the robots that they could leave him alone. It seemed remarkably unselfish of him. He had grown out of a good deal of selfishness, but there was always so much more selfishness left. Besides, he hadn't grown so much that he didn't fear being left alone when Kagato was on the loose. Nevertheless, he had known, without knowing why, that it was best to release them like that. He wondered if he'd learn why when he woke up. If he woke up, he thought, just before he drifted off to sleep.

Sasami paused on the stairs, then headed determinedly out the door. It didn't matter now if the others found out. She had to do what she could. In the dark of early evening, she tripped over a root as she ran, but she picked herself back up again.

Sasami went out and stood before the trunk of Funaho. She stood still for a moment, then she began to float above the ground as Funaho bathed her in blinding white light. Light began to stream from Sasami's own person, white from her body and green from the symbol on her forehead. A green symbol appeared upon Funaho, then Sasami disappeared into a hole in space. The light from Funaho slowly faded.

To their extreme surprise, Azaka and Kamadaki received an imperative command soon after Yosho fell asleep. It required them to teleport away immediately. It was fortunate indeed that Yosho's orders allowed them the leeway to do so.

Ryo-ohki said something in Ryoko's mind, and she straightened and returned aboard. There was no point in grieving now. That could come later.

Ayeka had assumed a defensive pose when Ryoko came aboard, but she relaxed it when she saw Ryoko's eyes were yellow. She had some idea of what that meant for Ryoko now.

Mihoshi, Ryoko, and Ayeka looked at each other. They had all realized Tenchi had to be dead by now. "I think we'll go to melee combat," Ryoko decided for all of them. "You up for that, Ayeka?"

Ayeka nodded grimly. "Ryu-oh still has enough power for my key blade. Do you know Souja's layout well enough to reach Kagato?" Ryoko gave a short, sharp nod.

"Well then. Let's do it," Ryoko said, then turned to face Souja as Ryo-ohki accelerated towards it. Kagato was distracted, still trying to control her mind and Ryo-ohki's. "So, you want us back?" Ryoko laughed darkly. "Here we come."

Ryo-ohki leapt straight into the hole that Tenchi's last attack had punched into it. She remained in her spaceship form in the event a hasty exit was needed, though judging from Ryoko and Ayeka's grim mien, retreat would not be an option they would be taking.

As soon as they emerged from Ryo-ohki, the defensive systems of Souja began to attack; giant masks with mouths that opened to fire lasers at them. Mihoshi destroyed several with her bazooka while Ayeka and Ryoko handled the others. They ran further into the ship.

Kagato, on the Souja's bridge, sent all of the defense robots he had against them. He didn't expect it to stop them, but it was good strategy to wear down his opponents before facing them himself. He seated himself at the pipe organ that he had designed into Souja all those centuries ago and began to play. The mental focus and agility required by the fine arts was akin to, and a good preparation for, the mental focus and agility necessitated by the martial arts. Or so his trainer had told him on Jurai, even futher back in time. Kagato didn't have any sentimentality for fine arts, he simply did this because it worked.

Ryoko frowned, "The opening was here." She watched as the wall before her, ten times her height, slowly opened up.

"I suppose he's ready for us," Ayeka said as she stepped forward. Looking over her shoulder, she called back, "Mihoshi, do you need assistance?"

"I'm good!" Mihoshi shouted back as she fired randomly and desperately against the last remaining masks. Somehow, she managed to hit them, eventually. The others had already gone ahead. Mihoshi looked at the forbidding portal and muttered to herself, "Gee, those masks were tough. Maybe I've got some heavier weapons I forgot about." She drew her cube and wondered, "Which subspace pocket would it have been?" She flipped the thing at random, hoping to jog her memory, but to no avail, although she did feel inexplicably queasy for a moment. "Hm, I guess this is it. Well, should be enough. Wait up, Ayeka! Ryoko!" Mihoshi looked up from her cube to find herself not only alone, but standing on the underside of the floor.

"Huh?" Mihoshi exclaimed. She could see slightly through the floor, and could see the room she had just been in, except it was upside down. She looked around her and saw what seemed to be a copy of the room, execpt it was rightside up, and there was no oversized door or wall before her. "But of course in outer space such concepts have no meaning, or a meaning highly dependant on the frame of reference," Mihoshi recalled, "and thus Ayeka and Ryoko would probably say I'm the one who's upside down."

"Anyhow," she decided, "I'd better hurry! I'll do what Tenchi would've wanted and defeat that supercriminal!" She ran forward as fast as she could.

Kagato stood up from the organ and bowed elegantly to Ryoko and Ayeka, folding his green cape across his body with his right arm and holding it out with his left. "Princess Ayeka, Ryoko, welcome to my chapel."

"Dedicated to worship of yourself?" Ayeka asked, simmering with rage.

Kagato nodded and said, "And of course, after the example I made of Ryu-oh, I expect you'll be more willing to bring me the offering I asked for. Will you give me the master key?"

Ryoko was alarmed to see Ayeka actually trembling with anger. In the next moment, Ayeka had launched herself forward through the air with her Juraian powers, slashing at Kagato with her sword.

Her blade and body stopped short of Kagato as a forcefield appeared before him, and Kagato waved his palm at her, using his power to disrupt Ayeka's shield network and throw her across the giant room and into the wall at the other end of the room, from whence Ayeka dropped onto the marble floor.

Ryoko bared her teeth. Perhaps she should've mentioned the forcefield in this room earlier, but she had expected herself to be the rash one, not Ayeka. The forcefield would protect Kagato from many attacks, evidently even from a Juraian blade, but it couldn't protect him from a being of Ryoko's power. Ryoko teleported to just behind Kagato and stabbed him in the throat with her energy saber. His entire body dissolved into mist.

This prompted fear, not elation, in Ryoko. It was proved correct when Kagato teleported next to Ryoko, absorbing the mist that had been his duplicate. His real body had been behind the organ seat all this time, she realized. "I thought you'd have realized that was my duplicate," Kagato commented, heaving his sword at her. "But then, you could never learn to make one in all your training."

Ryoko teleported away, but he teleported after her, and Ryoko blocked him only just in time. She smoothly twisted her blade around and severed his sword arm. With his other arm, he blasted Ryoko away and into a pillar. He regenerated the arm and flew at her again.

Mihoshi was in a different area of the ship now, where the floor had turned opaque again, but she was sure she was still in the weird upside down area her cube had somehow let her access. She realized that this new area had abruptly deadended. There were some sculptures of white cobras- not really her taste- and someone in a crystallized biological isolation gel, probably someone with an incurable disease who hoped to be revived sometime in the future for treatment. Or maybe a criminal.

That was quite beside the point now, though. How was she going to find Kagato? Would Ryoko and Ayeka survive?

Mihoshi decided she had gotten into this upside down area somehow, and there had to be some way out. She proceeded ahead to search the room for a hidden exit.

The white cobra statues came to life and tried to eat her. Mihoshi yelped and leapt in the air, using her police academy training to flip as she jumped. She landed behind the things and raised her arm, activating the freezer hidden in her combat suit's glove. Chips of incredibly cold substances spewed out of the glove and impacted on the cobras. In her surprise and distress, Mihoshi found herself reciting the words her teachers had drilled into her: "You are under arrest! You have the right to remain silent- uh- anything you say can and will be used against you in a court ball- no, sorry, court of law-" She paused as she noted the freezer weapon had its intended effect. The cobras were frozen solid.

To her alarm, Mihoshi noted beam emitters powering up in the cobras. Once they were charged, they'd melt the ice and start shooting beams at her. Mihoshi considered her bazooka, but it was out of power. She instead took out her cube and flipped sections of it as fast as she could, hoping to stumble upon a combination that would return her to the rightside-up world, where the snakes couldn't reach her.

She flipped again and again and again, the sweat on her brow dribbling down like the ice melting from the cobras. They shrugged their heads free and began to play beams along their length. In a moment they were totally free.

One of the flips of the cube removed the crystallized biological isolation gel from around the person behind Mihoshi. The gel was deposited several feet away. The person who had been in the gel remained where she had been. The person blinked, and brought her hand to her mouth as she felt an intense sorrow for her failure. The person then looked up and realized with alarm, "Oh, no, that blonde girl's going to be eaten by the snakes!" Thinking quickly, the newly freed person grabbed the large pendant around her neck, a pendant decorated with two snakes. The snakes abruptly dropped to the floor. The person rubbed other command areas on the pendant, and the snakes shattered and lay still. The person tossed the pendant aside.

Mihoshi turned around to see the person walking towards her, and addressing her: "Don't worry, you're fine now. Thank you very much for rescuing me from Kagato. My name is Washu."

Kagato smirked as he separated some of his body into another duplicate of himself. The duplicate carried on the aerial duel with Ryoko while he floated down to the floor. Ryoko swore, but the duplicate put up too good a fight for her to get away. Kagato drifted down to where Ayeka lay. His blast had disrupted her shield network enough to allow the fall to knock her out. He hammered on the shield until it broke; it was much easier when she wasn't awake and able to dodge.

As soon as the network's tiny logs had dropped to the floor, he dissipated his energy blade, took off a glove, and seized Ayeka with an invisible hand. He used all of the telepathic abilities he had acquired when he forged this body of Masses, forcing his way into Ayeka's mind. He had to be sure he knew everything about Tsunami.

Washu wanted to cry. Having 700 years of her daughter Ryoko's memories come flooding into her mind in an instant was quite an experience in and of itself. Seeing what Kagato had made Ryoko and Ryo-ohki do, the misery they had been in, was almost too much to bear. Washu let tears fall as she strode briskly forward. She had to reverse her mistakes and stop Kagato.

"Please follow me," Washu choked out to Mihoshi, "we need to move quickly. Kagato didn't know my escape plan, how I planned to return to normal space."

Mihoshi caught up quickly to Washu and looked down at her red hair. "I thought this upside-down space was not normal."

"This is Souja's antilayer," Washu informed her absently, "and we can't leave it, especially as I see Kagato has destroyed all the exits I made. All the obvious exits- fortunately he didn't know about this!"

Washu reached towards a wall, and a door materialized in front of the wall that had not been visible before. Washu opened a small panel on it and checked some adjustments. Mihoshi asked, "This door can get us back to rightside-up space?"

Managing a brief smile of pride, Washu explained, "It's the last invention I made before Kagato sealed me away. This is a dimensional door- capable of transporting you to any dimension, although if it's a closely related dimension, there's a range limitation of 800 meters based on Soolimarian - Watanabe theory. Someday I might be able to up the range, though." She caught herself babbling and closed the panel.

Mihoshi looked at her and said slowly, "But it will get us back to rightside-up space?"

Washu groaned and finally managed to say, "Yes. Yes, it will." Mihoshi smiled and said, "Okay then!" Washu rolled her eyes, and pulled open the door.

On the other side was the wall behind the door.

"I can't tell if that's rightside-up or not," Mihoshi told Washu frankly. Washu groaned, "Why? Why isn't it working?"

Ayeka fought against Kagato's presence in her mind. He could not control her, but her injuries sapped her of the strength to expel him. "But I will leave," Kagato's mental voice told her, "if you tell me the secret of the Tsunami unit!"

"No!" Ayeka screamed, hearing her mental voice echo in her own brain. She knew no secrets, at least nothing he wouldn't already know as a former member of the Juraian royal family, but she couldn't bear the thought of him learning something, anything that he could use. Yet as long as he remained, there was every danger of precisely that occurring. "Help!" Ayeka called, but even as she did it she knew it was a cry only uttered in her mind. She couldn't move her body away from Kagato's physical grasp- she was too badly hurt.

The shards of Kagato's duplicate flowed into his body, just before Ryoko's sword flowed through the air into his arm. The arm dropped Ayeka's unconscious body and dissolved into nothing as Kagato wheeled to face Ryoko. He tried to use his other hand to regenerate his arm, but Ryoko pressed him back with several well aimed strokes, which he had to float backwards to avoid. Ryoko smiled. Maybe one day she'd thank Ayeka. After all, she had just used against Kagato's duplicate the same technique Ayeka had used on her white nightmare.

"I don't get it!" Washu shouted as she rechecked the adjustments on the door.

"I don't either," Mihoshi said reassuringly.

"I don't get anything!" Washu shouted. "Why is the door not working? Why hasn't Ryoko blown Kagato to cinders! Why?"

"I hate to interrupt, but are you sure we can't get out?" Mihoshi asked, trying to keep the conversation on focus.

Washu calmed down, facing Mihoshi patiently. "Look, like I said, it's absolutely impossible to leave the antilayer without some form of dimensional exit, because it's in another dimension than the rest of the ship. And right now, we haven't got any. All the exits are cut off."

"Erm, I still don't understand," Mihoshi shook her head.

Washu shook her head in depression, unable to keep her mind focused on the intransigently uncomprehending Mihoshi. Washu had only learned of Tenchi's existence in the last few moments, when she had been released from the gel and reconnected with Ryoko, but she felt a great sorrow at learning of his passing. If only her mistake in trusting Kagato hadn't caused his death.

Azaka and Kamadaki hung in space. Before her hull had ruptured, Ryu-Oh had summoned them there. They held between them, in a forcefield, Tenchi's shattered body. He was mercifully unconscious. The robots entered a state that is the closest machines come to worry- the tiny volume of air enclosed in the forcefield would surely not be enough to sustain Lord Tenchi's biological processes for much longer.

A hole opened in space, and swathes of blue light enveloped them. The creator of the hole, Tsunami, smiled. Ryu-oh had some life left. She could be rooted on Earth after this.

Tenchi was in far better shape than she had thought. Ryu-oh, Azaka, and Kamadaki had done well. The operation on Tenchi should be simple, compared to what she had to do for Sasami after her fall seven centuries ago.

Tsunami looked towards Souja. Again Kagato was far too close to an inhabited world. Again, beings of less power than her would need to resolve the matter.

There was no more time to waste. She drew Azaka, Kamadaki, and Tenchi into the hole in space.

Washu had been forced to declare the door a failure. It would take far more theoretical work to get it working, work that could not be done in a short time.

"Wait, we're trapped in here?" Mihoshi turned eyes full of sudden comprehension and sorrow on Washu as she saw Washu step away from the door.

Washu sighed. In the few minutes she'd known her, Mihoshi had already proven immensely frustrating, but seeing that look on her face made Washu want to cheer her up a bit.

"Not permanently. Once Kagato's dead, Souja will start listening to me again, and I can order it to create a new exit for us to use. And in the meantime, we can watch what goes on in the normal layer." She used one of the few commands Kagato had not locked her out of to cast a view of the fight onto the floor. Mihoshi watched with interest.

"I should've figured," Washu sighed, "with three gems, Ryoko might've beaten him by now. Only one, well-" she noticed Mihoshi watching, and said hastily, "Well, it'll take longer, but I have confidence in my daughter."

"I didn't know you were her mother," Mihoshi peered at Washu.

Ryoko had felt with unease the awareness of her mother's telepathic influence, especially since Ryoko couldn't see Washu at all, and was now fed up. Mentally she spat out, "Mother, yeah right! I have no mother! You're some new mind trick of Kagato's, aren't you?"

"No, I am not. I am your mother, and you could show a little respect," Washu informed her telepathically.

Kagato began to sense something was wrong. He ordered Souja to report on Washu, and it reported that she had been freed.

"So the professor is awake at last," he sneered.

Mihoshi had not been privy to Ryoko and Washu's telepathic exchange, or Kagato's interfacing with Souja. All she knew was that a few moments ago Washu had folded her arms across her chest, and Kagato had just said something about Washu being awake. This was all getting very hard to follow.

Washu watched carefully. Even with one gem, she felt certain that Ryoko alone could overpower Kagato. If Ayeka woke up soon, his defeat would be certain. Washu still felt uneasy, wondering if her sentimentality might be blinding her. She had underestimated Kagato before.

Kagato battled Ryoko again for another moment and mentioned, "You were always a disappointment to fight, Ryoko. Too dangerous to be ignored, too incompetent to provide a challenge." He ordered Souja to open the ship's newest weapons ports. "I wasn't idle after I attacked Jurai," he said aloud, then fended off some blows and returned some of his own. "I conducted some experiments. Now it's time to see if this one succeeds. If not, the galaxy will not mourn the loss of one planet."

Ayeka had begun to awaken and moaned, "I forbid it!" Ryoko redoubled her attack, but Kagato defended himself with his sword and ordered Souja to attack. A huge yellow ball of energy flew towards the Earth.

Eight Light-Hawk Wings appeared from nowhere and absorbed the ball of energy.

"I knew you wouldn't be far from the royal family, Tsunami!" he crowed.

Tenchi regained consciousness and looked around him. To his sides were Azaka and Kamadaki, who had evidently been projecting a forcefield around him to keep him upright. There was a large pool of water all around him, and he stood on a stepping stone, of which there were several in the water. Facing him was a woman with long blue hair that flowed into a braid. Her bright pink eyes watched him carefully, and she smiled broadly, seeing him awake.

The question could not roll fast enough off of Tenchi's tongue, "Who are you?"

"I am Tsunami," the woman introduced herself. "I am the original ship of Jurai. You are aboard myself."

"So, you're a ship? Like Ryo-ohki or Ryu-oh?" Tenchi looked around, surprised. "Where has everyone else gotten to?"

"Ryu-oh's key is being used as a blade very close at hand," she informed him seriously. "Our friends are no doubt engaging Kagato in melee combat."

"Then, I need to help!" Tenchi said in alarm.

"I will aid you as I can, but I cannot go with you," Tsunami explained. "Will you face him on your own?"

Tenchi steadied himself and answered, "I will. I may not be able to do much, but," he found the sword Tenchi at his belt, "I've got this stuff, and everyone's going to be helping, right?"

"Kagato is highly dangerous. Fleets and armies have faced him without success, and the master key has not killed him yet. Are you ready to go despite that?" Tsunami had stepped close and was scrutinizing his face.

Tenchi gulped but answered, "Yes, I am."

Tsunami appeared relieved, and leaned forward to whisper in his ear, "Then for what is most important, you are ready."

Tenchi felt a bit uncomfortable. Tsunami leaned back and said almost casually, "I've just blocked his newest weapon. I shall teleport you shortly."

Tenchi felt distinctly uncomfortable. Kagato had ripped through Ryu-Oh, and Tsunami had just now apparently fended off some greater weapon of his, but there was not so much as a ripple in the water around him. He was glad Tsunami was on his side.

A hole in space opened behind Tenchi and engulfed him, then closed. Tsunami smiled, and said, "You were right about him, Sasami. Thank you for calling me."

Unnoticed by Tenchi, Tsunami's reflection in the water was Sasami, who smiled and replied, "Thank you."

Ayeka watched Souja's display with joy as Tsunami unfurled her other two Light-Hawk wings, for a total of ten adorning her prow, as she accelerated confidently towards Souja. "The ten Wings of the Light-Hawk! Tsunami, you've come to help us!" Ayeka murmured. She was inspired to get to her feet again, but her frame was not yet ready for such exertion. Ayeka was at least able to sit straighter and bear her head more proudly.

A multitude of tiny holes opened in space, and blue beams shot out of them, hitting Souja and pocking every exterior surface it possesed.

Kagato was so shocked that Ryoko got a few good slashes in, and he had to teleport away to avoid more. "How did Tsunami do that?" he said, stunned. Ryoko flew at him, and he flicked his sword out to defend himself.

Kagato's surprise soon turned into a look of triumph. "It's now time for my final experiment. Should it succeed, I will be the most powerful person in the universe."

He blocked Ryoko's attack with his sword and used his palm to blast her to the ground. He returned to the ground some feet away, using the respite to regenerate the arm Ryoko had severed earlier. "If necessary, I can do without Ryoko's will, Ayeka's information, and Yosho's sword. I have the gems Washu used in Souja. Even your one gem will resonate with them, Ryoko," he explained, and watched as Ryoko collapsed to the floor. "That reaction to the resonance was what I should've expected from garbage like you," he said callously. He turned towards Tsunami, closed his gloved fist before him, and commanded, "Come, Tsunami!"

Ayeka blanched as she saw Tsunami was now bucking, trying to escape, but inevitably being drawn slowly closer to them. What could possibly be happening? She still could not stand, and Ryoko seemed glued to the floor, conscious but helpless. Ayeka drew her key, ready to throw it at Kagato if she could do nothing else, but to her horror the blade did not form.

She looked back to Tsunami and saw a docking bay opening in Souja, ready to consume Tsunami. Tsunami fluttered like a butterfly or a leaf falling to the ground, but was again and again tugged into the gaping maw of Souja.

"No!" Ryoko grunted, exerting all of her will upon her limbs, but she could not move a muscle. Not only her one gem, but her whole body was pinioned. It seemed as though the gem was sending energies throughout her body in response to an unseen force, and all of her being was shutting down, unable to cope with the surge. She gasped, "Tenchi, forgive me. I did my best to avenge you."

Maybe she was already dead. She could've sworn she heard Tenchi tell her, "There's nothing to forgive." She managed somehow to move her eyes and saw him standing beside her. "You're not real, are you?" she asked sadly, but with a slight hope.

"I'm not a ghost quite yet," he reassured her.

Kagato looked at him in surprise, and mentioned, "I thought you either ran away or died."

Tenchi fixed him with a glare.

"Lord Tenchi!" Ayeka breathed, scarcely able to credit it. She peered at him. Was that a Juraian symbol on his brow? He had none before. It looked like three green wings placed side by side.

"Tenchi's alive?!" Mihoshi leaned forward excitedly, so close that it almost seemed as though she were going to kiss the projection that she and Washu were watching.

Washu raised a fist in the air and cheered, "All right! That guy isn't dead after all! I was almost getting worried!"

Tenchi tried to step forward and nearly lost his balance. He looked down and saw that part of his leg was still in the hole in space, the hole through which he had entered Souja's bridge. The hole had shrunk to an uncomfortably small diameter, about as wide as his leg. He stepped awkwardly, trying to withdraw his calf and foot, hoping that the wrong move wouldn't leave these appendages in the void.

Washu paused, seeing this. She had just gotten fans out of a subspace pocket for herself and Mihoshi, and they had been about to start a wild cheerleading routine. "Erm, I'm worried again," Washu admitted.

Tenchi finally extricated his leg and charged Kagato, slashing with the master key Tenchi, his namesake. Kagato reached through where the blade should've been and seized his sword hand.

"Keys only work when a Juraian ship can send them energy," Kagato explained to him as Tenchi struggled. "The gems are now in a self-sustaining resonance, filling the air with their energy, interfering with even Tsunami's transmissions." He looked closer at the sword hilt and Ryoko's two gems therein embedded. "Thank you for bringing the key at last, and the last gems. I shall be ruler of the universe even faster now."

Tenchi struggled, trying in vain to free himself from that grip, then punched Kagato in the gut, but Kagato blasted him away, into a pillar.

"No!" Ryoko and Ayeka cried. Ryoko's eyes began to tear, and she almost begged for his life, but she knew that there was no mercy in Kagato.

"I didn't know you cared about anyone but yourself," Kagato raised his eyebrows as he registered Ryoko's reaction to the harm done to Tenchi. "But the only way for him to have avoided death was to have abandoned you people."

"I'd rather have died than forsaken any one of you," Tenchi said clearly as he picked himself up.

"You shall all die, then," Kagato said coldly. He fired a large bolt of green energy at Tenchi, totally enveloping him, and Kagato then turned to Ryoko. "Now is your turn-" He began to say, but then quickly turned around to face where Tenchi still stood, adjusting his pince-nez and scowling in shock.

There were three Light-Hawk Wings in front of Tenchi now. Tenchi held his arms out, and the Wings flowed back and over him, coating him in armor of white and blue. The Wings then dissappeared, but the armor remained.

"Tsunami's power is cut off- and this is unprecedented- then you're the one!" Kagato shouted. "This has never occurred in history! It's you who is making that!"

Tenchi said nothing and created another Wing, forming it into a massive blade, which he took by the hilt. He had no idea what was happening, how he was doing this, if he was doing this, but the Wings somehow were giving him whatever tools he decided he needed most at the moment.

Kagato hissed through his teeth, and realized this had to be halted. He ordered Souja to teleport several gems to his location, then to launch these gems at Tenchi. As Kagato had anticipated, Tenchi needed to dissipate the sword to reform the Wings to shield himself. Kagato flew through the air and swiped with his own green energy sword, hoping to catch Tenchi concentrating on the gems and unprepared for his attack.

Tenchi rapidly switched back to a sword after the last of the gems detonated against his wings. He leapt to meet Kagato.

There was a bright flare of green light, and Kagato and Tenchi landed opposite each other. They turned to face one another. Tenchi's armor had held against Kagato's blow. Kagato's face and body were twitching. Then he steadied and said in an unnaturally calm voice, "Your name is the same as the master key. Like it, you can't be copied, can you? Tsunami did well. She got me at last. And congratulations to you too, boy." His body ruptured, and thinned into insubstantiality, then the air holding the last mist of him exploded.

Tenchi waited for a moment, hardly able to believe it, but there was no sneak attack, no reforming of Kagato elsewhere. He dissipated his sword. It was done.

"He did it!" Mihsohi cried jubilantly.

"Tenchi made those Light-Hawk Wings?" Washu said, staring in wonder. Then she grinned. "How excellent!"

Ryoko could now stand freely. Pausing only to snicker at Ayeka, who was still too weak to stand, she flew towards Tenchi, though a bit slower than she had planned due to her own injuries. "Tenchi-" she began to say.

Washu and Mihoshi suddenly rose out of the floor between Ryoko and Tenchi. "Hello, I'm Washu," Washu promptly introduced herself with a bow, "a brilliant scientist. Thank you for helping rescue me from Kagato. Clearly you are a person of extraordinary gifts. Can I count on your cooperation in a scientific investigation of these gifts?"

"Um, hello," Tenchi said awkwardly. This was all happening a bit too fast for him. He still hadn't quite processed the fact that he had just managed to kill Kagato.

"Look, Mom, if you really are telepathically linked to me," Ryoko insisted as she pushed Washu aside, "then you'd know that you ought to let me rush into his arms and-"

Sasami appeared out of a hole in space in front of Washu and hugged Tenchi, chirping, "Oh Tenchi, thank goodness you're all right!"

"Thanks, Sasami," Tenchi smiled, then drew his head back in surprise and said, "Wait, what are you doing here?"

"Tsunami brought me," Sasami said innocently.

Mihoshi came forward, clapped her hands, and gushed, "Tenchi! I'm so glad!" Tenchi laughed back and agreed, "Me too."

Ayeka limped forward and said, with the quietness of joy, "Lord Tenchi, you were wonderful."

"Are you all right?" Tenchi asked in concern. Ayeka nodded, growing stronger by the minute.

"I wasn't asking for much," Ryoko said very quietly. "He just saved my life. Isn't a girl entitled to express her feelings at least once, without people getting in her way?"

Tenchi turned towards Ryoko, "Are you all right?"

"Yes! I am now!" Ryoko said honestly, finally flinging herself into-

"GAA!" Washu exclaimed.

Everyone jerked in surprise and turned to her. Ryoko only just remembered to fling herself into Tenchi's arms, but somehow it wasn't the same now. She sighed. Maybe another day. At least he had been worried about her, and hadn't shrugged her off like he usually did. That was progress. Maybe there could be more progress.

"Kagato's entered a self-destruct program into Souja in the event of his death," Washu explained herself. "I'm not able to shut it down."

Everyone's exclamations filled the room.

After calming down a bit, Tenchi hooked Ayeka's arm over his neck and said, "Come on. We'd better run. Which way is Ryo-ohki?"

"That way," Ryoko and Washu gestured simultaneously.

Ayeka almost wished she could be this injured forever, so Tenchi would be near her always. Of course, she didn't want to be a burden to him. Still, she knew she would cherish this moment forever. Then there was the fact that he had actually made Wings. She had no idea what that meant, or how he had done it, but he was clearly unequaled in all of Juraian nobility. Despite this, he was still bearing himself with humility and concern for others. Ayeka smiled serenely.

Ryoko grumbled to herself, but she came and took Ayeka's other arm and helped her and Tenchi run for the exit, with Washu, Sasami, and Mihoshi behind. Ryoko wanted to tell herself that she was just helping Ayeka to get Tenchi to the exit faster. Washu and Ryo-ohki telepathically and emphatically told Ryoko they were having none of that.

"Wow, you know, Tenchi, this is like, the second time you've saved my life! Isn't that incredible?" Mihoshi giggled as they ran. "And then you went all glowy and you got new clothes and- where'd they go?"

Somewhere in the confusion of the last few minutes, his Juraian symbol had disappeared, leaving his brow unmarked, and his white armor had disappeared, leaving him clad in the body armor Ayeka had given him.

"Well, it was totally awesome, whatever it was!" Mihoshi continued cheerily. "It really coordinated well with your dark hair. Did you notice that, Sasami?"

"I didn't get to see," Sasami said sadly as she kept pace with Washu.

"Don't worry," Washu winked at Sasami, "I recorded the whole thing on one of my inventions I was keeping in a subspace pocket! We can watch it over at- oops, oh yeah. Thank you for reminding me, Ryoko. Tenchi, may I stay at your house?" Washu asked as they arrived at Ryo-ohki. Ryo-ohki had opened a door and they were trying to get in as fast as possible. Ryoko was glaring at Washu, wondering how long this new mother intended to remain in her life.

"Well, uh, sure, at least for the night, or, well, I'll think about that later, just please, hurry in!" Tenchi pointed towards Ryo-ohki's door.

"What a gentleman! Thank you!" Washu thanked him as she stepped calmly inside. Last to get aboard, Tenchi hurriedly jumped in behind her, whereupon Ryo-ohki immediately zoomed away from Souja. One half of Souja began to slide against the other, and the whole thing blew up in a stupendous display of fireworks.

"So, can we really watch the battle when we get home?" Sasami asked Washu excitedly. Washu nodded happily and Sasami enthused, "Oh, thank you!"

Tenchi looked at her in surprise. "Are you sure? I wouldn't think you'd like watching it. It was kinda intense and violent." Sasami laughed and said easily, "Don't be so modest, Tenchi. You were great. And of course I need to watch my sister's bravery, and Ryoko and Mihoshi's! Oh, and I'd like to know more about you," she added to Washu.

"She's really into it," Tenchi said awkwardly. He was disturbed by the prospect of being the subject of home entertainment.

Washu agreed, "Yeah, there'll be plenty of time for me to get to know all of you. And Ryoko and I need a mother-daughter chat, too, to catch up."

Ryoko fixed her with a glance. "Washu, you can read my mind, and Ryo-ohki's too. You're already caught up."

"See, that's what I mean, my sweet little Ryoko," Washu said affectionately, "we need to form a strong bond of mother-daughter love, where you call me Mom and I call you little snuggle-kitten!"

"Enough already!" Ryoko exclaimed.

Ayeka thought to herself in amazement, "I never thought I'd hear the day when someone would call her snuggle-kitten."

"So, a vicious supercriminal is dead and gone!" Mihoshi noted, and concluded, "We should have a major celebration!"

"Indeed," Ayeka nodded, "a feast to celebrate Lord Tenchi's glorious victory."

"Great idea, a festival commemorating Tenchi freeing Ryo-ohki and I," Ryoko affirmed, clapping an arm around Tenchi's shoulder and drawing him close. "I'd be so happy to be your date to this party, Tenchi."

"You can't be serious," Ayeka frowned at Ryoko.

Ignoring them, Sasami patted the wall of the bridge and said happily, "I'll be sure to get you plenty of carrots for the feast, Ryo-ohki!"

"Meow! Meow!" Ryo-ohki cried gleefully, and put on an extra burst of speed.

Next Chapter

For some moments, Kiyone has been talking to Dragonwiles. Kiyone concludes talking to Dragonwiles by reiterating the main points of her speech. "Look," she says, "if I'm not required by the plot, if I don't serve any dramatic functions, if including me in a scene forces you to add pointless lines, then please, let's just end this cleanly. Let me move on with my life and my career. If I'm not helping the fanfiction, I shouldn't stay here."

Dragonwiles, with several slight shakes of the head, says soothingly, "Kiyone, I could never say that we don't need you. You've just been waiting in the wings for your spotlight. Please, don't leave now- you're about to join the main cast."

Kiyone is taken aback. "I am?" She asks, half suspicious, half curious, "When?"

"Next chapter." Catching her surprised look, Dragonwiles continues, "Seriously, I was going to bring you into the main cast in the next chapter even if we never had this talk. Please, stay with us. We need you."

"Really?" Kiyone slowly smiles, "Well, then-"

"Yeah, of course we need you, Kiyone!" Mihoshi bounds up from elsewhere and embraces her friend. "I need you a lot!"

Kiyone stiffens and begins to have second thoughts.

Dr. Clay waddles towards them and harrumphs, "Frankly, I can't understand why you're whining so much. I haven't even been mentioned in this story since-"

Yakage appears out of nowhere and shakes his head. "Don't bother, you fool. This is a Tenchi fanfiction. Only the cute female characters get any attention. We'll just have to wait our turn. I may never even get to make my menacing appearance at all."

"Now just a minute!" Kiyone raises her voice, "I was cast for my talent, not my looks!"

"Oh, Kiyone, don't say that about yourself, you look pretty!" Mihoshi chides her gently.

"No!" Kiyone slaps her forehead and snarls, "Mihoshi!"

Dragonwiles has idly scrawled onto a nearby sheet of paper the words "The next chapter is No Need For The Beat Cop." Dragonwiles looks up and says, "What? I'm running out of ideas for these chapter titles. It's not that easy, you know."

"Who are you calling a fool?" Dr. Clay glares at Yakage. Dr. Clay turns away in an abrupt burst of self-pity, and wonders aloud, "Why is everyone always making fun of me?"

"Perhaps it's because of your coiffure's resemblance to an octopus?" Yakage says evenly.

Dragonwiles mutters thoughts aloud, "Oh, yeah, you're probably saying it's easy. You just put a 'No Need For' in front of whatever it is that the chapter is about. Well, what about when there's a double negative?"

"I just want you to have a good attitude about yourself," Mihoshi explains. "I already do! I like the way I look!" Kiyone shouts. Mihoshi smiles and says, "Good!" Kiyone groans.

Chapter 22 Main Chapters Chapter 24