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Chapter 27 Main Chapters Chapter 29

No Need For Babysitting

Washu bows and introduces herself, "Hi, I'm Little Washu. I'm this chapter's DJ, and our theme song will be 'Boku Wa Itsuma Pioneer,' the second opening theme song from the Tenchi Muyo OVA! Yeah, and Dragonwiles doesn't own rights to either."

Sasami woke up, not feeling quite like herself. She felt odd and out of sorts, not tired but restless. Sasami slipped out of the room she and Ayeka shared, yawning softly. Ayeka was undisturbed, and continued sleeping. Sasami smiled ruefully at the sight before sliding the door closed. She had no right to take courage from her sister's peace.

Knowing that she had gotten up earlier than usual, and knowing she wouldn't be able to get back to sleep easily, Sasami set to making a more elaborate breakfast than usual. It took time, but eventually her joy and concentration on the cooking caused her to forgot her restlessness.

There was a ring. Sasami realized it was the doorbell, the odd way that humans had of signaling a visitor's presence. She worried if it would wake anyone up. Tenchi would be out in the fields working, but no one else needed their slumbers disturbed at this hour. She hurried to the door and opened it.

An elderly Earth woman was standing there, a little shorter than Sasami. The Earth woman was dressed traditionally, in a brown, everyday kimono. Sasami noted a faint resemblance to Tenchi in the woman's face.

Meanwhile, the Earth woman was examining Sasami with quite a bit of shock. Sasami inferred that the woman had not expected anyone but one of the Masaki family to answer the door. The woman was poring over Sasami's pink eyes, blue hair, and green forehead symbol. Sasami realized with a jolt that she had made a mistake; Tenchi had always cautioned them against revealing their presence to outsiders.

The elderly lady was, however, too preoccupied to think much more about what she was seeing. She said hurriedly, "Good morning. Please, pardon my intrusion, miss, but is Tenchi already working in the fields?"

"Yes, ma'am," Sasami told her. Sasami felt herself teetering between guilt for betraying her presence to an outsider and concern for the lady. Sasami asked the lady, "Do you need help, ma'am?"

"Oh, would you please?" the lady said nervously, anxiously looking over her shoulder, towards the road. "I'm so sorry to trouble you. I'm Tenchi's aunt." She bowed, then looked at Sasami expectantly. Exactly on cue, Sasami bowed back, slightly lower, and replied, "Pleased to meet you. I'm Sasami. I'm staying with the Masaki family for a short while." She didn't mention the others. Both of them straightened.

Tenchi's aunt continued, "Yes, would you please come with me? I run the hot springs and bed and breakfast down the road." She looked anxiously over her shoulder again, towards where the Masakis had always said the hot springs were. "I have some guests, and Tenchi's cousin Taro needs some looking after."

Sasami swiftly ran through all of her preparations so far in the kitchen, and what she'd need to do to safely halt them indefinitely. "Please come in, I'll need a moment," Sasami decided. She let Tenchi's aunt in, and hastened to the kitchen. After seeing to everything, she wrote and left a quick note, then hurriedly departed with Tenchi's aunt.

Some time later, Nobuyuki Masaki remarked, "You always miss the little things the most."

"Oh, don't you start too," Ryoko snapped.

They were all eating breakfast. Ryoko, seeing a chance to impress Tenchi, had immediately seized the duties of restarting the breakfast preparations. Though everyone was too polite to say so, Ryoko sensed some disappointment in her own culinary abilities.

"I wasn't talking about-" Nobuyuki said quickly.

Ryoko rounded on Ayeka, "And you, go ahead and say it. We all know you're thinking it."

"A princess of Jurai never complains about food she is given!" Ayeka spoke haughtily.

"Especially when she doesn't do any work to prepare it herself," Ryoko harrumphed.

Ayeka retorted, "I do plenty to help around here! I shall, however, make breakfast tomorrow, to demonstrate my goodwill!"

Tenchi, for the first time in years, felt happy that he had to go to school.

Tenchi depressed himself by arriving home from school and thinking, "Hooray, I'm just in time to do the afternoon chores."

The phone rang, and he wondered who it could be. He picked it up and said, "Hello, Tenchi Masaki."

His aunt proved to be on the other end of the line, and Tenchi was seized by another bout of the worries that had plagued him since he'd gotten the note. Would his aunt probe very deeply into the origin of his humanoid but alien guests? How many of them did she know about?

"Oh, Tenchi, Sasami's been such a help to me," his aunt said. She sounded grateful but frazzled. This was a peak season for her hot springs. "I just didn't know what I'd do, your cousin taking sick and her husband having to work. It's a lifesaver having Sasami here to watch little Taro. I am surprised you didn't tell me you had a visitor at your house!" Tenchi was relieved, it sounded like his aunt's mind was on a million things at once, as it always was when she had guests. She was a great hostess, keeping in mind all the needs of all her customers.

Tenchi decided that it would be best to answer his aunt's tricky question truthfully, but without giving too much away. She was so distracted she probably wouldn't probe further, and it would be better to tell her about the houseful of guests rather than have her discover it. "Yeah, she and her sister, and another friend, are staying here awhile. Some police officers we met may be coming over soon too."

"Ah, then you'll have a full house at last!" said his aunt, surprised, but pleased. She had never liked the idea of Tenchi, his father, and his grandfather living on their own, and was always after them to entertain more, or at least rent out a room. His aunt said something briefly to one of her employees, then returned the phone to her mouth and said, "Sorry about that, Tenchi. May I please borrow Sasami for the rest of the day?"

Tenchi decided he shouldn't have been surprised by the request. "If she doesn't mind, that's fine with us." His aunt sounded very relieved as she said gratefully, "I'm so glad, Tenchi." Tenchi said, "Oh, I'm glad Sasami can help in our stead. Maybe sometime when the season winds down you could visit, and bring baby Taro with you too!"

"Oh, that'd be lovely, dear!" his aunt exclaimed excitedly. "It's been so nice talking to you, Tenchi, but I need to see to the guests now. Goodbye!" Tenchi wished his aunt goodbye and hung up the phone.

A few hours later, as the sun neared the horizon, Ayeka saw her little sister out the window, carrying something in her arms. She went outside and saw that Sasami was carrying a young child. The child turned his head and cooed at Ayeka.

"Sasami, welcome home," Ayeka said. "Is this little one...?" She trailed off and looked questioningly at her sister.

Ryoko teleported outside and Tenchi walked out as Sasami explained, "Yes, this is Taro. Tenchi's aunt told me that Tenchi wanted him over to visit for a few days."

"That's not what he said at all!" Ryoko was outraged.

Tenchi turned to her, frowning, and said critically, "You were listening?"

"Why shouldn't I?" Ryoko wondered, then recalled her observations of humans. "Oh. Yeah."

"I'm sure Tenchi's aunt simply misheard him," Ayeka said.

Tenchi informed them, "My aunt had selective hearing when she was younger too."

Sasami looked sheepish.

"Oh, don't worry about it, I had wanted to see the baby," Tenchi reassured everyone. "Shall I carry him for you, Sasami?"

"Please, allow me, Tenchi," Ryoko said hastily, taking Taro and teleporting away. Ayeka looked worried, but Sasami seemed confident in Ryoko.

Checking a yawn, Sasami started plodding into the house and told them, "Please, wait just a little while and I'll have dinner ready."

"You've been working more than usual," Tenchi shook his head, "you need tonight off. I'll go see what we can do."

Nobuyuki presented his dinner offering to them. "Instant ramen!" he said with great fanfare.

The next morning, Ryo-ohki was investigating the baby, and the baby was investigating Ryo-ohki. Taro was laying on his back, and Ryo-ohki had hopped forward to peer at his face. Taro giggled and reached out, taking hold of Ryo-ohki's ear. Having done this, he now seemed to have no idea what to do next, and moved his arm randomly, to Ryo-ohki's intense discomfort. Ryo-ohki tried to pull away, but her cabbit form didn't have the leverage or mass to make such an operation easy.

Ayeka, who was watching Taro, grumbled, but set to work releasing Ryo-ohki. She gently but firmly took hold of Taro's hand as best she could while he was still moving it, and tried to unpry his fingers. When she managed to extricate Ryo-ohki, Taro calmly took hold of Ayeka's hand, which was cute and darling until he stuck it inside his mouth and showed no inclination to release her.

Ayeka and Ryo-ohki found themselves glancing at each other. Ryo-ohki seemed to shrug, and Ayeka nodded in agreement. She managed to extricate her own hand and picked up Taro.

He giggled as she carried him. Ayeka could see him looking out the glass door at the ten-legged lion, which made its usual morning pass by the porch, and at Mik, whom Sasami had foresightedly left outside, out of Taro's small but relentless reach.

Ayeka noticed Washu coming out of her laboratory and asked her, "Washu, would you please hold the baby a moment while I wash my hands?"

"Give it up, Ayeka, nothing's going to be clean for a long time while a baby's in the house," Washu told her with certainty, moving away towards the kitchen. Ayeka's annoyance was compounded by seeing a bit of Ryoko's personality in Washu.

Ayeka carried Taro calmly into the kitchen as Ryo-ohki watched. Ryo-ohki examined her paws. She loved them, but there were situations where hands were extremely useful.

Ryoko sat listlessly on the couch, while Taro sat on the floor and leaned forward with interest. Sasami had brought several of his toys when she returned from the home of Tenchi's aunt. Taro giggled as Ryoko made one of the toys move.

"Great, kid," Ryoko murmured, "that's only the hundredth time you've seen it do that." She tried once again to get him to play catch, but the toy simply bounced off his head. The toy was soft and she hadn't thrown hard, so Ryoko knew it didn't hurt, but Taro looked like he was about to cry again. "Tenchi was cuter and less fussy," Ryoko grumbled.

"Ryoko!" Washu scolded her daughter in person, standing behind her. "He can't play catch, he can't barely control his arms. If you're bored, think of something else to do."

"I don't see why I should be subservient to that hot spring lady's machinations," Ryoko groused. "If you want to give in to her whims, you play with him."

Washu fumed, "I'm busy!" and stormed away, slamming the door to her lab.

Ryoko hadn't expected the half-serious suggestion to arouse so much ire in Washu.

Mentally, Ryoko said to Ryo-ohki, "Don't you want to play with Taro, Ryo-ohki?" She was unsurprised by the vehemence of Ryo-ohki's negation. "When is Tenchi coming home from school?" Ryoko wondered, though after watching him from the cave for years, she knew the time to the minute.

About an hour later, Ryo-ohki entered Washu's lab. The door was ordinarily connected to the closet, but since Washu had perfected the dimensional door, it now opened onto a vast laboratory space. Washu was typing quickly on an ethereal laptop, seated on a levitating purple cushion. Her back was turned to the door, but she had mounted a crab noisemaker to jingle whenever someone came in. Washu always could sense Ryo-ohki's feelings and whereabouts through Ryo-ohki's connection with Ryoko, who was herself connected to Washu. Washu could therefore sense Ryo-ohki's entry, but Washu was mostly concentrating on her work.

Ryo-ohki used Washu's knowledge to guide her, and she padded along until she found a massive holding area with automatic nutrient sprinklers. Floating about in the holding area were Masses, tiny grey and brown blobs with red eyes. At first one by one, then in clumps, they zoomed forward to examine Ryo-ohki.

As she watched them, she considered. It was hands that had allowed Taro to grip her, and hands that allowed Ayeka to get Ryo-ohki loose. The others were always using their hands to help Tenchi, and one another.

Ryo-ohki was made of Masses, and like them, she was nearly indestructible, could call on huge reserves of energy, and travel through solid objects. Still, the others could do things with their hands that were just as remarkable. Hands allowed one to communicate with writing, to lift things out of the way, and place them wherever one wanted almost effortlessly. Every night, when Tenchi did his homework, he'd take one or more books out of his backpack, and open them to the right pages within a minute. Had Ryo-ohki tried a similar operation with her paws and teeth, the operation might've taken half an hour, if it were possible at all. The power of hands was quite remarkable.

"Ryo-ohki?" Washu called. She got up from her laptop, cursing the distraction, and walked towards where Ryo-ohki had gone. In her mind, she said, "Ryo-ohki, it's not a good idea to hang around there with your mind unfocused."

Ryo-ohki's reply made her frown, and Washu then telepathically said, "We can talk about that later, Ryo-ohki, that sort of thing needs to be planned. Come on, run along now."

Ryo-ohki accompanied Washu back towards the doorway. Washu suddenly froze and balled her hands in her fists. "Ryoko, don't you dare," she said aloud and in her mind, but it was to no avail. Ryo-ohki tried to reassure Washu telepathically, for Ryo-ohki trusted Ryoko. Unassuaged, Washu ran for the lab door, and Ryo-ohki hopped along after her.

Ryoko flew through the air, Taro clasped in her arms below her. Ryoko drew in a deep breath of fresh air, savoring the forest scent, as Taro hummed happily.

Flying always gave Ryoko a thrill, and it was highly annoying that her mother was telepathically screaming at her to come down. She'd finally found something fun to do with the baby like Washu said, and now she wanted it to stop?

Washu came out of the house, and looked abnormally small, a tiny figure shouting up at them (although Ryoko could hear her far too clearly in her mind,) "Ryoko, get down here before you drop that poor baby!"

"I can punch through most known substances," Ryoko pointed out, "do you really think I'd lose my grip on a little boy?" She was getting seriously annoyed now. It looked like Taro had been having such a good time, too. "You want us to come down, then?" she thought at Washu.

Washu sensed the thought behind that and snarled, "Ryoko! If you do a vertical dive with that infant I will-"

Ryoko smoothly dove at a gentle angle and very low speed, landing smugly and precisely in front of Washu. Washu looked about ready to explode, even though she had known Ryoko's real intent was the safer dive. Tearing Taro out of Ryoko's arms, Washu marched inside, speaking calmly for the benefit of the child, "Since I obviously can't trust him with you, I'll just have to take care of him myself."

Tenchi walked down the path through the woods from the bus stop to his house, returning home from school. It took a long time to reach home, but his house's remoteness did make it easier to conceal the presence of his alien houseguests.

A brown bird seemed to move through the bushes, or at least that was all Tenchi was able to catch sight of before it moved away. He frowned. Something had seemed odd about it. It had very long feathers, or at least long things that looked like feathers, without having the texture or coloration of most feathers he'd seen.

He stepped towards the bushes and looked at them, then pushed through and looked at the other side, but he couldn't see anything. It had probably gone on to further undergrowth. Tenchi resumed his trek towards home.

Washu looked at Taro. Well, she was committed to helping the child now. She sat down and set him down carefully on the floor, where he quickly raised himself to a sitting position and made a curious noise at her.

"And my name is Washu," Washu pretended that he had just introduced himself. "It's a pleasure to meet you too."

She found one of his toys on the floor beside her, a stuffed forest creature from Earth. Smiling at Taro, she made the stuffed toy nuzzle its nose against his, and he giggled. Just as her baby had done.

Turning her face aside suddenly, Washu concentrated for a few moments, forcibly pushing that memory away. Taro twisted his body as he remained sitting cross-legged, moving towards Washu's head, trying to figure out where Washu's face had gone. She heard his confused noise and turned back and told him, "Never mind that now, Taro. You and I are the ones here now. And Mr. Bear." She wiggled the toy in her hand, having finally recalled the human colloquial name for the species represented by the stuffed plaything.

Taro made an affirmative noise, and a few apparently random swipes at the thing. Finally he managed to take hold of it and stuff one of its arms in his mouth. Washu smiled at his eager delight at such antics.

In such manner did the two play, she tenderly and protectively helping him explore each of his toys, and the less dangerous areas of Tenchi's house, as well as introducing him to its various occupants. After that, she had taken him out on the porch and tickled him for quite a while. Simultaneous with one of his laughs, she heard his stomach growl.

"Oh, hungry, eh?" Washu asked. She said thoughtfully, "Now I'm sure I have some enhanced formula somewhere in my lab. It's been so long since I've needed it. We'd better start looking now."

Washu put Taro into a harness on her back and headed into the deepest reaches of her lab.

Ayeka knocked, then opened the door to Washu's laboratory. She couldn't understand why she couldn't find her anywhere else. Ayeka looked around inside the lab, seeing no one. She walked further, wondering how large a dimension this was.

She walked past a large, empty holding area, then stopped as she noticed a small plaque identifying the creatures who normally inhabited that area. It read "Masses." She paused. Weren't those incredibly destructive aliens that lived beyond civilized space? And why were there none in the holding area bearing their name?

Ayeka frowned as she left the area. If Washu had released some sort of deadly organism in Tenchi's house, she'd have Ayeka to answer to.

Washu quickly surveyed the holding area, unconsciously tightening her grip on the half-empty baby bottle in her hand. The Masses were clearly gone, just as Ayeka had said. They'd been content to remain here for seven hundred years, but something must've convinced them to leave. Washu raised her eyebrows. Ryo-ohki's idea had to be what had prompted it. But who knew how the Masses would try to act on that idea? Tenchi's house was not, at the moment, a particularly calm place, not with her daughter driving Ayeka up the wall all the time. If the Masses got spooked, they might attack indiscriminately, like frightened animals.

Washu turned around to face Ayeka, who was watching her with a stony face. "Let's get Tenchi and the others together," Washu told her. "I need to explain what we're dealing with."

Taro cooed contentedly from the harness on Washu's back. Washu envied his composure.

Everyone was sitting in the living room. Sasami held Taro while Washu explained to her, Ayeka, Ryoko, Ryo-ohki, and Tenchi just what the Masses were, their powers of flight and powerful energy bursts, their playfulness when humored and powerful assaults when threatened, their desire to obey strong wills near them, and how the Masses were the building blocks with which Ryo-ohki, Ken-ohki, and Ryoko, as well as Kagato's second body, had been constructed.

Ayeka didn't trust Washu's assessment of the Masses' character, and said disbelievingly, "So, they're sweet creatures when humored, but the slightest affront could turn them into merciless killers?"

Washu defended them with the words, "The Masses are only wild animals! We simply aren't used to thinking like this because most wild animals aren't capable of destroying spaceships!"

Ayeka looked at Ryoko and accused her, "It was Ryo-ohki's desire to have hands that set them off, wasn't it? The two of you knew this already, how could you be so irresponsible as to think so much around creatures that can be so affected by willpower?"

"It's better than not thinking at all like you do!" Ryoko said hotly. "In case you've forgotten, if it weren't for Ryo-ohki, Tenchi wouldn't have the ride he needed to kill Kagato!"

"Stop this, you two!" Tenchi insisted. "We've got Taro to think about now. We have to remain calm and ensure that he doesn't get hurt by the Masses, and I don't want any of you getting the Masses hurt either. Somehow we've got to find these things in a calm manner and convince them to return to the holding area."

Washu pointed out, "I haven't had much time in the lab lately, so I haven't got many scanners set up. We'll need to think about what the Masses are planning to do next, to guess their location."

Ryoko reluctantly communicated more particulars of what Ryo-ohki had been thinking. Ryo-ohki herself appeared sheepish but willing to help.

After Ryoko and Ryo-ohki had finished speaking, Washu said thoughtfully. "From what I know about them, I think the Masses concentrated on the strongest, most emotional thought, the one we've been thinking about all day." She looked significantly at Taro. He yawned unconcernedly.

"But they certainly aren't around here," Ryoko said, levitating in the air for a commanding view of the living room.

"They might be somewhere nearby, though. I think we'll have to split up and search," Washu said with certainty. "The rest of you, that is," she amended. "Sasami, please let me take care of Taro for now."

Ryoko looked perfectly confident in her mother's ability to defend Taro. Tenchi unconsciously took a deep breath as Sasami handed over Taro to Washu. Washu met Tenchi's eyes and said with certainty, "I can handle it, Tenchi. Even if the worst happens, I won't let them hurt your cousin." Tenchi nodded.

The others all went to look in different rooms, Ryo-ohki included. Sasami shouted, "They're in the kitchen!"

The others ran in to see a large pair of brown hands levitating and moving in the air, preparing baby food in just the same manner as Washu had a short time before. Tenchi realized that this was the odd bird he had seen in the forest- he had mistaken its fingers for feathers. Perhaps it had meant to meet him on the way home from school and assist him in some way. He was glad the Masses had changed their minds.

Everyone except Washu crowded into the doorway of the kitchen, unnerved and uncertain of what to expect. The hands sensed their presence and turned towards them, then morphed back into their blobby form, their red eyes peering frightenedly back at them.

"Stop giving off such bad vibes, brat," Ryoko complained at Ayeka. "You're scaring the poor little things."

"I think it's your selfish will that is disturbing the innocent Masses," Ayeka turned up her nose. "Azaka, Kamadaki, encase them in your shields and escort them back to Ms. Washu's lab."

The robots teleported into the room, flanking the Masses. They only had time to say their customary "Yes, ma'am!" before the Masses attacked, firing powerful blasts of energy at Azaka and Kamadaki. Their shields barely held, and they hurriedly teleported in front of Ayeka to protect her. The Masses moved laterally and phased through the kitchen wall. Ryoko teleported in front of them to intercept them, but had to dodge their attacks and so did not contain them.

"Wait, stop, we have to calm them down!" Tenchi called, trying to reach the next room quickly without running so much as to scare the Masses.

"Robots are totally emotionless," Azaka reasoned as he teleported in front of Ryoko. Kamadaki agreed as he appeared on the other side of the Masses, "Yes, so please, leave this job to us." The Masses attacked again, and the robot's shields held, though barely. They moved closer to the Masses and extended their shield in an attempt to encompass them. The Masses began to fly towards another wall, towards the living room.

Ryo-ohki meowed in horror, this was all her fault! She crossed the room in a series of quick jumps, moving as quickly as she could. She leapt in the air to a position just above the Masses, willing them to heed her and stop even as they mixed their layer and antilayer in preparation for another deadly blast to aim at her.

"Ryo-ohki!" was the cry on everyone's lips as they rushed into the living room. Ryo-ohki and the Masses had phased through the wall and fallen to the living room floor. Washu was lying on the floor by her seat, away from them, her body shielding Taro. There was a collective gasp of horror. Ryoko leant down by Ryo-ohki.

Ryo-ohki looked different now. Tenchi realized with a shock that she now resembled a small human child, albeit covered in brown fur and with alternating black and white hair on her head.

"Ryo-ohki?" Sasami asked in confusion.

Ryoko gathered up Ryo-ohki in a great hug, telling her, "Oh, you're so clever, Ryo-ohki, fusing with the Masses at the last minute. And now you've got enough mass for another form. You're so adorable!"

"It was my idea," Washu claimed credit as she resumed a sitting position on the floor, holding Taro on her lap. Ayeka wondered to herself, "How can you tell when you've just been telling us the three of you are mindlinked?" and Tenchi said aloud, "Don't start fighting again!"

Ryo-ohki tried to stand up and step forward, but she lost her balance and fell, transforming back into her cabbit form as she did so. She reached Taro in a short jump, who giggled at her. Ryo-ohki transformed back into humanoid form, and carefully hugged Taro. He hugged her back.

Everyone said, "Awww."

A few days later, Ayeka smiled as she played with Taro. Washu rubbed Taro's head fondly, then she saw Tenchi enter the room with an uncomfortable expression.

Everyone bid farewell to Taro before Tenchi took him outside to his cousin and aunt. They noted how happy Taro was, and thanked him profusely for their good care, and told him to thank his houseguests as well.

After they left, Sasami sighed but began preparing. Ayeka and Ryoko returned to their old routine after a few moments. Tenchi hesitantly stepped over to Washu as she sat on the couch. Washu had hardly moved since Taro had left.

"You took really good care of Taro, Washu," Tenchi told her. "Almost as though he were your own son. Thank you."

"I'm not crying, am I?" Washu asked in a choked voice. "I knew this day was coming. I didn't want to get involved with Taro at first. I guess I get too wrapped up in babies."

"I don't think so," Tenchi shook his head kindly. "I think your care must've helped Ryoko when she was young. And I know Taro liked you too."

Washu pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket and dabbed furiously at her eyes. "I liked Taro. And of course I love Ryoko. She was a darling at that age too. But I knew this day would remind me of my son. Am I a genius or what?" she said bitterly, turning her head away from Tenchi.

"You had a son?" Tenchi asked, surprised.

"I was married once, too. Back when I was a student at the Academy, before I was even a professor," Washu said in a rush. "My husband, and my son. They were everything to me. But even geniuses can't see what's obvious. He was from a wealthy, prestigious family, and I was a nobody, no family, and no real accomplishments yet. They were going to disinherit him if he stayed with me. We loved each other, but they were his family, too. I wanted him, and my son, with me, but I didn't want my son to not know the whole other side of his family! After they got done talking to him, I don't know what he wanted. I don't know what I wanted. I just know I didn't want anyone to force a choice between his family, and me!" She hung her head after that outburst, then continued more calmly, but even more sorrowfully, "My husband and son, in the end, they left the Academy, and I stayed."

Tenchi's mouth had nearly fallen open with surprise and sympathy. "Washu, that's so awful! I'm so sorry!"

Washu said, trying to rally herself, "I had friends to help me through it, Yume for one."

"But still," Tenchi said, lost for words. He offered his own handkerchief for her to use, as hers was becoming unusably damp. "Here, Ms. Washu."

"Thank you Tenchi," she said as she took it, "but please, call me Little Washu."

"Little Washu?" Tenchi looked at her bemusedly.

"I don't care for titles or social status or prestige or riches anymore," Washu whispered. "The grownups play more hurtful games with those toys than any that children play. If growing up means acting like that, then I'm never growing up. To care for what's important instead of those superficial things, that's what I hope I've taught Ryoko, in the brief time I was allowed to raise her. Ryoko is my last child, the one whom no amount of politics or family standing or money can take away from me."

Tenchi watched her silently for a few moments. He then asked, "Little Washu, you don't have to answer this, but, whatever did happen to your husband and son?"

She smiled, though some pain still remained. "Oh, I kept a distant eye on them. They both did me proud. After I was rescued from Kagato, I caught up on them again. I'm a great-great grandmother now." Tenchi wanted to congratulate her, but she was dabbing at her eyes again, so he made a hesitant approving noise instead. Washu comprehended and gave him a grateful glance.

She turned to go inside, and Tenchi followed her. Washu looked towards him and said, "Thank you for listening to a silly kid cry. Keep it a secret from the others, promise?" She held up her pinky and he took it awkwardly, not having done this in years; they shook to seal the promise.

"We should've sung the pinky promise song," Washu realized as they headed indoors. Tenchi grimaced briefly, glad she had forgotten that component of the occasion.

Next Chapter

"Yeah, don't I look so young for a great-great grandmother?" Washu asks. She does indeed appear to be a child by human standards.

"Whatever, Mom," Ryoko says impatiently. She speaks to the audience: "The next chapter, according to this summary," she waves a sheet of paper, "is going to involve even more tears. Great. What happened to all the action scenes? Or love scenes?"

"Oh yeah, Ryoko, I hope you'll be nice to your great-nephew and great-niece," Washu informs her daughter.

"Mom, your daughter's trying to be responsible and do the chapter preview here," Ryoko admonishes her. "Anyhow, the next chapter involves a trip to the hot springs, so the title is, predictably, No Need for the Hot Springs,' and the plan is to post it in two weeks."

"Come give Mommy a hug!" Washu says as she bounds forward and embraces Ryoko around the waist. Ryoko absently pats Washu's head and murmurs, "I wonder, does Tenchi likes the fragile type? I can outweep Ayeka for sure."

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.

"This chapter fairly closely follows the OVA episode, including the bit about Washu's husband and son. There are differences here and there, of course."

Chapter 27 Main Chapters Chapter 29