Tenchi Muyo! Ai No Chikara : The Power Of Love

By Aoikami Sarah

 

Began Nov 11th 2000, Revised April 21st 2002

 

Note: This Tenchi Muyo! fanfiction is based on the Ryo-ohki OAV. Very little has been borrowed from Shin Tenchi Muyo (Tenchi in Tokyo) or the Tenchi TV series (Tenchi Universe).

 

Original Characters: Kososhi, Prince Rikai, Hiretsukani, Tsusami

 

Sasami dumped a bag of groceries down on a counter and closed the door to her tiny apartment with her foot. She took off her jacket and hung it up on a hook. Under this, she was wearing a pair of white pants and a white shirt which were both smeared with food stains. The light of a flashing neon sign illuminated the apartment alternately red and yellow.

     “Whoo,” she sighed. “What a long day!”

     The LED clock over the stove read 12:14. She put the perishables in the fridge and took out a soda. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied the tell-tale flashing of the message light on her answering machine. Sasami put the soda down and took the elastics out her hair.

     “Lemme guess.” She smiled and hit the button.

     Boop. “Hey Sasami-chan, It’s me, Tenchi...”

     “Duh,” she giggled and brushed out her long, light blue hair.

     “I know you don’t get off work till late tonight, but if it’s before midnight, gimme a call, ok? Oh, and if you don’t have to do breakfast this week, maybe we could get together tomorrow morning? Welp, talk to ya later...” Boop.

     “Aw,” she pouted. “Fifteen minutes late.” She sipped her soda and laid back on her futon. “Breakfast it is.”

 

     A foreign sound from the corner of the room put her on guard. Sasami’s eyes opened and she sat up straight.

     “Is someone there..?” she asked in a shaky voice. Her nerves were on end. She KNEW there was someone or something in the semi-darkened room. Perhaps behind the drapes, or crouched just around the corner of the dresser...

     She didn’t expect that he was just right there, against the wall, standing there like he owned the place.

     “YOU!” she shouted, terrified.

     His teeth gleamed in the neon glow as he grinned and rushed forward at an inhuman speed.

     Sasami didn’t have time to scream.

 

.x.

     Tenchi woke at eight and decided to go over to Sasami’s. He knew that no matter how late she worked at the restaurant, she woke early and would no doubt be making breakfast by now. The morning was crisp and cool and the sun shone brightly. He stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets and grinned.

     Tenchi’s first class wasn’t until eleven that day. He figured he could hang out with Sasami and see her off to work before then. Being a graduate student was great. He could work at the Tokyo shrine and study without having to have a full time job.

     Sasami loved her job. And she was doing very well in it. She’d always been an good cook, but as a chef, she was excellent. Chef Sasami Jurai was in high demand at restaurants all over Japan, and her recent appearance and victory on the Tetsu Shefu TV show against Tetsujin French had spawned calls requesting her skills from Europe and America.

 

     Just ahead at an intersection, traffic had come to a standstill and people were crowding around a street corner. In the center of this a public address system called out. Tenchi raised a brow, and as this disturbance was on his way, he checked it out.

     With a terrible sinking feeling, he started to make out what the address was saying.

     “Tenchi-sama, where are you? We need your help!”

     He rushed to the scene and pushed his way to the front of the crowd.

     “Wha!?!” he cried.

     Standing in the middle of all the people were two, tall, wooden structures.

     “Azaka!? Kamadake!? What are you doing here?!”

     “Lord Tenchi!” the guardians shouted and turned their attention to him. “We were looking for you!”

     “I see that! Shhhhhh!” he shushed them. “Please stop! You’re making a scene!”

     “Tenchi-sama!” a female voice cried from behind. Tenchi spun and almost fell over. “How are you?” she asked.

     Aeka was in her finest, more extravagant, royal traveling attire and people all around her gawked at the sight.

     “Uh, pretty good. Can we maybe.. go indoors...” He motioned to the crowd.

     “Oh! certainly!” She smiled and with a gesture shrunk Azaka and Kamadake down to pocket size. “Shall we?” Aeka asked and took Tenchi’s arm.

     He wasn’t surprised by Her Highness’s forwardness and waved to the populace as they departed. “That’s all folks, show’s over! Haha!” he laughed nervously.

     “Aw, see I told you it was a theater thing,” some of the people muttered to each other as they dispersed. “What a rip.”

 

.x.

     The teapot screamed. Tenchi poured his guest a cup of green tea and sat cross-legged in front of her. Aeka sipped her drink casually.

     “Have you seen Ryoko recently? I assume she’s still hanging around you like a pathetic puppy.”

     “No, actually. She left about two years ago now.”

     “Really?” This surprised the princess. She thought Ryoko would never give up on Tenchi. It must have become painfully obvious, Aeka imagined, that he would never love her. Just as it had become obvious to her.

     “So,” he asked. “What have you been up to, Aeka?”

     “I’ve been quite busy, and actually, I cannot stay long, Lord Tenchi. You see, I’m in training to become Queen.”

     “I remember. How’s that going?”

     Aeka fiddle with her teacup. “Very well, thank you. Lord Tenchi, you know that I will always love you...”

     Tenchi swallowed hard. He had wondered when she would get on this track.

     “But, I’ve been married now for almost five years.”

     “WHAT!?” he asked, flabbergasted. “I mean, wow, congratulations, Aeka! Are you happy together?”

     “Oh yes, very!” she chimed. “Rikai-sama and I are quite happy.. But...” Her polite smile fell. Aeka put her tea cup down. ‘Lord Tenchi, I came her to ask you if you have seen Sasami.”

     Tenchi bit his lip and thought carefully. “Why? Has something happened to her?” He hoped he could hide the truth from her without flat out lying. As far as he knew, Sasami had fled Jurai and did not want to talk to Aeka, and even if he felt that she should, only Sasami could make the decision to break the silence.

     “She’s missing.”

     His eyes bulged. “But.. er, what happened?” ‘Missing?’ he thought.

     “Well, that’s the official status. Actually, Sasami ran away!”

     Inwardly Tenchi breathed a sigh of relief. That sounded more like the right story. “How long has she been gone?”

     “Three and a half years...”

     “And you’re only looking for her now? What happened, Aeka?” He was interested to hear her half of the story.

     The princesses stood and went to the solitary window. “Well, when we returned to Jurai, many things had changed....”

 

.x.~ Three Years Ago~.x.

     Aeka sat on a stone bench in the outdoor classroom. Two sagacious Juraijin: her mother Misaki and aunt, Funao spoke to her about the duties she would have as queen. It would be centuries perhaps before she would have to ascend the throne, but as the first in line, her lessons began as soon as she was married.

     They finished the day’s lesson and Aeka stood up. She spied a figure moving toward them in the distance and excused herself. Aeka ran to him and he stopped and opened his arms.

     “Rikai-sama!” she called and hugged him tightly.

     “Good afternoon, Aeka no Ojasama. And how did your day pass?” he asked politely.

     “Very well, thank you.” She grinned.

     Rikai bowed his head and kissed her gently on the lips.

 

.x.

     “But Aeka...” Sasami whined.

     “No more ‘buts’, Sasami,” her sister scolded as she arranged her hair in a ceremonial way.

     “He’s so creepy...”

     “I thought Rikai was creepy when I first met him and look how happy we are now!”

     “You thought Rikai was a stubborn snob when you first met him...” she corrected.

     Aeka yanked Sasami’s hair a little, which shut her up.

     “Anyway. You must do what you must do for Jurai. Our feelings do not matter.”

     Sasami jerked her head out of her hands. “You’re only saying that because you’re happy! You don’t know Kososhi! There’s something not right about him! And besides, how can I marry someone I don’t love?!”

     Aeka had had a long day and she was tired of her sister’s whining. “Sasami, enough. You must do as you must! I will hear no more of this distention from someone with royal responsibilities!”

     “But Aeka!” she moaned.

     To Sasami’s surprise, Aeka reeled back and smacked her across the face. Shocked, she held her quickly reddening cheek and jumped to her feet.

     Aeka looked surprised as well. “Sasami, I...”

     Tears sprung from her eyes and the younger princess ran out of the room.

     “Sasami!...”

 

.x.~Back on Earth~.x.

     Aeka hung her head. “She left that night. I found a note that said that she didn’t want to be a princess anymore and did not want to be found. The tone was rather nasty, especially for Sasami and made me so angry that I told everyone that she had gone on vacation. It’s been three and a half years now and I’m beginning to think that she’s never coming back or that she may be in trouble!”

     Tenchi bit his lip.

     “Have you seen her since we left or heard anything, Tenchi?”

     He shook his head. “I’ll let you know as soon as I do, I promise.”

     She sighed. “I feel awful.” The hurt look on her face tore at Tenchi. Just as he was about to crack, the telephone rang.

     “Hello?” He straightened up. “Oh, hi! Yeah well, I’m sorry, I’m a little busy right now. Did you have breakfast? Well no, I can’t. My friend Aeka has paid me an unexpected visit. Yes. Yes. No. I’ll call you later, when our visit is over. Ok? Ok. Talk to you later.”

     Tenchi hung up and smiled at Aeka. She was busy rummaging in her bag.

     “You’ve just given me an idea.”

     “Oh?”

     She pulled out a slim device and pushed a button. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with everyone we know to see if anyone knows anything. I suppose you don’t know where Ryoko is.” He shook his head. “Mihoshi is still with the Galaxy Police, so I assume she knows by now. I have them working this case as a top-secret mission, but I can’t seem to get a hold of Washu!”

     “Really?”

     “Perhaps, Lord Tenchi, if you made the call, she would take it.” The inter-galactic cell phone rang.

     “Uh, sure.” Tenchi took it from her.

     <“Hello, Galactic Science Academy. How may I direct your call?”>

     “Oh! Hello, is Washu-chan, er... Washu-san available? .... This is Tenchi Masaki. Thank you.” He shrugged and before he was able to resume his conversation with Aeka, the line was picked back up again.

     <“TENCHI MASAKI! How ya doin’ kiddo!?”>

     “Washu-chan?”

     <“The one and only! What’s shakin’?”>

     Aeka folded her arms and huffed while Tenchi explained what Aeka had told him.

 

     <“That’s too bad, but I’m afraid that I haven’t heard word one from Sasami. I’m really busy recently, but if I hear anything, I’ll call Aeka.”>

     “Well thanks anyway, Washu-chan! Good-bye.” He folded the phone closed and handed it to Aeka.

     “Well. It was good to see you Tenchi. I have to get back to Jurai as soon as possible to continue my training.” She stood. “I will be in touch.”

     “Good luck Aeka. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

 

.x.~Galaxy Police Head Quarters~.x.

     The office was extremely busy for this time of year. Officers and detectives crossed the floor in front of Mihoshi’s desk every two seconds. She blinked at a hovering, flat computer screen on her desk as it scrolled a long list of names. She sighed and nibbled absent- mindedly at her pen.

     “Mihoshi!” her superior officer shouted. “We need that list of leads ASAP!”

     She bolted up out of her chair and saluted. “But Sir!” she whined. “There are no new leads!”

     “What!?” the older man barked. “Not a one!?”

     She shook her head.

     “Why not!?”

     She pouted and looked down at the screen. “To be honest, Sir, my heart’s just not in it...”

     “Your what!? Officer Mihoshi, this has nothing to do with your feelings! People are missing. It is your job to FIND THEM! That’s why they call it MISSING PERSONS!”

     “I know...” she looked out across the room at nothing in particular. “It’s just so... depressing. Most of the people I have found are... you know...”

     “Dead?” he grumbled and lowered his eyelids.

     “Yes!”

     “We don’t care if they’re alive, just FIND THEM!”

     Mihoshi’s brows came together. “I can’t take it anymore!” She jumped up on her desk. “I became a policewoman to help people, but it’s just too miserable to try to help people who are dead! I just can’t take another day of this!”

     As the office fell silent to watch and listen to the blonde woman rant, a cop ran up to her superior and tried to whisper to him.

     “What? Princess Sasami of Jurai is missing!?” he asked, delighted to receive such a high-level case.

     “What?! Sasami’s missing!?” Mihoshi jumped down and grabbed the messenger. “When? What happened? Are there any leads? Tell me!” The messenger flailed as she shook him.

     ‘Oh sure! Now she wants to help out!’ Her superior thought to himself. ‘Wait! If she fails at this, I can fire her no problem! Then... NO MORE MIHOSHI!!’ He grinned from ear to ear.

     Mihoshi was already running out the door.

 

~.x.Galactic Science Academy~.x.

     Washu leaned back in her invisible chair and put her feet up on the translucent console.

     “Yeah, real busy,” she moaned to herself. “I wonder...” she mused and closed her eyes.

 

.x.~The Next Day~.x.

     A fleet of galaxy police ships’ sirens blared as they went in pursuit of the solitary, spiky ship. It screeched as it zoomed through space.

     “Nnnyyyauuuu!!!”

     “Hahahaha!” Ryoko cackled as she commanded Ryo-ohki forward. “You guys are really lame, I can’t believe you still try to catch me...!”

     The ship seemed to pause for a second before putting on a huge burst of speed, leaving the police in the dust.

     The legendary space pirate amused herself to tears like this every so often. They never seemed to figure it out. She was just too good at what she did! Ryoko was too busy wiping a tear from her eye to see the single ship which had out-maneuvered the others and was now hovering in front of her, blocking her path.

     “Stop! This is the Galaxy Police! Ryoko, I need to talk to you!”

     “Wha!?!” Ryoko’s eyes widened. “Ryo-ohki, stop!!!”

     “Nnyyaaaaaaauu!”

     Too late to slow down, the two ships collided. The cop ship was obliterated.

 

     On board Ryo-ohki, Mihoshi shook her head and blinked up at the angry space-pirate. “Oh! Hi Ryoko!”

     “You!?” she bellowed. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?! You coulda wrecked my ship!”

     “I’m sorry, I needed to talk to you.” She hung her head.

     “You coulda asked first, you nit-wit.” She sat down on a bench and rolled her eyes. “Well, what do you want?”

     “I was wondering if you had seen Sasami?”

     “Nyau?”

     Ryoko narrowed her eyes.

.x.

 

     A thin beam of light shone down on the figure of a girl suspended in the air in an awkward, contorted position. She appeared to be unconscious. Out of the darkness which surrounded her, a hand reached out and touched her face.

     “Soon, Sasami,” a thin voice hissed.

     “Kososhi!” a more robust man’s voice boomed. “What have I said about touching her?”

     Kososhi shrank back as the lights faded up. “I’m sorry, Hiretsukani-sama. Forgive me. Just reminiscing.” His hair was a dusty purple color and he was thin and effeminate, yet menacing.

     Hiretsukani huffed and unfolded his arms. His hair was spiky and blond and curved to just touch his broad shoulders. Three tiger-like stripes framed the left side of his face.

     “Reminisce somewhere else, will you?” He sneered.

     The smaller man melted into the shadows and disappeared.

     “The next time I create a henchman I must remember to make him tolerable!”

 

     He approached the princess. “Hello, my dear. Did he frighten you?” There was no response. “Oh come now. I know you’re awake.”

     She sucked in a quick, startled breath.

     One side of Hiretsukani’s mouth grinned. “Yes. I know a lot about you.”

     “Please...” she whispered, unable to move. “Let me go...”

     He clicked his tongue at her. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. You’re almost ripe. Don’t worry. In a few days this will all be over.”

     “What will?”

     He laughed lightly. “Really.” Hiretsukani rolled his eyes. “Ignorance doesn’t become you. It’s quite a bore.”

     She started to sob with frustration. “I mean it... what will?”

     “Interesting... Am I the only one who knows?” He turned and rubbed his chin. “Well. That could be quite the advantage. I was sure that all of Jurai would have been hot on my heels by now, but if even you have no idea...” He walked away. The lights dimmed back to black, leaving Sasami in a pool of light once more.

     “Please....” she cried. “What’s going to happen!? Please let me go!” Her sobs echoed off the distant walls. “Oh Tenchi... Help me, please...”

 

.x.~Earth~.x.

     “I really think you should call her,” Tenchi tried to coerce her for the third time that night. “She’s really worried about you.”

     “No!” she shouted. “Tenchi, she was so mean to me! You weren’t there. You wouldn’t understand!”

     “Sasami...”

     “NO!” She stood up. The restaurant went silent. “Aeka is dead to me!” she shouted and ran out of the dining room.

     “Sasami!”

 

     He chased her out into the street.

     “Wait, wait, Sasami. I’m sorry. You’re right. I wasn’t there and this is none of my business.” He took her by the shoulders.

     Sasami blinked back tears and looked up into his loving, brown eyes.  “Oh, Tenchi, I’m sorry. It’s just...”

     “Shh...” he wrapped his arms around her. “It’s ok.”

     Sasami leaned into his shoulder and sighed.

     Tenchi furrowed his brows and looked down at the girl in his arms; the girl he thought he knew so well. They had talked about Aeka before, but she had never indicated that things were so bad between them that she would never speak to her again. He had always understood that it was more shame on Sasami’s part that kept her from communicating with or returning to Jurai.

     He rubbed her back and shushed her, but kept his thoughts to himself.

 

.x.~Space~.x.

     “NO!” Ryoko shouted. “On no condition am I going to Jurai!”

     “But Ryoko...”

     “But Ryoko nothin’! They’d fry me the second I even looked at the planet!” She threw her hands up in the air for emphasis. “I’ve been their number one-most wanted criminal for hundreds of years!” Ryoko added, sounding proud of her achievement.

     “But if we talk directly to Aeka, then we can get some leads!”

     “WE!?! Who said anything about WE!?!”

     “Nyauuu!!!” Ryo-ohki screeched, alerting the crew to an incoming vessel.

     “Oh, what now?” Ryoko moaned. “Who goes there?!”

     “Aw, such a nasty tone to have towards Your Own Dear MOM!!” Washu chimed as her face popped up ten-times life size on the screen.

     Ryoko fell over. Mihoshi jumped up.

     “Oh! Washu-san! What a coincidence! You’re the second person on my list of people to visit!”
     “Mihoshi?” she asked. The screen went black. Washu appeared behind her. “What are you doing here?”

     Mihoshi turned around and blinked at her for a moment more before responding. “I’ve been assigned to a very important case...”

     “Lemme guess. Sasami.”

     “Yeah! Wow! How’d you do that? Are you psychic, Washu-san?”

     “No, my dear. Just informed. Tenchi called and asked me if I’d seen her...”

     Ryoko, who had been making evil, astounded faces at her mother from the floor jumped up and yelled down at her. “TENCHI!? YOU talked to Tenchi!?”

     “Yup.”

     Mihoshi ignored Ryoko and took out her palm pilot. “So what did he say?”

     Ryoko pushed her aside. “Rrrrr, Washu! When did you talk to Tenchi!?”

     “Just yesterday. He wanted to know if I knew where Sasami was...”

     “Washu-san, do you know where she is?”

     Ryoko grabbed Washu’s collar and shook her. “Why did he call YOU and not ME!?!”

     The scientist held on to Ryoko’s hands as she was shaken. “Aeka used him to make the call cause I wasn’t in the mood to talk to her!”

     Ryoko boiled over. “A... E.. KA!?!”

     “Um.. Washu-san?...” Mihoshi tried to get in around the fight. In the background, a soft, agonized growl was building in volume while they yelled at each other. Soon, it was noticeable and all three women stopped and looked around.

     “What is that..?” Mihoshi asked.

     “Ryo-ohki?” Washu asked.

     “Who cares!! What did my Tenchi say!?!” Ryoko resumed her shaking and the sound got louder.

     “Nnnnnnnnnnnyaaaaaaaaaauu!!!”

     The walls started to shift. Ryoko dropped Washu, who reached into her pocket and took something small out of it. Mihoshi fell to her knees and fretted.

     “She’s kicking us out!” Washu cried. “Grab on to me!”

     They did as they were told. Ryo-ohki’s creator knew what she was going through better than either of them.

     As the walls of the cockpit shrank, Washu, Ryoko and Mihoshi winked out of that dimension and re-appeared to the left of Ryo-ohki in another, small ship. The cabbit screeched again and sped off through hyper space.

 

     “What the heck was that all about?” Ryoko scratched her head and wondered.

     Washu watched her disappear. “I think we must have upset her. Poor thing. She’s probably not used to that kind of racket anymore.”

     Mihoshi blinked repeatedly and made a soft I-don’t-quite-get-it,-but-I’m-not-going-to-ask sound.

     “So,” Washu put her hands on her hips. “Let’s get going.”

     Ryoko turned red. “And just where do you think you’re taking me?”

     “Anywhere I please, considering you don’t have a ship of your own at the moment. And since I need to go to Jurai, that’s where I’m taking you.”

     “WHAT!?”

     “Yay!” Mihoshi jumped up and down. “Thank you Washu-san, you’re the greatest!”

     “I know, I know.” She grinned.

     Ryoko gave up and flopped down into a chair in a huff. “I didn’t ask for any of this and now I have to deal with AEKA!” she pouted and muttered.

     “Aw come on, Ryoko! It’ll be just like old times!”

     She snorted. “Whooptifrickindoo.”

     “Ok! Onward, to Jurai!” Washu shouted and pushed a single button which set them on their course.

 

.x.~Earth, A Few Nights Later~.x.

     The phone ringing woke Tenchi in the middle of the night. He reached around and picked up the receiver.

     “Mu.. Moshi-moshi?”

     “Excuse me, Sir, is this Tenchi Masaki?”

     “Uh, yeah...?”
     “This is Tokyo police department number 341. Sorry to trouble you so late Sir, but we have a girl in custody who seems a bit lost and she keeps asking for you.”

     “What?” he asked and sat up in bed.

     “She’s a very strange girl...” the officer sounded like he was trying to keep from losing his mind.

     “I’ll be right there!”

.x.

     The police led him down a crowded hallway filled with people waiting to process their infractions or drop off bail money. At the end of the hallway was a door. The officer looked both ways and made sure the way was clear before letting him in.

     “Tenchi!” she chimed and leapt out of her seat. The young woman tackled him. They both crashed to the ground. “Tenchi Tenchi Tenchi!”

     “Wha!?!” He blinked in surprise up at the huge, yellow eyes and wild hair. “Ryo...”

     “Ryo-ohki!” she cheered and grinned wide. The last time he had seen the cabbit, her humanoid form had been mostly restricted to that of a toddler. Now she appeared to be a teenager and although she was covered in soft, mocha colored fur, her shape under the “I Heart Tokyo” tee-shirt she had been given was obviously that of and adult female. “Tenchi!” she piped again.

     He struggled to get up and took her by the hand. “Thank you officer! She’s my... cousin. Distant cousin. I’ll take her home now. Thanks for looking out for her, I promise it won’t happen again!” he laughed nervously.

     “But.. she’s a...” the cop whispered.

     “Uh..” He thought fast. “It’s called hypertricosis... it’s a clinical disorder,” he lied about his fur-covered friend and ushered the clueless Ryo-ohki out of the building.

 

.x.

     Tenchi jogged with Ryo-ohki for a few blocks before becoming winded. She noticed this, picked him up and flew with him through the empty back-streets.

     “No! Put me down! What if someone sees?!”

     She frowned but did as he said.

     He faced her and raised a brow. “What are you doing here, anyway, Ryo-ohki? And where’s Ryoko?”

     “Nyyau,” she said and gave him a sad look. “Tenchi.”

     He smiled. “Oh, you can’t say much still, huh?”

     She shook her head.

     “Can you say carrot?”

     “Carrot!” she cried and hopped up and down.

     “We’ll get you some food soon,” he laughed. They continued to walk towards his apartment. “You know, Aeka was here yesterday asking about Sasami... Is that why you...?”

     “Sasami Sasami Sasami!” she nodded urgently.

     “Why are you so upset, Ryo-ohki? She’s right here where you and Ryoko left her two years ago.”

     “Nyau!!!” Ryo-ohki clapped her hands together and looked from side to side.

     “Hahaha!” he laughed. “She’s not RIGHT here! She’s probably asleep, but let’s go wake her up! Then you can stay at her place!”

     “Nyau!”

     Tenchi smiled inwardly. ‘That way I don’t have to worry about you wrecking MY apartment!’

 

.x.

     “Tenchi... It’s so late...” Sasami mumbled as she answered the door.

     Tenchi made a mental note that she was still fully dressed and it was nearly two o’clock in the morning. “I know, but I had another unexpected visitor...”

     Ryo-ohki didn’t wait for her to guess. The girl-cabbit jumped out from behind the door and meowed loudly. “Sasami! Ryo-ohki!”

     The teen’s eyes went wide and she took a step back as the cabbit tackled her. They rolled into the apartment. Tenchi stepped in and closed the door behind him. To his surprise, the futon was still made and there was a bag of groceries out of the counter.

     Suddenly, Ryo-ohki stopped her display of affection and leapt off Sasami. She hissed and stood in front of Tenchi with her arms open defensively.

     “Ryo-ohki!” he shouted, but her defenses were up.

     Sasami got to her feet and looked at her sweetly. “What’s the matter, Ryo-ohki?” she asked.

     “Nyyaauu! Nyau nyau nyau!”

     “Settle down, Ryo-ohki. You just haven’t seen her in a while. She looks different, right?”

     “I’m older now, Ryo-ohki,” Sasami soothed. “But maybe it’s the change that you sense...”

     Tenchi frowned. “What change? Are you ok, Sasami?”

     “Oh, I’ll be fine. You see, the time for me to merge with Tsunami is drawing near.”

     Ryo-ohki settled down and listened.

     “That must be what you sense is amiss, Ryo-ohki. That’s all.”

     “The time for you to... merge?”

     Sasami walked further into the little apartment and stood under the red and yellow neon glow from the window. “You remember. Tsunami and I will become one when the time is right. She’s almost ready.”

     “I’d forgotten,” Tenchi mumbled.

     Yes. Years ago Tsunami herself had told him that. One day, Sasami would merge with Tsunami. She was already starting to look a little more like the mysterious goddess-like being, but Tenchi had attributed that to Sasami becoming a woman.

     Sasami stared out the window with a strange smile on her lips. Tenchi took the opportunity to lock eyes with Ryo-ohki. Through one look he expressed his concern to her.

     Ryo-ohki nodded, sadly. “Sasami...”

 

.x.~Meanwhile, Somewhere Else~.x.

     Hiretsukani bellowed down at Kososhi. “Have you shut that thing up yet!?”

     “Yes Hiretsukani-sama.” Kososhi turned away from the large, dark mirror on the wall. The image of Sasami at the window faded out.

     “Good.” Hiretsukani raised a hand and shot an energy blast at his henchman. Kososhi was struck in the chest and fell to his hands and knees. “Make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

     He turned and pursed his lips. “If there had only been a way to monitor them outside that room. Now that the Princeling knows of the merger, this little undertaking may be jeopardized.”

     Kososhi struggled to his feet. “Shall I dispatch him for you, Sir?”

     Hiretsukani responded quickly. “No! When I collect Tsunami’s power, I shall come for him. Then his power and the sword Tenchi will be mine.”

     Sasami arched her brows and stared in disbelief at her captor. “Tsunami? But...” The pieces of the puzzle fell into place. “You can’t have her, she’s part of me!”

     Hiretsukani sneered. “Not for long, my dear. The time of your conjunction with her is soon. Perhaps only a few days away. At that time a small window of opportunity will be open and I will snatch her up and convert her Jurai Power to a raw form. Then no one will be able to stop me. Not even the Lighthawk Wings!”

     Sasami was shocked. “How do you know all of this!?”

     He grinned. “You don’t remember me, do you, Princess?” Hiretsukani walked around her suspended body. The blue jeans and cotton shirt she wore looked very out of place next to his ornate, layered robes. “It’s understandable. I changed my name. But I am a Jurai-jin. I have spent hundreds of years studying Tsunami and the Jurai Power. Only until the day she took refuge in you, Sasami did I think I would so easily come by such amazing amounts of power!”

     “You’re a lunatic!” she cried. “Tenchi will stop you! Just you wait and see!”

     “The prince doesn’t even know you’re gone, my dear!”

     Sasami’s hopes fell and she looked at the now darkened mirror. “No...”

     Hiretsukani laughed as he walked off into the shadows.

     “Tenchi...”

 

.x.~Jurai~.x.

     It was easy for Mihoshi to get clearance to land. The difficulty was in disguising Ryoko until they got inside the palace.

     Once inside, the three stood and waited for Aeka to greet them. Her smile fell as soon as Ryoko removed the cloth she was using to cover her head.

     “Yeah, I’m thrilled to see you too, Aeka,” she growled.

     Aeka’s husband raised a brow.

     “Rikai-sama, this is the famous scientist, Washu, Mihoshi of the Galaxy Police and... Ryoko the Space Pirate. It’s all right. She’s... a friend of mine.”

    

     Once he had calmed down, they talked about Sasami.

     “So what DO you know, Princess?” Washu asked.

     “She’s been gone for three and a half years. I have had no contact with her for that time. I know nothing.”

     “That’s a long time...” Mihoshi worried.

     “Not for Juraijin. They live to be thousands of years old, you know.”

     “However,” Rikai leaned in and whispered. “We have learned today that Sasami’s fiancee’s body was found in the swamps just outside the castle.”

     “I’d like to perform the autopsy!” Washu declared.

     Mihoshi made a face. “Like to... yuck!”

     “You can be my assistant, come on!” She dragged the woman down the hall.

     Aeka bit her lip, but said nothing.

     “Feh,” Ryoko folded her arms and watched Aeka’s face. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she ran away...”

     Rikai barked at her. “You will watch your tongue!”

     “Rikai-sama, it’s all right.” Aeka waved him off and asked to be left alone. “Ryoko. Let’s say she did run away. Where do you think she’d go?”

     “Where do YOU think?” she sneered.

     “I’m asking YOU! Besides. I just saw Tenchi a few days ago. He said he hadn’t seen her.”

     Ryoko turned away. ‘What?’ she thought. ‘He’s protecting her... how fuggin romantic.’ She walked a few paces away. ‘Wow it would really piss Miss Princess off if I told her the truth! But it would hurt Tenchi...’ She sighed. “Then I guess we’re clueless.”

     “I guess so...”

 

.x.

     Washu scrutinized a blob of greenish tissue magnified 500 times on her monitor. The fiancee’s heavily decomposed body lay on a slab to her left. Mihoshi stood with her back to the thing with her nose covered by a mask.

     “Are you almost done, Washu-san? This totally stinks!”

     “Almost!” she piped. Washu gnawed on her upper lip. “Hm, that’s different.”

     Mihoshi leaned over and blinked at the blob. “What is it?”

     “A sample of this guy’s skin.”

     “Bleh!” she grimaced. “That doesn’t look like skin!”

     “No. It certainly does not, Mihoshi. Look at this.” Washu pulled up another slide and placed it side by side with the tissue sample.

     “It’s the same stuff?” she asked

     “Precisely!”

     There was a beat of silence. Mihoshi waited for more information.

     “It’s not skin. It’s vegetable matter. This slide on the left is a common plant form from Jurai. I’ve tested a bunch of random samples and they’re all the same. This body is a fake.”

     “So, he was a plant guy?”

     Washu sighed, but kept her cool. “No. He never WAS a guy. The real guy must be long gone and he left THIS in his place to cover his tracks. He never thought a genius like me would get a hold of the body.”

     Washu didn’t sound as excited about her discovery as she ought to have. Her brows wrinkled in the middle and she continued to examine the body. ‘It’s good, real good. I wonder...’

     “Mihoshi, go report these findings to Aeka. I’m sure she needs to know this.”

 

.x.~Ten Minutes Later~.x.

     “What?! A fake?!” Rikai clutched his hands into fists. “Then where’s the real body?”

     “We’re going to go after him soon as Washu-san is done with her analysis, Sir.”

     “Very good. This new information is very disturbing. You are excused, Officer Mihoshi.”

     She bowed, smiled politely at Aeka and left.

     “Rikai-sama, this is most distressing!” Aeka’s eyes teared up. “What if some sinister intrigue has befallen her! Oh! If only I had gone after her sooner!”

     Rikai wrapped his arms around his wife. “There, there. We cannot undo what has been done. And you musn’t blame yourself. We will get to the bottom of this. With the Great Washu working on our side, we shall surely prevail!”

     Aeka made a face. “As long as she doesn’t blow up the planet while she’s at it,” she muttered.

     “What was that?”

     “Hm? Oh, nothing!”

     Rikai stroked his chin. “This definitely accounts for the lack of background information we were able to obtain on this Kososhi. How was someone with no past allowed to be engaged to a Second Princess?”

     “I don't know,” Aeka frowned. “The people in charge of the selection process seem to not be able to remember even picking Kososhi! This is so unusual. I just wish there was something clear about any of this!”

     “Shhh,” Rikai took Aeka’s hands. “We are Jurai. We will find Sasami.”

 

.x.~Later~.x.

     The moon shone down brightly on the royal gardens that night. Ryoko flew out over them slowly and found a suitable perch high atop a statue of King Azusa. She looked out at the grounds and sighed. “Tenchi... It’s been so long since I lost your heart. You must be a man by now. You’re nearly a stranger.”  She extended her hand and tilted her head to the open air before her. “I’m Ryoko. How do you do.”

     “Pretty shitty,” a voice from below answered. “And you?”

     Ryoko growled. “Washu! Can’t you ever leave me alone!”

     “I’m sorry.” She looked out at the moonlit garden. “I just needed someone to talk to.”

     Ryoko blinked. ‘And she came to ME? She must be desperate.’ She thought about Mihoshi and shuddered.

     Washu was not surprised when Ryoko materialized at her side.

     “What’s up?” she asked nonchalantly.

     “This fiancee. His name is Kososhi, what does that tell you?”

     “That he’s sketchy”

     “He’s also missing.”

     “I thought he was dead?”
     Washu shook her head. “The body was a fake to throw anyone looking for him off the trail.”

     “So you think he has Sasami?”

     “I know he does. Or whoever’s in charge does. From what I heard about him, he was a weasel, but not the type to mastermind anything.”

     ‘Maybe I should tell her she can give it a rest. Sasami’s on Earth... With Tenchi,’ Ryoko thought.

     Washu sighed. “I don’t even know where to begin to look. He could be close by or light-years away. There’s no telling.” She turned to her daughter. “Get some rest, Ryoko. We’re going to need it.” With that, Washu turned and left her.

     Ryoko blinked then scowled. ‘First Tenchi lies about Sasami to Aeka, now there’s this missing fiancee. What the hell’s going on!?’ She walked out on the lawn. ‘Damn that Washu! She always acts like she doesn’t know anything! But if I know her, and BOY do I! She’s got a big old hunch that she’s not letting us in on. And I’m just the sucker to go along for the ride!’ She took three steps back in the direction of the palace and dematerialized.

 

.x.~Meanwhile on Earth~.x.

     Tenchi tossed and turned in his sleep. He muttered as a vivid dream played with his subconscious.

     “Where are you...?” he asked to the stillness of his apartment.

     Ryo-ohki’s ears perked up.

     “But I can’t...”

     “Nyau?” The cabbit had returned to her animal form for bed and was nestled at his feet. She hopped up to Tenchi’s pillow and licked his face. He continued to move restlessly.

 

.x.

     “Tenchi, you must listen to me,” Tsunami’s voice echoed in the darkness. “Sasami’s not what she seems. You know that.”

     “Then what’s happened to her?” He turned around in his dream, looking for her. A faint, glowing figure appeared in front of him.

     “A shadow has taken her appearance and memories, but Sasami is here with me and we are in desperate need of your help.”

     “Where are you!?”

     Tsunami’s image flickered. “Oh no! I don’t have enough time!” She flew at the startled young man. She grabbed his face and touched her forehead to his. “There. Go. Once you get there, you’ll know what to do.” Tsunami stared to fade away.

     “Wait! I don’t understand!”

     “You will.”

.x.

     Ryo-ohki cheered when Tenchi finally woke. He sat bolt upright and started at the wall for a moment before leaping out of bed. Tenchi pulled on his pants and rummaged for a clean shirt quickly. “Ryo-ohki, can you take me to Jurai?”

     “Ny.. nyau?”

     “We’re going to rescue Sasami!”

     She blinked at him.

     “You know how you sensed that she was weird. She IS. The girl you met the other night ISN’T Sasami...” Tenchi sat back down on his bed and held a shoe absently in his hand. “Oh my god,” he thought out loud. “How long has she been not who I thought she was...?”

     “Nyau nyau!”

     He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Sasami’s in trouble. Let’s go!”

 

.x.~Meanwhile, Elsewhere~.x.

     “Where have you been, my dear?” Hiretsukani asked as he took hold of Sasami’s chin. Her pink eyes stared back.

     “What are you talking about?”

     “You know what I mean. You’ve been unconscious for some time now.”

     Her confused look seemed to convince him and he let her go. Kososhi appeared in her line of sight next and undid the restraints which kept her in place. Sasami thrashed in his grip, trying desperately to free herself, but he was too strong and only seemed to enjoy her attempts. He picked her up effortlessly and put her into a large, ergonomic chair.

     Restraints clamped down over her wrists, ankles and forehead. Sasami cried out in alarm.

     “Shhh, there’s no need for that now, my dear. In just a short while you won’t have any need to worry.”

     “What are you going to do to me!?” she cried.

     Kososhi manipulated controls on a large device to her right. Hiretsukani indicated to it. “When Tsunami awakens from her slumber, I will extract her essence using this terminal. Then I will distill her into a tangible form and use both Tsunami’s and your hidden Jurai power to bring the Juraian Empire to its knees. The universe will belong to me,” he said in a crystal clear and calm tone which terrified her.

     “You can’t do this!” she screamed.

     Hiretsukani sneered and glared at her. “Oh, poor, silly girl. I certainly can. And when this is complete, you will be spent.”

     “Spent?” she asked, her voice shaking with dread.

     “Dead.”

 

.x.~Jurai~.x.

     Guards rushed into the hangar, armed to the teeth and ready to attack.

     “Hold it! You can’t park that thing here!!” one of them yelled.

     They all backed off as the pilot leapt out and the ship distorted, becoming a short, fur-covered, young woman.

     “Stand down!” their Princess shouted. Like water, the guards fell to one knee.

     “First Prince, Tenchi Masaki, Jurai welcomes you!”

.x.

     Everyone gathered in the throne room to hear what the Earthling had to say. Tenchi was greeted with a huge hug from Mihoshi, a hand shake from Washu and a simple wave from Ryoko who stood with her back against the wall and never took her eyes off of him. He was taller and had broader shoulders than she remembered. He was a man.

     “Prince Tenchi, I have heard so much about you.”

     “Prince Rikai it’s good to meet you, but please, just call me Tenchi. I’m an Earthling, nothing more.”

     “Very well,” Rikai smiled and bid them all take seats. “Please, tell us what you know, Tenchi.”

     The room fell silent.

     “Well. I know she’s been kidnapped.”

     There was a collective gasp. Aeka held her hands to her chest.

     “Who’s done this, Tenchi!?” Mihoshi asked.

     “I have no idea.”

     “How do you know this?!” Rikai demanded, hoping it wasn’t true.

     “Tsunami told me last night in my dream, but now I can’t really remember. I just remember her saying I had to come here.”

     “Tsunami...” Rikai whispered. Aeka nodded to him. She had told him many stories about the Juraian Goddess. He knew that Tenchi was telling the truth.

     “Maybe she’s on Jurai!” Mihoshi chimed.

     “You really need to know when to keep your mouth shut,” Washu muttered.

     “Oh this is all my fault!” Aeka burst out.

     “Aeka-san, you don’t have to...”

     “No! Rikai-sama. I have to get this off my chest!”

     “Aeka,” Tenchi stood up. “I know what happened between you and Sasami.” She gasped and stared at him. “I wasn’t entirely honest with you when you visited. I know why Sasami left Jurai. She told me herself... when she came to Earth three years ago.”

     “What!?” everyone but Ryoko cried.

     “Tenchi! You lied to me!?”

     “No! Aeka it’s not like that! I’ve been trying to convince Sasami to talk to you for a while, and when you came I wanted to tell you, but I figured it was her call. If I had only... But... Tsunami said that someone put a doppelganger in her place and Sasami is really...”

     Everyone leaned in.

     “...Somewhere else.” Frustration furrowed Tenchi’s brows. He pouted and tried desperately to think of what she had said. “Why can’t I remember!?”

     “It’s all right, Tenchi. It’s not your fault.” Aeka put her hand on his shoulder. “It’s been a tough week. We all need some rest.”

 

     Mihoshi, Rikai and Aeka left the room. Washu approached Tenchi.

     “It’s good to hear she wasn’t lost for all those years,” she commented.

     “But there was a shadow, a doppelganger in her place! I saw her!”

     “But for how long, Tenchi? When did she start behaving strangely?”

     “Well,” he thought back. “Only since Aeka arrived, about a week ago.”

     Washu nodded but said nothing. She patted him on the arm, smiled and left the room.

    

     “Hello, Ryoko.”

     The space pirate pushed herself off the wall and swaggered towards him.

     “Hello, Tenchi. It’s been a while.”

     “It has. How have you been?”

     She shrugged. Tenchi smiled.

     “Thanks for helping.”

     “Hmph. The way the Washu’s been acting, I gotta feeling you guys are gonna need me.”

     “Huh?” he asked, puzzled.

     “Oh you know her. She knows something, but she’s not talking. Probly doesn’t want to upset that bubble-headed Mihoshi or Her Royal Pain In The Ass.”

     Tenchi raised his brows in a disapproving look.

     “What?” she asked. “Aeka’s exactly the same as she ever was! Little Miss Princess.”

     “She’ll be Little Miss Queen one day, I’d watch your tongue around here, Ryoko.” He smiled.

     Ryoko sighed and turned her back. “You haven’t changed either, Tenchi.” She looked out the window. “Your eyes,” she whispered. “When you talk about Sasami. I remember that look.”

     Tenchi said nothing.

     “Don’t worry your pretty little head. We’ll get her back,” she said and dematerialized through the wall.

 

.x.

     The royal garden was just the place to unwind. Tenchi wandered around aimlessly, taking in the scents of exotic flowers and the warmth of the alien sun. A wide path lead through the heart of the garden and he followed this and contemplated the message Tsunami had given him.

          ~ “Once you get there, you’ll know what to do” ~

     “Well, I’m here,” he said to no one. “What do I do?”

     Just ahead, the path ended in a cull de sac. In the center of this was a massive tree.

     “Wow,” Tenchi marveled. “It looks just like the one back in Okayama.”

     He approached it and looked up into its branches. The sun filtered through the leaves and made him feel safe and comforted. Tenchi reached out and touched it.

 

     The bark seemed to twist and contort before his eyes. It only took a moment for him to realize that he was having a vision.

     It grew dark. Slowly, tiny lights popped upped. To his left, Tenchi saw Planet Jurai. As if he were flying through space, Tenchi saw a small satellite revolving in Jurai’s outer orbit. It was an asteroid. His vision flew through a crater into a black space. In the center of this was a solitary light that fell on a figure in a chair. She was thrashing her shoulders and knees, trying futily to get out of it. Her light blue hair was mussed and tears stained her cheeks. She cried out for help.

     “Tenchiiii!!!”

    

.x.~On Board Ryo-Ohki~.x.

     Tenchi stood with his hands on his hips and looked out at the stars. They were cruising slowly around Jurai, their eyes open wide looking for the asteroid he had told them about. Washu typed on her floating keyboard.

     “Well?” Ryoko asked anxiously. “Do you see it?”

     “I don’t know...” he replied. His eyes were narrowed. “Damn it! It could be anywhere!”

     “Ryoko.” Washu looked up from her work. “It has come to my attention that the alignment of stars Tenchi saw in his vision correlate with the crab nebula’s outer contingent.”

     Everyone turned and looked at her strangely.

     “So... I suggest we go there...”

     “Ryo-ohki! Do what she says!” Ryoko cried in response. The screen which had been showing them the outside changed suddenly. Rikai’s face frowned down on them.

     “Aeka-sama! This is far too dangerous! Come back here this instant! I shall send the Jurai forces out to do battle with the kidnapper!”

     “No, Rikai-sama! We cannot do that. Besides, my friends and I are sufficiently strong enough to take on any foe. If Tenchi-sama could defeat Kagato, he can take on this coward!”

     Washu pursed her lips. Ryoko saw this and stood in back of her mother.

     “All right, Aeka. I trust your judgment. Just... be careful my love.” His transmission ended when he saw his princess nod.

     Mihoshi grabbed Aeka by the shoulders. “Awwww! How SWEET!!”

     Washu looked over to Tenchi. “Well. Let’s get going shall we?”

     “Mom...” Ryoko hovered around in front of her. “When do you plan on telling us what’s REALLY going on?”

     “Hm?” she asked innocently. “Really going on? Sasami’s been kidnapped.”

     “We KNOW that.... Tell us what we don’t know!”

     Everyone was silent, waiting for the scientist to spill the beans.

     “Many hundreds of years ago, a Jurai nobleman in line to be betrothed to Princess Sasami disobeyed Jurai high law. He murdered a fellow contender. He was banished to the furthest reaches and orders were given to kill him on sight. It was rumored that he was also a great scientist, able to do miraculous things with botany.”

     Mihoshi jumped up. “Which explains the plant guy!”

     “Yes,” Washu nodded. “This same man who made the phony fiancee’s body is responsible for Sasami’s kidnapping, I’m now sure of it.” She looked back to her screen and stared at the crab nebula.

     “Washu-chan,” Tenchi stepped forward. “Who is he?”

     “His name is Hiretsukani.”

 

.x.

     “Hiretsukani-sama, a small ship approaches.”

     “Say what?” He looked up from his adjustments. “Whoever it is, they will be too late.”

     Sasami struggled under the restraints. “Tenchi! Save me!!”

     “Do not fret, Princess. It will be over soon.” He sneered and began the extraction process.

     Even before he started his machine up, Sasami could feel that something was changing. Panicked, she tried to talk to the goddess inside her, but as usual, there was no answer. ‘Come on, just stay inside for a little while longer! Tenchi will come and save us!’ she thought.

     Sasami clenched her teeth and tried not to scream as half of her soul began to be extracted from her body.

 

.x.

     Ryo-ohki screamed as she landed on the asteroid. The party was transported inside a well-hidden airlock. They ran down the rough-hewn corridors. Ahead, there were two paths.

     “Ah, crap! Ya just know one of these is fulla booby traps!” Ryoko complained.

     “We’ll have to split up...” Tenchi suggested. To his surprise, Aeka transformed into her fighting uniform and nodded.

     “Mihoshi, Ryo-ohki and I will go left. The rest of you go right.”

     Tenchi nodded, glad to see that there was no longer any argument over who got to go with him. They raced towards their goal.

 

     Only a few hundred feet in to the left tunnel, Aeka, Mihoshi and Ryo-ohki hit a massive spider web. The women stuck to it, but the cabbit was able to transform into a faceted stone and fall through the web. She landed on the other side and changed back into her girl form. She reached forward to try to help.

     “No! Ryo-ohki you’ll just get stuck again!” Mihoshi warned.

     “‘Yeka! ‘M’oshi!” she whined.

     “Think of Sasami, Ryo-ohki! Go help her. We’ll find a way out or you’ll save us on the way back. Just go, quickly!” Aeka could feel an impending sense of dread, not for herself, but for her only sister.

     The cabbit nodded and flew down the passageway.

.x.

     The tunnel began to widen. Another joined it at a set of double doors. Ryoko pushed the others back and put her hands together, palms facing out. She had to hit them with her energy attack four times before they gave.

     Inside, there was an ante chamber of sorts which bent around a corner to a room they couldn’t see. Kososhi stood in front of them with a sickly, evil grin on his face.

     Tenchi didn’t have to ask him where Sasami was, he could hear her screams just around the corner. He tried to run past him, but Kososhi’s arm mutated into a thick, dark green vine and lashed out a Tenchi. He was hit and thrown up against a wall. Ryoko snarled and looked over her shoulder. Washu was gone. “Chicken.” She generated her sword. “Ok, Veggieman. I’m in the mood for Itame. I wonder how good you’d taste sautéed.”

     Tenchi drew his sword from his jacket pocket and it blazed to life easily for having gone unused for years. “I hope I still remember how to do this!” he shouted.

     “It’s like riding a bicycle.” Ryoko charged Kososhi. “You never forget!”

 

.x.

     Sweat dripped down Sasami’s face. Her eyes fluttered. The strain was too much. She lost consciousness and her will to fight the machine. Hiretsukani paid no attention to the noise in the hallway. He reached into the device he had created and withdrew a small, blue jewel.

     “Thank you, my dear. I must say that this will be much better than having to be married.”

     “Men are all the same.”

     He turned slowly to face the woman.

     “Love ‘em and leave ‘em. You’re no different than your father.”

     “And who might you be that you knew my father?” he asked, amused and feeling invincible.

     “I’m Washu.” She folded her arms and frowned when this didn’t get a reaction. “I see. He never told you. Tell me, why did you change your name, Tetsukani?”

     His blond brows came together.

 

.x.

     Ryoko was thrown against the wall as well. Kososhi was much stronger than he appeared. His arms and legs all burst open into the same vine-like structure and snapped out at them.

     They nodded to each other and leapt up into the air. Ryoko leapt at his head, but phased out just before she would have struck him. Sufficiently distracted, Tenchi was able to sever his right arm. Ryoko phased back in and planted her weapon in Kososhi’s back. When he wasn’t showing any signs of dying, she yanked the sword up, splitting his spine and head in half. A thick, yellowish green substance oozed from the wounds and he slumped forward, crashing to the ground.

     “Gross!” Ryoko wiped her hands on her legs. She chased after Tenchi who was already running into the chamber.

 

.x.

     Ryo-ohki flew around the curving corridor, growing more and more nervous as the minutes went by. At last she felt energy up ahead and put on a greater burst of speed. To her dismay and confusion, just ahead was a spider web with two women stuck in it.

     “Nyau!” she shouted.

     “Ryo-ohki!”

     “Oh no, the tunnel is a loop! We have to go back the other way and find Tenchi and the others!” Aeka struggled in the web. This time, Ryo-ohki took Aeka’s hands and pulled. The web stretched and just before the cabbit lost her grip, Aeka was pulled free. The two of them then freed Mihoshi and ran in the direction the others had gone.

    

.x.

     Tenchi glanced quickly at the scene. Up and to his right, Washu in her adult form was standing face to face with a tall Juraijin. To his left, Sasami lay unconscious, strapped to a rather sinister-looking chair. He didn’t have to think twice about what to do first. Ryoko strode in behind him. Tenchi ran to Sasami, ripped the restraints off and picked her up.

     “Sasami! Sasami!?”

     Ryoko winced and leveled her gaze at the bad buy.

     “You need not concern yourself with her,” Hiretsukani soothed. “I have all her Jurai power, the power of Tsunami.” He touched the jewel he now wore around his neck. “She’s just a shell, if she’s alive at all.”

     Tenchi snarled. “Why you!..”

     “No!” Ryoko shouted. “Let me.” She formed a ball of energy in her hand. “Step aside, Washu.”

     She looked into her daughter’s eyes, then over to Hiretsukani, sadly. She stepped back.

     Ryoko let the ball fly, testing his power. He batted it away with the wave of a hand.

     “You got some way of showing your would-be fiancee a good time!”

     “I never wanted marriage. I wanted this.” He fondled the jewel again.

     Tenchi held Sasami in his lap. He looked to Hiretsukani and Ryoko, unable to let her go and help in the fight.

 

     Ryoko charged him. In a blinding flash she was repelled. She rolled head over heels and landed in a heap by the entry way just as Aeka, Mihoshi and Ryo-ohki entered.

     “You guys,” Ryoko hissed as she stood up, feigning injury. “Get over by Tenchi and stay there.” She winked at them.

     They nodded and did as they were told. Sasami groaned and stirred. Aeka held her sister’s hand. “Sasami!”

     Tenchi looked worried. There was something wrong. The marks on her forehead were a different shape. The usual triangular, green marks were now more like tear drops. He stroked her hair. He and Aeka made eye contact and he bit his lip.

 

     Ryoko staggered toward Hiretsukani.

     “Fool! Do you really think you can stop me now?”

     “I can sure as hell try. You mess with my friends, you mess with me.”

     He grinned and reached down to touch the power again. The look of shock on his face made Ryoko laugh out loud.

     “Lookin’ fer this?” She grinned and tossed the jewel into the air and caught it again.

     Hiretsukani rushed forward. Ryoko still grinned as she pushed the power-crystal into her own forehead. Instantly, she began to transform. ‘Oh no,’ she thought. ‘The power... it’s too much!’ Her limbs became longer and more muscular. Her teeth became huge fangs and her hands and feet grew tremendous talons. She lashed out and struck Hiretsukani several times. He tried to escape, but Ryoko was unstoppable. Washu watched, horrified, unable to do anything.

     The others were terrified for their friend and screamed out her name. She swung around and menaced them.

     Washu jogged over to the villain and pulled him into her lap. “Ryoko, no!” she called out. “Those are your friends!”

     She couldn’t hear her. Sasami’s eyes opened. Ryoko ran across the room taking huge leaps toward her next targets. Sasami stood up. Tenchi watched as if in a dream. Aeka stepped forward, planted her feet and held her arms out. A huge bubble of protection formed around them just as Sasami stepped outside its reach. Tenchi jumped up and slammed into the wall of it, trying to stop her. They all called her name.

     The young woman held her right hand out. Energy spiraled around it and whipped across the room to Ryoko. It encircled her head. The demon screamed and fell to her knees. Sasami stepped forward. Slowly, the blue jewel was extracted from her head and floated toward its mistress. Ryoko returned to normal and slumped to the ground with exhaustion. When Sasami reached out and clutched the jewel, a bright flash blinded everyone in the room.

     Tenchi squinted. Aeka let her sphere of protection fade and he walked towards her. She was crouching down to assist Ryoko who groaned and rubbed her face with her hands.

     “I’m so sorry, I didn’t think...” she stopped as she looked at the strange woman. Sasami was dressed in a traditional Juraian costume.

     “Sasami?” Tenchi asked.

     She turned around. “Not as such...”

     Aeka gasped. “Tsunami!”

     She smiled. “Also, not quite right. The time Tsunami spoke of all those years ago has come. We are one.”

 

     Tenchi remembered. By the lake that weekend they spent repairing the hotel they had trashed, the Goddess explained that Sasami had fallen to her death, but by merging with Tsunami, her life was spared.

     “So you’re... Tsu.. sami?” Mihoshi suggested.

     Tenchi’s heart sank. He fell silent and stared at the woman.

     “I suppose that’s an appropriate title for now.”

    

     Washu held Hiretsukani’s face in her hands. Her hair obscured her face from her friends. She let a single tear fall on his cheek.

     “Why did you abandon me...?” he asked at a whisper.

     “I didn’t. Your father took you away from me. I’m not a Juraijin. Your future would have been ruined if the court knew...” She remembered the last time she saw him, reaching his tiny hands out for her, oblivious of what has happening, of his mother’s tears. She stroked his face. “Tetsukani...”

     The others stood close together and watched, bewildered. Wearing the same pleasant smile, Tsusami walked toward Washu. Again, she crouched down.

     Washu looked up. “Can you do anything... to help him?”

     “HELP HIM?!” Tenchi cried. “He tried to kill Sasami!”

     Tsusami ignored him. She put her hand on the dying man’s chest. “Tell me, Tetsukani. Do you want to live?”

     “Mother...” he whispered as he looked up into Washu’s eyes.

     Tsusami nodded and did what she could. The man’s body disappeared. The others all tried to see what was going on. Washu stood, picking up a tiny baby, wrapped in Hiretsukani’s shirt.

     “Thank you, Sister,” Washu whispered.

 

     Tsusami turned back to them. “Ryoko. I would very much like to go back to Jurai. Will you take us?”

     She shuffled her feet. “Don’t ask me. Ask the ship.”

     The cabbit didn’t need to be asked, she transformed into her animal form and jumped onto Tsusami’s head.

     “Nyau!”

     “Thank you, Ryo-ohki!” she smiled.

     Aeka smiled sadly. ‘I SUPPOSE things are all right. I don’t know HOW I’m going to explain this to Mother and Father...’ she thought.

 

.x.

     All hopes for a quiet arrival were dashed as well-meaning Rikai assembled a huge welcome wagon. The heroes walked down a red carpet, cheered on by thousands of Juraijin. Tsusami waved to the public. No one could tell the difference. Mihoshi blew kisses, Aeka waved regally just as Tsusami did. Tenchi waved sheepishly and Ryoko and Washu simply followed them, Washu carrying the baby and Ryoko with her arms folded.

     “So, Mom. Why the hell did you save this jerk’s life anyway?” she wondered as she saw Washu smiling a little to much at the baby.

     “Ryoko, is that any way to talk about your brother?”

     “Ugh, this is too weird.”

     Washu, still in her adult form, giggled.

     Tenchi walked just behind Tsusami and had a million questions in mind. He asked none of them.

 

     Per Tsusami’s request, they were all shown directly to the atrium. The huge room in the center of Jurai’s royal palace which housed the most powerful trees in the galaxy. At the very bottom of this room was an ashen tree with withered leaves and flaking bark.

     “Oh, poor tree. It’s dead,” Mihoshi commented.

     “Not for long...” Tsusami remarked. She stepped forward. Rikai held Aeka’s hands. No one had any idea what was about to happen; no one but Tenchi. He hoped against hope that this was just what he thought it was.

     Tsusami reached her arms up toward the tree. “For many hundreds of years now Tsunami has lived in a symbiotic relationship with Sasami. This has served its purpose. Now that we have healed from the attack that happened all those years ago, the attack that killed Sasami and wounded Tsunami, we can part.”

     Starting with the hands, a mirror image of the woman began to form. When it had been completed all the way down the feet, each woman began to change. The one facing the tree took on Tsunami’s appearance, and the one facing the others took on Sasami’s. At last, they opened their eyes.

     “Tsunami...”

     She smiled. “Sasami.”

     “Then, I didn’t die?”
     “No. We didn’t. Thank you for helping me.” Tsunami walked past her towards the tree. She walked into the trunk and the tree began to glow. Her power infused it again with life. The entire room seemed to glow and sing in welcome.

     Sasami turned to face her friends. Tears rolled down her face. “Thanks you guys!!”

     “Sasami...” Aeka stepped forward. “I’m sorry... for what I did.”

     “Oh, Aeka!” she wailed and ran past her. She hugged Tenchi, hard.

     “Again...” Aeka grumbled, but softened as she saw the two embrace.

     “Sasami! It’s really you!?”

     “Uh huh!”

     Ryoko turned and walked away. Her mother stopped her. “Aw, come on Ryoko. There’s probably gonna be a party tonight. Why not stick around. Just think ‘free food.”

     “Yeah Ryoko, don’t go!” Mihoshi cried. “We’ll have some sake and get loaded just like old times!”

     Aeka agreed. “Yes, please stay, Ryoko. I must admit, the party just won’t be the same without you.”

     She relaxed her shoulders. “Ah, what the hell...”

     “Yay!”

 

.x.

     The next day, preparations were being made to send Tenchi back to Earth. What Sasami’s parents didn’t know was that she had been on Earth these last few years and planned to return. They were waiting till the last minute to tell them. Mihoshi ruined this, unfortunately, and the entire royal house came storming out onto the tarmac.

     “What is the meaning of this!?” bellowed King Azusa. He glowered down on Tenchi who held his hand behind his head and laughed nervously. “Now YOU’RE abducting my daughter!?”

     “Father, I WANT to go. When I ran away, I ran to Earth. I’ve been there for three years and I want to go back... to be with Tenchi.”

     Funao and her sister Misaki looked to each other and smiled.

     “I cannot let you go. You have responsibilities, Sasami!”

     Funao, Tenchi’s great grandmother, cleared her throat. “Yes she does. I have an idea. If we made Planet Earth a protectorate of Jurai, Sasami could become Ambassador to Earth.”

     “Well I...” Azusa frowned.

     “That sounds just fine to me!” Sasami and Aeka’s mother, Misaki agreed.

     “Really!?” She clapped her hands together.

     “In title only, of course.” Azusa looked to his wives. “We have nothing to gain from the Earth.”

     “Of course!” they chimed.

     “Very well. First Prince Tenchi, Second Princess Sasami. I hearby annex Planet Earth. You will oversee its... uh... well-being. Or something. I give up.” He opened his arms to his daughter. “Be happy, Sasami.”

     She hugged her father. “Thank you!”

 

     Washu, Aeka, Rikai, Mihoshi, Ryo-ohki and the royals waved good-bye as Tenchi and Sasami boarded their ship.

     “Good-bye!” the called.

     “Don’t be strangers!” Tenchi hugged Sasami around the waist and waved.

     “Yeah, drop by any time!” She whispered to Tenchi, “Boy, what are we asking for?”

     They laughed, thinking of what adventures their friends would bring with them as the door closed and the ship broke through the atmosphere.

 

END


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