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Chapter 12 Main Chapters Chapter 14

No Need For Hunters

Ken-Ohki twitches his whiskers and issues a low purr as he types on a keyboard. On a screen, the words he is typing flash: "I am Ken-Ohki, bounty hunter, partner to Nagi. Together we are the greatest bounty hunters of our time. Dragonwiles commissioned me to be the DJ for this chapter. For its theme song, I have chosen 'limits' from the Earthling CD '.hack//SIGN Original Sound & Song Track 2,' to which Dragonwiles does not assert ownership. Enjoy this song as the prelude to the day I finally defeat that Ryo-Ohki." He presses a final button and hops off the chair he was sitting on. The song begins to play - tense, combative, and chaotic.

Kiyone was on duty when the call came in: "I bear formal permission from the government of Jurai to enter the protected zone. I am formally declaring my identity; Nagi, private criminal extradition and termination specialist. My permission to enter follows."

She took a few moments longer than necessary to verify the permission form, and the identity of the speaker, but there was no doubt. "You're cleared to enter the protected zone," Kiyone finally said.

"Thanks," Nagi replied in a tone far more relaxed and casual than her first one. Her massive white ship, which Kiyone knew by reputation to be Ken-ohki, rapidly entered the system, pausing near the orbit of Neptune where Kiyone was patrolling.

"Do you need assistance, ma'am?" Kiyone asked formally.

"No need to be so formal, I passed all the bureaucratic hoops," Nagi waved her strong hand to convey disinterest in bureaucracy. "I recognize you. Kiyone Makibi, Detective First Class, right? Second in your class at the Galactic Police Academy?"

Kiyone nodded warily, knowing the gesture would be sent over the visual communication. She replied, "I suppose we both know each other by reputation. You're Nagi, the greatest bounty hunter of our time."

There was a low growl from Nagi's bridge, though Nagi's lips hadn't moved. Kiyone added uncertainly, "And, of course, the famous Ken-ohki. I guess the rumors about his being alive are true."

"And I see the rumors about you are true, too. So sad, your potential wasted and your ambitions being doused because of your partner's incompetence," Nagi said with neither malice nor sympathy. Kiyone clenched her fists but held her tongue.

Kiyone couldn't stop the memories from flooding her head. She still remembered standing on the graduation stage, proudly clutching her medal and her assignment to one of the best beats in space, while smiling at the holographic cameras, and her parents' delighted faces in the audience. Kiyone remembered actually feeling happy when Mihoshi gave her a death hug and jumped up and down on that stage, saying, "Kiyone! Kiyone! We're going to be partners, isn't it wonderful!" She could still see Mihoshi's grandfather, Grand Marshal of the Galactic Police, smiling benevolently at them. At that moment, she had thought nothing in the world would ever go wrong.

Mihoshi suddenly appeared onscreen in the present, her eyes drooping. At least this time, Kiyone reflected, it had actually been her sleep shift, and not one of her frequent naps while on duty. Mihoshi shoved aside Yukinojo, who was chattering at her, and told him, "Okay, okay, I'm up already." Peering at Nagi, Mihoshi asked, "So, do you have a permit?"

Nagi grinned lazily, and Kiyone said tightly, "Yes, she does have a permit, Mihoshi. She already showed it to me, thank you very much."

Nevertheless, Nagi obligingly transmitted it to Yukinojo. Mihoshi examined it; after a while, she commented, "Wow. Those are pretty tough to get, those permissions. Takes a long time, too."

"Oh, I know," Nagi agreed. "It took me 698 years to get mine."

Kiyone frowned at the screen while Mihoshi looked taken aback, then commented, "Wow, that sure is a long time." Kiyone agreed, "A long time indeed. What use could it possibly be to you now?"

"Oh, it was an old lead," Nagi agreed, "but I might be able to find out whether or not I was right. I thought I'd never get the chance, certain that they'd filed it in the pigeonhole marked, 'Never get this done.' But it's interesting, isn't it? The princesses of Jurai have a schedule slip of a few days in this area, and suddenly my application is approved." Nagi looked pointedly at the officers.

Kiyone held her breath anxiously, but for whatever reason, Mihoshi didn't say anything but, "Yeah, bureaucracy is weird, isn't it? My grandfather told me lots of funny stories about that sort of thing. Once, there was a time they forgot to order him and a whole police garrison food for a whole month, so they ended up eating asteroids, well, pulverized asteroids, smothered in miso soup! It sounds yummy to me, but kinda hard on the teeth too!"

"Indeed," Nagi agreed, not visibly disappointed by her inability to gain more information. "It was nice to have met you, officers. I'd better get to looking for my clue." She signed off. Kiyone noted with narrowed eyes that Ken-ohki was moving towards Earth.

"What do you think, Kiyone? Doesn't that sound yummy to you?" Mihoshi asked. She replied, "I think your grandfather was just teasing you, Mihoshi. How old were you when he told you that?" Mihoshi blinked and replied innocently, "I was fifteen. Why, what does that have to do with it?" Kiyone groaned, "You were that old and you believed him?"

"Sure!" Mihoshi replied. She seemed to have fully awoken now and was her usual cheery self. "Say, Kiyone, were you thinking about something when I signed on?" Kiyone sighed and affirmed, "Yes, Mihoshi. I was just remembering our graduation."

Mihoshi giggled. "I remember that! Oh, and do you remember how at the party afterward, my little brother tried to ask you out, and I told him he couldn't because we were partners, and anyways we had to report to the Crab Nebula the next day?"

Kiyone groaned, "Yes." That was a hideously embarassing memory that she had been able to forget for several years now. It wasn't as though she would have gone with Misao, but if Mihoshi hadn't interfered, Kiyone could've let him keep his dignity. Mihoshi, of course, had no idea what she was doing, being so caught up in the high spirits of the day. Kiyone groaned again at the memory. This was not going to be a good duty cycle; she could sense it.

The ten-legged lion made another prowl along the deck of the Masaki house, but no one paid it mind anymore.

"I'm impressed, Ayeka," Nobuyuki commented as its shadow fell across him. "You've really had your search all planned out."

"Thank you," she replied demurely, "but I've just been thinking about this off and on for a while."

"It sounds like a good plan to me. Sure, we can help you find your brother," Nobuyuki offered.

She bowed formally in response. Ryoko frowned at her, but breakfast ended without incident.

Ayeka stood a moment, facing Ryoko and Tenchi, wondering what to do next. She wanted to find Yosho, but she felt a lingering guilt over having been so unkind to them over the past few days. Today could be a good day to show gratitude to her hosts, but most of them were busy. Nobuyuki had gone to work, and Katsuhito had gone on a solitary walk. Ryoko sprawled on the couch as Sasami cleared away the breakfast dishes and Tenchi looked through his school books for his summer homework assignments. He looked at a nearby clothes basket, which was getting fairly full, but muttered, "I'll just have to do that later." Ryoko's tail flicked, but she made no other move.

Ayeka walked towards Tenchi with a helpful and humble smile. Ryoko glared at her, but this only made Ayeka smile all the more as she said politely, "Lord Tenchi, is there any way that I can help you and your family with the chores?"

Tenchi pondered a moment. It was nice that she wasn't perpetually mad at him, but he wondered if this new form of address meant he'd have to remember to call her "Princess Ayeka" all of the time. He worried he'd forget and make her angry again. "Thanks, Princess Ayeka. Actually, I guess there is some laundry, but I guess you don't do it the same on Jurai, do you?"

"No, they don't" Ryoko butted in cattily, "When I was there last, they never washed their clothes. In fact, I think you've been wearing that outfit for the past seven centuries, Ayeka."

"Really?" Ayeka asked as though she had just been given a great compliment. "Well, I must say, your graveclothes certainly suit you. Isn't that outfit the one my brother sealed you away in?"

Tenchi looked at them both confusedly. It obviously was not the blood red and black outfit Yosho had sealed her in, and everyone here knew it. "Look, there's no need to get upset. I'll just do-"

Ayeka briskly took the nearby clothes basket and tripped away, saying, "No, please, I insist!" Ryoko made a face after her when Tenchi wasn't looking.

He had been quite right, laundry was generally done quite differently on Jurai, but Ayeka was confident that she could manage it.

Ayeka walked to the room designated as the laundry room. Nobuyuki had mentioned that morning, during an idle domestic quarrel with Katsuhito, that he had bought a washing machine a year or two ago to free up their time for more productive uses. Katsuhito evidently preferred laundry done by hand, though he refused to do it himself, at least according to Nobuyuki.

Ayeka stared at the machine, a white gleaming thing with many controls. Probably she could work them out, but she didn't want to risk ruining any of the family's clothes. She ordered, "Azaka, Kamadaki!" They teleported into the room, saying in chorus, "Yes, ma'am!" Ayeka commanded them, "Interface with the washing unit. Specify a blue load of Earthling laundry."

Both robots extended a panoply of plugs, prongs, batons, forks, and wooden spheres on long cables, and began gently probing and tapping the washing machine in a systematic manner. They flipped open the machine's door and tried inserting some elements in there. Azaka opened the lint filter, and Kamadaki said gratefully, "Thank you," removed the filter and tried to replace it with one of the interface dowels, but the dowel was too large. Azaka said politely, "Let me try," and tried an interfacing fork, but it kept catching on the outside of the washing machine.

Returning the washing machine to its original state and retracting their connections, Azaka reported, "We apologize, ma'am." Kamadaki concurred, "This unit is incompatible with the universal interface system."

"But everything accepts the universal interface system!" Ayeka exclaimed. She considered the machine and sighed. "I suppose I'll just have to guess, since they're all busy."

Ryoko entered the confined room, hovering a few inches off the floor, and laughed. "Stymied by simple Earthling technology, brat?" she asked saucily. In a few swift moves, she scooped up the blue clothes, put in detergent, and set the machine running. Ayeka simmered while Ryoko said maliciously, "It's very easy, you know!" Ryoko hooted with laugher as she flew up and phased through the ceiling, leaving the room.

"She's just had some time to watch Earthlings. I'll learn it myself," Ayeka said proudly.

Sasami walked into the room. "Ayeka, do you need help?" she asked. Ayeka looked at Sasami and asked, "You know how to operate this machine?" She agreed, "Yeah, Mr. Masaki showed me the other day!" Ayeka sighed again.

A chitter, followed by a hissing noise from the living room drew their attention. Sasami's face fell, "Oh, no! And I thought Mik and Ryo-ohki were getting along so well yesterday!" She rushed towards the noise, and Ayeka went after her. Azaka and Kamadaki stayed in the laundry room a moment. Kamadaki wondered, "Perhaps this means we'll need to be upgraded again." Azaka commented, "These appliances are getting too complicated nowadays."

"You two were getting along so nicely-" Sasami reprimanded as she entered the room, then stopped short in shock. The long white hairs of Mik were raised slightly, as it chittered at another white-furred being. Mik took several steps back as the other being hissed at it. Ryo-ohki bounded into the room and hissed at the other being, taking a stance beside Mik. Ayeka and Sasami could now see that the other being was almost a duplicate of Ryo-ohki, except this cabbit was pure white, save for its red forhead jewel and its eyes. The white cabbit shifted its attention to Ryo-ohki immediately, and stood even taller on its legs, and raised its ears vertically. Ryo-ohki matched it stance for stance, though she was rather smaller than it, while Mik chose to retreat to Sasami's shoulders.

"Another battleship?" Ayeka wondered at it.

Sasami stepped forward with an angry expression and her hands on her hips. "Now be nice to each other, you two!"

For the first time, the white cabbit regarded her and Ayeka. Sasami could almost see an expression of incredulous disgust cross its face as it made a hacking noise and turned its head. This needled Ryo-ohki, who whipped out her paw and scratched Ken-ohki with her claws. This had no perceptible effect; the claws had only a day to grow. Ken-ohki immediately tackled her. "No!" Sasami said firmly as she rushed forward to separate the combatants. She managed to grab them each by the scruff of their necks and insisted, "You should get along!"

Ryoko suddenly teleported into the room. "What are you two idiots doing?" she asked incredulously, then shook her head, "Never mind that; have you seen Tenchi?"

"My sister is trying to stop your animal's street fight," Ayeka replied indignantly. "And we haven't seen Lord Tenchi in the past few minutes."

Ryoko eyed the white cabbit cautiously and said severely, "Well, don't let him get away, that's Ken-ohki!" Ayeka gasped, "Ken-ohki!" Sasami looked at the two creatures, "That's Ken-ohki? No wonder they don't get along! I should've known he'd be a cabbit, with such a similar name."

Nagi walked up to the glass door. She opened it in a controlled manner that clearly implied that she could have ripped it off its track if necessary. Nagi commented, "Restrain Ken-ohki? I'm disappointed, Ryoko. Do you really imagine you could hold a spaceship?"

Sasami looked at her older sister and asked, "She looks just like the holograms, but is she really Nagi?" Ayeka nodded and murmured, "She is. Let the cabbits go, Sasami." Sasami carefully set the cabbits down. The cabbits kept their eyes on each other as they walked backwards towards their mistresses. Ayeka returned her gaze to Nagi, "It's been some time, Nagi."

"Princess Ayeka, Princess Sasami," Nagi said carefully. "Interesting meeting you here, but not unexpected." She returned her attention to Ryoko. "I have no idea why you want him, but I have your Earth boy," she commented.

"Where is he? Why can't I find him!" Ryoko shouted. Sasami put her hands to her mouth and gasped, "Oh no!" while Ayeka stepped backwards in shock and said, "Lord Tenchi!" Nagi narrowed her eyes at the three, then explained, "It certainly wasn't easy finding a place you couldn't get to him. But the sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can learn."

Ayeka stepped forward and said determinedly, "The Juraian Royal Family is grateful for your services in the past, Nagi. We cannot allow you, however, to interfere in the lives of innocent Earthlings." Nagi stared at her suspiciously, "If you don't want to interfere with him, what are you doing living in his house?" Ayeka's nostrils flared, but she held her verbal ground, "Lord Tenchi is our gracious host. I insist that you release him at once."

Nagi laughed a moment, then exclaimed, "Ryoko and the Princess of Jurai agree on something! I never thought I'd live to see the day!" Nagi braced herself in a fighting position, and Ken-ohki poised himself, as Nagi answered, "Both of you can have him back, after Ryoko and I fight. We'll be waiting in orbit."

There was a long, awkward pause.

Nagi frowned. "From what I know of you, Ryoko, you'd have said something like, 'Fine, let's do it!' and headed off to space by now." Ryoko crossed her arms, snorting, "What a great bounty hunter you are, Nagi. In just a short time you found me and a place to hide Tenchi, but you totally missed the fact that this is a young, regenerated Ryo-ohki. She's not old enough to turn into a spaceship yet."

Nagi's eyes darted upward and to the right, and Ken-ohki uttered a meow. Nagi's eyes snapped forward again, and she said grimly, "This is unprecedented." She considered for some moments, then decided, "It'll be awkward, but I suppose I'll have to take you to orbit. In fact, forget orbit- let's fight on a planet, where we won't be disturbed. I'll set up a habitat on Venus." Nagi backed slowly out of the door, adding, "I'll come pick you up in an hour. If anyone follows me, I can't guarantee Tenchi's life." Ken-ohki followed, staring bitterly at Ryo-ohki the whole time, and exited the house with a sour meow. Ryo-ohki uttered a frustrated meow.

"I cannot believe Nagi would stoop this low," Ayeka growled. "We must not let her get away with this. I will fight for Lord Tenchi." Ryoko rolled her eyes, "You are going to just stay here, Ayeka. Tenchi is mine, and I can beat Nagi any day." Ayeka shot back, "Liar! In all your fights with her, you've failed to give her even a serious injury, and you know it!" Ryoko leaned forward and snarled, "That wasn't my fault!"

Sasami waved her hands and cried, "Wait! Why are we doing what she says?" Ayeka looked down at her and said, "Don't be ridiculous, Sasami. There's no point to following her to her hideout right now."

"No, there isn't," Sasami argued, "but there's no point to fighting her ourselves! Why don't we call the Galactic Police? Two of them are right here in the system!"

Ayeka blanched at the thought of Detective Mihoshi bumbling to the rescue. "No, Sasami. Nagi may be strong, but she cannot defeat Juraian power." Ryoko huffed, "Whatever. I can beat her myself any day." Sasami started, "But Ayeka-" Ayeka shook her head just like their mother did, in the way that really annoyed Sasami. Sasami sighed angrily, "Hmph!" and left the room.

"So, would you have gone with Misao?" Mihoshi giggled.

"Mihoshi," Kiyone grumbled, shifting in her seat on Yagami.

"No, that's okay, I don't mind," Mihoshi waved her hand, "that's why I stopped him!"

"You should've just let me handle it. You really hurt his feelings," Kiyone sighed.

Mihoshi waved her hand again, "Oh, he was fine! He falls in love with any girl wearing the uniform!" Kiyone put a hand to her forehead. Now Mihoshi had managed to hurt her feelings.

Mihoshi put a finger to her chin and wondered aloud, "Gee, I'm just not sure what kind of a guy I'd like to meet. How about you, Kiyone?"

"This is my rest period and your duty period!" Kiyone snapped. Mihoshi stared at her and asked innocently, "So?" Kiyone ignored her. Mihoshi continued, "Well, I do have something of an idea. Maybe a guy with, um, er, um, er, uuh, dark hair! Yeah, dark hair!"

Kiyone turned away quickly so Mihoshi wouldn't see the laugh erupting on her face. When the laugh was stifled, she still couldn't help but smile. Finally, she admitted, "All right, I'll tell you. I eat, breathe and live for the Galactic Police, and I really want to get ahead. I don't want to settle down for a while. When I do, though, I want to find someone who'll support my career, but will not be involved in it in any way. I need a home life totally separate from my work life."

Tenchi was held in a cave about two miles up the road. Ryoko hadn't thought to look so far afield. She had forgotten that Ken-ohki could, of course, transport Nagi rapidly across that distance with ease.

Nagi neared the cave, checking visually to make sure Tenchi's crucifix-like restraining device was functioning correctly. He shouted again, just as he had before, "Who are you?"

This time she actually answered him. "I'm Nagi, bounty hunter, and Ryoko's greatest enemy. I delivered my message, she'll be coming for you soon. And I think the princess will too."

"Leave them out of this!" Tenchi said angrily.

Nagi shook her head. "Don't tell me you love them." Tenchi said, "I just don't want them getting hurt!" Ken-ohki hissed in his general direction and turned his back while Nagi commented, "That's a large part of love. Or so I'm told."

She stepped close to Tenchi, but kept a healthy distance in case he should somehow break free. "You think it's fun, living with a dangerous woman like Ryoko, don't you?" she asked idly. "That's what's so wonderful about short-lived species," she said wistfully, "they actually take chances. My species lives for a long time. What's the result? They don't want to risk losing any part of their life. They get overcautious. They don't take risks. They gain as much strength as they can and hide as much as they can, so that very few people even know my species exist. I suppose my species doesn't really exist, because most of its members never really live. They exist, but they lack the courage it takes to actually live in this universe."

Tenchi struggled against his bonds and protested, "She's just a space pirate! If anyone would have a problem with Ryoko, it should be Ayeka. Why are you getting involved?"

"I've been involved for centuries," Nagi informed him as she looked into the distance. "And as to her being just a space pirate, she's more dangerous than anyone acknowledges. I don't like having to do this to you, but Ryoko has to be stopped." She looked up at him again. "How much do you know of what Ryoko has done?"

Tenchi squirmed and thought and finally said, "Well, she attacked Jurai, and she fought Yosho." The question made him feel uncomfortable. He didn't know much about any of his new houseguests, and was having to guess at a lot of the answers about what to do next every day to keep everyone on an even keel. This day was simply a more extreme example.

Nagi laughed dryly and said, "You don't even catch the significance in those two things you've just said. The pirates that exist today and existed back then only live because the police and the Juraians can't be everywhere at once. In a straight fight, the pirates would be crushed. They're beings just like millions of other beings. Ryoko, on the other hand, has more energy on her person than any other life form I've encountered, Juraians included. Ryoko plundered hundreds of star systems in the face of enormous GP task forces, could stand toe to toe with the crown prince, infiltrated Juraian starship defenses, and was able to slip through their homeworld fortifications and raze sections of Jurai. Not even Kain was capable of that." Nagi shook her head. "Granted, Ryoko had a very powerful accomplice, but that does not diminish her crimes or her danger."

"But she's different!" Tenchi protested again. "I didn't think so at first, but she must've changed! She's so different now!"

Nagi looked at him and said disbelievingly, "Even if that's true, nothing changes the fact that she committed those crimes in the past." He was about to shout at her when he had a sudden thought and asked suspiciously, "How do you know all of this?" All Nagi said was, "I was there."

She stepped around him some, looking at him carefully. Tenchi squirmed and asked, "Are you going to tell me about what happened?" She said nothing. He fumed, "Well, at least tell me why you've got a cabbit too!" Ken-ohki meowed, and Nagi changed the subject, "I'm rather surprised at you. I see now that you have a Juraian sword. Even before I noticed that, I thought the princess would be more to your tastes than Ryoko."

"You're not going to hurt her too, are you?" Tenchi leaned forward and asked desperately. Nagi smiled a bit, "That's more like it. I hadn't planned to be involved with her at all, but I think she's going to insist on rescuing you as well. You must think it's some sort of game, wearing a sword, pretending to be a noble, being in close quarters with a princess. Did you know she's betrothed?"

"Huh?" uttered Tenchi, taken aback.

"And betrothals are notoriously difficult to break," Nagi went on. "No one gets to visit Earth, so I don't know how your society is structured, but Juraian nobles are betrothed from shortly after birth- sometimes before birth. The Juraians are polite, but they have a rather nasty dueling tradition." She took a step closer. "I'm not falling in love with you myself, I'm just trying to give you some advice because you remind me of myself, when I first left my planet. There's a difference between taking risks and taking stupid risks."

Ken-ohki hopped outside the cave, and Nagi stepped behind the crucifix and picked it up. Nagi carried the crucifix toward the huge white spaceship, which he realized was a transformed Ken-ohki. Tenchi noted that Ken-ohki had to open a door in his hull. Nagi couldn't phase through things like Ryoko. "How do you expect to win," he asked viciously, "if you don't have as much power as Ryoko?"

"I've always had an advantage," Nagi informed him. "I can restrain my emotions. She can't."

At the end of the hour, the white form of Ken-ohki hovered outside the Masaki residence. Ken-ohki's spaceship form had several spikes arranged around a pointed element, like Ryo-ohki's spaceship form, except Ken-ohki's spikes pointed downwards at an angle, where Ryo-ohki's were nearly vertical.

"Stay here, Sasami," Ayeka told her at the door. "I'll bring back Lord Tenchi, don't worry." Sasami tried to hold back tears as she nodded. Ayeka somberly requested of Azaka and Kamadaki, "You two remain with Sasami, and if I do not return, guard her for me." Azaka told her, "We will do so, Princess Ayeka." Kamadaki wished, "Please return safely, Princess."

Ryoko spared the time for a laugh at them before resuming a grim face and asking Nagi, "So where is he now?"

"Venus," Nagi answered. "I know you can travel in vacuum, Ryoko, but you can't reach him before the life support generator runs out of energy. Not without Ken-ohki's speed, anyway. So don't make any funny moves and this trip will go fine."

Ayeka strode forward, "I'll give you one final chance to return Lord Tenchi," she said ominously. "After that, you will suffer my challenge." Nagi looked at her and said, "Challenge accepted. Everyone come aboard." They walked through the portal in Ken-ohki's hull.

"Not yet, Mihoshi!" Kiyone insisted. "We need more time for recon!"

"I am an officer of the Galactic Police!" Mihoshi declared boldly. "I face danger without hesitation! Stopping violent criminals is what I do, it's what I am!"

"You can't take Nagi alone!" Kiyone said desperately, trying to concentrate on scanning Venus from orbit. Actually Kiyone was fairly certain they couldn't defeat Ken-ohki together, but that only made following the plan more important. "I've almost located the habitat. We'll confront her after I rescue the human!"

Mihoshi accelerated towards the Earth, and Kiyone sighed. She should never have let Mihoshi have the Earth patrol during this particular mission. She should've known this would happen. She ordered Yagami to move to Earth at top speed.

Nagi turned her head as Ken-ohki meowed. A screen appeared in thin air, and Mihoshi's face resolved upon it, grim and tight lipped. Mihoshi said sternly, "Bounty hunter Nagi, you are in violation of the regulations of protected zone. As an officer of the Galactic Police, I place you under arrest. Surrender yourself and release your hostage."

Ayeka put her hands to her cheeks in worry and moaned, "Oh, Sasami, you didn't!"

Nagi frowned at the screen and told Mihoshi, "This has become too complicated as it is. You don't want to get involved. It's become a matter of Juraian honor; take my advice and don't mess with it."

Yukinojo moved closer at Mihoshi's behest and fired all of its beam cannons upon Ken-ohki. He was ready, and dodged most of the attacks, meowing defiantly.

Ayeka was in frantic communication with Ryu-oh via her key. Ryu-oh was saying, "Sasami was right to do this. You should've called them yourself!" Ayeka nearly screamed, "Do you see what that idiot is doing! I knew this would happen if she tried to help!"

Kiyone groaned, but she had to help her partner. If Mihoshi could only hold out a little bit longer, Kiyone would be in range.

Mihoshi was fighting surprisingly well. Yukinojo's computer kept complaining about the bizarre evasive maneuvers, but they sufficed to dodge nearly all of Ken-ohki's attacks. She had scored on him several times despite his incredible agility. His attacks were, however, causing more damage than hers.

Nagi was concentrating intently on the space battle, and only barely managed to twist out of the way of Ryoko's saber thrust. Nagi hurriedly retrieved a whip from her belt and danced to the side as Ryoko attacked again. Nagi frowned, "Slower than you were, Ryoko. Yosho must've taken something out of you." Nagi wished she knew what, but kept that from registering on her face.

Ken-ohki scored a fairly good hit on Yukinojo. The armor plating was entirely melted away, and the auxiliary communications equipment in that section was destroyed. Mihoshi's nerve broke, and she swung Yukinojo away abruptly, rushing towards Yagami and shouting through the main communication system, "Kiyone! Help me! Help! Help!" Ken-ohki gave chase to Mihoshi.

Nagi and Ryoko were fighting very fiercely now, Ryoko phasing in and out to avoid the whip, and Nagi twisting and dodging to avoid the saber.

When Nagi's back was turned to her, Ayeka twisted a ring on her finger, and an aura of light emanated from the ring and swept along her body, clothing her in battle armor and patterning her face with war paint. Her shielding network appeared around her.

Kiyone gritted her teeth. This wasn't going to be easy, fighting something of Ken-ohki's class, but she was going to give it her best shot, literally. She locked Yagami's missiles on target and launched a salvo.

Ken-ohki managed to evade all of the guided missiles, but only with an incredible combination of spinning and translational movement. This caused a great deal of motion in Ken-ohki's cockpit and was probably the only thing that saved Nagi from being skewered by Ayeka's sword.

Ayeka swung her key at Nagi, watching the bounty hunter frantically evade its blue blade and snatch her body out of range of Ryoko's red saber. Ken-ohki meowed in rage, and suddenly a portion of the ceiling jutted down towards the floor, creating a giant stalactite in seconds. Ryoko barely managed to avoid the piercing weapon, and moved forward only just in time to avoid being gored by another projection, feeling her back scored deeply by the newly created tooth from the ceiling. Ayeka, meanwhile, nicked Nagi's arm, but Ayeka couldn't strike further because she had to evade another tooth that came up from the floor.

Yagami was in reverse, facing Ken-ohki and firing, and dodging to avoid Ken-ohki's shots. Yukinojo was doing so as well. Ken-ohki was still advancing upon them and firing, but his reaction times seemed slightly slowed. Kiyone wished she knew why.

Ryoko had recovered from her surprise and phased through Ken-ohki's next tooth, and fired quarrels of energy at Nagi. Nagi ducked, using that movement to dodge a swing of Ayeka's sword. She tried to use her whip to attack Ryoko, but the teeth interfered. Another tooth grew towards Ayeka. Her shield network held it off long enough for her to move to the side. Nagi tried to punch at Ayeka with her left fist, but Ayeka's sword swung, and Nagi barely snatched her hand back in time.

Executing another standard evasive maneuver, Kiyone felt horror as she felt the ship shake and begin to spin wildly. Stabilizing Yagami, Kiyone realized that Mihoshi had crashed into her and had managed to hit one of her main turning engines. Unable to dodge as well, Yagami was beginning to take more serious injuries from Ken-ohki. "I'm hit!" Kiyone cried, "Mihoshi, we have to break off the attack!" Mihoshi wailed, "I'm sorry, Kiyone!" They swerved out of Ken-ohki's path as he flew past them and into the Venusian atmosphere.

There was just enough time for Ryoko to see Nagi's eyes dart upward and to the right, and her mouth smile grimly, before it happened. Ryoko was just thinking that Ken-ohki had probably shared some new plan for dealing with them, and was trying to anticipate what it was, when a massive crystal formed around Nagi, encasing her completely, holding her tight. Simultaneously, the floor opened up beneath them, and Ken-ohki made a major course correction. Ayeka and Ryoko still had the momentum from Ken-ohki's previous maneuver. From one frame of reference, it could be said that they simply remained in motion with that velocity while Ken-ohki's velocity changed and he continued motion in a different direction. In Ryoko and Ayeka's frame of reference, they fell out of Ken-ohki into the poisonous whirlwind that is the exosphere of Venus.

Next Chapter

Ryoko rages at Dragonwiles, "So that's why you wouldn't tell me who was arriving in this chapter, or who gets kidnapped!"

"I didn't tell anybody," Dragonwiles states while executing a roll of the eyes, "because it's supposed to be suspenseful. There wouldn't be any suspense if you knew what was going to happen."

She produces her energy saber and threatens, "I'll make this really simple for you. Give me back my Tenchi and we won't find out if you taste just like chicken."

Dragonwiles expels a small amount of flame and points out, "You know, Ryoko, you should try to stay on my good side. Remember, I'm the author. I'm the one who controls the pairings here."

"Pairings?" Ryoko asks suspiciously. "What are you talking about?"

Ayeka bows respectfully to Dragonwiles. "Of course you are, great Dragonwiles. Would you care for some refreshement?"

Ryoko snaps her fingers. "Oh, I get it now. You're going to butter up Dragonwiles so you'll be fixed up with Tenchi. Well Tenchi and I aren't just a pairing, we're destiny."

"I"d like to ask the opinion of the great Dragonwiles on that subject," Ayeka smiles menacingly at Ryoko.

Dragonwiles notes, "Tenchi's romantic nature is also supposed to be a subject of suspense. Or at least dramatic tension."

At this precise moment, Tenchi happens by, and squawks, "My romantic nature? What are you all talking about over here?"

"We're suppposed," Dragonwiles sighs, producing a large cloud of steam, "to be introducing the next chapter. But- oh, here they come now."

An exhausted Kiyone and Mihoshi appear on stage. "We're sorry we're late," they bow to Dragonwiles and apologize. "It's just been really tough trying to fix Yagami."

Mihoshi looks several times at Ayeka and Ryoko and asks, "I thought they just died?"

"Maybe they did, maybe they didn't," Dragonwiles points out. "It's called suspense."

Kiyone clears her throat and begins, "In the next chapter, Ryoko's going to be born."

"Me?" Ryoko says with interest. "This ought to be good, I don't remember anything about it."

"But Ryoko just died, how can she be born in the next chapter?" Mihoshi asks while she tugs on Kiyone's sleeve. Kiyone glares at her, and Mihoshi remembers and pulls a tattered bit of paper out of her uniform pocket. Reading it, she states, "The consequences of Yakage's choice resound throughout the characters' lives."

Kiyone finishes impressively, "Be sure to read the next chapter, No Need For An Experimental Daughter."

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, as you now know, introduces Nagi and Ken-ohki, characters exclusive to the Universe series of Tenchi. Well, I suppose Ken-ohki was techinically introduced in the last chapter, but you see what I mean. I have largely left the characters as they were in the Universe series, but I've expanded on their backstories, and modified them slightly to make them compatible with the OVA's ideas of Ryo-ohki being made of Masses. In the Universe series, we are led to believe that cabbits are simply somewhat rare aliens, since no one seems to think it odd to find another member of Ryo-ohki's species. Since I'm keeping with the OVA's idea that cabbits are beings composed of Masses, I gave Ken-ohki the backstory you saw in the previous chapter. Nagi's backstory has been expanded slightly: we don't really know what her species is like or how she started her career in the Universe series, so I made up the general ideas I placed in the chapter. Apart from those alterations, I believe that the two characters have largely the same personalities and capabilities as they did in the Universe series."

Chapter 12 Main Chapters Chapter 14