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The Lair of Dragonwiles
fanfictions both comedic and serious
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|Chapter 28||Main||Chapters||Chapter 29|
No Need for the Hot Springs
"I'm Sasami," she introduces herself, "a princess of Jurai and Ayeka's little sister. Dragonwiles asked me to be the DJ, so I picked a song I recorded myself, 'Yuki no Sanbame!' from the Tenchi Muyo OVA Best Vol. I CD! But of course, that's my song, more or less. It's definitely not Dragonwiles' song!"
A few weeks after they had cared for Taro, Tenchi's aunt invited everyone to come to the hot springs. The invitation extended to Mihoshi and Kiyone as well, who arrived at Tenchi's house a few days after Taro left.
After much cajoling and pleading from Mihoshi, Kiyone had finally agreed to let Mihoshi stay at Tenchi's house, at least when she was off duty. Kiyone had looked into living in the city, where she thought she'd blend in and feel more comfortable, but the cost of living was very expensive. She had graciously refused Tenchi's hospitality, not feeling it was right to live with people she was supposed to be isolating from galactic culture, and continued living aboard her repaired Galactic Police cruiser Yagami.
It was Mihoshi's off-duty hours now, and she joined Yosho, Nobuyuki, Tenchi, Washu, Ayeka, Sasami, and Ryoko as they moved their luggage into their rooms.
"Oh, Tenchi, thank you, you're such a gentleman," Ayeka said gratefully as Tenchi helped move several pieces of her luggage. Pleased, Tenchi smiled and told her, "You're welcome."
Ryoko, not to be outdone, dropped her suitcase and moaned theatrically, "Oh my, this is so heavy. If only someone would help me with it." She looked hopefully at Tenchi.
Tenchi's hands were already full, and he was rather suspicious of the timing, and Ryoko's inability to carry a simple suitcase, though she could punch through rock. Therefore he told her, "Just hang on a minute, Ryoko."
Ryoko sighed while Ayeka quietly snickered at her.
Tenchi's aunt walked up again and reminded them, "If you need anything, please, just let me know."
"Thank you, ma'am!" Washu said in a childlike manner.
"Such a polite little girl," Tenchi's aunt said as she bowed and left. Washu grinned- she loved impersonating a child.
"Now just remember," Tenchi murmured to Washu, "no opening up extra dimensions in my aunt's resort."
Washu protested, "Tenchi, I was only joking about that."
Tenchi grunted noncommittally, not certain he trusted her to contain her scientific curiosity. He walked over to Ryoko and picked up her suitcase for her.
"Oh wow," Mihoshi talked to herself in her excitement, as she moved her suitcases into the room she and Kiyone would be sharing, "I haven't been to a hot springs in such a long time, and I've never been in an Earth hot springs at all. Sometimes the sulfur tickles my nose and makes me sneeze just like I've got a cold, even though I couldn't possibly have a cold because it's so warm in a hot spring."
"Glad you're enjoying it," Nobuyuki told her as he passed by on his way to the room he and Tenchi would share.
Ayeka overheard Nobuyuki's comment as she was unpacking in the room she and Sasami would be sharing, and it triggered a thought. Sasami had seemed subdued as of late, not enjoying her normal activities as much as she usually did. Ayeka wondered if something was troubling her younger sister.
Sasami, who had been unpacking behind her, also paused and said softly, "Ayeka?"
Ayeka turned and asked, "Yes, Sasami?"
After a moment, Sasami replied, "Oh, it's nothing." She hesitantly returned to unpacking.
Ayeka frowned slightly and wondered aloud, "Are you sure, Sasami?"
"I'm all right," Sasami said in her usual cheerful voice, trying to reassure Ayeka. Ayeka raised her eyebrows but decided that now was not the time. Perhaps her sister had simply been working too hard, making practically every meal for all of them. She certainly deserved some relaxation.
Mihoshi, Ryoko, Washu, Ayeka, and Sasami were all soaking in the hot springs together. The air was crisp, but the water was quite warm, so there was an almost constant blanket of mist over the water. Mihoshi wrapped up a story she had been telling with the words, "And so then, after we backtracked to the last five planets we visited, we found out that Misao had actually been sleeping in the engine room the whole time, and we never noticed!" They all laughed.
"Your little brother is quite something," Ryoko shook her head.
"Mihoshi, where are you?" Kiyone's voice came to them from somewhere nearby.
"Oh no, where did I leave my communicator?" Mihoshi sprang out of the springs to look for it, thinking that Kiyone was calling her from it.
"I'm right here, Mihoshi!" Kiyone said irritatedly as she strode into view. "Mihoshi, you were supposed to be on duty two hours ago!"
"I'm sorry, Kiyone," Mihoshi's tone was contrite. "I didn't mean to!"
Kiyone's arms were crossed tightly, and she told her partner, "Look, just get back to Yukinojo as soon as you can, okay?" Mihoshi nodded.
"Goodbye, Mihoshi!" Sasami bade her farewell. "Come back as soon as you're off duty again!"
"Oh, I will!" Mihoshi shouted back as she ran inside, trying to make up for lost time.
"Kiyone, will you be staying with us?" Sasami inquired hopefully.
"I didn't want to be impolite twice in as many months," Kiyone smiled wryly. "I'll take my off hours at the resort with you." Sasami told her, "Good!"
"Have you unpacked?" Washu inquired.
"Not yet," Kiyone told them. "I'd better take care of that now." She headed inside.
"Come join us when you're ready," Washu called after her. Kiyone waved back affirmatively.
"I wish there was some way they could both be here together," Sasami said wistfully.
Washu smiled, "You just want everyone to be one big, happy family, don't you, Sasami?"
"Yes!" Sasami agreed, nodding enthusiastically.
Washu chuckled, then paused. This seemed familiar. She felt as though Sasami was reminding her of someone, but she wasn't sure who.
Ayeka stretched in the hot springs, glad that Sasami had returned to her usual cheerful self.
"I dunno about us all being a giant family, Sasami," Ryoko said thoughtfully. "When Tenchi and I get married, I dunno if I'll approve of having all these women dropping in all the time."
"You and Tenchi are most certainly not getting married." Ayeka rolled her eyes.
"That's just what your jealous heart thinks," Ryoko said unconcernedly.
"You are living in your own fantasy," Ayeka said firmly.
"Ladies, maybe we could choose a topic of conversation that is less likely to get the hot springs blown up?" Washu suggested.
Kiyone joined them wordlessly, closing her eyes and clearly trying to relax.
Everyone was silent for a moment, as they all soaked in the heat from the pool. After a time, Sasami spoke up, "Kiyone, may I please ask you a question?"
Kiyone opened an eye and responded, "I'll answer it if I can."
"How long have you known Mihoshi?" Sasami inquired.
"Ever since we were both in Galactic Police Academy," Kiyone said slowly, unwinding from her duty cycle. "We were in the same class, assigned as partners when we graduated."
"It seems as though I've heard of you two before," Ayeka said. "Both of you cracked some tough cases in the past few years, didn't you."
"We sure did. And now we're here," Kiyone said dully, closing her eye.
"What's wrong with here?" Sasami asked.
"The planet is fine," Kiyone opened her eyes and shifted her position. "I even like living on Yagami. Here is fine."
"No, it's not," Ryoko said carelessly. "You hate Mihoshi, don't you?"
"I'm trying to relax here," Kiyone said listlessly. Ryoko needled her, "See?"
"I thought you two were friends," Sasami said in confusion.
"We are!" Kiyone said hastily.
Ryoko scored again, "It's just that she drives you nuts."
"Ryoko," Washu glared at her daughter.
"Everyone drives me nuts at some time or another," Kiyone said with a significant glance at Ryoko before continuing, "I just didn't realize that Mihoshi would turn out to be someone different than I thought she was." Seeing their puzzled looks, she explained, "I thought Mihoshi was organized, always competent, and perpetually alert. It's how she was in GP Acad, and when we were working on those investigations. When we solved the big cases, I was in my element. Tight schedules, few clues, always another crime scene to investigate." Her face lightened with the reminiscing.
"So many responsibilities must be taxing," Ayeka said sympathetically, remembering sitting with her father as he attempted to administer the Juraian Empire for hours, wrestling with complex problems great and small. Someday that might well be her role.
"But it's so fulfilling, you know?" Kiyone said wistfully. Ayeka nodded, but Ryoko snorted and disagreed, "Whatever. You must be some sort of stress addict. I try to live so I don't run my brain down with worry."
Kiyone shook her head, "I loved doing high-energy investigations. But it did take its toll on Mihoshi. I thought," and she paused, startled at a revelation that had only now come to her. "I thought Mihoshi loved those investigations too. She isn't like that, though. She doesn't thrive on stress like I do."
"Doesn't stop her from creating it for others," Ryoko murmured. Ayeka thought this highly rude but was in too much agreement with the sentiment to voice any disapproval. Kiyone shrugged, "I won't disagree. Still, I'm sure I annoy her too. And there are some good sides to her real personality. She's a good friend, just an inconvenient partner." She looked depressed, "I'll need to find some way to restart my career now. How am I ever going to get back to investigating when she's my partner?"
"Oh, cheer up," Ryoko insisted, "have some sake!" She passed over the bottle and a cup. Kiyone took it gratefully.
On the other side of the complex, Tenchi and his father Nobuyuki were in the men's bath, while Yosho took a nap in his room.
Nobuyuki glanced mischievously at his son and asked, "So, who among the ladies do you like best?"
"Like best?" Tenchi repeated the question, hoping this wasn't going where he thought it was going. "Best for what?"
"You know," Nobuyuki elbowed him in the ribs. "For settling down with!"
"Dad! They're our guests!" Tenchi protested.
"Isn't it convenient?" Nobuyuki agreed.
"You think this is one of your romance manga, don't you?" Tenchi said dismissively.
Nobuyuki considered and told him mischievously, "I'd say it's sticking closer to the plot of my action manga."
Tenchi shook his head.
"You look just like your mother when you do that," Nobuyuki reminisced.
Tenchi almost thought that was the end of the subject, but his father asked seriously, "Don't tell me it never even crossed your mind?"
Reluctantly, Tenchi thought it over for a moment, and then told him, "It's complicated, Dad. Everything's gotten more complicated."
"And more fun!" Nobuyuki said cheerfully. Tenchi agreed, "Yeah, that too. But still complicated." Nagi's words were resonating in his mind, the things she had told him when she kidnapped him. She hadn't been justified in kidnapping him, but she had opened his eyes to the fact that there was more to his alien houseguests than he had first thought.
"Who would you pick?" Tenchi asked, trying to throw the burden off himself. To Tenchi's surprise, his father was flummoxed. Nobuyuki scratched his head, then adjusted his glasses, then rubbed his nose where his glasses had been, then said with an open face, "I really can't imagine, Tenchi. Every time I try to think of a woman, I think 'Someone like Achika.' But she's gone, and there's nobody else quite like her."
"So," Nobuyuki grinned dangerously, "stop trying to change the subject! How about Ayeka?" Tenchi replied calmly, "She's betrothed."
Startled, Nobuyuki scooted back a bit, making a loud splash, then gawked at his son and said surprisedly, "Did you ask her or something?"
"Nagi told me. I don't think she was lying, and it makes sense," Tenchi informed his father.
"Ryoko definitely likes you, and she's available," Nobuyuki shook his finger at his son, daring him to find a flaw in his logic.
"Yeah, and I feel awkward talking to her now that her mom's around. It's like they're connected somehow and they can't even help it. There'd never be any privacy," Tenchi pointed out.
"Mihoshi likes you too," Nobuyuki valiantly rallied himself with this new charge.
"Well, I only found this out from the others. She'd never show it off. But Mihoshi is heir to one of the richest families in the galaxy. Would Mihoshi's family really let her marry a nobody like me?" Tenchi was thinking very hard about Washu's story, how her husband's family had pulled their marriage apart because Washu didn't have enough prestige.
"You're a prince of Jurai!" Nobuyuki protested. "You killed Kagato, the criminal nobody's ever been able to beat! When everyone hears about that, you'll be famous across the galaxy!"
"The reports filed by Mihoshi, Kiyone, and the rescue mission, are top secret," Tenchi told his father what Kiyone had assured him. "The Galaxy Police will announce that hard work, sacrifice, and the cooperation of the Juraian government allowed them to bring down the criminal. And I'm just fine with that. I don't want a lot of prestige, and I don't want all the worries I'd have if I had tons of money. I just want a quiet life."
Nobuyuki harrumphed as he crossed his arms, "You're just being a spoilsport. You're too serious sometimes. No, you're not even being that, you're just being negative!"
Tenchi was nettled, and replied, "I'm trying to be responsible! These are real problems! Should I start a romance without considering the obstacles? That wouldn't be love! It'd just be selfish! I'm sure you know what I mean, Dad. You and mother are the ones who taught me what real love is!"
They were silent a moment before Nobuyuki said petulantly, "You're still too serious."
Tenchi had to laugh. "Dad," he finally assured him, "don't worry, you'll have grandkids someday."
The following evening, as darkness settled, Sasami walked towards the hot springs where her sister and Mihoshi were lounging. When she reached them, Sasami asked, "Are you sure you don't want to play ping-pong with me?"
"I beat you twice yesterday," Ayeka reminded her. Mihoshi recalled regretfully, "And I lost to you three times yesterday!"
Sasami suggested hopefully, "Mihoshi could try to reclaim her honor by playing against me!"
Mihoshi shook her head and said, "No thanks, Sasami. This hot springs was almost all I could think of during my duty shift today! I want to stay here until my hands turn wrinkly! They feel so funny when I do that!" Ayeka murmured, "Indeed." She wondered why Mihoshi shared everything that crossed her mind.
Sasami offered, "I'll turn on a light for you two before I go in." She turned to flip a switch, and light streamed across the bath, highlighting some of the remnants of mist which still clung to the pool.
"Thanks, Sasami," Mihoshi told her. Then she screamed as she looked in the water.
"What is it?" Sasami asked, whirling to face her.
Mihoshi clutched Ayeka tightly, incredibly frightened. She squeaked, "Sasami, your reflection, it's somebody else!"
Ayeka briefly stopped struggling against Mihoshi's strength to look in the water. The reflection in the water was perfectly oriented with Sasami, perfectly mimicking her pose, but it was of an adult woman, with long blue hair and pink eyes, clad in a blue cloak. Ayeka looked up, gaping at her younger sister, her eyes pleading for an answer.
All the color had drained out of Sasami's face, and she looked at Ayeka in absolute terror. Her whole body was frozen. The woman who was her reflection had the same expression, and mimicked Sasami's every move.
"Sasami!" Ayeka cried, but it was as though a spell had been broken. Sasami turned and ran, the reflection mimicking her. Soon the reflection had disappeared, lost beyond the boundary of the bath, and Sasami ran on, back into the resort.
Ayeka struggled against Mihoshi's grip, but Mihoshi's strength of fear was too great for her to be easily released. Once Ayeka did break free, Mihoshi panicked and tried to flee the bath, tripping Ayeka. By the time Ayeka stood again, there was no sign of her sister.
Ryoko teleported into the bath asking what had happened, and Ayeka could hear Tenchi running towards them and shouting the same question.
There had never before been a time in Ayeka's life when she was less certain of the answer.
Fifteen minutes later, everyone regrouped outside Ayeka and Sasami's room. Kiyone was with them; she was on duty, but this was quickly turning into a missing persons case, so there was no conflict of interest.
"We've checked everywhere in the resort," Yosho concluded, "so she must be outside it."
"What could make the poor dear run off like that?" Tenchi's aunt said worriedly. "She can't have gone far, we should be able to find her soon."
Earlier, Kiyone had quietly informed the others that Yagami and Yukinojo couldn't sense Sasami anywhere in the vicinity. Ayeka and Mihoshi were still shaken up. Ayeka had said only that Sasami had run away. The others had seen how distraught she was and decided to focus on finding Sasami.
They all split into pairs and began to search the grounds.
Ayeka almost felt sure that she wouldn't be able to find something as large as a spacecraft in the present circumstances, let alone her sister. They each had flashlights to pierce the dark, but Ayeka couldn't pierce the surprise and madly rushing emotions in her own mind. She violently hoped Sasami was safe. But what could that reflection possibly have been? And how could Sasami hide from the sensors of Yagami and Yukinojo? What had happened to her dear sister?
Beside her, Tenchi whispered, "Ayeka, do you think that's her? Over there?"
Ayeka remembered that Tenchi was her partner in the search. It had only been a few minutes ago that they began looking, but it seemed like centuries already. Centuries- at least Yosho had simply been missing. He still would be- he still was- Yosho when she found him again. She might find Sasami tonight, only to find that Sasami was someone else- perhaps something not even real. For Ayeka, who knew many things yet undiscovered by Earth science, could not explain what had transpired in the bath. And thinking back, Ayeka could not explain how her sister had exerted that mysterious control over Ayeka's ship, Ryu-Oh, or the bedbot their mother Misaki had assigned to pester them to sleep.
All of that had seemed unimportant at the time, and Ayeka was willing to render everything that had just happened at the bath unimportant as well, if only she could find a Sasami that she understood and loved.
Ayeka followed Tenchi. Her sister was before them, sitting by a small pond, hugging her knees. Her back was to them. As Ayeka drew alongside her, she could see tears streaming down Sasami's face.
Ayeka was thinking only of her sister and did not notice Tenchi had been tripped some ways back. Tenchi pulled himself to his feet, noting that he and several others were behind a low hedge, with their flashlights off. He could barely see Washu putting a finger to her lips. He noticed that Ryoko was sitting cross-legged with her back to her mother, but her eyes occasionally flicked to the princesses some paces away. Kiyone and Mihoshi were lying on the ground, Mihoshi looking frightened and Kiyone looking mutinous. Kiyone never liked being sidelined. Both were facing Ayeka and Sasami, and Washu turned her face to see Ayeka and Sasami as well. Tenchi tapped Washu on the shoulder, and she whispered, "I don't know what's going on, but this is a delicate moment. If anyone interferes, everything could go wrong."
Sasami turned her head, finally noting her sister's approach.
Ayeka didn't know what to say. She didn't want Sasami to run away again, but the Sasami she thought she knew had gone out of her reach the moment she saw the reflection. Ayeka couldn't honestly say that she wanted to understand. She wanted her sister back, and greatly feared that might not be possible. Ayeka looked in fear and confusion at Sasami.
Sasami looked down, swallowed, then met her sister's eyes and said sadly, "Ayeka, I'm not your sister."
Ayeka put her hand to her mouth as both their tears silently fell.
"I wanted to tell you, many times," Sasami said, looking away, "but I couldn't bear to think of this moment. The moment when I'd have to give up your love."
"But," Ayeka sobbed, "you are, you are Sasami, aren't you?"
Sasami shook her head and choked, "Your real sister has been dead for seven hundred years. Ever since Kagato attacked."
"All that time?" Ayeka breathed.
"It's true," Sasami said, stifling a noise in her throat before going on, "I'm told that during the attack, Sasami slipped through a secret passage, into the Royal Arboretum. She always loved the space trees. The palace was shaken during the fighting. There aren't any railings on those catwalks. So she fell right to-" she broke off, seeing that Ayeka had fallen to her knees and buried her face in her hands. Her flashlight dropped to the ground, illuminating Sasami and some of the pond, casting huge shadows behind Sasami and the nearby trees. Sasami continued after a moment, "-to Tsunami. Tsunami loved you, and your family. She didn't want you to be sad. I was created to replace her. I'm a copy, you see. All Sasami's memories, a perfect duplication of her body. I was even made to age like she would. A perfect replica," she said, then stood and walked over to the pond, where appeared again the strange reflection. "Except for that, which never occurred until now. Perhaps I'm breaking and haven't long left to live. I shouldn't be allowed to live, after breaking your heart."
Ayeka wasn't sure how much time passed before she climbed out of her sorrows and recalled where she was. She looked at the being who had called herself Sasami. Ayeka wondered what she ought to do. The next step seemed impossible to find. She might do almost anything. But there was only one thing to do that was true.
"Do you love me?" Ayeka asked as she stood and walked to take a place next to Sasami.
Sasami whipped her head around to look up and said earnestly, "I do, Ayeka. I know I'm not your sister, and I don't deserve to, but you were always so good to me. I do love you. And I'm so sorry to have hurt you." She began to cry again.
Ayeka put a hand on Sasami's shoulder and told her, "I haven't had long to get used to this. But I've been thinking. It wasn't really because you were my sister that I loved you." Seeing Sasami's startled look Ayeka explained, "That's why I had to love you. But really, what we were together, what we had, that wasn't because we were sisters. Many sisters are close, and many sisters hate each other. We chose to love each other as sisters. And I can still love you as such."
"Ayeka!" Sasami wailed as she hugged her tight and wept against her clothes.
Washu murmured, "That's the worst of it. Go on, Tenchi. Tell her we accept her too." She kicked him out of the bushes.
"Ow!" Tenchi murmured, then picked himself up as Ayeka and Sasami, startled, turned to him. He stood up and said, "Don't worry about us, Sasami. We feel the same way."
"Tenchi!" Sasami wept, and ran over and hugged him.
Ayeka stared after her, miffed.
Tenchi's aunt, overjoyed at recovering Sasami, had decided to make the best of the situation by bringing some food, blankets, and lanterns, out beside the pond, making everyone comfortable.
Sasami, of course, had not been left out of sight for a moment, and was fussed over almost constantly. It was only with difficulty that they convinced her that they accepted her repeated apologies for worrying all of them. Sasami now was securely and contentedly asleep by the side of the pond, with her head in Ayeka's lap.
Ayeka looked calmly at the reflection of Sasami in the water. Even Mihoshi had finally accepted it. Ayeka was certain she had made the right choice, though she certainly hoped there were no further surprises in store. This surprise could have odd consequences for the Juraian Empire: a potential heir was actually some manner of duplicate. Also, how would she explain this to her parents? Should she even tell them?
The eyes of Sasami's reflection opened, and Ayeka looked down, but Sasami's eyes were still closed. Drawing in a breath, she looked around. Nobuyuki and Yosho had managed to keep Tenchi's aunt away from the water. They were presently at the resort disposing of the evening meal's remains, but Tenchi, Kiyone, Mihoshi, Ryoko, and Washu were all nearby.
Sasami's reflection said in a calm voice, "Princess Ayeka, everyone, I'm so sorry to have frightened you all, and Princess Sasami. I did not anticipate the occurrence of this reflection."
Tenchi walked over, surprised, and for the first time saw Sasami's odd reflection. He gasped, "Hey, wait! You're Tsunami!" The reflection looked exactly like the being he had met, who had called herself Tsunami, the original ship of Jurai. She had saved his life, then transported him onto Kagato's ship so Tenchi could defeat Kagato.
Ayeka gazed in shock at the reflection, but it nodded. Ayeka said in confusion, "Lady Tsunami, you have a humanoid form?"
"I did not previously," Tsunami explained. "I do now. Sasami doesn't entirely understand what happened seven hundred years ago. I've tried to explain, but communication is as yet difficult between us. Besides, it was your acceptance which she always valued."
Washu snapped her fingers in comprehension and said triumphantly, "So that's what happened."
"What happened?" Mihoshi asked, looking around tiredly.
Kiyone gazed in shock at the pool. She had always assumed Tsunami was a Juraian legend, or possibly their most powerful warship. Kiyone could not understand how Tsunami was communicating through a reflection in the water, and felt highly unnerved. Tsunami must be powerful indeed, she thought with a shiver.
"Sasami is not a copy," Tsunami said clearly for everyone's benefit. "I was able to save her life that day. The operation, however, was complicated. She was mortally wounded, far worse than Tenchi was after Kagato's attack. There was only one way to save Sasami in time. We assimilated."
Tenchi blinked while Mihoshi asked his question, "Huh?"
Washu explained, "They're the same being now."
"We have not yet fully merged," Tsunami explained. "It is a process that must be done slowly. Our lives are now linked. She has not yet grown enough to handle all of my powers, and if I tried to force them upon her, she, and I, would die. Yet in just a few more years, we shall be one; Sasami or Tsunami, whichever address you care to use."
"You, then, were the one who gave her the power to manipulate the bedbot? And Ryu-Oh, against my orders?" Ayeka asked, indignant.
"Please forgive me," Tsunami bowed. "I should have resisted more. Though we are not yet fully merged, Sasami can call on some of my abilities to control the living machines I helped birth. It is hard for me to resist my own requests."
"Very well," Ayeka gave in, "I accept your apology. But please, do so no more."
Tenchi heard people approaching and said, "Oh no, my aunt's coming back! I'll hold them off!" He hurriedly started collecting other remnants of the impromptu meal and ran out to meet his aunt, father, and grandfather some ways away. Kiyone, Mihoshi, and Washu went to help.
Ryoko shook her head. "I can never figure out Juraians, or their space trees. Normally you're a living spaceship, aren't you? I thought you'd look more like the central tree trunk, where your brains are. I guess you take that form you're appearing in now to get used to being humanoid?"
"Idiot!" Ayeka shot at her. "Show some respect, and use what little brains you have, monster. Doesn't Tsunami resemble someone?"
"Not particularly," Ryoko said, nonplussed.
Ayeka rolled her eyes while Tsunami elaborated, "Ayeka is correct. I bear now the image of what Sasami and I will look like when we are one."
"You're joking," Ryoko snapped. Tsunami blinked and disagreed mildly, "No, I am not."
Ryoko frowned. Obviously this called for an escalation. Tenchi wasn't one to be turned by a pretty face, no, but why take chances and waste a single moment of potential bliss?
Ayeka felt edgy. She had never expected to feel jealous of her own sister. Sasami had always been cute, but never in a way that threatened her. If Tsunami was right, then some impolite people, such as Ryoko, might start comparing her against her sister. Ayeka almost didn't dare to consider the possibility that Tenchi might agree with such a comparison.
"What's the matter?" Tsunami asked, confused. Those two were always getting on each other's nerves, but what had triggered those expressions on their faces?
"I was thinking about what a cute younger sister I have," Ayeka explained.
Ryoko shrugged, "Maybe, but few can aspire to beauty like mine."
"Oh, the beauty of a monster?" Ayeka inquired snidely.
Tsunami commented, "Oh dear," but was paid no mind.
Later that evening, Washu stepped quietly into the nearly deserted clearing, looking at Ayeka and Sasami. Ayeka was now fast asleep, still cradling Sasami's head in her lap.
Washu smiled at the sight of the sisters, and she stole beside them and looked into the pond. Tsunami's bright eyes looked back at her.
"I thought you'd come," Tsunami told Washu quietly, so as not to wake Sasami or Ayeka. "I'm glad."
Washu also replied softly, for the same reasons. "I certainly didn't expect this. Not after everything you said before."
"It was a hard choice," Tsunami nodded gravely. "But it would've been harder, and worse, to have chosen differently. I never disagreed with you on your principles; I disagreed with how you were going to live your life."
"Well, we each had our own paths, our own ways in which we chose to sacrifice something," Washu said mollifyingly. "Although," she lowered her eyes, "on my way, I've certainly made some missteps. Grave ones."
"When Ryoko first began destroying my children, the space trees, back when she began her career as a pirate," Tsunami recalled, "and when she ravaged my world, and the people I loved, I thought you had betrayed me. It was only when Yosho and his partner Funaho bound Ryoko that they, and I, began to realize the truth."
A drop trickled down Washu's cheek. "I was so wrong to trust Kagato. I could see the evil rising in him, but I convinced myself that I could contain it, and even channel it to my own ends. My pride has killed so many."
"Am I not responsible as well?" Tsunami mused. "I should've told King Azusa that Yosho was right, that Kagato was evil. Or I should have interdicted Kagato myself, early in his career. I thought I was giving the Juraians the autonomy they deserve. In that instance, I was but failing to do what was right."
Washu reached into the water, and Tsunami stretched out her hand, so that as Washu touched the water, the reflection of Sasami's hand touched Washu. They remained that way for several minutes, though Tsunami could not really touch Washu, and though Washu's muscles burned from the awkward crouch.
"And how is your sister?" Washu asked, when both their tears ebbed.
Tsunami sighed. "I haven't heard from her. I expected thus, but I am still saddened."
Washu nodded in agreement. "In time, she'll start talking again. I don't want to leave you after finding you so unexpectedly, but I told the others I'd bring these two," she gestured to Ayeka and Sasami, "back to their rooms, and I don't want them to worry."
"I am glad we met again," Tsunami agreed.
Washu waved goodbye, like a young child, then added, "I'm glad you could meet my daughter as she really is."
"As am I. Farewell, Washu," Tsunami told her, trying to be strong, though tears were clearly about to flow down her face again.
Washu turned away, and gently shook Ayeka awake. Washu whispered to Ayeka, and after a moment, Ayeka got up and carefully carried Sasami back towards the resort. Tsunami moved with Sasami and disappeared from the lake's surface. Sasami was still asleep.
Mihoshi asks, "Um...huh? What were Washu and Tsunami just talking about?"
"Me and Kagato," Ryoko answers.
Kiyone says frustratedly, "We got that! What was all the other stuff about?"
Ryoko shrugs, "Does it really matter?"
"Yes, it does!" Kiyone insists. "Aren't you mindlinked to Washu? Don't you know?"
"Yeah, but if I don't care, why should you?" Ryoko inquires.
Sasami ignores this and announces cheerfully, "Thank you all for your support in that chapter! Now it's my turn to do the next chapter preview! In the next chapter, another villain comes to plague us! He's another dark shadow from Washu's past!"
"Oh, not again," Mihoshi says sadly. "I wanted to stay at the hot springs!"
"The next chapter," Sasami concludes, "is called, No Need For Zero."
Continuity with Dragonwiles
Dragonwiles reposes in state in the library of his lair. Looking up from his book, he greets, "Welcome to this special segment, in which I give a few brief continuity notes."
"Most of this chapter is from the OVA series, although many minor details have been changed. In the OVA, these events actually occur on the second visit to the hot springs. However, the only things of import which occurred in the OVA version's first visit to the hot springs were the introduction of Mihoshi, and also the introduction of Ryoko's construct which I refer to as the 'white nightmare.' I preferred to introduce both in the way I used for this fanfiction, many chapters before this one."
"It would've been nice if I could've used the ghost story subplot of the OVA episode in this chapter. However, when I thought about it, I couldn't explain why the OVA had Tsunami casting various apparitions of herself around the hot springs resort, let alone how. That's why I didn't include the ghost story subplot for this chapter."
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