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Chapter 33 Main Chapters Chapter 35
No Need For A Royal Family

Funaho, a queen of Jurai, introduces herself calmly, "My name is Funaho, a queen of Jurai, and Dragonwiles requested that I be your DJ for this episode. This episode's theme song will be an oldie, from when I was young on Earth. Specifically, it'll be from the thirteenth century A. D."

As the song begins to play, she fixes the audience with an unperturbed gaze and asks, "Why do you look at me with those eyes? I like this song."

Tenchi yawned slightly as he started sowing the carrot fields. Ryoko and Ayeka's argument had kept him up too late the evening previous, and he felt tired.

He looked towards the lake, intending to see how much of Ryu-oh's new growth was peeking out of its center this morning. Instead he found his attention arrested by a person standing beside the trunk of the space tree Funaho. It looked like a woman with long, dark hair, in very fine clothes.

After adjusting the bag on his shoulder, he went out to meet the person. Odds were it was another alien. Would this one want to live at his house too? He wouldn't have thought it possible while he was an only child growing up in a huge house, but his home was now getting rather crowded. Tenchi figured he'd have to direct the alien to his aunt's bed and breakfast for the night. Assuming the alien didn't try to kill him. Or his aunt.

As he approached, she turned from the tree and looked at him. After a moment studying him, she smiled broadly. Her bearing, tall and strong, but calm and humble, reminded him of his grandfather.

"Good morning," she greeted him graciously as he came closer. "Please forgive me for coming so early. I was a bit impatient." She seemed entirely calm and at ease, almost as though she were at home and inviting him in.

"Er, not at all, I always get up at this time," Tenchi said, looking around as the early morning lit up the fields. The area was deserted except for some of Sasami's pets, the turtle octopi, having their hours-long morning drink.

He was about to introduce himself to the lady, partly to be polite and partly to get her to introduce herself, when she asked, "Would you please do me a favor and inform your grandfather that he has a visitor?"

"Yes, I can do that," Tenchi said with an awkward smile. While he was at it, maybe he'd try to wake up the others- perhaps one of his houseguests knew this woman.

He went back into the house to find his grandfather, and on the way tried to figure out who he could ask about their mysterious visitor. Ryoko was still asleep on her rafter, and he wasn't really sure where Washu was - probably in her lab, in which he tried to avoid setting foot for fear of becoming part of some experiment. Mihoshi wouldn't be any help at this time in the morning. Sasami was preparing breakfast about now, but he didn't want her involved in case the alien was dangerous.

He found Ayeka and his grandfather talking in the hallway on the second story.

"Lord Tenchi, good morning!" Ayeka brightly bid him.

"Good morning, Tenchi. Is something wrong?" his grandfather asked.

"May I ask both of you to come out please?" Tenchi said, trying to dispel whatever traces of nervousness his grandfather had detected. "You have a visitor, Grandfather."

As they followed him down the stairs, Ayeka asked, "Who is the visitor?"

"I don't know, but I think she's a Juraian, so that's why I asked you to come too," Tenchi explained. "Sorry to bother you, Ayeka."

"Not at all," Ayeka demurred. "A Juraian?" she mused.

When they emerged from the house, they saw the visitor, still standing where she had been, and using a Juraian key to communicate with the space tree Funaho. Both Tenchi's grandfather and Ayeka caught their breath, then quickly went out to meet her. Tenchi followed them.

The woman's smile when she saw Tenchi's grandfather and Ayeka was great indeed, but her voice was still calm as she returned their bows and greeted them, "Yosho, Ayeka, good morning."

"Lady Funaho, good morning," Ayeka said first. After a moment, Yosho added, "Good morning, mother."

Tenchi boggled. This woman was his great grandmother? Now he was confused. He had been told that Lady Funaho was a human. It was confusing enough, having a woman he'd assumed was long dead suddenly appear, without her being an entirely different species too.

After a moment, Yosho said, "Mother, I present my grandson, Tenchi Masaki."

Quickly Tenchi bowed and said politely, "Pleased to meet you."

"And it is a great pleasure to meet you," she returned.

Funaho now held an inscrutable smile on her lips as she informed Ayeka, "Your mother was planning to visit in a few hours."

"Really? That is wonderful," she replied with some happiness and a slight tremor in her voice, her eyes flicking nervously towards Tenchi. Tenchi wondered just what was going on. Lady Funaho's inscrutable smile was unperturbed. Tenchi got the impression that she understood Ayeka perfectly.

"If you would like to come inside, Mother," Yosho told her, "Sasami will have breakfast prepared soon."

She nodded. Tenchi went inside with them, making a quick detour to put the carrot seed back in the shed.

They all seated themselves in the living room. Ayeka asked, "How is Father?"

"Very well. He said he would come sometime," Funaho answered.

Nobuyuki wandered into the room, dressed in his work clothes and muttering, "Weird, I thought Tenchi said he wanted to plant that-" He cut off as he saw everyone seated.

"Oh, hi, I'm Tenchi's father Nobuyuki!" He cheerily bowed and introduced himself to Funaho. Meeting aliens still gave him a fleeting feeling of excitement.

She bowed from where she was seated as Yosho introduced her, "Son, this is my mother, Funaho."

"Excuse me, did I mishear you?" Nobuyuki asked, looking from one to the other. Funaho looked younger than Yosho.

"Bonding with a Juraian space tree has the tendency to extend one's lifespan," Yosho explained simply while Funaho smiled slightly.

"Oh," Nobuyuki replied. "Well, I hope you're staying for breakfast."

Funaho nodded, and Ayeka said, "Please excuse me, I should tell Sasami." Funaho nodded again, and Ayeka hurried into the kitchen.

"I see it's a bad time," Nobuyuki said awkwardly, placing a hand behind his head, "but, well, Dad, I was hoping you could help. The ten-legged lion is sleeping on top of the car. I really need the car to go to work after breakfast."

"That's Sasami's pet. I don't know anything about it," Yosho shrugged.

Nobuyuki looked hopefully at Funaho, but she shook her head slightly and added, "I'm afraid I don't know either."

Tenchi shrugged and decided, "If it's all right with everyone, I'll give Dad a hand."

They both left the room. It became intensely quiet as Yosho and Funaho stared at one another.

Sasami rushed into the room, set down some tea, and then enthusiastically hugged Funaho. Funaho returned the hug more slowly but with strength and feeling.

"Lady Funaho, I've missed you!" Sasami said happily.

"And I've missed you too, Sasami," Funaho told her.

"Breakfast will be ready in a few more minutes," Sasami assured her, "I hope you like it."

"I'm sure I will," Funaho said confidently.

They heard Ayeka's alarmed voice saying, "Sasami?"

"Oh, I'd better get back, I asked Ayeka to watch it!" Sasami exclaimed as she rushed away.

Funaho and Yosho both had a sip of tea. Silence re-exerted itself.

"I suppose Mihoshi and Kiyone's reports tipped you off to my location," Yosho finally said. She was, after all, the Minister of Intelligence. Although there was an official administrative separation of the Juraian Government and the GP, Section 15g of the GP's charter allowed Juraian Intelligence access to any and all reports that the GP produced. Yosho's mother often obtained reports on unusual events and the most dangerous criminals to keep tabs on the most dangerous pirates and unsavory elements. A report on the destruction of Kagato and Kiyone's rescue from her stranding on Venus would certainly qualify as worthy of his mother's notice.

Funaho nodded. "It was difficult to miss. Ten whole pages on you alone. Although there were forty pages," she smiled, "on Tenchi."

Yosho grinned. "That's good to hear."

"Ryoko, of course, earned quite a few pages," Funaho continued. "But it lacked the sort of details I wanted to know most about. Why."

Yosho agreed, "I wondered that myself, for seven hundred years. Although my question, more accurately, was how. Now that I've met her mother- you've read that in the report as well?" Funaho nodded, and he continued, "-that becomes much more understandable."

"Genius sufficient to engineer a child, meld one creature out of two disparate species," Funaho murmured. She raised an eyebrow and commented, "Odd that they don't have much physical resemblance to one another."

"Perhaps there's more resemblance than we know," Yosho suggested, then took a sip of tea.

Funaho asked, "I've wondered about the why. Why did you choose to seal Ryoko instead of kill her? And why did you choose to have Tenchi free her?"

Yosho paused a moment, then answered, "I wished to have the chance to redeem her. I had her freed when the time seemed right. Ryoko's thoughts in the cave were often upon me, and I had some ability to sense them. So did many of my descendants. Tenchi, however, seemed almost attuned to her from birth. Why, when he was near the cave, he'd sometimes actually begin to assume her emotional state. He hasn't yet realized this, but part of the reason I had him free her was to preserve their sanity. They haven't had that sort of empathic connection since she was released."

Funaho took a sip, then another, with a thoughtful look, and finally pronounced, "A part of me thinks that a pity." She changed subjects, "When you had sealed her, you decided to stay here. You were convinced that your existence would trigger Juraian xenophobia and spark a civil war."

"Yes," Yosho said uncomfortably. He had known this was coming; it was why he had been so nervous since the moment he'd seen her.

"You didn't communicate with me at all for 700 years," she said. In ordinary human terms, she sounded merely miffed. With Funaho, such an emotional display was tantamount to collapsing in tears. In her neglected upbringing, collapsing in tears led to more neglect rather than comfort. Old habits were hard to break, and she always attempted to maintain a front of dignity.

"No, I did not," Yosho agreed heavily.

"Did you really have to?" she asked softly, staring at him. He looked down uncomfortably, and told her, "Yes."

"You could have told us and kept it a secret from everyone else," she said, unable to keep the pleading out of her voice though the suggestion was seven centuries moot.

"I did not wish to leave, or to hide," he said heavily. "But there was no other option. If I had informed you, we would undoubtedly have tried to communicate. In time, the people of Earth might have intercepted our communications. Or perhaps assassins would have intercepted the communications and attacked me here, with great collateral damage. In any event, if the royal family knew of my existence and whereabouts, when Father died, they would have insisted upon my assuming the throne next. Then would come the civil war, and the entire point of hiding would be obviated." He let pleading enter his voice, "It was the only way to protect you."

She said nothing for a long moment, just continued staring at him. When he thought he could bear it no longer, she took a sip of tea, then stared at it, then told him, "I am glad to see you again, Yosho. Your father will be too, no matter what he says."

There was a yawn and a groggy call of, "Sasami, what's for breakfast?" from the ceiling of a nearby room. Funaho smiled and asked, "So that's Ryoko?" When Yosho agreed, Funaho said simply, "Who would've anticipated she would integrate into normal life so peacefully?"

"My sister would disagree with you on that point," Yosho suggested, and he and his mother shared a wry grin.

"Good morning," yawned a disheveled Mihoshi as she padded into the room. She tried to sit in a chair but ended up tripping over it instead.

"This is Detective First Class Mihoshi, Mother," Yosho introduced her.

"Pleased to meet you," Mihoshi sleepily bowed to Funaho.

Sasami called to them, and they went in to breakfast.

After breakfast, Funaho asked to speak with Washu in private. They entered Washu's giant lab through the dimensional door under the stairs.

"As you've guessed," Funaho said, mirroring Washu's calculating gaze, "we've been trying to improve our warriors and the Juraian space trees for the past seven centuries."

"Ever since Kagato put me into stasis and attacked you," Washu supplied.

Funaho nodded and continued, "It is not a project to be undertaken lightly. Our trees have all the wisdom of a full being. We are hesitant to tamper with their physical structure to enhance them. We have made quite a bit of progress in better training for our warriors and trees, and technological assistance for the tree's natural abilities. These changes have maintained our forces' supremacy in the galaxy, and as a result, peace and order have been the norm."

"We are concerned, however," Funaho continued, "about the future. With Kagato dead and Ryoko pacified, one challenge appears to have been overcome. We must ready for the next. Kagato's attack seven centuries ago defeated our state of the art. He proved that we must constantly increase our power. We cannot stand still now. Your abilities may be the key."

"You want me to make more," Washu concluded. "You want more Ryo-ohkis."

"Or ships even more powerful," Funaho smiled slightly.

"I'm guessing no is not an answer," Washu folded her arms. Trust the grownups to force a decision. They wanted to get her embroiled in their politics.

"The Juraian Empire is not totalitarian," Funaho observed mildly. "We are concerned, however, that if your future work does not remain exclusively in our care, it will be obtained by unsavory elements."

"I'm not too proud to admit that I made major mistakes with Kagato," Washu told her. "But I'm not prepared to throw away my freedom. I've only had a few months to enjoy it, remember? I don't want to go back to the grownup world of rules and politics and professionalism, and, worst of all, status. It hurts too much."

"The actions of your husband and his family, not to mention you yourself, are not the responsibility of Jurai," Funaho observed calmly, but firmly.

"I know," Washu said petulantly. She laughed with too much gusto a moment later and waved her hand, "Why are we talking like this anyways? You'd think we're on different sides! Look, I'm willing to compromise. Nobody gets the technology to make Ryo-ohki. I won't give it to anyone."

"I agree that we are on the same side," Funaho said circumspectly, "and that is a compromise Jurai might agree to. We do wish to have some assurances of this."

"First, I don't want to get Tenchi mad at me," Washu started. Funaho nodded, and Washu went on, "Second, it's like you said about the space trees. Ryo-ohki is just as much a person as you and I and the space trees. I agree with your stance against meddling with the bodies of the space trees: I don't want to get to the point where we start fiddling with Ryo-ohki's characteristics to make her stronger. Too much danger. I got close enough making her and Ryoko as it was. Besides, I don't intend to ever create another Ryo-ohki, or Ryoko. They're incomparable works of art. They're my treasure."

"You love your daughter, and Ryo-ohki, very much," Funaho observed. Washu nodded with a grin.

"I quite understand," Funaho said after a moment. "I doubt my husband will be happy with the compromise, but it is better than the alternative."

Washu kept her smile in place as they left the laboratory. She had been careful not to mention anything about any potential offspring of Ryo-ohki and Ken-ohki. Granted, Ken-ohki still held a grudge against Ryo-ohki for fighting him, even though Ryo-ohki was under mind control at the time. Offspring between them therefore seemed unlikely, but she could still hope.

Funaho maintained her impassive expression and considered Ken-ohki in her mind's eye. The agreement had only covered technology to make new cabbits, not the dispensation of any potential, natural, cabbit children. Overall, however, with Ryoko and Ryo-ohki now at peace with Jurai, and Ryoko actively courting Tenchi, the situation was extremely favorable.

There was a shower of sparks near the door to Tenchi's house, and from within them emerged a woman. She looked around with a smile, breathing in the fresh air appreciatively, then set her feet towards the door, her rapture increasing moment by moment.

Ryoko came around from the side of the house, to which she had felt exiled by Ayeka's sudden need to polish and clean every square inch of interior.

The woman turned her head, hearing Ryoko's footfalls, and called out to her, "Sasami!"

Ryoko cocked her head. She started to say, "I'm not-" This was all she managed to say before the woman, her eyes brimming over with radiant tears, ran to her and grasped her tightly about the waist. Ryoko was glad she had the forethought to move her arms clear, and used her hands to take firm hold of the woman's upper arms. Ryoko demanded to know, "Who are you, anyways?"

The woman didn't appear to have heard Ryoko. Instead, she had unburied her tear-stained face from Ryoko's waist and was scrutinizing her face with rising horror. "Oh, no, you've grown up already and I wasn't here to see it, oh, Sasami, I'm so sorry! Oh, oh, and your hair, it's changed!"

"I'm not Sasami!" Ryoko spat in exasperation. She was about to phase through this pushy woman's embrace when a thought struck her and she asked sharply, "And just what gives a stranger like you the right to criticize my hair?"

"It's so hard and spiky!" the woman sobbed, grabbing at large hunks of it. "It used to be so soft, and a much prettier shade of blue! And I adored your old hairstyle: two pigtails, each on the side!"

"I'll have you know Tenchi complimented me on my hair just this morning!" Ryoko snarled. "And I am not Sasami!" Ryoko snorted, saying to herself, "As though you're listening."

The woman's face fell as she asked, "I'm sorry, Sasami, were you saying something?"

Sasami opened the door quickly and looked out. "It was your voice I heard! My mommy!"

The stranger's head slewed around, then she suddenly threw Ryoko aside to turn towards Sasami. Ryoko dematerialized just in time to avoid slamming into the wall of the house.

"My little Sasami!" the woman crowed exultantly, running towards her with outstretched arms.

"Mommy!" Sasami cried happily as she hugged her mother.

Ryoko, having phased through the wall, was now in a position to see Ayeka step nervously towards the door. Ayeka, seeing Ryoko there, said in an undertone, "Ryoko, don't you dare laugh."

"Why do you think I'm going to laugh, and why do you think you can stop me?" Ryoko inquired irritably.

"I'm warning you for your own good," Ayeka said impassively. She squared her shoulders. Well, either her mother would accept a grown-up greeting, or she wouldn't- only one way to know.

Ayeka stepped out and bowed, saying sincerely, "Mother, it's wonderful to see you! We've missed you and everyone so!"

Her mother had turned her head happily, but now began to pout.

With a warning glance at Ryoko, Ayeka set her teeth and was briefly thankful that Lord Tenchi had left for school already. Then she set an infantile grin on her face and burbled, "Mommy!"

Her mother's own childlike grin immediately returned. Despite herself, Ryoko started to snicker.

Sasami quickly sidestepped out of her mother's quickly altering trajectory so that her mother could clutch Ayeka and say happily, "My little Ayeka!" Ayeka replied in a childlike voice, "Mommy!"

Ryoko began to laugh long and loud, but found herself interrupted by Ayeka's suddenly furious mother, who grabbed Ryoko's cheeks and hissed venomously, "I don't let anyone mock my Ayeka."

Ayeka murmured, "I did warn her," as Ryoko phased out of Misaki's grasp, and retreated quickly from another onslaught. While her mother chased Ryoko haphazardly throughout the room, Sasami calmly found a pen and scribbled some words on a piece of paper. She managed to catch Ryoko's eye and gestured at the paper.

Rolling her eyes, Ryoko faced Misaki's newest charge. Ryoko repeated the words from Sasami's paper, in a sarcastic and high-pitched mockery of a child's voice, "I'm sorry, pretty young lady."

"What?" the woman asked, suddenly pulling up short. Her eyes melted, and she clasped her hands in joy. "Oh, why, that's all right, dear! Thank you very much!"

"I don't believe you two have met," Ayeka said politely. "Mommy, this is the space pirate monster woman Ryoko. Space pirate monster woman Ryoko, this is Misaki, a Queen of Jurai, and my mommy."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Misaki said cheerfully. "I've heard of how you helped Ayeka so much. Oh, my, you are so cute!"

"Likewise," Ryoko said sardonically. Misaki didn't notice her tone.

Tenchi, returning from school, was surprised to see an orderly formation of people standing outside of his house. They were all facing towards the lake and away from the house. They seemed to be expecting someone, perhaps another important interstellar visitor.

In front were Funaho and another woman with long blue hair, and between them were Ayeka and Sasami. Behind Funaho was Washu, and Ryoko was beside her, directly behind Ayeka. Ryo-ohki was in humanoid child form, in a bright blue dress with an orange carrot on it, standing still and cheerful. Mihoshi stood next to Ryo-ohki at strict attention, dressed in what Tenchi took to be a previously unseen Galactic Police dress uniform. Washu's hands were behind her head, and she was looking unconcernedly up into the sky. Tenchi had managed to catch Ryoko in the midst of an intricate game, in which she stepped slightly out of line, then quickly stepped back as Ayeka turned an aggravated eye upon her.

Fortunately for everyone, the endgame was never reached, as Ayeka heard Tenchi's approach and called urgently, "Lord Tenchi, thank goodness you've come at last! Please, join us quickly, we need to be ready!"

"This is Lord Tenchi!" the blue-haired woman exclaimed, turning an enraptured face upon him. She began to run forward with outstretched arms. Ayeka's made a short, unintelligible exclamation and put her hand over her mouth in horror.

Ryoko screamed a long, drawn-out, "No!" which cut out only briefly as she teleported. She reappeared in front of Tenchi, both hands placed straight ahead and feet firmly braced on the ground. Ryoko absorbed most of the force of the blue-haired woman's hug, but was flung back against Tenchi in the process. A moment later, Tenchi found himself uncomfortably constricted between Ryoko's back and the blue-haired woman's arms.

"Are you all right, Tenchi?" Ryoko asked in a battered voice as she turned concerned, teary eyes on him.

"Erm, yeah, I think so," Tenchi muttered. "I'd be better if I knew what was happening."

The blue haired woman finally introduced herself, "I'm Misaki, Ayeka and Sasami's mother. Oh, thank you so much for saving my babies from Kagato!" She looked up and saw Ryoko there and said, "Ryoko, dear, when did you get here? If you wanted another hug, you could've said so!"

"No, I'm good!" Ryoko said firmly. "Look, you have to be careful when handling humans. Their bones snap easily."

"You don't say," Tenchi murmured disconcertedly.

"It didn't require that much drama, monster woman," Ayeka sniffed. "I was simply concerned for Lord Tenchi's dignity."

"But sometimes Mother doesn't know her own strength," Sasami laughed nervously.

Funaho smiled quietly.

Ayeka lost no further time in putting Tenchi in line, on her right and Funaho's left. "So what is going on?" Tenchi asked of the world in general.

"Oh, King Azusa said he wanted to drop in, in a minute or two," Washu informed him, noting a passing cloud's similarity to a duck.

"So we are greeting my father with a proper reception," Ayeka told Washu through gritted teeth.

Tenchi looked around him as a thought struck. "Where's Grandpa?" he whispered urgently.

In another moment, there was a small flash of light, and King Azusa and two men flanking him had appeared.

The man in the middle was quite obviously the king. He looked around with a commanding visage, standing very tall. His purple hair and beard matched his royal cloak.

"Ayeka, Sasami, I am glad to see you are both well," he said gruffly. "You've both worried us sick. Why did you not return months ago, when the ships of Officers Kiyone and Mihoshi were repaired?"

"We wished to wait for a larger fleet," Ayeka explained nervously. "We didn't want to put the officers in danger from pirates who might try to kidnap us."

"Well," King Azusa said shortly. He then continued, "Our ships are in orbit now. You can return with us today. Immediately, in fact."

"Immediately!" Ayeka exclaimed. "Father, you haven't even seen Yosho, or met Tenchi!"

"Our schedule is very tight. Yosho refused to see me for seven hundred years. I can go on without him or his grandson."

Ayeka gaped at him.

Ryoko snickered.

The two men flanking King Azusa tensed almost imperceptibly as they gazed coolly at Ryoko.

"I had planned to leave this planet without settling our quarrel," King Azusa growled at her.

Ryoko crossed her arms and told him, "If you have complaints about what happened 700 years ago, take them up with your cousin Kagato."

The king did not appear appeased, but was forced to concede her point, which put him in a rather worse mood.

King Azusa looked at Ayeka as she protested, "But Father, Tenchi killed Kagato! Lord Tenchi vanquished one of our most deadly adversaries!"

"You are right, I apologize," King Azusa relented. He bowed to Tenchi and said quickly, "I greet you, Lord Tenchi, and thank you greatly for the services you have rendered to Jurai in killing the vicious supercriminal Kagato." He looked to Ayeka and asked, "Now will you come?"

Tenchi blinked, Funaho frowned, Misaki and Ayeka squawked indignantly, and Sasami sighed sadly. A low voice from the direction of Washu and Ryoko muttered, "Great at compliments, isn't he?"

The king threw a murderous glance in their direction. In response, Washu and Ryoko simultaneously pointed at each other and accused, "She said it!" The king rolled his eyes.

"Let it not be said," King Azusa announced stiffly, "that Jurai is ungrateful to its benefactors. Lord Tenchi may attend Ayeka's wedding."

"Already!" Ayeka gasped. She hadn't even had a chance to tell Lord Tenchi that she was betrothed! Yet Tenchi didn't seem as surprised as she had thought. Had he already known somehow?

"It's been put off long enough," King Azusa said firmly. "In fact, he's already come to discuss the date."

"Father, we wish to stay here!" Ayeka pled.

"Then the betrothal will have to be broken," the king said with a calculating look on his face. "You know what that means. For your benefit, Lord Tenchi, I shall explain that it requires single combat between the betrothed male and a challenger, usually but not always the preferred suitor. Since we don't seem to have any preferred suitors about, Lord Tenchi will have to perform that role. Are you prepared for this, Ayeka, Lord Tenchi?"

"Has it really come to this?" Ayeka asked weakly. Tenchi was astonished, but found voice to suggest, "Maybe we should all calm down a minute. Why don't we discuss this over some tea or something?"

The sun suddenly dimmed, and a strong wind picked up from the south. A blizzard of cherry blossoms came with the wind. A voice spoke from the wind and said, "Well, it is at last time for Seiryo to make his entrance."

The petals spiraled into a column behind and to the right of King Azusa, and formed into a man with pink, poofy hair, clad in elaborate and quite fashionable robes. He lazily flicked an elaborate fan into place before his face and announced, "Seiryo descends upon earth for the first time, like the delicate petal of a-"

The men standing beside the king, whom Tenchi guessed were his bodyguards, had a suspicious lack of reaction to all of this.

King Azusa impatiently snapped his fingers, and the sun suddenly regained its intensity, and the cherry blossoms abruptly disappeared.

"What? But I love that part!" Seiryo exclaimed, looking about in confusion until he realized that his king had cut out the special effects.

The king's two bodyguards, Tetta and Tessei gazed more impassively than usual upon him.

"Oh yes, I haven't greeted the princesses," Seiryo recalled. "Princess Ayeka, Princess Sasami, I am filled with joy to see your radiant persons again. To have been marooned so long on this rock, less than a backwater, must have been a torture."

He looked at the house, behind them. "How awful it must have been for you, living in this shack- are those murdered trees it has been constructed out of? Hideous! Oh, how I despise this edifice of barbarian bloodlust. I can't bear to think of the princesses pining away in this dump."

Ayeka felt as though she were drowning in shame and embarrassment. How could Seiryo say such rude words? How could he dare to say them right in front of Lord Tenchi?

An involuntarily squeak issued from her throat as a horrid thought occurred to her. What if Lord Tenchi thought that she liked this odious person?

She had to beg Lord Tenchi to do something, anything, right away, or perhaps she ought to do something herself, but for some reason her tongue hung limp in her parched mouth.

Misaki hurried to King Azusa's side. She would've bowled over Tetta if he hadn't moved three steps ahead to make way. Misaki's right eyebrow twitched as she whispered furiously, "This is the man you found for my little Ayeka?"

The king smiled awkwardly and said, "Misaki, could you suggest anyone better?"

"Anyone better?" Misaki fumed. "I can think of many."

"All of them unsuitable for various reasons," he snapped back in a low voice.

"This Seiryo is clearly unsuitable for various reasons," she whispered vehemently.

Seiryo had started talking again, "So, where is the barbarian, who presumes to keep the princesses locked away in his ramshackle dwelling?"

"Look, I think we're all getting carried away here-" Tenchi began to say, but Seiryo cut him off with the words, "Oh, you are the one? I didn't see you there. It must be the rags you're wearing."

Tenchi didn't feel particularly insulted by that remark- he didn't like the school uniform, either.

"This will be terribly one-sided, but at least it will be brief," Seiryo determined.

Ryoko put an arm around Tenchi's shoulder and asked him, "Darling, I think we all know you can take him out. You don't need to prove anything to me. Don't let these Juraians draw you into their games. There's no need to fight him. You don't want to keep Ayeka and Sasami from their family, do you? Don't fight this guy."

There was a blur of motion, and Misaki suddenly appeared by Ryoko's side. "You know, Ryoko," Misaki said sweetly, "your criminal file was indeed expunged according to the statue of limitations. But of course, there was a lot of property damage caused during the attack. Many Juraians want compensation. Some might be so foolhardy as to come and try to bully you into paying them for it. It's a good thing the public is unaware of your location. I just hope no one leaks it to the press. It'd be annoying to have to fight off a mob of Juraians seeking money and revenge every day. Maybe before that happens, I could be persuaded to foot the bill for you." Misaki beamed at Ryoko.

Ryoko turned her head back to face Tenchi and suggested, "Well, Tenchi, go and destroy this Seiryo fellow already. It's so noble of you to help me repay the community for my wrongs."

King Azusa sputtered.

Tenchi sighed.

Tetta and Tessei regarded the combatants. Ayeka expected to see their usual jaded look, or perhaps disdain for the duelers. At first glance that was all that she saw. They had, however, been in her father's company for more than seven centuries, and she had some insight into their body language and personalities. Despite the resigned set of their mouths, there was a faint glimmering of interest in their eyes.

Tenchi took his sword off his belt and assumed a ready stance, somewhat resigned to the proceedings, while still wondering how he had gotten into this situation.

"I don't really want Princess Sasami to have to see your blood splattered all over," Seiryo demurred. "You could simply forfeit."

"No, I'm fine, thanks," Tenchi kindly refused this offer, "but, the thing is-"

"I don't know why I'm showing such sympathy to a barbarian," Seiryo spoke at him with false pity, "but you should know, you're really outclassed. You should stop for your own good."

"What I wanted to say is-" Tenchi said hesitantly, wondering how to get Seiryo to listen to him.

"I suppose, if you won't listen to reason," Seiryo decided, "I shall have to make an example of you. Do your worst, barbarian." Seiryo slowly took out his key, formed its blade, and languorously assumed an insultingly loose defensive position. The wind ruffled a few waves from the lake onto the pilings of the deck where he and Tenchi stood.

Tenchi formed the blade on his own key and cautiously approached. He came closer and closer, and Seiryo grinned lazily.

The sword of Tenchi reached out slowly for Seiryo's wrist, and Seiryo lethargically parried, only to discover to his horror that Tenchi's blade had altered trajectory and was about to swing through his head. He stepped backwards quickly, walking off the deck and into the lake.

Peering after him, sword still clutched tightly in his white-knuckled hands, Tenchi asked nervously, "What I was trying to say was, what are the rules? Does that count?"

"Tenchi's the winner!" Sasami exclaimed jubilantly, and "Meow! Meow!" cried Ryo-ohki.

King Azusa clenched his teeth and stormily closed his eyes, but gruffly nodded.

Seiryo resurfaced, hauled himself to shallow water, then stood there, his arms clutching each other as he huddled into himself and shivered. "It's so cold!" he gasped. "Really, to think that there wouldn't be any sort of technology to keep a private lake warm all year-"

Tessei asked coldly, "Where is your blade?"

Seiryo turned a miffed expression on him, then began to peer about in the water while muttering, "Really, I'm here freezing to death. Have you no sympathy?"

The gaze of the Juraians, Tenchi noticed, had become rather cool to Seiryo - cooler than it had been. Tenchi knew his grandfather, during sword practice, had always insisted upon his retaining or retrieving his sword as soon as possible. Doubtless this was a convention Grandpa had learned from his family, who was now assembled here watching Seiryo.

Finally the blade was located, which relieved Tenchi. He didn't like to think about what might've happened had Seiryo lost it permanently.

As Seiryo waded back towards the land, he waved his sword fiercely and randomly, nearly accidentally cutting off his limbs as he peeved, "Well, barbarian, I shall show you no mercy this time!"

Tetta said, "The fight is over, Seiryo."

Seiryo recoiled, offended. "That barbarian cannot have-"

"He clearly defeated you," King Azusa pronounced.

Seiryo pouted, "Your Highness, you promised I'd have Ayeka!"

"I promised that you would betrothe her," the king replied severely. "Now the duel, as you know, according to our laws, has annulled the betrothal. I realize your disappointment is great, but bear it manfully."

Seiryo bowed his head. "Then I shall not stay a moment longer on this barbarous world. Farewell, Your Highnesses," Seiryo said sulkily. Cherry blossoms swirled about his person as he teleported back to his vessel and began to leave the solar system.

Tessei allowed himself a look of satisfaction, while Tetta nodded respectfully to Tenchi. Not sure what else to do, Tenchi returned it. This was apparently the right course of action, as neither did anything else.

"We must leave as well. For the moment," King Azusa determined.

Tenchi asked, "You won't stay for dinner?"

King Azusa shook his head. "We have pressing business. We thank you though; perhaps another time."

Misaki took a moment to hug everyone, causing Tenchi to fear dislocation of several vertebrae, and Mihoshi to warmly remember her father's steely embraces. During this distraction, Yosho approached from behind King Azusa.

"I wished to say goodbye, Father," Yosho told him.

The king turned around. He looked his son in the eye for a moment, then dropped his gaze and turned his body to the side. King Azusa then communicated gruffly, "I see you've taken care of your sisters, Yosho. Good. Continue to do so."

"I shall, Father," Yosho said with a smile that hadn't been on his face in centuries. So many centuries without seeing his father. "You can depend on Tenchi to protect them."

He slipped away into the woods as King Azusa grunted noncommittally and turned back to face the others.

"Goodbye, Mom, Dad, Lady Funaho," Sasami sniffed as she hugged each in turn.

"Farewell! Have a safe journey!" Ayeka waved to them.

Ryoko offered a cursory wave but a genuine smile; these people couldn't be gone too soon. Ryo-ohki, on the other hand, sniffed as she waved goodbye in her humanoid child form.

Tenchi waved heartily and said, "It was nice meeting you all! Take care!"

Washu called politely from the porch, "Stay safe! And if you ever need the secrets of the universe unraveled, call me!"

Mihoshi had been waving a handkerchief, but her sobs were giving way to bawling, so she started using it to mop her face.

Ryoko asked her annoyedly, "What are you so sad about?"

"Oh, I just hate goodbyes!" Mihoshi wailed. "Can we please say hello instead?"

Lady Funaho waved as she bid them, "Farewell everyone, and well met, Tenchi."

King Azusa raised his hand, palm open, and pronounced, "Until we meet again, my children, fare you well."

The king dropped his hand to his sword, touching it lightly, and the four of them teleported away. After a moment, Tenchi and the others started to file back inside the house.

The five Juraian vessels of the king, Lady Funaho, Lady Misaki, Tetta, and Tessei, left the solar system in formation. Tessei and Tetta had returned to their own vessels for a time, to directly confer with their space trees and confirm that the area was secure. The queens Misaki and Funaho remained on King Azusa's ship for a time.

Moving restlessly on his throne, King Azusa contemplated. Before him, a large artificial river flowed placidly. Many Juraian nobles lounged at ease on its banks.

The king murmured, "I haven't seen anything from this Tenchi yet to prove that he has half my Yosho's potential. If Yosho really wants me to trust that boy with my daughters, I'll need a good deal more proof. I think I shall test you, Tenchi, when the time is right." He chuckled loudly.

Misaki, a couple of meters to the side, suddenly thought of an idea that brought her out of the reverie she'd been in since bidding her daughters goodbye. "Funaho!" she suggested. "When we visit next time, we ought to stay a few days!"

"An excellent idea," Funaho agreed. "I'd like that."

Next Chapter

Kiyone reads dramatically, "In the next chapter, there'll be a new villain coming to attack Tenchi and his friends. Who is this shade from Washu's past?"

"Kagato?" Mihoshi guesses.

Kiyone shoots her a look, then continues, "The next chapter is No Need For Twins!"

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."

"The empathetic connection is something I enhanced from the OVA. In the OVA, Tenchi was always drawn to the cave in which Ryoko was imprisoned, but it never really did say why. So I decided to enhance it to an empathetic connection between them."

"I should also reiterate that the idea that Funaho had a neglected upbringing is backstory that I made up."

"Finally, I also made up the warrior custom of always having to hold on to your swords. At least, I never saw that in any Tenchi work. But it seems like I've heard of it in some real culture, although I can't think of it just now, and might be wrong."

Chapter 33 Main Chapters Chapter 35