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Chapter 40 Main Chapters Chapter 42

No Need For a Coroner

"I'm Tenchi," Tenchi introduces himself to the audience, "and, wow, I don't think I get to be your DJ too often. Well, anyways, I've been asked to be your DJ for this chapter, and I chose the song that always tends to play during 'Star Wars: Return of the Jedi' when Luke and the Emperor are confronting each other. Not that Dragonwiles owns either of those characters. He doesn't own the song, either, OK?" Tenchi presses some buttons, and the dramatic brasses begin to shout.

They were leaving at last for Ryuten, sister planet of Jurai, luxurious resort world and fabled nursery of the space trees.

"We'll be able to free Father soon, won't we, Princess Ayeka?" Asahi asked hopefully.

Ayeka looked seriously at her. "It may not be that easy. We do not yet have any evidence incriminating Tatetsuki. With your father accused of murder, it will be difficult to release him, even with bond."

"Still," Ayeka continued more encouragingly, "your father has displayed integrity in the past. I am convinced that the truth will bear him out in the end."

Asahi nodded seriously. "I wonder if some of Father's disciples could help us?"

Ayeka said with concern, "I think we shall indeed need to visit them. I hope they have done nothing rash."

Tatetsuki worked smoothly before the crowd, precisely carving the space tree with the ancient tools. The public demonstration was performed flawlessly, using all the skill and grace of the ancient Hou school.

With a great smile crossing his face, he performed one of the great techniques, one he had only just learned. The crowd clapped and exclaimed in awe. Tatetsuki could hear some voices saying, "Just like old Master Houran!"

One old man, towards the back of the crowd, however, knew better. "He has not practiced that technique for more than a week, at most, yet he applies it to the tree at such a vulnerable location? He is showing off to us at the expense of the tree! His face, his stance, his movements, they all together agree, Tatetsuki is full of arrogance and ambition! Though I cannot hear it, I know - the tree is crying! It is-"

Suddenly the old man felt himself seized and taken away. "Wh- what!" he exclaimed. "But, but I have more to think! Many more thoughts! More grandiose condemnation of Tatetuski! Many, many more..." he continued to exclaim as the guards dragged him off.

Tatetsuki shook his head. Thoughts? Had the old man even realized he was talking out loud?

The mood was ruined. Tatetsuki continued the demonstration, but it was hard to stomach such public ridicule. He was Master Houran's best student, the most technically skilled of all the tree carvers, and all that old man could babble about was frivolous, unprovable accusations.

For some time, the demonstration continued. Tatetsuki got back into the rhythm of his work, but looked up as he became aware of a disturbance in the crowd. He looked up and saw to his surprise, Princess Ayeka and two others approaching him. He hadn't expected her so soon. He had assumed they'd remain on Yatsuka longer, or go to Jurai.

He bowed, as did the rest of the crowd. As he straightened, he took in the princess' companions, trying to guess which might be the Gagutian that Mushima had told him about. All he saw was a young Juraian nobleman he couldn't recall having seen before, and a child with vivid red hair and an adult's face.

"Why, welcome to Ryuten, Princess Ayeka. We weren't expecting your arrival, or I would be in a better position to offer you refreshment," Tatetsuki told her, the perfect picture of a hospitable lord.

In turn, Ayeka responded as though nothing at all were wrong. "No need to apologize, I am here on business, Lord Tatetsuki." She paused a precise moment, then half turned to each side as she introduced her companions, "This is Lord Tenchi, and Little Washu."

Tatetsuki was taken aback. Every tree carver knew the name of Tenchi - as the space tree key carried by the king of Jurai or his heir. Nobody was actually named that. And was this redheaded child with an adult's face really Washu, or someone named after the vanished scientist?

"Lord Tatetsuki," Ayeka said critically, intruding on his speculations, "I presume that Mushima bore our message to you?"

Tatetsuki managed only half a frown before fixing a neutral expression on his face. It could, after all, have been worse - the Gagutian could've defeated Mushima before Mushima had destroyed the incriminating videos. "Yes, I did," Tatetsuki said calmly, "and I fear there must be some misunderstanding. I had instructed Mushima to investigate. He must've acted on his own."

Ayeka's eyes narrowed. It was bad enough that he would do evil, but that he would abandon one of his agents who had become inconvenient was even more despicable.

She opened her eyes wider, seeing that Tenchi, beside her, was starting to tremble with rage. Ayeka was almost ready to do the same, and there was nothing further to be gained here. She had wanted to offer Tatetsuki a chance to present evidence in his favor, or even ask forgiveness, out of fairness and to uphold justice, but he was clearly not willing to yield. Unsurprising, but disappointing and hateful. She guessed that Tenchi shared her wish to strike him down at this moment, but that would not be proper, and they had no hard evidence with which to successfully accuse him.

"I must go now, and attend to certain vital matters," Princess Ayeka said.

He bowed and said, "May I ask you, during your stay here, to look into the matter of Lord Takebe's followers? They have grown insubordinate and aggressive since their master was jailed for murdering Master Houran. I fear they may take to violence shortly."

"I shall look into the matter," Ayeka told him, with an unyielding look.

She, Tenchi, and Washu left. Tatetsuki finished the demonstration halfheartedly, then hurried to his chambers to summon the Shima brothers. He had to marshal his forces soon.

As Ayeka, Tenchi, and Washu proceeded down a sidestreet, Washu proffered an opinion of Tatetsuki involving several very strong words.

Ayeka frowned and said, "Little Washu, that is very disagreeable."

"Yeah, you were thinking it too," Washu said carelessly. "Advantage of looking like a kid is you get to say what you're thinking."

Ayeka retorted, "Actually, I wasn't thinking of something so crude or vulgar!"

Tenchi said in a perplexed voice, "Hey, who are you?" A young man had suddenly appeared before them, crouched in a bow.

He said to them, "Princess Ayeka, Lord Tenchi, Little Washu, I am one of Lord Takebe's followers."

"So, you heard our futile diplomacy with Tatetsuki?" Washu asked, folding her arms behind her head.

The young man continued, "Yes. We had hoped that Lord Takebe's daughter would reach you-"

"Lady Asahi did reach us," Ayeka said quickly. "She is quite safe."

"That is wonderful news," said the young man, who now looked hopeful where before he had been resigned. "So you know of our plight."

"I do. But how to expose Tatetsuki's corruption and free Lord Takebe is not yet entirely clear to me," Ayeka said thoughtfully.

"If you will allow it, Princess," he said eagerly, "we, the disciples of Lord Nomori Takebe, can assist you with that."

A short time later, they continued their conversation aboard the Mimasaka.

Asahi said with horror, "Tatetsuki has the book?"

"I am sorry, my lady," the young disciple told her. "It was seized as evidence in the case against your father. Tatetsuki bribed a guard to obtain it. With it, he has now been able to learn all the ancient wisdom of the Hou school, imparted to the successor of the school. His claim to be the true successor has been strengthened. I apologize."

"Relax, it wasn't your fault," Washu told him.

Ryoko nudged the conversation along, "So, I hear you've got some dirt on Tatetsuki?"

The disciple said triumphantly, "Yes! We have been able to hide, from Tatetsuki's spies and his three agents, the High Coroner of Ryuten!"

Kiyone said, impressed, "That should be tremendously helpful."

Asahi said in surprise, "I thought the High Coroner had ruled Master Houran's death a murder. How else would Tatetsuki have grounds to accuse my father?"

"Yes," the disciple nodded, "but the report was forged when Tatetsuki couldn't buy out the coroner. He fled to us for protection, though Tatetsuki claims we have intimidated him and forced him into hiding. The coroner will affirm to you, Princess Ayeka, that Master Houran's death was of natural causes. We also have evidence of Tatetsuki's bribing Ryuten's ministers and officials. Until you came, my lords and ladies, there was no one we could come to who would uphold justice."

"Then Father is cleared!" Lady Asahi breathed.

"Not so fast," cautioned Washu. "Now that we're here, his hand is forced. Tatetsuki'll make every effort to find and kill the coroner before he can testify."

"Well, we're not going to let him get away with anything more!" Tenchi declared, his jaw clenching.

"I agree, but I am concerned that Lord Takebe is similarly in danger," Gohgei said, putting his thumb and finger to his chin.

Ayeka bowed her head and thought carefully, then looked up and pronounced, "I am prepared to set Lord Nomori Takebe free, until the situation can be more fully resolved. My decree alone, however, may not be enough to guarantee his safety until we can get him out of his prison. We need someone who is familiar with prison procedures and layout to escort him out and defend him in case of attack. Officers Kiyone and Mihoshi, will you be able to help in this regard?"

Mihoshi laughed. "Everyone thinks that police officers know all about prisons, but that's just not the case. Kiyone and I are detectives; we find and capture bad guys. In fact, we've never been in jail ourselves at all."

Kiyone had been nodding, but abruptly turned her head, shot Mihoshi an odd look, then added, "What she means is that we've never held an assignment at a jail or penal colony."

"Huh?" Mihoshi cocked her head, then laughed. "Oh, yeah! If you misinterpreted what I said, it would sound like I was saying we'd never been incarcerated for a crime!"

"Which we haven't!" Kiyone firmly and irritatedly clarified.

"Nonetheless," Ayeka maintained, "your experience as officers of the Galactic Police will be useful."

Tenchi commented, "Sounds like we've got a lot to do at once. I suppose we need to split up."

"Lady Asahi, Sasami, Kiyone, and Mihoshi, should release Lord Takebe on my authority," Ayeka commanded.

"Thank you!" Asahi said, her eyes glistening with tears.

"Lord Tenchi and Gohgei and I will arrest Tatetsuki," Ayeka continued.

Ryoko punched her own open palm and said gleefully, "So I get to take out all of Tatetsuki's henchmen who are after that coroner guy. This should be fun."

Washu folder her tiny hands behind her head. "I'm going to stay here; it's my nap time. Have fun, everybody!"

"You're joking, aren't you, Washu?" Sasami asked nervously.

Washu laid down peacefully on the ground and said encouragingly, "Oh, I'm sure Mimasaka," she patted the ship's turf familiarly, "will wake me up if anything important happens!"

Ryoko teleported directly into the hideout of Lord Takebe's disciples, nearly frightening the coroner to death. Fortunately, Asahi arrived a moment later, and she and the other disciples managed to calm him down.

Ryo-ohki, in the meantime, headed for the main Ryuten shipyards in her cabbit form, to keep watch and interdict any ships that Tatetsuki might use for escape or support.

Sasami, Mihoshi, Kiyone, Asahi, and many of the disciples got organized and headed for the prison where Lord Takebe was being held. The warden and prison guards were very surprised to see Princess Sasami and a whole crowd of people converging on the prison. Eventually they agreed to release Lord Takebe, but not before paperwork was signed and countersigned by the warden and the princess. Not even Sasami putting her arms akimbo and glaring could make it evaporate.

"Gee, I guess Kiyone and I weren't needed at all!" Mihoshi commented cheerfully as they finally were escorted into the cell blocks by the warden and a small team of guards.

Kiyone said more carefully, "We'll know once the mission is done."

A host of armed people began to form in front of the hideout of Lord Takebe's disciples. Ryoko muttered to Ryo-ohki, "I guess they finally figured out where they were stashing the Coroner, eh?" Ryo-ohki nodded.

Ryoko cackled with glee as she levitated fifty feet in the air before the large crowd of Tatetsuki's followers. "This will be fun," Ryoko said to herself, "and best of all, Tenchi won't be mad at me even if I get carried away!"

"Is that Ryoko?" the Juraians asked each other in fear. "It certainly looks like her!"

Ryoko looked out over the crowd and suddenly realized her time had come, at last, to say a good-guy line. She blinked away a forming tear of joy - this moment had been so long in coming. Then she shouted in determination, "Whoever wants the coroner has to get through me!"

Tatetsuki's disciples had expected to fight some of Takebe's disciples, not this being who might be Ryoko, so they charged forward hesitantly. Ryoko grinned ferally and swooped down.

Ayeka, Tenchi, and Gohgei quickly marched towards Tatetsuki's residence, an imposing house high upon a hill. They came around a bend in the path and found the door unexpectedly open. Inside were more of Tatetsuki's disciples, in a group listening to a cloaked figure giving them final directions.

The person in the cloak wheeled around as soon as Ayeka and the others entered, and fixed them with a hard stare. It was clearly not Mushima - this figure's mask had a prominent nose, whereas Mushima's mask had been eerily without a nose. (also diff side eye?)

Tenchi barely heard the cloaked figure mutter, "Our plans change." Then it said in an icy voice that carried to them, "Princess, before you get near Tatetsuki, you must face not only his disciples, but also I, Takashima of the Shima Brothers."

"Your master has imprisoned an innocent man. Such injustice will not be tolerated in the Juraian empire," Ayeka warned.

Then the three of them ran towards the hostile crowd.

The warden informed Asahi, "Your father's cell is just up here," pointing at a cell up ahead.

"Father!" Asahi cried as they finally reached his cell, moving forward until she almost brushed into the energy shield.

"Asahi!" Lord Nomori Takebe did likewise from the other side of the shield. "They aren't going to put you in here as well, are they?"

"No, Father, we've come to free you," Asahi shook her head, causing some tears to come loose.

Sasami smiled while the warden and a guard began deactivating the cell.

Mihoshi regarded Lord Takebe's long, tangled hair and beard with dismay. "Have they been mistreating him?" she asked, shocked and dismayed.

Sasami quickly said in an undertone, "He always looks like that."

"Oh," Mihoshi said, nonplussed.

"Who's there?" Kiyone demanded, drawing her blaster and wheeling to cover the hallway behind them.

"It looks like we came just in time," a small creature, far down the hall, answered her. The small creature was accompanied by a much larger being in a cloak.

The dismayed warden tried desperately to contact the other guards elsewhere in the prison.

"My apologies," the much larger creature answered. "The guards were more resistant than I anticipated."

Its companion shrugged, "Hey, they're Juraians. I knew it wouldn't be easy."

"What have you done with my men?" demanded the warden.

The smaller creature replied, "Merely a hypnotic sleep."

Kiyone studied the two carefully in the harsh glare of the prison lights. The big one had a cloak and mask similar to Mushima's, except this one's mask revealed an eye only on the (whichever) side. Its cloak was cut so that its metallic, clawed feet were barely visible beneath the cloak.

The smaller creature barely came to the waist of its companion. Its voice had sounded feminine, or perhaps like a young child. It had floppy ears, the outsides colored orange like its hair, the insides pink as a shellfish. Two giant blonde ponytails sprouted from the back of its head and tapered to the small of its back. Despite disarmingly large golden eyes, its expression was one of cruel enjoyment, and the sheathed sword on its back suggested unpleasant business.

While Sasami angrily inquired as to who they were, Kiyone was running through all of the suspect photos and notorious names she could think of, but still hadn't a clue as to who the small being could be.

"Oh, so you want to know who we are, huh?" the small creature replied combatively to Sasami's inquiry. "Well, I know who you are, Princess Sasami, Lady Asahi Takebe," she nodded at Asahi, "but are you going to tell me the names of the other people on your team?" It snorted and answered its own question, "Probably not."

Sasami grasped her space tree key tightly and murmured angrily.

The small being then seemed to reconsider, and said, "Well, but I have been trying to teach these fellows," she gestured nonchalantly over her shoulder, "some sort of honor protocol. So I might as well tell you that this here is Hishima, the leader of the Shima Brothers. And I," she posed boldly, "am Yume, genius without peer, creator of new life forms!"

Asahi stepped forward unexpectedly and asked miserably, "Why? Why are you doing this to us?"

"Hey, aren't you going to ask what I came all the way to do?" Yume asked irritably. "We came here to make sure that you don't release Lord Takebe. So don't. Or Hishima will kill you all."

Hishima nodded.

Mihoshi looked at the two and said, "Oh, I was getting confused for a minute. I get it now - you two have nothing to do with Tatetsuki."

"Oh, him? My puppet?" Yume said contemptuously. "He'd be getting nowhere without my creations to prop him up. Now listen, I want to get some agreement out of all of you! Back away from Lord Takebe's cell or I'll loose Hishima!"

"Get down on the floor or I'll use deadly force," Kiyone returned cooly, keeping her gun raised.

"Oh, that's right!" Mihoshi said as she fumbled for her sidearm.

Hishima immediately stepped in front of Yume. He remained there, silent and imposing. Yume activated a small device. Five small devices appeared and created a yellow, pearlescent shield in front of Hishima and herself.

Asahi fell to her knees. This was almost too much - her father was nearly free, and now this! "What do you have against Father?" she asked. "What has he done to deserve any of this?" she cried. "He is innocent! He was always kind to my mother and I! He treated his disciples like his own children! He was a skilled carver, and treated old Master Houran like his father! Now, just when Father was getting his just rewards, and taking Master Houran's place according to his last wishes, now this happens! He's been falsely accused and put in a jail!" Asahi wept openly.

Yume peeked out from behind Hisihima, then looked longer. Finally she began to speak. "Ah. Ah. I hadn't expected this. That only makes it all the more special."

"It's amazing, isn't it?" Yume said, stepping out a slight bit further. Hishima, noting Kiyone was covering her, made to step back in front, but Yume motioned him back irritatedly and expanded the shield instead. "You're the only one who even begins to understand what's really going on here," Yume said with a snarling smile. "I couldn't have summarized it better myself."

"Roughly seven hundred years ago, there was another person like your father. This person, she was brilliant, dedicated, a faithful friend." As Yume continued, bitterness crept into her voice, filling it syllable by syllable. "She was a student like no one had ever seen before, she was an amazing teacher. She really cared about people, and did her job like a human, not like some cog in a bureaucratic engine."

"And then, just when she had reached the pinnacle of responsibility and prestige, just when she had completed one of her greatest works, she was falsely accused. And convicted in an unjust trial! Driven away in shame from the institution she practically made!" Yume clenched her fists, then relaxed them.

Yume declared "The person I am speaking of is Washu Hakubi, Director of the Galactic Academy of Sciences-"

Lord Nomori Takebe, in his cell, gasped and clutched at his sleeve.

"-and the man who falsely accused her is Lord Nomori Takebe!" Yume triumphantly crescendoed.

Asahi looked up at Yume in utter shock, her tears making her figure hazy. "No, it isn't true," she said in a choked voice.

"It is." The moan of the broken man in the cell could only barely be heard.

"So don't you ever give me that 'innocent suffering unjustly' routine," Yume pronounced sternly. "He's more than earned what he's gotten."

Takebe suddenly shouted his plea from his cell, "But my daughter should not have to suffer because of me!"

"Tough luck," Yume said harshly, turning her back towards the cell and folding her arms. "Washu had plenty of it."

"Father?" Asahi asked in a tiny voice.

Next Chapter

Hishima steps calmly onto the center of the stage, metallic toe-claws clicking on the wood. He surveys the whole audience as he rumbles, "The end of this arc is at hand. In the next chapter, the great showdown between the Shima brothers and Tenchi's friends will take place. The next chapter is No Need For Elaborate Justice."

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."

"Well, the action in this chapter is quite different from how it was in Hitoshi Okuda's manga. Quite, quite different."

He returns to his work before looking up suddenly again. "Why are you still here?"

"Oh. Fine. I suppose usually this segment serves to explain exactly how my fanfiction is different from the source material. All right, fine, I admit it - I don't remember much of the original source material!"

"As far as I can recall, most of the action I'm having occur in this chapter and the next doesn't even occur on Ryuten at all - it happens at some tree hanging out in space. So basically everything in this chapter and the next is very changed."

"Also, though Yume appears in the manga as the creator and master of the Shima brothers, and a friend of Washu from the Academy days, her motivations are very different. In the manga, Yume is attempting to perform a drunken bar bet to conquer the Juraian empire. I decided that I could use my backstory of Washu being unjustly convicted as Yume's motive. My backstory is a melding of the Tenchi Universe backstory of Washu being a crazy scientist put on trial and sealed on Earth, and the OVA backstory of Washu being a crazy scientist who made Ryoko, Ryo-ohki, and the battleship Souja."

"Oh, and I completely made up Yume's yellow shield."

Chapter 40 Main Chapters Chapter 42