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Chapter 41 Main Chapters Chapter 43

No Need For Elaborate Justice

"My name is Asahi," she introduces herself to the audience, "and Dragonwiles has asked me to be your DJ. I've picked the song 'Teardrop of Royal Family' from the Tenchi Muyo OVA Best CD 1, because it matches the breaking of my heart right now!" She sobs, then presses the button and rushes off.

"Why would Asahi's father falsely accuse Washu?" Sasami asked. This was not like the kind father of her friend. But he had admitted to it only moments ago! She stared down the strongly lit, featureless walls of the long prison hallway at Yume and Hishima.

Yume shook her head in disgust as she said, "Here on Ryuten, everything comes back to ships. Washu did a lot in her time, but one of the projects she felt was particularly important was a request she got from the Galactic Police. Your father" - she stared suddenly at Sasami, "had just made the Galactic Police an independent organization, and it was finally obvious that they needed more firepower. The GP had been starved by Juraian lords for years - it had a fleet of gunboats, that they were trying to fight pirate battleships with!"

Mihoshi and Kiyone recalled this history from their days in GP training. Barely was Yume hyperbolizing.

"The GP asked the Academy to help them design a capital-class ship, one that could take on the pirates' biggest and best. Washu eventually became the leader of that effort. It resulted in the Souja - more than a match for any pirate vessel then or now."

"But," Yume spat, "the Juraians were suspicious. The shipbuilders of Ryuten were also extremely jealous. So they cooked up some charges, rigged the jury, and got Washu convicted of something that wasn't even a crime."

Asahi ran back to her father's cell, but he couldn't look her in the face. Instead, he rasped, "I must confess the truth, after so long. Master Houran came to me when I was a young apprentice. He said he'd noticed my skill and my dedication. I was so honored. So proud."

"He told me he needed me to do something for him, something important. We were all busy replenishing the fleet and undoing Kain's damage. In the meantime, someone was planning to unleash a new power into the universe and use it for their own ends. Master Houran told me that person was Washu Hakubi, and I was to call on the services of any other students or Juraian officials I needed, and use any means necessary, to press charges and gather evidence against Washu. For the good of the galaxy, he told me."

"Tatetsuki," interjected Yume, "for all his faults, never got involved. So when he left Ryuten, looking for someone to aid him when he upheld his claim to Master Houran's position, I made my Shimas available to him." She thrust out her chin and smirked, while Hishima beside her said nothing.

Asahi gaped at her father in shock as he wept, "I told myself for years that I had protected the galaxy. Then I tried to tell myself that I was only following my master's wishes. But now I can see that I and I alone am to blame. So please!" He shouted, turning his body towards where he had heard Yume's voice, "Please, if anyone should suffer for this, it is me! Don't make Asahi suffer any more!"

Mihoshi's face had been screwed up in concentration, but now she turned toward Yume with a hardened expression. "There's just one thing I don't get," she said. "You saw how wrong it was for Lord Takebe to do that to Washu. And then you did the same wrong thing to him?"

Yume backed up a step, as though the words had been a blow, then her face twisted. Enraged, she shouted, "That's enough! I've had enough talk with people who don't understand the justice of my cause! Leave this prison at once, and let Lord Takebe rot in his cell!"

Sasami said sternly, "My sister, Princess Ayeka, has freed him. We aren't leaving without him!"

"Hishima, take them!" Yume screeched.

Obediently, he charged forward, moving with a quickness incongruous with his bulk. Yume's yellow pentagonal shield flew before him, blocking the bolts from Kiyone and Mihoshi's blasters.

Kiyone suddenly changed her aim, firing on Yume. Hishima also saw the change and swept into her firing path. The shield followed him and took the hits, but his momentum was slowed critically.

"Hishima, return!" Yume called. Even as she began to speak further, he was already moving, "I hear someone coming!" The shield moved in front of her as Hishima fell back to confront the unknown threat.

Gohgei rounded the corner at the end of the long hallway. "I'm sorry I took so long," he said apologetically.

"You don't have to apologize!" Sasami almost laughed despite herself. She maintained her grip on her space tree key, with which she had alerted Mimasaka to their problem. From orbit, Mimasaka had contacted the others.

Hishima maintained a ready position, blocking off Gohgei from Yume, as he asked, "Are you the one that Mushima fought?"

"I am," Gohgei said guardedly, "though I'd prefer it if we kept information from that encounter in confidence."

Hishima shook his head, his face unreadable through the mask. "There is no shame. You are a strong opponent, and I look forward to the battle."

Gohgei pointed out, "You do realize that if you do not molest Lady Asahi or Lord Takebe, we needn't fight at all? I sense you are strong, in battle and in character. I am prepared to accept your word, from one honorable being to another."

With a dip of his head, Hishima declined, "I thank you for the offer. But as an honorable being, I must follow my creator's wishes."

"Yes, so don't let him get any further!" Yume demanded of Hishima.

"Then we should begin," Gohgei said. He and Hishima bowed deeply, then rushed at each other.

Kiyone tensed. Clearly Gohgei didn't want Asahi to know his true nature, so he wasn't about to transform. But from what she'd seen of Hishima's brother Mushima, Gohgei would be at a disadvantage in this form.

That meant that they'd have to do something about the situation. "Mihoshi, we need to switch to heavier equipment!"

"Right! Since we didn't bring our mechas, let's go for stunsticks and bazookas!" Mihoshi took the cotton puff off her hip (where it had hung very incongruously on her civilian belt and pants) and it morphed into a cube. Kiyone removed hers from an interior pocket and began twisting it in a series of precise motions. Mihoshi began to move hers at random, but after a shout of "Mihoshi!" from Kiyone, she sheepishly moved the cube slower. By the time Kiyone had returned to her side from the five meter's distance she had been displaced by the random sequences entered into a cube which could warp space-time, Mihoshi had remembered the correct sequence again.

Gohgei grunted in pain as he took a hit from Hishima's fist. Gohgei had been able to dodge enough to take it on the arm and not the gut, but it still hurt.

Asahi, crouched in front of her father's cell, watched in growing confusion and concern. Finally she shouted, "Gohgei, why don't you transform?"

"I was about to ask the same question," Hishima rumbled, pausing his attack, as Gohgei's face assumed an expression of exquisite surprise.

"You've known all this time?" Kiyone asked dully.

"Well, yes. For centuries," Asahi told her.

Gohgei swung his head over at her.

Asahi said embarrassedly, "Oh, no, I'm so sorry! Everyone, please forget what I just said! It's not anything important."

"Um, we already know," Mihoshi murmured awkwardly.

"I thought it was important to you," Gohgei ventured finally.

"Of course it doesn't matter to me!" Asahi told him earnestly.

Gohgei found himself at a loss for words. Then the moment passed, and he turned back to Hishima. "Thank you for waiting."

"Of course," Hishima bowed, and Gohgei returned it. A moment later, Gohgei grew in size, his hair lengthened, and horns erupted from his elbows and shoulders as his eyes and ears doubled in size. He now towered over even the gigantic Hishima, yet the cloaked figure did not flinch.

As he and Hishima came at one another, Hishima muttered fervently, "At last!"

Sasami suddenly turned to the warden and the guards, still standing at the door to the cell of Asahi's father. "Hurry up and get him out!"

At the other end of the hall, Yume heard this and started forward with a snarl. She then heard another, unexpected noise, and turned to the side hallway in surprise. "Takashima? What are you doing here?"

"My apologies, Yume," he told her as he came to her side, his cloaked and masked head coming up somewhat higher than hers. "It was just as you said."

"Tatetsuki!" Yume cursed, "The spineless imbecile! No matter. Don't let Lord Takebe get out of here."

Obediently Takashima charged past Gohgei and Hishima, towards the far cell where the others were clustered. Gohgei shoved back Hishima, and made to pursue Takashima, but Kiyone called out, "We'll hold the line, don't worry about us!" Gohgei barely had time to nod before he returned to his fierce melee.

Kiyone and Mihoshi had used their space cubes to retrieve their special equipment. Now they were in full battle armor. Their helmets had Galactic Police crests and transparent face plates. In their left hands, they held clear full-body shields, with rounded tops.

Mihoshi used her supercooling glove, firing intensely cold substances at the blindingly fast Takashima. His feet and then his legs were frozen to the floor. As he struggled to move, Kiyone and Mihoshi retrieved bazookas off their backs and took aim. However, just as they fired, his metallic legs glowed red-hot, and he broke free from the ice. He ran forward as the smoke from the bazooka's explosions billowed out.

Undeterred, Mihoshi and Kiyone returned their bazookas to their backs and drew weapons from their belts that looked extremely similar to nightsticks. They planted their left feet forward, centered their shields before them, brought their centers of gravity low, and held the nightsticks at the ready. At the same time, they shouted, "Riot Formation!"

The ceiling of the prison hall was too low for Takashima to clear them in a jump, so he instead chose to literally crash into the detectives' shield wall. They fell back with a grunt, but their stance kept them standing. They brought their weapons to bear as Takashima clawed uselessly at their shields. The detectives' stunsticks whistled oddly and screeched distractingly as they were swung. Upon impact, they transferred mild irritants to their target. Takashima, not having skin in the normal sense, was unaffected, but the strong jolts of electricity in the stunsticks caused him to roar in pain.

As Lord Takebe's cell was finally opened, the prison guards came forward to support them, flanking the detectives and trying to fire on Takashima without hitting the detectives or Gohgei in the distance. Takashima tried to claw at them, but Kiyone and Mihoshi applied their stunsticks and frustrated him. Howling in anger, he bashed and thrashed against the detectives' shields.

"Kiyone, cube!" Mihoshi said hurriedly. Kiyone simply nodded - both of them were breathing heavily under Takashima's assault. Kiyone replaced her stunstick on her belt and took up her cube again.

With a practiced motion of her thumb along its surface, Kiyone moved Takashima up into the air just above them, from which location he unceremoniously crashed. Before he quite realized what had happened, Kiyone's cube had flung him into a wall, then into the other. "Target the floor, five meters ahead!" she shouted as she flung Takashima from wall to wall again. Manipulating the cube again, Kiyone tossed him like a rag doll into the ceiling with a painful collision. He fell to the floor again, and this time he was blasted by the blasters of the guards and Mihoshi. He moaned, and his head fell to the floor.

Yume groaned and shouted, "Takashima!" She put a hand to her head and sighed, "They haven't even broken his exoskeleton yet!" Turning to Hishima, she demanded, "Haven't you had enough time to analyze him yet?"

Hishima said, "Yes," then flung off his cloak. He was a creature of metal and pumps, but unexpectedly fleshed out as well, with a powerfully muscled chest and arms. In another moment, these became even more pronounced. Hishima's legs lengthened and thickened until he reached Gohgei's height. Long, thick hair unfurled from the crown of Hishima's head and cascaded down his back. Metal razor blades erupted from his elbows and disturbed his hair as it descended. Plates of bone grew and covered Hishima's shoulders and biceps.

"This," Yume said with pride, "is why Hishima is my greatest creation!"

"Yume made me with the ability to adapt to my opponent, incorporating and improving upon their greatest strengths," Hishima told Gohgei. "I have longed to fight a Gagutian, to learn your strengths, to make them my own, and then to test myself against you. For this opportunity, I am grateful."

"Then I must be certain not to disappoint you," Gohgei said wryly. In another moment, he moved faster than it seemed a being his size could move. A blink of the eye before, he had been about a meter away from the transforming Hishima in a defensive posture. Now he was at arm's length with Hishima, feinting for Hishima's still-masked head. Hishima's quick reflexes enabled him to raise his burly arms into a block, but already Gohgei was launching a powerful kick at Hishima's shin, aiming to push Hishima off-balance.

Hishima quickly stepped back and swept out a clawed hand to catch Gohgei's knee. Gohgei somehow kept his balance and even planted himself on his extended foot, using his new leverage to throw a punch at Hishima's now unprotected face. His fist met Hishima's face even as Hishima's claws caught the back of his knee. They both yelled in pain and reeled back before their attacks could do full damage.

"It won't be long now," Yume told herself with a great smile.

Washu stepped in front of her, cutting off her view of the fight. "I was hoping you'd call it off before I got here," she said sadly.

Yume breathed deeply. She started to say something then stopped. She shook her head. "Tatetsuki described Ayeka's companions to the Shimas. I wondered - it really is you, isn't it? Why did you come back?"

"It's a little complicated for right now," Washu demurred. "Why did you leave the Academy? It was your life."

"As it was yours," Yume told her sadly. "I tried, even in the wake of your escape, and the questioning I went through as a result. I was cleared, I hung on for a few years. I knew you wanted me to. But I couldn't take it. You were everywhere there. I couldn't stand what they had done to you."

"And this is what you did to honor me," Washu said, looking down the length of the hallway, at Gohgei and Hishima in mortal combat, at the unconscious Takashima, at Kiyone and Mihoshi with their shields and weapons still at the ready, at Lord Takebe and Asahi clinging to each other.

"You understand, don't you?" Yume appealed to her with outstretched hands. "That's Lord Takebe, the one who framed you, remember?"

"How could you think I could forget him?" Washu said incredulously. She turned with a sigh to Yume. "This is not what I wanted, Yume. You aren't dealing justice to anyone. And I don't need to be avenged."

Yume shook her head, but Washu's expression did not change. Yume stamped her foot impatiently, "You were always too agreeable! How can you stand there and say that! This is the man who ruined you! He deserved it!"

"No, Yume, I wasn't ruined," Washu told her seriously. "As you may recall, I escaped. The Academy still exists, and it's doing just fine without me to lead it. The Galactic Police got shipbuilders to replace me, and more than that, they got good officers. In fact, Yume, the only person who was ruined was you."

Washu looked at her seriously. "But it wasn't Lord Takebe who ruined you. You're ruining yourself, right now. You framed Lord Takebe. You gave Tatetsuki power he didn't deserve. You've set your creations on a path of evil. Set aside this quest for vengeance, right now. You'll be utterly ruined otherwise."

Yume began to breathe heavily. "This isn't possible." She glared at Washu. "Fine then. Since you don't seem to appreciate my friendship, maybe I'll start doing this for me! For the pain Lord Takebe caused me! What do you say to that!" she screamed.

"I'll have to stop you," Washu told her, her face hard, as she generated an energy saber in one of her hands.

Yume drew the sword she carried on her back. As it was freed from the sheath, an orange glow sprung into a blaze along its edge. Washu charged and jabbed at Yume's midsection, but Yume parried, forcing Washu's blade up, then twisted to disengage her blade and aimed at Washu's shoulder. Washu turned and batted aside Yume's blade. Yume, in response, stepped along with Washu's motion, to her side, and tried to bring her blade down on Washu from above. Washu countered the attack by raising her own blade high to intercept hers.

"Just like our sparring, neh?" Yume asked.

"If only," Washu replied.

Yume snorted, then disengaged her blade, ran backwards towards Lord Takebe for a moment with a smirk, then turned and ran towards him and all the others in front of him, sword held high, yellow energy shield preceding her. Washu swore as Yume escaped her reach.

Kiyone whipped the bazooka off her back and took careful aim, waiting until Yume was a good distance down the hall, and the blast radius wouldn't hurt any of the others. She fired, and Yume's shield flickered, but held. Yume smirked as she continued forward.

But Mihoshi had not been idle. Yume cleared the smoke from the explosion only to slip and fall on the ice Mihoshi had coated the hallway with. As Yume fell, Mihoshi spewed ice from her glove again. The shield took the hits, but the supercooled substances chilled the electronics beyond their limits. The shield collapsed.

Yume had not quite realized this, for the hallway's powerful lighting caused a glint on the barrel of the hidden blaster pistol Yume was drawing. "Gun!" Kiyone warned the others as Yume aimed from her supine position. Mihoshi fired ice while Kiyone snapped off a round of her bazooka.

Takashima, who had still been collapsed a meter ahead of her, struggled up and threw himself in front of Yume just as the detectives fired. He took the hit and lay still a moment, then his uninjured leg began to beat against the floor in an insane frenzy.

"You idiot!" Yume shrieked.

"Yume!" Washu shouted, incensed.

"You idiot," Yume continued unsteadily as she grabbed Takashima's shoulder tightly, "when did I ask you to do something crazy like that!" Her tear splashed into his unmasked eye. He made a noise that sounded happy just before his foot stopped hammering the floor. Yume crouched over him, her head bowed.

Gohgei and Hishima panted as they faced each other. Gohgei was bleeding from great gashes on his arms, and one of Hishima's arms hung useless while the opposite shin threw off sparks. Hishima happened to be facing Takashima, and he hissed his breath in, then he and Gohgei returned to the fight.

"No!" Yume shouted without turning to face Hishima. "You and Mushima, and Takashima, we're going." Yume pressed a button on a control in her pocket, and the prison's antiteleportation's defenses were destroyed by the bomb. In the next moment, she and Hishima and Takashima's body were teleported out of the room.

Mimasaka swung hurriedly around the planet, but was too late. The Juraian space tree fired all of its deadly arsenal at Yume's fleeing ship, which dodged the blast and kept going, incorporating evasive maneuvers into its flight of the solar system. Mimasaka's next attack was a spread, and some of the beams tagged Yume's vessel, but it barely held together. Yume's ship now began to spit out sensor ghosts, false representations of the ship to Mimasaka, as it continued to dodge and weave. Mimasaka fired again and again, sometimes hitting ghosts, sometimes the real thing.

Asahi and Sasami called out to Mimasaka through their keys, and Mimasaka reluctantly turned back. Yume's vessel had built up too much of a lead, since it had started from the other side of the planet. Mimasaka might have been able to overhaul them with time, but it was risky, and she would've had to abandon her comrades, and risk the life of a person depending on her for sanctuary. That she would not do.

Ryoko looked out smugly at the unconscious crowd of Tatetuski's disciples. "You know, it's too bad really," she said conversationally as she leaned back against a wall. "Here you guys all wanted to snuff the coroner who could clear Lord Takebe, and we moved him aboard Asahi's ship hours ago!"

"So, that was quite a bit of fun for one day. How are you doing, Ryo-ohki?" Ryoko smiled, feeling the cabbit's pleasure.

Ryo-ohki, in full spaceship form, hovered above the spaceport of Ryuten, occasionally uttering a menacingly happy, "Meow meow! Meow meow meow!"

Tatetsuki was still trembling aboard his space tree, muttering, "Do you think she's going to kill us?" His space tree couldn't manage a response, staring up at one of the few vessels known to vanquish armadas of its brethren.

"I should've left sooner! The moment Princess Ayeka showed up here!" Tatetsuki lamented.

At that very moment, Ayeka was in the office of the Protector of Jurai, making a report to her father, the King, at a communications station.

"Well done, Ayeka," he told her. "We shall put out a bulletin for the apprehension of all of Tatetsuki's accomplices, including Yume and these Shima brothers she made." He turned to the side and said to an aide offscreen, "Freeze Tatetsuki's assets and lands until his trial."

Turning back to his daughter, he let a rare smile grace his lips as he told her, "Well done, Ayeka."

"Thank you, Father," said Ayeka as they bowed to one another. To have earned those words from her father - that was to be treasured always.

Washu, after providing some assistance in treating Gohgei's injuries, left the rest of the work to Asahi, Lord Takebe, Mihoshi, and Kiyone. Washu then said to Sasami, "Sorry I took so long to get here. Mimasaka forwarded your message, but the teleportation shield was still up. Had to walk all the way from the prison entrance!"

"Oh, that's OK!" Sasami said. "Really, thank you for your help. That was amazing, I didn't know that you could make a sword like that."

"I'm not just a scientific genius, I have lots of hidden talents!" Washu laughed.

"It reminded me of Ryoko's saber," Sasami commented.

"Like mother, like daughter!" Washu proudly pronounced.

Sasami nodded happily, her suspicions confirmed.

Washu noted a presence near her, and looked about a moment before she saw Lord Takebe kneeling at her feet, his face to the floor. Asahi was kneeling similarly behind her father.

Lord Takebe said huskily into the floor, "I abase myself before you, and do humbly beg for your forgiveness."

"Look at me," Washu said sternly.

He raised his head to look at her, his eyes swimming with tears. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Washu regarded him for a long moment. Then she nodded and said in a voice that carried, "I forgive you. Now, let's get you on your feet." She took his arms and pulled the startled man to his feet. "You just won. No point in staying on the floor!"

The warden and the guards escorted them out of the prison, and into the bright skies and fragrant air of Ryuten.

Next Chapter

Ryoko sighs. "Now that my star role of a good guy is over, I feel sad."

"Over? I wasn't aware it had begun, monster woman," needles Ayeka.

Mihoshi comes forward and says, "All right! The case is closed, and in the next episode, we all get to enjoy the fruits of our labors! I heard Ryuten has some great karaoke joints!"

"Oh, trying to tempt me, huh," Kiyone laughs. "Well, I happen to know Ryuten has great hot springs!"

"Yay!" Mihoshi is so happy that she jumps in the air.

"The next episode," Kiyone and Mihoshi announce together, "is No Need For Summer Vacation!"

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, as I mentioned last chapter in this segment, I've significantly changed Yume's motivations from those in the manga. Basically, the motivations are completely different. Lord Takebe never did anything to Washu in the manga.

"I don't recall how exactly Takashima died. I don't think Mihoshi got him, and Kiyone couldn't have because she wasn't in the manga.

"And no, I don't know that any of the Shima Brothers have an exoskeleton. I made that up.

"Now for things that I did keep the same. I do recall that Takashima died taking a bullet or some sort of hit for Yume. And I kept almost exactly the lines Hitoshi Okuda wrote for Yume and Washu at that moment of his death, because I thought it an excellent combination of surprise for the reader, and poignancy at the moment that surprise subsided.

"I don't, of course, own those lines, nor do I own 'Teardrop of Royal Family.'"

Chapter 41 Main Chapters Chapter 43