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Chapter 51 Main Chapters Chapter 53

No Need For Finding The Path Forward

"I'm Yosho," he introduces himself, adjusting his glasses slightly, "and Dragonwiles asked me to be your DJ for this chapter. Our not-owned-by-Dragonwiles song for this chapter will be 'Interlude' from the not-owned-by-Dragonwiles series '.hack//SIGN.' Dragonwiles was very specific about me mentioning that he didn't own them. I wonder if I've mentioned enough that he doesn't own them?" With a smile, he presses a button, and the contemplative song begins to play.

The Day Tenchi's House Was Attacked

Lord Takebe, the royal tree-carver, looked fondly at his daughter Asahi, and Gohgei, the Gagutian who would soon be his son-in-law. He was so glad they were all alive and free on this day. He'd never be able to thank Princesses Sasami and Ayeka enough for freeing him from prison and restoring his position. And there were all those others who had helped as well, such as that new face, Lord Tenchi. He was so fortunate to have so many friends.

Gohgei told him, "It's very generous of you to take me along on your vacation."

"Oh, nonsense," Lord Takebe insisted. "I find excursions are more enjoyable when more people are present than fewer. I'm sure you agree, don't you, Asahi?"

Asahi agreed shyly, "Of course I do, Father." Her father smiled at her - she still blushed whenever she looked directly at Gohgei. She was so much like her late mother.

They were all standing in one of the forests aboard Mimasaka, Asahi's Juraian space tree partner. Lord Takebe's own space tree was flying in formation nearby while they all had lunch en route. This particular vacation was something of a whim for Lord Takebe. He'd been considering it off and on, but had been putting it off. When Gohgei had stopped by that morning, and he'd learned that he was available, he decided the time was as good as it ever would be, and they'd all quickly packed for a day trip to a nearby planet, only about six light-years away.

Mimasaka alerted Asahi, "Asahi, there's an inbound communication. It's specifically for you, and it knows my name as well, expecting you to be aboard me. However, the communicant is some distance away and has scrambled the caller identity and destination meta-data." Her voice was concerned as she asked Asahi, "Do you wish to take this call?"

Asahi swallowed, looked at Gohgei and her father, who stared back at her, and then she decided, "Display it for everyone, please."

They all gasped as the hologram Mimasaka projected of their callers revealed Yume, Mushima, and Hishima. Lord Takebe felt his throat constrict. What could those want with them now? Did Yume still want to torment his family? Had she created new Shimas which were soon to attack?

The eyes of the hologram representation of Yume moved about, as on her end she saw their holographic representations. She said to them, "Ah, I'm glad I could reach all of you, Lord Takebe, Lady Takebe, Gohgei. I understand if you don't desire this communication, or trust us. Please accept this as a token of our, penitence, for lack of a better word. You must not return to Ryuten."

Lord Takebe leapt to his feet. "Are you threatening us?" He hadn't missed the fact that the three callers appeared to be on the bridge of a spaceship. Were they heading towards Ryuten?

Hishima raised a calming hand. "It is a warning, but I assure you that we are not the ones who mean you harm."

"We're not the ones after you," Yume confirmed. "No matter what you hear, you must not go back to Ryuten. That's all we can say for now." The transmission abruptly ended.

Lord Takebe, Asahi, and Gohgei stared at one another for a few moments until Mimasaka alerted them to an urgent distress call from Ryuten. Again Asahi asked for it to be displayed to them all. This time they saw one of Lord Takebe's disciples from the tree-carving workshop, looking haggard. They looked at his surroundings, and Lord Takebe realized icily that he was in one of the emergency shelters in the mountains of Ryuten.

"My lord, my lady, Master Gohgei," the disciple said urgently. "You must not return to Ryuten. Tatetsuki has returned, with some sort of authority. Nearly all of the other disciples have been rounded up. I barely made it here ahead of a search team. I think I can avoid them. But whatever you do, do not attempt to return for us or send us further transmissions. It is not safe for you! I think it is likely not safe anywhere in the Juraian Empire for any of us!" He cut off the transmission.

Lord Takebe sat down heavily. Asahi said worriedly, "Tatesuki has authority? But he was imprisoned? What will happen to the disciples, Father?"

"I do not know," he said quietly. "I'd like to think this is some trick of Yume's, but I fear that is probably not the case."

Gohgei said, "Lord Takebe, what do you wish to do? I'll assist you if I can."

Lord Takebe fingered his tangled beard, introducing new tangles. "We need a new destination."



The Day After Kiyone's Escape from Galactic Police Headquarters

Mihoshi and Kiyone's Galactic Police vessels Yukinojo and Yagami were docked together, in a remote area between the stars of the Uninhabitable Zone. Ryoko and Ryo-ohki, the latter in humanoid child form, had come aboard the conjoined spacecraft so they could join face-to-face in the group's meeting to decide what to do next.

Washu and Nobuyuki and some of the others were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. (Somehow, even in an area as small as two spacecraft each designed for one to two humanoids, when everyone has been clearly told the meeting time and location, there will always be a bit of time before everyone can arrive, for some reason or another.) Nobuyuki said aloud, "When I thought of the challenges of parenting, being wrongfully accused by a galactic empire was not among them."

"I see what you mean!" Washu smiled as she agreed. "Although I did decide to bring Ryoko into the world in that situation, I had always planned to return and restore my reputation so that she could become part of society. Of course that never happened - there's always some challenge that you don't expect!"

Nobuyuki nodded, and after a moment of silence commented, "I'm glad that Dad invited me to this meeting, but I don't know that much about the galaxy. I'm sorry, but I don't think I can be that much help."

"Don't be silly," Washu insisted, "I can tell that Tenchi still needs you. You're still a part of the group, too, so it's your responsibility. I thought you'd love this kind of danger. Aren't all of your action manga about this sort of thing? Adventures, desperate quests?"

He squinted at her as though she were insane. "No, not at all! Even while I was reading them, I was enjoying the reading, but I often felt sorry for the characters. I bet that they would've rather been at home, building society, and not always having to be in danger, far from home." Washu thought that his tone had gotten wistful at the end, and so she decided not to pry further.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," Mihoshi apologized as she entered the room. She took a seat by Kiyone.

"We're sorry to hear about your family," Nobuyuki told her. Washu agreed with him. Mihoshi thanked them, "I appreciate it. At least Kiyone was able to find out that they're in jail. It's not as bad as it could be." Her voice was quiet, both because of her own sorrow, and because of her thought for the absent Ayeka and Sasami. They still didn't have any confirmation of their parents' situation.

Tenchi and Yosho came in together then, followed closely by Ryoko and Ryo-ohki, and finally Sasami entered and sat next to Ayeka. Ayeka looked concernedly at Sasami - she seemed tired. That morning she had asked her about it, but Sasami had simply agreed that she was more tired than usual lately. Ayeka would've inquired further if she hadn't recognized her sister's tone as being the one that meant that Sasami didn't know anything further about it.

Yosho was at the head of the table, and he said by way of preamble, "We all know the situation as it stands, and we have little time. We need to quickly determine what we will do. Any suggestions?"

Ryoko spoke nonchalantly, "Run, hard, and fast, and never look back."

Nobuyuki sputtered, "You're not serious, are you?"

Ryoko shrugged. "You win some, you lose some. I had more than enough time fighting Juraians back when Kagato mind controlled me into doing it. I definitely don't want to live that way again. It's a hard life, and they're tough opponents, and I'm not going to win any popularity contests because of it. And I don't think most of the rest of you," she said as she scanned the table, "would appreciate the sort of wholesale slaughter it'd take to get anywhere near the heart of a galactic empire. This new king, Oda, would be beatable if we could get close enough, but we can't, and I'm not particularly fond of civilized worlds anyways. Let's just hide out beyond the frontier."

"So that's it?" Nobuyuki gawked at her. "Our home," he waved at himself, Tenchi, and Yosho, "and their home," he waved at the others, "Oda just gets to take, and we just have to live with it?"

Ayeka said pensively, "In general, Mr. Masaki, I agree with your sentiments. However, and I shudder to admit this, Ryoko has made some valid points."

"I know," Ryoko said, "if you're agreeing with me, I'm tempted to take it back."

Ayeka said, "If I may continue? I was going to say that I think at least some of us should stay behind."

Sasami looked at her and exclaimed, "You're not going to leave me alone, are you?"

"Not alone if at all possible," Ayeka said, "but there is danger in most every course. If I did attempt to find our parents or win back the throne, and failed, you, Sasami, would be the last hope for Jurai. It may be your duty to maintain the throne in exile until an opportunity arises."

"Hang on, now," Tenchi said. "We've made it out of plenty of tough situations."

"But," Mihoshi piped up, "Tenchi, you've never had to live as a wanted criminal. In fact, only two of us," she nodded to Ryoko and Washu, "ever have. It's not an easy life - Kiyone and I have chased a lot of wanted criminals. I don't think we should force that life on anyone unless there isn't another choice."

Yosho put in, "We've given some consideration to that possibility. Perhaps we ought to keep it in mind while simultaneously considering other alternatives."

Nobuyuki suggested, "Why don't we try finding the real Emperor?"

Kiyone weighed in, "We could try, but it will be difficult without a safe haven. Oda seems to have very effectively turned most of the empire against us. People who never would've chosen him as a leader are accepting him instead of chaos, and I can't say that I blame them. It's harder to function without leadership than one might think."

"Well, can't we try and sneak over to where we think he is?" Nobuyuki persisted. "The newscast said that he was last seen near Dek'lar."

Mihoshi pointed out, "That'd be kinda hard. It's a long way away, and you'd have to go through the most densely populated parts of the galaxy to reach it. It'd be hard to get there without being spotted."

"What would it take to get to Jurai and kill Oda?" Tenchi asked resolutely.

"For one thing," Washu said grimly, "it'd probably require killing a lot of people that you would consider innocent."

"What?" Tenchi asked in surprise.

"All the people Kiyone mentioned a little while ago aren't going to just let you take out the only leadership they've got," Washu warned him. "These are good people just trying to obey the law, and they will not hesitate to kill. We can try and sneak as much as we like, but sooner or later, almost certainly, we'll have to kill people who are just doing their jobs, trying to defend their homes and their Emperor." She looked at Tenchi resolutely. "If all of us aren't prepared to accept that, we shouldn't even consider entering civilized space in the next decade."

Sasami stirred herself and asked sadly, "Little Washu, then, do you agree with Ryoko?"

"I'm not sure myself," Washu said. "I'm just trying to help all of us think through the implications of our actions. There are problems with hiding, too. Oda was extremely determined to see us all dead, and only barely failed. If we flee, I'm not sure that he'll give up easily. He may well chase us beyond known space, just to make sure we are no longer threats. And we could try to hide some of us while the rest of us fight, but with only three ships, there's a limit to how much we can divide ourselves."

Yosho said to them all, "I'd like to suggest that whatever plan we take, we should seriously consider procuring more vessels. Before we consider that much further, I'd like to see if we can get some other ideas."

Mihoshi suddenly sat up and said, "Ooh, ooh, I know! Why don't we use Little Washu's time machine and go back in time to stop Oda?"

Washu smiled sadly. "A good thought. But there are a few problems. I'm all out of fuel for it. Plus, the use we put it to stopping Kain wore out a few of the central elements more than I expected. And then I cannibalized some of the other parts for other experiments."

Kiyone pressed, "But, Little Washu, could it be put back together again?"

Washu put a hand to her chin and said, "Maybe, but it would take time that we don't really have. Besides which, last time I lent you the time machine because it was an emergency. We should probably consider things more fully before we use it again."

"If this does not count as an emergency, Little Washu, I should like to know, what does?" Ayeka asked irritatedly.

Washu looked back and forth between Ayeka and Ryoko. "That's funny, you two are thinking the same thing again." Ryoko hadn't said anything, but her expression and mindlink with Washu were more than enough information. Washu continued, "I understand the gravity of the situation. I'm just saying that there are a lot of terrible things that have happened that we could fix with time travel, but we might soon head down the proverbial slippery slope if we try to fix them all."

Tenchi asked, "Wash- Little Washu, can you, maybe, use something creative or speed up the process somehow, or leave off some parts, so you can get the time machine running sooner?"

Washu told him, "That depends on how much reliability you're willing to sacrifice. Are you willing to accept the possibility of arriving a decade too early or too late? Would you be all right with the possibility that you'd appear underneath the ground instead of on top of it? Those are the kind of tradeoffs we'd have to look at to get the time machine working in the near future. No pun intended." She grinned.

"In that case," Yosho said, "we should perhaps look for yet more alternatives."

This time, there was silence.

"I take it, then, that we have brought forward all of the possibilities we can think of," Yosho said. "Let us then consider the merits of the main proposals so far: hiding, finding the true Emperor, killing Oda, and using the time machine."

Since the silence was stretching out after that, Tenchi stirred himself and said, "I'd like to say that we have defeated powerful enemies before. We beat Kagato, and we beat Kain. It'll be harder this time, and longer, since this Oda is hiding amongst innocent people. I hadn't thought much before about what Washu said, but this is what I'm thinking now. I think that it'll be hard to fight them. I don't want to kill them, but maybe we'll have to. But those innocent people, they're part of the reason we should do something about Oda. They deserve better than him. If he really had nothing to do with whatever happened to King Azusa, he would've given the throne to Ayeka, not tried to assassinate her. Besides, now may be the best time to act, before people have been forced to accept him, and before those who don't accept him are killed. Let's attack him now. We'll try to slip past as many people as we can so our blades will hit only one person: Oda. I think that we can and should strike him down."

The frowns that had been on people's faces began to turn to smiles. Mihoshi said slowly, "I'm with Tenchi. That sounds like what I want to do. I want to stop the evil, I want to free my family and the other poor people in the Empire. If we can just get Oda, we can do that. I agree with you, Tenchi."

Kiyone nodded, "I do, too. I'm convinced that finding and stopping this evil is the duty of a Galactic Police officer."

Ayeka concurred, "It is clearly my duty as a Princess of Jurai, as well. I am most grateful for your bold words and spirit, Lord Tenchi."

Sasami nodded her head vigorously. Her eyes were still a bit tired, but she had a hint of a smile for the first time since the assasination attempt upon her.

Ryoko shrugged. "Oh, why not?" she acquiesced. "It's worth a shot, and I enjoy a good fight."

Ryo-Ohki, in her humanoid child form, illustrated this with a punch and a zesty "Meow!"

Washu approved, "This is probably the best time to try something like this."

Yosho nodded sagely. "What's your opinion, son?" he asked Nobuyuki.

"I'm all for it, Dad!" his son-in-law responded enthusiastically.

"I am, as well," Yosho said evenly. "I'd like to propose as the first step we procure another vessel, unkown to the GP or the Juraians, to aid us in covering more distance undetected."

Kiyone cautioned, "That will be one of the first things the GP will expect us to do."

"Agreed, so we must move quickly, if we do it at all," Yosho said.

Tenchi asked, "How would we get another ship?"

Yosho shrugged, "We can either make one or get one. With the first option closed to us, I recommend we get one. Are there still black market operations in nearby regions of space?"

"Yeah, but they won't be happy to see Kiyone or me!" Mihoshi laughed.

"Then maybe we should send some of our less recognizable people out to do the buying," Nobuyuki suggested.

"Very true," Ayeka agreed.

"Then we are agreed?" Yosho asked in finality. All did, and they split up to prepare a course.


Tenchi went to the galley and poured himself a glass of water. His throat hurt a bit from his speech. Ryoko walked in and said sarcastically, "I enjoy a good fight, yeah, but you don't. Where are you coming from, Tenchi? Are you going to be all noble and heroic, and save the Empire? A good little knight of Jurai?"

Tenchi sighed. "Ryoko," then he took a sip before continuing to say, "time travel is not an option. And I didn't want to say it in front of Ayeka and Sasami, but I know they know that their parents are dead, so finding them is not an option. So hiding and fighting are our only options. If we didn't have a chance of winning, then I think fleeing would be the only option. I wouldn't like it, but I hope I'd accept that. But we do have a chance, and I think it's a good one. Why are you bothering me about it? What's got you so unhappy?"

"Maybe I'm not happy about you rushing to your death defending an Empire that I know you don't feel like you're a part of," Ryoko snapped.

Tenchi insisted, "I'm not going to die that easily. Look at what all of us have been through - none of us die that easily."

Ryoko looked around the room, her eyes not settling on anything, until finally they settled on the floor. She said quietly in the room, which was empty apart from the two of them, "When I was under Kagato's control, he made me kill a lot of Juraians, in the course of my raids. A few of them looked a little like you. It horrified me at first -then I got to enjoy it. You're stronger than me, you'd probably never get to that stage -but the first one was bad enough. I wanted to spare you that, if I could."

Tenchi took a large gulp of water and stared at the same spot on the floor. He hadn't thought of that sort of possibility until Washu had mentioned it earlier, but it had been eating at his mind. He had to do something about it.

In addition, it was one thing for him to act all tough, but he could still see the death of that Juraian who had threatened Sasami. Could he do it again? To that Juraian, maybe, but if it was so hard to live with the thought of having killed him, could he live with the thought of killing someone just trying to do their job?

He took another gulp and looked up to find that Ryoko was gone. Tenchi guessed that he'd been staring at the floor longer than he had thought.

It occurred to Tenchi that he ought to be certain that Ayeka and Sasami truly accepted the plan. He felt bad just thinking of those standing in his way as innocent people - they might even have to fight people Ayeka and Sasami knew personally!

He found them talking quietly in a room, and they looked up at his approach. He tried to phrase his query without being too rude or too vague, and didn't feel like he succeeded. Somehow or other, they seemed to understand what he meant. After some time, Sasami spoke first, telling Tenchi, "I don't like the thought at all, of course, and I'll probably cry a lot, but, I can't bear the thought of all those people having to obey Oda! They deserve better than that! It's easy for me to say when I won't have to bear the burden, but that's how I feel. Part of how I feel, anyways."

Ayeka clasped Sasami's hand and said, "I also dislike it, but it must be done. If my duty is best served by striking now rather than later, than I must strike now. Perhaps we can even spare some, or convince some who are good to follow us. As for the rest, then I suppose they must see their duty through to the end." She frowned, "It is just - Lord Tenchi, we must all be on the watch. I cannot help but feel that these motives I am speaking of and feeling are too close to wrong, too close to justifying myself. I cannot help but wonder how many times Kagato used ambiguous means to reach good ends before he fell. We must not let this happen to us, but how can we in the days ahead?"

Tenchi shook his head. "I don't know," he said, putting his hand behind his head.


A few hours later, they were on a course for the black-market world that they had decided to try to purchase a spaceship from. The group gathered in the lounge while the ships were on autopilot. "You'll be going to a combination used-spaceship emporium and junkyard owned by Muk'ta," Mihoshi had explained. "Most of his stock is above-board, and in working order, so he seems like the best candidate."

Nobuyuki said uncomfortably, "Why are you looking at me when you say that?"

Kiyone pointed out, "You and Tenchi are among the few people on this ship who can walk relatively freely, we were realizing."

"Um, we have no idea what to look for in a spaceship, though," Tenchi pointed back.

"Yeah, couldn't this guy cheat us easily?" Nobuyuki asked.

"Don't worry, we'll tell you everything you need to know!" Mihoshi assured them cheerfully.

Kiyone added, "And you'll need to remember it, because he will try to cheat you."

Ayeka, who was sitting nearby, made a moue.

"Come on," Nobuyuki said to Ayeka, having seen it, "you can help us out, can't you, Ayeka?"

Ayeka said despondently, "I cannot go on the planet myself - I am too recognizable. I do have to ask, Officers, why you cannot do this yourselves."

"He's probably still mad about our last visit," Kiyone said, ready to move on.

Seeing the others' insistent looks, Mihoshi finally added, "We put him away. But, it was a minor infraction, he should probably be out of jail by now."

"Let's move on with the briefing," Kiyone said, handing out datapads to Nobuyuki and Tenchi.

"I appreciate the need and your effort," Tenchi made a last valiant attempt, "but really, Dad and I have barely flown in spaceships! A crash course in spaceships can't possibly protect us from getting ripped off by a shady guy who's known them forever."

"We won't know until we try," Kiyone said relentlessly. "We may just have to accept some losses. It's up to you two to minimize them. Let's start."

Tenchi sighed and listened to the others as best he could.


Next Chapter

Tenchi looks out at the audience. "I'm giving it my best, but I still don't think this is going to work. In any event, we're certainly going to have to try!"

Nobuyuki comments, "Yeah, this'll be a lot harder than buying my car back on Earth. But, really, what could go wrong?"

They look at each other a moment, then shrug and announce, "The next chapter is 'No Need For A Grudge'."


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."

"I do not recall myself where that ball of string representing time story is from, but I'm fairly sure it is public domain."

"There is no one in the Tenchi canon named Muk'ta, and hopefully I haven't accidentally dupicated that name from anywhere else. The events transpiring in this chapter and the next are only loosely based off of Tenchi Universe, so anything might happen." Dragonwiles laughs.

Chapter 51 Main Chapters Chapter 53