Set page style to Cave Set page style to Fanfiction Set page style to Parchment
Chapter 55 Main Chapters Chapter 57

No Need For Pursuit

"I'm Lady Asahi Takebe," she says to the audience, "and I've been asked to be your DJ for this chapter. This is quite a difficult chapter for me, so I decided to pick a song that shows the urgency and danger in it. The song is 'Lovers,' the ninth opening theme of 'Naruto: Shippuden.' Please understand that Dragonwiles claims no ownership of either." The song begins to play as soon as she presses the button.

Mihoshi blinked as her show on the Galactic TV was interrupted by a special announcement. "Breaking news - Three fugitives, Takebe and his daughter, and a Gagutian accomplice, killed two noblemen who were trying to apprehend them. The bounties on them have been raised accordingly. They were last seen near..."

She blinked at the television, then called, "Hey, Tenchi! Lord Takebe was seen recently!"

"What?" Tenchi exclaimed. He exited the room he and his father and grandfather were using and hurried to the Galactic TV. The pictures on the TV were indeed of the Juraian tree-carver, his daughter who was Sasami's friend, and Gohgei, that big Gagutian guy. "Wow, they must've been forced on the run just like us. That's awful! Still, if we could meet up with them, that'd be great," Tenchi exclaimed, as others on the ship gathered to hear the news.

"Mm-hmm," Mihoshi agreed. "Yukinojo, please bring up the charts."

"Yes, Officer Mihoshi" its voice said from the air, and a large hologram was projected in the midst of the room. Tenchi was fairly sure that the points of light in it were star systems, but there were many other markings and regions whose meaning he was unsure of. In fact, he wasn't quite sure which marker indicated their own position.

No one other than Nobuyuki, however, shared his confusion, as even Yosho seemed immediately familiar with the basics of the chart. Nobuyuki and Tenchi sat on a couch while the others began an animated discussion about the best route to take.

Lord Takebe sat quietly inside his daughter's space tree Mimasaka, near the building where she was watching over Gohgei. They had both, being matches for him, given as much blood as they could, with the aid of Mimasaka's medbots, and it seemed for a time to have cleared the danger to his life. However, Gohgei's recovery had been alarmingly slow. It became clear that some sort of infection had taken hold of him. His life had been in peril continuously for the past several days.

As fugitives, going to a hospital was out of the question. Lord Takebe was fairly certain that many of the independent doctors in these parts were being watched or would feel forced to report them, not that he knew any of the doctors in these parts well enough to trust them in this situation. They had medical databases available, but didn't have the training to use the data. That left them with their own skills, barely adequate to first aid, and the medbots, quite adequate to first aid, but no more.

Lord Takebe drew a deep breath. It had been several days, so it was time to acknowledge that they didn't have the power to heal Gohgei, and he was unlikely to recover on his own; they would have to get outside help if he was to live. That meant imperiling their quest to aid Lord Tenchi and King Azusa. The only ways he could see to help Gohgei would be to take an enormous risk of trying to find aid, or to turn themselves in. They'd probably be killed if they turned themselves in, but their foes were likely either to heal Goghei before the execution, or else end him quickly. The only other alternative was to continue heading to Jurai as Gohgei faded and died. Was that a sacrifice he was willing to make for his king?

Tears flowed down his cheeks, and he clutched at his hair. His king had his first loyalty, of course. He knew that the king had the first loyalty of his daughter, and Gohgei, as well. Though his heart would break, all three of them would go to battle and die for King Azusa.

However, he had to face the reality that the power of himself and his family was broken. They didn't know where the king was or how to help him, and they were sorely in need of help themselves. Lord Takebe had a duty to the king, but also a duty to his family. They needed his help and guidance as well, even though he had little to give. Further, the duties were not necessarily so conflicting as he had been thinking. If once he could restore the strength of his family, they could then go on to do what they could for the king. If they pressed on now, they would become useless to the king.

Lord Takebe paced into the room where Gohgei was sleeping, and Asahi was sitting on a chair, watching him. "Asahi," Lord Takebe told her, his voice raw, "we must take a risk to help Gohgei."

She looked up at him, eyes red from weeping and little slumber.

He continued, "My space tree has volunteered to go on ahead towards Jurai and seek what aid it can from Lord Tenchi or others who remain loyal to King Azusa. If Mimasaka will bear us, we shall go to the nearest habitable world with stealth, and find a doctor, and beg him to hide us and help us."

"I thank you, Father," Asahi said in a choked voice. She took a sip of water from a nearby glass, and Lord Takebe took one from the glass next to it. He was relieved to see that the third glass on the table was empty - Gohgei had been awake long enough to drink it all this time.

"Father, I, I have been thinking," Asahi said hesitantly.

"Go on, my daughter," Lord Takebe encouraged her.

"Father," she continued sadly, "can we risk a doctor and his family for our sake? We know of no doctors to trust, either. But is there another way?"

"I know not," Lord Takebe admitted. He added, not sure of her answer, "Do you?"

"There is one thought I have had," she said slowly. "Gohgei sometimes told us of Gadanta, where he spent some time as a youth. He spoke of the healing herbs that were gathered and sold in the markets. The herbs helped Gagutians and other species fight off infections and maladies. We are not that far from Gadanta now, are we, Father? If we were to go there and simply buy some herbs, perhaps we would be less suspicious."

Her father looked at her and Gohgei a long time, then agreed, "It is a wise and sensible plan. But now I fear this moment for having finally come. I feel shame for asking you this, my daughter, but will you take your courage in hand and do this errand alone?"

"Myself?" she whispered.

"It is the problem with any plan of getting aid," he sighed. "Someone must stay with Mimasaka and Gohgei. Gohgei may need company or aid or-" - or someone to hear his last words, but he could not say that. "Or if we were attacked, Mimasaka would need you or I to form the Light-Hawk Wings. I would leave you in Mimasaka's care and do what needs doing on the planet myself, but I am still wounded, and more easily recognized because of my prominent position. My pride desires me to escort you, Asahi, despite the risk to Gohgei and Mimasaka, but my wounds and my weakness mean I could not properly protect you. And you alone would not raise much suspicion."

Asahi hid her face with her hands. "I am not strong enough, Father," she sniffled, tears beginning to come.

Lord Takebe swallowed, hearing her misery. His fears clawed at him, reminding him that like himself and her friend Princess Sasami, Asahi had never had the skill or inclination to pursue more than the basic tier of swordplay. She would be alone, and even teleporting her to the surface of a planet or back from it would create an energy flare that might expose them all to discovery.

"Asahi," Lord Takebe told her, "I know you are strong. When you were alone and afraid, you sought out Princess Sasami for my sake. Gohgei has told us both that you are strong, many times. And whether you are strong or weak, you are my dear daughter."

They embraced with tears. Asahi clutched at Mimasaka's key. She knew she could not really use its blade in anger, and that she was barely skilled enough to do so at need. But she knew that she was needed once again, just as when her father had been wrongfully imprisoned. She would do what she could for her beloved father and beloved Gohgei. She only hoped that what she could do would be enough to save them.

About a day later, Asahi stood in a forested area near the city she had heard Goghei mention, Lendo, on the world of Gadanta. After a bit of stumbling about, she found a path, which led to a road, which led to the city. She walked along, clad in unassuming clothes that she used when she gardened on Mimasaka or at home, with a hood up, like many of those passing her. No one seemed to find her out of place, or recognize her as a wanted criminal.

She had been noticing on the road, and also within the city, that there were many people who looked like her, and also many other much taller people, and some people somewhere inbetween. It didn't truly surprise her to see Juraians and Gagutians and their hybrid sons and daughters all mingled here, for she had heard much of this planet. It was, sadly, most famed as a major battlefield in the Second War of the Lineage; quite likely many of the people here called it the Fifth Conflict of Exclusion. Despite the outcome of the battle and the war, there were still many mixed families of Juraians and Gagutians living here.

Gohgei and she had been born long after the battles and atrocities of the wars, and he only had positive stories to tell of the place. Nevertheless, she had never wished to visit, despite knowing a Gagutian so well. Her history classes convinced her the place would be too incredibly sad and painful to visit, that she'd hear the ghostly voices of the long-dead civilians echoing through ancient alleys. After agreeing to marry Gohgei, she had been nervous about visiting this place, though she felt she should, because she was afraid that her resolve would waver in the face of a planet that to her symbolized every calamity that could befall their future together.

Now that she was here, Asahi found her opinion changing. There did seem to be a melancholy in the buildings, but the people were quite alive, and many, especially in the markets, seemed happy and alive. She saw Juraians and Gagutians and Gagutian-Juraians and Juraian-Gagutians all talking and mingling together. Seeing this place, seeing that the people here accepted each other, watching happy families walking by, she felt released from her anxiety that she would regret her choice. Asahi knew that they and others throughout the Empire lived quite happily despite certain difficulties, even some noble families still, and knew that she would be able to, as well.

A stall where where herbs were sold was finally before her, Asahi realized with relief. She approached it with some hesitation. Gohgei hadn't ever said much about the medicinal herbs, not ever needing them much. She couldn't quite recall what he had said the best ones were called, and of course she knew nothing of their fair prices or what they looked like when ripe. At this point, she'd just buy as much of as many varieties as she could afford.

The woman running the stand was seated on a tall stool, and in any case, untransformed Gagutians looked like many other humanoids, so Asahi wasn't sure whether she was fully or partly Gagutian. The woman waved at her as she approached. "Hello, deary, care for some herbs? I have good long feather, my son just got it yesterday afternoon."

Asahi felt less anxious, both because of the woman's welcome, and she had been reminded that long feather was one of the herbs Gohgei had mentioned. "Yes, please, ma'am," she said, just loud enough to be heard above the customers at the next stall. She walked closer and examined the herbs a moment, trying to see which looked the best to use.

"I don't believe I've seen you before," the woman continued. "Did you come far?"

"Yes, ma'am, very far," Asahi responded. She inquired about the prices, and bought a good variety with cash. As the woman wrapped the purchase carefully, she said with sympathy, "Don't mean to pry, deary, but if you have present need for these here herbs, I'd like to help. I can get you introduced to a doctor my family visits."

"Thank you, but I don't want to trouble you," Asahi said nervously.

"Oh, I'm sorry, deary, I forgot, today he's next city over, treating patients," the woman sighed. "But maybe I could introduce you to someone else." She broke off, looking at something over Asahi's shoulder. She said, "Excuse me, deary," then came out from behind a stall to put a hand on the shoulder of a boy playing nearby and ask him to get the elders.

Asahi was going to turn around to see what prompted this concern, when she heard a loud, arrogant voice asking if anyone had seen "the vicious murderess Asahi Takebe - she looks like this! Don't be fooled by her looks - she is a wanted criminal." For a moment, Asahi felt like her whole body had seized up. With great effort, instead of turning to look at the danger, she instead secreted the herbs she'd bought in one of her garment's tool pockets and closely re-examined the herbs in the stall in front of her, trying to think of what to do. To teleport away now would give herself away as the fugitive, and give away Mimasaka's position in orbit above.

The herb seller returned to behind her stand, saying, "Sorry, deary, sorry. Don't worry about them, they're probably just feeling a little cocky. We'll just watch, their big official heads will probably cool down soon. Is there something else that you needed?"

"No, ma'am," Asahi squeaked, and started to shuffle away.

The herb seller blinked at her, then said, "Wait."

Asahi looked back at her in sheer terror.

"I can help you," the herb seller said. "Just step back here with me a moment."

Asahi, still terrified, did as she was bidden, hoping this was not a false comfort the woman was exuding. A man in the next stall, apparently at least partly Gagutian from his height, asked, "You all right, miss?"

"Oh, a family member's ill," the herb seller assured him. "I'll take care of her. There, there, dear," she said, embracing Asahi. The man nodded and returned to his work. Asahi decided kindness of this sort must not be unusual from the herb seller, and accepted the embrace.

The herb seller whispered in her ear, "Don't worry, Gohgei saved my nephew from hanging out with the wrong crowd. You're Lady Takebe, aren't you? I recognize you now, from Galactic TV, when the princesses helped you free your father."

Just as she was beginning to relax again, Asahi tensed once more, for she heard the arrogant hunter was now nearer on the street, demanding of someone, "But others saw her coming this way!"

"Well, I didn't!" an offended voice replied.

"Are you dogs covering for each other?" the arrogant hunter accused.

A crowd of older men came down the street. The man from the next stand went to stand alongside one of the new arrivals, to whom he had a strong family resemblance. The man at the head of the party told the arrogant hunter, "That is quite a discourteous return to an honest answer. Who are you, and what is your-"

"Leave us, old man," a companion of the arrogant hunter interrupted snidely. "Now that she has decided to have a mongrel litter, I see you strays have taken her as your queen." He and the hunter laughed harshly.

Asahi, guessing at most of this from the sounds, several times almost turned to watch, but the herb seller restrained her. Upon hearing this result of the confrontation, she said, "Go behind the stalls to the alley. It leads to another market street, follow it west to the gate. It's the closest way out of the city. I'm sorry to have to meet you like this, deary. I hope Gohgei gets better soon. Now hurry, this won't end well."

Asahi ran, hearing the confrontation in the street grow more angry. She hoped no one here would suffer because of her. As she neared the alley's exit, she forced herself to slow to a brisk walk, like many of the shoppers familiar with the area, and moved along the edges of the crowd towards the west.

She noted with fear that dispersed throughout the crowd were various Juraians in livery indicating they came from other planets, showing holograms of herself to passerby. She pressed on toward the exit.

Mimasaka said urgently to Lord Takebe, "There's another space tree with high storming levels, and it's taking up a position to port! I'm growing very suspicious. It feels too much like an orbital encirclement."

Lord Takebe tangled his beard in frustration. They were already running at their highest storming level, so if these other space trees had spotted them, there was no way to hide themselves. He had an urge to contact Asahi, or even have Mimasaka beam her up immediately, but that would provide a burst of energy that their foes could use to precisely target them and kill them. To wait, however, would mean allowing these space trees to hem them in, and give time for more space trees to arrive and completely encircle them, cutting off all hope of escape.

No, that was not true. The latest confidential research he'd been privy to before his flight had said that the compromise of the highest storming level was not complete - the other space trees could see only a faint, blurred image of Mimasaka, as well as confusing signals in Mimasaka's vicinity, so they couldn't be sure of hitting it at all. Also, orbital encirclement did not mean there was no hope of escape - it just made it extremely difficult. The inability to precisely see the thing being encircled would make it hard to keep them contained if they tried to escape.

So what they needed was to avoid giving away their position until an opportune moment, such as a distraction or diversion. Lord Takebe could only hope that one would come before the encirclement was complete and their enemies took action.

Tenchi sighed in Yukinojo's lounge. Everyone agreed (at last!) that a week from now was the earliest they could arrive at the region where the Takebes and Gohgei were las spotted. That wasn't even mentioning the problem of trying to guess what direction they might've fled. The others had been insistent that trying to use long-range communications would be extremely dangerous, since they would most likely be intercepted or used to track them. Tenchi supposed he ought to have remembered from science class or something just how big space really was, but he was hoping that these alien spaceships would've been able to get around quicker than that. Apparently the galaxy was still a big place even with how fast the ships could go. He just hoped that the Takebes and Gohgei would be all right.

Several more Juraian vessels had taken up the familiar points of orbital encirclement around Mimasaka. Lord Takebe walked out of Gohgei's room and took out his key, to be sure he and Mimasaka could be in constant contact. Instead of using Light-Hawk Wings, he decided it would be best to keep up their high storming levels and escape the encirclement by stealth. He just needed to get Asahi aboard first.

One of the members of the Juraian search party turned away from his interrogation and saw Asahi walking quickly amongst the crowd. "There she is! That's her, isn't it?" he said to his partner. "Sure looks like it," the Juraian replied. He grasped his space tree key and asked it to tell the other trees, then he and his partner forged off through the crowd, calling upon people to stop Asahi.

Asahi tried not to go faster, hoping they didn't mean her, and that no one else would realize they wanted her, either. Other Juraians were joining in the pursuit, and some were up ahead and trying to reach her through the crowd.

"Seize her!" some of the Juraians called. "She's a criminal!"

Asahi heard as she hurried a young man's voice shouting, "Hey, are you with those louts on the next street?"

One of her Juraian pursuers responded, "That woman is a criminal, seize her!"

The angry young man shouted even louder, "I heard what those brutes are saying! You offworlders think you can just come here and cause trouble like this, you're the criminals!"

"We did nothing of the sort, she is the criminal!" the Juraian replied. Asahi could feel the flow of the crowd like the flow of the current in a river, could feel that the crowd was pulling behind her, towards the disturbance. There were many angry looks, and she saw people balling fists and readying weapons, and some Gagutians transforming. She hoped there would be no bloodshed.

The pull of the crowd was growing too strong, taking away speed from her and granting it to those Juraians ahead of her. She readied her key, not wanting to put her father and Gohgei in danger for her sake. She swallowed hard. She knew she wasn't skilled enough to use a key blade in a crowd like this, she'd be too liable to hurt innocents. If she couldn't save herself through a fight, then it would have to be through flight.

"Not yet," said a Gagutian voice unexpectedly near her. "I'll tell you when the time is right to teleport back. Until then, we'll get out of the city." He had to nearly shout directly into her ear over the roar of the crowd.

The Juraians ahead of her looked as surprised as she did to see the towering, transformed Gagutian standing beside her. They were close enough that Asahi could hear one shouting at another, "I thought the reports said Gohgei was wounded!"

In just a few moments more, the Juraians were upon them. Somehow, the giant Gagutian by Asahi's side maneuvered through the crowd to a point in front of her, and lowered at the advancing Juraians. They ignited their key blades, an act almost ignored by the crowd around them, now running past them, towards the disturbance down the street. The oldest-looking of the Juraians before the Gagutian and Asahi shouted, "Gohgei the Gagutian, surrender at once!"

The Gagutian said nothing, and the Juraians charged on foot. The Gagutian charged faster, catching the leader under a sweep of his sword, and tossing him into another Juraian. He pivoted to slash at another Juraian who came up to flank him. Asahi cringed at the Juraian's blood, but knew this was the only alternative left. The Gagutian dodged the last Juraian's blow, and smote him to the ground.

Asahi and the Gagutian ran forward. He did not sound or look or smell quite like Gohgei, but he did look very much like him. She wondered what this meant. The street before them was now clear, so they made good speed, but then street was suddenly filled by Juraian warriors teleporting in. The man at the head of this company was shouting a challenge, but someone who looked like a young Juraian warrior ran out from a side street and bowled into the flank of the group. For some reason, instead of joining his fellows, he charged at them and beat them with fists and feet. As the company divided from surprise and loss, the Gagutian charged, driving those he met into the path of the young Juraian. Asahi stared - for a moment, the young Juraian looked like Lord Tenchi.

When the Juraians were dead or collapsed, the Gagutian beckoned to her, and she ran towards them, and when she joined them, they all sped towards the gate. "Who are you?" she panted.

"We have met before, Lady Asahi," the Gagutian told her. "I am Hishima."

"And I am Mushima," the one who looked like a Juraian said.

She understood suddenly - they could take on the form of those they attacked. Hishima had fought Gohgei, and so had taken a Gagutian form, and Hishima had fought Princess Ayeka and Lord Tenchi, and thus had taken on a Juraian form.

In orbit above, a Juraian lord consulted with his space tree, one of those encircling Mimasaka. His tree was saying, "It's nearly a riot down there. I think she'll flee to Mimasaka soon. Shall I tell the others to take up their positions in the encirclement now?"

"Yes, no point in subtlety any longer," the lord agreed. He sighed, "It's bad enough that we live in such evil times that the head tree carver's family has turned traitor, but for the hunt to lead to Gadanta? It's asking for trouble. I hope those fools in our party can keep their men under control, I don't want history repeating itself." He said this because from what he had seen, he actually expected them to try to make history repeat itself.

His tree said in alarm, "There's another ship coming! Looks like it's running at high storming levels, I can only barely make it out, but it looks like another space tree!"

"What?" the lord exclaimed. It must be the tree carver's own tree, returned to aid them, he'd been wondering where it was!

Boxes at the waists of Hishima and Mushima squawked, and Hishima told Asahi, "Now, teleport back now!" She grasped her key tightly and told this to Mimasaka, and the last thing she saw on Gadanta was Hishima and Mushima being teleported away by another ship.

The Juraian lord's space tree reported, "I saw a pulse - Mimasaka must've taken Lady Asahi aboard! We're targeting their position at that time, but it looks like they've begun to run."

The Juraian lord immediately began to create the Light-Hawk Wings for his tree, as it and the rest of the armada began attempting to fire on Mimasaka.

"Mimasaka isn't unfurling its Wings?" the lord said incredulously.

"No, I can't see it!" his space tree said frustratedly. "Let us fight fairly!" the tree shouted in frustration at its sibling. But their hits weren't scoring, and Mimasaka was dodging and remaining hard to see, its storming levels still high.

The lord tried to concentrate on the Wings and the fugitives' other ship that was getting closer. "Use our frontal weaponry to target the newcomer while we use the side-facing guns against Mimasaka," he ordered it.

"I don't know, I can't see," his tree screamed in frustration. "The waves are full of sensor ghosts! I thought I saw Mimaska fly out of the encirclement a moment ago, but I just saw it do that again! And just now I got a reading for some sort of high-powered private vessel!"

"That's it, fire on the private vessel!" the lord cried. There was no second space tree - there was only Mimasaka keeping a low profile, and that private vessel must be creating the sensor ghosts!

"I lost it-" the tree said, then saw it again and fired. It just barely missed, and suddenly Mimasaka appeared before it and fired a great volley. The lord's space tree fired back, scoring some hits, but none critical. The other ships in the armada scrambled to target the confirmed location, but Mimasaka had already resumed its higher storming levels and left that position. From what the shaken but living space tree could see, it was fleeing the system. The tree and its brethren followed Mimasaka as best they could.

When they were fairly far from Gadanta, it became clear that the pursuers remained and could not be shaken off, but the pursuers could not overtake them because of the lead Mimaska had gained during the chaos of the battle. Mimasaka informed the Takebes that Yume's vessel was much closer to them, keeping pace. Lord Takebe frowned, wondering what to do about it, when a transmission came in from it. Asahi accepted the call.

In the transmission's image, Yume, Hishima, and Mushima bowed deeply. "We haven't yet had a chance to properly make our apologies," Yume told them. "If you would allow us to come aboard, we would be glad to do so now."

Lord Takebe frowned. This was the final choice, he felt somehow, the last major decision that would have as its result either his family's safety or its doom as a result. It was true that Yume had warned them accurately against returning to Ryuten, for it had evidently been that very day that the plot was set in motion and they were declared fugitives from justice. However, Lord Takebe thought to himself, it was still possible that Yume and her minions hoped to capture them and use them as bargaining chips to get a lighter sentence for themselves, since Yume was still officially a criminal. Perhaps they had only helped them escape from Gadanta just to make sure they were the ones to capture them.

He fingered his beard. Why did he feel such a desperate need to assure himself that they were still in the wrong? Why was his reasoning growing so extraordinary to do so? He knew what he had to do.

Asahi looked at him a moment - this decision was hers and Mimasaka's to make, but she wanted his advice, as well. Lord Takebe nodded at her. Asahi's key glowed for a moment, then she told Yume and the others, "You may do so."

They teleported Yume and Hishima and Mushima aboard, and they arrived in kneeling positions. Yume said for them all, in a very formal tone, "Please excuse me if I use the wrong terms, or offend you. I'm not used to this. But we beg for your forgiveness. We can't undo what we did to you, but we hope that our actions have demonstrated our new intentions."

For a moment, Lord Takebe was back in his cell, not knowing whether his daughter was alive or dead - but he put that memory aside. "You are forgiven," he said with a raw voice.

"You are," Asahi agreed. "Hishima, when you appeared in the form of a Gagutian, was it your intention to impersonate Gohgei?"

Hishima responded, "I was honored to act in his stead. Does he yet live? We have had only scattered news reports to go on."

"He is very near to death, from wounds and infection," Asahi said mournfully.

"Then there is something more I can do," Yume said, sounding cautious. "I can promise to do what I can to aid him. It's within my power. Microbiology is one of the many core areas I got better grades in than Washu. And I made my Shimas - I know biology."

Asahi rubbed her hands nervously. She was still so afraid of them all, having them near Gohgei when he was vulnerable was almost more than she could stand. If only she had power, she'd never let them see him that way, and she'd make sure they never hurt him like they had in that fight at the jail. But her hope for Gohgei's recovery was faint but piercing, and she didn't want to lose an opportunity. "You would do this?" she asked in a small voice.

"I'll do what I can," Yume reiterated defensively. "But if the infection's bad enough that it makes you this nervous, I'm not making any guarantees. It might all depend on what sort of antibiotics you've got- the infections Gagutians get respond better to some than to others, and vice versa for our infections."

Lord Takebe began to feel angry, wishing she would get to some point that would help Gohgei, but forced himself to remain calm.

"I have these Gadantan herbs," Asahi said desperately, producing the package. "Would these help?"

Yume said with relief, "So your trip there wasn't a waste of time after all! Now we've got a fighting chance! Let's go see him!"

All of them hurried towards Gohgei's room.

A bored prison official, sitting nonchalantly in a hearing room in the maximum security wing, barely looked up from the data on his pad as Minagi was brought in. Minagi was unsurprised. Ever since her dear father, Lord Yakage, had set out to prove his ultimate sword and was defeated at the hands of Tenchi, she had been a nothing to these people. She was barely acknowledged, and when she was, it was usually to emphasize how shameful she was for disgracing her father's title of nobility with her crimes. They had no idea how much she loved her father.

The official read from his pad in a monotone voice, almost more to himself than to her, "Prisoner number 137997, your sentence has been changed by His Royal Majesty, King Oda." Minagi blinked, but the official's monotone continued as though neither the inexplicable change of kings nor the unusual change of sentence was remarkable: "You will set out from this place and seek to destroy the Princess Ayeka and the Lord Tenchi and the space pirate Ryoko. You will not be eligible for the bounty the crown has placed on them. You will report, in person, to a parole officer appointed by His Majesty every day, in order to assure your good conduct and obedience to the crown."

His eyes sparked to life for the next sentence - something in it seemed horrifyingly unfair, but he felt constrained to read it nonetheless. "Furthermore, in view of the danger posed by your targets, you shall be granted leave to travel with and upon your father's space tree, Shorai, contingent upon those terms which Tenju, head of the space trees, has imposed upon it for its crimes committed in conjunction with you." Minagi took in a breath. That was unprecedented.

"To further assure your good conduct, " the prison official continued, seeming slightly reassured by these next words, "you and Shorai shall be accompanied at all times by the space trees of parole officers who shall be appointed by the crown from time to time. Trustworthy persons appointed by the crown shall accompany you aboard Shorai, and you shall be required to follow the flight plans laid out by the officials of the crown accompanying you on this journey. Should you have continued in good faith until all of your targets are captured or killed, or until you have captured or killed all of them, you shall be released on your own recognizance. Should any of the terms of your modified sentence be violated, you shall be immediately and forthwith an outlaw, to be killed upon sight."

Minagi's eyes narrowed. This new king was harsh. Not much news got to her in prison, but there had been a lot of whispering and rumors. She had been inclined to count most of them as lies and exaggerations, but now, hearing that there was a new king, and in just what terms that king had been tasked her to kill a former princess, it didn't appear that way.

It didn't matter in any case. It was not only an opportunity, but an invitation, to finally avenge her father, to kill his killer, Tenchi. She'd worked with hard strictures before when training with her father, and she'd become stronger from them. She would show them all the true honor that she had gained from her father, and the price Tenchi would pay for striking him down.

Next Chapter

The Juraian lord chasing Mimasaka huffs, "We'll maintain pursuit of these criminals - it's our duty." He asks his space tree, "You're not too badly hurt, are you?"

"I can go on as long as I must," he replies.

Mihoshi scratches her head. "Hey, how come you're letting minor, unnamed antagonists do the next chapter preview? Tenchi hardly got a part, can't he do it?"

Tenchi hurries up to the front of the stage, "Sorry to keep you waiting, yeah, it's my turn. Okay, let's see," he looks at his script, "oh, man. Next chapter looks really tough for everybody. There's gonna be a lot of fighting."

"All right!" Ryoko cheers.

"Um, yeah, real fun," Tenchi says, shaking his head. "Not so fun when- well, maybe I'd better let you find out. Anyhow, the name of the chapter is 'No Need For Repelling Boarders.' Oh, and there's a note on the end. Smells like soot, maybe Dragonwiles added it. We're going to have to wait eight weeks for the next chapter." He strains to decipher the writing. "I think the next part says something about real life intruding."

The unnamed minor antagonist space tree exclaims, "Eight weeks! You mean we've got to go at top speed for eight weeks without stopping?"

"This is unbelievable!" the unnamed Juraian lord says in astonishment.

"We're being hunted down as fugitives!" Ryoko waves them off. "You guys have it easy."

"See you in eight weeks, everyone!" Mihoshi waves cheerfully to the audience.

Continuity With Dragoniles

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 didn't mention in the last chapter that I made up the idea about the swordsmanship tiers, mostly to explain why Princess Ayeka seems to be capable in a fight and this goes uncommented, but why no one ever expects Princess Sasami to be capable, and Sasami herself never acts like she should be. It seemed logical to assume that the royal family would learn the basics of self-defense, and that Ayeka, like Yosho, might've had the ability and interest to pursue swordsmanship further. I then extended that logically, assuming that in a culture like Jurai, knowing at least the basics would be expected of many people, but in order to allow for varying aptitudes, knowing more than that would be up to the students. Thus, I decided that while the Takebes would know the basics of swordplay, and the advanced Hou school skills of tree carving, neither would be very capable in battle.

"Next, I'd like to make it extremely clear that pretty much nothing in this chapter happens in any canon Tenchi. Neither the planet Gadanta nor the city Lendo nor the herb long feather exist in Tenchi canon, either. The Takebes and Gohgei are from Tenchi Muyo manga.

"Basically the idea for the chapter is based on my thoughts about what exactly it would be like to live in an empire where evidently Gagutians and Juraians can have families, but the empire is xenophobic enough that the thought of a half-human king is intolerable. (In the Tenchi Muyo OVA, Yosho stated that his reason for leaving Jurai was his fear that a civil war would occur if he took the throne, since he was half-human.) I'd rather not think about just what might have happened around the time when Juraians and Gagutians were discovering they could have families together, but war seemed like an obvious possibility. Given the canon attitudes towards Yosho, and canon Gohgei's reluctance to let Asahi know that he's a Gagutian, I'm assuming that the mixed families and Gagutians lost the ensuing cultural and physical conflicts. However, since Gohgei doesn't seem to fear for his life, I'm assuming that the loss was not total on either front.

"It's also important to note that this chapter's main concepts and plot arc were created long before current events were known to me. This chapter was not inspired by them, and is not an attempt to make a comment on them, since I didn't even know they were going to occur.

"Finally, I'd like to state what I think should be obvious, that this whole fanfiction is a work of, well, fiction, and that any resemblance to reality is a coincidence. I now feel rather bad for doubting the sincerity of such declarations in other works, because I really mean it."

Chapter 55 Main Chapters Chapter 57