Set page style to Cave Set page style to Fanfiction Set page style to Parchment
Chapter 62 Main Chapters Chapter 64

Chapter 63: No Need for the Unexpected

Nagi and Ken-Ohki, the latter in cabbit form, enter the room. "I'm Nagi, and this is Ken-Ohki," Nagi introduces herself. "We're the best bounty hunters in known space, but today Dragonwiles asked us to be the DJs for this chapter. He's not paying us, but it's a quick job, so we'll do it anyways." Ken-Ohki meows in agreement. Nagi continues, "The song for today is by, unsurprisingly, an Earthling band called 'Fireflight', and the song is 'Rise Above.' Dragonwiles would like us to inform you that he doesn't claim any ownership of this song." Ken-Ohki pushes the button, and the song's hopeful strains begin to play.

Washu, last of the group, emerged from the dimensional door, and immediately turned around and pried it off of the cave wall. She propped the door against her shoulder and braced herself against the wall, sighing in relief.

Mihoshi blinked and looked at the door inquisitively, asking aloud, "Wait, but, didn't we leave that in the room we started in?" As Washu turned to her, Mihoshi shrugged and said, "Never mind. If I think about this too much, my head'll explode!"

"Whatever works," Ryoko agreed.

Tenchi looked around, seeing that the cave wall was made of dirt, and the floor was of dirt, but the ceiling appeared to be rock. There was some sort of light in it that was pale and didn't generate much heat - when his eyes adjusted, he guessed that it was some kind of rock. A small stream was trickling by them, and Grandfather was kneeling and washing his face in it. Mihoshi plopped onto the floor with a sigh of relief. Azaka and Kamadaki paced to the edges of the cave to be sure it was safe, but returned and nodded reassuringly to Ayeka.

"So, now we wait?" Tenchi asked.

"Now we wait," Grandfather agreed.

The long wait while the patrol leader searched the space tree, and then while all of the patrols' trees were scanned at a checkpoint of the security cordon, was both nerve-wracking and boring. Their hidden hollow within the space tree was an excellent concealment, for no scans marked them as unusual, and they never even heard a guard.

Tenchi felt his stomach rumble after some time in the hole, and smiled nervously when he saw some heads turn to him. "Sorry about that," he said awkwardly, putting a hand behind his head. Mihoshi smiled at him. Ryoko shook her head and said, "We should've thought to bring some food." Ayeka pensively put her hand on her space tree key.

It was hard to judge time there, for the crystal never dimmed, but it was probably at least an hour or two later when Ayeka grasped her space tree key tightly, for it was warm. She said to the others, "It is time." She and Washu conferred about coordinates and exact timing while Washu set up the dimensional door against the wall and activated her phantasmal laptop. Then Washu opened the door cautiously, noticing that Azaka and Kamadaki were behind her, outwardly calm, but with hands resting on their space tree keys. The place beyond the door was sunny. Ayeka realized with quiet relief and Mihoshi with an expression of joy, that it was the interior of Lady Asahi Takebe's space tree indeed. Then they all rushed through.

Azaka and Kamadaki quickly took in the view around them, and, seeing that there were only friendly faces about, relaxed. The door stood incongruously upright in the midst of a clearing inside a forest of the space tree, until Washu picked it up and rested it against a nearby trunk.

"Princess Ayeka," Lord Nomori Takebe said, bowing, and his companions, Lady Asahi Takebe and Gohgei the Gagutian, bowed as well. Princess Ayeka returned the bow and said, "Lord and Lady Takebe, Lord Goghei, I am overwhelmed with joy to see you." She quickly introduced Azaka and Kamadaki to them, and made sure that they knew that Sasami was safe far from there.

"Your Highness," Lord Takebe said at length, "perhaps your royal uncle mentioned that we have friends with us, who have already helped us greatly."

"I was going to ask about that," Washu spoke up. "Who are they?"

Gohgei answered, "You know them already, Little Washu. But I ask that you not let the past blind you, for I assure you that they already have saved all of our lives."

"This is inspiring a lot of confidence," Ryoko said dryly.

Yume and the remaining Shimas stepped into view, Yume noting, "They're giving us too much credit. If they weren't made of tough stuff, we wouldn't have been able to do anything."

Mihoshi squeaked in surprise, and Tenchi blurted, "Huh?" Ayeka gasped, then said, "I did not think I would ever see a day when you called them friends, Lord Takebe."

"I used to think the same of him," Yume put in. "But life proved me wrong. Well, life, an old friend, and some serious fighting." She looked at Washu.

Washu peered at her guardedly, finally saying,"This is a surprise, but," she paused, then let out a breath and continued, "If you managed to convince the Takebes, I don't think there's anything more that I need to add. Except - that this is the most pleasant surprise I've had in the last few weeks."

Ryoko muttered, "Not that that's saying too much."

Tenchi still wasn't used to seeing the remaining Shimas and Yume as anything but menacing, so he was glad to hear that at least some of the others still had some difficulties.

Sagami, Ayeka and Sasami's cousin, yawned as the patrol leader's inspection team tore through his quarters on the next morning. Father, even in his most dutiful moods, would very rarely run such drills in the dead of night. There was one good part to even this, though. Surely, if the patrol leader focused his suspicions and intimidation upon him, he would overlook his cousins and their allies, hidden in plain view. Such was his hope.

Breakfast aboard Lady Asahi's space tree with old friends and former foes was a tense affair, but not nearly so tense as Tenchi expected. After it had finished, Lord Takebe's face grew troubled while he spoke with his daughter, her space tree, and his own nearby. He then said in a low voice to Ayeka and Yosho, "Our pretense of being a supply fleet for the security patrols seems to be holding up - the patrol your royal cousin is part of will depart soon. However, it seems that the bounty hunters, Nagi and Ken-Ohki, were given permission to enter the security cordon with the patrol, and now are asking to remain with our supply fleet." His key pulsed, and he added, "The patrol leader has just granted them permission, and he and the rest of the patrol are leaving."

The others, overhearing those names, drifted closer. Ayeka asked Yosho, "Could she suspect us?"

"But why would she not have acted if she knew we were here?" Yosho questioned. "I do not understand this."

Lord Takebe looked deeply alarmed as he received another message from his space tree - Nagi and Ken-Ohki were requesting to come aboard and pay their respects to him.

Tenchi frowned and said, "I don't get it either, but those two are pretty direct. If they wanted to catch us, they'd probably just do it. They wouldn't bother with pretending they don't know we have prices on our heads."

Yosho smiled, glad for a way to break the tension, as he joked, "I guess you'd know - Nagi did kidnap you a year or two ago, didn't she?"

The Takebes boggled at the unimaginable thought of the mighty Lord Tenchi being subdued by a bounty hunter, while Tenchi let out a satisfyingly peeved, "Grandpa!"

Nagi and Ken-Ohki teleported aboard Lord Takebe's ship at precisely the time and coordinates specified. Lord Takebe alone was there to meet them. The bounty hunters bowed to him, and Nagi said, "We appreciate your permission to tag along with your supply convoy while we conduct our investigation."

"You are welcome," Lord Takebe said, not quite sure how to act. They had to know that he was a fugitive, didn't they? Surely bounty hunters would not be ignorant of the huge sum being offered for his family. Whether they did or not, what he wanted to know was - "Is there any particular reason you requested this meeting?" He could get away with something that could be construed as too curt, since they all were acting as though he were a lord and not a fugitive.

"We have a few leads we're pursuing, that we were wondering if you could help us with," Nagi said casually. "But since we're now on your space tree, where we probably won't be overheard, we can be more clear about our intentions."

"Your intentions?" Lord Takebe asked.

Ken-Ohki, standing beside Nagi in his humanoid form, clarified. "We intend none of our targets harm, or even capture. This includes yourself, naturally."

Lord Takebe blinked. They said it so matter-of-fairly that it was incongruous.

After an awkward pause, Nagi added, "Or your family, either."

Searching for something to say, Lord Takebe finally settled on, "This is most unexpected." He paused a moment, realizing how obvious that sounded, and tried to figure out just what to say next. Finally, he decided to be forthright and ask, "Why?"

"Because we were wrong," Nagi replied.

"Very wrong," Ken-Ohki added.

That seemed to be all they had to say on the matter.

Not sure if he believed them, Lord Takebe put to them: "What, then are your intentions?"

"Ah, yes, we did say we'd clarify our intentions," Ken-Ohki stated somberly. "We intend to help all of you, which is why we entered the security cordon. Excuse my not making that clear earlier - this is as awkward for us as it is for you."

A moment later, he added, slightly embarrassed, "Well, maybe not that awkward." Ruefully, Lord Takebe realized he had been thinking along those lines himself.

Nagi noted, too neutrally, "I thought you said you'd let me do the talking."

"I'm not trying to stop you," Ken-Ohki asserted, too calmly.

"Thank you, I understand now," Lord Takebe said hurriedly. Now that he understood, he had to decide whether he could trust. But how could he trust the two greatest bounty hunters to not go after such high-profile targets? He thought and thought, but there was only one way that came to mind.

"Will you take an oath on your honor, that you will help Princess Ayeka?" he asked solemnly.

Nagi and Ken-Ohki looked at each other, then Nagi said firmly, "I do swear it."

"I so swear," affirmed Ken-Ohki.

Then there was nothing else for it. He took hold of his key and asked his space tree to contact Princess Ayeka.

"No way," Ryoko said tensely.

Ayeka frowned as she stated, "I was not aware that anyone asked you to make a decision."

"This has to be a trap," Ryoko insisted. "They'd never let a criminal go free -"

Ryo-Ohki meowed at Ryoko.

"That time was just to make you think they like us," Ryoko insisted. "They wanted to wait until we were all within reach - if they caught just you, we could've gotten away."

Ryo-Ohki yowled and raised herself up on her paws a bit, rather put out.

Mihoshi looked at Ryoko strangely. "You know, when Kiyone and I wanted to do something like that, we tailed the person, then arrested the gang when they all joined up. Nagi and Ken-Ohki would've done that to us, and a long time ago, too. I don't think that's it."

Ayeka made a slight show of turning away from her and asking Tenchi, "Lord Tenchi, I trust that you have no objections to meeting with them?"

He replied, "I can hardly believe this myself, but it's about the only thing that makes sense. If she does get to meet us, then she'll probably start attacking us if she really does mean harm. If that happens, it happens. Let's get it over with! I want to know one way or the other!"

Ryoko seethed, but Nagi and Ken-Ohki were soon before them. The atmosphere was tense, and Ryoko decided to simply launch into the problem that they were all thinking about. "So, why the change of heart?" she inquired roughly.

Nagi matched her glare and informed her, "You know, we have some questions we'd like to ask you, too. Why were you and Ryo-Ohki supercriminals seven hundred years ago and claim to be good guys nowadays?"

Perhaps not trusting her companion to answer constructively, or perhaps simply wanting to say this herself, Ryo-Ohki morphed from cabbit to humanoid form, then fixed Ken-Ohki with a gaze, and said clearly, "I told you the day you captured Tenchi. It was all Kagato. From beginning to end."

Ken-Ohki had already been in his humanoid form. He said slowly. "I heard you at the time."

"If you're ready to believe it now," Washu put in, "I'll back them fully. Kagato betrayed a lot of people. I should've been more careful, but all the rampages, all the crimes, all the loss of life, that was his choice."

"So see," Tenchi tried to convince them, "it wasn't their fault."

Ken-Ohki looked at him and shook his head. "Do you not yet understand? The betrayal was personal. I could not believe it. Not then. But now, we can. If I had been able to see more clearly - but I could not. Kagato betrayed many indeed."

Nagi asserted herself: "The magnitude of those crimes - the effects will linger for a long time. But we see that you're telling the truth now."

Ayeka stepped forward. "In any event, the statue of limitations has closed the door on their pasts," she reminded them. "The usurper Oda has claimed that today we are all criminals, but he is the liar, and, I fear, the murderer, if dead my royal parents are."

Nagi nodded impatiently and assured her, "We already swore before Lord Takebe that we'd help you. We believe you now." She paused, then seeing that something more was expected, said, "Well, once we realized that Ryoko and Ryo-Ohki really weren't behind everything seven centuries ago, the only explanation that made sense was that Oda was framing Princess Ayeka."

Mihoshi laughed, "That's a relief! At least somebody's figured it out!"

Nagi and Ken-Ohki didn't seem to share her mirth, but this didn't seem to discomfit Mihoshi. Ayeka smoothed things over by saying, "I am pleased to accept you into our fellowship, and will honor you for your assistance. I have known you to be courageous and intelligent since our first meeting during Kagato's assaults, and trust your honor."

Rushing forward, Mihoshi offered, "Hey, hey, why don't you guys come meet the others? We've got a whole crew of former enemies now, you guys'll fit right in! This is so neat, I bet all the bad guys will be good guys before long!" Nagi and Ken-Ohki gaped, but found themselves ushered out by her enthusiasm, to meet the Shimas and Yume, who were waiting in a nearby part of the space tree.

As soon as they were out of sight, Ayeka looked at Yosho, who nodded at her. Ayeka strode briskly up to Ryoko, and asked in a low voice if she could talk to her alone. Ryoko rolled her eyes, but obligingly phased through a wall to a nearby room in the dormitory portion of the space tree. Ayeka walked the relatively long way to the door, willing herself to keep her patience.

"So, you wanna use swords or words?" Ryoko asked sarcastically as she arrived.

"Words if we can," Ayeka said, trying to frame her tone so as to be strong without being overly brusque. "I only meant to ask you what exactly, besides the obvious, seems to have you so upset about our new allies."

Ryoko rolled her eyes and threw her hands in the air. "Were you not listening the first time I said it? I didn't think we could afford the risk of trusting those two. After coming all this way, I don't want it to be our mistake that gets us into a huge fight."

"That is understandable," Ayeka said probingly, "but you seemed not to have been listening to us. Though we shared your concerns, you refused to believe in the opportunity and went out of your way to antagonize Nagi and Ken-Ohki."

"Are you surprised I play rough?" Ryoko shook her head.

"No," Ayeka disagreed, "I'm surprised that you would be willing to place us all, including Lord Tenchi, in danger by causing trouble when they were clearly not going to."

"They could've still been acting," Ryoko noted. "They could still be acting."

"At this point it makes no sense," Ayeka said incredulously.

"People don't always make sense," Ryoko said heatedly.

Ayeka almost voiced agreement, but managed to force it down.

"Besides," Ryoko continued, "it wasn't that long ago that those two were after us."

Ayeka countered, "You had no such objection to the Shimas or Yume."

"Didn't have much of a chance," Ryoko said, seeming to lose some of her irritation. "The Takebes just sprung them on us."

"It was not that long ago that they, too, were after us," Ayeka began.

"Longer," Ryoko noted cantankerously.

"But I ask that you give Nagi and Ken-Ohki the same consideration that you give them," Ayeka finished, annoyed.

"You mean avoiding them as much as possible?" Ryoko sneered.

"If that's what it takes," Ayeka declared, refusing to be baited. Ayeka wanted to simply turn on her heel and leave if Ryoko was going to be like this, but Ryoko appeared to feel there was still something to say. Ayeka steeled herself and admitted, "Ryoko, do not forget that I had similar misgivings. Also do not forget that we were once enemies."

"Yeah, well, there was mind control involved," Ryoko said quickly. "And we've had a few chances to have each others' back. Everybody wants me to just accept people who chose to fight us, and to accept them quickly, just to make things look nice. Well, things don't look nice, and they haven't been nice for a long time, and sometimes that's just the way things are!" Ryoko turned to the side slightly and crossed her arms with a huff. After a moment, however, she turned back to Ayeka and said, "Since the new bad-guys-turned-good are behaving themselves, though, I'll accept the situation for now. I'll make sure they don't survive betrayal, though. So go ahead, let's invite a whole boatload of our enemies to join us! Why not! I can take 'em. And it'll be a more fun fight at Jurai if they're actually on our side."

"A whole boatload?" Ayeka asked, not sure what Ryoko was referring to.

"Washu'll tell you in a minute," Ryoko explained with a sigh.

"Very well," Ayeka accepted this. "I assure you, however, that if any of our new allies do betray us, I intend to slay them personally. A princess takes neither oaths nor her companions' safety lightly."

"I'll race you for the kill," Ryoko grinned ferally. "Sounds like fun. Later, then." She walked through another wall.

Almost as soon as she had left, Washu entered. "Princess Ayeka," she said brightly, "I had this really neat idea. I think you'll love it."

"You do?" Ayeka asked cautiously. Such a premise willfully ignored all the times their tastes had been extremely different.

"A whole bunch of former enemies have joined us," Washu continued, "and that's great, but what if we were to collect the whole set?"

"The whole set?" Ayeka inquired, feeling fairly sure she didn't like this idea even before fully understanding it.

"Yeah," Washu said. "In fact, according to some of what I found out from your uncle and Lord Takebe, they're all conveniently gathered on a few space trees we're due to resupply very soon. My daughter did mention whole shipfuls of potential allies, didn't she?"

"Something to that effect," Ayeka said slowly, now sure she didn't like the idea. After having worked so hard to convince Ryoko on a similar matter, she felt it hypocritical to refuse to consider Washu's plan. However - "Little Washu, as delighted as I am that we have so many unexpected allies, I have sympathy with Ryoko's position. Surely we cannot expect this trend to continue?"

Washu waved her hand reassuringly as she soothed, "Right, we shouldn't go trying to convince the entire Juraian fleet. But some of the best adversaries we've personally met, good in a fight and, I bet, in their character, they're worth the risk of convincing."

Ayeka was still uncertain. "Of whom are we speaking, Little Washu?"

Lord Mori looked around his space tree. It had been a rough security sweep when entering the cordon - some of the guards either were pretending they didn't know that the prisoner he had custody of, Minagi, looked almost exactly like Ryoko, or they really were paranoid. Either way, they had finally been cleared for entry, and begun their patrol. Lord Mori's superior hadn't called lately, but at least that would be progress he could report. They had failed to catch Princess Ayeka and the other fugitives, so his superior's idea was that they were heading towards the security cordon, so he was ordering them to search inside the cordon as hard as they could.

He grimaced in revulsion as he recalled his superior's proud expression when describing the idea. The idea was quite clearly going to be his superior's idea. Lord Mori and his friend Lord Haruhi were clearly not going to gain any honor. Not that it suited him anymore, Lord Mori reflected sourly, having chased the princess here despite his word of honor to her. She or one of the other fugitives could've caused the deaths of many of his men, and yet they had been spared. Such a poor return for honor - but perhaps that was how life worked.

His space tree key grew warm, as his tree Tetsuya told him, "Ken-Ohki is approaching."

"Ken-Ohki is here?" Lord Mori replied in mild surprise. He hadn't known that the famed bounty hunters Nagi and Ken-Ohki were here. Perhaps there was something to the idea of the fugitives being in the area.

Tetsuya agreed, and continued, "They are informing me that they have a confidential matter to discuss with you, and request permission for a representative to board."

Lord Mori was taken aback. It wasn't the method - even in these days of high technology, the best way to send confidential messages was through trusted people. The question was, since he'd never met those two before in his life, why should they have a confidential message for him? He thought a moment. They most likely wanted to talk about the hunt for the Princesses. In any case, he was a warrior of Jurai, with the support of Tetsuya, and that ought to be enough to enable him to face any foreigner. He gave permission, and coordinates for the messenger to arrive in front of him.

"I'm here to talk," were the first words spoken by the person who teleported aboard.

Lord Mori looked at her in astonishment. "Has the universe gone mad?" he asked incredulously.

"I've often wondered," Washu admitted sympathetically.

Next Chapter

Tenchi says to the audience, "Hi, everyone! Yes, the story is still being continued, thanks for worrying about us! It's sure a rough world out there, but finally we've managed to get another chapter out to you.

"Some of the audience members are probably wondering just how long the story is going to go on. Um, well, that made it sound kinda bad. I guess I meant they were wondering when the story is finally going to be over." Tenchi pauses. "That sounded bad, too. People were asking when this was going to be finished? Anyways, as you can tell, we've nearly made it to Jurai, so we're nearly done with this major arc. Dragonwiles tells me that he's got one more major arc planned, and then that's it. Since very little content from this point on has already been written, it may take a while for the next chapter to arrive, but Dragonwiles tells me that he does have a general idea of where the story is going to go.

"Anyways, I'm supposed to tell you about the next chapter, right? We're going to find out just what Washu thinks she's doing single-handed on an enemy ship, for one thing! Then we're going to figure out just how to get that usurper Oda out of the throne, when he's residing in the capital of a galactic Empire. Yes, I've got a lightsaber, but we're probably going to need to get past some Star Destroyers or something! The next chapter is 'No Need for Strategy.' It'll probably take just as long, or longer, than this chapter to get out, but we hope you enjoy it when it comes!"

Tenchi almost leaves the stage, but he hears a voice whisper in the speaker in his headset-microphone combo. "Oh, right, right," Tenchi says to the audience. "Like we always say, Dragonwiles doesn't own Star Wars or any of its spaceships or concepts or anything like that."

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.

"As I've mentioned before, Sasami and Ayeka have an uncle and cousin in the Universe arc who have some authority over the security cordon. The cousin is named Sagami but I don't recall the uncle's name, so I named him Hayate, after both a Hayate in 'Naruto' and a Hayate in 'Pretear.' (Of course I don't own any of those.)

"My intent is not to make Lord Mori out to be a xenophobe when he reckons himself to be capable of surviving the extremely unlikely event of Nagi and Ken-Ohki betraying his trust. He's just demonstrating fairly-well justified attitudes about how strong a Juraian warrior is compared to other peoples' warriors. This attitude has a fair amount of canonical justification, given powers of Juraians and other races as seen in the OVA, and given the assertion of Azaka and Kamadaki in Tenchi Universe, that Juraians are strong, and the King of Jurai would be dishonored if he needed more than a handful of guards to protect himself.

"To be clear, this chapter doesn't really have a parallel in the Tenchi OVA or Universe series. Although in the Universe series, Nagi and Ken-Ohki end up cooperating with Tenchi and the others to attack Jurai, I don't clearly remember how this was arranged, and am fairly sure this is very different.

Chapter 62 Main Chapters Chapter 64