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Chapter 63 Main Chapters Chapter 65

Chapter 64: No Need for Strategy

Minagi enters the room. Her attitude is somber as she states, "Dragonwiles has asked me to be your DJ for this chapter. The song is by the Earth band 'Thousand Foot Krutch', and is called, 'The End is Where We Begin'. Of course Dragonwiles claims no title in it." She bows and says, "Please excuse me now. There is much that I must do." As she departs, the song begins, communicating tough truths and hard-won consolation.


Lord Mori blinked at the unexpected appearance of Washu on his bridge, when he had in fact been expecting Nagi the bounty hunter. He asked Washu in astonishment, "Did you create a great illusion of Nagi and Ken-Ohki out there in space, that fooled the sight of myself and my space tree?"

Washu shrugged and said, "That would be a waste, considering they really are right there." She looked at him seriously and said, "They realized the truth, and they changed their minds. I'm here to convince you to do the same."

"Changed their minds?" Lord Mori repeated.

Washu elaborated, "About whether Princess Ayeka is the traitor, or Oda is."

He had no response, and only shook his head, clearly still astonished. "Professor Washu," he asked, "is that you?"

Washu deliberately forced down a reaction to her least favorite title. Plenty of her students had used it with great respect, as he had just now. In fact - "Yes, I am the genius professor Washu Hakubi. And I did have you in one of my classes, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did," Lord Mori answered wryly. "I wasn't sure if you would remember."

"I thought well of you," Washu reassured him. "That class didn't show your true ability. I was hoping you'd be able to retake it."

He made no reply. Lord Mori had gone to Prof. Washu's office to plead with her about his grade in her class, but to no avail. That grade had resulted in the last conversation of any real length that he'd had with his father. If one could call their shouting matches conversations.

"I understand if you or your men have serious reservations," Washu said. "Last we met, your subordinate, Minagi, was pretty angry. But we're all hoping you'll realize that Oda is a liar and usurper."

Lord Mori looked at her. "Bold words," he stated, finally beginning to recover himself.

"But true," Washu emphasized.

Lord Mori put a hand to his chin, then took it away and said, "Professor, I remember you were very fond of questions and puzzles like this. I hope you'll excuse the quality of mine -it's on the spur of the moment. There is a warrior whom you have heard all of your life is honorable, and who has been bravely fighting pirates in the far reaches of the galaxy. There is a princess whom you have heard all your life is honorable, who has been secluded in a far place for a short time. The warrior and the princess now accuse each other of a crime. Which one should you believe?"

Washu paused a moment, seriously thinking, then replied. "I sympathize with your position. To some extent, I agree. Based on the scenario you described, there's no way to know which person to believe. So that means we've got to go into the lab, find more evidence, find other ways to test each theory."

This wasn't exactly how Lord Mori expected her to react, but it did match the classroom experience he had with her. "Other ways?"

Washu continued, "Yes, such as whether you find it reasonable to believe the official story, which claims that Ayeka managed the hardest part of a coup, to best her father the king near Dek'lar, and yet still failed to take the throne. Or if you find it reasonable that she pulled off a coup rather than Oda, considering that Oda was more recently seen near the capital. But maybe the best test would be to look at the new order, at the conduct of those now in charge, and ask yourself whether it is honorable."

Honor - Lord Mori remembered how his commanding officer had ordered him to violate his parole in order to continue pursuing the princesses. He remembered the sudden arrest of the Grand Marshal of the GP, one of the most upright men in the empire, and hundreds of officers, for supposed treason.

The answer was suddenly, horribly clear - but there was no way to reach it it now. "As usual, your arguments are irrefutable, professor," he said, defeated. "But it is too late now. I broke the parole I gave to her Highness. I can't serve her after breaking my word to her."

"Oh, yeah," Washu remembering. "You are back on the hunt, aren't you, when you said you wouldn't hunt us any more." She almost told him that it didn't matter, but clearly it did matter to him, and probably it mattered to Ayeka. Come to think of it, Washu decided that it did matter to her, since she and her daughter and friends were among those being hunted. So what was the right answer?

Hm, the right answer- "Honor demands that you do the right thing," Washu told him neutrally. "You have to at least see if Princess Ayeka will accept you. You have to ask." Lord Mori still looked miserable, but he did seem to be coming around, so Washu decided to ease up on him a bit, adding, "She's actually pretty forgiving, if you think about it - hanging around with my Ryoko and all. Besides, our whole group decided to take the risk of sending you this invitation. If Princess Ayeka were against it, she'd have said something."

Lord Mori swallowed and nodded. In that moment, he had decided.

"Then I shall accept your most generous offer." He took up his space tree key and used it to communicate with his friend and subordinate, Lord Haruhi.

The conversation was shorter than Washu expected, or maybe she was just nervous enough that she missed most of it. After the conversation ended, Lord Mori smiled. He already looked more resolved and optimistic. He then used his space tree to address his crew, telling them of their restored allegiance to Ayeka. He concluded, "If any of you feel you cannot take this action, take the opportunity now to avail yourself of the escape pods." He knew that most of his men were family friends or servants from of old, but this could still be considered treason against the king.

Washu wished he were not quite so dangerously generous, but maybe Juraian authoritarianism, inflexible thinking, and desire to follow the herd would actually be useful and prevent anyone from taking advantage of their lord's offer.


Minagi wished that there was something she could busy herself with, but there was nothing for her to do. She wanted to stop thinking, and stop feeling. Anger had defined so much of her recuperation from her last duel with Tenchi, Minagi realized. The pain of her injuries and powerlessness was almost nothing compared to his emphatic denial that the duel not be about vengeance for her father, by Tenchi's lecture about how the fight was going to be about the greater problems of the empire. She could not conceive of why he didn't care to end the grudge, how he could consider anything more important, and had raged against that thought. Finally, however, she had realized that fueling the rage was guilt. Minagi realized that she was ashamed for having not considered the perils the empire faced. Her father, Lord Yakage, had always taught her to consider her duty to the empire, and she had failed him in that as in so much else. It was during her realization about how wrong she had been to think only of her family's honor, that she began to realized how she had used vengeance as a camouflage for grief for the loss of her father, and shame at having participated with him in an unprovoked attack upon Tenchi's house during the test of the sword.

Minagi shook her head. She had to somehow make a change. She had been focused on her own personal vengeance when the galaxy was falling apart around her. She had realized that Oda was ruthless and had a dim awareness that he had taken the throne under suspicious circumstances. But had she been concerned with such matters? No, only with attempting to prove herself and her father right.

Her father's quest for the perfect sword had defined him most of his life, he had told her, and it had consumed all of the time she had known him. How natural, then, that his quest should have become hers. Minagi had seen her father struck down by Tenchi while pursuing his quest, and so she allowed herself to assume that Tenchi was the villain. But she had done that to avoid her own guilt - she could see that now. Tenchi had only ever defended himself and those with him, even at the moment when he struck down her father. Meanwhile, she, and - how the thought hurt! - her father, had invaded Tenchi's lands and pressured him into that fateful duel, when he had not wronged them at all.

She didn't know if she could stand the strain of admitting she was wrong, of looking her father's killer in the face and admitting that he had the right to take something so precious to her. But she didn't know if she could stand the strain of living in the wrong, either. She had to take advantage of the chance Lord Mori was offering. Minagi had to try to reclaim the honor her father had tried to bestow on her. Since it had not been reclaimed through vengeance, she would have to salvage it with penance.


"Ryoko?"

She turned at that voice, the voice of her old enemy, and now the grandfather of her beloved, the voice of Yosho. As she turned, she saw that it couldn't have been anyone else, since the hallway she had been walking down was deserted.

"Excuse me," he told her as he approached, and when he had caught up, continued, "There's going to be a council in an hour. I wanted to ask you to join it, and if you had any particular information that would be helpful in the attack."

She chuckled dryly. "So seven hundred years later..." She couldn't finish - she just shook her head.

"We're asking everyone," he told her seriously, but he was finally allowing a wry smile at the irony.

"I doubt I've got anything helpful, it's all probably changed. Even if not, it'll be plenty tough," she shrugged.

"Then I shall simply ask for your continued assistance," he nodded.

She sighed heavily. He adjusted his glasses curiously. After another sigh, she admitted, "I wanted to ask you something, too. Will you ask Tenchi if he'll sit out this fight?"

Yosho blinked. "I was under the impression you two already had this discussion."

Ryoko glared at him. Yosho said too quickly, "I wasn't eavesdropping." It was just very hard to not overhear in many ways. Ryoko rolled her eyes, but dropped the matter, moving on to saying, "Anyway, I'm asking you. Please." She hadn't meant to sound quite that desperate there at the end.

Yosho said calmly, "His answer to me will not be different than his answer to you. I would not wish it to be."

"He listens to you!" Ryoko insisted, and was surprised at how pathetic it sounded out loud.

Yosho told her seriously, "Like all of us, Tenchi is doing what is right as best he can. If you could not convince him your way is better, I cannot hope to do so in your behalf."

Ryoko gave him a piercing look. "We both know how awful this is going to get - we've lived through it. We both know that Tenchi has no idea how awful it will be. I can't let him experience this."

Yosho looked at her sadly a moment, then said, "Ryoko, I have been glad these past few years to find another person who finds Tenchi important. That is why I must ask you - is your love for Tenchi at this moment one that wants the best for him?"

"Of course it is!" she snapped. "I don't want him to know the suffering of battle, of the deaths of others, of maybe even his own death!"

"Or is your love," he countered, "one that would have him to yourself alone, no matter what cost?"

"I can tell the second one is the wrong answer," she snarled sarcastically, not caring that she was being petulant.

"There are worse fates than death, Ryoko," he continued grimly. "One of those is never really living. Even if you two were able to leave us now and live somewhere, and never be found, you would've destroyed his honor. He has a duty to finish this battle that he purposed to begin."

She growled, lowering her head and balling her fists.

"And you would have destroyed your own honor, as well, Ryoko," he said, sharply but sincerely. Her head snapped up.

"You think I have some?" Ryoko asked, shaking her head.

"You do, and you can continue to have it," Yosho told her seriously. "Your duty is not to Jurai, and that is why I ask for your help rather than command it. But stealing one who has taken a duty - that would stain you, Ryoko."

She stared at the floor, her fists clenched. He left her to inform others of the meeting.


Ayeka, after speaking with Lord Mori and Lord Haruhi of the meeting that was occurring, asked to enter the next room where Minagi was. Although it was now unclear just what Minagi's legal status was, Lord Mori had felt most comfortable having her close at hand, with more treatment like a comrade than a prisoner. Ayeka went in and invited Minagi to the meeting, and asked if she had any ideas she wished to contribute.

"Princess Ayeka, you do me too much honor," Minagi bowed her head. "I do not deserve any honor. Unlike you, I deserve to be a fugitive after having attacked your majesty and Lord Tenchi."

Ayeka told her carefully, "Lord Tenchi has accepted you as one of our comrades. That is sufficient for myself. Should you continue in honor, I shall be pleased to treat you with honor."

"Your Highness, how I wish I could grasp this kindness," Minagi told her sadly. "My former deeds preclude it, however. I set my own path, and now I must see it through to the end, though now I rue it for the hurt it has caused others as well as myself."

Ayeka took something from a pocket, then moved so that Minagi's averted gaze was back in her general direction. "Minagi," she said, and paused until Minagi reluctantly looked her in the eye, "I have been given much good that I was not deserving of. It is for that reason that I wish to set you on a new path. To some I would have to remind them that they must now take care to keep on the right path. With you, I can see that is not the reminder you need, for you are sincere."

Ayeka held out her hand, and in it was her father's sword. "Your father considered you worthy to wield this. Your princess does as well. Wield it with honor. I know you shall make your father, your clan, your empire, proud."

Minagi knelt and took it. "I do swear the fealty of myself and my clan to you, Princess Ayeka. With whatever honor and strength we possess, whatever may come, and however long we may endure, we shall remember your kindness, and repay it if we can."

"An honorable friendship shall be payment enough," Ayeka told her. Minagi rose, and for the first time any could think of, there was hope in her eyes.


The room of the council was one of the largest and grandest in the space tree, one that had been grown for such purposes long ago, and one that had seen little use until now. The maintenance bots had swept and dusted it thoroughly, replacing the air of disuse with a sense of anticipation.

Lord Mori, Lord Haruhi, and Minagi entered the room of the council through the door, several minutes early. They nodded to Nagi and Ken-Ohki, who had evidently arrived even earlier. Ryoko arrived, a few moments later than Minagi, by phasing through a wall and a seat, then sitting down in the seat she had just moved through. Lord Mori, now seated opposite her at the long, oblong table, swallowed, then resumed a stoic expression.

"Don't look so nervous," Ryoko said snarkily, "you've got one of your own right there," nodding to Minagi.

Lord Mori did not seem at all relieved, and Minagi sat down deliberately, looking pointedly away - no matter how similar their genes, looks, and abilities, they were not the same.

Nagi, who had with Ken-Ohki arrived before any of them, looked around the table and smiled wryly. "This is the motliest crew I've ever seen, and I've seen some pretty motley crews."

Minagi gave her a cool look. "I'm not sure how to take that, Ms. Nagi," she stated primly.

Nagi replied neutrally, "Just an observation."

Fortunately for all of them, Yosho entered at that juncture. He seated himself calmly, just like he did, Tenchi noticed, when he was having a drink with his father, Nobuyuki. In fact, he did take a sip from the glass before him, then put the cup down carefully and looked at them all. Those seated were now silent, and those coming in made only low noises of conversation. Finally, when all had gathered, quiet grew around the table. Yosho took another sip before stating, "I am honored that all of us have come together this day, entrusting our lives to each other and to our cause. That cause is not to destroy Jurai, but to restore its right rule.

"Sadly, in this situation, many will perish. I look around this table and am heartened to see so many ready to stand for the right, even at the cost of your lives, and mourn that I may never see some of your faces again. I grieve in advance for those countrymen who in all likelihood will resist us because of the lies of the usurper. Yet let us not dishonor our opponents by cringing from battle, nor by impugning their motives without evidence. They honor their convictions as best they can - we must do the same, and better! Where we must fight, fight as fiercely as possible, giving only what quarter is asked for and that you deem just and prudent. Honor their resolution by overpowering it with your own, and honor their deaths with an honorable future for us all.

"Let us now turn to strategy."

Ayeka bowed slightly and now spoke. "Our main objective is to kill or capture Oda the usurper. To do this we must somehow reach his person. Without a way to evade the sight of Jurai's guardian fleets, orbital battle stations, and knights living on and patrolling the surface and the palace, we must take battle to him. In view of our lesser numbers, we intend to use deception to achieve our goal.

"We will present the appearance that Ryo-Ohki has suddenly appeared within the secure zone, though of course she is already here, " and she nodded to Ryo-Ohki, seated in humanoid form next to Ryoko. Ayeka continued, "Those Juraian space trees amongst our party which are officially listed as being on patrol in this system will appear to give pursuit, right to Jurai's orbital battlestations if we can maintain the ruse that long. We expect other Juraian patrols to join in the pursuit.

"Once we can no longer maintain the ruse, the real Ryo-Ohki will attack from the flank any of our pursuers and any battle stations who remain foes. During the chaos, we will transport myself and our esteemed brother Lord Yosho to battlegrounds on the surface, as well as others, to do battle with any forces who still aid Oda. However, this ground battle is a diversion attempting to contain most pro-Oda forces. Our main battle will be carried by Lord Tenchi, Lord Azaka, and Lord Kamadaki to the palace of Jurai, where they will seek to engage the usurper Oda in battle. Once he is defeated, we can expect most Juraians to yield to us.

"To explain the space battle's ruse in greater detail, I ask Ken-Ohki to explain what is necessary." She looked to Ken-Ohki, who bowed awkwardly, then said, "I have been experimenting with my own metamorphic abilities over the past several months. Though most have centered upon a humanoid appearance, I experimented some with my space-borne form as well. I am confident I have the ability to impersonate Ryo-Ohki's space-borne form, and this should give us an advantage of deception. Unfortunately, I have not the ability to attack at full strength in that form, so deception is the best I can provide."

There was a bit of silence, until Washu contributed, "Hey, that's nothing to be ashamed of. I didn't even imagine you trying to change your space-borne form - that's pretty impressive to have gotten as far as you did."

He nodded to her, then said to the table in general, "As best I can manage, I shall."

Ayeka bowed slightly to him, saying, "We expect no less, and are grateful." Continuing to the next point, she said, "In addition, we shall engage several targets on the surface of Jurai to divert our foes, and prevent them from unifying an attack on us. A party of myself, Mihoshi, Yume, Mushima, and Hishima, will commandeer the military communications hub servicing the palace's area, where we hope to rally forces on other parts of the planet, and inhibit our foes' communications. Meanwhile, Lord Yosho, Minagi, Washu, Gohgei, and anyone who can be spared from Lord Mori and Lord Haruhi's ships, will assault the logistical outpost near the palace, preventing reinforcements and supplies from assisting our foes in space. This may also mislead the enemy into thinking that we are only a spearhead, preparing the way for a larger invasion force. Hopefully all of this activity will make it unclear to our enemies which of us they should target, and prevent their regrouping."

She bowed slightly to her brother, who now said, "Are there any questions?"

Tenchi's sole question, of how only he and Azaka and Kamadaki would manage to overcome a king's security forces, had already been answered when he and Yosho spoke before the meeting, and apparently everyone else already knew the answer. Juraians were all strong, and the king was so great in strength and might, that he needed only a handful of guards.

There was silence a moment. Finally Yosho spoke: "Then you have my thanks, all of you. Let us go forth to honor and victory!"

Those present responded with a sharp, affirming cry, then rose as Yosho did, and moved slowly toward the exits, some talking with each other. Ryoko approached Tenchi, and asked him something quickly. When he nodded, she left the room.

Simultaneously, Hishima said to Gohgei, "I would be honored if I could use your abilities and appearance in battle. Having learned them once, I am confident I can reproduce them again in a creditable likeness of you."

"I'm the one who would be honored," Gohgei said amiably. "Perhaps it shall even confuse our foes further. Fight honorably - I hope to be able to speak with you again after this."

"A time I shall look forward to, and strive to reach," Hishima nodded.


Tenchi walked into the hallway alone, as Ryoko had requested.

"Thanks for coming, Tenchi," she said, phasing through a wall.

"You're welcome. You seem to enjoy doing that more lately," he replied, nodding at the wall.

"You'd always yelp when I did it at your house," Ryoko pointed out.

"Yeah," Tenchi said, in a tone of reminiscence that indicated that he remembered, and didn't desire a repetition of those times.

Ryoko turned in profile to him, and continued, "About what we were talking about before. I still am a powerful space pirate. If I wanted to, I could take you away from the battle ahead." She sighed. "However, I did promise your mother, back in the past, that I would protect you. Seems to me that you'd be more protected if I took you away, but since you're determined to do it this way, I'll protect you in the battle."

She dropped her overly easy manner and faced him squarely. "I'll fight alongside Ryo-Ohki, and so alongside you. You won't go down before I do."

Tenchi smiled in relief. "Thank you, Ryoko," he said, bowing deeply. Straightening, he took hold of his space tree key and replied, "I know I can trust you with this now."

Ryoko stared curiously at him, then looked in astonishment at her wrist, where her third and final gem shimmered red and appeared. She looked at Tenchi's space tree key Tenchi, now bereft of all three of her jewels. She breathed in. She touched the jewel newly returned to her wrist, then the one on her other wrist, then the one on her throat.

"Thank you," she said hoarsely. Then, "Thank you!" she shouted, bowing in what was likely the first and last time in her life.

"You're more than welcome," Tenchi laughed, and she looked at him with an aliveness he couldn't recall having ever seen on her, and she nodded. In the next moment she was flying through the ceiling, out into the atmosphere of the Juraian space tree they were aboard, shouting with glee, soaring higher and higher till the buildings and glades and rivers below were smaller than they had been. She was again whole, and her whole being thrilled. Ryo-Ohki hopped into a clearing, meowing happily, and Ryoko dove, scooped her up in her arms, and soared into the sky again in one swift, fluid motion, and the two rubbed their cheeks in the glowing sunset.

Washu lay on her back in a glade, hands behind her head, and watched Ryoko and Ryo-Ohki soaring with a great smile.


Aboard Kiyone's GP patrol ship Yagami, moving away from Jurai, Sasami lay sleeping in a bunk. Nobuyuki sighed as Kiyone reread the medical diagnostics screen next to the bunk. Kiyone had already told him that there was no fever and no obvious presence of disease. Nevertheless, Nobuyuki and Kiyone had both seen that Sasami had been growing weaker daily. Sasami naturally had put up a cheerful front, but eventually had to acknowledge that she was feeling tired lately. It had become so bad that she now needed frequent rests in her quarters.

Kiyone turned from the diagnostics to Nobuyuki. "Mr. Masaki, I don't know what else to do. I don't know who we can trust with her."

"I guess you don't know how to cure a Juraian cold either?" Nobuyuki attempted to joke.

Kiyone gave a slight smile.

"I don't have any better ideas," he admitted. "Continuing on through empty space is probably the best thing to do for now. You're doing fine by her."

"I should be thanking you," Kiyone told him. "You've done most for Sasami."

He grinned a bit, "You've had to look after both Yagami and Yukinojo. Seemed the least I could do. Besides, it's really a bit selfish of me. This reminds me a little bit of Achika. Although it hurts, I found the memories more nostalgic than I expected."

Kiyone stared at him a moment. That had to be difficult, seeing a parallel between his late wife's fatal illness and Sasami's plight. Then she stared at Sasami. Connections were vaguely forming in the detective part of her mind.

"Mr. Masaki, I don't mean to pry, but how much does Sasami's condition remind you of your late wife?" she asked carefully.

He paused before answering, his eyes behind his glasses showing that he was having similar thoughts. "Very similar," he admitted. "Almost exactly alike. But what do you think it means?"

"I'm not sure yet," Kiyone said. "I'm sure it's important, though. I'll be leaving her in your care again." She bowed, he returned it, and she left the room.


Next Chapter

"We appreciate your waiting this long," Tenchi tells the audience. Now, it's almost time for us to attack Jurai. There are a lot of reasons why I wish we didn't have to, but we do. We will give the throne back to its rightful owner. The next chapter is 'No Need for Invasion'. Though it may be a while in coming, we'll do our best to do it right."


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.

"As best I recall, there is no evidence in canon that Washu's least favorite title is Professor. In the OVA, she insists that Ayeka address her as Little Washu. If I'm not mistaken, in the original Japanese, this meant she wanted to be addressed with the title "chan", usually used only for children or close friends. It is on the basis of this and canon Washu's distaste for adulthood that I have based my Washu's dislike of authority structures and of the title 'Professor.' Another reasonable interpretation on this point is that Washu may simply have been teasing the strait-laced Ayeka. Washu does appear to enjoy teaching and inventing in canon, so perhaps she would enjoy the title of 'Professor.' In any event, in this story she does not enjoy the title, but accepts the goodwill and sincerity of those who innocently use it.

"In case you've forgotten, Lord Mori and Lord Haruhi are both characters I made up. I don't know that we ever meet any of Washu's old students.

"Part of this was based on Tenchi Universe, especially the part where Ryoko tells Tenchi that she's a dangerous space pirate and could take him away, in an attempt to prevent him from going forward with the attack. Much of it, however, is based on my continuity, and thus bears very little resemblance to Tenchi Universe. For example, as I recall, by this point in Tenchi Universe, the usurper had been revealed to be Kagato, an old opponent of Yosho, and he had kidnapped Ayeka. I don't plan for that to happen in this story.

"Another large part of this chapter was inspired by 'The Council of Elrond' in the Lord of the Rings books, which of course I do not claim to own. Even if I hadn't been inspired, I probably would've needed to imply that something similar had occurred - while Tenchi doesn't have a grand army, there are enough people on his side that quite a bit of coordination is needed.

"Sasami's illness is not canon - it's part of a plot line I'm developing.

"Finally, I decided to give Washu some unflattering thoughts about Juraian culture, about being authoritarian and inflexible and such. Her opinions are not meant to be my own. I was just trying to think of things that her character seems to value, and how she would react to the differences between what she values and what another culture values. She does not have an unreasoning hatred of Juraians in particular, and I'm fairly sure that she'd apply the monikers to any institution or culture that doesn't value spontaneity as much as she does.

Chapter 63 Main Chapters Chapter 65