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Chapter 66 Main Chapters Chapter 68

Chapter 67: No Need for Impossible Odds

Kiyone sits down in the studio and says, "Today, I've been asked to be your DJ for the chapter, and the song I've picked is 'Who We Are' by 'RED'. Dragonwiles stipulated that he claims no ownership rights in that song." The music seems to be evoking determination in Kiyone with its stark and confident sounds.

Yosho, Washu, Minagi, Gohgei, and the rest of the loyal Juraians who had served in their group during the attack or had joined them all teleported onto the field in front of the palace tree. After looking over the field of battle with the speed only experience and concern can bring, Yosho finally let a sigh of relief escape him. Washu smiled at him, but he didn't notice, already stepping forward with a proud smile to congratulate the victors. Washu was able to manage another smile at Tenchi's tired face before he was distracted by his grandfather's conversation, and Washu's face returned to the tightness of anxiety.

Tenchi felt tired. It had been a fairly long fight. A man who had arrived with Yosho and introduced himself as a medic, began to look Tenchi over. Tenchi tiredly tried to wave him away, telling him he was fine, but the medic paid him no mind, only leaving him when he was himself satisfied that Azaka and Kamadaki were in greater danger. He began quickly but efficiently dressing their wounds.

Meanwhile, Yosho had already left a guard for the medic and the victors, while he and the rest of the party walked quickly but confidently towards the palace tree. When they drew near, guards bowed and opened the doors. Yosho returned their bow and entered with the others.

Inside were courtiers, who bowed to Yosho. Yosho returned this and then began to speak with them, giving orders, and they receiving them, as though this were natural and they all knew each other - and with few exceptions, both were in fact true.

It was all so grown-up that it almost made Washu sick. Yosho wasn't that bad of a grownup, and he was doing necessary work - directing clean-up, making sure that people on both sides were standing down from the conflict - but it was hard to appreciate that when what she wanted was elsewhere in the palace. She was glad and interested to see that Yosho was on the move, walking and talking, and the courtiers, were, too, apparently not that disturbed by Yosho's walking while talking. After all, this was one of the least unusual things that had happened that day.

As they passed a wall screen, Washu saw that Ayeka was continuing her broadcast, confirming Tenchi's unintentional announcement that Oda was dead, and urging everyone to stay calm and refrain from further violence. Washu really hoped that they listened, but there was at least one last aspect of the situation that remained unresolved, and she hoped against her foreboding that it could only be resolved with violence.

It was a pity, Washu thought, that she was inside of Tenju, the palace of Jurai, where she had never been, but was too tired and distracted to let her curiosity run wild. She focused all her efforts and desires on getting to her next destination, the Royal Arboretum. She wanted to descend to it at a run, but made herself instead walk next to Yosho and the train of noblemen and communication robots, who were calm and orderly in giving reports and receiving orders while continuing walking. The noblemen traded odd looks with each other as they finally reached the arboretum's doors, but continued with their assigned tasks or asking necessary questions in turn. Washu waited impatiently while the guards checked her identity against the information Yosho had sent ahead, as well as Yosho's own identity. She bolted inside the room almost before they had opened the doors wide enough for her. The guards had quite a fright as she ran to the edge of the wooden catwalk. Their relief that she stopped before plummeting over the edge was only momentary, as she then got down on her belly to stick her head out over the abyss to look down.

Panting, she reprimanded herself, "Okay, get a grip Washu, you know it was only a 50-50 chance - at best. Still...Tsunami, if you're not here, then where are you?"

Washu leapt to her feet and said urgently in a loud voice that rang throughout the many levels of the arboretum, "Can any of you understand me? If Lady Tsunami can be saved, I need to get interstellar communication with a friend of mine, as fast as you can!"

Tenchi looked at Azaka and Kamadaki. The medic didn't seem worried about them, but then, the medic didn't seem like a lot could worry him. Would they be able to pull through?

The space tree key Tenchi that he carried at his belt grew suddenly warm. He grabbed it, trying to figure out what was going on, and heard a voice he didn't recognize saying, "Lord Tenchi, I am Tenju, the palace of Jurai. Forgive me, but you are summoned."

Tenchi disappeared in a shower of sparks.

Washu saw Tenchi teleport into the room beside her - apparently Tenju had taken the great risk of lowering the antiteleportation shielding for a moment. She rushed over to him and clutched at his wrist and space tree key, to help him get over his obvious disorientation and consternation, and so that she could talk directly to the trees.

Tenchi saw a great, cavernous hall filled with trees, and Washu run up to him and take hold of him. His grandfather was looking concernedly down at the lower levels, and was now turning towards him. Tenchi also saw the trees on the upper walls and lower walls and all over suddenly fire multicolored beams of light at him, but before he could react, the beams reached his key, and instead of feeling the pain of destruction, he heard a multitude of voices.

"Silence," said another, and they quieted. Tenchi recognized it as Tenju - well, recognize was a strong word for a voice he'd heard for the first time a few seconds ago!

Washu said to Tenchi, "Tenchi, they'll need your help. Please ask Lord Tenju and the others to contact Kiyone and your dad and Sasami. They should be near the Dek'lar region now."

Tenchi sputtered, "Uh, OK, this seems important. Lord Tenju, please help us contact Kiyone."

"We shall, Lord Tenchi," he replied. "Please concentrate upon this task, as we shall use your master key to coordinate our efforts." Tenju then spoke as though speaking to others: "Contact the outer relay stations, and the rest of you help boost the signal from here, as we've drilled."

Some streams of multicolored light changed direction, the trees now shooting them out of the ceiling, and soon a great, raging luminescence was pouring towards the sky, off the planet, to far-flung relay stations and worlds, towards Kiyone.

Kiyone was startled to receive the brightly colored beam of a Juraian space tree's communication. Looking at the signal, she saw that it came from a relay station. Had they been found? She gritted her teeth and answered the call. Before she could say anything, she heard Washu's voice and felt relief.

"Kiyone, this is Washu. You know what we talked about before you left? We need to put it into action now. Lady Tsunami is missing, and we have to find her. You're the closest to the Dek'lar region we've got."

Kiyone was concerned again. "Washu," Kiyone asked her tightly, "what's changed on your end? The plan was for me to stay hidden by moving in the general direction of the Dek'lar region, and if necessary, investigating it to find out what really happened to the king. Not for me to charge in blind and alone, with the people I'm supposed to protect on board! Something's happened my end, too. Sasami's gotten terribly ill. I don't want to risk moving her, I was hoping when the war was over we could get her to proper medical facilities. It's like she's drained of energy-"

She stopped short, her mouth hanging open, then she slammed into her controls a course for the Dek'lar region at maximum speed.

"Mr. Masaki," she said, barely remembering to punch the intercom button before speaking, "please strap Sasami into her bunk. And strap yourself in after that. We may have a rough time ahead."

Tenchi stared at Washu, hearing her and Kiyone's conversation. "Wait, what's wrong with Sasami? And how could she be losing energy, if Sasami and Tsunami are connected, then she should have plenty -" He breathed in sharply. "Oh, no."

"Exactly," Washu agreed.

Kiyone asked, "Washu, do you have a more exact location?"

"Lord Tenju?" Washu asked in turn.

"We do not," he replied. "Lady Tsunami left incredibly suddenly, saying nothing to any of us. She can travel at great speed, and is lost to our sight when she does so, so we could not say where she went. It was only later that we pieced together that she left near the time when the king went missing."

Kiyone asked, "Is there any backup?"

"I don't know who we can trust," Washu said grimly. "None of us can make it as soon as you can, Kiyone. We're still mopping things up down here. We can send someone now, but I'm afraid they won't make it in time. It sounds like every moment counts. You're the closest thing we've got, that's why I told you the plan before we left. It's all up to you now."

"I'll try," she affirmed after a long pause.

"Thank you," Tenchi, Washu, and Lord Tenju said in unison, much to their mutual surprise.

Yosho's space tree key, that of his grounded tree Funaho, grew warm, and he grasped it. He heard the voice of Lord Tenju speaking through it, and saw that beams were still going into Tenchi's key. "Please excuse us, Lord Yosho," Tenju said. "Time was of the essence."

"I quite understand," Yosho said affably. He looked at Washu. "I take it this is about what we discussed with Kiyone before we separated from her group."

"Sorry, I thought I said that," Washu laughed nervously. "Had a lot on my mind."

Yosho nodded while musing that she had indeed seemed very agitated when she had asked him, just after Tenchi's communication that Oda was dead, for permission to accompany him to the Royal Arboretum. Even though they had discussed with Kiyone having her look for the king or Lady Tsunami if she wasn't here, he hadn't expected Washu to take quite such a personal interest in Lady Tsunami. It was the honest concern in Washu's eyes that had convinced him to grant her request - that and some hope that she would let slip some hint as to why she seemed personally concerned. Astonishingly, his own concern seemed to pale in comparison to hers, although he couldn't hide from himself the knot of anxiety inside that he felt as he looked down the arboretum's shaft at the empty island where Tsunami should've been.

Kiyone groaned as Yagami's sensors picked up a long-range warning net, similar to the one that was strewn around the Earth. Whoever was ahead would know that she was coming.

On the other hand, this was a deserted area of space, off of the major shipping lanes, where there was nothing and no one to defend - at least, nothing official. Kiyone had begun by heading towards the highest energy readings her sensors could find that were within the disturbance in the Dek'lar region that had appeared when the king went missing. She had just been wondering how she would search the area, and now she knew. Somewhere within the periphery of the net was - well, something, anyway. Hopefully Lady Tsunami, and almost certainly, but unwelcomely, some sort of enemies.

She didn't want to call back to Mr. Masaki and ask how Sasami was doing - they were too far from the nearest planet to get her medical attention even if her life were in imminent danger. There was something else she had to do, then - "Mr. Masaki," she said on the intercom, "are you and Sasami strapped in?"

"Yes," he replied. "Is everything all right?"

"This isn't what any of us hoped for," Kiyone said, forcing herself to be calm and professional, "but we're having to go into what almost certainly will be a battle. If something happens to me, please get Princess Sasami to the escape pods."

She heard him swallow. "I understand, Officer. Would you please do the same for her, if something happens to me?"

"Of course," she said, smiling slightly.

There was just one last thing to do. She sent a last message to the nearest Juraian communication relay, telling her friends what she'd found, and a request that they relay what might be the last farewell of Mr. Masaki and herself to their respective families.

Then Yagami sailed on.

Tension seemed to have a vice grip around Kiyone's entire body as she went through the warning net and beyond it to the high-energy disturbance within. Such warning nets were generally placed fairly far out, so that defenders could have plenty of time to intercept the threats detected by the warning net, and do so far from whatever they were defending. Kiyone knew she would almost certainly be facing Juraian conspirators in space trees, even one of which would be able to destroy her ship easily. She tried thinking about other things, like her parents, or how glad she was that at least many of her friends had survived the battle of Jurai, or how she hoped the Galactic Police would return to the way it should be soon, or about how Sasami was having a worse time than she was.

Nobuyuki blinked as Sasami stirred. "Hey, Sasami, good morning!" he said cheerfully. This seemed like an improvement.

She looked up at him, appearing bleary though she was now awakening. "Good morning, Mr. Masaki. I didn't mean to worry you. How long have I been asleep?" Her voice still had strain, and Nobuyuki began to wonder if this were more of a brief respite before a battle against whatever was actually keeping Sasami ill. Still, he kept his voice cheerful as he talked, "I was just guessing it was morning." He looked around for a wall chronometer. "It's hard to tell around here what time it is." He finally found it and converted it to Earth time as Mihoshi had taught him. "Oh, wow," he commented. "It's early morning, but it is morning. About this time of year on Earth, it'd be a little before daybreak."

Sasami smiled slightly. "Same on Jurai," she murmured groggily.

Nobuyuki grunted affirmatively. She didn't seem to want to get up yet, and he had an uneasy feeling that, like Achika towards the end, she didn't have enough energy to manage it well, so he didn't suggest it. Even so, he saw her eyes move from the straps on her bunk and on him and his chair and asked, "So, there'll be a rough ride ahead?" He nodded, and she nodded back, then stared at the ceiling.

He asked lightly, "I know it can be rude to ask a woman about this sort of thing, but did you know that you have a symbol on your forehead? One that looks kinda like three waves?"

With her best effort at a playful grin under these circumstances, she replied, "I suppose I'll overlook it this time. Yes, I did know, as a matter of fact. I think it makes me look cuter."

"Will it glow if you are going to transform, like a magical girl?" he teased.

"Never know," she said in a voice that ended up being just above a whisper, a smile deepening on both their faces. Honestly, she felt more tired than before, and like she was losing all her strength, but it seemed like he knew that, and was cheering her up anyway. There could be worse ways to go. She just hoped that this wasn't the way it ended for any of them.

Just before Kiyone turned off almost every non-essential system in Yagami, the active sensors had picked up what she most dreaded and expected - a Juraian space tree headed out to intercept them. At least there was only one, and it wasn't running at high storming levels. That was a bit odd, but it evidently considered her GP cruiser not a threat. Sadly, that was entirely accurate.

Kiyone had turned off most of the systems in hopes of not being found by the space tree, although the warning net's information should have enabled the space tree to guess in what direction they were heading, so it should still be able to intercept her even without seeing her. As a last-ditch effort, she had adjusted course slightly just before powering down most systems, but the net should've been able to see that, too. There had been a sea of energy from a far-off supernova about to pass through this region, but she had no idea whether that in combination with the energy from the nearby disturbance would hide them from Juraian sensors.

Taking a deep breath, Kiyone waited, and waited further. She looked at her wrist chronometer, and confirmed that there were no mysterious time skips. In fact, a bit less time had passed than she had thought, but that was only natural in this situation. Taking another deep breath, Kiyone powered on one of Yagami's stern-mounted external cameras - a reasonable risk, so she could take some sort of action, even if it was futile.

The Juraian ship was behind them, following their adjusted course. Within a few moments, it would be so close that Yagami simply wouldn't be able to hide within the energy filling this area. Kiyone swallowed, then stared as she saw the Juraian vessel veer off. It hove one way and another over the next few minutes, and receded further into the background as Yagami coasted on. Kiyone then realized what the space tree was doing.

It was moving in a fairly standard search pattern.

It had lost them after all.

She wanted to clap and sing and jump for joy, but she was irrationally afraid that the noise would draw their attention - and all too aware that there were probably more Juraians ahead of them, whom she would almost certainly have to approach at close range in order to have any hope of doing something useful here.

Sasami had drifted off to sleep again, and Mr. Masaki almost had, as well. However, Sasami stirred, drawing his attention. They tried to smile at each other, though they both seemed to know how much effort it took the other.

Kiyone stared at the views from Yagami's external cameras. They were at the center of the energy disturbance now, and she saw several Juraian space trees in an encirclement formation around Tsunami and the space trees of the king and both queens, as well as some other space trees, probably bodyguards of the royal house. Two mysteries were solved at once - the location of the lost king and queens, and the location of the missing Lady Tsunami.

The whole scene was so still that it almost seemed dead, but she knew from what her sensors had read earlier that this area was almost alive with energy. Ordinarily, Kiyone would've expected that most of it would be coming from Tsunami, and perhaps that was the source of a lot of it - but surely in this sort of situation, Tsunami's opponents must be expending a great deal of energy to oppose her. Also, before she had entered the area, the energy had looked different than Juraian energy.

If she had to guess, she'd say that the gems that hovered just in front of the prows of the encircling space trees had something to do with the whole situation, especially the odd energy disturbances. She wasn't clear on what they were, although they did look familiar for some reason, but given that they were the objects she was least able to recognize, they were fairly likely to be some part of the enemy's method of suppressing Tsunami and the royal family.

Finally she was here, and apparently undetected, given that she wasn't dead, and Lady Tsunami was directly ahead of her, possibly the only being that could save Sasami's life. What could she do about the situation, though? She'd hoped that once she got here some plan would present itself, but really, what power did she or Yagami have to stop this many enemy space trees? If Lady Tsunami and the royal party together hadn't been able to change the balance of power in their favor in all this time, what good could she do?

The balance of power - perhaps all she needed to do was tip it a bit.

Would the weight of one cop, no matter how talented, be enough to change this standoff of titans?

Kiyone swallowed. She had to find out, even if she did fail. No matter what anyone thought of her, even if it was futile, she had to do something. There was no guarantee that she'd be able to escape undetected to tell others what she'd learned, or that Sasami would survive much longer. She had to take action now.

That didn't mean she had to be foolish. Seeing no reasonable way to defeat even one of the enemy space trees meant she'd have to try something else. Trying to ignore the leaden sensation in her gut, she focused the cameras on the gems, trying to see if there was some way to interfere with them. Perhaps that would give the royal party and Lady Tsunami enough of a chance. Kiyone studied them as carefully as she could, but could come to no conclusion except that they closely resembled the gems that Kagato had used to suppress Lady Tsunami, according to those videos that Mihoshi had brought back. Those videos hadn't really had much indication on how to defeat them - Tenchi used an energy sword, but she had none. She'd just have to improvise.

She got up and walked through Yagami, taking just a moment to tell Mr. Masaki and Princess Sasami the plan, then strode into the mecha bay, put on a spacesuit, and climbed into her mecha. She unmoored her mecha from the wall, and then used the depressurization of the bay when she opened the bay doors to propel her mecha into space, using as little energy as possible to keep herself hidden from the Juraians.

Kiyone had her mecha fire only small bursts from its thrusters until it reached the precise point outside of Yagami that it needed to, and then braced the mecha's hands against the hull. She fired multiple larger bursts from her mecha's engines, hoping that the energy output would not draw too much attention. The thrust from her mecha changed Yagami's course as planned, and she maneuvered the mecha back into the bay. She went through an airlock back into Yagami's main compartment, not bothering to remove her spacesuit. For all she knew, she'd need it again soon enough.

Back in the cockpit, she checked the external cameras quickly, but was so nervous that she almost didn't pay attention to what she saw. It almost didn't matter anyway. All that mattered was that when she got to targeting distance, she was ready.

She looked through an exterior camera at her target, then, when the time was right, powered on the sensors, shields, targeting computer, and missile launch system. Kiyone locked on the target, the strange crystal floating before the nearest enemy space tree, and fired a full salvo.

With sensors on, she could get a handle on the situation much more easily. The reaction to Kiyone's surprise attack was quite dramatic - the encircling space trees were sprouting Light-Hawk Wings, and the one nearest her was probably only not targeting her because it was trying to shoot down the missiles she had launched. She began evasive maneuvers anyway, and was glad she did as a larger beam from the enemy narrowly missed her.

Having no idea how much it would take to destroy the crystal, or how many missiles the Juraians would intercept, Kiyone fired another full salvo of missiles from her new position. She felt alarm as one of the nearby enemy ships fired on her, completely draining the shields on that side - if it had been fully on target, Yagami might've been lost.

Kiyone juked closer to the crystal she had originally targeted, trying to avoid the beams of multiple space trees - she'd hoped never to have to repeat this again, and here she was going into it. But she had to get the crystal in range of her own beam weapons. She was already being stupid enough to risk the people entrusted to her - the least she could do was take down her target.

Her nearest enemy was frantic in its efforts to destroy her various missiles, but didn't reach all of them, and one from her second salvo slammed into the nearest crystal. Kiyone suddenly became very glad that she never did make it within beam range, because there was an incredible explosion of energy that emerged from the crystal, which almost instantly shattered, pulsing red fragments streaking by. In the next moment, the enemy Juraian space tree nearest the crystal was shorn of its Light-Hawk Wings, and splinters streamed off of it into space, while the rest of its hull showed pock-marks as though gouged by insects, lit red from within by the crystal fragments.

There was no time to marvel at this, as Yagami's forward shields were brought down by the shards that reached her, further from the blast. She remembers to continue evasive maneuvers just in time, as the other space trees continued their attack. Kiyone sought an opening in her opponents to attack another crystal, but realized too late that one of the enemy space trees had anticipated that, and used her intention to prepare a shot at her. There was no way she'd be able to block the beam, and no way her shields could take it, she realized-

At that moment, the king's ship, Kirito, eclipsed her view of the enemy, its hull coming between them and intercepting the hit in a non-vital spot. With Yagami's sensors, Kiyone could see the queens' space trees had collected their Light-Hawk wings into balls, then firing the balls at enemy space trees and crystals, completely destroying them. The other space trees of the royal party were doing the same. The bizarre energy readings were quickly falling, and the extent of the rout became apparent as the enemy space trees began to flee, abandoning their crystals and the energy they had pumped into them. The space trees of the king and queens and bodyguards pursued them, pumping into their enemies fusillades of beams and massive bursts from collected Light-Hawk Wings.

Kiyone, giddy with relief, trained her sensors to see what feats Lady Tsunami was doing, but saw to her astonishment that Lady Tsunami had no Wings deployed, and had not even moved. Moreover, its energy readings were vastly lower than what she would've expected from such a celebrated ship. What had happened?

Sasami, who had come fully awake during the last moments of the battle, and had started to feel something like Tsunami's presence in her mind, gasped as she finally felt the whole of Tsunami again. It was good to hear her again, but Sasami wondered why she began to feel a flood of lethargy again just at the moment they made contact.

Tsunami's voice echoed in Sasami's head, which it did not usually, normally it sounded as though they were talking face to face. Tsunami told her, "Sasami, I am glad that you are safe. They are winning, do you see? I've done what I've set out to do."

Sasami responded mentally, trying to keep her confusion out of her voice, "Tsunami, I've been so worried! I haven't been able to hear you for so long! I was really frightened! I am really glad you're safe - what happened?"

"It was all so sudden," Tsunami told her slowly, "but it's over now. We did it."

Sasami asked confusedly, "Yes, we did. Aren't you happy?"

"Of course I am," Tsunami laughed, but an undercurrent of sadness made it very different than usual. "I'm so glad you're safe, Sasami, I protected - " She paused there, and continued with uncharacteristic hesitation, "so many, so many, Sasami. My task is done now. I go to rest."

"OK," Sasami said, wondering how to keep worry out of a purely mental voice when all of her head was starting to fill with concern, "let's go back home."

"Go back?" Tsunami repeated uncomprehendingly, and in a fainter mental voice than Sasami had expected.

"Yes, home, or Earth, or wherever, but let's go rest," Sasami elaborated.

"You misunderstand," Tsunami said, in a mental whisper. "I have completed it all. I have failed even in this last task, but what I could do, I have done. I must remain here."

Aloud, Sasami exclaimed, "You can't mean that!"

Nobuyuki, who had been watching her fix an intensely anxious gaze on the ceiling, asked, "Mean what?"

She remembered him long enough to say, "Something's wrong with Tsunami," but then she had to strain to hear Tsunami's mental reply: "I must shield you from the effects of this. Somehow. I must. That is my last task, then. I must not fail."

"No!" Sasami cried aloud again. "Tsunami, this can't be! The final rest, not yet! You're weary, I can tell, but what if you could pull through? You deserve a rest - don't take it here alone! Come back to us!"

"I shall only slow you down if I even tried," Tsunami's mental voice replied with a quaver.

Sasami noted, speaking aloud again in her earnestness, "We've got to see everyone, Tsunami! And they won at Jurai, we've got to go back and help rebuild things, and we've got to have a proper celebration, too! Please, you must try to join it! I'll never blame you if you don't make it, but you must take at least one step for me!"

"I don't deserve it, Sasami," Tsunami's inaudible voice was breaking apart into longer pauses, as though she were sobbing. "I can't endure the voyage. I can't face your love. I'm so tired, and I've failed too much. I can't fail you at the end. I'm spent, and I will not take you with me."

Sasami discovered to her astonishment that not only were tears streaming down her cheeks, but that Mr. Masaki's cheeks were also moist. She held out her hand to him, and he gripped it, and she squeezed briefly. Then Sasami said in her own choked voice, "Tsunami, you can't do it, can you? We can't sever the bond now. You've told me it's irrevocable, or that no one knows how to do it, or something. I don't care now. You saved my life once. I don't know if I can do that for you, but I can at least try, and insist that you try. Please. If this is goodbye, take one last step for me. You assimilated with me, and now I do it with you. We had to die someday, and it will be the same day, and if today's that day, we face it together, no regrets."

"Sasami," was the only quiet word Sasami could hear in reply.

Just when Sasami was scrunching up her face for a senseless howl of anguish, Nobuyuki squeezed her hand. She opened her eyes to see him, and she knew in that moment Tsunami was also looking out of her eyes at him. Nobuyuki said in a quiet but strong voice, "Sasami, tell her that we'll always be proud of her. Kiyone told us how she was standing with her friends, in the right, even when the odds were against her. If she can't come home today, we'll never forget her. We'd be less likely to forget if she were there to remind us, of course." He tried to crack a grin - no, an encouraging smile.

Tsunami and Sasami's vision blurred with tears. A moment later, with a pain that made Sasami and Tsunami cry out and clench Nobuyuki's hand fiercely, Tsunami went underway on a slow course towards Jurai.

"Thank you," Sasami murmured aloud.

"Forgive me for not being able to save him, or bear to see your face," Tsunami whispered in anguish.

Further tears streamed down Sasami's face.

The royal party rejoined Yagami and Tsunami, and fell into formation around them. Kiyone relaxed in her captain's chair and heaved vast sighs of relief. She and the space trees surely had to note the slow pace Tsunami was setting, but none mentioned it. Instead, the king's ship, Kirito, communicated to them all, "Thank you, Lady Tsunami, for coming to our aid and shielding us from our foes these many months. Thank you, Princess Sasami, Lord Masaki, Officer Kiyone, for engaging in desperate battle. We owe you our lives. It would be our honor to escort you back to Jurai."

Kirito sent a private communication to Sasami through her space tree key after a few moments. "Princess Sasami," the tree told her. "It is my somber duty to inform you that your father has been treacherously slain. However, your mother and Lady Funaho yet live, largely thanks to Tsunami and to you and your party. When you and Lady Tsunami have recovered sufficiently, your mother and Lady Funaho are most eager to speak with you. Though I have achieved some measure of vengeance for him, please forgive me for failing our king."

"You didn't fail my father," Sasami wept aloud. "None of you did."

The king's tree wisely replied, "Thank you, my lady. I shall take my leave." Sasami's key stopped glowing.

Nobuyuki wondered if he ought to stop holding Sasami's hand, but she squeezed it and shook her head at him, and so they remained that way, both weeping.

Next Chapter

Tenchi walks to the front of the stage. "Well, I guess I can finally be relieved. Right?"

Washu nods, and Tenchi finally signs in relief. "OK, good."

"Yeah," Mihoshi agrees, "now we only have to make sure that the galaxy-spanning empire whose king was murdered, and whose usurper was finally killed after weeks in charge, doesn't totally destabilize and fall into a civil war while picking the next king."

"Yeah," Tenchi says after a moment, in a strained voice. "Nothing to worry about at all."

"True," agrees Nagi's voice off-stage. "You don't even need to worry about Ken-Ohki and I, who, last you saw, near the end of Chapter 65, were plummeting into the Juraian atmosphere after my arm was cut off. Don't get too depressed about us, though."

"I get it, already!" Tenchi groans. "The next chapter, whenever it gets done, will be called 'No Need for the Kingship.' " He shakes his head and mutters to himself, "I just hope I don't get teleported all of a sudden again."

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.

"Most of the events of this chapter did not occur in any Tenchi anime or manga - I made them up. Tenju is supposed to be the palace of Jurai in either the Tenchi OVA or Tenchi Universe or both, but I don't know that he was still supposed to be alive, let alone able to communicate.

"Azaka and Kamadaki (the Juraians) did indeed survive their battles against Tetta and Tessei in Tenchi Universe, so in that I am following canon.

"I hope that you're all enjoying this story, and summer as well. The next chapter, like this one, may take some time to arrive, but I am optimistic that you will appreciate it."

Chapter 66 Main Chapters Chapter 68