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Chapter 67 Main Chapters Chapter 69

Chapter 68: No Need for the Kingship

"I am Tenju, palace of Jurai, and DJ for this chapter," the great tree introduces itself, a beam from one of its branches flowing into a Juraian communication receiver on the sound board. "The song for this chapter is the ending song from 'Castle in the Sky', and Dragonwiles owning it would be ridiculous, so he does not." The song begins to play, full of sadness that is somehow happy, happiness that is somewhat sad, but overall, full of hope and resolution.

Tenchi and Yosho stepped quickly through the hospital. Tenchi tried not to keep feeling awkward about the bodyguards and courtiers who followed them and occasionally talked to each other or to his grandfather or himself. Yosho had introduced him to them cheerfully, and everyone was very polite, but Tenchi felt that they didn't quite know what to make of him, and he honestly didn't want to be followed by near strangers.

Being followed by strangers, however, was precisely what he'd had to put up with. Since the moment he'd left the tree room - or rather, the Royal Arboretum, he'd been told - his grandfather had summoned and matched him with a team of bodyguards who accompanied him in pairs according to shifts. The bodyguards were considerate and polite, which made Tenchi feel guilty that he didn't really want them going to all this trouble for him, or following him everywhere.

They arrived at the nurses' station, where they were met by a doctor and nurse, who also began to accompany them on their visit. Tenchi was starting to feel a bit crowded, but at least the doctor and nurse had introduced themselves as being in charge of the care of Azaka and Kamadaki.

"So, are Azaka and Kamadaki going to be OK?" Tenchi asked the doctor hopefully.

This was usually the point where the reply was, "They're going to be fine," but instead, the reply was, without hesitation, "That remains to be seen, your highness, though, we may still have hope." It was nice to be dealt with frankly, but Tenchi didn't exactly feel reassured.

On their way there, they passed Lord Haruhi, who was just returning from visiting some of his wounded men. Tenchi hadn't known Lord Haruhi or his friend Lord Mori very well, so Tenchi was surprised at how much stomach sunk upon seeing Lord Haruhi without his ready smile. When Grandfather and the others finally had time to tell Tenchi how the battle had gone, they'd mentioned that Lord Mori and his space tree and the other Juraians aboard had died guarding their flank. Apparently Lord Mori and Lord Haruhi had been childhood friends, too. Tenchi hoped he was of some help during the group's short talk in the hallway, but as he watched Lord Haruhi trudge down the hall, he knew it would take more help than he could give the man.

Finally they arrived at Azaka and Kamadaki's hospital room. They seemed alert and glad to see them, and Tenchi was certainly glad to see that they actually were doing well. Nevertheless, he noted that they bowed from their beds instead of rising and bowing, and that their voices sounded tired. Yosho kept the visit brief, and Tenchi swallowed, both out of concern for them, and for other reasons. They all kept smiles on their faces for each other's sakes, and while the doctor tended to his patients, Tenchi and Yosho and the rest of their retinue left the room.

On their way to another part of the hospital, they encountered Nagi and Ken-Ohki. As with Azaka and Kamadaki, it was the first time since the council of war that Tenchi had seen them. He tried to keep from staring at Nagi's new prosthetic arm - he'd been told about it, but it was still jarring.

After a brief chat, Nagi and Ken-Ohki continued to their original destination, and Yosho and Tenchi and their party to theirs, but Tenchi was distracted by a knot of people that had gathered behind them. He was almost sure he'd heard one whisper to the others, "I'm telling you, that's Prince Tenchi next to Prince Yosho!"

Tenchi sighed as he walked on. Honestly, did everyone have to keep calling him a prince? It had been hard enough getting used to Ayeka calling him "Lord Tenchi" all the time, and now he was a prince. Given his grandfather's heritage, it was true, he guessed, but really, it seemed crazy for an everyday high-schooler like himself to get that title.

They were soon going to be at the place, though, where Tenchi would find out whether he was truly worthy of not only that title, but also whether he was worthy to be king. His grandfather had assured him with a wry grin that he didn't need to study for this test, but Tenchi still didn't like the thought of it. Grandfather had said that they'd just be testing to see if he had the powers of a true king, but not much more than that, and whatever was in store for him, Tenchi bet it would be tough. At least Grandfather would be going through the tests first.

Lord Takebe was aboard his space tree, and had just finished discussing with his tree how to best aid Lady Tsunami's recovery when they rendezvoused with her and the royal party, when he received the call. It was from one of his assistants, who had been able to come to Jurai after Ryuten had been retaken.

"Lord Takebe," he said with concern, "The storerooms for the imitations of Kagato's crystals were sealed as you ordered, but I just learned that they have been emptied."

The lord took a breath before responding to the news. "Do we know who took them?"

"No, my lord," his assistant responded. "We are not totally certain of when, either."

Lord Takebe ran his fingers through his tangled beard. He knew that people would have their eyes on these new, experimental weapons, especially since they had now seen use by the opponents of the princesses during their defense of Jurai. He only hoped no one had learned how effective they had been against Lady Tsunami - a hope which looked fainter than it had five minutes ago. In any case, his precautions at the storeroom hadn't been enough.

Disturbing as it was, the crystals were not necessarily evil or dangerous to space trees - just too recently and often used by his opponents. Further, he had to consider that every space tree carver he sent hunting for the crystals would be one fewer to tend the space trees wounded in the recent battle - some of whom still teetered on the brink of death, or were in immense pain. How many would he sacrifice to learn where the crystals were now?

"Thank you," Lord Takebe said aloud. "Inform those you trust in the government, and ask the other carvers to keep their ears open. We cannot move further without endangering the trees entrusted to us."

The assistant nodded in saddened understanding.

Yosho looked around at the ruins, and the statue of himself that Kagato had made, still where he had placed it so many years ago. That statue had, as it were, watched the duel that ended their friendship, and now the statue had not only outlasted their friendship, but also its own maker.

He looked around the ruin carefully. The sense of melancholy was thicker than ever because of the statue, and as deserted as ever, but he wanted to be careful for this meeting. Yosho's bodyguards nodded to him, confirming that they had found no listening devices, before beginning perimeter rounds to keep out intruders and give him some privacy for his meeting.

On schedule, his space tree key grew warm. It was a call from Tenju, palace of Jurai, "Lord Yosho, I trust that you have examined the surroundings to your satisfaction?"

"Yes, Lord Tenju," he replied respectfully, "no sign of persons or listening devices." Since Tenju didn't speak with sound waves, nor did keys produce them, only Yosho's side of the conversation be overheard - hence the location and his watchfulness.

"Indeed. I am somewhat surprised you chose this spot, given the history, but the lowered risk of eavesdropping is satisfactory to us both. As you have no doubt guessed, because of my station and the difficulty of listening in on this type of conversation, I have agreed to act as a go-between for the present Council of Elders in the matter of succession to the throne of Jurai."

"Yes, my lord," Yosho affirmed.

"Lord Yosho, to speak plainly, I accepted this request because despite my desire to avoid harming either of our species by over-involvement in your politics, it is necessary now. I grieve for your father, and wish to make clear that I had no knowledge that he was betrayed."

"I appreciate your consideration and condolences," Yosho replied with trust.

Lord Tenju continued, "All your party acted with courage and performed the impossible in your recent deposing of King Oda and rescuing of Lady Tsunami. In addition, I have heard how you next retook Ryuten without firing any further shots."

"Lord Tenju," Yosho said in mock confusion, "I only informed Governor Tatetsuki that I was sending a fleet, including Ryoko the Terrible, to ensure an orderly transition after King Oda's death."

"Indeed," Tenju replied dryly. "I was worried you might not accept his deal, since he was once a criminal, and enemy of your friends, the Takebe clan."

Yosho wasn't sure what to make of that. Tatetsuki had quickly taken the hint and requested leave to retire and reinstate Lord Takebe as governor, with the further request that Tatetsuki 's followers remain free, and with their continued membership and participation in the Hou school guaranteed. "Why would one not take a deal so beneficial for both sides, my lord?" Yosho asked, honestly uncertain of Lord Tenju's meaning.

"Greed and pride, usually," Tenju frankly informed him. "Instead, you demonstrated mercy without stupidity, and retook intact Ryuten, its space tree nurseries, and the Hou school that tends them, while still removing a threat to your Empire and allies. Further, you did so in a way that did not diminish the value of King Oda's pardon of the crimes Tatetsuki did to the Takebes, in case the next King had need to pardon you or your allies for your actions while retaking Jurai."

"I see your point now, my lord," Yosho said and nodded.

"To the main point," Tenju continued, "you, Prince Yosho, as well as Princess Ayeka and Prince Tenchi, have all demonstrated great spirit and powers worthy of inheriting the throne of Jurai. The Council, however, is troubled in its deliberations, and needs ask you: for what reason have Prince Tenchi and Princess Ayeka not pressed their claims to the throne?"

"My lord?" Yosho said, puzzled. This was not really what he had expected. Evidently he'd been too responsible - people thought he was seriously considering accepting a kingship he'd rejected so long ago at such great cost? "This has not been my intention," he explained carefully. "What I have done, I have done for the sake of restoring order as quickly as possible. It was not an attempt to establish myself in a position that would, if I occupied it, rip the Empire asunder. In addition, Princess Ayeka has performed many duties since the deposing of King Oda, and Prince Tenchi has complied with all of the Council's requests. I am confident this is merely a misunderstanding or necessary caution, and do not understand why it stymies the Council's deliberations."

"'Necessary caution,' well spoken," Tenju returned. "The Empire cannot afford a mistake at this point. Frankly, the council fears the possibility that you know about indiscretions of the Princess or Prince, and are ordering them to keep quiet to avoid scandal. If the Council did not realize this and gave the throne to a compromised person, disaster would follow. Or, Prince Tenchi could be jealous of either or both of you, and is out of the limelight because he is busy plotting a further coup."

It had been some time since Yosho needed a deliberate effort to calm himself. He reminded himself that Tenju and the council did not know Tenchi, and were probably just being over-cautious about Ayeka due to the lack of certainty created by Oda's deceptions and usurpation. Also, Yosho had noted in histories that Lord Tenju could be rather blunt. Come to think of it, Lord Tenju had been partner of the first king - ancient but treasured memories of him were also part of Tenju's earnest desire to ensure that no mistakes were made now.

Lord Tenju continued, "Our meeting is as private as one can reasonably hope for here on Jurai. I implore you to reveal the reasons, and trust that I shall use discretion in my speech with the council."

Yosho took a deep breath, finally calm. "I thank you for your assurances, my lord, but I know of no indiscretions, and can vouch for their character. Either would make a fine king. The reason none of us have asserted a claim is because of our desire to do what is best for Jurai, and so we shall submit to the council's decision."

"I believe you, Prince Yosho, and shall relay this to the council. Farewell."

"Farewell, my lord," Yosho said politely.

"Oh," the tree added, "and thank you for not wasting time with lying or politicking."

"You're welcome, my lord," Yosho finished with a rueful grin.

"And that is how our conversation went," Tenju explained as he finished addressing the Council of Elders.

The Council was quite a different one from the one that had only a few months before appeared on Galactic TV announcing the installment of Oda as king. Several members had died in the recent battle - some on one side, some on the other - and were replaced with members who had been rotated back to active duty early. This body had been given the colossal task of undoing the previous council's work (without doing so too obviously) and of picking a new king in a manner that would keep the Juraian Empire from sliding into total chaos.

Given these factors, the secret debates were fairly cordial - they all knew each other at least by reputation - but lengthy and difficult nonetheless. At the end of an hour of debate following Tenju's report, one councilor sighed and said, "My lords and ladies, given Lord Tenju's welcome news, I feel it all comes down to age. Prince Yosho is now too old, and Prince Tenchi too young - and will grow old too soon. Princess Ayeka is the most reasonable person for stability."

Another councilor noted aloud, "My lord, Prince Tenchi could still bond with a space tree, prolonging his life, as did Queen Funaho."

"Would he?" the councilor returned.

"And should we?" asked another. The others turned to him, and he clarified, "Should we ask him to? Our people's need is great, but I need not remind any of us that there are reasons we do not rush or force bondings."

A councilwoman noted with a frown, "Since the Princess' partner, Ryu-Oh, is rooted on Earth, she will be unable to travel except on another's ship, unless she should bond again. Bonding anew is also nontrivial. However, we have never had a king who did not begin his reign bonded with a tree. Why, think of the risks we cannot even imagine. She would be entirely dependent on others for travel, information about the Empire, even defense of her person."

"Prince Yosho and Prince Tenchi are in similar situations," the first councilor reminded her.

"But it is easier for a fresh bond to be made," the councilwoman insisted. "So I feel it all comes down to bonding with our allies - Prince Tenchi is the best choice."

Another councilman stated, "I know we are not intending to focus on only one trait of the contenders, but I think we have overlooked one important one - their successions. Prince Yosho could leave the throne to Tenchi or Ayeka, or perhaps Princess Sasami would be of age before he passed away. The continuity would be logical and obvious to themselves and the people. However, neither Prince Tenchi nor Princess Ayeka have betrothals, let alone heirs. We could quickly find ourselves in this same debate again, trying to choose from the same candidates once more - and the galaxy may not be forgiving of our missteps."

A different councilwoman noted skeptically, "Both are young, and could easily find matches - perhaps even in each other."

The councilman lifted his hands defensively and stated, "I am not debating that likelihood, I am debating, with myself as much as with all of you, whether it is safe to crown either based on that likelihood."

The debate did not end that day. Everyone knew, however, that for the sake of the Empire, it could not continue much longer.

"Wow, that's great, Mihoshi!" Tenchi said to her. Technically, he was talking to the holographic projection that a floating, branchlike, communication bot projected while floating above the ground. Tenchi was trying not to think about that, but he was quite relieved by the news he was getting from GP HQ, so it was becoming much easier.

"Yeah!" Mihoshi enthused. She waved to some people. "Everybody, come say hi to Tenchi!"

Two people entered the frame - an older man and a younger man. The two men bowed to Tenchi, and the older said, "Prince Tenchi, we are in your debt. It is a great honor to meet you, and hope that we can visit soon so we may thank you properly."

Tenchi quickly bowed, trying to bow lower than them, and put his hand behind his head, saying, "You're welcome, uh..."

"This is my grandfather," Mihoshi introduced them, "and my brother, Misao."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Tenchi said. Wasn't Mihoshi's grandfather the Grand Marshal of the Galactic Police? Tenchi highly doubted that he'd be coming to visit anytime soon - he'd only just been released from prison by Mihoshi and the Juraian delegation his own grandfather had sent.

In the hologram, Misao looked around and asked, "Wasn't Lord Koji going to say hello?"

Mihoshi supplied, "He decided to send his own communique to Jurai."

Tenchi said sincerely, "I'm glad that you're all together again."

"It's a big relief," Mihoshi agreed, tearing up.

"I'm sure there are a lot of other people you need to free, so I guess we'll have to talk later," Tenchi said regretfully.

"Later, then, Tenchi," Mihoshi agreed, trying not to sniffle too much from her earlier crying.

Tenchi continued down the hall until he came to Ayeka's room, where she admitted him - it was her who had asked for the meeting, after all. Both their pairs of bodyguards stood at attention outside the room at the door, which made Tenchi feel much more at ease.

"Prince Tenchi," Ayeka carefully stated, "I wanted to make sure that you knew that if the Council chooses you, I will fully support you. You would make a fine King of Jurai."

"Thanks," Tenchi said, rubbing the back of his head, "and, of course, I'd do the same for you."

She bowed slightly while remaining seated, "Thank you, Prince Tenchi."

Great, now she was calling him that, too, but it was almost not bothering him anymore. "You didn't have to tell me that, you know - I mean, it was kind, but I trust you," Tenchi assured her.

"I am glad to hear it," Ayeka said, "but I felt it was important. Power has a sad effect of distorting words and minds, causing us to doubt even those we know we can trust, and these are dangerous times. I wanted to be sure that you knew what was truly important to me."

"Mm-hmm," Tenchi concurred, "but there's no need to worry. They'd pick you or Grandpa long before me, so there wouldn't be any problem."

Ayeka finally asked Tenchi the question that she had not at the bus stop near his house so long ago: "Prince Tenchi, why do you not wish to be King of Jurai?"

He blinked at her, then said, "Really, it's because there has to be someone better at it than me. You or Grandpa actually know and understand half of what goes on here. I don't, really, so I couldn't really be king."

Tenchi seemed to think that this settled the matter, but Ayeka continued to peer at him inquisitively, perhaps even hopefully, so he thought a moment, then continued, "I mean, really, I knew all that before, but this trip really opened my eyes. How many planets have you been to, Ayeka?"

"About 100,000, at least once," she said slowly.

"And how many kinds of aliens?" he asked.

"About 10,000 sapient ones," she answered sadly. Rallying, she pointed out, "Prince Tenchi, no king has been able to visit everywhere or see all of our people in a very long time. We have advisors to help us with the things we don't know about. You can rely on others."

Tenchi leaned back in his chair, then said, "OK, I hadn't thought of that. Relying on others is good, but still, when you know as little as I do, it seems like the advisors would be the ones who were the kings, not me."

Ayeka swallowed visibly but finally said, "Nevertheless, I shall always maintain that you would be a fine king."

"Thank you," Tenchi said with a bow, awed by her trust.

Later that evening, Tenchi and his bodyguards were returning to Tenchi's quarters when they encountered Ryoko leaning against the wall near his door. It was a welcome novelty to Tenchi that within Tenju's antiteleportation field, she actually had to walk down halls and couldn't float through walls.

"Hey, Tenchi!" she called as he approached. Tenchi returned her greeting but checked his bodyguards' reactions - the pair from the shift a few days ago had been incensed by her informality, though they hadn't said anything. Evidently word had gotten around his bodyguards, as these had no reactions he could perceive.

"Aren't you going to explore Jurai more while you're here?" she asked. "This is an alien world, remember? And honestly, it is one of the prettier ones."

Tenchi shook his head and said, "No, I mean, it is pretty, and everything is neat, but the view on my balcony, exploring the tree and the grounds, it's enough for me. Besides, it feels more like the country here on the palace grounds even if we are in the city - I'd kinda like that feel for now."

"Oh, you don't want crowds of admirers, eh?" Ryogo asked with a smile. "I hear the city's been dying for a glimpse of the mysterious handsome stranger who breezed in on a mission of justice."

"Yeah," Tenchi said skeptically, "and they're not at all mad about the trouble I caused coming?"

Ryogo shrugged, "Everyone's so upset and confused about everything that I think they prefer thinking about nice storylines like that." She noted more seriously, "You really did well, you know? And here I had been all worried. Looks like I didn't need to."

"It wasn't that you didn't need to," Tenchi disagreed politely. "That was no picnic for any of us. Everyone just did what needed doing."

Ryoko told him, "It was good to do it along with you, though, Tenchi. I'll excuse myself now - better see what Ryo-Ohki's up to."

She walked down the hall.

The Council of Elders announced that the coronation would be held on the next day. Though this surely meant that they had made their decision, Ayeka noted that, as Yosho had expected, they did not yet announce who would be king.

The day came, and Ayeka looked upon the great audience room, trying to face squarely the empty throne where her father should've sat. It wasn't much easier looking at her mother or Lady Funaho in mourning garb. The rest of the room was easier to focus on, and very full, with journalists from many worlds and networks, and Juraian lords and ladies lining the walls. Tenchi seemed discomfited by the eyes and other sensory organs, as well as the floating archival and camerabots, but they did not overly bother herself, Yosho, or Sasami. Ryoko, thankfully, hadn't been nearly as annoying as she could've. Washu was actually behaving with something approaching befitting dignity, which was about as astonishing. Mihoshi, her brother and grandfather, and Kiyone, were all resplendent in dress GP uniforms.

The Council of Elders was standing at the feet of the thrones, and the senior member made some short remarks, and then announced the new king of Jurai. Looking back, Ayeka was unable to recall any of it, except for the moment when her name was sounded.

She strode forward as if in a dream, either good or bad. The ancient, magnificent rituals played out around her, like those she had seen in historical archives or the records of her father's coronation. At the same time that they stirred her soul, she was grieved by the need for their existence. The cheers of the crowd, and the faces of the people seemed very far away. It was once she saw the view from atop the throne that she began to fully realize it was really, fully, happening. There also it was that, despite her grief, an honest smile at the trust of her people, and relief at the thought that she had finally vindicated the trust of her father and her nation, began to truly overcome her grief.

Then began one of many days of long, hard work.

It was at the end of one of those days that the queen mothers of Jurai, Funaho and Misaki, finished recounting for Ayeka and the court historian what had happened all those months ago - how Tetta and Tessei had struck down the king on the bridge of his ship before their eyes, then teleported back to their own vessels while all were still in shock. They and the other treacherous bodyguards had joined battle for a short time before Tsunami arrived. An ambushing fleet of Oda's men from his battles against the pirates came to reinforce Tetta and Tessei, bearing the prototype crystal weapons they and Tetta and Tessei had been entrusted with. Seeing the battle was too great to be won for the moment, Tsunami had shielded them all in energy, struggling against the constant stream of power that the traitor's pumped into their crystals. A stalemate developed - while the traitors could not pierce Tsunami's shield, she needed all of her energy to maintain the shield against the barrage from the crystals. None of them could communicate with the rest of the galaxy because of the incredible amount of energy radiating from the slow-motion battle. Tetta and Tessei had departed on their attempt to assassinate Ayeka, Sasami, and Tenchi and his other friends. The other traitors took shifts, some returning to Jurai for relief and reports to the usurper Oda, while Tsunami maintained her shield, and the loyal space trees waited and hoped that someone trustworthy would eventually come to their aid in that remote area of space. It was just as they were preparing to make a last desperate attempt to break through the line of traitors that Kiyone's ship had arrived and given them the chance they needed to win the day.

After the court historian had departed, Queen Misaki looked lovingly at her daughter Ayeka and told her, "Now that our last duty has been discharged, we must present to you our resignations, and ask for your leave to retire."

Ayeka swallowed - she had feared this moment was coming, but had no idea how to stop it. "Mother, please-" She paused before the tremble in her voice grew, and looked at Queen Funaho, then back at her mother, then said to both, "I wish that neither of you felt the need to do this."

"One as powerless as I should not continue as the commander of the king's bodyguard," Queen Misaki insisted, tears forming in her eyes.

Queen Funaho pointed out, "If I cannot see a threat to my husband within his own walls, I cannot hope to do it for the empire he entrusted to us. I cannot keep confidence as minister of intelligence. For the good of Jurai, it is best that it end this way, and soon."

Ayeka balled her hands into fists and looked down, her eyes squinted shut, then nodded once, tears flinging out from the sharp motion. "Mother, Lady Funaho, please know that no matter what anyone else may ever say, whatever you may think yourselves, I will never blame you for what happened to Father! His blood rests on Tetta, Tessei, and Oda, and on them alone."

"Ayeka!" Queen Misaki cried, and flung herself upon her daughter in a weeping embrace, which her daughter unexpectedly returned. Funaho knelt at Ayeka's hand and told her softly, "Many thanks, my queen. We shall never forget your kind words." A droplet fell from her face to the floor.

Next Chapter

Ayeka looks at the audience and says, "My friends. We are glad that you have seen us through to this part of the story. All of us would like to assure you that the story will be continuing, although Dragonwiles has told us that he may not be able to produce another chapter before the end of the year."

Tenchi says to both Ayeka and the audience, "Yeah, it's really awesome that we've been able to win. It's too bad not everyone could join us in the celebration, though. And what are we all planning to do now?"

Washu grins and says, "Hey, that's what the next chapter is about! The next chapter's title is 'No Need For Restoring Home.' "

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 this chapter was made up to support my non-canon storylines. Ayeka never became queen that I know of in any Tenchi Muyo canon.

"It's my understanding that other Tenchi fanfictions have posited a Tenchi who is much more willing and able to become king of Jurai. I can believe this, and that it could work - in fact, it was one of my original intentions for this story. As I wrote, however, I began to realize that the way that I was characterizing Tenchi would not fit that, and so I changed my ideas quite some time ago - long before I even began this 'Universe' arc. That is why chose to have the scenes I did in this chapter."

Chapter 67 Main Chapters Chapter 69