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Chapter 72 Main Chapters

Chapter 73: No Need for Sharpening Swords

Mihoshi sits down in the studio and announces, "Hey, everybody! Dragonwiles said I get to be DJ this time! It took me awhiles to choose the song this time, but apparently there's this Earth movie based on an Earth book called 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban', and it's got this one song, 'Secrets of the Castle'. Dragonwiles doesn't own any of the things I just mentioned, by the way. Anyhow, see if you can tell why I think this was the right song for this chapter.", The music, eerie, but familiar, and promising beauty, hope, and danger, in equal measures, begins to play.

One of the Juraian intelligence department heads summarized to Lady Tatetsuki, "Z's big push will be sometime six to eight weeks from now. It'll be a single one, but big: we expect on multiple fronts."

Lady Tatetsuki worked to keep a frown off of her face. The intel was solid, with confirmation from multiple sources: chatter, changes in usual behavior patterns of suspects and families, life insurance policies. "This is excellent work, everyone. We will use that as our working hypothesis from here on. I realize that I'm asking the impossible, but we still need to narrow that range as much as we can, and do our best to find which targets he is selecting."

A chorus of "Understood" broke out around the table, with at least one person confirming, "As expected, my lady."

They were too good to her. They had done and were doing the best they could, which is why they had the meeting with the information they had. Without a bigger break, or more time, they couldn't know any more than this. Still, she had to ask them to push.

One of the more detail-oriented department heads added, "My lady, as you have probably already noted, the current range does include the meeting between Prince Tenchi and Z. We cannot rule out the possibility that they will make a move at that time."

Lady Tatetuski nodded and replied, "I shall be sure to note this in my report to the queen and to Prince Tenchi, sir. We are dismissed."

They stood and prepared to return to their grueling day.

When Sasami and her bodyguard came to the family estate of Lord Koji and his family to ask for his help in breaking the betrothal, his greeting to their party was polite, but perhaps a bit terse. Sasami blinked but showed little other reaction. The customary tea that she was served was the familiar blend. Lord Koji was taller, and had cultivated a beard, rather like the one Sasami's father once had. Tsunami noted that Lord Koji would start to pace, then check himself. Further, he weighed his words even more carefully than Sasami remembered.

Lord Koji and she proceeded through the usual formalities of a princess meeting a lord with whom she had some acquaintance. At the socially appropriate time, Sasami brought up the reason for her visit.

"Of course I intend to honor my word, Princess Sasami," Lord Koji said, not quite looking at her, "but I will insist upon the customary duel."

Sasami suggested, "Lord Koji, perhaps you could reconsider when I tell you that I have assurances from the queen of dispensation for using the other traditional methods."

Sasami had been shocked to see his face go uncharacteristically dark, but he came to himself and smiled sadly. "Princess Sasami, I thought you would've anticipated that my parents could never accept that. Those ways are too new, and too abused."

Sasami took a sip of tea, then replied, "Lord Koji, please excuse any suggestion that I was unconcerned with the honor of your house, as it was not what I meant to communicate. All know of you and your family's character, and I felt confident that the public would thus understand that you were being reasonable and prudent in utilizing alternatives. Indeed, I had hoped that you would use these alternatives in order to make your own intentions clearer."

Lord Koji's smile turned rueful. "Not to be difficult, but my parents wouldn't hear of using means that smack of weakness. Besides, though my resolve remains, perhaps I'm coming more to appreciate what I am giving up."

There was silence a moment.

Sasami then replied, "I must apologize again for my indelicacy concerning your feelings."

"Not at all, I shouldn't have brought it up," Lord Koji told her uncomfortably. He said in a rush, "In any case, Princess, I'm sure it can all be arranged. The sooner, the better; that's what we used to say about this matter, isn't it?"

"Indeed," Tsunami agreed. "I have imposed on you long enough."

"And I on you," he returned. It hung in the air a moment, then he added, "I appreciate your allowing me this selfishness, having the traditional duel. Our parents' reputation, our own, will be preserved; nothing can be said against it, by anyone. And afterwards, we shall be just as free as we used to talk about being."

"Of course, Lord Koji," Sasami told him. "I'm certain you will use your freedom well. Few deserve it as much as you."

The corner of his mouth twitched as his eyes took on a melancholy tinge, but he bowed from his seat and thanked her formally. He hadn't used to do that, but then, this was different than the old days.

Some time into their travels, Washu looked over at Ryoko as they both sat on Ryo-Ohki's bridge and mentioned, "You're awfully quiet."

Ryoko responded candidly, "I just wanted to be sure I got it right this time. Thought I'd had it sorted out before we started, but it occurred to me a little bit ago that I came into this with a bias. Ordinarily, what do I care? But, this might be the first big choice where I really get to choose freely."

"Ah," Washu nodded. "A bias because you knew Ayeka?"

"Yeah," Ryoko admitted. "The things I've seen -when I was, well, you know - I know the Empire isn't perfect. And anything that replaces it wouldn't be perfect either. But because I knew Ayeka and didn't know Z, I never really thought about whether what Z is doing is justified. Whether he has a point, even if it affects people I know." She was silent a moment.

"And your conclusion?" Washu prompted.

"You just want to make me say it," Ryoko grumped. "The way he's going about it - I just can't agree with it. And I can't think it's going to help anyone. What he's doing may be justified, but it's not justified the way he's doing it." She waved her hands. "You know what I mean."

"Yeah," Washu agreed.

"And you," Ryoko said playfully, "I'm still kinda surprised that you proposed all this anyway, Mom. Going and saving the grown-ups' world doesn't seem like you."

Washu laughed. "OK, OK, point taken, sweet little Ryoko. Although really, I'm doing this for the sake of the grown-ups, and the kids. The grown-ups' world, no, still don't care about that."

Some time later, Sasami was concluding a different request. "It seems that we're always asking you to lend us your strength," Sasami admitted ruefully to Tenchi as they sat in the living room of his house after asking him to be her champion to break the betrothal to Lord Koji.

"But you're always asking for such good and reasonable things," Tenchi pointed out. "Saving the galaxy and all. Well, maybe not reasonable in the sense that anyone would expect a guy like me to beat some of these villains, but still."

"Oh, Tenchi," Sasami smiled.

Tenchi smiled back and continued, "And no, this isn't beating a bad guy, but sure, of course I'll help."

"Thank you, Tenchi," Sasami said, bowing from her seat. He bowed back and said, "After all, if I did it for Ayeka, I ought to do it for you."

So that was how he felt about her, then. Sasami tried to hide her disappointment, but succeeded only in making Tenchi confused and worried. Sasami continued, trying to rush past her own emotions, "Do you have a second in mind?"

"A second?" Tenchi asked, now starting to feel worried for a different reason. What Juraians did he know that weren't out to kill him? Wait, that was silly. There was the flesh-and-blood Azaka and Kamadaki, and come to think of it- "I've got someone I can ask, yeah," Tenchi assured her enthusiastically. She looked relieved, but not as though whatever had been bothering her earlier had been assuaged. Tenchi tried to smooth over the moment by adding, "It's a good thing I don't have any summer classes."

Sasami noted, "Oh, good. I was trying to aim for summer, but I forgot that you could have classes then, too."

Tenchi nodded. "So, you can tell me if I'm out of line," Tenchi next asked, wondering why he was quite so interested - well, he had a right to be, given her request! - "But, is there another guy that you have in mind?"

Her face was starting to turn pink. "Yeah," she said in a small voice.

Was he feeling disappointed? Why? Anyhow, she was adding, "But I don't know if he's interested in me."

"I don't think you need to worry about that," Tenchi assured her. "Just give him some of your cooking." She laughed, which made him think that she did look cute, even when she wasn't blushing or laughing - but it looked like she was thinking about whatever was bothering her again. Maybe he was 'digging himself deeper'; time to change the subject.

"The ten-legged lion is doing well," Tenchi told her. "I think it finally learned to leave the turtle-octopi alone, or at least they don't make so much noise when they fight anymore."

"Excellent," Sasami said in relief. "I really should be taking him home now, though - he's fit in well, but I think he'd do better back at home. The turtle-octopi, though, can they stay a bit longer?"

"Only if I don't have to give them water." Tenchi told her that with a smile, but he really was serious - there literally weren't enough hours in the day to give a drink to creatures that took hours to drink. They'd have to slither to the lake themselves like they'd been doing these past years since Ryu-Oh crashed.

"Very well," Tsunami sighed in mock resignation. There was something about this interchange, the chance to exchange trust and confidences and jests, that she'd so rarely had. She kept wanting more, but it seemed greedy and unfair. She was only in this position because she had assimilated with Sasami. Did she really have the right to share a life with Tenchi, especially when her own life wasn't even entirely hers to give? How did Tenchi feel about sharing his life with a woman who was not only an alien, but an assimilated alien entirely unique in the galaxy? Tsunami knew she had saved Sasami's life when they assimilated, and would've chosen it over again, but she had brought suffering to Sasami as well. Tenchi did not deserve the suffering that would come if they were together. Yet she still wished that he would choose it. Did that not make her a monster?

How unfortunate that at this time, when she so greatly desired, and desperately needed, to speak to Washu, that Washu was not only out of reach, but would be endangered by direct communication. Even if she had no counsel, just speaking with Washu would be a great comfort.

After a bit more conversation, Sasami and Tenchi went to look in at Zen-Ohki, who was just waking up from a nap. Yosho greeted them, and Zen-Ohki turned from his lap to face them. His whiskers moved as he began to sniff.

"I brought a souvenir for you," she told him, producing a carrot. He sniffed it as she held it to him, then ate a bite, gave a short but ecstatic meow, and proceeded to consuming more of it: still slowly, but with great determination and focus.

"I thought he'd like it," Sasami laughed as she bent down to look at him more closely.

Yosho agreed, "Just like his mother."

Some time later, when Sasami was as close to done fussing over Zen-Ohki as she ever would be, she asked, "Tenchi, is that your crib?"

"No, that's Taro's," he told her.

Yosho reminded him, "It was yours, then Taro's, and then it got back here."

"It was mine?" Tenchi said in surprise, while Sasami moved to examine it and said, "So you fit in here all those years ago!"

"Mm," Tenchi agreed. "And now it's Zen-Ohki's. Even though we're different species, it works pretty well for him. Good thing he hasn't learned how to phase thr- and I probably shouldn't say that because he probably understands a lot of what we're saying," he concluded hastily.

"I hope they get back before he's too much of a handful!" Sasami smiled.

"Yeah," Tenchi said, turning to face Zen-Ohki, "tell all of them to come back safe, Zen-Ohki!" He meowed - it was hard to say how much he comprehended, but presumably the mind link had gotten the message across.

Sasami said her farewells, and inspired by Tenchi, gave them to Washu and Ryoko and the Ohkis through Zen-Ohki, and departed.

Mihoshi and Kiyone contemplated around a table on Yagami, and over cups of tea.

Kiyone thought aloud, "Of course, the Juraian intelligence liaison probably would only tell us in person if rebel operatives have been seen around those ruins."

"So the comms' won't be intercepted?" Mihoshi asked, and Kiyone made an affirmative noise. Mihoshi agreed, "Makes sense. We should do it. I've finally got an idea we can work on in the meantime."

Kiyone looked inquisitively at her, so Mihoshi continued, "Going to those ruins and seeing that place where maybe people were meeting or having some dead drop we couldn't find, it got me thinking. Dr. Clay, if he ever did meet Lady Tokimi, well, at least he was looking for her, and had been looking a long time. How did Z meet Lady Tokimi, assuming they ever did? Why would he have been looking for her? I mean, that never came up in any of the rumors or info I came across on Z; just how they met. The best anyone's got is that it was sometime in that battle at his homeworld, but why there?"

Kiyone cupped her chin in her fingers. "So you're not sure that Z did meet her?" she asked in clarification.

"No," Mihoshi shook her head, "I dunno one way or the other, though it kinda seems like he did. I mean, if they did meet, how, and why? I got when and where, probably, and that helps, but how and why is more important."

"I get it now," Kiyone said thoughtfully. "You're right, it is odd. Was she just wandering in that area and it was all a coincidence?"

"As close as one gets, maybe," Mihoshi shrugged. "But if we could find out why for sure, we'd know a lot more."

"Agreed," Kiyone murmured. In a louder voice, she mused, "If Lady Tokimi is real, and still alive, how do you contact her? Dr. Clay thought you'd need a signaling device. If you do, though, well, I just don't see someone like Z bothering with that. Not unless he was sure it wouldn't be a wasted effort."

"Yeah," Mihoshi concurred, "and didn't you say the legends didn't even seem to be from Z's area of space? I don't like coincidences, but it's starting to seem more likely. Did the legends ever suggest that she did wander, or was searching for someone or something?"

"I really hope not," Kiyone sighed. "Not him, of all people. Anyhow, it was hard to say from the legends what her motives were. I felt that the chroniclers were projecting their own assumptions onto her to some extent. But sometimes it seemed like she was searching for something, it's true."

The detectives' return to GP HQ led to some meetings with the Juraian intelligence liaison, who told them that Z was supposed to have come to the planet they had investigated, but there wasn't any indication that he or other rebel operatives had done so in some time. He listened with interest to their information, and assured them it would be passed on, but there seemed nothing else to be done for the moment. Accordingly, the duo took the next few days to map out their strategy.

On one of those mornings, in the GP HQ cafeteria, Mihoshi literally ran into Kiyone, but years together had trained them not to spill anything. After the usual apology and "Don't worry about it", Mihoshi told her about an exciting message she received, finishing her tale with excitement. "It's a royal invitation! To a duel!"

Kiyone stopped in mid-excited-gasp. "To a duel?" she asked aloud.

Mihoshi peered at her. "Yeah. Why do you keep repeating things that I say?"

"Apparently a bad habit," Kiyone groaned. "So, you've been invited to a duel someone's having?"

"Yeah," Mihoshi gushed, "Tenchi's going to duel Lord Koji to break his arranged marriage with Princess Sasami."

Kiyone made a noise of acknowledgement. In the privacy of her mind, she thought to herself that though she had no reason to doubt that Lord Koji was capable in his own way, it was rather unreasonable to expect anyone to last long in a fight with Tenchi.

Aloud, she asked, "Mihoshi, are you going to accept it?"

"But you've been invited, too!" Mihoshi protested.

"I have?" Kiyone asked.

"Yeah, a holographic recording, in the bouquet on your desk," Mihoshi confirmed.

"Haven't been there yet," Kiyone admitted. This was just supposed to be a quick stop to get some nourishment before tackling the day.

"Let's go!" Mihoshi enthused, and they did. Kiyone's desk was indeed playing host to a rather grand bouquet, capped by a wooden statue of an imposing swordsman that played the holographic recording inviting Kiyone to the duel as well. Kiyone did feel honored, and also as though the sender knew her too well, anticipating she'd be more likely to receive it at the office instead of her quarters.

"Oh, I'm so glad you're getting to go, too!" Mihoshi giggled. "You get to meet so many people, and you hardly ever get to see two duelists of this caliber! Of course, Lord Koji's too young to have made a name for himself, but he's had good teachers, and this is a brilliant debut!"

Kiyone searched for the right words. Not that she hadn't been prepared to see violence, and even death, in her line of work, but: "Is it to the death?"

"Probably not," Mihoshi reassured her. Seeing Kiyone's dubious expression, she continued, "Oh, it's a duel, so you never know. But usually this sort of thing is until surrender, or until you beat an opponent past a customary point. Like, um, well, there's a lot, but I can't think of any now - oh, disarming them!"

Kiyone wasn't convinced, but regarding her desk, she reminded herself that she was already doing royal spy work. She should probably try to enjoy what the royals considered the perks.

That evening, in her quarters in Galactic Police HQ, Kiyone found herself thinking through a problem tangentially related to the case. So much of what Lady Tsunami had told her appeared to fit with what they were learning about Lady Tokimi. But she couldn't tell Mihoshi or the queen about it. What could she do?

It had been some time after the retaking of Jurai that Kiyone had received a beautiful wood sculpture of an autumn leaf. The attendant who delivered it had said it was a communications device from Lady Tsunami, and asked that Kiyone go to a certain secluded area outside the palace, with the bodyguards she had been temporarily assigned in eyeshot but not earshot. She had wondered how wise this was, so soon after the revolution, but it did sound too secret to conduct in an area that might be bugged. Kiyone therefore settled for casually telling Mihoshi and Tenchi where she was going and that she expected to be back for lunch.

After the bodyguards had swept the meeting area for bugs, reported none were found, and retreated discreetly, Kiyone took out the device, then set it and herself down on the grass in the large clearing. She activated the device as she had been instructed, and said, "Lady Tsunami, I'm here."

"How good of you to come, Officer Kiyone," Lady Tsunami's voice promptly responded, "especially under such circumstances. Thank you for maintaining our privacy this way."

"Of course. How is your health?" Kiyone asked.

"Slowly improving," Tsunami told her. "I am not nearly myself yet. And I apologize for my selfishness; I am still concerned about Sasami's strength, so I did not wish to meet through her reflection as usual. But I had to thank you properly, as soon as I could."

"Please, Lady Tsunami, I was just doing my duty," Kiyone protested.

"And by so doing, you saved my life," Tsunami told her. "Thank you, Officer Kiyone."

"You're welcome, Lady Tsunami, but I really can't take much credit," Kiyone told her.

"I hope you would allow me to express my gratitude, though," Tsunami said earnestly. "I know now that I can trust you with my life. In my position, a friend can be hard to find."

"It'd be a privilege," Kiyone said, touched.

Tsunami continued, "As a further token, I would venture to guess that you still have many questions remaining from our last conversation. After all these long years, it would be good to have someone to confide in. But understand that I cannot divulge secrets which are not mine to share."

Kiyone was surprised, and further surprised when Tsunami continued, almost without waiting for Kiyone's input, "I so rarely have the opportunity to introduce myself, and even more rarely do I fully introduce myself. Let me begin there. I am Tsunami, one of the Chousin. You have been curious about the space trees; they are like me, but not my people. They are not like the other Chousin, either. The Chousin exist differently than you, and nearly all other beings we know of. In some ways, we perceive reality very differently from you. We exist in more aspects of the physical world than time and space. We found, however, that it was necessary for us to concentrate our attention on these dimensions and the peoples here."

"Something or someone compelled you to act?" Kiyone inquired. The day was evidently going to be filled with surprises. She'd thought they'd only be the good kind, but perhaps not.

Tsunami paused, as if searching for the right words, then explained, "We Chousin, you see, were informed of our purpose, each of us being told it shortly after our birth."

"You're explicitly told your purpose in life," Kiyone said in awe. "Some of my friends would have done anything for that."

"I am aware that is the case for many other peoples, but I still have had difficulty understanding it," Tsunami agreed. "In any case, however much we have been given, it has not been easy for any Chousin to achieve that purpose, any more than for any other people. Moreover, though all the Chousin also know that our purpose is the same as every other Chousin, we, like you, were born at different times and places. In my own opinion, this means it was natural for us each to pursue that purpose in divers manners."

"Other Chousin hold other opinions, I gather?" Kiyone inquired wryly.

"I thought you'd want to know what the purpose is," Tsunami asked, tone just as wry.

"I am dying to know, Lady Tsunami," Kiyone assured her.

"We are to find the greatest thing inhabiting the world of physical existence, and then aid and assist it with our gifts," Tsunami told her.

"And that wasn't another Chousin?" Kiyone asked, confused.

"Chousin, we were told, were specifically excluded. That another life form was intended, we Chousin are generally agreed upon, for natural phenomena may be guarded, improved, or made useful, but cannot truly be aided."

"Ah! Of course," Kiyone exclaimed. "So that is why you help Juraians. But why was it necessary to concentrate on our set of dimensions? They weren't all like Kain, were they?"

"I shouldn't tell stories to detectives," Tsunami opined, "they see the ending too quickly."

Kiyone began to turn red, but Tsunami laughed. "No, you guessed aright. The first king of Jurai, I decided, and his family, were the ones I was to assist. To his family I gave the space trees and the ability to bond with them. The trees and I had been exploring this galaxy since they met me after I was born, but that family, once I came to know them, were the ones to assist. They were noble, though not yet strong, and honorable, though their neighbors were not always. Having given the gift, I felt responsible to stay myself and assist as well, seeing the matter through to the end. This, I was sure, was my new purpose.

"For when we Chousin scoured the other dimensions - at least, those we know of - we found few creatures. The majority of most creatures, and the bulk of their being, tends to consistent in these dimensions. The few beings who had much freedom to move in additional dimensions were unfortunately often cruel and malicious; clearly not the greatest thing within the world of physical existence. Kain, though in many ways limited, was unfortunately representative of the character of many such beings. It was originally to protect against beings like them that I chose to remain with the house of Jurai. I did not foresee the problems the house of Jurai would make for itself over the millennia, or that when a being like Kain came, how little I could really do against him. Or that my favors to some in the house of Jurai could arouse jealousy in others."

"I am sorry, Lady Tsunami," Kiyone said quietly.

"As am I. That is what I would tell the dead," Lady Tsunami said just as quietly. Then, verbally picking herself up, she said briskly, "Still, to have fulfilled my original purpose, and had good friends throughout the ages like you, it is not a bad life, I think."

Kiyone mulled over the matter further. Lady Tokimi, assuming she existed, was mysterious, ancient, and powerful. If she was a Chousin, searching the galaxy for someone to aid, then it was possible that she could've stumbled upon Z and chosen him to aid, just as he claimed.

But why Z?

Frowning, Kiyone forced herself to see what Lady Tokimi's side might be. At the time, Z had just been another being who had just experienced a great tragedy. There was no particular reason to see him as some sort of arch villain. There was also an unnerving possibility to acknowledge: that even if Lady Tokimi had some knowledge of what Z might do with power, she might not have been opposed to it. There was no guarantee that Lady Tokimi valued what she, Kiyone, valued, or that Lady Tokimi would hesitate to use means that Lady Tsunami would not. Also, though each Chousin had an identical purpose, there was no guarantee that they'd never be at cross-purposes. Assuming that each Chousin was supposed to assist a different being or species, some level of conflict amongst the beings they chose might even be inevitable.

So it was possible that Lady Tokimi was a Chousin, and Kiyone knew she wasn't the first person to have had that thought; Dr. Clay, in the grant application hearing, had stated his belief that Lady Tokimi and Lady Tsunami were at least similar.

What good was this knowledge, though? Lady Tsunami had kept these confidences very close; under what circumstances could Kiyone reveal them even to such trusted people as Mihoshi or Queen Ayeka? But of course, the brink of galactic civil war might be enough of a reason. Probably?

But even if the others knew, what difference did it make? What action could they take knowing that a Chousin might be the reality behind Z? It seemed like there ought to be some way to anticipate Lady Tokimi's action based on that, but she just couldn't see it at the moment. Even if the action could be predicted, they might need Lady Tsunami's help to counteract it.

Or was there something yet they could do themselves?

Next Chapter

Ryoko huffs, "OK, so we're becoming a detective story in the last act? Come on!"

Mihoshi inquires in horror, "It's the last act?"

Dragonwiles explains, "Well, yes, yes it is. I mean, I think it's still got a few chapters to go, but...Didn't I tell you?"

The room is quiet a moment.

"I mean, I saw the plot threads coming together," Mihoshi acknowledges sadly, "but I guess I never really thought it was coming to an end."

Ryoko shrugs and says, "All good things must, I guess. The-"

Sasami exclaims, "I wish they didn't, though!"

"Me too!" Mihoshi agrees.

Kiyone pats her on the shoulder and says, "I know," hesitates, then admits, "I do, too."

Ryoko concludes nonchalantly, "Anyway, the next chapter is 'No Need for A Betrothal's End."

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.

"For starters, I imagine it's fairly clear by now that this part of the story is almost nothing like Tenchi canon, especially not the third season of the OVA. I can't say that definitively, having not watched most of it, but the plot lines are almost entirely different, with things happening here that don't in canon, and things that happen in canon not happening here.

"On the other hand, the Chousin seeking someone to aid is, I'm fairly sure, in canon - as in, the sort of canon you'd have to look up on Wikipedia, not the sort you'd actually hear mention of in the series, unless it is in, for example, the third season of the OVA. I'm not sure if it is a raison d'ĂȘtre as in my story, or a whim, or somewhere in-between, nor am I certain on the details. So I made the details up as I liked.

"You may remember that Lord Koji is not a canon character, but one I made up (an Original Character, or OC); I thought it would make sense that if Ayeka had a betrothed, that Sasami would, too."

Chapter 72 Main Chapters