sill · age

The trace of someone's perfume in the air where they have been and gone; the impression that remains after someone's departure; ripples or shadows left behind.
from the French word for 'wake', as in the trail behind a boat or aircraft.

Chapter One: Parable

In which there is some antagonistic allegory.

She hadn't been expecting the wind to be so high today. After spending two years in Okayama, Aeka had grown fairly accustomed to the unpredictability of the weather on Earth, but there were still days when she wished that Washuu would be more aggressive with her weather-control systems. Of course she understood that Washuu couldn't just implement her inventions across the whole planet, not when human civilization was still decades—if not centuries—from that kind of technology, but the Masaki home was so far removed from the rest of the town that surely keeping the wind at bay in its immediate vicinity would go unnoticed.

Gathering up the handful of shirts that had blown free of the drying line as she'd tried to retrieve them, Aeka sighed heavily and draped them over her arm, shading her eyes from the afternoon sun. It was hard to believe that so much time had already passed, and yet, some days it felt as though no time had passed at all. After having spent so much of her life desperately looking for her lost brother, if someone had told Aeka two years ago that she would be happily settled on a primitive planet, living (mostly) peacefully on a farm alongside the very woman who had been the cause of Yosho's departure, she would have laughed at the absurdity of the idea. Yet here she was, chasing down laundry while Sasami hung the next load out to dry in the sun, two princesses of the great planet Jurai happy to do chores for the young man they had come to so adore.

"You missed one."

Aeka closed her eyes and furrowed her brow and took a deep breath in an effort not to look quite so annoyed when she turned to face Ryoko, who was floating casually in the air behind her, a pair of delicate pink underwear hooked on her little finger and a sly grin on her face.

"Wh—? I—!" The attempt at annoyance-evasion failed spectacularly as Aeka snatched the panties from Ryoko's hand and clutched them abashedly against her chest. "How dare you?" she gasped, mortified. "I thought even you were above this sort of thievery, Miss Ryoko."

Ryoko snorted a laugh and folded her hands together behind her head. "I didn't thieve nuthin'," she said, sticking her tongue out. "I was a career space pirate, remember? I only steal things that are worth something. Nobody wants your booty to be their booty." She waved a hand dismissively. "You're just lucky that's the only pair that escaped."

"'Escaped'?" Aeka narrowed her eyes suspiciously. How had Ryoko gotten a hold of her underwear in the first place? Of course she and the other girls in the house had to hang their unmentionables to dry, but she was quite sure she'd clipped them securely to the square plastic drying rack outside the bedroom she shared with Sasami. "Where did you find these?" she asked carefully, and Ryoko cocked one pale eyebrow, then jerked a thumb over her shoulder.

"They blew off the rack, you nimrod," she said, and then grinned. "I thought maybe Washuu's weather machine made it rain panties, but no, it was just your laundry. I'm sure Tenchi's old man will be so disappointed to hear it."

"How can you say such a thing when Lord Nobuyuki isn't even back from his honeymoon? Disgraceful!" Aeka gasped, then gave a sigh. "Ugh, you could have just put them back inside, instead of parading about the yard with them," she insisted, face scrunched up in irritation. "What if Lord Tenchi had seen you with them?"

"It isn't like I was wearing them on my head, Aeka," she said, giving the princess an incredulous look. She rolled her eyes as Aeka scowled at her as hard as she possibly could. "Oh, please, Tenchi's seen a lot more than your skivvies before, anyway, why does it even matter?"

Aeka's whole face was suddenly approximately the color of Washuu's hair. Okay, so Tenchi had gotten a full frontal view in the onsen before, but it had been completely by accident! Why did Ryoko always have to bring up awkward moments like this?

Ryoko just sighed again.

"You really make it way too easy," she said, the strange tail at the small of her back curling into a question mark shape as she reached out to gingerly poke the center of Aeka's forehead. "Thank me. I put the drying rack back inside your room so you wouldn't lose any more, jeez."

Aeka jerked back and made a puzzled noise, and Ryoko leaned away again, crossing her legs at the knee and reclining as though in a chair that couldn't be seen. She closed one eye, regarding Aeka seriously for a moment, then just snorted in amusement again and twisted in the air before zipping away back toward the house. She watched her go, then frowned down at the clothing in her arms. Every time she thought she had Ryoko figured out, it was like she completely reshuffled the deck and Aeka had to start over. No sooner did the two of them find some common ground over breakfast than they were bickering bitterly over Tenchi's affections at lunch. Hardly had they butted heads over who got to sit next to him on the sofa when a crisis would arise and have them working together like fitted cogs to help him. It seemed that the only thing they ever managed to completely agree on was that Tenchi was, ultimately, more important than any stupid fight between the two of them, but that certainly didn't mean there weren't days Aeka wished Ryoko was still sealed away down in that cave by the shrine.

She closed her eyes and shook her head. No, that was a cruel thought, she told herself, fussing with the shirts a moment before she headed back toward the house to return them to the laundry basket. Even if Ryoko drove her up the wall (or through it, from time to time), she wouldn't have sincerely wished for her to be imprisoned that way again. (In a moment of anger, certainly, but never sincerely.) She had been surprised to realize that it wasn't solely because she knew Tenchi would have been devastated by the very idea, either. Aeka had always thought she could have lived quite contentedly without Ryoko's pervasive and rambunctious antics always interrupting the flow of her day, but as much as she hated to admit it, she had come to think of her as an obnoxious delinquent older sister, in a way. Even if she never really did act her age. Or even a fraction of it.

"Aeka, did you find them all?" Sasami asked, standing on the footstool and carefully pinning a pair of Tenchi's hakama to the clothesline while Ryo-Ohki munched on a carrot beside the basket of still-wet clothes.

"I did," Aeka replied, dropping the shirts into the basket of clean, dry clothes and quickly stuffing the escaped panties into her sleeve. "It's good this is the last load," she said then, brushing her hair out of her face; "the wind is really picking up. I'm not sure this load will get dry without a few pieces trying to... escape."

Sasami giggled. "Well, that's a funny way to put it," she said, hopping down off the stool and moving it over to hang the next pair of hakama.

"Here, let me do that," Aeka said. "The footstool makes it too much hassle for you, why don't you take the clean basket inside?"

"All right!" Sasami said cheerfully, folding up the stool and leaning it against the clothesline support pole before grabbing the basket and skipping back toward the house. "C'mon, Li'l Ryo!" she called, and the cabbit yowled loudly, grabbing the rest of the carrot in her teeth and bounding after the little princess.

Aeka watched them go with a smile on her face, then quickly set to hanging the rest of the laundry to dry. Giving the last pair of hakama a good tug at the seams, she cast her eyes to the sky again, wondering what this wind could possibly be bringing their way, before she picked up the empty basket and headed toward the house. Stepping into the sunken entryway and toeing off her shoes, she set the basket down near the door so she could use it to go retrieve the dry laundry in a couple of hours, then moved toward the sitting room. Sliding the door open and poking her head inside, she spotted the usual group gathered around the eating table with drinks and rice crackers and a plate of dumplings.

"And when the old couple tried to eat the peach, they found a boy inside!" Katsuhito said, and then guffawed loudly as Sasami looked utterly gobsmacked by the very idea. Aeka wasn't certain she'd ever get entirely used to the idea that her regal, dignified elder brother Yosho was actually this silly old man, but there were still times when his true nature showed itself. Her feelings for Yosho remained, even if they were now dwarfed by her affections for Tenchi, and the whole thing was still very strange and complicated for her, but she supposed that in the end, what mattered was that she had found him, and he was all right and still a part of her and Sasami's lives.

"But, Sir Katsuhito, that can't be right," Washuu said from her seat at the corner of the table, bumping the knuckle of her thumb against her chin. "There's no way a human baby would be able to fit inside a peach, even if it was a very big peach. The baby would have to have been a fetus, and no fetus could survive inside a peach." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Unless it had been very genetically modified," she amended.

"What in the world are you all talking about?" Aeka asked, eyes wide as she approached the table and sat down in her usual spot. "Babies and peaches?"

"Oh, my dear Aeka, there are so many wonderful stories that this world has to tell," Katsuhiko said, wagging a finger at her, and then he looked at Washuu with a smile. "Even if they seem a bit silly," he added, "they're not really meant to be taken literally."

"Grandpa, are you telling stories again?" came a voice from the stairs, and Aeka turned with a bright smile.

"Lord Tenchi, there you are," she said. "I was just noticing your absence."

"Well, I noticed your absence as soon as I came back inside," Ryoko said sweetly, leaning her elbows on the table and batting her eyelashes at Tenchi. Aeka scowled at her, but Tenchi seemed all too used to this sort of one-upping between them and didn't really pay it much mind.

"I am not just telling any old stories, Tenchi, my boy," Katsuhito assured him, waving a rice cracker at him before taking a bite. "I was telling Sasami the tale of Momotarou."

"Oh!" Tenchi said, taking his seat at the table between Aeka and Ryoko and reaching for one of the crackers. "Man, it's been ages since I heard that one," he said, a nostalgic look on his face. He looked at Sasami with a big smile. "You know that story is said to have originated right here in Okayama?"

"Tenchi, did a boy really come out of a peach?" Sasami asked worriedly, and Tenchi laughed, waving a hand.

"Not literally," he assured her, accepting the cup of tea that Katsuhito offered him. "It's just a fable, Sasami; it's more meant to be an exciting story with a good message for kids than anything else."

"Brother, would you start again?" Aeka asked politely. "I've never heard this story either, so I'd like to hear it from the beginning."

"Of course, of course," he said, casting his eyes around the table and then taking a sip of his tea. "Let's see, back to the beginning..." He cleared his throat. "Once upon a time, there lived an old man and an old woman, in a cottage by a river. They were quite poor, and had to work hard to make ends meet, as they had never been able to have a child to help them get along in their old age. The old man spent his days cutting grass and reaping fields for the nearby farmers, and while he was away, the old woman tended their home and their own small rice field and vegetable patch.

"One day, the old woman went down to the riverside to wash the laundry, and while she was working, she happened to notice a big, beautiful, perfect peach bobbing gently downstream. In all her years, she had never seen such a big, perfect peach, and she thought to herself that she simply had to have it to take home to her husband. Retrieving the peach from the water, the woman finished washing the laundry, and hurried home to hang it to dry, and to wait for her husband to return."

"I would'a eaten it right then and there," Ryoko remarked, sipping at her sake. "I mean, why share when you can have the whole thing, right?"

"You mean you wouldn't have saved any for Sir Tenchi?" Washu said slyly, and Ryoko's eyes widened. She snapped her head toward Tenchi, who just looked a little uncomfortable, and then glowered at Washuu.

"Well of course I would have saved some fo—" She growled and hunched her shoulders, scowling into her cup, and her amber eyes flicked toward Katsuhito. "Carry on."

Katsuhito cleared his throat again.

"Ah, so... where was I? Oh yes," he said, and twisted his cup between his hands. "So the old woman brought the big, perfect peach home and waited all day for her husband to return. When he did, she proudly showed him the giant peach, and he was amazed. 'Wherever did you buy this?' he asked. 'You must have used all our savings!'

"'Oh, but I didn't buy it, darling,' the woman replied," Katsuhito went on, using a rather ridiculous falsetto voice for the old woman, "'I found it in the river!'"

"I hope she washed it," Ryoko said into her sake. "Fish pee in rivers like... all day long, you know?" There was a beat of unimpressed silence, and then Washuu kicked her sharply under the table, and she just grunted in pain, doubling forward. "C... Carry on."

Giving a sigh, Katsuhito pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "The old man was delighted by this, and urged the old woman to get a knife so that they could cut the peach and eat it together," he said. "When the old woman cut into the peach, however, she gave a cry of alarm and jumped backward as a baby boy emerged from within!"

"And this is where the exclamation, 'son of a peach!' comes from," Ryoko said importantly, lifting one finger in the air. She gave another grunt of pain as both Washuu and Aeka kicked her sharply this time, and dropped her head onto the table. "C... Carry on."

Ryoko's interruption notwithstanding, Aeka was intrigued. "I do hope they didn't injure the baby when they cut into the peach," she said, and Katsuhito looked stumped for a moment.

"You know, the story never specifies one way or the other," he admitted, sipping at his tea again.

"I feel like that would be a very different sort of story," Ryoko said dryly, nibbling at a cracker, and Washuu snickered.

"I'm sure he was fine, though," Katsuhito said then, shaking his head. "In any case, the boy told the old couple that the gods had heard their lamentations that they had never been able to have a child, so he had been sent from Heaven to be their son. Overjoyed by this news, they named the boy Momotarou—Momo, for the peach that had brought him to them, and Tarou, meaning first son."

At the mention of the name Tarou, Aeka cast a slightly unsettled glance toward Ryoko, who returned the look wearily. Tarou had been a wonderful, sweet baby, but if all babies were that much work, Aeka wasn't sure she was ready to be a mother anytime in the immediate future (even if they would inevitably be her beloved Tenchi's children).

"Years passed," Katsuhito went on, "and Momotarou grew into a kind and strong young man. He was much stronger and much wiser than any other boy his age, and worked hard every day to try and make his parents' lives easier. One day, when Momotarou was fifteen years of age, he went to his father and asked him, 'Father, do you trust me?', and of course his father replied that he did. 'If you trust me, Father, then you must let me go away,' Momotarou said, and his father was greatly dismayed by this request. They had only just been blessed with such a wonderful child, and now he wished to leave them? What had they done wrong?

"Then Momotarou explained that on an island far to the north, there was a vicious demon," Katsuhito said. "The demon would attack anyone they came across on the mainland, steal all of their belongings, and then and carry them off to its island, where they would be tortured and finally devoured."

"Hmm, for some reason that reminds me of someone..." Aeka said with a lilt in her voice. "I wonder who I could possibly be thinking of...?"

This time Ryoko was the one to do the kicking under the table.

"I never ate anybody," she insisted fiercely, though she notably didn't deny anything else about the comparison.

"Girls, girls, let's let Sir Katsuhito finish the story, okay?" Washuu asked with an uneasy chuckle. Ryoko folded her arms with a harrumph, and Aeka just took a moment to feel victorious.

"Anyway," Katsuhito said. "So Momotarou left his old parents and promised he would come home victorious as he headed northward, headed for the Isle of the Demon. Along the way, he had to pass through a great field, and as he did so, a huge dog came rushing toward him, its teeth bared fiercely. 'How dare you cross my field without permission!' the dog snarled, and—"

"But dogs can't talk!" Sasami pointed out, shaking her head, and both Katsuhito and Tenchi laughed brightly.

"It's just a story, Sasami," Tenchi reminded her. "Like a fairy tale. You can't really wake a sleeping princess under a spell with a kiss, either, right?"

"I'm willing to put Aeka into a coma to test the theory," Ryoko volunteered, raising her hand.

Aeka kneejerk bristled in indignation, then arched one eyebrow. "Ohh, so you want Lord Tenchi to kiss me?" she asked coyly. "I see!"

"Pfft, no," Ryoko said, gesturing to Katsuhito with her thumb. "Gramps here is the high prince whatever of Jurai, right? Have him do it. You still have the hots for Yosho anyhow, I've seen the hologram figurine in your room."

"Miss Ryoko, that is none of your—"

Katsuhito cleared his throat loudly, and Aeka cut off her snappish retort, biting her tongue and suddenly looking very interested in her tea, her face burning with embarrassment. Usually the sniping between her and Ryoko was harmless, but this time the other woman had hit a nerve, and Aeka hunched her shoulders uncomfortably.

Katsuhito continued the story, telling them how the dog changed its tune when it learned of Momotarou's quest to defeat the demon, and eagerly joined him on his journey. Along the way, Momotarou was also befriended by a monkey from the hills, and a pheasant from the plains, but his companions fought bitterly the whole way, the dog hating the monkey, and the both of them envious of the bird's beautiful plumage and fighting abilities.

"'My friends, you must not fight amongst yourselves,' said Momotarou," Katsuhito said, and by now the whole table was listening intently, Ryoko and Aeka's bickering mostly forgotten. "'It is only when an army has peace within itself that it is capable of defeating evil. You must be friends of one mind if we are to defeat the demon, and the first of you to next start a fight will be sent home without a second chance!'"

"See, now there's a guy who knew how to handle his troublemaking friends who couldn't get along," Washuu laughed, reaching for one of the sticks of dumplings on the plate in the center of the table. She gestured to Tenchi with it, grinning. "You should be more forceful when these two biddies are fighting over you, Sir Tenchi. Be like Sir Momotarou."

Tenchi made a noise in the back of his throat and glanced from Washuu to Aeka to Ryoko, and then laughed nervously and busied himself pouring another cup of tea. Ryoko huffed.

"I can't help it if Aeka is an annoying hill-monkey," she said, her lips pursed, and Aeka scowled at her.

"How rude," she said. "I am obviously the beautiful pheasant of whom everyone is jealous."

"Does that make me the dog?" Washuu asked, tilting her head.

"Well I'm not the monkey," Ryoko assured them, and Aeka laughed through her nose.

"Oh, surely not," she said, lifting her cup of tea to her lips; "you're the wicked old demon Lord Momotarou is on a quest to defeat, of course."

She expected Ryoko to snarl and gnash her teeth and possibly throw crackers at her. She expected further bickering and maybe even a bit of pounding on the table. What she did not expect was for Ryoko to fall silent and give her a plainly stung look, her eyes narrowed with visible injury. Aeka realized far too belatedly that she had crossed a line. Ryoko's origins had been a point of contention between them long ago, but it had been over a year since she'd really stopped thinking of Ryoko as nothing but The Demon of Destruction who had razed half of Jurai. Ryoko had never apologized for her actions all those centuries ago, but she had made it clear that she had never really had any quarrel with Jurai personally, and had only been following orders when she had attacked Jurai in the first place.

Ryoko's teasing was a constant in their lives that they had all come to expect, and while her remark about Yosho may have struck a nerve, it rankled her largely because there was a kernel of truth to it. Aeka hadn't intended to be cruel in retaliation. She thought herself better than someone who would stoop to such name-calling, and lifted a hand, shaking her head.

"Miss Ryoko, I didn't mean—"

"Uncalled for, princess," was all Ryoko said before shimmering out of view and reappearing on her favorite perch—the rafter overlooking the front room—the tail on her dress lashing irately.

"R-Ryoko," Tenchi called, but Ryoko didn't reply, and Tenchi sighed and pulled at the back of his neck.

"Maybe we should finish the story another time," Aeka said quietly, lowering her eyes, and Tenchi shook his head.

"It's okay," he said, smiling gently. "If she was really mad and wanted to be alone, she'd have gone to the roof, not the rafter. She's just sulking."

"I can still hear you, you know?" Ryoko's tail lashed harder, and Sasami hid a giggle behind one hand. Aeka supposed Tenchi had a point, though: Ryoko could easily have gone anywhere, but she'd chosen to simply move to a different part of the same room.

She would apologize later.

"Go ahead and finish, Grandpa," Tenchi said, casting a fond, if hopeless, smile toward the rafter where Ryoko's tail still hung over the edge, snapping back and forth in irritation.

Katsuhito went on to tell them how Momotarou reached the shores of northern Japan and took a small boat across the rough seas to get to the demon's island. Once there, he sought the help of two women the demon had sworn to eat if they did not do all of his work for him, and they eagerly led Momotarou to the demon's throne room, where a great battle took place.

"Eventually, the demon surrendered to Momotarou, having seen that his strength was far greater than that of any mortal man," Katsuhito said. "The demon dropped to its knees and tore the horns from its head, offering them to Momotarou as a token of submission, as they were the source of its power. Though Momotarou knew that the demon had terrorized and killed many people, he took pity on the miserable creature, and instead of killing it, he imprisoned it in the hills, charging his monkey companion with making certain the demon never broke free to harm anyone again.

"Once all the prisoners on the island had been set free, Momotarou returned home victorious, the demon's bountiful treasure in his arms. All of Japan hailed him as a hero for having defeated the demon and locked it away, and his parents were overjoyed that their son had come home safely. They were able to live off the demon's treasure from that day forth, never needing to work another hard day for the rest of their lives."

"That's a nice ending," Washuu said with a nod. "I'm glad his parents were finally able to live comfortably."

"And the demon never escaped?" Sasami asked, tilting her head. "I mean, I'm happy that Mister Momotarou took pity and didn't kill it, but was the monkey able to keep the demon sealed up after that?"

Katsuhito laughed softly. "That's as far as the story goes, Sasami," he said, "but I like to think the demon didn't give anyone any more trouble after that."

"Momotarou would have just beaten it again, right?" Tenchi pointed out, and Sasami seemed satisfied with this answer.

"Sir Tenchi, you said that story originated here in Okayama, right? Are there a lot of peach trees around here?" Washuu wanted to know, and Tenchi pursed his lips.

"Okayama's white peaches are the most delicious peaches in all of Japan," Katsuhito assured her, reaching for a dumpling himself.

"I know there's an orchard not far from here, actually," Tenchi said then. "I think my dad knows the family who owns it. The season is almost over, but we might still be able to go and pick a few peaches if you guys want, maybe next week. I'll see if I can give them a call."

"Could we really?" Sasami asked excitedly. "Maybe we'll find a giant peach with a baby inside, too!" She looked at Aeka, her face split with a huge grin. "Wouldn't that be amazing, sis?"

Aeka gave a nervous laugh, thinking to herself that if they actually did cut into a peach and find a baby, she would probably faint.

Sasami got to her feet and hurried over to the other side of the room, standing beneath Ryoko's rafter to peer up at her.

"Ryoko, you'll come too, right?" she asked. "You could reach the best peaches, all the way at the tops of the trees."

Ryoko turned and looked down at Sasami, one arm dangling over the edge of the beam. "I could," she said, resting her chin in her other palm, "but what if I just ate them all myself, like a nasty, wicked, selfish demon?"

Aeka flinched, hunching her shoulders and cradling her tea in both hands.

"You would never do that," Sasami said assuredly, as if Ryoko made these sorts of jokes at her own expense all the time. "You're too nice."

"Am I~?" Ryoko's eyes winged toward the ceiling, and she rolled back over, folding her hands behind her head and leaning back into her pillow. "I dunno, Sasami, you might be the only one who feels that way," she said, her tone deliberately maudlin, and Sasami just laughed. Aeka wondered sometimes how Sasami managed to stay so cheerful most of the time; she seemed to always be able to see the best in everyone, even Ryoko.

"Come on, Ryoko, don't be a poor sport," Tenchi chided, casting a dry grin across the room, and Ryoko twisted to lay on her stomach, gazing at him mournfully.

"But Tenchi~ didn't you hear what she said to me?" she complained, pouting as hard as she could.

"You know she didn't mean it," Tenchi sighed, shaking his head hopelessly. "Like you've never said something you regret two seconds later."

Ryoko's pout became a guilty sort of glower, and she folded one arm across the rafter, resting her chin on it. "That's a complete and total lie," she said stiffly. "I've never regretted anything ever."

"Sasami, why don't you go help Lord Tenchi put away that last basket of laundry?" Aeka asked after a beat of silence, "and I'll fold ours."

"Okay, sis," Sasami said, turning and giving her sister a broad smile. She looked at Tenchi then, and squared her small shoulders. "Tenchi, I folded your hakama right last time, didn't I?" she asked, and Tenchi nodded.

"You did!" he said. "You did a great job, it's tough to remember all the steps."

Aeka watched them climb the stairs up to the second floor, then helped Katsuhito and Washuu gather up the cups and plates from the table before excusing herself to head to the bedroom she shared with her sister. She paused at the top of the stairs to look out over the rafter where Ryoko was still laying on her stomach, her arm folded across the pillow and her chin resting on it. She hesitated, inhaled to speak, then hesitated again. Oh, why was this always so hard? The rivalry between the two of them was mostly ceremonial anymore; she might have hated Ryoko once upon a time, back before she'd gotten to know her, before she'd had any understanding of what Kagato had done to her, but that had been a long time ago. Even if Ryoko was still brash and abrasive and downright rude at times, she had risked her life on more than one occasion to help the rest of them, and Aeka was confident that Ryoko wouldn't have hesitated to sacrifice herself for Tenchi's sake. Ryoko was her friend, even if the amenability was strained at times.

"I'm not mad," Ryoko's voice lilted softly across the distance between them, and Aeka made a startled noise, her eyes snapping toward the rafter. Ryoko had rolled over onto her back and was peering at her now, eyes half-open, a thin, crooked grin across her lips.

"I didn't really care if you were," Aeka fibbed brazenly, and then sighed. "But... I didn't mean what I said." She shook her head. "Sometimes I want to strangle you, it's true, but you have to know I don't think that about you anymore."

Ryoko crossed one leg over the other and waved a hand in the air. "Princess, you seriously make this way too easy," she snickered, closing her eyes and folding her hands together behind her head again. "I don't even have to try anymore, you're like zero to manic in 2.6 seconds."

Aeka waited where she stood. Ryoko did tease her rather relentlessly, but the stung look on the other woman's face had been genuine, when she'd seen it from across the table. For all Ryoko liked to act as though nothing got to her, Aeka knew it was a lie. She had been genuinely hurt, if only for a moment, and Aeka wasn't going to just walk away until this had been resolved.

About fifteen seconds passed in silence, and then Ryoko opened her eyes once more, giving Aeka an incredulous look. "What, you're still here?" she asked, and made a shooing gesture with one hand. "Weren't you going to go fold laundry?" she asked.

"Miss Ryoko..." Aeka held her ground, her expression neutral leaning toward insistent, and Ryoko sighed.

"Seriously, I'm not mad," she said, her eyes sincere even as she rolled them pointedly. "I know you didn't mean it, I'm not angry, okay? It's fine. We're fine. Go do your damn laundry, shit." She shifted and let one leg dangle over the edge of the rafter, bouncing her foot. "Who knew you were such a Nervous Nellie? So worried about everybody liking you, making sure nobody's upset with you, it's ridiculous! Don't teach Sasami to be so neurotic, okay? So not cute. It's just not even..."

Aeka rolled her eyes and headed into her bedroom as Ryoko continued her diatribe from the rafter, and she could still hear the other woman complaining even as she slid the door closed. Reaching for the basket of clean laundry Sasami had brought upstairs earlier, Aeka knelt on the tatami and pulled one of her dresses from the pile, shaking it and then laying it across the floor to fold (making certain she removed that pair of panties from her sleeve before she forgot about it and it wound up creating a very awkward situation later on). She would probably never really fully understand how Ryoko truly worked, even if she cohabitated with her for the next 700 years, but even thus, she felt like maybe she understood her a little bit more with each day that passed, and she guessed she would take what she could get.

so my friend Kana is a terrible person and got me back into this fandom like 84 years later and of course i immediately decided i had to try my hand at writing these old characters i have loved for so long. because i need more projects, right?

and because i'm already an insane masochist, i was like, i know, i'll include a little pencil doodle in each chapter, like a Light Novel! because i need to draw more! but because this site has lame formatting restrictions i can't upload any doodles here. if you check me out on AO3, though, you can see! i can't leave links here, thanks to formatting restrictions yet again, but my authorname is kawree over there.

anyway, couple small notes for those of you who are familiar with the official translations of the show: i threw them out the window. there is no 'ye' in Japanese, so i nixed that in Aeka's name, because while 'Ayeka'... kind of looks better aesthetically, it's wrong and has always kind of annoyed me. one of the things i like about Tenchi Muyo is that it's actually a very Japanese show. like yes, all anime is Japanese, but aside from the fact that he's living with a bunch of babes from outer space, Tenchi lives in a traditional Japanese family who owns a shrine and it's just. very Japanese. so i get to make cultural references i don't get to make in most of my other fandoms, and this makes me happy. because despite my weebage, i love Japanese culture and language just as much as i love anime and manga and video games, so it's really nice to get to write for a series that i can use what i know about the culture in my work. that being said, more shit i defenestrated: the fact that the official translations didn't use most of the honorifics anyone uses in the show. honorifics are important, kids. i didn't translate Sasami calling everyone onii/onee-chan, because as FMA has shown us, it's just kind of weird to call someone [SIBLING] in English, but i was so disappointed that they went out of their way to include 'Li'l Washuu' but never acknowledged that Aeka and Washuu use two completely different sorts of honorifics for everyone and it's actually really interesting, to me? Aeka is a princess, so she calls Tenchi and the others -sama, which is basically lord or lady, as most of you probably know, it's just generic polite speech. Washuu calls people -dono, though, which is similar, but it's a notably more formal and almost archaic suffix, so i'm rolling with sir and dame, like you would call someone who's been knighted, for example, because i think it bears noting that they do use different suffixes, and... well, Washuu is like over 20,000 years old, so a little archaic speech is to be expected.

also the fact that Aeka calls Ryoko with the -san suffix and Ryoko uses no honorifics at all, these are both relevant, okay. additionally, Ryo-Ohki gets called Ryo-chan, but that isn't even acknowledged, so i am now aggressively acknowledging it. idk, including 'Li'l Washuu' but not 'Li'l Ryo' just seemed weird, to me, like why you gonna cherry-pick your honorifics like that, Pioneer, hm?

(does this fandom even exist anymore?)