Chapter Two: The Vision of Sasami
"To prevent a repeat of yesterday's disaster, I have come up with the ingenious addition of a regulatory circuit. This device completely paralyses the participants in the virtual reality, preventing all motion, and especially all use of external powers."
"Gee, I'm glad you came up with something so clever," muttered Ryoko.
"Because this could prove unsafe, there is an interrupt command. Just think the word 'interrupt', really hard. Any person can do so, and it will boot all five of you back to reality." Washu glanced around the five. "All clear on that? Good. I've also added a director circuit; Sasami, you'll have more control over the scenario than these other idiots. Got it?"
"Yes." Sasami nodded. "There's only one problem. I picked a character for my sister who doesn't appear until halfway through the series. Can I have her appear sooner?"
"Certainly. That's very thoughtful of you, by the way. So you wanna fill in the rest of them on their roles?"
"Sure." Sasami turned to Tenchi. "You're going to be the Crown Prince of Fanelia, a good swordsman and fearless warrior."
"Do I get to use the Tenchi-ken?"
"No." She shook her head. "Plain steel."
"Okay." He shrugged. "I'm still trained with a sword."
"Sister, you'll be the Princess of Asturia."
"Oh! An excellent choice." Ayeka smiled. "And of course, this Princess is madly in love with the Prince of Fanelia?"
"Nope. With a rogue knight." She giggled as Ayeka gaped. "Mihoshi, you're going to be a schoolgirl."
"Aren't I a bit old to be a schoolgirl?"
"Don't worry. This schoolgirl uses magic cards to see the future, and a pendant to detect invisible things. And she's an athlete."
"Odd combination," mused Ryoko. "What about me?"
"You get to be the villain, Ryoko. A woman kidnapped from her brother, and brainwashed into doing evil things." She glanced over to Washu. "Can I change some of the other characters, the ones who aren't being played by us?"
"You're the director. It's your show."
"Oh, goody. I'm going to make three other characters match people we know." She glanced over at Tenchi. "I'm sorry, but you won't be very happy with what I do with them."
"That's all right. It's just a game." Tenchi grinned. "Who will you be playing?"
"That's a surprise!"
Washu chuckled. "I've seen this series. I know exactly who you're playing. Good casting all around." She turned serious. "All right, places everyone. And remember, it's just a game. None of what you experience really happens in reality."
Mihoshi blinked, and looked around. She was in a school track field, dressed in gym clothes. She could see someone down at the other end of the track she was standing on. As she watched, he raised his hand and spoke.
"Runner, take your mark."
"Oh, right. I'm an athlete." She looked around. "Hundred meter dash. I did well at that in school." She found the blocks, and took her mark.
She raised herself, poised to launch.
The man dropped a small pendant, hanging from a fine chain. "Go!"
She burst from the blocks, her long legs propelling her down the track. Her heart pounded in her chest, nearly drowning out the man's voice as he called time. Five seconds, and she passed the fifty-meter mark. Seven second, and she was nearly there. Eight--
The world ahead of her turned white. Standing before her, in his Juraian battle garb, was Tenchi. He turned, making it halfway around before she slammed into him.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" She picked herself up, bawling. "I didn't mean to knock you down, Tenchi."
"That's all right." He stood up, and looked around. "Where are we?"
"Ummm...at a school."
He tensed up. "Wait. Something's coming."
The world flared white again, and a rift formed in midair. From the rift stepped a dragon.
"Oh, hell. Get back, Mihoshi!"
"I can shoot it. Let me--" She paused. "Where's my gun?"
"Why would a schoolgirl have a gun?"
"Maybe it's in my backpack!" She grabbed it and started rifling through the contents.
Tenchi drew his sword, and from instinct, he touched his ring, but rather than the Wings, a circular metal shield unfolded from his left-arm bracer. "That's different, but I think I can use it. Get back, Mihoshi!"
The dragon exhaled a gout of fire. He raised the shield, deflecting the blast, then ran forward and drove the sword into the dragon's chest. It howled in pain, and he jumped back and swung, slashing it across the head.
And just that quickly, it was over. The creature fell to the side, head bisected, and twitched once. Tenchi calmed himself. "Oy. For a dragon, it didn't have much." He paused. "I get the feeling I need something..." He stepped forward, and cut into the carcass, then reached in and extracted a pink gem. "The dragon's magical heart. Sasami's a good director." He tossed the gem once in his hand. "Now what?"
The answer came almost immediately, as magical energies began to swirl around him again. The dragon began to dissolve, and he and Mihoshi were lifted from the ground.
"Oh no! What's happening?" Mihoshi stared with dismay as her feet left the ground. "Where are we going?"
"Back to where the dragon came from!"
The man who had been watching from the sidelines came running forward. "Mihoshi!" He reached for her hand, and she flailed wildly for it, but only managed to snag the pendant.
And then the world again went white.
Mihoshi blinked, and slowly sat up. She glanced around at the massive trees, then down at Tenchi, who still lay on the ground. "Where are we?"
"The Kingdom of Fanelia."
She jumped, and turned towards the speaker. He was a massively muscled fellow, and as he stepped forward, her first thought was that he was a Jacaran. Wolflike features, yellow fur, but clearly intelligent, and from the looks of his features, friendly. She jumped to her feet. "This must be Tenchi's Kingdom, then!"
"Yes. Crown Prince Tenchi Fanel." He knelt next to the Prince. "My Lord. Are you well."
Tenchi sat up, and shook his head. "Nothing broken."
"Excellent. Were you successful?"
He raised the gem. "Does this answer your question?"
"By all means, it does! Come." He helped him to his feet. "We have a coronation to attend."
"What about Mihoshi?"
"The girl?" The Jacaran glanced over at her. "Is she your guest, then?"
"Then you need not even ask, My Lord."
Mihoshi clapped her hands together as the city of Fanelia came into view. "Oh, it's beautiful, Tenchi!"
"Yeah, it is quite nice, isn't it?" He dropped his voice. "I haven't seen any of the others yet. Have you?"
"No, but I bet they're in the city below. Why not ask the Jacaran?"
"The--oh. The wolf-man." He turned to their companion, who was driving the wagon. "Pray tell, my friend. Are there any visitors of note for the coronation?"
"Have you forgotten already, My Lord?" The wolf-man chuckled. "Well, you've had a lot on your mind. The Princess Ayeka of Asturia is present, along with her attendant knight. Since the current king of Asturia is not yet of age, Ayeka's sister acts as Regent, and therefore, she could not come, and has sent Ayeka in her place."
Well, that was three of them accounted for, and since Ryoko was supposed to be the villain, he doubted she'd be there yet. "And what of Sasami?"
"Oh, she was beside herself with fear, My Lord. She will be most pleased to see you alive and whole. Oh, and Lord Katsuhito will wish to see you before the coronation."
That must have been one of Sasami's edits, since Grandpa wasn't in the simulator. "Thank you, my friend."
They passed through the gates, the wagon's ride becoming somewhat rough on the cobblestones of the city's streets. Eventually, they drew up beside a second set of gates, leading to the inner bailey. The wolf-man halted the wagon. "My Lord. As tradition states, you must walk through the inner gates, the dragon's Energist held high."
"It's good to have you as a friend." He hopped off the wagon, and walked towards the gate. It opened before him, and he strode through, the gem held above his head.
The cheering hit him like a solid wall. Thousands of people, along the city street, along the inner curtain, and within the bailey itself, all cheering him.
It felt good.
Then a blue blur slammed into him. "Tenchi!"
He looked down, and almost laughed. Sasami still wore her Juraian robes, but her ears were long and pointed, her pupils slitted, and a tail poked out from under her skirt. She looked very feline. "Sasami! You look good!"
"Thank you, Lord Tenchi!" She grinned. "I'm glad you're back safe and sound." She glanced over to Mihoshi. "And we've got company!"
"Yes," said Tenchi. "She tried to help me fight the dragon, but..."
"But I took away her gun." Sasami chuckled, then walked over to Mihoshi. "So what do you think? Having fun?"
"Yes." Mihoshi beamed. "This place is very nice!"
"In the original story, your character and mine didn't get along so well. But let's change that, shall we?"
"I'd like that."
"My Lord Tenchi." The wolf-man approached him. "Lord Katsuhito awaits you in the training hall."
"Come on, you two. Let's go see what Grandpa wants."
"Powered armour of some sort." Ryoko examined the machine's controls. "Looks very primitive, almost steampunk. Cloaking device, ranged weapons, liquid metal sword, flight controls...this looks like a fun toy." She raised an arm, felt the armour respond to her motions. "Oh, I could enjoy this."
"My Lady Ryoko." The armour next to hers turned to face her. "Lord Kagato orders the destruction of the city before us."
"Kagato!" She paled, then calmed herself. "Must be one of Sasami's changes...Kagato is dead." She raised her voice. "All troops, engage your cloaking devices, and advance."
A low-tech but still functional war machine, loyal soldiers to command, and a town to pillage. Just like old times.
Katsuhito looked up from his tea. "You have the Dragon Energist?"
Tenchi wordlessly held up the pink gem, and Katsuhito smiled.
"Excellent. Tonight you will activate Escaflowne."
"You know." Sasami broke in. "The dragon armour, handed down through many generations of Fanelia's kings."
"Oh. I mean, I was just surprised we were going that quickly."
Apparently, he'd covered his blunder, for Katsuhito nodded. "It is somewhat faster than we normally move, but I grow concerned. Word has reached me that the Zaibatsu are planning to invade Fanelia. I think that they seek Escaflowne for themselves."
"So we'll need the Dragon Armour to fight them off."
"Escaflowne is the most powerful Guymelef ever discovered. Far more dangerous than any human-made artefact. If it falls into the hand of the Zaibatsu..." The old man sighed. "Well, we'll just have to make sure it doesn't. Prepare yourself for the coronation ceremony." He grinned. "Oh, and do see if you can spare the time to speak with Princess Ayeka. She's travelled a long way to meet you."
Katsuhito seemed to notice Mihoshi for the first time. "And who is this young lady?"
Sasami butted in again. "She's from the Phantom Moon!"
"Indeed?" He bowed low to Mihoshi. "You honour our house. I hope that you will attend the coronation?"
"Wouldn't miss it!" Mihoshi beamed.
Mihoshi and Sasami watched as the massive Guymelef stalked from the hangar. The blonde Galaxy Police Officer was enthralled with the machine.
"Steam powered, no ranged weapons, no protective barrier, and it's not even airtight." Mihoshi shook her head. "A GP battlesuit would take it apart. But with the level of technology I've seen around here, nothing could stand up against it."
"Except another Guymelef," commented Sasami.
"Well, I suppose." Mihoshi adjusted her skirt. "You know, I'm glad I had another change of clothing, aside from my track shorts. But I can't help but think that the Japanese school uniforms were designed by perverts."
Sasami giggled. "Most Japanese school girls aren't as leggy as you."
"The coronation was nice...Imagine, Tenchi as King! Ayeka looked like she was having the time of her life."
"She likes pomp and circumstance."
"But I'm just a common schoolgirl. What's my role in this show?"
Sasami grinned wickedly, and said, "Oh, I think you'll like it. The character you're playing has dormant powers."
"Yeah, they don't really come out until--" She paused as the ground shook beneath their feet. "Oh, no. I lost track of time."
"What is it? Is the tournament starting?"
"No." She shook her head. "Ryoko's here."
Ryoko twisted her wrist, the rotator cuff travelling with her hand, and the massive war machine echoed the movement, the metal whip rending the gate from its hinges. A quick jerk of the arm, and the liquid metal snapped back, retracting into the projectors at the end of the arm. She lowered the arm, the cloak falling back into place and concealing the Guymelef.
"Forward! Burn the town! Destroy everything!"
"My Lady. We must not harm the Dragon Armour."
"Fear not. When it makes its appearance, we shall capture it." She grinned wickedly. "And I look forward to trying it out."
It was the second time today that Mihoshi had collided with Tenchi. She picked herself up off the ground, blushing slightly as she adjusted her skirt. "What's going on? Are we being attacked?"
"I think so."
Katsuhito walked up to the two of them. "Take the Lady Mihoshi to the Shrine, and awaken Escaflowne. Invoke the blood pact. If you must, flee, so that you can rebuild Fanelia."
"I understand," said Tenchi.
Throughout the city, the Guymelefs battled. One side was invisible, striking from concealment. The other side was visible, and losing.
Sasami watched with horror as yet another Guymelef fell. She had scripted this scene, and waves of guilt washed over her. It took an effort of will to remember that these people were not real; just illusory constructs.
The screams of the dying sounded sufficiently real.
Mihoshi looked up at the massive boulder suspended from the ceiling, then down at the rings below it. "I don't see a Dragon Armour."
"Neither do I." He looked down at the gemstone. "But this thing is tied to it somehow."
"Didn't Katsuhito say something about a blood pact?"
"Yeah." He unsheathed his sword halfway, and nicked his thumb. "A drop of blood on this...and then I'll stand in the circle." He walked to the center of the rings, and raised the Energist.
Above him, the boulder cracked, then shattered into a thousand pieces. The fragments did not drop, but hovered around him, and from the center of the boulder, descended a massive white Guymelef. It touched down before Tenchi, and knelt.
Mihoshi gasped. "Oh, it's beautiful!"
Two massive green gems glowed, one to each shoulder, and a black cloak draped across the shoulders and trailed on the ground. The white armour gleamed, showing no sign of damage from its imprisonment. From the back projected the hilt of a sword, the only weapon apparent on the frame.
Something hissed, and the carapace of the armour opened. Tenchi climbed up, then paused. "This chamber here...it's right where the heart should be." He pushed his hand through the crystal canopy of the heart chamber, placing the Energist within.
It began to beat.
"Awright!" He climbed into the cockpit, and pushed his arms into the rotating cuffs. They extended, enveloping his arms, and he felt the joints lock into place. His feet fit to repeators, actuating the legs. The carapace closed, encasing all but his head, and the head of the Guymelef shifted. The mask slid into place, giving him a thin grille to see through, but protecting his face.
He took a step, felt the Guymelef respond much more readily than a mere steam-powered machine should. He reached back, the Guymelef's hand closing around the hilt of the sword. He pulled it free, felt it hiss as the blade extended, liquid metal expanding outward and solidifying to form a long sword.
Mihoshi clapped her hands. "Oh, you can drive it! No training or--" She paused, as something flickered at the corner of her eye. She turned, but there was nothing there.
"Tenchi...something's at the door. I think it's one of the invisible Guymelefs."
He turned, sword at the ready.
The air before the door of the Shrine shimmered, and a massive arm broke from the cloak. An arm with three holes in place of a hand.
Liquid metal streamed from the holes, forming long claws that slammed into the Escaflowne.