I do not own the rights to the characters in this story, nor do I claim to. The idea, however, is mine.
Of Princesses and Space Pirates
Chapter 11: No Need for Emotional Baggage, Part 2
She walked down the mountainside path, at a quick, nearly stumbling pace. Was what she had sensed real? Surely, the others had sensed it, too. Pulling her thick coat tightly around her body against the biting cold, she proceeded down Mount Nyotai, towards the shrine her one-time companions inhibited. As the cold wind subsided, the warm sun began to beat down upon her, and she loosened her grasp around the coat, allowing it to slip down her shoulders. She grimaced slightly at the sudden stitch that attacked her side, however ignored it. As the building at the base of Mount Nyotai came into view, she completely shed her heavy coat, allowing it to fall uselessly to the ground.
Winded, she was forced to slow down her pace and continued down the path towards the looming building. A figure suddenly emerged from the shrine, and her eyes widened in recognition. "Ark," she called out breathlessly, gaining the man's attention.
"Urt," he asked uncertainly, watching with a wary gaze as she drew closer. "What brings you-"
"Did you sense her," Urt interrupted, stopping directly in front of the man. "You must have sensed her, too!"
"Whoa, wait Urt," Ark began. "Be calm."
"Is that Urt I hear?" Looking up at the sound of the newcomer's voice, Urt watched as an older man emerged from the building. She rolled her eyes slightly at the lecherous look that entered the old man's gaze, and crossed her arms over her chest. "Ah, my Urt," he continued, as he drew closer. "What brings you down from your mighty perch my dear?"
"Don't get any ideas, old man," Urt frowned. "I came here, because I thought I had sensed Lady Washu's presence." A fleeting, disappointed look crossed her face – she refused to look like a fool in front of her former companions. "I guess," she continued, turning away from the pair, "that it was just wishful thinking on my part. Good day…"
"Urt, wait," Ark started. She stopped, however didn't turn back around. "Is that the only reason you came here," he continued. He sighed, when he didn't receive an answer. "Listen, we've just made some tea. Why don't you join us?"
Her shoulders stiffened slightly, however she remained quiet.
"Surely you're chilled through, from the bitter wind," he tried again.
"I'll pass, thank you," she answered finally. "I don't much feel like having the company of men right now."
"Now that doesn't sound like the Urt that I know." Urt turned in place quickly, and standing in the entrance to the Shrine just behind Hadaul, was a familiar, red-haired woman. Tears burned her eyes, and she gasped sharply. "The Urt that I know," Washu continued, "loved to be surrounded by men more than anything else." She left her spot in the doorway, and now stood in front of the silent woman. "Now what could have possibly changed that?"
Releasing the breath she hadn't realized she was holding, Urt's legs gave out from underneath her, and she slumped to the ground. "L-lady W-washu," she hiccupped, looking up at her mentor and allowing the tears she held back to fall down her face.
Washu clicked her tongue, shaking her head slightly. "Come now Urt; none of that," she chided gently. Crossing her arms behind her back, she rocked back and forth on her feet, and gave one of her trademark smiles. "It's not as if I were dead or something." A strangled laugh escaped Urt's throat, and she buried her face into her hands, crying freely.
"That's not funny, Washu-chan," she cried, her voice muffled slightly.
"Get a hold on your emotions, Urt," Ark stated, reaching down and gently taking her arm. "I'm sure Washu has a lot to tell us of her journey."
"Thank you," she whispered. As she gazed up into his face, tears began to pool in her eyes once again. "She's returned to us, Ark." Her breath caught in her throat, and she leaned forward, falling against his chest. Ark stiffened in surprise, but then smiled before relaxing and wrapping his arms around her to return her embrace.
"I know, Urt," he stated, rubbing her back comfortingly.
"Great, glad you're getting along now."
Pulling apart slightly, Ark and Urt looked towards the doorway, where Gene stood, a smug look on his face.
"Gene Starwind," Urt exclaimed. She smiled, and nodded her head. "I knew we didn't make a mistake to entrust you with our most powerful castor shells."
"Yes, he truly is amazing," Hadaul added. "Why, not only has he reunited us with Washu, he's also managed to find Ryoko."
"Ryoko is here too," Urt asked, her eyes brightening.
"And that's not all Urt," Ark interjected. "Lady Tsunami has been revived."
"Impossible," the woman trailed. "Even Lady Tsunami…"
"Come, come let's get back inside," Washu urged. "This, too, is one of the reason's I've returned." The group silently followed Washu back through the door, as she continued. "I'm going to need your assistance for what's ahead." She and the others swept into the room where the rest of the Outlaw Star's crew and their charges waited. Located deeper within the Temple, it was a very decorative sitting room; furnished to receive guests. Several, separate, hallways connected the room to other parts of the temple, to where guest rooms and living quarters were located.
"It's not as exciting as I'm sure you might have hoped," she added, "But it's as important as anything else I might need from you."
"Yes, of course, Washu," her apprentices replied in unison.
Washu smiled slightly. "Well you see, it involves-"
"Washu," Ayeka's panicked voice cut through the room. "Come here, quickly! Something's wrong with Sasami!" Frowning slightly, Washu went over to where the others stood around Sasami, watching her from a slight distance. She was standing in front of Azaka and Kamidake, who were both still suspended in the water-filled tanks, in an almost comatose state. Sasami began to approach them, a look of determination set upon her face.
"Sasami," Washu began, narrowing her eyes suspiciously. "What are you doing?"
Wordlessly, Sasami approached her guardians, in their suspended state, and stopped. She raised her hands towards the glass, and as she did so, the symbol upon her forehead began to glow.
A great power swept from her form, and as this happened, the two cylinders in which her guardians resided, disappeared. They, however, continued to float in the air, seemingly due to the energy emanating from the Juraian girl. Cupping her hands together in front of her, energy gathered there and she looked upon her guardians.
"It's time for you to come back," she stated softly, in a voice not quite her own. Pushing her hands out slightly, the ball of energy lifted out of her palms. It split into two halves as it rose away from her, and gently floated back down towards Azaka and Kamidake. Thousands of tiny spheres of energy began to appear and surrounded the two men, as the orbs Sasami created dropped to the ground, creating two circles of light next to both guardians. "It's time for you to come back," she repeated, her voice sounding stronger this time.
Twin beams of light burst forth from the circles on the ground, and the energies surrounding Azaka and Kamidake began to congregate there. Slowly, two forms began forming in the centers of both circles, and Sasami's guardians levitated back down to the ground. As their feet touched the ground, their comatose-like trance seemed to be interrupted, and their eyes slowly fluttered open.
"Princess Sasami," Kamidake asked confusedly, as his gaze landed on her. He looked around, taking in his surroundings.
"Princess Sasami," Azaka echoed. His gaze fell upon the two forms as the columns of light subsided, and his eyes widened slightly. "How have you managed to revive-"
"Azaka, Kamidake," Ayeka exclaimed, as she realized her two guardians, destroyed by Harry MacDougall, now stood before her. Her face beamed with pride as she turned to thank her sister, however the happiness left her face as she saw Sasami. The Juraian girl looked ill, and swayed where she stood.
"Princess," her guardians exclaimed, as Sasami groaned, and began to fall over as she fainted. Kamidake reached her first, catching her in his arms before she could hit the ground.
"Washu," Jim began, "what's going on?"
"I was afraid this would happen," Washu frowned. She approached where Kamidake knelt to the ground, cradling Sasami in his arms. She bent down next to them, and raised her hand to feel Sasami's forehead, which was hot to the touch, and drenched in sweat. "It would seem," she continued, "that Tokimi is tapping into Sasami's ability to utilize Tsunami's powers." She stood from her position, turning to face the others, a grim look set upon her usually cheerful features. "She's trying to break the seal I placed on the Dragon Temple."
"How is that possible," Suzuka asked. "Isn't that pact the three of you agreed upon, something that will keep that from happening?"
"Yes," Washu began cryptically, "and no."
"I don't get it," Aisha groaned confusedly. "I thought you said the three of you were equally strong. What gives?"
"At one time, we were," she answered. "Ryoko, you remember how I said I had concerns about Sasami? That I was researching those concerns?"
Ryoko frowned slightly as she recalled the conversation. "Yes."
"I discovered that while Tokimi's and my powers lay dormant, the time Tsunami was trapped inside of Sasami, she was actually growing stronger," she continued, "much stronger than we could ever become individually. Because of the connection correlating between Tsunami's powers and the Juraian Royal bloodline, instead of her powers returning gradually – as it did with Tokimi and me – her powers have evolved."
A silence fell over the group, as they took in the information they just received. Each person interpreted what Washu said silently. However, it was Suzuka, who spoke first.
"So Washu, could this mean that this so-called 'axis' the planet Jurai sits, can be manipulated by Sasami?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Don't be ridiculous," Ayeka snapped. "You don't know my sister, Suzuka! How dare you-"
"Are you really that dumb, Ayeka," Ryoko interrupted, causing the girl to cast her angry gaze upon her. "We all know Sasami would never do anything terrible. It's just not in her nature."
"Ryoko's right you know, Ayeka," Tenchi stated gently.
"I-I know, Lord Tenchi," she hiccupped. "I just can't help but to worry about Sasami! She's been through so many horrible ordeals already."
"Is that supposed to be a jab at me, Ayeka," Ryoko fumed silently. She watched Ayeka with growing annoyance, and bristled slightly as Tenchi wrapped an arm across her shoulders.
"Thank you, Tenchi," she sobbed, turning to him and burying her face into his chest. His face burst into the color of embarrassment, and he avoided meeting Ryoko's gaze.
"Washu," he started, glancing in her direction instead. "Is it possible that Tokimi will try and use Sasami's abilities and powers?"
"You think," Ryoko snapped bitingly. "Oh, no, Tenchi," she continued sarcastically, "Tokimi would never even dream of-"
"Ryoko, knock it off already," Jim exclaimed.
"What'd you say, you brat," she demanded.
"I said shut up, moron" he barked back. "This isn't helping much, you know."
Ryoko gritted her teeth angrily. "Why you little," she trailed, as she turned towards him.
"Hey, you'd better back off, Ryoko," Aisha exclaimed, quickly coming to Jim's defense as she pushed him protectively behind her.
"Or you'll do what, exactly," she scoffed. "Oh, are you going to fight me again? We all know how that ended."
"You cheated with that damn monster," Aisha roared.
"Yeah, but I won, didn't I," Ryoko taunted.
"Actually, you lost control of that creature," Gene began, "and Washu was the one-"
"Shut up, Gene," the bickering women exclaimed in unison, causing him to back off.
"Look, you may be in good with Gene, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to trust you," Aisha dug in again. "Just because Gene wags his tongue at anything with breasts…"
"Aisha," Melfina gasped, "that's not true at all! Ryoko," she began, looking at the woman, "I trust-"
"Don't humor her, Mel," Aisha cut her off. "She's not one of us."
Ryoko balled her fists angrily at her sides; however before she could take any actions, Melfina stepped in between them. Aisha looked at the dark-haired woman quizzically as she turned to face her, and was even more surprised when Melfina lifted her hand, smacking her across the face.
"Why'd you do that," she demanded. She would have been angry; however the look on Melfina's face quickly replaced that emotion with guilt.
"I've never known you to say such cruel things, Aisha," she stated softly, tears brimming in her eyes. "Ryoko has done so much for us; especially back on Sentinel. When you weren't there, she was. She protected us. She protected Sasami; from Harry, and from herself! She's a good person…"
"I'm sorry, Mel," she apologized, her shoulders sagging slightly.
Melfina turned around towards Ryoko, giving her a pleading look. "Please, don't be angry with Aisha," she implored.
"Yeah, whatever," Ryoko grumbled, backing out of the confrontation. "Just forget it, Melfina."
"Ryoko," she trailed.
"Hey, now," Washu interrupted. "Let's just all calm down, okay? There are more important things to take care of at the moment. You three," she paused, turning towards her apprentices, "what I was trying to tell you about earlier is that I'll need you each to sacrifice something."
The three wizards exchanged silent glances.
"Kamidake, please bring Sasami and follow me," Washu continued. "And you three, too," she added, causing the three apprentices to follow her and Kamidake, as they exited the room.
"Washu," Ayeka exclaimed, speaking towards the woman's back, "where are you going? Washu!" She gasped as Jim suddenly ran from the room, following them and disappearing through the door as well.
"Washu knows what she's doing, Ayeka," Tenchi reassured. "Sasami will be just fine."
An awkward silence fell over those left in the room. As Melfina looked around the room, her spirits sagged. Tenchi and Ayeka, with her guardians looming closely near her, stood together separately from the others. She noticed that Ayeka cast furtive glances in Ryoko's direction. Suzuka sat in a meditative stance, her eyes closed in concentration; Aisha was leaning against a pillar, idly tapping her nails against it. Kiyone sat stiffly on one of the couches in the room, while Mihoshi quietly nursed a cooling cup of tea. Gene, on the other hand, had occupied himself with just walking around the room.
"Gene," she whispered as he passed her by. "What should we do? Princess Ayeka seems to be very upset."
Gene glanced over at her, raising an eyebrow slightly. She had taken to wringing her hands together nervously. "I wouldn't worry about it, Mel," he replied noncommittally.
"But don't you think we should help get her mind off the situation?"
"I really don't care one way or the other," he stated, his voice carrying across the room this time.
She huffed in annoyance, and then turned on her heel, heading in Ayeka and Tenchi's direction. "Princess Ayeka," she approached, gaining their attention.
"You're Melfina, aren't you," Ayeka asked.
Ayeka smiled. "I understand you have been very kind to my sister," she stated. 'I really appreciate the kindness you have shown towards her."
"Sasami is a very nice girl," Melfina stated. Ayeka smiled politely, however didn't reply. "Is this your first visit to Tenrei," Melfina tried again, after a few moments' silence.
"Why, yes it is," she answered. "Sasami was telling me about what a wonderful place this was before... everything that's happened."
"Oh, then you have to visit the hot springs," Melfina insisted. "It's very much relaxing, and it may help relieve some of the stress you're feeling. What do you say?"
More than anything, Ayeka just wanted to be left alone. She didn't care to have company; but at the same time, didn't want to be rude. Melfina was obviously trying to help cheer her up. She could at least be more receptive to the idea.
"It sounds wonderful," she reluctantly agreed.
"You should join us, Suzuka, Aisha," Melfina invited. "In fact, all of us girls should go. The springs have great medicinal properties. I'm sure you need this time for recuperation, Miss Kiyone."
"I'll agree to just about anything, if it will help rid me of this numbing soreness," Kiyone laughed.
"And you, especially, should join us, Ryoko," Melfina insisted. "You must be exhausted."
"I'd better not, Melfina," she declined, "in case Washu needs me for something."
"Whatever Washu's doing, it probably doesn't absolutely involve you, Ryoko," Gene commented. Sneaking up behind her, he snaked his arm around her midsection and pulled her towards him. "Besides," he continued, dropping his voice to a whisper in her ear. "We could find our own private spring."
"Gene," she spoke evenly, fighting against the pleasant urge to shudder. "You'd better get your hands off of me, before you lose them."
Smiling wryly, he slid his arms away from her. "The offer still stands if you change your mind, Ryoko," called after her, as she walked away from him. She paused, as she got to the doorway, and turned back slightly to glare at him.
"Don't flatter yourself, jerk," she replied icily, before disappearing through the door.
"So, how about I join you girls in the spring," he suggested. "Could be fun."
"Don't even think about it, Gene," Suzuka warned. A small laugh escaped from Melfina, and Gene turned his attention towards her.
"See," he continued, approaching her and wrapping his arms around her in a bear hug. "Melfina, here, wants me to join in."
"Gene," she giggled, trying to wriggle out of his grasp. "You'd better stop before Suzuka really gets angry. This is for girls only," she insisted.
Melfina laughed again, and then smiled up at him. "Positive."
Gene sighed dramatically, and then released her from his hold.
"Well, if you insist, then. I guess I'll just go and get some shut-eye." Giving a general wave towards everyone, he laced his fingers behind his head, and whistled a tune as he exited the room.
They watched him leave, and Tenchi cleared his throat.
"You girls are heading for the springs, then?"
"Yes," Melfina answered. "You know, they do have men's hot springs, too, Tenchi. You should really give them a try."
"Oh no, I'm fine," he exclaimed. "Back home, we practically have a hot spring right in our backyard. I think I'm just going to walk around for a while; see the sights." He turned to look at Ayeka's guardians. "You'll keep a close eye on them, won't Azaka, Kamidake?"
"Of course, Lord Tenchi."
"It's settled, then," he stated. "Please enjoy yourself." Stuffing his hands into his pockets, Tenchi left from the room, going in a different direction the others used when they left earlier.
"If I didn't know any better," Suzuka began, after Tenchi left the room, "I would say that Gene was marking his territory."
"Oh definitely," Kiyone exclaimed.
"Just like an animal," Aisha sniffed haughtily. "Disgusting."
"Marking his territory," Melfina and Mihoshi inquired in unison. Both women looked thoroughly confused, when Suzuka, Kiyone, and Aisha began to laugh.
"Come on, I'll explain it to you," Kiyone offered. "Why don't you lead the way to the hot springs, Melfina?"
"Sure," she exclaimed. The women began to file out of the room after Melfina, however Ayeka lingered behind. She was staring in the direction Tenchi had gone, a look of concern set upon her features.
"Are you still joining them, Lady Ayeka," Azaka asked, interrupting her thoughts.
"Oh, yes, of course," she replied.
"Come on, Ayeka," she heard the others calling after her. Casting another sideways glance in the direction Tenchi went, she ran to catch up with the others.
To Be Continued…