Disclaimer: I do not own Tenchi Muyo nor any of the characters in it. They belong to AIC corp. I am also not making any money off this fanfic either.
Authors notes: This will be the final chapter for this fic, it's much longer than the others, and it has some dark moments in it. I hope everyone's enjoyed the ride so far, and that the finish is all you hope it'll be.
Bang the drum slowly
Chapter 6: Find the rhythm
In a place where dread seemed to be the only constant, one young man was doing some lamenting of his current situation. Time alone in the dark gave Tenchi plenty of time for contemplations. Although the persistant rumblings of hunger in his stomach were sometimes distracting to his thought process. How can my body be thinking of food at a time like this? Then again I suppose it's better than feeling like I'm gonna throw up.
It had been some time now since Tenchi awoke in this strange prison, and his body was finally getting over the after-effects of those drugs. Though he still felt slightly light headed, he found himself feeling far better than when he first woke up.
There was another feeling that Tenchi had which he felt was far worse though than hunger, and that was helplessness. Even in his past escapades, Tenchi always felt like there was something that he could do. Only once did he recall feeling as if all hope was lost, and that was for a brief moment onboard the Souja in his battle with Kagato. In the end, Tenchi managed to put trust in himself and discover the power he held.
But now, things felt different. He couldn't really feel that burning fire within, he just felt sort of empty. He hoped that once his head finished clearing up he would be better able to harness his potential power. Right now, all it seemed Tenchi could do was hang there in his shackles and let his mind wander.
His eyes attempted to focus to see if he could make out anything in his dark surroundings, but ultimately he was unable. I wonder if Ryoko is being held in a cell like this. he idly wondered. That thought brought a heaviness to his heart, as he recalled his recent discovery of Ryoko's fear of the dark. Normally, Tenchi wasn't afraid of the dark, but this oppressive blackness that surrounded him was unnerving. He could only imagine how Ryoko must feel in this.
To think she spent 700 years in a place like this. He thought with awe. I'd probably go nuts after 700 hours, I'll never understand how she managed to survive that and come out...well...relatively sane. He found himself gaining a newfound respect for his cyan haired friend, but he wondered if he would ever get the chance to display that respect to her. I can't be thinking like that, I have to think positive. Something good is bound to happen, some lucky break or something.
As his mind continued to focus on Ryoko, Tenchi felt a surge of other memories and thoughts. It was less than a year ago that he released her from her prison and brought her into his life. The thought of her being counted as one of his closest friends would've seemed like a joke during those early days. He had thought of her as being highly rude, obnoxious, one dimensional. As time went on however, he saw different sides to her personality, each one more surprising than the last. By now, he realized that the 'demon' woman was more inherently human than most people he knew. She seem uncaring and inconsiderate at one moment, yet the next moment she could risk her life at the drop of a hat for someone who mattered to her. She could seem as innocent as a newborn baby, or have the grim look of a warrior who's seen thousands slain. In effect, she was a walking contradiction in almost every way, and he was glad she was part of his life.
Of course, it was no secret how she felt about him, as Ryoko made it painfully clear each and every day in some form or another. But other hearts were at stake, and his own heart was mired in confusion due to all the pressure's the girls put upon him. He was only 18 years old, and they were wanting a lifetime commitment from him. He hadn't seriously thought about what it'd be like to really choose one, to have a family with one of them, as he was still getting to know the girls.
As Tenchi hung in the slightly rusted shackles, he pondered that dream he was having before he woke up in his cell. It was surreal in its startling intensity, and quite intruiging in what it was about. He had his fair share of dreams in the past about the girls, some quite lurid and erotic, but he never had anything like what he had in that dream. The tingling sensation he felt as her lips touched his, the warmth of the sun, the briskness of the wind, he could feel it all.
But what really stuck in his mind was how Ryoko behaved, and that photo of the little girl, Hanako. The idea of settling down and living a quiet family life with the wild space pirate Ryoko seemed far fetched at first glance, but he couldn't stop wondering if that was what it would be like to be with her. Coming home every day, having her there to greet him with a smile and kiss, holding hands while talking about what their little girl did while he was at work. It was so simple, yet so...pleasant. Immediately his defense mechanisms kicked when he noted how fond his thoughts of Ryoko were becoming for a moment. Of course I probably could have something like that if I chose any of the others as well. Yet that thought could not erase the memories of how alive he felt in that dream, being with her.
His contemplations were brought to a halt as a glaringly bright beam of light rained down upon him. He immediately squinted in pain as his eyes tried to adjust from the pitch dark to the blindingly bright.
"Hello again Tenchi, I see you're looking better." Dinaka's cold voice said.
Tenchi snorted in indignation. "Yeah, I feel real great."
"Ready for a few more questions?"
"Now wait a minute, I've got some questions I wanna ask you. Who are you people, the Jhanel? What's the reason for capturing us, and why won't you listen to what I've got to say?" Tenchi asked forcefully.
Dinaka chuckled for a moment. "Still retaining some of your fighting spirit I see. As I've made obvious from the start, you are in no position to make any demands on us."
Tenchi was at the end of his wits, as it seemed reasoning with this man was hopeless. Why do I have to always run into the ego maniacal guys who won't listen to rational arguments?
"Now then Tenchi, let's talk a little more about those...Light hawk wings." the Jhanel agent suggested thoughtfully.
The shackled young man frowned slightly as he listened to the tone of his voice. He figured that Dinaka was planning something, but just what was still unknown. "What do you want to know?" Tenchi asked neutrally.
"Do you find them difficult to summon?"
Tenchi shrugged his shoulders. "Sometimes it seems impossible, other times it seems like they almost burst out of me."
"I must say, you are quite a fascinating individual. Quite ordinary in appearance and mannerisms, yet apparently able to wield powers no mortal ever has." Dinaka remarked.
This idle small talk was making Tenchi more and more uncomfortable by the moment. His muscles tensed in anxiety as he tried to retain a stern facade. Even though he knew that Dinaka was dragging things alone merely to create tension and anxiety in him, Tenchi still found himself losing his patience. If he learned one thing from his grandfathers relentless training, it was to always remain patient. 'He who waits for nothing, will have nothing waiting for him.' was one particular quote that Katsuhito was fond of.
"You know Tenchi, I would love to see a demonstration of your abilities." As Dinaka said this, a hole opened up in the roof, from which lowered a moniter.
Tenchi's eyes were fixed upon the blank screen on the monitor, and he barely registered the comment made by Dinaka. What is he planning? Tenchi pondered with frustration.
"I suppose you'd like see how your friend is doing, wouldn't you?"
Tenchi's heart rate accelerated at the thought of seeing what condition Ryoko was in. He silently prayed for her well being while nodding his head silenty in response to Dinaka's query. After what seemed like ages, the screen flickered once before it displayed an image which sent Tenchi into a state of fury and sickness. The normally vibrant Ryoko, full of energy and life, was now hanging like dead weight in the grip of those metallic shackles. Almost half of her dress was saturated in blood, her blood, from what looked to be a wound on her left wrist, which was now absent one gem.
"You bastard." Tenchi seethed.
He could tell she was alive by the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, but she still looked so frail and weak. She looked nothing like the proud space pirate who would charge into danger without a care. Now she looked like a mere ghost of that woman, and he felt it was an affront to her very nature. These thoughts sparked a boiling anger within him that was bubbling to the surface rapidly.
Dinaka's voice was full of an arrogant mirth as he said, "As you can see Tenchi, she's resting at the moment. But perhaps we should wake her? Oh yes, I think that's a splendid idea..."
There was something in his voice that chilled Tenchi to his very core. "What are you going to do?" he asked nervously.
"Do you know what happens when someone is electrocuted? It's like having your every nerve being put onto a searing hot frying pan. The brain, it begins to cook inside the skull, eventually all the neural connections are annhiliated, and all that remains is a blistering mush." he speaking was slow and methodical, his every word meant to strike a chord within the captive young man.
Tenchi's face became pale as he listened to the speech. "Don't hurt her." he muttered quickly.
A short chuckle was what he received in reply. "As I have stated before...you are in no position to make any demands."
Tenchi narrowed his eyes. "It's not a demand, it's a request. Listen, just let her go, you can keep me here if you want. I can tell it's me you want, so there's no need to involve Ryoko anymore!" he insisted.
"On the contrary boy, on the contrary." And with that, a sudden surge of electricity jolted through the comatose form of Ryoko. Tenchi's heart seemed to leap into his throat as he watched the lithe woman convulse about erratically. Her eyes snapped open, her mouth opened up in a silent expression of sheer pain.
Wincing, Tenchi was feeling panic build within him. "What do you want from me?!" he shouted.
"Show me your true potential!" Dinaka demanded.
My true potential?! What is he talking about? Tenchi wondered in a frantic fashion as he watched Ryoko being tortured before his very eyes. The light hawk wings, he means the light hawk wings. he quickly realized. Feeling he had no choice, he tried to search within his very soul for the power hidden deep inside...yet he couldn't find it, couldn't grasp it. Ryoko now began to scream, more like howl, in total agony, her voice slicing to his core.
Gritting his teeth, Tenchi squeezed his eyes shut while desperately attempting to summon forth the wings. But all his mind could see was Ryoko's tortured form, her body writhing due to the electric currents running through it. And her scream, her scream dominated his senses like nothing else, it cut his soul in two and rendered him a total wreck.
"STOP IT!" Tenchi screamed while snapping his eyes open.
"Show me the wings!" Dinaka demanded.
Tenchi panted as the sweat poured down his face, his mind froze, his heart beat faster and faster as the dread built up to a nauseating level. "I CAN'T DO IT!" he shouted in defeat, tears now threatening to fall as he watched the relentless torture continue.
Yet any hopes he held that Dinaka would halt Ryoko's torment were dashed as he watched the crackling energy currents seem to burn even brighter. By now her eyes had rolled into the back of her head, only the whites were visible now as her blood curdling scream continued.
"Summon the wings or she dies." Dinaka stated coldly.
Tears finally spilled forth over Tenchi's cheeks as he watched his friends torment with utter helplessness. I can't do it! I can't do it! Why can't I feel the wings?! What's wrong with me?! Tsunami, please, someone, help me... Moment after moment passed, each second that ticked by was another lifetime of misery. Eventually, Ryoko's screams ceased, her mouth hung open as a thin stream of blood oozed out of its corner.
"Please, stop it." Tenchi pleaded tiredly.The now silent Ryoko twitched and spasmed more as the electrocution continued on unabated by Tenchi's plea's. Finally, the energy currents were brought to a halt, Ryoko's body still convulsing a bit in the aftermath.
"What a pity, she's dead." Dinaka announced plainly.
The words were like an endless amount of daggers hurled into Tenchi's heart. It was just too much to accept, too much to handle. Waves of numbing pain washed throughout him as his stunned mind tried to compute this simple fact. Disbelief was the reigning emotion in the forefront of his mind. The thought that Ryoko could actually be dead, that she was gone forever, was just too much of a shock.
He'd never again see her soaring through the sky, never see her drink another bottle of sake, never feel her arms wrap around him again as she whispered hotly into his ear, never hear her laugh as she played another prank. It was unreal, the notion that something that seemed like such a constant in his life would be gone. The pain became too much as he lowered his head and sobbed silently.
"Where were your mighty light hawk wings? I thought you'd do more to save someone you supposedly cared about." Dinaka taunted. Tenchi's misery only compounded as his mind swirled with new grief and suffering.Gods, he's right. If I had summoned the wings, maybe I could have saved her. But instead I failed her...I'm so sorry Ryoko.
"What are you doing here? Can't you see I'm busy right now?" Dinaka shouted to an underling.
The frightened youth read a small piece of paper with shaking hands. "S-sir, the M'kha are closing in on the planet, the chairman requests your immediate presence in the conference room." he stammered.
Glancing back at the viewing screen which displayed the mournful figure of Tenchi, Dinaka let out a frustrated sigh. "I suppose this interrogation can commence another time." he muttered before quickly stepping outside the control room.
Amidst massive machines whose functions served purposes few would know, one lone person sat in a little clearing. Her flaming red hair was disheveled, which was an accurate reflection of the inner pains Washu was going through. Seated atop her plush cushion, she robotically tapped away on numerous computer consoles, her bleary eyes darting back and forth between different monitors. Reaching over, she grabbed at a tea cup and took a sip, only to cringe in distaste upon discovering it was cold.
With a tired sigh, she rubbed her eyes, doing her best to ignore her stomachs rumblings. She had lost track of the last time she had eaten, but she had no plans to stop her work now for such luxuries as food. There was another gnawing pain besides the hunger, a pain which refused to go away, and compelled her to press herself further and further into researching how to try and rescue Ryoko and Tenchi. While the forefront of her mind attempted to declare this a purely scientific problem in need of a solution, her heart knew differently.
Despite all her efforts at maintaining a strictly scientific way of dealing with lifes problems, she found herself letting raw emotion guide her more and more. As hard as she tried, she couldn't escape all the pent up emotions she had regarding Ryoko. Washu remember long buried memories of all the days she spent merely sitting there next to Ryoko's incubator tank, just marveling in the feel of their link and wanting to be as close as possible to her daughter.
Yet the harsh events that had occurred had changed the both of them in many ways. And though her pride did its best to rationalize her behavior towards Ryoko, she knew deep down that she had done shameful things to her. It was the thought of never getting a chance to make up for it that pushed Washu forward. But inwardly she wondered if she wasn't battling for a lost cause. She found herself becoming frustrated and agitated at every turn in her research, and she felt hope dimming by the hour.
Leaning back in her chair, she closed her eyes and let out a tired sigh. There must be something, maybe some obscure research paper somewhere with some little clue that could help me. she told herself. Wait a second, a research paper... Almost leaping back to the keypad in front of her, Washu furiously typed in a series of search commands. When the results came back, she eagerly opened up the document file she was looking for, her eyes hungrily devouring its contents. As she finished, her lips curved upward in a wide smile. The data gleamed from the report filled in some little gaps that had been plaguing Washu, but now the puzzle was finally solved it seemed. Running her diagnostics program to see if her updated figures were accurate, she nearly jumped for joy as she watched it confirm her hopes.
She burst out laughing when she noted the absolute irony of the situation. Who would've thought an old research paper by Kagato on spacial warping due to Pulsar bombs would end up containing the key that could save Ryoko. I bet that son of a bitch would be furious if he knew such a thing. she smugly thought while brushing off her clothes and heading towards the labs exit.
Onboard the battered galaxy police vessel Yukinojo, the ships residents began what was to be another long and arduous day. Sasami somberly steamed some rice while letting a batch of tea steep. The usually merry little girl was a shadow of her normal self, as a severe lack of sleep was taking its toll upon her. Slowly, the others onboard began to filter into the tiny kitchen and seat themselves for the days first meal.
A sullen and baggy eyed Ayeka sat down and awaited another meal which she would probably not be able to finish. Mihoshi stumbled in a moment later, slumping down on the mat set down on the floor. Just before Sasami was about to serve everyone's tea, a series of footsteps were heard rapidly approaching. All eyes turned towards the door as Washu burst in as fast as she could.
"I've done it, I've found a way to reopen the wormhole and attempt a rescue." Her eyes gleamed with utter triumph as she spoke.
Everyones spirits soared upon hearing her words, and Washu was quickly embraced by a teary eyed Sasami who thanked her. Ayeka sprung to her feet, determination etched onto her features. "When can we leave?" she asked seriously.
Still patting the joyous Sasami on the back, Washu looked up at the violet haired princess. "I've got a small craft in my lab we can take, it should manage to handle the pressures that will be near the black hole. Now I want you Mihoshi to stay behind with Sasami onboard this ship. We don't know how dangerous things might get, and it'd be best if you stayed in a safer location."
Mihoshi arched her back and saluted Washu. "Right you are, I'll keep things running here on Yukinojo."
Gently prying Sasami from her, Washu silently motioned for Ayeka to follow her. Sasami tugged on the arm of Ayeka's kimono. "Please be careful."
Ayeka knelt down and embraced her little sister warmly for a moment before nodding her head and following the red haired scientist out of the kitchen. Just as they left the room, Washu turned her head to look over her shoulder. "You better bring Tenchi-ken with you. We might end up needing it." she solemnly stated. Ayeka quickly complied and retrieved the item in question before heading into Washu's inter-dimensional laboratory. Once inside, the two marched silently towards the proper level which housed the vessel they'd be using.
"You know, there's a chance this is all for nothing, and that they may be dead." Washu said seriously.
Ayeka tried to swallow a growing lump in her throat after hearing those words. "I know." she somberly replied.
The little genius picked up a grey suitcase which appeared rather hefty and headed towards the sleek round spacecraft set upon a small pedistal. "What's in that suitcase?" Ayeka inquired curiously.
Washu smirked devilishly. "Just a little firepower in case things get rough." The crowned princess matched her smirk as she got herself seated in the spaceship. Washu may be eccentric and difficult sometimes, but in a time of crisis she was always someone you'd want on your side.
Washu rapidly punched in a few keys. "Ok, let me just open up the inter-dimensional pathway here, and we should be on our way through that little wormhole. Once we get within 0.25 parsecs, I'll pop on the spacial deformation inducer that should make things smooth sailing."
Ten minutes later...
"I thought you said this would be smooth sailing?!" Ayeka shouted with tremendous difficultly as she was plastered to her seat by the incredible gravitational forces being exerted on the ship.
"Hey! At least we haven't been totally crushed and stretched out."
"Not yet." Ayeka mumbled under her breath.
Unable to even sit up in her chair to get a closer look at her computer console, Washu strained to make out the readings on the screen. "Ok, I'm pretty sure we should be exiting this wormhole in..." Suddenly the g-force reduced dramatically as the two began to breathe easier. "...now." she finished.
"Are they here? Can you detect them?" the princess excitedly asked.
The little genius waved her hand about to quiet down the violet haired girl. "Hold on a sec, I'm trying to find out...alright, I detect a planet nearby, looks to be habitable as well."
Ayeka breathed a sigh of relief, as it seemed that if Tenchi and Ryoko survived the wormhole, they'd at least have a place to stay at. As she was about to make a further inquiry about the planet, Ayeka noticed the pale look on Washu's face. "What is it?"
"Holy shit, I'm detecting about 650 spaceships around the planet. It looks like there's some kind of major battle going on." the red head shouted. Rubbing her forehead, Ayeka could only sigh in defeat. As if things weren't bad enough.
"No problem though, this little beauty of mine should slip right through undetected. Once on the surface, I start my tracking program and we should be picking up their energy signals in no time." Washu said reassuringly. Though despite her optimistic words, the diminutive genius was far more concerned about another matter. I still can't establish my mental link with Ryoko. It's possible something is blocking it, but still... she mulled silently.
It was only a short time later that the tiny ship designed by Washu managed to snake through those mystery crafts sensors and entered into a low planetary orbit. Furiously typing up a storm, Washu examined the data that poured in. "Alright, we've got a small window of time here before those goons spot us, and I got a feeling if they do that they'll be less than friendly. Now I'm picking up an energy signal deep within the planet that matches Tenchi's."
"Thank Tsunami." Ayeka said with great relief.
"No sign of Ryoko though." Washu added quietly.
The purple haired woman frowned a bit as a silent fear crept throughout her. Any further questions she may have asked were interrupted as Washu snapped on a more energetic persona. "We know where he's at, so let's get down there as fast as we can!"
Quickly swinging the ship down to the planets surface, the duo emerged and quickly raced through the tree's and underbrush towards a metallic structure which was assumed to house the entryway down into the underground complex. Washu casually strode towards the imposing structure seemingly without a care in the world, Ayeka was a little concerned as her head darted around to see if any trouble was approaching. They got within 50 yards before a swarm of uniformed men sprung up from the surrounding bushes and shrubs.
"Halt immediately!" one shouted.
Ayeka gulped loudly. "What now?" she whispered to her smaller companion.
Washu restrained a chuckle before answering, "Close your eyes, tightly."
The princess did so with some confusion, and it was a moment later that she heard some loud shouts of pain and discomfort from the surrounding soldiers. With a forceful tug on her arm, Ayeka was led running towards the entrance to the large building.
"Just a little hyper-flare I detonated, they should be blinded for a little while. Now let's set this little baby here on the door and watch it work some magic." Washu said while slapping a tiny circular disk upon the doorway. Expecting some sort of explosion, Ayeka looked for some cover to hide behind. However, the red haired girl clearing her throat broke her thoughts. "It's unlocked now." she said plainly before pressing a green button that caused the massive doors to slide open.
"What'd you expect, some Startica fireworks or something?" Washu asked when she saw the look on Ayeka's face.
Once inside, the pair quickly looked around for any other security officials in the area. The area was large, obviously meant for large vehicles as well as regular persons to travel through. There were tracks and path's leading to several elevators, some quite massive. Finding the hangar curiously empty of any personel, they were about to run towards one of the elevators down when Washu suddenly halted in her tracks and grabbed Ayeka's arm.
"Wha..." Ayeka began, but was silenced by Washu shushing her.
Quickly grabbing her arm, the little genius yanked Ayeka near a small vent on the wall. Summoning a small energy knife, Washu cut out a section before dropping to her knee's and crawling inside. "Come on! More of them are on their way up here."
Following Washu's command, Ayeka begrudgingly followed suit and crawled inside the cramped air vent. It was only a moment later that the rapid rushing of a large amount of footsteps were heard outside. After a tense moment, much to the pairs relief, the footsteps were heard moving off into the distance.
"That was a little too close for my comfort." Ayeka muttered.
"I've got a dampening field on our energy signals just in case they can detect us. Now, according to my analysis, Tenchi is about...19 levels underground." Washu said thoughtfully.
"We have to crawl 19 levels down?!" Ayeka shrieked in disbelief.
"Quiet down! Now, do you want to rescue Tenchi or not?" Washu asked in a whisper. Nodding her head with a serious expression, Ayeka quietly followed the pint sized genius through the musty air ducts.
It was only a moment later did the entire complex get rocked by a massive jolt. "What was that?" Ayeka nervously asked while listen carefully for any signs of a collapse.
"I guess that fleet of ships we saw heading towards this planet finally arrived." Washu said non-chalantly.
As if having to fight our way to rescue Tenchi wasn't enough. Ayeka mulled. Squeezing tightly between the thin metal tubing, the duo made the long and difficult journey down the dank and moldy air ducts. Stopping at an intersection, Washu once more summoned forth her trusty holo-top computer and darted her eyes over the readouts. "I'm getting a lock on Tenchi's signal, it's pretty close. Let's take this path here to the right, he should be in that area." Another loud rumble echoed throughout the complex as it shook from the force of yet another attack.
Nodding nervously, the now dirt covered princess pressed forward, finding her heart beating in fearful anticipation of what they might find. Deeper in the recesses of her mind, she also worried for the safety of her cyan haired rival. Washu's quiet remark about not being able to find Ryoko's energy signal wasn't very encouraging. What am I thinking? I'm sure Ryoko is just fine. I may not like to admit it, but her strength and resiliency are nearly unmatched. Her reassurances did momentarily quell her fears as they crawled through the ventilation ductwork.
Finally arriving at a small grate, Washu stealthily cut away the metal bars and quietly pushed them through. Poking her head out into the pitch black room, the little genius cautiously surmised that Tenchi was alone. With another few taps on her keyboard, a small lantern tumbled out of a sub-space opening. Motioning to Ayeka that the coast was clear, Washu crawled out and joyously sprung to her feet, glad to be out of that cramped tubing.
As the red haired girl flipped on her plasma-lantern, the entire cell lit up with a soft glow that perfectly illuminated the filthy state the prison was in. "Tenchi! Are you alright?!" Ayeka shouted her question while scurrying over towards the shackled boy.
She almost fell over as another blast rocked the complex, but she quickly composed herself to attend to Tenchi. Scanning his form for any obvious wounds, Ayeka noted with great relief that he seemed to be in relatively good shape. While Washu did some preliminary scans on the bonds that held Tenchi, and checked for any booby traps in the region, Ayeka slowly began to calm her racing heart.
"Don't worry Tenchi, everything is going to alright now." the princess stated with confidence.
In response to her comment, Tenchi lifted up his head and for the first time, Ayeka got to look at his tear-streaked face. "It's not alright. Ryoko, she's..." he was unable to bring himself to finish the sentence.
Washu halted her work and slowly looked up at the young man bound to the wall. "What's wrong with Ryoko?" she asked softly, trying to keep her voice neutral.
Almost losing his composure, he sucked in his breath and closed his eyes. "She's dead." he said barely above a whisper.
Ayeka gasped with disbelief while Washu's face flinched of its own accord. The red haired genius let a blank expression move across her features as a numbness struck her. Ayeka shook her head. "No, there must be some mistake." she muttered.
"That would explain why I was unable to detect her energy signal or use our link." she said in a very emotionless manner.
Ayeka was about to launch into a tirade at seeing how calmly Washu seemed to be taking things. However, she stopped herself upon seeing the glint of unshed tears building up in Washu's eyes. Ayeka knew Washu's seemingly cold exterior was merely attempting to mask the inner turmoil that was raging within.
Before any further words could be spoken or any more tears could be shed, the thudding of approaching footsteps caught everyones attention. Realizing that they themselves may lose their lives if they didn't compose themselves, both Ayeka and Washu sprung into action. Ayeka quickly brought forth Tenchi-ken and concentrated her energies, and it only took a second before the blue blade crackled into existence. Swiping at the metallic bonds that held Tenchi captive, the princess made quick work of the shackles as she helped Tenchi from falling over.
Slipping the hilt of the ancient Jurai sword into his hands, Ayeka spun around and summoned forth her power logs just as the door to the prison cell crashed forward, revealing a bevy of armed soldiers. Immediately, three of the them were surrounded by her logs which quickly began to shock them into submission. Several of the other soldiers crouched down and prepared to open fire, a fact which was not lost upon Tenchi. With lightning reflexes, the young prince lept forward and called forth the blade of Tenchi-ken while swooping into action. Fueled by a rage yet led by years of training, he maneuvered the blade with a sort of precision that would've made Yosho proud. In what seemed like an effortless display, Tenchi managed to deflect a volley of energy shots fired from the soldiers rifles.
Before even a look of shock could befall these armed men however, a bright light burst into existence, temporarily blinding all in the room. As the smoke cleared, Tenchi and Ayeka saw the burnt and tattered remains of the soldiers sprawled out on the ground. Both sets of eyes looked towards Washu, who stood with a large cannon set atop her shoulder, her face betraying a look of sheer rage neither had ever seen before. Quickly however, the pint sized red head adopted her tightly clenched expression of cold neutrality.
"Come on, let's go find Ryoko's body." she said softly, trying conciously now to keep her facial muscles from flinching.
The disheartened and disheveled trio made their way down a now darkened corridor as yet more rumblings shook the underground city. It was apparent that not much effort was being made to stop the three of them due to the far more massive attack taking place on the surface.
Motioning towards a sturdy looking door on the side of the hallway, Washu slammed a silver metallic disk onto it and waited a moment before it decrypted it's locking code. Once it was finished, Washu practically kicked the door down and marched inside the pitch black darkness. As she lit up her lantern once more, the horrid sight that was illuminated made everyone's heart lurch.
Before them was the still shackled body of Ryoko, her dress still stained with blood and her body now stinking of singed hair and flesh. Ayeka let out a strangled cry before burying her face in Tenchi's chest, the whole scence too overwhelming for her. Her mind had almost refused to believe it when Tenchi had declared that Ryoko was dead, but what she saw was finally driving the truth into her head.
Tenchi gazed mournfully at the limp form of his fallen friend, almost not noticing when Washu strode forward and created an energy saber which sliced through her shackles and sent her body falling to the floor. Yet the dimunutive genius caught her with surprising ease, and then gently set Ryoko's body onto the ground. Summoning her computer, the scientist diligently tapped away at her keypad, not even looking up when Tenchi approached her.
"Is there anything you can do?" Tenchi asked hoarsely.
Washu stared thoughtfully at the lifeless body before her for a moment. "Give Ryoko her gems back."
Without a moments hesitation, Tenchi held the sword out in front of him, and like that night so long ago, he prayed for the remaining gems to return to their rightful owner. Opening his eyes, he saw the shiny red gems embedded onto her right wrist and throat. All eyes were trained upon Ryoko's body, everyone waiting for some sign, no matter how small, that Ryoko would be alright. Yet much to their great sadness, nothing seemed to have happened.
Washu let out a small sigh. "I figured as much would happen." she muttered before resuming her work with an increasing amount of frustration. Tenchi looked back at the body of Ryoko laying before him, and fell to his knee's next to her. This is all my fault Ryoko. I should've been able to use the light hawk wings, I should've saved you. He couldn't help but notice that her golden eyes stared blankly ahead, unfixed and lifeless. With a quivering hand, he closed her eyelids over those amber eyes which had so often gazed at him with utter affection and love. Feeling the moisture build up in his eyes, he ran his hand over her soft cheek. She feels so cold. I remember when she would hug me, it would feel like a soft blanket wrapping around me, she was so warm. Realizing that he was already using terms such as 'used to' in his thoughts of her, the tears finally brimmed over and slid down his cheeks. He didn't even notice when Ayeka laid a hand on his shoulder to offer some comfort, or when Washu let her holo-top fade away.
"I can't do anything. She's dead." Washu stammered out. Her breathing was becoming more and more labored by the second as she realized the hard truth of the situation. Glancing over to her left, she looked at the emotionally shattered visage of Tenchi as he stroked her cheek with an entranced look. She briefly wondered just what was going on in his mind.
The young man in question was indeed deep in thought as Washu had noted. Ryoko, why did this have to happen to you? Why? WHY?! You deserved more, so much more. You deserved to live a life with a family who loved you, you deserved a chance to live that life in freedom and hapiness. This isn't how it should end...gods, it can't be how this ends! A strong hand shaking his shoulder brough Tenchi briefly out of his daze as he looked at Washu's grim face.
"Tenchi, there's nothing we can do. I can summon a portal back inside our ship, we'll bring her with us." she said seriously.
Yet Tenchi's mind barely registered those words, as his eyes once more traveled to Ryoko's lifeless form. Words were spoken around him, but his ears just phased everything away, leaving his mind adrift.
This can't be how it ends.
'I can't do anything. She's dead.'
She deserved more.
So much more.
She deserved a life like that dream I had. She was so happy there, she was radiant with joy.
His mind flashed through images, from that dream of a paradise life he and Ryoko shared. Yet only a moment later did images from the other odd dreams that plauged him as of late came to mind unintentionally. The wall cracking, the Sakura blossom dying, the riving pulling him under, the total darkness, the mysterious voice.
'The answers are within.'
His eyes widened slightly. Someone told him that in one of those dreams. Did those dreams mean something?
'Only in the darkness, shall hope spring forth.'
They must mean something.
They must be the answers.
Without even realizing what had happened to him. The three marks on his forehead flared brilliantly as the wings of the lighthawk burst into existence. Washu and Ayeka fell backwards in shock as they watched the transfixed young man gaze intensely at the dead woman in front of him.
"What is he doing?" Ayeka whispered in a stunned fashion.
Washu shook her head. "I have no idea."
Elsewhere in the base...
"Sir! The M'kha have breached our defenses on the third floor! I don't think we can..." a young man shouted in distress on a transmission before being cut off.
The tension that existed in the councils conference room was as thick as could be. A growing sense of desperation was now building up among the members of the Jhanel government. One aging man shuffled to his feet and cast an irratated look at the science minister. "I thought you were going to weaponize all that damn power from that...gem. What the hell happened?!"
Balai wiped the sweat off of his forehead while typing away at a computer console. "The energy is more complex than we had anticipated. We are testing a new method..." he paused as his eyes widened. "Gods...I don't believe it." he muttered.
Everyone in the chamber quieted down as they wondered just what has Balai so dumbstruck. After a moment, the science minister shook his head in shock. "This...this can't be real. There's a power reading I'm getting from cell block 12, and it's completely off the charts. I can't even get a solid lock on it, it's as if it's not even really there."
Murmurs were heard throughout the hall as everyone tried to figure out just what this power source might be. "If this is not just some faulty equipment acting up, what could possibly cause this?" one person asked.
Balai shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps...some sort of extra-dimensional being. The sheer magnitude and apparent nature of this energy are absolutely unprecidented."
"Are you saying that this is some sort of god?" someone scoffed.
Balai was silent for a moment before casting an absolutely serious look at the rest of the council. "That's the closest thing I can come up with."
The council erupted into heated discussion immediately, everyone trying to get a word in edgewise. The chairmain motioned furiously for everyone to quiet down. "I want an expeditionary force sent to that area. And patch your computer there into the main security network, I want to get a look and see what this is all about."
Back in Ryoko's cell...
Now flanked by the three lighthawk wings, Tenchi didn't even flinch as they moved inward and passed over him, changing his clothes into a more regal garb. Yet slowly, the old doubts of the young earthling began to bubble once more in his mind. What am I doing? Do I even know? What are the answers I'm trying to find? His eyes softened as he thought of one simple truth that burned brightly inside of him. I want her back.
Without even sure why he was doing what he was doing, he leaned foreward ever so slowly, until his forehead rested against hers. Closing his eyes, he focused on the touch of his skin upon hers. I can do this, the answers are within me. Yet voices of doubt also raged in his head. You can't do anything, you're no god, you're a pathetic boy who failed her once before. However, the words spoken by Tsunami long ago pressed him onward. 'Trust in your own power.'
Yet no matter how much faith he seemed to have, there was the very real logistical problem of figuring out just what to do. His confused, mournful, confident, doubtful mind harkened back to old lessons spoken to him in the past. One particular bit of advice from his grandfather to 'think outside the bounds of what you believe is possible.' kept springing to his mind. This gave him some footing as to where his mind should stand, as he was attempting to do something only the gods were deemed able to do.
Am I trying to become a god?
If I have to do so to bring her back, I will.
The notion would normally seem utterly preposterous, but in this circumstance, any and all ideas were being considered by Tenchi. Still keeping his forehead pressed tightly against hers, he pondered what his next course of action should be. If all life lives off of one form or another of energy, than perhaps merely injecting some of mine into her will do the trick. Newly emboldened, he focused on the surging warmth he felt throughout his body due to the light hawk wings. Wrapping his mind around it as best he could, he attempted to will it to flow into Ryoko's body. While such a task seemed easy enough, putting his thoughts into action was far more challenging than it seemed. Finally, he could feel the tingling warmth of power focus more intensely and then almost seem to seep out of him through the point where his forehead touched hers.
Washu and Ayeka gaped at the scene before them, watching as Ryoko's gems began to glow with a soft light, which grew in intensity. Brighter and brighter they glowed, their light eventually becoming almost blinding in its brilliance. After a moment, the flare of red light died down, and Tenchi slowly eased himself away from her body, opening his eyes as he did so. Snapping out of her trance, Washu scanned her computer readouts to see if Tenchi's effort had any apparent effect. Her heart which was momentarily buoyed, sank yet again. "There's no sign of life." she murmured.
Tenchi's serene expression faded, his brow scrunching together in irratation. It didn't work, I should've known. I'm no god, I can't raise the dead. he inwardly berated while slumping his shoulders. Moving his hand up to touch her skin once more, he noted that least she was temporarily warmed by the energy influx. She's not some robot who just needs to be plugged in to work. She's a human being, with a unique soul, which is gone. If I were to revive her, I would need to revive her soul itself, and I don't have a clue how to do that.
Returning his thoughts to the source that had given him the notion of doing this, he pondered his dreams more closely. That one dream, where I was told that I held the answers, I remember it was very dark. And I also couldn't even feel my body, it was like...nothing I could ever imagine. He wasn't sure why, but there seemed to be an importance, a very real clue which was within that dream. Think about it, where is it very dark? The first thing that came to mind was the prison cell, when the lights were out. But that didn't seem to fit very well, as it was currently lit up by Washu's plasma-lantern. Staring intently at Ryoko's lifeless form, the answer presented itself to him. It would be very dark inside of Ryoko's mind right now. His determination once more firming up, he took a deep breath before tilting forward and resting his head against hers yet again. Washu shook her head sadly at the sight before her. She was touched by Tenchi's resolve to save her daughter, but by now she felt as if it was all a lost cause.
Tenchi was not swayed however by the doubts of those around him or even the little voice of pessimism within him which cried out its protests. Instead, he controlled his breathing pattern very precisely, letting his mind clear away the black sludge of doubt, rage, and sadness which hung around him. To light the spark of life in her, I need to become one with her. Why he thought that exactly, he wasn't sure of. All he knew was that it seemed like one of the most simple truths ever.
Becoming 'one' with somebody was a very vague notion, something that didn't escape Tenchi. Relying on a similar method that he used to transfer power into her, he focused his mind as best he could upon not just the power he had, but on his very soul itself. He could almost swear he felt the tendrils of his mind wrap around itself, encompassing his very being, heart and soul. Once he felt he completed that task, he moved his minds attention to the point of contact with Ryoko, and began to psychologically push himself towards that point as hard as he could. At first it seemed as if nothing was happening, but slowly, he felt as if a barrier was giving way, letting him sink into her. The sensation was unlike anything else, he could feel her entire body sliding through him, tickling his every nerve. The closest he could match the feeling to was the sensation that occurred when Ryoko had phased him along with herself through a wall once.
If his ears were listening, he would've surely heard the startled gasp emitted by Washu and Ayeka. The two of them had been worriedly watching Tenchi when suddenly, his entire form began to gain a sort of translusence. His body had taken on the appearance of a ghostly figure before it began to gently sink into Ryoko's body, eventually vanishing entirely within her. Blinking their eyes rapidly, the two of them were frantically attempting to deduce just where Tenchi had gone. Washu scanned the computer readouts while Ayeka quietly called out Tenchi's name. After a moment, the princess turned towards the genius and grabbed her shoulders. "Where has Tenchi gone?!" she asked in a near panic.
Washu shook her head, almost in a daze. "He's here, everything on my computer says that he's right here."
"Why can't I see him then?"
"I...I'm not sure." she winced at the admittance of not knowing something, but continued, "Look for yourself, his energy readout is flaring up like crazy, showing him to be right there." she pointed at the location of Ryoko's body before both of them became very quiet for a moment as they pondered just what occurred.
"Is he...inside of her?" Ayeka asked barely above a whisper.
"That seems to be the only answer I can think of." Washu said just as quietly. Normally, being given the chance to see such amazing occurances would have delighted the scientist. But now, there seemed to be only one thing which could bring joy to Washu, and she knew deep in her heart that only one young man held the key to bringing that about. I don't know if what you're trying is even possible Tenchi, but I'm praying for you.
Washu's eyes noticed something alarming on her computer, and she snarled at the readouts on her holo-top which showed a contingent of soldiers heading towards the cell. With a few pushes of some buttons, her silver colored suitcase tumbled to the floor. Popping it open, she retrieved two pylons and hurriedly set them by the sides of the doorway. Just then the prison door slid open to reveal a horde of soldiers.
"Intruder! Fire at will!" one of them shouted as the entire group let loose a furious hail of blaster fire.
Yet with a smug smile, Washu stood there unharmed with her arms crossed. The officers blinked in shock for a moment before they attempted to rush in, only to quickly find themselves getting a violent shock as they were repelled from the doorway. Washu cackled madly. "Sorry boys, this is a private party, no outsiders allowed."
Nothingness, complete and total nothingness was all that was around Tenchi as he floated in a black sea of abyss. He could not focus his eyesight for he had no eyes to see with, along with no limbs to move or voice to speak with. It was a strange experience to be totally stripped of all physical elements that comprised him. It was terrifying, yet liberating at the same time. Boundless, yet totally empty as well. But even without physical eyes, he could still 'see'
Gods, it's so dark in here. This is even worse than that dream.
The thought that this was all that was left of the once vibrant and energetic Ryoko was greatly depressing. Yet Tenchi knew he would need to clear his mind for the upcoming task at hand. Up to this point, the actions he had taken were relatively simple compared to what he was now trying to do. To revive a persons unique and infinitely complex soul seemed like an impossible feat. Yet Tenchi knew that he had come too far, and there was too much at stake to back out now.
If he had lungs, he would've undertaken some breathing excersizes in order to calm himself, yet his current state didn't allow such a thing. Doing his best to block out the fringe thoughts that hovered around his conciousness, he began a mental dissertation on what the very nature of life is. What exactly is a soul? Where is it? Is Ryoko's soul existing in some other dimension, and only needing to be lured back into her body? Or is it gone completely? That thought was just too chilling for Tenchi to continue contemplating.
He knew deep down that in order to pull this off, he himself would need to do something extraordinary. At the moment he still felt like a young man struggling for answers, yet he knew that he needed to ascend to something greater. Scrolling through his memories of the seemingly endless amount of cryptic parables told to him over his lifespan. Comments that tried to disect the meaning and structure of life and death, comments that could be of some use to Tenchi. Maybe I'm overcomplicating things, maybe if I break this down into it's most simplistic and abstract form, I can figure this out.
Yet still, his mind was unable to discover the answers he sought. Ok, let's take a look at all those dreams, they must mean something. First, I was in a field, and there was this wall with cracks in it. What could that mean...maybe it symbolized the walls between me and Ryoko crumbling, like how she opened up that night at the campfire. Newly emboldened by an apparent connection, he continued his train of thought, Alright, next there was a Sakura blossom dying. Immediately, a wave of pain flooded him as he knew full well what that symbolized. After that there was this river I was getting pulled into. He assumed that was meant to symbolize his grief after Ryoko's death.
In the next dream I had, I was in a place like this. Some voice was telling me that the answers were within, and that only hope can come from darkness. I suppose the dream was trying to say that I could bring her back and I needed to get to this place in order to do so. There was one other thing the dream said. 'Find the rhythm' I think it was. What does that mean? Am I supposed to play a song or something?
Wracking his brain, he grappled with the cryptic words that were haunting him. Frustration heaped upon anger, which was thrown upon guilt and self-pitying, and soon any glimmer of calm was blown in the dust. He wondered briefly if Tsunami ever got as angry as he was now. Damn it! Why does everything have to be so hard? If these stupid dreams were some messages from the gods, why couldn't they speak in plain Japanese? Why does it have to be this mystical bullshit nobody can figure out? Why can't I have a simple life, where I don't have to save the galaxy or unleash some god-like powers? Why couldn't I sort out my feelings for the girls sooner? Why couldn't I have a life...like that dream with Ryoko, where we had a daughter together. And with that, his rage fled from him, and was replaced with clarity, yearning, and an overarching sadness.
A life where I'd come home and she'd be there waiting for me with a kiss and hug, and she'd talk about how her day went, tell me all about what our little girl did. We'd all share laughs together at the dinner table, and then we'd watch some TV or maybe see the moon rise. After that, Ryoko and I would tuck our daughter into bed and read her a bedtime story, and then just the two of us would relax together on the couch. She'd curl up against me and her hair would brush under my nose. She always smelled terrific, I never got to tell her that, or how soft she felt when she'd gently wrap her arms around me. But I'd be happy with any type of life as long as she's there with me.
Yet the deep seated fear that he'd never get a chance to reveal all these things hung over him like a looming cloud. I have to do this, I have to...'Find the rhythm', whatever that means. Almost desperately, he tried to recall any songs or tunes that might hold some clue. The train of thought seemed wrong to him, he knew it wasn't any song. It was a different sort of rhythm which was implied by the dream, something like...The rhythm of life. Something clicked at that thought. Excitedly, he pressed onward. That must be it, I've heard that phrase before.
Like a flowers petals unfolding, Tenchi's mind began to piece together various lessons and observations gleamed over his lifetime, and the puzzle began to become more and more clear. All of life is connected somehow, each living thing is like one note or part of some grandiose song. I just have to find the rhythm to Ryoko's life. Abstract notions and inner feelings were meshing together to form something concrete and plausible. For the first time, he didn't feel like a boy attempting to walk in the footsteps of giants. Now he felt like a caterpillar who had just emerged from a cocoon and was soaring through the skies as a butterfly. Wrapping the focus of his mind inward yet again, his conciousness bathed itself in the power of the light hawk wings, letting it consume all of him. One thing reverberated throughout him, one thing drove him. Find the rhythm.
Submersing himself in the memories of days gone before, he focused not on sights or events or emotions, but on sounds. The sound of Ryoko's laughter, her sobbing, her shouting, her sweet melodous voice when it was soft and gentle, her sultry whispers. He totally emersed himself within these sounds, letting them fill the void with a seemingly endless barrage of noise which eventually fused into one conglomorate which was totally and purely Ryoko. The noise had taken on a life of it's own, and Tenchi merely was a bystander swept away in it. Yet when it seemed the experience had reached it's zenith, everything halted.
And then there was one word, one word spoken louder than anything else he could ever imagine. Her voice spoke it with such total clarity and yet with an emotion so vivid and real he could swear he could actually touch it and hold it...
And after she said it, the entire black void exploded in an array of light and sound which rocked Tenchi to his very core.
Even as he was blown away by the floodgate of emotions, sights, and sounds, he felt like shouting out in utter joy. For this montage was without a doubt the very essence of Ryoko herself, and Tenchi could practically feel her glomping onto him. Yet almost as soon as this all began, it seemed like he was slipping away, being carried on a rapidly moving current which flowed to destinations unknown. The tingling power of the light hawk wings began to distort, and he felt his conciousness squeezing out of this plane of existence.
As the underground fortress was shaken by blast after blast, Washu and Ayeka paid these things little attention as their eyes were riveted upon what going on before them. It had been an unknown number of moments since Tenchi had abruptly vanished, and neither one had the foggiest notion of what to do next. And then something happened, something so amazing that their hearts skipped a beat.
After being cold and motionless for several hours now, the body of Ryoko convulsed once before suddenly sucking in a lungfull of air, followed by another one after that. With a gasp, Washu felt the mental link she had shared with Ryoko suddenly spark back to life. The warm sensation of Ryoko's thoughts flooded Washu's mind once more, which almost brought the little scientist to tears of joy. Glancing at her computer readouts, she grinned in disbelief as she saw the steady heartbeat and energy signal of her daughter on the screen.
"Ryoko, she's alive." she whispered.
"Washu, look!" Ayeka shouted while pointing. Looking up, the red haired girl saw a transparent Tenchi phase into view before solidifying before her very eyes. He was slumped over her, his forehead pressed against hers, while his eyes were tightly shut. Both he and Ryoko were panting heavily, and both seemed unconcious at the moment. Yet Tenchi soon lazily opened his eyes, getting used to being able to feel them again.
Despite the fact that he felt as if he had run back to back marathons without having slept in a week, he still managed the energy to lean back and pull Ryoko up into his lap. His gaze was focused solely upon her, his chocolate brown eyes softening upon the sight of her steadily breathing. I can't believe she's really back. he thought absently while gently brushing a few stray bangs from her eyes. Ayeka and Washu had a million questions, but neither one had a clue where to even to begin. Besides that, Tenchi seemed so engrossed by staring at the space pirate in his lap, that he most likely wouldn't even hear what they had to ask.
And then Tenchi watched with anticipation and joy as Ryoko fluttered her eyes open. Her golden eyes once more shining with the vibrant energy of life he had become so accustomed to in his life. Immediately, those eyes focused onto him, exhausted yet shining with a thousand emotions.
"Tenchi..." she whispered, unable to even begin to say all the things she wanted.
"Shhh." he said softly while continuing to stroke her hair. Sliding his arms under her, he stood up while holding her in his arms, with his gaze still fixated upon her. "You need to rest now. I promise we'll talk later." he said gently.
A smile tugged at the corner of her lips. "I'll hold you to that." she said sleepily.
Finally tearing his eyes away from the cyan haired girl in his arms, Tenchi looked up to Washu. "Let's get out of here." he said firmly.
"Well, we've got a problem, Tenchi. It seems that the people that decided to pay this planet a little visit destroyed our ship." Washu explained.
Tenchi let out a deep sigh. "I can get us out." he declared after a long moment.
"Are you sure? I mean you seemed pretty worn out."
Looking down at the now sleeping space pirate in his arms, Tenchi felt a profound sense of inspiration and confidence overcome him just by looking at her. "I can do it." he assured.
Tenchi turned his head to the side and for the first time, noticed a group of awestruck soldiers standing outside the door, fear evident on their features. A surge of rage burst through his veins, he knew that with the light hawk wings, he could kill them all with ease, to get back at them for what they did. Yet as he felt Ryoko's warm breath upon him as she dozed in his arms, his rage drained from him. Calmly looking up towards one of the ceilings corners, his eyes caught sight of a small black camera situated there.
"Is this what you wanted to see Dinaka? My light hawk wings? You know, it would be so simple for me to destroy this entire base, I could even devastate the entire planet if I wanted to. But I'm not like you, I don't get my pleasure from the suffering of others. Besides, I can see you're getting what was coming to you anyway." he said solemnly just as another blast sent more chunks of the ceiling crumbling to the floor. Washu couldn't help but smile at hearing his response. His gentle nature and lack of bitterness despite hardships were just some of the qualities that drew the plethora of ladies to him.
Snapping back to the moment, she put on a stern face. "Tenchi, we better get a move on! This place is going to cave in at any minute." Washu warned quickly.
Nodding his head, Tenchi shut his eyes and immersed himself within the pool of broiling power that simmered inside of him. He found it far easier now to call forth the light hawk wings at will. His newfound understanding of how the universe worked seemed to help him a great deal. Once the triad of wings shimmered around his body, he opened his eyes and prepared to leave, until he remembered something that he needed to retrieve first. Sending outward his mental sphere of sensory perception, he 'felt' around for the familiar power of Ryoko's gem, the one which was so cruely gutted out of her.
Once his makeshift mental radar caught the faint glow of it, he prayed for it to return to Ryoko. In a matter of seconds, the red gem phased into view, now embedded upon Ryoko's left wrist. Turning back towards the other two girls in the room, he nodded his head to signify his readiness to leave now.
Focusing his power, he moved two of his wings over by Washu and Ayeka, letting their energy wrap around the pair of women securely. After that, he phased everyone outside of the underground base. Despite watching him revive a dead woman, Ayeka and Washu were both surprised by his apparent newfound power. "How did you do that?" Ayeka inquired.
Tenchi shrugged his shoulders. "If you can get yourself in the right frame of mind, it seems almost anything is possible." he said casually.
It was then that Ayeka emitted a yelp of shock as a flurry of energy beams were fired upon her. However, they were to no avail as the light hawk wing shielded her from any harm. The surface was swarming with uniformed soldiers, and the skies were thick with approaching and landing spacecraft. It seemed all of their attention was now being directed at the incredible display of power Tenchi was producing.
Yet even as their battle cruisers let forth volley after volley of attacks on him, Tenchi's face held an absolute calm look on it as he watched their efforts dissolve in front of him. Despite their seemingly safe position, Ayeka was still rather jittery watching as hordes of opaque colored ships fired upon them. The surrounding ground troops encircled Tenchi and the others, obviously assuming that the boy with the light hawk wings was a threat to them.
"We have you surrounded! Give up and surrender!" one commander yelled with false bravado. Tenchi merely floated himself and the other girls off of the ground with ease, ignoring the shouts from below. Though the M'kha forces resumed their fire, it was apparent that they were realizing that their attacks were fruitless.
The violet haired princess looked at Tenchi with wonderment written on her face as he serenely flew the group off of the planet and into space. He still cradled the sleeping Ryoko in his arms, and even though a pang of envy shot through Ayeka, she reasoned that Ryoko deserved such a cozy position given what she had been through. But the princess still couldn't shake the feeling that something occurred down on that planet over the few days they were gone, something which would change all of their lives permanently. Yet Ayeka knew that such thoughts were for another time and place.
Washu spirits were at an all time high. Not only did she have her daughter back, safe and sound, but she also had an up close chance to examine the magnificent power of the light hawk wings. She giddily deduced that it would take months to comb through the data she had collected. Yet as her emerald eyes fell upon the girl sleeping in Tenchi's arms, Washu knew deep down that there was something far more important than science.
The group soared through the heavens, and approached the terrifying sight of a black hole looming ahead. Chunks of matter swirled inward to the abyss, creating a beautiful yet frightening sight at the same time. Washu looked towards Tenchi with a serious look on her face. "Are you going to be able to handle this?"
He nodded his head silently in response. He wasn't sure why he was so confident exactly, afterall he had lost conciousness the last time he traveled through a wormhole. Yet he felt overwhelmingly self assured, certain that he could accomplish this task with ease. As he felt the gravitational pressures build up around him, he pondered some of the lessons he had learned down on that planet. He had learned that ones state of mind was the key to doing anything, and he also learned that one should never take something for granted.
Clutching Ryoko tighter to himself, his heartbeat quickened as he thought about how he wanted to tell her his feelings. He had shut himself off from the world in a sense, afraid to hurt and to be hurt. But as he stared at the woman in his arms, he knew that he had emotionally passed the point of no return, and was finally ready to share himself with her. While it weighed on his heart that Ayeka would be hurt by his choice, he knew that supressing his feelings was now impossible. He wanted nothing more than to give Ryoko the happiness he felt she so richly deserved.
While Washu tapped away non-chalantly at her computer, Ayeka nervously gazed around in awe as they passed through the wormhole. Traveling into the wormhole in Washu's ship was quite a different experiece than floating freely through it as she did now. While there was some pressure being exerted upon her, she felt relatively comfortable. After a brief moment, the group emerged on the other side, awash in swirling debris once more.
Without incident, Tenchi and the others flew through the blinding cloud of matter and eventually emerged in a more clear region. Spotting the shape of Yukinojo ahead of them, Tenchi phased the entire group onboard the galaxy police vessel. Glad to be on solid ground once more, Ayeka let out a sigh of relief just before she spotted Sasami walking into the dining area. The little girl gasped in shock before breaking out into a full fledged run. "Tenchi! Ryoko! You're alright!" she shouted with teary eyes while latching onto Tenchi's side. "I was so worried."
Tenchi chuckled while still keeping Ryoko in his arms. "It's good to see you too Sasami."
Mihoshi then entered the room and gasped at seeing Tenchi and Ryoko once again. Quickly rushing to Tenchi's other side, she too latched onto him and began to cry. "Oh Tenchi I'm so glad you're alright!" she shouted.
Tenchi soon realized his breathing was becoming rather restricted due to the two girls crushing him from both sides. "G-good to see you too Mihoshi." he gasped before Washu and Ayeka pried Sasami and Mihoshi off of him after seeing his distress.
"Tenchi needs to put Ryoko to bed. Follow me into the lab, I need to run a few tests on her to make sure she's alright." Washu declared while trying to keep the emotional girls from re-latching onto Tenchi.
Nodding his head, the young man walked swiftly into Washu's inter-dimensional laboratory. Striding swiftly into it's inner depths, Tenchi and Washu came into a small, well lit area with a metal slab which was surrounded by scanning devices and sensor arrays.
Motioning for Tenchi to set Ryoko down, she rapidly set into action a series of medical devices which hummed to life. Glancing up from her work, Washu looked up at Tenchi. "You should probably get some rest too. All that light hawk wing summoning must be exhausting."
Tenchi shrugged his shoulders, keeping his gaze fixated on Ryoko. "It's weird, my body feels tired, but my mind feels totally alert. It's kinda hard to explain."
Washu tilted her head to the side as she stared intently at him. "Tenchi, what happened back there?" she asked softly.
The young man thought over her question for a moment before shaking his head. "I don't really know. I just...knew I had to do something, and somehow I managed to bring her back. I've learned a lot of things, about myself, about life, about...everything. I think it's going to be awhile before I really can sort through it all."
"Don't tell me you're going to get all philosophical like Katsuhito now." Washu quipped with a grin.
Tenchi chuckled while rubbing his neck. "Don't worry little Washu, I'm not going to be anything like that."
Feeling his stomach growl, he realized just how long it had been since he had a decent meal. "I think I'm going to go now. I haven't had much to eat in awhile."
Nodding her head silently, Washu studied some diagrams and charts on her computers. As Tenchi was just about to leave the sanctuary of her laboratory, he looked over his shoulder at the pint sized scientist. "Take care of her, Washu." he said seriously just before he left.
Washu stared at the now empty space he had occupied a moment earlier. Don't worry Tenchi. This time, I'll take care of her.
As the chipped and battered Yukinojo made the long trek back towards Earth, the residents onboard enjoyed their first peaceful meal in what seemed like ages. Ryoko slept soundly in Washu's laboratory, and didn't make it for dinner. Tenchi was bombarded with questions about what occurred on the planet he and Ryoko were stranded on, and he did his best to answer the flurry of queries.
Afterwards, as most everyone else turned in to get some much needed sleep, Tenchi sat in the main living area and gazed out the window. Idly watching the stars, lost in thought, he almost didn't notice when Ayeka came and sat beside him.
"Oh, hello Ayeka. I thought you went to bed already."
The princess shook her head. "No, not yet. I thought perhaps I would join you for a moment, is that alright?"
Tenchi nodded his head. "Of course."
After a moment of silence, Ayeka tried to broach the subject that had weighed upon her for some time now. "Tenchi, I...I was wondering if..." she trailed off, unable to discover the appropriate words. After a pause, she let out a sigh. "Did something occur between yourself and Ryoko?" she asked meekly, dreading the response.
Tenchi's eyes widened a bit before a far away look came across his face. "A lot of different things happened down on that planet, Ayeka."
The princess gripped her kimono tightly in her fists, struggling to keep a composed expression. "Are you implying what I think you are?"
Tenchi averted his eyes from her face, instead choosing to fixate on a distant star. "I never wanted to hurt anyone. It's just that I realized a lot of things, and I..." he let out a deep breath, shaking his head. "I'm sorry Ayeka, but I cannot deny my own feelings. It wouldn't be fair to anyone." he finished quietly.
Blinking back a few tears, the princess released her kimono and stood up. A sharp pain lanced through Ayeka'a heart as she breathed shakily. Quickly turning on her heel, she began to walk away. Tenchi hung his head as he inwardly berated his cowardice. You broke her heart and now you're too chicken to even look her in the face.
"Ayeka, wait." Tenchi said as he stood up and walked over towards her.
Her head was bowed as she tried to avoid his gaze. She stiffened slightly as she felt his arms wrap around her in a comforting embrace.
"I'm sorry you had to get hurt Ayeka, please believe me when I say that. You're a very dear friend to me, and you always will be." he said soothingly.
With a small nod of her head, Ayeka gently pushed away from Tenchi. "While it is good to know that, I...I still..."
"I understand." Tenchi said softly.
"I would like some time alone please." she said quietly before slowly walking towards her bedroom.
With a sigh, Tenchi returned to his seat near the window, contemplating why life had to be so cruel sometimes. I guess I still have a lot to learn about the universe. He thought wryly.
In Washu's laboratory...
In what seemed to now be a regular ritual for Ryoko, she opened her eyes only to discover herself in unfamiliar surroundings. Blinking her eyes rapidly, she groggily noted that at least this strangle locale was well lit. Realizing she was no longer shackled, she sat up quickly and looked around, frowning upon her discovery that she was in Washu's laboratory.
"Hello Ryoko, did you get a good rest?" Washu asked in an interested manner.
"Why am I here?" Ryoko asked curtly.
"I asked Tenchi to bring you in so I could run a few simple tests to see if you were alright. You know he was the one who saved you. You had actually died, but he summoned his light hawk wings, and then brought you back somehow."
The cyan haired woman's anger at being in her current location dissapated upon hearing what had occurred. Feeling the all familiar urge to be in Tenchi's presence, she hopped off of her bed and phased into a teal and red dress while fluffing her rumpled hair. Mumbling a 'whatever', she prepared to fly out of the laboratory as fast as possible. However, a recollection of something Tenchi had told her came to mind. Turning around, she placed her hands on her hips while staring intently at Washu. The little genius had her clasped in front of her while she returned the pirates gaze. Washu wanted to say how happy she was that Ryoko was alright, but her foolish pride kept her mouth closed.
Ryoko considered launching into her feelings about her 'mother' right then and there, but decided that she wasn't yet ready, and that she wanted to see Tenchi first. "Washu, I want to talk to you later on. I've got a lot of stuff I want to say, and I want you to listen, is that understood?" Ryoko nearly growled as she finished.
Washu blinked once before nodding her head. Ryoko returned the gesture and floated out of Washu's lab, leaving the diminutive scientist all alone again.
On the Yukinojo...
As Tenchi silently mused on the recent events whicn had occurred, he heard the familiar displacement of matter which signaled Ryoko phasing next to him. She sat in a lotus position on a mat next to Tenchi, her golden eyes fixated upon him.
"Doing a little star gazing?" she asked.
"I guess I'm doing a little thinking as well." he said before turning his eyes towards her. Just seeing her next to him made his heart speed up. She was her normal energetic self, which filled him with hapiness.
She smiled a genuine smile while tilting her head to the side. "I guess I really owe you now, huh? That's three times you've saved me."
He shrugged his shoulders sheepishly. "It was nothing, really."
She shook her head. "Don't be modest, Washu told me what happened. I don't have a clue how you did what you did, but I'm glad you did it."
Feeling a surge of emotion just by being in her presence, he decided that now was the time to open himself up to her. Cautiously, he placed his hand atop hers, which caused the cyan haired woman's heart to skip a beat. Swallowing loudly, she glanced back and forth between his hand and the intense look on his face. She could see he was obviously struggling to come up with something to say. Finally, he asked, "Do you remember anything from when you were...dead?"
The question caught her off guard. Looking down towards the dusty floor, she shrugged her shoulders. "Not really, I just remember everything kind of fading away." Recalling that experience sent a chill down her spine. Yet her uncomfortable feelings were displaced upon recollection of a buried memory of that period.
"Actually, I think I do remember one thing, right before I woke up. It was really weird, I can't really explain it because I can hardly remember. But I could swear that I could feel you with me, I mean it was like we were joined or something. I guess I'm not making any sense." she finished with a smile.
Tenchi slowly rubbed his hand atop hers. "Actually that makes plenty of sense."
Ryoko was finding it harder and harder to concentrate when she could feel his slightly calloused, yet soothingly warm hand gently stroking her. She wanted to ask a million questions, about what had happened, and why he seemed so attentive to her now. She turned her eyes towards his and gazed intently at him, trying to decipher just what was brewing inside of his mind.
Tenchi let out a long breath and struggled to find the right words to speak to her. "Ryoko, ever since...I mean over these past few..." shaking his head with frustration, he kicked himself inwardly. He could face an army of soldiers without fear but a few simple words had his stomach twisting in knots. He knew that Ryoko wouldn't reject him, but insecure paranoia still broiled within, and looking at those beautiful golden eyes which gazed at him now with concern wasn't helping.
"Is something wrong?" she asked seriously while placing her free hand atop his shoulder.
His mind froze to a paralytic halt as he recycled countless memories of the cyan haired woman in front of him. Seeing her childlike expression as she played hide and seek with Ryo-ohki around the house, the sensation of her soft and curvaceous body curling against him, whispering sensual desires into his ear. Just looking at those full lips of hers made him wonder just how they'd feel pressed up against his. Snapping out of his momentary trance, he knew he had to speak the truth, and from his heart.
"Ryoko, I've come to realize some things lately. I guess it began quite awhile ago, but it wasn't until recently did these things become apparent. Over the past few days, we've spent a lot of time together, and I found myself enjoying your company, and getting to know you better." he paused for a moment to think over his next few words. "I don't know if you know this, but when they...killed you, they made me watch." he took a deep breath while trying to swallow the lump that had grown in his throat.
Ryoko could see how much that memory was hurting Tenchi, and it broke her up to know that he was forced to go through that. After Tenchi composed himself, he continued, "At first, it was just too hard to believe. But as it started to sink in, I just...couldn't handle it. I felt like I had lost a part of myself when you died. The thought of never seeing you again was just too much to bear. And I started to finally realize what you mean to me, and how I never want to lose you again." his voice had lost the earlier anguish and had now taken on a more gentle nature.
Ryoko was frozen with anticipation as she listened to him. To know that he cared for her enough to think like that made her heart race. But she had the soaring hope that his words meant even more, so she waited with baited breath to hear him speak. Tenchi lifted his other hand and with a feathery touch, cupped her cheek in his palm, eliciting a gasp from the cyan haired girl.
"Ryoko, what I'm trying to say is that I'm in love with you. You're the most complex, vibrant, beautiful woman I've ever known, and I'm not going to take you for granted any longer. You deserve to be happy, and I want to be the one..." his speech was cut short by Ryoko's lips pressing against his.
Coherent thought fled from Ryoko's mind the moment she heard the words 'in love with you'. Initially numb with shock, she then felt a dam of pent of emotions burst, which resulting in her grabbing Tenchi and pulling him in for a kiss. She was nearly delerious with happiness as she melted into the moment. Her hands slid around his back while one of his held her head and the other went around her waist, holding her securely against him. Tenchi was now deepening their kiss with ever rising passion, which sent the pair of them reeling with delight. His every nerve tingled with delight, as the one thing which seemed like a fantasy hours ago was now becoming a reality.
I must have died, this must be heaven. He's kissing me, he's actually kissing me! Ryoko chanted over and over mentally as she reveled in the feel of his warm lips against hers. Ryoko moaned as his tounge slipped into her mouth, and she briefly wondered if one of her other dreams would be realized soon, she could smell Tenchi's phermones pouring off of him in waves as she twirled her tounge around his.
Yet no matter how much he may have wanted the kiss to last forever, Tenchi knew that the need for air was now winning out. Reluctantly, he pulled away, though still kept his arms wrapped around her. Opening his eyes, he saw the dreamy look on Ryoko's flushed face as she licked her lips. The sight was so alluring to him that he leaned in again to pick up where they left off. However, their romantic moment was interrupted by a gasp from Mihoshi, who had just entered the room.
"Oh! I didn't...I'm sorry...I...this is so embarrassing!" she stammered before turning around and heading back to her room.
"Well that ruined the moment." Ryoko muttered sadly.
Tenchi nodded his head while releasing her from his embrace, opting to hold both of her hands. Still blushing from their previous activities, he tried to clear his head of his lustful thoughts so he could speak rationally. Yet it was Ryoko who spoke up first. "Tenchi, I can't even begin to tell you what you mean to me. I've loved you for years, and now..." she laughed joyously, her voice as light and magical as a springs breeze. "...and now you've made my dreams come true." she finished softly while leaning forward to kiss him tenderly.
Leaning back, she smirked devilishly. "If I knew I had to get myself killed so you would fall for me, I would've done it sooner." The two of them laughed at her remark before silence fell across the room. Though their was no awkwardness this time, only a quiet comfort, as the both of them were content to be in eachothers company.
Turning around as she leaned back against Tenchi, Ryoko let out a happy sigh as she watched the bright stars floating by them. She purred as Tenchi nuzzled her hair, his strong arms draped around her stomach. She had imagined moments like this, but actually experiencing them was infinitely better than daydreaming. Meanwhile, Tenchi was also contemplating the beauty of the moment, slightly surprised he so easily made the transition from a shy boy who was nervous around women into a young man who now snuggled up with Ryoko. I lost you once Ryoko, but never again am I letting that happen, never...
In another location, beyond the reach or comprehension of mere mortals, Tsunami floated in an etheral mist. Normally, she exuded a serene calm, an aura of peace. Yet now, a frown was upon her face, her pink eyes glistened with worry and concern. Closing her eyes, she bowed her head slowly.
"Tenchi, please have the strength to deal with what you have begun." she whispered. Tsunami could only wait now, as doubts of the future plagued her.
Authors notes: Well, there you have it, the end of the fic. I tried for something a bit different and more cerebral, but I probably fell way short. Anyways, you can probably see I left the door open for a sequel, which would cover the budding Tenchi/Ryoko romance, Ryoko and Washu's relationship, and new dangers to face. Though I think I'll be taking a break from this little 'Tenchiverse' and write a few other Tenchi fics.