Chapter 77: No Need for an Epic Ending

Tenchi sits down in the studio. "This is going to be the last time anyone does this," he says aloud. He then says in a louder voice, "Dragonwiles asked me to be the DJ for this final chapter. I chose Switchfoot's "The World You Want", though of course Dragonwiles doesn't own it." The song, with its thoughtful question and refreshing choruses, begins to play through the speakers, and Tenchi steps out the door.

Queen Ayeka commanded, "Primary reserve fleet, fight your way to the defensive cordon around Ryuten's nurseries, then proceed outward and eradicate the rebels!"

"Yes, ma'am!" chorused the revived Azaka and Kamadaki, as their loglike counterparts displayed their holograms in front of the queen. Lady Seto, commander of the primary reserve fleet, also acknowledged the orders through a holotransmission.

Lady Rin was seated near the queen in one of the buildings of a space tree they were guests on, talking into a headset and gesturing at holographic projections of maps with military leaders. She registered briefly that there was a hologram from their host informing the queen that there was still no sign of the rebels near Jurai itself. If the queen continued to follow the battle plan, she'd remain here on Jurai, with the secondary reserve fleet, in case rebels did come.

Lord Koji quickly took another of his pain pills while trying to keep the proper concentration so that Dai's Light-Hawk Wings would remain in the proper configuration. It was time for the next dose he'd been prescribed as part of the treatment regimen, but of course the rebels hadn't the courtesy to leave and call again at a more convenient time.

"Dai," he said to his space tree partner, "I know you're injured, too. You're doing a lot already. Tell me if I'm being selfish. If the other trees in our squadron guard our flanks and backs, we can convert your Light-Hawk Wings into offensive configuration, and land a decisive blow."

"The void specters move too fast, even dragging those weapons with them," Dai disagreed. "We don't have any bait, and our allies have their hands full, so they can't help us pin them down with crossfire."

Koji took a deep breath. "What if we were the bait?"

Dai exclaimed in pain as some autonomous fighters managed to fire on his bark before another space tree in their squadron destroyed them with point-defence beams. Dai then said, "I'm willing to die for the glory of Jurai, too. Just tell me you know that's not the only way to bring glory to us. Or joy."

At that moment, a distress call came in: "This is Subaraya weather control station, requesting immediate assistance! Rebel transports are providing atmospheric air cover, and we lost most of our anti-air to orbital bombardment! We can handle those wax dolls, if you can get these transports off our backs!"

Dai told Lord Koji, "I like his style."

Lord Koji transmitted to the defense fleet commander, Lord Maru, a request to respond to the call.

"Granted," Lord Maru said quickly, just before turning and shouting to other people to help cover the area Lord Koji and his squadron was holding.

Lord Koji and his squadron began to enter the atmosphere to assist the Subaraya weather control station.

The beams flew out of the space trees of Lord Takebe and Lord Tatetsuki's trees, as well as the trees from both their disciples in the Hou school. Where the beams cut through the sky, the devouring hordes were erased from existence. More hordes followed, and those that remained began to fly in unexpected patterns, and also more diffuse ones, so even hits which scored now killed fewer insects.

"Lord Tatetsuki," Lord Takebe called, trying to ignore the panicked beams of the baby trees in the nursery behind them, "come back to the line!"

"It's part of the plan," Lord Tatetsuki assured him over the holotransmission.

"What plan?" Lord Takebe asked in astonishment. "Come back!"

But the wave of insects simply rolled over Haruno, Lord Tatetsuki's space tree partner, engulfing him completely as he perched in the sky. Lord Takebe and the others tried to fire on the insects without hitting Haruno. Occasional flashes of beams could be seen coming out of Haruno, but they were growing fewer. Takebe called again, "Lord Tatetsuki, come back!"

Rainbow communication beams issued from Haruno himself, scattered and shadowed by the cloudlike mass which had now gathered and was roiling around him. Each of the nearby space trees heard Haruno's distorted voice saying in great pain "Shoot - them -I -hold -here - stop -they -eat -me!"

Lord Takebe stared in horror. The trees' bark was hard enough to go into space, but it had limits-

"Fire! No -worry if -hit me!" Haruno roared.

"You heard him!" Lord Takebe suddenly cried, tears spilling from his eyes. The other Juraians on his bridge turned to stare at him.

Lord Takebe broadcast to all the nearby space trees, "Close to point defense beam range and fire at will on the insects!"

"Too-late-no-closer!" Haruno shrieked.

Lord Tatetsuki sweated from the exertion of trying to help with Light-Hawk Wings for his exhausted tree, and reassured him, "They honor our sacrifce, Haruno. Let's keep this up so fewer of the bugs reach them."

As the space trees enveloped the cloud, and the wind filled with the horrid whir, and barks grew hot with pain, Lord Takebe said, "The Hou school shares the same fate this day!"

Tenchi suddenly heard Ryoko's voice in his mind. He had just finished blocking Z. Taking advantage of his distraction, Z managed to slip in a blow to Tenchi's leg, but the Light-Hawk Wing armor held and Tenchi managed to escape with only a bruise, though he noted with alarm that it was a bad bruise, and the pain was still slowing him. Next time he might not be able to escape.

Ryoko's terse message had been, "Tenchi, it's Ryoko. Wound Z; don't kill him, if you can. We'll take it from there."

He wasn't sure how Ryoko knew about the minefield or the claim that it would detonate if Z died, or how Ryoko could help since he thought she must still be far away, but it was a better plan than he had previously, and she was a friend he could trust.

In some ways it was so obvious a plan Tenchi wished he'd thought of it earlier. In other ways, it was so hard to get any sort of blow in on Z that he found himself naturally thinking of lethal blows. But if he could rein that in just a bit, while also keeping Z from scoring on him - time to find out if he could!

Z stabbed forward with his short energy saber, towards Tenchi's head - the one place the Light-Hawk Wing armor didn't cover. Tenchi rotated his Light-Hawk Wing sword up to block it, but it had been a feint - Z pulled his weapon back. Momentum carried Tenchi's sword beyond where it could defend Tenchi's head, and Z stabbed again.

Tenchi could've sworn he heard Grandpa say, "Move your feet!" In any case, he'd said it often enough during practice that Tenchi's feet did move (not as smoothly as he would have liked because of the bruise on his leg,) turning his body in profile so Z's sword went by his head.

The Light-Hawk Wing sword was vertical, and now Tenchi swept it down, towards Z's exposed sword-arm and collarbone. Z's Light-Hawk Wings flared, and he stepped carefully back, narrowly out of range, then with precision stepped towards Tenchi again, while Tenchi's sword pointed at the floor, its swing finished. Z stabbed again at Tenchi's head.

This time, Tenchi was backed up against the wall of the corridor.

He hurriedly brought his sword up, barely jogging off-course the enemy's blow. Tenchi, fast as ever he could, angled his sword precisely and stabbed at Z's torso. He could see Z reading the move and readying some blow of his own, but Tenchi's stroke was committed. He couldn't block anything Z threw at him now, or prevent the mines' detonation if Z died too soon.

Gavantis' rebel ship was skimming the ground when his mind heard the void specters' unexpectedly fearful whisper, "Juraian reinforcements coming in behind us?" They soon regained their cockiness and whispered to him, "Have fun with them, mortals!" The void specters' mocking laughter began to grow distant.

Serevan and the rest of the men had clearly heard it, too. "Cowards," more than one spat. Serevan added, "You called it, captain."

"Just like the days of Kain," he said for the thousandth time. He looked at the men and said, "But our mission remains the same. Our children will taste freedom if theirs taste death."

The men clapped as Serevan re-examined their target through the instruments. He commented, "We got most of this nursery's anti-air with our first bombing run. The Juraian space trees are still too far off, trying to save that one from the insects."

"Vain glory," Gavantis said, half admiring, half hateful. "Drop all incendiaries in this run!"

Lord Takebe and his space tree rushed back towards the nursery - in the rush to save Haruno they'd only barely noticed the rebel bomber, and it was so fast, and now it was already on a second run, and they were so close but they would be too late -

Dai and Lord Koji vaporized the bomber with a blast from a main gun, rocketing over the nursery because of the incredible speed they'd needed to reach there after dealing with the rebels at the weather control station. His squadron rushed to the dark cloud, using Light-Hawk Wings to bat and blow away the insects, then vaporize them in the places they'd been wafted to. The trees already there quickly copied this idea, even as Haruno and Tatetsuki's corpses plummeted to the ground, and the insect tamers ordered the devourers to choose new targets.

A holotransmission came in to Lord Takebe: "This is Lady Seto of the relief fleet. Lady Rin has intelligence on how to identify the insect tamers - I'm downloading it to all of Ryuten's data networks. If you find any-" she smirked - "I'm sure you can think of something to do."

With the data, the space trees quickly located the nearest source of chemicals and sounds controlling the insects - a commando team, mounted on swift robots, likely inserted by an earlier descent pod.

The robots were not swift enough.

The insects still had habits shaped by training, but they had taken too many losses, and the reinforced trees eradicated them.

Minagi and her space tree Shorai were on the left of Lady Seto as they crushed the remaining autonomous fighters in orbit. The original Azaka and Kamadaki teleported from the relief fleet to the most beleaguered weather stations and tore asunder ranks of deathmasks. They unleashed Jurai's Needle from their hands to bring down the flying deathmasks, having been careful to learn this technique after their battle with Tetta and Tessei. Their mighty blades crashed through the deathmasks on the ground.

The Light-Hawk Wing sword slipped in and out of Z's torso, and he screamed as he collapsed to the floor in pain. Z's hands still grasped his weapon, and he twisted himself to be able to look up at Tenchi, his body moving to ready his weapon even though he could not presently rise. Tenchi readied himself for another strike, hating the thought of setting aside Ryoko's words, and striking a downed man, but knowing he could still lose.

It was at that moment that a ghostly, bearded head appeared in the corridor. "D3," Z said between shuddering breaths.

Purple light shot in a beam from D3 to Z, but Z's five purple Light-Hawk Wings moved in front of Z and blocked the beam. D3 frowned and spoke, and the beam divided into five and touched each Wing as he did so. "Z, your gifts are forfeit for disobeying Lady Tsunami's words. You corrupted my servants with your words and murderous teachers, and sent them to assault Washu and her party, despite Lady Tokimi's specific instructions. Relinquish your powers voluntarily. Even now there may be mercy, or at least you may meet your end with dignity."

The Wings bent towards D3, but did not depart from Z. Z wheezed, "Thoughtlessly retrieved, what was thoughtlessly given."

D3 harrumphed, "I do not take pleasure in crushing lesser beings."

The Wings bent further towards D3. Tenchi began to feel something odd about the room. He saw Z raise his weapon to an odd position and stepped forward, but a second ghostly face appeared on the back of D3's head, and said to Tenchi, "Please remain behind me, Prince Tenchi. We have no quarrel, and I am ordered to -"

At that moment, the Wings flew towards D3. They were followed by a shockwave of purple energy. D3 howled, and was flung back towards Tenchi, who reflexively threw up his arms and hunkered his head behind them. His sword disappeared, but his armor remained, while his Light-Hawk Wings appeared before him. Still he found himself propelled down the corridor.

When Tenchi looked up, startled, he watched the disintegration of the face of D3 that had been facing Z. The face that was turned towards Tenchi had a scar on the back of its ghostly head, but was now surrounded by five purple Light-Hawk Wings. The face nodded at him, then disappeared. Tenchi was still on his feet - they hadn't moved that far down the corridor. He saw Z was still prone on the floor, weapon poised oddly.

Tenchi converted his Wings into a sword, keeping his armor, but he was too far away and had realized too late what Z could do with the position he had raised his weapon to.

Z's weapon claimed its bearer.

Tenchi suddenly found himself aboard Tsunami, barely having registered the change before seeing Sasami, beside him, crumple to her knees while screaming in excruciating pain. He hurriedly dematerialized his Light-Hawk Wing sword so he could put his arms around her. They were standing on a grassy field near the water and stepping stones where he had first come aboard Tsunami after the fight with Kagato.

"Oh, no, Tsunami, the mines, did they get you?" Tenchi exclaimed.

Sasami eased herself onto the grass with his help, turning as she did so, so that she sat, looking so much like both Lady Tsunami and Sasami as she did so. "I was able to extend my Wings just after I teleported you on board," she said in a weak voice with a small smile, taking hold of both of his arms that were still around her. "So no need to worry about me," she squeaked, then began to breathe raggedly.

"Hang on!" Tenchi cried.

Tsunami's face contorted in pain she couldn't hide, then she gasped, "I'm so sorry, Tenchi. There was so much I didn't tell you. About the Wings, about your powers, about me and my people." She smiled sadly, "I always thought there was time."

Tenchi clutched the wooden hilt of the sword he had been named after and transmitted his urgent cry, "Lady Tsunami's in trouble! Can anyone help?"

The space trees, thinking quickly, routed him to Lord Takebe, since he was head tree carver. "Tenchi, it's Lord Takebe," he replied. "What exactly is the matter?"

"Lady Tsunami's been hit by mines, she's taken a lot of damage!" Tenchi told him urgently.

Lord Takebe responded, "Lord Haruhi has informed us that he and Umino are closing on your location. He'll help tow Lady Tsunami out if she's too damaged to move."

Sasami said weakly, "Tenchi, when Umino is in range, please have Umino teleport you aboard."

Tenchi disagreed, "No, I can't leave you at a time like this!"

"I want to know that you're safe, Tenchi," Sasami said. "Because there's one more thing that I never told you. It's a new thing. My last secret."

He wanted to tell her to hold onto it, to use it as motivation to get better and tell him properly, because a battlefield was no place to tell it, and this wasn't how it was supposed to end. But he remembered his mother, and knew that it didn't always end how it was supposed to end, and he didn't want to miss what might be his last conversation with her. So Tenchi knelt close and leaned his ear to her mouth.

She told him.

"But how can I leave you now?" he pleaded with her softly, wiping away something on his face that he knew wasn't sweat.

So he leaned close and responded in her ear, knowing he might never get another chance, and that nothing might ever bloom.

She smiled through her own tears and told him, "If I have to go now, I'm glad it's for someone like you. I'm really happy."

Then she teleported him aboard Umino, finally in range.

Tench blinked and sobbed as he stood on Umino's bridge, staring at Lady Tsunami's damage. "Can she make it?" he asked aloud.

"I'm not sure, Lord Tenchi," Lord Takebe told him through the space tree key Tenchi held. "I regret to say that if she were a space tree, she would be mortally wounded. We have no one close enough with the treatments needed after such injury.

"Lord Haruhi is towing her now," and Tenchi looked up to see that Lord Haruhi had clapped him on the shoulder and smiled in sympathy and pain. Lord Takebe continued, "It is not up to any of us whether she has the strength to continue."

Tenchi gulped. "I need to go back," he told them.

"My prince," Lord Haruhi cautioned, "she may be unable to sustain atmosphere."

"Then I need a spacesuit or something, but I have to go back to where I was in there," Tenchi insisted. "I'm not going to risk this life she saved, but I have to do something for her, and a guy like me only has one useful idea at a time like this. I'm taking Sasami off of there. Even if she's going to-" He couldn't finish the sentence.

Lord Haruhi nodded and said, "Please try not to move, Prince Tenchi."

As Tenchi held his breath, Umino teleported onto him a suit that seemed wooden, but strong and well-jointed. Tenchi turned to look at Lord Haruhi through the visor, and bowed.

A moment after straightening, he was back where Sasami and he had been. Sasami was lying on her back in the grass. Tenchi didn't wait to see if she was breathing or not, instead scooping her up in his arms and saying, "I've got her."

After his next blink, he was on Umino's bridge again. Lord Haruhi was looking on as a waiting medical team took Sasami from his arms and put her on a stretcher. Just after Umino teleported the suit off of Tenchi, Sasami looked at the bridge's holographic display of Tsunami and her damage from the mines. Sasami took Tenchi's hand as she lay on the stretcher. Tenchi asked urgently, "What is it?"

"I am gazing upon my corpse," Tsunami said as her eyes filled with tears.

Then she keened, and Lord Takebe exclaimed through the space tree key, "No! It can't be!" After a moment, he informed Tenchi and Lord Haruhi, calmly but sadly, "My prince, my lord, I regret to inform you that Lady Tsunami has perished."

Sasami writhed and moaned on her stretcher, tightly clutching Tenchi's hand and the edge of her sleeve. The medical team examined her vitals concernedly and prepared various treatments. Tenchi watched as they teleported away to the medical complex aboard Umino.

Some Weeks Later

The fleet commanders and damage control teams finished their reports to the queen. Thankfully the reports contained no new calamities. Though the defenders guarding Ryuten's weather control system had taken terrible casualties, the weather control system itself had survived entirely unscathed, and most of the space tree nurseries had been unharmed. Of those that were, surprisingly few of the saplings there had perished. However, the space trees were taking the losses, and the possibility that they could've been greater, very hard, as they were the loss of many of the adult members of their community in the battles throughout the empire. Further worrying trees and Juraians was the severe damage to the fixed defenses of Ryuten's weather control system, and the defenses of other key points in the imperial infrastructure. Not only were extensive and expensive repairs needed, but Ryuten might fall to even a minor assault until the repairs were made.

Lady Rin's report, which followed theirs, had its own mix of good and bad news. Nearly all of Z's organization had been smashed, and many of the most capable rebels had died in the various battles. However, the rebels had taken open control of many of their own worlds, and in several others they had forced the local Juraian lords to acknowledge them as de facto rulers. Void specters had aided the rebels in their victories in those systems. They remainined, reinforcing the rebels' positions.

Ayeka paused a moment after the last report. So much death and suffering, and almost certainly more to come. What was the right way to react to the rebels? What was the right way to console the space trees? To rebuild the infrastructure?

She looked around her, at the commanders, at Lady Rin, at Lady Seto and the rest of the Council of Elders, at both the fleshly and robotic Azaka and Kamadaki, at Minagi and Lord Koji and the other nobles. They, with inquisitive eyes, all returned her gaze.

"We shall proceed to the rebels' worlds, and rendezvous with the fleets there," Ayeka pronounced. "Most of the fleets here shall remain while repairs to them and the ground defenses proceed. We will take Lady Minagi, Lord Koji, Lady Rin, and members of our bodyguard and intelligence services to support our peoples."

"Yes, your highness," Lady Rin told her.

"At once, your majesty," Lord Koji accepted the command.

"As you command, my queen," Lady Minagi affirmed.

Ayeka knew she had the people here to help her. Now she just had to go and help her people.

Kiyone stared at her hands - it was easier than staring at Mihoshi's face, even if Mihoshi did seem happy for her. Kiyone still couldn't quite believe that she'd agreed to go on a date with Misao, and yet a few hours ago she had. This unexpected turn of events didn't have any associated time skips or mysterious missing memories, as had often happened back on Earth. Instead, there had just been this memory of Misao being cooler than before - but not (she hoped) in a shallow way. He just seemed more grown-up. Misao no longer seemed like Mihoshi's kid brother; he was his own person now. Maybe she was simply seeing him differently.

It was hard to know how she'd see him after a first date, especially before the first date had actually occurred. She'd come to Mihoshi's quarters to talk about it. Kiyone had wanted to ask her something, but didn't know what until now.

"Mihoshi, we're friends. And your brother, he's a nice guy. But, you can level with me on this, it won't hurt my feelings. Too much. You're both really rich. I'm just not. Nothing wrong with that for either of us. But it'd just make trouble for him, wouldn't it? People love to wag their tongues about rich folks, anyway. Why give them another target?"

Mihoshi's thoughtful look gave Kiyone a strange surge of hope, as it appeared that not only was Mihoshi taking her seriously, but was also in one of her more lucid moments.

Finally, Mihoshi offered, "There's this old story in the Kuramitsu family, though. I'm a little embarrassed that I can't remember quite how it goes. I think this guy married a commoner, and his family hushed it up and made him send her away, even though they'd had a son. But they kept the son, and, well, tried to make that son like them. I'm being depressing, so I'll get to the point. That son is always supposed to have said that he hoped that if anyone ever learned anything from that, it was to consider carefully the character of the person you wanted to be with, and then to always do your best to forge a new family starting with the best of what was already there. Maybe it's not even a true story, but that became the unofficial Kuramitsu motto."

At this point, Mihoshi cocked her head to the side, paused, and finally admitted, "Lost track of where I was going with that. So I'll just say Misao's a great brother and you're a good friend. Whoever you two end up with, I'm sure you'll be happy, and I'll back you both all the way."

"You're a good friend too, Mihoshi," Kiyone told her, and they embraced. "I'll call when I get back," she said as she headed out the door.

"I'll hold you to that!" Mihoshi called playfully after her.

The most recent recording Nobuyuki had sent to Tenchi had ended with a message addressed to Sasami: "Thanks for taking care of my son, Sasami. And if he's being too shy, just let me know so I can send him some more pointers. I look forward to great progress in your relationship!"

Sasami turned her head to smile at Tenchi's sour expression . "I hope you're not thinking, 'He's been reading too much shojo manga,' because I happen to like his manga collection," she teased Tenchi.

"I didn't even know he had that shojo manga collection," Tenchi replied as he shifted on the seat next to her hospital bed, "all he ever showed me was the action manga."

"He has good taste," Sasami grinned. Quite a bit of Nobuyuki's shojo manga collection had been shipped to Jurai and ended up on a bookshelf in Sasami's hospital room. Evidently Nobuyuki had deduced that it would be needed when Tenchi had sent him a message from Jurai several weeks ago, telling him that he'd be away for awhile to tend to Sasami's injuries.

She eyed a peeled and sliced apple sitting next to Tenchi - quite a bit of its flesh had been lost during the peeling process, and the slice size was rather uneven. "Shojo manga frequently has a scene I've wished to recreate," she said hopefully.

"That's too bad," Tenchi said, looking away as his face began to turn a bit red, "because I'm really more of an action manga protagonist."

Sasami sighed, "Oh, don't tell me I've got to catch a cold to get this scenario started!"

"Hey, Sasami," Tenchi told her with a serious tone of voice, "don't push yourself too hard. Please. I mean, you're working really hard at your recovery, everybody knows it, but you went through a lot. You've been through a lot these past few years getting through the incident before this incident. You always want to be strong, you always are strong, and you never want anyone to worry about you, but don't-" He ran out of words just there. "Don't overdo it," he finally came up with. "This time is for you to heal. Going slow is OK, too."

She looked back at him seriously. "You remember what I told you a little after I was admitted, right?"

He nodded. She'd said that she'd grown to be able to sense and move in two different bodies at the same time, largely with Lady Tsunami's help. Now she'd grow used to sensing and moving in simply one body again, largely with Sasami's help.

"I'll be all right," she told him earnestly. She grinned coyly as she suggested, "Of course, to help me relax…"

Tenchi smiled wryly. "Fine, this one time. But I'm not telling you to say 'Ahh'. That's just childish."

"I'll say it myself," she acceded. "Ahh…" And he put an apple slice in her mouth.

Tokimi greeted her sister, "Pleased as I am to see that you have not yet met death, as must we all, I hope you understand that this sort of situation, unforeseen to any of us, is exactly why I counseled against getting too involved with creatures from those dimensions."

Tsunami answered, "I thank you, my sister. I do not deny that your assessment of the risks was accurate. I take it that you do not deny that involving myself with the other races gave me a new lease on life."

Tokimi allowed, "I shall not. For now, though, we must contemplate. Our purpose is finally fulfilled. What then, is our purpose now?"

Washu said, "It's clear, isn't it? To continue taking responsibility for what we chose. To keep supporting the people we've chosen."

Tokimi said with a frown, "A logical conclusion that leads eventually to another. This time, our interests were compatible, by plan, perhaps, but by no plan of ours. This is not guaranteed. Even this day, one of our chosen ones had to be sacrificed so we Chousin could be unified. One day, supporting a chosen one may result in true battle amongst us."

Washu sighed and said, "I suppose you're gonna insist we figure it out now?"

"We are Chousin," Tokimi insisted. "It is our responsibility to see our choices through, and our privileges of longevity and unique perspective means we owe it to the other races to think this through. I shall speak plainly; I do not see how I can say that I learned anything from this day, or from my missteps, if I do not do so."

Grimacing, Washu allowed, "I dunno that we can pre-solve an unknown problem definitively. But when you put it that way, well, it does feel criminal not to try to at least come up with some general principles."

Tsunami frowned. "I take no joy in saying this, my sisters, but I have come to think that it was our rules that created this problem. Though we cannot live without rules, it seems we cannot live with them, either."

Tokimi returned the frown. "How can I hope to do better for D3 than for Z if I do not set forth the proper principles?"

They were all silent a moment until Washu said, "Maybe we should live only by the higher laws."

There was a longer silence.

Tokimi said thoughtfully, "Before this day, I would have said they were inadequate, failing to cover all situations and eventualities. After millennia of reflection, I must conclude it is we who are inadequate."

Tsunami agreed, "I concur. And I do not deny we must continue to meet and discuss what to do next. But at the foundation, know, sisters, I wish for us always to be friends. Circumstances and honor can forbid this, but that makes me all the more determined to try for it."

Tokimi stated, "It is well that you added the need for forethought. I will join you in this effort."

Washu noted, "Tokimi, I know you show love by thinking things through and working hard for the people you care about. It's hard for me to understand a lot of the time, but I do know it now." She swallowed, then said, "I'm sorry for how I hurt you both. I've run away from so much, but I won't run from either of you anymore. I'm a pioneering soul, so I'm going to be out exploring the galaxy, or learning in my lab. So I may not be able to talk often, but I won't shut you two out ever again."

They embraced for the first time in ages.

Ending Party

The cast and Dragonwiles have thrown an ending party in recognition of the end of the story. The venue is appropriately large for the enormous amount of cast, to whom Dragonwiles is finishing giving a speech:

"Thank you all for your hard work!"

There are cheers, and sobs. "There really aren't going to be any more 'next chapter previews'," Mihoshi sniffs. "At least we get a party!"

And there is indeed a party, which has only just begun. The cast is huge, so it's sometimes hard to see through the crowds. At times, however, one can make out snatches of activity.

For example, Mihoshi and Kiyone are drowning their sorrows over the end of the story - with karaoke. They have been sharing the microphones with the other partygoers (usually), but those pauses only partly explain the hours they've spent on the activity.

Meanwhile, a table which had been fancily decorated has been commandeered for an arm-wrestling tournament. Ryoko is keen to defend her championship title against the crowd of raucous challengers and spectators.

Her table is one of many about halfway between the dance floor and the bar. The latter is being tended by Yosho. Nobuyuki and Tenchi are sitting on tall stools, talking with him.

Ayeka was talking with them and Sasami, but has now found her way to Ryoko's arm-wrestling tournament. Both of them appear to finally have a challenge.

On the dance floor, Washu, her A and B robots, Ryo-Ohki, and Ken-Ohki, are demonstrating Washu's latest invention, anti-gravity fields for 3-D dancing. Washu manages to convince most of the leads to try it at some time in the evening. Tenchi enjoys midair dancing more than he expects.

All good things must come to an end, but this is an ending that none of them regret.

Continuity With Dragonwiles

Dragonwiles reposes in state in the library of his lair. Looking up from his book, he greets, "Welcome to this special segment, in which I give a few brief continuity notes.

"Most of this chapter didn't happen in any Tenchi canon. When you consider that I don't even really know what took place in the third OVA's Chousin confrontation, and that I doubt that D3 ever took Z's Wings, or that Tsunami's space tree body was destroyed, and further consider that I reinvented Z's character and made up the insects, his rebels, and the void specters, it'd be amazing if it bore much resemblance to the series at all.

"Shojo manga is comics for girls, and often center on romance. At some point I'd switched Nobuyuki's manga collection to action, though the OVA indicates it should be shojo. I've now given him both collections.

"Yosho as a bartender is an idea from the Tenchi Universe episode in which Tenchi and the gang, on the run from a Juraian usurper, run a scam bar in order to raise funds. I hope I've lent him a rather more noble venue to practice what apparently is a hobby for him.

Farewell With Dragonwiles

Dragonwiles now raises his head further on his serpentine neck and speaks, "Thank you, readers old and new, for enjoying this story with me. I hope that you've enjoyed this journey as much, or more, than I have.

"From the outset I knew that it was going to be a long story. Hopefully you knew that, too. I don't think I anticipated quite how long it'd be, in length or time to create. I had the ideas for this story roughly in August or September of 2005, about the same time as I had the ideas for my 'Dual!' fanfiction, 'Triple Trouble Adventure'. (I don't own 'Dual!, by the way.) I chose to write 'Triple Trouble Adventure' first, and then turned to this one. I usually prefer to write out my whole story before uploading any of it, but it took so long to write 'No Need For All Tenchi's Adventures' that I at some point ended up going ahead and posting the chapters I had written, one every two weeks or so, and when I ran out of chapters ready-made, I began posting chapters whenever they were ready. As you probably know, that wasn't often. In that way, this story first officially appeared on February 6, 2010, when I published the first chapter, and has now stretched to September 16, 2018, when I am publishing the last chapter. I've been working on this for more than a decade when you count the ideas that I had in 2005! It's really still incredible to think about.

"The story has changed quite a bit since its original conception, but I beleieve that the original goal of a unified tale of Tenchi's adventures has been achieved. Some of those changes I decided upon my own reflection. You, my faithful readers, have also helped me change it for the better. I have long hesitated to name specific names, because I always feel as though I will overlook someone's contribution. However, I shall take that risk here, so long as you understand that I do value the encouragement and constructive criticism from so many of my readers and reviewers.

"For example, 'GoldenBanana', first reviewer of this story, helped convince me to reverse the order of the first two chapters, so that instead of putting Tenchi at the cave as the first chapter, the first chapter is now Azusa's first historical interlude, where he meets Funaho. I've come to prefer that opening myself. If you enjoyed having that as the first chapter, take a moment to join me in thanking 'GoldenBanana'.

"Many thanks to all of my reviewers for your criticism and encouragement, and to my followers as well. Knowing that there were people looking forward to more of the story was a real motivation to finish it.

"Rather a lot of my adult life has been spent working on this, and I'm not sure what my life will be like without it. The day may come when it is time to stop writing, or stop writing fanfiction, but I do not believe it is quite yet.

"Some of you have asked what I have planned next. Well, OK, one person, but a very much appreciated person. Although I have fond memories of 'Kiddy Grade', I'm afraid I can't write a story about it as 'DaMan' would like, though.

"Anyway, I assume others had the same question. I really enjoy computer games, and have toyed with writing a fanfiction about several of my favorites. However, the ones I most enjoy tend to already have an excellent story. Many people, I'm sure, can think of compelling hooks in which to enter into them, or interesting alternate universes for them, but I haven't yet: until now. My next planned project is a telling the tale of a group of exiles trying to leave the caves where they were imprisoned and return to the surface, set in the world of Spiderweb Software's 'Avernum 3'. (Which, of course, I do not own.) I've loved that game since it was originally released as 'Exile 3'.

"I'm planning for it to be a middling-length epic (stop laughing!) I really enjoy the rich story and world of 'Avernum 3', but am not sure I could do it justice if I tried to approach it by describing every single thing that happens. The current plan is to present a series of vignettes showcasing some of the most pivotal moments, but we shall see what happens.

"Hopefully, all of you will be able to join me by reading that venture. In any event, thank you for joining me in this one.