This is the first story I ever wrote for Tenchi
This story is based on the OVA continuum.
By Diane Long
Blue shades of twilight caught in Ryoko's ice green hair as she sat on the
couch and sipped from her small cup. The sake was just the right
temperature and felt warm and smooth as she rolled it around her mouth.
This was the good stuff, the kind you savored slowly instead of gulping
down for the mere purpose of intoxication. She took another sip and tried
not to look at the others as they laughed over something on the other couch.
They sounded like they were having so much fun. And here she was, all by
herself on the other couch. Even Ryo-Ohki was with them. She took
another sip, her brow creasing almost imperceptibly. What were laughing
about? Was it her?
She bit her lip and hunched her shoulders, resenting their fun and feeling
terribly isolated. Should she go over there and join in? She slid a yellow
eye over in their direction and took in their happy faces. She should just go
over and watch, maybe they would let her join in and laugh with them.
Yeah right. She would do something wrong and Ayeka would get mad.
Then the rest would be angry too, and blame Ryoko for ruining the fun. She
closed her eyes, the longing for companionship a twisting pain deep inside
Across the room, Washu's head jerked up, her long pinkish red hair flying.
An adult in a 12-year-old body, she seemed diminutive on her hovering
purple cushion as she worked on her holographic laptop. Her fingers paused
above the keyboard as a dim echo of heartache reverberated through her
mental link with Ryoko. Washu absently saved her work before banishing
her portable console. A look of regret passed over her features as she studied
her daughter. If she hadn't felt that nanosecond of pain, she would have
thought Ryoko was sulking. On the surface Ryoko appeared bored and
disinterested in the activities of the others. But, oh, Washu knew so much
better. The little Ryoko she used to know had been such a tender child.
... Sunlight splashed into Washu's library,
catching on the dust motes as they spun through
the currents of the air.
"Little Ryoko," an adult Washu called as she
poked her head around a tall shelving unit made of
a deep red wood. "Where are you?" She listened
with a small smile. Her daughter was anything but
silent. She would give herself away soon enough.
"Ryoko, don't tease mommy now."
Something rustled high above Washu's head. She
looked up to see her toddler precariously balanced
on the top edge of a twenty-foot high bookshelf.
The youngster laughed at being caught red-handed
and called down "Hello mama!" in a squeaky
chirrup. Ryoko's hair was caught up in a simple
yet spiky ponytail, tied with a teal ribbon. Her teal
and pink dress was covered with the dust that
covered the top of the shelves.
"Hello indeed," muttered Washu. "How did you
get up there little Ryoko?" Thank goodness she
hadn't imbued Ryoko with her powers yet. The
last thing she needed was a teleporting three year-
"Climbed!" Ryoko said proudly.
Washu shook her head and began to slide a
wheeled ladder over when Ryoko lost her balance
and tipped over the edge with a shriek.
Washu dashed under her daughter and caught her
as she tumbled down. "That," she said crossly, "is
why mommy tells you not to climb so high!" She
emphasized her point with a gentle shake.
Ryoko looked up at her with big yellow eyes and a
puckered mouth. She sniffed and fat tears began to
run down her cheeks. "I'm sorry. S-sorry,
mommy. Don't be mad."
"Oh, little one." Washu held Ryoko close, and felt
the warm tears against her neck. "Don't cry. I `m
not mad. I just don't want you to get hurt. I love
Ryoko's little arms stretched to get around
Washu's neck as she nodded.
Washu squeezed her again. "I have an idea! Let's
go turn the gravity off in the lab so we can fly!"
"Okay!" Ryoko said excitedly, her tears stopped.
She wriggled out of Washu's arms and raced off
towards the lab. "
...Washu drifted back to the present. So much had changed. When she had
first seen Ryoko after her own release from Kagato she had been
heartbroken to see her daughter so changed. But quickly she saw through
the defenses her poor darling had crafted over thousands of years to protect
herself. On the surface, she was tough, selfish, and insolent. She swaggered
around with a firm shield of protective bravado. Ryoko would like the
others to think she didn't really need anyone, that she was self-contained.
Sometimes it seemed to Washu that Ryoko had emerged from that cave with
the body of a seventeen year-old young woman, and the mind of an eight
year-old child. Despite Ryoko's long life, she had no memories of anything
from her free past. All of her memories were of her time of enslavement and
destruction. The day she emerged from the cave was in many ways the first
day of her life. And she had been struggling ever since to fit in, to be as
normal as it was possible to be around here. And, damn if she didn't do
surprisingly well for someone with absolutely no social skills. It was crude
of course, with her few strategies to prosocialy interact often degrading into
a genuinely child-like display of self-centeredness. If Ryoko couldn't figure
out how to ask someone for something she needed, she would just take it. It
was the only thing that had been 100% successful for her in the past, so with
out even meaning to she often used this skill when she got frustrated with
Washu sighed. This made others see her as less desirable, and often Ryoko
was left out of conversations and activities. Like tonight for example. While
Ryoko sat on the couch with and pretended to be coolly enjoying her drink,
the rest of the youngsters were crowded on the other couch excitedly
babbling over which television show to watch. Ryoko pretended to look out
the window at the moon over the lake, but Washu could see that every so
often she peeked at the group out of the corner of her right eye. Washu
could still feel Ryoko's wish to be invited to join them, to be included.
Ryoko had been damaged. There was such hurt in her. So much pain.
Washu knew only the general story of the horrors she had gone through with
Kagato, but did not know the details because the strength of her link to
Ryoko had been diminished by the nature of her own imprisonment. And the
difference was always in the details. For almost 2000 years, this child had
been abused in countless ways. What must that have done to her soul? Now
she was free, but she was still imprisoned by her past
Washu cleared her throat. "Hmmmm. There are so many good choices
tonight. What do you think Ryoko?"
"That's right!" Sasami bounded over to Ryoko with the television guide in
her hands. "Ryoko can help us!"
Sasami pointed to two spots on the guide's page and looked up at Ryoko.
"We've narrowed it down to these two. Which would you like to watch?"
Washu smiled at the younger girl's sweetness, then her smile slipped as she
felt a pulse of panic from Ryoko. Washu arched an eyebrow and carefully
observed what was happening.
Ryoko fussed with putting her glass down in just the right spot, looking
bored. She took hold of the TV guide, her eyes scanning the page. "Hmmm,
they both look good. Which do you want to watch, Sasami?"
Sasami giggled and rocked back on her heels. "Well, I want to watch the
love story personally. But I really thought you would want to watch the
Battle Action Droids!"
Ryoko smiled hugely. "Yeah! I wanna watch the Battle Action Droids!
That's my favorite show!" she said pointing to a listing in the book.
Sasami giggled again. "Silly! You were pointing to the love story! So I
guess that's what we are going to watch!"
"Hey!" sputtered Ryoko. "It was a simple mistake."
"Too bad, Ryoko," Tenchi said kindly. "Next time you should pay closer
Ryoko blushed and turned away, looking out of the window again.
Washu's other eyebrow joined it's twin in a high position on her forehead.
No way. It couldn't be. Could it? She thought back.
..."But MO-OM, it says here that the particle
rays should be set to have an INVERSE reaction to
the study medium. You set it up wrong!" said an
adolescent Ryoko, her nose deep within a thick
manual. She was lying on her stomach atop a
floating cushion, kicking her long legs as she read.
Next to her Washu was setting up cell cultures in a
Washu raised her safety glasses and looked at
Ryoko skeptically. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. It says so right here," Ryoko said obviously
preparing to read out-loud.
"Alright, alright," Washu conceded and flipped a
switch on the particle accelerator. She looked
back to Ryoko and noticed that her daughter was
being suspiciously silent. Moving quietly, she
peeked over the large manual and saw that Ryoko
had hidden a paper back romance inside.
"Ryoko! You were supposed to be helping me
with this experiment!"
"Aren't I?" came the innocent reply.
"I wouldn't classify recreational reading as a
crucial step in the scientific method, no."
"Mom, you know I only have to read it once to get
it perfectly. We've been at this for HOURS. I'm
Washu smiled. "Having an obscenely brilliant
daughter makes more work for a mom!" she said
"I see your favorite creation is once more flexing
the muscles of independence," came a quiet voice
from behind Washu. The voice was darkly
masculine, with an undisguised self-confidence.
Washu raised an eyebrow. Why
hadn't she noticed his entry? Children are such a
Ryoko stiffened but didn't look up from her book.
"Mom said not to call me that."
"My apologies, dear Ryoko."
Ryoko ignored him.
Washu sighed. "Yes, Kagato?"
"Professor, I need you to sign this form so I might
begin my dissertation proposal." A tall young man
with long pale hair and tiny round glasses handed
her a slip of paper.
"Certainly. I'm glad you are getting started with
that. You don't want to be a student for your entire
life, you know!" She smiled warmly. Kagato was
one of her best students, even if he was jealous of
Ryoko. She signed the form and handed it back to
"Indeed not professor." He swept out of the door.
Washu returned to setting up the experiment.
"How many pulses, little Ryoko?"
"Three," came the distracted reply.
"That must be some book," Washu said as she
raised the protective shield. "I hope it's age
A strangled sound told her it wasn't. Washu
smiled and started up the particle accelerator. Ah
well. Girls would be girls.
...Again Washu snapped back to the present. Ryoko had loved to read. And
yet now that she was free, Washu had never seen her reading anything but
manga. Washu looked up at Ryoko's favored rafter. There really should be
piles of books up there. A deep feeling of sadness crept over her. Oh this
couldn't be true. To deny such a brilliant mind intellectual stimulation was
the cruelest of tortures. No wonder Ryoko became so frustrated so easily.
On some level she must remember that she used to understand things
effortlessly. She must sense the difference. Washu hugged herself briefly,
loathing the mere of idea of how horrible that must be. She forced herself to
relax her arms and behave normally.
She summoned her computer, started typing again and casually asked, "So
when does Battle Action Droids begin?"
"We are going to watch the other one little Washu," Sasami called out.
"What? The love story? Yuck! The greatest scientific genius in the universe
isn't interested in mush. I wanna see things blow up!"
"I'm sorry Miss. Washu, but we have already voted," said Ayeka with a
"Hmmmm. I think I'm going to go watch it in the lab. Anyone else
interested?" She forced herself to not look in Ryoko's direction. Any
prompting at all would make her suspicious.
"Really? I didn't know you get TV shows in the lab," said Ryoko
Washu looked back over her shoulder with an expression that said, `You
have to ask?'
Ryoko shrugged. "Yeah, right. Sure, count me in." She grabbed the sake
and stalked towards the kitchen.
Washu followed behind her without waiting to see of there were any other
takers. She heard Ryoko rattling around in the cupboards as she slipped into
her lab. Pressing buttons and flipping switches, Washu caused several
plump floor cushions to appear in front of her largest display screen, while
most of the larger equipment slid into the walls to create more space. A
quick adjustment of a knob captured earthly television signals and isolated
the appropriate channel.
As Washu settled on a cushion to await Ryoko, she heard the bell above her
lab door tinkle softly. "I'm over hear, can you find me?" she called.
"Yup," Ryoko said as she settled unto a cushion besides Washu. Without a
word she set down a bottle of sake and two cups between them.
Washu's throat closed tightly at the gesture. "Thank you," she said softly.
"For what? Oh that, trust me you need to drink to get the most out of this
"Ah," Washu said simply, retrieving a large bowl of buttered popcorn from a
They watched the show together, both laughing and the terribly contrived
plots that were constructed to fit in as many spectacular explosions as
possible in a half an hour. Soon the sake was gone and only crumbs and un-
popped kernels of corn remained at the bottom of the bowl. As the end
credits began to roll both women stayed silent as if loath to interrupt how
nice being together felt.
"Well." Ryoko fiddled with a tassel of the cushion. "I guess I should get
"What?" Ryoko asked with trepidation, something about Washu's emotional
tone worried her.
"That cushion is yours."
"Excuse me?" Ryoko ran a hand over the plush teal fabric with confusion.
Washu pointed to her own purple cushion. "It's just like mine, but in your
Ryoko smiled. Well, teal was her favorite colour. "You made this for me
"No. Thousands of years ago. We used them together when we worked side
Ryoko was silent, her hands rubbing the fabric as if trying to conjure a
Washu sighed softly. "Don't you remember anything?"
"You know I don't," Ryoko said annoyance creeping into her voice. How
many times were they going to have this conversation anyway?
"I know. It's just that I wish that you could."
"Because if you had the same memories I do, you wouldn't push me away,"
Ryoko slumped back into her pillow, suddenly feeling very weary. "I don't
do it to hurt you Washu."
"I know. But it's only after your merging with Zero that we have been able
to address this at all."
"Don't think I'm going soft," Ryoko said stiffly, looking down into her lap.
"But you are safe now, you don't have to be so strong."
"What are you talking about?" Ryoko snapped looking up again. She
faltered when she saw Washu in her adult form, her face inches from her
Washu smiled sadly and stroked Ryoko's cheek. "We both know I am
talking about Kagato and the way you became to keep yourself safe."
"Mom?" Ryoko croaked.
"Little Ryoko, I want to try and see if I can retrieve any of your memories.
You were happy once. I want you to know how that feels."
"Who cares?" Ryoko asked with only a shadow of her usual sarcasm.
"I do. Can I try? I'll need your help. I can't do this by myself."
"Don't get your hopes up. No matter who I used to be, I'm different now.
There is no going back."
A small tear clung to the corner of Washu's eyelid. "I know."
"I don't want to remember. I need to go." Ryoko scrambled to her feet and
Later that night, Ryoko sat on her rafter and brooded as the rest of the house
silently slipped into sleep. Damn that Washu. Couldn't she leave well
enough alone? She clenched her fist until her nails dug painfully into her
palm. Washu had no idea of just how much she was asking. How could she
bear to remember those days, those happy days when she was an innocent.
All of the memories she had left were dark and horrific. She had done such
heinous things. That she had been forced to do them all didn't change the
front row view of her memory. Every act of atrocity was branded into her
mind painted with vivid emotions and pain. She remembered the screams,
and the smells. The smells were the worst. She couldn't be near a barbecue
with out having getting violently ill. Not only did she remember the things
she had done, her body remembered how it had felt to do them. And almost
as bad were the memories of Kagato.
..."Ryoko, pet, come and pour me a glass of
Shaking, a skinny teenaged girl bearing a wine
carafe on a silver tray darted out from the shadows
and hurried over to his side. Her head was bowed,
allowing her long hair to fall over her face so she
could avoid his eyes. The wine splashed as her
"Don't drip," he said with a calm fury that she had
learned to fear.
"Yes, sir," she squeaked.
Suddenly his fist swept up and knocked the tray
out of her hands. It clattered to the floor as the
carafe smashed beside it, leaving a puddle of
burgundy liquid seeping out from the shards of
"Enough of this simpering! I despise it." Kagato
grabbed Ryoko's shoulders and shook her hard
enough to make her head snap painfully
"You can destroy planets Ryoko, and yet you
tremble like a rabbit. You disgust me." He flung
her down to her knees and towered over her.
"You are nothing but waste. Defective! All of that
power and such a weak will. I should destroy you
Ryoko cowered on the floor as sharp bits of glass
dug into the tender flesh of her knees. She felt her
teeth begin to chatter, and tried so hard to make it
stop. Any further signs of weakness from her and
he would become more violent.
But he saw. He always did. "You need to be
stronger Ryoko! Strong like a stone!" He
gestured with right index finger and Ryoko felt her
arm tingle and grow denser.
She clutched at her arm and screamed in pain as
the stone transformation spread upwards.
Kagato laughed heartily to see her so fully under
Panicked, Ryoko struggled to her feet. "Stop it!"
she yelled swinging her stone arm at his face.
"Leave me alone!"
Kagato stopped laughing and ducked before
returning the blow with a punch that sent her
flying into the far wall.
"Well, my, my. You are showing some promise
Kagato stalked over to where she lay in a stunned
heap at the base of the wall, a small stream of
blood trickling from a gash on her lip. He grabbed
a handful of her hair and pulled her off the ground,
so high that her feet were dangling in the air.
She groaned in pain as he ground her into the wall
and kissed her bloody lips. She knew what was
coming. She hated what was coming next.
"Yes," he said licking her blood from his lips.
"You are coming along my dear. I think I'll spare
you for now. Let's celebrate."
Tears slipped out from beneath Ryoko's lashes as
she squeezed her eyes shut and tried to do the same
with her mind.
"Oh such emotion," he mocked. "You aren't real
you know. You are just a creation of mine. I'll
just throw you away if you don't please me.
...Ryoko glared into the darkness of the Masaki living room. She had
understood all right. That was the beginning of the end for her. She had
become what she had needed to survive. And it had replaced the person she
used to be, and the problem was that the old Ryoko would never come back.
She had been destroyed by Kagato. That wouldn't matter so much, except
that since Ryoko had merged with Zero she suddenly had something internal
to compare her current self against. The innocent, tenderhearted Zero was
the projection of who Ryoko should have grown up to be, and the
comparison between this and what she had become instead haunted her. She
now had a sense of how warped and abnormal she was. Could she stand to
have other memories, to learn even more clearly of what she had lost? Her
mind said no, but a small voice in her heart was curious to know anyway.
Damn that Zero. And Damn Washu. No, one could understand how she felt.
No one. She teleported to the roof top to watch the moon and stars tracing
across the sky. It was going to be a long night.
The next morning Ryoko drifted to the breakfast table feeling crankier than
usual. She rarely slept, but last night's endless hours of remembering had
exhausted her like nothing else could. As soon as breakfast was finished,
she was going to catch a few Z's in her favorite tree. She ignored the others
and reached for a bowl of rice.
"My, my, it looks like we had a rough ," simpered Ayeka
from behind her cup of tea.
Ryoko's lip curled in agitation but she said nothing. She focused on the
food, enjoying the texture. Rice had such a nice, firm feel to it.
Ayeka looked at Ryoko in annoyance. Why wasn't she rising to the bait?
"Ryoko, it's the shame the way your little sake problem drains the family
resources. It's selfish really."
Ryoko focused on chasing the last grain of rice in her bowl with her
chopsticks. "I wasn't drinking last night, Princess." Maybe breakfast wasn't
such a good idea this morning. She didn't need it anyway. She just ate to be
like them, to be normal. Well, forget it.
She was teleporting away when she heard Ayeka speak again. "Well, you
look exhausted. You were up to SOMETHING last night."
Ryoko reappeared at the table with the low sound of matter transfer.
"Say that again," she growled angry that her pain was being mocked.
::Tell them the truth then!:: said Washu into her mind.
Ryoko's eyes slid over to the again adolescent Washu, while the rest of her
body remained perfectly still. Washu sat with her rice bowl held close under
her chin, the tips of her chopsticks between her lips. She met her daughter's
eyes calmly and tried to give her an encouraging look.
::If you don't tell them you were tormented by memories of your past, they
::. . . .:: Ryoko replied in a wordless rush of unhappiness.
::Then I'll tell them!::
"No!" Ryoko shouted out-loud, drawing shocked looks.
Washu set down her bowl and balanced her utensils across its brim as she
cleared her throat. "The fact of the matter is that little Ryoko spent the
entire night agonizing over her past."
"Washu!" Ryoko shouted, slamming her fist on the table, taking off a chunk
of the edge. "Shut the hell up!"
Washu frowned and stood up, placing both palms on the table as she leaned
forward. "CALL ME MOM!" As she spoke her body morphed into her
adult form, a stern parental expression on her face.
Ryoko's eyes widened and for a moment she was shocked into silence.
Washu placed her hands on her hips and continued. "As I was saying, you
spent all of last night remembering what it felt like when Kagato hurt you
and made you hurt other people. You were in so much agony that I had to
take three full strength tranquilizers to get any sleep at all. Even blocking
our link couldn't seal off your pain!"
Ryoko's hands flew up to hide her face. "Stop, please stop. Don't tell."
Washu snorted. "Don't tell them what? That Kagato took a sweet, smart,
wonderful little girl and twisted her soul? Took away her mother? Took
away her freedom? Erased your memories of her childhood? Happy
Ryoko cried softly into her hands. The rest of the table watched the
interaction between mother and daughter in stunned silence.
"Ryoko, please let me give you your good memories back. You can find
your way back to yourself."
Ryoko's back stiffened. She uncovered her face and scrubbed away her
tears with the backs of her hands. Her lips twisted into a sneer. "You think
you know so much. I like who I am now. I don't want anything you have to
Washu's mouth puckered in a mixture of hurt and annoyance. "Not even the
ability to read again, my little Ryoko?"
Tenchi's eyes widened. "You can't read?" he whispered.
"You cannot read?" asked Ayeka incredulously. Her eyes widened with true
concern. She might taunt Ryoko from time to time, but she never truly
wished harm on her rival. "Oh, Ryoko that's." she faltered seeing Ryoko
slide near tears again. "That's so. predictable," she finished lamely,
hoping a dash of their semi-friendly verbal sparing might help re-orient
Ryoko turned red with humiliation and hung her head. "I'll never forgive
you Washu," she hissed as she phased straight down through the floor.
Washu sagged to the table, reverting to her child-like appearance. "What
have I done?"
Tenchi scooted over to her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "What was that
"I was just trying to help Ryoko be more honest about her feelings."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm sorry Tenchi, but I've already said too much." Washu got to her feet
and strode off to her lab and quickly vanished behind the door. This time the
door vanished too. No one was going to have access to her today.
Tenchi scratched his head. "Ryoko can't read?"
"Oh that's just horrible!" Sasami looked up at Tenchi with sad eyes. "She
must be so embarrassed. Washu shouldn't have told! And she didn't get to
finish her breakfast. She'll be so hungry."
"Of course she can't read," Ayeka said sadly. "Think of what she has been
Tenchi frowned. "We can't really understand the things Ryoko has been
through. But we can try to help her now."
"That's right Tenchi. I bet she needs us, and her breakfast," Sasami stated
gathering up the remainder of Ryoko's food. "Let's go find her!"
Tenchi got to his feet. "Right. Ayeka, are you coming with us?"
Ayeka flushed. " No, I'll just make things worse, Lord Tenchi."
Sasami set a medium sized wicker basket on the table and began loading it
with Ryoko's leftovers, some fruit and bottled water. "How can you say that
Ayeka? Ryoko is your friend."
"She and I don't have that kind of friendship. I know she would prefer I stay
away," Ayeka sniffed. "I'm going to do the laundry."
Sasami shrugged and hefted the basket into her arms. "Ready, Tenchi?"
Tenchi smiled and took the basket. "Yes, let's go. Where do you think she
"I have an idea. Follow me!" Sasami said, hurrying towards the door.
Half an hour later, Tenchi and Sasami were a mile up the mountainside and
standing in a thick copse of trees. At the very top of the tallest tree was a
small, enclosed tree house.
Tenchi shielded his eyes from the sun and squinted up at the tree house.
Sasami giggled. "It's Ryoko's private place. Ryo-Ohki brought me here
"Huh, I wonder why she made it."
Sasami looked up at where Ryo-Ohki was perched at the top of her head and
listened to the soft meows of her little friend. "I think Ryoko comes here
when she is sad. Tenchi, Ryoko comes here a lot."
Tenchi approached the bottom of the tree. It seemed fitting that he be the
one to go up there and talk to her. After all, he was her friend.
"Tenchi?" Sasami laid a hand on his shoulder.
He stopped and looked down at her. "Yes?"
"Tenchi, I don't think you should go up there."
"It's hard to explain. Let me go okay?"
Tenchi scratched his head. "I guess so."
"You're a good boy Tenchi!" Sasami said sweetly and wrapped her hands
around Ryo-Ohki and soon the two of them levitated towards the small
Tenchi didn't want to be a good boy. He wanted to understand what was
wrong with one of his friends. Instead he sat on the ground and waited.
Sasami was usually right about these sorts of things.
Inside her tree house, Ryoko was lying on the floor curled into a ball. Now
they knew. And it was just like Ayeka to mock her for it. It was the perfect
weakness to exploit. How could Washu have told them? And how did
Washu know anyway? Ryoko had been so careful to not let anyone know
she couldn't read those strange little symbols. Now she had no chance with
Tenchi. He was so smart and so educated. How could he want someone as
stupid and ignorant as she was? It was hopeless.
She shivered and sniffed. Life was so unfair. After all that had happened,
she only wanted to be happy. It seemed that Kagato had cursed her from
beyond the grave. Everything that he had done to her was lasting beyond its
initial purpose. She was doomed to be alone. She had tried so hard to be a
part of this strange little earth family, but the truth was that she didn't really
know how to be part of a family, or even a friend. She didn't know the
rules. None of them liked her anyway. They just tolerated her. They would
be happier if she left. But where would she go?
She looked up at the interior of the tree house. It was crude, just a small
room with no windows. But the roof was tight and she had a comfortable
futon and some blankets to curl up in. Even better, there were the few
shelves where her most prized possessions were safely displayed. She had
learned to hide her things from Kagato early on, as he would destroy any
belongings she managed to acquire.
On the shelves were a few pictures of her housemates, a collection of sake
bottles and cups, and some pretty stones she had found in the river. Their
smooth shape soothed her when she moved them into her palms and rotated
them around. But most prized was the book Tenchi had given her for
Christmas last year. She couldn't read it, but it was something he had given
to her, and so held great meaning. She didn't even know what it was about,
but even more than that she wondered about the inscription Tenchi had
written on the fronts piece.
Ryoko sniffed. Maybe she could ask now that they all knew her secret.
Yeah right. They would just remember what an ignorant barbarian she was.
She was reaching for a bottle of sake when a soft knock at the door caught
"Who is it? Go away!"
Sasami stuck her head in the door. "It's me! I've brought you breakfast!"
Ryoko turned her head. "I'm not hungry."
Sasami sat the basket down and sat on the futon. "What's wrong, Ryoko?"
Ryoko stiffened. "Please leave me," she said thickly.
Sasami placed an arm around Ryoko's shoulder. "I don't leave my friends
when they are crying."
"I'm not crying," Ryoko snapped, the suppressed tears plain in her speech.
Sasami didn't say anything, but patted Ryoko's shoulder instead. She let the
silence coax words from Ryoko.
"I'm your friend?" Ryoko asked in a small voice.
"Of course you are. Aren't I your friend?"
"Of course you are, " Ryoko said quickly.
"Ryoko, you don't really think we all don't return your friendship do you?"
"Yes, that is exactly what I think," Ryoko said her voice breaking.
"Oh Ryoko! That's so sad!" Sasami threw both of her arms around Ryoko
and gave her a big hug. "And it's not true. I think of you as another big
"How can you?" Ryoko choked. "I almost killed you when you were a baby
remember? When I attacked Jurai."
"I forgave you Ryoko. It wasn't you. It was Kagato!"
"But it was through me! I did it." Ryoko took a shuddering breath. "I did so
Sasami scooted over so that she faced Ryoko, and looked her straight in the
eyes. "Stop blaming yourself! You had no choice. It's intention that
"I want to believe that Sasami! But I can't! I can't remember any other way
of living. Those memories are all that I have. They define me."
"Then let Washu give you your old memories back."
"I think I used to be a little girl like you once, Sasami. I don't really
remember. I have this feeling, though, that I was sweet and gentle. That
would be ashamed of me."
"So don't you see? That would make me even more ashamed of myself than
I am even now!"
"But I forgive you, and if you were once like me, don't you think you could
Ryoko's mouth worked, but she stayed silent. She didn't have an easy
rebuttal for that.
Changing the subject so Ryoko wouldn't have to answer that out loud,
Sasami asked, "But I still don't understand why you can't read. Didn't you
need to read to follow Kagato's orders?"
Ryoko laughed bitterly. "It was just another form of punishment. Because
he had complete control over me he could even take certain cognitive
functions away from me." She reached over to a shelf and picked up the
book Tenchi had given her and flipped through the pages lovingly.
"I loved to read," she said longingly. " I can almost remember reading all of
the time. at some point. in my life. But when Kagato discovered that, he
took away my ability to read, and only gave it back during my missions
when I was too controlled to read for pleasure. Then he would take it away
again. I never got it back the last time."
A tear trickled down Sasami's face. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"Why do you think? It's embarrassing."
"But we could have taught you to read again."
"Oh. I never thought of that. Sasami, I'm not used to having friends."
"I know. But we can only help you if you ask."
"I don't know how to ask."
"Then get your memories back. You might remember how."
"I can't decide right now. I'll think about it, okay?"
"That's a start, I guess."
" Sasami, thank you. May I be alone now? I need to think."
"Okay," Sasami said reluctantly. "Don't forget your food."
"I won't. Bye now."
"Bye, please come home for supper. I'll make your favorite!"
"Okay, okay!" Ryoko laughed, gently pushing Sasami to the door.
"Bye! Don't be late!" Sasami shouted as she and Ryo-Ohki began floating
"Ryoko.." Tenchi whispered as he watched Sasami heading back towards
Sasami looked up at Tenchi as her feet hit the ground. "I need to tell you
something about Ryoko," she began as they headed back to the house. "But
she is very sensitive about it. Can you keep a secret?"
Dinner was quiet and tense as everyone tried not to look at Ryoko's empty
seat. The clacks of chopsticks against porcelain bowls broke the silence as
everyone helped themselves to the sushi and condiments.
Washu was the only exception. Still in her adolescent form, she stared at the
empty place setting with a haunted look. She ate mechanically and couldn't
wait to get back to the sanctuary of her lab. She had only come out in hopes
the sushi would attract Ryoko. But in a way she was glad Ryoko wasn't
here. What could she say to make it up to her anyway?
Sasami played with her chopsticks as she looked out the window towards the
lake. It wouldn't be right to start without Ryoko. She brightened when the
screened door slid open.
In swaggered Ryoko. Her lips twisted into a smirk and she eyed everyone
contemptuously. "My. My. Am I late?"
"Indeed you are," said Ayeka dryly, trying not to seem too friendly.
Ryoko cocked one hip and balanced her weight on the opposite heel. "Well,
I just can't be expected to keep appointments. I'm busy you know. Very,
Sasami looked hurt, but still understood what Ryoko was trying to do. She
was sure that Ryoko was very embarrassed about breakfast, and the things
she had said this afternoon. It was a wonder at all that she had even shown
up tonight. Sasami `s eyes twinkled. Maybe there was hope.
Ryoko still stood looking at the table. She eyed the sushi longingly, but
Tenchi cleared his throat. "Ryoko, won't you please join us?" He motioned
to the empty place setting next to him. "See? We saved you a seat."
Ryoko's eyes widened with surprise. "Why, of course. Thank you," she
stammered and quickly made her way to her seat. She cleared her throat
nervously, not sure how to react to being invited to join in. She sank into
seiza and took her chopsticks. She looked over to Sasami and noticed that
she hadn't eaten anything yet.
"Please eat Sasami. I'm sorry I'm late," she said softly.
"It's okay Ryoko. I understand," Sasami replied gently as Ayeka and Yosho
looked shocked at the apology.
Ryoko selected several pieces of sushi and quietly mixed an extra large
helping of wasabi paste into her small bowl of soy sauce.
Tenchi scratched the back of his head nervously. "Wow! That's going to be
Ryoko had a tuna roll caught between her chopsticks and held it poised over
the soy sauce. "Hmmm?" she asked as she dunked it.
"That's hotter than I could ever eat it."
"Oh, it is?" She looked embarrassed. "But you put wasabi paste into your
soy sauce too," she said as a slight flush crept over her cheeks.
Tenchi laughed quietly. "Well, sure, but about an eighth of what you put
Sasami frowned as she saw Ryoko's blush. "This is Ryoko's favorite dinner
and she can eat it however she wants!"
Tenchi got the hint, and went back to eating without further comment.
Ryoko sighed and popped the tuna roll into her mouth. She chewed silently
as she debated whether or not to share a little secret with them. Sasami said
they were her friends. Maybe this would be a good way to start, by sharing
something that didn't really matter. If they laughed at her, she would learn
her lesson before she shared anything really important. She swallowed and
took a small drink of tea.
"I do it because..." she trailed off into the silence.
Washu looked up.
"Yes, Ryoko?" Tenchi encouraged.
"I do it because the spices feel nice. I like foods that feel interesting."
"Ryoko, I don't understand. Please say more," Tenchi said earnestly.
She frowned. " I like sushi because the fish is slick, the rice is soft, and the
wasabi burns. I - I think that must be close to tasting it."
"You can't taste food?" Sasami asked with a little gasp. "That's awful!"
" I never could, Kiddo. I guess it was left out of my design."
"Chocolate!" Washu said in a pained voice.
"Excuse me?" Ryoko asked.
"You could too taste things! Chocolate was your favorite food! I couldn't
keep you out of it! You used to eat yourself sick!" Washu whined nasally.
"I did?" Ryoko asked in confusion.
The other's stopped eating and watched the pair intensely.
Washu's small fists clutched at the tablecloth. "Yes you did! You even held
up the student commissary to get chocolate pudding."
"And you made me stay up all night diagramming it's molecular structure as
punishment," Ryoko finished with a distant expression. "And then you
made me make it out of basic chemical components for breakfast the next
morning." Ryoko grimaced and rubbed her temple.
"Exactly," Washu breathed. "See? Your memories are still there, still
locked away! Please let me in! Please! I want to help you!" She hopped
onto the table and ran over to Ryoko. She knelt and grabbed Ryoko's lapels
and shook her. "Don't let that bastard win! I didn't know you couldn't
taste! How cruel!"
Ryoko's mouth hung open as she let Washu shake her. Washu cared. She
really cared. Ryoko found that she cared too, and felt her resolve
weakening. She threw her arms around Washu and whispered into her ear:
Washu stopped shaking her immediately. "Of what, little Ryoko?" she
whispered back, wrapping her arms around her daughter protectively.
"Of hating myself even more than I already do," Ryoko said in a broken
"Oh darling," Washu cried as she felt her body shifting back to her adult
form. She couldn't help it when very strong maternal feelings were aroused
in her. "I won't let that happen."
"And I'll be here for you too," Yosho said, putting a firm hand on Ryoko's
"What?" Ryoko asked pulling back a bit.
"Ryoko, this is the reason I imprisoned you instead of killing you seven
hundred years ago. I was waiting for a chance for you to regain your true
"Yes, imprisoned her in the dark! In misery!" Washu growled, clutching
"Don't scold me. She was warped beyond recognition and completely out of
control. Her imprisonment had to be absolute."
Washu glared. "Even so, you have played a part in her misery, Yosho."
Yosho sighed. "Yes, I am sorry she fears the dark and small spaces now, but
I really had no choice. It was that or death."
Washu pointed an accusing finger in Yosho's face. "Liar! There were more
humane ways to contain her. But you didn't care. She isn't just frightened
of dark and enclosed spaces! She is terrified! Maybe we should see how
you like the feeling of perpetual drowning in a light-less, watery grave, you
bastard!" Her computer materialized beneath her fingertips, even as she
"Hey now!" shouted Tenchi. This was getting out of control.
"Stop it! Stop it!" Ryoko sputtered from within Washu's embrace. She
squirmed about trying to get free.
Washu's fingers paused, but she said nothing her fury was a silent but
obvious presence in the room now. She flexed her arms and would not
Unable to get free without hurting Washu, Ryoko stopped struggling, and
rested her chin on Washu's shoulder. "Look, I've already forgiven him," she
said with her eyes closed.
"How could you?" Washu whispered. "Remember our link. I know just
how bad it was."
"Forgiving makes me forget. Then I don't relive it. Your are making me
remember again, Washu," Ryoko's voice held a faint tremor of fear. "Those
are memories I don't desire to reclaim."
Washu banished her computer and gave Yosho a stern look. "You're off the
hook because she says so."
Yosho bowed slightly and returned the grave look. "Then you should be
proud of your daughter, she is gaining wisdom."
The corners of Washu's eyes crinkled as she caught the implied insult.
"And for the record, I am not afraid of anything!" Ryoko growled, caring
less about her so-called wisdom.
Washu's expression shifted with the speed of sliding mercury as she smiled
down at Ryoko's back. "Then I guess you're not afraid of your memories
either! Let's get started!"
"But I haven't finished my dinner!"
"We both know you don't need to eat, if you can taste it or not. Let's go."
Washu hopped down from the table dragging Ryoko with her. She was a
good foot taller than her daughter and had no trouble moving her along.
"But I want to finish!"
"Stop whining! When we are done, you'll be able to taste it!" Washu said
as she took pinched Ryoko's ear to get her to move faster.
"Good luck Ryoko!" Sasami shouted as the two of them disappeared behind
the lab door.
"Yes, come back to us with more manners!" Ayeka teased helpfully.
"I heard that!" came Ryoko's muffled reply.
Ryoko fidgeted on a tall stool as Washu shined a pen light into her eyes.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for something. Ah, there it is! Hold still please," Washu said as
she reached behind her. She raised a small device and aimed its aperture at
Ryoko's eye. She pushed a button and held steady until a small beep
sounded. "All done!"
"What was that?" Ryoko asked blinking here eyes to ease the dryness caused
by keeping them open so long.
"I just downloaded your memory matrix. It seemed like a good place to
start." She plugged the device into a data port on the main computer's
"Oh," Ryoko drew up her knees and rested her chin on them.
Washu's fingers flew over the keyboard as she stared at her computer
"What? Did you find anything?"
"Maybe. There is a little knot in the nexus that shouldn't be there. Hmmm.
This might be harder than I expected." Washu turned around with a handful
of electrodes connected to long wires.
"What are those for?"
Washu smiled and gently brushed Ryoko's hair out of the way so the
Electrodes could come into contact with her skin. "To monitor your brain
waves. They will help guide me."
"I thought you had downloaded me already. What do you need this for?"
Washu patted Ryoko's cheek. "That's Kagato talking again. You are much
more than a program and you know it. Any changes that happen in real time
may give me a clue. Please try to be patient."
Ryoko smiled sheepishly. "I'll try. may I have my cushion please?"
Washu tapped a button with a wide smile and the teal pillow appeared and
hovered level with Ryoko's stool. Ryoko slid onto the cushion, which then
adjusted itself to the height of Washu's cushion."
"Much." Ryoko felt a tugging in her head as she settled into the cushion.
something she couldn't quite grasp.
"Something's happening!" Washu shouted as she inspected the data screen.
"Whatever it is that you are doing. keep doing it!"
Ryoko scrunched her eyes shut and chased after the strange feeling in her
mind. The cushion, it had been a birthday present, a party. there had been
"Almost got it!"
A lancing pain shot through Ryoko's brain and she cried out, losing her
grasp on the memory.
"Damn!" Washu swore as she laid a hand on Ryoko's knee. "Are you
Ryoko rubbed her head, it hurt like hell, but the pain was quickly receding.
"I'll live. What happened?"
"It seems like Kagato isolated these memories and blocked them out using a
sensory tie-in system. Very clever, I must say."
"So I can understand please?"
Washu looked sad again. She hoped that Ryoko could regain her former
intellectual capacity and education along with her memories. It really was a
shame. "He locked away your happy memories and tied the defense system
into your pain center. If you get too close it feels like your head is splitting
in two right?"
"Something like that. And it felt a little like that when I remembered about
the pudding. Only this time it was much worse."
"Hmmmm. It probably gets worse with each memory. This makes it harder
than I expected. I'm going to have to research this for a while. Why don't
you go out and try to relax."
"Okay. Um. I don't know what to say Washu."
"Then don't. Run along now."
"The words will come when we are done. Now go. I've got much to do if
we plan to beat this."
Ryoko smiled and laid a hand on Washu's shoulder before she slipped out of
the lab. Washu smiled and continued her work.
Tenchi sat reading on the sofa when he heard the lab door open. He watched
as Ryoko leaned back against the door and sighed, her shoulders sagging.
"How'd it go?" he asked softly.
She looked over at him and sighed, her chin drooping towards her chest.
"After all of that fuss, we can't get in."
"She's still working on it. She sent me out here for awhile." Ryoko rubbed
"Them why not come sit on the couch and relax for awhile? She'll need you
for something soon enough."
Ryoko looked back up at him, seeing only his silhouette against the reading
lamp. Normally she would have been more than glad to oblige him. An
invitation to sit close to him, to be near him was a rare event. But tonight
she wasn't very interested in any of that kind of play. She was too tired.
She looked up to her rafter and considered just floating up and going to bed.
"Ryoko?" Tenchi asked, a flavor of worry in his voice.
"Oh. Right." She wearily walked over to him and sat on the far edge of the
couch. She snuggled into the corner, facing him, with her arms draped
across the couch's back.
"Look, I have something to say. Just let me say it before you answer,
okay?" Tenchi asked earnestly.
Ryoko nodded, her head still buried in her arms.
The fabric of the couch whispered as Tenchi scooted closer to her. He laid a
warm hand on her shoulder and began. "You are very brave Ryoko. So
brave that you hid your fear from us very well. I never knew."
"Knew what?" she asked quietly.
He patted her shoulder. "Let me finish. I never understood how much you
She looked up at him with hard eyes that wavered behind a wall of repressed
moisture. "You still don't and I hope you never do."
Tenchi's cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and he removed his hand.. "I
mean...er. well... the thing is. oh, this isn't coming out right."
Ryoko's mouth twisted into a sad parody of a grin that didn't match her
eyes. "It's okay. It doesn't matter." She was so alone. Her experience with
life was so different from this kind boy's. How could they ever truly
Tenchi punched a cushion in frustration. "It does too matter! I'm your
"I know you try to be. But I won't really let you, will I?"
"Why not?" he asked touching her again.
"What are you afraid of, Ryoko?"
"Please don't push me. I'm so tired." Her eyelids fluttered and remained
half closed as she looked at him.
"I'm sorry." He paused for a moment, thinking. "Hey, you used to like to
She nodded drowsily.
"Let me read you a story then," he said getting to his feet. He walked over
to a small bookshelf and scanned the titles.
"That sounds nice," she murmured and stretched out on the couch, lying on
her stomach, her ankles crossed.
Tenchi eased onto the cushion near her head and opened the book. "This
story is called `Treasure Island' and I'm sure you will like it."
He began to read and Ryoko listened happily, enjoying the fanciful tale. She
laid on her side with her head snuggled against Tenchi's thigh. This was
pure heaven, just like she always had hoped it would be when she hugged
him. But unlike those other times he wasn't pushing her away. This time
they were connected by the story and the slight contact. Somehow she had
done something right.
What it was that was right didn't matter. She let the warm feeling of
happiness lull her into sleep.
Like most good things in her life it didn't last very long. Soon in her dreams
she was running down a dark hallway, so consumed by fear that she could
..."Mother! Mother!" she screamed.
She skidded around a corner and dashed up a flight
of steps. Where was mom? Why wasn't she
answering? Ryoko gasped as her teal dress flashed
away and was replaced by her red and black
training suit. Oh, no!
"Help me!" she screamed as she vaulted over a
landing and started running along another corridor.
"You're losing control Ryoko! I've almost
completely hacked into your program," gloated
Kagato in a calm voice that seemed to come from
everywhere all at once.
"No!" shrieked the terrified adolescent as she
looked about for a place to hide.
While she paused, a hand reached out from a closet
and quickly drew her inside. "Hush, you little fool
or he will find us!" Washu whispered harshly.
"Mom!" Ryoko cried with relief. "I'm so scared.
What is he doing to me?"
Washu noted the training suit as she drew Ryoko
into her arms. "Don't worry, he needs the
password to get full control over you. I'll never
give it to him."
"What are we going to do?"
Washu hesitated. She should have expected this.
"Little Ryoko, you need to listen. I need you to
leave. To run far away, okay honey?"
"What about you?" Ryoko quavered.
"I need to stay here until the authorities come to
take Kagato away."
"I'll come find you as soon as I can," Washu
She needed Ryoko to get out of here as soon as
possible. Every delay was dangerous. She tapped
Ryoko's temple lightly. "Through our link, silly.
I'll always be with you.
Ryoko hugged her mother tightly "Be careful,
"I will, now go! Go to Ryo-Ohki!"
"I love you!" Ryoko whispered as she kissed
Washu's face and teleported away
Washu drew a deep breath and slowly started
counting to two thousand, praying with each
numeral that Ryoko and Ryo-Ohki were speeding
away to safety. Outsmarting Kagato shouldn't be
too difficult as long as Ryoko was out of harms
way. Washu consciously shut down her telepathic
link to her daughter on the odd chance Kagato had
developed some way of monitoring it.
Reaching the count of 1789, Washu slipped out of
the closet and swiftly made her way to Ryoko's
room. She needed to be sure that Ryoko hadn't
left anything dangerous lying out in the open. That
silly girl simply didn't have any sense, and the last
thing Washu needed was for a potential weapon to
fall into Kagato's hands right now. Normally a
hand held atom splitter left out on Ryoko's desk
wasn't a problem, but tonight wasn't normal.
Washu carefully checked the hallway for any signs
of her unwanted guest before darting into Ryoko's
bedroom. It was a mess as usual, and as usual,
Ryoko had left her computer on with its network
connection to Washu's most sensitive files wide
open. Washu hissed and ran to the terminal, her
feet crushing empty snack food containers. This
was information Kagato simply must not get
access to! As she backed out of the network
Washu quickly blocked network access from
Ryoko's computer. If they both lived through this
Ryoko was going to be punished for such
carelessness. Seriously punished.
The computer successfully shut down, Washu
scanned Ryoko's desk for any other sensitive or
dangerous items. She was examining an
unfamiliar apparatus when she heard the soft
sound of matter moving by teleportation behind
her. Ice running through her veins, she turned
around to see Ryoko lurching across her bed for a
"Ryoko! What are you doing here?" Washu
Ryoko flushed, caught in the act. "I forgot Mr.
Jelly Bean!" she said hugging a battered white
velour rabbit to her chest. "I'm leaving, I'm
Washu's eyes widened as the air around them
seemed suddenly charged and full of electricity.
"GO! GO NOW!" she shouted.
Ryoko tried, but could only halfway phase out.
She flickered briefly, before rematerializing in the
spot she had tried to leave from.
"No, lets all stay together. One big happy family,
hmmm?" Kagato asked entering the room from the
Washu made as if she were going to run to Ryoko,
but grunted as she found her feet rooted to the
floor. She toppled over, carried along by the
forward momentum of her lunge.
Shaking his head, Kagato made a slight motion
with his hand, causing a pulsating red force field to
surround Washu. It surrounded her entire body
except for her head, and clung to her tightly,
hampering her breathing.
"So you see, Professor, my preliminary
dissertation data was correct after all."
Ryoko tried to dash behind him and through the
open door to the hall, but his hand shot out and
caught her by the throat. She choked, both of her
hands pulling at his larger one, as he lifted her feet
off the floor.
"You should have listened to your mother,
"Ryoko! Use the new sword! Remember?"
Washu gasped out.
Ryoko extended her right hand with the fingers
splayed and a small globe of golden energy formed
in her hand.
Smirking, Kagato squeezed her throat harder and
the energy dissipated. "That's hard to do with out
oxygen, eh little one?" he chuckled.
He turned his gaze to Washu. "The password.
"Never." Washu's eyes took on a fierce glint as
they narrowed into thin slits. "I'll never tell." She
could barely whisper the last word as the force
field's pressure became even stronger.
Ryoko was now hanging limply from Kagato's
grasp, and he shifted his hold on her so he was
carrying her in his arms. "You are going to die
anyway Washu, and if you die before you tell me
the pass word, so will Ryoko die."
With that, he lifted Ryoko high above his head and
slammed her down upon his right knee, breaking
her back in one quick motion. Ryoko grunted,
blood spraying from her mouth.
Kagato threw her to the ground where she lay
"No!" gasped Washu.
"What will it be for her Washu? Death or life?"
Washu sobbed with the little breath she had. She
could see the life fading from Ryoko's eyes.
"The password Washu. It's the only way I can
access her system to repair this kind of
Washu clenched her eyes tightly. She just couldn't
let Ryoko die. If she lived there would always be a
chance she could escape Kagato's control. There
would be no escape from death.
"It's `Jelly Bean', you bastard."
"Ah, so you can be reasonable. Good." Kagato
summoned his own ephemeral portable computer
and typed in the password. With a few more
keystrokes he had stabilized Ryoko's condition.
"Well, it's a good thing I know so much about it's
design, professor. It makes this creation easier to
Ryoko moaned pitifully, blood still seeping out of
her mouth into a small congealing puddle under
"You didn't finish! Help her!" Washu wheezed
"Oh, it'll live. But I always thought that the ability
to feel pain was the biggest of its many defects. I
want it to learn from pain. Let's see how fast that
fantastic body can find a way to bypass pain. If it
Washu let out an inarticulate cry of anguish.
"In fact, I think I'll let you watch after all."
Kagato said as he left the room.
Washu felt the pressure on her body lesson to the
point that she was only restrained, not in danger of
asphyxiating. "Ryoko? Sweetheart? Can you hear
The young girl groaned and feebly opened her
... "Momma? Momma? Please help me?" Ryoko muttered as she thrashed
in her sleep, coming out of her remembering dream.
A cool cloth gently wiped her brow. "It's okay. I'm here now."
Ryoko opened her eyes and cast a haunted gaze up at an adult sized Washu.
Washu ran a shaking hand along Ryoko's cheek. "I know. I think we shared
the memory through our link just now."
Ryoko closed her eyes again. "I remembered. I really remembered."
She pushed up to one elbow and threw her arms around Washu who was
sitting next to her on the couch. "It's all my fault. If I'd only done what you
Washu closed the embrace. "Hush little one. You were a child. You were
Ryoko closed her eyes. "Was that really me? I - she - I was so .?"
"Innocent? Yes." Washu murmured sadly.
A deep sob welled up out the depth of Ryoko's being, and she could not stop
it. Instead she clutched at her mother more tightly. To cover, she wailed, "I
risked everything for a stupid stuffed rabbit?"
Washu chuckled. "Not just any stuffed rabbit. That was Mr. Jelly Bean.
You had him ever since before you were allowed out of the birthing
chamber. He was your security blanket."
"Oh." Ryoko said softly, beginning to understand, faintly, how her past self
might have felt about that.
Washu reached out and into the air behind Ryoko's head and drew
something out of pseudo space "Here."
Ryoko looked at the white stuffed rabbit. "Is that really.?" Then she
noticed the rust colour of old blood stains on its left paw. "Oh. It is." She
made no move to take it.
Washu noticed the path of Ryoko's glance. "Yes. That is a stain from that
Ryoko stared at the rabbit as if in a trance.
"Don't you want him?" Washu asked, her voice leaden. She had been
saving him for so long.
Ryoko started to reach for the bunny, then stopped and looked around
"There is no one here but us. It's late at night everyone else went to sleep,"
she said in a firm voice and tired not to look at the delegation of concerned
housemates that hovered just around a corner. The breaking of the locks on
Ryoko's memory had caused such a sharp counter flow of energy, that the
equipment had sent out a psychic pulse and broadcast the memory to every
member of the household. Ryoko didn't need the burden of that knowledge
Ryoko bit her lip and reached for the toy. It felt achingly familiar to grasp
the soft animal in her hands like that, and soon she was hugging it tightly,
her memories of it clarifying with the contact. She sniffed, fresh tears
pooling under her eyes.
Washu trembled with hope at this sight. "That's enough for one night. I
think we've broken through. Tomorrow will be a busy day. We should
Washu stood and cracked her back. She could definitely tell the difference
in her center of gravity after being so short for so long. "Good night,
Ryoko." She started towards her lab.
Washu stopped but didn't turn around.
"I don't want to go back to sleep. I don't want to have another dream like
"We will find some happy memories tomorrow. It will get better." Washu
said starting to walk again."
"No. I mean... I'm... I don't..."
Washu paused and turned around. "Yes?"
Ryoko hung her head. "I'm scared. Please don't go."
Washu walked back over to Ryoko, but kept her distance. Something
important was happening here. She was on the knife-edge, wanting to help
Ryoko, but also aware that the wrong move would drive Ryoko away again.
"I'm here. What do you want?
Ryoko grimaced. "It sounds stupid."
"That wouldn't be a first," Washu said with a wry twist of her lips.
Ryoko chuckled darkly. "I guess not. Could I sleep with you?"
Washu started. "Sleep with me?"
"Yeah. you know. Slumber party."
Washu was touched. Ryoko wanted her protection. "Sure, but the moment
you start to snore you're out. Got it?" They started walking towards the lab.
"Fine. Just don't tell anybody about this. Any of this." Ryoko said, going
ahead of Washu into he lab.
"My lips are sealed," Washu said as she turned around and gave their silent
observers a dark look. If they ruined this for her, there would be hell to pay.
Silence was thick and persistent, yet it felt like morning. What time was it?
Ryoko, cracked open an eye. The light was unnaturally dim, given the
signals her body was sending her about the time. Yet it was so warm and
comfortable, why move? She snuggled deeper into her blankets.
Wait a minute. This wasn't her bed.
Ryoko sat up and noticed she was still in her clothes. That was odd. She
was in an unfamiliar futon, and this room didn't look at all familiar. It was
in fact, much nicer than any room in the Masaki house she had ever seen.
Even in the dim light she could see the rich wood paneling and heavy
carpets. Her pirate's eyes noted that the art on the walls was the real deal
and quite expensive. The other items in the room, loaded bookshelves and
reading couches, spoke of an intellectual owner. This must be Washu's
bedroom. That's right. She had slept here last night. Ryoko noticed a
fantastic bed in a recessed corner. It's canopies and feather beds were
worthy of a queen. Not to mention it was a rumpled mess. Yup, that fit
Washu. It was empty though. Ryoko wondered where Washu had gone.
Ryoko pushed back the covers and noticed Mr. Jelly Bean beneath. She
regarded it somberly, having difficulty believing that she had ever cared so
strongly about a toy. That didn't fit. Not at all.
Anger flashed through her. Why should she care what this forgotten child
had felt about anything? This child was dead. Dead and long gone. Seeing
her story wasn't going to resurrect her. Ryoko grabbed the stuffed rabbit
and charged her hands with energy, planning to incinerate the damned thing.
But she couldn't. Her fanged sneer slipped into an expression of wounded
confusion. Somewhere, buried very deeply, a small voice within her begged
her not to do it. Most frightening of all, it was her voice. She recognized it
as her own.
Ryoko numbly set the toy back on the bed. This might change everything. It
might change her. She had fought so hard to survive. She had earned the
right to be bitter, selfish and self-centered. She liked being tough and
brazen. No matter what everyone else thought of her, she didn't want to be
erased so another version of her could take over. A single tear crept out of
Ryoko's left eye. It felt like she was dying.
A door opened, spilling golden sunlight into the room. An adult Washu
stood in the door shaking her head.
"It won't be like that."
Ryoko hurriedly wiped her tear away. "How would you know?" she asked
"Because I know you. Both `yous' if you will."
"Yeah, right. You just want to get rid of me."
Washu padded over and sat on the corner of the futon. "Nope. I just happen
to know it doesn't work that way. And I also know that you aren't as off
track as you think."
Washu surprised Ryoko by gently taking her chin and tilting Ryoko's face
down so her eyes met Washu's. "Meaning, that my Little Ryoko is still here
right in front of me. She didn't die, she didn't go away. She just has these
huge gaping holes in her life."
"Me? But who am I? Who was I supposed to be?" Ryoko asked feeling ill.
Washu smirked with love. "You were supposed to be who you are. A mix of
your past and your present. But until you unlock your past, you are only half
of your true self."
"Listen Ryoko. Connecting with your past will only change you, not destroy
you. It will be a melding, each part complimenting the other, not
"Zero overwhelmed me," Ryoko grumbled.
Washu let go of Ryoko's chin. "Just for a little while. Listen, I've been
working all morning to set up a sort of slide show for everyone. Some of
your happy memories. I thought it would be a nice way to start, with your
close friends near you for support..
"I'd prefer to keep it private."
"I figured you'd say that. But keep in mind, this is the perfect way for you
to open up to them. Without saying a word."
"Hmmmm." Ryoko considered. That certainly was a plus. They all talked
too much anyway.
"Well, think about it. It's time for breakfast. We don't want to keep Sasami
"Right," Ryoko said as she ran a hand through her hair wondering if she
looked neat enough to face Tenchi.
"You look fine! " Let's go!" Washu shouted, offering Ryoko her hand.
Ryoko smiled softly and grabbed Washu's hand, teleporting them to the
"Wheee! That's fun!" Washu shouted as she skipped to take her seat, not
noticing how strange her usual childish patter sounded coming from her
Smirking, Ryoko settled in and took a quick look around at the sober faces
of those around her.
"What?" she asked suspiciously, her smirk shifting into a distrustful frown..
Ayeka would not meet Ryoko's eyes and hung her head in shame. "Oh
Ryoko. I'm so sorry. I had no idea."
"About what?" Ryoko asked dangerously.
Tenchi looked her straight in the eye. "About how you were stolen from
Yosho grunted in agreement. "And how innocent you were. I had no idea
myself. And now I feel regret."
Washu sniffed at Yosho. "As you should."
Ryoko closed her eyes in mortification. "Washu! I asked you not to tell!"
she growled. "How could you?"
"She didn't," Ayeka said earnestly.
This stopped Ryoko's anger. Ayeka might be petty, but she rarely outright
lied. Ryoko opened her eyes and looked hopelessly around the group. Now
they knew how weak she had been. "Then how?"
Yosho took a drink of tea and contrived to look the part of the mysterious
shrine keeper "I believe Tsunami may have had something to do with it. I
felt an other worldly presence last night when your memory was shared with
"What a load of crap!" Washu snorted. It was unexpected side effect, but I
believe that the force of the memory locks breaking over-loaded my
monitors and caused a discharge of psychic energy."
Everyone looked at her blankly.
"What I'm trying to say is that my machine short circuited and sent you into
Ryoko's dream!" Washu rephrased her voice high pitched with impatience.
"That's just great Washu! I don't like this at all! What if it happens again?"
Ryoko ranted pulling at her hair.
"It won't need to happen again. Last night happened because I broke
through the locks placed on your memories and the resulting over flow of
"My memories are back?"
"Yes. Ready for that slide show?"
"Slide show?" asked Tenchi with interest.
Ryoko glared at Washu. Now that it was out in the open, it would be very
difficult to get everyone off of her back about it, and she still hadn't decided
if she wanted to share.
"Oh, it's nothing,' she lied grinding her teeth.
"It certainly looks like more than nothing," Ayeka cooed, with a superior
"A slide show, eh?" asked Yosho. "Do you have photographs of Ryoko's
"Better!" shouted Washu. " I invented a special machine that will allow me
to project a selection of my and Ryoko's memories on a movie screen."
"Ohhhh!" they all murmured.
"Can we watch it now? Oh please?" breathed Sasami with excitement. "I
bet Ryoko was very cute when she was little!"
Ryoko grunted. "Forget it. These memories are mine! And besides, I
haven't had any breakfast yet."
"Oh, I wouldn't ask you to go through such an ordeal with out your
breakfast," Washu agreed tenderly.
Ryoko arched a suspicious eyebrow. "What are you up to, Washu?"
"Sasami dear," Washu continued, "do you have any breakfast left for
"Oh yes!" Sasami giggled and bounded into the kitchen.
"Hey, what's up?" Ryoko crabbed alternating her glances between Washu
and the kitchen.
Washu only folded her hands and smiled.
"Here ya go, Ryoko!" Sasami said gaily as she set a large slice of chocolate
cake with chocolate icing and a glass of cold milk before the stunned space
"Is this a trick?" Ryoko growled. "Don't think that you... you..." she broke
off as she sniffed deeply. Her eyes widened and she looked at Washu, a
question in your eyes.
"Eat your breakfast, little Ryoko!" Washu said happily, smiling even more
Ryoko tore her eyes from Washu's and slowly picked up her fork. She
carefully dug into the slice, the moist cake yielding easily to the metal. She
speared a bite on the fork's tines and slowly raised it to her lips, her nose
twitching, and her eyes almost crossing. She gently brought the forkful of
cake into her mouth, and her eyes closed as she laid the empty fork upon the
"Ohhhh," she moaned softly, chewing deliberately. "Oh my."
Washu glowed. "Guess what else I fixed last night?"
Ryoko opened her eyes with out really seeing. Her expression told everyone
that she was lost in this new sensation. "This tastes wonderful." She took
up her fork again and devoured the rest of the cake in three bites.
"Only Ryoko would have cake for breakfast," Ayeka said fondly, enjoying
the innocent joy Ryoko was finding in the flavor of chocolate. She smiled
shyly, truly regretting her past behavior towards Ryoko.
Ryoko caught the sentiment, but rolled her eyes for appearances as she used
her fingertips to blot up any crumbs she may have missed.
Sasami grinned happily. "Would you like some more, Ryoko?"
Ryoko removed her fingers from her mouth. "May I?" she asked excitedly.
This use of pretty manners caused the others to stop and stare.
"Of course!" Sasami laughed. "Would you like a small or large slice?" she
"I want the whole cake," Ryoko crowed.
The others chuckled and unfroze. Something's would never change, and
somehow that was as comforting to them as it was to Ryoko.
Twinkling, Sasami hurried off to fulfil Ryoko's request.
"Well then Ryoko, Since you are so busy rediscovering your taste buds, do
you mind if the rest of us watch the little slide show I spent all night
Now up to her elbows in the cake, Ryoko paused briefly to nod, before
losing herself in gustatory pleasure.
"That was a sneaky trick Miss. Washu," Tenchi chided gently.
"What's sneaky about it? I gave her back the use of a whole set of senses. It
was down right altruistic."
Tenchi shook his head and decided not to press it further because he wanted
to see the slide show too.
Washu used a hand held remote to dim the lights and activate a digital
screen that hovered just beyond the table. She cleared her throat.
"I thought it might be best to begin with one of my memories," she said.
Washu pressed a button and the screen flared a bright white momentarily
and then resolved to an image of an adult Washu working in a high-tech
laboratory. This Washu hummed softly as she made some adjustments to a
..."Sugar and spice, and everything nice. and a
dash of hot 's what little Ryokos are
made of," she murmured with a trace of dry
humor. She walked over to a large window and
looked inside. Sleeping peacefully in an
institutional crib was a blue haired toddler with
many wires and electrodes attached to her body.
Besides that, she looked like a typical child
snuggled under a blanket and cuddling a stuffed
Washu placed a hand on the glass and spoke softly.
"You are almost ready to emerge little one. As
soon as I can control your energy fluctuations, you
can be with your mommy."
The child opened two bright yellow eyes and
observed Washu somberly and Washu felt an
inarticulate feeling of questioning flowing through
their mental link.
Washu smiled and sent a pulse of love down the
link along with her feelings of fierce
The little girl smiled and stuck a thumb in her
Washu grinned back and began making silly faces.
The child laughed and hid under the blanket, then
popped out again.
Washu responded by hiding her face in her hands
and then exposing it again. "Peek-a-boo!"
Little Ryoko squealed and laughed again.
"Yes, you are my perfect little daughter. I can't
wait to hold you."
Understanding the intent if not the words, Ryoko
held out her arms.
"No, no, little one. Not yet. Soon. I promise,"
Washu said wistfully now pressing both of her
hands against the glass.
Ryoko dropped her arms and curled up under her
blanket, again watching Washu somberly.
Washu sighed and activated a telemonitor within
Ryoko's chamber and programmed some
intellectually stimulating material appropriate for
the child's cognitive development. She needed to
get back to work so she could finish up the last few
stages as soon as possible.
...The screen flashed white again and remained blank. For a moment, no one
spoke. Of all of the imagined scenarios of Ryoko's creation, no one had
ever expected such tenderness. They waited for Ryoko's reaction.
However, Ryoko was too stunned to speak. She busied her self with licking
her plate as she tried to process this new information. Kagato had claimed
that he had been her creator. And even though Washu had told her
otherwise, she hadn't believed it in her heart. It seemed more fitting that a
creature such as she was made by another monster. But now she had seen
the truth. She set the plate down and looked at Washu, her eyes begging for
Washu's lips trembled as she saw the longing in her daughter's eyes. "You
see? You were a labor of love. My child from the start."
Ryoko trembled and looked away. What could she say to that? Distracted
by this flood of emotions and the overwhelming flavor of chocolate, Ryoko
tried to think as she attempted to get her tongue to reach a smear of
chocolate right above the corner of her mouth. "That was me?" she asked
"Yes," Washu said simply.
"Then why can't I remember any of that?" Ryoko asked suspiciously. What
if this was just a dirty trick?
Washu laughed. "Because you were just a baby! Babies don't remember
things because their little brains aren't developed enough to store that kind
"A baby," Ryoko repeated blankly.
"A CUTE baby," Washu clarified in a childish voice.
"Ugh! Ryoko exclaimed, an embarrassed flush dotting her cheeks.
"Would you like to access some of your own memories now?" Washu asked,
wisely changing the subject.
Ryoko flushed even more. "Could I see just one more of yours first?" she
asked shyly, completely forgetting the presence of the others.
Washu's heart soared at Ryoko's new interest in her past. "Of course." She
pointed the remote and accessed another memory.
...Again the screen flashed, this time resolving into
the scene of a chaotic child care center. A harried
teacher was talking to Washu and gesturing wildly.
Washu had obviously hurried from her lab, as she
still had a protective white smock over her clothing
and had safety glasses perched atop her head. She
listened to the teacher and shook her head in
embarrassment. Across the room a six year old
Ryoko was standing stark naked, except for her
pink boots, on top of her little desk. Her ponytail
had come undone and her silvery green hair stuck
out at wild, tangled angles. She was holding court
over an awed group of classmates.
She pointed imperiously at them. "I am Queen
Ryoko. And I say you must take your clothes off
The other children giggled and began to disrobe,
much to the dismay of the teacher.
Washu hurried over and gathered Ryoko up under
"Ryoko! Where are your clothes?" she snapped.
"I threw them out the window," Ryoko replied
calmly looking around Washu's elbow.
"Well, you just interrupted an important
experiment. The whole thing is ruined."
"I'm sorry," Ryoko said in a voice that proved she
Washu grimaced. "You know I can tell when you
are lying, so drop it."
Ryoko frowned. She hated that.
Washu apologized once again to the teacher and
carried her daughter out of the room and towards
her office at the Academy.
"How many times have I told you to keep your
clothing on?" Washu asked as she hurried down the
"How many times have I told you that I don't like
clothes?" Ryoko replied tartly imitating her
mother's voice. "They itch!"
"There is nothing wrong with your skin sensors.
Though I can't say the same for your modesty
pathways," Washu grumbled ignoring the amused
glances of her colleagues as they made their way
down the hall.
Ryoko was waving happily to the professors she
knew, enjoying the attention. "Hi Dr. Vilella!" she
called, seeing one of her favorites, who almost
always had candy in his pockets.
A grey haired man in a formal suit walked up and
winked at her. "Good morning Ryoko, Dr. Hakubi."
"Good morning," said Washu her annoyance plain
in her voice.
"Kicked out of daycare again?" he asked kindly
handing Ryoko a strawberry lollipop. Ryoko
wasted no time in unwrapping it.
"Mmm-hmm!" she slurprd happily.
Washu deftly removed the sucker from Ryoko's
mouth. "No suckers for naughty little girls!"
Washu returned her attention to Dr. Vilella. "That's
seven times she's been kicked out this month," she
said with exasperation.
"Well if you want to know, I think her dress is
flying at the top of the flag pole as we speak," Dr.
"Little Ryoko! You told me that you threw them
out of the window!" Washu said sternly.
"Well, that was the first step," Ryoko explained.
Washu rolled her eyes, itching to get to the relative
privacy of her office. It seemed Ryoko was learning
how `not-quite-lies' could escape mental detection.
This could be a big problem.
"So how is your research on dimensional pockets
going?" Dr. Vilella asked not really caring about
Ryoko's state of undress.
Washu brightened and stuck the lollipop in her
mouth. "That gives me an idea!" She opened a
dimensional pocket and tossed a surprised Ryoko
inside. Washu leaned forwards and filled the
pocket's opening with her face. "You have some
clothing in there with you. You may not come out
until you are dressed young lady!"
...The memory ended, leaving the screen blank. Everyone, including Ryoko
had laughed so hard that their sides ached terribly.
"Oh my goodness!" giggled Ayeka. " Some things never change."
Tenchi was laughing, but still blushed a bright red at the nudity, mostly
because it made him remember just how much Ryoko had grown up.
"That was me!" Ryoko said proudly. "It fits!" She felt a warm glow inside.
The things about her self that she always took for granted were part of a long
history. She felt more real. More grounded in human experience.
"I told you ," Washu said gently. " Are you ready for a memory of your
Ryoko took a deep breath. "Yes."
"Good. When I unlocked them, they were sorted by priority. I randomly
selected one of the highest. I don't even know what it is. Are you ready? I
Ryoko nodded and took the remote from her mother. She pressed play and
anxiously awaited one of her very own childhood memories.
...This time the scene was in what appeared to be
Ryoko's childhood bedroom. The walls were
painted in a vivid blue and sported pictures of
different animals and mythical creatures. Galactic
models hung down on wires from the ceiling, and
skeletal models of various creatures graced the
tops of overstuffed bookshelves. The room was
mostly cast in deep shadows, with the pale purple
light of a nightlight plugged into the far wall
Brightly illuminated by a bedside lamp Ryoko,
appearing to be nine or so, was snuggled deep
under the covers with her head propped up on
plump pillows. Mr. Jelly Bean's head was tightly
pressed under her chin. Sitting on the side of the
bed was Washu reading a story out-loud from a
"So you see, Sleeping Beauty woke up when the
prince gave her the kiss of true love. That is
stronger than any spell or curse, except one that I
might cast of course! The end." Washu said
closing the book.
Ryoko sighed. "Will I fall in love someday?" she
asked looking up at her mother.
Washu leaned over and smoothed back a stray lock
of Ryoko's hair. "Of course you will, honey."
"Really?" Ryoko said with a surprising wistfulness
lacing her voice.
"Why do you ask?"
Ryoko looked away. "Never mind. It's stupid."
"You can tell me anything, you know that right?"
Washu asked gently.
"Yeah. It's just."
"This boy that I like doesn't like me back."
A shadow briefly passed over Washu's face.
"That happens too, I'm afraid. Sometimes two
people don't feel the same way about each other."
Ryoko looked back at her mother, with urgent
eyes. "No! Its more than that." She paused, the
real hurt in her eyes tearing at Washu's heart.
"He told me. he said." Ryoko struggled for
Washu took Ryoko's hand and squeezed it softly.
Ryoko looked away again in apparent shame. She
took her free hand and drew the covers over her
head. "He said that I wasn't real. That boys didn't
kiss robots," she said in a small voice that was
further muffled by the blankets.
"He said what?" Washu shouted furiously,
whipping the covers away from Ryoko's face. In
one quick movement she gathered Ryoko in her
arms and hugged her with maternal fierceness.
Ryoko hugged back and continued. "He said they
all knew the truth about me. And that no one
would ever kiss me."
Washu's face, hidden behind Ryoko was a mask of
fury. How dare those little substandard herd stock
mock her daughter? She started counting to get
her temper under control. She was the director of
the Academy and she rarely used her power for
personal gain. Well, this time would be an
exception. Those children were only repeating
what they had heard their parents say and those
parents were going to find sitting difficult when
she was through with them.
"Mommy? Is it true? You haven't said anything?
Does that mean he was right?" Ryoko quavered.
Washu squeezed harder. "No way! He was a little
fool!" She relaxed her hold and slowly pushed
Ryoko away and looked her straight in the eye.
"You already know how you were born. I've
never lied to you. Ever. Do you remember what
else I've told you about your birth?"
"That you wanted a little girl more than the moon,"
"Exactly. I wanted you more than I want to be a
scientist or even breathe. So I made you out of
me, and other important things. I made you into
the most perfect little person there ever was."
Ryoko sniffed and her eyes looked glassy.
"Really?" she begged for reassurance.
"Absolutely. You re a person not a robot. Robots
don't have hearts and souls like we do. Someone
will love you someday. I already love you now."
Reluctant to cry in front of her mother now that
she was older, Ryoko buried her head in Washu's
shoulder and breathed shakily trying to get things
under control. " I love you too, mom."
Washu patted her back. "Don't listen to them,
people are jealous of how wonderful you are. You
are so smart, and beautiful, and talented. That's
enough to make anyone green with envy."
"And I can teleport, " Ryoko added proudly.
Washu chuckled. "See how clever you are? You
shouldn't have figured that one out `til you were
Ryoko giggled and surreptitiously wiped her tears
on Washu's shirt before she settled back into bed.
"Feeling better now?" Washu asked, already
mentally listing the names who would be
summoned to her office the next morning."
Ryoko nodded, then considered, "Well, I would
feel even better if I had a pony," she wheedled.
"You're better." Washu stated with a wry smile.
She got to her feet. "Sweet dreams Little Ryoko."
"Mom! I'm too old to be called that."
Washu turned off the bedside lamp. "You'll never
be too old to be my little Ryoko." She blew Ryoko
a kiss and left the room closing the door softly
...The screen went blank again, and the group was silent. Where the last
memory had been hilarious this one had been touching and sweet. They all
basked in the strong bond between mother and child they had witnessed.
Especially Ryoko. Her eyes were wide and she was massaging her temple
as if her head hurt her.
"Mom?" she asked uncertainly.
Washu summoned her laptop, so worried that she didn't notice Ryoko's use
of that magic word. "What? Did that hurt? The lock must have re-engaged.
Hold on while I."
"Not that," Ryoko interrupted. "Mom, how could have I forgotten that? You
love me. How could I forget that? And where are the rest of my memories?
Why can't I remember more?" Tears were streaking down her cheeks and
her shallow breathing heralded hyperventilation
Washu leaned through her holo-computer and took Ryoko into her arms,
very much like she had done in the memory. "Shush, shush. You forgot
because you were forced too. And I am controlling your access rate. I don't
want you over loaded. See what just one has done to you? We need to
Tenchi made a slight movement as if he wanted to go to Ryoko's side, but
Yosho put a hand on Tenchi's shoulder and shook his head slightly.
Sighing, Tenchi settled back into his seat
"But you love me, " Ryoko sobbed. "I didn't get it before. And now I do!
And you thought I was smart, and beautiful. No one has ever thought that
about me before."
Ayeka winced regretting every time she had mocked Ryoko's appearance or
refinement. If she had known the bruises that had hid themselves under her
friend's skin she would have never had taunted her so.
Washu stroked Ryoko's hair. "I still think those things."
"But Kagato told me I was waste. A mistake."
"Yes, and I heard every cruel word through our link, and felt them
destroying your heart. Damn him," Washu growled.
::But now, just now, I feel kind of special,:: Ryoko said shyly through their
link, her sobs quieting.
Washu pulled back and wiped away the tears on Ryoko's cheek. "That's
because you are remembering the truth. And did you see those little pieces
of yourself that survived everything you have been through?"
Ryoko chuckled wetly. "The clothes, or rather the lack of them."
Washu arched an eyebrow. "Now don't tell me you missed your little
attitudes and your bent towards manipulation?"
"I saw them," Ryoko whispered.
"As did I," Ayeka whispered behind her hand to an amused Sasami.
"So that person you are feeling fondness for is really yourself. You can
recognize that, right?" Washu asked Ryoko.
"Yes, Yes I can," Ryoko said in disbelief. "I really can."
"Are you ready for another memory?"
Ryoko closed her eyes and shook her head. "Not tonight." She wrapped her
arms around her waist and hugged herself. "This feels so good. I don't want
to waste it."
Sasami made a disappointed sound. "Awwww! But we were just getting to
know you better!"
Eyes still closed, Ryoko allowed her lips to twist into a little smirk.
"Exactly. And while I have appreciated the moral support tonight, this stuff
is really too private to share."
"So you are done for tonight?' Washu verified.
"Yes, maybe we can do this again in your lab tomorrow?"
Washu glowed at the use of `we'. "Of course we can." She began typing on
her laptop. "Just give me a second to shut things down."
"Wait. Can you return my ability to read first?"
Washu's smile faded into a straight line and she hung her head. She had
hoped Ryoko would not ask about this right away.
"I'm afraid I can't. It seem s like Kagato put a defensive lock there, and
there was major damage done to your neural connections when we broke
Ryoko's left fang worried her lip as she looked away. "I see." Her earlier
happiness was visibly draining away from her.
"I may still be able to fix it, but I don't know yet. I need more time."
Ryoko sighed, and kicked off the floor and drifted towards the stairs. "Well,
what's a few more days after 700 years, right?" she tried to quip, her attempt
at humor falling horribly flat.
Yosho stood suddenly and took a firm hold on Ryoko's wrist and stopped
her from drifting away.
Surprisingly, she allowed him to do so and blinked at him, her eyes slightly
"Ryoko-chan. You must not go. You are closer to us right now than you
have ever been. Don't shut us out."
She hovered in the air, taking in his words.
"Let us be your family, let us help you."
"I'm so tired," she protested with a wide yawn.
"That's because you've had a hard day," he said patiently, as if he was
talking to a small child.
She nodded sleepily, obviously becoming more drowsy by the second.
"Wha- what's happening to me?" she asked, her head lolling forward.
Yosho pulled her gently to him and gathered her up in his arms. "It's time
for bed, I think." He shot Washu a concerned look.
Washu's brow crinkled as she watched Ryoko doze off. "This must be a
side effect of reactivating that part of her neural net." She consulted her
laptop. "Her melatonin levels are off the charts. Not to mention. that can't
She looked up to watch Ryoko's form shrinking in size, mass, and
proportion, until it reached the shape of the nine year old child she had been
in the last memory. Her now too large clothing draped loosely around her
Washu frowned. "Damn that Kagato. This was a clever fail safe to control
her if she ever got her memories back. It not only knocks her out, it morphs
her form to match her physical development in the memory, making her
easier to control!"
"Did this happen last night when she got her first major memory back?"
asked Yosho as he adjusted Ryoko in his arms, giving her neck more
"No.." Washu thought for a moment. "But I'm guessing this defense was set
to activate only if the amount of recall reached a certain threshold. It would
have been too time consuming for Kagato to reset her every time a small
memory asserted itself."
"And she remembered a lot today," Sasami observed.
Washu closed her eyes as emotions washed over her. "She remembered
enough to know her inner-self. And once again he hurt her."
"Can you fix it Washu?" Tenchi asked nervously, worried for his friend.
"Should you fix it?" asked Yosho with grave seriousness. "This could be
her second chance for a childhood."
Washu nodded and opened her eyes. "That thought crossed my mind.
However, to do so I would have to lock away or destroy her memories after
this age. Not only would that make me as bad as Kagato, I know in my heart
that our Ryoko would never want that."
Yosho nodded and passed the sleeping child into Washu's arms. "So what
are you going to do?"
Washu cast a tender glance at Ryoko and started walking towards her lab.
"First I'll tuck her in, then get to work on restoring her body as well as her
ability to read," she said in her typical `greatest-scientific-genius-in-the-
She paused and turned to face them all once more. " I hope you all now
realize just how much my daughter has lost and will treat her more kindly,"
she said more seriously.
"Of course, Miss. Washu," Ayeka said meekly.
Sasami smiled and met Washu's eyes. They both knew she had never
excluded Ryoko in the first place.
"I understand her better now," Tenchi acknowledged. " I will do my best to
help her," he promised.
Washu nodded curtly. "Then I thank you." She disappeared under the stairs
with Ryoko, kicking the door shut behind her with her foot.
Still physically nine, but with all of her memories back, Ryoko strained to
help hang up the laundry on an outside line she could barely reach.
"Thank you, little Ryoko," Ayeka said with a kind chuckle, passing her a
"Oh can it!" Ryoko groused, but with a smile. " I bet she is dragging this
out on purpose."
"Well, Ms. Washu did say she needed her calculations to be correct if you
didn't want to turn into an old hag. That's worth waiting for in my book."
"No kidding," Ryoko said flipping a sheet up onto the line, this time
levitating to a more useful height.
Ayeka just shook her head. "I think it's time for your lesson with Tenchi.
You'd better hurry if you don't want to be late."
"Ugh! Don't get all big sisterly on me," Ryoko muttered, but followed
Ayeka's advice and dashed inside to take her place at the dinner table.
Tenchi was already there, sitting in seiza and waiting for her. She slid in
next to him and looked at the open book he was holding.
"Hi Ryoko. Let's get started. Try this one." He pointed to a word.
She leaned forward and looked at it. Her tongue stuck out from her lips as
"Go on," he encouraged.
"Kah," she sounded out, emphasizing the hard k sound.
"Kh aaa Tah... Cat!"
"Very good!" Tenchi applauded. "That was great. Let's see if you can do
the next one. I bet you can!"
Ryoko crossed her arms. "I may look like I am nine years old, but please try
to refrain from speaking to me that way!" she snarled with a scowl.
Tenchi slipped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. "Oh I
don't mean it that way Ryoko! I'm just excited for you."
Ryoko blushed at the open show of affection, but decided to keep her mouth
Washu watched silently from around the corner. She had come to tell
Ryoko that she had figured out how to fix both her reading and her physical
age in one fell swoop. But given how much Ryoko seemed enjoying herself,
it could wait a couple of days.
"Mom?" Ryoko called, sensing her presence.
Washu reached into her pocket and pulled out a small camera. She darted
around the corner and took a quick photo of Tenchi with his arm around
Ryoko. "That's one for the scrap book!" she crowed gleefully.
"Gah! MO-OM!" Ryoko screeched, squirming away from Tenchi as if she
Washu grinned. Yes, there was no rush. No rush at all.
**I hoped you liked my first Tenchi fanfic! And to those readers of my Daria
fanfic, I hope this made sense to you. The Tenchi world(s) are very unique
and complex. I know I said I retired from writing fanfics to pursue a novel,
but I started watching all the incarnations of Tenchi and this story begged to
be written. I didn't mean to lie! So while I think my Daria fic days are over,
I have a couple of Tenchi fics to write as of yet.
I'd like to thank John Takis for his help and feed back on the first draft of
this story. His thoughts about the characterizations were very helpful. And
Update 12/19/2010: Found this on the old Tenchi Muyo Fan Fic Archive