Prologue: Beginnings Recalled
The sun beat down on the shrine as it had nearly all summer, while a young man worked diligently to sweep the path leading up to it. Sweat dripped off his brow a bit, and the young man decided to take a small respite by leaning on his broom and breathing deeply. It is certainly another hot one today, he thought. This fleeting thought lent itself to another: the more things change, the more they stay the same. The young man chuckled to himself and proceeded to get back to work. Who would have thought so many extraordinary things would happen to him, Tenchi Masaki?
A year ago, Tenchi would not have dreamed of anything of the sort. The only things about him that seemed to set him a part is the fact that he is the heir to a shinto shrine in the mountains and that he lost his mother while still very young. In any case, it was nothing that could be considered alien to human experience. This was, of course, just before Tenchi realized where his blood truly came from and what power was buried deep within his being. It is indeed interesting how little one can know about one's self.
Tomorrow would mark a year to the day that Tenchi's life changed forever. The day that would mark the beginning of a Tenchi's crash course in growing up. It all started with a legend, the legend of the very shrine he tended to in the summer with his grandfather. The Masaki Shrine was said to be a site that housed a demon that attacked Japan many ages ago. Tenchi's ancestor, Yosho, was the great warrior who defeated the demon with a spiritually powerful sword and imprisoned the demon in a cave that the shrine was later founded upon. Tenchi had listened to his grandfather, Katsuhito Masaki, bend his ear with stories of the legendary warrior Yosho and the demon. As a child, the stories captivated him, and he spent a lot of time trying to sneak into the cave, much to his grandfather's chagrin. As Tenchi grew older, he viewed the legends as just that—legends. How little it turned out he knew.
A Year and a Day Ago
Tenchi Masaki had plans this morning, interesting plans. Oh, yes, Tenchi would do something he had wanted to do for 10 years: enter the cave of the Great Demon. The problem was always that his grandfather kept the keys on his person and, despite his age, was an incredibly formidable opponent. It was actually surprising how spry and quick the old man was. However, this time would be different. Tenchi felt quite sure of it.
Tenchi slowed as he got near his grandfather's room. As was custom, he knocked once and waited for his grandfather's response. "Come in!" said Katsuhito, and Tenchi complied. "Hi, grandpa! What's on our schedule for today?" he said while holding one hand behind his head in mild embarrassment. He felt as though his plan was falling apart already as he had noticed his grandfather's shrewd look and realised that he had asked probably the dumbest question of his young life. Ah, well. I'll just plunge on through, he thought. However, before he could say anything, Katsuhito said, "Come now, Tenchi. You surely know the routine by now. Why are you really here? Not after the keys to the shrine again are we?" Tenchi chose then to announce his intentions. "Yes, grandfather," he said.
Katsuhito surveyed his grandson and decided to test him. Perhaps, he was now old enough to handle his duties to the innermost parts of the shrine. Katsuhito had attempted to prevent Tenchi from exploring the full nature of what lies within the shrine for many years. For reasons he kept to himself, he was reticent to push Tenchi into the sort of tradition he was pushed into. The family had not only kept the shrine and its protections in shape; there was a very dark history behind it all. This revelation Katsuhito wanted to keep to himself. But, he also felt bound by his family traditions.
In any case, Tenchi still had to get the keys from him before he would have anything to worry about; and, the old man had no intention of making it easy for his grandson. "Very well, Tenchi. You may have the keys," Katsuhito began, "if you can take them from me. Come at me!" Surprised, Tenchi paused for a second and decided his move. Tench feigned an attack with his right fist and tried to grab inside his grandfather's robe with his left. The moves were easily parried and used Tenchi's momentum against him. However, as he fell forward, he swept his right foot under his grandfather's feet. This surpised Katsuhito, but he turned his momentum into a roll and then used the wall to gain momentum for his own strike. Tenchi was ready for him and blocked Katsuhito's strike and planted one firm elbow into his grandfather's chest. He then used that same arm and hand to reach into his grandfather's pocket and grab the keys.
Katsuhito bent over winded and shocked. After all these years, Tenchi had finally bested him. There was no denying it now, the boy had strength enough to take on the challenge left to him by his ancestors. Still, Tenchi was such a naturally gentle spirit. He certainly never took to swordplay like Katsuhito himself; but then, maybe that was because Katsuhito knew of his family's dark truth at an earlier age. Maybe Katsuhito was just naturally more cruel than Tenchi. The old man sighed inwardly and then said, "Well done, Tenchi. You have finally bested me. There is much you need to know; now that you are ready." Tenchi perked up at this, curious. "What do you mean, grandpa?" he said with his eyebrows raised.
"I mean I need you to know the real truth of the shrine, of the truth about the demon within." said Katsuhito in clipped tones. His grandfather's sudden change in demeanor troubled Tenchi. He was starting to doubt that the legends were, indeed, just legends. "Grandpa, what's wrong," he asked, "I'm older now and I am fairly sure the legends aren't true. What more could you possibly say on the matter?" It was Katsuhito's turn to to raise his eyebrows, in his case it was a gesture of annoyance. "Listen here, Tenchi: just because you finally defeated me in battle does not mean you can speak to me in any kind of way!" said Katsuhito. Blanched by his mistake, Tenchi bowed deeply and said, "My apologies, grandfather. I will accept anything more you have to teach me."
Satisfied by this apology, Katsuhito then said "Tenchi, the demon in the story is real. I have fought her myself." Tenchi nearly scoffed at this but instead asked, "How is that possible, grandpa?" Katsuhito sighed again and said, "It is possible because every male member of our family must defeat the demon and reimprison it. To do this, they must first (quite obviously) free the demon." This flat out surprised Tenchi and it showed in his face. "You mean, the demon has been released only to be imprisoned again and again as a way of showing a man's worth?" he said. "Yes, Tenchi, that is so." Katsuhito replied.
Katsuhito felt filled to the brim with a deep shame. He still was not sure if he should tell Tenchi the most surprising aspect of this bundle of truth, the fact that the "demon" was simply a gifted and dangerous girl with special powers. How could Tenchi, whom he knew so well, continue with the tradition if he knew the threat was just a girl? Katsuhito was not so sure he would. At that moment, Katsuhito chose not to reveal that bit of information. The tradition must be upheld, he was bound.
"Tenchi, this is the tradition and it must be upheld. We must know that we leave the shrine in able hands should an accident happen. We need to know that things will continue as they have for centuries." Katsuhito said bluntly. "You are now considered ready for this burden. I would advise you to go and explore the cave the demon is imprisoned in, now." Tenchi jumped into attention at this and, despite his misgivings, said "Yes, grandfather. I will continue the family's traditions."
Tenchi arrived at the cave by early evening. He chose to eat a hardy lunch and plan his excursion before going. If he was indeed ready, the demon should be bested easily. After all, he had beaten his grandfather. He was surely strong enough by now.
Still, he felt that this tradition was somehow wrong. Why must we do this to the demon, Tenchi thought. Even if a creature is evil, it is still a creature. This surely is wrong. Tenchi swallowed as he neared the mouth of the cave in the waning light of the evening. This felt rather mindless and unnecessary to him. If he was good enough to defeat his grandfather, why must he further prove his worth? If his grandfather beat the demon then Tenchi should be able to beat the demon by proxy. He imagined that maybe his grandfather's skills had diminished for a second, but then dismissed his thought. There was no difference in his grandfather's skills. Tenchi had previously noted how amazing his grandfather was even now. The man was ancient, and yet...
Tenchi stopped short at the gate at the entrance, and pulled out the keys he had gained that morning. Placing the key in the lock, he entered the cave. Tenchi gasped a little in surprise as he took in his new surroundings. Within the cave was an intricate set of decorations all centered around a great stone with a sword stuck in it. On the walls were various symbols in a curious language that Tenchi could not make out and drawings of various entanglements with the demon therein. His ancestors, in any case, were very proud of their accomplishments. Deeper into the cave was another locked gate and it glinted with a blue-green light that came from beyond it.
Upon further investigation of the glyphs and drawings, Tenchi noticed that every single combatant held a similar sword; the handle, at least. It was the same handle that he noticed on the sword stuck in the stone. It was a very intricate pattern that resembled tightly woven tree branches. He could tell they were not really woven and that it was just a beautiful design. Tenchi also realized that the blade of the sword was represented by different colors, most times a deep red and sometimes other colors like blue or orange. He wondered what that could possibly mean, but decided it was a question that could wait.
He approached the sword tentatively and as he did he, by chance, looked up at the ceiling of the cave. There was a picture of a warrior pulling the sword from the stone with his eyes closed, signifying great concentration. It was internal concentration, Tenchi realized. The warrior did not look strained; in fact, he looked serene. The young man knew then how to retrieve the sword.
Tenchi stood next to the stone and breathed in deeply. He imagined the stone giving him the sword. He reached for the sword and it began to rise out of the stone. Out of the sword, as it continued to rise, poured out a rush of colors, reds, blues, purples, the rainbow. The cave filled with its light, but Tenchi did not break his concentration. As soon as he felt lead to, he grabbed the handle. The light immediately changed to a light blue and solidified into a one single beam. Tenchi opened his eyes as he brought the sword out fully and brandished it in one hand. It's beautiful, he thought. With a single thought he then made the sword draw back into itself.
After this, the gate to the innermost part of the shrine opened up. Apprehensive, Tenchi approached what he believed to be his destiny.
Tenchi walked into a large circular room that had been cut out of the cave. He continued with some trepidation, taking in his new surroundings. Unlike the part of the cave he just came left, this room was filled exceedingly dark. There were no decorations, unless one were to count the curved lines on the floor. They had a curious blue-green glow to them and lit the room just a bit. As Tenchi continued to walk forward, he saw—glowing faintly towards the back of the room—what appeared to be chains made from pure energy. They were also blue-green in color and led directly towards a dark figure who was prostrate before a small mound with a blue-green hole. The chains bound the figure and Tenchi could vaguely make out the figure breathing slowly and rhythmically. He continued first, assuming that this was the "demon."
Tenchi was actually quite taken aback by what his eyes were informing him with. First of all, the lone, chained figure seemed small and rather frail. This surely couldn't be the demon who nearly killed the legendary warrior in the stories. Admittedly, Tenchi expected something much larger and more menacing.
He was getting much closer to the mound now and could better make out his adversary. The thought of this thing or person or whatever being an adversary felt very strange in Tenchi's mind. He was terribly uneasy, and was not sure how he could continue. He swallowed slightly and trekked on. He was now right on top of the mound. Intuition told him that the sword doubled as a key. Tenchi extended the sword again and turned it towards the glowing hole.
"Oh, it's another one of you Masakis, eh?" said a voice in a tired and embittered tone. Startled Tenchi just stood there. The voice was, feminine. It sounded like a teenage girl, actually. This doesn't make sense, Tenchi thought. "Not going to answer? Heh, what's it matter, anyhow? You are only here to continue my humiliation, aren't you?" the voice continued sounding vaguely resigned. Tenchi held his breath. "JUST DO IT ALREADY!" she screamed! Tenchi nodded and then plunged the sword into the the keyhole. The chains immediately disappeared. The figure stood up and Tenchi's eyes took in the slight figure of a girl who looked no older than he was. In the shadows he could barely make out her yellow eyes and slicked back haircut. Her hair was quite long and, even in the darkness, Tenchi could tell that her clothes were in tatters. Strangely enough, Tenchi felt extremely sorry for her.
"Take your sword and follow me." she commanded. Surprised again, Tenchi did as he was told, entranced by her presence. She walked towards the exit of the cave while Tenchi followed. The walk felt like it went on for hours, but soon they had reached the entrance of the cave. Once Tenchi sidled up beside her, the girl sighed deeply and then said, "Now, pray for the gems on your sword to be returned to me. They are...the source of my power."
Tenchi closed his eyes and prayed just as she asked. There was a light blue glow and all three gems at the end of Tenchi's sword appeared on the girls person. One on each wrist and a third on her forehead. After this was completed, and the glow subsided, the girl then said, "Now, you have five minutes to prepare yourself. I will show no mercy."
In the moonlight, Tenchi was able to get a better glimpse of the demon-girl. She looked human, except—of course—for her eyes. She was beautiful and looked delicate yet fierce. "I'm sorry, forgive my foolishness, but are you really the demon of the shrine?" he said. Stupid question, he thought. She merely gave him one quick contemptuous glance and made no reply. Determined to understand more, Tenchi said, "May I ask your name?" At this, Tenchi elicited a surprised look from the beautiful girl. "What's it to you, anyway? You're only here to hurt my pride and lock me back in that cold, dark room." she replied. Tenchi paused and took this in before continuing. "I know that's why I am supposed to be here. I am just wondering with whom I am dealing with and how it is you have come to be viewed as a demon. I'm also wondering why my grandfather did not tell me you would be a girl. You seem to be human." The girl raised her eyebrows even further than her previous surprised look allowed for. What is it with this boy? Only one other has even cared to know who I am, she thought.
She retorted with some venom and a hint of curiosity, "If you must know, I am called Ryoko." In her mind, Ryoko was thinking that Tenchi's eyes were as kind as she remembered. She had been able to watch him grow up by projecting her spirit to the end of the cave entrance. This was because, despite his grandfather's warning, Tenchi had always tried to sneak into the cave and visited there often. In fact, she remembered one particular snow filled day where Tenchi was huddled at the cave's mouth and weeping. She felt then that he was a bit different than the other Masakis. His questioning of her seemed to prove that. Nonetheless, he is my enemy, she thought. Wordlessly, the summoned an energy sphere and then compressed it into a blade. It glowed red and made a humming sound. "Prepare yourself!" she screamed.
In response, Tenchi quickly pulled out his blade and it extended to its full length. He turned to face her and said, "As you wish." He looked into her eyes and she looked into his. Her face was in set in a fierce expression, but her eyes seemed to be filled with tears. Tenchi thought this was curious, but felt like he had no choice. Ryoko attacked first, coming at him with her lightblade raised. She brought it down and he blocked it and used her moment to push her away from him. Ryoko grunted and then tried to hit Tenchi with a backwards kick. In response, he quickly backed up and then waited for her next move.
This continued for a while, Ryoko attacked and Tenchi parrying. Tenchi felt that she was fighting rather erratically. He wasn't sure why, but he certainly felt that her attacks did not match her fierce expression. He wondered what she was waiting for.
For her part, Ryoko kept attacking Tenchi. She had noticed he wasn't on the offensive at all. He was letting her make all of the moves. This annoyed her greatly; but, she kept at it, all the while waiting for the inevitable. It had been the same, after all, these 2000 years. With each generation, came another defeat and another long imprisonment. Ryoko had long ago given up on a different life and did not even really put effort forth anymore.
Deciding that she had waited long enough, Ryoko purposely let her momentum carry her too far and fell to her knees. Well, this is it, she thought. Tenchi turned and looked at Ryoko. His blade hung loosely at his side as her surveyed her. Ryoko was breathing in short quick gasps and seemed to be bracing herself for her imprisonment.
Remembering what he learned from the legends, Tenchi knew that he was to do. He knew that with one final blow, he could retrieve the gems he returned to the demon called Ryoko and put her back in her cave prison until the next Masaki came to call.
He looked at her, and she looked back. In her eyes, Tenchi saw humiliation, defeat, and a great sadness. He still could not get over how beautiful she was and how young she seemed. He knew, logically speaking, she was thousands of years old. Still, she gave of a distinct naivete.
Ryoko was growing impatient. "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE PLAYING AT, MASAKI!" she screamed, "HURRY UP, DO YOUR DUTY! SEAL ME AWAY IN THAT COLD, DARK TOMB, AGAIN!" Now, Ryoko betrayed her first real sign of emotion. Tears began to stream silently down her face as she thought, just let it end. Please, just let one of them kill me for once, she thought frantically in her head.
Tenchi suddenly reached a decision, a momentous decision. He let the sword slide from his hand and it clattered loudly on the ground. "No," he said, "no more of this. This is...wrong." He meant it. He did not wish to be a part of his family if it meant subjecting someone, a thinking, feeling being, to indentured torture. It was inhuman. He cursed his the blood running through his veins and wondered how his family could have wondered down such a path. "No, no, no." he said. "Ryoko, leave this place. Do harm to no one and live in peace. You seem to deserve that." He started to walk away.
Ryoko just watched him with tears drying on her face. He was some distance away before she truly realized that he was serious. No Masaki would do this, she thought. She did not believe it until Tenchi had disappeared into the forest. Ryoko nearly panicked for a second, what was she to do now? Where was she to go? She had known nothing else for over 2000 years. She was a demon, she was a terror. So she had been told, anyhow. After so many years, she had begun to believe it. She did, after all, possess a great and terrifying power. Was it so difficult to trace that into demonhood?
Most of all, despite herself, Ryoko wondered if she would see Tenchi again. His eyes were still so kind and the strength he possessed was alluring. What sort of strength could a man possess that he would go against his family's belief system and wishes and grant mercy to a demon-girl? A demon-girl that had been reviled and hated for so many years. Did history mean nothing to him? Why was he so different? Why did he remind her of that other Masaki? She had to know.
As she took to the air, she began to look for Tenchi. She did so quietly, with the wind ruffling her hair as she went. A ghost of a smile flitted across her face. She had forgotten the joys of flying, of free movement! This was exhilirating. If she never figured out anything else, just being able to fly fast and free was worth this strange turn of events. It hit her, she was truly free. Surely, Tenchi would have come back and finished her off if it was a cruel trick. She could not help but trust those eyes of his. She could not understand why she felt this way either. Among other things, she hoped she would come to understand that too, in time.
First thing's first, Ryoko thought, I need to find this strange Masaki. Thus, she flew on until she found the house where Tenchi and his grandfather slept. She kept watch on them and slept on a shady side of the roof when she fell tired.
For Tenchi's part, he had a fitful night of sleep. He would have to explain himself to his grandfather in the morning. Who was he to make a decision like that? Still, he thought, there is no way in hell that grandfather could defend keeping a girl like that locked away.Tenchi still felt an intense and deep shame about the whole tradition.
Ayeka and Sasami
At this time, off in space, Ayeka was pacing in her quarters on her ship Ryu-Oh. It was a nervous habit she had recently gained because of events on her home planet, Jurai. These events were so horrific that Ayeka worried herself constantly about what her and her young sister, Sasami, would do, where they could go, whom they could trust, and how they could live.
They had only just escaped a massacre by a supposed heir to the Juraian throne, Kagato. Kagato had staged a bloody coup that ended with the entire royal family of Jurai, except for Sasami and Ayeka, dead, their blood still drying in certain areas of the palace.
Kagato showed a mastery and power unlike any Juraian before him, barring the Legendary Warrior. Besides being powerful, he was imbued with a great malice and greed. His heart was as black as space and intentions were even darker. No one had known where he had come from, but before they were destroyed Ayeka had gotten some information from her mother on the matter.
Years ago, a warrior unlike any seen before on Jurai had come into being. He was a good man then, and laughed often. His best friend was Yosho, and they often sparred together, both growing in power. While Yosho was as formidable as this other warrior, his heart was not taken in by his vast power. Yosho had a good heart. His friend, on the other hand, was not so strong. His Juraian power turned inward and drove him insane. He became pitiless and greedy, and cared for nothing but power.
In the end, Yosho had to defeat his best friend in battle. The fight between the two was fierce, and much of Jurai was torn in the skirmish, so great was their power. Yosho defeated his friend, and banished him. That man ran off into the dark galaxy never to be heard from again, but not before declaring that he would return and rule Jurai someday. At least, that's what was believed. As for Ayeka, she had suspicions about this, Kagato, character and knew that no male in the current generation had such power. She felt sure that Kagato was once that warrior who fled Jurai in disgrace. However, Ayeka had no proof of this, as no one remembered what he looked like nor his name.
Yosho, for his part, fled to a far off planet called Earth, where there was a colony of Juraians and life returned to normal.
It was on these things and more that Ayeka dwelled on and fought off sleep for. Yosho's depature did not leave everyone happy, Ayeka in particular. She was heartbroken for a number of years, though she certainly learned to numb the pain. The problem was that she had been in love with Yosho. They were to be married, as they were both of royal blood and great Juraian power. She was happy about it, Yosho was such a kind and good man. She felt very lucky, but he had left her with not so much as a word and never returned.
Since fleeing Jurai, all Ayeka could think to do was head to Earth. Staying on Jurai meant certain death, and at least there were other Juraians. Most of all, she would possibly be able to run into Yosho. She did not know if he even went to the Juraian colony or if he went off by himself. The colony had been out of contact with the homeworld for ages upon ages. They were likely very different people than those who left. How Juraian would they be at this point? Ayeka had no idea, but they were her people none the less.
Finally worn down, Ayeka went into her dressing room and put on her dressing gown. She wrapped her elegant purple hair up and prepared herself for bed. Though she was still very wound up, sleep found her almost instantly.
In her own area of the ship, Sasami was crying silently to herself. She was already dressed for bed but was overcome with emotion just before she reached her bed. Everyone was gone, except for Ayeka and their two wooden guardians. Mother, father, everyone, gone. It was just too much. Sasami felt completely broken; but, even then, she worried about her elder sister. Their recent trials had clearly embittered her. She was shorter with Sasami and kept to herself far more. Sasami could not seem to reach her. Ayeka was so far away even in the same room. Sasami could only hope that things would improve once among their own people again.