The Knitting of Souls
Tenchi was everything to Ryoko, didn't he know that? Everything! After being Kagato's unthinking engine of destruction for thousands of years and being trapped in a cave for seven hundred, it wasn't as if she had anyone else. Everybody in the known universe feared and hated her! Everybody… except Tenchi. As an earthling, he didn't know about her crimes against the universe, at least not first hand. Okay Mihoshi didn't seem to know either. That was before her time. And Ryo-ohki of course, she was her spaceship; she wouldn't judge. And Sasami, who didn't really seem to be aware the Ryoko was a space pirate. When she first met the little girl, Sasami acted like she didn't even know who Ryoko was. But Ayeka! Ayeka knew who she was and swore she would never forgive her! Of course that was before the purple haired princess risked her life to save her from Kagato wasn't it? But things were still tense between them, right? Wasn't smooth sailing was it? Besides, Ayeka had an entire family to go back to, while Ryoko had nobody. Unless you count Washu of course. That little crackpot claimed she was Ryoko's mother. Brr. Scary.
Okay it may have been an exaggeration to say that Tenchi was the only one she had, but it wasn't like she there were a lot of people she bonded with. Even now, she didn't dare get too close to anyone. Deep down, she couldn't believe that anyone could actually like her. But she really wanted Tenchi to like her.
Did Tenchi like her? She thought he liked her. Didn't he risk his life to rescue her from Kagato? He could have said 'good riddance' couldn't he? No he went out into space and almost died rescuing her. He didn't know that he could access the power of the lighthawk wings, nobody did. Only the most powerful of Jurai spaceships could do that. He risked everything to save her. Deep down, he must have liked her at least a little, didn't he?
Washu! What a phony! She wouldn't be interested in him at all if he couldn't conjure up the lighthawk wings! Ryoko liked Tenchi back when he was nothing. After being in a coma for seven centuries, she finally managed to project her astral self out of the cave and that's how she met Tenchi.
He was only a baby at the time. Just a baby. He was with his mother. But he looked at her. He could see her! She was just a ghost, but he could see her anyway! This was the only one in the universe who knew she existed!
At the time Ryoko was disoriented. She wasn't a mindless engine of destruction anymore. She seemed to be free of Kagato's will. So who was she? What was she? If she didn't pillage and destroy, what did she actually do? She didn't know. That was okay. Tenchi didn't know who he was either. They could both find out together.
Tenchi didn't live at the Masaki shrine, and as he grew up he lost the ability to see her. Still she held on to hope and tried to live vicariously through his visits. He always gave her a sliver of hope. He never lost his fascination with the cave and finally defied his grandfather and freed her from her prison.
Okay she could have acted more mature afterwards. It wasn't her fault! She really didn't know how to be nice. Kagato had never showed her how. It broke her heart to realize that she had scared Tenchi out of his wits because that psychopath had never showed her anything different. The only way she could show attention was by being a bully, how pathetic was that?
Still, no matter how much she tortured him, no matter how much she messed up, Tenchi still risked his life to rescue her. That had to mean something right? There had to still be hope. It wasn't as if Tenchi was getting close to anyone else. Well… she didn't know about Washu. That little pervert was really taking over around here.
Time to do things different. She had tried to use those girls' comics as a guide but it's hard to arrange a romantic first meeting after knowing somebody for a few months. To her satisfaction, Ayeka was trying the same thing! It had bothered her at the time but the important thing was that little Miss Perfect didn't know what to do any more than Ryoko did!
Ryoko seized upon that thought, clinging to it like a poor swimmer hanging onto a life preserver. Despite Ayeka's youth, she had much more experience being a girl than Ryoko did, but even the purple haired princess couldn't get it right! That meant that Ryoko wasn't as far behind as she thought. As a matter of fact, the former space pirate might actually have an advantage! She knew Tenchi better than any of the girls at the Masaki Shrine. There must be a way to capitalize on that knowledge.
Ryoko vanished from the dock and reappeared in Tenchi's room. It wasn't like she was catching any fish since Sasami and Mihoshi liberated Ryo-ohki that morning anyway. Tenchi would be home soon but maybe she could find something that might be a key into his heart.
What was this? Tenchi had hung up a purple kimono in his balcony doorway. Was he signaling somebody? Wait a minute… This was one of his mother's kimonos! Was this the one she was wearing the day they met way back when Tenchi was an infant? It could have been, couldn't it? Maybe it could help him to remember that spiritual connection they shared so long ago. He had always been drawn back the cave, back to her. Some part of him still remembered the ghostly lady and was drawn to her…
Ryoko pulled the lavender kimono out of the window and frowned in thought. Okay, how? How to use this to remind Tenchi of the deep connection they shared? Luring him back to the cave wouldn't work, that would just remind him of the first time she scared the bejeezus out of him. His mom died long ago so his subconscious probably associated sighting Ryoko's astral form with the memory of his mother… C'mon! It's right in front of you! Think! Think!
She giggled as the answer came to her. It was so obvious! Out of all the girls only Ryoko had actually seen his mother when she was alive. If she could remind Tenchi of the days before his mother died she could remind him of the days he saw the ghostly lady who wanted to be part of his life more than anything. Deep down, the boy would remember their special connection. It was so ingenious it just had to work!
She teleported back to her room and changed. Soon she was modeling the kimono in front of a full length mirror. She tried to remember Tenchi's mother, to remember her poise and her body language.
With supernaturally acute hearing she could hear voices down stairs.
"I'm home," Tenchi's voice called.
"Welcome home Tenchi!" Sasami's voice chirped as Ryo-ohki meowed.
Ryoko struck a graceful pose in the mirror before she teleported to Tenchi's room. She held that pose and waited for him to go up the stairs.
When Tenchi pulled his door open, Ryoko was waiting for him. She was standing before the balcony doors allowing the sun to silhouette her.
"Huh?" gasped a startled Tenchi as the door slid shut and clicked behind him. "R-Ryoko!"
The silver haired space pirate relaxed her pose and looked at him with a calm understanding smile. "What is it… Tenchi?"
"Uh," Tenchi couldn't speak as he walked towards her almost mechanically.
Ryoko giggled teasingly as she glided less than an inch above the floor and spun languidly as she floated across the room to where the boy had entered. "Do I look good? Hm?" she asked when they had traded places. "Yes or no?"
Dumbstruck, Tenchi could only nod. "Y-yeah," he mumbled.
"Oh! Really?" Giggling girlishly, Ryoko clasped her hands and grinned like a three year old on Christmas morning. She had crossed the room and was close to Tenchi desperately seeking a confirmation.
Tenchi nodded dumbly.
Ryoko spun back to the door laughing with joy as she did her victory dance.
Until her sleeve got caught on the door handle and tore right off.
"Oops," she gulped.
Tenchi made a choking noise in his throat.
"Mm," Ryoko grunted as she blinked at her bare arm. She glanced at the arm that still had a sleeve. "Uhm. Right. Well I wouldn't call it well balanced," she said as she tore the other sleeve off.
Tenchi's eyes were bulging in horror. "Oh!" Tenchi cried in horror. "Doh!" he grunted as he closed his eyes and clenched his fists.
"But now see?" Ryoko winked and wagged her finger at him. "It's nice and light and balanced!" She became alarmed when she saw Tenchi's reaction. "Uh… Tenchi?"
"Oh… you!" Tenchi cried as he turned away. "I hate you! I hate you!"
The universe seemed to warp around Ryoko in that moment. She heard Ryo-ohki meowing but she didn't notice the little cabbit enter the room. Darkness filled the world as lightning flashed heralding her despair. Then came the turning of the knife.
"Huh? Ryo-ohki!" Tenchi cried as her turned back to the door. "No! I didn't mean you!" Tenchi barreled out the door to console Ryo-ohki while Ryoko, the target of his ire remained frozen in shock.
Ryoko didn't know how long she stood there in the tattered remains of the kimono. "Tuh, tuh, Tenchi," she sniveled with tear-filled eyes. How could she be so stupid? He was so young when his mother died that he had raised her up as a saint! The kimono was sacred! Ryoko of all people should have known that! She had forgotten that because of her mistrust of her own mother, but Tenchi had a completely different concept of motherhood.
What to do? What to do? Think Ryoko! Think! There's got to be some way to salvage this! Don't think about what Tenchi said!
"Oh… you!" Tenchi had cried as he turned away. "I hate you! I hate you!"
Too late. She thought about what Tenchi had said. Maybe that's why she was on her knees sobbing into her hands. Ryoko, pull yourself together! You can't leave things like this! The way things are, Tenchi would rather marry the fuzzball than you! You've got to repair this!
Repair! That's it! Women on this planet sew all the time! How hard can it be? Ryoko was a woman. She should be able to handle it! Where are the sewing supplies? She had to find them!
"Ayeka!" Ryoko called after she changed into an orange outfit. "Where are the sewing supplies?"
"Why do you want to know?" the purple haired princess asked was she looked up from her sewing. She was seated in front of the doors to the upstairs patio and had a sewing basket balanced on a footstool in front of her.
"Never mind, I'll take yours," Ryoko said as she filched Ayeka's sewing basket.
"Hey!" Ayeka protested. "What do you think you're doing? I was using that! Since when do you sew anyway! Come back here!"
"'Since when do I sew?'" Ryoko sneered to herself while phasing through the wall with her prize. "How hard can it be?" If a pampered princess like Ayeka could do it a skilled veteran like Ryoko should be able to do it!
"Ow!" Ryoko sniveled up in her room as she pricked her finger a third time. Man! This was a lot harder than it looked! Ryoko's room was perfect for a little privacy and it wasn't very messy since she usually napped up in the rafters of the living room instead of her futon. But darn it, if this was trickier than it looked. The energy she used to be nigh indestructible didn't seem to be in play now; with only one gem her body must have been conserving power unless she really needed it so she wasn't healing these little pricks and stabs as quickly as she expected to. And how had she managed to scratch her cheek anyway?
Man this needle was sharp! Working the thread through the eye of the needle was tricky at first but Ryoko soon got the hang of it. How many stitches did it take to attach a sleeve to a kimono anyway? Ryoko had hoped to do it quickly but it looked terrible and the sleeve didn't seem to want to stay on with just a few stiches. She was going to have to take her time and do it right…
Take her time. Ryoko sighed sadly. She had been in too much of a hurry hadn't she? After he rescued her from Kagato she had really been getting in his face hadn't she? She didn't mean to, honestly she didn't! It was just that Tenchi was all she had aside of Ryo-ohki. And Washu. And Mihoshi. And Sasami. And even Ayeka. But it wasn't as if she had anybody else! The point was that here she was trying to get Tenchi to remember their deep connection all she was doing was pushing him away! She was going to have to get ahold of herself or some other girl would get ahold of Tenchi!
"Slowly," Ryoko muttered as she stitched at the sleeve of the kimono. "Take your time. Don't rush things. You've lived for over a thousand years so you don't have to rush things." There it went. The stitches were straighter now. Ryoko didn't need to breathe but she decided to take slow deep breaths anyway to establish a rhythm. In. Out. In. Out.
Finally she was finished and could survey her handiwork. It had taken all night and most of the next day, but there it was. The sleeves were back on, and you could hardly see the bloodstains. Ryoko's scratches and punctures didn't seem to be healing though and she realized that the reason why she wasn't healing was because deep down she didn't think she deserved to live. This has just got to work! She looked at the kimono again. Big mistake! It looks like crap! Don't look directly at it! The thread didn't even match, but she was going to have to play the card she was dealt and hope for the best. In the meantime she would change her bandages and intercept Tenchi on the way back to the house. She didn't think she could handle it if Ayeka or anybody else interfered.
When Tenchi and Ryo-ohki returned that afternoon with a basket full of carrots Ryoko was waiting for them with the kimono folded and clutched in her arms. She stood next to Azaka and Kamadake at the front gate looking down at the ground.
"Ryoko!" Tenchi seemed surprised to see her, but at least he wasn't annoyed.
Ryoko blinked at Tenchi to stop the tears from falling and then winced as she glanced at the kimono she repaired. It looked awful! Even with the kimono folded up, one could see the clumsy black stitch the pirate had done. She groaned quietly.
Tenchi couldn't help but notice the bandages on her fingers and especially the Band-Aid on her face. Poor Ryoko! She must have hurt herself trying to put his mother's kimono back together. "Uh, heh-heh," Tenchi gave a disarming laugh. "I'm not angry anymore," he offered.
"You mean it?"
"Yes?" Ryoko's face lit up as hope returned to her soul once more. Hope nothing, this was pure joy! "Yahoo!" she cried as she jumped in the air without bothering to put her feet on the ground again. She walked over to him and placed the repaired kimono in his hands before walking in back of him to relieve him of the heavy basket of carrots he was hauling. "Oh… let me carry that for you Tenchi; it's way too heavy for you!" she gushed as she took the huge basket of carrots and dashed through the gate.
"Hey, Ryoko!" Tenchi protested as he ran after her.
"It's no problem!"
"Ryoko!" he said as he caught up with her. "Wait up! You could at least let me walk with you."
Ryoko stopped abruptly and gasped for breath. He wanted to walk with her! He wanted to walk with her! Ryoko, don't mess this up! He's giving you another chance!
"Are you all right?" he asked with some concern.
Ryoko's bottom lip trembled and a tear appeared in her eye before she shook her head and smiled bravely. She had to go slow and not scare him away! Maybe that dumb tortoise was right and slow and steady wins the race. Love wasn't something she could rush or force on someone; she had to let it develop naturally, and this time Ryoko wasn't going to blow it. "Sure Tenchi. I guess we both had a busy day," she said as nonchalantly as she could. "I guess I shouldn't be in such a hurry. It's a pleasant walk. There's no need to rush things."
"Yeah," Tenchi nodded as little Ryo-ohki caught up with them. "Sometimes it's more fun if you take your time."
"Yeah," Ryoko blushed as she smiled warmly at Tenchi. Sometimes it really is. Tenchi liked her, he had to like her. He wanted to spend time with her didn't he? Sure he liked her. Since his mother died it wasn't like he had anybody else did he? Unless you count his father and grandfather. And Sasami. And Ayeka. And Mihoshi. And even that pervert Washu. Okay, aside of them, all he had was Ryoko. And she was going to be there for him, because he was everything to her.