Author's Notes:

Oh my!!! It has really been awhile since my last update to this story, ne?!? First I would like to give a sincere apology to all my readers for the lack updates, but now that RL has slowed down and my bout with writer's block seems to be passing, I can once again bring you quality fan fiction about our fave misfit family. As for this chapter, I decided to write in 3rd person, because honestly it just seemed easier. Well, I hope you enjoy this chapter that I've cooked up for you and tell me what you think ^_~


Disclaimer:

Disclaimer: Tenchi Muyo! and all related characters are the property of Pioneer and AIC Entertainment.



"dialogue"
/thoughts/

Oh, and before I forget:

Ryoko and Rei are one in the same person!!!!!!! If you don't remember the reason behind this read chapter 1!


Soul Decision
by Dream-chan
Rating: PG-13
Email: dream_chan@hotmail.com




C'est La Vie



As they waited for their drink orders to arrive, the two customers stared at anything besides each other, both trying to delay the conversation that was about to take place, but that didn't mean that they weren't trying to take secretive glances at the other. Both marveled at the changes in the other and wanted desperately to say anything that might end the tense silence between them, so it was with some relief when the waiter appeared with their orders, giving them something else to focus on.

After taking a sip of the strong French roast coffee, Tenchi gathered his courage and plunged in first. "Well..."


"So..." came the automatic response, no other words being spoken.

Soon the quiet became too much for one of them and the dam broke. "Are we going to talk anytime soon or just sit here in silence all night?"


Giving him a piercing glance, Ryoko almost wanted to laugh out loud at what the exasperated artist said to her and decided to test it out.


"Hmm, this attitude is new. Since when have you become so pushy?"


Ignoring the subtle dig, Tenchi replied calmly, "A lot of things can change within a year. Would you like to hear about some of them?"


"There really isn't a need for that. Mom has pretty much kept me informed about everything that was going on back in Okayama."


Now this floored Tenchi. It seemed that the woman sitting across from him was just full of surprises. With barely suppressed anger, he leaned across the table and asked heatedly, "Are you saying that all this time that you've been gone, Washu has been able to keep in contact with you and she said nothing to any of us about it?"


"That wasn't her call Tenchi, it was mine so spare the self-righteous act for someone that wishes to hear it," she reminded him mildly, taking a bizarre satisfaction at the stunned expression on his face.

"Ryo-" he began before he was hastily cut off.

"I told you that is no longer my name. Please call me Rei, or Hoshishiro-san if you can't remember that."

Scowling, he came back with the scathing retort, ready to knock the haughty woman down a peg or two. "That's going to take some getting used to, seeing how we have lost touch recently, so please forgive me if I slip from time to time. Now, are you ready to give me answers or do I have to wait another year?"


Raising her eyebrows was the only outside reaction she showed to his outburst. "If you lose the attitude..." she suggested calmly, masking the surprise she had at seeing the timid boy she used to know act like this.


Squaring his jaw, he ground out, "I don't think that is possible right now. Can't you understand what you've done to everyone when you left without so much as a goodbye?"

"I really don't see the big deal here. I mean all I did was take the 'demon' and transplant her somewhere else. Besides, I felt that it was time to find out who I really was, instead of living in the shadow of my infamous reputation...as the princess was so wont to remind me of at every possible opportunity," she replied coldly. Ignoring the obvious taunt at Aeka, Tenchi switched focus quickly to more significant matters.

"Where does Tanaka-san fit into all this?" he asked, his face scrunching up as if there was a horrid smell under his nose.

"I guess you could say that Jay was the first person to meet the 'new' me," she replied, watching the fleeting emotions wash over his face before stilling into an impassive mask.



"How did that happen?"


"I was going into town one day in order to pick up something..." she said vaguely, not mentioning that it was in search of a peace offering to him for her latest offense against the Masaki household. "Anyway, I took a quick break and decided to sit down and get something to drink. For some reason the cafe I picked out was really crowded and I was even lucky to get a seat to myself. Pretty soon, though I felt someone standing over me and when I looked up, there was Jaden asking if I minded sharing my table. After few minutes, we got to talking and that was the beginning of everything."


/So that is where she went all those afternoons.../ Tenchi thought to himself, remembering those times last year when Ryoko would disappear for hours at a time and not really give a reason for it, except that she just wanted to be alone for a while.

And here he thought she was just up to something that she knew that he would disapprove of.

Not that meeting Jaden sat well with him either....

Holding off those emotions for the time being, he pressed on, "So what was the real reason that you left?"

Giving him a measuring glance, Ryoko finally relented. "Before I tell you, I just want to say thank you."

Giving her look filled with confusion, he asked her hesitantly, "What did I do?" Somehow, he had the feeling that he wasn't going to like the answer.

"What you always did Tenchi-san...push me away." she said quietly, taking another sip of the rich, steaming coffee.


/And like usual, my instinct is right.../thought the brooding man sitting across from her.


Not liking the silence, he spoke up, "But there had to be more than that. Are you going to tell me the real reason?"


Showing some signs of annoyance, Ryoko let him have what he'd been asking for, no matter how much she wanted to protect him from the truth. "Fine, here it is! It just seemed that no matter how many good deeds I'd done or no matter how much I tried to be a better person, when something went wrong all fingers instantly pointed to the resident demon, unless the lab blew up then it was Mihoshi's fault. I just felt that it was time to be known for something other than a tool for destruction whether it be accidental or intentional."

Taking another sip from the steaming cup in front of her, she continued. "But what hurt the worse is when you would give me this disappointed look every time someone said I done something whether it was proven or not. If I thought that anyone would give me a fair shake, it would be you, but I finally realized that you couldn't see me for who I was now instead of the most feared space pirate in the universe or shrine demon that I had been. So, with a lot of thinking and planning, I decided to make a past for myself...one that I could be proud of."



"Why didn't you bring this up before?" Why didn't I see this coming?


Taking a small sip of the hot drink in front of her, she said despondently, "What would have been the point? Besides, I had a reputation to uphold and acting like a little crybaby wasn't going to help."


"It would have been better than running away," he countered, just coming to the realization that he was guilty of all the things that she just accused him of.


"Maybe, but we can't turn back time can we?" she shot back harshly; tired of the flack she was getting from Tenchi. "Wait, don't answer that." she grinned wryly, thinking of the resident mad scientist of the Masaki household. With a resolute gaze, she continued, "What I mean is, I know what I did and I take responsibility for it. What I don't need is another lecture from you."


Tenchi could do nothing but stare at the woman in front of him and think that perhaps he never really knew Ryoko in the first place. Sure, he freed her from the cave, fought by her side against various enemies, and has been the object of her affection since he met her, but in all that time he never really knew her or never really tried for that matter.


All that time wasted....


"Now that is over with, how are you doing?"


"I'm good. I just finished my first year of university, I'm interning at the Louvre, my mother is back in my life, and actually have friends that know me for the person that I have become. It can't get any better. Now what is going on with you? Why are you in Paris?"


"I'm actually part of an exchange program for students traveling around Europe, visiting all the museums and stuff like that."


"Sounds like quite the experience."


"Yeah," was all he could think to say, not able to think of anything else to the former pirate. It seemed that in the last couple minutes, all the foundations for his and Ryoko's relationship had been ripped away. Taking a deep breath, he resolved once again to make amends with his friend.



"Ryoko-"


"Tenchi, don't do it. I've already heard it from Washu, and contrary to popular opinion, I don't need to have it pounded into my head repeatedly. I'm sticking to my decision and that is the end of it," she said with a note of finality, angering the man across from her.


Knowing that it was the wrong thing to say, but beyond caring, Tenchi spat out, "I never knew you were a coward..."


And he looked on the cyan-haired girl's eyes widened and knew then that he had made a fatal mistake.


"Excuse me?" came the icy glare, anger held barely in check.


Not backing down, he stared right back. "I called you a coward. Is there a problem with that?"


"How DARE you?!? How can you even sit there and say that after all we've been through together-" /after I almost die for you.../ came the unspoken words, although they both knew what was left unsaid.


"Sure we have fought side by side together against others, but I never thought that you would run away from us...your family."


"Tenchi-" she tried to respond, but was interrupted by the flow of emotion coming from the art student.


Reaching out, he grasped the hand that was on the table and enfolded it in his own, needing contact. "I just want to know what caused you to have such a change of heart. I know you told me that you had to find yourself, but why did you just leave?"


Looking into those deep chocolate eyes that she remembered, she shook her head somberly, "Because I felt that it was time to do for Ryoko."


"What is that supposed to mean? I would have thought that you would have wanted to do for others after your past-" he spat out, not realizing the impact that his words would have on the former pirate, but when he looked up he could tell that they had cut...deeply."


/Why can't I ever say what I want around her?/ he screamed inwardly, wishing there was a way to take all the hateful words back.


Seeing that she wasn't going to dignify his outburst with a response, he blurted out, "I'm sorry." Right now, those words were so adequate for what he was feelings right then. Maybe if he bashed his head into the pavement....


"No Tenchi. I'm the one that is sorry. I'm sorry for leaving the way I did. I'm sorry for hurting my family, and I'm sorry for hurting you. I hope that you can accept my apology and move on like I have. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to work." she said in clipped tones, throwing a franc note on the table and rising from her chair.


Not wanting their meeting to end like this, Tenchi impulsively reached out and latched on to her wrist, effectively stopping her dramatic exit. "Ryoko, please. I didn't mean-"


"I think that we have said all we need to say to each other. Sayonara Masaki-san." and with those parting words, she walked away not looking back once.


"Shimatta," he whispered severely, dropping a handful of francs on the table to cover their drinks and left the cafe, still not sure what to make of his encounter with the 'new' Ryoko. The only thing that he was sure of was that he would be having a talk with a certain scientific genius when he returned home.


A very long talk.


In what seemed liked seconds to Tenchi, he arrived at the hotel that his group was staying in and walked inside, thoughts of rest uppermost on his list. Upon opening the door, he quickly found out that was not to be the case.


"Hey Tenchi! Where did you disappear to? I never thought that you would be the type to skip out on a tour," his roommate teased, looking at the morose man that just walked in the door.


Placing his jacket on the back of a chair, Tenchi toed off his trainers and replied tonelessly, "Just ran into an old friend is all."


With a skeptical look planted on his face, Niishi nodded. "Are you sure they were with a friend? Your face looks like you want to punch someone's lights out."


Giving a strained smile, Tenchi said sullenly, "It's just that the reunion I had in mind didn't go quite as planned."


Seeing that the situation was more than Tenchi wanted to reveal, the prying man backed off, not wanting Tenchi to direct his irritation at him. "Sorry man."


"There's no need for you to be sorry. If I hadn't acted like such an ass, then I wouldn't be in this position."


"It might look better if you talk about it, and I just happen to be a great listener."


Walking over to the nightstand, Tenchi picked up the familiar photo and handed it to Niishi.


Giving the photo a cursory glance, his roommate asked, "What does this have to do with anything?"


Pointing towards the picture, Tenchi answered, "You see the girl with the gold eyes and cyan hair?"


"Oh you mean the hottie that I was going to ask you to hook me up with once we got back?" Seeing the angry flush on Tenchi face, Niishi threw up his hands in a defensive gesture. "Kidding....jokie jokie..."


Ignoring his friend's theatrics, Tenchi continued softly, "To make a long story short, she disappeared a little over a year ago, leaving only a note to tell us that she left."


Seeing the haunted look in his friend's eyes, Niishi asked gently, "What happened to make her leave?"


Turning his sad gaze to his roommate, Tenchi replied dejectedly, "That is what I had always wondered myself...until today."


"Oh...."


"Yeah." Grabbing a pillow, Tenchi threw one to the startled young man. Smiling slowly he said, "You might as well get comfortable. This is going to be a long story.





In an apartment across town, one woman was trying to decide if she was truly ready to close a chapter in her life that held so much importance for her...if she was finally ready to move on from the man that was the first to claim her heart.

"Rei. I know you're in there. Open up."

"You do know that it's one o'clock in the morning?"

"And that is exactly why I am here," came the brusque voice from the other side causing a small smile to appear on the intern's face.


/Trust Jay to be the knight in shining armor,/ she thought amusedly, opening the door to let her friend in.


Giving his automatic greeting of a kiss on the cheek, he got right down to business. "So, are you going to tell me who that guy was and what happened?"


Smirking, she glanced over at the brooding man in front of her. "If I didn't know better, you sound like a jealous boyfriend...."


Picking up her game, he replied smoothly, not missing a beat. "Well I could be only if you let me."


Shaking her head at the man's persistence, she grinned, "No. I like you better as a friend and right now I need all the friends that I can get."


Backing off for the moment, he gave her a probing look. "Are you going to tell me what happened?"


Knowing that he wouldn't leave her alone until he got what he wanted, she relented. "Short version. My mother and I lived with the guy's family when I stayed in Okayama. We became close, but something happened. He's a bit pissed because I left without saying anything."


Not wanting to know, but knowing that he had to, Jaden asked the question that had been plaguing his brain ever since running into the annoyed man. "Were you two involved?"


With a great sigh, Rei plopped down on her bed, wishing that her concerned friend would change the subject already.

"No." /although I didn't try.../ she couldn't help think, remembering all the things she used to do in order to get the young man's attention.


Sitting down beside her, he took her hands in his and gently massaged them, trying to take some of the stress that was evident through out her body. "So, what happened?"


Looking into compassionate hazel eyes, Rei responded, "Nothing really. Just a lot of talking in circles, ending with the usual bust up at the end."


"Sorry."


Giving her friend a reassuring smile, she cupped his face gently, "See, there is nothing for you to be sorry about."



"So I guess you're definitely not coming to Tokyo then," he murmured, the cheerless expression of Jaden's face telling Rei that he had already accepted that she wouldn't go with him.


Thinking back to the conversation she had with her mother, she said slowly, "Actually, I wanted to know if the offer was still on the table."


"Really?" he exclaimed, a look of pleasant surprise splashed across his handsome features.


"Yeah. Besides, there are some other people that I would like to see again."


"I'm glad that you feel that way. Besides, you deserve a break and maybe going back home will do that for you."

"I highly doubt it, but I still need to go." /I can't run anymore.../ Out of the blue, an idea came to her.

"Jay, would it be alright if we invited Tori to come with us? I know for a fact that all she is going is laying around bored at her parents' house in Kent, and to be honest I kinda miss the loudmouth. Is that alright?"


Grinning, he said, "I don't see any harm in it. Call her to see if she wants to go and then I will make the arrangements, okay?"


"Will do." she smiled, happy in knowing that she would have more support when she made the trip home. "I know I don't say it often enough, but thanks again Jay...especially for today."


"I told you that I would always be there, and I will," he said, giving her a reassuring hug. Shrugging into his coat, he walked over to the door and with one last look, quietly slipped out the door.


"Why can't HE be the man of my dreams?" Ryoko asked herself sadly, picking up the phone to call her friend who would no doubt accept the invitation to come along with them. Shaking her head forlornly, she began to dial the familiar number and idly wondered if she would get over the dream man that she had given up on so long ago.


tbc....



Well, did this work out for everyone? Please let me know..


Until next time minna-san!


Dream-chan