|By : Richard_Priapi|
Category: +S to Z > Tenchi Muyo
Views: 255 -:- Recommendations : 0 -:- Currently Reading : 0
|Disclaimer: I do not own the various Tenchi Muyo properties, nor any of the characters herein who may be found within that canon. Originally posted to AO3, I'll be posting more proofread/edited versions of the chapters here.|
Ayeka sat in a chair. All things considered, rather a comfortable one, at that. Was it not customary to wake up from a kidnapping bound? If she even had a guard, he was hidden well. Her room had the classic sloping walls of a cabin along a ship’s hull, though instead of painted metal or plastics it was paneled in intertwined wood panels, with ornately woven carpets lining the granite floors. A lofted bed on an antique frame granted a picture window view of the space outside. It reminded her of a hunting lodge her father once owned.
None of it meant safety. Where was the trick? Poison in the vents? Tripwires in the carpet? A plume of hydrogen fire? She stood: nothing so far.
With a shhh sound of feet in sand, the door opened. Ayeka bristled as Masanosuke entered.
“That’s princess to you.” She bristled.
“I’m afraid, my dear, that it is not. Ask any of the Juraian people; If you abandon a throne, it is no longer yours.”
Ayeka raised her hand- nothing happened.
“By now you have noticed you are not restrained. If you do not attempt to escape, you will remain unharmed. Kagato may not have been above confinement and torture, but I believe a woman should be treated more appropriately. I’ll forgive you for not noticing the necklace you now wear; in addition to suppressing the flow of Jurai energy, it has been designed for comfort. You can thank my engineers for that.”
“There is no need. Now, let us talk of the future.”
Ryoko leaned onto her back leg, poised to spring in any direction. She peered into the darkness outside as Washu opened the door. A white cabbit bounded into the Masaki home. The mutant creature’s muzzle dug tenderly into Ryo-Ohki’s fur; despite his chorus of worried mewls, she purred as he doted on her.
After him came trouble: five-foot eight of hell in the questionable fashion choice of a broad cloak, a skintight leotard, and tactical leggings. Any fool to comment on that sense of style could be silenced by the multipurpose energy weapon slung on her hip. Nagi, terror to all wanted outlaws, greeted her counterpoint cooly.
“Hello, Ryoko. It’s been some time.”
Ryoko kept her eyes solidly on the bounty hunter, hands slowly moving to the ready.
“Washu, you can not be serious. You called her?”
Nagi wiped her boots and strode to the couch, crossing her legs and gazing at the ragtag band.
“As much as I would be delighted to challenge you, Ryoko, since you were granted a supposedly posthumous pardon by the princess, I’d end up right there in the cell with you.”
“Hmph. Bet you’d like that. Unlimited access and an audience?”
Nagi’s smirk bared one tooth.
“Just don’t go breaking any new laws, and you’ll never know.”
“Ladies, this is all very interesting, but haven’t we got some slightly bigger problems right now?” Yosho asked from his seat.
Nagi’s smirk changed its angle.
“Yes, I know- with Ryoko out of the picture, he’s been the top of my hit list. Imagine my surprise when your friend hails me to say he’s kidnapped Sasami and left a clean trail.”
“And Ayeka!” Tenchi chimed in. Nagi twitched her head dismissively.
“Well that’s just rude,” Tenchi murmured. Ryoko giggled and planted a peck on her cheek.
Nagi raised an eyebrow.
“And this is?”
Ryoko squeezed Tenchi as hard as she dared around her injuries, head falling on Tenchi’s shoulder.
“She’s my girlfriend.”
Nagi shook her head, repulsed at how many different inflections Ryoko had crammed into the phrase. Something looked off.
“What happened to the guy from last time?”
Yosho sighed: never a dull moment.
“The future?” Ayeka scowled, “Why, the future is me escaping this ship, returning to the palace and drawing up orders for your execution, necklace or no necklace.”
Masanosuke gestured, and a chair descended out of the ceiling behind him. As he settled into it, he buffed a patch of polish on his bare scalp.
“That is one interpretation, little girl. Another is that I have you thrown out the airlock. Some of the crew are bidding for the privilege as we speak.”
Ayeka bit back her fear, replaced it with arrogance.
“And why haven’t they done it already, then?”
Masanosuke gave her a shrewd look.
“An empire needs an emperor; and presently our law demands any true ruler of Jurai have access to the divine Jurai power. Contrary to my reputation, it is not among my gifts. A royal wife could grant me legitimacy with the constitutionalists, help me overturn the old laws.”
“Poppycock, as if I would ever.”
Masanosuke leaned forward in his chair, eyes boring into her.
“My revolution will come one way or another. It would prevent the shedding of a good deal of blood; not the least of which, yours.”
“Hmph.” She crossed her arms resolutely and turned pointedly to face the window.
“Very well- perhaps your sister would be more amenable, after the death of her beloved elder sister.”
Ayeka’s blood ran cold.
“Sasami? But she’s just a child!”
“We were all children once.”
“That’s disgusting! You will not lay one hand on my sister.” Ayeka tried again in vain to summon a force field.
“Don’t be so vulgar; I assure you that element of my reputation is also a fiction.” The hulking schemer leapt to his feet and took a step back from his revolting captive. “It would be a strictly political marriage until she turns of age. Seven years, is it not?”
Ayeka’s stared at the middle-aged man; imagining him and her sister in seven years sent her skin crawling from head to toe. For a moment, she slid into her diplomatic mask, the dignified face needed to make sausage in royal court.
“I will… consider your offer, Masanosuke.” Defiance lurked in her garnet eyes yet.
“Master Masanosuke. Remember your place.”
The princess tool a moment to compose herself, fists balled in her sleeves.
“Master Masanosuke, I will consider your offer. Assuming, of course, that Lady Tenchi has not already saved both of us.”
Masanosuke paused to scowl, fingers throttling the back of the chair.
“That pathetic display. I had been meaning to ask. The gossips at court say you fled to live with your knight after he saved you in such heroic fashion; what was the matter? Was he not enough of a man to handle you, or did you fancy him more as a little doll for you effete royals to play with?”
“You… you scoundrel! You may insult me all you wish, but not Tenchi; that woman is twice the man you have ever been.”
Throwing his cloak over his shoulder, Masanosuke stalked to the door. Before he left, he turned and spat on the floor.
“This empire needs me more than I thought. Sleep well, princess; it’s time I had a little chat with your sister.”
As the door slid shut, motors whined and locks clicked. Masanosuke’s chair thudded against the paneled steel.
“Washu, can I…. can I talk to you?” Tenchi worked the hem of her skirt between her fingers. The bags around her eyes had deepened since the strategy meeting. The last Time she had seen Tenchi’s eyes with bags like that, she had been standing over her grandfather’s sickbed after their first encounter with Kagato.
“What’s on your mind?”
“Is there any way for me to… to go back? To being a man?” The words hung awkwardly in the air, and the two women stood motionless as they watched the misshapen thought as if ignoring it would make it dissolve back into thin air. Tenchi winced at the pity in Washu’s eyes as she looked Tenchi up and down. Washu knew how well her high voice could carry, so she whispered.
“Why do you want that?”
Tenchi screwed her eyes shut. The thoughts in her head clawed and scraped past each other to be heard first, and a once-familiar voice, his voice, stated the obvious conclusion at the same time it fell from her lips. The dissonance in her ear made her legs shake.
“I was stronger when I killed Kagato. I had to be. And now we’re back to kidnapped princesses and space chases and…” She paused, let her breath catch up to her.
“As a man, I killed Kagato. As a woman I did… I did nothing while his goons came back for seconds.”
“And what?” Washu’s voice was so gentle. It made Tenchi furious.
“And I am standing here in kitten heels and an honest-to-god skirt, while Ayeka and Sasami get further and further away.” She slammed her fist into the wall, leaving a hole in the plaster.
Washu reached out to stroke her hair- she pushed the hand away. Washu stroked her hair again. She shook her head. On the third stroke she went limp, downcast eyes vacant.
“Oh, Tenchi. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
The teen met her eyes. So much fear.
“When you defeated Kagato, you were harnessing the Jurai Power. Only the royal family has that. But much of your treatment was gene therapy, and I had to write over a lot of your genetic code. If I rewrite those spots I’ll be adding in a lot of synthetic DNA…”
Tenchi’s voice was flat, cold: “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that not only could it possibly sever your connection the Jurai power entirely... it would have to be permanent.”
Tenchi’s knees fell out from under her. She could see her hands scratching at the floor with chrome purple nails. She couldn’t do that to them. She couldn’t take that back. Those fingers deserved to be pretty, didn’t they?
Laughs and sobs tangled with ragged jags of breath. Cheap mascara stung her eyes as it dissolved in her tears. She didn’t know how long Washu sat there with her. It was agony. She had a choice to make, and she was powerless to make it. Her voice came out hoarsely, sounding so much like it did before. She stopped, closed her eyes, started again.
“Washu, what do I do?”
Washu gently beckoned her to sit back against the wall. Together they stared at the door to Washu’s lab, the black ash of some faceless goon still marring the floor, spread by careless footprints.
“You know, the jerk who tried to open that lab door was probably a man too,” Washu pointed out helpfully, “and see how much good it did him?”
The mad genius shrugged.
“My point is, if you think you need more strength, then I can lend you as much of mine as you need. And Tenchi?” She placed a hand on the teen’s cheek. “Don’t go trying to do anything rash with my stuff. The booby traps in the lab are way more gruesome than this.”
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