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by Nil Admirari
#25059 One

Autumn is no time for a scientist, let alone the greatest scientific genius in the universe, to be milling about outside. If you’d ever asked her, Washu would tell you that there is no good time to step away from your work. Any precious time you spend in less than optimal conditions for testing and analysis is a waste. If something belongs outside, drag it in and stuff it in a tube somewhere deep in a lab hidden in a dimensional portal. Which is, coincidentally, exactly where Washu was sitting at that moment. Dozens of experiments surrounded her, patiently waiting out some dull scanning process or trying to live out its day-to-day functions while a stranger probed her eyes into their world. Sometimes she would merely watch, pad of paper in one hand and pen in the other. Othertimes she’d be only half focused on the glass house she would be standing in front of, pounding away at a holographic keyboard and studying the results on screen with unbreakable attention.

She stopped in front of a glass globe almost as big as a football field and waited for her specimen to arise. Blue-green swirls of chemical atmosphere brushed against the sides of the giant case, breaking off into smaller lines before rejoining the collective fog below. Moments passed, the sickly air within stirring violently. Washu scribbled on her pad in anticipation. Breaking into view was a giant, winged, leathery creature. It flapped around and slammed up against the glass frame before pulling back, hovering in midair to stare off at its cruel captor. A curved beak-like structure opened wide, though if it were letting out some sort of cry or threat, Washu was unable to hear it. As fun as it can be to play god, sometimes you need to just turn off the damn volume.

“Hmm,” she mumbled, watching the creature’s left wing with particular attention. “Seems to have recovered well from the last experiment. I’ll still have to proceed with some minor caution. Can’t risk losing such a specimen so early!” She’d managed to capture this one from an icy gas giant planet in a very distant star system. Often found in packs, these creatures possess incredible amounts of energy in order to maintain flight for their entire lives. The closest they even get to a sleep state is a drift maneuver which allows them to coast on the pressurized systems of the planet to preserve stamina. Physical collisions were great mysteries to these creatures. Besides running into each other, they had nothing to land on or hit. As Washu had found out, they couldn’t even attempt it if they tried. Their bodies are extremely sensitive to atmospheric pressures. The first time she attempted extraction she witnessed the effects of changes on their bodily structure. As marked in her notes, it became ‘flatter than Senbei’ and resembled a ‘sack of smashed plums.’

While she gazed down upon the subject, a loud beeping went off around her.

“Huh?” Washu clipped her pen down and waved her hand up to call her computer up. The air around her flickered to life, forming three screens about arm’s length away. A grid of keys faded in gently just level with her lower chest. Tucking her clipboard under her arm, she tapped away into the system. One screen displayed the output of her text inputs, complex lines of code built in a computing language no earth computer was capable of parsing. She rooted through the alien file trees for a moment before the other two screens blinked and activated. The far right screen showed her an overlay of the Masaki household and the surrounding hills, a blueprint-like map for her to keep track of where everyone is. The middle screen showed a view of the lake, a small dot barely moving on the shore.

“She’s back out there again. Eighth day in a row,” Washu thought to herself. “Perhaps I should go talk to her, lord knows the boys here sure won’t.” With a flick of her wrist, the holographic computer vanished into the ether. She turned to face where she came from before observing this creature and walked off.

.

The surface of the water broke as Ryoko dipped her hand into the lake. The way the chilled water curved around her slender fingers always helped take her mind off of things. The mere act alone may not seem like much, but comfort can be found in the strangest of places. Her reflection rippled and shattered in reaction to her arm movements, not unlike the way a shattered mirror made of mercurial material may react. Her messy, unkempt hair haloed lightly from blocking out the sun hanging in the mild blue skies above her. A thin breeze ruffled the raised collar of her dress shirt. All the while she just kept moving her hand around in the lake, the swishing of the water lightly splashing away barely registering to her. She’d come here to try and get out of the house, away from the TV and the kitchen, away from all of her memories. If only for a moment, she thought, as it all would come back as soon as she went back inside.

She struck out at the water with a hard slap, frustration coming to a head. A loud whoosh sailed through the air as the liquid flew away from her strike and slapped back down into the lake with a few late cracks. Ryoko averted her stare away from the lake and looked off into the distance. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to see herself right now.

“What’s the matter with you?” She posed, almost as a taunt. “You’re acting awfully childish right now. I’d expect this kind of behavior from a bratty princess, not the fearsome Space Pirate Ryoko!” The leaves rustled in the breeze as if to respond. “Hmph, this planet’s made you too soft. This planet and that…” She shook her head and tried to regain control of herself. “Listen to me, arguing with myself. I’d almost expect this kind of behavior from Washu.” Like a phantom, no sooner than she had thought of the name, a pink hair plume became visible in the surface of the water next to her. She glanced her eyes downward, seeing Washu’s reflection joining hers.

“What do you want?” Ryoko dryly blurted. Washu stretched a little.

“Oooooh nothing, just happened to be in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by.” Washu cooed playfully. Ryoko was not amused, wrinkling her nose momentarily in mild annoyance. Washu continued.

“You’ve been out here for eight days in a row.”

“I know,” Ryoko responded with deadened emotion.

“You’re not a creature of habit, you’re too lazy for that.” Washu, despite her concern, still wasn’t exactly one with social graces. “You’ve been out here paddling away at the lake like a crew aboard a sinking ship, trying to get away from a whirlpool.”

“Maybe I am trying to get away. It’s difficult when you’re followed, you know.” Ryoko’s response was pointed, her mood already down the drain. She didn’t want to be near Washu. They’d never really gotten along to begin with, and she never did understand things like ‘personal space’. Washu knelt over with a smile on her face. With her school uniform and the blissful expression on her face, it’s like she never aged a day beyond 12.

“C’mon now dear,” she brightly chirped. “You’re not going to get anywhere with that attitude. You’re starting to act like some of my experiments, and let me tell ya, some of them can be mighty stubborn.” She stood back up and clenched her fist toward her chest. “But little do they know who they’re messing with. Washu, the greatest scientific genius in the universe!” She maintained her pose for a moment as two little Washu-bots flung up on her shoulders.

Yeah, the greatest and smartest in the worrrrrrrrrrld!” Washu-bot A cheered on.

She can figure out anything, get to the bottom of any mystery!” Washu-bot B waved its hands excitedly.

Yeah!!” They both exclaimed at once. Washu cackled.

Ryoko’s face didn’t budge.

“Aw, that didn’t get anything out of you?” Washu broke her triumphant pose. “I’m just trying to be funny, lighten the mood a little!”

“I’d ask for my money back, but I don’t remember ordering a clown.”

“Listen now, Miss Pagliacci!” Washu quipped back, half offended. She took a moment to act as if she were regaining herself. “I may play the part of the fool on this stage, but I can tell when something isn’t right. You don’t have any parts like this on the script, so why are you out here sulking away the hours all the time now?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Washu didn’t take this as an acceptable answer to her question.

“You miss them, don’t you?” She asked after a moment. Ryoko appeared surprised, scrambling to hide her face from Washu’s perspective of her reflection.

“What makes you think that?” Ryoko asked, muffled by her arm.

“Well, it’s been some time since any of the girls have come to visit, right? They used to be just as much of a part of this house as anyone else. They’d all gone off on their own after you and Tenchi got married. That was years ago by this planet’s cycles. I think perhaps you’re missing them, the additional noise they used to bring into your life.”

Ryoko pondered on this for a moment. Sure, Washu stuck around, but everyone else had left Earth almost a decade ago. No Mihoshi to break things and drive Washu crazy. No Kiyone to chat with over afternoon tea. No more of Sasami’s incredible cooking filling the home with mouth-watering aromas morning, afternoon and night. No Ayeka to butt heads with over Tenchi. No Ayeka to watch daytime soap operas with, to cry with when the drama scaled up, to giggle with as they goofed around about their favorite ‘One True Pairing’ for each show. No Ayeka to bat around and be batted back at by. Life had been great without them, but there was no denying that they left a huge hole after they left.

“…I guess I do.”

“You should go and visit them.”

“Me? Go out there? Want me to just show up at their doorsteps like a catalog girl and ask if they’re interested in a demonstration?”

“If you want to make a little money while you’re up there, sure!” Washu giggled. “But come on, you know you can’t just let yourself sit around in this rut you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s making me depressed. And that’s getting in the way of my ability to observe and experiment!”

“Am I one of those?” Ryoko joked.

“I think I burned your dossier years ago, half of what I had written down in there was more illegal than the cannon I built which could destroy a galaxy in a single shot.”

“My reputation is still intact then.”

“Atta girl!”

Washu was right. Ryoko felt a longing to see the familiar faces of the girls she spent years together with. Would she go so far as to call them friends? A younger, more immature Ryoko would tell you no and then rob you blind. But the years had changed her, at least a little bit. Now she’d say yes, and regale a story about them while she pickpocketed you.

“Ayeka and Sasami would probably be back in the lap of luxary at the Jurai palace, so it wouldn’t be hard to find them. But what about Kiyone and Mihoshi? I wouldn’t have any idea where to find them if they’re on active duty.”

“They did turn down their high station ranks to return here and patrol the solar system before they left, didn’t they? I’m sure I can dig up some dirt on ‘em. Someone’s had to have spotted the Yagami somewhere.” Washu struck a pose. “It won’t be any problem for me, the grea-”

“-test scientific nerd in the galaxy, I know.”

“In the universe!” Washu playfully slapped Ryoko’s shoulder. “Get it right!” Ryoko rose to her feet and turned to face Washu. Any other day and she would have raised a clasped hand for such an action. But today, all she could muster was a soft stare.

“Did you want to come with me?” Ryoko asked.

“Who, me? Nah. I think it’d be best if I stay here and keep an eye on things at the house. Or stay cooped up in my studies. Either or. I think it’d be best for you to go alone, at any rate.”

“Alone?”

“Yeah! Just you, the stars, hangin out with the girls! I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to see you again.”

“It’s been ten years, think they’ll be like they were back then?”

“Only one way to find out, dear.”

“Yeah,” Ryoko looked up at the dreary blue sky, some clouds having disrupted the purity of the expanse.

“Grab a few carrots for Ryo-ohki before you leave. Make it a nice outing. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Robbing a bank is still game then, right?” Ryoko threw out the hypothetical question as she walked back towards the house. With Ryoko’s back turned to her, Washu flicked her wrist and called forth an Ansible. Tiny bleeps and bloops emitted from nowhere as she stood by herself on the edge of the water, Ryoko sliding the wooden door shut behind her.
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by wwwwhhhhoooo
#25061 This is delightful! You really undersell yourself as a writer, Nil. ^^

Silly as it is, I've never contemplated the scenario after a pro-Ryoko Universe ending. Ryoko got her man, and all's well: okay, but after ten years, now what? Leads one to wonder about twenty years, thirty, etc. It's pertinent to anyone who is, has been, or will be in an extended relationship.

It's also a different angle entirely to our beloved "wait around for the carnival" motif. What if it's taking too damn long? Well...why not go to it instead of letting your life pass you by waiting? The fact that this tidbit of elderly wisdom is passed on to Ryoko by the typically immature Washu is as humorously quaint and eloquent as it was executed (also fun takeaway for us as fans...just think, unbeknownst to either of them, in a parallel universe, they're mother and daughter to one another). Again, simply a delight.

The voices of the characters were also spot-on: both executed seamlessly for a feeling of verisimilitude, but with Washu you somehow went beyond right on the money! From her vernacular to her ability to quickly transition from comical to profound, I heard K. T. Vogt reprising her role as I read.

I'd love to read more if you're planning on dishing it out! (Where there's a One, there must surely be a Two.)

P. S. I was waiting to see where you'd fit in "ansible" and you did not disappoint! Props. :lol:
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by evilpii
#25065 Reading this story, the main thrust of the segment is Ryoko's feelings of loneliness, which has been a well-documented theme of the series at large. However, this was unique in its approach, having her herself after having won Tenchi. Given the allusions to the dimensional cannon and Kiyone and no references to Washu being Ryoko's mother, I firmly assume this is the future of the Universe continuity.

I enjoyed reading this segment. Showing Ryoko's inner turmoil over missing her friends after such a long period of time was in keeping with her character as shown in Universe. In particular, I noticed that when she was thinking about everyone who has left the household, Ayeka was the one referenced the most. The feeling seemed natural and obvious. On the other hand, the situation begs the question as to why they left and have not spoken with one another in over ten years. Perhaps they moved apart naturally, or there was a particular incident that caused the split. Given Ryoko's perspective, the latter seems unlikely, particularly given the events of TMiL2 if it is in continuity with this story. I am very interested to see how the others have changed over the time period.

Washu was also enjoyable, especially her social quirks. However, I find it notable that Tenchi is not present in this. If Ryoko has married Tenchi, he might notice her being unhappy and distant. Moreover, in planning her excursion, one might consider his opinion on the matter. While Ryoko may well put her foot down, she might bounce the idea and her feelings off of him. Admittedly, this segment had very enjoyable female bonding between Ryoko and Washu, despite not being directly related here.

I also loved the reference to the ansible. ^^v I would enjoy seeing where this story would go. As I am writing Homecomings with a similar theme of "what happens after the Choice", I am very interested to see what has become of everyone after Tenchi chose Ryoko.
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by drillmaster
#25122 This is good material here. This is why I have always had an issue with Tenchi choosing any of the girls. If he did, it would be very hard to justify most of them really staying around in the long term. If he chose them all...well I am not a harem guy myself so it is just weird to think about. The writing is good and the character motivations are very clear. You did a great job capturing their voices.

I can't wait to see where this is going.
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by Nil Admirari
#25369 Thank you all for your kind words, I will try to bounce some thoughts on things here and there later on.


Two

“Mya-myaaaaaa~” Ryo-ohki chirped, pleased beyond what her vocalizations could express that she was taking to the dark seas of Outer Space again with Ryoko. It had been many years since the two of them set sail for a longer trip, Ryoko preferring to keep to the Earth as much as possible after the marriage. There was always a part of her that would plead to go off on an adventure somewhere every time she looked to the night skies. But she forced herself to decline this desire, wishing to get further away from the life she led out there before she came to meet the man she loved. Ryoko missed the sensation of flying around in the vast emptiness with nothing to stand in her way but the occasional pesky Galaxy Police patrol or a Jurian ship. Giving it up served as a way for her to bring about a change. Her life was no longer free-floating. She was attached to the heart of another, and she could not be as careless as she once was.

Dwelling upon a single planet was such a foreign concept to Ryoko before she crashed onto Earth. The delicate brush of the artist who crafted each planet and star had so much to offer even a space pirate like herself. Some planets bathed in red hues and orange highlights, tickling her violent side with thoughts of powerful storms and dry, cracked climates at odds against the anger of the planet itself. Deep blue shells, yellow spheres, some planets half consumed by technological build-up. Even when she was too young to truly appreciate just how immense the universe was and all of the life she passed by, she held a sort of reverence for the things that space travel could show her. She was, in fact, enjoying the sight of the planets again when Ryo-ohki’s communication com channel lit up.

“Didn’t forget the carrots, did you?” Washu teased as her petite frame flickered onto one of Ryo-ohki’s screens. Ryo-ohki instinctively cried out excitedly at the thought of her favorite orange treats.

“I took care of everything. Did a few quick duties around the house, said goodbye to Tenchi, packed a lunch…” Ryoko trailed off, Washu chuckling at the thought of Ryoko calling off a checklist like a child would before a field trip. There was a brief silence between the two before Washu spoke up again.

“Anyway, I did a little diggin’ around to see if I could find our comedy duo team in the Galaxy Police mainframe. Had to dig real deep, they’ve upgraded since the last time I probed in.”

“Hope you didn’t slip up and get caught,” Ryoko mused.

“Listen now, I may have been out of practice with their systems but it isn’t anything I can’t handle!” Washu struck her usual proud pose. “Besides, you’ll know if I got caught when the fleet opens fire on you. I used your name, after all.”

“You what?!” Ryoko jolted forward in her seat as Washu belted out her obnoxious laugh.

“I’m just pulling your leg! You think I’d let myself get caught? Would hardly befit a person of my statute, would it? I was able to determine that Yagami is still in active duty, both of our friends still serving aboard. Quite a few additional decorations awarded to both, though their higher standing puts them on higher level cases. But, I managed to get in contact with Kiyone and made the arrangements. She’s got a nice place in mind somewhere near where they’re currently stationed. I’ve sent the coordinates to Ryo-ohki.”

“Mya!” Ryo-ohki confirmed.

“It’s a little upscale though dear, try to wear something decent so you don’t embarrass the poor girl.”

“What are you, my mother or something?”

“Just trying to be a help! Au revoir~” The screens blinked off as Washu gave a cheeky little wave. Ryoko leaned back in her chair and went back to staring at the marbles hanging in the dark drapes of the universe as Ryo-ohki sped off in the direction of the coordinates she was given.

.

Like a good usher, the door swung open with little resistance and never got in Ryoko’s way as she stepped into the bar. Lining the interior were classy wooden furnishings mixed in with the more familiar curves of modern metallic styles. Thumping away in the far back corner were some nameless, hep Jazz musicians, whose tempered freeplay borderlined between relaxing and seductive. Customers sat along a row of chairs by the bar proper, the counter just barely lit by a dim light humming away just above the bar. Lining the walls were booths, each pair enough to seat 4 people to a table. Despite the chatter between patrons, the clink of glasses and mugs being set down after casual sips, and the lush saxophone fluttering out note after drawn out note from the back, somehow it wasn’t quite overpowering. Ryoko could hear every word spoken, but could easily tune it out with little effort.

Spotting an empty booth by the window overlooking the city street outside, Ryoko slipped her coat off to get comfortable as she slid into the stuffed leather seating. Leaning back, she detected a lingering waft of cigarette smoke from nearby. She waved it away, turning to look for the source, but didn’t see a single person with a lit cigarette. The sound of ceramic tapping against polished wood drew her back towards her own table. A handsome waiter, in his 30s with hair slicked back into a ponytail and a prominent jaw, stood holding a carafe of coffee. The smell was overwhelmingly inviting.

“Hello, miss! Welcome to Land’s End,” he greeted as he presented the carafe towards Ryoko. “My name is Hiroaki, I’ll be your server today. Would you care for some coffee?”

“Yes, please.” Ryoko watched as the man skillfully poured the coffee at a rather high distance from the cup. The individual notes of the coffee’s flavor and scent filled her senses with a calming energy. It had been quite some time since she’d had coffee, Tea being the preferred drink of choice back home.

“I’ve never seen you here before, are you familiar with the menu?”

“Coffee’s fine for now, I’m meeting some old friends here.”

“Understood. Wave if you need anything,” Hiroaki bowed lightly, clutched the carafe close to his chest, and walked off to serve another customer.

.

“Could have left the whole jug,” Ryoko remarked to herself, lifting the cup to her lips and taking in the smooth, deep chestnut colored brew. The others often joked about how Ryoko could eat almost anything, but she knew this tasted great. Kiyone did always try to find the small pleasures in life as she rarely had the time for anything else. Ryoko spent a few minutes overlooking the bar room, so many contently pleased faces sitting around, wasting time as though there was an infinite abundance.

“Hey,” a familiar voice called out from behind Ryoko. “You got here early!” Kiyone’s face alit with a warm smile, she stopped right beside the booth. Ryoko stood up and, almost as though it were an instinct, gave Kiyone a welcoming hug. Kiyone wasn’t always one for the physical displays, but she slowly returned the motion. A beat of the song playing in the background passed before they separated and took their seats.

“Not like there’s anything else for me to do on this rock,” Ryoko sarcastically replied. “When’s this place going to see a little excitement, huh?”

“It better not come from you, I’d hate to be here on official business,” Kiyone seemed to acknowledge someone gesturing at her, and she nodded and gave a brief wave. Ryoko took a good look at her while she was distracted. Her face had seemed a little worn, her long cerulean hair streaked with a few strands of gray. She’d always dedicated herself to her work, sometimes almost too much, and it had aged her quite a bit. She wore it well though, it seemed to match with her overcoat she’d purchased while living on earth a decade ago. Either that, or she didn’t have the time to attend to it but it still managed to come together with elegance.

“Hard to believe it’s been ten years,” Kiyone remarked as she turned back to face Ryoko. “When I saw the message from Washu, I wasn’t sure what to think. Usually word from her means trouble.”

“Hey, I think you’ve forgotten who’s sitting in front of you!” Ryoko wrinkled her nose a little in feigned offense. Hiroaki appeared and slipped a cup gently in front of Kiyone. She nodded towards him without skipping a beat, the smell of coffee filling the air again as he poured.

“Can I get you two anything else?” he asked. Ryoko shook her head.

“Biscotti Toscani,” Kiyone replied as Hiroaki turned to her. He nodded.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” with that, Hiroaki shuffled off again. Kiyone added a dash of sugar into the coffee, gave it a stir, and slipped a slender finger carefully around the cup’s handle.

“Where’s Mihoshi?” Ryoko asked. “You two are still partners, right?” Kiyone finished her sip and gave off a small noise that could have been either a satisfied expel from the coffee or a sigh in recognition of her partner’s ineptitude.

“She said she’d be here on time, probably spent too much time back at her apartment.”

A moment of silence crossed between them.

.

“Surprised you didn’t order something heavy, the bar has some nice brands and mixes. The bartender, Taura, he’s pretty talented… if a little quiet.”

“I try not to go as haywire as I used to,” Ryoko shook her head lightly, though a good drink always sounded appealing to her. “So, how’s things been at the Galaxy Police anyhow? Still filing accident reports like a good girl?”

“Thankfully those days have been behind me for a while now. I received a few promotions on a slightly different path than I had expected. They want to protect the ones they considered bright from the Academy days after a few years of stressful cases. Sometimes, I miss patrol work. Now I deal with some of the more fun and interesting cases. Dissolving assassinations, political intrigue. Most recently I helped take down a real bastard of a man who held seat in the civilian side Jurian court. Had his hand in every pile of dirty laundry you could imagine, and a mouth that’d make your space pirate linguist skills blush.”

Ryoko recalled Kiyone and Mihoshi both getting some nice promotions after they helped end Kagato’s control over Jurai. The both of them willingly gave up their positions to return home to the Masaki house when they felt the work wasn’t to their liking.

“Do you ever regret it?” Ryoko posed. “Giving up your old position at the Galaxy Police to come back to the Solar System?”

“It wasn’t the most fulfilling,” Kiyone lifted the coffee up, sipped, and placed the cup back onto the table. “I was young then and had only thought of forwarding my career. It didn’t matter to me at the time where it was that I ended up, I just wanted a new stripe on my uniform to say to the world that I had made it an extra step. I realized that before I came back, though nowhere near as much as I do now, ten years wiser. Besides, you were my friends. I couldn’t say I had any of those except for Mihoshi while I was out there. I think she missed you guys even more, you know how emotional she can get. We may be as inseparable as sisters, but it didn’t feel right without the whole family at the time.” As Kiyone finished, Hiroaki sat the Biscotti Toscani in front of her. She muttered a ‘thank you’ as he moved on to the next table and picked up one of the delicate cookies. It was shaped in a long wedge, powdered with cinnamon and drizzled with lines of dark chocolate webbing. She dipped the edge of the dessert into her coffee and stirred lightly, letting the hot beverage soak into the fibers of the cookie.

“But really, it’s all probably not very interesting to hear about. How about you? Ten years on earth, surely you’ve got some stories to tell!” Kiyone bit into her cookie and chewed with delighted enthusiasm. She seemed to be awaiting Ryoko’s response. Ryoko thought for a moment.

“Well, life’s bee-” before she could even begin, a loud crash was heard near the entrance to the bar.

“Oooh, oh my, I-I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you there, really, I can’t believe I ran into you like that,” another voice as familiar as the beat of one’s own heart rang out above the rest of the bar’s low-key noise. Some heads turned, Ryoko’s included. Kiyone simply hid her face with her hands.

.

“Mihoshi…?” Ryoko called out. That blonde, curly head of hair peeked up from around the corner of the table. Mihoshi gave her usual chipper smile and giggle.

“Oh, Ryoko!” She jumped up, leaving the poor waitress she crashed into behind to pick up the mess. Kiyone scooted over a bit and pulled Mihoshi down into the booth seat, her face painted red with frustration.

“Can’t I take you anywhere?!” Kiyone spat out in a raised whisper. Ryoko felt a chuckle raise deep from within. Leaning back with one arm stretched out against the top of the booth’s cushioned seat, she watched as the two of them went into one of their little quarrels. Ten years and they still hadn’t changed a bit. For the first time in a long while, Ryoko felt a sense of home that had been absent in that time. Finally, the two of them completed their patented MihoKiyo physical comedy routine and settled down.

“Oh gosh, I still can’t believe it, Ryoko!” Mihoshi snapped back to where she had been before she was dragged into her seat. “I can’t believe how much time has passed, has it really been ten years? My goodness, I bet so much has happened since the last time we paid a visit. When Kiyone told me she got a message from Washu about you coming to see us, I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming! But nope, it hurt a little… well, a lot, and I didn’t wake up, sooooooo! Here we ar- ooh, excuse me, waiter? Okay,” Mihoshi waved to a random waiter in the distance, before continuing again with nary a breath drawn between sentences. “So where was I? Oh, yeah, right! How’s things been? We haven’t seen you in so long I was starting to worry about you but I always thought to myself, ‘Mihoshi, you know Ryoko is a strong woman and she’s just fine’. Looks like I wasn’t wrong!” She finally paused for a moment to speak to Hiroaki while Kiyone and Ryoko shot each other glances. Kiyone’s was of exasperation. Ryoko’s was one of amusement.

“So, you’ve been doing well?” Ryoko prodded. Kiyone’s face stretched a bit as if to say ‘what are you doing?!’ Mihoshi finished placing her order and turned to face Ryoko again. Physically, she hadn’t aged a day. It gave Ryoko a bit of pause to see the weathered Kiyone next to a youthful-as-ever Mihoshi.

“Very well! Kiyone and I have stuck together through thick and thin, case after case. We got moved up a few times on the inside ya know, now we don’t have to deal with all that boring ol’ silly stuff. I mean, a job’s a job but some are more nourishing than others. Like the difference between a french fry and a bowl of noodles! Aaaaand let’s see, besides that, got a new place, a boyfriend, a-”

“Wait, you have a boyfriend?” Ryoko blurted. It sounded meaner than she intended, but she never really pictured Mihoshi being… together enough for something like that.

“Uh huh, he works with the Administration Department. We met shortly after one of the promotions Kiyone and I got. He’s so sweet! He likes to wait for me in the morning so we can get breakfast together, he’s always checking up on me to see how my cases are going… he almost knows the cases better than I do.”

“I can’t say I ever thought I’d hear that, but way to go Mihoshi! What about you, Kiyone? Have you found your man in the stars? Or, however that pop song went we sang on karaoke back at the wedding.” Kiyone looked down at her cup and fidgeted with the handle a little, her fingers nervously trying to occupy themselves to avoid judgment.

“No, no one for me. I hardly have the time to think about something like that. I’m hardly an ideal candidate either, my head’s always so into work. I mean, I would love to find someone to be with but I… well, I guess I’m just not that lucky.” Hiroaki approached the table and sat a large strawberry milkshake with extra whipped cream in front of Mihoshi. Her face lit up like a child’s at Christmas.

“Why not Hiroaki?” Ryoko teased. Kiyone let out a surprised gasp.

“Why not Hiroaki what, miss?” he responded. Ryoko opened her mouth but Kiyone quickly held her hand up in front of Ryoko’s face before she could say anything.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” Kiyone interjected, a nervous titter escaping her lips while becoming aware of how absurd she must look right now. For a moment, the only sound that came from the table was of Mihoshi blissfully unaware of what was happening and chowing down on her dessert. Hiroaki bowed lightly again and left the table. Ryoko burst into laughter, having contained herself while their waiter was there.

“You should see the look on your face, girl,” Ryoko tried to compose herself a little, to not disturb the gentle ways of the bar’s ambiance. Kiyone slumped into a relaxed position in her seat and took a sip of coffee, trying to hide her obvious blushing with her hands and the coffee cup. A thought processed through Ryoko’s mind at this turn of events. She questioned herself on if she even wanted to ask it, but curiosity got the better of her.

.

“You know you two, this might sound weird but how come… how come you never really pursued Tenchi?” Kiyone and Mihoshi both spent a moment fixated in thought, Kiyone stirring her coffee with another piece of biscotti while Mihoshi swirled some milkshake around her tongue.

“It just never really occurred to me, I guess.” Mihoshi said, breaking her usual fast-paced cheerful tone with a surprisingly restrained one. “Being at the house was just more fun, like a really long vacation of sorts. Maybe I did have some feelings at some point I guess, but… I dunno, I enjoyed doing things around the house too much to dwell on it.”

“You can love someone without being attracted to them,” Kiyone spoke after a few seconds of silence. “I loved Tenchi in the way that you love a sibling or an old friend. You love talking to them, hanging out with them, there’s a certain quality in their company that you find difficult to get anywhere else. But I never really saw myself with him. I think because you and Ayeka were already threatening to tear each others’ heads off over him, I don’t think I wanted mine on the chopping block too. Tenchi was many things to all of us, but romantic love wasn’t one of them for me.”

“Kiyone knows allllllll about love, don’tcha Kiyone? There’s this guy in the office she reaaaaaaally likes, every time he comes in for a report she straightens her uniform up all extra nice and has an extra spring in her step, oooh it’s so adorable Kiyone~!” Mihoshi’s giggles were stifled by Kiyone’s hand, which had reached over to silence her before she could spill out any further embarrassing details.

I do not!” she protested, but Ryoko’s laughs told her it was too late to try and deny anything. Ryoko decided to steer things back on track to prevent Kiyone from growing any more grays during their meeting.

“I was just curious, you know? We’d been together through some of the craziest times of our lives - becoming the most wanted criminals in the universe, defeating a coup on the Jurian throne, stopping Kain from messing with Tenchi’s very existence, rescuing Tenchi from Haruna… There was a time I thought the carnival was just never going to leave town back then. I thought maybe it had something to do with when Tenchi and I became a thing. Everyone stayed until after the wedding and then bit by bit the house grew emptier in a way. I was beside myself every day to be with the man I loved, waking up and seeing the sun kissing his skin so delicately, his warmth enveloping over my every thought. I’d gotten what I wanted, but I had to lose something in return.” Ryoko lifted her coffee to her lips, finding it had grown rather chilly since the last sip she’d taken.

“It wasn’t that, at least not for me.” Kiyone shook her head. “I was glad to see you two finally come to terms with it and be happy with each other. Ayeka was the one who took it the hardest, but that was to be expected. She gracefully bowed out, but I could see in her eyes she still loved him even after she realized she couldn’t be with him. Still… you getting with Tenchi, it didn’t make me want to leave. It had just been a while and I knew deep down I wanted to move forward with work again. I’d had plenty of time to relax and think about what I really wanted to end up doing and figured I needed to start on it while I was still young enough. No use in getting promoted to the position you want a few years from retirement.”

“Mmmhm!” Mihoshi confirmed. “It was just time to get back to business, fighting crime and keeping the galaxy clean!” She gave a little salute like she would at an informal gathering to colleagues, and dropped her spoon down into the empty milkshake glass with a clang.

.

After an hour or two of chat, the three of them realized it was getting to be very late. Mihoshi and Kiyone still had work the next day, so as much as it pained them to leave their old friend so soon after ten years of not hearing from her, it had to be done. They gathered just outside of the bar and hugged each other for a goodbye. These hugs lasted much longer than the one that had been exchanged previously, none of them really wanting to leave so quickly after such a long gap of time.

“Maybe we’ll take some time off and come visit earth sometime soon,” Kiyone said. “Even if we stay busy, there’s really not been a good excuse for us having been out of touch so long. Life’s just taken us places.”

“You should, the place is too clean without you girls there.” They all laughed.

“Tell Ayeka and Sasami we said hello!” Mihoshi chirped as Kiyone and herself waved goodbye and began to head off into the distance. Ryoko reached her hand out after her friends, one more thing hanging on the edge of her tongue. But she thought it best if it waited for the next time she saw them, lowering her arm as she watched Kiyone and Mihoshi’s figures become dots on the far horizon of the city street before becoming indistinguishable from the lights and other people moving in the distance. She looked up at the blue-hued moon floating in the night sky above this planet, slipped her hands into her coat pockets and began heading back to where she had docked Ryo-ohki.
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by evilpii
#25397 Having decided to reconnect with her old friends, Ryoko set out to meet with Kiyone and Mihoshi at a little lounge named Land's End. Washu has made most of the arrangements, and Ryo-Ohki is plenty ready to race through the stars again.

The opening dialogue between Ryoko, Washu, and Ryo-Ohki was a nostalgic breath, hearing Ryoko and Washu bicker like a daughter and mother again. The former pirate even overtly asked Washu if she was playing at being her mother. Ryo-Ohki, naturally, was more interested in her carrots and getting into the stars again.

Yet, the highlight of this chapter was the meeting with Kiyone and Mihoshi. I enjoyed seeing the comedy between the duo had not skipped a beat in ten years. However, the point here seems primarily to have the two reflect on their time on Earth, particularly the career-driven Kiyone. While she might be embarrassed by her gray hairs, they seem to have given her some wisdom as she evaluated the motivations of her younger self: promotion, prestige, and the like. Notably, she mentions her return to Earth at the end of Universe and how she had seen the importance of the family dynamic at the Masaki house. Ryoko also challenges her with the question whether or not Tenchi's marriage caused them to leave. As one might expect, Kiyone was not shooed away by that fact. She just grew away over time and went back to her career. I thought it quite mature of both Kiyone and Ryoko to discuss the topic openly. Certainly, it was a change from their usual chats of times past.

Of course, Mihoshi answered the same questions, revealing some of her own fate after TMiL2. In doing so, she alluded to Kiyone's own romantic woes, which endeared them both. One does hold out hope that Kiyone will find her own lover in time. As a professional myself, I can appreciate Kiyone's concerns and apprehension, particularly given the dangerous nature of her occupation. Perhaps seeing Mihoshi with her beau and feeling Ryoko's teasing prods, Kiyone might take a chance.

I really enjoyed this chapter. The descriptions brought the lounge to life and showed the progression of Kiyone and Mihoshi quite well. It was bittersweet seeing Kiyone's job having a physical effect on her, though it would be expected. In Universe, she and Mihoshi are usually placed at 22-years-old, so 10+ years could easily put both into their mid- to late-30s. The occasional gray hair is not unusual, as I have discovered firsthand. I did like Kiyone's overcoat/trenchcoat. The imagery with the location gave the scene a very noir feel, which I could appreciate for Kiyone's current cases. The juxtaposition of Kiyone's more mature and noir atmosphere to Mihoshi's colorful and bubbly bumbling was another delight.

The ending was also bittersweet. Ryoko seemed to have one last matter to relate when they parted company so affectionately, but she relented. I wonder what she had to say, and I do worry a bit. In my reaction to the first chapter, I had mentioned that Ryoko might want to speak to Tenchi about her departure, and this second chapter does mention that she said her goodbyes before leaving on her journey. When Kiyone asked her about home, she hesitated before starting to answer, only to have Mihoshi interrupt before anything could be said. Concerning his brief mention, I start thinking.

Is there trouble in paradise? Might Tenchi and Ryoko be at a rocky point in their relationship? While I doubt Ryoko loves Tenchi any less, perhaps the daily strain of marriage is having a toll on one or both of them. I cannot speak to Tenchi as yet.

Or, worse yet, Tenchi maybe critically ill or dying. It had been implied and theorized that like Achika, Tenchi could die young after Haruna siphoned off his Jurai energy to create her pocket universe. Might that be happening or already happened, leaving Ryoko alone in the Masaki home? Might she have been saying goodbye to a grave marker or a ghost? With Halloween shortly coming, I could see a creepy or melancholic ending to all this.

Either of these might explain why Ryoko is hesitant to talk about home and is more insistent to hear about the others.


Naturally, this is all just my worrying speculation. I could be way off the mark.

Thanks again for this glimpse into the future. Keep up the good work. kiyonesmile1
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by Nil Admirari
#25398 An excellent breakdown on your thoughts as always, Pii. However...

evilpii wrote:Of course, Mihoshi answered the same questions, revealing some of her own fate after TMiL2. In doing so, she alluded to Kiyone's own romantic woes, which endeared them both. One does hold out hope that Kiyone will find her own lover in time. As a professional myself, I can appreciate Kiyone's concerns and apprehension, particularly given the dangerous nature of her occupation. Perhaps seeing Mihoshi with her beau and feeling Ryoko's teasing prods, Kiyone might take a chance.


I was quite surprised that, and perhaps this was a failing on my part, you of all people didn't pick up on who that was.

A 'Tenchi Universe'-ified Pete Finlay. In the first Hasegawa novel, he announces his position at the Administration Department/Division. He also speaks about wanting to have breakfast with Mihoshi a few times, though he says "cereal in bed" in specific during one of them, so perhaps this is where I tripped up. I felt like bringing him back to some capacity. Perhaps he is still the double-edged character he is in Hexagram of Love, or perhaps he is simply a Galaxy Police officer with nothing else going on. I felt it appropriately poetic, however, to let the two of them blossom together. You're welcome, Pete.


I felt like I gave away just enough hints without making it overbearingly obvious, but I may have to reconsider the next time I want to do a reference like that.
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by wwwwhhhhoooo
#26295 Like Ryoko's first cup of coffee you described in such tantalizing detail, my reading of this next installment was truly relaxing; I haven't been able to simply relax like this in weeks.

I also appreciate, in addition to the installments/posts themselves, the natural "breaks" which allow for unhurried consumption.

No doubt this is partially because we're currently in the middle of the currently-airing series, but I got a sort of Ai vibe in this first section: not so much stylistically (Ai is goofy, fast-paced, conducive to what it's trying to be and to its runtime; your read, as I said, is a slow, relaxing draw of coffee), but what I mean is even without knowing the author quite well personally behind this, it's evident a real Tenchi fan wrote this: implications that Miho/Kiyo have obviously been promoted over the years (an explanation, official or otherwise, or why Kiyone might remain absent in Ai: bigger and better things...until Washu "broke" time, but anyway), and the back-and-forth between Ryoko and Washu, culminating to Ryoko literally griping "what are you, my mother?" and call it a hunch, a stretch, or both, but a waiter named Hiroaki? I (think I) see what you did, there.

A pleasure to hear words spoken between people who are now old friends and have some years behind them: Kiyone seems to have calmed down a bit, and grown more fond of Mihoshi than in her career-chasing youth (if a bit aged as well, inevitably), and Ryoko sitting in one place casually conversing with a cup of coffee...well, color me impressed! I LOVE how all of this disseminated at Mihoshi's entrance: it was perfect! I could just see Ryoko's reaction, hear Mihoshi's apologetic voice, and feel Kiyone's embarrassment.

Carrying on as old friends do, catching up, inevitably lead to questions about meeting someone "special" and...first of all, Mihoshi having a boyfriend is as cute as it is plausible (I breezed over the novel tie-in, but don't let that discourage you, a touch of the esoteric is fun, and if you do revise to hint a little stronger, don't do it by much), as is Ryoko ribbing Kiyone in front of the unsuspecting waiter. And, as much as I love Tenchi as a character and the dynamic of his interactions with the girls and the family etc., I hope folk don't get the wrong idea, but I am LOVING this character building without him around: again, no offense to the star of the show, but all the characters of the show have so much potential, and no matter how swell a person or a particular setting is, you can't reach your full potential if you're around the same factors all the time. Kudos on getting the girls away from the house and away from Tenchi for a while: I can already tell it has, and can lead to, golden opportunities.

But speaking of our main man...a conversation between old friends, ten years gone by during what appears to be, sadly, an all-too-rare occurrence (welcome to adulthood, right?): Ryoko just ups and asks the question, "why no interest in Tenchi?" and kudos once again on how you handled the situation: Miho and Kiyo's answers are attuned to their characters, and I greatly enjoyed Ryoko's mature outlook, post "happily ever after" about how in life, we always have to give up something to get what we want. But Ryoko doesn't seem regretful, just wisely aware of it: a slightly stoic Ryoko? Never thought I'd see the day, but I'm buying wholesale what you're selling.

Such a short and sweet edition, but even I felt sad to part from it as our trio of Tenchi gals did the same after their 'once in a blue moon' meetup (man, I'm getting some Chibi Pa feels all over again). I'm very impressed with, almost perhaps envious of, how your work, Nil, as true to Tenchi (particularly Universe universe, of course) as your writing is, and as clearly as I can see it in my head, it truly does befit the medium of the written word (as opposed to my writing the last few years, screenwriting, which is literally written with the screen in mind; a good blueprint, but no better than what you create, and there's so much you can't do with a TV-formated script). I can only hope the process of writing this was somewhere as close to how enjoyable it was for me reading it. ^^

(If I may offer my two cents: though the conversations/interactions in the bar don't "need" this, when I heard about Ryo-Ohki being "docked" I felt it was a tiny bit odd as we all know she can slim down to a travel-sized cabbit on the spot: having her accompany Ryoko would not only alleviate this in my opinion, but would also give a fun moment or two of Kiyone and Mihoshi getting to say 'hi' to another member of the family.)