This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
It began, as these things usually did, with an argument.
Ayeka was humming to herself as she reached the third floor landing. She was carrying Tenchi’s freshly laundered clothing, and this was a task she always enjoyed performing. There was some sort of intimacy involved in the chore; it gave her the feeling of doing something wifely for her beloved Lord Tenchi. Treasuring those warm, happy thoughts, Ayeka smiled to herself as she carried the bundles into his room. In a moment she’d set his clothing on the bed…the bed that someday the two of them would share if Ryoko would get her lazy posterior off it…
The bane of Ayeka’s existence was sprawled out on Tenchi’s bed, arms and legs taking up as much surface area as they could. Her eyes were closed and a decidedly naughty smile was on her lips as she stretched her limbs and yawned contentedly. “Princess,” she said at last, her eyes still closed. “What brings you to my Tenchi’s bedroom? And more importantly, how soon before you leave again?”
“YOUR Tenchi?” Ayeka screeched. “I don’t think so, Ryoko!” Her immediate instinct was to pull the demon woman off the bed, but unfortunately her arms were carrying Tenchi’s garments. “For your information,” she huffed, glancing around for a safe place to put the clothing down, “I’m here to put Lord Tenchi’s clean laundry away. And just what have you done for him today, might I inquire?”
“Well,” Ryoko smirked. “It’s not so much what I’ve done for him today, as what I’m going to do TO him when he gets back, if you know what I mean. And I have a feeling he’ll be a lot more grateful to me than he will be to you, Princess Maytag.”
“HOW DARE YOU!” Ayeka threw Tenchi’s neatly folded laundry to the floor and shook a fist at her rival. “Tenchi would never consort with the likes of you! He wants a lady, refined and gentle and soft-spoken! He wants a woman with good manners and a regal demeanor…”
“Who said anything about ‘consorting’?” Ryoko asked. “I just intend to fool around with him. And it’s not like you really need him all that much, anyway.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Ryoko winked. “I know about you and the washing machine, Princess. Spin cycle, isn’t it?”
Ayeka screamed and lunged for her foe. Ryoko giggled and simply floated straight up, allowing the princess to fly face forward into the bed. Ayeka quickly rolled over and managed to grab hold of Ryoko’s left ankle. “Not so fast, you…you demon woman!”
Ryoko’s grin turned decidedly feral. “So you’ve got me, hmmm? Or is it the other way around?” Ayeka suddenly found herself dangling in mid-air as Ryoko simply continued to ascend until she was just touching the ceiling. “So, princess, how do you like the view from up here?”
“PUT ME DOWN, YOU WITCH!”
“Always happy to oblige.” Ryoko abruptly teleported away; Ayeka plunged south, smashing hard into the bed mattress. She bounced twice, rolled off the now-rumpled covers and charged straight for her quarry, who was standing on the opposite side of the room. Ryoko smiled and waved at her, preparing to simply teleport again, but the sudden appearance of those little damned guardian things put a stop to that.
Ryoko gulped. “Uh-oh.”
“DIE, YOU DEMON WOMAN! DIE!”
There was a loud crash, followed by assorted cursing, and all was still again.
* * * * *
The two women stared down at the shattered remains of Tenchi’s desk. Books and other keepsakes were buried in the rubble; the furniture was clearly beyond repair. Ayeka and Ryoko shared embarrassed glances at one another from time to time, and then returned their gazes to the dead desk.
“This is all your fault,” Ayeka muttered.
“Mine?” Ryoko blinked. “Since when? As I recall, I was in here enjoying a nice afternoon nap when you barged in and kicked up a fuss.”
“You had no business being in here,” Ayeka snapped. “I had a purpose, after all. I was bringing his clean clothing to put it away.”
“Clean clothing? You mean that pile of stuff over there?”
Ayeka looked at the now-ruined items and winced. “You made me drop them.”
“I did no such thing, and you know it. You started it.”
“You baited me!”
“Not my fault if you rose to it.” Ryoko shrugged.
“Why do you always…” Ayeka’s voice was rising in pitch as her anger grew, but she abruptly stopped the tirade. Her shoulders slumped as she stared at the damage all around them. “We have to do something about this.”
“We, Princess?” Ryoko snorted.
“Yes, we. We both had a hand in this. We should make amends.” Ayeka considered the situation, and then smiled. “We’ll go to town and buy a replacement desk.”
“What do you mean ‘we’, Princess?”
Ayeka shrugged. “Fine, then. When Lord Tenchi finds out about this…and he will, I assure you…then he will also know who was willing to accept responsibility and make things right…and who just lazed around and did absolutely nothing even though she was a party to the accident.”
Ryoko’s eyes narrowed, but she quickly realized that Ayeka had the advantage just then. “Okay, okay. ‘We’ will go to town and get a replacement. Just one question, Princess. How are we going to buy one without any money?”
Ayeka smiled enigmatically. “That will be the least of our worries.”
* * * * *
“I don’t believe it,” Ryoko said for the fifteenth time as she and Ayeka ascended the stairs. The princess was walking, while the former space pirate was barely floating beside, given the huge, heavy cardboard box resting on her back. “Since when do you rate a Black Hole VISA card?”
“Royalty has its privileges,” Ayeka replied airily. “All right, set it down in here and let’s get to work. Tenchi will be back before too long. Hopefully this won’t be too difficult to assemble. Do you have a knife to open the box with?”
“Knife?” Ryoko chuckled. “I don’t need a knife.” Her right arm made a sweeping downward slash, and the cardboard was instantly sliced in two. “What do you think of that, Ayeka?” she said, greatly pleased with herself.
Ryoko blinked. “Say what?”
Ayeka had pulled the opposite sides of the box apart, revealing the various pieces of the unassembled desk. The huge wood sections were also neatly bisected. “You ruined it.”
Ryoko stared at her fingernails. “Guess I’m overdue for a manicure.”
“Come on, let’s try and get this all together in one piece. We’ll take it back and ask for a trade-in or refund.”
* * * * *
“All right, try not to destroy everything this time.”
Ryoko very carefully pressed the tip of her index finger’s nail against the cardboard and slowly sliced the container open. “There. See? No harm done. Now, let’s get to work.” She spotted a small pile of papers and snatched them away from Ayeka’s outstretched fingers. “Here are the instructions.”
“Well?” Ayeka demanded. “Can I see them?”
“And why not?”
Ryoko smiled. “Because I’m…reading….uh-oh.” Much to her surprise, the writing on the paper was not the familiar kanji script of Japanese, but an entirely different set of symbols that she was utterly unfamiliar with.
“What’s wrong?” Ayeka demanded.
“These things aren’t written in Japanese. I think they’re in English.”
Ayeka lunged for the papers, but Ryoko was too fast for her. “How would you know?” the princess retorted. “Why, I’ll wager that you can’t even read Japanese.”
“I can so,” Ryoko growled. “Hands off, prissy princess. I’m in charge here.”
“The blazes you are,” Ayeka said as she made a second foray. “Give me those. This is far too important a job to leave in the hands of an ignorant child like yourself.”
“You little witch…” Ryoko realized too late that her temper had allowed Ayeka to get a grip on the instructions; a brief tug-of-war ensued, which was ended all too quickly by a long, sick ripping sound.
Each woman stared forlornly at her half of the directions.
“I’ll go get the tape,” Ayeka sighed.
* * * * *
“I think that’s done it,” Ayeka said as she applied the final piece of tape to the tattered paper. “Now, let’s take a look…”
“As if you could read English, either,” Ryoko snorted. She was hovering over Ayeka’s shoulder, trying to make heads-or-tails out of the odd squiggles without much luck. She was about to mentally whistle for Ryo-ohki when Ayeka shook her head.
“I can’t make out any of this,” the princess said. “Well, we’ll simply have to study the diagrams and work from them. Now, where do we begin? This can’t be right—it shows the final unit fully assembled…”
“Don’t we have to read left-to-right or something?” Ryoko suggested. Noboyuki had mentioned that once when Sasami had been trying to read one of those American comics he collected. “So you want to go to the back page…here.”
“Hmmm. It seems you’re correct for once.” Ayeka’s eyes narrowed as she studied the diagram. “Very well. We need this piece, this piece, and these screws. Fetch them for me, will you dear?”
“Why, certainly, princess,” Ryoko said with a laser-sharp smile. “And I know just where to put them, too…”
* * * * *
Washu scratched her head, looked around the deserted living area and wondered what the blazes was going on. The place was quiet as a cathedral; Sasami and Ryo-chan were playing outside, and Mihoshi was sound asleep on the porch. Tenchi had taken Katsuhito to the dentist…you’d think a guy who’d lived here seven hundred years would know better than chomp down on that rock-hard sugar candy. That left her daughter and Princess Ayeka unaccounted for. Maybe they were taking a bath in the onsen?
A loud crash from upstairs caught her attention. “Ah-ha!” she said with a smile. “Knew they couldn’t go that long without a fight!” Washu trotted up the two flights, wondering what kind of bedlam she’d find. She couldn’t wait to find out.
“All right you too, knock it off,” Washu said as she strode into Tenchi’s bedroom, but her voice trailed off as her eyes took in the sight of Ayeka and Ryoko trying desperately to keep two marginally attached pieces of plywood held together. The battle was going badly from all appearances. “What in the hell are you two doing?”
“What does it look like?” Ryoko snarled. “We’re trying to build a new desk for Tenchi.”
“This is the most shoddy merchandise I have ever encountered!” Ayeka cried as the section of desk she’d been holding tumbled to the floor. “Nothing stays together, no matter what we do! We’ve followed the directions precisely and yet nothing seems to work!”
Washu found the tattered instruction sheet lying on the floor and picked it up. “Hmmm. Since when have either of you learned to read English?”
“Well…we haven’t,” Ayeka confessed. “We’ve been following the diagrams, though, and we thought we were making progress until we tried to put the unit upright.”
“The damn thing came apart before we could stop it,” Ryoko growled, letting go of her pieces. They hit the floor with a loud clatter. “Stupid thing. This is all your fault, Ayeka.”
“My fault?” the princess screeched.
“Yeah, yours,” Ryoko replied. “First you broke the desk. Second, you bought this piece of crap instead of shelling out some more money for a better desk. Wait until I tell Tenchi that he wasn’t worthy of a nice desk, so far as you were concerned.”
“But…but YOU chose this one!” Ayeka cried. “I offered to buy the expensive one, but it had to be delivered and they couldn’t do it until tomorrow, and you panicked and said that Tenchi would know what had happened and be furious with us, so buying this one was the best thing to do!”
“Yeah, well, you screwed up. You listened to me,” Ryoko shrugged.
“Knock it off, you two.” Washu had pretty much ignored the debate, choosing instead to focus her attention on the various sections of the desk assembly. “Hmmm. Truth to tell, this isn’t that much different from the desk he had, but you’re right about one thing…it’s not designed to hold up well. Fortunately,” she continued with a bright smile of triumph, “you have the greatest scientific genius in the galaxy to help you out in your time of need! Behold…THE WASHU HYPER-NAIL DRIVER!”
The two young women stared incredulously at the hideously complicated weapon that the crazed scientist had retrieved from a subspace hole. “That’s a nail gun?” Ryoko said skeptically.
“You bet your bippy it is, little Ryoko! I modified an old, antiquated Binford nail gun found in the back of a closet! For example, this baby originally only had three power settings, but I have upgraded it to ELEVEN! And, as an added bonus, I’ve upgraded the nails for toughness and durability! Let me tell you, I shoot one of these babies into a piece of wood, nothing short of Tsunami is going to get it out!” Washu unleashed a wild cackle that echoed eerily through the bedroom.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Ryoko whispered to Ayeka.
“She takes that thing anywhere near Ryo-oh, and I’ll kill her.”
“I don’t think she has to be anywhere near your tree to hit it with that, Princess.”
“Enough talk! Let’s try this baby out!” Washu briefly consulted the instructions, then carefully placed two adjoining sections of the desk together. “Ryoko, hold these in place, will you?”
“Not on your life.”
“Hmmph. My own daughter has no faith in her mother’s genius. Very well.” Washu summoned her laptop, and seconds later two antigrav units were supporting the pieces. “Very nice. Now then, for something simple like this, I think we’re safe in using the first setting.” She placed the barrel of the gun against the corner and slowly squeezed the trigger.
Ryoko and Ayeka screamed and hit the floor as a small iron nail screamed through the pieces of wood, shot through the closed window and soared through the afternoon sky. In seconds it had vanished from view.
Washu stared at her nail gun and whistled. “Wow.”
“Nice going, Washu,” Ryoko snapped. The scientist turned toward her daughter, who was holding the tattered, splintered remains of the new desk in her hands. “You destroyed it with that damned thing.”
“Now we’re going to have to go get another one,” Ayeka whimpered. “And we’re running out of time.”
“Hmmm.” Washu frowned as she pondered the problem. “Well, you’d best get going, hadn’t you? The stores close in an hour.”
“Hey!” Ryoko dropped the destroyed desk unit and stormed toward her mother. “This mess was your fault, not ours! Why don’t you just whip up a new desk out of subspace and save us all this hassle, huh?”
“Well…I could,” Washu conceded. “But it wasn’t me who destroyed the original, you know. And as a scientist I must accept the fact that advances in technology rarely come about without a price to be paid. And as a mother, I think that this is an excellent learning experience for you.”
“So…?” Ryoko demanded.
“So…you’re on your own, little Ryoko.” The scientist was gone before Ryoko could get her hands around her throat. Ryoko screamed in fury and teleported downstairs to the door that served as the portal to Washu’s lab, but try as she might, the door would not open. “Damn you, Washu!”
“Forget her,” Ayeka said wearily. “Let’s get going. We should make it before the store closes.”
* * * * *
Having achieved escape velocity, a single nail raced through outer space on its journey to destiny.
* * * * *
It was good to be back, Tenchi Masaki reflected as he walked down the long staircase toward his home. The dentist had done a great job in repairing the damage to his grandpa’s molar, and the temporary crown would mostly like stay in place until the permanent replacement was ready. And best of all, Grandpa had kept the whining to a minimum. It was really strange how a man who’d been born a prince, brought down a space demon and become a master swordsman could be such a baby when it came to dental treatment.
He smiled as the house came into view. Everything looked quiet and peaceful, and best of all, he couldn’t see any signs of a battle royal. Perhaps Ryoko and Ayeka had managed to put up with one other during his absence. One could hope. The constant repair work was getting on his nerves, especially with Ryoko’s constant ‘assistance’.
Tenchi didn’t notice the broken bedroom window until he was practically at the back door. “Hey, I’m home!” he called out as he slipped out of his shoes and walked inside. Sasami waved from the kitchen, and Ryo-ohki gave a cheery ‘mya’. “Hey, Sasami. Anything happen while I was gone?”
“Nope. Not a thing, Tenchi,” Sasami replied, but she frowned a moment later. “Well, there was one weird thing, now that I think about it. Ryo-chan and I were playing outside about an hour ago, and all of a sudden we heard a window break and something came flying out of your room! It was going really fast, too!”
“Huh.” Tenchi scratched his head and wondered what the hell had happened now. “By the way, where are Ryoko and Ayeka? It’s awfully quiet in here.”
“Gee, Tenchi, I don’t know. We’ve been in here preparing dinner, and Mihoshi went to the onsen for a quick bath. Maybe they’re up there too?”
“I guess. Well, dinner sure smells good, Sasami. I’m going to run upstairs and change, okay?”
“Sure thing, Tenchi!” He smiled at the young princess, and then headed up the two flights of stairs, wondering all the while where Ryoko and Ayeka were hiding. All the silence in the house was pretty unnerving; usually there wasn’t a dull moment around here when those two were within a few feet of one another. Well, one thing was for sure, he concluded with a smile as he opened the door to his room. Neither of those girls ever missed a meal, so things would be back to…normal…in no…time…
Tenchi blinked once, twice, three times and took in the scene again.
Ryoko and Ayeka were lying on his bed, side-by-side, sound asleep.
His old desk was gone.
A very beautiful woman who strongly resembled Mihoshi was sitting on the floor slipping the final pieces of a new desk into place. It looked as though it had been assembled by a professional. “Oh, hello!” the woman said, turning toward him and smiling brightly. “It’s very nice to meet you at last, Tenchi Masaki! I have heard so much about you from my Mihoshi-chan!”
“Yes!” She took the stunned young man’s hand and patted it very maternally. “I’m Mitoto, Mihoshi’s mother!” Her blue eyes widened as she studied Tenchi carefully, and then she raised one hand to the top of his head and gently stroked his hair. “Oh, so very soft and smooth, so very nice!”
“Umm…pleased to meet you, ma’am,” Tenchi stammered, utterly flummoxed. “I didn’t know you’d come for a visit, though.”
“Oh, no, nothing like that!” Mitoto giggled. “I was just cleaning and ended up here, and this was such a mess, and those two girls were just so sound asleep, so I decided the only way to tidy up was to make this for you!” She beamed happily at Tenchi. “Well, I need to get back to work! You take care, now!” She gave Tenchi’s hair one more loving stroke, then walked out the door, humming merrily to herself as she pushed a broom ahead of her.
“Wait!” Tenchi cried suddenly. “Why don’t you stay for…?” He ran through the door, only to find no trace of Mitoto. It was as though she’d vanished into thin air.
Tenchi stood there for a minute or two, scratching his head and trying to make sense of the last few minutes. Finally he shrugged in resignation and headed back to his room to put his new desk where it belonged.
* * * * *
Far, very far away from Earth, a Galaxy Police medical ship glided gracefully through space, the peace and quiet of the awesome void a sharp contrast to the yelling and screaming going on inside.
Ignoring the cries from the next room, Chairperson Airi Masaki of the Galaxy Academy folded her arms over her chest and blessed the young woman in front of her with her most intimidating glare. “Kiriko,” she said in a firm, no-nonsense voice, “I want to know exactly what happened. I want the truth. And I want it now.”
Kiriko Masaki shrugged helplessly, her long brown hair dancing around her shoulders with the movement. “It’s like I told you the first time,” she pleaded. “We were all standing around talking aboard the Kamidake II, when suddenly something shot through the hull wall and struck Seina-chan in his…. you know.” She blushed furiously and glanced over her shoulder toward the infirmary emergency room. “We tried to administer first aid, but the object was too deeply and firmly imbedded…”
A long, piercing scream rang throughout the infirmary. Airi winced and shook her head. “Well, I think they got it out. Very well, Kiriko, go on and see how he’s doing. I swear, that boy has the worst luck…”