All "Tenchi Muyo" references are copyrighted by AIC, Pioneer LD and Funimation. 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.
The author made extensive use of Christmas With Martha Stewart Living for the purposes of this story.
“Oh yes, perfect…”
Sasami looked up from the pile of dirty dishes and frowned. Her big sister was in the living room, her voice carrying quite clearly into the kitchen, and something about that tone of voice was worrisome. She considered checking on Ayeka, then decided against it. After all, with Noike gone the majority of the kitchen chores had fallen to her again, and she had more than enough to do without adding to the list.
Then again, Sasami concluded as she set the scrubber aside and hopped down from the stepstool, sometimes it was better to head little problems off at the onset than to leave them be and allow them to grow into much larger problems. The petite princess wiped her hands dry and set off to find her big sister.
“Oh, this is magnificent!” Ayeka had a book plastered up to her face, and from the look of things she was utterly mesmerized by the contents. It had a beautiful cover, full of tones of red and gold, and there was something festive about the picture. Unfortunately, Ayeka’s fingers were in the perfectly wrong place, obscuring the title and author. Sasami waited a moment, and when no acknowledgement was forthcoming she took a deep breath and put on her ‘sweet little innocent sister’ expression. “What’cha doin’, Ayeka?” she asked brightly.
“Oh, Sasami!” Ayeka gasped. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were there.” She raised a hand to her chest to steady herself. “I found this book on the half-price table in town, and after thumbing through it I just had to have it! See? It’s about hosting a traditional festive Christmas in your home! Martha explains everything you need to do to have a perfect holiday gathering!”
“Well, gee, that’s nice,” Sasami said slowly. “But you know, Ayeka, Tenchi told me the the Japanese…”
“See here?” Ayeka said, clearly hearing no voice but her own at the moment. “Martha discusses how making tree decorations can be tasteful and inexpensive all at the same time! And look at this patchwork tablecloth she made from old clothing! She’s even included a number of traditional holiday home cooking recipes…oh, this would be so splendid…”
To Sasami’s horror, Ayeka suddenly got The Look.
There was a certain...look...that Queen Misaki got every so often. There would be a certain maniacal gleam in her eyes, a rapid twitching of the jaw muscles, and the occasional long-winded chortle bursting out of her mouth. The Royal staff and servants, long accustomed to their Queen, knew this look for what it was and quietly, quickly and efficiently got the hell away from her because they knew what it had meant: the Queen had just gotten one of "her ideas". Such as the Burmese tiger traps that she dug in various spots around the palace (and which were still being discovered--the hard way). The elephant for her anniversary present. Pirate Day. Those sorts of things.
When these ideas struck, no amount of pleading or careful reasoning would sway her. The best thing to do, as Queen Funaho had pointed out time and again, was to simply either stay out of Misaki's way or go along for the ride. If nothing else, it would be an interesting trip, she would comment with that enigmatic smile.
Sasami now saw that same look in her big sister's eyes and shuddered. “Ayeka…”
“That’s it. It’s perfect!” The look was getting more maniacal by the second. “With the assistance of this book, I shall host the most perfect Christmas family gathering, and demonstrate to Lord Tenchi once and for all that I am the woman best suited to be his wife!”
“But Ayeka, Tenchi told me that the Japanese…”
“Let me see. I must make up a guest list.” Ignoring her little sister’s entreaties, Ayeka thumbed through the book until she found the correct page. “Yes, and I’ll need to purchase some parchment paper and a calligraphy pen to give them the proper style. And then I must come up with a menu, and a refreshments list, and decorations, of course, we simply cannot forget decorations…”
Sasami finally gave up the battle and trudged back to the kitchen, leaving her sister to her delusions. “Well,” she sighed as she set back to work on the dishes, “if nothing else, Noike will put a stop to it before she gets too far…”
“From what I understand, it was accidental,”
said Masaki Airi. She was guiding Kamiki Seto Jurai through the maze of
hallways that made up the
“Such things usually are,” Seto noted with slight nod. “That does not make them any the less catastrophic. Go on.”
“Mihoshi and Noike had come to see Mashisu and the baby,” Airi continued. “You know, with Mihoshi being the aunt and all. It’s a cute little baby,” she added with a deep sigh.
“Oh yes. Given the Kuramitsu blood, I would expect nothing less. Please continue.”
The two women reached a pair of large sealed doors; a sign over the portal warned that they were entering a level-four quarantine zone. Airi pressed her palm against a security scanner and the doors swung inward. “At any rate, they showed up, they held the baby, they talked to Mashisu, they held the baby, and so forth,” Airi said as they walked. “And as they were leaving, they ran into Seina Yamada.”
“And his wives,” Seto commented.
“Uh…no. They weren’t there.”
Seto stopped in her tracks. “Where were they?”
“Shopping for Mashisu’s baby, of course.” Airi motioned for her friend to follow. “Seina got bored and decided to come on ahead. He and Mihoshi apparently came within a few feet of one another, Seina tripped and hit a nearby lab cart, the contents fell on the floor and broke, and…”
“Oh dear.” Seto shook her head sadly. “Were Mihoshi and Seina…?”
“Neither a scratch nor even so much as a fever,” Airi replied. “Noike, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky.” They had arrived at Noike’s quarantined room; Airi pressed a button and the wall turned transparent.
“Oh my,” Seto whispered. She began to fan herself rapidly. “Those…spots…”
“The doctors assured me that she should make a full recovery as soon as they’ve isolated just which rare diseases were on that cart,” Airi noted. “Her tree is protecting her health from the worst of it, but…well, luck just wasn’t with her, as you can see.”
“I’m afraid so. They’re receding, for what it’s worth.”
“Poor child.” Seto shook her head. “She doesn’t seem uncomfortable.”
“Being drugged to the gills…and yes, those are gills on her neck…does have its advantages.” Airi mercifully pressed the button again, and the wall returned to its normal state. “I’ll keep you posted on her condition, of course. By the way, I was going to ask you about this.” She retrieved a neatly-folded piece of parchment paper from a pocket.
“You received one as well?”
“So it would seem. Mind telling me what it says? I can’t make heads or tails out of it.”
“Ayeka’s handwriting was always a bit on the sloppy side,” Seto conceded. “My security experts believe it’s some sort of invitation to a Christmas party on Earth. Utsutsumi and I received our cards this morning.”
“Odd,” Airi said, frowning. “The Japanese don’t usually make that big a deal out of Christmas. New Years is their holiday of choice. I wonder what’s going on out there?”
“Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Seto assured her. “And besides, it’s a chance for you to see Yosho. Certainly that alone makes accepting the invitation worthwhile, doesn’t it?”
“Well, yes, but what if Ayeka invited her parents as well? You know how they feel about me.”
“Misaki adores you,” Seto said with a dismissing wave of her fan.
“She’s not the one I’m worried about.”
Misaki burst through the doors of
The Emperor of Jurai looked up from his work. “What is it, Misaki? I’m trying to read through this damned trade agreement…”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. Mommy said it’s fine and you should just go ahead and approve it.” Misaki slapped her piece of paper down on the desk, which shuddered with the impact. “Read this, instead.”
“Damned if I know,”
Misaki snatched the paper away from him. “It’s an invitation to a Christmas party,” she informed Funaho. “Little Ayeka is throwing a party and we’re all invited! Isn’t that wonderful?”
“It is indeed,” Funaho smiled. “It’s been far too long since we last saw our children, has it not, my husband?”
“I hate having to go out there,”
“I am sure that Tenchi will be a most gracious
host,” Funaho said, a steel underlining her words that hinted at what
she’d do to
“Oh, this is going to be so much fun!” Misaki proclaimed. “Well, come along, sister. We have to get to the stores right away!”
“Why, for shopping of course!” Misaki replied. “You can’t expect us to go to a party without a new wardrobe to show off, can you?” She bounded out the ruins of the office doorway, Funaho following serenely behind with a hand over her mouth.
“Here’s the menu for the party, Sasami.” Ayeka handed her little sister a sheet of paper. “Martha considers these to be essential elements of the perfect Christmas meal, and I’m sure there’s nothing here that you can’t handle.”
“I don’t know, Ayeka,” Sasami said,
shaking her head as she read down the list. “I mean,
a lot of this stuff we can’t get in
“No, no, no,” Ayeka said, shaking her head violently. “It is vital that we do this the way Martha describes. Any deviation from her recommendations will result in a less than perfect gathering, and that simply will not do. If we must go elsewhere for the ingredients, Sasami, then we shall do so. I’m sure Ryo-ohki will help us with our transportation needs.”
“Shouldn’t you ask Ryo-chan first, big sister? She might not want to go anywhere, and you know, she doesn’t obey anyone other than Ryoko or Washu very well.”
Ayeka smiled. “If we make it worth her while, I’m sure that our dear little cabbit will be more than happy to assist us. However,” she added with a slight frown, you do have a point about our finances. Our budget is rather tight this time of year…”
“Brother Yosho?” Ayeka poked her head inside the aged shrine’s main office. “Are you busy?”
“I always have time for my sister,” the priest replied warmly. “Come in, sit down. I was just about to have some tea. Would you care for some as well?”
“Yes, thank you,” she replied as she sat down by the table. “Tea would be lovely. How are things up here? We so rarely see you down at the house.”
“Oh, you don’t need me stumbling around down there, interfering and making a nuisance of myself,” Yosho chuckled as he handed his sister a cup. “Now, what brings you up here?”
“Well, I find myself in need of a large favor, you see.” Ayeka bowed her head in deference to the head of the Masaki shrine. “I am in the process of arranging a family gathering for Christmas this year…”
“Ayeka, the Japanese don’t…” Yosho began.
“…as a way of thanking Tenchi for his kindness and hospitality, and also to bring our family together—you know it’s been so long since we’ve all been under one roof.”
“Father and our mothers were here just a short time ago…”
“Grandmother and Grandfather weren’t there, nor was Airi.”
Yosho paled under his disguise. “You…invited…Grandmother.”
“Oh yes. And Airi as well. She is family, after all.”
“Ayeka…are you aware of Mother and Father’s feelings regarding Airi…?”
“Oh, I’m sure they’ll get along fine,” Ayeka said with a dismissive wave. “At any rate, I’m in the process of getting things started, and I find that our budget is a bit tight for such activities, and so I was hoping that perhaps you could assist in ensuring that this family holiday gathering does not suffer for lack of financing.”
“I see,” Yosho nodded, secretly thankful that his sister had provided him with the means to put this foolish, if not suicidal, notion to rest. “Ayeka, I think you should consider…”
“I mean, after all, many years ago when you were at the Academy and I was but a small child on Jurai, there was a time when you were in need of funds,” Ayeka said quickly and quietly. “And as I recall, the circumstances around that need were such that you were reluctant to ask our parents or grandparents for assistance.”
Yosho turned to stone. He’d almost forgotten about that little incident. A long weekend’s leave from the Academy, an idiotic dare from Hirata to get one drink from every bar in Kansiki’s entertainment district, some…trouble with the police over a missing wallet and a large sum of money owed to a ‘bathhouse’. And his tree had been so incensed over his behavior that she had refused to talk to him. He remembered now….remembered all too well, in fact.
People tended to take Ayeka too lightly, he mused. They accepted what they saw on the surface, forgetting that her genetic heritage included one of the most shrewd and cunning minds in the galaxy, not to mention two of the most physically dangerous women on Jurai. She had obviously learned her lessons well; heaven help them all if she ever got into a position of power someday.
“On that day,” Ayeka remarked, “You called me your dearest little sister…your fiancée, and asked for a small favor. Some money from my allowance account, as I recall, because you were unable to access your own accounts at that moment. And the other proviso I think was that it was going to be ‘our little secret’, and I was never to tell our parents about it. Wasn’t that right?”
“I…yes, I believe your memory is quite correct,” Yosho gulped.
“And I was so thrilled about the chance to aid my big brother, my beloved Yosho, in his time of need that I gladly agreed to assist you. And in all that time since, I have never uttered one word to our parents or grandparents about that little incident.” She leaned forward, her expression razor sharp. “This is not a matter of blackmail, brother Yosho. I would never think of threatening you with such a cheap, tawdry tactic. No, this is a matter of honor, dear brother, a chance for you to repay me for that sweet, innocent child’s act of kindness and love…with interest.”
“How much do you need?” Yosho asked, resigned to the inevitable.
Ryoko had the perfect plan for a cold, rainy afternoon; lie back on a nice beam up where all the warm air was, sip sake and wait for Tenchi to return from his training session. Unfortunately, certain bossy princesses were doing their level best to ruin this carefully-thought out scheme. “Ryoko,” the priss called from below. “I wish to speak with you.”
“Go away,” Ryoko replied. “I’m busy.”
“You’re not doing anything up there. I can see perfectly well.”
“It takes a great deal of effort to do nothing, Princess.”
“Well, you would…” Ayeka caught herself in mid-sentence; it wouldn’t do for her to insult someone whose aid she needed, even if it was a demon woman with no manners or culture whatsoever. “I apologize,” she said in her kindest tone, “but I find myself in need of some assistance on my project, and it occurred to me that you are the perfect candidate for the job.”
“Does this have anything to do with that stupid party you’re trying to organize?” Bored and now somewhat irked, Ryoko decided to see how far she could push the princess until blind fury overcame diplomacy. “You idiot. Didn’t anyone tell you that…”
“I want you to be in charge of procuring the alcohol.”
Ryoko hesitated. All right, she thought, maybe it was a stupid little scheme that would end up like all of Ayeka’s stupid little schemes, but on the other hand, any stupid little scheme that connected Ryoko with booze was a fine stupid little scheme by her. She sat up, stretched, and teleported down below. “Talk to me.”
Ayeka handed her a piece of paper. “This is your budget for the party.”
Ryoko studied it with an experienced eye. “Okay, but what are the rest of you going to drink?”
“That is supposed to be for everyone, Ryoko!”
“Heh. I could drink that much in an afternoon.” Ryoko plucked the pen out of Ayeka’s hand and made a few adjustments. “This is more in line for what I’ll need. Now, don’t give me any trouble,” she warned, raising a hand up to block Ayeka’s open mouth. “I know what I’m doing here. I’ll make sure to get the good stuff, I promise. Whatever else goes wrong with this crazy idea of yours, it won’t be because of the booze.”
“Well…all right.” Ayeka shook her head and sighed, knowing she’d been outmaneuvered. “There is one other favor I need from you…from Ryo-ohki, actually.”
“Go ahead,” Ryoko shrugged. “Talk won’t cost you anything…”
“All right, that’s enough for today,” Yosho said, stretching out a hand to help his grandson to his feet. “You’re a bit distracted, Tenchi. Haven’t I told you time and again that focus is the key to survival in a battle?”
“I know,” Tenchi said as he dusted himself off. “It’s just…”
“What?” Yosho motioned toward the shrine steps. He had a pretty good idea of what was coming, but it was always a good idea to provide Tenchi with a sounding board. Tsunami knew he never got a word in edgewise down at the house.
“Well, you see, it’s Ayeka,” Tenchi said slowly, clearly uncomfortable about being less than complimentary about one of his houseguests. “Grandpa, she’s decided she wants to hold this big Christmas dinner party, and…well, I think she’s kind of going overboard with it, to be honest.”
Yosho chuckled softly. “Yes, it would seem the nut hasn’t fallen far from the tree…”
Yosho coughed. “Nothing, nothing, Tenchi. Just an old man’s musing.”
“Geez, Grandpa, she is your sister and all...” Tenchi shook his head despondently. “I’ve tried to tell her a couple of times now that we don’t really celebrate Christmas that way, that she’s trying to adapt a Western holiday’s customs to ours, but…” He sighed. “Frankly I don’t think she hears a word I’m saying.”
“Tenchi,” Yosho said with a sigh, “you’ve met Ayeka’s mother. Let me assure you that what you saw was but a fraction of what she can be like on a day to day basis. Queen Misaki is very…imaginative, and very…spontaneous, and very…”
“Exactly.” Yosho left out the word ‘dangerous’; Misaki might well be Tenchi’s mother-in-law someday, and it wouldn’t be right to spoil all the surprises in store.
“My advice to you,” he continued, “is in this matter, do what my father does.”
Tenchi leaned forward. “And that is?”
“Stay out of the way and duck when appropriate.”
Dusk was settling in; while Sasami worked on dinner and Mihoshi made a valiant effort to keep the brand-new, freshly-cut Christmas tree from falling down on her, Ayeka stood outside on the deck and consulted the schematic she’d carefully laid out. “Are you finished with the roof lights yet, Ryoko?”
“Just about, Princess. Hold your horses.”
“Well, Princess, I have to admit this was quite an undertaking,” Washu said from nearby. She was putting the finishing touches on what would normally be considered an external generator, as always appearances were always deceiving where she and her work were concerned. “This is going to be quite a sight to see when it’s done. You know, you might even be able to spot it from orbit with this many lights.”
“Oh, perhaps I used a few too many,” the princess giggled, “but it was just so exciting to plan the way Martha suggested! And may I say, Miss Washu, that I am most grateful that you were willing to donate a secondary power supply.”
“Well, we don’t want to run up the house’s electrical bills. That’d be pretty unfair to Tenchi’s father and all. I had a few extras lying around in the lab, so it’s no big deal.”
“It is very much appreciated.” Ayeka looked over at the brand-new pen that held the brand-new turkey they’d purchased that very day. The seller had given her very specific instructions on what to feed it for maximum growth. Two minutes later, Ayeka caught Ryoko trying to pour sake down its throat. But all seemed well now.
“Hey, Princess - catch!” Ryoko tossed the extension cord down to her; Ayeka in turn handed it to Washu, who plugged it into the generator. “We all set?” Ryoko asked as she touched down.
“Now, you did follow the plans, right?” Ayeka asked. “You lined the lights up so that they wish people a Merry Christmas?”
“Of course I did, Princess,” Ryoko assured her. “Trust me, okay?”
“Very well…oh dear. There goes Mihoshi again. Ryoko, could you please get her out from under the tree and bring both her and Sasami out here? I want everyone to see it when we switch the lights on.”
Tenchi’s muscles ached as he made his way back to the house. It was a good ache, though, the kind you got from a hard day’s efforts out in the fields. He shifted the basket of carrots on his back around until it grew a bit more comfortable to carry and resumed his slow, steady pace along the roadside.
It had been a long day. Ayeka and the others had hurried off right after breakfast, something about a big shopping trip. His father had called the house right before he’d left for the fields; Tenchi explained the situation as best he could and happily, his Dad had informed him that he and Reya would be there for the gathering.
The carrot fields had been a blessing. Out there Tenchi could lose himself in the endless repetitive work and not think about Christmas parties, Jurai kings, strange customs and impending disasters. Maybe things would work out just fine, he mused as he drew closer to the house. Maybe Ayeka would pull this off without a single problem.
“Miss Washu, if you please…BEHOLD!”
Light of every color (but, as per Martha’s instructions, mostly red and green) exploded from the house into the sky, the horizon…in every direction, to be honest. It was breathtaking. It was spectacular.
It was blinding.
Tenchi paused as early evening became Technicolor dawn. He stared at the incredible aurora radiating from…his house. “Oh no,” he groaned. “What now?”
Her eyes utterly and completely dazzled from the tableau, Mihoshi staggered backwards. In a desperate attempt to regain her balance, the lovely GP officer’s hand stretched out for something, anything to anchor itself upon.
It found a large red button on Washu’s generator, which promptly sank downward.
The first thing Tenchi heard was a huge sound along the lines of “Ahhhh-WHOOOOOM!”
The second thing Tenchi heard was a loud explosion coming from the vicinity of his house.
Two seconds later,
A minute later, so was
“Owie,” said Mihoshi, now sitting on the ground, a small trail of smoke rising from her slightly-smoldering clothing.
“Wow,” breathed Ryoko.
“Oh dear,” gasped Ayeka.
“There goes dinner,” groaned Sasami.
Washu covered her face with her hands and sighed heavily. “Okay, that’s it for me,” she announced to all and sundry. “I’m heading back to my lab until further notice. Say, next spring, maybe.”
Tenchi sighed and let the carrot basket slip from his shoulders. He quickly, quietly headed for the shrine, wondering whether Grandpa had any leftover KFC in his refrigerator.
“Ryoko, those are NOT pasties! Those are for the tree! I insist you take those off and…NOT IN FRONT OF TENCHI!”
Ayeka awoke to a brilliant Christmas morning. The sun was just up over the horizon, giving the world a lovely golden sheen. Scurrying down the stairs, she hurried to the outer door and slipped outside, gasping as the crisp chill air wrapped around her. It was a beautiful day. No, it was a perfect day, the harbinger of a day that everyone would hold dear in their hearts for the rest of their lives, especially dear Lord Tenchi.
Ayeka hurried back inside and surveyed the scene. The
Christmas tree was absolutely perfect, standing tall and proud in the far
corner. Paper snowflakes glittered around the long aluminum leaf garlands and
antique glass ball ornaments, and to heighten the traditional effect long
strings of popcorn strands swirled around the crisp green branches.
Ryoko had even gotten into the spirit of things, taking great pride in hanging the star atop the tree in her own inimitable fashion. She’d also put together a neat little makeshift bar over by the door to Washu’s lab where she could serve the homemade eggnog and whatever else people might be drinking. At any other time, Ayeka might have been suspicious of her rival’s willingness to help, but…well, perhaps it was the season, but this time she was willing to think the best of the demon woman.
It was utterly magnificent. Deep in her heart Ayeka just knew that Martha would have approved. It was going to be a day Lord Tenchi would never forget. Nothing, absolutely nothing could stop her now.
“Ayeka,” Sasami said from behind, tugging on her big sister’s sleeve. “Ayeka…I don’t feel good.”
“What?” Ayeka said sharply as she whirled around. “What do you mean?”
Sasami shuddered slightly. “I don’t feel good at all, Ayeka.” She suddenly paled and raised a hand to her mouth.
“Sasami? Sasami, what’s wrong?” Ayeka demanded. “Tell me what’s wrong this minute!”
And with that, Sasami threw up all over Ayeka’s robes.
Airi retrieved the thermometer from Sasami’s mouth and studied the results with a practiced eye. “Well, she’s definitely sick. Probably picked a tummy bug up at school.” She looked down at the young princess and smiled. “Why don’t you just stay in bed and rest, and I’ll bring up some soup and a nice cold drink in a bit? Okay?” Sasami smiled weakly and nodded, falling asleep a second after Airi had tucked her in and given her a gentle pat on the shoulder.
“I’m so glad you were here,” Ayeka whispered as they left the bedroom. “Miss Washu won’t leave her lab for anything - she won’t even answer the door when we knock - so I thought perhaps Brother Yosho could summon a physician. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find you there.”
“Oh, I got here late last night. I wanted to give Yosho his present early.” Airi smiled slightly at some private thought. “I think she’ll be fine, Princess. She just needs a day or two to recover. Kids bounce back quickly…trust me, I know.”
“A day or two?” Ayeka squeaked, suddenly freezing dead in her tracks. “But…but…today is the party! Sasami was assigned to do all the cooking! I…she has to cook! Everyone’s coming, they’re expecting a huge dinner…”
“So?” Airi shrugged. “Surely it’s nothing you can’t handle.” She turned around to discover a very pale Ayeka shaking her head weakly. “What? You’re the granddaughter of Kamiki Seto Jurai, and you’re telling me you don’t know how to cook?”
“…grandmother threw me out of her kitchen after I set it on fire one day…”
“Oh boy.” Airi whistled long and low, shaking her head in amazement. “You are in a bind, Princess.” She looked up and smiled. “Okay. Tell you what. I’ll take charge of the kitchen. I assume your menu’s in there?” Ayeka nodded rapidly. “No problem. I enjoy cooking, and besides, Yosho isn’t coming down here until he has to, the big coward. Now, I suggest you freshen up and make yourself presentable. Your parents are on their way down.”
“What?” Ayeka gasped. “How could you possibly know…?”
Airi smiled again and held up her hand, displaying a wooden ring on her finger. “Funaho is a terrible gossip. Didn’t Ryo-oh tell you? Oh, go on now, don’t leave it all to Tenchi.”
Tenchi took a deep breath to
steady himself; six distinct figures were
materializing on the back dock, and from the relative heights it had to be the
Jurai Royal Family. Sure enough, an instant later five smiling faces and one
scowling visage were looking back at him. Tenchi recognized the King and
“Good morning,” he said politely, adding a bow for good measure. “Welcome to my home. I’m very honored to have you here today.”
“TENCHI!” Before he knew what had hit him, Tenchi was enveloped in a Misaki Bear Hug. “OH, YOU’RE STILL SO CUTE! Isn’t he CUTE, Sister?”
“He is indeed, my Sister. Though I think he would look far better if you would allow him to breathe,” Funaho pointed out.
“Oh. Sorry.” Misaki retreated. “Oh, Tenchi, we’re all so pleased to be here, and so very glad you thought to invite us for this…” She glanced down at a crumbled up piece of parchment. “This ‘Car-ist-i-mast’ celebration. Oh, where are my manners?” She motioned to Lady Seto and the man beside her, whose lower face seemed completely enveloped in a huge mustache. “I’m sure you remember Mother, of course. This is my father, Lord Kamiki Utsutsumi Jurai.”
“I’m honored, sir,” Tenchi said as he bowed.
“It’s good to see you again, Tenchi,” Seto said with a sly smile. “And this,” she added with a slight motion of her fan, “is my assistant, Masaki Minaho. Your grandparents’ firstborn daughter, which makes her your aunt.” Minaho gave a slight wave of her hand in greeting. Tenchi wasn’t sure, but he could have sworn that both Queen Funaho and the Emperor made a slight grimace at the mention of a familial connection. He made a mental note to ask Grandpa about it later.
“You know,” Seto continued breezily, “It’s such a relief to have such straightforward lineages in a family for a change. The Royal Family bloodlines have driven more genealogists to drink than can be imagined.”
Tenchi could well believe it, given his confusing relationship to Ayeka and Sasami, but he was too polite to say anything. Before anyone could exchange further small talk, however, the Jurai King strode forward until he was directly in front of Tenchi.
“So, boy.” Tenchi
“Y-yes, your majesty,” Tenchi assured him.
“Misunderstanding? He insults me, one of the most powerful men in the galaxy, and that’s a ‘misunderstanding’? I don’t think so. Do you know what I think, boy? I think you think that you’re so powerful with your light hawk wings that you could take me on, don’t you?”
“N-never, sir!” Tenchi squeaked, at a complete loss to understand what the hell was going on.
“Well, boy, any time you’d like to try me, you
just let me know, and we’ll see just how well my son has trained
“We know what toilets are, on Jurai. We have them. We use them all the time. I use them all the time. Do you understand me, boy?”
“Tenchi,” Funaho said quietly after a moment, “I apologize for my husband’s outburst.”
“However,” she continued in the same, serene voice, “you should realize that your rooftop message was greatly insulting to him. I did not think you capable of such pranks, especially if you ever intend to marry Ayeka.”
“Pranks?” Tenchi asked.
“Oh yes,” Misaki nodded. “Writing ‘
Tenchi stood there for a few long moments, pondering their message. Then his eyes slowly rose upwards, focusing on the roof and a series of lights set up in a very specific, special sequence.
“Ryoko…” he groaned. But when an eardrum-shattering scream roared through the air, he set all other thought aside and raced back to the house.
“Grandmother?” Ayeka squeaked, her eyes wide with sheer terror. All present in the living room were rooted to the spot, transfixed by the Oni Hime’s cry. Seto was standing directly in the middle of the room, eyes burning with fury and her fan pointing at one particular object.
“WHAT…IS….THAT?” she demanded.
“It…well, it’s a Christmas tree,” Ayeka said in a very, very tiny voice.
“I SEE.” Seto turned slowly toward her granddaughter, who was most fervently wishing the floor would open up beneath her and send her tumbling into the pits of Hell, since that was probably the only safe haven for her right now. “And WHAT is that…THAT THING…doing in here?”
“Well, you see,” Ayeka stammered, “It’s sort of a, you know, a festive decoration to celebrate the Christmas holiday…”
“REALLY?” Seto tapped her fan against her chin thoughtfully. “Is it my understanding, then, that the people of this planet have no PROBLEM with putting a CORPSE in the middle of their house as a symbol of CELEBRATION?”
“But they don’t, you have to understand, they don’t see it as a…”
“And WHAT are all these THINGS festooned upon it?” Seto flicked a popcorn string into the air.
“AH! So they DRESS the corpse up like a CHEAP WHORE as well? Really, little Ayeka, I cannot imagine that YOU, a PRINCESS of JURAI, would APPROVE, much less ENGAGE, in such INSULTING practices!” Seto’s voice rose and fell in perfect dramatic pitch, her every gesture making her words have a thousand times more impact.
“But…Grandmother, it’s not a Juraian tree, you see, it’s an Earth tree, and they aren’t sentient…”
“OH? Do we MOCK our partner’s LESS ABLE COUSINS,
THEN?” Seto shook her head irritably. “I cannot believe Ryo-oh
would tolerate such an insult.
“But…Grandmother…” Ayeka pleaded.
“Never mind, I’ll do it myself!” Seto’s fan flicked open, and the Christmas tree went up in a sudden blaze of glory. A second later the flames were gone, as was the tree and most of the garland that had been adjacent to the target area. All that remained was a tiny pile of ashes and a thin wisp of smoke rising from it.
Seto took a deep breath and smiled. “There. Now, as for you, little Ayeka, perhaps your extended stay on this planet has caused you to forget the lessons taught to you as a child. Perhaps we need to reconsider allowing you to remain here…”
During this showdown, Utsutsumi had quietly slipped over to the makeshift bar, where Ryoko was holding court. She was dressed in a crisp white shirt with black bowtie. A huge bowl of…something liquid…sat on the counter before her, alongside a stack of glass cups and a huge fishbowl glass that had the word “TIPS” written upon it with a black marker. “Hiya,” she said with a big grin. “You look like a man who could use some eggnog.”
“You don’t have anything stronger?” Utsutsumi asked in a low voice. “When she gets like this, a good stiff drink is the only thing that will get me through the day.”
“Trust me, try some eggnog.” Ryoko expertly poured him a cup. “It’s got what you need, believe me.” She watched as the Jurai nobleman somehow found his mouth under all that facial hair and took a long sip from the cup; his eyes widened momentarily, and a very visible shudder rippled through his body a second later. “Good stuff, isn’t it?” she winked.
Utsutsumi looked all around, then leaned forward conspiratorially. “I’m going to slip upstairs to see my granddaughter,” he whispered. “Have another glass ready for me when I come back.” He slipped a small wad of bills into Ryoko’s tip jar.
“You got it, big guy!” Ryoko replied with a wink and a nod.
Perhaps it was pity, because Ayeka looked ready to fall over dead at any second, or perhaps it was just sheer necessity, but Airi stepped forward. “Seto, can I see you in the kitchen?” she asked politely. The relief on Ayeka’s face was almost palpable as the Oni Hime paused in mid-tirade and followed Airi into the other room.
“Dear, you know how I hate to be interrupted,” Seto frowned.
“I know, but this is important.” Airi handed her a copy of Ayeka’s menu. “I offered to fill in for Sasami, but most of this stuff is beyond me. Yorkshire pudding?” Airi’s eyes narrowed. “Fruit tarts? Meringues? Where on Earth did she get all these ideas?”
“Why anyone would waste perfectly good potatoes like that is beyond me,” Seto murmured as she studied the list, which she subsequently crumpled up and threw over her shoulder. It ignited and disintegrated long before it reached the floor. “Oh, this is just silly. I’ve brought a number of things on Mikagami. We can prepare a proper meal with them.” Seto suddenly recalled one particular item on the menu. “Do I recall seeing ‘turkey’ on there?”
Airi nodded. “She said that they’d bought a live one. I think it’s outside in a pen.”
Seto’s eyes narrowed. “We need to find it immediately…before Misaki does.”
“Isn’t he CUTE?” Misaki squealed. She gave the turkey another hug, almost making its eyes pop out as it pecked affectionately at her ear. “Sister and were upstairs checking on little Sasami, and I looked out the window and saw him all alone in this big bad pen, so I just had to come down and see him! His name is Mister Gobbles! He just loves me, don’t you, Mister Gobbles? Yes, you do!”
Airi, Seto and Funaho stood just outside the pen. “Oboy,” Airi muttered.
“As I feared,” Seto nodded, shaking her head sadly. “Misaki,” she called to her daughter. “Why don’t you come out of there? After all, that is a most filthy creature. Why, who knows what diseases it might be carrying?”
“Oh, but Mister Gobbles wouldn’t be like that!” Misaki declared. “And we’ll just give him a nice bubble bath up on the ship, won’t we, Sister?”
Funaho felt Seto’s withering gaze fall upon her. “Misaki,” she said slowly, “there is something you need to understand about…your new friend.”
“Yes, little Misaki,” Seto joined in. “For one thing, he’s going to be dead before too long.”
“What?” Misaki cried. “Is Mister Gobbles ill? Funaho, call a doctor down from our ship!”
“No, no, no,” Seto said, rolling her eyes impatiently. “Misaki, we are going to kill that bird and serve him as part of dinner later today.”
“The hell we are,” Misaki retorted, wrapping her arms even more tightly around the turkey.
“You know,” Airi commented, “at this rate, she’ll crush it to death and save us the trouble…”
“Shush, dear,” Seto ordered. “Misaki, I am telling you to get out of that pen right this minute. That bird is destined for the dinner table, and I will not tolerate any dissention from you. Is that clear?”
“You can’t kill Mister Gobbles,” Misaki said defiantly. “I won’t let you.”
Seto opened her mouth to reply, but her husband chose that moment to join them. “Ah, Utsutsumi,” she said with a smug expression. “Please inform your daughter that you will not tolerate her standing in the way of aAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” To everyone’s amazement, Seto jumped about a foot in the air, her eyes wide with surprise.
“Heh,” Utsutsumi grinned.
“You…you PINCHED MY BOTTOM!” Seto bellowed. “What on EARTH has gotten into you?”
“Eggnog,” he replied, raising a glass in salute. “Damned good eggnog!”
Seto regarded her husband carefully. “You’re drunk.”
“Nonsense, woman. I can hold my liquor with the best of them.” He took another swig from his cup. “Damned good eggnog.” He leaned closer to Seto. “Whattya say we head back up to the ship and plant a few seeds, eh?”
“UTSUTSUMI!” Seto gasped, fanning herself rapidly. “Please behave yourself! We are in the presence of others!”
“You’re right,” he declared, tossing the now-empty cup over his shoulder. “Why waste time with the ship, eh? Let’s go find some bushes and re-enact how we met!” Before the Oni Hime could protest, Utsutsumi had hoisted her over his shoulder and was striding off toward a more secluded area of the hills and, presumably, paradise.
“Oh my,” Misaki said, Mister Gobbles still firmly in her embrace.
“Indeed,” nodded Funaho.
Ayeka had wandered over to the bar. “Hey, what’s wrong?” Ryoko asked. “Everything okay, Princess?”
“Oh, everything is just wonderful,” Ayeka replied, sarcasm dripping off the last word with a vengeance. “Grandmother’s torched the Christmas tree, my father is making grumbling noises about dragging me back to Jurai ‘because I’ve obviously fallen under a bad influence or two’, my sister, who was supposed to cook the traditional meal, is sick upstairs, my sister-in-law, who is filling in, has thrown the menu out and substituted her own, and my grandfather has apparently been pinching every female bottom in sight, including my own.” She rubbed the injured area for emphasis.
“Well, from here it looks like everyone’s having a good time,” Ryoko pointed out. “Hey, you know what you need? A nice cup of eggnog. Let me pour you one.”
“That sounds lovely,” Ayeka sighed. “I assume that people are partaking of it?”
“Oh, everyone loves the stuff,” Ryoko replied. “Your grandfather’s had about six or seven glasses alone. He’s a pretty nice guy once you get past the moustache. Big tipper, too.” She motioned toward the tip glass; it had a considerable pile of crumpled up bills in it.
“Oh, you never change, do you?” Ayeka said, shaking her head. “At any rate, I think I would like a glass, if you please.”
“Sure thing.” Ryoko dipped the ladle in to the huge punchbowl and poured a generous portion into the glass with practiced ease. “Happy holidays, Princess.”
“Thank you…GAGH!” Ayeka’s eyes widened to impossible dimensions as the drink burned its way down to her stomach. “Ryoko, what in the HELL did you do? This isn’t the eggnog recipe Martha provided!”
“Nah,” Ryoko shrugged. “I looked at it and decided it was too complicated, so I made up my own recipe.”
“Dare I ask what it consists of?”
“Let’s see.” Ryoko concentrated and ticked off the ingredients one by one. “It’s rum…and something called Everclear…and some vodka for flavoring.”
“There…there’s no flavor in vodka, damn it!”
“Really?” Ryoko blinked her eyes several times, the picture of virginal innocence. “Gee, I must have been misinformed. At any rate, yours is the only complaint I’ve gotten so far.”
“Probably so they can determine the cause of death in whoever drinks it,” Ayeka snapped. At that moment a new scream was heard, this one from outside and sounding distinctly like Queen Misaki. “Oh, what now…I’d best go see. Wait.” Not standing on ceremony this time, the princess simply took her cup and plunged it into the punchbowl, then downed the retrieved contents in one long gulp before hurrying outside.
“Hey!” Ryoko called after her, shaking her fishbowl glass. “You forgot something!”
“Oh my god,” Ayeka cried. “What is Mother doing to that bird?”
Minaho leaned forward for a closer look. “I’d say mouth-to-mouth. But that’s just me.”
Nearby, Yosho raised an eyebrow but said nothing; Airi, on the other hand, put a hand over her mouth in respect for the departed.
“You see, I heard what Mommy was going to do to him,” Misaki said through her tears. “And he was my friend…I couldn’t let her do that to him, not after all we’d come to mean to each other! So I decided that I was going to help Mister Gobbles escape, and so I took him from that awful pen and carried him up to the roof so he could fly away to freedom.”
Airi was now so overcome with emotion that she buried her face in Yosho’s chest, her shoulders shaking violently. He remained utterly passive, though a trained observer might have noticed a slight twitch in his jawline.
“Well,” Misaki continued, blowing her nose on a kerchief, “I kind of tossed him into the air to give him a head start, and I was so surprised when he just went right back down to the ground and hit with a thud! So I jumped down to make sure he was all right, and when his eyes stopped rolling around in circles I tried to think of another way for him to get away. That’s when I noticed some ducks in the lake, so I thought perhaps he could paddle away from here to the sea.”
“Oh my God,” Airi said in a very muffled voice.
“Well, he was so grateful to me that he didn’t want to leave, but….but I had to help him, for his own good! So I picked him up again and kind of gave him a good toss way out into the lake…so he’d have a good head start, you understand, and then he just kind of…sank under the surface…” Misaki began to sob again. “I…I hurried out to save him…but…but…I KILLED MISTER GOBBLES!”
“Mother Misaki.” Yosho stepped forward, leaving Airi to cope alone. “You had no way of knowing the ways of this planet’s creatures. Your intentions were pure and very noble. Do not feel guilty over this. I am sure…Mister…Gobbles…would not want you to harbor guilt when only your finest intentions were meant.”
“Oh, Yosho, do you really believe that’s so?” Misaki said breathlessly. “Does he really understand, up in whatever heaven his kind goes to when they pass on?”
“I am certain of it,” Yosho nodded firmly.
“Oh, THANK YOU!” Misaki abandoned the King and lunged straight for the priest, who winced slightly as she embraced him. “And of course, we’ll give him a proper burial, and you’ll say a few words over his grave, won’t you Yosho?”
“Well…Mother Misaki, burial is not really the Shinto way, you understand.”
“No. Believers in the Shinto way are usually cremated when they pass on to the next life. However, I would be more than happy to perform the cremation ritual on your friend’s behalf and say a few prayers to speed his way to the afterlife. It is the least I can do as a shrine priest.”
“OHHHH, THANK YOU, YOSHO! THANK YOU!” Misaki squeezed her stepson one more time, then allowed her husband and family to lead her back to the house. Yosho hoped that her change of clothing would not befit mourning, then smiled as he heard Airi clear her throat from behind him.
“Yes, cremation. Shinto tradition, as noted by the legendary Hiroyuki Sakai, recommends that the body be placed in a fire of around five hundred degrees for the first half-hour. It should then sit in heat of three hundred fifty degrees until such time as the internal temperature of the corpse reaches one hundred and sixty-one degrees, at which point it should be removed from the oven.”
“My,” Airi noted wryly as she gave him a hug of her own. “Aren’t we the sneaky wise old priest?”
“I do try. And I never missed an episode of ‘Iron Chef’, I might add.”
“Not bad for a man who lives on Kentucky Fried Chicken and instant ramen.”
Well, there you are!” Airi barely afforded Seto a glance; she was chopping vegetables at a furious clip. “I was beginning to think you were going to leave me all alone with this huge meal to prepare!” When Seto didn’t immediately respond, Airi paused long enough to turn and give the Jurai noblewoman a closer look.
Seto looked…distracted. Thoughtful. Relaxed…and a bit disheveled. Her dress, usually perfectly immaculate, clearly showed several substantial grass stains. Her hair was in wild disarray and was tangled with a few twigs here and there. She blinked once or twice and shook her head. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”
“Whoa,” Airi said, impressed. “Must have been some good time.”
“Minaho?” Seto called out. A second later Airi’s daughter was there, trying very hard not to laugh at her employer’s appearance and demeanor. “Ah, there you are. Please go back to Mikagami and have Suiren bring me a change of clothing. Tell her I’ll also need my hair redone…I’ll meet her in the onsen after I check on Sasami.”
“Yes, Lady Seto.”
“Yes, Lady Seto?”
Seto paused for just a second. “Please get the recipe for Ryoko’s eggnog. Before we leave, I would like you to gather up a good supply of the ingredients. And when we are back on Jurai…”
Seto sighed. “You are to see to it that Lord Utsutsumi partakes of no fewer than two glasses of the eggnog every night, an hour before bedtime.”
Tenchi tapped on Sasami’s bedroom door; a moment later it slid open to reveal Mihoshi’s smiling face. “Oh, hi Tenchi!” she beamed. “How’s the party going?”
“It’s…interesting,” he conceded. “How’s Sasami?”
“Oh, she’s still running a fever and she really doesn’t want to do anything but sleep. I managed to get her to drink a little, though.”
“It’s very kind of you to stay up here with her, Mihoshi.”
The lovely officer shrugged. “I don’t mind that much. It’s nice and quiet, and it seems like everyone’s been up here to see her, so I’ve gotten to say hello to all the guests!”
“Well, I still think it was very kind of you to sacrifice your time to…” Tenchi sensed something big, powerful and pissed directly behind him; turning, he discovered the stern visage of the Jurai King glaring down at him.
“Boy, come with me,” he said curtly.
Tenchi moved away, and much to his surprise the Emperor did
not immediately lead the way back downstairs; instead, he very carefully
motioned for Mihoshi to move to one side and went into Sasami’s bedroom.
Gazing down at his daughter, for just an instant
They ended up outside, standing over Utsutsumi’s prone body. “He’s not…is he?” Tenchi asked, worried.
“No. Just passed out. Help me
get him somewhere comfortable so he can sleep this off.” Tenchi got under
“So, you’re going to be the one my daughter
“Marriage?” Tenchi gulped. “Well, to be honest, sir, it’s never come up, and, well, I’m kind of young to be making that sort of decision any time soon…”
“YOU, making that sort of
“Wait a minute! Don’t I have anything to say about it?”
Tenchi hadn’t heard of any of this before except in the most general terms. “I think so, Sir.”
“So listen up. Men don’t make decisions; women do. It’s the way of the universe. You don’t think it’s coincidence that Tsunami’s a goddess, do you?” By now they’d made their way into Nobuyuki’s library, where there was a sofa; with a bit of hefting and grunting they’d managed to put the passed-out Utsutsumi onto it with some degree of comfort involved. “So listen up. You’re going to end up marrying them both. We both know it. My advice to you is just go along with it and make the best of it. And for God’s sake, stick to two.”
“Trust me. I can barely handle Funaho and Misaki on my best days. Any more than that, I’d have run away and become a shrine priest myself.”
“I’m going to take a breather,” Airi informed Seto, who nodded quietly as she continued with her own share of the cooking. Whatever she and Utsutsumi had been up to in the bushes, it had certainly had quite an impact on her. Every so often she would pause in her work, look up at nothing in particular, and sigh very contentedly.
To her considerable astonishment, Airi found Funaho and
Minaho sitting together on the living room sofa. The resemblance between them
was even more striking at close quarters. Her daughter was listening politely
as the Queen went on at length about this, that and the other thing. Given that
Funaho was the main reason
“Hello, everyone,” Airi said as she approached the sofa. “Dinner should be ready soon. What’s going on?”
“Airi,” Funaho said with a warm, welcoming smile. “It is good to see you, my daughter.”
“Excuse me?” Airi said, blinking. “This is…quite a change in attitude, Your Majesty.”
“Call me Mother,” Funaho urged.
“Mom, she’s scaring me,” Minaho whispered. “I was just sitting here, and she came over and gave me a big hug, and she hasn’t shut up since!”
“I have been talking to my wonderful granddaughter,” Funaho said, still smiling. “She is such a bright young woman, so very capable and very lovely as well. You know, perhaps it is time she was taken to the Hall of Trees and see if we can’t find a partner for her.” She patted Minaho’s knee; the girl flinched slightly but managed to keep her frozen smile in place.
“That’s very gracious of you, Your…”
“Mother Funaho,” Airi corrected herself. “I’m so very glad that you have had an apparent change of heart.”
“Yes,” the Queen nodded…for a few seconds longer than necessary. “And to further make amends, I intend to find my husband right now and ask him to officially recognize your marriage to Yosho. It is long past time to welcome you into the family, my daughter, and let me be the first to do so.” Before Airi could react, Funaho had enveloped her into a long, lingering hug.
Airi made some quick deductions and came to one inescapable conclusion. “Have you had some eggnog today, Mother Funaho?”
“Why yes, as a matter of fact I have. It’s quite delicious. You should try some.” Minaho, sensing the possibility of escape, had chosen that moment to try and scoot away, but the queen was too quick for her, and now all three women were locked in a tender embrace.
Funaho grinned at the other two women, her eyes just a little too bright and unfocused. “Would you like to see a little trick I can do with Misaki’s ship and mine?”
“I’m sorry we’re late,” Nobuyuki apologized to Ayeka at the front door. “Parenthood really destroys your ability to stay on schedule.” He moved to one side to allow Reya and their bundled-up son inside. “Just as we were getting ready to leave, the kid decided to wake up and boy, was he hungry!”
“Oh, that’s not a problem.” Ayeka assured him, taking the bundle and peering down into it. “My, he’s such a lovely baby…”
At the sound of that single, two-syllable word, five heads rose in unison, and five women made an insane dash toward the front foyer, each vying for the honor of being first to hold the newcomer. As always, Seto was the clear winner. “Little Ayeka, if you please,” she commanded with expectant, outstretched arms. “Thank you. Oh, aren’t you just the most adorable little thing?”
“Hey,” Airi growled. “Grandma’s privilege, remember?”
“May I point out that he is not directly descended from either of you,” Funaho said icily. “Since Nobuyuki is from Yosho’s line, I am therefore the next logical candidate to hold him.”
“Hey, kid!” came a voice from above. “It’s Aunt Ryoko! Remember me?”
“Ohhh, so cute!” Misaki cooed.
“My…baby…?” Reya said, bewildered.
“Oh, don’t mind them,” Yosho assured her. “They’re always like that. Come on inside and sit down. They’ll bring him back eventually.”
At long last, Airi stepped out of the kitchen and cleared her throat. “May I have your attention?” she called out in a voice that had frozen many a group of administrators dead in their tracks. “If you’ll all be seated, dinner will be served.”
As everyone sat down, Ryoko nudged Ayeka, who was looking more than a little crestfallen. “Hey, it’s going to be great,” she said quietly. “It all looks fantastic. What’s wrong?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Ayeka sighed. “I just…I wanted it to be just like Martha suggested, I suppose.”
“If Martha were here, she’d be picking up the chopsticks and digging in right along with us. Now cheer up.”
Yosho was standing at one end of the table. “My sister, who very masterfully organized this gathering and brought us all together, asked me to say a blessing before we eat this wonderful meal. While this isn’t quite the way we do things, I would just like to give thanks that we were all able to come together this day as a family.”
“And we should also pay tribute to Mister Gobbles,” Misaki added tearfully. “And keep him dear in our hearts, remembering him as he was: kind, gentle, loving…”
In due time the dishes had been washed and put away, the few leftovers remaining had been sealed up and stored, and the kitchen looked positively spotless. As dusk gave way to evening, the huge gathering was breaking up into smaller groups.
Tenchi stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. He could
He heard a noise from above and looked up. Ayeka and Ryoko were floating overhead, but they descended the minute they spotted him. “Where are you two going?” he asked.
“Oh, the ladies are all up in the onsen.
You know how it is,” Ryoko grinned. “I’m providing the sake,
“I’m very sorry about today, Lord Tenchi,” Ayeka said, her head lowered in shame. “I made a mess of things, didn’t listen to anyone, invited all these people here without your permission…I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me…”
“Actually, Ayeka…I was going to thank you.”
Ayeka’s head jerked up. “Thank me?”
Tenchi smiled. “You see…even if we don’t really celebrate Christmas the way that book talked about, it’s still a time for families to come together. If it hadn’t been for your hard work, all these people would have been apart. Your parents and grandparents wouldn’t have gotten to see you or Sasami, Grandma would probably still be at the Academy…so it was a wonderful time, Ayeka, and I want to thank you for making it possible.”
“I…Lord Tenchi, I…” Ayeka sniffled and quickly wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her robe. “You’re very welcome,” she finally replied.
“Yeah, yeah. Enough sentimentality. Let’s get a bath, Princess.” Ryoko wrapped an arm around Ayeka’s waist and took to the air. Tenchi watched them go until he felt a familiar presence behind him. “Hey, Grandpa.”
“Hello, Tenchi. You’re getting better, I see.”
“No. You’ve got Grandma’s perfume scent all over you.”
Yosho chuckled softly. “Do I? Well, I suppose it can’t be helped. I was just heading back to the shrine. I wanted to give your grandmother her Christmas present tonight.”
“But Ayeka said that she gave you one last night. Why didn’t you…”
“Tenchi, someday you’ll understand that some
gifts are meant to be given over and over again.” Yosho sighed and smiled
tiredly. “And tomorrow, I have to make a few phone calls regarding the
alleged sighting of two UFO’s drag racing from one end of
Tenchi stood on the back deck and listened. He could hear female voices and laughter coming from the onsen; similar laughter, this time male, was booming from the house. He stood there and drank it all in for a minute or two, then headed back inside.
“So cheer up, Princess. Everything worked out.” Ryoko poured a generous portion of sake into one of the eggnog cups and handed it to Ayeka. “You did fine, even if it wasn’t precisely by the book.”
“Well, I suppose you’re right. And Tenchi did appreciate it, so that’s something.” Ayeka sipped at her drink, then leaned back and closed her eyes. “This feels heavenly.”
“Well, enjoy it while you can, Princess,” Ryoko commented, working on her own glass.
“Oh, how soon we forget. Next week’s New Years, remember? The big holiday in these parts? We’ve got a lot of work to do, and one week to do it.”
Ayeka’s eyes snapped open. She grabbed her glass and downed the contents in a single gulp. “Ryoko,” she gasped, holding out the glass with a shaky hand.
“:Fill it again. And keep it full until I tell you to stop. It should be sometime in the next ten days.”
A few days later, a few million miles away…
Queen Misaki crept to the bathroom door. “Sister?” she croaked.
A long pause later, Funaho answered in a similar voice. “Yes?”
“What are you doing in there?”
“I am saying prayers to whatever god is listening.”
“I…was just wondering if you were…” Misaki hiccupped and covered her mouth for a moment or two. “…when you’ll be finished,” she finally said.
“I am not sure,” came the reply a few minutes later.
“I…talked to Minaho,” Misaki said, looking around the bedchamber for a convenient wastebasket or some such. “She said Mommy and Daddy have it too. And Azusa-chan won’t even acknowledge my calls!” Another internal surge wracked her body, barely suppressed. Misaki began to pray for two things—an available bathroom or a speedy death. She wasn’t quite sure which was preferable.
“Little Ayeka did say Sasami recovered after two days,” Funaho commented.
“I suppose that’s something…excuse me, sister!” Covering her mouth, Misaki dashed off in search of salvation.
Not too far away, a most majestic space ship soared through the heavens. At its very center was the magnificent first-generation Royal Tree, Kirito, the partner of Masaki Azusa Jurai.
“I hate that planet…and its damned holidays, too…”