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.
Ikeda Zoo was a lovely place to visit on a perfect Spring day. Both visitors and residents were enjoying themselves under the warm sun and mischievous breezes that danced around them. Princess Ayeka for her part could have cared less if a thunderstorm were booming through the sky, because at that moment she was alone with Lord Tenchi, not a demon woman Ryoko in sight.
They were standing in front of the panda pavilion, watching the huge black-and-white bears lumber about their confines. “They’re something, aren’t they?” Tenchi said.
“Lovely creatures,” Ayeka nodded, pressing ever-so-casually against his arm. When Tenchi made no move to counter, she sighed happily and stayed put. “This was a lovely idea, Lord Tenchi. I’ve truly enjoyed myself today.”
“It has been fun, hasn’t it?” He glanced up at the sky for a moment, then looked around. “Wonder where Ryoko is?”
“Oh, she’s probably still lounging around at the lion cages.”
“Yeah…” Tenchi decided against telling Ayeka that he’d snuck into the zoo earlier this morning with Ryoko at her insistence. With her powers it had been child’s play to avoid the guards and gain entrance to the huge pavilion where the big cats lived. He’d watched, transfixed, as Ryoko had strolled up to the sleepy animals, patting and stroking them as though they were nothing more than oversized kittens. And most incredibly, they’d not only allowed her to do so, they’d leaned up into her caresses. It had been a sight he’d never forget.
“Ayeka! Ayeka!” Sasami’s excited cries roused Tenchi from his reverie. The young princess was running up to them, sheer excitement shining in her eyes. “Ayeka, you’ve got to come over here!” she exclaimed, grabbing her sister’s arm and pulling her away from Tenchi. “You’ve got to see this!”
“Sasami!” Ayeka was a bit more cross than she’d meant to be, and quickly composed herself. “What on earth is it?”
“They’ve got elephants here! Just like Mother’s! Come on, you’ve got to see them!” Sasami released her grip on Ayeka’s arm and trotted ahead, pausing only to make sure that Tenchi and Ayeka were following her to the elephant pen.
“Elephants?” Tenchi asked. “Your mother has an elephant?”
“Indeed she has,” Ayeka chuckled. “It was a present, you might say.”
“Really?” Tenchi said.
“Oh yes. There’s a long story behind it…”
* * * * *
Emperor Azusa of Jurai always began the day on the throne. He sipped at his first cup of tea and perused the morning reports thoughtfully, making mental notes about items he wanted to look into later. Funaho was a master at accumulating all the information that flooded the intelligence systems and summarizing it into a few pages that could be read at one sitting.
Today, however, something was nagging him. Amid all the bustle of his thoughts, some small but important detail kept raising its hand and waving it about, insisting on being heard. Trouble was, the more Azusa tried to bring it forward, the more it eluded him. Ah well. Emperors couldn’t spare too much time on such insignificant things. If it were truly important, his wives would remind him at some point.
The morning was filled with council meetings and private audiences. Funaho sat at his right side as always, providing him with details when needed, answering his questions, and fulfilling her duties with her usual efficiency. All the while, however, the nagging feeling refused to go away; if anything, it was growing more insistent by the minute. During a momentary lull in the hustle and bustle he motioned for his wife to come over.
“My lord,” Funaho said politely, gracing him with a slight bow.
“My queen.” Azusa could never stop the silly smile that appeared on his face whenever they were together. In fact he’d long since given up trying to break himself of the habit. “Funaho, I am troubled today.”
She tilted her head slightly. “What bothers you, my husband?”
“I…I keep thinking that I am forgetting something. Something very important. Yet I cannot for the life of me recall what it might be. Do you…?”
Funaho smiled slightly. “I am certain that if it is truly important, my lord will remember sooner or later.”
“Probably.” Azusa leaned back in his chair. “By the way, where the devil is Misaki? She’s usually around for the first few meetings, at least…”
“I believe she is shopping, my lord.”
Azusa felt that nagging feeling again as he turned toward his wife. “Shopping?”
“Yes, my lord. She mentioned the need to go out and buy something today. It seemed most important to her.”
Damn. Azusa considered the possibilities, but a quick rundown eliminated all possible birthday suspects. “Hmmm. Well, when she returns, tell her I’d like to see her.”
“I will be happy to do so, my lord.”
Azusa nodded, then returned his attention to the approach of the troublemakers…ambassadors from Romulask.
* * * * *
Misaki was absent from lunch as well, and Funaho had official business of the State to deal with. Azusa found himself sitting in an empty dining room; he tolerated about two minutes of the empty silence before rising to his feet and dining with little Ayeka and Sasami in the nursery rooms. His two darling daughters were thrilled to see him, and their laughter brightened his day considerably.
All too soon he had to leave his beloved children and return to his duties. Afternoons were generally spent in court, listening to the petitions of the people and being Their Beloved Emperor. Azusa sat upon his throne and tried to appear attentive to the long line of people pleading for justice, mercy, or some combination thereof. His mind, however, kept wandering back to little Ayeka’s laughter and that damned incessant nagging thought. What had he forgotten?
“AZUSA!” Misaki’s unmistakable voice rang through the chamber. “LOOK WHAT I FOUND!” The crowd gasped and retreated back as the Second Queen of Jurai, daughter of Seto, came through the main court doors, sitting majestically atop a huge, grey monster with long white tusks and an even longer trunk.
Azusa stared at the bizarre sight for fifteen heartbeats—he counted. “Misaki,” he finally said. “What the hell is that?”
“It’s an ELEPHANT!” Misaki cried triumphantly. “Isn’t it CUTE?” She patted the monster twice on the left side, and the creature immediately knelt so that she could leap off its neck. “I was out shopping this morning, and I was feeling so down that I couldn’t find you anything for our ANNIVERSARY that I went to the circus…”
Azusa turned to stone. Oh shit. Anniversary. He was dead.
“…and it was one of those special deals where they had animals from Earth, and I saw Rani here and just fell ABSOLUTELY in love with her, so I went backstage after the performance and talked to the owner, and after a great deal of haggling he SOLD HER TO ME!” She beamed ecstatically. “Isn’t it WONDERFUL?”
“You…bought…an elephant.” Azusa was struggling with the concept. He’d become quite well acquainted with his beloved Misaki’s…eccentricities…over the years, but this was truly one for the record books.
Yosho had emerged from one of the back rooms. He approached the throne, his eyes wide with amazement as they drank in the sight of Misaki’s latest acquisition. “Greetings, my father.”
“Greetings, my son.”
“Mother Misaki, please correct me if I am wrong, but is that not an elephant? An animal from my mother’s home world?”
“YES! Another good reason for buying it! A REMINDER of my sister’s happy days there!” Funaho was approaching the odd couple, her enigmatic smile once again on her lips. Misaki embraced her warmly. “Oh sister, you must meet Rani! Isn’t she so CUTE?”
“She is indeed,” Funaho nodded. “Greetings to you, dear Rani. Welcome to our home.” The elephant seemed to bow in reply as it lumbered back to its feet.
“Forgot your anniversary, didn’t you?” Yosho said casually to his father.
“And Rani is VERY intelligent,” Misaki was going on to Funaho. “She knows MANY tricks, and has such good manners. And you know what else the owner told me?”
“What is that, my sister?”
Misaki shot a glare at her husband that would have incinerated any lesser being. “They NEVER FORGET. ANYTHING.”
“You realize you’re doomed,” Yosho noted.
“You realize anything happens to me, and you’re Emperor Yosho,” Azusa replied darkly.
“Good point. Go Father.”
By this time the court had mysteriously dispersed, leaving only the Royal Family in attendance. Azusa carefully rose from his throne and scratched his beard. “My beloved Misaki,” he finally said with a great air of thoughtfulness. “I wonder if you have thought this matter completely through.”
“Oh, my husband?”
“Yes. For example, we of Jurai know very little of such creatures and their ways. For example, what they eat, how to detect illness, and other matters.”
“Oh, that’s all right. When I bought Rani, I hired her trainer as well.”
Misaki nodded happily.
“Well…” Azusa’s mind went into overdrive. “What about appropriate quarters? We have no facilities available to house such a…magnificent creature.”
“We’ll have some built,” Misaki replied crisply. “I’ve already put the architects to work. Rani’s home will be ready by the end of the month.”
“And where will she stay until then, my wife?”
“Why, right here of course.”
“But, Misaki, this is the Royal Court…” Azusa felt his blood pressure soaring. The doctors were going to have a field day with him if he didn’t regain control of himself and the situation…soon. “This has been the true center of Jurai for centuries. Where will I hear the petitions of my people if this creature dwells here?”
“Oh, Rani won’t mind,” Misaki said, giving the elephant a big hug. “She loves people. We can put on little performances while you hear petitions.”
“MOMMY!” Ayeka’s screech shot through Azusa’s brain like an icy arrow. The young princess came running into the court, gripping her baby sister’s arm and dragging her along for the ride. “MOMMY, YOU HAVE AN ELLY-PHANT!”
“LITTLE AYEKA!” Misaki swept her children up into her arms. “Yes, my sweet! I’ve bought an elephant, and she is going to live here with us! Isn’t that WONDERFUL!”
“Elly-phant!” Ayeka squealed with delight. She caught sight of Yosho and raced over to his side. “Brother Yosho!” she cried, now dragging him to the scene of the crime. “Mommy has an elly-phant! Come see!”
“I saw, Ayeka,” the young prince said as he struggled to free himself from Ayeka’s iron grasp. “I smelled it, too.”
Ayeka looked up into Yosho’s eyes with that adoring, obsessive look he knew all too well. “When we are married, Yosho, will you buy ME an elly-phant?”
“Misaki…” Azusa began, gathering up all his remaining dignity and power. He was Emperor of Jurai. Azusa The Just. Azusa the Avenging. The ruler of a star-spanning kingdom feared and respected by all. His will was final. But when he looked up and saw Misaki…staring…at him, he knew he was also Azusa the Screwed.
And just when things couldn’t possibly get much worse, it happened.
“LOOK!” Ayeka screamed. “ELEPHANT POO-POO!”
* * * * *
“So what happened?” Tenchi asked as they watched the elephants lumbering around in their yard.
Ayeka flashed a sly look. “You’ve met my mother. What do you think happened?”
Sasami laughed. “Rani had a very long and happy life at the Palace, Tenchi. And Father never, ever forgot an anniversary again.”
“Certainly not,” Ayeka agreed. “And there was one other thing.”
“Oh?” Tenchi said.
“They never did manage to get rid of that smell in the court. And heaven knows Father never stopped trying.” Ayeka smiled. “Mother always claimed it was what helped him remember the date from then on.”
“Remind me to never get on your bad side,” Tenchi laughed.
“Oh, I will, Lord Tenchi,” Ayeka said, that sly glance popping up again. “Rest assured, I will.”