The Harem Saga

EPISODE 5 Koodori

Chorus:

You spin me inside, outsideYou know you hold me so tightWe'll dance and party all nightMambo MamboléSo kiss me in the moonlightYou know it always feels rightWe'll dance and party all nightMambo Mambolé

You're on my mind every day you are with meAnd every night, boy, you're dancing by meWe dance united, together we are oneI'll take you there, baby, come home with meAhhhhh...

Chorus

I'm in love with your voice and your laughterAnd just one smile always makes me believeOur destiny curious if you are mineWon't you tell me that we're meant to beAhhhhh...

Chorus

Mambo Maboleo, Mambo Mambolé (x4)When you dance with me boyI know you feel my equal (x2)Mambo Maboleo, Mambo Mambolé (x4)Ahhhhh...

Chorus (x2)

La la la la la la laLa la la la la laLa la la la la la laLa la la la la

Title: "Mamboleo"Artist: Elissa

06:30 am

Tenchi woke floating.

It was not a new sensation. He had been subjected to microgravity on any number of occasions, though he never really got too enthusiastic over it. It was the circumstances that usually got him excited.

Take this particular instance, for example: he was naked, as was his wife; she had her arms and legs wrapped around him, and her head hovered over his left shoulder; and they were swaddled in loosely wound blankets. Tenchi listened to her gentle snoring, and when he moved she responded by tightening her grip.

"Mihoshi?" he whispered. He eased her head and shoulders away, bringing her face into view. Framed as it was by her gently billowing cloud of golden hair, she looked remarkably angelic. "Mihoshi?"

The cool breeze that filled the new gap between them caused her to shiver, and she opened her eyes. They were as blue as the sky, and just as deep. She smiled. "Hi."

"It's time to wake up," Tenchi said, returning her smile.

"Oh, I suppose." She withdrew her arms from the blankets and extended them like wings, arching backwards as she stretched. Still anchored by her legs, her motion caused a rolling oscillation in their weightless formation. Tenchi suppressed his urge to panic, knowing that she was accomplished at zero-gee acrobatics. As expected, she stopped their yawing spin by snapping her arms back around him. The motions cancelled one another, and they hovered calmly. They were nose-to-nose, and she kissed him gently.

"I know we've been married for over a year, but would you please tell me again why we sleep in here, rather than in the bed?" He nodded towards the four-poster visible beyond the glowing wall of the force field.

"Because I spend three weeks out of every month alone in that bed. When you're with me, I don't want to waste the time tossing and turning and fighting over the blankets. In here, I can sleep all night with you in my arms, and never need to change positions. This is our special place."

"Oh," he replied.

"Are you sure we have to wake up?" she asked, kissing his neck.

"Yes. My belly is empty and my bladder is full."

"H-m-m-m, now that you mention it, so are mine." She began a series of small movements designed to send them drifting down to the controls in the floor. Tenchi recalled how she had used similar movements the night before — several times — with a much more erotic purpose in mind. She was watching his face, and grinned as his thoughts revealed themselves.

"I could just teleport us out of here," he offered.

"Now where's the fun in that?" she giggled. She reached outwards slowly and pressed the control panel, and gravity returned as the walls of the shield faded. They steadied each other for a moment, but maintained the embrace even after the re-acclimation. Her mood turned somber. "Well, so much for this month." She was referring to the fact that it was the end of her week, and tonight would begin Ayeka's turn.

"Mihoshi? Do you ever regret this arrangement?"

She pulled away from him just far enough to look into his eyes. "Never. The day you asked me to marry you I knew I couldn't have you all to myself. And three weeks without you is a small price to pay for one week with you." She smiled for him, canting her head slightly. "Besides, the perks that come with being an empress are pretty good compensation."

06:42 am

Washu was sitting at the dining room table, holding Achika and watching as Sasami set the breakfast dishes on the table. "Are you sure you don't need any help?"

"No thanks, Washu. I've got it." She was humming happily, especially cheerful. After all, there was a Royal Ball tonight, and that meant dancing and music and pretty costumes. She was looking forward to it.

Washu shrugged and played with Achika, who was steadily drooling down her nightie. Washu casually reached into a hole that appeared in the air behind her, and withdrew a bib decorated with crabs and Lighthawk Wings. She pulled this over her daughter's head. She heard a door open and looked up to see Tenchi and Mihoshi walking into the dining room. Both faces lit-up when they saw Washu and Achika.

Tenchi kissed Washu and lifted his daughter up to his shoulder. Mihoshi put a kiss on the baby's cheek and went into the kitchen. "How's daddy's little princess this morning, eh?" He pulled out the chair next to Washu and sat down, shifting Achika onto his lap.

"Drooling like a leaky faucet," Washu replied. "She must get that from her daddy."

"Ha, ha," he replied drolly.

Washu leaned forward to whisper to her daughter. "Must be daddy's sloppy kisses, huh?" She looked up to see Tenchi's lopsided grin, and the tilt of his eyebrows promised retribution at another time and place. Her own eyebrows wriggled in response.

Just then Tenchi's shirt began pulling in different directions, and a pair of female hands appeared. The attached arms twined around his shoulders, where a mop of spiky cyan hair protruded. "Good morning, Darling!"

"Good morning, Ryoko," he replied, enduring the glomping calmly.

Ryoko started to slide onto his lap and discovered it was already occupied. "Hey! Since when did you start sitting in Auntie Ryoko's place?" She poked Achika's belly gently and kissed her forehead. The kiss she gave daddy was much longer. "We'll continue this later," she whispered into his ear, and then sat in the chair next to him. She nodded to Washu, who smiled back.

"My, what a noisy group this morning," Ayeka said around a yawn. She walked into the dining room belly-first, heading directly for her husband. A peck on the cheek, a kiss for the baby, and she settled into the chair next to Washu. "Good morning, Washu."

"'Morning, Ayeka. How are you feeling?" She gestured towards Ayeka's swollen stomach.

"He's been running laps all night," she answered, placing a hand on her belly. "I think he wants to play with his sister."

"All in due time," Washu replied. She watched as Ryoko lifted the baby from Tenchi's lap.

"Well, you certainly are wet this morning. Tell you what, let's sit here and watch Auntie Ayeka drool all over herself — maybe you can learn a few new techniques."

Ayeka refused to rise to the bait. "I think she's already found the expert in that area."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning that you can probably teach her more about disgusting habits and rude behavior than I will ever be able to."

Ryoko stuck out her tongue, which Ayeka mirrored.

"Oh, good, everyone's awake!" Sasami brought in a tray of hot food, followed by Mihoshi with a tray containing a teapot and cups.

"Gee, Sasami, you're sure chipper this morning," Ryoko observed. She passed the baby back to Tenchi, and started filling her plate.

"The Ball is tonight! I think we'll all have a lot fun." She took her seat at the table. "Kiyone is coming, isn't she?"

"Uh, huh," Mihoshi nodded.

"Has she got a date?" Ryoko asked.

Mihoshi nodded again.

"Who?" Ayeka asked.

"One of the knights she met at Tenchi's coronation. I forget his name. You can ask her yourself when she comes over later."

"When is that?" Washu asked.

"Sometime this morning, so we can look over dresses for tonight."

"Oooh, sounds like fun. Can I help?"

"Sure, Sasami. Pass me the tea, will you?"

07:12 am

"Empress Ryoko Masaki Jurai...now doesn't that sound marvelous?" Ryoko asked. She pushed away her breakfast dishes and leaned back, her appetite for mischief replacing her appetite for food.

"Don't be so enamored of that title," Ayeka replied. "It's honorary, not official. You remain a consort."

"Hmmmph. You're just mad because you have to share it."

"And you're just mad because I am an empress in name and fact."

"I hate to break it to you, little princess, but you're still a consort, too. I don't recall anyone putting a crown on your head — just Tenchi's." Ryoko smiled, baring her fangs.

"Ooooh! It is fortunate for you that I am restricted from using my Power attributes during this pregnancy."

"Admit it: you're just hiding behind that fetus."

That barb stung. Ryoko's eyes twinkled as Ayeka rose ponderously from her seat, pushing her chair backwards as her belly settled on the edge of the table. She laid her palms on the tabletop and leaned forward, glaring at Ryoko. "Are you insinuating that I am a coward?" she hissed.

Sasami and Mihoshi exchanged nervous glances, and Washu grumbled irritably. Tenchi handed Achika back to Washu, who watched as he rose silently and went into the common room.

Ryoko's wolfish grin spread wider. "Did I say that? Perhaps that's just your guilty conscience pricking you, not your son moving around."

Tenchi reappeared in the doorway. "Ladies?"

"My conscience is clear. You're the one that struggles with your baser instincts: your gold-digging opportunism is just another bad habit from your days as a pirate." Her lips spread into a predatory smile. "It's probably just a matter of time before Tenchi has to issue another public pardon for you."

"Ladies!" Tenchi said again, louder and sharper.

Ryoko leapt to her feet, and the table shook as she slammed her hands down onto its surface. Her nose was nearly touching Ayeka's, and sparks flickered in the air between their eyes. "Better watch yourself, little princess. You may be biting off more than you can chew."

"LADIES!" Tenchi's voice had escalated to a tone he rarely used. Command authority (backed by the awesome power he wielded) could not be ignored. Both women paused, faces flushed, turning to face the Emperor. "Come here." Reluctantly, they approached, shoulder to shoulder, expecting a lecture at the least, a tongue-lashing at the worst. What they received surprised them both: he withdrew his arms from behind his back, a large pillow dangling from each hand. "Choose your weapons."

Each woman's face rippled with emotions: shock relief wicked glee. They reached for the pillows.

"Ah-ah-ah! You have to promise to keep it in there," he said, indicating the common room, "and to keep the breakage to a minimum."

"Deal!" Ryoko said, grabbing a pillow and kissing his cheek.

"Agreed!" Ayeka said, snatching the other pillow and kissing his other cheek.

Side-by-side they disappeared into the common room. The shouting resumed immediately.

Tenchi just shook his head and returned to his seat at the table.

Washu smirked with admiration. "Well done, Dear." Sasami and Mihoshi nodded, both visibly relieved by the argument's relocation.

"They haven't had a real knock-down-drag-out fight in a couple of months. They're overdue. This way there won't be any scratches or bruises or burns to complicate things before tonight's Ball."

"I agree completely," Washu answered. "You know, for a moment there I thought you were running out on us." Her gesture included Mihoshi and Sasami, as well as herself and the baby.

"Well, I did consider it," he sighed. "But those days are over." There was a loud thump from the common room. "At least there is nothing truly valuable in there."

"Mihoshi, will you help me clear away the dishes?" Sasami asked.

Mihoshi nodded, rising.

"And I should probably get ready for my morning meeting," Tenchi said. He stood, gave each a kiss, and then teleported directly to his room.

By the time Tenchi had showered, shaved, and dressed, the sounds of struggle from the common room had subsided. He considered just teleporting directly to the garage, leaving Ryoko behind. But he knew he would catch hell from her for leaving without her, and Funaho would give him grief for leaving the palace grounds without his bodyguard. Yielding to practicality, he opened his door and looked around. Half the furniture had been upended, one bookshelf had been emptied, and all of the lamps lay scattered about the floor. Each of the combatants sat in chairs, breathing heavily, hair askew, limbs akimbo, and looking remarkably satisfied. "Feel better?"

"Yes," Ayeka replied.

"Yep," Ryoko answered. She noticed his clothes. "Where do you think you're going?"

"I have a meeting at the admiralty this morning."

"Not without me, you don't," she floated out of her chair and vanished. She appeared moments later in her security uniform, hair combed, face washed, and communicator clipped to her belt. "Ready whenever you are, lover."

09:07 am

"A pillowfight?" The question came from Kiyone who stood just inside the common room door beside Funaho and Misaki. The latter two simply chuckled.

"Yes," Ayeka replied, blushing. She and Sasami and Mihoshi were putting a sofa back on its feet. Sasami and Mihoshi giggled.

"Actually, it was Tenchi's idea," Washu said in Ayeka's defense. Ayeka flashed her a grateful smile.

"Tenchi sanctioned this?" Kiyone still sounded incredulous.

"Personally, I thought it was a masterstroke of diplomacy," Washu said. "No one was hurt, it relieved the stress, and nothing of any value was broken." Washu passed Achika into Misaki's outstretched hands.

"Although I think I pulled a muscle," Ayeka said quietly, rubbing her lower back.

"If its any consolation, Ryoko was limping a little," Washu smirked.

"Have I ever mentioned how refreshing it is to visit this wing of the Palace?" Funaho asked. "It always puts my day in perspective. Sasami, Dear, do you have any tea brewed?"

"Sure do. You want some, Mother? Kiyone?" Misaki and Kiyone both nodded.

"We'll join you as soon as we're done in here," Ayeka said.

"Where's Ryoko?" Kiyone asked, pausing to look again at the clutter. "She helped make this mess."

"True, but she had to accompany Tenchi on his errands. That had the higher priority."

10:41 am

Ryoko followed Tenchi into the limousine, settling beside him on the bench seat. She nodded as the engine revved to life and the gravitics kicked-in, lifting them away from the admiralty roof pad, the honor guard, and the knot of saluting flag officers. Around them, the security detail assumed formation. Their car changed direction until its nose pointed toward the Palace. She relaxed.

In fact, she slid onto her husband's lap and began nuzzling his neck. "T-e-n-n-n-c-h-i-i-i-i...?" she whispered.

"H-m-m-m?" he answered, lost in thought.

"Whatcha thinkin'?" she began nibbling on his ear.

"About the meeting," he replied absently.

"Know what I'm thinkin'?"

"No, Ryoko, what are you thinking?"

"That we're all alone in here, and I have to wait another week to be with you, and a week is a long time, and did I mention that we're all alone in here?"

"You're incorrigible," he said.

"No, I'm horny."

"We'll be back at the Palace in fifteen minutes. There isn't time."

"There is if I tell the driver to make it an hour and fifteen minutes." Before he could object, she floated up and through the privacy shield. He watched her speak to the driver, who grinned and nodded. Ryoko phased back into the passenger compartment just as all of the windows darkened. Tenchi's last view of the driver before the panel went opaque was of him laughing into a headset.

Before returning to his lap, Ryoko phased out of her uniform, which dropped to the floor like a deflated balloon. She started untying his tunic lacing.

"You know, I should learn that trick."

"All it takes is practice, lover." She pushed him onto his back and straddled him. "I sure am glad these seats are so big!"

10:48 am

Kiyone followed Mihoshi into her suite, stopping to stare at the zero-gee generator that occupied a sizeable portion of the bedroom. "You know, Mihoshi, I still can't believe you have that thing in here."

"That was my wedding present from Washu," Mihoshi replied, as she flipped through the gowns hanging in her closet. "I also use it to meet my zero-gee simulator requirements. I've actually improved my maneuverability rating!"

"Uh, if you don't mind my asking, just how did you learn to use it for...?"

"Zero-gee sex? From those manuals over there." She pointed towards a stack of disks sitting on a shelf. Kiyone walked over and retrieved the top disk, reading the label. Her eyes bulged.

"Mihoshi, where did you get these?"

"Do you remember Nenora Shyzira over in Vice?" Kiyone nodded. "Well, there was a big raid on an orbiting brothel in her sector a while back, and one of the confiscated documents was that multi-part training manual. It was so thoroughly detailed and illustrated that dozens of informal copies got passed around the sector office. I made a deal with her to get a copy, once Tenchi and I decided where we were spending our honeymoon." Mihoshi started pulling gowns out of the closet, laying them across her bed. "What do you think of this blue dress?"

"That one looks good, and that red one is promising." She returned the disk to its stack and walked over to the closet. They soon had a small pile of dresses.

Mihoshi yawned, loud and long.

Kiyone grinned at her. "What's the matter, Tenchi keep you up last night?"

"Actually, I kept him up." She paused, and then giggled at the double entendre. "We didn't go to sleep until well past midnight."

"Well, you don't look any worse for wear," Kiyone replied, referring to the fact that sex between Power adepts could get downright debilitating if pushed to extremes.

"I have to admit, I am starting to feel that feverish/numb sensation. The burn-out will get worse over the next couple of days." Mihoshi sat on the bed, sorting though the gowns. She stopped to look at the zero-gee generator and sighed. "My week ended this morning, and I miss him already."

Kiyone sat on the opposite side of the dress pile. "Mihoshi? Do you ever regret this arrangement?"

"Funny, Tenchi asked me the same thing this morning. I keep telling myself that it's just like being married to a sailor, and that he is gone three weeks out of every four. I can see him and talk to him, of course; I just can't 'have' him. No, I don't regret this arrangement, but I do resent it sometimes. I get kinda lonesome..."

"Would you ever consider, you know, cheating? Or divorce?"

Mihoshi shook her head emphatically. "No! I love him, and he loves me. We can't help it if the circumstances are just so unusual. It could be much worse." She brushed moisture from the corner of one eye, and sniffed. "I'll never give him up." She gathered her dresses and headed for the door, with Kiyone following slowly behind her.

11:53 am

Tenchi and Ryoko entered the common room. Neither was surprised to see it had been cleaned-up, although Ryoko cackled quietly at having gotten out of yet another chore. Tenchi frowned at her.

They found the dining room table covered with dresses, magazines, and a couple of make-up cases. Funaho and Washu sat at one end of the table, chairs pulled together so they could look at the reports and diagrams displayed by her spectral computer. Everyone else was in the kitchen, working on lunch...and singing. Ryoko followed the a cappella harmony, Tenchi grabbed a chair at random and plopped into it.

"Welcome back, sweetie," Washu said without looking up. "How was your meeting?"

"They want more money, as usual. And they're eager to see the prototype you've been working on."

"All in due time," she replied.

"They always want more money," Funaho added. "They usually have good intentions, but their accountability leaves something to be desired. What did you tell them?"

"Money doesn't grow on trees...even Royal Trees. The Ministry of Finance will have to be consulted."

"Good answer." She smiled at her great-grandson, who grinned back.

There was a peal of laughter from the kitchen, a short verbal exchange, and another chorus was launched. Tenchi leaned on the table, listening. He liked what he heard. A clatter of utensils and a second burst of laughter terminated the tune.

"Oh, hi, Tenchi!" Sasami beamed, peeking around the doorjamb. "Hungry?"

"Yeah, I am, as a matter of fact."

"Well, lunch won't be long. Hey!" she turned to face into the kitchen. "Get your stuff off of the table — unless you want your dresses used as placemats!"

Mihoshi and Ayeka entered the room, smiled for their husband, gathered the gowns, and disappeared into the common room. Tenchi heard two doors open and close. Kiyone strolled in from the kitchen, nibbling on a carrot. She nodded to Tenchi, and passed a carrot to Ryo-ohki, who "Miya!"-ed and scampered under the table.

"How are you today, Kiyone?"

"Not bad," she answered, sitting on the edge of the table. "I got my reports done for Lady Funaho, A letter written to my parents, and my dress ready for tonight. And all by noon!"

"Did you help Mihoshi get squared away?"

"Yeah, that too." She started stacking magazines and sealing make-up cases. "How about you?"

"Another meeting." Mihoshi and Ayeka returned, removed the magazines and cases, and disappeared again. "So, I hear you're going to the Ball tonight?"

Kiyone expelled an irritated sigh. "As I've already explained to the interrogators," she nodded towards the kitchen, "I'm going with Sir Trinnard Qualston."

"That's nice," he said. His lack of curiosity had a calming effect on Kiyone (one less nose inserted into her private life). His eyes focused on the clouds visible through the windows, and his mind drifted away to another place and time. When he looked up again, he saw Kiyone's, Ayeka's, and Mihoshi's backs passing into the kitchen. There was more jostling crockery and the singing started again. His thoughts centered on their voices, and an idea popped into his head. He spent several moments considering it, approaching it from different angles.

"Uh, oh, I recognize that look," Washu's voice intruded into his ruminations. She was just dismissing her keyboard, and Funaho studied him from behind a bemused expression.

"What look?" Tenchi asked innocently.

"That I-just-had-an-epiphany look. Should I go get you a can of whoop-ass or a dose of reality?"

"Ha, ha. And I still owe you for that 'sloppy kisses' remark you made this morning."

"Oh? And just when do you intend to collect, h-m-m-m?" Her lecherous grin was obvious — and hopeful.

"Lunch is ready!" Sasami announced, carrying a tureen in from the kitchen. The others followed, bearing bowls, platters, a teapot, and cups. Last through the door was Misaki, carrying a laughing Achika. Achika was passed to her mommy, and everyone sat down.

The meal commenced, although Tenchi was content to just watch the activity.

"Aren't you eating, Tenchi?" Ryoko asked.

"Oh, yeah," he replied, reaching for the ladle. "Not enough sleep lately, I guess." Everyone else in the room turned to look at Mihoshi, who blushed and giggled.

"Actually, he's chewing over some new idea," Washu announced.

"What idea is that, Beloved?" Ayeka asked.

"Well, as I was listening to you ladies singing in there, a thought occurred to me."

"Only one? You need more practice." Ryoko laughed at her own jest.

"What's your idea, Tenchi?" Sasami asked.

"Why don't we hire a vocal coach? You ladies always had fun singing along with the karaoke machine, but you hardly ever sang together. Maybe some professional pointers would make singing as a group more interesting."

"What a novel idea!" Ayeka exclaimed. Ryoko, Mihoshi, Kiyone, and Sasami agreed; Washu merely raised an eyebrow and exchanged glances with Funaho.

"If you'd like, I can locate a good teacher for you," Misaki offered.

12:26 pm

"Well, I hate to eat and run, but I have a lot to do this afternoon. As always, Sasami, the soup was great."

"Thanks, Kiyone. I'll look for you at the Ball tonight."

"I'll be there. 'Bye, all!" Kiyone's footsteps echoed from the common room, finally stopped by the sound of a closing door.

Ayeka rose and began gathering bowls. Mihoshi started collecting cups. Ryoko leaned back to watch.

"You managed to avoid tidying-up the common room this morning, but we expect you to help with the lunch dishes." Ayeka glared at Ryoko.

To everyone's surprise, Ryoko smiled and started gathering silverware. "Not a problem."

"Thanks, Ryoko," Sasami said.

"Sure, Kiddo." Ryoko waited until Tenchi was watching her, then winked conspiratorially. She carried her load into the kitchen.

"Ryoko? What are you wearing tonight?" Mihoshi asked, as she followed Ryoko into the kitchen. Ryoko's reply was muffled.

Cleanup only took a few minutes, and then everyone was back at the table. They were all staring at Tenchi.

"Uh, now what?" he asked.

"Well..." Sasami answered. She slipped from her chair, circled the table, and dropped onto his lap. "I think it's time to reward the cook with a free-fall ride!"

Tenchi laughed. "But I just ate!"

"No excuses. Let's go!"

"Yes, Princess, as you command." Tenchi wrapped his arms around her and they vanished.

"Hey! Wait for me!" Ryoko floated above the table and vanished as well.

"What's that all about?" Funaho asked. Tenchi's wives chuckled.

"Just a little entertainment, Lady Funaho. They'll be back in a minute," Mihoshi replied.

Sure enough, Tenchi and Sasami reappeared in an empty corner. They were red-faced and wind-blown, and Sasami was laughing uproariously. She grabbed Ayeka's arms and pulled her to her feet. "You're next, Sister!"

"Now Sasami, I don't know if this is — " Ayeka's reply was cut-off as Tenchi's arms encircled her and they disappeared.

"Oh, that is so much fun!" She ran over and gave her mother a big hug.

"Sasami, your skin is cold! Where were you?"

Sasami just giggled, and started tugging Mihoshi out of her chair. "C'mon, Mihoshi, they'll be back in a minute!"

Tenchi and Ayeka blinked into the corner. Ayeka's azure hair was frizzed wildly, and her clothes were rumpled. Her face was red, and she was laughing so hard so that she had to lean against a wall for support.

"Next!" Tenchi said. Mihoshi leaped into his arms and they teleported.

"Washu?"

"Now, Sasami, it isn't very dignified..."

"If I can do it, you most certainly can," Ayeka said.

"Oh, very well. You kids are impossible." She stood and passed Achika back to Misaki, then started around the table.

Tenchi and Mihoshi reappeared. Mihoshi's blond hair sprayed backwards like a shock of drying grain. She was giggling and hopping with excitement. She kissed Tenchi's cheek before prancing away. Washu stepped into Tenchi's arms, and they vanished.

"Where have you been?" Misaki asked.

Sasami looked at Ayeka, and grinned. "Maybe Tenchi should give Mother a ride."

"What a charming idea," Ayeka replied, grinning wickedly. "Here, Mother, I will hold the baby while you — "

"I don't think so, Ayeka."

"Oh, c'mon," Sasami pleaded. "It's fun!"

"Are you afraid, Mother?" Ayeka asked, eyebrow raised and head canted.

Tenchi and Washu blinked back into the room. Washu's red hair spikes were practically horizontal, and she was chuckling.

Ryoko reappeared. "Any more takers?"

"I believe my mother is next," Ayeka answered.

Ryoko's fangs appeared, her smile mirroring Ayeka's. "Way to go, Lady Misaki! What about you, Lady Funaho?"

"If Misaki will do it, I will do it."

Misaki conceded defeat. "Alright, Tenchi, let's go." Tenchi's face was bright red, whether wind-blown or embarrassed no one could say. He put his arms around his mother-in-law's waist and they disappeared. Ryoko vanished as well.

"Could you at least give me a clue as to what this is all about?" Funaho asked. All she received were grins. She rose from her seat, double-checking the fasteners on her robes.

Tenchi and Misaki reappeared. Misaki was laughing, trying to pull her hair down and robes closed. "Thank, you, Tenchi. That was certainly memorable!"

Funaho mustered her dignity and stepped forward. "Proceed," she told her great-grandson. He stepped behind her, she felt his arms tighten around her waist, and the sudden disorientation of teleportation. Her eyes closed reflexively.

When she opened her eyes, her breath caught in her throat. They were three-and-a-half kilometers above the palace and falling. Fast. She fought the urge to panic. Tenchi was still behind her, keeping her steadied facedown, and Ryoko was flying alongside. The air was clear and cold, and she could see for kilometers in all directions. The wind was roaring past them, and her robes were flapping with thunderous applause. She felt he ears pop.

Tenchi - Relax! Spread your arms and legs and let them act like wings

The voice in her head startled her, until she realized Tenchi was using a mind link (the wind was too loud for conversation). She found breathing difficult, so she just held her breath. She resisted for only a second, before common sense reasserted itself: she was perfectly safe with her great-grandson; her family had all been through this experience in the last few minutes, and had enjoyed themselves immensely; and since the airspace over the Palace was off-limits to commercial aircraft, they were in no danger of a collision. So, she forced herself to relax and follow Tenchi's advice.

It took no time at all to realize that it was like flying. Her smile mirrored Tenchi's and Ryoko's.

Tenchi waited until they were close to the building before embracing her, and they teleported back into the dining room. Her hair was a mess, her robes were in disarray, and her skin was red and cold. But she hadn't felt so light-hearted in ages. "Thank you, Tenchi. That was marvelous!"

"My pleasure, Funaho."

Ryoko cleared her throat. "Excuse me, but aren't you forgetting someone?"

Tenchi turned to her, puzzled.

"What about my turn?"

"Ah." He nodded once, wrapped his arms around Ryoko, and they disappeared.

"Tenchi looked chilled, didn't he?" Mihoshi asked.

"Yeah," Sasami replied. "Maybe he should have taken a jacket. I'll leave the tea on the burner for him. Mother, can you help me pick out my dress?"

"Of course, Sasami." Misaki and Sasami drifted into the common room.

"And I think I'll take a nice hot bath," Mihoshi announced. "And a nap." She left, leaving Funaho and Ayeka watching out a window, while Washu started changing Achika's diaper.

12:44 pm

Tenchi and Ryoko reappeared. They lacked the wind-blown look, and she her arms twined about one of his elbows.

"You two were sure gone long enough," Ayeka said. She wasn't smiling.

"I was cold, so we went for a walk in the garden instead."

"Yeah, so just calm down. You get him tonight, after all," Ryoko said. She released his arm and sauntered over to the window where Ayeka was standing. "Unless you'd like to trade weeks?"

"No, I would not." She paused, looking at her hands. "Actually, I have something special planned for tonight after the Ball."

"Oh? Do tell."

Ayeka hesitated, and then took Ryoko's arm as she had taken Tenchi's, steering her for the common room. "Well, do you remember that discussion we had a few weeks ago...?"

Tenchi watched them exit from the chair he had taken. He flinched when he heard Ryoko break into raucous laughter. He groaned silently. Then he became aware of figures flanking him: Washu on his left, Funaho on his right.

"Ok, Tenchi, what gives?" Washu asked.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Tenchi replied.

"The voice lessons. What's your ulterior motive?"

"Am I that obvious?"

"Mmm-hmmm."

"Ok," he sighed. "I figured that if you ladies can learn to blend your voices, you can learn to blend your Power attributes."

"Not bad," Washu said, placing a hand on her husband's shoulder. "You continue to amaze me, Tenchi."

"How very prescient of you," Funaho added.

"Just one more preparation for our eventual meeting with Lady Tokimi."

The room grew suddenly very still, and Washu's grip on his shoulder tightened.

"So, you know about her, huh?" Washu's voice was hushed.

"I know of her, yes."

"How did you find out? I thought you couldn't read my mind?"

"I can't. But you talk in your sleep. Quite a bit, actually." Tenchi grinned as she face-faulted. "I've known for quite a while."

"This warrants further discussion," Funaho said.

"Yeah," Washu agreed. "Let's go down to my lab, Tenchi, and I'll fill you in on the details."

"And I will return to my duties. I will see you both tonight at the Ball."

01:09 pm

Washu tucked Achika into her floating bassinet. They were in Washu's lab, around her main console.

Tenchi watched from his hover cushion. He yawned. "Washu, do you have any more of those vitamin supplements? And maybe a stimulant?"

"Sure, just a minute." She adjusted the sound damper in the bassinet, then reached into a hole that appeared in the air beside her. She extracted a hypospray and two cartridges. She attached one of the cylinders to the pistol-shaped instrument, put it to Tenchi's neck, and pulled the trigger. Tenchi felt a mild burn as the contents were injected into his bloodstream. A moment later, the second cartridge was emptied as well. "That should do it."

"Thanks."

The medical supplies went back into the hole, which irised close. "You realize, of course, that when that stimulant starts mixing with all of the tea you've had today, you're liable to be vibrating for a while."

"Oh, great. Any suggestions?"

"Well, as a matter of fact..." A door appeared beside her. She entered, beckoning him to join her. He slid off the cushion and followed her.

The chamber contained nothing but a bed and ceiling lights. "Washu..."

"You'll thank me for this later. Besides, don't I still 'owe you' for this morning's remark?" Her grin was devious, and her eyes sparkled.

Tenchi sighed. He was starting to flush all over, and he felt a rush as the stimulant kicked-in. Washu nodded approvingly and reached for his tunic lacing.

02:03 pm

"That's all I can tell you, because that's all I can remember." Washu lay against his ribs, her head on his chest. "Pieces of my memory started surfacing after that discussion with Clay. It's hard to pin Tsunami down to anything, but she did confirm the memories. I let Funaho in on the secret because I think we're going to need her help."

Tenchi idly massaged Washu's shoulders, lost in thought.

"Well?"

"You were a goddess?" he asked, voice tinged with disbelief.

"Don't be impressed by the title, my love. It just means a highly evolved life form, not some mythically omnipotent deity."

"And that was your deep, dark secret? The one you didn't want me extracting from your mind?"

"Oh, there are others, though none quite so overwhelming." She rolled over on top of him, so that she could look into his eyes. Her long hair spilled over her shoulders and down her bare backside like a scarlet blanket. "I was afraid you might be scared off if I told you earlier."

Tenchi realized this was one of those rare moments when she had lowered all of her defenses. She hated feeling the least bit vulnerable, and that she was doing so now was significant. "I'm not going anywhere" he said softly. "This is my home."

She sighed, relieved, knowing full well the implications of that statement. "I'm very proud of you, you know."

"I know."

04.51 pm

"Again." Kaline Breexandra Sensei paced the practice room slowly. Two sets of partners were dressed in workout clothing and faced one another, each armed with twin training short-swords. Kaline had been retained by the Emperor to continue his and his wife's martial training, and so she arrived every afternoon at the palace, bringing an assortment of practice weapons and her two senior students — son Jeey and nephew Cawan — for an hour of hard work and bruises. When first approached by a royal courier, she had hesitated; after all, there were hundreds of martial arts schools in the capitol city alone, thousands across the planet, tens of thousands across the empire...why would the new Ruler of Humanity choose her? And then the connection between the young man's grandfather and her own father had been made apparent. She had accepted the honor immediately.

Kaline hadn't really known what to expect. Tales of the chivalrous boy-king were legion, even after such a short time in the public spotlight. His grandfather's skill had been legendary, and her own father had been immensely proud of his greatest student. Yosho's athleticism, kinetic intuition, and tactical flair had combined with his clairvoyant Power attributes to mold him into the greatest swordsman of his generation. And after a few lessons with Tenchi Masaki Jurai, it was apparent that the genetics ran true. Even with his own his own Power attributes suppressed, the Emperor was a formidable swordsman.

But His Majesty's technical skills needed some polishing, and in some cases outright correction. As was explained to her, Yosho was still alive on the young man's homeworld, stranded for 700 years on a primitive planet where swords were still made of metal. Yosho had been forced to modify his techniques to employ the local weapons: the circular movements that constituted the core of her family style had become linear, to accommodate the planar blades. The Emperor had spent most of his youth learning the adaptations, and had only recently been introduced to their roots. An interesting situation for a technician such as herself.

The Empress Ryoko, on the other hand, was a much simpler situation. She had never received anything beyond rudimentary training. She had survived by her wits and strength and reflexes and Power attributes. She was a consummate brawler, cunning and relentless...and, thus, her husband's antithesis. She had little patience for learning forms and theories, so Kaline taught her strategies and techniques. Brutal efficiency in a beautiful package.

And little by little the couple was being brought to parity.

"Again." Tenchi initiated the two-weapon pattern, a complicated tracery in the air across his centerline. Jeey received the attack, redirecting each strike harmlessly to the sides. A pause, and then her son initiated and Tenchi countered. The two men flowed together like a well-oiled machine, and Kaline nodded approvingly. Ryoko and Cawan worked the same pattern, only somewhat less successfully. Ryoko was impatient, anticipating her partner's moves, and barely restraining her aggressive nature. Cawan patiently endured another collapsed pattern. Kaline waited until they had stopped, before approaching.

"Your Majesty, you need to slow down the movements. You are too eager."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Ryoko replied irritably.

Kaline sighed silently, reminding herself once again of the mirrored faces of challenge and opportunity. She called for five more repetitions and brought the exercise to a halt. Each participant bowed to their partner and stepped away, weapons lowered to their sides.

"Empress Ryoko, would you, Jeey, and Cawan please step over here? Thank you. Your Majesty, how comfortable do you feel with the solo drills?"

Tenchi shrugged. "I believe I have the movements memorized, Sensei, but I fear they lack precision at this point."

"I would like to make that assessment for myself, if you please. Show me the first pattern." Tenchi nodded, stepped forward and bowed. He brought the weapons into their en guarde posture, and set them weaving in the air in an interlocking figure-eight pattern. His feet were solidly planted, and this propelled his entire upper body like a pumping piston. The training blades whistled softly. "Now the second pattern." The figure-eight sifted from the horizontal plane to the vertical plane, without pause. Kaline studied the details of leg and arm placement, before calling for the third pattern. This was a combination of the first two movements, defining a cloverleaf whose 'petals' hovered just beyond Tenchi's shoulders and hips. After a moment, she stopped him. "Very good, your Majesty. Now, please, the third pattern at full speed and full power."

"'Full power?' You want me to perform the pattern with my Power attributes?"

"Yes, Your Majesty. I want to see the pattern applied with a life-or-death commitment."

"Yes, Sensei." Tenchi assumed the en guarde posture again, only this time his eyes hardened and the three-pronged emblem of Power flared into visibility upon his brow. Without warning, the practice weapons blurred into invisibility, humming audibly in the air before him. His arms appeared as smeared extensions of his shoulders, and his upper body rocked so fast that it vibrated. At their present speed, Tenchi's practice weapons were lethal projectiles. Impressive as the sight was, even more profound was the reaction to his untethered Power envelope. Kaline and her kinsmen were rated as novice level adepts, and normally displayed very minor susceptibility to Power manifestations. But even they recoiled from the Emperor's aura, so powerful was it. Kaline could see her sons wrestling with the fear in their eyes, and she herself felt a compulsion to embrace the Emperor. One look at Empress Ryoko — a Master Class adept — and Kaline could see her titanic struggle for self-control.

"Stop!"

Tenchi froze, and slowly uncoiled from his stance. The heat in his eyes faded, as did the Emblem of Power. Everyone in the room needed several deep breaths to recover.

"I believe that will conclude today's exercises," Kaline said, once she had control of her voice.

06.39 pm

"Geez, I hate this." Tenchi tugged at his tight collar. He was dressed in a suit made of a finely-woven, shimmery cloth — but he had to question the mentality that demanded ties for Earth formalwear, and braided collars for Juraian formalwear. He was the Emperor, after all, he should be able to do something about it. He fiddled with his Knight's medallion.

"Quit fidgeting," came the reply in five voices. They all looked at one another at laughed.

Tenchi made an irritated gesture and dropped into one of the common room chairs. His family was gathered around the chamber, helping one another with 'finishing touches.' A matronly security officer sat in one of the other chairs, one eye on the floating bassinet and the other on the remainder of the Royal Family. She wrestled a smile off of her face.

Tenchi considered teleporting one of his books out of his office, and decided against the notion. He had learned that there were times he had better be paying attention to his wives, no matter what they were doing. And this was one of those times. He swallowed his discomfort and forced himself to relax.

They all wore gowns that matched their eyes; but where Ryoko, Mihoshi, and Washu wore strapless dresses, Ayeka's was cut in a style to flatter her pregnant profile, and Sasami's was styled modestly to reflect her age. They were each simply breathless to behold. Tenchi would have been proud to escort any one of them to a Ball, and here he was lucky enough to take them all. Sometimes, it really was Good To Be The King.

They were finally at the 'adding accessories' stage: helping each other fasten necklaces and position brooches. "You know, the only jewelry you ladies really need are your wedding rings."

"We'll take your advice under consideration, Beloved," Ayeka replied.

" — Not!" Ryoko added.

Tenchi shrugged.

Mihoshi finished first. "Well? How does this look?"

"Gorgeous," Tenchi said, and meant it. Mihoshi beamed. "Of course, I'm rather biased."

"And you'd better stay that way," Ryoko warned him. "Social functions like this tend to bring out the predators." She swapped glances with her 'sisters,' and they all nodded. They were married to the greatest Power adept in human space, and he inevitably attracted female Power adepts like moths to a flame. They had agreed to share him among themselves, but at that point their generosity hit a brick wall. Tenchi would never be out of their sight.

Not that he objected. Much.

"I believe we are all ready," Ayeka announced. Tenchi stood, unconsciously tugging the wrinkles out of his suit. Washu made one last stop by the bassinet, and exchanged final instructions with the agent.

"Where's Ryo-ohki?" Sasami asked. "Oh, here she comes." The morphanthropic little female entered the room in her bipedal form, washed and combed, wearing gold ribbons and a matching dress. She "Miya"-ed excitedly. "Oh, you look so pretty!" Sasami gave her the kind of hug normally delivered by Misaki, and the adults in the room collectively cringed.

"Since we won't be enjoying your cooking tonight, I do hope the caterers did a good job with the buffet," Mihoshi said to Sasami. A sentiment that was echoed by Ryoko.

"I'm sure they'll do a fine job," Washu answered. "After all, they're the same firm that handled the coronation reception — and they managed to keep the tables stocked in spite of you two." She smiled at Ryoko's glare and Mihoshi's frown.

"Let's go, ladies," Tenchi said, starting for the door.

"Don't be in such haste, Beloved." Ayeka linked her arms around one of his elbows. "After all, they can't start until you get there. And you needn't be particularly punctual for these events."

"Yeah, let 'em sweat a little," Ryoko added, taking his other arm.

Tenchi led his family into the corridor, and started strolling towards the Grand Ballroom.

07:07 pm

Funaho and Misaki waited patiently in the private audience chamber just off the Royal Ballroom. They had performed this ritual many times over the years, cooling their heels until their late husband had made his appearance. Tradition demanded that the Emperor be escorted into the ballroom by his consort(s). Only now, they awaited the new Emperor and his family. Their attitude about the whole arrangement was decidedly different than previous occasions: they didn't have to worry that Tenchi would be indulging in 'discreet social maneuvers' like Azusa had; it just wasn't in his character. And anyway, they didn't have to worry about Tenchi at all — that chore belonged to his wives. They could relax and enjoy the festivities.

They chatted amiably, allowing the serv'bots to keep their glasses filled, and watching the guests through the security cameras. There was a minor commotion at the door, and the Royal Family entered. Funaho and Misaki exchanged grins and then bowed to His Majesty.

"Oh, cut it out you two," Tenchi replied. "I ought to be bowing to you."

"That would be counter to protocol, Tenchi," Funaho replied.

"My, you do look handsome tonight," Misaki said. "And your ladies are dazzling!"

"Well, on that last point I will have to agree with you."

"Flattery will get you anywhere you want to go," Ryoko whispered into his ear. Ayeka coughed and rolled her eyes.

"Shall we?" Tenchi gestured towards the door. Frankly, he hated what was about to happen, and wanted to get it over with. And everyone in his family knew it. With a final flurry of self-inspections, they stepped back into the corridor. The concierge saw them approach the doorway, and signaled the security staff, the orchestra, and Everyone Else Who Mattered. They could hear the music inside flutter to a halt and the rumble of conversation dwindle to silence. Tenchi stopped in the doorway, gritting his teeth and waited for the inevitable.

Trumpets blared, the gaily-dressed crowds flowed away from the center aisle, and an amplified voice announced, "His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Sir Tenchi Masaki Jurai, and Family!"

Tenchi reluctantly started forward, Ayeka still clutching his left arm, Ryoko still locked to his right. He heard the others enter behind them. Around them the crowd bowed with his passing, like sports enthusiasts doing the Wave.

"Smile, Beloved, you're supposed to be enjoying yourself!" Ayeka whispered to him. She nodded at the guests on her side of the aisle.

"Yeah, lighten-up, lover! Don't be such a drag!" Ryoko whispered. She was nodding, as well.

"You two are enjoying this 'way too much," he said.

"Deal with it," Ryoko replied. Ayeka gave his arm a gentle squeeze. He heard Sasami say something, and Mihoshi giggled.

The walk seemed to take an hour, although in fact it was just a few minutes. The room was huge, after all, and they were required to walk clear to the dais at the far end. Tenchi forced a smile, and nodded at familiar faces in the crowd. Eventually, they reached the steps and ascended. They turned and faced the room.

Tenchi cleared his throat. "I want to thank you all for coming tonight. It is a real pleasure to see so many honored guests. Please, enjoy the refreshments and entertainment!" He bowed, the crowd returned it, and the orchestra started up. No one moved, however.

"So, which one of us gets to go first?" Washu asked. Tenchi turned to see four expectant faces, and four curious ones. There would be no dancing until the Emperor started, and the Emperor had the risky task of choosing his first dance partner.

Tenchi might have been sweating nervously, if he hadn't already resolved the issue earlier. He extended his hand to Sasami, and smiled. "May I have this dance, Princess?"

Sasami's face broke into a huge grin, a blush rising around it. Her eyes twinkled. "Absolutely, Your Majesty!" Together, they descended the steps and walked well out onto the floor. Behind them, Ayeka and Ryoko growled, Mihoshi sighed, and Washu chortled. Funaho and Misaki chuckled.

"What's so funny?" Ryoko muttered.

"Yes, what is so amusing, Washu?" Ayeka snarled through a forced smile.

"Don't you two get it?" Washu answered. "Our husband is learning diplomacy! Think about it: he has four wives and two Queen Mothers to choose from, so whom does he pick without offending anyone? Answer: none of the above! Pretty slick, if you ask me. And then combine that with this morning's pillow fight..."

"I see your point," Ayeka conceded..

Ryoko nodded in agreement. "But, maybe we should decide who his next partner is going to be."

"Agreed," Ayeka said. She and Ryoko put their heads together and started whispering intently. Mihoshi joined them.

The edge of the crowd started to dissolve into couples, who joined Tenchi and Sasami on the dance floor. Washu looked down at Ryo-ohki. "Shall we go look for some carrots?" The cabbit nodded, and they descended the steps and vanished among the throng.

Two very senior military officials approached the dais and bowed, inviting Funaho and Misaki to dance. Recently widowed, they had become two of the most eligible singles in the empire. They accepted graciously.

Three brave souls approached the dais and invited Tenchi's wives to dance — and were politely refused.

07:42 pm

Ayeka and Ryoko stood by the punch bowl, filling cups and nibbling on the appetizers, chatting amiably with the handsome military officers and noblemen that clustered around them. Finally, Ayeka excused them and tugged Ryoko away.

"Thanks, Ayeka. I couldn't think of a polite way to get rid of them. If they're going to flirt, the least they could do is think of something original to say."

"Well, being pregnant has definite advantages. Of course, I really do need to visit the ladies' room."

"Then let's go." They started threading their way through the crowd, repeatedly stopped by well-wishers and gladhanders. "By the way, where's Tenchi?"

"He was dancing with Mihoshi the last time I saw him."

"She's sure looking pretty peaked." Ryoko nodded as a portly man in too-tight formalwear bowed to her.

"The burn-out is starting to manifest. I sympathize with her." Ayeka smiled at two bowing matrons.

"Yeah, me too. Ayeka, aren't you afraid that repeated sex with Tenchi, and each episode of burn-out, will have an affect on your baby?"

"I was concerned at first, but Washu assured me that it will not affect Little Azusa. Achika has shown no complications." She acknowledged a small group of naval officers and their wives. "Ryoko, may I ask you something personal?"

"Sure — I just asked you something personal."

"Have you considered having children of your own?"

Ryoko paused, and Ayeka stopped and turned to face her. "Yeah, I've thought about it. Washu told me that a few minutes in her lab will enable all the right parts. I'm just kinda hesitant, though. I spent so many years enslaved by Kagato, I'm still enjoying my freedom."

"What about Tenchi? Marriage is a binding arrangement — "

"I'm here because I want to be. It's my choice. But a child is a much bigger responsibility, you know?"

"Oh, I know," Ayeka smiled.

"I guess you do," Ryoko grinned. "Or you soon will. I just don't know if I want to be 'chained' again so soon."

Ayeka put her hand on Ryoko's arm. "I understand, Ryoko."

Ryoko was about to respond, when she saw something that distracted her.

Ayeka noticed the look on her face, and turned to follow her gaze. "What is it?"

"I see Mihoshi over talking to Kiyone and what's-his-name…"

"Sir Trinnard."

"Yeah, him. But where's Tenchi?" They both looked around, but could not see their husband. Ryoko made a gesture and one of the security guards appeared beside her.

"Yes, Your Majesty?"

"Where's the Emperor?"

The guard relayed the request through his Comm link. "He's just left the gentlemen's lounge."

"Is he with anyone?"

"Yes, Queen-Mother Misaki and two female guests."

"Thanks," Ryoko said, dismissing him. She shared a look with Ayeka, both nodded, and they moved into the crowd.

07:51 pm

Tenchi was chatting amiably when Ayeka and Ryoko found him. With long-practiced ease they slid along his flanks and locked onto his elbows. One quick glance at his startled expression, and then they turned to examine the guests he was talking to. Misaki was standing between an attractive woman her age, and a much more attractive woman their age.

"Here, you are, Darling! We wondered where'd you gotten to," Ryoko spoke to Tenchi without looking at him.

"Yes, Beloved, we were thinking it's about time that you danced with us." Ayeka spared a glance at her mother, who smiled innocently back.

Tenchi recognized the danger signs immediately. He applied his most disarming grin. "Uh, hello, ladies. Misaki was just introducing me to Professor Araciela Gayal and her daughter, Kiyuma, who are both noted voice instructors." The ladies bowed to the Empresses.

Misaki recognized the jealous glint in her daughter's eyes, and saw the tips of Ryoko's fangs peeping out from beneath her upper lip. "Yes, Ladies, don't you remember my offer from this morning?"

Ayeka and Ryoko had been probing both women, with negative results. Which meant that neither woman was a Power adept, and thus no rival. They subtly shook their heads to each other, confirming their analysis, and relaxed. Tenchi felt the air temperature around him drop, and the grips on his arms softened. He breathed a sigh of relief.

"Professor," Ayeka said, nodding. "Miss Gayal."

"Nice to meet you," Ryoko added.

"I was just telling them about our old karaoke machine back on Earth," Tenchi said.

"I'm sure we have similar devices here on Jurai," the senior Gayal said. Her voice was rich and well-modulated.

"It must have been a lot of fun," the younger Gayal added. Her voice was deep and throaty.

"Well, I do enjoy listening to my lovely Lorelei sing, but up to now they have all been solos. I think they'd make a wonderful quintet."

"We would be happy to help in any way we can, Your Majesty." Both ladies bowed gracefully.

"Excellent. Then perhaps we should bring everyone together and you can discuss a possible schedule. Ayeka? Ryoko?"

"Sounds good to me," Ryoko replied.

"That would be fine," Ayeka answered.

Tenchi opened mind links to Washu, Mihoshi, and Sasami and requested that they join him.

08:22 pm

"Have you found anyone here your own age, Sasami?"

"No, Washu, I haven't. I was kinda hoping there would be, but no one brought their kids along. It's not like Tenchi's coronation reception; there were a lot of kids here then."

Washu and Sasami were sitting in a corner, half-masked by a pillar and a throng of guests. They each put a plate on the table, and watched as Ryo-ohki successfully carried a plate of sliced carrots from the buffet line. Their nearest neighbors recognized them and did their utmost to provide some privacy.

"Well, if it's any consolation, there's no one here my age, either." Washu's smile was both ironic and gentle.

Sasami giggled. "Is there anyone your age left anywhere in the empire?"

"Believe it or not, there are few. But none of them are here tonight."

"Washu, don't you get bored by stuff like this? I was hoping to do more dancing, but Tenchi is being passed around by the others, and no one else will ask me."

"Well, all I can suggest is that you be patient. In a few years, you will be shouldering your way onto Tenchi's dance card, and some of those handsome young men will be wishing you'd dance with them."

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Of course I'm right," Washu replied.

"You still haven't answered my question, though."

"I have mixed feelings about it, Sasami. I was alone for a long time, and did my very best to avoid activities like this. But the problem with being alone is that you have no connections, no sense of linkage to anyone or anything. I have a family now, and I would spare any of you that burden of isolation." Washu selected an appetizer from her plate. "Old habits are hard to break, though, so I compromise: I tag along and I sit in the corners until I feel comfortable enough to participate."

"Or you get coerced," said Tenchi. He appeared behind Washu, placing his hands on her shoulders. "It's time for you to dance with me, Little Washu."

Washu flinched at the pet name, but covered her husband's hands with her own. "Alright, Dear. Just for you." She rose from her seat and took his proffered arm.

"And you get the next one, Sasami," Tenchi promised.

Ryoko dropped into Washu's vacant chair. "Hey, Kiddo, how's the food?"

Sasami shrugged. "Ok, I guess."

Ryoko started grazing from Washu's plate. "Nah, you do a lot better job than this stuff." She studied the youngster, finally asking, "What's wrong?"

"I'm bored. There's nothing to do, and no one to do it with."

"Well, I think you're looking at this from the wrong angle," Ryoko said between bites. "You have to learn how to people-watch. It's one of my favorite pastimes."

"Huh?"

"Take a look around and tell me what you see."

Sasami took a slow scan of the surrounding tables, and started to describe some of the gowns she saw.

"No, no, I meant look at the people. The fat ones, the skinny ones, the way they stand, the way they move. That can tell you a lot about them. For instance, see that guy with the red cummerbund?"

"Yeah..."

"Describe him for me."

"Ok. He's not real tall...kinda fat...his hair looks funny...that's about it."

"Fair enough. Now here's what I see: he's not real tall, but his shoulders are stooped, so he'd look taller if his posture was better. He doesn't get enough exercise or he wouldn't have such a big paunch. From his complexion, I'd guess his diet is pretty bad, even if he's shoveling a lot of food into his system. He has a lot of worry lines around his eyes, and his hands are shaking a bit. Either that's a toupee, or the growth stimulants aren't working correctly. His clothes don't fit right, and he's definitely not comfortable in them. He seems to be glancing around a lot, like he's nervous. I figure he has a high-stress job, and it eats most of waking time. He's staying real close to the plump woman in the pink dress, so I'd bet that his wife. She's wearing some pretty expensive jewels, so she probably has expensive tastes, and he has to work some pretty long hours to pay for her life style. There doesn't seem to be a lot of feeling between them, so she probably dragged him here, and he'd rather be back at work. She needs him or she'd dump him. Not a happy family at all."

"Wow, Ryoko, that's pretty good."

Ryoko shrugged. "It's just a matter of looking at all the pieces and putting them together. It's not magic, and it's not a Power attribute. Heck, we do stuff like this for Lady Funaho all the time. You can learn to do it, too. Now take that couple over there..."

08:53 pm

Ayeka was returning from the ladies' room, looking for her husband. As usual, he wasn't hard to find. He was standing at the center of a small group of military personnel and their spouses, and they were all listening to Ryoko regale them with one of her Kagato stories. Even though the Empire was usually the butt of her tales, they were generally entertaining — and informative. Ryoko was extremely popular at the admiralty. But what filled Ayeka with pride was the high regard Tenchi was held in, by everyone, wherever he went. Charismatic, chivalrous, conscientious, compassionate, and a host of other "c" words. And when she recalled some of the candidates her late father had picked for her, she shuddered with revulsion.

"Empress Ayeka?" She turned to find herself looking at tall, broad-shouldered young man in a crisp naval uniform. He was square-jawed and extremely handsome, and his voice was deep and suave. "Would you do me the honor of the next dance?"

"No thank you, Lieutenant. My evening is spoken for." She turned her back on him and walked away. She had been asked to dance several times by similarly dashing young officers and pampered sons of the Peerage, but she had turned them all down cold. She would rather sit in a chair and wait for her turn with the Best Man In The Room than be out kicking her heels and flirting with the bachelors. The fact that neither Mihoshi, Ryoko, nor Washu had been seen dancing with anyone but Tenchi told her she shared a common opinion.

A dark thought intruded into her mind: her late father would have considered this gathering as a target-rich environment, and he would have spent a great deal of time recruiting 'partners' for his scandalous assignations. Her mother and half-mother never discussed any of Azusa's infamous trysts with her, but she had discovered many of the sordid details anyway. She marveled at their patience and perseverance. She had sworn that she would never permit even the appearance of such an activity, let alone encourage it. The galaxy was full of handsome young men, but there was only one Tenchi, and that was enough for her.

"Hey, Ayeka."

Mihoshi's voice filtered to her through the background hum. It sounded strained. Ayeka paused, turning slowly, until she located Mihoshi, Kiyone, and Sir Trinnard. They were sitting at a table, talking to several men and women wearing the same order of knighthood that Tenchi wore. She approached the table, and everyone but Mihoshi stood and bowed. Mihoshi was nursing a glass as she slumped over the table, and the fatigue on her face was obvious.

"What is she drinking?" Ayeka quietly asked Kiyone.

"Punch," Kiyone whispered. "Is burn-out always this bad?"

"Yes," Ayeka nodded. "However, we seldom have public obligations to attend to during the initial phase. This is simply a case of poor timing. She should go to her suite and retire for the evening."

"I heard that, and I'm not leaving until Tenchi does," Mihoshi said.

Sir Trinnard leaned over and tapped Ayeka on the shoulder. "Maybe if I went and fetched His Majesty...?"

"Excellent idea. Please do so." The knight vanished into the crowd without another word. "Now, Mihoshi, let's be reasonable about this. I know what you're experiencing right now, and there can't be any pleasure in it."

"No, there isn't. But it's so lonely upstairs. Everyone is down here, dancing and laughing and — "

" — making repeated trips to the ladies' room. It's not as exhilarating as you may think. For instance, I will probably retire early myself, and I know Sasami will be going to bed soon."

"Having a little trouble here?" Washu asked.

"Burn-out," Ayeka whispered. Washu nodded sympathetically.

"I'm not going without Tenchi," Mihoshi repeated.

"How about if I go upstairs with you?" Washu offered. "I'm about done here anyway."

"Well..."

Everyone around the table snapped to attention and bowed. "What's going on?" Tenchi asked.

"Burn-out," Ayeka whispered. "She insists that she won't leave until you do."

"My room is so empty..." Mihoshi said.

Tenchi got down on one knee and looked into Mihoshi's eyes. "If you're asleep, you won't notice it. And what if I tuck you in?"

"Promise? And you'll stay until I fall asleep?"

"I promise," Tenchi replied.

That's all it took. Mihoshi's arms wrapped around Tenchi's neck and she put her head on his shoulder. Tenchi didn't even bother to stand; they just vanished.

There was a stunned silence by those left standing around the table. The knights had heard of Tenchi's Power attributes, but had not seen any of them. And his wives ruminated quietly on the fact that next time it might be one of them in a similar situation.

"I think I need a drink," Ryoko said.

"Me, too," Washu added.

"Me, too," Ayeka said. The other two looked at her. "I know, I know, no alcohol during my pregnancy. A tall glass of punch, then."

"Can you describe burn-out to me again?" Kiyone asked.

09:07 pm

Tenchi pulled the covers up to Mihoshi's chin, making sure that her shoulders were covered. Then he sat on the bed next to her. He brushed her golden hair away from her face, and she studied him through heavy-lidded eyes.

"I'm sorry," she said.

"You have nothing to be sorry about. If anyone should apologize, it's me. I'm the one causing this condition — "

"It's ok, Tenchi. Washu says that we are slowly building an immunity to your Power envelope, and that this will go away in a couple of years."

"'A couple of years,'" Tenchi echoed dejectedly.

"Yes, so we just have to be patient. Like everything involving you, we have to be flexible." She giggled around a yawn. "Of course, it didn't help matters any that I started my period this afternoon..."

Tenchi just shook his head. "Poor Mihoshi." He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Go to sleep."

"I love you," she said, closing her eyes.

"I love you, too."

He watched her as her breathing settled into a slow, deep rhythm, and then leaned forward to retrieve a framed photograph from the nightstand. It was their wedding picture, with a radiant Mihoshi standing proudly next to her Juraian prince. He had to admit, she was the most beautiful woman on Seniwa that day. She was still beautiful.

He returned the photo, listened to Mihoshi snoring for a moment, and then quietly eased himself off the bed and out the door.

Funaho's matronly security agent was sitting next to the bassinet, reading a book. She started to rise but Tenchi waved her back into her seat. "You don't seem surprised to see me here."

She tapped the small comlink in her ear. "Empress Ryoko informed us you were bringing Empress Mihoshi back to this wing."

Tenchi chuckled at his wife's efficiency. He walked over to the bassinet and peered inside, watching Achika making faces in her sleep. She looked so much like her mother, it took his breath away. He backed away quietly.

"You can inform your associates that I am returning to the ballroom now," he said, and waited for her acknowledgement before closing the door behind him. He paused in the corridor to tug out his wrinkles and straighten his medallion, and then headed back towards the center of the building.

09:16 pm

"You looked tired, Honey," Misaki said.

Sasami nodded. "Yeah, this wasn't as much fun as I thought it was going to be." She sat in the chair next to her mother, arms crossed and chin-down. Ryo-ohki maneuvered into the chair next to her.

"Maybe you should head on off to bed."

"Yeah, or at least go play some video games." She was about to say something else when she noticed a pair of dress shoes standing in front of her mother's. She followed the legs up to the waist, to the shoulders, and to a distinguished-looking face at the summit. The face belonged to a very-well dressed merchant, rather jolly-looking, and with an ample waistline. Sasami tried to read the man the way Ryoko had taught her, but the only result she got back was Lots-O-Money.

The intruder cleared his throat. "Excuse me, Your Majesty, but I was hoping that you would honor me by accepting an invitation to dance?"

Misaki hesitated: she wanted to comfort her daughter, but she also wanted to dance. "Go ahead, Mother, I don't mind."

"Are you sure, Sasami?"

Sasami nodded, her long azure ponytails swinging in synchrony. Misaki stood and allowed the merchant to lead her away, both chattering politely. "Come on, Ryo-ohki. Let's go find the others."

She hadn't taken a dozen paces when she nearly bumped into Washu. Washu was declining yet another invitation to dance, and was frankly losing her patience with the whole process. "Oh, there you are. I'm leaving, and thought I'd like some company. You two want to go back to our wing and see what kind of snacks we can make? There might be some decent video worth watching."

"You don't have to leave on my account, Washu." She looked over at Ryo-ohki, wondering if there wasn't some private conversation going on between the cabbit and her creator.

"I'm not. I'm getting tired, I want to check on Achika, and if I don't leave soon I'm liable to do something distracting, like lowering the friction level of this dance floor to zero."

"What would that do?"

"Make it impossible to stand on, let alone dance on. You'd need ice skates to get around."

Sasami tried to imagine the hundreds of adults in all their finery falling on their fannies, and smiled. "It sounds funny."

"Well, it would be funny until the lawsuits started arriving. I think we'd better go before my darker nature gets the better of me."

"Ok," she took Ryo-ohki's hand, and accompanied Washu towards the door. One last uniform tried to intercept them, but Washu glared at him before he could open his mouth. He slunk away.

09:21 pm

Washu, Sasami and Ryo-ohki were waiting for the elevator door to open, when Tenchi stepped out. They smiled at him, he sighed in return. "Calling it quits?"

"Yes, I've had my fill of frivolity for tonight. Sasami is of like mind. And since when do you need to take the elevator anywhere?"

"Since the security staff is monitoring my movements, so that my wives can keep track of me." He gestured down the corridor, where two low-profile figures were clearly watching them. "Well, I envy you the peace and quiet of our wing. I suspect it'll be a couple of hours before I can call it a night."

"Don't be so sure," Washu replied. "I think Ayeka's tolerance has just about peaked. And Ryoko is showing some warning signs; you may want to get her back upstairs before she starts a brawl."

"Ok, where are they now?"

"When I left them, they were still schmoozing with Kiyone and Sir Trinnard at that table full of knights. It's about the safest spot in the room — none of the riff-raff were able to get near us. You know, why is it that all the studs want to dance with your wives?"

"I don't know, Washu. I'm new around here. Maybe they're trying to curry favor, or maybe it's the custom."

"It's a tradition my father started," Sasami said. "He said he wanted us to mingle with as many people as possible. He never danced with the same woman twice, and he insisted that Mother and Funaho do the same. I guess everyone here expected the tradition to continue."

"Well, times change," Tenchi growled. He had been watching his wives fending off a bevy of women (young and old) attempting to dance with him. If there hadn't been so many it might have been funny. It was no longer humorous.

09:27 pm

"There you are!" Ryoko announced. She and Ayeka were suddenly the only ones sitting at the table — everyone else had stood to bow.

Tenchi nodded and dragged a chair over to sit between his wives. "How are you two doing?"

"I'm getting very fatigued," Ayeka replied.

"And I'm getting a headache. The music sucks, there's no sake, and I'm getting really tired of being pestered. Fortunately, these folks," Ryoko indicated the knights standing and sitting around the table, "were gracious enough to fend off all the locals."

Tenchi thanked the smiling men and women around them. "It was our pleasure, Your Majesty," the ranking senior present replied. "We are here to serve the Royal Family in whatever capacity is required."

"I vote we bail," Ryoko said. "I saw Washu and Sasami leave, and I'll bet there'll be something cooking upstairs pretty damn quick."

"I have to agree with Ryoko," Ayeka added. "Mother and Funaho appear to be enjoying themselves, so they will stay for a while. There is no pressing reason for us to remain."

"Then it's unanimous," Tenchi said.

10:14 pm

Tenchi stood in his office doorway, watching his family. Everyone sat around the common room in their pajamas and bathrobes. Washu nursed Achika, Ryoko snored softly from the other sofa, and Sasami was playing video games. "I guess we're not a real exciting bunch, are we?" Tenchi asked.

"I guess not," Washu replied. "Where's Ayeka?"

"Getting ready for bed. I think I'll call it a night, too." He yawned, rubbing his eyes. "It's been a long day."

"Well, get a good night's sleep, then," Washu replied.

Tenchi kissed her and Achika, ruffled Sasami's hair, and blew a kiss at Ryoko. He entered Ayeka's room, closing the door quietly behind him. He expected to see Ayeka sitting at her vanity, combing her long hair. What he saw left him gaping open-mouthed.

Ayeka was standing in the middle of the room, wearing nothing but black riding boots and a sombrero. She held a riding crop in one hand, which she pointed at Tenchi. "You will remove your clothing immediately."

"Uh, sure, Ayeka," Tenchi stammered.

"And call me 'Empress!'"

Tenchi groaned, wishing he'd asked Washu for another stimulant. It was going to be a long night.

################# Author's Notes ##################

There is a really nifty music video available at that uses the song "Mamboleo" by Elissa. The video is called "Odorikuruu", and is well worth downloading and watching. I should warn you, though: after you watch it a few times, you'll get hooked.

The title of this story comes from the Japanese verb to dance or jump for joy.

The characters of Tenchi Muyo were created by Masaki Kajashima, and brought to North America by Pioneer LDC. This story, while incorporating names and situations held under copyright by others, is copyright 2002 by Jeffery L. Harris.

This story comes entirely from my imagination, and is not, nor intended to be, canon. Please do not send the legions of lawyers after me...it's not worth their time, or mine.

Any questions or comments should be directed to:

Jeffery L HarrisSubject: "Koodori"

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