Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, nor do I profit in any way from this fiction. This is an alternate universe fiction featuring characters from the Tenchi Muyo OVA, television, and manga series, owned by various companies, including videos from Pioneer and mangas published by Viz.
Tenchi Muyo: Conquest!
Princess Ayeka of Jurai stood ready in the courtyard of the palace, dressed in her very best finery, long robes that swept to the ground, light blues and white. She took a moment to look around her, to see what had become of her homeland. The fires in the nearby buildings were finally out, and the repairs only just begun. She closed her violet eyes, then opened them again to gaze up at the sky. She was here, in this place of ash and former glory, to greet Jurai's new queen.
Ayeka couldn't believe things could have changed so much so fast. Only a few years ago, their enemy had emerged on a little known planet called Manticore, taking over the other bandit tribes of that savage world, uniting them under one rule. Then with the aide of a incredible new technology, they had left their home world, and the conquest had begun.
Their nearby worlds rallied under the new queen's banner, and they expanded outward to rule over dozens of worlds, calling themselves the Republic of Manticore. Strangely, the worlds they took over seemed to be quite content to remain under her rule, and even members of the greatest galactic powers began to fear her.
Finally, when Manticore's expansion reached their own borders and finally came to a stop, Jurai believed their foe was at last overextended. The Emperor himself gave the order for his fleet to attack them, not knowing it would become his final mistake.
The takeover of the planet had only taken a few short days, the enemy fleet was relentless in the pursuit of their final victory. One by one, Jurai's traditional allies had been forced to reluctantly withdrawal from the battlefield, finally leaving them all alone against the enemy's forces. And Jurai's armies just weren't enough.
They had been informed of their conquer's demand that she be waiting out there when their leader arrived only a few hours before she was due to land. Ayeka had spent the little time she had left preparing, dressing as if for a formal reception, with all the proper rituals being carefully observed. At Sasami's gaze she had softly answered her unspoken question, "We may be the conquered, but we still have our pride."
The transport sphere came down, settling in on the ground right in front of them. Ayeka carefully straightened her robes, nervously brushing her long black hair back. The scarlet energy dissipated gradually, slowly revealing the figure it had carried, the Queen of Manticore and all of it's subject worlds herself. Surprisingly, a small smile tugged at those lips, the head tilted towards her in an almost... fond gesture.
"Hello, Ayeka," Ryouko said to her with a wry smile, "it's been a long time."
Ayeka paced the luxurious suite she and Sasami soon found themselves sharing, a deeply confused expression on her face. 'I almost expected to be dead by now,' Ayeka darkly thought, 'or at least be thrown into prison by her. Instead, Ryouko ordered us to be fed, brought up to one of her ships, and then she set us up in this fine suite. And now...' She stopped pacing, turning to look over at the Queen's messenger.
"We're invited to dinner?" Ayeka repeated her softly.
The young woman nodded, She looked so much like Ryouko it was almost scary, with only twin scars on her face making her look any different. "Ryouko would be very pleased if you would join her for a private dinner tonight. It's not required of you, but she hopes you will come," she said with a little smile. With that, she turned to go.
"What's your name?' Sasami piped up, her twin plaits of blue hair swinging.
She turned, smiling down at Sasami as she answered her, "I'm Minagi."
They quickly dressed in the traditional robes that Ryouko had provided for them, and at the appointed time they arrived at the ship's large dining hall. Minagi greeted Sasami, leading her over to a place at a long table, where a surprised Ayeka noticed many of the sons and daughters of the region's planetary rulers sat, eating cheerfully.
She was met by another young lady, blonde haired and dark of skin. "Come with me," she said with a cheerful smile, and led Ayeka down a passageway.
She opened a door, leading into a smaller, more formal dining room. The table was set for two, with a bottle of iced wine waiting nearby. Ryouko herself stepped in from another door, smiling at her pleasantly. Her blue hair was it's normally untamed crest, her garb the same form fitting body suit that she often wore on the battlefield.
'If she's doing this to try and throw me off balance,' a bemused Ayeka thought to herself, 'I think she's succeeding.'
"Thank you, Mihoshi," Ryouko said to the other girl. She beamed over at Ryouko happily and nearly skipped out of the room. That is, until she tripped in the doorway.
"Owwweee!" they heard her cry, as the door clicked shut behind her.
Ryouko shook her head with a little smile, as she said, "I swear, she's worth keeping around just for the comic relief alone." Ayeka had to cover her own mouth, trying to fight back her smile.
Ryouko held out a chair for Ayeka, gently pushing it in behind her, then she took her own seat across from her. Almost on cue, a young woman came in, bearing two large servings of pasta. As soon as Ayeka saw her, her eyes widened in surprise.
"Little Asashi?" Ayeka said, blinking in surprise at seeing hers and Sasami's old friend, here of all places. The dark hared young girl was dressed up as a cook, smiling quite cheerfully as she served them both their food.
""Hello, Ayeka," she answered with a smile, putting a plate down in front of her. She but one in front of Ryouko, adding "I hope you enjoy your meal." With that, she left.
"She likes cooking," Ryouko said to Ayeka's curious look, "so we let her help out, but sometimes it can be as much of a curse as a blessing."
Ayeka frowned thoughtfully, taking a forkful of the pasta and putting it in her mouth. She chewed, swallowed, then her face grew bone pale. She lunged for her drink.
"Chew up some of your bread first," Ryouko quickly advised her, "any liquid just seems to fuel the fire."
Mixing bread with the food helped, Ayeka had to admit as she ate with much more caution. She looked over at Ryouko, who was eating her own food with gusto, and asked softly, "Why did you invite me to dinner?"
A shadow seemed to pass over Ryouko's face at the question. "Let's hold off discussing that until after dinner," she said gently. They ate silently for a moment, then Ryouko smiled slightly, "Do you remember the first time we met?"
A slight blush appeared on Ayeka's cheeks as she remembered what had happened between them, several years ago and many worlds away.
On a minor world bordering on Jurai's sphere of influence, Ayeka and a team of her Father's best diplomats were negotiating a mutual defense treaty with the planet's rulers. Ryouko's forces were advancing planet by planet, winning against all enemies with their vastly more advanced technology. The world had requested Jurai's aid to prepare for the coming war, when Ryouko's forces had launched an preemptive attack.
Things on the planet's surface quickly began to fall apart, and Ayeka found herself leading a mad scramble to try and get off-planet. They had to get away before Ryouko's forces could blockade the planet and seal off any chance of escape.
In the middle of a pitched battle Ayeka saw a scarlet energy blade cutting down the soldiers of the planetary forces, then she found herself confronted by the legendary warlord Ryouko herself. Seeing no other option available to her, she ignited her own golden energy blade and then turned to face Ryouko in battle.
The blades crossed, Ayeka found herself face to face with the warlord of Manticore. A smile tugged at the other woman's lips as they each tested the other's strength, blades flaring brightly. They fought back and forth, leaping up and striking against each other again and again, until the world exploded in light and fire all around them.
Later on, Ayeka found out that an orbital weapon, a crude laser cannon, had been fired on them by the planet's rulers in an attempt to try and kill Ryouko. But at the time all she knew then was that the earth disappeared around them. She suddenly fell, dropping into an the crater made by the explosion, and knew she was dead.
Suddenly, her descent was abruptly stopped. Ayeka looked up, her own wide eyes meeting the catlike eyes of Ryouko, her arm roughly help in the other woman's iron grip. In a single smooth motion Ryouko pulled her back up to the lip of the newly formed crater, her hands firmly holding on to Ayeka's slim shoulders. They stood there silently a moment, both Ayeka and Ryouko mildly stunned by this turn of events.
Then the battle caught up with them again, and they were separated by the crush of people. She looked up, saw Ryouko looking at her, and the warrior raised her blade up in a salute to Ayeka. Gravely, Ayeka did the same for Ryouko, and they were gone.
"Yes," Ayeka said, looking over the table at Ryouko, a small smile teasing her lips as she continued "I do remember when we first met."
The rest of the meal was very quiet, their talk mostly kept to a few of the more neutral topics of conversation. Finished eating, Ryouko moved around to where Ayeka sat, offering her hand for Ayeka to use to pull herself up to her feet. She stood there a moment, looking up into those catlike eyes, and wondered what she was thinking about.
"Please follow me," Ryouko said to her simply, gently pulling at her hand to lead her away. They walked down the corridors of the great ship until they reached a viewing platform. A massive transparent force field extended out of the ship into the airless void itself, providing an wonderful view of the world below them.
A large transport ship was descending towards the planet, and others of the same type were lined up in orbit, waiting to descend. "What are they carrying?" Ayeka wondered aloud, worried that even more troops and arms were coming to her world.
"Food supplies, actually," Ryouko said softly in reply. Ayeka looked over at her in obvious disbelief, but Ryouko just smiled back, "I know that much of Jurai's crops were destroyed during the war. A starving populace is an unhappy populace, and the people will know that I fed them, not Jurai's rulers, their royal family."
Ayeka nodded thoughtfully, her respect increasing for Ryouko's sharp tactical mind. The woman always seemed to be ready for almost anything. She looked up at the taller woman, asking her "Why am I here, Ryouko?"
"I have a rather serious problem," Ryouko said, looking out at Jurai and avoiding meeting Ayeka's eyes. "My mother Washu predicts that there will be a full-blown rebellion on Jurai within a year," she said, giving a look at Ayeka, "unless I'm willing to take certain steps to stop it. And I've learned to trust her predictions."
"A year?" Ayeka quietly echoed her. A little smile appeared as she said modestly, "I would have expected one in only six months."
"A year," Ryouko said firmly in return. "Unless I choose to kill you and Sasami, and put a regent in. Washu thinks that way I hold on to it for a few years longer." She said the last totally calmly, looking out into the void with a serene expression on her face.
Ayeka took a step backward, her hands clenching into fists as she let her power build. "You'll only get to Sasami over my dead body," she softly vowed.
Ryouko looked over at her a bit sadly, shaking her head. "You let Sasami go off to dinner. Do you really know what I may have done with her?" she asked with a smile.
Ayeka's face went pale. "You bitch," she whispered softly, looking over at Ryouko in shock. She cursed herself silently for letting Sasami out of her sight for even a moment.
Ryouko noticed Ayeka's reaction, and she reached out to gently steady her. "I do not kill children," she said to her shortly, "not unless I absolutely have to." She kept a grip on Ayeka's arm, looking into her eyes for a moment as if she was looking for something in them. "Have you considered what happens if your people do rebel?" she suddenly asked.
Poor Ayeka looked honestly confused by Ryouko's question, blurting out automatically, "We drive you off our world."
"And then what?" Ryouko asked her harshly, then she answered her own question. "My ships are far superior to any technology Jurai or it's former allies currently has," she quietly explained. "We can beat you in space easily, putting you right back in your place." A grim smile, "Or even worse, we blockade Jurai and just let your people starve until they surrender."
Ayeka closed her eyes in a failed attempt to try and block out what Ryouko had said. But it was the bare truth, and as a ruler, she couldn't just ignore it. "You wouldn't be telling me all of this," Ayeka said to her softly, "if there wasn't an alternative to propose." She looked up, her eyes meeting Ryouko's as she angrily said, "Let's hear it."
Ryouko just nodded, directing her gaze back out at the planet. "I'm willing to allow Sasami to be my Regent on Jurai, ruling over the planet in my name. I'm even willing to allow the planet to have a degree of independence, if you are willing to agree to my two quite reasonable conditions," she said, and then she smiled over at Ayeka.
"And those conditions are?" Ayeka asked her warily.
"One," Ryouko said, looking quite serious as she held up a single finger, "you and Sasami must pledge your loyalty to me, by your family's name."
Ayeka tried to hide her wince. Ryouko had done her research, that kind of oath could only be broken by death itself. It would guarantee their loyalty to her, that was for certain. "And your other condition?" Ayeka asked a bit hesitantly.
Ryouko held up two fingers. "Two," and with a warmer smile this time, she quietly said, "is even easier." She took a deep, steadying breath, and on letting it out she said to Ayeka in a rush, "I just want us to get married."
Ayeka looked over at her in honest disbelief. "What?!" she exclaimed.