Sometimes moving foward is worse than never moving at all.
The One You Love
Seven long years had past since that nearly forgotten time of daily battles between the princess and the pirate. Three years shy of a decade since he last seen hide or hair of the other three women that had formed his family. Remembering back to those times seemed so hard. His existence had changed so radically from that long ago time. Life was so different now. The decision for his heart had been made and chosen years before their arrival, years before even he had known the answer. Now he sat alone waiting for the chance to fix the misunderstanding that had caused so much misery. Looking up at the stars through the palace window Tenchi sighed as he heard the door open and the distinct sound of Ayeka's hushed, delicate footfall amble towards him.
I know you need a friend, someone you can talk to
Who will understand what you're going through
"Tenchi?" Ayeka whispered to him when she arrived at his side. Placing a comforting hand on his shoulder Ayeka stood beside him and appraising the beauty of the night sky. 'She's up there, out there somewhere. Happy, while he suffers down here with me.' Ayeka had noticed his shoulders slump ever so slightly as she had entered the room. The same motion happened every time she joined him to watch the stars. She watched him from afar now. The close friendship that they had shared during her stay on earth was now gone. He was nearly lost to her, his heart and friendship slowly sealing themselves behind a frozen mask.
Adjusting his frown into a practiced smile Tenchi turned to face Ayeka. "Yes, Ayeka?"
Ayeka hid her wince at watching his face shift from wistful longing to strained tolerance. Honest curiosity and yearning hope forced questions long dreaded to Ayeka's lips. "Why are you here? Why did you choose me when you knew you loved her?" The once painful topic was now startlingly easy to discuss. Amazingly enough, after seven years of watching him pine for the pirate, Ayeka could no longer tolerate the slow icy coldness that was forming around him than she could the pained expression he wore when he thought she wasn't looking. If he thought she hadn't noticed the far-away looks and the disillusioned sighs he was very wrong. For seven years Ayeka had lived with the knowledge that in the end, Tenchi's heart had never belonged to her. It had been a bitter pill to swallow knowing that her petty bickering and quite manipulation had most likely permanently driven a wedge between him and the one he loved.
When it comes to love, there's no easy answer
Only you can say what you're gonna do/I>
Tenchi inhaled deeply, closed his eyes so that the few emotions he still held over the decision fiasco (as he liked to call it), didn't reveal themselves to Ayeka and hurt her anymore than the knowledge of his heart's choice. Exhaling just as deeply Tenchi opened his eyes and looked at Ayeka. "What can I do now? The damage is done. She's gone. From what I understand she's made a new life for herself, complete with a new Tenchi to fight over. For her the play is the same, only the cast has changed. Besides what good would it have done to hurt the both of you with my decision?" While finishing his last sentence Tenchi turned back yearningly to the crystalline painted sky.
Ayeka had to make this right. She had spent too many years waiting for Tenchi to fall for her. He wasn't going to, she could see that now and it wasn't fair forcing him to live out his life longingly dreaming for a different life. After having finally listened to the sage words of Sasami, Ayeka had to see him one more time before making the final decision to set him free. If he could not be happy with her, then at least he could try and find his happiness, even at the cost of hers. With a bitter smile Ayeka remembered one of the last conversations she had shared with Ryoko. 'There's an old saying; it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I wish I knew who said that so I can kill him.' Looking at Tenchi, Ayeka had to agree. There was nothing good about loving and losing, she would have rather not fallen in love with Tenchi, than to feel the dull aching throb in her heart.
Resolved to conclude this chapter of her life, Ayeka smiled at Tenchi. Despite having rather not fallen in love with Tenchi, Ayeka would never regret or relinquish her memories of her time with him. Despite the growing distance between them, Ayeka had felt as if her dream of having Tenchi all to herself and loving him had at least partially been realized. And now like with all dreams that are too good to be true, Ayeka knew she had to wake up and accept the reality of life. Releasing a great sigh Ayeka looked at her hands for a moment.
"Tenchi..." Ayeka faltered. Gathering her strength Ayeka turned to look at him and started again more forcefully. "Tenchi?" Ayeka paused, waiting for him to turn and acknowledge her. Having his full attention Ayeka continued, "Tenchi, I have an early birthday gift from Yosho, Sasami and myself. Firstly, Yosho's gift is the knowledge that now that he and Funaho have been restored to Jurai and with the technological advances that have been made during his 700-years hiatus he is no longer at risk of dying. Funaho has been restored to her original configuration. Second, Sasami acting on behalf of Tsunami has granted you the inheritance and legacy of a first generation tree, you will find that there is one waiting for you in the 'Sacred Hall'. And lastly my gift..."
Ayeka took a deep, calming breath before concluding. Once again gathering her flailing willpower Ayeka continued. "My gift to you is this scroll and this bracelet." With a royal flourish Ayeka removed an intricately decorated scroll from within the sleeve of her kimono. Then turning her empty hand to the wrist of the hand containing the scroll she removed the bracelet that for five years had been the symbol of a promise that he had been forced and manipulated to keep.
With a blank look of befuddlement Tenchi questioningly accepted the gifts that symbolized his freedom. Holding up the bracelet that Ayeka had placed in his hands Tenchi questioned her. "But Ayeka... Why? Don't you love me?" Tenchi was beyond confused.
"Yes, Tenchi I do. It is because of my love that I must do this. Seven years ago I took the opportunity away from you to make your decision how you saw fit. Now with any luck and before its too late, I am giving the choice back to you. Do not waste this chance Tenchi, things like this do not happen for just anyone." With her declaration and her gift bestowed Ayeka turned to leave before the tears became impossible to contain.
Still startled by the gift of the betrothal scroll and the unity band Tenchi tried to find his voice. After a moment's pause Tenchi croaked out, "Hey Ayeka?" Refusing to allow him to see the tears that were clouding her vision, Ayeka replied to him without turning.
"Thank you, I know this is difficult for you but thank you!" Tenchi's voice wavered with earnest respect and sentiment.
"You're welcome Lord Tenchi." Ayeka's quiet voice shuddered a hiccupping response before she ran from the room. Desperate to contain as many of the tears as she could, Ayeka fled.
Tenchi's back straightened as he stared at the crying woman's fleeing graceful form. She hadn't called him Lord Tenchi since the betrothal contract had been signed and the unity bands had been exchanged. Watching Ayeka race through the doors Tenchi's heart felt conflicting emotions. As the door slammed shut behind her, the joy of freedom won out over the pain of guilt. Looking in his hands to the scroll Tenchi unraveled it in order to read it.
In this the 1135 year of the Third cycle of Tsunami,
With the consent and the favor of
His Royal Majesty Emperor Azusa Jurai
Under the approval and favor
Her Royal Majesties Queen Funaho Jurai
Queen Misaki Jurai
His Royal Highness Grand Duke Yosho Jurai Masaki is
Proud to declared the betrothal of
Her Royal Highness First Princess Ayeka Jurai
His Royal Highness First Prince Tenchi Jurai Masaki
This betrothal has the approval and favor of the people of
Jurai on the provision that the betrothed follow the
Recommended 10-year betrothal period as dictated by the
Wisdom of the High Holy Council of Jurai.
What Tsunami unites in love and in life may no other will or creation of man dissever.
Tenchi remembered the words of the royal proclamation without even having to look at the scroll, what he had not been prepared for was the word, "Annulled" in giant red letters indelibly stamped across its elegant script. Turning his attention to the unity band in his hand Tenchi shifted both the bracelet and the scroll to the windowsill freeing his hand to remove the twin of Ayeka's unity band from his right wrist. With the removal of the bracelet at last Tenchi was free. Free to find his love and finally free to decide his fate without fear of Ayeka's broken heart. Retrieving the scroll and bracelet Tenchi turned to leave noticing a sheet of paper on the nearby table that hadn't been there before. Tenchi gasped as he realized what it was. "Thank you again, Ayeka and by the grace of Tsunami may you find the love that you deserve." Grabbing the paper and racing for the "Sacred Hall" Tenchi hoped he wasn't too late.
Legions of light years away, looking up at the stars from the balcony of the apartment that she shared with Mihoshi, Ryoko sighed. Thoughts of all she had lost and all she had gained in the last seven years haunting her. Still restless and discontent with her existence Ryoko shuffled wearily back to her desk to finish the final pages of her master thesis. After Tenchi had chosen, Ryoko had been at a lost for what to do with her life. Finding no direction and even less will to live. Ryoko's saving graces had been in the form of her mother and Mihoshi. Both had suggested she try school, start a new life away from earth and all its memories.
So there they were, shortly after that fateful day the trio had packed and set off for parts unknown. Washu returned to her tenure at the Science Academy after what was explained as a necessary sabbatical. Mihoshi had taken an extended vacation from the Galaxy Police in order to help Ryoko settle in and develop the basic social skills needed for life at school. Ryoko had doubted the blond bubblehead would be of any useful help, but under Washu's motherly regard the normally scatter brained, featherhead actually made sense. With Washu tutoring her after dinner and Mihoshi schooling her in the social graces by day, Ryoko had felt timidly confident for her first day in college.
That first day had dragged and dragged in a monotony of droning introductions. Amazingly, by lunch Ryoko had managed to make a few acquaintances. Enough years had past in the memories of the elders, and the youth held few of their predecessors' biases. Allowing for only occasional hated glares and crude whispers to greet Ryoko. So by the end of her first day, Ryoko had, while not comfortably, adjusted to life at school and most importantly without Tenchi.
The first year of school had past Ryoko in a daze of information and new friendships. By the second year Ryoko had developed a close bond to one of her mother's colleague's son. A professor in the Juraian genetics department Professor Yugi would often visit for dinner and a lively discussion. Most visits Professor Yugi would drag her son Hotsuma along claiming the conversation would help him. It had been after one such dinner that he had finally approached Ryoko and asked her out on a date. Thus beginning a new chapter in both of their lives.
Until Ryoko had appeared in his life Hotsuma had been happily ignored by the female populace of the Science Academy. But, once he began dating her, interested rivals started clamoring out of the woodwork. There were the usual fan-girls, which were beyond Hotsuma's understanding. How he could develop a devoted following of rabid girls seemed unfathomable. Despite the now giggling gaggle of dizzy girls, there was the group of girls that formed his circle of friends. First had been Haruna, a complex and beautifully delicate flower of Juraian aristocracy. Next came, Kiyone the half-sister to Haruna. Kiyone had few romantic inclinations towards Hotsuma but instead adored him for his connections in the Galaxy Police.
Then came Sakuya the ditz to end all ditzs. He had heard that Sakuya's air headedness outshone the staggering talents of Detective First Class Mihoshi. But being the nice guy he was he saw no point in believing the rumors. Boy, had that been a bad mistake. She not only out ditzed and out clutzed Mihoshi but she also had mood swings that bordered on the psychotic with clinging vine syndrome that could put the most virulent kudzu to shame. Nagi was the last to join the group that formed his tight band of friends. She came in the wake of a fantastically bubble-headed moment of Sakuya's, having been teleported across most of known space by sheer dumb luck.
While Ryoko and Haruna would occasionally verbally battle over who would win his heart, both had known from the beginning that Hotsuma's love was for only Ryoko. There had never been a doubt after Hotsuma had sat down with both individually early on and explained his feelings. After which both women had formed a friendship that seemed unbreakably strong. That had been five years ago. It had been five years since he had gotten down on one knee, and in front of all of their friends and family, asked her to marry him. Even now Hotsuma wasn't sure if all the tears he remember hearing were from joy or out of regretful loss.
Immediately afterwards, Washu declared that Ryoko would have to finish her degrees first. Ryoko had accepted hoping that in time her heart would come to love Hotsuma and forget about Tenchi. But now five long years later, she sat at her desk staring sightlessly at the screen in front of her dreading submitting the culmination of her years of study. Dreading moving past being engaged and into marriage. Dreaded a loveless marriage.
The shrill ring of the phone startle Ryoko out of her musings. "I'll get it. Haruna said she would call about the Starica festival accommodation." Ryoko shouted over the volume of the television, as she left her room to pick up the only phone in the apartment. Reaching the living room Ryoko noticed that no one had bothered to acknowledge her comment. Hotsuma sat on the couch between Sakuya and Mihoshi, reading the latest edition of Science Academy Monthly. While Sakuya clung to his right arm and Mihoshi intently stared at the latest episode of "Moldiver".
In a chair as far away from both Mihoshi and Sakuya as possible Kiyone brooded about her most recent rejection letter from the Galaxy Police. '/Damnit, if only I hadn't been born a stupid royal I could get in. I mean look at Mihoshi if she can get in ANYONE can get in/!'
Meanwhile off at the other end of the room Nagi sat studying the room for tactical weak points and strategic boundaries to maintain a safe distance between herself and the misguided misfits known as Mihoshi and Sakuya ESPECIALLY SAKUYA!
Ryoko's smirked as she observed her new family. While not complete without the addition of Washu, Yugi and Ryo-ohki it was nonetheless comforting. Finally reaching the phone with a chuckle in her voice and a smile on her face Ryoko answered. "It's your dime, pal o'mine."
"Ryoko?" The voice sounded familiar to her, but it was too deep, too rich to be whom she thought it was.
Shaken to the very core of her being Ryoko stuttered the one name she had deliberately tried to forget for the past seven years. "T-T-T-Tenchi?" Came the whispered reply with a note hesitantly hopeful joy. Despite the noise in the room both Mihoshi and Hotsuma heard the hushed question. Suddenly both lost all interest in their previous activities as they began focusing on the conversation behind them.
"Yeah, it's me. Uhm, so how are you doing?" Tenchi felt awkward all the things he wanted to say to her racing to the tip of his tongue, but he held them. Those were not the kind of things one discussed over the phone, but instead face to face.
"I'm fine." Ryoko could barely hear her own voice over the pounding of blood in her ears as her heart raced at the sound of his voice.
"Look this is hard to say, but do you think you could uhm... that we could maybe meet some time?" Tenchi reverted to his old habit of scratching the back of his neck and rambling when he was nervous.
"I... I don't know. Look I have a very busy schedule right now." Ryoko fumbled with the half-truth, swallowing the need to be back at his side. While she spoke, Ryoko became increasingly aware of the two pair of ears straining to hear her conversation.
"I know I have no right to ask, but could we please meet soon, there are a lot of things that I have to tell you. Things that you should know before the we-wed-wedding." Tenchi choked on the word. The thought of Ryoko happily married to someone else closing his throat and tightening his vocal cords.
"Look I can't talk right now I've got some friends over, why don't you give me a number that I can contact you at and when my schedule opens up I'll give you a call. Okay?" Ryoko had to stop him from talking about his wedding to Ayeka; she couldn't stand to hear him joyfully recount the plans. Ryoko wrote down the number that Tenchi recited to her.
I heard you on the phone, you took his number
Said you weren't alone, but you'd call him soon.
"Yeah, sure that would be great. Uhm talk to you soon. Bye Ryoko. Oh hey Ryoko... it was really nice hearing your voice again, I missed it... I...I... I missed you." Tenchi swallow hard and waited for her reply and then the dial tone after she hung up. With a giant sigh, he allowed numb fingers to loosen their death grip on the phone. Taking in several calming breaths Tenchi waited until the sound of rushing blood became a dull roar in his ears. Now all that was left was to have the patience to wait for her to contact him again. Letting lose another grand sigh Tenchi decided to work off his nervous energy.
Gathering her wits and pushing her emotions back into the little box she usually kept them in, Ryoko turn to face two sets of questioning eyes. Mihoshi rose and crossed the room placing a comforting arm around her friend; she didn't ask a single question. Ryoko looked flummoxed, Tenchi had said he missed her. She couldn't have been more bewildered if one of Washu's mega-sized creatures escaped from the lab and started dancing about the apartment in a pink tutu and clogs. Shaking her head, Ryoko tried to force the blood out of her cheeks and back into her fingers. Looking down at her hands Ryoko realized she was trembling. How was it possible for him to rattle her so after seven years?
Isn't he the guy, the guy who left you cryin'?
Isn't he the one who made you blue?
Hotsuma slowly but diligently pried Sakuya's death grip from his arm and rose to comfort Ryoko. Once at her side Hotsuma easily wrapped his arms around Ryoko's trembling form. A piercing lance of pain struck him to the very core. She was frazzled by a simple few seconds of communication. Deciding to ignore his own pain, he gestured for them to move back to her room. Once there, Hotsuma motioned for Mihoshi to leave. Reluctant to leave her distress friend Mihoshi looked over his shoulder to Ryoko, upon seeing her answering nod Mihoshi turned and left quietly closing the door behind her. Rubbing his hands up and down her arms, Hotsuma tried to calm Ryoko's jangled nerves. Lowering his head he softly kissed the side of her mouth, which caused the corners to lift in a gentle smile. Ryoko looked up at him questioningly, golden eyes begging for understanding.
Taking a shuddering breath Hotsuma tried to soothe his own screaming harpies of doubt. Wrapping her tightly in his arms and sucking in a calming breath Hotsuma tried to broach the subject of the call delicately, "What did he want?!?" Hotsuma winced even to his own ears his voice sounded strained with barely concealed jealousy. 'So much for handling this delicately.'
"He just wants to talk." Ryoko's voice seemed distant and lost as if she was merely speaking thoughts out loud. Burrowing further into Hotsuma's embrace, Ryoko's mind clearly remembered the night that Tenchi had given her back her gems. She had been so happy with them that she had hugged him with a gentleness that was not normally associated with her. And he in turn had been more assertive than was normally associated with him, by wrapping his arms around her and deeply kissing her. Nuzzling her head further into Hotsuma's shoulder Ryoko tried to hide herself from her memories. Quivering hands rose to weave numb fingers behind his neck. Ryoko took solace in the comforting warmth of Hotsuma's love. She cared for him, honestly and earnestly, but was it enough to overpower the hope and longing for Tenchi?
Feeling her need for his presence Hotsuma tightened his hold on her. She needed him, right now, this moment. Not Tenchi, not the other man that had left her crying all those years ago. She needed him. And he would be there for her, no matter what. "What did he want to talk about?" The words were softer, less demanding with a hint of fear quavering unsteadily at the edge of his voice.
Ryoko, felt lost. Why now? After so long? Shaking her head and ignoring all the questions in her mind, Ryoko refused to answer Hotsuma's question, instead preferring to hold him close and allow his heartbeat to lull her to a calmer state. How long had she been with Hotsuma and never noticed how warm he was? His warmth easily appeased the biting doubts hovering outside the shelter of his arms. There was comfort and familiarity within his embrace. But, Ryoko thought to herself, was it fair to remain with Hotsuma when this was all she really felt for him. A comfortable familiarity that soothed away her woes was not the foundation for an everlasting love. Yet, sometimes the greatest of bonds form from the most humble of relationships. Still, she had no right to mislead him while she still loved Tenchi, and if nothing else, the call proved that she still cared for the wayward prince.
When you remember those nights in his arms
You know you gotta make up you mind
At the back of her mind Ryoko could hear Washu agreeing with her. And the pair began debating the matter and nature of her relationship with both men. Blankly, Ryoko continued to hold tightly to Hotsuma, ignoring his quiet questions and now unconsciously caressing the back of his neck with idle hands. Finally Hotsuma had enough. Not only was she not responding to a single question he made, but now she was zoning off completely and that could mean only one thing. "Please tell your mother that you will discuss this matter with later. Right now you are discussing it with your fiancÃ©." Hotsuma declared. His deliberately deepened voice snapped Ryoko from her internal conversation.
Suddenly Washu's head appeared in front of him from one of her portals. "Don't you dare tell me what to do young man! My daughter is standing here hurt. I refuse to sit by and watch your jealous posturing do even more damage than that boy back on Jurai has done. Am I making myself clear!!!"
Ryoko winced as the battle of wills between the two began. Of all the people in her life, why was Hotsuma one of the few that refused to back down from Washu? Playing peacekeeper Ryoko tried to calm the two down. "Mom, it's okay. I'll talk to you soon, I promise but right now there are a lot of things that he and I have to discuss. Please Mom go." Ryoko implored quietly.
Seeing her daughter's uncharacteristic behavior Washu conceded. "Fine little Ryoko, I'll leave but I can be back here in a moment's notice don't forget that. And as for you," Washu said swinging her once caring gaze to Hotsuma only to blister him with a death glare. "If I find out that you have hurt her in anyway I'll dissect you one molecule at a time and then disperse them so for across the cosmos that not even your mother with all her equipment could track everything down. Am I understood?" Washu's cold glare promised worse consequences than her words.
"Yes, Professor Washu." Accepting his reply and once again turning a motherly protective glace at Ryoko Washu disappeared back into her portal.
Once the genius was gone Hotsuma steered Ryoko across the room to sit on the bed. Then he released her from his embrace to kneel in front of her as she sat on her bed. Gathering both her hands in his, Hotsuma began the hardest speech of his life. "Ryoko, do you still love him? If you do then don't let anything stand in your way. Not my feelings, Ayeka's feelings not the feelings of anyone on this or any other planet within the whole of creation. All that matters is that you settle this last part of your life. You need to close this. We both need you to resolve this, if for no better reason than so we can move on together as we could be and not as we are. I'll be waiting for you one way or another. Just remember I love you and because of the way I feel, I'm willing to lose you to see you happy."
Hotsuma took a deep breath and continued. "Maybe you'll come back to me, maybe you won't. Either way I just want you to be sure that whichever path you choose, the decision was done to your desire." Then with a deep breath he rose to his feet. Leaning down Hotsuma gently brushed his lips across hers in the most delicate of butterfly kisses. "Remember I love you, and no matter what you choose I will always be your friend, as will all of us." With his little speech made Hotsuma rose to his full height again and quietly left the room.
Are you gonna stay with the one who loves you
Or are you goin' back to the one you love?
After closing the door Hotsuma blindly made the journey to the study without disturbing their gathered friends. Once in the room, he closed and locked the door, crossed to the nearest chair and flopped down into a dejected lump. It took a moment or two for his words to return to him, the fact that he had just given Ryoko permission to leave. Not just to leave but to live with and love someone else; a man that he could never be, a man that at the foundations of Hotsuma's soul he longed to be. He smiled faintly as he remembered all the times they had shared. He had never felt unloved. Hotsuma knew Ryoko loved him, but he also knew it wasn't the same all-consuming adoration she previously, now apparently still, held for Lord Tenchi. And there was the rub. In the end she loved them both, just not the same. It hurt like the searing pain of a white-hot brand. He unconsciously lifted his hand to scratch at the phantom pain in his chest. Hotsuma could feel the barely contained tears and the smoldering fears slowly shaking his will to the core. Taking several steadying breaths he removed his glasses, placed his face in his hands and silently allowed the tears to fall for his lost hope. Ryoko had once told him, hope is the most costly emotion, and now he understood what she meant. He could live with not being her one true love. He could live with being second best. But to give up and simply swallow his hopes of someday winning her heart, hurt more than the realization that she was no longer his fiancÃ©e. So there crouched over in the chair, with his face in his hands and his hair for once falling messily around him, he cried. In the end he knew he'd lost her.
Someone's gonna cry when they know they've lost you
Someone's gonna thank the stars above.
Ryoko sat in shocked silence after hearing Hotsuma's words. She had expected anything and everything but that. His quiet acceptance of her continued love for Tenchi shocked her to the core. She thought she had done such a good job of hiding it from everyone. 'everyone but him apparently.' Ryoko thought bitterly. Hell, after a fashion she had honestly started believing that she loved Hostuma as much if not more than she had loved Tenchi.
"You know little Ryoko he has a point. You can't let the emotions of the others: Tenchi, Ayeka, Hotsuma and even Haruna influence your decision. You must only consider how you feel and what will make you happy. Not anyone in this lifetime can make this decision for you and no one should sway you. You will only find true happiness if you follow your heart." Washu sagely spoke as she entered the room through another portal and sat next to her forlorn daughter.
"But all he wants to do is talk?" Ryoko softly commented doubt gnawing at the edges of her voice and changing a statement into a question.
"And are you suddenly so naÃ¯ve to believe that there is nothing important to discuss? That after all this time the most compelling conversational topic he would choose would be the weather and how is life going. If you honestly believe that his call was for nothing more than general social reasons than you're more oblivious than I thought you were."
"But why now?" Ryoko questioned herself and Washu.
"Because maybe he has finally been given the chance to decide for himself what his future will be and whom will be a part of it." Washu spoke with the wisdom and caring of a mother. Sasami had informed her previously as to Ayeka's intentions in order to prepare her for their wake.
"No!" Ryoko said firmly, "He had his chance to make that decision long ago. He didn't have to make the one he did. He could have chosen me." Ryoko stubbornly refused to allow the hope that had started to glimmer a chance at life.
"Ryoko what choice did he have. Honestly think of it, it was a choice between you and the rest of his family? Not to mention the possible death of his grandfather? Come on, once you received those gems Tenchi had to accompany Yosho to Jurai to sustain Funaho until her roots could be safely removed from earthen soil. It was your constant bickering with Ayeka that turned his obligation to his grandfather into a decision between the two of you. Not him. He had no choice. Give him the benefit of the doubt." Washu couldn't believe she was playing Devil's advocate for Tenchi.
Ryoko lifted her confused and hurt gaze from the floor to her mother's face. "But what if he doesn't love me?" Ryoko voiced quivered with fear and doubt as she whispered the soft words for fear of voicing them any louder would make them true.
Fighting down the near biological imperative to turn Tenchi into a water sprite, Washu hugged Ryoko close and then spoke. "Well, then you go about your life. You move on past this point. For the past seven years you've grown by leaps and bounds. You've matured and became the woman I knew was deep down inside, underneath all the B.S. that Kagato buried you under. You will survive if that happens, just like you survived being in the cave. You're stronger than you give yourself credit. And besides you have Hotsuma, Mihoshi, Ryo-ohki, and the gang; not to mention myself to turn to should you need us. Look, don't raise your hopes up beyond the stars, but at the same time don't expect disaster. Just talk to him and see where that leads you, the worst that can happen is you find out for sure that your life right now stays the same and you marry Hotsuma."
"Okay, I'll call him and set the time and place, but not tonight. I don't think I have the strength to deal with him tonight." A weary Ryoko rested her head on her mother's shoulder. Seven long years ago, Washu had seen her daughter's plight and had decided to drop the childish mantle and be the adult female role model that Ryoko had needed. And now just as she had on that fateful night she held her little Ryoko in her arms and let her cry her soul out, with sobs that racked her body.