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"Pale Blue"
« on: October 31, 2012, 04:15:16 AM »
 

Tearatone

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Well, I do write in my spare time (which has become very scarce after starting my own business,) so I'll post what I have of my Tenchi Fan Fiction here. I am not the best writer, but I find it fun an relaxing to do so. This one is an alternate universe with pretty much all of the beloved parallels from the series. Here Ryoko really is a demon who has been sealed away, but the seal has been steadily weakening for hundreds of years now, and she can roam the forest. She gets to actually interact with Tenchi when he is growing up, and is scheming something up.

I will later be introducing Ayeka, Sasami, Mihoshi, and Washu... still debating if I can fit Ryo-Ohki into this universe though. Also, I'm uncertain if I should have either Noike or Kiyone in this story, or if they would really be there for any real purpose or not. Ah, but I'm rambling now.

Chapter four has been slow coming, but I'll get the first three installments posted for your reading pleasure. I am open to feed back, and love constructive criticism.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2012, 04:20:40 AM by Tearatone »
 

Re: "Pale Blue"
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2012, 04:16:12 AM »
 

Tearatone

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Chapter 1: Spirited Away

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She just had to close her eyes. That's right; it would be okay if she drifted away from it all. A change would come, she knew it, and it would be so welcome. She must never, never give up hope. Gentle, drifting, light, floating… her mind was leaving, finding a better place… a better place… better…



It wasn't that he hated being at home, but it just didn't feel like home anymore. Not since his mother had passed away. She would always be the one to play with him, always be able to spare some of her time, no matter how busy or tired she was. He wanted to ride on her leg as she pretended to be a monster? Sure! Was it alright if he brought snow inside during the crisp winter for her to make snow cones out of? Absolutely! Just don't tell grandpa or daddy that he was sneaking treats into what was supposed to be a healthy diet. Not like his mother ever followed it to begin with.

Being around the places she once frequented hurt too much, held too many reminders, so he spent more time than ever with his grandfather. Learning basic sword practice, doing chores, whatever was asked of him, really. It made for a nice distraction, out here in the wilderness, like a whole different world. He would be starting school soon, and the idea had made him a little timid, but his guardians had told him there was nothing to fear and he would do fine.

With such thoughts on his mind the young boy had failed to notice that there was a sudden change in the atmosphere, as if nearby the fabric of the air had condensed and expanded in a sliver of a second. Too occupied was his mind to be alert of a presence watching him, at least at first. Soon, however, he felt it, a sort of unease one gets when they are being watched in secret had graced his senses. He slowly turned, nervous a bad adult might be out to snatch him up, or that some beast might be around, wasn't there supposed to be wolves in these mountains? No, they didn't live around here, just the other kids making stuff up. Nothing to be seen, but still the feeling remained.

"Hello?" he called out in a trembling voice, "Is someone there?" Why had he gone out alone? Why? What part of this was a good idea? No answer came, and somehow that was worse.

He began walking carefully back the way he came, only to realize that he did not recognize any of his surroundings. When had this happened? He had wandered these woods for months and had never become lost. Fear was now setting in. Panic started welling up deep within him. He took one shaky breath, and then ran. He was sure he had come this way! He couldn't have been walking for more than a few minutes! But the path never came, none of the landmarks he made note of ever showed up! He was growing tired, his little legs burned from over exertion, his small lungs felt as if they had swallowed fire, and still the feeling of someone watching him loomed ever closer.

He tripped mid run, soared a few feet, and squeezed his eyes shut as he saw the ground rushing toward his face… but never hit it. In fact he had stopped falling altogether. After his mind had calmed down for a moment he stared around violently, trying to make sense of what just happened. The first thing his head registered was that he was being held, and instinct told him to kick out, which he did. Whoever had a hold of him had not expected this though and dropped him onto the wet forest ground. He fell on his face this time, but paid little mind to the twinge of pain and flipped himself around to see who was there.

No one, yet again. Now he was really panicking! He scrambled to his feet and did the first thing his mind told him to: Get up high! Get away from danger! He saw a tree nearby and took off for it, slightly surprised he could run again so soon after feeling tired. It was hard work but he managed to climb up a few branches and took a look around. Something had moved out of the corner of his eye, but as he turned his head quickly to see what, it had vanished. So he climbed all the faster still, higher and higher. He realized, a bit too late, that even though he had to stretch far to get up the branches, he could not climb back down so easily, and would probably fall if he tried. He could feel tears of fright flowing down his face. He thought of his mother, it did not help.

Something was scampering underneath. He looked down and saw a blur dash around the other side of the tree, out of his sight. The sun was setting. Surely if the thing could climb it would have done so by now, so he heaved a small sigh thinking he was at least safe for now. Then rustling from overhead caught his ears. His eyes shot straight up, praying to whatever powers that be for it to have only been a bird or other small, harmless animal. What he saw petrified him.

A deep red elongated face, with evil glowing eyes peered down at him from above. Its body was formless and dark, much larger and far more menacing than him. He tried to scream, tried to call out, but his voice didn't work! Before he could think what to do it came flying right for him! His eyes slammed shut in a feeble attempt to make it all stop! Make it all go away!

He felt a heavy weight fly right past him, its tail wind slapping him in the face; then nothing. He opened an eye slowly after a few seconds; nothing still. The sky was red and orange from the setting autumn sun, stars were starting to awaken in the twilight, yet no sign of the presence. Then he heard a small, pleasurable breath sound out from behind. He tensed, fear gripping him once more. Maybe if he held completely still he could avoid this monster's wrath; it was all he could do, stuck up in a tree.

"Aren't you going to make a run for it?" a female voice asked simply, though sounding entertained.

Young Tenchi Masaki turned his head and body slowly, eyes wild and wide, mouth slightly agape and dry. He saw a flying woman, who removed a chiseled red mask from her face and let a dark cloak fall to the ground far below. Her features stunned the lad; wild cyan hair, sharp feline-like golden eyes, pointed canines adorning her strangely satisfied smile, long ears, too long to be human, and she had a mammalian tail curling about! Crossing her arms with an impatient air about her was the only reason he spoke.

"Are you going to… uh…" his voice was horse and crackling with trepidation.

"Am I going to what?" she egged him on.

"H-… hurt me?" he barely forced out.

She tried to keep a straight face, she really did, but the look of sheer terror on his round façade was too much for her, and she let loose a suppressed laugh. It sounded snarky. "You're too easy!" she managed over her laughter, tying her demon's mask to her sash, "I really haven't lost it in all these years, how great to know!"

Part of the child felt furious, part felt relieved, and still over all he was mostly afraid. This lady, she wasn't human. Humans, he knew full well, didn't look like she did, not naturally. And they could not do what she could, flying and disappearing out of thin air. Despite all of this rushing through his mind, he was able to hold some composure, and was able to pose a question to the floating woman.

"Who-… umm, may I ask who you are?" he did not, under any circumstances, want to offend this creature.

"Hm? Wait, do you mean to tell me you haven't guessed?" she seemed slightly affronted.

"Oh, I-I-…" he needed to calm down, don't upset her, "I'm sorry, miss, I've never met you."

"I don't mean that!" she spat, making him flinch, "I mean this is my forest! The legend is about me! Crap, what are they teaching you kids these days?"

"Wait… y-you mean… no way…" Of course he had heard all about the legends in this area, his grandfather recounted them time after time.

"Ah, good," she purred, which was much more pleasant to listen to than her growling, "So you do know about the demon who wanders these woods come night fall," she cleared her throat and began reciting part of the oral tradition, sounding very similar to when his mother would mock his grandfather, "'Always mind your surroundings, never stray in thought, for the demon will trap you in these beautiful woods if you let your guard down, and you shall be lost forever,' or something like that, right?"

Tenchi's eyes widened, realization dawning as the sun disappeared below the mountain lined horizon, "No… I- No!" his voice was cracking as she shot through the air, now suspended directly in front of him, "I'm sorry! Please, I'll do anything!"

Her smile widened, trying in vain to stifle a hearty laugh, "Anything? You're just a lost little boy who got himself stuck up a tree! What could you possibly do for me?"

"I don't want to die!" he shouted, frustration of her attitude now getting the better of him. He had always hated to be mocked. Tears were streaming down his cheeks, but his eyes where fierce, as any cornered animal's would be.

His outburst had shut her up; not so much because of how sudden it was, or for the way it contrasted with her glee, but more because of recognition. Had she herself not screamed those same words hundreds of years ago? Her lips tightened and she brought her face just a few inches away from his own.

"Really now? I like your attitude kid. Older men and women have fallen before me, whimpering and begging for pity. But you demand life? Tell me, what's your name?"

If his grandfather had taught him anything, it was never to back down, and he wasn't about to now that the situation might be heading in a new direction. He was still scared, of course, but wimping out wasn't going to help him now, "I'm Tenchi… uh, Tenchi Masaki."

Her eyes narrowed slightly at the sound of his name. She, of course, would recognize it, both parts. Masaki, yes, the same surname of Yosho, the powerful samurai who had confined her and all her powers to this small cropping of forest. And how could she ever forget that accursed blade, Tenchi-ken? So he was a descendent, was he? Named for her bane? Figures, really, that the one person to come through her woods that she wanted to only play around with had to be him. Was she all that surprised though? After all she had run into others over the centuries belonging to the Masaki line, and they would all be dealt with accordingly. What a shame, she was having so much fun with him too…

"And your name?" young Tenchi had asked of her, she could feel the unease in his voice, no matter how strong his front.

She considered him a moment. He was just a boy, and had done her no wrong. True, he was a Masaki, but all of his family that had crossed her path before had long since paid for their ancestor's treatment of her. Especially since the betrayal of that last one, she absolutely deserved her punishment. Betrayal… it was only a Masaki who could free her, she understood this. But every single one she had asked to release her from this forest, to redeem their blood line in her eyes, had either tried to thwart her, or ran far, far away. But none were ever as young, and most importantly, as impressionable as this child, Tenchi. Maybe it was just fate's way of telling her to use the boy, whose name was the same as the object of her detestation, of her imprisonment. An idea was forming in her mind, and she smiled.

"My name is Ryoko," she said perhaps a glimmer too sweetly, "a pleasure to meet you, Tenchi."

"And are you… ah!-" he covered his mouth and looked off to the side; even if he had to act bravely, he was being too rude asking so many personal questions.

Ryoko continued to smile, he was a cute kid, he had that much going for him, "Am I what? Its okay, you can ask me. If you can't tell I'm kinda bored always out here on my own, alone," she feigned a sad small smile, making sure to stare off into the ground.

Tenchi ate it right up, truly believing that she was saddened, "I-… I'm sorry, Miss Ryoko, I didn't know…"

"No matter," she heaved a sigh, this time for real, why did she have to remind herself? "So, you wanted to ask me something?"

"I was… um, I was going to ask if you really are a demon," his words were filled with amazement and fear.

"Sure am! And a very powerful one at that!" she boasted, puffing out her already impressive chest and imitating some western super hero… or would it be better to say villain?

Tenchi giggled, albeit nervously, and it made her heart drop. Was she really going to use a kid this young? Ah, but what choice did she have? She smiled again as she now took control of the conversation, not wanting to dwell on the thought.

"So, I bet you want out of that tree, right?" she asked as friendly and casual as she could.

"Oh, um, yes please!" he nearly shouted automatically. Then, realizing his folly, tried to rectify, "Wait! I, uh, I mean-"

Ryoko just shook her head and rolled her eyes, "Quit being so worried, I'm not gonna eat you. Come here, I'll help you down," and without his approval she snagged him off of the tree branch and brought his small frame in close to hers, "Now hang on, I'm going down slowly."

Tenchi flinched when she had touched him, but now that he was being held so securely, it wasn't scary anymore. As they began their slow decent he wrapped his arms around her neck and buried his face in the crook of it, just like he had used to do with his mother before she had… well, he felt somewhat happy like this again. She was warm, and her hair was soft. Yet she was strong and he felt so safe in her arms. He was almost reluctant to let go when they had landed, but the motions came automatic when she set him on the ground. As he looked up he took in how much taller she was than him. He wondered if he really was ever going to get that big.

The demon of the forest took a small bit of pride in how fast he was already starting to trust her, and speculated wordlessly how long it was really going to take to have him completely under her persuasion, "So, now that you're free from the tree, what do you want to do?"

"Oh, um, thank you, Miss Ryoko," he bowed to her deeply. Why was he being so bad? Where had all his manners gone?

"Stop with the formalities, will ya kid? Ryoko will do just fine. Now, don't make me ask again."

"Err… well, my daddy and grandpa are probably really worried about me. Can I… can I please go home?"

His question was honest and innocent enough, but some possessive force, which she had been susceptible to all her life, didn't want him leaving just yet, "No…No, I'm afraid not."

"No?" he looked panicked now.

"Don't you know how the legend goes? If I catch you then you will be lost forever!" She really didn't have to follow any such rule, but as he was a kid it was easy for her to mess around with him.

"What? But!... But… No!" his eyes searched her face for some sign that she was kidding, but she showed none. His world was crumbling down all around him. How unfair!

"That's how it is, I'm afraid," she pretended to sound as if there was nothing she could do, using a shrug for emphasis, "When your ancestor Yosho trapped me in this forest he didn't want anyone freeing me ever again. So the terms of my imprisonment state that anyone I find wondering these woods alone, and most particularly not minding their surroundings, I'm supposed to either kill or spirit them away."

As she watched the tears form and fall down his cheeks another pang of guilt struck her. But, on the other hand, this was satisfying in its own right, as he was a Masaki she was tormenting. However when the child fell to his knees slowly and succumbed to fits of sobbing, she cursed herself inwardly. Seeing children cry like this, where all hope seemed lost, reminded her too much of her own childhood, and she hated it. She shook her head and knelt down beside him, speaking as gently as she knew how,

"Listen, Tenchi," she began slowly, not really knowing what she was going to say, but feeling she had to say something, so she winged it, "Do you really want to go home that badly?"

He looked up to her, letting her wipe the tears from his eyes, "What?"

"I said do you really want to go home so badly?"

"Yes!" his heart was racing now, did this mean there was a way? "Yes, please!"

"I know of a little loop hole. But if we use it then you have to, and I mean absolutely have to do what I tell you, or else I'll be forced to gobble you up! Do you understand?"

Tenchi gulped, but nodded none the less.

"Okay, listen carefully, if I let you go in the morning then during the day I have no right to chase after you. But, if you do not return to the forest by nightfall, which is when I'm supposed to prowl the forest, then I have to go find you and do away with you and your family. Understand?"

"So… I can go tomorrow, but I have to stay with you every night? F… For the rest of my life?"

She almost lost face by how adorably heart-wrenching his sad words were, "Well, that would be very kind of you to keep me company… I am very lonely," she smiled privately at seeing him show sorrow on the surface for her, "But no, you just have to come see me once a night, even just to say hello. That should be enough for me to keep my obligations as a prisoner…" she didn't have to pretend to feel distain for that fact.

A smile spread across his mouth, there was hope after all! He could go home, and not for much of a cost at all! Didn't he play in these woods every day anyways? How hard would it be to just add a greeting and goodbye every evening before heading back home? He had to thank her for this, it wasn't like she had to go out of her way to help him… maybe she wasn't such a bad person- err, demon after all!

"Miss, um, I mean Ryoko," he bowed deeply to her once more, "thank you."

She ruffled his hair as she stood, amusement practically dripping off of her voice, "Didn't I tell you not to be so formal with me?" she waited for him to straighten back up properly before continuing, "Besides, I'm not a human, remember? So there's no need for bowing," she took a hold of his small hand and began leading him deeper into the forest, "Come on, if the wolves sniff you out it'll be trouble."

"Wolves?" the boy exasperated, "I thought, but, wolves don't live here!"

"Right, not anymore, but they used to," she had stated this so matter-of-factly Tenchi was sure there was more to it, so he waited for her to continue, which she did once peering down to see him inquiring silently back up to her, "Didn't anyone ever tell you that legend?"

"I think… umm… I dunno…" It sounded familiar, but he could recall no specific legend from his grandfather about wolves lurking in the forest, it was mostly stories about her, the demon. Sometimes the other children did try to scare him with such outlandish tales, but he always thought they were just making fun.

"Well, we have a ways to go, so I'll tell you," besides, she thought, nothing like sharing a good story to make strong bonds, "Many, many years ago, Tenchi, wolves used to roam these lands like they do in most all lands across the world. Only here they grew to be sleeker, craftier, and faster. After all, they had grown tired of being outsmarted by the foxes.

"They had existed as such before man ever came from across the sea. You would think that this didn't bode well, as man has always been the bane of nature's order, much more so than us Demons. But the wolves perceived no threat. On the contrary, man only harvested vegetation and fish back then, and revered the wolves as guardians of the forest, while they saw the foxes as tricksters. The wolves loved this, naturally, and for the most part left man to their own devices.

"Some even helped when a human became lost in a forest, ran low on their luck, or came down with an ailment; for man worshiped the wolves and respected them, and the wolves found it only fair to help out if they could. I remember once long ago, a wolf had told me about why she helped a human woman with her sick child. She had said the villager had often left offerings at an alter for the wolves as a kid, praying for her mother's health. Her prayers had gone unanswered, and her mother had passed away. That girl had grown into a woman and had a child of her own, but the youth had caught a fever. Back then a fever cold mean death, not a day off of chores or whatever it is now, especially for the young and old. The human mother ventured forth into the wolves' forest and prayed to not lose her only daughter too.

"And you know what happened? A wolf answered her prayers. She showed herself to the woman and the woman followed her. The wolf led the human to a patch of herbs, sniffed them, looked back to the woman, and then took off into the brush with a mouthful. The worried mother took a handful as well, following the wolf's example, and returned home. She made a tea for her daughter with the herbs, every morning and every night, and soon enough the child made a full recovery.

"This female wolf had told me she helped the human mother because her own mother was able to feed her and her siblings during a harsh winter for that child, who later grew up into a mother herself, had left offerings at the wolves' altar. I had never seen such a relationship in nature as wolves have had with man. But, as I said earlier, when man becomes involved it is usually nature that pays the price.

"Man eventually stopped worshiping the wolves, having been influenced by other men of the west, and began raising livestock, which meant cutting down the wolves' home, and killing their prey. The wolves became angered, yet scared. Man had grown powerful, could do away with demons and spirits on their own, enslave animals and make them stupid and fat, not to mention create weapons that spout fire and could kill from a distance. Worst of all, they began to worship in new ways that cared not for nature and harmony, but the entitlement of mankind.

"The wolves had no choice, they were starving and had to feed their young, and the only meat around was man's cattle. It didn't take long for humans in these lands to start thinking like their western ilk and began despising the wolves. Then a great blow came, I'm sure you know about rabies, a disease that drives animals mad and could kill a person easily if they caught it. The wolves began carrying it, and the humans noticed. So, tensions already what they were, man began hunting the wolves. By the beginning of this century, they were wiped out.

"What remains in this forest are the spirits of the wolves, they are angry and confused, just like they were at the end of their line. No longer beasts of cunning or helpful deities to the lame and lost. 'Course, I'm a demon, so it doesn't affect me much. But you are a human, Tenchi, and if they pick up your scent after dark they might just come hunting for you."

Tenchi had practically turned white. Not only were the rumors of wolves in these woods true, but they were vengeful spirits on top of it! What was he supposed to do if they attacked him? He looked up at Ryoko, speechless, but wanting some sort of reassurance that he was going to be okay. When she finally caught his eye, having felt his small hand cling tighter to hers, her face changed from sullen to sympathetic.

"Don't worry kiddo," she bolstered, "you're with me, remember? And I'm far scarier than any mean ol' spirit." This did comfort him somewhat, though still it didn't count out the fact that he might become prey again.

They eventually came upon the mouth of a large stone cave. Tenchi immediately recognized the construct, having been told descriptions of it all of his life, and once seeing a picture in his grandfather's files, laid out on a table one evening. "Is this where you live?" he asked in slight bewilderment.

"Of course! What, were you expecting something more sinister?" She chuckled lightly, directing him into the opening of her home, "Best part is you don't need to worry about taking your shoes off."

He felt a strange eeriness to the place. The air was thick and old, yet moist. The walls were smooth, and held a slight sheen to them. The deeper they ventured, the darker it became, but Ryoko seemed to know the way.

"I can't see anything," Tenchi whispered with a worry of disturbing anything that might be lurking in the dark.

Ryoko stopped and blinked a few times, "You can't?" She sounded as if he couldn't figure out what two plus two was.

"It's too dark, I might trip…"

"Oh!" the demona announced rather suddenly, "That's right, I completely forgot! Humans can't see too well in the dark, right?"

"R-right…"

"I gotcha covered," she said as a rush of orange beams of light came hurtling into her free hand, forming a dense ball which illuminated their enclosed surroundings, "How's this? Better?"

This amazing ability startled the boy, causing him to gasp. It wasn't frightening though, seeing this warm glowing orb suspended over her hand, only unexpected, "You can make light?"

"No, I can call energy, which makes the light. But I can only do this much when I'm close to my power source…" she paused for dramatic effect, then went on with a poignant determination, "it's a shame really, if I wasn't trapped in this damn forest with all my power sealed away, I could show you so many more impressive abilities. But for now all I can do is this. Oh, and I can fly and teleport, of course."

Tenchi was left to ponder a new feeling in relation to her: shame. She seemed to be hiding how miserable she was inside, how lonely and depressed, all because his ancestor trapped her here in the forest. And what for? Because she was a demon? The legend he knew never mentioned why Yosho had attacked Ryoko, other than she wasn't welcome. Though he expected he was never given the full version from his grandfather, he still felt ashamed for the entire situation currently. What if she was innocent and only did bad things because she had to now?

The narrowing passage way opened upon a wide chamber. Large, old roots burst forth from the rock face of the walls and ceiling, tangling and ensnaring stone formations and penetrating the ground. A strange assortment of items had been collected and strewn about, some so old Tenchi had no idea what they could have been, aside from articles of clothing and bladed weapons; others were more recent, like wallets, purses, hats, sunglasses, hiking shoes or other such items a person might have on them if they were to venture outside.

He started to realize that there was some semblance to all of this clutter. Hiking packs, or other such baggage were piled together mostly in the same area, while the weapons had been haphazardly tossed aside one of the walls. Glass bottles and mirrors appeared to have been categorized together, while clothing seemed to be all piled in the middle of the room, minus footwear, which had its own section.

"This is your home?" Tenchi asked quietly.

"This is where I keep all my stuff," Ryoko corrected as she placed her mask on top of an old wooden shrine, though not taking offence to the disbelief in his voice. Hell, if it was up to her things wouldn't be this way either, "I sleep further down, come on, I'll show you."

She led him to what looked to be a man made passage way, as if the rock had been cut out brick by brick but smoothed over the course of time. It stretched diagonally downward, and the moment Tenchi set foot inside he jumped back right away, "That's cold!" he yelped, for he had stepped in water.

"I know…" Ryoko frowned, she hated that she had to rest in a place like this, "But, there is one thing I like about all of this," she said with a change of heart, letting the orange orb to dissipate.

"Hm?" the youth inquired, not minding his surroundings yet again and focusing on a teal glow emanating from below the cool liquid, which seemed to come to life with the release of Ryoko's lantern.

She quickly snatched him up and hugged him to her body, reveling in the way he gasped in surprise; "This!" she shouted as she jumped feet first and sped at breakneck speed down the tunnel. Tenchi yelled in fear, but only at first, for Ryoko was laughing all the way down in a way which was contagious. He realized with her protecting him in her arms that this was fun, not scary, so he began to cheer as they plummeted down to the bottom of the illuminated slope.

Instead of crashing into the ground, as would normally have been the case, the demoness shot straight into the air of the new opening, flying so fast in wide, strong circles that the features of the room blurred in Tenchi's eyes. No matter though, this was fun! This was amazing! Not to mention that the person giving him all this delight was possibly the most dangerous creature he had ever met, which seemed to add to the thrill.

Now that she was slowing down, Tenchi could see ornate cuts in the ground, all leading to a glowing pool of water. At the center of this pool was an island of sorts, about the size of his parent's bed, and covered with a thick, dark moss. They descended on top of this island, and the boy realized it was a giant rock. Yet the plant creep clinging to it was so heavy he didn't doubt for a moment it wouldn't be uncomfortable. He was right; it was soft, and so welcoming. He removed his shoes and socks before lying out on top of it all, just to enjoy the feeling.

Ryoko too reclined, hands behind her head and staring straight upward, a content smile naturally gleaming on her face. Tenchi followed her gaze up and saw that there was an opening in the ceiling which allowed the night sky to shine down brilliantly. His mouth hung open in silence at how beautiful the view was. This, when his host turned to him to speak, caused her to laugh lightly instead. So they both laughed, and sharing a genuine one with someone felt nothing like anything she had experienced before.

The boy soon quieted down, and a sweet silence filled the room. Not too long after he had closed his eyes and curled into a comfortable position, waiting for sleep to take his tired mind far away. He felt comfortable here, and safe. No stories of demons or wolves really held any threat, not now that he was friends with her.

The demon watched curiously as her young guest drifted off to sleep. When she was sure it was safe to drop the act a long, burdened sigh was released into the damp air. She knew she was manipulating the child onto her side, which was the plan. Have him feel so guilty and sad over her situation until he can't take it anymore! Make him that desperate to help her! Then hopefully he would, and finally free her from these damnable woods! Yet she was becoming fond of his company as well, she couldn't ignore that. He was a sweet, unassuming boy, who was brave and fun loving. He somehow made her happy just being around him, and she loved it!

"What am I getting myself into?" she wondered aloud, crawling up close to Tenchi and enclosing his small body with her own. If he was going to sleep here, then he might as well stay warm. He held onto her instinctively, making a tiny moaning sound as he snuggled a bit closer to the soft warmth. The last sounds she heard that night as her own eyes began to close were the gentle songs of the crickets, and a far away, lonely howling.
 

Re: "Pale Blue"
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2012, 04:17:27 AM »
 

Tearatone

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Chapter 2: Foolish Impressions

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Sunlight fell gracefully down from the open rock well above. Its gentle warmth caressed the sleeping boy, making him curl beneath the demanding beams to hide his eyes away. No good though, he was already awake. A slight confusion set in as his brain tried to make sense of his surroundings. This was a cave, the air was slightly damp, and he was resting on soft moss, but why?

Flowingly memories of the previous evening began to return, causing him to sit straight up and quickly scan the ancient stone room. He found himself to be alone, which worried him. Where had Ryoko gone? And how was he supposed to get home like she had promised if she wasn't around to fly him out? He spotted his shoes across the expanse of the large stone bed and crawled over to them, slipping on his socks first, and then securing his feet in the snug leather casings. However, now that there was nothing to preoccupy himself with, he began to worry.

"Hello?" Tenchi called out, unsure if he would even receive a response, "Ryoko? Are you there?"

No answer came, and after a few minutes a heavy anxiousness caused him to holler again, "Hello? Ryoko? Where are you?"

The beginning swells of panic started setting in, causing his imagination to fire off worse case scenarios. What if all of last night was an act? That she was only pretending to be his friend so she could lure him to this hole and leave him to waste away? Or what if she couldn't be around during the day and she meant to keep him here as her nighttime prisoner for the rest of his life? Or maybe she did mean to eat him and was only saving him for tonight's dinner?

He slid down the soft rock, wanting to make his way to the opening which they flew through last night, but lost his footing on the round surface and fell. The next moment he was submerged in freezing cold water. The icy stab of it all caused him to gasp and struggle, for not only were these waters shockingly frosty, but also very deep. In fact he could not feel nor see any bottom. He did his best to stay calm and paddle to the embankment, but he had started to struggle right from the beginning, and kept sinking, making him kick out and flail which did little good for his situation other than get his mouth above the surface.

"Ryoko!" He managed to yell fearfully before his head was enveloped by the water again, now he truly was sinking, and barely able to keep up the fight. It was stingingly cold, dark, and quiet. He tried holding his breath, but knowing he couldn't breathe made it hard to do so, causing his lungs to burn. Darker and darker, colder and colder; he didn't want to die! Why had he never learned to swim? Why was the water so deep here? Why couldn't he see the sunlight from up above?

As his vision began to wane, he spotted a disturbance up above. From it two piercing yellow lights, moving swiftly through the water were heading right for him! His eyes widened as the pain from not breathing seared his insides. Was this it? Were these tiny glowing orbs penetrating the darkness somehow a representation of death, come to take him away? He saw them move right up to his face, felt his body being pulled forcefully into something solid, and then experienced the sensation of rushing upwards through the heavy solution. Breaking the surface caused water to spout up from below in all directions, catching the sunlight in its speckled gleam. He gasped for air, coughing and hacking, feeling a harsh burning sensation in his nose and mouth, but he was breathing. He was going to live!

"You idiot!" screamed a familiar womanly voice as she flew him back down onto the massive moss laden boulder and set him there, "Why would you go take a dip if you don't know how to swim?"

"I fell!" was all he could come up with, still breathing rather heavily.

"Don't give me that! Your shoes are on, so you were awake. Why did you jump in?" She sounded exceedingly angry, and it was frightening him.

"I wanted to look for you, I'm sorry," he thought it unwise just now to point out that she was unfairly mistaken.

"I heard you calling me, you could have waited!" suddenly he felt stupid for rushing in a panic, and hung his head as she kept shouting, "What the hell was I supposed to do if I came back here and you were dead? Huh?"

"I… I dunno, I'm really sorry."

"Damn it all!" She yelled, turning away from him in mid air, "Stop acting all pathetic, I'm not the bad guy here!" In truth seeing him feel so guilty for making a mistake was tearing at her heart strings, though she would never admit to having them. After listening leniently to him catch his breath she turned around again to look at him, "You know why I yelled at you?"

"Because I messed up…" Tenchi whimpered in a small, strained voice.

"Yes, that too, but you also scared me. What if I had been here just a few moments later? You could have died!" She took notice that he was shivering now, out of fear or just the chill of his wet clothes, she couldn't tell; but she knew those waters all too well and they were not meant for a human boy his size.

"I'm sorry, Ryoko," he apologized again, though this time with more wavering in his words.

The demoness sighed and crossed her arms tighter still, "Alright, just don't do it again, you got it? Now wait here, stay in the sunlight, I'm going to find you something dry to wear,"

True to her word she shot off into the sheer passage way they came through last night. Once she reached her storage room she immediately landed by the large assortment of clothes she had stolen off her victims through the centuries. She usually avoided attacking children though, so he would have to make due with a man's large haori jacket and mismatching sash.

In a matter of seconds she was gone from the dilapidated dwelling and was zipping around him before landing by his side, "Here," she said perhaps a little too stern, "I don't have much for a kid to wear, so make the best of it."

Tenchi reached out for the clothing with shaking hands and grasped it lithely, "Th-Thank you, Ryoko," even though he was shivering worse than before, he seemed reluctant to change garments.

"Well?" Ryoko demanded with inpatients riddling her voice, "What are you waiting for? You'll catch your death of cold, you know."

"Can you… Um, I mean, please don't watch," if he wasn't so chilly, he would probably be blushing from embarrassment.

The demon understood and sighed in frustration as she turned away from him, constricting her arms into a weave while deciding to further her ridicule, "You humans are so weird about your bodies. Sure, cloths are fun, but being naked is natural. If I felt like it I could roam these damn woods without anything to cover me up. I have, in fact, and I don't act all vulnerable and ashamed."

Tenchi did not respond to her until he had completely changed his cloths, though even when he did he had little contribution, "I… I don't know…"

"You 'don't know' what?" she let off, "out with it."

He was feeling pressured now, remembering just who, and more importantly what, it was he was conversing with, "I, um, don't know if I could do that."

She noticed there was less shivering in his voice, and it made her smile, "What? Walk around the forest naked like I have? Sure you could! It's easy! Only thing that's stopping you is your moronic human customs."

"Moronic?" He felt offended then, and Ryoko heard it like a ton of bricks.

"Err," she started awkwardly, remembering she was supposed to be getting him on her side, not making an enemy of the kid, "probably the wrong word for it. Ah well, don't mind me, I'm just bitter and irritated. You know, humans did this to me, and now you go and fall into that death pool, not to mention I somehow lost my favorite cloak from last night. Remember, the one I was wearing when me met? Um, well, just a lot on my mind, ya know?" sure, it was a patch job, but he was a kid and wouldn't be any the wiser, right? "Say, you decent then?"

"I'm good now," Tenchi affirmed quietly. He was now criticizing himself inwardly for not being more patient with this woman; she had gone through a lot and was now going out of her way to help him, not to mention how she just saved his life, and then he had the gall to get uppity when she fumed a little? His Grandfather would be ashamed.

Ryoko spun around and had to hold in a snort, for he looked downright silly, like a toddler who got into all the wrong cloths. Strange, for some reason she wasn't angry with him anymore, had she ever forgiven someone this quickly? She couldn't recall. In any case she picked him up, much to his squeaky surprise, and lifted off directly into the skies above.

Tenchi's initial reaction was alarm, for she had snatched him even before he could grab his wet clothes! However this soon was blown away by the overwhelming feeling of thrill coursing through his body, reigniting new life into his previously shaken form. He had never been this high up before, nor traveled this fast! What a rush! Half of him worried that she couldn't keep a hold of him, making him clench onto her with uncertainty, yet the other half didn't care and just wanted to feel the swiftness of the wind slide through his hair and press against his skin. To enjoy the sensation of falling and rising as his host spun circles in the warm late-morning air; laughing, giggling, and soaring as they skimmed the massive tree tops together. She was so lucky to be able to fly, and the possibility of being able to do this again and again with her in his following evenings to come filled his leaping heart with a long lost joy. Somehow he saw her luck as his fortune too, and it made him smile and hug onto her a little tighter.

All too soon it seemed his blue haired friend had slowed to a drifting decent, as if she were a colorful exotic feather. As Ryoko took foot on solid ground she gently settled her young new friend in front of her. He looked up at the happy demon, windswept and messy haired; but he was smiling, and she knew she had done right.

The boy glanced around casually, and it slowly dawned that he recognized the landscape. They were still high up, yes, and he could see a massive, glittering lake body far below, surrounded by a visual fire of autumn colored trees stretching from where he stood all the way over to the adjacent mountain. Then he was aware of where exactly it was he had been set down on. Through his bare feet he could feel it was stone upon which he stood, and as he turned around he was greeted with the sight of the Masaki shrine, old but well maintained, and owning a consoling charm, much like its head priest.

Tenchi turned to face Ryoko and had to stop himself from bowing, remembering that she wasn't all that fond of formalities. Instead, spurred on by the adrenaline still pumping rampant through his veins, he wrapped his arms around her middle. She was taken aback by his sudden act of affection, though really if she thought about it she couldn't blame him. He had just gone through a whole mess most would never have survived, given her a choice. She gladly accepted the smile gracing her features as she returned the hug.

"Thank you," Tenchi almost choked, "I mean, for everything, thank you…" he should have never doubted her.

"Anytime, kiddo," She said as she stroked the back of his messy head with her long fingers a few times before dethatching herself from his little frame. He seemed almost reluctant to let go, "I'm guessing you wanted to see your Grandfather, correct?" She asked, changing the subject.

"Yeah…" he was feeling something was slightly amiss, but couldn't quite understand what.

"He lives at this shrine, right? I sometimes see an old Masaki man walk up and down those long stairs."

"He's the head priest! You should come and meet him, he loves guests!" He wanted to suddenly spend more time with Ryoko, and in some way show off his new friend to whoever he could.

Ryoko continued to smile at his childish excitement, but spoke with a slender forlorn tone, "I'm sure he does, but I can't follow you any further even if I wanted to. This is a Shinto shrine, and every part of it is hallowed ground, even all those steps leading up here. So since I'm a demon, and one who has all of her power under lock and key, I can't cross this barrier." She motioned to their feet, and Tenchi saw that she still stood on unpaved forest floor, while he was safely on the shrine's stone pavement.

Tenchi opened his mouth to say something; however before he could even pass one word to her, a loud, pitiful shout of distress rang across the grounds. The child recognized the voice right away and spun around to find his considerably emotional wreck of a father running for him. He was probably once a well built man, but had let himself go a touch in his middle age. He had a nonthreatening mustache upon his upper lip and wore thick glasses.

"Tenchi! My boy!" the father cried, tears streaming comically down his face as he lifted his son and held him close, "You have returned! Oh Tenchi you worried us! Where have you been?" Ryoko took note that his voice sounded almost congested, perhaps he was fighting off a cold?

"Father!" young Tenchi chimed in now, hugging his dad and looking happy to be reunited with a family member, "I was lost in the woods, but its okay, this lady took care of me and brought me back!"

An odd sort of change came over Tenchi's father as he set his son down gingerly. His glasses seemed to fog in acknowledging what he perceived as a strangely adorned, yet none the less beautiful young woman, "Oh miss," he proclaimed enthusiastically, stepping forward and grasping her hands in his own, which she thought felt rough and meaty, "Please, allow me to thank you for taking care of my only child. Why it nearly drives me to tears thinking what could have happened to him out there all alone in those haunted woods."

"Err, yeah, sure thing," Ryoko said, growing uncomfortable by the man's ever encroaching closeness. She noticed that Tenchi didn't look at all embarrassed. On the contrary, he seemed to think this was completely normal. Was this how strangers thanked one another now-a-days, or was her friend's father just always this weird?

"What a lovely kindness you have shown this family," the man complimented, though it felt almost rushed.

"Um, thanks?" she replied, noticing that she couldn't remove her hands from his grip with a normal human assertion of strength.

"My name is Nobuyuki, Nobuyuki Masaki. Please pretty miss, won't you let me know your name?" Nobuyuki wore a clean, wide smile which had eager written all over it.

"Uhh, it's Ryoko," she stated hurriedly, not much caring for his intrusion of her personal space.

"Oh, Miss Ryoko, what a pretty name you have, fitting for such a kind hearted woman who would rescue a child not her own," his voice dropped to a sultry, suggestive tone, "Tell me now, why not accept my gratitude by going to a romantic getaway with me?"

The look of utter incredulity on Ryoko's face sent warning signs to fire off for the boy. It happened in a flash to young Tenchi's eyes. His savior had yanked her hands from Nobuyuki's with such force that it caused him to lose balance and stumble backwards, landing on his rump with a dull thud. In an instant the wild haired woman tried to rush forward, forgetting what she had just told Tenchi about not being able to come any closer, and was immediately forced back upon her own rear end by some powerful invisible force. Tenchi was pulled between who to tend to first, but was saved the trouble of acting by the announcement of a fourth person on the scene.

"My, my," a gentle, yet somehow somber voice beamed, "seems like two miscreants have met with the guiding hand of fate."

All three had turned their heads to find a tall old man. He was sporting long grey hair tied into a fluid pony tail running the length of his back, which complimented his neutral colored Shinto priest attire rather nicely. His glasses, which were resting neatly high up the ridge of his mustached nose, gleamed brightly in the light of the warming sun, effectively hiding his eyes from view. He was holding a folded bundle of brown cloth in one of his arms, which seemed to be somewhat out of place.

Ryoko's eyes narrowed. She was able to sense the presence of Tenchi's father, which was laughably easy. But how could she have not felt this old man nearby? Or even picked him up with her superior senses? Somehow she was feeling unsettled by his presence, and every moment he stood near compounded upon her unease. Caution would have to be taken around this geezer, she thought, least he somehow trigger her wrath toward the Masaki clan. And that was a real possibility, for he was acting too much like her foe of old.

"Grandfather!" Tenchi yelled, happiness sprinkling his voice, "I'm back! Ryoko here helped me and-" He had to stop talking, for his grandfather had reached a polite free hand down for Ryoko take hold of, only to receive a low, monstrous growl in return from the fallen beauty. The sound of it sent chills flowing down the boy's spine. He had never in his life heard anything so threatening. Tenchi's heart was racing, what was he supposed to do in a situation like this?

The air had become suddenly tense as his new friend and his guardian locked eyes. Neither one of them dared to move; least it caused the other to react. It was at last Nobuyuki, standing slowly to his feet, who broke the silence, "Umm, is there a problem?" he asked with mild concern, though seeming lost.

"R-Ryoko?..." Tenchi asked with a worried voice, though he didn't know exactly what, he could still tell something was wrong.

The demon's eyes faltered at the sound of his scared voice and broke contact with the Shinto Priest to look at the child. The moment she had shown concern for his peace of mind, however, the old man retracted his hand slowly. This casual gesture caused her to sharpen her gaze back to her opponent and move with a speed Tenchi's eyes could not follow. She had pushed herself off the ground and leapt so quickly backwards away from his grandfather that the youngest of the Masaki family could have sworn it was her teleporting again. He noticed that she landed just short of the shine grounds, and felt a sense of enclosure for her here. She was limited in her movements, he thought, and it must be putting her on edge.

The eldest Masaki man seemed to have noticed this too and straightened up slowly as his gentle voice passed over the entire group, "I see," he began with a slow but strong pace, "so that is who you are. Though I must wonder if it was bravery or foolishness for you to come so close to this shrine, especially as the sun is still quite young in the sky."

"Shut up old man!" Ryoko snarled, "What I do is my own business!"

"So it may be," he responded with a bemused smile, "Unless that business includes my family, then it becomes mine as well."

Tenchi and his Father stood slack-jawed. Neither of them could ever recall anyone taking this tone with the head priest before. However Tenchi was not content with just staring on hopelessly, especially when two people he cared about were at odds. Ryoko had opened her mouth to shout again at the quiet old man, but her small friend had spoken before she could let him have it.

"Ryoko, please, what's the matter?" He was approaching her now and she stared at him, a mixture of concern and spite splashed across her pretty face.

She considered him hard as he came to stand between the two, stopping abruptly in front of her. On the one hand she had never felt so threatened for her well being by another simple by being in this old man's presence, not since Yosho had defeated her seven hundred years ago. Though on the other hand she was worrying Tenchi by reacting so strongly, and that was making her feel horrible inside. So which mattered more, finding an excuse to fight this strange old man, or keep on Tenchi's good side? She sighed heavily, knowing the obvious answer.

"Its nothing, only…" she realized that apologizing to the boy just now would be fine and all for him, but he would be spending his company in the presence of these two men a lot longer than in hers, so she switched gears, "No, uh, I'm sorry old man, you just… brought something out in me," which wasn't a lie either, there was an eerie sense about him, as if there was much more to him than he was letting on. The fact that she couldn't discern exactly what that was reminded her all too well of her fight with the Samurai Yosho.

Tenchi and his Grandfather smiled at the same time, only Tenchi's was adorable, while the priest's was mischievous, "Good to know I can still bring that out in a woman," he commented lewdly.

Ryoko's apologetic façade clunked immediately, and she decided to address Tenchi than either of the older two perverts he called guardians, "Well, I kept my word and brought you back safe and sound. Now you make sure to keep up your end of the deal, okay?"

"Sure!" Tenchi exclaimed happily, "I promise!"

Ryoko ruffled his hair, and made to leave without another word of goodbye to anyone, only to be hailed by the strange old man,

"Now wait a moment young lady," he commanded rather persuasively, and to her surprise she wanted to hear what he had to say, though still retained an air of displeasure as he continued to speak, "I believe this belongs to you, does it not?" he held out the bundle of deep brown cloth for her to receive.

She stared at the pile cautiously, slightly wondering if it was safe to touch, then curiosity allowed her to reach out a swift hand. She held it up gingerly and watched at it unfurrowed sloppily into the shape of her lost cloak. Her eyes widened at the sight of it before she turned back to face the old man with surprise. However he had already turned his back on her, much to her annoyance in not being able to sense this too, and had beckoned Tenchi to his side. So instead she swung the cloak around her form and turned to walk away slowly, keeping a keen ear on the conversation between the young and old.

"Tenchi, this means extra chores," said the old man.

"Because Tenchi had become lost in the woods, Father Katsuhito?" asked Nobuyuki, "Isn't that a bit harsh?"

"No, not when you consider that while lost he had resorted to making a deal with the demon of the woods and brought her right to our shrine's doorstep," Katsuhito said cooly.

"What?" Tenchi and his father shouted in surprise, though the boy added on, "Grandpa, how did you know that?"

"You just told us," the priest said smugly.

Ryoko smiled to herself, even though she didn't like him, she had to admit that old man had style. She decided then, as her amused smile twisted into that of a revenge hungry animal's, that once Tenchi freed her, his Grandfather would be the first to go. As the sun entered its high noon position she phased gradually away into the darkness of the ancient forest.
 

Re: "Pale Blue"
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2012, 04:18:40 AM »
 

Tearatone

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Chapter 3: Memoirs Ink

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It had been a week since she safely delivered the boy to his guardians, and even though they were happy to have him back, she could tell there was no getting along with them. His father became too perverse when near, and his grandfather… he wasn't rude or cold toward her, but something about the old man just rubbed her the wrong way. Still, despite all of this, Tenchi would come visit her at least once a day, usually several times, and they would share stories and play games together. He would show her new ones she had never witnessed before, like tic-tack-toe, or roshambo. Simple games that young children could wrap their heads around yet would remain fun throughout a lifetime due to someone else's wit.

During one of these innocent games Tenchi had complained about how he was given double chores as a punishment for getting lost and having to resort to making a deal with a devil. His father tried to object, saying it was punishment enough that he had to see Ryoko every day (once he found out exactly who she really was of course,) but his words were overruled by Katsuhito. All things considered, the demoness felt Tenchi had gotten off rather easy, and that the old man was only punishing his grandson as a formality.

Eventually, over the next few weeks, her young friend had grown ostensibly concerned, and when she tried to console him he spilled out a flurry of pent up emotions. School was starting soon, he was nervous, scared that he wasn't smart enough, having never lived or even visited a city before. When asked why this should matter he explained how on some new age device called a television, essentially a box with a window that could both show and tell stories, whenever he saw a school it was always in a city or large town with city-like folk. What Tenchi was scared of was that these people were supposed to be smarter than people like him, who lived in a rural area.

"How about I tell you a story, hm?" The demon asked, laying down on a cushy blanket Tenchi had brought for a picnic and stretching out fully. She turned to him, propping her head on one hand, and using the other to demonstrate with a wavy gesture its relevance to his concern.

"Alright," Tenchi agreed quietly, seeming unsure of how a story could help him now, but trusting her all the same.

"Schools have existed since my time, long before I was ever trapped in these woods. I remember them well; young men, for only human men were allowed in back then, would come from all around and listen to older men rattle on about spirituality, morality, history, mathematics, and all that boring stuff. My point is these were all boys who had come from respectable families, but only knew as much as their families could provide. Schooling costs money, understand, and you could only learn if you had the money and social standing that came with it.

"It was because of this exclusive presence that I wanted to crash one of their classes. You know what I did? I found a slacker dawdling behind, knocked him out, and stole his clothes. It wasn't a perfect fit, but I can do things with a belt and sash you wouldn't believe… Err, anyway, after stuffing my hair as best I could into one of those silly hats your people's academics wore, I trailed closely behind a group of students into the school.

"You know I tried being inconspicuous, sitting in the back of the class and just listening. But I guess everything just bored me and I sort of dozed off. The next thing I know I'm surrounded by a priest and a handful of the local authority enforcers. They had come to dispatch me, a well known demon by that time, and probably to make a name for themselves. Well, you know how powerful I am… err, was, and so I made quick work of them and trashed the building before making my escape," she finished without ceremony, save a slight grin of pleasure gracing her pretty lips.

When she noticed the awed, though slender and timid look about his features, Ryoko decided to make an amendment, "Err, the moral, yeah… So what you should get from all of this is that you are a perfectly clever human child that can even get a demon to smile, so you should have no trouble fitting into a classroom full of other kids."

The smile Ryoko offered Tenchi was warm, though somewhat quirked. Never the less he couldn't imagine seeing any other demons or monsters parading as human children at his school and snoozing in a back seat. He snickered slightly at the thought of it, and immediately felt an inner weight lift.

The forest demon seemed pleased by her friend's light laughter, and found it as a cause to continue conversing, "See? No worries then. And if you do end up feeling nervous still, just remember nothing they throw at you will ever compare to escaping me unharmed."

Tenchi's warm expression slackened a pinch. Seeing Ryoko's bravado didn't fill him with the confidence he was sure was meant to come from it, but rather a plunging sensation. She had spoken of it so offhandedly he didn't realize exactly what she had said, made it feel like the events were to be thought of as a game or some such. But by 'making quick work of them,' and 'trashing the place,' did she mean hurting others? Or even killing them? Then again, she said they had come to dispatch her, which meant she was defending herself, right? His uncertainty must have shown through his now weakened smile, for his companion interrupted his thoughts.

"What's wrong now, kiddo?" she asked kindly, well, kindly for her.

"Oh! Um…" he focused his gaze at his feet and tried to quickly think of something to cover up his wayward imaginings.

"Come on, you can tell me, no one here but us! Besides, who would I blab to anyhow?" Ryoko offered a toothy fanged grin. She knew there was something else troubling him, that was plain, but he was acting as if it was something he would get in trouble for.

"Uh… It's, well, kinda embarrassing," now he had to assume an embarrassing story on top of being relevant to the topic at hand. His brain was racking its self into a stupor. This is why he hated lying, not only did he feel horrible inside, but it was so hard to do straight faced; and had to be done quickly and convincingly, or else he would immediately be called on it. The truth was so much easier.

"More embarrassing than being indebted to a demon?" she prodded.

"Wha? Oh, well…" then an image of his mother flashed by his mind, it was of her laughing at the TV because someone was doing something embarrassing. That was it! "Its, uh, my mom…"

"Hm?" the demoness pushed on, though not nearly as forceful now, the topic of his mother was one she preferred to avoid.

"It's just, umm, well, all the other kids will have their moms walk them to the bus or school, and… Dad will be in the city and Grandpa never leaves the shrine. They say I can do it by myself, but the other kids will see I don't have a mom and… and some already laugh…"

Ryoko didn't like how quiet his voice had become. At first he sounded almost fevered, and then lulled into a reserved, introspective voice. Seeing him curl into a compacted sitting position and hang his head didn't help much either. She sighed half way to concern, half to guilt, and scooted next to him, placing what she hoped was a comforting hand on his shoulder. He turned to look at his new friend with wet eyes, and she almost lost her composer. Stupid children, how come she couldn't bring herself to hurt the motherless?

"Say, Tenchi, if it really bothers you so much, not like it should, but how would you feel if I walked you down to your bus stop?" She hadn't meant to say anything of the sort, but there was something about his lonely brown eyes that just cried out for her consolidation, or would it be more accurate to say her reprimand?

There was no reason for her to think this was the wrong thing to say though, for his expression immediately returned to one of hope and wonder.

A few days came and went in a flurry of autumn leaves breaking free from their tall parent homes and falling gracefully to their deaths. Ryoko had not expected the prospect of walking down the mountain road to his bus stop, which did cut through her forest prison, to be so exciting to her. Yet sure enough, hours before the sun even had the chance to rise above the steeped horizon, there she was, waiting just outside his gate. Perhaps it was the odd feeling of nostalgia that the idea instilled, or maybe
it had something to do with being yet another change from her once boring existence that Tenchi seemed to bring about constantly. Whatever the reason, she was stoked.

Noboyuki had exited first, backing out of the driveway in a monstrously loud vehicle that moved without the brute force of any beasts of burden. She of course knew of these mechanical wonders, but had yet to see one operate so close before. Part of her even wanted to chase after the horseless carriage, but Tenchi was counting on her. She also assumed Noboyuki had been informed of her proctor role, because he did not seem surprised to see her waiting there, and even gave her a wave of greeting before speeding off. She supposed he must be running late, despite how early it was, for whenever the middle-aged man had gotten over her abrupt appearances near the Masaki property, he would usually stop whatever it was he had been doing to try and hit on her. In her cunning mind it was better when he hadn't gotten over that she was a demon and preferred to keep his distance.

She watched the sun rise to pass the time, thinking it a beautiful morning to be going for a walk. Slowly, gracefully, the great warmth filled the air and brought the birds to life all over the forest. It wasn't soon after that Tenchi came bounding out of his house in such a hurry, dressed up in an adorable little uniform, that he immediately slipped on a rather large wet leaf and fell onto his bottom with a thud. Ryoko was still snickering as he reached her, rubbing his rump tenderly and looking only dully pained.

"Good morning Ryoko," Tenchi greeted properly, just barely remembering to stop himself from bowing.

"Mornin' Tenchi," Ryoko responded in kind, holding out her hand for him to grab onto, to which he gladly did.

The early risers set out into the dawn, him recanting what he had seen on TV the previous night, then moving on to his worrisome dreams all having to do with going to school, "But when I woke up I didn't feel that bad, because I remembered you were going to walk with me down the mountain to the bus stop, and, well, it just seemed really… like it was going to be ok."

Ryoko put on a playful grin in response, "Of course, I make everything easy; didn't you know?"

They shared an ironic laugh before Tenchi asked a question he had seemed to be holding back since setting out, "Um, Ryoko?"

"Hmmm?"

"I was just wondering, err, a long time ago, did moms and kids walk like this too? I mean, to school and to town and things."

"Why do you ask?"

"Just… um, just wondering…" there seemed to be more behind his question, but Ryoko didn't pry for the moment.

"Well… As far back as I can remember it seems so. Actually, the only thing that has really changed is that the father of a family would be willing to walk their kids around if the mother isn't up for it. Heh, you know, my mother contributed men's 'too proud' behavior to the stupidity of human customs."

"Your mother?" Tenchi asked with a genuine air of surprise, having gotten used to her occasional absent minded insults to mankind by now, "you have a mom?"

"What do you mean, 'you have a mom?' Of course I do!" Ryoko felt slighted, but held back most of the spice from leaving her tongue, "Where else do you think I came from? The stone of the Earth?"

"Oh… umm, well, I- I never thought of it before I guess. I mean, it makes sense, just, you know, demons having families and all…"

"Rarely," she muttered under her breath, "Guess I get to break it to you then… Yes, demons could have families, but we are usually so greedy or selfish it never happens. Look at foxes, for instance, demons are much the same. A male comes along, makes babies with the female, and depending on their personalities he will either stick around long enough to help raise the pups, until she is ready to give birth, or just outright bolts for it. Though you can't blame him too hard, the mom can get scary and kick his ass. Though that's probably because he might eat the pups, you can never really tell.

"Anyways, yes Tenchi, I have a mother. She was one of the first demons, in fact, and could very well have been the most powerful. She loved philosophy and the innovations of your kind. For hours she would go on and on about the rise of human civilizations, how their weapons spawned from tools and vice versa, or how their indulgence in math held the key to all the world's mysteries. I think it's what she left me at a young age for… The pursuit of knowledge I mean. Kind of lame how I don't have very many memories of her actually acting like a mom, huh? Well… I do remember her holding my hand when I was a child though, walking down a mountain much like how we are. That image sort of stands out in my mind. Her hair was red… almost pink. And she had these hypnotizing green eyes that reminded me of the most vibrant jade. She was also usually kind to me, unless… well, she could be scary when she wanted to too."

"Scary?" Tenchi asked, fairly astonished to hear Ryoko found anything frightening, but wouldn't dwindle on the subject if she didn't want to delve into it.

"She…" Ryoko paused for a moment to think of the best words to use, "Well, she really liked to figure out how things worked. Or to be more precise, how to make them work better. So as a demon that meant even if someone didn't want her to, she still would. You seem a bit confused. Here, let me put it like this: my mother would sometimes go down to a village disguised as a human, dispose of the local doctor, and take his place as his 'assistant.' Then, when someone would need care, she would use it as an excuse to cut them open and tinker with their insides. Sometimes it would go according to plan, not only would they get better, but would end up stronger or faster or living longer than a normal human. Other times… well, she would have to experiment before getting the right results. You know what that means? Experiment?"

"Umm," Tenchi breathed, barely opening his mouth.

"It means to test, to try something out and see what happens. Why I say she was scary was because even I, her own flesh and blood, was not safe from her testing. In the end I guess it worked out, I wound up being pretty much a perfect life form, as she called me; but being paralyzed on a icy slab while she jeers over you with a knife was still unsettling."

The small boy felt his skin run cold. Though she spared him the more grotesque details, his mind's eye was able to fill in the blanks and run rampant with the vague implications set before his untamed imagination.

By the time the pair had arrived at the bus stop, indicated by a rusting old post hammered into the earth beside a roof covered bench, he was holding tighter to Ryoko's hand than she could recall anyone ever doing with her, well, at least innocently, "Still worried?" the cyan haired caretaker asked casually enough, then continued without concern when he offered no sensible response, "You'll be fine. I know I keep saying that, but it's true. You… You're special, Tenchi. And I'm not just mouthing off, I mean it. I wouldn't have heard you out when we first met if I didn't feel something… something was… um, you know, that you were worth knowing."

Tenchi took a long, shallow breath. He wished he could find the words to respond, but right now he was at a loss. Instead he only nodded his head and pressed his modest fingers into Ryoko's hand all the more, to which he was thankful she returned the gesture in turn. They sat hand in hand on the smooth wooden seat, sharing a quiet moment. Every so often they would hear a vehicle approaching, to which the humming engine would deposit a perplexing tingle to the child's extremities, causing another chased inhale.

Finally the big one arrived, as Ryoko so amply named it after picking up the sound well before Tenchi could. The bus was indeed large, much larger than the other automobiles. Though while Ryoko looked delighted that such a massive metallic object could move all on its own, Tenchi stirred up something deep within to steady his mounting nerves. As the monstrosity came to a halt, the antique demon made note of the change coming over her young friend's demeanor. It was a sign of his considerable courage, this ability of his to face forward at such a young age and do what he must despite any fears, troubles, or intimidation. She had seen it the first evening they had met, and a minor chill tiptoed up her spine as she witnessed the spectacle unfurl before her. He was indeed special, she thought as she hugged him goodbye for the day and reassured that she would be here to receive him later, more special to her than he should ever know.

She watched as the bus drove out of sight from atop the bench covering. Having not much else to do that day, she decided to watch the clouds drifting by high over head as she reclined into a relaxed position. Every now and again a car or van would speed by, and if she bothered to watch it she would inevitably find faces gawking at her. The most interesting instances where when other buses made a stop, releasing older looking people (who didn't seem to care much for Ryoko's outlandish appearance) onto the side of the road; they avoided eye contact and immediately headed up the trail leading to the Masaki shrine. Human beings could be such strange creatures, she thought. After a long while with no gasoline driven interruptions, Ryoko's mind fell back onto the subject of her mother. Ever since Tenchi had come into her life, she seemed to be thinking of her own childhood quite often, which predictably led onto that… monster.

The great demon from the west, they had called her, who stood witness to the beginning of man. Ryoko's tail twirled about, if her mother was still alive, which was very likely, then she was either too busy researching all the constant changes in the world caused by the ever growing human population, or had been sealed away somewhere like her daughter.

Of course, if she was dead, then Ryoko could hardly say she would be surprised. Most of the demons in the world had been exterminated centuries ago, either by the hands of other demons, or the holy weapons of humans. It was only the most powerful and cleaver, like herself, who survived by either going into hiding, blending in, or becoming sealed.

When the sun started to settle against the horizon Ryoko's ears perked. A familiar, large humming had filled the air. Sure enough, as she turned her head, she could spot Tenchi's cylindrical transport approaching far too fast for a craft of its magnitude. As it slowed to a halt for a second time that day the awaiting demon noticed again how the small faces of children were tightly pressed against the windows of the vehicle, their wild eyes all fixed on her. Tenchi was the only one to step off of the bus, and before she could offer him a warm greeting she noticed something was slightly amiss.

"Hey there Tenchi, welcome back!" she said cheerfully enough, though wondering now what had brought about his slouched demeanor. Perhaps he really did have a horrible day? If there was a bully about then there would be hell to pay.

The sorry looking boy only responded after the bus driver had stood up to correct the behavior of some children rough housing in the back of bus, "Err, um, hey Ryoko," he mumbled half heartily, his eyes downcast, though every so often sparing furtive glances towards the mushed faces watching over them.

"Bad day?" Ryoko asked, trying her best not to let any concern to bleed through.

When Tenchi finally met her eyes he found himself inhaling sharply. It was time to fess up, for he knew all too well how a normal person took concealing secrets from them, let alone a trigger happy demon. He straightened up and flattened his lips, frowning slightly but looking determined none the less, essentially letting a dam of information break forth from his mouth, fast and concentrated,

"I got to school but then I was sat with Kamikura and Ikeda! Kamikura found out that I didn't have a mom and tried to make fun of me so I just, uh, I just sort of didn't think and said that I was descended from a great samurai and have a demon servant who serves my family and takes care of me and will put a curse on anyone who does my family wrong!"

The second Tenchi stopped spouting his confession Ryoko closed her eyes and knocked him with a tight fist on the top of his head. She could never recall feeling so insulted in her life, and at the same time confused, as it was only a child's foolishness that affronted her, though this did little in cooling her tongue, "You brat! I would never be the slave of any human!"

The sudden collective intake of breath from the fogged windows gave her pause though. Not like she cared if a bunch of kids knew she was a demon, but Tenchi's word was at stake here. If he was branded a liar from the get go then it could be all the difference in branding him an outcast or not. And as much as Ryoko would hate to admit it, she never particularly enjoyed that role herself. Then an idea on how to save this situation formed in her mind. Noticing the boy still crouched and holding the top of his head, she used her mammalian tail to wrap around his belt and lifted him up off of the ground just as the bus started up again and began to roll away.

There were even more gasps and whispers of astonishment, giving the demoness incentive to add to her little display, "Come on, little lord, looks like this evil demon has to teach you some manners still," she announced quite loudly to a squirming boy in the throes of protest, they set off up the mountain pass, leaving behind the departing bus.