The Juraian Strain

Title: The Juraian Strain
Plot, or Lack Thereof: When Tenchi succumbs to a mysterious illness, his otherworld guests are forced to do some serious navel-gazing.
Reason for Banishment: Ran out of steam.


The day began, to no-one’s surprise, with Yet Another Argument Between Ryouko And Ayeka. Nobody bothered to keep track of which one of them started it anymore; it didn’t really matter anyway, since it always ended the same way—with Ryouko summoning her sword and Ayeka her logs—and the two would tear up a good portion of wherever they happened to be standing trying to kill each other. This had been such a regular occurrence at the Masaki household that everyone avoided the general direction in which the argument could be heard as soon as the first insults were shouted.

Today, though, things went off the rails.

“Will you two please quit it?” An exasperated Tenchi requested from the dining table as Ryouko and Ayeka were about to come to blows. The two surprised ladies obeyed at once, hurrying away from the scene without so much as a peep.

Washuu, ever the observant one, was first to notice something unusual about Tenchi other than his sudden and uncharacteristic assertiveness. “You don’t look to well, Tenchi. Are you all right?”

“It’s probably just the flu,” Tenchi replied, opening a thick textbook.

Washuu shook a finger at Tenchi. “Now, now, you should know better than that.”

“Yes, yes, but exams are coming up and I really need to get these concepts down.” Tenchi massaged his temples.

Quick as lightning, Washuu snatched the entire pile of books from Tenchi. “No,” she corrected, effortlessly dodging Tenchi when he tried to get his things back, “what you need is rest and Sasami’s cooking.”

“Washuu,” Tenchi began, looking very haggard.

“Washuu-chan,” Washuu corrected. “And I’m right. You’ll burn yourself out if you keep going like this.”

Tenchi swiped at Washuu a few more times before giving up. “Fine, fine. I’ll take the rest of this afternoon off.”

Washuu beamed. “That’s a good boy. Now, about those samples.”

Tenchi groaned. “Not today, Washuu.”

Dinner passed by without incident. Afterwards, Washuu marched Tenchi up to his room and made him go to bed.

“But Washuu-chan!” Tenchi complained.

“No buts,” Washuu answered. “Or I’ll drag you into my lab and do a full physical on you.”

Tenchi swallowed. “I’ll go to bed.”

 ***

The next morning, Washuu forced herself out of bed as soon as she could—like her daughter, she was more of a nocturnal person—but was dismayed to discover that Tenchi had already departed for school.

“When did he leave?” she asked Sasami, the one person who got up before Tenchi other than Yosho.

“About an hour ago,” Sasami replied.

“How did he look?”

Worry clouded Sasami’s features. “Worse than yesterday. I don’t think he hardly got any sleep at all, and his skin was very pale.”

Washuu frowned. “So what was he still going to school for?”

Sasami sighed. “I tried to get him to stay home and rest, too, but he said he couldn’t afford to miss any classes.”

Washuu sighed as well. “That boy is going to work himself to death.”

***

Tenchi looked even more frail when he trudged his way into the living room.

“I’m back,” he announced, sagging into the couch.

“Lord Tenchi!” Aeka exclaimed, seeing his condition. “I’m going to get Washuu-chan to look at you right away.”

“No, please—” Tenchi protested, but Aeka was already banging on the door to Washuu’s Subspace Lab.

“Washuu-chan! Washuu-chan!”

“I said I’m okay,” Tenchi insisted, before falling face first and landing with a oud thud on the square coffee table in front of the couch.

“LORD TENCHI!”

Aeka’s scream brought everyone else into the living room.

“Tenchi!” Ryouko flew to the unconscious teen and touched him. “He’s burning hot!”

“Oh, no!” Sasami wrung her hands.

“Tenchi doesn’t look to well,” Mihoshi observed from the stairs.

Kiyone snorted. “Whatever gives you that idea?”

Mayuka just looked around, confused. “What’s wrong?” she picked up Ryo-ou-ki and cuddled it, eliciting a sad “miya”.

Washuu finally emerged from her lab, took one look at Tenchi, and her carefree demeanor changed immediately to a much more serious one. “This calls for Washuu-chan’s special emergency care. Out of my way, girls. Shoo!” The girls reluctantly parted for the diminutive scientist. Upon reaching Tenchi, Washuu easily picked him up, slung him over her shoulder, and carried her into her lab.

***

Three-fourths of an inch of reinforced glass.

That was all that separated Tenchi from the women that surrounded his sickbed. All of them would have been more than happy to remove this obstruction that prevented them from touching Tenchi, but all of them also knew that this would spell certain death for the comatose teen.

Ryouko raised a trembling hand to the glass. “Tenchi.” she whispered, her voice breaking. “When I find out who did this to you—”

Aeka hmphed. “You’re probably the one who gave it to him in the first place.”

Ryouko’s hair seemed to stand on end as her eyes narrowed. “What did you say?”

“You’re always all over him, breathing on him and trying to kiss him,” Aeka continued as if she wasn’t interrupted. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you gave him one of your disgusting mummified space pirate germs.”

“Who are you calling a mummy?” Ryouko growled. “You’re just jealous I’ve been living on the same planet as Tenchi for a hell of lot longer than you have! And who knows what kind of diseases you inbred brats might be carrying?”

“Ryouko! Aeka!” The two would-be combatants froze as Washuu snapped. Having gotten their full attention, she then took a deep breath before continuing in a calmer voice: “Let’s not start pointing fingers here. Remember, only a handful of Earthlings have ever left orbit, and even then they were wrapped up in their spacesuits. Tenchi’s come in contact with more aliens than probably all human beings past, present, or maybe even future. I still haven’t tracked down what’s responsible yet, so until I do none of us are truly innocent.”

Mihoshi blinked in confusion. “So that means?”

“One of us could have infected him,” Washuu explained. “Or all of us. I can’t tell from the way his immune system is overreacting.”

“All of us,” Sasami whispered, pressing her face against Tenchi’s ‘cell’.

“That, or he just caught something horribly nasty from one of his classmates.” Washuu shrugged. “It’s really too early to tell.”

Kiyone let out an exasperated sigh. “Washuu-chan, please don’t scare us like that.”

“Sorry,” Washuu apologized in a way that made everyone wonder just how sincere she was being. She began pushing the girls out of the room. “Now run along and entertain yourselves in some other fashion, I need to run some more tests.”

Sasami frowned. “But!”

Aeka placed a hand on Sasami’s head. “It’ll be all right, Sasami. Come on.”

Washuu waited for everyone to leave before turning to her patient. “Kagato, Kain, Yuzuha; none of them can hold a candle to whatever’s getting to you now, eh?” She let out a bitter chuckle. She headed towards the immense computer system that monitored off Tenchi’s vital signs. “Don’t you dare lose this battle, Tenchi!” Washuu whispered, more for her own sake.

***

Dinner came and went without incident. After all the food was gone, everyone busied themselves in one manner or another: Sasami tackled the mountain of dishes, Mihoshi took Mayuka up to her room to play, Ryouko slumped into the sofa and began channel surfing, Kiyone pored over paperwork, Aeka brought out her calligraphy set, and Washuu disappeared into her lab.

Except for the sounds of the television in the living room and of the water running in the kitchen, the Masaki residence lost all traces of its previous animation. As a testament to how high-strung they still were, though, they all rushed into the living room as one when Nobuyuki returned from work, thinking the man to be his son.

“What’s with all the commotion?” Nobuyuki then noticed the one person missing from the usual bruhaha. “Where’s Tenchi?”

“Papa’s sick,” Mayuka said in the manner-of-fact way small children disseminate everything from goldfish to God. “But Washuu-chan will make him all better.”

That was when the room exploded as everyone else tried to explain the situation, each competing to get a word in with the same intensity that they would have usually reserved for Tenchi.

“Hold it, hold it!” Nobuyuki held up his hands. “I only have one set of ears, you know.” He knelt down to Mayuka’s height, putting his large hands on her small shoulders.

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