A Tale Of Three Temples - Part Two

'I was born here, in a way. Or reborn, or recreated.

'We both were.

'Well... sort of.

'The first thing I remember remembering...

'A short... short girl standing over me, spiky red hair going right down her back.

"You're Ryoko's double... Who /are/ you?"

'And I... I didn't know. I knew what the words /meant/, but I didn't know. I didn't know who I was, where I was... /what/ I was. But the girl was there, and she might know...

"Could you tell me something, please?"


"Where am I?"

'They went /aerial/. Rocketed off into the air, leaving smoke trails behind them.

'And then this girl - who looked /exactly/ like me - was charging towards me, with a hundred pound hammer in her hands.

'I was absolutely /petrified/.

'Not a good way to meet your family for the first time, was it?'


Izzy sighed.

"Isn't there someone close to you you'd like to remember tonight? Someone who has died?'

"Yeah... me."

She /had/ died. Her body had died.

And she was still walking around. A ghost in someone else's body.

She hadn't wanted the priest around, even if he was Tenchi's grandfather. Just... some time alone. Some quiet time, remembering.

He'd seemed to understand. No attempt at advice, or platitudes... an understanding that sometimes, people came to be alone.

Although he /had/ teased Tenchi about his "latest girlfriends". Which'd set Tenchi blushing again.

Seemed as if every girl who popped round the shrine was interested in him - and the poor guy was getting *distinctly* nervous.

She grinned, alone in the cave's darkness.

No one else had visited the cave in ages. So naturally, she'd poked around inside.

Bound-up rock. Probably a passage behind it. Probably a reason it was blocked up.

The tunnel she'd come down. Not much else.

Heh. Feeling both morbid and comic at the same time. She'd been feeling like that a lot, lately.

Natural enough.

Outside - or at least the Outsides close to fantasy, sci-fi, horror - she could go outside. No-one would blink more than twice.

It made things... a little easier. No one would see her as a freak, a monster.

They'd see her as an alien, or a humanoid... but not a freak.

She could handle that, at least as things stood.

But... she remembered. Remembered what she'd used to be - what she couldn't go back to being.

Passing by assumption. They assumed she was another alien, and moved on.

But the Doctor and the others... they knew.

And that... that was what hurt, in a way.

They knew.

Step back, step away. Somewhere where there's no one else.

Just you and yourself.


'Thank you for allowing us to look around.'

Katsuhiro Masaki nodded.

'This is... an interesting place.'

At that, he grinned. 'Yes, it is.'

'Did it become interesting because of the shrine, or was the shrine here before it started getting... interesting?'

'Think of it as a koan,' Katsuhiro suggested. 'In riddling out the answer, you may discover something else.'

Compassion half-smiled. 'I have a lot of things to discover.'


'Would you say this is the right place to start looking?'

'It depends where you begin. It is a /place/ to begin - whether it is the right one...' Katsuhiro looked out over the lake. 'It is not where I began - but it is where others have found a beginning.'

'Or an ending.'

'From a certain perspective, they're the same thing.' He put his hands behind his back. 'One thing I have learned is never to give advice unasked for - very few appreciate being told how to run their lives. Equally, not all pleas for advice can be answered.'

Compassion nodded. 'Because they have to learn to stand on their own feet.'

'Or perhaps-' He turned to face her. 'No one else can provide an answer.'

She looked back at him.

She could see the illusion laid over him - the image of an old man, overlying the young man beneath. Grey hair masking black, wrinkles masking smooth skin.

Could see the resemblance to Tenchi, to Ayeka... and to Sasami.

And how much could he guess of what /she/ was? she wondered. Behind the facade... even she could not tell what might be there, what lay under the surface.

Uniqueness is a state of mind, she told herself.

'A case in point,' Katsuhiro said. 'Your clients.'

Compassion smiled. 'I can imagine.'

'Neither of them could listen to anybody else - except, perhaps, for Kasumi - without exploding, and both of them were proud enough, stubborn enough, and angry enough, that they would not /ask/ anyone else.'

She nodded.

'That it took such a major event to make them realise it...' He breathed out. 'They /did/ realise, however. And they have made the choice - without interference from their parents. Thankfully.'

'But things don't end with weddings.' Compassion said slowly. 'No... Something does end - and something else begins. You make the choice, and everything changes.'

Katsuhiro nodded.

'Even if you don't realise it.' she ended, quietly.

'And even if you do.' he said.

She turned to look at him, but he had turned to look out over the lake again.


'I still remember him, you know. ...How can I put it?

'Ryo-sama and Kagato.

'No, not quite like that. Kagato was... was a ruthless man. When he used his control on Ryo-sama... she served his will. Absolutely.

'I wonder, sometimes, if he ever gave her free will. If she ever knew free will before he had her attack Jurai.

'She shields that part of herself, now. That time.

'You see... I think he was all she knew. But whether she knew there was anything else... I don't know.

'As Master Yakage was all I knew. But to Kagato... Ryo-sama was a tool, and nothing else.

'Master Yakage... I was his apprentice, his servant... his daughter?

'He sought the perfect sword. He sought to make the perfect sword - and to be able to leave it to someone who could wield it. To leave a legacy, that his life wasn't wasted.

'If he hadn't... I don't think he would have stolen Ryo-sama's DNA. Wouldn't have used it to create me.

'He was a hard teacher. A good teacher, and a hard one.

'And when he needed to study a sword - then he would send me out to retrieve it, or study it in close combat.

'Which was how I ended up on Earth.

'Looking for Tenchi-ken. For the Lightning Hawk Sword.

'And, my sister being who she is, and me being who /I/ was - both incredibly stubborn and persistant... well, you know what happened next.

'Full-scale battle.

'And the next thing - the first thing - I remember remembering is Mom.

'Ironic, isn't it? If it hadn't been for Ryo-sama, I wouldn't be who I am now.

'I don't think any of us had expected that.'


The tunnel out was longer than she remembered.

Much longer.

Had she passed the way out? From what she'd seen outside, the cave was set in a big stone outcropping - not that big, though.

And she should have felt the air by now.

A trap? A dimensional anomaly?

One of Washu's abandoned experiments?

Would explain why no-one else had come here...


The light at the end of the tunnel was usually that of an oncoming train.

Knowing Washu, that might actually be true.

It /was/ a light, though.


'Hi there!'

Izzy blinked.

Then her mouth dropped open.

Mad. Absolutely mad.

A TARDIS. A TARDIS... in the form of a chunk of stone?


Classical style, white pillars equally spaced out around the room.

An altar... no, a font, a font. A stone bowl supported on a pedastal.

Overhead... an opening in the roof, the scanner overhead.

Then she registered who'd spoken.

And she began to realise that perhaps this /wasn't/ a TARDIS...


The Ship in the middle of the lake had recognised her.

A little discomforting.

It had taken root - but its log, and its senses, were still active, as were limited communication abilities - able to respond to those who had the right Key, something she didn't possess, given it was keyed to Juraian energies, not artron energies..

The signal generating Katsuhiro's disguise could be traced back here - a confirmation of what she'd suspected.

Not crashed - this Ship's impact wouldn't have created a crater big enough to form a lake. Something else had impacted first, and this Ship had landed afterwards.

How long did Juraians live? A long time - easily comparable to Ryoko's two thousand years, if not more. Aging would be far, far slower than a human's - as long as they were near a source of Juraian energy. Like a ship.

No direct evidence.

He'd come following something, something that had crashed. Then he'd decided to stay here - there was nothing wrong with the Ship, as far as she could tell, no signs of damage repaired... he'd /chosen/ this. Chosen to stay here.

Judging by the crater's erosion rate, impact had occured around 700 years ago.

Arrival must have taken place a little later.

He /was/ Tenchi's grandfather. She wondered how many generations of Tenchi's family had had him, somewhere along the line.

Why had he stayed?

Like, yet not like, Sasami and Ayeka. Not a brother - stepbrother? They shared the same parents, the likenesses were a giveaway. Stepbrother, half-brother...

A Prince of Jurai. So was Tenchi.

He'd chosen to give up his rank, and remain on Earth.


She raised an eyebrow. /That/ was a familiar story...

She waved.

And grinned at its response - the 'handshake' of Juraian energy it emitted.

She sent a pulse of artron energy back.

'Wonderful view.' Katsuhiro said.

'It is,' Compassion said. 'It is.'

He hadn't begun here.

The next piece fell into place.

He'd chosen this course of action /before/ he arrived here. This was where his Juraian life had ended - to enable the change he sought to take place.

How would it...

What would happen if /she/ went back? Back to Avalon?

Where her life, her life as one of the Remote had ended - and the transformation had begun?

It had had wider impact than /that/, of course - on Avalon, and on Gallifrey.

Perhaps she should go back. Learn what that time/place could show.

They /thought/ she still behaved like one of the Remote. Distant. Dispassionate. Pragmatic. Sardonic. Superior. Doing what needed to be done.

In truth, it was /her/ mask. It was how she'd interacted with the world as a Remote, and it was the mask she still used in interacting with others.

It gave her a place to start from, as she explored and learned about the world she'd discovered.

Was that why he'd created his mask?

He'd made the choice, and everything had changed.

And so he'd needed a place to start from...

'Funaho.' Katsuhiro said.


'The tree was named after my mother. A... commemoration. A reminder of a place where I began.'

'We all begin somewhere.' Compassion said. 'And we don't always remember that. Or we get lost in the beginning, while we forget about the future.'

'The past is past. What matters is what happens next.

'And that,' he said as he stood. 'is in your hands.'

Compassion stood too. 'It always is.'

'Not always.' Katsuhiro said. 'Not always. Remember that.'

Compassion nodded.

'It /is/ a beautiful view.' she said, after a while.

Katsuhiro chuckled. 'Sometimes, we focus so much on time, we forget about the places.'

Compassion smiled. 'And sometimes, we are so lost in the place, we forget about time.'

'A palpable hit.' Katsuhiro acknowledged. 'A palpable hit. ...Hmm. Speaking of time... it is about time we checked on the others, wouldn't you say?'

Compassion grinned. 'After you.'


'You know, it's rare anyone turns up here.'

'Is it?'

'Mm-hm. They don't want an elemental Tower. They want the Dark Tower, or the White Tower. The Elemental Towers...' the mermaid said - Leah, she'd introduced herself. 'Not really what most planewalkers want.'

'Oh.' Izzy looked at her hand. 'Mm. Tower of Water. Makes sense.'

'The Tower of the Moon,' Leah corrected. 'I'm the Keeper of the Tower.'

'What'd happen if you weren't the Keeper?'

'The All'd descend into Chaos, the Flow would unravel...'

'Not good.'

'Nope. Not good.' Leah frowned.

'So... I'm probably here for a mystical lesson? A way to make peace with myself?'

'Only if you want,' Leah said.

'Only if I /want/?' Izzy echoed.

'That's the problem. I'm not sure how you made your way here.'

'Oh good. Neither am I.'

'I mean, you do a lot of planewalking, but not under your own power, if you get what I mean.'

Izzy thought about the TARDIS. 'Yeah.'

'But you made it /here/ under your own power. Which's difficult, especially for a non-mage, a Dreamer.' Leah mused.

'l always did have my head in the clouds.'

'This isn't what everyone looks for. It wasn't what I was looking for, at any rate.'

'But you got chosen as the next Keeper.'

Leah's eyebrow raised. 'Good guess.'

'You said you were looking for something - but not this.' Izzy said.

Leah nodded. 'I was. But someone had to become the Keeper.'

'Chaos, dissolution...'


'Nasty job, but someone's got to help save the universe.'

Leah's mouth quirked into a smile. 'Ever noticed that when they say someone-'

'-They usually mean you? Yep.'

'And it comes at a price.'

'I know.' Izzy said quietly.

For a moment, Leah's eyes were distant.'That's the thing about dealing with the Otherworld - there's always a price. No-one said it had to be a fair one.'

Izzy said nothing. Simply watched her.

Leah frowned again. 'Of course, when the Otherworld deals with /you/, it /still/ manages to exact a price.' She shook her head. 'And payment isn't in the installment plan.'

'Is this your story, or mine?'

'Could be both,' Leah said. 'No one said a story had to be about only one person.'

'...What were you looking for?'

Leah's mouth quirked again. 'Trees. A life. Love. The usual.'


'I wanted to see sequoia forests. Anyway... what were you looking for?'

'Memories.' Izzy said. 'Memories and adventures.'

'And on the way, it's discovering you're the one who has to help save the Universe.' Her eyebrow arched. 'Life's what happens when you're making other plans.'

'Tell me about it.'

'Hmm.' Leah frowned. 'I didn't think your universe dealt with magic that much.'

'We do, sometimes. ...This is a magical universe?'

Leah blinked. 'Well, yes. The "Books of Magic" multiverse.'

'The /what/?!' Izzy said. 'Oh, *mad*...'

'You know us?'

'Well, I got the original miniseries... sort of lost track after that. Got a complete Invisibles collection, though...'

Leah rolled her eyes. 'Why am I not surprised?'

Izzy shrugged. 'I liked it. Weirdly comfortable.'

'Like the Doctor?'

Izzy hesitated. '...No. He's more the comfort/ing/ sort of person. When he tries to reach out...' She hesitated. 'It's like... It's easier for him to connect with the weirder things than it is for the human things. You'd think after hanging 'round humans he'd've picked that up - well, he /has/... but he still slips a bit sometimes, and then I click - he's not human. It's odd, you know.'

'What is?'

'None of us quit on an adventure. I don't mean we don't /leave/, we do. But we won't walk out on an adventure. Once the TARDIS doors open, he's bounding out there into who knows what... and we look at each other, do the eye-roll, and follow him. 'Cause...' Izzy hesitated.


'It's like we /feel/ we ought to be out there, helping him. That it's what we're doing. When we decide to do something else...' Izzy took a deep breath. 'We leave. No matter what else we go through, we only leave the guy when we die - or when we find something else. And... sometimes, I wish it wasn't like that. That I could've decided to walk away now - but I don't want to. Or I'm feeling them both at the same time.'

Leah blinked. 'Oh.'

'Oh. It's at the "I don't want to meet anyone who knows what happened" stage. Or not quite...I'm babbling, I'm actually babbling.' Izzy said. 'Umm... It's the dealing with them dealing with it. It gets... a bit much, so I wanted a little time to deal with it on my own. Oh no... I'm turning into a talk show guest. Shoot me.'

'Go on. You wouldn't /believe/ how hard it is to get cable out here...'

'I could guess.' Izzy said, grinning. 'No, it's okay. Great. I go on a mystical journey, and end up turning into a talk show guest.'

'There /are/ worse fates.' Leah observed.

'Thing is, they've already happened.' Izzy pointed out.

'Got a point there.'

'The Quest to become... a talk show guest. Only round the Doctor.'

'Around Tim, it was the Quest to become a fashion model.' Leah grinned. 'They never tell you that when they're handing the quests out, for some strange reason...'

'Mm. Definitely have a strange sense of humour... I can't /swim/, and I end up having to breathe water.' Izzy peered at the font. 'As long as I don't look at who's breathing it, I can handle it... If I look in here, I won't see my reflection, will I?'

'I wouldn't think so.'

Izzy took a deep breath. 'Okay.'

She looked in the font.


Something ebbing. Long ebbed.

When it returns, it will return full force. May even drown you in itself.

And you are unprepared for it.

Preparation. Readiness.


Nine bound together.

When one falls, all fall.

Would you accept?

Accept what?


I've already been adapted to an environment. Not nice.

Conscious awareness of that adaptation.

Of when to use it, and when not.


Nine bound together.

If you accept this, it will apply to all.

But they already know.


If you accept, it will apply to all.


Do you accept this?


So will it be done


'Whoof!' Izzy shook herself. 'Okay. That was weird.'

'Mystical communions usually are,' Leah said. 'I think they enjoy it for some reason.'

'Hmm. And they never want to tell you anything directly. Symbolism, metaphor... are we sure they're not failed English students?'

'That would explain a lot,' Leah said.

'Mm. Well, at least it went better than I thought it would.'

'It went better than /I/ thought it would.'


'One or two people end up drowning in themselves.'

Izzy winced. 'Yow.' She paused. 'I don't feel any different...'

'I think... I /think/... it kicks in when you return to your reality.'

'Oh...' Izzy hesitated, then turned to Leah. 'Is there any way I could come back?'

'Well.. they don't give refunds.'

'Well, you did say you wanted cable...'

'Why not? There are weirder Quests.'

Izzy grinned. 'The Quest to install cable TV. "And so bold Isabelle set off on her search... for a cable TV".'

Leah grinned. 'Monty Python fan, too?'

'How'd you guess?' Izzy stepped into the tunnel, turned, and waved. 'Here goes...!'

Leah waved back. 'Good luck!'



'I think Ryoko thinks I'm teasing her by becoming a good space pirate.

'Well, in a way...

'But it was what I wanted to do. To rob from the corrupt, steal from the villains...

'Because... Because, I suppose, I wanted to make my own way in the world.

'And... well, to help other people.

'To help others, to bring down the corrupt, defend those in need...

'That I did something with my life. That I did something for someone else.

'That Master Yakage's legacy didn't go unremarked. That his efforts weren't wasted.

'And that I didn't waste the life I now had.

'Because of Yakage. Because of Ryoko.

'Because of Sasami.

'Being as good a good space pirate as I could be.

'Making a path in the world. Finding my own place.

'To learn something about myself.

'And about my family.'


'Ready to go?' Compassion said.

Izzy looked up from where she was leaning against the rock. 'Yeah... Minagi ready?'

Compassion nodded. 'Nearly. She and Tenchi are still down by the lake.'

'Any good?'

Compassion considered. 'Yes. Yes, I'd say so. For one thing, the views around here are quite beautiful...'

Izzy blinked. 'You're a TARDIS! You can go anywhere!'

'So? I /do/ have a sense of aesthetics, you know.'

'A very /weird/ sense. I've /seen/ your console room, remember?'

'You must admit, I do have one... What did you think?'

Izzy grinned. 'Yeah. Be a nice place for the wedding...'

'What were you saying about my sense of aesthetics?'

'Just because we agree something's beautiful, doesn't mean we believe /everything/ is...'

'True... Oh, and speaking of aesthetics, there was something...'


'About that "Evil Stepmother Compassion" story of yours...'



End of Part Two


Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat