Chapter 11: Homecoming
As he rode through the light of the full moon, Jack knew he was getting close to his village when he heard the faint sound of thunderous cheers and applause that gotrew louder as his horse galloped closer. Every trace of Aku had vanished within the light of the divine arrow, so his minions were no longer around to enslave Jack's people, and the people rejoiced. As the cheering got louder, he began to see many smiling faces appear before him. The people were battered and broken from Aku's torment, but there was a light that shined through each and every one of them, knowing that now they were free.
When they saw the mighty samurai riding in valiantly from the foreboding woods, they knew in an instant that he was the one they had to thank for their lives and their freedom. Without fail, every person that Jack rode past dropped to their knees and bowed to him in gratitude. This continued until his horse came to a halting stop in front of one stately old man who did not bow, but instead looked upon the samurai with great pride and love in his eyes.
"My son," said the battered emperor, "you have succeeded."
"Yes, Father," said Jack, as he dismounted his steed, "but so much as happened since I left."
"Let me look at you," said the emperor.
He studied his son, noticing the creases that had appeared under his eyes from years of tireless battle. The strange armor Jack wore reminded the emperor of his own experience fighting Aku. It occurred to him that their family's enchanted katana was no longer at Jack's side. To the emperor, he had only been gone for perhaps a few hours, but to the samurai prince, it had been nearly an eternity.
"You have aged, my son," said the emperor, "but how? It was mere moments ago that you left to battle Aku."
"It is a long story," said Jack, "one that would be best told after we restore our kingdom to its former glory. I wish to remove all traces of Aku's tyranny from our land as soon as possible."
The emperor nodded. Over the next few weeks, Jack benevolently led his people in tearing down all the structures that Aku had forced them to build in the demon's own visage and reviving all of the traditional Japanese pavilions that he remembered from his childhood, including the beautiful palace he had once lived in. He wrote out blueprints for the most efficient and structurally sound ways to restore his old home and gave all of the workers plenty of food and time off to rest. Finally, it looked just as it had before Aku burned it down with his demonic flames. The cherry blossoms went into full bloom just as the final touch was added, causing the lovely petals to blow around the kingdom, enhancing its purity and goodness.
When all of the work had been completed, the emperor and his son donned their royal garb once more and sat together in a quiet room of the palace that was decorated with elegant tapestries, statues, and fountains. Little by little, Jack recounted the many tales of his travels to his father.
"The burly man would not let me cross the bridge no matter what I did," Jack continued. "I even offered to hang from the planks and let him pass, but he accused me of wanting to look up his kilt!"
"Oh, how embarrassing!" laughed the emperor.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," said a frail female voice.
The emperor and his son turned toward the doorway to see the kindly old empress looking in on them. Jack felt his eyes well up with tears every time he saw her, for it reminded him of all the years he grew up apart from his mother's love. She had grown old and weak in her age, but she still carried herself with the grace and gentility of her youth. Her eyes were warm and loving, and she donned a handsome maroon kimono decorated with cherry blossoms that seemed to suit her perfectly.
"You are always a welcome interruption, my dear," said the emperor to his wife.
The empress bowed to her husband and son.
"My dear son," she said, "some royal visitors have come to pay their respects to you for saving their kingdom from the demon Aku."
"It would be my honor to attend to them," said the samurai prince. "Excuse me, Father."
"With pleasure," said the emperor, his eyes beaming with pride.
Jack's mother led him to a beautiful corridor where three regal onlookers waited on him. One was a tall and elegant woman wearing a purple kimono with matching beaded chopsticks pushed into her perfect bun. The other was a stout bearded man in golden-brown garb. The third visitor, however, caused Jack to gasp in shock. She was the spitting image of Kimiko, wearing a yellow kimono very similar to the one she wore when they met as children in the wheat field.
Realizing that he was still staring, Jack quickly lowered his head in a traditional bow to the royal visitors. All three of them bowed in response.
"I am the king of Ryukyu," said the stout man, "and this is my wife and my daughter, Princess Kimiko. We came here to thank for the great service you have performed for our kingdom. The demon Aku was going to enslave our people after he had finished with yours. He already began tearing down some of our ancient structures before you set off to defeat him."
"I am humbled by your gratitude, and I am glad to know that your kingdom has been preserved thanks to my efforts," said Jack, still staring at Kimiko in disbelief.
"Are you all right?" asked the princess, smiling at him curiously. "You look as if you have seen a ghost."
"You don't remember?" asked Jack.
Then, it became clear to him. Aku sent her into the future well after the time period that he returned to. Of course she would have no memory of it!
"Have we met?" asked Kimiko. "I was told that the son of the Japanese emperor spent most of his time abroad, training with the greatest of warriors to defeat the demon Aku."
"Yes, well, it was a very long time ago," said Jack.
"My daughter was quite taken by your heroism," said the king.
"I am sure she has many hidden talents of her own," Jack responded with a sparkle in his eye.
That night, while their parents were chatting over a royal feast, Jack presented Kimiko with an extremely intricate origami ring. She gasped with delight. The moment she slipped it onto her finger, the princess's memories of the boy in the wheat field returned. Just as she had when they were children, Kimiko leaned over and kissed Jack on the cheek, blushing and smiling brightly at him.
Some time later, the samurai prince and princess were married in a beautiful royal ceremony that united their two kingdoms. Together, they led their people into a new age of peace and prosperity, untainted by the darkness of Aku. Kimiko bore an adventurous son who Jack trained in the ways of the samurai, should any wickedness should ever threaten their way of life again. The new emperor and empress were beloved by all their people and lived happily for the rest of their days.
Thank you so much for sticking with me and reading my story to the very end. This is, of course, one possible interpretation of how Jack could have defeated Aku and returned to the past. I realize that it slightly contradicts episode XXXII of the series, which portrayed Jack being able to use the time portal as an old man with a crown and a beard, but is that really the ending that fans want? If that is truly meant to be the canon version, then let's just say that it's what would have happened if Kimiko did not get sent to the future.
Though writing has always been my fondest passion, I've never been very big on fanfiction because I usually prefer everything to fit neatly into the canon universe that the creators intended. However, after the live-action Samurai Jack feature finale from 2005 fell through, followed by the Frederator Studios collaboration in 2009 falling through, followed by Genndy's collaboration with J.J. Abrams in 2011 falling through, I attended San Diego Comic-Con International in 2012 and approached Genndy about the film. He said that while he would still like to create the movie, none of his collaborators have followed through. As they say, if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. I realized that I might never see Jack return home unless I went ahead and penned it from my own imagination, so I decided to do just that. However, I would still love to see Genndy's interpretation of this story on the big screen someday.
Originally, I dabbled with the idea of writing this as a screenplay since I majored screenwriting in college and have written several screenplays of my own, but that would get me into a big mess of finding storyboard artists and animators and then falling into copyright traps and possibly angering the creators of the show. Ultimately, I decided this format would make the story the most easily accessible to fans without needing to worry about budget or copyright issues. At 20,000 words, it is relatively short, as are most of the books I've written, but since so much of Samurai Jack is told through beautiful art and music sequences, I think this could easily be converted into a feature length film in the same style.
By Chapter 6, I was a bit worried that Kimiko was starting to overshadow Jack, so I'm very sorry if she did, but I'm definitely not sorry I wrote her. My favorite episode of the show is episode XIX, and I have always wanted to know more about the girl who kissed Jack in the wheat field. I'm extremely happy with the way she turned out. While there are plenty of iconic animated princesses, there are very few Asian ones, if any, which is a shame because the Asian culture is so beautiful. I love how instead of being submissive and depressed after losing everything, Kimiko decides to protect her people, much like Jack. She shows us that it's possible to protect the innocent without being a warrior. She also has some mad origami skills, which I am extremely jealous of and make her unique as a character.
I would hope that extending the animation for the battle sequences that Jack has would make Kimiko feel less overwhelming in a feature film. She was vital to this story because the series never showed us what had happened in the past after Jack didn't return from the battle with Aku. As the only person who still believed he was alive, it was her destiny to see him again. It isn't that I thought that Jack needed a love interest in the future, but it makes sense that Kimiko's everlasting optimism about everything would have gotten on Aku's nerves so much that he wouldn't know how else to handle the situation. If you were wondering, I always intended to bring her back in the epilogue since she was sent through the portal shortly after the time period that Jack was trying to return to.
I did not come up with the idea for Gus until just before I started writing chapter 7. My motivation was that Jack and Kim are such serious characters overall that I feared the story might be lacking in the classic cartoon humor that Genndy's work is famous for. Before I began writing him in, I wished I had come up with him sooner for the sake of comedic relief. Once I realized how annoying he was, though, the moment he got killed off could not have come soon enough for me. I attempted to sprinkle some humor into the story before his appearance between the Lafidians, the Scotsmen, and Aku, but I'm not sure how well that came across since comedy has never been my strong suit.
As for Jack, he is absolutely perfect the way he is, so I tried not to mess with that. I did make it a point that his desire to always do the right thing often got in the way of what he wanted since that had been a common theme in the series. As a fan, I would have certainly wanted to see that issue addressed in a feature film. I tried to write his battle sequences as closely to the style of the series as possible. He only kills robots and demons, which is why Josie got tied to the bar and the harpy got stuck in the tower. Chapter 10 contained many references to "The Birth of Evil" because that was a fantastic and cinematic work of art that everyone loved and won an Emmy, and it would only make sense for Jack to follow in his father's footsteps. I love Jack, and I wanted him to finally have his happy ending. He's more than earned it by now.
I hope you enjoyed my interpretation of Jack's return to the past. If you have any suggestions how to improve this story or thoughts on how you would have liked to see it happen, I would love to hear them. Feel free to share your comments in a review or a private message if you'd prefer to speak with me directly.
May all of your quests be completed with success and happiness!
Lisa Dawn (ForsakenMermaid)