A note from the Hime no Argh herself–


I can hardly believe it was only a couple of weeks ago that I discovered the incredibly awesome cartoon that is Samurai Jack. Cartoon Network, where have you been all my life? *sobs* And here I am trembling on the brink of my new fanfic...or something like that.

Anyway, THANK YOU if you have read this far, it's lovely to know that someone is at least interested in what this fic has to offer. ^-^ I hope you'll read on, give your comments, and above all enjoy. I speed-wrote this entire fic in less than a week (when the inspiration hits hard I go pretty fast) and it's a work that I'm particularly proud of. 'Tis six chapters long, plus a little bonus section explaining all the Japanese terms (which are mostly self-explanatory anyway, I just wrote the bonus for fun). I'll try not to dawdle too much with updates.


Anyway, I'll stop blabbing now and get on with the story. Enjoy!


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The Treasure of Shangri-La


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Long ago in a distant land, I, Aku, the shape-shifting master of darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil, but a foolish samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me. Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time and flung him into the future, where my evil is law. Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku.


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Chapter 1

The Hidden City


The wind that blew over the high mountains of southeast Asia easily stirred the topsoil, erasing all traces of the samurai's presence. The scuffing of geta sandals against the dry dirt was the only sound to be heard for miles. The tall man in a white gi robe moved at a moderate, leisurely pace, ready with a sheathed katana sword thrust into the obi about his waist. A gust of wind picked up, tugging a few strands of raven-black hair loose from his topknot.


The samurai called Jack sighed and reached up for the fifth time to pull his hair back into the neat topknot. The higher he climbed through this dry, cold mountain region, the harder the wind blew, chilling him to the bone as well as mussing his hair. He'd not seen a sign of life for hours, and was contemplating turning around and going back the way he'd come. It wasn't that he minded solitude, but nothing around him appeared edible, which could become a problem.


Jack halted for a moment to catch his breath, sitting on a low rock. He looked around, taking in the view the of majestic mountains around him, soaring to the heavens. From somewhere high above came a bird's predatory shriek.


He rose to set off on his path again, sloping gently downward into an empty valley, but halted as he caught sight of a small shape meandering up the mountain. His hand strayed automatically to the sword at his hip, but the figure was moving slowly, obviously not in any hurry to attack. Jack relaxed, his hand moving from the sword hilt, but an instant later it snapped back.


Five misshapen figures had emerged from a bend in the path, quickly closing distance on the small person before them, heedless of a threat. Soon enough, however, the person seemed to sense danger and turned. Jack saw him go rigid with shock and fear.


In a split second he made up his mind and charged off the path. He slid swiftly down the steep slope, a hand trailing in the tumbling dirt for balance. The five enemies were surrounding their quarry, and as Jack grew closer he could see that they were some kind of insect-like robots with long, spindly legs and arms ending in wicked claws, their eyes black and dead.


Jack had just enough time to see that the small person was a woman before he leapt in front of her, swiftly drawing his sword. Steel flashed in the sunlight and a robot-insect was neatly severed through the middle; oil spurted forth like blood, coating Jack's gi. The fallen robot's comrades charged forward, but Jack's sword struck faster than lightning, severing limbs and plunging through metal skin like a hot knife slicing butter.


Jack's foes never stood a chance. Within moments they were nothing but scrap metal strewn about the ground. Jack grimaced, turning over a severed arm with his foot. These robots looked all too much like Aku's minions.


The sound of polite applauding reached his ears and Jack turned to face the woman he'd saved. She was very young, likely an adolescent still, and much shorter than he. An ankle-length blue kimono patterned with gold butterflies wrapped around her slim form; geta sandals adorned her tiny feet. A closed fan, its spines made of a silver material, rested at her hip inside her gold obi. Raven hair was swept into an elegant bun, revealing a pretty, youthful face painted snow white. Almond-shaped, black eyes narrowed slightly as she looked at him, but scarlet-painted lips parted over bright white teeth in a friendly grin.


"Konnichiwa, Jack-san," she said in a high, clear voice, bowing from the waist.


Jack blinked in surprise. "Konnichiwa," he replied politely, bowing in return, but his curiosity was too much for him. "May I ask where you are from?"


The girl's smile widened. "I am the Princess of Shangri-La, but I am also a descendant of Nippon, just like you. My name is Chisana."


Jack placed his palms together and bowed again, surprised to learn that she was a princess. "It is an honor to meet you, Chisana-Hime." The proper conduct, of course, must be observed. "I did not think there were any of my kind left."


"It is true, Aku scattered our people to the winds long before my time," Chisana said sadly. "However, a small clan found a city in which to settle, which we call Shangri-La. Won't you come and visit the city? It would be such an honor to have the one called Jack the Samurai in my home. You are that man, correct?" she added with just a hint of doubt.


"Yes, I am."


"How wonderful!" Chisana cried, clapping her hands together. "I knew you were he, I simply knew! None other could be so brave or virtuous or handsome–" This embarrassed Jack immensely, but fortunately she stopped and added, "You must come to Shangri-La. You will, won't you? We have excellent food."


About to politely decline, the last statement made Jack reconsider. "Thank you," he said at last, nodding. "I would be honored to visit your home."


Chisana smiled widely and beckoned to him, setting off down the path they way she'd come. "This way, Jack-san."


Jack followed her down the path toward the empty valley, wondering where she could be leading him. There was not so much as a hut to be seen in these mountains, let alone a city.


"Chisana-Hime, why were those robots pursuing you?" Jack asked. He noticed that she faltered a step. "And for what would a princess be out wandering alone? Do not you have guards to protect you?"


"Guards can be...stifling," Chisana said delicately, recovering her stride. "As for the robot-creatures, they pursue me for the same reason the others do, I suppose. There are always people about, attempting to find our city. Most persistent are Aku's creatures–"


"Aku?!" Jack gasped.


Chisana glanced back at him and smiled her wide, pearly-toothed smile. "We are not afraid of him. Our city is so well-protected that even Aku could not find it."


"Are you quite sure?" Jack asked doubtfully.


"Quite sure." Chisana halted at the edge of a cliff facing the valley, sparse and bare except for one or two twisted, wind-beaten trees. "Well, here we are!" she announced, sweeping a hand gracefully ahead of her.


For a moment Jack wondered if she were not right in the head. "There is...nothing here," he said cautiously.


Chisana glanced at him, and an odd glimmer appeared in her black eyes. "Do not believe the tale your eyes tell you, samurai," she said mysteriously, "for they deceive you." Then she faced the valley again, bowed low, and spoke loudly and clearly. "Dragon who guards the golden city, open the gates to me. I, Chisana, Princess of Shangri-La, command you!"


There was a sudden, loud rumbling like the growl of thunder, and the earth trembled beneath their feet. The loose, rocky dirt in the valley below them was shifting like the stirring of tides in an angry sea–then, to Jack's amazement, great golden structures were rising from the ground, catching the sunlight and reflecting it until the entire city shone dazzlingly bright, almost too bright to look at. Under the blinding light he could see that they were tall, narrow buildings with sweeping roofs, not at all dissimilar to the architecture of his own homeland, though certainly the palaces in Japan were never made of solid gold, as these so obviously were. In the very center of the city an enormous palace rose above the rest, its scarlet roof making it easily visible among the many gleaming structures.


He was not sure how long he gaped at the golden city, but it seemed like several minutes later when at last he became aware of Chisana watching him intently. "How you stare so!" she exclaimed when he finally tore his eyes from the city to look at her, covering her mouth to stifle a giggle. "More like a little boy than a great samurai."


"I have never seen something so wondrous," he replied truthfully. "No wonder Aku seeks this city. It must be very, very valuable."


"More so than even you think." Chisana smiled enigmatically, but she beckoned to Jack to follow her down the winding dirt road, leading to the gate in the golden wall surrounding the city, which, Jack could see, was shaped like the mouth of a dragon.


"Welcome to Shangri-La," said Chisana as they passed through the dragon's mouth and into the golden city.

* * *


Continued in Chapter 2.