Spirit of the Samurai

It was only a small tavern erected in the center of miles upon miles of desolate wasteland, but still it was a place to seek shelter and nourishment. A single samurai warrior in a flowing white robe looked around as he pushed his way through the doors, studying the occupants carefully. They stared back at him curiously as they always did, but none of them looked dangerous.

Silently the lone warrior approached the bar and sat on one of the free stools apart from the rest. "Water." He said softly to the bartender, who was still staring at him oddly. Quickly he poured some water from a small pitcher into a mug and handed it to the robed figure.

Jack took the drink and brought it to his lips in a small sip before he turned to look around at the bar. "Why is this place so deserted?" He asked curiously as he turned back to the bartender. The man behind the counter was still eyeing him suspiciously, but obviously decided against angering this man.

"Nobody comes by here much because of the demons." The bartender said conspiratorially. Jack looked at him sharply, but didn't speak as the man continued. "It's said they move like shadows and strike with the strength of a thousand men. They attack more furiously than even the most wild animal, and no man has ever encountered them and come back to tell the tale." He said in a hushed whisper, as though he was afraid of being overheard. "I don't know if it's true or not, but it's said their powers are unimaginable. Perhaps even manipulating time itself."

This perked Jack's interest for the first time in the entire discussion. His eyes narrowed at the bartender's, like he was daring the man to lie to him for personal gain. "When you leave here, I suggest you move quickly, so as not to encounter them." The man behind the counter said.

"Where would I be most likely to find them?" The samurai asked, startling the bartender into complete stunned silence for a few moments.

"Well... some say they seem to have some connection with the small building on top of the hill in that direction." The bartender said, gesturing toward the door. "I don't think you heard me though, nobody can defeat them."

"Thank you for your assistance, but this is a path I must take." Jack said in parting as he stood up and headed for the door. Nobody tried to stop him as he pushed the doors open and ventured out into the field. His senses were alive and alert as he wandered through the wide open space. He could feel something out there waiting for him.

He looked up as he approached a small house on the top of a hill. He knew it was the right one, because it was the only one standing. Others surrounding it were in complete rubble, but this one looked almost completely intact. Cautiously he moved up toward the door with the fingers of one hand resting lightly on the hilt of the enchanted blade he always wore at his side.

He gently took the doorknob in one hand and turned it, beginning to push it slowly open. Without warning something slammed into it from the other side, sending Jack flying to the ground heavily and sending the door flying through the air over him from the sheer force of it. The warrior leapt to his feet and drew his sword in one swift motion, barely in time to deflect the first strike.

Jack leapt back and held the sword out in front of him while he took a moment to assess his situation. Three dark, almost shapeless shadows floated in the air in front of him, almost as tall as his arm. They glowered at him darkly with their pulsing red eyes, echoing those he knew from his greatest nemesis... these were minions of Aku.

Without a word all three shadows darted toward him in streaks of utter blackness. Jack barely leapt aside and deflected each attack as it came, but immediately it was clear that he was far outmatched in speed. He avoided the blows for only a few moments before the center shadow slammed one fist into his stomach. The force of the blow was enough to crumple him over, also opening him up to a barrage of blows from all three demons now.

One tremendous uppercut sent him flying back to the ground again, covered in bruises and gashes from the fierce beating he'd taken. His sword luckily remained in his grasp, though his arm was shaking too much to really wield it effectively. Nothing he'd ever faced was as powerful as these three, had Aku's power grown or was there some outside source?

He didn't have time to dwell on it as all three shadows darted forward, almost looking like they were getting ready to engulf him and swallow him whole. In something approaching desperation he clutched the hilt of his sword in both hands and thrust it forward at the shadows. He caught them off guard in his weakened state, and the blade plunged right through the shoulder of the one in the center.

A loud shriek emanated from the creature as the darkness of its substance began to swirl and fluctuate wildly. The other two watched for only a moment before they whirled and streaked away from the scene, perhaps confused by their companions vulnerability. The darkness swirled around the figure until it seemed as though it were being pulled into the blade of the sword.

The warrior watched with wide eyes as the shadows were pulled into the blade of the enchanted sword... to reveal a little red-haired girl underneath the darkness. Once the shadows were gone she fell weakly to the ground, weakened from the sword that was still through her shoulder. Quickly the samurai pulled his sword out and kneeled over to check on her.

She was incredibly weak, but she was still breathing softly against his hand. Gently he put his sword in its place at his side and lifted the girl into his arms. The blood from the wound seeped onto his robe, but he didn't pay it any mind as he headed quickly back to the bar he'd been at only minutes earlier. He didn't have much time, he had to help her and getting her into a nice comfortable bed would help a little bit.

He kicked the doors open and went back inside, once again startling everyone inside. They had obviously thought him dead when he'd said he was looking for the demons. They looked even more surprise when they saw the wounded girl in his arms. "I need a bed and bandages." The samurai said shortly.

"Of course." The bartender quickly led Jack into a back room where a bed was located and went off to find some bandages while Jack set the girl down. He blinked in surprise when he realized the wound was already almost completely closed on its own. Even as he watched the skin seemed to be closing itself up though a little bit of blood still remained where the opening had once been.

"Uhn..." The girl gave a slight moan and opened her eyes halfway. Her eyes were a light pink color though they were half-closed as though she was tired. She looked up at him weakly while he just stared at her in amazement. "Wh... who're you..." She asked shakily.

"My name is Jack." The warrior replied just before the door opened. The bartender looked as shocked as the samurai had felt when he realized the girl was already healed. "Thank you for your assistance." Jack said with a swift nod of his head. The other man nodded back silently and left, not really knowing or wanting to know what was going on.

"Jack... my sisters..." The girl said suddenly. The samurai realized instantly she had to mean the other two shadows.

"I found only you." Jack replied. The girls eyes went slack with despair at that knowledge. "What happened to you, how did you come to be trapped by Aku's evil?" The samurai asked curiously.

"We failed..." the girl said so softly the warrior almost thought he might be mistaken until she spoke again. "That thing attacked and it swept across the planet like a plague... we thought we could stop it..." Her voice seemed to leave her throat as she clenched her eyes shut. Several tears welled out, tears of sorrow at failing in her sworn duty.

"You did all you could, but Aku is pure evil, no physical force can harm him." Jack tried to reassure her gently. She didn't seem to be paying attention though until he spoke again. "Now that I know more innocents are being used as weapons by Aku's evil, I must free them... but I don't think I can beat them both alone."

"No! I can't fight..." The red haired girl curled up in a little ball on the bed, holding herself shakily. "I can't fight again... I won't fight again..." She whispered more softly. Comfortingly the samurai placed one hand on her shoulder.

"As you wish... but a warrior does not look upon his failures with sorrow or remorse, but with pride in the knowledge that he will not make those mistakes again. I fought Aku once and he defeated me... but it will not happen again." With that Jack stood and left the room with the girl still huddled on the bed. He couldn't abandon his vow to protect innocent victims from Aku's influence, no matter how slim his chances of success were.

Blossom held herself tightly against the rage of memories that were flooding through her mind. She could remember everything she'd done for all these years, no matter who had been controlling her body. She could remember the wave of darkness entering Townsville, she could see the master of it all looming above them with that evil smile on his face.

"Come on girls! Let's clean this mess up and get home!" Blossom had said confidently as she and her sisters streaked up to face the sorcerer. She'd been so sure they could defeat him, so sure that the Powerpuff Girls were invulnerable... but the fight had not lasted very long.

A single wave of darkness had slammed into them from the giant being, seeping into their bodies, minds, their very souls as they plummeted to the ground. She could remember the Professor running up to them in a panic. The fear in his eyes, fear of losing his daughters in under an instant were almost heart-rending.

"Girls, are you alright? Please answer me!" His voice still rang loudly in her ears as she lay on the bed now. She remembered her head looking up at him of its own volition. She'd lost all control of herself, even her mind was teeming with thoughts she'd never experienced before. What happened next, even now, made her entire body shudder with revulsion.

She watched her own hand strike upward, gripping the Professor's throat in a tight stranglehold. She remembered the feeling of the skin under her hand, which by then looked more like a shadow than a puff. She could see his eyes widening with shock as he stared down at her in utter disbelief.

"NO..." She screamed at herself as she clutched her head and rolled to her side in the bed. She could feel the tears squeezing out of her eyes at the memory of her own actions. She could never make up for everything she'd done, she could never move past it... what could she do...

Jack walked toward the plain once again, drawing his sword once again in anticipation of the coming battle. He wasn't likely to get any more surprise strikes in now, it was just him versus the remaining two demons. He would fight as well as he could, and he would win... or he would perish trying.

As he approached the building he saw the shadows float out from behind it, one on either side. Slowly he raised the blade of his enchanted sword in front of him. The shadows leered at it cautiously, they obviously remembered what it had done to their companion, they knew enough to avoid it now. The two children circled around him slowly, one on either side of him while he tried to keep his eyes on both of them.

As one the shadows lunged forward in dark streaks, but the samurai leapt to the side and swung the blade in a huge arc, sending the shadows floating back before they could be struck. They knew what it could do to them now, they would not make the same mistake their sister had.

For a few moments the warrior stood his ground, his eyes moving back and forth between the two shadows as he tried to look for an opening. His concentration was tested however when the one that appeared to have horns lunged with the speed of a lightning bolt, barely giving him time to leap to the side so it passed by harmlessly.

Before he even fell to the ground again the other one was upon him, striking with enough force to snap his bones into pieces should it connect. His blade moved quickly to deflect the strikes, and when he finally landed on the ground he leapt backward again, whirling and lashing out with the blade to fend them off. When he looked where the shadows had been moments before however, they were gone.

He looked about him cautiously, keeping his sword raised in front of him and all of his senses alert. Even so, he had no time to react when he felt the shadows coming up behind him, slamming into his back with enough force to send him hurtling into the side of the lone building that still stood upright. He rolled to his feet, but his balance was tenuous, giving the shadows time to strike again, slamming him from all sides and sending him to his back against one wall.

Jack clutched his stomach painfully, but still raised his sword with the other hand, watching his opponents. He swung the blade in an overhead arc at one of the shadows, but it raised both hands up, grabbing it by either side before the blade could strike. He strained to move it down the last few inches, but the shadow held it fast while its companion streaked for the warriors legs, sending him to the ground in a heap. His sword was flung across the room to impale the far wall, sticking in place.

The samurai pushed himself to his hands and knees, looking up at the shadows that now floated above him. They savored the moment before they lunged, striking everywhere they could. He could feel his body being slowly crushed with the force of the blows, slammed up against the door until finally one particularly strong kick sent him sailing right through it. He flew through the air for several agonizing moments until he finally slammed into the floor at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

Jack grunted and pushed himself upright on shaking legs, looking around to see where he was. He was in a room built of steel with many different things scattered about, but a picture caught his eye more than anything. The girl from before with two others and a grown man. He looked up at the shadows as they floated down, though they moved slowly, almost hesitantly. It was almost as if this was holy ground to them.

"I see..." Jack said as he stared at them. "To this day you fight your slavery, but you can't fight Aku's evil." The shadows didn't respond as they reached the bottom of the stairs, floating toward them. Jack backed away, though he continued to speak. "This was your home, so you made yourselves spare it. Your spirits are very strong to show even that independence from Aku's curse." Still the shadows advanced until one suddenly gasped, stopping its forward movement.

Jack and the other shadow looked in surprise to see the magical blade sticking through its shoulder. The shadows coalesced and surged into the blade as the figure fell to the ground, revealing a blond girl underneath, looking very weak from the wound. Behind her the girl who had been the third shadow floated, looking more determined than before.

The last shadow surged into action, whirling on the red-haired girl and striking with more ferocity than ever. The other girl blocked and dodged in a surge of pink light, fighting just as she had when the shadow had her possessed. So that was why they were so strong, their powers were not granted by Aku.

Jack leapt forward to gently pull the blade out of the blond girl, kneeling to make sure she would be okay. She was unconscious, but already he could see the wound beginning to close with the obstruction removed. She would be okay in a few minutes, but he still had to free the final shadow. With shaking limbs he pushed himself to his feet, clutching the blade in front of him.

He watched the battle rage between the shadow and the red-haired girl. It raged harder and faster than anything he'd ever seen, but still he raised his hand and took careful aim, leveling the blade with his head as he watched. In a moment he flung the blade at the combatants, watching it streak through the air in a siler blue to strike home on one of them.

He watched nervously as they both halted, watching each other. For a moment he was unsure whom it had struck in the heat of the battle, but finally the shadows form began to surge and draw into the blade that stuck though its chest. In a moment, a girl with pitch black hair fell to the ground, leaving only Jack and the first girl upright in the aftermath. They exchanged glances before they moved to help the others out of the building, no words needed to be said for now, that could wait until later...

"I don't know how to thank you..." The girl he now knew as Blossom bowed as she spoke, along with her two sisters who were now awake and fully healed. "I only wish we could undo everything we've done..."

"All of Townsville, so many people..." Buttercup whispered to herself.

"The Mayor... Miss Bellum..." Bubbles sniffled.

"The Professor..." They all spoke in unison on that one, bowing their heads in shame.

"You can't change the past, but there are still many in this world who cannot fight for themselves. I am but one man, and I can only do so much. I must return to my time to undo all of this, but for now I need you three to bring justice and undo as much of Aku's evil as you can."

"How can we undo it when we helped cause it..." Blossom asked.

"The only way to make up for what you did under evil's influence is to take up your old positions as defenders." The warrior told her with a ghost of a smile. "All I need is for you to help me get back to my own time." The three girls exchanged a regretful glance before looking back up at him.

"We can't go through time, whoever told you that had it wrong..." Blossom informed him sadly. Jack's face darkened somewhat, but it lightened again as he reached one hand forward to put it on her head.

"No matter, I will find another way, for now though it is good to know there are ones such as yourself who can fight with me. But do not try to face Aku, physical strength is meaningless against him, only this enchanted blade can do him harm." Jack gestured to the sword on his side.

"We understand..." Blossom bowed her head again thoughtfully. "Where will you go now?"

"I don't know." Jack replied. "I must always travel, but I always remain vigilant. Perhaps we'll meet again."

"We can go with you and help you." Bubbles suggested. "We can't do anything on our own to stop all of the evil, but we can help you do it."

"No, mine is a path that must be walked alone." The warrior replied. "If I can not return home on my own, I will never be able to defeat Aku." He nodded and gave a small bow before he turned away.

"Thank you Jack... we'll try to make up for what we've done as much as we can... we pray for your success." Blossom called from behind him as he pushed his way outside of the bar. Justice was a commodity in such a spoiled world, but what little there was, was strong. Even if he didn't find a way home this time, he was content to know he'd unleashed a new force of good that could stem the flow of evil long enough for him to halt it. And halt it he would... this he swore. For all those who were destroyed by Aku, and all those who were forced to destroy their own families.