Empty Echoes by Takato's Dreamer (rainytears)
a/n: first Samurai Jack ficcie right here! After seeing that depressing episode about his past, I felt inspired to sort of put it into "fic" form.
Disclaimer: Genndy Tartakovsky owns Samurai Jack.
The lone, cloaked traveler stepped out into the misty nothingness. The canyon, the mountain.... it was all too familiar. Jack turned around and headed back towards the swaying fields of yellow, deep in thought.
Looking up at the surrounding hills, Jack saw large stone dragons, overgrown from what seemed like thousands of years. In fact, these statues had stood here for millenia in the mountainous regions of northern Japan. Jack felt a sense of familiarity about the lush, green hilly region for some reason, however.
As the stalks of grain waved in the gentle breeze, Jack's mind drifted back to a time long ago.....
A young boy ran through the fields of grain, intently following something. He was hot on the trail of a stray grasshopper he had seen streaking through the grass. Staring ahead in a determined manner, he furrowed his brow and set his mouth in a straight line.
Merely a few feet behind the pesky insect, the young boy reached out his hand to swipe the bug. He missed, but only by a few inches this time. He continued to follow the leaping bug, imitating its hops with sheer glee. The child was about to reach the bug when....
Another child, a female, came into his path. She was also chasing a grasshopper, and both of their prey escaped as they looked at each other. Ebony eyes met equally large black eyes, and they held there for a few seconds.
The girl smiled as did the boy, and they quickly realized that there was two bugs to be caught. They chased after their prey all over that grain field in northern Japan, on a summer day so long ago. When they reached the easternmost edge of the field, the girl realized that she did not have the grasshopper.
Sadness clouded her large eyes, and the boy quickly had to do something. Awkwardly, he brought his hand from out behind his back. Uncurling his small clenched fist, the child revealed a paper grasshopper he had made. The girl accepted his gift and quickly pecked the boy on the cheek.
The young boy smiled as the girl ran off, giggling.
Jack refocused, touching his face lightly where the girl, Mei Hua, had kissed him so long ago. They'd had much fun together as children, until her father joined a trade caravan headed west to the other settlements. Jack never saw Mei Hua after that.
"Maybe if I go back, I'll see her..." he mused, then deemed this chance impossible.
"I am a man on a mission. I came not to stop here and dream while Aku is destroying the world!" Jack's conscience tried to tell him, but he shook of the sense of duty for a few moments more.
Jack started to walk towards the ruins. He saw what appeared to be the remains of an ancient, arching wooden bridge. It looked so different from so long ago..... Now it was gray and mangled, a petrified memory of glorious days gone by.
The bridge was familiar....
The same young boy stood next to a beautiful clear river right next to town. He admired the leaping salmon, smiling at the pale pink fish and watching the sun's spray of light on the glinting water.
Suddenly, from behind, he heard a noise. Young Jack turned around to see a tall, dignified man wearing a long black robe. He was pushing a cart with a small boy around his age in it, a child that appeared rugged and proud.
Jack watched the man approach several dangerous outsiders on the vermilion-colored arch bridge. He stood silently in the gray, early morning sky and slowly opened his eyes to see the four men. With sudden, lightning-fast reflexes, the father took out an extremely powerful sword and slashed each man, knocking every one off of the bridge.
The moment seemed all too fast for Jack to take in at once, and he felt a great admiration for the stranger with the amazing sword. His jaw hung open in awe as the man simply placed the child back into the cart and walked over the bridge very causally.
Jack once more returned to the present, horrible day. To live in the past.... He faced the ruins, once-magnificent stone statues and monoliths, once-beautiful traditional buildings.
He could still see people milling around the palace, he could still see the hopeful faces of people underneath parasols, strolling on without a care in the world.
When he looked again, it was nothing but a barren wasteland.... "Everything I once knew.... beautiful and peaceful.... it's gone!" he shouted inside his mind, not wanting to destroy the placid scene.
Tears reluctantly filled his eyes and silently spilled out as he closed his eyes and stood up from his kneeling position. Jack then walked over to what was once a large palace, his home. In the present day ruins, he saw a small, weathered object.
Jack picked up a leather ball, feeling a dusty, unwelcome and distant feel on its rough surface. It was not always such a depressing object.....
Young Jack kicked around a white, small leather ball that his father had made from extra cloth last year. He kicked it around merrily inside, then took the beloved toy outside into the gentle spring weather. The streets were lined with beautiful, pale pink sakura trees. The blossoms that fell from them were soft and delicate, a sight Jack was used to as a child.
He went into the park with his toy, smiling with a glee that only a child could experience. Before long, however, a gang of bullies swiped the ball and held it above the small child's head. They grinned menacingly and taunted the child for a while, until they grew bored of him.
They walked away, their leader tossing the cloth ball up and down. Jack frowned and sat down by himself under a sakura tree, alone and feeling very down. He noticed a small bird and threw some crumbs for it to eat. Soon, several birds came and were eating the treats that he tossed to him.
There was such a flock that when the bullies entered the walled park once more, they were attacked by the pigeons at Jack's command! He used the fluttering wings as a cover and quickly made off with the ball. As he walked on the bridge above the bullies, Jack smiled to himself and whistled contentedly.
Twenty-something Jack popped back to reality and once more looked at the wasteland in that corner of northern Japan, then at the small, ancient toy he held. He hugged it to himself and wished for days past.....
One last memory came to Jack...
The child Jack ran down the main cobblestone street in that small Japanese village. He didn't stop to admire the beautiful cherry blossoms or to watch the flocking people, he just continued running.
Up ahead, there stood a man and a woman. On either side were soldiers, many fierce-looking men armed with shields and swords. The man was tall and dignified, his head partially bald due to the hair style of ancient times. The woman was short and benevolent-looking; she had a warm motherly smile.
She was Jack's mother, of course. In the distant time, young Jack hugged the woman tightly, feeling a loving bond between them. He also spoke to his father with reverence and love at the same time.
The two faded quickly as Jack felt himself flying away.... away from them and through time.... to his present state of mind. The samurai clenched his fist and let a few last tears fall.
"Mother... Father.... if only I could still see you.... The rifts of time have driven us apart, and I fear that in this barren land, our heritage no longer exists. The touch of our once-beautiful civilization has faded...." he thought, eyes to the ground.
Suddenly, in front of Jack's eyes, a pink sakura petal drifted by. It landed at his feet, not moving but very set apart from the wasteland around him.
"Could it be?"
The streets of ancient Japan, the avenues filled with happiness, the river full of salmon, and the two loving people seemed to return to that one petal, those ancient echoes of a civilization sitting in a tiny flower.
Jack picked up the petal and looked at it. Examining its perfect, delicate, smooth pink color, he saw a drop of wetness touch the petal.... from his own eyes.
He felt himself smiling for an instant, if even for that long. He had to defeat Aku.... he had to return to that time that he so richly loved and remembered, the familiar bliss resting deep in his heart.
"Do it for ancient Japan..... do it for us...." the many citizens seemed to proclaim in the whispers of the gentle swirling zephyrs.
On this wind were many voices.... almost musical. They were Jack's surroundings, his home. They sang for the future, for the samurai, for the hope for what once was.
The samurai set his mouth in a firm line. "You destroyed this, Aku," he said aloud, sweeping a hand over the expanse of lush green nothingness. "And you will pay."
He let the petal fall, but it did not touch the ground. It floated on, nearing the glaring sun as it swooped through the sky towards the horizon.
END NOTES: how was it? Could it be longer? Should I do a sequel? I kind of liked how this turned out.... wasn't that eppy really sad and depressing? Oh well, those memories are all the more reason that Jack should return to his own time.... poor, lost samurai.