UPDATE: It is times like these that I must thank those who are following the story very carefully and keeping me on check, as there seems to have been a place where I wasn't overtly clear. I wrote that Jack's sword "snapped into Akuji's hands", when in reality I meant to say "fly straight into Akuji's hands" very quickly. I had no intent of Jack's sword snapping in two like a twig, so my apologies if I was not clear. I've since corrected this phrase to "fly straight into Akuji's hands".
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hello, everyone. Sorry I took so long to update. I've been having a very relaxing summer thus far, and have also been writing stories with a friend of mine. However, this most certainly doesn't mean I'm done writing this story.
I suppose it only means it gets better from here.
DISCLAIMER: Samurai Jack and My Life as a Teenage Robot belong to Genndy Tartakovsky and Rob Renzetti respectively along with any other proprietors. I do not own names that are not obviously mine.
Winter was approaching fast. The robot girl and samurai knew that they would be caught in the snow unless they traveled inland. They had managed to find peace in the meadow and train, but only briefly, as they knew staying one place was far too risky, and staying in one place while being caught in the weather was another.
The chilling winds caused the robot girl's metal workings to slightly contract. Her battery power was slowly draining as the sun kept hidden with more and more clouds. Revving up her thermostat, however, provided some defrosting relief in small bursts.
The samurai could only keep his arms inside his gi's sleeves as a means of keeping warm.
The samurai followed the robot girl's finger. In the distance, a tiny yellow cottage lay alone in the end of the pathway further into the trees. Yet behind it was a larger smokestack, along with several generators and steam from hot springs.
"It looks…like a bathhouse," the samurai blinked.
"It also looks like they use the steam of the hot springs to create electrical power." The robot girl looked at the samurai. "Maybe we should stop there? I can recharge, and, well… I guess you could too with a hot bath."
"If we do stop there, we should be careful not to stay there for too long. I do not want anyone to follow us."
"Neither do I, but this place seems nice enough."
The pair made their way to the tiny cottage, finding that it was not truly tiny at all. It extended further back along with even more smokestacks that were nestled in the tress surrounding them.
At the foot of the steps sat a round-faced woman, folding white cloths and placing them into a basket. At the sound of the travelers footsteps, she looked up, her almond-shaped, brown eyes brightening as she stood to greet them.
"Welcome! Welcome!" She smiled. "Are you both here for a bath?"
Jenny blinked. "Um… No, I'm a robot. I can't take those. Water, circuitry, you know. But I don't suppose you have a generator, do you?"
"Oh, yes, yes! We do! Stay as long as you like! Here, come in! Make yourself at home!" She gathered the cloths in the basket and waved to them inside.
The inside led to a wood-thatched hall. Warm steam mixed with salts as well as herbal remedies for other ailments as other customers and servants traveled in robes or kimonos.
The woman stepped up to the counter, placing the baskets at her feet. "I'm Kame."
Whereas the samurai kept quiet, inspecting the area under the brim of his straw hat, Jenny's spirits lifted even further at the calming atmosphere. "Pleased to meet you, Kame."
"Now, let's see. The charging is by the hour, one hundred volts, one hundred pieces... And what'll it be for you today, sir? An herbal soak? Or just the hot springs?"
"The hotsprings, please."
"Good. Aku-chan! We have more guests!"
The samurai gripped his sword and stepped in front of Jenny. "Aku?!"
From further down the hall, a man could be heard sighing as he came closer to the pair. "Honey, how many times have I told you I don't like being called that? It scares away customers."
"But that's your name, dear…"
"And it's a name I do not care for." The man stepped into view, his long black hair tucked back in a waist-length ponytail. Dressed in an equally dark hakama and shirt, his own brown eyes stared curiously at the pair, the samurai protectively in front of the robot who looked just as confused.
He sighed again, giving them a warm smile, almost happy to see them. "Please. There's no need for your weapon, sir. It would simply cause a mess for both of us."
The samurai quietly stepped away. "Would you care telling me your name?"
"Akuji Yokoshima. Kame is my wife." He stepped to her and wrapped a gentle arm around her waist. "It is quite the volatile name, and Aku is quite the volatile, violent being. We are just a humble couple, and we wish for no trouble. You are the first customers we have had in a long time. They hear my name, and they tend to flee."
"That's… so sad," Jenny muttered.
The samurai let go of his hilt and bowed to them. "You must forgive me. I have seen much in my travels, and names tend to be the only things that remain in my memory—names belonging to good and bad."
"And that is why I insist on calling him Aku-chan," said Kame, holding him tighter. "I love him. It's not the name that makes a person. It's their actions."
"But even then, it hasn't been easy," Akuji said. "I hope that with our services you shall see us as the good kind. We do not approve of Aku's ways, and that is why we have chosen to live in seclusion. Come, let us get you settled in."
The samurai and the robot girl made their way quietly through the Yokoshima Bath House. Their eyes did not make contact with the other patrons, but were nonetheless mystified at how the workers seemed to move across each room without so much as a glance at each other. No amount of the floor was cracked, nor the walls. The running water from the springs outside and inside were all that could be heard in the facility.
Seclusion had not given this place neglect, much to the samurai's approval. They were hard workers and peace-loving folk, and that was all the samurai ever asked for in a friend.
The power and strength of the generators rumbled beneath Jenny's feet. Their knowledge and care in electricity made her feel more at ease, as well their harmony with nature — a newfound aspect she'd grown to respect.
"The generators are down that way," Akuji pointed. "For your charging, Ms. Wakeman."
For a brief moment, a spark of regret caused Jenny's eyes to twitch to the samurai, who did the same beneath the brim of his hat. They had traveled together for so long that the idea of separation felt foreign, even within this calm, warm space.
Jenny, however, was the first to nod to the Yokoshimas. "Thank you."
With just as short of a nod, Kame led the robot girl down the hall.
"The hot springs are in the other direction, Mr…" He trailed off, scratching his chin. "I'm sorry. I don't think I caught your name."
"They call me Jack."
"Very well. If you'd be so kind as to follow me…"
The samurai did as he was told, his sandals clacking calmly yet cautiously. The lone hot spring awaited him in a pool outlined by grey weathered rocks. A robe and towels were carefully laid at the edge. Several pools stretched farther and farther out into what Jack thought to have been a garden, as tall bamboo stalks whipped back and forth into the air.
"It is…beautiful," the samurai uttered quietly.
"Yes. Kame and I were lucky to have found this place."
The samurai's sword began to float of Jack's sash and into the air, much to Jack's shock as he watched it fly straight into Akuji's hands.
The sorcerer smirked as he unsheathed the blade. "We were also lucky to have found you."
"Ahhh... This feels great."
The robot girl sat in a reclining chair, her battery being charged a simply outlet in the wall.
"Let me know if you need anything, my dear," Kame smiled.
"Nah, I'm good. The current's super strong. I'll be out of here in no time."
A warm smile of content was all that lay on her face as she closed her eyes. Hmm…what should we do now? I mean, besides get Aku. That's priority number one. But everything else…
Thump, thump, thump!
The sound jolted Jenny's sensors. It came from behind her.
Behind the chair.
And then she heard yelling.
The voice was hoarse. Whoever was behind there had been yelling for a long time. They were in far more distress than her circuitry could tolerate.
She rose from the chair, unplugged herself from the wall, and walked out of the room in search of the one she heard.
At the end of the hall lay a room labeled "CAUTION: BOILER ROOM". Keeping her auditory sensors alert, the voice grew stronger the more she walked towards the door. She looked for any employees briefly before slipping inside.
The room was far from the word hot. Dark, damp, and red were the more appropriate words to describe it. The pipes crawled in and over the workings, and even the stairs seemed to threaten to give way from the rust. Steam hovered everywhere as water was carried upward to the mechanical baths and the patrons that asked for them.
Yet the voice Jenny heard grew louder and weaker, descending into moans of madness.
It came from a male stranger tied to a pipe by a black cloth. All they wore was a bair of briefs and a sack to cover their head. His cries were muffled, common of those gagged by a cloth.
The sound, so familiar to her for a reason she couldn't explain, wrenched Jenny's emotional core, overriding her standard protocols of asking him questions and telling him he was going to be okay.
She simply pulled the sack off the stranger's head and gasped.