Content warnings: Exploration of death and existential angst.
Notes: Written for Jashi Week: Saving Saturday.
From the moment she summoned the power of Aku's essence flowing in her veins to form the time portal, Ashi knew she would not last in the Samurai's time. She knew this, and she held the Samurai's hand in hers as they traveled through the portal, hoping that he would know this, too. Her hold strengthened and she hoped the Samurai could sense her resolve and acceptance of what would become of her.
She did not expect to last as long as she did in the Samurai's world. The moment she felt Aku's presence disappear, she was sure that she would follow shortly after. But even as she was willing to lay down her life to ensure a brighter future, there was still part of her soul clinging to this realm of existence. She did not want to leave, not yet. She needed to know this world would be restored. She needed to see the Samurai's face overcome with joy at seeing his home as he fondly remembered it. And…she wanted to live in this world, if only for a short time. She wanted to see life, everywhere, thriving readily, after having lived a life dictated by death. And she wanted to experience it all with the Samurai.
Each day spent in the Samurai's world was equal parts joy and agony for her. It was a joy to wake up to a family that welcomed her with open arms and loved her unconditionally. It was a joy to see all the sights the Samurai had described: the always-colorful changing of the seasons, the clear, blue skies, the sheer variety of creatures living together, peacefully. It was a joy to know that her life, initially meant for destruction, was now actively playing a part in the reconstruction of old life and the birth of new.
But she could still feel the other part of her soul, knowing she had no time left in this world, and each day would be harder for her to exist in than the last. Her will was powerful, powerful enough to last an entire year, but the inevitability out of her control was stronger. She needed to tell the Samurai sooner or later of the unfortunate fate that awaited her, but every time she looked at him, she saw the peace settling into his gentle features--a sharp contrast to the weary, despairing man she first met--and she couldn't bear the thought of extinguishing that newfound light.
So she proposed to the Samurai instead.
Her wedding day was the happiest and most painful day of her life. Her soul would be joined with the Samurai's for eternity, but her physical form would disappear. It would be the final touch to restoring this world and ensuring evil would never befall it ever again. Ashi tried to focus on the good her disappearance would bring, and the hope that she would see the Samurai again, but even as what linked her to this world weakened, her desire to be part of it never wavered. She was glad that her final moments would, at least, be with her loved one.
As she proceeded towards her husband, a single, damning thought struck her mind.
I may save the world, but can I save him?
Ashi collapsed to the ground as the last of her strength left her. She didn't have time to say goodbye, only to tell her husband why she could no longer be there. It was better than departing suddenly without explanation, or so she hoped.
Ashi's soul wandered in a lost haze. The last thing she remembered was being cradled in her husband's arms before disappearing. Now, she didn't know where she was. Was she still in his world, or had she traveled on to another? She did not know. She felt herself floating, listlessly, through a misty forest. Maybe that last bit of her that still wished to be here was keeping her. She wondered if she may have unknowingly sentenced herself to a fate worse than death--unable to touch, unable to communicate, all the while being aware of her surroundings, without a clue as to where she was.
As time passed, she began forgetting why she there, or how she even came to be. Her mind was as foggy as the forest she traveled endlessly through. Who was she? What was she? Did it matter? She did not know what to feel, yet something kept urging her forward.
A red, speckled creature flew in front of her. She wasn't sure what it was--she'd forgotten what most things were--but she nonetheless felt a strong tug towards it. It could have been because of its unique color that stood out amongst all the grey that she had been wandering through, and it was undoubtedly the thing that caught her eye, yet she sensed a familiarity about it too. As though it was a missing part of her, and becoming one with it would guide her to whatever she was searching for. She concentrated on the creature, on how freely it flew in a way her soul--floating about without her own control--couldn't, on how wonderful it would be to be that creature, to have a form she could take.
She became the red creature. She did not think about how she became one with it, or what it meant--she was too overcome with the new sensations she was feeling. The wings on her back, the legs that dangled beneath her body, the cool air that drifted about through the forest.
Yet there was something that still urged her forward.
She was at a loss as to what it could be, her only indication was the unrest remaining in her soul. Still, she was grateful to have a body that could feel, that she could control, and felt a newfound eagerness to pursue whatever was calling her. She flapped her wings and flew through the forest.
How wonderful it was indeed! She could settle on a tree or a blade of grass whenever she felt like it. She met new creatures, ones that looked similar to her and ones covered in feathers or fur. So much life had awaited her! She wished she could find a way to thank the creature who so selflessly gave its body to her.
She continued to travel, then found something that felt out of place. It wasn't the tree blossoming with pink flowers, standing out from the other green trees around it, but the resident that sat below it. It didn't move with the energy she'd seen in the other creatures--in fact, it wasn't moving at all. Somehow, however, she could tell it was alive.
She'd seen it before. She'd seen him before. This person…she knew him, yet she didn't know how. What she did know was that this person clearly wasn't experiencing any joy, despite having a body that could move of its own free will. How could he not be moving? So much wonderful life was around for him to meet and explore.
She fluttered down to him, hoping that her appearance would fill him with the happiness that seeing it had given her.
The moment she landed on his hand…she remembered.
She was Ashi. The woman from a hellish future that no longer existed. The woman who'd given her life so that this man and his people could have a future. And this man…this was the man who'd saved her from a life of misery and hate, who'd given her hope, who'd given her love. She'd saved him from a life of misery and hate, given him hope, and given him love as well. He was her husband.
Ashi understood. She hadn't moved on, and neither had he.
It was time that they saved each other, one last time.
She couldn't communicate with words, so she hoped, once again, that her appearance would be enough. Enough to tell him, We will meet again.
His eyes opened. He looked at her, and a soft smile tugged at the corners of his lips. Her antennae twitched in response, a form of smile on her part. Her husband stood up and held her out in the palm of his hand.
He, too, did not communicate in words, but the expression in his eyes told all: We will meet again.
She felt the warmth of peace settling into her husband's soul, settling into hers as well. She fluttered off, her final sign to show him that she was at peace, and that this wasn't goodbye. He held his gaze lovingly at her, and she finally let her soul drift out of the ladybug's, laying to rest.
We will meet again.