Content warnings: Torture, Stockholm Syndrome, and all sorts of unhealthy, not-couple-goals-at-all-dynamics.
Notes: Written for Jashi Week: Love to Hate You.
The plan had changed. They weren't to kill the samurai, but to bring him to their lair. They may be the Daughters of Aku, but they would never be worthy enough to bow in his presence, Mother had decided. It would be shameful for lower beings such as themselves to do the one thing Aku had longed to do himself.
Her sisters had calmly accepted their mother's request. Ashi accepted as well, but she could hardly keep calm. Her body shook, trying to stay focused while also trying to calm the rage that boiled within her. She knew this was Aku's will, but she nonetheless couldn't ignore the resentment that crept in her mind. She and her sisters had trained and suffered for so many years, and all this time she knew it would be worth it the moment they saw the samurai's lifeless body fall to the ground at their hands. They had been robbed. She had been robbed.
To make matters worse, she was instructed to guard the samurai. She was to feed, hydrate, and, should he try to escape or otherwise misbehave in any way, punish him. This was her reward, Mother had told her, for being the most efficient of her sisters, as well as her punishment, for being the the greatest hindrance to their quest. Had she not stopped to question and examine their findings in the outside world, the samurai may have been captured sooner.
She grit her teeth and tightened her hold on the whip coiled around her hand. Ashi knew she deserved this, but it was the samurai who had put her in this position in the first place. She looked at him, his wrists and ankles chained to the stone wall of the cavern, his body drooping forward and looking more like captured prey than an all-mighty evil on the verge of being vanquished.
Don't fall for it, her Mother's voice whispered in her head, Remember, the samurai is a tricky foe who will use any means necessary to escape; including exploiting the weaknesses of your heart.
Ashi was ready to throttle him just for that, then suspected giving in to her anger may be another way of exploiting her heart too, and let him be. She paced around the cavern instead, silently seething.
Ashi whipped her head in the direction of the samurai. He was lifting his head feebly as his beaten body quivered all over. Ashi clicked her tongue and stood before him.
"What's this?" she said, propping his chin up with her whip. "Begging for mercy already? Can't accept your defeat with dignity? You truly are a loathsome creature."
"…please…" he continued. "…water…please…"
Something had seized hold of Ashi's chest, causing her to bring the whip down. She shook her head. This had to be the samurai's doing, without a doubt, and she would not be swayed so easily.
"Disgusting pest," she spat at him. "I should give you a lashing just for trying to trick me like that."
"…no…no trick…" he said, using whatever bit of strength he had left in him to shake his head. "I just…want…water…"
Ashi glared at him through her mask.
"Fine," she said. "I shall bring you water. But bear in mind that the Daughters of Aku are the eyes and ears of this place--if we catch you trying to escape, and we will, I shall show you no mercy."
She turned to leave, but not without hearing one last utterance from the samurai.
Enough time had passed that the samurai regained strength enough to talk without straining himself too much. Ashi had made sure his fluids were limited and eating would be a luxury dependent on if there were any scraps left over from the feasts the cult had shared or not. He didn't say much apart from "thank you"s when Ashi had offered him a sip from a cup or fed him food, and made no attempts at escaping from his bonds.
Ashi should have been content with this turnout, but found herself growing restless and irritated instead. She wanted the samurai to physically feel the hatred she felt for him, but she needed a reason to inflict that sort of pain, to which he had given her none. It made her hate him even more.
"May I…at least see your face...?" he inquired one day with trembling breaths.
"What? So you can spit poison on it?" Ashi snapped back at him. "Don't even dream of it, Samurai."
"I just wish to see a human face…that is all," said the samurai. "I understand...if you wish not to show yours to me…"
Ashi bit her lip in anger, then relaxed. Perhaps seeing her face would get a rise out of him enough that she could justify punishing him. She drew her hand up to her mask and pulled it off.
"Very." The samurai bowed his head. "Thank you…you are quite a lovely woman."
"Hah! Trying to flatter yourself out of your predicament, are you, Samurai?" Ashi put her mask back on. "You truly are desperate. I look forward to the day Aku paints the ground with your blood."
The samurai simply smiled wearily. "If it would give you satisfaction…I would gladly accept that outcome."
Ashi said nothing; he was clearly getting amusement out of their interaction, and the last thing she needed was for him to experience a moment of pleasure that wasn't food or water. Ashi had had enough. He was going to play with her? She was going to play with him.
"I've heard my hatred for you is matched only by your own for Aku, Samurai. Is that true?"
The samurai didn't respond; he continued as he did, hanging limply from his shackles.
"Samurai! Answer me! Obey Aku's will!"
She lashed her whip against his chest, wrangling a yell of pain from him. Ashi grinned from beneath her mask.
"You can talk, can you not, Samurai?" She held the whip out threateningly. "Answer me. Is your hate for Aku not stronger than my own for you?!"
"I…was like you, once…" the samurai began, grimacing through the white-hot stinging along his chest. "I…too…was driven by my hate…my hate for Aku…but...no more…"
"What do you mean, 'no more'?"
"I have failed my quest, any hope of doing battle with him is fruitless now." He looked at her with pain in his eyes--not pain from the lashing, but a pain Ashi was unable to define. "I now live…only for you."
"And you will die, only for me," she hissed, turning her back against him.
Ashi heard a murmur from him that sounded like "…such a fate couldn't make me happier."
She no longer wore her mask, though she hadn't the faintest idea why. That would change, should any of her family members or the cult enter the cavern, but between her and the samurai, she discarded the mask altogether.
She also learned she didn't have to punish the samurai in order to torture him.
It happened one night when she heard him weeping.
"You should realize by now that you will get no pity from me, Samurai."
"I know…I do not deserve your pity…." he said in between sobs. "I just long….for your touch…please…it has been so long since I've known the touch of another human being…"
Ashi walked over and placed a hand on the samurai's cheek. His crying fell silent, though tears still streamed down his cheeks. He looked peaceful, as though he were resting against her very palm. It fascinated her. Then she pulled her hand away.
"One touch is all you're getting," she said. "And one touch is all you'll get every night."
"One touch is enough, thank you."
At first her touches had only been limited to his cheeks. Then one night she decided to explore his chest. Another night, his lips. Another night, his thighs.
Each night left him whimpering and thanking her. She wasn't sure if he was truly suffering anymore or outright enjoying it, but she'd stopped caring. What mattered was that the once-powerful samurai now existed, willingly, under her thumb. That alone gave her more fulfillment than the thought of killing him ever did.
Tonight her touch turned into a passionate kiss.
"Who do you live for, Samurai?"
"I live for you, my captor."
"And who will you die for, Samurai?"
"For you, my captor."