Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle & friends are not mine. I'm just borrowing them, and I have to get them back before someone notices that they're missing. No profit was made from this story.
Related Episodes: A Friend In Need I & II (Series Finale)
Constructive Criticism always welcome… So tell me what you think.
The Truth About Akemi
By: Gypsy Druid
Xena stopped Gabrielle from pouring the ashes into the water.
"Xena?" Gabrielle looked at her, confused.
"I can't, Gabrielle." Xena shook her head sadly. "I can't come back this time. If I return to the living, all of these 10,000 souls will suffer for it. It was my fault that they died in the first place, so I have to at least give them peace."
Gabrielle's mind scrambled to understand what was happening. When she finally got it, she grabbed the warrior's armor in sudden fury. "That's ridiculous, and you know it!"
"Gabrielle?" Xena was shocked. She had never seen her gentle friend so angry.
"Those people's deaths were not your fault." The bard shouted at her. "You didn't even know they were dead until you returned here. It was Akemi's fault. She's the one who lied to you. She's the one who killed herself after forcing you to make that promise, she knew that even though her father was a brutal tyrant, his people would have killed her for what she had done."
"Gabrielle, you don't understand…" Xena started.
"I do understand." Gabrielle interrupted her. "The Ghost Killer told me. Those villagers weren't trying to stop you because you were a foreigner stumbling around drunk through their homes. They were trying to stop you from burying Akemi in honor when she didn't deserve it. The deaths of those people are on her head, not yours!"
Xena's eyes were wide. "Akemi, is that true?"
The spirit of Akemi, the young Japanese girl whom she had come to help, appeared before them.
"I do not know what she speaks of, Xena, but we must go." The girl stated. "The spirits are becoming restless."
"No, Akemi, you tell her the truth!" Gabrielle yelled at the spirit. "She had already sacrificed her life for you. You owe her that much."
Akemi remained stubbornly silent.
"Did you even tell her who the Dark Lord was?" Gabrielle demanded. She saw her answer the spirit's suddenly frightened expression and turned back to the warrior. "Xena, Yodoshi was Akemi's father."
Xena looked at Akemi in shock, her thoughts racing as she tried to absorb this new information. "But, Gabrielle, Akemi killed her father because he was an evil bastard. She couldn't know what would happen after he died. She just wanted to protect her people."
Akemi turned away as Gabrielle shook her head. "That's only part of the truth. Her father was an evil man, but she didn't kill him to protect her people. She killed him because he beat her, let his solders rape her and then sold her off as a slave. She swore revenge, and she used you to get to him because she knew that she would never be able to get close enough on her own. She's tried with others, but they were all caught and killed, and she was resold."
"How can you know this?" The spirit cried out, unintentionally confirming all that the bard was saying.
"The Ghost Killer told me what he learned from the spirits. Other parts I learned from the scrolls telling the story of the Dark Lord." Gabrielle turned back to Xena again. "What happened to those people was not laid at your feet by any of the spirits or deities. It was laid at hers. Please, Xena, don't do this."
Suddenly, the Ghost Killer appeared with one of the women who had been trapped in the hut with Akemi. "She speaks truth, Warrior. In her own way, the girl is as evil as her father. Even what happened to her is her own fault. All of the things that the young warrior speaks of, happened only after Yodoshi uncovered her plot to kill him and take his place as ruler."
The woman spoke as well. "Akemi knows that the deaths will be placed at her feet when we cross over. It was her wish that you join her in her condemnation once you had destroyed the Dark Lord."
Xena gasped in shock. "Do you mean that I am redeemed? I will go to the Fields instead of Tartarus?"
"Not the Elysian Fields, no." said the Ghost Killer. "You died in our lands, and by our customs, therefore you would be welcome within our paradise."
Xena stood frozen with shock at the prospect. Around them, the darkness was getting lighter, signaling the coming dawn, and Gabrielle began to panic.
"Xena!" She called the warrior's name until their eyes met. "If you do this, I will follow you."
Those words brought Xena out of her paralysis faster than anything could have. "Gabrielle, no…"
"I swear it, Xena." The bard declared. Before the warrior could stop her, she backed away until she was holding Xena's ashes over the pool in one hand, and held her sai over her heart with the other. "Our path is together, in life or in death. I know this. I have lived with your death once, I will not do it again."
Xena's hand raised in denial of what she was seeing, for once unsure of what to do. "Gabrielle, what about the greater good?"
"Damn the greater good!" the bard cried. "We have sacrificed everything for the Gods-be-damned greater good. Our families, our children, our lives! Not this time. Remember what you told me in the desert. There are some things more important that the greater good. I will not lose you again. The sun is rising, Xena. You have to choose now!"
Gabrielle attention shifted briefly to the horizon, and that was all Xena needed. In an instant, she had captured both of Gabrielle's wrists in an iron grip, and pulled the weapon from her friend's grasp.
Suddenly, the world around them went completely still. The leaves swaying in the breeze stopped as another spirit shimmered into view. Immediately, the Ghost Killer, Akemi and the woman fell to their knees and touched their heads to the ground. Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other in confusion.
"I am the God, Amida-Nyorai." The spirit said. "In this land, my domain would be the equivalent of your Elysian Fields."
Xena's brow arched, but she said nothing. She turned to stand protectively before Gabrielle. She had never trusted Gods, and she wasn't about to start now.
"So it is true that you do not fear Gods." Amida-Nyorai chuckled in amusement. "That is a very rare thing in a mortal. Be at ease, Warrior. I have merely come to shed some light upon the events that have happened."
He turned his gaze to the prostrate spirits around them. "The one you know as Akemi was indeed beaten, raped, and sold into slavery by her father. It was discovered by his spies that she, in collusion with the captain of his guard, planned to kill him and seize power. She is, in many ways, as evil as he was. She led many to their death, by seducing those who bought her and manipulating them into trying to accomplish her plan. When she was sold to you instead of your comrade, she quickly revised her plan, correctly guessing that you would be more interested in ransom's gold than in a Daimyo's power."
Akemi looked up, trembling and crying. "Please, Kami, no more."
"What she did not expect, however, was her reaction to your unthinking, and I am sure, unconscious, gentleness to the fragile girl that she appeared to be. In truth, she fell in love with you even as she led you to what was to be your death. It was this love that allowed her to give up her obsession with her father's power, but it gave birth to a new obsession. She had sworn to kill her father, an oath that she felt she must fulfill. As your young friend said, she knew that her people would not have tolerated her killing her father. It is why she tried to have a strong male do the deed in her place. Her new obsession was to remain with you for eternity. It was her hope that the people would kill you when you attempted to bury her with honor. Because of the unfulfilled oath, your soul would have been forever bound to hers."
"Akemi." Xena whispered. "Why?"
"I love you, Xena." Akemi cried. "You were supposed to be with me forever. You would have loved me and we would have been together for all eternity."
Xena shook her head. "Akemi, I wasn't capable of love back then. If you had trapped me like that, I would have made what you suffered at your father's hand seem like your paradise in comparison to what I would have done to you. Even if I stay with you now, Gabrielle is my soulmate. I would be leaving once she crossed over. We are already destined to be reborn once we are rejoined, and I would have gone regardless of these souls."
"NO!" Akemi screamed in fury. Her eyes flashed a crimson red as the insanity in her soul began to manifest itself in her spiritual form. "She cannot have you. You are mine!"
She leapt at them with her hands curled into claws. Amida-Nyorai casually waved his hand and she froze in mid-air. "Akemi, your judgment has already been decided due to your past transgressions which resulted in the unintentional birth of the Dark Lord, and the ill-fated deaths of the people of Higuchi. Normally, spirits which are charged with the caretaking of other spirits are allowed to visit the other realms of the underworlds as well as appear in the realm of the living in spirit form since they cannot cross fully into the underworlds. However, for your recent actions, attempting to trap the soul of this valiant warrior and bind it to suffer with your own, such privileges are hereby revoked for all eternity. You will remain between worlds forever, able to watch but not to interact."
Amida-Nyorai waved his hand once more, and Akemi's form faded with a scream of rage and denial. The God then turned back Xena and Gabrielle. "Honorable Xena, your sacrifice has redeemed you of your past actions in these lands. Should you wish to remain as you are, know that you will be welcomed into my paradise. The decision, however, is yours until the light of the sun touches the sacred water."
The God faded away, as did the spirits of the Ghost Killer and the woman, and the motion of the world resumed.
"Please, Xena." Gabrielle begged tearfully. "Please, don't leave me."
Xena turned to her soulmate with a soft smile. She leaned in and kissed Gabrielle softly. "I will never leave you, Gabrielle."
And with those words, she gently lifted the bard's arm and dumped the ashes into the water. As the sunlight washed over the pool, Xena's spirit faded and the water began to ripple. Gabrielle knelt beside the churning water, straining to see what was happening beneath the surface. Suddenly, Xena broke the surface with a harshly indrawn breath, the force nearly knocking the bard over. Moving quickly, she grabbed the disoriented woman by the upper arms and pulled her to the side of the pool.
"Gabrielle?" Xena gasped.
She took several deep breaths before struggling out of the water, and immediately began shivering. Gabrielle took off her overcoat and wrapped it around the naked woman, hugging her closely.
"Thank you, Xena." The bard whispered, kissing the dark, wet head with tears of happiness on her cheeks. "Thank you for coming back to me."
"A-Always, my f-friend." The warrior stammered through chattering teeth. "Y-You know th-that."
Unseen, the spirit of Akemi watched them, her eyes burning red with insane fury. She rested on her knees at the forest edge, already plotting her next move to destroy the interloper and claim the soul of HER Warrior Princess.