Gabrielle sits upon her bedroll under a star-filled sky, musing about the place in the universe that she and Xena occupy.
Surprising her greatly, Xena sits up next to her and introspectively comments that she also thinks about their lives and their future--wondering if theyll always wander around Greece just looking for trouble. She suggests they head south to the land of the Pharaohs, since shes heard theyre in need of a girl with a chakram.
A man interrupts their discussion. He is a monk named Kenji who claims to be a messenger sent by Akemi. This news shocks Xena completely, and she is very dubious of his claim that he saw the woman.
Flashback: Several weeks earlier. The monk and his friend seek shelter in a storm at a teahouse in Higuchi, a city in the land of Japa. A very powerful, totally evil spirit appears and freezes the monks friend solid with his breath, then sucks him into his lungs. Kenji hides and is approached by Akemi who tells him that the dark lord holds captive the souls of the dead of Higuchi, and that only a great warrior from the west, a warrior princess, can save them.
Gabrielle, Xena and the monk set off on a ship, where Xena explains what happened in Japa when she last traveled there.
It seems that just after she left Lao Ma, Xena and Borias found a beautiful young woman from Japa, who was being held captive by a warlord from Chin. In order to claim a ransom, they decided to steal her back from the warlord and travel to Japa to return the girl, as well as to plunder a new land.
Upon meeting Xena, the young woman predicts that the Warrior Princess will soon love her, a prophecy that amazes the dark, loveless woman but surprisingly, she doesnt disagree with the prediction. Akemi asks Xena to take her with her, to teach her everything she knows just as Gabrielle was destined to do so many years later. During the scuffle with the warlord, Akemi watches, fascinated, as Xena applies the pinch, leaving the man to die without even bothering to count off the seconds.
Responding to Borias haughty assertion that Xena could never be a teacher, Xena decides that she will take the girl under her wing. Akemi gave every indication that she was completely besotted by the warrior, seeing in her a depth of emotion and love that had never been realized. She writes Xena a poem:
Yesterday, the moon took lodging on my sleeve
Today I have hope for even the brokenhearted stars.
Returning to the present, Gabrielle comments that Akemi must have loved Xena very much. Fighting back tears, the warrior reveals that the young woman broke her heart.
Akemi and Xena travel to the island of Japa to obtain the ransom from her father. On the long journey, Xena learns that the young woman can speak to the dead when she does so at the grave of her grandfather. Akemis grandfather blesses her choice of Xena as her teacher, but he worries that the warriors sword is not a strong enough weapon. Akemi takes Xena to obtain a sacred katana, a blade that makes all other blades look like mere toys.
Slowly, teacher and student grow closer, and bit by bit the chill begins to melt from Xenas heart. She feels something for this young woman, even though she doesnt understand the feeling in the least. Having shut herself off for so long, she doesnt recognize tenderness or compassion for what they are.
Akemi opens herself more and more fully to the older woman, boldly expressing her feelings. She writes another poem:
In a flurry of snow, two breaths of wind unite, and become as one. And then disappear into each other.
Xena kindly tries to brush off the girls feelings, insisting that she only came for the ransom, but Akemi doesnt believe her. She tells Xena that she might be a master of war, but she knows no words to speak of love. Xena saved Akemis life, and there is no greater gift of love a teacher can give to a student.
Quietly, Xena reflects on the young womans words, and its obvious that shes struggling with her raw, wild feelings. Akemi looks at her and asks Xena to teach her how to apply the pinch.
Xenas a little puzzled, and says that learning the technique is a sacred trust, but Akemi insists; and slowly, allowing herself to feel how much she has begun to trust and care for the young woman, Xena agrees.
She patiently begins to explain and show Akemi how to perform the act, stopping during the lesson to ask why the girl feels the need to learn how to kill.
With a somber face, the girl tells Xena the truth: "I must kill my father."
Jerking to her feet, Xena stares at her, flabbergasted at the calm, resigned tone the young woman uses. Akemi stands, and holds Xenas hands in her own. "It is my duty," she says softly. "My father is a very evil man. He killed my grandparents, my mother, my brothers and my sisters. Their souls cannot rest until theyve been avenged. Only I can do that."
Xena tries to talk her out of patricide, her growing feelings for the young woman confusing and frightening her. But Akemi is steadfast, unwilling to let Xenas arguments deter her. "I will do it with or without your help, Xena. I am no swordswoman, and Im certain I will fail if I must match him in strength. Only with the pinch do I stand a chance against him."
Reluctantly, Xena agrees, not cheered in the least when Akemi tells her that Xena can take all of the money that her very wealthy father, Yodoshi, possesses. "No, I just want the ransom that was agreed upon," she insists, barely able to believe that shes speaking the words.
Akemi insists. "No, the money will all be yours. It is right."
Back in the present, Gabrielle is stunned, and a little peeved, by the fact that Xena knew the young woman only a few weeks, and yet still taught her the deadly move. Despite all of their years together, Xena has only taught Gabrielle how to remove the pinch not how to apply it.
They are pulled from their tiff when a deckhand informs them that the city of Higuchi is under siege and is being burned to the ground. They jump from the boat together, and Xena asks Gabrielle what method she would use to stop the fire. Utilizing tricks that she once saw acrobats use, Gabrielle maneuvers both herself and Xena atop the citys water tower, where she single-handedly manages to save the town from total incineration by the flames. Xena smiles at her and clasps her hand, congratulating on her successful plan.
Harkening back again to the story of the past, Akemi and Xena finally reach Yodoshis fortress. Akemi manages to get close to her father and apply the pinch, while Xena dispatches all of the guards with her new katana. Akemi stands over her father and prays that he suffers in death the way his family suffered in life. Xena stands by and watches the girl as she kills the man who fathered her, her admiration for her growing at the dispassionate way she was able to avenge her family.
The two women collect all of the gold from the stores, then Xena is ready to move on. She is anxious to leave the compound before they are discovered, but Akemi stops her asking her to perform one last favor. She begs Xena to restore her honor.
Xena has no idea what the girl is talking about the ways and traditions of this land being completely alien to her. Briefly, quickly, Akemi tells her that to kill ones father is the greatest of wrongs, and that if she isnt beheaded by the sacred katana, she will wander the earth for all eternity never gaining peace.
Shocked, stunned, Xena refuses, her feelings for the girl overwhelming her. Tears come to her eyes and she begins to cry. Suddenly, Akemi produces a ceremonial dagger and slices through her own abdomen. Gasping out her words as the life flows from her, she once again begs Xena to behead her, burn her body and take her ashes to the family burial site in the city of Higuchi.
Hands shaking, tears flowing freely, Xena honors her friend by fulfilling her request breaking her own fragile heart in the process.
In the present, Gabrielle wonders how Xena will deal with having to face Akemis ghost. A man interrupts, asking how Xena will feel when she is confronted, face to face, by the ghosts of the people she killed in Higuchi.
Xena is stunned. She has no idea what the man is talking about. He is named Harukata, but he is known as the killer of ghosts. He claims that the fact that Xena and Gabrielle just saved Higuchi does nothing to ameliorate the fact that Xena killed 40,000 of Higuchis citizens when she was there years before. Xena tries to recreate what happened so she can understand what the ghost killer is saying.
She recounts that she was horrendously depressed after she finished Akemi, but even though she took to drunkenness to ease the pain, she was still determined to fulfill the girls wish. However, the townspeople got word that Xena was going to defile all of the souls who rested in their sacred resting place by burying a girl whod committed patricide, and they set out to stop her.
Only a few of the townspeople took up arms to stop her, but a mob started to beat her, hitting her with sticks until she dropped the urn, shattering it. Akemis ashes blew away in the strong wind, and Xena, grief-stricken, drunk, and filled with rage, took a mouthful of liquor and blew it through a torch, setting people and houses aflame. She was so drunk and confused that she wandered away, not even noticing that the fire quickly engulfed the whole rice-paper constructed city, destroying every man, woman and child.
The monk revealed that Akemi had told him that after she killed her father Yodoshi, his spirit was so filled with evil that even the underworld would not allow him to enter. He became Lord Yodoshi, the eater of souls. The souls of all 40,000 who had perished were held inside his body, where he tormented them with the essence of his evil.
Xena realizes shes responsible for a greater evil than she ever thought possible. Gabrielle argues that it was all an accident, but Xena insists that she was to blame. Even though she was drunk, her attempt to burn some of the villagers to death was intentional. Many innocent people died, and their souls are still in turmoil all because of her actions. Reluctantly, Gabrielle nods, acknowledging that Xena is responsible, even though she didnt intend the result. With Gabrielles support, Xena vows to do whatever she must to make things right.
As Xena and Gabrielle prepare for battle against the forces that are besieging Higuchi, Xena predicts that at least 3 armies are gathering. The bard tries to understand why the armies are attacking, and Xena explains that Yodoshi lures them into battle with his chosen one, Morimoto, leading them. Which side wins or loses isnt important only that many die so that Yodoshi can consume their souls. She explains that Yodoshi has the kind of power that Ares has in Greece that he can amass armies just for the sport of war, and in Yodoshis case, death.
Looking at her with painful understanding, Gabrielle quietly asks, "Like you when Ares controlled you?" Xena nods, too overcome with shame to speak.
The ghost killer and Xena speak, and she apologizes again. He accepts her apology, and agrees that they both want the same thing to kill Lord Yodoshi. He has the power, but he cant get close enough because hes mortal only another ghost can kill a spirit as powerful as Yodoshi. Xena looks over the landscape where the battle will take place, and nods her head briefly, showing that she fully understands his words.
Later, Xena meditates, telling Akemi that she understands what she must do, but she is afraid that this day, what is done will not be undone. Gabrielle enters the room, and Xena sniffs away her tears, pulling Gabrielle down into a kneeling position opposite her. She gently takes Gabrielles hands and tenderly places her fingers upon her throat, then shows her how to apply the pinch.
Gabrielle is understandably confused, and begins to grow frightened, Xenas affect and her words are sending a message that Gabrielle doesnt know how to interpret. She begins to cry, asking why Xena would teach her this now but Xena forces a smile and says she wants Gabrielle to know what she knows. She pledges that if she only had thirty seconds to live, this is how she would want to spend them looking into Gabrielles eyes. Gabrielle begs her to stop, but before she does Xena gazes at her one more time and says, "Always remember that I love you."
The battle begins, and Xena sends Gabrielle and the monk to lead a contingent to the east flank. Xena claims that a group of Yodoshis archers have gathered there. The warrior stoically watches her soulmate walk into the mist, then prepares to fight the battle of her life.
Clad in the ceremonial garb of a warrior of Japa, she buries her sword, her armor and her battledress, then stands to take on the approaching army. Gabrielle and Kenji stand at the east flank, and she slowly realizes that there are no archers. Immediately knowing that Xena has sent her away for her protection, she cries out her name and runs back as fast as she can to help her.
Putting up a better fight against such overwhelming odds than anyone could have imagined, Xena takes down hundreds upon hundreds of the attacking army. Fighting and killing dozens of the warriors in hand to hand combat with her sword, she screams out her last word, calling out her lovers name to give her strength as her head is severed by Yodoshis samurai general, Morimoto.
Gabrielle finally arrives at the battle site, finding only a blood-drenched chakram.
Back at the teahouse, Akemi waits, and suddenly Xena appears. Shes completely naked, washed clean, without blemish. Other spirits clothe her in a red kimono, and she and Akemi have a warm reunion.
The ghost killer is hard at work on the battlefield, speeding wandering souls on their way before they can be devoured by Yodoshis insatiable appetite.
Akemi tells Xena that their bodies, even though they seem real, are an illusion projected by Lord Yodoshi. He uses all of the women to fulfill his sexual appetites, and he will use Xena in the same way. One of the women, Miyuki, uses the chiming of an ankle bracelet to call the dark lord, and his awful presence flies into the room, where he strips Xena naked and burns her with his whip of fire. She quickly realizes that she is not powerful enough to stand against him, and she submits, bowing meekly before him.
Xena and Akemi sit outside of the teahouse so they can speak quietly. They are being watched by Miyuki, the woman who summoned Yodoshi, and Xena declares that she will destroy the dark lord. Daring Miyuki to find her, she runs from the teahouse.
Some time later, Xena arrives at the site of her decapitation, Gabrielles diligent search for her continuing. When they see each other, Gabrielle is overcome with relief, holding her and thanking the heavens that Xena is safe, but she quickly realizes that something is amiss. She holds the chakram up and Xena tries to take it, only to have her illusory hand slip right through the metal. Gabrielle gasps and sorrowfully whispers, "Youre dead!"
Knowing that no enemy would have been able to kill Xena if the warrior hadnt allowed it, Gabrielle is justifiably furious with her. Xena apologizes, and says that she couldnt tell her the plan because Gabrielle would have tried to stop her, and then theyd both be dead.
Tears in her eyes, her voice straining with grief, the bard asks, "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Xena smiles and assures her that theyve overcome death before they will find a way to bring her back. Gabrielle hugs her close and tells her that Xena is her whole life. She wont lose her. Xena promises that Gabrielle will not lose her, and they break their embrace when the ghost killer appears and kills Miyuki, the woman from the teahouse who has been following Xena. Xena retrieves the ankle bracelet that is used to summon Yodoshi, and she and Gabrielle return to the teahouse.
A rather awkward meeting ensues between the two women who have both deeply loved Xena, Xena introducing Gabrielle as her soulmate. Kenji reveals that if Gabrielle can find Xenas body, burn it, and sprinkle her ashes into the Fountain of Strength on Mount Fujisan before the second sunset after death, Xena will come back to life. Taking the sacred katana, Gabrielle is given incantations by Harukata, the ghost killer, to give her power over malicious spirits. For protection on her journey, Akemi gives Gabrielle a beautiful tebori tattoo, covering her entire back and leg with a powerful dragon design. Xena lies by her side, holding her hand and soothing her as she struggles with the pain of the needles.
Clad in warrior garb, Gabrielle departs, vowing that she will meet Xena the next day on the side of Mount Fujisan. Her voice full of confidence, Xena nods and says, "See you there."
Gabrielle finds the decapitated body, and fights Morimoto, humiliating him by knocking him to the ground with one powerful stroke. He begs her to behead him, to give him a noble death in defeat. She refuses, knocking him to the ground with the flat of her blade. She takes Xenas body and sets off for Mount Fujisan.
Meanwhile, at the teahouse, Xena dresses as Miyoki, the woman the ghost killer disposed of, and summons Lord Yodoshi with the chiming. The ghost killer tries to kill Yodoshi, but is unsuccessful, and in a tremendous battle, Yodoshi kills both Kenji and the ghost killer. Xena takes the ghost killers katana and wounds Yodoshi, cutting off his arm, but doesnt seem to have the power to kill him. He disappears before she can understand what has happened.
At the teahouse, Xena bends over the ghost killer, asking what went wrong. He tells her that Yodoshi is drinking from the Fountain of Strength on Mount Fujisan. He tells Xena that if she drinks from the fountain and uses the katana that he blessed, which Gabrielle now carries, she will be able to kill the dark lord. Following their deaths, both Kenji and the ghost killers spirits are restless, as well. Xena promises she will not rest until she has destroyed Lord Yodoshi.
Burning Xenas body, Gabrielle recalls their lives together; recalling Xenas words that even if death, she would never leave her. Summoning all of her strength, she states, "You will return to me, my friend."
On the side of Mount Fujisan, Morimoto appears, trying to exact revenge against Gabrielle for dishonoring him in defeat. She fights him in hand to hand combat, using all of the fighting skills she has learned from Xena through the years. She prevails, but he kicks the urn from her hands, and it falls, just out of her reach, into a niche in the side of a sheer cliff.
Yodoshi makes it to Mount Fujisan just then, and he finds the Fountain of Strength. He unlocks the barrier and the fountain begins to flow. Xena, clad in her red kimono, appears and throws him down a cliff. Xena anxiously awaits the water to course down the mountain and fall into her mouth, but just before it reaches her lips, Yodoshi regains his senses and freezes it. With his will, he propels Xena far into the distance, where she falls, bloodied and battered.
Gabrielle sees her land, and some of the ice from the fountain flies through the air, landing near Yodoshi. He sucks some of the ice into his mouth, just as Akemi arrives and tries to kill him with his own sword. His wounded body becomes whole just as she tries this, and he sucks her into his huge mouth, devouring her whole, while retrieving his sword.
Xena urges Gabrielle to get her some water from the Fountain of Strength, and just as she does, Yodoshi tries to burn her with flames that fly from his mouth. But her dragon tattoo protects her, flinging the powerful man a great distance. Stunned, but able to walk, Gabrielle kisses Xena tenderly, letting the drops of water she carried in her mouth revive the warrior. Immediately, Xena is incarnate, clad in her Greek warrior garb.
Gabrielle says that she must find the urn holding Xenas ashes and put them in the fountain, as the sun is beginning to set. Xena looks at her with her face filled with compassion and starts to speak. "Gabrielle " but at that moment, Yodoshi appears, and Xena must fight him, or risk them both being killed.
Taking on the dark lord, Xenas spirit seems equally powerful, as she now has the ability to propel herself through the air and spew fire just as he does. They fight fiercely, but Xena eventually prevails and beheads him and all of the souls leave his body.
Gabrielle manages to climb down the cliff and retrieve Xenas ashes, just as Morimoto returns, telling her that he deserves the dignity of a warriors death. She scoffs at him, telling him there was no dignity in serving Lord Yodoshi or in killing Xena. For the first time in her life, she hurls the chakram, and it flies through the air, bouncing and ricocheting off the mountains, to knock him out once again. She retrieves the weapon and stops for just a moment, gazing at it in wonder.
Akemis spirit excitedly tells Xena that she s redeemed her, shes redeemed the souls of the 40,000, and that shes also redeemed herself. Xena smiles sadly and says, "Go in peace Akemi, well meet again, one day."
Moments later, as Gabrielle prepares to empty the urn in the pool of the Fountain of Strength, Xena comes up next to her and places a restraining hand on her arm. "No, Gabrielle," she insists. "No."
Gabrielle persists, saying that she has to pour the ashes in the sun is setting and she must hurry to bring Xena back to life. But Xena insists that she must not do so not if it means condemning the souls of the 40,000 who burned at Higuchi.
Stunned, Gabrielle insists that Xena has already freed those souls. But Xena explains that all she did was free them from Yodoshis grip. For the souls to rest in peace, they must be avenged, and only she can avenge them, and that is only through her death.
Gabrielle tries to understand. "So if I bring you back to life ?"
"Those souls will be lost forever," Xena states.
"That is not right!" Gabrielle cries. Looking at Xena with every bit of her love expressed in her eyes, she whispers, "I dont care. Youre all that matters to me."
"Dont you know how much I want to let you do this?" Xena murmurs. "But if there is a reason for our travels together, its because I had to learn from you enough to know the final, the good, the right thing to do. I cant come back. I cant!" Tears are streaming down her face, and shes desperate to spare her lover the pain of the sacrifice she is demanding of her.
Looking up at her, feeling totally defeated, Gabrielle sinks to the edge of the pool. "I love you, Xena. How am I supposed to go on without you?" She leans against her soulmate, totally bereft.
"Ill always be with you, Gabrielle, always." Xena wraps her in her arms, and holds her tightly while, together, they watch the sun begin to set.
Just before the last brilliant ray of the sun dies away, Gabrielle purposefully sits up and calmly, but determinedly, pours her lovers ashes into the pool. Xena cries out and tries to stop her, but its too late. Her body is filled with life, and she stands, horrified, looking at her hands, feeling her torso, trying to understand what Gabrielle did.
The younger woman looks up at her and states the simple truth of their shared journey. In a confident, self-assured voice, Gabrielle says, "I know that our journey commands that we must do the right thing, Xena. But I also know that we have never, ever, come upon a problem that has only one solution. You, my warrior, have taught me that."
"But, Akemi "
Gabrielle silenced her soulmate with gentle fingers upon her warm lips, pausing for just a moment to feel the lifeblood pulsing through them. "Akemi is a child. She knows what she has been told, Xena. She doesnt have the skills, the genius of the Warrior Princess." She smiled warmly at her partner. "We will find another way, Xena." Gathering her lover in her arms, Gabrielle whispered, "I promise you we will find another way. And if we fail, then you and I, together, will sacrifice our lives to avenge the
"I cant have you do that!" Xena exclaimed, but Gabrielle once again silenced her.
Smiling warmly, the younger woman said, "I didnt promise wed do it right away. We can do so much good in this world, Xena we have done so much good Im sure the souls wont mind waiting a little longer. Theyre no longer in torment, Xena. Forty or fifty more years is but an instant in the timeline of the afterlife. When our time comes if it comes to that -- well avenge them, Xena. All in due time. All in due time."
Sighing heavily, Xena sat on the ledge once again, finding herself completely unable to dispute one word of her partners logic. Gabrielle sat next to her and the warrior wrapped her arm around her shoulders. "When did you grow to be so wise?"
Shrugging her shoulders, her nose wrinkling up in a childlike expression, Gabrielle laughed, "Kinda crept up on you, didnt it?" Sticking her hands out and playfully cracking the knuckles, she said, "Theres a new kid in town, Princess. And she can throw that chakram, and wield a mean sword. She can even put the pinch on people. Youd better sleep with one eye open, pal, cause shes out to take your title."
"She can have it," Xena said, her voice warm and filled with affection.
"Okay," Gabrielle agreed. "From now on its Gabrielle, Cuddle Princess."
"Hey! Not that title," Xena huffed, "the other one!"
"Okay, Gabrielle, Ticklish Princess."
"I am not ticklish!" the taller woman fumed.
Letting her fingers prove her point, the scene fades out, accompanied by the warm laughter of two women, united by a shared vision and their abundant, undying love for one another.
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