There had been a moment where it had looked like she would not have seen it at all. When Jaydos might have plunged his blade through her defenseless body, and she would never have seen another sunrise, in any lifetime. Her soul itself would have been destroyed, rendered nonexistent for all time. To someone who had been born and reborn for as long as she had, that was a horrible fate to have to consider.
But I won, she reminded herself, leaning on the fence and gazing at the glittering stars and sun. I killed him.
A tremble shuddered through her body at the thought of that. It was the first time in her life she'd ever killed. At least in this one. Other incarnations of her soul had killed on a regular basis, though never for pleasure. It was an odd thing to contemplate. The life she had lived until discovering her heritage hadn't prepared her for it, yet she felt no fear or regret or remorse. It had simply been a thing she had to do. If she hadn't, she herself would have died, and the earth and unknown numbers of other worlds would have suffered as well. She didn't want that. She was glad to have lived, glad she had saved everyone.
Yet still, a touch of curiosity remained. Had it been the only way? Could she have saved Jaydos somehow, and the world? Did it demand his death? Had it truly been necessary.
"Did I have to kill him?" she asked of no one in particular. She almost jumped out of her skin when she got an answer.
"Yes," it was T.J., of all people, looking at her. At the startled expression in her eyes, he explained, "I thought you'd be having some problems with what happened, so I thought I'd come over and see what I could do to help."
She smiled briefly; that was so like him. It was that sort of caring that made him a real leader, a compassionate and powerful individual. She was glad Dimitria had been able to rescue the four of them before anything had happened. She made a mental note to talk to Carlos as soon as she could; he was going to need someone just as much as she did. "How do you know I had to kill him?" she asked quietly.
"What else do you do with someone who can't be reasoned with and who can't be stopped except by killing them?" he replied. "It was for the good of the entire universe."
She nodded; she'd known that, it just took hearing it from another's lips for her heart to entirely accept it. "I wish I hadn't had to, though. I wish that things could've been just a little different. . ."
"I know," T.J. agreed. "A lot happened that was awful because of it. But good things came from it too."
Ashley sighed deeply. "Who would have ever thought that the head cheerleader would become one of the deadliest fighters the world has ever seen?" she wondered, a smile teasing at her lips. "Do you know, there was a moment when I thought I was going to die? That I'd never see any of you again?"
Her leader put a friendly arm on her shoulder. "But you didn't. You made it through. You survived, and you beat the bad guy. All by yourself."
"Not really," her smile broadened. "I wasn't really alone. I had all my other lives with me, the spirit of the phoenix, and something else."
"Oh?" he cocked one eyebrow at her. "What was that?"
"I had you and the rest of the team, and my family," she told him. "You were in my heart. ..where you always are."
The large young man smiled warmly at her. "Thanks, Ashley. You're in our hearts too."
Ashley gave him a warm hug, feeling more confidant about what she had done, and knowing that it was the only thing she could have done. The part of her that was Asona murmured in pride, glad to have finally completed her lifelong quest, and returned to slumber in her soul. Quietly, the Red and Yellow Rangers turned to watch as the sun lifted over the horizon and brightened all of Angel Grove with morning's light.