Princess Mononoke Fan Fiction ❯ Mind and Spirit ❯ Chapter 3 (Delicate matters part 2) ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Mind and Spirit
Chapter 3 (Delicate matters part 2)
Disclaimer: I don't own Princess Mononoke or the characters, or anything else for that matter, its just a Fan-fic, read and enjoy.
Still the flashback…
They reached the small lake just before sunset. The lake itself was only 250m across or so, but looked very deep. They had passed the last of the tree line only 200m or so before and the majority of the vegetation was grasses and bushes. A small clump of trees next to the lake looked surprisingly out of place in the otherwise flat clearing. Moving closer Ashitaka recognised the ruins of a small temple at the centre of the small group of trees. It was obvious that the trees had been tended as saplings to allow for them to gain a foothold in this harsh environment. The temple itself was abandoned long before, and in a state of disrepair, the once tall roof had collapsed in on itself, but in such a way that the once impressive beams created a hollow on the stone foundations. Now grown over the ruins provided shelter from the wind and rain, with an entrance large enough for men to walk through 4 abreast, and large enough inside to easily house the small travelling company. San led the way, dropping her small travelling bag on some piles of straw in the corner. Her and her brothers used this as a temporary den while hunting in the mountains. Ashitaka moved to the old walls, examining some old artefacts scattered here and there. He asked San if she new anything about the ruins, to which she replied that It was an old human structure, so of no interest to her other then a shelter. He scolded her for a second before returning to the artefacts.
The two brothers entered the temple, indicating to San that they were eager to go for an evening hunt. San asked Ashitaka if he would like to join them. Ashitaka politely declined, saying he had something to do, and wished them well, the younger wolf seemed more disappointed then San, as she had not appreciated the scold, but she left with a pleasant enough good bye.
Ashitaka used the remaining light to investigate the temple. It had, at one stage, been a rather impressive temple to the local spirits, using the lake in-front of it as a focus of the worship, obviously regarding it as the life giving element for the forest and valleys below. The garden and trees had been an important element it seemed, allowing for nature to flourish in an area due only to the assistance of man.
Exploring the immediate grounds Ashitaka found the remains of an extensive garden as well as various other small structures, he also found some trace remains of wild flowers and bushes not naturally suited to the area, he suspected that at its peak the garden would have been quite impressive. Yakkuru was also appreciating the garden, chewing away happily at some rarer plants. Ashitaka shook his head at his old friend, and went back to his baggage. Retrieving the food he received from Toki, he placed it so as to get the cooling effects off of the lake. Retrieving the axe he set to work making a small woodpile out the front of the temple entrance on the stone landing. There was an abundance of dried wood lying around and with little effort he soon had a stockpile that would last for 4 nights. Looking around he found a number of loose cobles and constructed a small fireplace at the entrance. Satisfied that he had created a comfortable place for his friends to rest, he lit and tended the fire. Retrieving a small pot, he set about making a stew from the ingredients he had brought along. The sun set finally set fully and the stars came out in force, it was a glorious wind still evening. Iron-town lake glimmered beautifully far below and Ashitaka could see a number of individual fires as well as the smelter flickered brightly. He was essentially finished with dinners preparations when San and her brothers returned. He only became aware of their presence when Yakkuru, who was sitting nearby, looked up and out into the dark. Getting up he looked out in the same direction, his night vision slowly returning, he could make out the two white wolves standing a way off, looking in his direction. Ashitaka took a deep breath, he knew what was to come would be difficult, but he felt confident he had chosen the right time to push the boundaries further.
“Come brothers, join me by the fire! I have prepared something to eat!” he called out to them.
He watched as they obviously discussed their next move, now that he could see better he could also make out San standing in front of them. They took their time, and Ashitaka didn't hurry them, standing patiently, he kept an eye on the simmering pot. They appeared to make a decision and made there way forwards, slowly. Coming into the light Ashitaka saw that San was carrying some cuts of meat and that all three were covered in blood, the hunt had obviously been successful.
“Why have you made a fire? You should know that this is something that would not please us” stated the older wolf. The combination of his displeased expression and blood covered coat looking decidedly menacing in the fire light.
“I am only too aware of this, that is why I have waited until we were well away from the forest before introducing you to this fundamental human pastime.”
Ashitaka looked at each party member individually, San for her part did not look as openly hostile as her brothers, she was well aware some of the food she now liked from Ashitaka was cooked, but this direct confrontation with her brothers put her in an uneasy situation, she was going to allow Ashitaka to convince her brothers directly.
“Fire represents many of the most undesirable elements of human nature, it is also the tool most often used against us As something we despise so much, why do you choose this as our first introduction to the human world.” said the older wolf, moving closer, the rest of the group followed.
“Elements that lie at the core of a foreign culture are usually the most difficult to understand, and can quite often be the most disturbing to an outside observer” replied Ashitaka. “But you must start at the core, if you wish to avoid misunderstandings of what that core generates in other behaviour, and thus avoid further clouding of judgement and anger towards the foreigner”
The larger wolf stopped to look at Ashitaka, his face calming considerably, behind him his brother was looking more intrigued now then anything.
“I will be interested to hear your thoughts on this later” said the older wolf, his tone indicating a hint of challenge to Ashitaka. “For now however, excuse us as we clean our coats.”
And with that he walked off towards the lake, his brother following, San looked over to Ashitaka, moving up next to him to place the cuts of meat next to the den entrance.
“Would you like me to cook some of that?” asked Ashitaka, somewhat quietly but cheerfully.
“Only a quarter” she said, pointing to a specific peace “And as much as you would like” she added, giving hem an encouraging smile before going off quickly to join her brothers.
Ashitaka prepared the meat, almost finishing with cooking before San and her brothers returned. San moved up first, placing her coat near the fire to dry and sitting next to where Ashitaka had made his place. The two brothers moved up and lay down next to Yakkuru, a little further back from the fire. The only sound came from the crackling of the fire and the constant soothing background noise of insects performing their nightly rituals. It was perfectly wind still, and the scene was lazy and relaxed. Ashitaka served San the small meal he had prepared, and after offered some to her brothers, which they naturally refused, he sat down to his own meal close to San. Other then some light banter and some complements by San they ate in silence, the two wolves dozing by the fire, the younger one especially enjoying the warmth, almost falling asleep. This was broken however when Ashitaka completed his meal, the older wolf had been using the time to formulate his questions and had waited for the young man to finish his meal.
“You humans must always make things so complicated” the older wolf suddenly stated, indicating to Ashitakas retrieval of the plates he and San had used. This comment gave his younger brother a start, as he had almost been asleep.
“Why must everything you do be so unnatural?” he asked, no emotions present any more in his voice, or expression, he had obviously prepared himself for a long open discussion.
Ashitaka was about to clean up a little, and his immediate hesitation was somewhat apparent. San saw this as well and after a second stood up, moving next to Ashitaka.
“I will clean up if you like” she said simply, but kindly, taking the plates from his hands. Ashitaka had always cleaned up before this but she had naturally seen him do it many times. He thanked her and went to wash his hands quickly, he had retrieved enough water from the lake so that no more trips were necessary, he sat back down cross legged across from the oldest wolf, San cleaning up behind him, but always remained in earshot.
“Human instinct is not to work against nature but to make the best of it.” Ashitaka stated, now himself ready for a serious discussion.
“What is best for humanity does not appear best for nature” the wolf replied.
“It would appear so in many cases. But ultimately everyone must live in nature, this is unavoidable, and anything other then a harmonious existence would be futile from even the human point of view. This is simply something that many humans are still to learn, and so their current abuses of nature is really an abuses upon themselves, so ultimately not in the interest of man.”
“I have seen no examples of this at all, current human nature simply abuses nature for its own end.”
“As complex and unfathomable as human behaviour sometimes appears its actions can almost always be traced to fundamental goals that you yourself share.”
“And what would they be…” asked the younger wolf.
“Survival” said Ashitaka simply. “regardless of consequence any animal will utilise whatever resources available to survive. Humans are in constant struggle with other humans, it is no different then the struggle between two wolf packs, simply more elaborate, and with more consequences, and over a considerably longer time frame”
The older wolf thought for a second before continuing.
“Even when there is no struggle, human's simply consume nature, their numbers and way of existence are simply not compatible with nature.”
This time it was Ashitakas turn to sit and contemplate. Behind him San had almost finished cleaning up and packing away.
“The removal or separation of man from nature seems to be a common thought amongst all conscious beings. And a grave misconception. All animals will change their environment to suite them as much as they can, and the consequences of these changes are for them, largely immaterial. Humans are simply the most capable animal at doing this so far. But for that increased effect on their surroundings, they also posses more insight, and can change their behaviour from knowing its effects in the future.”
“It does not appear from that comment then anything other then the world of man will soon exist in this world”
San had finished packing away and after placing her hand reassuringly on Ashitakas shoulder moved over to her brothers to give them her support.
“Humanity has many more requirements then simply food. They utilise all elements of the world around them, not only for survival but for the enjoyment of life, and their own development. The separation of man from nature is the greatest error, the world of man is the world of nature, man cannot, and does not want to live without the forests and the plains and the animals. Given enough time and peace man inevitably redirects his resources and energy to the harmonious coexistence with nature and the vilification of it. This temple was an example of that, the community that used to exist here obviously had a high regard for nature, and took great pride in its processes. Surely you have a memory of this, the spirits of the forest must have allowed them to coexist at one stage.”
The older wolf looked on, his younger brother had been listening intently and now spoke up.
“Our mother told us of these people long ago, they were noble and wise, and their departure from this world through a series of disasters was the only time our mother felt sorrow for man.”
“After that time however every other human contact only produced mistrust and anger within her, until the point were she was not sure any more, that the humans she could remember could have been human at all. Perhaps humans are only now showing their true nature, and their deeds before, something they can never return to.” added the older brother.
Ashitaka looked on, human nature was proving very difficult to defend.
“Yet she must have had some belief in man, some hope in their underlying nature.” Ashitaka stated. “Otherwise she would have never given the infant San a chance.”
He looking over at San for a second, to ensure a reference to her human origin did not raise undue hostility. San for her part sat impassively, she seemed to have come to terms with the fact that she was at least part human, without the usual disgust that this thought had generated in the past.
“Humans are a potential, as are their methods and tools. As infants they have the opportunity to develop into almost any mentality imaginable, ones that are constructive and ones that are destructive. Just as their most important tool, fire, has the same potential in very dramatic ways.”
“Fire only has benefits in the world of man.” interjected the older wolf, allowing his feelings on this example to influence his otherwise calm expression.
“Everything in nature has a purpose, is part of the whole, allows for life to exist… am I right?” asked Ashitaka calmly.
“We hold that to be true… to a great extent” said the younger wolf.
“Fire is a part of nature, a large part in-fact, humans can harness this most extreme of natural phenomenon's, to create great things. And even to serve nature, even if this is usually indirectly.”
The older wolf looked doubtful, it was a far stretch but he was trying to fathom a link, and in doing so understood many other aspects about humans and their ways.
“Many humans today are ignorant of the old ways, survival and fear have been to long on their minds. This is something quite common in these modern times, it blinds people from seeing into the long-term and thus incorporating old truths in such a way that will greater guarantee survival, in the medium and long term.”
“And what would these truths be” asked the older wolf.
“That the people that integrate and cooperate with their environment the best, will ultimately be in a better position then all others that don't. Humans are difficult enough to fight, there is no use in fighting against nature, ultimately whatever happens, they will lose.”
He finished up, silence returned to the campfire as everyone contemplated the last line of conversation. The fire had grown low during this discussion, Ashitaka used the respite to place some more logs on the hot coals, soon the small clearing was filled with light once more. The older brother waited until Ashitaka once again took his seat, however before he could say anything San spoke up for the first time during this discussion.
“I have often sensed much frustration within you when you have just arrived from the human world.” she said. “It does not appear that your message is quite as easily received as you are stating here”
Ashitaka looked over at her calmly, he knew her intelligence and her position in the current situation, so didn't misread the last comment as any type of attack, nevertheless he contemplated before responding.
“Fear and ignorance are the most powerful enemies of logic and wisdom. And the people of iron-town are unfamiliar with their surroundings… and as you may appreciate very fearful of that which I am telling them to trust and cooperate with. Not withstanding their current fear of not surviving… not only the environment, but other humans as well.”
He paused for a second to allow this to sink in.
“That is why I require your direct help in this matter, the only way to move forward is to remove fear and mistrust from the equation. Something that will require major commitment from both sides.”
Once again silence enveloped the small gathering.
“This will require many concessions from our world, I am not sure the new world you are proposing will be desirable for us.” stated the younger wolf, one of the first negatively slanted comments he had ever made.
“As you are well aware the world of man will prevail, it is now simply inevitable.” said Ashitaka, almost sorrowfully.
“The extent to which you yourself can influence the world of man only depends on your desire to interact with it. As I said man is a potential, fighting against it is now ultimately futile. However, leading it in a direction that is most beneficial for yourself and, as we have discovered, ultimately beneficial for man, can allow many, if not all, of the ideals you now hold dear to exist in the world of man, if changed ever so slightly.”
He looked at each of the wolf pack individually.
“You, like the people of iron-town, must decide if you can live with these changes.” Ashitaka concluded. The fire crackled slightly as all again turned to contemplation. The fire was going nicely now, and it did not appear that the conversation was going to continue any time soon. Ashitaka stood up.
“I think this would be a good time for me to allow you some time alone” he said to the small group. They indicated their approval.
“I will take a walk around the lake, it is a lovely evening” he added, moving past them he gave each of the pack a smile, before moving on. Yakkuru for his part had fallen asleep and was dozing peacefully.
With the fire and trees now behind him Ashitakas eyes readjusted to the night. It was quite simply spectacular. The moon was out and the landscape shimmered magically. He could not help but feel content, he moved around the upper side of the lake, taking his time and savouring his surroundings. It took him 20min to get to the lower side of the lake. Off to his left, he noticed the fire was still going strong, San must have placed some-more wood on it, he smiled to himself. Standing there he looked out at the spectacular view. He was lost in the moment when he heard someone coming up behind him. He turned to find San, carrying the wet cooling pouch walking towards him.
“You forgot to eat some of your food” she said pleasantly, walking up to him and handing him the pouch.
“I think now would be a perfect time to eat it.” he said with a smile. Looking around he found a nice place to sit. Moving over he sat down and unwrapped the pouch carefully, San joining him, leaning back on a rock and looking out into the night.
“How are your brothers?” asked Ashitaka, not looking up.
“Kaji (the younger brother) is asleep by the fire” replied San. “Gendo (the older brother) has gone for a stroll”
Ashitaka continued to prepare the food, it had been well packed by Toki, and the heat of the day had not penetrated through to it.
“I hope I have not gone to quickly, even Kaji sounded more negative then I'm used to” said Ashitaka solemnly.
San looked over at the young man, he was using the separated ingredients to make something, his delicate actions seeming contrary to his strong powerful persona, she smiled to herself.
“You are a very persuasive young man Ashitaka” said San sweetly. “But something's simply require more time, no matter how convincing… or charming you are” her voice finished almost teasingly. Ashitaka raised an eyebrow, then smiled, `well at least something's were going better then expected'. The tone of voice was enough to allow the worries of the world to slip from Ashitakas mind, all he could think of was San, a decidedly pleasant experience.
“As long as I can see that my charms are well received, that is enough for me” he said in a tempting tone of his own. Sans smile broadened, this type of flirtation was entirely new for her, and she was enjoying it immensely. Ashitaka finished preparations and presented San with a smallish sweet pastry, it was fluffy and light with creams on top, having had too much filling it was a little awkward to eat without making a mess.
“For you princess Mononoke” announced Ashitaka proudly.
“What is this?” asked San, sitting up straight.
“It's a sweet” said Ashitaka handing it over, San had difficulty trying to hold it without touching the cream or filling. Ashitaka smiled as he took his own and sat down close next to her.
“You eat it after dinner, it tastes very good.” he assured her. San cautiously smelled the item in her hands as Ashitaka looked on encouragingly.
“It's a little difficult to eat” he said continuing. “ you have to try and balance the filling and cream so I doesn't fall out any where. But that's half the fun.”
Ashitaka observed his own pastry for a second before taking a strategic bite then chewing slowly, enjoying the sweet taste and soft texture. San looked at him for a second but he was off in his own world. Returning her concentration to the pastry she dipped her finger into the cream, placing it into her mouth. Her eyes sprung open as her taste buds registered a taste she had never had before, having been cooled by the ice-cold lake was the finishing touch, it was quite simply the best thing she had ever tasted. Looking at the pastry she took a tentative bite, chewing thoughtfully she enjoyed the new taste sensation the pastry and filling brought to her. Finishing quickly she took a large bite, chewing thoroughly and savouring the sensation. With 2 more large bites she was quickly finished. Ashitaka, one hand behind his back, leaning, looked over, he was only halfway though his own pastry.
“You shouldn't eat so quickly… now you have nothing left” he said with a smile, pleased that she had obviously enjoyed it. San had managed to only get a little filling on her hands, she quickly consumed the rest.
Ashitaka was chewing thoughtfully when he noticed that San had turned her head to look back towards him. Chewing slowly he followed her eyes, she was looking at the last peace of his pastry, looking back at her eyes she had made eye contact with him, but her eyes flickered back to his pastry. Ashitaka swallowed slowly, and with the two now frozen in place his eyes traced down her face to her mouth, where a sly smile exposed itself for a second.
He reacted only a fraction of a second before her, opening his mouth wide to stuff in the remainder of his pastry in. It was a rushed move and much of what was left ended up on his face and hands, especially after San somehow managed to seemingly leap from her seated position in one fluent move, seizing both of Ashitakas wrists with her hands. Her momentum caused the two to role a couple of times until San ended on top of Ashitaka, pinning him to the ground. He struggled a little for show, but effectively let San have her way. Finishing chewing quickly he swallowed hard, grinning at San before saying.
“Sorry San, just not quick enough” he said cheekily. She smiled back at him looking from his face to his hands.
“Quick enough for something it seems” she replied.
She positioned herself so as to lick the remaining pastry of off Ashitakas hand. Ashitaka laughed, both from the situation, and the sensation directly. San finished with his hand and looking back down at him for a second smiling before moving down to his face. Ashitakas chuckled faded quickly as she made contact with his face. The close proximity of her made the young man flush red, he looked up at her eyes, she was quite happily licking the one side of his face, she was about to move to the other side to get the last little bit when their eyes met and locked. She came to a stop with her mouth just above his. He looked into her eyes, unable to stop himself he closed his eyes and lent his head up to kissed her. San didn't move, allowing Ashitakas lips to press against her own, her eyes were still open and she studied Ashitakas face as her mind took in this new sensation. She started to kiss back tentatively but then broke the connection to lean back up, half-siting on top of him. Ashitaka placed his head back on the grass, looking up at her, Sans expression was kind, if a little confused, though still very much in control. No longer really restraining him she released his left hand, Ashitaka leaving his own hand where it lay. She looked down at him for second. Gently she used her free hand to remove the last of the food from his face with her finger, placing it in her mouth. She moved her free hand back to place it next to his head.
“An what do you call that?” she asked, relaxed.
“You did not like it?” countered Ashitaka in a soft voice.
“I did not say that… it was unusual” she replied with a smile.
“It is called a kiss” said Ashitaka “Its like holding hands, only a little more personal”
“Human customs are proving to be quite interesting” San almost purred, and with that she lent back down to give Ashitaka a kiss, a very passionate one as it turned out. Ashitaka embraced her tenderly, and the two shared an innocent romantic moment.
They stayed where they were for some time, Ashitaka staring at the sky above, San laying next to him, resting her head on his shoulder. The two talked as young lovers do. Eventually they made their way back to camp, the older wolf, Gendo had returned and was dozing, only opening his eyes for a second upon their return. The fire had died down in their absence, with the amber glowing away. The two youngsters made themselves comfortable for the night, snuggling together in their individual covers. At last all of the party members fell asleep, and everyone enjoyed an immensely contented sleep.
Authors note:
[[Gee that got heavy, but seriously, considering how the original story was set up and the difficulty each character faced the only way for the story to move forward convincingly was to have some seriously deep storyline, and anyway there was some groovy romance in the end ;). But now that's set up we can get some action going! Also I know that the names Gendo and Kaji are from another series but I still don't call it a crossover, they only have the slightest similarity to their original characters, I just needed some good Japanese names. Also the cream pastry thing may be totally off, and the flat bread too actually, I know nothing of traditional Asian cooking, but you get the picture just substitute it with an equivalent]]