Princess Mononoke Fan Fiction ❯ Mind and Spirit ❯ Chapter 5 (Out of the frying panů part 2) ( Chapter 5 )

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

Mind and Spirit
Chapter 5 (Out of the frying pan… part 2)
Disclaimer: I don't own Princess Mononoke or the characters, it's just a Fan-fic, read and enjoy.
Still the flashback…
San and Kaji made their way back towards Iron-town at an amazing speed.
With the great forest spirit now gone, the animals of the forest had started to lose a measure of their spiritual intelligence, though communication was still possible between clans. Even though Kaji and Gendo where now all that remained of the great gods in the local forest, they were seemingly immune to this general degradation, and indeed their presence was all that stopped the total eventual disappearance of the old spirits influence on the forest animals.
It took the two only 30 minutes to reach Iron-town.
San dismounted about 100m before the entrance. Kaji immediately turned to go and rally the local forest spirits. The guardsmen had seen her coming, and without hesitation lowered a ladder for her to come up the wall.
Surprisingly, lady Eboshi had organised for this little access for San without Ashitaka even asking for it. The guardsman noted the urgent persona of San.
“Princess Mononoke, what is it?” he asked with concern.
“Ring the alarm, where is Ashitaka?” San demanded, though her voice was more urgent then harsh.
“I'm not sure I'm allowed to do that” said the guard hesitantly, he was still a little unsure of San himself.
“Look over there”
San pointed to the Southern horizon, now getting a little annoyed. “A forest fire is coming and if you do nothing soon this whole valley will be destroyed” she stated with urgency
The guardsman looked up to see… there was a strange red glow coming from the mountains to the Southwest.
Without another word San simply jumped off the wall, rolling skilfully before running quickly towards Tokis and Korokus house. The guardsman, still a little dazed, watched her run off for a second before looking back at the horizon.
Behind her San could hear the alarm bell begin to ring.
Koroku came running into the main room of the house just as Ashitaka came half hopping down the stares, both men where still frantically attempting to finish dressing. Koroku was about to say something when the front door burst open, San came running into the room, causing Koroku to jump back in shock and collide with Toki who was coming up behind him.
“Ow!” exclaimed Toki as Koroku stood on her foot.
“Ashitaka!” called out San between gasps, bending forward somewhat in an attempt to catch her breath. Ashitaka re-sheathed his drawn sword and quickly moved over to her.
“San what is it?” he asked concerned, placing one hand on her shoulder.
“Quickly, we must find lady Eboshi, a forest fire is coming, and we must act now.” she said between gasps.
“A forest fire?” said Toki questioningly.
“Toki, get everyone into the main square” said Ashitaka, in his calm authoritarian voice. “San go with them, I will bring Eboshi”
And with that he ran from the room.
San soon recovered her breath, and was able to explain the situation to Toki as they made their way to the square, Koroku had gone to round up the stragglers and spread the word. San arrived at the square just as Ashitaka and Eboshi made their way down from her quarters.
San and Toki made their way through the crowd, many of them still holding weapons, as they would normally be needed if the alarm were raised.
“What is going on, called out an older man from the crowd.”
“Look to the south!” called Lady Eboshi. “And ask yourself what could create such a light… then you will know.”
Due to the excitement hardly anyone had noticed the eerie orange glow coming from the south. It didn't take long for the turned crowd to comprehend, a sudden dry crosswind ramming the implications home.
“A forest fire!?” called someone over the sudden loud murmur of the crowd.
“Yes!” called San above the crowd, moving up next to Ashitaka and Eboshi. “It is the biggest I have seen, it will come into this valley and destroy everything if we don't act know.”
Though it wasn't directly stated many people naturally assumed that San was implicating that they should attempt to save the forest.
“We can not save the forest, we are too few, we must protect Iron-town and the aqueduct.” called out an older woman in the crowd. This was followed by general shouts of agreement.
“My brothers are rallying the forest spirits even now, you will not be alone, the fire must not be allowed to set hold in this valley!” replied San more desperately.
“We can not stop the fire!” re-iterated an older man.
“But we can contain it to east of the lake, this will save your precious aqueduct” countered San.
Again there was murmuring, all knew that Sans home lay to the east of the lake.
“What about your home child?” asked an older woman closer to the front with concern, ignoring the general banter around her.
“It can no-longer be saved” replied San in a downtrodden tone, though she quickly regained her strength “But I must do what I can, the fire can only come strongly over that ridge through that pass” San said pointing to the pass she and her brothers had been next too only moments before. “If we can contain the fire to the east of the lake, we can hopefully save all of the new forest growing to the north and west. You stand to lose much yourself with the burning of the forest.”
Ashitaka had been standing behind her, looking on concerned, he was unsure of what to do, though he would help San regardless, he did not expect the people of Iron-town too, and was reluctant to use his influence to sway them with so much at stake. Unable to decide he simply acted for himself, moving forward he placed a hand on Sans shoulder, she turned for a second to look at him, when he said.
“I am going to go and help San divert the fire, people of Iron-town, you must do what you think is right, no-one can expect more under such circumstances.”
And with that he took Sans hand and began to move off towards the stables and Yakkuru, San gave a disappointed side-glance at Eboshi before following Ashitaka, a deep frown present on her face. Again murmurs began to circulate from the crowd. Suddenly there was a bit of a ruckus and San suddenly heard Toki say.
“Koroku and I will also help, we can not abandon our new friends!” she said defiantly. Moving purposefully through the crowd towards Ashitaka and San, Koroku in tow.
A smile appeared on Sans face as Koroku, now actively moving on his own, and Toki made it through to them.
“Thank you” said San gratefully, though it was only a token gesture, it was nevertheless a moral boost.
“Not a problem” stated Toki confidently. “I'm just starting to learn about all the great things that live in the forest, and I'm not about to lose them.” she finished with a confident smile.
“We will do what we can to help divert the fire” added Koroku less confidently, but still with a genuine sense of purpose.
“No you will not.” came the sudden and authoritative voice of lady Eboshi. San's head snapped around to give Eboshi a glare, she still did not implicitly trust the older woman. Ashitaka however knew the look and curt smile on Eboshi's face, so held his judgment.
“You will not divert the fire.” stated Eboshi again, now that she had everyone's undivided attention, she paused for a second for effect. “We will stop it.”
Instantly after the comment was made upheaval occurred in the gathering. It took a moment to settle the crowd down. Even San looked taken aback.
“How do you plan to do this?” asked Ashitaka, his strong voice carrying easily.
“Princess Mononoke is correct, the fire can only come over that pass in strength” she stated to all, turning to San she continued.
“Can we get up to the pass in time to do some work before the fire arrives?” she asked.
“If you move now… yes” replied San.
“Good” said Eboshi.
“How can we stop it?” called out a man from the crowd.
“We will fight fire with fire…” Eboshi replied with an almost evil smile. “We will create a fire break at the crest of the ridge, and back burn the grasses and deadwood on our side, when the fire arrives we will only have to be vigilant about spot-fires. If we take away its fuel the fire will die out.”
“It will take too long to clear the trees.” Interjected San, though she was obviously hopeful that Eboshi had an answer to this problem.
“We will use powder and mines to blast a path through the larger trees” replied Eboshi. “Don't doubt that we humans are anything other then skilled in the art of destruction” she added with a little too much arrogance.
San looked at the woman evenly, as much as she did not trust the woman the plan sounded feasible, and if nothing else San knew that Eboshi did not lightly risk the people of Iron-town or their land, San nodded in agreement.
“The spirits of the forest will assist you” she said confidently.
“Good” replied Eboshi, for once sounding less arrogant. “Ashitaka, you, San and the riders take shovels and torches, go ahead and start backburner as much as you can at the top of the pass and the ridgeline, remember you must burn as much on the ground without loosing control, otherwise it will all be for nothing, the rest of us will prepare to take the mines and powder to the ridge, we should arrive in one and a half hours.” she finished up, pausing for a second to allow Ashitaka to react. He nodded at her, determinedly.
“Riders! Grab your equipment and mount up, we move out in 2 minutes!” called Ashitaka then he turned to face, Koroku.
“Come on people lets move out!” called Gonza behind them. “We do this for Iron-town and my-lady!”
“Well Koroku the ox-driver, I hope your feeling in fine form tonight?” asked Ashitaka lightly, “We may even beat you up there” replied Koroku confidently. Toki gave him a slight disapproving side glare but lightened quickly, given the situation.
“You two be careful up there… we'll see you shortly.” Toki said.
“Toki, Koroku!” called out Gonza “The lady requires your presence!”
Even though she was now very serious San managed a smile before the two turned to go.
Soon Ashitaka and San were mounted on Yakkuru, shovels, axes and torches replacing their usual weapons and large water pouches slung across their shoulders. The rest of the riders, about 25 in total, soon met them at the front gate.
“Lets move out!” called Ashitaka, and the party moved out at a brisk gallop.
This was the first time San had ridden behind Ashitaka, but given the smoothness of the Red Elks movements, she was given a comfortable ride.
The riders had quickly made their way along the shoreline. Up ahead, Kaji appeared from the tree line. Ashitaka slowed as they approached, San jumped off and sprinted across to Kaji, jumbling on her brothers back.
“We have no time! Quickly follow us through the forest!” called San to the riders.
“Come on men!” called Ashitaka, prompting Yakkuru to follow Kaji. The rest of the riders followed behind, all diving into the forest at high speed.
San held on tight as the dark scenery of the night flashed past.
“Kaji! be mindful that the riders need to follow!” called San into her brothers ear as he began to lose the following group.
“These riders are to slow!” complained Kaji, slowing down a bit and turning to ensure Ashitaka was still in view.
“What can these few humans do?” asked Kaji as he again waited for the riders to catch up.
“They bring torches, they will use fire to save your home” replied San calmly, observing the riders with a slight air of apprehension. Kaji stopped panting for a second to look back at his sister.
“Use fire to fight fire/” he thought out aloud, and then he grinned for a second. “Sure sounds like a human idea.” he concluded, but with an edge of respect.
It only took 5 minutes for the riders to clear the forest, San and Kaji used this time to discuss Eboshi's tactic during their frequent stops. As soon as they broke clear of the under-scrub to the higher grasslands to the east of the forested pass San dismounted, while her brother, not even slowing down, broke off to run to the stone ledge.
San looked back to the rock outcrop on the opposite side of the forested pass, the fire must have gotten considerably closer as the rocks glowed yellow and red in the intense light. She frowned at the possibility of being too late.
Ashitaka broke cover and immediately spotting San, indicated for Yakkuru to go to her. Noticing him she moved forward and jumped up behind Ashitaka in one fluid motion.
“Quickly we must go straight to the pass” she said. Behind the two the other riders finally appeared, and immediately turned to follow Yakkuru.
Ashitaka had time to look around and noticed the extent of the front they would have to cover.
“The grass is to long, we can not maintain control over such a wide front.” he said in exasperated. The more he looked around the more he became dejected, there was simply too much dry wood lying around.
San was momentarily taken aback, she took it as an offence that Ashitaka thought only the humans would be fighting the fire, but then he had not seen any indication that the forest spirits could work together in any great unity. Still however Ashitaka let out a short gasp as San suddenly applied considerable pressure to his waist.
“Ahhh” he said, totally surprised.
“Don't think yourself so important human” she let slip. “You are only `helping' us save our homes, and possibly yours… We will do all the work” she finished, with particular emphasis. It was the first time she had reverted to her harsh voice around Ashitaka in many weeks. Ashitaka was still stunned, but quickly cordoned onto what she was suggesting. It was a stressful situation for both of them and Ashitaka was not quite prepared to let such a comment slip.
Off to his left he could suddenly here the loud howl of Kaji, looking up momentarily he saw the large white wolf, yellow almost glowing off of his coat, standing on a rocky outcrop.
“I am not a mind reader San” he said suddenly but with only a hint of anger. “I must balance my considerations just as you must balance yours.” again his voice was not as even as it usually was. The two rode in silence for a second. San however was not the type of person to apologies, and simply decided to continue the conversation on a more productive course.
“Kaji and I will co-ordinate the spirits to control the backburner” she continued.
“We should stop this side of the pass to split the forces and co-ordinate” she added in a more conciliatory tone.
“We will only need to send two riders for each highland” commented Ashitaka, now back on track, “the rest of us can start working on the pass.”
Ashitaka and San finally reached the beginning of the forested pass. The rocky ledge they were on dropped off sharply about 30m into it, this natural phenomenon provided the windbreak that gave the larger trees a foothold across this rocky ridgeline. From their current position they could see clearly across the top of the trees to the boulders on the other side about 300m away. The height of the trees had remained uniform as the savage winds that occasionally howled in winter kept their height in check. Only smaller shrubs and bushes existed on either side of the pass, trying to expand the small forests dominion on the exposed slopes. Both riders dismounted and looked around, Kaji was howling again, and San could hear the replies from Gendo out near the fire front. She looked sideways at some movement from the trees further down the hill.
“I will be back shortly” she said in a business like manner. “Inform the men but keep them here”
She turned to go but felt Ashitaka grab her hand. Surprised, she stopped before turning to face him. He said nothing but simply smiled while applying a small amount of pressure to her hand. She looked at him for a second with her stern expression before repaying him with a determined but kind smile, and squeezing his hand back for a second before letting go, running off to the trees below.
Ashitaka turned to see Gonza and the riders approach, most were looking either apprehensive or outright scared. They were still 50 m below the ridgeline and could not see the fire directly, however a massive plume of smoke now covered the heavens above them, and the light of the fire played menacingly on its ever changing and spreading form. The glow of the fire had now grown strong enough that the area was well illuminated, even with the disappearance of the moon behind the column of smoke.
“This is madness!” called Gonza, bringing his horse to a stop. “There are too few of us, Eboshi was foolish to send us up here with that girl! We should warn the people of Iron-town to turn back”
Behind him was a general murmur of agreement. Ashitaka looked from one to the other calmly. His steadfast eyes quickly bringing a silence to the small gathering.
“Since when did you start to doubt the leadership of Lady Eboshi?” asked Ashitaka with distinct force in his voice. He was greeted with silence at this obvious ploy.
“She has more reason to distrust San then any of us, yet she is willing to give co-operation a try, she obviously believes this course of action to be in the best interest of iron town.” he continued. Though in the back of his mind he honestly believed that Eboshi had seriously underestimated the situation, and doubted she would continue with the idea if all that they saw now was told to her, he doubted that she had that much faith in the spirits ability to co-ordinate.
“Even Eboshi can make mistakes” countered Gonza. Ashitaka was momentarily impressed that he would openly doubt a directive from Eboshi.
Doubt started to crept into Ashitaka's mind, even he had initially despaired at the sight… what was it that had changed his mind… San, he thought of her for a second, there had never been a doubt in her mind that the spirits would rise to the occasion, she believed in the plan even though it relied so heavily on Eboshi ideas, the woman she most despised. San was taking a big chance, and placing a lot of faith in Iron-town, and in-turn him, the least he could do was return the faith.
“If we don't stop the fire her, we will lose the aqueduct, and almost all the immediate sources of wood, the cost will be enormous!” he called out. “Eboshi knows this” he added a little quieter “She also knows her enemy” he said with a distinct note “Does anyone doubt this?”
Ashitaka looked from rider to rider, each knew the answer.
“She knows what the spirits are capable of, now lets get to work, there is no time for doubt here!” he called out the bluff, using all his control to cover his anxiety. Gonza looked at him and the two locked gazes, Ashitaka held his ground, placing his future squarely with his faith in San. It was enough, Gonza broke eye contact and immediately dismounted.
“Come on men there is work to do” he called out behind him. The others started to dismount.
Moments earlier, after leaving Ashitaka San had been undertaking a discussion on very similar grounds.
“Why we called here?” said a leading member of the Ape clan indignantly “Fire is not here, we waste time.”
San ignored his comments momentarily, looking around at the spirit representatives that had shown themselves. In front of her where a few dears, bores (a few having returned to the forest), bares, apes, some smaller wolves, foxes, badgers and numerous smaller animals. Behind them in the gloom of the forest, from ground to canopy San could hear the multitude of animals moving in the dark, only the representatives had stepped forward, but the whole forest appeared to be alive given the sheer number of spirits in the background.
“We have assembled here to coordinate an attack on the fire, we will stop it crossing the ridge.” she said with authority.
“The fire is to big, we can not stop it, we should run” came the smaller voice of a dear spirit.
As was usual during the night the animals had adopted a more spiritual form, with their bodies showing black in the night and their eyes glowing with internal energy.
“You are always too quick to run” came the voice of a smaller wolf spirit. Behind him a Fox sniggered to himself, in the background, noises indicated the dear clans disapproval of this comment.
“Calm yourself!” commanded San.
“We are all here for the same reason, there will be no fighting here!” she added. The forest seemed to quiet down a bit.
“The dear is right, many of us come form the fire to be here, it is to big, we can not stop it.” said the largest bore, already blackened from his efforts to restrain the fire with Gendo.
“You are right” replied San, many animals quietening further at this admission.
“We can not destroy the fire… However we can destroy its food” she stated.
“Without food it will kill itself.” she finished by looking over at the small forested pass through the ridge. Many of the animals followed her gaze, though they had continued to lose much intelligence after the disappearance of the forest spirit the larger spirits retained enough to understand more complex concepts. Secondly to this, the death of Moro had instilled her three children with some of her powers. In the presence of the three the remaining animals retained much of their previous mental abilities, much to the immediate relief of San and her brothers.
“Don't have time” pointed out a larger dear. “Area to big to destroy all of fires food”
“The trees are too big, we can not bring them down” added another ape. Behind the leaders the forest in general appeared to murmur its agreement to these observations.
“We will not destroy the fires food but control that which does it for us” continued San, she had to explain in very linier terms, except for the Ape tribe most of the other spirits where unfamiliar with the concept of tools.
The eldest of the ape tribe had been told that San had arrived with humans and he made the connection.
“You use human fire?” he said suddenly, the hint of revulsion obvious in his tone.
“Humans! Here!” came the distraught voice of the bore leader, the bore tribe were still recovering from the loss of the great lead Morro against the humans months before. Again the forest seemed to come alive with chatter.
“They have come to help, we need their fire to save our homes” San stated confidently. This only caused the general commotion to intensify however.
“They can not be trusted!” spat out the bore, becoming more enraged.
“Enough!” yelled San, causing a moments reprieve. “Humans can only be trusted to do one thing, and that is what is in their best interest. And the loss of the forest is a disaster for them as well as for us!” she was barely able to finish her sentence before the general commotion drowned her out again.
“This is a trick, you are on their side! I have seen you with that human boy, you wish to destroy what is left of the forest!” accused the bore wildly, bellowing the words above the general noise. This caused the commotion to diminish rapidly in itself, accusing San of being on the human side was no small matter, and most animals still had a very high regard for San and even a little for Ashitaka. The bore was trotting at the ground wildly and had moved closer to San. The air around San seemed to almost crystallise as every fibre of her being fought to control the furry building up inside her, this was highly noticeable to the creatures in front of her and all but the bore who accused her moved back a few steps.
“How dare you question my allegiance to the forest spirit!” bellowed San, only half-ways able to keep her emotions in check, the words carried such force that most animals recoiled further into the forest.
“I fought with Morro in the great battle! And stayed with him till the end!” she continued. The bore was brought back out of his raged and calmed slightly.
“My allegiance has always been, and will always be to the forest spirit and his domain. I will not allow anything to deter me from its guardianship, not pride not arrogance nor rage!” she said forcefully, eyeing off the bore. Her voice was now more even, the commotion from the forest animals had died down again after her initial outburst.
“You know what I have said so-far to be true.” she said confidently.
“With the help of the humans we can save much more of the forest then on our own, if they wanted to destroy the forest they could do so regardless of our actions.” she finished up, the slightest hint of detest in her voice at the admission. As the animals where more attune at interpreting emotional content rather then words this spiteful remark made the final difference.
Silence returned as the animals contemplated their choices… it only then became apparent that the fire could now be heard as a distant dull roar, able to focus on the situation at hand San noticed that it had also gotten lighter, the fire was getting close. The other animals had also noticed, luckily the great dear spoke up first.
“We must act now, what would you have us do?”
San allowed herself a smile as the other animals reacted to the deer's leadership by moving forward.
“We must go to the humans, we will plan our attack on the fire from there” San said out allowed, then turned to run towards Ashitaka, behind her she heard the forest animals react by following her. Running she looked sideways, the bore she had argued with drew level with her.
“You had better hope the humans are not lying.” said the bore begrudgingly.
San scolded at the poorly veiled threat, however thoughts of quick retribution left her as Ashitaka once again came into view.
Gonza, Ashitaka and the men were discussing the best way to fell trees quickly when Gonza caught sight of San emerging from the forests edge a ways down the ridge. He's normal displeased expression quickly turned to one of shock as the sheer number of animals pouring from the forest made itself apparent, every sizable animal North of the ridgeline had heard Kajis great call and rallied. Gonza and the men backed away automatically at the site of so many wild animals. Ashitaka simply watched San, but turned when he noticed Gonza draw a shovel and hold it like a weapon.
“Gonza put that away, if they want us dead there is little we can do about it.” said Ashitaka calmly, almost jokingly. Ashitaka's tone snapped the fear from Gonzas mind and he lowered the shovel, mumbling, then puffed out his chest animatedly. The men watched on apprehensively. San ran up to the men, the animals slowing down and stopping about 25m away, unwilling to get closer to the detested humans.
Ashitaka estimated over 1000 larger animals and innumerable smaller ones, they filled the open grassland in front of the men, milling around nervously but with surprisingly little sound. San and Ashitaka stood alone immediately between the two parties.
“Well here we are” said San with a smile, only mildly having to catch her breath after the run.
Ashitaka smiled back for a second.
“We will send two riders on either side of the pass with torches, they will light all the grasses for 3 miles in either direction, the rest of us will take the tools and start clearing out what we can in the pass.”
“Will three miles be enough?” asked San apprehensively,
“I should be” replied Kaji. He had just bounded up the steep section of the ridge wall to appearing just after Sans comment. “Gendo has restricted the fires front.”
San contemplated for a second, Ashitaka allowed her the moment to think.
“All the digging animals will be sent to keep the grass fires under control, The apes and bears will help with the forest clearing.” she said with authority. San turned behind her, indicating too 4 larger stags, who walked forward besides her.
“Who are your riders?” she asked. Ashitaka turned to his band of men, nodding at a small group who stepped forward with their animals, coming up beside Ashitaka. They already had their torches lit, the fire causing some of the animals to take a few steps back automatically. The four deer's however stayed firm, impassively looking on.
“They are our best riders, all ex-army” said Ashitaka.
“Each of you will be assigned a guardian” stated San to the riders. Signalling with her hand each large stag moved over to a different rider, though veterans of military campaigns the riders were still a little bewildered about having wild animals so close, each stag being one of the most magnificent animals any of the men had ever seen. An elder member of the riders automatically bowed respectfully to the stag that chose him, though acting haughtily the stag soon returned the gesture, this was noticed by the other three riders who quickly followed suit, followed by the remaining stags. This display, though ridiculously formal, was noticed by all present and did much to defuse the lingering tension. San smiled for a second despite herself.
“You will each follow your respective guardian and light fires only where indicated” she stated, “Kaji and I will coordinate the control measures of the spirits on either side of the pass”
She was speaking loudly and clearly so all could hear her. Again she turned to the animals, indicating to a few more to come forward. The animals in the front cleared and a massive Bore and Ape made their way towards San, both were marked with bright red marks along their cheeks. San, moving forward to Ashitaka, placed her fingers into a small pouch on her side, brining it out she marked Ashitakas face with the red paint, not stopping she moved over too Gonza, who backed away slightly but then held his ground as San marked his face as well.
“The people and spirits that are marked are the coordinators of the efforts in the forest clearing” she stated loudly and clearly, moving back to Ashitaka. Gonza for his part was looking rather proud at being selected, his usually inflated ego raising to new hights. San moved close to Ashitaka, nodding at him to indicate she was finished.
“Riders, move out!” commanded Ashitaka. The 4 riders mounting and following their respective stags, one already lighting a small fire only a few 100m away.
“Forest party, move to the forest centre!” he stated. Gonza jumped on his horse quickly, shouting encouragement to his men.
“Come on people, move like you have a purpose!”
“Gonza! could you organise the men into zones? I will be there shortly” asked Ashitaka over the commotion, Gonza nodded and the humans moved out.
“Go to your areas!” shouted San. “Listen to the leaders and do your best, this is for our homes!” she added as the animals began to disperse rapidly. San Ashitaka and Yakkuru were the only ones not moving, as around them the multitude of animals made there way quickly to their posts, Kaji could just be heard above the commotion giving further instructions.
“Yakkuru” called Ashitaka to his old friend, the red elk moving over to nuzzle his master.
“Would you do me a big favour and make sure San is safe?” he asked while stroking the nose of the big red elk. Yakkuru moved his head as if comprehending. San had moved and was patting Yakkuru from the other side. “I'm sure I'll be safe with him with me” San said sweetly. Yakkuru lowered his head to allow San to mount him effortlessly. Seated, she looked down at Ashitaka.
“Be careful about the bore, he has no respect for humans, and little for me at the moment” she said warningly, the smile fading momentarily from her face. Ashitakas smile did not fade however as his confidence in the plan grew ever greater.
“We will be fine, take care” he said confidently. San gave him a big smile and lent down to give him a quick kiss. Yakkuru made a noise impatiently, San grinned and leant back up.
“You are right Yakkuru we have time enough later!”
And with that the two of them moved off at a brisk pace. Ashitaka watched them go for a second, then his expression turned to one of complete determination, turning, he ran quickly to catch up with the others in the centre of the pass.