Princess Mononoke Fan Fiction ❯ Mind and Spirit ❯ Chapter 6 (Out of the frying pan… part 3) ( Chapter 6 )

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

Mind and Spirit
Chapter 6 (Out of the frying pan… part 3)
Disclaimer: I don't own Princess Mononoke or the characters, its just a fan-fic, read and enjoy. (And please leave a review… it only takes a second)
Still the flashback…
Looking from high above the activities on the ground appeared to be one massively choreographed celebration of light. Small spot fires on the south side of the ridge soon developed into one continuous thin line of fire on either side of the forested pass (about 3km long on either side) as the control line burnt its way through the grass and low shrubs. On either side of the pass large bonfires were already burning as all larger loose material was dragged out and burnt. All through the forested pass itself smaller fires were burning to remove the tinder dry undergrowth. Still from above this impressive spectacle was itself dwarfed by the massive forest fire moving towards this small huddle of activity.
The fire front had not expanded much thanks to the efforts of Gendo and the other animals, it was currently 10 km wide, moving steadily northwards. If the wind remained steady, it would be about 45 minutes away from reaching the smaller fires. Approaching these smaller fires from the other side, numerous lights could be seen as Toki, Koroku and the people of Iron-town made their way towards the containment line, themselves being only 30min away, the large group following the path recently left by the riders.
The grass fires were going well, and the animals and riders were already expanding the containment lines on either side of the pass. A clear and deep burnt out section now ran about 15km immediately in front of the fire, thanks to the back-burning of the riders as well as the topography, some stone formations and cliffs to the east and west providing a natural barrier. The only gap that now remained was the forested pass itself. Ashitaka and Gonza had agreed that the containment line should run along the crest of the pass, the humans and animals had worked hard to clear all of the medium and lower vegetation, and to burn through the undergrowth. To avoid any trouble the bores had been sent to dig up the edge shrubs and bushes of the pass, then to follow through the burnt and cleared area of the humans and apes, thus avoiding any undue contact with their hated foes. Work was progressing well, with nothing remaining to be burnt other then the larger trees for a good 100m depth, however the continuous, tinder dry, canopy above was still more then enough to get the crown fire through to the forests beyond.
Ashitaka and Gonza were standing at the edge of the semi completed containment line, around them many of the humans were tackling some of the larger trees with axes while above them apes were attempting to remove as much dried foliage as possible. Many animals were occupied moving the foliage to the bonfires and ensuring that they themselves did not get out of control.
“Human!” called the leader of the ape tribe from the branches above, Ashitaka took one more swing of his axe before looking up.
“Your clansman have come” said the great ape pointing his finger. Ashitaka turned to see Toki and a number of woman make their way through the forest.
As this part of the pass was already quite cleared the newly arrived large group of woman could see for the first time the approaching fire, to say they were aw struck would be an understatement, shock and fear evident on many of there faces. Ashitaka moved quickly to run up to them.
“Perfect time ladies!” he called out in an over enthusiastic manner. This was enough to snap many out of the trance, most turning to look at the blackened and dirty Ashitaka.
“Please take your shovels and whatever wood you can carry to the bonfires, tell the men there to return here!” called out Ashitaka above the general noise. “You will be looking after the bonfires, and listen to the animals, especially the birds, they will indicate to you any spot-fires that have started, remember if we let any of them start up we may as well not have bothered in the first place!”
Toki recovered quicker then the rest, turning, she gave instructions for two groups to go and relieve the few men. Ashitaka asked where Koroku and the other men where, Toki said they, the Oxen, and lady Eboshi were only 5 minutes behind. Ashitaka thanked her and told her to go to Kajis flank, as it would be better to have a human intermediary on that side, San being on the other. Toki, now looking more determined, gave Ashitaka a confident smile.
“Don't worry… the woman will hold this fort as always.” Toki said, giving Ashitaka a quick smile. Toki had berley disappeared form site when Koroku and Eboshi came into view at the lead of the caravan. Eboshi looked only momentarily disturbed by the sight she saw, though that would be the only time that Ashitaka could ever remember seeing her look worried, if for only a second. Koroku for his part looked only on with interest, having already been convinced that all was under control, fear no longer played a part. The men coming up behind looked less sure, but seeing Eboshi determined and Koroku undisturbed (a big moral boost considering he was always the first to get scared) they quickly moved the caravan forward. Eboshis determined expression was originally a facade, herself being unsure of the ability to stop such a fire, however she soon saw the work that had already been done, as well as the shear number of animals helping in one form or another, which helped ease her worries. Eboshi moved forward, Gonza and Ashitaka themselves moving forward to talk to her.
“Looks like your princess has come through with the goods” said Eboshi in her usual loaded tone.
“It was a good decision of yours to stop the fire here” replied Gonza, “if it was allowed to enter our Valley it probably would have cost us more then just the aqueduct and wood.” he finished.
“We are not there yet” replied Eboshi, “we must see all fires out before we can claim victory.”
Gendo, having come from the fire front, appeared moments later, the white wolf almost black with soot, he inform them that the fire was only about 15 minutes away. The tiered leader of the Wolf clan had abandoned the front to try and control the spread of the flanks, he told Ashitaka that he was heading west, as a creek provided a natural barrier to the east. Ashitaka quickly explained the plan for the blasting of the trees, understanding immediately, Gendo let out a massive howl for all animals to clear the blast area, before heading on his way. With the men and Oxen now in the area, Eboshi went forward to coordinate the explosives. The rest of the men tackled the trees at the end of the control line. They were like a swarm of ants, with a renewed vigor, a flurry of axes, and the combined strength of man and beast, they brought down the massive trees one by one, soon a clear line of 25m separated the two canopies. Everyone was busy clearing the newly felled giants as teams dragged large sections off towards the bonfires. Koroku had just managed to get the largest trunk moving with his oxen team when Ashitaka came up beside him.
“Koroku!” called Ashitaka. Koroku gave a few more instructions to some of the men before turning around.
“We are out of time, get some men together with torches and come forward, we're going to have to blast now.”
Koroku nodded, calling out. 10 men came forward as the rest moved off to clear the fallen trees. Looking up and back Ashitaka quickly admired the clearway, considering it was done in under 16 min there was almost nothing left. Turning, the small party moved towards the fire front, itself now so close that the light seemed to tower all around them, and the slight breeze indicating that the fire was strong enough to suck in the surrounding air. The small party found Eboshi and her explosives team, headed by Gonza, about 75m in-front of the cleared line, the fire could now be easily seen coming through the trees, the intense heat being felt for the first time.
“Eboshi, get back to the line and prepare everyone to clear as mush as they can once the explosions are set off!” Ashitaka called to the mounted Eboshi, who had to control her steed in the face of the oncoming fire. She simply nodded and made her way off quickly. Gonza informed the lighters how the explosives were placed to topple the trees in the direction of the fire and the line of men spread out. The fire was really close now and all were sweating from fear and heat, finally the last lighter was in position, Both sides looked towards Gonza in the centre, giving a flick of his torch the signal was given. The 15 men lit the fuzzes immediately next to them then made there way the 75m towards the cleared line, lighting more fuses as they went. Gonza stayed back a bit to ensure there were no stragglers. Soon all the men cleared the trees at a flat run, making for the shelter of the trees on the other side, Ashitaka and Gonza appeared last, about 200m away from each other. Both indicating that they were happy, the two men sprinted for the tree lines, throwing themselves behind the first tree available. These were already crowded with men and animals waiting for the blast. Before they could even contemplate anything else the world behind them exploded. Eboshi had ensured that the trees would fall by digging under the roots and planting an excessive amount of explosions. Even though everything was bone dry the force of the explosion and the amount of dirt it threw up stoped most new fires from starting from the explosion. The air was filled with dirt and debree as the 75m stretch of forest was effectively vaporised, the timing was perfect. The force was so overwhelming that many animals didn't even have time to panic, simply frozen in shock, afterwards the world was filled with dust and smoke, all spirits and humans taking a few seconds to recover.
“Is everyone O.K!!” shouted Ashitaka into the dust.
“O.K!” came the general murmur from around him. Many figures were already rising and coughing. The dust began to clear, showing that the explosion had distributed debree in all directions, but had effectively cleared the canopy so that there was a 75m -100m gap between the treetops. The fire was so close now that the light burned harshly through the smoke, and the unstable air also helping to quickly clear it.
“Move forward my brothers!” came the shout from the bore leader. As many animals quickly made their way past the still dazed humans.
“Come on men!” came the reply from Gonza, not to be outdone, only a few spot-fires had been generated by the explosion and where quickly dealt with by the smaller animals.
The main fire quickly reached the edge of the explosion area, effectively a 60m gap had been completely cleared before it became too hot to work in the area. All the animals and humans retreated to the ridgeline, quickly redispersing in teams to fight the spot-fires that would soon be popping up all over the area.
As the men made their way to the new staging areas everyone could appreciate the ferocity of the fire, as a wall of red and yellow light could now be seen from what appeared to be one horizon to the next. Though the tree line had ended normally 200-300m before the crest of the ridge, and had already reached that area minutes before, the intensity of the fire was now at its peak, with the flames leaping almost 100m into the air. The fire break had worked, as intense as it was the fire could no-longer move forward, it being completely starved of new fuel.
San was still on Yakkuru about 500m west of the pass, she had berley finished watching the spectacle of the explosion before the first of the birds came to report spot fires, coordination the animals and humans in the area, they quickly moved to tackle the small fires.
As spectacular as it was, no-one could sit to appreciate the awesome wall of fire, as spot fires started to appear all over the front, caused by burning wood, shot into the heavens by the intense fire.
Luckily, the combination of human and animal proved decisive, as all new fires, wether in forest canopy, or on the ground, were quickly isolated and contained. In the enthusiasm and gusto however many injuries were reported as people rushed to contain fires. Heroic acts were too numerous to mention, as man, woman and animal alike performed brave and selfless acts to contain the smaller outbreaks.
Things were looking good as the fire front slowly began to burn itself out and the number of spot fires dropped. Only a few remained as the main fire finally reduced to amber's.
San and Yakkuru, having just dealt with a larger outbreak, returned to the central rally point to see if any other teams required organising. Looking up she saw an owl slowly circling high above, they calm nature of its circling indicated that the last fires were well under control.
Looking around she saw a mass of exhausted faces. They had been fighting the spot fires for about 3 hours straight, and on the eastern horizon it was already beginning to hint at become light. Around her many animals and humans were either dozing or already asleep, dirty, exhausted and huddled together… it was a strange sight, but one that brought a smile to her face. With the majority of the southern forest outright destroyed she could see far to the east and west, in both directions it had returned to pitch black, no fires were to be seen in any direction anymore, only the eerie glow of the amber's as they cracked and popped in the distance. A little up and to her left San suddenly saw Eboshi moving around were the injured had been gathered. Dismounting Yakkuru San gave the blackened Elk a pat on the neck.
“Rest my friend, I will walk from now on” she said softly. The elk nodded weakly, then walked over a few steps to where a few dears and woman where sleeping, slumping down contentedly next to them. Turning back San made her way to Eboshi, looking around she saw that 4 men and 3 woman had been injured, mostly cuts and bruises, only one looking serious, his legs being in a splint. Looking around she also saw numerous animals, many being bandaged up. Moving closer San smelt some ointment she knew well. Looking up she saw a member of the Ape tribe moving towards Eboshi, and who she now recognised as Toki, behind them Kaji was also racing up, she moved towards them.
“Hello San” greeted Eboshi, her face illuminated by a small lamp. Toki also turned to give San a quick smile, now that San was closer she saw that Toki and another woman were stitching up the hind leg of a larger bore. Who was squealing a bit every time the needle went in. Before San had time to react to the sight the ape came and deposited some leaves and roots,
“Thanks” said Toki, immediately began to prepare the dressing.
“Is that trokis leaf?” asked San. The ape nodding before moving off again.
“Useful stuff this” said Toki, “seems to stop bleeding and swelling” she continued.
“Its good for almost anything” replied San, “especially when mixed with that root” she pointed out the other ingredient.
“Of course it is” Interrupted the boor being treated. “It is a spirit remedy, much better then human treatment, SQEEE!” he squealed again as the string was puled to close the wound.
“Stop your squealing pig, what they're doing will probably save your life… unless you rip it open again” grumbled Kaji in his rough voce. The boar consented, trying to hold still again. San smiled at this, her brother giving her an acknowledging nod. Eboshi appeared satisfied with the goings on and excused herself from the party with a tiered nod. San, with nothing else to contribute, and her brother about to fall asleep, followed Eboshi a little up the ridge, both women stopping to look at the scene of destruction that ley to the south.
“Nature may be known as life giving” said Eboshi reflectively, hearing San walk up beside her. “But when it shows its destructive side it surpasses even the greatest abuses of man.” she finished, taking a seat on a rock, unaffected by the passing grassfire. San looked at her for a second, no immediate emotion apparent… turning she looked out onto the blackened landscape, hauntingly illuminated by the stars and now low moon.
“Even at this level of destruction, the forest will regenerate fast enough, it has done so for millions of years” San said, with a hint of fatigue.
“Yet you were not quite so eager to let it go on its merry way” replied Eboshi looking over to where she knew San and her brothers lived. San looked over for a second, then gave Eboshi a wry smile.
“Unlike some, my actions do not directly harm the environment, even when generated form selfish goals.” San said in a coy manner, though the sentence was emphasised to be received as a playful rebuke to Eboshis challenge.
Eboshi smiled back, pleased at the careful reply, she would have to give San more credit in future. San looked back at her home for a few seconds, suddenly very relieved that it was still in one piece, looking back around she saw the massive craters left by the explosives. Seeing the human destruction, her first natural instinct took hold and she felt instant revulsion, though the emotion was quickly confused and she began to analyse the source of the instant reaction. Contemplating thoughtfully San almost didn't notice Eboshi get back up.
“I think I will have a little lie down” she said with a tired smile, moving off toward the rest of the slumbering masses.
San turned suddenly “Eboshi” she called out.
“Thank you for your help” San said quickly, as if wishing to say the words before she changed her mind.
Eboshi looked at San for a second, the same tired smile not moving but the eyes showing a clear thought process.
“You and your brothers have much more control of the animals then I give you credit for Princess Mononoke…” she stated, seemingly completely off hand, letting the words sit for a second. “Your welcome” she finally added, then turning around again and moving down the hill.
San looked around for another minute hoping to see Ashitaka or Gendo, with no sight of the two she finally let the tiredness overcome her. Moving back she found Kaji and Yakkuru sleeping next to each other under a tree, moved over, she effectively collapsing to lean against her brother, Kaji, for his part, didn't even stir.
San woke the next morning to find herself snuggled up to Ashitaka, the young worrier had returned during the night with Gendo and unknown to the three sleeping figures joined them under the tree. Looking around San saw that the two humans, two wolfs and one elk were all snuggled together tightly, San was effectively in the centre and unable to move without disturbing at least three of the others. She lay there for a while simply enjoying the sensation, unfortunately the unnatural sleeping position had made her very stiff and she found that she simply had to stretch.
“Hmph” Grumbled Kaji. Yakkuru also awoke slowly, lifting hes head to look at the new arrivals.
“Auuuuargggg” let out Ashitaka as he was roused from a deep sleep.
“Good morning” said San sweetly leaning down to give Ashitaka a kiss on the cheek. Ashitaka blinked a few times then recognising San, leaning forward to give her a kiss.
“Hello” he said simply.
The small party made their way towards the others, finding that most were also just beginning to rise, it was a strange site, animals and humans being mixed all over the place. Rising, the animals looked around, then made their way quickly back into the forest. Though they didn't leave in a rush, they once again reacted like wild animals, if a little tame towards each other and the humans. Some of the animals even allowing themselves to be patted, or nuzzled some of their human fellow fire fighters, before making their way off. The leaders of each animal clan remained behind to say goodbye to the wolf-clan, the dears even stoping to thank Eboshi and the people of Iron-town personally, though only through physical gestures.
San thanked each leader for their trust in her and her brothers, the other clan leaders were courteous enough, even the boar leader, though an underlying edged tone was used to indicate that non of them felt they owed the humans anything. Soon only the people of Iron-town, their animals, and the Wolf clan remained. The injured were already mounted on the horses, and the dirty, tired mass of people was ready to move out, another rider had already been sent to give word to the children and few adults who had remained in Iron-town.
Gendos coat was almost completely black, and almost everyone else was looking rather blackened and dirty, though showing from these blackened faces were many smiles.
The magnitude of their achievements were beginning to sinking in, as well as the unique spectacle of the morning, many had never seen wild animals that close, particularly wolf's, bores and bears, everyone was in a great mood, but quite ready to get back to Iron-town.
“Koroku!” called out Toki angrily, causing most people to turned and look at her hapless husband, who was busily tying a big bundle of wood to the side of an Ox.
“What?” asked Koroku innocently.
“You know we're in the sacred forest! You shouldn't be collecting firewood” answered Toki angrily, she gave San an apologetic look, Koroku simply looked at Ashitaka.
“There is enough around” he stated simply, “Plus it might stop the really big fires if there's not so much wood around.” he offered sheepishly, now regretting his actions.
Non of the Wolf clan looked particularly angry, though non-knew exactly how to respond, it was after all a disrespectful action, Gendo was thinking the clears and answered first.
“That is actually not a bad idea Koroku” Gendo said, Koroku lightening up a bit.
“But it would be best to ask first, many animals use loose wood for homes” he added, Koroku nodded in approval.
“You can all take half of all the dead wood you see on your way back… and perhaps we can soon teach you how much wood to leave behind so you can gather from the sacred forest occasionally.” finished Gendo, Kaji nodding in approval.
“I will also remember to ask” offered Koroku happily, giving Toki a quick smile, she simply shook her head smiling, giving up on the big dope.
The people of Iron-town made their way back through the forest, soon collecting enough wood to load all the Oxen and themselves. Though grateful to be getting so much easy wood, many grumbled about the work after such an exhausting night. Eboshi waited until they were finished loading, then announced that the rest of the day would be given free once they had unloaded back in town. The announcement lifted the spirits of everyone immeasurably, the pace picked up after that, the large, laden party soon clearing the woods to be back on the shores of the lake. Separating, Eboshi thanked the Wolf clan for the wood and their `assistance' the night before. Eboshi also wished Ashitaka a good few days off, as he had stated earlier that he and Yakkuru would stay with San for a few days.
They waved the others goodbye, Toki and Koroku stopping to say goodbye personally, as usual. The two had made up again, and even though Toki tried not to show it she was a little proud of Koroku and he sensed it, lapping up the extra attention for a while.
Soon the wolf clan had returned to the sacred lake area, Kaji and Gendo moving on to the river to wash their coats through running water. San and Ashitaka moved over to a series of ponds with small waterfalls running between rocks. This was where San usually cleaned her coat and clothes, the location being ideal thanks to the lathering flowers that grew in the area. The day had turned out hot again, and the cooling effect of the water was a welcome relief… the scene was simply stunning, as always.
Ashitaka was still tired from the night before, finding a soft mossy area near the main pool he gratefully collapsed, San looked back for a second and smiled before going to pick some flowers, though she was also tired San was not one to tolerate dirty clothes for very long.
The young worrier was dozing peacefully when he felt a wet leathery surface touch his face.
“Yakkuru” grumbled the young worrier tiredly, but without any real scorn, however the gentle prodding wouldn't stop. Ashitaka rolled to his side to look upwards.
“What do you want?” he asked the large red elk, who promptly collapsed onto the spot just vacated by his master, the large steeds head almost immediately settling down.
“Why you…” threatened Ashitaka laughingly at his old friend. Grinning he rolled over a few time to get clear, and placed himself in a position to look for San.
Ashitakas eyes sprang open as he was brought out of his sleepy state brutally. Over the other side of the pool he could see San sitting, she had her back turned to him, and he could see `all' of it. She had taken off her clothes and was busily rubbing into the stains some of the flowers she had collected. Ashitaka couldn't move, transfixed by the site before him. He watched the muscles working across her shoulders as she used more force occasionally to work the stains out of her coat. He observed some longer scars that ran the length of her back, wondering for a second, during what battle, and with what type of creature, she had gotten them from. Ashitakas face saddened for a second as he once again realised how little he actually new about her, before him was a talented and dangerous worrier, one whose way of life he could never hope to fully understand… what did he hope to achieve with this princess of the animals?
Ashitaka was at least superficially answered when San leaned to one side, revealing the tinniest hint of her more feminine features.
“Gulp” swallowed the young man automatically.
Almost as if hearing him swallow San turned her head to look at him sweetly. Making eye contact Ashitaka automatically turned red and everted his gaze, quickly getting into a stiff sitting positioned facing away from the young woman.
San quizzled at the reaction, then grinned devilishly at the believed realisation, it had never been important enough for her to realise this strange human behaviour before. San, for her part, was not often unclothed, but that was simply because normally it was more practical to be, then not.
“Come Ashitaka, I will show you how to get your clothes clean” she said innocently, turning around to face him, the grin on her face anything but innocent. Ashitaka stayed where he was, staring off into the woods. Though not facing her he could tell the expression she wore from the tone of her voice, he himself smiling at the “ridiculous” human habit he was displaying. Summoning up his courage and concentration he decided to meet the challenge head on.
Standing, he turned around slowly to face San. She was sitting, legs tucked underneath her, an inquisitive expression on her face, now quite interested to see Ashitakas reaction. Subconsciously she lent back a bit, her natural instinct compounding Ashitakas problem. He maintained eye contact but his pose was not as relaxed as he wanted.
“Anything the matter?” asked San, genuinely interested.
“No… nothing” replied Ashitaka calmly, he broke eye contact to start calmly removing his clothes.
“Its just very unusual for humans of opposite sex to be naked around each other, were I am from” he said calmly, continuing to remove more of his clothing. Now that he was resolved about his actions, he was very quickly removing his last inhibitions, the opposite however could be said for San, quite comfortable with her own nakedness, she suddenly realised she hadn't actually seen a man (or indeed another person) naked before. Ashitaka removed the last of his clothes, collecting the neat pile before again looking at San. She was no-longer looking confident, indeed she was blushing, though her gaze did not sway from him. He began to walk over to her, noticing her blushing only when he was a few meters away. Stopping, Ashitaka quickly reviewed the situation, breaking out into a large smile then laughing heartily.
“Ha ha ha ha ha” he chuckled.
San, now very uncertain of the situation, and indeed her feelings, and rather annoyed at herself for reacting so, became a little angry.
“Are you laughing at me human” she said accusingly, naturally closing her pose a little.
Ashitaka looked down at her, his beaming expression automatically relaxing her.
“Eboshi warned me not to abandon my humanity with you” he said calmly, San looked back questioningly. “And now here I stand” he said lifting his arms to emphasise his bare body. “ Not a trace of humanity on me, and I feel more human then ever.” he finished, waiting for a second before sitting next to San. She thought about his words for a second, a light “hmpph” escaping her now smiling lips.
“So how do we get these clothes clean?” asked Ashitaka lightly, taking a closer look at one of the flowers.
“Let me show you” San replied, now completely at ease again.
The two continued to chat while scrubbing away happily, laying there clothes out to dry San gave Ashitaka some more flowers to scrub himself with, the two took there time, at ease in each others presence, and the incense of the moment. Soon the two were back asleep, finally overcome by the fatigue of the night, their natural figures nestled together under the shade of a large tree. Miles away it was a similar story for the people of Iron-town, and indeed most animals of the forest, for miles around the world slept, dozing in the midday sun while the insects hummed a soothing tune.
Authors note:
[[[he he… love to tease a bit, so much more fun to keep the two in character, its such a wonderful dynamic. Well I hope that chapter was a little more exciting, still though the characters are developing ever nicer. Hmmmm wonder what's happening in the present? ;)]]]