Princess Mononoke Fan Fiction ❯ Mind and Spirit ❯ Chapter 7 (Interesting times. Part 1) ( Chapter 7 )

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

Mind and Spirit
Chapter 7 (Interesting times. Part 1)
Disclaimer: I don't own Princess Mononoke or the characters, it is just a fan-fic, read and enjoy. (And please leave a review… it only takes a second)
Authors note:
[[[The final 10 months before the present, what did happen? And what will happen when San gets to Ashitaka in the present… ;-) well lets see…]]]
Back in the present…
San had managed to circle around the other side of Ashitakas position unnoticed by the dozing worrier. And this despite her minds reflection back onto past events effecting her stealth to some degree. Slowing, she arrived at a small clearing next to the delicate lake system Ashitaka was currently relaxing in, the young man being about 100m away. Her mind back on the present, she couldn't help but observe how the lights from the small fire played and mixed with the glow and reflections of the stars high above.
San mused, fire in the sacred forest would have been unthinkable only a year ago, yet here she was, experiencing her beloved forest in yet another beautiful setting, she smiled internally at the shear perfection of it all. After gazing around the scene her contented eyes found themselves resting on the exposed upper torso of the young man. Even from this distance she could see the muscular framework of his body as it leant back against the soft grass, the light was perfectly balanced to detail his features. Though strong, his humanity and compassion was apparent in his physical form, giving grace and character. She blushed slightly as other thoughts entered into her mind, though then smiled to herself at letting this rather human reaction be generated from something that was actually a very natural urge. She mused for a second, deciding that this was actually not a bad thing. Breaking her observations of him she slowly began to disrobe. Working without haste, her cloak and mask were carefully thrown onto the soft grass, she then let the remainder of her clothing elegantly fall from her body.
With the final cloth sliding down her athletic legs she calmly took out her large circular earings, throwing them carefully onto her shawl. She was now standing naked in the middle of a pile of her discarded clothes, the only foreign object to remain on her body being the crystal spearhead that hung from a rope around her neck. She felt it tenderly in her hand, thinking fondly back to when she had first received it. Observing the reflection of the moons light on the crystals multiple surfaces, she then looked at the hand holding the object… her hand. Releasing the crystal she extended her hands in front of her, observing them for a second. Slowly, she ran her left hand along the extent of her right arm, continuing she slowly ran her hands down the side of her body. Looking down at herself she frowned for a second, then calmly moved over to the edge of the water, looking down she observed her naked… and human form. Again she frowned, this was an image not often seen by San, indeed she had avoided seeing her reflection for most of her life… this reminder of her origin, and indeed true form being the greatest insult San could imagine. Yet… San looked up at Ashitaka, yet… It would appear that humans were not all bad, indeed she had had to come to grips with the concept that humans were not inherently evil, a process that had been very difficult, but in the end accomplished. Could she make another, beforehand, unimaginable concession? Admitting to herself that she was in-fact human. Again she frowned at her reflection, she stood back up, turning her body a little, observing its form, with the realisation it was `her' form she was observing. She remembered the comment Ashitaka made when she one day asked if he thought of her as human or not, Ashitaka had taken his time in replying, knowing her opinion on this sort of reference. In the end he said he thought of her as more then human, a living human animal spirit he had called her with a smile. She observed him carefully for a second, knowing that she could never find any negative signals in his demeanour that would allow her an easy escape. Damn him, nothing, not gods nor man could sway Ashitaka from his continuous belief in the good nature of all the creatures in the world.
`There was one flaw to Ashitaka however' thought San to herself.
He was quite obviously in love with her, San mused, mind body and soul. Smiling devilishly she slowly entered the water, going to about waist deep before slowly lowering herself the rest of the way. Delicately she began to wash herself, careful so as not to announce her presence. Again she contemplated her human form, she could never be human, that she had decided long ago… lost in her thoughts the young woman turned her gaze skyward, looking longingly up at the stars. Caught by the stark truth that was the heavens, her mind finally formulated the thought that admitted to her that she could also never be a spirit, she would always be something in-between… undefined… Ashitaka had once said, “threateningly” as he had playfully put it, that it would never matter to him what San was called, by anyone, including herself, he would always love her regardless, as far as he was concerned language was irrelevant when speaking of connections of the heart. These had been immeasurably powerful words, which struck deep within the young spirit of the forest. She would always be grateful to him. However, no matter how deep her thanks to him she could never return his love to any worthy degree if she did not first believe it about herself. It had taken many months, and only through her interaction with humans in general could she begin to analyse the truth about herself without revulsion of her origin. However her true self composed of two worlds, and without the guidance and support from the world that had been her reality since young, her self -realisation would have taken much longer, if possible at all. San missed Moro, so much so that she cried sometimes at the loss of her foster mother. Her spirit mother had been the strongest of all the spirits San had ever known… Her lost knowledge of the true essence of the forest gods could never be replaced… But even in her absence Moro had provided for her adopted daughter. Gendo had admitted to San that Moro had discussed her often with her oldest son. The depth of Moro's understanding of human nature only becoming apparent after her death. She had passed onto Gendo her belief in her daughter, and the unfathomable principle that San would yet bring about new and further understanding of old spirit principles, and this by the very fact that she was part human. San had been shocked, the thought that her human origin could be an advantage had never even crossed her mind, and for this idea to come from her mother spun Sans' perception of herself completely off its axis. It was at this point that San had the great luck to realise what a mature spirit elder Gendo had developed into. His encouragement and support had quickly allowed San, with the help of Ashitaka, to settle into the truths about her position in life. Ashitaka however could not help with most of the final realisation, and he's patience in the last weeks, where she had spent almost all of her time conversing with her brothers, had, as always, been flawless.
San absent-mindedly looked over at the young man, still dozing by the shore.
She had been given the time, and the truth was left bare before her, now the last thing left was to believe. Slowly San started to make her way over to Ashitaka, submerging carefully to swim underwater until she was about 25m away from him, carefully she broke the surface, managing her breath to minimise noise… he had not noticed her. Yakkuru looked up momentarily as San slowly moved herself forward, she gave him a bright smile and a wink, seemingly understanding the large red elk let out a slight contented noise before lowering his head again. Now only 10m away San was able to see her love more clearly, hes graceful attitude showing through in the elegant relaxed pose he was holding. She stoped for a second to looking at him… suddenly she knew…. She loved this young man with all her heart, so much that all her time left on earth would not be enough to express it to him, the small tear that formed in her eye was almost unseen on her still wet face. No thought was necessary, the shear volume of her now unhindered love for him gave her the realisation that she was now at peace, nothing could now dissuade her from her new desired “place” in the world she knew. A place that would gladly include Ashitaka, if he so desired, and she knew he did, all she had to do was show him, that she to, desired this… and she would.
“Ashitaka” San called out innocently, though it sounded immeasurably alluring. So much so that Ashitaka thought it only a dream.
“Ashitaka” she repeated, moving towards him. No longer hiding her presence her less calculated movements caused ripples to strike against Ashitakas skin. Ashitaka was in a world between sleep and awake… slowly he stirred, opening his eyes. Looking up he's kind eyes focused on San, now standing waste deep about 10m away. Her state of dress did not bother him, indeed he had gotten used to both of them being naked in font of each other, and it meaning nothing. Though he had admitted he always loved to look at her, but this was still the case when she was clothed in any case.
“You're beautiful” he said simply, smiling casually. The figure before him was simply too perfect in his eyes, and he was not convinced that this situation was reality.
San smiled shyly, these sorts of compliments always making her go slightly red. She moved closer, elegantly. Ashitaka raised himself from his seating position to great her. The two literally flowing into a passionate embrace, their bodies seemingly melding on contact. Ashitaka would normally never attempt to partake in such intimate contact when both were naked, knowing better then to “test” himself in such a position. Realisation that this was actually real only occurred to him a second or two after their lips made contact, and at that point there was no going back, he's eyes sprung open for a second, and his body momentarily tensed. San however used this moment to tilt her head in the other direction and further explore the depth of their passionate kiss, moving her body slightly to maximise contact. Ashitaka experienced mental reload, his mind resetting, allowing his heart to take over. His hands moved automatically to compliment the pose, her leg lifting slightly to encircle around his. One of his hands moved slowly through her hair to support the back of her head, mimicking the actions of her own hand on his. Ashitakas other hand moved to support her weight, pressing her against his body, both of them twisting ever so slightly. The passionate kiss approached its peak, both inhaled each others presence as they held a perfect, almost, closed mouth kiss, Sans leg slowly slipping down the side of Ashitakas. Both sets of hands slowly moved to encircle the others waste, San opening her eyes slowly towards the end of the kiss, to see Ashitakas eyes doing the same, they both stared deep within each others souls, there position holding to maximise this intense feeling of closeness. Ever so slowly their lips parted, moving only a fraction away, Ashitaka was lost in her eyes, an overwhelmed but strangely peaceful expression on his face. San was experiencing the euphoria of being completely in control of her actions, and having no guidance on her movements whatsoever.
“I love you Ashitaka” San said softly but clearly. Ashitaka looked at her for a second, the words slowly registering, smiling gently he lent forward momentarily and kissed her forehead, San looked peacefully at him for a second then the two moved simultaneously to share an embrace. This would be the most tender moment the two would ever experience, the first truly free expression of there mutual love, and a moment both would remember for the rest of time. Both of the young lovers were lost in the moment, inhaling deeply the sent of their partner.
Ashitaka finally, slowly, began to break the embrace, having stayed the longer of the two in the water, he moved towards the shore, looking back he smiled, extended his hand to San, who had remained stationary, she calmly took it and followed the young worrier towards the camp… Stopping next to the fire he looked back before gently letting go, she knew that she should remain standing. Ashitaka moving off for a second before returning to her with a clean cloth, moving close to her he stylishly spun the cloth around her to drape it around her shoulders. He still held onto the edges and bought the corners up to her face, wiping her cheeks tenderly. Without a word he gave her another tender kiss, San remained motionless, her arms crossed on her chest, smiling at the young man drying her. Ashitaka moved effortlessly and skilfully to begin to dry her with the subtlest of touches, the feeling heightened by the high quality of cloth that he was using. San closed her eyes, giving over to her skin to fully enjoy the experience, she had never felt so safe in her life. She was sure that the night could only lead in a direction that she truly wanted, knowing that Ashitaka, like her, was powerless to deny what had now been expressed by both their hearts…
Her mind, given a moments reprieve, once again cast itself back to what had brought this familiarity,
After the bushfire the relationship between the spirits of the forest and the people of Iron-town had improved even further. Kuroko's idea of limited harvest of the forest had been implemented with the guidance of Gendo, The forests were now better managed and looking less prone to dangerous fires. As a concession Eboshi implemented a large regrowth campaign of the nearby hills, with the revegetation of areas already mostly striped of their Ore giving sand, given the process of strip mining it was not an easy task, but one undertaken by the miners eagerly. Three months later there were already signs of the works taking hold, and the area immediately next to iron-town looked much more picturesque. It quickly became a source of pride for the people of Iron-town as their little town became ever more beautiful and livable, while still maintaining a high degree of iron production efficiency. In autumn the first harvest was collected from the newly completed terraces. Though the yield was down somewhat it was generally considered a good first harvest, and Iron-town held its first yield festival. It lasted several days and ended with a large banquet held on the shores of the lake near the sacred forest, with lantern parties going off to leave offerings at numerous smaller unofficial temples which had been raised by some enthusiastic town members. It was a celebration centred on the gifts of nature and so the spirits of the forest were naturally included, a few of the animals actually showed themselves, though still mostly timidly, but it was a start. Everyone came away greatly pleased with the experience, many already thinking of ways that it could be expanded upon next year. The harmonious existence of the two worlds was progressing better then Ashitaka could have imagined, and so was the existence of its two representatives in this brave new world.
Ashitaka was a realist at heart, though his particular brand of logic usually had him branded a blind optimist at best. Truthfully he was well aware of the at-best slow progress that he could expect, and his delight in even the slightest sign of further understanding between the two cultures was what maintained his high enthusiasm, as well as further encouraging the members of both cultures. This combination of never loosing sight of the final principle and ideals as well as seemingly having infinite patience (thanks to his realistic low expectations) for the frequent relapses to past “unhealthy” physical and mental practices, made him a force to behold. His force of presence was undeniable, and through this his place as the somewhat eccentric spiritual leader, of sorts, cemented. Eboshi and Gonza felt no threat through this, indeed Eboshi was more then happy to let Ashitakas influences take hold, in the end she knew the position he held in the minds of the people was totally separate from hers in Iron-town, she would always firmly remain its leader. And in the end his influences truly did seem to have an overall beneficial effect on the people.
This glowing respect and new hope for the future was echoed in the world of the forests spirits. The respect and efforts of the people of Iron-town had not gone unnoticed, with even members of the pessimistic ape tribes only grumbling about the intrusions occasionally. The forest in general was a more contented place, with the energy flowing more vibrantly and effectively. The members of the wolf tribe were enjoying a type of renaissance. Elated at having their home spared by the fire they proved willing ambassadors for the forest spirits, interacting more often with the more enthusiastic and open members of Iron-town (not surprisingly a large number of them being woman).
Ashitaka suspected that San was actually more enthused then she let on, but somehow restricted herself so as not to even slightly appear indebted to Eboshi for helping save her home, the three knowing in truth it had served Eboshis purposes as much as anything else's. The two woman remained civil, but coy, particularly in public, where both were the hight of political politeness.
When in the forest however San was always more then eager to teach and guide the people that came to visit, she had become particularly close to Toki and Koroku as well as numerous other woman.
San was herself secretly overwhelmed by the turn of events, though deep set suspicion remained. The internal desire to believe that humans could actually live one with nature, as Ashitaka kept stating, had just began to flicker within her, and she had trouble denying her secret wish that humans were not simply the eternal foe. As she was still often at odds with herself about these strange new thoughts, and where they could lead her, she frequently found herself critically analysing any “concessionary” thoughts she had about humans. She wished to make sure that this was simply not a weakness caused by her new (and still un-trusted, and ever growing!) feelings for Ashitaka.
This naturally lead to a slowing of the relationship between the two young worriers, though still very close, Ashitaka could easily notice that San was restricting herself in the feelings she showed to him. It would seemingly swing on occasion, at some times San became swept away with the moment, letting herself go to be completely relaxed in Ashitakas presence, then at other times seemingly closing herself off, as the new emotions triggered old fears within her. The torments going through Sans mind were easily as real, if not more difficult, then Ashitaka experiences with his continued daily ideological struggle with the people of Iron-town.
Though externally idyllic this time period was the most difficult of Sans life, with many long hours of discussion, thought and meditation required with the spirits of the forests as well as Ashitaka. At her core she knew the efforts were worth it, though this did not make the process any easier. Her appreciation and recognition of Ashitakas efforts were apparent, they had to be, considering the steely facade she occasionally showed to him during some of her deeper investigations into her own mindset. Ashitaka for his part did not mind at all, quite simply he was deeply in love… the apparent difficult self-analysis San was going through being recognised by him and immeasurably appreciated. He had every faith in their relationship, and was contented with the current steady level of intimacy, honestly not actually expecting it to progress much further quickly, though naturally not minding the thought of it travelling in a more personal direction.
It was approaching mid winter, and the idyllic world of San and Ashitaka was seemingly progressing along the inevitable path to happiness. Ashitaka wished for this with all his heart, and openly never wavered from its ultimate outcome, however his realistic appraisal kept him guarded, knowing that a long road remained ahead, and innumerable obstacles could present themselves to derail the fragile new union. With every new movement forward of the `two worlds' understanding of their new lives together, and the freeing of Ashitakas personal energy that was invested in achieve this, Ashitaka would reinvest it in guarding his new achievements against the thousands of circumstances that threatened to derail this new understanding. He would still often come home exhausted, and inwardly still knew that no matter how hard he tried, his efforts were still in the hands of fate. With this seemingly defeatist thoughts he nevertheless fell asleep with a smile on his face, life for now was the best he could make it, and that's all he could ever do. The continued support of Toki, Koroku, Eboshi and most importantly San was all he needed to make him the happiest man around, and what ever happened he would simply do as he had always done, his best.
And his best he would need.
At about 3 months before the `present' the season was approaching mid winter, and a good covering of snow providing San and her brothers perfect camouflage. Spying intently from behind a larger thicket, San gave a side-glance as Kaji stealthily came towards her.
“How many are there?” asked San quietly.
“I can't make it out” replied Kaji, panting slightly. “I am almost sure that I was spotted… the three we are tracking are not alone, but I can not confirm what I sense.”
San grimaced, looking back down the valley she could clearly see three travellers trudging through the snow, their movements slow and laborious, each carrying heavy packs across there backs.
“That damn Eboshis words mean nothing” growled Kaji angrily. “What good are her politics with the samurai if they still enter our forest at will.”
San looked again and began to move in the opposite direction from the small group of intruders, her brother following.
“You said yourself that these are not normal hunters or loggers, we have not had unwanted human incursion in moths, something else is going on.” replied San. “We had better meat up with Gendo at the pass, they will have to go through there regardless.”
Now further away from the intruders San jumped on the large wolfs back, the two quickly making there way towards the smaller pass.
At the time it had seemed an odd step from Eboshi, officially stating to her neighbours that Iron-town was extending an exclusion zone around the sacred forests. And boldly stating that any unauthorised human entry would be answerable to the people of Iron-town and their new allies, the spirits of the forest.
This new area was much larger then the one the Wolf clan currently patrolled, and brought them close to the samurai land. It made sense from Eboshis point of view, creating a larger area to draw her renewable resources from. And as far as the wolf clan was concerned the more forest protected the better. The samurai reacted with typical impunity, the current situation between the local rulers being little more then a holding of aggression. Most of the outside world had seen little of the battle between men and gods, as the conflict had centred on the outpost of Iron-town. This was soon rectified as the wolf clan started patrolling the new exclusion zone boarders with the territories neighbours, now mostly freed from there former petrol's of Iron-town itself. The appearance of the giant wolfs as well as the legendary Princess Mononoke was enough to scare most people away from entering the forest uninvited. Ashitaka making sure that the villages of the surrounding territories were given the option of being invited to harvest the forest along the lines of the people of Iron-town, though this action receiving a rather cold reception from Eboshi.
She needn't have worried however, though some of the smaller villages near the forest edge soon took up the offer, the samurai arrogance and stubbornness stoped `them' attaining anything useful. The samurai's hunting and work parties were now too scared to enter the forest. Numerous ambushes by the wolf clan combined with small crack teams of Eboshis gunners, (a significant number of them being woman), while not having cost lives, had left the occasionally escorted groups of men to abandon all their tools and weapons, and to run battered and bruised from the forest. After only a few weeks of this there had been no more incursions, the rumours of giant wolfs and the “ghosts” of the forest being enough. Though enraged, the samurai could do nothing, the combined forces of gods and man made passage though the forest impossible, even in force, and Iron-town was now beyond any direct attack, safe behind its new green wall. And so it had remained for 2 months, until now.
Kaji bounded effortlessly through the 0.5m deep snow, San could make out Gendo ahead, his massive sleek body sitting vigilant atop the crest next to the pass. San jumped off Kajis back as they finally reached their brother.
“What could you find on your side?” asked San, turning to look back to where she had come from.
“I found the tracks of a human… It was well covered, but I was spotted by another before I could follow the trail.” he said simply. “These are not ordinary humans”
San looked back down into the forest, the thought of human being able to travel through snow without leaving a trail rather scaring her.
“We should tell Eboshi” said San simply. Kaji looked at her for a second before joining his two siblings in observing the forest below.
“What should we tell her?” said Gendo stubbornly, “We know nothing of this group, we should confront them as we have done all the rest.”
Kaji looked at his brother for a second.
“The three in the middle are obviously bait, not even they walk like normal humans… there is to much strength and purpose behind their movements, this is obviously a trap.” Kaji said finally.
“They are only human” said Kaji darkly. “I think we have become a little to reliant on our new allies, we can deal with this on our own.”
“Even so, they must be aware of us, and confident they can deal with us.” replied San wearily. “Why not use our alliance, I have seen men like this before” she said, remembering back to her meeting of Jiggo. “They can be quite dangerous.”
“So can I” replied Gendo with a smirk, beginning to get up.
“I will not attack them” he continued coolly. “We will proceed as Ashitaka would want, I will simply talk to them when they reach the pass.”
Gendo began to move down the hill, San and Kaji watching him go, unconvinced.
“If you are so worried, the two of you can guard either side of the pass to watch my flank.” he said, before making his way off, not even looking around to confirm his siblings actions. San and Kaji looked at each other, both a little worried, neither was particularly confident of the situation.
“Be prepared for anything” advised San, grabbing her spear. She nodded determinedly at Kaji before moving off to a good lookout position, Kaji watched her go for a second before making his way to the other side of the pass.
Down below Gendo found himself an open position immediately in front of the pass, the vegetation was mostly clear for about 50m all around, nothing would be able to get by him. Confidently he sat and waited in the snow, his siblings taking up their positions. The humans would soon be here, and Gendo was rather interested to see if they could be as dangerous as San made out, he doubted it…
The wind blew steadily across the entrance of the pass, playing with the large falling snowflakes. Occasionally small amounts of freshly fallen snow were kicked back up into the air, turning into small willy-wisps, moved around the still form of Gendo, his thick white fir swaying with the changing winds. Visibility was considerably reduced due to the density of the large flakes that fell all around, Gendo had again picked up the scent of the humans, though the direction and number was as difficult to tell as before. Looking around he could not spot the three travellers, who should have been in sight by now. Closing is eyes he could hear movement from the forest in-front of him, numerous individuals where travelling very skilfully through the trees, but not skilfully enough.
“Halt your treetop travels humans!” called out Gendo calmly, his eyes still closed. “If you persist to attempt to hide your presence from me I will have to take it as a sign of aggression.” he continued loudly, opening his eyes slowly. Off to his right about 250m ahead a small amount of snow fell from a tree to the ground, something that normally would not have caused concern. The movement forward had ceased, for the most part. Gendo sharpened his senses, he calculated about 2 men to either side of the track. Nothing happened for about a minute then suddenly about 200m in-front of Gendo the three figures previously seen `appeared'. Gendo being mildly impressed, all three where carrying heavy packs, as before, and a large staff each, which Gendo knew was less for support then anything else. Slowly they made there way forward, until they were about 25m into the clearing, and 25m away from Gendo.
“That is close enough humans” commanded Gendo. “I grow tired of this disrespect. State your business!”
The three stoped in a loose V formation, they looked anything but vulnerable, each standing at least 1.7m tall.
The leading man took a step forward, allowing his heavy bundle to fall from his back onto the snow, he stood straight, removing the large hood that had been hiding his face, he's two companions did likewise.
“Our business is with Iron-town, it is no concern of yours” stated the man indignantly, his physical presence seeming to almost double with the removal of the heavy bundle. His voice was calm and seemingly non-aggressive, though his shear presence was almost an aggressive gesture in itself.
“You do best to let us pass…” he continued, the wind playing with his longish hair. “It is in neither of our interests for this to escalate.”
He finished with a very cocky smile, his two companions consolidating their footings, ready for anything.
“I will be the judge of that” replied Gendo calmly, uncertain if the fools comments were an attempt to antagonise or simply stupid bravado.
“What do you want from Eboshi?” he asked again.
The young man hesitated for a second, as if un-expecting further conversation, Gendos suspicions were realised with the young mans next comments.
“So its true, that witch Eboshi has even the pathetic sprites of the forest wrapped around her little finger.” he said more directly, brining his own staff to the ready.
The wind howled some more, Gendo watched impassively, the comment seemingly making no impact on him whatsoever.
“No” he said calmly. “That would be San and Ashitaka” he added with an even smile, as only a wolf can.
Far behind him San heard her brothers comments, shocked for a second she then chuckled, though quickly returning to her intense scan of the surrounding forest.
If mildly surprised the first time, the young man and his companions were completely shocked at the second comment, this was not how spirits were supposed to act.
“What is this gibberish” he scoffed, beginning to lose his cool. “What kind of honourless spirit are you?” he retorted rashly.
“My honour is mine to judge, and little effected by your actions… boy” Gendo replied with appropriate emphasis on boy. The young mans legs twitched, as he fought the urge to charge this foolish creator in front of him, only Gendos size stoped him. Stoping for a second he mumbled something under his breath to one of his companions in an uncommon language.
“This may be an interesting contest yet” commented Gendo over the young mans whispers, genuinely impressed with his restraint.
“But we fight on my terms” he continued and before anyone else could react he let out a monstrous howl. So powerful was the howl that all were quite unable to react until its completion, a considerable amount of snow falling from the surrounding trees.
“Shut that damn fool up!” came the cry from the leader.
Gendo reacted just quick enough to avoid the volley of arrows that came from the surrounding trees, they were perfectly spaced to maximise the chance of a hit, regardless of evasive manoeuvres. Had Gendo charged the three he doubted weather he would have had the reflexes to avoid the shots. He was however pushed forward, having to fling himself low, the three men twisted their grip on their respective staffs, with a menacing click blades appeared at either end. Already they were almost in striking distance, closing on the now outnumbered looking wolf. Turning quickly Gendo used his low positing to flick up a large amount of snow into the air, obscuring the view of all the attackers. Pouncing back slightly Gendo turned again to charge blindly through the snow shroud he had created. Just before his leap he saw the second volley come through the shroud, fired as if to catch him in a presumed retreat. The leading footman obviously expected the same thing, completely shocked to have the massive wolf appear flying towards him at chest hight through the still falling snow. Quick as a flash, Gendos paw easily knocked down the rising staff, his massive weight bowling the human over as his jaws close around his shoulder and upper arm. Twisting his body in mid flight Gendo landed awkwardly in an explosion of snow, his jaw still clamped onto the human who had been rendered unconscious by the massive G forces he had just experienced. Instantly Gendo righted himself, twisting the body in hes jaw. Gaining a foot hold quickly, he orientated himself and flung the unconscious body of the leader at one of his companions. It had all occurred in a matter of seconds, and the unlucky companion was not prepared for the large flailing mass that flew towards him at a massive speed, snapping his staff and launching him heavily backwards. Gendo pounced left to avoid an arrow, his eyes not leaving the last footman.
The remaining archers were no longer focussing on Gendo, most having their own problems. Kaji had come at a full run down the side of the hill, launching himself fully into the tree where an archer was hiding. The move was rash and unplanned, but Gendo was too exposed for Kajis liking. Unable to see through the branches the flying Kaji curled himself into as much of a ball as he could.
The second archer in on that flank turned just in time to see the tree of his companion seemingly explode. Snow and twigs filling the air. Most of his momentum spent Kaji landed inelegantly, the hapless archer falling heavily, already unconscious. The falling snow and the white of Kajis coat saved the momentarily stunned wolf from instant retribution, coming too just in time to avoid the next shot. His position untenable the archer dropped his bow, jumping backwards from the tree, his staff already ready for combat upon his elegant landing. Kaji squared up, as both sides prepared to pounce.
On the other side San had not had the advantage of Kajis speed but for that her eyesight were considerably keener.
San's spear arced gracefully through the sky, its intended target reacting too late to avoid it, being too intent on Gendo. A shout could be heard as the archer was knocked out of the tree, though landing well enough to remain conscious. San made a b-line to the last remaining archer, who deciding to get one last, unsuccessful, shot off at Gendo before jumping down to confront San. Soon all three of the wolf clan where facing off against their similar opponents. Element of surprise gone it was looking much more of an even contest, the three remaining worriers seemingly having no demoralising effects at the loss of their companions. Gendo and the third footman circled each other, the snow and wind coming in ever so harder. Growling slightly Gendo made his move, pouncing.
San feigned right then ducked to avoid a heavy blow from her adversary. Sweeping her own weapon up, her opponent had to jump to his right using the back end of his staff to push her blade away. They exchanged blows, San unable to penetrate his defences and him not getting in a clear position to bypass the small but masterfully quick blade. San was frustrated by the stalemate, she almost came to grief when she flinched at the loud yelp of one of her brothers from behind. The attacker launched a series of blows the last of which caught sans arm, leaving a small but deep cut. San retaliated with a vicious kick but could inflict no more damage. Using her foes momentary lack of footing San disengaged to move swiftly towards her brothers. Running she could make out her two brothers ahead, flanked by three men, She could see that Gendo had an arrow sticking out from his hind quarters, one of the unconscious archers must have come around. Gendo was hobbling, with Kaji trying to keep the men at bay, who, smelling victory, were moving in for he kill. The closest man was barely able to save his life, turning just in time to avoid the flying blade of San, the small dagger impacting and sticking into the staff. The moment's distraction was enough for Kaji to engage one of the attackers, able to snatch a section of the staff. Unwilling to let go the hapless man was flung wide with a quick jerk of the giant wolfs head. Sun measured her run and sidestepped the first wide sweep, elegantly launching herself across the face of the enemy, collecting her blade and delivering a vicious kick to the head in the same elegant flurry. Her momentum carried her clear of the two remaining humans. Gendo had already bid his retreat. San slid to a stop next to Kaji, both turning to face the remaining opponents. Sans original adversary joining his two comrades. The positions slackened slightly as it became apparent that it was once again a stand-off position.
The wind howled slightly as all of the fighters used the pause to catch their breath, San flexing her arms a little as the pain from her wounds became more apparent. Off to her right she could hear the moans of a recently flung worrier. The two parties continued to grimes at one another, neither willing to continue but neither willing to back down. Kaji continued to pant, an occasional low rumbling growl the only audible sound from the combatants. Back towards the pass, Gendos howl finally broke the stalemate, Kaji turned slightly, growling low.
“Leave this forest humans!” stated San in a threatening tone.
“Next time you wont be so lucky” she finished with spite, knowing that the wolf clan was not really in a position to continue the fight.
The men watched on with an impassive faces. The strangers made no apparent move to follow the Wolf clan, two of the men simply walking towards their fallen colleagues, the recent threat seemingly forgotten. The final man, weapon loosely held by his side, simply watched San go, his cold fearless eyes staring at her impassively. The young woman backed away steadily, not turning to show her back until the line of site was broken.
Positive that she was not being followed she turned to hurry after her injured brother. Gendo was obviously losing a bit of blood, San was having difficulty covering his tracks, she did not catch up with her brother until she returned back to their den. Entering she found Gendo lying in the centre of the large cavern, Kaji looking over his bigger brother with concern. Moving up to him San was finally able to see the extent of the damage, he had received a series of cuts as well as the arrow hit.
“Damn humans” muttered Gendo darkly.
“These ones appeared to be much hardier then most.” he continued.
“I warned you that humans can be quite skilled” replied San, moving over to the arrow, testing its depth and position. Gendo winced slightly at the pain.
“They sustained much more damage then us” he stated arrogantly. San suddenly pulled out the arrow in one clean jerk.
“Arrrgh” complained Gendo bitterly, turning to lick his wound automatically.
San backed off for a second, observing the arrow. Kaji came around her side, sniffing the arrow as San turned it in her hand slowly.
“Something doesn't smell right” he said with concern. San's expression hardened as she ran her fingers along the arrowhead. It was barbed, but in such a way as to have tiny grooves, in which she felt a slightly odd texture.
“Poison” San said mechanically. Gendo stoped licking, turning to look at the arrow.
“Cowardly snakes!” spat Kaji “I will go and throttle the antidote out of them!” he yelled, getting up to make his way outside.
“Kaji!” called Gendo calmly, stopping his younger brother in his tracks.
“Calm yourself, this is not the time to be rash” added Gendo calmly with a smile. “We will have enough time to hunt down the humans later”
“But the poison?” replied Kaji, unsure.
“If it is made by humans… I have little fear of it.” replied Gendo boastfully.
“I am not so sure we should be underestimating the cunningness of humans” offered San in a business like tone.
“You give them to much credit” replied Gendo, dismissing the claim.
“You doubt the ability for the humans to make tools of destruction?” replied San, a little agitated. “Why have you become so rash Gendo, this tone is unlike you. What is really the matter” San asked more evenly. Gendo stood for a second, staring out of the cave entrance, Kaji, for his part, looked on, unsure, as if he had missed something. Gendo continued to stare at the horizon then sat down slowly, letting out a long sigh.
“I am sorry” he said simply. “I have been missing the familiarity of the old ways… the old mindsets.” he reflected. “I find the current uncertainties, unsettling…” grinning for a second he turned to face San. “Life is so much more simple when you have fixed grudges to focus on.” he said unashamedly. San gave him a smile, well aware she also craved the old ways on many an occasion. It wasn't easy to convince the mind to aim for long term goals when so many (easier) reactions were at hand. San moved up to her brother again.
“Easy mindsets are appealing, but often lead to situations that would sensibly be best avoided” she said slowly, in the end referring to Gendos wounds. He smiled, obviously not particularly concerned.
“To remind us why we tolerate this new mindset I think we should go and take advantage of what is causing us uncertainties.” San pushed. Gendo looked at the wound then at his younger sister, smiling again, knowing that a prolonged argument against her was useless when you didn't have a strong position initially. She had learnt too well from her wolf mother, he mused.
“If it concerns you so, we can pay a visit to Iron-town” he said evenly. “We should report this incident to (allies) at any rate” he said cunningly, not giving into his sister directly. She chuckled internally at the obvious ploy, Kaji looking on with interest.
The three moved out after San finished applying some natural healing agent to their respective wounds. The weather had lightened and a clear sky greeted the three members of the wolf clan as they began to make their way down to the snow covered Iron-town.