Princess Mononoke Fan Fiction ❯ Mind and Spirit ❯ Chapter 10 (Interesting times… Part 4) ( Chapter 10 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Mind and Spirit
Chapter 10 (Interesting times… Part 4)
Disclaimer: I don't own Princess Mononoke or the characters, it's just a fan-fic, read and enjoy.
Still the flashback…
All around Iron-town the mercenaries were settling in for the night, most having returned to the base camp, correctly assuming that the “dice” had been rolled for the day. The few remaining watchmen took up their positions. In the midst of these few watchmen, two hidden figures dozed, the vigilant yet relaxed San stroking the sleeping Ashitaka's hair absent-mindedly, thinking of her older brother racing through the forest, as indeed he was.
Gendo had appeared from the frozen water, as planned, at a sharp bend right at the start of the river. He had known that the flowing rapids had left some small sections still open to the water. Emerging unnoticed the wolf had quickly made his way into the forest, the sounds of the ongoing battle fading behind him. Guageing his surroundings he prepared to head off. Carefully creeping along a series of ridges Gendo very slowly snuck up to the crest of a bend in the river, opposite the road. This position allowing him a good vantage point up and down its lengths for some distance. In the greater scheme of things Gendo had positioned himself in the ideal, or at least most practicable, location to warn Eboshi.
The lands leading into the narrow mountain pass were now completely controlled by Lord Asano's samurai, thus the need for Eboshis trip to the Emperor. Gendo would have no hope of crossing these lands to warn Eboshi. Though the Samurai were now under official orders from the Emperor to give Eboshi passage, thus the need for the mercenaries by Lord Asano, they were under no such order for wolf gods straying on their land.
Gendo could also not go any further down the mountain trail, the first part of it being too narrow for Gendo to slip into any good enough position, and Eboshi would be in danger of ambush well before Gendo could reach her at any rate on this trail. The last thing they needed was for Lord Asano to panic and let his Samurai attack the retreating Eboshi, regardless of the consequences, they where after all a long way from the empire… conceivably he could get away with it, with a few well offered scapegoats. No, Ashitakas plan was indeed the best option, Eboshi and Jiggo had to break through the mercenaries for Eboshi to be safe, Lord Asano was a desperate man, and there was no telling what he would do. Gendo grinned evilly thinking of the plan, it being wonderfully risky in terms of Eboshis life, though logically thought-out her position was not good in any case. Reaching his vantage-point undetected Gendo settled in under the snow, satisfied that he had chosen the most logical place to view over the likely spot where the mercenary's would attempt their ambush tomorrow.
It was now up to Gendo, San and Ashitaka to ensure that Iron-town was the one ambushing, and not being ambushed.
In the East the sun was just peaking over the horizon, Eboshi watched it for a while before turning back in her saddle, all around her Jiggo's men where moving in a slow column, their usual white uniform and shrouded faces leaving the determined eyes exposed. The red of their umbrellas glimmering nicely in the new sun, Eboshi had to admit they were quite an intimidating group, looking down she admired her own uniform, identical to the rest of the men, it was surprisingly comfortable, even by her standards. Another mounted figure made its way down the narrow mountain pass moving skilfully against the flow of traffic.
The convoy itself was not that large, only 4 larger wagons, though the number of escorts indicated that it carried something valuable, 40 foot solders and 10 mounted worriers, not including the 10 or so scouting up ahead. Eboshi had reason to feel safe, these where some of the best worriers in the Empire.
“Anything to report Jiggo?” she asked the smaller monk, he being the only one easily recognisable from the rest of the escort, not wearing a large wide brimmed straw hat like the rest. Jiggo brought his horse around to be level with Eboshis, who's own was now moving again. Jiggo pulled at the rains uncomfortably, he could ride quite well but preferred to be on his own two feet.
“All well so far” he replied casually. “Some scouts reported what looked to be older tracks, but nothing out of the ordinary. “
Adding a more probing tone he continued “I'm rather surprised that Gonza hasn't come out to escort you back personally.”
“He has better things to do then worry about me.” she replied. “Anyway we're back in my hills now, and I'm in safest company there is.” she added hightely then added probingly. “Or am I mistaken?”
Jiggo smiled. “Naturally.”
Ridding on a little longer Jiggo continued slyly.
“If you feel so safe, why still the uniform?”
“I feel safe, not suicidal” she added happily, as if the continued danger was not a problem in the world.
Though the new arrangement/protection of Iron-town had been signed personally by the emperor this area was remote, and not all news travelled fast. Eboshi knew Lord Asano's desperation, and personally was quite glad when the convoy passed the last checkpoint of the Samurai. Perhaps she had moved quickly enough to circumvent the crafty old warlords plans, though she would wait a few months in the safety of Iron-town until the emperors decrees became well known, before putting the new treaty to the test. Only one more days travel to go…
“Negotiations with the Emperor never come cheap” Jiggo mussed out aloud. Though it seemed like an odd statement both new that Jiggo had been pressing to find out about the negotiations, and Eboshi had delighted in avoiding the subject.
“Since when have you interested yourself in politics” Eboshi asked in a smug tone.
“I am only a humble monk” replied Jiggo in his usual smooth style. “But it is always best to inform yourself of the bigger picture, in these turbulent times.”
Eboshi gave him a smug smile, the two had had considerable history, and she knew she could only trust him when she had his word, or a decree from the Emperor, and even then only just. They moved on for a few seconds, Eboshi knew he would find out through other channels soon enough, and she had had her fun.
“The Emperor may be the highest authority in the land, but he is also a man” she said slowly. Jiggo gave her an intrigued look.
“And like all men, he has a weak spot for large explosions, and fireworks.”
Jiggo thought about this for a while, the reputation of the quality of Iron-towns weaponry had already quickly made itself known around the empire, Eboshis tangles with the samurai had not gone unnoticed. It appeared that even master gunsmiths had not been immune to leprosy, and after there miraculous recovery after the death of the forest spirit, the small group had gone on to show there appreciation to their former carer.
“So your tribute is weaponry.” he stated with a smile.
“At cost price… naturally” Eboshi replied.
“And naturally your second best quality” he added, with a bit of cheek, though he well knew he could get away with it with Eboshi.
“There will always be more advancements” Eboshi said over innocently.
The calm and tranquillity that marked the passage of the escorted convoy could not be said for the 10 hapless scouts. They had been under surveillance for some time, and the Muyo worriers had observed the reporting and changing of guard routine, and at the opportune moment one after another the 10 were ambushed. The Muyo clan where not killers, as mercenaries they may well find themself working for their `enemy' the next day. And their reputation was enough that most did not fight. Only one of the scouts was killed and 3 injured. For the next 20min the Convoy would be blind, leading them right into the trap.
On the other side of the river a large white figure kept watched from the shadows, he had seen one of the ambushes and had shadowed the worriers as they closed in on the convoy. The forest on this side was untouched and the archers could stay in cover and would still get a good shot on the convoy, as the mountain path strayed closer to the river due to the gorge narrowing at his point.
With stealth, Gendo approached a larger concentration of archers from behind, closing to about 20m silently, the men themselves were concentrating on the convoy, confident that Iron-town was still contained by the small contingent left behind.
On the path side of the river the main contingent of Kagatos forces was doing the same, silently spreading themselves out, preparing for the ambush.
Kagato oversaw the operation from a vantage point immediately in front of the approaching convoy, he himself effectively camouflaged by the newly grown younger trees, unaware that he himself was being shadowed by not only one, but two figures…
Gendo could smell the tension in the air, what ever was going to happen was going to happen soon. Waiting until the archers reached for their first arrows, Gendo prepared himself.
Even the most experienced of the highly skilled worriers froze in fear as the piercing howl, disorientatingly followed by a multitude of echoes, slamming through the Valley.
Still startled from the continuing echoes of the howl the mercenaries world got even more confusing as the forest around them seemingly came alive, all manner of smaller animals appearing to scratch bit and peck the hapless men. As most had equipped themselves with bow and arrow they had no chance against the multiple smaller creatures.
“What the hell was that!” called out a guard next to Jiggo.
“Men prepare to fire!” Commanded Jiggo automatically, jumping from his horse and running forward. It was now easy to see the location of the surrounding mercenaries due to the commotion. In front of Eboshi she could see her mercenaries/troops quickly spread out and prepare to fire.
“Wait!” she called out, stopping Jiggo in his tracks, he turned around impatiently.
“The spirits of the forest are helping us, we can not fire on them!” she commanded. Jiggo growled under his breath, he honestly didn't care for the damn forest spirits, but he was under orders to follow Eboshi, and he was out of time.
“Close and engage!” he shouted himself rushing up the hillside. The other soldiers faltered for a second before throwing off their straw hats and charged at the nearest mercenary.
“Chaaaarge!” came the shout as they stormed up the hill with surprising speed.
The mercenaries armed with bows had to drop them to quickly grab there staffs, the small animals quickly making a run for it moments later, though numerous of them lost their lives in the aid of Iron-town. Kagato had been unhindered, cutting down a few small birds with his sword before the remaining animals fled. Garbing a signal arrow he quickly let off a shot. The beacon sending out a low pitched howl as it sailed into the air. Moments later the mercenaries, now armed with staffs, charged down the hill, themselves yelling.
“AAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH!” screamed the two groups of men as they collided into each other.
Numerically they were about evenly matched, with Jiggo taking three on himself. This was no ordinary battle, the high level of skill made each individual fight a marathon, a single man was yet to fall on either side.
Eboshi, who had gone to surround the wagons with the remaining mounted worriers, looked apprehensively across the river, the commotion over there had stopped, yet no men had come out, she was expecting arrows at any moment.
Moving down the hill Kagato held back 4 men to his command, looking down he examined the horsemen next to the convoy, Eboshi had hid the loss of her arm well, but with the more complicated horsemanship now required Kagato spotted her out. Grinning he commanded his last men forward, the 4 men moving in to quickly push back the soldiers in front of him, now outnumbered. Kagato prepared to draw his sword, his hands flexed and loosened on the hilt of his long sword as he waited for a breach in the lines to appear. Jiggo's force was losing, and being pushed back, the remaining horseman dismounted to help their comrades, the way was now mostly clear for Kagato.
It was well known that Kagato was the second best swordsman in all of the empire, only lord Tenchy was more skilled. Anyone remaining in his way would be quickly dealt with, as Jiggo was engaged on the other side.
He would complete his contract, thought Kagato, the thought of the money he was to receive being `most' appealing. Taking a focussing stance he prepared himself to rush forward. Concentration centred entirely on Eboshi hes narrow eyes sprung open in shock as he felt the point of a blade suddenly appear in the middle of his back.
“Don't move Kagato” came a calm voice of a young man. Kagatos eyes regained composure, though otherwise his body did not move a muscle.
“Ahhh, Ashitaka… I see I underestimated your abilities… most negligent of me” he said in his usual cool arrogant voice. Using the time Kagato `sensed' his immediate surroundings, unnoticeable to Ashitaka, changing the tension of his body, preparing his muscles to move.
“Put your hands up, no one else has to die today.” Ashitaka said calmly moving a little closer. Kagatos hands were still on the hilt of his sword and its sheath, his fingers flexed slightly.
“Oh but they do… Eboshi for one” he replied.
Quick as lightening Kagato pushed down hard on the hilt of his sword, with his other hand still holding firm at the top end of the sheath the lower end swang around, twisting his body as he did so the sheath caught Ashitakas sword on its side, pushing it to the side and down. In the same action Kagato drew his sword swiping at Ashitakas exposed side. Luckily for Ashitaka Kagato couldn't get a good angle and his quick reflexes saved him as he dived in the direction his sword was pushed. Rolling quickly he parried upwards as Kagato spun and swiped downwards, impacting heavily the two swords ground to a halt. Ashitaka, teethe gnashing, garbed the blunt end of his sword with his other hand and pushed Kagato back using his legs. Taking a step back Kagato immediately began a series of attacks. Ashitaka parried and thrust back, the two swordsman exchanging a series of wide sweeps, and defensive blocks. Ashitaka was at a disadvantage, having to use is skilful agility to avoid double blows… Kagato was closing in. Though he had a much more rigid style Kagato could move quickly, jumping a desperate backward low sweep from an off balance Ashitaka. Landing skilfully he sweeped his sword upwards, Ashitaka stumbled backwards, just deflected the blow, though it causing a small cut on his arm. Tripping, Ashitaka landed against an old tree stump, slipped while trying to raise he eyed off Kagato with grim determination, Kagato saw his opportunity, grinned menacingly, he pulled out a small dagger from his cloak, and moved in.
Again too focused on his foe, Kagato reacted late to an incoming snowball, his dagger hand flew up in time to shatter the incoming object, its fragments obscuring his vision for a crucial second. Backing off Kagato was barely able to deflect the first blow from San, her dagger coming down on a deadly angle as his own went flying off, unable to hold the transfer of momentum.
Jumping backwards and with a sweep of his sword Kagato ensured a moments reprieve, wiping the snow from his face he glared at the two worriers, Ashitaka was already up and the two were already circling him.
“So… the great alliance of man and spirit” Kagato grinned, moving slowly, preparing to defend himself. “Let us see how strong the alliance is.”
San moved first, still highly angered at how close Ashitaka had come to being killed, herself now little caring about the need to take Kagato alive. Ashitaka moved a split second later. Kagato managed to block both attacks with one sweep, able to kick the still emotional San away in the process. Ashitaka connected with his free elbow as the opportunity presented itself, San recovered and went back in. Momentarily winded, Kagato deflected a blow from Ashitaka and ducked low to avoid the follow-up, his own sword being redirected on the way up as San tried to sweep his feet from under him, catching her foot painfully with his ankle. Wincing he was able to lunge at Ashitaka, pushing his sword away with his own Kagatos free hand garbing at the you princes neck ,falling backwards Ashitaka deflected the hand and grabbed Kagatos cloak, using the momentum Ashitaka kicked out with his knee pulling Kagato over with him and launching him over his own head, Kagato was completely taken by surprise and landed on his back, wincing for a second he opened his eyes to spot a flying San boring down on him, pushing his sword up he was barely able to deflect, getting a nasty cut on his leg as San took a second swing on the way past, however her landing was on a steep slope and she slipped a few meters down towards the road. Rolling Kagato sprung back up, his teeth bared in fury, Ashitaka was already coming in double handed for a major swing. Kagato swang back, the two swords connecting heavily, both men were overcome with adrenalin, a serries of major sweeps followed as the two swords connecting heavily each time, Ashitaka had a height advantage and after one well delivered blow was able to swing down hard, Kagato summoned all his strength for an upward blow. Time seemed to slow down as the two worriers focused all their efforts on this manoeuvre. San was still scampering back up the slope and could only watch in horror as she saw Ashitakas sword finally yield to the superior blade of the Muyo clan, it shattering spectacularly. Luckily the momentum carried into Ashitaka and not the shards of his blade, the young prince fell back onto the snow relatively unharmed, the hilt of his sword still in his hand. Kagato grinned with satisfaction, taking a step towards the fallen Ashitaka he raised is sword for a final swing.
“Noooooooo!” came a shout from San, the deafening sound of her voice coming through with such force it was as if a definitive statement had been made, it was far beyond what a human voice was capable of. While shouting this San throwing her dagger wildly in an unorthodox fashion, the dagger flying with such speed and accuracy it was as if nothing else moved during its travel. Connecting with the hilt of Kagatos sword the dagger split the ornamental handle, berrying itself into Kagatos palm, the sword falling into the snow behind him. Unknown to San the call had shocked all the remaining combatants out of their train of thought, all turning to look at the source of the shout. Seeing his opportunity Ashitaka pushed himself off the snow and lunged at Kagato, releasing the remainder of his sword on the way up he pressed the wrists of his hands together to impact flat handed on Kagatos chest, the older worrier not evading as he was still in shock about his own hand. The force transferred perfectly, and Kagato was launched backwards, landing heavily and sliding a few meters down the slope as everyone watched. Transfixed by the events, and both sides recognising the players, the two sides backed away a bit from each other, continuing to watch as Ashitaka calmly got back up, retrieving the still useable sword of Kagato and moving down the slope to ware the semiconscious Kagato was trying to regain his breath. San had moved over as well, reaching down she grabbed Kagatos hand unopposed, pulling out her dagger savagely, Kagato letting out a low groan with the little air he had managed to get back into his lungs.
Looking up at the soldiers and mercenaries in front of him he noticed that Lady Eboshi had entered the fray, she had gone in with her one arm to help her protectors and was quite noticeable with her long black hair now exposed, `gutsy woman' thought Ashitaka, still catching his breath.
“Listen up noble worriers of the Muyo Clan!” shouted Ashitaka in a commanding voice.
“You have fought honourably, but no more blood will be spilled today!”
“I know the reason for your attack” he announced, looking at Eboshi, who was apparently reading his mind, nodding at him in anticipation of what was to come next.
“And I also know that this aim is no longer legal”
Ashitaka looked down at Kagato.
“Lady Eboshi and Iron-town are now under the protectorate of the Emperor! Lord Asano has attempted to kill off Eboshi before this information was passed on to you through your own channels!” he continued.
Many of the mercenaries looked around a little doubtfully, not all were well-versed in politics and even the notion of going against the emperor was a worrying thought.
“In good faith I suggest we cease hostilities immediately, tend to the wounded and move towards Iron-town, where we can rest and prove to you the truth.”
“As tokens of mutual trust, Eboshi and her personal guards will remain in the escort of the Muyo clan, while Kagato will remain in the escort of Iron-town!”
San took a side-glance at Ashitaka, she didn't really understand this idea of honour amongst humans though she trusted that Ashitaka knew what he was doing.
Again the mercenaries looked hesitant, Kagato still said nothing and Clay was still containing Iron-town with his small squad.
Now mostly recovered, Kagato slowly got up, turning, he faced the groups of men further down the slope.
“You will do as he says!” commanded Kagato.
“Though we will not enter Iron-town, we will resolve this outside the main gates!”
“Agreed!” replied Ashitaka.
Slowly both sides reacted, firstly putting away their weapons then going to investigate the status of their fallen comrades. As was befitting for honourable opponents both sides soon found themselves helping each other as they went about preparing to move out. San, Ashitaka and Kagato moved down to the pass, well ahead of the remaining group.
“You've one this one boy.” said Kagato suddenly to Ashitaka, as they watched the men load the wounded into the wagon. “Though I hope for your sake, that the papers are up to scratch”
“I'm sure they will be.” replied Ashitaka. “It's a pity you won't be getting your bounty.” he added with a little uncharacteristic venom. Kagato for his part smiled.
“We will be covered for expenses, Lord Asano is not that big a fool”
Looking at the casualties he wondered what type of compensation was due. Even though the fighting was intense both side had only lost about 10 men dead each, and each another 15 injured to one degree or another. Frowning Ashitaka lamented the waste of life, behind him he could make out the faint sounds of gunfire far off in the distance.
“Gonza is obviously trying to break out the fool!” said San with concern.
“He would have stoped the people of Iron-town as long as he could” replied Ashitaka, then turning to the tied up Kagato.
“Can you call your people off, I will ensure the people of Iron-town wont interfere with our agreement.”
Kagato looked at him for a second, then turning, he whistled. Catching the attention of one of his worriers Kagato nodded his head for a second, the worrier seemingly understood, retrieving a signal arrow he manipulated the end for a second then took aim and fired. A familiar sound, though just the slightest bit different to ones Ashitaka had heard before, screeching through the air. It only seemed like seconds but this was followed by a second, fainter, one in the direction of Iron-town. It then only seemed like another minute or so before the faint firing began to slow down, then stop completely. Ashitaka looked at Kagato, impressed.
With surprising speed the convoy was soon ready to depart, The mercenaries and soldiers mixed together in convoy, everyone well aware that the mercenaries held the position of power due to there superior numbers. About 100m in front of the convoy on the road was the small group of three. Ashitaka still holding the sword loosely in his hand. Occasionally Ashitaka saw Kagato looking over at the forest on the other side of the river, himself wondering what had happened on that side. Both of them were answered when a dark voice called out to them from further up the road.
“So are we ready to move out yet?” came the unmistakable voice of Gendo. Looking up they saw the large white wolf sitting in his hind legs panting slightly, obviously quite happy with himself.
“Gendo!” called out San happily. “What happened to you I was worried?” she added a little more accusingly.
“Just taking care of some unwelcome intruders in the forest.” he replied, Ashitaka looked at the wolfs white coat, thankfully there didn't appear to be any blood. Putting on a puzzled look he was again answered when he heard the grunts of some wild pigs. Coming around the corner of the pass were about 15 unarmed men, being escorted by some very large wild bores. Smiling Ashitaka gave Gendo an approving nod. Reading his mind Gendo said.
“After we suddenly appeared right amongst them, I gave them an option… apparently non of them wanted to fight.”
“Your getting soft” said San, though her voice was filled with pride, not scorn.
“There just lucky it all worked out” he said, smiling evilly.
Soon the convoy was ready to move out, it only took about 20 minutes before Gendo and his captives ran into the small squad from Iron-town coming the other way lead by Gonza. The captured mercenaries being vary relieved at now being in the custody of men and not giant wild bores. Ashitaka informed Gonza of what was happening and he and the other men prepared to take over guard duties, a single horseman heading back with a message.
Looking from the other side of the river it was indeed a strange site. Out in front was Gonza and the men of Iron-town watching over the captured mercenaries, about 50m behind was San and Ashitaka watching over Kagato and 100m behind that was the rest of the mercenary force watching over Eboshi and her guards.
And this was the order that they appeared back at Iron-town. The mostly recovered Toki and Korokus were organising the tables, chairs and provisions, as well as setting up a make shift field hospital outside the main gates of Iron-town. Though the day was clear and the sun was shining, some large bonfires had been lit, and were just getting started as the convoy came into view.
“Toki look” called out a younger woman. Toki and Koroku turned to see Gonza and his men turn the corner.
“Well looked like its all gong to plan” Koroku said happily. Behind him Kaji appeared through the gate.
“I'm still not happy about being out here when those Muyo bastards are still up there, they could start firing at any time.” mumbled Toki, her husband being about the only one not nervous about standing where a fierce fire fight had occurred only an hour before. Koroku came and stood by his wife, placing a reassuring hand on her back.
“Look there's Ashitaka, San and Gendo, it will all be O.K.”
“So who captured who?” asked Kaji, coming to sit beside the standing Koroku and Toki, Eboshi could now be seen surrounded by obviously still armed men wearing the Muyo colours.
“Looks like they captured each other?” offered Koroku in an easygoing manner, generating a smile from his wife.
Clay and the last of the mercenaries came down once they got the signal from Kagato, soon the injured were off loaded and being tended too. Kagato, still unarmed and flanked by San and Ashitaka was siting at a table opposite from Eboshi, who herself was flanked by Clay and another mercenary. Between them were the papers from the Emperor.
“So do I get to look at these papers?” asked Kagato impatiently nursing his now bandaged hand.
“I thought it would be best that an unbiased third party first look over the papers before handing them over.” replied Eboshi.
“And why should this hold any-more weight then me looking over the paper myself?” asked Kagato, annoyed.
“Because the third party is me Kagi” came a voice that sounded entirety to young to be calling him Kagi. The small crowd that had gathered parted and Washu walked through, casually winking at her fellow clansman.
“Washu!” exclaimed Clay, obviously shocked. The rest of the mercenaries followed suite, not expecting to see one of their masters out here.
“Hey Clay, all going well I hope.” she said sweetly but with obvious sarcasm. Kagatos expression turned to one of mild surprise to humour as he let out a long laugh.
“Master Washu, trying to get the bounty for yourself were you?” he asked, calming down. Washu gave him an angry look for a split second, before returning to her normal pleasing expression.
“As great a craftsman as you are you always return to fighting Kagato, there is more to life, I was simply visiting fellow scientists.” she said innocently. Turning back to the papers she examined them closely, noting the paper penmanship and royal signatures carefully, as hard as decrees were to forge it was not impossible.
“So what is your verdict Master Washu” asked Kagato, now seemingly completely at ease with the situation. Something most puzzling to Ashitaka.
“I told you, call me Washu…” she said absent mindedly, still examining the papers, everyone watched on with interest, except for Eboshi, who simply smiled confidently.
“Looks good to me, looks like you're out of a job this time Kagi” she said finally. Kagato, for his part, simply sighed with a faint grin, then began to get up from his chair.
“You don't want to investigate them yourself?” asked Eboshi, already knowing the answer. Kagato looked at her for a second, then nodded.
“Lord Asano doesn't deserve to have this land” he said to her, bowing slightly, getting a nod in return, then he turned to face San and Ashitaka.
“Looks like your in the clear boy, well done” Kagato said, bowing ever so slightly. “And good luck, I know what it is like to have to deal with powerful woman” he added, bowing slightly to San. San gave him an odd look then simply moved over slightly and intertwined her free hand with Ashitakas.
“Clay… prepare to move out”
“Feel free to stay until your wounded are mobile again” offered Ashitaka suddenly.
Kagato stoped for a second turning to face Washu.
“I will take care of them…” Washu responded automatically. “Give my love to all ,and tell Ryoko to behave” she added.
With out another look Kagato simply began to walk away, the rest of the mercenary force beginning to do the same.
“Well that sure was strange” remarked Koroku to is wife. Gendo, who was behind them with his brother offered.
“I actually find them easier to understand then most humans.”
“Why does that not surprise me.” remarked Toki, generating a chuckle from Kaji.
Ashitaka watched as members of the Muyo clan said goodbye to the wounded then headed off to catch up with Kagato who was waiting someway down the road. San was still beside him, turning he gave her a tender hug. Smiling she looked up into his face.
“Thanks for your help San” he said simply.
“You humans sure do live interesting lives… it maybe worth hanging around after all” she said teasingly, but with care.
“I was actually thinking of running away with you into the forest, to live more simply and avoid the stress” he replied, with affection and jest.
“We'll see if we can't find a good balance” she replied leaning up and giving him a kiss.
Behind them Gonza stayed next to Eboshi, watching the mercenaries in the distance. Getting up from her chair Eboshi remarked.
“Good to see you could work so well with our new allies”
Gonza turned to look at her.
“I must admit that without them it would not have gone so well” he said with a hint of bitterness.
“I suppose this showed them that we do need them.” he said begrudgingly. Eboshi stoped, looking over at San & Ashitaka and then over at Toki, Koroku, Gendo and Kaji.
“It also showed me that they need us.” Eboshi said with a smile.
“My lady?” said Gonza, not fully understanding.
“Come Gonza, I need a full report, then we must think of a way to celebrate our new alliance with the emperor… as well as think of a way to thank our other allies for their continued help”
“Coming my lady” said Gonza, following her.
5 minutes later Kagato and his men were about to head off when, taking one more look at Iron-town, he could make out a young man riding a red elk coming towards the group. `It had to be Ashitaka' thought Kagato, turning he and his men began to walk. Moments later Ashitaka passed the column of men to bring Yakkuru into a trot next to Kagato. The red elk somehow looking pleased to have his master back.
“Kagato I forgot to give your sword back” said Ashitaka, presenting the weapon to the older worrier.
“You keep it Ashitaka, I will make myself a new one.. you earned it” he said simply, smiling slightly but not turning to face the mounted worrier.
Ashitaka simply allowed Yakkuru to slow down further, the rest of the Muyo clan making their way past the now stopped elk and rider. Looking back at Kagato for a second, Ashitaka dismounted, quickly stowing the weapon on Yakkuru, the Elk turned automatically to nuzzle his master, not having much opportunity to greet him only moments before. Ashitaka stroked the animal then turned for Iron-town.
“Come on old friend, lets go home.” he said with care, scratching the large elk under the chin, and getting a nudge in return.
Back in the present…
San watched as the last of the fire gave over to amber's, half closing her eyes, she enjoyed the soft crackling and light-play off of the coals. There was no need to refuel the fire, here they were safe, and the summer night proved quite comfortable, even in their state of undress. Lying still she listened to Ashitakas breathing, contented. The two of them were lying on a fur blanket, Ashitaka on his back, one hand up next to his head, the other around San. She, was snuggled up to him from one side, her head resting on his chest with one arm and leg draped across him.
San smiled as Ashitakas breathing slowly changed, he had already dozed off a while back but now he drifted further into deep sleep.
`Hes worked hard, he deserves his sleep' thought San. Remembering briefly their resent `activities', she smiled and blushed simultaneously. Breathing in deeply she squeezed him ever so softly, receiving a slight murmur for her troubles. It had not been their first time, one thing had led to another a few months ago, however since then their love life had remained quite erratic, San was still working through things back then and the ever patient Ashitaka had remained supportive. Each time so far had been more a matter of both of them succumbing to mutual desire… however tonight was different. There had been no animalistic excuses, every action was a conscious act, the slow, almost teasing, tender exploration being done deliberately by both young adults, as if to reaffirm their one desire, to give themselves fully to their partner. San could not have imagined what she felt that night, she shivered slightly as her body remembered. Not that the few other times had been bad, though granted the first time had felt a little painful… but tonight was different, it had not been a simple reaction to physical cues but an exploration of those cues. Tonight she had decided that she was Ashitakas, mind body and soul, and it was with these three that she wished to express this. Ashitaka had always desired to do the same, but had known she was not ready, tonight however he had sensed the change, and as the two lovers had immersed themselves fully in each others affections they had found a contentment and fulfilment neither of them could have imagined.
San looked up dreamily at Ashitakas face, The young prince not noticing her careful movement. `Where did you come from?' thought San tiredly. Sweeping her fingers across `her' scar, on his, face.
Smiling she thought of her friends in Iron-town, Eboshis celebration and `thank you' had been one hell of a big party, Fireworks had filled the sky, All around her people were merry and happy. She remembered Kaji playing with the children, Gendo and Koroku talking about life, San chuckled slightly as she remembered how Koroku, `slightly inebriated' as she remembered happily, had come up to Toki while she was talking with San and a group of woman and after a short greeting had suddenly kissed her full on the mouth! In front of everyone! Causing everyone nearby to stop and watch for her expected violent reaction, smirking… And if him kissing her had not been a shock enough she had then obviously kissed him back in the same embrace! Then sending him kindly on his way with a smile, to which he had proclaimed loudly to Gendo that there was his proof that human females were not above reacting to the natural flows of the world. To which Toki replied loudly that this was only possible as long as the man knew his place, causing a rousing reception from everyone nearby. Koroku elegantly turned and bowed to his wife, who promptly blew him a kiss, before he turned, and walked triumphantly, if slowly, back to Gendo, this little display placing everyone in a marvellous mood, San could still see Tokis smiling face, and hear Gendo laughing in the background. She also remembered Ashitaka, smiling as he observed the goings on. Toki was talking to some of the other girls, and San had time to observe Ashitaka, observing others. His kind face smiling at the going ons, then talking with Eboshi, yes even she was now considered a friend, of sorts. San had excused herself from Toki, going up to lean on Ashitaka, who simply took her in his arms. It had been quite a night, even Gonza had appeared to enjoy himself, Eboshi had publicly thanked the Wolf-clan and the spirits of the forests and the two had even had a relaxed conversation, similar to that night on the battlements. San blushed again as she remembered how that night had ended with her and Ashitakas first time… It had been nice, she thought happily, perhaps her body and soul had known even then, it had only taken her mind that extra 4 months to sort itself out.
San smiled happily to herself, contented with the past and confident of the future, her mind slipped back into the hear and now, she snuggled up to Ashitaka, whose arm moved automatically to cover her own. San herself could barely perceive this physical change, simply becoming that ever slightly more contented as she blissfully joined her lover in a deep perfect sleep.
[[[Few! Gee that was a lot of fun, hope you enjoyed it! Love a happy ending, and that set them all up for a good solid future. May get some mini stories going in the future based on this if I get some good ideas.]]] [[[Also I know that some of the text may be very close to overstepping the rating but seriously, there was nothing graphical, or at least just imagine it with `tame' camera angles. ;-)]]] (Please leave a review, I will be unloading other stories for a while and feedback is always appreciated… thanks!)
My other works, which I am currently correcting and will upload soon:
Hearts & Minds Neon Genesis Evangelion (another continuation, about 100,000 words long with everything you could want, lots of kick ass combat, adventure and intrigue with good relationship stuffed mixed in for good measure, coming very soon!)
And for something different a work in progress which I will upload as I write:
Love/Hate Harry potter, continuation from book 6… bit of everything.
Finally don't forget to check out the front cover artwork at deviantart under the artist name bizmarck!! Thanks all.