Untitled
by David A. Tatum

Disclaimer:
Princess Mononoke is owned by Studio Ghibli and Disney\Miramax. I make no
pretense to owning it, or the characters...

Author's Notes (LONG, but IMPORTANT):
Saw this movie the other day... wanted to continue it for a little bit, and
thus this fanfic was born (NO! Not another one! I've got too many fanfics
going on as it is! Well, maybe this one will be shorter than most that
I've been writing...). Um, by the way, does anyone have any ideas for a
title?

Anyway, on with the Fanfic:
-------------------------
Chapter 1

San looked into Ashitaka's eyes with regret, sitting on the back of one of
her wolven brothers. "Ashitaka," she breathed. "I love you... but I
cannot forgive humans."

Ashitaka didn't even blink. He knew she felt that way, but didn't care.
"That's fine," he replied. "You live in the forest... I will live in
Tataraba. I'll come to see you from time to time, riding Yukkaru."

San smiled weakly, nodding. Perhaps he would keep his promise, and she
would see him again one day. He was a good man, even if he was a human,
and she would not object to trying out some form of relationship with him.
Even if it wasn't a normal one to either the Mountain Dogs or to the
humans...

Turning to keep herself from staying and losing herself in his eyes, she
rode off, her head facing forward with the pride of the Mononoke in her
eyes.

Ashitaka watched as she rode off, hiding his sadness. He wished they could
remain together, but he knew she had to be who she was. Perhaps one day,
he could convince her to accept her human heritage. Perhaps one day he
could make everyone realize that humans and the forest could and should
co-exist. Until then, however, he would have little choice other than to
woo her with the occasional visit... well, maybe not so occasional. If she
wanted to see him... which, considering how weak that smile was, she might
not. Perhaps she had just tried to be polite by telling him that she loved
him. Well, that was something to worry about later.

The first thing to do was to help Gonza, Eboshi, Toki, and the people of
Tataraba rebuild, and hopefully make a home with them for a while. Leading
the wounded Yukkaru by his reins, Ashitaka headed towards the small cluster
of people who had lived in the village of Tataraba. When his job was done,
he could go and see her, and maybe find out if she really wanted to see him
or not. But until then, he had to suffer, not knowing....

* * * * *

San lay on her back, curled up in the furs that her late wolven mother,
Moro, had given to her. With her gone, only her two Mountain Dog brothers
were around to keep her company, and while they were good friends and
companions, that was all they were. Moro was who she had truly loved, who
she had confided in, who she looked up to, and who she could rely on. Now,
there was no-one.

Well, almost no-one. There was Ashitaka, but he was human... and he was
living with the humans. It had been nearly two weeks since the incarnation
of Shishigami had fallen and they had seperated, and he had yet to show
himself. She knew he was probably busy, but she had been hoping he would
return to her before then. After all, he had promised to visit from time
to time.

"What is wrong, San?" the eldest of her brothers growled out.

"Nothing," San replied. "I am fine."

"Nonsense," he snarled. "I've never seen you this lazy before... and I can
smell the sadness in you. Now tell me, what is wrong?"

"Well... I was thinking. About Moro."

"Oh?"

"I miss her.... Not only do I feel that I have lost my mother, but I also
feel as though I lost the only person I can turn to for advice on certain
matters. She knew... well, everything to say, and everything I needed.
And I need her now."

"Oh? Are you sure that I cannot help you? After all, we are family-
surely you can trust me with some of your problems...."

San sighed. "I would like to, but I need someone who will understand my
innermost self."

Her brother laughed. "As if I cannot know your innermost self. We have
been part of the same pack for how many years now? We were raised
together, have fought together, have bled together, and have come out
alive. We know each other as well as we can."

"Well," San blushed. "Another reason I don't want to bring this up with
you is that it's... somewhat private."

A wolven face stared back at her silently. San's blush grew, and
eventually she had to turn away.

"Ah," he said. "I see. You want to know what to do about that human."

"Human? What human!? I can never forgive the humans!" San cried, her
blush amazingly growing deeper. Thankfully, most of it was covered up by
the furs.

"We both know that is not true of all humans. There is that one who you
seem to love. Ashitaka, I believe his name was."

San nearly choked, hiding deeper into her covers. "Oh, right... that
human."

"You want to see him, right?"

San sighed deeply. There was no hiding that- even if she were to lie, her
brothers would easily see through it. "Yes. Yes, I do... but it can never
work out. He is a human, and lives among humans. I can never forgive
humans, so it would never work out."

"You sound like you're trying to convince yourself of that."

"Perhaps I am... but just because I am doesn't make it untrue. I love him,
but he is human. Humans are my enemy. HE is my enemy... I just wish it
didn't have to be that way."

"It doesn't," her brother growled, "Unless you want it to be."

San actually sat up on that one, letting the furs fall to the ground. "Are
YOU, one of the Mountain Dogs, suggesting that I forgive the humans?"

"No," he said. "I am suggesting that you not automatically make all humans
your enemy. As much of a Mountain Dog you are in spirit, you still wear
the body of a human. This human you love, Ashitaka, is human, but he is a
friend to the forests. He wishes for us and humans to coexist- a foolish
notion, but that just makes him naive, not evil. Not only that, you love
him." He paused, raising his head so that she couldn't help but look into
his eyes. "You cannot be expected to never find a mate, and other Mountain
Dogs are unsuitable for you. Perhaps..."

San's blush returned in force. "But he lives in the village, and I live in
the forest. I know he would be unhappy here, and I couldn't survive if I
had to live with other humans..."

"You love him, and he loves you. I'm certain you could work something out-
perhaps a small home an hour or so outside the village? Or perhaps he
would be willing to live out here in the forest sometimes- there have been
many human matings where the man and his mate have had to be seperated for
long periods of time that have remained happy." Again, he paused. "And
perhaps you could grow to accept living some part of your life with humans,
so that you can stay with him."

"But I don't WANT to forgive the humans!" San cried.

Her brother shook her head. "Now I am certain of it. You are scared of
him- you love him, and cannot deal with it, so you grasp whatever straws
you can to keep yourself from him." He walked in a circle around her.
"Grab your headdress. We are leaving for the human village of Tataraba.
You must face up to Ashitaka... and your feelings."

"But-"

"You are my sister, and so I will do everything I can to make sure you are
happy. And I will not take no for an answer."

San looked annoyed. "Oh, you won't?"

"No," he said simply.

San stood, fists clenched in fury. Finally, though, she relented. "Very
well... give me a minute to get ready."

She could swear that the wolf was laughing at her as she headed off to grab
her headdress... though she had a real hard time telling with her brothers.

* * * * *

Ashitaka collapsed into bed at the end of a very hard day's work. He
wanted to see San, but he had been too busy helping rebuild Tataraba's
walls to even start on his own things yet. He didn't even have a home yet-
he was sleeping in the cafeteria turned temporary shelter until they could
start on the individual houses. Until his home was built, he couldn't
leave Tataraba. And San would NEVER come to Tataraba of her own free
will... unless it was to fight humans, which he hoped she wasn't going to
do any time soon. Though she didn't really seem that enthusiastic about
him visiting in the first place- maybe she didn't want him around, after
all?

Sighing, he pulled the covers up over his shoulders and closed his eyes.
The sooner he got to sleep, the sooner he'd be up in the morning. The
sooner he was up in the morning, the sooner he could get back to work. The
sooner he could get back to work, the sooner he would be finished
rebuilding. The sooner he was finished, the sooner he could see San.
Assuming, of course, she wanted to be seen.

He promptly fell asleep- into a VERY deep sleep. The deepest sleep he had
ever been in.

And there, he saw it. Shishigami, the spirit of the forest, was in his
dreams. And, for the first time, Shishigami spoke to him.

"Hello, Ashitaka."

"Sh- shishigami?" Ashitaka stuttered. He THOUGHT he had never heard
Shishigami speak before... but it seemed so familiar.

"It is I," the spirit said.

"But... I thought your incarnation dead."

"I was. I still am. I can only exist in mortal's dreams, now."

"So... this is a dream, then?"

Shishigami laughed. "Yes, it is a dream. But it is real, as well.
Ashitaka, there are things which we must discuss. When I died, I did more
than restore the forest, as you well know."

Ashitaka thought for a moment. "Yes, you healed me of my Tatarigami
curse."

Shishigami nodded. "You and your mate, as well. But I did more than just
heal you- I gave you a gift. The gift of-"

Ashitaka knew he was talking to a very powerful being, but he couldn't let
that one pass. "San and I are not mates. She has rejected me, as she has
all humans."

Shishigami just looked at Ashitaka with his ever-smiling face. "Do you
doubt me? She is your mate."

Ashitaka felt greatly relieved... but how could Shishigami know? Besides,
he knew the truth. Even if they were to become married... well, or
whatever Mountain Dogs became, they weren't mates yet.

"It can't be, my lord. She has rejected me... I have had hopes to make her
change her mind, and find a way to make our relationship work, but we are
not mates... not yet, at least."

Shishigami shook his golden head, making his fur ripple along his body.
"Not yet mates in body, perhaps, but there is more to that sort of
relationship than the physical part." The spirit-being paused, letting
Ashitaka absorb that piece of information before continuing. "As I was
saying, I healed you and your mate of the Tatarigami curse, but not
completely. Not yet. The stain on your body, as you noticed, is not
completely gone. That is not a scar, but instead the remains of the curse.
It will not grow like it would before, and it will not give you pain, but
it will give you the added strength that the curse did before... though do
not misuse the manifestations of this power, for you will find that you can
give yourself great pain with this power."

Ashitaka stared at his arm- on it, he could see the phantom tentacles that
flared up when the curse was trying to control him, though now they were
dormant. "What... why? Why did you only partially cure me?"

Shishigami's expression remained the same, though his eyes twinkled in a
way that Ashitaka believed that the forest god was smiling. "I am not done
with you yet. Not with any of the four of you I spared- you, your mate,
the false priest, and the lady warrior... you are just the first person I
have contacted about this."

Ashitaka blinked. "Why is that? Why single me out?"

Shishigami continued 'smiling.' "Do not tell your mate any of what I am
about to say, for she will be greatly troubled by it, and does not need to
know of it do to what must be done."

"That shouldn't be a problem," Ashitaka said. "I'm unlikely to see her for
a while."

"Not true- she will join you shortly after you wake." Ashitaka was
speechless, so Shishigami continued. "I thought that would please you.
But we must hurry, for there is little time before you will be awakened."
The 'smile' disappeared, and a hint of sorrow could be heard in
Shishigami's voice. "The forest has been restored, but that is not enough.
The gods of old are dying- the last of the elder animal gods fell together
trying to save me, and now only their children and the lower forms of
animals survive. The Boar Gods have been utterly destroyed, and the
Mountain Dogs are very few. The forest cannot rely on their protection
anymore."

Ashitaka frowned. "And so what must I do?"

"Merely what you wish to do so fervently. Together with your mate and the
other two I spared, make it so that humans and the forest can co-exist.
Humans will always make mistakes, and may at times do more harm than good,
but if they were to become the new protectors if the forests they may
survive. And that is why you have been given your gift. Now, Ashitaka, it
is time for you to awaken. I will talk to you again, soon."

Suddenly, Ashitaka felt hands on his arms shaking him. He opened his eyes
and recognized the face as belonging to Koroku, one of the two men he had
saved when he first came to Tataraba.

"Ashitaka," Koroku said, finally seeing him awake. "The Mononoke Princess
is out front. Um, and Eboshi wants to have a word with you."

* * * * *

"They haven't even fired a warning shot yet," San commented. "Perhaps they
haven't seen us yet?"

"Or perhaps they don't want to break the uneasy peace we've had recently,"
her brother suggested. "Their weapons aren't even out yet- should we get
closer? Perhaps they won't object to us asking to talk to Ashitaka,
provided we don't charge in."

"Perhaps... move in, but cautiously. If they flinch, we run and don't come
back, got it? I have no objection to dying if the situation calls for it,
but I don't think that it's worth risking our lives for a simple
conversation with a mere human."

Her brother snorted, and started slowly stepping his way towards the
village. "Of course- I'm no fool." He craned his head so he could see her
face in the corner of his eye. "You sound nervous."

San swallowed. "Well... I am. I've never WANTED to see a human before
without wanting to also kill them." She paused. "Besides... I don't know
what he'll say about me coming here. He said he would be coming to see me,
not the other way around."

"Well, I don't see what sort of problem he'll have with that-"

"What if he thought I was telling him that I didn't want him when I said I
couldn't forgive humans? What if he thought I wanted him to find someone
else, and that's why he hasn't shown up yet?"

"Now, I don't think-"

"I'm SCARED, dammit!" she cried. "This whole situation isn't right for
me... I want to go home, and forget this. It won't work out- Ashitaka's a
human, and I hate humans..."

"San," her brother said softly. "I am not mother, but... well, I am pretty
sure she liked that human. Not all of them are alike- some are pretty
special. And I'm fairly sure that Ashitaka's one of those special humans."
He paused. "You are too, you know."

"I'm not human."

"You are a human... as much as he is, anyway. You're also a Mountain Dog,
but you're human as well. Just as he's a human. But he isn't the same as
those other humans that we've fought- and neither are you."

"I STILL say I'm not a human. I hate humans. I can't help it if I both
love and hate him."

"If he's a human, than you are also a human, because he seems to me to be
much closer to a beast like you than he is to those who call themselves
humans." The wolf shrugged. "Though I suppose you could just call him a
person who isn't human, as well."

"He supports the humans."

"He supports the forests, too," her brother growled, exasperated. "Listen,
we both already know you love him- you told him so. Why are you trying to
toss him away? Are you TRYING to hurt yourself?"

"I..."

Her brother stopped advancing on the village, and stood up on his hind
legs, making her slide off his back. Coming back down onto all fours, he
turned around to face her.

"That's it, isn't it? You're trying to hurt yourself. You don't WANT to
be happy. Why?"

"Of course I want to be happy!" San snapped back. "But... I don't think I
can be. I can't live with the humans and be happy- I hate them too much.
I also... I also can't live without him and be happy, either. I love
him... I don't want to lose him. But maybe, if I can convince myself that
it won't work out, then I won't feel so... lost... without him."

Her brother stared back at her fiercely. "I was worried that you needed to
talk with him in order to prove to yourself that you did love him, but now
I can see that is not enough. You already know you love him, after all."
He lay down. "Get on- I can see we BOTH need to talk to Ashitaka for a
bit. And then, maybe you'll realize that if you do care for each other as
much as I suspect, you will be able to overlook this insane belief that you
cannot be happy and find a way to satisfy both of you."

* * * * *

Eboshi looked over at Ashitaka as he approached her on the walls looking
out into the fields. Her one remaining arm was propping her against the
parapet, and she seemed to be waiting for him.

"Your girlfriend's here," she mentioned.

"So I was told. I'm surprised you haven't started shooting at her yet."

Eboshi looked hurt. "Ashitaka, that's not like you! And I'm not going to
repeat my mistakes, by any means. I will not launch a war against the
forest if I can avoid it."

"Forgive me," he said. "I am a little... out of sorts. I just had a
rather unsettling dream...."

Eboshi sighed. "There is nothing to forgive- I deserve the reprimand. My
past mistakes cost me my arm and my chance at an Empire. No-one has yet
spoken to condemn me... it was about time that someone did." She looked
back out over the wall at the slowly moving white blob upon which a
fierce-looking girl rode. "They're obviously not intending to attack us.
Indeed, it looks as if they're having an argument." She looked over at
Ashitaka. "Are you sure you intend to take her as your wife? There are
many unattached women in this village who are quite attractive, and who
would dearly love to be your bride. They would not require the taming that
the Mononoke would."

Ashitaka smirked. "I would not tame her- it would ruin part of her beauty.
Maybe make her a little more human, but the beast in her spirit should
always run free." He turned to her. "And I never said I was taking her as
my wife."

"I asked you if you were before."

"I never answered."

"You still haven't."

Ashitaka laughed. That unsettled Eboshi- she had never seen him laugh
before. He was always so serious- even moreso than the Mononoke herself...
"Of course I haven't answered you. There was no answer to give. I cannot
make her become my wife, any more than I could make it rain." His smirk
reappeared. "I would have her take me as her husband... I think that's the
only way she'd accept it."

Eboshi looked out, and saw that San had dismounted her steed for the
moment. "Hmm... there appears to be a problem. Maybe you should leave to
meet her now, instead of waiting until she reaches the gates?"

Ashitaka shook his head. "No. Let her in when she arrives, and do not let
anyone harm her. If she is ever to forgive humans enough to live with
them, she must walk among them without having to fight them for a time."

Some of Eboshi's old arrogance returned. "Oh? You presume to give me
orders?"

Ashitaka turned to Eboshi with a fierce expression on his face. "If you do
not give the order, than I will."

Eboshi noted how he carefully avoided answering her. 'Good boy,' she
thought. 'Don't remind me that I've become little more than a figurehead
in recent days.' She nodded to him. "Do not worry, Ashitaka. I'll let
your girlfriend in to see you unharmed... though she must promise not to
harm me. And the wolf with her-"

"Will be allowed inside as well. No-one is to provoke him. We want peace
with the remaining forest gods, and forbidding them entrance if they come
in a banner of truce, as they seem to be doing, will only make that more
difficult."

Eboshi hesitated. "I will give the orders... but I am not all-powerful.
Some may resent their presence."

Ashitaka nodded. "Some may..." He started towards the stairs. "But if
they do, they will have to face my anger. And you've seen how I can be
when angry."

"Of course... I will let them all know of your pronouncement." She paused.
"You may want to join those who are rebuilding... if you aren't tied up
with other things, she may insist that you go out to see her, but if I can
legitimately say that you are too busy to come out right away I might be
able to convince her to enter the village."

Ashitaka frowned. Was she really trying to help him, or did she have her
own motives? He couldn't tell- Eboshi was too much of a mix of people.
She was a humanitarian- she would rescue women from being sold to Geisha
and give them a good, if hard, life here in the village, but she would hunt
down and destroy the gods of the forest. She would start arming the women
of her village, but then abandon them to go out on her own personal quests.
She was humble before him, yet also betrayed hints of arrogance all the
time. Dealing with her was a necessary evil...

'I wonder,' he thought, 'What her role is in Shishigami's plans?'

* * * * *

"Greetings, Mononoke Hime," came the cry from the battlements.

San looked up in surprise. On the wall of the village stood her hated
enemy- Eboshi, the human who she wanted to see dead most of all. And what
was that human doing? Calling out to her respectfully?

"I just came to see Ashitaka... could you please send him out so I can talk
to him?"

Eboshi's barely visible head shook negatively. "The moment you were
sighted, we sent word to him that you were here. He is at a crucial stage
in his work right now, and leaving might be dangerous, but he suggested
that I invite you inside to wait for him, if you are willing. I agreed...
provided I get your word not to try and kill anyone- especially not me!"

San blinked. "I'd rather wait out here," she called.

"I think you'd find the wait much nicer in here," Eboshi replied kindly.
"Come- I have ordered our defenses lowered as a gesture of respect and
peace. Surely you can repay in kind... all I ask is that you accept my
hospitality and come inside. Both you and your wolf- I will have no
objections. You need not even disarm yourself, if you just promise not to
attack us, and we promise not to harm you in any way while you are here."

San frowned. "This sounds too much like a trap- let's get out of here,"
she whispered to her brother.

"No," he growled back. "Before, when you said that it wasn't worth risking
your life just to see Ashitaka, I agreed with you- largely because I didn't
know how depressed this was making you. You're right, it does sound like a
trap... but do you really think Ashitaka would let them trap you like
that?"

"He's a human- of course he would," San said bitterly. Her brother just
growled in response. San flushed. "Er, well... no, I guess he wouldn't.
But who's to say that Ashitaka has a choice in this?"

"Hmm.... They'd probably have to be holding him prisoner in that case. I
would think you'd want to rescue him in that case...."

"Well... yes, I would. And since they're letting me keep my weapons...."

"They're either being honest about letting us enter in peace, or they're
severely underestimating us," her brother finished. "So shall we go in?"

San hesitated. "Well... I still am not sure I want to do this, but... I'd
better. If he IS being held prisoner, I have to rescue him..." Finally
directing her attention back to Eboshi, she called, "Open the gates... I'm
coming in."

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