I am really sorry for how short this chapter ended up. I promise to have the next chapter up next week. Once finals are over I'll have more time to commit to writing and will be able to write more.

Ashitaka looked around the clearing trying to figure out what woke him from his sleep. Only Kana, Yakuul and he occupied the clearing. He could not detect any noise breaking the silence of the surrounding forest that had fallen since the wolves had entered the clearing. Niether Kana nor Yakuul looked anxious. He concluded that his uneasiness came from his dream. He could not remember the events of the dream, but he knew he had had one while he slept. He slowly stood up, bracing himself against the tree as a wave of dizziness hit him. Great, He thought, it's already begun. If this continues, I won't have any strength to fight San against going to the village.

The elk and wolf watched as Ashitaka slowly made his way to the stream nearby. They could smell the poison coursing through his veins. According to Yakuul, nothing affected the rate the poison spread. Once it entered the blood it moved through the body numbing the senses and confusing the brain. When it hit the brain, the person would forget the date, their age, and their location among other things. Sometimes the person relived memories, believing they were happening now. This goes on until the brain stops functioning and all involuntary actions like the heart beating, stop. Other than procuring the antidote, there was nothing they could do to help Ashitaka.

At the stream, Ashitaka splashed water onto his face. He believed in fate and destiny, unfortunately he could not look into the future or read signs like the wise-woman in his village. As the future chieftain he spent his time learning how to protect the village and what it took to become a good leader. He wished he could seek the wise-woman's guidance now. The demon's curse marked the end of his life at the village. He spent his time traveling the country torn between hoping to lift the curse and preparing for his eventual death by it. When the forest spirit lifted the curse, he decided his future lied in helping the inhabitants of Iron Town live with the forest. He interpreted the poison as a sign that he fulfilled his purpose on earth. Instead of fighting against the inevitable, he preferred to accept it and prepare accordingly. He did not want San to hold onto false hope because that would make this entire ordeal even more painful for her. The death of Morro left a gaping hole in her heart. He worried his death would create an even bigger wound that would never heal. He wished he could come up with something to ease her suffering, but his mind transformed into a barren wasteland every time he thought about it.

He splashed more water onto his face in order to reign in his racing thoughts. San should have returned by now. He stood up slowly, mindful of his injury, and carefully walked back into the clearing. He added wood to the dying fire. The nights no longer held the warmth of summer as the winds brought the cold in preparation for winter. With the fire crackling contently, Restless, Ashitaka walked over to Yakuul.

"It looks like San hasn't come back yet. I have some time to take off some of the dirt in your fur," Ashitaka told him. The repetitive activity put him in a trance. The motion of the brush moving through the elk's fur occupied his thoughts and numbed him from the outside world. In fact he didn't notice San's and Kitha's arrival until something barreled into him, knocking him down.

"Wh-" Ashitaka tried to ask, looking down at a person he never thought he would see again. Protectiveness pushed back the pain of the fall. His little mischievous sister held onto him with a death grip, crying into his chest. The shock of her appearance left him immobilized, but her cries spurred him to wrap his arms protectively around her.

Please give any suggestions or advice you might have.