Just so everyone knows, I know that in the english adaptation of the movie Kaya is referred to as Ashitaka's sister, but I think in the original format she was his fiancée and the form of endearment was lost in translation. At first it was difficult for me to choose which path to take with this, but I am going to use the original concept of Ashitaka and Kaya's betrothal in this fanfic. I just thought I'd give everyone a heads-up first so there's no confusion ;) Thanks for checking this out and I hope you enjoy the fanfic! Please leave me with your thoughts and/or criticisms! Happy reading!
Chapter 1: Without fear, Princess
It was long into the night. Ashitaka was gone. Not dead, but dead to his people. When the dawn came funeral rights would be given to the Boar whose skeleton marks his grave with the pain and hatred he suffered and died with. Without Ashitaka, the Emishi people were left without their beloved prince and without an heir. The stones clicked as they bumped against one another, and the occasional muttering from the wise woman were the only sounds to be heard from within the tent that held witness to the council of elders. The silence dragged on and, finally, became unbearable. "What do we do now?" one of the more impatient elders asked the wise woman, "How are we to survive if we no longer have a prince to guide our people?"
The old woman bent low over her stones and various trinkets spread out across the blanket before her. It was a long time before she replied to the man's query. "Bring Ashitaka's betrothed to me. Kaya and I have much to talk about."
Jii-san, who was the council's personal messenger found himself racing through the village in search of the young girl. He saw his role of the messenger as an honor for this particular council meeting. He hurried, not wanting to waste any time. He knew that the council would have to make a decision soon regarding the future for the few Emishi that they were. "Akane! Hisashi! It's Jii-san! I ask for entrance into your home!"
The bamboo shade was pushed to the side of the doorframe revealing the face of the lovely Akane. Her light brunette hair was pulled atop her head in a messy bun. She had, no doubt, been woken from her beauty rest by the voice of the old man. "Jii-san! A pleasure! Please, won't you come in?"
"Of course, thank you."
He strode into the tiny hut. No sooner had he entered did Akane's husband, in his haste to greet their visitor, trip over his own feet into the main room of their home. "Jii-san! An honor!" he greeted their company from his spot in the dirt where he had fallen.
"Make yourself comfortable, I'll make some tea." Akane told him.
"Not tonight, Akane. I'm here on important business for the council." Jii-san explained before she unnecessarily began to prepare refreshments, "Where is Kaya?"
Hisashi and Akane's faces were bewildered and horrified at the same time. "What has she done wrong?" Akane immediately questioned.
"I haven't the foggiest. The wise woman asked me to retrieve her and so I am here. Now, I will ask again, where is Kaya?"
Hisashi's brows furrowed. "Whatever the wise woman wants with our daughter can surely wait until the morning. Kaya is asle—"
"I'm right here."
All heads turned toward the young woman standing in the doorframe of the room holding an expression of ferocity. "Kaya, the wise woman has asked for an audience with you."
"Good." she spat, clearly upset over something.
Jii-san motioned toward the bamboo shade, pushing it aside for Kaya to walk through. "After you, Lady Kaya."
Kaya passed her weeping parents without a second look and stormed out into the chilly night. She had broken the rules; she had watched Ashitaka leave the village. Stupid. The whole thing was stupid. Now because of that dumb demon she was never going to see Ashitaka again. If she had known where he had been planning to go, she would have followed him into the night blindly and without a second thought. She loved him with all of her being, and if she ever got her chance, she would leave this damned village behind in search of him. She would find Ashitaka and they would never be torn apart again. Kaya's feet stomped against the ground. She had burst in on the council's meeting earlier in the evening, immediately after Ashitaka's departure. Now she was being called back to the council, no doubt to receive her punishment.
The wise woman smiled at her as she entered. "I would like to speak with Kaya alone."
The council seemed reluctant to leave, but did as the wise woman asked, leaving the two women alone in the tent to talk. The old woman across from Kaya said nothing at first, but then laughed. "Well, sit down."
Kaya did as instructed. She sat crossed-legged in front of the wise woman of the Emishi village. "I openly accept the punishment for my rebellious actions."
"I see..." her pause was long and dramatic, "I should inform you, however, that I do not intend to punish you."
"Then why have I been summoned in the middle of the night?" Kaya asked curiously.
"The council has been discussing the direction we, as a village, should take now that Ashitaka is no longer with us." she waited to see if this would invoke a reaction from Kaya, and was pleased to see it had not, "Kaya. You were promised the throne through marriage. Now we are offering you the throne in its entirety."
Kaya's dark eyes widened from shock. She was completely speechless. The woman smiled kindly at her surprised face, "I understand that this is a lot to take in on such a short notice, but I do ask that you make your choice rather quickly."
She would be in charge. She would be responsible for the well-being of the whole of their village. It was that very responsibility that sent Ashitaka away from his own people. "I accept."
"Wonderful. We will speak more in the morning, now that I have your answer, Princess Kaya. For now, get some rest, as I believe you will need it."
Kaya stood and bowed respectfully to the wise woman before turning to leave. The men were sitting outside the tent, waiting anxiously for some form of news as to what conversation had occured within the tent while they were left waiting. She stood tall as she passed through the old men. "Kaya, what did the wise woman say?"
She looked at them with a blank face, giving away none of her emotions, "You may enter now."
Morning came faster than Kaya had expected. She had not been ready to awake to the cheerful cries and hellos of "Princess Kaya!" She had always dreamed of being called by that title, but in her dreams, she had not achieved it this way. The Boar God's ceremony had taken place at dawn and she was expected to be there in Ashitaka's absence. Not even before breakfast the council had called a meeting to speak with her as the new Princess of the Emishi, which Kaya grudgingly attended.
"Kaya, as the Emishi Princess, there are certain things you are expected to know and do." one man started, "Like produce an heir."
What an unsophisticated way to begin such a serious conversation. "Wait, I have something I want to say... a proposition." No one spoke out against her, so she continued, "I want to implement a new regulation for the royal families of future generations."
She had found sleep to be beyond her reach the previous night and instead stayed awake in bed thinking of how to get away from the village so she could hunt down Ashitaka and bring him back. Surely his curse couldn't last forever! The wise woman's face was unreadable as she stated, "The Emishi have always followed the same traditions for generations. Even so... we have broken tradition of our Prince beginning with our new Princess, so let's hear your idea. We will put it to a vote. Although I will have you know, it will be difficult to inspire me to go against the traditions of our culture, Princess."
Kaya nodded, signaling she understood. She had taken many measures the previous night, studying the rulers of the past and the laws and regulations they had created, more importantly, the ones that were revoked. She had been waiting for this moment just to prove her idea was worthwhile. Two days ago, no one would have even paid her any mind, but today... today everything was going to change. "Okay, I wanted to discuss allowing the heir to embark on a journey alone once they reach their fifteenth year."
"And why would you suggest this?" one man asked, genuinely curious.
Kaya smiled brightly, "Because, I think it's important that if we are to protect our people from the terrors of the outside world, then we need to know what exactly the outside world entails. I know that I have never left the confines of our village and I have no idea what is out there. This makes it difficult for me to fully understand what lies beyond these walls. I think it would be good to have an informed ruler."
The wise woman nodded once, "We have heard what you've had to say, and now we will put it to a vote—all in favor, say—"
Kaya pulled a scroll of parchment out from her kimono, "Wait! Before you vote, I want to show you something I found!"
She opened it and read it to the council, "This dates back almost 800 years ago, 300 before the calamity that nearly wiped out our entire civilization. Back then, the Prince was Prince Raito III and he proposed the same conception, however, he asked it to be a law for everyone in his kingdom. At age fifteen they would be sent out into the unknown beyond the kingdom in exile for a year. The rules were strict. It had to be a year precisely. This law was not put in place, but fifty years later, his son, ironically named... King Ashitaka, proposed the same idea, but limited it to the royal family. At the end of the fifteenth year, when the heir returned home, they would marry at age sixteen. The motion was carried and it became regulation. After the near genocide of the Emishi, 500 years ago, the regulation was revoked because so few Emishi remained that they could not afford to lose any single person."
She offered the scroll to one of the elders who confirmed that the record written within it was, indeed, authentic. The wise woman nodded once more, "Alright, and now we vote. Those in favor?"
Several hands raised. "Those opposed?" another several hands raised.
Kaya hadn't been counting, but she thought she had lost when the wise woman looked at her. "Princess Kaya, the result is a draw."
She sighed, "Alright. I won't suggest it again, then."
The wise woman laughed, "Ah, but you forget, I have a vote as well. And I think that if we ever hope to restore our culture to its former glory, then perhaps we should be reinstating former traditions that made our people thrive in the past. Tell me how old you are, Kaya."
Kaya was stunned, and against her will, replied, "Beginning today I am fifteen."
"Then I hearby sentence you to exile for a year. When you return we will plan your wedding and coronation. If all goes well we can expect an heir, another Prince, in a few years." She smiled, "Now be gone with you. I will wait patiently to hear what things you discover on your journey."
Kaya stood and left the tent. Only a Princess for a day and she was already being kicked out of her village... of her own will, of course. She leapt onto the back of her red elk, Ryuuk, and together they left the village. Once she was in the safety of the nearby forest, she smiled widely. "C'mon Ryuuk! Let's go find Ashitaka and Yakkul!"
The rain poured over their construction site. It made the ground slick with mud and the wood heavy with water. Toki sighed, standing on the porch of her new home. "If this rain doesn't let up we may never rebuild Iron Town."
"You can't say that, Toki." he told her with a light smile, "The rain is refershing to everyone who's been working hard during the hot summer days. When the rain is gone, we'll begin building again, but for now, let them rest. I think everyone deserves a break."
She smirked devilishly at the foreign young man, "And when are you going to get your break, Ashitaka?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, slightly confused.
"Oh, c'mon. I know you've been dying to go visit the wolf girl."
"San." Ashitaka absently corrected.
"Yeah! Her!" She stomped her foot on the ground, "Dammit, Ashitaka! I think that you should go see her! You know, you're the only human she tolerates in that forest; you should feel lucky! Go on, we're not going to be doing anything here for awhile!"
Ashitaka seemed as though he were seriously considering her offer. However, his eyes were looking off in the distance somewhere, following a stream of thought in the back of his mind. "I'm needed here. In Iron Town. With Lady Eboshi's limb gone, she can't work like she used to. She needs more hands to help rebuild the town—"
"What a flimsy excuse. She has more hands than ever helping her with Iron Town now that the leppers are cured. Go! You know you want to. I'll even talk with Lady Eboshi for you so you can just take a vacation."
The more that Toki insisted he went, the harder it became for Ashitaka to resist the temptation of visiting San. Finally, he gave in and began to pack his things. Kouroku made snide comments as Ashitaka packed but helped him as much as possible. He knew, like his wife, that Ashitaka had been rather consumed with anticipation over the Princess Mononoke.