A/N: Hey everyone, sorry it took me so long to post this chapter, but San is a very difficult character to write for and I really wanted my interpretation of her to stay true to her character as we see her in the movie. I hope you guys enjoy it!

Chapter 3

Early morning swaths of golden sunlight poked through the canopy of trees as San stirred in her sleep. The warmth felt nice on her cheeks. Her eyes popped open, slightly confused at how bright it was. Damnit, she'd overslept again! This would be the third time now that she'd ever gotten up after the sun had risen. She remembered falling asleep in Ashitaka's arms at the mouth of the cave but now she'd woken up late because she'd been too comfortable. A part of her hated herself for feeling like this around Ashitaka. The wolf inside me.

For most of her life, the wolf inside her was all she ever knew. 'You're no wolf,' the boars would tell her. 'You're a human,' the apes tried to convince her.

Maybe, but I have the soul of a wolf, and that's what counts! Her mother had reinforced this point until San firmly believed it. She took it into her entire being, made it into who she was. The boars and the apes eventually stopped trying to convince her otherwise and regarded her as another member of Moro's tiny clan. But then he showed up, and from that point on her life would never be the same.

At first, she had resisted his trying to teach her human mannerisms and shunned his usage of human weapons. Using a bow and arrow to hunt game from a distance still seemed to her an entirely cowardly concept. Every living creature deserved an honorable death, Moro had taught her, and so San owed it to them to grant them a clean and swift death by her own hands. But what bothered San the most was the fact that Ashitaka cleaned himself at least twice a week. How excessive! Washing the dirt and debris that was left behind on one's body by the forest served to remove one's ties with nature. Such habits of his had really irked her at first.

Due to the events surrounding the destruction of Iron Town, San had come to trust Ashitaka, and to lust after him as only a wild animal could. As she spent more time with him, though, he slowly began to introduce her to the human concept of love. She came to realize that her familial concept of love merely scratched the surface. The gestures and actions that Ashitaka bestowed upon her sang to a deeper, even more fundamental part of her soul that she had never known existed before, one that defied her wild animal psyche.

Her fingers flew to the inky black dagger that constantly sat on her collarbone. It was a constant reminder of the influence that Ashitaka exerted over her, of how much she had changed from who she was before she had ever made contact with him. She could tell that her wild animalistic side was slowly eroding away due to his presence. The way he acted, his use of gestures, and his mannerisms, they all spoke of a world in which she had never known before, a world that she had never wanted to be a part of.

She still had no love for humans. After all, both the Forest Spirit and Moro were gone thanks to them. And yet, at the same time, she found herself wanting to understand Ashitaka, to know him at a deeper level. Oftentimes, during their interactions with each other, she could feel a barrier between them that seemed almost tangible to her. From what she could observe of his facial expressions and hear from the softness of his voice, he was never bothered by her lack of grace, her bluntness, or her indomitable spirit. On the contrary, Ashitaka was endlessly patient and accommodating with her. He appreciated her efforts when he could tell she was trying to wrap her head around a concept that was foreign to her or she attempted to apply something she'd picked up from him.

There were times when she hurt him, when her animal side got the better of her and she would lash out at him. Her fingers tightened around the crystal dagger. She was reminded of the time she had stabbed him with it, right before she gave in to his warm embrace. It would have been a grave wound had Ashitaka's body not been almost fully possessed by the demon curse that had afflicted him. Since then, there had been similar occurrences. Nothing as grievous as the wound she had inflicted upon him the first time it had happened, but there were some rather ugly bruises and half-healed gashes upon his person that had been her doing. Nevertheless, Ashitaka never backed down as a result of her aggressive behavior.

As the two of them became closer, San grew to realize the consequences of her actions. She was hurting Ashitaka, the one person in the entire world who loved her, who didn't wish for her to be anything more than what she was; a strange combination of human and wolf. Indeed, the better she understood Ashitaka, she came to understand things about herself as well, that she was entirely capable of feeling human emotions like empathy, compassion, trust, and affection. What's more, it felt right to her.

A single sparkling tear fell from her face onto the forest floor. Huh? Reaching for her face, she felt moist tears trickling from her eyes. I'm… crying? And that was when the full force of the conflict brewing within her gushed to the surface, and she was suddenly overwhelmed with a torrent of emotions. San fell to her knees in submission as the tears now fell faster, unrestrained, as questions thundered through her head. Who am I? What am I? She no longer had a concrete answer to such questions anymore. What's more, possessing such feelings of love and affection for Ashitaka, a human of all things, was surely a betrayal of the love and life that Moro had given to her. Her, Moro's one and only ugly daughter. The trees of the forest echoed her tortured cries and sobs as the kodama spirits watched San's trembling form.

Princess Mononoke belongs to Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. I own none of the characters in this story. This is pretty much a first draft, so comments, critiques, and suggestions are always welcome. I'll probably come back and do some revision work once I have more chapters up. Thanks for reading!