I'm a terrible person, aren't I? Just go without updating for an entire month... oh, well. What do you expect from me?

Disclaimer: I do not own Princess Mononoke or any characters thereof. Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki are the proud owners of the fantastic film, while I am just a High School student and am writing this for my own amusement and because I'm shocked that no one else had come up with the idea before me. I only own any possible changes I make to the plot of this movie, the dialogue of this movie, and/or any other things that I can't think of right now.

Iron Town

San had noticed something rather odd: the moment she and Kohroku had left the forest, something seemed to have been missing. A presence she had become accustomed to while walking in the forest had suddenly vanished, and it made her uneasy. It was almost like a warm blanket that had suddenly been pulled off of her body, leaving her cold and bare. And unless it was her imagination, her scar had begun to twinge every few seconds…

The Emishi girl was so lost in her thoughts that she nearly dropped the unconscious man she was carrying as she jumped when Kohroku abruptly let out a loud laugh. "Miss! Amazing, you were right! We made it back home safely, just like you said!" He exclaimed excitedly, nearly bouncing in his place on Yakuul's back. San raised an eyebrow in slight amusement before switching her eyes to where Kohroku was looking.

The village that Kohroku had mentioned was nothing like what San had been expecting. She didn't know what she was expecting, exactly - maybe something like the Emishi village? But the so-called "village" was a fortress, on an island just off the mainland of a lake, surrounded by a wall of wooden spikes. What looked like a pyramid-shaped building made completely of iron stood out in the center of the island, surrounded by dozens of much smaller was a large wooden gate at the front, with a bridge connecting the island to the mainland, and a train of people and oxen were slowly making their way across the bridge and into the fortress.

The thing that caught San's attention, however, was the mountains surrounding the fortress and lake, which were completely devoid of any living trees (the charred remains of burnt tree trunks could be seen from where they stood), and the clouds of smog that were rising from the fortress, poisoning the air. San's lips curled into a scowl at the sight. "It's unbelievable." She muttered, mostly to herself.

But apparently Kohroku had heard her, because he said, "It's Lady Eboshi's Iron Town. It heats iron sand and produces iron. It's fantastic, isn't it?" He sounded deliriously happy at the sight of his home. The exact opposite of San.

"I didn't say that." San said tersely. "Just that it's unbelievable." She wordlessly began to walk down towards the edge of the lake, where there was a small group of men surrounding a boat. She would persuade them to give her and Kohroku a ride across to "Iron Town".

Kohroku, upon seeing the men by the lake, grinned wider. "Hey, I know them!" With that, he raised his uninjured arm and began waving it, trying to get the men's attention. "Hey there! Look, it's me!"

San couldn't help but notice the way the men looked at them as they got closer - with suspicion and slight fear. The man closest to the boat seemed to step back a bit, almost like he was preparing to make a quick escape. Kohroku didn't seem to notice their apprehension, or perhaps he did and that was why he yelled, "Look, it's me! Kohroku the ox driver!"

As they got closer to the lake, San noticed with some amusement that the men were gaping at them with their mouths opening and closing, like fish. Finally, one of them managed to find something to say. "Kohroku, you're really alive?"

Kohroku beamed. "Yep!"

"But you fell!" A second man burst out. "How could you have survived-" It was then that the men all seemed to finally notice San, who had been standing still and watching them silently the entire time. "Who are you?"

She merely looked at them. "Can you ask questions later? If we don't get this man," San shifted the unconscious man on her back a bit, bringing their attention to him. "Across the lake and give him medical attention soon, he won't survive."

The men gaped at her for a moment, looking somewhat taken aback at her bluntness. Then one of them managed to sputter, "Yes, of course, miss!" before he began to prepare the boat. The third man stepped forward and helped San get the unconscious man into the boat at a comfortable position where he wouldn't worsen his injuries. Kohroku stepped into the boat with only a few winces as he accidentally put pressure on or touched something with either his broken arm or leg. Once he was safely in the boat and sitting down, his grin returned and he began to bounce slightly in his seat in anticipation.

Yakuul, unable to fit in the boat, was swimming alongside them as they made their way towards the fortress. San, unlike Kohroku, kept her eyes on the water, chin resting in the palm of her hand as she calmly waited for the boat to reach the island. Lost in thought, she briefly recalled the Wise Woman's words before she had departed.

"We cannot know who is doing this, my princess. We can only know that there is something ominous happening in the western lands."

Wise Woman… San thought. I think I've found the place I've been searching for.

-(o)-

Within a matter of minutes, the boat had reached the beach of the island, and a crowd of people had formed. Most were watching from the gates of the fortress, while others had crowded around the place where the boat had landed. San noticed most of the people on the beach were men, while those watching from the gates were mostly women, all dressed in short, coloured kimonos with towels tied around their heads.

San noticed quite a few people staring at her - even more were staring at Yakuul, as he emerged from the lake soaking wet and shook himself dry. One man had even stopped dead in his tracks and stared at the elk with his mouth and eyes both wide open.

Other men had chosen to surround the boat, different questions and cries of disbelief being thrown at Kohroku and her, but mostly at Kohroku. "This is unbelievable!"

"You're not a ghost, are you?"

"But what about the others?"

"Yes, is my son with you?"

The rather wide grin that Kohroku had taken on dropped at the last two questions as he gave the men the bad news. "I'm afraid we were the only two who made it."

San looked away from Kohroku and towards a different group of men, wearing brightly coloured orange clothing and white bandages tied around their heads, hiding their faces. They had approached the boat without saying a word, and began to pick the unconscious man. "Be careful with him." San ordered, bringing quite a lot of people's attention to her, not that she noticed. "Don't jostle his arm too much."

A man nodded at her, showing that he had heard her, and muttered something quietly to the man next to him. The group of men-in-orange all took the unconscious man onto their shoulders, and began to carry him up the hill leading to the gate of the fortress from the beach. San got to her feet and approached Yakuul, smiling slightly and scratching him under the chin. "You've done well." She murmured to him. He snorted, almost like he was agreeing with her, and San chuckled in amusement.

"Hey, listen to me, everyone!" Kohroku suddenly yelled, bringing most of the crowd's attention back to him. "This woman saved us both! She even carried the rifleman all the way back here, and she never complained once! You should be grateful - Hey, watch the arm!" The ox driver was being carefully pulled out of the boat by a group of men, trying and clearly failing to be careful with him.

"Excuse me?" A voice directed at San caught her attention, and the Emishi girl turned her head to the right. A man, dressed like the men who had taken away the unconscious men, stood in front of her. "I would like to thank you, on behalf of the rest of us riflemen, for saving our comrade. Thank you, miss!" He bowed to her.

Just as San was about to tell him there was no need to thank her, a gruff voice suddenly shouted, "Hold it right there!" San looked up towards the source of the voice, and saw a rather gruff looking man charging down the hill towards them. He had a rather unpleasant looking appearance, like he was more suited to beating people's faces in rather than listening to what they had to say. Despite the confident air he gave off, San doubted he was the one in charge of the fortress.

The man stood directly in front of San, eyeing her rather darkly. San stared right back, not intimidated by his glare at all. "We are all very thankful that you brought our men back to us, stranger. But something isn't right about this situation." He growled. "You got here within an hour after we did, and through the Beast Gods forest!"

A sharp retort was on the tip of San's tongue, and however much she wanted to say it she was more interested in seeing where the man was going with his tirade.

"And you claim to have done it alone, with two badly injured men and a strange creature-"

"Kohroku!" The gruff man was interrupted by a female's piercing shriek. San watched with her eyebrows raised as a young woman, clothed in a short, light red kimono and with a towel wrapped around her head and keeping her hair covered, came racing down the sandy hill in bare feet and sprinted towards Kohroku. "You're alive?"

"Toki, my love!" Kohroku cried.

So this is the 'Toki' that he mentioned… San thought, a small smirk growing on her face as she watched Toki skid to a halt directly in front of Kohroku. The woman gaped at his injuries, before she faced him with an almost murderous expression.

"That's just great!" Toki shrieked. Kohroku seemed to shrink backwards. "Look at you! How are you going to drive the oxen now, you all banged up like this! How are we going to eat?"

"Uh, my little flower-"

The woman continued as if she hadn't heard Kohroku speak at all. "You scared me half to death!" Everyone in the crowd seemed to have started snickering at the lover's quarrel, while San regarded it with amusement. "Don't you 'little flower' me! I almost - no, I really wish the wolves had eaten you! If they had, I could have found myself a real husband!"

Looking rather annoyed, the gruff man who had been interrogating San turned to Toki. "Toki! Save your sweet nothings for some other time." He said, and instantly Toki spun around and gave the man a furious look.

"And as for you, Gonza -" Toki stormed over to him and San, clenching her fists as she glared up at him. "A fine captain of the guard you are! What kind of man are you? You abandoned them! No, this woman here-" She nodded her head in San's direction. "She deserves more praise than you've ever gotten in your entire life! So leave her alone, you hear me? If it hadn't been for her, two more men would be dead right now!"

"It couldn't be helped!" The man - Gonza - protested, though he was ignored as Toki turned to San with a smile on her face.

"Thank you. Don't listen to this big lummox, whatever he was telling you. We're all grateful to you. I'm glad you saved even that idiot over there." At this, Toki shot Kohroku another glare.

"That's a relief." San replied, smiling rather teasingly. "I was starting to get worried that I had done something wrong by bringing him back."

The woman blinked for a moment, looking taken aback. Then, as she realized San had been teasing, she gave a loud laugh. "I like you, girl. You'd be a good one in the forge, I can just tell."

"Gonza?"

A calm voice suddenly came into the scene, and when San looked toward the source of the voice, she saw a woman standing at the top of the hill. Because of the distance, San was unable to see the woman's appearance - other than her bright red lips, which stood out brilliantly against her stark white skin - but she wore a detailed red kimono shirt, dark grey hakama, and an oversized darker blue kimono was draped over her shoulders like a cloak. Her voice was soft and silky, yet somehow managed to radiate power. "Bring the stranger to me later. I want to thank her personally." When Gonza gave a short nod, the woman looked over to Kohroku. "Kohroku. I'm happy you're back, and I apologize." [1]

The man in question nodded, tears beginning to well up in his eyes. Toki rolled her eyes and turned to face the nameless woman. "You shouldn't tell him things like that, Milady." Toki stated, grinning at the woman. "He'll get spoiled and start walking all over you!"

"I hope you'll forgive me too, Toki." 'Milady' said, smiling softly at Toki. "I should never have let it happen."

Toki shook her head instantly. "Oh, that's all right, Milady! If you," she said the word 'you' while glaring at Gonza, making it clear that she was insulting him in the process of talking to the nameless woman. "hadn't been there, the wolves would have eaten everyone and then we'd all have to find ourselves new husbands!"

The crowd of women at the top of the hill all began to laugh, and a few of the men joined in as well. The blue-cloaked woman merely smiled again, before glancing at San. "Enjoy your rest, traveller. I'll send for you later this evening." Without another word, the lady turned and walked through the gate into Iron Town.

San stared after the woman with a thoughtful expression. "Who was that?" She asked, glancing towards Toki.

Toki turned around and faced her. "That was Lady Eboshi, of course! She's the mistress of Iron Town! Haven't you heard of her in your travels? Wait, how far have you travelled from?"

San didn't answer the questions thrown her way. Instead, she asked another question. "How long has she been the mistress of this settlement?"

Toki opened her mouth to answer, before Gonza cut her off with a sharp growl. "That's enough, Toki! Don't go giving this stranger secrets about our town!"

The woman scowled. "What do you mean, 'secrets'? It's common knowledge to everyone in this town, I don't see any reason she shouldn't know about it!"

"Get back to the bellows already, woman!"

"He only uses that argument when he knows he's lost." Toki informed San, who had been watching the verbal fight between the gruff man and the sassy woman with some amusement. "Fine, I'll leave! But not because you told me to, only because it's my duty to Lady Eboshi!" She sauntered over to Kohroku, and gave him a light hit on the head with her fist. "I'll deal with you later, you got that?" And with that, Toki ran back up the hill and disappeared into Iron Town.

I can definitely see why Kohroku thought I sounded like her. San thought, smirking to herself.

-(o)-

"Hey, cutie!"

San bit back a groan as yet another man sauntered up to her. They had been crowding her for ages, ever since she had entered the gates of Iron Town. Most of them were single, so they were fine with flirting with her, while others were not single. The few men that had been the latter had ended up getting their heads bashed in by their furious wives, who then shot San angry looks.

As if she had asked to be practically molested by married men.

This man was obviously drunk, like several of the others had been. She could smell the sake on his breath as he knelt down next to her and put a finger under her chin, turning her face toward his. "You're one fine piece! How about you share a drink with me?"

There was a loud crash as San's fist suddenly soared upwards, smashed into the drunkards chin, and knocked him over and crashing into the wall. "Do I look like I'd be tempted by trash like you?" She asked snidely, brushing her hands together as if she was trying to get something filthy off them.

This, naturally, sent the rest of the men in the dining hall into fits of laughter. San rolled her eyes, wordlessly shovelling bits of rice into her mouth (not particularly caring whether or not she looked lady-like while doing so). The last of her food supply had run out just the night before, and she hadn't eaten anything since then. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal, since San had gone longer without eating (part of her warrior training - she had lasted a week without food once) but for some peculiar reason, she was especially hungry now. I should rest more later on. San thought.

A man sitting to her right clapped her on the back. "Don't think too terribly of him, miss." He said, grinning jovially. San raised an eyebrow as she glanced sideways at him - what had he said his name was? Oh, right, Goro. "He was one of the cattle herders that came back with milady today."

"Is that supposed to impress me?" She asked dryly.

"He came face to face with Moro herself!" The man to her left - who had given his name as Daisuke - exclaimed, throwing an arm around San's shoulders, ignoring the way she tensed up at his touch. "Poor man has an excuse to let himself go."

San wiped her mouth clean of rice using her sleeve, a frown beginning to take place. "Tell me, who is Moro?"

"The two-tailed Wolf Goddess of the forest." Goro exclaimed, shuddering slightly. "Not the creature you'd want to be attacked by. She hates all of us humans - especially Lady Eboshi. And she's got these two wolf pups, and a human boy on her side that hate us just as much. Vicious little bastard, he is. Rumor has it the wolves stole his soul."

San's thoughts wandered to the boy who had approached the injured God by the river, how he had spit out blood and told her to leave them alone.

"Milady has a kind heart, though." An old man stated, joining the conversation. He reminded San a bit of Yoshi. "She goes around buying the contracts of brothel girls. Not many would do that."

"She may be kind, but she's also a tough woman who doesn't care about laws or curses!" One man stated, coming around and crouching down beside San. "The name's Keisuke, miss." He added, winking at San - who stared right back in disbelief - before he continued. "Fighting off Lord Asano's samurai everyday, facing Wolf Gods and that boy every other day - she never flinches at the first sign of conflict! That stuff with the Wolf Gods today was nothing, compared to Nago."

"Nago?" San repeated, her small frown deepening. "Who's he?"

"You haven't heard of Nago?" Keisuke demanded, looking aghast. "He was the Boar God that used to rule this whole mountains! Before Lady Eboshi came along with her warriors and her rifles, all we could do was sit around and watch a bunch of angry boars squeal at us."

Seeing San's frown, Goro explained. "See, we had already dug out all of the iron sand from the beaches and under our town, so we had to get to the iron under the mountain."

"But Nago wasn't going to take that!" Daisuke stated.

"Because to get the iron, we had to clear all the trees away." Goro shuddered slightly. "And that's what made the boar angry."

All the men listening to the conversation seemed to go quiet then, as Daisuke took over the role of storyteller. "Nago charged us, with hundreds of boars following him. He would always attack at night, when we didn't have daylight on our side and we couldn't see what was going on. He'd just appear out of nowhere, with his boars storming the village. We shot them with flaming arrows, and he just shook them off like they were nothing."

"And then, Lady Eboshi came along with her warriors and her rifles, like I said." Keisuke continued. "Came right out of nowhere, just as we were beginning to lose hope. Just came striding along into town, with her riflemen surrounding her and ready to fight. They set fire to the forest, shot the boars, and that was that. Nago disappeared, right after Lady Eboshi shot him, and nobody's seen him since."

San's teeth clenched, and she gripped her cursed arm tightly. The throbbing was beginning to act up again, and the pain had grown. Goro seemed to notice this, as Keisuke took off, presumably to get some more rice for his dinner. "Miss, what's wrong?" He asked, glancing down at her arm. "Does your arm hurt?"

"No." San said through gritted teeth. "I was just thinking about Nago. How he must have died miles away from here, filled with hate, away from his home and his family and friends. It must have been awful for him." I was right about this place.

A tense silence followed, before Daisuke spoke up again. "Not long after, Moro and her wolf cubs appeared. Well, they came after the Wolf Boy did."

San's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"

"We met the Wolf Boy after Lady Eboshi got Iron Town settled and the women living here." He snorted at this. "He just appeared at our gate in ragged clothing, and at first we thought that he was a traveller that needed some shelter for a day or two. Even got some food out of us - and really, we should have known he was odd, because he refused to eat anything that wasn't meat. Thought he was apart of some weird cult, like the Jibashiri." Daisuke shrugged. "Anyways, he walks out into the courtyard, and just stands there and waits for something for who knows how long. Then Lady Eboshi comes out of a building nearby, and he pulls this knife out of his clothes and attacks her! Luckily, Milady had Gonza with her, or the boy would have cut her head off. The minute the Wolf Boy realizes he doesn't have the upper hand anymore, he jumps - jumps! - onto the roof of a house nearby. And instead of running away, he turns and faces Lady Eboshi from where he's standing." Daisuke tapped his fingers against his chin in thought. "And he said something… what did he say again?" After a moment, he snapped his fingers, face lighting up. "I remember! He says, 'I am the son of Moro the Wolf Goddess. If you humans will not leave this land immediately, we will kill every single man and woman in this town.' That's when he runs away, and he got away with only a bullet graze in the side."[3]

San stared at Daisuke for a moment, slowly processing everything he had said. Silently, she returned to eating the rest of her rice, not saying a single word for the rest of the meal.

[1] - Hakama are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. They were originally worn only by men. So naturally Lady Eboshi wears them.

[2] - I refuse to keep referring to the nameless men in the movie as "Men one" and "men two". So I gave them names. You know in the movie, when Ashitaka is in the dining hall there's that guy says, "It's best not to pay them any mind you know. Lady Eboshi spoils 'em rotten, that's why they're like that." He's Goro. Daisuke is just some other guy. You can give him an actual character that appeared in the movie, or make him up yourself.

[3] - For this part I used the way my sister and I describe things that have already happen - we talk in present tense, like it's all happening the moment we're describing it. It's a habit, and it's not grammatically correct or anything, but I thought it would fit the way the Iron Town people speak.

I kinda thought the scene with Ashitaka attacking Iron Town makes sense… you know? The whole just, "Barging in" thing that San does doesn't really seem to fit him. I feel like, the first time he attacked, since nobody knew about the Wolf Boy or Moro or anything, him just waltzing into Iron Town and attacking Lady Eboshi the minute he sees her fits him. Kinda. I thought it would fit!

How'd you like the scene with San punching the drunk guy in the face? That was inspired by a scene in a manga I'm reading - Fushigi Yuugi: The Mysterious Play. If y'all are interested in romance/adventure/fantasy/comedy, then I recommend it. Or the Prequel series, Genbu Kaiden. If you're not that big on romance, I suggest this one - it still has romance, just not as much as Fushigi Yuugi.

...

(did I make up for my lateness with a great chapter?)