For a trope prompt request, [personal profile] karanguni asked me for an immortality AU. I suppose that being post-canon, this Mononoke-hime ficlet doesn't entirely count as an AU. However, restoring the Shishigami's head like that must have had some lasting effect on both Ashitaka and San, though for Ashitaka the change would be more noticeable.

Adagio of Life and Death

San was the first to notice the change in Ashitaka -- or rather, the lack of change in him, as the seasons rolled past them on waves of green and gold. He still bore the scar of the Tatarigami's curse on his hand and arm, but his body never lost the strength that it had had when she and he had held the Shishigami's head aloft for its body to reclaim. (On nights when he visited her, deep in the forest, and held her close against him, she could remember how warm his body had felt at that moment when all had seemed lost.) He still looked like the young prince he had been many years ago, even though he was old enough to have fathered children who were nearly of an age to father children of their own in turn. His beloved Yakul was long since gone to the grass, but his steps were still light as he walked with San, and his back was straight as ever. And every time she saw him, San knew that humans were not kind to those who had been touched by the gods, however benevolently.

'You will not be able to live with the humans for much longer, if you remain as you are,' she said abruptly, one day, when they had bent together to drink from a stream.

Ashitaka looked down at the rushing water, his smooth reflection wavering in the unceasing flow. 'I cannot abandon them, San,' he replied, after a long moment.

To herself, she said: They will abandon you all the same.

Aloud, she said: 'Where will you go?'

Ashitaka turned to her, his gaze troubled. 'Would you have me leave?'

'Of course not,' she snapped. Then, thinking better of her harsh tone, she let the fingers of one hand trail in the water. 'But...you may find refuge here, if you need it. If it becomes too much of a burden.'

She wasn't looking at him then, but she could feel his warmth as he moved a little closer to her. 'If it does, then I will come to you,' he said. 'But the Shishigami did not restore my life, or this land, for me to be unwilling to shoulder such a small burden as this one. If the blood of the gods has made me this way, I should thank them for the gift, and do what I can with it.'

Her brothers would laugh at her, of course, in that quiet snuffling way of theirs. A sentimental heart never brought down prey. But the thrill that ran through her at that moment sent the blood of the gods rushing beneath her own skin, and that night she drew him close to her so that she could recapture that most precious feeling of his arm around her, as the two of them gave life back to death.


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