Legendary Adventurers, Futuristic Saviors


Chapter 14: Demon Hunt in the Forest; Birth of a New Demon pt.1


Back In Iron Town

In Yashahime's Camp


Yashahime had taken Takemaru into her little setup outside of Iron Town's walls. There, a huge tent was set up for them as they walked in there. In the tent, several men dressed in white robes and their faces covered in white bandages, and wearing what appeared to be night vision goggles were hard at work with what appeared to be a primitive lab. Dead bodies of both man and large beasts were; either whole or in pieces in some green slimy liquid. Strange metals were also being made, as the strange men were taking what were the extracts of the various beasts, and creating the same gems that were found on the Curse Chains Bands that Alex and Yashahime had on them. Although primitive, it appeared to be more of an advanced form of alchemy rather than science.

As they walked into the center of the tent, Takemaru had to ask, "Tell me, Milady," and stopped as the princess did, "Why did you bring me here?"

In truth, the princess had invited the conqueror into this tent. She had told him that hunting down this cursed outlander would be extremely dangerous. But he had told her he was skilled in killing and combat, as well as hunting. There was nothing that he couldn't kill or defeat. But nonetheless, she invited him to this tent. Now, finally, she turned around and faced the man, as she asked, "Back in Eboshi's home, you seemed to show a small desire when Eboshi taunted that you wanted the power that the cursed outlander possesses…" she then gave him a sultry smile as she traced her finger on her lip and purred, "Are you interested?"

Not phased by her seductive nature, Takemaru responded, "If given the chance… I would take it or steal it from others just to possess that destructive power." he then brought up his right fist, as he tightened it, making straining sounds with the material, "With it… all would fall before me. For that is the path to becoming the supreme conqueror."

"Supreme conqueror, eh?" Yashahime asked, an evil grin growing on her face. "I like the sound of that. If that's the case, I can arrange for you to have that power. Power so great… that even the Spirit King, Shisha Gami, would fall before your feet dead." she then snapped her fingers, as two of the white clothed figures came to her and stood by her side, "These men will infuse you with a curse, similar to what the outlander and I possess. Although the process for you to use this will be slow…" she then turned towards Takemaru with an insane smile on her face, only hidden with the look of complete malice and cruelty for whoever stood in her way, "… but if you reach down within your heart… if you allow your hatred to boil and swell inside, the curse will respond to it, and grant you the power matched only by the Gods themselves!"

/Takemaru smiled ambitiously at this as he answered, "I think I'll take your offer now."

A few minutes later, Takemaru was lying on a table, flat on his back, with his upper armor and under kimono removed. The two men, now known better as scientist/priests, worked diligently as they prepared him for what would soon come to be his new power. The first one walked up to him as he held a syringe of sorts, filled with what appeared to be the same black ooze that Nago was covered in, and what infected Alex.

The first scientist explained to the patient/test subject, "This is what's left of the Lion God, Ryoukotsei. At the last moment, his curse began to boil and rot his flesh away. Before he was killed we scrapped…"

"I understand the process of demonization," Takemaru spat out impatiently, "Just get on with it!"

The scientist regained his composure as he was about to start, but instead finished his explanation as fast as he could. "This will go through two processes, Curse and then the Band. The Curse will make you feel like your skin is rotting off as it begins the process. But when we place the band on… it will hurt."

And with that, the scientist injected the black ooze all the way to the last drop. After he was finished, Takemaru felt nothing at first; there was no pain whatsoever. Before he was about to kill the scientist for screwing up, his back arched as he gasped in pain. Suddenly, his body suddenly began to spasm violently as he fell flat on his back on the ground. His body shook violently and his eyes nearly bulged from their sockets. His mouth spread open, releasing a continuous round of gagging noises while his back arched upward. Suddenly, from the burns, very dark veins began to spread up to his arm and onto his neck. His hand had turned into the shade of black ooze that the creature's skin had been, and his nails grew to razor sharp points, just like lion claws would.

Takemaru still convulsed uncontrollably. Now the veins had reached his face as he shut his eyes tightly. He then opened them again as he let out another gagged scream, but this time, his eyes had turned completely black, with only his irises retaining color, but instead of them being brown, they were now the unnatural color of blood red… just like a lion's eyes.

The second scientist walked over and returned to where Takemaru was. He placed the black metal on his right wrist. He then began to mix together the blood and fur of the former God they were using, as the two began to chant in an unknown dialect. As they finished chanting, the second scientist positioned the hand that held the lion's flesh and blood, and squeezed it, allowing one drop of the mixture to hit the metal piece.

As it did, it glowed brightly as it seeped into the metal piece. After that happened, the metal began to flex and melt, becoming malleable and alive as it sprouted out tentacles of its own. They then shot into Takemaru's wrist, burying themselves into the flesh. The darkened Samurai howled out in even more pain as his convulsions became more violent. As it happened, the darkened veins started to regressed back to the wound, and the wound itself began to regress as well.

As the wound disappeared, the black metal band had wrapped around Takemaru's wrist, forming into a wrist chain of sorts, with the mixture of red blood crystallizing into a red gem of sorts. When the feeling of pain began to fade from his body, Takemaru's eyes had returned to their normal color, and then he breathed a relieved sigh and fell back onto the table, gasping for air after the ordeal he had gone through.

But then he looked to his wrist… and an evil smile spread across his face as he saw the black band, with the jewel dimly growing, "And now… the power's all mine…"


Back in the Forest


'How did I get myself into this?' Alex asked himself as he pulled himself over a very large rock. The muscles in his arms and legs felt like they were on fire, and his sweaty clothes felt sticky and rough against his skin. The throbbing demon-marks on his body didn't make things any better. With a pained wheeze and a gasp, the dark-haired youth finally managed to pull himself over the rock. Slowly rising to his feet, he stood up and rubbed tenderly at the sore muscles in his arms. 'I bet Dad would try and give one of his speeches on how this would make your body lean and strong… and make a joke in the end about getting a tight butt as a bonus if he could see me now.'

He looked up at San who was at the moment making her way up a steep slope. "Hey, San!" he called to her.

The young Wolf Girl looked over her shoulder and gave Alex an irritated look, "Yes, what is it now?"

"Just out of curiosity," Alex asked as he caught his breath, "How much further do we have to go?"

San sighed dejectedly and shook her head. "You've asked me that five times, already, Alex," she retorted, "And every time you've asked, I've given you the same answer."

"I think my memory's in need of a refresher course at this point," Alex said as he proceeded to follow his companion up the slope, groping for anything he could latch on to. "I just love hearing the sound of your voice when you're yelling at me."

Sighing once more, San continued to pull herself over the slope. "I said that it'll take us at least half a day to reach the lake of Shisha Gami," she glanced back at Alex and frowned, "Do you think you can remember that this time?"

"Huh?" the dark-haired youth asked, grinning stupidly, "What was that you were saying? I'm afraid I wasn't paying attention." seeing the annoyed look on her face, he chuckled as he shook his head, "Sorry. I was just messing with ya."

San rolled her eyes back and pulled herself over the slope. "You're such an annoying idiot, you know that?" she stood at the edge of the slope, waiting for her less maneuverable companion, "And to top it off, you're about as slow as a gorged raccoon."

"Hey, I'm moving as fast as I can here, Princess! Who do I look like, Jesse Owens!?" Alex shouted back as he pulled himself up the slope. His face was beginning to flush, making it almost as red as the blood he had to see half the time he had been here in this world. He then sighed as he defended, "Besides, I'm not that slow; I'm just saving it for when I need to."

"Why would you do that?" San asked, curious as to know this human's meaning.

"Well…" Alex stated as he continued up the slope, "… I don't think a person should run unless they're being chased. But that's just me."

San just shook her head and looked up at the sky, peering through the thick canopy of green leaves that blocked most of it from view. 'How did I get myself involved in this?' she thought to herself.

For a moment, she then closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of the forest that echoed all around her. Even from a good distance away, the Princess Mononoke's sharp ears could pick up even the faintest of sounds, and could hear them almost as clearly as she could if they were just mere steps in front of her. She could hear the chirping of birds and rustling of leaves blowing in the morning wind, the soft yet loud roar of running spring water in the rivers and lakes, and the clattering of tiny kodama playing amongst the towering trees. Added to the rich fragrance of the forest, the sounds always relieved San of any worry or discomfort she may have had, leaving her totally at peace.

And at that particular moment, peace and relief were the two things that the young Wolf Girl needed above all at this point.

The sound of gasping and panting suddenly broke the young wolf-girl's concentration, tearing her from her tranquil thoughts. When she looked down she saw a sweaty-faced and half-exhausted Alex crouched at her feet, slowly taking in air as if he had gone running.

"Okay… I think… we've had… enough climbing for one day!" For another few minutes. the young outlander continued, until he stood up, and pulled back his dampened hair. He then took a deep breath, and all the fatigue disappeared as he winked at San with a smile on his face, "Alright! Let's get going!"

San looked at Alex, completely flabbergasted, until she shot into his face, yelling, "What the hell? You were just wheezing and barley able to stand! And now you suddenly are up to climbing again?"

Alex looked at her like she had lost her mind, as he sweat dropped, and put his hands to his hips as he cocked an eyebrow. "Well, yeah. I just needed to take a breather. I'm only human, you know."

San stared at Alex for a moment with a cocked eyebrow, until she turned away pulling her head back with her hands, groaning with frustration. 'Shisha Gami, give me strength.' she then turned towards Alex snarling in frustration "Are all the humans where you come from this pathetic and bizarre?" She asked, crouching down as she looked out to the forest, not wanting to look at Alex at this point.

"In terms of surviving in the outdoors," Alex retorted as he crouched down next to San on the moss-covered ground. "I'd have to say that most humans where I come tend to suck at stuff like that. Those that are trained to survive outdoors, like my uncle and I… we pretty much excel at surviving out here." With great effort he was able to look at San face-to-face so she wouldn't turn away, "Truth be told, this is the longest I've ever been in outdoor wilderness like this. Usually, my uncle and I would spend a week out and go back to his home." He reached his hand towards San, hoping to receive a bit of help getting to his feet, "But I am a little sorry for driving you nuts with the whining back there."

San chuckled, "At least I know you can keep up with me," She reached down and pulled Alex up until he was standing once again. "But tell me, what does your uncle do that teaches you how to survive in wilderness?" she then looked at Alex with a look that would describe she'd be PO'ed if she didn't like the answer. "Is he a hunter?"

Alex returned the chuckle as he shook his head, "Nah, he was a soldier; a regular US Marine. They basically learn how to fight wars, and survive in the wilderness. After he was honorably discharged, he opened a lodging site where he'd take people out on a woods safari. Teaching them how to make a tent out of leaves and branches, what to eat and what not to eat, even use the forest and stars to find their way back home." He gave San a lopsided grin, "He pretty much took me on most of those safaris and show me the ropes on everything he knew. He even showed me how to prepare frogs legs and taught me now nutritious grasshoppers are in case you run out of food."

"I see," she retorted flatly.

"Well, that pretty much sums up the questions for the day," the youth continued, leaning against a tree and crossed his arms. "Hope that's part of the answering questions deal we had last night."

"In all truth, I think I could care if that adds on to our deal," She glanced around the area for a moment, as though she were analyzing it. "We should be getting a move on," she said, "I don't like staying in one place for too long." She looked back at Alex who was still leaning against the tree. "Well? Are you coming or not?"

"What's the rush, San?" Alex replied, crossing his arms, "We've been traipsing through the forest for the past three and a half hours. We're pretty much far away from Iron Town; I doubt Eboshi's gonna try something stupid and come after us in your territory. That, plus my feet have become two big festering blisters. I'm dry as a bone… on the count I didn't drink any water for a while, and to top it all off, I'm hungry!" He gave the Wolf Girl a blood-chilling glare. To put it very simply, Princess, despite the fact that I'm actually enjoying the hike, I am not happy with not knowing where we're going or what to expect."

"And you think I'm enjoying this anymore than you are?" San shot back angrily as she stomped towards him, getting into his face, startling him as she snarled, "In case you've forgotten, Alex, I'm still recovering from being nearly beaten to death by a group of rampaging humans. My entire body feels like it's on fire, and to tell you the truth, every time you open your mouth I feel the urge to kill you by cutting your throat open! So don't talk to me as though you're the only living creature in this forest that's suffering, alright?"

Alex muttered something under his breath, "You don't have to bite my head off about it."

"Good, I'm glad we understand each other." The Princess Mononoke then grabbed Alex roughly by the arm and began to lead him through the forest, dragging him as though her were a sack of grain.

Taken back by this show of force, Alex retorted, "Hey, what are you…"

"I'm taking you to a place where you can rest," San replied quickly. "Now just shut up before I decide to follow my urges and kill you!"

"Alright, alright," Alex sighed in defeat as he let her lead him on, "You don't have to…"

"I said shut up!" San shot back.

As they made their way, Alex then spoke up, but this time in a serious tone, "If we do stop, I need to take a look at that bandage." he pointed to her side to where Eboshi's blade sliced her at, "I wanna make sure it's healing and not gangrene, okay?"

San was silent for a while as they continued onward, not even speaking to him. Until finally, she sighed, "Just don't try anything funny, alright?" But as they continued, San clulessly looked to Alex as she asked him, "Um... what is gangrene?"


Elsewhere

Far Away from The Kids


"Well?" Gonza gruffly asked the two riflemen kneeling before him, "Did you find anything?"

"Yes Sir," the one on the left answered first, bowing his head. "Remains of an old campfire, with pieces of wood still burning."

"Probably only a few hours old," added the other rifle men, bowing his head as well. "But we were unable to find any traces of them."

"Blast it!" the guard-captain growled tossing aside the bowl of cold rice he had been shoveling into his large mouth. "Can't you fools do anything right? I sent you out to find the demon and the wolf-whore, not remains of a day-old campsite!" He stood and glared at the riflemen, "I guess we're just going to have do this the hard way, then."

"We are at your command Sir," the rifleman on the left said weakly.

"Get the supplies packed and my rifle ready, we're heading out in ten minutes!"

"Yes sir!" the two men shouted in perfect unison, before scuttling off to carry out their orders.

"Just be sure to stay out of my way, Gonza," Takemaru replied as he walked aside the captain. "The only reason you're with me and the creatures that Yashahime lent me, was that Eboshi had convinced me I'd need the rifles." he then looked up in the trees to see movement. He saw inhuman creatures with what appeared to be moth wings and antennae. Whatever they were, they looked like insects, but the way they moves… it was evident they moved like humans would. "Though I doubt that they ore the rifles will do any good." he then looked at the black band on his wrist as his ambitious smile came up, "With this new power, I shall crush the boy single-handedly."

Gonza snalred as Takemaru walked past him, and then finally shouted, "Takemaru! Don't forget that the wolf girl's head is mine to take back to Milady!"

"And don't forget…" Takemaru retorted back as he kept his back to Gonza, "… that the boy is my prey. I'm the only one that can kill him."

Gonza's face twisted as his scowl deepened at seeing Takemaru all high and mighty. His small. dark eyes darted from one angel to another, taking in every detail of the dense forest surrounding the camp he and his two men had set up. 'Soon outlander demon,' he thought to himself. 'Soon… I'll have your head stuck on a spike for all of Iron-Town to see! My lady Eboshi will not be put to shame by the likes of you!' he clenched his jaw tightly, causing his teeth to grind against each other. 'And neither shall I!'

With a final growl, the bearded man spun around and addressed his men once more. "I thought I told you to get those supplies packed, you piss-drinking sacks of slag! The longer we stand here loafing around, the further our enemies get ahead of us! We're not going back to Iron-town unless I have that demon's and the wolf-whore's head hanging from my belt, do you understand me?"

The two rifle men flinched at their superiors sudden outburst. Yes Sir! Forgive us Sir!

When the supplies were packed and ready, Gonza slung one of Lady Eboshi's newly crafted rifles over his broad shoulder and took position at the head of the small hunting party. "Let's go," he ordered, following Takemaru as he, the two men, and the two creatures followed them all in the forest.

Takemaru smirked as his eyes were that of a lion's, 'Keep deluding yourself, Gonza. I'll personally kill the two, showing you that my power is more than your rifles could ever do.'


Back with the Kids

Deep within the Forest


"Well, Alex?" San asked with a triumphant grin, "Does this satisfy all your needs?"

Alex found himself at a complete loss for words. The resting place that San had led him to was in fact a beautiful lake that lay surrounded by towering boulders and cliffs on one side and dense forests of trees on the other. Moss-covered, rock formations jutted from the water's surface like sentinel statues while roaring waterfalls created clouds of misty white as they cascaded down the deep crevices that scarred the cliff's surface. Truly, this place looked like heaven on earth.

"Am I satisfied?" Alex repeated, "I think being speechless is more like it."

He moved towards the edge of the lake and collapsed to his knees. He then reached his hands into the cool water and splashed a handful onto his face, washing away the grit and sweat. The teenaged boy gave a sigh of contentment and splashed himself again, and then a third time, relishing the refreshing feel of the water on his skin.

When he was finished washing his face, he looked over his shoulder and smiled at San who had been watching him curiously. "Thanks San," he said. "I owe you big time for this one."

"Didn't we go over this last night, Alex?" The young wolf-girl asked taking a seat next to her human companion. "The last thing I want is another favor from you." She slipped off her animal-skin moccasins and dipped her small swollen feet into the water, letting the coolness soothe them. "Besides," she continued nudging Alex's shoulder. "I only brought you here to shut you up."

"Well, that may be… " Alex replied, looking up at the blue, cloudless sky that hung high above them. But I'm still grateful. he then got up as he knelt to San's side, "Okay, let's take a look at the bandage."

A little startled by that, San remembered the bandage on her side. "Oh! Yes, that's right," she said as she lifted the side of her shirt up, exposing the hole to where the bandage was. Alex carefully and gently took the cloth and bandage off, and inspected the wound. So far the wound was small and left only a small scratch, no permanent scarring or nothing. Alex smirked as he looked to her, "Well, looks like it's healing nicely."

"That's good to know," San replied as she pulled down her shirt. She then turned away as Alex set his bag down and sat on the other end.

He closed his eyes and chuckled. "I tell you, San, I do enjoy the nature hiking. But I gotta say, one more hour of hiking like that, and I probably would have…" he turned to look at San, "Eh…? GAAAAH!" He suddenly jumped away from the wolf girl; eyes practically the size of saucers and his face blushing like crazy. "WHAT THE… WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING!?"

While the young outlander had been busy looking up at the water, San had removed her head band and fur cloak, along with all the upper portions of her clothing, leaving her very shapely breasts completely exposed for all to see. As her hands moved to towards the water, she looked up at Alex and stared at him, confused by his sudden outburst. "I'm just washing myself," she answered casually, "Is there something wrong with that?"

"No there's nothing wrong with washing yourself!" Alex replied quickly, looking away from San and shielding his eyes with his hands, as well as hide his beet red face, "But you should've told me you were going to do that, so I could've left you alone!"

The young Wolf Girl raised an eyebrow and tilted her head to one side, "Why?" she asked. "Is bathing such an foreign concept where you come from? Humans bathe, don't they?"

"Yes, we do bathe," Alex answered, his face beginning to turn even more red. "We just don't do it in front of each other! Criminy! San, I know you were raised by wolves, but you could at least have some sense of modesty around a guy, you know!"

To this San couldn't help but laugh as she used her hands to cover her chest, "You really are a strange one, you know that, Alex?" she snickered a bit as she looked to him, "You can face me head on when I'm coming at you with a dagger, or stand bravely when I look at you with my brothers when we're about to kill you, and yet the moment I remove just enough articles of clothing, you suddenly go crazy."

"Well…" Alex replied, feeling embarrassed as he stole a glance at her, now seeing her cover her chest, "I just… you know… I, um…"

San was a bit confused at the way he was acting now. But then, the thought struck her as she gave him a half smirk and finished for him, "This is the first time you've seen a girl naked. isn't it?"

"Well, I uh…" Alex gulped as he finally answered, "Well, I never saw one quite so… naked."

"If seeing me naked upsets you so much, then go somewhere else and wait for me to finish bathing!" the young Wolf Princess shot back irritably, "You wanted to rest, I want to bathe. Or do you have a problem with that?"

"No, San, not in the least," Still keeping his face turned away, Alex stood up, slinging his supply sack over his shoulder, and began to walk away, "If you need me, I'll be over there."

"I think I can manage just fine without your help, Alex," San replied.

When the young outlander was no longer within her sight, San removed the rest of her gritty clothing and stood up looking at the water. If there was ever any doubt of how beautiful San was described in the legends, this was proof of that. Her body was physically fit; a slim and slender figure befitting that of a girl like her. Her skin was flawless, almost porcelain, with only small minor scars that didn't show very well. She was more than a wolf princess… if any girl-crazy guy was around, they would say she was a goddess. After she looked to see if the water was safe, she stepped down and lowered herself into the water until she was up to her neck.

The feeling of the cool liquid washing away the dirt and sweat she had picked up over the past day was beyond refreshing as it enveloped and caressed every inch of her bare skin. With a content breath of relief, the young Wolf Girl relaxed her muscles and leaned back so her body could just float idly on the water's surface, like a leaf that had fallen from a tree. She then swam over to one of the falls and dived underwater. After what felt like thirty seconds, she arose again, but this time, under the water fall. she stood up as she allowed the falling water to shower her body as she ran her fingers through her hair, getting all the dirt out of it.

After she was done, she sat in the water, letting herself sink to her shoulders. She sat on the rock as she sighed, and looked up at the canopy of the forest. 'I wonder what got him so agitated,' she thought to herself as she continued to sit in the water, gazing up at the sky. 'Maybe seeing me partially naked was too much for his little mind to handle.'

When her eyes then lowered to the slender form of her well-developed body, a sudden feeling of regret began to rush through her gut. 'Or Maybe he just thinks I'm ugly... or perhaps even repulsive to look at.' She frowned at the thought. 'I am after all considered a monster by most humans, why should this one be any different?' She drew her arms around herself and brought her legs up as she looked away from her body for a moment, and at her reflection, 'I guess I can't help it… I am a monster to both the creatures of the Forest and to the Humans.'

She knew that despite the fact that she was Moro's daughter, San was never fully trusted by the other beasts of the forest. The Ape Tribe had made that all too clear when she was only a cub and that one of them said she looked like a human; furless and ugly. 'And yet… why do I feel like my heart was stabbed through? Or why was it beating so fast when he looked at me?' she stopped looking at herself, and back at the sky, "Why do I feel like this?"

She shook her head, getting those ridiculous thoughts out of her head. "Why do I even care?" she told herself almost half-upset. With a pained sigh, San scooted herself off the rock and back into the water, released the air from her lungs and let herself sink into the water, letting her thoughts go on in her head, 'Why can't I just understand him?'


Back with Alex


"Why did she have to go and do that?" Alex thought to himself out loud as he sat cross legged on a grassy outcropping that stuck out over the water, looking at the scenery that lay in front of him, "I'm surprised my nose didn't start bleeding right there on the spot! Now that would have been embarrassing." He sighed as he leaned back and sighed, "I guess I can't really blame her, though. She was raised by wolves, after all."

He sighed again as he looked up at the tree he was sitting under, 'Oh well, what's done is done, I guess. No use crying over the fact that I completely screwed a perfect opportunity to see one of the hottest chicks I've ever met bare naked, making an ass of myself in the process.' He lowered the painting and cocked an eyebrow at what he just thought, "Where did THAT come from?"he thought to himself aloud, grabbing his head as he started shaking it. 'Great! Now I'm becoming a complete pervert!'

Setting aside his thoughts at the moment, Alex laid down on the soft grass and stretching out his arms and legs. For what seemed like an eternity, he just continued to lay there, quietly and motionless as a rock. 'Still… ' he thought to himself, smiling despite himself, 'I've gotta admit, she was pretty good looking,' Upon realization of what he had just said, Alex slapped himself. 'Wha…? What did I just think?! No! I'm not thinking about her like that. Don't think about her like that! Not about San; not about her bod!' he relaxed a little as he sighed, wandering in his thoughts, 'Though I gotta admit… she's got a surprisingly fabulous figure. Slim waist, long legs, and pretty nice…' realizing what he was thinking, he shook his head as he shouted out, "DAMMIT!" He slapped himself again and shook his head madly his face going bright red, 'What's the matter with you, you sick, perverted… sicko!'

With an aggravated sigh, Alex pulled his jacket off and tied it around his waist once more. He then sat down and scowled at himself, crossing his arms as his mind scowled at what he had just thought. 'Why does everything have to be so difficult?' He laid down on his back, until he felt and heard the sound of paper being crunched. He sat right up as he heard the sound coming from him. "Huh? What the…?" He dug into his jacket pockets, and felt something. He pulled whatever it was out, and was amazed at what he saw. It was a comic book that he had long stuffed in his jacket pocket. It was entitled, The Incredible Hulk. "Whoa!" Alex smirked to himself, "I completely forgot I brought this with me when I left the house. Still in one piece too."

He was suddenly torn from his thoughts and his discovery by something slimy landing on his chest. Quickly dropping the comic his eyes and catching the object, the teenaged boy found himself looking at a freshly caught fish that was still twitching.

"You're wide open for an attack" said San, now fully clothed, but had her headband off as she dried her hair and moved towards a very started Alex and crouched beside him. "Had that fish been a dagger, you'd be dead right now."

"Thanks for the advice, San" Alex replied sarcastically with a half-smirk, picking up the fish and quickly rising to a sitting position. "And thanks for the gift." He held the fish up in front of him, cringing at the smell, "Just what I've always wanted. Dead fish."

"I remember you saying how hungry you were, so I went and caught this for you." When the young wolf girl saw that her human companion was just staring at the fish, she crossed her arms and glared at him, "Well?"

"Well what?" Alex asked, confused.

"Aren't you going to eat it?" San asked, pointing at the fish, "You did say you were hungry after all."

Alex just stared back at her, "You're kidding, right?" he pointed at the fish to make his statement, "I'm not gonna eat this. At least let me cook them; they're not even fully dead yet!"

"So?" San asked. "What's the difference? A fish is still a fish," She pushed the still twitching creature towards Alex's face, making him cringe in the process. "Try it, you might find the taste to be very satisfying."

Alex brought his hand up and pushed back on the fish, keeping it from coming any closer, "This coming from the girl that'll suck mouthfuls of blood fresh from the wound?" he then grimaced a little as he held his stomach, "'Sides, I think I lost my appetite."

With an irritated growl, San snatched away the fish. "Fine! If you're going to be picky about it, I'll just eat this myself!" Then without saying another word, she opened her mouth and bit a huge chunk out of this fish, chewed and swallowed, "Just don't come crying to me when your starving half to death." She grinned inwardly at the sight of Alex's nauseated expression.

But then something else caught her eye. Setting the remains of the fish aside, the young wolf girl reached over and picked up the comic that Alex had set aside. "What's this?" she asked as her large, chestnut eyes gazed at the beautifully amazingly detailed images within the pages, the irritation and hostility gone from her voice. She then looked up at Alex, and asked, "Did you make this?"

Alex shook his head, " Nah, a man named Stan Lee came up with that. It's called a comic book, San."

"A comic book," San repeated. "It looks so real...and yet so imagined." She returned her gaze to Alex, "Are other humans capable of doing this?"

"Many, many more," Alex answered, "Just not that many where I come from. But most of them are pretty famous; their stories are read by nearly everyone where I come from."

San looked at the pages, and stopped as she gazed at the strange human detailed on the pages. The human that she was looking at was what appeared to be the largest one she had ever seen in her life. He was as big as a giant, with muscles that would have made him impossible to move around, and his skin, hair, and eyes were the unnatural color of green. She looked puzzled at this as she pointed to him, and looked to Alex for the answer. "Who is this?" San asked politely as she could, "What sort of human is this?"

Alex looked to where San pointed at, and smirked as he answered, "Oh, that's the Incredible Hulk."

"The Hulk?" San asked, now more intrigued in this more than ever.

"He's basically the most powerful superhero in the fictional world of Marvel Comics." Alex then decided to explain the story, seeing San was being drawn into this. "It all started with a scientist named Bruce Banner," he then turned the page, showing a meek scientist of a man, "That's the Hulk's true identity, Doctor Bruce Banner, the very core of the Hulk himself."

"That weak human is the Hulk creature?" San asked, completely not believing this, "He looks easy enough to snap in half."

"Yeah, that's pretty much the whole deal with this," Alex answered as he explained further, "He was just an ordinary but brilliant human who was conducting an experiment with gamma radiation to strengthen human bodies from diseases. However, something went wrong with his experiment, and you might say the radiation did something wrong… or right to him. Now whenever he got stressed or angered, he'd transform into a nine foot, muscle-bound creature that his enemies, as well as the creature himself, called the Hulk. As the Hulk, he's got near-limitless strength, and when he gets even angrier, he gets stronger. He's also invincible to any physical harm whatsoever, heals any wound instantly, and is endurable to the max. Those also increase whenever he gets angry."

"So his strength comes from his rage?" San asked, cocking an eyebrow as she looked to Alex, "He must have the mind of a four-year-old human if he gets angry all the time."

"You might be right about that," Alex snickered. "But there's a downside: although the Hulk's a hero… he's pretty much feared not just by his enemies, but by the rest of the world."

This caught San's interest as she asked, "But why would humans fear their hero?"

"Because people, or humans, are always afraid of something that's just different than them." Alex pointed out. "Ya see, the Hulk's sort of a creature that just wants to be left alone. But like Frankenstein… everyone just wants to wave their torches at him and either drive him away or kill him. But no matter what, he just saves the day as always."

San looked at the Hulk and thought out loud, "I wonder what it's like to become something else other than a human."

"Why you ask that?" Alex asked, now interested.

"Take a look at me, Alex," the Wolf Princess stated as she looked to her human companion. "I'm a wolf of my tribe, and yet I was cursed to be in the form of a human." she looked away, feeling ashamed of showing weakness again as she hissed, "I despise myself because I'm not the same as my mother or brothers."

The teenaged outlander could tell that this was a touchy subject for San. He figured that seeing that she was raised by wolves, she would eventually believe she was a wolf. And the fact that she was human, due to her being raised the way she was and not being around any humans, she would probably assume she was hideous. So he sighed as he smirked, "Well… to be honest, San… I like you just the way you are now."

This earned a surprise reaction from San as she turned to look at Alex, "Wha…? What do you mean by that?"

"Just what I said." Alex turned towards San as he gave her a gentle smirk, "There's nothing wrong with just being the way that you are now." his smirk widened a bit as he stated, "Besides… what would you turn into? A female version of the Hulk? Sorry, but you just wouldn't fit with that beefy profile."

San just huffed at that, "Go to hell, human," and as she did, she caught sight of another creature in the comics. This one was five times bigger than the hulk, and had scaly skin, with bone protrusions on its body. She pondered at this as her eyebrows narrowed at this, "Who or what is this?"

Alex raised an eyebrow, and looked at where she pointed at. "Oh, that's Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination," Alex answered as he explained. "He's basically a soldier, who like Banner, was also mutated by gamma radiation. He's bigger and stronger than the Hulk is, but there's a difference. He doesn't get stronger when he gets angry, and he can't change back like Banner can." he then leaned on his knees as he pointed out, "And there's another difference between the two: Bruce was cursed with this power, but he doesn't want it. Though he needs it in order to save those he cares about. Blonsky wants the power, and enjoys using it to cause destruction."

"Your home sounds just as savage as mine is," San shivered. "How can you live in a place with creatures like these?"

Alex chuckled as he cleared up the misunderstanding, "The Hulk and Abomination aren't real, San. They're just make-believe characters in a work of fiction."

"Then why would humans read this?"

"Because people need a hero in their lives." Alex then pointed out a little tidbit of life's wisdom. "My Grandma always told me that she believed that there's a hero in everyone. They give others power, hope, even allow those to die with pride. And sometimes to do what's right, they need to be steady, and give up the things they want the most. Even their dreams." he sighed and wondered, "I think that's why people are drawn to those kind of stories… they can gain courage by listening to that kind of stuff."

After a moment of silence, San placed the comic book in Alex's lap and moved to spot directly across form him. "Okay, I'm ready," she said quietly.

"Ready?" Alex raised an eyebrow. "Ready for what?"

"To hear your story," San answered, locking eyes with Alex. "Last night you promised me that you would tell me everything I wanted to know about yourself. And I think you've put it off for long enough, already."

Alex raised an eyebrow, "What, you mean… now?"

"You gave me your word, didn't you?" San replied, intensifying her gaze on the teenaged outlander sitting before her. "I think it's only fair that you keep it."

"I did, didn't I?" Alex crossed his arms and scowled, knowing that he was gonna berate himself later after this. 'I guess it's only fair that I tell her. I mean what's the harm? She is the Princess Mononoke after all.'


Next Chapter: Demons in the Forest; Birth of a New Demon pt.2