Chapter 4:

The Green Chamber

They had traveled down into the depths of the bathhouse. All the walls were made of cold gray stone and the only light that they had to see by was the torch that the frog servant had taken from a wall a few minutes back.

They had just stopped in front of a large metal gate that the frog was now unlocking. Once inside Chihiro could see cells lining the narrow hallway. Yubaba really does have her own dungeons... who would have thought?

They finally stopped in front of a cell near the very end. Gripping the bars Chihiro peered in, trying to make out Haku's form. What she saw instead was a huge white and green dragon filling nearly the entire cell, despite the fact that this particular cell was actually rather large. Chihiro could see that parts of the dragon were chained to the wall. She noticed his large nostrils flare a second before he started thrashing around. His long tail whipped into the wall while his long neck stretched and strained toward the cell door where she stood. Haku's dragon form had definitely gotten much larger. If he hadn't been chained down he would have been towering over the two of them. A split second later the dragon opened it's enormous mouth full of countless dagger-like teeth and let out a roar that shook the entire dungeon. Chihiro had clamped her hands to her ears to keep herself from being deafened. They were still ringing when she removed her hands and stared at powerful full-grown dragon that was whipping its neck back and forth in an attempt to tear the chains holding him captive out of the wall. Chihiro would not admit it to anyone, but she felt a bit relieved when the chains held.

Swallowing, Chihiro pried her fingers from their death-grip on the bars and mustered up her courage.

"Let me in to see him," she whispered to the frog without looking away from the thrashing dragon before her.

"What? You can't be serious! Do you see that dragon? If I let you in, there will be nothing left of you." The frog sputtered, his disbelief clear in every word.

"Yubaba wouldn't care if he killed me, you heard her yourself. Now open the cell and let me in." Chihiro pulled her eyes away from the dragon for a second and glanced down at the frog, trying to put all her determination behind that one order.

The frog looked at her dubiously, then with a shrug pulled out the key, opened the cell door and stepped back.

"Thank you." She said as she stepped inside.

"Don't thank me - I just set you up as dragon bait..." The frog replied sounding disgruntled.

Chihiro was no longer listening; the dragon before her commanded all of her attention. She stared up at the creature, following it's long white neck all the way to it's enormous razor-filled mouth.

"Haku, can you hear me?" She asked, slowly approaching and raising one hand up toward him to show that she meant him no harm.

The dragon made a lunge for her, its jaw snapping shut just before her face. The chains holding it back were pulled taut as it strained against them.

Raising a shaking hand Chihiro managed to touch the bridge of its snout before she yanked her hand back to avoid getting bitten.

"What am I supposed to do? How do I bring you back to yourself when you won't even let me touch you?" Chihiro demanded, frustration warring with her terror.

The dragon let out a roar stunning her with it's sheer volume. Deafened and disoriented she was unable to react quickly enough when it's tail whipped out and knocked her feet out from under her. Chihiro managed to roll out of the way of it's massive jaws as they snapped down at where she had lain just a moment ago. Without thought she made a wild grab for one of his long whip-like whisker things and held on tight.

The next roar was most definitely one of pain as the dragon attempted to pull away and as a result had an entire human woman dangling off a very sensitive appendage. To relieve the pain the dragon immediately brought its head back down to the floor and tried to shake Chihiro off, jaws snapping at her, but desisting when she gave the whip like appendage a firm yank.

"Stop it Haku! I don't want to hurt you, but you have to stop being a jerk! There is no way that I'll l let you take a chunk out of me." Chihiro shouted at him as he tried to reach her with his jaws again. Seeing him begin to open his mouth for another roar Chihiro let go of the whip-whisker and jumped at him, wrapping her arms around his massive jaws and effectively keeping them shut. This of course put her face right next to his, with her forehead pressed to his and her eyes staring straight into his large green ones. To say that the dragon was shocked was putting it mildly. However, the more surprising thing was how it seemed to calm down a bit as she pressed her forehead to his.

"I know, nostalgic right? I never thought I would get another chance to do this... Although this is probably not the most opportune moment, you know?" Chihiro said sadly feeling tears trailing down her face. Opening her eyes she found herself staring into those green eyes, so similar to the ones belonging to his human form. She found herself almost mesmerized by those eyes, no longer really feeling anything except warmth and a slight twinge of hope. Something was wrong, but she was not exactly sure what or why.

The next thing Chihiro saw was a green floor that she lay on. She slowly got up and saw that she was in what looked like some kind of emerald room. The walls and ceiling were the same shade of green as the floor, and seemed to shine with an inner glow. Sensing movement at her back Chihiro turned around and was met with a familiar face. There stood Haku, the same as she remembered all those years ago, except that now he was shorter than her. His short hair, green eyes, and the blue and white garments that he always wore, all of it was the same - but not. Something was wrong, but Chihiro couldn't put her finger on what it was.

"Haku, I'm so glad to see that you're all right! Come on, let's get out of here." As Chihiro approached him and went to take his hand, she was hit with a blast of water that knocked her off her feet and slid her into the wall of green stone behind her.

"Haku?" Chihiro asked uncertainly as the teenage boy approached her without hesitation, raising his arm for another water attack.

"Crap!" Chihiro dived out of the way at the last second and got quickly to her feet. She could make out a door on the other side of the room. Unfortunately, Haku was in the way of said door. She would have to somehow get around him to make her escape through it. Chihiro had never imagined that she might have to fight Haku herself. She was not strong enough to face off against his magic, even Yubaba found him to be a tough opponent.

Chihiro made a mad dash for the door only to have a spray of water cut her off. Once it landed on the floor it began to form a river from Haku to the wall. Chihiro turned around and tried to make a dash to the left, but he was faster. Once again another body of water separated her from the other part of the room. There were now two lakes on either side of her, a green wall behind her with Haku standing right before her. If she couldn't go left or right then the only way to go was straight.

Letting out a yell Chihiro sprinted toward Haku. This time as he raised both hands they began to pulse with energy. Whatever the next spell was going to be, it was probably going to cause far more damage than the two previous ones. Chihiro braced herself for pain as she neared the expressionless water spirit. At the last minute something very strange happened. The room itself began pulsing and she felt something within her begin to respond in rhythm to the pulse. As she ran, the floor beneath her feet suddenly jutted out from the ground, propelling her into the air. At the same time the energy blasted from Haku's hands and hit the spot where she had just been moments ago. She saw his eyes shoot up toward her flying figure and then she was over and past him, catapulted toward the opposite end of the room where the door stood. As she found herself falling toward the ground that same pulse in her chest made itself felt and the floor came up to meet her in the form of a strange green slide that guided her straight toward the door - which now stood open. The slide ended two feet above the ground and as Chihiro slid off it she managed to hit the ground running. Hearing a blast of water being shot her way Chihiro ran through the door and slammed it behind her.

All sounds of pursuit were suddenly cut off. She now found herself in a dark room; not even the tip of her own nose was visible. Stretching her arms in front of her Chihiro desperately wished for a light of some kind to see by. Almost as soon as the thought entered her mind she felt a answering pulse within her, and a pale green glow from an unidentified source faintly illuminated the room. There was something here with her.

Chihiro could barely make out a still form in the far corner of the room. Slowly making her way toward the figure she called out hesitantly, not wanting to startle whoever or whatever it was.

"Excuse me, I don't mean to bother you but-" She cut herself off as the person came into view.

A figure dressed in black knelt on the stone floor; waist long black hair forming a curtain on either side of the bent head. The person's arms were tied behind their back and chained to the wall behind them. The figure still had not moved nor responded in any way that would indicate that it had heard her. As Chihiro got nearer she began to notice a strange kind of pearlesence around the figure. Depending on where she stood, the pearl-like sheen would change slightly and the shape that it formed around the figure was very similar to... a bubble!

This person was somehow trapped in one of Haku's bubbles. From what she could remember, those inside it could not hear or see what was going on outside of it. Chihiro tried popping the bubble with her finger. There was some give, but it felt like a balloon rather than a regular soap bubble.

Strange things had been happening since she entered this green stone place, perhaps she could somehow get whatever-it-was to help her with this bubble enclosure too. Chihiro tried to concentrate on what she usually felt when things decided to go her way here. She knelt and lay her hand on the bubble and thought of a regular soap bubble and how much easier it would be to deal with it than this strange pseudo-bubble. She felt the whole room had suddenly begun pulsing. The floor shifted beneath her knees and the next thing she knew she was falling forward, straight into the figure kneeling before her. The bubble she had placed her hand on was on longer there. Instead her hand rested on the figure's black-clad chest - definitely a man. The person shifted under her hand and slowly the head rose up.

"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to-" Once again Chihiro broke off, but this time it was because she found herself at a lack of words. The person before her couldn't see her because his eyes were blindfolded. All she could see were pale cracked lips, and a skin devoid of colour.
Chihiro could feel herself getting angry on behalf this person who had been so badly mistreated.

"Give me a second and I'll get that off of you." Reaching around his head Chihiro managed to finally untie the blindfold and gently remove it from his face. His eyes were still closed, almost as if he was hesitant to open them even in the meager light that lit this room. Slowly, squinting a bit, his eyes started to open.

Chihiro's breath caught. Emerald green eyes, familiar eyebrows, and a face that although more mature, still was heartbreakingly familiar.

"Haku?" Chihiro's voice broke on that one word and she could feel her eyes fill with tears. Those striking green eyes widened in surprise and disbelief.

"Chihiro?" Haku's voice sounded gravelly from disuse, as well as much deeper than what she remembered.

Unable to choke out any words she nodded and ran a hand gently over the side of his face. He sighed and leaned his forehead against hers. How she had missed this. Everything felt good and right with the world again. For some reason just being together made her feel warm and comforted. Everything else seemed like a minor inconvenience. Who would have thought that being next to someone could feel so much like being well and truly home?

"Chihiro, if it's not too much trouble would you please be able to free my arms? I want to hold you properly." Haku whispered, his forehead still pressed against hers and his breath tickling her face.

"I'm so sorry, this will just take a second." Chihiro scooted over to where his arms were bound. This time she did not ask for help from the room, she demanded it. Surprisingly the ropes came apart easily in her hands, and the chains fell off his wrists the instant she touched them.

Haku rolled his shoulders twice and then he turned around and enveloped her in a big hug, his long hair tickling the sides of her face.

"Thank you, Chihiro." Haku turned his face into her neck and took a deep breath.

"I still can't believe that you're really here." He added, his voice sounding both relieved and content.

"You're welcome, although I am not really sure how I managed to free you. It's almost as if the room wanted you free."

"Mmm. The room is connected to me as well as you. You are the only one besides me who has any control over it." He breathed out, almost sounding like he was about to fall asleep.

"Haku, wake up! We need to get out of here and I need your help." Chihiro tried to shake him awake but only got a sleepy murmur in response.

"Haku, there's a crazy mini-Haku out there and -"

The door broke off its hinges as the other Haku stormed into the room. Chihiro looked up at him from where she knelt with half-concious older Haku, who only snuggled more comfortably into her shoulder.

"Speak of the devil." She muttered and started shaking the prone body weighing her down. "Haku!" Chihiro yelled directly into his ear. Haku shifted his ear away from her and winced painfully.

Teenage-Haku took that moment to shoot a powerful blue beam their way, but just as it was about to hit them Chihiro felt the older Haku stand up in a fluid motion, grab her around the waist and stand her behind him as he threw up his other hand and produced a wall of ice in the path of blast.

Trying to peek around him, Chihiro could see the ice holding. The instant that teenage-Haku tried to move to get a better angle, older-Haku dispelled his ice wall and blasted teenage-Haku into the opposite wall. Then he stalked forward, raised both hands and brought them down with force. A column of water poured from the ceiling directly onto teenage-Haku, the force of which practically flattened him to the ground and made it impossible for him to get up. Then, older-Haku did something with his other hand that cause the water to suddenly freeze. Teenage-Haku was left staring at the two of them, unable to move.

Chihiro's Haku walked over to the teenage version of himself, with Chihiro following closely behind. He lowered one knee to the ground and looked teenage-Haku in the eye.

"There is nothing holding you here. I am taking back control of myself and my life. Begone!" With that Haku hit the ice column which shattered into little fragments. To Chihiro's great relief the other Haku body was nowhere to be seen, it had simply disappeared. Despite the fact that the other Haku had been trying to kill her, she didn't think she could handle seeing her childhood friend's body lying somewhere as a corpse.

Haku turned toward her with a gentle smile on his face and held out his hand.

"I think it's about time we leave this place. I feel that I've been here much longer than is entire healthy." Haku said as he took hold of her hand.

"What is this place?" She questioned, only now giving thought to what this green place might have been.

"It's my inner core, my subconscious, soul... take your pick. You've just seen a part of me that others never will." He smiled a bit teasingly and then everything faded.

Chihiro woke up on the floor of the dungeon with Haku's prone form lying on top of her, and his head comfortably resting on her chest. She could feel her face turning red in embarrassment. She had never really been very close to any guys before, and this older Haku was most definitely a man, despite the fact that he occasionally became a dragon in his spare time.

Chihiro tried to shove his shoulders and head off of her, but it he had become a dead weight and was impossible to budge.

"Haku, wake up. We need to get up." She whispered, not wanting anyone else to see them like this.

Haku moved slightly, then burrowed his face back into his 'pillow'.

"No thank you." He muttered, and stayed where he was.

"You stupid dragon, get off me right now. This is not a suggestion, I'm serious." Chihiro ground out, mustering her strength to shove him off once more.

Suddenly Haku shifted a bit and placed his head on his arms, looking up at her intently. Chihiro felt she was going cross-eyed trying to look down at him, yet she still tried to give him her most severe glare. It didn't seem to have much effect.

"I don't know if I want to get up yet... What will you do when I free you? Will you simply return to your world once again?" He questioned, trying to look as if the answer didn't really hold all that much importance.

Chihiro sighed, seeing where this was going.

"I'm not going to leave you again Haku. I promise." She replied and ran her fingers through his long hair comfortingly, marveling at how soft it was.

"Hmm, I think you won't blame me if I say that I find that hard to believe. It's where your family is, where your current friends are. What would your reason be for staying, besides pity?" His eyes clouded over as he thought about what he had just said.

"Haku, look at me. My parents are living in the human world, yes, but I have not been home in a long time now. I have lived abroad in a different country for the past four years. I meet up with my parents once a week on skype and update them on my life; once a year I also visit them for Christmas. However, my life is my own now and what I choose to do with it is up to me. They will not miss me more than before if I continue to stay in contact with them. That is the way that the world works these days. Children rarely stay with their parents once they grow up. As for friends, I have been making new friends all my life. I am sure to make new friends here as well.

"As you said, time travels differently here, I am sure that a week here is barely noticeable in my world. If you would be able to help me visit my world at regular intervals, so that I could keep in contact with my family, then it would be no different than living and working abroad.

Chihiro smiled down at his hopeful face, and smoothed his hair back back to better be able to see those expressive green eyes.

"As for pity? I do not pity you. You are one of the strongest spirits I know. You have been my protector and friend for as long as I can remember. Leaving you behind all those years ago was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. There were times when I wondered what it would have been like if I had stayed here with you. Now I don't have to wonder, I can have everything I ever wanted. This is a possibility I never let myself even imagine. It would be more of a dream come true than anything else. Don't you know how much I care about you? Who else have I risked my life for, other than my parents, silly?"

Haku's eyes bore into Chihiro's for several seconds, searching her emotions. He saw something there that awed him and made him feel the first real joy in his life. Then something strange happened, he felt something wet moving down his face. He touched it with his hand and stared down at the water on his fingers. He glanced up at Chihiro in shock.

"Chihiro, something is wrong! Why am I crying?" His slightly panicked voice got her attention.

Chihiro sat up and Haku moved away a bit wearily, still dabbing at his face in confusion.

"Come here, my silly dragon." She held out her arms to him and after a slight pause Haku shuffled over and hugged her.

"I'm going to guess and say that it's because you are happy. People cry when they are happy too."

"But I'm not a person!" Haku protested while at the same time snuggling his face into her neck.

Chihiro laughed a bit at the tickling sensation.

"All right, let me rephrase that. Beings often cry when they are happy as well as sad." She ran her hand comfortingly over his back. "You're living proof of it after all." She added fondly.

Haku pulled back and looked into her eyes; There was some kind of deeper emotion shimmering just above the surface that she just couldn't decipher. His hand came up slowly and cupped her cheek.

"You are the most important person to me and have been for a long, long time. If you were to stay with me I would be the happiest being in existence and... Chihiro... Can I kiss you?"

The last part was said hesitantly, and he glanced down as he asked, so he missed her blush as well as her answering nod.

Chihiro sighed and shook her head.

"Come here," She pulled him toward her and kissed his forehead.

The dismay in his eyes was heartbreaking.

"I meant..." He was interrupted by the sudden kiss he received, which made it impossible to continue his line of thought, let alone a conversation. Unsurprisingly he was not bothered by that in the slightest. He put his attention to good use and reciprocated, adding some emotions of his own behind the kiss. After all, actions spoke louder than words, and he was clearly not very good at the latter at the moment.

Rampant Id:

And that's a wrap. Hope you guys liked reading this as much as I did writing it. Share your thoughts and feelings in a review. I love to hear what my readers think about my stories.