Author's Notes

Okay, I have been working very hard on this ever since I first saw the movie. The story starts right after Chihiro leaves. This story is mostly about Kohaku, if you couldn't tell from the title, but Chihiro will be back. Just not this chapter. If you don't figure it out, Kawa-kami is the same river god that they all thought was a stink spirit and Chihiro cleaned up. But, uh, yeah, the story...

Disclaimer: I do not own Sprited Away or any of it's characters. This is simply what my imagination has done with the story that I am sharing with you.



Kohaku's Tale



He continued to smile sadly as the girl he had come to care for more than anything walked away from him and back into her normal life. He knew he would see her again; he had promised her such and would rather die than break that promise. What spared him any joy was that he might have to wait for death to keep it.

He should have been heading back to the Aburaya to terminate his apprenticeship with Yubaba. The apprenticeship that had basically forced him into servitude and neglected to teach him anything. Despite that, the bathhouse had been the closest thing to a home he'd had since his river was destroyed. Soon he wouldn't even have that anymore.

Sighing, Kohaku shifted form and took to the sky. He would take some time to sort out all of the thoughts and emotions that were plaguing him. After all, he had plenty of it now.

***

Yubaba stomped into her office, her bad mood tainting the air. What she saw when she got there didn't help it any either.

"Zeniba!" She screeched, catching sight of her twin sister sitting behind her desk. Yubaba would then have attempted to curse her sister, had it not been for the fact that 'Zeniba' was slightly transparent.

"Hello sister." Yubaba grated her teeth slightly at the greeting, for the tone Zeniba was infuriatingly cheerful.

"What do you want?" Yubaba forced the words out through clenched teeth.

"Want? Oh I wish for nothing from you dear sister, other that a short conversation."

"Fine." Yubaba spat. "Talk then."

"Very well. I'm sure you know that the spell you cast on Haku has been broken."

"An annoyance, yes, but one that will soon be remedied."

Zeniba grinned. "Are you sure of that sister? I know that the power you're draining from him has slowed to a trickle. As soon as he has formally ended his apprenticeship with you you'll be left with only your own magic. You know that the council wouldn't stand for you draining him once he left."

Yubaba's eyes flashed, but then she seemed to calm. "He can't end his apprenticeship without destroying his contract, and he could only do that if he remembered his name. And that is simply impossible."

"Is it?" Zeniba asked. Then she laughed. "What are you going to do dear sister? What are you going to do?"

Zeniba's laughter echoed throughout the small room long after the piece of paper generating her image had been burnt to a crisp.

***

He was floating, letting the wind carry him where it may without the slightest care. He could spend the rest of his life that way, just floating on the breeze, and who would really care? Chihiro was really the only one who cared about him in the slightest and he knew of no way to even speak with her. There was certainly no way for him to cross into the physical world. When his river had been destroyed he had lost any way of ever hoping to get there. And Chihiro wouldn't be able to just wander into the spirit realm again. It was amazing that she got through the first time. Kohaku brushed the thoughts aside. There was no point in even thinking about the possibilities, even if he could contact her he wouldn't. Not yet. Chihiro needed time to be a kid in her own world, time to learn and to grow up. She would have to live out her life in her world after all, not his.

The thought tore at his heart and he immediately shoved it back to the recesses of his mind. He really was quite pathetic, worrying and missing her so badly when she had only been gone a few hours. In fact, it really was rather stupid of him to be behaving as such, but at that point he just didn't care.

He hadn't really known her that long, but he felt like he had and now he felt incomplete without her around. It was a feeling akin to that of losing his river. Granted he still couldn't remember much about those times, but he could faintly recall a dull aching feeling like someone had torn off one of his limbs, but prevented him from really feeling it. It hurt only because he knew it should hurt. But later there had been an actual physical stabbing pain that had seized him and only let go sometime after he had wandered into the bathhouse and become Yubaba's apprentice.

Due to his peaceful drifting and troubled thoughts, Kohaku didn't notice that a much larger river spirit was flying in his direction. As fate would have it, they slammed into each other.

For a moment Kohaku froze. He had never really had any contact with other spirits besides those that worked at the Aburaya. Yubaba had never allowed him to speak with any of the guests, and the missions she sent him on usually involved not being noticed. Still, Kohaku was not a spirit without manners and was about to apologize when the other spirit spoke.

"Boy, you should watch where you're going, even if not especially when you are wallowing in self-pity."

Kohaku was annoyed by the greater spirits rather accurate assessment but chose not to respond. He had not desire for any form of contact at the moment and wanted to finish with the other spirit as quickly as possible.

"I offer my most sincere apologies for bumping into you." He would of bowed, but he was in midair and dragons didn't bow well as it was.

"However," the great spirit continued as if Kohaku hadn't spoken, "sometimes we need to go where the wind takes us in order to find our destiny."

Kohaku was now unsure if the spirit hadn't heard him or if he was going senile in his old age, but he made no move to leave. When asked about the incident later he wouldn't be able to say exactly why.

"I am the river god, Kawa-kami. Who are you boy?" The other spirit turned and looked Kohaku in the eye. Kohaku was a bit lost for an answer. If anyone had asked him that questing a week ago he wouldn't have hesitated replying. But now...

"I'm a spirit without a home." He finally said, purposely omitting his name from the statement. For some reason he felt very inferior in the presence of the river got. He was, after all, an actually god wile he was a lowly river spirit without physical manifestation and nowhere to go.

"Are you lost?" Kawa-kami asked, confusion coloring his tone.

"In a way." Kohaku replied. "My river was destroyed a long time ago, and now I'm searching for a home, so I guess I am lost."

The river god stared at him for a moment. It was as if he was attempting to dissect the mind of the boy in front of him. Finally he spoke. "Very well boy. I believe our paths may cross again one day. Until then I would suggest you try and at least find a direction. No one can be lost forever."



Kohaku watched as the other spirit drifted away. He didn't move until Kawa-kami was no more then a speck in the sky scape. He then turned and began heading back to the Aburaya. Yubaba would probably be expecting him, and he would so hate to disappoint her.

***

Zeniba sat quietly rocking back and forth in her rocking chair while No-Face tended to the fire. A great wind began to rattle the house, threatening the structures integrity.

"No-Face," Zeniba spoke softly, "would you kindly let our impatient guest in?" No-Face bowed and went to open the door. Into the hut walked an old man. The years he had seen had stained his beard white, but had not yet touched his posture.

"Kawa-kami, how good of you to visit me." Zeniba greeted him, not at all disturbed by this sudden arrival.

The man bowed his head. "I have to confess that this trip isn't exactly a pleasure visit."

Zeniba nodded in response. "I gathered as much. This is about Kohaku, isn't it?"

The river god nodded, looking a bit guilty. "I believe I ran into the boy on the way here, or rather he flew into me."

Zeniba said nothing, but instead continued her rocking.

"I don't really understand what he was saying. He mentioned something about being lost."

He looked to Zeniba and she sighed, finally discontinuing her rocking. "I take it you want to know what's been going on with him?"

The old man nodded. "If you please."

"Come sit down then." Zeniba said, gesturing to the other chair near the fire. The river god complied. And Zeniba resumed her rocking as she spoke. "The one that he waited for returned to him and freed him from my sister. Now he searches for a home as he waits for her to return."

The river god nodded, apparently understanding the very vague explanation.

"What of his power?"

Zeniba chuckled a bit. "My sister is quite upset about that. She hasn't been able to draw much off of him since the spell she cast on him was destroyed, and even less since he's remembered his name."

The river god nodded. "Good. It should hit him sometime soon then. And I mean that literally."

"What are your plans for him then?" Zeniba's steady rocking was the only bit of normalcy in the room at that point.

The old man sighed. "I hope to make him my apprentice. Although I have no idea how he'll react to the offer so soon after ending such a useless one, but it will be a lot easier for him to deal with that power if he has something to focus it on."

"Are you planning to tell him about it then?"

"No! Heavens, no! With that much power? It's bad enough that he received it at such an age and with no one to guide him. To tell him? I'm afraid that it would corrupt him. Power like that has corrupted greater stronger souls."

"You should have more faith in him." Zeniba replied.

The river god shook his head. "Perhaps I should, but we can't take risks with him at this point."

For a moment there was silence. Then the old man spoke. His voice was barely above a whisper. "I'm considering offering his future to the council."

Zeniba stopped rocking abruptly. Her eyes grew wide as she stared at the human form of the river god sitting next to her who refused to meet her eyes.

"The council?" She whisper in disbelief. "You would take him before the council?"

The old man buried his head in his hands. "I won't do it for a least a few years. And it will be his decision. But it's the only thing I can think of."

"The council could sentence him to death!"

"They will if they feel they have reason to fear him."

"Should they?"

"I don't think so, but no one can ever be absolutely sure when it comes to them."

Zeniba shook her head. "He may have stolen from me, but I can't help feeling sorry for him. He really doesn't deserve what he's been put through, what he's going to be put through."

"I know Zeniba, believe me I know."

***

Kohaku flew directly to the top of the Aburaya to Yubaba's office. He was ready to get this over with. He flew straight in through the window making sure the shudders slammed behind him and that the wind blew Yubaba's papers everywhere. He pivoted to face Yubaba, then shifted form in mid-air before landing softly on the ground.

"Really Haku! What is the meaning of this!" Yubaba half-questioned, half scolded him as she darted around the room, putting everything back in its place. 'Go ahead' thought Kohaku, 'play dumb.'

"I'm leaving." He announced. Yubaba stopped her flitting around and looked at him.

"What do you mean Haku? You just got back." The irritation she was feeling crept into her tone and painfully obvious that she knew he wasn't taking about going out for an afternoon jaunt.

"I'm terminating my apprenticeship." Kohaku said.

"No, you're not." Yubaba replied her eyes narrowing.

"Yes, I am. I am the spirit of the Kohaku River and I am ending my apprenticeship with you."

Yubaba's eyes widened. "No you're not. You can't! You signed a contract!" She flew over to her cabinet from which she snatched a piece of paper. "See? See?" She shouted as she pointed at the piece of paper.

"What I see," Kohaku said, taking what was being so rudely shoved in his face, "is a blank piece of paper."

He turned the piece of paper around showing it to Yubaba and she saw that what he said was true. The piece of paper that had once been the binding contract of apprenticeship Kohaku had signed so many years ago, what now completely blank.

"What?!" She spat, grabbing the piece of paper from Kohaku.

"I'll be leaving now." Kohaku's comment was ignore by Yubaba, who was furiously studying the paper as if she looked at it enough the characters would come back. Kohaku exited through the door, planning to have one finally look at the place he had thought of as home.

No one spoke to him as he walked through the halls of the Aburaya. It was now late in the afternoon and everyone was preparing for the evening rush of guests.

"Haku!"

He turned to look for the person who had called his name, but didn't see anyone. A bit annoyed, Kohaku continued to walk out of the main room into the smaller foyer.

"Haku!"

This time when he turned around Lin was there. She was panting and had apparently run down from one of the top floors. He allowed her a moment to catch her breath but when she still hadn't said anything a full minute later, his patience ran out.

"What is it Lin?" He asked, his voice edged with annoyance.

She took one last gulp of air before answering. "Why did you help Sen?"

Kohaku was taken aback by the question. He really didn't know exactly why he had chosen to help Chihiro. In the spirit world or so many years ago when she fell into his river. Oh sure it had been the 'right' thing to do and all, but he had the odd feeling that if it had been any other human he wouldn't have bothered.

"It's none of your business." He finally answered Lin, trying to push his way past her (since she had conveniently maneuvered herself to block his escape).

"How long were you helping her then?" Lin asked, using her size to her advantage to keep him from pushing her aside.

"I told you Lin, it's really none of your business now kindly move out of my way!"

"Because she kept asking about you." Kohaku stopped trying to push his way past her. "She did?"

As soon as the words were out of his mouth he regretted them. Of course she would have been asking about him! He was the only one trying to help her get home so asking about him was the same as asking when she would be able to go home. And that was all! But a small part of him wanted to believe that at least some of the time she was concerned about him.

A grin slowly spread across Lin's face. "Yeah, she did."

Kohaku went back to mentally kicking himself for slipping up. Once Lin got wind of something like this she never let go. He had seen other spirits learn that lesson the hard way and now it seemed that he would be following along their path of misery.

"Thank you Lin, if you don't mind I'll be leaving now." Kohaku tried to push his way past her again, thinking maybe he could escape before she started an interrogation, but she continued to block him.

"Where are you going Haku? On another mission for Yubaba?" Lin was really getting on his last nerve. She couldn't even get it over with, no she was planning one prolonging his agony and then had to hit on a rather sensitive subject.

"No Lin, I'm leaving for good."

"What?" Lin looked rather shocked. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," he answered testily, " that I am no longer Yubaba's apprentice and I am leaving the Aburaya for good."

Lin blinked, still looking rather confused and Kohaku took the opportunity to step past her making a beeline for the door.

"Where are you going?" She called after him once she got her wits about her. Kohaku didn't giver her an answer; he didn't have one.

He made it out the door and continued walking, only pausing briefly before crossing the bridge. He really should say good-bye to Kamaji. He definitely owed the old man for taking care of him and for helping Chihiro, but he didn't feel that he could. He hated good-byes and after Chihiro he didn't need another anytime soon.

Once across the bridge he took one last look at the bathhouse before shifting into his dragon form and taking to the sky. Where should he go? The truth was that he didn't really have anywhere to go. The only places he could ever remember being besides the Aburaya were to the homes of several witches and warlocks, all of which who despised Yubaba and in turn despised him for associating with her. Well, all except one. Kohaku turned and headed towards Zeniba's before he could have second thoughts.

It wasn't that he was on very good terms with the witch, he would be lucky if she would let him in at all. But he had protected Chihiro and got her home, so she probably wouldn't still be mad at him, would she? At the very least she knew the spirit world better than he did and could probably tell him someplace he could go.

He flew in lazy circles toward swamp bottom. He was looking for Zeniba's when it hit him. An unimaginable, sharp burning pain that assaulted him from all sides. Kohaku thrashed back and forth trying to get away from it, or somehow shake it off or something. The pain was messing with his brain. He couldn't think straight anymore. Finally, he could handle it no longer and passed out, falling like a stone to the earth below.

***

A/N

And so ends chapter one. I'd really appreciate it if you would view and tell me what you either like or dislike about the story and just what you think in general. Please?