Dragon's River

By Zabchan

Disclaimer: Kohaku from Spirited Away is the property of Hayao Miyazaki, ...please forgive me for any OOC moments, die hard Haku fans!

This was written to answer the question of "what would have happened to Haku if he'd never been captured by Yubaba?" I tried my best to make the answer fit his character. Arigato! Please R&R!

Below me are the rice patties of southern china. I see the tiny flecks of humanity below me stoop and cut and gather and move on to another clump of marsh rice to begin the ritual again. I stream upward in lazy spirals, for the clouds I use for cover are rising, so rise I with them. Suddenly I feel a twitch in my whiskers indicating another flying presence. It could be anything, a human flight craft baring passengers, a large bird of prey, the occasional flock of bats, or- this strike of red lightning that whips under my nose and barbs a sharp wound under my eye. I whip and twist downwards, diving into a convenient lake. Once I reach the bottom, I reiterate a move I learned from the marsh dragon back in Japan, shooting in a tight barrel roll from the surface of the water towards the offender. Then I saw the size of the brute. The red dragon was as immense as a constellation, looping his thick girth many times in the air. His scales were as red as brick and probably just as solid. I spun head over talons checking my attack midair before it could reach the immensity I really didn't want to fight. Immediately after gaining stability I bowed a loopy dragon bow and approached him again but now with the humblest of body language.

"Little brother," said he in thunderous volume of voice "why are you HERE?" his tone was that of one who was trying to be patient, but hadn't had much practice and didn't need it, given his size.

"Eastern elder, I am no threat, though threatening.

I am fish-full, yet fishing

I call for the river and the river is dry

I am small, and large one asks why."

(We dragons love to speak in verse and riddles whenever we can, I couldn't resist.) The Chinese bull stared hard at me, eyes whirling intense black at me, his gold streaked mane waving ominously round his horns.

Suddenly his expression softened all at once and he started booming laughter.

"Ho, Ho, Ho little brother! You turn a good verse! It is clear now; you have lost your river! I see you quivering and read your actions to know you wouldn't dream of trying to steal my territory. 'Large one' indeed!" he circled me in one huge rust-colored hoop. "I'll tell you what. I happen to know of an area that's dying to have such a full river as you. But I warn you; there's a good reason no other dragons have settled there. It's the humans." At this point I had been circling complacently along side the easterner but at this I balked and nearly got smacked by his coils. He laughed. "I knew you'd do that. These humans are different from your run-of-the-mill-ignore-anything-that-can't-be-explained humans. These humans are in tune. They know. They have ways of deflecting draconic attempts at concealment and illusion. I wouldn't suggest this place for anyone else, but..." he whirled around, facing me eye to eye, his intense black to my wide leafy green. "I think you can handle it. Don't let me down. It's across the ocean in the sunset land of the west." He drew back, looking very somber. Then he broke out into another toothy grin. "Don't mind me little brother, I'm just a softy on little creeks like yourself." He made for his land again, coils rippling muscle and sinew. I watched him descend, his lion's mane streaming in the wind. I shouted after him as an afterthought.

"Eastern elder, what's your name?"

"The Yangzee!" he boomed back before disappearing into the landscape below.

I floated there in awe for hours. The Father of Eastern Dragons had just told me where to find a home.

The next day I was so happy to have found a home with the least amount of personal injury to myself.

Well, technically I hadn't found it yet, but I had an idea of where to find it at least. I was giddy. The sun was shining, the fish practically jumping out of the water, and the ocean waves choppy enough to make the trip interesting. I snaked my way among breakers and spray, choosing to travel close to the water just for the fun of it. The telepathic image the Great One had placed into my memory was sharp and detailed, a valley with a dry riverbed and drying trees, ready for watering. I couldn't wait to arrive and coax the waters deep in the ground to life, swelling the banks and splashing the trees and catching fish to put in my New River.

I had just crossed the Gulf of Mexico when I saw my first obstacle. There, just where I needed to cross over to my land (my land! I was already thinking of it that way,) was an enormously long, wide and gushing river. And wherever there is a huge gushing river, there's sure to be a huge long dragon to accompany it. A very skilled, magically speaking, dragon to be able to keep up a river of this size without the many humans I could see living along it. The anti-pollution spells alone would be draining on a normal dragon. That's why I was particularly surprised to see a dragon half my size slithering up to me from New Orleans. He was of course the lower American type, only two lizardy legs and a tail that probably functioned as a rudder in place of whiskers. He was feather heavy around the neck and was almost too colorful. Purples, blues and yellow quills peeped out from a thick topcoat of lime green plumage.

"Go away," it said. "We all may be little but there are a lot of us!"

I lifted a furry eyebrow and feigned looking around to nonverbally say 'You sure about that pipsqueak?'

It scrunched its face in what it probably thought was a threatening glare. What it looked like is that he had eaten a bad salmon. "The whole Mississippi is made up of my comrades! So don't look so smug!" it snarled.

" The what?" I asked incredulously.

"The Mississippi," the little green lizard said, "many rivers and streams flow into it, so we all lend a hand in its upkeep, unless their own river is already huge. Its mostly us streams." He practically preened with pride.

"Hmm. Fascnatiting." I commented, unimpressed. "If you'll excuse me..." I made a move to the left, it followed. To the right. There it was again. I went up, down. Same thing.

"Ahem." I glared.

"Why should I let you through uh? How do I know your not gonna steal our fish, or our land huh, huh?" the little flying worm wasn't going to get out of my way.

"I'm just trying to get to, er," I mentally checked my directions from the Yangzee, couldn't remember the exact name of the place and made something up, "my uncle's river the...er...Leetness river.

For a moment it looked like that was enough for the little worm and that I was going to be able to pass.

"Waaaiiiit...I don't think there is such a place!" he growled.

"Yes its real, unless you want to come with me, leaving your stream alone, risking the fish all swimming away, and the humans dumping their cars in it, just so see if my uncle happens to live all the way over in Leetness Town..." I quickly lied. He finally bought it and backed down. The last I could see of him was his rainbow colored tail flashing down to the land.

"Finally." I muttered and continued my journey.

Traveling near the ground is tiring and you're not nearly as fast as you would be in the atmosphere. I was only about halfway across the plains when the temperature dropped like a rock. Thje sun ad just barely set! And already it was freezing. My poor whiskers were starting to get numb. I landed just outside

a groove of pine trees and shuffled in. I curled into a tight ball in the boughs of the largest tree I could find. As the wind started up the tree shook needles onto my skin. Some of the pine resisn was coating the branch was on and thus now my belly was coated in sticky, unpleasent smelling sap. That, and trying to sleep while teetering in a swaying pine tree while half frozen is incredably uncomfortable. A si lay there, miserable I began to miss my river terribly. I wrapped tighter around the bough and let my memories take me into dreaming...

my mother river. Warm and swift and full of the perkiest little fish. I remember swimming the current with her. She was silver and blue, my mother, and looped her coils around me at night. The fish loved her so. They would wake us up every morning and she'd teach me how to call the water to me, and how to tune my whiskers in to all the frequencies of life. I remembered the first stream I made all by myself. How I charmed the spring to flow even stronger, and curved a path for it, and little by little, made a pond at the end and circulated the water back up to the mouth to refresh the supply. Eventually, I carved it far enough to be a river. People lived on me in peace, many many times go. They'd fish my fish and sail boats down it. My pride and joy was that deer would come down from the foothills to drink. I remember feeling the roots of the forest drink deep from my river. And fantasizing that I could hear the ground rejoice when I flooded after the dry season and purple flowers would bloom among the catttails and all was peace. All was serene and perfection.

I awake with a jolt. An angry blue jay is pecking at my hide. A daring one, me being almost fifty times her size. I thought about eating her, but I have to respect the little bird's gall, waking a dragon. I chuckle, sending her higher in the tree, scolding me with angry twitters. I slither from my perch and stretch my cramped coils and splay my talons wide in a dragon-sized yawn. My whiskers trail from my muzzle, not ready to fly until I've gained breakfast first. I manage to snare a rabbit in my coils, eating it snake style, whole, with nary a chew. My whiskers are fed enough to give me flight but I'm still hungry and nowhere near the minimum amount of food to function all day. Once airborne, I'm lucky enough to catch up to a flock of vultures, not only eating two, but stealing the carcass they'd been after too. Finally my whiskers are working properly and I'm off, snaking through the air.

The landscape has drastically changed from last night and yesterday. The trees are sparse, if any, and the ground resembles the sky at sunset, color wise. I know I'm close now. I'd better be because I;ve never gone without water for so long. Its been a whole fortnight since I set out from the fight with the marsh dragon and the only water I've come across that wasn't being viscously guarded was seawater.

The ground is radiating heat from below and it gets harder to focus on my destination. Yet I can't fly higher, away from the heat lest I miss my river. I settle, hours later in the shade of an overhanging cliff to sleep the rest of the stifling hours away.

I awake with the light of the sun in my eyes. My whiskers droop again this morning, but I don't sense prey around for miles. I force magic into the ground in hopes of drawing up a hidden spring or reservoir. Something I should have done back in the pine groves. A small pool seeps up through the sand, but it is no more than a few mouthfuls. I try to send more magic down through the ground, farther under. All my magic finds is a rock shelf, several feet thick, blocking any means of tapping into the water table. I dejectedly lap up the pitiful puddle at my feet and force myself into the sky, wasting much magic and energy in the process. My days are numbered until I can find water again.

I fly doggedly now, not having the strength to fly higher even if I wasn't looking for anything. I envy my winged cousins in europe, who could just glide their way through the desert. Finally, I see an outcropping of rock, and some dying trees. And... a valley with a dry riverbed! My land! At last, at last! It shimmers before me! I push my limits and speed joyfully toward it. Thanks to the great yangzee! Oh, at last at last! Suddenly I am thrown back violently, as if smashing against a cliff! An unseen force graps me and shakes me, whipping my worn, dehydrated body through the air, then dropping me to land with a thunderous crash and great clouds of dust to billow around the impact. Great explosions tromp close to my prone form, like giant invisible feet. I wriggle to the side and scramble as fast as I can manage. The harsh ground chafes my tender belly and I discover my back legs have given out on me, and I have no time to focus more magic towards flight. I finally collapse in a ditch, panting and feebly attempting to snarl or roar at my torturer but it coming out as more of a moan. I turn to face this giant and die like a dragon.

What comes toward me out of the dust clouds is a flock of humans. Of all the indignities. Th are skinny and weak, most likely with hunger, as the grounds have long been parched here. With their long spears and knives, they look ready to eat me. I lay my great head to the earth and hope they kill me before they start taking bites out of me. This is humiliating. I couldn't have died of dehydration or hunger or pollution or a bad dragon fight, oh no. I had to die and have my final resting-place be inside starving human bellies. I see the lead one, a brightly painted human with plumage to rival even that of the Mississippi worm earlier. Beads hangs in great strands around his neck, and I weakly sense great magic in him.

Oh great eastern elder, the task was too great for me. These must be the humans you warned me of and I wrote them off as insignificant. My lesson is learned the hard way. I mentally prepare for my death and point my head to the east, and my tail to the west, and my whiskers north and south. I can faintly hear the memory of my old spring, gurgling softly. My ears turn and strain toward the sound. Wait, it is not memory I hear but an underground break in the rock shelf. I can hear water rising through the hole! Oh Draco in the stars! I strain my last reserve of draconic power toward the sound. Rise.rise. be full and bubbling and life giving. I could feel it start to respond, start to rise, but it was too deep to reach the surface. I began to cry. The very last drops I would ever shed. They hit the soil and disappeared. Tear after tear into the stubborn, hard, sandy ground. The plumed human laid his hand on my cheek, holding me steady for the killing blow as if I had strength left to struggle and then...

"Oniiqui!"

another brown human had jumped over the ridge and running toward the flock of hunts men around me.

"oniiqui! Naginiqua has seen a vision of water that she says cannot wait! She says do not kill before she comes!" the out of breath one panted. The rest of the flock turned to see the powerful one's response. I briefly wondered why they spoke in the dragon language and instantly remembered that we had the gift to recognize all speech. I had never come across the need for this gift and briefly lamented the fact I'd never be able to use it again.

"We will wait for the wise woman." The powerful one said with a deep, solemn voice. The figure that came over the hill was small, hunched, and sunburned to a permanent red-brown. Around her shown an aura of much knowledge and magic, even more than the man who had brought me down. Her stick thumped the ground with each step and it took me a moment to realize she was blind.

"You would kill and eat our salvation!" she scolded in a low, paced tone.

"what have you seen old one? we have bellies to fill."

She bent down, embracing my head in wizened arms and looked me hard in the eye. "If I give you power, can you make the waters come?" she whispered. I looked back into her hard sun-beaten skin. I picked up my dry tongue and tried to shape a word in human with it. It was almost too dried out.

"yessssss." I managed to croak out. She closed her eyes and I felt a warm tingle in my whiskers. My legs begam to limber up again and I was gaining strength in my coils. Like a trickle at first, energy started to flow faster into me, I rose to my feet and bellowed a dragon laugh. Ahh! I felt alive again! I felt like I had just spent weeks in the rain! The woman lay prone on the ground, comatose with the effort of transfer. Every nerve in my body conducted magic while her aura sputtered like a weak candle. Ha ha! What did I care? I laughed, springing into the air. A surge of guilt cascaded in my mind and I remembered my pseudo-promise to her. I sighed, and sought water with my mind. I found the trickle I had started in my death throws and wrapped my will around it, wrenching the water higher, up up up to the surface! A pitiful puddle pooled in the ditch. The flock of humans tried to dig around the start of the spring t help it grew, shouting and grinning like idiots. That wouldn't even remotely water their village I scoffed. I roared at them and they scattered. I told the stream to surge, not pleading, not coaxing DEMANDING the release of the flood! I cackled with the power! I glowed with the divining magnetism for water! Miles away the Yangzee must be smiling with pride! Rainclouds started to gather at my call! I spiraled giddily toward the ground and the dancing humans in the middle of my river! I would have fish again in my currents! The humans were evacuating to higher ground as my river swelled and dug deep, deep trenches in the rocky soil. And I splashed down, dissolving into my river, my own true river and rejuvenating my exhasted body. I released the borrowed power the old woman had given me, but it came right back. Puzzled, I sent it back again and again it returned to me. I resolidified and poked my head out of the stream. She was laying still at the edge of my river. Her aura was now just a pitiful spark of consciousness. I gently nuzzled her body. She stirred slightly, opening her eyes. She looked up, saw the rain and smiled. The powerful one apporached her form with great respect. He laid her on a travois and, bowing to me, carried her body up to his people who were waiting on higher ground. I...couldn't help but mourn a little. Unconsciously, I pointed my muzzle to the rain and let the drops fall for a while on my upturned face. I gave back the excess power to the trees, to the soil, to the water, to the sky. I howled long, a sound to echo the action. With me, the village on the hill cried and howled their loss. But in both songs there was a note of joy, for the waters had come home at last.

AN: Domo Arigato for reading my fic! And please don't hesitate to look up my bio and read any of my other fics! Sadly, this will probably be the first and last SA fic I ever do, (I'm too obsessed with Cardcaptor Sakura and Inuyasha right now,) but my mind still might be changed! HINTHINT R&R everybody!!!!!!!