I just wanna protect you, I just wanna protect
The days when your face shone, smiling
I just wanna protect you, enclosed in loneliness,
your heart shaken by sadness
For the rest of my days

I swear everything, I would risk everything,
I would lose everything
For the one I love, to think of you,
to live together with you

--lyrics from "Tune the Rainbow" sung by Maaya Sakamoto (RahXephon movie OST)

I thought maybe this could relate to Kohaku's thoughts, but I think it applies to Chihiro as well…I wanted to portray Kohaku as being a lonely spirit, a trait that probably got him in trouble with Yubaba in the first place. I also changed up my chapters to try harder to reflect this.

-Kero


Chapter 11: Amrita

As she got nearer, Chihiro could see that the dragon king was having some difficulties with the seven headed serpent Lord Hiei. His pearly scales were marked up with bloody gashes everywhere. She knew he wasn't going to last long like this. His sons at the moment could not assist him as it was taking all of their strength combined to keep the other demons at bay with a barrier and strategic attacks. Everytime the dragon king launched another attack at Lord Hiei, it would bounce off of some barrier that protected the demon. Chihiro studied the fight carefully. With seven heads looming in front of her, it was impossible for her to use her single last talisman effectively if she was only aiming for one of them.

There must be a key point where Lord Hiei would be affected the most. She closed her eyes and pictured the body of the serpent demon. There were seven tails to match the seven heads, chopping off any one of them wouldn't make a difference. There were four stubby legs and two great black feathered wings. It must have a heart somewhere. She opened her eyes and saw it. There was a small blue mitama, or seed, at the base of its throats and centered in its chest.

"There," pointed Chihiro. Bo's eyes followed her finger to their target.

"THERE?" he asked incredulously, with his mouth gaping. The target was impossibly small. He muttered something under his breath about her better being right about this.

"We just need to get through the barrier," said Chihiro.

"Oh is THAT all?" asked Bo sarcastically. Then, Kaonashi put his hand on Chihiro's shoulder, as if to say that he's figured a way to accomplish the task. Chihiro nodded and the group flew right up to the barrier. The dragon lords, having kept most of the demons at bay launched a joint attack in Lord Hiei's direction at that moment, letting their father rest. They too were unsuccessful at penetrating the barrier, and continued to fly around their enemy, dodging his lightning attacks and bites from his jagged jaws.

Crouching upon Yu-Bird's back, Kaonashi climbed down to its large talons and hung onto one of its legs for support. They flew up towards to top of the barrier, right along the heads of Lord Hiei. Then, taking a deep breath, Kaonashi spit out some gastric juices out onto the barrier.

"EW!" said Bo, truly disgusted. Incredibly, the splash of gastic residue ate a hole into the barrier. There was an opening just big enough for her. She had to hurry as the opening was already starting to close up. Without another word, Chihiro stood up on Yu-Bird's back and then launched herself into the hole, diving down in perfect Olympic form.

"Chihiro!" cried Bo. The opening closed up completely, leaving Chihiro on the inside, all alone with Lord Hiei.

Kohaku, who was nearby, watched in horror as he realized what Chihiro wanted to do, and was too late to prevent her from committing such a foolish, impulsive act. The demons that Lord Hiei had brought immediately saw an opportunity. In a split second, they broke through the barrier the three brothers had held in place to keep them at bay. Sihomitutama and Sihohirutama were immediately overwhelmed with trying to hold them back, to no avail. They settled for taking them out two or three at a time, with hundreds more to go. Another group rushed through that defense, however, and charged Kohaku all at once, crashing into the dragon and clawing at him. He was taken aback by the shock of their attack, teeth and nails digging into his slender dragon body. Kohaku immediately transformed back into his human form to get away, leaving glittering trails of dragon scales peeling away in the wind. He set a powerful barrier to push them all back in his brothers' direction. To their astonishment, Kohaku left his brothers to fend for themselves and headed straight for the demon lord's barrier, risking everything to get to her in time.

Chihiro, he thought desperately as he sped towards the hulking mass of Lord Hiei. Don't die.

For a moment, he feared that death would take her, and he would revert back into the quiet, lonely life he led before they had met, that day of the river. Kohaku was determined to save her at whatever cost.

Head first and falling at a pace slower than the usual gravitational pull, she realized the barrier had its own forces working within. Chihiro clutched the paper talisman to her chest. It was completely silent inside the barrier, except for the sound of her kimono sleeves and hakama hem fluttering as she fell further down.

Seven pairs of eyes stared at her and for a moment, looked rather surprised to see her there. As she fell, one by one, each of Lord Hiei's serpent heads hurled a purple fireball from its mouth. With the help of the dragon scale she clutched in the other hand, each shot was deflected or blocked, although Chihiro could feel some of the heat and thought she could smell the faint scent of slightly charred hair, as if she had used too strong a setting with a hair dryer. Chihiro extended her left arm out to steer her fall towards the mitama. A long serpent tail swatted at her with great force, but it was too slow for its size and just grazed her, spinning her upright so that she was now falling feet first.

Chihiro had almost reached her destination and she folded the dragon scale neatly into the paper talisman, the last of those given to her by Radish. Then, she extended her arms out in front of her and positioned the talisman with her right hand between two fingers and pulled back as if she were drawing back the string from an invisible bow. Please let this work, she prayed, hoping her training on the school kyudo archery team would pay off. In that moment, she recalled the fortune that Kohaku had read to her at the temple, the crinkled paper that was still with her, tucked away in her sleeve pocket. For the first time in her life, Chihiro closed her eyes and knew exactly what to pray for.

"It WILL work," she declared as she felt the talisman's power grow bright and hot in her hand. She could only believe in herself now. She opened her eyes, took aim and then released it. As if fired from a gun, the talisman struck the mitama with amazing speed, breaking it into several pieces. Lord Hiei screamed and writhed in pain, nearly slashing at Chihiro with his razor sharp talons and seven tails. Then his voice quieted, and he and his seven serpent heads started to dissipate into ash.

Suddenly, the power of Lord Hiei exploded outward with a loud boom that deafened Chihiro's ears and the barrier collapsed like a melting glass bowl, hurling the great cloud of ash in every direction. She was thrown out and up into the air. In that moment, as Chihiro looked at the spirit world from her upside down angle, she thought it the most beautiful place she had ever seen.

As the dark demon aura and thunder clouds cleared, beyond the gray ash of what remained of Lord Hiei, she could see the sapphire blue sky. Down below, as she plunged head first towards it with the full force of gravity now, was the soulful, cobalt blue Singing Sea; the home of her beloved. Beyond the sea were rolling hills covered in flowers and fileds of wild grass stretching lazily into the horizon. Was this Heaven? Chihiro wondered if this would be the end of her. It felt as though the pressure of the explosion had broken her body and she really felt nothing. She feared nothing. Both her mind and heart were at peace. Her only regret was not being able to see Kohaku. But, for some reason, from far away she thought she could hear his voice searching for her desperately.

How can I protect you if you are so impulsive? she recalled him asking her.

That's okay, thought Chihiro to herself. I wanted to protect you, too. She felt a certain satisfaction knowing that Kohaku would be safe now, and it was because she helped.

Then, she heard it. The soft whisper of another familiar voice in her head; the spirit of the dragon king. It was the voice she often heard in the twilight realm between waking and dreaming, but could never remember it when morning came.

My gift to you, in exchange for your brave sacrifice, miko, said the voice in her head. She thought she saw a bright, shinining light, like that of a falling star, hurtling straight towards her. Chihiro closed her eyes and felt the warmth of the light penetrate her body and she felt herself go limp. It was not uncomfortable, but it felt as though magic threads were weaving their way through her veins, repairing all parts that were broken. May the legends sing your praises for all time….she heard the voice say as it drifted away.

She had no strength left to open her eyes, but she knew that she had stopped falling. A pair of strong arms held on to her and she thought she could hear Kohaku's voice, though still very distant. She couldn't make out what he was saying, but there was still anxiousness in his tone.

Was she dead? Chihiro didn't dare open her eyes.

000

"Excuse me, miss. Are you all right?" asked a voice nearby. Chihiro surfaced out of the fuzzy darkness of her sleeping mind and heard the sound of water and chirping birds coming back into her consciousness. She could feel cold, wet grass against her cheek and smell its fragrance. Someone was poking her with a stick. Sunlight reflected through her eyelids, and it caused her to squint as her eyes fluttered open. She was lying in an empty, grassy courtyard. Chihiro sat up and scratched her head, wondering what she was doing in a place like this. For a moment, her memory was blank. She saw a pair of sandaled feet in front of her, partially hidden behind dark robes. Chihiro looked up at the head Shinto priest at the Ueno shrine with a puzzled look. He gave her an equally puzzled look in return and repeated his question. In one hand were a pair of chopsticks, and in the other, what appeared to be his breakfast in a rice bowl. He was sitting at the edge of a stone water well and had been poking her with his utensils.

"I'm fine," said Chihiro, getting up and dusting herself off. "I must have dozed off," she added.

"You know, miss, they have medicines to treat narcolepsy, nowadays," suggested the priest. Chihiro bowed her head politely, slightly embarrassed, and looked over to the well. It was boarded up and looked as if it hadn't been opened for years. There was a talisman seal on it.

"Wasn't that well open before?" asked Chihiro, as her memories of her spirit friends and interworld travel through the well came flooding back to her.

"It hasn't been operational for years. We keep a lid on it to prevent people or animals from falling in." He offered her a bottle of water, which Chihiro accepted gratefully as her throat was extremely dry.

"Why the seal?" asked Chihiro, in-between sips.

"To keep Yamata no Orochi and his demon sons away," said the priest. Chihiro almost choked as she tried to breathe and swallow at the same time.

"Excuse me?" she asked.

"Legend has it that a young miko sealed away a demon lord in this well with a similar talisman in a war between gods and demons," he said simply. "She almost died from the task, but in return, the gods granted the miko immortality. Or at least that's what I heard."

"Oh," said Chihiro, truly puzzled. Her hand absently felt her chest. It was the spot where the bright white light had collided with her when she was falling from the sky. Yes, the warmth was still there. It couldn't be…, thought Chihiro to herself.

"Say, shouldn't you be in school?" he asked. Chihiro looked down at her watch.

"Omigosh, I'm late!" she exclaimed, reaching for her bookbag. She stopped short when she saw the fuzzy pink scarf tied around the strap.

"You'd better wear that," suggested the priest as he started eating his breakfast. "It's getting chillier these days." Chihiro wrapped the scarf around her neck and bowed politely, thanking him for his concern. She rushed back out the temple and down the long flight of stairs to the subway entrance, her scarf flying out behind her in the wind.

Throughout her train ride, she kept checking her watch, hoping she'd make it in time for second period. The regular sounds of the train on its tracks, thumping and clanging in regular rhythm, calmed her restlessness and panic. Riding alone, Chihiro thought about everything that had happened in the spirit world. She was confused about how exactly she had returned to the shrine in one piece. And where were her friends? Where was Kohaku? For a moment, she felt very lonely and longed to see them again. She looked at her reflection in the glass rather sullenly. Surely it wasn't just a dream? She fingered the soft, warm scarf around her neck absently, and reached into the pocket and felt the crinkled fortune paper still stuffed in there. It couldn't have been a dream.

She then thought about the story the priest had told her. Kohaku and her friends had somehow returned her to her own world. Again, she heard the dragon king's final words to her, May legends sing your praise….

It couldn't be…, insisted Chihiro in her head.

When the train finally stopped at the station nearest her high school, Chihiro had missed both first and second period, but made it just in time for the first recess in between classes. She snuck past the front gate monitor and then the hall monitor, and rushed down to the locker hall. Hurriedly, she took off her shoes, hastily threw them into the locker, and hastily strapped on her padded indoor school shoes. Then, with book bag in hand, she made a mad dash for her homeroom.

"'Morning, Ogino!" called out a familiar face from last year. "Where have you been?"

"Morning!" said Chihiro as she raced past.

"Chihiro! You're early for tomorrow!" laughed Mamoru as she ran past the other homerooms.

"Morning, Chihiro!" called the captain of the kyudo archery team. "Tryouts are tomorrow afternoon! You need to come help judge the newcomers."

"Okay!" she called out behind her, continuing her furious one-person race.

"Ogino!" called out Ms. Matsui rather sternly as Chihiro rushed past. "You're late!"

"Sorry!" said Chihiro apologetically, hoping she wouldn't find a detention slip in her box after school. Most likely, she would.

She was trying to think up excuses as to why she was so late for class when her shoes screeched to a halt and she hopelessly crashed into Sachiko and another student as they were just turning the bend in her direction. Chihiro was bounced backwards onto the floor and the stack of papers the other student was carrying went flying like a bundle of paper birds flapping and fluttering to the ground.

"Chihiro!" exclaimed Sachiko. Grimacing from the pain of impact of her rear end and the hard linoleum floor, Chihiro squinted up at her friend.

"Sachi-chan," she replied weakly in greeting between gritted teeth and rubbing her sore rear end.

"Where have you been?" her friend demanded. "I was so worried about you, I was about to call the police!"

"Nowhere," said Chihiro, not knowing how to explain. "Nothing happened." Sachiko offered her hand to help her up.

"What happened with that creepy man?" asked Sachiko. But before Chihiro could think of any lame excuse the other student spoke.

"Didn't I see you at the temple this morning?" asked the other student who had been carrying the papers as Chihiro got on her feet again, dusting off her uniform. She turned to see the very familiar face of a young man, whom by all accounts really shouldn't be there. Chihiro's eyes went wide as she looked at him from head to toe. Kohaku was dressed in complete school attire down to the vest and jacket with the school emblem on its left pocket and the striped orange and black tie that were her school's colors neatly done in a perfect Windsor knot.

"Chihiro, this is—" began Sachiko.

"Kohaku!" she exclaimed, eyes still as wide as saucers.

"Yes, Haku," said Sachiko with a wry smile for her friend. "You know him? He's a new transfer student in our year. Transferred all the way from Mitake, can you believe it? He worked at the hotel right where we vacationed this summer. Isn't that a funny coincidence? He's also in homeroom class 5-C with us," explained Sachiko picking up the scattered student body address and general information forms on the floor. "And he tells me he wants to join the kyudo team." Sachiko just looked at the pair, still staring at each other and smiled.

"I think he should sit next to you," she added cheerfully.

"Pleased to meet you," smiled Kohaku with a gleam in his shining dark green eyes that showed he was delighted in playing this new role. He offered his hand in greeting.

"Likewise," whispered Chihiro awkwardly, eyes still wide with disbelief and her face starting to flush. She reached out and Kohaku took her hand gently in his without letting go, as if to say, We'll never be apart, again. I promise.

Finis.


Author's notes: YAY! Kohaku and Chihiro can now go to masturi together, and O-ban festivals, and go shopping in Ebisu and Shibuya, and exchange Christmas presents, and Chihiro can bake him chocolate on Feb. 14, (and he can take her out on White Day) and they can be in the school play together just like other couples in the anime universe. Kohaku can wear jeans and t-shirts and normal street clothes! Ah, sou ka, sou ka…(nodding in approval)…heheheh, too much manga and Japanese dorama...

Miyazaki-sensei was too cruel in not telling us how it would be in the end. So then you have wierdos like me obsessing about how it should end and spouting fantastical stories left and right...Haha, I love that!

Amrita: is an old Sanscrit word meaning "nectar of the gods." It is also a very good book by Banana Yoshimoto. It is also the title of a song in the Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicles character album. To be or not to be immortal, that is the question….

The mitama idea was borrowed from Blue Seed.

Kyudo: is Japanese archery. I've been fascinated with it ever since reading Yuu Watase's Alice 19th. It's a stylistic, and almost a ritual like performance like kabuki or Noh theater, in that the purpose is not just to hit the target, but to gain complete tranquility of mind and perfect position and form. It's almost a religious experience, which is why I thought it would fit her and the story perfectly.

UNTIL NEXT TIME!

-Kero