Away Again

Chihiro promised never to forget Kohaku River, but as the years went by, the memory of him faded away. Now, when Chihiro and her little sister Masami go for a picnic, strange but familiar things happen when they cross a river. (PG action/adventure; fantasy)

Chizi: Welcome to my very first attempt at Spirited Away fanfiction!

Spi: (applauds)

Mewe: Mew! Mew!

Chizi: (cuddles Mewe) Let's begin the story!

Spi: Chizi does not own Spirited Away or any of the characters.

1: Picnic

"Masami! Not so fast!"

Masami giggled as she turned to watch her sister struggling to keep up. "Come on, sis!" she shouted, jumping and waving. Her short black hair bounced around her face, and her purple jumper bounced with her. Fortunately, she had remembered to wear black bike shorts underneath.

Chihiro sighed as she finally caught up to her sister. "You're not supposed to run so fast ahead of me," she admonished. At her sister's cute pout, however, she couldn't resist a smile. "I know you're eager for a picnic, but if you wear me out I won't be able to enjoy it as much."

"Sorry, Chihiro," Masami apologized. She took the picnic basket from her sister as consolation. "It's just that we finally have one sunny day since summer started. All this rain is depressing!"

Chihiro laughed. "Well, I have to agree with you there," she said as they started off again at a slower pace. "A straight week of rain hasn't done much for my inner child. But at least we have one nice clear day to enjoy a picnic together."

Masami nodded, swinging the basket in her left hand. "It's too bad Mom and Dad couldn't come, though," she commented.

Chihiro didn't answer for a moment. Her parents always seemed to be too busy with other things to spend time with their two daughters. Because of it, Chihiro and Masami had ended up like best friends. Chihiro mothered Masami and always took care of her. And Masami liked the attention. They always did things together.

"Yes, I'm sorry too," Chihiro said. She looked up ahead and saw a place where the ground seemed to abruptly drop off. "Do you want to cross the river?"

"Yeah!" Masami exclaimed. "You know what they say: the grass is greener on the other side!" She giggled as she headed for the river, partially hidden from view by a low hill, at a quick pace.

Chihiro sighed and shook her head as her energetic sister once again got away from her. Really, Masami was little more than a superball of energy with black hair and blue eyes. She had an adventurous spirit and participated in many of her school's sports activities, and she liked nothing more than an afternoon of fooling around in a meadow. Or a park, or a football field, or a cornfield, wherever there was lots of open space and fresh air. Everyone always said she was spitting image of her sister. Chihiro had to agree. Her train of thought was suddenly derailed by the sound of her sister calling her.

"Come on, sis! I see the perfect place!"

Masami flipped open the picnic basket and pulled out the table cloth. Red plaid. She had personally picked it out, thinking it the perfect color for a picnic outside. As her sister carefully crossed the river on the large stones, Masami pulled out the dishes.

Chihiro felt kind of funny about crossing the river. She and Masami had had to climb down the hill from their house and do a lot of winding and backtracking to make it to the open meadow. I guess I need to exercise more, Chihiro thought with a grim smile. But then her thoughts returned to the river. It was so strange. Maybe she had crossed it before, but she had never taken the trouble to come down to this meadow. Perhaps she had crossed the river before as a little girl, and she just couldn't remember. She had been living in this house since she moved here with her parents almost ten years ago.

"Come on, Chihiro! I've got everything set up, and I'm hungry!" Masami yelled from across the window.

Chihiro smiled. "I'm almost there, Masami!" she called. "Don't start without me!"

Masami's giggling brought a bigger smile to Chihiro's face. Her sister was such a battery. "Just give me a moment," Chihiro told her as she carefully stepped to the next rock.

"Where are you going? You said just a quick look! Now let's go back!"

Chihiro frowned. When had she said that? She didn't remember the circumstances; only her saying that. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she missed a step, and her sandaled foot plunged into the water.

The river stretched in front of her, and her little pink shoe was floating away on it. She felt a sense of despair. Her mother had just bought those shoes for her. She had to get it back! She reached down to try and grab her shoe, but then she lost her balance and was underwater.

Suddenly she found herself back on dry land, soaking wet and spitting out water. Her pink shoe was in her lap.

"Chi-hi-ro!" Masami's voice had a ring of exasperation.

Chihiro shook her head and pulled her foot out of the water. She made her way across the river and took off both shoes. "I wish I hadn't gotten this wet," she said, looking over her dripping sandal.

"Chihiro, hurry it up."

"Wait a minute!" Chihiro wished her parents would slow down. Why were they so eager to go searching for food anyway? She didn't like this place, and wished they would just take her to their new home. She felt sure that this was nothing but trouble.


Masami was standing in front of her, a frown on her face. "Why're you just standing there, Chihiro? The picnic's waiting." She smiled again, obviously happy to be having a picnic.

"Did you see those buildings over there?" Masami asked as the two walked to the site where she had set everything up.

Chihiro looked to where Masami's finger was pointing. Sure enough, over another low hill, she could see the roofs of a cluster of buildings. Chihiro couldn't tell what they were, but they looked old. A strange flash of recognition passed over her mind, but she couldn't understand it. "They're probably abandoned," Chihiro commented.

They made it to their picnic site and sat down. Masami was nervous about the first batch of yakisoba she had ever made, but Chihiro liked it. "Next time, though, try to make sure the noodles are cooked completely through," she informed her sister.

With the yakisoba they had rice balls with salted plums inside and then store-bought dumplings. Masami finished eating first and took the time to fool around in the meadow while Chihiro finished.

"Hey, Chihiro, I just had a great idea!" Masami said after nearly cartwheeling into their picnic basket. "Why don't we go check out those abandoned buildings? Maybe we'll find a stash of stolen yen in one of them." She giggled, relishing the idea of an adventure.

"I don't know," Chihiro said, putting their dishes into the picnic basket and folding up their tablecloth. "Those buildings might be off limits."

Masami sat down next to her sister. "Come, on, pleeease? Just a quick look? If they're off limits, we can just leave. Please, please, please?"

Chihiro sighed and shook her head with a smile. "All right. But just a quick look."

"Yes!" Masami jumped up in celebration. She began tugging at her sister's hand. "Come on, come on! Let's go!"

"Just a moment!" Chihiro said, trying to keep from getting caught up in Masami's excitement. She grabbed the handle of the picnic basket and stood up, brushing off the back of her jeans. "All right, let's go, but this time don't run so far ahead of me," she cautioned.

Masami nodded eagerly and pulled her sister by the hand towards the hill blocking the buildings.

"How strange. They're all restaurants."

"Where is everybody?" Chihiro felt more and more uncomfortable by the minute. She could smell the food her father could smell; it was nice, but the fact that there was food nearby but no one around made the place even more suspicious. Why couldn't her parents see that there might be a real danger somewhere?

Chihiro felt that these buildings were familiar, but she was sure she had never been here before. She absently let Masami pull her by the hand down the unpaved street as she remained lost in thought. It was so strange. She felt as though she were grasping at a thread of memory that kept pulling itself just out of reach.

Then, Chihiro felt herself stiffen when Masami suddenly said, "What's that smell? Is that food?" Chihiro sniffed the air and indeed smelled some kind of meat. She realized that the flash of memory she just had seemed to have the same smell in the air.

"Maybe someone else is having a picnic," Masami commented. "Let's go find it!"

"Mom! Dad!" She grabbed his shoulder. Food was all over the ground. "Come on, quit eating! Let's get out of here!" But when her father turned to her, it wasn't her father. It was a giant pig dressed in her father's clothes, with food crammed inside its open mouth. A split second glance at her mother made her realize that her mother had also been replaced by a pig, wearing her mother's clothes. She gasped and snatched her hands away, backing from the gruesome scene.

Chihiro felt a wave of fear. "No!" she cried. But her sister had already released her hand and started off in search of the "picnic".

"Masami! No!" Chihiro cried, running after her sister.

Chizi: Okay! That's the first chapter!

Mewe: Mew!

Spi: Please leave Chizi-chan and her obnoxious pet a review.