Chizi: Welcome back! I'm sorry for the long wait!

Spi: I convinced Chizi-chan to put Mewe asleep.

Mewe: (asleep)

Spi: Also, Chizi-chan wanted to let you all know that there will be eventual Kohaku River/Chihiro, so, yeah.


8: Kidnapped

Chihiro and Kohaku River sat side by side on the fallen tree on the top of a small hill, facing out towards the water. For a moment, they said nothing, but silently enjoyed each other's company. A light breeze blew by, stirring the grass and leaves.

"Have you been well, Kohaku?" Chihiro asked.

"I've been well enough," Kohaku River replied. "I was a lot better," he went on, turning to her, "when I found out you had come back."

Chihiro smiled. "Now I'm glad I came back," she said. "But..."

Kohaku River's smile faded. "What?"

Chihiro sighed. "I don't mind putting myself in danger to see you, but I don't want to endanger Masami too. She's just a little girl. I have to take her home."

"I see," Kohaku River said. "And will you go back with her?"

Chihiro looked up at him. The breeze grew slightly stronger, moving her bangs into her eyes, but she didn't bother to move them. Her mind was on Kohaku River's question. Would I? Would I go back with Masami? It would be for the best. Our parents provide for us, but I'm the one who really takes care of her. But...I haven't seen Kohaku River in so long. I don't want to leave him again.

"I tell you what, Chihiro," Kohaku River said suddenly, standing up. "Let's be concerned about getting your sister back home. And when the times comes, you can decide what you want to do."

Chihiro nodded. "All right," she agreed, standing up as well.

"Aha!"

Chihiro whirled at the sound, fear rising in her mind. Yubaba! She found us! She felt Kohaku River's hand on her back, and she was suddenly shoved forward. She fell to the ground, with Kohaku River on top of her, and an explosion behind them pushed them down the hill. Chihiro landed with an "Oof!" as something hard rammed into her chest and shoved the air out of her lungs.

Kohaku River grabbed Chihiro's hand and helped her up as quickly as he could. Chihiro was still trying to get her breath back. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Granny--no, Yubaba--flying down the hill towards them. She was already forming another fireball.

"Come on!" Kohaku River yelled. He moved forward in one smooth motion, pulling Chihiro with him. Her feet lifted into the air, and they fairly flew along a few inches off the ground.

Just as they were about to cross the other side, a frog in a kimono suddenly ran to the bridge. "Master Haku! You're back!" he exclaimed, jumping in front of them. She was so shocked to see a frog in a kimono talking to them, she accidentally released her breath. Oh no! As quickly as she could, she held her breath again, but she realized it was too late as the frog's gaze shifted to her and his expression changed.

"What? A human?" the frog exclaimed. He jumped up as if to accost them, but Haku shoved his hand forward, and a dark circle formed around the frog, freezing it in mid-air. "Come on!" Haku yelled as he moved forward in one quick motion. She felt her feet rise into the air, and they fairly flew along a few inches off the ground and through the legs of the girls, causing their skirts to fly upwards. The girls all laughed as they pushed their skirts down, effectively creating a diversion.

Chihiro gripped Kohaku River's hand tighter as they flew forward at an amazing speed. Behind them, Chihiro heard an explosion, and she risked a look back to see a cloud of smoke rising only a few feet away from them. Another explosion whose heat Chihiro could feel told her that Yubaba was getting closer.

"Hold on!" Kohaku River yelled. Chihiro suddenly felt herself jerk to the left, and an explosion to her right made her scream briefly. She realized that they had just dodged an attack, and her stomach was churning. What if the next attack didn't miss? They jerked to the right suddenly, and Chihiro saw a rising smoke cloud to her left. This couldn't last much longer. Something had to happen.

"You can't get away from me!" Chihiro heard Yubaba yell. She sorely hoped the old witch was wrong. Suddenly her mind whirled back to the cave, and the sleeping form inside it.

"Kohaku River!" Chihiro cried. "We have to go back for Masami!"

Kohaku River briefly glanced back at her, and then turned back around. "Hold on," he said again, and they suddenly turned right. Chihiro caught a glimpse of Yubaba behind them before the smoke of another explosion obscured Chihiro's view. They weaved around a large group of trees, trying to lose Yubaba.

There was another explosion over their heads, and Chihiro looked up to see a large branch falling from a freshly wounded tree. She only had time to gasp before the branch slammed down directly on her head.

A tearing pain split from Chihiro's forehead down to her ears. In her shock, she accidentally released Kohaku River's hand, and lost most of the momentum she had had from flying with him. "Chihiro!" she faintly heard Kohaku River yell, but that was overwhelmed by the screaming pain through her head. She hit something rough and scratchy and flipped over a few times, feeling sticks and leaves scratch her arms, until she finally came to rest in what felt like a large bush.

Chihiro didn't dare move. Her head was throbbing mercilessly, and her arms were beginning to sting. She lay facedown, the top half of her body flat on the ground, and her legs suspended slightly by the bush's thick leaves and branches. She heard another explosion, and what sounded like Yubaba yelling, but she couldn't be sure.

She laid there, not moving, not doing anything. The noises around her seemed to be getting quieter, and she was surprised to feel sleepy. Or was she sleepy? Chihiro didn't know, but she didn't fight it. She let her eyes close, and soon she was gone.


Chihiro stirred when she felt hands on her shoulder. The pain in her head had lessened to a dull ache, and her arms didn't sting anymore. She wasn't lying in the scratchy bush anymore; instead, she was on some markedly softer grass.

"Chihiro? Chihiro, can you hear me?"

Chihiro groaned as her head throbbed mercilessly. She placed a hand on her forehead, her mind still moving slowly. What happened...?

Suddenly it all came back. Yubaba. The attack. The branch. Masami!

"Masami!" Chihiro cried, sitting up quickly. A sudden stab of pain in her head nearly sent her back down, but she felt hands grab her shoulders to keep her upright.

"Careful, Chihiro." Kohaku River sounded grave. "You don't want to hurt yourself any more."

"Where's Masami?" Chihiro demanded of him.

Kohaku River looked her straight in the eyes. "Yubaba took her."

"Yubaba...took..." Chihiro looked ready to faint. "Oh no. Masami!" She jumped to her feet. "Sister!" She took off in what she thought was the general direction of the train tracks. "Masami! Masami!" she cried.

"Chihiro, stop!" Kohaku River's hand descended firmly on her shoulder, stopping her in her tracks. "We can't go barging into Yubaba's bathhouse demanding Masami back," he said gravely.

Chihiro turned to him, tears in her eyes. "I've g-gotta get Masami back," she trembled. "She's my responsibility. I can't let anything happen to her!"

"We will get her back," Kohaku River promised. "But first we have to ensure that you're all right."

"Never mind me!" Chihiro shoved his hands away. "I have to get Masami--I have to--I have--" She took a few steps forward, tripped, and fell to her knees. She burst into tears again. "This is all my fault," she sobbed. "If Masami gets hurt, or-or if she dies--it'll be all my fault!"


"Let me out of here!" Masami screamed, pounding furiously on the door. "You can't keep me locked in here forever!"

"Be quiet, human!" Yubaba snapped from the other side of the locked door.

"Let me out!" Masami yelled, pounding on the door. "Let me out!"

"You be quiet!" Yubaba yelled. "Or you'll get your tongue cut off."

Masami gasped and slapped both hands over mouth to shield her tongue. She wouldn't really do that, would she? she wondered. She decided that this Granny Zeniba look-alike was just bluffing, and Masami started to kick the door. "I'll--whap!--have you know--whap!--I've played soccer--whap!--and this door--whap!--is no match--whap!--for me!" Whap!

"Urrgh! Irrepressible human child!" Yubaba hissed, rubbing her temples. She tried to tune out Masami's kicking the door. "If you don't stop it you won't see the light of day again!" she threatened. It probably would have been better to just try and eliminate them all on the spot. I don't know if I can handle much more of this!

"If you don't let me out this door'll never see the light of day again!" Masami screamed.


Chizi: And we're off!

Spi: See you all later. (grabs Chihiro and Mewe and flies away)