The dragon-spirit of the river was on its side, breathing irregularly as the crimson pool surrounding it widened. Chihiro could not believe what she was seeing. She shook her head and rubbed her brown eyes, just to make sure. It was still there.
Without any more hesitation, she made her way towards the creature cautiously, as to not startle it. It stirred, opening its eyes, which were the same color as the pool of blood bordering it. The spirit shifted slightly, baring its pointed, pearly teeth as it emitted a low yet threatening growl. Chihiro was frightened, but did not back down. She knew that this blessed creature would die if she did not do something.
"Please," she cooed soothingly as she gently touched its side. The glittering scales felt dry and hot to her touch. "I do not wish to harm you, Great One." The dragon continued to bare its teeth until its wolf-like head fell to the ground, its eyes closed as it took a deep breath. It must be exhausted…
She gently caressed the large head in her arms. It was surprisingly heavy, causing her to struggle slightly and put the bucket of water on the ground. The majestic creature stirred again, opening its eyes, which were now a jade green instead of their former crimson. This did not surprise Chihiro; she had learned many impossible things about the dragon from her mother's mystical bedtime stories.
The dragon moaned again, looking into her eyes with a mix of despair and fright in its own. Taking pity on the creature, she brought the bucket to its snout, letting it drink what was left of the water that she had not spilled. It gulped thankfully, resting its head on the ground when it was finished. Chihiro gently petted its head to soothe it, receiving no form of protest.
After a few minutes of silence, the young woman decided that it would be best for the dragon if she went for help. With a final pat on the head, she rose. "I will be back soon, Great One." With a small bow, she walked away calmly, as to not accidentally hurt the spirit, and then ran hurriedly back down the hill towards her home, the bucket in hand.
"Father! Mother!" Chihiro exclaimed as she crashed through the doorway. Her mother, Yuuko, had been feeding Boh rice while her father, Akio, was eating sushi. Upon sight of their worried daughter, her mother straightened while her father placed down his chopsticks.
"Chihiro!" her father exclaimed sternly. "You know better than to greet your parents in such a fashion!" Catching her breath, their daughter stood to her full height and bowed apologetically.
"Forgive me. I should have greeted you with respect. But I need your help! The River Spirit is with us! It is injured, and resting in the forest!" Her parents were perfectly still, looking at her strangely.
"That is impossible," her father said, breaking the silence. "The Great Spirits abandoned us long ago. No one has seen them in my time, or my grandfather's time, or even his grandfather's time. Besides, even if they were still here, they would never show themselves to someone as worthless as a young girl."
Chihiro bowed her head sadly, closing her eyes. "Perhaps not…" She opened them again. "But this one had no choice! I was the only human around, and it will die if-!"
"That," her father interrupted, "is enough!" Her mother rose, placing Boh down in his silk-lined cradle.
"Perhaps she has caught something, Akio!" she exclaimed as she experimentally felt her daughter's forehead. Chihiro gently pried it away.
"I'm telling you, I'm not sick! It is up-!"
"That is enough, Chihiro!" her father roared, causing the young woman to cringe slightly. Akio rose from his chair, breathing heavily, his face even redder than the pool of blood that had surrounded the spirit. "I do not want to hear any more foolish nonsense from you!" He sat back down.
Yuuko cautiously made her way towards her enraged husband. "Honorable Husband, perhaps she should bathe in the river nearby. Many say that it can clear the head and purify the mind within seconds…"
Chihiro's father waved a hand at her dismissively, and took a deep breath. "Very well. Chihiro, come back soon. There are more chores to be done…"
"Yes, Honorable Father. Thank you." She bowed her head, and quietly walked into the back room. The young woman looked over her shoulder, seeing no one looking back. She broke into a run, grabbing a couple of Boh's old blankets and another small bucket.
Ignoring the protests from her sore feet, she ran across the grassy hills, and crashed through the entrance of the forest.
Chihiro made her way through the layers of thick foliage, stopping only once to pull a large thorn from her bare foot, it being bare because she had lost a sandal. She had not stopped to recover it, knowing that those few seconds in which she could have picked it up were precious.
The young woman finally made her way to the clearing, falling to her hands and feet as she tried to catch her breath. Chihiro finally released her tight grip on the ratty pieces of cloth, closing her eyes.
But something was wrong.
She no longer heard heavy breathing. She heard some breathing, but it was much, much quieter. No… It couldn't be… Chihiro lifted her head from the earth, trying not to think of the worst.
She gasped loudly in shock, nearly falling over.
The spirit was no longer there.
Only a black-haired boy…
Sorry, guys. I meant to update this sooner. Thanks for the reviews! Oh yeah! I forgot to say in the last chapter that this storywas inspired bya legend from "The Dragon of Lonely Island" Sorry!