By Saffire Raynius
This story was written to satisfy my own intrigues for Spirited Away. I didn't write it for anyone else. If you respect that and still manage to like it, then please leave a review. Drawing is my strong point rather than storywriting.
Miyazaki owns Spirited Away. The story, however, is mine. I'd like to thank everyone who's reviewed so far. I read every one and the criticism is IMMENSELY appreciated.
Please read the author's note at the end for information regarding the future of this story.
Three; heaven and hell
"It's no use fixing our minds on higher things if we ignore what is going on around us."
She knew the steps by heart. A beat waltzed in her head, slow and formal, but she danced regardless. Chihiro could not remember everything, yet she felt her heart lift as her feet did. She had wanted to stay with her mother, but the discovery of an old friend and the evident steadfast of Mrs. Ogino convinced her otherwise.
She emerged from the park proper. The sage-haired boy crouched beside the creek, haunting emerald eyes focused on something in his hand. She approached him cautiously to respect his peace.
"Hello, Chihiro." His voice was considerably warmer than before. She recalled in a foggy memory that it softened only when they were alone. She swallowed her trepidation and plopped down on the bank next to him. Something dark and wet-looking hopped out of his hand into the long grass, and Chihiro cried out.
"What was that?"
"I didn't know we had frogs." She smiled at him. She likened Haku to a leaf heavy with dew; the more she shed her light on him, the more he straightened and shone in return. Yet, something overshadowed his expression no matter how gently his lips pulled into a smile. Chihiro spotted it immediately. There was some measure of awkwardness, some determined way he moved that hinted at deep thought. He felt her eyes and eventually pulled his gaze from the grass to the girl.
"Haku… You're not supposed to be here, are you?" She began to frown. Silvery air, tiny fingers grasped awkwardly at the sun's horns. A name, mirror pieces, the night falling away, a bittersweet realization. "Your home..."
The dragon boy regarded her with a soft smile. "You're right, Chihiro. I can't go home yet." Chihiro's bottom lip drew up in a sort of pout. She feared he would leave and he saw it in her eyes. "But I'm closer than ever."
"H-how are you even here? You told me you would explain."
The way his gaze darkened increased her worry. Haku immediately looked away. "You have a right to know." Chihiro leaned over and tried to peer into his face. He blinked and looked at her out of the corner of his eye, then went on. "I did negotiate my employment with Yubaba, but it took me seven more years. That's why I couldn't be released until a couple of weeks ago.
"But something else happened that no one expected." He glanced around. At once, he became dreadfully serious.
"What? What happened?"
Chihiro blinked a few times at the word. "Aku…-gami?"
Haku nodded solemnly. "Mischievous spirits whose only goal is to upset the balance between the human world and the spirit world." Chihiro crawled over until she practically sat shoulder to shoulder with him, but he pretended not to notice.
She was full of questions as always. "Like what?" Haku's expression became unreadable.
"They found the former home of a spirit, which had been taken over by humans, and destroyed it." Chihiro's eyes widened. "And in turn, he was allowed to walk through the tunnel and come here."
"The apartments burned down. Now, there's a good chance they will restore my river!" Haku couldn't keep the excitement out of his voice, and it triggered a similar reaction in Chihiro. She threw her arms around his waist. Whatever else he was about to say dove back into his throat promptly, leaving him with a gawky sort of hesitation—until he slipped his arms about her and held her close. He imagined as he closed his eyes that he was only blue energy, and she shone a saffron color akin to sunlight. Whenever they touched, the space between them became a glorious green: living, thriving, tangible, and warm.
The soft plea drew Haku out of his vision. He could see her dark eyes trying to formulate a question she was hesitant to ask and he was hesitant to answer. "But what will happen when you get your river back? You'll have to go away again, won't you…?"
His reply came in a soft tone that held just as much suspense as the night they were reunited on the shore. "I'll be able to come back, Chihiro. I'm stronger than I've ever been. I'll be able to travel."
"Because I have another home, and it's right here."
Her heart lurched. All at once she felt the tranquility of the creek; the cool, clear comfort his arms provided; the steady heartbeat thrumming in his chest and the fluttery once resounding in her own. How could I? she thought. How could I have ever forgotten?
Eventually she pulled away, allowed the river spirit to breathe. The serenity between them wasn't affected by the lack of hug. Something else still troubled his expression and it affected her, too. "Haku, what's wrong?"
The icy miles infringed on their sunny, damp alcove between the fingertips of the park. He looked away again. "The akugami are doing more than playing pranks on humans. Do you know what will happen exactly twenty-one days from today?" Chihiro shook her head. The ways of spirits were elusive to her. "A solar eclipse," he continued gravely. "The akugami are breaking down the barriers between the worlds one day at a time, and when the sun is eclipsed, every spirit willing will be able to cross over into yours without consequence. In return, many humans may find themselves trapped in the spirit world. The dead will be living, the living will be in-between—everything you know will change."
"That's… rather… heavy…"
"The truth is… I was sent here to find a human who has succeeded on both sides of the border, because I am a spirit who has done the same."
It was all too much for Chihiro to handle. She shook her head slowly, eyes narrowing in confusion. "I don't…" The spirit's fingers gently clasped her shoulders. They felt cool, like the kiss of a breeze by a riverside, and oh so urgent. Just like that, their eyes locked—emerald determination met the steadfast of Chihiro's gaze, drew it out of her like those grown-up qualities she'd harnessed in herself back then. She understood.
"It's your choi—"
"I'll do it," the teen cut in.
Haku blinked. There was a small, stunned silence, and then he nodded. His eyes migrated back to the long grass, where something twitched. Chihiro all but pounced on it. She straightened up a moment later with something cupped in her palms: a moist green frog.
Chihiro knew the steps by heart. It was an old, ancient beat, one she could follow with her eyes closed and her back weighed down by many burdens. It was a rhythm, a drum, something that mirrored the beat of her own heart and—and she smiled. Maybe a new journey wouldn't be so hard… or maybe it had already begun.
She tiptoed as quietly as possible through the living room, imagining for a moment that she was trying to evade the notice of some witch. But the witch in this case was more like the snoozing figure of her mother, who had dozed off during an eight-man comedy routine. Her father had curled up into a ball with his head in her lap. Chihiro smiled fondly at them, and then she disappeared into the kitchen.
The gravity of her situation didn't really hit her until she was measuring rice into the cooker. "Oh…" His eyes had been so grave… his touch so earnest. There was risk involved. This wasn't some fairy tale excursion into the woods. This was—this was life and death, literally, wasn't it?
Just because this was the second time didn't make it any easier. Her mother—her father—everyone she knew was in danger and she barely knew anything. What was so special about her? Chihiro asked herself as she stared into the clear plastic of the rice cooker. It began to fog, obscuring her reflection. Her only real strength was caring for things that matter. She'd been such a brat back then, it was amazing that someone as kind and powerful as Haku would even consider being her best friend—
There was no doubt that he would not do this. There never had been. Chihiro could no longer see the world as narrowly as a child. Her parents were still her world, and always would be, but God—if it only were that simple. The entire world was going to rip open and people were going to die.
She attacked the chicken stir fry assignment with a fervor her mother admired from the entrance to the kitchen. "It looks great, dear." Chihiro hadn't heard the clunking of crutches, she was so involved in her own thoughts.
"A-Ah! Mom!" She smiled sheepishly as she nearly dropped the pan. "How are you feeling?" She moved away from the stove to tend to the rice, trying to disguise the faint trembling of her clumsy fingers.
Mrs. Ogino slid onto one of the stools, reached up to pull a bit of brownish hair away from her face. "I'm doing just fine. A little mad at your father."
"Why?" the teen inquired over her shoulder.
"Oh, he fell asleep on me and put my good leg to sleep. I'm alright now."
The girl smiled a little. If she wanted to preserve this…
"Honey, your chicken sounds like it's about to explode." The scald washed out of the remark with her mother's soft laugh. Chihiro stammered an apology and went back to preparing the meal.
Somehow, despite all of the strangeness of the events that had conspired, dinner was mostly normal. Her father went on about work and her mother nodded as she ought to. No one mentioned anything about the accident, and Chihiro ate with relative, relishing silence. Her appetite was lighter than usual but no one could blame her for it. She couldn't help but feel like she was on the edge of something fast, and she might fall into it.
She didn't, though, and she didn't fall asleep either. Chihiro sat on the edge of her bed with her shoes carefully tied and a hoodie tucked about her waist. Her luxurious bay window was open to the crisp, calling night. Every breeze that ruffled her gauzy curtains made her jump, but she would console herself and turn back to her diary.
Dear who? Chihiro had piles of dream journals but she never knew who to address them to. If it was only supposed to be her reading them, then shouldn't she put "Dear Me?" But, say in thirty or forty years, her descendants discovered her journals and wanted to know about her super exciting life (not)…
"Dear Whoever Might Read This…" Now it sounded like a suicide note. She started over. "Dear Everyone…" Nope, still too dark. Maybe she could make someone up. Maybe…
And so it became, "Dear Haku." Chihiro laughed mentally. Like he would ever touch this. If anyone dared question who this person was, she could say that he was imaginary; he was someone who never existed, but if he had, he would have been the perfect friend. Dragging her on adventures and the like. This was beginning to sound like a book. The piece of amber winked at her from the corner of her diary as she wrote what would be the first entry of many—she hoped—in her blank journals.
The small red book disappeared into her hoodie whereas the stone went back into her pocket. As she reached for her lamplight, a silvery flash by the window caught her attention. No, not silvery… It was blue and green and purple, dark and light. It was Haku. She stole to her window and leaned out to look around, only to come nearly nose to nose with the ancient teen.
"Ah! I knew you'd come!"
He half-smiled mysteriously and pressed his finger to his lips to indicate silence. "You need to see something," he said in his usual thick, low tone. He seemed different than how he first appeared in her memories (or was it secondly?); he radiated the moonlight like an answering moon.
Chihiro blinked. "Where are we going?"
The dragon boy responded by seizing her hand in his. She gasped faintly. Just by touching him, she seemed to feel more, see more, hear more, taste everything—just by his touch. "You'll see."
Whatever Chihiro might have said in response to that was promptly forgotten. She left her room behind and safety and ground and oh, she was flying! No strings attached, no one to tell her what to do, just the night sky and the moon and Haku's tiny smile, which was shy and small like a crescent moon in itself. Her fingers entwined in his eagerly as the breeze escorted them over the rooftops of the sleeping suburbs, and somewhere below, the world smiled back.
Bearing witness to a miracle, empowered—the saint shines through… +4
I have come to the conclusion that my ability to thread a story together and make it cohesive is about as good as my ability to navigate a parking lot. For this reason, I'm probably going to never update Amber beyond chapter five. If anyone ever tells you fanfiction is like roleplaying with yourself, slap him. It is a pack of lies and a good RPer does not necessarily make a good storywriter, as I have learned time and time again. I'm going to stick to poetry, plzkthx. Sorry if my two and a half fans got their hopes up, but it's the truth. I will always be around doing artwork and roleplaying and writing poetry when I feel like it, however, so check out http://hyrule.nu/saffy to see what's going on with me currently.
I appreciate every review. Thanks guys, and sorry to disappoint.