Disclaimer - I don't own Spirited Away or any of its characters.
It was rare that I would get angry at my parents. Ever since my fateful trip to the Spirit World, I've become more daring, less bratty and more independant. But this was one of those exceptions.
" No," I simply said.
" Chihiro." My father strained his voice. " This is for your best interest. He's the son of our old friends. We also met the boy before. Besides, he looks handsome." He particularly put emphasis on the word.
" Dad, it hardly means anything if the guy looks cute." I rolled my eyes. At times, my parents know me better than anyone else. Well, they are my parents. Yet sometimes they can't understand what's going through my sixteen-year-old brain.
" Not only is the boy handsome, he is very friendly and polite," my mother added. " And he has the most beautiful ey - no, I'll let you find out when you meet him this Saturday. You wouldn't believe me even if I told you." She winked at me.
" At least tell me his name," I sighed. So I can curse him later.
" You'll find out." Now my dad was talking in that annoying voice too.
Most people consider sixteen a sweet age to be in. After all, that was the age you were considered to be the most rebellious and most romantic. In my opinon, I hardly cared.
I've been waiting for such a long time. Haku had promised that he would come back to me. I know he would keep his promise. Dragons always keep their promises.
There was several occasions that I got tired of waiting. I went back to the tunnel. But there was no tunnel, no entrance for me to go through. I was seperated from Haku.
Overwhelmed with desperation, I threw myself at the bottom of the cliff, where the tunnel and strange statues used to be. I clawed at the ground and cried, demanding entry.
All my efforts were futile. My parents didn't understand why I came back, covered in grass stains, dirt in my finger nails and wet cheeks.
It was bad enough that I can't stop thinking about him in the daytime. Even worse, I have dreams of him.
He would be in his human form. Or in his dragon form. Each time I saw him, he would never speak a word, except watch me with a forlorn look. Whenever he tried to speak, he would be wisped away like smoke.
Sometimes Yubaba was there. Thick chains were weaved from her fingers, tying around Haku. He writhed and struggled, no sound coming from him. But I could clearly see his pain.
There were times, he wasn't there but I could feel his warm presence, embracing me. His breathe fluttered at my neck and his arms wrapped around me. It was too real to be a dream. It became all too real when I wake up.
Something - perhaps the dreams - inspired me. I began to work on my profect. A project to save the Kohaku River.
My fellow students and teachers were puzzled. My parents were downright baffled at my sudden obession at this new project. I ignored them. It didn't matter what others thought. All that mattered was the project.
I went around, asking for signatures and I even sent letters to the mayor of the town near the Kohaku River. Mostly the elderly that remembered the river's former glory, were impressed by my attempts and eagerly helped me.
It took over two years but it was worth it. The Kohaku River was successfully restored and its beauty returned. Now, if only the spirit watching over the Kohaku River would return.
One night, I looked out my window, gazing at the stars. I wondered if Haku was among them. Has it really been six years?
Forever was I reminded of his face, his pale skin, his gentle voice, his soft touches. But it was his eyes that reminded me the most of him. His beautiful, green eyes that tormented me.
Would I ever see him again?
Lying my head in my arms, I silently cried myself to sleep.
I felt extremely frustrated and useless.
Yubaba managed to find a loophole out of the deal. I was forced to work for her for five extra years before the agreement came to its end. So I did.
When those five years were finally over, I breathed freedom long last. I could go find Chichiro now. I bid my goodbyes to Kamaji, Boh, Zeniba and No Face. They wished me luck and hoped that one day, Chihiro and I could come back to visit.
Stepping into the human world, I felt a shiver run down my back. Where was I to start? I had no idea how Chihiro ended up in the Spirit World. That alone was a miracle. I didn't know any portals from the Spirit to Human World.
The last time I was in the Human World was when I still had my home. The Kohaku River. The last place I was at, was the first place I went to.
I was surprised to see clean, blue water flowing in the river.
But how? Before I had left, the river was drained and people built buildings atop of it. I went around, asking people. To my great shock and joy, it was Chihiro that saved my home.
Maybe if I wait long enough, she'll come back to the river. Perhaps I can meet with her then.
There was one problem. I was a spirit in the body of a human. Which meant I could feel hungry and thirsty.
Fortunately, a lady named Mrs. Suka came by and offered me some food. She even invited me over to her house. Her husband, Mr. Suka made no attempt to turn me out and welcomed me graciously.
Later, I found out that they had lost their son in a tragic car accident. They couldn't bear to let another child, let alone son, into their lives again after what happened. But sympathy and compassion overwhelmed their grief and the Sukas' took me in.
They gave me my own room, a roof, food, clothes and a love I had never known.
So this was what it was like to have parents. I never had parents. I simply existed.
Now I understand why Chihiro went to such lengths to save her parents. They gave you this warmth and sense of belonging. They knew how to cuddle you when you are sad and they knew how to give you the look when you did something bad.
I loved my new foster parents very much. But at times, they can be very frustrating.
" There is just one thing I don't get, Haku." My father scratched the back of his head. " Why don't you go find yourself a nice girlfriend?"
" I don't have the time for a girl." After all, I spend all my time looking for one girl. " Besides, I'm just not interested in any right now." The only one I'm interested in is Chihiro.
" Just for a few weeks," Mrs. Suka begged. " Meet the girl. Get to know her. Who knows? Maybe you both will like each other."
There wasn't a chance in the world that I would like this girl. My heart was for Chihiro. But for my parents' sake, I'll just play along. " All right, okaa-san. I'll go and meet this girl."
" She's a nice girl. We've met her once when she was younger. I wouldn't surprised if she has turned into a more beautiful young woman now." The most beautiful person to me is Chihiro and Chihiro only.
Girls at school watched me with their eyes, flirting and teasing. I hear their whispers and giggles. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. They were all the same and boring. Don't they understand that I'm not interested?
Boys admired me. They urged me to participate in their sports and clubs. They chased me around almost as much as the girls. Just to stop some of them, I agreed to join them. However, most of the time, I don't bother showing up for the clubs or sports.
During the day, I searched in the streets and busiest places in the city. There was a tiny chance that Chihiro might be there too. She could be right across the street from me. She could be where I was, just minutes ago. I tormented myself with such thoughts.
What if she didn't recognize me? What if she doesn't remember anything at all? Even worse, what if she had another person in her life?
I couldn't bear if that really did happen. I prayed that Chihiro hasn't given up hope on me yet.
By night, I flew to other places, searching and waiting. Town to town. City to city. Mountain across mountain. My parents didn't understand why I was so tired and restless in the mornings.
Everyday, I'll be renewed with hope that I would find her. If not this city, then the next city and the next one after that. I returned to the same streets, places and towns, praying that today will be the day that I will find Chihiro.
For the first time in the six years since I've been waiting for Chihiro, I tasted despair.
Chihiro smoothed out the ceases on her skirt unnecessarily. Her parents pratically ordered her to wear something nice and formal when they go and pick the mystery boy and his family. If she had her way, she would have worn jeans and a T-shirt.
Her hands found their way into the purple hairband that Zeniba, Boh, No Face and Yubaba's crow made for her. It was a farewell present and it brought her the comfort she needed.
But she felt no comfort from it today. The day when she would pick up the mystery boy and his parents.
She already made up her mind that she will turn down that boy, no matter how handsome or polite he is. Maybe he will understand that she loved another. Maybe he already liked someone else too and was as annoyed as her.
Maybe. Just maybe.
A sudden shiver ran down her spine, causing her to look up from her bored reverie. It surprised her that she would feel this feeling today. It was a mixture of warmth and tenderness. She had only felt this once before.
When she had ridden a dragon.
Before she could decipher what it meant, her mother cried out. " Oh look!" Mrs. Ogino said excitedly, pointing. " They're coming out."
Mentally preparing herself for the long weeks ahead and the strange omen she had just recieved, Chihiro watched the approaching crowd.
Haku officially decided he didn't like airplanes. They were cramp and crowded with people. How could his parents sleep through this? It would be easier if he just flew to the city himself.
His back ached as he trudged through the long hallway. Not to mention there was an oddness in his stomach, almost as if there was nothing in his stomach and it slowly swallowed him. He felt this once and only once before.
It was when he first gazed into the eyes of an angel.
" You all right, Haku?" Mrs. Suka asked worriedly. " Did you sleep well on the plane?"
" Yes, okaa-san. I'm all right." He forced himself to smile.
Mr. Suka patted his son on the back. " Don't push yourself too hard, all right? This is your summer vacation. Try and have some fun here."
" I will, otou-san," Haku heard himself say. " I will."
Suddenly a voice called out. " Ayami! Tomu!"
The two parents that Haku had met four months earlier, Mr. and Mrs. Ogino, waved to Mr. and Mrs. Suka delightfully from the sides. The women hugged, laughing and crying. The men grasped each other's hands and beamed.
They didn't realise their daughter and son were staring at each other.
Chihiro couldn't breathe and she was faint with shock. The strange shivers had returned. Haku felt dizzy; his world was spinning out of control. The bottom of his stomach was gone again.
" Haku, I want you to meet Chihiro," Mr. Suka introduced. " Chihiro, this is our adopted son, Haku."
For minutes, they said nothing, staring at each other. Suddenly, both bowed respectfully. Even then, their eyes never left each others. Almost as if they were hypnotised.
" Have you two met before?" Chihiro's mother asked curiously, looking between them.
" A long time ago," Haku replied, smiling as he leaned forward, embracing her tightly.
" On a dragon's back," Chihiro added in a soft whisper. She lifted her head, sealing Haku's lips with a kiss.
And they stayed like that for a long time.