Ok, first of all I have to say that I AM SO FREAKING SORRY THIS TOOK ME SO FREAKING LONG!
Gods….I never thought that it would take so long. These last two years have been….nothing short of hectic and stressful. I'm out of school for right now, so hopefully I can pull the next chapter out of my ass before too long. Thank you all for being so patient with me. I really do not deserve your kindness. But I made it long. 27 pages. It was actually going to be a little longer, but I had to stop it because the part that's next is taking me forever…so I give you this much. Again, I am so sorry. Please forgive me….
A big thank you to all of those who reviewed. There are honestly too many of you to list you all by name, but thank you so much!
Disclaimer: I do not own Spirited Away; it belongs to Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. So please don't sue me. For I am a poor college student and have no money in which to give you. I do, however, own Kafu, Aiko, and Kain.
Chpt. 3 Awakening
It had been almost three months since Sen had visited Haku. She was overjoyed that he was still alive, but the worry that came with it had slowly become visible to others. The human would find herself daydreaming when she was supposed to be paying attention to the customer. Rin had to point out that Sen had gotten exceedingly clumsy; spilling food and drinks all over the floors and sometimes over the guests that she was serving at the time. Sen would forget where she was going and why, and end up taking twenty minutes to complete an errand that only should have taken five. Sleep would elude her as she continued to think of ways to help Haku out of the situation that he was in. The 'mistakes' were getting so bad that Yubaba threatened to punish her if they continued, and for a while they stopped. Sen seemed to be cured however it didn't take them long for them to resurface and were worse then before. After two months of Sen making mistakes, Rin pulled her aside while they were on their way back to their dorm.
"OK, spill it." Rin's eyes bore down into Sen's, and the human fought the urge to start squirming. She knew that she wouldn't be able to lie to the spirit, Rin knew her far too well for Sen to be able to pull that off. Maybe she could talk her way out of it… the less Rin knew the better. If the eventual nonexistent plan went down hill, Sen didn't want Rin to be a part of it.
"Spill what Rin?" Sen tried to make her voice sound confused and ignorant, but just as she thought, Rin saw through the façade instantly.
"Don't give me that. You were never this clumsy, not even as a child. You were not like this before Yubaba summoned you three months ago." The anger left her face as it softened. "I know that you're not sleeping, and I'm worried about you. Everyone is." Sen couldn't look into the spirit's eyes anymore. She felt so guilty for worrying Rin and the others, but what could she do? She couldn't just sit by and do nothing while Haku was being starved and beaten to death. Now that she knew where he was, the need to see him was a constant ache in the pit of her stomach. She wished she could do something for him. Brown eyes glanced back up at the woman in front of her with renewed determination. She had been throwing this idea around for the past couple of days, and as risky as it was, it was the only way she could think of to help the dragon who meant so much to her. Sen glanced down at the empty hall before she grabbed Rin's hand and dragged her into the nearest empty room.
"You have to promise not to tell anyone, got it? Not a soul." Rin's eyes widened in shock and confusion, but she nodded her agreement. "OK….Haku's alive." Sen stated as if that answered every question in the world. Rin stared at her in utter shock as the words clicked one by one in her head.
"What?" Rin exclaimed, and Sen's hand flashed to cover her mouth.
"Shut up! Do you want to get us in trouble?" Sen whispered harshly, glaring at the woman in front of her. Rin took a deep breath and nodded, granting her release. Sen listened to the sounds around them to make sure that no one heard Rin's outburst, and breathed a sigh of relief when she didn't hear anything.
"OK…So Haku's alive. How the in the world do you know that?"
"I saw him. Granny…Zaniba, took me to see him." Sen's face darkened slightly as she continued. "It's really bad, Rin…What Yubaba's doing to him. It looked like he hadn't eaten in days, not to mention all the wounds he had. He told me to just wait for him, and that he'll get out soon, but I don't see that happening within the next few years." Rin nodded in understanding.
"Yeah, it makes sense…Yubaba is known to be ruthless with her prisoners." The two stood in silence for a moment, both lost in their own thoughts. "So that's why you've been distracted? I should have known…" Rin stated with a small smile. Sen glared at her as she debated on whether telling Rin her plan. On one hand, if Sen got caught, then Rin couldn't be pinned for helping her. On the other, however, Sen couldn't deny that having Rin in on the plan would be a great asset. She was Rin's assistant after all. "What's that look for?" Rin's voice snapped Sen out of her thoughts.
"I...I've been thinking of going to see him again." There was a long moment of tensed silence before Rin hissed in anger.
"Are you CRAZY?" She whispered harshly, brown eyes narrowed on the girl before her. "You could get yourself punished, or worse killed. I'm sure that Haku would like that too much."
"But think about it, Rin. I heard the spell that Zeniba used. I can sneak into Yubaba's office while she's sleeping and be out before anyone knows that I'm gone." Sen's face was alight with excitement as she described her plan to her friend. "I can bring him food at least…maybe something to help heal his wounds-"
"Whoa! Hold it!" Rin exclaimed, cutting the girl off. "What makes you think that you'll be able to get to him in the first place? A spell takes more then just a word or two, Sen. You have to back it up with magic." Sen's face froze before it fell. She hadn't thought about that.
"I have to try, Rin. I can't just sit here and do nothing." Rin's expression softened slightly, as she gently placed her hands on the shoulders of the girl before her.
"I know it's hard, but I think that the best thing for Haku right now is knowing that you're safe, and not getting into trouble. You trying to see him….its like playing with fire, Sen. You'll get burned."
"I will not." Sen looked up at her friend with fierce determination. "I just….I need you to help me. If I'm not back in time, cover for me. Say that I'm sick or something." Rin sighed, knowing that no matter what she said she had already lost the argument. Sen would go off and see the dragon anyway, no matter how many times she told her not to.
"I still don't think this is a good idea." Rin closed her eyes and shook her head at the very thought of allowing Sen to go through with this. "And the gods know that Haku is going to kill me when he gets out of there." She opened her eyes to look Sen square in the eyes. "But if you get caught, just know that Yubaba will be the least of your problems. Got it?" A smile broke out on Sen's face as she wrapped her arms around Rin in a fierce hug.
"Thank you, Rin." Rin rolled her eyes as she returned the gesture.
"Yeah, yeah…And don't you say that I never did anything for you."
She ran down the hallway, her bare feet making hardly a sound on the wooden floors. Adrenaline flowed through her veins, heightening her senses as she made her way towards the elevator. The silence rang in her ears. She had forgotten how quiet the bathhouse got when everyone was sleeping. Every sound she made seem to echo off the walls, announcing to the world that she was doing something that she wasn't supposed to. She let out a sigh of relief when the doors closed and the small box began to ascend.
"Almost there…" However that thought only made the task before her all the greater. The hardest part was yet to come. She refused to think about what would happen if the plan didn't work. Yubaba's bedroom was on the other side of the nursery. So as long as she didn't make any loud noises, then she would be fine. All the padding in the nursery made the perfect sound proof barrier. As the elevator slowed to a stop, Sen took a deep breath to calm her nerves. She could do this.
She could do this.
The elevator doors opened to the dark front hall. The lights were dimmed but still on in the case that someone needed to walk about with out running into things. Sen silently walked across the tiled floors, and shifted her small bag on her back into a more comfortable position. She steeled herself as she silently opened the door, and closed it in the same matter, shutting her into absolute blackness. The hallway, unlike the front room, and no lights to light the long hallway, nor did it have windows to let the natural light in. Sen closed her eyes in attempt to get them used to the darkness, and was rewarded when she opened them again. She could barely make out the walls, and the breakable vases that were standing against them. Making sure she stayed in the middle of the floor, she slowly made her way down hall until she reached the turn off that led to Yubaba's office. The door was slightly open, with the sun spilling in through the windows that the witch had forgotten to close. There was a small fire crackling in the fireplace, as well as light from the desk light. Sen looked around the room, even though she knew that Yubaba wasn't going to be in there. If she listened hard enough, she could hear the woman's snores through the two rooms. If she didn't have so much on the line, Sen might have laughed. Closing the door without a sound, Sen made her way across the stone floor and the rug to stand directly in front of the fireplace. The heat warmed her legs as she steeled herself, just incase her little mission turned sour.
"Patefacio*…" Her voice was barely a whisper; the fear of being caught stole its volume. For a long moment, there was nothing. As the seconds stretched into minutes, Sen found herself torn. It hadn't worked. But maybe it could work. Maybe she hadn't said it loud enough. "Patefacio." She said again, slightly louder then before, praying to the gods that it worked. She wasn't sure if she could handle it if it didn't. Brown eyes looked over her shoulder towards the door that led to the nursery where the baby slept. She couldn't stay here much longer. Looking back over at the stone fireplace, she stepped closer to it. "Patefacio….come on, open damn it." There was a sudden wave of warmth that spread through her like wild fire, and then a loud groan echoed off the walls. Sen instinctively ducked; throwing a glance over her shoulder towards the door as the fireplace continued to groan. "Shut up…" She glared back at the fireplace to realize that it had shifted over just enough for her to barely pass through. Shock had frozen her to the spot in which she stood as she stared down the dark tunnel.
"I did it…." She still couldn't believe it as she slowly stood up and made her way through the open door into the darkness. She rushed down the stairs as quickly as she could without killing herself, a smile lighting up her face. The shock that it actually worked was still hummed through her when she reached the bottom. Her breaths came out in short pants as she walked down the row of cells. There was a dim bluish green light that lit up the hallway, but Sen wasn't exactly sure where it was coming from. It didn't take her long to reach the end, and she was finally able to see where the source of the light. It was so bright that she could barely make out his shadow that danced along the wall behind him. There was a slight breeze that teased her hair as she stopped a few feet from his barred door. She didn't know how long she stood there, just watching him, hearing him mutter words in a language that she didn't understand. His voice hummed through her, almost like it was trying to lull her to sleep. A small smile slid across her face as she continued to watch the light, her eyes closing slightly as she committed his tones and words to memory. The sudden absence of light made her jump slightly and it took her a moment to realize that his voice had stopped. Darkness left her blind as a hiss echoed off the stone walls as she raised her hands in front of her, and taking a tentative step forward. After a moment, she made contact with the copper bars, brown eyes blinked rapidly to try and adjust to the sudden darkness.
"What are you doing here?" The hiss echoed again, but was a lot closer then it had been before. Sen smiled as her eyes finally adjusted to the dark. The first thing that she noticed was his eyes, still glowing slightly from the use of magic. After a few more minutes, she was able to make out the lines of his face and body. "You promised not to do anything stupid remember?" Even in anger, his voice sounded beautiful, and she couldn't help the waves of relief that flowed through her, the pressure that had been weighing her down evaporating instantly.
"It's ok…Yubaba's still sleeping, and Rin's got me covered if I'm late-"
"That doesn't explain why you are down here. Do you know what will happen if you are caught?" Haku stopped and took a deep breath to try and calm his nerves. She had given him a heart attack, just showing up like that. He had thought that she was the witch at first. If Yubaba knew that he still had enough energy in him for a curing spell…He let the thought drop as he took another deep, slightly shaky breath. He would never openly admit how badly he had missed her. There wasn't a minute that passed that he hadn't thought of her in some way; no matter how hard he tried not to. And now that she was here…standing not three feet from him. He shook his head slightly as the concerned anger returned. She still didn't understand how dangerous it was to be down here. What the punishment would be if she were to be caught. He was tempted to tell her, just to scare her into never coming down here again. But he knew that he could never do that. He could see her reaction now….the look of fear and horror at what his kind did to those they were punishing. Even in his mind's eye, it was a look that would not leave him fully. He looked up at her, his eyes not hindered by the lack of light. "You need to leave. Now, before they find you."
"They're not going to." She said it with such conviction that he almost believed her. She was twisting around to get the bag off of her bag and began to shift through it. There was a small smile that seemed permanently fixed on her face as she found what she was looking for. "I brought you some food and medicine. It's not magical like Granny's but it should help you…" Despite his concern, he couldn't help but feel touched that she would go through such lengths just to bring him something so simple.
"Chihiro, listen to me…" He tried to reach through the bars to grab her hands, but the chains prevented him from doing so. Chihiro seem to know what he wanted though, and reached through to take his hands into hers. There was such a drastic contrast between the temperatures of her hands and his that her skin felt like it was burning his. "I understand what you are trying to do, but you must keep your promise. If you were to get caught-"
"I told you that's not going to happ-"
"You don't know that for sure." He snapped, cutting her off. "I don't want you down here, risking your life for something as foolish as this." He nodded his head towards the small bundle of food. There was a long moment of silence where the two just stared at each other; a contest of wills to see who would break the silence first.
"I will not stay down there and do nothing while you are wasting away in this rat hole." Chihiro muttered all traces of her smile gone. She wiggled her hands free and gently pressed the cloth bundle into his now empty ones. "If this is all that I can do then…that's all I can do but at least this is something." She smirked slightly, but it didn't reach her eyes.
"Were you always this stubborn?" Haku muttered as he took the small package through the bars and opened them to find two small rice balls, and three rolls of salmon sushi. Now that was something he hadn't had in a long, long time, and his stomach gurgled in joy.
"Yeah, at least that's what my parents always told me." Her smirk returned as she settled down on the other side of the copper bars. Time seemed to fly by as they talked about whatever came to mind. Chihiro told him of what had happened in the eight years that she had been gone. It had taken Haku longer then he liked to eat the food, seeing as he couldn't clearly remember the last time Yubaba had allowed him to eat. Unlike humans, spirits couldn't die from starvation. The lack of food however was extremely uncomfortable, and would often leave them drained of energy; just as the dragon was now. If one was starved for too long, they would lose their power to control magic all together. And that, he thought darkly, was most likely Yubaba's plan in the first place. The fact that he was still able to cast a curing spell was nothing short of a miracle. Chihiro had done more for him then she knew. Despite the worry of the girl getting caught, he was glad that she had decided to come down here. Jade eyes narrowed then as a thought hit him.
"How did you get down here?" He asked suddenly, cutting her off from whatever she had been saying. Her brown eyes narrowed in confusion as she looked at him.
"What are you talking about?"
"I mean the door. Only those with magic can open it. How did you do it?" Chihiro's eyes widened in understanding before she shrugged slightly.
"I don't know. I said the word and it just….did." Haku's brow crinkled in confusion as he pondered the new information. There was no possible way for a human such as Chihiro to open that door. Maybe Zeniba had given the girl something before she left. Something then moved on the floor above them, causing his head to shoot upwards.
"You need to leave now." He muttered, still looking at the stone ceiling. There was a moment of silence as he listened for more movement. For a long moment, there was nothing and Haku was starting to think he was hearing things.
"Why? There are still a couple of-" The floors moaned again, only this time where were more of them….two or three, and they were a lot closer then before. He looked back at her, green eyes wide in fear.
"Now, Chihiro. Someone's coming." Her eyes widened slightly as she quickly closed her bag and slung it over her shoulder. She stood up to leave, but paused for a moment before crouching back down again. "What are you-"
"I'll be back. I promise I will find a way to get you out of here."
"Go!" He could barely keep the fear from his voice as she rose once again, and turned to run down the long hallway. There was only one way out, and he hoped to the gods that she didn't get caught.
Fear laced with adrenaline flowed through her as she dashed up the stairs. She shouldn't have been so foolish with her time. She should have known that Yubaba would get up before everyone else. While part of her cursed at herself for her stupidity, the other part hoped to God that the sounds that they heard were just that….sounds. She paused as she reached the end of the hallway, poking her head around the corner to see if the coast was still clear. The door was still open, the afternoon light still flooding the stairwell. The noises sounded again, this time it sounded as if it was moving away from the door. Chihiro smirked as she continued up the stairs. If she could just make it out of the office without getting caught, then she would be home free. There was suddenly movement on the top of the stairs, making her freeze half way up the staircase.
There on the top step where the three heads, bouncing up and down and groaning urgently. Every once in a while they would look behind them, before bouncing more enthusiastically. Shock had frozen to the spot for a few moments before the brunette was able to move again. A large gush of air escaped through her lips as she let out a sigh of relief. So she was still in the green. Chihiro smirked as she stopped in front of the three heads, who had stopped jumping up and down, and were now looking towards the door that led to the nursery. There was movement in the room next to the office, and Chihiro could hear Yubaba talking to the baby. The one that was farthest to her left looked back towards her and groaned, snapping her out of her stupor.
"Thanks guys…I owe you one." She muttered as she passed the three green heads, heading towards the door. Just as she was about to leave the bright office, a thought hit her and she turned around. "Propinquus**…" Despite the volume of her voice, the door slid shut with a groan, and Chihiro fled the room before the witch could pin her for anything. Her surroundings were blurs as she ran all the way to the dorm, not bothering to take the elevators. Sen didn't stop until she was safe in the dorm, head on the rolled pillow. The adrenaline didn't ease though, as her ears listened for sounds that signaled her being followed. As the sun set, however, her eyes drew closed until Rin was shaking her awake to start a new day.
"So did it work?" Rin asked as they were heading down the hall towards the first floor to great the guests. Sen couldn't help but smirk as she looked to her dark haired companion.
"Like a charm."
The next six months seemed to fly by. Sen continued her duties with renewed vigor, no longer making stupid mistakes, or creating accidents. Life continued as if the two months of bad luck had never happened. She would go visit Haku twice a month, but as the months went by she began to visit more frequently until she was seeing the dragon once a week. Every time she would visit, she would bring food for the man, and treats for the green heads, seeing as they were her lookouts. They always jumped on the top step to warn her when Yubaba was up and about, giving her just enough time to get back up the stairs and close the door before the witch found out what was going on. No one seemed to notice the missing leftovers, or the small amounts of green and jasmine tea that would randomly go missing.
Kafu continued to watch over her, helping her with whatever she needed. Food, bath tokens, drinks, towels…..whatever it was, Kafu was there to get it for her. At first it was nice, and Sen couldn't help but feel grateful for the extra help. After about a month of the 'special attention' as Rin had once called it, the other hostess' quickly got jealous. The girls whom Sen had once gotten along well with were now glaring at her with eyes full of hate and jealousy. Sen would often try to send Kafu on long errands, but he would get them done quickly and return to help her. As much as Sen liked the attention, it was starting to get annoying.
As the weeks progressed, so did Kafu. The man seemed to check with her every five minutes, asking if there was anything that he could do for her. He would bring her food and drinks that were strictly off limits for the servants, and allowed her to take longer lunch breaks then those of the other workers. Kafu would walk her to her dorm every night, and would always be right around the corner, waiting for her after she and Rin had got their assignments. He would check on her so much that she had start switching up the days in which she would go and visit Haku. The day would never be on the same day as it had been the week before.
Sen wasn't blind enough to see the signs; she had seen them a thousand times back in the human world. She was touched that Kafu liked her, but she tried to make it as clear as she could that she wasn't interested on being anything more then just friends. Kafu would take it in stride, however each time she rejected his feelings he would try that much harder to try to win her affection.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with him. I've tried to tell him over and over that I'm not interested, but he just doesn't seem to get it." Chihiro muttered as she bit into a dumpling. Haku sighed as he finished off the tea that she had brought him.
"Just be careful, Chihiro…" He eyed her again as the feeling in the pit of his stomach twisted slightly. He still didn't know what it was, but something about Chihiro seemed….different. And whatever it was, it got stronger every time she came to see him. As the feeling got stronger, Haku came to the conclusion that Zeniba was there with her, standing invisible to them both, silently watching over them. How else was the girl opening the door? He knew for a fact that the door took a good amount of magic to open. There was no possible way that the girl could open it by herself. Yubaba still beat and starved him. He would cast a glamour on himself right before Chihiro got there, so that the girl wouldn't worry, shedding the spell only when she left. As far as the dragon knew, the witch was still oblivious and that was all that mattered.
"Yeah, I will. Besides I got Rin to help me if Kafu get's too close." Chihiro chuckled slightly, her free hand playing with Haku's through the bars. She still hadn't found the spell to open the doors, but she wasn't giving up. All she needed to do was wait for Zeniba to return so that the brunette could ask her. The familiar thumps echoed along the stone walls, causing both sets of eyes to turn their gaze towards the end of the hallway. Was it really that time already? Chihiro sighed as she quickly packed her things, making sure that she didn't leave any sign of someone else being here. After settling her bag on her back, she reached through the bars and took the boys hands; the pale skin warmer then it had been before. "I'll see you later." Haku smiled slightly and squeezed her hands a little.
"Until next time." They stood there for a moment before Chihiro stood up, and quietly made her way down the hallway. Brown eyes widened slightly when she reached the stair case only to find the top stair empty. She paused at the edge of the stairs, ears listening for anything that was out of the ordinary. When she didn't hear anything, she slowly made her way up the stairs, and out the door. Just as she said the spell to close the door, the three heads made their way out of the nursery, but stopped and looked at Chihiro in confusion. Chihiro's gaze snapped around the room, body tensed and ready in case she found something. Nothing was out of the ordinary, but Chihiro couldn't help but feel that something had gone terribly wrong. Not bothering to push her luck any further, the brunette gave the treats to the heads and ran out of the room
Sen hummed to herself as she made her way towards the kitchens to put the dishes away for the day. She had one more hour until she could see Haku again, and that fact alone made it hard not to smile. The random scare that she had two weeks ago seemed more like a distant dream now then reality. The visit after that went off without any problems, and things went back to what they were before. Kafu seemed to have finally got the message, and backed off on his advances; but he still hung around more then she, or Rin, would've liked. But it was nice knowing that whatever had made that noise in the office was gone. It might have been simply that she and Haku were hearing things.
"Sen! Wait up!" Sen's smile fell slightly, but managed to stay in place as Kafu slowed to a walk next to her. "I can't believe you left without me." His voice was filled with playful hurt as he placed a hand over his heart. "I'm hurt." Sen shrugged slightly, brown eyes looking straight ahead down the hallway.
"Well, you were taking too long, and I'm tired." A sigh made her gaze snap over to the boy beside her.
"And here I was thinking that you might want to have breakfast with me….It'll have all your favorites." Ice blue eyes seemed to plead with her as they started to walk up the stairs to the dorms. Sen shook her head, a sad smile on her face.
"That sounds really nice, but I'm really, really, tired. The customers had me running everywhere today…" Her shoulders slumped as if to emphasize her weariness. A hand suddenly landed on her right shoulder.
"And besides, she promised to hang out with me today. Right Sen?" Rin cut in, grinning at the man before her. Sen groaned, but couldn't quite keep the smile off her face.
"If I have to…" Rin's grin fell as dark eyes glared at Sen.
"Oh you know you'll enjoy it. Besides, when was the last time we really got to talk huh? You've barely told me anything since you got here…" Sen smirked at the hidden meaning and paused to place her hands on the taller woman's shoulders.
"I promise to tell you everything….as long as I get six hours of sleep first ok?" Rin's eyebrows rose slightly in amusement, and Sen continued before she could say anything. "OK, ok….five hours Five hours of sleep, and then I'm all yours."
"Yes!" Rin pumped her fist in the air before the three continued down the hall. Kafu sighed and pretended to drag his feet.
"Why can't I ever have long talks with Sen?"
"Because I've known her longer." Rin rebutted as they reached the door. "And this is where you leave for…..Where ever it is you go. See you tomorrow." She sang as she entered the room. The voices of the other girls drowned the woman out, and Sen shook her head. Something then touched her hand, making the girl jump slightly.
"Seriously, Sen…One of these mornings. I'd love just to talk." Kafu smiled slightly as he looked down at their joined hands. "I never know where you are anymore….you're always off doing something, or with someone. I miss you." Sen gently pulled her hand out of his as she smiled up at him.
"One day, when Yubaba doesn't have me running around all over the place, I will have breakfast with you ok?" Kafu smiled and grabbed her hand again.
"Promise me." The words caused Sen to pause for a moment. Something….something was wrong, and for a moment the boy in front of her looked different. The blue eyes suddenly turned cold, his innocent, eager smile seemed to look almost evil. Even the sunlight seemed to have dimmed slightly. But it only lasted for the tiniest of measurements before she was left there, standing in the door with the sun's rays blinding her, and Kafu smiling innocently at her. She must be more tired then she thought.
"Sen, Come on!" Rin called from somewhere within the room. Brown eyes continued to stare at the boy before her in confusion before she shook her head slightly.
"I'm coming!" She turned and started to pull away but Kafu retained his hold on her hand.
"Promise me, Sen."
"Ok, I promise. Now really…let me go to sleep before I pass out on the floor." Kafu chuckled before wrapping his arms around the small girl. He soon released her, and Sen started to walk into the room, but stopped when the boy refused to let go of her hand. "Good night, Kafu."
"Good morning, Sen." His eyes never left hers as he raised her hand to lips to kiss the knuckles gently.
Bare feet ran along the wooden flooring, silent with months of practice. Nothing could keep the smile from her face as she sped up the stairs and entered the elevator. Adjusting the large pack on her back, she looked through the small holes in the walls, and watched as the ground floor moved farther and farther away. She shifted the pack again, as she silently begged the gliding box to move faster.
The two words cut through her reverie, causing the smile on her lips to fall. Sen sighed as she tried to clear her mind of the image that refused to leave. Even after the hour and a half worth of sleep that Rin demanded she take, she couldn't get that face out of her head. Now that she thought back to it, the words had seemed more like a demand then a plea. But as the elevator doors opened, Sen brushed off the thought for a later time.
The dim lights were lit, just like always. Sen walked up to the door, silently opened it, and shut it in the same manner. Her bare feet then ran down the plush carpeted hallway, no longer needing to wait until her eyes adjusted. Within moments, she entered the office, blinking to get her eyes adjusted to the bright lights. Once she could see, Sen walked across the room and stood in front of the fireplace.
"Patefacio." The door opened without a sound, and Sen wasted no time in making her way down the stairs. She bumped her hand along the wall in various knocks to let Haku know that it was her. When she got onto level ground Sen ran down the hall until she got to the last cell that faced the rest of the hallway. Her breaths came out in slight pants as a smile slid across her face. A single eyebrow rose slightly as he looked at her.
"What's the rush?" She could hear the laugh in his voice as she sat down just outside of the bars. Her breathing slowly returned to normal as she dug through her bag for the sushi and dumplings that she had taken with her.
"Didn't want to be later then I already was." The chains rattled as he moved closer as well, although he couldn't get as close as she could. Passing him the food through the bars, Sen bit hungrily into her dumpling. She had been too busy today to eat anything, and she was starving. "And besides, today is a special day…" The last part was more of a mumble than an actual statement, causing Haku to chuckle slightly. Chihrio felt the heat rush to her face as she continued to eat her dumplings. There was a small moment of silence as the two eat their meals. She doubted that he actually remembered. She wasn't even sure with they had the days marked in the spirit world. There were no months, no numbers to mark the days or years, as far as she knew. So it was impossible for him to actually remember.
"Chihiro….." Haku's voice made her glance up at him. He had already finished the sushi and was now looking at her, jade eyes seeming to burn with emotion. She felt her own brown eyes narrow in confusion causing him to smile slightly.
"What's going on?" She asked when he didn't say anything. There was a long moment of silence, and it was then that she realized that he held his hands behind his back. His smile widened slightly as he gently took one of her hands, and placed whatever he had been holding in her palm. For a moment, she couldn't find her voice. There, sitting in her palm was a single silver scale that had been strung onto a thin black leather cord.
"To honor the day we first met." All she could do was stare at it, too much in shock to do much else. She couldn't believe it. How was he able to make something like this, bound as he was? She knew that he couldn't have had enough power and energy to undergo a transformation. That and the cell was far too small. She was finally able to tear her eyes away from the small thing to look at him.
"You remembered." She stated, still somewhat in shock.
"How could I forget?" He asked her quietly. There was another moment of silence as she glanced back at the priceless gift in her hand, a smile slowly spreading across her face until it threatened to split it in two. "You would have to keep it hidden; the cord is long enough that you can wear it underneath your clothing without anyone noticing." Chihiro nodded, not knowing if she could trust her voice at the moment. She took the ends of the cord and tied it behind her neck, pulling on the front of her shirt so that she could slip in the silver scale. He was right…the cord was long enough that the scale hung right next to her heart. He nodded when he could no longer see the scale or the thread that it hung on.
"Thank you." She reached into the bars to take hold of his hands, desperately wishing that she could open the door so that she could at least hug him. But this would have to do….beggars mustn't be choosers after all. She noticed that she had to reach in further then usual to reach him and her brown eyes narrowed, her brilliant smile falling.
"Did Yubaba…" She trailed off, counting the links of the chains in her head. Haku's smile fell slightly as he looked down at the things that kept him from reaching the copper bars.
"Yes…she shorted them. Apparently she thought that I didn't need to have so much freedom to move about." Even with his arm extended as far as the links would allow him, Chihiro had to put in more then half her arm to reach him. She had to get him out fast, or at least find a way to ask Granny about the spell to the door. Haku seemed to pick up on what she was thinking. "Remember your promise, Chihiro."
"I know." She sighed as she tried to warm his hands with little success. "I will also keep mine. I will find a way to get you out of here." Just as he was about to say something, the familiar thumps echoed throughout the hallway, causing both to look towards the stairs. "Gotta go…" She gave Haku's hand a reassuring squeeze before gathering her things. This was always the hardest part, leaving him down here, to be beaten and starved. The thought that she would be able to come back helped with the guilt and pain, but didn't remove it completely. Just as she was starting to make her way down the long hallway, his voice called out to her once more, making her turn around slightly.
"No one must see that pendant, Chihiro, not even Rin or Kamaji. Make absolutely sure that it stays hidden." His voice sounded strange, almost frightened. There was a brief question as to why Haku would be afraid of such a little thing. She knew it would expose their secret meetings, but that couldn't be enough for the fear that was thinly masked in jade eyes….could it? Chihiro's eyes narrowed in confusion as she nodded.
"I will keep it safe. Don't worry." He watched her as she left, the loneliness already settling in as it always did. Despite his attempts to push it down, doubt as to whether he should have actually given her the charm flooded his mind. So many things could go wrong if someone found it, or saw it in any way, shape or form. And anyone with an ounce of magic in them would notice that the small charm had been magically enhanced. As long as she wore it, even with his limited power, he would be able to tell if she were ever in trouble. As long as she wore it, the charm would serve as a small defense against the more basic spells. As well as…
His thoughts trailed off as he moved back away from the door to lean against the wall. If Rin or Kamaji ever saw it, they would instantly know what it meant. And the green eyed boy was positive that Chihiro wasn't ready for that quite yet. It would be better for the both of them if she remained ignorant for a little while longer. At least until he gained enough power back to break out of this prison. Leaning his head against the wall, he released a slow breath to let the glamour fall. The cuts and bruises that marred his skin reappeared, looking slightly worse then they had when he had first cast the spell to hide them. The cuts were inflamed, some taking on a yellow tint from infection, the bruises looking like ink spots that marred his skin. Even the old ones had yet to fade into the sickly yellow of healing. It had taken a lot more energy then he had thought to conjure up the gift that the brunette now wore. He knew it had been foolish, but he hadn't been able to help it. He had just wanted to see her happy. To see her smile, her real smile, for the first time in eight long years.
That feat, however, had cost him greatly and had become a major setback. It would take him twice as long now, to regain the power that he had spent. Even with Chihiro slipping him food, Yubaba continued to sap his strength, making it nearly impossible for him to complete a simple healing spell anymore. It was all he could do to keep the glamour up long enough during the brunette's visits. The last thing she needed right now was the stress that came with worrying about him. That would only serve to give her problems in the long run.
Was it really worth it?
His inner voice asked as he tried to block out the pain. Her smile flashed in front of his eyes once more, making a small smile of his own play with the corners of his lips. Yes…He answered as jade eyes closed to block out the dreary scene around him. Yes…it had been completely worth it.
She couldn't quite keep the smile from her face as she raced up the stairs. Even though it was as light as a feather, Sen could still feel the pendant lying right next to her heart. She still couldn't believe that he actually remembered, let alone was able to somehow gain one of his scales and a leather cord to make the priceless gift. She felt as if she was floating, with happiness radiating off of her in waves. Not even the gloom of the long staircase could ruin her mood. But as she reached the last of the steps, something else shattered her reverie, leaving feeling cold and venerable. The three heads, which were normally so happy to see her, were instead huddled against each other in the corner across the room. Panic shone bright from their large green eyes, and what worried her the most is that it wasn't at her in which those eyes were looking. Making sure to remain as silent as possible, Sen poked her head out of the doorway and looked around. Everything was in its place, there was not a single thing in the large office that shouldn't be. It was as empty as she had left it. Seeing that the coast was clear, she exited the staircase cautiously, closing the door behind her. The door shut without a sound and Sen sighed as she made her way towards the heads. The poor things were so scared that they were shaking. She knelt down to hold out a hand to them, her brow crinkling in confusion when they made no effort to come out of the corner. Their large eyes shifted from her to something behind her, causing her head to snap back to look over her shoulder. Still nothing, they were the only ones in the office. Turning back to the heads, she gave them an easy smile.
"What's got you guys so scared?" Not even a grunt in response. Sen's smile faded as she once again glanced over her shoulder. Not seeing anything out of the usual, she turned back and took out the sweets that she had brought with her. Not even the sight of food brought them out of their corner. As she placed the food next to them in the corner, Sen couldn't help but feel as if she was being watched. But it didn't make sense, seeing as there was no one else in the room. Sighing, she stood and straightened the small backpack into a more comfortable position. "Ok, well you guys take care. I'll see you next week." Their eyes never left whatever it was they were looking at. Glancing once more over her shoulder, Sen tried to shake the feeling as she left the office and headed back down towards the room.
"You saw her close the door?" Laughter suddenly erupted from the woman, echoing loudly off the walls. The idea itself was laughable. If he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, he never would have believed it either. But he had seen it… he saw her close the door without a sound. There was no possible way for her to be able to do that. Not even Yubaba could open and close the door without it groaning even a little. The only other explanation would be that the dragon was helping her in some way. But that too was impossible. He had seen first hand how weakened Haku was. It would be impossible for him to summon enough power to open a door that far away from him.
"I know how it sounds, but what I speak is true. She has some how found a way to open and close the door while you're sleeping." He paused, as Yubaba's crackling laugh slowly ended. "And I have reason to believe that she is bringing him food as well." Yubaba instantly sobered, large brown eyes glaring at the boy who stood before them.
"She brings food for your pets as well." Ice blue eyes glanced over to the three heads who were still cowering in the corner. "They are the ones who warn her when you awaken, giving her more than enough time to make it back down to her room with you none the wiser. As payment, she brings them some of the extra treats from the kitchen. I imagine she takes a few of the other extras as well. Why else would she need such a large bag for something she could easily carry in her hands?" Yubaba stared at her apprentice for a long moment, brown eyes narrowing to slits.
"If I find that you are lying to me..." She trailed off, leaving the threat hanging. Kafu crushed the rising fear that was trailing up his spine. After a moment, when he knew he could trust is voice, he spoke.
"For what reason would I bring you news that I know would anger you, Master? I speak the truth. Go down and see for yourself if you do not believe me. Despite his lack of power and energy, you will see that Haku is in better health then when you last left him; as he has been the past couple of weeks." Their gazes met for a prolonged moment of silence. Kafu could almost hear the noises of the now fully opened bathhouse through the flooring.
"You wish to speak?" Yubaba asked testily, reading the look in the ice blue eyes. Kafu nodded and bowed slightly.
"With your permission, I would like to be in charge of the punishment."
"Why should I give up the pleasure of punishment to someone like you?" Kafu allowed himself to smile slightly as his gaze once again met that of the witches.
"Didn't you yourself say that you wished to break the dragon? Crush his hope, and lead him to a point where he would beg you for death?" Large brown eyes narrowed as the witch rested her large head in her hands.
Sen!" Sen paused on her way up the stairs to look back at who called her name. She repressed a groan and forced a smile when she saw Kafu running up the stairs to join her. And here she thought she had finally gotten rid of him. During the past six days, his attempts to 'woo her' as Rin had called it seemed to have tripled. He was everywhere she went; watching, insisting on helping her with not only her guests but her chores as well. To make matters worse, Kafu seemed to have no knowledge of the meaning of the term 'personal space'. Whenever he was given the chance, he was holding her hand, had his arm over her shoulders; sitting, standing, walking not a foot away from her. All the hovering was beginning to make her feel claustrophobic. She had thought him to be over this. Rin found it amusing; all Sen found it was annoying.
"Yes, Kafu?" She answered tiredly, using the small break to rest her pounding feet. The boy finally managed to catch up with her. His breaths escaped his lips in small pants as he took her hand. The brunette bit down a sigh and tried to gently take her hand back, but Kafu's grip was as immovable as iron. A hurt expression crossed his face and Sen braced herself.
"Why did you leave me behind? I told you I was only going to be a few minutes…"
"I told you, Kafu that I've had a long day, and I'm tired..."
"Well allow me to at least show you to your room…" Sen bit down her angry response and nodded. If she had learned anything by now it was that it was easier to allow Kafu to do what he wanted, verses actually trying to fight it. It was simply easier that way. He squeezed her hand in reassurance as the two continued up the stairs. "We could just take the elevator you know-"
"We're almost there." Sen cut him off as she tried to ignore the pain in her feet. She'd have blisters again, but that wasn't what was on her mind. In less then three hours, she would be able to see Haku again; that was of course, only if she was able to lose her admirer long enough to have a decent visit with the green haired man.. Her thoughts were brought to a screeching halt when she suddenly pitched forward, tripping over her two own feet. Luckily, Kafu's hand was already there, keeping her from falling flat on her face. As she glanced up to that him, she was struck by his expression. His eyes weren't looking at her, but at her torso.
"What's that?" He asked, pointing to the small black thread that was poking out of her kimono. Sen looked down and froze for a moment before her hand shot out to push the cord back in.
"It's nothing, Kafu. Come on, I'm tired-" She stated as she tried to continue up the stairs.
"Sen..." The name was laced with a chuckle, pulling on her hand to gently guide her back towards him. "Come on, let me see it. I won't tell anyone."
"N-" The word cut off as Kafu's finger dove beneath the silk folds to grab the black leather cord, pulling on it until the silver scale came out. Blue eyes narrowed in confusion as he reached down to touch it.
"What's-" His words cut off as soon as his finger brushed up against the smooth pendant, his hand jerking back as if the small thing had burned him. The blue orbs hardened from confused innocence to shock and what almost looked like outrage. Snatching the necklace out of his grasp, Sen shoved it back down under the folds of her kimono, but she knew that the damage had already been done. Dread filled her as she glanced back up at the boy who had moved away from her back down the stairs.
"Please….excuse me, Sen. I have forgotten something that requires my attention." All the warmth had left his voice as he bowed slightly towards her before turning to head calmly down the stairs. Sen paled as she watched him go. Never before had she seen Kafu so angry. Never before did she have a reason to suspect that he might be dangerous. But that was exactly what he had looked like, with the rage pouring out through his eyes. He looked extremely dangerous. Without wasting another moment, Sen turned on her heel and fled up the stairs. After what seemed like forever, she finally reached the room, grabbing Rin just as the older woman was about to go through the door.
"Sen what-" Her words were cut off as Sen dragged her down the hall and into one of the old rooms. She closed the door; Sen then released her friend and began to pace frantically. "Sen what is going on?"
"He knows. God Rin he knows." Sen spat the words out, her face paling further making her brown eyes look larger then they actually were. Her hands flew to run nervously through her hair. "Oh god what have I done?" Rin placed gentle hands on the girl's shoulders to keep her still. The girl's breaths were starting to come out in pants as her mind ran through various scenarios, each worse then the last, of what would happen to Haku now because of her foolishness.
"Sen, slow down, take a deep breath and tell me again what happened. Slowly."
"Kafu knows." Sen whimpered as tears began to pool in her eyes. "And it's all my fault…" She knew that she shouldn't have worn it to work, but the fear of it being found in the room had been greater then the prospect of it being found on her person. And she knew that Kafu knew who it belonged to. Why else would he get so angry?
"About me and…and Haku… and about me going to see him. He knows, he knows and now Haku is the one who is going to pay for it. God Rin, he's already being beaten and starved. If they find out I've been slipping him food they'll kill-"
"Ok, Sen, calm down. Yubaba would never kill Haku. He is far too valuable to her. The person you should be worried about is you. When Yubaba finds out that you have been going behind her back to help her favorite prisoner…." The older woman trailed off as the prospect ran through her head. Finally releasing the girl she ran a free hand through her long hair. "Damn it Sen, how did he find out?" Sen paused, unable to look her friend in the eye anymore.
"I…I don't know." The words sounded false, even to her own ears. Rin glared at the girl, hands resting on her hips.
"This isn't the time to lie to me, Sen. Tell me the truth."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because I promised Haku that I wouldn't tell anyone." Sen cried, clutching the small scale through the material of kimono. Rin threw her hands up in agitation.
"Sen, I'm pretty sure he'll forgive you. Kafu knows, and the little demon won't hesitate to tell Yubaba. And besides, it's me. What could possibly be bad enough that you can't tell me?" Sen took a deep breath. She supposed that since the secret was out, she might as well. Besides, what was so bad about showing Rin that she had one of Haku's scales? Sighing, she fished out the necklace that she had hidden from her partner, showing her the smooth silver scale. When brown eyes glanced back up to the woman before her, she realized something was wrong. Rin was staring at the scale; her mouth hanging open slightly in a look of complete shock.
"Sen….do you know what this is?" She asked softly, brown eyes never looking away from the small seemingly harmless thing that Sen now held in the palm of her hand. Sen didn't like where this was going, the bad feeling left an awful taste in her mouth.
"It's one of Haku's scales…." She paused, not liking the look on her friends face. Rin continued to look at it in shock. For Haku to go out on such a limb, despite the situation he was still in, was a great deal. If anyone else were to find it, not only would they know that Sen was consorting with a dragon, but that she was now…
"And he didn't tell you what this would mean if someone were to find it?"
"No, there was no time. Rin what's wrong? It's just one of Haku's scales, why are you-"
"No Sen, it is not 'just one of Haku's scales'." Finally able to break her gaze away from the small thing, Rin took a deep breath to try and calm her frazzled nerves. "When a dragon gives another being one of their scales or anything that belongs to them, it's a sign of ownership. No one would ever dare to cross you now, because you belong to a dragon. In a more instinctual sense, you are his property. If Kafu saw that…." Rin trailed off and shook her head. "I would normally advise you to stop seeing Haku until this entire thing has blown over. But seeing Kafu now knows that you belong to another dragon, it's probably best that you warn Haku about this. At least give him a heads up so that he can be as prepared as possible for what's coming next."
"And what would that be?" Sen was almost too afraid to ask. But she would do everything she could to keep Haku as safe as possible. Rin didn't answer right away, but the grim expression on her face told the human girl that what ever it was, it wasn't good.
"I don't know…" She replied eventually. "But one thing I do know is that you have to let Haku know what's going on as soon as possible. Go now, before Kafu has the chance to awaken Yubaba." Sen nodded, tucking the scale back into its hiding place. Without another word, Sen fled the room, moving as fast as her tired legs were able to carry her. Rin continued to stand in the empty room for a moment; making sure that the footsteps had faded completely before she left and made her way back towards the room. Pale hands opened the door silently, ice blue eyes peering into the room and resting on the brunette who was fast asleep on her bed, her long brown hair spilling over the edge of the small cot. It was a good thing that the girl was stressed, or else she would have noticed the slips in his speech. Kafu let the image of the lowly servant girl fall as he silently closed the door, a small chuckle escaping his lips.
"You will regret the day you took her away from me, Kohaku."
"You are not to touch her, Kafu. I will be the one to punish Sen." The witch's smile widened. "If you go against me, your punishment will be just as severe as hers…"
Ice eyes narrowed as he made his way back towards the office. The witch was far more lenient then he originally thought. If it had been any other spirit, they would have gladly agreed with what he had planned for the two lovebirds. But No….Yubaba didn't want her prize to get angry enough that she could no longer control him. Couldn't she see that his plans would break the dragon's spirit, not strengthen his resolve? To watch a lover go through that much pain would shatter the will of any spirit, dragon or no. But even as the black haired apprentice pleaded with his master to give him a chance, she had remained unmoving in her decision.
"I want to be the one that shatters his will. I want to watch his face as he his hope dies."
"But you can. He will not resist you after this. He will be too afraid that it will…reoccur if he were to do anything other then what you would wish of him." Yubaba looked at him for a long moment, enough for Kafu to believe that he might actually get the chance to do what he had planned. But the old witch remained steadfast in her decision.
"You are not to harm the girl. You forget that she too as a will almost as strong as the dragon's."
"And this would shatter her will as well. Don't you see, you could kill two birds with only a single stone." But Yubaba was still shaking her head.
"You are not to touch her, Kafu. I will be the one to punish Sen." The witch's smile widened. "If you go against me, your punishment will be just as severe as hers…Get the girl to come back up here one last time. I will be able to handle it from there."
Kafu pushed down the urge to punch something as he walked briskly through the halls that lead to the elevator. Losing his temper now would only serve to restrict him that much more. The bathhouse was empty now, the halls blissfully silent. There was nothing that Yubaba could do that would break Haku's spirit like he could. He knew, after all, all of the dragon's weaknesses. All Yubaba will do is push him that much closer to madness. And everyone knew that no one could contain a dragon caught in a rage; no matter how weakened he was. As he reached the elevator, Kafu shook his head slightly. It seemed that he would have to wait until Yubaba finally saw reason. A small smile played with his lips. And he could wait….if it meant that he could finally have her.
The hall was as silent and dark like it always was as she made her way down the dark corridor. Nothing seemed out of place, and yet Sen felt as if something wasn't right. Pushing down the feeling, she reached Yubaba's office and not waiting for her eyes to adjust to the bright light, she ran straight for the fireplace.
"Patefacio." The word left her lips before she consciously thought about it, and the door opened soundlessly. What would Haku think when he found out? Sen bit her lip as she ran down the stairs, nearly killing herself twice. As soon as her feet touched the dirt floor, she broke out into a dead run. She heard his voice before she turned the corner and the fear in it almost brought her up short.
"NO Chihiro! Go back!"
"Haku's something's happened. I need to-"
"NO! Leave now! Get out of here before she comes back!" Never had she seen him so scared. Never before had she heard so much panic cover his voice. Brown eyes narrowed in confusion. Yubaba was asleep; there was no way that the witch would know that she was down here.
"But-" A dark chuckle cut her off and Chihiro whirled around to see Yubaba standing in the middle of the hall that led to the only exit. Her smile widened as the laugh came to a close.
"My, Sen…that didn't take you too long at all. See Haku? Didn't I tell you that she would come? Humans are so predictable after all…"
"You will not touch her, Yubaba." Haku growled from his cell, his jade eyes narrowing to slits.
"Or what? There is nothing that you can do to save your precious human now." The old witch made her way towards the two, her large brown eyes shifting between them. "She knew of the consequences and yet still risked her very existence to come here and see you. It's touching really. You should be honored." Chihiro paled, but stood her ground with grim determination.
"You don't scare me, Yubaba." The witch only laughed as she grabbed the human girl by the arm. Haku's cries and curses made her heart break as Chihiro tried desperately to break away from the grip that held her. Dragging the girl to the cell closest to her, Yubaba threw the human girl in and bound her in the chains that were attached to the wall. A hand waved through the air, and the cell was instantly absent of sound, the silence making her ears ring. "What did you do?"
"Well, I can't have you chatting with your little lover while your down here now can I? I would just be giving you what you want." Even the witch's voice sounded dim, as if coming through a long tunnel. "No matter how much you scream, no matter how loud you try to be, he will never be able to hear you, nor you him." Yubaba laughed again as she slammed the door shut. She then turned and grinned at Haku, speaking even though Chihiro heard no words. Laughing again, Yubaba left her line of sight and it was all Chihiro could do to keep from screaming. It wouldn't help anyone. As the tears leaked down her face, she was for once, grateful that Haku's cell was perpendicular to hers so that he could no longer see her.
*Patefacio - "open" in Latin
**Propinquus - "Close" in Latin
Yes, I know it;s not very original, but I couldn't think of anything else
So there it is...Chihiro has gotten into serious trouble. Hopefully the next chapter won't take me two years please forgive me again, and let me know how you like this one ok?
Posted: (06-26-10 Needs Editing)