Summary: The morning after Haku stomped on Chihiro's heart by not showing up for their first date. This is another scene inserted by me. It depicts how Chihiro will deal with what Haku and Rin have done to her. It occurs just before Chihiro wakes up in the movie, to the commotion when Kao Nashi is eating up all the food and being a big spender in the bathhouse.

Rated for M: for some coarse language.

AN: Darkangel29 hope your new bundle of joy brings you more happiness as the each day dawns. Shadow Blackheart I love you, thank you for pointing out my use of italics. U rock! Readers, when I use italics, they are the specific characters internal thoughts. However, if the italics are in "..." quotation marks, they are spoken out loud and the italics are used for when the speaker is stressing/putting more emotional emphasis into their words.


14: Reflections of the Mind

"How come the skies are all grey when they are crystal blue, mum and dad?"

The beat had stalled in her heart. She' d fallen into the realms of the 'loving dead', bleeding sorrow with every leaded and mechanical step. "How come I feel like a fool when all I did was…trust in him? Were you ever mine, Haku?" A barrage of self-recriminations had plagued her sleeplessness, since Rin had returned to the female quarters.

Once upon a time, when men threw her aside like discarded refuse, the embarrassing rejection and disappointment would linger for only a short while, before washing away like water off a duck's back. So why, this time, could she feel the iron fingers of betrayal gripping right to her bones? In the early crimson dusk before the other spirits woke to start their shifts, Chihiro snuck out of the bathhouse to the only place that afforded empty comfort- the barn that housed her parents. She halted at the sight of the wooden structure underneath the wanning daylight. An involuntary whimper caught her off guard, when she saw the spot where Haku had pinned her to the wall the previous morning. She bit down on her fist to stem the cry of humiliation of how easily he'd baited her. She entered the barn, and the tableau of her surroundings distorted with tears. Her heart fell to the dirt floor, as her eyes fixed on the bed of hay where she and Haku had… She'd lost him – for reasons beyond her comprehension- and her parents were irrevocably slipping from her and into their stupor state of bliss. The only comfort the realm, the bathhouse and the barn offered her now was a sham of lustful memories.

Chihiro knelt in front of her parents, who ogled vacuously back at her through their pen. Pearls of sweat beaded on her forehead, but her skin was cold and clammy to the touch. "Why do I still feel the touch of lips his hands, his eyes on me mum and dad…?" A convulsion of sobs broke through and Chihiro's brave façade collapsed, and the stream of hot tears flooded over. "I know that every moment with him wasn't real… a figment of feelings in my desperate imagination. But it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt!" She wailed into her palms, and the pigs grunted disinterestedly at the disturbance she was causing.

Her tenacious certainty (or was this denial?) that one day, something or someone would truly want her, had clawed on a precipice of hope by its emotional fingertips in the human world. Haku's actions of last night had stomped on those fingers, throwing hope over the edge, plummeting Chihiro's fragile positivity into unrecoverable depths. Something snapped clean inside her. One rejection too many, one man taking advantage of her guileless nature too many: each experience spreading a web of bitterness in her heart wider. Haku's calculated deception was the final kiss of death that slammed the beating vessel to the ground, crushing it into a fine powder.

The cloak of pained enlightenment stretched Chihiro's skin taut with cynicism. Chihiro's weeping faded and a jaded laugh bubbled inside her. "Opened a can of dumbass didn't you, Chihiro? You wouldn't serve yourself on a silver platter to some asshole in your world, then why do it here? Asshole-ness is a universal language!" She threw her head back and snorted with malevolence at her foolishness. "Your own fault you got stood up and stomped down!" Chihiro cackled dryly. "I'm not going to dwell on him as I did those losers back home. I'm not going to dwell!"

The lavender threads of twilight crept across the sky as the red sun sunk behind the bathhouse. Curlicues of steam wafted upwards from the rustic pipes behind the bathhouse. Sparkles of ivory light flickered in the windows, signifying the start of a business day.

Chihiro gathered her regrets and crammed them into an over stuffed drawer in her mind. She picked herself up and trudged back to the bathhouse- shutting out the salacious barn escapades that she had with Haku, which played on loop like a flop of a movie in her head. Numb was she to the fact she had neither friends nor allies in this world. Not even Rin, who seemed especially cool, once...Why Rin, Haku? Had Chihiro's female intuition been on the mark, the first time she'd met Rin? Was the jealousy that stabbed at her when she heard the overly flippant and familiar tone Rin used with Haku, warranted? Where was Haku? Would he scorn and avoid her if they were to see each other in the bathhouse in the course of work? "I don't know! I don't know!" Chihiro clutched her head and tried to pummel the doubts and fearful anxiety from her skull. "What do guys do after they drop kick you…dodge you like a girl with hairy armpits? I'll never see him again…will I?" Chihiro blubbered, wiping the stream of salty wetness from her swollen eyes. "I was going to go home anyway before he seduced me!" she justified, in an attempt to reason to herself of why Haku sucker-punching her in the heart was a good thing. "There is always a bloody silver freaking lining to an effing deceitful-relationship-that-never-was!"


The commotion of workers shoving Chihiro like a pinball didn't phase her today – she felt nothing of the jostling and petty name-calling. Nothing could wound her now compared to what already consumed her. Her entire universe was more chilling and darker than a winter's night – everything was a blur yet motionless at the same time. She remembered someone shoving a washcloth in her hand and barking orders at her. She remembered scrubbing, watching her hand perfunctorily scouring a groove in the wooden floor. Her mop of auburn hair hid the agony chiselled on her features. No one seemed to notice, or cared to notice.

"Sen! Where on earth did you get to? I looked for you everywhere! I got food for you and you didn't bother to show up to eat it!" Someone's high-pitched wail popped her balloon of anguished misery.

In a flash, everything became sparkling clear- she could have heard a mouse squeak in a Saturday market square – her senses heightened to supernatural depths at hearing that voice. The grinding voice jolted Chihiro back into reality. That traitorous inflection, that person's presence set the veins in Chihiro's temple throbbing like furious worms. She bit down on her lip, gritted her teeth, and purposefully stood up. Her sunken eyes bore holes into the ground she'd been punishing, scrubbing her purgatory in to it. Predatorily, inch-by-inch, Chihiro eyes stalked up the length of the yuna's body. The sight of Rin was burning Chihiro's retinas with brimstone fire. The first wave of rage whitened her fisted hands.


"OI! What was that for?" Rin squalled indignantly, taken by surprise and hastily ducking as the dirty sopping and dangerous rag clipped past her ear. "Have you gone made, Sen!"

Gone was the mild mannered, docile Chihiro. Her first shot at anger was a masterpiece. Over compensating for all the missed histrionics in all her life, which she'd suppressed to keep the harmony for those around her. She completed the anger combo with a superb follow through. With all her might, she threw the bucket of muddy water at the unsuspecting yuna. Umbrage had never felt right before but today, anger was righteous itself.

"ARRGGHHH!" Rin shrieked before soapy water damned her gaping mouth, the bucket smacking her hard on the right shoulder. She tumbled back into the wall of workers gawking at the spectacle, eager for a bloodier fight.

"Foreman! The smelly human's gone berserk! She's attacking Rin! Her head looks like it's just about to shoot off into the roof! There's steam spouting out of her ears!" The gaggle of workers screamed, tightening in a circle around the excitement. From their point of view, it did appear as steam was gushing out from Chihiro's ears, but it was merely the heat rising from the tubs behind her.

"That's it! You're off my New Year's card list! You little psycho! You're supposed to clean the floor! Not me!" Rin fumed in a deafening pitch, turbid water streamed from her limbs quaking with lividity

The Foreman stomped up behind Rin, his chin wobbling with vehemence. Flakes of red speckled his face marking his disproval of the spectacle Chihiro caused.

"Rin, are you all right?" the Foreman blustered his face creased with concern. Under the current of supervisory care, the honey of his voice gave Chihiro spontaneous cavities.

The savage indignity melted from Rin's face but flared in her squinted eyes. "I-I'm fine but I don't know what's gotten into Sen!" Her eyes shot spears at Chihiro as she clutched her aching shoulder.

"WHY! WHY! Of all people! WHY?" Sen launched at Rin who adroitly side stepped towards the Foreman. Chihiro plummeted into the Foreman's wide girth, bounced off his hard potbelly and crashed landed on to the floor.

"Well! Fine, then! If didn't want me to get something to eat, you could have just said so!" Rin's tenor trembled with shock and dismay. "All this over me bringing you some nosh! It's a bit much, Sen!" Rin leant over Chihiro, in a tower of anger topped with bruised pride and started wringing the soiled water from her sleeves.

Chihiro sat like a rag doll in a heap before the Foreman and Rin. The battering of questions started up again, rapping between her ears. Did Rin know about me and Haku? Did Haku tell you? Did Haku know about me, suspecting you? Did you care, Rin? Why Rin, Haku? WHY! Chihiro's breath staggered, her chest hyperventilated with agony, and the waterworks washed over again. Desperate is as desperate does! You're a pathetic desperate ditt! That's why Haku got into your pants so easily!

Rin was the manifestation of all Chihiro's insecurities – a lithe, sanguine, boisterous woman who could have what she, Chihiro, wanted. That thing, was Haku. Maybe it was the red lipstick that Rin always wore that attracted men to her like bulls. Even the Foreman seemed taken by Rin all of a sudden.

"Sen! You're disrupting the workers, not to mention what you've done to Rin! Rin my-," he stopped himself mid-diatribe, and pulled on his the strap of his pants, as if to adjust his thoughts. "I mean, it's not good for staff to be quarrelling. Especially. YOU! Go! You're oozing malice and misery and it's not good for staff morale or business! Away to the basement to the old man with you! Maybe the heat will burn some sense into you!" he ordered with finality, his fingers jutting violently to the stairs.

The workers 'oohed' and 'ahhhed' haughtily at the wicked delight that the human girl was getting spoon-fed her just desserts. "You see! She's too ashamed to say anything. Probably doesn't even have the manners to apologise! Why did Master Haku dump her with us? Maybe he couldn't bear her stench, that's probably why he wanted her as far away from him as possible."

Chihiro dragged her feet through the mess she'd created, concentrating her malice and misery on the floor. Her fists ready to clobber the living lights out of the spirits who dared speak that demon's name. "What did you say?" Chihiro spun on her heels, pinpointing predator eyes in the direction his name came from. The yuna huddled and cowered together like the spineless slugs they really were – hands to their chests with feigning grave indignity. "Well, of all the nerve of the chit!"

"Sen! That's enough! Go NOW, before I report your actions to Master Haku! Down to the basement! That's where you're confined until I change my mind!" The Foreman's nostrils flared with rage. "NOW!"

With that, Chihiro, pushed past a sopping Rin without a word. I'm so sorry Rin. I can't help but hate you for what you didn't know you did. Did you? I hate this place. I hate him! I want to go, mum and dad!


"Well hello, Sen. What brings you down to my humble basement?" Kamajii's tender, welcoming tenor beckoned Chihiro into his abode.

"Eep, eep!" A chorus of chitchat floated from the floor of black fluff balls.

She simply cuddled her knees to her chest and buried her face in arms, frozen to her marrow despite the desert temperatures of the basement.

Kamajii peered down his grandpa glasses and assessed the shivering huddle against his wall of herb drawers. He crawled soundlessly off his wooden perch. "Well, there's nothing a steaming cup of hot tea can't solve," he said and he poured Chihiro a steaming cup of amber brew that glimmered of with gold ripples. "Here, sip on this," the old man prodded kindly on her shoulder.

The tiny clouds of heat and tang of the liquid invaded her nostrils, and it did smell tempting. Chihiro lifted her hooded lids slightly, staring questioningly at the cup. "Am I ugly? Am I that hard to care for, Kamajii? Do I have 'Loser Ground Zero' stamped on my head?"

Kamajii, for the first time, took a good, close look at the human before him. If she wasn't sneaking in to burn her underwear in his furnace, she was not to be seen in his basement at all. Her face wasn't by any stretch a typical beautiful. Nor was she physically blessed with more curves and bumps than an erotic vegetable (Yes, Kamajii had a penchant for sexualizing vegetables!) However, she was a definite atypical beauty; saucer like eyes that took all in, flecks of Aurelian in those depths that held no malice. Naturally, defined brows not overly plucked, a button nose perfect for Eskimo kisses, and those lips, for the right person, would taste like creamy green tea ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup; and a smile that made hearts giggle. Chihiro possessed a trait that no make-up or any artifice could replicate, a genuine angelic appeal that glowed brighter than a diamond in the dark. Her body didn't look half-bad either, under the clothes!

"Sen, beauty comes from deep within, my dear," Kamajii comforted empathetically, pushing aside his old man dirtiness.

"It doesn't help if my intestines are beautiful! It's not my liver people see first when I walk down a street!" She bellowed, about to unleash her trauma, when Kamajii skilfully manoeuvred the teacup to her lips.

"Drink this and tell old Kamajii what ails you, Sen? Hmm?" He beamed and his moustache twitched. It was literally eons ago that he'd dished out any great-great-great-grandfatherly wisdom to anyone.

Chihiro unceremoniously took big slurps of the tea. The liquid washed over her wooden tongue and slipped into her parched throat, leaving a cloying satin aftertaste in her mouth. The surge of warmth sent her limbs limp and her pulse meandering to a leisurely pace. She paused and stared unseeingly into the cup. Minutes later, certain she could articulate herself to Kamajii, she said, "He…I …we…then…Rin…" Okay, maybe that wasn't as eloquent as she had planned out in her mind. Chihiro took another mouthful tea, ready to take another stab. Why did she want to spill her guts to this old man in disturbingly tight clothes, with six arms and dodgy moustache?

"Hmm…from such a riveting and magniloquent recap…it's a tad difficult for me to deduce what may be troubling you, Sen. But I gather it has something to do with a 'he', and you…and 'we'…and then Rin…Am I correct?" Kamajii coaxed with a toothy grin.

Chihiro nodded glumly, wiping the silvery water standing in her eyes with the back of her hands.

"Haku does posses that silent, intense boreal and mysterious quality the ladies and some men," Kamajii winked suggestively, "often die for."

Chihiro spat out her tea, gagging within an inch of her life, her eyes burst out of her head with horror, and nausea at what she assumed was the old man's revelation. "Y-you mean….you have the hots for…?" Haku got it on with Kamajii and then her? Ewww! Chihiro grimaced privately, scooting away from the old man. He really was a filthy, sodding ancient pervert with six arms! Haku is gay! OMG! This can't get any worse! Haku is a tri-sexual! Try anything kind of guy! Chihiro wailed in quiet hell. She clamped her hands over her mouth, not to stop a scream but to prevent the contents of her stomach coming out. Maybe being ditched isn't so bad after all!

Kamajii chuckled with amusement, stroking the ends of his moustache. "Oh no, Sen. I prefer my partners with at least four arms and of the feminine persuasion. Although, there have been guests who'd have given their spirits simply to have Haku glance their way, to entertain their advances. That boy doesn't fool around with those that don't capture his interest, Sen. If he wants someone, they will know. If he doesn't, they'll be as equally aware. "

Chihiro slumped back onto the wall, gay-induced-vomit forgotten and dived back into her pit of despair. Oh! I know he doesn't want me. He made that clearer than a sunny day. That smarmy ab-rippled-to-die-for-bastard! How many women had he sampled and discarded like fallen cherry blossoms? "Haku is…" Chihiro shook her head, recalling those achingly tremulous moments, the caresses, the kisses, his words they'd shared together in the past few days. All were cruel lies intent on seducing her in the barn. "…not worth talking about…," her mouth quivered and she skulled the remainder of the tea.

"You know, Sen, some spirits possess the power to read thoughts, smell pheromones and an endless variety of very handy powers." Kamajii settled down across the table from her, testing the depths of Sen's knowledge about the young dragon boy.

"Can you, Kamajii? Do you have those powers?" Chihiro averted his concealed question and probing gaze, turning hers back to the furnace, afraid the old man already knew what ailed her. She'd dared to think she'd found her saucy samurai who'd honour and defend her honour – instead of demeaning it, using her as a cheap plaything.

"I only have the gift of the gab, Sen. But I don't need supernatural powers to see you are indeed rather crestfallen. The sun has gone from your eyes, the light of the moon has left your complexion," Kamajii intoned with all seriousness of a heart attack. "Not to mention your crying and running nose are a dead give away," he chortled patting Chihiro's shoulder.

"I don't want to talk about him anymore, Kamajii. I made a stupid, uber mistake and let my emotions control me. It's not going to happen again! I'm going to find a way to rescue my parents. I'll return to my own world, where I belong, and I'll never look back!" She declared in an unconvincing boom. "I just want to go home, Kamajii. And forget the past few days. Please, please help me." Sen scrambled onto her knees, tugging at any of Kamajii's arms she could grab.

"So I assume the 'He' is Haku, then?" Kamajii inquired gently.

Chihiro clamped her lips and blinked away the tears marring her vision. She swore off his name, dogged never to utter that foul word again. He no longer existed…he no longer existed… "He doesn't exist to me." There was no excuse for his actions, his words. Chihiro wiped the tea from her lips with her sleeve and planted an awkward smile on her face. "I need to find a way to save my parents, Kamajii. I need to turn them back into humans. Please, can you help me?" It was what she should have been thinking about in the first place. She deserved all she was getting. The shame garrotted her intestines at how she'd abandoned her parents because of that dipshit!

Kamajii looked at Chihiro, a sagely, guarded expression crossing his features, as if he was hearing every click and churn whirring in her brain. "I see…," he simpered and stroked Chihiro's bowed head before pouring her another cup of tea. "I know of no method to free your parents, Sen. No one has ever escaped from the bathhouse. However, I foresee, one day, it will be the one that no longer exists to you, that will aid you in your quest, Sen."

Chihiro tore her doleful stare from the floor to gape at Kamajii. She bit down obstinately, her eyes wide with titanium conviction, shaking her head with exaggerated slowness.

"Ah. Ah." He wagged his finger back and forth like a teacher to a student who started arguing before hearing the argument. "You don't need to believe me, Sen. I can't imagine what happened between the boy and yourself, well, actually… I could! Did you—" His eyes went all starry and he flapped his hands around with exasperation, tingling all over thinking of the hanky-panky that youngster got up to.

Chihiro's stony face shut him up, fast.

"Ahem." He adjusted on his non-existent collar, caught off guard from his best behaviour. "Things will be settled when they must be, Sen. I am rather certain these things are yet to be settled. One cannot lock away one's pains and escape one's obligations, Sen," he hinted cryptically, the hanky-panky imaginations still lurking in the back of his mind.

"Ob-li-ga-tions?" Chihiro squeaked, lids fluttering in puzzlement. What did Kamajii mean?

"In time, you will understand, Sen. Now, go wash that gloom off your face. Then, you can help me grind some herbs. Those tears of yours will affect my herbs and the susuwatari won't work if they see you plagued with sadness."

AN: Yes, in Japan they do serve green tea ice-cream drizzled with chocolate syrup and a lot more yummy stuff. YUM! As always, love to hear what you think so far.

As promised, an update after a tiring absence for me. THANK YOU so much to everyone that sent me links to the movie and reviewers too. I checked them all out and found a bit of writing mojo back. Huggles to the wonderful PMs from awesome readers too- it truly helped to motivate my tired brain. I've replied to all reviews and PMs, but if I somehow missed yours in my insanity, please let me know. I've been told by a few people that they never received a reply from me - so I have a feeling it is ff eating my PMs as I replied to each and every PM I got. :( I had a few anonymous reviews that I couldn't reply to – so if you were one of them, my apologies.