In Japanese mythology, Ryûjin is the King of the Sea, a Japanese dragon that could turn into a human, just like Haku. He lived in a palace under the sea, built of red and white coral, and controlled the tides with magical jewels. It makes sense, to me, for all dragons to be related in some way; so, Kohaku is (very distantly) related to his sea-born cousin, and the clan of water dragons.
Just so you know.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own any aspect of Hayao Miyazaki's absolutely fabulous movie, Spirited Away. Believe me, I wish I did. But I don't, so I'll have to remain jealous for the rest of my life, I guess.
I actually wasn't planning to write anything to do with Spirited Away until I was done with Raven's Birth. But when plot bunnies attack, you have to listen, I guess...
Ryûjin's Lost One
Shu of the Wind
Cool. Soft. Smooth. Always flowing, never ending, trickling down into the black to be brought back up through the breathless and into the soft smoothness again. Nothing but this. Nothing to want but this. A world of blues and grays, ashen greens – what is ash? – and greeny golds when the sun rises – what is the sun? Silver flicks of movers, darting through the ashen greens, falling and molding and rising again. Floaters above. Ever moving, all-encompassing, pressing at the sides without knowing there were sides.
It was like that for a long time.
Then the flashers came. The pale things, like the silvery movers, but not as glinty. Five worms stuck on a block of off-white. They slid in and out, sometimes leaving things behind – glittering things, molding things like the unmoving-movers, to rot away and feed the ashen greens when they finally disappeared.
Sometimes, the pale things would be huge. Gawky creatures that flailed, not like the movers. Soft sounds in the ever-movement, not like the ripples that the movers created. Gurglings, leaping sounds. Over time, giving names.
The humans had two feet and ten toes, legs that sometimes were pale like the fish and sometimes were brown as the earth in its banks. They would flutter through the water, sometimes remaining forever to melt and become part of the earth, feeding the weeds and, eventually, the fish. That hurt, something never felt before. It had a name now, after all – death. The absence of life.
Sometimes, faces pressed down into the movement – hair, eyes, nose, mouth. Once, a whisper, a gurgle above the water.
Kohaku River. The Amber River.
Watching the humans made it – him – realize he could watch. Hearing them made him realize he could hear. Eyes, ears. Touch and smell – skin and nose.
One day, a minuscule boat brushed against the surface of the river, carrying a whispered prayer. A woman, rippling her sorrow.
"Please, kami-sama. I know you're not an ocean, but please, return my brother to me. I beseech you, Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi-sama. Return Shoutarou to me."
Eyes blinked in the water. The dragon – small, nestled in a bed of reeds, gleaming silver and rippling in the river's flow – watched the small boat float freely down the river, aware of its long journey to the great expanse of water at the end and, eventually, down into the mud with the bodies of the fish.
Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi. That is me. I am that.
It has been many colds – many winters – since the boat. People continue to flit in the river, never so elegant as the fish. He has grown, too large to know his size truly, no longer curious about the Above-World. Let the humans have their land. The river was where he belonged.
The more he tried, the faster he could move the river. Sometimes, he could even sweep things from one shore to the other, which became one of his favorite games. He was good at it, too; he knew the flow of the water as well as he knew his own name, which he liked to think sometimes.
He didn't know if the fish thought. They certainly never seemed to care about him. No names. They just slid through the water, moving faster when they caught sight of him. So he retreated to his reeds, to clutch that small bit of contact with other thinkers. Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi.
But things were going wrong. The creatures dropping to the silt would no longer fade and melt away. Clear things that choked the fish, frightened them away. Shining things that hurt his eyes when the sun caught them. Too many to be buried. And they brought a sickly taint, something that made him nauseous. They weren't supposed to be there.
Then it happened. The flash. A color he'd never seen before, not in his thoughts or in the many things that had settled at the bottom of the – his – river. Not red, not white. Too light to be red, too dark to be white. A strange thing.
Kohaku watched it fall. It twisted and turned, releasing bubbles of air into the water as it dropped. The color-he-could-not-describe was strangely interesting, something he'd never seen before; it would dull eventually, at the touch of the water, but for now it was still bright and shining with the little pieces of metal set into it.
Something huge crashed onto the surface of the river above him. A flailer, a small one, struggling to keep itself afloat. Kohaku recoiled, twisting into the reeds to hide himself, watching the fluttering of the tiny human arms. Bubbles were bursting from the form like a waterfall, like the one that founded his river all those miles away. He'd seen this before. Too many bubbles meant that soon, there would be no more, and the small human would fall to the base of his river and melt away, disappear into the silt.
Something broke inside him, broke and reformed in a new and frightening way. This one would not dissolve into the sand in the riverbed.
The water surged around him, like it had never done before. The little human – the child – broke the surface of the river again, but she didn't have enough strength to swim to shore, and before he knew it, he was beside her, and her small hand was clutching the horn which had grown only in the last few winters.
The touch was more of a shock than anything else. Slowly, warmth radiated out from where her fingers clutched, and Kohaku was unable to move as the little girl wrapped herself around his neck, unwilling to let go. He'd never been touched by anything but reeds before. The fish would brush past him, sometimes, but they stayed away mostly. They didn't like him.
And with the touch came knowledge. Fear. Fear that strangled them both. The soft sense of loss about her shoe – the little pink shoe that had dragged her down into his river. Worry – what would Mom think of her now?
She is Chihiro. She is named. A soft sea of awe in his heart. She is thinking. She is like me.
He tried to say the name, but his throat wouldn't let him.
The water swelled around him as something else – something other than the name – swelled in his throat, choking him with some emotion he'd never felt before, driving them both towards shore. The moment he touched the gentle incline of the sand, the little girl began to untangle herself from the soft blue hair rippling along his spine. A hand slid along his nose, gentle, thankful. A soft whisper, a tiny smile.
Everything hurt. Nothing was right anymore. The water was too hard against him, not like the river at all. He hurt all over, like he'd been hit by something hard over and over again. Stinging skin, aching muscles.
Air danced over his back. Kohaku coughed, rolling over to stare at the Above-World. Sky, his mind told him firmly. The sky. Black as the silt of the river, with thousands of white specks in it. It was the nighttime. But he wasn't in the river. And this wasn't his body.
Carefully, Kohaku sat up, staring at the things that had pushed him there. Flat. Four fingers, one thumb. Lines in skin. Human hands. Trembling human hands.
No. This is wrong.
Slowly, unable to believe it, he stretched out an arm, watching it move. Even doing that was painful. Red scrapes along the skin told him why. He'd been thrown somewhere.
The ground hurt against him. It wasn't grass, like had fallen into the river sometimes, but hard and gray, like what had poured into the silt only a few suns ago. The thing that had been swallowing the river up foot by foot, inch by excruciating inch.
Wrong. It's wrong, it's wrong, it's wrong –
Something in his throat trembled as far below, the final trickle of water that had been his melted away.
It took a long time for him to realize who it was.
Finally dressed. Finally understanding. The river – his river, Kohaku-gawa – had been destroyed. Blocked up. Ruined forever. His home was gone, and would never come back, no matter how many times he could scream with his human throat.
He hid far away from the clanking of the human city, taking refuge in a clump of rooted-earth people – trees – to learn what he could do. He could be both human and what he had been, though it was never the same. Sometimes, he snuck to the edges of the human world and watched them, once stealing clothes off of a washing line so he could pass for one in a crowd if he had to. But the one he sought, truly, never appeared. Never the little girl with the soft brown hair and gentle smile. The only human to speak to him for centuries.
At night, he would whisper her name, over and over again. Chihiro. Chihiro. Chihiro. It sounded like the squeak of the crickets, a sound he liked. Sometimes, he wondered what it meant.
Slowly, painstakingly, he learned how to speak the human words, scraping up a vocabulary from his scouting missions to the human town a few miles away from his clearing. He mastered the art of transforming from human to dragon and back again, until he could do it as smoothly as breathing. And he practiced the things he had never seen any human do, the things that he had to discover as he worked his way through the laws. Finally, he caught a word for it that seemed to fit: magic.
He could do magic.
Eventually, he made a decision. He could use magic to find her. He could use the magic he tested so very subtly, to avoid discovery, to find the little girl. Chihiro. It would be difficult; he would have to find a teacher, because there was no way to work a spell like that without help. Instinct told him that. Instinct directed him to Yubaba.
Instinct made him wonder:
Will she remember me?
I love the character Haku. I love Spirited Away in general. I love Miyazaki movies.
Just to get that out of my system.
Please review! Cupcakes are on the table!