Title: Phoenix and Dragon
Series: Spirited Away
Summary: Some promises go beyond the bonds of death. Haku/Chihiro
A/N: This follows a similar AU to The River God's Wife, aka Haku has a river instead of being a riverless spirit. The Gauntlet, 31. if love is fated, you'll chew it red ("Offering Betel")
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.
Humans were given to such frailty. Even with his influence, time had touched her, its sandpapery grip had left marks too deep for his magic to lift. Her skin became papery and wrinkled, her hair was streaked through with grey, her bones were as brittle as dried twigs. Still, her eyes were as bright and clear as the day she had first met him. Through everything, she hadn't lost a single memory since she'd regained them all..
He watched with a rising panic on her meetings as she became tinder to time's whimsy. It had been seventy-five years since their first meeting, and he looked little different. He had grown with her by will and to fit her better, but time had not battered him as it did her. She had grown and withered because that was life, and life went on.
There came a day when she was so wizened as to need a cane to even stand by his banks. He knew that this was the last of her, that the flame was dying.
She touched his face and looked at him a long, long time, just there, just him. His hands were at her shoulders, which seemed so bony now. Time had swallowed up the girl he loved, and soon it would devour the last of her.
This was the pain of the immortal, the finite.
"Do you think this is goodbye? If a witch and another world, if losing my memory twice wouldn't keep me away then death won't be any match either," she said.
"I will be waiting for you," he said.
"I'll see you again. It's a promise."
The river mourned for her for years. It ran sluggish. He pulled away from the outside world. Humans were cruel, careless things. They left refuse on his banks. Chihiro no longer spent the painstaking time cleaning out the broken bottles and plastic bags.
When the heat of summer came, he rose from the river's banks and hung in the air as vapor. A silvery shape in the air, twisting, shimmering. He drifted, aimless for a long while. Months passed, seasons came and went. He traveled until he came to another, older river.
He was lonely, by then. Only the birds of the air had kept company with them, and they never spoke to him.
He settled into the heart of the Yangtze, deep in the waters where the spirit itself rested. The wizened elder had chosen the face of an old man to symbolize his knowledge. Haku had chosen a likeness from the first child he had come upon hundreds of years ago. The Yangtze had taken his mold from a famous sage lost to the sands of time.
"You are sad. You have lost someone."
"A love. She was human," he said.
"Ah.... Humans are remarkable creatures. Even as their flesh withers the soul....yes the soul lives on. They keep returning in other forms."
The Yangtze smiled, a comforting smile. Haku took his words to heart.
He wondered at the miracle of a human soul, a spark drifting through the air. Somewhere flying like a flaming bird was Chihiro. Circling the air, waiting for him.
It was image he took as his shelter, and this that he clung to when he left the Yangtze and returned with the rains back to his river.
Fourteen years later, someone else came to his banks.. She did not look exactly the same, but there was a similarity. She kept her brown hair in pigtails. The shape of her nose and chin was slightly different, sharper and more heart-shaped.
Her same was Sengoku Chitose, as he would find out later. At that point of time, however, he only knew her as a girl. One with a striking similarities to a girl who'd freed him from the service of a witch long ago.
She reached her hands into the river. She plucked up a plastic bag from where it had snagged upon a reed and clucked at the injustice of it all. She picked up the broken glass cigarettes, tin cans and even condoms. She didn't shy away from the dirty things, but took them on head first.
She was a brave and determined girl, one who when she cut her foot, looked calmly down and ripped her shirt and bandaged it. Not a whimper, not a scream. Nothing.
As she returned day after day to clean up the refuse, he grew more daring. She was not merely a mirage formed by his desire to see Chihiro, but a promise kept.
He slipped through the brush, and came a bit closer. She turned to see him, startled, yet curious. For a minute, her eyes showed a age beyond their years. She smiled, a bridge between them, between the years as if to say "Didn't I promise I'd return?"
This was based from Japanese folklore that I can't remember the name of or that I've never been to find again. I have searched all over and still can't find it, which is kinda sad. (If anyone recognizes let me know, please?) In essence it dealt with the young death of a wife who before passing away promised to return to him, but that she would need time to grow up. Some twenty years later he meets a girl and before he marries her, she speaks as through a ghost saying that she has waited twenty years to return to him and she will now be with him to death. This might be a slight paraphrase from memory, but you get the idea.
The Phoenix and Dragon is a symbol of marriage in China, moreover it also represents the Yin-Yang and male/female dynamic, and is a symbol representing the unification of southern and northern China.