It was a once-in-a-several-lifetimes event where the cruel, cold, snobby and greedy witch Yubaba had a sense of generosity. Once every several lifetimes, for a day of kindness:
She was taking every spirit in the Aburaya for one day and one night to the beach.
The main reason for this was the courage and success Chihiro had after dealing with the filthy, polluted river spirit. For her efforts, the whole Bath House was rewarded this single one-day-one-night trip.
"Rin, what happened yesterday really changed Yubaba's attitude, ne?" Chihiro smiled. Her, Rin, and the other roommates were packing early in the morning at this time.
Rin sighed. "Don't get your hopes up. Although this happens only once every several hundred years, Yubaba is still Yubaba."
As though on cue, Yubaba was speeding down the hall when she stopped at the doorway of the women's bedroom. She observed everyone packing and crinkled her giant nose in frustration.
"Everyone quit packing and listen up! You don't need anything but the clothes on your backs and a towel. For bathing, you will all dive in the ocean," she smirked at this, "That is all. Bring nothing but that!" Then she was gone.
There was silence, then came murmurs. Rin dropped her hands to her sides, letting her luggage splatter all over the floor. She looked at Chihiro. "See what I mean?"
Chihiro looked downcast with slight disappointment, and sighed.
When everyone gathered on the main floor, Yubaba explained the "rules" of going to the beach. Thankfully there weren't that many, and it all included things like: "No complaining while we walk there, or I'll turn you into coal" or "stay together, if you fall behind, we're not coming back for you." During the small lecture, Chihiro took his opportunity to look amongst the crowd for Haku, but he was nowhere to be found.
"Alright everyone, let's move out! Single file!"
Chihiro squeezed behind Rin as they practically marched out of the double-doors. It was a beautiful sunny morning, quite warm, and perfect for a nice long walk such as this one. Just before crossing the bridge, the line stopped, forcing Chihiro's tiny body to be mashed between Rin and a giant chick behind her.
There was a moment of stillness when all of a sudden, Yubaba wrapped her black cloak around her and purple sunglasses. She leaped onto the rail of the bridge and sprouted wings from the cloak, and took off into flight, leaving the whole group behind. Every spirit was puzzled and felt left in the dirt.
Then came a strong male voice at the front of the line:
"Yubaba will meet us at our destination! I will be your guide, as her apprentice, and show you the way there—so do not fall behind and keep up with me! Once we cross the bridge, you are welcome to scatter and talk amongst one another. Now, please follow me!"
Chihiro poked her head out from the line and saw him. He stood with his work uniform, a slight breeze carrying his green shoulder-length hair behind him as he stood tall and proud. He looked more handsome than she could remember him ever being.
"Haku…" she whispered. She watched as he turned and lead the group across the bridge, which didn't take too long. When she was free to move herself from the line, she nearly ran to catch up to him, but stopped herself. From the tone of his voice a minute ago, she couldn't say if he would have that cold and distant attitude he had shown her in the elevator, or if he would be kind, caring, and the friend she had come to know and love from the pigpen and the gardens when he comforted her.
However, she hadn't seen him in a couple days, and she missed him. Chihiro came to the conclusion that she'd rather take this risk. So she ran and stopped to walk a little behind him.
"Master Haku?" She had thrown in 'master' for extra measure, just in case he turned out to be cold, as that was what he could expect when addressed.
He turned in response, and when he saw it was Chihiro, the serious face was no more. He smiled so wide and happily that his cheeks must have hurt in an instant, but if it did, he paid no mind.
"Chihiro." He said, the tone of his voice instantly changing lighter and happy. He turned his whole body so he was walking backwards, and extended a hand to her. She grinned, relief washing over her features as she jogged closer to him and took hold of his hand. He was walking forward now with Chihiro at his side. He smiled and laced their fingers together.
"It's been a couple days. You've obviously been working very hard. Your efforts have led us to the beach for a one-day vacation!" He looked at her as they walked on, his eyes softening. "I'm very proud of you, Chihiro."
She looked away with a shy smile. "Thanks, Haku."
"Your parents, I'm sure, would be very proud of you, too."
She sighed, leaning into him a little. "Yeah… I miss them, Haku. I miss them more than words can express."
Haku instinctively leaned down and pressed a chaste kiss on her head. "I know, Chihiro. We'll free them, and you, soon enough. I just need time to think of a plan. I'm afraid you'll just have to wait a little bit longer." He murmured sorrowfully.
She nodded innocently and wiped tears that she had been fighting back. Now wasn't the time to be sad. She had made this trip possible; it was a time of relaxation, joy, and relief after working this hard for so long. She groaned softly mixed with a whimper when the images of her pig-parents kept re-entering her mind and the tears were still coming. She brought up an arm and attempted to wipe them again, having little success. Stop crying, Chihiro, stop crying…
Hearing her sniffles, Haku turned to her again, smiling, but with a little mixture of sadness for the poor human girl, his best friend. He had seen her cry many times while she stayed here, and his heart broke every time. He squeezed her hand.
"You've had a hard time," he stated. "But don't worry, Chihiro, you and your parents will be just fine. I won't let anything happen to you or them." He leaned in a little and wiped a tear trying to leak from the corner of her eye with his thumb, smiling warmly at her. She couldn't help but smile back, although it was a little weaker, and nodded. How she would repay him for all of his kindness, she wasn't sure. Haku was like the big brother she never had. She knew she loved him, but she couldn't say it was sibling-friend love, or romantic, or which she'd rather prefer.
But for now, he was her brother; her best friend:
Indeed, her best and closest friend in the whole world—and that was saying something.
With these thoughts, she smiled wider and leaned against him affectionately, which he returned.
In the back of the crowd, Rin had just enough space to watch the human girl and dragon boy. She smiled at the sight of how affectionate they were with each other, with no blushing or embarrassment or shame with how close they were, at all. Heck, at their ages, they probably would have kissed on the lips and still called each other best friends.
Rin watched every gesture that brought the boy and girl closer. She was amazed in particular with Haku, as she had never seen him like this before. The most he'd ever given Rin was a pat on the shoulder for working hard, and also merely for being his friend. So she couldn't understand exactly why Sen was any different (she didn't know their past at the time – and she also was not jealous, but simply observing).
"They are really cute together," Rin said, smiling to herself. "Maybe this beach trip will help them along…"
After nearly an hour of walking, Chihiro groaned. "Are we there yet?"
"Does it look like we're there yet?" Haku chuckled.
Chihiro narrowed her eyes at him and sighed, letting her arms drop, as they were crossed tightly against her chest.
Haku glanced at her. Her eyes were tired and she stumbled from time to time, indicating her legs were also about to give way any moment now. He watched her with pity, then finally stopped and bent down.
"Chihiro," He called. She turned to see he wished to give her a piggy-back-ride.
"Haku, you don't have to…" she trailed off.
"But I want to. C'mon, I don't want you passing out on me," He smiled a little.
She nodded slightly and hesitantly went behind him.
"Hurry, we have to keep moving."
Chihiro took his shoulders and half-climbed, half-jumped on his back. He stood and wrapped his arms under her legs and adjusted her on his back so she wouldn't fall off.
"Am I too heavy?" She asked slowly.
"Not at all," he replied. "We're almost there, but you clearly need a break from walking." He shot her a small smile.
"Thank you, Haku." Chihiro wrapped her arms lightly around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder, her eyes bidding shut, enjoying this opportunity to be so close to him and get off her feet. A ride like this on Haku was unlike any other piggy-back-ride with her friends back in the human world. It wasn't at all bumpy or uncomfortable, but smooth and enjoyable—so much so that Chihiro could fall asleep, no problem.
"You're too nice to me, Haku," she murmured, which sounded slightly muffled with her face pressed in his clothing.
His eyes softened and he smiled, glancing back at her, and said in a whisper: "You're worth it."
More to come! This story will only be a few chapters long, so nothing major. I just needed to write something with lots of fluff to get it out of my system, haha!
Reviews reviews reviews please!