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Thank you Libby16 for the review, it was really encouraging:)
"Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law."
-James A. Baldwin
"Uh, uh," he grunted, remembering the words Zeniba spoke.
The night was a midnight blue with a cloud of fog so thick that it smothered the little wooden cabin. A fire crackled sparks of orange and gold as Zeniba sat knitting on a rocking chair, warming her feet with the air-thirsty flames.
"Tomorrow will be a grave day," Zeniba stated, looking up from her knitting at No-Face as he continued to spin thread. "Yes, tomorrow will be devastating," the elderly women wrinkled her prominent nose on her oversized face and pushed up the spectacles that shielded her lavender-lidded eyes, bobbing her head as if another commented on her statement.
No-Face stared back at her, confused that the time, then went back to spinning.
"No-Face," Zeniba cooed, "You will be alright," and smiled gently. "And as for me…I cannot see it. But. We have a savior!" She jumped up from her chair, bumbled to the walnut dresser ornamented with floral detail, pulled out her golden seal. "Names are powerful," she declared, holding the seal to the fire, catching a ray of gilt light that bent off the metal at a tangent. "When Sen comes, you give her this. That dear, please welcome her. Don't forget, that your debts are still unpaid, and do not hate onto her, for she is a good child."
Then tomorrow came. It was a deadly, dreadful tomorrow. News about the incident spread like wildfire, even to the swamps of Zeniba's home. That day Zeniba never came back, she spoke of gathering herbs in the forest, but disappeared. That fateful day, Yubaba was murdered from greed of spiteful human wanderers in the bathhouse that made off with her jewels and riches. Kamaji suffered fatal wounds from a brawl with the invading mankind and Haku was also hurt from trying to defend the bathhouse. The humans had a strange creation; it was a metal cylinder that drove another small piece of metal into others with one pull of a trigger. That little piece of metal spun in lightning speeds, one second and it bore a bloody hole through the victim. The visual reaction time for a human is normally around the range of .18 to .2 seconds; spirits may be accustomed to slightly faster speeds. However, when the bullet is seen, it has either already left a trail of seeping red life at point blank range or at a distance unavoidable. How Haku survived, rumors contradicted each other; how powerful Yubaba passed, there were only feeble theories. That sorrowful day, No-Face took the seal for safekeeping and anticipated Sen's arrival.
No-Face sighed and continued heading towards the bathhouse, hoping that Sen would remember him and accept the seal. Though years passed since that fateful day, the Spirit World only continued spiraling into chaos, remaining hardhearted and revenge driven.
The interior of the bathhouse seemed remarkably large in comparison to the compact view of the outer walls of the sauna. Haku led the way after he and Chihiro passed through the wooden paned front door and strolled passed the front desk. The front desk was a large wooden chamber with thick tablets of with kanji hanging on nails that bore through the rim of wooden plank on the low ceiling. An aniyaku slouched over, scribbling away with a calligraphy brush, only looking up as to greet Haku and give a revolting beam as he patted the loose hairs on his moustache in place. His eyes were incredibly wide set and his nose sat in the middle of his face like a potato; Chihiro was a tad frightened as she was reminded of the stone statue outside the Spirit World gate by his ape like features. A wafting smell of calming herbs flowed towards the two as they journeyed on: past the entrance with the decorative painted dividers, the rows of rice paper sliding doors, and the ripe crowd of a multitude of diverse spirits fresh from bathing. They went roundabout the main story that was speckled with round clay tubs filled with sea foam green water and lady assistants dressed in beautiful, embroidered silken kimonos that helped wash the guests.
"Do you smell a human?" a cyclops spirit asked loudly, sniffing the air in curiosity.
Chihiro and Haku turned to each other, both alarmed as murmurs rippled through the crowd about the possible presence of a human dirtying the bathhouse. The spell was wearing off. Haku grimaced and quickly grabbed Chihiro's hand and made a mad dash towards the small red elevator and pressed the button forcefully. The run was quite refreshing and stimulating actually; Chihiro felt like such a super ninja, although she refrained from telling Haku who would only scorn her at the childish thought. The red gates of the door seemed to open so slow that eternity could pass, and as the door finally stood ready for entrance, both hurriedly jumped in, only to find the presence of another accompanying guest. A giant white radish spirit leaned lazily against the walls of the elevator, its eyes sleepy and its root vegetable facial extensions twitched ever so slightly. On top of its head sat a fire truck red cap, and it was only clothed in the same colored loincloth; the radish spirit eyed Chihiro steadily, and then went about his own business. She stood stiff next to it, but relaxed after he casually looked away.
"Radish spirits are peaceful, you have no need worry," Haku reassured her, then said to the spirit, "Don't tell anyone about her, alright?" The radish spirit gave a clumsy nod.
The elevator clicked open onto one of the many floors of the bathhouse, looking down to a ring of rooms and more tubs. Again, Haku reached for Chihiro's hand, but instead, she jerked her hand away and said, "I can run by myself," her deep round eyes determined to support herself.
"Suit yourself," Haku shrugged, running ahead, dashing through many corridors but paused in front of a brunet woman, allowing Chihiro to catch up to him.
"You're still alive, "Master" Haku," she sneered. Her long, straight brown hair brushed against her waist, and her bangs were parted in a loose heart shape. Instead of wearing the familiar salmon shaded cleaning outfit, she was dressed in a snugly fit white yukata that had become the faded yellow color of old parchment paper. Her figure had become very thin, thinner than Chihiro could recall, so that the even meekest wind could blow her away.
"If I were dead, you would be on your death bed too," he snapped back. Everyday she would jeer at him like so, it was tolerable in the beginning, but now her taunts began to irk him and make his skin crawl.
"Then let my death be a curse to you," she retorted with an uncomfortable grin, "When I lay the life sucked out of me in the boiler room, you will know."
Haku twitched. This woman had become incredibly disgusting and consumed by grief; he grew increasingly impatient at her inability to cope and move on. "Why the hell are you so still hung up with that? Get your head out of the clouds," he started, raising his voice, but stopped after realizing Chihiro was next to him, listening to their entire conversation. "This is Chihiro, or you may know her as Sen. Chihiro, this is Rin," he reintroduced them both to each other, whether it was out of etiquette or need to change the subject, Chihiro did not know, but she leaned more towards the second choice.
"Sen?" Rin exclaimed, her mood and expressions transformed completely at the sound of that name. "You're back! You wouldn't know how much we've all missed you, lil' dope," she smiled and gave her a tight hug.
Likewise, Chihiro wrapped her arms around the woman awkwardly, "I missed you guys too," she mumbled feebly.
"Well, I'm taking her to my room," he said, jabbing his thumb towards the mess of chattering spirits downstairs, "Feel free to keep her company if you wish."
The room was very spacious and traditionally decorated like the entire bathhouse and screamed Japanese. The smooth wooden floor was overlaid with pale tatami mats that contrasted with the steel blue walls that held wooden frames, attachable drawers, and neat slabs of shelf in place. Delicate sheets of rice paper covered the sliding doors and scrolls, depicting serene scenes of cranes feeding by a river lined by sakura trees and small waterfalls that flowed down the ledges of fertile mountains. Pottery jars varnished in pastel colors and vases that held simple flowers were arranged neatly on the shelves and drawers for aesthetic reasons; a stout, black wooded coffee table sat in the corner of the room, promising relaxation and peaceful conversations or small snacking. To Chihiro, his room seemed extremely different from his hot-blooded personality: it seemed much to calm to suit him. She sat down quietly and began to unpack her bag. Rin plopped down next to her and muttered angrily under her breath, her words out of earshot for Chihiro to determine.
"Criminal Law," Rin read, taking hold of Chihiro's textbook, "Sounds interesting." She turned the thick jam cover and noticed a strange picture of something along the lines of a screaming, elderly fish. "What is this?" she said candidly, much more a critical statement than as a question.
"It's a dying whale," Chihiro responded, still unpacking. Aya had secretly drew it in earlier at the same time she decided to scribble "TURDUCKENS YEY3" on her newly thrifted clutch.
Rin took another glance at the whale and said "So Sen," she closed the book. "What's the human world like?"
"Well," said Chihiro as she lifted out her bow, plucking the string lightly, "It's quite different from here. I would say, more urbanized and Western." She found herself giving a long-winded description of Tokyo, its tall buildings, bright billboards, trend setting stores, and the bustling life of all sorts of people. Eventually she drifted from her descriptions to ramblings about her life in the University of Tokyo, her criminal law course, her dorm life with Aya, and archery. As she spoke with enthusiasm, she smiled at those warm pieces of her life, though a faint sense of homesickness began to tug at her. She missed dancing to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" with Aya in their Pokémon pajama suits. She missed screaming "Nooo!" (like Luke Skywalker when he found out that Darth Vader was his father) during the week of final exams. Most of all, she desired for the arrow to slip through her hands and find its way to the center of the three ringed target at kyudo competitions.
"I hate humans," Rin interrupted, her nose wrinkled in abhorrence. "Do you know what they do? Everyday they live selfishly and exploit us. Useless trash like them should disappear," she traced the floor tatami lines with her finger and glowered. "They depend on others and cry out in desperation from sloth. The only thing they are capable of doing is stabbing others in the back. Incapable and stupid. But Sen, you are different," she declared airily, shrugging her bony shoulders and let out a dry laugh.
Chihiro sat vexed in her seat, resenting Rin for asking the question then doling a protrusive comment. Who does this woman think she is? She had no right to degrade others with her own pitiful state. Chihiro bit her lip and stayed silent, letting negative thoughts take over her logic until she finally came to this realization. Taking a deep breath, she thought to herself, "I will not be bothered because I am not that petty," and decided not to be ruffled by her insult. Perhaps that grudge stemmed from "that day" Haku spoke of; if Rin grew bitter over the losses from then, Chihiro thought she could understand the reason for her prejudice, at least just a little.
"Do you know this thing they call "law"?" Rin leered, pointing at Chihiro's textbook. "It's a fence for every one of those two legged monsters in order for the top dogs to live lavishly in their own favor. The pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness?" she mocked, quoting the Declaration of Independence, "Those are just pretty words to deceive a fool. Do you know how humans obtain happiness? By stepping on others."
The door slid open softly as Haku stepped in with a plate piled with warm squares of grilled mochi; Chihiro felt a strange sense of relief when he sat down opposite of her and placed the plate in between them. Sure enough, Rin stood up, glared at him, and sauntered out the door with a toss of her hair. Sighing deeply, Chihiro nodded a "thanks" to Haku, who seemed to understand the small gesture, for both the food and driving Rin away. She reached for a mochi and chomped on it, partially out of hunger and not knowing what subject to start a conversation on. Often times in Uni she would feel so unfeminine as she slurped ramen in her Pokémon pajamas in the dorm with Mozart blasting in the background in the effort to slightly enhance her intelligence before tests; cooking was not her forte, she could only eat.
"This is really good," Chihiro piped, staring at her half-eaten mochi, forgetting all about Rin. "So tasty!" she exclaimed, squeezing her eyes shut and doing a little fist pump in celebration. "This is like heaven inside my mouth," Chihiro turned to Haku excitedly, "My taste buds are rejoicing for the glory of great food. I would totally just lick my fingers and that entire plate to clean it off. I'm disgusting, I know," she laughed.
Haku eyed her questionably, and then said, "You really have no shame, do you."
"Yeah, I think I'm just a shameless person in general," Chihiro replied thoughtfully, nibbling at her finger, "I would just celebrate that fact with the world."
Sheer blades of wind fell through the dark leaves of the swaying branches that leaned against Haku's high veranda, whispering nature's secrets in hushed voices to the quiet door. The door slid open shakily, Shiro nudged it with his nose and padded out into the faint glow of a full moon. He looked around himself carefully, Chihiro was asleep, changed into a snow-white yukata, and Haku was out and about with business. Shiro sighed with a small smile and said to the moon, "It's been a while," and engulfed himself in a cloud of translucent smoke. A thin reed dropped from his head, it has been long since he assumed his original appearance, five years in fact. His size had doubled and his coat became a bittersweet orange that ran steadily down his entire being until it split into a fan of five bushy tails. "Good evening, Kohaku," the fox smiled, sensing a dragon in the form of a human watching him from behind the bamboo door.
The door opened promptly as Haku said, "I thought so. And who knew that it would be you, Tsukasa."
"And you thought right," the fox smiled.
"Why are you with Chihiro?" Haku asked bluntly. It was the same question as earlier, generally kitsune do not give loyalty to humans freely; it was quite unusual for Tsukasa to follow Chihiro around like a dog.
"Oh my, straight to the point. How professional of you," Tsukasa smirked, "Well. Why do you want to know?" he shot back, winking audaciously, vaguely hinting at Haku's past adoration for Chihiro.
"Stop that. It's also ten times creepier when you're speaking to me through telepathy," Haku said, his face displaying an expression with a touch of distaste towards Tsukasa's obviously provocative statement. "It's not like that," Haku faced the moon, then looked back at Tsukasa, "Ten years can bring about much change."
"Really," the fox stated doubtfully.
"What, did you expect me to say that I would love her forever?" Haku retorted, a bit annoyed by Tsukasa's apathetic disbelief.
"Actually I'm glad you didn't say that, because that would be a lie," Tsukasa replied, "Whichever gentleman tells his lover that he would love her forever is a liar. First of all he will not live forever. Secondly, many of them do not even know what love is. Third…do you think that either spirits or humans have that enormous capacity to love forever? Over what these eyes have witnessed in the past five hundred years, I think not. Only His love is eternal," he concluded, looking fondly at the moon.
"You sound like an old man who's marrying his daughter away."
"It appears that these days women seem to like older men," he laughed, then caught Haku's perplexed look with a tad of disgust. "I've been watching too many Korean dramas in the human world. There's this whole wave of Hallyu craze going on…oh sweet grapefruits, I guess I've gradually become immune to the tri-layer cheese-coated romance of theirs."
Haku remained unconvinced.
"You used to be such a sweet kid, you know," Tsukasa frankly said, changing the conversation while idly picking at loose lumps of fur on his front leg. That was a true statement to some extent. After Haku was freed from the bondage of Yubaba's contract, he resumed his previous warmer disposition. His character would have most likely been maintained, had it not been for the great backlash from the massacre that threw the bathhouse for a spin and pushed the responsibilities of ownership into Haku's hands.
Haku frowned, embarrassed by Tsukasa's comment about his past self. "That was too long ago," he said huffily.
"You still have a bit of that innocent child inside of you," the kitsune said, exposing Haku's naïve response; Tsukasa was clearly entertained, but stopped his urge to tease him a bit more in fear of going overboard. "Forgive me for my rudeness and my tendency to make sardonic comments," Tsukasa apologized, then fell into a more serious conduct. The surrounding atmosphere instantly became solemn, there were no more jokes or sarcastic remarks. "That innocence is a precious characteristic in this distorted world; however, it can cost your life if you become ignorant to the darkness in some of spirits' hearts," he looked straight at Haku, observing him a little, then brought the subject back to the original topic. "On another note, answering your previous question. When did I meet Chihiro?" Tsukasa tilted his head up and thought for a bit. "I would say a little less than a year after the Human Invasion. Our clan had already split to investigate the source of the miasma not long after the outbreak of human consumption. It really is a pity that spirits were poisoning themselves with human blood to gain self-glorification and corrupting their mindset," he shook his head sadly, "The clan suffered numerous failures as well, casualties peaked and many were dragged into the deception of the miasma. But that day there was a lead. My sister and I had tracked down an incredibly powerful tengu whose influence was extended to both spirits and humans. He had a strange name, though I cannot recall it at the moment, and wielded far more power than Yubaba could ever achieve in centuries. At once with this discovery, we were all in pursuit of him, but in the midst of it all, I fell into a loophole in the middle of the forest clearing and tumbled into the Human World. There, all of my remaining strength was exhausted and I collapsed on the roadside, transformed back to my weaker puppy-like state. It was then that Chihiro picked me up and nursed me back to health; I am eternally indebted to her care. Many times I tried to return, but it was all in vain. In regards to my sister, I have also heard that she has disappeared, vanished almost. With only her and I knowing the true face of the tengu, almost all the work of the clan was down the drain with our disappearance. I'm sorry Kohaku, even until now, we have gotten absolutely nowhere."
"No, thank you for all of your efforts," Haku nodded appreciatively, "It was under my command that your clan has suffered this much; I will bear full responsibility all the losses. Tsukasa, your sister…even to this day, we cannot find her."
"We'll just have to continue looking then," Tsukasa replied, "I'm sure we can find her, I can sense it." He smiled yet again, "And Kohaku, it is none but an honor to work with you."
Chihiro blinked twice, awake in the darkness. Shiro…no Tsukasa, was a spirit? She pulled the blankets over her head and lay silently. Perhaps it was not much of a surprise anyways; he always rubbed her as a little strange for a typical dog. As they say, expect the unexpected. Lethargy overtook her once again, as Haku and Shiro's conversation faded into rhythmic murmuring in the background; Chihiro fell asleep, quite peacefully, in fact.
Golden streams of daylight flooded the room, illuminating dark corners and stringing its radiance onto the walls, daintily waltzing across the blue pools of color. The warm marigold hue of the sun seeped through Chihiro's fluttering eyelids and she awoke early out of habit. She sat up slowly and stretched her arms, then crawled out from her rolled up burrito of blankets of her futon. Haku lay on the floor, fast asleep with only one blanket, his brow creased with frustration. Shiro lay in his white puppy form at the foot of the small coffee table, head tucked between his paws. If she remembered correctly, the spirits rested in the day and woke at night. This would be a great chance for her to escape back into the Human World. Quietly, Chihiro packed her bag and lugged it over her shoulder; perhaps she could leave this place through the entrance, and Shiro would be left in the Spirit world, for it is his rightful home. She approached Shiro silently and gave him one last pat on the head and smiled. Turning around, she left the room and closed the door behind her. She ran down the long hallway and rode the elevator to the first floor. All was silent and Chihiro let out a sigh of relief and marched out the bathhouse.
"Impossible," Chihiro gasped, wide eyed. She was beyond the bed of rocks dried without water, standing next to an aged tree in the middle of the grassy plain. The red building with the portal over the hill-the exit to the Human World-was gone. No way. Chihiro shuddered a bit. No, there must still be a way for her to go home. She took another breath and calmed herself. It is impossible for an entire building to simply vanish, she must have just headed in the wrong direction.
"Hey lady," a masculine voice called out.
Chihiro jumped in surprise then whirled around to see a young boy, about fifteen to eighteen years of age, squatting on top of a sturdy tree branch. He snickered at her reaction, tousled his sandy blonde hair, and stared at her through his deep amber eyes. He wore a large amethyst yukata that draped loosely over his shoulders and nipped his ankles.
"Did the tengu call you here?" he asked.
"What?" Chihiro said, confused. What tengu?
"I said, did the tengu call you here," he repeated, his eyes skimmed over her impatiently.
"No?" Chihiro answered tentatively, although it was a faint possibility, because she did not know how she arrived in the Spirit World at all.
"That's weird," he replied, "Because you have his mark over your eye." He hopped down from the tree and approached her carefully, gently placing his hand over her eye. Chihiro shrank back and winced. A burst of pallid feathers fell from her left eye, revealing a golden, circular seal with the design of an ornamented clock.
Hey! Thanks for reading! In case any of you were like "WTF that isn't like Haku at all," or "OMG what's with Rin's freaky issues." Well, haha, I promise it will all make sense later! (hopefully…trolololol.) Also, with Rin's little spiel I was like "Uh oh, politics! But…it contributes to the plot…and her character…" So I hope none of you find it offensive or anything…I wasn't trying to bash on the Declaration of Independence, I swear!
~The Other White Rabbit:D