The Path of Water
Disclaimer: I do not own Spirited Away in any respect; all rights go to Hayao Miyazaki and associates. I make no money from this.
The Path of Water
XXXIX: The Beautiful Memories
'Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You'll find what you need to furnish it - memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.'
~ Tad Williams
Chihiro frowned and looked at the man.
Haku didn't move.
"Can you step forward a little… I can't see you…" she muttered in a little bit of what Haku sensed was embarrassment. She had just asked him to stay where he was forcefully and then she realised she couldn't identify him.
Haku stepped forward into the light, never straying his eyes from Chihiro.
He was tall, Chihiro realised. Considerably taller than her. His hair fell around his shoulders and was a mossy green in colour, like the earth. His head was angular and almond-shaped, and his eyes were strikingly green and she felt like they bore into her soul. He was looking at her fiercely, and the intensity of his gaze scared her a little bit. Suddenly, as if sensing her emotions, his gaze dropped to the foot of the bed.
"May I speak now?" he asked lowly. His voice, like a purr, travelled down her spine and settled at the base.
"What is your name?" she demanded.
"My full name is Kohaku Nigihayami Nushi, I am a river spirit, but you, Chihiro, know me as Haku."
"You know my name. Who I am?" she asked.
"Of course," he smiled softly. "I know almost everything about you."
"Where are my parents?"
"They're just outside."
"I want to see them!" she demanded.
Haku nodded. "You remember them?"
"Yes. They're my parents."
"You don't remember me?"
He saw Chihiro's face falter for a moment. She was scared, he could smell it on her and it drenched the room. It was natural that she wanted to see her parents, her mother and father who she had always known but he couldn't help but be a little jealous over how she seemed to remember them in their entirety, but not her husband.
"I'm sorry, it was selfish of me to think you wanted to see me," Haku sighed gently. "I'll go get them."
He turned to leave, taking a step towards the door.
"Wait!" Chihiro called.
Haku stilled instantly.
"I have a message for you," she said. "Come here, please. I fear I'll forget it unless I tell you it at this instant."
Haku nodded and went to her bedside.
"Can I sit?"
Chihiro was sitting on the other side of their bed, Haku's side, and she was preoccupied looking at a pair of his reading glasses and a book of baby names and a notepad.
"Chihiro-," he reminded.
The woman jumped and looked over to the man. He was sitting on a stool by her bedside. He was even more beautiful up close - not handsome, or cute- because there was something about this being that was completely and utterly beautiful. His eyes, perhaps and how he looked at her, or his flawless complexion and high cheekbones, or the way he walked and moved that made it seem like he was gliding.
"He said you'd had a hard life," Chihiro muttered. "Everything is really hazy, I'm sorry."
"What do you remember? Tell me, please?"
Chihiro sighed and focused. A man with a beard. What was his name?
"He had a really long beard," Chihiro summarised. "His eyes were small and he was really thin. How long to turtles live for? I can't remember. It's a big white space. Limbo. And I walked, I walked forever, and then he told me about everything about a boy named Kohaku, and his debts…" Chihiro shook his head.
"He said to tell you he's sorry."
"Who is sorry?"
Chihiro's mouth responded before her brain could think. "Sar'onga. He's sorry."
Haku swallowed thickly.
"You… you saw… you saw Sar'onga?"
"Yes," Chihiro nodded. "He gave me a gift for you. Time. His time left. That's what he told me."
Haku shook his head. What was happening? Chihiro couldn't mean what he thought she meant, truly -
"She's alive?" a sudden cackling voice echoed through the bedroom as a puffy old witch plowed into the entrance where Chihiro was sitting with Haku.
"By the great gods above, she is!" Zeniba cried in jubilation. Chase was quickly rushing to her side, whispering something in her ear.
And then Chihiro saw them, behind the puffy woman were two faces that she recognised perfectly.
"Mama, Dad!" she called out.
Aiko and Yuuko smiled and approached the bed.
"Oh Chihiro," said Yuuko, wrapping her arms around her daughter. "Oh darling you're all right. You're okay."
"I'm fine, Mama," Chihiro smiled gently. "I've missed you so much."
"We've missed you too darling," said Aiko as Chihiro moved over to hug her father. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"She took a fall," Haku said gently. "She doesn't remember much."
"What about the baby?" Yuuko said gently to her son-in-law.
Haku's lips tightened and he looked over to Zeniba, before meeting Yuuko's eyes. Softly, he shook his head.
"Oh darling," Yuuko said, touching his shoulder. "Oh I'm so sorry."
"As long as Chihiro is fine," he said gently. "We'll get through this. She took a big fall, and it seems she doesn't remember me."
"Doesn't remember?" frowned Aiko. "Well, this is serious. We need to get her to a doctor."
"Zeniba is a doctor," Chase pointed out.
Chihiro looked around the room. There were too many faces she didn't know, talking about things she didn't understand. She looked down at her swollen belly.
"The baby… is dead?" she frowned. "I fell?"
"Yes," Haku nodded.
"Oh…," she muttered. She rubbed her stomach gently. There was a baby in there? Something she couldn't remember making or carrying, and now it was gone? She didn't know how she felt about that, because she hardly remembered any emotions attached to it - it was just something inside of her. But she knew that she should have felt something, sadness and grief - but… there was just confusion.
The witch came to sit by her side.
"Memories are never gone," she informed Chihiro's parents wisely. "Not really. Sometimes they just take a while to come back."
"So she could go back to remembering?" Aiko said.
"I remember you guys," Chihiro said. "But..." she looked to Zeniba on the other side of the bed and slid away a little. She looked so strange, a giant head with a large wart and a fluffy dress. Still, her eyes were warm and she held a soft smile.
"It's okay not to remember darling," assured Zeniba. "It will come back to you."
Chihiro shivered and looked at Haku, who had his brow creased in concentration.
"Maybe we should give Chihiro a moment to rest," Zeniba said gently. Aiko and Yuuko looked to their daughter.
"I'll be okay," she nodded.
"I need to speak with her, as well," Zeniba said.
Chase approached Chihiro's parents to escort them out.
"We'll be right outside," Aiko confirmed with a nod. "Try to get some rest, okay, darling?" They moved towards the door with Chase and left.
Haku rose, smoothing down his robe.
"This concerns you too, Haku," Zeniba said gently.
"I-," he muttered. He didn't feel right. She didn't remember him, didn't hold that love for him, it was wrong to listen in on women's business when she didn't know how close they had been.
"Sit down, please."
"Okay," he said gently.
Zeniba sighed and reached over to run her hand over Chihiro's stomach. The woman grabbed the sheets gently as she did, trying to conceal her fear as best she could, but she was scared - in a room alone with people she didn't know, didn't trust.
"Poor baby," Zeniba sighed. "I'm sorry."
"It… it's not your fault," replied Chihiro with a mutter. Haku looked at her in surprise. "D-don't be sorry."
Zeniba smiled gently. "How do you feel, child?"
"I have a headache," Chihiro admitted. "And I don't think I can move my legs. I'm kind of sore all over. Did I fall? Down the stairs? What happened to me?"
Haku exchanged a glance to Zeniba.
"You were attacked and poisoned by a very evil man," Zeniba sighed. "And you were dead for around two hours."
"D-dead?" Chihiro blanched. "H-how did I come back?"
"By the grace of the great gods past," informed Haku. "They gave you a second chance."
"Sar'onga…," Chihiro muttered. Zeniba's eyebrows rose at the mention of the name. "He… he said he did this for Haku. That I have time. That I'm not entirely human anymore. I was a human before, right, like my parents?"
"You're still a human," Zeniba informed, "but a special human."
"Do you want to go to sleep? Do you need some rest?" Zeniba asked. "I don't want this to be too much for you."
Chihiro shook her head. "Can I have a glass of water?"
Haku got a glass of water from the kitchen, placing it on Chihiro's bedside. He gave her a dry biscuit as well.
"You should eat something, it will help to keep you grounded," Haku said gently. "You'll regain your strength quicker."
She took the biscuit and chewed it.
"I'll come back in a moment," Zeniba sighed gently. "The baby has passed away and we'll have to deliver him and then lay him to rest." Zeniba said gently. She sighed. "It's going to be hard on you both, so rest first Chihiro and I'll come back later."
Chihiro nodded. Zeniba gave a look to Haku and he rose from the bedside as well.
Suddenly, Chihiro's hand latched out to grab at his.
"Can you stay?" she asked, shocked at herself for being so forward, but she couldn't have him leave, no, she wanted him by her side - for whatever reason she couldn't put her finger on but it didn't matter. "Please?"
Haku looked down to Chihiro - did she remember? What was this sort of trick her brain was playing on her? She remembered his name but nothing else, yet here she was asking him to stay. He looked at Zeniba.
"Of course, Chihiro," he said gently, taking up her hand in his. "I won't go anywhere."
Zeniba nodded and left the room then, and Haku sat down by her bedside, moving a small lock of hair from her head.
"Is this our baby?" she asked.
"For what, Chihiro?" he asked gently.
"Because it died," she said. "I'm sorry I fell. I'm sorry I don't remember."
"You don't have to remember," Haku sighed gently. "It's okay."
"He said he loved you," Chihiro said to Haku. "Sar'onga did, I mean. He loved you like you were his son, I could see it in his face when he was talking to me. The same thing happened to him… that happened to me I mean."
"I had assumed so," Haku said gently. He moved to get the water from the bed side table and winced when his shoulder opened up again, bleeding through the dressing.
"You're hurt!" Chihiro cried. "You should be resting!"
"I'm fine," Haku gritted and managed a small laugh. "That is so typical you, not caring for your own well-being."
Chihiro laid back on the pillows and looked at this man. As the darkness chased the last of the afternoon light away, the sun reflected off his cheekbones and shone in his eyes. Chihiro wondered how she had managed to catch the attention of such a creature.
"Are you scared?" she asked gently.
"Me?" she whispered. "That I'll never remember you?"
Haku didn't respond to that for a long time and just looked at their hands, looked at how he cradled hers and ran his thumb over her knuckles slowly.
"We have time," Haku replied slowly. "You can go home with your parents if you wish. I won't stop you."
"My parents?" Chihiro frowned.
"You don't have to stay here. Not if you don't want to."
She shook her head gently. "I-…," she sighed. " I don't know what I want, really."
"You should get some rest," Haku said gently. "I'll leave you to sleep."
Chihiro grasped his hand then, squeezing tightly.
"No," she begged, "please don't. I don't know who you are or what is going on, but I do know, more than anything, that I just want you to stay with me. He said my memory will come back. Eventually. And I'm scared. Please don't make me leave and please don't leave me. Not for a moment."
Haku let out a shaky breath and sighed. He squeezed Chihiro's hand tighter.
He held her hand gently, running his fingers across her knuckles until Chihiro finally fell asleep and for the time being, he let her rest, unweaving his hand and getting up from the bedside.
Outside, Zeniba responded to his hushed call to come into the bedroom.
"Yes, my child?" she asked. "How is she?"
"Sleeping. She won't wake up until morning probably."
"Ah, that's probably for the best," she sighed. "Her parents are worried, but they've gone to eat. They'd appreciate talking to you, I think. You should tell them what is going on."
Haku dug into his pockets and found the small jar.
"I will," he muttered, handing Zeniba the jar. "This was in Senekular's mind. It crawled out of his ear the moment he died." Zeniba studied the small black slug in the jar. "Look familiar?"
"This is my sister's work," she muttered. "But then again, it's not."
Haku frowned. "Elaborate."
"The slug has a purple shine to it," Zeniba said, taking it over to a lamp and moving the slug around, showing a translucent purple sheen over its slimy skin. "It's someone else's magic."
"But it is hers?"
"The slug, oh yes."
"She's working for the Western Lands. It's war. They're trying to overthrow the Eastern Lands. This is Yubaba's mind control slug."
"Let me look at it, I'll see if I can get anything out of the little bastard," Zeniba said, a menacing look on her face. "If it was in Senekular's mind and made him act like that, it's just as likely it's what's been plaguing Raijin."
"Find a way to coax it out," Haku replied. "And don't let it take control."
"You hurt me with your distrust, Haku," Zeniba sighed gently before taking the small jar and putting it in the inside pocket of her jacket. "You should get some rest, my darling, you look exhausted."
"Later," Haku muttered. "Do you think she will remember me?"
Zeniba worried her lip for a moment.
"The brain forgets names and faces, but the heart can't forget feelings," Zeniba concluded eventually. "She still loves you, but she's not sure why. It will take time. Don't rush her."
"I won't," Haku sighed. "Goodnight Zeniba."
"Goodnight Haku," the witch smiled. "I'm going to go and pray for a while."
"All right," he said. Haku went on to find Chihiro's parents, who were sitting in the den. Their rigid forms cast long shadows against the walls. He entered with a small knock to the door and they looked up from where they were entranced watching the small fire place.
"How is she?" Yuuko asked.
"She's sleeping now," Haku nodded. "It's going to be a slow process." He sat down in the opposite chair.
"How did it happen?" Yuuko shook her head. "She fell?"
"Someone pushed her."
Haku shook his head. "It's hard to understand, I know, but Chihiro is considerably well known and humans are not particularly well liked in this world. We are much stronger than humans, and many spirits have been treated badly by your kind."
"Our 'kind'!?" Aiko huffed, flaring up.
"It's the truth," Haku responded strongly. "Humans filled in my river, left me without a home or purpose. I am not angry or bitter, but there are many spirits who are. Some spirits are so hateful, it is blinded, and that's how she was hurt."
"Who did it?"
"A member of my parliament."
"Will he get justice? He killed our grandchild and almost our daughter -," Yuuko shook her head.
"The man responsible then killed himself… it's very complicated and messy, but I am the Lord of the Eastern Lands, and the Lord of the Western Lands wants to destroy this city," Haku explained. "He's a lot weaker than me, however, he is cunning. He's very smart, and getting to Chihiro was the easiest way to hurt me. I apologise for putting your daughter in that position - I wish-, I-," he faltered for a moment.
"There was nothing you could do, Haku," Aiko spoke up eventually.
Haku shook his head. "I should have seen it coming. I was too happy."
"Don't apologise for that, darling," Yuuko comforted. "You deserve to be happy, you both do."
Yuuko came over to Haku then, touching his shoulders.
"We still love you, darling," she smiled gently. Haku felt Yuuko's hands on his face, wiping and he realised he was crying. "Don't beat yourself up."
"She doesn't remember me."
"It will be all right," Yuuko smiled, grabbing a handkerchief from her handbag.
"You are a good husband to her, son," Aiko replied. "We couldn't have asked for someone to love her more than you do. We know that, that's why you got to marry her."
Yuuko took Haku's hand.
"And there is more time for babies," Yuuko said gently. "I know you must be going through a lot, but it is going to be all right, darling, please don't cry."
"Thank you," Haku murmured gently. "You mean a lot to me."
Yuuko smiled. "You mean a lot to us too. You should get some rest, too, darling."
"There's a spare bedroom made up, down the hall," Haku said gently. "I'll show it to you."
When Yuuko and Aiko were settled into the bedroom and the palace quiet, Haku went to go see Ayne and then Chase and Hotaru. The bakeneko was doing very well. Finally, when the moon was beginning to set in the sky and he was faltering with exhaustion, Haku went to see Rin.
Rin was sitting in a room, dark and only lit up by the night sky.
"Rin," Haku said.
The woman turned to her friend but she said nothing.
There was a long pause before Rin's shaking hand came to her mouth to hold back a sob. Haku entered the room and closed the door behind him.
"She was dead for over two hours before, by what could only be the grace of the gods above, she woke up," Haku said. "She remembers nothing about her life up to this point but her parents. Our child did not make it."
Rin looked up to her friend. His face was hard and unforgiving.
"I didn't do anything, I swear," Rin choked. "I had no idea, I'm sorry, Haku, please I'm sorry."
"He followed you here," Haku bit back.
"He was murderous! Please, he's sick, please don't hurt him."
"You will still defend him after all he's done!" cried back the dragon.
Rin hunched over. For a long time she was silent. Rin looked into the moon outside her window.
"I can't help it," Rin whispered into the darkness.
"Then you're as much as fool as he is!" Haku snarled.
"He's still your friend, somewhere below, I know it," Rin looked to Haku then. Her eyes were red and her face was wearied. "For a moment, he returned back to his normal self, he wept and asked for me to help him, he was sick - he knows what he did and he is remorseful. Please help him, Haku."
"Who is to help Chihiro? Who is to help me?" Haku seethed. "Because of him, I lost everything."
"And Chihiro, how is she?"
"She doesn't remember anything, she wouldn't remember you, she barely recognises me," Haku replied.
Rin was silent for a moment.
"I am sick of hearing that word," Haku seethed. "I'll decide Raijin's punishment in due time. Until then, you are forbidden to see him."
"Yes," Rin nodded softly.
Angered at her sudden passiveness, because he was frustrated and upset and angry and wanted a fight, Haku growled before storming out of the apartment and slamming the door behind him. Rin jumped at the slam, before going back to the moon, lacing her fingers together and praying.
He was exhausted. Haku stormed back to the apartment and entered his bedroom quietly, where his mate was resting in their large bed. Slowly, he pulled up a chair beside her, took her hand and kissed the knuckle gently.
"Please remember who I am," Haku wished with a whisper. "Please let us live a normal life."
Chihiro stirred in her sleep for a moment, muttering something unintelligible, before settling again. Haku watched the play of emotions over her face, the small pout of her lips and the pucker of her brow. Her hair fanned out around her face and her hand rested on the side of her stomach.
Carefully, Haku slid his other side over where his child rested. He slipped inside a little, probing around for anything that reacted to his magic, but there was no response from the little being who seemed to be sleeping peacefully.
"We loved you so much," he whispered gently. "My son. We were so excited to meet you and hold you and teach you to walk and do everything," he sighed gently. "I never had any parents I could remember, and I swore I would always be there for you and your Mama."
He looked to Chihiro then. She must have been having a nice dream because she was smiling blissfully. Haku ran his fingers over the turn in her lips. He wouldn't leave her tonight. He wouldn't leave her ever.
Thanks to everyone who commented on the last chapter. I love hearing about your opinions on the chapter! Yay. So, I managed to answer everyone's questions last week and it was really great communicating with you all. Also thank you so much to those people who left love on December Sapphire's map of the spirit world on her page - you guys are absolutely super.
Of course, the poll I posted on my author page so many months ago was in favor if a son for Chihiro and Haku - I was always set on their first child together being a boy but it was really interesting to see what you guys wanted to see in the fic.
So, I am super tired. I got a new job as an editor for what will be a big publication this year, and I've been offered a place writing voice over scripts for an animation as well, all the while trying to finish my degree to graduate and working at my casual cafe/retail job over the weekends. It's mid-semester, which is why I haven't had much time to write but hopefully I will have a bit of a break over the Easter weekend and I'll be able to pre-write a few chapters. Wish me luck, hopefully I find the time.
Until then, expect chapter 40 in the next week or so, I've already written it so it just depends when I finish editing and getting around to uploading it.
Ciao for now. Please take the time to leave a quick review before you go!