Disclaimer: I don’t own Spirited Away. Just re-posting the story by moviefan-92
Chapter 12: Chihiro’s Decision and Haku’s Tale
Yubaba was furious. How dare her best employee just leave without permission or telling anyone where she was going! Yubaba may not own her anymore since Chihiro remembered her name, but she was still her boss.
“Where could she have gone?” she wondered out loud. “She’s not in the area; I would have been able to sense her if she was. She couldn’t have returned to the human world yet since the gate hasn’t been opened. So where did she go?”
Haku was really worried. What could have happened to her? He would never forgive himself if she was harmed in any way. Humans tended to do stupid things when they were angry or upset, and he had really upset her. He mentally kicked himself for the thousandth time.
“Oh no!” Lin cried. “What if a spirit that hates humans did something to her?”
Haku felt his insides freeze. Why did she have to say something like that? If spirits were capable of having heart attacks, Haku thought he might have had one.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Yubaba snapped impatiently. “I’m sure we would have been made aware of something like that happening.”
Lin glared at the old witch. “Oh, nice to know that you care.” She said sarcastically.
Haku was still trying to calm his racing heart. The thought of a spirit harming Chihiro in anyway scared and angered him more than anything he ever felt. Although he and Chihiro weren’t together, he was feeling his dragon instincts coming forth with the need to protect its mate, even though she wasn’t. He would tear anyone that tried to hurt her limb from limb.
Yubaba continued pacing back and forth. “She must have run off again. Although, I have no idea where or why. She just had a vacation.”
She stopped pacing and started thinking back to the last time the human had been in her office to see her son. The girl had seemed a little… out of it. She turned to Lin and Haku. Where they involved with Chihiro’s behavior? Why else would they need to talk to her so desperately?
“Haku, Lin, would you have any idea why Chihiro would suddenly feel the need to run off?” she asked.
The answer was written on their guilty faces. “We had a… disagreement yesterday.” Lin confessed. “It didn’t go so well and she’s a little mad at us.”
Yubaba sat down again, sighing. “Well, that would explain her behavior. Ah, humans are so strange. But where would she go? She hasn’t been anywhere else in this world besides the bathhouse, Haku’s river, and my sis…” Yubaba trailed off as she realized what Chihiro had done. “Of course. The girl has gone to see Zeniba. Her so-called Granny. Great, just great.”
Haku and Lin looked at each other. Of course, Zeniba. It was the only other place Chihiro would go to.
“But how would she get there?” Lin asked no one in particular.
Yubaba tapped her chin. “How did she get there last time? I know Haku brought her back, but I’m sure she didn’t get there the same way.”
“She took the train last time.” Haku explained. “Kamajii gave her some tickets he’d been saving.”
Yubaba’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, he did, did he? I wondered about that. Well since the boiler man doesn’t know where she is, I believe it’s safe to say that she didn’t get more tickets from him. And besides the train, how else could a human get there? Where would she get the tic-”
Yubaba suddenly stopped talking. For a moment she looked at a loss for words, but then she shook it off, laughing. “No, she couldn’t have. She wouldn’t. She better not have.” The old witch opened one of the drawers and gasped. “SHE DID!”
Yubaba’s teeth clenched together tightly in her anger and smoke began seeping through the space between her teeth. Haku and Lin didn’t know what the problem was, but whatever Chihiro did, it must have been bad to make the witch this angry.
“It don’t believe it! She actually stole from me!” Yubaba shouted, as fire shot out of her mouth with each word. “That no good, ungrateful, thieving human!”
Lin took a step back. “Uh, ma’am, is there a problem?” she asked, although it wasn’t necessary since there clearly was a problem.
Yubaba turned angrily to her. “Yes, there’s a problem! That brat stole the train tickets that were supposed to be for Bôh when he visited my no good sister! I can’t believe it! She actually snuck into my office and stole from me!”
“She couldn’t have.” Said Haku, trying to defend Chihiro. “No one can get in here undetected.” Which was true. The doorknocker was aware of all those that entered.
Yubaba only seemed to get angrier. “You’re right. A human couldn’t have. She must have had help! But who would…” She was interrupted by the three-bouncing-heads grunting at her. “Huh? What’s that?” Yubaba looked around the room. “You’re right, Yu-bird isn’t here. In fact, I haven’t seen her since yesterday. She must have gotten the tickets for her. That traitor! I’ll make sure to punish her. And as for Chihiro, oh boy, is she in trouble. When she gets back, I’m sending her to the pigpen for a week. That’ll teach her.”
Anger flared in Haku. He stepped forward, right up to Yubaba. “You will do no such thing.” He said in a dangerous voice.
Yubaba whirled around to face him. “How dare you tell me what I will or will not do with my employees! Don’t forget, Haku, you may have you’re name back, but you still work for me. So does Chihiro. And I have every right to punish her for what she’s done!”
Haku didn’t back down. He hadn’t been in this kind of position in 12 years; not since the time Yubaba accused him of kidnapping Bôh. But this time he didn’t just stand his ground; he actually took a step forward.
“You will never, ever harm Chihiro in anyway.” He said threateningly in a voice as cold as ice. “Never, do you understand me?”
Yubaba reached her boiling point. “SILENCE DRAGON! I’ll do whatever I please, and you have no say in the matter!”
“Are you challenging me?” Haku demanded. His own magic began flaring up. He would never let anything happen to Chihiro.
Yubaba was forced to take a step back from the intensity of Haku’s power. Her anger was now mixed with a bit of fear, and she knew Haku could smell it. She may be his boss, but Haku was much more powerful than she was. There was no way she could challenge him. Without her control slug inside him, he was free to do whatever he wanted.
Reluctantly, Yubaba took a deep breath and calmed herself. Haku too settled down, seeing that the witch was calming down, though she was still very mad.
“No, Haku.” Yubaba growled. “You know I can’t challenge you. Very well, I won’t punish her. BUT I want her back, and since I’m not welcome at my sister’s you can go get her.”
Haku nodded. He had been planning on being the one to go anyway. She and him would need to have a long talk before coming back. It was time they finally settled their argument.
“I’ll leave immediately.” He said.
He went over to the window and changed into his dragon form. He took off and the window slammed shut behind him. Lin was now left alone with the very angry witch. She was suddenly feeling very uncomfortable, and it got even worse when Yubaba turned to her.
“Uh…” Lin muttered. “Can I… uh… get you anything, ma’am?”
Yubaba glared at her. “Just get back to work!”
Zeniba, No-Face, and Yu-bird patiently waited for Chihiro to make her decision. So far it had been about 20 minutes and she had yet to say anything. Zeniba gave her all the time she needed. It would not be any easy choice, no matter what she decided. She just hoped the human would listen to her heart and make the right choice. But whatever she decided, Zeniba would support her.
After another 10 minutes, Chihiro rejoined the others. Zeniba looked up as the human entered the room.
“Hello, dear.” She said kindly. “Is everything alright?”
That was actually a rather stupid question, since, judging by the depressed look on Chihiro’s face, everything was not alright.
Chihiro nodded anyway. “I’ve made my decision.” she said.
Zeniba sat down, waiting for Chihiro to say what she wanted. “Yes dear, what have you decided?”
Chihiro looked close to tears. Zeniba felt bad for the girl. This must have been hard for her. “Remember when I told you about my reading?” she asked. Zeniba nodded. “Well, according to Lord Okaia’s prediction, no matter what I decide, someone I love will get hurt. If I decide to stay, my parents will be hurt because they’ll never be able to see me again. But if I decide to go back, everyone I love here will be hurt for the same reason; not to mention I’ll be miserable again. It’s not fair!”
Zeniba closed her eyes, not wanting to see the girl so upset. “Life rarely is. But it’s your life, Chihiro, no one else’s. Only you can decide your future.”
Chihiro nodded in understanding. “I know. I also know that I have no future in the human world. I was always just a hollow shell of life these past 12 years. I’ll die if I go back. That’s why, even if I do end up hurting someone, I’ve decided to stay.”
Zeniba smiled. She knew Chihiro would decide that, but she needed to make the girl aware of exactly what she was deciding. It hurt her to put Chihiro through this pain, but it was necessary.
“Then I support your decision.” said Zeniba happily. “I am just sorry you will suffer the loss of your parents.”
Chihiro frowned. “But staying isn’t enough.” Zeniba raised an eyebrow. “This place is the only home I’ve ever really had, but that’s not the main reason I want to stay.”
Zeniba’s face was emotionless as she said, “Haku.”
Chihiro nodded. “I love him, Granny. I love him so much. No matter what world I live in, there will always be this empty void in my heart without him.”
Tears began running down Chihiro’s cheeks. Zeniba’s heart went out to the girl. “I know, dear. You’ve loved him since you were 10.”
Chihiro nodded again. “But I know we can’t be together. Not as long as I’m mortal. Which brings me back to the main reason I came here.”
Zeniba sighed and got up to retrieve her golden seal. “Chihiro, do you know how I got this?” Chihiro shook her head. “It was given to me by my father. You see, he was a very powerful wizard, but he was really struggling to find a place in this world. This was many thousands of years ago, of course; before me and Yubaba were even born. One day he met a very powerful witch. Together they build the bathhouse my sister owns.”
“Why did she get it?” Chihiro asked.
“I was getting to that, dear.” Said Zeniba. “After several thousand years, our parents’ bathhouse became the most famous one in the entire spirit world. But after about 60,000 years of running the business, our parents decided to retire. They were going to hand the business down to one of us. But my sister and I just couldn’t get along, and working with each other was out of the question. So our parents combined their magic and created this golden seal. They made us decide which we would want, a great business, or a great magical item.
“Yubaba was the one that chose. She was always so greedy, and the thought of owning the most famous bathhouse was too tempting for her. So she got the bathhouse and I got the golden seal. But she was too greedy to stop there. So she came after my golden seal. I thought that putting a deadly curse on it would make her give up trying to steal it, though I hoped that the curse would never be put into motion, but that didn’t work, as you should know.”
Chihiro nodded. “That was when she forced Haku to steal it.”
“Yes, it was.” Said Zeniba. “I don’t blame Haku though. It was my sister’s doing. You see, when she inherited the bathhouse, our father made her take an oath to give a job to anyone who asks.”
“Because he remembered how hard it was to get a job when he was still young.” Zeniba explained. “Of course, that became a bit of a problem for Yubaba. She had to hire anyone who asked, and that didn’t always go so well for her. Several spirits she hired caused a great deal of trouble. That’s why she began stealing their names, so she owned them rather than hired them. But some powerful spirits, like Haku, were beyond her control, even when she did steal their name. So she put control slugs inside them so she could control them.”
Chihiro growled. “The old hag.”
Zeniba chuckled. “Yes, it’s not very nice. Our parents greatly disapproved of this, but Yubaba was the owner of the bathhouse now and they no longer had control over the business. At least she’s mellowed down a bit since you came. She’s no longer after my seal either. I really owe you, Chihiro, and I would be happy to help you in anyway I can.” Chihiro beamed, but Zeniba frowned. “Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to give you want you want.”
Chihiro’s spirits came crashing down. “B-But, you have the golden seal.”
Zeniba looked at the magical item in her hand. “I’m sorry, dear, but even with the power of my golden seal, something like that is far too great for me.”
No. It couldn’t be. Chihiro had been hoping beyond hope that Zeniba could help her, but it wasn’t possible. The witch had been her last hope. Chihiro didn’t know why she was surprised; she knew it was a long shot to begin with.
Sinking in her chair, tears fell freely from her eyes. “Then it doesn’t matter if I stay or not.” She whispered.
This surprised Zeniba. “What do you mean?”
Chihiro wiped her eyes, but the tears kept coming. “This place is the only place I’ve ever really felt at home, but I can’t stay here if I can’t be with Haku. It’s too painful.”
This interested Zeniba. She had had a similar conversation with Haku on several occasions. He had said pretty much the same thing: ‘It’s too painful to have her around knowing that I can’t be with her.’
Zeniba scratched her chin. She was doing some heavy thinking. “Chihiro, what would you do to be with Haku?” she asked very seriously.
Chihiro looked up at the old witch. “Anything.” Zeniba began pacing. Chihiro started getting her hopes up again. “Why, is there a way?”
Zeniba licked her lips. “It’s a long shot, but yes, there may be a way.”
Chihiro jumped up from the chair and ran over to Zeniba. “How? Tell me!”
The old witch stepped back from Chihiro’s sudden outburst. “Chihiro, I don’t want you to get your hopes up. Understand that this is only a theory. Something like this has never happened before.”
“I don’t care!” Chihiro shouted. “Tell me!”
“Ok, ok. Settle down, child.” Zeniba took a deep breath. “Alright, I’m thinking about Lord Okaia’s prediction. He is a very powerful spirit. And for some reason, you’re supposed to go on a quest, one in which you will meet him. Now remember, this is only a theory, but maybe he will be able to help you.”
Chihiro’s face lit up. “You think so?”
Zeniba’s expression was unreadable. “I don’t know. But his powers are far greater than my own.”
“I’ll take the chance!” Chihiro said determinedly. “How do I find him?”
Now Zeniba looked uncomfortable. “Well, that is the problem. No one really knows where he lives… Ah ha! I think I might have a way of finding out.” She held up the golden seal. “Show us the way to Lord Okaia.”
The golden seal floated out of her hand. It turned in the air until the toad at the top was facing a certain direction.
Chihiro eyed the seal curiously. “Uh, Granny, what’s it doing?”
“Showing us the way. The seal is facing in the direction Okaia currently is.”
Chihiro frowned. “So, it can only point me in the right direction?”
Zeniba nodded. “I’m afraid so. Without knowing the exact location, this is all I can do.”
Chihiro stared at the seal for a moment before her eyes narrowed. “Ok, I’m going for it.”
Zeniba turned to her. “Chihiro, are you sure you know what you’re doing?” She needed to make the girl know exactly what she was getting herself into. “The spirit world is very dangerous to humans. And that’s not even counting the spirits that despise your kind. You’ll also need to make sure you get plenty to eat so you won’t disappear.”
Chihiro angrily stamped her foot. “I am so tired of everyone treating me like some fragile little child! I am 22 years old! That may be very young to you spirits, but it’s not to humans. I want to do what I want and not what everyone else wants for me. So stop trying to change my mind. I’ve made my choice, why can’t anyone accept that?”
Zeniba’s mouth was literally hanging open. This was a new side to Chihiro that she hadn’t seen before.
Seeing the look on Zeniba’s face, Chihiro suddenly felt guilty. She didn’t mean to lose her patience like that, but she was tired of being treated like a kid.
“I’m sorry, Granny.” She said. “I didn’t mean to-”
Zeniba suddenly started laughing, much to Chihiro’s bewilderment. “Oh Chihiro, dear, you certainly have grown up.” She said. “You aren’t afraid to go for what you want or to speak for yourself. I respect that. And don’t worry, you didn’t upset me. I don’t blame you for losing you patience either. This has been a very emotional time for you.”
Chihiro gave the witch a guilty smile. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have shouted.”
Zeniba just waved it off. “Forget about it. We all lose our temper sometimes. But if you’re serious about doing this, it will probably be better to leave sooner rather than later.” The old witch went to prepare a few things for Chihiro’s journey. “Since you got here with Bôh’s train tickets, you can take the ones that he would use to get back. You can take the train for as far as you can without getting off the seal’s course. After that, you’ll have to go on foot. I’m not sure how far away it is, he may live on the other side of the world. For your sake, I hope he doesn’t. You’ll have to be well prepared and leave as soon as possible.”
“Why?” Chihiro asked.
Zeniba seemed surprised that she had to ask. “I’m sure by now my sister has realized you’re gone and has already sent someone to collect you.”
Haku flew towards Swamp Bottom. Even in dragon form it would take awhile to get there. He hoped Zeniba would be able to calm Chihiro down. She was pretty upset the last time he had seen her; not that he could blame her. He had let her down several times, lied to her, and snuck around behind her back. She had every right to be mad at him.
‘Chihiro, please forgive me.’ The dragon thought. ‘I never wanted to hurt you. I’ve been such a fool.’
Tears crept up into the dragon’s eyes. He would do anything for Chihiro. He loved her so much. He didn’t think he could live without her, but it looked like he might be losing her. She had done so much for him, and he had lied and hurt her in return.
As Haku flew, he reflected back on his life and how much Chihiro had played a part in it. He had once been an ordinary river spirit. He had never thought badly of humans, but he never did allow himself known to them better; that would just cause trouble for the spirit world. When spirits got involved with humans, it normally caused problems. So he would ignore them and let them go on with their lives.
But then she came. Hake had been one with his river at the time, when suddenly a little pink shoe fell into his river. A little girl was trying to reach in and grab it. But then she slipped and fell in. Haku felt her struggling to swim, but she was yet too young. He knew she would drown.
It was a rule of the spirit world not to get involved with humans, even if it meant the human’s death. All it would do was cause the spirits trouble. But Haku couldn’t just let this little girl drown. So he separated himself from his river and took on his dragon form. Unfortunately her parents were nearby, so he could not bring her to shore without being seen.
Dragging her down his river, he waited until her parents were out of sight before leading her to shore. Once she was safe, he reunited with his river and waited for her parents to arrive.
“Chihiro!” her mother had cried. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, mommy.” The girl, Chihiro, had said. “The dragon saved me.”
If Haku were had been able to smile while united with his river, he would have. Knowing that the girl would be all right he moved on.
Or so he had thought. For some reason he kept thinking about the little human. “The dragon saved me.” Yes, he had saved her, but she was just a human. She had been in his river for only a few minutes, but Haku seemed to have gotten fond of her. He didn’t know why. Humans have been in his river before, but he never gave a second thought about it. But there was something different about this human. He wondered if he would ever see her again. He doubted it since she would most likely be terrified of being anywhere near the water for a while.
A couple weeks later, he had decided to leave his river for a while. Perhaps a little vacation would take his mind off the human.
He took his human form. It was always that of a child. Why a child, he wasn’t sure. Ever since he reached his childhood, he had never wanted to grow up; he never had a reason to.
Then he went to Yubaba’s bathhouse. The best bathhouse in the entire spirit world. He was just a customer at the time, but he never would have guessed what fate had in store for him. As it turned out, Yubaba had been searching for an apprentice. She approached Haku and offered him the job. The river spirit was curious. Sure, he was already very powerful, but why not learn some more? After all, he was immortal, and had all the time in the world.
And so his training began. For three years he was trained by Yubaba, but during that time he learned that being the witch’s apprentice wasn’t as great as it sounded. The witch was cold hearted and greedy, and she wouldn’t let Haku return to his river. And strangely enough, he no longer felt a connection to his river. It was almost as if a magical barrier had been placed between the two.
One day Haku had had enough. He was on his way to Yubaba’s office when he heard the witch talking to Yu-bird and the three green heads.
“Haku is becoming a bit of a nuisance.” The witch was saying. “He won’t leave his river. I should have expected this. Spirits bound to something can’t let it go. They’ll remain connected to it until it’s no more. Well lucky for me, even if Haku does try to get back to his river he won’t be able to find it. My shield spell is working perfectly, and now, thanks to the humans, he won’t be able to find it at all.”
Haku was shocked by this. The witch had been manipulating him to get him to stay. She was blocking his connection with his river while the humans did whatever they were doing to his river. How long had this been going on?
Anger filled the river spirit. He burst into Yubaba’s office and demanded to know everything. When the witch had told him everything he needed to know, he returned to his river, but found that Yubaba was right. His river was gone. Instead a small human development was where he believed his river once was. He had no idea it was still flowing underneath the apartments, but he did know that it was still around. He would have felt if his river died, magic shield or not.
Determine to find it, Haku returned to the bathhouse to see Yubaba. He discovered that while he had been gone, the witch had had an enchanted doorknocker installed to prevent further eavesdropping. Haku demanded to know where his river was. Since Yubaba had been blocking his connection, she would know exactly where it was.
But Yubaba refused to tell him unless he agreed to sign a contract that would officially make him her apprentice. Reluctantly, Haku agreed. However, he did not expect to have his name stolen. When this happened he tried to get out of his contract, but the witch owned him now. Still he refused to obey her, so the witch put a control slug inside him to force him to obey.
For the next three years, he was forced to do Yubaba’s bidding. He tried everything he could think of to get his name back, but was unsuccessful. It seemed he wouldn’t be able to get out of his contract after all.
Then she came to him again. The human girl, Chihiro. She had grown in the past 6 years, but he still recognized her by her scent. He tried to spare her from suffering his fate, but then her parents got turned into pigs and she was forced to stay. Haku swore to protect her, just like he did 6 years ago.
As it turned out, she saved him. Not only did she save his life, but she also freed him from Yubaba’s control, gave him back his name, and revealed the location of his river.
He was sad to see her go, but he knew she had to leave. It was for the best, but Haku didn’t want her to go. He became very depressed afterwards. There was something about her that wouldn’t leave him alone. It took him awhile to realize it, but he eventually figured it out. He loved her. Not the kind of way that he loved her now, but he loved her just the same. Without her, his life felt incomplete, even when he had his river and freedom back.
Haku knew he had promised to see her again, but it was too painful to. And even when he wanted to, he couldn’t not with his river covered up. But she still found ways to be with him. She would go to small streams that were from his river that hadn’t been buried.
Then she actually came back to him. He was overjoyed, while at the same time crushed. Over the years, his love had grown into a romantic love for her. He wanted her to be with him so badly, but he turned her away, thinking he was doing the right thing by letting her go. He now realized how wrong he was. She didn’t want to leave, and he didn’t want her to. Besides, who was he to decide how she lived. He had been such a fool.
‘Chihiro, I’m coming for you. I can’t live without you. I don’t care that you’re a human. I don’t care that you’re mortal. I love you! Please don’t do anything reckless.’
Haku put on burst of speed, determine to see his love again and right what he had wronged.