Chapter 19: Polluted With Sadness

Disclaimer: I don’t own Spirited Away. Just re-posting the story by moviefan-92

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Zeniba sensed the presence getting closer the further they went. She wasn’t sure what it was, but something was wrong with it. And it smelled bad too! Was it a spirit? A monster? Some other creature that lived in the spirit world? Whatever it was, she hoped it was human friendly.

Best not to take that chance. “Maybe we should go in a different direction.” The witch suggested.

Chihiro gave her a confused look. “But the seal is pointing in this direction.”

“I know but… there’s something up ahead, and I’m not sure if it will tolerate a human.” Zeniba explained.

It took a moment for this to register to Chihiro, but when it did, her eyes narrowed in irritation. “I am tired of being judged because I’m a human! Not all humans are the same! Yes, some are bad and destructive, but not all, and not me!” She turned away and stormed in the direction the seal was pointing in. “Come on, guys!” she snapped as she passed No-Face and Yu-bird.

No-Face looked at Yu-bird then at Zeniba before shrugging and following his friend. Zeniba sighed and shook her head. She understood why Chihiro was upset. She had a right to be, what she said about humans was true, but not all spirits understood that.

“Granny!”

Zeniba snapped out of her thoughts and popped out of the ‘bird’. “I’m coming, dear.” She cried, rushing forward. She raced up the hill to where her companions were. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

Chihiro pointed to the figure in the distance. “Look.”

Zeniba looked at what Chihiro was pointing and gasped. Not too far away, was a snake. A very large snake. It could swallow anyone of them without even dislocating its jaws. But other than the size, this was no ordinary snake. It appeared to be made of water; very polluted water too.

“Oh my.” Zeniba whispered.

“Is that a snake?” Chihiro asked.

“Sort of.” Zeniba replied. “It’s a spirit. This is just its spirit form. Just like Haku in his dragon form.”

“Oh.” Chihiro nodded in understanding. She made a weird face and covered her nose. The spirit stank. It smelled like smoke, car exhaust, garbage, and other nasty things she couldn’t think of at the moment. “It smells bad.”

Zeniba put her finger to her lips. “Shh, it’s asleep.”

Chihiro shrugged. “So, snakes are deaf.”

Zeniba shook her head. “You forget, dear, this isn’t your world. And that’s not really a snake.”

“Right, right.” Chihiro mentally scolded herself for being stupid. Of course, things were different. She also noticed that the snake had eyelids.

No-Face gently grabbed Chihiro’s hand and pulled her. “Ah, ah.”

Zeniba nodded. “He’s right. We should go before it wakes up.”

“But Lord Okaia said I was supposed to meet two more spirits. One filled with sadness and one filled with anger.” Chihiro said. “What if this is one of the ones I need to see?”

“Let’s not take chances, dear.”

Taking Zeniba’s advice, the group slowly moved around the sleeping spirit. It would have been much easier to door if they weren’t squeezed between the canyon walls. It was almost like fate deliberately set the spirit right in their bath so the would meet first they were going to have No-Face eat Yu-bird again and fly them over the sleeping spirit, but Yu-bird wouldn’t cooperate. So they had to actually squeeze by it and hope it wouldn’t wake up.

‘Stupid destiny.’ Chihiro thought as she slid past the snake. ‘Why can’t things be easy?’

She didn’t have to do this. She could always turn back and not take the path Lord Okaia predicted for her. But she wanted this. She wanted Haku. So she pushed onward.

“No-Face, watch where you’re going!” Zeniba whispered quickly.

The snake grunted as No-Face accidentally stepped on its tail. He quickly stepped off, but the snake’s eyes flickered open. Zeniba gulped nervously and moved in front of Chihiro protectively.

“Stay down.” She whispered.

The snake didn’t attack. In fact, it didn’t even seem to notice them. It uncoiled itself and winced in pain. Chihiro noticed this. She also noticed that the snake was breathing heavily, like it had just had a hard workout. Foul liquid leaked from its mouth as it panted.

“Granny, I think its hurt.” She whispered.

“He.” Zeniba replied.

“What?”

“It’s a boy.”

“How can you tell?”

Zeniba didn’t answer. Instead she just pushed Chihiro further away. It was at that moment that the snake noticed them. Everyone froze, except for Yu-bird who was shaking in fear; apparently snakes ate birds in the spirit world too.

Chihiro gulped. “Uh… hi.”

The snake opened its mouth. Chihiro expected it to either strike or say something, but instead it vomited, covering them in the nasty liquid. The group stood there drenched.

“That is so disgusting.” Chihiro muttered.

“Ah, ah.”

“Granny, what’s wrong with it?”

Zeniba grabbed a handful of her dress and rung it out. “I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s going to attack.” No sooner had the words left her mouth did the snake start moving towards them. “Or maybe not.”

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Two days and no leads. Haku was getting impatient. For two days, his friends had been observing every spirit in the bathhouse, but no one looked suspicious. Haku regretted that he couldn’t search himself, but he was keeping lookout for Chihiro. He had been sitting in his room at the window, staring off into the horizon, day and night, waiting for her to come back. He didn’t eat, he didn’t sleep, he just watched and waited.

After Kamajii’s brief moment of paranoia, he managed to calm down enough to actually help. His soot balls were very useful for spying, but their absence did slow down his working speed, much to Yubaba’s displeasure.

Rita reported back empty handed time and time again. She searched for the dates of when the bathhouse’s employees had started working. Several of them had been working at the bathhouse for thousands of years. She wished Lord Okaia had been more specific when he said that it was someone that had been working at the bathhouse for a long time. What was a ‘long time’ to someone as old as Lord Okaia anyway?

Clam kept up with his theory that it was one of the women secretly in love with Haku, yet he found nothing suspicious; although he did get hit several times by nearly every female in the bathhouse for spying on them.

Bôh wasn’t much help. Having the mind of an infant, he didn’t know what to look for. He mostly listened to whatever information reached his mother’s ears.

And speaking of Yubaba, the witch’s patience was really running thin. Not only were Chihiro and Yu-bird still gone, but Haku refused to work until his little girlfriend came back, Kamajii was slacking, her son was listening in on her conversations, and Lin, Rita, and Clam were spending all of their time goofing off; not to mention that trails of soot were being found everywhere. Finally she decided that enough was enough and she sent someone to fetch Haku.

The river spirit was still in his room, gazing out the window, when the knock came at his door.

“Come in.” he said, hoping it was one of his friends with news of whoever wanted Chihiro dead.

The little frog spirit hopped in, jumping up onto the windowsill. “Um, Master Haku, Yubaba wants to speak with you.”

Haku’s eyes narrowed in frustration. “Then tell her to come to me. I’m keeping watch until Chihiro gets back.”

The frog spirit gulped. He didn’t want to make Haku angry, but if he didn’t bring the river spirit to Yubaba, then she would be mad at him. What a dilemma.

“Um, Master Haku, you know I would do anything for Miss Chihiro.” He said. “After all, she saved me after No-Face ate me.” He shivered at the memory. “I’ll stand watch until you get back. You can count on me.”

Haku studied the little frog for a moment, trying to decide if he could trust him. He didn’t want to take any chances. But what grudge would the frog spirit have against Chihiro? And it was true that Chihiro had saved him from No-Face.

Just then, Haku spotted one of Kamajii’s soot balls trying to get his attention. Now those little guys he could count on. Deciding to make this meeting go as fast as possible, and to make it clear that he was not going to do anything until Chihiro was back safe and sound, he nodded to the frog spirit.

“Ok, but don’t take your eyes off the window.” He said.

The frog saluted him. “Of course, Master Haku, you can count on me!”

He turned to the window and stared outside. Haku looked at the soot ball and nodded, receiving a nod back from the ball of soot. With that, he sped out of the room at top speed. Not even bothering with the elevator, he flew out the window, up to Yubaba’s room.

“What do you want?” he demanded.

Yubaba jumped in surprise at Haku’s sudden appearance. “Oh, Haku! You startled me. But I’m glad you’re here. I have to talk to you about-”

“What do you want?” Haku repeated.

Yubaba’s eyes narrowed at his rudeness. “Don’t you take that tone with me! This is the reason I sent for you. I want to know just what is going on. You, Lin, Clam, and Rita are refusing to work and Kamajii is slacking off. What are you all doing? AND WHY IS THERE SOOT EVERYWHERE?” she bellowed, dusting off her desk.

Haku shrugged. “Perhaps we have borrowers and they’re in need of a bath.” he suggested.

“Borrowers?”

“Yeah, those little people, only ten centimeters tall who ‘borrow’ things. They came here from the Human World.”

“I know what they are!” Yubaba snapped. “Now stop trying to distract me and tell me what’s happening in my bath house!”

Haku growled in annoyance. “Something important has come to our attention and we have to take care of it.”

Yubaba wasn’t satisfied in the least with Haku’s reply. “What kind of answer is that? Obviously you’re doing something. I want to know what is it.”

Haku shook his head. “I can’t tell you.”

Yubaba grinded her teeth together in annoyance. It was times like these she wished that she still had control over the river spirit. “Well, whatever it is, you can take care of it during your breaks.”

“No. It has to be done before Chihiro gets back.”

Yubaba gave him a cheeky smile. “Why, you planning on proposing?” Haku turned red. Yubaba chuckled, finding enjoyment in Haku’s discomfort. “Haku, whatever it is, if you need it done before Chihiro comes back, if she comes back, that’s fine. However, I do not want you or the others slacking off anymore. Do I make myself clear?”

“Perfectly.” Said Haku calmly. “Now let me make myself clear, Chihiro comes first, no matter what.”

Yubaba slammed her fist on the desk. “What on earth could be so darn important that needs to be done before she comes back?”

Bôh, who had been listening in on the conversation poked his head out of his room. “Someone wants to kill her.” He said.

Haku glared at Bôh who covered his mouth as he remembered that he was supposed to keep quiet about this.

“What?” Yubaba shouted. “Who wants her dead?”

Haku turned back to the old witch. “That is what we’ve been trying to figure out. All we know is that it’s someone who works here.”

The look on Yubaba’s face was murderous. “How dare anyone attempt to do anything to one of my employees! No one takes from me! Oh, I’ll find out who they are, and when I do, I’ll-”

“Do nothing.” Haku interrupted. “I will deal with this.”

“She’s my employee.” Yubaba snapped. “Anyone who does anything to one of my employees must be ready to answer to the boss.”

Haku’s eyes narrowed. “And she’s the one I love. Anyone who does anything to her must be ready to answer to me.”

Yubaba didn’t say anything in response. She tapped her fingers on the desk pondering something. A slight smirk appeared on her wrinkly face. “Very well, Haku. You take care of this. But I want it dealt with quickly.”

Haku nodded and, without waiting for the witch to dismiss him, left the room. Yubaba sat back in her chair, thinking about this turn of events. She wondered who would have it in for Chihiro. She also wondered which one of her employees was stupid enough to take away one of her workers.

Something moving caught her eyes and her fist came crashing down on the snooping soot ball.

“Gotcha!”

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Zeniba continued to block Chihiro from the snake. It wasn’t attacking, yet it wasn’t backing off either.

“What do you want?” she asked.

The spirit didn’t reply, it merely spat up more foul liquid.

“Maybe he’s sick.” Chihiro suggested.

Zeniba shook her head. “Spirits don’t get sick. But there is definitely something wrong with him.”

Now Chihiro was confused. “But when I was here 12 years ago, Bôh said that he never left his room because he thought he would get sick.”

Zeniba snorted. “My sister would have told him that. It was a lie. I wonder what other nonsense she told him to keep her ‘precious baby’ from leaving his room.”

The snake’s tail moved forward. The others froze as it gently wrapped around them. It wasn’t in a threatening way, but Zeniba was still on her guard to fight back should the spirit try anything.

The snake brought its face right up into theirs. Its eyes were bloodshot and full of tears. Poor Yu-bird was freaking out. To have her natural predator right up close like this was terrifying. The snake hissed and that was all Yu-bird could stand. She flew off Chihiro’s shoulder, scratching the snake with her talons.

The snake cried out in pain as Yu-bird’s claws slashed its nose. It began thrashing about violently. Zeniba cast a quick spell and she, Chihiro and No-Face floated out of the snake’s reach. The snake didn’t react, but once again vomited more foul liquid.

“What’s wrong with him?” Chihiro cried.

“I’m not sure.” Said Zeniba.

“We have to help him.”

Yu-bird screeched in disagreement, but Chihiro ignored her.

“What do you suggest?” Zeniba asked.

Chihiro reached into her pocket and took out the dagger Lord Okaia gave to her. “Lord Okaia must have foreseen this. That’s why he gave this dagger to me. He told me to use it on sadness. This spirit sure looks miserable.”

Zeniba thought about this. “Ok, just be careful.” She said, lowering the girl down.

Chihiro planned on being very careful. She knew that someone in enough pain could behave violently. Both Haku and No-Face had been very aggressive when she attempted to feed them the medicine from the river spirit 12 years ago when they were suffering.

Chihiro slowly approached the spirit. The snake spotted the dagger in Chihiro’s hand and hissed. Chihiro stopped and started speaking quietly to the spirit.

“No, it’s ok. I’m not going to hurt you.” she said. “I just want to help.”

The spirit’s gaze darted back to the dagger again and its eyes narrowed.

“No, this will help.” She said, knowing the spirit wouldn’t believe her. She wouldn’t believe someone if they told her a dagger would heal them. “Lord Okaia gave me this. You do know who Lord Okaia is, don’t you? He knew that I would meet you. This is some sort of healing dagger that will kill any infection. Just trust me.” The spirit hissed again, spraying Chihiro with more of the nasty liquid. “Don’t you want to get better? This will help. Just show me where it hurts.”

“Careful Chihiro.” Said Zeniba. “I’ll be ready to step in.”

The snake got into a striking position. Chihiro had to admit that she was afraid. She wanted to help, but this spirit was very uncooperative. Not that she blamed it. She really hoped that she was doing the right thing.

She took another step and the snake struck. Zeniba reacted immediately, surrounding Chihiro in a protective shield of magic. As the snake attempted to bite through the shield, Chihiro stabbed it.

The dagger buried itself into the snake’s neck. A simple stab wound wouldn’t kill a spirit, but it sure hurt. It pulled back and howled in pain. The nasty liquid sprayed out of its mouth like its head was a fire hose spout.

After a few moments, the dagger sticking out of its neck dissolved, leaving the spirit gasping for breath. A small wound was left where the dagger had been, and from this cut a fountain of the foul liquid sprayed out.

The fountain didn’t stop as more and more liquid sprayed out. The more that sprayed out, the more the snake began to change. Finally, the last of the liquid left its body and the wound closed. Its skin had turned the color of clear water. The snake sighed loudly before collapsing to the ground.

Chihiro, who had retreated over to Zeniba, slowly stepped forward. No-Face moved forward to stop her.

“Ah, ah, ah.” He said, shaking his head. He approached the fallen spirit to make sure it was safe. Once he was convinced the danger was over, he motioned for the others to approach. “Ah, ah.”

All except Yu-bird went over to the sleeping spirit. Chihiro gently probed the snake and its eyes flickered open. Chihiro jumped back as the snake rose up. It didn’t attack or do anything aggressive. Instead, it began to change. It turned into a man. He looked like he was in his late thirties or early forties, although he was probably hundreds or thousands of years older than that. Besides the fact that his skin was scaly, he looked like a normal man.

The newly transformed spirit bowed to the others. “Thank you, my friends. I can not begin to tell you how grateful I am.”

“Uh… you’re welcome.” Chihiro muttered.

“What happened?” Zeniba asked.

The spirited frowned. “I was… polluted.” He explained. “You see, I am a lake spirit. In the human world, my lake had been constantly polluted for years, thus affecting me as you saw.”

Chihiro suddenly felt very dirty as she looked at the puddles of dirty water. “You mean, all this is…”

The spirit nodded. “Pollution. It would have taken me months to expel all that pollution from my body, but thanks to you, I healed much faster. So thank you, miss…”

“Um, Chihiro.”

The spirit bowed again. “Well, Miss Chihiro, I am truly grateful. If there is anything I can do to repay you, just name it.”

Chihiro shook her head. “Oh no, I don’t need repayment. I’m just glad you’re alright.”

Yu-bird, who had been flying high overhead, flew down and grabbed Chihiro’s shirt, trying to pull her away.

Chihiro pulled her shirt free. “Yu-bird, you’re being rude.”

The spirit chuckled. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to eat you. I assume that’s why she’s afraid.”

Zeniba nodded. “Most likely. But she’s right; we should be going. We have a long way ahead of us.”

“Oh, where are you going?”

Chihiro looked at the golden seal. “Um, that way.”

The spirit looked in the direction she was pointing and a worried look crossed his face. “Just how far in that direction are you planning on going?”

“Uh…” Chihiro turned to Zeniba for an answer.

The witch just shrugged. “As far as we have to go.” Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why?”

The spirit gulped. “Miss Chihiro, I would advice you to turn back now.”

Chihiro blinked in surprise. “What? Why? What’s over there?”

The spirit taped his fingers together nervously. “Well, you see, a very powerful spirit lives in that direction, just outside of this area. She’s a forest sprit named Yuteela, and she doesn’t take kindly to humans.”

Rather than being afraid, as the spirit thought she would be, Chihiro just sighed. “Not another one.”

The spirit raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Another one?”

Chihiro just waved it off. “I’ve had dealings with those kind of spirits before. It’s just another one that doesn’t like humans.”

The spirit shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. Yuteela doesn’t just dislike humans, she holds a grudge against them. You see, many years ago, back before the ‘Pom Poko’ era, her forest was strong and healthy. It was the home to many animals and it spread for miles. But then humans came and completely tore it down. All of it, turning it into a city. Yuteela still hasn’t forgiven them. She despises them for what they did.”

Chihiro didn’t know what to say. As a human, she didn’t understand what it was like to lose a part of herself like spirits could. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must be like.

“That’s so sad.” She said.

The lake spirit nodded. “It is. She became very bitter and mean. Not that any of us blame her. For a spirit to lose their piece of land that they were born from is would be like you humans losing one of your five senses. Yuteela will not take kindly to you. She may even kill you. I strongly suggest that you turn back.”

Zeniba turned to Chihiro, looking for her reaction. “Well dear, what do you want to do?”

Chihiro only needed to think about it for a moment. A determine look came over her face. “I’m going. Lord Okaia told me that I would meet a spirit filled with anger. I’ve face joy and now I’ve faced sadness. That means that once I get past this Yuteela, I should reach the spirit of life.”

The lake spirit’s eyes widened. “You’re trying to find the spirit of life?” Chihiro nodded. “Well I wish you luck; on both getting past Yuteela and finding the spirit of life. Just know that no one has ever finds the spirit of life; it finds them.”

Chihiro nodded. “Yes, I know. Thank you.”

The spirit shook his head. “No, thank you. And be careful.”

“I will. Bye.”

“Goodbye.” The lake spirit watched them go. He greatly admired the human for her courage. He just hoped that she knew what she was doing. “Good luck, my friend.”

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