Chapter 22: The Spirit of Life

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

********************

They fell into the darkness, the seemingly never-ending darkness. Chihiro was screaming at the top of her lungs, but Yuteela didn’t seem too concerned about it. In fact, she was still attempting to get to Chihiro even as they fell; not that Chihiro noticed, she was too terrified to even remember the enraged forest spirit.

‘I have her now!’ Yuteela thought victoriously. ‘She can’t get away from me this time! She’s mine!’

Her fangs slid down as she reached for the hysterical human with her long leg. The human was dead no matter what. If Yuteela didn’t kill her, the fall would.

“I shall have my revenge!”

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light. Yuteela cried out as the sudden brightness blinded her. Chihiro thought that this must be the light at the end of the tunnel since she was surely going to die. But no, she did not. A light pressure seemed to surround her body, as if she were being held. Her fall came to a stop, but Yuteela’s did not. The forest spirit roared with rage as she fell past her target and vanished into the darkness below.

Chihiro was too stunned to even realize what was happening. Her mind was a complete blank as her terror sent her into shock as she fell. The light caress against her cheek went by unnoticed, but the kind voice that spoke in her ear registered to her.

“Wake up, child. You’re safe now.”

Something pulled at Chihiro’s mind, waking her from her initial shock. She immediately began panicking again as she realized she was hovering over thousands of feet. The kind voice spoke to her again.

“Calm down, child. I will not drop you.”

Almost as if a spell had been cast upon her, and perhaps one had been, Chihiro felt herself relaxing. Whoever, or whatever had saved her had a firm grip on her, preventing her from dropping down into the darkness.

It was then that Chihiro noticed that nothing was holding her. She was suspended in midair and there was no one around. Nothing except this light, that seemed to contain every color in existence. The light was warm and comforting .

“What’s happening?” she cried. “Where am I? What’s going on?”

She heard whoever was there chuckled. Chihiro could sense its amusement. “You always were very curious.” The being said. It’s voice sounded like many, as if hundreds of people, men and women, young and old, were speaking at once. “But trust me when I say that you’re safe.”

“Where are you?” Chihiro asked.

“I am the light that surrounds you.”

Chihiro blinked and looked around. That was when she noticed the impossible. The light was alive! Chihiro didn’t have a clue as to how the light could be alive, but it was. Chihiro tried to comprehend this, but her brain just couldn’t make sense of the whole situation.

“Forgive me, but I cannot take on a physical form. This is the only form I posses. But do not fear, I won’t let you fall.”

Chihiro looked down below her; down where Yuteela had vanished. “What about Yuteela? She fell down there.”

The being chuckled again. “Not to worry. She is a spirit. A little fall like this won’t hurt her too much.”

“…A little fall?” This fall was anything but little.

“It’s such a shame. She has so much anger in her and has for so long, it’s nearly driven her insane. I had hoped that she would be able to let her anger go if she could only see that not all humans are destructive. It was a very slim chance. Hmm, but perhaps there may still be a chance.”

Chihiro looked around her some more. It was very strange talking to someone made of light. “Who are you?”

“My child, do you not know?” Zeniba’s golden seal floated over to her and dropped in her hand. “I am the spirit of life.”

(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)

Haku knew he was asleep. He wanted to wake up, but those sleeping herbs were so strong that he couldn’t. How much did those idiots put in his soup? No doubt Kamajii had a helping hand in providing the ‘ammunition’ for them. He would need to have a long talk with them later; once Chihiro was back.

“Oh God, Chihiro!”

She was in danger, or soon would be, and he was here, sleeping like a baby. He had to wake up. He had to.

“Kohaku.”

Haku turned around to find Lord Okaia standing behind him. The sorcerer didn’t look happy.

“Lord Okaia, what?”

“You’re dreaming.” Said Lord Okaia. “Just be thankful you’re not in a dreamless sleep, or else I wouldn’t have been able to reach you.” He looked around the empty dream realm with a disappointed look on his face. “You were careless. I told you to be cautious. Staying awake for days on end and then being drugged is just…” He shook his head and sighed.

Haku hung his head. “I didn’t want to miss her return. You said-”

“I am well aware of what I said, Kohaku. But I did not mean for you to behave like this. Chihiro will be returning shortly and you’re drugged.”

Hake began to panic. “I’m not going to miss her, am I?”

Lord Okaia closed his eyes. “That depends on your own strength on fighting off the affects of the sleeping herbs. The amount you consumed would cause a normal spirit to sleep for at least 3 days. You’ll have to fight the drugs.”

That didn’t make Haku feel any better in the least. But instead of getting anxious, he got angry. “Didn’t you foresee this? Couldn’t you have warned me?” He was really angry at himself and not so much with Lord Okaia.

The sorcerer’s eyes began to glow with their silver light in warning. “Don’t take your irritation out on me, Kohaku.” He growled. “I can see into the future, but I can’t see everything. Besides, when we last met, events had been further away. Just like with anything else in the world, the further away something is, the harder it is to make out. I did warn you not to trust anyone. Your friends may not have meant any harm, but that didn’t stop this from happening.”

Those words stung. They were harsh, but true. Lord Okaia had warned him to keep his eyes open, and he had only been keeping his eyes on the horizon, waiting for Chihiro to return.

“Will she be alright?” he asked.

Lord Okaia sighed. “She is with the spirit of life even as we speak.”

Haku’s head shot up. “What?”

Lord Okaia held up a hand to stop him. “At the moment, things are out of our hands. Whether the spirit of life grants Chihiro the life of a spirit or not has nothing to do with us. However, your part is coming, Kohaku. In order for Chihiro to truly become a full-fledged spirit for all time, she will need you. And you will need to be awake.”

“What about the one who wants her dead?”

“That is not your concern at the moment.” Snapped Lord Okaia harshly. “Your main focus will need to be waking up so you can be there for Chihiro when she needs you. Even if she gets past the one filled with hate, if you are not there for her, she will not be able to become a spirit and her whole journey will be for nothing.”

Haku’s eyes widened. “Then wake me up! You should be powerful enough to remove the affects of the sleeping herbs.”

Lord Okaia nodded. “True, but I cannot interfere anymore than I already have, for risk of changing-”

“The future you have foreseen. Yeah, I get it.” Haku muttered impatiently.

Sighing, Lord Okaia said, “I would not expect someone without the gift of Sight to understand. Just know this Kohaku, you have until this time tomorrow to be ready for Chihiro, otherwise you will miss your chance. Good day.”

And with that, Lord Okaia vanished from Haku’s dreams, which were immediately filled with images of Chihiro.

(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)-(-)

The spirit of life? The spirit of life! She did it! She had found it! Actually, ‘it’ seemed to be the only way to describe the spirit since it seemed to be neither male or female. Chihiro immediately pushed this thought aside as she focused on the task she had nearly died on several occasions trying to get here.

“You’re the spirit of life?” she said, not able to think of anything else to say.

The spirit of life chuckled. “That’s what I just said.”

Chihiro turned red with embarrassment. “Oh great spirit of life, I have come a long way in search of you.”

“I already know this, my child.”

“You do?”

“Of course. I am the spirit of life, after all. I have a connection with all living beings; from the most powerful of spirits, to the microscopic bacteria surrounding us.”

‘Ew, I really didn’t need to hear that last part.’ Chihiro thought in disgust.

“Perhaps other creatures find you to be just as disgusting as they are to you.” Said the spirit of life.

Chihiro blinked. “Wha… How did… You can read minds?”

“Hear others’ thoughts would be a better way of describing it. I hear them just as if they were spoken.”

“Then you know why I am here.”

“Indeed. I allowed you to find me after you proved how determine you were.”

This didn’t make sense to Chihiro. “Wait, if you can read thoughts, and you have a connection to all living things, then why did I need to prove myself?” She started getting angry. “Do you know what I’ve been through to find you?”

“I do, which is why I have appeared to you now. Many beings believe they are going to do something. They believe it with all their hearts, but in the end they are not truly willing to do it.”

“So all this was a test?” Chihiro demanded angrily. “You made me risk my life on several occasions when you could have helped me at any time? Why?”

“Don’t think I am cruel, child. Just because one has the power to do something, doesn’t mean that they should. I know you wish to become a spirit, but do you think you are the only one that wished to be something that they’re not? Many others wish for a different life other than what fate as provided for them. Even now, the goldfish princess, Ponyo, wishes to become human. Should I go to her right now and grant her wish? Should I appear to every being that wants something more out of life?”

Chihiro didn’t answer, but the spirit of life heard her thoughts.

“To do too much for others, would result in them becoming dependant on you. They would not be living their own lives, but will be living what they believe would be best. They may not even realize that they are better off the way they already are. They may realize that what they desire is not better for them. If it is truly something they want, they must be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. They may say they are willing, but saying and doing are two different things. You have shown your determination to me. I have tested you by having you come across three spirits filled with the strongest of emotions; joy, sadness, and anger.”

Chihiro hung her head, thinking of Yuteela. “I didn’t do so well against Yuteela, did I? I can’t blame her though. I think that she’s wrong for taking out her anger on all humans in general, but I don’t blame her for what she feels towards the ones that destroyed her forest.”

“Her anger has consumed her for many years. Ever since she lost her forest, she has allowed it to take over her. Anger is all she has known for so long. That is her choice, though. Can I help her? Perhaps. But if I did, then she wouldn’t be living her own life. I feel it too. I can feel her anger, and I pity her. The anger towards those that have wronged her is justified, but it should not be directed towards all human. This is something many spirits have in common. You see, Chihiro, to spirits, humans are like snakes.”

Chihiro blinked in confusion. “Um… like snakes.”

“Yes. Think of this from a human’s point of view. Most humans upon seeing a snake, immediately see it as dangerous. However, there are many different species of snakes in the world, many harmless. But most humans won’t take the time to separate the good from the bad. However, there are a few that take the time to get to know the different species. These kind learn the difference between them and they learn how to appreciate each one individually. Even the dangerous snakes are learned to be appreciated, for the humans that learn to understand them know that these types of snakes don’t think that they are doing anything wrong.

“Now, look at things from a spirit’s point of view, only replace the snakes with humans. Most spirits dislike humans for their destructive ways. But just like in the case with the snakes, there are many different humans, many harmless. And most spirits won’t separate the good from the bad, except for the select few, such as your friends. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Chihiro thought about it. This was certainly an interesting way of looking at things. “I’ve never thought about it this way before. But I think I know what you mean. We all judge too quickly.”

“One of the many ways that humans and spirits are the same. We all have more in common than we think, but some don’t see it or choose not to. Yuteela is a prime example. She has convinced herself that all humans are the same and refuses to see otherwise. But I see it. I see the difference in everyone. No one can hide anything from me.”

Chihiro suddenly felt very uncomfortable, and very exposed. “So, you know everything about me?”

“Indeed.”

“Then, can you help me? Please.”

“That depends. First I want you to tell me why you are here and what you want.”

“But you just said that you know everything about me.”

“Yes, but there is still doubt within you for what you want. You may be able to tell yourself one thing, but to voice it will make it final. If you want me to give you what you want, then speak from your heart.”

Chihiro nodded and took a deep breath as she began to collect her thoughts. She felt a little uneasy knowing that the spirit of life was hearing every thought that was going through her head. She felt like her privacy was being invaded.

“I have come to you because I wish to become a spirit.”

“And why do you desire this?”

“Because I wish to live in the spirit world.”

“Are you sure that it is not merely eternal life that you desire?”

Chihiro felt insulted. How could the spirit of life ask her such a question? If he, or she, or whatever it was, truly knew everything about her, then it should already know the answer.

“That was not why I came!” she snapped. “Shouldn’t you know that?”

“Remember what I said about voicing your desires, Chihiro.”

Chihiro sighed and took a deep breath. “No, that is not why I sought you out. I wish to become a spirit so that I may live in the spirit world.” She waited for the spirit of life to say something, but it remained silent, so she continued. “This is the only place that has ever really felt like home to me. I have great friends here, I’m understood, I feel for once that I truly belong.”

“Such places can be found in the human world. I don’t deny that these answers are not good ones, but there is one that stands above all others. You know what I am speaking of.”

Yes, Chihiro knew what the spirit of life meant. It was the real reason she came all this way; everything else was just an added bonus.

“Yes, I know. The real reason I came searching for you is because… I’m in love… with Haku.” She felt herself blush. “But I know that we can never be together as long as I’m mortal.”

“Why not?”

Ok, now Chihiro was beginning to get a little irritated. She was merely telling the spirit of life things that it already knew. “Because, as a human, I share the fate of all mortals. I will eventually die. Haku is a spirit; he will never die. We would be together maybe 60 or 70 years, but then… I couldn’t do something like that to Haku. It wouldn’t be fair that I would have to leave him like that.”

“I see. Lord Okaia said something very similar to that when he came to beg me to give his human lover the life of a spirit.”

Chihiro remembered Lord Okaia saying that. “I remember that! You were going to help her, weren’t you? Can you help me?”

The spirit of life was silent for a moment. “First answer me this. You say that you love Haku, right?”

Chihiro nodded. “More than anything. But you already know that.”

“Indeed I do. It is rare for a love as great as this to exist. But tell me, how do you believe he feels about you?”

Chihiro was silent. She hadn’t expected to be asked this question. “I’m… not sure. But you should know!”

“I do, but I am asking you. How does he feel about you? Does he love you in return, the way you love him?”

Hanging her head, Chihiro said real quietly, “I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do. Think of all the times when you were alone together. All the times you looked into his eyes. All the times he’s said your name. Think of the time he merged you with himself and his river, and tell me his feelings for you. Does he love you as you love him?”

The spirit of life fell silent as it patiently waited for her answer. Chihiro was lost in her thoughts and feelings as she thought back on all the times she was with Haku and all the times everyone would tell her that he loved her.

-FLASH-

“He just doesn’t like me like that.”

“Of course he does! He feels the same way about you as you do for him!”

-FLASH-

“For years I felt almost whole again. There was just one thing missing…”

“What?” she asked.

“Something was missing.”

“What?”

“You.”

“Me?”

“Things just weren’t the same without you. It seemed you touched me the same way I touched you. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think about you.”

-FLASH-

“Haku doesn’t hate you at all. He cares for you more than anything.”

-FLASH-

“You know Haku loves her more than anything. He wants to see her happy, even if that means that he’ll never be happy. Yes, he’s probably making it harder on himself, but how can he resist wanting to be as close to her as possible?”

-FLASH-

“You love him and he loves you. Just go kiss him.”

-FLASH-

“Chihiro, I care about you more than you’ll ever know.”

-FLASH-

These thoughts swirled around in Chihiro’s mind. Were her friends right? Did Haku return her feelings? Was that really love she saw in his eyes? She had always hoped, but never thought it would be possible, so she would immediately dismiss the idea. But did he really love her?

Her thoughts turned back to the time she was united with Haku’s river. She remembered for a brief moment that she could sense a powerful emotion coming from him; one he was trying to hide but couldn’t, so he cut their connection.

Chihiro remembered that feeling. She knew what it was, but it had seemed too good to be true, so she didn’t believe it. But there really was no mistaking the emotion that Haku had been feeling. It was the same thing she felt for him.

Chihiro’s face lit up as tears of joy began to run down her cheeks. She didn’t know how she hadn’t seen it before. Haku may have never put it into words, but love was radiating from him, and it was all for her; she just never saw it because she was so mixed up with her own feelings. Now she knew it. And this wasn’t just wishful thinking either. That brief moment when she had been one with Haku had revealed that. He loved her just as she loved him.

Somehow, she felt that if the spirit of life were capable of smiling, it would be as it asked, “Does he love you in return?”

Chihiro wiped the tears from her eyes as she realized what everyone else knew all along. “Yes. Yes, I believe he does. Everyone had always told me that he did, but I could never see it. I always thought that they were teasing me. But that time in Haku’s river, when we were united… Yes, that feeling he had is the same as the one in my heart.”

She felt the spirit of life smile again. The spirit was glad that she had finally realized the truth. But she also felt uncertainty in the spirit and she began to worry if it would allow her to become a spirit.

“Oh great spirit, I have answered your questions and confessed my love. I have recognized my true love’s feelings for me and I know for certain that I will not be able to live without him. I have come a long way, facing all your tests, just so Haku and I could be together. Will you please grant me the life of a spirit so that we may be together?”

The spirit of life sighed as it came to a decision. “Chihiro, I would be happy to grant you the life of a spirit, but you must think carefully about this. For once you become a spirit, I cannot change you back to a human.”

“Why not?” Chihiro asked, merely out of curiosity. “Not that I would want to go back to being a human, but why wouldn’t you be able to change me back.”

“Because, my child, I am the spirit of life. My powers are linked to granting life, not taking it away, and that is what I would be doing if I turn an immortal into a mortal. And there is no other spirit with powers that can truly change a being like I can. I am warning you of this so you will be 100 percent sure about your decision. As a spirit, you will never be able to return to the human world again. So the only way you will be able to see your human friends and family again would be if you die and are reunited with them in the afterlife or if they come to this world. Either option is very unlikely to occur, which is why, if you choose to become a spirit, you must be prepared to never see any of your human friends or family again. Are you prepared to make this sacrifice?”

Chihiro hung her head. She knew this was going to be brought up. She had already made her decision back at Zeniba’s house, but now when the time was actually at hand…

“I knew that I would have to make this choice.” She said. “I was even warned by

Lord Okaia. He told me that no matter what I decide to do, someone I love would be hurt. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant at the time, but now I know. If I choose to become a spirit and remain here in the spirit world, then my parents will never see me again. If I choose not to become a spirit and return to the human world, then Haku and the others will never see me again.”

She fell silent as more tears crept up in her eyes, but these were tears of sorrow rather than joy. The spirit of life felt sorry for her. This was not an easy decision to make.

“The choice is yours and yours alone. Take your time in deciding.”

Chihiro shook her head. She had already made her choice. “No, I already know what I want. I really don’t want to hurt anyone, but I have to do what my heart tells me. Both Haku and my parents want me to be happy no matter what, but I want them to be happy too.” she said. “But I can’t have both, can I? I know that all children leave the nest eventually, but this is different.” She paused to take a few deep breaths, putting on a determine look. “It will hurt, but I know what I must do. Someone will be hurt no matter what. I want both of them in my life, but I can’t have that. And I know for a fact that there is no way I can possibly live without Haku. Losing my parents will be hard, but I can’t live without Haku. That is why I have come here. I wish to be with him. Forever.”

The light around Chihiro intensified. “I knew of your decision all along, but you had to say it. Chihiro Ogino, I will grant your wish to become a spirit.”

Chihiro’s face took on a look of disbelief. “You… you will?”

“Yes, my child. You have truly earned it, so I shall give you what you desire.”

Chihiro was overjoyed. Even the pain of knowing that she would lose her parents vanished for the time being as the spirit of life told her that it would make her a spirit. But she had one last favor to ask before any final decisions were made. She just hoped she wouldn’t be pushing her luck by asking too much.

“Um, great spirit, I was wondering. Do you think that I could have an alternate form; like Haku, the lake spirit, and Yuteela, please?”

“Don’t push it.”

Chihiro immediately tensed up, thinking she was being too greedy. “I’m sorry! I was just wonder if you would… would…”

She stopped talking as the spirit of life started laughing. “Child, I am kidding. Remember, I know everything about you. I knew what you wanted. Yes, I will give you an alternate form. I assume you want it to be a dragon?”

Chihiro smiled nervously. “Yes, please.”

The spirit of life laughed again. “As you wish. But you must listen to me closely. My powers can give you the opportunity to become a spirit, but they alone cannot provide everything that is needed.”

“What do you mean?” Chihiro asked worriedly.

“Your main reason for wanting to become a spirit is out of love. So love is needed to complete the spell. I can get your transformation started, but you and Haku must seal it with your love. Once you do this, you will become a spirit forever.”

Chihiro relaxed. “Ok. So what do I have to do?”

“Listen closely. After I cast the spell, you will have exactly 24 hours to return to Haku and complete the spell. A simple kiss will be enough, but you must reach him within 24 hours.”

Chihiro’s eyes widened. “WHAT? Only 24 hours! It took me days to get here! How am I supposed to get back to Haku in just 24 hours?”

“Calm yourself, child. My spell will be enough to give you several powers that spirits have. You can fly back. It will be cutting it close, but you can make it.”

Chihiro sighed and nodded. “Ok. I’ll go as fast as I can.”

“Then I shall begin. But are you absolutely sure about this?” Chihiro nodded. “Then it shall be done!”

The light intensified to a point that Chihiro could no longer see, so she shut her eyes. She felt power and knowledge filling her, pouring into her very soul. It was incredible. No, beyond incredible. She didn’t think there was a word to describe the feeling that was happening to her. It was as if she had been sleeping this whole time and was finally awake. The power she felt, the knowledge she was given. It was indescribable. And this was only the tip of the iceberg. What would it be like when she completely became a spirit?

The light dimmed down as the spirit of life finished its work. Slowly Chihiro floated out of the light, back up the cliff.

“My part is done now. Farewell Chihiro. I hope you reach your love in time. Goodbye.”

And then it was gone. Chihiro continued to float up as she silently thanked the spirit again and again. She closed her eyes to keep from crying. This was too good to be true. It was… it was…

“AH, AH!”

Chihiro’s eyes snapped open as she heard the familiar grunting of No-Face. She realized that she had reached the top of the cliff and No-Face and Yu-bird had been sitting at the edge, mourning her.

“Ah, ah, ah! Ah, ah, ah!” No-Face cried, throwing his tiny arms around her.

Chihiro blinked in surprise. She had understood that. She didn’t know the language No-Face was speaking, but somehow she knew what he was saying. He was thanking the heavens that she was all right.

“I’m fine, No-Face.” She assured her friend, as Yu-bird flew happily over their heads. “The spirit of life saved me.”

“Ah?”

Chihiro chuckled. “Yes, but I have no time to lose. I have to get back to Haku as soon as possible. Once we’re reunited, I can complete my transformation and become a spirit. Then Haku and I can finally be together.”

“Well, I guess congratulations are in order.” Came a nasty voice from behind her.

Chihiro turned around and gasped. Crawling up onto the cliff was a very angry looking Yuteela.

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