Chihiro wondered where Lin and Haku were. The bathhouse was a pretty big place, and it was crowded with customers at the moment. Chihiro decided to go see Kamajii first, since she knew where to find him. Where else do you find the boiler man other than the boiler room? She began backing her way downstairs. It was strange. Somehow, after 12 years, she still knew her way around the bathhouse as if she had just been here yesterday.
‘Well, it is a magic place.’ She thought.
And very much unchanged. Everything was exactly the way it was the last time she had been here; minus the damage No-Face caused of course. She wondered what Yubaba did with all the money she got.
The boiler room was the same as well. The shelves were still surrounding the walls, the furnace was still burning brightly with the coal being delivered by enchanted soot, and a strange spider like man sat in the middle of the room working furiously.
“Hi, Kamajii.” Chihiro called happily.
Kamajii turned to her and blinked in confusion. “Eh? Who are you? And what are you doing in my boiler room?”
Chihiro made a fake sad face. “Oh Kamajii, don’t tell me you don’t remember your own granddaughter.” She teased.
Kamajii looked at her as if she were crazy. “Granddaughter?” he repeated. “What are you talking about? I have no granddaughter.”
Chihiro crossed her arms and cut her eyes at the spirit. “Really? That’s not what you said 12 years ago.”
“What are you talk… Oh wait, I remember something like that now…” the boiler man said, thinking hard. “Yes, a human girl wondered in here looking for work. I just said she was my granddaughter so she wouldn’t get in trouble. But, how would you know that?”
Chihiro shook her head. “Kamajii, I was that girl.” She cried.
“What?” Kamajii stopped working and approached her. He took off his glasses and looked her up and down. “Good gracious! It is you! Chihiro right? Or Sen?”
Chihiro smiled and nodded. “Both. But I would prefer Chihiro.”
All six of Kamajii’s hands grabbed Chihiro’s and shook it. “Welcome back, welcome back! So good to see you again! How did you get back?”
“Same way I got in last time.”
“Ah, I see.” Said Kamajii. “That darn spirit gate, you never know when it’s going to open.” He took a moment to really look at her. “My word, you have grown into a fine young lady.”
Chihiro smiled. “Thanks. I wish I could return the compliment, but you look exactly as I remember.”
Kamajii laughed. “Yes, well, that’s one benefit from being a spirit; once you completely grow up you can choose you age.”
“Well us humans don’t have that advantage. Several people didn’t even recognize me.”
“Well, like I said, you’ve become quite a fine young lady.” Said Kamajii smiling. “Haku and Lin are sure going to be happy to see you again. Have you seen them yet?”
Chihiro shook her head. “Not yet. Do you know where they are?”
Kamajii thought about it a moment. “Well Lin is somewhere in the bathhouse.” He replied. “I’m not sure about Haku though. He’s either here or at his river.”
Chihiro felt slightly annoyed by this. If Haku was at his river so much, why did he never answer her? The odds of him always being at the bathhouse every single time she visited his river over the past 12 years were very slim.
“How are they?” she asked, referring more to Haku than Lin.
“Well, they both miss you.” said Kamajii. “Haku especially. He just hasn’t been himself since you left.”
“Really?” Chihiro asked. After all these years she had begun to suspect that Haku just helped her because he pitied her. Maybe it wasn’t true after all. Maybe Mimi was wrong and he hadn’t forgotten her.
“Oh yes, he’ll be overjoyed to see you.” said Kamajii, grinning mischievously. Chihiro wasn’t sure what that smile meant, but she had a feeling it wasn’t good. “Oh no, I’m falling behind!”
Kamajii crawled back over to his work area. While he and Chihiro were talking, 9 bath tokens had arrived.
“Sorry.” Chihiro apologized. “I didn’t mean to make you fall behind.”
Kamajii gave her a reassuring smile. “Oh don’t worry about it. It was worth it. Besides, what’s Yubaba going to do, fire me? Ha, I’m her slave. Hey you little rascals, get back to work!”
Chihiro looked down and spotted all the enchanted soot balls hopping around her feet happily. She smiled down at them. “Hey guys. Long time no see.”
The soot balls squeaked happily.
“Hey, come on now! We’ve got customers to attend to. You can get reacquainted later.” Kamajii snapped, but he sounded amused.
Chihiro looked down at the soot balls. “Go on, I’ll come back later.”
The soot balls bounced around for a few seconds longer before going to gather coal.
Chihiro looked back at Kamajii. “Hey Kamajii, I need to find Lin so I can get ‘settled in’, as Yubaba put it.”
Kamaji snickered. “That’s just like the old witch; get everything done right away.” He joked. “Well, I’m sure if you just wait here Lin will stop by. She’ll want to be the one to tell me you’re back.” The door to the boiler room burst open and a young woman with long brown hair dressed in servant clothes ran in. “Speak of the devil.” Kamajii commented.
Lin, like everyone else, had remained completely unchanged; except for the fact that she didn’t look quite as emotionless as she did in the past. Right now she seemed overwhelmed with joy as she approached the boiler man, not even noticing Chihiro.
“Kamajii, did you hear the news?” she cried happily.
“They say Sen is back!”
Kamajii pretended to be uninterested. “Yeah, I know.”
Lin’s face fell. “You know? How do you know?”
Kamajii continued working. “Because she’s standing right behind you.”
Lin’s head turned so fast that her neck cracked. Her eyes widened as she saw her long lost friend standing behind her.
“Hello Lin.” Said Chihiro. “It’s good to see-”
“SEN!!!” Lin cried, throwing her arms around the girl. “Oh, it’s so good to see you again! At first I thought that everyone was playing a joke on me, but you’re really here! Why did you wait so long to come back? We’ve missed you so much! How have you been? My gosh, you got tall! You look great! How long are you going to stay?”
“Lin, slow down. I can’t understand a word you’re saying.” Laughed Chihiro as she struggled for air. “And can you let me go please, I can’t breathe.”
“What? Oh, sorry.”
Lin let Chihiro out of her death grip.
“I swear, you’re the third person today to try to hug me to death.” Chihiro muttered, rubbing her sore neck.
Lin smiled and slapped her on the back. “Oh you’re fine. You’re the toughest girl I’ve ever met.” She said, with a big grin on her face. “Remember that stinky river spirit, and No-Face?”
Chihiro snickered at the memories. “How could I forget the good old days?”
“You can’t.” said Lin.
Chihiro nodded in agreement. “And we’ll have a lot more of those days in the future.”
Lin’s face fell. “What do you mean?” Her eyes widened. “You didn’t sign a contract with Yubaba again, did you?”
Chihiro cocked her head to the side. “Yeah, why?”
Lin slapped her head. “Oh boy, Haku’s not going to like this.” she muttered.
Chihiro caught what she said. “Why? Won’t he be happy to see me again?” she asked, sounding concerned.
Lin seemed surprised that Chihiro would ask such a stupid question. “Not happy, ecstatic!” she cried. “Even that’s an understatement.”
Now Chihiro was confused. “Then what’s the problem?”
“Sen, do you know what he had to do to get you out of contract last time?” asked Lin. “He faced Yubaba when she was angrier than she had ever been. Who knows what it will take to get you out of contract this time.”
Chihiro relaxed. Was that the problem? That was nothing. “Lin, I willing came back, and I wanted my job back. I’m here to stay.”
“HUH?!?” cried Lin, clearly stunned by this. Even Kamajii looked surprised. The soot balls were jumping around happily again. “You’re really here to stay?” Chihiro nodded and Lin squealed with joy. “Yay, Sen’s here to stay! Sen’s here to stay!”
Chihiro laughed at her friend’s childish behavior. “I would prefer to be called by my real name.” she said.
Lin stopped dancing around. “Oh right, sorry, Chihiro.”
Chihiro just waved it off. “No problem. So, where is Haku?”
Lin rolled her eyes. “Should have seen this coming.” She said, more to herself than to Chihiro. “Your dragon is at his river. Ironically, he left for it about an hour before you got here.”
“An hour ago!” Chihiro cried. “Grr, that’s just great! I’ve been waiting 12 years to see him again and he goes and leaves an hour before I get here! This is just unbelievable!”
Lin chuckled. “Settle down girl. He’ll only be gone for a few days.”
“A few days! A few DAYS!!! I’ve already waited 12 years!” Chihiro cried, completely outraged. “I can’t wait any longer!”
Lin just held up her arms in an ‘oh well’ kind of way. “Well, unless you know how to get to his river and where it is, you’re out of luck.” Chihiro groaned and hung her head. “Hey, don’t worry about it. Think how surprised he will be when he sees you here.”
Chihiro glared at her. “He shouldn’t be that surprised to see me, considering the promise he made to me.” She growled. “Does he always break his promises so easily?”
‘Uh oh.’ Thought Lin in amusement. ‘Haku’s in trouble.’ This would be fun to watch. On second thought, dragons could be dangerous and she wouldn’t want Haku mad at her for making his human mad at him. “No, he normally always keeps his promises.”
Chihiro snorted. “Oh, so I guess I just wasn’t worth keeping a promise for.” She fumed.
‘Wow, she’s really mad. Whatever Haku did, it can’t be good.’ Thought Lin. “I’m sure he didn’t mean to break his promise.” She assured the enraged human. “Uh… what promise was that anyway?”
Chihiro sat down, crossing her arms and legs. “He said we would see each other again. And that was 12 years ago!”
Lin gave a very forced smile. “Well… technically he didn’t break his promise. You will see each other again. It just took a little while.”
Chihiro gave Lin a look that clearly said that that was the wrong thing to say. Lin continued to grin nervously. Perhaps it would be better to change the subject.
“So, you staying with me again?” she asked. “We could be roommates, just like last time.”
Lin relaxed when Chihiro smiled and said, “Only if you don’t mind having a sticky human around.”
Lin smiled, this time for real. “Ah, that human world smell will be gone in a few days. And even if it weren’t,” she grabbed Chihiro in a headlock, “there’s no way you’re getting away from me that easily.”
Chihiro giggled. “Thanks Lin, you’re a good friend.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Lin led Chihiro to her new room, which wasn’t really new since it was the same one she stayed in last time. Getting her a uniform that fit wasn’t such a chore either since Chihiro had grown.
“It’s a good thing you’re not so short anymore.” Lin commented as she handed Chihiro her new clothes. “We don’t have many clothes in the size you used the last time you were here.”
Chihiro held the uniform up and looked at herself in the mirror. “Thanks Lin, this is perfect. It’s good to see things haven’t changed much around her.”
Lin snickered. “Actually, things have changed a little. For the better too. You may not know it, but before you came here, not many of us got along so well and Yubaba was down right mean to us all. Now we all seem to get along and Yubaba’s not all that cruel. I think Bôh may have been the one to get her to stop being such a hag. He’s really nice and wants everyone to get along.”
Chihiro smiled. “I didn’t realize I had such an impact on this place.”
“And it wasn’t just with the bathhouse.” Lin continued. “Many spirits don’t like humans due to their destructive ways, but after meeting you, they don’t seem to think all that badly about them anymore.”
“Well that’s good.” Chihiro replied. “Not all humans are destructive.”
Lin nodded. “Yeah, I know. I guess that most spirits don’t notice humans unless they’re cutting down trees and stuff.”
Chihiro didn’t say anything to this. She never really thought about how bad humans seemed to spirits. She had thought that spirits, well most spirits, thought themselves superior to humans and that’s why they didn’t like them. But now she was having second thoughts.
Humans did have a tendency to destroy forests and valleys to build more houses and other civilized things. They polluted the environment and consumed nature without much thought. The spirits had a special connection with nature. When humans destroyed a certain piece of land, it was almost like they were destroying a piece of a spirit.
Chihiro’s heart sank as she realized that this was what had happened to Haku. The river hadn’t been completely destroyed, but it was filled in, causing it to flow underground, in order to build apartments. That had greatly damaged Haku’s river, causing him to be unable to locate it and therefore falling prey to Yubaba’s name stealing contract.
‘Poor Haku.’ She thought. ‘And he still helped me. Me, a human, after what my kind did to him and the other spirits. Oh Haku, I’m so sorry.’
“Sen! Sen! Earth to Sen! Are you in there? SEN!!!”
“Huh?” Chihiro just now noticed Lin trying to get her attention. “I’m sorry, what?”
Lin shook her head. “Oh, nothing. You just looked like you weren’t completely here for a moment.”
Chihiro gave a forced smile. “Just thinking.”
Lin grinned evilly. “Oh really? Was it by any chance about a certain dragon?”
Chihiro blushed. “Oh shut up! Are you going to keep torturing me about this?”
Chihiro growled. “You better be careful, Lin. I’m not some little girl that you can bully around anymore.”
“I know.” Said Lin. “Hey, wait a minute! I never bullied you!”
Chihiro laughed. “I’m kidding.”
“Right.” Said Lin rolling her eyes. “Come on, we need to finish getting you ready or else Yubaba’s gonna throw a fit about us slacking.”
Chihiro cocked her head to the side. “We’re not slacking, we’re talking.”
“Yeah, tell that to the old hag.”
It took about 10 minutes to get Chihiro completely settled into her new/old room. The two women had a good time catching up on what happened over the past 12 years. Chihiro explained all about how she had made several attempts to come back to the spirit world and that the gate was never open.
“That gate has a mind of its own.” Said Lin. “You never know when it’s going to-”
“Sen! Sen! Where are you?”
Lin growled at being interrupted. She opened the door to find a very nervous looking toad.
“What do you want?” she demanded. “We’re talking here.”
The toad grinned apologetically. “Forgive me, but Yubaba wants to see Sen immediately. Master Bôh is throwing a tantrum and demanding to see you.”
Lin sighed and looked at Chihiro. “Sorry Sen, looks like we’ll have to finish this later since her highness can’t control her own son.”
Chihiro just smiled. “We’ll have a long time to catch up on things. We’re partners, remember.” She followed the toad out the door. “Oh and Lin, remember that I prefer my real name.”
Lin smacked her forehead. “Oh right, I forgot. Sorry Se-Chihiro. That’s going to take some getting used to, I have been calling you that for 12 years.”
Chihiro just nodded and made her way back up to Yubaba’s office. She wondered what Bôh wanted with her, as if she didn’t already know. She could already hear him crying by the time she reached the enchanted doorknocker.
“About time.” The knocker complained. “That spoiled brat is giving me a headache.”
Chihiro crossed her arms and glared at the knocker. “That little brat is your master and my friend. And you should choose you words more carefully when the one you’re insulting is right next door.”
The knocker just groaned and opened up for her. She made her way down to Yubaba’s office smirking at the look of irritation the knocker had had on its face.
“Yubaba, it’s me.”
The door burst open by itself to allow Chihiro entry. “About time!” Yubaba snapped. “I was having a flashback to when No-Face wanted you.”
Chihiro ignored the witch’s snobby tone. “So, what’s Bôh want?”
Yubaba rolled her eyes. “What do you think? He wants to play. Sometimes he wants to play too much though.”
Chihiro blinked in confusion. She had never heard Yubaba talk badly about her son in anyway. Bôh usually had the old witch wrapped around his, or not so little, finger.
“You know, Yubaba, sometimes you spoil him a bit too much.” She commented.
Yubaba hadn’t even been looking at Chihiro, but now she stared at her with wide eyes. “What did you say?” she demanded, looking furious. “Are you accusing me of being a bad parent?”
The witch was obviously taking this the wrong way. Was it just her imagination, or did Chihiro see sparks flying out of Yubaba’s mouth as she spoke.
“Not at all.” Chihiro replied. “You’re a wonderful mother. I was just saying that you need to make him realize that you’re the parent, not him.”
Yubaba snorted but seemed to calm down. “Thanks for the parental tip, Sen, but I have everything under control. Now get in there and play with him.”
Chihiro just shrugged. “Whatever you say. But I would prefer to be called by my real name, Chihiro.”
She got just the reaction she wanted from the witch. Yubaba looked shocked that Chihiro knew her name. “How… how… how did you? But I took…”
Chihiro laughed because she knew it would spite the witch. “I know you did, but I’m not stupid. I wrote my name down earlier so I would remember it.”
She entered Bôh’s room, leaving Yubaba with this news. Once Yubaba recovered she growled to herself, “I need to find a better way to keep control over my employees.”
Chihiro heard Yubaba’s remark, but she ignored it. She was now one up on Yubaba.
In the playroom, Bôh was nowhere to be seen, but Chihiro had a good idea of where he was. She walked over to the pile of pillows and stuffed animals.
“Bôh? Are you in there?”
The giant baby’s head popped out from under the pile.
“Yay Sen, you came to play!”
Chihiro laughed. “Well you didn’t give me much of a choice.”
Bôh crawled out of the pile and handed Chihiro a stuffed animal. “Let’s play the time we beat No-Face.” He said happily.
The two played for over an hour before Bôh finally began to get tired. It was way past his bedtime, but since he was a baby he could sleep whenever he wanted and therefore had no actual bedtime.
“That was fun.” Said Bôh, as he climbed into his bed. “I’m glad I have someone to play with. Mama is normally working and I only really get to play with Yu-bird and mama’s bouncing heads.”
Chihiro chuckled as she tucked Bôh in. “I was happy to play with you.” she said.
She turned to leave but Bôh wasn’t done talking yet. “Hey Sen?”
“When you and Haku have kids, can I be their big brother?” he asked innocently.
Chihiro felt the heat rise in her face. She was sure her face was beet red. She had not been expecting this discussion to come up.
“Uh… Bôh, that’s um… well…”
“What’s wrong?” Bôh asked.
Chihiro didn’t know how to explain the situation to him. “Well, you see, it just won’t work out between us.”
“Because, I’m a human and he’s a spirit.”
“So, uh…” Chihiro wasn’t sure what to say. She knew it would never work between her and Haku. Humans and spirits weren’t meant to be together, that’s why the two worlds were separated. But then why did she wait so long for him? Was she hoping that the impossible would happen?
“Why won’t it work?” Bôh asked again.
“Well… he just doesn’t like me like that.” She said, speaking what she thought was true.
Bôh shook his head. “Of course he does!” he said cheerfully. “He feels the same way about you as you do for him!”
Chihiro wished this were true, but it didn’t seem possible. “No Bôh, I’m just a human that was lost in the spirit world.”
“No, you’re not!” snapped Bôh, sounding angry. “You are the best friend anyone can have. You helped all of us. You got me out of my room and introduced me to Auntie Zeniba. You gave Haku back his name. You made lots of spirits realize that not all humans are meanies. We all love you, Sen! You’re not just some human. You’re our best friend. You’re one of us.”
Chihiro was taken aback by the giant baby’s speech. She smiled up at him. “Bôh, you sure are a lot smarter than any baby I’ve ever met.”
Bôh laughed. “Well how often do you meet a 307 year old baby in the human world?” he said.
Chihiro’s mouth dropped open. “You’re… you’re… you’re…”
Bôh nodded. “Yup, but I decided to stay a baby. I liked it best that way. It’s a lot more fun. I didn’t want to be a grownup. I want to stay a baby forever! Yay!”
Chihiro scratched her head. “Well, I guess you can choose to be whatever age you want. I wish I had that luxury.” She said. She suddenly became curious about something. “Hey Bôh, how old is your mother?”
Bôh thought about it a minute. “Not sure. I do know that she’s over 80,000 though.”
“80,000!” Chihiro exclaimed. “Wow, that’s old.”
Bôh shrugged. “Age doesn’t matter to spirits.”
Just out of curiosity, Chihiro asked, “How old was your father?”
Bôh shrugged again. “Don’t know. I never met him. I heard Mama one day talking about her and daddy having something called a one-night-stand. What’s that?”
Chihiro turned red again. “Uh, that’s something I’ll tell you when… oh…” She was going to say when he was older, but that excuse couldn’t be used on him. “Actually, uh… Don’t you know?”
Bôh shook his head. “I know it has something to do with making babies, but I don’t even know that. Where do babies come from, Sen?”
Chihiro groaned. She was just digging herself deeper and deeper. “Actually Bôh, only your mom can answer those questions, I’m not allowed. It’s required by law for only a parent to tell their kids that. You’ll have to ask your mom.”
Bôh nodded. “Oh, ok. Good night, Sen.”
“Good night, Bôh.”
She closed the door and went back into Yubaba’s office. The old witch was at her desk writing something. She looked up when Chihiro entered.
“You two done?” she asked.
Chihiro nodded. “Yeah, I’m going to bed.”
Yubaba nodded back. “Very well, goodnight.”
Once Chihiro was at the door she turned to Yubaba and said, “Oh, and Bôh has a question for you.”
With that she ran out of the room. Yubaba blinked in confusion before going into her son’s room.
“Yes sweetie, did you want to ask mommy something?” she said.
Bôh nodded. “Yeah, Sen said you’d tell me where babies come from and what a one-night-stand is.”
Yubaba stood dumbstruck in the doorway as Bôh’s words slowly sunk in. Her cry could be heard from the outside of the bathhouse.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Spirited Away. Just re-posting the story by moviefan-92