Haku woke up in a very good mood. He didn’t know why, but something about today felt special. It was almost as if there was a presence in the bathhouse that was giving off a powerful aura that filled him with joy. Little did he know that he was about to have a very interesting day.
Getting out of bed, Haku got ready to start what he thought would be an average day at the bathhouse. He went downstairs to find everyone else up and about. He did sleep in rather late considering the early hour in the morning he got back. And was it just his imagination, or was everyone in a better mood than usual.
“Master Haku! Master Haku!” Haku spotted the little frog spirit hopping over to him looking ecstatic. “Master Haku, you’re back! When did you get in?”
Haku shrugged. “Not sure. Really late last night.” He looked around at the extra happy workers. “Did something happen while I was away?”
The frog’s mouth dropped open. “You mean you haven’t heard?”
Haku raised an eyebrow. “Heard what?”
“Sen came back!” the frog yelled.
Haku froze. The little spirit’s words took a moment for him to comprehend. Once it registered, he glared at the frog.
“That is not funny,” he hissed. “You should know not to joke about something like that with me.”
The frog shook his head. “I’m not kidding! I’m serious! She’s really here!”
Haku bent down and glared at the frog. “If you’re lying to me, I’ll turn you into an actual frog for a week.” He threatened.
He expected the spirit to confess that he was joking. It wouldn’t be the first time someone played this joke on him. None of them realized that they weren’t just having fun at his expense, but they were also breaking his heart every time.
To his surprise, the spirit only gave him a big grin. “Master Haku, if I’m lying, I’ll personally serve myself as frog legs for the guests.”
Haku’s heart began racing. Was Chihiro really here? Did she really come back? Would he finally be able to see her after all these years?
He grabbed the frog spirit and held him at eye level. “Where is she?”
“What was in this bath?” Chihiro complained as she scrubbed scum of some kind off a bath.
Lin shrugged. “I don’t know, but whatever they were, they must have been in desperate need of a good scrubbing.”
“I’ll say.” She scrubbed harder, but instead of coming off, the scum seemed to spread. “Ahh! This stuff is not coming off! Man, I wish I had magic so I could just make it vanish.”
She looked over at her partner, silently asking her a question.
Lin shook her head. “Sorry, girl, I got nothing that can help. We’ll just have to keep scrubbing.”
Chihiro began grinding her teeth as she scrubbed furiously at the bath. “Grr, isn’t there another kind of soap to help get this off or something.”
“Hang on, I’ll go check.” Said Lin, getting out of the bath. “Just, I don’t know, mop up all the water until I get back.”
Chihiro crawled out of the bath and began mopping up the water mess, fuming the whole time.
“Stupid Yubaba.” She growled. “That old witch just loves taking advantage of me.”
She kept mopping, unaware of the figure watching her from the doorway, trying to muster up the courage to go in. He knew she would be happy to see him, but he also knew she would be furious with him. After all, 12 years was a very long time to a human, though it was to him too, and right now her anger may overpower her joy. She was already in a bad mood. Better play it smooth.
Chihiro heard someone clear their throat and say, “It’s strange how 12 years can change a human so much.”
Chihiro froze. She knew that voice. She heard it in her dreams all the time. It certainly sounded older and more mature now, but there was only one person that voice could belong to.
Slowly she turned around to face the speaker. Her eyes widened at the sight of the spirit of the Kohaku River. The last time she saw him, he was a little boy. But not anymore. He had grown into a young man. A very attractive young man. She felt her heart race increase just by looking at him.
‘Is that really Haku?’ she thought in disbelief. ‘Wow, he looks hot!’
She took in his entire appearance. This was what she had been dreaming of the past 12 years, but this was a heck of a lot better than any dream. She could feel herself melting under his gaze.
She suddenly realized she was staring and pulled herself together. She put on the smuggest face she could muster and said, “Well us humans don’t have the privilege to decide on our age, unlike some people.”
Haku smiled. Chihiro had to hold herself back from throwing herself at him. She pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. Ouch! Yup, she was awake. That meant this was real!
Haku managed to work up the courage to enter the room. He couldn’t believe that she was really here. He would have to remember to apologize and thank his little frog friend later. Right now he had more important things to take care of.
He approached Chihiro with more confidence. Perhaps she wasn’t as mad as he thought. She certainly didn’t look mad. Actually, she looked like she was in shock.
He gave her a friendly smile and said, “You’ve really grown. You look beautiful.”
Chihiro felt herself blush. Why was her body betraying her like this? “T-Thank you. You’ve grown too. For some reason I still expected to meet a little kid again.”
Haku frowned. “I can turn back into a child if you want.”
“NO!” Chihiro cried, way too loudly. She turned red with embarrassment. “You look nice all grown up. Really handsome.”
Haku smiled again, the smallest hint of a blush staining his cheeks. “It’s been a long time.”
Chihiro nodded in agreement. “Too long.”
Haku took another step closer. “It’s really great to see you again. I’ve missed you.”
Chihiro could hold herself back no longer. The mop fell from her hand as she threw her arms around the river spirit. Haku was surprised at first. Happy, but surprised. He returned the embrace gratefully. He had longed to hold her for so long. Now that she was in his arms, he didn’t ever want to let her go.
A painful stinging brought him back to reality. It took him a moment to realize that Chihiro had slapped him and was now standing in front of him looking furious.
‘Uh oh, looks like she is mad after all.’ He thought, as he placed his hand over the red mark appearing on his cheek. He had to admit that he did deserve a good scolding, but did he really deserve that.
“Uh, did I miss something?” came a voice from the door.
Lin had returned with a bottle of some cleaning supplies. She quickly took in the situation and decided that she didn’t want any part in it.
“I’ll just… I’ll just come back later.” She said and slowly backed out of the room, leaving Haku and Chihiro to work things out.
“What was that for?” Haku asked, once Lin was gone.
Chihiro crossed her arms. “Don’t play dumb.” She growled. “You know very well what that was for.”
“Care to enlighten me?” Haku asked, playing innocent.
That only made Chihiro angrier. “Hmm, let’s see, how about for breaking your promise? How about for abandoning me when I needed you? How about for never giving me the slightest indication that you even knew I existed when I cried out for you? Are any of these good reasons? If not, tell me, I’ve got more.”
Haku felt ashamed of himself. “Chihiro, I…” He actually didn’t know what to say. But apparently he didn’t need to say anything, because Chihiro wasn’t done talking yet.
“You abandoned me, Haku!” She cried. “I trusted you. I really believed that we would be together again. I actually thought you cared for me and would be there for me when I needed you.” She was shaking with anger now. “But it’s been 12 years Haku. 12 years! Not once did you even attempt to contact me. Why did you leave me alone?”
Haku hung his head. “Chihiro, I know you’re mad, but-”
“Mad? No Haku, I’m not mad.” She seethed. “I don’t even think there is a word for how angry I am right now. You completely left me alone. You promised me that we would see each other again, but you didn’t keep you promise. I waited for years and I got nothing. Do you know what that did to me?”
Haku shook his head.
“Then let me ‘enlighten’ you. After my little trip to the spirit world I was never the same. I felt lost in my own world. I never really made any real friends. I became distant from everyone, including my parents. I felt like I didn’t belong among my own kind. I called out to you so many times. I cried myself to sleep more times than I could remember. All I had to hold onto was the promise you made to me. I believed that one day I would be able to return here and see you again, but that never happened. I walked through the spirit gate so many times that I know every rock, every tree, every mark of that path. I went to your river so many times that my parent began to question my sanity due to my obsession with it.”
She wasn’t yelling anymore. She didn’t even sound that mad. She sounded hurt and full of sadness. It broke Haku’s heart to see her like this.
“And then I started doubting things.” She continued. “I began questioning my own sanity. I began to think that everything was just a dream and that none of it ever happened. But I knew in my heart that it was all real. So then I started thinking that you lied to me; that the promise you made to me was just a reason to get me to return to the human world, a world I no longer belonged in. I tried to convince myself that this wasn’t true, but after years of waiting and receiving nothing, I was coming to believe it more and more. One of my few friends kept telling me to move on, and that you were never coming, but I couldn’t let it go. But that sinking feeling that you did lie to me and that you did forget about me kept creeping up.”
She turned away so he wouldn’t see her cry. Haku was feeling a mixture of several emotions. He was happy to see her again, but he was crushed to see her like this, and he was angry at himself because he was one of the main reasons she was in this state.
“Chihiro.” He said softly.
Chihiro tensed up when he spoke her name. “Just tell me one thing, Haku. And don’t you dare lie to me!” She turned to face him, looking both sad and angry at the same time. “Did you really make that promise just to make me leave? Was I really just some stupid lost human girl that you took pity on?”
Haku was surprised that she would think that, but then again, he couldn’t really blame her. In a way, he had abandoned her, although that had never been his intention.
“Chihiro, I swear upon my eternal life that the promise I made to you was one I intended to keep. You weren’t just some human I took pity on. And I never meant to abandon you.”
Chihiro looked into his eyes. There was no lie in them. He truly looked sorry for what he’d done. She felt her anger begin to fade.
“Then why didn’t you ever speak to me when I was at your river?” she asked. “I know you split your time between it and the bathhouse, but you must have been there at least once when I was. Yet you never gave the slightest indication that you knew I was there.”
Haku nodded. “Yes, at times I thought I felt your presence, but the part of my river you were at was such a small part that I couldn’t communicate with you.”
Chihiro wasn’t satisfied with his answer. “You helped me when I fell into your river as a child.”
“That was before my river was covered up.” He explained. “Had you tried to contact me at a bigger portion, I would have been able to communicate with you. But since my river was underground, that wasn’t possible.” He looked up into Chihiro’s eyes, pleading for forgiveness. “Believe me, Chihiro, I would never intentionally abandon you. I wanted to come to you for so long but I couldn’t. My river was my way of contact with the human world. It was blocked off, so I couldn’t come. I never intended to break my promise. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew we would see each other again. Never had I thought that it wouldn’t be for 12 years.” Chihiro was surprised to see a tear run down his cheek. “Forgive me, Chihiro. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you. I’m truly sorry that you suffered. Please forgive me.”
He was too ashamed to look at her anymore, so he shut his eyes. He didn’t deserve to be in her presence. He had promised to be there for her and he hadn’t been. He had let her down. She had been lost and alone for 12 years because of him.
He felt a hand on his face. He opened his eyes to see Chihiro standing in front of, looking compassionate.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered.
Haku blinked in confusion. “What are you sorry for?” he asked. “I’m the one who let you down.”
Chihiro shook her head. “But I let you down too.” she said. “I should have had more faith in you. I’m sorry I ever doubted you. You did keep your promise. It just took a little while to fulfill.”
Haku smiled. “So you forgive me?”
“Only if you forgive me.”
Chihiro smiled back. “Then I forgive you too.”
That was it. All was forgiven. Everything was going to be alright between them. Sweet relief spread through both of them. Chihiro had to resist the urge to kiss him. Only the fact that she felt that he didn’t like her that way held her back.
After several moments of silence, Haku finally spoke up. “So, how have things been in the human world?”
Chihiro shrugged. “Pretty much the same as they always were, only things were never the same to me since I was here. So I decided to take a vacation and come back here.”
Haku laughed. “Well I’m glad you did. How did you get back?”
“Same way I got here the first time.” She said. “The spirit gate finally let me through. I meant to ask, what opens the gate?”
Haku shrugged. “From our side, only a very powerful spirit can open it. From your side, I honestly don’t know. There are some theories about a large gathering of magic from several spirits come together that open the gate.”
Chihiro thought about that a moment. “Makes sense. The first time I came here was around the time a bunch of spirits were arriving. I suppose all the gathered magic could have opened the gate. So it was basically blind luck that I got through.”
Haku nodded. “If the theory is correct.”
Chihiro chuckled. “Oh well, who cares? I’m here now, and that’s all that matters. Tell me how you’ve been? How have things been since you got your name back.”
Haku gave her a smile that made her feel weak in the knees. “There have been ups and downs. The ups would defiantly be having my identity back. I’ve always felt so incomplete without my name. But thanks to you, I remembered who I was. I was able to find my way back home. For years I felt almost whole again. There was just one thing missing…”
He trailed off after that, looking like he regretted that final sentence. Unfortunately for him, Chihiro heard him loud and clear and her curiosity wouldn’t let it go.
“What?” she asked.
“Something was missing.” Haku mumbled.
“What?” Chihiro repeated.
Haku turned red and muttered something inaudible.
He turned a deeper shade of red and said more clearly, “You.”
Now it was Chihiro’s turn to blush. “Me?”
Haku nodded. “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.”
“Haku, that’s so sweet.” Chihiro whispered, truly touched.
“I could say the same for you.”
A low noise that sounded like an “Aww,” came from the doorway. Chihiro and Haku turned to see Lin spying on them.
“Lin!” Chihiro shouted, picking up a bucket and throwing it at the spirit.
Lin quickly jumped back and left the two of them alone again. Chihiro groaned. She was going to get teased for this later; that was for sure. Seeing the mess she made by throwing the bucket made her angrier.
“Great! Just great!” she cried. “More work!”
Haku laughed. “Helping Lin with her work?” he asked.
Chihiro shook her head. “No, just doing my job.” She growled.
The smile vanished from Haku’s face. “What do you mean, your job?”
Chihiro raised an eyebrow. “My job.” She repeated. “You know, working for Yubaba. Same as last time.”
Haku smacked his forehead in frustration. “Oh great.”
Chihiro cocked her head to the side. “What? What’s wrong?”
Haku sighed. “I didn’t want you to get into another contract with Yubaba.” He explained. “Last time I had good leverage to bargain with her. I don’t know if I’ll be able to break you contract this time. It’s not easy to get out of working for her.”
Chihiro chuckled. “Oh Haku, you don’t have to worry about that.”
“No. I already went over this with Lin. I actually like the work her. Sure I get stuck cleaning the big bath sometimes, but I really don’t mind. It’s kind of fun.”
Haku shook his head, clearly thinking that she missed the point he was trying to make.
“No, no. I meant that you won’t be able to return to the human world while under contract.” He said, making sure to get his point out.
“Oh.” Chihiro replied. “Well you don’t have to worry about that either. I’m not going back.”
Haku did a double take. “Wha-wha-what? Not going back?” he said, clearly surprised. “But Chihiro, you have to go back.”
Chihiro gave him a weird look. “Why?”
“It’s your world. You can’t stay here.”
She crossed her arms. “You didn’t have a problem with me staying here last time.” She said stubbornly.
Haku rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t planning on having you stay then either; just long enough for you to rescue your parents. That’s why I wanted you to get a job from Kamajii last time; he doesn’t put people under contract.”
“Haku, I want to stay here.” she said, clearing things up.
“I understand that. What I’m saying is that you can’t stay here.”
Now Chihiro was starting to get mad again. “Oh, and why is that? Don’t you want me here?”
Haku looked hurt. “Of course I do!”
Chihiro threw out her arms. “Well then, what’s the problem?”
Did she really need to ask? “Chihiro, your whole life is back in the human world. You can’t just throw it away.”
“What life!” she cried. “Were you even listening to what I said about earlier? I never reconnected with my world again. My life was never the same. There was always an empty void in my heart. I don’t belong there. I belong here.”
Haku frowned. “What about your friends and family?”
Chihiro frowned too. “Over time I grew more and more distant from my parents. They moved away a few years ago and I haven’t seen them since. My real family is here. And I don’t really have any friends.”
“But you said that one of your friends told you to move on.”
Chihiro half smiled. “So you were listening after all. And yes, they did tell me to move on. But as for them being a friend, I’m not so sure. I guess I can consider her a friend, but not a true friend. I don’t have any true friends. Sure, there were people I socialized with while at school and work, but I never had anyone like you, or Lin, or Kamajii. Here I have everything I need. I have friends and family. I feel like I finally belong. I haven’t felt this way in years.”
Haku sighed. Chihiro could see that he was really sad, but she couldn’t figure out why.
“Chihiro, I’m glad that you consider us family, but regardless of how you feel, you have to go back.”
“What? Why?” she cried. “I don’t want to go back! Why do I have to leave?”
“Because it’s your world.”
“But this is where I belong!”
Haku shook his head. “No, Chihiro, you’re not understanding. This world isn’t fit for humans to live in. A human living here would be like taking an animal out of its natural environment. It will last for a while, but it won’t last. Why do you think that you start to disappear whenever you come here? It’s the food in your body that prevents that.”
Chihiro shrugged. “So I’ll just make sure I eat plenty of food during meals. It only takes a little bit.”
Haku sighed. She was so oblivious as to the way things worked here. “It’s not just the fading away that you have to worry about. This world is unfit for humans to live in. You could die a very early age. You could get sick and weak very easily. And it’s not just that. There are lots of spirits that don’t like humans. It might not be safe for you.”
Chihiro took in everything he said. She never thought, or knew, about any of that. But it didn’t matter to her. There had to be some way she could work this out. “Isn’t there some way to make it that I can live here like you all?”
Haku shook his head. “You could only live here if you were a spirit.”
Chihiro shrugged. “So, make me a spirit.” She said simply.
Haku gave a snort of laughter, even though there really wasn’t anything funny about the situation. “I can’t. No one can do that kind of magic.”
“But Yubaba could turn my parents into pigs!” Chihiro argued. “Why can’t she make me a spirit?”
“There’s a difference.” Said Haku. “For one thing, pigs are still mortal and non-magical. Becoming a spirit would mean granting you powers and eternal life. There’s just no one that has that kind of power.”
Chihiro frowned. So she couldn’t become a spirit. That wouldn’t stop her. There still had to be some way she could stay here. “There must be something you can do. Please, do something. Anything!”
Haku shook his head. “Chihiro, there is absolutely nothing me nor anyone else here that can help you. I’m sorry. Really, I am, but you can’t stay here.”
“But I feel fine!” she cried, getting desperate. “Actually, I feel better than ever!”
“For now.” Haku replied. “But in a few years, this world will begin to take its toll on you.”
Chihiro had to hold back tears. “Well, I don’t care! I’m not leaving!”
Haku sighed sadly. “Chihiro, you don’t have a choice. You can’t make a life here.”
“No, you don’t understand, I don’t have a life anywhere besides here. Back in the human world, I felt dead. Here I feel alive. I feel belonged. If staying here will shorten my life and make it difficult, fine then, so be it! At least I’ll actual be able to live for once.”
Haku took a step forward. “No, I’m not going to let you throw your life away. You can still have a life in the human world. You’re going back.”
“No, I am not!” Chihiro shouted. She couldn’t stop the tears from pouring down her cheeks. “There is no point in living if you don’t feel alive. I felt like a robot that goes by a program and has no life of it’s own. I want to stay here! I want to live for once! I’m STAYING! And neither you or anyone else can make me leave!”
She ran out of the room crying, leaving a very upset Haku behind.
“What have I done?” He muttered.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Spirited Away. Just re-posting the story by moviefan-92