Chapter | 10
There were people talking around me, but none of the words made any sense.
They annoyed me.
All I wanted to do was sleep some more and they were keeping me awake; bothering me. Why won’t they just go away? I tried to roll onto my side, but the searing pain that followed forced me to stay put.
Muffling a groan, I slowly opened my eyes, shutting then tight again when they burned from the light I assumed came from some window. I raised my hand and covered my face with it. Whoever was in the room with me must have guessed what was wrong, because there was a small shuffling noise and the light was gone seconds later. My eyes adjusted and I was finally able to open them all the way.
There were three people with me in the room. The first one was Haku and the person who had closed the curtains was Lin. The third person was almost too small to see and it took me a while to realize it was Mina, the little girl whose hair I braided for her.
My back ached from lying in the same position so I tried to lift myself up, but it was a futile effort since I could barely lift my arms.
Haku was at my side in a second, helping me into a sitting position. What I didn't fail to feel was that, though I also felt half dead, his touch still left my skin burning, even when he was already standing on the other side off the room... Almost as if being sure to keep any form of physical contact to a minimal.
Everyone was staring at me and it made me feel uncomfortable. Slowly Mina stepped forward and put her hand on mine at my side.
"Are you okay" she asked, her voice a little unsteady.
I looked at her before clearing my throat, which also felt like hot coals had been forced down it, before trying to answer her.
"Just a few bumps and bruises" I said with a smile, hoping that I wouldn't alert her. Luckily I knew the tears she were crying weren't because I was hurt, but because I was awake and speaking. Slowly my eyes roamed over every one of them and settled last on Haku.
Lin seemed to catch on and went out of the room, taking Mina with her.
"Haku..." I started to say, but since I didn't really have anything other than that, I trailed off. Some strength had returned to my arms and I was just barely able to pat the open space on the bed next to me. He seemed to think about this for a moment, but finally he gave in and came to sit with me on the bed.
"I'm sorry, I seem to be causing a lot of trouble for you lately" I said sadly, putting both of my hands in my lap and avoiding Haku's gaze, if he was even looking at me.
When he didn't say anything for a while I looked up to see what was going on and his expression sent a chill down my spine. His jaw was clenched tight and I could see in his eyes that he was having some hell of an inner battle.
Slowly I reached forward and touched his cheek. It was warm and soft and Haku seemed to lean into my touch. That was a good sign wasn't it?
"It's all my fault" he said into my palm "I should have been there to protect you." He really seemed to be in pain and it hurt me to see him in this state, I could literally feel my heart breaking into a thousand tiny pieces.
"There was no way you could have known something like this would happen" I said, lifting his face so that he was looking me in the eyes, "Right?" I pressed, but the look on his face told me that he knew something.
"Haku, is there something I should know?" I asked. There was a moment where Haku looked like he was about to make a run for it, but with a final sigh he turned so we were facing each other completely.
"There are some things you don't know about this world Chihiro" he started, "As, in every world, there is what you would call protectors of the peace, people who see to it that things are running smoothly among the people and that nothing is out of order. Well, in this world we have the same, but these spirits are called Shadow Walkers. They see to what needs to stay in the spirit world... and what shouldn't be here they take care of."
Haku looked deep into my eyes, checking to see if I could grasp what he was trying to tell me.
"So, what you're saying is that they think I shouldn't be here and now they're trying to get rid of me? But why didn't they intervene last time?" I asked him before he could reply to my first question.
"Back then you planned on going home, which meant they wouldn't have to force you, but this time it's different I'm assuming. You don't have any exact plan on going home" he answered.
I tried to look bashful about it, but it wasn't like he was wrong or anything. It was a lot to take in- the fact that there was actually someone (or many someones) whose objective was to either get me out of the spirit world or make me a permanent citizen. When I didn't say anything Haku continued.
"I'm sorry that I waited until now to tell you about this, but until that man showed up I wasn't sure that it was them or if you just had really bad luck" he seemed to laugh at this, but I had to admit that I was also thinking the same thing about bad luck.
“So, I’m guessing the big fish wasn’t all that much of a coincidence?” I asked.
Haku shook his head.
"It's okay, I don't blame you for not telling me. But then you have to understand that just because some creeps in robes are after me, it doesn't mean that I'll run away with my tail between my legs" I said and by his expression I knew that he already knew that I wouldn't.
"Well, then we'll just have to fight back" he said with I big smile before he moved to lift the covers off me. I looked at him with a questioning gaze as he motioned for me to lie flat on my back while he put the pillows on a chair in the corner of the room.
Once I was securely on my back, Haku lifted the shirt that had been put on me and pulled it up until my ribs were showing. I inhaled sharply as his hand made contact with my exposed skin.
Slowly Haku shifted into position, his feet facing the bed before putting both his hands on the bandages that had been wrapped around me where the man had sliced me with the knife.
An odd feeling started where his hands were and slowly spread out from there. I looked at him to ask what he was doing, but his face showed that he was concentrating and I decided to just watch.
I felt like my body was being massaged by 'n thousand tiny hands and I closed my eyes in delight, not wanting the feeling to ever stop. Too soon it was over, my thoughts coming back down to Earth as the last pricks subsided.
I knew it was the same spell he always used, but having your entire body enveloped in the feeling was completely different compared to a single limb.
Once he was done, Haku came over and started to undo the bandages that covered my waist, rolling it neatly around his own hand. I arched my back, giving him space to get his arms around me. Once he was done, he removed the bandage roll from his hand and placed it on the pillow.
I couldn't believe my eyes. The place where the man had cut me was gone, a little pink scar the only proof that it ever happened. I passed my hand over the thin scar before looking up at Haku in amazement.
"Th- Thank you" I managed before looking back at the scar. I was so focused on it that I never saw Haku moving over to me, only when he pressed against my shoulders did I realise he wanted me to lie down again. I did as instructed, glad to find the pillows once again stacked behind me.
Haku sat down on the bed and took my hands in his.
"I'm sorry for what I did to you yesterday. It was wrong of me to just run away and not tell you anything. I hope you can forgive me" he said, not once looking away from me.
In my heart I knew that I was never mad at him for leaving me there, I was just hurt. I sat silently, waiting for him to continue of his own accord. I definitely planned on forgiving him, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t make him beg a bit.
"What I did was selfish. We are not from the same world, Chihiro, there is now way that we could be together. I know that, but not one day passed without me thinking about you- what you look like, what your favourite food is, little things. On that last day, I prayed that you would look back at me, even though I told you not to." Haku gave a little laugh before his face turned stoic again.
"That's all I wanted to hear" I said seconds, not giving much of a warning before wrapping my arms around his neck and kissing him. He must have been shocked by my sudden outburst, because he reared back a little. Guess spirits weren’t as open about their feelings as humans, but that didn’t stop Haku from kissing me back.
Haku’s hands snaked over my arms and one cupped my cheek, the other snaking around the back of my neck and into my hair. His kiss became deeper; his lips against mine hard enough to numb them.
It was a while before he pulled away, putting his forehead to mine as he stroke my cheek with his thumb.
There was a knock and the door and Lin appeared with a bowl of what looked like some sort of soup.
Haku had moved away from me when the door opened, but at least he was still sitting on the bed and not running away like after our last kiss.
"You seem to be doing better" she said with a smirk and handed the bowl and a spoon she had tucked into her pocket over to me. I thanked her and looked down at the soup, luckily it seemed innocent enough so I started eating slowly at first, then faster and faster until I was slurping the last of the soup straight from the bowl.
"I thought you'd be hungry, but wow" Lin said as she took the bowl from me.
I laughed and thanked Lin for the good soup before pushing Haku away to make space for my legs. At first I had a little trouble moving myself, but after managing to get a good grip on Haku’s shoulders, I pulled my legs over the edge and tested their strength before standing up. I tested all my limbs and after being assured there was sudden pain, I stretched my arms, big mistake. I could almost see Haku and Lin cringe away from me to escape the odour coming from my armpits.
In a flash my arms were at my sides and my face must have looked like someone had taken red paint and threw it on me.
"I think a bath is in order" Lin said while clutching her nose to mock me, even Haku gave a little laugh at her little act.
"I'll go ask Kamajii if he's willing to make some water for one of the big bathes in the front, just to celebrate you being alive and all" she said and disappeared out the door before I could tell her it was unnecessary to go through all the trouble. Instead I just sighed and turned back to Haku.
We looked at each other for a second or two before I smiled and he laughed.
"Let’s go up" he said and took my hand in his, once again sending sparks up my arm and through my body.
By the time we reached the baths Lin already started filling one of the bigger ones up. Other than the sound of rushing water, the place was dead silent- not even someone snoring in the distance.
"Where is everyone?" I asked Haku.
"Today is somewhat like a holiday for spirits, they won't be back for another week or so” he said while we walked into the cubicle.
“Okay, Chihiro, you come with me, and Haku, you can go change in the room next to us” Lin said, throwing what looked like a bath robe at Haku’s face.
Without another word he stalked out of the cubicle, obviously not happy about being thrown out.
Lin and I gave each other a sceptical look before shrugging our clothes off and working our way in the bath robes. Once I was wearing mine it was hard not to admire the beauty of it, with the giant dragons embroidered onto the sleeves of the robe. From the hem of the robe, up to my waist it was covered in giant colourful flowers. It looked like something that belonged in an art museum, not around my body. There is no way I could ever do it justice.
“Am I supposed to bath in this beautiful robe?” I asked Lin as she sat down on the edge of the bath with her feet in the water.
“The robe or your birthday suite, pick your pick” she said as she lowered herself into the giant tub, “personally I think Haku would prefer the ladder, right Haku?” she asked when he returned in the same robe as both of us.
“What?” Haku asked, but could tell by my expression that he shouldn’t pry.
Pulling my hair up in to a bun, I tied it with the hair band that No-Face and others had made for me before stepping onto the edge of the tub and dipping my toes just below the surface of the steaming water.
With nothing stopping me, I eased myself in across from Lin and let the soothing water well… sooth me. Haku decided to sit between me and Lin.
A silence settled over the bath house that wasn’t exactly uncomfortable and awkward, but rather seemed to take everyone’s bottled up stress and let it evaporate along with the steam.
Just when seemed all was good in the world, the sound of a tiny buffalo running down the hall to where we were reverberated off evert wall in the bath house.
“Linnnnnnn!” little Mina’s voice echoed along with her foot steps before her frame appeared in the entry way.
“I can’t find my dolly” she said when she saw that Lin wasn’t alone in the bath tub.
“Okay sweetie, give me a sec then I’ll come help you search” Lin said as she hoisted herself out and walked to Mina. I couldn’t help but notice how the bath robe clung to Lin when she got out and I suddenly got very self-conscious at the idea of Haku seeing every curve of my body, even if it was all covered by a robe- a very thin robe, I might add.
I could still hear Mina and Lin until they reached the end of the hall way before they disappeared to who knows where.
I looked over at Haku to see if he was reading the situation the same way I was, but instead I found he appeared to be asleep.
“Haku…” I whispered, wanting to wake him up, but at the same time scared to do it.
Slowly I eased myself to where he was sitting, hoping that the movement of the water would wake him up, but no such luck. Hesitantly I reached out to poke him, but, without my permission, my hand ended up tracing the line of his jaw. Even then he didn’t wake up, so I took a chance.
My hand slid from his jaw to the hollow of his throat before moving lightly over his right collar bone. The bathrobe he was wearing was open slightly so that I could see his muscular chest, which of course made me blush like a mad woman. Luckily this sight brought me back to reality and I pulled my hand away, ashamed of touching him when he couldn’t tell me not to.
I sighed and was just about to go back to my seat when his Haku’s hand suddenly lashed out and caught my wrist. He yanked me hard, straight into his chest so that I was practically straddling his one leg with my both my hands planted firmly against his shoulder, causing his robe to part even more.
“Haku-” I started to say, but seemed to forget what I wanted to say when his lips touched my bare neck, even though there was a 99.9% chance that Linn and Mina could walk in on us at any moment. Luckily for Haku my mind was praying for the other 0.1% that they weren’t coming back.
Slowly Haku kissed his way up my throat until he reached my jaw, doing to it what I had done to him only minutes ago, except with his lips. One of his arms slipped around me and wrapped itself around my waist, pulling the robe until the material dipped low over my one shoulder.
I couldn’t even think of pulling it up, because at that moment Haku’s lips found mine and he kissed me fiercely, his tongue slipping into my mouth.
My reaction to this shocked even me. I wrapped both my arms around his neck and pulled him into me, until not even water could slip between us. His free hand wove into my hair before slipping down onto my bare shoulder and even lower until it also wrapped around my waist. Without a sound from the water he lifted me up so that I was now straddling him instead of his leg.
He removed his one hand from my waist and touched my foot that was sticking out beneath my bath robe. When I didn’t stop him, not that I wanted to, his hand slipped up my leg until it reached my calf.
I knew that I had to stop him; things were going too fast, too soon. I unwound my arms from around his neck and put it lightly on his chest, pushing him away.
“Hold on, things…are… going… a… bit… to fast” I managed to say between breathes. Even Haku was breathing heavily.
Very much against my will, I removed myself from his lap and sat down next to him, leaning my head on his shoulder once he flung his arms around me.
Haku turned his head so that we were looking in to each other’s eyes, smiling like idiots. For that one blissful moment it felt like nothing could ever go wrong. Like I could stay this way, next to Haku, in the Spirit world. But I guess Murphy’s Law had different plans for me.