Chapter | 14
A giant stage had been erected in one corner of the room; the band already set up. The instruments they were using were a little out of date, but I spied the obvious ones. I would be lying if I didn’t say the first instrument I looked for was the piano, so don’t judge me.
From what I could see, the balcony where I had fallen off was now decorated with lanterns and expensive looking couches and rugs; most likely some of Yubaba’s things that were gathering dust in a storage room somewhere. In front of the stage a dance floor had been put down. What use to be the baths were now small to giant tables with so much food that my stomach became full just looking at it. All along the walls maroon material had been draped, and the spaces that were uncovered revealed giant mirrors underneath. It truly was breath taking.
I was so engrossed in the sight before me that I didn’t hear someone approach me until a hand settled on my shoulder. I spun around to face the person and let go of a breath I didn’t even realised I’d been holding.
Haku laughed when he saw my shocked expression, or that was his intention, but instead he stopped mid-laugh and stared at me.
“What?” I asked as I raised my hand to touch my hair, “Is there something in my hair?”
Haku reached out and took my hand in his before pulling me closer to kiss me tenderly. I was a little surprised by his behaviour, but had not intention of ending the kiss. He pulled away too soon and embraced me.
“What’s all this about?” I asked as I folded my arms into his chest.
“I’m just… happy. Extremely happy that you came back” he said as he let go and pulled me to the elevator.
In the small amount of time that Haku embraced me, the entire room had started to fill up beneath us. We took the elevator down and weaved our way between guests, many of whom weren’t that easy to squeeze by. Luckily Haku held my hand all the way or else I would have gotten lost.
I wasn’t exactly sure where we were heading, but I hoped it was somewhere private. I didn’t like the way some of the guests were looking at me. I mean, I guess it was pretty obvious that I was human and all, but seriously, it’s not like I’m a unicorn.
The band was in full blast in their little corner of the room, causing a lively atmosphere among the guest. For some reason the dance floor hadn’t been opened yet and a sneaky feeling crossed the pit of my stomach that the hosts would have to do the honours. All I did was pray that Haku didn’t count as the host. It’s not like I couldn’t dance or anything, it’s just that I chose not to in public… Okay, maybe I couldn’t dance, but for some strange reason I still felt a little disappointed when he led me past the dance floor and onto the balcony.
“Funny to think it all started here,” I said as I walked to the railing, suddenly overcome by nostalgia. Haku came over to me and put his hands next to mine, pressing his chest to my back as if he knew the cold breeze was chilly on my bare skin. He was about to say something when the band stopped playing and a voice travelled loudly from inside.
“Welcome, honoured guests, to the annual Spirit Ball,” Yubaba said. Haku took my hand and we went inside, pushing past guests until we reached the edge of the dance floor. “I have no plans of keeping you from your evening, so with the opening of the first dance, I bid you all good night,” she ended her speech and walked of the dance floor; the band starting to play once again.
I turned to ask Haku something, but his arm snaked around my waist and pulled me onto the dance floor.
“Haku, I don’t know how to dance,” I started to protest, but it fell on deaf ears. I pursed my lips and fell into step with Haku. Luckily a bunch of other people started dancing too, so no one noticed me falling over Haku.
“Take a deep breath and calm down” Haku whispered into my ear as he pulled me closer. I did as he said and things got a bit better. “I’m going to spin you now,” he instructed, barely giving me enough time to prepare myself mentally. I had to admit it wasn’t that bad, it felt kind of nice to be twirled in a circle. Haku must have seen how much I enjoyed it, because the next moment he pulled me close and dipped me, holding me there for a couple of seconds before slowly pulling up again.
When we were both upright, our faces were only inches apart; the song ending on a ringing note. Haku took my hand and we walked away from the dance floor before the next song started. Or we would have walked away if a familiar voice hadn’t stopped us.
Luna sauntered onto stage in her black leather dress, a slit running up her thigh, a tanned leg sticking out seductively.
“Good evening ladies and gentleman,” she said, putting one hand on her hip and the other sweeping her hair over her shoulder.
“As you all might have noticed, we have a very special guest here with us.” You could practically hear the dislike in her voice when she said ‘special guest’. “Chihiro, sweetie, why don’t you come join me on stage,” she cooed. It was obvious that she was challenging me. I was just glad that I was wearing I long dress, otherwise people would have seen my legs shaking as I walk forward.
There was a forced applause from the rest of the guests as I walked slowly onto the small stage. Those would hadn’t clapped their hands, had started talking among themselves until Luna shushed them.
“Now, I know something about this little girl that some of her friends here at the bath house probably don’t know,” Luna said as she raised one finger and waggled it in front of the guests, enticing them in her little game.
Nervous sweat started to form at the back of my neck. She was probably going to tell them about me and Haku and I didn’t think that would go off to well with most of the people before us.
“Chihiro here might look like and angel, but that isn’t al there is to her” she paused for a dramatic effect. This was it, I prepared myself mentally.
“She also has the voice of an angel,” she exclaimed as she wrapped one arm around my shoulder and turned to look at me. “Now, won’t you sing just one song for us?” Luna asked, her voice slowing down, making it obvious that she would win if I backed out.
“Sure, why not” I said with a smile. I know I should have said something snippier, but what I wanted to say (which was “Bitch, I accept you challenge), would be inappropriate. Well, some would say it would anyway.
I turned away and waked over to the piano in the middle of the stage. I was a little nervous, but the urge to push my talent into her obnoxiously pretty face, was even more overwhelming.
My fingers ran over the keys of the piano, memories of the last time I played surfacing. How long ago was it exactly? Would I even be able to remember? The answer became apparent when I sat down. I decided to sing Blank Page, by Christina Aguilera, seeing as I didn’t have a back track.
All the doubts I had about playing the too piano long ago disappeared when I played the introduction line. The music seemed to fold over me, pulling me into its loving embrace. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed my music. And I wasn’t just playing for myself anymore either, I was also singing to Haku. I couldn’t see if he noticed, but hopefully he was listening closely to the words of the song.
I tried to keep my composure throughout the song, but I couldn’t restrain myself when Haku floated into my mind. I wanted him to look at me and be proud, to look at me and love me even more.
“Let our hearts beat fast, and beat as one together,” I sang sweetly, “Let our hearts beat fast, and beat as one forever”. My hands stayed on the keys of the piano as the last notes faded into the audience. Applause burst out from the crowd, and not a half-attempt at it as before. Some guests were actually yelling for an encore. I got up and gave a little bow before gliding off the stage and past a stoic looking Luna.
A lot of the guests came forward to congratulate and compliment me, but none of them were the one person I wanted to be complimented by. Haku was nowhere to be seen.
I squeezed my way between spirits, calling Haku’s name out all the while. Finally I spotted Lin serving some guests a few steps away.
“Lin!” I called as I hurried over to her, “Have you seen Haku anywhere?”
“Um, no. I think I saw him when you went on stage, but not since then” she said before running off to a guest in need.
I was about to give up my search when I felt someone tug on my dress. I turned to find Mina standing behind me with a note in her hand.
“Mater Haku sends this,” she said and gave me the note.
“Thanks Mina,” I replied, ruffled her hair and opened the note once she blended back into the crowd. It was a short note, written in a beautiful handwriting:
Please meet me on the balcony in my room.
Crumbling the note in my hand, I started to make my way to the elevator.
I reached the room in no time flat. What was going on? Why did he leave me such a vague note? Those are some of the question I probably should have asked myself, but it didn’t occur to me that something might have been off about the note. I just wanted a reason to get away from the party that was in full swing downstairs.
I opened the door and slipped into the room.
“Haku” I whispered for no apparent reason it seemed, because I was alone. I crossed the room and walked out onto the balcony. It was a beautiful view from up there; a few loner clouds drifting on the darkening horizon. The door behind me opened and closed and I turned to welcome Haku.
“Where’d you run off to?” I asked as he got closer, but he didn’t look like he had any plans that involved talking.
He backed me up until my back pressed against the railing, his hands resting on it next to my hips. He looked into my eyes, then lowered his head to mine. Only seconds before our mouths met, Haku lifted one hand and rested it on the small of my back. Finally our lips touched, but I didn’t feel any spark running through my body. Must have been the adrenaline still coursing through my veins from preforming in front of too many spirits.
When I didn’t resist he deepened the kiss, his tongue skimming over mine as our lips opened, his other hand moving up to cup my face. I didn’t mind the intimacy of it all, but when the hand cupping my cheek moved down to cup something else, I started to get a little uncomfortable. It’s not that I didn’t want him touching me, but it wasn’t something Haku would do so quickly when we kissed. Still I let him continue. It was only when he started groping me that I lightly pushed him away.
“Haku, wait-” I started to say as I pushed at his chest, but he wouldn’t let off. His hands gripped me tighter and he shoved me back into the railing. Some of the beads started to rip from my dress as his hands explored my body, falling to the ground beneath our feet.
“Stop!” I yelled and pushed at him with all my might. He sighed and stepped away.
“You know, love, that really hurt my feelings,” a voice said from Haku’s body, but it sure as hell wasn’t Haku’s.
“Who are you?” I asked, desperately trying to stop my voice from shaking. I mean seriously, I just got felt up by a total stranger.
The fake Haku gave what can only be described as an evil laugh and started to change before my eyes. And I don’t mean change in the sense of taking clothes off, because I would have been fine with that. No, I mean his face started to warp and shift into new features until a complete stranger was standing in front of me.
“I’m insulted that you can’t remember me,” he said with mock hurt. “We had such an intimate moment last time. It actually should have been our last meeting, but then your stupid little dragon-boy had to come save you.”
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a gleaming knife. It looked the same as the one that the Shadow Walker had tried to slit my throat with.
“You’re the man who tried to kill me?” I said, more to myself than to him. I smile stretched across his- though I hate to admit it- attractive features.
“What, you came back to do the job you failed miserably at the first time?” I asked, leaking as much bitterness into my voice as humanly possible.
“Well, you know what they say. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” he said, but contradicted his words by putting his knife away. “Luckily, for you, that’s not why I’m here, love.”
“Don’t call me love,” I interjected, but he simply continued.
“You see, the higher ups are quite taken with you. A little human girl that would put her life on the line to stay in a world that isn’t even hers, and for what?” he shrugged.
“I don’t need to explain myself to people who want me dead anyway,” I bit back. Something was wrong, my body started to feel a little woozy, like I was drunk or something.
He regarded me curiously, cocking his head to the side as if it would help him understand me a little better. “You sure are thick headed, but it sorta turns me on a bit,” he said, moving one step closer to me with every word. “So, I’m going to take you with me now.” Lightning fast he wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me over his shoulder. I tried to fight him, but my limbs felt heavy and my thoughts clouded over. Just as he got onto the railing, the doors swung open and Haku barged out, followed by Luna.
With the last bit of my strength I stretched my arm out at him, but too late. Haku and Luna disappeared from my sight as the man jumped off of the railing and down to the waters below. My body went slack and my mind went blank.