Chapter | 15
“Hmm,” I moaned as I sat up. A light was filtering in from somewhere, but I couldn’t find the source so I turned my face away and plunged back into the soft pillow I was sleeping on. Well, that was until I remember where I was, or where I wasn’t at.
I shot upright again and once my eyes adjusted, I scoped my surroundings. I was in small, plain room. There wasn’t anything other than a bed, a dresser and a desk. I saw my dress folded neatly on the desk opposite the bed I was lying in. I looked down at myself and saw that I was wearing only my underwear.
Throwing the covers to the ground I got up and walked over to the dresser. I had to say it was a beautiful piece of art, with patterns carved into the doors that resembled vines growing up the side of old buildings. It was only a hunch that there would be clothes inside the closet, but at least it was something to go by. To my great surprise there were… Just not something I wanted to wear.
I pulled the hanger out and inspected the two pieces of clothing, and I say pieces because there wasn’t really much to be seen. The first was a long, plain brown skirt with slits from the ground up to my thighs on both sides. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was what seemed to be a leather crop top to match it. At the front there were two straps that were supposed to criss-crossed over my chest and fastened behind my neck. Other than that, nothing, nada.
I folded the clothes into my arms and walked back to the bed. Sure, it wasn’t a lot of clothes, but it was more than I had on anyway.
Reluctantly I put the costume on and looked to see if there was anything else in the dresser. The box was so dark that I had almost missed it, but it was there, hiding in the corner of the dresser. I flipped the lid off and removed the contents. Inside was a note and what appeared to by three bracelets, all with bells.
The note said: “I glad to see you have found this little box.” I tried to see if I could recognise the handwriting, but in my attempt was in vain. “Inside you will find three bells. Please put them on and make your way downstairs to the main hall,” was all the note said and when I turned it around I found a hand-drawn map.
Clutching the make-shift map in my hand, I headed out the door and into the hallway. It looked a lot like the one in Yubaba’s apartment, just not as overly decorated. According to the map I was to go down the hallway until I reached what seemed to be a giant staircase that led down into the main hall.
It wasn’t until I started moving that I realised what the bells were for; not making a noise was damn near impossible with the silver ornaments bouncing against my ankle. So much for a sneak attack, if it would have gotten me anywhere. Instead I decided to make my awakening very clearly known.
“HELLO!” I yelled at the top of my lungs as I started to descend the stairs. “I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM. WHOEVER IT WAS THAT INVADED ME, KIDNAPPED ME, AND IS FORCING ME TO WEAR THESE SHITTY CLOTHES, PLEASE COME GET ME!” It seemed to work, because someone appeared next to the stairs only seconds after I started yelling like a mad woman. It was a girl about my age, we were even dressed similarly.
“I’m sorry, miss, for the inconvenience, please follow me,” she said politely, never looking up at me once.
I followed her to a door behind the stairs. She opened it and allowed me in before stepping out and closing it in her wake. The room was brightly lit all over; giant chandeliers hanging from the ceiling in three different places. Other than me and a giant chair there was no one else. I crossed the empty hall and stood in front of the chair. It looked like something that belonged in a king’s palace, not standing in who-knows-where all on its own.
Sighing I sat down next to the chair, I did not need some rich person mad at me for sitting in their chair. I wondered if the person holding me here was the same one that had grabbed me from the bath house. For some reason it didn’t seem that way, he was just the person who had been sent.
I closed my eyes and rested my head against the arm of the chair, waiting for someone to come; anyone would be fine. I felt like I was suffocating, which was strange considering the size of the room.
Finally the door I had come through opened again and a hooded figure walked in. He closed the door and started to cross the room. I immediately jumped up and went into offense, sure as hell not being caught off guard again. The person pulled down his hood as he approached me, stopping when he was about five steps from me.
“Oh no, not you again,” I said as the person turned out to be my kidnapper.
A goofy grin spread over his face, making him seem less sinister, not that it was going to fool me.
“Hi, sweethea-” he started to say, but stopped when I gave him a very angry look. He sighed. “Sorry, I won’t call you that again,” he said before extending his hand. “The name’s Yoru.”
I eyed him wearily, not trusting his introduction.
“Come on, I’m trying to be nice here,” he said, still keeping his hand extended to me.
“Excuse me if I’m not really in the mood to be polite, you know?” I said, crossing my arms over my chest.
“He said you were a tough one,” Yoru said after dropping his hand. “Well, let’s get going.” He started to walk away from me, taking his time so that I could follow him.
After an intense inner-battle between the two lobes of my brain, I decided to follow the right side, which could ironically not be the right way to go. I know, I’m sorry, bad pun there.
I fell into step behind him, always certain that I could see both his hands.
“Seeing as you’re trying to be nice, would you mind telling me where we’re going?” I asked Yoru after walking up the flight of stairs I had come down previously. He shifted his head to the side to look at me.
“It doesn’t work that way, you have to put in some effort too,” Yoru said with one eyebrow raised. I knew he was trying to bait me into talking to him, but I refused to give in. Instead I crossed my arms and looked away, proving that maturity wasn’t really one of my strong suits.
We walked down the long hallway, past my room and further down the hall. After a while we passed a window, the first one I noticed since leaving my room. I took a peek, praying I would recognize something outside.
No such luck. Then again, I probably would have recognised something if there was anything to see. Outside the house was what seemed to be a black void, nothing else; as if the house itself was in another realm, which wouldn’t really surprise me all that much.
Yoru and I kept on walking until we reached a set of glass double doors, almost like the kind you would find in a wealthy person’s green house. Some form of a curtain was drawn on the other side, blocking whatever fate awaited me on the other side.
“I would advise you to at least try and act nicely,” Yoru said once we had stopped in front of the doors. “You don’t want to be even further on this person’s bad side, believe me.” The last part was only a whisper, but he sounded so sad.
Why did it bother me so much? This was the person who kidnapped me, never mind the whole sexual assault thing. Why would I care if he was only a pawn in the bigger picture? Still, my heart ached a little for him, as if shared a similar fate; to be constantly at the mercy of those more powerful than we are.
I reached out and touched his arm. He seemed startled by this gesture so I quickly pulled back and faced him instead. “I’m sorry, I guess I could have been a little nicer back there, you’re only doing what you’re told,” I said while trying to avoid looking at him.
He seemed taken aback by my sudden kindness, but gave me a smile in the end.
“Even if I was only doing as I was told, I might have gone a bit far with the whole pre-kidnapping ritual,” he said, putting his one hand behind his head in a typical embarrassed position. I gave a small laugh before turning back to the door. Yoru stepped in front of me and opened the door for the two of us. We entered, out nerves on par as the unknown became known.
A hooded figure lay seductively on a lovers couch. By the curves the robe it was clear as day that I was dealing with a she.
The woman sat up as Yoru led me deeper into the room, my hands starting the shake lightly. The closer I got, the more she moved up, right until she was standing in front of me, her hood covering her face.
For once in my life I decided to listen to my gut and not saying anything, which wasn’t that hard since I was scared wordless.
So many thoughts rushed through my mind. Would I ever see my parents again? Would I ever get a chance to talk about nonsense with Lin? Would I ever get to tell Haku I loved him again… Would dying then be better than living without those things? I knew I was totally overreacting, but wouldn’t anyone in my situation?
“Well done, Yoru. I had my doubts about you, but all for nought I see,” the mystery woman said, her voice that of a cat’s personified. She glided forward, her bare feet moving silently, unlike mine when I took a few steps back.
“No need to fret my dear, I won’t hurt you if you don’t give me reason,” she said, looking me from head to feet before reaching her hand out for mine.
“Come,” she whispered as she took my hand. Strangely enough I obeyed as she led me to the couch she had been lounging on. I sat down across from her, but out of arms reach, in case I needed to make a run for it.
“So tell me, Chihiro, why is it you think I had you brought here?” she asked once she settled back into the couch’s cushions, her hands crossed in her lap. I wished I could have seen her face; figuring out her state of mind would be much easier when I could see her expressions.
“I have a feeling that it’s because I’m here, in this world I mean,” I said, readying my feet for a fight-or-flight situation.
She studied me, or that’s what I assumed her prolonged silence was for. That’s when it hit me. The whole point of the mask thing was to unravel the people being chased. In a way it made sense if you thought about it. Humans surely loved the whole masked murderer thing.
“Exactly, so you do understand,” the woman said. “Then why is it that you refuse to return home?” Her voice was kind, almost understanding in a way. I thought about how to make her understand, and I mean almost sympathise with me.
“I guess it’s because the human world stopped being my home after the last time I was here,” I said, praying she would understand somehow.
“I see, but why? What could be so important that you would feel you lost your home” she asked, but I practically yelled the answer when I started blushing.
“Ah, I guess it’s someone then. Haku must really love you then” she said, a sad smile forming across her jaw. “That makes things easier” she whispered and got up. At first some insane hope bloomed in my chest, but when she turned to me I could see something different was up.
“I had thought of many ways to persuade you to leave, but they all seemed wrong,” she began, “But with this new piece of information it seems I won’t have to.”
Silently she turned and walked to where Yoru was lounging against the door. She whispered something in his ear, then faced me again.
“Now, Chihiro. I have decided that you are welcome to remain in the Spirit World as long as you may please, I won’t even bother you anymore,” she said. “But remember that all good things come at a price, and I wonder if you will be able to pay this one.” And just like that she left, the only evidence she was ever there was the chill down my spine.
It wasn’t long after she left that I felt the bravo slowly slip from my veins. I lost the feeling in my legs first, dropping to my knees on the cold ground. Yoru was at my side in an instant, catching me before the rest of me could follow.
“What did she mean with a price?” I asked Yoru, my mind suddenly blank. Yoru sighed.
“Think about it Chihiro,” he said, pulling me up and holding me until I could steady myself. “If she can’t get to you directly, she’ll have to do it through someone else.”