Chapter | 9
I shot upright only to find that someone was still holding onto me, my head tucked in between the persons head and shoulder.
"Shh, calm down" Haku whispered to me, rocking me until I calmed down. After a minute or two he pulled away and looked me in the eye, probably trying to see if I was okay. He probably didn't expect me to throw my arms around him the minute our eyes met, but then again, I was known for doing the opposite of what people thought I was going to do.
"You won't make me leave will you? Please don't force me to go" I pleaded with him, my voice husky for some reason.
"Hey, I'm not sending you anywhere. I just got you back" he answered, his voice soft and filled with emotion, bringing me to tears once again. He sat back and gave me a moment to pull my sorry self-back together. It took a while.
"I'm sorry" I whispered through ragged breathes while wiping furiously at my eyes to stop the tears that seemed to be endless the past few days. After my breathing seemed to have returned to normal - only the occasional hiccup - Haku thought I was stable enough to talk to him.
"I'm sorry if I startled you, but you were screaming and I panicked" he said without looking me in the eye once, almost as if it was embarrassing to tell me that he couldn't handle the situation. When I didn't say anything he continued.
"Where you having a bad dream? Tell me, please" he asked me. I took a deep breath and explained to him what had happened, conveniently leaving out the part about me wanting him to kiss me on the bridge; he really didn't need that part. I wanted to tell him how terrified I was, but it felt like I would start crying again so I just stopped talking and pulled my legs up to my chest, my head bent down.
I waited for Haku to say something but he simply leaned forward and wrapped his arms around my bundled up figure.
"Like I told you before, I'm not letting you go anywhere" he kept repeating the last part over and over again until my body loosened in his arms; as if singing a lullaby to a child.
Once I was calm, Haku pulled away and stood up, extending his hand out for me so that he could help me up. I took it and he pulled me up. His hand was warm and soft in mine, it made me feel even more ashamed of the stupid dream I had just a few minutes ago.
"What where you doing out here, Chihiro?" Haku asked me once we were back inside his room.
"I came out this morning and the door shut behind me so I decided to wait for someone to figure out I was gone" I said, pulling my shirt back over my head and securing it in place around my waist with the belt.
I didn't know what else I could possibly tell him, it's not like I saw anyone close the door behind me. I must have done it without realising so myself. Haku regarded me with steady eyes before sighing and turning around.
"Let's go" he said and gestured with his hand for me to follow him out the room.
"Haku, where do you sleep at night?" I asked him on the way down the stairs. He turned around to look at me "What kind of question is-" he started to say but never finished, because I hadn't been able to stop when he did and I lost my balance. I fell forward, crashed into Haku and the two of us went rolling down the stairs. We hit the ground, a sickening crunch echoing through the small tower.
I sat up and rubbed my head, checking for any spots of pain, but there were none. Then I saw why. Lying beneath me was Haku and he didn't seem to be moving.
"Haku" I asked quietly at first, but when he didn't respond I started to panic. I leaned forward and hovered my cheek just above his mouth, feeling for hot breath against it. Luckily he was breathing, but his eyes were closed and not showing any signs of changing.
"Wake up, Haku!" I yelled at him, but he gave no indication that he could hear me- or anything for that matter.
I placed my hands on the ground at both sides of his head so that I could move closer to his ears. At that moment the only logical thing in my head to do was to keep yelling at him until he woke up. Yes, this might not have been the best way to go about things and no, I couldn't think of any other way to help him. When it started to get plainly obvious that this wouldn't work, I pulled myself into a sitting position where I was straddling Haku. Let’s just say I’m not very good when put under pressure.
Out of sheer frustration, I slammed my fist into his chest, not thinking that it would actually help, but it seemed that violence could be the answer.
Haku's eyes flew open and he let out a gasp.
"Shoot, Haku, I'm sorry" I said when his breathing returned to normal.
"For pushing me down the stairs or knocking my wind out" he asked between gasps. He probably meant that as a joke, but I was so wound up that all that came out was a choking sound. Haku must have found the sound very funny, because he burst out laughing.
Slowly Haku sat up and supported his upper body with his one arm and with the other he pushed some hair back from my face.
"Hey, I'm okay. It'll take a lot more if you want to kill me" he said with a kind tone of voice. This only served to make me even more upset. All I've done since I got back was cause trouble for him and he just fixed whatever needed fixing without complaining even once. It wasn't fair to him.
I was thinking so hard about this that I didn't realise when his hand cradle the side of my face, his thumb tracing just below my bottom lip.
I opened my eyes, looking down at his face.
His thumb moved up until it was touching the line of my upper lip, his face inching forward all the time. When he stopped, I was scared that he would pull away. And it wasn’t just because of my dream, no, I wanted him to kiss me even more than in my dream. I put my hand on his chest and closed my eyes as if to indicate that he could continue with what he was planning to do. Now it was all up to him.
Slowly his lips pressed onto mine, sending shivers down my back. When he knew that I wouldn't pull away, Haku put his supporting arm around my waist and started to kiss me properly. I didn't know what to do next since this was the first time a boy ever kissed me and it made my head spin so badly that all that stuck long enough was the feeling of pure bliss. I lifted one of my hands and wound it around his neck without my brains permission.
My lips still felt tingly even after he pulled away. I opened my eyes and felt my heart sink when I saw his face. His mouth was open as if he was trying to say something and his eyes looked panicked.
"I'm sorry" he mumbled before he pushed me off of him and sprang up from the ground.
"That shouldn't have happened" he said, more to himself then to me and then he walked out of the room. I just sat there, trying very hard to figure out what had just happened.
My body felt cold, an uneasy feeling starting in the bit of my stomach.
Shakily I stood up, my legs on autopilot, and walked back up the stairs since it didn't make any sense to try and go somewhere else. Luckily I made it to the bed before my legs gave in and my brain shut down.
What was going on? Why would Haku kiss me and then say things like it was a crime? Maybe he had just been taunting me like the other day? No, this time it was different, this time there had been something more than the urge to freak me out.
I sat up on the bed and checked the clock (which I had never noticed) on the wall. It was almost 3 o'clock, almost time for the guests to start arriving.
Slowly I eased my way off the bed, down the stairs and into Yubaba's office. I was so used to Yubaba being out when I walked through her office that I almost jumped when I heard her call my name, well when she called me Sen anyway.
"Yes" I answered as I turned to face her, "I'm sorry, I hadn't realised you were back" I hastily added as an apology for barging in.
"You humans, no respect" she said, "Do you know where Haku has gone? I've can't seem to find him" the look in her eyes told me that she knew something happened and that I also knew exactly what it was.
Luckily I honestly didn't know where he had run off to and Yubaba seemed to believe me when I told her that.
"If you see him, please tell him that I need to speak with him as soon as possible" she said and dismissed me as if I was one of her many staff members. Then again, I was wearing a uniform, but not because I wanted to wear one.
Seeing as I was no longer needed in any case, I decided to go and pay Kamajii a visit, making my way towards the boiler room.
Kamajii was already hard at work when I arrived five minutes later.
"Hello Kamajii" I greeted as I climbed into the room through the small window-ish opening.
"Well, hello there little Chihiro, it's been a while since I last saw you" he said while keeping a close eye on his work.
"I'm sorry, things have been a little crazy the last couple of days and I couldn't seem to make any free time" I said as I sat down on the floor with my back against the shelved wall.
"That's all right, you actually came at a very good time. I just received word that we'll be having a guest that would be quite fond of seeing you again" Kamajii said, mixing some of the herbs next to his working station/bed together. I was just about to ask who it was when there was a loud bang on the door that led outside.
"That must be her" Kamajii said and extended one of his arms all the way past the wall to open the door. Why couldn't he have done that when I had tried to get in here the last time?
Kamajii’s arm returned back to his side, the sound of footsteps following. I could hear her before I saw her, something that didn’t surprise me at all.
"I swear this place just got smellier!" Lin said as she put her bag down on the other side of the ledge. She looked exactly the same as she did the last time I had seen her, maybe a wrinkle or two on her forehead and the fact that she was wearing normal clothes stood out, but other than that she looked healthy.
She didn't seem to notice me until I stood up, awkwardly trying to get her attention. At first she simply looked at me like I was some stranger who just so happened to be there with Kamajii.
"Lin?" I asked, a stupid question I know, but what else could I ask? Recognition dawned on her face and she ran over to hug me, and hug me she did. I could barely stay conscious when she finally let go and looked me over twice.
"Sen, I didn't think I'd ever see you again!" she yelled, looking close to tears.
"You can call me by my real name, Chihiro" I said to her with a bright smile.
"Chihiro" she repeated just for emphasis. "I like it, suits you" she add.
“I’m guessing more than a few people have asked you how you got back?” Lin asked, not taking her eyes off of me for even a second. The more she spoke, the more I realised how much I had missed her of all people.
“Yeah, but I don’t mind explaining, maybe later though?” I asked. Lin nodded, her signature grin spreading across her face.
“We have so much to talk about” she cooed before turning to Kamajii. "Is my room ready for me?" she asked him pleasantly.
Kamajii nodded and continued his work as if neither of us were there, obviously with the intention of giving us some space to catch up.
"Chihiro, help me with my bags?" Lin asked. I nodded, taking a rather heavy bag from her as I followed her to where she was staying.
We walked back the way I had come, but instead of taking the elevator up, we went down. We continued a little while on until we reached the servant’s rooms where Lin was staying for a while. On the way she had told me about how she had bought a train ticket and gone to find a new home somewhere else. Things work out for the first couple of months but then it started to get hard for her. The work was little and the pay was even less.
She contacted Yubaba after a while and asked if there was a work for her until she got back on her feet and that’s why she’s back at the bath house. I also told her about how I got here and how things have been for me. After we unpacked all her bags and made her bed, we went outside to sit on the deck, out feet dangling over the edge while we put out arms through the railings. It felt just like old times.
“I really missed you all” I said to her after a moment of silence.
“You’re telling me. Things were very boring after you left, it seems that you took all the trouble with you” she said, laughing a little at the end, so did I.
“Lucky you, now I’m stuck with the bad luck” I said, my mood dampening a little. It felt so good talking with Lin that I almost forgot about the whole Haku thing- almost.
“Lin, can I ask you something? But you have to promise me you won’t tell another person” I asked her, trying to sound as relaxed as possible, but my fidgeting hands must have been a clear sign that I was nervous. Lin didn’t say anything, but her silence was the “Go ahead” I needed.
A soft breeze blew my hair over my shoulders, settling down the length of my back. I wasn’t sure how to start, or even where to start, but when Lin gave me a nod, it all just came rushing out.
“Earlier today, Haku…” I started, the embarrassment of saying it aloud getting the better of me for a second, but I guess the look on my face must have told her everything.
Lin’s face turn pure red and I didn’t think it was because of the same reason as mine; she looked like she could murder someone.
“Haku, wait till I get my hands on that slimy piece of sh-” she started to say as she got up, but I grabbed her arm and pulled her back down.
“No wait! Please, I’m begging you not to say anything. Please” I pleaded with her and she sat back down and faced me. I told her what happened and that I didn’t know what to do now since I didn’t know if I would be able to face him without either crying or hitting him again.
“Okay, let’s see. It seems that Haku thought that just leaving you there was the best choice because he thinks he did something bad. I say you forget about it for now and let him come to you when he’s ready” Lin said, giving me and apologetic smile as if to tell me that she knew how I was feeling.
“I guess your right” I said, a loud yawn escaping my lips before I could stop myself.
Lin laughed, “I think it’s time you got to bed” she said and I realized how late it had gotten while we had been talking. We stood up and hugged each other good-bye before I walked away to go to bed.
Haku wasn’t in his room when I got there, not that I had been expecting him to be. Heaving a deep sigh, I walked over to the bed and started taking off my uniform. A chill crept up my spine the moment I had my shirt in my hand.
Slowly I turned around, my fingers tightening around the material. A figure stood in the door, but it was too hard to clearly make out who it was, but this person was obviously not someone I knew. Maybe it was one of the guests?
“I’m sorry, but this is a private room. The bathes are down stairs” I said, making sure the person knew I wanted him to go, but he didn’t seem to plan on moving.
“Leave this world, human. You do now belong here” the person, man, said, but I didn’t recognize his voice.
“I’m sorry?” I asked, backing further away from the man until I could feel the bed behind me.
“This is your only warning” the man continued without answering me.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, why do I need to leave? No wait, I’m not going to leave and you can’t ma-” I never got to finish my sentence due to the man disappearing from sight. He rematerialized right in front of me, and in one swift motion his hand clamped firmly around my throat and he pushed me down onto the bed until he was leaning over me.
My hands reached up and desperately tried to pry his hands away from my throat, but he was too strong for me to get away from him.
“This is your final warning” he repeated.
I tried reaching out to grab his hood, hoping I would at least be able to see my attackers face, but he was too far away from me. Instead I settled for my usual charming disposition.
“Go to hell” I managed to get out between gasps and did something I’ve always wanted to do. I spit in his face. It seemed to work because he gasped and backed away from me.
I took my chance and jumped up, ducking beneath his arms and running for the door. Unfortunately he recovered faster than I expected and he grabbed me by the shoulders, lifting me off the ground and tossing me into the wall at the other side of the room, where I went crashing down onto the desk, books scattering to the ground around me.
I never even got a chance to stand up before the man had me by the throat again, lifting me right of the ground so that I was dangling in front of him.
“Do I need to repeat myself?” he asked, his voice sounding almost bored. I would have gone down without a fight if it wasn’t for my tiny shred of dignity that was still hanging on for dear life, but since I still had that I continued to thrash against him, clawing desperately at anything that my hands and nails could reach.
A pain in my side only intensified the discomfort of being unable to breath properly; I didn’t know how much longer I would be able to continue with it, that was until my fist connected with what I assumed was his face and he dropped me.
Hitting the ground hurt even more than being dangled in the air. I let out a little cry as I tried to stand up, knowing that if I didn’t get away now then I wouldn’t ever.
Clutching my side, I limped over to the door, but once again I wasn’t fast enough to reach it. I turned to find the man reaching into his robe, revealing a knife of some sort. The hilt looked normal enough, but the blade was crooked and seemed to reflect in the dark.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this” he said, “But you leave me with no other option” and then he lunged at me.
I would have been dead if I hadn’t thrown myself to the side seconds before his knife would have hit home. Instead there was a tingly feeling and then feeling of my flesh burning. Blood flowed down my side, staining my pants and leaving me breathless.
I dropped to my knees and looked up as the man stood towering over me, bringing the knife up to my throat. He pressed the tip at the side of my neck and slowly started to draw it across, but stopped when the doors to the balcony flew through the air and slammed into the bed.
Haku stepped through the ruined doorway, or should I rather say before Haku flew in through the door way. That would be more appropriate since he was in his dragon form.Relief flooded my veins and his name only barely slipped through my lips before I fell to the ground, unconsciousness consuming me at last.