I know, I still have "Spirited Away II: Return to the Spirit Realm" to be working on, but I got this idea and instead of abandoning it, I decided to post this story. Besides, I (probably) won't be updating on my other story for a while. I will probably be switching between that story and this one for a while ... anyway, enjoy, and don't forget to leave me a review and tell me how you think! By the way, this is the prologue - the first "real chapter" will be coming up next. :)

Chihiro Ogino was a fighter, even if she wasn't so sure of it herself.

Many years passed since the fateful accident that left her heart screaming in pain and her head spinning circles in incomprehension. Everything she knew changed by 180 degrees. The sun's bright rays were dimmer; the white, fluffy clouds were darker and flatter; the house always dustier and dirtier and emptier, no matter how many times Chihiro would clean it. Her world was imperfect because she was lonely.

Utterly and completely lonely.

Because no riches, achievements, awards, or compliments could seal the gaping hole in her heart.

Around strangers, Chihiro acted as if she was the very origin of happiness and light. Her rosy lips were always pulled up into a blindingly bright smile; her eyes always held the note of keen interest whenever spoken to. She never raised her voice and spoke in a light and graceful – but never indifferent – manner. There seemed to be a golden cloud surrounding the young woman, which was an unbreakable barrier to all downheartedness.

But the moment Chihiro would find herself within the four walls of her apartment, alone, her real self would resurface. The beautiful smile would slide off her face and the glow in her eyes would disappear. Ashen pale, she would stare around her empty surrounding, drag herself around her apartment, and collapse onto bed.

The moonlight streamed through Chihiro's opened curtains, bathing her room in a mysterious, soft glow. Suddenly, a soft clicking sound snapped the silence, and a fluorescent light flooded the room from the hallway. A melancholic sigh escaped the young woman's lips and Chihiro wordlessly entered her room. Casting a wary glance out the window, Chihiro rose her hands to her head and pulled out different accessories out of her hair. In one fluid, brisk motion, the brunet tresses fell down the young woman's back, free from their strict bond of different hair ties and clips.

Chihiro fingered a hair clip absentmindedly between two fingers. Her lips pulled back into a grim line and her eyes shone with tears.

"Why?" she suddenly said, shattering the tensed silence of her room. "Why did you leave me?"

Lips trembling and eyes watering, Chihiro lifted her eyes and looked up at a framed photograph of the smiling faces of her mother and father. Bittersweet memories whisked through her brain the moment her brown eyes met the photographed ones of her deceased parents.

"I know both of you deserved a better child than I ever was," she whispered, gently swiping her fingertips against the photograph's frame. "You always did everything for me, and I repeatedly underestimated you. Or didn't appreciate you. Or was flat out indifferent to you." She paused, as if thinking a few next words threw, and continued:

"I remember how I was before. I could be selfish and moody, or unforgivably ignorant of you or your feelings. I was childish and easily frightened. But … but I was only a child. I was immature; I did not understand just how wrong I was. But when we all got lost in the Spirit Realm, I – well, it was only then that I realized just how much I loved you.

"The world's a dreary, scary place. I never understood that before my encounter with the Spirit Realm, you know? When I saw that both of you were turned into swine, I felt so bewildered, terrified, and … and … and so alone. But the thing was, I was not alone. Lin initially was indifferent to my situation, but later, she showed herself to be such a good caregiver that she reminded me of you, Mom. Kamaji was pretty harsh with me at first, too, but looking back at it now, I realize that the job I got at the Bathhouse was thanks to him. Well, I have a lot out there to thank for the 'happily ever after' outcome, and Kamaji's no exception. If he didn't tell Lin that I was his granddaughter, I would probably end up joining you two in the pig-pen … and never get a chance to save you. Either of you.

"And Haku. He helped me tremendously. I find myself looking back at the entire situation that occurred in the Spirit Realm, and each and every time I mentally thank Haku for helping me so much. I don't need to think twice to understand that if he didn't help me there, all three of us would have died a painful and very embarrassing death. Yubaba can be feeding her guests with the humans she turned into animals for all I know. She is a witch, after all."

Her voice wobbled unsteadily, but she continued bravely on, speaking to the photograph as if it really were her father and mother and could hear her.

"My point is that I wasn't alone at all, but yet, I felt so alone because you weren't there with me. To take my hand and reassure me that everything will be all right. For you to make things right," she added wholeheartedly. "I made many wonderful friends in the Spirit Realm that will always hold a special place in my heart, but they weren't enough to make me feel completely safe. So I matured and changed quickly."

She stopped talking and slapped a palm over her lips, trying to muffle a few heart wrenching sobs. Tears flowed down her face freely.

"And can you imagine how alone I feel now? I have nothing left to live for, except my work. What others dread is what I look forward to. And … and I cannot move on, I just can't. I tried, but I cannot. Everyday, as I walk into an empty apartment, I am reminded of how wonderful it used to be back in our blue house, when I still had someone left to live for.

"But why did you abandon me?!" she almost yelled in between sobs. "I know I was a bad kid, but I didn't mean it. I was little – I didn't understand. I am not excusing myself, either: I am facing the truth that both of you deserved a better child, but I did try. I improved my grades, helped Mom with the housework, and tried to have a positive, 'I can' attitude towards everything. So why did you leave me? Didn't you love me enough to stay here, with me?"

Chihiro stopped talking, a little out of breath from her emotional speech. She looked long and hard at the photograph, almost as if expecting to find an answer to her questions in those photographed faces. But when the silence became louder than a roaring waterfall and her common sense bit into her senses, she sank to her knees, sobbing.