A/N: For the Tiny Lights, HanaNene zine! I wanted to do a little 'spirited-away' au (it works so well for the ship!) The amazing Blue-Mooned made a beautiful piece to go with it, check it out!
Summary: Radish Legs didn't like the butterflies she was getting from Hanako. Didn't like how he teased her even as he helped her reclaim her name and her life. He was a spirit, a ghost, and she definitely wasn't starting to like like him.
Over the past couple of weeks, Radish Legs had gotten used to many things, the least of which was her name change. She wasn't sure what was more insulting about it: the fact that people thought her legs were fat or the notion that no one could come up with a better nickname. How could anyone look at her and not come up with a more beautiful name? She was gorgeous, damnit.
Maybe the guy who'd stolen her name was blind. Tsukasa Yugi was a spirit, after all, and there was no accounting for taste with them. Especially one as evil with him. Not only had he stolen her name, but he'd also turned her best friend into a pig. Well, actually, if she were honest, it was mostly her fault that Aoi had turned into a pig. It had been a little suspicious when they'd found those empty stalls filled with food, and Aoi had been right when she'd wanted to go back. If she hadn't convinced her to eat, maybe they'd be home right now.
Instead, Aoi was in a pig pen and Radish Legs was sitting on a furry rabbit-like thing as she flew hundreds of miles over the earth. Clutching the fur tightly, she leaned over and peeked at the ground below. The houses looked like ants from this height, and she swallowed as she sat straight once more. If she fell, they'd have to call her Pancake Girl. "You sure this is safe?"
On her right, Hanako shrugged. He was the exact mirror image of Tsukasa, though while the short hair gave his twin an eviller look, Hanako looked more boyish. As usual, there was a mischievous twinkle in his eyes as he asked, "Is anything safe, really?"
"Hanako," she warned, not in the mood for another one of his jokes. However cute he was (and boy was he cute, Radish Girl had to remind herself that even if he looked like he was her age, he was a spirit and was probably a zillion years older than her), his attitude was barely tolerable when they had the solid ground beneath them. Soaring high in the sky, she refused to play along. "I don't want to die."
"Would it really be that bad?" He reached out, placing a hand on hers and squeezing it lightly. For a spirit, his skin was warm, and she blushed. "We could hang out even longer."
"Hanako," she growled, glaring at him. She didn't move her hand, however.
"Don't worry so much." Laughing, he leaned back and stared at the sky. She missed his touch immediately. "Mokka are a reliable transport. It'll get us back on time."
"Right, the test." Radish Legs rubbed her arms, remembering now just why they were in such a rush to get back to the bathhouse. This was perhaps her only chance to escape all this madness and get home. "Your brother…what do you think the test'll be?"
"Mmm, well, it's going to be something really tricky, because he's sneaky like that." Hanako tapped his chin, considering the question seriously. She wondered if he realized he was just as sly as his brother. At least Hanako wasn't as malicious. "You remember your name, right?"
Radish Legs nodded, patting her chest. Tucked inside an inner pocket was her birthday card from Aoi, her name carefully scrawled across the cover. Nene. The name felt foreign now, after weeks of Radish Legs, and she resisted the urge to say it aloud, to remind herself how it sounded, how it tasted. Until she defeated Tsukasa's test, her name had to remain a secret.
"Good." Hanako smiled, and his expression is genuine now. He took her hand again, this time tenderly. Intertwining their fingers, he continued. "Then all you have to do is save your friend and you'll get home." His thumb stroked her skin and he lowered his eyes. Wistfully, he asked, "You could stay, you know. Save your friend and then stay here."
"I…" Radish Legs swallowed. He wasn't her type, she reminded herself. She was into dashing princes, the ones so handsome you couldn't believe they were real. Not the all too close boy-next-door, the kind of guy that grew on her until she couldn't remember what it was like without him. His eyes were so big, she could see her reflection in them. Biting her lip, Radish Legs stared at their clasped hands. It was strange, she had a feeling they'd held hands like this before. Long ago, when spirits were still just silly stories.
Before she could sort herself out, Hanako laughed and let go. "I'm just teasing. You can't stay here. After the mess you made cleaning, Tsukasa's gonna kick you out himself."
"Jeez, stop making fun of me," Radish Legs pouted, ignoring the way her heart sank. No, scratch that, her heart didn't sink at all. She didn't care about him in the least. She was a stone, she was a rock, and she was going to grab Aoi and leave the second she could.
"It was a parting gift. I can't do it anymore after you leave, after all." Shielding his eyes, he squinted as he stared into the distance. It wasn't long before he broke into a smile. "We're almost there!"
"That was so quick!" Incredulous, Radish Legs leaned forward, eyes narrowing until she could barely make out the shape of Tsukasa's bathhouse. It would never be home, but she felt a sense of relief as they got closer. The spirit world was vast, and this was the one small part she knew. "I should have just taken a Mokke when I left."
Hanako snorted. Patting her back, he stated bluntly, "You would have crashed."
"I…" She couldn't entirely deny it. It wasn't like her time in the spirit world had been smooth in the least. Even the simplest of jobs, cleaning a tub, had gone awry because of some pesky spirits. Actually, almost every task she'd been given had gone wrong one way or another. "I could have managed," she mumbled lamely.
Chuckling, Hanako took her hand again. He was so touchy feely like that, constantly liking having some contact with her. Hand holding was easier for her heart than his hugging, at least, but that didn't make her pulse race any slower. "Alright, ready?"
And again, this sensation was familiar. Someone had held her hand like this before, guiding her. She had been younger then, much younger, and wandering around a shrine at night. No, that wasn't right. Nene frowned, her nose scrunching as she forced herself to remember. It had felt like a shrine, but it had happened at a school. A fourth step she shouldn't have stepped on.
She turned to ask Hanako but froze as she stared at the seal on his cheek. Suddenly, he wasn't wearing a white haori but instead black school clothes. Her own pink outfit faded away into her elementary uniform. His hand held hers tightly as they navigated through a shrine filled with dolls.
You shouldn't have stepped on that fourth step, he muttered, giving her a wry smile. But I guess you couldn't help it with those radish legs of yours.
"Radish Legs? Hello?"
"I don't have fat legs!" Radish Legs roared, pulling herself out of her memory and into the present.
Hanako blinked, eyes wide as he let go of her hand. He was wearing his white haori again, just as she was her high school self again. Rubbing the back of his head, he muttered, "Damn, you're scary."
She should be angrier at that, but Radish Legs discarded her rage and instead grabbed his shoulders. "I know who you are!"
"It'd be a problem if you got amnesia now," Hanako joked, his expression bemused.
"No, not that—your name is Amane Yugi!" Radish Legs announced triumphantly. All this time, she'd had a strange feeling that they'd met before and now she knew why. "You died at my school and now you're Hanako, the toilet ghost. You saved me one time when I got trapped in a school mystery."
"Huh? I…" Hanako's eyes widened as he processed her words. "Amane?" Something must have clicked in him somewhere because he started to repeat the word, saying his name over and over again. "I'm Amane. Amane. I…" He smiled brightly. "I'm a school mystery!"
As soon as he announced it, the Mokke shrank and they were no longer flying but falling. It was so sudden that Radish Legs didn't even have a chance to scream before gravity yanked her down. Her hands were still on Hanako's—no Amane's shoulders and he grabbed her waist, keeping her close. "Nene! You did it!"
"Nene?" It had been so long since she'd heard it, but that was her name. Not Radish Legs, but Nene. "That's me!"
"And I'm Amane!" He laughed as they plummeted. "I have my name back! And you…you might be bigger now but you're just as clumsy, huh?"
Indignant, she bit out, "Hey! Who saved you? ME!"
"That's true. I guess you paid me back, huh?" He pulled her closer, until they touched foreheads. For a ghost, he felt all too real. "Thanks, Nene."
Flustered, she could only nod. He was close, far too close, and smiling like that was unfair. If Amane asked for anything now, she could only say yes.
Luckily, he didn't realize it. Instead, he slowed down their fall and hugged her tight. Before she could protest, he started flying them back to the bathhouse. And if she nestled his arms a little, buried her head into his chest, well, he didn't say anything about it.
Suddenly, she wished they'd taken the train back to the bathhouse. It might have been long enough for her to figure out how to say goodbye.