Wet Like the River
We stand for a moment at the gate by the bridge. "I've got to go now, I'll be back to help you soon, just stay out of trouble."
"Thank you Haku you're a good friend."
I watch for a few moments as she races across the bridge. But I don't wait for her to finish crossing before I change to my dragon form and take to the air. I am sure that she will be alright and I have business that I want to attend to before Yubaba has time to return. I am not looking forward to more smacks on the head, but there doesn't seem to be any other way for me to learn about that darn pink shoe. I just want thoughts of it out of my head, or at the very least to understand why I can't stop thinking about it now that I saw it at that shrine. I am fairly certain I can get the answers I need from the river spirit.
I am even prepared to beg if necessary.
As I race towards my destination, I notice that a few drops of wetness have begun to catch at me. I curse softly. If it begins to rain with any sort of consistency, it is going to make it more difficult for me to return before Yubaba. I distinctly dislike flying in the rain, as any sort of downpour tends to slow my flying. The rain might also cause Yubaba to return more quickly than expected as I doubt she would want to be caught in it either.
Despite this, I continue towards the shrine. I must speak to that spirit about that shoe. I fear I won't find any peace until I do. Desperation is urging me onwards; I don't wish to turn back until I can at least be satisfied about where my memories of that shoe come from.
Finally I arrive at the shrine. But I almost wonder if I have returned to the right place. When I was here before there were swarms of people, and perhaps the increasing wetness can account for their disappearance, but the shrine itself had also looked much more cared for. Now the once bright cobbled path leading to building of the shrine looks pounded and broken, deep cracks cutting through many of the stones. The building of the shrine is worn. The paint cracked and stripped, even the supports of the building seem to droop in weariness.
The river that ran beside the shrine seemed different too, lower and dirtier, flowing a slow and sickly brown, the rain that was now determinedly pounding from the sky, hardly doing anything to swell the water towards its banks.
"What happened to this place?" I asked quietly staring about in amazement. I half expected the old man river spirit to jump out and either explain or smack me on the head, but everything remained quiet. I wait for a long minute; the only thing I can hear is the continuous pounding of the rain.
As the river spirit still has not appeared, I decide it is best for me not to stand around, especially as Yubaba could be on her way to the bathhouse again already. Feeling guilty for intruding, I push my way into the shrine.
I am stunned to see, though based on everything else I should have at least suspected it, that the interior of the shrine also seems to have fallen into disrepair, beams from the walls or ceiling lie around at hazardous angles, the floor is covered in a thick dusty dirt and cobwebs are scattered thickly about the room. The pink shoe and the pedestal it rested upon have completely disappeared.
I'm not going to make it back in time, Yubaba will be very angry with me for this. The rain makes it nearly impossible to fly at my usual speed, and is even more distracting than usual, because the slick wetness keeps reminding me of that annoying pink shoe, floating away on a river.
I was within sight of the bathhouse, when I was startled by a bird flying into my face, before I'd completely recovered I realized it was Yubaba's bird creature that had her face. "Haku," It squawked at me angrily. "Where have you been?"
I winced. It was surprising she'd even managed to find me. She usually didn't bother exerting so much of her magic for such things.
Thankfully the bird squawked on before I was forced to come up with an explanation for my disappearance. "I need you to fetch something for me."
Only mildly disgruntled by her usual bossiness, I followed the bird to the bathhouse. "My sister has been acting up again." The bird continued in Yubaba's voice. "She's been attempting to steal our funds. I need you to go to her house and teach her a lesson. Steal something valuable from her. I won't let my sister trifle with me."
Her minion finally shut up and continued towards the bathhouse with a final stern look directing me to head for Swamp's Bottom. I'd only been there was before, on another mission that hadn't boded well for Yubaba's sister, but I remembered the way. My memories of Yubaba's commands was long, even if it failed me in more important matters.
Worry swirled in my belly, but there was nothing I could do but follow Yubaba's orders. Until I found my name, no matter how disagreeable I found her demands, I had to obey. Someday though, I would find my name. I would escape Yubaba's clutches and be free to do as I pleased once again. It would take a long time to reach Zeniba's home. I suspected that it would be a night full of worry and torment between trying to remember my name and where I had first come across that shoe.
The rain continued to beat against me long into the night.