Chapter One: Omoide (Recollection)
O-bon: All Souls' Festival, usually held in mid-August; a time when the spirits of the dead are believed to return to their hometowns. The living also return to their hometowns; traditional dances and activities are held.
Sukiyaki: A meat and vegetable dish.
It was all so long ago-- my memories are fragmented, blurred images-- like piecing together bits of a dream.
A vivid red dress-- a man with a mask who I had grown to trust, then fear, then love again.
A boy with a bandaid across his cheek-- he must have been a boy, although at the time, he had seemed like a man. So much older than I, yet how immature! I still remember his rash ways.
A tall, hulking mountain of another man-- so strong! He picked me up and carried me so easily. For all his size, he was a teddy bear when it came to little girls, although we loved to torment each other.
Another man, who looked like a girl-- he always had such a cold, empty look in his eye. The look always reminded me of the look in the masked man's face, although I don't think I ever told him that.
The boy with the brown hair. He and I were the closest, in age if not much else. He was smart, brilliant-- I remember him idly shuffling his Rubix cube. He had an enormous gold... thing... a weapon of some sort, which could change shape so easily under his expert hands.
The soft-spoken woman. She had mousy brown hair, and could heal wounds. The princess of the fairy tale, for whom everyone fought. Very gentle, and I remember being jealous. I wished I could have such fuss made over me-- but I was only a child, and she was adult.
The woman with the moles under her lip. I remember those moles... and that she only wore one earring. She was a pretty, young woman with black hair, although I seem to remember stories being told of how she was over four hundred years old, and couldn't die. She was cursed, they said.
And finally, the woman with the purple hair, the one whose family took me in after I left the Enormous Mansion where the masked man lived. Her name, I remember-- Kirisawa Fuuko. I was with her family for five years. She had left, with the others, during the Tendoujigoku affair... amazing, how I remember that when everything else was so fuzzy. When she came back, she was different. She refused to tell me much of what had gone on, but I had the impression that it was too horrible for words. She didn't want to frighten me.
Shortly after she came back, the Kirisawa family moved to Sapporo, on Hokkaido. There were a few sporadic letters exchanged back and forth, but we lost contact with the others. Team Hokage faded into the distant past, occasionally resurfacing to appear in my dreams.
I don't know where they are now. Presumably, they have split up to pursue their own individual lives.
Hokage... that word is still in my mind. The need for the Hokage ceased after the lifting of the mole-lipped lady's curse. After the defeat of the masked man's father. There seems to be no place for flame masters and water manipulators in today's world, yet I'm sure those people are still alive somewhere. Presumably, they take the subway to work in the morning, wearing coat and tie, coming home to the smell of sukiyaki and the shouts of their children.
I rarely think about them nowadays. Why should I? Fifteen years have passed since then, and the only one I still keep in touch with is Fuuko. Yet even with her, my visits are mostly relegated to returning to the Kirisawas' to celebrate O-bon.
I have a degree in business from a prestigious university in Nagoya; and have recently been accepted into a management position in a banking firm in Yokohama. I am caught up in the whirlwind of the present; yet a childlike facet of me takes comfort in reminiscing about my unique past. I rather wish I could remember more of it, or had kept a diary. At the very least, I wish that my Kodotsu could unlock my faded memories. I haven't used it in years; still, I take it out of its box on occasion, and hold it in my hand.
It gives me a warm feeling inside.