Disclaimer: On Prologue
No Pain, No Gain – Epilogue
3 years later…
A chill wind swept through the Hinata Onsen Graveyard, scattering the fall leaves felled from the trees over the gravestones of generations past. The tenants of Hinata Sou, all dressed in the black of mourning, hiked up the grassy hill leading to the Urashima Family's resting place. The group moved in reverent silence, a silence broken only by random sobbing.
A large group had already gathered around the casket lying in the freshly dug grave when Naru and the other girls crested the hill. Many of Hinata Onsen's residents turned out for the passing of a member of the town's family. In such a small community, such gatherings to honor the deceased were commonplace. Seeing so many people sharing her grief, Naru broke down into tears for the third time that morning, falling into Kitsune's arms. Kitsune gladly consoled her friend, fighting back tears herself.
Naru, Kitsune, Motoko, Shinobu and Su eventually found and took their reserved seats at the front and center of the gravesite. Keitaro's mother took Naru's hand and placed it in her lap. The two smiled warmly at each other, their eyes and noses red and puffy from the bitter, cold morning wind and their many tears shed in their grief.
Seeing that everyone had arrived, Haruka walked deliberately to stand at the pew in front of the grave. "Good morning," Haruka began. "We meet here today to honor the passing of the former manager of Hinata Sou. For those that knew the situation, we knew this day would come eventually. We are thankful that God granted us a lot more time than we expected to say our goodbyes. However, knowing the inevitability of the death of one close to us does nothing to temper the pain of their passing."
"We will mourn the death, but we will also rejoice that there is a new angel in heaven watching over all of us, no longer suffering from pain or disease. No more suffering from a weakened body, or fear of death and the great unknown that follows. Now, there is only peace, as the Savior has taken His new angel into His arms and said, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.'"
"For us left here on earth, we are left with nothing but the legacy of those that pass before us. And I can think of no other that could talk about the legacy of Hina Urashima than her grandson, and my nephew, Keitaro."
Haruka relinquished the stand as Keitaro stood from his seat on the side reserved for speakers, looking as healthy as ever. Haruka and Keitaro shared a hug before Haruka sat down next to Seta and Sarah. Haruka leaned her head against Seta shoulder and the two held hands.
Keitaro looked out at the gathering, smiling warmly at his wife as she mouthed, "I love you" to him. Letting out a sigh, Keitaro began his speech. "Good morning everyone. Hina Urashima is survived by her two children, Haruka and Satoru. However, her family extends far beyond the boundaries of her name. Narusegawa, Konno, Su, Aoyama, Maehara, she would never hesitate to call any of you a member of her own family."
"It's been almost four years to the day since Granny Hina handed me the deed for Hinata Sou and I became the new full time manager. Honestly, still to this day, I don't fully understand what possessed her to leave her prized possession in the care of a twenty-year-old, irresponsible, two-time ronin. But I know she had her reasons."
"As we near death, and realize that everything we had hoped to accomplish in our lifetimes begins to fade away, what are we left with? Having personally walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I understand that we yearn to look outward from ourselves with our remaining time on this earth. We try to touch other's lives, and hopefully fulfill someone else's dreams."
"Almost twenty years ago, I made a promise with someone very special to me. We were the closest of friends, although we had only known each other for a few months. She was moving away, and we promised to meet again at Tokyo University, because she had heard some rumor that when two people that love each other enter that college, they will find happiness together. Over the years, although the promise was etched into my memory, I forgot the name and the face of that little girl."
"But then, something extraordinary happened. I could not describe it as anything less than divine intervention. Somehow, Granny knew about that promise I made all those years ago, and knew with whom I made that promise. And as luck would have it, that very same girl took up residence in Hinata Sou while Granny was still manager. And even after all that time, Granny remembered who she was and thought of a way to bring us together again. She handed her dream over to me, so I could fulfill my own."
"I am now married to that girl I made that promise with, and our first child is due in spring. Every time I look into that child's eyes, and the children that come after, I will see that eccentric, batty old woman staring right back at me. So what is Hina Urashima's legacy? The truth is, she has not passed away. Her heart has moved into those whose lives she touched, and the lives she helped create. She continues to live on in all of us. Thank you, Granny."
Keitaro stepped down from the stand, and Naru stood and joined her husband. They each held a single, long-stemmed red rose, which they tossed onto the top of the casket. One by one, each member of Hina Urashima's direct and extended family tossed his or her own rose onto the growing pile. After the last rose had been thrown, the entire casket was blanketed in green and red.