The Forgotten Hill

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story on how Natsume finds a small shrine on top of a hill with a wonderful view.

Submitted: June 29, 2017

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Submitted: June 29, 2017

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"Natsume hurry up! I want to eat lunch already!" Nyanko complained as I carried him in my arms. "Stop complaining Sensei! You're being carried by me! And have you gained some weight?!" Nyanko-sensei and I were walking up a hill. It was paved with steps and had a metal railing to assist people climbing up. There were a lot of foliage around the steps, telling me that people rarely climbed up these steps. "Huh! If you were stronger than this, then you wouldn't have any problem carrying me!" Sensei snapped back at me. I didn't indulge Sensei and stayed quiet while walking up. "I hope that ulgy looking exorcist with the glasses gives us a good reward for this!" Sensei added. The reason why we were heading up this hill was that Natori heard that the small shrine untop of this hill tasked us to find out if any Youkai lived around here. He heard that it would be demolished soon because for one it was barely visited and secondly it's caretaker passed away recently. So he said if there were any Youkai around I, he asked it I could talk to them about the situation. "So Sensei, have you felt any other Youkai around yet?" I asked him changing the subject quickly. "Nope. Not in the slightest. Maybe the Ayakashi living hear heard about the shrine being demolished and left already." he replied. "Or maybe there wasn't any here to begin with." I thought out loud. Natori originally gave this task to Hiiragi and his other familiars, but I don't know why I did so, but I volunteered myself instead.

Each step was tiring as I made my way to the top ever so slowly. The stone steps were widely spaced from each other, as I'd sometimes take two steps forward to even climb one. The stone path zig zagged around a small forest making the trip even more difficult. Without the caretaker, vines, weeds, and dead leaves littered the path. But eventually I managed to make it to the top. As I wiped the sweat off of my forehead the first thing I saw was a small shrine to the far back of a somewhat large plateau of the hill. It was about six to seven feet tall but no wider than a bus stop. There was a single offering bell with no rope to ring it. Guarded by three stone lamp pillars, one of which was way older than the other two. Aside from trees and the shrine, nothing else was here. "The view is lovely though." I said to myself out loud. Nyanko jumped out of my arms and walked towards the shrine. Beyond the shrine the ocean was visible with a town on the shore of another neiboring island. The air had that sea breeze smell to it, and felt very cool on my skin. "There's nothing here Natsume." Sensei explained. "Well there is a faint scent of Ayakashi here, but they must've left already. It's too faint or far away." I placed my backpack beside one of the new looking pillars and opened it. "Then that means the demolishing of the shrine would go smoothly then? If there is no Youkai living nearby then." It was a shame though. It was a peaceful little place where one could enjoy time alone here. I took out a picnic cloth set it beside the shrine. Curious, I tried to open the doors of the shrine, and the sliding doors slid open without any resistance. There was nothing inside, not even a stray rock or twig. I shruged, and proceeded to take out my lunch box as well. Nyanko-sensei was already sitting on my lap the moment I took it out. I opened it up and gave Sensei two of the four fried shrimp Touko-san cooked for our trip. Sensei started to eat one right away as I clasped my hands. "Thanks for the food." But before I could scoop some rice in my mouth I felt a presence behind me followed by a voice. "Oh my! Natsume Reiko! Welcome back." It was a soft spoken voice. I turned around and saw an old lady in a beautiful sky blue kimono with a floral patern on it. "Finally decided to show up again have we? Well as you can see, I'm..." she continued, but I decided to stop her. "I'm sorry but I'm not Reiko." This happened a lot of times. Most Youkai knew about my grandmother and I was often mistaken for her. They seem to identify with smell rather than looks so most of them confuse me with her. "I'm her grandson, Natsume Takashi." I continued. If this old lady thought I was Reiko-san, then that means she's a Youkai.

As I ate lunch with Nyanko and sharing some tea with the old Youkai, I told her all about Reiko, Nyanko-sensei and myself and why were here. "I see..." the old Youkai said with a sad tone. "So Takeshi is gone as well?" she asked me. "Was Takeshi-san the caretaker of the shrine perhaps?" I inquired. "Yes, he was about your age when he was tasked to keep this place clean. Every so often he would come up here. Sweep the grounds, check on the shrine, and some times polish the pillars. At first he complained every since second he was here! But as time passed he smiled more as he took care of this small patch of earth." She seemed to reminise on the caretaker. It seemed like this Takeshi didn't have the ability to see Youkai, so she just watched him as he cleaned. "But he always did a great job to keep my home clean. So I thank him for that." she finished. "So is this your shrine then?" I asked. "You could say that. When I found it a long time ago, it was empty. So I just simply claimed it as my own." She chuckled. "But, as you said it seems like I would have to leave this place." "I'm sorry that I can't do anything to save your home." "Don't be Natsume-kun! I've lived a long and wonderful life!" We both smiled at each other in silence for a while.

Nyanko-sensei was chasing a dragon fly nearby. He usually did this when he was bored with a converstaion. "If you don't mind me asking. How did you meet my grandmother?" I asked her. "Oho! That was a great story!" she explained in an excited voice. "Living here was very lonely and boring so when Takeshi came up here to clean the shrine one time, I decided to play a prank on him you see! I took the broom he was using and decided to hide it!" she said. It seemed like a harmless prank to me, but it would frustrate me if I was in Takeshi's shoes I thought. "That was when Reiko took the broom right out my hands and told me that it wasn't nice to pick on humans who can't see me." she continued. "She gave it back to Takeshi right away and headed back straight for me! She looked terrifying as she walked toward me. I closed my eyes in fear, but then she said the strangest thing to me. She asked if I wanted to play a game!" the old Youkai started to laugh. Sensei looked towards us for a good two seconds before going back to trying to catch the dragon fly he was after. "Ah! That does sound like Reiko-san." I replied. "Of course Reiko was very powerful, I don't quite rememeber what game we played but was hardly any match for her! I ended up giving her my name, but it was worth it. I never had that much fun in my life!" she said as she smiled towards me. "Then you must be in the Book of Friends!" I reached for my back and unzipped the carrying case of the Book of Friends. I then felt the hand of the old Youkai on my left hand. I looked up confused. "Not yet Natsume-san. I don't need my name back yet." She stopped me. This was a first. Most Youkai I'd met who's name was in the Book of Friends wanted their name back as soon as possible. And some Youkai wanted it for power. But this was the first time a Youkai declied the offer. "Why?" I simply asked her. "Well you see. After losing my name I lost some of my memories. But I knew that for certain that I had needed to see a child of man one more time. If you gave me my name now, I might regain those lost memories, but I also fear that I would pass onto the next life. So for now, I need to find out who this other child of man is." her cheerful tone was gone. "So aside the caretaker Takeshi-san, and my grandmother Reiko-san, you want to see another human once again?" I asked. "Correct. But I'm a weak Ayakashi. I was never that strong to begin with even back then. But now against the test of time, I cannot leave this shrine without getting hurt."

I didn't know how to respond her. Thoughts raced in my mind. But as I looked up, I saw another figured. It was a woman who looked like she was in her late 20's. "Well, I didn't expect anyone to be here. Let alone a young man." she said. I stood up slowly and bowed down to greet her. She walked towards the shrine passing me by. She knelt down near it and took out a small vase and some incense from her purse. She lit two sticks, bowed her head and began to pray. "Hmm. This child of man looks familiar..." the old Youkai wondered out loud. The woman obviously couldn't see the Youkai beside me as she continued to pray to the shrine. After a while, the lady stood up and looked at me. "Excuse me for being a bit suspicious, but what are you doing here?" she asked. "Umm, I'm a distant relative to the caretaker Takeshi-san. I was just curious at the place where he spent most of his days off at." I had to lie. It would be hard to explain Youkai and what not. "Ah, you mean that old man who cleaned this place every week or so?" the woman replied back. "I see... So you already know what will happen to this shrine yes?" she continued. "Unfortunately, yes." I said. "I tried... tried..." The woman answered back but it was visible that she began to cry. I took out some of my napkins and offered it to her. After wiping her tears and calming down she continued to talk. "Sorry, about that. It's just that... this place is very important to me." the old Youkai was listening attentively as well. "This may be a bit random, but do you know about an old idol group back in the day called Shooting Stars?" the woman asked. "I'm sorry but no." I replied back. "I guess that's fine. We weren't that popular back then either." she wiped off another tear. "This was where me and two of my friends started that dream. Every day early morning we would jog up and down the path of this hill to build stamina. And just over there we would practice our dace steps. And every time, I'd pray to the goddess of this shrine to watch over us and help us with our dream." she said. I looked over at the Youkai but she was just listening closely to the story. "At first it was painful." she continued. "And most times I wanted to quit. But my friends helped me through it. And even the goddess at this shrine helped me too." I was a bit surprised. If this woman was talking about that old Youkai lady, then... "It may seem unbelievable, I mean even my friends think it is, but I was saved by her. One day I decided to push myself too hard. I woke up an hour earlier than my two friends and started my training. Jogging up the hill I slipped and twisted my ankle. The pain was too much. I cried out for help, but since this place wasn't kown to most people and it was early in the morning, no one showed up. Until, a beautiful lady in a kimono found me, she carefully picked me up and carried me down the hill. She placed me by the road, and she rubbed her hand on my twisted ankle. I screamed in pain and asked what she was doing, but a bright hot white light was coming out of her hand, and I could feel the pain going away. It was like nothing I've ever seen. A few moments later my two friends who were jogging saw me by the road and took me to the nearest hospital." she finished her story and I looked back at the old Youkai. I saw her face light up. "I tried to tell my friends what happened but they wouldn't believe me. I wouldn't either, if I heard the story from some one else. But I am thankful. If it wasn't for the shrine goddess, I would have been seriously hurt." She continued. The woman stood up. "We did eventually debut as an idol group, and made a name for ourselves. We weren't as popular as most groups, but we did have our fans." she smiled. "But most importantly we had fun. And it was all thanks to this place. So thank you!" the woman bowed down and thanked the shrine. "You're very welcome Yuki-san. And thank you, for believing in me." the old Youkai suddenly talked adressing the woman. I could see tears flowing steadily from her eyes. When the woman who I assume was named Yuki looked up at me she asked. "What about you? Do you believe me?" I wanted to say that the person who helped her was right beside me, but... "What ever happened back then, I'd like to think that there's always someone watching over us and looking out for us. And I'm glad who ever that was did so. I'm glad you had a great time with your friends." Yuki smiled back. "Yup me too!" she started to walk away and started her trek down hill. But she turned around. "I'm sorry about old man Takeshi. But you take care boy!" she waved at me and I did so back at her. Yuki walked down the path until I couldn't see her anymore.

"I'm ready now Natsume-san." the old Youkai said suddenly. "What do you mean?" I asked. "I rememebered now. I rememeber why I wanted to stay in this life a little longer. I wanted to thank Yuki-san for praying to me. Yes I'm no goddess like she believes I am, but watching those girls dance around here was fun. She would always pray for their safety, their strength and Yuki would always tell me her dream to dance on a stage. I didn't know what a stage was, but they seemed to have fun." she said. We were both silent for a time, until she broke the silence. "Natsume-sama, if you would so kindly return my name. I would be ever grateful." without hesitation I pulled out the Book of Friends. The pages flipped until it stopped per usual. I ripped it out gently and placed the page in my mouth. Clapped my hands together and let out a breath. "I return your name. Himawari." As the letters flew into the air and towards Himawari a flash of light surrounded me.

I expected to see Reiko once again through Himawari's memories, but didn't. Instead I saw a much younger Yuki on the path of the hill crying out it pain. "Oh my, what happened here? Are you alright dear?" asked Himawari. "Please! I twisted my ankle and it hurts really bad!" Yuki replied. Ah, this must've been the story Yuki-san was talking about I thought. "Don't worry child, I'll help you!" I could see Himawari pick up Yuki with ease. Yuki was crying the whole way down the hill in pain. Himawari reassured Yuki she would be fine as she walked down carefully. They reached the bottom and Himawari placed Yuki down slowly beside the road. "Don't worry child, every thing will be fine." Himawari stroked Yuki's hair. "Now where does it hurt?" Yuki just looked at her left foot. Himawari looked at the direction Yuki was looking at and she placed her hand over Yuki's foot. Like how Yuki described it, a sudden bright white light begane to shine from Himawari. Yuki screamed in pain, but soon after stopped sreaming. Yuki looked up. "W-what did you do?" she asked. But before Himawari could asnwer she saw two other figures running towards them. "Yuki! What happened?!" One of them shouted. Himawari backed away from Yuki into the forrest. "I twisted my ankle, but I'm fine now, this lady..." she stopped. "She was here a while ago!" Yuki tried to explain. Whenever I would return the name of a Youkai I could not only see their memories, but feel them as well. And I felt Himawari was suddenly in pain.

I came to and saw Himawari in front of me surrounded in light. She was fading away. "You used most of your power to save her." I said. Himawari just smiled back. "Thank you Himawari." I simply said. As the light begane to fade, so to did Himawari. And soon after she was gone. All was left was Nyanko-sensei, me, and the forgotten hill with the small shrine that rested on top of it.


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