Disclaimer: Kannazuki no Miko
and all its characters are properties of TNK Studio and GeneonEntertainment. They do not belong to me. This work is purely fiction
and only meant to be a token of love and gratitude toward an anime
series, a masterpiece that I truly love.
PROLOGUE: THE BEGINNING OF AN END.
Stepping out of a Dimensional Portal – one carefully shielded to avoid unwanted eyes – she arrived high upon a sky the cerulean shade of which stretched all the way toward the horizon. Below her, Izumo the Holy City – shaped in a great disc spanning at least a hundred miles in radius, providing cozy accommodation for a little more than four million people – stood gleaming in the shines of the morning sun like a pile of precious stones.
On either side of the Ama no Ukihashi, the prettiest boulevard in Heaven, store after store lined up under the cool shade of the sakura trees that blossomed year round. On the clean, granite-paved road Gods and Goddesses treaded leisurely while conversing with their respective companions in a low, murmuring voice. Their eyes, troubled and weary, glanced around quite often as though expecting an assassin to leap out from any of the others' shadows, or perhaps their own. Well, the Immortals certainly found their assassins when two men emerged from the upcoming intersection, for their legs stopped walking, their mouths clamped shut, and their gazes turned prickly enough to do a needle proud.
The men were young and handsome enough to make a woman turn her head. Yet it was not their faces the Immortals fix their ominous glares upon. It was the sleeves of their snowy cape, adorned at the wrists with the gleaming golden pentagram inscribed within a circle, the very symbol of the Holy MessengersDivision,Home of all Spies
The Immortals of Heaven stood perfectly still and watched the Messengers, sauntering haughtily without a care whom they might bump into, barely concealing their disgust. In the eyes of Izumo's residents, the Messengers were probably as likable as a den of vipers, poised to strike the unaware who fell into their midst. Of course, the men might not know it but their actions had but tainted their names. A word they whispered into a wrong ear might drag some poor fool to the Sanctum Core for interrogation. And the Messengers rarely spoke more than a word. Well, no one would be accused wrongfully, thanks to the flawless system maintained in the Core, yet being stared down by the Celestial Assemblywas by no means a pleasant experience.
As though sensing the hostility of the people around them, the Messengers' faces turned a trifle gray and their pace quickened considerably. Still, even after they made a hasty turn and vanished behind a small alley of the Ama no UkihashiBoulevard, the mood of the bystanders did not improve very much. The Gods and Goddesses resumed their activities, yet their grim, almost identical expressions spoke volumes of what they must be feeling inside.
On an interesting note, if the Immortals paid the Holy Messengers every scrap of their attention, they directed none toward the twelve steel obelisks towering over Izumo in the distance. Truth be told, they bloody well pretended that those prickly metal blocks never existed. They had been quite displeased when the Lord of Izumo said he was going to build those things, and furious when the man ignored their disapproval. After all, the Kusanagi Pillars all but declared that their freedoms in Izumo dangled by a very thin thread, a fact none liked to be reminded of. She but wondered why the Immortals still had not considered immigrating to Reiha, though. The Heart of the Underworld had always been a more beautiful place, and also one where people were allowed as much freedom as they wished unless they violated the laws. Of course, the Sealing Field of the Crystal Roses would lock up their powers during the first year they lived there, but...
She gave her head a slight shake. She was wasting time when she could not afford to. Eyes tracing the pattern of the Invisibility spell to make sure the thing still held, she descended toward a building in the east side of Izumo, one looked like a giant hexagram from the bird's eyes view. As usual, the Memories Hall was unguarded, its vicinity without a wandering soul. Of course. The Immortals rarely went here unless in dire need, for they resented the countless invisible Seals and Barriers woven around the building. Who knew what trap would spring should they venture too near? She herself was aware that in her current state, one wrong step might just unravel her already fragile existence. But then, the Immortals of Izumo were ever cowards. She, on the other hand, was not.
Standing in front of the Memories Hall, she channeled her celestial powers so that they reached out to every hidden Seal and Barrier. To her satisfaction, those vicious things retreated to either side, clearing a path leading straight toward the entrance. She smiled. It seemed she still could exert some control over them after all. The smile slid off her lips in a second, however, when she sensed a presence of power within the confinement of the Hall. There could be no mistake. The Keeper was in there.
She grimaced. Why was he here? True, the Hall was his office but the man only worked in there twice a week due to his other duties to Heaven. Certainly today was not his working day... unless his schedule had changed during the time she was absent from Izumo, which was very likely now that she thought of it. "Worst of luck," she muttered irritably.
She considered turning back, and firmly rejected the cowardice idea. It had taken her forever just to gather enough strength to break through the Dimensional Boundary protecting Heaven. Not just that, the situation was dire. She had to do something or risked losing her most precious possession for all eternity.
She opened the doors and walked straight in, determined to be brave. It was not that she feared the Keeper. She knew too well the man would not harm a strand of hair on her head, much less take her life. Yet the possibility that he might refuse to cooperate horrified her. She did not possess enough power to bend him to her will like she used to. Should the man wish it, she would have no other choice but to return empty-handed and suffer by herself. She sighed. A slim chance she might have, it was still a chance.
"You..." The Keeper of the Hall of Memories, more handsome than any man she had seen on Earth, widened his eyes upon her entrance. Although she wore a deep hood that cast a dark shadow upon her face, she knew he still recognized her. He would have struck otherwise.
Silence hung above the marble platform that floated upon the sparkling Sea of Memories. Beyond them a crystal tower stood, its smooth surfaces catching the light from the Sea and reflected it like the best-polished mirrors. A gigantic platinum ring, bearing the vertical Sun and Moon Crests on opposite sides, revolved soundlessly around the structure. She frowned. The Tower of Kannazuki! So that was why the Keeper lingered here.
Biting her lips, she sank to her knees and bowed, her forehead made an audible thudding sound upon the platform.
"I beg of you, nii-sama," she pleaded, "please..." Her nii-sama the Keeper should know what she wished for. He should know why she came to this place despite the risk.
"Fine." The man in front of her sighed. Her head jerked up in surprise. She knew he had always been fond of her... yet she never expected him to disregard the rules so.
"I am most grateful to you, nii-sama." She bowed to him again, scrubbing the tears already flowing down her cheeks with her sleeves and trying to swallow a sob. All these painful and heartbreaking years had finally come to an end. She rose to her feet, every of her particles trembling in joy.
"No need... for that," the Keeper said slowly while turning around, his arm stretching toward the block of crystal on the other side of the platform – the One Terminal, the device that controlled the Memories Hall. He stopped dead when a holographic screen popped out of thin air.
"Why have you not released them? The Lord's patience in growing thin, I shall have you know that!" the face of a haughty-looking man spoke with a voice no lovelier than his demeanor. A lump of something rose in her throat. She knew him. Yuusaku the Chief of the Holy Messengers, right-hand man to the bastard Lord of Heaven himself. "Hey! Who is there behind you?"
An orb of blinding light enclosed in a net of roiling lightning leapt upward from the Keeper's palm.
Run! Run now! the Keeper's voice said urgently in her head. Come back when you have the chance!
The orb of light struck the platform a few feet to her right and exploded, sending shards of stones all over the place. She rushed toward the Hall's entrance.
"Intruder!" Yuusaku's voice cried behind her at the same time deafening sirens blared over her head.
Putting a safe distance between her and the Memories Hall, she halted and wove another Portal. Yet, just when the sparks emerging from her hand managed to coalesce into the silvery surface of the dimensional entrance, a streak of white lightning sheared the thing and dissolved it.
She stared in horror at the twelve oversized obelisks surrounding Izumo now glowing white like metals heated to near melting. The Kusanagi System had been activated, and she bet she knew what target they had been set to eliminate, too.
Lightning fanned out from the twelveKusanagi Pillars, knitting a large white cloth that hid the cerulean sky. Thunder rumbled loudly in the air. She swallowed. Was there any chance at all for her to leave this place and still live afterwards?
Lightning bolts, thick and searing-bright, danced downward from the heavens. She elevated herself into the air, gliding and changing her directions almost instantly to avoid being hit. Slowly, her determination and confidence faded as panic welled up in her soul. More blasts came after every second, eventually forming a jungle of lightning connecting heavens and earth. She halted dead in midair, for even the smallest movement would crash her into one of those crooked bars of blazing light. Her heart stopped beating as the lightning bolts began to drift toward her. They were going to blow her to dust...
Out of the blue, two vertical discs of white light emerged, one to her left and one to her right. Quickly, they rushed toward each other, erasing her body as they went. Before the lightning bolts could touch her, she had already been safely transported into a dimensional passageway. In there she stood, trembling. Nii-sama had saved her, she knew. However, her gratitude for him could not diminish the grief that was clenching her heart. She cried. Come back to see him when she had the chance, the Keeper had instructed. She was not sure she would have any more of those until she was dead...
"Have you any idea who that intruder is?" the ever-glorious Lord of Heaven said to the Keeper from the holographic screen. The man, looking so youthful he could have been mistaken for the Keeper's brother, sat behind the desk in his spacious study, peering coldly at the Keeper over his interlaced hands. Next to him Yuusaku the ChiefMessenger stood, face grim and somewhat furious. It did not sit well with the man that his precious Kusanagi System failed to destroy the girl, the Keeper wagered.
"I have none, father," on his knees, the Keeper answered. "He barely entered when Yuusaku contacted me. I never had the time to identify him."
Yuusaku glowered at the Keeper in plain disbelief, but at least he kept his peace. The Keeper was thankful he was not in the Sanctum Core at the moment, for a lie spoken there would have gotten him into deep yogurt. But on the other hand, though, there was no chance his Father would deliver him to that place. The Ruler of Heaven was afraid of the Core as much as any other person in the Holy City, if not more, of course.
"Is that so?" the Keeper's father said levelly.
"It is so, Father," the Keeper answered, his voice calm and collected. He had always been a good liar.
"Very well," the Lord of Izumo nodded, "you may proceed with your duty. I shall set the Messengers to hunt down the intruder." Yuusaku gave the other man a quick, exasperated look. He must have been wishing that his liege lord would not refer to the Messengers the way he would a hunting hound... The Keeper suppressed a chuckle.
"As you command, Father." The Keeper gave the Lord a respectful bow as the holographic screen winked out of existence. He rose to his feet, laughing softly to himself. That was close. He wondered what would have happened had Yuusaku's screen appeared when the Keeper was giving the girl what she came here to take.
He put his hand upon the cold top of the One Terminal, the crystal block standing upon the platform, and entered his commands. The girl was truly unlucky to have chosen today to sneak into Izumo. Had she come on another, she would have gotten what she needed without raising a fuss. He sighed. Well, he would try to find a way to grant her wish, if he could.
The clear, cloudless sky of the Memories Hall darkened as a massive whirlpool of black light appeared over the top of the Kannazuki Tower. The Gate to the Cycle of Death and Rebirthhad opened, allowing access to the eternal current comprised only of the mortals' souls.
The floatation ring of the Kannazuki Tower stopped turning. The Sun and Moon Crests began to glow with golden and silver light. The Keeper peered at a holographic screen that showed the interior of the Tower. The chains were being withdrawn from the Altars, the Seals placed upon their prisoners lifted. The time had come.
Release, the Keeper thought.
The Gate to the Cycle expanded, the thunder roared, and lightning came from within the dark whirlpool, coiling around the Tower's platinum ring. The Sun and Moon Crests' surfaces rippled like that of a pond when disturbed by a pebble. From the two vertical plates emerged two spheres of light, one silver, one golden, both shining more brightly than the midday sun. The Keeper sighed as his Immortal eyes caught a glimpse of their interior. Two teenaged girls, dressed in the traditional chihaya and hibakama of Priestesses, stood within the confinement of the spheres, untouched by the passage of time.
The Keeper massaged his temples, guilt and shame wrecking his soul apart. He had no part in inflicting pains upon them, yet he had been the one guarding them for the last three thousand years, he had been the one who made sure their cycle of suffering would continue forever and ever. In a way, he was as vicious a criminal as the one who trapped them in the Tower and drowned them in grief.
"Go now, children of the Lunar Shrine," the Keeper recited the ritual phrase. "Go in the blessing of Heaven and protect the peace of the Human World."
The two spheres of light rushed upward and vanished into the darkness of the Cycle's Gate. A second later, the whirlpool vanished.
The Keeper turned toward the exit of the Memories Hall, sighing in pain as he walked. Protect the peace of the Human World? That was an outrageous lie. He knew full well why the two girls were sent there, why they had to sacrifice their future... and their love.
The Keeper pushed the doors open and walked out. In front of the Hall he stood, his head turned toward the Heavenly Palace in the heart of Izumo. He knew his beloved elder sister was in there, out of earshot, out of sight... yet somehow... he could faintly hear her weep.
"Do you feel that, Akira?" Yui said, not turning back to face the person she was speaking to. Instead, she looked straight ahead at the field of white lilies covering everything from outside the room to the distant horizon. On high, the sun was shining. Down low, the flowers were stirring as though a wind was blowing across the land. Ironically, neither the heat of the light nor the movement of the air touched her when they should have. "The Priestesses of Kannazuki had been loosed on the world," she continued as her hand drew the shoji door shut. There was no point in looking too long at an illusion, however beautiful it might be...
Yui settled herself on an armchair and studied the other person in the room carefully. Akira, looking like a man who had been starved for days, slumped motionlessly in his own chair, staring bleakly ahead. Yui did not believe he saw anything with his unblinking eyes. His chest would still rise and fall, however weakly, yet all she could perceive out of him was but a breathing corpse. She sighed. Perhaps Yui's youngest brother was not as handsome as the Keeper of the Memories Hall but the Goddesses in Heaven never stopped swooning over him whenever he walked the streets. She doubted any of those giddy women would want him with his haggard and emotionless face now.
"Seventeen years..." Yui whispered softly, "just another seventeen years, dear Akira, and you shall be free. I promise. No one will stand in your way, and hers, anymore."
Akira gave no sign that he heard.
Yui sighed again and stood to leave. In a flash of golden light, she was gone and reappeared outside, beneath the starlit heavens. She would return to visit him again some other time, though. Laughing quietly to herself, she opened a Dimensional Portal to leave the surface of the deserted Moon. The Holy Messengersmight be watching her closely, but she would lose them as soon as she could find a large crowd of mortals. That lot never realized that they would never learn what Yui was scheming. Well, they would in the future, when Heaven itself trembled in her wrath.