NOTE: This is an out-and-out sequel to the manga version of Kannazuki no Miko, rather than the anime, which should be immediately obvious from the relationship of the resurrected priestesses. The differences aren't that drastic beyond that, but it does matter somewhat, particularly in the way in which the final confrontation between Himeko and Chikane took place, and also in a few details of their past lives, the technical requirements for summoning various deities, and so on...okay, and Chikane is more devious and evil than her anime counterpart, but Himeko's working on that. I suppose that deserves a warning that it does concern an incestuous relationship between twin sisters, though I doubt anyone would think it really counts given that their souls are centuries old and not originally sisters (plus that they remember at least one of their past lives, so it's not like they'll have to grapple with the whole question of who they are to one another), but hey, one person's ZOMG! is another person's squick.
As I did for my earlier DoA fic, "Serpent's Egg," I'd like to openly admit that I face a problem in the naming of my characters. While my knowledge of Japanese is better than my knowledge of Chinese, in that I actually have some, I have virtually no knowledge of Japanese history and culture. Thus while I'm fairly certain that I'm attaching female names to female characters, male names to male characters, and using family names as family names, I face the risk that these names will accidentally turn into bad jokes (i.e. if the kanji for them might be read as something like "gatherer of goat dung") or may accidentally end up being the same as noble statesmen, idol singers, financial leaders, politicians ousted from office after scandal, or the current right fielder for the Chunichi Dragons. I hope that in the event any such embarrassing mistakes are made, that they will at least bring amusement to those who possess knowledge where I have only ignorance.
Along the same lines, I know for a fact that if I tried to have the characters address each other with Japanese honorifics, that I would make mistakes, since I simply lack the knowledge of Japanese culture that would allow me to pick a proper honorific given character and relationship. Therefore, I have not attempted to use them, even though it means missing out on obvious and appropriate usages such as Himeko's trademark "Chikane-chan" (Which I admit I'm going to miss. Badly.). Likewise, since I'm writing this story in English the characters will address each other in the form natural to English speakers (i.e. first names among students rather than last names). I have left "Miya-sama" intact as the single exception, simply because there's no real English-language equivalent for the concept being used.
Enough from me. Enjoy the story!
In the beginning, humanity lived in innocence, in accordance with the will of the gods. The world was peaceful and idyllic. But in the hearts of the people lurked a darkness. Desire for things they could not have. Jealousy of others who seemed wealthier and happier. Malice and hatred for what they believed stood in their way. Arrogance to think that what was not theirs should be. The darkness seethed within them until it took root within the very fabric of the world.
And Yamata no Orochi was born.
- - - - - - - - - -
"Major Junichi Ozawa, mastermind of the so-called Slaughter of Sendai, is just now leaving the courtroom," the webvid reporter announced into the camera. "Let's see if we can get any comment on the verdict. Major Ozawa!" she cried. "Major Ozawa! A moment please!"
She was lost in the sea of other reporters in the next instant, merely one in a faceless, formless shape of flashing lights and screamed questions that were as much invective as they were requests for information.
"Do you think the guilty verdict was fair?"
"Major Ozawa, what does it feel like to be found responsible for the death of one hundred thirty-four civilians?"
"Is this what militarism means to modern Japan, Major Ozawa? Children dead in the streets?"
"Do you think a prison term will wash away the blood on your hands?"
Between the JSDF military policemen, Ozawa stood ramrod-straight. Clad in his dress uniform from the trial, his stern, severe face seemingly chiseled from slabs of granite, he presented a stern, unbending manner. One could easily believe that this was the man whose unit had launched an artillery strike against a school, concluding an antiterrorist operation gone horribly wrong with the blood of teachers, administrators, and children.
"We haven't confirmed their claims yet, Control."
"Team Alpha, your orders are clear and unequivocal. We cannot allow them to release the sarin gas. The terrorists are currently all located within the gymnasium. They can be eliminated."
"But the hostages! Control, we need more time to determine if the threat is real!"
"We do not have that luxury, Major Ozawa. Execute your orders or you will be relieved."
So he'd done what he was ordered. He gave the go-ahead to his team to strike. And when it had been found that the eleven extremists had nothing deadlier than semiautomatic weapons, the questions and doubts had turned to outrage. A feeding frenzy from the media, from society.
Where were those who made the decision? Ozawa thought bitterly as he was led away. The intelligence analysts, the command group, the bureaucrats? Nameless and faceless forever, while Major Junichi Ozawa's face was all too conveniently clear in the public mind. He bore his share of guilt, but it was nothing compared to the rage he felt towards those who piously smiled while cleaning their bloody hands in his blood. A rage that burned all the more fiercely as he had no name to direct it against.
- - - - - - - - - -
Yamata no Orochi screamed its malice from eight throats, and breathed a wind of destruction from eight mouths. The seas rose, the mountains belched fire, and the earth cracked before the darkness-made-will. The innocent suffered. The guilty died. The works of mankind were shattered without mercy, and all that was good and all that was ill perished equally in the fires of hate. The dying screamed to their gods for protection, but their pleas fell upon deaf ears. This was the Godless Month, in which the world was forced to suffer on its own.
- - - - - - - - - -
He had thought it through. Made up his mind. The urge was so strong he could not bear it any longer. The lines of fire tingling beneath his fingers, the silvery, metallic taste on his tongue, the electric pressure surging at the base of his groin.
He'd watched and waited for days, days that stretched into weeks, savoring the delicious agony of suspense and doubt. She belonged to him now. Only to him. He'd staked his claim to her, watched over her, all in anticipation of this moment.
He opened the door of the nondescript white sedan and slipped out. The heels of his shiny black shoes clicked off the pavement of the parking garage. He savored the memory of how the ghosts of those echoes would reach her, how she'd stop and look around on a quiet street, only to see nothing as he'd fade into the shadows just beyond sight.
He knew her schedule in minute detail. She would emerge from the door across the way between six-twenty-four and six-twenty-eight, and she'd be his. He wondered what she'd be wearing, how the texture would feel as it parted beneath his hands.
The wire was around his neck without hint or warning. He had no idea what had happened, the pressure clamping down and the terrific blow in the small of his back were beyond his experience. There was no time to prepare, no time to react, and by the time he realized what was happening, it was too late. His absolute control of the situation was gone, mastery solely in the hands of another, throttling, choking until his senses swam and the blood ran from where the wire had bitten into the flesh of his neck. He'd been dead for more than three minutes when the pressure was finally relaxed.
No, not him, Akemi Kuroda admitted to herself. Not her so-called "boyfriend" from junior high school. But he had been stalking the woman in 11C for several weeks now. Just as, Akemi was sure, he'd stalked and raped Mari Ishida seven months ago.
The switchblade glinted in the dim emergency lighting.
No, he wasn't Kazuo. But for a while, at least, she could pretend.
- - - - - - - - - -
Without the protection of the divine, the world seemed lost before the fury of Yamata no Orochi. Then two pure shrine maidens, priestesses of the sun and moon, shed of their own blood in a cry to the God of Swords, Ame no Murakumo. Unable to resist their pleas, Ame no Murakumo cleft the dark skies of Kannazuki like a spear of light, and at the guidance of the miko rose to do battle with Yamata no Orochi.
- - - - - - - - - -
He wielded the brush deftly, in gentle strokes measured precisely, almost mathematically.
Everything had to be done just so. It wasn't enough to capture the mood or the feeling, the attitude that had to be expressed by the piece. No, an absolute precision was demanded by the work.
That was the essence of it, just as in handwriting one followed a certain stroke order or a character looked wrong, so too in this did each sweep of the brush have to be done in an exact order, an exact fashion or there would be flaws.
A heavy hand fell on his right shoulder, and it was all that Keiichi Hirata could do to keep from smearing the brush across the canvas and ruining a month's work.
"Damn it, Tanaka!" he exploded. "Do you think I can just pick up an eraser if something goes wrong? What's wrong with you?"
Tanaka flinched. A big man with the black leather jacket and spiky hair of a punk, he still deferred to the temperamental artist who'd been his best friend since kindergarten.
"Hey, I just wanted to tell you, I got that stuff you wanted." He held up a paper bag and Hirata snatched at it eagerly.
"Finally!" He took out the tubes, glancing at them. "Yes, the right color, exactly what I need to--" He stopped as he caught sight of the back of one tube, of its list of chemical ingredients. He ground his teeth in frustration. "You...idiot!"
"What is it? I got what you wanted, didn't I?"
"You got the right color, yes. But tell me, Tanaka, how is it that anyone will believe this is Van Gogh's Starry Night if the most basic chemical test reveals paint that wasn't in use until the latter half of the twentieth century?"
He hurled the bag across the room, where it crashed into a pair of leftover dinner glasses and shattered them.
"Isn't it bad enough I'm stuck grinding out those forgeries so that your yakuza friends have something to bribe those idiot politicians with? Forced to stifle my art, every bit of my own self for the sake of making an adequate product that won't get us knifed and dumped in a harbor? Can't you at least try to follow the most basic directions?"
"Ease up, Hirata, I'm not some damn chemistry major, am I? And at least my friends are willing to pay you for these." He waved at the half-complete canvas. "Before I came along, you were gonna get kicked out onto the street. You've got a roof over your head now, food on the table, so maybe you'd better try remembering that this is a pretty sweet deal for both of us. So tell me what you need, and this time give me all the details, 'kay?"
Hirata exhaled, long and slow, swallowing the anger.
"Yeah. Yeah, all right." And he began to tell Tanaka the precise requirements he needed to reproduce someone else's creativity, someone else's dreams, while he continued to choke off his own, unwanted hopes.
- - - - - - - - - -
When the titanic clash was over, Yamata no Orochi lay still and broken. Ame no Murakumo hurled it from the earth and buried it within the moon, then set a shrine above it to seal its malice. Yet the darkness had lain waste to the world and such devastation had been wreaked that the end was nigh. And thus did the Priestess of the Sun offer her life for the rebirth for the world, and the Priestess of the Moon did sorrowfully shed her blood, and from this sacrifice was time rewritten and the horror of the Godless Month undone.
- - - - - - - - - -
The elegant evening gown clung to Saori Takamine's body like a second skin, glossy scarlet silk framing an exquisite form ruthlessly maintained through diet and exercise. Jet-black hair cut to a razor-edge line at shoulder length contrasted with milky-white skin and was set off by diamonds at ears and throat.
This is it, she thought. Kenji had said he had something important to discuss with her tonight. They were dining in his suite rather than at the restaurant, which meant that he had something else planned for afterwards. Her lips curved in an amused smile as the elevator ascended. How like a man to be thinking of the bedroom at such a time.
A soft chime signaled the arrival of the elevator at the penthouse level. The doors slid open, and Kenji Kojima extended a hand to welcome her. The president of Himemiya Macrotechnology was fifty-three, with iron-gray hair and a neatly trimmed moustache. He'd grown a bit thicker of build, a little fleshier during the years of their relationship, but he was still a handsome man. Besides which, Kenji's appearance was by no means Saori's principal interest in him.
"You look lovely tonight, Saori."
"Thank you. As you said it was to be a special occasion, I took extra care. I hope that I have not embarrassed myself."
"Not at all. Come, let us eat."
She almost spoke up, but long years of practice allowed her to restrain herself, to wait. Kenji led her to the table, which was laid out Western-style with crisp white linens and glittering silver, lit by two long white taper candles. The cuisine was French and, as to be expected from the five-star hotel's kitchen, excellent. Saori ate very little, though; the excitement and anticipation had unsettled her stomach.
The end finally came, however, when all was cleared away and it was just the two of them.
"Saori..." he began.
"I scarcely know where to begin," he said. "For so many years now, our relationship has been a fixture in my life." He reached into his pocket and took out a jewelry box, the name on the package one of Tokyo's most prestigious firms. Yet the box was long and thin, suitable for a necklace or bracelet. What was happening?
"It causes me much regret, therefore, that this will be the last time I am able to see you, and I hope you will accept this token of my regard."
He extended the box to Saori, but she made no move to take it. Instead, she could only stare at him, dumbstruck.
"Saori, this is as hard for me as it is for you, but surely we can discuss it like mature adults. You're certainly not a child anymore."
"This...this was the 'something special' you had to say to me tonight?" she forced out the words. "That you were tossing me aside?"
"I've already given instructions to continue the payment on your apartment through the end of next month," he continued without apparent emotion, "but after that you'll have to make your own arrangements."
"I...I thought...you meant to ask me to marry you!"
Now he did show emotion: surprise, followed immediately by disbelief.
"Marry you? Saori, you're a woman of the world. Surely you didn't think I was some lovestruck fool who would marry his mistress like...the hero of some American romance movie? You gave me your time, your company, and pleasure, and I gave you money. That was the essence of our relationship."
"It's been ten years!"
"It has, and if I may be blunt, things have reached the point where the advantages of familiarity have become outweighed by the benefits of youth and attractiveness."
"You bastard!" She hurled the dregs of her wine into his face. While he sputtered, she snatched the jewelry box away from him and stalked towards the door, a white heat beginning to build in the pit of her stomach.
- - - - - - - - - -
Yet the hearts of humanity were still tainted in this new world, and in time they would call again to Yamata no Orochi, and the darkness would again sunder the seal to bring destruction. For this day, the soul of the Solar Priestess was condemned to remain within the shrine that she may again be sent forth and reborn when Orochi stirred. And the soul of the Lunar Priestess was returned to the world to endure in solitude until that day.
- - - - - - - - - -
Yuujiro Abe was grateful that he commuted by train. He'd turned in yet another week of twelve-hour days at the office. His whole section had, since the company's future depended upon their work. A handful of new processes together with internally maintained business efficiencies had led close observers to recognize the future value of the company was much greater than its present stock price on the Nikkei exchange suggested. They were ripe for takeover, and Mitsubishi had struck. Desperate to keep the company he'd poured his life's blood into from being snapped up and devoured, CEO Nishida had sought a white knight.
He'd been lucky enough to find one that had been willing to leave the company mostly intact, if taking a substantial share in future profits, and Abe's section had been working day and night to hammer out the final terms to make them a vassal of the Himemiya Financial Group. The last three days Abe hadn't even gone home, just crashed at a coffin hotel and dragged himself back to his desk before dawn. But they'd succeeded; the deal was done and the papers signed before the deadline for presenting the Mitsubishi offer to shareholders.
Of course, such an event had to be celebrated; the entire section had been invited out with the corporate heads. Although by that time Abe had wanted nothing more than to crawl into his own bed, he'd been obliged to attend and to put alcohol on top of exhaustion. Yes, he was very glad that for the hour-and-a-half commute he was not required to drive but could simply drop into a seat and wait. It would feel so good to be home, to peel away the public face of the working salaryman and be alone with his wife Aoi.
The walk home from the suburban station was slow and halting; the cool night air did little to revive him. He fumbled with his key in the lock, making too much noise as he removed his shoes. Suddenly the foyer's inner door was flung open.
"You!" a woman's voice shrieked.
In the next instant a hand cracked hard against his face.
"How dare you show yourself here?"
It wasn't Aoi, his bleary mind recognized. It was...Amane, Aoi's sister. But why was she so angry?
"What is it? Where's Aoi?"
"She's dead! Not that you care, you bastard!" Tears streaming down her face, she pounded at his chest with tiny fists.
Abe couldn't think, couldn't act. Aoi...dead? It couldn't be! It didn't make sense! What was she saying?
"A-Amane," he stammered out. "What happened?"
"It was appendicitis. She went to the hospital two days ago, but she'd put off getting medical help too long," Amane sobbed. "They--they couldn't do anything to save her."
"But why didn't anyone tell me?"
"Why didn't--?" Amane gasped, then her face twisted with rage. "We tried and tried! I called. The doctors called. And do you know what we were told? 'Mr. Abe is occupied with important corporate business and cannot be disturbed for merely personal matters.'"
Abe's hands went slack, his jaw dropping, not even noticing when his sister-in-law began to scream at him again. He'd worked, he'd given hours of his life, his sweat and tears to the company, and what did it mean? Nothing at all. He was nothing but a source of food for this insatiable vampire that would take and take until he had nothing left to offer, then dispose of him, clearing space for fresh meat for it to consume.
Hot tears spilled down his face as a bitter hate rose up to consume him.
- - - - - - - - - -
Thus did the ages pass, and the cycles repeat, of Kannazuki and the horror of Yamata no Orochi, the sealing, and the sacrifice of rebirth. And so did the separation tear at the hearts of the shrine maidens, and their souls cried out to one another for their ever-so-brief time together before their cruel parting.
Until at last, consumed by guilt and loss, the soul of the Lunar Priestess fell to darkness.
- - - - - - - - - -
Kei Tsujimura was in his element: the hard, driving rock beat through the speakers, the flashing, twisting lights, the bodies in constant motion on and off the dance floor.
"Now, this is my kinda place!" he muttered as he scoped out a girl with tanned skin and dyed-blonde hair dressed in something red and slinky. But the scenery, good as it was, wasn't why he was here. Maybe later he could try his luck. Right now, though, was for business. The nineteen-year-old might not have some fancy education, but street life had taught Kei that business was business.
"Aha, there he is."
There were four of them at a back table, men in dark suits. The heat of the club didn't seem to touch any of them. Kei worked his way through the press and over to them. They looked up at his approach. One of the men, the broadest of the four, rose from his seat to block Kei's progress.
"Mr. Mori," Kei said, giving a nod by way of a bow. "It's good to see you again."
"Eh? What is this?" hissed another man, not Mori but one Kei didn't know.
"An unwelcome interruption."
"Hey, now, no need to be that way. I just happened to be in the neighborhood and wanted to know when you'd be needing me again."
"When I would be...?"
"Yeah, see, I've been pulling a lot of jobs for you, and it seems to me that it's about time you kicked me up to full kobun in the Taki-gumi." There, he'd said it. And damn it, it was right. He wasn't going to be some petty street tough forever!
Mori flicked his eyes at the standing man. In the next instant Kei was bent over, gasping and choking from the blow to his solar plexus. God, he'd barely seen the man move!
"Go away, and we will forget this ever happened," Mori said flatly.
It was actually a fairly generous offer for the yakuza under-oyabun to make, but Kei's blood was up, less from the punch than from the snub.
"Hey, now, there's no call for that! I've been working hard for you, gave you my loyalty and I'd say it's time to get some of it back!"
The big man hit him again.
"Loyalty?" Mori hissed. "You speak to me of loyalty? You are garbage, the trash picked off the street and offered money to do work. The Taki-gumi is a family, and one does not invite punk garbage into one's home to become part of one's family. Daizo, remove him."
"Yes, sir. Do you want me to--?"
"The stench might foul your knife. It is not worth the risk."
Daizo nodded. With a firm hand he steered Kei out the back way into the alley behind the club. Kei hit the far wall hard, came back swinging, but the yakuza soldier sidestepped the punch and chopped the back of his neck. The blows came rapidly, then, first from his hands, then kicks once Kei could no longer stand.
Daizo left him there, curled up and bleeding from a split lip and where a kick had opened up a cut under one eye. But Kei was still conscious, and he saw how the yakuza fastidiously wiped his shoes before reentering the club.
- - - - - - - - - -
Unable to bear the pain of condemning her heart's twin to oblivion and solitude, unable to bear the cruelty of eternal meetings and partings, the Priestess of the Moon sought to kindle hatred within the Priestess of the Sun, in the hope that the Solar Priestess might strike her down and in so doing choose to remake the world without her, without the endless cycle, and be free to find happiness without the burden of her tainted half.
- - - - - - - - - -
"I beg your pardon, Miya-sama!"
They called out like a gathered crowd cheering the praises of a royal processional. It wasn't such a large crowd or so densely packed here at Kamiyatate University as it had been in junior high and high school, but a change of campus had not changed the status of Mahoroba's reigning princess. She was as much admired and respected--and desired--as she had been at Ototachibana Academy.
Reiko Himemiya was the daughter of the wealthiest family in the district. The Himemiya clan had founded the town over a thousand years ago. Though they had risen to prominence in international business circles, the family's home estate had always been in this quiet town in western Japan, and had been largely responsible for preserving its heritage and slow way of life in defiance of the frenetic pace of modern technological advancement. They had spared no expense in their daughter's education: tutors and governesses had trained her in the skills of a lady even as she had attended Ototachibana so as to be surrounded by the people her family relied upon and owed an almost feudal duty to, according to Reiko's father. It was only right and natural that Reiko should be looked up to by her classmates.
Except that she wasn't. Reiko was only "Miya-sama" to the servants at home. At school, as always, she was merely one of the crowd that watched eagerly for a glimpse of their idol.
Reiko could hardly begrudge the girl her position. Tsukuyo Asamiya was everything Reiko wasn't: where the Himemiya heiress was short and a little dumpy with a blotchy complexion, Tsukuyo was tall, curvaceous, and beautiful, with a sweep of knee-length blue-black hair that never showed a strand out of place. Where Reiko got nervous and stammered in front of crowds and strangers, Tsukuyo was always calm and poised, even queenly. Where Reiko had to fight to remember the proper manners for formal, traditional affairs, they came to Tsukuyo with an apparently effortless grace. Beyond that she was an honor student, star of a tennis team that had made it nearly to the national finals, captain of the archery club, and a talented amateur pianist.
The plain truth was that if one met Reiko and Tsukuyo together, without prior knowledge no one would ever correctly identify which was one of Japan's greatest heiresses and which was the daughter of a site foreman for a Himemiya-owned construction company.
Reiko didn't resent any of it. She wouldn't have been comfortable being a princess, anyway. The thing that gnawed at her heart was something entirely different.
Part of Miya-sama's regal air was the poise with which she treated her fans. A calm voice, a gentle smile, a gracious acknowledgment of their feelings. Confessions of love were inevitably turned aside, but never sharply, always with respect for the courage needed to take that step. She competed skillfully and diligently, even relentlessly, but without anger at sports; she performed unobtrusive acts of kindness. All of it done with a control and dignity suitable for the role she played.
With one person, though, it was different. Then, Tsukuyo would smile brightly with real joy, laugh heartily or giggle playfully, become caught up in worry or genuinely angry. Towards that person or in her presence, Tsukuyo wasn't Miya-sama, but just an ordinary girl.
Reiko wished with all of her heart that she was that one person, that Tsukuyo would look on her with the radiance she seemed to save for her twin sister. But for fourteen years, kindergarten through the start of their freshman year of college, there had been no sign of it, no hint, no hope that the Himemiya heiress was anything to Tsukuyo than just another face in the crowd.
- - - - - - - - - -
Yet the spirit of the Solar Priestess would not succumb, and her love was not so frail a thing as to break beneath the torments placed upon her. In the end she found the strength to deny her beloved's fear and guilt, to defy Ame no Murakumo and fate and destiny, and she chose to abandon her own life, to seal herself away together with the Lunar Priestess so that they might make of the time imprisoned not a cruel separation but a lover's idyll, and so that they might, when called to the world again, to be together throughout their reborn lives.
Only, fate is not a thing so easily broken.