Hello, all! Umm, I was quite busy over the holiday, so I did not get this up as quickly as planned. Anyway, here's the next chapter of Test of Time: Kannazuki no Miko!
Oh, and just so you know, I am trying very hard to keep all characters in character, other than Orochi and Murakumo. If I fail somewhere along the line, please tell me, because chances are I thought it would only bend the canon a little.

Disclaimer: Lady Katsu-hime does not own Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora or Kannazuki no Miko. They both belong to Kaishaku.

Always And Forever

"Interesting," Orochi mused as he watched events unfold from the large mirror before him. "So she has remembered the last time I...interfered." He turned to face a beautiful woman with short spiky sapphire hair. "Your daughter is an extraordinary woman, Murakumo."

Smiling shrewdly, Murakumo replied, "She takes after her father in that respect."

"Shall we check in on the others, then?"

Murakumo nodded and commanded, "Bring the mirror here so I can see better. These chains make it impossible for me to move."

Orochi drew closer to Murakumo, his black hair stringy and plastered to his face. "Soon, dear one, you shall be free again, and we will be together." He summoned the mirror over so that his sapphire-haired goddess could watch the reincarnation of her daughter.

"This is the incarnation which is closest to her true form," Murakumo mused. "Soon might come the day that she is born into her true form, and can free me once and for all." She growled suddenly. "Damn that Oogami!" She pulled at the chains, her muscles rippling as she struggled. "Damn him to Hell! I'm glad he managed to kill himself when he sealed me off, but he taught his heirs to hate me, to hate you, and now we're both locked away." She grimaced. "I want to be quit of these chains!"

Orochi stroked her face gently. "It will come, Mura-koi. It will come. Just as soon as the godless month begins, we can act, and put the black sun in the sky again. We will awaken the Orochi on that day."

"But there are only five Orochi that have reincarnated, and you say that some aren't even able to be Orochi in this form." Murakumo turned her golden eyes to his black ones. "Explain that to me again."

Orochi waved his hand over the mirror, and an image of the previous Eight Necks of the Orochi appeared. "Tsubasa, Miyako, Girochi, Corona, Reiko, Nekoko, Souma, Chikane: the previous generation of Orochi." He waved his hand over the mirror again, and Miyako, Reiko, and Corona disappeared from the image. "Tsubasa, Girochi, Nekoko, Souma, and Chikane are the only ones who were reincarnated, and out of those, only two of them are still able to be Orochi."

"Two out of eight?" Murakumo gasped.

Nodding, Orochi continued, waving his hand over the image of the five people. They transformed into their modern-day incarnations: Tsubasa became Ayanokouji Kazuya, Girochi became Ayanokouji Sojiro, Nekoko became Absolute Angel Tarlotte, Souma became Ayanokouji Kyoshiro, and Chikane became Absolute Angel Kaon. "Of course, I cannot force Kaon to be an Orochi, because she is the Lunar Miko. If she is to come, it will be for the same reasons as last time, and I won't watch the same scenario twice. Kyoshiro is too cautious to let me manipulate him, and his feelings for Shiratori Kuu would overwhelm his calling as an Orochi. Sojiro is too soft-hearted, he is too calm, and he loves Tarlotte. So, Mura-koi, you see that only Kazuya and Tarlotte herself could be manipulated to become my Orochi."

"Kazuya is mentally incapacitated, Orochi-sama. He is no condition to attack anyone, not with that Valteishia hovering over him constantly. And Tarlotte is much too young. She'd only destroy half the city for fun."

Orochi frowned at his love. "Are you trying to keep yourself captive?"

"Orochi-sama, I wish to be free, not to be indebted to fools. If you are going to assign Orochi, do it correctly, or else not at all, and make me wait for another lifetime while a new generation grows up." She smiled shrewdly at him. "Can you handle me being so near and yet so unattainable, Orochi-sama?"

He growled. "I've already waited far too long for my goddess to visit late in the night." He looked back at the mirror. "I can cure Kazuya. I can make him eligible for my Mark. And Tarlotte is not so young that she cannot serve me. She can be taught."

Murakumo snorted derisively. "By whom? I presume you're not going to teach her yourself?"

"No," Orochi smiled back at her. "Ayanokouji Mika is going to teach Tarlotte."

"Mika?" Murakumo shook her head. "She presumed far too much, and thought to control my daughter. That is why I allowed her to be killed. She is dead, Orochi-sama."

Orochi's grin grew wider. "Yet, I am death itself, am I not? I can call Mika back for this purpose, and undoubtedly she will be killed again."

Murakumo raised one perfect blue eyebrow. "You're going to call her back from the dead and let her run free as an Orochi so that the Miko can kill her again?"

"Either kill her or heal her, which is about the same."

Murakumo sighed. "Okay, so we have three, out of eight. This is going to take forever…"

"Kyoshiro-san?" A soft voice floated down the corridor. There was no answer.

"Maybe he's with Sojiro-san and Tarlotte-chan," a girl with black hair suggested and adjusted the goggles on her head. "What do you think, Kuu?"

Kuu shook her head. "Sojiro-oniisan took Tarlotte-chan to the beach today. He invited Kyoshiro-san to go, but he declined because he was planning a surprise for today. I wanted to help, but I can't find him anywhere." She looked at her best friend. "Hey, Kozue-chan, are you sure you haven't seen him anywhere?"

Expertly hiding the knowing smile on her face, Kozue replied, "I haven't seen him since last Saturday, when we all went riding together."

"Hmmm…" Kuu frowned delicately and retied one of the blue ribbons in her hair as she mused.

It was only three months since Kyoshiro had finished his hunt of the Earth with Setsuna, searching for Kuu, but already Kuu had fallen into a routine. After regaining her memories and magically returning to her original age, Kuu was brought back to live again in Kyoshiro's grand house, and was much spoiled by Kyoshiro, who was ecstatic that he had found Kuu. Kuu had pretty dresses, and precious jewelry, and her own white mare, which she rode on most sunny afternoons along with Kyoshiro. Setsuna accompanied the pair back to Academia, but there she said her goodbyes and left. Kuu and Kyoshiro hadn't seen her since.

One of Kuu's first priorities was to go back and find Kozue and thoroughly explain everything to her. Kozue had finished school while Kuu was away, and she currently lived unemployed. Kuu offered her a place in the Ayanokouji household, which Kozue accepted, and now the black-haired girl was studying aeronautics with Kyoshiro's help.

One problem remained, however: Kyoshiro was in his early twenties when he found Kuu, but she'd only magically become sixteen, the age she'd been when she disappeared. Neither Kuu nor Kyoshiro knew of any way to fix the age difference, and though Kuu said it didn't matter to her, it was not socially acceptable in Academia to have such a wide age difference in a couple. The problem seemed to be rectifying itself on its own, though; Kuu found herself constantly changing, growing up to Kyoshiro's age. The metamorphosis was not as quick as when she'd been found, but Kuu nonetheless found it very unsettling. Every day there was something different about her face or her body.

Sojiro and Tarlotte were living well, and Tarlotte had written Kuu a letter recently; it was rather short and many words were misspelled, but Kuu treasured it anyway. Sojiro took his duties seriously, and he and Oogami Jin grew to be friends. Sojiro and Kyoshiro often got together to do things, inviting Tarlotte and Kuu along. Kuu became close enough to Sojiro to call him "brother," which Sojiro enjoyed.

"Kyoshiro-san!" Kuu called loudly, climbing the stairs of the mansion to the second floor. Kozue followed close behind. Kuu pushed open his bedroom door. "Kyoshiro-san, are you home?"


"Kozue-chan, where could he be?" Kuu said as she ran down the steps and out the mansion's door.

Kozue giggled. "I don't know. Maybe he did go to the beach after all. Should I saddle up Shiro?"

"Please do, Kozue-chan. I wish he'd left me a note or something."

Kuu waited for her mare, Shiro, to be saddled, and then swung herself up into the saddle, patting the mare's white neck affectionately. "Shiro-chan, we're going to find Kyoshiro-san!"

The horse snorted and whinnied as if she understood, and Kuu believed she had. "Kozue-chan, hurry up!"

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Kozue laughed, emerging from the stable on her chestnut-colored horse. "Where to, Kuu-sama?"

"To the beach!" Kuu replied, ignoring Kozue's mocking title. She urged Shiro on, and the mare responded, breaking immediately into a gallop. Kozue followed behind, laughing along with Kuu in their mutual joy in riding.

This was really fun, Kuu decided as she let Kozue catch up with her and Shiro. Living the life she'd only dreamed about, with her love by her side and her best friend nearby…it almost brought tears to her eyes as she thought about what a beautiful existence she enjoyed.

"Too bad it's going to end soon," Orochi laughed maniacally from high above as he watched the scene in his mirror.

"Kaon-chan? I have snacks…" Himiko said softly after she knocked on Kaon's bedroom door. There was still no answer.

Himiko sighed and flopped against the wall, letting her single crutch fall to the ground and holding the tray of food delicately. It was the same, even after a week. Ever since that moonlit night when Himiko had told Kaon her true name, Kaon had taken to locking herself away for long periods of time and not answering when Himiko knocked. The blonde worried about her lover excessively, and still wondered what happened to Kaon that night. What effect did Himiko's true name have on Kaon?

Also, lately Himiko had begun having strange dreams. Dreams of an elegant dark-haired person in purple Miko robes. Dreams of a sandy-blonde-haired girl in red Miko robes. Dreams of mecha, dreams of swords, dreams of battles, dreams of a goddess with the same hair as Kaon and golden eyes. Dreams of a man, a man who made her heart swoon. Himiko didn't know what the dreams meant, or who any of the people were. She was concerned only about her beloved Kaon's well-being.

"Kaon-chan, please open the door. I want…I want to talk to you," Himiko whispered to herself, her eyes filling with tears. "I…I'm scared, Kaon-chan. I'm scared of what's happened. I'm scared of what's to come. I…I love you, Kaon-chan, even if you don't love me anymore. I love you…" Himiko slid pathetically to the ground and put the tray on the floor before curling up and dissolving into tears. "Kaon-chan…"

Inside the room, Kaon listened in despair to Himiko's sobs, but she didn't move from her bed. What could she do? Ever since she'd gained memories of her previous life—and it had to be her previous life, or she wouldn't have felt the pain so strongly—she felt there was something lost in her relationship with Himiko. Kaon couldn't even look at the girl without remembering Himeko, without feeling a pang at her heart for what was.

She curled up on top of the bed and let tears slide silently down her cheeks. "Himiko…I'm sorry, Himiko. I'm sorry I've been so cruel to you…I just…I just…" The tears came faster as an image of Himiko's face appeared in her mind, and then suddenly morphed to the face of Himeko. "I love you, Himiko. I do. I just need to think. I'm sorry…Himiko…Himeko…" she sobbed audibly. "Kurusugawa Himeko…"

Himiko paused in her crying and leaned against the wall to listen to Kaon cry out her true name and the name given to her by Mika. Kaon was in pain, that she could tell, and she needed help. Himiko stood carefully, grabbing the crutch on the way up, and hobbled over to the door. Without knocking, she twisted the doorknob and threw open the door to find Kaon curled up on her bed, sobbing into her pillow.

"Kaon-chan! Kaon-chan!" Himiko stumbled over and fell on top of Kaon. "Ow, sorry…" She rolled off and ended up in front of Kaon.

Kaon didn't move, but continued in her crying. "Himiko…Himeko…"

"Kaon-chan, what's wrong? It's me, isn't it? I must have done something wrong. Something to hurt you like this!" Himiko grabbed Kaon's elegant hand in her own. "Tell me! Tell me so I can fix it, Kaon-chan! I don't," and here her own tears started again, "I don't want to hurt you anymore."

Eyes widening, Kaon suddenly gripped Himiko's hand tightly. Himiko thought she was hurting Kaon? The blue-haired girl met Himiko's purple eyes. "No, Himiko. You never hurt me, ever. I'm sorry for the way I've been acting. It's just…"

Himiko cuddled close to Kaon. "You don't need to tell me now if you don't feel comfortable talking about it. I understand."

Shaking her head, Kaon replied, "I want to tell you. I want to tell you everything that's been bothering me, like I should have from the start." And there she began her tale of everything she'd remembered since Himiko had revealed her true name, and everything she'd been feeling.

Himiko's eyes, which had been widening steadily throughout the story, widened even more as she said, "So it is my fault you're feeling bad?"

There was a pause, and the Kaon burst into laughter. "No, Himiko. I think…" she became suddenly serious. "I think I would have remembered anyway. And soon, maybe you'll remember your past life." Kaon smiled gently, and then said, "Didn't you say something about having snacks before?"

Kaon's stomach grumbled to punctuate her question, and Himiko broke into giggles as well, and then drew closer to Kaon to share a kiss. "I love you, Kaon-chan."

"I love you, Himiko. Always and forever."