Disclaimer: I do not own Kannazuki no Miko or its characters. No matter how much I wish I did. I also do not own Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon or its awesome ending theme.
Author's Note: This story was a rabid plotbunny that ran away from me, and as such is also slight AU. In this version of the ending, Chikane's attempt to make Himeko hate her backfired, and Himeko still sacrificed herself in the end. Also in this version, everyone knows what happened after the world was reborn again.
One More Time
The small one bedroom apartment was dumpy and closer to resembling that of a storage room shed that hadn't seen the light of day in years. It wasn't, Makoto mused as she absently pushed down a loose floorboard with her foot, the kind of place one would expect to find Himemiya Chikane. The young heir's recent decision to move out of her home and live on her own was viewed by a majority of the public as her first sign of adulthood, a step away from the child she'd been and a step closer to the woman she'd one day become.
Makoto viewed it as a grieving person gradually withdrawing from life, isolating themselves so they could die quietly and no one would ever know.
Shaking her head to banish the morbid thought and keeping a wary eye out for another loose floorboard, lest she step on one and send her butt on another trip to pain, the track star stealthily crept through the apartment, feeling like a burglar. She'd arrived at the two-story building to discover Chikane's door unlocked, actually propped open with a few school textbooks, but once stepping inside she understood; the summer heat was intense, but the apartment building's air-conditioning unit was broken. A few windows had been left open as well, but it wasn't helping much.
Scattered haphazardly throughout the rooms of the apartment were boxes, all open and their contents strewn about in a manner that suggested much pent-up energy had been spent unpacking that morning. The energy obviously had drained as afternoon approached, and Makoto found Chikane not cleaning out her apartment or doing any other necessary chore, but simply standing by one of the open windows, gazing out into the street below.
The fact that the heir of Himemiya spared her only a single fleeting glance told Makoto that she'd been well aware of the other girl's presence but hadn't acknowledged it. Taking the former Lunar Priestess's silence as permission Makoto walked to her side, quietly propping herself on the windowsill and following Chikane's gaze. "Not much to look at this time of year," she said conversationally. "The town gets quiet in the summer time."
An absent murmur from Chikane; Makoto suspected the girl was simply on auto-pilot, carrying out the necessary gestures until her guest saw fit to leave. Pity for her, Makoto wasn't planning on leaving anytime soon. "You haven't been coming to school."
Chikane said nothing.
"You need to start coming again. The principal's getting ready to expel you, you've missed so many days. You might not graduate at this rate."
Chikane still said nothing.
Without any hesitation and a twinge of guilt and grief, Makoto called on her trump card. "You know, if Himeko was still alive, she'd be scolding you right now. She always said you were smart. She wouldn't want you to throw that away because of her."
Ah, so she speaks. "I can just hear her now. Plain as day." Knowing exactly what button she was pushing, Makoto continued nonetheless. "Hell, if she was here she'd probably drag you back to the classroom by your ear. She wouldn't want you to seclude yourself just because she's dead—"
Fierce agony exploded in her stomach, hot fire and sharp like a knife; the force of Chikane's blow sent Makoto right off the windowsill onto the floor, where she rolled like a ball before coming to rest on her back, staring up at the ceiling. Grimacing, the track star slowly closed her eyes and blew out a long, ragged breath. "I probably deserved that," she rasped.
"You did." Eyes burning with fury, Chikane lowered her fist. "I told you to be quiet."
Makoto opened her eyes, studying the ceiling for a few minutes in silence. "There's a crack in your ceiling," she said, her tone mild. "You should probably talk to your landlord about that, Chikane-san. It could become a problem in the colder months."
Chikane lifted a brow. Makoto had dropped the respectful 'Miya-sama' that ran rampant in school. She'd always known the girl was bold, but she couldn't help the small surprise. The only other person who had ever called her by name had been Himeko. Grunting, the track star sat up and shook herself like a dog. Over the past few weeks she'd let her hair grow longer, enough to form a small baby ponytail, and it wagged behind her now as she rubbed her nose.
"Himeko always said she wanted you to grow your hair out."
At Chikane's soft voice, Makoto looked at her in surprise. Tentatively the taller girl nodded, not sure how to judge her abrupt change in mood and topic. "Yeah." She laughed quietly at the memory. "It was probably the only thing she ever bugged me about. Used to tease her, you know. Told her I'd grow it out if she told me who she liked." Makoto met Chikane's gaze. "She never told me."
It was a moot point, of course. In the wake of the world's rebirth and the lasting memories of the townspeople, everyone knew what had happened between the Lunar Priestess and the Solar Priestess. They knew only the bare facts; Kazuki had been sure of that. But Makoto hadn't been Himeko's best friend for nothing, and it hadn't taken her long to put two and two together.
"Why did you come here, Makoto-san?" Crossing her arms loosely over her chest, Chikane leaned back against the wall. "I doubt you simply wanted an excuse to get punched in the gut."
"Mako-chan, please. The only people who ever call me 'Makoto' are my parents." Makoto rubbed the back of her neck, suddenly feeling awkward. "And I just… uh… I came to check up on you, I guess. You weren't coming to school, and then we heard you'd moved out, and I got a little worried." She shrugged. "And, you know… Himeko would have dragged me out here, either way. So I figured I was doing both of you a favor." She shrugged.
For a few minutes Chikane just stared at Makoto, not sure how she was supposed to absorb the auburn-haired girl's honest confession. She lowered her eyes, and her hand gently played with the pink seashell that hung around her neck from a gold chain. Finally, she blew out a breath. "If you knew what happened at the shrine, you wouldn't want to see me," she whispered.
"I have a pretty good idea of what happened, actually." Makoto shrugged again as Chikane's eyes fell on her. "Even from the condensed version Oogami-san gave the villagers, it's easy to figure out what happened if you knew Himeko at all." She met Chikane's gaze evenly, though the grief that floated in her eyes was real and fresh. "She couldn't do it in the end, could she? Even after everything, she still loved you too much to kill you. She turned the sword on herself instead." Makoto laughed, and the laugh nearly collapsed into a sob. "She was always such a softie. I used to joke that she'd get run over by a car trying to save a dog. She said it wouldn't be a bad way to die."
"No." Chikane's voice softened, was slightly above a whisper. "Even after everything I did… after I tried to make her hate me…"
And in that moment, Makoto understood. And slowly sweeping her eyes over Chikane's form, she knew what she had to do. For herself, for Chikane, and for Himeko's memory.
The pain in her stomach had faded to a dull ache—who knew Chikane could hit so hard?—and ignoring even that Makoto lurched to her feet, weaving a little. She took long strides, moving fast so Chikane didn't have time to react, and without hesitation drew the dark-haired girl into her arms, resting her head against her shoulder in a practiced gesture. Chikane instinctively stiffened, not used to close contact of any kind, and her hands came up to brace on Makoto's shoulders. "Makoto-san?"
"Mako-chan," Makoto corrected absently, lifting a hand to stroke Chikane's hair. "Or just Mako… whichever one suits you. You're trembling," she observed, ignoring the Himemiya heir's soft shove of protest. "You cold or something? Or is the heat starting to get to you?"
"Let go, Makoto-san."
"Have you cried yet, Chikane-san?" Makoto continued to stroke Chikane's hair, her touch gentle, her grip firm. "A lot of people cried when they heard. Izumi-san and her little group? They bawled like babies. It was almost kind of funny."
"The Orochi Necks were crying, too. Well, not crying," Makoto amended. "More like… they were apologizing a lot. They didn't think things would turn out this way. They all feel really guilty 'bout it." She shrugged. "Though, somehow, I get the feeling you haven't cried yet, Chikane-san."
A shudder ran down Chikane's spine; she buried her face into Makoto's shoulder as her fingers dug in, her whole form trembling like a loose leaf in the wind. "She w-wouldn't… H-Himeko wouldn't…" Her voice caught, broke.
"She'd want you to let it all out. You know that better than anyone."
A single choked whimper was Chikane's only response before the floodgates opened. Hoarse, ragged sobs tore from the dark-haired girl's throat as she finally succumbed to the emotions she'd kept bottled inside since awakening to a world reborn, with her memories still completely intact.
And Himeko gone.
When Chikane's legs failed her, Makoto sank down with her, cradling the shorter girl in her arms. She said nothing, whispered no words of reassurance or tried to soothe the distraught young woman; she merely held her, and stroked her hair, and kept her touch gentle and her hold firm. The pink shell around Chikane's neck—her last parting gift from Himeko, a gift she had found in her hand immediately after waking in the new world—gleamed weakly between the two girls, glimmering in the sunlight.
After a few minutes had passed—or quite possibly a few hours, Makoto had no way of knowing the time—Chikane's grief began to quiet. Her sobs faded into whimpers, and her whimpers faded into sniffles, until at last all that remained of her outburst was her slightly ragged breathing. Her tight grip on Makoto's shoulders loosened, and Makoto grimaced as her shoulders stung where Chikane's fingers had dug in. "Feel better?" the track star murmured.
Chikane didn't reply, but she made no attempt to extract herself from Makoto's grip, which had loosened enough for her to leave if she desired it. It was if the release of her grief and guilt had left her weak, emotionally and physically. She shifted, dropped her head to Makoto's chest, and released a deep, shuddering sigh.
"You need to come back to school." Makoto's voice was just a whisper as she lowered her hand from Chikane's hair, gently brushing away loose tears that still fell. "I'm serious. The principal's really going to expel you at this rate."
A few minutes of silence passed; Chikane slowly opened her eyes. "Will you be there, Mako?"
Not Mako-chan, eh?
"Yeah." Makoto shrugged. "If I dropped out now, Himeko would never forgive me. Besides, in this new world my leg was healed, so I've got another shot at the championships. Need to keep my grades up for that, you know."
Chikane laughed softly, and Makoto smiled.
"I'll go back tomorrow, then." For the first time in a long time, Chikane smiled. "Himeko would never forgive me otherwise."
"… Glad to hear it." Makoto rested her chin on Chikane's head and gazed out the window. "I'm really glad to hear it."
"And this fire will guide you home."
The line in italics at the end is the final line of "Guide You Home (I Would Die For You)", the ending theme for Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon. I'd download it onto my iPod, but my system's down...
I revised this many times, if only to figure out which character would ultimately seek Chikane out. In a very early draft I had it being Souma, but somehow it didn't flow right. I then plugged in Yukihito and Otoha, but they didn't work, either. Ultimately I settled on Makoto, and I think it worked nicely.
Of course, feel free to rip this apart as you see fit.
Read and review, please!