A/N: Essentially, this is a retelling of the end of the manga, only taken from Himeko's point of view. Most of the inner thoughts we get in the manga during the last two chapters are Chikane's; we get to see Himeko's thoughts only when she expresses them out loud--and while Chikane's walking up the stairs talking to Ame no Murakumo we don't see Himeko at all (to create suspense, of course, making us think that Chikane will end up sealed alone), so we don't see her thought process as she reaches that decision.
Having spent waaaaaaaay too much time turning Himeko's personality and character over and over in my mind while writing Kannazuki no Shimai, this one-shot was the result. Oh, and the "Chikane-chan"s are back, because with only Himeko, Chikane, and Ame no Murakumo to worry about, I know I'm not going to make any who-calls-whom-what mistakes! Several lines of dialogue are direct quotes. And as you might guess, there are all kinds of spoilers ahoy, for the two of you reading this who don't already know how KnM ends...
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"Noooo! Chikane-chan!" Himeko screamed as the Lunar Priestess was torn out of her arms by the divine wind. She'd tried so hard to get through to find the truth behind Chikane's actions, the bleak wall of hate and despair that had made her Orochi, and what she'd found was...herself.
Well, maybe not "fault" in the sense of blame, but it was at least because of her. Because Chikane had fallen deeply, passionately in love with her, and believed that such a love could never be returned. Because the fate of the Solar and Lunar Priestesses was to be reborn again and again to fight Yamata no Orochi, only to be torn apart from each other each time by the ritual of sacrifice, where one priestess slew the other to provide the spark to remake the ravaged planet.
So Chikane had tried her best to make Himeko hate her, to see her as a monster, committing horrific sins against Himeko personally as well as the world at large, all so that Himeko would cut her down and then choose a new world which ended the cycles of destruction and rebirth, a new world where Himeko could make a happy life for herself and Chikane would be consigned to eternal oblivion.
But it is my fault. I didn't see what Chikane-chan was feeling! I didn't see her pain until it was too late. If I hadn't been blinded by my own stupidity I might have seen it all before she had to do all this!
She'd been so ignorant. Sharing her first kiss--second--with Souma Ohgami, never realizing how it hurt Chikane. Or believing that it was Souma whom Chikane loved! She'd spent whole lifetimes together with Chikane. How could she have been so blind, so idiotic as to miss everything?
How could someone so ignorant as me have been Solar Priestess so many times? How could I have helped anyone?
Only now at the last, on the moon at the end of things, was she starting to understand a little more. The pain of past separation. The horror of the ritual of rebirth, how Chikane had always borne the burden of striking her down while she, Himeko, had taken the easy role, to die without having to raise a hand against her twin soul. Far, far too late had she seen how the suffering had warped Chikane, worn away her kind and loving heart until she was a shell of herself.
The thought fluttered at the edge of Himeko's mind like the brush of a bird's wing that perhaps this was her price, that her unspeakable ignorance to others' feelings and passive submission to their actions was her own soul's way of curling into a ball and hiding from the weight of the cycles of pain and sorrow.
Only when she'd summoned Ame no Murakumo had she overcome that weakness, made the first cracks in the shell she'd erected between herself and the world. Slowly, surely, she'd fought her way back to herself, faced up to her love for Chikane, admitted it to herself, then gave it voice.
But Chikane-chan didn't believe me. Couldn't believe me, because I'd let her fall too far into her own despair.
And so Chikane had laid rough hands on her, trying to convince her that Chikane's "love" was a frightful thing. And in its way it was frightful--Himeko's body had responded so easily, so eagerly to her beloved's touch that it was a little scary. I...I want Chikane-chan as a lover. I don't admire her as a school idol, or care for her as a best friend, or share destiny with her as Solar and Lunar Priestess. I love her. I want to kiss her and hold her, to share her joy and support her when she suffers. And...and...to do those things with her that she wants.
Only Chikane had been too lost in despair to realize. She hadn't understood that Himeko's body didn't respond mechanically to what she was doing but because it was Chikane doing it. She'd been too blinded by her delusion that "pure" and "innocent" Himeko couldn't have such feelings for another girl.
So Himeko had pushed her away, though her body ached for it. Pushed her away because she was still breaking through the wall of her own ignorance and because she didn't want...that...to be under false pretenses.
Taking that step, determining her own fate had given her the strength to see Chikane's true intent at last, but it had been too late again. She'd tried to apologize for being so slow to see, but Chikane had only been shaken momentarily, not stopped. She'd killed Souma, had sent Yamata no Orochi and Ame no Murakumo tearing each other to shreds as they'd plunged into that terrible abyss where Orochi had been sealed. And with the echoes of that act still ringing in their ears she'd tried to kill herself since Himeko wouldn't do it for her.
At least that time I acted! Himeko had thrown off her shock and acted at once, diving forward to catch Chikane's hand before she fell. Maybe it was that--finally taking a decisive, active step--or maybe it was her terror at the fear of losing Chikane, but she finally understood it all: the roles of the priestesses, the source of their shared pain, and most of all the full depth of her own true feelings for Chikane.
Only to at last be unable to hold on any longer, forced to let go when her body betrayed her. She'd screamed in the depths of her soul, then.
And Ame no Murakumo had answered its shrine maiden's prayer.
Shining a brilliant golden, the god had ascended from the abyss with Chikane cupped unharmed in its gigantic palm. No longer was it merely a source of power to be wielded by its followers; the defeat of Orochi in this lifetime had unleashed the divine will of the God of Swords, summoned to them by Himeko's call.
She'd heard Chikane's startled cry--so cute, seeing Chikane-chan surprised and off-balance!--of "Ame no Murakumo? But why? How?" and had done her best to give an answer, running to the other girl as the shining deity set her down. She'd seized Chikane by the shoulders and kissed her full on the lips, silencing her questions, her protests. Perhaps she'd known it would have to come to this. Himeko wasn't eloquent. She was honest and earnest, but she didn't have the power of words the way Chikane did. Just as Chikane's actions had drowned out Chikane's lies, so too would Himeko's actions have to drown out her silence to make Chikane know her heart.
It was a start. She'd known it--she'd just known it. She could see it in Chikane's eyes, her face.
Only to have her torn away, swept off by the power of the god who had saved her.
The time has come,Ame no Murakumo's voice echoed out. Orochi may lie defeated, but the world has been stripped of life and one of the priestesses bears a mortal wound. If you wish to seal Yamata no Orochi within this shrine, it must be done now.
And now it turned to Himeko directly.
Solar Priestess. Using the power released by the Lunar Priestess's soul, you may revive one of eight possible worlds. Choose.
"What?! B-but...I can't! You can't expect me to choose one!" Chikane-chan! I need Chikane-chan!
You must. Only you can preserve the future of the world.
The power released by the dying priestess's soul is the spark that sets the renewal alight. She must be sealed within the shrine or the rebirth cannot happen.
Himeko felt tears welling up in her eyes.
"But that's so horrible! I don't want Chikane-chan to be alone any more! She's suffered so much already, all for me!"
It is impossible. She will be reborn only when the power of Orochi rises again in humanity's hearts.
There's something there, Himeko thought. Something in what Ame no Murakumo was saying, or maybe not saying. Something important. If only Chikane-chan was here, she could figure it out, I'm sure! But Chikane wasn't there; that was the whole problem. She would have to remain within the Lunar Shrine until the next cycle began, while Himeko would be reborn into the world, an ordinary soul like all of the others given life again by Chikane's sacrifice.
"Ame no Murakumo...do I have to be reborn?"
"You said that Chikane-chan has to stay within the shrine, or else the world won't be remade...but can't I stay with her? You don't need me to resume my own life, do you?"
You would refuse rebirth? You would condemn yourself to be imprisoned again, your soul not to be freed for years or centuries--or perhaps never?
"Of course! I don't care about living in a world without Chikane-chan in it! Even if it means I have to be locked away forever and ever, it's okay, if I'm with her. I've...I've hurt her so many times, but if there's anything I can do, I won't leave her alone! I...I love her so much..." She could scarcely breathe; her heart was in her throat.
That choice is quite possible, Solar Priestess. Was it only Himeko's imagination, or did the god actually sound...amused?
"Then I've decided. The world I choose is one where everyone can forget the pain they've endured, where whatever made them suffer or hurt is gone...and a world without me in it."
I was so slow to realize it, Chikane-chan, but don't worry. Even if it takes forever and ever, I'll make sure you know my true feelings! I won't let us ever be apart again!