The moon shone brightly on the earth that night. It seemed unfair for the moon to be unchanged, considering what had happened that week. Perhaps the moon was unwilling to exert itself for those who had betrayed it's inhabitants. Or perhaps it refused to alter it's cycle for anyone, no matter how close they once had been. So it was the same moon as always that shone down on the grave of Eirin Yagakoro.

It had been such a stupid death in retrospect. A tiny error had occurred, one that was almost impossible, but no less fatal for it. But maybe that was the only way death could catch someone as well prepared as Eirin. And when you lived until something killed you, the chances of an accident like that happening became a certainty. All stories truly end with death.

Well, most stories end with death.

Fujiwara no Mokou stood in a clearing in the bamboo forest. She wasn't expecting anyone to appear, but these meetings had become almost a ritual at this point. So she would wait, even if no one was coming by.

It seemed, however, that her guess had been wrong. A shift in the wind heralded her rivals entrance into the moonlit clearing. The princess was still garbed finely, but her eyes were red from crying. She was obviously on the brink emotionally. Mokou almost decided to leave right then and there. But Mokou had been caught by the pull of ritual so very long ago. She would follow it to the bitter end.

Mokou gazed at her rival calmly. "I was expecting you to send assassins today."

Kaguya simply replied, "Let's get on with it." Without further warning she sent out a massive burst of deadly energy, incredibly powerful, but easy to dodge for those who had been engaging in danmaku play for so long. Even with the other stray bullets that completed the pattern Mokou had no problems.

Mokou retaliated with her own flames, which the Lunarian grazed past, flying in close to take a deadly swipe at the other immortal. Mokou parried, then retaliated, and the fight began in earnest.

Mokou quickly noticed Kaguya's attacks weren't up to par. It was to be expected really. The woman had just lost her closest friend. Perhaps they had even been something more. At this point Kaguya's shots and strikes were more blind fury then skill. Admittedly the lack of any style would disorient most people, but Mokou was an expert in battle, knew her foe better then any living being, and had a lot of experience with fury. The next exchange left Kaguya cratered on the ground.

Normally their fights lasted a lot longer. They had memorized each others techniques over the years so well that, without the brutal physical strikes mixing things up, they could probably dodge each others danmaku all night. The last time the fight had been this short was another night of sorrow. That night long ago it had been Mokou who had been overcome with emotions, but it was still Kaguya who had payed the price. Mokou always suspected her foe had held back that night.

Mokou didn't. She slammed another spell into her foes broken form to make sure the princess stayed down. Then another, just to be certain, before floating down to her rival.

Kaguya weakly raised her head to gaze at her immortal foe. At this range Mokou could see the princesses eyes clearly. There was pain, grief, hate, and yes, betrayal in those eyes.

The princesses mouth moved. "Why?"

Mokou knew what the princess was asking, but the question still twisted something deep inside her. "Why what? You came here to fight."

"Is winning that important to you?" Kaguya's eyes sharpened in anger. "Or do you still hate me because you had your pride wounded so long ago?"

Something buried inside Mokou snapped. "I hate you." Mokou took a deep breath. "I hate you because you always treated me as an annoyance, or a sparring partner, or a toy. You never tried to understand my feelings. Never gave a damn about anything other then how I affected your life. That's why I hate you. That's why I could never just let the damn thing die." Mokou closed her eyes. "But that's okay. I don't hate you anymore," she said.

Then she ripped out Kaguya's heart.

"Because now you understand what it's like to hate someone with all of your being." Mokou tossed the organ back to her rival. Then she flew back into the bamboo thicket. The rabbits would come help Kaguya back home now that she'd left.

Mokou flew unsteadily back through the night. She had no intention of going home just yet. No real idea of what she wanted to do at all really. There was definitely no joy to be found in her victory. In fact she felt hollow, like something had bled out.

In the end she found herself at a different grave then the one that she was certain Kaguya had come from. She sat beside it in silence for a long time. The moon continued it's course and finally set, but Mokou still couldn't gather her thoughts. Living through so many changes didn't make the pain any less.

In the end she could only say, "I'm sorry Keine. I'll try harder."

The moon rose and set again before Mokou moved from her seat and went back to her work.


Authors Notes: The shortest and, in my opinion weakest chapter in the series. It does however set the stage for everything to follow. Now that I've edited it again I no longer hate it, so that's a plus.