Once again the full moon rose over Gensoukyo, and once again Mokou wandered out to the hills between the village and the Bamboo Forest to stand vigil. It was probably safe to leave guarding the forest to it's new inhabitants, but Mokou wasn't the type to let go of traditions easily. Besides it gave her some time alone to think, something she'd not had much of with the guests that had moved in.
Admittedly things were going better then they had any right to. Despite living for all intents and purposes under the same roof she and Kaguya had only killed each other five times in the past six months. Their mutual desire not to break their own house, and a desire to keep Tei from seeing the worst of the violence, had stopped a couple more fights from breaking out of course. Still they actually managed to go most days without an argument, much less a brawl.
Maybe the incident they had started together had something to do with that. Far more likely was how similar the two were in certain ways. They both were incredibly lazy outside of their personal interests for example. Which was probably one of the reasons why Kaguya was still living in the guest room. Moving again would be a real pain. Especially since the Library was the building closest to what Kaguya would consider inhabitable.
Still there was a lot of conflict between the two. And not all of it was just minor grudges from the times when they were just killing each other because that was tradition. So it was still refreshing to have some time alone.
Leaning back, Mokou stared up at the broken full moon. It seemed more fitting now. Just as there was no rabbit pounding mochi on it's face, there were no rabbits pounding mochi here on earth. Tei had quit the practice after she had moved into the library. Perhaps it brought back bad memories.
Mokou idly noted that rabbits pounding mochi was going to become another thing that no one living would remember. A wave of nostalgia washed over her and she found her mind drifting to the past.
Keine carefully put the brush down, making sure her trembling hands wouldn't send any drops back onto the manuscript she had just finished. It was pure vanity at this point, much like the spells that prevented her age from showing. She already could feel the presence of a true Hakutaku in Gensoukyo. One that had no need for scrolls and written tomes. Undoubtedly it was already creating it's own history.
Still Keine couldn't help having a human desire for people to appreciate her work. That someone would one day read her history and be touched by it. Luckily for her she already knew one person who had been affected by her works, even if the girl steadfastly refused to read them.
"Damn it Keine, you shouldn't still be up. It's bad for your health."
Keine chucked at the angry words. She turned to find Mokou standing in the doorway staring at her disapprovingly. Keine carefully stood, while thinking on how such little changes meant so much. When Mokou had first moved in she would have simply been annoyed quietly in another room. And for a long period she would have been leaning against the doorway, pretending to be unconcerned. But now the two had become close enough that Mokou cared enough to openly admit she was worried.
Still the immortal was overreacting a bit. "Now now, Mokou. It's far worse for me to be sedentary all the time. I have to get some exercise in."
Mokou frowned even more. "Well you should get it in during the day, not in the middle of the night. Besides writing scrolls is hardly exercise."
Keine smiled apologetically. "I suppose not. But it's bad enough I'm going to stop when I die, I'd hate to let something as minor as old age stop me." She started heading back to the sleeping room.
Keine barely had time to realize she'd tripped on one of the sitting cushions before she found herself halfway to the floor in Mokou's arms. The were-hakutaku clung to the young woman's body while trying to regain her balance. "Sorry Mokou. Maybe you were right about it being late."
"Idiot," Mokou muttered.
Keine found herself being lifted, then Mokou began carrying her to the bed. She considered trying to convince Mokou to let her make her own way, but it was too comforting to just cling to the other woman and listen to unceasing beat of Mokou's heart. She frowned as the sound went away while Mokou set her down in the bed, then smiled again when Mokou laid down beside her and allowed her to snuggle up next to the woman.
Her smile faded in concern as she felt a drop of moisture run past her cheek. She pulled Mokou closer with one arm while brushing the tears away with her other hand. "Shh. You shouldn't..."
"Don't. Don't ask me not to cry." Mokou's voice caught for a moment. "Ask me anything else. But don't ask me not to cry."
Keine closed her eyes at the pain in Mokou's voice. "Okay Mokou. I won't ask you." She put her other arm back around Mokou's body, trying to comfort the immortal with her presence.
The two lay in silence for a while, each trying to cling to the moment.
Finally Keine whispered. "Mokou. The cherry blossoms bloom tomorrow." Mokou's grip tightened almost painfully.
The 60 year cycle. The eternal cleansing ritual of the world. The memories of youkai and humans alike would fade. And with that the final connections the were-hakutaku had would be broken. Keine had always considered it a fitting end. But now as the moment approached she wanted just a bit more time. For her and for the girl by her side.
"How can you stand it?" Mokou whispered harshly.
"How can I stand what? Growing old?" Keine quietly asked in return.
"Not that. How can you stand everyone forgetting you? How can you stand dying because they can't remember you enough to keep your history alive?"
"This is how it ends for all were-hakutaku." She cupped Mokou's chin and softly kissed her. "Besides, I know that someone will remember me. Remember me for all eternity."
Keine felt Mokou nod as more tears streamed down the woman's face. Once again silence overtook the room. Keine once again was entranced by the solid beat of Mokou's heart. She heard it change slowly over the night; as Mokou's tears stopped and started, as they kissed in the dark, then as Mokou finally collapsed into sleep.
The steady rhythm so entranced Keine that she didn't even notice when her own pulse stopped.
Kaguya nodded in satisfaction as she found the scroll she had been searching for in the vast library. She picked it up carefully, knowing that even with the many layers of anti aging magic on the scroll it would still be very delicate.
She casually looked around to see if anyone was about, but that seemed unlikely. The visitors had gone home, Mokou was on patrol, and while Tei had skipped the full moon mochi today, Kaguya had been certain to make sure she got the same amount of sedatives in her normal food. It would be a while before Tei learned all the tricks her predecessor had.
Certain now she was alone, Kaguya carefully unrolled the scroll that probably contained her own story.
Kaguya wasn't quite sure what she was searching for. Bias perhaps, though the Hakutaku didn't seem the type to twist the truth. Information maybe? That seemed most likely. While the conversations the two immortals had shared weren't as bitter as they had been over the previous millenia, there was one area they never could manage to speak about. The first incident where their lives had crossed.
Kaguya unrolled the scroll slowly, quickly moving past passages. She probably could have skipped more if she knew more about earth history, but that hadn't really been one of her concerns before she arrived, or for that matter immediately after she began her flight from her lunar pursuers. Finally she stopped at a familiar passage, one that started with an old woodcutter chopping open a bamboo stalk.
It was odd reading the passages. Keine's history text didn't work on readability like the stories had, but instead focused on the facts of the matter. She did frown again at the failures that those lords had been. Only lord Abe, who she had sent to find the fire robe, was worthy of his title at all, and even he had given up far to easily to be considered worthy of her.
The only mention of Mokou so far had been the sentence stating that Lord Fujiwara had dismissed his concubine and child before setting off on his "journey."
She skimmed through the surprisingly accurate account of her escape with Eirin from the lunar emissaries, then past the part where the Emperor ordered a samurai named Iwakasa to destroy the Hourai Elixir at the top of the tallest mountain in the land.
As she opened the scroll past that two envelopes fell out. Kaguya looked at them in surprise. Both the notes looked very new, yet she was almost certain this scroll hadn't been opened in some time. She reached down and found one was addressed to her, written in the same hand that drew the history text.
The other was addressed to Mokou, in a stylized hand that Kaguya still recognized. On a hunch she sniffed the letters. Sure enough, the strange smell of the Hourai Elixir still clung to the parchment.
Kaguya smiled slightly. "Seriously Eirin. Telling me the Hourai Elixir isn't a toy, then using it as a cheap preservative. What were you thinking?"
She wondered when these letters were from. When exactly the two had begun conspiring together. If it had been before or after that night...
Eirin raised an eyebrow at the young girl before her. "What else would you want to know about the Hourai Elixir?"
"Just curious," Kaguya stated innocently. Eirin knew better then to trust that voice though. That was the same response that the princess had given when she had asked about it the first time. The question that had led to her sin and banishment.
Kaguya continued, "My question is admittedly more tangential. How many others have taken the hourai elixir?"
Eirin pondered the question for a bit. She really should have expected Kaguya to ask that question much earlier. Then again Kaguya seemed to be a blind spot for her. Eirin never exactly understood why Kaguya could surprise her again and again.
The answer of course was fairly simple. "I can't say how many have been granted the elixir after my defection, but before I left the moon eighty seven people had drank the Hourai elixir. Of those, twenty one of those have been granted something close to death by their patron deities, sixty four have been sealed away by various forces, and there are two who are somewhat sane and free." Eirin smiled at Kaguya's surprised look. "Did you really think that we Lunarians would make people unkillable without keeping an eye on them? They are a source of impurity that can't be stopped my normal means. This is what led to your exile in the first place."
The exile princess frowned. "So they would still be looking for me."
Eirin laughed slightly. "I told you that you were far too calm about your fugitive status. But to tell the truth, you shouldn't need to worry. The moon is slow to act, and they probably don't trust their agents to act against me." She chuckled again. "Besides, even if they did act there are two immortals here, not just one."
"Hmph. I suppose she's the one you were talking about when you said 'somewhat' sane. Well I suppose she would act if someone were to deny her 'vengeance.'"
Kaguya looked directly at her oldest friend. "So why not three immortals Eirin?"
Eirin's breath caught for a second. This conversation she'd been expecting for some time.
"I will never take the Hourai Elixir myself princess. Even though that means the Earths impurity will kill me some day."
Kaguya sat and stared at her, waiting for her explanation. Eirin continued, "I didn't leave the earth because I wanted to be immortal. I left to continue my work away from Earths impurity. Away from those who would seek to try to use me for their own ends. That was what I left behind. I've never desired the endless life the Hourai Elixir provides."
Kaguya's face fell. Eirin had always suspected the princess had held onto the idea that Eirin would take the Hourai Elixir and stay with her forever. Kaguya had been maturing though, much like Reisen. Corrupted by earths impurities, she had become something more then she had been before. Eirin mused that perhaps her desire to see how she herself changed was one reason she was willing to lose her life on this world that she once fled.
Kaguya shifted slightly in her seat. "I see. Well then I need you to help me Eirin."
Eirin was curious. "How can I help princess?"
Kaguya slowly and carefully moved forward. "I need to know how to get someone who's known me for a long time to see me as a woman. Not as a spoiled little girl, or a child trying to impress their guardian, but as a woman." She stopped just far enough away that Eirin could feel her presence clearly. "I need to know how, before I lose my chance forever."
Once again Kaguya had managed to surprise her. She cleared her throat before replying, "This, would be a good start."
Mokou stood from where she had been laying as she felt someone approach. She of course knew who it was approaching. "I didn't expect you to come here," she stated simply before turning to see Kaguya land softly on the ground. "Bored?"
The lunar princess held up a letter. "No, just delivering this."
Mokou frowned at the letter then gaped when she saw the name written on it. "Wha? A letter from Eirin? Where were you keeping that?"
"Actually you were keeping it." Kaguya held up another letter. "With this one." Mokou blinked in astonishment when she saw the name on that one. "They were sitting in the history scrolls that you complain about no one reading."
Mokou coughed in embarrassment. "Yeah, well I don't read the ones I lived through. It always seemed like it would be arrogant to look up where you stood in the eyes of a historian. The one time I checked I was a footnote anyways."
"Still though." Mokou shook her head while smiling. "She always did interfere when she didn't need to. Still, I wish I knew how she roped Eirin into this."
Kaguya laughed lightly. "I have no idea. Eirin was always a meddler, but I thought she'd be more restrained."
Mokou took the letter and sat back down on the hillside. Kaguya sat down next to her with Keine's letter in her hands. "You bring a lamp princess? I don't want to set the hillside on fire today."
Kaguya summoned a small globe of light and they each opened their respective letters.
Mokou studied the letter in silence for some time. It wasn't all that long, but Eirin wasn't the type to use small words when a bigger one would suffice.
Mokou considered the letter for a while. She really couldn't say if her opinion of the Princess had changed at all by reading it. Perhaps it wasn't meant to change anything at all. Still there was one thing she wanted to say.
"Most Lunarians are jerks aren't they?"
Kaguya looked up from the letter she had been rereading. "What? What gives you the right to say that?"
Mokou waved the letter in the air. "Seriously, executing someone who you know can't die over and over is pretty messed up."
Kaguya gave her a questioning look. "And killing someone you know can't die over and over again isn't?"
Mokou frowned and growled out, "That was revenge. It's different. If they were trying to punish you, they could have just skipped to banishment."
Kaguya seemed caught between annoyance and amusement. "I see. Well I guess I should say your father seems like a jerk as well, in addition to being a failure as a prince."
"Yep," Mokou agreed.
Mokou chewed on her lip. She didn't want to say the next part, but the one thing she prided herself on was honesty.
"Kaguya.... I'm sorry."
The princess looked at her in surprise. "What?
Mokou sighed then snapped out. "You treated my father fairly. Everything that happened to him was his own fault for being a lying bastard. I shouldn't have blamed you."
Mokou took a deep breath and turned to face Kaguya, who was still sitting there shocked. She forced a smile. "And I forgive you for sending assassins after me instead of killing me yourself."
Kaguya managed to gain her composure at that. "Forgive me? I didn't do anything wrong. 'Do what it takes to win' right?"
Mokou chuckled. "Eh, that's close enough to an apology." Kaguya laughed as well.
The two looked up at the moon again in silence. After a light snow began.
Kaguya smiled. "Snow from a clear sky... A rabbits wedding, eh?"
Mokou stretched then began gathering twigs. "I suppose a fire might not be a bad idea."
Within seconds the Mokou had summoned her fire powers to create a little blaze. Kaguya reached down to warm her hands opposite Mokou.
Suddenly there was a flash of light and a loud click. The two swore and began looking for the source of the light with blurry vision.
"Sorry about that, but Shameimaru's ghost demanded I take the shot!" The two saw through blurry eyes a familiar ice fairy fleeing into the distance.
The two immortals dove off in swift pursuit.
Tei waited a few more seconds before popping out of her hiding place. She began running quickly towards the mountain. She had a lot of work to do before her princess and the librarian finally caught and defeated the ice fairy.
As she ran she checked the photo that Cirno had passed off to her after taking it. When it was fully developed she slipped the picture into the frame that she had personally designed for it.
The frame was actually three smaller frames hinged together. On the right side her mistresses photo of Eirin looked out at the world. On the left the Hakutaku's smiling visage was held.
In between Tei placed the photo of Mokou and Kaguya sitting opposite each other.
Kaguya hadn't been the only one to read the histories. Tei had looked up her namesake as well. And there she'd learned an important lesson. The most fun you could have tricks were with tricks that made the subjects happy.
The picture now complete Tei increased her pace. She had to make it to Iwanaga-hime's cave and back before the two immortals returned. The goddess of immortality would be the only person who would return the photos before Kaguya and Mokou realized the photos in their rooms were facsimiles. And the only other person who might consider such a prank.
After all, just because someone would laugh at your prank later didn't mean you should be caught now.
Author's notes: I think this ending is a little weaker then the previous chapters, but it seemed sad to leave this history out of the tale having finally managed to write it. I have a few omake's in head as well, but there's a whole lot of other ideas bouncing around in my head, so they'll have to wait their turn. Mokou and Kaguya have time after all.