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Courage

A door was banged shut to keep a young, silver-green haired, doe-eyed girl out as an older girl, in her anxiety, roughly steered another diminutive girl with shoulder length purple locks by the shoulders against a wall. A rather audible thud was heard, and the purple haired girl did cringe, but otherwise maintained a steady and neutral gaze with the blazing pair of crimson eyes before her.

"Akyuu! !" breathlessly demanded Mokou of the purple haired girl which she was mercilessly shoving into the wall, "Do you mean to say that…? !"

"Mokou-san, you're hurting me," the one named Akyuu calmly stated in a light, firm voice, her clear violet eyes remaining fixed on Mokou's.

Fujiwara no Mokou froze at Akyuu's analysis, although her grip remained eagle-like on Akyuu's small and slender shoulders, forcing Akyuu to allow herself a small grunt of pain. After a few steadying breaths however, Mokou did eventually regain control of herself, and she hastily let go of Akyuu and backed away.

"S-Sorry Akyuu-san," she panted, still shocked at her previous aggression, "I-I…"

"It's alright, Mokou-san…" Hieda no Akyuu stepped forward and laid a gentle hand on her assailant's shoulder, "I understand that such information can be quite a shock. I know that you'll have... many things about her to consider now," her eyes intently studied Mokou's face.

"Ah… Y-Yes… Of course…" Mokou averted Akyuu's knowing gaze.


Outside the shut screen doors, all young Kawashima Keine could hear were hushed, sometimes hurried sounding voices. But she took little notice of this as she looked with empty loathing at her bushy tail she had in her hands.

"They're discussing what to do with me," she murmured factually, her little horns on her head feather light compared to the eerily calm heaviness in her heart. It was only natural after all. To be dumped, pushed out after her affliction was discovered. Her blank stare turned to the night beyond the porch, where the full moon hung low and gloomy. Tears welled up in her eyes.

… And yet, why does she dread it so much this time round?

"I… I don't want to leave…" Keine whispered to herself, her little body shaking with hate at itself.


"So… It's true then?" Mokou sat curled against the wall a nervous distance from the only chair there was in the room, which Akyuu had seated herself on at Mokou's insistence.

Actually, to call it a room would be inaccurate. It was a shack, where stuffed in it were a small writing desk with said chair, a small chest of drawers. Half the room was occupied by a wooden platform barely enough for a half and one persons, with a rolled up futon on top and sliding panels concealing storage beneath. On the table there was a tarnished candle holder fixed in place by habit, the only bit of table not worn by age hidden beneath its battered metal. It was from the candle within this lone candle holder that light was cast around the room. It was far from adequate, but there was nothing to illuminate anyway.

"… She has been living here with you?" Akyuu observed the room impartially. In the course of her centuries' long compilation of the Gensokyo Chronicles, she had long since learned not to judge a household by the house. There was warmth in this place, humble though it is. There was love and care between the two girls here, that much was clear when she first saw them.

She sincerely hoped her revelation of Keine's nature would not change that.

"… What?" Mokou snapped from where she sat, her face partly obscured behind her drawn up knees, "You're going to tell me this is no place to raise a kid?"

"Well, it certainly isn't the best place-"

"I grew up here," Mokou added defensively, "It's as good a place as any so long as I'm here to protect her."

"… Forgive me for implying otherwise," Akyuu smiled warmly at Mokou, catching her off guard.

" … So then…" Mokou began hesitantly, but was immediately interrupted by Akyuu.

"First off, let me just say that I know who you are," Akyuu stared blankly at Mokou, her declaration eliciting a small gasp from Mokou, who quickly recovered.

"Uh huh… So you're another one of those people who heard the rumours and believe them?" Mokou asked casually, "The 'Possesed Girl of the Bamboo Forests', is that it?"

"No… I don't hear rumours, I only chronicle facts," Akyuu stated simply, and this time Mokou's gasp was much more audible.

"T'ch… 'Hieda'… I was wondering why that name sounded so familiar…" Mokou gazed away at her feet, "I should have recognised you when you introduced yourself," Mokou turned back to Akyuu.

"So you've heard the rumours then?" Akyuu cheekily returned.

"Enough," Mokou simply replied, before chuckling, "What are the odds? Two immortals in one room."

Akyuu shook her head, "No, not immortal. Not in the same way as you," she looked at Mokou with great scholarly interest.

Mokou too studied the form of a young girl before her, her body ethereally youthful yet somehow already fragile looking, as if it will shatter into dust within her yellow kimono, "…And this is your…?"

"Sixth reincarnation," Akyuu answered.

Mokou blinked once before going back to staring at the ground at her feet, "I see… So the rumours are true."

"They aren't rumours you know," Akyuu corrected her, "For centuries, my ancestors- No… I have been working on the compiled history of Gensokyo," she said, "It is the duty of the Child of Miare after all."

"And… that's how you came to know about her?" Mokou asked, her gaze turning to the shut screen doors as she imagined a lonely girl sitting outside. Her heart became tugged with more guilt than anxiety, yet still she must know… "Your great history record?"

"No," Akyuu corrected her a second time, "Her nature is rooted in legends far older than Gensokyo and indeed, all the land. No… Her legends are simply very old stories," Akyuu explained, "Folk tales that people know, but seem not to recognise when they actually see it before them."

"I supposed you would be surprised to see a girl rather than some great, hairy beast," Mokou said bitterly, "What makes me sick is that I think they would actually welcome a beast more than her!"

"If only because people are ignorant and only accept what they expect," Akyuu indifferently observed, "But there is something else on your mind, isn't there…?" she probed.

Mokou looked up, her face full of guilty hope.


"Haku… taku…" that's what the purple haired lady called her, thought Keine. She had said that the blood of it flowed through her veins.

… What does it even mean? Keine stopped staring at her palms before her and shook her head. No, I don't care anymore, she thought. As much as she hated it, she would have to leave eventually, she reasoned to herself. Mokou-nee-chan would not want her around now that she saw her youkai-half.

"If you'll like, you can come live with me."

Keine clapped her face to her eyes and wept. Mokou-nee-chan had taken her in out of kindness after seeing her being ostracised and mistreated by the villagers, without even knowing why…! And… And now that she knows, she'll definitely-

"Don't worry, you're safe here. It's not notorious for nothing you know, this bamboo forest…"

Keine swallowed and forced herself to stop crying. No, this past few years were the happiest of her life. Mokou-nee-chan had been very kind to her, but if she stayed, she'll only cause Mokou-nee-chan trouble.

"I'll have to leave," she said to herself, as if to convince herself of her determination to do so. She'll go quietly, make it as though it never happened. Yes… she once learned that she had the ability to wipe memories, even create false ones when the moon was up. She had used it to relief herself of the persecution every now and then, even though this very sorcery was what helped reinforced that persecution…

"I'll go quietly, and the next day Mokou-nee-chan will just forget-"

Then little Keine's composure crumbled, and she cried.


"She can… eat history?" Mokou tried to repeat the words as disinterestedly as she could.

"Yes, she can hide history, so to speak," Akyuu answered, "It is one of the many abilities of the divine beast known as a Hakutaku. Of course, a true Hakutaku has many, many more abilities, some on par with that of certain gods," she continued enthusiastically, as if giving a lecture to a student, "It was a Hakutaku after all that contributed to the beginning of this very civilization," Akyuu gestured a hand about her. "Of course, Keine is only a distantly related descendant, so she only has a fraction of its powers. Even then, they only fully manifest under certain conditions," Akyuu explained.

"Like under a full moon?" Mokou raised her eyebrows.

"Yes. As is common with many other sorts of magic and mysteries, a full moon-" Akyuu jumped as she was interrupted by a low but sinister sounding chuckle. Looking at Mokou, she saw the broken spirit of a former human.

"Hehehe… Hahahahaha…! !" Mokou laughed, "Ah… So that's how it is…"

"Um… Is there something funny…?" Akyuu asked, slightly perturbed.

"No no… just ironic…" Mokou chuckled some more. "Hey, Akyuu-san…" her red eyes narrowed at the purple haired girl wryly, "If you know my story, you should know how I gained this accursed immortality of mind, right?"

Akyuu stared at Mokou, surprised at her question, before giving a chuckle of her own, "I heard it was from the moon that you got it," she grinned sadly, "Or rather, from a visitor from the moon."

Mokou leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes, smiling, "The moon was my curse for so many centuries… Now it'll be my salvation-"

Mokou opened her eyes coolly as Akyuu had suddenly gotten up with on her feet, having slammed the table with her hand unconsciously at the same time. Her face was one of anger and disapproval.

"Keine can eat when the moon's not around… How about when it is?" Mokou continued, undisturbed.

"She can change it," Akyuu, out of habit, answered shortly.

"Mmmm…" Mokou leaned her back against the wall with her eyes closed again.

"Mokou-san…"

"I can't believe that such a miracle was right next to me all this time…" Mokou murmured, eyes still closed, a nearly insane smile stretched over her face. All this time… All this time…

"Mokou-san…!"

"I wonder if she can go back to before it all happened…" Mokou whispered longingly.

"Mokou!"

"Or better yet, undo my birth-"

Slap!

Mokou blinked blankly as her she found her head turned towards the door. She felt the sting on her cheek where Akyuu had struck her, and the presence of Akyuu kneeling next to her on the other side, beyond her vision.

"… Well that hurt-"

"Irresponsible!" Akyuu yelled.

Mokou slowly turned towards Akyuu, expressionless, while Akyuu remained kneeling there, panting form the exertions she had made.

"Going back so far… to change history…" Akyuu seethed, "Is dangerous…! It can have drastic… effects on the countless events that have happened…!"

"Is that your main concern-"

"But more importantly!" Akyuu continued angrily, "Do you really want to force such a burden on to Keine? !"

Mokou's eyes widened with shock.

"Keine's a girl who has faced many difficulties in her life, and now you want to force what is effectively murder on to her? ! The erasing of the existence of someone precious to her? !"

Mokou drew herself up against the wall, her eyes unable to look away from Akyuu's furious ones.

"Was that what you had in mind when you took her from the village? ! Did you protect her just so you can use her? !" Akyuu kept up.

Mokou could only wordlessly shake her head against the accusation.

"Who will protect Keine if you disappear? !"

Mokou stared silently at a trembling Akyuu, an uneasy silence now dominating the room. Her attention however, was soon drawn to the door, where the sound of crying could be heard. She gasped.

"Hah… hah… I don't know… what the relationship between the two of you really is like," Akyuu took in deep breaths as Mokou's eyes were now frozen on the door, the crying persistent, "But I can tell that she holds you dearly-"

Mokou was already up on her feet and out the door.

"… Heh…" Akyuu shook her head, smiling, "Yup, I can tell…" and she began to formulate ideas on how to educate Mokou to better care for Keine, to prepare them for the rest of their lives together…


"Keine!"

Keine startled and turned at her name being called. It was Mokou-nee-chan…! She hurriedly got off the porch and blindly started dashing barefooted towards the woods. It's now or never-

"Keine! !" Mokou caught up to her with ease and grabbed the little crying girl by her shoulders.

"Ah…! L-Let me go!" Keine struggled.

"Why? ! Where are you going? !" Mokou yelled out, anxious.

"Away from here! !" Keine shouted back.

"Keine! Listen! !" Mokou turned Keine around and gave the little girl a shake, and Keine fell quiet for awhile and stared up at Mokou fearfully. "Wh-Why are you running away...? !" Mokou asked chokingly.

"You know what I really am like now!" Keine grimaced, "You saw my affliction! And now you'll definitely hate-"

Slap!

Keine was shocked into silence. "M-Mokou-nee…?" was all she could shakily utter.

"Just… Just imparting some wisdom given to me," Mokou tearfully bit down on her lower lip.

It was Keine's turn to grow all anxious at the sight of Mokou crying. "M-Mokou-nee-chan…?" she reached up and gently stroked the side of Mokou's hair, "I… I'm sorry, I- Mokou-nee? !" she jumped as Mokou had lurched to embrace her tightly.

"I'm so sorry Keine!" Mokou wept, "Please forgive me! !"

"M-Mokou-nee…? F-For what-"

"Don't leave me, okay?" Mokou whispered into Keine's ear, "I won't ever, ever want you to, so please, please don't leave me!" she pleaded.

"I'll… I'll protect forever! !"

Keine's eyes widened with wonder and swarmed with tears again, "I-I don't want to!" she bawled, "I never wanted to, Mokou-nee-chan! I want to stay with you forever! I… I…!" Keine broke down again, but this time she had the comfort of crying into her beloved Mokou's shoulder.

Mokou closed her eyes and smiled as she hugged her precious Keine tight, the moon and the stars in the sky as their only witnesses in the darkness of the night. Tears continued to stream down from beneath her eyelids.

Several lifetimes of stupidity… Just how close did she came to adding yet another mistake this night…?