A white disc floated in the sea of small twinkling lights above my head. It especially stood out seeing that its brightness was a hundred folds greater than anything out there. Unmistakably, that was the Full Moon, and unmistakably, my body would soon react to the effects of its shine.
The cursed blood of mine coursed madly throughout my body, indicating that it was a matter of time before everything would fall in place and I would begin my metamorphosis into a true were-hakutaku.
How did I feel when I stared straight into the maddening white, you ask? Well, not a lot different from what I usually felt. It was a day that came every month; being a routine, it could be argued that by then, there wasn't much novelty left in this experience. I did have a little bit of apprehension running about in my head, as I never had looked forward to become more irritable and excitable, but still, even when that side of mine as a half-youkai came out, I always felt that for most of the part, I could keep my instincts in check.
Ah, my head was beginning to ache. The moonlight trickling down my irises was doing its job well, acting as a catalyst to my transformation. The first physical change was always this long pair of horns that sprouted atop my head. It hurt slightly, but the pain was nothing excruciating. Then, the skin on my back then turned somewhat flimsy, to a point where the irritation would make me want to scratch it all out. As I endured, everything on my back would eventually revert to a “normal” state... well, six eyes having magically appeared on there couldn't really be considered “normal”, especially since I could actually see through each one of these, but whatever -- as I've said before, this was not a unique oddity, rather, it was a routine.
The end of that routine came last but it wasn't the least either. My lower spine began vibrating, until I felt that it was elongating itself. Compared to the horn-growing or the eye-spawning, this “metamorphosis” was unique since it actually had a tingly sensation to it; a mix of tickling and pleasant caresses that always left me in a partial state of euphoria. It was a bit silly, since I really was just growing a long hairy tail, but well...
A faint breeze caressed my cheeks as I awaited my metamorphosis to complete. All alone by the moonlight, standing in an open clearing of the Bamboo Forest, the only other living creatures in vicinity were a few moths and fireflies; and I suppose, the song of the cicadas.
What was I going to do one this night? The nostalgia of the world's history slowly seeped into me, causing me to grow thirsty for knowledge of the past. Many books awaited in my study, many scrolls, many parchments. As soon as the transformation was complete, I would read the unreadable, I would re-write the set in stone and I would erase the unforgettable.
'Consuming and Creating History', such was my power after all.
“You look as scary as always, Keine.”
A voice spoke from behind me, but it came as no surprise. The eyes on my back had already seen the girl with long, white hair when she silently slipped in-between the bamboo shoots earlier. She wasn't scared at all, not even blinking – indeed, this was just a usual sight to her as well. I somehow even had the impression that there was a smile of admiration that appeared on her lips as she jested about my looks.
“My, thank you for the compliment,” I answered with a small chuckle.
Fujiwara No Mokou, that was the name of the woman that stood before me. She wore tomboyish clothes, red pants with suspenders and a long-sleeved white shirt, the latter's collar messily arranged. Even though she had nicely crafted and paper talismans that held her the silver, knee-length hair of hers, Mokou felt very tomboyish in general with quite the rough physical features. Well, she had gone through a lot of things in her life – she had lived for over a thousand years, spending the majority of that lapse immersed in a spiral of hatred and endless fighting.
It was only recently that she had begun emancipating herself from it. It took me time, a lot of time, and a lot of investment. Visiting her everyday, trying to get to know her better, to understand why she was so grumpy, why she avoided me so much, why she simply would refuse to take any gift from those she helped... I had to throw my life at her for Mokou to understand that she needed to change.
In the end, she did, and that made me very happy. I could now see her smile, pure and honestly something which I would've never have witnessed the first time I met her, when she was all grim and pessimistic.
“You're spacing out Keine, is there something wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Ah, I tended to do that, gazing at people and thinking too much about them. I could be rather nostalgic at times just like the history that got into me, or perhaps, very reflective on how much people had evolved character-wise.
“No, I was just thinking of something. Shall we go now?” I asked her happily, rushing to gently hold her hand and lead her to my home. It was warm as always; Mokou's hand felt so warm, like a comfortable bonfire's heat by the cold night.
“Ah... about that...”
Mokou spoke in a hesitant way. As I tried to bring her with me, she didn't let herself go with the flow, instead I felt her not wanting to move, her limbs remaining rather rigid. Did she have something to tell me? That was a bit strange, she'd always just come along without saying anything.
“Oh, what is it Mokou?” I asked her.
She averted her gaze from me and began looking a bit downcast, kicking a piece of bamboo that was on the ground. Why was she so nervous? Had something happened?
“Uh... it's about tonight... I'm afraid that... I can't come,” she told me in a fragmented speech, not eager to speak.
“You... can't come? Why?” I had to ask quickly, wondering what could possibly prevent her from joining me. This would've been the first time in a long while that Mokou would not have come with me on the night of the Full Moon.
I loved to show her the history of the world, I loved to demonstrate my powers to her and explain how I used it to make right what had gone wrong in the village. I enjoyed so much showing her how I did my best to protect everyone. She always was just there and encouraged me, sometimes even surprising me with some witty wisdom, preventing me from making mistakes.
I couldn't understand why she wouldn't come tonight. But then, maybe that was inconsiderate from me, maybe that I should have stuck to my own business, to not doubting her decision. If there was a reason as to why Mokou couldn't come, it had to be a good one...
“... n-nevermind, I understand. Something came up right? You don't have to tell me, I shouldn't poke my nose in your affairs... I'll uh, go on ahead.”
Why I said that on that day still escapes me. I wasn't my usual self, the self that would've gone all inquisitive about Mokou's well-being, about wherever I had done something that had offended her as of late without realizing it.
I took a step past Mokou who was looking at me, ever so hesitant. There was vacillation and uneasiness in her eyes... yet, I just stepped aside and kept going on. Maybe it was because of a strange premonition that the heavens had given me. A strange feeling that I couldn't describe, but had been floating within me when I saw Mokou on that fateful night. Something that told me I shouldn't be here, that I had to be elsewhere, all alone.
“It's... the last day of the month Keine.”
These words came to my ears as I took a few steps past Mokou, and then, it all fell in place – the reason why she wasn't coming.
“Ah... I see...” I whispered.
Yes, Mokou was going to meet “that woman”. As I realized that, a wave of sadness surged. I had reminisced about all the moments I had shared with Mokou, about all the times we had together, about how much I was able to bring light into her life, yet I could not remember the fiery grudge she had with “that woman”, Kaguya Houraisan, and of how said grudge had all but gone down in intensity. It was a burning, deadly passion of mutual destruction, a hateful relationship that lead to nowhere but the loss of humanity on both ends.
My one and insurmountable obstacle. A feud rooted in a very legend.
I wordlessly walked away. My sadness had turned into anger towards Mokou as she remained obsessed with “this woman”. I couldn't accept that even though she had become such a kind person, Mokou fundamentally remained attached to these barbaric killing matches she held monthly with the Lunar Princess.
The eyes on my back observed Mokou for a while. As her immobile figure looked at me with melancholy, I could only shout in my head “go you dummy, go fulfill that barbaric hobby of yours!” The regret in her eyes didn't help at all in calming my frustration, instead, they made my walking steps quickly turn into a jog, and eventually, it evolved into a blown out sprint to my home, to a place far away from whatever Mokou would do.
I didn't want to see it again. Two people mindlessly slaughtering each other, the smell of their charred skin, of their burnt blood, and most of all, their manic laughs and shouts as they killed each other over and over... it was like hearing an ode to the devil.
The mere thought of it made me want to puke. What could I do though, to change what looked like destiny between these two? No matter how much I tried to interact with both sides, the endless fighting would not stop. It was as if there was some invisible string that tied those two... yes, a cruel most twisted red string of fate.
A strange voice whispered in my head, probably my own wild instinct as a half-youkai:
“If fate is the cause of history... could the equation be reversed?”
I shook off this dangerous thought, but maybe that I didn't shake it off enough. It was the beginning of a very, very long chain of events that would transpire from that night.
Signature? What is this you speak of?