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Dual Strife - Prologue

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Return to Fiction by Valesta


Ancient Japan…

Once upon a time, a woodcutter found a young girl lying unconscious in the middle of the bamboo forest where he lived. She had no parents, and so the woodcutter and his wife, without any children of their own, took her in and took care of her as their own daughter. The girl, calling herself Kaguya Houraisan, was remarkable in the sense that even in the test of time, she had not aged at all, even as her parents have grown old. She was also strikingly beautiful, with her long black hair and pale complexion, that few men could resist her natural charm.

Elsewhere, a kind and handsome young nobleman found an infant girl, also without parents and raised her as his own. She had red eyes and aqua hair, but more unusual, she had the ability to control fire. Cautious of her ability, she was kept from the public, but treated with kindness. Her name was Fujiwara no Mokou.

In time, five noblemen, including Mokou’s father fell in love with Kaguya’s charms and became interested in taking her hand in marriage. However, Kaguya, uninterested in all of them, assigns each of them a task to prove their devotion to her and prove their worth.

During dinner one night, Mokou’s father asks the 15-year-old Mokou, who is wears a red kimono, “Mokou… Would you like to have a mother?”

Mokou, about to take a bite of her food, lowers her fork, “Huh? What do you mean by that?”

Mokou’s father answers, “There is… someone I fancy. If all goes well, I’ll be able to have her hand in marriage…”

“I dunno. I like things the way they are now. Just you and me, father.”

“Hahaha! I understand, but I’m sure she is a wonderful person!”

“Whatever you say. So… when am I gonna have a mom?”

“Well… You see, there are four other young suitors, in the same position as me. We were told to each find an item to bring back to the young lady I speak of, Kaguya.”

“Ka… gu… ya?” Mokou prepares to drinks out of her cup of water, “So… what did she want you to find?” Mokou sips her water.

“She wants me to bring back a robe made of the fur of the Chinese Fire Rat.”

Mokou, in surprise, spits her water across the table, dropping short of her father, “What the hell is this? I’ve heard of those things in myths and legends, but that’s it: myths and legends. It’s too unrealistic!”

“About as realistic as a girl that controls fire?”

“Well…” Mokou can’t come up with a good riposte to her father’s statement.

Mokou’s father explains, “Next week, I shall depart for China to embark on my quest. I don’t know how long it will take me…”

Mokou protests, “You don’t need to do this! I’ve heard that Fire Rats can set their fur ablaze! It will take me some practice, but I’m sure I can make something that fits such a description. You know I have that kind of power!”

Mokou’s father smiles, “You are a good girl, Mokou, but I must make an honest effort to find that which Kaguya desires. I’ve heard rumors that my rivals plan to cheat to win, but deceit is not an expression of love. I will truly prove my love to her by finding a Fire Rat and coming back with its fur.”

Mokou rolls her eyes, “Honestly, I still don’t believe that Fire Rats exist…”

“I must try. I don’t think I’ll feel this way about anyone else…”

Despite Mokou’s protests, her father has truly made up his mind and she sees no way of talking him out of it. She reluctantly says, “Alright, dad. Good luck out there…”

A week later, Mokou’s father, accompanied by a small group of samurai bodyguards, departs for China. Mokou, honoring her father’s decision, still has doubts regarding the existence of Fire Rats and questions what Kaguya’s angle is with it.

Three years pass…

Each year felt like an eternity as the now 18-year-old Mokou awaited her father’s return. Finally, one of her father’s samurai returns and comes to Mokou’s room with some grave news, “Mokou… I’m sorry. We’ve searched as hard as we could, but to no avail. I’m afraid the master had caught a deadly disease while over there, and… He never gave up searching, even… Well…” The messenger’s stress keeps him from continuing to think straight.

Mokou, hiding her mix of sorrow and rage directed toward Kaguya, says, “I see. I understand…”

The messenger takes a few deep breaths and calms down a little “… The master has no children. I know you were like his daughter, but you aren’t really his child so… I’m reluctant to say this, but as of today, this house is disbanded. I’m sorry, Mokou-sama…”

Mokou exhales slightly and says, “I understand. Please leave me now…”

“Yes. Excuse me…” the messenger respectably bows and leaves Mokou alone.

Mokou pauses for a few seconds, then, venting her anger, clenches her fist tightly, ignites it, then slams it against the wooden wall, setting it ablaze, “Dammit! Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, DAMN IT!” She slumps to the floor and her tears stain the surface, Father… Those pure feeling you had for her… Why did they have to lead you to your death? This is all her… Kaguya’s fault! If she didn’t send you off on an impossible mission, this never would have happened. We’d still be happy… Mokou rises to her feet, thinking out loud, “I will avenge you. This may not be the path you wanted me to choose, but now I stand alone…”

Mokou changes out of her kimono into a much more casual pair of baggy red overalls and a brown shirt. She leaves the mansion without any intention of returning, like she had left her innocence behind. She looks up to the night sky, “From here on, I am an avenger… Father… if I send her to the afterlife, will the two of you be happy together?”

--

Like Mokou’s father, the other four noblemen seeking to win over Kaguya’s heart also failed their respective tasks, though their fates were not nearly as harsh. During the three years Mokou’s father had been trying to fulfill Kaguya’s request, even Japan’s young Emperor had fallen in love with her. He too was rejected, though not given any request, but still kept in touch with Kaguya.

Eventually, Kaguya received a mysterious message from a race called the ‘Lunarians,’ saying that on the next full moon, they will come to take Kaguya home. She reveals her true identity to her parents and the Emperor: She was originally from the moon. She was sent to Earth in exile as punishment for drinking the Hourai Elixir, a potion that grants its consumer eternal life. However, she had grown attached to her life on Earth and wishes to not ever return to the moon. The Emperor respects Kaguya’s wishes and stations one-hundred of his finest archers around Kaguya’s home.

However, on the night of the full moon, the Lunarian emissaries, five in number, as they descend, radiate intense white light, blinding the archers. They all wear silver robes with hood concealing all but the lower portion of their faces. They arrive in the back room of Kaguya’s home, where Kaguya’s elderly foster parents, the Emperor, and Kaguya herself, were hiding.

The leader of the group of emissaries pulls back her hood revealing a young woman with gray eyes and braided silver hair, “Kaguya Houraisan-hime. As per your mother’s orders, we have been ordered to take you home to the moon.”

Kaguya protests, “No, Eirin Yagokoro! I will not go back! I want to stay here forever!”

Another emissary says, “Don’t make this difficult, your highness. Our orders come straight from you mother, Empress Houraisan, herself. You have no choice.”

Kaguya beseeches the emissary she identified as Eirin Yagokoro, “Please, Eirin! You understand me better than anyone! You listened to me when I was about to be banished! You were the only one to treat me like a human being, not royalty! Please understand that I don’t want to return home! Help me, Eirin!”

Eirin closes her eyes in thought and asks, “Kaguya-hime… are you absolutely certain you don’t wish to return home?”

“I am certain!” answers Kaguya, “I never want to go back there ever again!”

“I understand.” Eirin opens her eyes, walks over to Kaguya’s side, and faces the other four emissaries, “You heard Kaguya-hime. She will not go back. You will tell her majesty, the Empress, that you were unable to locate the princess, as she’s gone into hiding.”

One of the emissaries snickers, “Heh. You can’t be serious. Our sworn allegiance lies with the Empress, not some doctor.”

“Oh, I am serious…” A bow materializes in Eirin’s hand. She pulls back the cord and an arrow materializes, ready to be fired. She aims at one emissary. Three magic circles appear in front of the other three emissaries and arrow heads emerge from the middle of each.

“Ah!” The Emperor and Kaguya’s foster parents gasp at the display of powers they never seen before.

“Leave now! Don’t make me get messy!” warns Eirin.

The is a momentary pause, finally one of the emissaries chuckles, “Hmhmhm…” then laughs, “Heheheh…” then outright cackles, “HAHAHA!”

Eirin’s eyes narrow, “What is so funny?”

The emissary pulls back her hood, revealing a girl with short brown hair with red eyes and a pair of rabbit ears extending out of her head. “Wh…” Kaguya’s parents and the Emperor are taken even further aback at the sight of a creature they have never seen before.

The rabbit-girl says with a devious smirk, “You are too late, traitor! I already sent a psychic message to the other Lunarian Imperial Moon Rabbits! In a matter of hours, many other Lunarians will come here. They will take Kaguya-hime home by force, even if it means bringing back her temporary corpse… and as for you, Eirin… they will do things to you that will make you wish you never created and drank that elixir! HAHAHA!”

Eirin grits her teeth in anger and frustration, “Tch. Damn you!” Eirin fires her arrow, silencing the laughter of the rabbit girl via an arrow through the forehead. In synchronization, arrows fire out of the magic circles killing the other three emissaries.

“…” Kaguya, her parents, and the Emperor are silent to the development that just occurred.

Staring at the corpses of her former comrades, Eirin explains to Kaguya, “Kaguya-hime, you will continue to live within this Earthly realm, but not as you have been. My ignorance to the powers that moon rabbits possess, and my actions, have branded us as fugitives. The best thing we can do right now is escape to someplace where they won’t find us.”

“…” Kaguya stares at the floor, unwilling to accept what just happened.

With a sigh, Eirin says, “I’m terribly sorry, Kaguya-hime, but what’s done is done. If we remain here, your loved ones will be put in danger as well.”

“Ah!” Kaguya realizes the truth in Eirin’s words and turn to her parents and the Emperor, solemnly explaining, “I’m sorry, but she is right. I don’t wish to endanger you. I must leave.”

The Emperor protest, “No! You don’t have to do this! My men will protect you! I will make sure they won’t do so much as touch you!”

Eirin asks, somewhat smugly, “Like those archers were successful in stopping us?” She explains, “I’m sorry, but your forces are not cut out for that kind of task. The Holy Lunarian Empire is more powerful than you can possibly imagine. With all those soldiers outside and the claim you have an army at your command, I assume you are of high status here?”

“I am the Emperor of this country!”

Eirin bows respectfully, “My apologies, then. Look, with all due respect, it would take just one low-level Lunarian grunt to wipe out your entire army. This is NOT an exaggeration. Even I am capable of such a feat. In terms of technology and magic, you don’t stand a chance either way. For the safety of this entire country, perhaps the entire world, it is important that Kaguya-hime is hidden.”

“… I understand…” reluctantly says the Emperor, torn between Kaguya and all of Japan.

Eirin adds, “I also want you to keep quiet if they question you about our whereabouts. Just feign ignorance all the way.” She turns toward the heap of Lunarian corpses, “And hide this ‘mess’ as well. This is very important… so I’ll give you an added incentive…” Eirin pulls a flask out of her robe and hands it to the Emperor.

“What is this?” asks the Emperor.

Eirin answers, “It will grant you mankind’s darkest wish. It will make you like Kaguya-hime and myself…”

The Emperor, recalling Kaguya’s mention of the Hourai Elixir, guesses, “If I drink this… it will make me immortal?”

Eirin nods, “That’s absolutely right. Immortality as an exchange for sacrificing Kaguya-hime from your life and your silence. Sound fair?”

“…”

Eirin turns to Kaguya, “We’ve spent too much time here. Say your goodbyes, but be quick. I want us to be far away from here when the other Lunarians arrive!”

“I understand…” Kaguya turns to her foster parents, “I’m sorry for what you had to see. It’s all my fault…”

“We understand,” says Kaguya’s mother, “You had a tough choice to make and I’m honored you wanted to stay here.”

Kaguya’s father says, “Please, Kaguya… Be safe and follow your own path…” He turns to Eirin, “’Eirin,’ was it? We’re leaving our ‘daughter’ to you. Please take care of her!”

“I will,” promises Eirin with a nod.

Kaguya turns to the Emperor, “Thank you for caring so much about me. I know not a lot of girls get an honor like this…” Kaguya forces a smile to hide her sadness, “… and someday, if things were different, who knows?”

“Thank you for letting me know you…” That’s all the Emperor can bring himself to say. He raises his hand and waves goodbye.

Kaguya, on the verge of tears, says, “Thank you… for every…thing…”

“…” Eirin walks out of the room. Kaguya follows her, pauses to take one final look at the three loved ones she will never see again, and then keeps going.

They escape out the back door, into the surrounding bamboo forest. Above, unseen, a mysterious figure, who was eavesdropping on the recent turn of events giggles, “Fufufu~ Intriguing… I guess I’ll play a part in this too…”

Not a single word is said after that. The Emperor leaves the house and meets with his attendants outside, including a large group of samurai, one of whom is Mokou, completely concealed, after secretly stealing the armor from one of them.

The Emperor’s advisor makes the obvious statement, “I’m sorry. We’ve failed, your majesty…”

“I see…”

The advisor asks about the Hourai Elixir the Emperor is holding, “What is that, your majesty?”

“It’s unbelievable…” says the Emperor, indirectly answering his advisor’s question, with Mokou secretly eavesdropping, “A long time ago, Kaguya drank something like this… and became immortal…”

Mokou’s eyes widen behind her helmet, Immortal? And I’m seeking to kill her under those circumstances?

“… Now, with this… I am given the same opportunity. Eternal life…”

Mokou grits her teeth, Dammit! Looks like you won’t be meeting her, father, but I will still do what I set out to do. I know no other way of living now… but to do this, I must become immortal too, and that potion the emperor is holding is the key… but how will I do this?

The advisor is overjoyed, “If you drink that, you can become immortal?”

The Emperor sighs, “But is it worth it?”

“Whew…” Mokou lets out a sigh of relief at the Emperor’s hesitation, but knows she is not yet in the clear.

The advisor is taken aback, “Of course! With eternal life, you can do great things!”

The Emperor makes his decision, “I will not. An eternal life without Kaguya is an eternal life I do not desire…” He hand the elixir to a nearby samurai and says to him and another close by, pointing toward Mount Fuji in the distance, “I want the two of you to take this to Mount Fuji and burn it in its flames. This is important. Things like this are not meant for mankind.”

“Yes, your majesty,” respond the two samurai obediently. They run in the direction of Mount Fuji.

The Emperor turns to the other samurai, including Mokou, “There are four corpses of unusual creatures in there! I want you to hide the bodies. Our fates may depend on it!”

The samurai immediately head toward Kaguya’s now-former home. In the confusion, Mokou slips out and runs into the bamboo forest, in the general direction of Mount Fuji. She sheds her hot and motion-restricting armor, saying to herself, between panting, “I gotta… get to the mountain… before those two guys… Immortality… here I come…”

The Emperor’s men successfully hide the Lunarian corpses and head back to the imperial palace. Riding his carriage, he says, staring at the distant Mount Fuji, “This is all I can do for you Kaguya. Good luck, wherever you are right now…”

--

Meanwhile, Kaguya and Eirin dash through the bamboo forest, holding hands, guided only by the source of what they currently dread the most: the full moon. Eirin notices something and pauses, soon followed by Kaguya, “What’s wrong, Eirin?”

Eirin notices several things falling from the moon, which disperse in various directions. She observes the path of the objects and notice that they are landing around the outer edge of the forest, from all directions, “No!”

“Eirin?”

“I just noticed Lunarians descending from the moon and they landed as to surround this forest and close in on us!”

Kaguya tightly closes her eyes, “Oh no!”

Eirin thinks over various ways to escape their current predicament, “There is no way we can make it out of this forest before one of them notices… We can try to pick them off, one-by-one, but Lunarian search parties consist entirely of moon rabbits. If one sees us, it will contact the others…” Eirin can’t find any decent way out of their situation, “Damn… We’re completely trapped! I’m sorry, Kaguya-hime…”

“Fufufu~ Clearly, you haven’t thought of MY way…” In front of them, a portal opens up and a girl with golden hair and eyes, wearing a white dress and cap climbs out.

Both Kaguya and Eirin are surprised by what they just saw. “How did you do that? What are you?” asks Eirin.

“Your way out of your current bind,” answers the girl, “That is, if you’ll accept my help.”

Kaguya observes, “The color of your hair and the way you dress… You are not from around here, obviously.”

“I think that was obvious by the rip in time-space I created.”

“What are you going to do?” asks Eirin.

“Get the two of you out of here,” answers the girl, “I will take you to another realm, parallel to this one, where I’m sure a couple immortals like you will fit in better.”

“I’m not too positive in the use of such a means,” says Kaguya, “Lunarians have technology that can phase between both earthly and celestial realms with just the push of a button!”

The girl covers her mouth as she gasps in surprise, “Is that so? And here I was so proud of my power. You Lunarians are truly something else. Still my offer stands.”

Eirin advises Kaguya, “I think it will be an effective escape. The Lunarians won’t suspect that we left this realm, especially since it’s technologically inferior.”

“I see… So where are you taking us?”

The girl answers, “Gensokyo! A land of magic and wonder! A place of infinite possibilities and people. Just watch out for youkai that would want to eat you!”

Kaguya shrugs her shoulders, “Well it sounds better than this, anyway…” They hear the faint sound of several people approaching from all different directions as twigs snap beneath their shoes. “We accept! May I ask your name?”

The girl answers, “Yukari. Yukari Yakumo.” Yukari opens a portal, “Hop in. By the way, I have no intention of bringing you back here. Is this really okay?”

Kaguya pauses, then answers, “Yes. Get us out of here!”

“Very well…” Kaguya and Eirin jump into the portal, never to be seen in this world again. Yukari looks around and says, “Well, Gensokyo will certainly be more interesting now. Fufufu~” Yukari jumps into the portal and it vanishes.

--

Hours later, at the summit of Mount Fuji, and the edge of the pit leading down to boiling magma, Mokou, who had made it there first, intercepts the two samurai, “Why, hello there! What may you two strapping gentlemen be doing here this late at night?”

One of the samurai responds, “I’d ask the same to you, girl. We’re on an important mission to dispose of something.”

Mokou asks, “May it be an elixir that grants eternal life?”

The other samurai draws his katana, “How did you know that?”

Mokou casually answers, “Oh, I have my ways, and I must say that I’m quite interested in its effects, so if the emperor doesn’t want it, then I’ll take it, thank you very much.”

“It’s not meant for humans! We will not let you have it.”

“Don’t make me do this the hard way…” Flames erupt from Mokou’s entire body, surprising the samurai.

“Wh-what the hell are you?” Both samurai charge at Mokou.

“A soon-to-be-immortal flame-girl!” Mokou releases two streams of fire, which burn through the samurai, killing them instantly. She closes her eyes in slight regret, “Sorry. It didn’t have to come to this… but still, my mission continues…” Mokou’s flames subside, turning to smoke, which rises high into the air.

--

From his palace, the Emperor sees the smoke from Mokou’s flame rise from Mount Fuji, “So it is done…”

--

Mokou searches the two bodies and finds the elixir. She drinks it whole and feels different right away, “Amazing! This feeling is so amazing! So with this, I won’t die. Perhaps it’s for the best. I wouldn’t want to face father after realizing my conviction. Speaking of which… Kaguya, here I come!”

Mokou embarked on her search for Kaguya, but found no one. Eventually, she finds herself traveling all over the known world, how many years have passed, she lost count. The periods of time which felt like eternities now felt like minutes. The world around her evolved, but she herself had not changed in the least, eternally in the form of an 18-year-old girl. She is unable to fit in among others, due to her immortality and flame manipulation powers, representing two abnormalities upon the world

Eventually, after a very long and fruitless journey, Mokou find herself back in Japan, in the middle of a windy barley field with the sun setting in the distance. She slumps to her knees, feeling defeated, “Damn it… Where is she? Where is… she…?” Mokou suddenly forgets who she was after, but her memory shortly catches up, “Oh yeah, Kaguya. Why haven’t I found her yet… Shit, I don’t even know what she looks like, but… after all this time… how is it possible for her to hide from me like this?”

Suddenly, like what happened to Kaguya and Eirin on that fateful night, a portal opens in front of Mokou and Yukari emerges from it, “Hello there. It looks like you’ve seen better days…”

Mokou, too absorbed in her own thoughts to truly appreciate the unusual occurrence right in front of her, responds, “Yeah… you’re absolutely right. Before she intervened, I was so happy… Why did this happen? Does God hate me that much?”

“I don’t know. I’d say He loves you more than you think since I’m here now. I’ve watched you for awhile and I think you are interesting. You are after someone named Kaguya Houraisan, right?”

Yukari’s words catch Mokou’s undivided attention, “What? You know her? Where is she?”

“Happily living beyond this world,” answers Yukari.

“What does that mean?”

“This world has various realms parallel to this one. This is just one of hundreds of possibilities. I personally took Kaguya to another.”

Mokou jumps to her feet, feeling she regained her purpose, “Please! Take me there too!”

“That was the plan,” says Yukari, “The simple fact that you are an immortal that controls fire is reason enough. You don’t belong in this world. Still, are you sure you want to leave here? I don’t plan to take you back.”

“Yes, I want to leave! Take me from this world! I’m tired of being here!”

“Okay, says Yukari, "I’m sure you’ll like where you are going. You are bound to fit in much better. Heck, I’m sort of… against humans right now, but I have no problem with you. You remind me more of a youkai, like myself.”

“I don’t care what you are or where we are going,” says Mokou, “As long as Kaguya lives there, I’m satisfied!”

Yukari points to the portal she emerged from, “Hop on in, then. Your new home awaits!”

“Here I come, Kaguya! You will no longer escape!” Mokou jumps into the portal, followed by Yukari. They emerge on the outskirts of a bamboo forest.

“It’s in here that your… adversary lives…” says Yukari, “She made her home in a huge castle there. Have your fun, for this is where we part ways.”

“Thank you,” says Mokou gratefully. With that, she runs into the forest.

Yukari watches her, A rare human, but interesting. Still, not as interesting as… Yukari sighs, It won’t be too much longer now. Just wait a little longer for me, Yuko…

--

After a long trek, Mokou finally arrives at a colossal castle in the middle of the forest, “So this is it? This is where Kaguya resides. Finally…”

Mokou enters the castle. She is welcomed by floppy eared rabbit-girls, who try to stop her, but to no avail. She finally reaches the castle’s inner sanctum, where she sees Kaguya and Eirin, “Are you the one named Kaguya Houraisan?”

“I am,” answers Kaguya.

Without another word, Mokou extends her arm and sends a wave of fire at Kaguya, “AHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“Kaguya-hime!” yells Eirin.

Kaguya, enduring her pain, demands, “What… are you doing? Why did you…?”

“That was for my father, one of your suitors…”

“’Suitors?’” asks Kaguya, “That means you are from…”

“That’s right! He had true feelings for you… and now he’s dead because of it! I will have my revenge, no matter how many times it takes!”

Eirin volunteers, “Kaguya-hime, allow me to take care of our guest.”

“It’s fine…” mutters Kaguya, rising to her feet, “I can deal with her myself…” A transparent blade forms around her hand, “Come and try me!”

“Oh, I am going to enjoy this…” Mokou’s entire body ignites. The two rivals charge at each other, however, the attacks end in a draw. Mokou sent a blast of fire tearing through Kaguya’s lower chest and Mokou gets impaled in the same area by Kaguya’s blade. Both dying, the two girls slump to their knees, their blood spreading across the wooden floor. Even though it’s her first time feeling that type of pain, Mokou laughs, “Heh… That… felt good… I've wanted to do that… for such a long time…”

“This means nothing…” says Kaguya, “I’ll only… come back to life…”

“Likewise…”

“What?”

“You know that elixir you gave the Emperor? Well, he didn’t want it, so I took it. I’m just like you… Immortal…”

“I see… So tell me… Now that you’ve gotten this out of your system, what are… you going to do now…?”

“This is just the beginning. I’ll do this plenty more times. The never-ending battle of I, Fujiwara no Mokou, begins now…” Mokou, using her last ounce of energy leans over, bringing her face close to Kaguya’s, “… and consider this… my eternal promise…” With that, she lightly presses her lips against Kaguya’s.

“!” Kaguya, in complete surprise, uses her remaining stamina to push Mokou away from her.

Mokou laughs weakly, “Heh… heh… Word of your beauty got around fast… but looking at you like this… you’re not that hot…”

Kaguya pouts and says, “Well, I’m sure you’ll at least make things interesting around here…”

“Count on it…”

With that the two girls die, but at the same time, their lives are infinitely far from over.

An eternal rivalry begins…

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