【Last Episode: Curtain Call and the end Part A, 8】
The sound of a waterfall reverberated clearly in my ears.
She was currently in a secluded place behind a temple located at the back of the Yatono family mansion, bathing in the natural pond at the waterfall’s base, purifying her body with cold spring water and clearing her mind in preparation for the upcoming ritual. Apparently it is a part of a sacred procedure which has been oversaw by the Yatono family for generations. The water was so cold that it must have burned her snow-white skin, but right now she looked like she didn’t even thought of it as unpleasant. For her it must be just a part of what must be done in order for her to full awaken, so it is a small price to pay. Before I came here I was informed that this is a water that’s flows down from the mountain’s summit and that the Yatonos made sure that it always stays clear of all impurities, making it the most sacred in all of Japan, ideal for the upcoming occasion.
She is not alone in here. There is a person standing behind her, making sure that she’s safe at all times. A petite girl with long, black hair, and the most loyal of her Knights.
The spring water made her white yukata transparent, exposing her captivating curves to the world and making her long, raven-black hair seductively stick to her body, and especially her back. Even though I am a woman just like her, the sight of her before me briefly numbed my senses with what can only be described as sexual excitement due to her overflowing sex appeal. Keeping my distance form her, I slip out of my clothes and wrap a bath towel around me.
「You can come out Shiki. I know you’re here.」
She is Princess Kaguya, the 「Queen of the Night」 and the 「Lord Above All Lords」, formerly known as Shiinamachi Kaguya. She addressed me without even having to look in my direction and ordered me to approach her.
「Yes, forgive me for sneaking around like that. I didn’t want to disturb you.」
「Thank you for being so considerate, but you don’t have to. After all, I can always sense whenever one of my Knights is close to me.」
And she looked at me with her strong-willed eyes as she fixed her wet hair. Her timid and kind heart was now gone without a trace, replaced by a sense dignity and nobility so strong that it was almost suffocating.
But… I could also feel a slight tinge of loneliness hidden among her ephemeral beauty.
She spreads her arms welcomingly and addresses me once again with her wet, cherry-like lips.
「Well, don’t just stand there. Come here. We can bathe together if you want.」
「Appreciate the offer, but I think I’ll pass.」
I answered her immediately, the main reason being that right now, in this moment I felt like there was too big of a gap between us to engage in such forms of skinship so openly.
「Why is that? You seemed to do it quite frequently with me when I was still Shiinamachi Kaguya, am I wrong?」
She has the same face as her, speaks with the same voice as her and remembers everything that she experienced, but was not her. Reminding myself of that made me feel like my chest was being crushed by some mysterious, painful emotion… no. That is a lie. I know full well what I the name of the emotion that’s taken hold of me now.
Sadness. And also loneliness.
I clenched my hand on the towel on my chest.
Who would have suspected that my heart has grown so weak, even after I spend all my life here in this mansion, training specifically not to let something like that happen to me. So in order to rid myself of that weakness, I clench my fist even tighter as I continue to watch Kaguya.
「That’s because her personality made it easy to get along with her.」
That was my honest opinion.
Kaguya’s shoulders shake with laugher even when she covered her mouth not to let it slip out. Did I say something that funny? My doubts must have been written all over my face, because even though she was still laughing, Kaguya beckoned me with her hand to come to her side. As her Knight, it was a request that I couldn’t ignore, so I took a step forward.
When I placed my naked foot in the pond, I immediately felt coldness so intense as if thousands of small needles were piercing through every fiber of my body. Even though it was mid-September already, the temperatures were still relatively high, but here, in this place, it was like all the warmth has been sucked out from the surroundings. That’s how cold the water in this sacred pond was.
「Now, come to me.」
This order was not issued to me in a strong, demanding tone, but rather in a calm and gentle one. But there was something in it that made me unable to go against it.
With every splashing step, the pond increased in depth. When I finally reached the waterfall where Kaguya waited for me, the cold water was reaching all the way to my thighs, filling them with the numbing sensation. But even if my whole body were to get drenched in it now, it would make no difference to me, since I have to change into a dress for the party either way. I won’t have any problems as long as I’ll be able to dry myself fast enough.
「Here I am.」
「Good. Now show your back to me.」
「As you wish.」
I did exactly as she told me and turned away from her. Knowing that every inch of my body was being observed by her made my heart race, even though I shouldn’t be harboring such thoughts towards her as her Knight and the proud member of the Yatono family. Yet there was something both in her voice and her movements which made me want to unconditionally listen to whatever she had to say. Is this because of one of her Gifts? Or maybe it has something to do with our connection as master and servant? As I was contemplating such possibilities…
My body has suddenly been hugged from behind me, filling my shivering limbs with the warmth of another person. The same warmth that the previous Kaguya had, filling my heart with a pleasant sense of nostalgia.
「I don’t think my mind or body has changed that much, Shiki. The 「Kaguya」 that has relied on you is still here.」
Those words spilled across my heart really violently.
Even if this Kaguya is the original one. Even if she has the same memories, only with different personality… I won’t be able to go back to the times I have spent together with Shiinamachi Kaguya.
This made my eyes tear up.
This place is not our beloved clock tower. And he will never come to see us again with that stupid smile on his face. I still clearly remember the movie the three of us came to watch that day and the visit at the beach after that. Come to think about it, I was probably the happiest one out of all of us. I truly had the time of my life there. It was all like a dream come true. Yes… even though I am a Yatono, I was able to enjoy freedom for a short time. That alone was a once-in-a-lifetime miracle.
Kaguya whispers my name into my ears. It was the voice of my master. A voice of someone whom I was meant to be serving since the day I was born and whom I could never go against.
「You are free to think whatever you want of me. Your thoughts are not my concern.」
So she noticed my weakness… no, she was probably aware of it all along. And yet she still chose to embrace me. Looks like grasping the depths of her insight is still a task beyond my reach. Nevertheless, those words gave me that little bit of salvation I so desperately needed.
「But remember that her time in this world is running out.」
She spoke that sentence with unrestrained joy.
Time is running out.
That’s right. Today is the day when Kaguya performs the ritual and will finally regain all the power she had lost so long ago. And when that happens, everything that was once 「Shiinamachi Kaguya」 will be gone forever. Is losing an important part of yourself really the reason to feel joy?
Just when I wanted to ask her that question…
I felt something that filled me with both joy and confusion. Because my 『Satori』 has detected something that shouldn’t be possible, and yet it happened. I turned my head behind me to see how Kaguya would react… and she was smiling. Thinking about it, she did say that she is able to sense the presence of her Knights. But she didn’t say if that applied to only the active ones, or to the former ones as well.
So that smile must mean…!
「Looks like Jiro-kun has finally arrived.」
How should I react to that unbelievable statement? With expectation? Delight? Confusion? Remorse? Sadness? Or maybe killing intent?
「Is that so?」
I at least had to answer her. I had to do it, even if squeezing those three simple words out while hiding the happiness I felt would crush my throat.
He did it. The absolute madman actually did it.
The moon hath cometh to get its Shiinamachi-senpai back.
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