You have always hated winter.
Things die in winter, they shrivel up into nothing and rest. Snow falls, it stops the warmth of beating hearts, it is delicate and cruel. It ends the suffering of something in pain; winter is cold but like a blanket, covering Gensokyo with sleep.
It reminds you that you will never rest as peacefully as they do.
You are acutely aware of the passage of time. You measure it by the growth of your hair; taking out the cloth talismans you use as hairties can be a nuisance, and you watch as the split ends grow out, how you need more bows to keep your hair in check. It gets in your way, yes, but it acts as a curtain to keep your neck and shoulders and back out of the cold, and as a clock, quietly counting the days into nothingness.
The only warmth in your house now is under the kotatsu and at the end of your cigarette. Sometimes you burn your arm with the smoldering tip to make sure you're still alive.
Kaguya visits to pick a fight, and the first thing she comments on is your undone hair, your wrinkled pajamas, the bags under your eyes.
"You're a noble too, you know. It wouldn't kill you to look a bit more delicate."
"Delicacy is for frog legs," you say as you exhale a puff of smoke, "and fairy wings. You really think I spent centuries living wild in these woods just to become delicate?"
"What would your father think?"
"He thought nothing of me anyway," you shrug, and inhale deeply. "Anyway, you have no right to talk of my father."
"He was my suitor. Of course I can talk of him."
"He was my father."
Kaguya makes a face between disappointment and resignation. Silence spreads out between you like a heavy blanket.
"Either way, you should stop smoking those. Frankly, they're disgusting, and they're bad for your health," Kaguya continues, her eyes closed.
"Geez. For all the times you've killed me, you seem to forget that I can't die," you grumble and throw your cigarette down, crushing it with your bare heel.
Kaguya's hair falls over her face like a silk curtain. In the parts of her face that you can see, there's a pain that is nearly unrecognizable as Kaguya's, and something in you is askew.
"I wish you could," she mumbles.
She doesn't respond, just bites her lip, almost nervously, and you feel a surge of pure anger within yourself, undirected and all-encompassing.
"No you don't, what are you talking about? If I died for good, where would you go? Gods above, Kaguya, you are so stupid," and you curl your lip in disgust and throw the glass of water at the floor. It shatters in near-perfect patterns, casting prisms and flecks of rainbows with the sun coming through the window. "I know, I know you couldn't find a reason to live if I weren't here, so why do you pretend--"
"I'm sorry, look, I said something out of character, that was wrong of me, I'm sorry--"
"If this is what you wanted this whole time then I don't know what to tell you, Kaguya, because you've got your damned princess head in the clouds if you think you'd be able to survive without picking on me--"
"I didn't want to say that, that's not what I meant-- Mokou, come on--"
You kick her in the stomach.
Kaguya doubles over, wheezing, and you don't even grin-- you drop your elbow into the crook of her arm, and hear the crack of bone below it. She winces, screams out loud, and reaches for your neck with her good arm, closing halfheartedly around it, fingernails digging into the soft skin of your throat.
"Fuck-- get off--"
You roll over, on top of her, holding her legs down. Kaguya's arms jerk upwards in defiance and her fist makes contact with your jaw. You feel a tooth come loose, and pry it out with your tongue-- it'll grow back just fine. She kicks wildly against your restraint, and then swings again at your face; you catch her fist in your hand and shove it downwards.
The hate inside you is so terrifying that you almost want it to stop, but she just pisses you off so much, she does this on purpose, you wish you could brush it off and stop caring about it about her but you can't, and you spit the words out along with the blood in your mouth, "I hate you," and she reaches up with one broken arm and one unbroken and wraps her hands around your delicate windpipe, but she doesn't squeeze, she hesitates, and her hands are warm on your neck.
A drop of water lands on Kaguya's cheek, but she's got her eyes closed below you, serenely half-smiling in that way that riles you up endlessly, that fucking look you hate-- that look of her trying to look for an escape but finding none and making her peace with it, and then she bites her lip almost tenderly, and you want to scream.
Another droplet, like dew. You realize that you are crying.
"Mokou," she says, quietly, just under her breath, and her hands tighten slightly around your neck, "tell me why you hate me."
"Because-- because you do this on purpose, you love seeing me angry, you do these things that I hate so much and they do so many things to me and I can't figure out what to feel anymore-- and you bite your lip and you smile, why, why are you smiling when I kill you?"
"Tell me why you started hating me."
It hits you. Painfully, a blunt forceful blow to your ribcage.
"Because of my dad?"
"I think after that you just looked for excuses to hate me."
You grip at your hair in sheer frustration. "Don't you dare say that! Don't you even TRY that with me--"
"You don't remember ever liking me, do you?"
"Why would I want to remember something like th-- oh. Oh no. You are such a piece of--"
She yanks down on your neck. You are dangerously close to her face, and her eyes dart quickly to the side.
"Mokou, if you want to kill me, you can."
In a moment of hesitation you pull your hands from her legs, and she lets go of you.
"You're doing this on purpose..."
"Maybe I am."
You brace your hands against each other and push down hard on her throat. She makes a choking sound, brief but somehow more saddening than any grief you've ever felt before, and then her eyes close.
When she recovers, her eyelids are reddened and weak-looking, and you're still straddling her watching as she recuperates, slips just out of death's hands once again. Your legs are trembling; your lip, too, as you cry, not even attempting to hold back the tears anymore.
You know now, you know it better than anything: this whole time, you were finding new excuses to hate her so you could run from the other option, and you're surprised it worked for so long.
Her face looks peaceful when she awakens.
"You figured it out, didn't you," she says, less a question than an answer.
"You're stupid," is your reply, muffled behind your hair.
"I told you I was selfish. I was too selfish to let you hate me forever."
"Stupid." You roll off Kaguya's hips, curl up into a ball with your back to her. "Why didn't you tell me."
"I do things on purpose," she replies calmly. "Only sometimes, though," she adds, seeing the look on your face.
"Ugh. Here, have some water." You tentatively push a glass of water towards her across the floors. Silently, she picks it up and drinks it.
"Tell me everything."
"As long as you don't try to kill me again."
"I can't promise anything," you admit, and shrug your shoulders.
You guess it was fair; you didn't really want to take revenge for your father, but it was just an expectation. Humiliation of one of us, he told you once, is humiliation of all. The Fujiwara do not bode well with embarrassment. You are a noble, though you are a girl.
"Girl, huh," you say to yourself resentfully as you pull at your hair.
Kaguya offers you a warm cup of hot sake. You take it, not even looking at her, and lift it to your lips.
"What's with you? You trying to get me drunk or something?"
"No, I just... know how much you hate the cold."
You slump over, but there's something warm bubbling in your chest. Thinking about it more, you realize that hate is not the opposite of love. It may seem that way, but as you bury further into the past you understand that apathy, not hate, is love's antithesis. Hate can be turned into love. It will take work, you think, but I have to forgive her.
(You have to forgive yourself first.)
Kaguya is a princess. She is too dignified to truly speak her mind. So when you swallowed the Hourai Elixir and vowed to take revenge, she did not want to tell you that she only wanted to apologize.
As if reading your thoughts, Kaguya turns to you. "We have eternity to work this out, if you'd like to."
"I'm just... afraid. That even if we do get on good terms for once, it won't be like that forever, you know?"
She sighs, downs the rest of her sake.
"But at the same time, we will not be on bad terms forever," she enunciates, clearly through the fog of alcohol. "I have until the world ends to forgive myself for never telling you. And you have just as much time to forgive yourself as well."
"It'll never be as simple as that. You're so naive, Kaguya."
"Maybe, but it's better to live forever in wonder and innocence than in cynicism and hatred."
You lift your eyes to the open sky above you, through the screened skylight.
"I guess so," is all you say as you finish your cup.
Apathy is the opposite of love. Love is care. Love is to have someone on your mind. Hate and love has this in common.
It may take an eternity to successfully turn hate into love, but you can already feel it fermenting in you, the rotted parts of your feelings towards Kaguya slowly maturing into deep red wine.
"If you get tired of me, we can battle, we can take it out on each other or stay away from each other. But eternity is forgiving. It pulls us back towards each other. You are all I have."
When Keine was alive she used to stroke your hair after a long day and tell you that you would not hate Kaguya forever, and that she was looking forward to that day. You always shook your head vehemently to the idea of that. You wanted to keep hating her, you wanted to stay with her in whatever twisted way it was. But she twirled strands of long white hair around your fingers and hummed, told you, it will all be okay.
Dimly, you begin to wish she was still here to see this.
Kaguya's fingers run through your hair, soothingly. You don't even notice you're crying until she tells you.
"Calm down, Mokou," she hums, and the wavelengths of her clear voice fill the air. You swear you can hear Keine whisper in the gaps between Kaguya's words, I told you so, I told you so.
She was always the smarter one, after all.