The Night Ends
Though a mere moment ago Kuniko was laying waste to the villagers that she had once protected, her rampage had come to a halt as her father now stood before her, shocked by the sight and attempting to regain what was left of his composure as he spoke out to his wayward daughter, who could only lower her blade and look on as she did her best to hold back her tears once more. "Kuniko, what is the meaning of all this? What are you doing? What have you done?!"
After a moment of silence, the girl managed to speak up while the grip on her sword suddenly tightened again. "I killed them, because they tried to kill me and Mariko. Father, I'm a monster now, but I don't want to die." Placing the palm of his hand on his face for a moment, Nagahiro took a step forward followed by another, giving his daughter a bit of a glare. "These were the people you had sworn to protect, Kuniko. What happened to you and Mariko? Where is she?"
Gritting her teeth as she heard the question, the young woman still couldn't bring herself to looking at her father though she did manage to respond in a shaky and panicked tone. "She was shot by Kaede. I had to avenge her. They tried to kill us both, father!" Seeing his daughter losing her composure again, the man ordered her to call down with a voice of authority before looking down at the ground with a frown. "I do not know what is going on here, but this is where it ends."
Nagahiro turned his back on his daughter after saying this, looking on into the darkness ahead of him, listening to the crackling sounds of distant flames. "We're leaving off to another village to the west. The others have already escaped, and I do not wish to leave my family here to die in a fire." Kuniko looked at her father and then back to the still-intact shrine near the two, turning to face it while sheathing her sword. "I'm sorry, but I can't go. I'm a youkai and a murderer now, they'd kill us both if I came along."
Trying his best not to shed any tears as he heard his daughter's response, the man gave his last words as he began to walk towards a few distant lights, those of the villagers and their torches. "Goodbye, Kuniko. Call yourself what you want from now on, but you will always be my daughter. And if Mariko is there too, take good care of her for me." The clan head soon disappeared into the dark, leaving Kuniko to wander off back to the shrine, distraught and weeping as her friends and family were all gone.
One last ray of hope came to her as Mariko suddenly walked over to her, placing a hand on her older sister's shoulder. "Onee-sama, what happened? Was father here, too?" Suddenly giving her sister a hug, Kuniko could only cry while holding on to her sister, calming down after an uncertain amount of time had passed. While she began to explain about what had happened while Mariko was unconscious, the girl noticed the silence hanging outside, though she snapped back to attention as her sister had something to say.
"Onee-sama, mother was here too. She had to leave, just like father did." Unable to bring herself to explaining that she used her powers to make Kazue leave the area, the girl instead apologized for not being able to make her stay and trying not to cry. "We're all alone here now. We've both been cursed. What are we going to do, onee-sama?" Hours passed as the two sat in the dark, eventually falling asleep from exhaustion with nothing to do about their hopeless situation.
Unbeknownst to the two, most of the humans from the village had escaped the now-ruined village, some leaving with the Sugawara and Otomo clan representatives to the east while others left to the west with the Soga and Hata clan leaders. At the ruins themselves, a pair of youkai looked at the mostly intact shrine, one sitting down and drinking sake while the other stood still, a frown on her face. "I guess things didn't go as we had expected. Our friends are dead, the humans ran away, and the village is in ruins."
Upon closer inspection, the woman seemed remarkably clean in comparison to the often untidy youkai that had been living in the area. Wearing a sky blue kimono with a turquoise sash, her hair was blonde with red patterns akin to flames on it, while her eyes were of a purple color. The single horn on the youkai's head revealed her true nature as one of the legendary kirin, as did the odd aura of calm around her. The youkai she was talking to turned out to be none other than the dreaded ushi-oni Manami Shimizu.
"The shrine looks more or less fine. Also, I'm pretty sure she's there right now. I can sense her presence." Suddenly, the woman got up and walked inside, looking around and noticing the Soga sisters resting in a corner of the slightly burnt room. While the ushi-oni looked on with a frown, her kirin friend walked in as well, looking around before setting her sight on the two young women lying down on the floor and smiling kindly. "I think we should let them sleep. If what I was told was true, they've truly been through a lot recently..."
Hearing this, Manami sat down again, her tail sweeping dust off the floor behind her as she picked up her sake gourd again. "Fine, I'll wait. Though why you're here to hear their story is beyond me." The horned woman's smile faded as she looked to the side. "I wish to confirm the tales told of what happened here, just like you do. I fear that this tragedy isn't exactly over yet." While the room was struck by an awkward silence after this statement, the two youkai suddenly snapped back to attention as Kuniko woke up to look at them.
"...what are you doing here?"