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Bugs. Bugs. Bugs-Bugs-Bugs-Bugs-Bugs.

Seriously?

Seriously?!

This whole outdoors thing would be a hell of a lot more pleasant if someone had thought through evolution a bit better. When you really got down to it, what role did insects honestly play in - say – world peace? Or, ending hunger? Sure. Ridding the world of insects might result in fewer romantic moments glowbug butt-light, but maybe the world would be a better place without those stupid moments that everyone else got to experience EXCEPT for Renzou.

“I don’t get it,” Izumo sniffed from outside his tent. Of course she didn’t. Fair maidens rarely knew of the deep depravities of the man-insect relationship. “You grew up in a shrine. In Kyoto. Surrounded by nature.” If Izumo really thought that she was going to draw Renzou out of his tent with wonderful thoughts of home, then she had clearly missed a great big chunk of his character arc. “I am assuming that there were bugs and insects in this holy forest of yours?”

“Oh, yes,” Renzou growled darkly. Lots and lots of bugs. “But, also? Evil, terrible, no-good older brothers whose only source of entertainment was torture and all manners foul.” Good little shrine boys practised their chanting and how to walk in ceremonial robes without looking like an arse. Actual little shrine boys sought out ways to destroy their innocent, loving little brother from the inside out.

Crickets in his hair.

Beetles in his shoes.

Grasshoppers stuffed down the back of his shirt.

Tomatoes under his pillow.

(Kinzo was kind of dumb even on a good day)

Renzou’s impressive scowl tugged upwards into a bittersweet smile. The random bug attacks had mostly ended after That Day, because who had time for brotherly nonsense when there were more important things to protect? Still, the PTSD lingered like cheap perfume on an expensive date. Once you shared an accidentally intimate bath with three dozen cockroaches, it was difficult to look at anything black with wings the same way again. This had led to some unfortunate incidents with black, flying things that were not cockroaches, because why not? Humiliation was best generalised to all living, breathing, mocking creatures.

“It sounds like your brothers bugged you quite a bit.”

And ... was that ... wait ... it couldn’t be...

“Izumo,” he started cautiously, least he scare her away. “Did you, perchance, just make a joke?”

“Hmph!”

He could hear her flounce from inside his tent. It was an inspired flounce, all swishing robes and gnashing teeth.

Renzou was impressed. This was a flounce that had been practised to the point of perfection.

It deserved an appropriate flailing in response.

“No, wait!” Renzou protested as he stumbled dramatically out through the tent flaps and into the great, terrible known. “It was a good joke! No! It was a great joke! They bugged me! Ha! Man, I wish I had-“

“Here.” Renzou omphed as Izumo roughly pressed a shovel into his gut. “We have work to do,” she admonished, a dark blush splashed across her nose. “We’ve already fallen behind the other groups.”

Renzou didn’t know why they couldn’t dig for magical, mythical minerals somewhere clean. And indoors. Maybe somewhere with air conditioning and not-bugs? It was one of life’s greatest tragedies that no one ever listened to any of Renzou's brilliant ideas.

Izumo dropped a spider onto Renzou’s shoulder an hour into their dig, proving once again that she was both a good friend and secretly evil incarnate.

Renzou appreciated the effort, but it wasn’t quite-

It wasn’t quite the same.

Stupid bugs.

Stupid, useless brothers.

He still screamed impressively, anyway.

Stupid, evil spiders.