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The Color of the World

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Check my Tumblr for the fanart: Kimetsu no Yaiba Reverse-Role AU


When happiness ends, there's always...

The fog of blood in the air


"Nezuko!"

The black-haired girl turned to the caller, the bottom of her hair with an orange highlight swayed lightly, though most of it was tightened into a bun. Nezuko, who was in charge of putting their younger sibling to sleep, smiled at her older brother's approach. He was a bit taller than her, with burgundy hair and burgundy eyes. A nasty burn on the side of his forehead was visible, a wound he got from protecting Rokuta after he knocked down the family's brazier once. He was giving her a small wave, and wearing a pair of long rectangular earrings with a sun symbol; the only memento he kept from their deceased father. Tanjiro looked ready to go to town, judging from the basket of coal on his back, which was one of their family's main sources of income. As he arrived, he put his big hand on top of Rokuta's hair, smiling softly. "It's snowing pretty hard right now. So don't wander into the forest too far, okay?"

"I can say the same to you, Niichan!" Nezuko giggled. "You know you don't have to push yourself today, right? We can just relax and wait until the snow stops."

Tanjirou scratched his nape and chuckling nervously. "Sorry. But I want us to have a great new year's feast, so I'll sell as much charcoal as I can." He stopped and leaned back, sniffing the air with eyes closed. "I smell the weather changing so give mom my blanket to cover her a bit more. She's stubborn sometimes, I don't want her to fell ill again, especially this time of the month"

Nezuko nodded. She trusted her brother's nose. Her brother had an uncanny sense of smell. Sometimes the townsfolk compared it to an animal, though not in a bad way. The sister wished she had that skill. It would help a lot when she accidentally left the food too long and ruined their meal. It happened several times when Tanjiro was away and it was her turn to cook. It kinda miffed her that her cooking was not as delicious as her brother's, but you gotta have a weakness somewhere.

(If only their father was still alive. His sense of smell was just as strong as Tanjiro's.)

It was fine, though. She may not have the nose of a cat, but she does have another ability that is as baffling as her brother's.

A dark blue fog flew past her red eyes.

"Ah, I see it too," Nezuko mumbled. "Looks like today's weather will be a lot colder tonight."

She can see the colors of the world.

Every living creature has its own color. She could see them, as a form of a fog that reaches out of their body like a string of fate. It was always so amazing to see tons and tons of colors weaving around like a beautiful rainbow, although it was overwhelming at first when she realized she had this kind of skill. Nezuko was sure Tanjiro experienced the same problem when he first got his sense of smell; so overwhelming that he had been on the verge of vomiting. Until their father taught him how to control it. Her brother then taught her how to control it too, so she can appreciate the beautiful craftsmanship of a living being.

It may not be as instantaneous as her brother's nose was, but it brightened her world anyway.

(If only she realized that wherever there's a light, a shadow will always lurk.)

"Yeah? Please take care of mom if I'm coming home late." Tanjiro grinned as he walked away. "I'll bring you guys some mochi for a snack tonight. Sakura-mochi for you?"

"Uh-huh! Thanks a lot, Niichan!" She gave him her own grin. "Come back home soon, okay?"

He raised his hand and gave a small wave without turning his back.

Nezuko, after being surrounded by her other younger siblings asking her to play with them, stepped into the house. She lay Rokuta on the futon and approached her mother, who was knitting the unfinished kimono while lightly coughing whenever she stopped to take a breath. Nezuko's eyebrows furrowed in worry. Their mother was a seamstress, another job that helped them gain money for their daily necessities. However, her mother's health had been going downhill this year, especially this time of the season where snow enveloped the whole mountain they lived on. Nezuko offered to take the job, as it was also her hobby anyway. Watching her mother's hands handle the thread, weaving it into the pretty clothes was calming. But of course, as always, her mother refused to.

"Oh no, that's okay. I can finish this on my own." She craned her neck, "Where's your brother? Is he already gone?"

"Yes, just now."

"Really? And I wanted to ask him for a delivery too." She rummaged the drawer and pull out five bundles of kimonos and yukatas. "I've finished them, so I want to send it to our customer as soon as I can. Especially since one of them asked for a Shiromuku for their wedding a week from now."

"I can deliver it to them, Mom." Nezuko proposed.

"Are you sure?" She asked for confirmation, letting out a small cough that tightened Nezuko's resolve.

"Yup!," The girl smiled, reaching out to take the bundle and cradling it in her embrace. "Don't worry. I'll try to seek out niichan so we can go home together."

The worry is still palpable on her mother's pale face as Nezuko changed her kimono into an easy to move in yukata. Yet she knew she could not stop her, seeing the fire inside her red eyes, burning like an inferno. She sighed. It was not just the mother, but her children were just as stubborn as she was, especially the eldest two. She didn't let go before she gave her daughter a peck on her cheek, wishing her good luck and to be careful.

Nezuko hummed as she trekked down the mountain. It's been a while since she visited the town, she usually restrained herself to only help around the house, taking care of the younger kids to lighten her mother's work when their father had fallen ill, and now was long gone. She cannot help but feel excited to see the changes in town, even if it was just small changes. Maybe she could also buy some souvenirs for mom and younger siblings. Tanjirou promised to buy them some snacks so she could buy a little trinket if wasn't too expensive. A hair clip or maybe socks. Mom said it's okay to use some cash. It's a new year so they can splurge a little bit, especially with Tanjiro's promise to bring another bundle of coins back. Their brother was always true to his promises. When he said he would sell the charcoal till there was no more left, he'd do it. Even if he had to circle the town for a second or third time.

The town was as bustling as she remembered, and the townsfolk were just as charming as she remembered, too. Some of the snack stores invited her to sample their wares. She accepted one dango and refused another because she wanted to prepare her tummy for the new year's feast. And the mochi that Tanjiro would buy too. That didn't mean she refused to talk with them, however, especially with how nice they were and how delighted the kids were to see her again. So, to her shame, she wasted a lot of time, not because she failed to deliver the packages to the customers, but from conversing with said customers instead. Before she knew it, it was already night and she hurried her steps on the way home.

A shout from somewhere halted her, though.

"Nezuko!" A man in his thirties exclaimed from the window, calling her before she could scale the mountain up. "What are you doing, walking around at night? It's dangerous up there!"

"Oh, Saburou-san. It's okay, I can see the color of my family from here," she said. It was not a secret from the townsfolk that Kamado's family—or to be exact, three of the family, one of them already up in heaven—have their own unique abilities, such as Tanjiro. Hers may not be as much of a help—but for example, they asked her brother to search for a thief based on the smell that was lingering on the plate they broke one time. With his help, the culprit was caught within a day and he was paid for it. 'Call it a side job.' He said. As long as it's legal, he doesn't mind using his ability to help people in need—but they had fun playing 'guess who' with her ability whenever new people come into town and they want to show off a little trick, "I can use that as a guide so I will not get lost."

"No. You can stay here, please! Come back!"

"But..."

"It's all right! You're welcome here!" He sounded desperate, face pale and eyes bulging.

"You don't want to run into any demons."

So there she was, in the cozy house of her neighbor. Nezuko ate the dinner the man prepared as she listened to his story. He said he saw Tanjiro just an hour ago, coming home a bit earlier than expected. Sounded like he managed to sell the goods with one trip. He was ready to call out for him to stay. However, her brother was too quick on his feet and before Saburou knew it, he had already blended within the thick forest. He thought it was okay though, as the light was still out and he hoped Tanjiro arrived at home before sunset. But that was not the case for Nezuko, who was clearly walking around when the light was already out so Saburou immediately called for her before it was too late. He told her that for ages, man-eating demons had roamed these woods after dark. Even for a paranoid warrior, the beasts were dangerous and they can creep up upon their prey without being noticed. Nezuko thought that it was just a myth, something parents tell to scare children so they don't wander around at night without supervision.

"Next time when Tanjiro goes down the mountain, maybe I can ask him to bring us along." She mused as she tightened the blanket around her body and closed her eyes. "There's no need to fear. There's no such thing as demons in the first place, anyway."

But now that I think of it...

.

Our grandmother said the same thing before she died.


Nezuko bid him goodbye when the morning came, thanking him for his hospitality and promising to not stay out too late. She hummed along the way, clutching the box that contained the hairpin and pair of socks that she promised to buy as souvenirs. Yesterday was a great day. She couldn't wait for the feast and for other good memories to remember during the next year.

But she didn't realize.

She stopped short, orbs widened and pupils dilated.

When happiness ends, there was always...

A red fog passed. A lot of red fog. It was different from her family's red line. It was different from her mom's gentle red or her brother's calming red. This one is too red. Too sickly. Too horrifying. How could such a beautiful color be this disgusting—

There was a fog of blood in the air.

Nezuko stood frozen when she saw her brother slumped, protecting Rokuta's fragile body with his own bloodied one.

This red fog—

—is the red fog of Death.

"NIICHAN!"

"Niichan! What the—arrgh!" She ran towards the bodies, grasping at his crumpled yukata. She accidentally brushed over Rokuta's skin. Cold. Cold, it was too cold, and she jerked her fingers back in horror. "What happ—"

She made a mistake and glanced at the inside of the house, past the ruined, crooked door.

Nezuko could never forget the sight, it was forever literally burned into her mind.

Red, red,  red  everywhere. How could her favorite color, the color of their family, look so grotesque like this? How could her favorite color, the color of their  happy  family, look so devastating like this?

Ahh… the corpses. The corpses of her family were the cause of that.

"Mother… Hanako." Her lips trembled. "Takeo...Shigeru." Her teeth were chattering. "Niichan… Rokuta..."

What happened?

.

.

"Only Niichan's body was still warm. Maybe a doctor can save him." She carried him on the cart her brother usually used to pull Hanako and Shigeru whenever they followed him to the city. She tucked his body inside the thick blanket, trying to maintain his body heat as much as possible. "How did this happen? A bear? Maybe a bear too hungry to hibernate?!"

She huffed and puffed, not used to pulling the weight of someone who was bigger than her. Especially as her brother's muscle mass weighed the whole cart down, a figure he developed after scaling the mountain up and down every day. She almost tripped, but she managed. She had to manage. Because her brother's life was on the line. Her only living family was on the verge of dying, here!

"So hard to breathe!" The snow has been pouring since last night. "The air's so cold, it's freezing my lung!"

Keep going, keep going! Move your feet faster!

Tanjiro's finger twitched—

I won't let you die, niichan! I will—

There was a rustle from the forest below. A pair of legs were running between the bushes at top speed—

A tear fell down from her puffy eyes.

The brother stood up from the cart, hands reaching toward his sister's unsuspecting back; Iris and pupil gone, leaving white sclera enveloping the usual red orbs that were now gone, gone, gone—

—I will save you!

SLAAASSH!

BOUM!

ROLL, ROLL, WHOMP!

.

.

.

She didn't know what happened. One moment, she was dragging the cart with her older brother inside it. And the next second, a sharp wind passed over the top of her managed to cut her hair tie and make her tight bun fall down. She was pretty sure it cut some strands like a fine, razor blade, too. But it was a clump of red strands. It's not black. It's not my hair—a big pair of, warm, warm arms wrapped around her shivering body and pulled. Yanking her away from the dangerous gust and, unfortunately, sending them careening into the forest below. Now, she was on her back, watching the clouds go by. Heart hammering like crazy and sweat after sweat dripped from her forehead like a gushing waterfall.

"The snow… saved me." She coughed. "Thank god, the snow saved me..."

But wait. Where's—

"Niichan!" She got up, head swiveling right and left, her breath quickening in panic, "Niichan, where—"

"Is… this your niichan?"

Nezuko gasped, unconsciously stepping back a little at the harsh tone of a stranger that suddenly reached her hearing. It was a man with black hair, wearing the same, black uniform along with unique haori that was clear it was two cloths stitched into one; the right side is dark red in color while the left side is green and yellow in color, crisscrossed in a complex pattern. There's a katana clasped in his right hand. And in the opposite palm is—

"Niichan!" She shouted, and took a large step to reach them but the man held his sword in a warning manner, and she stopped. Nezuko saw her brother struggling in the stranger's grip, trying to free himself. Not wanting to worsen the situation, she gulped and said, "Y-yes. That's my Niichan. He's...he's hurt. I have to bring him to the doctor so plea—"

"He's not hurt." he cut her off. Those blank, blank orbs unnerved her to no end and he kept talking. "Are you so absentminded you don't even realize what your brother has become?"

"Wha—"

"Look closely." He snatched Tanjiro's chin and forced him to look upward. "Look at him and tell me if he is still your brother."

Nezuko's breath hitched.

Fangs, nerves bunched around his forehead like a crazed beast.

Those warm, warm burgundy eyes that she loved so much turned into dull ginger. Even now as they were talking, the beautiful, burgundy locks started fading, turning into a sad reddish brown. She hated it, she hated it, she hated it.

Why? What happened? What happened to her precious older brother that turned him so drastically like thi—

Old man Saburo's words rang through her head.

Demon. Man-eating demon.

But...but Niichan has been human. It was only a glimpse of memories, forgotten because she was still a baby. Yet she knew the young face of her brother when he leaned over her. Playing with her, making silly sounds to make her laugh. Niichan has been human, has always been human.

"N-No..."

"Your brother is a demon. Maybe the one who actually killed your family—"

"NO! Don't you dare say that!" Nezuko exclaimed, her heart quickened even more, almost hammering into her ribcage like a festival drum. "Niichan… Niichan would never do that! There's no blood on his hands. Or...or mouth! He didn't kill anyone! He will not kill anyone!"

"Yet you knew he jumped on you."

"No! There's no way that niichan—" Nezuko stopped when she remembered the incident seconds ago. "You...you are the culprit right?" She stammered. "You're the one who cut my hair tie and niichan's hair. You attack us!"

"I'm just trying to kill the demon."

"Yeah, but you're way, way off and that's why niichan tackled me! He was trying to save me from your attack!"

"..."

"Besides… besides, I saw it!" She waved her hands in desperation. "I saw another thread hanging around our house."

A black fog so black, Nezuko felt like she was staring right into the abyss.

"That thread… That must be the thread from the real culprit! Not Niichan! I don't know what's making him act like this, but—"

"That's easy." He interrupted her for the second time. "Demon blood got in his wound so he's transformed into a demon."

.

.

She felt her head spin.

For such a thing to happen. While she was safely asleep in town, something horrible happened. Happened to her whole family.

How they must have suffered. And I wasn't there to help them. Wasn't there to save even a single one of them.

Except she did. There's her brother. Demonic and growling like a scared creature, but alive nonetheless.

With a sword now pointed at his neck.

"NO! What are you doing?!" Nezuko took another step, not caring about how deadly the stranger's gaze was.

"He's a demon. And I'm a demon slayer. It's my job to banish his kind from this world before he kills another human."

"But I'm...I'm sure there's a way to turn him back. There must be! He never killed anyone so—"

"That doesn't mean anything!" His voice was harsh, it reverberated through the woods. "I can't keep a demon alive based on your word alone. Little did I know, the moment I left you with him, he's too hungry to even recognize you as his sister. He will eat you in your sleep, and wander into town to eat other unfortunate humans!"

(If only I come half a day sooner. The man thought. If only I was faster. If only I was strong enough—)

"Weakness and empty promises cannot protect your brother or find him a cure." He raised his katana, lips thinned. "And they certainly cannot avenge your family!"

He swung the sword down and—

SHHIINNKKK

—planted it deep into Tanjiro's left shoulder.

"NOOOOO!"

"GRAAAHH!"

Two things happened in a mere second. The girl bellowed and clasped her finger around a rock that was buried under the snow, throwing it at him as hard as her fragile arm could take. He evaded it easily.

The other one was, the demon brother let out his own scream, his body suddenly grew to twice the height of a teenager, and now was as big as an adult, loosening his grip on the demon's wrist without consent at the same time. The brother squatted a bit lower, turned his body a little to the side before he used his leg to kick him away. This time the demon hunter couldn't dodge it with how close they were, and could only shift his body a little bit or else that kick will land on his rib and crack them good.

Then the brother sped up towards the girl.

NO! He skidded to a halt. I'm too far away! He's going to eat her—

Before he scooped the crying little sister up in a bridal style and ran in the opposite direction, away from the baffled swordsman.

It was weird, to say the least. A starving demon would kill and eat their own parents and siblings because they needed energy. He'd seen it countless times. That boy was injured, it cost his strength to heal that wound. Not to mention the strength it took to transform into a demon. He must have been doubly starved right then, and want to eat human flesh as soon as possible, right there and then even if it just a little bit.

But he ran away from me. Focusing on his sister and bringing her away to safety.

No, no way. Maybe the demon just wanted to find a hidden place to eat the human. No beast will feel safe to consume their meal if a demon hunter was clearly circling them. That must be the real reason why. So, tightening the muscles on his knee, he sped toward them like an eagle spotting their prey. He chased after them, gaze hardened in determination. When he was right behind the demon, sword ready to cut his head off though, the girl popped up from behind the brother's shoulder. With gritted teeth and eyebrows furrowed, she produced another stone and threw it at him, he ducked.

"What the hell is that girl doing!" He growled. "Doesn't she realized that her life is in danger?!"

She must have not because, at the next second, she threw him another one. (Where did she get that, really? Has she been accumulating stones when they had their conversation minutes ago? Hiding it inside her yukata without him knowing?) He evaded two of the stones, but deflected the third one with his weapon, and angled it directly at her brother's ankle.

"GRAAH?!"

"KYAAAH!"

The shock of something sharp knocked the demon off-balanced, tumbling them both into the snow. They rolled for a whole five seconds, scattering the snow into the air. He thought he heard a loud crack. And judging how the sister's scream cut off, a hidden stone beneath the snow must've hit her head or something and rendered her unconscious. The swordman hoped it was only a concussion and not a fatal wound.

(Because he already failed. Failed to save her family. There's no way he could've failed to save her life either. The guilt would be overwhelming and he'd regret it for the rest of his life.)

They came to a stop as he drew his breath. He stood over them with pity clearly directed toward the sleeping girl. He understood, he did. Her family is dead and her brother had become a demon. Her heart was crushed. He knew her pain, how she must have wanted to cry out and rage at the world for the unfairness of it all. I should kill her brother now before she wakes up. He thought, as he reached for his body and tried to turn him a bit away from the collapsing girl. Strange that the demon curled around her body like a ball, minimizing their impact as much as he could. But why? He would understand if it was just for his safety, but the form he took was clear that he was trying to do the same to the girl.

Like he was trying to prote—

He jumped back when sharp claws swung right in front of his face, grazing his nose a bit and cutting a strand of his hair.

The demon woke up, he cursed. The hunter was crouched low and his stance was ready to unleash one of the skills his mentor taught him but—

"...tect"

He stopped short when he heard the demon growled. Did he just...talk?

"Pro...tect..." The demon hissed. "Protect...fa...mily..."

"I...will...pro...tect...Nezuko!"

.

.

The swordsman's eyes widened.

Niichan! Not niichan!

The girl desperate voice echoed through his ears like he really heard a second sound. As he saw the brother standing in front of the fallen girl, fangs bared and orbs popped. His hands were spread to the side, protecting his little sister's unconscious form from the befuddled stare of the demon slayer. Shielding her from her supposed attacker.

Niichan would never eat anyone!

.

.

Ah… So when I saw her brother running away from me, bringing her along, that was true. It was not my imagination.

The demon made a leap.

He really did try to protect her.

As the demon bounced from tree to tree and got ready to tackle him head-on, he sheathed his sword and raised his open palm, intended to chop on his neck and knock him out.

These two may be different.

WHACK!


It was dark without light. Nezuko lay in the middle of the darkness, fainted. Her family—mother, Hanako, Takeo, Shigeru, Rokuta—came by and sat beside her, one by one. Their expressions were scrunched up, worried about how fragile their robust sister looked. Her mother, her precious, precious mother leaned over her and whispered.

"I'm sorry I had to leave you, Nezuko." Her voice sounded so sad. Her eyes looked so sad. She smiled, wry and regretful but full of hope. "Please take care of your brother for us."

"NO! Don't leave me!" Her hand reached out. "Don't leave me, don't leave me, my dear mother!"

GRASP!

Her eyes opened.

And realized her fingers (may not be able to grasp her mother's kimono, but) managed to curl around her brother's yukata.

Nezuko puffed, tears rolling down from her reddened eyes. Her brother is there, unconscious yet alive. She saw the fangs behind Tanjiro's parted lips. Reminding her that, yes, it wasn't a dream. It wasn't all a bad dream. Her family is dead and her only alive brother was turned into a demon. Why? Why why why why—

"You're awake?"

Nezuko flinched as she saw the man from before, the demon slayer, peeking around the tree, and watching them with blank eyes. She scrambled up, hugging her brother close and away from the swordsman even though she knew the action was futile. She remembered how fast he moved, even with her brother's monstrous strength as he ran away from him minutes ago. She knew he could kill her only family without mercy, without her even knowing. But damn it, she would try anyway!

The man didn't move, he just kept talking. " Do you really want to cure your brother?"

"Wha—" Nezuko gulped when his gaze turned unimpressed. However, her eyebrows furrowed and a metaphorical fire lit behind her burgundy eyes. "Yes. If I have to be a demon slayer myself, just so I can find a demon and demand an answer, so be it. As long as I can turn Niichan back to human. And—"

One of his eyebrows lifted as the girl looked at her brother's sleeping face, "—And if I can use the same cure to turn other demons back also, I don't mind sharing. They're former humans, right? Just like niichan. They have feelings too..."

The man didn't comment on that one, but he indeed continued. "Go see an old man named Sakonji Urokodaki who lives at the foot of mount Sagiri then," he said, "tell him that Tomioka Giyuu sent you."

So his name is Tomioka-san...

"Your brother should be fine because the sun isn't out today." He stepped back to the foliage. "But don't let him into direct sunlight. He'll burn. And try to talk to him. He spoke to me before so your theory about him recognizing you may be right. If he cannot talk, however, you should hide those fangs. Don't want people to get alarmed by his oh-so-obvious changes." Before he then disappeared entirely, leaving the siblings alone in the woods; tired, confused yet glad that both of them are still alive.

After sitting around doing nothing, trying to regain her senses and bearing, she finally snapped from her stupor. Tanjiro had woken a moment ago when she was still caught up in her own demise, fussing over her like he usually did. If it's not because of his dull, ginger eyes or the whines and grunts his throat produced instead of real sentences (he couldn't talk. He couldn't talk, Tomioka-san. Not anymore), Nezuko could pretend that everything was okay. That her brother was still human. That Tanjiro could still bask under the sun and smile like the sun itself; so warm and cheerful. No, she reiterated. He could. He could smile. But Nezuko will see the fangs. Will he see her failure for not being there and helping her family? (Yet what can I do? I'm not as strong as Niichan. I'm not as courageous as Niichan. If I'm there, I'm just gonna be a burden, and I don't want niichan to pull my weight because of my weakness)

Tanjiro was flustered when he saw his little sister crying, clinging to him like a lifeline. Mumbling his name and apologizing, over and over as her voice turned hoarse.

Nezuko clasped her hand on the grave they made for their family, praying for their safety to cross over the Tanzu river. Her demon brother—now sporting a bamboo tied around his mouth—tilted his head, questioning her gesture, yet did the same anyway. She kinda wanted to laugh at how innocent he now acted. His hair was already fully ginger and was cut short because of Giyuu's first attack. It made him look like Takeo. (She mourned for the loss again). It's a bit messy so Nezuko would trim it. After the funeral. After the prayer. After they get away from the open field and find a safe place for Tanjiro to hide.

She tied her hair into one ponytail for easy maneuvering, stood up and grasped her brother's rough hand. With a bundle of clothes containing all the food and money she could find inside their wrecked house, including a hatchet as a weapon of some sort, she took one last glance at her family graveyard and mumbled. "Let's go, niichan"

And they ran to the horizon, hoping for a new future in this cruel, unforgiving world.

Chapter Text

"Excuse me, sir." Nezuko bowed to the farmers who were doing their usual job one fine morning. They stopped their activities and gave her a smile, which she returned albeit a little tiredly. "May I take that basket, a little straw, and bamboo? I'll pay for it."

"Oh, no, no. You don't have to. The basket has a hole in it." The husband waved his hand, dismissing her offer. "If you really want it that bad, just take it. You can get the straw and bamboo for free too."

"Are you sure? My brother always said to pay someone when you ask for something. It's only right."

"If the good is in better shape and keeps pristine, sure. But that basket is basically trash for us." He held the hoe up to his shoulder, grinning good-naturedly. "Really, just take it. We planned to throw it away, anyway."

Nezuko blushed a bit at their kindness. She bowed for the second time and proceeded to pick up the things she needed. As the couple bid her goodbye and wished her a safe journey, she climbed the mountain not far from the outskirts of town. She was careful not to make others curious about what a lone girl like her was doing in the middle of the gloomy forest, in case they decided to follow her along. She did this by hiding when a carpenter passed her or making up an excuse when they found her before she could blend in. After a couple of minutes of surveying the area, she finally approached the small cave at the top of the mountain. She crouched low and peeked inside. Her heart stopped for a second when she saw it empty. Where—. Nezuko was ready to scale up and down the whole mountain and check every nook and cranny if she had to but stopped short when a frightened face, covered by the checkered black and green pattern haori, popped up from underneath the earth.

"Oh, there you are, Niichan." She breathed a sigh of relief. "Did you dig that hole? You look like a mole now."

Tanjiro whined and Nezuko giggled. Her brother—now turned demon—must really not have wanted the sunlight to hit him. Giyuu said he would burn and, knowing the sensation itself after her first week of learning how to cook, she didn't want to imagine how painful it would be when your whole body was being roasted alive instead of just one finger. So, she told him to wait as she made a make-shift bag for him to hide using the broken basket, straw, and bamboo she got. Nezuko wanted to travel during the day too, not wanting to waste time, because, rather than waiting for the sun to come down, she could use that time to research a cure for her brother's symptoms instead.

"Oh, you're too big." The dark-haired girl chewed her bottom lip, watching the bottom half of Tanjiro's body peeking out from the basket. She knew her brother was taller than her, but she didn't know he was this tall.

Wait...

When he tried to fight Tomioka-san, didn't his body grew ten times bigger than he was before? She mused aloud. "Maybe it was his power? That he got after turning into a demon?"

"Niichan, you're as big as an adult now." She gestured, tapping Tanjiro's back to get his attention. "Can you maybe… reverse that? And get smaller?"

Tanjiro rolled upward and lifted the basket on top of his head. Before he met her eyes, smiled and nodded. Nezuko was a bit startled when he suddenly began wiggling around, pushing his entire body into the bag. It kind of reminded her of how Hanako tried to stuff the whole laundry into one drawer, mushing the clothes to fit inside. Except change the clothes into a human being, and you get the gist. The second sibling held the basket so as to make it didn't topple over. Within a blink, Tanjiro was already a lot smaller than before. His face became younger, and his body size was similar to what their youngest brother's had been (She held back a choked sob.)

"That's perfect, Niichan. I can carry you easily, now!"

Tanjiro clapped his hands in happiness. A contagious happiness, because Nezuko herself laughed with obvious mirth.

To get to the mount Sagiri, they first had to cross the mountain at the opposite end of town, at least that was according to a passing mother and son that Nezuko asked along the way. The mother was worried about her, a lonely girl, trekking up the mountain in the middle of the night, bringing a huge load on her back to boot. But Nezuko just shook her head and bowed, thanking her for the directions. She listened to her advice not to get lost because people really did disappear there, and promised to be careful.

When she was sure that they were deep within the foliage, Nezuko let her brother out now that the sun was set. He may not have needed to breathe like a normal human anymore, but that didn't mean she felt okay with keeping Tanjiro cooped up inside a basket all day long. Her demon brother stretched out—figuratively and literally, as his body grew back to his usual size—and fondly messed her hair for no reason. Or maybe he tried to give her a 'good job' pat for climbing up the mountain without rest, not to mention carrying him around. He may be just as small as Rokuta but it was still a rigorous job, nonetheless. Especially given that Nezuko was female and she hadn't been doing the heavy workload around the house for a while—besides putting the youngest to sleep—as the boys volunteered to do so. (Did. They were gone now. No, don't think about it!) Nezuko's cheeks turned red and she pouted when she heard him chuckling behind that thick bamboo.

Tanjiro suddenly stopped short, however, his ginger orbs sharpened like a cat and his nose twitching like crazy. Nezuko blinked in wonder and was ready to ask what was wrong. Before—

A red fog flew in front of her eyes.

The same one she saw at their old house.

The same fog of death.

Her head immediately twisted, horrified gaze landing on the way station across from them; a temple made of wood and shoji door that was rotted by time. No. Nezuko ran towards it, Tanjirou following behind. No, please don't tell me—

"Hello!" She yanked the door open. "Is everyone oka—"

Red, red, red,  red  no! Stop making her reconsider whether she likes the color or not! Not again! Not like this!

"What? Hey!" The demon she didn't realize was there (Too caught up by the corpses. Too caught up by the reminder that this is how her family left this world too) glared at them. Those yellow eyes widened and the nerves bunched around the sclera, adding to the grotesque effect. His shoulder-length black hair was matted with dried blood. And those sharps fangs glinted in the moonlight, glistened with the flesh he consumed and liquid he drank. The beast growled. "This is my territory! Get away from my feeding grounds, brat!"

He's… he's a man-eating demon!

(Tanjiro stood at the entrance. Gaze lingering on the broken bodies of a former happy family.)

Ginger orbs sharpened. The black pupil tightened. His fangs gritted, cracking the bamboo in retaliation.

"Hm?" The demon blinked. "Something is wrong here. Are you two..."

Nezuko tensed up.

"...human?"


The demon lept—

She swung her weapon—

SLASH!

It hit his neck.

"A hatchet?" He halted his advance, letting out a growl. The demon lifted his hand to feel the blood gushing from the neck. A low rumble rose from his throat as he laughed. "Not bad. Not bad at all~"

"But a wound like this will heal in no time." He bragged, releasing the wound. Nezuko watched in horrified amazement when the slash indeed, slowly closed up. The blood that was littering his neck dried up like it was sucked up from the inside. "See?"

While Tanjiro still stood motionlessly at the temple entrance, the demon immediately jumped on Nezuko, who couldn't manage to let out another strike. She coughed when he went for the neck, tightening his hand and clawing the skin. The second Kamado heard the demon talking about killing her, but she was too busy trying to lift the disgusting hands from her throat, wanting to take a breath as much as she could, instead of answering back in defiance. The demon was fast. And strong. She could practically see the black dot swimming at the corner of her eyesight already. She choked, as tears started welling up. No. There's no way she could die in a place like—

Before she could finish that thought, however, a gust of wind rustled. Tanjiro practically teleported to her side, orbs slit. And like a flash of light—

WHAM!

—he threw a kick hard enough that the body of the demon stayed on the ground, yet his head flew like a ball. Nezuko blanched.

He...he just killed him! mouth agape, she threw the headless body aside. Well, he was a demon, but— "N-Niichan—"

The clawed hands moved towards her face—

And Tanjiro threw another kick, sending the body to the air for several seconds before it hit the tree and stopped.

D-Did it just move? Nezuko was frightened. That body just moved even with its head ripped off!

"Why you!" The head talked! She wanted to cry! "I knew it! One of you is a demon! What are a demon and a human doing together?"

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP!

The body had stood back up and then tackled the surprised Tanjiro. Something in Nezuko snapped when she saw her brother's widening eyes. When she saw the headless body was ready to rip his face off!

"STOP IT!" she grabbed the hatchet and swung it as fast as she could, intended to chop its torso—

A fog of black wafted.

She made a sudden turn and struck the flying head instead.

Somehow, the demon managed to chomp the blade with his sharp fangs before her attack could separate the head in two, and hands that she never realized were growing at the side of his head grabbed her shoulders.

KYAAAA, NO! Nezuko scrunched her eyes closed and tightened her fist. Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting

"GET OFF OF ME, YOU PERVERT!"

BUAK!

"GRAAH?!"

(How?! The demon demised, pupil dilated as it took the view of the night sky in a startled groan. How could a weak girl like her have such a mean hook?!)

With a loud cry, Nezuko made a wide swing and planted the hatchet into the nearest tree trunk, along with the demon who managed to tangle his hair up in the whole handle. Breathing a bit hard, she made sure the demon could not move for now and ran to the direction he was sure the body took her brother away in. It didn't take too long as she saw them fight near a cliff in the darkness. The body's leg stomped down, Tanjiro evaded. The reddish-brown haired boy swung his leg to trip him up, and the demon dodged again. Nezuko tackled it in mid-air and both of them flew for a second—

Right into the abyss.

Her terrified scream cut off when she felt a tender hand clasped around her wrist. She thought she heard a smack, like a damp cloth being thrown to the washing board. (Yet worse. Because in the back of her mind, Nezuko knew it was the sound of a body being splattered to the ground, broken and mangled. She tried not to imagine what happens to the flesh, or the bone, or the organ inside, no stop!) An agonizing howl was heard echoing throughout the silent night, maybe the demon's head could still feel the pain even when the body was detached from it. She didn't think—didn't want to think—too much because the only important thing she could see here was the concerned face of her brother. The only thing she could see here was that her brother was fine. That he was safe. That they were both okay.

Tanjiro tilted his head in question when he heard his sister let out a laugh. He felt like it sounded a bit manic, though maybe it was just his imagination.

.

.

.

"His color is black. But it's a different black from the one at our house. A different demon." Nezuko mused as she inspected the downed demon still stuck in the tree trunk, that was now unconscious. She rummaged through her belongings and pull out a short knife. "But… but if I don't kill him, he'll attack more people."

The people inside the temple's dead faces flashed—

"So, I have to do this..."

Her family's dead faces flashed—

"I have to do this!"

Her brother's demon face flashed—

DO IT!

"Kid..."

Yet she was stopped abruptly when a voice she didn't recognize reached her ears. Nezuko gasped and turned around, unconsciously stepping back to hide behind her brother's back. It was a man—in his thirties? Forties? Even teetering at the age of fifty, maybe; judging from the grey hair peeking from the white cloth wrapped around the head and neck. The wrinkles of old age that sprinkled his hands and the sides of his face were another thing that she could observe. And that was the problem. She couldn't see his face. A red, tengu mask with a mustache and a beard as its decoration covered his entire face. The furrowing thick brows and bulging eyes of the mask made him look intimidating. The displeased mouth under the long nose made her stomach churn. The old man didn't so much as halt his movement when he saw Nezuko shrink away and instead said.

"You can't kill the demon with that tiny knife, kid."


Greetings, lord Urokodaki Sakonji.

I have sent a girl your way who says she wants to become a demon-slaying swordsman. She had the courage to fight me unarmed, even though she mostly just threw some rocks at me. A demon slaughtered her family, transforming her surviving brother into a demon. But he chooses not to attack humans. He tried to protect her and even spoke to me, garbled and unintelligible as a new demon that he was.

I sense something in these two that is different from the others. She doesn't have a strong sense of smell like you, but she said she could see the color of a living being; a different thread, a different demon. Her exact words when I accused her brother of killing her family. Difference in skill aside, I believe that perhaps she could be worthy of carrying on your traditions. Please, train her.

I know this is a selfish request, so please forgive me. May this find you in good health and in good spirits.

Sincerely, Tomioka Giyu


Sakonji watched in disinterest as the girl, now holding a medium-size rock, had a staring battle with the unconscious demon. He was here because of his former student's request, trying to gauge the girl he intended to send. The old man didn't want to dismiss it right away as you can't judge a book by its cover. Yet clearly, this girl was no good. It had been ten minutes and she hadn't moved an inch. Her kindness prevented her from taking decisive action. Even without him taking a deep whiff, he could smell the sympathy and consideration she held for the demon who tried to kill, not just her, but her brother. She didn't even realize that said precious family was walking away from her, taking shelter inside the temple.

This girl is useless.

After another second of waiting, Sakonji let out an irritated sigh. He stepped away from the pitiful girl and went to the crime scene. There, he saw the brother, staring at the corpses with blank, unmoving gaze. The thing that baffled the old man, however, was the sight of the demon clasping his hands and lowering his head, eyes closed.

A clear gesture of someone praying for the safety of the dead.

That small act that came from the beast made Sakonji stop in his tracks.

This demon...

"Hey." He called, and the ginger-haired boy turned his gaze to the old man. He tilted his head towards the outside and said, "Would you like helping me in digging the grave for them?"

Tanjiro blinked twice. Before he gave a pleasant grunt and nodded.

After the proper burial had been done and a short prayer was given from the demon, he immediately scampered back into the temple. Must be his instinct telling him that the sun is going to come up soon, the old man concluded by looking at the night sky that had started to brighten up. Sakonji was still crouching and giving the victims his last goodbye as he heard the evil demon shriek in pain. He could also hear the girl gasp, making it clear that she wasted too much time and let the demon suffer.

"Uum..." He opened his eyelids and stared at the hesitant girl behind the mask. He didn't know if the girl noticed his unimpressed stare, but her flinch suggest that she did.

"I am Urokodaki Sakonji. You must be the one Giyu told me about."

"Y-Yes." She stuttered."I'm Kamado Nezuko. My brother's Tanjiro."

He hummed, acknowledging the response. But getting to know their name aside, it's time to test her resolve. Sakonji didn't glare, he just let his mask's bulging eyes do that to her. "Tell me, Nezuko. What will you do when your brother eats someone?"

.

.

.

SLAP!

Nezuko stared blankly as she cradled her cheek. The old man had slapped her. He hit her without thinking. Without remorse too, judging from the glowering aura.

"You think too slowly!"

"You struggle over the simplest decisions. You could never finish off a demon before the morning light." He continued. "Why couldn't you answer that question immediately? You are too soft!"

"When your brother eats someone, there are two things you have to do," Sakonji pointed at her disbelief face. "Kill your brother. Then slit your own belly and die! That, is what it means to travel with your brother who has become a demon!"

.

She knew that. Of course, she knew that. But—

.

"It's your sacred duty to ensure that this never happens. Your brother must never take the life of an innocent person!"

.

Of course. Of course, she would prevent him from ever, ever doing that. But—

.

"Do you understand what I'm saying?"

.

She does. She does, but—

.

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"

"GIVE ME A BREAK ALREADY!"

Sakonji blinked when the girl suddenly exclaimed, breath quickening and body trembling. Her meek composure turned aggressive. And her fists curled around her yukata so tight, it left creases.

"Give me a break. Just… give me a break." She growled. "I'm trying. I'm trying so hard here. I'm trying to stay strong. To keep smiling. To keep being my cheerful self because that's what my brother wants me to do."

"But I can't. I can't do that for too long." She started sniffling. Tears haven't started rolling down her cheek yet, though it was clear that it would fall soon if she didn't start wiping out the excess right then, "I'm not as strong as Niichan. I'm not as nice as Niichan. I'm just a normal girl trying to act normal from all the…crap that has been happening to me so far."

"I'm tired. I'm tired and I just want to roll over and sleep." She covered her face with her shivering hands. "But I can't. I can't because Niichan has been going through worse than me. Other people have been going through worse than me. Heck, even the demon has been going through worse than me."

"That's why," Nezuko lifted her head. And even though Sakoji could still see the remaining tears in those red orbs, the determination lit behind them was overcoming the frustration. Her eyebrows furrowed and lips form into a thin line. "That's why I'll work hard. Even if I have to vomit blood and my bones are broken, I'm not going to give up. I'll find a cure and turn Niichan back to normal. So please!" She bowed. "Make me into your apprentice!"

Sakonji was silent for a little while, and the girl didn't move from her position for a little while, either. It was clear from her outburst that this kid was on the verge of tearing her hair out; was already tearing her hair out figuratively actually, based from those spats. But she was still standing strong. She was ready to tackle the problem head-on and not cry uselessly like she wished she could. Even if he was still skeptical, he could at least give her a point for that.

"I can't make you my apprentice." Nezuko tensed. "Not right away. I will test you to see if you have what it takes to be a demon-slaying swordsman."

"Shoulder your brother and follow me."


Hff… hff… hff… hff...

Nezuko felt like her throat was burning. Legs cramping. Sweat rolling. And heart hammering like crazy.

"He's… he's fast." They had been running for… What? Twenty minutes? And the old guy didn't show any sign of stopping soon. He didn't even show any sign of exhaustion. "And his feet don't make any sound!"

She could tell already that this would be rough. Her resolve to face this trial until she bled may not be just her reckless saying and might turn into reality soon enough. However, she would endure. She would endure, endure, endure because this was the only way available. Her only path to becoming a demon slayer so she could hunt them and demand an answer. Searching for a clue to turn her brother back to normal. Tanjiro had been their family's backbone since their father died; working from morning till dawn, continued by helping out around the house after that, chopping wood when everyone was already sleeping, and trying to lighten Takeo's load even if it means burdening his shoulder even more. Niichan had been suffering, masked by his warm, warm smile yet suffering nonetheless.

"Hang on, Niichan." Nezuko swore "I'll save you. And then I'll help you do the chores even if you don't want me to."

Everything you do, I'll be there to help along the way!

They finally arrive at the wooden house located in the middle of the forest, huffing, and puffing and pretty much wanting to vomit right then and there. She wished that that run was the test Sakonji want her to pass. Although, she knew, morbidly, that it was not. It's not even the first test at all. Because the next moment, after she dropped the basket containing Tanjiro inside the house, the old man brought her to the top of the mountain. Honestly, she could literally hear her knee joints creaking like an old door. So tired, she was getting dizzy. The fog around the forest didn't help her at all. Instead, it only made her vision a lot worse.

Sakonji then proceeded to order her to descend the mountain and back to the house located at the foot of it—after bringing her all the way here, what?! J-Jerk!—and threatened that if she couldn't do it before the sunrise, he'd kick her out from the apprentice roster—jerk!. He is then gone, leaving the gasping girl alone.

Is that… really all? Nezuko thought, doubtful. She knew she could just follow Sakonji's trail of fog—it was blue. Clear, refreshingly blue like an ocean—even with all the fog, it was really distinct, but she had this bad feeling that that was not the case. Something was definitely happening in this forest.

Nezuko took her first step.

And stumbled over the rope near her ankle she didn't even realize was there.

FWOOOM FWOOM!

There was a sound.

WHAP WHAP WHAP!

And a couple of rock assaulted her face, neck, and shoulder.

The vicious onslaught was only the beginning, because while she stumbled in pain, the earth behind her she used as a prop, suddenly gave in—It wasn't earth. It's just papers covered by dirt, concealing a deep, dark pit—and she immediately fell into a trap.

"I...I knew it." Nezuko huffed, staring at the night sky full of stars for a couple of seconds. Before she groaned and pushed herself forward, climbing up and out the hole. "I knew it! These are all traps! The one Sakonji set to test me!"

That is the real challenge!

"This is bad. This is really, really bad!" The moment she was free, her hand stomped on another trap and a log smacked her back so hard, she fell face first onto the ground. "If I keep setting off every trap, I won't get down the mountain by morning!"

And she just noticed that the air around this mountain was a lot thinner than the mountain they lived on. That was the reason why she was so tired and dizzy, she feels like she'll pass out from the sheer intimidation alone.

Calm down, Nezuko. Calm down. She steadied herself and took a deep breath. Think. A trap set by Sakonji must have his color. They may be inanimate objects, but they had been touched by a living being, the color must've lingered. She opened her eyes and focused.

A fog of light blue whispered from the corner of her eyes.

"Yes! I can see them!"

Four long bamboos fell on top of her multiple times, smacking her around like a ragdoll.

"That doesn't mean I can evade them at all!"

.

.

.

GROOWWWLLL!

Sakonji, who was stirring the hotpot using a chopstick, halted his movement. He watched as the demon brother cradled his stomach, staring at the cooking pan in longing. His eyebrows under the mask lifted. And, chasing the ridiculous notion away but not ridiculous enough for him to ignore, he carefully said, "Are you...hungry?"

Tanjiro nodded.

He looked at the hotpot, then back at him. He picked up the bowl, scooping up some tofu, and meat into it before he hesitantly offered the food to the beast. "Do you… want to eat this?"

Tanjiro nodded again, now a lot quicker with a hint of desperation in it.

Sakonji observed in amazement when the demon pulled down his mouth guard, showing the usual fangs their kind possessed, and proceed to gulp the food in earnest. He could see the blush forming on his cheek, eyes closed and mouth quirked upwards; a sign that he was definitely enjoying the good food. He even let out an appreciative hum to accompany the apparent bliss.

Impossible, was his immediate thought. Because this was the first time he ever saw a demon eat normal human food, and not the human itself. Yet the proof is right there in front of him. The proof was right there, as Tanjirou finished the first bowl in minutes and asked for a second.

This demon is really—

His thought was cut off when he heard the door rattle. A step, a huff, the door opened. Nezuko came in, bringing back tons of bruises and dirt on every inch of her body. She looked like a mess. Sakonji heard Tanjiro choke and practically flew to the side of his little sister. Ignoring the fray the demon brother made while checking on her injuries, Nezuko smiled wide and muttered.

"I...made it back..."

Before she slumped forward and made the ginger-haired boy went into a fussing frenzy.

Giyu… you may actually be right. Sakonji opened up the drawer and pulled out a first aid kit, and Tanjiro immediately snatched it away for him to use. There is indeed something different in these two. That I want to bet on it myself.

"Kamado Nezuko. I accept you as my student."

Chapter Text

There are a few hundred members of the demon slayer corps. The organization isn't officially recognized by the government. But it has existed since of old and still hunts demons today. However, the identity of the leader of the demon slayer corps is shrouded in mystery.

Demons. Staple food: humans. They kill humans and eat them. It is unclear when or where they first appear. They have impressive physical abilities and their wounds heal quickly. They can reconnect severed flesh and grow new limbs. Some demons can change form. Others possess strange powers. The only ways to kill them are by exposing them to sunlight or by cutting off their heads with special swords.

The demon slayer corps fight demons face to face. They are human, so their wounds heal slowly and lost limbs do not return. Nonetheless, they fight demons in order to protect ordinary people.

"I am a trainer," Nezuko stood with back straight, listening to Sakonji's tale in bated breath. They're back in the mountain again, now with full stomach and energy. Her face was covered by bandages—Tanjiro threatened her not to pull it off before it heals completely or she's going to face his disappointing look, his widening eyes silently said. Even though Nezuko could feel the said injuries were already long gone by now. All of it is mostly scratches, but she humors him anyway. He was just trying to baby her like the usual older sibling. Really warm her heart—however, that doesn't mean their training will be halted just because of that. So here they were, surrounded by fog just like yesterday and thin air just like yesterday also, "as it sounds, I train swordsmen. There are many trainers. In different places, they use various training methods."

"In order to join the demon slaying corps, you must survive the final selection at mount Fujikasane," he continued, "I decide whether you may attempt final selection or not."

.

.

.

Nezuko stomped into the house, passing the calmly-drinking-tea Sakonji and pulled the happily-eating-mochi Tanjiro, who squawked in startlement, to the back room; he could see her pouting and not wanting to look at the old man straight in the eyes.

She's been doing this since the start of their training; getting beat up by the trap, coming back home black and blue, and proceed to dump all of her frustration to her brother. Sakonji didn't want to intrude, but sometimes she was just too caught up with her story-telling that she didn't realize she cranked the volume of her voice up before her brother shushed her. It was funny and, dare he say, endearing. However, they will see the smile on his face when they managed to force his mask out of its place. And that means, never!

"...can you believe him, urgh!"

What a feisty girl He chuckled.


"First he upped the traps. Not only rock but knives and pits full of swords," Nezuko waved her arms around, more in frustration rather than trying to describe the whole ordeal in more clarity, "sure, my Sight has been getting better because of that. The fog I saw is a lot clearer and the speed of their appearance is increasing; rather than flying like a feather, maybe you could say they're flying like a ball being kick with full force. Something like that..."

"Doesn't mean I'm happy with the way he taught the lesson!" she pouted when she saw her brother nodding, agreeing. Half in Sakonji's brutal way of teaching—it may be dangerous, but the results of it are clearly showing—and half in Nezuko's safety—he's still fussing over her whenever she's back with cut and bruises, "I'm convinced he's trying to kill me for good."

"And after that, he ordered me to do the whole thing but now with katana on my side," she continued, "it really gets in the way! I've been caught in a lot of traps that I was sure I can dodge if I don't have that thing lugging around and hindering me!"

Tanjiro tilted his head and let out a hum, she nodded, "I know. I've to get used to it because that's my number one weapon and protection from the evil demon. Do you think I can ask for a lighter sword, though? Maybe later after I passed the test..."

"Oh, I also started swinging the sword around," she opened her hand and showed the blistered palm to her brother, "he taught me that katana breaks easily. It's strong against force lengthwise but weak against forces from the side. With a katana, I have to attack straight ahead. The direction of the blade and the direction of the force I apply must be exactly the same. That's why I've been training on how to handle the weapon correctly. Because hear this, he said he'll break me if I break the sword! So mean, so cruel! Niichan, he's just as cold as the mountain!"

The burgundy-haired boy laughed, Nezuko whined.

"Today I did nothing but fall down. Training to break my fall and get up quickly..." as Tanjiro continue munching on the food while the sister told him her daily activities, she couldn't help but stare. After the first disaster of the trap-evading test, Sakonji ordered them to sit down. Nezuko was too tired to eat supper so most of the meals went into her brother's stomach. She didn't think too much at that moment. However, she realized the old man had been eyeing the oldest with a strange look—she guessed, as she couldn't really see his face and could only judge from the body language. The second oldest sibling let out a questioning grunt, he turned to her.

"You know why man-eating demons are called man-eating demons, right?" he asked, in which Nezuko reluctantly nodded, "then don't you think it's weird that your brother is eating human food right now?"

Her sleepy countenance instantly disappeared, now jolted awake. She swiveled to the figure of her demon brother, orbs widening. Sakonji was right, it is weird. Doesn't mean she wants Tanjiro to start eating human now, but that doesn't mean this situation is not confusing them anyway.

"And I saw him giving a prayer to the previous victims at the temple too."

"Oh, I think he learned that one from when I'm...burying my family," Nezuko answered, holding back a choked sob she got whenever she talked about her passing mother and siblings.

The old man gave an affirmative hum and scratched his chin in thought, "maybe your wish to turn your brother back to human is not just a pipe dream..."

"Huh?"

"It's clear that he regained his energy from eating our food instead of consuming human flesh. And he can learn new things from observing other people act. You can say that he's like a toddler, mimicking everything he sees," he reached out and mess the already messy hair of Tanjiro. The said person was not bothered by it and just keep eating, "if you ignore the fangs and eyes, or his inability to stand under the sun, your brother is just like a normal person. This is only my theory but I think...the human side of your brother is more prominent than the demon side."

"Keep showing him the examples of what's right and what's wrong, I'm sure with that, we can retain his humanity as long as possible and the chance of curing him will be a lot higher," the old man mumbled. Nezuko thought a bit of affection leaked from his usually strict tone. Sakonji's wrinkled hand are still patting her sibling's head and she couldn't shake the feeling of deep melancholy wafting from his being (his fog flew oh so slowly. The usual current of raging ocean now turned calm and almost soothing), fond at whatever he was seeing from her brother; the past he wanted to forget yet cannot because that is what shaped Sakonji as who he was, "honestly. This is truly a miracle."

"No matter what happens, big brother will always be big brother, huh."

No matter that he's turned into a demon and lost almost his entire memories, Tanjiro will always be there to protect you.

Nezuko cried right there and then. And, as much as she wanted to placate her brother that she was okay, she couldn't. She was just too happy. Too relief. His appearance may have changed.

But he is still her precious brother nonetheless.

She woke up from her flashback when something tapped her thigh. Tanjiro was looking at her, head tilted and brows scrunched. Look like when she was busy recalling 'that night revelation', she stopped recounting her hellish exercise sponsored by the old man in tengu mask. Nezuko shook her head and smiled, "oh no, I'm okay. Just a bit tired. Where was I? Oh yes, training. So I wield my sword and face Urokodaki-san, who was unarmed, with the intent to strike—hey, don't look at me like that! His fault for not holding back! Besides, he's ridiculously strong! He kept flipping me down to the ground like a sack of potatoes, the nerve of him!"


"I have nothing more to teach you," he said, as his way of opening today's lesson.

For the past few days, they've been practicing breathing and some standards form as the base of water technique he had been wanting to teach her. Sakonji was super strict at that lesson, always hitting her stomach whenever she did something wrong and said that that was because she didn't have enough strength in her core. Nezuko was glad she didn't vomit in retaliation with how much and how hard he smacked it; though she didn't mind if she did, serve him right.

Although he'll add another punishment for the insolence. Never mind then.

"H-huh?" the black-haired girl blinked, still trying to control her breathing

It's been a year since they arrived at mount Sagiri. And that was all he said after bringing her to another place that has different fog and different density of air.

Her last lesson...was to split the boulder with the katana he lent it to her.

.

.

Wait, what?

"Wait a minute, Urokodaki-sa...aand he's gone," Nezuko glared at the boulder Sakonji told her to break; the thing was taller than her, taller than the old man himself even. It was tied by a rope as thick as her two arms. It needs four, maybe five, adult hugging the boulder to describe how wide this natural occurrence is. And she hadn't even mentioned its mass or weight. Can this thing even be split? With a katana that, if you compared it sideways, was as big as a toothpick? The blade would definitely break!

Since that day, Sakonji hasn't taught her anything, no matter how much she bugged him for it.

The only thing she could do, besides wracking her brain how to slice that boulder, was practicing what the old man had taught her every day. Holding her breath, flexibility, the most basic thing.

Yet no matter what she did, Nezuko still cannot split the boulder. Half a year had passed, the times keep flowing, the earth keeps rotating. Tanjiro's still a demon and he keeps worrying over her working schedule. She knew he knew her smile started straining, worry started planted deep within his heart. And Nezuko hated herself sometimes, how her brother lose sleep over her—although he didn't really need to sleep and went to bed just because. Maybe some kind of an unconscious habit from when he was still a human?—but she was so frustrated. Clearly, it's not enough. She hasn't had enough training. She has to do more, more, more—

What if it's...because I'm no good?

What if all of this is useless? Will niichan stay like that forever? Will niichan cannot regain his memories anymore? Will niichan never experience the warm, warm, warm day of spring? The breezy day of fall? The heat of summer? And can only experience the cold, cold, cold night of darkness like winter without end?

I have no answer! Nezuko leaned on the boulder, tears started springing out of her eyelids. I'm losing hope! I'm going to fail!

"Fight, Nezuko, fight!" she smacked her forehead to the stone, not caring how the rough texture hurt her. At least it had woken her from her depressing thought, "you have to do it! For the sake of niichan, you have to do it!"

"My, my, how miserable you look~"

Nezuko jolted, she immediately leaped back and ready her stance; not anticipating someone other than her to be in this mountain. A girl was sitting on top of the boulder. Her hair is black and kinda spiky, it reached her shoulder. She's wearing a red, flower-pattern short kimono and a fox mask concealed her face; it has the same flower decoration on the right cheek, but blue in contrast.

W-Where did she come from? The second sibling of Kamado was wary. I can't see her color. A fox mask?

"You should not grouch and grumble," she could hear her pouting, "that's not how a lady should act, see?"

The girl stood up, and went to the edge of the boulder—

The air shifted—

Nezuko gasped, she put her sword upward—

WHAAKK

And managed to block her spinning kick at the very last second.

Unfortunately, though, she didn't consider her to use the other leg somehow. And because of that carelessness, the girl—who was definitely younger than her, judging by how short she was—tripped her and sent her spiraling to the ground.

"Aww, you're so slow," the girl giggled. It may just be Nezuko's imagination, but her aura suddenly intensified. Her cute fox mask turned intimidating and the harmless kid now feel like a predator in hunting, "if you keep this up, you'll never be a demon slayer, you know~"


Nezuko, still on the ground, stared in befuddlement, "w-who are you? Where are you come from?"

The girl didn't answer. Instead, she cocked her head to the side, disappear from her sight, and appeared at her right eyesight; spinning kick was halfway done.

The second Kamado's sibling immediately ducked and rolled, managing to evade the attacks. Yet the little girl didn't stop. She kept attacking and attacking, scattering the particles to the air; making the air hard to breathe, not only because of the fog lingering but the dust that will now hinder the respiration and sight if they're not careful. After the third times of cartwheel attack, along with wide swing from her tightened hands, Nezuko finally managed to get up and blocked the onslaught albeit with difficulties.

"W-why are you doing this?" she grunted, looking at her attacker behind her messy bangs. The girl dropped her leg and use the other to repeat the previous tactic. Nezuko still couldn't manage to dodge because of how quick her movement was. However, she was faster to get up this time and not staring like a useless victim, deflecting another kick to the side, "why are you suddenly attacking me like this? What did I do to you?!"

"Hmm? You did nothing to me," the fox girl leaped back. She put her index finger to the smiling mouth of the mask, giving an aura of a fake confusion, "but see. That's the main problem."

"You didn't do anything."

And the multitudes of attacks are now back, vicious than ever. Left, right, upward, downward. Back to the left, right twice, a distraction and upward. She couldn't keep up, her orbs going cross-eyed. At one last pitiful attempt, Nezuko let out a yell and strike her sword down—

The fox girl flipped backward—

WHAAAMM

—and landed a brutal kick under her chin, sending her flying to the sky for a few seconds before the body slammed into the earth; bruised and unconscious.

The forest went silent.

"You're having too much fun," another voice resounded from behind, making the fox girl turned. A shadow was peeking behind the tree, staring at the down Nezuko with one eyebrow rose, "you didn't even tell her what she did wrong these past few months."

"Ehehe, sorry," she lightly smacked her head as she tilted her head. And, even if they couldn't see it, the shadowy figure was sure the girl was sticking her tongue out sheepishly right about now, "it's been a while since Urokodaki-san took a woman as his apprentice so I was a bit...giddy~"

The second figure let out a long, suffering sigh, "fine. Just...leave the rest to me..."


SLAP SLAP

"Urghh..." Nezuko groaned, she rolled over to the side, hair covering half of her face, "five more minutes, niichan..."

SLAP

"Oi," a rough voice echoed, the hand that was hitting her cheek since seconds ago was increasing its strength in annoyance, "Wake up already."

Wait a minute...a rough voice? Her brother doesn't have this type of rough voice...

A stranger?!

Her eyes immediately opened, fingers clasped in her weapon that, fortunately, still within her grasp. She swung wide, didn't intend to hurt but to send them careening away from her so she could get her bearing back. The person indeed leaped back, though not without a light chuckle.

"Well, at least your situational awareness is not that rusty."

Nezuko instantly stood up, weapon to the fore. It was another person, this one is a boy. He has a peach, messy hair that also reached his shoulder. On his white complexion, his black orbs are blank and the wide scar near the right side of his mouth looked painful to have. He was wearing the same fox mask just like the fox girl did, perched at the left side of his head; Nezuko noted the mask also decorated by the same scar he had. Could it be this boy and that girl knew each other? Maybe siblings?

There's this nagging feeling behind her mind when she saw the kimono he was wearing—it's green and yellow in color, criss-cross in a complex pattern—under the dark green haori. Like she saw the same clothing somewhere before...

She couldn't quite pinpoint it though.

"Who are you? Are you that fox girl companion?" he doesn't have a color on him either. What's wrong here? Is my ability weakening somehow? "are you here to attack me too?"

"That was the plan. But she decided to jump in and I'm stuck as a babysitter," he scoffed. It doesn't have that irritated tone within it, however. His words may be harsh yet it was clear he said those in a jest, "don't lose that stance. Because now, you're going to train with me."

.

.

.

The boy told her that his name is Sabito. And the fox girl is Makomo.

In the morning, they went through the basics training. Sabito pointed out the defect in her style, correcting her unnecessary movement and bad habits. At noon, he'll test that progress by beating the crap out of her—err, by doing a sword training. But really, Sabito was so strong that Nezuko basically spent the rest of her time rolling around on the ground and being whacked right and left like a sack of sandbag; honestly, he was just as strict and ruthless as Sakonji. Then in the evening, she'll continue by fighting Makomo, battered up and exhausted she was, they didn't care. As long as she finished the training schedule they provided for her. The long-haired girl was still questioning why these two strangers did this for her, training her. Where did he come from?

So she asked Sabito one day—when she was swinging her blade and he was watching from on top of the boulder. The girl thought he'll not answer, he was silent for too long. Until his mouth parted and he told her a very short explanation.

We're just trying to repay our debt to Urokodaki-san.

They aren't sibling, both of them are orphans. The old man in a tengu mask took them in and raised them; that what he meant by 'repaying their debt'. Sabito said there are other children too, watching her around the shadow of the trees and assessing her improvement. Nezuko's body was a bit tense after knowing that fact. Kind of embarrassed because then, they've known about every single mistake she did and she felt like it doesn't show much confidence in her skills to the other Sakonji's pride apprentices. The peach-haired boy ushered that notion away by swinging the bokken on her head hard enough, she was still reeling with a headache that night.

Speaking about Sakonji, he knew something happened at the day Sabito and Makomo appeared. Because Nezuko was sporting a lot more injuries than she should when she trained alone. She didn't tell him anything though, no matter how probing his stare was. And asked her brother not to said anything either—not that he could. But the old man is master in reading other people's gesture so she was sure he could picture the whole ordeal somehow—a bit of petty revenge for not giving her any clue of what should she do next, even though Nezuko knew they need to tackle the problem by their lonesome sometimes. That's how you grew up, by thinking of the solution with your own head.

"Total concentration breathing accelerates your blood flow and heartbeat. And your temperature shoots up. You're still human, but you get strong like a demon," he said, "you expand your lungs and bring lots of air into your blood. Your blood will boil, your bones will strengthen, your muscles will expand. You'll feel like you're burning up but you'll get strong."

"Burning up? Even though we're practicing Breath of Water Style?"

"The element is not the issue. You can learn Wind Style for all I know and your body will still feel the heat," Sabito shook his head, "it's not the element, it's your body. Your body is overwhelmed by the sudden influx of energy, hence the burning up."

"I see..." she...kind of understand. Maybe, "so what should I do to get to that stage?"

It was small, but she could see the smirk hidden within that unmoving face, Nezuko unconsciously shivered. He unsheathed his bokken from his waist, legs stretched to the back, "train hard until you feel like you're gonna die. That, is the only thing you can do," and he lept.

Nezuka wanna cry.

It took a lot of beating, a lot of bandaging the wounds and a lot of fussing from her precious brother before they changed their training weapon to the real weapon—Sabito changed his bokken into a sharp katana. And Makomo wore two small yet dangerous daggers tied into her feet—then their training regime increased; like it wasn't difficult enough already, it's almost beyond hell now. Another six months had passed—making it two years that they are now officially a freeloader in Sakonji's residence—and, maybe just pure luck or the training had been successful, Nezuko's sword land a hit at a particular angle, Sabito's own weapon was thrown away, slipping from his startled grip. It was tense for a few seconds, the trainer's orbs blinking in befuddlement and the trainee was surprised beyond measure; thinking it was only a dream and was on the verge of slapping herself awake. Before the boy let a low cackle and turned to her, hands on his hips.

"You've finally done it."

The next day, Makomo was there, the tip of the deadly shoes was now looked a bit purple—don't tell her it laced with poison today?—The contest was simple. The stronger, faster blade wins.

One moment of silence. And they moved.

The fight was over in an instant. That day, at that moment, for the first time, Nezuko's blade reached Makomo first.

Her mask cracked in two, falling to the ground with a loud clatter, she gasped. Makomo is a pretty girl. Blank, blue orbs and small lips. When Nezuko won, the fox girl smiled, eyes closed. It looks refreshing yet at the same time, sad. It made the long-haired girl's stomach tightened in a knot. She didn't know why.

"I knew I won't stand a chance the moment you beat Sabito-kun." She said.

"H-huh?"

"You don't know?" Makomo giggled, "Sabito is the strongest swordsman in our circle. The moment you beat him is the moment you beat all of us~"

Nezuko was pretty sure her jaw had dropped to the ground at that revelation.

No wonder he was so powerful! And his strikes hit like a lead itself!

"Win, Nezuko-chan," fog started integrating towards her, covering half of her face. Only leaving the mouth visible as she continued, "...against them too," before she completely disappeared.

And Nezuko found that her sword hadn't cut Makomo's mask. But had split the humongous boulder instead.

She finally passed her final test.

Chapter Text

A demon's weak point is its neck. Cut it and they'll die.

However, when using a normal blade, even cutting its neck won't kill it. The swords that the demon slayer corps use are made from special steel. We call them  Nichirin Swords.

Thanks to my training with Sabito-san and Makomo-chan, I've learned to look out for 'an opening thread'. That's how I won.

When I'm fighting someone, I saw the fog coloring their being tightened at a certain point; circling them like a band and guiding me where to strike to give the utmost damage. When I want to go for an immobilizing strike, the fog will circle around their legs or arms. When I want to go for the 'killing' strike, it'll circle around the enemies weakness; be it the heart or the neck. The thread is loose like a wavy wave then goes taut the moment it tells me to strike. Guided by that thread, my blade cut into that spot.

Nezuko was still gaping at the split boulder, shocked beyond belief that she didn't realize the old man in tengu mask was walking towards her. He looked at the wrecked stone, caressing the hard surfaced with his wrinkled palm. She unconsciously straightened her back when he turned to him, the scowling mask still intimidated her even now.

"I did not intend to send you to the final selection," was his opening statement, making Nezuko tensed and ready to interject. He cut through that intention, however, "I had no wish to see another child die. That was why I order you to split this boulder, did not believe that you could ever, ever do it."

"But you did well."

"Nezuko," that hand he used to touch the boulder now patting her head. It was warm, soft and full of care. She was aware that tears started springing from under her eyelids, sight blurring, "you are an amazing child."

Go to the final selection and be sure to return alive. Your brother and I are here waiting.


Sakonji gave her a mask, a fox mask like Sabito and Makomo had; It was white and have a pink ribbon under the left ear, along with two pink dots over the corner of it smiling lips. It's called a warding mask. Apparently, it offers protection from evil. Tanjiro was ready to come with her, was already shrinking his self and pointing at the basket she used to carry him. But Sakonji prohibited him to come along. He said there's Wisteria forest at the entrance of the temple, a plant that the demon-slayer used to ward the demon and sealing them inside. Sure, he may bypass them by hiding inside the basket, but it cannot be said so to the security hunter wandering around. Especially as some of them are known to sense the demon' presence and have a motto of 'kill immediately without asking'. Not counting that, knowing Nezuko bringing a demon voluntarily, they'll throw her away from the Final Selection and she could never become a demon slayer to cure her only family. Tanjiro was sad, eyes drooping and gaze pleading. But Nezuko agreed with Sakonji, even if she was torn by it also.

So instead, the older brother gave her something as a replacement. A hair tie with a pink, sakura flower made by wood as its decoration. Sakonji said the brother made it alongside him while he crafted the fox mask. The idea came up when the old man mentioned how long Nezuko's hair was and he was worried it'll be taken advantage by the demon if she was off guard; long hair are often establish the bearer's strength. You have to back it up with your skills for the blatant display of confidence.

And because Nezuko rejected the notion of cutting her hair away ("your hair is so beautiful," her mother said to the little Nezuko as she combed and started braiding it. "even I am jealous of it") her brother used the alternative and gave her a hair tie.

I'm going to cherish this for the rest of my whole life, she vowed, asking Tanjiro to braid her hair. It was messy and uneven, yet she was happy with the result anyway. And I'm going to hunt everyone who dared lay a hand on it!

Sakonji thought she should tone down the brother-complex a little bit, but she ignored it. Clearly, the old man didn't know a treasure when he sees it.

"I'm on my way, Urokodaki-san!" with the fox mask on her left side of her head, she clutched the katana and waved to the spectator, "give my regards to Sabito-san and Makomo-chan!"

The girl's back was already turned back on him. That was why she couldn't see how Sakonji suddenly tensed, the waving hand stop in the midair. His eyes were clearly widening and, ignoring Tanjiro's concern whine from behind the door, he mumbled, "Nezuko...how is it you—"

know the names of those deceased children?


She gasped in astonishment the moment she arrived at the entrance of the temple. The wisteria flowers are so pretty, hanging low on their trunk, glinting with a color of calming purple. Blooming so healthy even though they're out of season. She wished her brother could see this magnificent view himself; someday, when she finds the cure and turn him back to human. Maybe invited Sakonji for a picnic under it, along with the lovely crescent moon on the night sky full of stars. As she climbed the stairs, she let out another gasp.

There are so many people lounging around the field—ranging from scary boys with bruises and wounds to beautiful girls that look meek at first yet surely kicking. Nezuko felt intimidated with the competition but shoulder on through. She has to be brave, she won't waste her trainers' training in vain when they took his chance with her; whereas it was clear that, sometimes, Sabito just wanted to throw his hands up and leave her to her own volition. Makomo only response was giggling cutely, though.

"Greetings, everyone," said the girls (?)* at the very front of the crowd. They are clearly twin, having different hair color; one is black and one is white, straight and went past their ears but not reaching their shoulder. They are wrapped in an extravagant, purple kimono speckled with light purple flowers across the cloth, along with green obi to tightened it. They also wear the same purple wisteria flower hairpin on their head but at the different side, Nezuko feels like she was looking at a mirror. On their hands, clasped a lantern lit by a candle, "thank you for gathering tonight for the demon-slayer corps final selection"

"Mount Fujikasane holds demon that demon-slayer swordsmen have taken alive and trapped here," they said, now talking alternately, "demons hate wisteria flowers, which bloom here even out of season. They cover the mountain from its foot to halfway up the slope."

"However, from that point on, the wisteria does not bloom. So demons roam free," their swirling, black eyes gave that statement a whole lot eerieness in it, making her gulped in trepidation, "you must survive there for seven days. If you do, then you have passed the final selection."

"Now, go!"

.

.

.

Nezuko stood at a standstill while he watched the two demons argued over there. The long-haired demon with weird tongue was choking the short-haired one, shouting and battling over who's going to eat the weak-looking girl. Her heart hammered under her ribcages, steeling herself when they finally decided to just go for it and leaping at the same time. She blocked the first punch and let the second kick flew her away, minimizing the damage with the blade and putting a distance from the bloodthirsty demons. It was clear they won't stop until they consumed her flesh, they're hungry enough they almost eat each other just a moment ago. So, bracing for another attack, she inhaled and weapon to the fore, "Total concentration..."

The air whispered. The black bands are now circling their neck. Loosening, tightening.

"Breathe of Water," the blue color of an ocean wafted from her sword, beautiful but deadly to the beasts. She moved, making the wave danced in smooth double-curves, "Fourth form, STRIKING STRIDE!"

And chopping the neck of the demons cleanly within one strike.

Letting the last howl of the enemies echoed through the forest, she took a large, deep breath. Orbs widening and hearts still pounding.

"I...I did it," she thought, the grip around the sword handle is trembling a little bit, "I beat two demons. I've gotten stronger!"

"All that training worked!" Nezuko want to cry, or at least laughed in relief, "thank you so much, Sabito-san! Makomo-chan!"

The second siblings turned to see the last remnants of the evil beings turned into dust, crumbling away and leaving only their clothing. When she used the katana Sakonji provided to her, even the bones are gone. It's true when he said only special blade could down them within one strike, she didn't know what other weapons could do something like this, cutting through the flesh of living being. Then incinerating them enough, they transformed into nothing; truly, like a paper being consumed by the hottest fire, hot enough the fire doesn't even manifest. Nezuko clasped her hands and bowed her head. Even if they've killed for survival or for fun, those two were just a normal human before nonetheless. It's sad, tragic, and it's only right for her to offer them condolence even if others thought they didn't deserve it.

When she opened her eyes, it was dark, dark, dark, this is not the calming dark of night. This is something else. This is something terrifying!

"UWAAAHHH!" a horror-filled scream rang and Nezuko immediately went into hiding. A boy wearing a dark green haori emerged from the bushes, body shivering like a leaf and complexion pale like someone pour a white paint over him (she doesn't even need to see his quivering magenta fog to know this boy is running for his life), "what was that huge deformed demon?! Nobody told me there's going to be something like that!"

BOUM

The earth shook, the air pressure lowered, Nezuko breath quickened.

BOUM

A green, humongous hand appeared from the darkness, flattening the ground like a mere mud.

BOUM

And the monstrosity is now in full view. It was grotesque beyond measure, nerves after nerves bunched out of its every little skin. Its body formed solely on tons of hands, hugging the body from head to toe. The said head itself was peeking under the hands circling its neck, yellow eyes with black, cross pupils are wandering in manic glee.

While in its one of many hands was a corpse of a teenager, throat crushed by the sheer enormity of its palm.

A deformed demon indeed! What is that? It looks so disgusting!

The tiny little hands littered around its body quickly fused into one, forming a giant hand. It shoots like a bullet and immediately grabbed the running boy by the ankle.

"GYAAAAAAAA!" the boy screamed in dread. Nezuko's teeth were chattering. Scary, scary, scary! But—. The boy was devastated, he's flailing and flailing, sweat drenched his entire being, "someone, help meeee!"

Yes. Help him, help him, help him! I'm not powerless anymore! She unsheathed her blade, head bowed but gaze locked onto the enemy. I'm not useless anymore! Let's go!

Water breathing, second form. She jumped and let her body tucked into a ball, weapon sticking out from the extended hand. Blue liquid started forming on the blade. While her tucked-and-roll position making the wave formed into a large circle of water, "WATER WHEEL!"

Then cut the demon's hand and releasing its-supposed-to-be prey.

The beast itself looked dumbfounded, shocked that his hand is gone and food was nowhere to be found. It craned his head to the side, looking at a girl in a ponytail now shielding the frightened boy with her body, blade glinted under the moonlight. However, its sight was not rested at how determined her expression was. Rather, to the fox mask perched crookedly on her head. It laughed, chillingly so, anybody who heard it involuntarily shuddered.

"Another of my dear foxes has coommeee~~"


"Sabito-kun. Do you think...Nezuko-chan can really do it?"

"...I don't know. But no amount of effort is too much—"

and you know that, right?


Nezuko tensed when the yellow orbs of the demons trained its gaze at her, she tightened the grip on the sword handle and muscle on the knee ready to jump at a moment notice. The many fingers it has were cracking like a rolling stone over the cliff, somehow the voice was ominous enough that it sent shiver down their back, "tell me, fox girl", it started talking, "right now...what Meiji emperor sits upon the throne?"

Meiji? "The imperial family is Taisho." She answered, a bit hesitant.

Hearing that, the aura around the demon suddenly stopped. It was silent for a minute before the intimidating air was back in an instant, now a lot denser than the previous.

"GRAAAHHHHH!" It shouted to the sky, hands that propped up his body stomping the grounds in irritation. The earth shook, the tree shuddered, the sleeping bird scampering in fright. The girl was also almost a second away from running away with tail between her legs. Yet the boy she shielded, curling like a ball behind her back, won't move. It was clear his legs felt like jelly, too caught up with the danger and dread, hence the ponytail girl cannot move from her position. The beast was still pounding, "I've been here so long! That dynasty has risen and fallen!"

"Again and again and again! All while I've been trapped here! Unforgivable! Unforgivable!" the temper tantrum continued, they could only watch in horrified astonishment, "damn, Urokodaki! Damn you, Urokodaki! Damn him, damn him, DAMN HIIMMMM!"

She jerked when she heard the familiar name, blinking, "You..." her quivering mouth parted, "you know Urokodaki-sa—"

"OOHHH I know him!," it cut through her unfinished question, yellow orbs gazed back at her in contempt, "Urokodaki was the one who captured me! I'll never forget that day. It's been 47 torturous years! Back then, when he was still a demon slayer—"

"—in the Edo period, the Keio era!"

...what?

E-Edo Period? Nezuko was astounded. No, no way. There's no way a demon could still be alive in this mountain for that long. Especially with how limited their 'food' here, they should have starved a long time ago. This monstrosity, who clearly need more intake of 'protein' than the normal devil should have starved a long time ago!

And the boy she protected was on the same train of thought. As he immediately shouted the disavowal, saying that the demons in this mountain could only have eaten two or three humans. Not counted them getting killed by the attendee during the final selection. Or them eating eat other for survival just like what Nezuko experienced moment ago, "so..." the boy's voice wavered when the beast giggled ominously, "you...you should've..."

"You can stop the denial, kid. The proof is right in front of you. I survived. In this damn prison of wisteria blossoms," one of the hands pointed at its belly, "I have eaten 50 of you to survive, after all~"

The second siblings swallowed her trepidation. So many people he had killed. So many innocent people lost their future and lives. It reminded her at one of Sakonji warning. He told her that a demon strength comes from the number of people it has consumed. They'll grow stronger, faster, some physically change, gaining unnatural powers. With the old man sense of smell, he could recognize which one was the new demon and which one is the serial killer. Nezuko may not have his nose. However, she did have other skill. She could see. And then she paled.

(A lot of colors fog, albeit transparent because of the passage of times, were accumulating inside its fog. Lifeless, powerless, consumed by the darkness of the demon's own thread. But still there as the proof of their existence even when they're long gone)

(Nezuko wanted to vomit)

Her horrible realization had to be cut short when the demon spoke again, his index fingers pointing, counting invisible number, "12...13...and..." one of it now directed at her, "you are number 14."

Something inside her tightened in a knot, butterfly fluttering and she suddenly had a very, very bad feeling, "w-what are you talking about?"

"You don't understand? That's how many of Urokodaki's students I've eaten," it laughed, three of its hands covered it smirking mouth, eyes shone with demented glee, "I've decided to kill ALL of his students~"

.

.

.

Her stomach dropped. Immense cold washed her entire being.

"Thirteen of Urokodaki's students are skillful. But two of them...yes. I'll never forget the two of those," it gazes rolled upward. Like it was trying to recall fond memories and that only made the black-haired girl's dread grew and grew, "one of them is a boy. He had a colorful jacket and was the strongest by far. He had peach-colored hair and a scar by his mouth. The other was a girl—brat whose kimono was covered in flowers. She was small and not so strong but she was very agile."

Sabito-kun. Makomo-chan.

H-How? How could this demon have killed them? They trained me!

"I recognize you," the orbs rolled back onto her, piercing its full of venom gaze onto the porcelain mask, "those fox masks, I know the grain of those masks that Urokodaki carves. They carved the same way as the tengu mask he wore. Did he call it a 'warding mask'?"

"I ate them all because of the mask they wore."

.

Nezuko's heart thundered.

.

"They're all inside my stomach. It's like Urokodaki fed them to me, hehehehehe," its body trembled in euphoria, nerves after nerves bunched from under its green skin a lot more than before, trying to contain his pleasure but to no avail, "hehe...heheheheh. I remembered. The girl brat wept and grew angry when I told her that. Soon, her movement got shaky...hehehe"

.

Nezuko's breath quickened.

.

"THEN I RIPPED OFF HER ARMS AND LEGS! AHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!"

.

Nezuko saw  RED.

.

.


"S-Sabito-kun!"

"Tsk. Calm down, Nezuko! Your breathing is uneven! Don't worry about us! Just focus on what you must do!"


She lept, sword drawn forward, roar howled under her constricted throat.

.

How dare this beast...

.

It sent torent of arms toward her moving figure. She hacked it away. Again and again and again.

.

—Sabito's grouchy face flashed—

.

How dare it...

.

—Makomo's smiling face flashed—

.

How dare it!

.

—her family's death faces flashed

.

Agonized scream tore through her mouth, tears started springing out from her reddened eyes.

.

HOW DARE IT!

.

.

WHAM

One of the hand managed to sneak under the opening, punching her right on her side. Nezuko coughed, her body careened through the open field and crashed harshly to the trunk of the tree, she hacked. Her view started dimming, black spot coloring her eyesight. She thought the frightened boy was running away on his own, now that the demon gaze was centered toward her. But she didn't really care. She was busy by the fact that the mask on her forehead cracked—ah, it's a warding mask indeed. Unfortunately, it could only prevent one attack from the demon—and her consciousness slowly fading, fading, fading—

The demon grinned wide, and sent other hands that reached towards her so fast, it dispersed the air—

(Within the darkness of her mind. One of their younger sibling, Shigeru, cradled her cheek and shouted—)

(WAKE UP, NEECHAN!)

Her eyes flew wide open, she tucked—

BOUM BOUM BOUM

—and rolled, evading the impending doom of those big, burly hand who will definitely flatten her dead, judging from the crater it made or the crooked three. Her hand rested on an abandoned sword, definitely not hers, laid uselessly on the rough dirt—who's sword is this? Is this from the dark green haori teen? No, she was sure the sword was attached to his hips. So, was this from the corpse this grotesque devil trapped inside its monstrous palm minutes ago?—and immediately grabbed it when the beast didn't stop its advance—two swords, sure. This one has already broken in half anyway, she could use it as a distraction. Nezuko stored it at her person.

After the botched surprised strikes, the ruthlessness of the onslaught turned up the notch. Hands after hands after hands. Swinging the blade and chopping the flesh after flesh after flesh. There's no end to this, Nezuko knew from the get-go. If she could not stop its growth somehow and dashed to its face, the battle will continue until whoever-how-long. And she's just a human. She doesn't have infinite strength or stamina like this demon clearly have.

A black fog burst from under her

She jumped, barely managed to distance herself from the hidden arms that tried to grab her from below the earth. The green demon was shocked. How could she discover its sneak attack? Jumping up so high like she had a pair of wings behind her? But, it grinned evilly, forcing another part of its body to grew exponentially and shot it to the girl, she cannot dodge this attack in midair!

The ponytail girl scowled. She pulled out the broken sword, wielding both of the weapons with the same intensity. Before her eyes widened, she spun her body forward—

SLASH SLASH SLASH

—slashing the attack so many times within two seconds, the tendon inside it snapped; it lost its strength to prop the weight up and immediately changed the trajectory.

What the hell? I thought she's a single blade wielder! The girl landed on its extended hand, running on to it. Her katana was back in both of her grasps, already tossing the broken weapon away after it had done its job. The beast sprouted another couple of hands; small yet fast as bullets. Trying to catch her or at least trip her. But she just swung her blade left and right, cutting them without even blinking. At the last second of the attack, she leaped, now was completely in front of its face. Dammit! The fox-brat is right in the striking range!

But my neck is hard. It tried to console itself. Even the peach-haired boy couldn't cut it.

Fine. Come, then you brat! Its yellow orbs slit. It could felt the stumps of its left-over arms are emerging another. The moment your sword break, I'm gonna crush your head just like what I did to that scar boy!

"Total concentration," Nezuko inhaled a large gulp of air, sword drawn to the back of her head as the initial stance for the skill she's going to use. (A black fog started circling its neck, pointing her to its weakness even though the demon clearly tried to protect it by warping its bulky hands around it. Loosened then tightened), "Water breathing—"


A sigh of relief, "hey, Sabito-kun. Is it possible that Nezuko-chan will lose too? That thing neck is so hard..."

"She may lose. Or she may win. But one thing is for certain. This boulder that Nezuko cut—"

"—was bigger and harder than anyone had ever cut before"


"UAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!"

"First form", the wave made a sharp, horizontal line, "WATER SURFACE SLASH!"

SRAAAASSHHH

And decapitated the green demon neck in one, clean cut.

Chapter Text

This sound she made...the beast mussed, watching the form of the bastard's student slowly inching toward it. Like the world decided to stop the time just so it could memorize every single detail of the girl it mocked beforehand. Underestimated beforehand. At that moment, this girl produced the same sound that came from that other guy back then. Like a sound echoing against the rolling wind.

It felt like it was back at those days, when it was still a human, no, demon. Still a demon in human form—it remembered that it was a male before—weak, cannot fight back, could only run away in desperation. And when the demon slayer was onto it—him—he could only stand and do nothing. Could only watch when—

The form of that guy reflected on his yellow orbs as he stared at the girl who leaped at him without hesitation.

"UROKODAKI!"

SRAAASSSHHHHH

And his head flew away, it rolled over to the furthest open field.

"Damn, damn, damn, damn I'm going to die!" He couldn't even talk now that his mouth is mostly gone. The beast saw the girl landed gracefully onto the earth, right near to his deteriorating body, "it's gradually falling apart. I'm already too late to stop it!"

"In the end, this girl will just be the same," the demon cursed, could only observe her sheathing the katana back, knowing the fight is already over, "in the end, she'll gaze upon me with eyes that are as if she's looking at filth. The type of eyes that are full of disdain!"

"Damn it, damn it! I'm so afraid to close my eyes. But this body won't allow me to turn my head," the long-haired girl slowly pivoted on her heels. This is it. This is the time. This is the time where she looked at him and figuratively burned him with her resentment, "I can't believe the last scene I look upon before my death is the face of a demon hunte—"

It was the eye full of sadness that greeted him instead.

.

.

.

Why?

W-Why do you have that expression on your eyes?

.

(Something within his mind suddenly becomes clear. Something that he forgot long, long time ago. A boy with black hair, squatting alone in the middle of the darkness. The boy was covered in blood, crying helplessly and hopelessly.  He  was covered in blood, crying helplessly and hopelessly)

(Big brother, where are you? I'm so scared. He bawled, tears won't stop pouring from his black eyes. Please, hold my hand like you always do. Why? Why did a devour my own brother?)

(Huh? He looked up, now eyes turned yellow and pupils formed a black cross in the center of the orbs. He blinked in confusion Who is this brother I'm thinking about?)

.

Nezuko stepped to the unmoving body of the humongous demon, now half gone. Staring at the hands splayed to the air. Ah, she could see it. She could see how the fog around its body turned from black to the color of green, releasing the previous victims from its clutches too. The color of the normal living being. The color of the human. The fog flew around slowly, aimlessly, like it was searching for something. Or someone, as it latched onto Nezuko's red fog.

Are you searching for your memories? Are you forgetting your precious life just like my niichan do? She clasped the remaining hand gently, leaning her forehead on it and letting her tears rolled down her cheek

(she didn't know that someone was crying alongside her. The green demon, the previous human, was crying alongside her)

Please, God. Nezuko prayed from the bottom of her heart, watching the body turned into dust, swept away by the wind to the beautiful, night sky full of stars. Allow this person to never become a demon again when he reincarnates.

.

(The crying boy looked up when he saw a speck of light at the corner of his eyes. In the middle of the dark abyss without end, he saw another person. Carrying a lantern and was slowly walking away. He stood up, running to him with a wide smile on his face. The hand of the crying boy reached out, finally managed to catch up and grasped the palm of  the  teenager. His brother. My brother.  My precious, precious older brother )

(Big brother! I called. Smiling so wide my eyes closed in bliss. Grab my hand, please)

(Haha, alright, alright. The teenager laughed, curling his big, warm hand around his finger, pulling him to the light and out of the darkness. You're always such a scaredy cat)

.

She stared blankly at the last remnants of the demon vanishing from her sight. Now that the danger is gone, her body lost its previous energy, heart empty. They're all...victims. Nezuko stared at her hand (the body of the demon was so cold, cold, cold. But the feeling lingering within it was so warm, warm, warm it hurt her so much). When she moved her gaze upward, she thought she could see the previous fox masks bearer standing in front of her. The late Urokodaki's pupils, along with Sabito-kun and Makomo-chan, watching her from afar, behind the thickening fog of the otherworldly realm. Ah, she understands now. Finally, she knew why she couldn't see their color.

Because they're already long gone. Because the color was trapped inside the tummy of the demon. Because they're all, along with the said demon, are victims.

Victims to this cruel, cruel world.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't realize it sooner," she cried. Even when her sight turned blurry and throat constricting. Even when she knew it's not her fault and she was years too late to even meet them, she has to say it. She needs to say it, "I'm sorry I couldn't save you. I'm sorry you have to suffer so much, waiting for someone to release you from the clutch of the demon."

"But I won," she smiled, shaky, unsteady. Nezuko stepped forward, finger reaching towards them desperately. Oh, so desperately. However, she couldn't. The images of them smiling at her got smaller and smaller. She started to run but she still couldn't reach. Because she's not one of them. Because she's not dead. Because she's still alive"I won, Sabito-kun. Makomo-chan. You can rest easy now."

"So please..." she fell, hugging herself as the colors of their existences circling around her like a beautiful rainbow. Brushing her skin, wiping her tears away. Before it followed their owner. Followed them to the realm she couldn't enter. Her sobs turned into a full weep, eyes reddened and nose running. It's unsightly yet she couldn't stopShe cried and cried and cried I don't want you to go away— "Please...don't go. Please stay with us. Please stay with Urokodaki-san. Be the happy family the old man wished to have. He's suffering, Sabito-kun, Makomo-chan. He's suffering and I couldn't help him"

"Please..."

.

.

.


The bushes rustled and the wind whistled, singing the melancholy tune of a mourning family. Nezuko wondered if she had died back then, will her spirit return to where Sakonji and Tanjiro are? Or will it stuck between the realm of living and death, wandering through the lonely night as she watched her family—yes. Sakonji is her family now—suffered under the lost of another kid?

She didn't know. She didn't know because the tears just won't stop flowing.


Seven days later, on the morning of the new day. When she arrived back at the entrance of the temple, she was so exhausted, felt like her soul is going to leave her body at any second. The moment the biggest and dangerous demon was gone, the lesser one were a lot more active at their prowling, hunting for their long-awaited meal. After fighting the green monstrosity, they're all a piece of cake to her. Looks like the rumor about most of the demon around were only managed to kill two or three people and starving were true, so they didn't have that much energy to go for an instant kill. Even when Nezuko was not in a good shape at fighting them either—because instead of resting, she spent most of her morning till evening getting nightmare and crying for the loss of Sakonji's adopted kids—they were still no match. Doesn't mean it didn't sap her energy away like a quicksand though.

"Welcome back," the twin greeted the only four survivors. Wait, what?! "congratulations. Being safe and sound is better than anything else."

Wait, wait a minute. Four?! The second siblings of Kamado looked around, trying to locate the rest of the attendees but end in vain. No, it was not a joke, thinking that they'll come up at the very last moment and screamed 'surprise!', laughing at their bewildered look, no. Nobody really did survive besides the four of them. And that thought really chilled her to the bone, widening her eyes, "there were twenty people or so before. There's no way that...that—"

Even that guy, the one I saved from the big demon, was not here too. Because I passed out at that moment, he—

(I couldn't save him. I couldn't save him I couldn't save him I couldn't save him I'm sorry I'm sorry I'mSorry —)

The pretty lady with black hair, styled in one pigtail played with the flying butterfly and smiled serenely, ignoring Nezuko's internal thought (the grey fog around her was...how could she describe it? Tasteless? It was just so blank that Nezuko almost recoiled). The boy with thick, dual eyebrows and yellow hair (so bright like a sun. His fog was crackling like a thunder under the cloudy sky) mumbling—or cursing like a deranged spirit—muttering things such as "I'll die" or "even if we survived, we'll still gonna die in the end", which, didn't improve her mood. And lastly, the boy with short, messy black hair that shaved off at the sides of his head growled low (his fog is...are? there are two colors? Purple and black. Wha—black? Wasn't that the fog of a demon?! Is he...no. He's a human. He has the color of purple in him. But he also has black. She doesn't understand!). He stepped forward and mouth pulled back, making the scar on his right cheekbone wrinkled, "so, what about the blade?" he asked.

"You must first pay the cost for the uniform. Then you must get your body measured and have your rank engraved," the white twin said. The black one continued, "there are ten ranks in totals"

"Kinoe. Kinoto," and now they're back in talking alternatively, " Hinoe. Hinoto. Tsuchinoe. Tsuchinoto. Kanoe. Kanoto. Mizunoe. And Mizunoto."

"What about the blade?" the scared teen asked the same question, clearly impatient.

"Today, you will each choose a chunk of Tamahagane Alloy," but the twin totally ignored him, they just continued explaining, "your blade will be completed within ten to fifteen days.

"Also," the white-haired twin clapped her hands. Nezuko heard a screech of a bird. Shadows fell onto them from above and a black crow landed on her right shoulder, "from now on, Kasugaigarasu will be following you all. It's a crow that is primarily used for communication."

"Eh? Crows?" she heard the meek boy uttered a question. Nezuko turned her heard toward him and almost giggled, she managed to disguised her mirth with a cough in the last second. Because the bird the twin provided for him is clearly not the intimidating, black crow but a small, brown sparrow. He was just as incredulous as she was, asking for confirmation. Yet again, the twin didn't answer.

It was cute though. the second sibling of Kamado mussed. I kinda want that one instead.

Maybe it was only her imagination but she thought the crow on her shoulder was giving her a pointed glare.

"CAAWW CAWWW!"

The temporary happy lull was destroyed in a second when she heard another loud screech. The black haired-boy had swatted the crow from coming near him, clipping the wings a little bit that the bird actually fell in hurt. Fortunately, the other boy managed to caught it before it painfully crashed to the ground. Unfortunately, nobody could stop him in time as he marched to the twin, grabbed the white one by the hair and pulling it harshly, "I don't care about some dumb crow!" he exclaimed, eyes slit and his non-existences eyebrows furrowed in anger, "what I want is the blade. The blade! The blade of the demon hunters! The 'blade of color change'!"

The heck? Nezuko was mystified. Was horrified. Was indignant beyond measure she literally teleported to the twin side and grabbed the rude boy by the wrist, "What are you doing, you brute?!" it was her turn to yelled, "that is not how someone acts toward kids! Let go of her this instant, jerk!"

"Huh? Who are you?" he snarled, "a girl like you should just stay in place!"

The nerve—"I said...let go of her!"

"And? What do you want to do to me if I don't?"

You asked for it. Nezuko tightened her other fist and—

BUAK

—gave him her right, mean hook, he flew to the air.

The black-haired boy fell with a loud whomp. The yellow-haired boy cradling the crow and whimpered in fright. While the pretty girl just kept smiling.

Nezuko sniffed in satisfaction, clapping her hand after a job well done. She was not usually this temperamental. But after seven days without good night rest, running and hiding for the sake of her life (then the revelation of her trainers' apparent death), forgive her for the immediate violence. She was just...stressed and the boy managed to snap her last thread of patience. She turned to the white twin and rummaged her pants' pocket. Glad her handkerchief was not that dirty after all of that Final Selection debacle, she crouched and wiped the dirt off from the milky face of the kid, "are you okay? That...punk didn't hurt you too much, right?" asides from her bleeding mouth. Her anger started boiling again yet she clamped it down to give her her genuine smile. Seriously, what a brute! Punching a girl—a child at that—so hard, she was actually bleeding?! Maybe Nezuko should aim for the spot between his legs, honestly.

The white twin blinked slowly before she gave her a small smile. She didn't answer verbally. But she nodded at her question.

"If everything is alright now, please go over there," the black one finally opened her mouth, not giving a single glance to the scary teen who was shakingly trying to get up. Nezuko could see the bruise started forming under his chin, though she could care less. His own fault for underestimating her. The other half of the twin waved her hand, silently asking the audience to where they should rest their gaze. It was a wooden table with tons and tons of black stones on top of it; it ranged from a small to a big stone, the shapes are uneven and some of them are pointy. The color is so beautiful, however, glinted under the sunlight like a mirror, "this is the alloy that will be used to create your blade. The alloy for the blade that will be used to destroy demons and protect yourself will be chosen personally by each of you. So—"

.

.

.

"Choose wisely"


At somewhere else, far away from the mountain, was a big temple surrounded by bonsai trees and koi pond with sparkling, blue water. A man with black hair that reached his shoulder was caressing the crows with the same color. His white haori was tucked under his legs as he sat gracefully, staring at the purple cloth tied around the bird's neck while it preened under his caress.

"Is that so," his voice was soft, anybody who hears it will fell the calmness from his tone alone, "there are five people remaining and all of them seems to be excellent. I'm glad that my swordmen have increased..."

He smiled, warm and full of hope.

"I wonder what kind of person they are."

Chapter Text

"I'm...I'm so stupid..." was what going on through Nezuko mind right now.

She was on the way home. Slowly, painstakingly, dragging her feet away. Her entire body felt so heavy, tired and exhausted. She was sure if it was not because of long stick she found along the way down from the mountain propping her up like an old woman, the long-haired girl will totally slump in the middle of the road without care; actually, she already fell for like, two or three times as she scaled the rice fields. A mother and a son was looking at her weirdly and asked concernedly, but she shook her head and tried to give a smile, persuading them that she was okay; keyword, tried. Nezuko felt like she was, instead, convincing them that she needs doctor, badly, and was second away from pulling her down to their own house themselves. She refused though, saying that she almost arrived at her house—a little white lie. In fact, with her speed, she won't arrive at Sakonji's residence before dawn—so they didn't need to worry. They still gave her some mochi to replenish her energy, as a token of their kindness.

"I...I was too naive," she thought, wiping the dust from her forehead and accidentally brushing the wound the green demon inflicted on her days ago. She winced; really need to change the bandage soon, with all the sweat pouring like a waterfall, "Even though I encountered eight demons in the final selection, I killed them. Without even having a normal conversation with them."

After all the roller-coaster of emotions she had—her head still pounding for crying her heart out even now—Nezuko regretted that she totally forgot her main objective in seeking the demons out; asking them if, no, how to turn a demon back into a human. She did remember it on the third day though, so the ponytail girl tried to talk to them. Some of them she went ahead and trapped their body between the root of trees growing around the forest because they just won't stop moving. Alas, it was futile. Their mind was already lost in their battle of hunger, making them a mere machine of destruction. And when that happened, she couldn't do anything besides beheading them off.

"I'm sorry, niichan. I'm so sorry," she was originally wanted to return as soon as possible. But her body hurt so much. Even the stone and uniform she got—now tucked safely inside a sling bag the twin provided for them—felt like a lead. After climbing down Fujikasaneyama, a wave of weariness slammed her like a horse-drawn carriage, leaving her utterly helpless in her fatigue. Nezuko stopped on her track and take a short break, "but I'm going to come home soon. Please, wait for me for a little bit."

The sun now had set over the western horizon, painting the sky orange before it turned completely dark. She stood over the low hill overlooking the wooden house, huffing, puffing. Watching as her brother sleepily chopped the wood and the old man instructed him how to do so by the side. The view of them doing daily things was so ordinary, so soothing, making all of the bad things that had happened to her—Her family were killed. Tanjiro turned into a demon. Her trainers turned out to be dead, dead, dead all along—felt like just a bad, bad dream.

Sabito-kun...Makomo-chan. Nezuko was staring at them for too long, they felt her gaze on them. The ginger-haired teen happily waved at her. While the old man was shocked, caught off guard. Sabito-kun...Makomo-chan. She flung the stick away and ran towards them. Sabito-kun...Makomo-chan. With gaze started to get hazy and hands wide open, she immediately crashed onto the surprised Sakonji's chest, pulling Tanjiro's sleeve along with her.

"Huwaaaaaa! I'm sorry, Urokodaki-san. I'm sorry!" Nezuko cried. Fresh and fat tears rolling down her cheek as she hugged the life out of her (only) family. Her brother let out a questioning grunt but she was too far up into her own apologies that she almost didn't hear anything happening around her. Didn't even knew, after freezing for a minute, Sakonji wrapped his wrinkled arm around them both, "I'm sorry I couldn't save Sabito-kun or Makomo-chan. I'm sorry I couldn't protect anyone on the Final Selection exam. I'm sorry I couldn't make you happy. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry—"

"It's okay," he shushed, cradling his fingers on Tanjiro's and Nezuko's hair, letting out his own tears, hidden behind the unblinking mask of the red tengu, "it's okay..."

"I'm just glad that you came back alive..."


When she opened her eyes, the first thing that met her was the wooden ceiling with the low, hanging lamp. Turning her head to the right side, she saw her brother's sleeping face, laying beside her while clasping her palm like a lifeline. Sakonji was also there, writing something on his desk. When he heard a little scuffle behind him, he turned, looking at Nezuko who tried to sit up but couldn't because Tanjiro's hold was bringing her down, "you finally wake up? Are you hungry? It may be a bit late but I can prepare a dinner for you."

"N-No, it's okay. I'm still too tired to eat," she rubbed her sleepy eyes and asked, "what...happened?"

"You cried yourself to sleep," he answered, putting the quill down near the ink stone. He pointed at the curling demon, "you made your brother worry when you suddenly fainted like that, bear with him a little bit."

"I'm sor—"

"Stop that."

His stern tone made her instantly clamped her mouth. She could feel the piercing gaze behind the mask, scolding her, "rather than saying sorry, you should learn how to say 'thank you'. Instead of 'I'm sorry I worried you', you should've said 'thank you for taking care of me.'"

"H-Huh?"

"Of course this isn't going to work in every instance such as if you caused actual harm" he continued, "when you say 'thank you' instead of 'I'm sorry', it creates a more balanced social dynamic and gives you back power. You're grateful instead of being apologetic. You're not asking for someone to feel sorry for you nor you're seeking for reassurance. So, repeat after me. Thank you for your hard work."

"T-Thank you for your hard work." Nezuko parroted.

"Thank you for being there for me."

"Thank you for being there for me."

"And..."

.

"Thank you for staying alive."

.

Nezuko though she dried her tear duct for the day after her outburst moments ago, but it seems that she's not. As the night went by, Sakonji caressed her head while she sobbed and hiccuped, with Tanjiro's soft snore as their song of serenity.

.

.

.

"I'm so—"

The old man glared.

"I-I mean...thank you for bearing with me."

He nodded, satisfied. Then turned back to his desk to continue writing. Nezuko was too awake to fall back asleep now. So she spent some minutes stroking her brother's hair, waiting for the sleepiness to come back in.

"Nezuko," Sakonji started another conversation, his back was turned away from her. She hummed, "I've been wondering since that day you mentioned Sabito and Makomo," Her head immediately shot up when those names were uttered. She saw his Adam apple bobbed, a gesture of someone choking back their imminent sob. She knew because she often did that herself, "—were they the one who trained you these past six months?"

"...yes."

"And you managed to kill the demon who...devoured them?"

"Yes."

The tenseness on his shoulder—that she didn't realize existed after it was gone—vanished, a soft sigh was exhaled from the parted lips. His grip on the pen got tighter to hide the subtle trembling yet voice still held firm, "...thank you..."

"...you're welcome, Urokodaki-san."

He nodded and stood up, plucking the letter he wrote from the desk. Along with the alloy from her bag before he bundled those two items inside the white cloth. Sakonji extended his arm. The crow that was perched calmly at the corner of the house understood the gesture and flew onto it. Nezuko, realizing what he was doing, raised her voice. Not too much as she didn't want to wake her brother up, "wait. Before you send that, can I ask for a request? I've made some changes for my weapon."

His finger stopped moving and he turned to her, "oh? Do you?" the old man plucked the neatly folded letter from the package and went back to his desk, "okay, tell me. I'll write it for you."


"You know you'll have to relearn your stance with this kind of weapon, hn?"

"Yes. That's why I'm gonna train hard these...fifteen days? Yes. Fifteen days. Will you train me, Urokodaki-san?"

"Sure. I don't think it'll take too long anyway, as you already grasp the base. But it'll still be hell. Because I'm not letting you out there with half-baked skill. You'll die."

"Right. Thank you"

...

"Where did you get the idea for this, if I may ask?"

"...Makomo-chan."

"...of course, it is."

"She may not be there but...she helped me. When I fought the green demon, I remembered my training with her and used her moved to deflect one of his attacks. I'm not as strong as Sabito-kun. But I'm quite confident I am as fast as Makomo-chan now"

"There's where you're wrong, Nezuko."

.

You're way faster than her.


The day where it was anticipated that the blacksmith had finished forging the sword, Nezuko opened the door while nursing her black and blue cheek. Sakonji was not kidding when he said the training will feel like hell—even more so than Sabito-kun's training and that said something. Tanjiro was conflicted between fussing over her and glaring at the old man for being so rough. Although he knew it was his little sister's idea so he couldn't really get mad at him. At the horizon of the entrance to the forest, the second sibling saw someone approaching. Judging from the build, he was a man in twenty or more so. He was wearing a black yukata wrapped by the sunflower-pattern haori. On his head, a large woven hat overshadowed his entire face and a lot of floral wind chimes decorated by tiny, pink flowers hanging from the said hat, making a melodic sound as he walked. Nezuko was still staring, astonished at his weird fashion sense when the man stopped in front of her.

"My name is Haganezuka," he introduced himself, "I am the one that has forged the blade that will be used by Kamado Nezuko."

"Ah, thank you very much. I am Kamado Nezuko," she bowed, before opening the door wider, "please come in and have a seat...uh..."

Instead of accepting the good invitation though, the man immediately sat on the ground, opening the casket he brought, "this is the Nichirin Blade," he started to explain, totally ignoring the black-haired girl presence, "I forged this blade that you've requested."

Thinking that it'll be a while before this blacksmith stop running his mouth, Nezuko dusted the front porch and crouched, even though she really wants to serve some drink for him. It's just good hospitality, something her mother taught to every single Kamado's children, "the nichirin blade's raw materials are iron sand and ore from the highest mountain that is closed to the sun," he clarified, "' Scarlet Crimson Iron Sand' and "Scarlet Crimson Ore". They are metals that have absorbed the sunlight."

He placed the wooden lid on the soil. His bag is going to get mud on it, though Nezuko was sure he didn't care a single bit, "the mountain the materials are from the sunlight mountain, is bathed in sunlight all year round. Never troubled by clouds or rain."

"I see that this guy is still his usual self," Sakonji appeared from behind her, patting her head as he watched the debacle went on, "sorry about this. He never listens to what other people say."

Was he hearing the mocking tone of the old man or was he done making his point of how awesome the weapon is, she didn't know but he indeed lifted his head abruptly. Nezuko was taken aback when a face covered in Hyotokko Mask greeted her; it was red, having bulging, unblinking eyes just like what Sakonji wear. However, rather than a long nose, the mask had a long mouth like a tube instead. She eeped when the man suddenly went into her personal face. If her first trainer didn't stop him by holding his head back, pretty certain he'll examine her within closed proximity.

"You have red eyes," he said, tilting his head, "are you, perchance, 'a child of a Burning Crimson'?"

"A what?" she blinked at the strange title.

"If a family is a business of making fire, then they'll have a child with a red coloration. Often they have red hair," he then pointed at her orbs, "and red eyes."

"Uuh well...I only have red eyes. But my brother has both of them." Had. As his colors are now ginger and not the glistening burgundy (Yet, she is sure it'll turn back to normal the moment she managed to cure Tanjiro. It has to!). Nezuko slowly retreated from the prodding finger, not wanting it to poke her eye.

"Really? Where is he now?" he asked, now sounded oddly passionate and, somehow, mad, "why won't he become a demon-slaying swordman just like you do?! If he did, his sword may turn red, you see?"

No, I didn't see, "Uum..."

"Because he has his own reason not to. That's all you have to know, Haganezuka," Sakonji answered for her behalf instead. Nezuko couldn't really tell that they're harboring a demon now, could she? He may be just a blacksmith and not a demon slayer. Doesn't mean he won't tattle to the other hunter, however. The old man tone turned a bit assertive, he spoke, "can we move on to the sword now?"

"Yeah, yeah," the man in festival mask waved his order carelessly, picking up the big bundle under the casket and shoved it to the startled girl. He finally decided to come into the house, "Nichirin blade's other name is the blade of color change. It'll changes color based on each individual owner. So, hurry. Come on in."

After pouring the long-awaited tea she intended to serve from the very beginning, Nezuko opened up the white cloth enveloping the weapon. The sword is just like she imagined it would be. It was dual medium Zanbato, with a wide blade that curved at the tip of it. The moment she pulled out one of the Zanbato and held it to the air, the blade started changing its color from its base to the tip; from clear silver to magnificent blue. Beautiful, like an ocean (like Urokodaki-san color).

"So pretty..." she mumbled, mesmerized by the glint.

"It is," Sakonji let out his own impressive hum, "I've never seen a blade this shade of blue either..."

Unfortunately, though, Haganezuka was not as impressed as the two audiences. He literally threw his head to the back and growled loud, "GRAAAHHH! I thought I could finally witness a bright crimson colored blade this time! I know the percentage of seeing it decreased because you didn't inherit all the red color but still! I thought I can finally fulfill my long, life wish, damn you!"

The blacksmith was totally on the verge of crying, so blinded by his frustration he actually intended to tackle Nezuko—still holding the sword in her palm. Which, dangerous!—But her brother, who was content on listening from under the protection of the blanket a moment ago, didn't think so. He threw the cover, jumped onto the mid-leap Haganezuka and pin him to the ground.

"Gah?! What the—what are you doing to me, you brat?!" Tanjiro sat on his back with blank, uncaring eyes as the forger struggled to get up.

"That's your own fault for trying to attack a girl," Sakonji snorted, "especially with her brother right near her. You're just asking for a punch to the face. Be glad he didn't do that much to you..."

Nezuko let out a small giggle at the funny scene in front of her, wondering how ridiculous it was to age that much yet still act like a little kid. Her gaze swept upward, however, when she heard wind rustled and flapping of wings. Before the black crows—Kasugaigarasu, who was stretching its body out of the house yesterday night—flew inside and landed on top of Tanjiro's head. The beak opened and screamed.

"CAAAWWW! Attention! Attention, Cawwmado Nezuko!" the bird said with a loud and a bit of a squeaky voice. Oh wait, it can talk? She balked. She didn't know there exist an animal who can actually speak human language. Parrot is, but in their case, it's more like repeating the word they often hear. This one definitely has its own intelligence to form full sentences. Nezuko was not sure when people said 'crows are clever' means this clever, "Hurry and go to the Nort West town, CAAWW!"

"Go there and hunt the demon! This is your first assignment, CAAW!" her eyes sharpened at once, full attention rest solely on the bird telling them the important news, "remember this well! In the North East town, young girls are constantly disappearing! Every night, every night—"

.

Far, far away from Sakonji's residence, the day before they have this conversation, a couple was walking along side by side. Accompanied by the light of the lantern and shiny moon hanging in the middle of the beautiful night sky speckled with stars. They looked so happy, having a passionate yet cherry conversation. The boy told his partner a joke, the girl laughed. The boy asked her a question, the girl let out a startled yelp. The boy turned around—

And the girl was gone.

.

"—there are girls...constantly disappearing!"

Chapter Text

Nezuko appeared from the back room after having changed her attire. Now, she was spotted wearing the black uniform of the demon slayer. The huge word of 'DESTROY' at the back of the outfit is hidden by her favorite star-pattern, pink haori. Her dual Zanbatos are snuggled comfortably at either side of her hips, fastened by the white buckle. All in all, she looked formal, regal. Tanjiro clapped in astonishment and Sakonji nodded in acknowledgment.

"The uniform of the demon hunters is made of the special fabric," the old man in tengu mask explained, smiling slightly as the ginger-haired boy started circling his sister, admiring her looks. The said sister is bashful at the close attention, "it has good air permeability and is also resistant against moisture and fire. The claw and teeth of weak demons can't even rip this uniform open."

"Amazing," she raised her hands, staring at the black sleeve peeking, "I wish I can order one for niichan too..."

Sakonji chuckled lowly and shook his head, "also, this," he turned his back from them, pulling out a brown, wooden box from behind his desk, a white straps attached at the back of it, "this is the box I made for you to hide your brother. It is made with an extremely light type of wood called 'Mist Cloud Fir'. And as we know, your brother eats foods to replenish his energy," in fact, the oldest sibling was munching on some dango already while they were occupied with their conversation. Her first trainers opened the lid and she saw another compartment at the interior, placed at the bottom side of the space; it was two drawers combine into one. One for foods and the other for drinks. With a sliding trapdoor on the surface so her brother can easily open the drawer to scavenge the snacks, "that's why I also add a room for you to store the foods inside. This made the bag a lot wider and if you put a ton of snacks and water at once, a lot heavier too. But that's why we have that training."

In which Nezuko fought Sakonji while lugging a basket full of logs or rocks—or logs and rocks—around. Hmm, so he was anticipating for this.

"I painted this box with 'Rock Paint'. It made the outer layers hardens, strengthening its durability," he continued, "even if you kick it or throw it from the highest cliff itself, it won't break. You don't have to worry about your brother getting booted out from it just because you move around too much."

"Thank you so much, Urokodaki-san! You've really done a lot to me!" Nezuko smiled wide, hefting the bag—it really is light—and showed it to Tanjiro, "niichan, I'll be carrying you using this from now on. Think you can fit inside?"

He tipped his head, his ginger orbs inspected every single detail of his new means of transportation. Tanjiro smiled wide and proceed to turn smaller. However, he was stopped by Sakonji when the old man put his wrinkled hand on his shoulder.

"Before that, don't forget to wear your mouthpiece," he stated, after receiving the questioning gaze from the boy. Ah, he was right. Nezuko totally forgot about that. After knowing her brother won't eat human flesh in the near future and need to eat foods daily instead, the teen had been forgoing to wear the bamboo around the house. She was so accustomed getting bombarded by his usual wide grin, sharps fangs aside—giving her false sense of security that everything is okay. That nothing is wrong with her (only) family—that she already established it as a norm at the back of her head. Totally forgot that other people will not think so; Giyu had warned her from the very beginning of their meeting after all. She lamented and thought she's going to miss his warm, warm smile in the future.

Sakonji put the green bamboo on Tanjiro's open palm. At first glance, the bamboo may be the same bamboo she used beforehand, save the red cloth to tied the thing around, however. Instead of a single cloth, it has two cloth tied at the other sides. With this type of hook, her brother only needed to circle the thread around his ears now rather than on the back of his head for easy maneuvering, as Tanjiro needs to eat just like a normal human so he has to take it off very often, the old man explained, "remember not to shows civilians your fangs. If you have to, though, try to open your mouth as smaller as you can get, okay?"

The ginger-haired boy nodded enthusiastically. And, after a pat to the head from Sakonji, he finally shrunk and went inside the box, climbing the food compartment and sat on top of it. It doesn't look too cramped, Tanjiro can actually stretch his leg. But couldn't really lay down completely. If he wants to sleep, he has to do that while sitting down. He motioned Nezuko to come inside and join him but of course, she couldn't. So she just laughed when her brother pouted at the realization.

We will always be together now, okay nicchan?

"Okay, I'm ready to go!" she pronounced, hefting the bag on her bag—it's actually really light even after the mass of carrying her brother along with the food Sakonji already prepared for them. Her hellish training really showed itself, it seems—and putting on her sandals, "this is the first day of being a demon-slayer. I'm...kinda nervous now."

"You're going to be fine. I know it," the old man approached and tidy her uniform, fastening the button on the neck. He patted her shoulders three times and, even though she couldn't see it, she could feel the proud yet reluctant gaze from behind the red mask, "take care of yourself and please, come back alive."

"Yes," she said, face determined. She turned around, ready to take that first step. But quickly spun back and instantly caught her first trainer in a surprise hug, startling him. Nezuko squeezed her hands a bit tighter as she whispered, "thank you for everything, Urokodaki-san. I'll promise to write a lot and come back for you."

Sakonji was stunned into silence. Before he let out a shaky smile, maybe tearing up a little bit, and responded her heartfelt hug with his own, wrapping his arm and appears like he didn't want to let go, by how tight his finger curling around the pink haori, "yes. I'll hang on to that promise."

Don't ever, ever forget it.


Nezuko crossed the wide, rice fields, enjoying the view of open sky and gentle breeze. She greeted people when they smiled at her and all in all, just having a great day. She didn't forget about her first assignment and a possibility of demon kidnapping women in the next town she'll visit, but she's going to have fun along the way as much as possible.

She heard a scuffling sound from inside the box.

"Niichan, did you just eat another snack?" the scuffling sound abruptly stopped, Nezuko heaved a sigh, "you know we can't really stock too much inside right? At least leave some for tomorrow. Besides, eating snacks before dinner will make you full and you're just going to get sleepy instead."

A whine of regret could be heard and the second sibling simply responded with an awkward laugh. She knew that her brother is a big eater, even when he was still a human. Now that his demon metabolism asked him for another serving, she couldn't really scold him for the sudden need of craving more and more sustenances. The ponytail girl mussed that their saving will go down a lot faster than before now. Maybe she could do side job along with her primary demon-slayer work? A traveling seamstress, as it was one of her hobby and skill-set she has.

Or maybe helping some imperial guard in locating the fugitive, if they do have a thing that has been touch by the criminal for evidence. Her Sight has been getting stronger and stronger these past years. Previously, she could only see their defining color and their relationship with other people base from their similarity in color—if they're a family member or in a relationship, their individual color will intertwine and changed. Her mother had lavender fog as her color when she was still single (she knew because even if it had gone, there's still a bit of a leftover mixing in with her new color). Then turned red-burgundy the moment she married their late father—he has red fog before—and stayed at that even after he passed away—but now she could track their last place, where they've gone and what were they doing by looking at the fog circling around. Like a trail left by animals. Or the string of fate, if you're into romantic stuff. The distance of tracing the color down has been expanding as the day goes by too.

Mind made up, she speed her stride.

The northwest town is a moderate town, bigger than her hometown. She needed to pass the wide, wooden bridge, over the wide river and tons of fisherman boats to enter the town. People mingling around the street, buying necessities for their daily life or having a pleasant conversation with the neighbor. However, as she looked around the place, searching for clues and just plain sightseeing, her orbs caught sight of a pale teenager. He has black, short hair, sporting bruises on the right side of his temple and left side of his cheek. Wearing a dark blue yukata under the brown haori. He was swaying, faraway look at those blank, blank eye like he just escaped from a one-sided beating with pride shattered; hopeless, helpless (even his indigo fog scattered around him, lost and didn't know how to form a solid thread). Nezuko was still staring at him in wonder when a snippet of whisper hushed, reached her hearing.

"Kazumi-san looked devastated," said the first woman with hair in a high bun, "he was right besides Satoko when she was taken."

"It's so unsettling that this happens every night," the second woman in polkadot kimono continued, worry palpable from her tone-down voice.

"Yeah, I hate this," the only man in the circle chimed in, looking at the retreating back of the teen they called Kazumi in pity and worry, "always after nightfall, young girls are going to get abducted again..."

Taken? Night? Abducted?!

This is the disappearing-woman phenomenon the Kasugaigarasu told me to solve!

The black-haired girl spun on her heels and run, promptly caught up to the slow-walking teenager, "Kazumi-san," Nezuko shouted his name, he stopped. In this close proximity, she could see how right the woman was when she said he looked devastated. In fact, he was on the verge of breaking down and crying. She steeled herself and stood straight, "I would like to inquire about the specifics of the disappearing situation. May I?"

.

.

He brought her to the outskirt of town, street devoid of people. At first, Kazumi looked suspicious. But he was desperate for help that he takes everything coming his way, "Satoko was here when she disappeared," he explained, scanning the environment in anticipation like he was hoping his partner will come out suddenly and shouted, 'surprise! Did I scare you?'. His shoulders dropped in disappointment when nothing happens, "you might not believe me, but—"

"No, no, I believe you, Kazumi-san!" Nezuko cut through his mumbling and gave him a reassuring smile "just leave it to me. I'll track your girlfriend down, okay? In the meantime..." the burgundy-eyes girl gave him her handkerchief and a roll of bandage she bought a moment ago. Ah, so it was for him, "use this to treat your wounds. Whoever did that to you must've hurt."

Kazumi gulped, reluctantly accepted the goodwill of a stranger. He wiped the dirt and blood from his face using the pink cloth, watching the girl roaming her orbs around in such an intense gaze, tracing the ground or the wall with her deft hands. As they scoured the town from top to bottom, the depressed teen couldn't help but remember what happened a moment ago. Where he told Satoko's parents about her disappearance. Where the father got so mad he punched him. Where the mother cried yet still begged for her husband to stop venting his anger and sorrow to an innocent person—

"She's my only daughter!" The father then fell to the ground, sobbing and hiccuping, "I trusted you. I trusted you to protect our daughter!"

And Kazumi failed miserably at that.

Please. He clasped the bandage, eyes closed and tears started gathering. Please, Satoko. Wherever you are, I'm praying for your safety. For the sake of our marriage. And for the sake of your parents too.


Night finally arrived. Still at the same day, in the same town, within a big mansion a bit away from Nezuko and Kazumi were currently inspecting for hints, a girl with black hair that reached her shoulder changed her daily kimono to yukata for sleeping. She tucked her locks to the back of her ears, leaving some strands hanging on her forehead, "I wonder what happened to the abducted children," she wondered. Her mother had forbidden her to go out after dawn, now that there was another victim. She covered her small body with the cover and lay on her futon, staring at the ceiling in anxiety, "I hope they're safe and sound..."

Soon, the girl fell asleep.

Unknown to her though, a black hole started spreading from under her bed. Seemingly ignoring the tatami or earth itself, making it seems like she was sleeping on top of mud instead of solid ground. It grew and grew until it reached to every single corner of her figure. From beneath the said mud, pale arms with sharps nail raised over her head; cracking awkwardly like a doll in a string. With intense speed, the hands clasped her mouth, waking her up and preventing her to scream for help. The girl struggled, eyes started watering from this bizarre event. She was afraid, afraid, afraid yet she could do nothing as whatever captured her dragged her down into the strange substances.

Help. She begged, pained whimpered surfaced from her tightening throat. Anybody—

.

PLEASE, HELP ME!

.

Nezuko's head snapped forward.

"It's here!" she shouted, took off running at once and startling the tired Kazumi, "the color just got brighter! The demon has appeared!"

Then, while the teen was still reeling over the fact the myth of an olden day is actually real, the second sibling lept to the roof of the nearest building for better vision, garnering a gasp from the black haired boy.

"Did...did she just flew?!" his mouth was wide open, orbs widened, it creases the bandage around his left cheek. In his mind, the spooky scary story from his late grandpa echoed, "so...demon and demon hunters—"

"—they really exist?!"

The pink haori wearing hunter jumped down to the empty alley, head started swiveling around. In front of her sight, unseen by people except her, was fog. A lot and a lot of black fog. It mostly ranged from the ground and the wall, occasionally were in some of the houses—when she asked about those place from Kuzumi, he said the girl of these family were also disappeared; the demon previous targets—But now that the beast appeared again, the color brightened, it started accumulating in one place, "The place where the color is the most prominent..." she unsheathed one of her Zanbato, aiming the blade to the earth (A black fog. And Another one. A human fog, judging from the springy apricot color. They took another one!). Then with gritted teeth, she trusted the weapon to the ground, hard, "is here!"

STAB

A black mud suddenly sprung from beneath it, like a hidden fountain but a lot grosser.

And in the middle of that disgusting swamp was a girl in her age, face white and unconscious.

She immediately grabbed the fallen girl, feeling a bit of a resistant from the other side—is it the demon? They're trying to drag her down again!—and managed to pull her out as she jumped back, putting a distance to the ominous portal. He heard Kazumi's steps were getting closer, a gasp uttered at the strange occurrence happening right now. Yet Nezuko was occupied by the appearance of the demon; it was a male, from the face and build. His dark blue hair reached his back, two purple cloth decorate either side of bangs, falling down to his mesh-armor and exposing the wide forehead for people to see. Three horns sprouted from his forehead and nerves bunched beneath it like it was trying to make a poor replacement of his lack of eyebrows, a grotesque illusion of sort. The more telling of his race is the blank, red eyes. So empty and emotionless, she shuddered.

A caster demon!

Sakonji told her before, when Haganezuka was still trying to free himself from Tanjiro's ultimate hold, that caster demons are demons that use a special brand of magic called 'Blood Demon Art'. The old man in tengu mask warned her to be careful because they're a lot stronger than normal demons in Final Selection mountain—excluding the green demon, of course. And she will—not if—encounter them so she has to prepare herself. Didn't know that Nezuko will meet one so soon.

"You! Where did you take all of the abducted women?!" she exclaimed, holding his newest target closer. She also remembered that, if this kind of demons are a lot stronger then usual, he may have a lot more information about the cure for Tanjiro's case, so she added, "and also, I have two more questions—"

GNASH

The ponytail hunter jolted at the sudden noise. The demon's face contorted in rage, body tensed and expression scrunched. He smashed his teeth together—

GNASH GNASH GNASH

Again and again, making a screeching noise that hurt the ears.

GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH GNASH

Before he slowly slinked down, disappeared to the earth just like he did before.

"Kazumi-san!" Nezuko turned to the horrified boy. She thrust the girl on her arms to his and ordered, "hold her and stay by my side. As long as you're within my range, I will be able to protect you!"

He instantly nodded, multiple times.

Nezuko pulled out the second Zanbato, holding it in a relaxed manner, though her posture is anything but that. The demon might emerge from the ground or the wall, she observed (the fog is still so bright, that's mean he's still around. No matter that black is the opposite color of bright. It's hard to explain, you have to experience it yourself). There's also a possibility that it might also emerge out of thin air from the sky. But even if he stays hidden, the color doesn't disappear.

The black fog surged from behind her, as fast as a wind

THERE!

"Breath of Water," she whirled, arms raised to the air and sword horizontally placed. The mud bubbling under her feet, increasing in speed, "Fifth Style—"

Then he appeared. No, she reiterated. They appeared. In fact, there are three of them now; sporting one horn in one demon, two horns in the other demon and the three horns demon from before.

CRAP! There is more than one demon?!

Okay, okay Nezuko. Don't panic! She jumped, evading their murderous charge. Her grip on the handle of her weapon loosened then changed. The sword was still in horizontal line but now the stance was more straight than the previous semi-relaxed one. I can do this. I can do this!

"Eight Style!" pillars of water sprouted out of thin air, drenching the demon with powerful, dangerous blue liquid, "WATERFALL BASIN!"

SRAAASSSHHH


"In this world, there is only one demon whose blood flowing in its veins has the power to turn humans into a demon," Sakonji started telling her a story after the first day of re-training for the possible weapon changes. She kneeled down in front of him as she cradled her brother's hair. The said boy was sleeping on her thigh and preventing her from moving around too much; his solution for the over-working girl so she doesn't go out and train any more even after the old man told her to rest, "this person was, approximately one thousand years ago the first individual that becomes a demon."

It's also the enemy of your family, Nezuko," Tanjiro's eyelids slowly opened, his ginger-orbs were blank, listening on the conversation in silence, "also, I think it knows how to turn your brother back into a human. This demon name is—"

"Kibutsuji Muzan."


"Crap! My strike was too shallow!" Nezuko nervously lamented, watching the demons' hands and hair were cut off yet not their vital points, "because I changed styles in the middle of the blow!"

She went for another move, but the beasts slinked down into the ground for the nth times, disappearing from sight. The ponytail haired girl promptly retreated to the sides of the two humans, ready to be their shield at moment notice. The fog of these demons are the same—sure, every demon has black as their primary color. Nevertheless, each of every demons' blacks is different in ratio, somehow. Again, you have to experience it yourself to understand. And these three devils' colors are similar, no matter how she sliced it—therefore this should be a single demon splitting up into three to get better chances at landing blows, as he heard rumors that this creature basically doesn't work together in a group.

Nezuko gritted her teeth, sweat of nervousness started flowing down from her forehead. She needs to protect these teens and kill the demon, so this town will never have to fear again and nobody will ever turn up to be another victim anymore. She could not afford to be scared, no matter how intimidating it was; especially as this is her first assignment, kinda put a lot of pressure there. The second sibling also requires to get the information about this 'Kibutsuji Muzan'. Because apparently, if she wanted to get a clear answer, she needs to take her chance to this most, oldest demon ever existed.

A black fog whisper from the corner of her sight.

The bubbling sound of the mud could be heard and Kazumi yelped, shocked at the sudden arrival of the demon; it was the one with two horns, "Full Focus!" Nezuko spun, the first Zanbato placed at the top of her head and the second at the back near her hips. Water started flowing, she whirled vertically and went for a cartwheel move, "Breath of Water, Second Style—" the blue liquid formed into a big circle, "WATER WHEEL!"

And slashed the beast's shoulder. Still too shallow! Am I hesitating or what?

Not wanting him to escape again, she twirled like a dancer, hoping her attack will behead his head or something. Though of course it won't, as the demon slinked back—like he was wading through the water instead of hard, solid land—away from the dangerous Nichriin blade. And she couldn't pursue him too far, she tsked, not wanting to put danger to these two innocent people. Can't really swing her sword blindly either, she realized. Hence the shallow cuts.

"YOU BASTARD!" the demon finally snapped. The nerves on his forehead tightened and spits flew from his open mouth, "stop getting in my way! That woman will go stale!"

Stale? STALE?! Did he just insinuate this woman is a mere FOOD?!

"That woman is already 16 now!" he continued, not bothering to acknowledge Nezuko's rage that started showing on her white complexion, "if I don't eat her quickly, she's going to lose that freshness!"

What the heck? She's not a fruit! Or vegetables! What the heck is with the food analogy this bastard spewing about?!

"Don't fret, my duplicate," another one appeared, this time is the one horn demon, right behind her back, opposite from the first speaker, "oh well, there exist a night such as these," the demon chuckled, putting his index finger under his chin like he was some kind of an elegant taste-tester, "I've already eaten many 16 years old girls from this town. The meat on every single one of them was delicious. I've already had my fill."

"Well, I'm not!" the two horns spatted, smashing his fist on the ground, acting like a spoiled brat, "I'm still not satisfied! I want to eat more!"

"You...you monster," Kazumi uttered with the dreadful tone, he couldn't stay silent anymore after hearing the horrifying conversation. His fingers tightened on his hold of the unconscious girl, cuddling her closer in an attempt to calm his beating heart but to no avail, "that girl you kidnapped yesterday—Satoko...give Satoko back to me immediately!"

The third demon, the one with the three horns, decided to join in as well. He appeared at the top of the roof, gnashing his teeth in annoyance. The two horns followed along, creating the previous ear-splitting sound, "Satoko? Who are you talking about?" the only one who didn't act like a deranged spirit was the one-horn beast, tipping his head in wonder and smile still in place. He opened his right side of the black haori, showing them the inside pocket. In there were tons of beautiful trinket girls usually wear to fasten their hair in place; it ranged from beautiful, extravagant pin embellished in gold to the simple one such as a black comb, "if that girls' hairpin is in this collection, then that's means I've already eaten her."

Kazumi's black orbs rested on the red, pretty bow. Cold chilled him to the bone, tears started springing out from his gloom, hopeless eyes.

Satoko. That's—that's Satoko's bow.

No...they've—

They've eaten Satoko!

.

.

In the darkness of Nezuko's mind, Sabito-kun and Makomo-chan were there, smiling

Kamado's family laughed in the merriness.

Tanjiro's warm smiles brightened her world

.

Before everything drenched in bleak, devastated blood.

.

And Nezuko saw RED.

.

.

The three-horn demon decided that moment to attack, thrusting his sharpened nails as fast as the wind. She dodged, the hand embedded into the wall, cracking it easily like a mere butter. She swung her weapon, missed again, the two-horns appeared through the wall, "Full Focus, Breath of Water—" Nezuko ducked, immediately rolled when an arm appeared through a sudden portal near her head and canceling her next move. The two-horn used that opportunity to launch a strike once again. He was too close. Too close for her to minimize the attack, she won't make it—

A leg instantly appeared from inside the wooden box she carried, kicking the demon right on his head so hard, it spun like a paper-toy pinwheel.

The beast collapsed with a thud and tense atmosphere descended upon the hushed silence. The remaining demons stopped on their track, disbelieved was clear on their uncaring faces, "why..." the one-horn mumbled, red sclera without pupils widening in shock, "why is a mere human like you—"

Tanjiro, now in his teenager form, stepped out from the box. Murderous expression clear on the usually calm, if not a bit childish, brother. His mouth was covered by the bamboo, but the cracking sound behind it was a clear distinction he was clenching his teeth in agitation.

.

"carrying a demon on your back?"


"What is going on? What is the meaning of this?"One-horn thought as he sinks back to beneath the earth and, after the two-horn righted his deformed head in a blink, bringing the other with him —as long as their head is not chopped off by the accursed blade, they can easily fix it in a snap of a finger. He glared at the demon hunter girl, wanting to shred her into pieces. Yet now with another player to the arena, they needed to be careful, "a swordswoman carrying a demon with both of them working together? This is absurd!"

"Who is this girl exactly?!"

Nezuko puffed, still staying in her stance for a while longer even after the demon was gone from her sight. The second oldest of Kamado's family heard a movement. And saw her brother approached the frightened civilians. The human boy was tensed when his hands patted their head (but it was such a warm caress, Kazumi mussed. Like a pat from an older brother. A family he wished he has)

While in Tanjiro's ginger orbs, something else reflected within it. Instead of two strangers getting caught in a mess at a wrong time and a wrong place, he saw other figures. Figures of a boy and a girl in black hair. Figures he, somehow, knew, staring at him with teary eyes. Staring at him with those familiar, familiar, familiar red eyes—

Tanjiro's head throbbed. A memory surfaced. A memory that hurt his head because it was too painful, painful, painful to remember—

.

Takeo... Hanako...

.

"Hanako!" a hand appeared from the left side of his sight (who is this? Is that his hand? He saw strands of red hair framed each side of his peripherals. Is this me? But his hair is ginger) screamed, reaching toward the black-haired girl as the foul creature slashed her neck. The black-haired boy cried while he clung onto its legs, trying to stop his advance but fail miserably, "no, Takeo! Stay away from him!"

"Niichan! Run! Run awa—"

.

Takeo... Hanako...

.

The blood splashed, his red eyes widened—

.

TAKEO! HANAKO!

.

No! Tanjiro wanted to weep. He didn't want to know! He didn't want to remember! It was too painful stop it stop it  STOP IT

.

"Niichan?" he tensed when someone touched his shoulder. His wandering orbs rested on a girl in a ponytail (His memories are all askew, scattering like dust blown by the breeze. Even after spending two years and several weeks with her, he actually didn't know this girl. He didn't. Yet something within him told him he needs to protect her. Protect her because he could not fail again—). She looked worried, chewing her bottom lips, "niichan, are you okay?"

.

"Niichan! Run awa—"

.

Niichan, is that his name? She had been calling him so, the ginger-haired boy guessed it as much. He tilted his head, giving her eye-smiles because he couldn't really do it with the mouthguard still in place. The tenseness of the girl's shoulders was gone anyway so he counted it as a success. The demon learned this girl like it every time he quirked his lips upward so he tried to do that more often. To soothe her concern (to at least make her happy because he failed, he failed, he failed—)

However, he will not. Not this time. He sensed the devil was back, the one with the three-horns. He pivoted and faced the despicable creature. The word of the old man in tengu mask from before (he took care of the girl so he was grateful even if he disagree with the heavy workout) rang throughout his mind. About innocent people and their precious lives. About humanity is his family. About protecting human from being devoured by the evil demon—

.

"—protect your sister," He told him one day, in the first month of their first lodging, when Nezuko was still training in evading the deadly traps on the mountain, "and never, ever shows—"

.

He speeds up, raising his legs to the air—

.

"—any forgiveness to a demon that hurts another human!"

.

—and brought it down in one, swift hit.

WHAM


Here's the link of how the box for Tanjiro looks like: Kimetsu no Yaiba Reverse-Role AU compartment

Chapter Text

WHAM

Unfortunately, three-horns disappeared into his swamp, garnering his attack useless. Tanjiro was ready to chase after the beast—

"Niichan!" yet the voice of the girl cut through his intention, stopping him from his next move, "don't pursue them too far! Come back to where I am, please!"

Ah right, the demon recalled, his mission is to protect this girl at any cost. He shouldn't get too carried away with his emotion and act professionally. So he jogged back, evading the Two-horns when he suddenly appeared from under his feet in ease. He kinda wanted to stick his tongue out just to spite him. Alas, could not because of the mouthguard hiding his mouth. If he didn't make a promise not to show his fangs to innocent civilians, he will rip this bamboo out from its place, honestly. It bothered him a little bit, but as he said, he promised. And he won't break his promise (not again. Not after his pledge to protect his family were destroyed, destroyed, destroyed he didn't mean to break his vow, he didn't mean to—)

Nezuko let out a sigh of relief when her brother arrived within arms reach. He was looking at her with a curious gaze, seemingly asking for the next step he should take instead of wandering on his own. Her lips had moved, wanting to say that he shouldn't do anything at all actually because she could handle this and—

"Nezuko," but she suddenly remembered Sakonji's voice that made her mouth clicked shut. He was whispering to her, watching Haganezuka who finally managed to get up—or her brother deemed he was not a danger to the little sister anymore, therefore, decided to let go of the Hyattoko mask wearer. Or because of his rumbling stomach, he wanted to snatch other snacks from the kitchen—and now was seen scolding the munching-daifuku Tanjiro, telling him about respecting elders and such. Sakonji put a hand to her shoulder, "remember that Tanjiro is currently still a demon. Which mean he isn't so weak that you need to protect him."

Of course, of course she knew. Tanjiro is the strongest person in their family ever since their father died, bearing all the hardest workload without even a single complain. And now this. If he's able to protect the two of these innocent civilians, she'll be able to concentrate on attacking.

Yet she couldn't help but worry anyway. Because he's her only family alive. She didn't want him to get hurt—

She didn't want to lose anyone anymore!

.

A black fog slowly formed, blocking her view from the patiently-waiting Tanjiro

.

She felt her feet sink. Then in an instant, the black swamp formed beneath her. It acted like quicksand, swallowing her up in a quick manner. The ginger-haired boy's eyes widened and moved to intercept. However, Nezuko stopped him with a shout, "Niichan, I'm going under!" the oldest sibling halted on his track, she gave him a reassuring smile, "please, protect those two, okay?!"

Then she was gone, leaving only the two humans and two demons alone in the middle of the deserted street. Two-horns suddenly stiffened, feeling the air pressure went down into a chilling temperature. The humans flinched back at the sudden killing intent but still stay rooted, not wanting to move from their only protector even when his expression was beyond murderous. Tanjiro turned to the despicable creature, nerves bunched from around his face and growled low, making the Two-horns unconsciously shiver.

The girl is gone. The girl he has to protect has gone.

Puff of breath seeped from under the thick, green bamboo.

He couldn't protect her. Not now. And these demons—

Nail sharpened, knee stiffened.

THESE DEMONS TOOK WHAT  HIS  AWAY FROM HIM!

He lept, the rage making his pupil contracted into a thin slit. The ginger orbs turning lighter even more, now it was almost golden-yellowish than reddish brown. It brightened like a flash of impending doom. Ready to tear the obstacle apart.

Unforgivable...unforgivable...

.

.

.

Unforgivable...unforgivable...

Nezuko looked around the darkening marsh, watching the beautiful kimonos, sandals, bags dancing around the place in a horrible festival of merry-making. This is clearly the belonging of their past victims. So much, too much had they eaten—

Unforgivable...these demons are unforgivable!

"Hehehe, do you feel the pain, you little brat?!" One-Horn whizzed pass her. A complete, utter madness painted on his pale face, manic smile was presented to mock the existence of her being, so contrast from the previous calm that was almost mocking, "there is almost no air within this swamp. Your body being entangled by the darkness of the swamp feels very heavy, doesn't it? HYAHAHAHAHAHA!"

"You cannot move like you were above the ground. You had it coming!" Three-horns chimed in, circling around her while still grinding his sharp fangs, "stupid girl. But if we can't eat that woman, we can eat you instead. You may not be 16, yet you're clearly young. So it's a win-win scenario. GNASH"

"What a jerk. Think you can underestimate me?!" Nezuko thought, watching them moved around extremely fast even within this damp, disgusting mud, shooting at every corner in zigzagging move. She calmed her breath, eyelids dropped, "the air from the top of the Marrow Mist Mountain, the place I trained was even thinner than here."

Watching them getting closer, the ponytail girl changed her grip on her sword's handle. Rather than holding them in a normal way, she held them backward like some kind of tonfa. She then connected the two handles together and in a second, changing the weapon from dual Zanbato to a double-edge naginata, each side has a sharp blade that will cut through everything. One of the design she asked Haganezuka to made. It shortened her option of attack, sure, as she needs to change hands frequently if she wanted to cover all of her bases, not as flexible when it was still the dual Zanbanto. But there is a reason for this. This weapon exists to be used as a shield. When she has to stand guard to protect people or even herself.

And this time, the staff-like-weapon is useful in this scenario. Along with an attack to complemented it to boot.*

Nezuko twisted the upper and lower body at the exact time, red eyes sharpened into clarity.

She saw the thread. Tightening even faster than before.

"Full Focus. Breath of water, Sixth Style" she unfurled from her twisting form, spinning the weapon along, making blue water surged wide from the blade and created a huge vortex so bright in this dank, swamp of the abyss. It was sharp and caustic, destroying everything around and slicing open anything caught in its way, including the neck of these demons she was aiming for from the very beginning. Blood sprouted from their exposed neck, body turned into dust, "TWISTING WHIRPOOL!"

And the battle ended in an instance.

Nezuko coughed once, swimming to the surface as her eyebrow furrowed. This is starting to get unbearable, the lack of air. She needed to surface. Killed the remaining demon, protect the civilians—

And protect her older brother!


Tanjiro punched his stomach—though he really wanted to puncture a hole in it, making a gaping wound. The girl's told him to left the last demon standing if they do find a Caster demon, she one day said after Sakonji told her about the existence of this type of creature. So he was holding back. He did. Well...maybe not that much, judging by the blood spurting from the open mouth—the demon let out a wet cough.

"This boy is so strong!" Two-horns grunted from the pain. He tried to pull back but the oldest sibling kept on advancing. His movements are too fast, he could not dive back into the swamp to launch a surprise attack. Two-horn clearly realized he was pulling his punches, the strikes are simple, the strength of the kicks vary each time; sometimes too hard it actually crushed his hands into bits—it already regenerated now—or sometimes too slow to even graze his skin.

Yet he still managed to corner him. Didn't even flinch when Two-Horn slashed his nails at his left temple in desperate attempt to put a distance, making it bleed and covered the burn mark with his own blood. Tanjiro still coming strong—a punch, a hook, a slash, he ducked—And when the demon thought he started getting used to the simple attacks, the checkered haori fiend threw a slow kick, in which the beast evaded. However, that made him fell into a trap of the fast kick he dished with a cartwheel side-flip from the left (did he literally learned this just now from watching his sister's attack moment ago?!), body spun in the air for a second as the ginger-haired boy nailed the landing. Two-Horn crashed to the ground face first, getting his horn stuck like a nail. The boy stepped on his back, pinning him to the ground. Those golden-yellowish eyes glowered at him with such contempt, the air literally choking him, "dammit, dammit, dammit! I'm not gonna lose here! I'm not gonna lose to this traitor of a demon!"

He tried to open up a portal now that he was close to the ground. But then—

BAM

SPLAT

"AAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

This demon...this weird demon stepped onto one of his hand using his unoccupied leg, crushing it good even to the bone and splattering fleshes like shredding a mere piece of paper. And after, Tanjiro did the same to the other palm, eliciting a pained outcry from the down beast. It didn't stop there. As the next second, the boy picked him using his leg. Then threw him like a sack of potato using the same appendage to the nearest wall, making him let out another wet cough.

"Niichan?! What happ—are you okay?!" he was still trying to catch his breath when his gaze snapped at the familiar voice. It was the accursed girl, literally teleported near them in a blink. She ran to her brother's side and inspected the wound on his forehead, fussing over him. Two-Horns thought he saw her paused for a moment when the siblings' eyes met. Nevertheless, he didn't really care that much because he was too focused by the fact that the ponytail girl was still alive, he hacked. Was his other selfs killed by this...weak-looking girl?!

"How dare you..." Nezuko snarled, she stalked toward him. The weapon was different than before, Two-Horn identified, now it was as long as a normal staff, "not only you hurt niichan, your color is as disgusting as your swamp, I could literally smell the putrid odor of evil, even without my niichan's nose! Exactly how many people have you all killed?!"

"What that got to do with you?!" he spat, "the one I killed are all women! If they continue living, they'll become uglier and nastier! Clearly, you should be thanking us—"

SLASH

He felt it before his mind registered it. The girl had sliced his mouth, tearing it up vertically and making his jaw kind of fall over. He screamed, loud and guttural. It hurt, it hurt! With his weakened body, the pain was a lot more prominent now that his regeneration factor turned down to almost nothing. Dammit, it hurt so much!

"I don't care if you had trauma with the girl you've dated when you were still a human or not, you're despicable. Plain and simple," the moonlight cast a shadow on her face, blocking her expression yet somehow, still highlighting the red eyes like she was the devil herself, resurfacing from hell and ready to deliver the judgment long coming. She thrust the weapon, stabbing the tip to his left side and cutting some of his dark blue strands. The threat was clear, she ordered, "Now...let's talk about what sort of information you know about Kibutsuji Muzan."

.

.

.

"...say"

"Huh?"

"I can't say..." he was trembling, sweat flowing and lips trembling. The usually hollow, red eyes shown the utmost fear unimaginable and he was shaking"I cannot say!"


(The demon remembered. He remembered the sensation of fear. Of wanting to run for his life. Of wanting to bury himself to the ground and never come out. He remembered when that man raised him to the ground by the neck, blood flowing from his nose and mouth, black dot started spreading from the corner of his sight. He knew he cannot die just because of someone choking the life of off him. However, he still fears for his life. Fear that this man may actually manage to do it. Because it's him. Because he is the man who—)

("You can't tell anybody, okay?"  his voice was almost smooth, buttered up good like a gentleman. Yet it sent a chill to the demon very being. Sending  dread  to the demon very being,  "you cannot tell anybody anything about me. If you say something, I'll know immediately—")

.

("I've always been watching you.")


"I CAN'T SAY!" the demon hollered, voice laced with immense horror as he shook his head, "I can't say I can't say I can't say I CAN'T SAAAYYY!"

"Wha—what happened to him?" Nezuko thought, perplexed. She saw how his black fog waving up and down, a clear distinction when someone was in distress, "just hearing the name of this person was enough to shook him right on the core. Even when in the midst of getting his neck chopped off by me, he never showed any emotion. But with only a name—"

"I can't say I can't say—" the demon was so in a panic he literally jumped and tightened the muscles on his hands, making the destroyed palms healed in an instant before he thrust, "I CAN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT!"

WHOOOSH

Nezuko moved her body to the side with a grunt, ignoring some strands from her ponytail that was cut off by the sharpened nails. And—

SLAASSSHH

She beheaded him, watching the blood from his neck spurted like a waterfall with a grimace, "aah..." Nezuko lamented, "I couldn't get an answer again..."

The remaining body turned into dust and gone as it was blown by the night wind. The second sibling clasped her hand for praying the safety of his journey to the next life—for a despicable demon like him, he may not deserve a good luck orison. But she should at least pray to the God not to turn him into a demon when he is reincarnated. If he was a human, he can pay for his crime and not getting killed by the demon slayer instead. A second chance for a living, for a future of a good life—then turned when she felt a vibration from her back. Tanjiro was rummaging the box she still carried, pulling out dorayaki and anpan before proceeding to devour the sweet snacks. He tilted his head in question when Nezuko was gazing at him a bit too long for a mere stare.

"Ah, no. Is your forehead okay?" her finger reached to the wound. It was still there, although it was a lot transparent than before. Looked like it already heal. Was the reason he eats now was to regained back his energy after it was used to heal the injury? (The burn mark on his left forehead was a lot clearer too. Although maybe she was just imagining it. Maybe it was just because of the blood smearing the burn and nothing had really changed). She let out a sigh, "I'm glad that you're fine."

Tanjirou let out a fond grunt and keep on munching. Nezuko laughed at his childish act, happy that it only took a little effort for him to smile. Then it slowly vanished as she took a glance at his eyes. It was ginger. It's not his original orbs, of course, as it was the beautiful burgundy. It was the original color he got after he was turned into a demon. Yet Nezuko was sure, when she emerged from the disgusting swamp and immediately went to him to check on her brother, she saw the color of his eyes changed. From the dull, dull, dull ginger to terrifying, appalling, horrifying yellow. How his cheerful expression and warm, warm, warm aura were gone, exchanged into something cold and empty. Cold and empty as the truest evil of a demon who never regret their action, like the beast she just slew.

"Niichan," she uttered, garnering the attention of the ginger-haired boy. She looked at him with such intensity that he hold off of his usual eye-smile, "will you promise me not to put yourself in danger like that again?"

(She didn't want to see it on his brother's face anymore, that murderous glare. The uncaring gaze of a demon. Tanjiro is human. A lot more human than a demon. She didn't want to see that on his face anymore)

The oldest was blinking in confusion at her request. But nodded anyway.

(If that's what she want. It's his job to make her happy anyway so he'll do it even though he doesn't really understand why. As long as she is okay, he doesn't really care about his own safety)

The night had fallen and the sun started rising on the horizon. Tanjiro was already back to hide inside the box the moment his survival instinct told him to. Nezuko then approached the two civilians who were sitting on the ground far away from their confrontation. The girl was still unconscious while the boy staring at nothing in particular, skin pale and tears still flowing from the reddened eyes, "Kazumi-san?" she crouched down, worried at the unresponsive teen, "are you okay?"

He didn't twitch for a while longer, making her concern turned up the notch. His lips started to part after a whole five minutes, sound almost gone, "I've already lost my fiancee..." he sobbed, "do you think I'd be alright after that?"

"Kazumi-san," her head lowered, casting a shadow that obscured her face, "no matter how much you have lost, you don't have a choice but to continue living with strength. No matter how severe of a blow you took—"

Nezuko couldn't finish her sentence when the depressed boy suddenly grasped the collar of her pink haori, making her head lolled to the side. He started exclaiming, despair, despair, despair was clear in his throaty voice, "HOW COULD A KID LIKE YOU KNOW ABOUT ANY OF THIS?!"

"HOW COULD A CIVILIAN LIKE YOU KNOW ABOUT ANY OF THIS!"

Kazumi jolted at the abrupt shout from the fragile-looking girl. She was crying now too, teeth chewing her bottom lips and orbs trembling, "I've lost my whole family—my mother, my younger brothers, my younger sister—then my older brother was turned into a demon, you saw it yourself," the ponytail girl's hand clasped his wrist, shivering, "And even with my training, the thought will always fester within my mind. 'what if I cannot find the cure?' 'what if I cannot turn niichan back to human?' 'what if niichan die along the way and I lose my only family again?' 'what if I die along the way and niichan will be alone? Still a demon and scared? Because other hunters won't look at him twice and will straight up kill him no matter how human he acts?'"

"But I'm not here to compare my tragedy to yours. A tragedy is a tragedy. Nobody can judge how miserable someone's life based on the difficulties they have to overcome," she slowly lifted his weakening grip from her clothes, now clasping his hands in a firm grip. Nezuko gave him a watery grimace, trying so hard to looked sincere even if the thing she wanted to do was lay there and hope everything is just a nightmare (if only I came here sooner. If only I was quicker—), "I'm here to tell you that you still have a future. You still have a life to live. You don't want—"

"You don't want your fiancee's death to be nothing, aren't you?"

Kazumi broke down. Cradling his face as he mumbled an apology to the ponytail girl. Again and again, while she hugged him, murmuring reassurance that it's okay. Nothing to be sorry for. You're just drowned by your sorrow. If you can feel better by shouting at me then so be it.

(No, it's not okay. Kazumi bawled. It's not okay. Those heart-breaking pair of hands. That tough and strong thickness. A young girl's hand shouldn't be like that. It shouldn't. Yet you have it. For the sake of your only family. For the sake of everyone else. For the sake of someone like me—)

(I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry—)

(But I'm grateful)

(I'm grateful that you save the girl's life. I'm grateful that you save my life. I'm grateful that I'm still here to see the sun and greet another day—)

(So, thank you. Thank you—)

(Thank you...)

.

.

.

Nezuko gave the torn coat of a demon that contained the previous victim's hairpin to Kazumi and asked that, if he knew any of the owners of the said trinket, maybe he could help her in giving them back. Left it in front of their porch because she didn't want the black-haired boy to get punch, their parents thinking that he was the reason their daughters are all gone just for delivering the goods back. She waved at him and walked away. Clenching her fist when she was out of his sight, eyebrows furrowed and gaze glaring, "Look like it wasn't just me," she grinds her teeth, "there are a lot more people they have been killed. Tortured and in pain because of him."

Kibutsuji Muzan...I'll never forgive you!

The black crow that worked as an informant of demon hunter association flew down from the sky and perched at her shoulder, "The next location is Asakusa in Tokyo Prefecture, CAAAWW!" it screeched, startling Nezuko from her muss, "there are rumors of a demon hiding there, CAAWW!"

"Eh? Wait, is it time to go to the next location already?! But I—"

"No but!" the crow cawed, flapping its wings, it started pecking her without remorse, "go now!"

"W-Wait a minute," PECK, PECK, "can you—" PECK PECK PECK, "will you sto—" PECK PECK PECK PECK PECK PECK PECK PECK—

GRAB

Nezuko grabbed the bird by its neck and growled, "I said stop that."

"I'm sorry. Please, don't punch me."


The day after tomorrow, Nezuko finally arrived at Asakusa town. One word she would use to describe this city is; big as heck. And so full of people too. It was already night but there are tons of them still meagering about. The buildings were so tall, the lights were so bright. It was just too overwhelming for a countryside girl like her that she actually get dizzy. Tanjiro, who was out of the box now that the sun is not hanging over their head anymore, pulled her along the crowd, eagerly brought her to the noddle stand that located at the less crowded side of town. Nezuko ordered two—no, three actually, when her brother was still pointing at the menu and shaking her shoulder—bowls of Yamakake Noodle. The heat of the broth calmed her twisting tummy and she sighed in relief, drinking the ocha to chased away the fatigue. First time ever been to a place like this, Nezuko huffed, the culture shock was enough to send her reeling.

It was nice though, she admitted. After niichan is back to normal, we're going to travel around the world to see more and more gorgeous places like this.

Her happy thought had to be cut short, however, when the seat she sat clattered. She blinked when the said ginger-haired boy—now wearing a scarf on his head to hide his face if he had to pull down the mouthguard even when other people were around. Sakonji prepared these clothes for them when they have to travel to a colder area too—suddenly stood up, nearly budge the empty bowl to the ground. His nose twitching, eyes widened, the reddish-brown orbs within it pulsated. Before long, he took off, startling the second sibling. Nezuko was ready to call him back—

Then she saw it. The black fog. So, so black it was like she stared at the abyss itself.

This...this is the same fog...

Nezuko paid the vendor for his service and followed the disappearing form of the checkered haori boy.

This is the same fog that was lingering at our house.

She pushed the throng of people away, eliciting a squawk of indignant from them. Tanjiro was right there in front of her, nails already out to slash at whoever his nose pointed him to (of course. Of course, he realized it too. He was there. He was there when their siblings were massacred. He was there when that man killed their family). Nezuko tackled him to the ground (there are too many people around. Even if that man was a demon, others didn't know. They'll think Tanjiro is just a mass murderer, killing everyone in sight and Nezuko will not let her only family to be jailed because of this misunderstanding. Because of this foul creature that deserves to die in the first place—) stopping him from his next action. The demon brother struggled, roaring behind the protection of his green bamboo as her gaze turned upward, staring from behind her messy bangs. Staring at the man who looked back at the commotion happening behind his back in wonder; a man with white fedora decorated by a red ribbon, which covered his black, wavy hair that reached his ear. Wearing an extravagant suit that made him looked like a businessman in work. Plum red orbs along with vertical pupil like cat gazed at them, wondering. It was him (the black fog like abyss is there too. The same black fog that stained her precious family like mere trash). It was him, it was him, it was him—

KIBUTSUJI MUZAN!

Her mouth open, ready to threw accusation at him, but—, "daddy," a melodic voice reached her hearing, stopping her from talking. She watched with bated breath and unbelieving stare when he finally turned to them fully. When he showed them he was carrying a small child with her; a girl in a dress. Braided, low twin-tail were fastened by the pink bow. Her wide, innocent eyes blinked at them as she asked, "who are they, daddy?"

Daddy? DADDY? Nezuko was disoriented, heart hammering like crazy. This guy. This guy this guy THIS GUY! He's living...HE'S LIVING AS A HUMAN?!

"Do you have something you want from me?" His smooth voice and sweet smile only made her stomach churned even more. The disgusting feeling was back in a second, slamming her so hard, she almost vomited. Muzan took a glance at growling Tanjiro, giving them a faux confused expression, "is your...friend okay? He looked a bit pale."

"Husband, what's wrong?" another woman, now a lot older approached from the huddle; she looked like she was in twenty. The black, low bun she sported was covered by the lime, puffy hat that snuggled her head close. Her smile was so pure and Nezuko hated the fact that she directed that quirk of lips to someone such as him, "are they your acquaintances?"

These are humans! She covered her mouth, disbelief and horrified. The girl and the woman...their color fog...they're human!

Do they not understand? Do they not know that this guy is a demon? A demon that eats human for a living?!

"No...these are just children we don't know. Seems that they're in some sort of trouble," he cradled his chin using index finger and thumb, "might it be that—"

"—you mistook us for someone else?"

Then Nezuko saw it. It was too fast to follow but she saw it. She saw how his hand moved like a bullet, swiping his nails to the unfortunate passerby then—

SLASH

Tearing the skin on the innocent civilian open, making the nape bleed.

And within a second, turning the normal human into a man-eating demon.


Tanjiro bucked her sister away from his back, crouching low. The moment the man—who was walking around with his wife. This disgraceful devil just created another victim. He just ruined another happy family life!—turned feral and went into a rampage, her brother launched his entire body to him. The force sent them tumbling away, rolling to the ground with loud whomp that sent the entire crowd into full-blown panic. He was a bit late and the woman's shoulder was already bitten but it was not too deep. The sight of the wife crying at the sudden turn of event making something within Nezuko snapped, as she almost unsheathed her Zanbato and killed the man right there and then, consequence be damn

But...but she couldn't let her emotion control her, "husband...hic. W-What happened to you?" cannot let her rage blind her from the obvious victim here. So she tended her injury, reassuring her that her husband will be okay and she should prioritize her safety first.

She could not kill that man right now, no matter how she wished to see him turn into dust. That doesn't mean she could not remind him of the doom that will come his way. Therefore, she did exactly that at the retreating back of the (fake) family, letting her eyes burn and sent him the very intention behind the glaring red eyes.

"KIBUTSUJI MUZAN!" Nezuko shouted, tears started gathering at the incredulity of this situation—so close, yet so far, "I WON'T LET YOU GET AWAY! NO MATTER WHERE YOU RUN TO, I WILL PURSUE YOU TILL THE END OF HELL ITSELF! I WILL REMOVE THAT HEAD OF YOURS WITH MY BLADE! I WILL NEVER—"

(The second oldest of Kamado's family didn't realize as she was too far up in her head to make her threat clear. But Muzan's shoulders tensed when the burgundy eyes were finally revealed from her black locks. When he saw the intensity in it and remembered the same eyes of a certain someone. A certain someone that almost killed him decades ago)

(Those eyes...THOSE ACCURSED EYES!)

"—I WILL ABSOLUTELY NEVER FORGIVE YOU!"


It was not too long before the racket grabbed the attention of others besides the anxious gawker. Nezuko jolted when she heard the commotion coming to their ways, jarring her from the blind hatred. It was the imperial guards, ordering the onlooker to stay away from the scene of the commotion. Not good. She stood up when the uniform guy started separating Tanjiro away from the new demon. They were trying to restrain the beast with their own power. It was a good intention, yet will end badly because human's strength—a normal human strength without intense training like Nezuko or other demon hunters—cannot detain their kind. They'll only endanger people around and them themselves because the demon is too strong and it will eat them, killing others, she cannot lose any innocent lives anymore—so Nezuko held onto one of the imperial guards' waist for dear life, shocking them at the sudden attack from behind.

"W-What are you doing, little girl?!"

"Don't do that! Don't pull niichan away from him! Let him restrain that man!" she said, tightening her grip when she felt the other officer trying to pull her off. Tanjiro's grunt could be heard between the noise, it sounded like he was asking for her wellbeing, only that he could do nothing because he was occupied with other things as well, "that person hasn't killed anybody yet! That person is still innocent! Don't—

"Don't interfere with us, I beg of you!"

(One of the spectator—a woman—pull her kimono sleeve back until it showed her entire hand to the world. Her nails sharpened and proceed to scratch the exposed arm. So deep, blood started gushing out from the wounds of four slashed mark like a waterfall)

(Blood bewitchment. AROMA OF VISUAL FANTASY)

.

Huh. a fog whizzed passed her. It was black—meaning it was a demon—though, she saw other colors too. Red, yellow, green, blue—wait, this one does not belong to whoever-demon-besides-Muzan was. These colors were actually—

.

"Uwaahh! What is this?!"

"I can't see my surrounding!"

Then suddenly, the town fell into a silent hush. The bright town turned dark for a moment before it was covered by a lot of patterns, for the lack of better word. Colorful flower, lines or waves, patterns that she saw in a kimono. Beautiful, enchanting. The officer she grabbed onto was nowhere to be found and she stumbled at the abrupt loss of her support.

an illusion!

What is this? She stood near her brother and the newly turned beast, dual Zanbatos are out and ready to use. Is this some sort of attack? That Muzan sent to kill them both? Nipping the bud right on the root before it could grow into an annoyance?'

However, the one who approached her was nothing evil like she thought it was. They are still demons, sure (their black fog will always be the definitive marker of their kind, no matter how they disguised themselves) yet they didn't look aggressive. Well, the pretty woman with a low bun in pretty kimono doesn't look aggressive. The male student with a short lime hair with a black highlight at the bottom, on the other hand, was glaring at her with such fury, Nezuko was wondering if he hates her, a literal stranger at that.

"You..." the woman spoke. Her voice was soft and alluring, the pink haori wearer felt like she was listening to a lullaby, "even the one who has turned into a demon, you still refer them as a person. And you are trying to save him," her sight rested at Tanjiro who was watching the conversation with blank eyes, now sitting at the demon's back casually. Though his stiffening hands on the nape and the legs were a clear distinction he was still committed in his job at restraining the struggling man. He looked a lot calmer, now that Muzan is nowhere to be found, "was your conviction come because of your brother's condition?"

She shifted her body, blocking the ginger-haired boy from the view of the curious interrogators, "what of it?" she scowled, lifted her chin in defiance, "demons were human too. My brother, this man, even you two. What's wrong if I have sympathy for them?"

The woman actually smiled at her word, happy. Though the male student was scowling at her blatant shows of disrespect, "then I shall lend you a hand as well," she cradled her bloody hand and explained, "I may be a demon but I'm also a doctor. And—"

"I want to eradicate that man as much as you do. That man that called himself Kibutsuji Muzan."


In another place at the same town, Muzan—after telling his wife that he wanted to ask the officers about the commotion they witnessed just now, a little white lie—was now standing in the middle of the empty back alley. Behind him were three corpses of unfortunate civilian that accidentally bumped into him, annoying him further when it was clear he was already in a bad mood. However, the man didn't care. He never cares about the life of a pitiful human when he was a creature that closes to perfection himself. Nobody could ever surpass him and nobody could ever kill him.

(Yet the appearance of the burgundy-eyes demon hunter rattled him bad. Reminded him of the dark, darker, darkest day of weaknesses. Unnerved his entire being that it offends him. Anger him. Terrify him—)

He snapped his finger loud and clear, destroying the corpse in a plume of smoke and summoning two of his subordinates.

"What is your bidding, my lord?" they asked, bowing low.

"I want you to kill that demon hunter. A girl in a ponytail with burgundy eyes," her plum red orbs shone deadly under the shadow of his fedora.

.

"Bring her head to me, whatever it takes"

Chapter Text

With Tanjiro tasked to drag the growling demon away while the lime-haired student brings the injured wife inside—she was unconscious now. Nezuko hoped it was only because of shock and not blood loss—they arrived at two-stories house that was located behind the dead end of an alleyway—they literally walked through a wall like it was nothing just to reach this place—far away from even the outskirt of town. Nezuko stopped for a second when she saw something, nailed at the roof of the front porch; a white paper with a strange symbol on it. The symbol itself looked like an eye, with two curved lines at either side and a series of leaf-like line at every four corners, "it was a cloaking spell," the student explained when he saw her staring, "I cast it so it'll mask this house presence from other people's sight."

She hummed in understanding. That was why when they passed through the wall, Nezuko could not see their color anymore. The demon hunter stepped inside, standing to the side as to not be a bother when the boy put the wife to the bed. He then ordered Tanjiro to follow him to the dungeon, they have to hold the husband in the jail for now so he will stop trying to attack anyone in sight. When they were gone, the ponytail girl stepped closer. The wife's face was still pale, grunting and moving around a bit restlessly, likely having a nightmare.

"Do you think she'll be okay?" Nezuko asked, watching the lady clean the wound.

"Yes. Thanks to your brother, the wound is not that deep," she said, finishing the treatment with a flourish. She cradled her hair, trying to chase away the bad dream.

"Umm..." the second siblings wrung her fingers, "does it...fell uncomfortable for you to handle the wound of a human?"

"Obviously not!" then tensed when the voice of the student boomed in the silent clinic, a sarcastic undertone was clear from the sharp answer. They were back, with the lime-haired teen looking suspiciously at the happy Tanjiro, who bounded to Nezuko and started aiming for the bag on her back. She turned away from the reaching hand, however, "as demons, we must endure the saliva brought on by the smell of flesh and blood. That's what you think, right? Just a mindless beast in which we'll just pounce at any prey we found? Well, you thought wrong, stupid girl..."

"Wha—"

"Don't be so rude," the demon doctor interjected, "I haven't introduced myself yet. My name is Tamayo and this child is Yushiro. Please do excuse him. He's a bit rough around the edge but he's a nice kid."

"Well..." Nezuko took a glance at Yushiro, who was glaring at the floor with such intensity that, if a stare can kill people, he'll surely have become a mass murderer right about now. She turned again when Tanjiro was still chasing after the wooden box, "I can't really do anything to someone who hates my guts even though I didn't say anything rude though..."

"And to answer your question, it does not feel particularly uncomfortable. I have an easier time with it compared to normal demons," Tamayo put a hand on her chest and gave a small smile, "I am able to manipulate my body to my own wish. Which made it possible for me to remove Kibutsuji's curse as well."

Curse?

"I can survive even without partaking human flesh. All I need is to drink a small amount of blood," she chuckled when she saw Nezuko turned a bit wary at that. Still evading her brother's advance, by the way, "no, we don't hunt humans like normal demons. We get our food from buying the blood that was originally given for transfusions from people who don't have a lot of money."

Ah, so that's why. It's been nagging at the back of her back, something about them seem different. Now she knew. Their fog is black like the usual demon. But somehow, it doesn't fell...disgusting, nasty. They were still a lot more demon than human, though. Because there is no other color in their fog, not like Tanjiro, who still retained the burgundy in it even if it was so little, she had to really squinted to look at it.

"Yushiro is even more impressive. As he only needs a minuscule amount of blood to survive," Nezuko accepted the tea made by the said boy, though with a bit too much force he almost spilled it on her haori. The ponytail girl took the bag off of her back and put it in front of her, away from her brother wandering hands, Tanjiro pouted, "I was the one who transformed him into a demon."

"W-What?"

"What what?!" Yushiro growled, seems like he took offense at the incredulous tone the pink haori wearer unconsciously utter, "don't you judge Tamayo-sama! She's my savior, I'm not gonna let you look down at her because of a misunderstanding!"

"Wait, that was not my intention! I was wondering how—"

"How can I, a normal demon, turned another human into a demon as well, was it?" Tamayo ensured, in which Nezuko nodded, "indeed, people other than Kibutsuji are unable to increase the number of demons, this is factually correct. However," she took another sip and stared at the standing leaf on the surface, "after going through over 200 years, the only person that was able to transform into a demon was Yushiro."

"I won't increase the number of our kind, of course," the black eyes stared at her, trying to make her intention honest and clear using the stare alone, "but to a person that is plagued by disease without a cure and is about to die, this is the only option I can offer to them."

"Tamayo-sama asked me if I want to continue living as a demon before she granted me her blood," the student tsked, "it was my choice. Don't you dare hate her for it."

"No, no. I was just so...astonish by it. It was really Incredible..." she gasped, full of awe and pure admiration. These two were so incredible. To think these nice demons exist. Before she closed her eyes, put the tea on the floor, and pull the box away while glaring at the sheepish Tanjiro; who was laying stomach-down beneath her face, "niichan, I told you not to eat any more snacks!"

Tanjiro whined.

"No, you already eat dinner. Two bowls of noodle, I may add. There's no way you're still hungry!"

He clasped his hands and widened his eyes, giving her a look of a kicked puppy.

"I said no."

Along with small tears at the corner of it.

"Niichan..."

That orbs glimmered with innocence.

"Uurghh...FINE!" she slammed the box back down and shoved it to her brother, Tanjiro immediately cheered. Nezuko stopped him by the head when he lunged onto it eagerly, however, and warned, "just one snack. I'm not giving you more or I'm going to let you starve for a day."

(She will not, as he replenish his energy that way and she could not let him weaken in a time of need when their job is a lot more dangerous from now on than just being a child of coal burner. But her brother won't stop if she doesn't threaten him from the start so that's that)

The ginger-haired boy nodded frantically. He picked up another anpan from the compartment and, after pulling out the scarf that still somehow stay on his head even after the tumbling and the green bamboo from its place, he ate the bread; a lot more slowly now to treasure the flavor as this was his last snack of the day. The pleasant atmosphere was immediately gone, now changed into something akin to shock. Nezuko could guess why.

"What the heck?" Yushiro mumbled.

"Is...your brother eating human food?" Tamayo incredulously asked, hands on her mouth to cover her bafflement.

"Yes, my mentor said that his human side is a lot more prominent than the other," she answered, cradling her finger at his ginger hair. The younger sister swore Tanjiro purred under the pat, "so instead of eating human flesh or uh...in your case, drinking some blood, he eats food to survive. And sometimes sleeping too."

"Do you know the reason why?" the doctor scooted closer, watching every move her brother made with intense scrutiny, her eyes almost glowing. Like a kid getting their dream present at their birthday after waiting for years. The student, after his confusion at the bizarre scenery was gone, schooled his expression and sent a glare at the happily-eating beast (Aaah...now she understand. Nezuko is one-hundred percent sure Yushiro hate everyone on the sole basis that they took the attention of Tamayo away from him. Just jealousy of an adolescent in love. Something she understands via fairy-tale books her mother loved to read for her when she was still a child, yet hasn't experienced it first hand as she was too busy with a more serious problem at hand. That means Nezuko was not at fault for the unclear resentment the boy harbored towards her, she sighed in relief). Tamayo tilted her head when he saw Tanjiro also drank the tea his sister abandoned, mumbling, "maybe I can finally make a medicine that will turn the demon back into a human now."

.

.

It took several seconds for her to digest that exact word the pretty lady uttered. And when she realized the implication, she almost stood up in surprise, "you...you can turn a demon back into a human?"

"You have the cure?!" Nezuko leaned over in record time, clasping her clammy palm on her shoulder. Burgundy orbs desperate and voice almost begging, "p-please! Can I have one—"

"Calm down, Nezuko-san," Tamayo cut her plea, gently lifted her hand from her figure. Yushiro was growling in the background, his gesture was clear that he intended to tackle the demon hunter away from his precious person. Yet couldn't because Tanjiro was holding him back by the arm with one hand, still munching on the food, sinking the nail in his delicate skin; not that deep to draw blood but deep enough to make his warning clear. The two women ignored the little squabble from their male companions—those two were now looking at each other. Or glaring heatedly in the case of the student and staring innocently in the case of the oldest Kamado's sibling—then continue to converse, "It's been my wish to create this medication the moment I know not all beasts are bad. Some were turned against their will. And some could only walk this depressing path because there's no other way. If I can make the remedy, it'll give the victims back their previous life, maybe cure their illness as the demon blood already washed the disease away, and Kibutsuji cannot further his army of man-eating devils."

"Then—"

"Unfortunately," she again interjected, "at my current stage, I cannot turn a demon back into a human."

"Wha—"

"However, no matter what kind of sickness it is, there will always be methods and medicines for it," she gave her a reassuring smile, a view that calmed Nezuko's drumming heart, "I will do my best to research and develop a method of treatment."

"You can count on me for this"


Still in Asakusa, at the same time, at a different place, were two shadowy figures moving, stalking the empty street. A teenager with short black hair was crawling on the ground. The big, blue marbles on his neck jingled as he moved, his green-black yukata was pulled a bit from the ground as he didn't want to get it dirty. He raised his hands and at the both of his palms exists an eye, with a green sclera and red eyes, a black arrow as it pupil. The eyes somehow sniffed, catching up the scent that was already long gone.

"Can you see it?" another one asked. It was a girl a bit younger than the previous, with black hair and red highlight at the bottom. She was bouncing the colorful kemari ball, making her black obi that covered the orange kimono swayed, following the gravity. Ring, ring, ring, the ball sounded, it created a beautiful yet ominous sound in this dark night without stars.

"Of course. I see footprints," the boy snickered, crazed manic undertone seeped from his voice. His real eyes were still closed as he preferred to use the one on his palms to see, staring at the said footprints—who actually looked like red arrows covered by white, otherworldly fire—appearing on the ground one after another, pointing him to the place he wanted, "the boy wearing a uniform turned around there and circled a long way around. And then there were three other people and one of them is wearing a huge box. Look like that one is our target"

"How do we kill them, ufufufu?" the girl giggled like a happy child. Even if those yellow eyes with horizontal pupil were clearly radiating madness, "I feel this power coursing through me. Because we received the blood from the great one just now~"

"Well, it was obvious right?" the innocent quirk of lips of the boy turned sharped, pointed fangs peeked beneath the demented smirk.

"We are going to slaughter her as cruelly as possible"


Tamayo explained a step by step she believed will help her in creating the treatment. First, she wanted to investigate Tanjiro's blood. Nezuko's mentor theorized the reason why her sibling was more human than a demon was because he is an older brother, a protective older brother at that that, even when he lost his memory, his instinct to protect the youngest was there so he knew not to attack Nezuko. Then they had taught him not to attack innocent civilians too. Just because those people are not his siblings or family, doesn't mean he should abandon them. Sakonji said he practically like a toddler since he was turned into a beast, mimicking everything he saw. Yushiro scoffed at that half-baked theory—too full of optimism and sentiment—yet he didn't outright deny it. Saying that, sibling-theory aside, the amount of blood Tanjiro received or, maybe, the blood-relation itself play a part in it. In which Tamayo agreed.

(Honestly, Nezuko thought the reason why Yushiro didn't want to debunk Sakonji's theory right away because it almost sounded like a fate. 'It was a fate that family will always love each other'. 'It was fate when people fall in love then live happily ever after'. And with his intoxication towards the pretty lady, he wanted to believe that fate of love really does exist. She won't say anything, though. Didn't want to anger him any longer)

(It was still endearing as heck, she almost smile)

Second, she wanted her to gather blood from demons with Kibutsuji blood coursing through their veins as much as possible. The doctor surmised that Tanjiro was currently at a very rare and very precarious stage of development, she explained while observing the ginger-haired boy who was now playing with Nezuko's hair and making new sets of braid from it (it was still a bit messy but it was a great improvement from before).

That was also the reason why in their previous battle, her brother went a bit...deranged.

The human side was buried for a while when his emotion was in a jumble. And the demon side sleeping within it took over, making him a lot stronger yet a lot crueler. That was easily explained by the changed of eyes color. Demons sometimes undergo drastic transformations when they were turned into the said devil; a good example was the green demon from the Final Selection mountain ground. He had a human appearance before he turned into that disgusting form. Tamayo didn't know if this was a fact or just a mere rumor, but if you have dark coloration when you were still a human, if you do undergo changes, the color will turn lighter when you're a demon and possibly, the other way around too; Yushiro is a good example of that, as his hair was full black when he was a human yet now turned half-lime. In Tanjiro's case, the lighter his color was, the more he loses his memory and his humanity along with it.

Because the beast who turned him into a demon was not the nice Tamayo but the evil Muzan.

The ginger color is dull, dull, dull and Nezuko hated it. However, if this information is indeed correct, then the theory of him retaining more of his human side than the devil one was now confirmed. Because ginger is a lot closer to red than yellow. And her sibling's previous color is burgundy. Meaning, if you put it into numbers, his scale of transformation was under five instead of over it. Meaning, that Tanjiro might become the key to unlocking the mystery of man-eating demon in the future.

"This second thing I want from you is a very cruel one," Tamayo lamented, head bowed, "the demon with thick Kibutsuji's blood coursing in them are demons that have...gained a massive amount of strength from Kibutsuji himself. It won't be an easy task, robbing these demons of their blood. Even so—"

"—are you willing to accept my request?"

.

.

"You don't have to ask for my confirmation on this, Tamayo-san. Of course, I will," she promptly answered without any hesitation. Her hand reached back and managed to cradle the demon brother's cheek, "if you managed to create and manufacture the medicine, not only niichan, the lives of even more people—be it humans or demons—will be saved right?" she gave her a grin, "this may sound like I'm copying you but I've been wanting to turn other demons back to human too, the moment I promised myself to cure niichan. Demons were humans, they have their own emotion. Am I right?"

Tamayo blinked at the firm declaration, blinded by the sincerity in it. Then she smiled, "yes. You're right. Thank you, Nezuko-san." Tiny and faint, yet so beautiful Nezuko actually blushed!

...Yushiro expression was outright murderous, Nezuko actually sweat.

It was an instant reaction. Tanjiro's nose twitched. Then Yushiro's eyes widened.

(Someone had torn the cloaking spell down!)

Tanjiro wrapped his hands around her. While Yushiro went to grabbed Tamayo and shouted.

"GET DOWN!"

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM

Before something crashed through the building, bouncing on the wall, floor, and ceiling. Crushing every single place whatever-it-was touched.

A kemari ball rolled to a stop, making a nice, short jingle.

RING

Chapter Text

"AHAHAHAHAHA!" a voice of a childish glee was heard between the crumbling house. Nezuko peeked from under her brother's hug, watching the newcomers with trepidation. Clearly demons, judging from the lowered atmosphere that made the air colder and choking their respiration. A girl, younger than her, sporting a happy smile like she was having so much fun over the fact that people were suffering. Was that on her hand? A kemari ball? Don't tell her that that was the thing they used to attack them? That tiny, weak-looking ball? "just like what Yahaba said! A structure appeared in a place that didn't have anything there before~"

"Seems like they use a blood demon art capable of hiding things," the other, a boy that older than her but younger than Tanjiro, picked a fallen paper that came from the wall out of the house. Her red eyes caught the drawing within it; it was the cloaking device Yushiro made. Of course, with it fell down, the spell won't work and their presence are known. He tore the paper apart, letting the remnant of it getting caught by the passing wind, "there's a demon hunter and another demon along with them. The demon hunter, I understand. But why is she having a pleasant conversation with our kind? One of them even looked like he was trying to save her, to boot."

"Well, anyway. Susamaru," he turned to the kemari ball girl, now possessing a scowl on his ashen complexion, "the way you handled this was immature! Too simplistic! You got my clothes dirty with dust, tch!" he raised the hem of his yukata in annoyance, "and after I took good care of this too."

"Man, you're so annoying," his companion said, pouting, "it was all thanks to my handballs that we were able to find this place so soon, okay? You're such a neurotic guy."

Dammit, they're clearly strong! She grasped the handle of her weapon, the other hand was used to push Tanjiro away to give her a breathing room. She has to finish these demons soon, their killing intent was clear they won't leave anyone alive!

Yet the girl picked up on her intent. And immediately launch a second attack, in which Tanjiro's hug tightened even more as he pushed her down to duck and avoid the ball. It bounced, bounced, bounced. And her red eyes caught something unbelievable. The ball, when it was near Yushiro, suddenly made a sharp turn. And it was not because of the motion from hitting the wall. It literally honed onto the student face like an eagle—

CRUSH

Splattering the head in pieces, making a scene of gore straight out of a horror story.

"No!" Nezuko was petrified, was terrified! No, no, no, no, no, how could this happen? How could their pleasure time turned worse just in a blink of an eye?! She couldn't just stay here and do nothing. She had to save them. She had to save them—"Niichan!" she called the ginger-haired boy, who was letting out a low snarl since the arrival of the enemies, baring his fangs now that he was not wearing the mouthpiece for now after having a light snack, "carry the unconscious wife in there to a safe place, please!"

A blink of hesitation was there when she gave him her order (he didn't want to leave this girl if she could. He doesn't know what will happen to her when he takes his eyes away. Just look at the previous fight). It was so fast Nezuko thought she imagined it. But then Tanjiro nodded in certainty, throwing a chunk of debris to the Kemari demon with a speed that can crush a bone, making the girl step back to avoid the attack. They use that second of time to do their appointed job; Tanjiro taking the human to safety while Nezuko standing protectively in front of the nice demons (take it with a grain of salt in Yushiro case, however. He's not bad, just overly brash)

"Her fog was a lot thicker than the usual demon I faced in the past. Even the green demon doesn't have this kind of color," Zanbatos are out in the open, ready to be used within moment notice, "is it because she's really strong? Is she one of the demon with Kibutsuji's blood flowing inside her?"

"Oh, hey~" Susamaru blinked, the grin still carved on her pretty face. She bounced the kemari ball on each of her palms as she started a simple conversation, "the demon hunter with ponytail and red eyes. That's you right? My lord reaaallllyyy want to see you, you know. Just your head is enough, though~"

Their target is me?! This is totally Kibutsuji's doing, then! After getting his identity discovered by the novice slayer, he'll try to erase the evidence as fast as he could, definitely not wanting her to spread the rumor or his 'peaceful' life will end in an instant. The suit he wore was extravagant, positively defined that he has a steady job posing as a human. Though the second sibling was pretty sure money was not an issue if he did have to go into hiding. He doesn't need to buy and eat human foods, his energy came from—she gulped, almost growling at the thought of it—the flesh of Nezuko's kind itself. She spread her stance, "Tamayo-san, please get to a place where you are able to hide! As long as their sight is on me, then—"

"Nezuko-san, are you implying to make yourself a bait?" the demon doctor, cradling the headless Yushiro, scowled, "that is basically suicide, you know."

"Wha—no! Of course, I'm not trying to—"

"Then, please don't mind us. We will be fine even without your protection," she gave her a reassuring smile, "because see, we are demons."

I still don't want to see you two hurt, though! But—"Fine. Just...please, take care of yourself."

The demon kemari player decided at that moment that she doesn't like being ignored, especially by her target. So he threw a fast one, making the ball sailed within the horizontal line. Nezuko knew it was useless to evade the weapon, hence she crouched a bit, moving one of her swords to the back and breathe, "Full Focus, Breath of Water" she thrust, making the air swayed and creating a pattern of several water ripples in the air as the blade stabbed the ball right in the middle, "DROP WAVE PATTERN, PIERCING STRIKE CURVE!"

She caught the kemari, stopping its movement abruptly. Hard. This is not a normal ball that she could deflate with one hole. What should she—

The ball that was still stuck in the middle of her weapon abruptly stirred. It was so sudden, the force of the movement managed to smack her forehead, bruising it blue.

Wha—how could this handball still move?

"Tamayo-sama!" her shoulder tensed and her ears turned to the nearest conversation happening behind her. It was Yushiro's voice—did he managed to grow his head back?—a bit hoarse and rough yet still sounded alive. He continued shouting, even when his head was only half-forming, nerves and blood bubbling like a water boiling, growing the new skin in record speed, "I said this before, haven't I? From the very beginning, I told you we shouldn't have any relation with the demon hunters! My 'Hidden' technique is still imperfect! Just hiding the structure, the presences of beings, and the smell won't wipe away the existence of said being themselves! The more people that are hidden, the more chance of Kibutsuji picking up on the trace we leave behind!"

"I hate people coming to interfere with the time you and I spend together!" he roared, "I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! I CAN'T FORGIVE THEM ALL!"

Tamayo bowed her head in shame, Nezuko's stomach twisted with guilt.

So this is their fault. No, this is my fault! If only I'm not hesitating and just killed Kibutsuji right there and then—

If only I was fast enough to stop him from turning the innocent man into a demon—

"Ahahaha, what are you talking about, you silly boy?" Susamaru cackled. She started to undress the top-half of her kimono, now only leaving her with black cloth binding her chest, "you are so fun! So interesting!"

"I will allow you the glorious death of dying by the hands of the twelve demon moons!"

Twelve Demon Moons?

"They're Kibutsuji's personal servant!" Tamayo shouted the explanation, "if you get their blood and give it to me—"

"Then you'll be able to create the medicine!" Nezuko finished. She combined her dual Zanbato's into one, slashing them to the air for a good measure, "got it!"

"Ahaha. Ahahah. Now let's play~~" the demon girl laughed in crazed mirth, growing four other arms from her exposed body, now possessing a total of six arms, clutching their own kemari ball—where did she hide her weapon, honestly? Was the ball not a weapon at all and just a part of her body, formed to look like a tool to use? They did sprout blood when she pierced it just now, "Let's play until the night ends and your life ends~"

The next attacks were devastating, now the amount of the ball increased. It'll bounce at sharp angles, making Nezuko eye crossed, trying to follow its movement. She tried slicing the ball in half, spinning the deadly blade to destroy the moving ball. Yet it doesn't do anything. Even if the power of their momentum were reduced, the ball still hit her and she was sure she's going to get a lot of bruises from this. So as long as the ball maintained their form—be it full-circle or half-circle—the movement won't end. She really had to tear it into pieces within one second or else everything will be naught. Easier said than done! Some of them managed to get past her defense, cutting chunks of Tamayo's and Yushiro's flesh.

They really should just hide somewhere, dangit! Even if they're demons, they still can feel the pain, brain still working to remind them of the damage they get from the outer force. Still looks human. Still having their own emotion and self and Nezuko doesn't want to see other people die again—

"Dammit, stupid demon hunter! Just see the arrow patterns already! As long as you see it, you can evade it easily!" Yushiro, now with half of his right head gone after that attack, growled. Nezuko blinked at that confusing sentences, he tsked, "of course you can't see it. Stupid human," the student covered his remaining eye for a second. It flashes bright lime before it dimmed, "Here, I lend you my Sight!" and then threw something at her. The second oldest yelped a bit when that something embedded right in the middle of her forehead—wait, was this a needle? Did he really just threw a needle at me? Right at my head? Did he hate other people that much he wanted to kill them even when his life is in danger?!—a rustle of paper resounded—the cloaking spell that was on the front porch was the first thing that came to her mind. Was that it? Did Yushiro put that strange symbol on her?—and instantly, her eyes cleared.

I see it, I see it! Nezuko let out a gasp, time felt like it was slowing down as her burgundy eyes traced the red arrow zig-zagging across the field, while the kemari balls followed that exact pattern to a T. So this is how the ball make a turn even without touching anything. This ball is not using the power of momentum to move, it's using these arrows like it was sliding down a steep cliff!

"Niichan!" she exclaimed, separating the weapon and took a stance. The time returned back to normal, the balls closing in on her, "On the tree! The other demon is on the tree near the wall!"

WHOOOSHH

The air whistled—

"Breath of Water. Third Style—"

WHAM

Yahaba managed to swerve fast enough to intercepted Tanjiro's kick with his hand—

SWOOSH SWOOOSH

Nezuko moved like she was dancing, following the current water only she could see. Twisting and swirling around the kemari balls, slicing them at the same time while leaving trails of water along the wake—

CRAS

And chopped all of Susamaru's hand—

"DANCE OF THE FAST MOVING CURRENT!"


Water is able to transform into all sort of shapes. Drawing it into a box will make it square. Drawing it into a bottle will make it cylindrical. It's able to smash rocks and overflow everywhere.

Water is a devastating attack. But water will also protect you all the same. Always remember this, Nezuko.


"Don't kick up so much dust, barbaric boy!" Yahaba snarled. "it's so dirty!

The eye on his right palm closed with a snap, Tanjiro's body tensed without his will.

And then his whole figure moved back, like an invisible string from an invisible puppeteer pulling him away from the neurotic demon. He crashed towards the gaping-jaw Nezuko—who was staring in disbelief at how fast the demon girl's recovery speed was, growing the chopped arms within a mere blink—falling right into her embrace as it was her turned to save him from the devastating throw of the kemari balls. Tanjiro's ginger orbs landed onto the nice demons they were having a nice conversation before. He thought he heard the hunter girl told him to be careful. And the grouchy student telling Nezuko to take care of the arrow-wielding beast while the brother handles the kemari player, they'll help him along the way. But the demon brother didn't care about any of that. Didn't care that his body was tingling from the previous attack of the eye-palm demon. No. He was staring right at his forgotten memories as he watched the doctor and the student stepped out of the house, weary and bloodied—

His gaze rested on a small body with flesh tore like a wrecked autumn leaf. Bloody and broken. Shigeru was just a child. Just a child how could  he,  how could  he—

.

He puffed, nose twitching and hearts hammering—

.

"Tanjiro..." his mother weakly called—was that his name? But he thought his name is Niichan?. Throat crushed under the grip of this creature, body hanging limp as a clear sign of her bones breaking inside.

.

He felt like he was hyperventilating

.

"Please, forget about me.."

.

No. No, no, no, no, he couldn't! I couldn't! I don't want to forget you! I don't want to leave you—

.

"Save yourself..."

.

No...

.

"Save yourself..."

.

No—

.

"SAVE YOURSELF AND RUN!"

.

NO!

.

"GRAAAHHHH!"

Tanjiro moved, nails sharpened and killing intent flared, slashing the kemari player with utmost force while his sister lept towards the other demon. Sasamaru ducked, throwing the ball at the same time. Her laughter echoed through the night as the ginger-haired boy evade the first attack and intended to kick the second—

"YOU MUSTN'T KICK IT!"

(That was the voice of the nice doctor—)

The oldest Kamado jumped instead, it sailed and managed to nick the pretty lady's shoulder, damaging that part of the kimono. He growled, orbs widening yet pupil shrinking (this demon. This demon this demon THIS DEMON! Is destroying the happy family of the innocent civilian just like what that man did to his family—)

(I won't let it. I won't let it I won't let it  I WON'T LET HER DO IT— )

At the other side of the battleground, other combatants were engaged with their own fight as well, "Don't come near me, you dirty little tramp. You're going to make me puke with that disgusting odor of yours," Yahaba said, moving his hand in tandem and catching Nezuko's entire body in his attacks. The ponytail hunter clutched her swords in a death grip, trying to minimize the force of the invisible string—no, she already surmised that this arrows acted like a fast current of water they couldn't escape. Could only flail uselessly because the moment you were caught in it, you were doomed to the momentum—by giving the opposite reaction of the arrow that was pointing her to the destination the demon-boy wanted too. The first few times, she was too late, crashing her back to the tree, her shoulder to the wall, her arm to the ground, she really was like a puppet being controlled by the evil puppeteer. The ponytail girl managed to soften her landing when the boy brought her to the sky, only to drop her back from the highest vantage. By using the Eight Style of the Breath of Water, Waterfall Basin; creating several gushes of water that slowed down her fall. Yahaba huffed.

"Good grieve, you're like a cockroach. Hey, Susamaru!" he called, the girl sent the third wave of merry-making balls towards the demon brother, "isn't that lady the escapee Tamayo? I'll take this girl head while you take care of that one."

"Really? How nice of you~" she swooned, two of her hands clasped her cheek while the other kept throwing the weapon of destruction to the retreating form of Tanjiro, "what should I do with the other though?"

"Just killed them. It's not like we need anyone other than The Target anywa—" he suddenly stopped however, the eye on his palms caught something he thought impossible. Yahaba didn't think much when he saw the appearance of the weird demon amongst the bunch, thinking it was only one of the doctor follower now that he identified her. But then he saw it. When the moonlight came from behind the clouds, brightening the field they were having the intense battle on, he saw it. He saw the earrings on the ginger demon's ears.

The rectangular earring of the sun symbol lightening the tall hill.

And something in his mind snapped.

Wha—what is this? His body trembled without his consent. Fear coursed through his veins and dread chilled his bone. Nezuko chose that moment to propped herself up and struck. Yet, even when his emotion was in discontent, he managed to diss out a couple of arrows to busy herself to. What is this? Why is my body trembling like this? He stared at the shivering form of his being, the real orbs behind his eyelids swerving right and left like it was trying to find the hidden meaning behind the fright. This is...this is—

Is this Muzan-sama's feeling?

The green yukata wearer sent another arrow wave to the girl using one hand and, with gritted teeth, another to the unsuspecting back of the ginger beast. He didn't have the Sight the girl now possessed after Yushiro loan her one. Although maybe it was the survival instinct of a demon or the fear radiated from the arrow beast's aura, Tanjiro turned at the last second and dodged, ducking under the ball that whizzed past his head also. Susamaru pouted at the interception.

"What the hell, Yahaba? You said I can play with him. Why are you—"

"CAPTURE HIM!" he cut her whine with a sharp tone, making her blinked in confusion. Sweat rolled down his forehead and eyebrows furrowed in distress, "capture him and bring him to our Lord! I don't care if we have to rough him a little bit, capture him!"

.

.

This girl is a threat. That boy is a threat. These burgundy-eyes kids are a THREAT. Something within him whispered. Muzan-sama's cell whispered.

She'll kill  me.  He'll kill  me.  They'll kill  me  like what he almost did decades ago—

But the boy is one of us. It realized. Speechless. Thoughtful. Gleeful. Almost purred. He's one of us now and if we can bind him. If we can put a leash on him, he'll be our strongest. He'll be the fiercest.

HE'LL BE NOTHING BUT A DOLL  I  CAN CONTROL AND NOBODY CAN STOP  ME  ANYMORE!

.

.

Susamaru shrugged and just threw her kemari balls to the oldest sibling while Yahaba was ready to back her up, arms stretched, "Your fight is with me, demon!" but then Nezuko roared, snapping his attention to the forgotten demon slayer who already poised and in the middle of unleashing her skill. He jumped to the side and side-stepped the water coursing through the air, tsked. Yahaba then changed the direction of his palm. The eye opened before closing with a click.

"Beat it, woman! I don't have time with you anymore," in their sight, a couple of red arrows rushed like a bullet. The pink haori wearer danced through them with a move that made her twirled, spinning and rolling, able to evade every single one of them but cannot cut them because the arrow itself is not something tangible. She knew the moment it touched her or her weapon, the arrow will just sweep her away without mercy. Yet she advanced forward, more determined than before, he realized. Yahaba's eye opened again and an arrow that coiled around her right socket appeared, "I will just pop your arm off so you'll stay down for good!"

It blinked in a second—

Then the girl twisted her whole body according to the direction of the arrow, the force of that arrow moved to her haori and tore the cloth away from her figure, completely negating the damage.

"Why won't you just stay down already!" he shouted, sending another arrow.

Something clearly rattled him, even Nezuko could see it under the distress of this battle. It made his attack really straight forwards and a bit sloppy. A thing she could clearly take advantage of as a plan formed inside her head, she slashed at the incoming arrows. It started to pull her back. Heavy, it's so heavy, the girl felt like her Zanbato turned ten times bigger and heavier and she was not in tip-top shape to even wield it correctly. But she pressed on. She spun on her heels, the arrows were caught by the current liquid of her Water ability, making it formed into a big spiral of a cyclone. The moment that eye snapped shut, Nezuko jumped.

"Of course I'm not going to stop!" she answered the loaded question, red eyes blazing, "it's my niichan you're talking about! The moment you decided to take him away from me..."

Second Style Modified—

The blue fluid curved and created a thick, devastating horizontal line, catching the demon boy and chop his head cleanly in one, strong swing.

"THE MOMENT YOU'LL FACE THE LITTLE SISTER'S WRATH!"

HORIZONTAL WATER WHEEL!


The head rolled to the far side of the battlefield as Nezuko stumbled to the earth now that the improvised skill was over. She was still not experienced enough to create her own style, so the foreign move she created just now really took a toll on her body. Not counting how heavy her Zabantos were when she combined hers and the demon's attack into one, so glad that her training was not for naught. As she was sure her old self will literally lose her whole arm for trying to unleash that attack.

The demon-boy itself was screaming his mouth off, frustration rolling out of his bloodied mouth, "dammit, dammit, dammit! And we are so close too! We finally found him after all this time—" him? Who is he talking about? Niichan? Because he was talking about capturing her only family just now. Ordering the other to do the same even if they have to maim him a little bit. Nezuko shoulders tensed when she remembered. Right. Her older brother was in danger! Not only he is on a threat of getting killed, it seems like these demons wanted to snatch him for some reason. But as she stood up, using her weapon as the prop, Yahaba continued, growling and roaring like a deranged demon he was, "this is all your fault, you brute of a woman! Your fault! If I cannot catch that demon or bring your head myself—"

The air chilled—

And Nezuko gasped in horror when multiple arrows sprouted from her body, looking like it pierced every single skin of her figure in different sizes and different direction.

...no. He didn't just—

"THEN I WILL MAKE YOU PERISH ALONG WITH ME!"

WHOOOSHHH

CRAAAPPPP! Nezuko gritted her teeth when her entire body sailed through the air. The wall was steadily approaching and she needs to do something before all the impact crushed her body like a butter—she took a stance in mid-air—

Fourth Style,  STRIKING TIDE!

It was not over. The next arrow worked its magic, bringing her up to the sky, into the branch of the nearest tree. No, no, no, no! The pressure of the sudden turn was really bad, she almost could not swing her sword. But she had to do it, the grip on the handle changes. Protect yourself, protect yourself! At each of every turn, before she smacks into the hard surface and breaks every bone inside, she had to minimize the damage or else—water rippled through her swords and she swung—

RAIN WAVE PATTERN PIERCE!

WHAM

WATER WHEEL!

CRASH

STRIKING TIDE!

BOUM

WATER SURFACE SLICE!

KRAK

WATERFALL BASIN!

BAM

It hurt, it hurt, it hurt! Her breathe kept changing, making her sounded like she was having a panic unleashing every Water Skills she learned to soften her landing, a low grunt surfaced from her throat. I've never attempted to use my sword technique consecutively like this before! (RAIN WAVE PATTERN PIERCE!) How many more time? (WATERFALL BASIN!) how many more arrows left?! (STRIKING STRIDE!). Do not get distracted, do no get distracted! (WATER WHEEL!) Another technique, another technique to unleash. Her upper and lower body twisted—come on, Nezuko, YOU CAN DO IT—

TWISTING WHIRPOOL!

Her body crashed with a loud thud and her heart immediately jumped. Puffed of breath erratically came out from her pale lips, it felt so hard to breathe and her heart literally sounded like a studded drum, so loud she almost couldn't hear her own pants. It's so hurt, it's so hurt! Even after all those techniques she unleashed, she could feel her ribs and legs are broken. However, the demon that was responsible for this was finally gone, vanishing his full-of-contempt voice to the wind. That was the only thing that gave her a reprieve, though it wasn't long-lasting. Because Tamayo-san, Yushiro-san, niichan are still in danger. The voice of battle is still around. She had to go back there and help them before it was too late—

Nezuko was so, so tired, however. She couldn't even grasp her Zanbatos, her fingers were practically numb, trembling like there was no tomorrow.

"GRAAAHHHHHH!"

And then she heard his voice. Her brother voice, screaming on top of his lung. She saw from the multiple holes from the house the form of ginger-haired boy darting around the field—oh, wait. She could see the nice demons and her oldest sibling from over here, where she had her fight just a moment ago. That means her brother could also see her then. Hope he didn't let his emotion took over him when he saw the demon threw her body around like a rag doll, with how over-protective he was. She doesn't want his demon side to awaken once more. And...did Tanjiro just spin around in place? Nevertheless, Nezuko didn't know if it was the sound of anger or desperation but it sent chills all over her back. She needs to go over there, Nezuko collected her dual swords into one and chomped on the handles like a savage beast. She also maybe swallowed some grass with it yet she didn't really care. If she had to crawl, in which she certainly did right now, and had to use the dual Zanbatos with only her mouth, so be it. Because the other demon is still alive. The demon that wants to kidnap her brother. The demon that threatened the happy life of those two nice demons.

Please, please everyone. Please be safe!

.

.

The kemari ball sailed through the air with top speed, intended to immobilize the demon for a while by crushing his skull like what she did to the student before. It failed, however. Because instead of evading it and she could trap him by the sharp turn the ball will make, Tanjiro spun, palm catching the ball. Then he let the propulsion guided him, his whole body twirled. When he faced her again, he let go of the ball. Making her weapon sailed back towards her, she caught it with a grunt.

Did...did this demon just use my attack against me?

"Tamayo-sama," Yushiro whispered, eyes locked onto the battle, "did he—"

"Yes," she answered immediately, knowing what he wanted to say even without him finishing the sentences. Susamaru kicked the ball, Tanjiro maneuvered it back. They kept doing the same thing, trying to overpower one another by sheer power alone, "that was the same move Nezuko-san used to beheaded the other demon as well. Preserving the momentum by moving along the current and adding his own power to strengthen the attack itself."

"Look like when she said he is like a toddler is true," he scoffed, tensed shoulders relaxed, "he really did mimic other people action. And with such a foolish pure of an innocent heart that girl has, no wonder he retained his humanity after all this time."

"Indeed," she hummed, watching Tanjiro caught the ball by the crook of his leg this time, "GRAAAHHHHHH!" and with a loud roar, he sent the ball careening through the open field. Nicking Susamaru's temple, crushing her right skull and made her stumble, embedding the weapon itself to the far wall. The girl was indignant at that, was actually ready to throw another flurry attacks as her head healed itself in an instant—intact be damn. As long as there's a piece of him, he'll still alive and she could bring him to her lord—and Tamayo decided this is her time to shine.

"Twelve Demon Moon-san," her soothing voice echoed, stopping the demon-girl from her next motion, "are you aware of Kibutsuji's true identity?"

Susamaru jolted, face went pale and eyes widening, "what are you talking about?!" she exclaimed, "you're just an escapee!"

"That man is a coward, always afraid," the doctor continued, ignoring the curse storming out of her maw, "he only gathered the demon together to prevent himself from being attacked," her hand moved discreetly, only Yushiro could see it. She already clawed her exposed skin, letting the blood inside drip and making a lot amount of otherworldly purple fog wafted slowly. Ah, Tamayo-sama is using her 'ability', "you know deep down inside your heart, you're only being manipulated. A pawn like you is nothing to him, nothing to his greater good."

"SHUT UP!" the six-hands demon wailed, sweat drenching her complexion. The nerves under her skin kept throbbing, bunching up in irritation, "shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP! The Great One is not some minor villain like that! The Great One's power is incomparable to anything else! He's the strongest! Stronger than anyone!"

Yushiro gulped. Here it comes.

"KIBUTSUJI-SAMA IS—"

.

.

Five seconds tense of silent passed and Susamaru covered her mouth in dread.

Tamayo's expression was full of pity as she moved to wipe the blood from her arm now that it has done its job.

"MYSTICAL FRAGRANCE OF THE WHITE DAY, "Yushiro thought, staring at the distress kemari player with a grimace, "this ability acted like a Serum Truth. It causes brain function to decrease and will make the recipient confess their lies while not allowing them to keep any secret. She said his name. The curse will be activated..."

"This demon is doomed"

"AAAHHHH!" Susamaru flailed, arms raised to the air blindly. Nezuko rounded the corner and appeared from behind the back room of the house, taking a shortcut from the many holes on the house, shortening her path so she could get to her companions faster. Now she was right beside Yushiro, watching the demon-girl begged to the sky, "Please, please forgive me! Please, give me a chance! I swear, I'm not going to say anything anymo—URRGHH!"

She fell, choking and gagging. Her skin flickering, to her own pale skin then sickeningly purple. Both of the sclerae turned grossly yellow. Before in front of Nezuko very own eyes, something horrible happened.

Three, humongous hands sprouted from inside the beast body; two from her stomach and one from her mouth. Muscles bulged, nails sharpened. The one from her mouth grabbed her face and—

CRUUSSHHHH

—crumpling her head in pieces like a mere piece of paper.

Chapter Text

The humongous hands didn't stop on that. Not only crushing her head, but it also destroyed every single bit of her flesh, wrecking the organs inside out, breaking the bone and turned it into dust. Nezuko didn't want to see it, she didn't. Yet her red orbs were glued to it like the world wanted her to memorize every single detail of the horrifying event happening in front of her. Tamayo managed to tear her gaze away, Yushiro's complexion was white beyond reason. And her brother's body trembling in fright. It lasted for fifteen seconds—fifteen seconds that felt like it was forever—before she was nothing but blood smear on the ground, leaving only her kimono and one eyeball. Nezuko spat her swords to the ground and clasped her mouth shut, covering it with her trembling fingers, trying to keep the bile stuck to the throat so she could swallow it back. That was...that was so disgusting, her stomach twisted.

"This is the curse," the pretty doctor explained. She slowly approached the corpse—could she really call the red liquid and chunks of flesh corpse anymore, though? Her figure literally gone from existence—and crouched, staring at the eyeball, "Kibutsuji's cells destroyed the body of the demon from within. Basically, fights between demons amount to nothing and are pointless. Because apart from sunlight and the blades of demon slaying swordsman, nothing will cause lethal damage to demons. However, it seems that Kibutsuji is able to destroy demon cells..." the air suddenly stilled.

Where is this sweet fragrance coming from? Nezuko thought belatedly. Yushiro turned to her with a snap, it kind of startled her, covering her mouth and nose with a white handkerchief, "wha—"

"Don't breathe in Tamayo-sama's technique," the student hissed, "it's harmful to humans."

"Nezuko-san," Tamayo called, bringing her attention back to the lady, "this person wasn't one of the Twelve Demon Moon."

W-What?

"See here," her index finger pointed at the remaining parts of Susamaru, at the yellow eye with horizontal pupil, "if she was one of them, a number would've been carved on her eyeballs. As you can see, she doesn't have it. I'm afraid the other one isn't one of the demon moons as well. Because he was too weak."

T-Too weak?! Nezuko's face paled. These demons were too weak?! And after he broke my ribs and legs too, what the he—

Tamayo produced a syringe from her sleeve, draining the blood from—the second sibling gulped—the demon's brain, "with that, I will now examine Tanjiro-san," the said brother perked when he heard his name. The boy was kneeling beside the sister, fussing and checking over her wellbeing, "when I was using my technique to pluck out the information from this demon, he breathed in a lot of the smell as well. My apologies."

After pulling Tanjiro's away from Nezuko—it took a few times, as his pleading gaze told them to take care of Nezuko first before him. The dual Zanbato wielder was clearly sporting the most injuries here. While the oldest already healed and replenished his energy by consuming the snacks from the box (he directed an apologetic hum to Nezuko at this fact, as he promised not to eat any more food today. She waved his apology away with a smile. This was an emergency case, over-eating was something she could care less as long as he's healthy). So Tamayo healed the black-haired girl with her power and Yushiro bandaged it for good measure, though with a lot of complains and grumbles—the three demons went to the dungeon, the only area inside the house that was not ruined by the attack. Leaving Nezuko alone when the girl said she wanted to take a small break before following them. She propped her body to leaned on to the broken wall, breathing through the handkerchief to slowed her thundering heart and rested her eyes.

"The ball..." Nezuko opened her eyelids sleepily when she heard the voice, however, glancing to the open field under the night sky. Somehow, the remnant of the kemari player could still speak, producing a weak voice (that hurt Nezuko's being, clenching her heart in a tight squeeze. She was a victim as well. Every demon are victims of that man's cruelty). With a grunt, the demon slayer slowly crawled to the smear, picking up the ball Susamaru dropped when those hands crushed her into nothing.

"Here's your ball." She whispered, putting it on top of the kimono.

(The black fog swayed happily. Laughing, like a child playing with friends, happy and innocent. And she wanted to sob)

"Come play,"it cheered. As the sun started to rise and the light burned the remaining flesh into dust, her voice echoed. Crying, searching for someone who will accept her, "come play. Come play."

"Come play with me someday..."


Nezuko stared at the sky as tears fell down from her eyes. So sad. So, so sad. These demons, their fate are so sad it made her heart hurt. Coerced, lied to, and forced to do battle, all because for the sake of Twelve Demon Moon title. Then die the moment Kibutsuji's curse activated.

Is this the only fate deserved for these obvious, obvious victims? For taking the lives of other people when some of them didn't even want to be a demon in the first place?

(Is this going to happen to niichan? Is this the fate that awaits him if I cannot find the cure?)

Kibutsuji,  that man he even killed someone who admired him this much. He is—

He is the real, real demon.

And Nezuko will hunt him till the end of the world. Will slay him for the sake of humanity. Will make him apologize for the misery he spread thorough the world. Will make him realized that nobody, nobody could treat other people lives like it was a mere plaything.

She swears and so mote it be.


When she descended into the basement after she retrieved her pink haori from her side of battleground, Tanjiro literally zoomed and tackled her for a tight hug, letting out a concerned grunt. In which she accepted the embrace almost greedily (he's alive. He's alive. They didn't take him away from her. They didn't take her only family away from her—). The oldest of Kamado's sibling then snatched her sleeve, bringing the confused sister to the doctor's and the student's side. Before pulling them all in into one, giant group hug; Yushiro didn't look too happy about this, however.

"Tanjiro's has been in this state ever since things ended," Tamayo said when she saw the ponytail girl's confused gaze. She patted his back soothingly, making him snuggled into the crook of her neck even more, Yushiro was totally growling in irritation, "I don't know what's wrong with him..."

"Get off of me, stupid boy!" the lime-haired boy snarled, trying to push him away but to no avail.

Nezuko blinked and stared at the back of her brother's head, "niichan," the ginger-haired boy whined, she continued, "do you...remember? Remembered your time as a human?"

The answer she got was the tightening of his hug, not wanting to let go.

"Aah...is that so," she blinked, caressing his hair with a soft smile decorating her white complexion. She turned to Tamayo who was giving her an inquiring stare as she explained, "I think niichan deems that the two of you reminded him from people he knew from our old home. Because you may be demons, but you retained humanity just as much as he did. That he decided to treat you as humans as well," she chuckled, the pretty ladys eyes widened when the insinuation sets in, "I'm glad."

"That means you're our family now."

Tamayo cried at the revelation, basking on the warmth of other people that treat her not based on her kind but on her heart, while Yushiro stared with thinned lips. The student remembered. He remembered the past. Remembered when the nice lady approached him in his deathbed; eyes sad and full of unshed tears.

("a non-human life is very difficult and very painful," she said, gripping his sweaty palm, "do you still want to be one? Do you still want to follow this dangerous path?")

(I will, Yushiro vowed inside his heart that day. I will)

(As long as I can wipe that oh, so sorrowful expression from your pretty face. As long as you're happy, I will willingly go down the path of hell myself if I have to)

(As long as you're happy...)

"We will leave this place," Tamayo announced, giving the blanket to the wife as she decided to rest near her demon husband, still stuck inside the cell so he could not attack anyone, "this place is too close to Kibutsuji. If we don't hide ourselves quickly, we will be in grave danger. And even if we are able to hide through some crafty means, as a doctor that needs to come into contact with other people, there will eventually be a day when people find out that we are demons. The senses of children and old people are especially sharps"

Ah, yes. Nezuko recalled the old man Saburo from her old town. He has an uncanny instinct about this otherworldly myth as well. The one who was responsible for her salvation from the tragedy that befell her entire family.

"Nezuko-san," the pink haori wearer stood up straighter when she heard the firm tone in it. Tamayo stepped closer, eyes sharps as she said, "are you willing to leave Tanjiro-san here with us?"

"...eh?"

"Even though we can't say for certain that we can keep him away from harm, it's still much safer than bringing him into the battlefield," the doctor continued, hand on her chest. Yushiro discreetly shook his head in the background, definitely didn't want the hunter to accept the offer, "especially as somehow, the demon wanted to take him to Kibutsuji. It'll be hard to keep your attention to the battle while the other beast tried to kidnap him away."

That...that was true. If Tanjiro stays here, he could hide. Yushiro said his hidden technique is not complete yet, but he's improving. Especially now that Kibutsuji knew about their apparent survival, he needs to step up his game. If Tanjiro come along with them then—

"No."

They blinked when a voice they haven't heard before resounded in the silent room. The oldest sibling stepped towards Nezuko, holding onto her fingers tight and reddish-brown orbs glinted with determination. He shook his head repeatedly and lips moved, not noticing the slack jaws of the occupants around, "no. No...go. Will stay with...pink girl."

.

.

"N-Niichan?" Nezuko staggered, her other hand reached towards his face, trembling, "N-Niichan? Did you just...speak?"

Tanjiro turned to her and tilted his head. His mouth slowly opened like before. However, instead of sentences just like seconds ago, he was back to whining and grunting. Confusing the sister and disappointing her a lot. Tamayo though, she giggled.

"He really cares about you, huh," she spoke, "if he was determined to stay with you, enough to make him speak for a moment to make his intention clear, then it's settled" the doctor put her hands to each of their shoulders, smiling and expression serene, "good luck."

"I wish you the best for your upcoming battle"


Before continuing their adventure, they decided to give the nice demons a hand to erase their presence inside the house, bundling their important goods into one cargo and transporting the wife and the husband along for further examination. When everything is done, the Kamado's siblings finally leave the haven, promising to stay in contact to give each other update whenever there's a new discovery involving the cure. Kasugaigarasu of the demon slayer association descended upon her once more, giving her new mission to finish. This time, they have to travel to the southeast. Southeast. And...that's it. The bird didn't give her any other information—about what the mission itself entails, what kind of demon she'll face. Just like what it did when it ordered her to go to Asakusa town, jerk—it screeches is really annoying too. She already said she'll be there soon, please wait a moment because she is still injured. Could still feel her ribs twinge even after the heal. And if you won't shut up soon, you'll have to face my hook. And you know you don't want to deal with this hook.

The crow immediately shut up.

Her apparent peace was not long-lasting, nevertheless. Because right after that moment, "PLEASE!" she heard another loud, high-pitched voice, making her ears hurt. Furthermore, that voice was a lot more irritating than her animal companion too. And that's saying something as the crow had cawed right on her ears for the past one hour.

(Although this yellow fog, she mussed. She felt like she saw this sunny, electrifying fog before...)

In the middle of the road separating the rice fields were two people; a girl with braided black hair, styled in pigtails and a boy with yellow hair wearing the haori with the same color, multiple small, white triangles decorated the cloth. The boy was hanging onto the girl's waist for dear life, tears and snots running down his face, "PLEASE! PLEASE MARRY ME!" he begged, clutching onto the kimono like there was no tomorrow, "I don't know when I'll die so PLEASE! Marry me, I BEG YOU!"

.

.

What the actual heck was Nezuko first thought

Chapter Text

"CHIRP CHIRP!"

Nezuko's attention went from the ridiculous scene to the little, brown sparrow flapping its wings towards her, clearly in a panic, "whoa, whoa, whoa. Little guy, calm yourself!" she said, cupping the small creature on her calloused hand, "I'm still learning, so please slow down."

The bird somehow understands her request, in which it nodded, and started chirping a lot slower than the frantic tone it had before. It wings flopped up and down like it was describing something and trying to illustrate how high the level of emergency it was. Its head turned towards the boy—who was still clinging desperately to the unwilling girl. His plead turned more and more pathetic as the seconds ticked by—then flapped once more before it directed its doe eyes back to the pink haori wearer. Nezuko nodded in understanding.

"Okay. Just leave it to me."

She put the messenger bird to her left shoulder as the other was still occupied by her own companion, then strutted forward with determination. With one swift move, she snatched the collar of the sun-haired teen—eliciting a girly squeak from him—she ranted at once, "what are you doing in the middle of the road?" her red orbs burning into the scared yellow one. Nezuko pointed her index finger to the girl who could finally sigh in relief, "can't you see that the lady doesn't want this? Not only that, you also bothering the sparrows too! This is so unbecoming!"

"B-But I don't know if—" he started stammering, trying to feed her some excuse to justify his actions. However, his sight instantly zeroed in on Nezuko's black uniform under her haori, making him snapped his fingers in realization, "ah! You—you're the one from the final selection, aren't you? The scary lady with the scary right hook?!"

"Wha—you know me?" she blinked, confusion palpable. The ponytail girl did not remember having met this boy in the past—she would've remembered if she encountered a weirdo like him—before an imaginary bulb light up on top of her heard, she hummed. Her grip on his cloth slackened a bit after the recollection, "oooh...that's why I feel like I recognized the sparrow. It's you. The depressing boy with electric fog."

"Depress—I'm not depressing!"

"Yes. Yes, you are," Nezuko's eyes were blank, so void of emotion the male teenager recoiled, "you kept mumbling about dying and everything is useless back then at the mountain. Then you did the same thing this time around too. Even disturbing this lady from her morning walk with your pathetic proposal. Jump to the rice field and wash your face, maybe that'll wake you up"

"THAT'S WAY TOO HARSH!"

"Are you okay now, young lady?" the second oldest of Kamado asked while she plopped the demon slayer to the ground, ignoring his whine completely, "you should hurry on back home."

"Thank you so much," the girl said, relieved as she bowed low, "you really help me there."

"W-Wait!" the boy threw his entire body to the center of their conversation. The tears and snots were back, he cried, "you can't just take her away from me! She still needs to marry me! She likes me—"

"SHAME ON YOU, I DO NOT!" PLAK

Oof, Nezuko winced, a red bruise started forming on the hunter's cheek. That slap must've hurt. She held the civilian back by the armpits when the lady didn't show any sign of stopping her attacks. Not until after she let out her frustrations on him for a full five seconds though. Good lord, the boy needed those slaps to bring him back to reality.

"When did I ever say I like you?" she hollered, struggling from Nezuko's hold, "I only talked to you because I thought you were sick when I saw you squatting on the side of the road!"

"But! But! Doesn't that mean that you talked to me because you are worried about me?" for heaven sake, this boy is desperate! "because you like me, don't you?!"

"You have the wrong idea here," Nezuko chimed in, groaning, "this lady has other fogs intertwining hers. That means she already has a partner."

"Huh?"

"She's right! I have a fiance already so your reasoning about me liking you is completely impossible!" the villager confirmed, cheek puffed in agitation. Deciding that the lady wouldn't attack one of her comrades anymore (she still didn't want to acknowledge this fact, really. Yet the same uniform they wore confirmed that yes. Yes, They are on the same side), Nezuko let her go, the girl huffed, "I see that you're really energetic, so you should be fine! Let's never see each other again, hmf!"

"W-Wait!" the boy called her back almost pathetically. But of course, she didn't listen, stomping away angrily that they could literally see smoke rising from her ears. The other hunter bawled for the nth times, "Huwaaa! I'm gonna die! I'm seriously gonna die alone because of this demon business! And no woman wants to be my wife! I'm doom! Doom, I say! Huwaaaaaa!"

Nezuko sighed and put her hand on his back, "what's wrong with you? If you show your weaknesses so easily like this, people will take advantage of you, see?" she tried to console him, even giving him an encouraging quirk of her lips, "crying is not a bad thing, however. So come on. I'm here to listen. Why not try talking to me?"

He hiccuped, wet and throaty, rubbing his haori sleeve to his distraught face, "then...then.." incoherent mumbling could be heard behind the rough voice when suddenly, the boy tackled her. Clinging onto her waist just like he did to the lady before. Wha—, "then I choose you! I don't care if you're scary and you have a mean hook, please! JUST MARRY ME!"

"Wha—wait!" Nezuko gaped, her brain stuttered to a stop. She could feel her cheeks reddening from the close proximity, "what are you—"

"Please, please, please, mean lady!" he didn't hear her, just kept on going, kept on pleading, "I know I'm going to die soon! This lifestyle full of danger is so not for me! That's why before I kicked the bucket, let me experienced the beauty of romance! I BEG YOU!"

"Wait, no—

"PLEASE, SAY YES!"

"I don't want—"

"MARRY ME!"

"Get off of—"

"I BEG OF YOU!"

"I SAID GET OFF OF ME, YOU PERVERT!"

BUAK

And the boy was launched into the air, a trail of tears streaming along the wake. While Nezuko stood on the solid ground, red face and eyes spinning.

This day seems like it'll shape into a 'good day' already; insert sarcasm here.

.

.

.

"See, this attitude is the reason why ladies don't like you," she scolded the boy, expression completely uncaring. Both of them were kneeling at the side of the road—garnering the attention of people walking by—hands on their own laps, "please control yourself. Or you're going to meet my fist for the second time."

"Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry ma'am."

After an impromptu lecture and a late introduction—his name is Agatsuma Zenitsu-can-I-call-you-Nezuko-chan?—he started to tell her the reason why he was so...himself. He said it was because he was deceived by a woman ("I told you showing your weakness will bite you in the back someday", "I understand now, so please spare me some mercy") and he got into a buttload of debt because of that. The guy he owed money told Zenitsu that he also needs to pay for the woman's debt so he 'groomed' him. The yellow-haired hunter had gone through a hellish training in the name of said grooming, every day, anytime. During those bleak times, he really thought he might as well just die, but it was nothing compared to the Final Selection course; in which demons after demons prowled the place, ready to eat him anytime. In the end, he did survive—he kinda lost himself and proceed to kiss the entrance multiple times, grateful that he was somehow still alive—yet he ended up back in this hellish lifestyle again, now for good! Scary, scary! I don't want this! I don't want this at all help me—

He told her all this while doing an impressive bridge pose. Why, Nezuko didn't know. Though she gave him a rice ball to calm him down.

She understands, she really does. Her mentors were also really strict with her, including Sabito who literally dragged her through the mud while Makomo watched silently from the sideline, sometimes giggling innocently like Nezuko's suffering was nothing but a pleasant scenery.

Nevertheless, that doesn't mean he can keep causing trouble for other people, especially the nice sparrow. It had spilled all its frustration of being Zenitsu's caretaker from day one till now to the nice girl who willing to listen to its request; saying that the yellow hunter never wants to go to work, went after women whenever he sees one and snored really loud. Endless trouble after another, she relayed the message, pulling up the said bird who rested it's tiny body comfortably on her palm ("Wait, you can understand bird language?!", "Yes. Though not as good as my niichan. I'm still learning after all", "LIES! You're just making things up, right? You just want to make me feel bad!").

Her own messenger decided to step in when there was a lull in their conversation, cawing about their next mission, its place, and location and hurry up caw! Or the sun is going to set in! Starling Zenitsu so bad, he fell on his bum.

"Maybe we should exchange our companion," Nezuko belatedly offer. The sparrow on her hand perked up at that, "the crow can whip you up if you started slacking off so you won't abandon your work anymore."

"NO! THAT'S CRUEL, NEZUKO-CHAN!"

"I WOULD TAKE OVER YOUR MEAN HOOK RATHER THAN BECOME THIS CRYBABY BABYSITTER, CAW!"

Well then.


At the end of the thick meadow surrounded by tall trees, stood a two-stories old house. It was solely made of wood, although some of the supporting pillars were cover with metallic materials. Nezuko could tell from the black fog drifting around the environment that this was definitely a demons' nest. Except—

What is that? Her burgundy eyes caught a particular fog she never encountered before. Instead of having a single color as their primary fog, this one acted like a shifting rainbow. It's different from Tamayo's illusions—even with those pretty colors mingling around, the characteristic black of demon kind still overpowering others—no. This fog is literally rainbow itself, complete with clear blue sky and cloud swimming by as it background, albeit transparent. Nezuko felt like she was staring at a beautiful painting rather than a living being's string of fate.

"Nezuko-chan, did you hear that?" Zenitsu whispered, snapping her out from her reverie. His hands were cupping his ears, eyebrows furrowed in concern, "there's a strange sound coming from that house. What do you think that is?"

Sound? She didn't hear anything though. Don't tell me...does he have a unique ability too?

But before she could ask for confirmation, her sight landed on something hiding behind the bushes. Or someone. Children, to be exact, maybe around ten years old or younger; a boy with short black hair and a girl with black hair styled in dual pigtails. They looked pale scared, their bodies tense and shivering now that the pair's attention was onto them. The boy, who seems to be the older brother, was hugging the sister, frightened yet didn't intend to budge from their hiding place

"Hello," Nezuko said as she slowly walked towards them and crouched, hands away from the dual Zanbatos as she didn't want to alarm them even more. She decided to show a bit of trick to calm them down, opening her palm and making the sparrow appear out of thin air, even though the creature hasn't left her side from the very beginning—it really started to grow on her. Seriously, can Nezuko just take this one instead? The crow is really unpleasant. Pretty sure it mood is stuck in 'angry' or 'mocking' for the most of times. The sparrow made a light dance and sang a cute tune, trying to alleviate their fear also, "my name's Kamado Nezuko. Can I help you two in any way?"

The atmosphere was suffocating for a whole five seconds, though she managed to maintain her amicable grin. They fell to the ground after another five in awkward silence, body language was a lot more relaxed now that they knew this girl is not someone dangerous. She put her hands on her knees, smiling, "what's your name, if I may ask?"

"Sho-Shoichi," the brother stammered, "and my sister is Teruko."

"Shoichi and Teruko," Nezuko nodded, "what are you doing here? Is that house over there the home of the two of you?"

"No! No, it's not!" Shoichi immediately shook his head. His pale complexion turned even whiter and the shiver that wracked his figure was back with full force, "it's...it's the home—

"It's the home of the monsters!"

He told her that they were on a journey of going home after visiting their friends' house yesterday night, laughing and joking merrily when a monster abruptly appeared. It snatched their older brother—Kiyoshi—ignoring the other two, and brought him into that old house. They couldn't leave Kiyoshi alone. Of course not, he is their sibling. Especially because their brother is hurt, trailing blood all over the street. Nezuko was worried after this revelation (blood tends to draw other demons. And if he managed to escape—she wished, no, she hoped so—the blood would still beckon the devils to his hiding place whether he tends to the wound or not). With only that clue to go on, Shoichi and Teruko had followed the trail until it brought them here. And then they could do nothing because they didn't know what would happen the moment they stepped inside, so they've been stuck in observing the empty place since hours ago.

"Don't worry. Neechan will defeat the monster and rescue your brother," she vowed, planting her hands on their shoulder, "I promise, so please don't worry and stay hidden, okay?"

They slowly nodded and that was good enough. Nezuko turned her attention back to Zenitsu, who was still cupping his ears, trying to listen in on what happened inside the house, "do you hear something, Zenitsu?"

"Y-Yeah," he nodded, gaze glued onto the house, swiveling to the front door, the opening of the second floor, any entrance his electric eyes could land on, "this sounds...is really uncomfortable. It keeps ringing and ringing," Zenitsu gulped, sweat started forming at his forehead from all the tension around, "is that..."

"...the sounds of a drum?"

.

.

DAP DAP DAP DAP

There was a sound of frantic footsteps—

WHOOOSHH

Someone jumped from the second floor. Bloody, broken, his fog is disappearing—

SPLATTT

And crashed to the ground head first, smearing the land with thick, red liquid.

"KYAAAA!"

"DON'T LOOK!" Nezuko shouted, covering their sight using her pink haori's wide sleeve. However, she knew it was clearly useless because the event happened faster than she could react, these siblings were going to have nightmares for several days onward. She gritted her teeth and stood up, instantly going to the unfortunate civilian to check on him. It was unsettling, to see such a young face so gory and full of bruises. Blood matted his black, shoulder-length hair, making it stick to his forehead and nape, "hold on! Hold on, please! Let me treat you—"

"Aah...I finally got...out," the boy mumbled, hoarsely, tiredly, Nezuko held back a choked sob. She rummaged her pocket pants, trying to find a medicine Sakonji made for the upcoming crisis. Yet the trembling hand of the victim stops her, Her hazy sight rested on the dying person no, no, no. Her tears gathering. Please, don't let me feel your body going numb. Don't let me feel your body going colder and colder and colder because I was too late to save you—, "I'm...going to die, aren't I? I'm...going to die. At least...at least..."

"At least I'm not eaten by those monsters..."

"GROOOOOOWWWWRRRRRR!"

The said beast decided it was the right time to let out a loud, unsettling roar. It shook the earth, swaying the trees, and sending chills down all over their back.


.

.

.

BONUS SCENE

"Uhh...Nezuko-chan?" Zenitsu slowly started, unsure as he didn't know how her reaction towards his question will be but was curious enough not to utter it, "why are you covering your box like that?"

Indeed, Nezuko was kneeling on the side of the street. Half of her body was gone under the pink haori she took off and put it on top of the wooden box while she sneak under it, making it into an impromptu cover, "I'm trying to grab some food for you. Do you want some rice ball?"

"U-Uh, sure..." he answered, scratching his not itchy head while still hiccupping from his previous outburst, "but still. Why did you have to cover the box like that?"

"No reason."

Oookay...

Chapter Text

"Ah...he's dead already. Nezuko realized belatedly, holding the boy—now just a bloody corpse—in a tight hug, holding her tears back. Must've been painful. He must've suffered.

(Nezuko closed her eyes. The feeling of the body going colder and colder was too much already, she didn't want to see how that energetic orange fog disappear as the seconds ticked by)

"He...he isn't our brother," Shoichi whispered, with a barely heard choke. He was trying not to let out the bile stuck in his throat, not wanting the sister to see how the sight of someone dying traumatized her big brother so much. He hugged her even closer as he spoke, "Kiyoshi was wearing an orange haori."

So a lot of people are being kept prisoner here. No wonder this house was full of black fog. This is their eating ground. Nezuko gulped in trepidation, not wanting to imagine how many innocent lives have been taken forcefully inside this normal looking place. She laid the corpse down carefully on the ground, swiping the stones away as to not making the body uncomfortable (but he's dead. He can't feel anything anymore. What you're doing is useless, Nezuko. But heck, she'll do it anyway. Showing respect to the soul she couldn't save). The girl promised inside her heart, that she's going to give the nameless boy a proper burial. After she saved the brother of those two siblings and perhaps, other people who are still alive in there. Either way, there's no time to waste, so she stood up and called to the other demon slayer, "Zenitsu! Let's go!"

He shook his head frantically, face pale, rejecting the idea flat out.

Silence.

The temperature went down a notch, Zenitsu eeped. His body was wrecked with an intense shiver.

"No! Don't look at me with that face full of fury, Nezuko-chan!" he tackled her, who was already turning her back to the yellow-haired boy. He gripped the wooden box tightly, tears and snot decorating his pale complexion, "I'll come along, okay? So please, don't give that expression to me!"

"I don't plan on forcing you..."

"I'll come! I'll come!" he begged. Her tone was light. Yet the recipient could detect the hidden anger within, even without his enhanced hearing. Scary, that was scary, Zenitsu didn't want that kind of voice to be directed at him, no—, "I'll come along as well, don't leave me!"

Nezuko shrugged out of his hold and went to the scared children, pulling down the box that contained Tanjiro and placed it by the pair, "I'm entrusting this to you," she said, even when in actuality, she didn't want to leave her only family alone like this. However, for the sake of the traumatized kids, she'll swallow the urge and prioritized, "This will protect you both in case of danger. Don't stray too far from it, okay?"

After she received the small confirmation, she went in, pink haori flared regally. Making her look cool and dependable (according to the kids watching from behind), very much in contrast to the sniveling scared form of Zenitsu. The moment they took their first steps into the house, Nezuko saw the black fogs crisscrossing across the hallway. It was different blacks, though. Judging from the threads, there were...three demons here, she surmised. They're outnumbered but perhaps they can each take one and then corner the last one together. So even if they're tired, their combined power would still be enough to finish them. The sun colored hunter shivered and opened his mouth, "Ne-Nezuko-chan. This may be pathetic of me, because I'm the man and all but...you will protect me, right?" he sniffed, "you're definitely stronger than me. You'll protect me, right? Right?"

"...Zenitsu," the ponytail girl started, back still onto him, "you see. Before I came here, I fought with a powerful demon. And he managed to fractured my ribs and legs. It was healed, but only partially, so—"

"EHHHHH?" his screech instantly cutting off what Nezuko was going to say next. Zenitsu's eyes popped out from his head and his face turned even paler almost as if someone had poured a bucket of white paint onto him, "why do you have bone fractures? How do you have bone fractures? If you have bone fractures, who's going to protect me? I'M GOING TO DIE!"

"Zenitsu, calm down and hear me ou—"

"YAAAHHHH! What do I do! What do I do! I'll die I'll die I'll definitely die!" he screeched clearly not wanting to hear Nezuko out, and continued ranting. All the while, he was halfway into his previous bridge pose. Maybe this is his default setting when he was overwhelmed by fear, closing his eyes and not wanting to face the truth, "being told you have bone fracture has killed me! I'm already dead! 99 PERCENT ALREADY DEAD!"

"Zenitsu, be quiet! You will be fi—"

"NO! Stop comforting me!" a tick mark formed at the side of Nezuko's forehead. She is starting to get very...very annoyed, "I told you I'm dead already! Dead I sa—"

BUK

Her first was smoking and Zenitsu was whimpering on the floor, clutching the bump on his scalp thanks to the hunter's punch of reality. She put her hands on her hips, huffing, "are you calm now?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good," she rested her hand on the hilt of the blade, gaze lingering around the interior, "as I was saying. You're going to be okay, Zenitsu. Because you are...`` she trailed off, her ears catching the sounds of footsteps approaching. It came from the entrance and her stomach instantly churned. Don't tell me. And her fear was justified because one second later, Shoichi and Teruko were there, bounding to the demon slayers frantically, "wha—you guys! You can't come in here!" she stopped the younger one by her shoulders, checking her for injuries.

"It's...it's because neechan's box is rattling around," the brother explained, catching his breath, "we're...we're scared and—"

"B-But even so, you guys can't just leave it there! That box is something even more important than my own life, I—" her heart thumped painfully at the thought of Tanjiro being left alone in the woods, with nobody to watch over him. And the sun was still out, he can't come out from the safe haven to pursue them. Nezuko felt like her head is swimming, her sight hazing, she needs to go back there and collect him before something happens to him and she'll be left alone—

DUNG

She was snapped from her reverie when she heard a sharp sound echoing throughout the mansion. Was that...the sounds of a drum?

DUNG. It continued. DUNG DUNG TAK DUNG

The sound was so eerie, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up, "wha—"

DUNG DUNG TAK TAK DUNG

Yet her question was cut off once again when yellow boy shrieked and crouched, covering his ears to block out the sound of the drum, accidentally pushing Nezuko, who was still holding onto the little girl, away with his bum. The moment they were separated from the adjacent door—Nezuko with Teruko and Zenitsu with Shoichi—another smack of a drum was heard—

BLIP

And the room she was in changed; to a shoji room with a hanging scroll, to the empty room with a silent hallway upon the ajar door, to a ten-tatami room with wooden closet at one side and a lone black dresser at the other, before it stopped. The whole thing happened so fast, literally in the blink of an eye; as a quick blackout happened before the environment changed. So unsettling. The dim, red light of this particular room didn't help the matter at all. However, rather than questioning how in the world this bizarre event occurred in the first place, Nezuko was focused on the fact that they were in a completely different room than they were before; Teruko, was her only companion without Zenitsu or Shoichi in sight.

How could it...no. Nezuko sharply stood up from her position of hugging the terrified child down. Rather than the room, were we the ones that moved? Moving along with the drum beat?

"Uuuhhh...hic, hic..." However, she had to abandon her contemplation for now, when Teruko started sobbing, hugging her waist while trembling in fright. Aah...right. This must've been so scary for a little girl. Nezuko felt like she was looking at Hanako, begging for the presence of the family to shoo away the scary things (her heart panged in longing). She crouched a bit, patting her head and wiping the tears, giving her an encouraging smile.

"I'm sorry for getting you separated from your brother," she started, making the kid looked up, "but I'll definitely protect you, okay? Zenitsu—" no matter how pathetic he seems most of the time, he is still a demon slayer. He is strong (his fog is strong. Raging through the world under the cloudy sky. Protecting the people taking shelter under him by banishing their attacker in one, swift strike. Nezuko believed in that. Believe in the color who showed the true nature of someone. Believe in the true nature they hide behind the mask), "—will also protect your brother. So don't worry too much, okay?"

Teruko sniffed. Her eyes shone in concern but she slowly nodded.

She started to smile and opened her mouth to give another consolation.

Before a black fog wafted in front of her widened eyes. Thicker than the other fog. Darker than the other fog. This is—

Nezuko instantly turned to the open door, clamming Teruko's mouth with her palm at the same time. There, slowly, menacingly, a demon appeared; dark brown hair flowing like a calming wave till it reached his shoulder. Red scleras blankly stared ahead, eyebrows scrunched in agitation, making the three claw-mark tattoo at each side of his forehead and two others under his eyes coil. He was almost naked, wearing only two layers of cloth to cover himself. The reason why he didn't wear anything however, was clear. Because at his shoulders, stomach and thighs were drums. Embedded inside him, piercing his skin and bunching up the nerves within like a grotesque picturization of beautiful jewelry. The hunter was sure the red lines on the drums skins was his own veins, it was...disgusting to think about. Nezuko held her breath, knowing the little girl had done the same.

this must be the house's master!

"Teruko," she whispered, gaze still glued to the demon, not wanting him to surprise her when she was clearly not ready. Slowly as to not making any sound, she unsheathed one of her Zanbato, "don't scream. Don't go into the room even if the room moves. Back away," her orbs rolled to the side for a split second, "hide behind the shelves and don't make any sound, understood?"

Nezuko was still holding onto her lips so she felt it when Terukos' bobbed her head up and down. The child sneakily crept toward the indicated hiding spot and, now that nothing hinders the ponytail movement, she clasped her dual blades, listening to the spew of words the demon had been muttering for the past couple of minutes.

"Why," he growled low, sending a shiver on her nape, "why doesn't everyone not know any manners? Just barging into the home of someone else? Pissed me off..." his sharp, shark like teeth gnashed together in anger, "pissed me off. They are all my prey. They are all my prey I found in my territory..." the air chilled, Nezuko crouched, "that guy is also...that Marechi that I've found!"

("Marechi?")

Nezuko leaped, swords already in mid-swing—

DUNG

The demon smacked the instrument on his left shoulder—

WHISH

The room swerved, changing gravity's pull and sending the slayer's body to the right. He sensed my presence! Or were my footsteps too loud? I still need to get that bad habit out of my system, crap! Teruko let out a small yelp at the sudden move, causing Nezuko's attention to turn to the girl the instant she found her footing, "Teruko!" she called to her. Then immediately realized at what had actually happened to her, to them, moments ago. When she thought the room swerved, she was definitely right. Instead of looking at the cream wall of the room, she was staring right at the tatami built for the floor, the black dresser was at the top left of the ceiling...floor? Anyway, while the demon still stood normally in a normal side of the house and a normal floor made of wood, Nezuko and Teruko were standing on the wall, the ceiling of the room was right behind them. Wait, was the room the one that spinning around or the gravity of us that changed direction? The demon was still standing upright after all. And the furniture isn't even falling.

No matter. This must be the Blood Demon Art of this demon. She grunted, sweat forming at the incredulity of this situation. The entire house is this demon's territory!

.

(A fog of...someone fierce crashed like a horse wagon. This is...silver? Such a straight-forward color. It's kinda refreshing, this change of pace)

.

Then at the other side of the room, at the exact opposite of the demon who was standing still, the door suddenly broke, flinging the bits of wood everywhere. Behind it was...a human? The fog told her so, storming into the room like a crazed beast. He didn't wear any top, just a black pants and sandals made of animal fur (what's wrong with this house occupants? Half-naked everywhere, is this some kind of trend or something?). And speaking about an animal, the boy—she was pretty sure he's a teenager, judging from his height—was wearing a pig head like a mask. Or a mask crafted to made looked like a living boar. Nezuko hoped so, because wearing a part of an animal—a dead animal, mind you—was a disturbing notion, she gagged a bit.

The boy's voice was deep and rich pleasant to listen to, but also completely insane, "Pig assault!" he exclaimed, laughing uproariously, "Pig assault! Pig assault!"


Zenitsu and Shoichi were standing to the side of the hallway, watching the weird...creature storming out of the room they just checked at the speed of sound. Was that...a human? But he had a pig head? What?

What the heck is wrong with this house?

"I want to be with Nezuko-neechan," Shoichi murmured, looking at the sun-haired hunter with disappointment, "at least I feel safe with her. Rather than having to spend my time with a person who keeps crying and talking about dying..."

And this kid's words are still sharp as heck too!


What's...what's actually going on here? Nezuko was confused, but her grip on her dual Zanbato tightening. This pig mask wearer was holding his own dual swords as well; they were silver—like the color of his fog. Straightforward, refreshing—and chipped along the sharps edge, she didn't know how a sword like that could even inflict the blow needed to kill a demon in the first place. He crossed the blades downward, head tilted high to the sky, letting out another deep shout of invitation to cross blades with him.

"Come on, monster! I'm going to make die out here in the wild!" he guffawed, loud and mighty, as if the prospect of fighting the dangerous monster was nothing but entertainment, "you're going to make me stronger! And be my stepping stone to higher places! AHAHAHAHAHAH!"

The pig head rushed headlong towards the demon, swords drawn. The devil himself didn't move an inch, only smacked the left drum for the second time, making the room swerve again and tumbling them to the other direction. Teruko let out another yelp, igniting Nezuko's instinctive desire to head over to her immediately and protect her while these two battled like a crazy maniacs. Yet, before she could even move, the hairs on the back of her neck rose again and she defended, putting her arms to the side of her head. Right on time too, because the weirdo decided to use her body as his footing after the sudden change of gravity, launching his body back towards the demon. Another smack of the drum, now on the right, spinning the room to the left, Nezuko was starting to feel nauseous.

It was the worst feeling, to get yanked around without consent, from one direction to another; a very grim reminder of her last battle with Yahaba. However, even when she wanted to do nothing but settle her stomach, she was aware of one small detail that made her blood boil.

Teruko, who stumbled away from the black wardrobe because she was too late to hang onto the furniture, was now under the Pig Mask's foot, getting stepped on by the heavy teenager like trash.

"AHAHAHAHA! The room is spinning around and around!" he gleefully screamed, "So interesting! So very interesting!

And he had the gall to keep laughing like a buffon! The nerve of this jerk!

Nezuko sheathed her blade (because, even if the only thing she wanted to do to this uncouth barbarian was to strike him without mercy, she still remembered the main rule of being a part of Demon Slayer Association—this man is indeed one of them, right? The Niichirin blade was the definitive proof of his identity—Not fighting with each other. So, much to her chagrin, she cannot deal any blow to him or else they would revoke her license) then jumped. He noticed her advance, although was a bit too late to react before she grasped his thigh and threw him away, sending him to the air, "don't step on other people like that!"

He changed his trajectory from topsy-turvy to a beautiful cartwheel in a second, landing on the tatami with a silent thump, "what are you doing, you little brat?"

What am I doing? What are YOU doing?! "I'm telling you stepping on other people is not okay!" she cradled Teruko to her chest, noting the shiver she had. This jerk better not have hurt her or Nezuko's fist is going to go flying, "especially not on such a small child! Your body mass alone is going to break her bones!"

"Ahahaha! AHAHAHAHA! Not bad, not bad~" however, it was clear this teen wasn't listening, and didn't hear a single word coming out of her mouth. He crouched low, crossing his swords again like some kind of vagabond, "that was a good throw there! This is the first time I've ever been thrown by a human!" that was some unusual phrasing there, "interesting! INTERESTING!"

And...he was back to rushing recklessly. Now towards her instead of toward the demon as a Demon Slayer was supposed to do. What?!

Nezuko jumped when he swung the sword horizontally, bringing Teruko along with her, "Hey! What are you—" then ducked when the other blade whizzed past her head, "Oi!"

"Getting sliced by one of my blades is going to really hurt, see!" the pig mask guy still didn't listen to her protests. Slash to the side, she jumped. Slashed to the ground, she pivoted, "this isn't a blade that can be used by little children! It can make the person that was struck experience the feeling of being sliced by a thousand blades!"

Okay. Whatever, "can you just—" swing, duck, "—calm down for a sec—" slash, jump, "—and hear me out—" thrust, leap, "—because the demon is right there, you jerk—" spin, roll, "—stop it already!"

"Not until you pull out your swords!" he cackled, "I saw those, you know. I knew you're dual wielder just like me! Let us clash and see who is the strongest!"

Then, while this pig teen was too engrossed with his own world, the demon decided he didn't like it when strangers were jumping around inside his house. Uninvited, and making a ruckus, "damn bug, pissing me off," he gnashed his teeth, palm raised, "vanish from my sight and DIE!"

He brought it down—

DUNG

Both of the hunters snapped their attention to the abrupt gust that rushed onto them like a fine blade, they lept—

SLAAASSHHH

—and managed to evade the invisible attack. It left three nasty claw marks, long enough to destroy, not only the floor but the wardrobe and part of the wall.

Wha—what? Nezuko hissed. The tatami was suddenly torn apart. They appeared at the same time and speed as the sounds of the drum. So that drum is not only for rearranging the interior of the house for traps. It also his primary weapon!

DUNG. The same attack was unleashed, it mainly honed onto the pig mask wearer, who easily evaded the strike. DUNG DUNG. The room moved again, to the right, to the left, all the while, she held onto the terrified child. DUNG DUNG TAK DUNG. The crazy demon hunter was thrown out the way he came in. DUNG DUNG. Another spin to make them dizzy before the room Nezuko resided in instantly changed; now it was a small, six-tatami tea room with a hanging scroll and a small altar to the side. No demon, no Pig Mask.

"Wait. That's strange," Nezuko belatedly realized, as she put Teruko down after confirming no other attack would come their way, "I was sure the demon didn't play the drums when the room changed. There are multiple demons' threads in this room. Don't tell me...are there other demons with drums besides that one as well? And—"

(She watched as the beautiful fog from before flew by. Her beating heart unconsciously calmed down at the sight of a pretty view. Aah...she could really bask in this glow forever, staring at the rainbow painted on the clear sky and clouds swimming by)

this strange fog is back. Where did it come from?

Nezuko instructed Teruko to followed her closely, as they may encounter other demons out there or worse, another demon with another drum, she didn't want them to get separated the moment the room changed. The black-haired teen turned a corner and instantly froze when her eyes landed on the corpse at the end of the hallway; it was bloody and broken, with its hands chopped off and flesh freshly torn out, there was clear evidence that this victim was just recently eaten. She closed her eyes (stop it. She didn't want to see the disappearing fog. Stop. It!) and went back to where they came, convincing the scared child that that path was nothing but a dead end, and that they should search for another way. It took a minute before she was back on her original plan—well, of course, to get Teruko out of this place will be the main objective. However—her other mission is to locate the beautiful fog. Because this is the fog of a human. A human that clearly is still alive. She could not justify abandoning them just because protecting two people is going to be a challenge for a rookie slayer like her. No. Nezuko will save every single soul if it the last thing she'll do.

They arrived at a plain sliding door, almost at the end of a bleak archway. The beautiful fog came from here. Now that they're right at the source of this thread, Nezuko couldn't help but gasp in astonishment. Looking at it in close proximity, she spotted other elements that complemented the painting; birds chirping and flowers blooming. Magnificent rainbows crossed the sky and the sun was just peeking out from under the white cotton of the clouds, shining the lush grass that was not too hot yet not too cold either. Just the perfect temperature for a nice day, where you can hang your laundry and enjoying the breeze while doing so. There's also a small river separating the land and a group of houses on the far horizon, giving her the illustration of a secret, overlooking hill you climbed to look over the town in peace.

How...how could a beautiful fog such as this exist? Nezuko felt like she wanted to cry at the scenery alone.

She didn't, though. Because along with the incredible view, the ponytail girl could finally see one tiny detail her eyes overlooked. That was a small speck of red fog intertwining the scenery.

Whoever the owner of this fog is, is most likely hurt. Not life-threateningly, fortunately, but hurt nonetheless.

Nezuko let out a small cough and, with a voice as comforting as her tense countenance could manage, she said, "excuse me. Are you, perchance, a human trapped in this house by a demon? My name's Kamado Nezuko. I'm a Demon Slayer, here to banish the beast and help you escape."

No response. She tried again, "I'm accompanying another human here. A girl ...how old are you?" Teruko held up nine fingers, "nine years old. she has black hair, it's styled in pigtails—"

"Teruko?!"

Oh, the human inside finally talked. And because they seemed to recognize Teruko from the description alone, there was only one other person who it could be—because Shoichi's fog is cyan, like the blue sky of this person's color—definitely not this intricate looking—the pink hunter leaned in, "are you Kiyoshi?"

Another silence, "...how can I know you're not just a demon trying to trick me?"

"Good point," she put a palm on the girls' back, smiling, "why don't you talk to your brother, Teruko-chan?"

She nodded and stepped forward, determined even with tears of fright still flowing freely, "Kiyoshi-niichan. It's really me, Teruko. You recognized my voice right?"

A gasp then a choked sob. The person inside spoke after a few seconds, "y-you can come in."

Nezuko did just that, slowly opening the sliding door as to not surprising the traumatized kid behind it too much. When the interior of the room was revealed, she saw the occupant. A boy, perhaps a few years older than her, with short, messy black hair, kneeling on the tatami. He wore an orange haori—just like Shoichi had told her beforehand—hiding the green yukata beneath. The kid had his guard up a second the door was opened. But dropped it the moment his eyes landed onto the girl hiding behind Nezuko. She also let out an excited sound and immediately pounced onto her missing brother, who caught her easily while dropping whatever he held beforehand to the ground.

A black drum rolled, showing its form for her to see.

Huh. So here's the other drum she was searching for. Glad that this dangerous weapon was not in the hands of a demon.

Nezuko stepped closer to the hugging siblings, who were crying their eyes out in relief and not willing to let go of one another after being separated for so long. She gave Kiyoshi an encouraging smile when his body language turned guarded, showing him that she didn't mean any harm, "don't worry, I'm a human. In fact, I'm here to defeat the demon," she pulled out a balm from her breast pocket, "let me treat your wound first, okay? This medicine is really awesome! Master made it for me"

She started talking about her days of training with her strict teacher, about his attitude and the mask he wore, while she tended to the injuries so as to alleviate the fear from the teenagers mind. Although, she knew she couldn't avoid the topic any longer, she asked what had happened here, from the time Kiyoshi was kidnapped to the moment he got the beast's drum to his possession. With a pale face and sweat pouring out from his forehead, he proceeded to recall the traumatizing experience.

When the drum beast brought him here and was ready to eat him, suddenly two other demons appeared. They started to try and kill each other, shouting about who's going to get to eat him. In the middle of the scuffle, the fat beast landed a strike on the drum beast's back, taking out the drum growing from there. Knowing that beating the drum would change how the house looked, he snatched it up from the floor, beat it without them even noticing and escaped from the scary devils. He had since been using the instrument whenever demons started storming into the room, flinging them out and changing the interior in one go.

I did see that the skin on his back looked freshly healed. So that's why, "You're so brave, Kiyoshi. Thank you for surviving in this hell hole for so long," Nezuko patted the crying brother's head. Her lips thinned as she asked another question, "'Marechi'...did that demon ever say that words?"

"Y-yes! He did!" Kiyoshi confirmed, wiping out the tears, "he called me that, and told me that it was the only reason why he caught me and not the others! What does that me—"

"Marechi is a person with rare, precious blood, CAAAWWW!"

"Uwaah!"

"Kyaa!"

SLAP

"Don't just start speaking out of nowhere," Nezuko scolded the whimpering black crow, "besides, how did you get here anyway? I'm pretty sure I didn't bring you along."

"Grrr...a Kasugaigarasu will locate its owner no matter where they are! It's a basic skill! Rather than that, let me continue!" it said, cradling the bump forming on its head with its wings. Still pouting at the pink haori wearer, it explained, "the blood of organisms has a classifying system, see. Even with rare bloods, there are people with even more precious blood to a demon. A person with rare blood can equal to fifty people. A hundred people! Once eating that person, they are able to gain nutrition equal to blood rarity!"

"Rare blood is a demon delicacy! It's the demons favorite, CAWCAWCAWCAWCAW!"

SLAP

"Don't laugh, you callous bird! The kids are traumatized enough, we don't need your grim joke!" she angrily scolded, rubbing Kiyoshi's back when his complexion turned even paler than before. Nezuko ignored the crow's screeches, whining about the stack of bumps now decorating its head as her eyes caught the whiff of a fog flying by.

A black one. The thick, black one. It's the Drum Demon!

"Listen. The demon who kidnapped you are here," the siblings jolted, looked ready to scream in terror. Yet she shushed them, garnering their attention back, "I'm going to walk out of the room and face him. The moment I leave, start beating the drum. I have other companions here, a yellow-haired boy named Zenitsu along with your brother, Shoichi," Kiyoshi perked up at that, "if anyone other than them or me opens the door or makes any sound, beat the drum and run away. Do not hesitate for even a second."

Nezuko then put her palm on Terukos head and continued, "Teruko, your brother is very tired. So you need to take care of him. Can you do that?" the girl bobbed her head frantically, a firm resolution lighting her eyes, "good. I promise that I will follow your color and come back to you. Hang in there for just a bit longer, okay?"

They nodded stiffly in response to the instructions, making the ponytail teen quirk her lips. She stood up and pulled out her dual Zanbato, stance ready. The moment she saw the Drum Demon's red eyes peeking from behind the sliding door, she lept, shouting, "BEAT THE DRUM!"

DUNG

BLIP

WHOSH

The siblings disappeared.

"Damn bugs. I really do hate struggling bugs," the beast mumbled, smacking the drum on his left leg. The room spun and Nezuko was now standing on the ceiling. A smack to the stomach's and right shoulder's drum, a three-claws attack was back, she moved to dodge while the room made a different turn. next strike, another evading.

The fight had been going on for a while, the Drum Demon played his instrument, moving the room around as well as Nezuko in it, leaving her no chance for her to get closer to the target. Sure, she managed to read the pattern amidst the sickening vertigo—the drum on his left shoulder turned things to the right. Left shoulders turned things to the left. Right leg moved things forwards while the left leg moved things backward. Then the stomach's is for the devastating, claw attack (so the one in Kiyoshi's possession was the only drum that can change the interior of the house)—However, the speed of the spin was way too strong! She could feel her previous injuries throbbing! If she rushed in during an opening while she was not completely prepared, her legs would lose their strength because of the pain, and she would be diced into pieces!

Nezuko didn't want to give up, though. Of course, she didn't. She couldn't! She remembered Sakonji's teaching, telling her that water has ten types of sword techniques. Water can form into any shape. Its flow will never be stopped! Surely, there's one move in her repertoire of many that she can use to solve this conundrum. Her bones may be broken, yet she will not let her spirit turn to dust. Because other people were waiting for her. Because—

the kids' frightened faces flashed—

Her foot landed on the side wall before she twisted.

Zenitsu's crying face flashed—

Her face scrunched at that pathetic image while she let her shoulder bumped into the ceiling to minimize the damage.

Tanjiro's smiling face flashed—

Her heart panged and she ducked under the claws attack, "you can do this, you can do this, you can do this, Nezuko!" She managed to find a foothold on the normal floor, and got back into her stance, "I've already endured things this far! No matter if it's today or the future. No matter how hopeless the situation will be—"

"—I WILL NEVER YIELD TO DEMONS!"


OMAKE chapter 23

Shoichi blinked owlishly when Zenitsu hugged the life out of him, crying and sniffling, kept thanking him for the job the kid definitely didn't do.

The black-haired kid couldn't even believe it himself, even when he saw it right in front of him. While their patrolling the hallways, searching the missing companions needed to be cut short the moment a half-naked demon appeared from under the porch—Zenitsu, the brave demon slayer screeched like a little girl at this— it was crawling on the ground like some kind of lizard. Though he thought, with that long tongue of his, he sure did resemble a lizard. Shoichi was depressed, see. When Zenitsus, fear, and dread had overwhelmed him, he decided that moment was the right time to faint, and the kid thought he was going to die. The fours eyes of the demon landed on him, freezing him in place. The two horns on each side of his forehead, along with disgusting nerves around the rim, peeking out behind the calloused skin, didn't help the case, only terrify him even more. The gross tongue had lashed out, ready to pierce his head like the fine blade of a spear and Shoichi thought, this is it. This is where he's going to die; leaving Kiyoshi-niichan and Teruko alone in this scary, haunted place.

Yet the pain didn't come. The strike itself didn't even connect. Because, somehow, Zenitsu cut the tongue when he was still laying on the floor. The yellow teen stood up, silent and calm, and Shoichi knew something had changed. Gone were the tears and snot, in the place was a blank expression, eyes glassy. Those unseeing orbs clearly told the kid that Zenitsu was sleeping—well, fainted really—but he moved like a seasoned warrior. Crouching with one leg drawn back and his knees tensed, his right hand was ready to unsheath the weapon. Then he moved. Too fast for him to follow and a mere second after that, the head of the demon was not on his neck anymore, chopped clean from his shoulders.

Shoichi reminded everyone again that Zenitsu did this awesome thing while he was unconscious.

That was how he got into this situation, with the said slayer clinging onto the kid and begged him for protection. Apparently, Zenitsu didn't remember anything he did and thought Shoichi was the one who killed the demon.

What even is my life, seriously?


"AHAHAHA!" Pig Mask laughed as he chopped the fat, green beast's arms the moment he appeared around the corner, taking advantage of that slight pause to cut off his thick neck. Pig Mask let the face of the demon with one horn and full lips fly over his head as he jumped onto the stomach, bounced on the wall and continued his run to the other side of the hallway, "AHAHAHA! Interesting! Interesting! It's so worth it to get stuck here for three days! Because now—"

he recalled the images of the girl with pink haori, standing stubbornly over his way while holding a frightened child in her embrace—

"—another strong person I can use for a stepping stone has appeared! AHAHAHAHA!"

Chapter Text

I forgot to include this in the last chap oops. Here's the link of how Nezuko's synesthesia work: Synesthesia 


 

The Drum Demon realized that one day—

He… had slowly lost the ability to eat humans.

Of course, he still needs to continue hunting and consuming humans, even though the amount that he eats is not as much as it was before. For a normal demon, this may not be a problem. That as long as they can survive another day, the decreasing quantity of their meals would be nothing to worry about. But for the Drum Demon, it was. It was something he had to worry about. Because he was one of the Twelve Demon Moons. Because  he  expected something more from him than normal beasts. Because if he cannot eat more,  he  will—

"Kyogai," the demon jolted, eyes immediately darting to the other presence in the room. A man with a white fedora that covered his wavy, black hair. It's him. It's Kibutsuji Muzan-sama!, " already you can't eat any more humans? Is this your limit?"

"N-No..." he stuttered, hands flailing. His yellow eyes widened, the number carved in his right eye contracted, "no, Muzan-sama. I can...I can still eat more—"

SLASH

The pain came even faster than he ever thought. The beautiful number (a number that showed the whole world he means something. He's not useless. He's not trash. He's not the scum of society. Is now gone, gone, gone) has been slashed. Now, the number everyone was so proud to have—he was so proud to have—was just a glorified trophy without shine. No meanings. No power. No nothing.

(He's not useless. He's not trash. He's not the scum of society. He's not, he's not, he's not—)

"Enough. I am removing your number," he snarled, plum eyes glowing with immense disappointment, "this is your limit and you've reached it."

.

(—I'm trash...)

.

.

"That's why. I need to eat that Marechi,"That's why he had been hiding his number behind his eye. Because clearly, he's not strong enough. Not strong enough to eat more humans (not strong enough to proudly show his number and declare that he's one of the worthy demons). Kyougai smacked the drum, turning the gravity of the pink hunter girl for the nth time. Sending another wave of claw attacks, she managed to dodge even with the swerving room. Changing the pull to the opposite direction so she'll feel the vertigo and lose her focus. Anything. Anything to break her fighting spirit and keep her from approaching him, "I need to eat humans with rare blood so I will be recognized as one of the Twelve Demon Moons again. I have to. I need to—"

(Because I don't want to be useless)

"VANISH FROM MY SIGHT, YOU VERMIN!"

RAPID DRUMMING

DUNG DUNG TAK DUNG DUNG TAK DUNG DUNG DUNG

And then the room was nothing but a blur.

"Guaaahh! My eyes! My eyes are spinning!" Nezuko gagged, holding back the bile that started to rise to her throat. This is terrible, terrible, oh so terrible! The demon's technique was too strong, she could feel her stomach churning with dread. Yahaba's arrows had nothing on this one because Nezuko could apply her skills in the opposite reaction to negate the eye demon's power. But this drum demon? He could literally spin her around like a pinwheel in a breezy day, no amount of opposite force will ever minimize the damage. Only giving her a small amount of time to breath when the beast grew slightly tired after playing the instrument; which, was a long time coming for a human like her because his kind's strength is immense, monstrous. The claw attacks had increased from three to five, the power in it went from devastating to utter hell. This is the worst. This is really the worst!

One of the claws grazed her chin. Oww! But at least that distracted me from my need to vomit all over the place—

She blinked when the previous strike from him destroyed the furniture, cracking the small selves open and making the thing inside flutter about. Those looked like papers. The one author used to create a book. The spinning stopped for a split second, causing her to flail and her foot to fall right on top of the fallen paper—

.

Shizu fell to the ground with a loud thud. Hands and legs spread like a starfish. Her breath was uneven, but it was clear she was happy. Grin splashed on her pale complexion, sweat pouring from her forehead as she chuckled, "you really are too strong, Shibei!"

Shinbei chuckled, propping himself using the bokken to stare at the laughing comrade, "that was a great move you've got there, Princess. Looked like your self-training had done you good, huh?"

" I'm still nothing compared to you," she waved away the praise, closing her eyes in bliss. The grass felt cold and comfortable after an intense workout, she really didn't want to get up. But she knew not doing the cooldown will only strain her muscles, "it's only half a month, anyway. I don't think I can measure up to you in a very long time."

"Sure. But you have a strong determination to train yourself in wielding a sword. Not just a bow," he said, suddenly sounded solemn. The tone made the other blinked as she turned her attention to the senior. His eyes were now blank, staring at the wall without emotion, "as long as you sharpen your blade and your conviction for protecting your dearest remains true, you'll always be the strongest. You are the strongest." Then he stared at her, with a smile that was not as wide as usual but the pride within it was so sincere, Shizu felt like crying.

"So hold your head high and face the world. Because you, Shizu, are ready"—

.

Nezuko stomped her foot to the side instead, avoiding the paper entirely, keeping its condition pristine with no creases on it at all.

(She didn't notice. But the Drum Demon let out a gasp of surprise at that small gesture)

(She...didn't step on my work?)

.

.

(Something within Kyogai's mind cleared. He was looking at two people—one of them standing while the other kneeling on the floor—having a bleak conversation in a dim, dark abyss.  Aah...is this—)

(—my past?)

("How boring," the standing person uncaringly said. His eyes were covered by the short, black bangs but Kyogai could clearly see the disappointment in them. The speaker dropped the papers he held in his hands, making them flutter uselessly to the ground, "too boring. Everything you wrote is garbage. Not beautiful, not fantastical and not shocking at all")

("You should stop writing" he continued, not even trying to understand what the writer was feeling at that moment (Why didn't you say anything? He wanted to scream at the silent creator.He's mocking you. He's looking down at you. Why didn't you say anything—)"what you're doing right now is wasting paper and ink")

("Recently, you haven't been going out during noon either. You're just too boring now that you're like this," he scoffed (say something, me! SAY SOMETHING!)"all you need to do is beat the drum that you're so interested in and shut yourself at home. After all—)

("—you don't have the skills to teach other people anyways")

(He walked away, stepping onto the paper as he passed by. Stepping onto the work he did so hard. Onto the work he had put his blood sweat and tears into. Onto the work he sacrificed his sleep for like  it was MERE GARBAGE—)

(Unforgivable...unforgivable...)

(UNFORGIVA—)

.

.

"Interesting..."

Kyogai was startled from his flashback when the hunter silently muttered. He didn't realize he stopped his attack, giving the girl enough time to rest. And now, the said girl was looking right at the paper (at the work I made) with jaw unhinged and wonder in her burgundy eyes. The moment she felt his gaze boring into her, she blushed and jumped away; like she had done something wrong (she didn't), fighting stance was back in place. Right. He played the drums, continuing their dance of danger once more. They were enemies, they were meant to fight each other. Kill each other.

(There's no way this girl just complimented my story. Reading it intently, even. No way. No way—)

The demon hunter herself was smacking her head internally for the crazy move she just did. What was she thinking, leisurely reading the book? What if the demon decided to unleash his devastating claws while she was too engrossed with the story? Stupid Nezuko, you're going to get yourself killed! It was really good though...okay focus! The thing she did had been borderline suicide, but thanks to that novel she read just now, she had remembered. There's one thing she could do to finish this battle quickly without prolonging it unnecessarily. To move her own body and not let the demon control it anymore, as well as a way to breathe without increasing the pain from her older injuries.

DUNG DUNG. The room spun, the claws were back. She ducked.

Shizu's breath was uneven—

That's it. Uneven breath. Short rapid breaths, was one of the moves Sakonji taught her. Breathing like this will increase the muscle strength around the broken bones in her legs. It will make her sound like she is having a panic attack, yet this is the only thing that will solve this stalemate, will solve her dilemma on whether she should proceed or not. DUNG TAK. She pivoted to the nearest wall. And I kinda realized. DUNG DUNG. Another change in gravity. There. (a fog circling the demon's neck. Loosening, tightening, before loosening again) The ring of interval. The ring of fog that will tell her to strike and give her the best damage output. That ring is my opening! My key to finally use this technique I've been wanting to use. I just have to wait for the claw attack and—

He beat the drum on his stomach.

Here it comes!

"Full Focus, Breathe of Water Ninth Style!" her arms were spread to the back, blue liquid started regenerating from the heel of her sandals. She lept from one point to another, pushing her body away from the claw move with the boost alone. From the beast's point of view, Nezuko was like a frog jumping on a lilypad, with ripples formed at every point she landed. She moved so swiftly yet gracefully, drenching the whole room with whole buckets of water and ignoring the usual stable footing, prioritizing flying around without limitation, "WATER SPLASH, CHAOS!"

"S-She dodged all of my attacks!" Kyogai thought, frantically smacked the drums for the next onslaught, summoning another offense. The room moved, the girl was thrown. But he knew, even if he managed to pull her to the opposite direction, it was almost useless. She just repeated the same skill and now was in his face once again, "she's going to kill me! She's going to kill me and everyone will remember me as nothing but tras—"

"You know," Nezuko started talking. It felt like the time itself stopped as Kyogai saw her expression softened, a smile adorning her pretty face, "if you're still a human—"

"—I'd like to hear you playing your drum in a summer festival."

The demon's orbs widened.

SLASH

Then his head fell, beheaded from its place with one, clean cut.


Nezuko dropped to the ground with a wince, cradling her chest and gasping in pain. She had accidentally breathed in too deeply, it hurt and it made her heart pump erratically. There was a reason why Sakonji warned her not to use this move if she didn't have to. The sudden change in the beating speed of one's heart will break your concentration, will turn your legs into jelly and sap away energy.

She did it, though. She finally killed the Drum Demon. Now, with no master, this house will be—

"Kid," Eep! I forgot the demon can still talk even when their head is separated from their body! His head rolled, looking at her with wonder in those red sclerae. He didn't look dangerous anymore, no animosity in that expression (and the fog. Aah...it turned from black to a fiery carmine. So festive, just like his performance. Playing the drum with vigor and a happy smile, brightening the beautiful night and appeasing the audience. How could such a lively person turned into a demon like this, she didn't understand. She didn't understand this cruel, cruel world—) his mouth parted as he uttered, "do you think my playing is good? Good enough for you to watch me on a festival stage?"

"...it is. It's good," she answered, smiling. Tears started pricking at the corner of her eyes, her sight going hazy. But she won't let it hinder her need to express the true feelings she had to the poor, poor victim, "both your play and your story. They're both very, very good."

"Is that so..." the head slowly and surely turned to dust. There was no mouth present anymore, yet his glassy eyes were a clear indication that he was grateful. Grateful for what she said. Grateful that someone finally praised him and this hurts. It hurts so much Nezuko wanted to weep—, "thank you. Thank you, demon slayer."

(Thank you for recognizing my manuscript)

(Thank you for not treating it like garbage)

(Thank you—)

(He remembered her expression when she read the pages. Full of wonder and fascination, smiling as the words flew by)

(—thank you for appreciating my work)

(Thank you...)

.

.

.

Nezuko kneeled by the crumbling demon's body, staring at the small knife she stabbed to the upper arm. Yushiro prepared this tool for her, a tool she could use to collect the blood of the member of Twelve Demon Moons so Tamayo-san can examine it for more data to assist with creating the cure. The knife will automatically absorb the blood and store it safely inside the handle, filling it up till the tip. When it was done, a calico cat that was tasked to deliver the goods will appear. Literally out of nowhere; it meowed once to reveal itself from Yushiros cloaking spell and twice to hide itself once more. She pets it once, distracting her distraught self with its cute purring before she let it go, watching the rest of the demon disappear with thinned lips. The second Kamado gathered the scattered papers, reading some of the words written as she stored them back in the wrecked drawers.

"It really is interesting," she mused, closing the drawers. She put her Zanbatos back into their sheaths, walking out of the room turned battlefield, and started following Kiyoshi's unique fog, "If only he didn't turn into a demon, I'm sure he could have been a famous novelist"

There was a bit of a scuffle when she arrived at the room that the siblings were in; they started throwing things at her the moment she opened the door, panicking because the drum that they used as their only tool to survive had disappeared the moment the demon had died. But everything turned out okay. And there's no black fog lingering around the hallways anymore—does that mean Zenitsu killed the remaining two? Maybe that weirdo of a hunter too. Because he sure looked like he had an abundance of energy to bounce around the manor while slaying some demons as he was passing through—so she easily brought the civilians out of the empty house without any interference. Nezuko winced a bit whenever her run jostled the child on her back too much, ribs twinging and legs spasming. Though nothing stopped her desire in prioritizing the children's safety, she jogged lightly towards the exit. Her eyes zoomed in on the distinguished electric fog of Zenitsu, the quivering cyan of these siblings' fog, along with the refreshing silver of the Pig Mask. Something else caught her attention, however.

The black-burgundy fog swam erratically. It's niichan's fog.

And the red fog she knew so well, Nezuko almost stumbled.

S-Someone's hurt?!

She sprinted, almost leaving Teruko in the dust. The moment they were out, Nezuko was blinded by an instant rage.

Pig Mask was kicking the bloody Zenitsu over and over. While the electric boy himself didn't move an inch, still cradling onto the box Tanjiro was in even when he fell to the ground. Holding it with such intensity, he was trembling.

(Nezuko saw  her brother slumped, protecting Rokuta's fragile body with his own bloodied one)

"Oh...Nezuko-chan..." the yellow-haired hunter looked up, face swollen and nose bleeding. His quivering voice was heartbreaking yet he tried to soothe her anyway. Like the injuries his body sported was nothing. Like it didn't hurt him a single bit even though they knew it was a big, fat lie, "I've been protecting it, see?"

"Because you said this thing...is more important to you," Shoichi, who was hiding behind the nearest trunk, sobbed as Zenitsu weakly smiled, "...more important than your own life."

Chapter Text

In the past, Agatsuma Zenitsu possessed the same sharp hearing he did in the present.

It was something that he hated as he grew up. To be able to hear other people's heart beats, to be able to hear people's hidden voices. He could even understand what others were saying as he slept through the night, which really creeps him out. The world is a loud, loud place and no matter where he went. No matter where he hid, true peace never existed.

(So I just resigned myself to this life I had and hoped for the best)

"The demon's sound has disappeared, so Nezuko-chan has defeated the demon," he mused in the back of his head, while on the outside, he was panicking over the fact that he was bleeding after sacrificing a small part of his body to saved Shoichi; the kid's word, not him. He said they were blown out of the house as the layout of it changed, sending them flying from the second story window, crash-landing into the hard ground below. Zenitsu was simply glad that they were not inside the creepy house anymore, he didn't even realize he was injured and now was regretting over it because the pain had started to kick in. He accepted Shoichi's words just for the sake of appeasing the child's heart, saying that Zenitsu had saved him where he was definitely not because I'm nothing I'm weak I'm useless—

CRASH

The entrance of the estate was suddenly knocked from its hinges, garnering the pairs attention and almost shocking them to death. There, standing in the entrance was the Pig Mask they met moments ago, shouting uproariously like some kind of buffon. Zenitsu was too distracted by his fear when he first saw him, but now he knew. He recognized his voice; his heart voice. This person—

"—is the fifth person that qualified," he frightfully murmured, "he was the fastest person during the Final Selection to go up and down the mountain!" A hot-headed sort of person! A type he couldn't handle because their voice is always so loud—

Then Pig Mask flung himself towards the box Nezuko-chan left behind to keep the siblings safe. And Zenitsu moved so fast it was as if he had teleported, stopping the said hotheaded from advancing any further.

"Stop! I won't allow you to lay your hands on this box!" he glared, "this is Nezuko-chan's most precious possession!"

"Hey, hey, hey...what are you talking about?" Pig Mask questioned, one of the blades was rested on his shoulder as he stood over menacingly, almost relaxed and feeling a bit confused over Zenitsu's behavior, "don't you know that there's a demon inside the box?"

"OF COURSE I KNEW THAT FROM THE VERY BEGINNING!"

All living things will produce sounds, lots and lots of different sounds. The sounds of breathing, the sounds of the heart beating, the sound of blood flowing, the sounds of their hidden feelings. A 'demon sounds' and a 'human sounds' are fundamentally different from each other. All he had to do is concentrate and listen hard, then Zenitsu will be able to know what that person is thinking about. He knew. He knew.

But, even if he escaped from the ugly side of the demon's cruelty, he keeps getting deceived by people instead; always trusting only those he wanted to trust.

(Because when you can hear their lies, you won't know what's the truth even anymore)

Then he met Nezuko.

She produced the sound of every girl he ever met before; lively, cheerful, nice, her scary hook aside—seriously, he kinda had nightmares after seeing her downing the scared guy with one punch in the Final Selection weeks before. And now he experienced the fist himself, his horror is totally justified—So he kinda brushed her aside (didn't want to get deceived anymore. Didn't want to face the betrayal anymore). However, one thing Zenitsu is good at, aside from sobbing like a crybaby is listening. And he listened.

Aah...she's crying. Deep within her heart, she's crying. Begging for someone to help her. Begging for them not to leave her alone because she's lonely, lonely,  lonely—

How could she still freely give them that beautiful, beautiful smile? Saving someone else and not asking for anything in return? For a helping hand in return?

(So different from those women who deceived him. Acting weak and frail and begged him to support them. While on the inside, they were laughing at his cluelessness. Foolishness)

It hurt, it hurt, it hurts so,  so  much—

Nezuko is a demon hunter, yet she also carried a demon with her. For a girl like that (for a girl who doesn't lean on other's shoulder when she clearly needs one), she must have an important reason to do this. He's willing to trust in her judgment. Her judgment is definitely something he can accept.

(And there is this sound. Somewhere, he couldn't really pinpoint it. A sound he never heard before in his life)

"I want to ask Nezuko-chan about this, face to face," the yellow hunter hissed. Even though he was scared, body trembling and sweat pouring, he didn't move. Hands spread, covering the rattling box with his own body, "so you...you should just get the hell out of the way first!"

.

.

And Nezuko kicked the hell out of the Pig Mask.

"Uwaahh. His ribs are totally broken!" Zenitsu wept, watching as the brash teen was sent careening towards a tree trunk, letting out a loud thud. He didn't even need to use his uncanny sense of hearing, he definitely heard something crack after that kick. Sure, the sunny boy was glad she saved him from the possible murder, but still, "she's scary as always..."

"Aren't you a member of the demon hunters?" Nezuko exclaimed, helping Zenitsu get up from the dirty land before she dumped him with the siblings to be treated, "do you know why Zenitsu won't pull out his swords? Because it's taboo for a team member to pull their blades out and bully others. Despicable...despicable..."

"Enjoying yourself while others are in pain...YOU'RE DESPICABLE!"

(No. No, Nezuko-chan. Don't let me hear your heart crying even more than this. Its tearing me apart)

"Cough...cough...hahaha...hahahahaha, is that so. I'm sorry. It's a pity I can't test your dual wielding swords technique but..." Pig Mask hoarsely spoke as he backflipped himself to a stand, throwing his blades aside, "let's duel with our bare hands, then! That way, we won't be breaking any law whatsoever!"

"No, I don't think you understand anything at all," Zenitsu started to explain, letting Shoichi wiped the blood from his nose while the others tended to his other injuries, "in the first place, we—"

"OKAY, BRING IT ON!"

"EEEH! NEZUKO-CHAN?!"

"W-Wait, Nezuko-chan, hold up!" it was morbidly funny, to see her so comically mad, smoke coming out of her ears, gritted teeth and all. However, this is wrong. He has to stop the madness before it was too late; Pig Mask, he understands. But Nezuko? He didn't think she's the same type as that weirdo. But when he tried to go over there and separate the two, it was clear that anything he could do would not help the situation in the slightest. Their onslaught was too intense for a third member to join in; a kick to the face, Nezuko dodged. A swipe from the back of her head, Pig Mask ducked. Zenitsu would have to be suicidal if he still wanted to go over there and add other bruises to his already tingling body just to stop the fighting. Fortunately, the coward was not suicidal, "You know fighting team members is a taboo right? You just said so yourself! So why—"

"BECAUSE HE HURT YOU!" She roared, dishing out another leg swipe, Pig Mask jumped. He threw a punch to her thigh, she managed to block it at the last second. Just from watching him move, it was obvious even from Zenitsu's spectators point of view that Pig Mask's strikes were abnormally low. His movement, his gesture, he felt like he was seeing a girl fighting a four-legged beast instead. The burgundy-eyes slayer tried to aim even lower, yet Pig Mask managed to fuse into the earth himself, evading Nezuko's circular kick by doing an impressive split. Followed by his own spinning kick by bending his back backward and sending the girl into the dirt face first, her mouth started to bleed. She rolled to the side when Pig Mask's other leg almost descended over her head for the second time, stood up and now the pair were back to face each other at minimal distance. She wiped the blood from her mouth before she continued, "he hurt you. He hurt you for the sake of his own amusement. Consequences be darn—"

"I can't forgive someone who hurt my friend!"

.

.

Friend?

Zenitsu… hasn't had any friends in a long, long time.

His heart panged.

"And you!" Nezuko pointed to the Pig Mask. W-What is he doing? Were his eyes working right? Because he definitely saw him bending his legs forward while the teen was laying stomach-down. The flexibility of his joints is a literal monster! "don't do that sort of position too much! You're going to cause a problem to your bones and your body will deteriorate! My teacher is going to go ballistic if he knows you have such atrocious behavior! Think about your future!"

And she still has a heart to fuss over the weirdo. She's too nice!

"Deteriorate is good! Nothing can be compared to that sudden thrill I felt just now, hahaha!" he put the legs down and decided to pounce on four legs, painting his movements into those of an actual boar.

"You are really starting to—" Nezuko leaned, right fist pulled back to store the utmost momentum, "—piss me off!"

BUAK

Somehow, Zenitsu expected it'll end like this; with her infamous right hook—or punch to the ground, in this case—stopping the Pig in one swift hit.

He didn't expect the weirdo to have a beautiful face that almost rivaled Nezuko-chan under that fur and skin though.


After a bout of short commotion—the moment Pig Mask woke up, he immediately asked the nearest person, Zenitsu, to fight him—a belated introduction from each other ("My name is Hashibira Inosuke! Remember that, Kamaboku Nedukon!", "You got the name wrong!"), and a burying ceremonial for the poor victims ("Your wounds still hurt, that's why you're unwilling to help, right? That's okay, you can rest easy~", "Don't underestimate me! No matter if it's 100 or 200 people, I'll bury them all! I'm a better grave-digger than anybody else!", "Nezuko-chan, did you just trick him into helping?", "Hehe. I'm starting to understand how to handle him, Zenitsu.", "Sly. You're too sly..."), their mission is now officially over.

Ignoring Kasugaigarasu's incessant nagging about their next destination, Nezuko offered to accompany the siblings home. Even though the bird already gave Kiyoshi an incense bag that smelled of wisteria to ward off the demons, she was still worried, giving them some snacks to chew on for their short journey. Because their house is actually not too far from their current location and this is Zenitsu's only chance to ever feel safe by following Shoichi The Strong ("How did he get that idea, Shoichi-kun?", "It's...hard to explain, Neechan") before he went back to this hellish lifestyle, the two boys followed along.

The crow was still pouting even after an hour of traveling.

"Matching my strength against other creature is my only hobby, see!" their third member bragged, now that the siblings were safe and well in their residence. His pig mask was back in place, hiding his rosy complexion under the guise of an intimidating, dead animal. Zenitsu still couldn't get over how pretty he was. White, milky skin. Black hair with blue highlights at the bottom of the locks. Long eyelashes and shiny, glittering green orbs as his eyes. If only he didn't have a ridiculously muscled chest and six-pack, the Thunder Breath user was sure a whole lot of men would like to propose him based on looks alone. Inosuke guffawed to the sky as he unsheathed his swords, making them glimmer under the moonlight, "I would like to cross blades with you one day, Nedukon! That way, we'll know I am the best dual sword wielder ever exist in the world!"

"Sure. We can spar after you apologized to Zenitsu for hitting him."

"Okay, Zenbiksu! I apologized!"

"That is totally not a sincere apology! And my name is Zenitsu!"

Well, he couldn't really hope for too much from a hot-headed guy like him. From the stories alone, they knew Inosuke acquired his blades by matching his strength against demon hunters. Hearing about the existence of demons as well as the final selection through the same method. He didn't rely upon a 'cultivator' like Zenitsu or Nezuko. And he seemed to directly join the demon hunters association after participating in that dangerous exam. For someone who recklessly went head-long into danger like that, a normal courtesy is definitely not in his life's dictionary.

The crow led them to a house with the crest of wisteria printed upon the wooden door. Based on the enormous gate that traversed from here to the furthest corners of their sight, they could tell this house is massive. Even with the door closed, they could still see the building peeking from behind it; it was another two-story, ancient house. Although different from the Drum Demon's—as Nezuko named him—house, this one is definitely not haunted and scary. Okay, the old caretaker lady with white hair tied in a high bun scared him, but he didn't let his mouth run this time because it was rude of him and he didn't want to get smacked by Nezuko for impoliteness. Kasugaigarasu said this family with the wisteria crest is a family that rescues the lives of demon hunters such as them. As long as the person is a member of the association, the family will serve them and ask nothing in return. Basically, this is the resting place for injured slayers and they should heal themselves now that the battle was over. Nezuko was not happy with this revelation.

"We can rest. Even though I fought against demons with wounds all this time?!"

"...gulp."

"Come back here, you heartless bird!" she screeched toward the ascending creature, tears of frustration and anger visible in her burgundy eyes, "I'm going to pluck out all of your feathers and skewer you good! Come back here!"

("Zenitsu, please. Let me trade my messengers with yours. I can't handle its abuse anymore...", "I'm sorry, Nezuko-chan but I won't do it.")

The old lady asked a doctor to come over, checking and bandaging their terrible injuries. Somehow, all three of them have broken ribs—Zenitsu, two broken ribs. Nezuko, three broken ribs. Inosuke, four broken ribs—and the healer said that they should rest for several weeks because of this. Nezuko's room was at the opposite of them. But she decided to dine in their room because having a meal with your friends is a lot more fun than eating by yourself . Changing out of their stiff uniforms into comfortable yukata, they were now consuming the food that the old lady had prepared, chatting animatedly and amicably. The Breath of Beast user was trying to taunt Nezuko into fighting him. In which she boldly refused because they're not in tip-top shape. Speaking of Inosuke though—

He completely forgot about the box! Zenitsu growled in exasperation. If this guy doesn't care about it now, why the hell did he beat me up?! This bastard! Idiot! Long-eyelashes freak!

"Nezuko-chan? Can I ask you about something?" he questioned, as a way to distract himself from his hatred towards the weirdo. She hummed in confirmation, "what are you lugging around a demon for?"

Her teacup fell to the tatami with a loud clunk.

Everything went silent, air turned colder. The only sound that could be heard was Inosuke shuffling his legs toward the futon so he could finally get some well-deserved sleep—the bump he got after Nezuko's punch of reality was still throbbing after all.

"You...did you know about this all along?" she asked, almost in a whisper. Her face was pale and sweat started drenching her pretty complexion, "I should've know...you have an excellent sense of hearing. Seeing and hearing are different but in this case, their job is one and the same," she turned to him, lips thinned, "are you going to tell the other hunters? Are you going to kill him now that you know his existence?"

"N-No. Uum...I would like to hear your explanation first before I take any actions," Zenitsu stated, trying to soothe the disgruntled girl by pulling his hand away from the handle of his sword. The yellow-haired boy saw how her body language had tensed, figure leaned over to the direction of the said box, now rested peacefully at the corner of the boys' room (she may not want others to poke around the thing. Or was just plain worried, especially how Souichi and Teruko left it alone for too long and Inosuke trying to destroy it. Whatever it is, Nezuko keep the box by her side. To be there and ready to protect whenever that scenario happen again). Zenitsu didn't like how anxious she looked at that second. How she rested her suspicious eyes to him like he was someone dangerous and not to be trusted after saying that he is her friend. No. He didn't like this one bit—

"Is...Is that so," she breathed a sigh of relief, shoulders relaxed the instant the crisis was averted. For now. The pink haori wearer smiled at him, grateful and happy, "was that the reason why you protected the box even if it cost you your body?"

Zenitsu nodded.

"You are a good person. Thank you," Nezuko chuckled gratefully, he blushed. She really is pretty, even more so now that she didn't put her hair up in a ponytail. She tapped her index finger at the side of her temple, silently asking him to look at her eyes, "my sight is very sharp, see. I can see the color of someone in the form of a fog. It tells me their location, like a trail left by an animal. What kind of person they are. The emotion they're feeling at that moment. Or what kind of relationship they have," oh, so that's what she meant when she said the girl before has other fog intertwining her own, "Zenitsu, you're kind, gentle and very strong. That's why I said you're going to be fine when we enter the Drum Demon's residence."

"M-Me? Strong?" the cowardly hunter pointed at himself, at which Nezuko nodded, "no, no, no, no, Nezuko-chan. You're wrong! There's no way I'm strong! Shoichi-kun saved me from the demon, remember?"

"I...still don't understand how you reached that conclusion, but..." the black-haired girl collected the fallen cup and put it on the table, she started cleaning the spilled tea using the available rag, "You really are strong, Zenitsu. You may not believe in other people's words, but the colors never lie to me. You didn't lack any strength, you only lack confidence. And I'm sure one day, you can face the world with your eyes wide open."

"I believe in you, okay?"

.

.

Zenitsu...Zenitsu was speechless. Nobody ever talked to him like that, other than his own mentor. Nezuko was just a stranger until today. A scary lady with a scary punch. Yet she believed him. Even after his pathetic display, crying his eyes out at every second he could, she still believed in him.

(Believed in him even more than he could ever believe in himself)

The electric teen didn't know how to react to that sincere compliment, "b-by the way. About the box..." that's why he decided to steer them back to their previous topic. He was ready to utter the same question. But then her sentences regarding the demon inside finally clicked, he looked up "wait, did you say him?"

The box decided at that moment to rattle around.

So don't blame Zenitsu when he yelped in fright.

Nezuko clamped her palm over his mouth. Saying that everything is okay and don't shout too much, it's already night you're going to wake up the neighborhood. But...but they're talking about a demon here! A demon! Right in this room! And trying to escape from his confinement! Was actually escaping as the door of the box creaked open—aaaaaa that thing wasn't locked?—presenting the scary beast to the world, the horrifying beast that will eat him alive—

A ginger-haired kid rolled out of the box like a caterpillar instead, with a stick of bamboo nestled firmly in his mouth.

Eh?

The demon moved again, still laying down, now rolling over to Nezuko while growing his body size at the same time; he's in the form of a teenager now instead of a ten year old kid. He gave her a pleasant eye smile and a fond hum under the mouthguard, the only girl in this party giggled at the beast's antics. As he stood up to face the spectator better, she turned, "Zenitsu, this is Tanjiro. He's my nii—wait. Why are you crying?"

Huh? Crying?

Sure enough, he could feel tears rolling down his cheeks. One tear. Two tears. Before it turned into a waterfall gushing, "I don't..." he tried to wipe it away but to no avail. It kept pouring and pouring and pouring and he couldn't stop it—, "I'm...I'm sorry. I don't know what—"

Tanjiro approached him, concern clear on his reddish-brown eyes. He tilted his head to the side and offered him a rice ball as a token of introduction. That small gesture only made sunny hunter cry even more, sending the demon into panic. He frantically whined at Nezuko, asking her what's wrong with her friend, although the sister didn't know the reason herself (this is not his famous exaggerated cry. This is...something else. Something she couldn't fathom and it really worried her). Zenitsu wanted to say that everything is okay, fine and dandy. Except he couldn't. Because he was too caught off over the fact that—

Such a gentle sound.

This...this is the sound that he couldn't pinpoint before. The sound that trailing after Nezuko. The sound he never heard in his whole, arduous life.

How could a demon—an evil, scary demon—has this kind of sound? Whereas the nicest human he ever met doesn't even have this melodic sound. Like a lullaby. Like a shelter under the sun—

Like a protection of a caring, big brother.

(What happened? He bawled. Sniffling and hiccuping. A nice girl with a broken heart. And a demon with a heart purer than any human. What actually happened? Who dare hurt this kind, kind siblings? Breaking them to the core. Destroying this happy family to smithereens?)

Nezuko and Tanjiro patted his head to console the upset boy as Zenitsu's sobs continued all the way till dawn.

Chapter Text

After Zenitsu's bout of unusual crying that night, the weeks went by peacefully. The blonde demon hunter never freaked out over Tanjiro again even after his nature as a scary demon he would otherwise be afraid of was established (Her brother is never scary, seriously. He's kind and considerate. Anybody who said he's not, clearly doesn't have any taste in people, Nezuko huffed). Actually, Zenitsu was really close to him now, to the point that he usually sits or sleeps near the ginger-haired beast whenever his day was worser than the usual bad day. When Nezuko asked him about the sudden change of heart, he said Tanjiro's sound is like a lullaby, soothing his anxious heart and calming his entire being. A luxurious thing he could never hold on to because the world never shuts up. She didn't really understand, but she didn't protest either. Nezuko was glad anyhow because Zenitsu mellowed out whenever he hung around her brother. He didn't cry as much—well, he still will when his emotions overwhelm him—And he'll try to do things Nezuko knew he could, yet was just too afraid to try, the moment Tanjiro encouragingly smiled at him; such as venturing to the mansion's man-made forest to do their outdoor training. Of course, not too extreme, the doctor said. Or else their stitches will tear open. Just light exercise to move their muscles so they won't cramp after days of solely resting on futons.

(It pained her that, for a bearer of such a bright, bright fog, Zenitsu's self-hatred ran through his entire being so thoroughly, it killed his confidence.)

And Inosuke was quiet for most of their healing days too. As whenever he tried to provoke Nezuko into the said extreme training, Tanjiro pounced. Snatching the mask away from the boy's head and shoving a snack into his open mouth to silence him. The hot-headed hunter also didn't care that the oldest sibling is a monster the slayers need to kill. The only thing his wild self knew was that, this person loved to keep him fed. So whenever they've finished eating their meals but he was still hungry, he'll approach Tanjiro and thrust out his palm. A silent order to give him snacks or else he'll bother Nezuko. It sounded like a threat when she interpreted it like that. Nevertheless, like a bleeding-heart person her brother always is, he is happy to indulge him and sneak him some. Trying to hide this transaction from the pink slayer by hiding the goods within whatever thing they brought at that time—more often than not, their only hiding place is under Inosuke's Boar mask or in Tanjiro's checkered haoris sleeves—yet to no avail. Both of them don't know what it means to be stealthy, she could see it as clear as day.

This kinda made her weep as their food supplies are disappearing very quickly. However, for the price of memorizing the cute scene of those three boys sitting in Dogeza-style while munching some snacks under the night sky full of stars, eyes closed and cheeks red in bliss, it was totally worth it. Besides, the nice caretaker lady provided handmade sweets for the only girl to fill their stocks. Grandma also offered to teach her how to create some so she doesn't have to buy it every time. It will save their money better in the near future.

(Maybe niichan thought Inosuke and Zenitsu were our late brothers, she mused. That's why he babied them like he did to me everyday)

(Her heart panged with longing)

On the eve of their recovery, they received an emergency summons. The crow that served the Water Breath user was clearly still afraid to approach but proceed to do its job and tell the tale. With a cough, it said that the summons instructed the trio to go to the Natagumo Mountain. A demon presence—or maybe multiple demons, actually—were detected from inside the mountain and they need to hurry. Go there as soon as possible, without any unnecessary delay, "b-but of course after you're sure you have enough rest. We don't want you to fight with half-stamina, right? Cawcawcawcaw...caawww..."

Nezuko growled at it.

(She was mad that the crow didn't let her rest before. And knowing she had broken ribs and broken legs after her fight with Yahaba too, the jerk. But then Zenitsu nervously pointed out that if it did so, Nezuko will be too late to save Shoichi's older brother from the Drum Demon, making the number of victims increase even more. Nezuko calmed down after that revelation. He was right. The crow may seem like it was bullying her, but surely, it was trying to prioritize the safety of civilians. To keep them from getting tangled up in this mess of demons and their slayers. Still, that doesn't mean she's going to let the bird off that easily. She forgives it, but she will still show how upset she was with it)

They began their journey in the afternoon, refreshed with their clothes washed clean. There was a bit of a scuffle at the front gate of the healing mansion before their departure—namely Inosuke trying to attack the Grandma for giving them the 'Spark'. It was a small ritual she did to ward off evil spirits from them, Zenitsu frantically explained while Nezuko held the boar mask wearer by the armpits. By scratching a rock to the black slate that was snuggled securely inside its half-circle container; the words on the wooden compartment say 'victory is assured'. It means that the grandma was wishing them good luck, as they're about to embark on another dangerous mission—then a ton of loaded question from the clueless Beast Breath User—he didn't understand why a stranger, such as the caretaker was praying for their safety, she didn't know them for that long. Nezuko patiently explained her version of understanding to him, used to do so because Tanjiro was never good with explanations whenever their youngers siblings asked about something—but regardless of the delay, they arrived at their destination safely. Night had already fallen and the moon doesn't shine its light in this particular area, giving the forest an eerie vibe. The sounds of hidden animals rustling the thickets didn't help the case at all.

And sure enough, Zenitsu immediately got cold feet and went on sitting helplessly at the side of the forest trail.

"No, no, no, no, no! It's too scary, Nezuko-chan! Look at that!" the yellow-haired teen pointed his finger to the entrance. Black, dim, no sign of any living being, "it feels so much scarier the closer we get to our destination! There's no way I can go inside!"

"Pathetic," Inosuke grumbled, "you really piss me off..."

"I don't want to hear that from you, you pig-head! Abnormal! Jerk!"

It was a bit funny to see them squabble (really reminded her of her younger brothers, she held back a choked sob). Although, their impromptu verbal fight had to be cut short when a sound reached their ears. From the dark entrance Zenitsu pointed before, appeared a bloody teenager. It was a male, with short, black hair and one swollen eye. He was crawling on the ground, still gripping onto his chipped niichrin blade, he was wearing the black standard uniform that informed them he was a member of the Demon Hunters Association, "help...me..." he shakily begged, tears running down his bruised cheeks, "please...anyone..."

"Are you alright?! What happened?" Nezuko promptly ran towards him, followed by Inosuke while Zenitsu was still crouching on the dirty ground, too shocked to pick himself up. They were almost there to touch the down slayer. But before she could even brush her finger on his shoulder—

WHOOOSSHHH

The teenager suddenly flew into the sky.

Wait, she horrifyingly observed. From his body position—folded to the fore, arms and legs flailing—rather than flying, it was clear something had pulled him backwards. No. Her stomach dropped, watching helplessly as whatever demon caught the poor hunter got their prey back, his feeble plea trailing after him. In a blink, he was gone from her widening stare. No. No, don't tell me this is Yahaba's case all over again—

"I shall be the Vanguard!" Inosuke suddenly shouted, snapping her from her reverie. He pulled his dual katanas from their scabbards, the silver color of the blade glinting even without the moonlight. The Boar Mask was nestled on his head but she could sense his smug smile from behind, "you can just bring your trembling butts and follow me! With this, I'll show you I am the superior in dual wielding swords!"

"Inosuke..." Nezuko breathed, her hammering heart starting to calm down as she watched how confident her teammate was. She nodded, smiling slightly as she too, unsheathed her dual Zanbatos. Nezuko turned around and landed her burgundy eyes into the frightened golden ones, who's owner flinched under the questioning gaze, "come on, Zenitsu. Let's go save him."

"B-But Nezuko-chan..." his teeth were trembling, clacking and squawking, the sounds itself almost drove Inosuke crazy. Nezuko could hear him muttering about how annoying the blond hunter was, slowing him down and getting on his nerves. She ignored him so she could focus on Zenitsu's sputtered words instead, "I'm...I'm not strong. I'm totally going to get eaten there. I'm totally going to get you eaten there. I don't want to...I don't want to—"

"Zenitsu," the black haired girl sighed, ignoring the Boar Mask's agreement with the Thunder User's statement. She tried giving the yellow slayer her sincere support. Nezuko was nervous because if they are one second too late then that hunter will lose his life. Yet Zenitsu is also her friend. Her precious, dear friend who was too nice for this cruel world and she cannot abandon him for the sake of another, "I told you you're strong, right? Do you think I'm a liar now?"

"Wha—of course not! Nezuko-chan, my hearing told me you're telling the truth that day so—"

"So there's nothing to be afraid of," she smiled, cutting his rambling with her encouragement, "let's show that demon how brave you are, okay?"

.

.

"Oi, Nedukon," Inosuke whispered, stealing a glance at the idiotically smiling Zenitsu who was trailing behind them. He could see him skipping like a little kid, was sure imaginary flowers were flying around his head, "did you just trick him into helping us?"

Nezuko innocently grinned, he didn't believe that quirk of lips a small bit, "I'm not lying. That means I didn't trick him into coming~"

"Sure. Whatever you say..."

(Inosuke swore to use his brain a little more whenever this girl was involved)

They crossed the thick meadow with hurried yet careful steps. A lot of fallen logs littered the ground and tons of spiderwebs along with its occupants hindering their path, Inosuke gleefully slashed them left and right. Zenitsu's happy countenance had finally dimed five minutes ago and now was back to his nervous state. But he didn't cry or sob. He stayed close and vigilant, kept glancing around the surrounding and his pale yellow sword was out to the world, ready to be used at any moment to protect the only girl in their group from incoming attacks. With one final sweep of her sword through another web, Nezuko stopped the advancing hot-head as she caught sight of a human in a black uniform. The 'DESTROY' logo at the back of it was a clear indication that that teen was another member of their organization. Although from the hairstyle alone—a short, black hair with bangs framing either side of his head—he was a different person, not the victim, they had met at the entrance of the forest. She slowly tapped the side of his cheek, then put both of her hands in the air to show him she meant no harm the moment he turned to look at his sudden companion, one palm already grasping the hilt of his own blade.

"Sorry about that," she whispered, her open palm pointing at her friends on the side, "the Boar Mask is Hashihibara Inosuke. The yellow one is Agatsuma Zenitsu. And I'm Kamado Nezuko. We're rank 10, here for support."

"10?" his loosening shoulder tensed again. The pale face turned even whiter, pupil shrinking even more, "why didn't they send a pillar?! The result will be the same no matter how many level 10s come! It's pointless—"

BUAK

A fist flew right to the middle of the stranger hunter face, abruptly silencing his stuttering words with a snap. And this time, it was not Nezuko's infamous right hook that did the job but Inosuke's irritated punch. Zenitsu eeped, Nezuko gaped.

"Graah! So annoying! Zenbiksu is annoying enough with his previous muttering, I don't need yours to add to the pile!" he grabbed a fistful of the guys black hair and pulled, using his unmoving mask to intimidated the already jumpy senior. Inosuke snorted, letting out a plum of smoke from the nostrils of his headpiece, "if you keep on insisting that things are pointless, then your very existence is pointless!" harsh. The friends simultaneously thought, "now, hurry up and explain the situation, you coward!"

So, with blood oozing from his almost-broken nose and pained whimpers coming from his mouth, he started talking. After receiving their command from their own Kasugaigarasu, ten members of the same rank got here. It was normal at first, no demon at immediate sight, only spiders and other hidden creatures roaming the forest. However, after roughly reaching the center of their journey, the other demon hunters stopped. Turned around.

And started to kill each other.

Just hearing his report was enough to send dread into their entire being. She could imagine it. Your friend, someone you trust to watch your back was the one who stabbed you instead. She couldn't imagine the lingering pain of betrayal and hurt they must've felt. To see a familiar face swipe at you with the intent to kill. Then anger washed over that feeling the moment you realized it was all the monster doing. Using your friend to do your dirty job, hiding safely while they were forced to massacre each other. Unforgivable...unforgivable—

"Ah!" the senior gasps of shock made them tense, Zenitsu pointing his blade to the front. There, behind the rustling trees was another demon hunter. A survivor, judging from the bleeding mouth and blood speckling some of the skin that was not covered by the black uniform, matting the black locks onto the sweaty forehead. Then she saw how his head lolled with blank, unseeing eyes. How awkward he moved, gripping the handle of the weapon with half-hearted determination and Nezuko reiterated. No. Not a survivor.

But a puppet of the demon instead.


In another place at the same time, inside the beautiful manor of the Demon Slayer organization. One of the black crows of the messenger bird huffed and puffed, telling its boss—the leader of the association. The soft-looking man with an equally soft voice—the reason for its arrival.

"I see. You flew back here as fast as you could. Thank you for your hard work," he said, caressing the tired bird gently, asking his kids to fetch it some water to relief its dry throat, "my swordsman are almost all eliminated. There might be a member of the 'Twelve Demon Moon' there. It seems there's a need to send 'Pillars' to the scene."

"Giyu. Shinobu," he called both of the people that were sitting politely inside the manor from the start of the meeting, watching the interaction from behind the back of their guide, "I'll leave the rest to you."

"Order received."

"Hey, Tomioka-san," the first speaker was a beautiful woman with black hair that was tied back by a purple, butterfly ornament. She was smiling serenely, sincere and hopeful, yet her eyes were blank. No emotion reflected inside those purple orbs. And anybody who understands that look will question the difference between her expression and her real feelings. She giggled softly, covering her mouth with delicate fingers, causing the butterfly-like haori to sway. The color gradation on the sleeves—it was green before it turned pink, speckling the white of its base color—somehow glittered like a pretty but deadly pollen, "if we could all get along together, everything would be great. No matter if it's humans or demons. Don't you think so as well?"

"I don't care," the second speaker blandly answered. A man with spiky black hair that was tied into a low horsetail hummed. He sat so rigidly, even the weird haori he wore—two clothes stitched into one. The right side is red and the other is green and yellow, woven into complex patterns—didn't leave any unnecessary creases because of how straight his posture was. He was the Demon Slayer that Nezuko first encountered. The one who almost killed Tanjiro and the man responsible for introducing her to Sakonji, the Water Breath trainer. His black, uncaring orbs glinted under the promise of an upcoming battle, mouth forming into a thin line, "as long as demons still eat humans—"

.

"—that sort of thinking is just a fantasy"


"AHAHAHA!" Inosuke laughed out loud, evading the swipe of another demon hunter—this one has a bald head who appeared from behind the opposite bushes—with a majestic backflip. The blade whizzed past his head, then jumping under the low swipe, continued by dodging the left slash by moving his torso to the right. He was totally having a lot of fun and Zenitsu's frightened whimpers will not darken his mood at all! Not this night! "this bunch of people are all idiots!" he ducked, kicked the ground to gave him a wide distance from his stupid attacker, "don't they know that it's forbidden for members to kill each other?!"

"I don't want to hear that from you, Pig-Head jerk. My broken ribs weeks ago was thanks to you," Zenitsu grumbled, already sheathing his weapon back to its rightful place, not wanting to injure the clearly-humans-and-not-scary-demons. He let out a loud shriek when his enemy—one with a low horse-tail—tried to sever him in half but failed when the teen barely managed to hide behind the tree trunks, the enemy's sword managed to chop the side of the bark instead.

"You're welcome, Zenbiksu!"

"That is not a compliment! And please just remembered my name already!"

"No, Inosuke. Their movements are very strange! I think they're probably being controlled by something" Nezuko chimed in, catching the arms of the demon hunter—the puppet, who showed up as their first assailant—and threw him into the air with a flip. She sprung to the side and blocked the next strike with the box that Tanjiro resided in. It didn't break, of course. Though she silently apologized to her brother because she did just use his temporary home as a shield, "yours and Zenitsu's opponents are still alive. While Senpai's and mine are...are long gone" (because she couldn't see their color anymore. She was hoping, uselessly, that those blank eyes were just a look of someone losing their consciousness. But her Sight never lies, never. And though she appreciates the truth, sometimes—sometimes—she wished it would lie. Just for one second), "so don't harm our companion's corpses as well."

"Man, Nedukon!" the hot-head whined, she imagined he was pouting under that animal headpiece. Both of them spun and tackled their reviving attacker to the ground—Nezuko, by twisting his arm. And Inosuke by suffocating the guy using the inside of his elbow—startling the Senpai from his own battle, "stop denying me my fun!"

There are multiple faint patches of fog on his back. Nezuko realized, staring at the fallen form of her comrade. She pulled one of her Zanbato from its scabbard and swiped at the air behind the attacker. The faint, black fog dispersed. Then a snap could be heard. The awkward movement of the corpse stopped as he fell to the ground with a resounded thud. Of course! Why didn't I think of this sooner? "It's wire! They're being controlled by the wires!" Nezuko informed the squad, "it's on their back! Cut it!"

"Right on!" senpai ducked under the spreading legs and twirled, slashing his blade horizontally.

"O-Okay!" Zenitsu ran around the tree and whipped the weapon down.

"I've already figured that out!" Inosuke jumped into the air then disappeared, his dual sword crossed and cutting the threads of the only survivor standing.

As they breathed a sigh of relief from the reprieve of an uncomfortable battle—in Inosuke's case, he was bragging about his magnificent skills to anyone willing to listen with a loud voice—Nezuko swiveled her head around the dark forest. Where is the enemy, she's asking herself. They were manipulating her comrades from somewhere, the black fog that curled around the body of the attacker was already gone, too faint for her eyes to track on. But they must be here, maybe not too far because it's clear they could see them judging from the puppets relentless and precise attack. She has to find them before—

The distinctive black fog wafted disgustingly. It came from—

My arm?

Then invisible force moved that arm forcefully, trying to pull it off from its socket. She quickly used the only hand available to slice the thin wires. The moment she could control her body again, something fell to the ground. A small animal they have been seeing in this entire journey of their mission. Spiders. The wire that controlled people are linked upon these creatures? Then—

She cursed when the body of their unconscious (along with the dead one) senpai slowly stood up. Reanimated yet with eyes that were still blank.

"Eeep! Simply cutting the wires won't work!" Zenitsu, mr. captain obvious, shrieked then fainted.

"Z-Zenitsu, what are you doing! This is not the time to—argh! Whatever!" at least the puppets didn't have him in their sight, focusing instead on the still moving hunter, now that one of them was out of order, "guys, these spiders are the reason why the senpais are still moving!" she shouted, crushing the one that had fallen off from her arm with the heel of her sandals, "they will reattach the wires upon them. We have to find the demon that controls the spiders!"

"Why don't we just kill all of these animals?" Inosuke asked, his feet were already doing the job as he asked that question.

"No, the spiders are too tiny! And there must be a large amount of them," the only sane senior from the first batch explorer answered. He ducked under the continuous onslaught, "you've realized that, right? We've met a lot of spiderwebs since we arrived in this forest. You've been killing some of them but these people are still being controlled! The girl's right! We need to find the manipulator!"

"Thank you for the explanation, uh..."

"Murata!"

"Murata-san!" she nodded. The pink haori wearer jumped away from the deadly swing, she landed near the tree trunks with a thump, right at the place where the yellow slayer were sleeping. She glanced at the still body. Good, he's still safe. She needs to get away from Zenitsu's haven before the corpses found him and the demon decided to off him, just in case. She dashed, "Murata-san and I will deal with the one being controlled! So, Inosuke. If you are able to locate the demon with precision, we—"

A black fog, different from the spider, surged from above. This fog is a lot more disgusting. A lot more dreadful. A lot more dangerous.

Under the full moon that peaked above the threshold of the forest, Nezuko saw a kid. Maybe one or two years younger than her. White, spiky hair that covered his left eye shined under the moonlight, wearing a white kimono with a spiderweb pattern at the bottom. His pale blue iris residing in a red sclera narrowed, making the red dot tattoos on his face—placed on his right side of his forehead, under the eye of his right cheek and horizontally crossed the bridge of his nose—wrinkled in annoyance. The thing that made her stare at him in anxiety and the hairs on her neck stand was because he was flying. Or, her Sight told her by showing the color, he was walking on the thin thread that connected at one tree to another, creating an improvised bridge for him to stand on. Is he...the manipulator?

"Cursed demon slayers," his voice echoed, soft yet frightening, enveloping the tense atmosphere with even more dread, "don't disturb our clan's peaceful life here."

Clan?

"Stay away from our home. Or..." the wind picked up, shadows covered his face and only showing them his intimidating demon eye, "you will all be killed by Mother in the next few moments."

M-Mother? Does that mean—

"Hey!" Inosuke exclaimed, jumping onto the back of one of their assailants and using his body as a springboard. He tried to attack the kid as his body soared. However, as the distance between the both of them was too far to land any kind of blow, the pretty boy could only fruitlessly swipe the air. The demon huffed and walked away, eliciting rage from the Boar Mask, "damn it, don't run away! Come and fight me!"

"Inosuke, I don't think that demon is the one who's controlling the spiders!" Nezuko blocked the bowl-cut hair hunter's swords with a flourish, kicking the knee to make him buckle, "so you must first—"

"Aaargh! I get it, I get it! You're so annoying, Nedukon!" Inosuke got up from the dirt after landing on the ground on his back, a rather painful looking landing. He then proceeded to stab both of his blades to the ground and squatted, arms spread to either side of his muscled body. While the rest of them kept the puppets from approaching the boy, Inosuke concentrated.

BREATH OF THE BEAST, SEVENTH STYLE. SPACIAL AWARENESS, was one of the techniques he created himself after living in the forest for forever. He was not kidding when he said he has an excellent sense of touch. As long as he concentrates, Inosuke's hidden green eyes sharpened and his sight cleared, he was able to feel those miniscule vibrations in the air around him. The manipulator was clearly far away from them, but Inosuke still sees them; it was in the form of white light so bright in the dark of the night, forming a figure of a human-look alike. He laughed uproariously as he dashed, "Ahahaha, found it! The coward is right over there!"

"W-Wait, Inosuke! Don't be rash—"

"Hey, Nezuko, right?" Murata called, "I'm sorry for showing you guys my embarrassing side but...leave this place to me!"

"Eh?" that announcement startled her, she almost couldn't block the next slash of their foe, "no. There's no way I—"

A sunny, yellow fog shone at the back of her head, lightening this damp night with its bright light.

Nezuko didn't even have time to turn her sight to the source, when a crackle of light rushed past her so fast, the only thing she could see was the trail of shining yellow. Then Zenitsu was already right in front of her, back to back with Murata. With his sword out, his electric fog crackled around his body like a wild animal trying to protect its owner.

"Zenitsu?" the pink hunter slowly approached, palm opened to touch his cheek. He didn't react, eyes still closed and breath even, smoke seeping out of his gritted teeth. She tilted her head in wonder, "is he...sleeping?"

"Wha—no way!" Murata turned, trying to confirm her word. And when he did, the only thing he could do was gape, "but he clearly stopped these people from attacking! You tell me he cut the wire in his sleep?"

Nezuko didn't want to believe it either, something that boggled her mind like this simply couldn't exist. Yet, at the back of her head, she remembered. When they accompanied Kiyoshi, Shoichi, and Teruko to their home. While Zenitsu was busy holding Inosuke back from attacking Nezuko in the name of the spar, Teruko changing Kiyoshi's bandage to a fresh one, little Shoichi decided to recount his experience when they were separated from each other in the Drum Demon's house. He told her about Zenitsu being his usual self—crying helplessly and begging for mercy—before everything changed when a real, demon appeared and ready to consume them both.

"How to describe it. It was...weird, but awesome," the black-haired kid said, a smile adorned his milky face, "I don't know how he could kill the beast when he was clearly unconscious yet he did. And I owe my life to him."

It was weird, to say the least. She knew of people who fought with their eyes closed, relying on their other senses to pinpoint the target; Sakonji did this multiple times when he taught Nezuko how to wield the sword, asking her to attack the old man with intent to strike. But never unconscious. When the function of all the limbs on the body was clearly shut itself down to rest. That revelation made her smile. Despite their hopeless situation, seeing Zenitsu kept snoring away made her shoulders drop. I knew it.

You really are strong.

"Oi, Nedukon!" she blinked when Inosuke's voice reached her hearing. He was a long way from their position, peeking out from behind the thick bushes. The twitch in his figure told her that he was impatient, past annoyed and almost exploding maybe, "let's go already. We don't know how long that demon will stay on their place!"

"Eh? But Zenitsu—"

"I'll stay."

Her sentence was cut off once againwhen a familiar voice interjected the tense surroundings. Did...Zenitsu just sleep talk? She thought incredulously. And it seems it was not just her imagination because Murata's jaw dropped for the second time. That sleep talking was so clear. If I didn't hear the snore, I'm sure he's actually awake. Before they could get a confirmation on this weird scene that was happening though, a joint scuffle of feet on dirt could be heard. The puppets were back in action, revived from their dead.

"Okay, no time to lose anymore. Just leave this to us!" Murata continued his previous proclamation, blade back to the fore. Zenitsu's own weapon was already inside its sheath too, legs drawn back, "cutting the thread is a good idea to use here. The movements of the people being controlled are monotonous and simple. We will be wary of the spiders around too. There'll probably be stronger people being controlled near the demon, so you should hurry up."

The pink haori could not hesitate anymore. Especially when the Thunder Breath user lolled his head to her, eyes not shown, yet the intention behind the closed eyelids were clear, her voice hitched at the sincerity in it, "go, Nezuko-chan. Save our comrades."

"I-I understand," she stuttered, "thank you and please..."

.

.

.

"Stay safe."


"Finally. You're so slow," the Boar Mask wearer grumbled, waiting on the outskirts of the previous battleground with arms folded in front of his broad chest, one leg tapping the ground in irritation. The only girl on their group looked pinched, chewing her bottom lip in worry. Must be thinking about those two boys she left behind. Inosuke didn't really care. If they want to be their shield and stop the stupid hunters from attacking the dual wielders, so be it. Nezuko is the only person who was worth it to be used as his stepping stone—he will show her how his techniques in utilizing two weapons at once are way superior than hers—the others were just a stopping point for him; an annoying wall but necessary to be there as a marker to stop him from ever declining in his skills, "let's go. The boss' neck is there for us to cut."

Their adventure in walking through the forest was just as sucky as their first round, fallen logs and spiderwebs anywhere; this time, he was sure to step on or slice the arachnids they encountered, his way of reducing the chance of getting stupidly controlled like those stupid Senpai. Only the difference between this second journey and the first was, Nezuko didn't talk. Her burgundy-eyes were mostly focused on her surroundings and not making small conversation like she usually did. Maybe because Zenitsu, her first responder, was not here to listen. Inosuke didn't think too much about the reason, but the fact that Nezuko hasn't uttered a single word at all really got on his nerves.

"Hey..." after another minute of awkward silence hanging around the air, she finally talked (and he didn't want to admit that he actually let out a sigh of relief at that. This is a sign of her going back to normal. Not like I care). Her orbs glinted with unshed tears, mouth thinned in a straight line, "from the very start, this mountain has emitted some sort of twisted and unnatural fog, making my body go into a slight bit of shock. D-Do you think Murata-san and Zenitsu—"

"Shut up!" and she did. So the Boar Mask continued. He pointed his index finger at her chest as he spat, "you said so yourself that Zenitsu is strong. And I don't know about Murata, but you should at least believe in that yellow brat."

"Or are you a liar now?"

.

"I told you you're strong, right? Do you think I'm a liar now?"

.

Nezuko was stunned, body rigid and eyes widened. Must be thinking that Inosuke didn't have the gall to throw her words back at her like a double-edged sword. Well, she thought wrong! He's not the type to sugarcoat his sentences. And if they want to hear what was inside his mind, no filter and right to the point, then he will. Without second thought. Inosuke snorted and proceed to continue their journey, intended to leave her this time if she didn't pick up her pace. But her next words stopped him in his tracks. Words that she uttered with appreciation and gratefulness. Words that, somehow, send shiver all over his back, "You coming along really brings me a lot of confidence, Inosuke. Thank you..."

"Thank you so much"

.

.

Inosuke...Inosuke was speechless.

.

(It was their second day of their healing month. The pretty boy, bored because there's nothing to do, was basking under the sun of the day, reminiscing about the days of his solo adventures on the mountain. The city was a bit overwhelming for him, he's sure he'll never get used to the fact that there exists a ton of people, mingling about like a colony of ants. That was why the moment his Kasugaigarasu told him about his mission, banishing the demon that resides within a two-storied, abandoned house, he instantly accepted. Now that the beasts were slain—he's still bitter over the fact that he's not the one who finished the final boss of the house—and have a rest in a place far away from the residence, he could finally relax.

"Hashihibara-sama," he hummed, lazily looked over his shoulder and watching the grandma approached him slowly. From the first day, this old lady presence had been niggling his sensitive senses. He didn't understand why she insisted on helping them, showing them her soft smile on her wrinkled complexion. Today, it seems like she did the same too, caring for a literal stranger without asking anything in return. In her stubbly hands was a fresh, clean yukata, folded tidily without creases. She sat on the terrace and offer that said yukata to him. That permanent smile still unnerved him to no end, "please use this."

"Ha?! What for?" Inosuke huffed, "I have my own, I don't need that thing on me. It's going to hinder my skills." That's the reason why he didn't wear the Demon Hunter official uniform. He felt like that black abomination was choking him every second he had to wear that thing.

"Don't worry, Hashihibara-sama. I knew about your situation, so I prepared a different yukata for you," Grandma spoke, chuckling a little bit, "the material feels good. And wearing it is really comfortable. Your clothes have a lot of food on them and I will return them to you after I wash them clean. So before that, please wear this yukata I've prepared. I promised you that you'll like this."

"Urgh...fine, fine," he acquiesced, glumly putting on the light green yukata.

...okay, this is really nice. But he won't admit it!

"Dinner tonight shall be tempura. That's the one with the flour on the outside and fried," she explained, maybe seeing the confusion wafting up from beneath the headpiece. She stood up and bowed, "have a nice day."

"Ah, grandma!" he called her before she could disappear from around the corner, hand outstretched. The small old lady turned to him, lips still quirked up. That made him hesitate as he put his hand down and turned to look at the front porch, "...no. Never mind. Just...tell me when dinner is served")

.

(He couldn't say it. The word that was stuck in his throat)

.

("Can I keep these clothes?")

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(He couldn't)

(Because if this is what kindness feel, so warm and so soft, he didn't want to push the boundary. Didn't want to push his luck and push them away instead)

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"Oh," Nezuko's clipped voice startled him from his reverie. She was looking at him curiously, red eyes glinting with confusion, "did you say Zenitsu's name correctly just now?"

"Wha—no, I did not!" Inosuke denied. Was it just his imagination or was the environment around them was hotter now somehow? "I called him Zenbiksu!"

"Really? I'm pretty sure you did, though..."

"I did not! Urgh, just...come on already!" he stalked off, ignoring Nezuko's small giggle from behind.

(No. His heart definitely didn't jump. It didn't react to Nezuko's, or even that Grandma's, kindness towards him. No. It. Did. Not!)

Their light-hearted moment had to be cut short, however, when the bushes on their right rustled, they immediately went into their fighting stances. There, at the opening of another way that was hidden by the foliage, was a girl. She was two or three years older than Inosuke, with black hair that was styled into a short, horse-tail. Another member of the Hunter organization, a survivor and not the puppet, since her complexion looked healthy, albeit covered with sweat, eyes shining with sanity. Yet they didn't let their stance go. Her appearance only causing them to tense further instead. Because even if it was clear she still has her mind intact—

"Please...please call the higher ranking person to come here," she cried, pleading as her body trembled, "If you don't...I...I!"

—the corpse of another slayer that was clenched tightly in her left hand and the other one that was stabbed horrifyingly by her blade, right on his neck, did not help the case of her innocence at all.

"I'm going to end up killing everybody!"

Chapter Text

"Ufufufu," the demon sitting on top of a big boulder chuckled eerily. She has white hair, flowing down her back, with long bangs that were tied into a simple low tail. She was wearing a white kimono that covered her slender body, although her boobs were splayed out for the world to see. Her hands were moving in tandem, invisible threads running from her fingers to the darkness of the forest. She was the mastermind. The one who controlled the unconscious and dead seniors, "the closer you get to me, the larger the threads will become. And the stronger they will be. So come, if you dare. I won't hesitate to give my warm welcome~"

"Mother."

Her glee was abruptly halted, however, when a familiar voice rang through the open-field. Her body immediately tensed, sweat rolling down her forehead and her face went pale. Behind one of the trees' trunks, stood another white-haired fiend. A child. The same demon who had appeared before Nezuko and company. There's no expression on his smooth, milky face. Yet that send dread through her entire back anyway, chilling the already cold night and scaring her so much that she almost couldn't breath, "R-Rui?"

"Can we win?" his mouth slightly opened, uttering the sentence like it was an announcement of doom, an opening speech that will throw her into the depths of hell, "will this take too long? And take up too much time? If you don't—"

.

"I will tell father."

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.

.

And here it was. Words that sent her reeling.

.

No. She remembered. The very first weeks they started gathering as a family. She remembered when that man hit her. Punched her. Punished her. When in his anger and blind fury, he tore her flesh open, blinding her left eye in the process. She was begging. Pleading. Apologizing. Because she was wrong. She won't do it again and tell me. Why are you mad? What displeased you?

Your fault lies with not knowing why he is mad, was what Rui said, looking over the events from above. No remorse on his face at all, even after seeing his mother hurt. But how could he? How could he say that to her? She's his mother, she is his family. Why won't he tell her what was I doing wrong so I can rectify my mistakes and be a good parent to you—

Rui's older brother laughed mockingly from behind the bushes, watching the drama with pleasure clearly written on his deranged face. While Rui's older sister just silently stared as she sat on top of the branch of the tallest tree. They didn't help. They didn't move a single muscle to rescue their mother. They didn't even blink when Father grabbed a clump of her hair forcefully, ready to rain another verdict to the oblivious woman please help  me. Help me, help me, help me—

.

"Mother?" her youngest's voice snapped her from her flashback, making the muscles under her skin bunch in trepidation, wrinkling the red, continuous dots on her forehead, her nose, and at each side of her lips into ugly, horrendous lines.

"E-Everything will be fine!" she screeched. Eyes bulging and pupil dilating, "Mother can do it! I will definitely protect you! So please! Don't tell Father! Don't—"

"Then hurry," he spoke as his way of saying goodbye before he disappeared into the dark. She waited for another second, huffing and puffing. Ready to steady herself if Rui thought that threat was not enough to 'encourage' her and came back to give her another. When he didn't, she faced forward once more, determination lit in those desperate, white gaze.

"UURRGGHHHH! Die, die, die, DIE all of you!" she growled, hands now moving even more fiercely, causing the threads that looped around her fingernails weaved crazily, "or else I'm going to...I'm going to end up as...!"

At the other side of the forest, where Nezuko and Inosuke were halted on their trek by the black-haired girl, the hunter screamed, "RUN!" as she dashed towards the pair. Her body moved against her will, slashing the air with intent to kill even though the girl's desire was nothing but that. She was clearly being controlled, her movements were completely different. A level ten such as Nezuko and the senior herself was not that strong. They may as well just as weak as a newbie hunter, never mind the experiences they had after finishing off a mission. The burgundy eyes hunter watched in horrified fascination as the senior's arms cracked, moving so awkwardly to her back before it swung back to the front, blade whizzing past her face, almost nicking her ear and chopping some strands from her ponytail. The invisible threads were forcing drastic actions upon the body. Yet, it means nothing to the demon. So long as they have their puppets in their clutch, no matter if the bones break or the human dies in the process, they'll use it till they drop. This is cruel. Too, too cruel—

While she dodged the girl's incessant onslaught, the bushes behind her rustled. Two other hunters came out from behind the foliage. Broken, beaten, bloody, and arms twisting in grotesque directions, Nezuko didn't know how they could still be gripping onto their weapons that tight. Although, at the back of her mind where she had shoved all of her negative thoughts aside, it must be that they didn't even feel the nerves on that hands anymore, numb. That the demon used the thread to wrap their fingers around the handles and make them wield the heavy swords even at the cost of their mobility.

"K-Kill us..." said the first one with cracked forehead, gushing out red liquid that was sticking into his shoulder-length hair, gluing the strands onto his black and blue face, "the bones within our arms...and legs are all broken..." his voice was hoarse, like he had screamed his lungs out in pain for hours. Where a long, long time of him being forced to be a puppet of this cruel beast had passed and now he was too tired to continue, "our internal organs are broken...and damaged. We are...being forced to move. This...this pain...we'd rather die. No matter—cough—what option we take—cough, cough—the results...is death."

"Save us, please. Stop this...finish us..." the second one with short hair and bloody, vertical slash from his left eye to the right side of his mouth, chimed in. His body trembled, tears stinging his droopy eyes that the sight itself hurt Nezuko's heart so much no, no, no, no. Don't say that. Don't make me banish your beautiful color. Your aquamarine. And your rosewood, no—

"KILL US!"


"Okay! I got it!" Inosuke unsheathed his dual, chipped katana from its scabbard, crossing them with each other to show the gleam within. He jumped towards the male hunters, already squatting to elude their incoming attacks, "I'll fulfill your wish!"

"W-Wait, Inosuke!" Nezuko stammered, still dodging the puppet girl's blade, "there must be a way to save them. I'm sure we..."

"Aaarghhh! Shut up, Nedukon! You talk too much!" he ducked, letting the weapon of the short-haired teen whizz past his head. Pig Mask sent his left leg upward, snapping the broken bone of the Short Hair's left arm to another direction. The force made his grip on the handle slip and the weapon tumbled to the ground. He then jumped upward, escaping the downright slash of the Shoulder-Length hair, "they said it themselves. They want to die! This bunch is fast and we'll be the one killed if we dawdle! I'm trying to think of a way to deal with them fast and try not to make them suffer that much if you prefer it that way. So just shut your mouth for a second!"

Even so, I still don't want to kill them. To kill a normal human who was just trying to live their life to the fullest. She grunted when Horse-Tail's next strike almost cut her chest open. There must be a way to stop them because honestly, hacking at the thread was useless, they immediately reattached the moment the line was cut. Right. Maybe that'll work!

Nezuko bent before she rushed, running away from the Horse-Tail senior. She thought she heard Inosuke angry shouting. Saying that there's no point in running around, it won't solve this conundrum are you kidding me? But she didn't pay any attention to his sulking as she skidded to a halt, Horse-Tail's next swing went above her crouching body. Nezuko grabbed her waist and threw her to the sky with a loud cry. The senior went flying, her eyes widening and jaw agape, as she sailed through the air, passed the tree and—

Stop. She whimpered when her whole figure halted abruptly in the middle of the descent. When Horse-Tail opened her eyes, she realized that the threads on her person were tangled up on the branches, rendering it worthless for the hiding demon to use her any longer.

Alright! Nezuko cheered inside. Now onto the next target.

Mother silently observed from the spiders around the forest. When the Pig Mask gleefully repeated the trick and turned another puppet of hers ineffective; it was the Shoulder-Lenght one this time. And when Inosuke guffawed uproariously, demanding attention from his companion, which the pink hunter gave almost distractedly. Pretty sure she didn't see his gallant move yet she praised him anyway just to appease the hot-headed boy. Mother's smooth complexion scrunched up once more, teeth gnashing and eyes murderous, "in that case, I'll have to release that doll!" she growled, the wires on her hands tightened, she yanked, "I don't need these weak puppets anymore! Useless, useless, useless—"

The neck of the seniors suddenly snapped, making their heads roll and faced their own back. Inosuke's breath stuttered and Nezuko's voice choked, red eyes shivering in horror.

"—they are all so useless!"

.

.

They...They're dead. Inosuke blankly thought, staring at their previous assailants in shocked silence. Before it changed into anger and he screamed in frustration, "AARRGH! Bastard! Now they're all dead! Oi, Nedukon!" he swiveled his head to the girl, who was bowing at the side of the battlefield, touching the Short Hair's body tenderly with her calloused hand, "look at this! We've done a good job at not killing them and yet—"

And yet, he halted. Yet, he didn't finish his whine the moment he sensed Nezuko's darkening mood. The air around her chilled to a certain degree, shadow that somehow covered her face didn't help in calming Inosuke down. It only made the hair on his nape stand even further. The Water Breath User slowly rose up, back still to him, the box Tanjiro was in rattled with unease. It seemed the demon inside also sensed his sister's change. Nezuko didn't pay any attention to that and simply started speaking. Her voice was just as soothing as before. But in this tense silence, it was like she was shouting in blind anger, "let's go."

"...yeah."

So, for the third time, they continue their journey. His skin prickled, it sensed that the demon—the manipulator—was nearby. And he knew Nezuko knew that fact too, as her eyes were rolling, seeing something only she could see. Except again, for the third time in a row that it started being repetitive, their trek had to be stopped when a shadow that vaguely shaped like a human stood in their way. His stomach twisted when he saw who the hell dare to get in their way when he was (when Nezuko was) clearly in a bad mood. It was a body. Like, literally a body without a head. Judging from his half-naked form, it was a male. Wearing only pants that were badly torn, showing his thigh and knee; the left side of his pants managed to hold onto his muscled leg just because a piece of its clothes were still hanging desperately onto the ankle. Both of his arms were not human arms. Instead, from his elbows to his palms, they changed into the leg of a spider. Striped, hairy, and pointy. Inosuke was sure that legs...err...arms—whatever!—were used as some sort of weapon too, a short spear that will slash then pierce them mercilessly.

"Disgusting!" was Nezuko initial reply.

It was. And, "this guy doesn't have a weak spot!" Pig Mask blinked in realization. He stomped the ground in a childish pout, annoyed at the weird creature that was presented before their sight, "wha—huh? The heck—I can't chop at him if he doesn't have one!"

"C-Calm down, Inosuke. Let's stop for a while and think," while the monstrosity stays rooted in its place, not charging at them like the weapon of destruction he was. He didn't know why the manipulator didn't immediately use this surely-stronger-than-the-previous-puppets to send them away like headless chickens. But they thank whatever-deity that exists who listened to their plea for a small reprieve, even if it was just a split second, "I know. Let's cut at him from a diagonal angle. From his shoulders! Let's try to slice that thing from the bottom right side of the neck to beneath its left armpits. It's a large area so it'll probably be tough. But it'll be the same as we are cutting his neck. So—"

"Got it!" the hot-head interjected, not wanting to hear any more explanation and difficult jargon, "I'm going first! YAHAAAAA!"

"Wait! We should do this together—"

Both of them—Inosuke and the headless fiend—lept at each other—

SLASH SLASH SLASH SLASH

But the only one who received damages was the pretty boy in the Boar Mask, blood pouring from the scratches on his cheek, knuckle, arms, stomach, and thighs. The movement of this puppet was clearly faster than the previous ones. Even if he managed to dodge at the very last second, it still injured him with its speedy thrust. Not good. For the first time in his life, Inosuke felt dread. The spiders of the hidden manipulator were around this area as well. Landing on his skin and every one of his limbs, his body abruptly stopped in motion. Not good. Not good, not good, not good!

I can't move! His widening green eyes peered from beneath the headpiece, staring in terror as the arm/leg slash spear descended upon his head. I can't move and I'm going to be killed—

Nezuko appeared in between them all of a sudden, catching the weapon with her own and used the other to give him a wide swing. It didn't hurt the puppet, yet it made him jump back, away from the teenager and that distance was enough for them to take a breather. The ponytail girl cut the strings that contained Inosuke's movement and glared, "I told you we should do this together, am I? Look at you now, you're hurt! You really should take better care of yourself, Inosuke! Think about your future!"

While Nezuko proceeded to scold the living heck out of him, Inosuke realized the puppet was prepared to pounce once more; weapons ready to the fore.

"Uh...Nedukon..."

"Okay, I'll let you bend your bones in whatever your body allows you to, as long as it's within your limit. But jumping without a plan, when we are clearly fighting the bigger demon here, is a no no. For a small fry, sure—"

"Nedukon," the headless demon was almost within their distance, "you should turn around and—"

"And then there's your reckless fighting! Just because you lived on a mountain before, doesn't mean your skin is as thick as a stone! It'll tear if you're pierced by a sharp object. You'll bleed the same red blood because you're just as human as I am—"

"NEZUKO! BEHIND YOU!"

"STEP ON ME, THEN!"

Inosuke jumped, using the box on her back as a springboard. He slashed his dual katanas with frightful speed, cutting off both of the puppet's hands. Pig Mask did another leap, now putting his position right at the top of the demon's blind peripheral—

Nezuko, using her head as her impromptu footing, twisted her body and moved her Zanbatos to the same direction; now in double-edged Naginata mode so the skill she'll use will focus onto one spot instead of scattering everywhere, "Breath of Water, Third Style," her niichirin blade let out a gush of blue water, forming a single, wavy wave of a clear liquid that sliced the beast's legs apart. Making him lose his balance and he stumbled forward, "THE BEATING TIDE!"—

Then Inosuke swung his chipped sword at the same time, cutting the shoulder, along with his right hand and leftover neck in one strike. One strike that ends it all.

"Yes! A beautiful slice! You did it, Inosuke! Good job!" Nezuko smiled so wide, it was almost painful to see. She giggled, sounded nearly manic in this tense atmosphere, "and you called me by my name too! I know you were, I heard it loud and clear! You can't pretend you didn't this time, ha!"

What's wrong with her, it's really pissing me off! Inosuke landed with a loud thump, he placed the weapons back in its sheaths. Everything is under this girl's control. It's like this development was meant to happen. Just like water flowing through current into a stream. This guy doesn't step forth to handle things by herself. Instead—

"Inosuke?" she questioned when the Beast Breath User rushed to her, the eyeball of that headpiece glinted with unnamed emotion.

she reads the entire flow of the battle and holds it within her mind!

"GRAAAHHH! I CAN DO WHATEVER YOU CAN DO TOO, YOU BASTARD!" the pretty boy roared, as he clamped the girl from the waist down, she let out a small yelp. With another loud exclamation, he threw the pink haori wearer into the open sky, ignoring her shriek and letting out a huff of satisfaction, "that'll teach you not to underestimated my thinking process, hmf!"

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"It's defeated! It's defeated, it's defeated, it's defeateeedddd!" Mother was sweating, face turned whiter than ever before, staring at her threads that slowly fall to the ground; losing strength now that no one was there for it to reattach itself. Her body was trembling, white orbs swiveling right and left, up and down. She was definitely in distress, she almost hyperventilated, "that puppet was the fastest and the strongest but now! Now it was defeated!"

"This is all because Rui came and threatened me!" she wailed, hugging her slender figure with her hands, trying to stop the quivers to no avail, "which is why I panicked! I panicked and I—"

The wind whistled and the leaves crackled. The white-haired devil jolted, her head moved skyward. Reflected on her demonic eyes, she saw the demon slayer—the girl one. The cheerful one. With a wide smile and easy laugh she looks so happy even in this perilous situation I'm jealous—up in the air, dual Zanbatos pulled to the back of her head ready to be used. Her darkening form against the shining, full moon frightened her like no other, "No!" she paled, fingers moving jerkily, "no! I'm going to be killed! My head is going to be chopped off! Hurry up and think! Hurry up and think—"

.

("If you don't... " Rui's blank face resounding inside her mind,  "I will tell father.")

(He will tell father. Even if I survived this, he'll tell father and I'll be punished I'll suffer, suffer,  suffer—)

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.

("If I die...")

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Nezuko took a deep breath, burgundy eyes sharpened (and the black thread circling her neck loosened before it tightened), "First style—"

Mother's hands moved, the strings on her fingers cutting apart and fell to the earth.

Then the hunter saw it. She saw something change in the fiend's demeanorSaw how her palms were wide open, no weapons in sight. Saw how her eyes shifted. At first, it was bleak without emotion. Terror with a tint of desperation. Then—

acceptance. Hopeful for the next journey of the afterlife. The next journey full of happiness that will accept her in a warm, warm, warm embrace of a caring family—

("If I die..." that widening pupils silently said, "I shall be released. I'll be able to feel happy again—")

Nezuko changed her grip; from clutching the handle with fervor to a soft hold with appeasing reassurance, "Breath of Water, Fifth Style—"


"Nezuko," she recalled Sakonji's words from before. It was their second week of training the ten Water Breath Techniques, she was chopping up the logs around using the skills the old man in Tengu Mask taught beforehand. He was seeing Nezuko's work from afar, leaning on the bamboo almost lazily, "do you remember the first demon you encounter on your journey in meeting me that day?"

Of course. She could never forget that. When the thing she thought was a mere myth all this time, a story parents told so their children won't play after the sunset, was actually real. When those demons are actually alive, kicking, disgusting. Sad. When she broke down and shouted accusation at her trainer (she apologize the moment her mind was clear. In which Sakonji waved it away. As long as she used that spite to becomes stronger, a verbal insult will never rattle him) for questioning her resolve. When the reality sank in as she saw her brother kicked the head of the demon apart. That Tanjiro was now a demon as well. That it's not a dream. That her family were now gone, gone,  gone—

"That was your first fight. And I understand that you hold sympathy for them, knowing that they were previously human. That they must have their own feeling and emotion," he continued. The unblinking stare of the mask's bulging eyes gazed, "but, for a kind person such as yourself, think about it this way. If you find a demon that retained their humanity as much as your brother does..."

"Will you wait for the sun to come up again, making them suffer and die in pain?"

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Nezuko gulped.

Sakonji was right. That was...if she did the same thing to the first demon she met—hesitating. Waiting. When that time comes, he was suffering. His agonized scream still haunted her even today—she was just as cruel as the demon she will slay in the future. Torturing them, letting them drown in misery by the sole weakness of their kind. She couldn't do that to them, no matter how evil the demon was. Because they were human. They had a family. They had a life. Just like Nezuko did. Just like Tanjiro did.

She couldn't—

"I want you to resolve yourself," the old man said, jolting her from her dilemma, "Killing them may be harsh for the first time around. But it'll also release them from their struggling. Some of them must not want to be turned into a man-eating monster that killed their own family."

"And if you do find a demon that is just as nice as your brother one day, willing to atone for their sin of killing innocent civilians," he walked up the her and unsheathed his own katana, pulling his legs back while standing in a stance she didn't recognize, "I want you to use this technique."


Nezuko landed gracefully to the ground behind the boulder Mother sat on, hands spread at each side of her body before they slowly drew forward; like a bird closing their wings to sleep. The air rippled, showering the beast with water droplets. A rhythmic drizzle that calmed the crying baby and soothed even the most violent person ever. The small rain continued for the next second, accompanying the distressful fiend with its melodic sounds as her head lolled, chopped off from her shoulder by the smooth trail of a gentle water.

THE MERCIFUL RAIN OF A DRY DAY, was the name of that skill. There is little to no pain when sliced by the fifth style. Because this is a sword technique only used when the opponent offers their own neck.

The sword strike of kindness.

Chapter Text

This feeling is just like being showered by a gentle rain.

No pain...no agony...

Only warmness.

I...never thought there could be such a peaceful way to die...

And now...I'm—

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.

free


Nezuko swerved her head to the left, staring at the night sky above their heads in wonder. She thought she heard thunder clamoring in the distance. But the sky didn't flicker, the clouds didn't even manifest. Maybe it was just her imagination. She mistook Inosuke thundering complaints—saying that he's not injured (which, he clearly is) and he didn't need any treatment at all (which, he clearly did!)—for the natural occurrence of rain and storm. She was still bandaging Inosuke's wounds despite his stubbornness as she recalled what happened minutes ago. After she killed the manipulator. After that disgusting, disturbing black fog turned into a pretty, sorrowful, sad, sad, sad peach why? Why are you so sad? Even after you've turned into a demon, you still have your family, right? So why—

(Nezuko knew why. She knew from the very beginning. Because—)

Mother was crying, yet peace was evident in her face that slowly turned into dust. She smiled at her, grateful and thankful, she said, "there's a Twelve Demon Moon here. Please, be careful"

(Because they were not her 'family')

(It does not matter if they're not real. Adopted children are just as precious as your blood-related child. No. The thing is, this 'family' of her doesn't exude any warmth. Doesn't exhibit any protection)

(Instead, it was full of fear, disdain, and decay, it hurt, it hurt, it hurts  so  much—)

(The thing is, Nezuko was very lucky. To never be a part of a family that despises each other. So she didn't know and didn't understand how a family could hate their own members. How could older siblings hurt their own younger siblings. How could parents mock their own children)

(The thing is...the only thing she could do for her was...pray. Pray that, in her next journey of the afterlife—)

(She'll reincarnate into a caring and loving family she wished she had)

So, after that revelation, Nezuko was adamant that they had to go back to check on Zenitsu and Murata. Then, when they reconvened, they have to get out of this forest and called for a backup. She won't run away, she needs the Twelve Demon Moon's blood as it was one of the main ingredients in creating a cure for Tanjiro. Yet, she knew, deep down, that she was not strong enough. Her fight between Yahaba broke most of her bones. And don't ever forget about Kyogai with his spinning room, her unfinished-healing ribs shattered once more. That's why she wants to ask Kasugaigarasu for reinforcement. She'll just stealthily drain the demon's blood after the stronger slayer finished the job. It's cowardly, Nezuko admitted, especially when she agreed on Tamayo's task to handle the job—

"But your survival is just as important as this mission, Nezuko-chan," the beautiful doctor told her that day, after helping them in packing their belongings and before they departed for their next journey. In the background, Tanjiro was seen humming happily as he loads buckets and buckets of medical equipment to the cart. While Yushiro chased after him and indignantly screamed to handle Tamayo-sama's things with care or I'll sue you for property damage! Tamayo clasped her hand and stared at her burgundy orbs, "so if you think there's still time and you're not strong enough to fight them that time around, please retreat. For the sake of your brother. And for your own survival."

She promised to stay safe. So stay safe it'll be.

Nevertheless, Inosuke didn't agree with that sentiment, as expected. That's why he took off, literally. Jumping from tree to tree like some kind of ninja to the place he sensed the remaining demons were accumulating. He was as swift as he was agile, she couldn't reach him, not before he tripped—the wounds on his thigh must be the factor of his subtle wince—and fell from the branch, damaging himself even further.

"Don't run, Nedukon!" he exclaimed, anger and spitting mad, "if you're waiting and waiting and waiting, you won't get stronger! If you keep fighting the lesser demons instead, you'll stagnant. And I don't want my stepping stone to become that kind of unworthy trash!"

.

.

Aah...he's right.

What am I doing, getting cold feet after going through the ordeal this far? Just because the forest had been emanating some disturbing fogs?

Sorry, Tamayo-san. Nezuko wryly smiled. But I think I'll break that promise from now on.

"Ah! There it is!" Inosuke said, she blinked in question. Across the small river with a natural bridge made by flat stones, stood a demon. She was a teenage girl, having the same white hair that was styled in simple pigtails—for both of her long bangs and the rest of the locks behind her back—the same white eyes and the same white kimono. Four red, continuous dots decorated her milky complexion; two on her forehead and two under her mouth, it looked like the marks were making an unfinished cross across her face, disappearing before it reach her nose. The moment her sight landed at them, she instantly turned back to where she came, Inosuke guffawed, "she's scared! let's chop her up now, Nedukon!"

"W-Wait, Inosuke—" Nezuko said, trying to stop him from dashing recklessly towards the enemy once again. However, she was too late when—

"FATHER!" the fiend screamed.

WHAM

Something—or someone—fell from the sky—

"GROAAARRRRR!"

And then it—he—roared at them. A beast with the body of a human. But the face of a spider head. Along with long, flowy white hair, seven blank black orbs, and several sharp teeth that added the horror factor of this being representation.

"DISGUSTING!" was, again, Nezuko initial response.

"Get away..." he growled, fist pulled back. Before he slammed it to the ground. So fast, so strong! It cracked the earth into a big dent, splattering chunks of big boulders to every direction, "get away from my FAMILY!"

BOOM


"Breath of Water, second Style—" Nezuko, in mid-leap, swung one of her Zanbatos downwards, ready to split his head vertically, "WATER WHEEL—"

WHAM

But the demon blocked it with his arm alone. Her blue blade was stuck. It didn't even go through the whole arm at all, only managed to cut into two centimeters of his skin. The human spider used that opening to send a punch to Nezuko, who was struggling to pull the weapon out. Inosuke immediately interjected, stopping the onslaught with both of his swords. Alas, just like Nezuko, his retaliation was futile and the demon decided to throw them away instead, now that both of the hunters were stuck on him and he couldn't use both of his arms at that moment. The instant they were away from the beast's personal space—cartwheeling through the air and landing to the ground with grace, in Nezuko's case. And landing on his knees, skidding to a halt that left a trail of dust, in Inosuke's case—the fiend pounced. Big, burly arms swung with intense speed. The moment he brought it down, it smashed the earth under the river like butter, splashing the water and shattering the whole chunk of its base, creating another small crater in it.

I can't cut him even with the Second Style of Water Breath, crap! Is he the Twelve Demon Moon Mother's told me about? But I didn't see any number. Maybe he hid it like Kyogai? She didn't know and she didn't really care at the moment. One thing she took notice of though, was Inosuke using that small opening to lash out another vertical slash. The demon instantly turned around and backhanded him away, right under his chin. Nezuko—internally apologized for using Inosuke's opportunity to create her own attack—went to the opposite direction of the battlefield. If she cannot cut him when his attention was trained onto them, in which it made him easily recognized their movement and blocked their strike with the utmost force possible, then—, "Breath of Water, Second Style Modified," (she used this once, she hoped she's strong enough to use it again and the skill will not leave her breathless because of her inexperience) she moved both of her weapons horizontally to slashed at one of the many trees, "HORIZONTAL WATER WHEEL!"

Inosuke watched with bated breath when the tree slowly fell. Right on top of the ready-to-leap demon.

("She cut down a tree with that stick arm of hers? Pig Mask belatedly thought, silently impressed. That's so cool)

Alright! He's trapped! Nezuko ran with all her might, not wanting to lose her chance now that the demon was pinned down by the big trunk. Her grips changed, water started flowing from her blade, "Full Focus. Breath of Water, Tenth Style—"

"NO, NEDUKON! STAY AWAY FROM HIM—"

Unfortunately, his warning came a tad bit too late. Because one second she thought she had it and the next second, the human spider was standing up. Pushing the log away from his back, hands grasped onto the end of the humongous log, lifting it and swinging it like a bat—

WHAAAAMMM

—right into the advancing pink slayer. Flinging her to the sky like she weighed nothing at all.

"NEDUKON!"

NO! Nezuko wailed, teeth gnashed. She softened the blow to her body with the hilt of her sword while jumping back, so the demon couldn't kill her with the physical force. But still. She could not descend to the earth on her own accord. She was flying. Away from the battleground. Away from Inosuke. Away from her friend, no, no, no, no, NO—

"INOSUKE! That guy may be one of the Twelve Demon Moons! One of Muzan's underlings. So, under any circumstances, don't die!" she screamed, her cracking voice halting the hunter from trying to stand up, body trembling—a sign of blood loss. She knew she had to properly heal him, despite his protests, darn it—Tears started springing from her eyelids, frustration clear on her furrowed eyebrow, "don't die, don't die, PLEASE, DON'T YOU DARE DIE! DON'T YOU DARE LEAVE ME ALONE. NOT AGAIN! I DON'T WANT TO LOSE ANYONE ANYMO—"

Then she's gone, leaving the dumbfound Inosuke with the growling demon, ready to continue their dance of danger in this night without stars.

.

.

.

"WATER WHEEL!"

WHUMP

GRASAK GRASAK SKIIIDD

"Okay. Okay, okay, okay, I somehow landed safely..." Nezuko took a deep, long breath. Sweat poured from her forehead, drenching her bangs and making them stick to her face, she swiped it away. The pink hunter blinked multiple times to chase the tears away, not wanting her vexation to cloud her judgment. Now that her impromptu take-off was over, she needs to get back to Inosuke. That demon was too strong, his strength was borderline monstrous. Nezuko didn't mean to underestimate the Pig Mask's skills, but her teammate was injured. Blood covering half of his body, fighting with that kind of open wounds in the middle of the water was like playing inside a stack of needles; prickling and painful. So she needs—no—has to help Inosuke. She won't let her friend die. She won't let her precious people go from her life not again

"KYAAAAAAHHHHH!"

However, a blood-curdling scream rang through the entire forest, stopping her in her tracks. Because of her own panicking, Nezuko didn't even realize that, not too far from her position, was the demon she met at the riverside. Before Father came to them like a devil ready to bring them doom. The pigtails beast was kneeling on the ground, covering her face with both of her palms, trying to stop the blood from flowing or just a knee-jerk reaction after her whole complexion was cut up mercilessly. How did Nezuko know, when the demon girl's face was hidden by her own hands? Because the perpetrator was right there. Stringing the thread on his fingers slowly, almost lovingly. Red liquid (that certainly belongs to the girl on the ground, what the fu—) dripped from the thin, invisible strings. He was the very first white-haired demon she saw, the one who overlooked their previous struggle from the vantage point. The kid that was younger than her—judging from his physique, of course. For all she knew, this demon was a lot older than her—he slowly turned to her, yellow eyes staring in boredom, "what are you looking for? This isn't for show"

Her black fog swayed pitifully. It cowered from the thick, horrifying black of that kid. It reminded her of Mother's fog, coiling around her body, trying to make itself as small as possible. Like it was afraid something will strike it down. Like she was afraid someone will strike her down and it made Nezuko's stomach churned—

"Wh-What are you doing?" she numbly asked. Before her tone turned aggressive, a low growl rose from the back of her throat, "What the heck are you doing?! Isn't she your ally?"

The demon kid tilted his head, confusion shining on that blank, uncaring expression, "Ally? Don't liken it to such a shallow thing," he strummed the deadly thread, wiping the blood away as he continued, "we are family. We are tied by strong bonds. This is between me and neechan. If you're gonna meddle in this needlessly, I'll dice you up."

"Did you even listen to yourself?!" Nezuko snarled, her burgundy eyes popped, "both family and allies are tied by strong bonds. They're valuable! There's nothing shallow about it even if you're not connected by blood. Their fog will look happy, bouncing and dancing merrily around their companion. But you guys..." she clenched her hands, gripping onto her dual Zanbatos so tight, her skin turned white (So he was the one. Who planted desperation into these family. Who planted sorrow into Mother. Deep enough she begged me to kill her how could he, how could he, how could he!), "fear, hatred, and disgust is all I see! This is not bond. Everything is a sham. A fake—"

"Your family is nothing but a PATHETIC DISGUISE!"


OMAKE

Chapter 32-35

I'm having a dream. Zenitsu breathed through his mouth. Huffing and puffing, trying his best to hinder the blood clogging his throat or else he'll drown and die.

A dream where I'm strong. Stronger than anyone else.

I could help weak and troubled people anytime. Nobody will leave me. Nobody will abandon me.

A dream...where I was so useful to everyone.

Zenitsu choked on his sobs, sweat pouring from his forehead. He couldn't do this. He tried evening his breath as his jii-chan (illusion) told him to. To delay the venom from spreading and surviving for a moment longer. But he knew he was reaching his limit. Every time he remembered the fiend—body of a giant spider yet head of a normal human. Short, white hair and green eyes on top of red scleras. Red continuous dots that started from his left temple to his left chin, the other circling his right eye. The devil. The one who bestowed him with this illness he didn't want—every time he remembered the perpetrator, the poison inside of him boiled. Like it knew they had to do this job at least right. The owner is dead, but that doesn't mean they can't bring the sun-haired kid along with them to hell.

He wanted to weep. To roll over and sleep. To curled in the embrace of his lovely, precious jii-chan. The one who saved him when he was financially supporting the woman who eloped with him and riddled with debt (although maybe he bought him as a potential student he could mold into a fine swordsman, Zenitsu didn't really care). The one who was always there to protect him. Supported him, shouting encouragement at him. Even when his students mocked him, sneered at him, spat at him—

("Get lost, you coward!" one of Jii-chans apprentices angrily threw a peach at him. He was frowning and growling. The golden Magatama that was tied by a blue thread around his neck gleamed under the peeking sun. Black, unkempt hair swayed because of the breeze, "sensei was a 'Pillar'. He was a person who received the title of 'the strongest Demon Hunter'. But all the time sensei spent teaching you were completely useless! Why is a worthless orphan like you are here? You're an eyesore! Disappear! Disappear, disappear—")

("Stay with us," Jii-chan said. Smiling and eyes determined, "you can run, you can cry, but you can't give up. You can only use one technique out of six? Then so be it! You have a talent, Zenitsu. If that talent is using one skill rather than another, then take that one ability. Honed it until you can't anymore. And bring it to the distance!")

—he was always there, strict as hell but was extremely patient no matter how many times Zenitsu ran.

Jiichan is a diminutive man, with grey hair, bushy eyebrows, and a bushy mustache. A scar under his left eye told him an unspoken story that he had been through so much. Too much, that Zenitsu wanted to cheer him, wanted to thank him by living up to his expectations; be a swordsman he was proud of and could protect weak people like Jiichan did in his prime time. Yet Zenitsu couldn't produce any results. A failure through and through, the world hated him just as much as he hated himself that it struck him with lightning. Changing his black hair to a blinding, electric color.

And now, it happened again. He was careless, got bitten by the spiders and was slowly being turned into said monstrosity he killed seconds ago. Every limb of his was going numb, he was starting to lose control of his eyesight. He shuddered, tears rolled down his bruised cheek, mixing the salty water with the blood pouring out of his broken nose. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't stay strong, Nezuko-chan. I'm sorry I couldn't show how brave I was to the demon who did this to me. I'm sorry I couldn't face the world with my eyes wide open. I'm sorry. I'm sorry—

I'm sorry for disappointing you...

Jiichan...

.

.

"Why, hello there~" Zenitsu's wavering gaze turned to the newcomer. Who—she silently descended from the night sky, he couldn't detect her even with his keen sense of hearing. Wearing a white, pretty butterfly haori and black hair tied with a butterfly ornament. She was so beautiful, and at the back of his mind, he thought he was already in the afterlife and an angel was there to greet him. But one look at her black uniform and sword on her hips told him that, no. This woman is one of the Demon Slayer members. He's not dead. Not yet. She smiled serenely and clasped both of her hands, giggling cutely, "thank you for surviving for this long. Don't worry, boy. Help is coming"

"You can rest easy now~"

.

.

.

Chapter 36-38

To think I, the great Inosuke, needed help to kill one demonThat damn swordsman with weird haori and using the same Breath as Nezuko. Who is he, her long-lost sibling? Inosuke solemnly thought. His whole body that was tied to a branch swayed slowly, limp figure was caught by the light breeze of night. Then he trapped me in this measly knot with no way out, bastard. Humiliating me and abandoning me.

Just like what that woman did to him. With tears and words not comprehending, she abandoned him. Leaving him alone to fight the harsh life of the wilderness.

...wait. What woman?

It was a glimpse of his past. When the Human Spider demon, cornered to the highest branch, transformed; Skin literally tore itself apart like an egg splitting. Head got bigger, horns after horns formed on top of his scalp, spikes growing from beneath the continuous red dots that ran from his arm to his wrist. It even grew from beneath his thigh that it pierced his baggy pants. When that demon blocked every single strike he unleashed, breaking his katanas in half as he tried to chop his neck. When the beast choked the life out of him with only one hand, causing his sight to go hazy, dots gathering at the corner of his orbs, spinal cord nearly crushed. He saw scenery past by. A flashback of his life that he led so far.

Nezuko and Zenitsu, waiting with concern in their eyes.

The nice grandma that prepared him that nice yukata and nice meals.

Him, playing with a wild dragonfly, letting the animal landed onto his raised finger.

...and that woman.

A bloody, battered woman with black hair and tears on her face. Looking at him and doing nothing at all as his body falls, falls, falls. To the cold water of a cold river.

Who was she? Someone he knew?

There's no way. He was raised by boars, the only humans he met before was a weak, frail grandpa and a stupid looking boy that kept shushing and hushing. Trying to kick him away from the premise when the grandpa was clearly in the middle of reading Inosuke some good, bedtime story, noisy brat.

.

.

Aah...I don't really care. His head lolled, green eyes beneath the headpiece stared blankly at the silent forest. It's not like it matters anyway. I'm still useless. Can't kill a single demon because I'm not strong enough—

"Come on, Nezuko," Inosuke whined to no one, he was pouting, "I've survived the ordeal. So come back already and help me out of this annoying rope. 's so itchy..."

Chapter Text

Nezuko choked on her own saliva when one of the Demon Hunter members—a boy maybe three years older than her. Short, black hair and bangs cut in a tidy, horizontal line. A cocky smirk adorned his sturdy jaw. So sure with himself that he could kill this 'kiddy' demon and get safely promoted. Drowning in an illusion that he's stronger, tougher, faster—fell to pieces like he was nothing. Literally to pieces, meat and blood included. Because somehow, without her eyes seeing his hands move, the kid sliced him up at the speed of light, the teen doesn't even have time to scream. At least he's not suffering, was the only thing that appeased the horrified girl. At least he didn't feel any pain as he died and I couldn't do anything to save him—

"Take it back…" the youngest demon's voice echoed, guttural sounds that made the hair on her neck stand. The atmosphere turned tenser, the air turned colder, Nezuko unconsciously took a step back. He kept growling, pupil shrinking and nerves bunching, his expression looked deranged. So different from his apathetic boredom just a moment ago, "take that word back. Or I will mince you up after I'm done completely shredding you. So take that word back!"

"Kuh…" she had a hard time breathing, her body trembling from his pressure alone. But determination was lit in those burgundy eyes, and she took a stance, "never. I will not take it back. What I've said isn't wrong!" because family should love each other. Should protect each other. Should help each other. Not this. Not this terrifying, sorrowful, sad, sad, sad show of a bond, "you're the strange one! Thinking you can control what others should do. The one who's wrong…" she lept, the kid twitched his fingers, Nezuko ducked under the wire that moved, "IS YOU!"

She danced under the dangerous thread gracefully, thanking her sharp Sight that showed her its color—albeit transparent—so she could evade them easily. Nezuko was almost right in his personal space. But the kid was quicker than her, as he created another batch of thread that flew everywhere and provided no opening for the girl to sneak into, she had to jump back. When the attack didn't stop and kept proceeding towards her, Nezuko maneuvered one of her Zanbato to the side of her shoulder, water started exploding from the blue blade, "Breath of Water, First Style—" and she swung it to the opposite direction, ready to cut the wire like what she did to Mother's before, "SURFACE SLICE—"

SLAAASSHHH

Yet she could only widen her eyes in horror when the niichirin blade—the blade that could split the boulder Sakonji prepared. The blade that could chop the head of the Green Demon with thick hands. The blade that could hack the big trunk of the tallest tree in one swipe—broke. Half of the blade was gone, the only remaining piece of the beautiful iron Haganezuka was so proud of was now on its handle.

what?

Then she fell dramatically to the ground when the wire she intended to cut sliced her cheek instead, the stinging pain registered five seconds later.

Wha, wha, wha, wha, WHAT? THE BLADE BROKE?! Nezuko rolled, dodging the incoming strikes that came a lot more frequently, now that she's in a vulnerable position and the kid not wanting to miss this opportunity. I don't believe it! The string this guy is manipulating…is it even stronger than the body of that demon I couldn't cut a while ago?

A strike from the left, she dodged. Another from below, she jumped. The third one from each of her sides, she did the bridge pose then cartwheeled back. She couldn't do it. These strings are moving as if they're alive, Nezuko couldn't cut them and couldn't keep avoiding them even with her Sight warned her of the incoming attacks, her strength won't last. It was clear she's getting driven into a corner just from this, even though he's playing around like he isn't going to kill her; he said he'll torture her first before he killed her, right? Because she won't take the words back (she still won't, by the way. No matter how her life was in danger, she wouldn't let that truth be buried by this kid who was hiding under the covers and won't face the reality). One last pull from his nimble fingers, and every single corner of her body was suddenly covered by the transparent thread. Surrounding her and overwhelming her entirely, I can't dodge it in time—

The air whistled, the kid's eyes widened. A shadow descended upon Nezuko and she gasped—

CRAS CRAS CRAS CRAS

—when Tanjiro—already in his teenager form—stood protectively in front of her, taking on the devastating attacks with his body alone.

"NIICHAN!"

No, no, no, no, no! Nezuko immediately grabbed onto his waist—he grunted in pain—and pushed him to the side, taking shelter inside the foliage. She didn't care that the demons were still there, watching them with shock written in their pale complexion. She didn't care that the kid didn't continue his onslaught and preferred to observe them, disbelief shown as his eyebrows rose high. She didn't. The only thing she cared about right now was her brother. Her precious, over-freaking-protective brother that sacrificed most of his skin and tore both of his wrists to protect this stupid, not-quick-enough sister—, "please, please, please, be okay" Nezuko rummaged through the box she carried, plucking three anpans and two dorayakis from the compartment. Then she pulled the mouth guard of his away and shoved a snack into his mouth, Tanjiro almost choked, "please heal yourself. Don't do this to me, niichan. Don't do this to me—"

Don't leave me alone. Not again. Not AGAIN—

"R-Rui…" Neechan said, she was stammering, looking at the ginger-haired fiend—or particularly—at his earrings, "that demon is—"

"Your sibling?"but Rui was occupied by something else entirely. His body was trembling, index finger pointed at the family—the one that she called real family, rejecting his own version of one—who was still fussing over each other; Tanjiro, whining and checking if his sister received any injuries from attacks he couldn't block. And Nezuko, berating him for doing this dangerous thing when he promised her he wouldn't recklessly jump in anymore, think about yourself a little more, please brother—an idea lit up in his head, he mused, "I see…"

"Rui. That demon…" Neechan was still trying to garner her little brother's attention, "that demon is the one our Lord wants. Don't—"

"Her brother became a demon and yet, they're together," it was futile, though. Rui was completely submerged in his own thought, "the brother protected the sister. He offered his body." a smile started blossoming on his young face. Shivers ran through his entire figure and he was giddy, "I want it, I want it…"

"These genuine bonds…I WANT IT!"

.

.

Nezuko jolted in her place and instantly swiveled her head to the side. When she was too occupied with her own problem ("eat a little more. I don't care if our stock will deplete drastically after this. Just eat it! So your healing skill will close those wounds a lot faster. Just work with me, niichan. Please!"), something had happened. She heard the sounds of trees falling, bush rustled and bird scampering away in fright. When her burgundy orbs landed back to their battlefield, she saw the kid—Nezuko thought someone called the other without using a family title. Rui, right? Was it his name? It sounded like a boy name for her—was standing over Neechan. Who was now beheaded and without a head. The head itself was on the ground, whimpering and on a verge of crying. Wha-What happened? Nezuko was baffled. I didn't pay any attention because I was too busy scolding niichan for his latest stunt. Were they having another falling out?

Neechan slowly picked her falling head as she stood. With one last glance, she took off. Leaving them with a silence that was almost choking, "she's a failure just like Mother…" Rui turned around, staring at Kamado's siblings, Nezuko's grip on her broken Zanbato tightened, "girl. Let's have a talk."

"You see, I was moved by watching your 'bonds'. My body quivered and my heart jumped. I think there are definitely no words to describe what I'm feeling at that moment. But I have to kill you guys," he put his palm on his chest, head tilted. Giving off a vibe of an innocent child even though he's nothing but that, "I heard from my neechan. That that brother of yours is our Lord's target," Nezuko's breath hitched. Right, she almost forgot about that because of this clusterfuck of an event. It seems like Muzan already alerted every single demon out there. To search for a demon with ginger hair, wearing rectangle earrings with rising-sun symbols. To search and capture her beloved family and snatch him away from her no—, "And I'm sure you don't want that to happen, aren't you? It'll be sad either way. To be killed together by me. Or be separated from your family and then still be killed by me. There's only one way to avoid this."

"Give me your older brother. If you hand him over quietly, I'll spare your life. Maybe ask my lord not to maim him. Too much."

"…I don't understand what you're trying to say here"

"I'll make your older brother my own starting today." He continued, eyes still shining with innocence that made Nezuko's stomach flutter, "didn't you say 'both family and allies are tied by strong bonds. There's nothing shallow about it even if we're not connected by blood'? So, give him to me. I'll take care of him—"

"TO HECK WITH THAT!" she interrupted his sentences, grabbing onto her brother and held him tightly. The slayer snarled low, broken sword pointed to the foe, "I told you twice already. Bonds created by fear are not bonds you can call a family! Open your freaking eyes and face the world already! That misunderstanding of such basic knowledge is the sole reason why your family won't connect to you!"

"Do you even know…" her breath puffed, eyes almost bloodshot in her anger towards this ridiculous happening, "do you even know why I could easily kill your Mother? Not because she's weak. Not because she lost her puppets to use. No…"

"It's because she wanted to get away from you!" she spat, "because you're horrible and because this bond is nothing but a fake creation of a fake family!"

"You really talk too much. Do you think I'll be sad when I hear that? No. Mother has the weakest bond towards us from the very beginning. No wonder she decided to kick the bucket first," How could he—toward his own mother—(whereas Nezuko was still begging for the world to give her her mother back. To give her her happy life back. This is not fair, not fair, not fair—), "well, no matter. I'll kill you if you won't give me your brother peacefully like I suggest you do," his finger cradled the white locks that had been covering his left eye this whole time. And slowly yet surely swept it away, the demon hunter's breath caught in her throat—

Gazing straight at the number five carved onto his white pupil that swimming by the red sclera.

"You can't beat me—one of the Twelve Demon Moons—anyway"


The father has the role of a father. The Mother has the role of a mother. The parents protect their children. While the big brothers and sisters protect their younger siblings. No matter what it is.

They put their life on the line, no  questions  asked


Without her consent, Tanjiro, that was safely protected within her arms, suddenly sailed to the sky. The faint patch of black fog that was almost transparent was dancing around him, making a grotesque image of him being trapped like some kind of an animal in a cage without escape. Before the ginger-haired boy landed right into the kid's embrace, growling, and hissing, arms forcefully pulled back and held securely by the thread that sprouted from the end of Rui's right fingers.

"NIICHAN!"

"So, now that I've taken him, do you understand what your role is supposed to be in this scenario?" he asked a loaded question, the other palm that was not occupied in restraining Tanjiro were open for the world to see, strings ready to be launched, "go home. And leave us, siblings, alone."

"DON'T JOKE AROUND!" Nezuko dashed, clutching her other Zanbato that was still intact with fervor. Raw emotion almost blinded her. Fueling her with intense rage, "HE'S MY SIBLING! I'm not going to let you have him and leave without a fight!"

"And after I said I'll spare your life if you don't oppose me too…" Rui sighed, lazily moved his fingers around to start his onslaught, didn't think the danger of this girl's presence is something to be noted. Nezuko swerved between the threads, trying to find a way in and snatch her older brother back yet to no avail. Rui may look bored with this fight, but it was clear he has the upper hand. The pink slayer crouched when the string crossed above her head, cutting some strands from her ponytail, "this is your last chance. Give up already and leave us now—ARGH!"

The youngest of the white-haired family let out a guttural sound, cutting off his threat into a howl of pain. Tanjiro, still with his hands tied behind his back, used his free foot to stomp onto Rui's own, crushing the bone in an instant. That one second of distraction was enough for the kid to loosen his grip on him, loosening the string as well, and he used that chance to break free. Tanjiro twisted his body and scratched at Rui's face. Creating four slashes on his milky complexion.

Nezuko did the follow-up attack, water already sprouting from the blue blade as she was already in the middle of a stance. However, she had to abandon it when Rui, only gritting his teeth from all the injuries he gained, let his thread soar through the air. It almost got her own neck if she didn't back-flip at the right time and the right angle, the water bursting into a spray of harmless liquid. When her burgundy eyes locked onto him once again, she realized her only family was not in his embrace anymore. Red liquid dripped from the sky and she shot her gaze upward.

"N-NIICHAN?"

Tanjiro was up there, hanging upside-down by the wire of the demon kid. It circled around his legs, waist, hands, and neck, so tight it actually dig into his skin and drawing out blood.

"Don't worry. He won't die from something like this. He's a demon," Rui said, scoffing at the terror painted onto Nezukos' face. The wounds he got from the ginger-haired beast were in the process of healing. Bone reformed itself, skin knitted back together. In a second, there were no blemishes on his flawless body anymore, "but I have to teach him a lesson here. I'll let him lose some blood for a while. Although, if things aren't going to play out so simply…" the ginger-haired boy screamed when the thread tightened, choking him even further, "I'll keep this up until sunrise. He'll 'warm' up a little. And he'll realize, as an older brother, he should not hurt his younger brother."

Stop speaking like he's already your niichan! He's mine! Was what went through her mind, but she held her complaints back this time. No, she should calm down. Even your breath. Take a deep whiff. Don't get too emotional because she's starting to go blind. Her sight was solely on this kid, not accounting for the environment around, in which Rui could easily launch a surprise attack on her person. Focus. Control yourself and give the most accurate final shot possible. Nezuko took one last glance at her brother, who was still trying to escape from the bindings no matter how constricting the said binding was, then back to the enemy. She should not be reckless, now that she knew she couldn't simply cut the strings like what she did to Mother's. There's only one Zanbato left and if this one is broken too, she's sure her chance of winning this battle will be gone. His neck must be even harder than the string itself. If I cannot use a simple technique to cut that string then—

Nezuko twisted her body and knees tensed. Body half-crouched and the sword was raised skywards, placed at the side of her head, "full focus. Breath of Water, Tenth Style—" ripples of water started forming in the background. Slowly then drastically changing into the form of a humongous blue dragon. Her figure unfurled and she rushed.

If I cannot use a simple technique to cut that string, then I'll use this skill instead!

"THE DRAGON OF CHANGE!"

This is a continuous skill, Sakonji told her as he taught the move, a constant flux of rushing water. Rotated yourself around like a winding dragon; from the first strike to second. From the second strike to third. From the third strike to fourth. Through increasing the rotation, she swung the Zanbato down—

PTAS

—it'll create a strong slash, severing the wires in one strike.

Yes! I cut it, I cut it! Nezuko cheered internally. Now, if I can close the distance between myself and him, I can—

"Say," Rui started talking, eyelids dropped with pity as he crossed his arms in front of his chest. Red goop (no. It was blood) started covering the tip of his palms, creeping up till his wrists, "did you think that was as strong as my strings could get?"

It was silence at that second. And the next, multiple red cobwebs of deadly thread suddenly appeared in front of her. Raining onto her, drenching her with its disgusting blood color, blocking her with no way forward.

Blood Demon Technique. CRUEL STRING PRISON

NO! And I was so close too! Time itself came to a halt. Everything that she saw now was in slow motion. I can't cut these strings, I don't have enough rotation! Should I change it to the Second Style? But these strings have a completely different fog from the ones a while ago. It must be a lot stronger than before!

I can't lose. I can't lose to this! If I lose, I'll die! I'll die and I'll leave niichan alone! Tears started springing out of her eyes, her sight started to go hazy. I can't…I CAN'T—

.

.

(What is this? scene after scene spun with a speed that made her head ache. Rolling downward and upward, like a yo-yo on a string. Is this…my life? A life that I have been going through so far?)

Nezuko saw Inosuke, laughing and guffawing, swords swinging in every direction possible cutting the fallen leaves in tandem.

Nezuko saw Zenitsu, sobbing and hiccupping, clutching onto the box Tanjiro was in and trying to calm himself down by hearing the soft sound of the demon's heart lullaby.

Nezuko saw Kiyoshi, Shoichi, and Teruko. Smiling and crying as they survived the ordeal and can still greet the next day with hope blossoming.

Nezuko saw Tamayo-san and Yushiro-san, scurrying around the wrecked house and saving any instruments that were still intact after the sudden battle.

Nezuko saw Sabito-kun and Makomo-chan conversing with each other. Chuckling and laughing as they oversee her training.

Nezuko saw Urokodaki, mask tilted upward a little bit. Unknowingly showing her his soft smile, caressing her hair as she started to doze off.

(Aah…I understand. She belatedly thought. Now I understand why people say they see their life flash before their eyes whenever they're on the verge of dying)

Nezuko saw Tanjiro. Ginger and a demon but still her precious brother otherwise.

(It's because they're trying to find a solution in their past life. Trying to survive one second longer in this cruel world without mercy)

.

.

Where is it, then? Her Sight changed. It went from sharp to a bright clarity. Her eyes went to left and right, memorizing every single scene within seconds. Where is my chance of surviving this devastating attack? I need it. I need it because I don't want to die and leave my brother alone not again not again

("Nezuko" her mother's voice resounded. One of the many memories she had stood out. And now, she was watching it like she was right there. Mother was just as beautiful as the ponytail girl recalled; with her black hair that was tied to the back, covered by a white cloth. Her tiny mouth quirked upwards, making her beauty mark under her lips follow along)

I…remembered this scene.

("Nezuko", Mother said. Soft and alluring, it always managed to send her to sleep, "Nezuko, would you like to join your father and brother?")


It was just a regular day, if her memory served. Maybe a bit colder than a usual winter because their father—sickly and frail, bones were figuratively forming the jutting chin. His red locks that were tied into a messy ponytail didn't help his image of being a healthy man. Nor did the burn mark on his forehead that, as each day passed by, went deeper and wider—was frequently coughing, she worried blood would start sprouting from his dry throat. Little Nezuko was seen helping their Mother with washing the clothes. Short hair flying in the breeze as she stared at the confusing scenery inside their house.

"Mama," Little Nezuko called, pulling on her sleeve to gain her attention, "what are Papa and Nii-nii doing?"

Mother turned, one of her hand was supporting Rokuta's bum so he didn't fall off from the baby carrier, "oh, they're Breathing"

"Brea…thing?" she tilted her head, watching Father and Tanjiro sitting in full-lotus form (or trying, in Tanjiro's case. His legs were shaking and it was clear he was having difficulty in maintaining the position) eyes closed and face relaxed (again, trying, in Tanjiro's case. His eyebrows were scrunched and he was sweating. The eyes beneath the eyelids were swerving around, an indication that he was fidgeting). The view looked serene, almost like she was gazing at a still statue in a temple of prayer, "but I'm breathing right now. And I don't have to do that weird sitting."

"Not that kind of breathing, my Nezuko," Mother giggled, patting her head fondly, "do you remember Father's Kagura Dance? Have you ever wondered how can he move that gracefully even though he looks so weak?" the oldest sister nodded, "Father was Breathing. By controlling his Breath, no matter how much he moved, he won't get tired. As long as he performs the correct way to breathe, he can dance forever. That's what your Father told me before."

"Hee…" Nezuko hummed, watching Tanjiro who take a peek when he couldn't handle the not-moving-an-inch-activity anymore. Father let out a warning cough, a silence order to her brother not to lose his concentration. How did he know that, when his eyes were still closed, little Nezuko didn't know. Maybe because of this…Breathing. Tanjiro immediately continues his 'training', "do you know how to Breath too, Mama?"

"I've been practicing one Breath. Your father said this one will strengthen and give power to yourself. So I can handle heavy workout around the house and…well. Rather than confusing yourself with this boring explanation, why not take a look at this," Mother bend over and clasped the basin, full of water and clothes that were still in the need of washing piled up to the brim. She took one deep breath and, when she forcefully exhale those air she inhaled, she stood up; the heavy basin was now within her grasp. Clutching it so tightly yet easily, even added with the burden of carrying Rokuta around. Like the thing itself was light; while two days ago, she needs the help of Tanjiro and Takeo in bringing a bucket of chopped wood into their house.

"Waoowww! Mama! You're so strong!" her burgundy eyes were sparkling in wonder, "teach me, Mama! Teach me! I want to be strong like you too!"

"Haha, alright. Why don't you repeat after me?

.

.

"Control your breathing and take a deep breath," Mother instructed that day and older Nezuko followed, Zanbato raised as her lungs expanded, "hold that for a few seconds. And after you finished preparing yourself—"

"Breath of Water, Tenth Style Modified—"

The coiling dragon behind her person stopped, rapidly ascending to the sky before it dived with a speed of sound. Making the air whistle and the wind disperse—

"Let that air out and explode it outward!"

"ROAR OF THE WAILING DRAGON!"*

SRAAASSSHHH


OMAKE chapter 41 & 42

Murata balked as the pretty, butterfly hunter saved him from the cocoon that was choke full of acidic water. The demon that trapped him—a girl with white hair that was tied into three, simple tails—laid there, not too far from the open field, skin turned purple and corpse slowly rotting. He may not have seen anything and was trying his best to hold his breath as he was submerged by the liquid that almost dissolved his entire body, but he listened. How this butterfly woman's sword—thin and pointy. The blade looked more like a big needle rather than a simple katana—has poison on its own; created from the wisteria flower demons hated, she explained. Lethal enough that it actually killed the fiend without a need to cut the neck like the usual method other slayers used to finish their mission.

(The pretty woman also happily talked about how she'll torture the demon in a pretense of getting along with each other—such as poking her eyes, cutting her stomach, dragging her intestines out, over and over. Until it finally amounted to how many innocent humans she devoured before the hunter forgives her—but Murata was trying to forget that conversation ever happened. Or he'll get very vivid nightmares for the next few days. So yeah. Not talking about that)

She must be a Pillar then. There's no way an ordinary hunter can do this. Only Pillar does. Murata let out a laugh. It sounded a bit manic in this lull of silence. We're saved. We're SAVED! Don't worry, Nezuko, Zenitsu, Inosuke. Wherever you are right now, this woman will definitely save you!

Now, Murata sneezed, his entire body trembled. He'll be a lot more grateful if she gave him something to cover his naked figure before she disappeared to save his companion minutes ago though.

Chapter Text

Tanjiro let out a relieved sigh when the pink girl managed to cut the cobwebs with her new technique; a diving dragon that severed the threads vertically. He had been trapped by these threads for so long, his attempt at releasing himself had been futile no matter how hard he wiggled his body. The thread actually got tighter and tighter and, no matter how much he wanted to save that girl and protect her because he could not fail again, he couldn't. The pain kicked in and his struggles abruptly halted whenever he couldn't handle the devastating pain anymore. So, being an unwilling spectator that he was, he could only observe the hunter's fight from afar, glad she could sever the strings before they tore her skin and organs apart. She's human. She couldn't heal as easily as he could. She needs to take better care of herself.

But Tanjiro's reprieve was not long-lasting. Because, rather than stepping back and preparing another attack that will kill the beast and save herself, she decided to keep on moving forward; the water dragon that had cut the string making a sharp turn headed straight for Rui's neck.

No! What are you doing? He wanted to protest. Wanted to shout a warning at that reckless girl—an ironic thing considering he did the same thing not too long ago. And an ironic thing for that girl to do as she scolded him for the same thing not too long ago either—to stay away from that demon kid, because Tanjiro could see other strings crisscrossing in the air, newly appeared right in front of the girls face. Ready to chop her into bits and pieces and no, no, no, no! Don't you dare do that! Don't you dare sacrifice yourself for the sake of a failure such as me who couldn't even protect his own family no—

.

("Tanjiro")

.

(What is this? An illusion?)

.

(The ginger-haired boy blinked, sweeping his tears—that he didn't even realize had been accumulating—away. The environment suddenly turned dark, like the world itself decided to turn off the lights of existence. In front of him stood a man. A sickly, frail man with burgundy-hair that reminded me of the girl's own burgundy eyes, a burn mark on his left temple the same one as my own mark, and a soft smile that sends my heart thudding and wrenching with heartache, who is he? Tanjiro couldn't see his face. It was covered by black lines over black lines, like a naughty child decided to scrawl all over his complexion with charcoal. But he was so familiar familiar are you one of the people I couldn't protect? Are you one of the people I forget because I'm a coward and I can't face the painful memory with my eyes open not anymore—)

("Tanjiro," he said. Voice rough yet soothing. He felt like weeping, "remember to Breath, Tanjiro. As you are right now, you can do it. What you have to do…is Breath. Didn't you promise me…")

.

("Not to falter?")

.

Tanjiro's eyes widened.

Time seems to slow itself down as he struggled to reach his left hand forward. The sight of the girl I need to protect was used as his incentive. With a grunt, the veins from beneath his skin bunched, trailing from his palm, wrist, till it reached the upper arm that was hidden by the checkered haori. He didn't need to do much after that, thanking the wire for the first time in this awful night of a mission for digging into his body tight enough that it drew blood, causing him to have enough red liquid trailing outward, "Blood Demon Technique—" he closed his palm with a snap—

—and the strings that that kid used to trap the ginger fiend—and unwillingly used to create another wall between the white demon and the pink girl because of her messy counter-attack—ignited on fire. Ginger and fiery, brightening the entire battlefield with warm yet deadly light and snapping the thin thread like it was regular string.

"BLOOD BURST!"

The threads that should've been hindering the girl from advancing are now gone.

And he didn't stop there. The moment the girl's Zanbato—the intact one—arrived at Rui's neck, the water dragon merged into her weapon then chomped onto the weakness as well, Tanjiro did another open-and-close motion with his hand. And the fire from the wire—that slowly fell apart because of his newly found technique—gathered together, forming itself into a small ball. It then flew, circling around the outer skin of the water dragon, trailing fire in the wake of its path. Before the accumulated flames it got from the surrounding formed the same mythical creature and chomp.

"USE IT, NEZUKO!"

"UWAAAAAHHHH!"

"Tenth Style Modified Version 2—"

The velocity of the skill turned up another notch, the air literally crackled —

"BLAZING DRAGONS!"*

SLASH

Creating a twisting wheel of blue-ginger around her—dragons that twirled around her main body and created a yin and yang symbol the moment it finished it attack. Dragons that looked like they were chasing each of its companion's tail—and cutting the demon's neck with one, clean cut.


The forest was silent. The bushes didn't rustle. And the bird didn't chirp. Nezuko lay there, bloody and sweating, throat constricting. She finally did it. Rui's headless body was not far from her own. She finally killed the beast. It was not a walk in a park. She needed to create two new techniques—modified, but who cares about the details right now—just so she had a chance in winning this frustrating battle. It was hard, chopping his head off and unleashing the new skill, not just once but twice without rest. And she clearly had to face the backlash now. When she first used the Second Style Modified, it left her knees tingling, and almost no energy left to stand. And now? Her field of vision was shrinking. Ears were buzzing. A vicious pain ran through her entire body, she could not even move her legs. This is even worse than her fight with Yahaba, her heart won't stop pounding and hands trembling. But she had to will herself to move, the girl gripped her weapon with intensity. Inosuke was still out there. Fighting and waiting. For her to lend a hand in his own merciless battle.

"N-Niichan?" Nezuko weakly called. She thought she heard him call her name. Helping her even when he was occupied by his own problem. Said ginger teen was far from her line of sight, eyes bleary and was on the verge of unconsciousness. The bamboo was sloppily placed, hanging by one ear only—she didn't have time to put it back to its place after shoving those snacks into his mouth—puff of breath seeped from behind the sharp fangs. That fire he summoned to aid her must've sapped his energy a lot. Yet he was still trying to stay awake. Still trying to muster what was left of his strength. To protect his little sister. To protect his only family alive. Nezuko grunted and pushed herself for the nth time. She had to…at least help lessen the burden by meeting him halfway. Feed him so his injuries—that was even worse than before. She should've told him to stop struggling when he was trapped by Rui's weapon that time, seriously—will close and will stay closed for good. She gave another tug—

Then she saw it. A black fog so thick she almost choked by the intensity itself. This familiar, disgusting black fog wafted, dancing erratically and angrily no don't tell me—

"You thought that you defeated me?" Rui's voice echoed. The pink haori wearer couldn't see him, with her stomach-down position but she could guess. How his headless body stood on his own, blood pouring from the open wound. His growling sound was close, so that means his head was also here; he must've retrieved it with his invisible wire too, for easy maneuverability. A splat could be heard. And Nezuko's exaggerated mind imagined that Rui was putting his head back to the place it should be, waiting for the nerves to connect and heal himself up. Vanishing the slash mark in an instant and vanishing her own proof of an intense battle, like everything that just happened was nothing but a fantasy, "I cut my own head off with my own strings. Way before you could cut it with your blasted weapon."

"Why aren't you burning in the first place? My strings and I got burned. I can even still feel the flame crawling up my skin," Rui's questioned as he snarled, white orbs popped and veins crawling up on his complexion, deranging his expression even further, "Enough of this charade. I'll kill you and bring your brother to our Lord. I'm so mad, our Lord can torture him or kill him for all I care."

"I'm going to cut my ties with you guys without any sense of regret."

No, no, no, no! This is ridiculous! "Demon Blood Technique—" Stand, Nezuko! Stand, stand, stand now! Prepare your breath! Hurry! Rui clasped his hands together before he pulled it apart. The red strings were now connected with each other, making the pattern of a plaited mats bridge. That same plaited mats were now surrounded her entire body, caging her without a way out, "CAGE OF MURDERING EYES!"

Don't panic! Don't panic, don't panic! Don't get the breath wrong! Calm down! Move your arm! The circular cage was rapidly descending, its sharp edge ready to chop her into pieces. No! It's useless! I'm panicking! I'm panicking! I can't get my Breath right. Somebody—

The wind whistled, a sound of rapidly approaching sandals echoed—

SOMEBODY PLEASE, SAVE ME!

WHOOOSSHH

PTAS PTAS PTAS

SRAAASSSHH

.

.

.

I-I'm…I'm still alive? Her sight was hazy and head pounding, it was so hard to think. But she managed to turn her view around. To look at a person who broke the prison of doom and saved her soul. Ah…that weird haori. She weakly mussed. I saw that weird haori before…

(Sabito…kun?)

"You did a good job holding your ground until I came," a rough voice reached her hearing (no. Not Sabito-kun. You have to accept the fact that he's not in this world anymore, Nezuko). His grip on his katana—blue like hers. Blue and familiar—tightened as he continued, "leave the rest to me."

Then everything happened in an instant. Rui tried to unleash another Demon Blood Technique of his. This time, the thread formed itself into something that reminded her of a pinwheel in a breezy day, rotating furiously in its morbid beautiful braid (WHEELS OF CHOPPING THREADS). But it was easily cut by the swordsman. Nezuko sensed the air rippling, yet he didn't move from his position. Rui's attack unraveled on its own, almost like it was scared of the mere presence of the slayer with spiky, black hair tied into a low horse-tail. She got the impression of a sea with no wind. Waves that never shake. Sky that never changed. Everything was in a lull of silence. And any enemy that enters that area will be gone for naught. Swallow by the darkness that turned everything into nothing. It was a bit unfair, with how easily that man killed the beast, while Nezuko had to sacrifice her sweat and blood.

But he must be one of the Pillars Murata-senpai told us about. So he's strong. Stronger than all the rank 10s banded together. Stronger than I am. She coughed, her body automatically continued her journey to her brother. We're saved, Niichan. We're saved. She chuckled bitterly as she collapsed on Tanjiro's limp body. Hugging him and not wanting to let go. Afraid that if she did, he'll disappear like smoke without fire. Gone like his existence in this world was never there, never important. Her only family that still aliveWe're saved. So please, just…rest.

(Nezuko didn't know. That her act in embracing the body of a half-demon sibling was watched by the other fiend in the vicinity. Rui, with his head now finally chopped by the niichirin blade and not his own weapon, saw everything)

(And he—Iremembered everything)


("It's okay, Rui. We'll die together")

( Before I was turned into a demon, I had a weak body)

(I could never run and it was harder to even walk. My being was a hindrance to my parents. They could never go out together and spend time with each other alone. Could never speak with other neighbors too much because they always worry over their only child in their lonely home. Could never deepen their relationships with other people because their mind will always bring them back to a kid they left on their own)

("How pitiful. I'll save you")

(Until Muzan-sama showed up)

(He saved me. Give me his blood. Strengthening my muscles and my body. Now I can walk. I can run. I may not be able to stand under the sun and play with other kids like a healthy child should be. But I can embrace my parents with the love I've been storing for them both. And that's enough for me)

("What have you done…Rui?")

(Yet they, my parents were not happy)

(I don't understand. I eat humans, sure. But that was my only chance to survive. My only chance to stay alive. So I can be with my parents. Together with my parents. Spend the day with a smile and merry laugh with my parents)

(Yet they want to banish me)

("I'm sorry. I'm sorry Mom couldn't give you a healthy body")

(Yet they want to kill me)

("It's okay, Rui. We'll die together")

(Yet—)

.

(Yet they're ready to kill themselves for me…)

.

(Long ago, I heard a wonderful story.  There were parents who died to save their child who was drowning in a river . I was moved.  What parental love.  What bonds.  Those parents who died by the river had achieved their role as a 'parents')

.

(What have I done?! Fat, fresh tears fell from my eyes, I cried. Human me cried. Demon me cried. In my anger…)

.

("It's okay, Rui. We'll die together")

.

(I  h a c u d o w m r e a b o n d w i t m o w h a n d s ! ! !)


(Present Rui belatedly thought while his head slowly turned into dust, his gaze blank and mouth parted. What…did I want to do?)

(My memories from when I was a human vanished as I got stronger. So I couldn't really recall my happy,  lost  days with certainty. Maybe I just couldn't bear over the fact that I killed them, my mother and father that I loved so much. Maybe I just couldn't bear the fact that this loneliness I felt happened because of all my own actions, was my punishment for all of my wrongdoing. Was that why I created another one? Using those demons that resided within my mountain, I create  another  family just so I can remember those happy,  lost  days that I cherished so much? I don't know)

(But one thing that I know was...I failed. Because—)

.

(—Brothers maniacal laugh didn't protect him—)

(—Sisters uncaring attitude didn't placate him—)

(—Fathers spider's eyes unnerved him—)

(—And Mothers frightened face figuratively slapped him—)

.

(—Because I realized I didn't feel any warmth like I did from my  real  family)

.

.

(So, what did I want, exactly? His headless body walked, arms raised towards the air, the male Hunter's lips thinned. A bond as strong as my human self had? Or someone to shield me from all the danger and hatred of this world? A reaching hand that will guide me so I will not lose myself in the road of life? What is it? What is it, what is it what is it please, anybody please tell me—)

His body fell with a silent thump, right beside the pink hunter and her older brother. The girl he tried to kill—Kamado Nezuko, he heard her name from (not real) Mother's spiders—looked over blearily. And slowly, almost lovingly, cradled the kid's body. Rui gasped.

Such a gentle hand, like a calm ocean without disturbance. Ready to accept everyone with open palms. Tears started pouring as he sobbed.

(Aah… I understand now. I just want—)

.

(I just want to apologize)

.

(Apologized for severing the real bonds that I had. For killing innocent humans in the name of my selfishness. For making my parents weep and cry. For making my parents suffer for something they couldn't control)

(It's never your fault, Mother. For birthing me with a weak body. It's never your fault, Father. For raising a knife toward your dearest child. Everything. Everything that had happened until this point—)

("Are all our fault.")

(Rui lifted his head and stared as they approached from the sorrowful abyss without end. Stared at the black-haired couple with warm eyes and a warm smile. Stared at the familiar, precious, precious parents of his. They hugged him, caressed his white hair that was slowly turned back to its original, black color, Father spoke, "you don't have to burden yourself with this guilt anymore, Rui. Wherever you are, be it heaven or hell—")

(Rui cried. He didn't care when the abyss was engulfed in a fire of darkness. He just cried. He cried and cried and cried and I'm sorry. I'm sorry that you have to suffer, Kaa-san. I'm sorry that you have to handle this heavy responsibility, Tou-san. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry—)

("—no matter where you go, we will always be together with you")


The swordsman of the Slayer Association came closer. His quiet steps halted with a click and stopped right on top of the corpse of the beast they had battled seconds ago; Rui's body. That had already turned into dust, leaving his white kimono on the dirty ground alone. No shred of pity or even remorse in those blank, dull blue eyes of the katana wielder (isn't he…Tomioka-san? That's why I recalled that weird haori). He started speaking, scrunching his eyebrows in distaste when he saw tears after tears rolling down the ponytail girl's cheeks, "don't feel sorry for a demon who ate people. It doesn't matter whether or not he had the form of a child. He's an unsightly monster who lived for tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years. If you have to cry, cry to those people that he ate. Give it to those unfortunate people who had to be a victim of this disgusting demon."

Nezuko…Nezuko was baffled. Was shocked beyond belief at his words towards the kid that had just died. Toward the kid who was just trying to find a loving and caring family like Nezuko wished for her late, already gone, gone, gone family—

"No," she answered, startling the Water Pillar. Her grip on Rui's kimono turned white, tightening even further while she tried to yank the remains away from Giyuu's unforgiving foot, "to dispel the regrets of those killed, to stop any more victims from appearing, I will relentlessly wield my blade against the demons. And that is a fact. As a member of the Demon Slayer Corps and as my own person. I will mourn for their victims. But I will not trample on the pains of being a demon. Nor on those who regret their own actions."

"Because they were humans. Humans, just like me and you."

"Get your foot off," Nezuko stuttered, holding her tears back when the black color of Rui turned into a peaceful, lime fog before it disappeared (The color of a pure, pure innocent child. Why did the world have to be so cruel to turn this pitiful child into a devil, evil demon? Why would they tortured this child and left him alone in this merciless life without forgiveness? I don't understand. I don't understand. I. Don't. Understand—), "he isn't an unsightly monster. Demons are lifeless, sorrowful beings. Please, understand this, Tomioka-san."

Please understand that they're just as much victims as the innocent humans they had to eat.

" How do you know…" then he saw, really, saw the girl's face. He saw the ginger-haired boy with bamboo covering his mouth—

("They're former humans, right? Just like niichan," a black-haired girl with hope too much it hurt, wryly smiled, "They have feelings too...")

And his eyes widened with realization.

"You—"

TAP TAP TAP TAP

A set of rapid footsteps could be heard—

WIIISSSHHH

Giyuu swiveled his gaze to the source of the unexpected sound, he crouched—

CLANG

—and deflecting a pointy blade that was ready to cut Tanjiro down with his own katana, negating that sudden attack from the sudden arrival of another.

Nezuko hitched when a different hunter—a pretty woman with a pretty haori. Smile adorned that milky complexion yet her eyes were blanker than even Giyuu's, it made her stomach churn in apprehension—tilted her head while she giggled airily, "why are you getting in the way, Tomioka-san?" she questioned, backflipping through the air with a grace Nezuko sure she couldn't pull it off herself. Pretty lady skidded to a stop, the breeze swaying the coat, making the gradation on her sleeves glinted under the moonlight, "you said we can't get along with demons. But what's all this about? If you do this—"

"—everyone will hate you, you see~"


OMAKE chapter 44

Zenitsu—wrapped up with bandages from head to toe, allowing only his yellow eyes to observe the things happening around—gulped with trepidation. A horde of people in the same black hunter uniform, yet different with black coverings that also covered the bottom half of their face, were scurrying around the place, treating the human-spiders—that were previously hunters. Victims just like Zenitsu—with prompt and care. A girl with a left-side horse-tail that was tied by a butterfly ornament was seen giving those people order, the cute girl he met in the Final Selection exam. Inosuke, somehow tied to a branch like a Teru Teru Bozu, was also present. Injured and unconscious, the black people were trying to get him down.

It was clear these hordes, and the beautiful woman who had saved him from the venom, were there to rescue them. But something within him rumbled as the cute girl in side-ponytail disappeared behind the foliage; saying that she will hunt the demon nearby while the others should deal with this situation at their own leisure. Not because he was hungry after all the energy he spent crying and panicking (and also fighting, but he didn't remember any of it so he didn't mention it) no. It was something else.

"I have a bad feeling," the sun-haired slayer groaned, his glassy eyes stared at the black, night canvas above his person, "I just hope Nezuko-chan or Tanjiro doesn't meet that girl when she patrols the area nearby…"

Chapter Text

Nezuko ran.

She ran with all her might. Ignoring her wounds and jello legs. Bringing her brother along who, with all his might, turned himself smaller so she could carry him easier as they didn't have any time for him to properly go inside the box. The only thing she could do right now was run. Away from this forest and away from the dangerous lady with blank eyes that unnerved her to no end—

"I'll kill him with a sweet poison that won't leave him in pain~"

She stumbled.

Of course. Of course, Nezuko knew that lady didn't mean anything bad when she said that. In a sense, she was actually being nice to her; offering a peaceful way for her brother to pass on to the afterlife. Just like what Nezuko did to Mother, using the Fifth Style to behead the demon so she doesn't feel any pain when her life was extinguished. But! She embraced her only family closer to her chest, protecting him from the cruel world of this Demon Slaying fiasco. But Tanjiro is her niichan. Her too-much-human-yet-too-much-demon-for-the-hunters-taste niichan. Even if that lady was just trying to do her job, was being very nice towards Nezuko who already lost her family, she could not let her take away her last sibling. The only one who grounded her in this world because if he's gone then I don't have any will to live anymore I might just kill myself and end this suffering—

"I have to pull out of the Demon Hunter Association", Nezuko decided, coughing as her lungs were screaming in pain, "as long as Niichan is safe, I don't care. I have Tamayo-san who promised me to create a cure for Niichan. Urokodaki-san will allow me to keep carrying the Niichirin Blade and tracking Muzan even if I am no longer a part of the association. I'm sure he can convince Haganezuka-san to keep forging a sword for me as well."

"It hurt, this merciless life. No matter how much of a brother Niichan is—"

She didn't realize Tanjiro had opened his eyes. Energy still depleted but a lot more energetic after a brief nap.

Nor had she realized a set of feet landed on a thick branch of the high tree behind her. Followed by a figure in a white cloak and black uniform who descended like a hawk upon her.

"—THEY CAN NEVER ACCEPT A HUNTER WHO CARRIES A DEMON AWAY!"

WHOOSH

DUAK

"GAH!"

"I-Impossible!" Nezuko thought, her body skidding through the dirt painfully, unwillingly relinquishing her hold on her tiny, oldest sibling. Her back hurt, she was sure whoever stepped onto her only aggravated the wounds even more, "and after Tomioka-san give me a chance to run too, she still managed to chase after me so fast?!"

The figure (who she didn't recognize, with her hazy sight, that the slayer who had bounced on her like a springboard was actually a different one. This one wore the same ornament as the Poison Lady, but her hair was tied in a side ponytail. Her coat doesn't have an intricate design or glittering pollen like the previous hunter either) raised her sword into the air, ready to chop Tanjiro's neck, now that he was in a vulnerable state. Except, Nezuko won't let her do that. With determination lit behind her burgundy eyes, the ponytail girl snatched the fluttering cloak and pulled. Making the other person stumble backward and causing her swing to go off course, only grazing the earth on top of the ginger fiend's head (too close. Too close to his neck. God, she was too close to snatching her only family away from her—)

"RUN, NIICHAN!" Nezuko desperately shouted. Tanjiro struggled to get up as his sister kept hollering, hands extended and eyes started watering, "RUN! DON'T THINK ABOUT ME AND JUST SAVE YOURSE—"

DUAK

The oldest Kamado could only stare in incredulity when the girl with a soft smile that was too unnerving kicked his sister's head down using the back heel of her white boots. His body shivered when he saw how the cheerful life reflected in those red eyes abruptly dim. How her body slumped like a puppet without strings. Blood oozing from the gashes on her milky face and something within him snapped.

.

"Niichan!" Takeo—Nezuko—he didn't know, their voices overlap each other—screamed, "run awa—"

.

A foot descended right at Takeo's—Nezuko's—their head and—

.

The blood splashed, his red eyes widened—

.

His ginger eyes widened—

.

"What's wrong with this girl?" Side-Ponytail mused as she picked up her sword from the ground, "that boy is clearly a demon but she tried to let him get away? Isn't she a hunter just like me—"

White slayer swiveled her head to the left when the surroundings suddenly turned hotter, the atmosphere turned tense, she lept—

FWOOOMMM

And dodged the fire in the form of four claw marks, letting the unexpected attack whizzed past her face without harm.

The ginger-haired beast—now in his teenager form—used that to his advantage to lash out another strike, with speed that was almost blinding. Claws after claws went after her, that turned bigger and bigger as time ticked by. They slashed the air, they chopped the trees, they crushed the earth. One of them missed yet somehow, it came back. Now was attacking her from above, almost catching her off guard, if she didn't vaguely feel the burning in the air (from the shape and size, that claw was the same one as the one that missed. How could it attack me from above? Even if it acted like a boomerang, it would just turn around and strike me from behind). The returning claw managed to graze her black hair and almost burned the locks to a crisp, if she hadn't immediately clasped them with her bare hand and snuffed the fire out (it…doesn't hurt? Wait. Actually, the fire went out before I could extinguish it. His previous attack doesn't burn the area either, even though it was fire. Is he…not trying to harm me?). Another duck and jump to the back, and Side-Ponytail was now a good distance away from the fainted slayer. That one move she made was a mistake the demon needed because now, he stood over his fallen comrade, body crouched and nails out. Her lips thinned in apprehension and she dashed, weapon to the fore as she hoped the blade reach the beast in time before he could ever think of eating the poor hunter—

A pillar of fire sprouted from beneath, swallowing her sword instead.

Side-Ponytail pulled the blade as soon as possible (it's not broken? The fire came so suddenly, it felt like lead. She fearfully inspectedand the onslaught didn't stop on that. Ginger Demon planted one foot on the ground, the other extended. With arms spread, he spun in place, ginger fire blazing from open palms and ankle. Before long, an enveloping dome made of fire was created, barricading the demon and the pink girl inside.

No. Side-Ponytail gulped at the grim insinuation and went for another move, slashing the fire like her life was depended on it. Yet it was useless. No matter how hard she struck or how fancy her skill was, the fire didn't budge. Her sword kept disappearing whenever it connected to the barrier, like she was slashing at air. Void. No outer force could ever disturb its standing. No. She huffed and puffed, straightening her back while the lavender eyes widened in realization, horror started settling in. Did I just…

fail?

Burned leaves slowly fell, crumbling into dust as they reached the ground.


"I believe it was two years ago…"

"This is going to be a problem if you're going to start from such a long time ago. This is harassment. You just have a grudge because I said everyone hates you, right?"

"Uuh…"

Shinobu and Giyuu, still at the battleground of the final fight, were now at a standstill. The obviously larger man managed to trap her in a position she couldn't escape from—both her right hand and half of her upper body were locked in place by one arm, right beneath his armpit. That position made her sight rest at the left side of his green-yellow patterned haori. While her left hand was restrained as well, his grip on her sword handle was too strong. Something to be impressed by because she couldn't even yank her weapon away. But at least the pointy end of it went through his sleeve, making a hole in the red-side of his coat, her petty revenge for this obvious disobedience—the butterfly lady pouted.

She was clearly not in the wrong here, she was just doing her job. Killing every demon she could find before those monsters could consume another victim. Most of rank 10's that were sent here were annihilated already, she was just trying to avenge them. So she's not violating any rules. Instead, it was Giyuu that was. And the girl in pink as well. For protecting the beast they had to slay and now arresting her in this embarrassing lock so she could not chase after them. There must be a reason, surely. Especially as the Water Pillar here was ready to tell her said reason a minute ago. But she was too pissed to even care. Why were these people trying so hard to hold her back? Didn't they understand letting a demon go is such a fatal thing to do? That demon will kill anyone in its sight, without remorse nor mercy as he slew her who was just trying to understand them how could he—

(She didn't want to see other people trapped in that same fate again; bloody, broken, not an ounce of life remaining in that usually happy, cheerful self no—)

So Shinobu took another measure. If Giyuu didn't intend to let her go—her right foot skidded to the back, pulling out a hidden knife she installed at the heel of her sandal. Her comrade let out a silent gasp as she bent and raised the foot to the sky, small blade ready to pierce his shocked face.

—she'll just have to create an escape path on her own instead!

"CAW CAW!" unfortunately, her next move had to stop when a Kasugaigarasu landed near them and started cawing. It flapped its black wings fervently then shouted, "we have a message. We have a message!"

"Restrain the ones named Nezuko and Tanjiro. And brings them to headquarters, caw!" what? "Nezuko is a girl with a ponytail and is wearing a pink haori. The demon Tanjiro has a scar on his forehead and is biting onto a piece of bamboo!"

"Restrain them and bring them to headquarters, caw!"

.

.

.

What is actually going on here? Shinobu mused as she and Giyuu hopped from tree to tree, reducing the time to get to their destination because they didn't want to get caught by the leftover spiderwebs scattering on the lower branches that will hinder their trek. She stared at his back, hunched and defensive yet still showing her his weakness as plain as day. Maybe he's silently asking her to stab him if he decides to defect once more, an act a prisoner should have when their mistake was already out in the open. At least Giyuu knew his fault so she tried not to point the blade on him, figuratively and literally. But still, the usually serious Tomioka-san break a rule? I cannot believe the day would ever come.

They arrived at a clearing that was almost near the entrance of the forest. Shinobu saw her protégé there, along with a bunch of Kakushi (the black uniform people with black headpiece that covered most of their complexion. They were the post-processing squad that deals with everything after the demon hunters and the demons fight, people who didn't get a privilege to wield a niichirin blade themselves. That doesn't mean their presence is not as important as the Demon Slayer itself, however. She respects them, for risking their safety in this dangerous occupation while they don't even have a weapon to defend themselves) that were standing around in a circle, confusion palpable in the atmosphere around. And she could understand that. Because she was gazing at a dome made of fire crackling not too far from them, still and unmoving, not burning any other grass or trees in its surroundings. The Poison User landed near the only girl there and tapped her shoulder, "Kanao, what happened here?"

"Shinobu-nee," Side-Ponytail nodded in acknowledgment. She pointed to the barrier as she explained, "it was the fire of the demon Tanjiro. He made it and trapped Nezuko and himself inside."

"Really?" one of her eyebrows shot up, "you didn't try to vanquish it with your skills?"

"I tried," Kanao shook her head. She stepped towards the dome and swiped her blade at it. The sword didn't pass through like Shinobu expected it too. Instead, It disappeared, swallowed inside before she pulled it back; intact and without a scratch, "it didn't work. We threw a rock at it but the rock didn't fly to the other side of the fire. It almost like we're throwing the rock into a deep well. The fire also didn't hurt us," Kanao proved that by touching the surface with her whole palm, "but because we didn't know what is this fire doing to the blade and rock, we hesitate to just…waltz in there."

Shinobu hummed. Logical conclusion. The fire doesn't wound them yet it was still unclear what its effect will be towards the normal human. They're talking about a Blood Demon Art after all, "then let's just wait until morning. If he doesn't intend to move anyway, we can just wait for the sun to burn him."

"But Oyakata-sama asked us to bring them alive."

"You're right. But with the time we waste in trying to break this barrier open, the demon must've eaten the girl already," she shrugged nonchalantly. Guilt ran through her entire being at the notion of a new victim; they had encountered too many corpses in this single night already, she didn't want to see another if she could. It only lasted for a quick second, however. She tried to warn the pink slayer about the danger of the beast. But she was too stubborn to hear her out. So it was solely Nezuko's fault, "we can't let a demon who eats a human live. That's why, much to our chagrin, we have to disobey Oyakata-sama's order."

Kanao agreed.

"No. The girl's alive," Giyuu, who haven't speak any of his opinions towards their conversation, finally said. The butterfly lady let out a sound of refusal at that. Thought he immediately cut her with another sharp sentence, "believe me. That demon will never eat his own sister."

Even if he says so, and with a tone so sure it was like saying the sky is blue and the grass is green, she couldn't. That was such a ridiculous idea, Shinobu had never met a demon who didn't eat humans (no matter how much she insisted they exist). Nevertheless, Giyuu was so adamant with his words that he confidently strode to the dome, Kanao politely stepped back, then crouched. He put one of his hands on the ground while the other touched the barrier, "Kamado Tanjiro. I know you can hear me."

"Do you remember me? It's me, Tomioka Giyuu. The one who tried to kill you before," Shinobu blinked. He did? Was this the past he tried to tell her just a moment ago? An explanation of his disobedience? That they already knew each other? "can you please turn your skill off? I'm not going to hurt you. Not anymore."

No answer. Giyuu plowed through, "I saw your sister's condition. She's hurt, right? The Twelve Demon Moon did a number on her," The Butterfly hunter heard a choked sob from somewhere inside that fire, "you may not trust me or the other hunter but you should at least get your sister checked. You don't want her wounds to get infected and worsen her condition, am I right?"

It was silent for an awkward ten seconds that felt too long. Waiting for something that sounds wishy-washy, it made her agitated. Shinobu was ready to give him her pity speech after another ten seconds of nothing but then took a step back. Because the barrier slowly faded. Opening up like a gate before it snuffed itself out completely, the Kakushi around let out a surprised exhale. The ginger fiend was there, exhausted and on the verge of fainting; trying to keep his skill up must've drained a lot of energy. He was holding the unconscious pink slayer in a bridal style oh so carefully, it was almost protective. Or actually, it was, as Shinobu saw concern clearly written in those reddish-brown eyes of his. They flitted to the women hunters, who immediately tense at his judging stare. But he didn't do anything besides that. Instead, he walked closer to Giyuu and whined at him, jolting the girl in his arms to make his intentions clear. The Water Pillar tilted his head.

"You don't want to tend to your injuries first?" he asked, Tanjiro instantly shook his head. He pointed to the box, then his mouth, Giyuu nodded in understanding. While the other spectator around were scratching their head in confusion as of what had actually happened. Was this something only minimal-speaking people understand? Giyuu doesn't like to talk if he has to—this night was actually one of the few times she had heard him speak so much—so did he understand the demon's silent conversation because they were basically two peas in a pod? Shinobu thought she should have mastered this skill by having Kanao alongside her for years, as she doesn't like to converse too much either, "alright. The Kakushi will treat her. I promise you they will be fair in their treatment and will not rough her at all," said Kakushis trembled when, not only the demon piercing eyes but Giyuu's blank ones landed on them, sweat drenching their backs like a waterfall. That was definitely a threat, "you should go back to your box. Morning will come and your sister will kill me if you turned into dust when she is fast asleep."

Tanjiro nodded. The black people with headpieces slowly loaded Nezuko to a stretcher—that they hastily made using branches and rolls and rolls of bandages—and started checking her there and then, wanting to close the heavy injuries she attained so she didn't lose too much blood. The oldest Kamado went to the side of her impromptu bed, pulling her hair-tie off and letting her long, black hair flow down till her waist to make her rest more comfortable. Shinobu watched in disbelief when Tanjiro caressed Nezuko's hair lovingly, eyes crinkled upward in a worried gesture. He clasped the hair-tie a bit tighter, put it inside his haori's sleeve and shrank himself down. With one last glance toward the fainted pink hunter, he went inside the wooden compartment and closed the door shut. Giyuu then slung the bag on his broad back, "let's go. Oyakata-sama is waiting."


"Sooo…" Shinobu started the conversation, making her steps a bit faster so they could walk side by side, "mind telling me how you know them? You look so chummy with them, Tomioka-san. I'm pretty sure you didn't get a girlfriend on one of the missions you took beforehand. And an okay from her brother to boot too!"

"She's not my girlfriend. She's actually my kouhai," he answered, '' I tried telling the story but a certain someone won't listen. So I won't try to tell it again."

Shinobu gasped as she stopped in her tracks, "was that sass that I hear from you Tomioka-san? You're sassing me?"

The weird haori wearer didn't deign to listen to her words and just kept on moving.

"Oh my god, you did!" Shinobu laughed out loud, the lady almost coughed. She dashed without a sound and literally tackled Giyuu, he stumbled a bit, "I can't believe you actually sassed me! You've grown up, Tomioka-san! I'm so proud of you!"

"Knock it off, Kocho."

"No way! I saw so much of your new side today. This is so going into my journal! Kanao!" she snapped her fingers. Side-Ponytail teleported right to her side, a book and a quill that she definitely didn't have before was already in her grasp. A Kakushi was also there to hold the ink when the protege needs it for refilling, "write this. 'Tomioka-san surprised me so much today. First, he was…"

"I said knock it off!"

Chapter Text

SLAP SLAP

"Urghh..." Nezuko groaned, she rolled to the side, hair covering half of her face, "five more minutes, niichan..."

SLAP

"Oi," a rough voice echoed, the hand that had been hitting her cheek increasing its strength in annoyance, "Wake up already."

Wait a minute...her brother doesn't have this type of rough voice...

A stranger?!

(Also, isn't this some kind of deja-vu she was experiencing right now? Nezuko was sure she had this same conversation word for word)

Her eyes instantly flew open, hands moved to grasp the hilt of her blade.

Yet abruptly stopped in mid-air as she realized she couldn't do that. Her hands were tied together behind her back. Wrists touching each other yet palms outward so she couldn't fiddle with the rope. Her body was propped to a bonsai tree, the lush leaves gave a shadow that sheltered her from the morning heat. But even with all the precautions they did so she will not get heat stroke from not consuming waters in the past hours, the atmosphere around still took her breath away, Nezuko almost choked on her own saliva. In front of her stood seven people. Some of them looked friendly and some of them did not. Giyuu was right beside her—was the one who slapped her awake actually—and she recognized the Poison Lady. She stepped forward and gave her a soft smile.

"Good morning, Kamado-san. This is the headquarters of the Demon Hunters," she explained, "you're on trial now so please relax and sit down. You don't want to aggravate your wounds any further~"

"Kocho, what are you talking about? There's definitely no need for a trial here," a man with golden hair and red streaks at the end of the locks, wondered. The bright strands reached his shoulders and his bangs stood upright, resembling the antennae of a king beetle. He folded his arms in front of his broad chest, causing the white-orange-red haori that was cut messily and creating a pattern of a fiery flame, flutter in the wind. He grinned, his orange eyes shining with genuine happiness; although the words he uttered next making his smile seem like a bringer of doom rather than an old friend who longed to see you. In Nezuko's case anyway, "protecting demons is clearly a violation of conduct. We can deal with it ourselves! We'll decapitate every demon!"

"Then let me cut his head off flamboyantly," a man with a white cloth that covered most of his head, hiding his hair inside, spoke next. Borrowing his word, this man was…flamboyant. There were three big, light blue jewels that decorated the front of his turban, several small ones hanging from each side of it and some that even decorated his ears that glinted whenever he moved. He touched his left temple elegantly, showing a well-muscled arm as he wore the sleeveless version of the Demon Hunter uniform. The man winked, the red dot mark that almost resembled a blooming flower, along with the same red eyes, crinkled in glee, "I'll show I can spray the blood more flamboyantly than anyone else, period."

A lady with a long pink-green hair that was tied into three, braided pigtails frowned cutely at that announcement. She swirled her head towards the Golden Man and the Turban Man, fingers flailed like she wanted to say something. Yet decided not too and just covered her face, shaking her head slowly. Did she just…blush?

(Nezuko tried not to stare at her enormous breasts that literally tore her clothing open, by the way).

"Aaah…what a shoddy child he is. How sorrowful," a big man with black, short hair that was shaved at the side, and a nasty scar on his forehead chimed in. It was a bit unnerving to see his blank, pupilless, grey eyes stared at her. Tears were staining his study jaw, hands clasped in prayer as the purple bead on his fingers cackled, "it's so sorrowful that he was born into this world."

The last one, a boy with long, black-lime hair and blank lime eyes gazed hollowly at the blue sky with white clouds swimming by. His mouth was parted open and his expression uncaring, he definitely didn't pay any attention to the discussion flying around.

Wha—what trial? Kill who?

R-Right! Niichan! Nezuko swerved her head, burgundy eyes frantically rolled to every nook and cranny. Where is he? Where's niichan—

"Hands off," Giyuu's voice suddenly echoed through her ears, the girl snapped her attention to him. His back was now onto her, showing her a box she recognized immediately. Ah, here it is. Niichan is safe. Thank God. Giyuu gave a slight frown, his palm grasped the white straps, he said, "what are you trying to do, Shinazugawa?"

"Haah?" A man with white spiky hair heatedly scowled. Pretty sure he was not there before, did he just arrive? If Nezuko thought the scar on the Monk's face was painful, then this man's is devastating. Almost every inch of his milky skin was covered with scars; three on his forehead, one that crossed the bridge of his nose. Then crossly slashed at his chest, along with a crooked, vertical line on his stomach; she could see them because he didn't button his uniform properly. And don't even start on the small, multiple wounds on his wrists, palm, and maybe some more that were hidden by those white, short coat. His dilated black eyes glared right at Giyuu's blues, red nerves bunch on white sclerae, "I'm trying to kill a fucking demon here. Wasn't that our job in the first place? Kocho told me that you, quote-unquote, promised the demon not to hurt the girl only. Why the fuck are you trying to protect him too?"

"I may have told him that I promised not to hurt his sister," Giyuu's aura tightened, he looked more intimidating. Causing her to recall their first encounter in that bamboo field, "but I promised my Master not to hurt both of them."

"Waow. Something is clearly wrong with your shitty head there," Shinazugawa laughed, it sounded completely manic and bloodthirsty and it sent shivers down her entire being, "maybe you're actually a demon too. A demon who disguised themselves as Tomioka. Should I fucking chop your head instead?"

"Stop that, you brute. You're going to violate the demon hunter conduct as well," Nezuko jolted when another voice she doesn't recognize resounded from…above her? It was a bit hard to see because he was hidden beneath the leaves, but she could discern him as a male also. A male with shoulder-length indigo hair that was cut tidily, perched at the tree Nezuko was rested. His mouth was covered by white bandages that acted as a substitute for a mask. And coiled around his neck was…a white snake. A snake as a pet, she never heard someone who could tame a wild snake. Or was that animal a non-venomous one? He pointed his finger to the squabbling comrades, causing his white-with-black-strips haori to flutter as displeasure was written in his heterochromatic eyes—right eye was yellow and left eye was green, "I have a headache seeing him not bound there and I don't want my headache to get worse with you. We should deal with him first. How will we make him take responsibility? Should we make him suffer or just end it all in one go? I prefer suffering and pain if you asked my opinion."

"Well, it's fine, right?" The Poison Lady—Kocho—hummed, "he followed me without causing a ruckus. And without his help, we couldn't have apprehended the demon and the girl. Oyakata-sama's order, we have to bring them both alive. More importantly, we should hear Kamado's story," Kocho stepped closer, she gave the pink girl a small gourd that was filled with water for her to drink, "why don't you start with the reason why you brought a demon with you?"

The second Kamado coughed and her tense shoulders unconsciously relaxed. Was there a painkiller in that drink? Her body doesn't feel that hurt anymore, "I…Muzan killed my family," the spectators around held their breath when they heard that man's name, eyes widened and hatred immediately took over the glint of curiosity in there, "and he turned my niichan into a demon as well. So I'm trying to turn him back to a human. B-But niichan has never eaten someone before! Up until now. And from now on! He…he is more human than a demon! He eats normal food! Like we do!"

"…what? Are you stupid?" the Snake Man snorted, "did you even hear yourself there, girl? Man-Eating Demons are called Man-Eating Demons for a reason. There's no way a demon who eats normal food exists. Don't spit out stupid rash remark so recklessly."

"But it's true! I'm not lying!" Nezuko exclaimed, she was desperate, "I swear! I can even prove it to you! Tomioka-san!" she called the Horse-Tailed hunter, who turned to her, "in that box, we stock a lot of snacks for him to eat. At the bottom box, the left compartment. Just pick one and ask niichan to eat it, then—"

"Even then, there's no proof the boy will stay that way," the Monk interjected, tears still flowing freely, "you're being obsessed with the demon. Let's kill this pitiful child quickly and release him from his suffering."

"But Himejima-san, I have a question," the Braided Girl mumbled. She was still blushing, her green orbs were wide with innocent, "it doesn't seem like Oyakata-sama has grasped this situation yet. Can we just deal with it on our own like this?" she smiled broadly, beauty marks that decorated both of her cheeks pulled upward, "we should wait until he arrived, okay?"

Silence descended the occupant around. The other looked at each person questioningly; must be torn between agreeing with her words or just screw it and proceed to do the deed anyway.

"Come on, Kanroji! Don't be stupid! We're talking about a fucking demon here! Of course, there's only one thing we should do. Kill them." Shinazugawa roared, his hand swiped forward, intent on snatching the box from Giyuu's hold once again. But the Water Pillar snatched his wrist then hurled it down, the Spiky Man let out a growl, "stay the fuck away, Tomioka. If you don't want me to behead him, let's just open the box and let him burn. It's a win-win for me either way."

"No."

"Damn you. You really are testing my patience here…"

"That was a very short fuse. You should learn to control yourself a bit more. Maybe you will not get those scars on your body so frequently then."

"BASTARD! I'LL RIP YOU TO FUCKING SHREDS, YOU BITCH!"

("Since when was Tomioka (-san) this sarcastic?" everyone, including Nezuko, wondered. Shinobu giggled)

"OYAKATA-SAMA IS ARRIVING!" their entertainment—if comrades that were caught in a verbal fight that almost ended in a real fight could be called an entertainment—had to be cut short, however, when a young voice hollered through the surrounding. Nezuko didn't realize, as she was too caught off guard by the presence of these people and their question regarding her family. But two girls with white, short hair that went past their ears yet not touching their shoulders were there, sitting dogeza-style on the tatami of the big mansion of Demon Hunter Headquarters. She thought they were the same one that guarded over the Final Selection Exam entrance, although they were actually younger than that one, Nezuko surmised. They bowed when a figure walked past the doorway. A white haori with red-blue speckles at the bottom part flared after the new person, giving off a vibe of someone important with his way of walking alone. And, did Nezuko said Shinazugawa's scars looked devastating than the Monk—Himejima's? She retracted that statement back. Because this person—Oyakata-sama—clearly takes the cake.

Is that…a burn mark?

It covered the half-top of his face, eating the eyebrows till it was no more and blinded his sight, judging from the blank gaze he directed at them all and how he needed the white-haired girls to lead him—it was even blanker than the Monk and that said something. His shoulder-length black hair framed his face, showing the scar even more clearly to the whole world. Wait, no. It's not a scar. Nezuko's stomach twisted. That purple color…that's a sickness. A cruel sickness that eats him alive and that must be painful to bear oh my God—

"Don't stare. It's rude," Giyuu landed his palm on her head and forced her to bow, not too deep as she was in a sitting position. Nezuko watched as the other did the same—crouching with one knee folded back and head low—giving Oyakata-sama their best regards.

"We find it most honorable to be in your presence, Oyakata-sama. We eagerly pray for much happiness upon you," Shinezugawa proceed to do the opening speech, expression a lot calmer than before when he butted heads with Giyuu. He can speak politely, after all, Nezuko was impressed, "let me humbly say there is a soldier present in the Pillar Meeting by the name of Kamado Nezuko," he glared at her as he said her name, she threw one back at him. A maniacal smile flitted his complexion for a split second when he saw the clear disobedience before he continued, "I would like to explain the scenario. Will you allow me?"

"Thank you, Sanemi. But there's no need," he sat down near the balcony and smiled, "I have given my approval for Nezuko and Tanjiro. So I want everyone here to accept them."

That announcement immediately turned the polite silence into frantic murmurs.

Kanroji and Uncaring Boy accepted it because it was the leader's order, the boy went so far and promised to forget everything ever happen. Kocho and Giyuu didn't say anything. And then the rest. Oh boy, they disagree vehemently, even the Golden Man who looked the friendliest of them all completely opposed to this decision. Then don't forget Shinazugawa—Sanemi—who literally spat. Nezuko worried that, although Oyakata-sama is clearly the boss here, they decided to execute Tanjiro after all. With how the opinion was leaning toward the 'dissatisfied' crowd. However, Oyakata-sama just gave them another quirk of lips. With one glance, White Girl at his right pulled out a parchment and started talking.

"We received this letter from the former Pillar, Urokodaki Sakonji-sama," Urokodaki-san? "I will read an extract from it."

"—Please forgive Nezuko for being together with a demon. Tanjiro had a tenacious spirit and he retains human reasoning. Even when he was starving, he doesn't eat humans. Instead, he eats normal food as we do. Drinks normal drinks as we do. And sleeps as we do. You may find this sudden and difficult to believe, but this is the unmistaken truth. He has stayed that way for more than two years. As long as the others show him how a human should act, positively and not negatively, he'll follow that example to a T. As long as he stays near human—near Nezuko—he'll retain his humanity. But if any chance Tanjiro ever attack someone, Kamado Nezuko as well as—"

"Urokodaki Sakonji and Tomioka Giyuu will cut their own stomachs open as an apology."

.

.

.

"T-Tomioka-san too?" Nezuko slowly turned her view towards the bowing man, who didn't show any emotion after all the discovery of his involvement. He didn't move, he didn't speak to redact that statement from Sakonji's letter either, "Tomioka-san…he trusted me?"

When I said I'll find the cure and turn niichan back into a human?

When I said I'll become a Demon Hunter and hunt the one who did this to my family?

When I said I won't regret nor forget the promise I made?

Nezuko realized she was crying. Fat, fresh tears rolling down her cheeks, burgundy eyes trembling as her sight started going hazy.

.

Thank you for believing in me, Tomioka-san. Thank you

Thank you…


Of course, the letter still didn't quell the opposition squad. Golden Man summarized Spiky Hair's brash word to, "if he kills and eats someone, nothing can be undone. The people who got killed will never come back." And yes. Nezuko understands their skepticism. They are Pillars, the one Murata-san told her before. They have walked this Demon Hunter path a lot longer than her, they killed a lot more demons than her. They will never believe in such nonsense, an empty promise. In all of their fights, there have been no demons like niichan, after all—

"But you can't prove he'll attack someone either," Oyakata-sama answered the rebuttal calmly, silencing everyone present, "the truth is that Tanjiro has been living by eating human food for more than two years. And because of him, two people are putting their lives on the line. To deny this, the deniers have to present something more than what is here."

Sanemi gnashed his teeth, Golden Man slowly nodded in agreement, "besides," their leader mussed, "Nezuko has come into contact with Kibutsuji."

That sentence sent the Pillars into chaos, they immediately crowded towards her.

"That can't be—"

"We Pillars have never even come into contact with him—"

"And this girl had—"

"Hey, what did he look like? His abilities? Where is he?"

"Did you fight?"

"What was Kibutsuji doing?"

"Have the headquarters been located?"

"Eh?! Uuh…" Nezuko was overwhelmed. Yet their desperation was palpable, she tried to raise her voice in the midst of the cacophony, "I-I saw him in Asakusa Town!"

"Okay…" Snake Man glared, "go on."

"H-He disguised himself as a human and lived a life as a human. Complete with a human wife and a human child," her lips thinned at another fake family. But she needed to be professional right now. So the pink hunter took a deep breath and tried to recall every single detail of the night of the encounter, "He has plum-red eyes with slit pupils. Short, wavy black hair. Judging from his tidy clothes and fancy coat, he may work as a businessman. But I don't know if he works near that town or was only there for sightseeing. I could not chase after him or gather any intel because he…he turned someone into a demon in order to shake me away," the Pillars frowned at that, some of them have their fists clenched or gripping their sword handle in agitation, "I'm sorry I'm not fast enough to stop him from doing so. But I took care of the new demon," not in a sense of killing him, however. Tamayo-san promised to change him back to human too when the cure is complete, "and I lost sight of him when the Imperial Guard went after me."

"Hmm…pity that it was such minimal information," Flamboyant Man hummed, ignoring Kanroji's whine, who fell to her bum when he accidentally knocked her over. Giyuu offered his hand to help her stand, "Oh, but we can try to search for the wife and the kid. If we pretend to be one of Kibutsuji's acquaintances," that word alone made him gagged. The other, even Nezuko, bristled at that too, "they may flamboyantly share more info with us."

"To think he dares mingle around us, humans. And lying to that poor family," Hamejima growled, the beads on his palm along with the ones looping around his neck trembled, a sign that he was trying to reign his emotion in, "what a distasteful man. He is unforgivable."

"Kibutsuji has come after Nezuko and she shook her pursuer loose," Oyakata-sama continued their briefing, everyone went back to their position, silent like the hubbub before never happened, "the reason for this may simply be just to close some loose ends. But for the time, I don't want to let go of the tail that Kibutsuji showed us. And this probably goes for Tanjiro as well. I believe something unexpected has happened, for Kibutsuji to ask his demons to capture Tanjiro."

"He did?" Golden Man blinked, "what did your brother do to incite that man's ire?"

"I-I don't know!" Nezuko stuttered, "Yahaba…uh, one of my pursuers, suddenly went berserk and asked the other to capture niichan. I don't know what he saw and he was too panicky for me to interrogate so—"

"So let's just kill him anyway!" Sanemi decided it was the right time for him to cut in, causing Nezuko to instantly glare at him; both in irritation and horrified realization.

"What are you saying, Shinezugawa?" Kocho's eyebrows furrowed, "this may be cruel of me, Kamado-san, but we can actually use your brother as our bait to lure Kibutsuji out," the sister gulped. That was…actually true. She didn't like it, but she could not deny it either, "rather than wasting our time, we should use our resources carefully—"

"Why? Why must we endanger ourselves just for the sake of it?" he let out a low snarl, "it's not like we can't search for that bastard ourselves! We can let humans live but demons? I cannot consent!"

Then he proceeded to nick half of his own hand with his green katana, Nezuko let out a gasp.

"Oyakata-sama! I will present to you!" he smirked, feral and murderous, "the ugliness of what we call demons…"

No…don't tell me he will—

Giyuu, who was focused on the Pillars meeting, was too late to react when Spiky Hair snatched the box from his back, shoving him away for a good measure, "Oi—"

Flamboyant Man instantly stood in front of him, a cocky smirk adorned his pale complexion while he acted as a barrier to stop Giyuu from interfering, "let's all calm down here, shall we?"

"Uzui…"

"Don't you want to see this flamboyant show?" he—Uzui—chuckled, "besides, if you believe the words the girl spoke, then there's nothing to be worried about, right?"

"…"

"Come on, filthy demon! Sink your teeth on this!" Sanemi, after apologizing to Oyakata-sama for his rudeness, went inside the mansion and hollered; it's basic knowledge that a demon cannot appear under the sunlight. He hovered his bleeding arm over the box, letting the blood dripped and went under the gap, "it's time for you to eat~"

No! Nezuko tried to stand up, wobbly and exhausted that she was. She knew Tanjiro never has any interest in human blood—his sister kept bleeding all over the place whenever she finished her mission after all—but she was worried. Because she knew Tanjiro lost himself that one time. Knew how scary his expression was. Knew how his warm aura like a sun turned colder and colder and colder—

I don't want to see that happen again! Niichan—

BAM

"UKH!"

Yet her advance had to be stopped when the Snake Man sunk his elbow into her back, right at her ribs and at an exact pressure point that it made her freeze I can't move, I can't breathe. He moved too fast, too agile for her to dodge, just like the snake his unusual pet was. She thought she heard Kocho explained that her lungs were under pressure. And if she used any Breaths, her blood vessels will explode. She also heard Uzui wanting that exact thing to happen—what a sadistic man—or Hamejima prayed for her existence—which, she didn't need right now!—but Nezuko didn't really deign them important. She was too focused on trying to free herself. To reach over her only family. To save her only living sibling no, don't come out niichan! Don't let me see you lose yourself once more! Don't give in to temptation, no—

Tanjiro slowly appeared. Sweating and hair frizzier. Mouthpiece right at its usual place as his yellow orbs glinted under the light of this fine morning.

Chapter Text

And Tanjiro chucked a roll of bandage right at Sanemi's forehead.

"GAH?!"

The moment Spiky Hair went down, he turned. Pulled his mouthguard off and threw it at the Snake Man.

"What the—"

He didn't stop there. Tanjiro stepped out of the box and opened the latch of both of the compartments, letting the snacks and water bottles made of bamboo tumble out. He proceeded to throw every single item in the Snake Man's direction, with speed so fast that everything turned into a blur.

(White girl monotony recited the ensuing 'battle' to their leader, who couldn't help but chuckle, "it was an intense fight, Oyakata-sama.")

"Oi, you—" an anpan flew, he ducked, "—will you stop this—" two dorayakis zoomed, he dodged, "—foolish attack—" rice ball and dango flew, he evaded, "—and this foolish struggle—" dango and dorayaki appeared, he leaned back, "—you stupid demon!" water bottles sailed, he caught them both with his hands, "HAH! You can't hurt me with those pathetic assault anywa—ARGH!"

He forgot that he was in the middle of restraining Nezuko.

And now, the said girl had moved away, approaching Tanjiro who was ready to throw the box itself as his last attempt in freeing his family.

Kanroji snorted. Uzui guffawed. Kocho turned her head to the side to hide her laugh away.

"Niichan!" she called. Tanjiro—who had a comically angry expression. Eyes popped, fangs bared. Smoke coming out of his mouth and ears—jolted. He hastily put the wooden box back down and immediately went to her side.

(His eyes were not molten yellow anymore, which is good. Rather than temptation, Brother was giving in to his anger towards those hissy hunters who abused his little sister)

Yet he flinched when he almost reached the balcony. The sunlight shone that part of the mansion, accidentally burning the tips of his fingers away. He was torn between continuing his dash or hiding under the shade. Another burn on his skin when he took one step forward, he finally relented. The ginger fiend sat on the tatami with legs crossed, pointed at the wounds on her body and the rope that still tied her hands, then patted the empty space in front of him. A silent order for her to get over here so I can treat your injuries, hurry up! Now, it was Nezuko's turn to hesitate.

She was in a presence of Pillars, the upper echelon of the Demon Hunter Association. People who could kill her in a jiffy if she said something wrong. And let's not talk about Oyakata-sama, who was the leader of them all. If she shows disobedience more than this, he could boot her out of the organization itself. That was nothing to be concern of though, as she said she doesn't really care as long as her brother is safe. But that was if she's lucky enough. Worst case scenario, he decided to put her face up as a wanted (wo)man and order any hunters available to hunt them down. She was sure Oyakata-sama was not that kind of person. Nevertheless, her negative thoughts won't shut up and kept spiraling down and down and—

"You can come in, Nezuko-san," she jerked when the soft voice of their leader echoed, waking her up from her reverie. Oyakata-sama gave her his charming smile as he gestured to the impatient demon, "let your brother check on you. Family should not let the other worry unnecessarily, hm?"

Nezuko blushed at his kindness (his ivory fog is really soothing. So soft, it felt like she was wrapped inside a cotton cloud) she excused herself before approaching the anxious beast in tandem. The moment she arrived, Tanjiro sharpened his claws—the hunters around tensed at that, thinking that he decided to pounce the human anyway. Although it was a false alarm when he asked her sister to turn around—and hacked the rope away, making it crumble under the vicious strike. He rummaged through the box, frowned, then seemed to remember something as he lightly smacked his palm. Tanjiro stood and strode toward Sanemi, who was wary once more when he presumed the boy was going to attack him for real this time, finger already cradling the handle of the sword. But no. Tanjiro was just trying to pick the fallen bandages from the ground; the same bandages he used as an impromptu weapon a moment ago. The ginger beast stopped when he saw Spiky Hair's glare, stuck out his tongue and went back to the gaping sister, huffing haughtily.

Sanemi's veins figuratively snapped.

Giyuu coughed. Loudly.

"Even though Sanemi thrust his bleeding arm in front of him, he held himself back. Or rather, he didn't even glance at it and just went for his sister," Oyakata-sama said, smiling as he watched the ginger boy whine vehemently whenever he found other wounds that hid it existences from his sight, bandaging them with fervor and ignoring Nezuko's own fuss; his injuries may have closed, but the blood decorating his white yukata and the checkered haori still worried her otherwise, "and that's proof that Tanjiro will not attack humans right there."

Murmur started surrounding the entire environment.

Tanjiro grunted with satisfaction as the treatment is finally done. Nezuko was almost entirely covered in bandages, even her face did not escape from the overprotective brother, rounding up her forehead and lower jaw. A growl could suddenly be heard and the Kamados stared at the source of the voice, Tanjiro's stomach. He sheepishly laughed, pulled out one of the snacks from inside the box—some that were fortunately saved from his blind attack—then proceeded to eat the rice cracker in one, big bite.

"And that's also the proof that a demon who eats human food exists."

The murmurs stopped and were changed into something akin to shock. The ginger demon hummed in contentment.

"Nezuko. Despite this, there will still probably be other people who won't willingly agree about Tanjiro," Oyakata-sama said, in which Nezuko immediately bowed low. Her brother just kept on munching and started tightening her hair into the usual ponytail, complete with the usual braids along the way, while their leader continued, "you have just proved that, from this point on, you and Tanjiro can be useful enough to fight with the demon hunters. Defeat the Twelve Demon Moons. If you do that—"

"—then everyone will acknowledge you and the gravity of your words will change."


Head of the Demon Hunters, Ubuyashiki Kagaya. The tone of his voice and the rhythm of his actions ease the emotions of his partner into speaking. Using modern words, one would call it Pink Noise. He has a charismatic personality and the power to move the masses. There are many situations when he brandishes his power.

"You're lucky to meet someone as wonderful as Ubuyashiki-sama," the Kakushi explained as he—judging from the deep voice and his broad back. She couldn't really identify them with how they covered themselves from head to toe—carefully piggy-backed Nezuko to the Butterfly Estate. The other one, the woman, was back-packing Tanjiro, hefting the box into a proper clasp because the demon inside kept moving around. Maybe restless because his sister was out of his sight once more. Or perhaps he was too busy consuming the food—that Giyuu, Kocho, and Golden Man helpfully gathered. Only the salvageable stuff, as some were covered with dirt already—to regain his lost energy, "and even luckier that Shinezugawa-sama or Iguro-sama doesn't decapitate you for the insolence alone. The Pillars are really scary, you know. I thought I was gonna wet myself when your brother attacked them out of nowhere."

"It's not out of nowhere. Niichan was mad because they kept bullying me," Nezuko harrumphed, "Good riddance, anyway. Especially that Sanemi person."

"Oi! Don't talk about them that way!" They spoke at once, sweating. The one who carried Tanjiro then frantically spoke, "they might hear you! You don't know where they will be hiding! For all I know, the meeting is already over and he is here to spy on us!"

"Bring it on! Pillars or not, I don't like how he treated niichan like garbage!"

"You're going to be the death of us! Please, at least don't speak like that when we're around! We still value our lives, okay?"

While the Kakushi was busy praying for their lives and hoping that God will not be cruel enough to pair them with Nezuko once more, the pink hunter herself was busy with her own thoughts. After informing the leader and the Pillars about the description of Muzan's wife and child so they could start gathering info, Oyakata-sama ordered these black clothing people to whisk them away, as the real Pillars meeting will start soon. Kocho offered to take care of the sibling in her place just because. Before they could get away from the main mansion, however, Kagaya whispered to her.

"Give my regards to Tamayo-san."

He knew. He knew about the doctor's existence; a demon who doesn't eat human beings either and was on the opposite of Muzan's side, ready to vanquish him with her own power if she could. But how? Yushiro said that they covered their tracks very carefully—the incident of her pursuer's invasion was his only failing. Because too many people mean too many tracks left behind—and whenever the Demon Slayers were around to search for any lingering demons, they immediately vacated the premise. Kagaya knew yet he didn't hunt them? Was that the reason why he easily accepted Tanjiro in their midst? Because he already knew demons that don't consume humans exist? She didn't understand. Their leader was just too mysterious, that it will unnerve anyone who doesn't know him well.

(But his Ivory color was bright. So bright and so, so nice)

(She hoped her Sight doesn't lie to her like usual. Because she doesn't want a person with such a bright color to be nothing but a liar. Or worse, a manipulator)*

"That's the gist of the whole Pillars of this Demon Hunter Association," the one who carried her spoke. When there's no response, he jolted his hold to garner her attention, "Hey, do you hear me?"

"Hm? Yeah, sure. The Poison Lady is Kocho Shinobu. Tomioka-san, I already knew about him. The Golden Man is Rengoku Kyojuro. The Turban Man is Uzui Tengen. The Breasts Lady is Kanroji Mitsuri. The Monk is Himejima Gyomei. The Uncaring Boy is Tokito Muichiro. The Spiky Hair jerk is Shinazugawa Sanemi. And The Snake Man is Iguro Obanai," Nezuko recounted, ticking her fingers to count the masses. Not noticing the horror that started settling in on the complexion of the Kakushis, "did I miss one?"

"IS THAT WHAT YOU CALLED THEM IN YOUR HEAD THIS WHOLE TIME? OH MY GOD, PLEASE, PLEAASSSEEE! DON'T LET US BE YOUR GUARDIANS ANYMORE!"

When they arrived at the Butterfly Estate, there was no one around to greet them. Feeling as if they just barged into the house without permission, the Kakushis decided to circle around the mansion, searching for the occupant. In the backyard with koi ponds and bonsai trees, they encountered a young Demon hunter. A girl in a side-ponytail with a pink butterfly as her hair-tie. There's also her grey fog, a fog that was too bland for her taste, Nezuko recoiled. She recognized this color, recognized this feeling at seeing something so…unsure. It was a fog that belonged to the pretty girl from the Final Selection exam, the only other girl who passed the dangerous test without a scratch.

Tsuyuri Kanao, the successor of this estate, explained the Kakushis. She was silent yet so beautiful, especially with how the colorful butterfly flocked around her like a flower.

There was an awkward moment when the Kakushi asked for permission to come inside the estate but Kanao didn't say anything; be it denial or agreement, she just kept smiling that soft smile that reminded her so much of Shinobu. Although it ended just as quickly as it happened when another girl—this time having short, twin-tails as her hairstyle. Same hair ornament as well. Maybe it was right for the Poison Lady to call this the Butterfly Estate—shouted accusations at them, thinking that they were trespassers. One look at the exhausted Nezuko, however, she understands the situation instantly and ordered them to come inside, I have to fix that bandage. It was so sloppy.

The box rattled in protest at that.

Kanzaki Aoi, was her name, brought them to the medical wing. The room was littered with clean beds and medium windows for the sun to light up the room (ah, niichan can't come out in this room then. He has to go to the hallway or another room for that). There's another girl there. A kid that was the same age as Hanako, with shoulder-length hair and butterfly hairpins at each side. Except rather than her, Nezuko's sight immediately rested on the screaming patient the girl tended instead. That yellow-hair boy who was crying and sobbing. A very familiar boy that Nezuko almost jumped from Kakushi's hold to see.

"Zenitsu!" she called, tapping Kakushi's shoulders frantically. A way of her in telling him to hurry up, bring me to him! She craned her neck, trying to see her friend—who get hollered for being a noisy patient for the past hours by the TwinTail girl—better, Nezuko's breath hitched, "Zenitsu, are you okay? What's wrong with your hands? And legs? What happened to them? Why did that happen in the first place? Don't tell me Murata-senpai get the same disease too? I thought I told you to take care of yourself?! Don't worry me like this, Zenitsu—"

"N-Nezuko-chan! Hold up! If you're panicking like that, I don't have the time to panic myself!" Zenitsu flailed his tiny arms, hidden by the long, baggy sleeves and her stomach twisted even more. He started speaking to appease the ponytail girl, "I got stabbed by this stinky spider and—"

"Was it Father?"

"Father?"

"The one with a human body but a spider head."

"No, not him. He had a spider body but a human head," another one then? They had Mother and Sister. So maybe it was the Brother? "forget about that. So when he stabbed me, he gave me his poison. And this poison acted by turning me into a spider just like him! And he wanted to use me as his slave too, disgusting! I was saved before I could fully turn into one, but this girl had been nagging me, ordering me to drink this bitter medicine for three months! Three. Whole. Months, Nezuko-chan! This is so—EEP!"

Aoi glared at him, so heatedly, Nezuko swore she could burn Zenitsu alive.

"And Murata-senpai? What about him? Is he okay?"

"Murata who?"

"What do you mean Murata who? I mean Murata-sen…ah, right," Nezuko realized after a minute of blind panic, "you fell asleep before he could introduce himself ("I fell asleep? What?") Murata is that senpai who managed to stay alive. The one we met after we went into the forest."

"Oh, him? He's okay. Nothing major," Zenitsu immediately sulked, he folded those tiny hands in front of his chest, "actually, why the heck was he not there to help me fight the Stinky Spider? I heard from Inosuke that you helped him in pinpointing the spider's manipulator, so okay. I can accept that. But Murata? Inosuke said he was with me but where was he? Stupid senpai! Leaving your kouhai alone—"

"Right! Inosuke!" the pink hunter swiveled her heads, "is he okay? Where is—" then she landed her gaze on the bed across the sunny boy's. Right at the Pig Mask who was lying still, "there he is!" Nezuko frantically slapped Kakushi's shoulders again, a lot faster than before too. He grumbled at her treatment towards him yet obeyed anyway. She scrambled down this time, throwing half of her body to his blanket and grasped his callous hand, "Inosuke! I'm so glad you're okay! I'm sorry! I'm sorry I didn't go to help you, I—"

"It's okay. I'm fine," Inosuke quietly answered, "don't worry about me."

.

.

Wha-What's with that voice?

"Seems like his throat got crushed," Zenitsu belatedly explained, Nezuko gaped, "I dunno the details but I heard his neck get really smushed. In the end, he let out a really loud scream and that clinched it. So now his throat is messed up bad."

"WHY?! His throat was crushed already! Is he trying to kill himself?"

"Don't blame me, Nezuko-chan! Blame the stupid Pig!"

"I'm sorry, I'm stupid. I'm sorry I'm actually alive."

"DON'T SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT! YOU'RE GOING TO JINX YOURSELF!"

"EVERYONE BE QUIET!"

After getting scolded by Aoi for causing a ruckus in a place where injured people supposed to relax, they finally rest. A doctor arrived—the same one the Grandma from Wisteria Mansion called before, what? Was he a Demon Hunter Association private doctor or something?—and checked every single one of them, even Tanjiro, before reporting the result to the caretaker of the Butterfly Estate. Conclusion of the examination was this:

  • Nezuko: wounds on her face, arms, and legs, as well as countless abrasions. Her whole body is in pain, along with torn muscles and a blow on her lower face that almost dislocated her jaw completely. Wrap ice to it to take care of the swelling that will definitely appear some times after the treatment.
  • Zenitsu: his right arm and legs have shrunk and gone numb due to being bitten by spiders. His left arm is spasming. Not a very good condition to hold a sword at all. Keep giving him the medicine to wash the poison out of his bloodstream.
  • Inosuke: his larynx and vocal cords are internally bruised from pressure. Because the demon was choking him that he almost died of asphyxiation, he will have episodes of fazing in and out of consciousness. Have to be watched constantly as he’s going to faint at uneven times and random places.
  • Tanjiro: he’s very hungry.

That report locked their fate down. Now they have to be bedridden for a couple of weeks.

It was somewhat a comfortable rest. Somewhat, being she was completely in pain that she curled up on her bed like a ball for almost every day. Tanjiro permanently stayed in the kitchen to get fed. Zenitsu was being a bother by screaming his lungs out and whining about the bitter medicine, she usually shut him up by throwing a pillow at his face. Inosuke was depressed beyond hell, they had to encourage him every morning because his dark mood was dampening them as well. Then Murata came to visit one day.

He recounted his experience with the Pillars; or grumbled, if she had to be specific. He said they wanted to hear the survivor says about what transpired in Natagumo Mountain. Murata told them about Zenitsu's sleeping skills ("Seriously, what sleeping? I don't remember anything at all!") and in that state, he was trying to chase after Nezuko and Inosuke when the Puppets finally stopped moving ("Why wouldn't you stop me? Or go after me?! At least there's a chance I'm not going to get poisoned by that Stinky Spider!", "I was trying, okay? But I had to hide my teammates' body so demons won't find them. That already wasted enough time. And then another demon trapped me in her cocoon and I can't move at all after that!", "Why, senpai? You said you're intact, no injuries at all because Kocho-san helped you.", "…no clothes…", "Huh?", "N-Nothing, Nezuko! Just forget about it!"). Then there were guys present who wouldn't obey orders when they went to the mountain, they alluded Murata as someone who was 'farmed', whatever that means. In the end, the conclusion was, the Pillars complained about the quality of the soldier taking an extreme nosedive these days. They promised to increase the training regime that will literally send the weak people flying.

That day came a lot faster than Nezuko thought.

Shinobu called them 'Functional Recovery Training'. The three, young girls—the ones who took care of Zenitsu called Terauchi Kiyo. Another with low, dual pigtails called Nakahara Sumi. And the one with low, dual braided hairs called Takada Naho. All of them wore butterfly ornament to tighten up their locks—tasked to massage their bodies that were stiff from lying in bed for so long. After that, Kanao will be ready for a reflex training, by competing in snatching the medicinal broth in a teacup and pouring it onto your opponent. There are several cups prepared on a low table. If the opponent restrains their glass before they managed to raise it, then they may not move that cup and have to go for another one. The final training was a whole-body training. Or putting it frankly, tag. Kanao and Aoi will be their opponent for this and they have to catch them within a time limit.

Okay, Nezuko could see that. It was right for Shinobu to call it exactly that, as they did the same thing when they were being taken care of in that Wisteria Mansion. Don't want their skills to get rusty because of their prolonged rest.

However, their training that day was not as intense as this one.

She managed to win in teacup and tag competition against Aoi. Nezuko trained with Makomo after all. And, not underestimating Aoi or something, but Makomo was way faster.

Then Kanao takes the cake.

If there's a word beyond faster, then Nezuko will use that word instead. Because Kanao is fast. Her form was literally a blur. Even with her sharp Sight, Nezuko could not pinpoint her form at all. Her muted color doesn't help in any case. Instead, it only made it worse because it hid her presence even more. Like the haze of a dawning day.

And the teacup challenge was devastating. The medicine was stinky. It's bad, enough said.

Also. The message was torture. That too.

It's no wonder Nezuko and Inosuke looked like skeletons whenever they came back from the training. Especially the Pig Mask. Because, not only did he lose against the occupant of the Butterfly Estate, he also loses to Nezuko in a term of progression. She pitied Zenitsu, who will start this hellish workout from tomorrow onward.

"YOU'RE BEING FELT UP BY WOMEN! THEY'RE GROPING YOUR BODY! YOU PUT OUT YOUR HAND WHEN YOU'RE PLAYING AROUND WITH TEACUPS! AND THEY'RE TOUCHING YOU WHEN YOU PLAY TAG! THERE ARE TWO BOOBS, TWO BUTTOCKS, AND TWO THIGHS WITH EACH WOMAN! THEY SMELL GOOD IF THEY EVER PASS BY SO I LOOK FORWARD TO EVEN LAY MY EYES ON THEM! HELL YEAH, IT'S BLISS!"

Nezuko took that pity back.

"Remind me to punch him in the face, Nezuko."

"Please wait in line, Aoi. Because I'm going first."

It was wrong to train with those wicked intentions, she promised to drill this into their heads after today. But well, even though she hated it, the results were definitely showing. They managed to get as far as Nezuko was, beating Aoi in the teacup and tag challenge; Zenitsu was black and blue by the end of it though, served him right. However, just like Nezuko, they couldn't beat Kanao either. Inosuke wasn't used to losing so he sulked and got angry all the time. Zenitsu figuratively changed his name to 'Monitsu' and quickly acted as if he gave up. It continued for five days.

Until one day they stopped coming to the training hall for good.

"I should just sic niichan to them both!" Nezuko hissed, pulling her hair out in frustration, "he'll smack some sense into them! Actually, scratch that! I'm doing it now!"

"Ma, forget about them, Nezuko-san," Aoi patted her shoulders, trying to calm her down, "it's not like anyone here misses Zenitsu in the first place," that's true, "if you feel like this is too hard for you, then you don't have to come too."

"No! I'll keep training!" she answered. Determination lit behind those fiery burgundy orbs, "I'm going to beat Tsuyuri-san" and show her that my Sight is just as sharp as her!

Because it was clear. That her gaze may be blank for the most part yet something was clearly different. Something that was familiar. Something that she always sees every time she gazed at the nearest mirror. Something sharp. She didn't know if Kanao could see the colors of the world just like her or not. One thing for sure. If she used her version of Sight as a weapon in winning the teacup and tag challenges, then Nezuko should be able to use her own to do the same.

Easier said than done.

Why can't I win? Is there something she has that I don't? Nezuko thought, dripping wet from another failed attempt. It was ten days after her declaration of winning already. And this was a very reminiscent of her training in splitting the boulder, so frustrating and nerve inducing. First off, our reaction speeds are completely different. I'd probably lose even if I was in perfect condition. Then there's her fog. Now, having this intense training for their recovery, her Sight has been getting stronger again. Tsuyuri-san' main fog was grey, sure. But I saw a tiny bit of pink fog of Kocho-san's. Adopted or not, has she taught her something that Urokodaki-san hadn't taught me in those hellish years?

"N-Nezuko-san."

"Huh?" a voice startled her away from her musing, she turned around. It was Kiyo, Sumi, Naho, staring at her with concern on their faces. They looked hesitant at first but plowed in and thrust a white towel towards her face, the older girl immediately understood their intention, "did you bring this for me? Thank you. You are so nice."

They beamed.

"Umm…Nezuko-san," Kiyo started the conversation, Nezuko hummed in acknowledgment as she dried her hair, "can you do the Full Focus Breath all day and all night?"

Silence.

"…you can actually do that?"

So…that was the difference between her and Kanao. And the Pillars too.

Doing them continuously without rest was too much for her already—just look at her fight with Yahaba—but Kanao did this every day? Not just every day. Every morning, every afternoon, and every night? Then, using this skill, she blows her Breath into a freaking hard gourd and breaks them from the inside? The gourd that was as tall as her waist? That was as big as Tanjiro's box?

These people are monsters!


"You're trying hard there. Even though your two friends went off somewhere else."

It was night and Nezuko was on the top of the roof, doing a meditation to raise her concentration levels. Another fifteen days had gone by and most of her stamina had come back. She can run more than before. Even if she overused her lungs from the fast movement of dashing around in the afternoon, her lungs had definitely gotten stronger. So, more energy for her to use in moving with minimal rest.

(Nezuko also wanted to get away from Yushiro's Calico cat's judging eyes. Sorry, okay. She was too busy trying to save their lives, this main quest of hers totally slipped her mind. Please, stop looking at me like I'm trash, I beg of you!)

At the moment of this reprieve was the time where Shinobu decided to visit. Her smile was just as soft as Nezuko remembered and she could understand why Zenitsu said she was pretty. Because she really is, with her droopy eyes and pointed nose yet small lips. Shinobu sat at the left side of her while the second Kamado flustered, "yes. I'm trying to do it myself before I teach the others how to win. Sometimes, spite can be a powerful weapon. If they saw me, a girl, can win against this challenge, I'm sure they'll get motivated."

Shinobu chuckled, "you're a sly one, Kamado-san."

"I have to! They'll know that giving up is something we cannot do. Being a Demon Hunter is hard. We should not let ourselves stagnant just because of one obstacle. I don't understand why Inosuke decided to throw in the towel when he's the one who told me exactly that…" she grumbled, the last part was mostly to herself, "Ah. And please, called me Nezuko, Kocho-san. Kamado-san is my late father."

"Then call me Shinobu," the Pillar reiterated, "you're my guest, so we should drop the pleasantries"

"Yes!" Nezuko grinned. Before she dropped her fetal position and wrung her fingers, suddenly anxious. This has been on her mind since the very first day they were here and she wanted to know the answer. Even if she was a bit scared with Shinobu's reaction towards this question, "Uum…about that. Is there any reason why you brought us to your place? I-It's not like I'm not grateful for the treatment but…I'm just curious. Because…"

"Because your fog told me you're always agitated"

Shinobu was silent after that particular sentence. Her orbs were gazing at her own with such intensity, Nezuko almost wanted to take that word back. Her senior slowly said, "Tomioka-san told me about your skill. Is that it?" the junior hesitantly nodded. The Poison User wryly smiled, "so I can't even lie to you, right? That is such a useful skill."

"I…might usually be angry," Shinobu started, "from the moment my beloved big Sister got slaughtered by demons. And every time I saw the tears of the people whose loved ones were taken away by them, their shrieks of despair, their tears of sorrow, the anger inside of me continued to grow and get larger. I have a repulsive feeling that I can't do anything about in the deepest part of my body. And I'm sure the other Pillars are similar. Even Tomioka-san or Urokodaki-san who whole-heartedly supported you."

Nezuko agreed with that notion.

"I brought you here because you reminded me of my sister," the pretty lady continued. This time, was a lot quieter. Melancholy and sadness wafted from her pretty, pink color, "she was a kind person, just like you. She sympathized with demons. And she felt sorry for them. She had a wish for humans and demons to coexist together. Living together and understands each other. But me? I could never think about something like that. Pitying those who had killed countless people, sometimes for their own amusement? That's just crazy talk. Demons tell nothing but lies to protect themselves. They have no sensibilities. And their instinct is to kill people," she chewed her bottom lip, "but my sister was quite adamant about it. Even on the verge of her own death. And sometimes. Sometimes—"

"I hate myself for burdening my shoulders with a dream she was long to see"

.

.

.

"I…" Nezuko gulped, "I…understand. Because I…hate demons too."

"Really, Nezuko-chan?" Shinobu was shocked, "but I thought you believe in second chances."

"Well, maybe hate was too strong of a word. I think...upset is more like it." She reiterated, "or to be exact, I am disappointed with those who succumb to their own greed."

"Humans are just like that. Some are good and some are bad. Some even tethering between, in the grey area. I believe that, if bad people are turned into demons, they'll become even worse. And good people stay the way they are. But Muzan…" they both tensed hearing that accursed name, "but Muzan knew that. That's why he approached those good people when they were in their worst possible condition. When they thought their life was nothing, that everything they did was useless, and anger completely took over their being. Hated the world for the unfairness of all. He then appeared. Showing them the 'way out', erasing their precious memories for a good measure. Because, Shinobu-san, even nice people have their breaking point."

"I've met some. The Green Demon in the Final Selection was just a lonely kid. Kyogai, the Drum Demon wanted someone to appreciate the hard work he put in his novel. And the recent one, Rui. He just wanted a family"

"Of course, we won't know if the demon we face will be those good humans. I mean…I hate Rui for almost capturing niichan and wanted to make him his own brother. Kyogai, for eating humans just because of his ego. And the Green Demon for killing my…my mentors," Shinobu patted her shoulder when Nezuko accidentally let out a choked sob, "sorry. But the point is—"

"The point is, we should broaden our view and look for the underneath," her senior ended the unfinished declaration, she tilted her head, "right?"

Kamado's oldest sister nodded.

"You sure have a beautiful soul," Shinobu giggled for a bit. Before she mellowed once more, "I'll try to be a little more open-minded with the others, now that I know a demon such as your brother exists. But…there's just this one demon. One, that I could not forgive."

Nezuko immediately understood, "don't worry. I'll never forgive Muzan for killing my family and turning niichan into a demon either. So, I'm not condemning you for hating the one who killed your sister."

"Thank you," Shinobu stood up, gaze away from the younger girl as she mumbled, "If only I met you sooner. Maybe I'd understand my sister a lot better"

Then she was gone. Leaving Nezuko alone in this chilly night with beautiful stars. Along with her pink fog that, for a split second, became steady. She got a feeling she was watching a forever-flying bird finally find a branch and take a well-deserved rest. It's…reassuring to watch. The Poison Lady clearly needed that. And if it means sharing the dream together, she doesn't mind. It doesn't burden Nezuko like how Shinobu's sister's dream burdened herself.

Because turning those demons back into humans is one way to achieve that ridiculous wish. Living a life of a fleeting human being, where you can appreciate the beauty of the world even more with how short your lifespan was.

Tamayo and Nezuko promised to create that way and make the implausible possible.

From tomorrow onward, she asked the three kids to beat her with futon beaters whenever she stopped doing the Full Focus Breath while she was sleeping. As she didn't want them to lose their own sleep just for the sake of her training, she started sleeping in the morning till afternoon and mediated at night till morning, Nezuko literally become an owl that week. But it was totally worth it. After one hiccup at her training—Tanjiro, who was finally discharged from his version of the treatment, decided to visit his sister to share the snacks the chef made for him. Then he saw how Kiyo, Sumi, and Naho beat the crap out of her, in which he immediately panicked. Thinking that this place is not safe after all, even if the cook was very gracious in filling up his tummy. She frantically explained the situation when it looked like Tanjiro was ready to bolt them out of there, sun be damn—another ten days had passed and she felt like she is ready. With the tree kids cheering her up from outside the lawn and Tanjiro from inside the house, Nezuko blew hard into the big gourd and—

BOUUMM

—destroying it within a second, shattering the thing into small pieces.

Everyone cheered, Nezuko was crying in relief.

Tag training showed improvisations as well. When at first Kanao's form was a literal blur, now she could see her as clear as day. Her all-over-the-place fog was still a bit of a bother, but now she knew where to look. There'll be one spot where the fog condensed and gathered. The place where Kanao's body was located; the color was originated from their own being after all. The closer you are to the source, the brighter the color was for her Sight to identify. Nezuko had to concentrate real hard to do her Full Focus Breath for a whole day. But the longer she was able to do that, the more her base stamina increased.

Aah…I want to wield my blades now. Nezuko reached her arm forward, gritting her teeth in resolution. I want to wield those Zanbatos with these hands of mine.

She grasped Kanao's wrist and the training was completed.

The Reflex challenge was also another success. They were on the same wavelength, reaching and stopping the cups with lightning speed, it was an intense match. The trio kept hollering encouragement, Tanjiro held his breath, Nezuko managed to pull one of it from the table and—

She actually pulled the cup too hard, the liquid inside flew upward.

A beat of awkward silence. Then the Medicinal Broth drenched the both of them. Brother snorted.

"…is that a win?" Kiyo asked.

"I mean…Nezuko-san was the one who 'poured' the medicine," Naho shrugged, "so…I think so?"

"…."

"YEAAAA! NEZUKO-SAN! YOU WIN!"

"YEEES! I FINALLY DID IT!"

"WE'RE GOING TO CELEBRATE BY EATING A LOT OF CAKE!"

"HN HN!"

Zenitsu and Inosuke watched with hopeless sorrow from the entrance of the dojo. Cursing the fact that damn. We're losers.


OMAKE chapter 51-52

Muzan—in his female form. Black hair tied in a low, big bun and wearing an extravagant kimono. Her lips were painted with red lipstick that resembled the color of blood—scowled. These bunch of Lower Moon were useless. No wonder, as they only have their number in one of their eyes. An exact opposite of the Upper Moon, where they have it carved at both of their orbs. Kyogai, she didn't really care. But Rui? His death was a nail to the coffin and she thought, screw this. If they wanted to die so badly, Muzan will gladly grant that wish. So here she was. Ordering one of her demon—a woman with an ability to warped the rooms as she wished. Just by one pluck of her Biwa's string—to bring those useless subordinates in one place, where she could banish them all.

Listening on their thoughts, of how pathetic they were—one of them was scared of the Demon Hunter more than her, the audacity. And then another even dare questioned her method—she was definitely right in making this choice.

However, Muzan smirked beautifully as she gave the Lower Moon One her abundance of blood. This boy is the only one who's suitable enough to receive her blessing. This boy who, in the face of his own demise, still worshiped her. He even said he was blessed to be ended by her, leaving him to be the last one to die after watching the suffering of the other, listening on the melodic screams of the other. Truly, a demon through and through. If he managed to endure the quantity of her blood, he'll obtain even more strength. He'll become one of her puppets she could control, something useful to be kept.

"Now, kill the demon hunter pillars and a hunter in a pink haori," she chuckled as the Lower Moon One wriggled pitifully on the tatami floors, "and bring the demon with Hanafuda earrings to me. The one who managed to undo my curse and hid his location from my sense. Just like that traitor, Tamayo. If you do—"

"—I may share even more blood with you~"


.

.

.

BONUS SCENE

Muichiro hummed, tapped the quill on his chin, gave the last scratch to the parchment he put on the balcony then pulled it upward. Showing them a sketch of a beautiful woman in a bowl hat and a small girl with braided pigtails, "Is this it?"

"Yes! That's them!" Nezuko nodded, "Muzan's wife and daughter!"

"Wow, Tokito. I didn't know you can draw so well!" Kyojuro praised.

"I didn't know either." Muichiro blandly said, "do you think I have any other hidden abilities?"

"Don't ask us." Obanai sighed.

"Ceh! It's only their fucking faces. You know people could easily change that shit with a fucking makeup!" Sanemi huffed, "stupid girl. You should've at least get their fucking names!"

Nezuko gasped. Horror was written in her gaping face. She closed Tanjiro's ears with her palms and scuttled away from the brash hunter. Brother himself was still busy munching on the snack, "language! You're in the presence of a toddler!"

"What toddler? Your brother is a fucking teenager."

"He's a toddler because he imitates anything he sees and hears!" Nezuko pouted, deepening her holds on the eldest Kamado's ear a lot more, "there's a chance niichan will get his conversation skills back, Sanemi ("Don't use my given name! And where's the fucking honorific?") He already talked to me twice! I'm not going to let that foul language be the first word he knows! At least censor them! Because I did!"

"Kamado-san is right, Shinezugawa," Shinobu agreed, "I don't want you to accidentally contaminate my kids with that mouth of yours as well. Refrain from doing so."

"Yeah!" Tengen chimed in, "It's not flamboyant!"

"Pray to the Lord for all of your sin," Gyomei added.

"What the fu—"

"Sanemi," Kagaya softly spoke, the Wind Pillar tensed, "Please censor your swears in the near future. My kids are also present here."

"O-Oyakata-sama—" Sanemi stuttered, his face was pinched and he looked like he wanted to say something. Before he gave up and bowed, his spiky hair dropped in defeat, "as your command, Oyakata-sama…"


Here's the link for the perfect Meme of the Bonus Scene (lol) : Sanemi is a Bad Influence

Chapter Text

After seeing her success in beating all of the challenges the training offered, Zenitsu and Inosuke finally came to their senses and decided to train hard. Or they were just flustered by the fact that she left them behind, she didn't really care about the small details. The important thing here was, they want to continue getting stronger instead of mopping around and lamenting over the fact that they couldn't even beat a single girl. This time, she made sure that they didn't slack off. Having too much fun in beating the crap out of them whenever they stop their Full Breathing, Shinobu commented, which Nezuko conveniently ignored. It took nine days for them to finally master the technique. Then another two days for their broken swords to be repaired; mainly Nezuko's and Inosuke's.

There's another scuffle regarding this situation—Haganezuka won't stop chasing her with a knife for almost an hour. Killing intent radiating out of his body, mad that she dared to break one of the Zanbato he painstakingly made. Nezuko was glad that, despite her panic, she managed to run into Tanjiro's side. Because her brother immediately pounced onto the blacksmith like an eagle finding its prey, restraining him by sitting onto his back while he crushed the accursed knife into pieces with his immense strength alone—and also stopping a possible murder from happening—she had to restrain the other blacksmith, the one who was responsible for creating Inosuke's weapon, from killing the Pig Mask. Because her friend decided to smash the sword's sharp edge with a stone. Turning the beautiful blade into his previous chipped state. Honestly, if the blacksmith with shoulder-length black hair wasn't trying to kill Inosuke like Haganezuka did to her, she may let him pound the pretty boy to the ground till he was black and blue. It really was such a waste to destroy the weapon just for the sake of it. The forger had put a lot of effort into making those, sheesh!—but everything turned out okay so she took that as a win.

(Tanjiro and Zenitsu were watching this drama from the sideline. Munching on a daifuku and drinking green tea Aoi prepared for the guests. Her brother was still sitting on top of Haganezuka, by the way)

Another several days had passed and another examination had concurred, she decided it was the right time for her to depart.

"Niichan," Nezuko blinked, "What are you doing?"

Right now, she was staring at a somewhat bizarre scenery. Tanjiro and Kanao, sitting in dogeza-style and staring face to face, a small coin was placed in the middle of them.

Nezuko had just come back from the infirmary, doing her final health checkup. She asked Shinobu if she ever heard the name of Kamado Tanjuro, her late father. In her memories, the sickly man knew about the existence of Breath. Teaching it to Mother and Brother, using the skill to do the Kagura Dance every year. The Insect Pillar never heard of his name nor had she heard of the 'Breath of Fire', as Nezuko called it; Kagura Dance was a dance created to appease the Fire God after all. So Shinobu asked her to visit Kyojuro, the Flame Pillar, for detail. They may have different names—there's a strict rule regarding the phrasing. You can't just call 'Breath of Flame' 'Breath of Fire'—but that doesn't mean they came from different 'family'. So, with a promise to contact her when the Orange Man reply Shinobu's message, meeting the Scared Guy from the Final Selection exam in the hallway (he steered far away from Nezuko, hiding his…red face? What was that?), saying goodbye to Aoi and cheering her up (being afraid of your life is not something to be ashamed of. She was sure Aoi can face the demons without having to cower away someday), Nezuko finally arrived at the back foyer. The place Tanjiro was in because her brother loves enjoying the beautiful sky while eating some snacks to pass the time, even if he could not bask under its bright ray himself.

And here, in this place was where the sister encountered this questioning view.

Kanao reached for the coin, Tanjiro quickly intercepted her. The silent girl tilted her head and pointed at the confused Water Breath User, the ginger beast chewed his bottom lip. He sighed then let her pick up the money, she smiled. Before Kanao flipped the coin upward and catch it by the back of her hand—the coin showed Tail. There's something written on it—she spoke, "Tanjiro-san doesn't like it when I speak via this coin. He won't let me use it before you came."

"Speak via…coin?" Nezuko sat at the left side of her family, "what do you mean by that?"

"I decided my decision by flipping this when I'm not instructed. Heads mean 'I won't talk' and Tails means 'I will talk'," she said, showing her the vague word she saw at that one second, "and…I think he hated how I cannot decide that simple matter on my own."

"So…niichan was trying to make you stop depending on that coin."

Kanao nodded, "He tried to gamble my 'fate' using this. But so far, he got the head. And he was frustrated by it," Side-Ponytail furrowed her eyebrows, "I don't understand. He doesn't talk either. And we can 'converse' with each other just fine. So I don't see the point of this."

"No. That's not it, Tsuyuri-sa…can I call you Kanao-chan?" the Insect Tsukugo nodded once more, "that's not it, Kanao-chan. I think what Niichan wanted was for you to listen to your own heart. It's important to abide by your superior's words, sure. But that doesn't mean they also have the right to determine every choice of our life too. He wants you to choose. He wants you to live your life to the fullest. Without being dictated by other people's opinion or even the luck of the flip of a coin. Right, niichan?"

Tanjiro growled furiously.

"But…" Kanao tettered, "he lost the 'gamble' already…"

"One thing you don't know about Niichan is that—," the ginger demon snatched the coin from her possession, flipping it high that it almost touched the ceiling, Nezuko smiled, "—he's very, very stubborn."

FWIP

CLAP

It was Tail.

Tanjiro cheered as he threw both of his hands upward, eyes closed in bliss and sharp teeth showing. He smacked the coin back to Kanao's palm and grinned wide, "Talk."

Kanao gasped, Nezuko's jaw dropped.

"Niichan! You spoke! You spoke too!" she clutched his shoulders and turned him towards her, attention was now solely on the little sister, "now, do it again! Speak to me!"

"Hn hn!"

"Why?"

(While the Kamado's sibling started to banter, Kanao sat there motionless, staring at the coin on her palm with an unreadable gaze, clearly befuddled. She could feel her cheeks began to flush, clutching the coin (was it just her, or is this coin was warmer than usual?) right on her chest, letting it hear her thumping heart (it's a lot quicker than usual too. What was happening to her?). Even when Kiyo called from the backyard, saying that Shinobu-nee summoned her for something, this weird warm and fuzzy feeling won't leave her alone. She thought she would never feel any emotion anymore. Not after it snapped her mind, completely left her wasted after all the abuse she endured as an orphan long before the Kochos sisters saved her. And the only thing that kept her standing was orders and missions)

("Talk.")

(Yet the face of the ginger-haired fiend still stuck in her mind, his low baritone echoed like a second sound.)

(Shinobu let out a hum of wonder when Kanao appeared in her office with a red face, sweating and shaking her head like her life was depended on it.)


"You don't have to follow me, you know. This is just a personal matter, we don't have an order as of yet."

Nezuko tried to explain to her colorful friends, who was donning his uniform and yellow haori in Zenitsu's case and sharpening the dual katanas in Inosuke's case. The Poison Lady had told her about Kyojuro's response. She said he'll meet her shortly if she rides a carrier called the 'Infinite Train', whatever that thing was. Her crow explained that it was a steam engine. It's a box of metal that connected to each other, run on a specific rail and can carry a lot of people inside, the bird drew the basic shape of the said steam engine to a piece of paper using a brush it held on its beak. After hearing the short explanation, she was a bit giddy with the prospect of riding the thing; the only vehicle she knew was a horse-wagon, being that her hometown was not the modern type of town.

So, with the promise of having a new experience under her belt and knowing the history of her deceased family (father was a demon hunter before?* Why didn't he tell any of them? With this kind of history, he should've known that he'll attract a bunch of enemies into their happy life. He should've trained them to protect themselves from the very beginning, no matter how harsh that kind of lifestyle is going to be. So maybe, maybe, when Muzan came to exact an act of revenge towards him—including his associated—they can at least run away and stay alive. Nezuko…Nezuko winced. She was ashamed that disgusting thought had flitted through her head. She knew it was not right to blame her late father for something he couldn't predict, yet that conclusion came to her anyway. She felt like a bad, bad daughter), Nezuko was ready to go and meet this Flame Pillar as soon as she could.

But her friends didn't want to hear any of her opinions.

"We're comrades, right? Comrades should never leave each other," Zenitsu answered with a grimace, "I won't let a beautiful girl walking around at night by her lonesome, anyway! It's not safe!"

Honestly, that reason he spouted was a weak excuse in itself. Nezuko is a demon hunter, not that kind of civilian who could only hide in fear and wish for a better ending. She was pretty sure the yellow boy just doesn't want to be separated from his savior—still thinking he was weak. The girl swore to beat that negative thinking out of him one of this day—and Inosuke wants to see what a train was—just like her. But she at least has another agenda rather than mere sightseeing—yet she decided not to call them out of their bluff and let them do what they want.

Besides, journeying with companions is merrier anyway, she didn't complain that much.

She did complain when the Breath of Beast's user decided to headbutt the train with all of his might, though. It's not the master of the land, Inosuke. Nor it's a guardian spirit of this place. Please stop that, you're embarrassing us!

(Hey, at least her gawking went unnoticed because of Pig-Head's exaggerated antics. The commotion he created incidentally called two of the station employees towards them and almost landed them into jail because of the swords they carried. Ignoring the misery that almost fell upon them, this 'Infinite Train' looked so awesome. And Intimidating. But awesome nonetheless)

While Zenitsu explained the nature of their occupation to the mountain crawler—demon hunters are part of an organization that isn't officially recognized by the government. They can't really walk around while having swords so out in the open, it'll cause chaos within the normal civilian life. Even if they talk about demons and the like, they won't believe any of it for the most part—Nezuko searched for the smiling Pillar. She remembered his color (orange and fiery, it was right of them to call him the Flame Pillar with that fierce color on his person. Weaving and crackling, like the existence of fire itself) so it was easy to track him amidst the crowd. Kyojuro was seated at the second seat near the front and was seen eating tons and tons of bentos, shouting how tasty the meal was for the world to hear. Nezuko kind of didn't want to approach him—the second-hand embarrassment started to kick in. She already got enough from Inosuke a moment ago, she doesn't need another to fill it—although the prospect of gaining the desired information strengthened her resolve, the second Kamado decided to plow through and greet him. Ignoring the stare of other passengers and two of the maids who were busy cleaning the empty boxes Kyojuro left behind.

("TASTY!", "I understand already! So please, keep your voice down")

"Unfortunately I don't know!" his voice boomed, it felt like he was constantly yelling. If this was some kind of novel, Golden Man will be a character who speaks in capital letters all the time, "this is the first time I heard of the 'Dance of Fire God' or 'Breath of Fire'. I haven't heard anyone with the name of Kamado Tanjuro in our history books either!"

"Oh…" Nezuko slumped, disappointed. Even the pillar who wields the closest element to her father's Breath, he didn't know anything.

Looked like she would never know the reason why their father hid his 'occupation' from them then—

"Why don't you become my disciple?"

"W-What?"

"My tsukugo!" he confirmed, broad smile widened on his healthy complexion, "I'll teach you my technique so you can become the next pillar of the Demon Hunters!"

"B-But I'm a water breath user," Nezuko blinked, "if I have to be a disciple of a pillar, shouldn't I be with Tomioka-san? He was the previous student of my master too."

"Sure. But you managed to implement the stance of the Breath of Fire into your water, right?" Kyojuro folded his hands in front of his chest, "that means, even if Fire and water are contradictory to each other, they are still within the same 'tree' anyway. Just like how Mist is derived from the Wind. You can ask Tomioka for another lesson, but it doesn't hurt to learn from me as well! I'll take care of you!"

What a helpful guy.

The train started to move and the conversation became a lot less serious. Zenitsu appointed himself as the caretaker of the hyperactive Pig Mask, who was sticking his head out of the train window and proclaimed a desire to run along with the vehicle, a race to see which one of them is faster. That moment of hilarity had to be crushed into tiny pieces when Kyojuro, relaxed and composed, said that a demon will appear on this train very soon. In a short period of time, more than forty people have disappeared on this vehicle. They had sent a number of swordsmen to investigate. However, none of them ever reported back. They should stay within his radius of reach so he could protect them when the said beast finally showed itself.

Clearly, Zenitsu was not happy with this sudden mission. Nezuko tried not to feel too guilty, as it was their own decision to follow her. She already said they could stay within the butterfly mansion if they wanted to, but nope. You reap what you sow.

"Uwaahh!

"Kyaahh!"

Nezuko's hand immediately reached for her Zanbatos at the first scream of fright from the people who were still awake. She turned her head to the side—after she hastily shoved the punched ticket she received back from the conductor into her breast pocket. Kyojuro explained about a man in a black uniform and black hat. That he has a duty to confirm their existence as a legal passenger of this train—watching as a black fog wafted in front of her nose. The Flame Pillar had already stood up, stance ready while he stared at a grotesque demon who appeared from the back carriage; he has two faces, one of it was placed on the left side of his scalp. He was half-naked, showing them the bunched nerves from beneath grey skin. The remaining black hair reached his chest. Four eyes rolled around back and forth, saliva drooled from his two open mouths. A bunch of horns protruded from his shoulders and the top of his head. Adding the disgusting factor of this disgusting beast.

He was big, almost reached the ceiling of the train. And again, grotesque. Nevertheless, that means nothing to Kyojuro. He crouched and dashed. Severing the head in one strike, leaving a trail of beautiful orange flame along his wake. He looked so magnificent, with how his haori flared behind him, Nezuko was sure she…blushed a bit at that scenery.

"Make me your disciple, aniki!" Zenitsu crowed.

"Me too, me too!" Inosuke exclaimed.

"Sure thing!" Kyojuro guffawed, "I'll look after every single one of you and make you into a fine swordsman!"

"Yeaah! Rengoku-aniki!"

"YEAAH!"

Nezuko shook her head and let her shoulders relax, chuckling at the incredulousness of all, "boys."

.

.

.

Before long, all of them fell asleep.


What...is this?

Nezuko emerged from the green foliage, white mist covered the lower ground. Her burgundy eyes scoured the environment, trying to recognize this place that somehow tugged the heartstring of her being, "Why am I in a forest?"

.

The thin conductor with shallow jaw cried as he prostate to the ground, "I did as I was told. I punched their tickets and put them to sleep. So, please," his forehead touched the hard floor of metal, he begged. To the severed hand with one eye on its right side and mouth on the back of it. A kanji that spelled 'dream' peppered the surfaces of the wrinkled hand, scuttling around the place like it was some kind of a spider, "please, let me sleep. Please, let me meet my dead wife and daughter…"

.

"I thought I was inside a vehicle," She swiped the fallen leaves from her tangled hair and tightened the high bun. Before a sudden thought halted her movement, causing her to realize she was holding a bag of white cloth, "wait. What vehicle? I didn't go to town in some kind of carriage. Our house was not that far from civilization, I can just walk with my own feet."

.

"The sharp-witted demon hunters might wake up because they'll sense the demons and their thirst for blood," the hands explained to the four awaiting teenagers—a girl with long hair that reached her back and another with a dual, low braided tail. A boy with short hair and another with separated bangs and glassy orbs—clutching onto a rope it gave them with fervor, turning their knuckle to stark white, "be careful as to not touch their bodies when you get close and fasten the cord."

.

"Right. I was delivering the kimono mother had finished, to her customer," Nezuko heart panged. It beat harshly behind her ribcage, anticipation suddenly overwhelmed her entire figure, "I was…I was ready to go back to our house and give my siblings a gift I bought for them."

.

"All human hearts are the same. They're brittle and weak. As if they're made of glass," on top of a train, a demon who puppeteered the severed hand stood regally. His shoulder-length black hair, with a pink and teal color at the bottom of it, swayed by the breeze. His black tailcoat that hugged the white shirt beneath followed along. His smirk widened when the four children he spared tied the rope around the hunter's wrist and connected it to their own. The five teal-apricot rectangles tattoo under each of his eyes crinkled in bliss and the Lower Moon One chuckled ominously, "I should just destroy the 'core of the spirit'. If I do that, they'll be living corpses and it'll be easy to kill them."

.

"Yes. I was…" Nezuko could feel the tears fell and wet her cheek. Watching as Hanako and Shigeru brought a basket full of potatoes to their house. Both of them turned when they heard the bushes rustled, smiling at their older sister so wide it hurt to see, "I was…I was here…" She ran, desperation clung onto her as she tackle-hug both of them, her gift and the potatoes tumbled to the ground like it was mere trash, "I am here to—"

.

"Being able to die while dreaming is a blessing."

.

I am here to reunite with my precious family.

"Huwaaaa! I'm sorry! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" she cried. Wept and sobbed, sight going blurry. Hanako and Shigeru were confused, although they held onto their distressed sister anyway, warming her heart and clenching it tight, her breath hitched, "I'm sorry I couldn't save you. I'm sorry I have to leave you alone. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

.

Tendrils of pale, grey muscles crawled on the floor of the train, crossing the sleeping passenger and went by the sleeping demon slayers. It reached the wooden box Nezuko put at the crook of the seat and opened the door with a bit of force. Before it seized the content inside and dragged the ginger hair beast out of its haven. Negating mini Tanjiro's frantic struggle by curling its muscles onto his hands and legs, frightened orbs were covered by the same limbs in the next second. The fiend's grin was borderline manic now, happy that he finally secure the prey his supreme lord wanted him to seize.

.

.

"—am I right, demon hunter in a pink haori?"