Kamado Tanjirou woke up at the sound of footsteps. Where was he? He opened his tired eyes and got a look around the room. It was his old home, the one before Nezuko had turned into a demon. His body relaxed out of habit. The warmth of familiarity, and for a few moments, he considered going back to sleep. No danger and there is nothing wrong.
No, something was wrong. Tanjirou immediately stood up, alerted. He reached for his blade but found nothing. He started pacing around the room, panic starting to rise up inside.
"Nii-chan? What are you doing?" His blood ran cold at the voice. He turned to see a face he hadn't seen in a long time.
"Takeo? You're supposed to be..." Tanjirou trailed off. Dead. He thought. His little brother's face turned to annoyance.
"I know, I know. I'll get to chopping the trees." And he rushed off, leaving Tanjirou in confusion and panic.
"Think back Tanjirou, what were you doing?" He muttered to himself.
Right. He had come back from a mission and had plans to celebrated his 19th birthday. After receiving many happy birthdays from his peers, he hurried off. Tanjirou and Nezuko had planned to meet up with Giyuu at Urokodaki-san's house, to celebrate his birthday between the four of them. Tanjirou knew that he had made it to the mountain but couldn't remember anything after that.
Tanjirou took a look at himself for any signs of injuries.
That's when he realized that he was much shorter. His arms had no scars. It was clean. Uninjured. He had turned... younger? Was this a dream? No, it felt way too real for it to be a dream. He froze as a thought fell into place. Time travel? Was it even a thing? Was it possible?
If this wasn't a dream, Tanjirou was younger, Nezuko would be human, and everyone in his family would be alive. His first thought was happiness. His family was alive!
Then his heart sank. Zenitsu, Inosuke, Murata... Giyuu. Everyone he knew back then didn't know him now. They were strangers.
"Mom!" Tanjirou rushed outside, not caring about the cold. He slid open the front door to see his mom caring for Shigeru.
"Tanjirou? What's wrong?" She gave him a worried look.
He looked straight in her eyes and asked, "How old am I?" She said nothing for a few moments before replying thirteen.
Thirteen. It was before he started his training.
Before Nezuko became a demon.
Before Tanjirou's family died.
A soft cloth came into view. "Tanjirou, why are you crying?" Tanjirou's eyes widened. He hadn't realized he had started crying. He let his mom continue clearing away the tears and relaxed at the comfort. Perhaps... Perhaps this wasn't bad at all.
Tanjirou shook the thought out.
Then his brain halted when his sister, Nezuko, questioned something.
"Onii-chan? I thought you were going to the village today?" Nezuko came into the view, holding Rokuta on her back. Tanjirou felt a shiver down his back. He was supposed to go down to the village? Which meant... No, today couldn't be.
"I want to go!" His other siblings complained. Mom gave them a look before she turned to me with the same look.
"I still believe you shouldn't go. The snow looks like it'll become harsher soon." His mother worried. Tanjirou opened his mouth to reply but nothing came out. He found his heart speeding up. If today was that day...
He quickly tried to calm his heart and gave her the best smile he could manage at that moment.
"It's dangerous when the snow is falling, I'll go tomorrow when the snow is calmer."
Tanjirou stayed alert and jumpy for the rest of that day, acquiring weird looks from his siblings. He was jumpy, as he didn't know when Muzan would attack his family. Before he knew it, it was nighttime. The sun had set, darkening the forest, and the heavy snowstorm began.
After everyone went to sleep, Tanjirou crept out of the house. Since he didn't have his sword, he took the next best thing. His axe. Yes, that was a foolish thing to do but he was going to protect his family. Avoid their death.
Tanjirou shivered from the cold. The icy wind slammed into his face, making it difficult to look straight ahead. Well, it wasn't like he could see clearly anyway.
The darkness around him clouded his views, he could only see his two feet. Tanjirou was never really afraid of the darkness since he had his sense of smell to help guide the way or alert him when something was approaching, but it was still unsettling.
He let out a shaking breath, looking up at the dark sky. If only there were stars. It would have been uplifting.
And there it was, the familiar scent of Muzan. It still made him scrunch his nose, the smell of so many different types of blood like he was so many people- yet he was only one. The layered scent of people's blood, the deaths on his hands being endless.
Tanjirou gripped the handle of his axe. His family wouldn't be one of them. They will live.
Nezuko heard someone leaving the house. Their creaking steps woke her up. And at first, she didn't think much of it, as it could simply be their mother, who sometimes stay up to stitch their tattered clothing.
Then Nezuko heard another noise. Once again, she didn't think much of it. Then her mind clicked. It was the sound of the door opening and a brief moment of the howling snowstorm. She checked over her family, though it was hard to tell due to the darkness, from what she could see, all of her siblings were asleep...
Except for her older brother.
She panicked. Not only was it was snowing harshly outside, and it was nighttime with the moon hidden in clouds, it was a night without light! She put on her thin haori- unfortunately the only one near her- and grabbed her brother's scarf. He was probably freezing cold by now.
She quietly slid open the door.
There were faint footsteps in the snow. She hurried. As the snow continued to fall, the footsteps would get covered and make it impossible to find him until morning.
"Onii-chan!" Nezuko called out as she walked. The snow accompanied by the wind pushed her back, but she pushed on. She tried to warm up her freezing hands, just how far had her brother gone?
It took some walking and resting before she saw a body. It was lying on the ground, red snow around it. Her heart pumped. It wasn't a human... right? No one would walk at a time like this in the mountain.
Her brother did.
Nezuko took deep breaths, ignoring the pain her lungs were experiencing from the cold. Her brother... he- he couldn't be. That body couldn't be her brother.
Tomioka Giyuu suddenly found himself on the ground, face touching the snow. He calmly stood and wiped the snow off his face. He wondered why there was snow. It was summer after all.
The first thing he did was survey his surroundings. He certainly was at a mountain, but not where Urokodaki-san lived, where he was last. He should leave the mountain first, and look for a village.
Unfortunately, Tomioka didn't know which way was out of the mountain. He was at a pretty even area, so he took a guess and went to his left.
As he ventured farther down or up the mountain, a scent of blood reached him. Tomioka followed the scent, assuming there had been an accident and someone had gotten injured. He didn't have the best medical knowledge, but he knew some.
As he neared closer to the source of the blood, the clearer he could see someone. They noticed him as well.
"P-please help!" When Tomioka got closer, he saw the person's features. A girl with long untied hair, red eyes filled with fear, holding onto a boy near her age.
He recognized the boy. How could he not? Even if he had long hair and blood covering his face, Tomioka would recognize him.
"Onii-chan, he- he is..." The girl, Nezuko, broke down crying.
His first thought was that Tanjirou was injured. He was near death. Empty, lifeless eyes, pale skin as white as the snow beneath them, his second thought was that Tanjirou looked 13- If not younger.
There was a thought in the back of his mind, but he pushed it aside for the moment. "I'll take him down to the village to see a doctor." He pulled Tanjirou onto his back and was about to leave when Nezuko grabbed him again.
"Wait! I-I'm coming with you!"
Giyuu hesitated. Not only was it a long way down, but it was snowing. She seemed to be exhausted, and he doubted she would last. "You can't-"
"I will!" Nezuko interrupted, "I... I know the way down. I can help! So please... let me..."
While he understood that she couldn't leave him to a stranger, she would be slowing them down. From how she looked, she was in the cold for hours. She was shivering from not only shock but the cold. If she were to be out in the cold any longer, he didn't know how it would affect her.
However, Tomioka didn't know the way around the mountain. He would end up wasting time trying to find his way down. So reluctantly, Tomioka nodded. Nezuko relaxed, knowing that she didn't have to separate from her brother.
They made their way down, Giyuu having to slow down in order to match Nezuko's limits. It gave him some time to think. And there were many things he had to think through.
The first was where he was. Giyuu was sure that he was waiting for Tanjirou to come back from his mission, so they could celebrate his birthday, as they never get to due to missions. He definitely did not fall asleep at a snowy mountain, it definitely was not Winter, and Tanjirou and Nezuko were definitely not this young.
Another was that this scene was too familiar. The first time he had met Tanjirou was just six years ago. He had met him carrying his sister, who was turning into a demon. However, this was different. It wasn't Nezuko, but Tanjirou. At least, he figured Tanjirou was turning into a demon...
Tomioka didn't want him to. He couldn't bear to slice the head of the person he had learned to love. Tomioka had a small hope that Tanjirou didn't receive the blood of a demon, or that Tanjirou wouldn't survive.
He hated himself for being so selfish, for hoping the death of the person he loved because he couldn't do his job.
Then Tanjirou suddenly pushed against his back, causing him to slip.
"No!" Nezuko screamed and reached towards them as they fell down a cliff. He prepared to turn to prevent from falling on top of Tanjirou only to find his back empty. Surprised, he fell right on the ground without softening his fall. He was lucky the ground was covered in snow. His ears were ringing from the fall but a soft growl snapped him right back.
"Tanjirou-" Giyuu managed to get out before he was knocked back to his back. He could see Nezuko still on top of the cliff, panicking. He dodged to his left as Tanjirou charged and attempted to kick him. With no choice left, he slammed the bottom of his hilt on Tanjirou's neck, knocking him out.
Giyuu patiently waited for Nezuko to make her way down to where they were. Expectantly, the first thing Nezuko said when she arrived was of Tanjirou's wellbeing.
"... He's just knocked out."
"I-I saw what happened.” Nezuko huffed out. Giyuu looked up. She saw from that distance? “Onii-chan wouldn't have attacked someone like that without a reason! He-" Nezuko rambled on. Giyuu contemplated on whether or not he should tell her without hurting her or to just get it done.
He ended up choosing the latter. "If you bathe an open wound in a demon's blood, you become one. That is how they increase their numbers. Your brother is now one of them." Nezkuo's face fell.
"Onii-chan wouldn't." She refused, her voice shaking. "He's not... I know he won't!"
"I'm going to..." Decapitate your brother. The words disappeared from his mouth.
"There must be a way to turn him back! I'll find a way to! I'll definitely do it, so please!" Nezuko exclaimed, her words filled with determination. Tomioka winced. He knew what he should do, but...
Tomioka had left the mountain with a heavy heart. Not only had Tanjirou attacked him, but he sure didn't recognize him. The chance of Tanjirou, like him, travelling to the past was nearly impossible, but Tomioka had a small hope. He wished he hadn't.
So he was in the past. Alone.
He probably should get used to that feeling.
When Tanjirou came to, he was lying down with his back to the ground, a bamboo in his mouth. His brain took time to process what had been happening. He was a demon. Not Nezuko. He had expected things to be different but to this extent... Tanjirou stopped. Everything that had happened caught up to him.
Giyuu! He had come to his home and... and... Tanjirou had attacked him.
"Onii-chan?" Tanjirou turned to his sister. Still human. He felt his shoulders relax. He had saved her, he wasn't late this time. He moved towards her, to hug her. She accepted happily, face lighting up.
Tanjirou touched the bamboo in his mouth. He wanted to take it out, but since there was a chance of attacking his family he didn't.
"There... there was someone who was a demon hunter. He told me you're a demon now and told me about them. I want to help you onii-chan!" Tanjirou paused. Did she want to turn him back? No, she couldn't. That'd mean she would try to-
"I'm going to join the demon slayer corps. I'll find a way to turn you back to a human!" She couldn't! He shook his head as hard as he could. He couldn't watch her ruin her childhood just because he had changed.
However, Nezuko had a determined look on her face. "Onii-chan. You can't change my mind."
Tanjirou regretted his actions immediately. Why hadn't he thought it through? He could have just moved his family to a safer place or something else that would have allowed them to avoid Muzan. Now Nezuko wanted to be a hunter, hoping to turn into a human.
"Ah- Onii-chan, don't cry! Don't worry, it'll be fine." She hugged him tighter. "I- We should visit mom. I don't want her to think we left her." Tanjirou nodded. Nezuko pulled out the blue scarf he had left at home. She tied it around him and pulled it so it covered his head. She smiled.
"That's better, right?" He lightly rocked his head up and down. Nezuko held his hands. Her hands were cold, proving how long she had spent out here in the cold. He tightened the grip, disappointed in himself. She must've suffered out here, wearing a thin haori and an overused kimono, with nothing but worn-out sandals to support her feet.
Tanjirou cried for the third time that day.
It was a tearful depart. Their siblings couldn't believe what had happened and with tears pouring out of their face, begged them to stay. Even Takeo was crying a bit. Their mom had a sad look on her face. Without managing to cry, she gave them some food and clothing for comfort. Nezuko pulled all of them for a big hug before they left. It only made the separation harder.
After that, they walked. During the nighttime, of course. Soon Tanjirou could tell Nezuko was tired. He gave Nezuko a small pat on the head, a habit he had developed that never went away. She gave him a weak smile.
"Thanks, Onii-chan. Oh, there's a small cabin!"
Nezuko exclaimed. Tanjirou followed her gaze and did see a cabin.
Tanjirou covered his nose as they got closer. There was the scent of blood. He slowed down. Though the scent wasn't really intoxicating, he didn't exactly know how he would react to it. Nezuko didn't seem to have noticed him slowing down. Tanjirou hesitated on getting closer.
He took a breath. For Nezuko. Tanjirou rushed over to Nezuko before she could be attacked by the demon inside.
The sight that greeted him was most definitely not great. Bloodstains all over the walls, humans lying dead on the ground, a demon in the middle of it all. The demon tilted his head. He stared at Tanjirou and Nezuko, eyes darting between the two. Then it landed on Nezuko.
"... Are you human?" He asked. Nezuko's face was filled with fear. That seemed to be a good enough answer for the demon as it lunges at her.
Tanjirou turned around and found her on the ground, the demon on top of her. He had to act fast before Nezuko could get injured. He ran to where they were and pulled the demon off of Nezuko. He hissed and fought against him. Tanjirou stumbled back and fell on his back. The demon took that chance to attack Nezuko. She had Tanjirou's axe with her.
She swung when the demon was close enough, and the axe had stabbed the demon's neck. With Nezuko'a strength, the axe barely struck the demon, but it did hit. Nezuko struggled to pull the axe back, maybe to try again, but it didn't move from the neck. Tanjirou grabbed the axe and pushed further in, successfully cutting the head off.
The demon grabbed Tanjirou's arm and struggled to pull the axe off his hand.
"The-the head's off but the body's moving?!" Nezuko cried out.
"You bastard! Why's a demon travelling with a human!?" The demon yelled from his decapitated head.
"His head's talking!" Nezuko shrieked.
Tanjirou grabbed onto the demon's clothes and gave a hard swing to a certain direction. He needed to bring the body out of sight from the demon. He hoped the head wasn't strong enough to attack Nezuko. Once he was between trees and away from the head, he took that moment to throw the body off the cliff. By the time he went over to Nezuko, he had used the majority of his energy and was close to fainting.
"Onii-chan, you're alright!" Nezuko was holding a small blade that he had given to her in case of an emergency. The head of the demon was tangled on the ground due to its long hair. Behind her was Urokodaki-san.
"You must be Tanjirou."
Sakonji Urokodaki had been managing the house when he received a visit from Giyuu. To say that he was surprised was an understatement. But what happened after felt more like a dream. Giyuu had greeted him as if this was a regular occurrence and told him a story that was beyond belief. A story of how he had come back in time. It had seemed like a joke at first, but the story was told in such detail and with a serious tone that only made it more believable. In the end, he had no choice but to believe it.
"I have a request. It is selfish and brash, I apologize. But could you train her? She doesn't possess much power, but I believe her determination will be powerful. I do realize that keeping Tanjirou alive is a violation of the code, but I... I will not hesitate to kill him when he turns to harm or eating humans." Urokodaki noticed the hesitation Giyuu had. He sighed.
"I trust your judgment, Giyuu."
"Thank you, I shall be returning to my mission now. Please take care." And with that, Giyuu left, leaving him to his thoughts.
Nezuko was trying her best. Her life had flipped over in a matter of hours with her brother turning into a demon. She was only twelve! And here she was, standing in front of a demon's head, preparing to kill it. However, if an axe couldn't, how could a small knife?
"You won't be able to kill it with that kind of thing." Nezuko turned at the sound of an old man's voice. She stayed speechless for a moment. It was definitely an old man though he was wearing a tengu mask. She also hadn't heard him walking towards her. As she was about to ask what would, she saw her brother out of the corner of her eyes.
"Onii-chan, you're alright!" The man beside her greeted as well.
"You must be Tanjirou." Her brother nodded in reply. Nezuko looked at the man. How did he know about her brother?
"How- How do you know Onii-chan's name?" She asked.
"I have my ways. Now, finish the demon." Nezuko frowned at the vague response. She was about to protest that she should know why a random stranger knew the name of her brother when he patted her head. Something he began to do when he turned into a demon. Nezuko reluctantly left it be. She focused her attention back to the demon.
The demon survived when his head was cut off, and from what she could assume, her brother had gotten rid of the body, considering how her brother defeated it. Which only left the head. Did she have to destroy the head? There was a rock nearby that she could use. She picked up the rock and prepared to hit. She paused. It would take more than one hit, right?
Wouldn't that be painful?
"Ah," Nezuko saw the sunlight from the corner of her eyes. She had taken too long to decide. She dropped the rock and covered her ears when the demon started screaming. She watched horrified as the sun burned the demon's head. Nezuko's eyes widened as she realized that her brother would be affected as well. She looked around for him. She found him between the trees, where the shadows were.
"I am Sakonji Urokodaki." The man introduced himself. "You are the one that Giyuu wanted to introduce to me?"
"Giyuu?" She searched her mind for the name. "Oh, Tomioka-san! Yes. I'm Kamado Nezuko, that's my brother, Tanjirou." So he was the one Tomioka-san had told her about.
"Nezuko. What will you do if your brother eats a human?" She frowned.
"There's no way he-" He slapped her. The surprise made the pain worse and Nezuko held her cheek in pain and shock.
"Too reliant. While your thinking of destroying the head was right, you had no way of knowing that the body was truly gone. It could've attacked you at any time."
"You didn't see him destroy the body. Not only that but you firmly believed your brother wouldn't eat anyone. Your determination is admirable but foolish.
"If your brother eats a human there are two things that you should do. Kill your brother and slit your own stomach. This is the kind of resolve you need in bringing your brother along.
"But remember this well. That situation is something that can never be allowed to happen. Do you understand what my words mean?" He asked.
Nezuko held in the tears that threatened to come out. What Urokodaki-san had just said was like another slap. Instead of teaching her a lesson, it brought her back to reality. The hopes of being a demon slayer were far fetched. She could only do it if she worked hard. The pressure hit her hard. Her brother grabbed her wrist. He gave her a smile.
She took a breath to calm herself and stood up straight. "I.. I understand!"
"Good. I have to test if you're ready to become a demon slaying swordsman. We'll be leaving once the next moon is up." She nodded.
Nezuko will do it. She will pass this test!