It was just like any normal day for them, the crow told them where to go, they traveled there, they find the demon or demons, and they did what their namesakes implied.
They slayed demons.
But this particular fight would leave one of them more broken than the rest.
Honestly, no one had any idea how bad this fight would leave any of them this time around.
When they found the demon, they expected a tough fight, yeah, but it was shocking how devastating the demons power was despite it's low human consumption.
When the demon started her assault it was bearable to a degree. For all of them, at the beginning they could stand it.
But when the demon became desperate, unleashing its full capability to stay alive…
It was inevitable at worst, but the fact that it could've been avoidable weighed heavily on two demon slayers.
Tanjiro looked at Zenitsu from the doorway. His back was to him as he was looking at the sky and the well taken care of garden of the owner. The sun had been setting and and colors of oranges, pinks and reds danced across the sky with clouds of white and fading blue.
A wisteria tree stood against the sunset, making it's normally bright lavender petals the color of beautiful hues of taffy.
Tanjiro frowned at Zenitsu's back, and his face softened at the blond.
He trudged over to Zenitsu's side and took a seat next to him on the raised wooden platform of the porch.
Tanjiro remembered it clearly, and he didn't know if he'd ever be able to forget it.
The demon made her final move using her blood demon art to enhance the pressure and noise in the air.
Tanjiro winced as he covered his ears in pain, he did his best to block it out as he quickly dodged a projectile headed his way, using his nose to detect its rubber like scent.
Inosuke growled in annoyance trying his best to cushion his own ears with the boar mask. The vibrations of the loud noise was making his skin tingle painfully.
A pained scream of agony rang out, even through this noise, and Tanjiro's eyes widened when he twisted his head around. Behind him, he saw his friend's slouched over form on the ground as he held his hands over his ears.
Tanjiro's pupils shrunk at the sight of blood dripping from Zenitsu's fingers, and nose.
No, it wasn't his fingers...
Stars started to peak out like diamonds. Tanjiro looked at Zenitsu, who was just staring at the endless expanse of the sky. His expression was void of any emotion and he didn't regard Tanjiro's presence.
Tanjiro gazed down fidgeting with his fingers on his lap.
"You should come inside, it's getting cold" Tanjiro said in a quiet voice and glanced back up. Zenitsu didn't make a move to follow his request, or in the least pay heed to it. All he did was turn his head slowly to him.
He blinked a few times as silence filled the air. The wind picked up blowing into their hair and clothes.
Warm tawny eyes stared back at him like pools of honey and they slowly grew sadder by the second.
"Fight me dammit! Stop running away!" Inosuke yelled, getting impatient. He rushed the demon multiple times but he couldn't get any hits in. And when he did, it was just slashes, no deep cuts or dismemberment.
The demon was quick footed.
Zenistu cried as he slumped to the ground pressing his ears to his skull.
He couldn't take it anymore.
It was withstandable earlier in the fight, but he was incapacitated now with no one to help him.
At some point when he fell to the ground on his knees, he felt something touch his back and a voice spoke but he couldn't make it out, or hear anything really with this noise. It blocked out pretty much everything.
It was horrible, Zenitsu had never felt a pain like this before. The pain choked him from the inside out, he felt like he was being torn apart from within starting with the insides of his ears.
Like his mind was ripping apart slowly and then continued to grind into pieces without mercy.
He heard screaming.
Only realizing It was his own voice that cried out.
He shut his eyes, clamping his hands tighter on his ears as he tried his best to stifle the loud sound.
Something wet dripped down his hands and nose. When he opened them, he stared with eyes as wide as saucers.
There on the ground, were drops of blood mixed with his tears.
Suddenly it became silent and Zenitsu looked up with eyes filled with tears. His ears still rang painfully, as his head throbbed like a pulse from a heart beat.
He could still see Tanjiro and Inosuke trying to fight the demon, they were closing in on her forcing her into a corner.
He trembled as he tried standing up, only to fall back down as his head became light. Everything around him spun and he felt dizzy like never before.
Then he passed out.
The last thing he heard was the soft tune that was Tanjiro, and the rough sound that made up Inosuke.
When the demon was killed, it was already far too late.
Zenitsu woke up to find himself staring at a ceiling.
He sat up quickly, but wished he hadn't when his head spun violently and he felt gravity shift another way. Almost like when they were in the tsuzumi mansion a while back.
He placed his palm on the side of his head and rubbed his temple to soothe it.
"Hello? Tanjiro? Inosuke?" He called out.
His eyes widened, and he went to touch his ears.
He felt a patch of cloth there being held up by medical tape. He opened his mouth to call out to someone but...
He heard absolutely nothing.
Not even when the doctor came in.
Not when he talked to him.
All he saw was lip movements and he stared in disbelief, and began breathing erratically.
"Why can't I hear?!" He yelled as loud as he could to try and hear something, but it was all for nothing, only pain as he strained his voice to hear a sound.
The doctor tried to calm him, he guessed. But didn't pay any mind to it as he was only in his head.
"Tanjiro..." Zenitsu said as tears worked its way out of his saddened eyes, red and puffy from earlier crying.
"I… I can't hear you" his voice trembled. He couldn't hear that kind melody. He was so afraid of not being able to hear that special tune that made up Tanjiro's whole being.
He had hoped, despite the lingering voice of doubt in his head, that if he could hear one thing, it'd be that beautiful song that only existed in Tanjiro's heart.
Tanjiro tightened his jaw and he forced himself not to tear up. He blinked rapidly, willing the tears to go away. It wouldn't help Zenitsu, only dig him further into this devastating situation.
"I can't hear anything..."
Zenitsu smelled of misery, disappointment, anxiety, but most of all, fear. He couldn't help but feel guilty and regretful.
He opened his mouth to say something to Zenitsu, maybe encourage him or lift his spirits about the gloomy state. But nothing came out, no matter how hard he tried.
The cause was doubt that Zenitsu could even understand what he wanted to tell him. He had been there, but could do nothing for him at the time. He felt helpless when he saw Zenitsu suffering like that.
So, he did what he thought could get his point across. Actions where stronger than words afterall.
Zenitsu flinched when Tanjiro held him in an embrace, hugging him tightly. He couldn't tell when people or things around him where going to do something, like he used to.
When his racing heart calmed he returned the gesture, holding Tanjiro tightly like it was his last remaining foundation for stability in his crumbling world.
Tears spilled, soaking Tanjiro's yukata under his fingers. His body was warm and comforting against the brisk autumn air.
"I'm sorry Zenitsu, I couldn't do anything to protect you!" Tanjiro said, unable to hold his guilt any longer, he couldn't hold back his own tears.
Zenitsu was surprised when he felt something wet on his shoulder.
Was Tanjiro… crying?
He pulled away, looking at Tanjiro's face. He really
crying. He furrowed his brows at the burgundy haired boy who only continued to let tears run down his face. Shouldn't it be Zenitsu balling his eyes out in this situation?
"Why are you crying like I died?" Zenitsu asked. He wasn't sure about the volume in his voice but assumed Tanjiro heard him when he gripped the end of Zenitsu's shirt.
Stealing his emotions enough to address the blond, Tanjiro locked gazes with Zenitsu.
Zenitsu watched silently as Tanjiro said something. Doing his best to lip read what Tanjiro had said. He only squinted showing his confusion to the other boy. Tanjiro repeated what he said and this time Zenitsu caught a word.
"Your sorry?" Zenitsu asked. Geez, he hadn't known how hard it was to read someone's lips when you can basically just listen to them all the time.
Tanjiro nodded slowly, taking Zenitsu's hands in his own. Zenitsu's heart leaped for a second at that and continued.
Tanjiro was about to say something, opening his mouth but closing it almost as fast. He had to think for a moment before he tapped the side of his head. Touching his ears.
Zenitsu gave a bittersweet smile, looking down at their connected hands.
"That wasn't your fault Tanjiro… I don't blame you or anyone…" he thought pensively at the thought of Tanjiro's sound, missing it dearly.
"I don't think it could have been helped one way or another anyway…"
It was true, Tanjiro knew but…
Suddenly the door opened and Tanjiro whipped his head around to take heed to the new person. Zenitsu only following what had caught the others attention, only to blink.
"Gonpachiro! Where is-" Inosuke's voice rang out, stopping as he had found who he was looking for.
"Ah, Senitsu! I see you're finally awake!" Inosuke said.
Tanjiro rubbed his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt before talking to Inosuke.
"Inosuke, Zenitsu can't hear you" Tanjiro said too the ravenette. Inosuke only made a confused sound under his boar mask.
"Ehh? Why? Does he have something in his ears?"
"No, he's deaf Inosuke, he can't hear anything"
Inosuke stood there for a moment before walking over and slumped to the ground ungracefully so, next to them.
"Have you tried yelling in his ear?" He asked as if it was the solution to the problem before them. He was going to do just that but Tanjiro grabbed him quickly to divert his face away by grabbing the tusks of the mask.
"No Inosuke,"Tanjiro scolded " His ears are badly damaged, he might not be able to hear for the rest of his life. The doctor said it could be possible he could get his hearing back, so loud noises are a no no"
Inosuke nodded showing he understood. He turned back to Zenitsu who just sported an addled expression as the two had conversed.
Zenitsu sat there a little shocked. If he had difficulty knowing what Inosuke was feeling with that mask on, he had absolutely no idea what he was saying and he couldn't hear how he felt so...
Zenitsu lifted an arm to the mask, hovering his hand there.
"Can i…?" Zenitsu trailed off. He couldn't hear anything Inosuke said so his eyes went to Tanjiro who he saw speak to Inosuke and then nodded to Zenitsu.
He proceeded, gripped the furry mask under his fingers and pulling it off of Inosuke's face slowly.
When chartreuse met amber the latter almost wanted to shove the mask back on Inosuke's head with how his pretty eyes bore into his own. But he didn't, holding the mask up a little to give to Inosuke who took it and place it onto his lap.
"At least with the mask off i can guess what your saying, plus writing is out of the question unless Tanjiro is around" Zenitsu pointed out.
Inosuke says something back, probably a protest on how he could write. Zenitsu didn't even bother trying to understand what he said. The boar may not be predictable in his actions, but his words were easy to predict.
Zenitsu glanced back to Tanjiro who had a smile on his face as he listened to Inosuke.
"Hey! Don't look away I'm talking to you!"
Inosuke shouted only realizing his mistake a few seconds later. So he goes to talking more quietly, which, it was quiet in his opinion but to Tanjiro it was basically just talking loud.
Zenitsu only examines Tanjiro's face as it twists from worry to, well. A little less of the emotion. He hadn't noticed how pretty Tanjiro's eyes were too.
He looked down staring at his empty hands.
Jumping out of his skin when two hands grabbed each side of his face and was forced to look away from velvet crimson back to calming forest green he glared lightly. Zenitsu grabbed Inosuke's wrists as the feral idiot smushed his cheeks making him look like a fish.
Inosuke had mouthed.
"Stuupp!" Zenitsu tried saying, failing pitifully as he tried prying Inosuke hands off his face. His cheeks were going to get sore if he put anymore pressure! And he would get disfigured if he held him like that forever!
Finally ripping his face away Zenitsu glared at the pig brained idiot.
"Stop that! What's your problem now?!"
"Ugh, what?!" At least he was getting used to this lip reading thing.
Inosuke said nothing for a minute and Zenitsu raised an eyebrow at him. At last he said something.
"You will...g.. better, your not that...eak to let so...thing like….bring you...own"
Zenitsu stared at him blinking owlishly. He turned to see what Tanjiot had to say, and like the idiot he was, he was just smiling like he had been given a gift, and letting out a small chuckle.
"I think Inosuke said it best!"
"But i'm even more us-"
Inosuke stopped him by grabbing his face again. This time more gentler, which surprised the blond just as much as his next words did.
"Don't go crying saying your weak again! You fight while sleeping dammit!"
Ehh?! Since when did Inosuke start sounding smart?! He can't be seeing this right! His mind was tricking him, seaking praise in his tired fuddled brain.
"There's no way! I'm hardly of any use now! If it wasn't before it definitely is now! How am i useful like this! I can't even tell when people move around me!"
Something moving behind Inosuke caught Zenitsu's eyes and he saw Tanjiro walking back to them. Inosuke let his face go.
Wait, when had Tanjiro got up and left? He really had depended on his hearing too much. Which also proved his point!
Tanjiro turned the paper in his hands around so Zenitsu could see it. Wow, Tanjiro had neat writing.
'I don't want to give you false hope, but the doctor said it's possible that your hearing could comeback, even though it was severely wounded it didn't look permanently damaged'
Zenitsu didn't know what to say, yeah he was extremely hopeful, but with the type of luck he had in life he honestly didn't want to mentally exhaust himself for who knows how long, only to find out he would have been wishing on a false prayer to something that would never change.
"I guess we'll just have to wait then"
Tanjiro went to write something else on the paper and then show it to Zenitsu again. Under the previous writing was another sentence.
'Lets go inside it's getting cold'
Zenitsu hummed his response getting up. It was chilly out. The three made their way to the door, Inosuke sliding the door with not much care to the property as he had roughly pushed it aside, Zenitsu didn't comment on it as it was a common occurrence with the wild boar.
Zenitsu was going to step into the building when he was stopped midway by and hand on his shoulder. He turned around to met with warm garnet.
Tanjiro lifted his hands to cup his face, he could feel the difference in roughness between his and Inosuke's hands. His previous training leaving them battered and calloused.
"What is it-"
Before he could finish he felt a warm pressure against his right cheek and then another on the cloth that was protecting his ears from any possible infections.
Zenitsu blushed furiously. Letting out a squeak when Tanjiro pulled away.
"Wha- what? T-Tanjiro!" He stuttered tripping over his words.
Tanjiro just smiled and he saw him laugh. Zenitsu almost went to ponder how he wanted to hear him laughing but was pulled away from thinking too deeply about it.
"Monchiro! No fair! You can't go doing that behind my back!" Inosuke said with annoyance when he caught Tanjiro in the act. Tanjiro just sheepishly scratched his cheek with a finger.
Inosuke stomped back to the pair and swung Zenitsu around fast enough to give him whiplash. He felt Inosuke's strong arms wrap around his waist firmly holding him in place so he couldn't move away, and he flinched when Inosuke leaned down to his face.
Inosuke had repeated the action just as Tanjiro did, but his time on Zenitsu's left, and lingering on his other patched ear.
He let out a girlish "eep!" And attempted to cover his face.
Zenitsu felt like he was on fire now.
"YOU IDIOTS! WHAT THE HECK! DON'T COME AT ME LIKE THAT!! I CAN HARDLY TELL WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND ME!"
"I'M GOING TO DIE OF A HEART ATTACK ONE DAY AND IT'S GONNA BE ALL YOUR FAULT-!!"
Zenitsu pushed against Inosuke's bare chest and thankfully to Zenitsu's poor little heart he didn't resist and let Zenitsu get away from him. To his disappointment.
He had forgotten how close Tanjiro was behind him though and bumped into him. He yelped when he made contact with the burgundy haired boy, and started yelling curses while flailing his arms around.
Honestly, these two would be the death of him!
Once he calmed down and they had settled for the night, Zenitsu lifted a hand to one of his ears and stared at the dark room's ceiling.
He smiled a little and then let his eyes flutter closed.
As darkness enveloped him, and sleep began to whisk him away from consciousness, he heard the sound of two melodies in his dream that night.