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i rise to dawn

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It happens slowly, like a sword being drug from a fatal wound, red spilling everywhere. Giyuu would know. He's been run through several times, none fatal but kneeling here, amongst the dead bodies of those he'd worked alongside, eaten near, conversed with, he wishes his enemies had aimed correctly. 

Anything, even death, would be kinder than this. Watching and hearing their slaughter, powerless to act, has left a giant and gaping hole in his gut and it's one only recently patched up by Tanjiro. It hurts so much now. Though, he's sure, half of that pain could be chalked up to his leg bone protruding from his skin, bent awkwardly from where he'd tried desperately to chase after Tanjiro, who had saved him. Again.

The sounds of powerful swings sing through his ears like a sickening song, reminding him again and again that children are fighting a battle not meant for them. Children who are undeserving of war, of pain but the world seems to favour them the most when it comes down to those two aspects. It's unfair and Giyuu knows this but he can't do anything about it.

He can't lift his blade, shattered into a thousand pieces by the hand of the first demon whose eyes had burnt such hatred into his own blue ones-Giyuu is still reeling from it. He wouldn't be able to so much as hold the weapon that had given him some semblance of safety across the years, his entire right hand missing fingers. There's a sharpness to his chest too, indictive of broken ribs. Giyuu thinks, no, he knows most of his ribs are broken, already having pierce one if not both lungs. He can barely regulate his breathing, which is coming out in rushes and gulps.

"Don't give up!"

Tanjiro's voice startles his slipping gaze, causing Giyuu to jolt and re-aggravate his leg, a cry of pain falling through his lips. It's enough to draw Zenitsu's gaze toward him, who's fallen short of positioning himself behind the first demon, opting to look straight at the Water Pillar instead. Giyuu stares into his eyes ignited with gold, still sparking with the hope that this time, they'll be the ones to win. He watches it fizzle out and die in seconds. A vicious, clawed hand, swiping down and cutting the boy into ribbons.

"ZENITSU!"

Giyuu chokes on the grief, on the suffocating guilt. I had been the one to break his concentration. How much more pain will he be the cause of because of his weakness, his inability to stand and fight? How many more people's death will be rooted back to him?

Tanjiro's cry, followed by bright, bursting flames that seem to consume the small courtyard of the Ubuyashiki Mansion, a place once the holder of peace but now a warfront, blaze like the sun. The first demon flinches back at the sight but swings his leg back to stay and hold his ground, snarling and showcasing his set of dagger-sharp fangs. 

Giyuu blinks but doesn't miss it, as Inosuke slides before Tanjiro, taking the hit meant for the other boy. It's a repulsive sound-one that makes Giyuu throw up at his side, eyes fluttering closed, only to open and be met with the dismembered head of Mitsuri. Giyuu chokes back against a sob, the urge to be sick a pressing one but he slaps a fingerless hand to his mouth and turns away.

Inosuke's guts lie strewn across the floor at Tanjiro's feet, the boy doing nothing but staring down at the insides once belonging to one of his very best friends. Something akin to pity stirs within the hollow hole in Giyuu's gut for Tanjiro. Only a boy, who lost everything to one single man. One demon. The very first of them all, who still haunts him, many years later. He looks so, so small, quivering as he holds his sword, still staring at the spot where Inosuke had stood.

Regret is a heavy thing. An emotion some carry throughout their lives, never able to let go of it. Giyuu thinks he will always regret exisiting, but a bigger part of him regrets never having gotten the chance to befriend or at least understand Tanjiro's companions. Their deaths were ugly things, caused by a monster they had agreed to fight for the sake of their best friend and his sister but all Giyuu will remember of the two-of Zenitsu and Inosuke, is their end because he never bothered to learn the beginning of their journey, what had lead them here.

I suppose, he thinks with numbness, the same can be said for all those I have encountered. I never bothered with them because I didn't think myself worthy enough of their time. 

"Weak creatures die," the first demon spits at Tanjiro's feet and the boy still doesn't move, "And your friends were weak creatures."

"Weak...?" The single word rings confused and Tanjiro finally looks up, his expression open with grief and rage. "There is nothing weak in a friend, a best friend, in family, sacrificing themselves to protect someone they love and care for!"

"You cannot protect life in death."

Tanjiro says nothing for a moment and Giyuu worries something is happening that he cannot see.

Fire dances, in swirls of reds and oranges, as Tanjiro speaks next, "I hate you but part of me also feels pity for you, Kibutsuji. You've lived all this time and you still haven't learnt what it means to live."

A sneer breaks out onto the first demon's face, "You talk pretty words for a boy that fancies himself a man. You're nothing without your blade and breath but me? I am power, as I always will be."

Tanjiro lifts his shaking sword. The first demon lifts his arms and throws them out to his sides.

"Black blood, spine of thorns!" the first demon roars.

"Dance of the fire god, parhelion rainbow!"

Giyuu watches for a moment, entranced but the speed is beyond his brain's comprehension and the blur of the fight presses dangerously against his vision and causes him to close his eyes for a second that draws on for too long.

It's rather peaceful, the darkness which beckons him forth with an instance hand. Giyuu doesn't mind reaching out to take it.

A scream stops him.

Blue eyes snap open as the sound of a sword meeting the ground rattles his bones.

Tanjiro's eyes are open and glassy, gazing up at the parting, grey sky. His body lies in two pieces as Kibutsuji Muzan looms over him. There's a smile on the first demon's face, almost peaceful in nature but Giyuu isn't too sure, his eyes pulsing in and out of focus.

Giyuu thinks on Tanjiro's flame red eyes, staring up at the sky. He thinks on the boy who had fought so valiantly to protect his sister from being killed, soon after discovering his family slaughtered. He thinks on the boy who devoted himself to becoming a Demon Slayer in order to find a cure for his little sister, Nezuko. He thinks on the boy who was never able to achieve his dream. The boy who had his dream ripped from his hands by the very man, the demon, who had been responsible for putting it there.

Blue eyes tip back to look upon the sky as rain begins to fall. The cold droplets pat harsh against his skin, mixing with the hot tears spilling from his eyes and burning his skin. Giyuu can't breathe now. He doesn't know if it's his injuries are finally catching up to him or if watching three children being slaughtered and the first demon succeeding in achieving his goal of capturing Nezuko, is the cause.

Why?

It's too cruel, to be reality.

Why did it have to happen like this?

It isn't right. They deserved to live.

I wish I could change this. 

Giyuu's breath is uneven, his throat burns, he can barely catch it back. He's dying.

"You could change this, Tomioka Giyuu."

There's a smudge of blue in the corner of his vision on the right. Giyuu can't turn to see if it's really there.

"It is not often that a call is answered but you are lucky your bloodline runs strong and your will, stronger."

The blue smudge approaches closer. Red, forked eyes whip around to look at him, to watch him die.

"Ah, Tomioka Giyuu, you cannot die on me yet. Your call has been answered, after all."

A fleeting touch presses lightly to his shoulder. Giyuu's eyes fall closed. His breath is a thin wheeze.

"Breathe of time, deconstruction."