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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."

Chapter Text

Giyuu awakens with a jolt and promptly loses his footing, falling onto his back. He hadn't been aware he'd been standing.

I fell asleep standing up?

The water pillar shakes it off. He's fallen asleep in stranger places.

"Tomioka-kun?"

That voice, it strikes cold across his spine. Giyuu hastiy blinks back the sudden black spots in his vision, lifting a hand to rub at the side of his face.

"Tomioka-kun?" Kocho Shinobu tries again and her face is obstructing his vision now, a shimmer of concern passing across her pretty features before disappearing completely. "Are your feet not working? You suddenly fell."

"I know." He can only manage those two words. Something is terribly wrong here and Giyuu's gut squirms in warning but he can't quite figure out what it is, that's so...odd. 

Kanroji Mitsuri crouches down beside Shinobu, a blinding smile pulling up at her pink lips. There's an equally pink flush across her cheeks, "Are you feeling okay, Tomioka-kun? If you're not feeling well, I'm sure Kagaya-sama will understand."

A surge of pain spikes in his head and Giyuu hisses, rubbing harsher at his forehead. 

"Oh dear, you're looking pale, Tomioka-kun. Here, let me get up and you can take my hand. I'll take you somewhere to be checked," Mitsuri pushes off her thighs and rises to her feet, sticking a hand out and waving it before his face.

Giyuu stares at her hand, feeling vaguely offended at the notion of requiring assistance to stand. He wonders why he needs it. Giyuu conducts himself to assure he'll never need aid because he's strong enough to provide his own, to himself and to others. 

"How pathetic," Iguro Obanai drawls. "He's not worth your time, Mitsuri-chan."

Mitsuri ignores the serpent pillar in favour of shaking her hand more insistently in Giyuu's face again, "Please, take my hand, Tomioka-kun. You're health is more important than your pride."

Something about this situation seems familiar, in a fleeting sort of way. Giyuu shakes his head, letting his hand drop to his side. He reaches out his right for Mitsuri's-she's always been scarily observant and Giyuu thinks he should hunch in on himself a little more, disliking being called out for his pride by anyone, but he startles again. 

The water pillar stares down at his hand, eyes widening. 

Hadn't I lost my fingers?

"Tomioka-kun, you're face is looking quite ugly now," Shinobu says, pleasant. 

Giyuu's face scrunches at the thought, when would I have lost my fingers?

He reaches again for Mitsuri's hand and finally grasps it, being hauled up by her impressive strength. Giyuu, in his confusion, almost collides with the love pillar's chest, barely stopping himself from causing a collision. 

The sound of something being dropped crashes through his ears and Giyuu turns, caught off-guard, only to meet an unconscious Kamado Tanjiro having been disposed of on the ground. 

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

Giyuu blinks against the words and takes a step forward, not thinking and then another. Mitsuri's hand falls from his grip and Obanai hisses, pleased. The water pillar ignores the stupidity of the serpent pillar's jealously, an almost pulling sensation drawing him forward and closer to the boy who's starting to twitch awake. 

He stops himself from approaching any closer and waits. It shouldn't be too long until Tanjiro wakes up. 

Why am I here again?

Tanjiro heaves awake, flinging himself up to sit. Giyuu flinches back and hits Shinobu, who he glances side-ways at, only to be met with slightly narrowed eyes. He doesn't offer an apology, just a simple incline of the head. The boy sitting before the Pillar's is more important. 

The water pillar takes a hesitant step toward Tanjiro, who stares at him with starry but confused eyes. Giyuu feels oddly honoured at the clear admiration in his eyes, yet knows he's undeserving of it. 

"The water pillar...?" Tanjiro whispers, sounding more mystfied than he looks. 

"Tomioka Giyuu," he corrects, kindly but it comes out more flat than he intends. Giyuu frowns, "How are you feeling?"

"You..." the boys fire red eyes blow wide, "Who are you people?"

Giyuu glances to the side and sees the pillars, all bar one, peering forward with open curiosity at the boy. Had they been debriefed on his situation beforehand? It would appear so, Giyuu noting the interest on Mitsuri's face and distrust on Tengen's which is mirrored by Obanai's. 

I don't remember a debrief. I don't remember how I got here. Why don't I remember?

"We're the Pillars," Mitsuri beams, a flush painting across her cheeks. "And you're Kamado Tanjiro, right?"

The boy nods, a slight dusting of pink on his cheeks to match the love pillars.

"Well, Tanjiro-kun," she begins, her smile growing impossibly wider and brighter, "Let's introduce ourselves! My name is Kanroji Mitsuri, I'm the love pillar!"

"I do not see why we have to do this," Obanai hisses and his tongue flickers from his mouth for a moment, causing Giyuu to do a double-take. He doesn't remember seeing the serpent pillar do that before and he's been around the man plenty. Much to his misfortune.

You could change this, Tomioka Giyuu.

Giyuu breathes through his teeth as another spike of pain causes his right eye to close under it. Whose voice is he hearing? Why do the words ring familiarity within him?

"Obanai-kun!" Mitsuri scolds loudly and he snaps to her attention like a dog being called by it's owner. "It's rude not to introduce yourself to our guest!"

"Iguro Obanai, the serpent pillar," he sulks and tucks himself into the collar of his haori. 

"Good job, Obanai-kun!"

Obanai squirms further into his haori's collar, a twinge of pink rising up his face.

"Himejima Gyomei," Booms the tallest of nine, "The stone pillar."

Giyuu chances a look down at Tanjiro, who swallows as he looks up to Gyomei. He had been the same upon meeting the stone pillar. His height and build is truly something to behold.

"Tokito Muichiro," the youngest of the Pillars murmurs with disinterest, not even bothering to look at the boy. "The mist pillar."

"Rengoku Kyojuro, the flame pillar!" 

Giyuu flinches back at the boom of the man's voice, unaware he had been standing on his left. 

"Kocho Shinobu," she greets and it's a painfully sweet one, making Tanjiro's eyes widen at the kindness she's displaying, a stark contrast against the more hostile greetings. "The insect pillar."

"Ah, introductions are no fun, especially boring ones like these but I guess I'll do it, just this once. The names Uzui Tengen! The stone pillar! Don't forget it, Uzui Tengen, the sound pillar."

"Wow," Tanjiro whispers and upon seeing varying amused looks, flushes and quickly waves his hands before himself, manically opening his mouth to protest, "I'm sorry! It's just-I've heard about you guys! The Pillars! You're the strongest Breath Users, right? That's amazing!"

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

He staggers backward, breaking the formation they've created around Tanjiro, who's watching him now with a gaze that's no longer open and amazed but calculating, confused. Giyuu shakes his head and doesn't know if it's directed toward the boy watching him with too attentive a gaze or the continuous sparks of pain that seem to blossom in his head when he hears that voice.

"Tomioka-kun, you're still looking to grey for my liking! Let's get you to someone who can-"

"What a nice chat you guys seem to be having," A vicious voice thrashes at the pillars around Tanjiro. Giyuu steps closer to the boy in impulse and the movement doesn't go unnoticed by the wild eyes sweeping across them. He does his best not to shrink underneath the sheer burn they carry-the first demon whose eyes had burnt such hatred into his own blue ones.

The first demon? Kibutsuji Muzan? What-what am I thinking?

"I've been gone five minutes and introductions are already out the way?!" The fake enthusiasm draws Giyuu's face in with distaste and he turns away, trying to hide behind his hair as not to be seen. He can't be bothered to deal with confrontation if Sanemi decides his mere presence is annoying enough to start. Besides, he's starting to feel the beginnings of a rough headache.

Shinazugawa Sanemi's tone is dangerously low set when he speaks next, "Well, there's still me left. Save the best for last, I guess you could say."

Tanjiro jumps to his feet and it sets Giyuu off, again. He flinches back in surprise at the movement and almost trips over his own feet. So much for the grace he's carried with himself all these years in front of his fellow pillars. 

"Spooked by a child, Tomioka-chan?" Sanemi leers because he can. 

Giyuu's lips settle into a thin line as he crosses his arms, pinching the back of them to try and make himself more alert. There's a strange sort of tenseness to his body he hadn't been aware of earlier but is now, for some reason. 

Tanjiro asks, very carefully, "What's behind you?" 

"Oh," Sanemi breathes and it sounds far to pleased, wrong. The wide grin splitting his face open only heightens Giyuu's worries that somethings about to happen and his right hand falls to the hilt of his sword, wrapping around the hilt. The wind pillar is unpredictable and this makes it a nusiance to deal with him but knowing when he's about to pull something, can sometimes be enough to counter it. Sanemi takes a large step to the left, revealing a box. He looks down at it with mock interest, eyes too wide. Giyuu takes a step forward. Sanemi's eyes flash to meet Tanjiro's a few steps away from him, that horrible grin still toying with those he looks at. "You talking about this, Demon Slayer?"

Sanemi kicks the box for what he believes is good reason. Tanjiro storms forward but isn't quick enough, not even close, to stopping the wind pillar from drawing his blade and swinging it to point at his throat. The boy stills instantly under the threat. 

A thread snaps within Giyuu and he chokes on the air he's inhaling, raising a fist to cough into it. There's a faint patter of red to his skin as his hand withdraws from his mouth and he brushes the sight away from memory. It's unimportant. 

"Tomioka-kun, you're shaking," Shinobu comments with a perfectly raised brow. 

The insect pillar is right. He's shaking and violently. 

"Get away from Nezuko," Tanjiro orders, lowly.

Sanemi laughs in his face, kicking the box again only to hear a whimper. Tanjiro's eyes flash a brighter red and he goes to move but the blade presses impatiently against his throat, almost cutting this time. The wind pillar isn't someone who makes threats under pretence, if he's making them, he means to follow through.

Giyuu breathes through his teeth again, trying to settle the shaking of his bones but it only helps, somewhat. He shakes his head because it doesn't matter and makes to step forward but Shinobu catches the sleeve of his haori and tugs him back. The fact that she's able to, is worrying. He's never lost in a battle of strengths against her, only wits. 

What's happening to me?

"Don't interrupt them, Tomioka-kun. This is their fight and you wouldn't want more people to hate you, right?"

Giyuu doesn't think it would matter when it comes to Sanemi. The animostity is clear to read even for somebody like him, the chan honorific proof enough of the disrespect the wind pillar holds for the water one. Tanjiro, on the other hand, he doesn't think is one to simply disregard someone he knows, who has helped him. 

"This is an unfair fight," he says, shaking his head in disagreement. "He has no right to that box. To the Demon."

"And neither do you."

"No," he agrees cooly, already making to move and stand before Tanjiro, "But I have the authority to intervene in an unfair fight."

Shinobu doesn't stop him this time but Giyuu only takes a single step forward before the wind pillar's voice makes him stop.

"You want me to get away from this Demon?" Sanemi coos, ever mocking. It's like there's no sencerity to anything he says or does. "This Demon you've been carrying on your back? This Demon you've been habouring? This Demon you've been protecting?"

"Yes," Tanjiro grits, ernest. "Move away from her."

"Her? Are you serious? Have you forgotten what you are or do I need to spell it out for you, Kamado Tanjiro?! You're a Demon slayer, protecting a Demon! I've never heard of shit as stupid as that."

"Step away from Nezuko," Tanjiro tries again, "Please, move away from her."

"Oh, you want me to move away from it?" Sanemi's eyes widen again, impossibly and he takes two exaggerated steps to the left, dropping his blade to his side. Only a tiny grin plays on his face now. 

Like a fool, like a boy who wants nothing more than to protect his little sister from threats, Tanjiro takes the bait and goes for the box but his movements are jerky and slow, a clear performance on how injured he is. On how easy it would be to beat him down more than he already is. Only, Sanemi doesn't go for Tanjiro like Giyuu expects. He moves impossibly fast-rearing his blade arm back and thrusting it down and into the box. Tanjiro screams as Nezuko's own one of pain echoes from within the box and Sanemi laughs, feeding off the hostility and brewing anger. 

"You see, Kamado Tanjiro, unlike you, I'm aware of my position. We don't keep Demon's alive as pets, we slay them."

Sanemi withdraws his blade from the box and sweeps it out, Nezuko's blood spattering off the metal and onto the ground. Tanjiro stares at the red markings, eyes holding a kind of madness Giyuu has never seen from the-Inosuke's guts lie strewn across the floor at Tanjiro's feet, the boy doing nothing but staring down at the insides of one of his very best friends. 

"Ha," he breathes out, clutching both sides of his head. 

"You're weak, Kamado Tanjiro, for not being able to kill your 'little sister' when she was turned! You think keeping it alive is a mercy? Living life inside of a box, fixtated on chowing down on human flesh?" Sanemi roars with laughter. 

Weak creatures die and your friends were weak. 

Tanjiro snaps out of it. Sanemi bares his teeth at the boy and lifts his blade up high, the metal glinting in the sunlight, "I wonder what'll happen if I run it through with my blade like a dango?"

Weak...? There's nothing weak in a friend, a best friend, in family, sacrificing themselves to protect someone they love and care for!

Giyuu remembers. He remembers it. He remembers what happened in the Mansions courtyard. He remembers watching the remaining Pillars being slaughter by Kibutsuji. Zenitsu, Inosuke and Tanjiro too. Nezuko being taken by the first demon. Losing.

Another thread snaps in his chest and before he knows it, Giyuu's sprinting. 

Breath of time, deconstruction.

Giyuu and Sanemi's blades sing together as they clash, the water pillar closing his right eye under the strength pushing down on the blade, where it pushes through the skin of his left hand that's clutching at the end of his blade.

He chokes on the pain, something Giyuu would never do but he's-

"You're-oi, Tomioka," The pressure of Sanemi's blade relents on Giyuu's. The water pillar finds himself breathing again, unaware he hadn't been. His vision swims and Giyuu sways and staggers on his feet, balance tipping forward. His arm is caught by the wind pillar before him, whose attention still bares down on him, more intense then it's ever been. His sword arm drops, limp.

Breath of time, deconstruction?

"You're crying, Tomioka," Sanemi states, still with an edge to his tone. His grip is borderline painful on the water pillar's arm.

Giyuu's sword falls from his hand as he lifts it to touch at his cheek. His fingers come back wet.

Mitsuri's dismembered head. Zenitsu sliced into ribbons. Inosuke's guts strewn across the floor. Tanjiro in two pieces. 

Giyuu opens his mouth to speak but all that leaves it is a broken sob, his hand immediately coming to clasp over it as Giyuu realises he's starting to shake, that he's crying in front of the Pillars. If they didn't believe him to be inadequate before, then they certainly do now. Sanemi's grip tightens and it's painful now, on his arm as Giyuu's vision blurs.

"Tomioka...kun...?" Tanjiro asks, sounding finally like the child he is.

Tanjiro in two pieces. 

"Tomioka Giyuu, as impressive as always. It has only taken you five minutes to regain your memory, of a time once been but now is forgotten," the woman's voice returns, the same voice that's been plaguing his mind since he fell on his back. 

"Who-" he can't get words through his mouth without them becoming embarrassing sobs. It only serves to make him silently cry harder. 

"I am afraid this is going to be unpleasant, given your standing with the man before you, so I will apologise in advance for what I am about to do. You will understand, given time, that it was a necessity. We must converse, after all."

Giyuu's vision disrupts and becomes mixtures of blotchy colours. His legs wobble and his body falls forward, into a chest, as his eyes slip shut. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Tranquil, Giyuu thinks as his eyes flutter open and meet with a bright sky, sparse of clouds. Coldness springs to his back and it takes him a moment to realise it's because he's lying in water.

"Would you like a helping hand, Tomioka Giyuu?"

Giyuu thinks about remaining submerged in the water, feeling boneless but his gaze catches onto the half of his haori that holds Sabito's design and he's reminded of Tanjiro's words, back when he was about to quit being a Pillar. 

"You look quite peacefull, surrounded by your element," The voice speaks and it sounds amused.

The water pillar's lips tug down slightly and he examins the hand before his vision, wondering if it's going to become a regular occurrence to receive help he doesn't require and definitely doesn't need. I am capable. 

"Tomioka Giyuu, you can take my hand. It is just the two of us together, here."

Giyuu's eyes narrow tiredly and before he can scold himself-that can wait for a later time, he takes the offered hand and is easily hauled to his feet, the water once surrounding him, making sounds of protest as he's lifted from it. He grimaces, barely noticeable on his features, at the wetness clinging to his clothes and the way they hang heavy, off his frame.

The water pillar scrutinises the woman still holding his hand, a kind smile tilting her pale, blueing lips, up. She's very beautiful, features soft and hair dark and curling under her chin, making her pale skin glow, blue eyes poking out from beneath her long fringe. She wears a two toned blue haori, threads of red as it's printed pattern and most surprisingly, an older-looking, female tailored Demon Slayer uniform. There's no sword, however, hanging from her belt. Giyuu's head tilts, only slightly, to the right in consideration.

"Who are you?" 

The woman's smile wains and it darkens her features considerably, "Do my features not prompt any recognition?"

Pale skin, black hair, blue and tired eyes, a small frame. She almost reminds him of Tsutako-

"No," he answers, with some emotion. 

"You are not a very good liar, I can hear it within your voice, Tomioka Giyuu," she responds with a raised finger, pointing it at him and waggling, "It is not very proper of you to lie to a lady and an ancestor of yours, no less."

Giyuu's eyes open, "An ancestor of...mine?"

"Yes, that is what I said. My name is Tomioka Chiyo, it is nice to meet you, although I wish circumstances never would have made it so. You should not be bearing witness to me and the knowledge that you are, is a cruel one."

He takes a step back, the water splashing up the backs of his uniform trousers. Their hands slip a part and Giyuu takes this opporunity to truly look at where they stand, a vast ocean of still water, under a sky of summer. Where are we?

"Before you collasped, I mentioned I would be bringing you to a place where we could talk. It is as I said also, it took you five minutes to remember what happened in another life, one that is quickly approaching. I am afraid, Tomioka Giyuu, this conversation will be an unpleasant one for the both of us," Tomioka Chiyo's voice is pained and shaky, her features a mirror of this. Giyuu feels a second of pity for her, before he remembers the words she had uttered before. 

"You said you were my ancestor," he begins with careful consideration. The water pillar doesn't wish for this woman to see how shaken this has made him, and most likely will continue to make him, "I-"

Tomioka Chiyo sighs and it's a tired one, "I do not wish to cause you discomfort but I am afraid this is...new for me. I have never been good at providing guidance, however, it would seem the breath of time wishes for me to provide it to you."

Breath of time, deconstruction.

Giyuu finds it difficult to breathe and he shifts on his feet, clicking his teeth together and breathing through them. His dominant hand unknowingly seeks out his sword, resting upon his hip, a small comfort. Tomioka Chiyo's eyes glance down to it and they become a little brighter at the sight and the woman breathes out, "They remembered."

"They?"

"Oh, I apologise, Tomioka Giyuu. It is just...before-" Tomioka Chiyo breaks off abrupltey, her hand that had been talking with her stilling by her face. An unwittingly sad smile curves her lips, "I asked those dear to me, to ensure my sword was passed down through my bloodline, to those who wished to protect people who couldn't protect themselves from Demons. It would seem Sureddokattā has been passed through capable hands."

"Sureddokattā?" Giyuu feels vaguely idotic, repeating the woman's words but the path of this conversation is lost on him. Giyuu's not understanding anything he's hearing.

"The name of my sword, the one you hold. Ubuyashiki Akio thought it an appropriate name for me, as I enjoyed creating thread when I had the time. A little inside humour, if you will." There is a warmer smile on Tomioka Chiyo's face now, so very soft. 

Ubuyashika? The same name the Head of the Demon Slayer Corps holds?

"I am talking you in circles, am I not," she laughs humourlessly, all softness gone and replaced with harshness, unfitting for a face such as hers. "I do not mean to but I am afraid I have no knowledge on how to begin this, how to explain the situation to you, Tomioka Giyuu."

"I went back in time," he states and the words ring absurd in his ears, filling his limbs with discomfort at even having spoken them. No matter how ridiculous, they are true and Giyuu understands he will have to find a way to deal with it. Which means that he won't. Ever.

Tomioka Chiyo flinches, full-body and the water pillar's nose crinkles at the action, assessing.

"Yes. It would seem history enjoys repeating itself and with our clan, to our misfortune. I truly wish this never happened to you, Tomioka Giyuu. For you have been through enough, already."

The words raise his hackles, the remorse within them biting at his heels too, "What could you possibly know about I've been through?"

"I did not mean to offend you, I suppose I was pitying both your situation and my past one. This will not be easy for you."

"Why is it happening to me?" A dam in Giyuu's chest breaks and it makes his voice crack in the middle of his sentence, eyes burning. 

Mitsuri. Zenitsu. Inosuke. Tanjiro.

"Oh, Tomioka Giyuu. I am so sorry. So, so sorry."

Giyuu waves her adavances away and it halts Tomioka Chiyo. He's bent over with his hands resting onto his knees, eyes squeezed closed and teeth grinding together as he tries to catch his breath. It's embarrassing that as the water pillar, a breath of water user, he's struggling so much to get his breathing under control. 

"I do not want your pity. I want clear answers." Not even his voice can remain strong.

"I will give you all I can, I have been meaning to. I am sorry," Tomioka Chiyo sounds genuine in her apologies. Giyuu doesn't care for it. He wants answers. "This is the second time the breath of time has been accessed. The first was with me."

Giyuu's head snaps up, eyes wide, "What?"

Tomioka Giyuu smiles bitterly, "I had watched all those I loved, cared for, worked with, die. I myself, was beyond power, dying and helpless to lend aid. A pathetic Demon Slayer who could do nothing but watch and listen. I was the last left alive, I was finding it harder and harder to breathe and just as I was about to die, I heard a man speak. He told me I could change this, that I was the first to have their call answered and I could not be allowed to die, due to this and that is when I accessed breath of time."

It sounds like...

"It is very similar to what happened between you and me, is it not? That is what I have found myself curious of, with little answer as to why beside our connected blood. We are both members of the Tomioka clan, past and present."

Giyuu feels as-though he's back within the Mansions Courtyard, watching and listening and powerless to do nothing but ask himself why? Why must this happen? Why must this happen to them? Why can I do nothing but watch? 

Why am I the only one who remembers?

"It is unfortunate but I do not remember why I accessed breath of time. I am aware I was in the midst of a slaughter but why, when, what, how and who? I have no knowledge of these things and I truly wish I did, so that I could bestow them upon you, Tomioka Giyuu."

Giyuu faintly remembers stumbling past the corpse of Iguro Obanai, hand extend out and clasped in the hand of Mitsuri's headless body. The water pillar collapses to his knees, the water splashing up slow, as if time has suspended itself around him. He lifts a hand to his mouth, pictures fingers no longer there and throws his head to the side and heaves. 

The faint sound of splashing fills his ears and theres a hand brushing aside his hair, another patting softly at his back. 

"It's okay, Giyuu," A distorted voice whispers softly by his side, a warm presence in the midst of the cold water. "I have you, Giyuu. It's okay."

Mio? He thinks distantly. No, mother is dead.

Giyuu is violently sick.

"It's okay, Giyuu. Let it all out."

Tsutako?

Tears drip down his cheeks.

No, she is dead too. 

Giyuu wipes the back of his hand across his mouth and turns, with slugginess, toward Tomioka Chiyo whose face is pulled in with concern and a little bit of something else, hidden beneath. 

"You-you don't remember?"

Her blue eyes, darker than his, close, "I am sorry, but I do not. I know it was-horrifc, though I do not believe that is a strong enough a word. In spite of this, I do believe we should be more concerned with you."

"I don't-" Giyuu takes in deep breath, throat feeling raw, "like it."

"Neither do I, Tomioka Giyuu. I suspect the knowledge would be helpful to your case but I am no longer in possession of it. We must face this and move past it, onto you. The breath of time answered your call to be granted a second chance and you now have it but that is not what matters most. It is what you will do with it, that truly does."

"A second chance?" His gaze is incredulous and angry. "A second chance to watch them die again?"

"No, Tomioka Giyuu and you know this. You have a second chance to change their fate but you must learn how." 

"How would I begin to attempt to do that?" The amount of emotion in his voice is apalling but Giyuu can't stop it from leaking into his words, tainting them. 

"You faced the being you called the first demon and-I apologise for my bluntness, you watched them die. You have lived this before and you will live it again, if events or people cannot be changed. This is an advantage and one you can use to its upmost potential. Think on how to prevent it and if not that, then how to beat it. You lost then but you have been given the chance to win now, do not lose it to grief from a future long since destroyed."

Giyuu stands abruptly and casts blazing eyes down onto the still kneeling Tomioka Chiyo, "You expect me to forget Mitsuri's dis-Misturi, with Obanai? The fellow Pillar's who never made it to him? Zenitsu? Inosuke? T-Tanjiro? Nezuko?"

Tomioka Chiyo looks out to the still water, "Perhaps I worded that wrong. I do not expect you to forget them, I do not think I forgot mine either. My words meaning were that you should not allow their deaths, ones that have yet to pass and that will never if you succeed, to weigh you down. The more you succumb to what has not yet been, the less chance you have to secure what you wish to come."

The light of the sky begins to turn vicious and blinding, Giyuu lifting an arm to cover his eyes as he winces. Tomioka Chiyo's outline is barely visible now. 

"Oh, it would appear you are waking up now," she comments and Giyuu doesn't think he's ever heard someone sound as tired as she does. 

"What do I do, Tomioka Chiyo?"

"You know what is coming, so understand all that is yet to come. Make it your business to know."

"That..."

The water splits into tendrils and seizes his ankles, pulling him back.

"Good luck, Tomioka Giyuu."

Giyuu falls and the cold envelopes him into unconsciousness.   

Chapter Text

It's a distasteful thing, waking up and finding oneself in a room with others, a boy passed out at his bedside, a woman on the opposite side looking too pleased and a man, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, looking adamantly away. Giyuu's vision is too groggy to identify them. 

"Sleeping beauty is finally awake," Shinobu smiles with her eyes closed. It's a hostile expression. 

Giyuu blearily blinks his eyes, feeling them stuck together with sleep. How disgusting. He turns his head to the left on the pillow it rests upon, a piece of his hair pressing against his lips and causing him to sputter. He tries to lift an arm to swat it away but it feels like a useless noodle.

Shinobu's eyes open upon the scene and her smile becomes a little sincere, "Well, beauty is too kind. Sleeping monster is much for fitting."

Ah, that must be his hair. It's never in an agreeable state after sleeping. Giyuu tries to lift his arm again, to attempt to pat it down, only a comb really has the ability to tame it, but anything is worth a try when he's in the company of others, specifically a person who will exploit this weakness-no, two people. 

The man leaning against the wall, a distance away, is turned to them now, watching with intent eyes which, if Giyuu is being honest, are always burning with some kind of intent-violence predominately. He doesn't understand why Sanemi is here but it's making his nerves worsen.

"Why-" Giyuu coughs into his fist, throat incredibly dry and hurting. He opens his mouth and tries again, "W-why is Tanjiro here?"

If Giyuu remembers correctly, Tanjiro had suffered from a handful of broken bones and deep exhaustion after fighting the lower-moon five. He shouldn't be lying here by his bedside, hunched over on the chair with his head resting on his folded arms, on the bed. Tanjiro should be in his own room at the Butterfly Estate, retrieving medical care.

"Couldn't pry him away from you," Sanemi, surprinsly, spits, figuratively and literally, rubbing his shoe in it and making the floor squeak. "Stupid, stubborn piece of s-"

"Now, now. We use our indoor voices in the Butterfly Estate," the insect pillar's eye-closed smile returns and Giyuu doesn't miss the way her folded hands tighten on her lap. "We are civilised here, and I will remove those who challenge our way. No ifs and no buts."

Before Sanemi can respond with something that will surely be biting and rude, to which Shinobu will forcibly escort him away all whilst kicking at his shins, Giyuu opens his mouth and says, so quiet the volume surprises even himself, "Please, get him away from me."

Wait. That didn't come out right.

Sanemi snorts with no humour, "How nice."

Giyuu's tired eyes flash to meet his for a moment but what he sees, causes him to conduct a double-take, focusing in on the bandage wrapped around the wind pillar's head. It's such an odd, peculiar sight, that Giyuu almost finds himself laughing. He thinks everything he's learnt; breath of time, Chiyo's guidance, the fact he's got a second chance residing upon his shoulders, is also attributing to the need for laughter.

The wind pillar catches the odd twitch to his features, namely his mouth and he blinks once, twice, three times and resolutely turns his head away. Sanemi's posture is stiffer than it had been before.

"Moving him now wouldn't be wise," Shinobu murmurs and the words are fond sounding, which is understanable when it comes to Tanjiro. Giyuu finds his face softening. "I'm afraid you're stuck with him, Tomioka-kun."

"He has several broken ribs," Giyuu stresses, eyebrows drawing together as he looks down at the boy.

Shinbou's purple eyes narrow, "Mhm, and they've been wrapped and taken care of, just like Shinazugawa-kun's head."

"Shut the fuck up."

"Aw, Shinazugawa-kun is embarrassed. Kamado-kun headbutted Shinazugawa-kun into the ground, when he wouldn't let him check on you after you passed out." The amusement is back in her voice, tenfold.

Giyuu is confused and his head tilts.

"Will you shut the fuck up, already?" Sanemi is fuming, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides, like they're itching to wrap around Shinobu's throat. 

"Ah, ah!" the insect pillar waves a finger in the air. "Indoor voices or I will remove you, Shinazugawa-kun."

My head hurts.

Sanemi's lips pull back but he opts to rest against the wall again, crossing his arms and snidely saying, "I'd like to see you try."

"You will, if you do not behave," Shinobu waves the wind pillar off and hones her attention onto Giyuu, who has been watching the entire exchange with tired eyes and a growing headache, "Do you want to explain what happened to you, Tomioka-kun?"

Huh?

Giyuu blinks. Shinobu's lips thin, a sign of what's to come next and he doesn't like it. Giyuu would be straightforward, if he could. The answer of 'I went back in time' will earn him narrowed eyes and one very unimpressed insect pillar. He doesn't like to think of how Sanemi would take to his words. 

"Oh dear, I think we've lost him, Shinazugawa-kun."

What do I say?

"The fucker doesn't want to answer, huh."

Giyuu hears heavy footsteps approaching. He frowns deeper at the memory of what happened before he and Chiyo had spoken. Hadn't he cried? Oh, he had and in front of the Pillars, no less. He'd fallen unconcious too, into the arms of Sanemi. Giyuu wishes Kibutsuji Muzan had killed him that evening. Anything is better than this.

You know what is coming, so understand all that is yet to come. Make it your business to know.

A hand seizes the front of his uniform.

"Oh dear," he hears Shinobu mutter.

Giyuu is greeted with the angry face of Sanemi Shinazugawa. He doesn't think he's seen the wind pillar this angry yet. It's very unpleasant to be on the receiving end of.

"You stopped me from killing a Demon and then you started crying, before passing out. Spit it the fuck out already," Sanemi leers in closer and Giyuu flinches back, the hand in twisted in his uniform relaxing somewhat.

Weak creatures die and your friends were weak creatures. 

Giyuu doesn't want to be weak and he doesn't want his weakness to spread to others, like it had done to Zen-it's in his very nature, the core of his being and he will do anything to push it aside but just this once, for today, he'll allow the weakness to slip by. He's so, so tired. 

 "Z-zenitsu and Inosuke, where are they?" The names are hard to speak, painful on his tongue. 

"Huh?"

"Agatsuma-kun and Hashibira-kun?" Shinobu's voice holds a note of confusion to it. "You're acquaintances with them?"

"I-no but I was with I-Hashibira briefly, after slaying the Demon he was fighting. I-left him there."

The knowledge stings in a way it never did before, the pressing image of his guts burn behind Giyuu's closing eyes. 

"You're avoiding the question," Sanemi shakes him and Giyuu lets him. 

"I am asking a more important one."

Giyuu hears Sanemi's teeth grind together before he repeats, "You're avoiding the question."

"The fight with the lower-moon must have taken more out of me then I thought," Giyuu feels his own teeth clench in reponse to his words, the weakness weaved within them settling bitterly in his gut. Shinobu and Sanemi are the last people he wants to show this pathetic side to. 

"You're lying."

Giyuu's right eye twitches, "I'm not."

"You are."

"I really am not."

"You-"

"I think that's enough, Shinazugawa-kun. It's very clear Tomioka-kun doesn't want to induldge us with the reason for his little outburst," the insect pillar's tone is sly, her expression showing nothing with it. "I have informed you of his condition, there is nothing wrong, so there is no need for concern."

Sanemi drops him instantly and Giyuu welcomes the soft comfort of the bed but hopes he hasn't disturbed the sleeping Tanjiro. He turns to the right, sees the boy's eyebrows draw inwards, still very much asleep and hopes that whatever he's dreaming of, is nice. After everything, Tanjiro deserves it. 

His body lies in two pieces as Kibutsuji Muzan looms over him.

Tanjiro really, really does.  

"I'm not concerned, you stupid flee."

"And that's quite enough from you. Come on, Shinazugawa-kun, let's leave the two to rest."

Shinobu rises from his bedside, a bounce in her step as she spins and snags the wind pillar's ear, leading the way and pulling him out by it. 

"Fuck, get off," Sanemi swats at the hand tugging his ear but upon realising it's futile, relinquishes. Shinobu slides the door open and slips through but Sanemi clings onto the doorframe, wild eyes feasting on Giyuu's drooping ones. "There's something off about you, Tomioka and I'll get to the bottom of whatever the fuck it is."

Giyuu's eyes narrow.

"Fucking watch me."

"Shinazugawa-kun!" Shinobu sings.

Sanemi's face scrunches and he's pulled from the doorframe with a final, promising look directed right to the water pillar. 

This is going to be exhausting.

His limbs feel like noodles as Giyuu sinks further into the pillow under his head, into the soft sheets of the bed and is very careful not to disrupt the boy sleeping next to him. His blue eyes fall shut as he finally succumbs to the tiredness weighing upon him. 

Giyuu supposes, once he's been discharged, he's going to have a lot of work upon his hands. After all, the fate of most around him, rests heavy on his shoulders. With this final, terrifying thought, Giyuu falls asleep.  

Chapter Text

Giyuu looks down at the parchment clutched between his hands, his left wrapped in bandages from the injury he'd sustained after gripping the blade of his sword, defending Nezuko. It's a little itchy but he'll never regret the new scar joining his collection. Sanemi had no right, going after the girl before Oyakata-sama arrived, no right to go after her, period. It wasn't his decision to make.

Giyuu shakes his head. It isn't worth getting worked up about anymore, the event has been and gone. If only he could hold that same attitude for what the future has yet to bring. What he has to prevent. 

Sighing, Giyuu lets the parchment drop to the table above his folded knees and resolutely dismisses the urge to bash his head against the table, repeatedly. It will get him nowhere.

You know what is coming, so understand all that is yet to come. Make it your business to know.

"Make it my business to know," he says to no-one, Giyuu's empty quaters swallowing the words and spitting them straight back at himself. He dips his quill back into the ink, again and again, head coming to rest on his injured hand. Giyuu shuts his eyes against the small spike of pain but ignores it. "What comes now?"

After being released, the day after being emitted, Shinobu had kindly informed him of the new date for the Trial Oyakata-sama is holding for Tanjiro and Nezuko. Naturally, it couldn't take place without one of the two on Trial not present but without Giyuu's confirmation of defence, of laying down his life to trust Nezuko's will not to consume humans, it wouldn't go as smoothly for the Kamado siblings as it could've. The word of a Pillar is not one to overlook. 

The Trial had been scheduled for tomorrow, early in the morning and Giyuu truly isn't looking forward to it but it's necessary and also a good place for him to begin with what he'd initially sat down to do.

After the Trial, what comes after the Trial? Hadn't Tanjiro mentioned something about mastering focus breaths? Along with Zenitsu and Inosuke? Giyuu draws the quill from his ink and begins to write.

The Trial - I must convince those who harbour distrust toward Nezuko, that there is nothing to be distrustful of. The letter and my willingness to die if proven wrong wasn't enough but Nezuko proving she held no desire to consume Sanemi was.

Perhaps the situation will play out the same, but if it doesn't, Giyuu thinks he knows what he'll have to do. His fingers twitch in anticipation of it. Karma is always a pleasant thing.

Tanjiro, Zenitsu, Inosuke - After the Trial, check on the three of see if they've begun to master full focus breaths? Or maybe ask in passing? Check on them.

Giyuu returns to tapping his quill against the ink pot, biting his lower lip as he begins to become more concentrated on his task. What follows?

Rengoku Kyojuro dies. 

The words are unpleasant to look down on, stirring unwanted memories to the surface of Giyuu's mind as he remembers the fleeting moments where he'd caught a glimpse of Tanjiro after the flame pillar's death. He remembers short moments of catching Zenitsu and Inosuke too, after it happened. The three had always been lively and that's why it had been so distrubing to see those qualities muted within all three of them.

I must prevent his death at all costs.

Giyuu hasn't spoken to Rengoku Kyojuro often and it's not at the fault of the flame pillar. He's open and kind and always willing to offer a hand whenever but that's not who the water pillar is, who he will ever be. People like Kyojuro scare him away, like a frightened cat. Giyuu promises to himself that he will endevour to open himself up more to the flame pillar, an insistent feeling telling him maybe Kyojuro is so forward and pushy for a reason.

It happens on the Infinity Train but what day? I am unsure. I will have to keep an eye on the three of them to make sure I know.

The water pillar hadn't received an entire report on what happened on the Infinity Train, nor had he had the time to ask Tanjiro which, in all honesty, he never wanted to do. Giyuu hadn't wanted to unearth the death of someone Tanjiro admired and looked up to. Not so soon after. Not at all.

When I go with them, I will have to remain vigilant at all times. Nothing must escape my attention. Nothing. I have only one chance of saving Rengoku Kyojuro and I refuse to allow it to go to waste.

Giyuu already knew this would be difficult, nearly impossible but looking down at his own handwriting, it truly hits him now. How many deaths must he prevent that he brushed off before? Regardless of whether he knew Kyojuro well before, to think he could let his death go and forget so...easily. Giyuu's used to feeling disgusted with himself but this is on an entirely different scale. 

Who's truly the monster here? Kibutsuji Muzan or me?

You have a second chance to change their fate, but you must learn how.

Right. He mustn't let it get to him. Tomioka Giyuu must be strong to support the weight on his shoulders, to assure he will succeed in saving everyone because it will be everyone. No-one will die this time, not when the water pillar can prevent it. 

Rengoku Kyojuro is killed by the Upper-Moon three, Akaza.

Giyuu smiles. The same Upper-Moon Demon he and Tanjiro defeat in the future.

Upper-Moon three's Blood Demon Technique grants him the power to create various shock wave-like attacks. He was able to track the two of us through our level of bloodlust. I am unable to recall much else. It was a difficult fight. I thought I would die several times but

Giyuu hesitates, ink staining a blotch in the parchment. 

I have the advantage of knowing he's coming but how will I use it?

Giyuu doesn't wish to place Tanjiro, Zenitsu, Inosuke or Nezuko in unnecessary danger before an Upper-Moon Demon of the number three. At this moment, they don't have the power to go against him and win. He and Kyojuro would be the answer, though he finds himself questioning this, reminded of Kyojuro losing against the Demon. The flame pillar is a formidable foe, truly, but Giyuu must consider his defeat against the Demon. If only I knew more.

An ambush perhaps? Although how would I undergo arranging this without arousing suspicion of why I know this knowledge already?

Oyakata-sama is too perceptive. Going to him would be dangerous but how else will I go about arranging an ambush without aid from him? Surely there would be a way to do this without making him suspect me?

Giyuu lifts the quill from the parchment and drops it into the pot, allowing himself to concentrate without any distractions. Think, think, think. I can't afford to get this wrong.

Kibutsuji Muzan had been after Nezuko. The first demon had wanted to steal her power of being able to walk within the sun's light. Kibutsuji had learnt of this power through his Demons. The first demon had been responsible for sending the Upper-Moon three to the Infinity Train, most definitely for Tanjiro and Nezuko. Giyuu can do something with the knowledge. He can twist it enough to fit the goal he's after, enough that Oyakata-sama will grant him the aid he requests for. 

Headily, Giyuu picks the quill up once more and begins to write.

It is of my firm belief, that both Tanjiro and Nezuko are in danger of always being tailed, no matter what destination they are sent to next. Tanjiro's heritage poses a threat to the first demon but it is Nezuko's unsual nature I believe he will come to grow more curious of, through him sending his Twelve Demons Moons after the two. I have strong reason to believe that a Demon, most likely an Upper-Moon after the defeat of the Lower-Moon five and our intervention, will be sent next. They are vulnerable outside of the Pillars protection, which is why I will accompany them and why I ask for your aid. 

The water pillar doesn't like what he's written, not even slightly. There are holes, too much paranoia bleeding through and into the ink but he and Kyojuro cannot fight the Upper-Moon three without aid, aid that isn't three children and a little Demon who's currently unable to handle the sun. 

Maybe I should ask Shinobu or Mitsuri instead.

No, he won't risk the two, refuses even the notion.

They are skilled fighters, he argues with himself. Capable Pillars of their respective breaths.

No, I am already putting too much at risk. No more, he argues back.

But you are willing to risk the Demons Slayers, whose names you do not know. Those you hold no care for. How selfish. 

His inner-voice sounds depressingly like Sabito. He would know what to do, he always did. Sabito was capable. Giyuu is not. Now, he just feels like crying but Giyuu shakes his head and blinks back the tears, the weakness and resolutely looks down at his notes.

The Upper-Moon will not be expecting an ambush but-it took me and Tanjiro to defeat him and even then, we didn't truly. Would Demon Slayers be enough to take him down, including me and Kyojuro?

Giyuu doesn't know.

Would two added Pillar's be enough to take him down? Four Pillar's against the Upper-Moon three?

Giyuu. Doesn't. Know.

With anger he truly hasn't felt for a long time, Giyuu throws the quill aside and snatches the parchment up, rearranging it into a ball and launching the stupid, stupid plans as far away from himself as he can manage. The ball of parchment pitifully hits the sliding door to the outside world and drops, Giyuu's eyes just watching.

He hates this. All this...pressure pushing him down. Giyuu thinks he might actually crack through the earth and find hell. It would be better than this. He isn't fit for this, he isn't the right person to have accessed breath of time, he never deserved the chance. It should've been Tanjiro or Zenitsu or Inosuke or better yet, he should've died in the forest and it should be Sabito here instead-

No. Giyuu will always believe Sabito should be here in his stead. Always and that will never change but he wouldn't wish this position upon any of them. They would handle it much better than he is, shaking in his haori, running hands down his calmly skin but this is the type of pressure that kills, when someone cracks under it. Giyuu is so, so close to cracking.

"Toss a coin," Tsutako says with a smile.

A younger Giyuu stares up at her, face expressive with confusion, "Toss a coin?"

"Mhm, you're having difficulty picking one of those haori's, right? You've been staring at them ever since we arrived here."

"But why would I toss a coin?"

Tsutako digs into her pocket and pulls one out, bending down and holding it before his eyes, "Sometimes decisions are too difficult to make on our own and I've found the world can be quite helpful in fixing this."

"The world?" His eyebrows crease together, eyes becoming slightly crossed as he stares, with a wrinkled nose, at the shining coin.

"Mhm, the world. I've always flipped coins when I can't make the decision for myself and the practise has never failed me. Ever." With her other hand, Tsutako places a hand atop his head and ruffles his hair. "And it won't fail you, see?"

Tsutako straightens up and brings the coin to her lips, kissing it once and winks down at her younger-brother by ten years, "I've passed my fortune onto you. Now, the coin really won't fail in guiding you."

She hands it to him once more and this time, Giyuu doesn't hesitate in taking it. Tsutako beams down at him, looking proud. Giyuu just stares at the coin with open wonder, holding it as-though it's the most precious thing in the world to him.

"Are you going to flip it and decide? Or are you just going to stand there and stare down at it?" Tsutako laughs, bright and joyous.

Giyuu flushes red and angrily stomps his foot, pouting, "Give me a second!"

Tsutako continues to laugh and Giyuu only flushes deeper under the embarrassment but he stomps his foot again, positions the coin on his finger and flips.

He walks home, hand-in-hand with Tsutako, with a burgundy haori resting on his arm, matching his older-sister's.

Giyuu fiddles with the same coin now, rolling it between his fingers, gaze hard and steady as he stares a hole in it.

I've passed my fortune onto you. Now, the coin really won't fail in guiding you.

Tsutako had been right.

Giyuu positions the coin on his finger and flips, tears rolling down his cheeks.

+                                                                                      +                                                                                       +

Giyuu clenches his teeth from where he's kneeling in-between Obanai and Sanemi, the two making their distrust plainly known as soon as he'd made it to the Trial grounds, literally cornering him so their threats could be made pointedly known. The water pillar distantly understands where Obanai is coming from, even Giyuu is aware of the affections he holds for Mitsuri and her clear display of concern for him yesterday clearly ruffled Obanai's insecurities of his feelings never being returned. Giyuu knows that they have, that they will.

They died, hand-in-hand.

This knowledge is enough for him to relent under Obanai's watchful gaze. The two have never gotten along. Apparently Giyuu is far too arrogant for the serpent pillar's tastes, which couldn't be further from the truth. Giyuu lets it go but he still doesn't like it.

It's Sanemi he can't understand. Giyuu understands he'd acted off, two days prior to this one, crying and passing out but it's not unheard of. Many people have succumbed to their exhaustion before the Pillars. Giyuu even remembers witnessing Mitsuri misstep because her eyes had fluttered closed as she walked, tripping and falling to her knees, her hand having grabbed onto Obanai as she went down, subsequently dragging the man down with her. It's never happened to Giyuu before. He's had his moments, most definitely, but the water pillar has always made himself scarce before anyone could notice.

There's something off about you, Tomioka and I'll get to the bottom of whatever the fuck it is.

The words seer uncomfortably into his gut, etching themselves in warning. Giyuu knows he's going to have to keep on his toes around the wind pillar, even more than he usually does. The two have never spent much time together, outside of missions they had been paired up to complete as a duo-a total of three in all the time Giyuu has been a Pillar and they hadn't been pleasant experiences. The first time, by far, had been the worst. His calm nature and Sanemi's violate one had proved too much for each of them to handle, Sanemi especially and Giyuu hadn't enjoyed the abuse he'd endured all the way back from the mission. He can't really remember which of them started but the fighting had never eased over the years, it really only gotten worse.

Fucking watch me.

Yes, Giyuu thinks, Sanemi is someone I must watch out for.

The wind pillar may not appear so but he's just as peceptive as Mitsuri, perhaps even more so. Giyuu would rather be anywhere else, then pressed against the two Pillars, who have made absolutely certain he cannot 'pull anything funny'-their words, not his.

Tanjiro's kneeling before the Pillar's, the box where Nezuko stays, beside him. Oyakata-sama's kind eyes rest upon the boy, his wife, Amane, kneeling a short distance away from her husband, along with two of their children, Ubuyashiki Nichika and Hanaki. 

"You may relax," Oyakata-sama's gentle voice carries to all those who kneel before him.

Giyuu is grateful he can relax, and scratches his forehead as he watches Tanjiro follow, slower than the rest. He hadn't had the chance to pull aside the boy and talk before the Trial could be conducted, as Sanemi and Obanai had prevented this. He forces down a sigh. Giyuu will speak to Tanjiro after this, the serpent and wind pillar be damned. He's also intent on speaking with Rengoku Kyojuro at some point today, too. Zenitsu and Inosuke will have to wait until the evening. 

"You are all aware of why I have gathered you, my children, along with Kamado Tanjiro and Kamado Nezuko, here before me today," Begins Oyakata-sama, speaking truly like the Head of the Demon Slayer Corps, losing a little of the kindness to his tone. "It has come to our attention, one of our own Demon Slayers has been traveling with a Demon, his little sister, Kamado Nezuko. Is this correct, Kamado Tanjiro?"

Tanjiro snaps under the attention and rigorously nods his head, "Yes, but please understand-"

"Thank you for confirming this for us, Kamado Tanjiro. Now, my children, you all understand the nature of Demons, as you have been slaying them for years, some, all your life. We have gathered here to determine if Kamado Nezuko can be trusted to join our ranks."

Giyuu feels Sanemi stiffen on his right and momentarily glances up at the taller Pillar, his wild gaze resting firmly on Oyakata-sama, who turns to the wind pillar upon noticing his unwavering attention.

"Sanemi-kun, would you like to say something?"

For a reason unknown to Giyuu, Sanemi looks his way and the two Pillar's connect eyes for a brief moment until Sanemi flinches away, disconnecting their shoulders. Giyuu finds himself leaning a little closer, missing the warmth but catches himself quickly, leaning himself back into Obanai who's glaring his mismatched eyes into the side of his face. The water pillar's nose wrinkles.

"Oyakata-Sama," the words are spoken dangerously, but not directed at the man on the recieving end of them, Sanemi's eyes focused upon the box beside Tanjiro, who looks less then impressed by the wind pillar. "I don't understand why you're even considering this."

Sanemi is shaking and his right hand is reaching for the blade resting on his hip. Giyuu's eyes narrow as he watches and waits for the moment where he's planned to step in. He doesn't know Shinazugawa Sanemi very well, if at all, but he's prone to violence and shows his dislike for Demon's very openly, the two things making him somewhat predicitable if known. That's how Giyuu knows he'll attempt to do the same thing he did once before, to Nezuko. The keyword being, attempt. The water pillar won't allow him to harm Nezuko. Never again.

"I have my reasons, which I shall bestow upon to you, my children," Oyakata-sama opens his arms, as if inviting them into a loving embrace. "It has been testified by Kamado Tanjiro, Agatsuma Zenitsu and Hashibara Inosuke that Nezuko has protected them on several occasions, going so far as to assist in the fight against the Lower-Moon five recently just fought."

"They're allies, of course they would say that."

"I have also received a letter from the former water pillar, Urokodaki Sakonji, stating he, along with Tomioka Giyuu, would lay down their lives if Kamado Nezuko was to ever harm a human being."

The words hang heavy in the air as Giyuu feels all the eyes of the Pillar's rest uncomfortably onto his form. Tanjiro's, by far, burn the brightest against his skin.

A flash of white fills his vision and Giyuu startles as he sees Sanemi stalking his way toward the box, toward Nezuko. Slightly flustered under the attention, Giyuu ungarefully stumbles to his feet and follows quickly after but he's not quite quick enough. Tanjiro's there but Sanemi isn't playing around like he had on the day of the originally scheduled Trial, planting his foot firmly into the boy's face and launching him across the grounds. The wind pillar snags one of the straps of the box and drags it along without any care, stepping up to where Oyakata-sama watches him, bringing the box into the shade of the morning.

Giyuu storms forward, heart in his throat, Sanemi unseeing of his advances and grabs the collar of his haori in a fist, drawing him back and making the wind pillar drop Nezuko, a tiny huff coming from inside the box. Giyuu throws him back and bends down to the box, carefully settling it upright and unlocking the latch, pulling the door to see Nezuko, her right eye closed in a wince.

"Nezuko-chan, I'm not going to hurt you. I am a friend of your brother's, Tanjiro, I just need your help to prove-"

"Tomioka."

Giyuu sees Sanemi approaching from the corner of his vision and he extends a hand to the little Demon, "Please take my hand, I just need you to prove something that will help your brother, Tanjiro."

Hesitant but brave, Nezuko takes his hand and Giyuu aids her into climbing from the box, watching as she stretches to her full-height. Sanemi stills, inches away, "What the fuck are you doing?"

Giyuu side-eyes him, "What you were planning to do."

He let's Nezuko go and steps forward to meet the wind pillar, his gaze unwavering. Sanemi stares viciously down at him but he isn't moving, something the water pillar is thankful for. He has no intention of fighting, he simply wants to prove a point.

"Please slice your arm open."

Sanemi blinks, "What?"

"Slice your arm open or I will."

Sanemi continues to stare down at him, completely mystified in a way Giyuu's never seen him before. The water pillar sighs and withdraws his blade, only a little confused when Sanemi doesn't even react, this would certainly garner one. Giyuu reaches forward and grabs his left arm, ignoring his dominant and slices shallowly into his arm, mindful not to aggrivate old scars.

Giyuu steps to the side and holds Sanemi's arm out to Nezuko, whose forehead has become damp with sweat, teeth clenching hard upon the bamboo in her mouth. Giyuu barely reacts. He trusts the little Demon. When Nezuko doesn't move and Sanemi continues to stare at the side of his face, doing nothing, Giyuu takes the incentive and draws them both toward Nezuko, waving the arm more insistently into her face. 

For a moment it looks as-though Nezuko will step forward and take what's being offered but after a few more, she steels herself, hands clenching at her sides and turns away. Sanemi physically recoils at the reaction and Giyuu decides now is the time to let go, re-sheathing his sword and taking a closer step to Nezuko. 

"Shinazugawa-kun possess the blood of a Marechi, if Nezuko wanted to consume him, she would have."

Point made and proven, Giyuu helps Nezuko back into her box, patting her once on the head for good work and closing the door. It's at this moment, Tanjiro comes running to them, screaming his sister's name. Upon seeing Giyuu shutting the door to his sister's box, his eyebrows come together to meet. Giyuu worries for his already broken ribs instead, "Your sister will be accepted, Tanjiro-kun. Please take her and visit the Butterfly Estate, your ribs surely didn't take too kindly to Shinazugawa-kun's kick."

Still confused but not unappreciative, Tanjiro does as Giyuu says, glaring at Sanemi as he walks past and retrieves his sister, giving the water pillar a grateful look and saying, "Thank you for protecting her when I couldn't."

Giyuu gives him half a smile, reaching out to ruffle his hair, "Your welcome. I'd like to visit you, Agatsuma-kun and Hashibara-kun later, if that's okay?"

Tanjiro nods, "That's perfect! I'll see you then, Tomioka-san!"

Giyuu waves at his back as the boy leaves, bowing respectful to Oyakata-sama who waves him away too, with a dismissive but kind expression. 

I'll talk to Kyojuro now.

The water pillar's eyes seek out the flame pillar's, catching Kyojuro eyeing him with a careful sort of curiosity, their eyes meeting to which they both nod to each-other, an unknown feeling passing between the two. Before, Kyojuro hadn't agreed or favoured Nezuko but now, he looks content with the new addition to the Demon Slayers. Odd.

As he moves, a hand reaches out and grips his arm, forcibly turning him back. Giyuu meets with a very, very angry Sanemi.

"What the fuck are you playing at?"

Giyuu focuses his attention upon the cut he'd inflicted onto the wind pillar, "I apologise for harming you, Shinazugawa-kun but you were important in proving Nezuko wouldn't harm a Marechi, let alone a human. Thank you for your assistance."

Sanemi shoves him back. His entire face closes off, anger evaporating as if it had never been there, his whole body rigid and ready to snap like a whip. Giyuu frowns and goes to open his mouth to ask what's wrong, wondering what it is he said, that set this behaviour off because-

The side of Giyuu's face erupts in pain and before he knows it, he's sprawled out upon the floor, a hand lifting to touch his blotchy red cheek that feels like a bruise itself. In the distance, he hears Sanemi's footsteps as he walks away and leaves, shoulder's raised to his ears. 

A face appears in his vision, colourful and bright and Giyuu tries to shield the sight but his hand is, instead, snared into another. 

"Let me help you up, Tomioka-kun!" Rengoku Kyojuro's voice booms and Giyuu finds himself manhandled to his feet. "That was quite the hit you took there!"

He hadn't even seen it coming. 

"Let me take you to the Butterfly Estate, to ensure everything is still in working order!"

Giyuu opens his mouth to protest but Kyouro stops him with a hand, "Please! I would like to speak with you also!"

This definitely hadn't happened before. 

Giyuu's spirits lift slightly. 

"Lead the way, Rengoku-kun."

And he does. 

 

Chapter Text

Giyuu's becoming far too acquainted with the Butterfly Estate for his liking. He's always done his best to avoid it at all costs, tending to his wounds when he can but the water pillar isn't idiotic enough not to ask for help after being seriously inured or run through. That had been a particularly nasty mission-one he'd been on with Sanemi, of all people and Giyuu still has no memory of what happened after he'd been fatally injured. Sanemi had refused to speak when he'd asked. 

Nakahara Sumi, one of the Butterfly Estate Servants, a small and young girl, pats Giyuu's now bandaged cheek. She says, very sternly, "You're going to have a big, nasty bruise but nothing is broken. No-thing. You'll be fine!"

"Thank you, Nakahara-chan." Giyuu bows his head. 

Rengoku Kyojuro slaps him on the back and Giyuu almost flies off the bed he's been seated on for the past ten minutes, "What good news, Tomioka-kun! I was afraid something might've been broken! You did take a very painful looking blow!"

"Yes," Giyuu agrees softly, feeling the phantom touch of the hit as he raises his hand to touch the bandage. "Sa-Shinazugawa-kun is angry with me."

"The wind pillar?" Nakahara Sumi asks, curiously. 

Giyuu makes a noise of agreement, tongue feeling floppy in his mouth. It hurts a little to speak.

"I've treated him before. He doesn't seem like an angry person, at least not someone who would punch someone else."

In surprise, Giyuu's head snaps to face the younger girl, a slight widening to his eyes, "He doesn't seem like an angry person?"

"I have to agree with Tomioka-kun's disbelief! Shinazugawa-kun is not someone who offers kindness! He is-hm...a ball of anger? Yes! That would be much more accurate, little one!"

"L-little one?" Sumi practically shrieks. Giyuu's ears do not thank her for it, the noise to close to them. "I am not little!"

Kyojuro frowns, in good nature and holds a hand to the Butterfly Estate Servant's head, "But you are little, see?"

The flame pillar moves his hand and it comes to up to his hip, "Little."

"Y-you, how rude! I am an esteemed Servant of the Butterfly Estate and you walk in h-here and-and m-mock me! Shinazugawa-kun doesn't mock me and you call him mean!"

"Oh, Nakahara-chan! It was not my intention to mock you! I apologise, profusely!" And Kyojuro does, bowing deeply to her, causing the poor girls face to become a brighter shade of red.

"You're awful, Rengoku-san!"

Kyojuro smiles as he leans up, "I have been told that I am an overly pleasant person before! Awful is certainly a new one! But I will endeavour to improve upon my awfulness, Nakahara-chan!"

"Awful, Awful!" The girl huffs.

Giyuu watches the entire exchange with a small smile twitching at his lips and hurting his cheek. Rengoku Kyojuro is very good with children, even if said children do not favour him. Giyuu, once, had the unfortunate opportunity to care for a newborn child. It is a memory that still makes him cringe, at times but it's more painful then anything now. He misses the child who never got to grow up. 

"Tomioka-san," Nakahara Sumi turns on him, hands upon her hips and face set with determination. "I am officially discharging you! You're free to leave, along with your awful Pillar friend! Please, do not linger, you're not welcome to! Now, if you'd excuse me!"

With one final, narrow eyed glare to Kyojuro, Nakahara Sumi spins on her heels and storms from the room, sliding the door shut with surprising gentleness. 

"She has a lot of fire in her! I think she could be a great Tsugoko with it!" Kyojuro's eyes flicker to the side of the water pillar's face. "But never mind this, you said you wished to speak with me?"

Giyuu's heart stutters and he does his best, not to let it show on his face. His right eye twitches in betrayal.

"Tomioka-kun?"

He feels sick, "You too, said, you wished to speak with me."

"Oh! Yes, excellent memory, Tomioka-kun!" The flame pillar nods as he settles himself beside Giyuu on the bed, uncomfortably close. His skin burns.

"Are you going to tell me what it is that you wanted to say, Rengoku-kun?"

"So I am the one to go first! If that is what you wish, then I shall comply! I wanted to talk to you about your actions, at the Trial. To be truthful, I have never before seen you look like how you did then. It was rather...well, terrifying. Not your face, Tomioka-kun! The expression you were wearing! Please, do not think of my words as r-"

"I don't," he cuts off, something in his chest burning unpleasantly. Giyuu doesn't want to be terrifying. He's not a Demon. He should be strong. Comforting. The knowledge of a Pillar finding him so-oh, I was talking. Kyojuro waits for the following words sure to come. Giyuu opens his mouth and clumsily says, "I-I did not mean to come across in that way. I...suppose I was very focused on my goal of proving N-Kamado-chan would not harm humans."

Kyouro makes a noise of understanding, "At first, I was very opposed to the notion of a Demon joining our ranks. How preposterous! Demon Slayers inviting in the very thing they kill. Even now, I do not feel very comforted by-by the decision made but..."

"Hm?" Giyuu doesn't want to push the words from his mouth but he hopes Kyojuro understands he is still listening, will wait to hear what he has to say. The flame pillar seems to curl into himself a little bit causing Giyuu's eyebrows to draw together. Kyojuro looks too small, in this position.

"But you are a good man, Tomioka-kun. I see it in your eyes, along with the rest of what I see, hidden there. I would not overlook your actions today, or stand against them. You have a reason why you would lay down your life for Kamado Tanjiro and Kamado Nezuko, along with the former Water Pillar. Why else would you challenge Shinazugawa-kun so openly? I would like to know it before I make my objections known to Oyakata-Sama, when I meet with him next."

Giyuu's eyes widen. Kyojuro...he'd...he's waiting to hear what Giyuu has to say? He values his words and meaning enough to not showcase his objections just yet? But why? Why does he trust-believe in him enough to allow this?

You know what is coming, so understanding all that is yet to come. Make it your business to know.

Giyuu wonders if he'll ever get the chance to speak with Tomioka Chiyo again. Her guidance would be appreciated in moments like these, when he's trying desperately to grip ahold of something to say. This is an important conversation. One that could change the tide of what's to come. Rengoku Kyojuro never contemplated Nezuko's position before, he wanted to condemn her to death but now, he's said nothing of the sort. Giyuu needs to make Kyojuro understand why she's to be trusted, why she's different but that-it could give away too much, he could say things that shouldn't be said until later on.

Good luck, Tomioka Giyuu.

He needs an abundance of it. Giyuu would reach into his pocket and pull Tsutako's coin, if he didn't think Kyojuro would find him more odd than he already does. He's not supposed to be raising so much...suspicion. 

"I met T-Kamado Tanjiro and Kamado Nezuko when they were younger. I believe it was around the time when Kamado Nezuko had been turned and their family...slaughtered." The words come tumbling from his mouth with ease he hadn't expected. It feels very personal, this memory he's sharing but if it helps Kyojuro to understand why Giyuu did what he did, he will happily hand it over to the flame pillar's hands. "I was going after Kamado Nezuko to kill, to fulfil my duty as a Demon Slayer but T-Kamado Tanjiro wouldn't allow me to. He used everything he had, to defend his little sister, he was prepared to die to protect her. I found his actions admirable but I could not understand them. Why protect a Demon? It wasn't until Kamado Nezuko was protecting Kamado Tanjiro, that I understood. It is, admittedly, a hard thing to understand when you have never seen or felt what is between the two siblings but I knew, then and there, she wouldn't. Kamado Nezuko has a good big brother and Kamado Tanjiro has a good little sister. They are each-others greatest strengths."

Giyuu's cheeks hurt and he reaches a hand up, touching the corner of his mouth, feeling how it's pulled upwards. The Kamado siblings have always been able to bring out the emotions he tries so hard to bury. That he doesn't deserve. The room is silent for a few moments and Giyuu finds himself not minding it as much as he usually would. At this moment in time, there's less dark and sinister thoughts obstructing his mind, the thoughts of Tanjiro and Nezuko burning too brightly to allow for darkness to swoop in and consume. His smile grows fonder.

"I-I," Kyojuro clears his throat, looking everywhere that isn't Giyuu, "I don't think I've ever seen you like this, Tomioka-kun!"

Giyuu's smile wains under the words and he looks to the flame pillar, seeing a guilty expression there. He closes his eyes and shakes his head, ushering for the man to continue. Kyojuro does, thankfully, only after a slight pause.

"It is very hard to understand, a Demon not wishing to harm a human, a Marechi especially but I-I suppose I will never understand if I beg for Kamado Nezuko's death. If anything, I will always be left to truly wonder why you and the former water pillar vouch so strongly for her."

"You-" Giyuu's head snaps to him, giving his full attention to the flame pillar, with wide eyes and hope hidden under his expression, "You would truly give her a chance?"

"Oyakata-sama has accepted Kamado Nezuko into the Demon Slayers and I do not believe he would go back on it, even if I made my objections known. It would be a pointless waste of breath, wouldn't you agree?"

"I-thank you."

Kyojuro blinks, "Whatever for, Tomioka-kun? For deciding to understand, instead of condemn?" 

"For giving them a chance. I know how the other's feel about this and to know someone is willing to give Kamado Nezuko a chance, to go against all they know, I-I do not think I'm capable to express what I am..."

"I believe I understand, Tomioka-kun. Your face is enough to know. You care for Kamado Tanjiro and Kamado Nezuko, you wish the best for them. There's no need for words."

"I-thank you, truly."

Giyuu feels useless, as-though all the air has been sucked from his lungs. It has been a long time since he's felt gratitude, on a scale like this, toward another person and to think, it is for someone who's death he brushed off with ease. Someone he refused to see value in. Giyuu isn't just going to change the future, he's going to change the person he had been, the first time, into someone better. Better, yes. I like the sound of being better.

"Now I have said what I wanted to and got what I asked to hear, may I ask what it is you wanted from me, unless it was to do with the topic we have already discussed?" Kyojuro's voice travels carefully to his ears. 

How best to approach this? Giyuu isn't sure but then, he wasn't sure how to broach the topic earlier and just opened his mouth, speaking freely. It doesn't always work. Obanai had almost throttled him once because his mouth had ran away with him and Giyuu ended up saying something unkind. He thinks it might've been about the serpent pillar's unusual dress sense-namely the bandages. Giyuu has never had enough energy to care. This time will be different.

"Have you...any plans on riding the Infinity Train?"

Kyojuro frowns deeply over to him, "The Infinity Train? No. Why do you ask?"

"If-" Giyuu steels himself, hands clenching into fists upon his lap, "If you do, please inform me. I'd like to come along, no matter the occasion for riding it. I would like to get to know you better, Rengoku-kun."

"I appreciate the sentiment finally being returned but-why ever would you need to ride the Infinity Train to do so?"

"I-I..."

Kyojuro holds a hand up and Giyuu is grateful for the interruption. The less he speaks currently, the better it will be for everyone. Speaking freely only seems to work on occasion for him, it seems.

"Forget I asked. If anything comes up involving the Infinity Train, I will be sure to inform you, Tomioka-kun."

"Thank you, Rengoku-kun. Not only for this."

"I know. I look forward to getting to know you more," Kyojuro holds out a hand. "Tomioka Giyuu."

"And I you," Giyuu reaches out and grips the hand firmly. "Rengoku Kyojuro."

They shake once and let go. Giyuu thinks he hears a noise, distantly, from outside the door but it matters not, now that there's a  flicker of determination building in his gut. 

I will save Rengoku Kyojuro.

 

+                                       +                                            +

"Is your cheek, okay? You didn't have a bandage on at the trial earlier." Tanjiro's voice seeps with the worry displayed on his face.

Giyuu reaches a hand up to touch it, "Only a little."

"That's good to hear!"

"Huh?" Drawls Inosuke, looking about ready to pounce from his bed and retrieve his blades. "Who the hell is this guy?"

Giyuu lingers by the door, suddenly scared of a bunch of children. How pathetic. Tanjiro beams his way, waving a hand from where he's sitting, crossed legged, on Zenitsu's bed, playing what looks to be a rather vicious game of Janken, with how Zenitsu's bushy brows are drawn downward and his teeth, piecing his lower lip hard enough to draw blood. 

"Tomioka Giyuu, he's the water pillar! He helped me and N-"

Inosuke's whole body stills and his voice, though scratchy and painful, is low and promising when he speaks, "You."

Giyuu frowns, "Me?"

This time, Inosuke does jump from the bed, barreling right toward Giyuu. He side-steps the punch with practised ease. Inosuke growls and tries again.

"Inosuke!" Tanjiro hisses, unimpressed.

"It's okay." Inosuke's knuckles barely graze Giyuu's chin. "He will not be able to land a hit on me."

Inosuke growls harsher and goes for a sweeping quick. Giyuu steps over it, mildly surprised at the way the move had been delivered. 

"STOP TRYING TO FIGHT THE WATER PILLAR! THE WATER PILLAR! YOU DUMB BOAR!" Zenitsu's shrieking voice doesn't hurt his ears as much as Giyuu had been expecting. The sound is rather comforting. 

A vicious, clawed hand, swiping down and cutting the boy into ribbons. 

Perhaps that's why. Inosuke's flexibility is impressive, he notes but it's unfortunate it's not honed to the best of it's ability. Hashibira Inosuke could be a very dangerous enemy, if under the right guidance. Giyuu would offer it, but he's not the right person to. Someone with the same outlook, of wanting to fight the strongest to get stronger, would be the preferred fit for that role. A name comes to mind but Giyuu doesn't believe the person would ever want it. 

Giyuu's hand reaches out and splays across Inosuke's bare face, reaching around to hold the back of the boy's neck with as much gentleness as he can, not wanting to hurt it. He remembers the injury from before, can hear the injury in the boy's voice too.

"Hashibira-kun, you are injured. If you would like to fight me, I will oblige but not until you are recovered."

Inosuke stops punching at his arms, peeking curiously through the gaps of Giyuu's fingers, his eyes so large and twinkling. Twinkling? Wait, that's not what he's s-

The boy twists away from his grip, it hadn't been strong in the first place for fear of aggravating his injuries further and Giyuu finds himself falling, landing on his back. The water pillar makes a tiny 'oof' sound as the air's knocked out of him for a second, blinking back a small bout of dizziness as his blue eyes focus onto the ceiling of the room. 

"Inosuke! You can't go around attacking a member of the Pillars!" Tanjiro scowls and footsteps patter nearby to Giyuu, a faint hiss of pain carrying through the air. "Apologise to Tomioka-san!"

"No."

"No? You attacked him!"

"He's strong!"

"It doesn't matter if Tomioka-san is strong! He came here to check on our health and you-you tried to beat him up!"

"Let go of my ear! Stupid, Kentaro!"

"It's Tanjiro! Apologise!"

"Let go of my ear!"

"Apologise!"

"Mojiro!"

"Inosuke!"

A hand appears before Giyuu's vision, becoming somewhat of a regular occurrence for him and his eyes flicker away from the two boy's fighting and to a gold head of hair. Ah, Zenitsu. The water pillar doesn't think twice in taking it, being hauled rather awkwardly to his feet by a boy weaker than him, physically. It would seem he fell in-between the beds, taken down by one of Inosuke's strange, rather wild, kicks.

"Inosuke is so stupid," Zenitsu grumbles, letting go of his hand and Giyuu realises then, that his limbs are smaller than they should be at his age. The Spider Demons. He winces internally with pity, it cannot feel pleasant. 

"Thank you, Agatsuma-kun."

Zenitsu looks up to him, quick, "Huh?"

"I said thank you, Agatsuma-kun."

Zenitsu continues to stare at him for five, unblinking seconds, before launching his arms around Giyuu's waist and clinging to him like a lifeline. There are tears springing from the corner of his eyes, "TOMIOKA-SAN, RIGHT? AH, SO COOL! SO KIND! PLEASE TAKE ME AWAY FROM THIS STUPIDITY! I DON'T WANT TO BE STUPID LIKE STUPID INOSUKE! PLEASE SAVE ME! SAVE ME!"

Giyuu is unsure of what to do, so he softly pats the boy's arm still wrapped around himself and then moves his hand to the boy's choppy golden hair, a small smile on his face, "They're your friends."

The breath of lightning user slowly pulls his head away from where it's buried in Giyuu's chest, looking up to him with big, golden eyes.

"You helped Tanjiro and Nezuko-chan, right? That was you?"

The water pillar blinks, thrown off from the sudden topic change and the uncharacteristic quietness to his tone, "Yes. They deserved it."

Zenitsu continues to stare at him. Giyuu does his best not to shrink underneath it. 

"TOMIOKA-SAN! YOU'RE THE BEST! YOU SAVED NEZUKO-CHAN AND TANJIRO! THE BEST! YOU'RE THE BEST!" Zenitsu buries his face back into the water pillar's chest. Giyuu doesn't know what to do, casting a pleading gaze to Tanjiro and Inosuke who've both quieted down, opting to focus on the two of them instead.

"Zenitsu, let go of Tomioka-san. He's not going anywhere. Come on."

Tanjiro's words seem to do the job, pulling Zenitsu away from him with one final, appreciative look. Giyuu gives him a small smile as the breath of lightning user returns to his bed, only struggling slightly with getting up because of his small limbs. It's an amusing sight.

"I apologise for disturbing you, this late in the evening," Giyuu utters, still feeling tired after his conversation with Kyojuro. "I wanted to check on you three and make sure everything is well. My duties prevented me from assuring sooner."

"It's okay, Tomioka-san! You've done enough for us-for me and Nezuko, already," Tanjiro smiles kindly over to him, as he tucks Inosuke into bed, who's staring through narrowed eyes at the water pillar. Giyuu avoids the gaze at all costs, wary it will cause the boy to think it an invite to try and fight him again. 

"Your welcome. It was no problem," Giyuu feels rather awkward, standing between their beds, having done what he said he set out to do. There's still words pressing against his tongue, to his teeth, that the water pillar wishes to say but is...to afraid to. Giyuu decides to shuffle himself closer to the door, away from the three. The words will be easier to say, if he can't really see them.

"Well, if you're okay, then I should be going," Giyuu turns around. "But there is one thing I wanted to say to you three. Kamado, Agatsuma, Hashibira."

"Are you sure? You can join in on mine and Zenitsu's game of Janken! I promise Inosuke won't try to fight you again."

"No promises!" Growls Inosuke. 

"Yeah! Stay and join us, Tomioka-san!" Zenitsu coos.

"No, thank you. There are still duties I must attend to. Let me say this one piece and I will leave you all to rest."

"Okay," Tanjiro easily agrees."We're listening, Tomioka-San."

Right. This is not so hard. I am just speaking simple words. Simple and easy. I can do this. 

Giyuu's hand rests on the hilt of his blade, "I want each of you to know, that no matter what it is, I am here to listen. If you are planning something reckless and dangerous, if you are not feeling well mentally or physically, if you feel lost or afraid, you can come to me, in confidence. Anything you wish to tell me, I will never share to anyone outside of us."

Silence can be suffocating. Giyuu's fingers tighten around the hilt, teeth clenching together in a way that hurts his bruised cheek. 

"Tomioka-san?" Tanjiro is not asking a question. He sounds confused. The water pillar can understand, he would feel confused to, if the situations were reversed."

"I apologise if my words were too forward. I wanted them to be known, that was all."

Giyuu moves quickly to the door, sliding it open and inviting a sliver of light into the room. He chances a glance back at the three; Tanjiro with a small smile on his face, Zenitsu who's hands cradle his cheeks as he looks at him with open admiration and Inosuke, eyebrows drawn down in consideration

A vicious, clawed hand, swiping down and cutting the boy into ribbons.

Inosuke's guts lie strewn across the floor at Tanjiro's feet.

His body lies in two pieces as Kibutsuji Muzan looms over him. 

Never again. 

Giyuu steps out from the room.

"Have tea with me sometime, Tanjiro-kun. Play Janken with me when you'd like, Zenitsu-kun. Fight me someday, Inosuke-kun. When you're all better. I will see you soon."

Giyuu slides the door shut softly, with the ghost of a smile on his lips, mind forgetting for a time about what's to come, about the burden on his shoulder's. Things are finally starting to feel stable. 

Chapter Text

Giyuu can't find comfort in his seat, constantly shifting to find it, hands lying flat beneath his thighs, gone numb from being deprived of blood flow. Rengoku Kyojuro glances over to him for the umpteenth time, a thick, fork shaped eyebrow, raised. 

"Sorry," he mutters, forcing his limbs to still under the bright gaze. "I am...not very good with moving things."

"Motion sickness?" Kyojuro sounds surprised, "You've been on the Infinity Train before for missions. Do you always feel this way?"

Tomioka shakes his head, "It's not motion sickness. I find myself becoming...restless. Yes, not sick. Just...restless."

"Oh, anxiety?"

Ill. He's an ill child. Imaging Demon's feasting on his family. It wouldn't surprise me if their disappearance and the Doctors was his doing. Cast him aside. A disgrace to his family name and our Village.

"No." Giyuu's voice is too quick, too frightened. 

"There's nothing wrong with feeling anxious. I certainly feel it when it comes to missions, though it quickly fades when I get into the swing of things."

"I don't have anxiety."

Kyojuro's gaze searches his face for a few, uncomfortably long seconds before the flame pillar looks away, shrugging his shoulder's awkwardly against the train seat, "That's okay, too."

Two weeks had passed before Giyuu had been given any word on the Infinity Train from Rengoku Kyojuro. The calming, peaceful feeling that had come from speaking with Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke had dwindled quickly over the week following it. Giyuu had been on his toes, waiting for Kyojuro to approach him with news on the Infinity Train but he'd been silent for almost two weeks, only speaking to Giyuu here and there because he'd been busy. The water pillar tried to keep a close eye on the three boys and Nezuko, learning they'd in fact begun to learn the full focus breath but he'd only been able to do so in passing, being swamped with work from Oyakata-sama who'd ordered him to take a mission up south with Mitsuri. 

The mission had taken almost a full-week to complete, the travel taking up most of the time and it had been pointless and easy, though Giyuu understands the Villagers wouldn't have been able to fend off several dozen Demons, instead falling prey to their thirst for flesh. Aside from protecting those he could in the Village, another good thing had come from the mission. He'd been given the opportunity to speak with Mitsuri and ask for her aid, when the time came for the Infinity Train trip to roll around. She'd been confused but as she listened to his explanation, concern had dawned on her features and she'd agreed to lend a hand, only slightly unsure of how to explain her absence but promising she would think of something concrete. Giyuu had asked her, in his stead, to ask Shinobu for aid too. 

Mitsuri had agreed but as he'd expected, Shinobu had come to him, imploring he tell her the reason, the true reason, behind his request. Giyuu had remained firm in his strong suspicions of Tanjiro and Nezuko being trailed, no matter where they'd go and though Shinobu had pushed and pushed, he never gave her an inch. The entire conversation had still made an unknown emotion sparkle through the purple of her eyes and Giyuu knows he isn't out of the water when it comes to Shinobu and her suspicions. Neither her, nor Sanemi will drop what happened on the Trial grounds. Obanai too, who'd given him a nasty, nasty glare as he'd departed with Mitsuri on his mission. Giyuu's aware he's walking on eggshells, and sometimes, more often then not, he's slipping up on them too. 

Giyuu rings his hands together on his lap, wondering when it is, that Tanjiro, Zenitsu, Inosuke and Nezuko show themselves. His blue eyes flicker, searching through the occupants of their train cart. There's nothing outwardly off about the people but there's an underlying...something to their cart that wasn't apparent as they'd walked through from bottom to top. Kyojuro's eyes find the side of his face again and the flame pillar leans in, breath hot as he speaks, "Those children of yours are here."

How-? How was he able to-

"There is a Demon too. I'll handle it."

In a flourish of graceful movement, Kyojuro's on his feet in an instant, sword drawn and glinting in moonlight shining through the window, the sound of something hard hitting the floor. Kyojuro slides his blade back into it's sheath, expression oddly serious for someone so lively and his attention hones in on the three boy's, watching him with open amazement. 

"Wow," Tanjiro blurts and quickly slaps a hand over his mouth, sheepishly smiling up to the man. "T-that was...wow."

Kyojuro smiles shortly, it not quite meeting his eyes, "Thank you, Kamado-kun."

The flame pillar turns to the occupants of their train cart, waving a dissmive hand to quell their fear and confusion, "There's no need to worry. I'm a Pillar of the Demon Slaying Corps. You're well protected, should anything else troublesome arise." The words sound too practised, to Giyuu's ears, with a bitter sense of resentment ringing behind them. Maybe he'll ask Kyojuro about it, later down the line but...maybe he won't, not wanting to be asked the same personal questions in return, no matter how much he'd like to change and open up. 

Giyuu blinks as the three boy's attention springs to him and as Tanjiro's and Zenitsu's faces break out into wide grins, whilst Inosuke narrows his eyes, ever assessing of his strengths. Kyojuro takes his seat beside Giyuu, and the three boy's shuffle their way to the free seats around them. With Tanjiro taking the one on Kyojuro's left, Inosuke and Zenitsu sitting in the ones opposite to them. 

"What brings you here?" He asks, only feeling slightly peeved at not being trusted enough to be informed of this, his grand, awkwardly stilted speech in the Butterfly Estate seemingly having gone over their heads.

No, that is not fair. I have been busy. I have barely seen them, and them, me. 

"Ah, well, we wanted to ask Rengoku-san a question but by the time our training and recovery had passed, he'd gone. We were told he'd be coming to t-the Infinity Train? So, we came along to."

Giyuu's eyes narrow, so it hadn't be a coincident that the three would find themselves with Kyojuro. They'd actively searched him out but to ask what?

"Oh?" The flame pillar's eyes flash with something that quickly fades-curiosity maybe and he gives his attention to Tanjiro, who smiles nervously up at the taller man, only peering once around him at Giyuu, searching for something he doesn't know to give.

Tanjiro looks back to Kyojuro, "I wanted to ask you about breath of the sun, Rengoku-san. I thought that because you're a flame pillar, the two breath uses would be similar in nature. Am I wrong?"

Giyuu blinks. Kyojuro blinks. Zenistu shuffles contently into his seat, shutting his eyes. Inosuke just rolls his eyes, crossing his arms, leaning a little closer to the breath of thunder user. 

Breath of the sun? Right, the technique Kibutsuji Muzan fears. The one Tanjiro's ancestors could use? 

Everything feels, muddled and...muggy. Giyuu reaches a hand to his forehead, rubbing as his right eye closes under the pressure. Why are things becoming difficult to seek out?

He feels on the brink of exhaustion but...also like he's beginning to forget what's coming next. Giyuu's eyes widen. Tomioka Chiyo never said anything about that. He must be imagining things. Yes, he has to hope that's what it is. 

Kyojuro yawns into his hand, "I can't say I have, Kamado-kun. There's a good chance they could have some relation, I would say a strong one, to be truthful but I-I, ah. My-Rengoku Shinjuro might know a thing or two about what you are searching for. I will endeavour to ask him, when we return."

"Rengoku Shinjuro?" Tanjiro echoes, eyes drooping. "When we return?"

"Mhm, the-the next stop. The D-demon has been defeated," Kyojuro jolts before his eyes can fully close, knocking into Tanjiro who he quickly grabs the shoulder off, stopping the boy from falling into the isle of the seats. Tanjiro mutters a 'thank you' and Kyojuro just nods, settling back into his seat with a relaxed expression. 

Conversation becomes quiet between them and Giyuu finds himself not minding the silence, sinking further into the exhaustion that beckons him further, closer. Through his closing eyes, he's sees Zenitsu and Inosuke curled around each-other, already asleep.

You know what is coming, so understand all that is yet to come. Make it your business to know.

Make it my business to know? His mind echoes the question like an eternal thought, spinning his head into dizzying loops. Kyojuro defeated the Demon, there's no harm in taking a short, tactical nap.

Rengoku Kyojuro dies.

Giyuu's gut squirms as he shifts, allowing for his head to rest facing the left, catching the slight shift of a cloaked figure, a peak of white escaping from the hood. The water pillar's forehead softly rests on the flame pillar's shoulder, as his eyes slip closed.

RENGOKU KYOJURO DIES.

It is okay. The Demon is defeated. Right?

_______________________________________________________________________

Giyuu awakens, staring at a far-away ceiling, blinking his eyes several times to get them to adjust.

"Yuu?" A voice sings, entrancing his ears.

Giyuu perks up, pushing himself to sit and turns his head to the left, looking up at Tsutako, who's smiling down at her little brother, cradling a baby at her hip.

"Tsu?" He echoes back and his big sister steps forward and offers out her free hand. Giyuu takes it and she hauls him up without any difficultly, letting go and still with a smile on her face.

"You'll sleep most of the day away if you don't get up. Me and Hisashi are going into the Village today, it's the Festival of Winter. Do you want to come or do you want to stay with mother?"

Giyuu blinks, "If-if we're all gone, who will be with mother?"

"It's tuesday, Yuu. The doctor always stays on tuesday's with her."

"B-but what if he comes up h-here and-"

Tsutako bumps Hisashi a little higher on her hip, taking several steps forward before bending down to crouch before Giyuu. "That man means nothing to us anymore, Yuu. He's gone and he is never coming back and I-I want you to enjoy your childhood in a way I never could. Don't-do not let him ruin yours too. Please."

Giyuu doesn't know why his big sister's blue eyes are sparkling with unshed tears but he reaches up anyways and brushes a strand of her short hair, away from her face. A single tear rolls down her porcelain cheek.

"I'll come with you."

Tsutako pulls Giyuu into her chest, resting her chin on his small shoulder, "Good. We're going to make some good memories today. I love you, Yuu."

"I love you too, Tsu," he whispers, curling his little hands into her flower embroidered Yukata.

__________________________________________________________________

Giyuu clings to his big sister's hand as they walk amongst the stools and people, little baby Hasashi resting on her front, in a baby sling to give her arms some respite. 

"Have you seen anything you like yet, Yuu?"

Giyuu thinks back to the sword being kept in his sister's room, resting against the wall like a decoration piece. Tsutako's told him that the blade is a family heirloom she hoped to pass down to Hasashi when he's older. He won't admit to feeling jealous that he'll never have the chance to take ownership of it. 

He shakes his head, "No. You want the crow clip."

"The crow clip?"

"Yes. I keep seeing you look back at the stool with all the clips. You like crows. There was a crow one."

Tsutako's eyes narrow down at him, "Do you, want a crow clip?"

"NO!" He says, too defensively, crossing his arms and looking away. "Clips are for girls."

"No, they're not. Anyone can wear clips. Don't be rude."

Giyuu's round eyes peer up at his sister, "Anyone can wear them?"

Tsutako's smile brightens, "Anyone."

Giyuu thinks on it for a second and then a little longer. He squeezes her hand, "C-can we go back and g-get one?"

"Of course we can, Yuu. I'll get one too, so we can match."

They turn and head back the way they came, with Tsutako being the one to approach the women in charge of the stools with the clips. His big sister points to the ones with a tiny, soaring crow, crystal and black and the woman beams, fetching them for the three.

"When Hisashi's older, he too can wear his and then we'll truly match then," Tsutako turns and smiles once again.

Giyuu nods, beaming also. He likes the sound of that. 

When Tsutako finishes paying the woman, she turns to her little brother and leans down, sliding the clip into his fringe and brushing it aside. 

"Pretty, Yuu! You're so pretty!"

Cheeks going red, Giyuu pushes his big sister's hands away from where they're pinching at his cheeks and begins stomping away to the sound of her delighted laughs. His pout lessens, it's always nice to hear her laugh. Giyuu is old enough to know it never happened when their f-when he was around. 

"Yuu! Don't stray too far!"

Giyuu waves a hand by his head, slowing down his pace so Tsutako can catch up. She'd never run after him with Hasashi resting on her. It would wake him up and Hasashi is the type of baby who could cry for all of Japan. He reaches up, gently touching the crow clip swiping his fringe clear of his forehead. Giyuu smiles. He can't wait for the day when Hasashi is old enough to wear his-

He knocks into someone. Giyuu staggers back but can't catch himself in time, loosing his balance. An arm snaps out, snagging Giyuu by the arm and hauling him back up, helping the boy regain his balance. Deep blue eyes blink once, twice, three times and look up to see the person who caught him.

It's a man, with spiking white hair and wild grey, almost black eyes. There's harsh scars littering his face and slightly exposed chest. Giyuu takes a step back on impulse, a sort of power brimming under the man's form and washing off in waves, suffocating Giyuu. 

"You." The man's voice isn't harsh or vicious like he'd expected. It's worried.

Giyuu blinks, looks behind, sees Tsutako and Hasashi stopped at a stool with food.

"Tomioka." Hands rest on his shoulders and Giyuu turns, confused at how the man knows his name. He's never seen him before, how does he know?

"Who are you?" His voice is so small. Something in him is scared but-but not of the man. Not exactly.

"You need to wake up."

Giyuu thrashes in his grip, wonders why his big sister isn't prying this man off him. "Who are you?"

"Shinazugawa."

Giyuu stops, "Who are you?"

A hand reaches out. Giyuu flinches. The hand drops. The man-Shinazugawa, struggles to get the words out, mouth opening and closing. Giyuu steps out of the man's grip. Red pools beneath the-Shinazugawa's white haori, by his shoulder. 

"Wake up, Tomioka." Shinazugawa is...his voice is pleading.

Giyuu can't wake up if he's not asleep.

"Who. Are. You?"

Grey, almost black eyes meet deep blue.

"Please."

Giyuu falls, his body going through the floor. 

__________________________________________________________________

Giyuu's eyes snap open. He's standing before the front of his home, the door wide open. Tsutako's inhale can be heard from miles away, that's how quiet the air is.

"Yuu, get behind me."

His big sister's tone leaves no room for argument. Giyuu's shaking so badly, he couldn't challenge her even if he wanted to. Tsutako unhooks the baby-sling and bends down, placing it over Giyuu's head, knocking his crow clip slightly. 

"Stay out here with Hisashi. If I'm not back in ten minutes, go down to the Village and speak with the Doctor's assistant. He will know what to do."

With a single pat to his head and a soft kiss to her son's, Hisashi, Tsutako turns and makes her way toward the open door, hesitating for a single second before walking in. Giyuu makes to follow after her, so, so scared of being left out here on his own, under the moon's light, of Tsutako going into their looming, dark house alone. 

"Stay." It's an order, one she doesn't turn around to deliver  Tsutako walks deeper into their house, being swallowed by the darkness of it. 

Giyuu's body freezes up, eyes darting and watching as the shadows of the night dance about. He's scared. Giyuu doesn't think he's ever felt this scared. No-his f-he's scary. The scariest thing. Giyuu can still feel the bruises on his skin, hear the slap delivered to his mother's face, Tsutako jumping in to protect-

Something snaps in the distance. Giyuu's head snaps to meet it. There's a glint of white hair, a fair distance away. Giyuu takes a step back and then another. It's him again. Him? Someone. No-where to run. The white is getting closer. Giyuu's standing in the doorway now. 

The white grows faster. Giyuu turns tail and runs, sliding the door open to the living room but finds no-one there. His mother and the Doctor had been in her room before they'd left, at the very back of the house. Giyuu's heart throbs in his throat, his lungs burn, his bones shake in his skin.

Frantically, he pulls open the door to his mother's room and turns to stone. Their-him. Him. Him. Him. Tearing the skin of his mother's shoulder, the sound of flesh being ground underneath teeth filling his ears. Tsutako stands before him, closer to the scene, the blade always used for decoration, glinting in her right hand, dragging against the wooden floor. 

"Father," Tsutako declares, voice as hard as stone. "Father."

Fa...ther...?

Deep blue eyes, matching Giyuu's turn onto them, flesh sticking between his dagger-sharp teeth, blood pooling down from his mouth. Giyuu whimpers, stepping back. Tsutako hears the floorboards creaking, turning to the side and seeing him. Her eyes grow wide and terrified.

"Giyuu, take Hasashi and go! Go to the doctors assistant-"

The Demon jumps on Tsutako. Giyuu screams. His big sister falls onto her back, the Demon pinning her arms to the floorboards, blade clattering from her hand. 

"Go! Go away, Giyuu!"

Giyuu can't move. Can barely hear the cries of Hasashi. 

Tsutako struggles for her blade, hand desperately trying to reach it as the Demon squeezes harder, teeth snapping for her. Tsutako shoots an arm up, keeping it underneath his chin. 

"GO! PLEASE!"

She gets it, fingers tightening around the hilt. Tsutako pounds the hilt into the Demon's back and the grip around her arms loosen. Tsutako uses this to her advantage, bucking and succeeding in lifting the weight off her. She scrambles to her feet, Yukata loose around her frame from all the movement, dark and short hair stuck to her face with exertion, and swings the blade down, onto the Demon going for her ankle. 

The blade goes all the way through the Demon's shoulder and Tsutako pulls it free before thrusting it back down into the same spot. The Demon growls, gurgling and choking on the blood in it's mouth, their mother's blood-

"Breath of water, first style, water surface s-"

"H-He-lp..." 

Giyuu's eyes snap to the crawling corpse, the Doctor, a leg missing, a chunk of skin bitten off from the side of his face, neck bleeding-

"AH!"

Blood spurts from the side of Tsutako's neck, as the Demon bites into it, dragging the flesh from bone as it pulls away, his big sister's body dropping to the floor, the sound of choking filling the silence of the moon. Giyuu's vision swims. He can't see. There's just red. Red. Red. Red. 

Hisashi cries. The Demon's head snaps over to them. Giyuu's body is limp. He's not breathing. The Demon stalks forward, wearing their f-his face. Tsutako chokes on the floor. The Doctor stops crawling, head banging against the floorboards. Mother takes her final breath. Hot tears sear his skin red with misery. Hisashi cries. 

A clawed hand snags the baby-sling, cutting it from around Giyuu's neck and Hisashi falls, falls right into the large, taloned hand of the Demon. Giyuu. Cannot. Move.

A glint to the corner of his eye. Giyuu turns, eyes wide and face as pale as the moon shining down onto the blade. Hisashi screams as he's raised, placed in-between the teeth of the Demon. Giyuu's breath stutters at the sight. 

When Hisashi's older, he too can wear his and then we'll truly match. 

Giyuu dives for the blade, his little hand clenching around the hilt and struggling to lift the weight. He manages, just and swings it around, only to see the Demon bringing it's teeth down on Hisashi's head, the audible sound of his skull being crushed, striking blood from Giyuu's ears.

The blade clatters from his hand. Giyuu falls to his knees.

"No, no, no."

Two hands clench at his shoulders and spin him around. Giyuu is too numb to care. A hand pats his cheek. It hurts.

"Tomioka, I need you to look at me. Open your eyes."

Giyuu's eyes peel open but he doesn't look up. 

"Look at me, please. Look. I need you to wake up. Wake up."

Giyuu's eyes droop.

The hand on his cheek slaps him. Giyuu jolts, looks up. It's that...Shinazugawa.

"Wake up," his voice is shaking, barely stable. His face is so serious. "Wake up, Tomioka. You're going to die if you don't and I can't-"

Two hands cup his cheeks, bringing his forehead to meet Shinazugawa's. The Demon looms overhead, Tsutako's blade in it's hands, positioned above his head and ready to be brought down.

"Wake up, Giyuu."

The Demon brings the blade down.

"Come back to me."

Giyuu's eyes snap open. He reaches forward, snagging the blade from Shinazugawa's sheath and spinning on the balls of his feet, catching the blade before it can slice him in two. Giyuu pushes back against it and the Demon goes skating back. He get's to his feet, flushed red with anger and with tears raining down his face. 

"Breath of water, first style, water surface slice."

He launches off his back foot, striking upward. The Demon's head topples from it's shoulders and drops to the floor with a sickening slap. Giyuu looks down at the blade, the blade passed through his bloodline, the one Tsutako had hoped to pass down to her son, Hasashi.

Giyuu turns the end of the blade onto himself. He closes his eyes and runs himself through.

Chapter Text

When Giyuu awakens, it's to a chaotic sight. His quick to notice, the ropes wrapped around Kyojuro's wrists from beside him, the same having been done to Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke. He blinks and catches the sight of white, spiked hair, belonging to the person standing in the isle of seats, crouching down and talking to a girl who can be no older than thirteen.

Sanemi?

Giyuu blinks again and sees the ropes connected to children, seated on the set of seats on their right, eyes open wide with terror as they watch Sanemi carefully. The water pillar looks down at his own hands, seeing them free from any bindings. His hands reach out to Kyojuro, who's head has fallen slightly forward, eyebrows drawn together in what appears to be pain.

Wake up, Giyuu.

"Don't touch the fucking ropes," Sanemi's voice travels to his ears, biting and rough but not mean. "Unless you want your precious flame pillar dead, I suggest you back off and come over here."

Come back to me.

Something inside of Giyuu squirms, like a fish out of water. His nose crinkles at the thought but the water pillar complies with the request, which had been said as more of demand and steps carefully over the maze of ropes, scared he'll accidentally misstep and harm those he cares for. It would be his luck. 

"What's happening?"

Giyuu stops just by Sanemi's back. 

Sanemi glances side-ways to him, a sparing look, before returning his attention back onto the girl who's shoulders have been captured by the wind pillar's hands, "This piece of shit, is what's going on, Tomioka. Turns out, your precious Rengoku only killed the back up Demon, not the big fish one. So, here we are, stuck in this fucking mess, about to be killed by a bunch of shitty children."

"These children are responsible?"

"Fuck, sometimes I don't know if you're stupid or just-" Sanemi lifts a hand from the girl's shoulder, who still looks fearful for her life, gesturing it toward Giyuu, "-you. Of course the shitty children aren't responisble but you can bet they're the helping fucking hand in this. Promised things they can only get it an endless dream, ain't that right?"

The small girl nods, "If I helped him, then I would be able to visit my family again."

Sanemi snorts, "Yeah, right kid. A little word of advice from someone who's actually fucking lived, don't buy into what the guys with power have to offer. He's a Demon for fuck sake, everything he does is a double-edged sword that only points in favour of him. You're nothing, your dream is nothing, you mean nothing and when everything's said and done and you're lying in a pool of your own blood, promise broken, he's going to walk to the next fucking place and do the same thing. Why? Because it means nothing."

Giyuu's eyebrows raise and he finds himself almost...impressed with the wind pillar's words. He eyes the taller man carefully, not really able to see his face from the angle he's standing at but there is an air of knowing about Sanemi that suggests his words are coming from experience and not common sense. 

"He promised," The girl bites back, tears sparkling in her big, brown eyes. 

Sanemi rises to his feet in one, fluid motion. He drops a hand to her head, "What happened to your family kid, that would make you agree to working with a fuck-Demon?"

She says something but it's too quiet to hear and Sanemi prods her for an answer again, growling at her to speak up louder.

"Demons! It was...Demons."

"Right and now you're working for a Demon, that's really sound logic you got their kid. What the fuck would your family say, huh?"

"T-they wouldn't s-say anything! They're D-dead!" She screams, body shaking as tears roll down her furiously red cheeks.

Sanemi startles, stepping back once and his hand falls from her head, dropping limp back to his side. Giyuu decides to take this moment and step in, kneeling down to make himself eye level with the girl.

"I'm Tomioka Giyuu, what's your name?"

"M-Minsae Kokoa," she sobs, hiccuping once.

Giyuu smiles, "Kokoa-chan, your family would not want you walking down this path. I understand I do not know you and I did not know them, but I imagine they would want the best for you and I can assure you this path, is not it. Me and Sa-Shinazugawa-kun are Demon Slayers, we have seen many scenario's like this one and none of them have ended well for the humans involved. You're a child. Do not throw away the life your parents gave you, by trying to chase after something that can never be."

Gently, Giyuu rests a hand a-top her head and ruffles her hair, in the same way Tsutako would do for him. The girl blinks, tears overflowing from her blue eyes and she reaches a tiny hand out to seize his wrist but she doesn't pull it off, only bows her head. 

"I-I want them back, there's n-no other way to get t-them back."

Giyuu casts his eyes to Sanemi, who's watching him with careful consideration, "I understand. When I was your age, I would've said and maybe have done the same as you are now. My mother, my sister, my nephew, I would've given everything to have them back but I know better now. They're dead and they are never coming back to me and instead of dwelling upon what I lost, I learnt to live for what I had. I promise to help you through this, Kokoa-chan, if you'll let me."

Minsae Kokoa's teeth pinch at her bottom lip before she throws herself onto Giyuu, arms wrapping around his neck and clinging tightly. Tears dampen Sabito's side of his haori and the water pillar softly pats her back, all while still looking to Sanemi. The wind pillar rolls his eyes, crossing his arms and vemently looking away to the left. 

"What are you doing here, Shinazugawa-kun?" He asks, as quitely as he can as to not disturb the girl crying on him, crying over a past not easily forgotten. Giyuu wishes less children had to share the same fate as him, when he was their age.

"Huh? What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck are you doing here?" Sanemi bites but his voice is pitched low, so it's more aggressive but less abrasive. Giyuu nose wrinkles but he waits for the following words to come and answer his question. Except, Sanemi doesn't speak again and he's fixing the water pillar with the same expectant look Giyuu is giving him. 

Giyuu sighs softly, "I'm on a mission with Rengoku-kun."

"No shit, Tomioka. I'm not fucking asking about that, I'm asking about your little, shitty request for Kocho."

"W-what?"

How does he know?

"Wondering how the fuck I know? Good. I hope you go stir crazy trying to figure it out, but right now-"

Sanemi cuts himself off, wild eyes growing so much wider than they already are, fixated just behind Giyuu. He gently pulls Kokoa away from his chest, ruffling her hair once more and nudging her to sit with the other children, who are watching him with less fear than they had been with the wind pillar. The water pillar turns to look at what Sanemi is gazing toward, seeing Nezuko peering at the two, something clutched within her hand. 

Just as he's about to step forward and see, Tanjiro gasps awake, flinging himself off the seat and ending up sprawled in the isle, cheek smushed against the dirty floor. Giyuu feels pity for the boy, leaning down and being the one to extend his hand this time. Tanjiro takes it, his face the picture of confusion.

"I was-my family-I don't know-Nezuko!" Tanjiro flings himself at his sister, barely avoiding the ropes all around them. Sanemi hisses and makes to storm forward but Giyuu quickly throws an arm out, eyes pleading for the wind pillar to stay and let the siblings have their moment. Sanemi jerks his body, knocking the water pillar's arm away but he doesn't continue in his advances, watching Tanjiro and Nezuko with a seething gaze, teeth grinding together by the way his jaw works.

"Do you know how to wake them?" Giyuu opts to ask, a line of tension running through his body as he glances briefly to Zenitsu and Inosuke still resting against each-other, Kyojuro tilted forward, left arm pulled away from his body and clenched into a fist. 

"Do I know how to wake them-of course I fucking don't. If I did, your little gang of shits and precious Rengoku would be awake. Do they look awake, Tomioka, huh? Do they?"

Sanemi's crowded too close to Giyuu, who inclines his head back to try and escape the burning intensity behind his words and gaze. He won't, however, take a step back. It would be an emission of Sanemi having won, whatever it is he's trying to prove and Giyuu has never been someone who enjoys losing.

"You-were you not in my...?" The water pillar frowns. 

Come back to me.

Sanemi's face does the strangest thing. He inches back, seemingly noticing the lack of distance between them and his features-his face tinges red, features twisting and untwisting until he settles on anger. So essentially, his resting face. 

"I-shut the fuck up. No, shut your fucking mouth, Tomioka and let me speak you shitty piece of-quiet! You asked a stupid question and I'm going to answer it so you don't fucking bother me with your shit again. I was, whatever Blood Demon technique is pulling this shit, didn't work on me. Fucking pathetic."

"Then how did you-"

Sanemi's eyes flash to him, "I told you to shut the fuck up, Tomioka. Let me fucking finish. It didn't work, right, so I made my way over to your little gang of shits, while those stupid kids were watching me and saw you all fast asleep, on the fucking job, nice one, Tomioka," Sanemi breaks off to snort but continues on with bitter amusement dancing in his voice, "I touched your arm, got sucked into whatever was going on with you-"

"Tomioka-san!" Tanjiro shouts, whipping around to face him. 

Giyuu breaks away from Sanemi and gives his attention to the boy. 

Tanjiro holds up a train ticket and waves it, "Nezuko says there's something wrong with the train ticket, like there's a-"

This time, Giyuu is unable to stop Sanemi from storming forward, stepping heavily over the strings of rope and shoulder-checking Tanjiro, whilst snatching the train ticket from his grip. Nezuko watches the wind pillar from her box and Sanemi catches it, growling down at her. She doesn't shrink from the open hostility, pink eyes narrowing. 

"The fuck do you mean?"

"Nezuko," Tanjiro says sternly, eyes blazing, "Said there's something wrong with the train ticket and I agree. It carries the scent of a Demon."

"Well, fuck me, you and the Demon are a bunch of fucking geniuses. I never would've guessed this was all the doing of a shitty Demon. Pat yourself on the back, for that one."

"Shinazugawa-kun," Giyuu scolds, flatly. The wind pillar's teeth audibly clack together. Giyuu gives his softening gaze to Tanjiro, "Please continue, Kamado-kun."

"Tanjiro is fine, Tomioka-san. As I was saying, this ticket carries the scent of a Demon and I can smell it still but not on this cart, or the others," Tanjiro points a finger above, slowly looking back down to the water pillar. "It's coming from above."

Sanemi snarls, "So the fuckers on the roof of the train."

"Yes."

Giyuu nods, "Good work, Tanjiro-kun."

Tanjiro's cheeks puff out under the praise, "It's no problem, Tomioka-san! I can go and handle the D-"

"No," he says firmly, with a shake of his head. "Stay here with Agatsuma-kun, Hashibira-kun and Rengoku-kun. I will handle the Demon."

Giyuu's hand travels to the hilt of his blade. 

"Like fuck you're going to take that Demon on alone and get all the credit. That's just fucking like you, Tomioka-chan. I'll deal with Demon and you can stay here and huddle with your precious pieces of shit."

"I know you are strong, Tanjiro-kun but I need you to keep an eye on your friends and Rengoku-kun. Especially, Rengoku-kun. I will handle this and once the Demon is defeated, I am sure they will awaken from this Blood Demon technique." Giyuu opts to ignore the wind pillar, skin tickling with antsy energy. 

"Fucking hell, if you care so much about your boyfriend, why not let the kid fight the Demon and watch over him instead?"

It must be Akaza, on the roof.

He blinks, "Boyfriend? I do not have a boyfriend."

Giyuu will enjoy tearing the Upper-Moon to pieces. His gaze drifts down their cart on the train, noting Mitsuri must be somewhere close to the middle, asleep like the rest, without any true protection. So much for gaining her aid in the fight against an Upper-Moon. Giyuu supposes he should be thankful he at least has Sanemi with him to fight, however turbulent their relationship may be. The wind pillar is responsible for helping Giyuu break from the Demon's Blood technique, even if he insists he wasn't. Everything is still slightly murky, unattainable to access and find the truth in. 

Sanemi slaps a hand to his forehead, with a roll of his eyes, "Right, sure you don't, Tomioka-chan."

"Shinazugawa-kun," Giyuu begins and steels himself for the words he knows he'll surely receive. "I believe the Demon on the roof will be of Upper-Moon status. Please, prepare yourself."

"Upper-Moon?" The man questions, leg hovering over a rope, ready to step over. "How the fuck could you know that?"

"A hunch."

"Wow, so helpful. I don't give a fuck who it is, they're still getting their head knocked off their shoulders. Fucking watch me."

There's something off about you, Tomioka and I'll get to the bottom of whatever the fuck it is. Fucking watch me.

Giyuu turns to Tanjiro and gives him one last smile, "Keep them and yourself safe. I know you will." He looks past the boy and to Nezuko, who's still peering from her box, "Protect your brother and yourself to, Nezuko-chan."

She huffs but nods firmly, a strand of hair falling into her eyes.

Tanjiro grins right back, "You too, Tomioka-san and-Shinazugawa-san, right?"

"Fuck off," Sanemi says, baring his teeth. "I don't need words of protection to fucking win."

The water pillar turns to the children next, focusing a little more on Kokoa, "Don't move from where you are, we'll be back down slowly. If you need anything, Tanjiro-kun is here."

"Yep," the boy grins, almost sparkling. "I'll help."

Kokoa's lip trembles but she nods, not looking at him. Giyuu nods to Tanjiro one last time, spinning on his heels.

Giyuu straightens his shoulder's, glances briefly up to the roof of the train cart, imagining the Upper-Moon standing there, basking in the nights light. His hand twitches on the hilt of his blade, eyes running to Kyojuro who's being carefully moved to sit more comfortably by Tanjiro, whose eyebrows are pulled in concern. 

Rengoku Kyojuro will not die. 

With those four words, Giyuu moves to meet the Demon. 

Chapter Text

The wind whips Giyuu's hair back and forth, concealing his vision and then freeing it. It's irritating and the water pillar grits his teeth together because of the action but Giyuu's more concerned with the figure, standing and basking in the moons light, one cart away. 

His hand flexes on the hilt of his blade, nails digging into the ribbon that decorates it because this-this isn't right. It isn't Akaza looming before them, seemingly unconcerned by two Pillar's presence, it's a completely different Demon Giyuu pertains no knowledge of. 

Another Demon? 

Giyuu almost feels like crying. It's just him and Sanemi and whilst he knows the wind pillar to be above competent, they're going to have to deal with this Demon and then another, one of Upper-Moon ranking. 

Unless something has changed? 

It is possible-Giyuu knows from experience. Kyojuro hadn't outright resented Nezuko being accepted into the Demon Slayer Corps, instead opting to approach the water pillar and ask for his reasoning for protecting the little Demon before cementing his belief. Events had changed because Giyuu inttervened, strongly this time. Prehasp, Akaza will not show himself because Giyuu had joined Kyojuro on the Infinity Train too.

It is speculation, fifty-fifty The water pillar doesn't know for certain, as to what will happen but it-matters, but Giyuu is not foolish enough to remove his hand from his blade or relax for even a second. His guard will not be lowered until the light of day shows itself. 

"Oi! Shitty Demon! You really so weak that you can't sense the presence of a couple of Pillar's standing behind you, huh?" Sanemi taunts, blade resting across his shoulder's in a self-assured manner, teeth bared.

"Weak?" The Demon's voice travels through the wind, to them. Giyuu's spine tingles in warning and he withdraws his blade, holding it firmly out to his side. "On the contrary, Pillar of wind, I am the very strongest of my kind."

The Demon turns to face them, the sound of the train swallowing everything else, making the reveal of his left eye all the more startling.

Lower-Moon one.

"Ha!" Sanemi barks, taking a heavy step forward. Giyuu watches him carefully, from the corner of his eyes, never taking them off the Demon. He is the reason why the residents of the Infinity Train are sleeping, the one responsible for getting the jump on four Pillars. The only reason the water pillar is standing here, is because Sanemi remained unaffected by the Blood Demon Technique, for reasons unknown. "You're a Lower-Moon class Demon. That's hardly anything to fucking flaunt, you shit-head."

The Lower-Moon Demon moves to meet Sanemi, lips tilted in a manner which reeks of condescension. Giyuu moves too, settling himself by the wind pillar, frown set. 

"Well then, Pillar of Wind, I invite you to show me just how weak I am."

Sanemi doesn't need to be told twice. He pushes off his back foot, blade already arced and ready to bring down. It never meets it's intended location because the moment the wind pillar moves, Giyuu finds himself losing his balance, face-planting into the Train's roof and rolling over once, barely able to catch himself before he can fall off the side of the Infinity Train. 

Sanemi wrenches his gaze from the Lower-Moon Demon's, over to Giyuu, looking as startled as the water pillar feels. It's enough for the Demon's hand, closed around Sanemi's blade from stopping it, to push back and separate himself from the danger.

Giyuu tries to push himself to stand but there feels to be something wrapped around both his ankles, holding him against the roof. He huffs as he tries harder but it still does not work.

"But then, it is no fun having people examine my weakness, not that there is any. I much prefer examining other's myself, so let's," The Lower-Moon bares his teeth in a mimic of the wind pillar's former expression. Sanemi growls, flipping his blade but doesn't move to attack like Giyuu knows he would. "Starting with the Pillar of Water."

"What?"

The Lower-Moon thrusts out an arm, palm held out and on clear view for the two Pillar's to see, a mouth opening wide upon it, "Compelling hypnotic whisper."

Giyuu tries. He really does. Tries his absolute best. But he-isn't strong enough to prevent his eyes from rolling into the back of his head, the final scene he sees is Sanemi's eyes going wide, mouth dropping open and the final thing he hears...

"-And ending with you, Pillar of Wind."

"Coerced swooning sleep, eyeballs."

____________________________________________________________________

Giyuu finds himself choking awake, flying up to sit and catch his breath back. As he heaves, his blue eyes flicker across the span of-complete darkness. The water pillar feels small, captured within it, mind running back to the night of the Winter Festival when-there's a spot of white, just beside him and Giyuu has never found himself more grateful to see Sanemi. 

He shuffles over to the wind pillar, hands reaching out and grasping his shoulder's, shaking. When Sanemi doesn't wake, a burst of panic erupts within his chest and Giyuu shakes him harder, the darkness and silence gathered all around the two, setting everything within him on edge.

"Wake up," The water pillar huffs, shifting a hand to the wind pillar's cheek, hoping this will work. He almost laughs, a bet, hysterically, at the irony of him being the one to say those words this time around. 

Giyuu slaps Sanemi. 

The wind pillar shoots up, forehead smashing against the water pillar's own, causing him to fall flat on his back with a loud 'oof'. Giyuu reaches up to touch where their heads connected, hissing through his teeth as it flares with soreness.

"What-the fuck, Tomioka?"

Giyuu pushes himself up by his elbow, noting the gravel underneath it which hurts. He blinks over and up at Sanemi, "The Demon."

"No shit it was the Demon, Tomioka. I wasn't fucking asking about that, I was asking to see if you're a-"

The wind pillar's mouth snaps shut. Giyuu frowns, "To see if I was what, Shinazugawa-kun?"

Sanemi growls, "To see if you were fucking dead or not, fuck."

"Unfortunately, no."

"That ain't fucking funny. Get up, you piece of shit."

Giyuu resists rolling his eyes, despite knowing the wind pillar will not be able to see and struggles to his feet, the darkness surrounding the two making it difficult. He stumbles, the gravel underneath his feet uneven but a hand reaches out and snatches his hand, righting him.

"Thank you, Shinazugawa-kun."

Giyuu receives a grunt in response. 

He tries to look around to find something tangible to latch his eyes onto but there's nothing in sight but darkness and the warmth of the wind pillar on his right. It unsettles Giyuu even further and before he knows it, he's taking a step to the right and knocking his shoulder against Sanemi's, who doesn't move but makes his displeasure known by hissing, as though he's Obanai's snake. 

"My fucking swords gone. How much do you wanna bet yours is too?" 

Giyuu's hand snaps to where it rests, his blade not there-Chiyo's and Tsutako-s legacy no longer a comfort he carries. He grinds his teeth together and says nothing.

"Yeah," Sanemi snorts, "that's what I thought. Fucking Lower-Moon getting the jump on me. Where the fuck are you, you piece of shit?! C'mon out, fucker!"

Giyuu is unsure the wind pillar will receive a response and his heart soars at the thought. If the Lower-Moon is not with them, then there is a certain chance it's with Tanjiro and Nezuko, that it might be harming the two-

"Hm, how boring, how boring," A voice sings through the air.

The two Pillar's tense.

"Making me come into my own domain and slaughter you here but, I suppose, I should have expected those foolish children to be incompetent. Though I had not expected four Pillar's to be riding the Infinity Train. My, how delicious. I will certainly enjoy tearing the flesh of your bones and consuming it. As will I enjoy doing the same for the Pillar of Love and Pillar of Flames."

Giyuu marches forward, emotions storming in his chest and he does not care for not having a sword-will gauge the Demon's eyes out with his nails, will wrap his hands around it's neck and break the bone-there's still a hand wrapped around his own and it pulls him back so hard and fast, Giyuu has to be caught around the waist to prevent him from falling.

"My, my, how temperamental of you, Pillar of Water. I was under the impression it was the other way around. Never the mind, it is time for you to meet your fate, your end at the hands of mine."

The water pillar is wrenched back by the grip still on his hand, just feeling the sudden wisp of wind-a fist soaring for his head. If Sanemi hadn't-his head would be matter on the floor. 

"Hm, you have good instincts it would seem but they will not save you."

Giyuu clenches his teeth and breathes through the gaps, trusting in the power gifted to him of the breaths, to guide and assure he will not die here, bathed in darkness, unable to protect Tanjiro and Nezuko and those still asleep, unable to save Kyojuro-if Giyuu doesn't steel himself now, he will fall into another panic attack. 

Sanemi's feet push back on gravel as he arcs back to avoid a sweeping kick, grunting as he leans himself forward and throws out a leg of his own, stopped by two arms joined together. Laughter rings through the air and Giyuu goes for the Demon but a hand touches where his heart lies in his chest and the water pillar feels all the air vanishes from within his lungs.

"No, no. I always save the weakest for last. It is much more enjoyable to have them watch those they care for, being torn a part before them," The Lower-Moon sighs with pleasure. "So, Pillar of Water, wait your turn."

Giyuu goes flying across the expanse of darkness, landing on his back, flipped over. 

It is much more enjoyable to have them watch those they care for, being torn a part before them. 

Giyuu heaves, breathing heavily to the point where it burns and burns and he can't catch it back. He can't

A vicious, clawed hand, swiping down and cutting the boy into ribbons.

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. 

His body lies in two pieces as Kibutsuji Muzan looms over him. 

Rengoku Kyojuro dies.

Kocho Shinobu dies.

Everyone dies.

You could change this, Tomioka Giyuu.

Tomioka Chiyo. She would know what to do.

Giyuu struggles to sit, arms shaking and to weak to push himself up. Pathetic, pathetic, pathetic. 

Weak creatures die.

Giyuu needs strength, he needs power, he needs help. He needs it in a way Sabito never did, the world needs it after choosing him to be the one to save it. He needs it, right here and right now but there is nothing here to give it-

The water pillar clenches a hand in his haori, just above his heart and squeezes his eyes closed. Just this once, he'll ask for help. Just this once, it's okay.

I need help.

The sound of Sanemi and the Lower-Moon fighting, is all he can hear.

Giyuu hangs his head.

Please.

A hand settles onto his shoulder. Giyuu looks up. Tomioka Chiyo smiles down at him, a sudden warmth in the coldness which had consumed him, for a moment of time. 

"There is a quote, I remember hearing in my time, though I am unsure if I will be saying it correctly but, asking for help is not something to be ashamed of. It is signal of a persons strength, understanding they cannot win without aid. It would seem the breath of time agrees. The first time you wished for another chance and you were gifted with one. This time, you have asked for help and the breath of time has answered once more but it will act in a different manner."

Tomioka Chiyo kneels down by his side and her small, nimble hands reach for his arm and lift it. She rests her head in the crook of his neck, a sad smile tickling his skin.

"I am sorry again, for this, Giyuu."

He looks deeply into his ancestors eyes, feels something brewing underneath his palm and the tips of his fingers, cannot find it in himself to look away from the sadness in Tomioka Chiyo's eyes.

"I remember using this too," she mutters softly, glancing away, to Sanemi and the Lower-Demon, "to protect someone I cared for."

Giyuu does care for Shinazugawa Sanemi. He cares too much.

"Breath of time, strands of time."

The something, tingling under his palm and fingertips, burst outward and Giyuu's eyes widen and his body stops shaking as he sees glittering strands of red, shoot from them and barcading themselves around a figure moving in darkness, careful not to touch. 

She smiles into his neck, "You know what to do, Tomioka Giyuu. This power is yours, now."

Tomioka Chiyo metls into his form, becoming one with the power dwelling within and expanding out. The Lower-Moon Demon's eyes flicker to his, wide and afraid. Giyuu rises to his feet, a fire in his eyes, the tendrils of red, glittering string still attached to his palm and fingertips, ready to be weaved as he pleases.

Something breaks forth in his chest, an ugly sort of feeling he cares not, to supress, instead letting it do as it pleases. Giyuu's lips tilt upwards, ignoring the expression of sheer wonder on Sanemi's face, "You will not touch Tanjiro or Nezuko. You will not touch Inosuke or Zenitsu. You will not touch Kyojuro or Mitsuri. You will not touch Sanemi. You will not touch the people of this Train and you will not, touch. Me."

Giyuu draws his fingertips closer to his palms and the red, glittering string tightens and presses into the Lower-Moon's skin, cutting it red. 

"Would you like to know why?"

He feels strong satisfaction at fear he can taste on his tongue.

"Weak creatures die and you, you are a weak creature."

Giyuu pulls his arm back, clenching his hand into a fist and watches, with fire in his eyes, as the Lower-Moon's head topples from it's body and as the red, glittering strings re-tract. 

Sanemi is still staring at him, "Tomioka-"

The darkness around them bursts into red, Giyuu has to shut his eyes against it and finds himself falling, landing on his knees as the frigid air whips his hair back and forth. The water pillar opens his eyes to the starry, moonlit sky and finds himself still on the roof of the train. 

Giyuu blinks. All the bad, the festering off it, recides and is swallowed whole by how-how disgusting he feels as he thinks on what he did, with a strong smile on his face and-

"Tomioka."

He looks to the wind pillar, gaze resting on his chin.

"What the fuck was-"

A loud bang, followed by another. A scream. Giyuu's heart finds itself in his throat. It had come from the Train cart his kneeling on. He scrambles to his feet, quick enough to almost fall off the side of the Infinity Train. Sanemi stables him for the third time. 

Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza. Akaza.

Giyuu's vision blurs and burns.

Akaza.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Giyuu doesn't hesitate in unsheathing his sword, already swinging it toward Akaza's head, his blue eyes embers of fire, alight with purpose.

Rengoku Kyojuro will not die.

Akaza jumps away, hands in his pockets. The water pillar grinds his teeth, presses himself into the space before Kyojuro who's watching him with a hint of confusion, the three boys along with Nezuko still tucked into the corner where they'd been forced into slumber. Sanemi's somewhere, he doesn't care enough to know precisely. There's footsteps too, from behind and Giyuu tilts his head to listen, registering them as Mitsuri's.

"Oh?" His voice rings like smashing cymbals. Giyuu barely reigns in the urge to keep his feet rooted to the ground. "I was under the impression there would be only one Pillar."

"Then your impression was wrong," The water pillar replies and it takes a lot to keep his voice steady, flat.

Akaza raises his brows, "Clearly. What's your name?"

Giyuu swings his blade out before him, an almost snarl on his face, "I am going to kill you."

"Well, that's certainly a name."

Pressing off his back foot, Giyuu swings his blade and the attack is dodged with graceful ease, earning him a near punch to the gut. Giyuu skids back, blowing a strand of fallen hair from his face and sets his stance to be ready for what's to come next.

Me and Tanjiro did not beat him.

He cannot think on that now. If he does, it will leave room to falter, to lose and this is it. This second chance is all he has left to prevent all that's yet to come. Giyuu will not run, he can't but there's a feeling rattling his bones unfamiliar to him. Fear. Panic. Desperation.

It is not only me and Tanjiro. There is Sanemi and Mitsuri. 

Giyuu will not allow Akaza's gaze to waver from him for even a second. The water pillar is his target, this time around and that will not change.

I will finish this now.

If there was a Water techinque able to accost the upmost pain to those he wields it against, Giyuu would use it right here and now, for all the pain Akaza will cause and continue to, even after his death. Those who die, are never forgotten and they never leave. The dead cling to your back and drag you down to the depths of hell with them, whispering their sorrows into the ears of those they've latched onto. 

This time, Giyuu has none but one fatal mistake could spell the return of every, single one and he knows there is no surviving the whispers and weight a second time around. 

"Breath of water, eleventh style," Giyuu breathes through his teeth, the rage of his thoughts providing fire for this attack, "lull."

Everything calms. The air stills. Noise drowns. Ripples press through the water all around him. Giyuu feels anything but. And that's-that's a mistake. The technique doesn't work, if you are not one with it.

A fist stops inches from his neck as Giyuu casts his eyes side-ways to it, a blade pressing and stopping the water pillar's head from being punched from his neck. 

"Huh," Akaza breathes, looking into the blues of his eyes. "You're full of hatred-"

Sanemi whips his blade out from where it presses against Akaza's fist and goes for the Demon's arm, but he's sent flying across the train cart as the Upper-Moon punches forward into the air, missing him but creating a shockwave that curves like the movement his arm had made. Giyuu hears him crash against the chairs, hears the distorted sound of the passengers screaming.

Oh, he thinks, oddly dispassionate, there are passengers. 

And then he thinks, looking upon the Upper-Moon's grin, I am going to kill him. 

Mitsuri steps up beside him but Giyuu throws an arm out, has a plan she cannot get in the way of, lest she be harmed in the conduction of it. Kyojuro moves too but with a sharp look and a pointed one toward Tanjiro, Zenitsu, Inosuke and Nezuko gets him to stay put, the message is received and he stays put.

"Giyuu-k"

Giyuu steps forward. The Upper-Moon eyes glitter with mirth.

"Akaza." Giyuu prides himself on how even his voice is. He looks steadily into the Demon's yellow eyes, "I will kill you."

The Upper-Moon rings his arm, baring his sharp teeth, "You can try-"

Giyuu steps forward, arches his blade above his head, jumps forward and brings it down, "Breath of water, first style, water surface slash."

The strike misses, hitting the train's wall, placing the water pillar before Akaza who's grin is strectched painfully across his lips. The Upper-Moon punches forward and Giyuu is able to side-step from baring the brunt of it, but he's swept swiftly off his feet from the shockwave, falling at the feet of Kyojuro who places a hand on his shoulder. Mitsuri steps in front of him, twirling blade held before her and he distantly hears Sanemi growling from where he was swept aside earlier. 

"You're a pillar and yet you missed. Completely."

Giyuu bares his teeth, "Did I?"

The satisfaction of seeing Akaza's eyes widen as a creaking noise rings through the air, as the cut he'd made with his blade slices the train wall open and a gush of air captivates the train cart, knocking the Upper-Moon off his feet and from the train. Giyuu gets to his feet with the aid of Kyojuro, though Tanjiro fusses at his side, asking if he's alright. Sanemi is not as nice.

"What the fuck was that?" He barrels forward, goes for the front of Giyuu's uniform. Mitsuri stops him with a firm hand to his chest, shaking her head, "We shouldn't fight amoungst ourselves."

"Are you fuckers deaf, huh? Did you not hear what Tomioka said or am I the only one who pays fucking attention to the situation?"

Giyuu steps forward, almost tripping over his feet. He feels dizzy and deduces it must be because Akaza flung him to the side. The water pillar slips past Mitsuri, who holds Sanemi back and shifts his way over the gaping incision in the train cart, holding onto the chairs beside, to prevent himself from being carried into the wind. His hair whips, slapping sharply in the face. 

"I don't know what you're talking about, Sanemi-kun?"

"Shinazugawa-san to you, you-"

"I wanted to fight him!" Inosuke roars and Tanjiro's quick to try and slap a hand across his mouth, only to be swatted away, causing his face to shift into an offended expression. "He's strong."

"JUST BECAUSE HE'S STRONG DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD FIGHT HIM!" Zenitsu shrieks, frantically hitting Inosuke's arm, "ARE YOU STUPID! WAIT, DON'T ANSWER THAT! OF COURSE YOU'RE STUPID! IT'S YOU!"

"Stupid?! Did you just call me stupid?!"

"Inosuke! Zenitsu!"

"TANJIRO!" They both chorus back.

"Shut. The. Fuck. Up." Sanemi gives the three his full anger, which dances across his face in very obvious warning. Zenitsu shrinks back, behind Inosuke's arm who purses his lips and sizes up the wind pillar, eyes narrowing and Tanjiro just crosses his arms, tilting his chin up to appear taller than he is. Nezuko pokes out from behind her older-brother.

"Nows not the time for bickering," Mitsuri says, dropping her hand from the wind pillar's chest and clapping them both together, just under her chin. She smiles with closed eyes, "We still have to make sure Giyuu-kun dealt with the Demon, which! I'm sure he did!"

"Upper-Moon," Kyojuro corrects, his voice wandering. 

"Upper-Moon?" Mitsuri's eyes widen, "I didn't-I didn't see but Giyuu-kun did say. Oh my-"

Giyuu drowns their voices out and decides to risk falling from the train, only mildly thinking how nice it would be to be put out of his misery-now is not the time for those thoughts, and he moves from the chairs, stepping forward and banging against the side of the train cart, where the incision lies.

A hand reaches out and wraps itself around his throat. Giyuu does not see it coming. He should have. The water pillar wavers from where he stands, coming to stand half-out the train and half-in, the Upper-Moon's strength the only thinking keeping him from falling off. The Upper-Moon is pressed firmly against the side of the train, left hand clutching at the broken window. 

I should have known this would not work.

Giyuu hears footsteps.

"If any of you fellow Pillars take a step closer, I'll snap his neck."

The footsteps falter.

"And you, water pillar, know that if you were to lift your blade, you would not be as fast as my hand. I would suggest you stay still."

Stupid. Weak. Useless. Stupid. Weak. Use-

"I want to know how you knew my name."

Giyuu chokes. It's not the pressure playing on his neck, he can still breath despite the restrictiveness but it's-faliure. This-this was half-concocted. Who is Tomioka Giyuu trying to fool here? This whole situation is nothing but a shamable, a pathetic showcase of how weak he is, proof of who should truly be the only standing in his place. He is supposed to protect Rengoku Kyojuro and the only thing he could do was slice the train cart open, and hope the Upper-Moon would go expelling from it. Half-concocted. This-nothing about this is amusing, truly nothing but Giyuu cannot help the laughter bubbling in the back of his throat and spilling out, for all to hear.

It seems to surprise the Upper-Moon but only for a second, "Not willing to answer my question, then."

Giyuu sizes him up, the laughter still on his tongue but bitten down on to prevent any further embarrassment or concern for his mental health. He does not wish to be labelled as unhelpable, ever again. Though it's how he feels, right here and right now.

How amusing, things really do have a way of coming full circle. 

"Why do you endeavour to know?"

Akaza smiles, "I never told you my name, yet you know it. How? It's a simple question."

"I will not hand information over to the enemy. Why not throw me off this train and do us both a favour?"

Giyuu does not feel like saving anymore. He feels like dying. It might be more peaceful than this, he assumes. Peace would be nice, as opposed to dangling half of a train, clutched within Akaza's hand, being threatend by the very lowlife who would-did kill Kyojuro-

"You seemed awfully protective of the one with the bright hair? Am I safe to assume he's the flame pillar?"

Giyuu's whole body seizes and it is sign enough for the Upper-Moon, who looks nothing short of amused at the exchange.

"I tell you what, water pillar, tell me how you know my name and I will not kill your precious-well, whatever it is he is to you?"

Rengoku Kyojuro dies.

Wouldn't it be a cruel twist of fate if Giyuu's refusal to discern information was the cause of Kyojuro's death this time around? How very, very ironic. Giyuu is not in the mood for irony today. He is not in the right mind to hand out information but he must. 

"Have you ever known something before it happens, Upper-Moon two?"

His words throw Akaza off, for the second time, "What?"

"Precisely. It is not very easy, knowing something before it happens. It is rather like paranoia, I suppose but it's-troublesome. Annoying. Irritating. F-Time waits for no-one but for the second time, it has decided to wait for someone like me."

"That-"

"Makes no sense without context but is the answer to your question. Let go of my throat so I can kill you."

"I don't-"

"Are you waiting for me to say please? Because I would sooner be thrown off this train then ever be courteous to you-"

"No."

Giyuu frowns, "No?"

"Maybe I don't have the context but I will and I guess I can't have that with you dead and I said I wouldn't kill the flame pillar, so that leaves no-eyebrows and the girl."

Giyuu's blood turns to ice in his veins.

"I don't feel like killing kids today, so it has to be one of them, which one?"

The water pillar thrashes in his grip.

Not Mitsuri. Not Sanemi. Not any of them.

"Which. One?"

Akaza shrugs and Giyuu feels it, feels those horrid eyes on him. 

"Water pillar, I'm going to throw you from this train now."

Giyuu's eyes are so, so painfully wide. He cannot breathe, cannot think, cannot process what he's hearing, does not want to-

"You're strong. You'll catch yourself fine, so long as you have your blade. It'll be disappointing if you were to die, without me knowing the truth behind your words."

Why-

"Though, if they intervene, I'll have to defend myself. No choice there, really."

WHY-

"Have a nice trip, water pillar."

All the air is knocked from Giyuu's lungs as the hand around his throat slings him from the train, like he's a rag-doll, like he's nothing and no-one. He doesn't want to catch himself, the blade in his hand pressing heavy and hot against his skin but-

He's not there. He can't defend them.

They're going to die and there's nothing I can do to stop it. 

Chapter Text

The second after he watches Giyuu being thrown from the train, Sanemi takes a large step forward, eyes so wide it brings a burn to them and draws his blade forward, where he knows the Upper-Moon will appear. The blade is caught easily in the Demon's grip and Sanemi snarls, cutting his blade back toward himself and from the grip of the Demon.

"Tch." The Demon examines it's cut hand, before letting it drop to it's side, almost fully healed already.

The wind pillar can see no further than the vivid shade of red, vision pulsing in and out like a heartbeat. His whole body itches and burns and he wants nothing more than to sink his blade into the Demon's flesh and twist and twist and twist-

Mitsuri steps forward, eyeing him with concern, the same she quickly directs at it, "Sanemi-kun you shouldn't-"

Sanemi goes for him again, "Sixth style, black wind mountain mist."

The demon slips underneath his vertical slash, with speed he nearly misses because Sanemi blinks, and the thought of it being faster than he is, seers more anger into his shaking frame. A fist soars past his head, grazing the skin of his temple. The resounding shockwave from the hit, knocks Sanemi off-balance and into some of the screaming passengers. Groggily, head swimming, he's almost tempted to turn his blade onto them for some peace and fucking quiet but-

that would be counterproductive to what he does and why he's here. Although, the public being his reasoning for riding the Infinity Train is far, far away from the truth.

A shimmer of red and orange passes quickly, across his vision. Sanemi doesn't-he can't fucking understand why he's this out of it after being brushed aside. He's suffered worse than this and it hurt less, so why the fuck does he feel so-

"Ah!"

A blur of pink and green comes flying across the train isle. The sound of it hitting the door to the other cart is muffled, why is it so-

"Rengoku-san!" He hears one of the little shits scream and before he knows it, Sanemi is onto his feet, blade a shield against the Demon's attack, for-oh, he's only gone and defended the water pillar's boyfriend. Fantastic. OH, and his blade, his fucking blade that he fucking got after becoming a Demon Slayer and is now shattering to fucking pieces before him and fuck, fuck, fuck. That's his blade, it belongs to him, it was named after-

Sanemi goes absolutely feral, hasn't felt this way since that day-he twists and spins, jabbing an elbow into Flames hip to get him out of the fucking way because this is his and dives low, slips between it's legs and kicks forward, hitting the back of the Demon's knee and taking vast amounts of satisfaction at watching it buckle-despite it only being slight.

The wind pillar doesn't stop there, his clenched fist glinting with the shard of his blade he got slipping through and he'll hack and hack at it's neck if that's what it takes to get it off it's shoulders. Sanemi will kill it. He wraps both legs around the leg he'd kicked prior, pulls back and the Demon falls, almost landing atop his smaller frame. 

Sanemi grins, throwing himself onto his feet with no grace but the necessary speed and before the Demon can react he's plunging the shard of his blade down toward it's throat but-no, that's wrong. It shouldn't be the one baring it's teeth, that's Sanemi's thing, it what he does when victory is there, right within his sight and grasp.

Huh?

His wrist is caught in a vice grip that crushes bones in the same instant it's grasped. Sanemi feels it but distantly, too focused, too honed in on the strange pattern now on the floor of the train cart. It almost looks...like a snowflake?

The fuck-

Concentrate, Shinazugawa.

Sanemi's eyes widen but he feels it, the pressure in the air moving too fast and aiming straight for his stomach. This blow will kill him. Like fuck he's going to let that happen, not before he's-Sanemi kicks himself up off his back foot, meeting the blow with the sole of his sandal, and fuck-it was the wrong fucking move.

It does three things at once. Tears his hand from the Demon's immobilising grip, blood spattering against the train's floor and the pain nothing but sharp numbness. Breaks the leg he used to block the blow, Sanemi feeling the shattering of his bones just as keenly as he had when his blade had been broken but that fucking-and it sends him flying, for god knows the nth fucking time. The wind pillar goes crashing through the train cart's door and into the next, heaped over, his legs pressed over his head. 

"SANEMI!" Mitsuri screams. 

Well that was just pitiful. 

The voice is harsh and biting, almost amusing in how much it reminds him off-but it's female. It's not him. Sanemi wonders why he's hearing things. Maybe it's a sign of the end, ha! As-fucking-if. Sanemi rights himself, a painful process that has him breathing through his teeth to keep the angry scream at bay, legs layed out before him. With only the slightest parts of hesistation, he lifts his dominant hand and shit, that's no fucking good. He needs that. 

The air shifts and Sanemi's head snaps up to meet whatever the fuck it is causing the wind to-oh.

"Um, please, take this," A teenaged girl says, her voice a nervous wobble, holding out a scrap of the bottom of her cherry dress for him to take. If it were any other day, Sanemi would've sneered in her face and revelled-felt only a small amount of guilt for doing so for the rest of the day but yeah, the blood loss it starting to send his mind in circles. He's hearing fucking voices for crying out loud, he knows that's not a good sign of his state and Sanemi meant it when he declared, internally, that he would kill the shitty Demon, even if it's with a scrap of what his blade once was. 

The wind pillar shakes the stub of his wrist, "The fuck are you just staring at me for, huh? Do-do you really think I can wrap this without my dominant fucking hand?"

The teenaged girl flushes bright red and it's fucking funny, illicts the smallest of grins from him but she listens to his words, despite the rudeness of them and gets to working on wrapping his stub. 

Shit, that's a shitty word.

It hurts now. A lot. But Sanemi's not going to complain. People around him have suffered worse- the shitty, pathetic water pillar got himself thrown off the train and...and-Sanemi breathes through his teeth. That shouldn't make him feel-this. If anything, it should be a joyous occasion. It's not.

"What's your name, kid?" He asks, partly because he wants away from that train of thought and partly because he genuiely wants to know. She's the only one brave enough to approach him on this cart, despite the feel of all the passengers eyes on him. He respects that. 

"Kid?" She sounds affronted, looks it even. "We look to be the same-er, um, Akirako Mariko, sir."

"Sir?" Sanemi snorts, he hasn't been called that. Ever. The teenaged-Akirako Mariko round features twist with embarrassment, but it's the endearing kind so he pretends he didn't see it, looking toward the cart he'd flown from.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Rengoku steps up to fill the shoes left behind by Shinazugawa. He's concerned for his safety, especially as he watches the Upper-Moon drop a hand from his own, and looks down to find a fair amount of blood, spattered against the floor. He'd check, Mitsuri too, even the four new Demon Slayers seem restless at what they've just witnessed but Rengoku had promised to protect them, and even though he would like the send them after Shinazugawa, he won't. The wind pillar is tactile, and smart, even if he doesn't behave in a manner that showcases it. He will be fine.

Hope paves way for despair.

Rengoku shakes away the voice. The Upper-Moon smiles at him, a nasty thing. Rengoku's hackles raise before the fight even begins and that is not a good sign. He takes quick note on the pattern adorning the floor, of how Shinazugawa had been doomed the moment he stepped foot within. 

It must be his Blood technique. I should avoid this area at all costs, until I understand what it means to step into it. What I am surrendering if I do.

"The flame pillar." The Upper-Moon's voice rings interested, and there's a slight tick to one of his brows, asthough it wishes to pull down in...well, Rengoku is not very good at reading the emotions of the emotionless, so there is no point in wasting time. 

"Breath of flames." Rengoku pushes off his back foot, blade a comforting weight gripped within his fisted hand. "Second style, ascending blazing sky."

It's a fast attack, very, one would struggle to see it slice across their vision and it appears to be somewhat difficult for the Upper-Moon to comprehend, as it misses it's intended target of the head and catches the Upper-Moon's arm, slicing it in two.

Rengoku backs up, casting an arm out to Kanroji who wants to come forward and lend aid. His mind briefly flickers to the questions he has for why she's here, the answer traveling somewhere toward Tomioka, but he shakes his head, knowing it to be foolish to even think beyond his battle.

"Take the passengers from this cart and into the one behind us. I cannot act accordingly toward the Upper-Moon with people in range."

Kanroji lingers, Rengoku grips the handle of his blade tighter for a moment but the love pillar does as he says, quickly herding the people away. 

Good. I can utalise more styles with them gone but it will take time.

The Upper-Moon comes for him, arm already grown back. Rengoku bites back the attack with the brunt of his blade but unlike the mistake Shinazugawa made earlier, he does not allow for his blade to shield for long, only for the appropriate time to allow it to take most of the brunt. The flame pillar twists and the shockwave bypasses him, almost catching a passenger Kanroji is escorting with the four newly appointed Demon Slayers. He thinks he can hear the yellow one crying. It's not a particularly pleasant sound, bringing forth unwanted memories, he will have to desperately bury once this is done.

If you can do this, a darker part of his mind taunts.

Rengoku steels it away, swiping his blade up and hollowly scratching the skin of the Upper-Moon who skids away from it, landing back comfortably within it's snowflake patterned floor. Both of the Upper-Moon's brows are drawn down now, viciously coming together to showcase confusion but why, is the question.

"Something wrong?" The flame pillar is not one for taunts but seeing Shinazugawa's disembodied hand and knowing Tomioka could be anywhere, possibly dying after being thrown from the Infinity Train, he feels it only appropriate to dig deeper under the Upper-Moon's skin, just like the Demon has done to him.  

The Upper-Moon's yellow eyes bore into his. Rengoku settles his stance into firmness. 

"You..."

Rengoku barely sees it, but he does, which he feels grateful for, spinning away from a straight kick which shatters the chair's where passengers had been sitting. The flame pillar barely avoids the next, falling and catching himself onto the side of a set of more chairs but he cannot dance away from the next, which catches him upon the one shoulder, and sends Rengoku harshly to his knees.

A quick surveying look confirms the cart to be almost empty. 

Good.

The flame pillar rolls to the side, the floor of the train cart cracking and parting way to see the train's tracks below. It is not a pleasant sight, knowing he could have been torn a part had he been a moment slower. Rengoku slides to his feet and turns on the Upper-Moon, a fire blazing within his eyes. Tomioka could be torn a part, and he, the rest, would be none the wiser and his killer, this could be Tomioka's killer before him. The fire blazes brighter.

"Fifth style, flame tiger."

The first time Rengoku had learnt this technique, he had been amazed by the sight of it, and lost control of the flames, sending them barreling toward his unimpressed father, who had told him not to use the garden as practice for 'improper things'. Even now, he holds wonder for it but the flame pillar is, well, just that. He does not lose control anymore, no matter how close he comes.

The flamed tiger dissipates through the middle but it had been enough in spite of that and so Rengoku cuts his way through the flames also, the fire dancing across his skin in pride and power, bringing a smile to his face. 

"First style, sea of fire!"

Flames burst from the tip of his blade in sheer brillance and colour, slashing down with the movement of his blade and one catches the startled Upper-Moon on the chest and on the leg, cutting the material there but it misses the head, only lightly cutting the throat. Rengoku breathes through his nose, controlling the force behind the first style has always been a hard thing but it had been necessary here and now-

It happens quick but not so much that he cannot avoid it the first time. A fist soars past his head, along with a kick that grazes the side of his haori. It's the second time where the-the attack appears to grow faster. Rengoku's jaw clicks as a simple, slightly harsher grazing of knuckles breaks against his cheek and his leg gives way, the flame pillar able to catch himself on his blade. 

Again. The attacks are getting quicker and more accurate and Rengoku can dodge them less and less, which means he must-

"Fourth style, wave of blazing flames!"

Rengoku is able to spin, already doing so to attempt to try and avoid the hits. The flames flowing off his sword are able to catch two hits and a kick but, anymore and he's afraid the blade will crack but he has no choice but to wait for an opening. Meaning, he must allow this to happen until he's able to disconcert the information he needs in order to break free off the onslaught.

"Pointless," The Upper-Moon bites through teeth. 

Rengoku's blade cracks, finally. He hadn't seen it coming now, even when expecting it. He keeps ahold of the hilt, less than half of the blade still attached to it. Rengoku refuses to let the hilt find a meaningless end by destruction-

A hand passes through the lining of his uniform, through his stomach, out the other end. Rengoku chokes, already feeling the bubble of blood at the back of his throat. 

"You're strong, flame pillar, won't you tell me your name before you die, pitifully?"

The arm remains thrust through his chest, Rengoku can barely feel it.

Ruka. Shinjuro.

"It's a shame, really. I think you would've made for an interesting Demon."

Senjuro.

"Ha-" Rengoku hacks up more blood. The arm starts to withdraw from Rengoku, he latches onto it with his remaining strength, tries to look up but cannot. "I'd soonder die."

"And you will."

Rengoku forces the fire in his chest to make him look up, into yellow eyes that hang onto his face, "No-y-you don't u-understand. G-growing old and d-dying is the b-beauty of the fleeting c-creature called a human b-beings...because they-they grow old, b-because they did. The are tremendous. Lovable. And, and precious."

The Upper-Moon's eyes blow wide. The Demon suddenly looks afraid. What of, Rengoku's mind cannot comprehend. In truth...he-he cannot comprehend much, anymore.

"Y-you...Koyuki-"

A sudden force grips the wrist of his hand still stubbornly holding onto the hilt of his blade, the hilt that adorned his father's old blade. Rengoku's drooping eyes hold unsteady, onto Shinazugawa, who's standing, hand on Rengoku's wrists and the jut of his elbow digging into the Upper-Moon's side.

The wind pillar grins, a triumphant sight and Rengoku's vision goes black, and he finds himself falling. Before Rengoku falls like a heavy stone in water, he hears...

"Breath of time, reconstruction."

Chapter Text

Before

Sanemi doesn't know what's happening. One minute, he's getting up, ready to charge into the fight and absolutely fucking destroy it-the next, he's falling face first through the train's floor and finding himself in some kind of space, void of light. 

"You're rather pitiful to look upon, Sanemi."

The wind pillar's head snaps to where he knows the voice came from but again, there's just darkness and he can't see shit through it. Sanemi doesn't like that, his hand drifting to where his blade hangs and clutching at the hilt, ready to draw it out and kill.

"Oh, there's no need for that. I'd easily disarm you without a blade. So as my descendant, I ask you cease embarrassing yourself further."

So it's one of those kinds. The posh, stuck up kind of person who know fuck all about the world.

"Who the fuck are you?"

"Tch, that is not how you should speak to your ancestors, Sanemi. Did your parents not teach you about the existence of manners?"

He draws his blade, steps forward.

"A sore subject for you, then. Never the mind, that is not why you are here, I would not waste my time on something a trivial as that. You are fighting an Upper-Moon Demon currently."

The words make him hesitate. Sanemi's knuckles turn white, "I won't ask again. Who the fuck, are you?"

"Shinazugawa Mayou, your ancestor, as I have repeadtedly been saying. I do not enjoy repeating myself, so do not make me do so again and listen."

Sanemi swings for him, the voice, whoever the fuck it is spouting such utter shit in his direction. A demon. That has to be what this is, a Blood Technique of some kind that took him unawares and shit-what about the passengers? The nice girl who helped him-fuck, fuck, fuck.

A hand circles his wrist, stopping the blade with sheer force alone. Sanemi's eyes blow wide, looking into ones similar to his own.

"I will cut to the point, Sanemi, as we-no you, do not possess the luxury of time and you have lost the Breath of Deconstruction, meaning you must be the one to Reconstruct this mess."

Sanemi shakes his wrist in the grip but it does absolutely nothing to dislodge it and so he raises his leg and kicks out but it's blocked, by this-Mayou guy, who's eyes are still boring into his own and looking too much like that little piece of s-

"The fuck are you talking about? Deconstruction? Reconstruction?"

A roll of the eyes, "Must I repeat myself again? There is no time currently, but I assure you, there will be in the future. Hm, I cannot actually, if you fail to succeed here which is why I have been called here, by you."

"Called? By me? I don't call for shitty help. I can handle shit on my own."

"Right, that is believable, you are my ancestor after all but-you truly have a talent of veering people of course, Sanemi. In current time, outside of where we have gathered, the flame pillar is about to be killed by the Upper-Moon and the breath of time cannot aid you in the form of deconstruction, meaning the flame pillar will die, as will the rest of the inhabitants on the train, including those children and the love pillar. Are you ready to accept that, in order to simply disregard my words because you believe them to be nonsense?"

"You're a Demon, this is your Blood Technique you fucker, you play off-off peoples emotions and I'm going to cut you down-"

"Tomioka Giyuu has spoken to his ancestor like this, twice now. He is like you, in a sense, that he has been granted access to the breath of time. I have seen your curiosity at his odd behaviour, why did he choose to ride this train with the flame pillar? Why does he seem so stubborn into sticking and protecting the flame pillar. This is why."

Why...? Why would this D-Demon bring up Tomioka? Sanemi doesn't under-

"My name is Shinazugawa Mayou, I am your ancestor, and you, my descendant and I am passing down the breath of time to you, Shinazugawa Sanemi. You must take it or the Infinity Train will become a bloodbath and you will be all that remains, to suffer the fallout of a situation you had the power to prevent. Does that not sound familiar?"

"You piece of shit!"

Sanemi pushes harder against the grip on his wrist and it gives way, too suddenly, he'd been expecting more of a fight but received none and so he ends up falling, right onto his knees.

"Open your eyes, Sanemi. Remain blind no-longer. You have the power for change, so change. Approach the Upper-Moon, save the flame pillar, save the inhabitants of the Infinity Train and then you will be granted the opportunity for the truth, the truth of everything. You are one part of a forth, find the truth."

Sanemi looks up to Mayou, "The truth?"

Mayou looks down to him, "The absolute truth."

"Of what?"

"Everything."

"Everything? What is that supposed to-"

"Open your eyes and you shall see."

Sanemi does.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Now

"Breath of time, reconstruction." The words roll of his tongue, feral and pointed and Sanemi feels, no he sees everything around himself ripple for a brief moment but it's something else that has his whole body seizing with a desperate question. 

Rengoku steps back, the arm removed from his body and there's-there's nothing. No wound, no blood, he looks perfectly healthy for a person who just had an arm thrown through their body. He sees the Upper-Moon stagger, watches as it reaches down to cradle both hands across it's stomach, where it gapes open, in the same manner Rengoku's once had. 

What the fuck was that?

"You-" The Upper-Moon's eyes dart between Sanemi and Rengoku, focusing more onto the flame pillar than the one responsible for giving him that gaping hole that's already starting to heal. Sanemi staggers back, gazes down at his hands.

Breath of time? Reconstruction? What the fuck?

His hands shake.

"I will cut to the point, Sanemi, as we-no you, do not possess the luxury of time and you have lost the Breath of Deconstruction, meaning you must be the one to reconstruct this mess."

What the hell do those words mean? The wind pillar shakes with the need to know what he's just done, what those words mean, who the fuck that Mayou guy was and why he's the only one who-he'd mentioned Tomioka. None of this should matter, there's a fucking Demon before him, weakened by the breath of whatever the fuck that he did and now is his opportunity to strike-

"No." The Demon's voice is cutting but so, so soft and the tone is reminiscent to her and why the fuck is he getting so emotional-this means nothing but it still halts his fucking blade because there's clearly something wrong with him. The Upper-Moon is looking, not at the wind pillar, captured by the flame one instead, despite the words clearly being meant for Sanemi. "There's no need to draw your blade. I'm done here."

"What?" He spits.

"You're finished?" Rengoku exclaims too, less vicious but just as disbelieving.

In a rare moment, neither of the Pillar's have experienced before, a heavy amount of sarcasm is unloaded onto them, by a Demon, an Upper-Moon. "Would you prefer I stay and slaughter this entire train?" 

"As if a shitty Demon like you would have the chance."

"I would, even with your...whatever it is you did with him and with me. I'm stronger and I'm better, that is the nature of Demons."

"You would simply give up on fighting two Pillar's, go against clear orders?"

The Upper-Moon smiles, jumping back, fully healed and moving like it was never injured to begin with. Sanemi's teeth clench together. He struggles to breath through them.

"Think whatever you want about my choice, I'm leaving regardless."

The Demon pivots back again, toward the part of the train cart that had been-Sanemi lurches forward, finally taking action but it's too late and his blade slashes against thin air, the Demon falling as if in slow motion, from the Infinity Train. 

"Until next time, wind pillar, flame pillar."

It's gone. 

Sanemi tries not to scream. He heaves instead, eyes burning, too wide. 

I failed. I failed to kill it. I failed to protect-I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed-

A hand rests on his shoulder. Sanemi violently flings it off. The worried face of Mitsuri flashes before his eyes. His temper calms, only somewhat. 

"Sanemi-kun, it's dangerous to stay there, please step back."

He doesn't move. Misturi guides him back. His anger is gone, suddenly.

"What kind of Demon runs from a fight?" The loud, brash kid with the stupid mask roars.

Sanemi tunes it out.

"A smart one, a very smart one, too smart," The kid with the bright hair babbles. "Hey, boar-face, a Demon's smarter than you!"

"HUH? WHAT DID YOU JUST-"

"Breath of time?" 

It's Rengoku. Sanemi turns to eye him from the side. Their eyes meet, the burning pair more bright and the wild, dull.

"Breath of time," Mitsuri repeats but her voice is less accusing and more inquisitive. She rubs her chin, before letting her eyes flicker up and meet Sanemi's who now rest on her, "I've never heard of it before, Sanemi-kun."

"Neither have I," Rengoku inputs, because of course he fucking does-

Tomioka.

"Tomioka," he grits, hands fisting at his sides. He loosens them, trying to gather his calm and thrusts, a little too violently, his blade back into it's sheath. Sanemi has the urge to repeatedly stab the water pillar, flame pillar, Demon and himself with the blade. It doesn't sound too bad. 

"Giyuu-kun?" Mitsuri.

"Giyuu-san?" Big-forehead kid.

"Yeah, Giyuu-chan." Sanemi's aware his voice is too vicious, too cruel, too violent but isn't that who he is, what he is? Darkness swims beneath his vision. He staggers on his feet, Mitsuri catching him by the shoulders and stabilising him. Once again, Sanemi tears away from her touch, growling. 

Rengoku's eyes narrow, a strange look to be given, meaner than his open and inviting face, "What does Tomioka-kun have to do with what you've done?"

The darkness sweeps up. Sanemi suddenly can't see. His legs give way. He drops to his knees. Vomits blood through the gaps of his fingers covering his mouth. 

"Sanemi-"

He sees nothing. He hears nothing. He becomes nothing.

___________________________________________________________________________________

"You bring me nothing."

Akaza rolls his shoulders. The Upper-Moon doesn't meet his eyes, even though the prey down on his form with burning intensity.

"Correct."

"Tell me why I should not strike you down for your incompetence."

"You are not someone who likes to be told but I think you would like to hear what I encountered on the Infinity Train."

The stare becomes more intense. Akaza's knees burn from where they're pressed against the wooden flooring.

"I am aware of Enmyu's incompetence, as I am of your own. There is nothing left for me to hear, I have seen it all."

"Breath of time," Akaza breathes, trying to keep his mind as silent as possible. "Reconstruction. It was a form of Breath Style that transferred the flame pillar's wound onto myself. If an unknown factor, hadn't it presented itself in our fight, the flame pillar would be dead and I would not be considered incompetent. Now that I'm aware of this, and what it can do, I can combat against it and succeed. I will not fail you again."

"You are neglecting to tell me of your conversation, with the water pillar." The tone leaves no room for escape.

The red lanterns glare closes in upon the Upper-Moon. The room seems to shrink with the bright colour. 

"He knew of my name before we enageged in a fight. He was very protective of the flame pillar, as though he knew his fate. He said he'd seen before it happened."

"Look at me."

Akaza heeds the command. Red burns into yellow. The contact holds. With a tilt of his chin, Akaza knows to look away.

"Kill the flame pillar. Kill the boy with the hanafuda like earrings. Bring me the water and wind pillar."

"As you command."

"You have a week."

"As you command."

Silence.

"Dismissed."

Akaza rises to his feet, bows deeply, almost to his feet. Red eyes narrow. Yellow look away. He straightens, spins on his heels, walks away, all the while the clear unvoiced threat presses down onto his spine.

Kill the flame pillar.

Akaza slides the Shōji, steps through, slides it shut. His eyes close, briefly, red glaring behind them before opening.

Some do not have the luxury of choice. 

But I do.

Akaza walks away.