As a baby, Inosuke could do nothing but warble and gargle. As his mother, Kotoha thought that he was the cutest in the world.
Her treasure. Her precious little baby. She would do anything to protect him, she knew that from the moment she gave birth to him.
So, one day, when she decided that she couldn’t bear raising Inosuke in that environment she lived in, she picked him up and ran. Somewhere, anywhere safe would do. Just let her raise her baby in peace, that was all she ever wanted. Half-blind, bruised and bleeding, Kotoha ran, cradling her son to her chest.
She stumbled upon a temple and entered it, desperate for somewhere to stay. She met a man – he was kinder than anybody she had ever met – and he gave her a place to stay. By his side, he promised that Kotoha and her son would be safe.
Kotoha had never felt relief like she did at that time. She could finally live in peace with her cute baby, she could raise him without worrying about someone threatening them, beating her and harming her son.
“Inosuke, what good luck we have,” Kotoha smiled, tears dripping from her eyes and onto her son. “We can finally be safe, right?”
Little that she know, that the moment Inosuke caught a glimpse of that blonde haired man (demon), he felt his memories crash down onto him like a waterfall.
“She had the same face as you, just more delicate and softer. Your mom, right?”
The eternal paradise cult. Kotoha, his mother.
As a baby, Inosuke still could not talk, but he felt his insides grind together in anger. Deep hatred that would never disappear, that was the reason why he could remember.
As a baby, Inosuke gets very, very, very bored. He couldn’t move his body – he couldn’t even walk for crying out loud – and the only thing he could do is cry, shit his pants, and whine some more.
He feels like Zenitsu, and that might possibly be the worst insult he could ever receive.
So, he listens. He listens to the only person who talks to him; his mother. Inosuke didn’t really care for outward appearances, but considering that he looked like his mother and many people complimented his face, he thinks his mother must be one of the prettiest people in the world. Her smile could quell him even on his bad days, her voice was just heavenly to listen to, and she was always kind to him.
For Inosuke who never knew what it was to have a human mother, he planned to treasure his time with her as dearly as possible.
So, when what he thinks is that fated day arrives, he knows what to do.
“Inosuke, let’s go see him now,” Kotoha says, smiling as she picks him up. “It’s strange, isn’t it? I feel as if something is wrong…but it must be my imagination! But, just in case, let’s go pay him a visit, yes? I’m sure he won’t mind seeing your adorable face again.”
No, don’t go. You’ll see him eating, you’ll run away, he’ll chase us, and you’ll get killed.
I can’t go through that again.
No, I won’t let her go through that again. Even if she doesn’t remember, I won’t let that bastard get his hands on her.
But he was but a baby. A small, weak child. He wasn’t the him he used to be, the him that stood the tallest out of his friends, the him with rippling muscles, jagged blades and short hair, he was just Inosuke, the tiny baby of Kotoha.
So, Inosuke does what every baby is known for doing.
I will take this secret to my grave.
“Ehh, Inosuke?! Now, oh gosh, don’t worry, I’ll be back with a new diaper really soon!”
He’s alive, but why does he feel like he’s dying?
Inosuke grows up pretty well, he thinks. With perfectly timed burps, farts and all that disgusting shit babies did, he somehow manages to prevent Kotoha from barging in during Douma’s feasting time. As much as it disgusts him, he knows that five-year-old him isn’t strong enough to kill Douma yet.
He needs more time, he needs to train.
“Hmm? If it isn’t little Inosuke!” The dopily smiling bastard grins, his eyes closed. “What are you doing in my chamber, hmm?”
“…I got lost,” he spits out, looking at the ground. A half truth half lie, he was trying to grasp the entire map of the temple while he could. His senses weren’t as developed yet, so he wasn’t able to use his breathing. He might as well try to remember the inside of temple so that it would be easier to drag his mother and run.
Douma smiles pitifully at him, and Inosuke tries his best to not charge at the bastard and break his nose. “Poor thing, let me call your mother then! I’ll send one of my messengers to her room, so in the meantime, why don’t we have a little chat, hm?”
“I have nothing to say to you,” he growls, doing his absolute best not to pounce on the demon.
“Don’t be so mean! I am the one whose letting you and your mother stay here you know~? It wouldn’t kill for you to warm up to me a little!” Douma pouts, closing his fan with a snap.
Oh yeah? Let’s see how you like it when I break that shitty fan of yours–
“Inosuke!” Hurried footsteps were heard, the doors sliding open, and Inosuke suddenly finds himself smothered in one of mother’s hugs. “Oh, I finally found you! You’re too fast, you know that!”
“Mom!” He whines, but she knows that he enjoys the attention she gives him, as shown when her hug got tighter. The small, imaginary bubbles floating around him proved that much. “Of course, I’m fast! I’m the great Inosuke, I can’t afford to be caught by anybody!”
“Kotoha~, that was awfully fast of you,” Douma enters their interaction, leaning into his mother’s face. Inosuke growls instinctively, but Kotoha only smiles back. “I thought I just sent someone to your room!”
“Oh, really?” His mother says, surprised. “I’m sorry, I was just playing tag with Inosuke! It seems like he got really fast though, I couldn’t catch up to him for a long time! I’m so proud of my little baby…”
Inosuke feels his face warming from her compliments. He giggles despite being in Douma’s presence and buries his face into her clothes. Kotoha only cooed even louder.
“Ah, so little Inosuke got lost during a game of tag? How cute!” Douma laughs joyfully, opening his fan once more. “Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Why I don’t I join you two when I’m done with my duties? I’m sure it’ll be fun!”
Before Kotoha could answer, Inosuke snaps. “No! I don’t want to play with you!”
“Aww, what’s wrong, little Inosuke?” Douma tilts his head, his smile teasing and playful. “Afraid that I’ll catch up to you? I thought you were supposed to be the fastest out of everyone?”
A vein popped on his forehead, and Inosuke finds himself shouting before he could stop. “Of course, I can outrun you! Who do you think I am?! I’m the great Inosuke, no way a flimsy guy like you could ever catch me!”
“Great!” Douma grins and turns around, waving his hand. “It’s settled then! See you two after dinner!”
…He just dug his own grave, didn’t he?
Fuck, maybe Tanjiro was right. He should really think more before he spoke.
Although devoid of human emotion, Douma finds himself actually having fun for the first time in his life. Was fun an emotion? Or was he just lying to himself again? He isn’t too sure exactly, but he thinks he wants these moments to last as long as possible.
Kotoha, beautiful Kotoha, doesn’t even seem to age as the years go by. She still retains her beauty, inside and out, and Douma thinks that it’s a delight that his boring days are brightened by her at his side.
However, Inosuke, little Inosuke, doesn’t seem to like him too much. Though it is apparent to anyone with eyes that he loves his mother to death, it is also quite obvious that he hates Douma with a passion. Why would he, when he was the one who took in his mother and baby him, and cared for them when no one else did? He should be showered with affection as his ‘father’, not scorned and glared at whenever he even just pass him in the hallways.
Truly a fascinating thing. When he complained to one of his retainers, they implied that Inosuke must feel jealous of Douma, as he is almost always with Kotoha. Maybe the little boy thinks that Douma wants to steal Kotoha from him? He quite likes that theory, it is possibly the cutest thing he has ever heard in his life.
Besides, it really is fun teasing his ‘son’. His reactions were always big and interesting; he never hung out around kids very much, so it was like a huge breath of fresh air when he spent time with Inosuke.
(Is this love? Is this affection? He doesn’t know, he doesn’t think he knows, and he thinks he might not ever find out.)
Time passes by so quickly when you’re a demon, Douma muses as he munches on a human arm.
When Inosuke turns seven, he starts training like hell. He runs, he does sit-ups, squats, impossible stretches, everything he can do to build up his body back to its former glory. He tells his mother that he wants to train so that he can protect her when she is in danger. A truth, as he does really want to live with her, and for that to happen he needs to get stronger.
His mother had burst into tears at that. Inosuke had panicked and made a huge fuss, swarming her with inquires and questions.
“What’s wrong, did you get hurt, did somebody do something to you, I knew that flat nose didn’t like it when I broke his glasses with a pillow–”
“No, it’s okay, Inosuke! I’m sorry, it’s just that…I’m so proud. My little baby is growing up to be a healthy, kind-hearted boy. I’m so happy that I get to see that happen.”
His heart squeezed so painfully.
Don’t worry mom, I promise you’ll see me grow even bigger. I won’t let that demon get to you, I’ll grow even stronger that no one will ever dare challenge me!
I’ll keep you safe, I know I will.
So, he trains. He trains like something is on his tail, threatening him to strain his muscles, to push himself to the limit. He trains like he can feel Tanjiro encouraging him by his side, Zenitsu whining as he tries (and fails) to complete the regime, Nezuko pumping her fist in the air with her toothy smile, Genya watching them with a smile on his face, and Kanao running way ahead of him–
He doesn’t cry when he misses them, he lived a good life. He found friends, had a family, and hacked lots of demons to pieces. He beat Muzan with them, he grew up with them, he lived a great life in the end when he dies on his bed next to his family.
He doesn’t regret his past life. He misses them like hell, but if he regained his memories, who was to say that they hadn’t too? After all, they were kin. He would never be alone.
Kotoha voices her worries when Inosuke picks up two swords Douma hangs on the chamber wall for decoration. Douma watches the entire ordeal, and even gifts Inosuke with them in the end after seeing how stubborn he was about wanting to wield them.
Inosuke is wary, he knows Douma is a cunning bastard, but he is also the ruler of this temple. All Inosuke could do was hack, slash and stab away at his targets. He used to hate straightforward effort, but that was all he could do for now.
Train like hell, Tanjiro once said. Like you’re dying.
I’ll train until my limbs fall off, damn it!
Kotoha is the proudest mother alive. She knows she is, because she sees how her son grows every day. He eats more, he moves more, he is more energetic than ever, and that is more than enough for her. She doesn’t mind that he hates wearing shirts and loves scavenging for shiny acorns. He is her son, and she will always love him for that.
Taking him and running away was the best decision she had ever made.
So, when Inosuke had approached her one day and asked her how to read and write, she felt despair like no other.
“I’m so sorry, Inosuke!” She wailed, hugging him to her chest. “I never learned how to do either…I kept working as kid, and I didn’t have time to learn when I became an adult…Oh, I should have learned when we came to this temple, why am I always so stupid?”
Inosuke lifts his face from her chest and practically yells at her. “You’re not stupid, mom! I’m stupid, but you’re not! So, don’t say that!”
“I am for letting you down, and don’t call yourself stupid as well! You’re my precious baby, how could you be?”
“That goes the same for me!!”
Before their argument could go on any longer though, the door to their room slid open, and Douma popped his head in.
“Hmm? I thought I heard people fighting, but it was just Kotoha and little Inosuke! What are you bickering about now?”
Kotoha is then struck with a brilliant idea.
“Douma-sama! Do you know how to read and write?”
“Hm? Me?” Douma tilts his head. “Of course, I do! I’ve received education ever since I was a kid after all.”
“Then, can you please teach us?” Kotoha begs, not noticing the horrified look on Inosuke. “Inosuke wants to learn, but I never learned how to do both. It would be nice if we all could…”
Douma immediately smiles. “Of course! But, if I were to be your teacher, I’d like a little payment in return~”
Inosuke tenses, his grip on his mother tightening.
“Of course, what is it?”
“It’s really simple! Just visit my chamber more often, and sing! I really love your voice, and being beside a beautiful woman really makes me feel a whole lot better~”
Inosuke felt like puking. To his relief, his mother didn’t blush, but she did smile back at him. At least she wasn’t falling in love with the psychopath, he grudgingly admitted in his heart.
In exchange for his mother’s time, Inosuke and her start their lessons under Douma.
When Douma asked for Inosuke to call him teacher, Inosuke wanted to shove the brush up his ass in return.
The years fly by. When Inosuke turns fifteen; when he can bend his back and lay his upper body on the ground once more, when he can read and write like any person, when he can see and feel even when he closes his eyes, he knows that it’s time.
He can’t just rush forward without any plan though. Douma is crafty and smart, but luckily, he doesn’t think Inosuke is capable of thinking. He thinks that all the times he was easily riled up by the demon’s words ended up working in his favor, which means that Inosuke wasn’t really stupid after all. Hah, take that!
“A trip with just you and Kotoha…?” Douma ponders, waving his golden fans. “And I’m not invited? Why?”
“Because!” Inosuke shouts, pointing a finger at the demon sitting on his high chair. “It’s your own damn fault! Stop stealing my mother away from me, she’s mine, not yours!”
Douma hums, an amused smile crawling its way onto his face. Inosuke, although not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, knows that Douma thinks Inosuke is jealous of him over Kotoha. Gossiping doesn’t really work when Inosuke is wary of everything in the temple. If it were Zenitsu, not even a drop would escape his ears.
“What a cute reason, little Inosuke!” Douma teases, snapping his fan shut. “Ok! You can do whatever and go wherever you want! Come back when you feel like you’ve had enough, I’ll always be waiting for you two! Ah, although it’s sad that I can’t hear Kotoha’s songs anymore, I guess I have to make do with the ones in my memories, hm?”
Inosuke holds back his urge to break the fans and shove them in the demon’s nose, and rushes off to tell Kotoha the good news. His mother was of course, elated that they would have some one-on-one time, and a trip all over the country nonetheless.
“And whatever happens, I promise I’ll protect you, okay Inosuke?”
“I’ll be the one doing the protecting mom! Just sit back and let me handle everything, okay?!”
They leave in the morning. Kotoha bids Douma goodbye, who smiles and laughs and stays behind in the shadows as usual. Inosuke is tempted with a strong urge to grab his ankles and drag him into the sun, but knows that Douma would somehow manage to escape anyway. So, he bites back his death threats, let the demon off with a couple of finely chosen insults, and storms away with his mother’s wrist in hand.
When they could no longer see the temple, Inosuke is suddenly barreled with a whirlwind of emotions.
They were free. They were finally free. No more Douma, no more fearing for his mother’s life, no more blood. He didn’t have to sense the remains of what had occurred in the chamber room anymore, he didn’t have to deal with the fact that Douma would eat his mother the moment she somehow found out about his true identity.
He was free. They were free.
Inosuke pauses, looking at his mother. His shoulder length blackish, blue hair is exactly the same shade of hers, and her eyes matches his perfectly. Kotoha looks at him with something what Inosuke cannot make out, and it is then when Inosuke notices that he doesn’t have to look up to see her anymore.
Kotoha smiles once more. Inosuke then realizes that it’s sadness and knowing that he senses. “There’s something you’re not telling me, isn’t there? That’s why you suddenly said that you wanted to go on a trip, right?”
“–Although she was stupid, she had quite sharp senses. She found out that I was eating my followers–”
“Yeah,” Inosuke confesses, because he knows that he could never lie to her. “You’re right.”
I’m not really your son – well, kind of, sort of, huh?? – but I love you like I should have in my past life. I don’t want you to die, I want to live with you, I want to show you how much I’ve grown, and how much I will in the future.
I love you, mom.
She abruptly hugs him, burying her face in his shoulder. Inosuke wraps his arms up around her in reflex, his brain not understanding why his mother was doing this.
“I’m sorry, Inosuke,” she chokes out. “I’m sorry that I don’t know what you’re going through. I’m sorry that I had to be a burden to you. I’m sorry–”
Kotoha tries to pull back to look at his face, but Inosuke only holds her tighter. “Don’t apologize. Don’t say sorry because you did nothing wrong. If it wasn’t for you, I could have never lived. So, don’t say that, don’t ever feel like your life is meaningless. I won’t let you.”
Hashibira Kotoha loves her son more than anything. Her vow to protect him will never change, no matter what happens.
Hashibira Inosuke loves his mother more than he thought he would. He regrets not being to save her before, that he was too weak to, but now, he has another chance. He could let her live a happy life with him, in a peaceful place far from bloodshed and fighting.
He could just run away with her, hide in some random human village, and live out his days.
But he knew he couldn’t. Not when he knows that Douma is still alive, not when he knows that his other family is out there somewhere, and he loves them just as much.
He needs them as much as he needs his mother.
So, when Inosuke tells his mother of demons and demon slayers, she accepts it and sends him off with a smile. He leaves her in the hands of a grampa and his grandson, two people he knew that would never harm a defenseless person, who lives in a human village they manage to find.
Seeing his mother safe, Inosuke now dashes forward with only one goal in mind.
Mt. Fujikasane. The final selection. His family was waiting for him.
Finally free, Inosuke couldn’t help but let out a roaring laugh that echoed throughout the forest.
“PIG ASSAULT! PIG ASSAULT!!!”
Stay where you are underlings, boss Inosuke is coming for you!