Actions

Work Header

to be protected

Chapter Text

When he woke up everything felt hot. His skin felt like it was burning, and his whole body ached.

But his arm. 

His arm was in so much pain.

What happened?

It took all his strength to open his eyes. This wasn’t his house. He didn’t know where he was.

He glanced around the unfamiliar room, his eyes settling on a girl who looked to be around his age with pigtails and butterflies in her hair stood to the left of the bed he was in. She looked like she was concentrating on something, and she had an annoyed expression on her face.

“You’re awake.”

He didn’t respond.

Who was she?

He noticed bandages in her hands. That must be what she was concentrating on. She was unravelling bandages that were wrapped around his arm. He figured he must have hurt him arm somehow. That’s why it was hurting. But how? He couldn’t remember.

He glanced down to his arm.

And then he saw. 

It was gone.

He felt sick.

The girl must have been able to tell because the next thing he knew she was yanking him up by his shoulders and leaning him over the edge of the bed. 

He threw up.

The girl pushed him back up and left him in a sitting position while she grabbed a glass of water from a nearby table. She held the glass to his lips and made him drink. Once he’d drank as much as he could, she put the glass back down and gently laid him back down on the bed. 

She pressed her hand to his forehead. He wanted to push it away, but he had no strength.  What was she doing? 

“This is just great,” she muttered under her breath as she moved her hand from his head started wrapping new bandages on his arm. 

No. 

What was left of his arm.

He couldn't breathe. 

“You’re just giving me more work to do. Now I have to clean this up. You threw up on my feet .” 

He was so tired, he hardly paid her any attention as she continued to scold him.

He fell back asleep before she left.

***

The next time he woke up he was more alert. He was able to think better and try to figure out exactly what had happened and where he was. 

The girl wasn’t there this time which he was thankful for. He didn’t need to be scolded again for doing nothing wrong.

On the small table to the left of his bed sat a fresh glass of water. When he saw it, he realized just how dry his mouth was. He started to reach for it before he remembered. His arm was gone. Cut off just above the elbow. 

He couldn’t breathe.

He tried to remember what happened. He was attacked while he was asleep. Had a wild animal broken into the house? No. That didn’t seem right. 

A demon. It had been a demon. It was probably that woman’s fault. If she hadn’t kept showing up at his house, this probably wouldn’t have happened.  He wished she had just stayed away.

The demon had attacked him while he slept and had taken his arm, and then his brother had…

His brother.

Muichiro.

Where was he?

Despite every muscle in his body telling him not to, he shot straight up in bed, and looked frantically around the room until his eyes landed on a familiar figure in the bed next to his.

It was him. 

Muichiro. 

His little brother was alive. But how badly hurt had he been?

He slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed. He needed to go check on his brother. He had to make sure he was okay. Just as he was about to stand up, he was interrupted. 

“Don’t you dare.”

He turned his head to where the voice was coming from and saw the girl from earlier standing in the doorway hands on her hips and the same annoyed look on her face as before. He chose to ignore her warning, and using his right arm he pushed himself to his feet.

He immediately regretted that decision.

His legs gave out from under him.  He instinctively reached back with both arms to catch him on the bed and stop his fall. Pain shot through his arm as his stump collided with the matress.  He cried out in pain and dropped to his knees on the floor. 

His eyes filled with tears.

It hurt. 

It hurt so bad.

Muichiro.

He still needed to check on him.

His legs wouldn’t work.

His arm hurt. 

His mind went blank.

The next thing he knew he was back in bed.  The girl pulled the covers over him being more aggressive than he believed was necessary. She then practically shoved some medicine down his throat with a sip of water. He almost choked. 

“That should help with the pain,” she said. “Now you are going to stay in bed, and you will not get up until I say you’re ready.”

It hurt.

It still hurt.

“I don’t have to listen to you,” he responded. His voice was weak, and he hated how pitiful it made him sound. “You’re just a little kid.”

“I’m Kanzaki Aoi, and I’m the one who’s going to be taking care of you and your brother until you’re better, so you will listen to me unless you’d rather die.”

He stayed silent. He glanced over to where his brother was sleeping.

Muichiro.

He opened his mouth to ask if his brother was okay, but she answered before he got the chance to ask.

“He’s fine. He’s in much better shape than you are. He was awake for most of the day, but it’s late, so he’s gone to bed. I was coming to check in on you before going to sleep myself. And you’re lucky I did.”

After promising she would be back in the morning to check on him, she left the room.

He fell back asleep within minutes, the pain finally starting to fade.

***

Just as she’d promised Aoi showed up the next morning to check on both Yuichiro and Muichiro. She’d given him some more medicine and changed the bandages on his arm. This time he made sure not to look. Once she finished looking the two of them over, she left the room. 

Currently he was sitting up in his bed with Muichiro sitting by his feet because he was allowed to get up and walk around.  He was upset by this fact, but he was happy his brother was doing well. While the two of them had been awake for a while, they had both been pretty quiet. Yuichiro wasn’t sure what he should say, and he assumed that Muichiro was in the same boat. Yuichiro was just happy to see him alive.

Earlier a group of small girls had rushed in with breakfast and fresh water for the two of them and then left as quickly as they had appeared.  Muichiro had helped feed him, not that he had been able to eat much, which Yuichiro was not pleased with. He was so tired though and still so weak, he knew he needed the assistance. So he gave in and didn’t bother to argue.

“I was so worried,” Muichiro said breaking the silence. Yuichiro noticed tears forming in his brother’s eyes as he spoke. He looked down at his lap not wanting to see his brother cry. “You lost so much blood, and you had a bad fever. You were asleep for days, and Aoi was worried that you might not ever wake up. I can’t imagine what  would have happened if Miss Amane hadn’t showed up.”

“What?” His head snapped up. “She was there?”

Why had she been there? Why couldn’t she have just left them alone? They were fine by themselves. She didn’t need to act like she actually cared about them.  The only thing she cared about them was their ancestors who had been important or something. He didn’t care enough to remember what she had told them. It was nothing he needed to worry about.

“She was coming by to check up on us again,” Muichiro responded. “We’re very lucky she was there.”

“Don’t you realize this was probably all her fault in the first place?”

“That’s not true. She saved us.”

“Wait where are we?” If that woman had been the one to save them, where would she have brought them?

“This is the Butterfly Estate. They said it’s where they take care of injured Demon Slayers, but Miss Amane had them take care of us here.”

No.

No. They couldn’t be here. He wanted nothing to do with the Demon Slayers.

They would just try to recruit him and his brother again. Muichiro had already showed interest in wanting to join. The longer they stayed the more likely it was he would accept their offer.  They needed to leave immediately.  

“We’re going home.” 

He couldn’t let them take his little brother away. He was all that he had.

Muichiro gave him a worried look. “We can’t. Aoi said you aren’t allowed out of bed yet.”

“Please,” he begged. “I don’t want to be here.” They’ll try to take you away. I need to protect you.

It was then that the door opened, and she walked in. 

Go away.

Leave us alone.

She walked over to the bed where the two were sitting, and pulled up a seat for herself. She smiled at them. She was too nice. There was no way it was a real smile.  No way she really cared.

“I’m so glad to see that you two are doing better. You both had us so worried.” She looked to Yuichiro. “Especially you.”

He just sat there silently offering no response. She didn’t deserve one. 

This was all her fault. 

For a while nobody spoke.

“I was hoping to talk with your brother if that’s okay with you.”

 “No.”

 She frowned. He didn’t care.

 Muichiro hopped off the end of the bed and turned to face him with a smile. “Don’t worry Yui. It’ll be fine. I wanted to talk with her anyways. I’ll be back soon.”

 And with that, he watched as the women took his brother away, and there was nothing he could do about it.

 ***

As the two of them left to talk about who knows what, another woman walked in the room.  Or maybe a girl. She looked young, but something about her felt older. Her hair was up, and like all the other girls he’d seen, she wore a butterfly in it. She smiled at him as she made her way over to his bed. Like with that woman’s smile, hers felt fake.

 “I came to check up on you,” she announced.

He stared blankly at her.  If she was here that meant she worked with the Demon Slayers, and he wanted nothing to do with them.  Maybe if he ignored her she would go away more quickly.

 “Aoi was going to come by, but I told her to get some rest. She’s lost a lot of sleep over the past few days taking care of you and your brother.”

 Silence.

 “The two of you are the first long term patients that she’s taken entirely under her care.”

 She placed a hand on his forehead which he immediately swatted away. She placed her hand back more forcefully this time. She grabbed his wrist with her other hand before he had the chance to push it away again.

 He tried to yank his arm away, but he had no strength.  It didn’t matter much because she let go of his wrist and took her hand on his forehead after a few seconds. He glared at her.

“Your fever’s gone down,” she announced obviously ignoring the look he was giving her.

Now go away.

 “I think you especially worried her,” she continued. “For a while it didn’t seem like you were going to make it. We lost somebody close to us recently.” 

He watched the smile vanish from her face for a split second before reappearing. It was a sad smile he realized. 

“I think it would have been hard on her if she lost her first patient after all of that.”

Her smile turned into something more terrifying which made him freeze up. 

“So I would appreciate it if you would stop giving her a hard time. Is that alright?”

Was she threatening him?

He nodded, suddenly worried about what she might do to him if he didn’t agree.

“Good. You seem to be doing well. Aoi will be here to check on you again later.”

And then she left.

Yuichiro wasn’t sure how he was supposed to feel. 

***

“I’m joining the Demon Slayers.” 

These were the first words out of Muichiro’s mouth when he came back into the room after his talk with that woman. He was standing by the side of Yuichiro’s bed with a slight smile on his face. 

“I’ll get to help people.”

“You...You can’t,” Yuichiro stammered pulling himself up into a sitting position.  “I’ve told you already that you can’t. You’ll get hurt again. You’ve seen what the demons can do.”

“I know. That’s why I have to do this.”

“No you don’t. You don’t have to do anything. Once we’re better we can just go home, and everything will be normal. They don’t actually care about us. They just want more people to fight for them. If you die, you’ll just be another body to them. They won’t even remember you.” 

Muichiro shook his head and frowned. “Not it won’t. Nothing will be normal again after what happened. And what if something happens again? I want to be able to protect you this time.”

No.

Why would he say that?

That wasn’t how this was supposed to work.

He stopped breathing.

“Don’t say that,” he snapped causing Muichiro to wince. He was hurting his little brother. He was a horrible person. “I’m your older brother. I’m the one who’s supposed to be protecting you .”

“But you can’t,” said Muichiro. “You lost your arm . I just want to be able to keep you safe so you don’t get hurt any worse. I don't know what I would do if I lost you.”

It was the first time either of them had brought up Yuichiro’s arm. Yuichiro had been too scared to say anything. He felt that if it ever came up in conversation it would suddenly feel real. And he had been right. For the first time it was finally sinking in.

It was gone.

It wasn’t coming back.

What was he going to do?

He couldn’t breathe.

He knew it all along.

 But it just hadn’t yet sunk in. 

It wasn’t fair.

He lost his arm, and now he was going to lose his brother. They were going to steal him away.

He’s mine.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath and tried to calm himself down. His hand was shaking.

His hand.

He only had one.

“Fine,” he finally replied once he’d calmed down enough. “Do whatever you want. Go ahead and get yourself killed. I don’t care anymore!”

He watched as tears began to fall down Muichiro’s cheeks. It hurt to see him like this. Muichiro rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand before turning and walking out of the room leaving Yuichiro by himself.

He made his brother cry.

Why did he always do this?

Why couldn’t he be a better brother?

Muichiro deserved somebody better than him.

He should get to be happy. 

He was angry and frustrated. With the Demon Slayers who were taking his brother away. With his brother for leaving him. And with himself for scaring him away.

He flopped down onto his back and let the tears begin to fall.

***

Muichiro didn’t smile anymore. 

His face always looked so blank and expressionless now. He didn’t look like his little brother anymore.

This is all my fault.

Within a week of their argument, Aoi announced that Muichiro had fully recovered, and he’d started going out training during the days, usually coming back to the Butterfly Estate at night. As time went on he sometimes would be away for a couple days at a time. Yuichiro didn’t know where he went everyday or what exactly he did. Neither of them spoke about it. It was an unspoken rule between them that this topic was off limits.

They did still talk with each other, but it wasn’t the same as before. It was as if their argument had completely changed Muichiro.

Yuichiro just wanted his brother back.

While his brother spent his days training, Aoi began helping Yuichiro get his strength back. His arm was hurting less, and soon he’d no longer have to wear bandages. When he was finally allowed out of bed, it took him a while to be able to walk on his own.  After so long without using his legs, they were hardly able to carry his weight.

There were a lot of falls, and Aoi scolded him every time. The two of them would, but he never went too far because he remembered the threat, and he would admit he was a bit scared of her. He did not feal like dealing with that.

Once the girl who had threatened him had walked by while the two were arguing, and he stopped out of fear. He was more careful after that.

Aoi was also helping him to get used to doing various tasks with just the one arm. This was what he always got the most frustrated with. But Aoi was always more patient with him at this than anything else.

One day she brought him into the kitchen to practice with cooking. He’d gotten so frustrated with how difficult it was. He hated how useless he was. He felt like he couldn’t do anything anymore. He just kept messing everything up, and he ended up flipping a tray of food out of anger.

Instead of scolding him like he had expected her to, Aoi told him he was done for the day if he wished to be. He decided he was. He was too annoyed with himself to do anything more.  As he left he watched as she began cleaning up the mess he had made with no complaints.

At other times his eyes would start to tear up out of frustration, but she would always look away. He knew she noticed, but she never once brought it up.

Once he had fully recovered and was able to get by well without his arm, since he had nowhere to go while Muichiro was always away training, he had been allowed to stay at the Butterfly Estate as long as he helped out. Aoi was alway dragging him along to help with some of the other patients that would drop in.  This also helped him get more practice in using just his right arm.

And then it was their birthday. 

They were twelve.

It wasn’t the best birthday the twins had ever had, but that didn’t make it the worst. Last year had been the worst. It was the first time they had a birthday without their parents, and Yuichiro had spent most of the day trying to comfort a crying Muichiro.

This year had been better. Muichiro had the day off from training, so he spent the day at the Butterfly Estate with Yuichiro. In the morning the three younger girls who often delivered his meals, Naho, Sumi, and Kiyo, stopped by with sweets for the two of them. The girls, however, ended up eating most of the sweets themselves.

The older girl who had threatened him, Shinobu, had stopped by as well with one of the other girls he often saw around, Kanao, who he never once heard speak. Shinobu seemed genuinely nice today, which Yuichiro believed was entirely due to the fact Muichiro was there as well.  She seemed to like him more.

Aoi had also come by to wish them a happy birthday, but she just had the same annoyed look on her face as always. He didn’t think she knew how to be happy.  She told Yuichiro he didn’t need to help with any patients for the day, and then she just left.

Muichiro hadn’t smiled all day.

While last year he had cried for most of their birthday, at least he had been showing some emotion. Ever since their argument weeks ago, it seemed like he had just locked all his emotions away. 

Yuichiro hated it. 

He hated himself for doing that to his brother. 

When the day had ended, and it was just the two of them left in the room, Muichiro made his way over to Yuichiro’s bed. Yuichiro slid over to one side, so the two of them would fit. Muichiro rested his head on Yuichiro’s shoulder.

“I have to tell you something.”

Yuichiro remained silent, not sure how to respond.

Muichiro continued, “I’m leaving tomorrow for the Final Selection.”

Yuichiro turned his head to look at Muichiro without disturbing him. His heart was racing. He’d  been around the Demon Slayers enough over the past several weeks to know what the Final Selection was and how often people didn’t come back from it. 

“You can’t. You’ve only been training for a few weeks,” he replied. “And you’re only twelve. There’s no way you’re ready.”

Don’t leave me.

“My teacher said I should be fine.”

No, no, no.

This was going to be their last birthday together.

Muichiro was going to die. 

It wasn’t fair.

“I’ll be back Yui. I promise.”

He didn’t respond.

He couldn’t.

He wanted to cry.

Please stay.

They sat like that for a while before eventually going to bed. The two of them slept together in Yuichiro’s bed, Yuichiro’s hand clasping his brother’s, afraid to let go in case this was the last time they’d see each other alive. 

***

Muichiro had left the next morning leaving Yuichiro alone.

The next few days he felt off. He felt sick. He didn’t know how his little brother was doing or if he was even alive. It hurt him to think about it, but he couldn’t get his mind off of it. 

One day he’d been distracted while helping put bandages on one of the patients. He had completely spaced out, and the next thing he knew, Aoi was pulling the bandages out of him hand telling him that if he wasn’t going to be helpful to just leave. 

So he did. For most of the week he sat out from helping with the patients. He just couldn’t focus enough to be of any help.

His worry was also causing nightmares.

Since the first night after Muichiro had left, he kept having dreams where Muichiro ended up dying. In some of them he was killed the night that they had been attacked at their home.  Others had him dying during the Final Selection. What they all had in common was that he died and left Yuichiro alone.

Yuichiro was scared.

He didn’t want to be left alone.

One night when he woke up from one of the dreams, he saw Aoi standing over him looking worried instead of annoyed for once.

“I get nightmares sometimes too,” she said softly once she noticed he was awake.

“What are you doing here?”

He didn’t need anybody knowing about the nightmares. He could deal with them himself. He especially didn’t need Aoi’s help.  

“I heard you scream when I was walking by,” she replied. “So I came to check in on you and make sure you were alright.”

“Well I don’t need you here. Go away.”

She threw her arms up. “Fine! See if I ever try to be nice to you again!” she yelled as she stormed out of the room slamming the door behind her.

He wasn’t able to fall back asleep that night.

***

For once Yuichiro was the one standing by Muichiro’s bed. He had come back a short while ago much to Yuichiro’s relief. He had been worrying all morning, and being unable to keep still, Aoi had at one point kicked him outside.

Muichiro had been fine apart from a few cuts and bruises which had been patched up quickly upon his arrival to the Butterfly Estate.

“Were you worried?” Muichiro asked him.

Yes.

“No. I told you I didn’t care if you went and got yourself killed, didn’t I?”

Stop it. Stop lying.

Why did he always have to be so awful to his brother?

“Well I was worried about you. But you had a lot of people to keep you company, so you must have been fine.”

He was so nice to him. Why couldn’t he be nice back?

“I want to go home now.”

Maybe if he and Muichiro went home now he could convince him to stay there with him. Maybe he could get him to quit the Demon Slayers. 

“Tomorrow,” Muichiro responded. “I just want to rest tonight. But first thing in the morning we can leave. Is that alright?”

Yuichiro nodded. “I’m going to bed.”

He turned away with a slight smile forming on his lips as he walked to his bed. For the first time in months it would be just the two of them again. And they’d be home.

I won’t let them take you from me.

 

Chapter Text

The walk home was silent with with neither Muichiro nor Yuichiro saying a word the whole way.  It had been months since Yuichiro had been home. As much as he’d wanted to leave the Butterfly Estate during his stay there, he was more than a bit nervous to be heading home.

His last memories of being at home involved him and his brother being attacked and nearly killed. He was pretty sure the house had been damaged during the attack, and he knew there would be bloodstains on the floor and their futons. He wasn’t ready for the reminders.

The closer they got to their house, the harder it became for him to breathe.  He felt his heart pounding in his chest. He thought he’d be ready to return home, but he hadn’t factored in the memories of the attack.  During his stay at the Butterfly Estate, he had tried as best he could to push away the memories, but as they approached their house it became more and more difficult.

He instinctively reached out to grab Muichiro’s hand. While he wasn’t planning on telling his brother, it made him feel safe and helped him to calm down a bit. He watched as Muichiro shot him a quick glance before continuing on without a word.

They arrived at their house hand in hand. Muichiro was the one to break the silence.

“I stopped by a few times when I had time off from training,” he said.

Yuichiro had figured something like that was the case.  When the house had first come into view he saw a large sheet covering the front doorway in place of their door that had been torn off during the attack.

Muichiro continued. “I couldn’t fix everything perfectly, but it’s still home. I also cleaned up the… I cleaned up as best as I could. Miss Amane stopped by to help me once as well.”

Her again.  Why did she always have to get herself involved?  They didn’t need her. Her arrival at their house had been what ruined everything.  They were fine on their own. They didn’t need anybody checking up on them. Especially people who just wanted to use them to fight for them. 

Yuichiro didn’t respond.  He stood there staring at the house, suddenly too scared to step foot inside.  He felt his panic building, and it became harder to breathe. There were tears beginning to form in his eyes.

He didn’t want to be here.

He wanted to go home, but he didn’t want to be here.

He wanted to go back to the way things were.

He wanted to go back to before the demon attacked.

He wanted his arm back.

He wanted his brother to not be a Demon Slayer.

He wanted the woman to leave them alone.

He wanted his brother’s smile back.

It was sinking in.

Nothing was going to be the same.

It wasn’t fair

His brother’s voice finally snapped him out of it. 

“Ow. Ow. Yui, you’re hurting me.”

He looked down to where their hands were clasped together.  He hadn’t realized he’d tightened his grip so much. He pulled his hand away, and he watched Muichiro rub the hand he’d been holding onto.

I hurt him.

“Are you ready to go inside?” Muichiro finally asked.

No.

He nodded. It would be best to get this over with. They couldn’t just stand outside all day.

Muichiro walked in first pushing the sheet out of the way and held it open for Yuichiro who followed close behind. Yuichiro found himself grabbing onto his left arm without even realizing what he was doing.

He noticed small cracks in the walls and stains on the floor where it was obvious there had been attempts to clean up the blood. It was all proof of the attack. One thing however stood out.

“The futons…” he trailed off. Both of their futons were set up on the floor, but neither of them had a single stain left behind.

“Miss Amane gave us some new one,” Muichiro explained. “The old ones were…dirty.” He must not have wanted to bring up the blood that had been splattered on them.

Why did it always have to be her? 

He decided not to comment.  He wanted to bring up the Demon Slayers and anything related to them as little as possible and hopefully convince Muichiro to quit.

“I’m hungry,” he said instead.

“Okay. Let’s find something to eat.”

***

He woke up screaming. 

Their first day back home had passed fairly quickly.  They’d made some food for themselves and by the time they’d eaten it had started to get dark out.  Both of them were tired. Muichiro was still recovering from the Final Selection, and Yuichiro was tired from the long walk home.  It was the longest he’d walked in weeks. He’d hardly been outside the Butterfly Estate. Only when Aoi had gotten annoyed with him and kicked him outside.

Since the two of them were tired, they had decided to go to bed early. Muichiro had fallen asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.  Yuichiro had taken longer. It had been hard for him to fall asleep. The memories of his last time sleeping at home had come back, and he became too scared to fall asleep, worried they’d be attacked again.

He didn’t remember falling asleep, but the next thing he knew he was waking up, and he was screaming.

He’d had many nightmares during his time at the Butterfly Estate. Those had all involved Muichiro dying. They all had him being left behind. This one was different.

It had started out like so many of the others with the night the two of them had been attacked.  But this time instead of Muichiro being the one to die, it had been Yuichiro. Instead of being saved in time, that woman hadn’t come until much later. He’d died while his brother lay there watching, their hands clasped together.

He was scared. Scared he would die. Scared he’d leave his brother behind with nobody left to protect him. What kind of older brother would that make him?

He wiped at the tears that  he hadn’t even realized had started falling down his face.  When he looked up he saw Muichiro kneeling down next to him. 

“Are you alright?” he asked, his face filled with worry. It was the most expression he’d seen on his brother’s face since their argument after he’d announced he was joining the Demon Slayers.

“I’m fine,” he replied. “Leave me alone.” He rolled onto his side, away from Muichiro. He felt bad for waking him, and hoped he would just go back to bed.  He didn’t need to worry over him. It should be the other way around. Why couldn’t he understand that?

Instead of leaving, Yuichiro felt Muichiro lift the covers off of him and climb into the futon with him. He didn’t complain. It made him feel safer.  He just would never tell that to Muichiro. 

With his brother’s back pressed against his, Yuichiro was able to fall asleep a lot easier.

He didn’t have any more nightmares that night.

***

The next few days passed by relatively normal.  It would never be the same as before with evidence of the attack around the house as well as his arm, but Yuichiro figured this was as close as it would get, and he hoped it would stay that way.

The worst day since their arrival back home to Yuichiro had been when Muichiro had gotten his sword delivered. After a few days of being at home an old man in a Hyottoko mask had arrived at their door. He introduced himself as Tetsuido and presented Muichiro with the sword he had made for him. Yuichiro had watched silently as the blade turned white as his brother took the sword.

Tetsuido had seemed friendly enough, but since he worked with the Demon Slayers, Yuichiro didn’t trust him. The whole time he was there he sat behind Muichiro gripping onto his clothes and glaring over his shoulder at the old man. When he had finally left, Yuichiro was relieved. 

A few days after Tetsuido a crow came flying into their house with a message for Muichiro giving him his first mission. The crow had startled Yuichiro when she started yelling. Muichiro had mentioned to him that every Demon Slayer received a crow for delivering messages, but this was the first time Yuichiro had met her. He immediately disliked her as he always did with anything connected to the Demon Slayers.

“You’re just going to get killed, and nobody will even care. I hope you realize that,” he said to Muichiro as he started getting himself ready to go.

I’ll care.

“I’ll be fine,” Muichiro responded as he changed into his new uniform. “I’ve fought plenty of demons before. I’ll be back in a few days.”

“I doubt it.”

Muichiro looked up at him and frowned. “Why would you say that?”

Yuichiro didn’t respond.

Please don’t leave. I’m scared to be alone.

Muichiro finished getting dressed, and he frowned once again looking down at the uniform.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “It’s too tight. Maybe I’ll ask for another one to be made.”

“You should stay here then,” said Yuichiro, taking any opportunity to get his brother to stay home. “Wait until you get a new uniform.”

“I can’t. They’re already expecting me to go,” he replied. “I won’t take long. Are you sure you’re alright being left alone?”

No.

Yuichiro nodded. He couldn’t let Muichiro think he was scared.  He was the older brother, so he had to be the brave one.

“If you’re all set, then I guess I’ll be going. Good-bye.”

Yuichiro watched helplessly as his brother walked out the door giving him a quick wave.

And then he was gone.

Come back safe. Please.

***

The night after Muichiro left was the worst night Yuichiro had been through since the attack months prior.

Yuichiro couldn’t sleep.  He just laid there in his futon with his eyes wide open.  If he slept, he would dream. And nobody was there to calm him down if it turned into another one of his nightmares. Although he hated to admit it, when he had been at the Butterfly Estate on the nights Muichiro was away, knowing Aoi was there had helped him calm down.

He realized he missed her.  She hadn’t come to say good-bye on the day he and Muichiro had left the Butterfly Estate, and at the time he didn’t care. But now he realized he wished he could have seen her again. He hadn’t thought he’d miss anything from that place, but he had never wished to be there more than he did at this moment.  He might not have gotten along with most of the people there, but at least he hadn’t been alone.  

Yuichiro also knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep without Muichiro.  Since their first night home when he had woken up his brother with his screaming, Muichiro would sleep with him in his futon.  He never brought up Yuichiro’s nightmare, and instead told him that he felt safer when they shared the futon, so Yuichiro let him stay. If it made his little brother feel safe, he couldn’t turn him down. Something in him, however, did realize Muichiro was most likely just saying that for his sake. But he couldn’t just turn him down when he had the opportunity. 

He didn’t know the last time he’d been completely alone.  And he didn’t like it. He knew if he had told Muichiro he was scared to be left at home by himself while he when away on his mission, they would have figured something out.  But he didn’t want to show any weakness to him. He had to show him he didn’t need protection, and that he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself and that he could take care of his brother. Muichiro didn’t need to be out protecting him. 

He forced himself to stay awake as the hours passed.  He was getting very tired, but as long as it was still dark out, there was the possibility he would be attacked again by a demon.  He knew there was little he could do if he was attacked even if he was awake, but he was still too scared to fall asleep, and go through a demon attack like that again.

He worried not just about himself, but also his brother.  He had no idea if Muichiro was still alive, or even if he was still alive.  He also had no idea how long it would take after he died to learn about it. He didn’t even know if he’d ever be informed if that were to happen. He spent most of the night praying for his brother’s safety.

The night seemed to drag on as he got more and more tired. Time was moving very slowly. As long as it was still dark out, he refused to let himself fall asleep. He was going to stay awake until morning. 

And so he did.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, sunlight began streaming through the windows, filling up the house. 

He had made it.

He could sleep.

Knowing he was safe, he finally allowed himself to shut his eyes.  While he couldn’t be sure about his brother’s safety, he knew that he was safe for now, and there was nothing he could do for Muichiro at the moment. He let himself fall asleep, and for once he had no dreams.

***

When Yuichiro woke up later that afternoon, he was not alone.

It was her again.  

Recently it seemed like it was always her. And here she was sitting on the floor next to his futon. Had she been watching him sleep?

He sat up and glared at her, refusing to say a word.  He wanted her gone. This wasn’t her house. Why did she think she could just show up whenever she wanted to?

She held something out to him. Food, he realized. He felt his stomach growling. Since he’d been asleep all day, he was starving.

“I thought I’d bring you something to eat,” she said with a smile, placing the food down in front of him. He glanced down at it and back up at her, remaining silent. No matter how hungry he was feeling, he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of eating the food she’d brought him.

“I came to keep you company today while your brother is away,” she continued.

She knew? She knew Muichiro was gone?

Wait.

Of course she knew.  Her husband was the man in charge of the Demon Slayers.  They had probably sent Muichiro off on a mission just so she could come and try to get him on their side. He wouldn’t let that happen. He was never going to trust them. He was going to get Muichiro to quit, and he’d keep the Demon Slayers away. He wouldn’t let them send his little brother to his death. 

“I know you’re worried about him,” she continued. “But he’s going to be fine.”

You can’t promise that.

“He’s show himself to be more talented than many of the older and more experienced Demon Slayers.”

He’s going to die, and it will be all your fault.

“I’m sure you’ve been a bit lonely since your brother left, and maybe you’ve also been scared. I assume you were up all night which is why you were asleep much of the day.”

Stop it!

Stop it! You’re wrong!

You’re wrong…

But she wasn’t.  He knew she wasn’t. She was right. He wished she wasn’t.

“So if you’d like, we would be glad to let you stay with us whenever your brother is off on missions.”

“No!” Yuichiro snapped.

He watched as her eyes widened in surprise.  She must not have been expecting the sudden outburst. 

“I’m not going with you. This is my house, and I don’t want you here, so go away. You’re not taking me with you. You already stole my brother, but you can’t have me. I’m going to take my brother back. Now leave me alone!”

She frowned, and the two of them sat together in silence, neither of them speaking. Time moved slowly.

Eventually, she spoke up. “I’m sorry,” she said. “We aren’t trying to take him from you, but I understand why it may seem that way to you. We want what’s best for the both of you.”

So why are you letting a twelve year old risk his life? Is that what’s best for him?

He felt tears forming in his eyes, and he immediately wiped them away with the back of his hand. He wouldn’t let himself cry in front of her. She wouldn’t take him seriously. He didn’t need her pity.

“I’ll be leaving now,” she said as she rose to her feet. “If you ever change your mind, we have a place for you.  We’ve set up a room for you. I promise that you’ll be safe from demons there.”

And with that, she left.

As he watched her walk out the front door, he realized she’d left the food she’d brought behind. Once, she was out of sight, he pulled the dish into his lap and began to eat.

***

The following day started off the same way.  After once again forcing himself to stay awake all night, he fell asleep once the sun came out and slept into the afternoon. And when he woke up, she was back.

This time, however, she had not come alone.

On either side of her sat two identical young girls. They were twins, he realized. They both had their hair cut to the same length, and both of them wore matching kimonos.  The only thing setting them apart was the ribbons in their hair. The girl on his right had a red ribbon tied on the right side of her hair, while the other girl had a yellow ribbon tied on the left side.

The three of them were quietly talking amongst themselves, and Yuichiro was about to close his eyes and pretend to sleep until they were gone, when the girl with the yellow ribbon happened to glance in his direction. She tugged on the woman’s sleeve and pointed in his direction.

“He’s awake,” she announced.

He sat up and shot her a glare while the woman and the other girl turned to face him.

“I told you to leave me alone,” he grumbled. “This is my house. Go away.”

“I won’t be here long,” she said. “I only came to check in on you. I know it must be hard without your brother here. I brought you some more food. I see you ate what I brought you yesterday.”

He felt his cheeks get hot.  He hadn’t wanted her to know he’d actually eaten the food. He thought she wouldn’t be back after he had yelled at her, but of course he was wrong because no matter what he did, she never left him or his brother alone. She always came back.

“Who are they?” he asked, referring to the two girls she had brought with her. 

“These are two of my children,” she responded. She nodded in the direction of the girl with the yellow ribbon, the one who had given away he was awake. “This is Nichika.” She then nodded in the direction of the other girl, the one with the red ribbon. “And this is Hinaki. They were curious about you, and I thought you might like to meet them and that perhaps if you saw that we had some children, you’d be more likely to come stay with us while your brother is away. We’re all worried about you.”

“I told you, I’m not going with you! I’m staying here. Get out of my house. Why won’t you listen?”

The woman frowned at him. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m not trying to force you. I just want you to be able to feel safe.”

“I feel perfectly safe here by myself,” he lied. “Now get out.”

She got to her feet, her two children doing the same in perfect unison. The two of them each grabbed onto one of their mother’s hands. 

“I’ve heard that your brother should be home by tomorrow afternoon. As far as I know, he’s doing fine, so you shouldn’t need to worry,” she said before turning and walking out the door with her daughters. Hinaki turned her head to get one last look of him before the three of them disappeared out the door.

Once they were gone he smiled. Muichiro would be home tomorrow. He was safe. He’d be able to sleep better again. 

This time he would keep Muichiro home for good.

He glanced at the food that had once again been left behind for him. He refused to eat it, deciding today he would make something for himself.

***

After another night of no sleep, and another morning and afternoon of sleeping, Yuichiro woke up to a familiar warm figure at his back.

Muichiro.

He was home. He must have climbed into the futon with him when he’d gotten home and fallen asleep.

Yuichiro quickly sat up and began examining his brother to make sure he was okay. He saw a couple small scratches on his face and a bruise on his left cheek, but nothing too worrying. He then pulled the blankets off of him, and he noticed a rip on the right sleeve of his uniform. Yuichiro pulled up the sleeve, and noticed a large gash in Muichiro’s arm under where the rip was.

He scrambled across the room trying to remember exactly where he had put the first aid supplies the two of them had been sent home with from the Butterfly Estate. Shinobu had given the supplies to them on the day they had left. Once he found where they’d put everything, he took all the supplies back over to his brother and plopped it all down.

He put his hand on Muichiro’s shoulder and started trying to shake him awake. Muichiro just groaned and weakly tried to push him away. 

“Sleeping…” he mumbled.

“You need to get up,” said Yuichiro. “I need to wrap the cut on your arm unless you want it to get infected.”

“I’m tired,” his brother whined. 

He realized that his brother acted more like himself when he was half asleep. The way he used to be. Before he hurt him. He frowned. He felt guilty. But he didn’t have time to think about that now. 

Yuichiro pressed a finger against the bruise on Muichiro’s face. 

“Ow. Ow. What are you doing?” Muichiro said, finally sitting up, rubbing a hand against his face “That hurts.”

Yuichiro pulled Muichiro’s wounded arm towards him. “You’re going to get yourself killed. Do you really want that? Like I keep telling you, they’re sending you to  your death. They don’t care about you.”

“It’s just a small cut. It’s fine.”

“It can still get infected. And what if next time, you get hurt even worse?” He began treating the wound like Aoi had taught him, like he had done with several patients that had come through the Butterfly Estate while he had been assisting them.

“I thought you didn’t care if I died,” said Muichiro as he watched Yuichiro begin wrapping the cut in bandages.

“I don’t. It’d just be a pain if you did. You’re more useful to me if you’re alive.”

He couldn’t describe the look that formed on Muichiro after the words left his mouth. He’d never seen his brother look so hurt.  He instantly regretted ever saying those words. He cared about his brother. He really did. It was more than just how useful he was.

Why can’t I stop hurting you?

He finished up wrapping the bandages and stood up to go put the first aid supplies away. By the time he got back Muichiro was laying back down under the covers, and Yuichiro climbed back into the futon with him.

“It’s amazing that you can do all that with just one hand.”

Yuichiro didn’t respond and just focused on falling back asleep.

How could Muichiro continue to be so nice to him still when he always treated him terribly?

***

This routine continued for the next few weeks.  Muichiro would be home for a few days before his crow would arrive giving him a new mission.  While he was away Yuichiro would stay up all night and sleep much of the day waking up to find the woman there, sometimes with some of her children, or he’d find Muichiro asleep next to him.

He was getting used to the woman being there when he woke up on days Muichiro was away. After a few more visits of him yelling at her, he just gave up, seeing that it wasn’t doing anything. She always came back. He didn’t talk to her at all, instead choosing to remain silent as she spoke with him. During some of the more recent visits he had even started eating the food she had brought him while she was still there.

When she brought her children it was usually the two girls she had brought with her on her second visit to see him.  But there were two other girls, a younger pair of twins, she would also sometimes bring along. One of the times she had brought the younger pair, one of the two girls had crawled into his lap. The woman had gone silent, waiting to see what his reaction would be, but he had let her stay there for the remainder of the visit.

She told him during one of her visits that she had another child, this one a son in between the ages of the two sets of twins.  However, she never brought him along because he was usually busy with her husband because one day, when his father died, he would be taking over as head of the Demon Slayers.

While he noticed, much to his dismay, his relationship with the woman was improving, Yuichiro felt like the distance between him and Muichiro was growing, and their relationship was only getting worse. Muichiro was more quiet than he had ever been whenever he was home from missions. The two of them hardly ever talked with each other anymore.

While the two of them still spent every night they were both home sleeping back to back in the same futon, they hardly seemed to interact at any other time.  Many times when Muichiro was home they would get into arguments which did nothing to mend their relationship.

It hurt.

Today when Yuichiro woke up he was alone.  Yesterday the woman had told him Muichiro would be home tomorrow.  She had never been wrong in the past, and he hoped this just meant that he was running late.

As time went on, he began to worry. Muichiro still hadn’t returned.

After waiting for a while Muichiro’s crow flew inside telling him to go to the Butterfly Estate.

His heart stopped.

His brother was hurt. That’s the only reason he would be there and not at home. 

After giving himself a few minutes to calm down, he got to his feet and followed after his brother’s crow as she led him back to the Butterfly Estate. Despite his panic, he managed to make it there fairly quickly. He hardly remembered the walk there. Too many thoughts on what may have happened to Muichiro had been playing through his head.

When he walked inside, he was spotted by Aoi who quickly made her way over to him.

“Where is he?” he asked, not letting her get any words out.

“First you need to calm down,” she said. “You’re shaking.”

He held up his hand to his face and realized it was trembling.

“No I’m not,” he very obviously lied. “Where is he?”

“You are, and I’m not taking you to him until you can calm yourself down,” she replied. She sounded like she was getting annoyed with him, but he didn’t care. This happened every time the two of them spoke.

“At least tell me how he is.”

“Calm down first.”

“Is he dead?”

“I said calm down!”

“Tell me where he is!”

“Calm down!”

A door opened down the hallway, and Shinobu stepped out causing Yuichiro to freeze in place. Time went by slowly as she made her way over to them. She placed a hand on Yuichiro’s shoulder and smiled at him. It was the scary smile again.

“I didn’t just hear you yelling at Aoi just now, did I?” she asked.

He shook his head quickly in response.

“Good,” she said, and Yuichiro watched as she continued walking past them down the hallway without another word. He let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

One she was out of sight, Yuichiro turned back to Aoi and said, “I think I’m okay now.” Shinobu seemed to have scared the panic over his brother out of him.

“Fine then,” she said. “Follow me.”

She led him down the hallway into a room that was currently housing a few patients. And there he was. His brother was asleep in one of the beds. He was okay.

“It wasn’t anything that bad,” said Aoi. “He had a deep cut on his side we needed to stitch up, but other than that it was just a few minor injuries. He’ll be allowed to go home within a few days.”

She then left him while she went to go check in on some of the other patients in the room.

Yuichiro walked over to his brother’s bed and just stood there looking him over just to see for himself that he was okay.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, hoping nobody was around to hear him. “I don’t want you dead. I just don’t know how to say it. I’ve tried, but it’s too hard. Maybe someday I’ll be able to tell you.”

***

As Aoi had promised, Muichiro was free to go home just a couple days of rest. During those few days, Yuichiro had once again gotten dragged into helping Aoi with some of the patients, but whenever he wasn’t busy, he was at his brother’s side. Neither of them really spoke much, just like at home, but it made him feel better to be with Muichiro, so he stayed.

After another few days of resting at home, Muichiro had once again left to go on a mission. No matter how worried he was, and no matter how much he wanted to tell Muichiro not to go, he knew by this point it was impossible. He was just going to have to accept his brother was always going out to kill demons and hopefully not be killed himself.

For some reason this time he wasn’t able to fall asleep once morning came like he did every other day Muichiro was away. He was more worried than normal. Waking up last time with nobody there had scared him. He could have lost his brother, and then he would have been alone.

The stress from the past few weeks had built up mixed with the growing fear for Muichiro’s safety, and he couldn’t take it anymore. 

He started crying. 

Nobody was there. It didn’t matter.

He didn’t know how long he had been crying when she finally walked in. 

Amane.

She had a surprised look on his face when she saw him, likely having expected to find him asleep like every other time she had come to check in on him. He didn’t want her to see him cry. He didn’t want to seem weak, but he couldn’t stop.

She walked over to him and knelt down, pulling out a piece of cloth. She used it to wipe the tears off his cheeks, and he sat still and let her. He wasn’t going to try putting up a fight today. 

“I think it’s going to rain tonight,” she said. “With just the sheet as a front door it might get wet inside. Why don’t you come home with me and spend the night?”

He didn’t care anymore. 

He was scared.

He was tired.

He didn’t want to be alone.

He hated her, still blaming her for Muichiro joining the Demon Slayers but she was nice he’d come to realize.

Just this once he would trust her.

She stood up and held out her hand. 

He took it.

Chapter Text

Yuichiro woke to the sound of rain hitting the roof, a crack of thunder, and a heavy weight on his chest. 

He panicked. His first thought told him it had to be a demon.

A demon had once again entered his house and was attacking him in his sleep. And this time Muichiro wasn’t there to protect him, and he was going to die.

He instinctively shoved at the figure with his right hand, before scrambling to his feet and getting ready to run. He had to at least try to escape.

Then he heard the crying.

He froze.

He wasn’t at home, he remembered. 

He was at the Ubuyashiki Estate. He had finally taken Amane’s offer to go home with her. They’d given him his own room. He’d never had a room to himself before.

She’d been so nice to him over the past few weeks since Muichiro had joined the Demon Slayers. He was always so mean to her, but she never once failed to show up on the days his brother wasn’t home. As much as he disliked her, she made him feel safe. And now he was going to lose that.

He’d hurt one of her children.

She wouldn’t forgive him. She couldn’t. Why was he always so awful?

The door opened, and Amane walked in. It was too dark to see her face, but he was sure she was mad at him. She walked straight to her daughter, who had stopped crying the second her mother had stepped foot in the room.

Amane knelt down next to where the girl was sitting.

“Kanata, what are you doing in here?” she asked her daughter.

“I came to sit with Yuichiro,” said the girl, Kanata. “I wanted to make sure he felt safe since it’s his first night here. I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I’m sorry.”

She pulled Kanata in for a quick hug. “You don’t need to be sorry for anything. You just wanted to help. How about next time we all stay in our own rooms, is that alright?”

Kanata nodded. “Yes.”

Listening to the conversation made Yuichiro feel even worse. He’d hurt a child who only came in to check on him. She was being too nice to him. He didn’t deserve it. Every time somebody treated him nicely, he was horrible to them. He could never do anything right.

One of the older twins appeared in the doorway.

“Nichika, can you take Kanata back to bed please?” Amane asked the girl after she finished checking the younger girl over for any injuries.

Nichika nodded walking into the room. She grabbed hold of her still crying little sister’s hand and led her away without a word, leaving Yuichiro alone with Amane.

She was going to get mad at him.

She was going to kick him out.

He’d have to walk home in the dark. 

He was going to get killed by a demon.

He was scared.

His breathing became heavy, and tears started rolling down his face for the second time that day. Why did he continue to let himself cry in front of her? He didn’t want to.

Amane got to her feet and walked over to him, reaching an arm out. He took a step back, not wanting her to touch him, and he stumbled backwards, falling to the floor. Amane immediately knelt down next to him.

“I’m sorry. Don’t make me walk home in the dark. I’ll go home as soon as the sun comes up,” he said through his sobs.

I’m scared.

The next thing he knew he was being pulled into a hug with Amane holding onto him tightly. As he continued to cry, she started stroking his hair. 

He didn’t understand.

“We’re not going to make you leave,” she told him, and she continued to hold him. It felt nice, he realized, to be held like this. It had been so long since somebody had last held him like this. He missed his mom. “You don’t have to worry. Do you think you can calm down for me?”

After a few minutes he was able to get his breathing back under control, and his tears slowed, but he wasn’t able to fully stop crying yet. She loosened her grip on him, and as she had done earlier back at his house, she used one hand to wipe the tears off his face. Her other arm remained wrapped around him, holding him to her side.

“I hurt her,” Yuichiro said once he was finally able to speak. “Why aren’t you sending me away?”

“Can you tell me what happened?” she asked softly.

“I hurt her,” he repeated. “I pushed her off me, and I hurt her.”

“You’ve said that, but you haven’t told me why. Did you hurt her on purpose? Is that why you think I’m going to make you leave?”

He shook his head. “I forgot where I was. I thought I was getting attacked again.” 

I was scared.

Something about Amane made it easier to open up to her than with others, but he couldn’t yet bring himself to say those words out loud. He couldn’t let anybody knew how scared he always was now.

“Well then it wasn’t your fault.  And even if you had done it intentionally, I wouldn’t have made you leave. I just want you to be safe.”

“You always try to be nice to me, but I’ve never been nice back. I don’t like you, and I always treat you terribly. Why do you keep treating me this way?”

“I don’t think you mean most of what you’ve done. You just have trouble expressing how you feel. Recently I’ve noticed you getting better, and you’re finally starting to open up. I feel responsible for you and your brother. I wish there was more I could do, but letting you stay here, no matter what you do, is the least I can do.”

He didn’t know how to respond to that. If she felt responsible, why couldn’t she have prevented his brother from joining the Demon Slayers? She’d been the one to ask the two of them to join in the first place. But she was still so nice. He was confused, but he was too tired to try and understand.

With neither of them speaking, the room was silent, and all that could be heard was the raindrops hitting the roof. It was very peaceful. It had been months since he felt like this during the night. He closed his eyes and slowly drifted off into sleep as Amane continued to hold him.

***

When Yuichiro woke up he found himself with his head resting on Amane’s lap. A blanket had been pulled over him as he slept. He rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand and looked up to find Amane smiling down at him.

“Good morning,” she said. She looked tired. He wondered if she had gotten any sleep. She didn’t need to stay with him all night. He would have been fine by himself. But he was grateful.  He didn’t think he had slept this good since before the death of his parents. 

He pushed himself up so he was sitting, the blanket falling into his lap. He noticed the rain had stopped, which meant he no longer had an excuse to stay here anymore.

“I’ll be going back home today,” he announced. “The rain stopped, so I don’t need to worry about that anymore.”

“You’re allowed to stay here whenever you wish to. It doesn’t just have to be because it’s raining,” she said. “However, today your brother will be coming by to take you back home.”

“What?” Why was his brother coming here?

“He finished with his mission, so my husband sent him a crow to let him know you were here,” she replied. “We didn’t want him arriving at home to find you missing. This way the two of you can walk home together. Until he arrives, you can stay here if you’d like.”

“That’s fine,” he replied. 

“Would you like to join us for breakfast this morning?”

He hadn’t eaten much the day before, so he nodded. 

“I told them they could start without us, because I wasn’t sure if you’d want to be joining them today.”

Amane rose to her feet and helped pull Yuichiro up. She walked out of the room, and Yuichiro  followed as she led him down the hallway eventually arriving to where the rest of the family was already eating.

As the two walked in, everybody seated around the table turned to face them. Yuichiro reached out and grasped onto Amane’s kimono, suddenly feeling nervous. He recognized the four girls, as each of them had been to his house a couple times before. 

Also seated around the table he saw Amane’s son who she had spoken of before. He noticed the boy was dressed up the same as his sisters. 

The final person he noticed was a young man with something that looked to be a scar covering much of the upper half of his face and milky eyes. It must have been Amane’s husband, the man in charge of the Demon Slayers. Oyakata, Muichiro had called him. He was the one who’d had Muchiro join. He was the one who kept sending his brother away on missions. If his brother died it would be his fault. 

Yuichiro shot him a quick glare before sitting down next to Amane. 

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Yuichiro,” Oyakata said as soon as Yuichiro had sat down. “I’ve been hearing a lot about you. My family has all been so worried about you.”

Yuichiro stared down at his lap and didn’t reply. 

“Your brother has been worried as well,” he continued.

Yuichiro’s head shot up and he stared across the table at Oyakata. “My brother?” 

“I’ve spoken with him a few times. He was very worried about always leaving you home alone while he went on missions. I let him know that Amane was visiting him on all the days he was away, but none of us wanted to force you to come here if you wouldn’t be comfortable.”

Yuichiro went silent, and he started picking at the food that had been placed in front of him.

“I’m sorry about what happened to you. I wish there was more I could have done for you and your brother.”

That can’t be true. Why would you care about us?

For a while it was silent. After seeming to realize he wasn’t going to be getting any response from Yuichiro, Oyakata started talking with his family instead for the remainder of the meal. Yuichiro didn’t pay attention to them, only focusing on eating his food until breakfast was over. 

***

Yuichiro sat outside next to Amane as he waited for Muichiro to arrive to take him home. Once breakfast had ended, he had followed her as she showed him around the estate showing him where everything was. She had then gotten some snacks and a drink for him, and they had gone outside to sit in the sun and wait.

He didn’t want her to know, but Yuichiro was happy Amane had stayed by his side all morning. Due to weeks of having her around whenever he was alone at home had led to him feeling safe with her next to him. 

A little ways off from where they sat, three of the Ubuyashiki children were playing. It was the boy and the two younger girls which Yuichiro still hadn’t figured out the names of. For a while he and Amane sat there in silence while Yuichiro ate his snack and watched the kids play. He wished he could have a relationship like that with his brother, but he always ruined it. 

“Do you think you’ll be coming back?” Amane asked, breaking the silence.

He turned to face her. “What?”

“Next time your brother is away, you’re welcome to come back. We’d be happy to have you.”

He thought about it for a while before he made his decision. He needed to finally get his thoughts in order, as he had been struggling with his feelings recently.

He still wasn’t the happiest with them because he knew it was because of them Muichiro had joined the Demon Slayers. He also didn’t want to appear weak. He needed to prove that he was able to take care of himself because if he couldn’t take care of himself, how was he ever going to prove to his brother he could take care of him as well.

But he was scared. He hated spending the night alone as he had done for much of the past several weeks. He was finally able to admit to himself, but no one else, that he was struggling due to this constant fear. 

He also felt lonely most of the time when his brother was away. He didn’t know what he would have done if Amane hadn’t come to visit him every day. While he still didn’t completely trust her, he had realized over the past few weeks she was genuinely being nice to him. He felt comfortable around her. 

While his two options were less than ideal, choosing to come back to the Ubuyashiki Estate seemed to be the best choice. While he still wasn’t completely sure on his feelings towards the family, at least he would be safe. He’d be able to comfortably sleep again as he had the night before.

“You don’t have to decide now,” Amane said after a while of neither of them speaking. “And if you say no, you can always change your mind. No matter what though, I will still continue to make sure you aren’t left alone while your brother is away.”

He looked up at her and took a deep breath. 

“I’m going to come back.”

***

Shortly after Yuichiro’s conversation with Amane and his decision to come back, Muichiro had arrived. Amane had told Yuichiro that before they went home, Oyakata wanted to talk with his brother, and she got up to go bring Muichiro to him leaving Yuichiro to sit by himself. 

While he waited for his brother to finish talking with Oyakata, he continued to watch the three Ubuyashiki children play. 

One second the three of them were all running around with each other, but the next thing he knew, one of the girls was running directly at him. She flew towards him wrapping her arms around his neck knocking him onto his back before he had any time to move out of the way.

He started to panic a bit, but he didn’t want to hurt her as he had done to the girl the night before, so he didn’t push her away. He told himself it was just a little kid and that she wasn’t trying to hurt him. It wasn’t the same girl who had been in his room the night before. That one had a flower hair piece on the right side of her hair, while this girl had one on her left. 

“Kuina, get off of him,” her brother called. “You’ll get in trouble.” 

Kuina pouted and climbed off of him, giving him space to sit back up.

“Come play with us,” she said.

“You don’t have to,” the other girl from the night before said softly after appearing by his side. Kanata, he remembered. That was her name.

“I’ll play,” he announced surprising himself. It seemed fun, and it had been so long since he remembered playing around like this with Muichiro. He didn’t think he would embarrass himself in front of little kids.

Kuina grinned at him. “We’re playing tag. I was it, so now it’s your turn.” 

She quickly got to her feet and took off running. He watched her and the other two run off for a few seconds before getting to his feet and running after them. The first one of the children he caught up to was Kanata. He reached out with his arm and bent down to tap her on the shoulder. He then took off running in the opposite direction.

The four of them continued like this until Yuichiro heard Muichiro calling his name. The three kids all stopped running and looked up at Yuichiro.

“Will you come back and play with us again?” Kuina asked him.

The boy, who Yuichiro had since learnt was named Kiriya reached out and flicked his sister on the forehead. “Mother said not to ask him about that. She said it might scare him away. He’s supposed to decide by himself.”

Kuina rubbed at her forehead. “Sorry. You don’t have to come back if you don’t want to.”

“I’m coming back,” Yuichiro said, before turning and walking over to his brother not giving the others a chance to respond or staying to see their reactions.

When he caught up to Muichiro he looked him over to see if he’d come back with any injuries. All that was visible was a few small cuts and bruises like he often came home with. He didn’t see any tears on his clothes this time either which meant he shouldn’t have any large gashes. When he’d first arrived he hadn’t been limping or moving in any way that showed he was trying to hide an injury, so Yuichiro decided he was okay this time.

Yuichiro reached out and took his brother’s hand. “Can we go home now?”

Muichiro nodded and the two of them started the journey home. Unlike the last couple times the two had walked home together, they spoke to each other most of the way. 

“Oyakata said you’re going to be staying with them whenever I’m away,” Muichiro said, starting the conversation. “Does this mean you’re starting to understand them more.”

“No,” Yuichiro responded. “I’m not staying with them because I like them. I still hate them, and I hate the Demon Slayers and anybody who works with them. But their house is a lot nicer than ours, and they feed me, so why would I turn that down.”

He was lying again. He was always lying. 

“You seemed to be getting along with some of the kids.”

“No.”

“But you were playing with them when I came outside.”

“I wanted to see what it was like because it’s not like you’re ever around to play with.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Good.”

Stop it.

Yuichiro looked over at his brother’s face, and saw the hurt expression that was once again his fault. 

“I just want to be able to protect you. That’s why I joined the Demon Slayers,” Muichiro said. “That’s why I can’t be home all the time.”

“I told you that’s not your job,” Yuichiro snapped. “I’m older. I can take care of myself just fine. And it’s my job to look after you.”

“Miss Amane said that you were crying last night. She said you looked scared. She said when she came by the house yesterday you were crying then too. How are you supposed to take care of yourself when you’re like that?”

“She’s lying. I’m not scared. I don’t need you!”

Muichiro yanked his hand out of Yuichiro’s grasp. He watched as tears began rolling down his brother’s cheeks. Yuichiro had hurt him just like he always did.

“You obviously hate me!” Muichiro said a bit louder than Yuichiro was used to. Muichiro had never yelled at him like this before. He started rubbing his eyes wiping the tears away. “Why don’t you just stay with them? Why even bother coming home if you don’t want to be there with me?”

I don’t hate you. I want to stay with you.

But the words never passed his lips.

***

A few days later, Muichiro was sent on another mission, and Yuichiro was back at the Ubuyashiki Estate. After Muichiro had dropped him off and let Oyakata know he was there, Yuichiro had gone straight to the room they had given him and hid under the covers of his futon. 

That had been this morning, and he still had yet to get up. A couple times throughout the day one of the kids would poke their head in and ask if he was hungry or if he wanted to come play, but he ignored them every time. 

He heard the door open once again and burrowed himself further under the covers. This time instead of one of the children asking him a question, he heard footsteps walking across the room to where he was laying. 

Yuichiro pulled the covers down, and peeked his head out to see Amane kneeling down next to his futon. He immediately pulled them back over his head. This was becoming an all too familiar scene. It seemed that more often than not, Amane was there next to his futon whether here or back at home. 

“Go away,” he mumbled. “I want to be alone.”

I just hurt everybody I talk to.

“You’ve been in here all day,” Amane replied. “We’re getting worried about you. You seemed to be doing okay the other day. Did something happen with your brother?”

Having learnt just how stubborn Amane could be over the past few weeks, he knew there was no getting out of this conversation. He sighed and pulled the blankets back off and sat up, ready to get this inevitable conversation over with.

“We got into an argument,” he answered. “He thinks I hate him, and now he won’t talk to me.”

The past few days at home had been silent. Neither of them had spoken a single word to each other except when Muichiro was telling him he was being sent on another mission. The walk to the estate had also been silent. However, the two of them still shared a futon every night, which Yuichiro didn’t fully understand, but he went along with it, and didn’t ask questions.

“What happened?”

“I got upset with him because he’s always talking about how he wants to protect me, but that’s supposed to be my job, because I’m the older brother. I couldn’t do anything to protect him when we were attacked, and now there’s nothing I can do because I lost my arm, and it’s not fair.”

Amane frowned at him. “I understand how you feel,” she said. “There’s nothing I can do to protect my family. Not even my own children. It’s not a nice feeling, knowing there’s nothing you can do to protect your own family.”

Yuichiro scrunched up his face in confusion. “What do you mean?"

“You’ve seen the mark on my husband’s face. It would take too long to fully explain, but his family has been cursed for generations which includes out children. None of them will live past thirty, and I can’t do anything about it.”

“Sorry,” said Yuichiro, not sure what else could be said to that.

“And I feel so guilty for not being able to do more for you and your brother. I might not be able to do anything for my family, but I can at least try to do more for you.”

Yuichiro realized that Amane must have really cared about him and Muichiro. At some point her visits had gone from her trying to recruit them, to her trying to make sure they were safe. This was why she kept visiting him when his brother way away. She felt responsible for them. They were people she was able to protect.

There wasn’t a lot she could do, so she was doing what she could.

While he couldn’t bring himself to apologize to her for how he had been treating her for months, he slid over next to where she was seated and leaned up against her as his way of acknowledging her.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

***

The next morning, Yuichiro woke up to his door flying open. He quickly threw off his covers and sat up in his futon, looking towards the doorway. Standing just outside his room was one of the girls, Nichika.

“My father needs to speak with you,” she announced as soon as she saw he was awake and listening. Then before giving him the chance to get up, she started walking down the hallway to lead him to where Oyakata was.

Yuichiro quickly got to his feet, so she wouldn’t disappear from sight. As he left his room, he shut the door behind him, and he sped to catch up with Nichika.

“Is there something wrong?” he asked, trying to remember if he’d done anything Oyakata would be getting mad at him for. He’d been trying to be careful.

“I do not know,” she replied. “He only told me that it was important I get you to him as quickly as possible.”

Once they arrived at the room where Oyakata was, Nichika ushered him inside and then turned around and left. Yuichiro stood awkwardly in the doorway, not sure what he was expected to do. He looked to Oyakata who was sitting down on the floor.

“Did...Did I do something wrong?” Yuichiro asked. He was starting to enjoy Amane’s company, and didn’t want to do anything that would make them send him away.

“It’s about your brother,” Oyakata replied. “He’s been taken to the Butterfly Estate. I was told he was hurt pretty bad.”

Yuichiro stopped breathing.

“Will he be okay?” he asked. He tried to stop his hand from shaking. 

“I was told that he will be fine. He’ll just need to take some time off to recover,” Oyakata replied. “The reason I called you here is that I have a letter I’d like you to bring him. I could send a crow, but I figured that you would want to visit him. Is that alright with you?”

“Yes.” He knew he and Muichiro weren’t currently speaking, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to make sure he was okay. He was sure his brother would be happy to see him. He was hurt. He had to be happy to see him. Wouldn’t it be worse if Yuichiro didn’t show up?

Oyakata held out a folded up piece of paper, and Yuichiro walked across the room and took it from his hand.

“I’ll have one of the crows show you the way.”

***

“He doesn’t want to see you."

“I have a letter from Oyakata I have to give him.”

“I’m so sorry. You never tell me you were a crow.”

“I need to give it to him. He said it’s important."

“And I can give it to him for you, so you don’t have to.”

“Oyakata gave it to me to deliver.”

“Fine. But it won’t be me who Shinobu will be mad at if she finds out.”

For once Yuichiro decided he didn’t care if Shinobu got mad at him. He needed to see his brother. She might be scary but not as scary as the thought of losing Muichiro. 

When Yuichiro arrived at the Butterfly Estate, one of the younger girls had led him to the room where Muichiro was currently resting, but blocking the door he had found Aoi. She stood there with arms folded across her chest, telling him that he was not allowed to enter. 

“I don’t know what you did to him to get him so upset with you, but one of the first things he said when he first woke up was that if you showed up, he didn’t want us to let you in,” Aoi told him.

“It’s none of your business,” he replied. He’d already talked to Amane about it. Nobody else needed to know. “Now move out of my way, and let me in.”

“When he kicks you out, because I know he will, come find me,” she said. “I know you aren’t going to want to leave until he’s recovered, so I have plenty of work to give you to keep you busy.” And with that she stepped out of the way, and started walking down the hallway and into another room.

Yuichiro took a step forward, and opened the door and walked inside the room where Muichiro was. After a quick glance around the room, he found the bed where Muichiro was currently asleep and walked over, pulling a seat up to the side of the bed.

From what Yuichiro could see of his brother, Muichiro was covered in bandages. He’d never seen his brother with so many injuries before. Not even after the two of them had been attacked. He wondered what could have happened for him to be in such bad shape. After most other missions he came home with just a few scrapes and bruises. And when it was bad, it never took more than a couple days for him to heal.

“Why can’t you just quit already?” he said, mostly to himself, knowing that Muichiro wouldn’t hear him as he slept. “Why do they keep sending you out to fight for them. You’re only twelve. It isn’t fair.”

“Yui?” Muichiro was awake. Yuichiro prayed he hadn’t heard him talking. “What are you doing here? I told them not to let you in.”

He doesn’t want to see me.

“I have a letter for you from Oyakata. He asked me to deliver it.”

Yuichiro pulled the letter out and held it out to him. He watched as Muichiro slowly lifted his arm to grab it, wincing in pain.

“You can go now,” said Muichiro. “You delivered the letter, so leave.”

“I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

Muichiro turned his head away. “Please just leave already.” His voice cracked as he spoke. He was crying. Yuichiro hadn’t even done anything, and yet he’d still managed to hurt his brother. 

He got to his feet and left without another word. He knew anything he said now would just make everything worse.

He decided to go find Aoi.

***

After a few minutes of searching around the Butterfly Estate, Yuichiro found Aoi in one of the rooms stripping the beds of their bedding and throwing all the blankets and sheets into a basket to be washed. He stood in the doorway for a while just watching until she finally looked up and noticed him standing there.

“You lasted in there longer than I thought you would,” she said. “Did he finally kick you out?”

“It’s none of your business,” he replied.

He continued watching her strip the beds.

“How long are you just going to stand there? You better start helping, or I’ll send you home.”

Not wanting that, Yuichiro walked over to one of the beds, and started taking off the blankets and sheets just as Aoi was doing. He was thankful this job didn’t include any folding, because that had always been one of the more difficult tasks Aoi had given him back when she was helping him get used to using one arm.

“You should apologize to you brother,” Aoi told him as she continued to work.

“What makes you think I’m the one who should be apologizing?”

She turned to face him and rolled her eyes. “Well am I wrong?”

Yuichiro let out a sigh and shook his head. “He thinks I hate him.” He flopped onto his back in one of the beds. “I don’t though. I just want to protect him, but I can't.”  

“You can’t always protect everybody you want, and it sucks,” she said. The way she said it made it seem like there was something she wasn’t telling him, but he wouldn’t ask. If she wasn’t bringing it up now, she likely wouldn’t want to talk about it.

“You did a great job taking care of me and Muichiro though,” he said instead. 

“That’s different. I took care of you after you were attacked, not while it was happening.”

He sat up and smiled at her. “Well it’s more than I could ever do, so thank you.”

Yuichiro watched as Aoi’s cheeks turned bright red, and she quickly turned away from him. “Shut up and get back to work.”

***

Over the next few days, Yuichiro remained at the Butterfly Estate and was forced by Aoi to help with the chores doing all sorts of tasks. This included helping with some of the patients that came though. He was even able to help with some of them on his own now due to all that he’d done during his stays at the Butterfly Estate.

He was surprised when one morning Shinobu came in the room where he’d been sleeping to tell him that his brother wanted to see him. He hadn’t wanted to bother him after their last conversation, and was hoping that eventually Muichiro would want to see him, but it was still unexpected. 

Yuichiro stood outside the room his brother was in for several minutes before finally working up the courage to walk in. After his conversations with Amane and Aoi, he really did want to apologize, but he didn’t know if he’d be able to.

“I need to talk to you,” Muichiro said the second Yuichiro took a seat next to his bed. He was sitting up today and looked like he was doing much better. The last time Muichiro had started a conversation like this, he had announced that he would be joining the Demon Slayers, so it was a bit worrying. 

“I’m going to be a Pillar,” he continued. “This probably means I’ll be busy more often, but it’ll be okay because you can stay with Oyakata and his family.”

Yuichiro’s heart started pounding in his chest.

“You’re only twelve. Why would Oyakata make you a Pillar?”

Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.

“Well they’ve been down a few recently, and I killed one of the Lower Moons, so it doesn’t matter how old I am.”

“You’ve only been a Demon Slayer for two months.”

“I know, but-”

“Why do you keep doing this! Why can’t you just quit already? Please ,” he begged.

It wasn’t fair. He hardly ever saw his brother anymore, and now he was going to be busy all the time. He’d already gotten himself badly hurt this time, and if he was going to be a Pillar he’d get sent on more dangerous missions, and this would only continue. 

“I don’t want to fight with you anymore, Yui. Please leave. I just thought I’d let you know."

He couldn’t leave yet. He didn’t want to keep making their relationship to work. He needed to apologize. But he couldn’t.

He couldn’t.

He shot up out of his seat and wrapped his arm around Muichiro, and heard him let out a confused “Yui?” 

“I don’t hate you,” Yuichiro whispered and then quickly pulled away. He watched as Muichiro’s expression softened.

“I’m glad.”

Yuichiro turned and walked out of the room knowing if he stayed he’d say something to ruin everything again.

***

Within a few days, Muichiro was able to go back home, but he still wasn’t able to go on missions for a couple more weeks while he fully recovered. Before they’d gone home, they stopped at the Ubuyashiki Estate where Muichiro spoke for a while with Oyakata while Yuichiro got dragged into another game with the children.

After a few days of being at home, they moved. Since he was now a Pillar, he was given a new house from Oyakata. They hadn’t had much, so it took only one trip to bring all their things to their new place. Yuichiro didn’t like it. It felt too big for just the two of them, and it felt empty, since there wasn’t much to fill it. 

During Muichiro’s recovery, Yuichiro’s relationship with him had improved, but not much. They were talking again, but it still wasn’t back to the way they had been when they were younger, before they were attacked. From before their parents had died.

Once Muichiro was fully recovered, Yuichiro was dropped back off with the Ubuyashikis. Muichiro was, like he said he would be, much busier now. Most of his time was now spent living with them instead of at home. While he missed Muichiro, he was getting used to the Ubuyashiki family.

He spent most of his stays at the Ubuyashiki Estate attached to Amane, but occasionally one or more of the children would drag him off elsewhere. Sometimes he’d see a Demon Slayer around who had come to speak with Oyakata. The ones who came by most often, he learnt, were Pillars like his brother. He never spoke to them.

The person he saw the least was Oyakata. He still didn’t fully trust him, especially after he’d had Muichiro become a Pillar, so Yuichiro was always trying his best to avoid him. One thing he had noticed, however, was around the same time every day without fail, Yuichiro would see Oyakata and one of his children walking off somewhere. 

After a few weeks of staying with the Ubuyashikis, Yuichiro’s curiosity led to him following Oyakata to see exactly what it was he was doing every day. Today it was Hinaki who was helping to lead him wherever it was he went everyday. She held onto her father’s hand as they walked, Yuichiro trailing behind them, trying not to be spotted. It was a short walk.

When they arrived at a large field littered with graves, the two of them stopped. Oyakata leaned down and whispered something in Hinaki’s ear. He watched as she nodded and began walking back in the direction they’d come. Yuichiro hid behind a tree, so she wouldn’t see him on her way past. As she walked away, Oyakata knelt down on the ground in front of some of the graves.

Once Hinaki was out of sight, Yuichiro realized his attempt at stealth had failed.

“I know you’ve been following me.”

“I’m sorry. I just…” He trailed off. His heart was racing.

“You wanted to know where I disappear to every day.”

He paused a moment before responding. “Yes.”

“Come sit.”

And he did. He took a spot on the ground on Oyakata’s side. They sat together in silence for a while before Yuichiro spoke up.

“What is this place?”

“This is where countless Demon Slayers have been buried over the years.” It was the answer he had been expecting. “Not all of them have been buried here. Some were buried with their family members and many others left behind no remains, but this is where I come to pay respect to them all.”

Yuichiro listened as Oyakata started listing names.

“You remember all of them?”

“Just the ones who have died under me.”

“But why spend so much time remembering them?”

“I see them as my children. I feel responsible for them.”

Yuichiro snorted. “Your children? You’re barely twenty.”

“I’m the one who sends them on missions. The one who sends them to their deaths. When I’m gone they will be Kiriya’s children.”

Neither of them spoke for a while.

“Do you ever feel guilty that you can’t do more to protect them?”

“Always.”

It was the same for all of them. Oyakata, Amane, Aoi, and himself. They all had people they wanted to protect, but there was only so much any of them could do. 

They just had to do what they could.

 

Chapter Text

 

Yuichiro hadn’t been home in weeks. He wasn’t even sure when the last time he had been home was. He still didn’t like his and Muichiro’s new house. He had liked their home in the woods much better. He’d grown up there with Muichiro and his parents. But the house had now been sitting there untouched for at least a month now, and Yuichiro didn’t think they’d ever go back there again. 

The Ubuyashiki Estate was starting to feel more like home to him than where he now lived with Muichiro. He even felt more comfortable in his futon at the estate than in his futon at home, even though when he slept at home, he and Muichiro still shared a futon.

During those weeks he’d been away from home, he had only seen Muichiro once, and he missed him constantly. Not that he ever told anybody. The one time Muichiro had visited him, he had been stopping by to talk to Oyakata. Once he was done, Yuichiro had found him and brought him to his room to show his brother. They had talked for a while before Muichiro said he had to leave, and he hadn’t seen him since.

Muichiro still wouldn’t smile at him.

Every few days Yuichiro would ask Oyakata for news on his brother. The answer was always the same. Muichiro was fine, and Oyakata said that he would tell him if something ever happened. This still didn’t stop Yuichiro from constantly asking. 

He wished Muichiro would at least send him a letter occasionally. That’s what Aoi had begun to do recently. They hadn’t seen each other since Muichiro had become a Pillar, and about a week ago he received a letter from her where she just wrote about what had been going on since he’d last visited including a story about a Pillar that had stopped by that Shinobu loved to torment.

Yuichiro was currently working on writing her a letter back. In his last letter, the first one he had written after first getting one from Aoi, he had told her about how he was staying with the Ubuyashikis. In her response she had teased him for finally giving in after having refused to have anything to do with the Demon Slayers as a whole for so long.

In the letter he was currently writing, he was telling her about some of the things he had been doing with the Ubuyashiki children. He wrote about some of the games they had played together, including new ones they had taught him.

He was still in the middle of writing when he heard a knock at the door, and he looked up as Amane walked in. Standing behind her, still in the hallway were Nichika and Hinaki.

“Would you mind helping me with something today?” Amane asked once she had entered the room.

He nodded. Since he’d been staying at the Ubuyashiki Estate he’d helped out with some small tasks here and there, usually cleaning, so he figured it would be something like that. 

“I was going to go into town today to buy some things I need for dinner, but Kanata is sick, so I’d prefer to stay home and look after her,” Amane said. “Hinaki and Nichika said they would go to town for me, but I think I would feel better if you went with them if that’s alright with you.”

“I don’t mind,” he replied. He wasn’t a big fan of being around so many strangers, but Amane made it very hard to say no to her.

“Hold out your hand,” she told him. He did as she said and watched as she dropped a few coins into his outstretched hand. “These are for you. The girls already have the money for what I need, and I’ve given them the list of what I need. Please use this to buy something for yourself. Stay out as long as you’d like. Just make sure you’re home before it’s time to start making dinner.”

Yuichiro wondered if she really needed him to escort the girls into town, or if she just wanted to give him something fun to do for the day. He even had a passing thought that Kanata might not even be sick, and that Amane was just using that as an excuse. But he didn’t really think that was something she’d lie about. 

“Tell Kanata I hope she feels better,” he said. 

Amane smiled at him. “Thank you. I’ll have the girls wait outside for whenever you’re ready.”

She got to her feet and left the room.

Once she was gone, Yuichiro looked down at the half written letter in front of him, deciding he would have to finish when he came home. He stored the writing materials away to be used later. 

***

Yuichiro had found the girls waiting for him in front of the estate. When they had spotted him, Hinaki had latched onto his arm while Nichika had stood by his other side, as they made their way into town.

Hinaki had spent most of the walk having a mostly one-sided conversation with Yuichiro. He hadn’t paid her much attention, instead worrying about having to deal with a crowd of strangers. He only occasionally responded to something she said.Nichika, on the other hand, had been silent, keeping the serious expression she always seemed to have on her face. 

After a short while, the three of them walked into town. It was crowded, just as Yuichiro had expected, but with the girls at his sides, he felt fairly calm. He started to wonder if Amane had sent the girls with him instead of the other way around, as they would have likely been perfectly fine on their own.

“First let’s get everything on our list, and then we can spend the rest of the day shopping,” Hinaki said. Then without letting either of the others get any words in, she took off in the direction of a nearby shop, dragging Yuichiro along, Nichika following just behind them. 

Yuichiro tried to pull his arm out of Hinaki’s grasp, but his attempts proved to be unsuccessful. She continued dragging him along into a shop as she started to look around for the list Amane had given them while also talking to him nonstop. Nichika had left them to find some other items on the list.

That’s when he first noticed.

People were staring.

They were staring at him.

At his left arm.

He needed to get out.

“Hinaki?” She didn’t respond.

“Hinaki!” he tried again, a bit louder. This time she stopped in the middle of whatever it was she had been saying and looked up at him, a questioning look on her face. 

“Can you let go of my arm please?” As soon as the question left his mouth, Hinaki pulled her arms away and took a step backwards, giving him more space. 

He wanted to go home.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “Mother said I should be careful being touchy with you, because of what happened with Kanata, but I always forget.”

He felt all the eyes still watching him.

“It’s fine. I’m just going to go wait outside, okay? It’s kind of crowded in here.”

He wanted to hurt them. Why couldn’t they stop staring at him?

Hinaki nodded. “Alright. We’ll be right out once we pay for everything.”

As soon as she finished speaking, Yuichiro turned towards the entrance, away from all the stares and walked outside, only to find more people looking at his arm. He couldn’t escape all the eyes.

Some people that looked his way seemed to be pitying him. He hated those looks the most. He didn’t need to be pitied. He could do everything fine by himself.

Others, he noticed, seemed to be laughing. These people were usually younger, chatting amongst friends and laughing as they looked over in his direction. 

Some people just seemed to be curious, likely wondering what had happened for somebody as young as him to have lost an arm.

He couldn’t breathe.

Yuichiro started walking away as quickly as he could. He couldn’t handle being in the crowd right now. He found a small, empty alleyway nearby that was between two buildings and sat down leaning against the wall trying to calm himself down.

He wasn’t sure how long it had been when Nichka and Hinaki finally found him. He hadn’t even noticed they had arrived until Hinaki was throwing her arms around him for a hug. 

“Let go!” he cried out, causing Hinaki to jump backwards. 

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I did it again.”

Nichika walked over and knelt down next to the two of them and turned to face Yuichiro. “Did something happen? You weren’t there when we got outside. We were looking around for you for a while.”

“People were staring at me,” he replied. “They were making fun of me.”

“They do that to us lots too,” Hinaki piped up. “We hear them talk about how creepy we look. You just have to ignore them. Don’t let it bother you.”

“If you would like, we can go back home now,” Nichika said. “Hinaki and I finished buying everything off the list. We can go shopping another day.”

Yuichiro shook his head. “It’s fine,” he lied. He wasn’t really comfortable in the crowd with everybody staring at him, but he wanted to spend the money he had been given. He wanted to buy something for Muichiro. “We can go shopping today.”

Hinaki smiled and grabbed onto his hand pulling him to his feet. “Don’t worry. Me and Nichika will protect you.”

I can take care of myself .

“Thank you.”

Nichika grabbed hold of their groceries, and the three of them walked out of the alleyway. Yuichiro could still feel the eyes on him, but he felt slightly better with the girls at his side. He tried to ignore the stares like Hinaki said, but it was hard. He instead tried telling himself it didn’t matter what people thought.

They spent the next few hours visiting various shops around town. Yuichiro spent most of the money Amane had given him on sweets. Some he decided to keep for himself, but some of them he wanted to give to Muichiro. He’d never seen most of them before and he wanted to share.

In one of the shops the three stopped at, Hinaki and Nichika started whispering something to each other, occasionally glancing in his direction. Eventually Nichika walked over to him, and dragged him outside, while Hinaki went to pay for something.

“Let’s get something to eat,” Hinaki said as she met up with Yuichiro and Hinaki outside. Before letting the other two answer, as Yuichiro was starting to notice she often did, she started walking off in the direction of a nearby cafe. Yuichiro and Nichika quickly followed after her before she was out of sight. 

A short while later, Yuichiro and the girls were seated at a table with food and drinks in front of them. As had been the case for most of the day, Hinaki was the one doing almost all of the talking, with Yuichiro and Nichika only offering an occatinal response. 

He had almost forgotten the stares he had been getting all day when he heard it.

“Mama, look at that boy’s arm.” It was a small boy, not far from where they were seated. He was pointing in his direction, tugging on his mother’s kimono. Yuichiro tightened his grip on the cup he was holding.

Nichika seemed to have noticed what was happening pretty quickly. “I think we should go home now,” she said as she gathered what they had bought and stood up. 

Hinaki looked over to where the boy and his mother were and nodded, seeming to understand as well. “We need to get home so we can start working on dinner.”

“Yuichiro, are you coming?” Nichika asked. He realized he hadn’t moved.  His hand was still wrapped tightly around his cup. A few drops of his drink spilled out, and he realized his hand was shaking. He hadn’t realized how badly this was starting to affect him.

Hinaki yanked the cup out of his hand, placing it back onto the table. She then grabbed his arm, and helped get Yuichiro to his feet.

“Come on,” she said. “We should be getting home.”

She dragged him out of the cafe and away from the boy and his mother, and the three of them started to make their way back to the Ubuyashiki Estate. 

***

When the three of them arrived back at home, Yuichiro went straight to his room. Right now all he wanted to do was hide under his covers, but he really needed to finish writing his letter to Aoi, and he thought that it might help him to get his mind off things.

He hid the sweets he had bought for Muichiro away and pulled out the half finished letter the continued writing. In the letter, he included some of the events of the day shopping with the girls. However, he didn’t write anything about his panicking or about the people who had been staring at him. Aoi didn’t need to know any of that.

As he was finishing up the door opened revealing Amane. He had been expecting this to happen eventually. He hadn’t gone to see her at all since arriving back at the estate, and he knew the girls knew about what had happened and would likely tell their mother. She always showed up.

Amane came over and sat down next to him on the floor. “Nichika and Hinaki told me you had some trouble in town today.”

“I’m fine,” he said. “It was stupid anyways.” He wished he could get this over with quickly, so he could just go to bed, despite the sun still being out.  He was exhausted. 

“I’m sure it wasn’t stupid. You’ve been through a lot this year, and I know you’re sometimes still having a bit of trouble dealing with it. I want to be available for you to talk to if you ever need it. So if you’d like to tell me what happened today, I would like to listen.”

He really didn’t want to talk about it. He just wanted to be left alone. However, he had been noticing recently that it was very hard to send her away, when he’d previously yelled at her whenever she came to see him at his house. Now he couldn’t bring himself to say anything even slightly rude or else he felt awful. He hated feeling this way. 

“Everybody kept staring at me,” he said, despite telling himself he wasn’t going to say anything. He figured it would be better to just deal with it on his own. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arm around his legs, resting his chin on top of his knees. “Everybody was staring at my arm all day, and some people were making fun of me, and I hate it. I’ve mostly gotten used to it being gone, but when people point it out I just start remembering what happened. Why can’t they just leave me alone?” 

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I wish I would have known this was still affecting you so badly. I wouldn’t have sent you into town if I’d known something like this would happen. I thought it would be nice for you to go out and do something different for the day.”

“I just want to stop being scared all the time.” He tried back his tears, not wanting Amane to see him crying today. “And I’m always scared I’m going to get attacked again which is why I hate being in crowds. Even when the sun’s up. I hate it! It’s not fair!”

She reached forward and wiped the tears that had started forming in his eyes. She noticed just like she always did. He wanted to be left alone.

“We want you to feel safe,” she told him. “If there’s ever anything you don’t feel comfortable doing, all you have to do is tell us. I’m not going to make you go into town anymore if you don’t feel safe when you go. We all care about you.”

“Okay,” he replied, not being able to say much else in response. “Can I go to bed now?” He wanted her to leave. He was done being around other people for the day. 

“Are you sure you don’t want dinner? You don’t have to eat with us. I can bring you a plate to eat in here.”

Yuichiro shook his head. “I’m not hungry. I just want to sleep.”

“Alright,” she said, getting to her feet. “If you’re still not feeling well tomorrow, you can always come talk to me some more, okay?”

He nodded once more and watched as she walked out of the room. Once the door was closed, he put away the letter to Aoi then climbed into his futon, and within a few minutes he was asleep.

***

When Yuichiro woke up the next morning, he was feeling a lot better. Having been so tired from the shopping trip had just made his emotions worse. After sleeping for so long, he didn’t feel as upset as he had been in town.

He finished what little he had left of Aoi’s letter then made his way to where the crows who had been trained to work for the Demon Slayers stayed. They lived just near the Ubuyashiki Estate, and Yuichiro had visited them several times during the past few weeks he’d been staying there. He had stopped by with some of the girls a few times to help feed and take care of them.

When Yuichiro had received his first letter from Aoi the week before, Oyakata had told him that he was free to use any of the crows at any time if he ever wanted to send any letters. There were plenty available that weren’t being used by any of the Demon Slayers.

Upon arrival one of the crows flew straight towards him and landed on his left shoulder, rubbing her face against his cheek. During the times he had stopped by to help with feeding and taking care of the crows, she had started to take a liking to him. Yuichiro had been told, that she had yet to be given to a Demon Slayer as their crow, and it was almost like she was becoming his own. 

Yuichiro reached up to pet her with his hand. “Can you send another letter to Aoi at the Butterfly Estate for me?” he asked her. She had sent his first letter for him last week, and he hoped she would agree to continue sending any letters he wanted to send. 

Once he got her approval, he tied the letter to one of her legs. It took him a bit longer that it would most other people, but he had yet to figure out a quick and easy way to tie a knot with only one hand. He didn’t want it to be so loose that it would fall off and wouldn’t end up getting delivered. The easiest way he found involved using his teeth. After a few unsuccesful attempts, she was ready to go.

Once the crow was on her way, he made his way back to the Ubuyashiki Estate. Since he had skipped dinner the night before he was hungry, not having eaten since he was in town with the girls. He had decided earlier that he would join the family for breakfast to make up for being absent the night before. As he’d started trusting the Ubuyashiki family more, he was getting more used to spending meals with them.

When he got back inside, he saw Nichika and Hinaki in the hallways looking like they were trying to find something. Hinaki spotted him first and yelled out his name as she rushed towards him. Nichika having heard her sister’s exclamation made her way over to the two as well. 

“We were looking everywhere for you,” Hinaki said. “When we woke up we went to your room to find you, but you weren’t there. I was worried you’d run off.”

“Hinaki, don’t be rude,” her sister said to her. “He wouldn’t just leave like that.”

“I was just sending a letter,” Yuichiro said. “Did you need me for something?”

“We have something for you,” Nichika said. It was odd for her to be the one to reply, usually choosing to let her twin do all the talking. “We bought it for you yesterday when we were out shopping.” He remembered when the two had started getting all secretive at one of the shops.

Hinaki held her hand out to Yuichiro presenting him with a simple blue ribbon. He realized it was the same shade of blue that had been on Muichiro’s old yukata. 

“You bought this for me?” he asked. He didn’t reach to pick it up from Hinaki’s hand. He was confused as to why he was being presented with a gift from the girls. He didn’t think he’d done anything to deserve it.

“It’s for your hair,” Hinaki said. “Your hair is really long, and Nichika and I thought it might look nice tied up, so we got you a ribbon for it. It’ll probably be hard to do it yourself, since you only have one-” She was cut off as her sister jabbed her in the side. He knew what she had been going to say, but it was nice of Nichika to stop her sister from saying it. “Since you’ll have trouble, we can do it for you whenever you’d like.”

“But why would you get something for me?”

“We feel bad for yesterday,” said Nichkia. “You weren’t feeling very well during our trip to town, so we wanted to get you something to apologize.”

He stared at the two of them blankly. “Thank you, but you didn’t need to,” he said finally, after several seconds of silence. 

“I’ll put it in for you,” said Hinaki. He suddenly felt her tugging on his yukata knocking him onto the ground in front of her.  She walked over behind him, and he felt as she lifted most his hair up off his back and got to work tying it up with the brand new ribbon.

“All done!”  

While he couldn’t see what it looked like, he liked the feeling of it being tied up the way it was.

“You look very nice,” Nichika told him. 

“Thank you,” Yuichiro said again. “You made feel a lot better.”

***

A week later Yuichiro woke up in the morning to find Amane walking into his room as she often did. This time, however, it was different, as she had a package in her arms. He yawned and sat up as he rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Good morning,” she said as she walked over to his futon. “I have something I’d like to give you.” As she spoke she pulled out a dark blue kimono from the package in her arms and held it out to him.

He was getting another gift? Since he’d gotten the ribbon from the girls last week, he’d worn it most days. One of the girls or Amane would always tie it up for him when he asked. He hadn’t been expecting another gift from any of the Ubuyashikis anytime soon, especially something like this.

After looking it over for a while, Yuichiro reached out his hand to touch it. “This is for me? But it looks so expensive.”

“I thought it would be nice to get you some new clothes. And with this you won’t stand out as much with the rest of the family, which I thought you’d appreciate.”

He just stared at her. She was considering him as part of the family. He hadn’t expected that to happen.

“Stand up,” she ordered him. “I’m going to help you get dressed.”

He did as he was told and got to his feet. She helped him out of his yukata and into the new kimono. Once he was fully dressed, Yuichiro looked down at himself. It was so nice, and he didn’t think he deserves a gift like this, but he was still happy about it anyways.

While he was busy looking over his new outfit, Amane pulled out a second piece of clothing from the package she’d brought. She was holding it out in front of him just as she had done with the kimono. This time it was a haori. The pattern on it was the same as the pattern on his yukata. 

The Ubuyashikis were being so nice to him. They let him live with them when Muichiro was busy, and now they were buying him nice gifts. He didn’t know if he deserved it after how he had been in the beginning with them.

Amane helped him slide the haori over his arms and then took a step back, smiling at him.

“It looks great on you,” she said. “I made sure the haori had extra long sleeves. I figured you’d appreciate that.”

He looked down at the sleeve covering his right arm and realized that his hand was hidden. Nobody would be able to notice just by looking at him that anything was different with his left arm, and they would just assume they were hidden in the sleeves. 

He wanted to cry. 

Instead he wrapped his arm around Amane and gave her a hug, tears starting to form in his eyes.

“Thank you.”

***

A few days later Yuichiro found himself walking to the Butterfly Estate to visit with Aoi for the day. It was a last minute decision, so she didn’t know he was coming. She wondered if she might get mad at him for that. 

Amane had suggested he take the trip that morning. A Pillar meeting was being held at the Ubyuashiki Estate today, and because of how he struggled around groups of strangers she thought it would be nice for him to be away while the meeting was going on, just in case he reacted badly.

He didn’t mind going to see Aoi and the other girls, and getting a chance to get away from the estate for the day. Amane was right about how he didn’t want to have to deal with being around so many people he didn’t know, especially within just a couple of weeks of the shopping trip. 

However, this would have been the first time in weeks he would have been able to see his brother since he would be at the meeting. Amane had told him not to worry, and that she would make sure Oyakata would have him stay behind after the meeting and wait for him to get back.

When he arrived at the Butterfly Estate, he saw the three young girls running around outside playing some sort of game. One of them spotted him, Kiyo he thought her name was, and ran over to greet him.

“I’ll take you to Aoi,” she said running off in another direction. He struggled to keep up.

They found Aoi seated on a blanket outside on the grass, eating lunch. The other girl who he sometimes saw around, Kanao, was also seated with her. He wasn’t used to seeing her without Shinobu around. As soon as they were in sight, Kiyo took off running back to the other girls.

Kanao noticed him first and patted a spot next to her on the blanket, inviting him to sit with them. He sat down to join them.

“What are you all dressed up for?” Aoi asked once he was seated. He was wearing the kimono and haori Amane had given him, and his hair was tied up with the ribbon Nichka and Hinaki had bought. Today Kuina had been the one to help him tie it up.

“Amane bought me a kimono and haori,” he answered. And then added, “It hides my arms.”

“So you call her by her name now. You used to hate even the mention of her. When did this happen?”

She was teasing him, and he knew it. He knew that in his letters he had already mentioned the fact he got along better with the Ubuyashikis. He had just never explained why, because that wasn’t something she needed her to know. She was just trying to make fun of him in front of Kanao.

“You already knew about this,” he responded.

“Well you never told me what happened.”

“I don’t have to.”

Neither of them spoke for a bit. During the silence Kanao had started to make an extra plate of food and placed it down in front of Yuichiro. He thanked her and started picking at the food he’d been given.

“That’s our food,” said Aoi. “If you wanted to join us for lunch you should have told us earlier that you’d be coming. What are you doing here anyways? I don’t remember your brother getting hurt anytime recently, and you look perfectly fine yourself.”

“I didn’t know I was coming until this morning. I didn’t want to be at home during the Pillar meeting.”

“So you’re calling it home now?”

Yuichiro felt his cheeks get hot. That wasn’t something he’d ever said in the letters before, but now that he thought about it, he was starting to consider the Ubuyashiki Estate home more than he was the estate he and Muichiro had moved into after he became a Pillar.

“I..I didn’t mean that,” he stuttered. “I’ve just been staying there so long. I just made a mistake.”

“Sure you did,” she teased.

“What are you doing out here anyways?” he asked changing the subject. “Usually all you ever seem to do is work.”

“There hasn’t been that many patients here recently,” she said. “And Shinobu is away at the meeting, so I decided to have lunch outside with Kanao today. It’s almost winter, so soon it’ll be too cold to sit outside soon.”

The three of them sat there and ate the rest of their lunch as Yuichiro and Aoi continued talking. Kanao sat silently with them listening to the two of them as they spoke and occasionally bickered about pointless things. 

Once they had finished eating, they started cleaning everything up and went inside.

Shinobu came back shortly after which meant that the meeting was over, and Yuichiro could go back the the Ubuyashiki Estate. He’d finally get to see Muichiro again after over a month.

Yuichiro said his good-byes and started to make his way back home.

***

Yuichiro found his brother waiting for him in his room. He was sitting on the floor wearing a new uniform that was more loose than his previous one had ben. Yuichiro was happy he’d finally gotten a new one made, since he’d always been complaining about the old one.

“You look nice,” Muichiro told him once he noticed that he had returned and saw his new outfit. “I’m glad you’re fitting in so well here. I wish you could be at home with me more often, but I’m always so busy."

Yuichiro didn’t respond and instead when to pull out the sweets he’d stashed away that he’d bought during the shopping trip.

“I got these for you,” he said holding some of them out. “We went shopping, and I wanted to get something for you. 

The two of them sat together talking for a while. It was the most they had spoken with each other in months. They both shared the sweets Yuichiro had bought, and swapped stories about what they’d been up to since they had last seen each other.

Muichiro still seemed off to Yuichiro. He was starting to think he would never act like he had before everything happened, and he still blamed himself. He wished Muichiro would at least smile again. He was always the positive one.

Yuichiro told Muichiro about the shopping trip, and like he had with Aoi, he excluded the parts about how he’d badly reacted. Muichiro didn’t tell a single story involving demons, which Yuichiro was glad about. Instead he mostly talked about the Pillars, most of which he had met today for the first time including the one he had heard about from Aoi’s letters.

“I’m not going to be busy for the next couple days, so you can come home with me if you want,” Muichiro said after they ran out of stories to tell each other. 

“I guess I can go with you,” Yuichiro said, unable to express how much he was actually looking forward to it. He was still mad at himself about how he continued to act like this to his brother, when his relationships with everybody else were improving.

“If you’re ready, we can leave now.”

“But it’s going to be dark soon.” He started breathing heavily. He could barely stand being outside in the sun most days. There was no way he could handle walking home in the dark. Even if Muichiro was there.

“It’ll be fine,” said Muichiro. “If anything happens, I can protect you.”

“No!” Yuichiro snapped. “I’m not going with you. I’m not going outside at night! And I don’t need you to protect me! I keep telling you that.”

He was doing it again. He was trying to be better.

Muichiro frowned. “I guess I can leave and come back to pick you up in the morning,” he said as he stood up, getting ready to leave.

“Stay here,” Yuichiro said, surprising himself for actually being honest about what he wanted.

“What?”

“Stay here, and we can go back in the morning. They won’t mind if you stay.”

Muichiro sat back down next to him. “If you really want me to, I don’t mind staying.”

Yuichiro didn’t say anything. For a while longer they kept picking at what was left of the sweets in silence. 

Amane stopped by once it started to get late, and Yuichiro told her his brother would be spending the night and that he’d be going home with him in the morning for a few days. She said it was fine and offered to get an extra futon for Muchiro which they had both automatically declined. 

For the first time in over a month, Yuichiro slept with his brother at his back.

Chapter Text

“Tokito?”

Yuichiro was trudging back to the Ubuyashiki Estate after having gone to feed the crows when he heard his name get called. He had volunteered to feed them today since he had another letter to send to Aoi, and it would be pointless to have somebody else have to walk all the way there through the snow. He hadn’t seen Aoi in months. Not since the end of autumn when he had visited during the Pillar meeting, so they had been talking only through their letters recently.

Once winter had come, and it began snowing, the furthest Yuichiro would travel was to the crows to send his letters. He was not a fan of having to walk through the snow all the time and would not do so unless absolutely necessary. 

This meant he also hadn’t been home with Muichiro in a while. Instead, whenever he wasn’t busy or whenever he stopped by the estate to talk with Oyakata, he would visit with Yuichiro. Sometimes he would even spend the night, Amane often directly offering him to stay as long as he wanted.

Thankfully, winter was almost over, and soon the snow would melt, and it would be spring. But for now, Yuichiro was walking through the snow, focusing on stepping in the footprints he had left on his way to the crows to make it easier on himself.

He looked up when he heard his name get called and saw a tall, muscular man with a headwrap and a white ponytail he had never met before. 

“Tokito, what are you doing here?” the man asked.

Yuichiro stared at him blanky, trying to figure out where he might have met the man before, but he came up with nothing. He continued his walk back deciding just to ignore him.

When he didn’t respond, the man asked him another question while following close behind. “Are you also here to talk with Oyakata?”

“No.”

Yuichiro started to realize it was probably not him that the man knew. He probably thought that he was Muichiro. He must be one of the Pillars. 

Often one of the Pillars would stop by to talk with Oyakata about something or other. Only a couple times had one of them spotted him. Once it had been a man covered in scars and the other time it had been a man with firey hair. As soon as he would realize he was in their line of sight, he’d disappear into one of the estate’s rooms where he knew they wouldn’t follow him. The exception to this was Shinobu since he had known her for a while now and did not care if she saw him. 

Usually when a Pillar dropped by he would just stay hidden with a couple of the girls and watch the Pillars from inside one of the rooms as they walked by on their way to speak with Oyakata. At least one of the girls would always tell him who they were. 

The one with the mismatched haori was Tomioka, who he realized was also the one who sometimes came up in letter from Aoi. The tall, blind one was Himejima, and the one who always carried around a snake was Iguro.

The man who was now following him to the estate was not any of the ones he had seen before.

“What are you here for if not to speak with Oyakata?”

Yuichiro walked inside, with the man just behind him as they arrived at the estate before responding. 

“I live here,” he said. “And I don’t know you, so leave me alone.” He hated talking with strangers. He had plenty of people he was close with now and no longer just his brother, so he didn’t need anybody else. 

“What?” He sounded confused. “I’m Uzui. We met at the meeting a few months ago, and I’ve seen you a few times since then.”

Starting to get annoyed, and not planning on speaking with the man, who he now knew the name of, any longer, Yuichiro turned away to walk down the hallway to go make himself some tea to warm up.

***

A few weeks after spring had come and the snow had melted, another Pillar meeting had been scheduled. It was finally warm enough to spend the day outside, so the morning of the meeting, Amane told Yuichiro and her kids that they were all going to go out for a picnic. Normally one or two of the children would have stayed with Oyakata during the meeting, but he told them that they should all go and enjoy the nice day. He would be fine.

After breakfast had ended, all seven of them started getting ready. Yuichiro, along with Nichika and Hinaki, had helped Amane get food together for everybody. Yuichiro had spent a lot of his time staying with the Ubuyashikis helping cook meals. It was something he had always enjoyed doing with his own mother, so he liked to help out when he could, and Amane never turned down the help.

Once the food was finished and packed into a couple baskets and a couple of sheets had been found, the seven of them started their walk. Soon the Pillars would be arriving for the meeting including Muichiro. Just as he had done for the last meeting, Oyakata promised that he would ask Muichiro to stay behind, so Yuichiro would be able to see him before he had to leave again.

Yuichiro and Kiriya each carried one of the baskets of food, while Kuina and Kanata carried the sheets. It was very windy outside and Yuichiro started getting annoyed at how often his hair kept hitting him in the face and that his left sleeve kept flopping around in the breeze. After about half an hour of walking, they arrived at an open field and began to set up for their picnic.

The four girls set up the sheets for everybody to sit on, and once that had been done, Kiriya and Yuichiro placed down their baskets and with Amane’s help they distributed everybody their lunch.

It was quiet, and Yuichiro didn’t like it. He had started noticing during the time he had spent with the Ubuyashikis that the children always acted differently when they were with their parents than they did when it was just themselves or Yuichiro around. Nichika seemed to be the only one who didn’t seem to completely change the way she acted when Oyakata or Amane were around, always acting more like an adult.

Normally during family meals Oyakata would direct questions or comments towards the children to keep conversation going. Whenever Yuichiro had a meal with them when neither of their parents were around, there was always a lot of chatting amongst each other. But without their father to start a conversation, and with their mother there, they stayed eerily silent. Even Hinaki, who Yuichiro had found to be the most talkative of the children didn’t say a word.

He also noticed Kuina seemed to be struggling to keep still as she ate her lunch. She kept fidgeting and looking over her shoulder into the field as if she just wanted to get up and run. Her twin sister, Kanata, also kept looking longingly at the field with less fidgeting. 

Yuichiro turned to face Amane and saw that she was frowning as she looked at all of her silent children. 

“Why don’t you all go and play,” she said, finally breaking the silence. “I know you don’t always get the opportunity, but you’re all still children, and you’re allowed to act like it. Today you can all just go have fun.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, Kuina was on her feet with a smile on her face pulling up Kanata who let out a squeak in surprise as she was dragged away. Yuichiro heard Hinaki start laughing as she watched them, and soon she was running after them.

“Make sure you finish your lunch when you’re done,” Amane called after them. Yuichiro didn’t think they even heard her, as they were too busy chasing after each other and laughing. He liked it better this way when they acted like themselves. 

“The three of you can also go play if you want,” Amane said addressing Yuichiro, Kiriya, and Nichika. “I’m not going to keep you here.

Kiriya stood up first, Nichika reluctantly following, and soon the two of them had joined the rest of their siblings.

“Aren’t you going to go play with them,” Amane asked him.

Yuichiro shook his head. “I don’t feel like it today.”

The two of them sat in silence for a while as they watched the others play.

“Why do they act different when you’re around?” Yuichiro asked, curious. He was usually too scared to ask.

“We’ve been raising them to be adults quicker than they should have to,” Amane responded. “I think they’re worried that if they act at all like a normal child should, that we’ll get upset with them. But sometimes I think they deserve to be able to play.”

Yuichiro didn’t respond after that, and he just went back to eating his food in silence, continuing to watch the children play. One by one they started to come back to where Yuichiro and Amane were still seated to eat some more of their lunch. When they came back, they were more talkative than they had been before, and they smiled at each other as they spoke. Amane even joined in with some of their conversations, but Yuichiro stayed quiet and just observed. 

Kanata was the last to come back. When Yuichiro finally spotted her running back to them, he saw that her hands were full of flowers. She must have picked them in the field, which was likely why it took her so much longer to come back.

When she joined everybody else, she started putting a flower into each of her sisters hair on the opposite sides of where they wore their hair pins. Each of them thanked her before she moved onto the next. She then gave one to her mother, and even Kiriya was given one. After distributing the flowers to her family members, Yuichiro saw that she still had two left in her hands.

“This one is for you,” Kanata said walking over to where Yuichiro was seated. He sat still as she reached out to to tuck the flower into his hair. 

“Thank you,” he told her reaching up to touch the flower that was now resting on his head.

“What’s the last one for?” Amane asked her, pulling Kanata into her lap causing Kanata to giggle.

“It’s for Father,” she responded. “I want to give it to him when we get back. I don’t want him to feel left out.”

“I’m sure he’ll love it.”

For about another half hour, the seven of them continued eating and chatting. Once they had finished their lunch they all helped to pack everything up, and started heading home, the younger girls once again carrying the sheets, and the boys carrying the baskets. 

***

They arrived back at the estate, and Amane took the basket Yuichiro had been carrying, while the children all made their way inside.

“The meeting should have ended not too long ago,” Amane said. “Your brother might still be there. I’ll take this inside, while you go see him.”

“Thank you,” he told her, and made his way over to the area of the estate he knew the Pillar meetings were always held.

When he got there, he noticed that Oyakata was no longer there, and that only some of the Pillars remained chatting amongst each other. All the Pillars he saw, he had recognized, having seen each of them around the estate at least once, and of course his brother and Shinobu he knew. 

The other three were the one with the mismatched haori that Kuina had told him was named Tomioka, the one he had seen a few weeks ago who had told him his name was Uzui, and the scarred one he didn’t yet know the name of.

Yuichiro stood off to the side, waiting until the rest of them left before going to greet his brother, not wanting to have to deal with people he did not know. However, this proved to be unsuccessful, as he saw one of the Pillars catch a glimpse of him and turned to stare.

It was Tomioka who had spotted him. He didn’t seem to be involved in any of the conversations going on with any of the other Pillars, so he had seen him first.

Yuichiro just glared at him, hoping it would prevent him from pointing him out. Tomioka just looked in his direction for a while before turning his head to look at Muichiro and then back at him again. He continued this for a while before turning to Shinobu with a pleading look. He gave a small tug on the sleeve of her haori, and when she turned to look at him, Yuichiro saw him say something to her, but he couldn’t make out what it was.

Shinobu turned in Yuichiro’s direction and smiled. “Yuichiro, I didn’t think I’d be seeing you here today,” she said. “I thought you might have gone to visit with the girls again like you did last time.”

Why did she have to say anything? Now everybody was looking at him.

Yuichiro didn’t respond, choosing again just to glare.

“Oh! You’re the one that I saw last time I was here, right?” Uzui said, being the first to speak up after a short silence. “I thought Tokito was having some issues with his memory.”

“My memory is fine,” he heard his brother respond. 

Uzui turned to look at Muichiro. “Why didn’t you tell us you had a brother?”

Muichiro shrugged. “Nobody ever asked. It didn’t seem important for anybody to know.”

“Wait, Kocho, how do you know him?” the one with the scars asked. 

“He stops by the Butterfly Estate a lot, and he’s friends with one of my girls.”

As they all continued discussing him, Yuichiro started to space out, his heart racing. They were all Demon Slayers. They were all the best of the Demon Slayers. He should feel safe. So why couldn’t he breathe? Why was he starting to panic?

One of them directed a question at him, snapping him out of his trance. “Why didn’t you join the Demon Slayers with your brother?” It was the one with the scars.

“Shinazugawa,” Shinobu said with a hint of warning to her voice. Shinazugawa must have been his name.

Yuichiro didn’t respond to him, continuing to glare. This was a bit difficult to do as he tried to keep his breathing under control.

A large gust of wind suddenly blew, and Yuichiro’s hair once again hit him in the face. He instinctively went to grab onto his left sleeve so nobody would notice his arm, but he didn’t grab it in time.

They all saw. A couple of them seemed to give him pitying looks.

Stop it. Stop looking.

“So that’s why,” Uzui said.

Suddenly he felt somebody grab onto his hand and give it a small squeeze.

Muichiro.

“Let’s go home,” his brother told him.

“Shouldn’t I tell them I’m leaving?”

“I already told Oyakata you might be coming home with me. Is that okay?”

Yuichiro just nodded. He wanted to leave. He needed to get away. 

Why did everybody always have to stare?

Muichiro said some a quick good-bye to the rest of the Pillars and started to lead Yuichiro away, while Yuichiro tried to calm himself down.

***

When they arrived at home, Muichiro told Yuichiro that he would make them some food for dinner. Needing some time to himself to fully calm down, Yuichiro decided to sit outside while he waited. The sun would still be out for a while and the weather was still nice.

Not long after they arrived, Yuichiro heard his brother cry out from inside and rushed in to investigate what happened. 

As soon as he stepped foot in the house, he could smell something burning. He immediately removed all the food from the heat to prevent anything from burning any further, and  then he looked to Muichiro who he found clutching his hand.

Yuichiro walked up to him pulling the injured hand towards himself to inspect it. He must have grabbed onto something hot and burnt his palm. It wasn’t too bad, but he still needed to take care of it properly, so it would heal.

“I’ll be right back,” Yuichiro said. “Don’t move.”

He went to their bedroom and grabbed the supplies he still had left from the Butterfly Estate taking it back with him to Muichiro. He quickly took care of the burn and wrapped his hand in bandages.

“You’re an idiot,” said Yuichiro. “When you told me you were going to be cooking dinner, I figured you actually knew what you were doing, but you just went and got yourself burnt. I thought you would have learnt to cook for yourself by now. What do you even do when I’m not here to cook for you?”

“Sometimes I’ll just go buy myself something,” Muichiro replied, a frown forming on his lips, obviously hurt from what Yuichiro had said. “Other times Oyakata will have some food sent to me. Usually a couple of the kids will stop by with a few meals.”

“He does that?” Yuichiro asked, surprised. Oyakata had never told him that. Nobody else had brought it up either. Had they kept it from him on purpose? So that he wouldn’t worry about his brother? He did not want them to keep something like that from him.

Muichiro nodded. “Sometimes I do try to cook for myself. It turns out okay, but a lot of the time it burns. I’ll never be good at cooking like you and mom.”

Before their parents had died, Yuichiro would often help their mother with the cooking. A few times she’d asked Muichiro to help as well, but it never turned out well, so eventually she stopped asking him. When he asked her if he could help, she would give him simple tasks that she knew he couldn’t mess up.

One day after she’d gotten sick, she made Yuichiro promise he’d always make sure he kept his brother fed.

Yuichiro broke that promise.

Yuichiro sighed. “I’ll teach you how to make some simple things before I go back ho-” He paused. “Before I go back with the Ubuyashikis. For now, just let me make you something.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to cook you anything,” Muichiro said. “I didn’t want you to have to work as soon as you got home. I wanted to let you rest. You looked upset earlier.”

“I should have expected that this would happen,” Yuichiro said, ignoring the comment about what had happened earlier. “You’ve always been useless in the kitchen.” 

He watched his brother frown and drop his head. 

I’m sorry.

Yuichiro threw out all the food that Muichiro had burnt, and quickly got started making the two of them dinner.

Since he had been staying with the Ubuyashikis and had started helping Amane with making food, he had been taught a lot of new recipes. He used what ingredients he could find to make one of those newer meals for Muichiro, so he could have something different than he usually made for him.

When Yuichiro finally finished and the two sat down to eat their meal, Muichiro seemed to enjoy it, asking if he would make it again sometime.

But he still wouldn’t smile.

***

The next few months passed in a similar manner. Yuichiro spent most of his time with the Ubuyashikis occasionally having Muichiro visit or going home to spend a few days with him. Other times he would stop by the Butterfly Estate, even if Muichiro wasn’t hurt, just to spend time with Aoi.

Today was not one of those visits.

Today he was here because Muichiro had gone and gotten himself hurt again. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but Yuichiro scolded him as soon as he’d arrived by his bedside.

“I keep telling you to be careful,” Yuichiro said. “You could get yourself killed.”

“It wasn’t even that bad this time,” Muichiro replied. “They just needed to stitch up a small cut on my leg.”

“Well I don’t care.” He sat down on the edge of Muichiro’s bed and started swinging his legs. “Stop doing things that can get you killed.”

“I’m sorry, Yui. I have to. I’m a Pillar now. I can’t just quit.”

“You should…” he mumbled.

Before Muichiro was able to say anything more, the door opened and Shinobu walked in dragging Tomioka in behind her. Both boys turned to look at them as they entered. Shinobu dragged Tomioka right up next to Muichiro’s bed. 

“Can you guess which one is which?” she asked. “I’m sure you can do it. It’s really easy to tell.” She said this in a tone that showed she did not expect Tomioka to guess correctly.

Today Yuichiro was wearing his clothes he had gotten from Amane, but his hair was down, because he hadn’t had the chance to ask any of the girls to tie it up before he was on his way to the Butterfly Estate to check up on Muichiro. Since he had his haori on, that meant that his arms were covered and since Muichiro’s arms were both under the blanket he was using, making it impossible to guess that way.

Yuichiro knew that there were other ways people usually were able to tell the difference, so it shouldn’t have been that hard to figure out. Especially considering both of the boys were wearing different clothes, and Yuichiro was even wearing the clothes he’d been wearing a few months ago when he’d first met Tomioka. 

Another hint would have been the fact that Muichiro was the one in the bed. If he thought about it even a little bit, it would be easy to guess which one was Muichiro because Yuichiro was less likely to end up at the Butterfly Estate after having gotten hurt.

It should be easy for anybody to guess.

“Um..That’s the one with two arms,” he said as he pointed at Muichiro.

Shinobu looked disappointed that he had guessed correctly, but then he saw her eyes light up.

“You know his name, right?” Shinobu asked. 

“...Tokito.”

Her eyes grew wide. She obviously hadn’t been expecting that.

“Tomioka, are you telling me that you’ve known him for months now, and you don’t even know his name?”

“Is it not Tokito?” he asked, sounding a bit concerned.

“Yes,” she replied. “But what’s his first name?”

Tomioka didn’t respond.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “Do you know any of the other Pillars’ names.”

“Yes.”

“Well why don’t you tell me.”

She stared at him waiting for a response that never came.

“Excuse me,” Yuichiro said, tired of listening to them go back and forth. “We were talking. Can you leave?”

Shinobu turned to look at him. “What an attitude you have today. But fine. We’ll leave you two alone. I’ll send Aoi by later. I think she has something she needs to tell you.” And with that she took hold of Tomioka’s hand and dragged him back out of the room.

“He doesn’t know my name...” Muichiro said, once the door had closed and the two were alone again.

“I don’t like him,” said Yuichiro.

“You don’t like anybody.”

***

“My Final Selection is in a few weeks.”

Yuichiro was talking with Aoi as the two of them took down sheets from the clotheslines outside. Yuichiro would pull them down, while Aoi folded them, since it was too difficult a task for him to do. He would just get frustrated, and the sheets would end end up dirtier than before they’d been washed.

He had sat with Muichiro for a while longer after Tomioka and Shinobu had left, but after a while he noticed Muichiro struggling to keep his eyes open. Yuichiro had decided to let his brother sleep, and told him to rest and that he would come back later. After that he had left, he had gone searching for Aoi, finding her outside where the two of them now were.

Yuichiro froze. He knew Shinobu wouldn’t send her if she wasn’t good enough to pass yet, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to spend the next few weeks worrying like he had the whole time Muichiro was gone. At least with Muichiro, he hadn’t told him until the night before he left, so he only had that one week to worry. 

“I’m going to be fine,” said Aoi. “You don’t need to worry.”

“I’m not worried. Why would I care what you do?”

Aoi rolled her eyes at him. “I can see it on your face that you’re worried. You’re not as good at hiding your feelings as you seem to think.”

“Shut up,” he said. “And what about you, aren’t you worried.”

“I’m more worried about how nervous you’re going to be.”

Yuichiro snorted. “I doubt that you even care. But seriously, aren’t you scared at all?”

There was a bit of silence before she responded, looking down at her feet. “Yes.”

“Really?” he asked. “You always seem so confident when you’re dealing with patients. I never thought you’d actually be scared of anything.”

“I know,” she replied. “But that’s different. I’ve always enjoyed the medical training I’ve gotten from Shinobu more than the physical training. I prefer the idea of dealing with patients than dealing with demons.”

“Why don’t you just stick with doing the medical stuff then? You don’t seem like you want to actually join the Demon Slayers.”

“I do,” she said. “I don’t want to let Shinobu down. She’s been training me for so long, and she said I’m ready. She said I should pass. But I’m scared. I haven’t told anybody, because I don’t want them to worry or be disappointed, but I’m so scared.”

She put the last sheet she had folded down into a basket and slid down to the ground. Yuichiro sat down next to her, and she looked up to face him.

“Are you sure you really want to do it?” he asked.

Aoi nodded. “I want to, but I’m scared. What if I don’t pass?”

They both knew what she meant by that. What if she was killed. It was all he had thought about when Muichiro had gone away to his Final Selection.

“I’ll come visit you when you’re done,” Yuichiro said. “So you better make sure you pass, alright? You have lots of people waiting here for you as well. Shinobu, Kanao, and the girls are all going to be here waiting, and they’ll be so proud of you when you get back. So you have to pass.”

“Okay,” she said. “I will. Thank you.”

“We still have some more work to do,” Yuichiro said after a few minutes of silence. The two of them got back up to continue working on the laundry until they were finished.

“You know,” said Aoi, as she picked up a basket of clean sheets to bring inside. “It’s been about a year since you and your brother came here for the first time. It was last summer.”

I hadn’t felt like it had been that long. But Yuichiro realized so much had happened since he and his brother had been attacked. A year ago he was living alone with Muichiro at their old house. Now almost all of his time was spent with the Ubuyashikis who he refused to even speak to for a while. Although he didn’t see Muichiro as much as he used to when they lived together, he had a new family now, although they were not replacing his brother, and he had a best friend for the first time.

Despite everything that had lead up to all this, he was glad to have these new relationships.

Yuichiro smiled at her. “I’m glad I met you.”

***

Over the next couple weeks, Yuichiro and Aoi had continued to exchange a few letters. Each time Yuichiro received another one, he worried it might be the last. He didn’t let anybody else know he was worried, but Aoi, he knew, had already figured that out. 

In the last letter Aoi had sent him before the Final Selection, she told him not to worry, and reminded him that he promised to go to the Butterfly Estate when it was over, and he better not forget. He wrote back that he was going to be there.

The day that the Final Selection was supposed to end, Yuichiro sat outside the Ubuyashiki Estate and waited for Hinaki and Nichika to return. Whenever a final selection was held, two of the children would go to instruct the participants and welcome back those who passed, and this time it had been those two.

As soon as he saw them, he rushed over to them and asked if Aoi had made it. Once Hinaki told him she had been one of the ones to pass, he told them he was going to visit her, and he’d be back the next day.

When he got to the Butterfly Estate, the first person he ran into was Shinobu.

“She’s not feeling very well,” she told him, knowing exactly what he was there for. “She came to tell us all that she was okay and went straight to her room.”

“Can I still go see her?” he asked. “I promised her I’d come, and she’ll be mad at me if I don’t see her.”

“Only if she lets you,” Shinobu replied. “You better not bother her if she doesn’t want to see you. Do you know where her room is?”

He shook his head, and Shinobu led him to a part of the Butterfly Estate he had never been to before, then she left him alone in front of the door to Aoi’s room.

Yuichiro knocked before letting himself in. He found Aoi curled up under the blankets on her futon. He knelt down next to her like Amane had done to him so many times before.

“I came. Just like I promised,” he said. “I thought you’d be more excited to see me.”

He watched as she poked her head out from under her covers before sitting up. He could tell that she had been crying. He decided to pretend like he didn’t notice. She’d get mad at him if he pointed it out. He wouldn’t like it if somebody pointed out it was him who had been crying.

“I shouldn’t have passed,” she said rubbing at her eyes.

“What are you talking about?”

“I just got lucky. I shouldn’t have passed.”

“You wouldn’t have passed if you weren’t good enough,” he told her. “I’m sure you were great.” It always made him feel better when Amane comforted him, so he tried to do the same with Aoi, not wanting her to feel so upset.

She shook her head. “I was so scared the whole time. I don’t even know how I made it until the end. I never want to be forced to kill demons again. I just want to stay here with the patients and take care of them. But I don’t want Shinobu to get mad at me.”

“She won’t get mad at you,” Yuichiro said. “She cares about you a lot. She threatened me a few times because she thought I was hurting you.” He had never told her about that before not sure if it was a good idea, but it sounded like she now needed to hear it.

“Really? Do you think she’ll be fine with me just staying here?” Aoi asked.

“I think she just wants you to be happy.”

“Will you come with me when I ask her?”

Yuichiro nodded. 

“I just need some more time to calm down a bit.”

“You have plenty of time.”

“Thank you.”

Chapter Text

They were both sitting in Yuichiro’s room eating some sweets that Amane had picked up for him last time she had gone into town when Muichiro started coughing. Yuichiro didn’t think anything of it at first. It was that time of year where a cough could easily mean a simple cold.

He would admit to himself that he was a bit worried. After all, the illness that had taken their mom had started as a simple cold, but they had people who would be able to care for him, if he were to get more sick.

After one of the many coughing fits that Muichiro had been having since he had arrived, he pulled his hand away from his mouth revealing droplets of blood on the palm of his hand and lips. Yuichiro watched, eyes wide, as he used the back of his other hand to attempt to wipe the blood off his lips, only smearing it further.

“Muichiro!” he gasped. What was happening? Why didn’t Muichiro seem as worried as he was?

He could hardly breathe.

“It happens sometimes. You don’t need-” He broke off into another coughing fit, more blood spilling into his hand.

Yuichiro shot to his feet and rushed out of the room to find somebody to help. As he rushed out of the room he heard his brother calling out behind him, “Yui, wait!” But he didn’t, instead continuing his search down the hallway. He had to get help.

He made his way to the kitchen were he knew he could usually find Amane this time of day. She turned to him when she heard him walk in, a confused expression on her face.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. “Weren’t you with your brother?”

“Something happened. I need help.”

She put down whatever it was she was working on, and wiped her hands off with a rag before walking over to stand in front of him. “Is everything alright?”

Yuichiro quickly shook his head. “Something’s wrong,” he said. “Muichiro started coughing up blood.”

Amane’s eyes grew wide. “He’s in your room?” she asked.

Yuichiro responded with a nod.

“First I need you to calm down. You’re shaking.”

He hadn’t noticed. He nodded and tried to get his breathing under control.

“Now, I’m going to grab a few things, but I’ll meet you back in your room in a few minutes, okay?”

“Okay,” he said. 

Once the words left his mouth, Amane rushed out of the kitchen. Yuichiro took a deep breath to try and calm himself down better and made his way back to his room where he found Muichiro still coughing.

“I’m fine,” Muichiro said once he’d noticed Yuichiro return. 

“No you’re not,” Yuichiro responded. “I went and got Amane. She’ll be here to help soon.”

“I don’t need help. It’s just a cough. You don’t have to worry. It’ll go away on it’s own. It always does.”

“It’s not just a cough!” Yuichiro snapped. “You’re coughing up blood. That’s not normal.”

Before Muichiro had a chance to argue, Amane finally entered the room, kneeling down in front of Muichiro with some rags in her hands. Yuichiro watched as she took a damp rag and pulled Muichiro’s hands toward her, one at a time, washing off the blood. She then took the same rag and went to wipe the little bit of blood he had on his face. As she did this he watched as Muichiro squeezed his eyes shut and instinctively start pulling away from her.

Once she had finished cleaning up all the blood, she placed a second rag in Muichiro’s hands.

“Use this to cough into, so you can keep your hands clean,” she said. 

As she finished speaking, Muichiro broke into another coughing fit, this time pressing the fabric up against his mouth. Once the coughing slowed, he placed the rag down onto his lap. The once white piece of fabric was now stained red.

Amane pressed the palm of her hand to Muichiro’s head.

“You feel a bit warm,” she said. “I told Kiriya to send a crow for one of the Kakushi to come take you to the Butterfly Estate. They’ll be able to do more for you there.”

“But I’m fine,” his brother insisted.

“We’ll see what they have to say about that at the Butterfly Estate. For now let’s get you into bed to rest.”

Yuichiro watched as Amane guided Muichirio into the futon pulling the blankets up over him despite his protests. Now that Yuichiro thought about it, his brother had looked unusually tired today, so he wasn’t able to do much to fight against Amane as he was forced to lay down and rest.

He should have been able to notice sooner.

“Are you alright to stay with him until a member of the Kakushi arrives to take him?” Amane asked, directing her question to Yuichiro.

Yuichiro nodded and went to go sit down next to his brother as Amane left the room, taking the rag she’d used to clean up the blood with her. As Yuichiro looked down at his brother, he noticed how pale he was. Had he been like this all day? He hadn’t paid much attention. He’d seemed fine. Just tired. Which was to be expected. He was always so busy.

Why couldn’t you have just noticed earlier?

He sat there for what felt like forever. The room was completely silent, only occasionally filing with the sound of coughing coming from his brother. 

Once Muichiro was taken away to be brought to the Butterfly Estate, Amane came back in with new blankets which Yuichiro helped her to replace.

“Aren’t you going to go with him?” she asked, taking the old blankets into her arms to be washed.

“I don’t think I would make it there before dark,” he replied. He knew if he hurried he could make it, but he was too scared to try. If anything held him up or slowed him down, it would be dark, and he knew he would just panic. “I’ll go in the morning.”

He hoped his brother was doing alright.

***

As soon as the sun was up the next morning, Yuichiro told Amane he was leaving, and started making his way to the Butterfly Estate. When he arrived Aoi came to greet him.

“I need to talk with you before you can see your brother,” she told him.

Yuichiro’s heart started racing. “Is he alright?”

Aoi nodded. “He’ll be fine. But it’s important that I talk to you first.”

“Can it wait?” He just wanted to see his brother. He’d hardly been able to get any sleep the night before, having been worrying the whole time. He didn’t want to have to wait any longer. He wished he could have came to visit yesterday, but it had been too late in the day.

Aoi shook her head. “I need you to talk to your brother about something,” she said. “He’s probably not going to like it, so Shinobu said it’s probably best if he hears it from you. You do get along better now, right?”

“Usually. And when we don’t it’s my fault anyways.” They had been getting a lot better at getting along recently. Yuichiro couldn’t remember the last time they’d had a serious argument with each other. Yuichiro had been trying a lot harder at staying calm with his brother. Him snapping at Muichiro the day before had just been out of worry. He hadn’t been able to help that.

Aoi rolled her eyes. “Whatever. As long as you can talk to him without yelling. So basically it’s his own fault he’s sick. He’s been overworking himself. When we talked with him about it he informed us that this has been happening for a while, since he first started training. It’s just never gotten this bad before. He said he’s only talked with one person about it, but he won’t tell us who. I assume it wasn’t you?”

Yuichiro shook his head. He hadn’t known any of this was happening. Had he been overworking himself so much that he’d been coughing up blood, or had Aoi meant he’d just been getting himself sick? Whatever it was his brother had been hiding this with him since the beginning. He’d been lying. He’d always try to reassure Yuichiro that he wasn’t going to get himself killed, but he was working himself to death.

“If you can figure out who it was, Shinobu wants to have a talk with this person,” Aoi continued. “But what we really need you to tell him is that he needs to rest for the next few weeks. Shinobu has already sent a message to Oyakata to inform him your brother will be taking a break for a while. We just haven’t told your brother yet. He’ll be able to go home in a few days, but you’ll have to make sure he doesn’t try to do anything to overwork himself anymore than he already has.”

Yuichiro was upset with himself for being happy. All he’d wanted for over a year now was for Muichiro to not have to go out all the time and risk being killed by demons. This just wasn’t how he had wanted for that to happen. And it would only be temporary. He knew Muichiro wouldn’t be happy with this.

“Alright,” he told her. “I’ll talk to him about it.”

Aoi turned and started leading him down the hallway. As they walked she continued to speak. “He’s in a room by himself. We didn’t want to put him with any other patients because we didn’t want them to get sick in case he was contagious, but you should be fine.”

When they got to the room where Muichiro was, Aoi opened the door to let him in. Then she turned and walked off in the direction the two of them had come from.

Yuichiro walked over to the only occupied bed in the room where his brother was laying. He sat down on the edge of the bed and looked down at Muichiro, who was already awake this time. His face was so pale. Yuichiro was still mad at himself for not noticing sooner. They could have started taking care of him before it got so bad if he had just noticed.

“You look terrible,” Yuichiro said. 

“I’m fine,” Muichiro said. “I told you I was fine. And you look awful too. Like you didn’t get any sleep.” He was trying to reassure Yuichiro, but he knew it wasn’t true. It wasn’t working.

“I wasn’t the one who’s been coughing up blood,” Yuichiro responded. “I don’t see how that’s fine. Aoi said you’ve been overworking yourself, so you made yourself sick.”

“I’m not,” he protested. “I’m just doing what I need to.”

“What you need to do is take better care of yourself. You’re making it harder for everyone here. They wouldn’t have to be taking care of you right now if you didn’t work too hard.”

Muichiro opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by his own coughing. Yuichiro was relieved to see that there was no blood like there had been yesterday.

“You get to go home in a few days,” Yuichiro said once Muichiro’s coughing had slowed down, not giving him the chance to speak first. He saw Muichiro’s face light up, likely happy he wasn’t going to have to stay at the Butterfly Estate too long. “But you’ll have to rest at home for a few weeks. They already told Oyakata.”

Muichiro pulled himself up into a sitting position, now looking upset. “That’s not fair,” he said. “If I’m better I shouldn’t be resting. I don’t need to.”

“Yes you do. You told them and me that this isn’t the first time this has happened,” Yuichiro said, this time raising his voice. “You’re working too hard. You’re going to kill yourself if you don’t give yourself time to rest.”

“It’s happened a lot since I’ve started training, but it was never a big deal. I have to work hard. Yui, I just want to-”

“I know what you want . You want to protect me! You keep telling me that. How are you supposed to do that if you’re dead? If you keep doing this, you’ll get yourself killed just like Dad! He wanted to help mom, but he just got himself killed. He left us all alone because he was stupid, just like you.”

You can’t leave me too. 

“I’m not going to leave you, Yui.” 

“Well that’s what it looks like!” He was yelling now. He didn’t care. They were the only ones in the room. He knew he’d told Aoi he wouldn’t yell, but he couldn’t help it. He should have known he couldn’t go so long without arguing with his brother.

“I’m fine,” Muichiro said again. “I’m just a bit sick.”

“You know that’s not true! That’s how Mom started off as too. She just had a cold, but now she’s dead. Don’t you realize how worried I was when you started coughing yesterday? Even just a cold could turn into something to take you away. You’re going to leave me all alone.”

“I won’t,” said Muichiro. “And I didn’t want to worry you. I didn’t realize it was getting that bad.”

“That’s the point!”

The door suddenly flew open, and Yuichiro turned his head and watched as Shinobu walked in. She did not look very happy.

“I realize that you’re the only ones in this room right now,” she said. “But I don’t think you realize we can all hear you yelling. There are still a few patients in some of the other rooms who are trying to rest right now, so if you would stop yelling, that would be great.”

“I’m sorry,” Muichiro said, being the one to apologize despite not being the one doing the yelling. “We’ll try to be more quiet.”

Yuichiro turned his head away and felt his cheeks grow hot. It was his fault, and he knew it was, but Muichiro was the one who was apologizing. He shouldn’t have to, but Yuichiro didn’t think he’d be able to do it himself.

He listened to Shinobu’s footsteps as she walked across the room to stand in front of Yuichiro. She stood there looking at him for a while before speaking up.

“You look tired. Did you sleep at all last night?”

Yuichiro shook his head. 

“Why don’t you go take a nap in one of the beds since we aren’t using this room for any other patients right now.”

“Really?” he asked. Normally when he stayed her when his brother was hurt he had to sleep elsewhere since the beds were only used for patients.

Shinobu nodded. “However, if I hear anymore yelling out of you, I’m kicking you out.” That sounded more like her. 

“Of the room?”

“No,” she replied. “I’ll be sending you back to Oyakata. Alright?”

Yuichiro nodded.

***

When Yuichiro woke up it was nighttime. The room was dark, and it took him a few minutes for him to remember where he was. Once he remembered, he sat up in the bed he was using and looked to the bed at his right where Muichiro had been. Yuichiro was glad to see he was still there.

“Yui, you’re awake?” he heard his brother say. “Can you come over here? I’ve been forbidden from getting out of bed until at least tomorrow.”

Yuichiro slid out of the bed onto the floor and walked over to stand next to Muichiro. 

“Is everything okay?” he asked. “Do you need anything?” Despite knowing that the last thing the two had done before Yuichiro had taken his nap was fight, Yuichiro wasn’t going to turn down his brother if he needed him. It was his job to take care of him.

Yuichiro pulled up a seat and sat down right next to Muichiro’s bed. He sat there a while waiting for a response. Muichiro looked like he had something he wanted to say, but it seemed to be taking him a while. Yuichiro decided he didn’t mind waiting, and didn’t try to push him to speak already.

“I wanted to apologize,” Muichiro said finally after a few minutes. “I’m sorry for fighting with you earlier.”

Yuichiro’s eyes grew wide, and he just stared at his brother unable to find words to respond with. He hadn’t been expecting an apology. He’d never offered one to his brother any of the other times the two had fought. They never brought up their arguments, and instead they would just not speak to each other for a while.

“I promise that I’ll try to take better care of myself from now on,” he continued. “I didn’t think about how working so hard might just be making things harder for you. I don’t want to leave you behind. I’m not going to let myself get killed, and I’ll rest more, so I don’t make myself sick anymore.”

Yuichiro was glad his brother was apologizing. This would mean that they’d still be getting along as they had been getting better at it recently. But he felt guilty that he couldn’t apologize to Muichiro as well. He had been the one to yell. Not Muichiro. He wanted to apologize as well, but like always, the words never came.

“I’m glad,” he said instead. “I don’t want to lose you.” It was as much as he could say to show he cared.

“And I promise I’ll behave over the next few weeks while I’m supposed to be resting, and I won’t give you any trouble while you’re taking care of me.”

Yuichiro snorted. “You’re always trouble.”

“I think I’m going to go to sleep now,” Muichiro said with a yawn. “I don’t want Shinobu to get mad at me.”

Yuichiro stood up. “I’ll leave you here then. I don’t want to stop you from getting rest.”

He walked out of the room in search of something to eat, not tired enough to go back to bed after his long nap.

***

A few days later Muichiro was feeling better, and was allowed to leave the Butterfly Estate and go home. Yuichiro had gone with him, planning on spending the next few weeks with him. He needed to stay with him in order to make sure he was resting like he had promised.

Over the next few weeks Yuichiro forced him to stay in the house at all times, knowing he might do something stupid if he went outside. He also cooked every meal for him, sometimes allowing him to help when he started getting antsy and was unable to keep still.

Today it was just Yuichiro cooking lunch for the two of them. Muichiro was not allowed to help today because yesterday he had burnt the food Yuichiro had given him to cook for his part in helping with the meal. He was starting to understand how his mom had felt.

“I’m bored,” Muichiro said for what felt like the hundredth time since Yuichiro had started working on making lunch. 

Yuichiro just sighed. “Can’t you find something else to do while I’m cooking?”

“Why can’t I just help you?”

“Because you’ll just ruin it.”

Muichiro continued to pester him for the remainder of the time he spent making lunch. He finally stopped bothering him, for a little while at least, once the food was finally ready, and the two of them sat down to eat.

“Can we do something today?” Muichiro asked. “I’ve been stuck in the house for so long.”

Yuichiro understood why his brother was starting to get annoying. There was only so much to do at the house, and he just wanted to have something to do.

“Fine,” said Yuichiro. “But you’re not allowed to do anything that could make you sick again.”

“Can we go shopping?”

“No.” Yuichiro would not be going shopping anytime soon. He still hadn’t fully gotten over the trip he had gone on with the girls.

They continued eating while Muichiro tried to come up with other ideas. Most of them, Yuichiro kept turning down. They all were either things he didn’t want to do himself, or things that would be going against Muichiro’s promise of resting.

“Can we visit Mom and Dad?”

“What?” They hadn’t stopped by to visit their parents’ grave since they had moved. Or at least Yuichiro hadn’t. He wasn’t sure if Muichiro had been able to stop by at all.

“We just haven’t gone to visit in so long,” Muichiro replied. “I didn’t want to go without you.”

“Fine,” Yuichiro said. “If we leave as soon as we finish eating, we should be able to be back home before dark.” Any later in the day, and Yuichiro would have said no. He would not let himself get caught outside after dark.

“Of course,” said Muichiro.

The two of them went back to eating, staying quiet for the rest of lunch.

Once they had finished eating, they cleaned up their dishes and got ready to leave. Yuichiro threw on the haori he’d gotten from Amane which he now wore almost all the time. He would usually wear his hair up now as well with the ribbon from the girls, but he hadn’t wanted to ask Muichiro to do it for him, so he had been wearing it down since they’d come home from the Butterfly Estate.

As they walked outside, Yuichiro watched as his brother grabbed his sword to take with him.

“You’re not supposed to be using that,” Yuichiro said. “Shinobu will get mad if she finds out you’re not doing what she told you.”

“I’m not going to use it,” Muichiro replied. “I just feel better when I have it with me.”

Yuichiro sighed. “Fine,” he said. “You can take it.” He wasn’t going to admit it, but it made him feel better too. Just in case something were to happen, he would feel a lot safer if Muichiro had his sword on him, so he didn’t try to argue. 

“And like you said, we’ll be back before it gets dark, so I won’t even need to use it.”

***

To get to where their parents’ grave was Yuichiro and Muichiro had to walk past their old house. It had been a while since Yuichiro had seen the house, and part of him felt sad that they didn’t live there anymore, despite some of the bad memories he associated with it. But he was also glad he didn’t have to stay there anymore because of those same bad memories. The last few weeks Yuichiro had stayed there had been miserable.

When they got to the grave the two of them sat down. While it was for both of their parents, only their mother was actually buried there. They hadn’t been able to bury their father’s body with her, since he had fallen off a cliff. But their mother had only been sick.

They sat there for a while, neither of them saying anything, just wanting to sit in silence.

After a while Yuichiro finally spoke up. “We need to leave soon,” he said. He knew it was starting to get late, and if they stayed much longer they wouldn’t be able to get home before dark. Yuichiro hadn’t been outside in the dark since before they were attacked. He didn’t think he’d be able to handle it. Even with Muichiro there to protect him. 

“Alright,” said Muichiro getting to his feet and helping Yuichiro up. As they walked away, Yuichiro took one last look over his shoulder. He missed his mom. She hoped she wasn’t upset with him for staying with the Ubuyashikis now. He didn’t want her to think he was replacing her.

When they still had a while left to walk, Yuichiro noticed it had started getting dark already. He grasped tightly onto the back of Muichiro’s uniform as they walked. Muichiro turned to look at him and frowned but continued to lead the way home.

“I thought we had more time before it got dark,” said Yuichiro. He realized he had started shaking.

“We must have lost track of time,” Muichiro replied. “We were there longer than I thought. But don’t worry. I’m here in case anything happens. I won’t let you get hurt.”

Yuichiro tightened his grip on Muichiro’s uniform as the two continued their walk home and as it grew darker and darker.

“We’ll be home soon,” Muichiro said. Yuichiro knew he was trying to make him feel better, but it wasn’t working. He just wanted to be home already. He tried to reassure himself that everything would be fine, but that wasn’t working either.

It happened very fast.

One second he was walking behind Muichiro, still gripping tightly to him, and the next he was pulled backwards off his feet and lost the grip on his brother. He watched as Muichiro quickly spun around, eyes wide, his hand moving to his sword.

“Mui, help me!”

His first time out in the dark since they had been attacked at home, and a demon had found him. It wasn’t fair.

He started thrashing around trying to free himself from the demon’s grasp.

He was going to die.

He couldn’t breathe.

He couldn’t focus on anything. 

The next thing he knew, he was on his back on the ground, tears rolling down his cheeks. Muichiro was kneeling on the ground next to him, looking down at him with a worried expression on his face. His sword had been tossed to the side.

The demon was gone. Muichiro must have killed it, but Yuichiro couldn’t remember.

He still couldn’t breathe. 

“I wanna go home,” he said. As he spoke his voice cracked, but he didn’t care. He didn’t want to be here anymore.

“Are you hurt at all?” Muichiro asked, ignoring what he’d said.

“Please. Please just take me home,” Yuichiro sobbed. He pulled himself up into a sitting position and started wiping at the tears that wouldn’t seem to slow. 

He couldn’t stop shaking.

Why couldn’t he breathe?

Suddenly he felt a hand grab onto his arm, and he screamed. He immediately yanked his arm away and jumped to his feet taking a few steps back.

“Yui, it’s just me.” It was Muichiro. He knew it was only him. The demon was gone. But all he could feel was his hands on him.

“Yui, you need to breathe.”

Oh.

He’d stopped breathing.

He started gasping for breath.

Muichiro was now on his feet in front of him. He started to reach an arm out, but Yuichiro just took more steps backwards.

“Don’t touch me!” he cried. 

“We should get going,” said Muichiro. “You want to get home right?”

Yuichiro nodded.

“Do you think you’ll be able to walk?”

Yuichiro thought about it for a few seconds before shaking his head.

“Then I’ll need to carry you.”

Yuichiro started shaking his head. “No, no, no. I said don’t touch me!”

“It’s just me,” said Muichiro. “I won’t hurt you. As soon as we get home, I won’t touch you, okay? If you don’t think you can walk, there’s no other way to get you home.”

“...Okay.”

Yuichiro stood there as his brother went to pick up his sword, and then helped Yuichiro get onto his back and started walking home.

It’s just Mui. It’s just Mui.

At some point Yuichiro fell asleep.

He didn’t notice when Muichiro started walking the opposite direction of their house.

***

“Yui, we’re here.”

Yuichiro opened his eyes when he heard his brother start speaking, and he slid off of his back. He yawned and rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand. He wanted to go to bed.

He froze.

“You lied!” he yelled turning to face Muichiro. “You promised you were taking me home!”

Why would he lie? I wanna go home. I don’t want to be here.

“Yui, you wouldn’t let me see if you were hurt or not,” Muichiro replied. “Please just let them look at you. We can go home after.”

“No, no, no! Take me home! I’m fine! I wanna go home!”

He heard the sound of a door opening and footsteps walking in their direction down the hallway. “How many times have I told you…” The voice trailed off as it got closer to where the two were standing. He listened as the voice started talking with his brother, but he couldn’t pay attention to the words any longer.

Yuichiro kept his eyes on his brother, blind to everything else that was happening around him. 

His breathing was starting to get heavy again.

He heard another set of footsteps racing down the hallway towards them, this voice joining the others.

A hand touched him on the shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!”

He shoved the arm away and felt his fingers claw at something as he did so.

He heard a voice cry out.

He didn’t mean it.

He reached out and grabbed onto one of Muichiro’s sleeves. 

“I want to go home,” he said again.

“Yui,” Muichiro said softly. “It’s dark out still. You don’t want to walk all the way home at night, do you? We can talk about it more in the morning. We can spend the night here where you’ll be safe.”

“Okay,” he replied, voice weak.

“Can I pick you up so we can get you to a bed?”

Yuichiro nodded and felt as his brother lifted him into his arms.

“Stay with me please.”

“I will.”

Yuichiro fell back asleep before he even made it into a bed.

Chapter Text

When Yuichiro woke up he didn’t know where he was. He was in a bed in a tiny room with just one small window where the sun was shining in letting him know it was daytime. On the opposite side of the room from where he was, there were several empty shelves. Directly next to the bed was a small table with a glass of water, and next to that pulled up against the wall was a chair.

He thought he was alone at first, but once he sat up, he noticed a girl standing in front of the door. When she saw him, her eyes grew wide, and she spun around, rushing out of the room. He didn’t understand why she looked so scared. 

It was Naho, he remembered after a few seconds. She was one of the girls from the Butterfly Estate. That must mean that he was there, but he didn’t recognize the room, and he’d been almost everywhere in the estate. Why would they place him in what appeared to be an empty storage room?

As he started to wake up more, and started becoming more aware of his surroundings, memories from the night before started to rush back to him, and he struggled to breathe. 

Where was Muichiro? He promised he would stay with him. 

He needed to leave. He wanted to go home. He couldn’t stay here by himself.

He started to climb out of bed, ready to leave, when the door to the room opened again, revealing Aoi.

“Don’t you dare,” she said, closing the door behind her and walking over to where he was standing. “Get back into bed. You’re not going anywhere.”

“I’m going home,” he replied, voice weak.

“You’re not going anywhere dressed like that. It’s far too cold out this time of year.”

Yuichiro looked down at his clothes realizing he was wearing what the patients at the Butterfly Estate usually wore. His kimono and haori were gone. But he wasn’t a patient.

“I’m not hurt, and I’m not sick,” he said. “Where are my clothes?”

“Your clothes are fine. Don’t worry,” said Aoi. “And you might not be hurt, but there’s something wrong with your head. I wish I was able to do something to help.”

“I’m not crazy,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with me. Give me back my clothes. I’m going home.”

“No you’re not.” Aoi reached an arm out towards him, and he flinched away from her touch falling back into the bed. Why was he so scared? It was just Aoi. She was his friend. He sat up and turned back towards her.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. She held something out towards him in her hands. It was a small cup. “Take this. It’ll help you calm down.”

He just stared at her hand, refusing to take it. “I don’t need to calm down. I’m fine. I told you I’m not crazy. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“Yuichiro, you’re shaking. You’ve been shaking since I walked in.”

“No I’m not,” he said. But he was. He knew he was. He couldn’t stop.

“Please just take it.”

“What’s wrong with your face?” he asked, trying to change the subject. She’d been in the room for a while now, but he’d only just noticed. Why hadn’t he noticed it earlier? She’d been hurt. Bandages covered her left cheek.

As he asked the question, Aoi moved her hand that wasn’t carrying the cup to her face, finger brushing against the bandages. “ You happened,” she replied. “Now please just drink this.”

“What?” He’d hurt her? He couldn’t remember.

“You clawed my face with your fingernails,” she said. “Do you remember what happened after you were brought here?”

Yuichiro shook his head. “I only remember that Muichiro was there and he carried me to a bed.”

Aoi sighed. “I guess that’s a good thing. You weren’t doing so well when you first arrived. We were worried you might try to hurt somebody else, so we had a bed brought into an empty storage room to keep you away from other patients.”

“I’m not a patient,” he said. “I’m not sick, I’m not hurt, and I’m not crazy.”

“So you’ve said. But you really should take this now. You’re still shaking.”

He stared at her hand a few moments more, before finally giving in and taking the cup into his hand being careful not to let any of his skin rub up against Aoi’s. He stared down at it, not drinking it straight away. When he looked back up at Aoi, she had an annoyed look on her face, so he finally drank it, handing the cup back as soon as he finished.

As he handed it back to her, the tips of his fingers rubbed against her hand, and he immediately pulled his hand away, fingers feeling like they were burning. This was new. He started rubbing his fingers against the blanket to make the burning feeling go away. To rub away the touch.

He looked up to see Aoi frowning down at him.

“What?” he asked.

“I wish I could do something to help,” she said. “But I can only help people who are sick or who are physically hurt. I don’t like seeing you like this, but there’s nothing I can do.”

“I’m fine,” Yuichiro told her. “You don’t need to worry. So when do I get to go home?”

“I don’t know,” she responded. “Shinobu and your brother went to talk with Oyakata about that.”

“What do you mean?”

She shook her head. “I shouldn’t say anything more. One of them can talk to you about it when they get back. I should be leaving anyways. You probably want to sleep some more. It was very late when your brother brought you here. If you need anything, we’ll have somebody outside your door at all times.”

When she said that, he realized that he was starting to get tired again. He also noticed that his breathing was finally starting to go back to normal, and he wasn’t shaking as bad as he had been earlier.

But he was still scared.

He didn’t want to be left alone.

Not now.

“Don’t go,” he begged as she started walking towards the door. His voice cracked as he spoke. “Don’t leave me alone. I need you.”

She turned back around to face him. “Alright.” She placed the cup down on the table next to his bed, and pulled up the chair away from the wall to sit down. “If it will help you sleep better.”

Yuichiro pulled the covers up over himself and laid back down. He felt embarrassed, but he didn’t think he’d be able to handle being by himself right now. He hated it. Why couldn’t he handle everything better like everybody else seemed to. It wasn’t fair. 

Knowing Aoi was by his side, he was able to fall back asleep.

***

Yuichiro woke up to find Aoi resting her head on her arms on the side of his bed, asleep. It was weird to see her sleeping. She always seemed so busy, he wondered how she ever found the time to get any rest. He laid there in silence for a while, not wanting to wake her up.

After a while, the door opened, and Shinobu walked in. She walked over to where Aoi was sleeping and gently shook her awake.

“Why don’t you go sleep in your own room if you’re still tired,” Shinobu said as Aoi sat up rubbing at her eyes. “I need to talk with Yuichiro.”

Aoi nodded and stood up, waving a quick good-bye to Yuichiro as she left the room. Once she was gone, Shinobu sat down in the chair where Aoi had been sleeping.

“Where’s my brother?” Yuichiro asked as soon as she was seated. Aoi had said that Shinobu and Muichiro both had gone to talk with Oyakata, so he’d been expecting them to come together.

“He should be sleeping,” Shinobu said. “We decided it would be best for me to talk to you, so I told him to rest for a bit. I don’t think he got any sleep last night. He stayed by your side all night until we left.”

“Do I get to go home soon?” he asked.

Shinobu frowned at him. It didn’t seem like he was going to be getting any good news. “Your brother and I went to speak with Oyakata and his wife about what we should do with you,” she said. “We all decided it was best if you stayed here with us for a while.”

“No,” Yuichiro said. “You can’t make me stay. It’s not fair! There’s nothing wrong with me!”

“We’re worried you might hurt somebody again,” Shinobu replied. “It seems that you’ve done that a few times before.”

“I didn’t mean it. I won’t do it again.” It wasn’t fair for them to keep him for something that he couldn’t help. 

“That’s the problem. You can’t help it. If we keep you here we can make sure you can recover from everything and not hurt anybody else or yourself.”

He wasn’t going to hurt anybody. Why wouldn’t she listen?

“I don’t need to recover from anything. I’m not sick and I’m not hurt. Why can’t you just let me go home. I won’t hurt any of the kids. I promise.”

“We can’t be sure that you’ll be able to keep that promise. I’m sorry.”

“I’m not crazy!” he snapped. “You can’t keep me locked up here.”

“We know you’re not crazy. You just need some time to recover from what you’ve been through. And we’re not keeping you locked up. You’re free to wander around the estate. We’d just prefer if you had somebody with you.”

“Get out. Get out! I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.

“I’m sorry,” Shinobu said getting to her feet. “We don’t want to have to do this, but we think this is what’s best for you.” 

“Leave me alone!”

She turned and walked out the door. As soon as she was gone, Yuichiro picked up the glass of water throwing it against the wall near the doorway and watched as it shattered into pieces all over the floor.

He turned around onto his stomach and screamed into his pillow. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. She was keeping him here. He wanted to go home. Going home would make him better. He knew it. How was he supposed to get better if she was keeping him here?

She said he wasn’t being locked up in his room, which meant he could just leave. He just wouldn’t tell anybody. He could just walk home himself. 

He climbed out of the bed and walked straight out the door. Earlier Aoi had said somebody would be outside the room in case he needed something, but luckily for him, nobody was there at the moment, so he just continued to walk down the hallway towards the entrance.

He arrived and opened the door ready to leave, when he suddenly froze in place. His feet had stopped moving. He just wanted to leave, but his feet wouldn’t let him move past the doorway. It wasn’t fair. He wanted to leave, but his body wouldn’t let him. 

Maybe he was crazy after all.

“Yui?” he heard coming from behind him. He spun around to find Muichiro standing there looking worried. Why would he be worried? Nothing was wrong.

“I went to your room-” he started before Yuichiro cut him off.

“It’s not my room! I have my own room, but it’s not here. It’s at the Ubuyashikis’, and that’s where I want to go. Are you going to try to keep me here too?”

Muichiro sighed. “Yui, you have to stay here,” he said. “Anyways, I went to the room where you’ve been resting since last night, and I found a trail of blood leading here. What happened?”

A trail of blood? 

He wasn’t hurt. That didn’t make any sense.

“I’m fine,” he said.

“What are you doing here, Yui? You’re supposed to be resting.”

“I’m going home.”

“It’s freezing, and there’s snow outside. You’re not dressed enough to go anywhere. You aren’t even wearing shoes.”

Yuichiro frowned and looked down at his clothes again. He forgot that Aoi said his clothes were somewhere else. He should have gone to find them first. And he hadn’t even thought about the fact he didn’t have any shoes on.

But Muichiro had to be wrong about the snow. He hadn’t noticed any snow when he’d been standing in the doorway, and there had been no snow on the ground the night before. He turned back to face the doorway and saw that Muichiro was right. There was snow.

As he stood there staring outside, he realized his left foot was hurting. But he didn’t remember doing anything to hurt himself. He plopped onto the floor, so he could look at it, and saw that the bottom of the foot was bleeding.

Had he stepped on the glass? He didn’t remember.

What was he having so much trouble with his thoughts?

Why was he having so much trouble paying attention to his surroundings?

Why couldn’t he remember anything?

Yuichiro looked up at Muichiro who still had the same worried look on his face. “I don’t know what’s happening,” he said, voice cracking.

Muichiro walked behind him and closed the door then knelt down on the floor next to him and pulled him into a hug. Yuichiro didn’t hug him back. He couldn’t. Tears started rolling down his face.

“You’re going to get better,” said Muichiro. “We’re going to take care of you and do whatever we can to help you. First let’s get you back to bed and get your foot taken care of, okay?”

Yuichiro nodded, and Muichiro lifted him up carrying him back down the hallway to the room where he was staying. When the arrived at the room, Muichiro avoided stepping on the glass and laid Yuichiro down on top of the bed.

“I’ll be right back,” he said walking back towards the door. “I’ll go get somebody to help.”

A few minutes later he came back with Aoi, leading her around where the glass had shattered on the floor. Just behind them was Kiyo who knelt down to start sweeping up the mess.

“I think there’s glass in my foot,” Yuichiro said as Aoi walked over to the bed. 

“How did that even happen?” she asked.

“I don’t remember doing it,” he replied.

Aoi frowned at him then went to inspect his foot. While she was doing this Muichiro sat down in the seat next to the bed.

“I’m going to have to touch you to clean it out, okay?”

Yuichiro nodded and squeezed his eyes shut as she reached out to grab onto his foot and started pulling out the glass. 

It’s just Aoi. She won’t hurt me.

“It hurts.” He started to pull his foot away from her instinctively. 

“I’m almost done. If you would stop moving, this would go a lot quicker.”

He tried to keep his foot as still as possible, but it hurt as she kept poking at it.

It wasn’t much longer before she announced she was finished, and he opened his eyes to watch as she finished wrapping bandages around his foot. She then sat down on the edge of the bed.

“I know you’re not going to want to hear this,” she said. “But you’re going to have to stay in bed for a little while to let your foot heal. So don’t even think about asking to go home.”

“I won’t,” he said, not in the mood to argue any longer. 

“Good,” she told him.

Yuichiro turned to his brother and asked, “Are you going to stay here?”

“I can stay here for now,” he replied. “But Shinobu told Oyakata that I’m ready to start going out again, so I won’t be here all the time. I’ll stop by whenever I can to make sure you’re doing okay. And I promise I won’t overwork myself anymore.”

“And when he’s not here,” Aoi said. “I’ll be around. I never go anywhere. So you’ll always have at least one of us around if you need us, so you better hurry up and recover.”

Yuichiro smiled weakly at both of them. “Thank you.”

While he felt better about staying at the Butterfly Estate now, he wouldn’t admit to himself that he was starting to think it was now the best thing for him. He told himself he was only staying because of his foot, and that once it healed, he would ask to go home again.

But for now he didn’t need to argue.

***

Muichiro stayed by Yuichiro’s bed until early the next evening when he had to leave. Before he had left, he promised he’d come by whenever he had the chance. Once he was gone, Aoi had stopped by, and without him even needing to ask, she spent the night with him in the chair next to his bed. He hadn’t been expecting to see her still there when he woke up, but she didn’t leave until he was awake and promised she’d be back after checking on some of the patients.

When he heard somebody walking into the room, he thought Aoi had come back, but it wasn’t her. It was Amane. He hadn’t seen her in so long. Not since he’d gone to stay with Muichiro a few weeks ago when he’d gotten sick.

“I brought you some lunch,” she said. She walked over to the chair next to his bed and took a seat, holding out the food in her arms which she then placed on the small table next to his bed. It was like back when she used to come visit him when Muichiro was away at their old house. 

“We’ve all missed you,” she said. “The kids all wanted to come visit you as well, but I told them you needed rest and so many people might be too much for you right now. But I will take them along on future visits.”

“I just want to go home,” Yuichiro said. While he did understand now that it would be best for him to stay at the Butterfly Estate for a while, it didn’t stop him from not wanting to be here. He didn’t mind spending time with Aoi, but he missed staying with the Ubuyashikis. They were his family, and it wasn’t fair he couldn’t stay with them.

“I know you do,” Amane said. “But we all discussed it, and decided that it’s best if you stay here for a while. From what I’ve heard it’s been hard for you since you got here the other day. I wish there was more we could do for you. None of us like to see you this way.”

“Can I please go home when my foot gets better?” he asked. “Aoi said it’ll be fine soon, so can I go home then? I think it’s plenty of time to get better.”

“It’s not up to me. Shinobu is the best one to decide whether or not it’s fine for you to go home.”

Tears started rolling down his cheeks. “Please just take me home. I miss everybody. I promise I won’t hurt any of them. I didn’t mean to hurt Kanata, and I didn’t mean to hurt Aoi. I won’t do it again.”

Amane reached out and started wiping the tears off his face like she always did, but this time he flinched away, so she stopped. “I’m sorry. I know you won’t hurt them, but you need to stay here. I’ll come visit whenever I can, and next time I’ll take some of the children with me.”

“I don’t like being stuck here. It’s just like last time, but I’m not even hurt that bad.”

“I know. It’ll all work out. Soon you’ll be better and you can come home. Why don’t you eat some lunch?”

Yuichiro nodded and Amane helped him get the food in his lap. As he ate his food Amane kept a conversation going, telling him what had been going on at home since he’d left with Muichiro. Occasionally he would speak up himself, responding to some questions she would ask.

“Yuichiro?”

He blinked a few times and looked over to Amane who looked worried. He realized his hand was halfway to his mouth as if he’d been bringing food up to his lips. He glanced down at his lap and saw that a lot of his food had spilt onto the blankets. 

He couldn’t remember it happening.

“Let me clean that up for you,” Amane said as she reached over and started picking up everything on the blankets. She didn’t ask him what had happened, but from her face he knew she wanted to. Once she had cleaned everything up she went to find one of the girls, so they could get him clean blankets. 

Amane stayed with him for most of the rest of the day afterwards, neither of them bringing up what had happened earlier.

***

Once his foot had gotten better, Aoi finally allowed Yuichiro out of bed and he was allowed to wander the Butterfly Estate. With nothing better to do, he often got roped into helping with the patients as he had done many times now, with him visiting so often. 

For the first few nights after Muichiro had left, Aoi would stay all night in the chair in Yuichiro’s room. Sometimes he would see her sleeping with her head resting on his bed, but most of the time he didn’t think she was getting any sleep. He had told her after a couple days, he would be fine on his own at night, and forced her to sleep in her own room. 

He had been wrong about being fine, often having nightmares and waking up wishing somebody else was there, but he never told anybody. He didn’t want to bother them, so he let them all think he was okay.

Yuichiro had  also been given his own clothes back after he’d asked, which he felt much more comfortable in. He didn’t feel like a patient, and instead he felt more like a guest.

Amane and Muichrio both kept their promises and continued visiting whenever they could. Amane often brought by some of her children with her on her visits, and one time she’d even brought Kiriya with her. He had never come by with his mother when she’d visited him at home.

Some days when he was helping Aoi, he’d trail after her and help her with whatever she needed, but more often she was sending him to patients on his own when she knew he could handle it. 

Sometimes Yuichiro thought he was starting to get better. Some days he would go almost a whole day without the slightest hint of panic, but then the next he might end up in tears or unable to breathe, usually over something dumb. 

On his bad days what usually happened is he would overhear a patient talking about the latest demon they’d fought, and he would instantly freeze up often dropping whatever supplies he was holding to the floor. Whenever this happened Aoi would give him such a sad look, and tell him he wasn’t needed anymore for the day and sent him to his room.

On other days he just completely spaced out, trapped in his thoughts like on the day Muichiro had caught him trying to leave the Butterfly Estate. On those days Aoi would walk him back to his room and tell him to get some rest.

Unfortunately the bad days were still more common than the good ones. But at least the good days were starting to come more and more. Those days he spent most of his time with Aoi, sometimes also doing something with Kanao or the younger girls.

Today was good so far. Since it was the middle of winter, there were more patients than usual. Many people stopped by when they got sick, and there were also more accidents due to icy conditions outside leading to more injuries. This meant that Aoi had been sending him to patients on his own recently.

Today Aoi sent him to the bed where somebody he recognized was staying. He’d arrived the day before, shortly before Aoi had forced Yuichiro to go back to his room after he’d dropped a glass of water on the floor that he’d been about to deliver to a patient.

It was the man he’d first met last winter at the Ubuyashikis, one of the Pillars, Uzui. Aoi had sent Yuichiro over to him to change the bandages on one of his arms. When Yuichiro arrived by his bedside, he immediately started to do as Aoi had instructed without saying a word as he always did.

“You’re Tokito’s brother, right?”

Yuichiro stopped what he was doing for a moment before answering. “Yes.” Usually he didn’t like to speak with any of the patients. He didn’t have anything to say to them, and they almost never started speaking to him first. Aoi said it was because he always looked so grumpy. 

“I thought you said you lived with Oyakata and his family.”

“I do,” Yuichiro responded turning his focus back on the bandages.

“So what are you doing here helping?”

“It’s none of your business!”

“You’re really good at doing all this with just one arm.”

Yuichiro took a deep breath to calm himself down.

Just ignore him. Don’t let it get to you. Today is supposed to be a good day.

“So what happened to it? Was there an accident? Was it a demon?”

Yuichiro froze. Why would he just outright ask him that? He needed to leave. He threw the bandages in his hand down onto the floor and stormed out of the room, not even stopping when he heard Aoi calling after him.

He didn’t stop until he got to his room, where he let himself collapse to the floor gasping for breath. It wasn’t fair. Why did he always have to react like this. The attack had been over a year ago now. It didn’t bother Muichiro. And none of the other Demon Slayers he saw around the Butterfly Estate ever froze up at the mention of demons. 

He was broken.

He sat on the floor for a while trying to calm himself down. He didn’t want his day to be ruined over something so stupid, just like it always was.

It’s not fair.

He knew if he couldn’t get this under control, Shinobu would never let him go back home. But it had been weeks, and it just kept happening. 

He heard a knock at the door.

“Shinobu asked me to go out and buy some supplies. I was wondering if you’d like to come with me.” It was Aoi. 

“Okay,” he said, voice weak, giving away that he’d been panicking again. He hadn’t gone outside since he’d arrived weeks ago. Since it was winter, there was never any reason he should be outside in the first place. He thought it would be nice to finally go out. He didn’t like being stuck inside.

He took one last deep breath and got to his feet and walked out the door. He followed Aoi down to the entrance.

When she stepped outside, he moved to follow her, but his feet stopped moving once they reached the doorway. It was just like last time when Muichiro had found him. His body wasn’t letting him leave.

Aoi turned around seeming to notice that he wasn’t following her. “Are you coming?” she asked, sounding annoyed. It’d been a while since she’d gotten annoyed at him. It made it almost feel like he was back to normal again. Except for the fact he was standing there frozen in the doorway.

“I, I can’t,” he replied. “My feet won’t go any further.”

“Oh,” she said, her expression softening. “I’ll ask Kanao to come with me instead. Why don’t I take you back to your room?”

Despite how much he wanted to go with her, he nodded and let her take him back. She left him at him room promising to stop by as soon as she was back from her shopping trip.

He flopped down onto his bed and started crying. He was upset. This was supposed to be a good day, but everybody just kept making it worse. He knew Aoi hadn’t meant to. She’d just wanted to cheer him up.

However, Uzui had just been awful. Nobody ever directly asked him about his arm, and everybody he was around always refrained from bringing up demons when he was around unless it was absolutely necessary. Yuichiro knew it was probably because he didn’t know what had happened to him, and didn’t know what he’d been going through, but it still seemed rude.

He laid in bed for a while trying to calm down again, which proved difficult, just like always.

By the time Aoi returned, he had at least been able to stop crying, but by the look on her face she could tell what had happened while she’d been away. She didn’t bring it up though. Nobody ever did.

Sometimes Yuichiro wished somebody would just ask him if he was okay. He just wanted somebody to offer to let him talk.

But they never did.

***

“Why do I have to be the one to change his bandages again?”

“First of all, you never even finished yesterday, and second of all he’d one of the easier patients for you you deal with right now. So go.”

“He is not easy to deal with.”

“I don’t mean by personality. All you have to do is change his bandages. Then you can be done dealing with him until tomorrow.”

“Fine.”

Yuichiro was once again being forced to deal with Uzui. He would prefer to help with somebody who didn’t try to start a conversation with him, but he knew he could only argue with Aoi for so long. And he never won an argument.

He walked over to Uzui’s bed with bandages in his hand and got to work as soon as he reached his bedside. He had hoped he’d be able to get this over with quick enough before Uzui started trying to talk to him, but he just wasn’t that lucky.

“I asked one of the girls what happened to your arm. So she told me, and she told me you got attacked again recently which is why you’re here. That’s all you had to tell me. You’re pretty grumpy, aren’t you?”

Yuichiro didn’t respond. It was weird having somebody talk to him directly about what happened and not try tiptoeing around the subject. As much as he hated to be reminded of what had happened, it was nice. When the others he spoke with avoided bringing anything up, it just made him feel worse sometimes, because he could see the pity on their faces. Uzui didn’t have that.

“Tokito?”

Yuichiro blinked a few times and looked at Uzui who had a concerned look on his face. He looked down at his hand and realized he’d stopped halfway through replacing the bandages.

“Are you okay? Should I get one of the girls or something?”

Yuichiro shook his head and went back to wrapping the bandages. “I’m fine,” he said. If Aoi found out he’d blanked out again, she’d take him back to his room where he’d be miserable all day. He preferred to have something to do.

He looked over across the room where Aoi was dealing with another patient. She hadn’t seemed to notice.

As he finished up with the bandages, Uzui continued talking to him, in an entirely one-sided conversation, with Yuichiro having nothing to add. While it was annoying, it was nice for once for somebody to just continue on like everything was normal when Yuichiro spaced out, instead of fussing over him. He liked having somebody around that didn’t know what he was dealing with.

When he finished, he walked back over to Aoi to ask where she needed help. He decided that he’d continue visiting Uzui while he was still here.

***

The next day, Yuichiro offered to help with Uzui, surprising Aoi

“I thought you didn’t like him,” Aoi said as soon as he’d offered. “Yesterday you were complaining about having to deal with him. Can’t you ever make up your mind?”

“He’s not that bad,” Yuichiro said. He liked talking with him, or well letting Uzui talk to him. Unlike the girls at the Butterfly Estate, Muichiro, and Amane, he didn’t know everything that had happened. He knew what had happened, but didn’t know how it had been messing with him.

Everybody else always felt like they were smothering him. On days where Yuichiro was doing bad, Aoi would never leave his side, and it started to get annoying. And they always danced around the topic, never giving him the chance to tell them how he was dealing with everything. He knew everybody just wanted to help him, but none of them knew what they should be doing.

Uzui didn’t do any of that. He didn’t know that Yuichiro would often break down in a panic over something stupid or that the reason he had spaced out the day before was for the same stupid reasons. He treated him like everything was normal which was all Yuichiro wanted. He just wasn’t able to tell anybody that. He knew it wouldn’t stop the pitying looks that were even worse than the ones he’d gotten when he had first lost his arm.

He went over to Uzui’s bed, and just as he had the day before he started working on replacing his bandages. As he did so, Uzui started talking with him again. Today instead of trying to ask Yuichiro any questions, seeming to have figured out he wasn’t getting any responses, he talked about himself.

He told him about how normally he never came to the Butterfly Estate. Usually his wives, of which he had three, would take care of him, but they were currently all busy, so he had been forced to come here, and now he was being forced to stay for longer than he wanted to.

“Do you have any kids?” Yuichiro asked, surprising even himself. He had noticed yesterday that Uzui generally acted nicer around the kids, while he got more irritated with any adults he interacted with. The reason for his irritation, he now knew was because he wasn’t able to go home.

“No,” Uzui replied. “I never had any.”

“How do you have three wives but no kids?”

Before Uzui could answer, Aoi came over and interrupted them. “If you’re done here, there’s plenty of other things I could use your help with,” she said to Yuichiro. He’d finished changing Uzui’s bandages a while ago, but he’d stayed to listen to him talk. Then she added in a softer tone, “Unless you think you need to go back to your room for the day.”

Yuichiro sighed, annoyed. “I’m fine,” he said. “I can help with other things.”

He promised himself he’d come talk with Uzui again. He realized it helped him calm down.

***

When Yuichiro woke up the next morning, Aoi had been standing in the doorway to his room. Once she had seen that he was awake, she asked him if he wanted to start working on going outside. He didn’t need to go anywhere, just walk through the door. 

He knew this was something he needed to do eventually, so he agreed. If he couldn’t go outside, he would never be able to leave, and if he couldn’t leave, he wouldn’t be able to go home. So once he’d gotten out of bed, he had followed Aoi down to the entrance of the Butterfly Estate where he was now standing.

Once again, he was standing frozen in the doorway unable to take another step. It wasn’t Shinobu, who was keeping him locked up. It was himself. 

Aoi stood just outside frowning at him. “Come on. I know you can do it. Just one step and you’ll be outside. Then you can go right back in.”

“I don’t want to,” said Yuichiro. “I’ll try again another day. My legs won’t move.”

“Please,” she said. “I’ll be right here with you.”

“I said I don’t want to!”

Aoi reached out to grab onto his arm, but before she could Yuichiro pulled away and stumbled backwards.

“What are you doing!”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I just want to help you get better.”

“Well it’s not working,” Yuichiro said. “I know that you’re all just trying to help, but it’s not working. I just want you to all treat me normal. Stop treating me like I’m crazy!”

Yuichiro spun around and started walking off down the hallway. He rubbed at his eyes as tears started to spill out. He heard Aoi’s footsteps coming down the hallway after him.

“Yuichiro wait,” she said as she caught up to him. “You’re shaking. Why don’t I walk you back for your room so you can rest?”

“I don’t want to. I’m tired of going to my room every time I get a little upset. Just leave me alone. All of you just keep smothering me. Nothing will happen just because I’m out of your sight for a few minutes.”

“I’m sorry,” Aoi said again, this time sounding hurt. 

Yuichiro continued to walk, no longer hearing her footsteps behind him. He went into the room where Uzui was still staying and walked over, sitting down on the edge of his bed.

“I wasn’t expecting you to come and visit today,” Uzui said as soon as Yuichiro had sat down. When Yuichiro didn’t say anything in response he added, “Are you okay?”

Yuichiro just shook his head.

“Do you need to talk about it?”

He shook his head again. He really did want to talk about it. He’d wanted to talk about it for weeks, but nobody had ever asked. But right now he wasn’t sure he could handle it. Maybe another time he’d allow himself to talk.

Instead, he sat there and just listened to Uzui talk. He lost track of how long he was there, but he prefered this to sitting in his room all day alone, until Aoi or somebody else came in and visited.  He liked getting to choose for himself what he did with his day. 

***

When Aoi didn’t stop by his room at all the next morning, Yuichiro felt guilty. He hadn’t meant to snap at her yesterday, but he was just getting tired of the constant attention he seemed to be getting from her. He’d needed his space.

He decided that he’d still like to visit with Uzui even if Aoi wasn’t coming by to have him help with the patients. Uzui was suposed to be leaving soon, and Yuichiro was starting to enjoy spending time with him.

When he was awake enough, Yuichiro slid out of bed and made his way to the room where Uzui was, once again taking a seat on the edge of his bed. 

“There’s something wrong with me,” Yuichiro said before Uzui had the chance to start speaking first like he always did.

“Well that’s pretty heavy information to give first thing in the morning to somebody you barely know,” Uzui responded.

Yuichiro glared at him. “You’re the one who asked me yesterday if I wanted to talk, so now I’m talking.”

“I know. I know. Continue if you’d like.”

So Yuichiro did. He told him about the first attack when he’d lost his arm, and how that had made him scared of being alone and scared of the dark. He told him about the trip he’d taken to town with the older Ubuyashiki girls and how he’d panicked there. He told him about the more recent attack and how he’d been dealing with that.

“Now they’re forcing me to stay here,” he said. “It’s not fair. Why am I the only one who acts like this? I’m around people who run into demons more than I ever have, but I’m the only one who’s too scared to go out in the dark or even step outside at all. I hate it.”

“So you can talk,” Uzui said, speaking up for the first time since Yuichiro started speaking. 

“Shut up,” he replied. He felt his cheeks get hot. He didn’t usually like talking about himself like that to people he knew well, let alone people he’d only known for a few days.

“Everybody reacts differently,” said Uzui. “I’ve seen plenty of people break down due to the demons before. You’re not the only one that this happens to. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“And I just wish everybody would stop pretending like nothing happened. I think it would be more helpful to talk about it. But they never ask.”

“So that’s why you told me all this even though you barely know me.”

His cheeks grew hotter. “Maybe,” he mumbled.

“You should try telling them,” Uzui said. “If they care about you as much as they seem to, they won’t mind.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure something out.”

***

The next day Uzui was finally cleared to leave. Before he had left he apparently had spoken to Shinobu about what Yuichiro had said, and she had told Aoi. Now Aoi was finally giving him the space he needed while also letting him talk if he needed to. The message must have also been passed along to Muichiro and Amane because they were now doing the same as well whenever they would stop by and visit.

Over the next few weeks he continued on working on going outside. Eventually he had been able to force his feet to take him outside. As the weeks went on he was able to stay outside for longer periods of time before he started panicking. He also continued to space out less, but it still did happen occasionally, but Aoi no longer forced him to go back to his room when it happened, instead letting him decide what was best for himself.

Today he was outside watching the three younger girls playing. It was the longest he’d managed to stay outside so far. Soon he thought he’d be able to finally leave the grounds. 

As he continued to watch the girls play around in the snow, he saw somebody he recognized making their way to the entrance. It was Tomioka, and he was clutching one of his arms. Yuichiro walked over to him and offered to take him to Shinobu. He was about ready to go back inside anyways, so he didn’t mind and told the girls he was leaving.

He led Tomioka down the hallway to where he knew Shinobu was. She took one look at Tomioka and just sighed. 

“What did you do?” she asked.

“I hurt my wrist,” Tomioka replied. 

“I can see that. How did it happen?”

“...I slipped on ice.”

She sighed. “Of course you did. You need to pay more attention to things like that,” she scolded. “Let me take a look.”

As Shinobu was examining Tomioka’s wrist she sent Yuichiro off to grab some supplies for her. When he came back Shinobu was in the middle of telling Tomioka about how to tell him and Muichiro apart. 

“Yuichiro always looks more grumpy,” she was in the middle of saying. Yuichiro handed over what she’d asked him to grab, and he glared at her. Shinobu started wrapping up Tomioka’s wrist. “See? Look. He’s grumpy.”

“I’m leaving,” he announced, not in the mood to deal with any of this at the moment. He walked out of the room and almost walked straight into Aoi.

“Would you like to go out shopping with me?”

***

Once again Yuichiro found himself standing by the entrance to the Butterfly Estate, Aoi by his side. He took a deep breath and stepped outside. 

“You did it,” said Aoi following him out. While he knew he’d been able to go outside more often recently, this was the first time he’d gone out with the intent to go elsewhere. This would be his first time leaving since arriving on his brother’s back what was now months ago.

“Do you still think you’re ready to go?” Aoi asked him.

He nodded in response. “I think I’ll be okay today,” he said.

“If you want to turn back at any point, just tell me, okay? I can come back another time with Kanao. This isn’t something that needs to be done right this second.”

Yuichiro nodded again.

Aoi started to lead the way with Yuichiro following close behind. As the streets started to get more crowded, he reached out and grabbed onto her arm. She looked over at him for a second, probably trying to see if he was doing okay, but she didn’t say anything and kept walking. 

They only had one stop to make, and before he knew it, they were already on their way back to the Butterfly Estate. Yuichiro had made it the whole trip without panicking or spacing out.

As they made their way back Aoi spoke up. “I know it still isn’t perfect, but you’ve gotten so much better. We told you you would recover.”

“Thank you,” he said.

He didn’t say it outloud, but he hoped this meant he’d finally be able to go home soon.

Chapter Text

It was the first warm, sunny day of the year after all the snow from the winter had finally melted, and Yuichiro found himself lying down outside in the grass along with most of the girls from the Butterfly Estate. Shinobu was away, and there was only a couple patients currently at the Butterfly Estate, so most of the kids had decided to take a well deserved break after a busy winter.

To Yuichiro’s left was Kiyo. At some point, since he’d been forced to join them in the grass, Kiyo had fallen asleep and had attached herself to his side, one of her hands tightly gripping the fabric of his haori. He was having a good day today, so it didn’t bother him, and he let her stay where she was, and didn’t disturb her as she napped. 

On his right was Sumi and Naho. Each of them was lying on their sides facing each other as they spoke to each other, occasionally laughing at something one of them said. They were whispering, however, so Yuichiro didn’t know exactly what it was they were talking about, not that he cared to know.

Just past them was Kanao who was lying flat on her back with her knees pulled up and arms sprawled out. She was the most recent to have joined them in the sun. As they had done with Yuichiro shortly before, the girls had seen her walking by and had begged her to join them and without any arguing she did. Her eyes were closed, but Yuichiro couldn’t tell if she was sleeping or not.

At some point, Yuichiro found himself struggling to keep his eyes open. He’d lost track of how long he’d been lying down. It was nice and peaceful outside with only the girls whispering in the background. He started to drift off to sleep when he was interrupted by a voice yelling out to them.

Yuichiro opened his eyes and glanced over to where the voice was coming from. It was Aoi, he discovered. He’d been wondering if she’d come to join them eventually. She deserved a break just as much as the rest of them. She never seemed to let herself though, always wanting to make sure everything was being done perfectly.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you all,” Aoi said as she made her way over to them. “There’s work you could all be doing right now, and you’re all here doing nothing.”

With Shinobu away for a few days, Kanao and Aoi had been left in charge. However, since Kanao rarely spoke up, most of the responsibility had fallen to Aoi, and from his spot on the ground, Yuichiro could tell she was exhausted. She was taking her role very seriously.

As Aoi spoke, Yuichiro felt Kiyo stir at his side as she started to wake up from the noise. He felt her grip on his haori loosen as she let go and sat up rubbing her eyes.

“We’re taking a break,” Kiyo said. “It’s nice out today, and we’re all so tired.”

At some point Naho and Sumi had also sat up in their spots on the grass. Both of them nodded along in agreement as Kiyo spoke.

“There’s only a couple of patients, so there’s not as much work to do as there has been the past few weeks,” Sumi said.

“You should join us,” Naho added. 

Aoi shook her head. “There’s still plenty of work that needs to be done. We can’t just slack off because Shinobu is gone.”

While Yuichiro was confident that they were doing just fine, the girls didn’t seem to want to argue with Aoi. Starting with Kanao, who stood up without a word, all four of the girls who had been outside started to make their way back inside the Butterfly Estate. 

Yuichiro, however, stayed where he was and closed his eyes again, not ready to head back inside yet. When he opened them again a few seconds later, Aoi’s face was hovering above his own with her having knelt down on the grass behind him. She had a scowl on her face. 

“You know I was talking to you as well, right?” she asked. “You should also be getting to work. Shinobu should be back soon, and I don’t want it to be a mess when she returns.”

“I don’t feel like doing any chores right now,” he whined. He watched as her expression softened, and he realized she must have thought he was having a bad day, so he continued. “It’s just so nice out today. I don’t want to get up.”

“That’s not an excuse,” she replied. “There’s still so much left to do.”

“I think you’re stressing yourself out too much. Everything has been going great, even without Shinobu being here. You don’t need to worry so much. You should take a break too. I don’t think I’ve seen you stop working since she’s been gone.”

Aoi’s face disappeared from his sight, and the next thing Yuichiro knew, she was lying down next to him.

“Just for a few minutes,” she told him. “Then both of us will go inside to help, alright?”

“Just a few minutes,” Yuichiro agreed.

They both laid there in silence. After a while, Aoi had still not gotten up and forced Yuichiro inside with her. He turned his head to the right and saw that she had fallen asleep, and he smiled.

“You need to let yourself take a break more often,” he whispered, even though he knew she wasn’t going to hear him. Within a few minutes, he fell asleep as well.

“This isn’t fair!” he heard, the voice waking him up from his short nap. “We were sent inside to do all the chores, but Aoi got to stay outside and sleep with Yuichiro.” It was Naho’s voice he finally realized. 

Yuichiro sat up and looked over in the direction where Naho, Sumi, and Kiyo now stood. Aoi had also woken up at some point and sat up. He watched as her face started turning red.

“I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” she said, getting to her feet. “I was just lying down for a minute. We’ll go do some work now.” She reached down to grab Yuichiro’s hand to pull him up. “Let’s go.”

As Aoi started to drag him off inside the Butterfly Estate he heard Sumi whining behind them. “She just wants to hog Yuichiro all to herself.”

***

A couple weeks later, Yuichiro found himself out shopping with Aoi. He was finally starting to get a bit better with crowds, so on days Aoi said she was going out shopping for supplies, as long as he was feeling alright, he would volunteer to go with her. On the days he couldn’t make himself go, she would usually take Kanao along with her instead.

Today he had been feeling great, so when she offered to take him, he told her he would like to go. The two of them had already bought everything on the list that Shinobu had given them, which Aoi had forced Yuichiro to carry all of. Since Aoi had brought some of her own money on the trip with her as well, Yuichiro was stuck following her around as she tried to find whatever it was that she was looking for.

As he trailed after her, Yuichiro thought back to the shopping trip he’d taken with the Ubuyashiki girls, and hoped that he’d be able to go with them again someday and that it wouldn’t end so badly like it had the last time. He didn’t want them to have to feel bad about it again. 

It had been nice and sunny out all morning, but unfortunately for them, the weather started to get worse while they were still in town. It started to get cloudy, and you could feel in the air that it was about to rain. Some sunlight was still, however, managing to peek through the clouds. At first, Yuichiro thought nothing of it. He just figured that they’d end up having to walk home in the rain, which wasn’t a big deal, or they could find somewhere to take cover until the storm passed. When they got back to the Butterfly Estate they’d be able to dry off and change into dry clothes if they got wet at all. 

The longer they stayed in town shopping, the more clouds came out. As more clouds came out, the darker it got. The darker it got, the more Yuichiro’s heart started to race. By the time the first raindrops started to fall, it was almost as dark as it was at nighttime. 

“Aoi?” he said quietly, barely able to speak above a whisper. When she turned to face him, he continued. “I think we need to go back now.” 

Without even questioning him, Aoi nodded. “Okay,” she said. “I can come back later with Kanao. We should get back before the rain gets any worse anyways.”

Aoi took everything Yuichiro was carrying into her arms, which he was grateful for. He didn’t think he would have been able to make it back to the Butterfly Estate without dropping anything. 

Aoi walked quickly, occasionally looking over her shoulder to make sure Yuichiro was following. He had no issues keeping up, wanting to get back as quickly as possible. He kept trying to tell himself over and over again that it wasn’t nighttime, and that it was only dark because of the rain, but it didn’t help him to calm down much at all.

As they continued on their way back, the rain started coming down harder. He knew that if they had stayed in town, they could have taken shelter while they waited for the storm to pass, but because of him, they were getting soaked. 

When they finally made it back to the Butterfly Estate and were back inside, Yuichiro finally felt like he could breathe again. However, he did notice he was shaking, but he wasn’t sure if it was from panicking or if he was just shivering from the cold. 

“Stay here,” Aoi said. “I’ll be right back.” He watched her as she disappeared down the hallway. 

Finally feeling safe, now that he was inside, Yuichiro started to get his breathing back under control. He hadn’t been out in a storm like that since everything had happened, and he hadn’t realized that it would affect him like that.

A few minutes later Aoi came back to where Yuichiro was still standing and handed him a towel to dry off with which he took from her hands. The supplies they had bought were no longer in her arms, so he guessed that she had put them away before coming back to join him. 

“Thank you,” he said. “Sorry for making you walk home in the rain like that. It’s my fault.”

Aoi shook her head. “It isn’t your fault at all. I’ve told you that whenever we go out, you’re allowed to ask to go back whenever you need to. It’s not your fault that you got all upset. You haven’t been out in weather like that before. You couldn’t have known what would happen.”

Yuichiro didn’t respond, and instead he started drying himself off with the towel as best as he could. Aoi was also doing the same with another towel she’d brought for herself. 

“I’ll bring a change of clothes to your room,” Aoi said as the two of them finished drying themselves off. “And um, If you’re still not feeling well, I can help you get dressed.”

Yuichiro shook his head. “I feel okay now,” he said. “I don’t need any help.”

“Okay, good,” she said. She turned to leave again, speaking once more before she left. “You better promise me you’re not lying about feeling better.”

“I promise.”

***

Following their shopping trip and the walk home in the rain that followed it, Yuichiro and Aoi both came down with colds. As a result, both of them were scolded by Shinobu and were forced to stay in bed until they recovered.

“You shouldn’t have been out in the rain,” she had said. “You should have just stayed in town until the storm passed. You may have gotten to come back earlier by walking through the rain, but all you did was get yourselves sick.”

While being scolded by Shinobu wasn’t something Yuichiro enjoyed, he knew that it meant Aoi hadn’t told her the full story of what had happened, which he was happy about. He knew he was getting better and didn’t want just one incident to prevent Shinobu from allowing him to go back home, since he knew it was mostly up to her.

That had been weeks ago, and Yuichiro and Aoi had since recovered from their colds. They were now both back to helping out around the estate. It was now almost summer, and Yuichiro had lost track of how long he had been staying at the Butterfly Estate. It felt like he hadn’t been home in forever.

He was helping Aoi with some chores when Naho ran into the room telling Yuichiro that he had a visitor. It had been over a week since he had last seen Amane or Muichiro, so he knew it must be one of them. He followed Naho out into the hallway, and was greeted by Amane. Today she hadn’t brought any of the children with her. She always brought at least one of them.

“Let’s go talk in your room,” she said.

Yuichiro nodded and led her down the hallway to the room that had been his for the past several months. When they arrived at his room, Yuichiro sat down on the edge of his bed facing Amane who took a seat in the chair that was kept in the room. 

Yuichiro noticed she hadn’t brought any food for him. She always brought him lunch when she came to visit. He was starting to worry that something was wrong. It was weird for her not to have any of her children or lunch with her.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been around to visit you that often,” Amane said once they were both settled. “I’ve been busy recently, and I was having trouble finding time to come see you. I’ve heard you’ve been doing a lot better recently.”

Yuichiro nodded. “I don’t get scared as much anymore if people touch me, and I go outside a lot more now without it bothering me.” He still had bad days of course, and his nightmares, but he couldn’t just tell Amane that. He didn’t need her to be worrying about him. Everybody had been doing plenty of worrying over him for months now.

“I’m glad to hear that,” she said. “Before I came to see you, I spoke with Shinobu, and she said that she thinks you’re ready to come home now. And we all miss you back home. But the final decision is up to you. If you’re not ready you don’t have to.”

Yuichiro’s eyes grew wide as she spoke. While he’d given up asking to go home a while ago, he’d been wanting to his entire stay at the Butterfly Estate. He had thought it would take even longer to finally be able to leave.

“Really?” he asked. “I get to go home? You’re not lying, are you?”

“Of course. I would never lie to you about this.”

He jumped to his feet and flew forward wrapping his arm around her. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” He pulled away and wiped at the tears that had started forming in his eyes. 

“You don’t need to cry, Yuichiro.”

“It’s just because I’m happy,” he said. “I can’t wait to go home. When are we leaving?”

“Whenever you’re ready,” she answered.

“I want to go now.”

***

Before leaving the Butterfly Estate, Yuichiro made sure to say all his good-byes. He had tracked down each of the girls, and received hugs from Kiyo, Sumi, and Naho who all made him promise to visit again. When he’d gone to say good-bye to Kanao, she had even said it back.

Aoi seemed to be most upset with him leaving, but she wouldn’t give him a hug like the younger girls had done. Yuichiro didn’t mind though. She did, however, make him promise to keep sending letters, and he had told her he would and that he’d stop by to visit more often, even if Muichiro wasn’t hurt.

His last good-bye was to Shinobu. 

“I’m sorry,” were the first words out of his mouth when he found her. He usually struggled to apologize, but for some reason it was coming easier today. It was probably because he was in such a good mood since he was finally able to go home. “I’m sorry I was so mad at you for making me stay here, and I’m sorry for causing so much trouble.”

Shinobu smiled at him. “Thank you,” she said. “And thank you for all the help you’ve given us these past few months.”

He gave her one last wave as he ran off to where Amane was waiting to take him home.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

Yuichiro nodded and took hold of her hand as they made their way home.

When they finally arrived, Yuichiro spotted Kuina and Kanata playing outside. For a while, neither of them noticed as their mother came walking up to the estate with Yuichiro. But then Kuina happened to turn her head, and Yuichiro watched as her eyes grew wide upon seeing him.

Kuina took off running in his direction and wrapped her arms around his waist, nearly knocking him to the ground if not for his grip on Amane’s hand. Kanata came running over right after she noticed what her sister was doing.

“We missed you so much,” Kuina said, not loosening her hold on Yuichiro at all.

“I missed you too,” he replied. 

Kanata tugged on the sleeve of his haori to get his attention and looked up at him with a big smile on her face. 

“Welcome home.”

***

Over the next few weeks, Yuichiro started getting used to living with the Ubuyashikis again. All the children had missed him, so he made sure to spend as much time with them as he could. It was mostly the girls he spent time with because Kiriya was often busy with his father. He was even able to go to town with Hinaki and Nichika on one of the days he was feeling great.

Being back at home also meant that he was getting his hair tied up again with one of the girls always making sure to tie it for him each morning. He had left behind the ribbon at the house he shared with Muichiro, but at some point Muichiro had given it to Amane to take back home. He would have been too embarrassed to ask anybody other than the Ubuyashiki girls to do it for him anyways. 

Yuichiro was also back to spending time with Amane around the estate again. On some days he wasn’t feeling well enough to play with any of the children, so instead he would spend his day following her around and helping wherever he could. 

He did still have bad days, but he was getting better with dealing with them now. Normally he would spend those days in his room, not wanting anyone to worry. He was also worried himself that if anybody noticed he would get sent back to the Butterfly Estate.

He also was missing the Butterfly Estate more than he thought he would. As much as he had wanted to leave as long as he’d stayed there, he still got used to spending all his time there. He and Aoi continued to exchange letters just as they had done before, but now sometimes one of the other girls would include a message for him as well.

Muichiro had also started exchanging letters with him. Sometimes he was just too busy to be able to stop by, but he still did whenever he could. He also hadn’t taken Yuichiro home since he’d come back and said it was because he didn’t want to make him leave so soon after finally getting to go home. The other reason was because he knew that Yuichiro’s last trip had ended poorly. 

One thing that had remained constant since he had first been carried into the Butterfly Estate last fall had been his nightmares. While he had gotten nightmares since he and his brother were attacked at their house, now almost two years ago, they had only gotten worse after the second attack.

He didn’t have nightmares every night, but they happened often enough to really bother him. It was one of the things he never told anybody about. Once Aoi had stopped spending the night in his room at the Butterfly Estate, he figured everybody had just forgotten about them. But they never went away. 

Tonight was one of those nights where he was woken up by one. Like always he jolted straight up, covered in sweat, which was even worse tonight now that it was summer and the temperatures were rising. 

What was different this time was that he was not alone in his room. Amane was, as she often was, kneeling down next to his futon looking as worried as he would have expected her to.

“I was walking by, and it sounded like you were having a nightmare,” Amane said. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” he lied. “I’m used to it.”

“Does that mean this happens a lot?”

Yuichiro looked away, refusing to answer.

“You should tell somebody if you’re still having trouble with anything.”

“It’s embarrassing,” he replied. “I should be better now, but I’m not.”

“But you are better,” she said. “You’re not going to fully recover from what happened in just a few months. But you’ve improved so much since it first happened. You were even able to go into town with the girls with no problem, which you struggled to do even before it happened.”

“I don’t want people to have to keep worrying about me.”

“I only worry about you as much as I worry about any of my other children. I just care about you.”

Yuichiro turned back to face her. “So you won’t send me away again?”

“Of course not,” she replied. “I think right now it’s best for you to be here. You seem to be happy about being home again. If I sent you away, you would only get worse. Just promise to tell me if you’re having any issues dealing with anything. I want to be able to help.”

“Okay.” He wasn’t sure if he’d totally be able to keep the promise. There were certain things he just wanted to keep to himself, but he would try harder to be more open. It was better than Amane finding out he was keeping something from her again.

“Thank you,” she said, sounding relieved. “Now, if you want me to, I wouldn’t mind staying here the rest of the night. I want you to be able to sleep comfortably, okay?”

Yuichiro thought about it a bit before responding. He really wanted her to stay with him. It would make it a lot easier to fall back asleep. But he didn’t want to force her to. Since she had been the one to ask him, however, he wouldn’t feel as bad.

He nodded.

***

Over the next several weeks, things started to get back to normal, as well as they could. It felt more like before, back when Yuichiro had first came to stay with the Ubuyashikis. He did still have bad days, but after his talk with Amane, he opened up about certain things more often. However, there were still things he kept to himself, not wanting to tell her everything.

At one point, Yuichiro had gone to the Butterfly Estate just to visit for a day. He had told Aoi ahead of time, but to everybody else besides her and Shinobu, it was a surprise. And because Aoi never gave him a break, he ended up getting stuck helping out just like always. Amane had walked him there and back because neither of them was sure how Yuichiro would have done on his own, and they decided it was best.

Muichiro still stopped by occasionally, but Yuichiro still had yet to actually go home with him. He was here today though, and Yuichiro planned on asking him if he could go home with him for a day or so as long as he wasn’t busy. He had already told Amane about it, and she told him it was up to him if he was feeling up to it.

Muichiro was currently talking with Oyakata about something, and Yuichiro was impatiently waiting in his room. To pass the time, he tried to start working on a letter for Aoi, but he kept getting distracted, so he gave that up. He ended up just flopping down onto his futon, lying there until he heard the door finally open and footsteps walking in. 

Yuichiro sat up to greet his brother who came over and sat down next to him. He looked off, different than normal. He looked exhausted. 

“Are you alright?” Yuichiro asked, deciding to make sure everything was okay before asking to go home with his brother.

“I’m fine,” Muichiro replied. “I’m tired. I just want to sleep.”

“You’re hurt,” said Yuichiro. While his brother was good at hiding it, after all the time Yuichiro had spent at the Butterfly Estate, he could still tell that something was wrong. “Where is it?”

Muichiro sighed and rolled the leg of his pants showing a cut that went down the back of his leg. It looked fairly new, and it hadn’t yet been treated. It wasn’t too big, but Yuichiro figured it still needed to be tended to.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, standing up and walking out of the room, returning a few minutes later with some bandages. Before wrapping Muichiro’s leg with the bandages, he first cleaned out the wound to make sure it wouldn’t get infected.

“You need to stop hiding your injuries,” Yuichiro said. “If you let them get infected, they’ll only get worse.”

“You’ve gotten really good at this,” Muichiro said, obviously ignoring Yuichiro’s warning. “You’d make a good doctor someday.”

Yuichiro felt his cheeks get hot at the compliment. “Yeah, well I need to be good at it. Who else will take care of you when you get hurt? You never tell anybody. It’s my job as your older brother to make sure you stay safe.”

It felt good to have a way he could help his brother now. After all the time he had spent at the Butterfly Estate, he had picked up a lot, which was very useful because he always ended up having to patch up Muichiro. While he was still upset that Muichiro felt like he had to protect him, it was nice that Yuichiro had a way to help him as well.

This was especially the case after everything Yuichiro had been through since the second time he was attacked. Yuichiro had been completely useless for a while afterwards and had only been able to cling to his brother. 

But now he had a way to help, and it made him feel good. He didn’t feel so useless anymore. 

Once Yuichiro was finished with the bandages, he went to go put the rest away and came back to find Muichiro lying down on his futon.

“Is it alright if I stay here tonight?” Muichiro asked. “I’m too tired to walk home.”

“Sure,” he replied. While he had wanted to go home with Muichiro today, he didn’t mind him staying here instead.

As long as they got to spend time together, Yuichiro was happy.

***

Soon the weather started to cool down, and it was once again fall. Yuichiro still had yet to go home with Muichiro, but he had started visiting him at the Ubuyashiki Estate more often, sometimes even staying for a couple days at a time.

Yuichiro had tried to drag his brother along when he went to do things with the other children during his visits, but they acted different around him. They all acted more serious, like how they acted around their parents most of the time. Yuichiro realized it was probably because his brother was a Demon Slayer and a Pillar, so they had to keep up their more adult roles around him. Because of this, whenever Muichiro was around, the two of them spent most of their time in Yuichiro’s room by themselves.

Aoi and Yuichiro had continued exchanging letters, so today Yuichiro was on his way to send one. When he arrived to where all the crows were, he made sure to feed them before doing anything else. Today he was surprised to see that for some reason there was now a sparrow among them, but he decided not to question it.

Once he had fed them all, he went to ask the crow he usually used if she could send another letter to Aoi for him, which she agreed to do. Using his teeth, he tied the letter on and watched as she flew off. He was getting quicker at it now that he was sending so many letters.

As he was about to make his way back inside, an old crow he didn’t recognize almost flew straight into his face, but he managed to step out of the way before that could happen. The crow said he had a letter to deliver him. Yuichiro was pretty confident that this letter was not for him .

“Who exactly are you supposed to be delivering that to?” he asked.

The crow didn’t answer him, instead he kept trying to force Yuichiro to take the letter. Yuichiro started walking away, back to the estate, but the crow followed him. It seemed like he was not going to leave until Yuichiro took the letter from him. Yuichiro decided that he’d open it to see who it was meant for, and he could have another crow deliver it. He took the letter from the crow and scooped the crow up into his arm. 

“I’m going to get you some food before you go back,” he told him, then brought him to where the food was. Once he was fed, Yuichiro watched as he flew off, hoping he would make it back safely.

Yuichiro then opened the letter and saw that it was for Oyakata. The crow must have gotten the location correct and had just forgotten who he was supposed to deliver it to. Yuichiro decided he could just give it to Oyakata himself, and once again started to make his way back to the estate.

He found Oyakata alone in one of the rooms. He always got nervous around him, not seeing him as often as the other members of the Ubuyashiki family. Oyakata was always so busy, so Yuichiro just never got the chance to see him. 

“Um, I have a letter for you,” Yuichiro said. He watched as Oyakata turned his head in the direction of his voice. “There was an old crow who got confused and tried to give it to me.”

“That must have been Giyuu’s crow. He has trouble with that sometimes.” Oyakata held out his hand, and Yuichiro handed him the letter. 

Yuichiro was about to turn and walk out of the room when Oyakata stopped him. “Why don’t you take a seat. I don’t get to talk with you that often.”

Yuichiro did as he was told and sat down. Since he didn’t sit down and talk with him all that much, he never realized how much the disease on his face was spreading. It made him sad when he realized it would eventually kill him, and the same would happen to his children when they got older.

“How have you been doing? My wife says you’ve improved a lot.”

“I’m fine,” Yuichiro said, not able to make himself say much more than that. 

“I’m glad to hear that. You’ve probably been told this a lot, but we were all worried about you while you were away all of last winter.”

“You were too?” Yuichiro had never really felt close with Oyakata unlike with the rest of his family, so he was surprised to hear it.

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be. You’ve started to become part of our family.”

Yuichiro’s cheeks turned bright red. It always felt weird to be included with them even after such a long time of living with them. 

“Now I really should read this letter you delivered,” Oyakata said. “Would you mind getting Kiriya for me when you leave?”

“Okay,” Yuichiro responded.

He got to his feet and walked out of the room, cheeks still burning.

***

Yuichiro was having a bad day. It wasn’t the first one he’d had this week either. It was now much later in the fall, and for some reason, during the past week, he just felt awful. He had stayed in his room as much as he could, occasionally coming out when he wasn’t feeling as bad, because he didn’t want to worry anybody. He knew they noticed anyways.

Currently he was walking down the hallway back to his room with a glass of water in his hand. Today was the worst he’d felt in a while, and he just wanted to get back to his room, so he could spend the day alone. He’d only left to get himself a drink. 

Unfortunately, the worst thing that could have happened at that moment happened. He felt somebody crash into his back, and then small hands gripped at his clothing so whoever it was could stop themselves from falling.

The glass he was holding slipped out of his hand and shattered on the floor.

He couldn’t breathe. 

He knew it was an accident, so he wasn’t going to blame whoever it was. Maybe if he had heard the footsteps he would have been able to move out of the way in time.

Yuichiro grabbed the wrist of the person who had run into him and pulled them backwards, away from the glass then immediately let go. It was Kiriya, he finally realized who stared up at him with wide eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Kiriya said. “Are you okay?”

Yuichiro opened his mouth to respond, but no words came out. He leaned up against the wall behind him, trying to catch his breath. 

After he didn’t get a response from Yuichiro, Kiriya’s expression grew concerned, and he turned and rushed down the hallway, returning a few minutes later with his mother. 

Amane knelt down in front of Yuichiro. He was sitting on the floor now. He didn’t remember sitting. 

“Can you tell me what happened?” she asked.

“I’m having a bad day today,” he replied, voice shaking. “I just want to go back to my room.” His cheeks were wet. At some point he had started crying.

“Would you like to talk about it?” she asked.

Yuichiro shook his head. “Please don’t send me away again. I don’t want to go back. I want to stay here? Please .”

“We would never send you away. I told you that I think right now it’s best for you if you’re here.”

“But I’m not better. I’m supposed to be better. Why can’t I just get better?”

“You are getting better.” Amane reached her hand out towards him but stopped when Yuichiro flinched away. “You’ve been home for months now, and this is the first time anything like this has happened, right?”

Yuichiro nodded. He still had bad days, but nothing as bad as this had happened since he was still at the Butterfly Estate. It didn’t make him feel like he was doing any better though. But he really wanted to.

“Now let’s get you back to your room, alright? I’m sure you’ll feel better after some rest. I’ll have somebody come clean up the glass, so don’t worry about that.”

She stood up, and Yuichiro followed right behind. He reached out to grab onto her hand as they walked down the hallway to his room.

I’m going to get better , he promised himself. Nobody will have to worry about me anymore.

Chapter Text

Yuichiro was sick. 

About a week ago Kiriya had gotten sick. While he had stayed in his room until he’d recovered, it had managed to spread to Hinaki and Nichika, and now Yuichiro had caught whatever it was the others had had. As far as he knew, the younger girls hadn’t caught it at all yet.

He had felt fine yesterday, but when he woke up this morning, he couldn’t even make himself sit up, so he had just stayed in bed wondering how long it would take for somebody to come check on him.

His question was soon answered when the door to his room opened, and Amane walked in. He figured it must be early afternoon by now. Amane always came to check on him around that time on the days he stayed in his room all day in case he needed anything.

Today Yuichiro was fine, however, except for the fact that he was sick. 

“You look pale,” Amane said as she knelt down next to Yuichiro. She placed her hand on his forehead, and he closed his eyes. “It looks like you’ve got a fever. You must have caught it from one of the others. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he replied, looking back up at her as she removed her hand. It wasn’t anybody’s fault he was sick. It was winter. He usually got sick in the winter. 

“Is there anything you need right now?” she asked.

“I’m cold.”

“I’ll be right back,” she said. Before standing up she pulled out a folded up piece of paper. “I almost forgot. You had a letter delivered today. I came here to give it to you.” She placed it down next to him, and then she walked out of the room.

Yuichiro reached next to him to pick up the letter, and he unfolded it. Still too tired to sit up, he stayed where he was and just held the letter in front of his face. As expected, it was from Aoi. The entire letter was about Kanao, which was unexpected, however.

At the next Final Selection that was being held in a couple weeks, Kanao would apparently be participating. Most of the letter was Aoi worrying over it, which Yuichiro understood. He’d had to deal with that twice now with both Muichiro and Aoi.

She was being too hard on herself in the letter which he was starting to realize she often was. She wrote that she knew if she could pass when she didn’t even deserve to, Kanao would be able to pass for sure, because she was convinced Kanao was much better than her. Despite all that she still worried that something might go wrong. 

Yuichiro finished reading the letter as Amane walked back in, her arms full of various things. He tucked the letter under his pillow. When he felt better he’d write a response and put the letter from Aoi with all the other ones he’d received over the past several months.

“Was that from Aoi or your brother?” Amane said, placing everything she was carrying onto the floor. He often told her about the letters he received from the two, which she was always happy to hear about.

“Aoi,” he replied. “Kanao will be in the next Final Selection.” 

Amane started piling some blankets she had brought on top of Yuichiro. “Are you friends with her as well?”

Yuichiro paused for a moment before nodding. “I think so,” he said. “She doesn’t really talk, but she’s nice.”

“It’s nice to see you getting along with so many people now.”

She was right. Before everything had happened, all he’d had was Muichiro. Over the past year and a half he’d become close with so many others at both the Ubuyashiki and Butterfly Estates. 

“I brought you something warm to eat,” she announced, once she finished with the blankets. “Can you sit up?”

Yuichiro used his arm to try to push himself up into a sitting position, but it just gave out, and he ended up back where he was on his back. Being unable to do it himself, he felt Amane pull him up and brought him, blankets and all, right up against her. She then started to feed him the food she’d brought.

“I can feed myself,” he told her. He was fourteen. Not a baby.

“I know,” she responded. “But I want to.”

She was babying him. He was fourteen, and she was still babying him. She hadn’t even done this for her own children when they had been sick. With her children, it had been more like caring for sick patients at the Butterfly Estate. Yuichiro had helped her with them, and it had been just like helping around at the Butterfly Estate. 

But this was more like being taken care of by his mother. It was just like when he and Muichiro used to get sick when they were little. Their mother had always fussed over them until they were better. 

It’s not that she didn’t care about her children, he knew. But she couldn’t treat them like children all the time. She took care of them as best as she could, but they were treated as if they were older. Yuichiro was the oldest, but he was treated like the youngest. He figured that she wanted to treat her other children the same way, but because of everything else she couldn’t. 

“I’m full,” he said after a while.

Amane put the bowl down and pushed it aside. “Why don’t you take a nap now,” she said, running her fingers through his hair. He leaned his head up against her and closed his eyes.

He didn’t mind being babied just for today.

***

A few weeks later Yuichiro found himself waiting outside for Kiriya and Kanata to come back from the Final Selection. He wanted to ask them about Kanao to see how she did. He didn’t have any doubt she wouldn’t have passed, but it would still be nice to hear it directly from Kiriya or Kanata who had been there.

At one point Kuina had joined him outside, sitting in his lap telling him a story about something that had happened when she had gone into town with her mother a few days ago, acting it out as she spoke. She wasn’t there long before Nichika came out to ask Kuina for her help with something, and she’d gone back inside.

After a while Yuichiro finally saw Kiriya and Kanata making their way back to the estate. He got to his feet and went to greet them but froze once he got a better look at them. Kanata was crying. She’d been getting better at holding back her tears like she always tried. He knew how much she hated crying in front of everybody. He hadn’t seen her cry in so long. 

First he noticed the dark bruise around her left eye. Below that he saw a small cut on her cheek, and he saw that her hair was disheveled. She was clinging onto Kiriya’s hand, probably as a way to try and calm herself down. Somebody had hurt his sister. 

“What happened?” he asked as the two stopped in front of him. He remembered the first time he had gone into town Hinaki had told him that people often said that the children looked creepy. He wondered if they had run into one of those people on their way back home.

“One of the boys who passed the Final Selection got angry and attacked her,” Kiriya replied. Kanata was still crying and unable to respond for herself. 

“And he was still allowed to join after that?” Nobody should be allowed to stay after doing something like that. This person had hurt Oyakata’s daughter.

“Well there were only five survivors. We can’t just turn somebody away over that.”

“Out of how many?” Yuichiro asked. It didn’t seem like that many, but maybe just not many people tried in the first place.

“There was about twenty this time.”

Yuichiro was glad he had never heard those numbers before. It would have only made him worry more about Muichiro and Aoi when they had gone to their Final Selections. The fact that so many people died would have made his worrying even worse if he’d known just how bad it was.

“Plus he’s Sanemi’s younger brother,” Kiriya continued. “I don’t think Father would turn away one of the Pillars’ siblings over something like this. It’s not that big a deal.”

But it was a big deal. He had hurt her. As angry as Yuichiro was about this, there was nothing he could do, and chances were he’d never even meet Shinazugawa’s brother. He bent down in front of Kanata, deciding it was more important to deal with this now, instead of focusing on what had already happened. “Let’s get you to your room.”

Kanata nodded, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hands. She wrapped her arms around Yuichiro’s neck and jumped up to wrap her legs around his waist. Yuichiro then wrapped his arm around her back to help hold her up, and he started to make his way inside, Kiriya following just behind them.

When they got inside, Yuichiro continued on to Kanata and Kuina’s room, while Kiriya ran off in a different direction. Yuichiro opened the door to the girls’ room when they arrived and stepped inside. Kuina wasn’t there, so she must have still been helping Nichika with something.

Yuichiro placed Kanata down on the futon he knew was hers and started to look over the cut on her cheek. She had stopped crying at some point on the walk to her room which was good. He knew it would have only upset her more if her parents had seen her crying.

“It’s not bad,” he said. “But it’ll probably still be best to bandage it up, so it won’t get infected.”

As if on cue, Kiriya stepped in just as Yuichiro finished speaking with medical supplies in his hands. He placed them down on the floor next to Yuichiro. He didn’t know when the other children had started expecting him to patch them up whenever they got hurt, but he was starting to realize he did it a lot. He didn’t mind though.

While Yuichiro got to work cleaning out and patching up the small cut on Kanata’s cheek, Kiriya told him about the others who had passed the Final Selection. Kanao had been one of the ones to pass, which Yuichiro was glad for. He’d been too distracted by Kanata’s injuries to remember to ask them about her earlier.

One of the others had apparently left before the other four had even arrived, being too impatient to wait. And another one had gotten the sparrow Yuichiro had seen for the first time a few months ago instead of an actual crow. He wondered why it had been there.

“And one of the others boys broke Sanemi’s little brother’s arm. It was really cool,” Kiriya said excitedly. Yuichiro wasn’t sure if he should be worried about his reaction or not. But at least he was expressing himself.

As Kiriya was finishing up his stories, Yuichiro finished patching up Kanata’s cheek and had moved on to brushing her hair. “You’re all set,” he told her when he finished. “Why don’t you get some rest now?”

“I’ll go tell Father that we’re back, so you can stay here,” Kiriya said, getting to his feet and rushing out the door before anybody had a chance to reply. 

Yuichiro picked up the rest of the medical supplies left on the floor and stood up. “If you need anything else, you can come find me,” he said before leaving the room, shutting the door behind him. 

While he walked down the hallway to put everything away, he started hoping that he never had to see the younger Shinazugawa. He did not want to deal with somebody who hurt his sister. 

***

A few days after Kiriya and Kanata had come back from the Final Selection, Yuichiro was on his way back from delivering a letter when he saw Shinazugawa storming out of the Ubuyashiki Estate, nearly running straight into him. Seeing him only reminded Yuichiro about what his brother had done to Kanata just a few days ago.

“Tokito?” 

Yuichiro sighed. He didn’t want to have to have a conversation right now. He hoped this was another one of those instances where he was being confused for Muichiro. It had happened plenty of times in the past. Why couldn’t they all just be able to tell the difference like Shinobu had always done. 

“I’m not Muichiro,” Yuichiro said. If he started off this way, it would mean there was less of a chance he’d have to continue on a conversation.

He was about to walk inside when Shinazugawa spoke up again. “Yeah, I realize that. I’m not talking to him. I’m talking to you.”

Yuichiro sighed again. He had only interacted with Shinazugawa once, and it had been so long ago he barely even remembered it. The only reason he even recognized Shinazugawa was because his scars were so unique, and he occasionally saw him around the estate. He just never interacted with him just like he did with almost all other visitors. He didn’t know them, so there was no need to hold a conversation with them. 

“You’re the older twin, right?”

If answering would end this conversation quicker, he would do it, so he nodded. “Why do you need to know?”

Instead of answering Yuichiro’s question, Shinazugawa asked his own. “What did you think when he joined the Demon Slayers?”

This must be about his younger brother, Yuichiro realized. Oyakata must have called him here to inform him that he’d passed the Final Selection, which explain why he looked so angry. Now he wanted to be part of this conversation even less. He was not in the mood to talk about the younger Shinazugawa, who he did not like, with his older brother. He’d have to try and hold himself back from saying anything rude.

“I was mad,” Yuichiro replied truthfully. There wasn’t really any other way out of this. “Mostly at Amane because she was the one to convince him to join. Something about our ancestors being important or something.” He shrugged. 

“But you just let him?”

Yuichiro shook his head. “Of course not. Amane kept coming by our house so many times, so I kept sending her away, but I couldn’t do much when we were stuck at the Butterfly Estate.” He hadn’t realized it, but at one point he’d grabbed onto his left arm. “I tried to make him quit, but he wouldn’t listen. So don’t think that’ll just work with your brother. Little brothers are too stubborn.”

“How did you know I was talking about my brother?” Shinazugawa asked, his eyes widening. 

“It was pretty obvious,” Yuichiro replied. 

“But how did you even know about him?”

Yuichiro rolled his eyes. “I live here.” Sometimes living with the Ubuyashikis meant Yuichiro knew certain things that were not necessarily common knowledge among all the Demon Slayers, such as the most recent Final Selection results.  

Shinazugawa just frowned. “He’s not supposed to join. It’s just supposed to be me.”

Yuichiro started to move towards the door again. He’d talked enough. More than he’d wanted to. He really didn’t care about any of this. Nothing he said would change anything.

“At least you can protect your brother,” he said before disappearing inside.

***

“Why don’t you smile anymore?”

“What?”

“I haven’t seen you smile in years.”

“I don’t?”

Yuichiro and Muichiro were lying down on the floor in Yuichiro’s room at the Ubuyashiki Estate. Muichiro was spending the night with him once again because he was too tired to walk Yuichiro all the way back home.

“You used to smile all the time when we were little,” Yuichiro said. “Now you don’t smile at all. I don’t think I’ve seen you smile since you joined the Demon Slayers.”

Muichiro just laid there silently for a while before responding. “I never realized that,” he said. “I could try to do it more often if you’d like me to.” A forced smile made its way onto his lips. It wasn’t the same. It wasn’t Muichiro’s smile that he always had on his face when they were younger. It was obvious it wasn’t an actual smile. 

“What did they do to you?”

“Yui,” Muichiro said, the fake smile turning into a frown. “I thought you had stopped blaming the Demon Slayers for everything. They haven’t done anything to me. You live with Oyakata now. I thought you were over it.”

“I am,” he lied. For the most part it was true. He wasn’t mad at them all the time anymore. He got along with everybody in the Ubuyashiki family, even Oyakata who he rarely spoke with. But he couldn’t stop the slight resentment he felt towards them for making his brother join, even though it had been over two years now. He cared about them all, but part of him still continued to push the blame onto them for what happened. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

“That’s fine. We don’t have to,” Muichiro said with a yawn. 

“You seem more tired today than you usually are.” Yuichiro was a bit worried. Last time he’d seen his brother look this exhausted had been when he had made himself sick and had been coughing up blood. He seemed to be barely be keeping himself awake, and Yuichiro was worried he’d started overworking himself again.

“I’m fine,” he replied. “I was doing something with Rengoku right after my last mission from Oyakata, so I haven’t rested too much lately. I promise I will though, so don’t get mad.”

“Who is that?” Yuichiro asked. The name sounded familiar, but he struggled to remember everybody who came up in conversations he had with his brother. He never really bothered to remember people he personally didn’t care about. 

“He’s one of the other Pillars,” Muichiro replied. “The Flame Pillar.”

Yuichiro remembered him now. He saw him around occasionally, as he did with all the other Pillars when they came to talk with Oyakata, but he had never spoken to him. “I didn’t realize you hung out with any of the others.” It shouldn’t surprise him as much as it did. Yuichiro had made friends when he wasn’t with Muichiro. He shouldn’t have expected Muichiro to just be alone all the time. But he couldn’t help the small bit of jealousy he felt that somebody else was spending time with his brother.

“I usually don’t. But Rengoku is really nice to everybody, and it’s hard not to like him. I don’t really talk with most of the others that often.” 

Yuichiro felt bad that that made him feel better. Muichiro shouldn’t have to be alone all the time, but he hated the idea of other people hanging out and spending time with him. Muichiro was his. 

They laid there in silence for a while, and Yuichiro realized Muichiro had fallen asleep. Yuichiro sighed and covered him up in some blankets.

“You better rest. Lots of people will be mad at you if you get sick again.”

***

A few weeks after Muichiro had spent the night, Yuichiro was outside reading a book Amane had bought for him. She had noticed that he would often get bored during the day if everybody else was busy with other things, so she had bought a book she thought he might enjoy to give him something to do.

While he usually just read in his room, especially on the days he needed to be alone, but today the weather was nice, so he had found a spot just outside the estate to sit by himself and read. He had done the same yesterday as well, but he had been interrupted when Shinobu and Tomioka had stopped by. 

The two of them had been called by Oyakata for some reason Yuichiro didn’t know, and Shinobu had spotted him as soon as the two arrived. She’d had him show them to where Oyakata was waiting for them, which was usually a job that one of the children would do. He hadn’t minded, but it had interrupted his reading, and he hadn’t been able to go back to it for the rest of the day.

Today he had found himself a different spot, hoping nobody would come by and bother him as had happened yesterday. He’d gone outside shortly after waking up, deciding to skip breakfast. He had brought his book with him and started reading where he left off. He was there for a while, when he saw somebody walking towards the estate out of the corner of his eye. He hoped that whoever it was would leave him alone.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t that lucky. 

It was one of the Kakushi. He didn’t normally see them around the Ubuyashiki Estate, usually just seeing them when he was visiting Aoi at the Butterfly Estate. The Kakushi noticed him, and walked over in his direction. Yuichiro noticed a box on his back.

“Tokito are you here for the Pillar meeting?”

While he was annoyed at getting mistaken for his brother once again, Yuichiro was more focused on the mention of a Pillar meeting. As far as he knew there hadn’t been one scheduled for today. He had always been informed ahead of time when a meeting was being held, and he’d been told there would be one in a few weeks. Nobody had told him that it had been moved up to today.

What if it meant something was wrong? What if it was an emergency meeting? Yuichiro started to worry that something could have happened to Muichiro. He tried to calm himself down by telling himself that he would have been told by someone immediately if anything had happened to his brother. It didn’t do much to help. He could never fully stop himself from worrying about Muichiro unless he was in front of him and safe. But he did worry less than he used to.

Still not answering the Kakushi who had spoken to him, Yuichiro turned his attention to the box. Something felt wrong, but he didn’t understand what. He thought he heard some movement coming from inside, but he had no idea what could be in there that would be moving. His breathing started getting heavy, but he didn’t know why. 

What was in the box?

Yuichiro got to his feet, book slipping from his hand. Something told him that he needed to get away. He needed to leave. He wasn’t sure why he suddenly felt this way.

He opened his mouth to give some sort of reply to the Kakushi, when Kiriya and Kuina came rushing over to where he was.

“We’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Kuina told him, bending down to pick up the book he’d dropped onto the ground. Kiriya, meanwhile, walked over to the Kakushi, and said something to them, leading them away.

“What’s going on?” Yuichiro forced out, once the other three were out of sight. It was a lot easier to talk to Kuina than to strangers, but it was still hard when he was panicking, and currently he was starting to. 

“Something’s happened,” Kuina replied, taking hold of Yuichiro’s hand. She kept his book tucked under her other arm. “My mother is waiting for you in your room. I’m not supposed to tell you anything. She’ll tell you when we get there.”

Yuichiro let himself get led back inside the estate and down the hallway to his room. “Did something happen with my brother?”

Kuina shook her head. “Muichiro is fine. We just think it’s best for you to stay in your room for a while. Just while the meeting is going on. Everything will be fine after that. It was a bit last minute, so we weren’t able to tell you sooner, and when we went to your room this morning, you were already gone.”

When he walked into his room, Amane was there, just like Kuina had said. Kuina let go of his hand and went to go put his book down for him, before walking back out of the room, leaving Yuichiro alone with her mother.

“What happened?” Yuichiro asked as soon as she was gone.

“Why don’t you sit down first,” Amane said, leading him over to his futon, helping him sit and then sitting down next to him on the floor. 

“I know there isn’t a good way to tell you this, but I promise everything will be fine, so try to stay calm,” she continued. None of what she was saying was helping. He didn’t even know what she was going to say, and his heart was already racing as he thought of all the possibilities. He’d been told Muichiro was fine, but it didn’t stop him from worrying. But he still nodded. He’d at least try to stay calm.

“There is a demon girl being brought here today.”

Yuichiro stopped breathing.

“Try to stay calm,” Amane told him once again. But how was he supposed to stay calm when there was a demon here? He was supposed to be safe here. He’d always felt safe here, but right now he’d rather be anywhere else but here.

Amane continued her explanation of what was happening, while Yuichiro unsuccessfully tried to calm himself down. “From what I’ve heard, she has never harmed any humans before. And it’s daytime outside. She’s in a box, so she won’t be able to leave that. By the time it’s dark out, we should know what is being done about her.”

The box. The box he had seen the Kakushi carrying outside. That must have been what was inside. A demon. He’d been that close to a demon, and he hadn’t even realized. Why did they have to bring one here?

“I don’t want to be here,” Yuichiro said, finally speaking up. “I want to leave. I don’t feel safe.”

“Right now it’s best if you just stay here in your room. You’ll be safe here.”

“But what if it does something?”

“She won’t,” she promised. “I’m going to stay here with you until she’s gone. One of the girls will come tell us when that happens, okay?”

Yuichiro nodded. He told himself he’d be fine. Amane was with him, and being with her always made him feel safer. The demon was likely here because of the Pillar meeting the Kakashi had mentioned, which meant that there were nine Pillars currently at the estate who could take it out if something were to happen. He should feel safe, but it was hard to. He just wanted it to be over with already.

“Why don’t you take a nap while you wait. It might help make the time go by quicker,” Amane suggested.

“I’m not tired,” Yuichiro replied. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep right now. He was too scared. “Can I have my book?”

Amane smiled at him, then went to grab his book from where Kuina had placed it earlier, dropping it into his lap. Yuichiro opened it up to where he’d left off, but found himself too distracted to continue. But he continued trying to read it. He needed some way to pass the time while he waited for one of the children to tell them it was safe. 

At some point Yuichiro started crying after only managing to read a couple pages. Amane immediately moved towards him to wipe the tears away and pull him into her lap. 

“You’ll be fine,” she told him. “You’re doing so well.” He didn’t think he was doing well at all.

Yuichiro was still sitting in her lap, but no longer crying, when Kuina came back a while later, this time with Kanata and Kiriya following behind her. That meant that Nichika and Hinaki were with Oyakata at the meeting. Yuichiro watched as the three of them walked in closing the door behind them. 

“The girl is gone,” Kuina said, sitting down next to her mother, the other two finding a place to sit as well. Those four words did so much to help Yuichiro calm down. He felt safe again. The demon was gone, and he was still okay. 

“What happened at the meeting?” Amane asked. 

“We don’t know,” Kiriya spoke up. “It’s still going on, but Nichika and Hinaki promised to tell us how everything went.”

Yuichiro closed his eyes and just listened as the four of them spoke amongst each other. All that mattered to him was that the demon was gone, and he was safe, and everybody else was safe as well. But he still felt most comfortable at the moment where he was on Amane’s lap. 

His eyes opened when he heard the door open again, this time revealing Nichika and Hinaki in the doorway. The meeting must have finally ended. 

Amane slowly moved Yuichiro off of her lap and excused herself, so she could go speak with Oyakata. He was left with all five of the Ubuyashiki children sitting in his room.

Hinaki spoke up first. “Your brother said to tell you that he’s sorry he wasn’t able to visit you after the meeting today, but he’s busy.”

Yuichiro just nodded and listened as she and Nichika told the others everything that had happened with the demon at the meeting. Apparently Shinazugawa had stabbed it, and tried to get it to attack him, but it had held back. Yuichiro knew this should make him feel better, but it was still a demon. Even if it hadn’t hurt anybody so far, it still could.

Kiriya looked most excited as the two girls told the story. It had taken a while, but he was finally showing off more of his personality he saved for when he was with his siblings with Yuichiro. It made him happy that they all acted themselves with him. There had been little things here and there, but Kiriya was finally opening up more around him. 

Yuichiro was finally starting to calm down more, when he found out what had happened with the demon when it had left. 

“Her and her brother were taken to the Butterfly Estate,” Nichika said.

Yuichiro couldn’t breathe.

Aoi was at the Butterfly Estate, and there were so many other people he cared about there. He didn’t want them to have a demon stay with them. And if the demon stayed there for a while, he wouldn’t be able to visit, because he didn’t think he would be able to stop himself from panicking if he knew a demon was there. 

“She won’t hurt anybody,” Hinaki said, trying to comfort him.

“I know,” he replied. He knew it would be fine based on what he’d been told, but he was scared, and he hated it. He didn’t like feeling scared all the time.

“Everything will be fine,” Kanata added.

She was right. For now he would just focus on that. He’d made it through the day, and for now that was good enough.

***

It had been months since Yuichiro had been to the Butterfly Estate, and he was starting to get bored of sitting around at home all day. He’d finished his book a while ago and no longer had that for when he was bored anymore. 

He would have gone to the Butterfly Estate any other time, but every time he got another letter from Aoi, she informed him that the demon was still with them. Yuichiro hated that it was keeping him away. He just wanted to have something else to do.

Yuichiro was currently outside playing some sort of game with Kanata and Kuina that the two of them had made up. They’d asked some of the crows to cooperate with them, and had them fly over every once in a while. Before the crow reached a certain point, they had to run from a starting point to a specific tree and they’d get a point. And if they could make it back to the starting point they would get two more.

Today he was lucky the two of them were free and that he was feeling well because he actually had something to do. Currently Kuina was winning with just a few more points ahead of the other two.

They played for a while, taking a break for lunch, which the three of them decided to eat outside. He listened as the two of them talked about something, but he didn’t really know what. Focusing on eating and listening to the two, he didn’t hear the footsteps approaching him until he heard a voice speak from behind him.

“What are you doing?”

Yuichiro turned around to see Aoi standing there, dressed up differently than he usually saw her. She wasn’t wearing her normal apron outside of her uniform like she did whenever he saw her when he went to visit.

“We’re having lunch,” he replied, not sure why she should be the one asking him that. She never came by here, so her presence here was much less expected. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard you’ve been moping around, and Shinobu made me come visit,” she said. She came over and sat down next to him. 

As Aoi sat down, Kanata and Kuina both stood up announcing they were going to play their game again and ran off leaving Yuichiro alone with Aoi. He watched them play for a bit before returning his attention to Aoi.

“I bet you were moping too,” he teased. “That’s probably why she sent you.”

“I was not!” she said. “But I’m sure she and your mom were exchanging letters.”

“She’s not my mom.” While he had realized he’d started referring to the other kids as his siblings occasionally, he didn’t think he’d ever start referring to Amane as his mom.

Aoi just shrugged and continued, dropping that topic. “I think part of why I was sent away is because she could tell I was getting annoyed with some of the patients recently. I think I’ve told you about them.”

Yuichiro thought back to some of her more recent letters she had sent him which gave off a more annoyed tone than usual. Of the three boys that had been staying there along with the demon, two of them seemed to be driving her crazy more often than not. He realized he had been the same way when he’d first stayed there as well.

“It’s good to take a break sometimes,” he told her.

“Of course you would say that. You’re always trying to get out of helping when you stop by.”

It was true he sometimes would rather not be helping, but he usually didn’t mind it. It gave him something to do when he was bored, which is why he generally would go to visit when he’d gone a few days of having nothing to do at home. 

“I wish I could visit,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind helping. Why does the demon have to be staying with you? And how long is it even going to be there?”

“Nezuko is not an it ,” Aoi said, sounding a bit mad. “She’s a girl.” It was the first time Yuichiro had heard the name of the demon. Everybody usually tried to avoid the topic around him as much as possible it seemed. 

“But it’s a demon.”

“But she’s still a girl.”

Yuichiro sighed. It was best not to annoy Aoi. “Fine. Then how long will she be there?”

“It depends on how long her brother stays,” Aoi answered. “He’s still healing, and he’s been busy training, so it could be a while before he’s allowed to leave.”

“It’s not fair.”

“You’re not the only one that ever comes to the Butterfly Estate. We can’t just keep people away because it makes one person uncomfortable, especially since you’re not a patient.”

“But usually you’re not keeping demons there."

“I’ve been thinking that maybe you should visit while Nezuko is there,” Aoi said, sounding a bit excited as she spoke. “Since she doesn’t hurt humans, maybe she could help you get better, so you wouldn’t be scared as much.”

Yuichiro quickly shook his head, his heartbeat speeding up at the thought. “I can’t,” he said. It would be too much for him to have to deal with. He wasn’t ready to deal with that right now. He didn’t care how many people told him that the demon was safe to be around. He didn’t feel safe knowing demons were around, no matter how nice or harmless they were supposed to be.

“Please,” Aoi begged. “It’ll help you a lot  I think. I just want you to get better.”

“I don’t want to.” He raised his voice as he spoke. “I know you just want to help, but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”

“It’s been over a year.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m not ready for anything like that. It’ll just make everything worse.”

“If you would at least just come by and meet her-”

“Stop it!” He didn’t want to talk about this anymore. Why couldn’t she just drop it? She always tried to help, but sometimes she just didn’t know what was best for him. He knew it wouldn’t help, so why wouldn’t she just listen.

“I’m sorry,” she said, finally dropping the subject. 

“Maybe another time,” he said. “But right now I don’t think I can handle that.”

Yuichiro wasn’t sure if he would ever be ready to deal with it, but he wanted to make her feel better. It wasn’t necessarily a bad suggestion, but he just knew it wasn’t going to work for him personally right now. 

For a while the two of them sat there quietly as they watched the girls continue their game. They looked exhausted from all the running around they were doing, or at least Kanata did. At one point, he offered Aoi some of the leftover food that he and the twins hadn’t eaten during lunch.

“How long are you staying here?” he asked a while later. 

“I was told I’m spending the night,” Aoi replied. “But tomorrow morning I’ll have to go back home. I have a lot to do, and I can’t take too long of a break. I don’t want the little ones to have to deal with everything. The boys are a lot of work.”

“Thank you for visiting,” Yuichiro said. “I’ve missed seeing you.”

***

A few weeks after Aoi had spent the night at the Ubuyashiki Estate, Muichiro had come by to take Yuichiro home with him for a few days. It was the first time Yuichiro had gone home with him since the incident with the demon, so he was excited to finally spend time with him alone without any of the girls at the Butterfly Estate or any of the Ubuyashikis. 

While the demon girl had left with the others at one point, they hadn’t been gone long enough for Yuichiro to get the chance to stop by. And it sounded like they would be there for a long time again, so he hoped Aoi would come by and visit him again soon. 

For now though, he was happy to be with his brother. It was his second day here, and he was currently busy making lunch. Yesterday he’d had to force Muichiro to go out shopping, so they could buy some ingredients to cook with, because there had been nothing at home. And it was obvious why. The kitchen looked like it hadn’t been used since the last time Yuichiro stopped by even though he had tried to teach Muichiro some simple recipes. 

“You’re just going to waste all your money,” Yuichiro scolded as he worked on cooking lunch. Muichiro had told him that most of the time he just went out to eat when he was hungry if nobody else was cooking for him.

“But Oyakata pays me as much as I ask for,” Muichiro replied. “And cooking is too hard.”

“I’ve showed you easy recipes though.”

“I’d just mess them up.”

Yuichiro decided to just drop it for now, and focus on cooking. He’d try again later. He would prefer it if his brother didn’t starve while living on his own. He wished he could stay home with him more often, but he knew more often than not Muichiro wasn’t even at home, so he’d be the one stuck here by himself.

When Yuichiro had finished, he turned to bring a dish over to Muichiro, but froze when he saw him. He was crying. Yuichiro didn’t remember saying anything mean to make him cry. He’d been trying so much harder to be nicer to him now, but he knew he still sometimes messed up, and Muichiro always looked so hurt by that. He didn’t think the conversation about him needing to learn how to cook had been that mean. 

Yuichiro placed the food down, and walked over to his brother to see what was wrong and try and apologize if it was his fault.

“I’m fine,” Muichiro said, wiping the tears away, faking a smile before Yuichiro even had the chance to say anything.

“Did I hurt you again?”

Muichiro shook his head. “It’s not your fault. It’s been a few days. I don’t know why I’m still upset. It’s happened before.”

“What happened?”

“One of the Pillars died.”

Yuichiro remembered hearing something about that the other day before he’d left to go home with Muichiro. It hadn’t been one of the ones he really knew, so he hadn’t thought much about it. He hadn’t remembered that he was the Pillar Muichiro had talked to him about before until now.

“Are you okay?” he asked. 

“I’ll be fine.” He had stopped crying already. “I shouldn’t be so upset still.”

“I still get upset over Mom and Dad sometimes,” Yuichiro said. “It’s okay to still be sad.”

“Can we just eat now?”

Yuichiro nodded and went to grab the food for Muichiro. While he hadn’t thought much of it at the time he learnt about the Pillar’s death, he now realized how glad he was that it wasn’t Muichiro. He didn’t worry as much about Muichiro dying as he used to because he hadn’t been badly hurt in a while and seemed to be doing fine. But now he was starting to worry about that again.

He didn’t want to lose his brother. 

Chapter Text

A few weeks after the Pillar had died, Yuichiro received a letter from Aoi telling him that the three boys who travelled with the demon had healed and had started going off on small missions again. The older brother of the demon was away on a solo mission, and he had taken his sister along with him. They were supposed to be gone for a few days, which meant that it would be a good time for Yuichiro to visit if he wanted.

Not knowing when he’d get the chance to visit again, since the demon girl seemed to be at the Butterfly Estate more often than not nowadays, Yuichiro had left to visit almost as soon as he’d finished reading the letter. When he arrived he learnt that the other two boys, the ones Aoi complained about, were also away on missions, and because she didn’t have to deal with them at the moment, Aoi was in a good mood.

“It’s almost like they’ve moved in,” Aoi said as she put new sheets on one of the hospital beds with help from Yuichiro. “They just keep coming back here after all their missions. Even if they’re hardly hurt at all.”

“Would you rather make them leave?” Yuichiro asked as they moved onto the next bed. He stripped off the old sheets, while Aoi got the new ones ready to replace them. Despite him not wanting them to continue coming back because it meant he couldn’t visit as often, he wasn’t asking her to send them away, of course, but he was curious to hear more of how she felt about them always being around.

Aoi shook her head as she started putting the new sheet on. Yuichiro grabbed one of the other corners to help as soon as he’d put the old one in the basket they were carrying them in. They just had one more bed to work on after this one was done.

“They aren’t that bad,” she replied. “I know I complain about them a lot, but Tanjiro and Nezuko are really nice. Zenitsu I could do without, but Inosuke is harmless, just annoying.”

Yuichiro found himself freezing in place as Aoi brought up the name of the demon girl. Usually everybody refrained from talking about her directly around him, unless he was the one to bring her up himself, so he hadn’t been prepared. 

“Are you okay?” He’d quickly gone back to helping with the sheets once he’d realized he’d stopped moving, but she must have noticed anyways.

“I’m fine,” he replied, not wanting to speak anymore on that topic.

The two of them moved onto the last bed and continued their work. With the previous conversation having ended, as they worked on changing the sheets on the last bed, they worked in silence.

“Help me carry this outside,” Aoi said as she pointed at the basket the dirty sheets were in. She didn’t give him the option to decline, he realized, not that he would have. He grabbed one side, while Aoi grabbed the other, and the two of them carried it out of the room and down the hallway to the entrance.

As they walked outside, Yuichiro heard Aoi curse under her breath. She grabbed the side of the basket he was carrying, and pulled it out of his hand, carrying the full weight of the basket on her own.

“I got this,” she said. She nodded her head in the direction of a boy who looked a bit older than him walking up towards the Butterfly Estate. “Can you take Genya to Shinobu. I forgot he was supposed to be coming today.”

“Why do I have to?” Yuichiro asked. She knew how much he hated dealing with people he didn’t know, excluding patients. Except for the ones that tried to talk to him, of course.

“Well would you like to carry the basket on your own?” she shot back.

Yuichiro frowned. He couldn’t carry the basket on his own, and she knew that. “Fine I’ll do it.” All he had to do was take the boy to Shinobu. He didn’t have to speak with him. 

Aoi thanked him and walked off to go start working on washing the sheets. Once she left Yuichiro turned his attention to the boy as he walked closer. The name sounded familiar, but Yuichiro wasn’t sure where. He didn’t recognize the boy, so he knew he hadn’t met him before at least. Maybe he was one of the people who Muichiro had mentioned before. Or maybe one of the Ubuyashiki children.

Wait.

It had been the children who had spoken about him before. This was Shinazugawa’s younger brother. He was the one who had hurt Kanata several months ago. He was the one who had made her cry. 

Yuichiro turned in the direction Aoi had walked off in. He needed to tell her that he couldn’t take him anymore. He couldn’t be around him. But Aoi was already out of sight. He’d just have to deal with it. He’d bring Genya straight to Shinobu, and then he wouldn’t have to deal with him again. 

“I’m taking you to Shinobu,” Yuichiro said once the other boy arrived at the entrance. 

“You don’t look like you’re one of the girls who work here.”

“Really? I didn’t notice.” Yuichiro said ruder than he had intended. He took a deep breath to try and calm himself down. He didn’t want to talk to him more than he had to. Without letting Genya reply, Yuichiro spun around and walked back inside, leading Genya down the hallway.

As soon as he dropped Genya off with Shinobu, Yuichiro turned around and sped off, not even giving Shinobu the chance to thank him. He did not want to be around the person who’d hurt his sister. He knew he’d just get all snappy with him, and he didn’t want to cause an argument, because he was worried how it would turn out, and Genya was bigger and stronger than him. 

He hated being weak.

As he walked back down the way he came, getting ready to join Aoi outside to continue helping with the laundry when he heard the younger girls in one of the rooms as he passed. They sounded like they were struggling to deal with a patient. He opened the door and walked inside to see if he could help.

“Please stay still,” he heard Naho saying as he walked in. She and Kiyo seemed to be struggling to hold down a patient who based on the descriptions from his letters from Aoi, he figured must be Inosuke unless there were other Demon Slayers who wore boar masks. “You’re still bleeding.” He had a cut on his side that looked like it needed stitches, but he wasn’t cooperating. 

Soon after he entered the room, the door behind him opened, and Aoi stormed in followed by Sumi who must have been sent to find her to help. She walked right past him, walking straight for the bed the boy was supposed to be in but was doing his best to not be.

“Sit down,” Aoi demanded, but, unsurprisingly, the boy did not listen, and Kiyo and Naho continued trying to force him down. He opened his mouth to speak, but Aoi cut him off before he even had the chance to get out a single word. “If you want, I can call Shinobu here instead.” The way she said it sounded like a threat, and somehow it worked, and the boy sat down.

Yuichiro turned his head to the side when he felt somebody tugging on the sleeve of his haori. It was Sumi.

“He doesn’t like needles, and he doesn’t know how to stay still,” she explained to him. “But he’s more scared of making Shinobu mad. Aoi is the best one of us at dealing with him aside from her.” He turned his attention back to Aoi as she started stitching up Inosuke’s wound. A few times she snapped at him to stay still because he would occasionally try to squirm away which would only make this take longer.

As she finished stitching him up, she picked up a cloth to wipe away the blood around the cut. She then went to put one of the shirts they kept for the patients on him, but again he struggled against her. Yuichiro watched as she wrestled the sleeves on him, once again using Shinobu as a threat before finally buttoning the shirt up.

“It’s only a small cut, so I don’t have to stay in bed, right?” he asked.

“You do,” Aoi responded, looking annoyed. “Don’t think I wasn’t told about how you showed up here limping. You’ve likely sprained your ankle. I’ll have the girls look at it. But you are not allowed out of bed until Shinobu or I tell you that you are.”

“But what if-”

She cut him off. “I don’t care if Tanjiro or Zenitsu come back. You’re not getting out of bed until you heal.”

Yuichiro knew it was nearly impossible to argue with Aoi, and Inosuke seemed to understand this as well, because he gave up on trying to argue. He flopped down onto the bed on his back, while the three younger girls started to check on his ankle.

Aoi turned to leave, grabbing hold of Yuichiro’s sleeve as she went. “You could have helped,” she said as she dragged him out of the room.

“You were doing fine by yourself,” Yuichiro responded. “Plus you already made me help with the Shinazugawa boy.”

“Oh how awful. You had to walk him down the hallway. While I had it so easy having to stitch up and clothe a boy who doesn’t know what sitting still is.”

“He’s the one who hurt Kanata.”

“Inosuke?”

“Genya.”

Aoi cursed. “I forgot about that. You didn’t do anything stupid, did you?”

Yuichiro shook his head. “I mostly just didn’t talk to him.”

“Good.” She sounded relieved. “Wasn’t that months ago? You still haven’t gotten over that?”

“She’s my sister.”

“Yeah, but I don’t think anybody here is still mad about you for scratching me.” As she spoke she brought her hand up to her cheek, fingers tracing the faint scar he had left there what felt like ages ago. It was one of those scars that would eventually fade away, and it was already mostly gone. If you didn’t know it was there it wasn’t even noticeable. But Yuichiro always noticed it.

“That was different,” he argued. He hadn’t meant to hurt her. He didn’t even know she was there. He couldn’t even remember it. He just knew that it was his fault. Maybe the girls shouldn't have forgiven him.

“How do you know that?”

Yuichiro didn’t have an answer, so he stayed silent. Aoi sighed then began walking down the hallway, and Yuichiro followed her back outside. She led him over to where she had left the laundry, and the two of them got to work. Yuichiro worked on washing the dirty sheets, while Aoi took them over to be hung up on the clotheslines.

“Why was he here anyways?” Yuichiro asked after a while, making sure to continue working, so Aoi wouldn’t get mad at him.

“Who? Genya?”

Yuichiro nodded.

“He eats demons, so sometimes he has to come here so Shinobu can check up on him.”

Yuichiro stopped working and stared at her. “He eats what ?”

Aoi shrugged. “Apparently he eats demons. I don’t know the full story, but apparently people have done it in the past. I don’t really understand it.”

Aoi’s answer just gave Yuichiro more questions than he’d had before. He decided he didn’t care enough to ask anything more, and went back to work. After hanging up the last sheet, Aoi flopped down onto her back on the grass and closed her eyes.

“You always get mad at us when we do that,” Yuichiro said.

“Well I’ve actually finished all my work for the day,” she replied. “You all usually rest when you’ve got a lot more to do. But I’m done, so I’m taking a nap.”

Within a few minutes, Yuichiro heard her start snoring softly. It was always nice to see her resting, since she almost never gave herself the chance to. Her and Muichiro both needed to take better care of themselves. 

Yuichiro went over to lay down on the grass next to her, falling asleep as well. The two of them stayed there sleeping until Shinobu came to wake them up as the sun started to set.

***

Yuichiro stood at Oyakata’s left side while Amane walked on his right with her arm locked with his, helping to keep him up and lead the way for him. Yuichiro stayed on the opposite side in case he ended up needing anymore help as they walked into town. Oyakata’s health had been declining quickly over the past few weeks, and Yuichiro guessed that part of the reason Amane suggested the eight of them all take a trip into town was because she knew it would most likely be his last chance.

While he had been trying to hide how bad he was, it was hard not to notice that some days Oyakata wasn’t even able to get out of bed. They days he was up, it was easy to see just how exhausted he looked. He hardly even went to visit the graves of the Demon Slayers who had died anymore, which he used to do every day.

This was the first time all eight of them had gone into town together, and Yuichiro knew it would be the last time. He was sure everybody else had thought the same thing at one point, but none of them brought it up. Nobody wanted to think about the fact that Oyakata would likely be gone within a year, probably in just a few months.

The official reason Amane had given him for the trip when she’d woken him up that morning, was that the kids, Yuichiro included, all needed new kimonos as they were starting to outgrow the ones they currently wore. They were all being taken to get fitted for new ones, and then afterwards, they’d all find somewhere for all eight of them to eat.

Yuichiro had noticed recently that his kimono was starting to feel a bit small, but he hadn’t said anything. He always hated to ask the Ubuyashikis for anything even though they always offered. And it was nicer than any of the clothes he’d ever owned before staying with them anyways. He knew it would be expensive to get a new one. But since they had asked him directly, he wouldn’t turn them down because that would also make him feel bad.

The first thing Amane did once they reached their destination was to get Oyakata seated and then sent the kids in one at a time to be fitted starting with the youngest, meaning Yuichiro was last to go. As he waited for his turn he watched as Oyakata got his breathing under control. He looked so tired, but he was trying his hardest to hide it. It looked almost as if he’d run the whole way from home. Yuichiro wondered if he’d even be able to make it back. 

Amane stayed by her husband’s side the entire time as they waited. She had a calm expression on her face, but Yuichiro knew this was difficult for her to deal with. She was going to lose her husband. While he didn’t know how that felt, he did know how the kids would feel when he died. He knew what it was like to lose a parent. And he also knew they’d be okay because they all still had each other just like he still had Muichiro. 

“Yuichiro?” He looked over as Amane called him. Hinaki had just been called in, so it was his turn next. “Are you going to be getting a new haori as well?”

Yuichiro looked down at his sleeves. Since he had grown since he’d first been gifted it, his hand was now visibly coming out at the end of the sleeve. If anybody looked at him and paid enough attention, they would see that no left hand was there to match. 

It used to bother him. It still did sometimes, but he’d gotten used to it. He hated the looks he received from others, and he hated hearing whispers. But he had learned to ignore all that. The people who mattered didn’t stare. They didn’t whisper behind his back.

“No,” he replied. He would keep this one. Of all the gifts he’d been given by any of the Ubuyashikis, this one was the most important to him. It would feel wrong to replace it. It still fit just fine. He didn’t need a new one. This was his.

***

Once they all were done, the eight of them walked to the nearest restaurant to eat. They had wanted to find a place nearby, because they wanted Oyakata to get as much rest as possible so he’d be able to make the walk back home. They were seated at two tables next to each other since they had such a large group. Yuichiro found himself seated at a table with Oyakata, Nichika, and Hinaki while the other three children sat with their mother.

Yuichiro stayed mostly quiet as they ate their meal letting Oyakata, Hinaki, and Nichika do most of the talking. He never really grew to be more comfortable talking with Oyakata. He never knew what to say. It wasn’t like talking with any of the others. So until Oyakata spoke directly to him, Yuichiro just ate in silence. 

“Shinobu told me you’ve been very helpful at the Butterfly Estate whenever you visit,” Oyakata said. Yuichiro knew this was being directed at him, so he prepared himself to answer, first letting Oyakata finish speaking. “She said you seem to be enjoying yourself.”

Yuichiro nodded, but then remembering he couldn’t see he spoke up instead. “Yes,” he answered. “I learned a lot during the times I had to stay there, and I like helping.”

“I’ve also heard you sometimes help patch up my children when they get hurt and help them when they’re sick.”

Yuichiro felt his cheeks grow hot and was glad Oyakata couldn’t see how embarrassed he looked. He hoped the girls weren’t looking. He knew he shouldn’t feel embarrassed over something like this. It wasn’t a bad thing. And it made sense Oyakata knew about it. It was his children he was helping after all. They’d most likely brought it up to him before. But it didn’t stop his face from turning red at the mention of it.

“It gives me something to do,” Yuichiro eventually replied.

“Have you ever thought you might want to be a doctor when you’re older?” Yuichiro remembered Muichiro bringing up something similar before, but he knew he couldn’t.

“I don’t think I can,” Yuichiro said as he grabbed at his left sleeve. There were some things he struggled with still when helping with patients at the Butterfly Estate and other things he just couldn’t do at all. He just knew being a doctor wasn’t an option for him.

“I’m sure you could work something out.”

Seeming to realize Yuichiro was done speaking on that topic, Oyakata turned his attention back onto the girls. Yuichiro spent the rest of the meal eating in silence. 

***

A couple weeks later Amane arrived at home from a trip into town with their new kimonos. She handed each of the children and send them off to their rooms to try them on. She told them to come back out as soon as they were dressed, so she could see them all. Oyakata waited with her as well, but he, of course, wouldn’t be able to see how they all looked.

By the time Yuichiro managed to change into his new kimono, all the others were already dressed. It always took him forever to change despite having improved on it the past couple years. He saw Amane smiling at everybody all nicely dressed in their new outfits giving them all compliments.

The girls, as always, all wore identical pieces of clothing. What was different, however, was Kiriya. Instead of wearing the same exact kimono as his sister he was wearing one that looked more like his father’s. He actually looked like a young boy instead of a girl as he normally did. He looked exactly how Yuichiro pictured a younger, healthier Oyakata would look.

Amane seemed to have finally noticed Yuichiro had joined them, because she started walking in his direction. The smile on her face seemed to grow as she got closer and looked at his new kimono.

“You look great,” she told him. It was the same as his old kimono. It wasn’t anything special, but Amane still looked really happy to see him in his new clothes.

“Thank you,” he replied, not wanting to be rude. “Thank you for getting it for me.”

“Of course. Now let me fix your hair.” Yuichiro hadn’t noticed anything wrong with it, but he turned around letting Amane pull out the ribbon. She started running her fingers through his hair to untangle it, since she didn’t currently have a brush on hand. He then felt her pull it back up and tie the ribbon back in. He turned around when she was done.

“I want everybody looking their best for today,” she explained. “I fixed up the others while you were still getting dressed. You all look so nice today.”

“What’s today?” he asked. He hadn’t remembered any special event going on today and wondered if somebody had forgotten to tell him something.

“We’re having somebody come to take a photograph of us all today.”

“What’s a photograph?” Yuichiro had never heard the word before and had no idea why it meant he had to look nice.

Amane was quiet for awhile before finally answering. She must have been thinking of how she could answer the question. “If somebody took a photograph of you it would be like what you see in the reflection of a mirror, but it would be permanent as if it were a painting. And they don’t need to draw it by hand.”

Yuichiro’s eyes widened. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

“They’ve been around for a while, but it makes sense you wouldn’t have seen any before based on where you grew up. I wanted to get one done of all of us together before…” she trailed off. Yuichiro knew what she was trying to say. Before Oyakata died. She wanted to get one done of the whole family while they were all still alive.

“But I’m not-”  Yuichiro was cut off before he could finish what he was trying to say. She always seemed to know what he was thinking.

“You are. You’ve been with us for years. Of course you are.”

***

A few weeks later Yuichiro once again found himself dealing with a crying Muichiro. They were in his room at the Ubuyashikis. Muichiro had walked in unexpected as Yuichiro was writing a letter. Before Yuichiro even had the chance to greet him, his brother had burst into tears. 

“What happened?” Yuichiro asked. He at least knew it wasn’t his fault his brother was crying. At least he was pretty sure. He hadn’t even seen him in over a month. 

“He’s dead,” Muichiro replied, not giving him anything else to answer him. Yuichiro didn’t know if it was him crying over the Pillar again or if he was talking about somebody else.

Yuichiro got to his feet and pulled his brother further into the room sitting him down before asking him who he was talking about. 

“Tetsuido,” he replied once he started to calm himself down a little. “Oyakata just told me. He was my swordsmith. You met him. He came to our house once. Remember?”

Yuichiro nodded. It had been back at their old house shortly after they’d first returned home. It had been when he most hated the Demon Slayers and everybody connected to them, so Yuichiro mostly just remembered glaring at him.

“He was always nice to me. Everybody else always complains about their swordsmiths, but he was nice. He worried about me when he found out about how I was coughing blood.”

Oh. That was who knew. Yuichiro had been told to tell Shinobu if he ever found out who it was who knew about that and hadn’t seen Muichiro to get checked out despite knowing, but he figured it didn’t matter anymore, now that he was already dead. There was nothing Shinobu could do about it at this point.

“You’ll be okay,” Yuichiro said not sure how better to comfort him. This was the second person Muichiro had lost within a couple months, but Yuichiro hadn’t lost anybody since their parents died. He didn’t know how much Muichiro was hurting.

“Everybody keeps dying.”

“I’m still here. I promise I won’t die.” Yuichiro hugged him and let his brother just cry. He didn’t really know what else to do at this point.

Once Muichiro had calmed down some more, Yuichiro started telling him stories about what he’d done since they’d last seen each other. He was most excited to tell him about the photographs they had taken. It had amazed him to see perfect images of everybody. 

Yuichiro continued to talk until he noticed Muichiro had fallen asleep. He pulled a blanket up over him and let him sleep. It was still early, so Yuichiro went back to writing his letter. He’d go to bed later. But he had trouble focusing on writing. He was too worried about Muichiro.

Yuichiro just wished his brother would feel better. He didn’t deserve to have everybody he cared about keep dying. Two people within a few months was too much. Just like when they had lost both of their parents at once. He didn’t deserve to keep having that happen. He hoped nobody else Muichiro cared about would die anytime soon.

Yuichiro mostly just wished he could take his brother’s place, so he didn’t have to be so sad. He would gladly take the pain.

***

A few weeks later, Yuichiro received an angry letter from Aoi. The anger wasn’t directed at him, but for some reason it felt like it was. However, it was actually about Uzui. She didn’t give him too many details, but from what she wrote, he had learnt that Uzui had come to the Butterfly Estate and had attempted to kidnap Aoi and Naho for some reason or another. She ended the letter by telling him that Nezuko and the boys had left for a mission that would likely take at least a few days, so he was free to visit sometime soon.

A few days after receiving the letter, he finally decided to go visit. He would have gone to visit earlier because he never knew how long a mission would take, but he’d been busy helping Amane with Oyakata who’d been especially sick the past few days. Today when he’d come to help, Amane had told him that he could go visit if he really wanted to and that she’d be fine and could handle it on her own. She could always ask the other children for help if she needed anything. She’d sent him off, and he promised he’d be back sometime tomorrow.

When he arrived at the Butterfly Estate he looked around in several rooms, unable to find Aoi. He did come across Shinobu who was helping with one of the patients. He was about to ask her if she knew where Aoi was, but he realized she was a bit angry, so he left before she saw him. She was not fun to deal with when she was angry even when it wasn’t you she was upset with. He assumed it was Uzui’s fault this time. 

Yuichiro didn’t know why Uzui thought he could get away with kidnapping any of the girls without angering Shinobu. Anybody who knew her should know that she would do anything to protect any of the girls at the Butterfly Estate. It was best not to mess with them, which Yuichiro had learned way back when he’d first been a patient.

Back out in the hallway, Yuichiro found Naho about to enter into another room. Since she was not angry, he decided to ask her instead where he could find Aoi. 

“She’s in her room,” Naho answered. “She hasn’t come out at all today. She’s lucky Shinobu’s too busy figuring out what she’s going to be doing to Uzui to bother her or else she’d be getting in trouble for taking a day off like this.” So he had been right about her being angry about the attempted kidnappings.

“Thank you,” Yuichiro told her.

“Do you need me to show you the way?”

He shook his head. While he didn’t often go to Aoi’s room, he’d been there enough to know where to find it on his own. He made his way there then knocked on the door before walking in. He found Aoi sitting on her futon with her arms wrapped around her knees. He walked across the room and sat down next to her.

“Are you okay?” he asked. Based on the letter she’d sent him, he expected her to be more angry like Shinobu had been. But the way she seemed now reminded him of when she’d first come back from her Final Selection. She seemed scared.

“I hate him,” she said. He assumed she was referring to Uzui. Unless something else had happened between then and now that he hadn’t been told about yet. But it was best to assume it was just Uzui.

“What even happened?” Yuichiro asked. “You didn’t explain it the best in your letter.”

“He tried to take me and Naho to help him on some mission. He let Naho go as soon as he realized she wasn’t a Demon Slayer, but he was still going to take me. I know technically I am one, but I haven’t done any training for that kind of thing in so long. I’ve just been here helping with patients. I was scared he was going to take me, and I was going to die.”

“What stopped him from taking you?”

“Kanao and the others tried to help, but they couldn’t hold him back. But then Tanjiro came back from a mission and he and the other boys offered to go with Uzui instead, so he let me go.”

“Uzui told me he liked kids,” Yuichiro said. He thought that had meant he wouldn’t just go kidnapping random children from Shinobu of all people. “I don’t like him,” he decided.

“I thought you got along with him.”

“I’ve changed my mind.”

“You don’t have to do that just because of me.”

“Of course I do. You’re my best friend.”

***

The next morning Yuichiro found himself waking up on the floor of Aoi’s room. He didn’t remember falling asleep, and he hadn’t been planning on sleeping in here. At some point somebody had thrown a blanket over him. He’d stayed with her all day talking only leaving to grab some food for the two of them to eat together. 

She’d teased him about his new kimono at one point, bringing up that he didn’t get a new haori as well. He gave her a partial explanation as to why, but some things he wanted to keep to himself. He’d then told her about the photographs, and she’d teased him again for getting so excited over something like that. He just couldn’t help it. He never knew something like that was possible.  

The two of them hadn’t helped at all around the Butterfly Estate the day before with the patients, and they hadn’t even done any other chores which was the first time in a while Yuichiro wasn’t greeted with work as soon as he arrived. Nobody had come to bother them about it though. He figured they all knew Aoi enough to know when she needed a break, and since she hardly ever gave herself a break, they wouldn’t just stop her the one day she didn’t leave her room.

He woke up alone which surprised him. He didn’t realize Aoi would be ready to get back to work after how she’d felt yesterday. But that wasn’t the biggest surprise. She hadn’t woken him up. Whenever he stayed at the Butterfly Estate overnight, except when he was a patient, he was always woken up fairly early to get dragged into helping.

Today, however, they had let him sleep in. He never got to sleep in when he was here. It was a lot later in the day, he realized, than he ever slept while at the Butterfly Estate. Aoi hadn’t woken him up when she woke up, and nobody else had come either it seemed. He wondered if something had happened, and they’d forgotten, but he didn’t know what it could be. 

He started to worry that maybe something had happened to his brother, and they didn’t want to tell him yet. But he knew Aoi knew he’d much rather know right away if something happened to Muichiro, so once again he had no idea what was going on.

Yuichiro stood up and stretched, a bit sore from sleeping on the floor and walked out of Aoi’s room. He made his way across the estate to where the hospital rooms were. He stopped when he heard a couple of the girls talking around the corner.

“Should we wake him up now?” It was Sumi. They must be talking about him. He didn’t know if he should let them know or not that he was standing right there. “They’re all in beds now, so he doesn’t even have to know. He’s leaving today anyways I think. He doesn’t usually stay too long.”

“Aoi should be the one to do it,” the other girl, Kiyo this time, replied. “She’s always best at dealing with the difficult ones.” Yuichiro was not difficult. Sure, he used to be, but he’d gotten a lot better since he was eleven. 

“He’s going to freak out when he finds out,” Sumi said. “It doesn’t matter who tells him.”

What were they talking about? Had he been right about something happening to Muichiro?

“As long as he leaves before he sees Nezuko, I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Yuichiro suddenly found himself on the floor, having fallen to his knees when he realized what was happening. He should have known this would happen eventually. He couldn’t just keep coming here to visit and not expect her to ever arrive while he was here. She was here far too often for him to be that lucky.

He stayed where he was on the floor trying to catch his breath. One of the girls was kneeling down in front of him while the other ran off. He didn’t know when she’d gotten there. He needed to leave. He needed to go back home. But first he needed to breathe.

“I’m so sorry,” Sumi said, the one who had stayed behind. “I didn’t know you were there. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Yuichiro shook his head. It wasn’t her fault. He should have let them know he was there. Right now he just wanted to leave. He knew he shouldn’t be scared. Nezuko had spent plenty of time here, and nobody had been hurt, but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t want to be scared anymore.

Soon after Kiyo had run off, she returned with Aoi who then sent her and Sumi away.

“I’m walking you home,” Aoi said holding out her hand. Yuichiro grabbed it, and let her pull him up. “Are you okay to go?”

All Yuichiro could do was nod until they made it outside. He felt a lot better being in the sun and was glad it wasn’t cloudy outside today. The brighter it was outside, the more calm he felt. Once they were far enough away from the Butterfly Estate he was able to get his breathing back under control. 

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“I don’t see what you could possibly be apologizing for,” Aoi responded as they continued their walk. “I should be the one apologizing. We should have woken you up earlier. I was hoping if we waited until everything was taken care of, we could have sent you home before you even found out they were there, but I guess that didn’t work.”

“That okay.” It was his fault for always reacting like this. It wasn’t Aoi’s fault or any of the others. “So they came back when I was sleeping?”

Aoi nodded. “Except Uzui. I heard he went home with his wives. He’s lucky he did. If he came to the Butterfly Estate, Shinobu probably would have killed him.”

They chatted for most of the walk back. Once the Ubuyashiki Estate was in sight, Aoi asked him how he was doing.

“I’m fine now,” he answered. “I’m just tired of this. I just wish I could get better already.”

“You will.”

Chapter Text

A couple weeks after Aoi had walked Yuichiro home, she came by to visit him at the Ubuyashiki Estate. He still couldn’t make himself visit the Butterfly Estate when Nezuko was there, so it was nice to have Aoi stop by occasionally. She’d been very busy recently, so she hadn’t been able to send him many letters, so as the two of them ate lunch, she updated him on what had happened since he’d last been there.

“The boys are all still unconscious,” she informed him. 

“Really?” he asked. It had been a while since they’d arrived at the Butterfly Estate after their last mission. He figured they would have been awake by now. He couldn’t remember any of the patients that were there when he’d been staying that had been unconscious that long.

Aoi nodded and continued speaking. “It’s because they fought one of the Upper Moons. Uzui never came to the estate, but I heard from the Kakushi that he lost one of his hands and one of his eyes. They’re more difficult to kill, so the boys probably won’t wake up for a while.”

Yuichiro grabbed at his left sleeve. He had heard from the children that Uzui had retired after everything that had happened, but he hadn’t heard exactly why that was. Although he was still mad at Uzui because of what he’d done to Aoi and Naho, he couldn’t help but feel bad. It must be a lot harder for somebody to get used to losing a hand when they’re older. Yuichiro had had a hard enough time himself, and he had only been eleven.

“That other Pillar that died a while ago was killed by an Upper Moon, right?” he asked.

Aoi nodded again. That worried Yuichiro. He knew his brother was strong, but now he had that to worry about. Within just a few months the Upper Moons had killed one Pillar and forced another into retirement. He hoped Muichiro would never have to fight an Upper Moon. He didn’t want to lose him or for him to get badly injured as had happened with the other two Pillars.

Changing the subject just a bit, Yuichiro asked, “If Uzui was so hurt, why didn’t he go to the Butterfly Estate?” He knew Shinobu was mad at him, but he didn’t think she would have turned him away. She would have waited until after he had healed to do anything, or so he hoped.

“The Kakushi said his wives took him home,” Aoi answered. “Or maybe his wives brought him to see a doctor. The Kakushi were too scared to take him to the Butterfly Estate apparently. And he’s lucky he didn’t show up, because Shinobu would have killed him.” She paused for a bit before continuing. “I’m sorry that you haven’t been able to visit.”

“It’s fine,” Yuichiro replied. She didn’t need to apologize to him. It was his fault, not hers. If he could just be normal, he would be able to visit even when Nezuko was there.

“And I’m sorry again that we didn’t tell you what was going on sooner the last time you visited.”

“You don’t have to keep apologizing. It’s my fault.” He knew she wouldn’t hurt him, but he still got scared. He had never even seen her before, but whenever he found out she was around he got so scared. 

“It’s not your fault.”

“It is,” he said. “I shouldn’t be so scared of something like this.”

“You have a good reason to be scared though. You’ve been through a lot.”

Yuichiro sighed. “I know,” he said. “But I still hate it. But I think maybe I’ll be able to meet her soon.”

He watched as Aoi’s eyes lit up. She had been trying forever to get him to meet her, so he could realize he didn’t need to be so scared, so she must be excited he was finally agreeing with the suggestion. “Really?” she asked.

Yuichiro nodded. “But not yet. I don’t think I’m ready.”

“That’s fine,” she said. “I’ll try not to force you anymore. Just tell me when you’re ready, and I can have you meet.”

“I will.”

***

A little over a month later, Yuichiro was woken up to somebody shaking him awake. At first he thought he must be at the Butterfly Estate, because whenever he stayed there, he was woken up every morning, but then he remembered he was at home. He hadn’t been to the Butterfly Estate in over two months. He opened his eyes to see Nichika hovering over him.

“Is something wrong?” Yuichiro asked her as he rubbed at his eyes and sat up. He couldn’t think of any reason why he’d be woken up unless something was wrong. At home he was always allowed to sleep in as long as he wanted to even late into the afternoon sometimes.

“My father asked to talk to you,” Nichika replied. “It’s about your brother.”

Yuichiro took a deep breath to try and keep himself calm. “Is he okay?”

“I’m pretty sure he’s fine. I only heard a little bit about what happened. My father will tell you. He’s in his room. Would you like me to walk you there?”

Yuichiro shook his head. He knew his way, so he’d be fine on his own. He had been helping Amane a lot recently making sure Oyakata got his medicine and was getting fed. He hadn’t been out of bed in over a week now. He wasn’t getting any better.

Once Nichika left, Yuichiro got dressed and made his way down the hallway to Oyakata’s room, knocking on the door before making his way inside. Oyakata was lying down on his futon where he’d been for days now. His eyes were closed, and Yuichiro wondered if he was asleep.

Yuichiro made his way over to Oyakata’s side quietly, just in case he was sleeping. He didn’t need to wake him up. As impatient as he was to know what happened with his brother, it was best to just let Oyakata rest for now. He needed all the rest he could get.

“Yuichiro?” Oyakata said, opening his eyes. He turned his head in Yuichiro’s direction although he knew he couldn’t see him.

“It’s me,” Yuichiro said. “Have you had your medicine yet?”

“Yes.” At first it looked like Oyakata was trying to push himself up, so he could talk with him while sitting up, but he seemed to give up and remained lying down. 

“Nichika said you wanted to talk to me.”

“Muichiro was taken to the Butterfly Estate this morning.” It was what Yuichiro had expected. When Nichika had told him something had happened with his brother, it either meant he was dead or injured, but since she said he was fine, it only meant he was hurt or sick. 

“Do you know how he’s doing?”

“From what I’ve heard he wasn’t injured too badly. His biggest issue was that he was poisoned, but he should recover from that fairly quickly.”

“What happened?” Yuichiro asked. 

“The Swordsmith Village was attacked by two Upper Moons while your brother was there,” Oyakata replied. Yuichiro hadn’t even known his brother was there. He’d never told him. In a letter from Aoi he’d heard Tanjiro and Nezuko had gone, and Yuichiro had planned on visiting, but that unfortunately didn’t seem possible right now if Nezuko was back at the Butterfly Estate again.

“Was everybody alright?”

“There were a few casualties among the swordsmiths,” Oyakata replied. “But since both of the demons were killed, they were kept to a minimum. One of them Muichiro defeated on his own.”

Yuichiro had been so worried about his brother running into an Upper Moon because of what had happened to the other Pillars he’d heard of that faced them, but Muichiro had been fine. He’d killed one on his own which meant the other two must have just been weak. Yuichiro was glad that he hadn’t been too hurt, but he really wanted to visit him to see if he was okay.

“Aoi told me Nezuko and Tanjiro went to the Swordsmith Village. Does that mean they’re at the Butterfly Estate now too.”

“Yes. They were also taken there this morning.”

Yuichiro frowned. While he figured that to be the case, it was still upsetting. He always went to visit his brother when he got hurt, but this time he couldn’t, and it was his own fault. He knew that other people reacted badly around demons, like Uzui had told him ages ago, but this was different. Nezuko didn’t hurt people. He shouldn’t be scared. It was all his fault that he wouldn’t be there when Muichiro woke up.

“You should be able to see your brother soon,” Oyakata said as if reading his mind. “I know you will not go to the Butterfly Estate while Nezuko is there, but you will get to see him soon. As soon as he and Mitsuri have recovered enough there will be an emergency meeting held for the Pillars. You will get to see him then.”

“Thank you,” Yuichiro said. The girl Oyakata mentioned was the newest Pillar. She had been around for a while now, but he’d only seen her a few times, and they’d never spoken with each other. She must have also been involved in the fighting at the Swordsmith VIllage if she was also recovering there, but it wasn’t important enough to Yuichiro to ask for clarification.

“Could you get my wife?” Oyakata asked, closing his eyes again. He looked so tired. Yuichiro hated to see him like this. He knew he didn’t have much time left. Kiriya would have to take over soon, and he was still so young. It wasn’t fair to any of them.

“Okay,” Yuichiro said as he got to his feet and left the room to fine Amane.

***

A week later Yuichiro found himself about to walk to the Butterfly Estate with Muichiro. Shinobu and Kanroji, the other Pillar who had fought at the Swordsmith Village when it had been attacked were also heading there, and they were waiting outside for Muichiro to finish talking with Yuichiro. 

The emergency Pillar meeting had gotten over just a little while ago. Yuichiro didn’t know what it had been about, just that something had happened at the Swordsmith Village that required a meeting. He didn’t care enough to know. Since Oyakata was unable to get out of bed, Amane had been the one to go talk to the Pillars about whatever it was that was so important. 

As soon as the meeting had ended, Yuichiro had been informed by one of the girls, and he’d gone to go see Muichiro before he had to go back to the Butterfly Estate. Yuichiro wasn’t intending to be tagging along. He had talked to his brother to make sure he was doing okay, and he said that he was, but Shinobu wanted him and Kanroji to stay for a few more days at the Butterfly Estate, so they could fully heal.

“I want to go with you,” Yuichiro said as his brother started getting ready to leave. Since Shinobu and Kanroji were waiting outside for him, he wasn’t able to stay long, but Yuichiro wanted to spend more time with him. He knew that Nezuko was at the Butterfly Estate still, but he wanted to be with his brother. If Muichiro was there, he thought he would be alright. He needed to get over it anyways, and now was the perfect time.

“Are you sure?” Muichiro asked him, looking worried. “You know Nezuko is still there, right?”

Yuichiro nodded. “I know. But I want to go with you.”

“Will you be okay?”

“Yes.” He wasn’t actually confident that he’d be okay, but he didn’t want Muichiro to know that. “I just need to tell them I’m leaving. Stay here.”

Yuichiro then left to go find Amane. He found her in the first place he checked, which was of course by Oyakata’s side. She hardly ever left him for more than a few minutes, the meeting today being an exception. Yuichiro had stayed with him while Amane was at the meeting, so she wouldn’t need to worry.

Amane turned to look at him as he walked in. “Do you need something?” she asked softly. It looked like Oyakata was asleep, so she likely didn’t want to wake him. 

“I’m going with Muichiro.”

“He’s still staying at the Butterfly Estate, right? Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“I don’t know,” he answered truthfully, unlike he had with Muichiro when he’d asked the same thing.

“I’m proud of you,” she said with a smile. “The fact that you’re even going means you’re getting better. I’m sure everything will be fine, and your brother will be there with you.”

Yuichiro felt his face grow hot at the praise. He always got so flustered when Amane complimented him. “Thank you.”

“Go ahead. You don’t need to keep them waiting any longer.”

Yuichiro nodded and walked out of the room and outside the estate where he found his brother with Shinobu and Kanroji. Kanroji spotted him first, her face lighting up as her eyes landed on him. 

“It’s so cute!” she exclaimed as he walked up next to them grabbing onto his brother’s uniform when he arrived. “There’s two Muichiros! You look almost exactly the same.”

“That’s not my name,” Yuichiro said. He already got confused for his brother enough by accident. He didn’t need to be seen as another one of his brother. He was his own person.

“Kanroji, I’ve told you that his name is Yuichiro,” Shinobu told her. Yuichiro was thankful for her correction. He preferred not to have to do it himself. 

“I know, but they look exactly the same, except Yuichiro is smaller.”

“Smaller?” Yuichiro questioned. Nobody had ever told him that before. They were twins. They were supposed to be the same. 

Kanroji nodded. “It’s mostly because Muichiro has more muscles, but it also looks like you’re a bit shorter.”

“But I’m older,” Yuichiro said. They were twins. They should be the same height, but if one of them had to be taller, it should be him because he was older. Muichiro was younger. He shouldn’t be the taller one if he was younger.

Muichiro sighed, looking like he didn’t want to be dealing with this right now. “Yui, you’re only older by a few minutes. It hardly means anything.” Of course it meant something. It meant he was older. It didn’t matter if it was by a few minutes or a few years. Muichiro was his little brother just as much as Kiriya was.

“How can you be sure you’re older though?” Mitsuri asked. “What if your parents accidentally switched you when you were babies, and you didn’t know? You look identical, so it would be an easy mistake.”

No.

Yuichiro shook his head. “I’m older.” But he wasn’t sure anymore. He had never thought of the possibility he was actually meant to be Muichiro. The younger brother. What if it was true? He really hoped it wasn’t. “And I’m not shorter. Maybe it just looks that way because the ground is uneven.” He couldn’t be shorter. He couldn’t.

“If it’s such a big deal, we can check when we get back, but we should really start heading back soon,” Shinobu said. She didn’t seem to care about the conversation they were having. Neither did Muichiro. In fact, he was probably the only one who actually cared. But it was important to him.

“And I’m only fifteen, so I’m still growing,” he continued arguing. He would not let himself believe that he was younger or that he was shorter. Less muscular, of course, but that was different. 

Ignoring him Shinobu continued, “If we don’t start heading back soon, we won’t be there until after dark, and I don’t think Yuichiro would like that.”

Yuichiro stopped talking after that, realizing that he would, in fact, prefer to get to the Butterfly Estate before dark even if he would be traveling with three Pillars. Being outside after dark was just one thing he couldn’t do even if he was around multiple people he knew could keep him safe. 

It wasn’t long before they arrived at the Butterfly Estate. After all those times Yuichiro stood frozen in the doorway, unable to go outside, this time he had the opposite problem. As he stood in the doorway about to enter, his feet froze, preventing. But unlike all those other times, it only took a few seconds to force himself to walk inside. 

“You said you’d check who was taller when we got back,” Yuichiro said to Shinobu just as she was about to walk away. She sighed and turned back around, looking very uninterested. 

“Alright. Fine. If it’s really that important stand back to back with your brother.” As she spoke Yuichiro dragged Muichiro over to where Shinobu was and stood with his back to his, standing up as straight as possible. “Muichiro is taller.”

“But I should be taller,” Yuichiro said. If he really was shorter what if that meant Kanroji was right. That he wasn’t actually older?

“He’s taller by barely a centimeter,” Shinobu said. “But that doesn’t mean you’re not the older one. When you two first came here, your clothes were nearly identical. The only difference was the colors. It looks like your parents had a way to tell you apart. Don’t worry so much, okay? I’m certain you’re still the older one.”

“Thank you,” Yuichiro whispered. He knew this was something stupid to be getting upset over, but he just hated that Muichiro was better than him at so many things, and he even acted like the older brother more often. Muichiro wasn’t the one who was scared of the dark. Yuichiro just wanted to have this one thing, and that was being older.

Shinobu pointed to Kanroji and Muichiro and told the two of them that they needed to get into bed since they still needed rest. She had something else she needed to work on, and she disappeared down the hallway. As soon as she was gone Kanroji left as well, leaving Yuichiro and Muichiro alone in the hallway.

“Can I sleep in your bed with you tonight?” Yuichiro asked. He kept forgetting that Nezuko was here, and everytime he remembered he felt scared. It was the same way he used to feel back at their old home. The only thing that had ever helped that was sharing a futon with his brother.

“If you can fit.”

***

Yuichiro was shaking, his hand grasping the fabric of Muichiro’s uniform. He hoped nobody could tell, but luckily nobody was focused on him, and instead they were all talking with somebody else. Even Muichiro, who Yuichiro would not leave the side of, was talking to a boy sitting next to him. Unfortunately that boy was Genya, but Yuichiro was too nervous right now to be angry at him for what he’d done to Kanata.

The morning after he had arrived with Muichiro at the Butterfly Estate, they ended up going to a small party being held in one of the rooms as some sort of celebration. About half of the people here, Yuichiro didn’t recognize. The ones he knew besides Muichiro were Genya, Inosuke, and Kanroji. And he hardly knew them anyways. He’d just seen them all at least once.

There were a few people from the Swordsmith Village who he did not know any of. He only recognized where they were from because they wore the same type of mask Tetsuido had worn when he’d shown up at his and Muichiro’s house so many years ago. There was also a blonde boy, which based on Aoi’s letters, Yuichiro assumed was Zenitsu. 

A little while after they’d first arrived, the door opened revealing a boy with a checkered haori and a girl in a pink kimono, both appearing to be around his and Muichiro’s age. Yuichiro’s heart started racing and he pressed himself against his brother as much as he could.

It was her.

“Yui, what are you doing?” Muichiro complained as he turned in his direction and away from his conversation with Genya. He then seemed to notice the new arrivals, and Yuichiro watched as a real, genuine smile formed on his brother’s face.

It was then that Yuichiro felt both anger and fear. While he was still terrified at the thought of being in the same room as a demon, he couldn’t help but also be mad that somebody else had managed to bring a smile to his brother’s face. He had been trying to get him to smile for over three years now, and he hadn’t once succeeded. But now somebody he had only just met was making him smile.

The boy, who Yuichiro knew was Tanjiro, walked over to where Muichiro and Yuichiro were sitting, pulling his sister along with him. Tanjiro sat down next to them, and Nezuko plopped down into his lap. He watched as his brother’s smile grew, and instead of resuming his conversation with Genya, he gave Tanjiro his full attention.

It wasn’t fair.

Yuichiro closed his eyes trying to ignore everything going on around him. He didn’t want to think about the demon girl being right next to him. He didn’t want to think about how somebody else was taking his brother away from him. He tightened his grip on his brother’s shirt, not wanting to let go. He needed to keep Muichiro close in case anything happened, and he wasn’t going to let anybody take him away.

That morning, when Yuichiro had first heard that he would be meeting Nezuko for the first time, Muichiro had told him he didn’t have to if he really didn’t want to. But Yuichiro wanted to get better. He knew he could leave whenever he wanted to, but he needed to prove to everybody that he was better. He was tired of being weak.

“Are you okay? You look really pale, and you’re trembling.”

Yuichiro opened his eyes and saw Tanjiro looking at him with a concerned expression on his face. Yuichiro opened his mouth to respond, but no words would come. He noticed Nezuko had sprawled out on both Tanjiro and Muichiro’s laps.

He couldn’t stay any longer.

“I’m leaving,” he managed to force out as he stood up. Muichiro turned to look at him. His smile was gone. He’d taken away his brother’s smile. 

It wasn’t fair.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Muichiro asked. 

Yuichiro shook his head. “Just leave me alone,” he said, turning to walk out the door. As he left he felt multiple sets of eyes watching him, but he didn’t care. He couldn’t stay here. He walked down the hallway until he felt far enough from the room where everybody still was before leaning against the wall and slidding to the floor.

He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting there, trying to catch his breath, when he heard footsteps walking in his direction. He looked up to see Aoi standing in front of him. For a few seconds she just looked down at him, frowning, before joining him on the floor.

“Is everything alright?” she asked. It was the first time he’d seen her during this visit. He’d been with Muichiro since he’d arrived, and she usually gave him space when he was visiting for his brother.

“I hate him,” Yuichiro said. “He made Muichiro smile. I haven’t been able to do that since we were eleven.”

“Who are you talking about?”

“Tanjiro.”

“He and your brother are close?”

“He’s taking him away.”

Yuichiro felt Aoi jab him in the side with her fingers. “That’s not what’s happening at all. They’re friends. Am I taking you away from your brother?”

Yuichiro frowned and shook his head. She was right, he realized. He was being stupid. But it still wasn’t fair that he was getting along with Muichiro so much better than he could. He always tried so hard, but he just wasn’t good enough to get Muichiro to smile.

“Tanjiro is really nice. I promise,” Aoi said. “He’s very good at getting everybody to like him.”

“Well I don’t like him,” Yuichiro mumbled.

“That’s because you’re difficult.”

“I am not difficult.”

As the two bickered back and forth for a few minutes, Yuichiro heard another set of footsteps making its way towards them. The next thing he knew, Tanjiro was sitting down on his other side. Yuichiro slid closer to Aoi.

“Your brother told me why you left,” Tanjiro said. Yuichiro didn’t know how his brother would have known about that. “He said you get really scared around demons. I wouldn’t have brought Nezuko over to you if I knew that.” 

Oh. Of course. Nezuko had been part of the reason he’d left as well.

Yuichiro just glared at Tanjiro for a bit until Aoi elbowed him in the side. “It’s fine,” he muttered.

“To Nezuko all humans are family, so I promise you don’t have to be scared of her, but I know you can’t really help it. But I do have an idea that I think might help.”

Yuichiro went back to glaring. This time Aoi flicked him in the face. 

“I guess I can try.” 

***

Yuichiro was sitting on one of the hospital beds, his eyes squeezed shut as Nezuko sat behind him braiding his hair. He was gripping so tightly to the bedsheets his fingers were starting to hurt. Aside from them and their brothers, the room they were in was empty, which Yuichiro was glad for. He didn’t want anybody else to see him this way. It was embarrassing being so scared of a young girl.

Muichiro and Tanjiro were sitting on the bed next to them talking with each other. Yuichiro could almost hear the smile on his brother’s face as the two spoke, but he tried to ignore that and focus on their conversation to try and keep himself distracted from the fact there was a demon sitting right next to him doing his hair. He also tried to pretend that it wasn’t a demon who was braiding his hair. That it was a human instead. Nezuko seemed human enough except for the fact she didn’t speak much, but then again, neither did Kanao.

Her claws too, he remembered as they rubbed faintly across the back of his neck, made her stand out. He was shaking, so he knew that it was his own fault for that. He had been told over and over that she wouldn’t hurt him, so he told himself it wasn’t on purpose, and it wasn’t like she’d broken the skin. He could also tell she noticed his shaking because of the frustrated noises she was making.

“Yui, are you breathing?” he heard Muichiro ask from where he and Tanjiro were sitting.

He was not.

He hadn’t realized.

He took a breath.

Yuichiro opened his eyes and turned his head to the bed where his brother and Tanjiro were sitting. Both of them looked at him with matching concerned expressions which he didn’t need. He was fine. He heard Nezuko let out an annoyed huff behind him as he moved his head. She tugged on his hair making him face forward again.

“Nezuko, I told you that you need to be gentle with him,” he heard Tanjiro say from the other bed.

“Gentle,” she confirmed and went back to braiding.

About an hour ago Tanjiro had made the suggestion as a way to help. Apparently after meeting Kanroji, Nezuko had grown attached to braiding because of Kanroji’s own braids. She’d had her brother braid hers, but Tanjiro thought she’d also like to do some braiding herself, so Yuichiro was volunteered. 

It had been a good idea. Sometimes his own little sisters would decide to play with his hair since his was so much longer than all of theirs, so it was something normal for him. Except this time it was a demon who was messing around with his hair. So it was a good way to get used to her, but it didn’t completely stop him from being scared.

Yuichiro was proud of himself. It had been a while since Nezuko first started working on his hair, and he hadn’t left yet like he thought he would. While he couldn’t help but be scared, he continued to let her do his hair.

“Yui, breathe,” Muichiro said.

He hadn’t realized he’d stopped again.

“Sorry,” he replied, upset with how weak his voice came out.

“You don’t need to apologize,” Muichiro said with a sigh. “Remember you can leave whenever you want. You don’t need to wait for her to finish if it’s making you too uncomfortable.”

“I’m fine,” Yuichiro replied as his voice cracked. He certainly wasn’t showing it. He just wanted to get better. He squeezed his eyes shut again, and tried to calm himself down, making sure he wouldn’t forget to breathe again.

After a little more time had passed, he felt Nezuko tap him on the shoulder. He opened his eyes and saw her hand out in front of him as if she wanted him to give her something.

“Wh-what?” he stuttered. “Do you need the ribbon?”

“Ribbon,” she responded. 

Yuichiro let go of the sheet he had been gripping and stretched his fingers out before picking up his ribbon from his lap and placing it into the palm of Nezuko’s hand. She wrapped her fingers around it, and her hand once again disappeared behind his back. A few seconds later he heard her let out a hum.

“Are you finished?” he asked turning around to look at her.

“Finished,” she replied with a smile on her face.

“Thank you,” he said as he slid out of the bed. As soon as his feet touched the floor, he fell to his knees. He hadn’t realized he was still so nervous. He thought he’d calmed down more, but maybe that was only because he was breathing now. 

He heard Muichiro get to his feet. “Yui, are you okay?” He looked over as his brother started to walk towards him, but Nezuko was there first. She’d climbed out of the bed and offered him her hand.

Yuichiro reached out to grab it and let her pull him up. The feeling of her hand touching his make it feel like his skin was burning. He’d never fully gotten over his aversion to touching others after the second incident he’d had with a demon. As soon as he was on his feet again, and he knew he wouldn’t fall, he yanked his hand away and rushed out of the room, rubbing his hand against his clothing to make the burning feeling go away.

He heard footsteps behind him and hoped that it wasn’t Nezuko. He’d sat with her the full time. She’d done his hair. He even let her grab his hand. He could not handle being around her any longer. He needed to get away. He sped up.

“Yui, wait.” It was just Muichiro.

Yuichiro stopped walking and turned around to face his brother as he caught up with him. He didn’t want Muichiro to be disappointed in him. This was supposed to make him better, but he just ran away in the end. It wasn’t fair.

“Yui, you did great,” Muichiro said. With those words, Yuichiro would have thought he’d get a smile out of his brother, but it looked like he really only would smile for Tanjiro. “Are you okay? You ran out really quick.”

Yuichiro shook his head. “I’m not getting any better. It’s not working.”

“Of course you’re getting better. You may have been scared, but you let her finish braiding your hair, and you let her touch you. I heard from Shinobu that you used to space out if somebody just said the word demon.”

Yuichiro guessed he was right. He knew that months ago he would have panicked a lot worse if he’d done this. But he wasn’t doing as well as he wanted to be. “But I’m still scared,” he said as tears began to roll down his cheeks. Muichiro pulled him into a hug as he continued to cry.

“It’s okay to be scared.”

***

For a couple more days, Yuichiro stayed at the Butterfly Estate along with his brother. Since Muichiro was close to so many of the others staying here, he had ended up helping Aoi more than he was spending time with his brother. Every time he had seen Muichiro with Tanjiro, he was smiling.

He had seen Nezuko around a few more times while he was there, and sometimes he would be in a room with her for a while. But he never got as close to her as he was when he let her do his hair. He did notice he wasn’t as shaky around her, so Muichiro must have been right about him getting better. Although he still knew he wasn’t as good as he could be. Or as good as he wanted to be.

He’d left the braid in his hair for a while, which Aoi made fun of him for, but he’d taken it out before he’d gone home. It had left his hair really wavy for a while. 

Yuichiro was now back home, and he had been for a couple days now. He’d been sent to grab some medicine for Oyakata, and he was on his way back to his room. As he walked past the entrance, he noticed a young man and woman walking inside. 

Something felt wrong.

The woman smiled at Yuichiro and began to speak. “Excuse me, my name is Tamayo and this is Yushiro. I was told by Oyakata to come here.”

They weren’t wearing Demon Slayer uniforms. Their guests were almost always Demon Slayers. Something looked off about them. 

Yuichiro took a step back.

“Well are you going to say anything?” the other one, Yushiro the lady had said, asked, sounding irritated. 

“Yushiro, be nice,” Tamayo told him.

Yuichiro just stared at them both with wide eyes. It was after dark. They almost never got visitors after dark. Even Demon Slayers weren’t usually here, because that was when they were working. And no others guests had ever stopped by after dark. 

Why were there demons in his home?

“Yuichiro, is everything okay?” He turned towards where Amane was walking down the hallway towards him. She looked over at the visitors and frowned. Once she made it over to where Yuichiro was standing, she took the medicine from his hand and stepped forward to greet the visitors.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t think you would be here yet.”

“It’s fine,” Tamayo replied. “We haven’t been waiting long. We only just arrived”

Yuichiro stepped towards Amane and grabbed onto her sleeve, needing to feel safe. He noticed that the two demons looked a bit nervous themselves. The woman especially. She looked just about as nervous as Yuichiro felt. It made sense, he realized. She was at the headquarters of the Demon Slayers, and she was a demon. It wouldn’t normally be safe for a demon to be here. He wondered why they’d been invited. 

Amane then turned her attention to Yuichiro for a moment. “Don’t worry,” she said, sounding reassuring. “They are our guests. They’re like Nezuko. They won’t hurt you.”

He was surprised, but the way she worded it suddenly made him feel more calm. He guessed Nezuko really had helped him. If they were like Nezuko, it meant they wouldn’t hurt him. But he still remained a bit wary. He wouldn’t let go of Amane’s sleeve until they were no longer in sight.

“Let me take you to my husband,” she said turning back to the other two. “Yuichiro, are you going to come with me.”

All Yuichiro could do to respond was nod.

Amane led them down the hallway, Yuichiro keeping his hand clasped on her sleeve the whole time. He kept looking over his shoulder at the two demons, not liking that he couldn’t keep them in view the whole time. Yushiro seemed to have noticed and looked annoyed, but he didn’t say anything which Yuichiro was glad for. He didn’t think he’d be able to handle having to talk with a demon right now.

When they got to Oyakata’s room, Amane opened the door letting Tamayo and Yushiro in. Tamayo thanked her before she and Yushiro walked in. Amane then turned her attention back to Yuichiro. “Would you like me to walk you to your room?”

Yuichiro nodded. “But what about the medicine?” he asked. He didn’t want Oyakata to not receive his medicine just because Yuichiro was too scared to walk back to his room on his own.

“He doesn’t need it right this minute,” she replied. “He’ll want to talk with them first anyways.”

“Okay,” Yuichiro said. He let go of her sleeve, feeling safer now that the other two weren’t right there with him. He led the way down the hallway to his room himself, feeling more calm knowing that Amane was there with him. 

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” Amane told him as they walked into his room. “I’ve just been so busy with everything going on.”

“It’s okay.” He knew she had been dealing with a lot. She’d been spending most of her time taking care of Oyakata. And when she wasn’t doing that she was helping Kiriya with taking over Oyakata’s old duties. 

“You did so well around them. I heard how much better you’d gotten around Shinobu. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you,” he said as he climbed into his futon, a slight smile making its way onto his face. He didn’t feel like he had gotten much better, but he was happy to hear Amane say he was. “I’m going to bed. I’m tired.” He always got so exhausted after panicking, and even though it wasn’t that bad this time, he still just wanted to sleep. Plus it was late.

Amane smiled. “Get some sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

***

Tamayo and Yushiro ended up staying for a while, and Yuichiro still didn’t feel the most comfortable around them. He was fine as long as he wasn’t around them, unlike how he’d used to be when he knew a demon was nearby. Now it mostly just bothered him if he saw them, so he did his best to avoid them.

Amane seemed to have noticed something was off with him, because she suggested he go visit Muichiro. He hadn’t seen his brother since leaving the Butterfly Estate, because he was busy with Pillar training, so he was unable to visit, and Yuichiro figured that he wouldn’t want him to visit the Mist Estate either, so he’d just stayed at home.

Amane told him that since Muichiro was so busy with Pillar training, it might be nice for him if he got to see Yuichiro. So a few hours after she made the suggestion, Yuichiro was on his way to visit his brother with a meal he and Amane had made for the two of them to share later for dinner. 

He found Muichiro among all the people who were there at the moment to let him know he was here. A crow had been sent ahead of him, so Muichiro wouldn’t be surprised by him suddenly showing up to visit. He was sent inside to put the food away, so they could eat it later, and as soon as he did so, he went back outside to join his brother.

Yuichiro kept his distance for a while, seeing that his brother was busy with everybody else. But after some time he got tired of not getting any of his brother’s attention. He hadn’t even really greeted him when he first showed up. All he said to him was to put the food inside.  But he continued to keep his distance from his brother, telling himself they’d get to talk more later.

As it started to get dark out, Yuichiro disappeared inside, and waited in the room he usually shared with his brother when he came to visit. Eventually Muichiro came in to join him carrying the food Yuichiro had brought.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t really talk much with you today,” Muichiro said, sitting down and getting the food set up for the two of them to eat. “I’m just really busy. And thank you for making us food.”

“It’s fine,” Yuichiro replied despite having been upset about it. Rationally he knew it was just because Muichiro was busy, but he couldn’t stop himself from feeling hurt. But he didn’t want to be rude at all. “You’re here now.”

As they ate, Yuichiro kept trying to start a conversation. He told some stories about the Ubuyashiki kids. He told him about some of his letters from Aoi. And he told him about the two demons who had come to visit and how well Amane had said he’d been dealing with their presence. But Muichrio was barely keeping his eyes open and would only give an occasional one word answer, or he would just nod. It made Yuichiro annoyed, but he kept his mouth shut.

“I’m sorry, Yui,” Muichiro said after a while once the two of them were back to their room after cleaning their dishes. “I don’t think I can stay up much longer. I’m really tired, and I have to get up early. I need to go to bed.”

“It’s fine.” Again Yuichiro was upset, but he didn’t want to say anything and hurt his brother. He was trying so hard to be good. “Can I sleep with you in your futon?” They always did, so he expected a yes. He just wanted to first get confirmation.

“Not tonight, Yui. I just want it to myself. We’re getting too big to share anyways. And too old. We’re fifteen.”

Yuichiro squeezed his eyes shut to fight back the tears that were threatening to spill.

“Okay.”

***

The next day was worse. 

The next day Tanjiro showed up.

Once again, as he had done the day before, Yuichiro sat outside watching Muichiro running the Pillar training that he was doing. It was boring, but he didn’t want to sit around inside all day on his own. He felt better being outside with Muichiro even if they didn’t really talk.

Yesterday Muichiro had been splitting his time between various Demon Slayers to help them with whatever it was. Yuichiro really didn’t care about any of that. He knew that it wasn’t like Muichiro was purposefully ignoring him, and it wasn’t like he was giving all his attention to one person.

But today was different. Tanjiro had arrived, and he was getting almost all of Muichiro’s attention. Yesterday, Muichiro hadn’t even once glanced in Yuichiro’s direction, and they were brothers, but now he was giving all his attention to somebody he’d only just recently become friends with. And of course when the two were together, Muichiro was always smiling.

Yuichiro could only handle watching the two of them for so long. He got up from where he was watching and walking over to Muichiro, latching himself to his arm. 

Muichiro turned to face him. “Is everything okay?” he asked. As he looked at Yuichiro his smile fell from his face and was replaced with a concerned look. Just like always.

Yuichiro nodded. “I’m just bored. I came here to visit you, but I’ve hardly been able to talk with you at all. You’re so busy, and last night when we were eating, you hardly paid me any attention.”

“I’m really sorry. I can’t really help that. I’ll try and talk with you more today, but I’m busy right now, so could you please let go?”

Yuichiro shook his head grasping tighter to his brother’s arm as Muichiro tried to shake him off.

“Yui, I’m serious,” Muichiro said, sounding annoyed. “You need to let go. I don’t have time for this. Stop acting like this. You’re not a child.”

“You have time for him,” Yuichiro replied turning to glare at Tanjiro who was standing there awkwardly looking back and forth between the twins.

“That’s different,” Muichiro said, this time managing to pull his arm away from Yuichiro. “Can’t you find something else to do?”

“No it’s not,” Yuichiro said, ignoring the question. There wasn't anything else for him to do right now. He just wanted to be with his brother. “You always give him all your attention when he’s around, and it’s not fair.”

“No I don't. He’s here for Pillar training. I can’t just ignore him.”

“You’re ignoring everybody else. Since he’s shown up, he’s the only one you’ve been giving any attention to.”

“That’s not true.”

“Yes it is,” Yuichiro said, beginning to raise his voice. “Every time he’s around all you do is stare at him and ignore everybody else. Sometimes you don’t even notice I’m there. It’s not fair.”

“Just because you’re my brother doesn’t mean you get all the attention when I’m around either. I’m allowed to have friends. He told me that you always glare at him whenever you see him. How come you’re allowed to have friends, but I’m not?”

“I don’t think he’s being mean on purpose,” Tanjiro said joining the conversation since he was now being spoken about. “You don’t get to see each other much, right? I think he just misses you, so he gets a bit jealous.”

“Well he doesn’t need to act like this. I’m tired of it. He always gets like this.” Muichiro turned his attention back to Yuichiro. “When you were little, you used to treat me awful and only started caring when it benefited you, and you’re doing that again. You care more about spending time with me than you actually care about me.”

“No I’m not,” Yuichiro said. “I just want to spend time with you. You won’t even smile at me, but you’re always smiling at him. You haven’t smiled around me in years, and you only just met him, and it’s not fair.”

“Have you ever thought that maybe that’s your problem and not mine. Maybe if you didn’t always act like this, I’d actually smile.”

“No. You’re wrong!”

“Just go away already! I hate you!”

“Fine. I’m going home.” Yuichiro turned to leave. He rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand as tears started to spill out. 

Why did he always have to mess up?

***

After arriving back at home, Yuichiro hardly ever left his room, needing to be alone. Occasionally Amane would come to check in on him and ask if everything was okay. She never asked what had happened though, letting him keep it to himself which he was thankful for. He wasn’t ready to talk about it.

The demons were still there which was another reason that Yuichiro mostly kept himself in his room. It wasn’t just because of what had happened with Muichiro. Also keeping him in his room was the fact that everybody else was acting strange, like they were keeping something from Yuichiro, and he didn’t want to bother them, especially since they were dealing with Oyakata dying, so he hid out in his room all day. 

Today was no different. It was well into the afternoon now, and he hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet. He was getting hungry, but he just couldn’t force himself out of bed today. Today he also wasn’t feeling the greatest, so he knew if he happened to see either of the demons he would start to panic, and he didn’t feel like dealing with that today. 

The door opened and Amane walked in with some food in her arms. “I thought you might be hungry, so I made you something.” She placed it down in front of him, and Yuichiro forced himself to sit up and start eating. 

“Thank you,” Yuichiro said, not wanting to be rude. He didn’t need to make anybody else upset with him. Muichiro being mad at him was bad enough. 

“How are you feeling today?” Amane asked. “We’ve all been worried about you.” It always surprised him how much they always seemed to care. With Oyakata dying, he figured they wouldn’t put as much effort into worrying about him when he was just moping around over something he’d caused himself.

“Nothing’s wrong,” he replied. “I’m just tired.”

“I know your visit to see your brother didn’t turn out so well, but I was thinking maybe it would be good for you to go visit the Butterfly Estate. You’re always in such a good mood after returning from your visits there.”

She was right. He always enjoyed spending time with Aoi and the other girls. And while some visits didn’t turn out the best, usually they were fine. It would probably help him feel a bit better. He’d forget about being upset.

“I’ll go,” he said. 

Amane smiled at him and got to her feet. “I’ll be with my husband,” she said. “Come tell me before you leave, okay?”

Yuichiro nodded then watched as she walked out of the room before going back to eating his lunch. Once he was finished he went to go put the dishes away, before making his way to Oyakata’s room.

Inside his room was Amane along with Nichka and Hinaki. Oyakata, of course, was also there, but he was asleep. As soon as she spotted him, Hinaki ran across the room and threw her arms around Yuichiro nearly knocking him down, but used to random hugs from small children, he managed to keep his balance and not fall. 

“I’m going to miss you,” she said, tears in her eyes. 

“I won’t be gone that long,” he replied, gently pushing her away and patting her on the head. “I go all the time. You always do fine without me” He figured the reason for the tears had more because of the fact that her father was dying, so her emotions must be all over the place which he understood. 

“You’re right,” she said forcing a smile on her face. She still looked so sad. 

“Why don’t you go sit with your father,” Amane said as she walked over to the two of them. “I’m going to walk Yuichiro outside.” 

Hinaki nodded and went back over to sit down next to her sister.Before Yuichiro left with Amane, Nichika lifted a hand to wave him good-bye. He waved back and then left the room with Amane. Neither of them spoke until they arrived outside the estate, and Amane stopped walking, making Yuichiro stop as well.

“Is everything okay?” Yuichiro asked. Everybody seemed to be acting especially weird today, and he couldn’t figure out exactly why. His only guess was that Oyakata was going to be gone very soon, and it was just messing with everybody. He wondered if this was the last time he’d see him.

Yuichiro suddenly found himself being pulled into another hug, this time by Amane. It was even more surprising than Hinaki’s hug just minutes ago. “I just want you to know that all of us care about you, and we love you. We’ve always considered you to be part of our family.”

Unable to say any of the same things back, Yuichiro just said, “I know.” But he did manage to at least return the hug. He wasn’t sure how long he stood there as she kept him trapped in the hug, but eventually she let go.

“Have fun,” she said. The same sad smile Hinaki had given him made its way onto her face as well. He was getting worried and was almost tempted to stay a bit longer. He hated seeing everybody look so sad. But he could deal with that when he got back.

“Thank you,” Yuichiro replied as he turned his back to her and walked away.

***

For once when Yuichiro arrived at the Butterfly Estate he wasn’t immediately forced into helping out with anything. There were only a few patients currently there, and they’d be ready to leave within a few days, so there wasn’t much to be done with them. It also helped that he arrived later in the day than normal, so most of the daily chores had already been completed by the time he’d arrived.

Instead of having to help with any chores, he and Aoi were sitting in an empty hospital bed playing a card game. They’d played a few rounds already, Yuichiro losing all but one of them. He thought he was doing good this round, but once again Aoi ended up winning.

“You’re not very good at this,” Aoi said.

Yuichiro flopped onto his back and sighed. “I give up.”

“You’re getting better,” she assured him. “Don’t worry. Maybe you’ll win next time.”

“One more game,” he said, sitting back up. “I’m getting tired. It’s really late. We can play more tomorrow. Maybe some of the others will join us.”

As Aoi started to set up for their next game, the door suddenly flew open revealing Naho standing there with some papers clutched in her hands. The look on her face was very worrying. She looked a bit scared. Something must have happened. 

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” she said as she walked over to the bed where the two were sitting. “Something’s happened. Shinobu and Kanao are gone, so you’re in charge,” she said to Aoi.

“What happened?” Aoi asked starting to sound worried herself.

Naho looked nervously at Yuichiro and then handed one of the papers in her hand to Aoi. “I think you should read this. It’s from, um. It’s from Oyakata.” The way she said it didn’t make her seem so sure, which worried him. And why had she looked at him that way? “We need to get ready for a lot of injured Demon Slayers showing up.”

Aoi took the letter and began to read it. Yuichiro tried to read over her shoulder, but she shoved him aside gently. “Let me focus,” she said. “I’ll let you look after if it’s that important. It’s not addressed to you.”

“Fine,” Yuichiro said and just let her read. He watched the expression on her face change as she continued reading. It wasn’t a good change. Her eyes got wide, and she covered her mouth with one of her hands.

“Yui, I’m so sorry,” she said. That didn’t sound good at all. Was it his brother again? Had he been hurt? Was he dead?

Yuichiro reached forward and yanked the paper out of her hand and started to read it himself to see what exactly was going on since Aoi didn’t seem like she was going to be telling him. It started off talking about what Naho had mentioned. They were expecting there to be many injured Demon Slayers, so they wanted the Butterfly Estate to be prepared. 

While reading the second half, Yuichiro’s heart stopped, and he couldn’t breathe. 

The paper slid from his hand.

“I’m so sorry,” Aoi said again.

Tears started rolling down his cheeks, and he couldn’t do anything to stop them.

“Mom.”

Chapter Text

“Mom.” His voice cracked as he spoke.

They were dead. They were dead.

He couldn’t breathe. 

Aoi reached out and squeezed his hand. “Can you take a deep breath for me?” 

Yuichiro nodded and did as she said, taking a few deep breaths until it didn’t feel like he was choking anymore. His heart was still racing though, his face was wet with tears that wouldn’t stop falling, and he could feel himself shaking, but at least he was breathing.

He just needed to breathe.

Once he was breathing again, Aoi turned her attention away from him for just a moment but still keeping a tight grip on his hand. She turned to Naho who was still standing there nervously with another paper still in her hands.

“I need you to go tell Sumi and Kiyo what’s happening,” Aoi said. “We need to be ready for patients to start coming in. Make sure all the beds are made, make sure we have plenty of food, and make sure all the supplies are ready and organized.”

Naho nodded. “But what about you?” He was stopping Aoi from doing her job. He needed to calm down already. 

But he couldn’t.

“I’ll come help when I get the chance,” she replied. “Get any of the Kakushi who are hanging around to help you. And the patients. If they’re well enough. Now go.”

“Wait.” Naho held up the other paper she had brought in the room with her. “This is for Yuichiro. It’s another letter.”

No, no, no.

Yuichiro shook his head, once again forgetting how to breathe. He couldn’t read anything else right now. Not from them. He was already a mess, and he’d just get the letter all wet from crying on it. He couldn’t do it. He knew it was also from the Ubuyashikis, and he couldn’t handle that right now.

When Aoi turned to him to ask him about it, he saw her frown at his reaction before turning back to Naho. “Go put it in my room for later, and then do as I’ve said, okay?”

Naho nodded, and she disappeared out of the room leaving Aoi and Yuichiro alone.

Aoi turned her full attention back to Yuichiro. She squeezed his hand. “It’ll be okay,” she said softly. “I know it’s going to take a while, but everything will turn out fine. I promise.”

Yuichiro leaned forward pressing his face into her shoulder and screamed. Aoi seemed to flinch at the noise, but didn’t do anything to push him away and let him stay where he was. Instead she wrapped her free arm around him, pulling him closer to her.

“They’re dead,” he sobbed. He’d seen them all just a few hours ago. When he had left, he hadn’t realized it would be the last time he would be able to see them. While he hadn’t been sure about Oyakata, since he’d been getting worse and worse, he thought he’d at least get to see everybody else when he went home tomorrow.

He realized he’d never be able to go home again. Where was he supposed to go now?

Aoi started stroking his hair the the hand she’d had wrapped around him. “I know,” she whispered. “You still have other family. You still have two sisters and two brothers. You’re not alone.”

Yuichiro kept crying into her shoulder. He felt bad knowing that he was getting her shirt all wet, but the tears wouldn’t stop. He knew she was right. He knew he still had family alive, but it didn’t make him feel any better. So many of them had already died. Why did they keep dying? “It’s not fair,” he said. 

“I know,” she said again.

“They knew. Why didn’t they tell me?” He realized it was why they had been acting weird. He had thought it was because of Oyakata, but it was because they all knew what was going to happen, and they didn’t tell him. 

It was why Hinaki had hugged him and said good-bye as she started to cry. It was why Nichika had waved to him, when normally he never even really said good-bye to them when he left because he always came back within a day or two. It was why Amane had walked him outside. Why she had hugged him and told him he was part of their family. 

She’d told him she loved him. That they all loved him. He hadn’t told her that he loved her back. He’d never told any of them. 

And now he never could. 

He started crying harder into Aoi’s shoulder as he kept thinking about them. He felt as she pulled her hand out of his and wrapped her arms around him in a hug. “I’m sure they just didn’t want you to worry. You couldn’t have done anything to stop it. It was their decision.”

“But I could have said good-bye,” he sobbed. While he technically had said good-bye to them before leaving, it was just meant to be a temporary one. He thought he would be seeing them all again tomorrow. He’d only waved to Nichika. “Why couldn’t they have just told me?”

“I’m sure they thought it was what was best for you,” Aoi reassured him, although it did nothing to help calm him down. He was thankful, at least, that she was trying. She was acting a lot nicer than he was used to. “Amane wouldn’t have done anything she thought would make it worse. She cared a lot about you.”

He didn’t have anything to say in response, so he just kept crying. Aoi started rubbing his back with one of her hands, while her other arm remained tightly wrapped around him. 

“She was my mom,” he said, voice cracking, after a long period of silence. 

“I know.”

“I never told her.”

“I’m sure she knew that you saw her that way.”

“Both my moms are dead.” 

“I’m sorry.”

Yuichiro sat there crying in Aoi’s arms for what must have at least been an hour. After a while closed his eyes once the tears had finally started slowing. He didn’t feel much better though. He thought you were supposed to feel better after crying. He didn’t know when he would start to feel better. If he ever would. 

“I’m tired,” he said. 

“Let’s get you to bed,” Aoi said starting to loosen her grip on him. As she did so Yuichiro sat up and started rubbing at his face. His eyes were all puffy. 

“But I want to help.”

“It’s late,” Aoi said. “We’ll probably take a long time to get everything ready. And we don’t know when patients will start arriving. That means you might not get the chance to sleep if you don’t go now. Just sleep now, and I’ll wake you up when we need your help, okay?”

“But-”

“You need some rest right now. You can help when you wake up. Please?”

Yuichiro nodded and let Aoi help him out of bed. She grabbed his hand again and let him lean against her as she led him out of the room. He felt exhausted and was thankful that Aoi was letting him take his time as they walked despite the fact that she needed to get to work helping everybody else. She shouldn’t have stayed with him the whole time to begin with. She had work she needed to do, and he was stopping her from being able to.

“I’m sorry,” he said. The tears had started falling harder again. He just wanted it to all stop. He wanted to help as a way to distract himself, but he knew Aoi was right that he needed sleep. Plus he knew there was no arguing with Aoi especially when he wasn’t feeling great.

“Why are you apologizing?” she asked. 

“I’m wasting your time,” he answered.

“You are not, and don’t you dare try to argue.”

Yuichiro sighed, and the two of them continued walking down the halls. He assumed they were headed towards the room they often let him sleep in, setting up a futon for the nights he stayed. He no longer stayed in the old storage room. That had just been for when he was stuck at the Butterfly Estate as a patient.

At one point they passed Kiyo who was walking down the hallway with a Kakushi. Both of their arms were full of sheets. Kiyo gave them a short greeting, giving Yuichiro a worried look, before she continued her task.

When they walked past the room where he often stayed, Yuichiro turned to Aoi, tilting his head and giving her a questioning look. “Where are we going?”

“My room,” she replied.

They walked down past a few more doors, and Aoi dragged him into her room. She walked him over to her futon and made him lie down, which he did. He was so tired. She pulled some blankets over him then turned to walk across the room.

“Close your eyes. I’m getting dressed.”

Yuichiro did as she said and closed his eyes. He wiped at his face and tried to stop himself from crying anymore. He was tired of it. A few minutes later, Aoi told him he could open them again, and he turned to look at her as she came to sit down on the floor next to him.

“I wish I could do more to help,” she said. “Is there anything else you need right now? I can get you the letter.”

Yuichiro shook his head. “I can’t.”

“That’s fine. I’ll keep it here until you’re ready.”

“Can you stay with me a little bit longer?” he asked.

“Of course.”

She stayed with him until he finally managed to fall asleep.

***

When Yuichiro woke up, the sun was streaming in through the window in the room he was in. It was Aoi’s room, he remembered. She’d let him sleep in her room. She had promised she would wake him up when he was needed, but it was looking like she had lied to him. By this time of the morning there was no way that no patients had arrived based on the letter they’d received.

The letter.

Yuichiro took a deep breath and held back all the tears that were threatening to spill once again. He’d cried enough last night. His eyes still felt all swollen. He didn’t need to cry anymore. No matter how much he was hurting. There were likely a lot of patients here, and he needed to help them. He couldn’t let any of that get in his way of helping.

A few tears escaped and started rolling down his cheeks. He quickly wiped them away with the back of his hand. There was nothing he could do for the Ubuyashikis now. Just like there was nothing he could do for his parents. But the patients he could help, his brother possibly among them. It would be a good distraction for now. Later he could let himself cry if he needed to. But for now he needed to help.

Yuichiro slowly got to his feet, feeling a bit shaky. He told himself he needed to stop acting like this and calm down. He was being selfish. There were patients that needed help, and he was too busy being sad. He shouldn’t have been able to sleep all through the night when he knew Aoi and the others hadn’t gotten that same chance. 

He opened the door and started to make his way down the hallway to the area of the Butterfly Estate where the patients stayed. As he got closer, it started getting louder. He passed a few Demon Slayers on the way being led somewhere by some of the Kakushi.

When he got to the main area, it got more crowded, and he couldn’t see Aoi anywhere. He didn’t see any of the younger girls either. He was about to start checking the rooms one at a time to try and find one of them, hopefully Aoi, when he was Uzui talking with a woman who had her hair tied up in a ponytail. He hadn’t seen her before, and she wasn’t wearing a Demon Slayer uniform, so Yuichiro figured she might be one of Uzui’s wives here to help.

He didn’t care about her though. He stormed over to them and glared up at Uzui, who had looked over to him as he’d approached them. It was the first time Yuichiro had seen him with his new eyepatch. He’d almost forgotten about him losing his eye.

“Where are they?” he demanded. “You were with them, so where are they?”

Uzui looked a bit confused by the question. “Do you mean Aoi? I think I just saw-”

Yuichiro cut him off. “No! The kids. You were with them.” Tears started to roll down his cheeks again, and he wiped furiously at them with his sleeve wishing that they would just stop already. He was fine.

“The Ubuyashiki kids?”

Yuichiro nodded. In the letter it had said that Uzui and one other person he couldn’t remember were with Kiriya, Kuina, and Kanata. They were there to make sure nothing happened to them. But Uzui was here, and they weren’t, and Yuichiro just wanted to know where the rest of his siblings were.

“Rengoku took them home with him. They should be staying there for awhile if you want to see them.”

“I thought he was the one that died.”

“His father is still alive, and he said he’d look after them for now at least.”

As Uzui finished answering his question, he heard another voice behind him. “I thought you were asleep.” Yuichiro spun around and saw Aoi walking over to them. 

“You were supposed to wake me up,” Yuichiro said.

Ignoring him, Aoi looked up at Uzui and spoke to him instead. “I’m stealing him now. Don’t just stand around chatting, and go find something to help with.” As soon as she finished she dragged Yuichiro away, pulling him into a storage room, so they would have somewhere quiet to talk, not giving Yuichiro a chance to see Uzui’s expression.

“You were supposed to wake me up,” he said again, sounding more annoyed this time after having previously been ignored.

“You needed to rest,” she replied. “Now, how are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” he lied. Based on the look she gave him, he knew she didn’t believe him, and he sighed. “I’m fine enough to help,” he said instead. “I don’t want to lay in bed all day. I need a distraction.”

“Good,” Aoi said. “You’re going to be helping me today. Just follow me around, and I’ll tell you what I need help with. I don’t know how well you’d do with the patients on your own today.”

He knew she was right. It was best for him to just help with whatever was asked of him instead of trying to do something on his own and messing up. If he felt better later, he would ask if he could do things on his own. So he nodded.

“Alright.” Aoi led him back out into the crowded hallway, and he followed her into one of the rooms holding patients. A few of Kakushi were around helping patients around the room. The room was packed. Yuichiro was pretty sure every bed was full. He’d never seen one of the rooms so full in all the times he’d stayed here. 

As soon as they arrived, Aoi started visiting each patient one at a time, making sure everything was okay, and helping where needed. Occasionally she would ask Yuichiro’s help her with something. As they saw to each person in the room, a lot of them seemed like they were hiding something, which started to worry Yuichiro. Last time people had hidden something from him, it was because his family was planning on dying, but he tried not to let it get to him. He needed to focus on helping make sure everything was okay.

As Aoi led Yuichiro around, patient to patient, she started explaining to him everything that had been happening since he’d gone to sleep. She told him about what they had done the night before to get ready. She told them about what they had been doing all morning as patients arrived. And she told him some of the bits and pieces she’d heard from patients about what had happened the night before. 

He noticed she didn’t say anything about the Ubuyashikis which he was sure she would have heard something about with how much all the Demon Slayers seemed to care about Oyakata. He was glad she didn’t bring it up though. He didn’t know if he could handle that right now. It was hard enough to keep himself from crying already. It was exhausting. 

Patients had started arriving early in the morning as the sun was coming up. Naho and Kiyo had been tasked with waiting by the entrance and helping out there. One of them would direct the Kakushi or patients on where to go based on the extent of their injuries, while the other would bandage up anybody who just had minor injuries and didn’t require a bed.

Those with the worst injuries were all placed into the same room, so the Kakushi with the most medical knowledge could help out there. That room would likely mostly be Pillars, but there were also others that had fought with them against Demon Moons who were among them. It worried Yuichiro a bit knowing that they had been fighting Upper Moons, but he knew his brother had killed one previously on his own, and he was the only one who had been able to do that. He would be fine.

Others who had severe enough injuries to need a bed were taken into other rooms. These were the rooms that Yuichiro and Aoi were currently going through, making sure everything was okay. There was a lot of Kakushi and other people helping out, so Aoi was just there to check in on everybody to make sure everything was running smoothly. She was taking being in charge very seriously. 

Occasionally as the two wandered from one patient to the next, a Kakushi or somebody else who was helping would come up to Aoi and ask what they needed to be doing. Without even stopping to think, Aoi would send them off on some sort of task.

Sometimes as they continued on, Yuichiro would happen to catch a glimpse of her face and see just how tired she looked. He’d sometimes catch her holding back a yawn, and he saw the bags under her eyes. But he didn’t bring it up because he knew she’d just get mad at him, and he didn’t feel like dealing with that today. 

For the Demon Slayers who showed up with only minor injuries, they were often sent home as soon as one of the girls patched them up. Others were sent to one of a couple rooms that had been set up the night before to sleep if they needed it. While Yuichiro had been asleep, some of the others had set up futons in a couple of the empty rooms to be used if needed, and they were.

Others would volunteer or be dragged into helping where they could. Anybody with any medical knowledge was sent to help out with patients. A few others had been sent to help Sumi in the kitchen. Sumi had been going room to room making sure everybody had some water and at least something small to eat. Yuichiro and Aoi had passed her a few times, but she hardly seemed to notice, too busy with her tasks.

Uzui, Aoi had explained, had arrived a short while after patients started coming. He, along with his wives, had shown up to help out as well, which everybody was grateful for. They could never have too many people helping. Yuichiro asked about the woman he had seen with Uzui, and Aoi told him that it was one of his wives, so he had been correct about that.

As it turned out, Uzui’s wives had been more helpful than Uzui himself had been. When Aoi had come over to him while Yuichiro was talking with him, it wasn’t the first time she’d found herself telling him to find something useful to do. Part of it, of course, was because he was struggling to do things with only one hand, but Aoi also believed he was just being lazy. Yuichiro wondered why Uzui had been the only one she’d gotten mad at when his wife had also just been standing around with him.

When she told him about what had happened the night before he got worried. The Demon Slayers had fought against Muzan, and they’d won. However, it had led to a lot of deaths. Yuichiro was scared to learn who had died. He hoped nobody he knew had been any of the casualties. 

Yuichiro knew Kiriya must be feeling awful having to deal with all that as soon as he took on his new role as Oyakata. Thinking about the Ubuyashikis made him start to tear up again. He quickly rubbed at his eyes, hoping Aoi wouldn’t notice, but of course, she did.

“Are you okay?” she asked. The tone of her voice told him she was worried, but she looked too tired to give him her normal worried expression.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Can we just keep going?”

As they made their way into the next room, Aoi stumbled a bit, and Yuichiro reached out and grabbed her by the arm before she fell to the floor. She then used him to pull herself back up.

“Are you okay?” he asked. 

“I’m fine,” she replied turning away from him. 

“Maybe you should get some sleep. You look really tired.”

“I said I’m fine!” she snapped.

Yuichiro sighed. “Okay, but you should get some sleep later at least.”

Ignoring him, Aoi walked into the room, and all Yuichiro could do was follow. 

***

“Are you going to go in?” Yuichiro asked.

“Of course I am,” Aoi replied.

They were standing outside the door to the room where Shinobu and Kanao should be. Where Muichiro should be. And if they weren’t there, people were still arriving, so they could show up at any moment. He tried his best not to worry. 

Yuichiro knew Aoi was worried, which was why they had been standing outside the door for so long. He also knew that her being worried was also the reason they had gone to all other rooms first because she was trying to avoid finding out if anything bad happened to her sisters as long as possible. He knew she’d want to see them. He wanted to see Muichiro after all, despite how their last interaction had been, but she didn’t want to find out something bad had happened.

“It’ll be fine,” he said, although he wasn’t sure about that himself. He just didn’t want her to worry about him anymore right now. That’s what last night had been for. Today she was the one who needed to be worried about. She was taking on so much. “Let’s just go in and get it over with.”

Aoi nodded, and Yuichiro opened the door. He grabbed onto Aoi’s hand, and this time he was the one to pull her in. He knew she wouldn’t have done it herself.

Everybody inside seemed to be doing okay, but of course they weren’t necessarily doing good. The Kakushi had tended to all of them, but no matter what they did to help them, everybody in this room had gone through a lot which was obvious by looking at them.  

Most of them were asleep, or at least they looked like they were sleeping. They were all covered in so many bandages. He saw Tanjiro awake with Nezuko sitting on the edge of his bed, one of his eyes completely covered in bandages. The two of them were talking quietly together. On the bed next to him Tomioka also appeared to be awake, and for some reason he was staring at one of his hands. On another bed he saw a cute snake on the chest of one of the Pillars he’d never really met before.

A quick glance around the room showed him that his brother wasn’t here which made him start to worry a bit. Also missing was Shinobu. However, across the room was Kanao. Aoi seemed to notice her the same time he did, because suddenly she pulled her hand out of his grip and was running over to the bed where Kanao was. 

Aoi threw her arms around her sister. Yuichiro noticed Kanao flinch, but she didn’t do anything to push Aoi off of her. Yuichiro stayed where he was, not wanting to get in the middle of their reunion. He hoped he’d get to see Muichiro soon.

He’ll be okay.

While he could hear the two talking, he didn’t pay attention to what they were saying until he heard Aoi bring up Shinobu’s name. The look on Kanao’s face after Aoi asked where she was told Yuichiro everything.

“I’m sorry,” Kanao said. 

Aoi stood where she was for a few moments in silence, before promising Kanao she’d be back and walking towards the door. Yuichiro moved to follow her as she went to leave the room.

“No,” she said. She sounded empty. “I need to go do something. You can just stay here, or find something else to do. Whatever.” He watched her walk away.

Yuichiro had been trying to reassure himself since he’d heard about what had happened that everything would be okay. He thought Shinobu and Muichiro would both be okay. He’d been scared, but he thought it would be fine in the end. Now that he knew Shinobu hadn’t made it, he started worrying more for Muichiro. 

He took one last look around the room to see if maybe he missed his brother after his first glance, but he still didn’t see him. He needed to find out where his brother was. His heart was racing. He needed to ask somebody.

Yuichiro forced himself to walk over to the bed where Tanjiro and Nezuko where. Tanjiro was friends with his brother. He should know where he was. He didn’t want to have to ask him, but he figured it was his best option. The last time he’d seen Tanjiro had been when he’d argued with his brother. When Muichiro had said he hated him.

Please don’t let that be the last time I see him.

Yuichiro wiped at his eyes as tears once again started forming against his will. He wouldn’t cry. Everything would be fine. Muichiro was just taking a long time to get back. He’d be okay. He’d be here soon.

“Where’s my brother?” Yuichiro asked as soon as he was standing next to his bed. Tanjiro had been in the middle of saying something to Nezuko when he interrupted him.

“What?” Tanjiro asked.

“Where is my brother?”

“I’m not sure,” he answered. “I never heard them announce his death, but he wasn’t there when we were fighting Muzan. At least I think so.”

Without responding, Yuichiro turned back towards the door and left the room. If they hadn’t announced his death, it had to be fine. Maybe he was somewhere else at the Butterfly Estate. Maybe he’d been brought back while Yuichiro was in another room with Aoi, and he’d been put in a bed somewhere else.

Yuichiro started going in each room  he and Aoi had visited before one by one. He checked over each one carefully to see if his brother could be in any of the beds. He even went to the rooms where the girls had set up futons the night before. 

Muichiro wasn’t in any of them.

As Yuichiro left the last possible room Muichiro could be, he ran straight into somebody who was about to enter. He fell backwards onto the floor.

“I’m so sorry,” she said reaching a hand out to lift him back up on his feet. “I didn’t see you coming. Are you okay?”

It was the woman who had been with Uzui earlier. One of his wives. She gave him that same concerned expression everybody always gave him.

“I’m fine,” he replied in a rude tone.

“Are you sure? You look a bit-”

“I’m fine!” he snapped. 

He turned and left her as he continued down the hallway.  He needed to get away from everything. Away from all the people.

He couldn’t breathe. 

His brother wasn’t here.

He needed air.

Yuichiro made his way towards the entrance to the Butterfly Estate, and walked right past everybody who was there, not bothering to give them any of his attention. He walked far enough away from the door to have some space to himself before collapsing to the ground, gasping for breath.

He tried to catch his breath, but he couldn’t. His brother wasn’t here, and he didn’t know where he was. The last thing Muichiro had said to him was that he hated him. Yuichiro was starting to realize this would be the last thing he ever heard him say.

He couldn’t hold back the tears any longer, and he let them fall. Everybody he cared about kept dying.

It wasn’t fair. 

Muichiro was dead. He just knew it. 

He was all alone.

Chapter Text

“Yui?”

Yuichiro looked up from where he was sitting on the ground. He rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand. The person in front of him crouched down in front of him, looking at him worriedly. He reached out his right hand and rubbed some of the tears of Yuichiro’s face with the thumb of his right hand. 

“Are you okay? I know about what happened. You must miss them.” He meant the Ubuyashikis of course, but that wasn’t why he was crying. But no words could make it past his lips. He felt spacey, like he often used to. It had been a while since he last felt this way. 

Yuichiro just sat there staring forward, trying to process what was going on. He felt very dazed, and he struggled to make sense of what was right in front of him. He allowed himself to get pulled into a hug, not having the strength to pull away, but he couldn’t get himself to hug back. He didn’t mind the hug though. Instead he welcomed it. He just closed his eyes and allowed himself to calm down. He felt safe.

“You’ll be okay.” Yuichiro still wasn’t able to bring himself to respond. A hand started rubbing his back. The tears started to slow, and they eventually stopped. He almost wanted to just fall asleep right here. He’d exhausted himself in his panic, but now everything was okay, just not perfect. But he knew that was never an option to begin with. He was fine with what he had.  

After a while of just resting there, wrapped in a hug, Yuichiro noticed something was wrong. Something about the hug didn’t feel right. It felt a bit off. When he had first been pulled into the hug, he had felt two arms wrapped around him, but only one hand had pressed against his back. He should feel two hands. What was wrong? Why was there only one?

Yuichiro slowly pulled away from the hug and opened his eyes. He frowned in confusion as he looked at his brother, tilting his head to the side. He hadn’t yet been able to take a good look at Muichiro, but now that he could, he noticed a haori that wasn’t his was draped over his shoulders. The haori was bigger than Muichiro himself, so Yuichiro couldn’t see what injuries may be hidden underneath. He reached out his hand and grabbed the fabric, yanking the haori off.

“Give it back. I need it. I need it,” Muichiro said, sounding panicked. His voice matched the almost terrified expression on his face. Why was he so scared? Was he worried about Yuichiro seeing his injuries? Was he hiding something? Yuichiro noticed a hole in the front of his shirt where he must have been stabbed, but he didn’t think that was what Muichiro would be hiding from him. He’d had a lot worse than that before.

Muichiro reached forward with both of his arms in an attempt to grab the haori back. He grabbed onto the fabric with his right hand, and tried to pull it back. Yuichiro, however, wouldn’t let go, and because his brother was likely weak from the fighting he’d done the night before, he was too weak to pull it away. 

Yuichiro looked at his brother’s left arm and saw why he’d only grabbed at the haori with his right. All he could do was stare. He couldn’t figure out how exactly he was supposed to feel about this right now. Should he be upset with his brother? Angry about somebody else? Or should he just be sad that this had happened? There was too much going on in his head.

Starting just below Muichiro’s elbow bandages had been wrapped all the way down to the end of his arm. The problem, however, was that his arm didn’t end where his arm should have ended. What should have been the halfway point between his elbow and his hand was just a stump. 

“Muichiro, what happened?” Yuichiro croaked. They were the first words he managed to say since Muichiro had first walked over to him. His voice was weak after all the crying he had been doing. It was a bit hard to talk right now.

“Please give it back,” his brother begged. He was still trying to pull the borrowed haori back. He’d dropped his left arm, seeming to remember he wouldn’t be able to use it to grab onto anything. Yuichiro did as he asked, and held it out to him, watching as his brother grasped onto it with his right hand, his only hand, before pulling it to his chest and wrapping his arms around it tightly. It didn’t look like he’d be letting go of it anytime soon. 

Something had happened, and he didn’t know what. He couldn’t figure out why the haori was so important to him if he hadn’t been wearing it to try and hide his injuries. It seemed familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite place it. But that wasn’t what was important right now. It was just a haori.

“Where is your hand?” Yuichiro demanded. His emotions regarding his brother’s missing hand were still all over the place. He was so sad that his brother would have to go through the same thing he had. But he was also mad at his brother for even going to fight in the first place, because it could have been prevented. And he was mad at whoever had done this to him. 

“I lost it,” was all Muichiro said to respond. Yuichiro waited a bit, hoping for more of an explanation, but nothing more came. 

“Well go get it back!” Tears started to well up in his eyes again. He just couldn’t stop crying today. He was the one who’d lost his arm. Muichiro wasn’t supposed to go and do the same. It was only supposed to be him.

“Shouldn’t you just be glad I’m back?” Muichiro asked as he started tearing up as well. “I’ve always just wanted you to be happy that I’m okay. I’ve just wanted you to say you’re proud of me. Why are you getting mad?”

“You’re only fifteen. You shouldn’t have to have been put in the middle of all that. It’s not fair. You should still have your arm.”

“You lost more than me. I didn’t even lose half. And you were only eleven when you lost yours.”

Yuichiro leaned forward pressing his face against his brother’s shoulder. He couldn’t even tell if he was laughing or crying anymore. It was a stupid argument, arguing over who lost more of their arm, and who had it worse. But it wasn’t anything serious. They were just being dumb. All that mattered right now was that Muichiro was here. 

“I thought you were dead.” His voice was muffled as he spoke into his brother’s shoulder, so he sat back up, allowing himself to speak more clearly. “Why did you take so long to get back? I was so scared.”

“The Kakushi kept coming to take me to the Butterfly Estate, but Himejima promised me that he and Shinazugawa would come back and get me,” Muichiro said. That was where Yuichiro recognized the haori from. Himejima. “I waited a long time, but they never came, so eventually I was forcefully brought here. Were they already brought here?” 

“I’m sorry. I haven’t seen them.” The way Muichiro had asked the question made him sound so hopeful, and Yuichiro knew his answer wasn’t the one he wanted. He’d searched the entire estate looking for Muichiro, and during that search he hadn’t seen either of the two men.

As expected Muichiro didn’t seem to take the news well, his lips falling into a frown. While he had been crying earlier, when he had been speaking, the tears had stopped, but Yuichiro noticed them starting to form again in his brother’s eyes. He also seemed to be hugging onto the haori tighter than he had been before.

“That doesn’t mean anything though,” Yuichiro continued, wanting to give his brother some hope. And he hoped it was true himself as well. He didn’t want to see anybody else look so sad. Not after watching Aoi learn the news about Shinobu. “I also haven’t heard anything about them dying. They’re Pillars, so I’m sure somebody would have mentioned something.” He tried to ignore the fact that he and Aoi hadn’t learnt about Shinobu until they saw Kanao.

Muichiro nodded, and the next thing Yuichiro knew, his brother was falling forward. Yuichiro grabbed onto him with his arm and gently lowered him so that he was lying on the ground. He was thankful that they were already sitting because it could have been a worse fall, which he didn’t need after all the injuries he already had.

“My head hurts.” Muichiro moved his left arm towards his head while the other continued keeping its tight hold on Himejima’s haori. He seemed to realize his mistake, and switched arms, placing his hand on the back of his head. Yuichiro knew from experience it would take a while for him to get used to it.

“I didn’t realize you had a head injury. We should get you inside, so you can get looked at. Can you walk?”

“I don’t think so. Earlier I threw up when I tried to stand.” That didn’t sound good. He really needed somebody to check on that. It would be awful if it was something bad. He didn’t want to lose his brother after just finding out he was actually alive. But he was hopeful it wasn’t something that would kill him.

“How did you even make it over to me?” If he couldn’t even stand, how had he walked all the way over from wherever it was he’d been dropped off.

“I don’t know. I just needed to make sure you were okay, so I told the Kakushi to put me down.”

Yuichiro got to his feet. “I’m going to go get somebody to help get you inside. I’ll be right back. I promise.”

As he started to walk away, Muichiro spoke up, so he stopped to listen. “I’m sorry for saying I hate you. It isn’t true. I was just mad.”

Yuichiro took a deep breath and said something he hadn’t been able to for years no matter how much he’d wanted to. “I’ve always been proud of you. It’s just so hard to tell you, and I’m always so scared.” It was easier to say with his back to his brother. Maybe someday he could say it face to face, but for now this was all he could do.

Without waiting for a reply, he made his way to the entrance of the Butterfly Estate to get help.

***

After making sure Muichiro was getting taken care of, Yuichiro went to go find Aoi. He hadn’t seen her since she’d found out about Shinobu, and he wanted to make sure she was doing okay. He’d go back to visit Muichiro later once he was all patched up and after he got some rest. Knowing for a fact that his brother was alive took such a big weight off his shoulders.

It only took a few minutes of searching to find Aoi. She was in the supply closet taking a few things down from the shelves into her arms. She hadn’t even given herself a break after learning about Shinobu, when she’d forced him to the night before. She just went right back to working.

“Are you doing okay?” Yuichiro asked.

Aoi must not have heard him walk in the room because as soon as the words left his mouth she jumped, causing all the supplies in her arms to fall and scatter across the floor. Luckily nothing she had been carrying was breakable. Yuichiro bent down to help her pick everything up.

“Thank you,” Aoi said once everything she’d dropped was back in her arms. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were there. I didn’t hear you come in. I must have been distracted.”

“Are you okay?” Yuichiro asked, hoping this time he’d get an answer. He was really worried about her.

“I’m fine.” Aoi’s words did not match her tone of voice or the look on her face. It was easy to tell that she was hiding how she was actually feeling, trying to hold all her emotions in. He wished she wouldn’t, but he knew it was hard for her to open up sometimes. 

“Are you sure?” He really just wanted to do something to help. But he couldn’t do that if she wouldn’t let him.

“You’ve been crying again.” She’d managed to turn the subject back around on him. He’d almost forgotten his near breakdown outside not long before. He was more focused on his brother being alive than what had preceded his return. “Your eyes are red. More than they were before.”

“I’m fine,” he replied, and unlike her he was actually telling the truth. Or at least he was being more truthful than she had been. He still kept finding himself near to tears whenever he remembered the Ubuyashikis, but the reason he had been crying earlier was because of his brother, but that was all okay now. Muichiro was alive. 

“And I wasn’t crying,” he added. Now he was lying.

“Where did you go then? You weren’t there when I got back, and Hinatsuru said that you ran into her, then ran off in a panic.” That must have been the name of Uzui’s wife, he realized. His mind had only been on Muichiro at that time, so he didn’t even remember running into her until Aoi brought it up.

“Muichiro is back.” As he said the words, all he could feel was guilt. His brother had come back, while Aoi’s sister hadn’t. Luckily Aoi didn’t seem too bothered. Or at least she made it look that way. She was probably more upset than she appeared.

“I’m so glad,” she said forcing herself to sound happy. She must be thinking how it wasn’t fair. He knew that’s what he would do if their positions were swapped. He wished both of their siblings had been able to return.

“Do you happen to know if Himejima and Shinazugawa made it here yet? I guess they promised to find Muichiro after everything was over, but neither of them did, and he seemed worried about them.”

Aoi frowned at the mention of their names. “I’m so sorry. I was told neither of them made it. They were both killed during the fight with Muzan. I think Shinazugawa’s brother also died, but I heard he was killed early on during a fight with one of the Upper Moons.”

“Are you sure?” He didn’t want it to be true. Based on the way Muichiro had been clinging to Himejima’s haori proved that he wouldn’t take this news well at all. He’d been acting weird. He had never seen his brother look so panicked before. And Genya also being dead would make it worse. Yuichiro didn’t like him at all, but he knew Muichiro was close with him. 

Of the three people Yuichiro cared about most in the world, one was dead, and another had just lost her sister, but wouldn’t let herself open up to him. The other one had been through something Yuichiro couldn’t even imagine, and now he’d have to break the news to him that the two people he’d been asking after were dead, and that one of his closest friends was also dead. Yuichiro wasn’t sure how he was supposed to deal with any of this. 

Aoi nodded in response to his question, not saying anything more. He hated that the people he cared so much about were going through so much. And he was hurting too much himself to be able to do much about it. He told himself he would do whatever he could.

“How are all the patients?” Yuichiro asked, needing a change of topic. He’d deal with all the deaths later. But for now he should focus on helping out where he could. 

“We lost a few early on,” Aoi replied. She’d gone back to picking supplies off of the shelves. “But I think everybody we have is now stable, so they should all make it. A few are being transferred to nearby hospitals, so we can lighten the load here. And some of them are in really good shape and should be able to leave as soon as tomorrow morning.”

“That’s good to hear. Now are you sure you’re doing okay?” he asked once again.

“We don’t have time to talk anymore.” Aoi was avoiding the question again. She pushed past Yuichiro and opened the door into the hallway, arms overflowing with supplies. “We have work to do.”

Yuichiro sighed, knowing he wasn’t going to be getting a truthful answer anytime soon, and he followed her out the door.

*** 

Yuichiro was walking by the kitchen on his way back to Aoi after grabbing some medicine she’d forgotten to grab from the storage room earlier, when he heard screams coming from inside. He quickly rushed in to see if everything was okay, figuring Aoi could wait a few minutes longer. It wasn’t something she needed right away.

When he got inside, Yuichiro found a woman who was in tears staring down at something on the floor. He made his way across the room to where the woman was standing and looked down to see what she was looking at. He realized that all it was was a dead mouse that had been caught in a trap.

“Are you okay?” Yuichiro asked her. He assumed she was just scared of mice. But it was dead, so he didn’t see why it would be such a big deal. She could have just left it alone. Somebody would have removed it. 

The woman wiped at the tears on her face before responding. “Iguro’s snake needs food, but obviously he can’t get out of bed to get him something himself right now. Makio said that she would find a mouse for him, but then she left me here, and told me I had to do it.” She said it all in one long breath, and it took Yuichiro a few seconds to process everything she’d said. 

“Who’s Makio?” Yuichiro wasn’t quite sure of half of what she had just said, but he figured he’d start there.

“She’s one of Tengen’s other wives.”

“Are you one of his wives too?” Uzui had too many wives, Yuichiro decided. It was going to be too hard to keep track of them all. Why did he need so many? But it wasn’t like he would be spending a lot of time with them. 

The woman sniffled and then nodded. She seemed to have finally stopped crying. For now at least. It looked like she was ready to start back up at any moment. “I’m Suma.”

“I can take the mouse if you’re too scared,” Yuichiro offered. He’d dealt with lots of mice as a kid, so it didn’t bother him. He’d just have to find Aoi first, and then he could bring the mouse to the snake.

“I’m not scared. But it reminds me of Tengen’s mice, and it makes me sad to see it dead. I don’t want to touch a dead mouse.” Unfortunately she’d started crying again. “Can you please do it for me?”

Yuichiro tucked the medicine he’d grabbed for Aoi under his left arm and bent down in front of the mouse trap. He managed to get the mouse out, and he picked it up by the tail, standing back up.

“Thank you,” she said. “I don’t think I would have been able to do it, and then the snake would starve, and it would be all my fault.” 

Yuichiro didn’t think it would go that far, but he didn’t want to argue about something so insignificant. “I don’t mind,” he said. He moved towards the door and out into the hallway, leaving the still crying woman behind. 

Almost as soon as he stepped out into the hallway, he saw Aoi already walking in his direction, looking a bit angry. He stayed where he was waiting for her to come over. The look on her face told her she was definitely angry with him. But she also looked exhausted. He just wanted her to rest already.

“What took you so long?” she demanded. She sounded angry too. “I sent you to get one thing, and you just take your time. Don’t you get how busy we are?”

“I’m sorry.” He hoped she wasn’t actually mad at him. That she was only acting like this because she was stressed and tired. He’d only taken a few minutes longer than he should have. “I heard somebody screaming, so I went to go make sure she was okay. And now I have to go feed a snake.”

Aoi tilted her head, her expression of anger replaced with one of confusion. “You have to what?”

Yuichiro held up the mouse as a way of responding. As he did, so Aoi took a step back, her expression once again changing, this time to one of disgust at the sight of a dead mouse. “The lady in the kitchen was crying and didn’t want to bring the mouse to Iguro’s snake, so I offered.”

“Fine. You can go do that. But where’s the medicine I was asking for?”

“It’s under my other arm. You can grab it.”

Aoi reached out and took it from him, and Yuichiro was glad she’d done so before he dropped it. He had been feeling it starting to slip for a while. Now he just had the mouse to worry about.

“Just come find me when you’re done,” Aoi said. “You’re not getting out of helping that easily.”

“I will.” 

Yuichiro turned to walk down towards the room where the Pillars were staying. He first looked to the bed where his brother was and saw that he was sleeping and decided he wouldn’t bother him. He then walked over to the bed where Iguro was staying. Luckily, he was awake with his snake resting on his shoulders. He was talking to Kanroji who was in the bed next to his. 

Kanroji had been sleeping last time Yuichiro had been here, so he hadn’t seen how bad her injuries were. She didn’t seem as bad as some of the others. She had a lot of bandages on the left side of her face. He knew some of them were covering up her ear which he had heard she’d lost during the fight with Muzan. She had her hands in her lap, and Yuichiro noticed that her left one was wrapped tightly in bandages. Her pinky finger was missing.

Iguro however, had gotten worse injuries based on what Yuichiro had been told. He looked at Iguro’s legs which were covered under his blankets. From what he had heard, he’d lost part of his right leg, and from the way the outline of his legs under the blankets looked, that information had been correct.

“What are you looking at?”

Yuichiro snapped his head up to look at Iguro. “Nothing,” he replied. He noticed scars on both of his cheeks, which he could tell were very old and not from the fight. He tried to stop himself from staring, not wanting to get yelled at. “Um, I heard you needed a mouse.”

“Yes,” Iguro replied coolly. He took his snake down off of his shoulders and lowered it onto his lap. He motioned for Yuichiro to put down the mouse, which he did. 

“Can I watch?” Yuichiro asked. He’d seen snakes all the time in the woods when he was little, but he’d never watched one eat. Muichiro had said he had and that it was fun to watch, so now he wanted to.

“If you must.”

“Yuichiro, why don’t you come sit here,” he heard another voice say. He turned to see Kanroji patting the edge of her bed, motioning him over. As he sat down on the edge of the bed he noticed Iguro give him a quick glare before turning away. “It’s so cute that you’re so excited over Kaburamaru.” That must have been the snake’s name.

“Has my brother woken up at all yet?” Yuichiro asked Kanroji as he watched the snake fit the mouse inside his mouth.

“No. He was given some medicine to help him sleep I believe. He’ll probably be awake later.”

“Do you know if he’s doing okay?”

“They patched him up real well from what I saw, so physically he should be fine, I think. But he nearly threw a fit when they tried to take Himejima’s haori away from him.” 

That was concerning. The next time his brother was awake he was going to have to tell him about Himejima. He didn’t think he’d take it very well, but he needed to know. He still wondered what had happened.

“I’m going to check on him and then go find Aoi.” Yuichiro slid off of Kanroji’s bed onto his feet, ready to leave. He’d watched the snake long enough. 

Before he could leave, Kanroji spoke up. “Iguro, aren’t you going to thank him?”

Yuichiro turned to face Iguro who just stared at him for a while before finally speaking. “Thank you.”

“It wasn’t a big deal,” he replied. It was just a mouse. 

Yuichiro turned to walk over to Muichiro’s bed, leaving the other two to talk. The first thing Yuichiro noticed was that even in his sleep he was clinging onto Himejima’s haori. His bandages had been changed, and he was wearing a fresh set of clothes. He forced himself not to look at his brother’s arm too long. He just didn’t want it to be true that he’d lost his hand.

“I’ll be back when you’re awake,” he whispered. “I have to go help out some more.”

***

“Move over. I’m tired. I wanna sit.”

“You aren’t even going to say hello?”

Muichiro moved to the side of his bed, giving space for Yuichiro to squeeze in next to him. They weren’t able to fit in the beds together as well as they used to back when they were only twelve, but Yuichiro was too tired to care. They fit well enough. He didn’t want to find a seat to pull up when he could just sit here. He leaned his head on his brother’s shoulder. He made sure to be gentle, not wanting to hurt him with all his injuries. 

Aside from when he’d gone outside and discovered Muichiro was alive, and later when he fed Kaburamaru, Yuichiro hadn’t had much of a break all day. He was exhausted, but he had still wanted to come check on Muichiro before he went to bed. He needed to be the one to tell Muichiro about the deaths. He didn’t want anybody else to do it. 

The two of them sat there quietly for a while. Yuichiro was having trouble bringing himself to say anything. He didn’t want to see his brother get sad. At one point Aoi walked in with the younger girls. They all waved as they walked by to go visit with Kanao. They seemed to be doing well considering what had happened with Shinobu. 

“I need to talk to you about something,” Yuichiro said. He thought back to the times his brother had been the one to say that. When he’d first decided to join the Demon Slayers and later when he’d become a Pillar. He grew to hate it when he heard his brother say those words, and hoped that his brother wouldn’t feel the same. He didn’t want him to start panicking already.

“Is something wrong?” Muichiro asked. He didn’t sound panicked yet at least. 

Yuichiro took a deep breath. “I was told that Shinobu, Genya, Shinazugawa, and Himejima didn’t make it.” He watched as his brother’s fingers tightened on the haori he still refused to part with. He was so worried about him.

Yuichiro was worried by the long silence, but eventually Muichiro spoke up. “I already knew about Genya and Shinobu.” He sounded sad, the way he was talking, but it wasn’t as bad a reaction as Yuichiro had been preparing for. While he wasn’t looking at his face, he was pretty sure he wasn’t crying. “And I should have known Himejima would be dead. Even if he wasn’t killed he had a mark and he was over twenty-five.”

Yuichiro lifted his head off of his brother’s shoulder and scrunched up his face in confusion. He wasn’t sure if he was missing anything, but that last part just didn’t make sense to him. What was a mark and what did being over twenty-five have to do with it.

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

He turned to face Muichiro and watched as his expression became panicked. He turned his head away from him, obviously trying to avoid answering. What could it be that made him not want to answer. Yuichiro had been worried about the news causing his brother to panic, but it seemed like he was going to be the one panicking. 

“Answer me,” Yuichiro demanded. 

“Some of us had these marks appear that are supposed to help us fight better,” Muichiro replied. He didn’t say anything else, and Yuichiro knew he was still hiding something.

“What does Himejima being older than twenty-five have to do with the marks?” He was going to have to ask each individual thing, because it seemed like Muichiro was going to do his best to keep whatever it was he was talking about to himself. 

“If you get one, you die by the time you turn twenty-five.”

Yuichiro’s heart started racing. 

“Did you get one?”

Muichiro stayed silent.

“Mui?”

“...I did.”

Ten years. Ten years was all he had left with his brother. But ten years was a long time. If they had ten years, they would find someway to stop it. They had the time. They could do it. Muichiro wasn’t going to be dying anytime soon if Yuichiro had anything to say about it.

“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen. I promise.”

Chapter Text

Yuichiro woke up to the sound of screaming. He found himself still in Muichiro’s bed even though he hadn’t meant to fall asleep there. He couldn’t even remember when he fell asleep. He just remembered talking with his brother for a while, and suddenly he was waking up. He realized that he must not have been asleep for long, because a quick look out the window told him it was still nighttime. 

He moved to sit up to see who was screaming, but found himself unable to do so, because Muichiro, who was still somehow asleep despite the noise, was clinging tightly to Yuichiro’s kimono with his fingers. His left arm was still wrapped tightly around Himejima’s haori which continued to worry Yuichiro. 

Yuichiro carefully pried his brother’s fingers off, gently pushing his hand away. He didn’t want to wake him nor hurt him anymore than he already had been. He glanced around the room seeing that a few others had woken up, but most of them thankfully still seemed to be sleeping. The only ones he saw awake were Kanroji and Inosuke.

He turned towards Kanao’s bed last where the screaming had been coming from. Something in him had been telling him not to look that way. Something in him knew what he would find. He knew who the screams belonged to. He knew the only reason they would be screaming. He didn’t want it to be true. The girls didn’t deserve this.

Unfortunately, he had been right. Aoi was standing in front of Kanao’s bed crying out her name over and over reaching a hand forward, trying to escape the hold of a Kakushi who was holding her back. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she struggled in the Kakushi’s grasp. He hadn’t seen her cry once since she’d learnt of Shinobu’s death. Kanao must have been the breaking point.

He was glad the little ones weren’t there. They didn’t need to see this, and he knew Aoi wouldn’t want them to see her like this either.

Yuichiro slipped out of bed making his way over to Aoi. She’d always helped him so much when he was having trouble dealing with things. It was his turn to help. As he walked over to where she was, he carefully avoided looking at Kanao’s bed. He just couldn’t bring himself to look. He may not have been as close with her as he was with Aoi, but he had still considered her his friend. 

“Aoi?”

Aoi’s screaming stopped as she turned to look at him. She stopped struggling in the Kakushi’s arms, and they loosened their grip on her. She just stared at him in silence for a while, tears in her eyes, before finally breaking free of the Kakushi’s grasp and running out of the room.

The Kakushi moved to follow her, but Yuichiro stopped them. “I’ll go get her.” He knew she would hate to have people see her like this. She’d seen him in a worse state, so hopefully she wouldn’t mind if he followed her.

Before he could leave the room to follow Aoi, somebody reached out and grabbed his arm. He turned to see Mitsuri standing there. At some point she must have gotten out of bed.

“I’ll tell the girls,” she said, a sad tone to her voice. “Tell Aoi she doesn’t have to. She already told them about Shinobu. This will be too much for her.”

Yuichiro nodded. “Thank you. You should get back in bed for now though. She’ll be upset with you if you don’t.” 

Yuichiro then made his way out into the hallway, not seeing any sign of Aoi. He started looking around in rooms he knew were empty. She wouldn’t want to go somewhere where people would see her breaking down. He knew she’d been getting closer and closer to breaking down since she’d found out about Shinobu, but somehow she’d managed to keep it together. He was pretty sure she hadn’t had a break since they first received the letter from Oyakata, so that couldn’t have helped. 

He found her in the storage room, where they kept all the supplies. Aoi always spent so much time making sure it stayed organized, but now it was all a mess. She was making a mess everything she always worked so hard on. He watched as she continued knocking things down from the shelves. 

Yuichiro wasn’t quite sure what he should be doing right now. He wasn’t used to being on this side of things. Rarely was he the one who had to comfort her. Of course he had before, but never for something like this. He wanted to calm her down and make sure she was okay, but he didn’t know how.

It didn’t take long for Yuichiro to notice the blood. He saw it dripping down her right hand from a cut on her palm. She must have cut it on something on one of the shelves she’d made a mess of. It didn’t seem to stop her though. He was pretty sure she hadn’t even noticed.

He decided he could no longer just stand by the door and watch. Aoi was hurt. He made his way over to her, watching where he stepped, so he didn’t cut his feet on anything that may have broken as it had been thrown to the floor. 

When he made it to where Aoi was standing, Yuichiro reached out and grabbed onto her right wrist tightly, stopping her from hurting herself any further. As he grabbed onto her, she froze and turned to look at him, tears continuing to roll down her cheeks. She must not have noticed he was in the room, too focused on what she’d been doing.

“I don’t want you to see me like this.” Her voice was shaky. He could feel her trembling. “Go away.”

“You’ve seen me when I was even worse,” he reminded her. He let go of her wrist, confident she wasn’t about to go back to making a mess and hurting herself. He ran a finger along the faint scar he’d left on her cheek. It had never fully faded, and he felt incredibly guilty for it. “I can’t just leave you like this. I’m staying.”

Aoi stared at him for a while, saying nothing. It appeared as if she was trying to hold back her tears, but it just wasn’t working. They didn’t stop falling. He understood the feeling. He didn’t have time to think about that, however, because the next thing he knew, Aoi was collapsing into him, pressing her face against his shoulder. It was just as he had done to her not long ago. Yuichiro quickly wrapped his arm around her, to keep her from falling.

“Help me,” she sobbed, voice muffled. It wasn’t something he’d expected to hear her say. She almost always kept her problems to herself. He knew she didn’t like to ask for help.

“I’m here,” he replied. If she was asking for help, it meant she really needed it.  “I’m not leaving you.” 

Yuichiro gently lowered Aoi to the floor and had her lean up against the wall. He got back up to get some supplies to take care of her hand, making sure to promise he wasn’t going anywhere. He was lucky they were already in the storage room, but it took awhile to find what he was looking for now that the room was such a mess, but he still managed to get what he needed and made his way back over to Aoi, sitting down on the floor in front of her.

He dumped everything he had collected into his lap and pulled her hand towards him to start cleaning out the cut and to wipe up all the blood. He was glad to see it wasn’t that deep, so it wouldn’t need stitches, and he began to wrap it in the bandages he’d grabbed. While he worked on patching up her hand, he made sure not to look at her face, knowing she wouldn’t want him to see her crying anymore than he already had. 

When he was done he sat up against the wall next to her. He felt as she leaned up against him, resting her head on his shoulder. In this position he wouldn’t have to see her cry. They sat like that for a while, and Yuichiro began to wonder if she’d fallen asleep until she suddenly spoke up.

“Kanae’s dead. Shinobu’s dead. Kanao’s dead. I couldn’t do anything to save any of them. I’m useless.”

“There’s only so much you can do for them. You did what you could. There’s nothing else you could have done.” Yuichiro had never met Kanae, but he had heard about what happened, and he knew there was nothing Aoi could have done. The same was true with Shinobu. And she’d done everything she could for Kanao. None of it was her fault, and he wished he could get her to understand that.

“I should have at least been able to save Kanao. She was brought here alive, and I couldn’t even save her. I’m supposed to be a doctor. Shinobu would have saved her.”

“You don’t know that. It was something that you couldn’t have helped. You did everything you could. I’m sure the same thing would have happened no matter who was treating her. It really sucks feeling useless and not being able to protect your own family.” His voice cracked as he spoke, but he held back his tears. It wasn’t about him right now. Aoi needed the comfort more than he did. “You told me the same thing when we were little. You just do whatever you can, and you’ve done all that you could”

They sat in silence for a while again, neither one of them having anything to add to the conversation. All that could be heard was the sound of Aoi crying and faint noises from those out in the hallway. Yuichiro wished there was something he could do to make her feel better, but if Aoi was like him, there wasn’t anything he could do. It would just take time.

“I’m tired. I’m so tired,” Aoi said after what felt like hours, but Yuichiro knew it had only been a few minutes. He knew she was exhausted. She’d been working nonstop since the letter had first arrived. She’d let everybody else rest, but she never let herself take a break. She always worked too hard. It was like this whenever Shinobu placed her in charge while she was away, but it had just never gotten this bad before.

“When’s the last time you slept?” he asked. He knew it wouldn’t be a good answer. She hadn’t slept at all the night they first received the letter. And it would be morning again soon, which meant she’d been awake for almost two full days. And most of that time she had spent working. 

“I can’t remember,” she sobbed. “I’m so tired.” He realized that her crying was only being made worse because of how tired she was. She might feel better once she got some sleep. He wasn’t sure how she managed to keep it together for so long.

“We should get you to bed. You need to get some sleep.” Yuichiro was getting tired himself, not having been able to sleep the whole night through, but he couldn’t focus on that right now. Not until Aoi was finally resting. He’d just take her to her room and find somewhere he could sleep himself.

“There’s still so much work I need to do,” she argued. “Shinobu left me in charge. I don’t have time to rest. But I’m so tired.”

“She would want you to rest,” said Yuichiro. “Even she took breaks when it got busy. If you’re tired you’re not going to be able to do your job right. There’s so many people here helping. More than we usually have. There’s no reason you can’t just sleep for a few hours. If you’re needed, I’m sure somebody will wake you.”

“But the little ones. I need to tell the little ones what happened. I need to be there when they wake up.” He knew she’d already told them about Shinobu. He wasn’t sure how well she’d be able to handle having to do that again. She wouldn’t be able to keep it together.

“Kanroji told me that she would do it for you. She didn’t want you to have to do it again, so you don’t need to worry about that. What you do need to worry about is getting some sleep. You’re a mess right now.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

She didn’t reply for a while, and at first Yuichiro thought she was trying to come up with another argument to use, so he would let her get back to work. However, he noticed that her crying had stopped and her breathing had slowed. It suddenly felt more calm in the room. She had fallen asleep on his shoulder. While he had wanted to get her to her room to sleep, at least she was sleeping. He would send her to her room later, but for now everything was fine.

Before Yuichiro knew it, he had also fallen asleep.

***

Yuichiro jolted awake as something heavy fell onto his lap. He blinked his eyes a few times, trying to remember where he was, but all he could think about was how sore he felt. He hadn’t exactly fallen asleep in a comfortable position. His shoulder was hurting the worst like he’d been carrying around something heavy all day. 

He finally looked down at his lap to see what exactly had fallen on him and woken him up and found that it was Kiyo. She climbed off of him, and quickly got to her feet, dusting off her skirt.

He remembered Aoi had been with him when he’d fallen asleep. That must have been why his shoulder hurt so much. She’d been sleeping on him. He turned his head to look at her, and she was awake as well, likely also having been woken up by Kiyo. Her eyes were all puffy from crying, which reminded him of why they were there.

“I’m so sorry,” Kiyo apologized. “I came to grab some bandages, and I tripped. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“How long were we asleep?” Aoi asked. Yuichiro guessed it had to have been a while based on how sore he was, and the fact that the mess that Aoi had made seemed to have been completely cleaned up. The shelves weren’t as organized as they had been before, but it was better than when they’d fallen asleep.

“It’s still morning,” Kiyo replied, which meant it had been a few hours. “The Kakushi were worried because they couldn’t find you two for a while, but then Hinatsuru found you sleeping on each other when she came to grab some supplies. Everybody decided to just let you sleep, since you haven’t taken any breaks.”

“I need to get back to work.” Aoi started to stand up, but Yuichiro grabbed her wrist pulling her back down. He pulled on her a bit too hard, and this time Aoi ended up being the one to fall into his lap. He watched as her cheeks turned red, and he felt his start to do the same. 

“You need to get more sleep,” Yuichiro replied. He let go of her wrist, and gently shoved her off his lap since she didn’t seem to be moving herself. She’d only slept a few hours at most after being awake for almost two whole days. She still needed sleep, even if she didn’t think she did. “You’ll be too useless if you’re tired.”

“Fine. But I’m not sleeping in here again. My neck hurts.” Yuichiro was surprised she agreed so quickly. She had probably finally realized just how tired she had been, even if she wasn’t going to admit it. He got to his feet and held out his hand to pull her up.

Aoi quickly turned to Kiyo. “Did Kanroji tell you?” she asked. 

Kiyo looked down at her feet, a frown forming on her face. “She came to tell us this morning when we woke up. All three of us decided we still wanted to keep working with the patients because it helps distract us.”

“If you need to though, please stop to take a break,” Aoi said. “I’m worried about you.”

Kiyo nodded. “We will. And you should too. We’ve been worried as well.” She gave Aoi a quick hug. “I have to leave now.” She gave a small wave, and then she disappeared out the door. 

“You worry too much about everybody else that you don’t take the time to take care of yourself,” Yuichiro said once Kiyo had left.

“Aren’t you doing the same thing?” She was right, but he wasn’t just going to admit it. 

“We should get you to your room now,” Yuichiro said, changing the subject. He grabbed onto Aoi’s wrist, gently this time and led her out into the hallway. They received a few stares from those who they walked past as they walked down to Aoi’s room, which he chose to ignore.

When they arrived at Aoi’s room, Yuichiro made her get dressed into her nightclothes, which would be much more comfortable for her to sleep in than her uniform. As she got dressed, he turned away, eyes closed, until she told him she was all set. He then forced her into her futon, pulling her blanket up for her and sitting down on the floor next to her.

“You don’t need to stay,” she told him.

“I want to make sure you’re okay,” he replied. “And that you don’t try to escape and get back to work.” He didn’t trust her not to try and leave.

“Are you even doing okay yourself?” she asked. “You still haven’t touched the letter from your mom yet.”

Yuichiro took a deep breath, squeezing his eyes shut to prevent any tears from falling. He’d been trying not to think about that. He was too scared to read it. It was the last words Amane had for him, and he wasn’t ready to read them yet. He wanted it to last. He’d already done enough crying, and now it was his turn to comfort Aoi and Muichiro. They were suffering too.

“I’ll read it later,” he said, voice cracking. “I have a lot of stuff I could be helping with.” He knew he was using her argument back at her. But he didn’t have anything else to say. He was going to hold off on reading the letter as long as he could. Once he read it, he’d have to finally accept she was gone.

“You’re a hypocrite.”

“So are you. Telling the girls that they should take breaks, when you can’t even take one yourself without being forced.”

“We both just suck at this.” She was crying again.

Yuichiro nodded. He knew what she meant. Neither of them seemed to be dealing with their losses well. They kept trying to comfort the other, when they couldn’t even help themselves. They’d both have to deal with it eventually, but for now they were pushing it aside.

“We’ll be okay,” he said. “We’ve both lost people before. We got through it before, and we can do it again.”

When she didn’t reply, Yuichiro realized she’d fallen back asleep. Finally she’d get to rest comfortably in her own futon. It was a lot better than the uncomfortable storage room floor, but at least she’d been able to sleep. Hopefully she’d be able to sleep for a while and that nothing urgent would come up that would require Aoi’s presence.

Yuichiro stood up and quietly, making sure not to wake Aoi. Before going around and helping with the patients, he decided he would first go check on his brother and see if he was awake. He wanted to make sure Muichiro was still doing alright, and after what had happened with Kanao, he was especially worried.

As he made his way down the hallway to the room where his brother was staying, he heard a couple of women arguing. They were being a bit too loud with how close they currently were to one of the rooms with patients. If they kept at this, they were going to wake up some of the patients, and they all needed rest.

One of the women, he recognized. It was Suma, the woman he’d found crying in the kitchen the day before. She was crying again now, and he wondered if she ever stopped. The other woman he didn’t recognize, but he was pretty sure that she was the last one of Uzui’s wives. The only one he hadn’t met yet. He couldn’t remember her name, but it’s not like it mattered to him. It’s not like he was going to be seeing her much.

Yuichiro knew that if Aoi was here, she would have gone over to tell them to stop and to get back to work or leave. Yuichiro, however, did not like getting involved in something that had nothing to do with him. Instead he decided on another way to get them to stop. He’d find Hinatsuru and ask for her help. Uzui could also work, but Yuichiro decided he’d prefer not to deal with him unless he absolutely had to.

He started looking in nearby rooms to see if he could find either of them. He hoped they weren’t sleeping, because he would feel bad waking anybody. As he continued his search, he wondered if it was a common thing for the two to fight. If he remembered correctly, the other woman had been the one to tell Suma to get the mouse. 

After a few minutes of searching, Yuichiro finally found both Hinatsuru and Uzui helping with a patient. Uzui seemed to be having trouble changing the bandages on the patient one handed, so Hinatsuru was helping him. He wondered if it would just be better for him to not help, since he couldn’t really seem to do much on his own. But that wasn’t the issue right now.

He walked up to them and gave a small tug on Hinatsuru’s clothes. He’d much rather talk with her over Uzui, who he was still mad at for trying to kidnap Aoi and Naho even though that had been months ago now. Aoi still didn’t like him, so neither did he. It didn’t matter that he’d been nice to him that one time.

“Do you need something?” Hinatsuru asked, turning to look at him, and Uzui also looked in his direction to see who his wife was talking to. 

“Suma and somebody else are fighting, and I don’t want to get in the middle of it, so I thought I’d tell you. They’re really close to one of the rooms, and they’re going to start waking everybody else,” Yuichiro replied.

“It must be Makio,” Uzui said.

Hinasturu nodded and sighed. “We should probably go stop them.” She looked down at the patient she and Uzui had been helping and frowned.

“I can take over here if you’d like,” Yuichiro offered. He’d much rather stay here with a patient then get in the middle of family drama from a family other than his own. He had enough to deal with just with his brother.

“Are you sure you can do that on your own?” Uzui asked. Yuichiro tried to ignore that he was looking at his left arm as he spoke. Just because Uzui couldn’t do it on his own, didn’t mean he couldn’t.

Yuichiro rolled his eyes. “I’ve been doing this since I was eleven. I think I’m fine.”

Hinatsuru thanked him then took Uzui by the arm and led him out of the room. Once they were gone, Yuichiro picked up where they had left off with the bandages. While Hinatsuru was nice, he hoped that they didn’t stay here too much longer. They were a lot to deal with.

***

Once Yuichiro had finished with the patient, he was finally able to go check on Muichiro. When he’d gone out into the hallway, he hadn’t heard the fighting anymore, so Hinatsuru and Uzui must have been successful in stopping the argument.

When he arrived at the room where his brother should have been, he was upset to find that he wasn’t there. He was not in good enough shape to be out of bed at all. Even Inosuke, who never kept still nor listened, hadn’t gotten out of bed without permission. He wondered how Aoi had convinced him. 

“He went outside,” Kanroji said from her bed. Yuichiro turned to look at her. “The Kakushi tried to stop him, but he’s very stubborn. I don’t think he went far though.”

Yuichiro thanked her for the information, and then he was walking back out of the room and outside the building. He walked around the yard until he found Muichiro sitting under a tree with Ginko on his lap. He still had the haori with him.

“You shouldn’t be out here,” Yuichiro said as he joined him in the grass. “You’re going to hurt yourself. You’re still badly injured.”

“Everything already hurts. I don’t think it can get much worse than this,” Muichiro replied, as he pet the bird sitting in his lap. “Ginko was worried about me, and she doesn’t like being inside. Also I think she might have tried to eat Kaburamaru. She’s not very friendly with other animals. Or people. I think you’re the only other person she likes.”

“Well you shouldn’t stay here for long. We’ll need to check you over to make sure everything is healing correctly, so we know you’ll be alright. And you should probably get something for the pain if it’s hurting that badly.” He thought of Kanao, but couldn’t bring himself to mention what had happened with her. He didn’t want the same to happen to Muichiro. He didn’t care if that made him selfish.

“Yui, are we ugly?”

“What? No. Why are you asking that?” He knew Muichiro was trying to change the subject. He was just as bad as Aoi sometimes. However, Yuichiro didn’t quite understand why this was how his brother was choosing to do so. There were so many other ways he could have done that.

“Good. Our ancestor was ugly. The one that the Ubuyashikis told us about. I don’t want us to look like him.” The answer only made Yuichiro more confused. Why did he know this, and why was he bringing it up now?

“What? Did you meet him or something?”

“Yes.”

Yuichiro had meant the question as a joke. He wasn’t expecting that as an answer. He scrunched up his face and tried to figure out what exactly his brother was talking about. Was he confused? He had gotten a head injury, but the Kakushi who had taken care of him said that he was fine. But then again Kanao had also been fine.

“He’s dead now. He was a demon,” Muichiro explained after Yuichiro didn’t respond, too busy trying to figure out what he’d meant in the first place. His explanation, thankfully, cleared up a lot, but it wasn’t really what Yuichiro had been expecting. The Ubuyashikis must have made some sort of mistake. “He was the one who cut off my...the one who hurt me. I couldn’t do anything, but Shinazugawa, Himejima, and Genya killed him.”

“You must have helped too of course,” Yuichiro said. If Muichiro had been hurt fighting him, then that would mean he’d been involved in the fight that killed him as well. Just because he’d been hurt didn’t mean he hadn’t also helped.

Muichiro shook his head and winced, clutching at the back of his head with his hand. “He did all this to me before anybody else was even there, and then he knocked me out. When I woke up, I watched Genya die. I missed the whole thing.”

“You still helped before anybody else showed up.” 

“I’m a Pillar. I should have been able to do more. He used my own sword against me. I shouldn’t have let that happen. Genya died, and Himejima and Shinazugawa are dead too now. I’m the only one who was there who’s still alive. If I’d been able to help, maybe they wouldn’t be dead.”

“You don’t know that,” said Yuichiro. He didn’t want Muichiro to think like that. He shouldn’t have to feel guilty for something that wasn’t even his fault. “For all you know, you could have also died along with them.”

“Maybe that would have been better.”

Yuichiro grabbed grabbed onto Muichiro’s shirt and yanked him towards him. He heard Muichiro cry out. Ginko flew out of his lap, landing a few meters away in the grass, spooked by the sudden movement. “Don’t say that.”

“Yui, you’re hurting me. Please let go.”

Yuichiro pulled his hand away, letting his brother go. He hadn’t meant to hurt him. He hadn’t been thinking. “I’m sorry,” he said. He was shaking. The fact that his brother was thinking like that scared him. “Please don't say stuff like that. I don't want to lose you. I already thought I did for a while.”

Muichiro’s eyes started to fill with tears. Ginko made her way back over to sit in his lap again. “Yui, I think there’s something wrong with me. I can’t stop thinking about it, and I get scared when I’m not holding Himejima’s haori. When I left to come outside, I was going to leave it behind. I tried, but I started panicking, and I felt sick.”

“You’ll get better,” Yuichiro said, and he meant it. Everybody had always told him the same thing, and they’d been right. It would be the same for Muichiro, and he was sure of that. “It’s like when I couldn’t go outside. It took a long time, but now I’m sitting here with you.”

“I just want to skip to when I feel better.”

“I know. But I’m going to be here to help you, just like you were for me.”

***

Several hours later, Yuichiro found himself back inside the Butterfly Estate going around and helping with the patients. After they’d talked for a while, Yuichiro had helped his brother back into his bed, where he’d been given something to help with the pain. He’d fallen back asleep shortly after.

Not long after, Aoi had woken up from her nap, looking a lot better than she had been earlier in the storage room. She still looked sad, but at least she appeared to be more awake. Whenever he saw Aoi or any of the younger girls, he would check on them from a distance to make sure they seemed to be doing okay. He was pretty sure they were doing the same with each other and him as well. But none of them brought anything up about their dead family members.

The patient Yuichiro was currently seeing had a nasty cut on her arm. When she’d first arrived, she’d been given some stitches. Yuichiro was checking to make sure it was healing the way it should be, and seeing that it was okay, he started rewrapping it in bandages.

As he stood there wrapping the woman’s arm, Uzui came to stand beside him. Yuichiro took a deep breath, and tried to ignore his presence. He focused instead on the bandages in his hand. He just wished he wasn’t being stared at, but maybe he’d just go away.

“Do you need something?” he asked cooly when Uzui didn’t go away.

“How do you do that?” Uzui asked him.

“Do what?” Yuichiro didn’t think he was doing anything that impressive. Aoi was the one who usually did all the harder stuff. 

“The bandages,” he answered. “I’ve been trying since I got here, but I always have to get somebody else to do it for me.”

“Well like I told you, I’ve been doing this since I was eleven.” He fished wrapping the woman’s arm, and turned to face Uzui.

“I’ve seen you do so much other stuff I don’t think I could do with just one arm.” Yuichiro wasn’t sure exactly what he was talking about. He’d just gotten so used to doing everything with one arm, that he didn’t even think about it. Until somebody pointed it out of course. 

“Well it’s not like I have much of a choice to do it any other way.” Yuichiro turned and started to walk away, moving on to the next patient and hoping to leave Uzui behind. Unfortunately, Uzui followed him, not seeming to get that Yuichiro was trying to avoid him.

“You should teach me,” he suggested, but Yuichiro did not want to. He knew he would already have to help Muichiro, which he didn’t like to think about. Helping somebody he didn’t really like wasn’t something he wished to do. So he decided to ignore him.

Uzui stayed quiet for a while, and Yuichiro figured he was done. But then he spoke up again. “So where are you and your brother going to go after all this?”

Yuichiro froze. He didn’t like this change of topic. It was something he hadn’t thought about. It hadn’t yet hit him that he wouldn’t be going back to the Ubuyashiki Estate. He didn’t want to think about that yet. He was trying to wait as long as he could.

“I don’t know,” he said after a long pause. He and Muichiro would probably just go to Muichiro’s estate. They’d be fine on their own. They had lived by themselves for a while. Or maybe they’d just stay here. He was sure Aoi wouldn’t mind. He had plenty of options. He didn’t need to think about it right now.

“How about you two come live with me?”

Chapter Text

Tomioka was frustrating to deal with. Yuichiro would much rather be helping with another patient, but he didn’t have any choice in the matter. Aoi had put him in charge of Tomioka’s care, without giving him any other options. Not wanting to argue with Aoi, especially after all that she was currently dealing with, he just sucked it up and agreed to help with whatever she asked him to do. 

At least Tomioka wasn’t the worst patient Yuichiro had ever dealt with. In the past he’d been yelled at by patients who acted like he was the cause of whatever injury had placed them at the Butterfly Estate. And there were also patients who just wouldn’t listen to what he told them, which only made taking care of them more difficult. 

Originally, Yuichiro had decided he would be taking care of his brother and making him his patient. Aoi had reluctantly allowed him to, warning him that it might be difficult having a family member in his care. He had told her that he would be fine, and he had truly believed it. 

He had not been fine.

Well at first it had been okay. He’d changed most of his brother’s bandages with no problem. It was just like working with any other patient. He’d done this plenty of times in the past. But then he’d gotten to Muichiro’s arm. 

He had been fine at first as he took the bandages off, but seeing his brother’s arm unbandaged made him feel sick. The room had started to spin, and he had thought he was going to faint. He had never felt that way when dealing with other patients with missing limbs in the past. It was somehow different with his own brother. 

Luckily, Aoi had been nearby, dealing with Tomioka, and she quickly pulled him away finishing the work herself. Yuichiro had looked away the whole time, calming himself down. She had then sent him to Tomioka, telling him he wasn’t allowed to help with Muichiro anymore. They were switching places. She would be handling Muichiro from now on. 

Yuichiro was secretly thankful she was banning him from Muichiro’s care. She had been right, and it was a lot harder taking care of a patient when it was your own family member. He wondered how she’d been able to take on Kanao’s care.

Yuichiro was thankful his brother didn’t bring it up whenever he went to visit him. He was embarrassed that he’d almost fainted doing something he should be used to by now. But Muichiro had never brought it up once.

While Yuichiro was fine not having Muichiro as a patient, he wasn’t really a fan of having to deal with Tomioka. He didn’t have enough patience for it. The biggest issue with Tomioka was communication. He’d known Tomioka hadn’t been the best with communication to begin with, but his injuries only made it worse it seemed.

Somehow during the fighting, Tomioka had lost almost all hearing in his left ear, which he was still having trouble getting used to. While Yuichiro made sure to stay on his right side when speaking to him, he still found himself having to repeat what he had said, sometimes more than once.

His hearing wasn’t what Yuichiro was helping with though. There wasn’t anything they could do about that. If it didn’t come back on it’s own, he just wasn’t going to be hearing out of his left ear again. Instead Yuichiro was helping with his right arm. Tomioka had hurt it in a way that was making it feel numb, and he was having trouble moving it the way he wanted to.

Since Aoi had placed him in charge of Tomioka’s care, he had been trying to help him get the full use of his arm back. He’d done similar things with other patients in the past, but usually there would be at least some improvement by now. If there wasn’t any improvement soon, Yuichiro would instead have to help Tomioka get used to only using one arm. He knew he wouldn’t be happy about that.

Yuichiro tried to be patient. He knew Tomioka was sad. He wasn’t good at hiding that. Yuichiro knew he had been close with Shinobu, from what he had seen, and he assumed the same could be said about some of the others who had died. It was just hard to be patient, when Yuichiro was already annoyed over other things. 

Other things, of course, meant Uzui. It had been over a week since he had made his offer for the twins to move in with him, and Yuichiro had immediately turned him down. He had not even given Uzui a chance to try to persuade him to change his mind. He’d been avoiding Uzui since that whole conversation had taken place, which was proving to be very difficult. Especially since Uzui had been searching for him for days now.

The whole thing had at least made Yuichiro realize he needed to figure out what he and Muichiro would be doing after he recovered and was free to go. One option of course was to go to Muichiro’s estate where he had been living for the past few years. They’d lived on their own before, but with Muichiro’s current mental state and him having to now get used to his missing hand, Yuichiro wanted to be around others in case he needed help.

His other option was staying here at the Butterfly Estate. He’d stayed here so often over the past few years, even more than he had stayed with his brother. He knew everybody who lived here, and he got along with them all. He first needed to ask Aoi if it was okay, and he was sure she’d let them, and then he’d have to talk to Muichiro, but he didn’t see why that would be an issue for him. They wouldn’t need to stay with Uzui and his wives. 

He decided he would ask Aoi about that later today. But for now he was here with Tomioka trying to help him with his arm, just not succeeding very well. At least today Tomioka had been in a better mood than he had for the past few days. 

An older man Yuichiro had never met had stopped by to talk with Tomioka and the two Kamados. He’d taken Nezuko when he’d left, so Tanjiro and Tomiokda could get some rest. Tanjiro had gone right to sleep once the two of them were gone. 

Yuichiro was getting ready to repeat something to Tomioka for the third time, when he heard the door start to open. He turned his head immediately towards the door, and seeing who was about to enter, he dropped to the floor onto his back behind Tomioka’s bed. Luckily, he had been on the side of his bed away from the door which made hiding much easier. 

Tomioka looked down at him, with a look of confusion on his face. He opened his mouth to say something, but Yuishiro put a finger to his lips, telling him to be quiet. He didn’t want Tomioka to give him away. Thankfully it worked, and Tomioka turned back away, although still looking confused. 

“Tomioka, have you seen Yuichiro?” Uzui asked, speaking louder than he normally did, which a lot of people had been doing around Tomioka recently. 

Tomioka was the only patient in the room who was present and awake, which was probably why Uzui was asking him. Tanjiro and Muichiro were both asleep, and all the others were not there. Kanroji had taken Iguro out in a wheelchair since he’d been stuck in bed for so long, and Inosuke and Zenitsu had snuck out, and would likely get scolded by Aoi later when she found out.

Tomioka glanced in Yuichiro’s direction. Yuichiro started shaking his head, hoping that he would understand he didn’t want Uzui to know he was there. He hoped Uzui didn’t notice Tomioka looking in his direction. He really didn’t want to talk with Uzui right now. Or ever really. 

“No,” Tomioka replied. And because he was Tomioka, he didn’t say anything else. 

Yuichiro heard Uzui sigh. “I thought he might be in here either with you or his brother. I haven’t seen him anywhere, and nobody seems to know where he is.” Yuichiro was sure some of those people Uzui had spoken to about him had lied, knowing that Yuichiro was purposely avoiding him.

As Uzui finished speaking, Yuichiro heard whimpering coming from the direction of his brother’s bed. He needed Uzui to hurry up and leave already, so he could go check on Muichiro. He was probably having a nightmare again. He’d been having them a lot since he’d come to the Butterfly Estate. Muichiro wouldn’t tell him anything about the dreams, but Yuichiro still wanted to make sure he was okay.

Instead of hearing the sound of Uzui leaving and the door closing, Yuichiro instead heard Uzui’s footsteps as he walked across the room. Yuichiro rolled onto his stomach ready to crawl under Tomioka’s bed in case Uzui got too close. He was glad when he heard the footsteps stop before reaching his hiding spot. He just wanted him gone.

Yuichiro heard his brother gasp, and he almost gave himself away by jumping to his feet. He needed to check on him, but he didn’t want to have to talk with Uzui at all, especially since Muichiro was here. He hadn’t told him about Uzui’s offer yet, and Muichiro hadn’t said anything, so he assumed Uzui hadn’t told him anything either. 

“Tokito, are you alright? You looked like you were having a nightmare,” Uzui said softly. He must have woken up Muichiro. Yuichiro wished it had been him to do that instead. He should be the one looking after his brother. He hoped Uzui wouldn’t bring up his offer to Muichiro.

“I’m okay,” Muichiro replied after a long silence. His tone of voice didn’t match what he was saying. “I just wish they would stop.”

“Well you’re not the only one who’s been having nightmares,” Uzui said. It was true. Yuichiro had seen many other patients struggling to deal with nightmares recently. They’d all been through a lot. “And look at how your brother is doing. He used to get bad nightmares, right? He seems to be doing great now.”

Yuichiro still got nightmares now and then, but it wasn’t as bad as they had been when everything first happened years ago. But he had improved a lot, and it was nice to see that other people had noticed. Now it was Muichiro’s turn to get better, and Yuichiro would do whatever he could to help.

“I’m so happy,” he heard his brother say. “Everytime I see him, he seems to be doing so much better than before. I was always so worried about him. He’s finally acting more like how he used to be before our parents died.”

Yuichiro hadn’t thought much about how he came across to his brother, and he hadn’t realized he had changed that much after their parents died. That meant that Muichiro had been worrying about him since before they’d first been attacked. A lot longer than he’d thought. Their parents had died over five years ago now. He hadn’t meant to make his brother worry so much. He was supposed to be taking care of him, not making him worry.

“Um.” Yuichiro looked up to see Tomioka looking down at him. He looked like he wanted to say something, but he must have known better than to give him away. Yuichiro shook his head at him again. He could talk once Uzui left, but for now he was going to stay here on the floor, out of sight.

“And now it’s his turn to worry about you.” It was true that Yuichiro was worrying about his brother a lot recently, except he had been worrying about him for a while now. It was just worse after everything that had happened recently. At least he didn’t have to worry about him getting killed anymore.

“I don’t want him to worry.” It was funny how much he and his brother thought a lot. They both worried about the other, but didn’t want their brother to worry about them. Yuichiro had never realized how alike they were when it came to that. He was starting to feel bad for eavesdropping. 

“It’s his job,” Uzui said. He paused for a few seconds before continuing. “You look tired. I should let you get back to sleep. You’ll be okay, right?”

Yuichiro didn’t hear a response from Muichiro, so he guessed he must have just nodded.

“”I need to go find somebody anyways,” Uzui continued. He was talking about Yuichiro, of course, but he wasn’t going to find him. He was perfectly hidden right where he was, and he was going to continue avoiding him as much as he could. He’d been doing a great job at that for days now. He was going to keep at it until Uzui finally left.

“Who are you looking for?” Muichiro asked. Yuichiro held his breath hoping Uzui wasn’t about to tell him everything. He was ready to jump up and give himself away if it meant Muichiro wouldn’t have to learn about his offer to live with him. Uzui would probably have a much easier time persuading his brother. 

“It’s a secret,” Uzui responded. Yuichiro heard his footsteps walk back towards the door, and then the door closed. Finally he was gone.

Yuichiro sat up and put his hand on Tomioka’s bed to push himself back up to his feet. He looked over to Muichiro’s bed and saw that he’d already fallen back asleep. He was thankful for that, because he didn’t really feel like explaining why he’d been hiding behind Tomioka’s bed, and he didn’t want him to know he’d heard what he’d said.

He turned to face Tomioka. “Are you okay if we stop for the day?”

“Um. Can you repeat that?”

***

“Would you like to finally explain to me why Uzui has been looking for you for the past week? And why you’ve been avoiding him?”

Yuichiro and Aoi were eating dinner together after several days with hardly any time to talk. The two of them were so busy with everything going on around the estate, and their paths didn’t often pass. Earlier in the day, Aoi had found Yuichiro and asked if they could eat dinner together, and he’d agreed. 

It was the first time they were really able to talk since everything with Kanao. Aoi seemed to be doing a lot better than she had the day it happened, but he knew she was still hurting. He still was, and they were more similar than he liked to admit. 

She knew that Uzui had been looking for him. She’d told him that he was looking for him once when they happened to be in the same place at once. He’d said he was trying to avoid him, but hadn’t had the chance to tell her why. Every time they had seen each other since, he hadn’t had the chance to explain it to her, before they had to go their separate ways. Now he finally had the chance.

“I think he wants to adopt me,” Yuichiro responded. There wasn’t really much else to say. He’d just asked if Yuichiro and Muichiro would want to come live with him, and that was all. He couldn’t think of any other reason he would have asked him that.

Aoi nearly started choking on her food. “What gave you that idea?” she asked, looking surprised. “Don’t you hardly know him? And don’t you hate him?”

Yuichiro nodded. “I think he’s crazy,” he said. “A week ago he asked me if Muichiro and I would like to move in with him after everything is all set here. I said no, and now he won’t stop bugging me.”

“Do you and Muichiro have plans for what you’ll be doing after he recovers?” Aoi asked. “That doesn’t seem like a bad idea. It would give you somewhere to stay, so you two wouldn’t have to be on your own.”

“I thought we could stay here,” Yuichiro responded. “I’ve been meaning to ask you, I just haven’t gotten the chance yet. I’m here all the time anyways. You wouldn’t mind if Muichiro stayed as well, right?”

“Of course you both can stay here. You’ll need to talk with your brother first, of course.”

“Thank you.” Yuichiro smiled, happy that Aoi was letting them stay. He didn’t see why she wouldn’t, but he was happy to get the confirmation. He’d get to be with his two favorite people. “I’m sure he’ll agree to stay. I don’t see why he wouldn’t.”

The two of them went back to eating their meal for a few minutes, before Aoi spoke up again. “Oh, that reminds me. Kanroji is going to be staying with us now.”

“She is?” Yuichiro hadn’t really thought about what any of the others would be doing after everything. It wasn’t really his concern. He hadn’t thought anybody would be willingly staying once they had healed. He thought it would just be Aoi and the little ones as well as him and Muichiro. 

Aoi nodded. “She and Shinobu were really close, so she said she’d like to stay here to make sure there was somebody to look after me and the little ones. Iguro will be staying as well. The official reason that he’ll be staying is that he still has a long way to go with his recovery, but I’m sure he would have stayed regardless since Kanroji will be here. They’ve been really close recently.”

“What are you going to do once all the patients are recovered?” Yuichiro asked. With the demons gone, there wouldn’t be any Demon Slayers who would be needing attention, and they made up almost all of the patients. 

Aoi frowned. “I don’t know exactly. It’s going to be so different now. There’s no need to stay open anymore, but I don’t want to close the hospital down. This is all I’ve been doing since I was little. What will I do?” She was starting to tear up.

Yuichiro thought for a bit before responding. “You could keep it open as a regular hospital,” he suggested. He knew she already had so much change she was dealing with, with Shinobu and Kanao no longer being here. She needed something to stay the same. “You could take in regular patients. You’ll have me and the girls who know what we’re doing. And the others could probably help a bit as well.”

 Aoi wiped at her eyes, her tears stopping almost as soon as they’d started. “I think I’d like that,” she said. “Everything is just going to be so different now. I can hardly remember what it was like before my family was killed. I can’t remember what it’s like to live without knowing there’s demons.”

“Me too,” Yuichiro replied. Since Amane had first showed up at his house to try and recruit him and Muichiro years ago, the demons had played such a big role in his life. He and his brother had been attacked by a demon on more than one occasion. Muichiro joined the Demon Slayers, while Yuichiro split his time between staying with the leader of the Demon Slayers and the Butterfly Estate. And now that was all over.

He wondered what it was going to be like now. It was definitely a good thing that the demons were gone, but he was going to somewhat miss what it used to be like. Not only had so many people been taken from him, but now even his daily life was going to change. But he’d still have Aoi, and now he’d get to see his brother more often.

“Are you alright?” Aoi asked. “You look like you’re about to start crying.”

He wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. He hadn’t even noticed. “I’m fine,” he said, but he wasn’t sure if he really meant it. 

She seemed to believe him, because she continued on with the previous topic of conversation. “It’s going to be so weird.”

“We’ll get used to it.”

***

After waking up the next morning, Yuichiro made his way to the room where his brother was staying. He was finally going to talk to him about what they would be doing after he recovered. He was hoping he’d agree to stay at the Butterfly Estate, and he didn’t see why he would say no. He was worried though. What if he ended up refusing to stay here? Then what would they do?

Yuichiro made it across the Butterfly Estate and to the room having successfully avoided Uzui once again. When he made his way inside, he was surprised to see Tanjiro sitting on his brother’s bed with Muichiro asleep on his lap. He clenched his fist and took a deep breath, telling himself that everything was okay. He needed to let his brother have his own friends. He didn’t need to get into an argument over that again.

Once he was sure he was calm enough, he made his way over to Muichiro’s bed. Tanjiro looked up at him as he crossed the room. His eye was still wrapped in bandages, but Yuichiro had heard Uzui had given him a matching eyepatch to wear once his face had healed more. It didn’t really surprise him. 

“He’s been having trouble sleeping,” Tanjiro started to explain. “I was just sitting here to talk with him last night, and I think he accidentally fell asleep on me. The good news is it doesn’t seem like he had any nightmares overnight.”

“You stayed up all night?” Yuichiro was amazed that Tanjiro was so patient. He just let Muichiro sleep on his lap all night. Even Yuichiro would have eventually shoved him away, so he could get sleep himself. He wouldn’t have expected Tanjiro to just stay there all night with his brother. 

“I’ve gone longer without sleep. It’s fine. I didn’t want to wake him.” While Yuichiro still wasn’t the biggest fan of Tanjiro, he was glad he had stayed with his brother. He had let him sleep, and somehow Muichiro had been able to make it through the night without any bad dreams. It must have meant his brother was comfortable enough around Tanjiro. 

“Just don’t let Aoi find out,” Yuichiro warned, trying his hardest to be nice to Tanjiro. “She’ll be upset with you if you don’t rest.”

Tanjiro smiled at him. “Of course.”

“Yui?” Yuichiro looked down as his brother opened his eyes. He looked to be struggling to push himself up, so Tanjiro helped him off of his lap. 

Once Muichiro was sitting up, Tanjiro stretched his legged and slid out of the bed.. “I’m going to go get some sleep,” he said. “I’ll let you two talk.” He then made his way across the room to his own bed. 

“Was he here all night?” Muichiro asked, still sounding like he wasn’t yet fully awake. 

Yuichiro just nodded. He climbed into the bed next to Muichiro, taking Tanjiro’s place. Muichiro leaned against him and yawned. Yuichiro decided he’d wait to bring up the topic until his brother was more awake.

However, that didn’t go as planned, and Muichiro spoke up first. “Yui, when do we get to leave? I don’t want to stay here any longer.” That was not what Yuichiro was hoping to hear. He hadn’t even been able to bring up the suggestion yet. 

“Well I was thinking we could just stay here,” Yuichiro said, hoping to change Muichiro’s mind. “I talked to Aoi about it, and she said it was okay if we stayed. Me and her are going to keep it open as a hospital. You wouldn’t need to help, of course. Unless you wanted to.”

Muichiro shook his head. “I don’t want to stay in a hospital. It doesn’t feel like a home here. Can’t we just go home? I have my estate. You’ve stayed there plenty of times. It’s big enough for both of us. There’s no reason we need to stay here.”

“But we’d be on our own.” Yuichiro didn’t want them to be on their own. He wanted other people around. He’d gotten used to having a lot of people around him all the time. It made him feel safer, and he knew with how Muichiro was right now, it would be better if they weren’t alone. 

“We were on our own before. After Mom and Dad died, it was just us, and we did fine. We were a lot younger then too. And I’ve been mostly by myself for the past few years.”

“When we were by ourselves, Amane came to check in on us a lot, and when you were by yourself she always made sure somebody was there to check up on you. We’ve never been fully alone.”

“I just don’t want to stay here.” Muichiro was starting to sound annoyed now. Yuichiro knew if he continued pushing it, they’d just get into another argument. It didn’t seem like he’d be able to get his brother to change his mind.  “I don’t care where we go, but it’s not like anybody is offering to take us in.”

Muichiro didn’t know it, but there was somebody offering exactly that. Yuichiro hadn’t wanted to accept the offer, but now it was looking to be the best option. He didn’t want the two of them to be on their own, and Muichiro didn’t want to stay here. It was the best option that would make them both happy. He slid out of the bed. 

“I have to go do something. Stay here. I’ll be right back.”

***

Surprisingly, it took Yuichiro a while to find Uzui. After days of struggling to avoid him, now that he was actually looking for him, he wasn’t anywhere where Yuichiro was looking. He’d checked multiple rooms around the estate, and started to wonder if he’d finally gone home with his wives, and Yuichiro just hadn’t been told yet. 

Yuichiro was about ready to give up when he finally found him outside talking with somebody. He waited until the other person had left before making his way over to Uzui. He wasn’t really ready to have this conversation, but he didn’t feel like he had any other choice. He was doing this for his brother.

“I’ve changed my mind,” Yuichiro said, looking up at Uzui. By the look on his face, he could tell Uzui hadn’t expected to see him. Yuichiro had been avoiding him afterall, and now he was the one seeking Uzui out.

“What?” His voice matched his surprised expression.

“I said I’ve changed my mind,” Yuichiro repeated, sounding annoyed. He didn’t feel the need to try and be patient with Uzui like he did with Tomioka. “We’ll go with you. You’ll still let us stay with you, right?”

“Oh right. Of course. I didn’t think you were actually going to agree to it after you said no last time.” 

Yuichiro glared up at him. If he hadn’t thought he’d agree, why had he been making Yuichiro’s life difficult by trying to stalk him around the Butterfly Estate for days. It didn’t matter though. He and Muichiro had a place to go. He turned to go back inside to inform Muichiro, but he was stopped when Uzui suddenly grabbed onto his arm.

“What do you want?” Yuichiro turned to look at Uzui and saw a big smile on his face. It was a bit concerning, and he was starting to regret his decision. He just knew something was going to happen. Something he wasn’t going to like. 

He was right.

Instead of responding, Yuichiro felt Uzui wrap his arm around his waist. His first instinct was to pull away, but it was too late for that. He wasn’t able to pull himself out of Uzui’s grasp in time, and before he knew it he was getting tossed over Uzui’s shoulder. 

“Put me down!” he demanded. He started squirming around and kicking his legs, trying to make it as difficult as possible for Uzui, so he would put him down. He did not want anybody to see him like this, and his cheeks started growing hot at the thought. If Aoi or Muichiro saw him being carried around like this, he thought he just might die.

Uzui just tightened his grip on Yuichiro, and it didn’t seem like he would be dropping him anytime soon. “I’m taking you to your brother,” he said, making his way towards the door. “We’ll go tell him the news.”

“I can tell him myself. I was already going to. Now put me down!” Yuichiro continued to struggle without much success.

His protests were unfortunately not heard. “It’ll be more fun if we both tell him.”

Yuichiro gave up on struggling after a while. He told himself that this would be over with soon. Once they reached Muichiro, Uzui would most likely put him down, and he could forget this all happened. He mostly just hoped that at least Aoi wouldn’t see him as he was carried through the Butterfly Estate.

Unfortunately, nothing was going the way he wanted it to today. Shortly after Uzui had walked inside, the two of them passed Aoi in the hallway. Yuichiro gave her a pleading look, but she just watched as he was carried away, a big smile on her face. He was happy to see her smiling like that for the first time in over a week, but he just wished it hadn’t been at his expense. She was never going to let him forget about this. 

When they finally made it into the room where Muichiro was, after passing far more people in the hallway than he would have liked, Yuichiro was gently tossed onto Muichiro’s bed on his back. He threw his arm over his face, trying to hide his embarrassment. He still felt his cheeks burning.

“Yui, what are you doing?” Yuichiro pulled his arm away from his face, so he could look up at Muichiro. His brother was covering his mouth with his hand, very obviously trying to hide a smile. The traitor. 

Yuichiro just groaned. “I think I’ve made a mistake.” He looked over to Uzui, who looked like he was waiting for Yuichiro to continue speaking. At least he was going to let Yuichiro be the one to tell his brother what was going on. Not that that made anything better. He sat up and faced his brother before continuing. “I think that we’ve been adopted.”