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Pocky Day

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It’s rare for him to venture to the middle school section, but then again, Tanjirou and his cohorts are currently still at that age- plus he did vouch for his sister, Nezuko, as a half-demon that will attend classes despite her affliction- and so far so good, from what he understood.

Nevertheless as he is the one who vouched for them, naturally the orders that were too sensitive to be sent over by SMS would have to be relayed verbally, in this case, send Giyuu (aka the person who supports their career) to the middle school class so that the members of the Night Club (aka the demon slayer corps) would know the after-school session (aka mission and patrol routes) they need.

(Nevermind that some of their tsuguko are there- for Shinobu, that is Kanao- or their siblings- for Sanemi, that is Genya- or hell one of their Pillars is still a middle school- Muichirou, but he hangs around more often with them in the college classes- but he doesn’t really mind because it gives him time away from their stifling group)

Besides, it lets him drift with his thoughts, like how he doesn’t really feel like he belongs- they’re 10 for heaven’s sake, not the traditional 9 person group- also Sabito insisting he’s sharing Water Pillar position with him? Yeah, no, Sabito can have it and he can just go on alone-

Well, hopefully they visit every now and then but overall, there is the feeling that he’s only being included because Sabito- and he’s not that oblivious to miss their looks every now and then when he enters the room, or when they think he’s not paying attention to them. He’s actually caught even Himejima-san glaring at him and he’s blind so….. Really, if they dislike him that much he’d rather leave- but even Oyakata-sama wouldn’t let him resign from his position and Sabito will probably hunt him down if he does attempt to flee- so he stays...

If Tsutako-nee is awake from her coma, he’s pretty sure she’s going to whack him on the head because that was a tad too depressing- but then again, he should probably file that leave in the schedule this weekend because bi-weekly visits to his dearest sleeping older sister was his therapy in life and reason of living.

Anyways, a tug on his sleeve makes his thoughts fall back to reality and he sees a girl in pigtails clutching a bag and staring at him earnestly.

 


 

“Uwaaa, he’s cool this close!!!!”

She checked the date and her bag and fistpumped internally, having prepared for this day. 

Every now and then, they send someone from the college section to their part of the school- and she’s seen them all, The Hashira, someone nicknamed, but this one- black hair, deep blue eyes, and the stare that tells you he’s better than you and how he’s so silent- Tomioka Giyuu, she has learned- she’s so glad they sent him today.

He’s pretty sure he’s a hell of a heartbreaker given how some of his friends have taken to guarding him, glaring at everyone else when they are together while he walks unfocused and just-  seriously how does he walk looking like he’s not part of this world?!?!

“The others probably sent him away from the date. But that doesn’t save him from me!” she internally crowed, already seeing the battlefield of the college classes earlier that morning. “I’ll defeat all of you and get a game with Tomioka-senpai.”

So he approached the stairs and she has camped there for an hour already, missing a class and losing the couple of hall moderators that have tried to catch her- all for this guy, and why not-

If she scores a pocky game with him, she’ll definitely not back down and get her first kiss with the school’s coolest guy (voted every year on the underground popularity group of the school by the girls- and he’s won all of them for every year since he entered the school)   because come on??!!

He’s still walking airily, not even paying attention to her, just eyes focused on his path, and so she takes the first steps, and manages to snag his sleeve. 

So here they are now, she’s seeing him up close and those eyes are too mesmerizing but she mentally slaps herself and answers. “Today is November 11, also known as Pocky Day,” she hands out boxes of snacks at him, “Want to play Tomioka-senpai?”

 


 

He stares at the snacks held out to him and tilts his head in question, the girl isn’t very familiar- but he recognizes the uniform to be Tanjirou’s year- he’s not very well-versed at holidays so he clarifies, “Pocky Day? Also, a game?”

She nudges at him to take her offerings while clarifying, “It’s a test of will using the snacks.” She opens one, chocolate, and holds one out. “Basically, you take one end and I take the other in my mouth- and we start to eat them- first one to pull away or last to get to the middle loses. If we arrive at the middle at the same time, it’s a tie. If you win, I give you all the snacks--”

He glances back down and remembers- the snacks were Tsutako’s favorites, strawberries and chocolates- but also with other variants. However, he misses out her next few words, “If I win, please become my boyfriend.”

So Giyuu agrees, nodding his head and making the girl red- was she sick? - because these would be nice to bring back to Tsutako, even for one moment, have her by his side, like they were young and just having a small picnic after school.

 


 

He crouches a bit, takes the other end she offered, and they start on the stick, but after one second- the girl flushes really badly-

Tooclosetooclosetooclosehe’stooprettythisclosewhatthehell

Giyuu takes another bite and he comes closer and the girl bites away first.

So he stares at the girl who has placed her hands over her face, blushing really heavily, and he just proceeds to eat the entire stick she left - as she’s just leaning against the wall.

You’re just eating but what the hell—
I could die right now and be happy Senpai-wait!!

He swallows.

I MISSED MY CHANCE!
Also he’s just swallowing what the fuck Senpai that looks erot-

“Are you okay? You lost by the way.” He's watching her carefully, tilting his head again Like a cat...

She sighs and coughs twice, trying to get her heart under control, “I-It’s fine senpai. You’re too good at this game. You can have it all.” She offers the bag.

It was worth it though... Wait- why didn't Isay best 2 out of 3 oh no!

“Okay.. You look sick though?” As he takes the bag full of snacks from her, he asks, before leaning close to put his hand on her forehead-

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!??!!

So the girl does what feels reasonable when beauty-personified approaches too close-

She ran away.

Giyuu takes a moment to process everything before proceeding to his task of meeting his juniors, mentally shrugging the event.

 

Chapter Text

He checks his watch and smiles internally that if he hurries, he’ll still arrive in time to take his lunch and even catch his afternoon classes, so he knocks on the classroom- thankfully they are in session- Class 3-B.

The teacher that answers takes one look at him, just as the classroom plunges to silence, before calling on, “Agatsuma, Kamado- both of you, Kochou, Hashibira and Shinazugawa, door.”

The six promptly follows and upon seeing him, they immediately start heading away to the reserved sitting rooms assigned for the Night Club.

 

(Well, Tanjirou and Nezuko drags his sleeves faster, and the other three subtly push him to walk faster, so he does-

Genya stood back, ensuring that his height would block senpai’s view. After all, had he looked back, he would have seen their classmates become wolves that were looking at something really pretty.

It’s Tomioka-senpai after all...)

 


 

Really, those Hashira should have known the middle school classes also hounded for this guy but they must have really needed to send him away… Kanao wondered.

(On the other side of the campus, Tomioka Giyuu’s year was in a free-period, but everyone winced as they saw his classroom void of his presence, and then wincing turns to dread and anxiety as 8 people will stare you down to death…
This event happens several times during the year, the worst being Valentines Day after all...)

Tomioka-senpai, or better yet, the Water Hashira unlocks the door and usher them in, letting Nezuko in first- sure, her classes were carefully situated on classrooms away from direct sunlight plus the strings to pull to make sure she lands on the same year with Tanjirou, but it was best to be careful in case she might be directly struck by natural light.

Anyhow, she settles on the couch with the Kamado siblings while the other three boys take the other seats. When they have all settled in, he secures the room, then pulls up his phone.

And her gaze is drawn to that suspicious bag- just like a typical student bag- but Senpai wouldn’t need to bring his stuff just to deliver their orders right?

It wouldn’t be Muichirou’s because he would be informed after their debriefing, or maybe when they join up for lunch later…

She shares a glance with the others while Senpai accesses his files- their gazes meet hers and they all glance at the bag then at Senpai then at one another. Then she stares at Zenitsu.

And the rest follows.

So when Giyuu looked up and was about to give the orders, Zenitsu voices out, “Why do you have a bag Tomioka-senpai?”

Giyuu blinks before setting it on the table, then unzipping it, “Pocky.”

Eh?

There were lots of Pocky in the bag of various flavors. He pauses, before picking out boxes for each of them- Strawberry for Nezuko and Zenitsu, Chocolate for Tanjirou and Genya, Green Tea for hers, Almond Crush for Inosuke.

“You got this for us?” Kanao repeated, baffled.

“No, won it from a girl in a Pocky Game.”

“EH?!”

Their senpai, the dearest one of the Hashira, has played the game?

?!

The six share shocked looks, and their questions fire off rapidly.

“Do you know her?” Genya, narrowing his eyes.

Nope.” Senpai just took an opened box and started munching away, answering them.

“But- identification?” Zenitsu, asking the correct questions, Kanao nodded.

“Pigtails, brown hair, gray eyes- unfamiliar- but wears your level’s uniform.” Beside her, Nezuko was recording the details, rapidly typing on her phone, pink eyes wide.

“Where did you play the game?” Tanjirou pointed out.

“The East Hall’s stairway- she took hold of my sleeve.” Shit there were no cameras in that hallway or stairs after last night’s hunt.

“How did you win?” Inosuke quietly asked.

!!!!!!

The air in the room seemed to become really silent.

Giyuu just took a new piece, “I took position then moved one inch closer to the middle and then she bit her end.”

Ah.

Kanao watched as Senpai did just that, and realized all six of them were close, leaning nearly into the Water Hashira’s space, and as dark blue met them— despite the years she have encountered this person, it was really hard to become immune to the level of “unearthly beauty” this one posses- or so Shinobu-nee likes to complain.

She backed away a bit, just as the Kamado siblings did while the other three staggered back.

Just as their Senpai finished eating.

“So, ready to hear the mission?” He raised his phone, and the six blushed before listening politely.

It was basics, actually- Kanao took note of her position- Gardens with Shinobu-neechan, and everyone else, including warnings of possible attacks by a newly sighted Lower Moon, number currently unidentified.

“Any questions?” Tomioka-senpai raised, just as he opened a new box of pocky- chocolate again.

Kanao raised her box and Giyuu answered, “Yes, you can have them- I can’t possibly eat all these.”

“So why get them?” Kanao clarified.

Senpai paused, before having a familiar small smile, “Tsutako-neechan likes Pocky.”

The mood crashed a bit and Kanao winced, remembering the girl that was neighbors in hospital room with Kanae-neechan. Incidentally, it was the first time she saw her senpai outside school— and an explanation to his standing: having a standard business course, managing the family business, visiting his sister, having a couple of freelancing work to fund himself and the Kamado siblings, on top of school and the nightly demon slaying activities.

“I’m sorry-” she started.

“Don’t be,” Senpai answered, “It was nice to remember that we liked this snack a lot. Kind of like having a picnic with her like usual.” Then he pat her head, as per his trademark.

“Sides, the lot of you were really interested in the snack?” Senpai raised and Kanao realized she had taken a step forward and now Senpai was really close.

The others just leaned back and she even saw Tanjirou mouth “sorry”.

Oh dear...

So she explained, “Well, wouldn’t playing the Pocky Game lead you to kissing the other party?”

 


 

Giyuu blinked before pausing at the new stick on his hand. “Ah, I see… Was the girl asking for a kiss then?” He voiced out loud.

The others in the room froze.

So Giyuu faced them all with a deadpan voice, “That’s silly- she’s a kouhai and more so I do not know her. Maybe I should return all these…” He trailed off, looking at the bag and scratching his head a bit. “I mean, I don’t even know if people like me that much.”

Nezuko jumped to her feet in protest, typing fast on her phone, before showing it to him, But we do like you, Senpai.

“Then I’m glad- but I probably shouldn’t play that game- right? I mean, it’s not like people would want to…? It wasn’t even that fun… Maybe she was just doing it to pity me…?”

 


 

Unbelievable.

Nezuko who was about to die 2 years ago. Nezuko who continues to exist to date because of this person who has vouched for her life, her existence and her sake-

Nezuko who may sorta have a bit of crush on this senpai because he did save her and put his life on the line for her - but okay he’s just that kind and there was already a lot of people after him, for Hinokami-sama’s sake, plus Sabito-nii would murder her-

And this person who doesn’t even think he was worth it to be kissed or in his understanding, have fun-

(She’s probably going to regret this later when half of the school would try to murder her but-

Yeah right no- she could understand that the girl would want to kiss a deity at least once-

More than that, Giyuu-nii...

He looks really down. Somewhat.)

That’s not permitted.

So she shuffled Kanao aside and pulled her mask, before taking the pocky from his hands then putting it on her lips— then she tilted her head to position the other end before Giyuu’s mouth.

“You sure?” The dark blue eyes were surprisingly close, but Giyuu asked and while she thought to look away, now she really can’t, “Are you okay with this?”

He was always considerate like that, like him always asking for how they were during the first year while they were setting in.

She nodded, so he took position.

The thing is, she didn’t really think she’d do it- the taste of chocolate was only slightly familiar after being turned into a half-demon, there were only a few food one can taste to the fullest. However, the closer she nibbled, the more she became aware that distance-

Too close- their nose were almost touching.

On the side, she can barely see Kanao-chan watching them with her eyes wide, fingers barely covering her eyes- but-

He stopped, and was about to bite it- and she understood— 

They are, after all, students under Urokodaki-sensei- they could almost be siblings, given how kind he treated them, and like family, they protected one another- she was also about to do the same  and bite the stick, a mutual loss— 

.

“Stop! Nezuko-chan!”

“Oi, stop being disruptive Zenitsu, they’re breaking the stick already- ah!”

.

Instead of the expected pull away that the two planned, or as Zenitsu tried to tug Nezuko away when he ended up grasping her shoulders, but his momentum carried her forward rather - for he has not yet applied brakes on his own force- or Tanjirou trying to cancel his actions-

So he pushed the two close— 

.

.

.

Giyuu snapped the stick, angling his face down, as he rose a bit so that as he tugged Nezuko close, intent on making her land face first on his chest-

Instead, he got her and a lapful of Tanjirou and Zenitsu- so he carefully picked them all up in his arms, ensuring none of them got hurt.

(However, no one did see how red Nezuko was, this close- too close - she could admit just burying her head on his chest and hear his heartbeat or feel how warm he was--  but in the finite moment, she tried to memorize it forever- then calmed herself so she can face him and everyone else properly).

 


 

“I did say you are all my kouhai, you know? Why would I want to kiss Nezuko?” the Water Hashira lectured before him as he checked him and Tanjirou and Nezuko-chan for injuries.

“I’m really sorry, Tomioka-hashira-sama.” He apologized regretfully, bow at a straight 90 degree angle. “I overreacted.”

There was a sigh before him, then arms tugged him back upright, “It’s fine, no harm done- no one is hurt.” But dark blue eyes studied him carefully and— 

Zenitsu admits it’s rare that he faces Tomioka-san rather than Uzui or Rengoku-san from the pillars, and while he knows there was a general infatuation of people on this guy- he just didn’t want to study it further—

Unfortunately, said subject is still before him and studying him to ensure he was okay, and yeah what did he know about Tomioka Giyuu aside from being really surprisingly otherworldly pretty (he doesn’t want to think about that lest he end up attempting to woo him because that would just be horrifyingly embarrassing, he likes Nezuko-chan already )--  but like how Tanjirou always says-

He is very kind. And gives great head pats like now coz wow he could start purring from this , “Well I’m glad no one is hurt, so don’t apologize- and don’t call me Hashira; Senpai or Giyuu works already.”

So he lifts his head in protest, about to speak against that vehemently but he forgets his rule not to get close to this one- and 

Yeah, this guy must not be from this world with how his eyes drag him to the deepest oceans or how his hair frames his face perfectly and- get it together Zenitsu, or you’ll make an embarrassment of yourself and of Gramps and — just back down and back away

“He-ey, as punishment why not play the game also with Zenitsu and Monjirou??”

One of this days, he’s going to murder that pig. He was about to holler back at him, ignore the pretense of being respectful, but surprisingly, Senpai blushed and placed a hand before his mouth, subtly shaking his head— 

Fuck, this guy is dangerous on a different level, Zenitsu lamented.

Side’s he would be lying if he hasn’t heard about him when he hangs around mostly with Uzui-senpai for music class and yeah he gets why that guy sort of likes this person— 

.

And yeah maybe he does like him also a bit. Just a teensy little bit.

.

The drawn out silence hangs over them and Zenitsu realizes that neither he nor Tanjirou commented so he glances at his friend and realizes that holy hell Tanjirou is also blushing and now he’s also warm and—

Shit-shit-shit, he knows the tell tale heat on his cheeks— 

“Enough Inosuke, that’s going too far—” Genya, ever voice of reason, starts—

“Don’t lie to yourself, you are also curious- likewise I am, and heck, even Kanao is!” Inosuke points out and now everyone else has started blushing.

From his peripheral, Zenitsu sees Senpai blush harder, sinking back on his chair and burying his face in his hands and oh hell that’s really not allowed— how did God make a male too pretty for his own good.

But Nezuko, just takes the Pocky that was toppled beside him- thankfully spilling none of the snacks, then shows her phone to Senpai, and he just shakes his head, but Nezuko-chan huffs then shows everyone—

I said we all liked Senpai earlier, didn’t I? So to be fair, everyone should also do it.

And Zenitsu swore, the room was heating up- but he couldn’t deny Nezuko-chan nor her words, so he takes a Pocky from her.

Surprisingly, Senpai composes himself, before asking him, like before, “Are you okay with this?”

“I am,” he answers and dares to ask, “Are you also okay with this, Senpai?” Surprisingly, several emotions cross his eyes before nods back— “It would only be fair, correct?” He answered and they settled.

Zenitsu has been zapped by lightning once when he was young and while he was training with Jii-chan but right now, he’s pretty sure that lightning was still under his skin and escaping unto his very being— Senpai just got closer and so did he— and yeah he could admit this guy was really pretty and all but-

He realized, Senpai has always looked at him properly in the eye, despite preferring to stay behind the rest of the Hashira— and he remembers that this guy did help him-them countless times: be it on sneaking to the hospital to visit Rengoku-san, or picking a gift for Jii-chan.

Closer and closer, but he stopped, and he knew likewise, he would do the same- as deep blue gaze reflecting him smiled and they both bit the biscuit at the same time.

 


 

If people looked at Tanjirou’s relationship with the Breath of Water Pillars, he’ll call them his older brothers, to the end- despite the fact that he has shifted to practicing their family’s Hinokami no Kagura. But anyways, on a look, some would say he gets along best with Sabito.

No, he had usually butt heads with Sabito after how he entered their lives- that is by endangering Giyuu’s— but they’ve come into good terms as they both fought through thick and thin.

Nevertheless, it is Tomioka Giyuu that Tanjirou is closest to, same with Nezuko. How could he not when he arrived on that fateful night to save his sister, and rather than cut her down listlessly, he listened , unlike any others.

Giyuu-san let them explain their escape from demons, and how Nezuko was half-demon, having ingested demon blood, but retained her human mind. All the more when he gave them both a chance at life, let his sister prove herself and then—

Gave them a home when they thought they lost theirs forever. Gave them a family when they ended up under Urokodaki-san’s care. Gave a promise to give up his own life, in the case that they would fuck up. Besides, Giyuu-san helped them get through school, taught them what he can on maths, or sword fighting or just general things when he has time, and even helped them get through everyday matters.

So yes, he was already someone Tanjirou held on such a high pedestal, only superseded by Nezuko.

He doesn’t even need to look at his appearance to adore him, as he has already known long ago that Senpai was a really great person.

So he takes his piece from Nezuko and Senpai asks, “Are you okay with this?”

“I am. And Giyuu-san,” Tanjirou glances at Nezuko before smiling at him, “I’m really glad Nezuko and I got to meet you.”

The answering smile was really sweet, and Tanjirou gets it, really— because this was the person Sabito-nii really loved the most, and he and Nezuko does love them both, as their older brothers . And it may be betrayal to Sabito-nii but he did see how Giyuu-nii sometimes does not really like himself, like earlier, it might have been a bit of a ramble- but—

It was painful to see that disbelief directed when Giyuu-san has been nothing but someone that deserved to be believed in, to be loved and adored and definitely, someone never meant to be lonely— 

He understands why Nezuko did it because had she been a moment later, it would have been him offering as the first one.

The stick disappeared in a few bites, the taste of chocolate as sweet as the piece he gave them in that fateful night of their meeting.

Dark red and deep blue met before mutual understanding, of respect and adoration against the promise of absolute faith and protection, reflecting in their eyes and they broke the snack like one.

 


 

He doesn’t really get why they were all flustered earlier, it was just being close to the face-

But he registers how their pulse raced and their faces flushed so he wonders if the game was really that exciting? It was just a snack after all.

Besides, more exciting was that he was going to test himself against this guy, the first one that ever beat him in this school— going so far as to secure him in a rope, then admonish him for fighting when he wasn’t in a good shape.

So yeah, count him curious and ready to battle it out.

“We just have to get to the middle first right?” he clarified again with Genya, who just nodded, before blushing again.

Really, these guys. 

So he approaches after Tanjirou and Senpai asks, “Are you okay with this?”

It’s a challenge, a challenge!” He reiterates.

He expects him to stare flatly at him, but instead he cracks a small grin, and his eyes— clear, deep pools like that night, melt softly, “I suppose it is.”

So they start and he was about to just take a couple of bites to eat the entire thing before he realizes—

Too close. TOO CLOSE.

This was what everyone was doing?!

Body temperature closing in at 97.8? 98 Farenheit. The room is not cooling instead. Heart bpm fast-

He could almost melt into him as one being?!

He halts, then realizes, Senpai was coming closer, taking small bites— I’m going to lose at this rate?! Small bites, I could do that—

They were really close now, noses close and

T#&(@O(@&(@O@$&(@&(C)@&$)@&L@$*)@*O#$@$&#@S#$^(@^$(#E

ToOcLoSe!tOoClOsE!

His nerves feel like he was on fire and he barely heards how his teeth chomp hard on the snack, or how Senpai pulled back before placing both hands on his cheeks to catch his attention, before dropping them— 

“Repeat after me. Take a deep breath then hold it” Like the voice of a Hashira, Inosuke follows, feeling his lungs expand and he could almost lose himself at the sharp blue gaze before him—

“Exhale.” He relaxes, and barely manages to keep standing.

“Inhale.”

“Exhale.”

Somehow, he calms down, and Kanao and Senpai guide him sit back, without touching him directly so he asks, “How come I’m affected like this?” 

“Sensory overload, you aren’t used to coming that close to someone else right?” Senpai lightly brushes his hand on his forehead, and he leans into the warm hands as he feels himself become clammy.

He could agree to that. “So what did you do to calm me down?”

“A breathing exercise to help you focus on something else. Genya, thanks for getting water.” He takes the cup and lightly guides it to his mouth, “Drink.”

So Inosuke follows and gulps the water down.

“I’m weak like this—” He feels a small tap on his forehead and he meets deep blue, but this time farther away.

“Nope, your mind was excessively stimulated by a direct frontal approach, if I was not mistaken. You’ve never had to approach someone that close right?”

Inosuke reflected, then agreed.

“Well, better we knew that now than later in the battlefield. Remember to ask Shinobu if she knows any sensory integration exercises or better treatments. For now, just relax and calm down.” Senpai told him.

“But no one else—” he started again.

“What temperature did I have?” Senpai asked.

It took a minute but he answered, “98 Farenheit.”

“Correct, that’s my average. Can either one of you, tell the same just by coming close to me?”

Around him, everyone shook their heads.

“It was a position disadvantageous for you Inosuke, so you should take a break and understand your body can tell you more details about someone just by coming close to a person. Moving forward, it becomes your choice how you use that information. You weren’t weak, you just got more data from coming close to me than everyone else, ‘kay?”

And Inosuke understood. So he laid back there and decided to follow their advice, and rested, letting his mind calm down..

Before he drifted away, he was glad that this guy was at least looking out for them.

 


 

Genya nudged Kanao beside him. “If I do this, ‘Nemi is going to murder me.”

But Kanao was already holding a pocky for him, “I am already resigned to dying to Shinobu-nee later so we might as well all go…”

“Oh my God, Kanao.”

So as Inosuke drifted away, surprisingly with half lidded eyes, Nezuko nudged Senpai to face him. Seriously, Nezuko is insistent.

“Are you okay with this?” Surprisingly Senpai is on his feet and— he’s towering over him, he realizes.

No, but I might as well go for it
No, because Niichan is going to murder me after this.
No, but I think I understand why ‘Nemi likes you a lot.
No, because it’s you.

Genya could list a lot of reasons but Senpai just waits for him— waits patiently, as he tries to make his voice work, and he says “Yes.”

Because I am testing if you are worthy of Niichan—

He noticed it earlier that Senpai would match the pace of the other, so he starts slow and starts speeding up, and as expected, Senpai follows through- and soon enough they are really about to touch—

.

Snap!

.

The snack has already been bitten off without him realizing and Senpai has already backed away, hands ready to catch his face and his body, and just watching him carefully as he nearly topples over.

Right, he’s forgotten that for all that this guy was pretty, or kind— he is a Hashira, reflexes and all included.

“Keep chewing,” Senpai advised, “You’ve eaten too fast and there was a long piece,” and Genya paused, realizing he was right, before savoring his food carefully.

Then as he swallowed, Senpai handed him another box of chocolate. “I forgot, I think I saw Sanemi without your bento, so take another one.”

So thoughtful, Genya sighed internally, he can’t fault his brother for forgetting their food given how late he arrived last night, I would still have food for later at least.

He lightly bowed, seeing those deep blue eyes happy and let him pat him on the head.

If it is you, then I accept you for Niichan...

So he turned to the last person in the room.

 


 

Kanao faced Giyuu-senpai and nodded just as he asked his question. Best get it over with, after all.

However, he did pause, then asked, “Say, what flavor does Kanae like? I can’t remember?”

She glanced at the bag and pulled out a strawberry flavored one. “Okay, I might drop by later this weekend again, you going?”

And she recalled Shinobu-neechan’s schedule and winced. It would be an exam day for her, and so she won’t go.

But she’d like to go visit Kanae-nee… Even if there was no assurance she was going to ever wake up from her coma...

“Alright, I’ll ask Shinobu if you can come with me to visit them. Then we can give the Pocky together.” He offered and she smiled. “Hopefully, she’ll trust me to be able to bring you back safely…”

I’ve already known that Nee-chan doesn’t really hate you- and yes, Shinobu-nee trusts you dearly, Giyuu-senpai. Kanao would have loved to say, but she knew, those words where things he needed to hear from her sister and not her. So she nodded again.

She was not really having any differing intents from Genya, but she’s long known this was someone worthy of her sister— the problem was everyone wanted him, except his own self, apparently. Which was a bit surprising, but somehow there were only a few person who knew this fact.

Surprisingly, she was included in that list- when she asked him before on how to perform the Breath of Flower, having learned it was an offshoot of Breath of Water— since Kanae-nee was in the hospital and Shinobu-nee uses a different variant.

Also, she may or may not have learned Breath of Water style just as he has subtly learned Breath of Flower style but they both keep that as one of their secrets after all.

She could readily admit she likes him a lot, as a mentor, as an older brother figure or even as someone for her sister— but never herself, this was someone that trusted her to know his faults just as he has done the same for her.

So she knew he would never kiss any of them, not only because he was their Senpai, nor because he dislikes them but most probably because he thinks he doesn’t deserve it.

Which is pretty much the same thoughts that resound in her head.

But facing one another and as they make that distance shorter, they have that mutual agreement— For they have both been loved by people.

And with mutual secrets of how they would need no other people to learn of this occurrence, Giyuu knew, just as how their reassurance of liking him, for their various personal reasons they have has brought back light once more in his eyes, Kanao knew.

In unison they broke the snack.

Just another secret for the two of them.

Just as the alarm bell rung.

 


 

Giyuu glanced at his phone and realized, he’s going to have to find Muichirou in the crowd for lunch because he has wasted an entire period in dealing with their juniors.

Nevertheless, as they waited for the crowd outside the room to lessen, as he gave them one all one last head pats before they parted ways and as he secured the bag full of Pocky, he could admit, It was nice to be liked, after all.

Chapter Text

"Found you." A voice materialized behind them and everyone jumped save the Water Pillar as he merely turned to face him, unfazed blue meeting his own light green.

“Ah, good day, Tokito-Senpai.” Despite the fact that they are all from the same year, the children does greet him politely- he is still three years older than them, just held back since he has to earn a Middle School diploma, then a High School diploma next year.

After all, he- no, they, are a genius.

“Yuichirou, right?” the Water Pillar called him and he corrected, “No, I am Muichirou.”

But Tomioka just blinked, tilting his head, “I’m pretty sure you are Yuichirou though…” The others just helplessly shrugged, no one actively siding with either Hashira.

“No matter, the lot of you have taken too long. I’ll be dragging Tomioka-senpai away for my mission details. Dismissed and take your lunches.” he orders and they head to the cafeteria while he drags the upperclassman to the stairs, “We’ve secured the rooftop so we can talk there.”

Yet he just nods, before following him obediently, up the stairs to the roof, locking the door behind them- under the sun, where his brother waited for them with their lunches.

“Giyuu-senpai, we got you a bento also, if it is okay.” His brother called out, waving.

“Thank you Muichirou.”

Really.

He stopped there, as the two sat side by side, checking the food available for them.

“Oi, Tomioka-senpai, how come you can tell that I am Yuichirou?” he drawled, canceling his blank stare and the image of Mui and his mannerisms, as if a skin being removed, and glares at their upperclassman.

As he sat before his twin, he was pretty sure despite the personality thing, they looked like mirror images of one another- even the other Hashira can have trouble telling them apart if he chose to adopt his brother’s blank gaze or if Mui chose to display his trademark glare: he’s lost count of getting information way higher than his security level; or the Kamaboko as they liked to call their juniors, dragging him away to their socialization until he glares at them- 

But somehow, this person could tell.

They’ve tried a lot to trick him but he hasn’t made a mistake yet. The only other person who has ever succeeded on this at a 100% rate was Oyakata-sama, but that was a different matter since the Master has his insane senses.

(Not to say others haven’t answered correctly, like Tanjirou checking with his sense of smell, or Shinobu being familiar with the miniscule differences of their bodies, or the increased familiarity, like Gyomei-senpai- over time some people have learned the tells between them.)

Yet, Tomioka Giyuu just glances at them, before answering, “Despite being twins, you two are unique in your own ways.”

“That isn’t really an answer and you know it. Also you don’t even just study us, a few moments ago, with just one look and you called me out earlier as Yuichirou.” He grumbled, really, it was easy to fail in their bait and switch tactic when Tomioka Giyuu was included. Before, he thought he was just really good at guessing but-- 

“It’s impressive though, Giyuu-san has never been wrong to date in our guess-who game.” Mui added, as he started on his bento, straight to the crux of things. “We’ve tried to trick you quite a lot of times, and you could still tell us apart, even when we did our best.”

The Water Pillar just hummed, before answering, “It’s hard to explain… but Yuichirou feels an inch closer to purposely rude, and Muichirou is closer to rude by naivety- not that both of you can’t be nice, or that you can’t exact the rudeness the other possesses…”

Is it a trait for Breath of Water users to be useless in explaining things? Yuichirou felt his nerve pop, because that explained nothing.

“Again, not a concrete answer, Tomioka-senpai…” He trailed off, as the guy just gave a small grin, apologizing, “Sorry, I guess I could just tell- Muichirou is Muichirou, and Yuichirou is Yuichirou after all?”

And there is that other problem, one he shared with the others-- well he’s not really directly involved, but it includes Mui- so it includes him.

After all, he just have to glance at his twin across him and see him star struck at this guy. This guy doesn’t know his effect on people huh…

Not that he is quite immune, anyways he’s sure if he stares at the Water Hashira from the corner of his eye, he would feel less inclined to just look on fascinated at this person, but holy hell, seeing Mui like this is another thing.

Muichirou, his younger sibling who was stronger than him, who slaughtered demons when they have attacked their home, who protected him, despite the fact that he was the older sibling-- Mui still dislikes thunderstorms and asks him to make the hot milk for a good night sleep- yet he flounders before this too-pretty-for-his-own-good guy.

A snap before his face shook him out of his thoughts to see Senpai before him, “Are you alright Yuichirou?”

Why are you snapping your fingers before me, do it to Mui, look, across me-- he’s just off to LalaLand with you and your sparkles and shit-YOUARETOOCLOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He lightly smacked away the offending hand and just huffed, “Whatever, let’s just eat then tell us about our mission details for this week.”

 


 

“So how much do I owe you guys for lunch?” Tomioka Giyuu asks, having finished the meal and their debriefing for the mission details-- his brother would have to work on repairing the security on the East Hall since its cameras were still busted, while he would be part of the guard around him, until he finishes. Then it's back to the rooftop and East Wing patrols...

“It’s our treat Giyuu-senpai.” He answers for them just as his brother just huffs at him.

Mou, Yui-nii, just because you can face him head on doesn’t mean I can… He sighs before spacing out, looking at the skies above them-- away from it all, so he doesn’t have to deal with these surprising conflicting feelings. He doesn’t really know when he started adoring the Water Hashira, but--

Maybe it’s taking several missions with him last year. Or when he tutored them last semester. Or those cat naps they shared during lunch time. Or how he always got to tell them apart correctly...

Or when Senpai helped him repair his relationship with Yui, when the latter told him he was wasting his time as a Demon Slayer--

.

“Just because your effort would be insufficient in reaching Muichirou, doesn’t mean you can give up. So what if he’s a genius? So what if he is stronger than you? There are things you don’t realize that you are better than him, right?

So your younger brother is stronger than you? Does it mean you no longer have the right to protect him? At least you can comfort him, you know? At least, your younger sibling returns to their older sibling-- at least in this world, you still have one another.

It’s futile to be a Demon Slayer? Sure, it’s also futile to think we’ll make a difference-- but you saved that guy earlier-- wouldn’t you agree that made a difference to him?

Why does it have to be you who saves them? Why not, when you have the ability to make a difference? If it was such a pointless choice, why did your brother save your life?

If it’s such a waste for you to live, go find the plant that produces the oxygen you breathe and apologize to it.”

.

It’s also unnerving to realize that Giyuu-senpai continued on being a Demon Slayer and a hardworking student, more so when they learned his older sister has been in a coma for nearly 10 years already-- since his “extended” family does not want to support her anymore, and he’ll have to prove himself a capable heir to their family business, the entire burden on ensuring she can stay confined in the hospital has been on him, just as he has to prove his worth to them, lest he lose his entire inheritance on those vultures, as he once said offhandedly.

Unspoken between the Hashira, Giyuu gets the shortest patrols and the most forgiving hours because the last time he collapsed, it was hell for everyone else. Even Oyakata-sama does not comment much on the mission details and Giyuu isn’t allowed to refute him anyways.

And yet, maybe it’s how he knew, for all he was a genius, he would have faltered if he had lived the life Tomioka Giyuu has-- and maybe he would manage, maybe he wouldn’t but--

From his peripherals, he can see Yui-nii sigh again, placing his head on his hands-- and sure his brother is facepalming his airy-wooshy-washy approach but, he’s really glad that he still has his brother okay? Someone who comforts him on the sad days, who helps him clean up when there’s too much horror he has lived in-- who welcomes him home.

While Giyuu-senpai-- doesn’t. Well, he’s sure Sabito-senpai would care for him as fellow Hashira or Breath of Water disciple-siblings or-- closer, but he does not want to think about that thank you very much.

“Ah maybe I still have some,” the silent rooftop is broken by Tomioka Giyuu taking the bag on his shoulder- something that he was actually surprised to see earlier-- it’s not his bag, but he brings it like it is his. Then he unzips it and takes a couple of boxes from inside-- Pocky.

He could feel his gaze shift from the snack to his brother because Wasn’t that what everyone else sent him away from their side of the campus so he can avoid?

“I won some Pocky from a girl earlier. Well-- this entire bag, but I can’t eat it all-- so, Yuichirou likes cookies and cream, and Muichirou likes the dark chocolate. Please take them as repayment for the lunch,” he comments while passing them a couple of boxes.

Won? Girl? Earlier? Repayment?

“Let me get this straight, you won a bag full of Pocky?” Yui-nii takes charge.

Giyuu nods.

“How?”

“Pocky Game.”

Fuck, they messed up. Someone managed to slip through their plans.

“Ah if you’re going to interrogate me, just ask the Kamaboko, I’ve already explained things with them earlier-- it was why we took a while in the room.”

Good idea, Muichirou thought, as across him, his brother has whipped his phone out and rapidly texting. Those kids did well.

But Yui-nii stopped, a curious expression on his face, and somehow his heart feels like the next words will be grave details for him, “Wait, that’s a long time to explain an incident and the mission details there- did anything else happen?”

He did not expect Giyuu-senpai, who was in the middle of opening another Pocky- chocolate, to rip the cardboard seal, or to suddenly look away, a hint of red on his cheeks.

Never mind, those kids will face hell later on, when they can train again under him this coming weekend.

Giyuu-senpai surprisingly recovered fast, opening the foil and adding, “Nothing happened further.” then he started snacking on them.

He glances at his brother, disbelief mirrored on their similar faces.

 


 

Yuichirou swallows, as he sees Mui’s eyes go dark, in the cacophony of bleak emotions that he can sense despite the distance. He glanced back down at the snack on his hands, and decided, if they have already lost the premise of their plan today, then-- it was fair game right?

So he dared ask, “Alright, then let’s play Pocky Game, Tomioka-senpai.” He didn’t look at his twin, but heard him start spluttering, but Senpai blushed again and alright that’s it, he faced him head on and knew in a couple of seconds his own mind will start melting.

“Wait, wait, are you sure about that?” Giyuu muttered, looking away while his mouth nibbled on the current one on his lips and well, he can’t blame the kids if they tried earlier-- 

“You offered the goods and I offered the game~ sides are you hoping for the tie?” He teased and bless the paleness of this guy, he was just before senpai, a few steps closer yet he’s sure he can feel that heat from his cheeks warmer than the afternoon sun.

“No. Don’t bully the kouhai, Yuichirou, nothing happened between us.” Senpai gave a deadpan face then swallowed the snack-- and he’s pretty sure his twin just swallowed reflexively behind him heh, well that’s something I can tease Mui later on… 

“Still, are you scared?” He teased and surprisingly Senpai gave a small smile, “No, but I’m surprised, since you usually are distant to me and keeps to Muichirou after all… I didn’t expect you’d want a game from me?”

Majority of the people in this school would want a game with you, you black hole. Yuichirou whined in his head.

“Well, Mui’s after this. Anyways, ready?” Mui appeared beside them with a shocked-face, but before Giyuu-senpai starts to protest maybe for himself or for Mui, his twin adds, “If I can?”

Tomioka Giyuu blushing- it’s a sight he wants to keep as a picture, maybe beside Mui’s photos, but he knows any evidence of what they will be doing would lead to their deaths later on- by the other Hashira or those common people, so best just savor this experience.

“Okay, just one round, chocolate alright?” More than alright is your ability to immediately compose yourself, that’s the Water Hashira who created Lull for you, I guess

“Sure. That your favorite?”

“It’s the most common flavor in the bag so best use it.” So they did play, he’ll have to terrorize those children later on.

“Alright,” Giyuu-senpai takes the chocolate end and he takes the other, and after one breath, they start- 

A slow pace, but he learns how deep blue that gaze runs and closer, that their nose touches and-

Closer that he can almost drown in the ocean, and yeah, he'll agree, Mui is cute but this guy is tiers above that, they have really just been lowkey ignoring that truth, if anyone says otherwise--

Too close- he wants to stay sane, thank you very much- he bites his end, just one more to the middle, and faster than Giyuu-senpai who blinks before taking the remaining piece and as he swallows, he tries to drag the last bits of brain cells he has and grip it to stay .

“I win.” He nods, I lost purposely because someone needs to stay sane, especially if my brother is going to join the chaos you’re making today.

 


 

“Yui-nii lost.” he whispers, trying to catch his breath as he watched his twin and okay fine, his crush  go at it-- and said twin looks at him, before subtly cocking his head

Get on with it, he says.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Onii-chan what have you done, he realizes as Yui-nii steps back and Senpai holds a new one out for him and--

He takes a step forward on shaky legs and nearly crashes to the ground, but his brother and Senpai steadies him, the latter studying his eyes.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to--” kind words, considerate tone, soft eyes, but utterly false against what his entire heart is yelling...

Ah, so this is also why Niichan decided to hell with it and go for it. His heart is beating too fast, he feels like it will jump out of his chest.

Sorry, my fellow Hashira, I’m betraying the plan.  Muichirou adds 'make a last will and testament later' on his mental to-do list.

“I’m doing it.” He cut in, before adding, “Just to confirm, would you hold it against anyone if it’s a tie?”

Would it be your first kiss? He would have liked to ask but no-- just the thought makes his blush, and he fights hard to make sure it doesn't show on his face, but he hears the soft pffft from his brother and knows he failed.

“If you are asking if it’s my first kiss, no, I’ve lost that before from Neechan when I caught her from a tree--” Giyuu-senpai answers, “But for today, for the sake of a game,” and he closes his eyes a bit, “Maybe it’s an insane choice for me, but I would have liked to know if you don’t hate me enough to play a game with me.”

Wait, what?

He holds the hand grasping the snack, and inquires, “What do you mean? I don’t hate you senpai...”

A sudden wind blows loudly, making his hair fly around.

 


 

"But you do.

Because you’ve stopped facing my gaze head on every now and then.

You greet me as a last resort when we meet sometimes.

Because Yuichirou’s been angrier at me somehow.

You also end up just spacing out with me.

Because you’re also avoiding me a bit.

You would go so far to just turn away from me and face Sabito instead- even it it’s angry or anything.

So… you do hate me, right?"

 


 

His hold slackens, and Giyuu-senpai just wilts a bit, “Let’s just get this over with.” As he places the snack in his mouth.

This close, with the deep blue darkening a bit, and he knows, they have messed up, when they have decided last month that maybe they should just lessen interacting with him instead, because it drives them crazy-- they’ll end up fighting one another for this person but--

They didn’t realize they were hurting what was most important to them.

He paused before taking the stick, “Giyuu-senpai, I don’t hate you, okay?” He enunciates the words carefully, and just a bit, the shadows lighten up, and this close, he realizes that he has forgotten how strong the person who reminded him and his brother of their own strength-- that he too, needed someone else to lean on, when it couldn’t have been his family. She's lying in a coma after all, unlike Niichan who's with him on an everyday basis.

"Are you okay with this though?" Surprisingly, Giyuu asks, and Muichirou wants to shake him that he's more than okay with this- he nods and takes position at the other end.

So he places his hands on his partner's cheeks and starts, surprising Senpai and he responds- soft black strands on his hands and heating cheeks, and it feels like taking steps as he sink within the waves of the ocean--

Until he drowns, as he falls deep into those blue eyes, as farther below their depths he could go deeper into.

But he senses where his partner has paused, where Giyuu was starting to bite, but-

It might be his only chance, even if it may be misconstrued for a weird holiday-

Even if he wasn't ready yet, but he’ll try to follow as Yui-nii told him, take the first step-

So he darts forward- to where his mouth reaches another, soft like a feather, that point of contact- as their lips touch and a surprised hitch in their breaths, and as he sees those cool gaze widen in surprise.

And admittedly, his own feelings are like the trail of path that materializes before him, so he pauses, not daring to risk further, as he leans back-- he tries to memorize it, watch light shimmer on the piece of the ocean trapped in this person, watch red blossom on pale cheeks and as warmth fill his hands, with all his feelings, hold Giyuu gently to cup those cheeks but firmly that he cannot pull away, “I really like Senpai okay? I didn't know when it started- but I think I knew when you walked in a room and I stare at you longer than necessary."

Muichirou paused to take a deep breath, before admitting, making his gaze meet Giyuu's.

"I was scared and didn't know how to face you. I ended up looking away, to the clouds or to other people and even to the point Yui-nii got, and is exasperated with him..."Almost impossibly, those eyes widened further and he wonders, maybe this person can hear how loud his heart beats, or how his stomach twists, so he finishes, before he lose the bit of courage he has gained. "But I was going for it wrongly. I won’t avoid you any further next time, so be ready for it okay?”

And with that, Senpai just covers his mouth with his hands, but blush starting to subside, controlling himself, blinking rapidly-- processing things, and then the creeping realization of what he just did - he almost mirrors him with how his own skin heats up, and as he processes the words he uttered- he knows this could change their relationship- but--

There is a sense of peace.

I'm glad I got to told you those things...

The conflicting feelings also shone in him, and he understands-- he doesn’t need the answer yet, he’s just happy to have done something, to take a step forward, so he adds, “I do not need an answer from you right now, and I guess, I’m glad that I could convey my feelings properly, at least.”

And a beat or a couple after, exhaling suddenly, and then thankfully, Giyuu-senpai nods, before removing his hands, “Sorry, I was really surprised.”

“Yes today is quite a day...” He trailed off, he scratches his cheek a bit, wondering what the correct course of action is.

"Do you... do you hate me though?" Muichirou dares ask, and thankfully, before his heart could start pounding away again, Giyuu readily shakes his head.

"That's a relief..."

Curiously, this close, he's realized somewhat the familiar gaze was still a bit shrouded so he asks, "Are you thinking that the others hate you?"

The hesitation answered him, as Senpai froze, and then and there, Muichirou decided, he might as well throw fuel to the fire that they have started, “For the rest of your issues, and if your heart can take it, please try to play the game with the other Hashira, okay?”

“Wait, why?” Ah the blush on Senpai’s face was almost gone but it’s now back again.  He brushes his hand against his cheek, removing the stray bangs and tucking them on his ear, enjoying the slight shiver on his fingertips and trying to process the electricity that danced on his own.

“You might be surprised about the result. Anyways, don’t worry, my first kiss was also an accidental one with Nii-chan so I didn’t really lose anything, just gained more, actually.” Muichirou added, trying to steer the discussion to a lighter note.

And then he remembers his brother who was just at the side, mouth agape, staring at them in sheer shock. “Yui-nii?”

“I just realized you declared war for today.” His twin coughed before finally answering, “Well it was surprising to see my brother grow up suddenly.”

“Don’t be like that, I’m sure to grow taller than you,” he retorted back, “Anyways, what I did, it might just salvage the day, after all, most plans die from first contact.”

“Plan?” Giyuu cut in, glancing between them with a curious face.

“Giyuu-senpai, you really can be very oblivious, you know?” He muttered and Senpai just huffed, crossing his arms. Too cute.

“I'll bite the bullet further. We have a plan to send you away because you attract too many people that want to play the Game with you. So, yes, today is still dangerous for you.” They were in a school where a lot of people are still actively targeting his Senpai after all, and he just told him to change a bit of plans and play the game they were supposedly not playing , “At all costs, stick with the Hashira, you’re always part of us, don’t forget.”

It’s surprising how those words lighten up those eyes, of shock and embarrassment and curiosity and the myriad of feelings dance within them, and a bit of annoyance creeps in his veins as he realized that he has looked far away from him that he didn’t realize that shadows has started filling up that kind gaze.

But he also realizes that he just spilled an important secret from the very person he should not have told it to, just as Giyuu opens his mouth and he wonders what to say--

Just then another bell rung- the warning bell for afternoon classes.

He's taken too much time from his task today, yet he feels it's too short of a moment spent with this important person.

Muichirou sighed, mentally preparing himself, carefully tucking away , so he started, “That said, it should be time for us to help you get back to class Senpai.”

Yui-nii adds, "And faster, that bell means we have 10 minutes to clean up and bring Senpai to the College Wing."

The trio wince before quickly pack up their mess and start heading back, the twins readying themselves with the dangerous task of returning Tomioka Giyuu to the College student campus side.

Chapter Text

A double tap on the screen of his phone

 

‘Press fingertip for identification’

 

A second of waiting then the ping of his unlocked phone

 

'Welcome Himejima Gyoumei

It is now 1:02 PM of November 11, 2019.'

 

Swipe right, click icon on the lower left,

 

'Opening Messenger'

 

Select Group Chat- Swipe right

Select Group Chat #2

 

'Entering: [The Hashira Ends Without T.G. - You and 8 friends are part of this group]'

 


 

As he waited for the message thread to load, settling on the corridor railings before his classroom, despite his other classmates already entering ahead, he takes a moment to appreciate how far technology has developed for them, especially thanking Sanemi, for making his phone accessible despite his handicap. One of the earphone cords dangled instead so he can still hear other people- and he just waved off a classmate asking him if didn't hear their professor arrive and whether he would enter class already.

"It's fine, waiting for someone." He hears their pause and then they proceed with the others to enter their room, because he may be blind but he's not that blind to not know that they're most likely also waiting for the same person.

To be exact, he's listening for the familiar footsteps of his peers when they finally arrive-- but they haven't. And the professor has indeed arrived, just a few moments ago, but- since today is a very dangerous day, they have abided by the plan to stick around ensuring the safety of one certain person. Said professor, having known their alternate occupations, including their fixation on the specific student in question, and giving great indulgences to them Hashira, just advises him to try keep the chaos for the day low.

Which is... an understandable thing. Early this year, they had to barricade themselves in the Student Government room, cancel the classes for everyone and nearly cause a fire because of the maid uniform incident.

But that's a horror story to recall for another day....

The thread loaded from where he left off earlier, and he skimmed through the messages- from Sabito telling them they're commencing the plan, to Shinobu confirming that Giyuu has left their University wing, and Tengen having to knock someone out because they attempted to run after Giyuu, then their collective irritation of multiple incidents of people asking for Giyuu despite the fact that classes are still ongoing on their level, or how people have gotten really ready to die if they're even trying to suss them for the answers. Then Muichirou confirms that no, he has not met up with Giyuu yet which meant there had been either a surprisingly long discussion he had with the Kamaboko, or something else, maybe? None of their juniors were replying after all...

But a check with Sanemi hacking through the network confirmed that Giyuu was still in the room-- seeing that it is in use if they can't access the camera on the Night Club room on the Kamaboko's class' floor, so they will proceed with Append Plan B- Tokito twins will be having lunch with Giyuu at the rooftop to spare themselves of the chaos.

Barring the annoyances shared by the others, which included more stories of how they had to defer, detract and just stop the daring ones that was still looking for Tomioka Giyuu. Or the jabs at Muichirou that he better ensure his safety and not do anything stupid or else

He could almost share the sentiment as he read Sabito's lamentations that it was just midday and there's already been a lot of pests, of Shinobu advising that maybe next year they have to cause Giyuu to be absent because it's too annoying to deal with their peers. That, or Kyoujurou’s surprising suggestion to beg Oyakata-sama to let them bring their weapons so they can really ward off everyone else that just tries to get closer to Giyuu.

Nevertheless, lunch passes, and not a word from Muichirou, which raises a lot of questions for the others. More so, the bland answers by the Kamaboko which adds another avalanche of questions piling within them, the anxiety and stress tearing at one another, until the warning afternoon bell rings- then finally, the youngest Hashira responds that they had a bit of trouble in navigating the halls, but otherwise, they are on their way.

Unfortunately, afternoon classes separated them-- morning permitted most of them to share their classes in the numerous general subjects they had to take, but afternoon split them up. Luckily, it is Monday and they can manage the schedule split and they have ensured to be with at least one fellow Hashira for every non-major subject they can have. Thankfully, the date did fall on Monday, where they load their general subjects and not the others, where they have scheduled their majors.

A bit of rant from Obanai that someone might need to shift to match Giyuu's majors, but it would be a tough one-- after all, the latter customized his degree so that he can meet up the expectations of his family, and rather than whichever personal choice he might have. Luckily, Mitsuri diffused him, reminding him to get good seats for them.

He wonders a bit, which one would Giyuu take, if he had the ability to choose rather than be forced to live up to people's expectations.

Anyhow, as he reads their inquiries if he has met up with the main reason they're all on edge, almost up to par with the tension they have when they need to hunt a demon, just as he was about to type No, he hasn't arrived,  he hears their footsteps. He erases his message and types the new one.

Giyuu arriving with Muichirou and Yuichirou just now.

Without reading the replies, he closes his phone, and turn to the direction of their footsteps.

"How was it?" He muttered to Muichirou, always the twin stepping a bit closer to him than his brother.

"We managed," harried, but the flat tone made the hair on the back of his neck rise a bit, Something feels off with Muichirou...

"Be warned he knows about the date and the plan- because someone managed to make contact, that plan is ruined- so I had no choice but to tell him a bit more details." Muichirou answered back.

What.

 


 

As he watched Gyoumei greet Muichirou first, Giyuu blinked before sighing. Right, he's back to where he needs to be.

Like when he stepped to the threshold of the campus side for college students, he feels the mounting tension run up again on his shoulders.

For a mere task today, for a mere morning, he was free from the constrictions of everyone, including their group.

For a short time, even if it was a debriefing that ended up as the Kamaboko playing a game with him reminding him that they can and do like him enough to interact that intimately with him, he knew he was liked, as a high ranking slayer, as someone they respected and trusted enough, as himself even, as their eyes met his. It was all genuine, and he thanks those children for their kindness.

For a small window, even if it was a curious suggestion, of being told by a fellow Hashira and his brother that he was worth it. That he mattered. More so the Mist Pillar, a genius, tell him that he was someone they liked- they loved enough to risk a game, and to hear a sudden confession--

For a brief period that he could breathe and not feel like he was a misshapen piece to a puzzle- that he was part of them. That it was alright to be himself. That it's all going to be okay. That he's not hated and all...

Right , as he watched Gyoumei interact with Muichirou and they speak in a way that they don't want him to hear, or if they are pertaining to him,  yes he's aware of the date and the plan, he wants to interject-- there was still a sense of exclusion.

You're an unsightly person, child. You don't even deserve to be part of this family... I hate you. We hate you...

"But we do like you, Senpai."

“Giyuu-senpai, I don’t hate you, okay?”

Don't make a fool out of yourself. Don't disappoint people. Don't be a burden.   

A mantra of warnings he's heard all his life.

"I said we all liked Senpai earlier, didn’t I? So to be fair, everyone should also do it."

"I actually really like Senpai, okay? I didn't know when it started- but I think I knew when you walked in a room and I stare at you longer than necessary."

"I was scared and didn't know how to face you. I ended up looking away, to the clouds or to other people and even to the point Yui-nii got, and is exasperated with me..."

"But I was going for it wrongly. I won’t avoid you any further next time, so be ready for it okay?”

“I do not need an answer from you right now, and I guess, I’m glad that I could convey my feelings properly, at least.”

If you can't do this, if you can't achieve greatness, we'll unplug your sister, we'll rewrite you out of the family, we'll hate you and that's a bad image for the name that gave you your existence.

Who was telling the truth, who was lying... Which one was correct, which one was not...

Don't assume they like you- people use people . Muichirou might just be comforting you- despite being younger.

"Are you thinking that the others hate you?"

"For the rest of your issues, and if your heart can take it, please try to play the game with the other Hashira, okay?”

“At all costs, stick with the Hashira, you’re always part of us, don’t forget.”

And yet, he can't forget their eyes, and how they all looked into his own- and he could almost remember seeing his own face reflected in their eyes- as if they see him as clearly before them...

Would it really be a bad thing to trust them? Would it be worse for him if he wants to believe in that confession? "

 

A tug on his other arm makes him nearly jump as Yuichirou asks him with a slightly loud voice, "Are you alright, Senpai?"

No...

"...Yes"

However, he meets those questioning mint eyes, of genuine worry and always facing him head on. Away from them, he doesn't see Muichirou grip the Himejima and tug him close, making the latter's hand grasp Giyuu's shoulder, making him jump a bit, before he took the other hand, and then he was meeting two of them, the mirrored question, of caring and concern, like the morning mist, covering his entire sight... The hand on his shoulder squeezed a bit, and despite those eyes being unseeing, he could almost sense their worry-

"No. But I'll be okay." He admits more truthfully, trying and failing to calm them- he senses it as their grips seem to tighten a bit, not too painful but not loose, and- honestly he shouldn't worry them like this, it's shameful and the twins are younger than him, Himejima can't even see and he should be thankful for what he has- like how Sabito likes to say, man up. He takes a deep breath, closing his eyes and missing the twins exchange a worried glance, or Himejima linger uncertainly, surprisingly uncharacteristic of him.

It's only midday, yet he wants to go home and sink to his bed already...

It's just midday, things could still turn out better for the rest of it...

The warning bell triggers and the four of them jump, just as the door opens,

"Class will be starting soon, unless the four of you wants to skip..." The Professor advises them before returning inside the room...

 


 

Himejima wonders a bit at the turn of events, as how something has changed- safely ignoring and filing away the things that Muichirou had mentioned, surely he would explain that later- but more so, as he takes a firmer hold of the slightly trembling classmate and comrade in arms of his, too many questions and insufficient answers arrive on such a limited time.

"Tokito, both of you go back to class-"

"Free period, Gyoumei-senpai." A gruff voice, Yuichirou answers, while Muichirou responds, "It's PE right now."

He nods, mentally regrouping himself, right, the twins have been excused from physical activities- same with the other Hashira- especially since it would oust their suspicious physical proficiency to the other students in the school. "Then, see you two later-”

“Ah, wait. Yuichirou, thanks for lunch earlier. Muichirou… Sorry- I just realized it might be a while before I can properly answer you…”

“It’s fine, Giyuu-senpai, like I said- it was enough for me to be able to tell you those things…”

“Nevertheless, I’d like you to know that you are a great person- and I don’t really understand why you would say those things to me but, thank you, I’m really glad. Just as I think that Muichirou, and also Yuichirou are amazing people, okay?”

Pause.

“A-Anyways, you are both gonna be late soon, so continue the discussion later instead. We’re off!” the surprisingly flustered tone of the older twin and rustle of clothes as the sound of footsteps walking away, “See you later.”

What happened… He wonders, as he ambles a bit lost. He wants to drag the twins back to the side and shake them for details, he wants to whip out his phone and ask everyone what to do, he wants to bring Giyuu away and ask what has happened- but they have class…

Like how he asks himself if he really wants that degree in Political Science, everyday when he just wanted to linger longer in his bed after a sleepless night of hunting demons, when he has to study those books and prepare for classes.

But no. So, he starts, “Let's head inside, Giyuu?"

"..Sure."

There it was again, a miniscule pause, but a pause nonetheless. 

He belatedly realizes he has not moved to the classroom until Giyuu tugs him, familiar hand on his forearm, leading him onwards "Himejima-san?" 

Himejima-san? Giyuu has stopped calling everyone their surnames for nearly a year now...

But questions later, he just nods "Sorry, lost in thought Giyuu... Also, I thought we are past this, and I'm Gyoumei by now..."

“Ah, my bad… Anyways let’s go to class?”

And thus he follows, entering the class of Business Law they both share- one he has forgotten to take last semester. Both of them having foreboding thoughts...

Hopefully things don't get as messy as last time...

.

.

The thing about being seatmates with Tomioka Giyuu was that his presence always felt fluid, as he let himself be let through the room to their seats, they skillfully wove around people, Gyoumei included as his fellow Pillar held onto him, readily avoiding others in the room, to their seat near the windows, as the tell tale warm afternoon bloomed at their faces sometimes in the summer. He hears their professor acknowledge them, before resuming the discussion- corporations, for this semester, one he has at least done some advanced reading, at least.

However, given the date, and given the (in)famy, of the man holding his hand, it also meant feeling the gazes of a lot of people- glares, stares and whatever they pointedly feel and directed towards them- and as he was with this person, he was also recipient of those gazes, albeit the more negative ones, their jealousy and envy making the hair at the back of his neck stand up. He heard the stutter of the professor, or the small incoherent murmurs, and knew some people disliked how they were barring access to their friend but- Really, these people are like hyenas and treating Giyuu like a meat to be eaten...

Nevertheless, as he arrives to a familiar desk, and hears Giyuu settle on his chair, he pauses while standing beside his chair, and just takes a sweeping glare around the classroom.

He hears the hitch in everyone's throats and they pipe down, which he takes as cue settle down also.

"Himejima-" Again, why?  He settles on his chair, and cuts in, "Gyoumei." The professor rambles on her lesson, but he has learned this already, and it's rare for Giyuu to engage idle talk while in class.

"Sorry, force of habit I guess..."  It's been a long time since you called me that, so why is this habit returning?

"..."

"..."

"So, what did you want to ask...?" The class seems fairly engaged on the topic, and he's pretty sure the duo sitting behind them are snoozing already, their faint snoring like a background noise, as their professor starts on the references for extra reading, and assigns questions for the class to answer. It is also rare for him to talk so he pauses to hear Giyuu hum, as he just sets his tablet on his desk, belatedly tapping to check the textbook for the references mentioned.

"...Why are you glaring at me though...?" The statement stills the questions rampaging in his head. Ah, he forgot to change his expressions...

He turns to his seatmate and relaxes his facial muscles to a calmer one, "No, I'm not glaring at you- but everyone else."

"Eh? But aren't they all looking at you wondrously? I think they were glaring at me though..." Gyoumei suppresses the urge to sigh like Shinobu, or berate him like Sanemi, as he hears the curious and nonchalant tone. This includes wrinkling his forehead again, Oyakata-sama give me strength in dealing with this one.

The next thing to remember about Tomioka Giyuu, this time in general, was that he has a generally kind, if neutral view for everyone, and a generally pessimistic, otherwise negative view for himself- like a balancing force...

He racked his head and outstretched his hand across the table, as Giyuu held onto his wrist- an old activity they did, and surprisingly, one Giyuu pointed out to him when they first met- to check his pulse if it ever changes when he says something, then he must be lying.

(To this date, he has never admitted to Shinobu that no , it is not her who has first taught him this method, because that’s just another chaos to add into their relationship that he doesn’t want to think about…)

He takes a moment to remember that fateful day, meeting Tomioka Giyuu in his old school, explaining how he trapped the demon, and asking if he can come with them, in exchange for their help in escaping his current status.

The hand squeezes, and he resumes, exhaling before leaning close, like telling a secret,  "Let us be clear, I have only ever glared at you once, as I remember vividly in our entire time we met." He wonders at the hand of his seatmate stilling on his hold, but he does not back down, and explains himself, hopefully he isn't angry for the old petty reason, "And that was when you broke the rules that day and asked Oyakata-sama to let the Kamado siblings into the school- specifically Nezuko. Nowadays, I do regret it though."

The hand doesn't remove itself on his arm, and Giyuu leans close, as he feels toned arms sidle beside his entire right side, "I understand that and you were in the right for doing so, I was breaking the rules back then..."

He doesn't realize that he was holding his breath as he exhales, relieved that Giyuu has been understanding...

"But, this sounds weird, lately, you have been taken to glaring at me, and I was really wondering why..."

Really, a dense person... "Refer to my previous answer."

"Eh- Wait, everyone else? How come?"

Because of you, actually- but that opens up a different can of worms… Then again, you will probably not believe they like you, nor the fact that they are the one disliking me right now. Or you might just take responsibility because it all comes back to you.

"Yes. Their stares bothered me." It was easier to say this than explain the scenario-

The fingers on his wrist tightened a bit, and he remembered that this person can tell.

"... Why do I feel like it's not the complete issue...? But your pulse doesn't change..."

Why are you in a business course, if you can pressure me like this...  He tried his best to keep calm, after all, it would be a greater issue to fail now.  Sorry Giyuu, I have learned with Shinobu how to handle my own body after all..

(Although you are still scary when you are like this…)

"Believe what you will. It's not you, but everyone else. I do not hate you- well I don't hate everyone, but they were just being annoying then..."

Please believe that, Giyuu.

Surprisingly, his wrist was released.

Even more surprisingly, the teacher called onto them, "Tomioka, Himejima, having a fun discussion? Care to share your opinions to the class regarding the current topic"

Shit.

The room silenced then slightly stirred in a murmur of voices, like bees, as everyone seemed to focus on them once more, this time tinged with a bit of malice. After all, people liked to see if they will fail- the Hashira was a title that a lot of people liked to covet- unknowing of the hardship that came along with the title.

"The current Japanese corporate law is based on the latest amended commercial code last December 2005. It covers rules for partnerships and corporations- changes were prepared for multiple factors relevant to the incorporation, management, auditing, director rulings and meetings, capital shareholders, dividends and-" Giyuu answered readily, having caught the tailwind of the discussion.

“Okay, you can stop there. Himejima, give some of the changes relevant to directors as per the current update.”

“Some of the changes to the code are as follows: decrease in required minimum directors to 1, update in the liabilities of directors, updates on negligence standards, authority on auditing, rules on resolutions of board of directors-”

“Okay. Acceptable. But next time, please do not engage in idle chatter in my class, likewise everyone else. You can sleep in class- but don’t disrupt others, or next time, we’ll be having a recitation.”

 

And with that class resumed, this time everyone was more focused- so Himejima slightly laments the end of that discussion- but he returns his attention to the discussion, as Giyuu also pulls away and he hears the rustle of paper beside him.

There was a buzz on is tablet, and he checks his notifications-

'Welcome Himejima Gyoumei

Messenger notifications (2)

Group chat 2 (99+) messages

Tomioka Giyuu (2) messages'

Tomioka Giyuu, like his name, rarely breaks rules- he could almost count the instances he did it on his own with his hands (if we exclude those times he broke them while conniving with others, namely Sabito). And while he has a special permission to use gadgets in class for his disability, he does prefer to stick to the rules and focus on his schoolwork.

But he would be lying to himself if he says he’s not curious. So he clicks the message.

‘Muichirou told me to stick to the Hashira today. We’re going to have to tough it up out there since this floor gets a lot of foot traffic- so let’s take the Northeast stairs then the 7th floor passage?

And maybe, let’s continue our discussion later…’

Too many questions and too little answers… But overall, Gyoumei doesn’t know if he wants the bell to ring sooner or later…

 


 

The bell couldn’t ring sooner or later- but even Giyuu isn’t sure what he wants right now, and whether he should be grateful or annoyed. With the silence of the class, and the focus rendered on the topic, he has gone ahead and even finished some of the discussion questions that would surely need to be answered later on, and as he peeks on his seatmate’s tablet: sure enough, Gyoumei was clearing the same homework at an advanced pace.

After all, it would be less time that will eat their limited free time, since they still have patrols after twilight hours. They can’t slack off easily just because they are favored, and also because they wanted to stay firm to being a Hashira at night, being a student by day.

Nevertheless, he cannot deny the need to have his questions answered- after all, despite the silence, some people take the time to glance at them- some in anger and others in adoration and sure enough, the tell tale irritation spikes from his seatmate, eyebrows furrowing.

He wonders a bit why would he be annoyed at people adoring him… Because undeniably, Himejima Gyoumei cuts quite a figure- despite his disabilities, he’s a top student, he’s part of the university government, he’s even the leader of their group, the Hashira, he’s the most trusted of Oyakata-sama. And for all that he’s an intimidating one, he has always been a kind stable support to everyone in their group.

Likewise, he wonders, why does other people seem to be glaring at him- he’s not sure why they liked to focus their attention around them- maybe, the others also think that he was undeserving to be a Hashira--  

“At all costs, stick with the Hashira, you’re always part of us, don’t forget.”

Again, those words haunt him, those words make him hope. He chances a glance on his watch and sees that the bell was about to ring so he starts subtly packing, just as the professor seemed to start wrapping things up- and he takes his bag and unzips it-

Sweets appear and he remembers the incident earlier, and well- there was still too many despite him consuming around 3 boxes and giving away 8… How many did that girl give me…?

He takes a moment to consider giving the rest to his classmates but-

Like important feelings that were pointed out to him- 

For whatever reasons she handed them over-

Was it okay for him to give them away like this-

The bell rings, making him jump and as he glances to see everyone else, they appear like faceless beings around the room.

No-

No, not them-

If he was being honest, for how special those feelings passed on to him-

Then he would have to give them to special people also-

Like how he gave them to the Kamaboko- to the Tokito twins-

Which means, he’ll also give them to-

“Giyuu, are you okay? Let’s head out soon.”

Ah, he spent too long thinking...

 


 

Checking the clock told him that class was due to end as he heard the near-silent movements of his seatmate in packing up- until he paused after unzipping his bag.

He wonders what held him up.

The bell rings and Gyoumei feels horror run up his spine as people get up and Giyuu has not- so he asks, “Giyuu, are you okay? Let’s head out soon.”

“Ah sorry, I spaced out.” There was a zipping sound but- did he not place his items inside?

There was another bag opened, and he did stuff his items there-

Why do you have two bags? He wanted to ask, realizing that the first zip sounded off, because it was not his usual bag.

But he feels the tell tale stares, and realizes that the room fell silent. Beside him, Giyuu has hooked his arm around his, and advised him, “There’s a crowd outside in the hallways, we might get into quite a struggle…”

The date. The target. Uneasiness ran over him.

As they reached the doors, he took a step forward and slightly shielded Giyuu from their eyes, “Do you mind letting us pass? Class is due soon.”

“Why is Himejima-senpai--”

“Senpai, we just want--”

“Oi, is that the Hashira--”

“He’s shielding Tomioka--”

“That’s really unfair--”

“But it’s Himejima-senpai though…”

He ignored the murmurs and repeated his sentence.

“Think they’ll make a break for it?”

Yes. Gyoumei internally considered it...

“We can chase them like last time if they do--”

But the last time Sabito did that, holding onto Giyuu as he jumped from the third floor and it caused chaos as everyone else decided to join in the general discord.

“Enough.” He turned back and ordered, “This is unsightly. Please move out of our way and do not loiter the halls. Class is due to start soon, and everyone is better off heading back to their respective rooms than crowding.”

No one budged. The crowd stilled a bit but, there was a sense of rising danger and tension, behind him, Giyuu’s hold tightened a bit.

Annoying, as he heard the other door to the room open and heard others pool in and he felt more stares, as he readied himself to his instincts- whether to fight or to take his fastest run, just as Giyuu voiced out loudly, “We’re going to be late, Gyoumei- why is everyone holding us up?”

Gyoumei wants to hit his head on the wall, or face palm, as Giyuu forced his way upfront, beside him. On appearance, as expected, he heard the telltale surprise and awe of the spectators. 

Without sight, he already knew that Tomioka Giyuu was a beautiful person- but if he could also not bring everyone around him to a level of insanity he never knew anyone was capable of, he would really certainly appreciate it…

Not that he does not understand why everyone falls apart for this person.

He was pondering what to say but Giyuu has started in a sharp commanding voice, “Why are you all crowding here? Class is due soon- we have to go now, so could you let us pass?”

It’s unnerving, Gyoumei realizes, when GIyuu's tone frosts itself, like a cold reminder of their first meeting, like there was a lack of connection between them- like Giyuu did not trust them-

He hears the rustle of the silenced crowd, of hurried footsteps and murmurs of apologies and excuses and surprisingly, Giyuu latches onto his arm and tugs him along, calling, “Let’s go Gyoumei. And the same for everyone else- go pander to your education, not to other people.”

Discord on one level is harmony on another, he recalls that quote from his class in Theology and considers how the hand that led him shifted its hold to his, and they continued on, not letting go. He wondered a bit, how they appeared, like a couple of children, with him being led by a smaller man- and as Giyuu advised him that they were by the stairs, he heard them, more and more people, relentless as the switching classes and the upcoming crowd.

So he goes on ahead, and Giyuu lets him, their hands and fingers intertwined, as they charge up six flights of stairs, everyone else yelping or hurriedly running away because he is still a large cutting figure on a rush to class, and people realize afterwards that there is someone precious on his hand--

And on that seventh floor, Giyuu races ahead to press their access on a hidden door, one they fall into and as he hears the door shut, including the shock and dismay of several people that are barred from access.

 


 

Secret passages through the school are generally frowned upon, but the seventh floor door has been an unused pass for a while- it was set for construction a couple of months ago for a new set of classrooms. However, it remained unfinished after the siege from another Lower Moon last month, delaying the infrastructure progress as they have to repair the damaged walls and confirm if the building was still stable.

Nevertheless, as Giyuu huffed to catch his breath, he remembers the vivid chasing faces, mirroring a specific and heavily disliked memory from his schooling: albeit the others tried, he knew there were instances that people hounded after him. It wasn’t terribly unfamiliar, they mirrored the instances he had to deal with paparazzi when his identity was occasionally leaked to the public, and it was a cutting reminder of another day, one that he tried to forget, a lifetime ago, almost. 

But, for a more recent reminder, it was strikingly similar with Valentines day earlier that year, and he actually agreed to just hole up in the dorm room then…

“So, people are after me again…?” He dared to clarify, having already known that something was up, and albeit the pseudo-holiday was for a mere piece of food, he wondered why they all seemed to fixate on him- does he attract weirdness that much?, he nearly commented, before realizing that he was technically usually hanging around with specific people- so wouldn’t tat be a backfiring thing to say.

Thankfully, he was still out of breath, and Gyoumei was calming himself considerably well, before starting, “The end of this corridor is my class. Yours is…”

Right, classes. Giyuu glanced at his watch and while knowing the bell hasn’t rung yet, the trip to this spot felt like a long adventure, he was still surprised to see a couple of minutes to spare. “Ah yes, I have English Literature with Kyojurou and Kanroji. So I’ll drop you off and head to my class--”

“No, Kyojurou should be waiting outside my classroom. Let’s go check-”

There it was again also, and while earlier he knew that Gyoumei tried to make the crowd back off, he has already the experience on dealing with pushy individuals. “I will be fine, I think--”

“No-” He wanted to protest so badly, he was not a kid, and surprisingly, Gyoumei pauses in his tirade.

“Well, you did handle the crowd earlier in a great peaceful way…” The compliment stuns him a bit, after all, it is a bit of a rarity to hear the Stone Hashira compliment him, but there was something hanging in the air between them, and he wasn’t sure how to bring up the recent discussion.

Giyuu sighed, hitching his bag- bags. Right, he still have those. The idea from earlier reminded him of a certain train of thought...

“Let’s go, Giyuu-”

“Wait a bit, Gyoumei likes- Green Tea right?” He rummaged through the bag and procured the other flavored snack, and pressed it on his companion’s hands.

“These are…?”

“Pocky. It’s a snack. Today is Pocky Day after all...”

“Huh…”

 


 

There was something the group forgot to debrief him, Gyoumei remembered. He had a discussion with the others about the date, but he didn’t expect the snack in question to be a box-?

He distinctly remembers Shinobu being annoyed at it though, although he did wonder at her statement comparing it to the Water Hashira- leaner flavored snack?

(He does hear her splutter surprisingly as he asked that, and her embarrassment was more so profound as she tried and failed to explain the details…

He did ignore Tengen’s comment that he was a bit too pure for those details but, ultimately he decided to forget that conversation instead.)

“Do you not like it?” His companion asked, and he just offhandedly commented, “No- I’m surprised, I thought Pocky was stick-like snacks?”

“Well yes, that’s an entire box of one?” And he tilted the package, hearing the small rustle of sticks. ”Has Gyoumei never tried one?”

Huh, he’s right, he nods.

The sound of ripping cardboard surprises him, “Okay, try this one instead- it’s chocolate though…”

Wait, what?

The crinkling of food wrapper sounds surprisingly noisy in that passage as he realizes what he was doing- loitering in an unused passage in their school to escape the moving crowd- and he should offer to make them go back, to bring him to class, to hand him over to Rengoku-

But there was that old tell-tale voice, one that brings him back years ago, when the other met him on that rooftop, and the tone- one that tells him of a secret to be shared- one that rouses his curiosity of the honesty in the tone, and when he followed that child years ago, he saw the demon they were trying and failing to capture- a Lower Moon to boot, caught in a trap of an elementary student, its form huddled as several spotlights directed itself on him.

So he waits patiently, indulging him, like the rare discussion they had earlier in class, and to his surprise, he feels it on his mouth, like a tip of a pen but not quite.

“Bite it.” Surprisingly he complies, and then he realizes he stands a foot and a half taller than Giyuu, who has leaned close and half of his body pressed onto him- and there he was, being fed something.

The embarrassment makes Gyoumei nearly drop the food before his hand catches it by reflex- the taste of chocolate wasn’t unfamiliar- neither the knowledge of what he has eaten, the rest have already told him of the item- but truly, it’s the first time he had tried it so-

“Gyoumei, be careful, you could choke on that piece.”

He nearly spits our the entire thing or chokes as he was warned, so he continues to chew, to calm his pulse as he fails- he realizes their position hasn’t changed, okay? and he was eating the snack, okay? it was just offered okay? Until he feels like he can swallow it down.

It was… alright, he supposes. Not quite filling, surprising flavor making him want to try more… 

Pocky, huh...

“Ah, there’s a smear here,” He feels the calloused thumb brush at the corner of his lips and then the entire scenario reminds himself of what exactly is going on today-

Just as the bell rang and like the cacophony of noise breaking the silence, his thoughts remind himself that here he was, on an empty hall, being fed snacks by someone utterly oblivious, and the overall general dangerous actions that he unknowingly ignites. So, this close, looming before the other, he advises him, as he thinks of a way to revert them back to their schedule, “To be honest, the entire plan was mainly for your protection- but I guess it is more for our peace of mind…”

“Oh?” Curious tone, but flat, but Gyoumei continues.

“So I was curious, where did you get the bag? I think you have another- and I just realized it because there’s another loop on your shoulder-- and then the whole thing with Muichirou?”

“Nothing happened.” This time, the tone was rattled, and surprisingly- this close, their arms touch and he feels it- Giyuu’s pulse raced suddenly, a lie.

“Tomioka Giyuu, what happened today?”

“...”

“...”

“Fine, a girl managed to teach me Pocky Game, and I ended up telling Kamaboko and the Tokito twins about it.”

That explains and at the same time, brings up more questions, he feels the other person back off, but he catches their arm to make them stay there- and unconsciously he has taken step forwards, it seems, for he realizes he has boxed the other on the doorway where they entered, as his hands land on the cool metal of the door.

“Something seems to be off with that answer- although I did not quite believe you’ll lie to me.” He uses a conversational tone, as his mind races through the details, and so he asks, “But you are okay right?”

“Yes.” Truth.

“Nothing bad happened?”

“None.” Truth.

“But something good happened?”

“...Yes. Gyoumei, we’re late.” Truth- but you’re deflecting.

“I would like to know. You were being all chatty earlier but now you have clammed up.”

There was a moment of silence, and he could almost picture Giyuu holding in a deep breath before exhaling. What surprised him was when he answered in a small voice, “I- I thought you all hated me, you know? You included. The Kamaboko said no one does. The Tokito twins likewise said the same. But it’s hard to understand that when I know how much I had- and could have been hated-  I guess, I let it get to me, but I could have also done better...“

The trail of that tone lingers with uncertainty, and Gyoumei takes a deep breath not to glare by reflex as he remembers, this time, of the circumstances around Giyuu-- of the weight of responsibilities that also staggered him down, and the understanding that for all Giyuu was adored, those things are easily missed in his eyes, like a blindness to positive emotions for himself.

For all his disabilities having set him back, he is supported early in his life with the Ubuyashiki family adopting him when he was young. For all that he had a hard time adjusting, there had always been people, up to this date, whom he knew to be ready to hold out a hand to him…

Not that he didn’t knew of otherwise, but those have been overwritten of years being under Oyakata-sama’s care.

But this person before him, as he let his arm snake around his shoulders and as he feels a tremble pass them, as he tugs him close, Giyuu burying his face on his chest as he takes deep breaths to calm himself, as he remembers an old discussion they had.

“They are your classmates right? Why are you not going to say goodbye to them?”

“Ah they’re all just trying to befriend me for my family name, you know?”

“But they do like you…? I heard...”

“No? You should hear them when I am not in the room, they actually dislike me- even the teachers do.”

“But even more so- how about your family? A bit of goodbye would be polite. Surely, they wouldn’t dislike you...?”

“Ah, them. Well you are slightly correct, you see-- those people don't dislike me. My 'family' hates me, instead.”

 

“Giyuu… We don’t hate you- I don’t hate you, okay?” He tries to convey as much honesty that he can onto that statement.

The other lifts his head and huffs a breath before answering, “I know that now… Ah we should head to classes right?”

“Yes- we’re probably late… Rengoku should be waiting for us…” It's a bit of a reminder that they are on limited time, more so their classes would have been starting by now.

“Yes.” They parted slightly to a loose hug and he lightly patted Giyuu on the head. “I’m glad you believe the others when they told you that you aren’t hated.”

“Ah- yes- about that-” For the second time, the pulse of the other speeded up.

What now.

“You might as well tell me because I would eventually find out-” He jokingly threatens. It shouldn't be that bad right?

“Alright fine, but don’t tell anyone- they played the Pocky Game with me to prove their sincerity.”

Never mind.  He could almost feel his mind ground itself to dust at that statement.

Those children didn’t--

But they did...

So with all the training he has, he tried to throttle the rising ire and said, “Is that so…?”

“Wait, you aren't going to do anything to them, are you? Nothing happened after all...:”

“I don’t believe that term, ‘Nothing Happened’, as an accurate explanation because, that’s probably the farthest situation to describe that sort of thing…” He trailed off, remembering Shinobu’s explanation, so he shifted, stern tone and all, “Tomioka Giyuu, you did not just play a game of possible perverse engagement with a bunch of minors-”

“First, that phrase sounds like Shinobu. Second, I’m not insane enough to end up kissing Juniors, Gyoumei. Third, I did not even initiate it, asked every single one of them for their consent and certainty to proceed, and Fourth, I dare you try to refuse Nezuko when she’s going all huffy in front of you.”

“Still-- I should write you up, the Night Club room is not for use for such games--”

“The Hashira should exercise their privileges properly and yet here we are using those rooms and this passage to make our lives easier- you know what, Gyoumei, the ideas are unfair right? So here, bite this.”

To his surprise, Giyuu fits the snack again on his mouth and as he was about to open his mouth, to reject it, when he feels vibrations on the stick and the sound of chattering teeth- and the weight of the snack lightens as Giyuu pulls away.

“There. You have played the game with me, and I’ve won it and now,  it’s fait accompli.” Giyuu declares, while pushing the remainder of the stick further into his mouth, as he chews them thoughtfully.

Gyoumei takes it back, and considers that sometimes, the insanity of everything, quite like letting a half-demon girl into a demon slaying academy , could also originate from this very person.

He hears the huff of Giyuu and he sighs, he can’t refute that though… He did play the game just now...

But as he swallows the snack, just as Giyuu says, “Sorry- that was rude of me, and not to mention, I didn’t even ask permission- and now we’re both really late...”

Always considerate, and he reminds himself that if Muichirou has broken the rules, then he decides that he might be a skipping rock on the surface of the water, but eventually, such matters sink into the deep pool of the river. 

Out of the pan and into the fire...

“Okay, I’ll stop. In exchange, I didn’t know that we were playing- and I certainly don’t want to lose- so let’s play again.”

Giyuu sputters and he suppresses the snigger, wondering at the other’s expression. He pats him on the head again, delightful of the fluffy strands as he reminds him, “Might want to hurry, we have classes-”

This was an interesting take after all, besdes, he would be lying if he doesn't admit that he was curious about playing that game with Giyuu...

“I know I know-” a surprising flustered voice and he tries to dial back on the teasing- he probably had spent too much time last week with Shinobu, he supposed.

He felt a hand on his cheek, and this time, "Are you okay with this though?" 

“Yes, it’s just a game to eat this snack right? First to the middle, we probably wouldn’t tie, well, I’m counting on you not to- then as suggested, I will forget the unfairness earlier and we both head to classes.”

“We could actually just bite it you know? It would be considered a mutual loss… Which can be a win-win for this...”

“That’s a surprising leeway, but good. You did this with the children, I hope?"

"Yes."

"Either way, you just pull away if I win, or I’ll sense where you stop then that…”

“Okay…”

So he feels it again, chocolate on his mouth and as the same noise of someone nibbling, and as he tries to ignore the idea of the approaching another one to his face, and he tries to match that incoming pace, careful, until he feels their nose touch-- and his opponent tilts his head and comes closer--

This game is really dangerous-

The warmth comes closer, in this room, with his hand on the other’s arm, and likewise Giyuu, not removing his hand on his face, he wonders if it was possible to be scorched given how their pulses were speeding up and the entire insanity of the situation-- but at the same time, to Lose again was something he disliked--

He risks another set of small bites, careful, and as he senses their presence becoming too close, as the world fades to himself and this small piece of stick-biscuit, as he senses Giyuu start to stop-

Ah, good- we can end this insanity, he supposes.

He did not expect Rengoku’s voice or a hand to tap on his shoulder, “What are you doing Gyoumei? Where’s Giyuu, classes have already starte---”

No, he does not hear that or the sharp gasp of the newcomer- what he realizes was that instead of pausing and coming to a Mutual Loss, or even pulling away--

As Rengoku had tapped him, the slight blow knocked him forward and faint as it was, of their lips becoming in contact- a light feather touch, before he could scramble away- or in Giyuu’s case, back away and slam his head against the door behind him with a loud bang.

Ah, Gyoumei thinks as he hovers uncertainly, as he hears Giyuu curse and slide down to the floor, or Rengoku utter a small whine of yomoya, as he himself raise his hand to hide his mouth--

This is going to be really…. Problematic… He could already feel his eyes starting to tear up a bit at the turn of events.