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Blue Skies and Eternity

Chapter Text

“Tch, this is pointless!” Yoon threw the rotten apple towards the river bank. Somehow, the trees were dying. He didn’t understand. He had been working so hard, but it seemed it just wasn’t enough. He stared down at his hands, covered in dirt and leaves. Or was it because his power was fading? Well, it certainly didn’t feel that way. But he could never be too sure. The visits at the shrine only kept going down and Yoon wasn’t sure how much longer his shrine would last. And it didn’t help that the current priest was ditzy and created more disasters than Yoon could afford to clean up.

People didn’t come and pray at his shrine, but then they blamed him when things went wrong. How annoying. Grumbling to himself, he walked back towards the shrine where Iksoo was talking to a group of little children. They were crowding around Iksoo and tugging at his robes. Yoon groaned and dragged his hand down his face, careful not to scratch himself with his nails.

Just as he predicted Iksoo fell over. Sighing, Yoon marched over and pulled the man back to his feet. The priest grinned thankfully and then told all the children to go home since it was getting late. Yoon watched the children run off, thinking that he didn’t dislike children except for when they trespassed on shrine area and broke things from the shrine. Iksoo loved children, even though they often caused multiple mishaps for the clumsy priest.

“What news from the town today?” Yoon asked Iksoo. He didn’t usually go into town, too many people, too many chances of people ‘accidentally’ seeing him, too many chances of him seeing reincarnated people he once knew and so little trees and so little faith. The town was slowly becoming a place that did not welcome Yoon. What with all this modernization and trying to become like the countries in the far west.

“I got the sweets shop agree to set up a stand here during the festival!” Iksoo beamed excitedly. Yoon sighed. How far his shrine had fallen that they had to beg people to set up stands during festivals. People used to bustle about months before the festivals to ask the priests at the shrine for some space to set up a stall. Yoon grumbled.

“Do we even need a festival this year?” Yoon asked.

“Of course we do!” Iksoo said firmly. Yoon glanced back at the apple trees growing behind the shrine and frowned.

“Suit yourself. It’s not like anyone is going to come.” Yoon huffed and spun around.

“Ah! Yoon, wait!” Iksoo grabbed a fistful of Yoon’s tail and Yoon made a low growling sound in his throat as a warning. “Sorry! It’s just...people will come. Humans like festivals.”

“Humans like festivals, but they do not like shrines,” Yoon sent a scowl at the priest and then marched away.

------o------

“Ah, I’m sorry, Lord Geuntae and Lady Yunho, Yoon is not in the best of moods today,” Yoon’s ears perked on top of his head and he curled up even further into the the wood of the shrine floors.

“That’s what you said last time as well, you ditzy priest!” Geuntae’s voice boomed and Yoon groaned, attempting to cover ears. He was in no mood to deal with the tiger god at the moment. It didn’t matter that the man thought that it was his duty to visit every month with his tree spirit wife in tow.

“Well, he has been down as of late and-” Iksoo stammered. Good heavens, was Geuntae in his tiger form or something?

“That’s your fault, you flimsy priest! You don’t take care of your go-” Geuntae was booming again and Yoon snarled, got to his feet and slammed the shrine doors open.

“Shut up! Stop bullying my priest, you noisy tiger!” Yoon roared. Geuntae looked up at him from where he was standing at the shrine steps and holding Iksoo by the front of his robes with one hand. His wife, Lady Yunho, bless her soul, was already prying Iksoo from his grip.

“There you are, you hideaway fox,” Geuntae snickered and let go of Iksoo, who would’ve fallen, if it weren’t for Lady Yunho yet again.

“What do you want? You’re interrupting my nap.” Yoon hissed at the tiger. Geuntae climbed up the rest of the steps and practically stalked towards Yoon. Yoon resisted the urge to flatten his ears against his skull and bare his teeth threateningly. Although they were on Yoon’s lands and Yoon was a ferocious fox that had fought off lion-dogs with tooth and nail to defend his territory, it was still threatening to have a tiger prowl into your den. Even if he came in peace.

“I hear your land is dying,” Geuntae said.

“So? I don’t see how that is any of your business,” Yoon growled.

“Oh, it is. Your shrine is one of the main nine shrines in this area. If you give in, the mainland gods will attempt to flood our lands. I refuse to have that happen. In fact, I think most of the gods around here would agree.” Geuntae was circling Yoon like he was prey and Yoon was sure he didn’t do this knowingly, but it still made Yoon feel threatened.

“And so you come down to my humble shrine to attempt to make it yours?” Yoon asked, his eyes narrowing.

“Ah, you don’t have to sound so mean about it. I’ll just help. Give the shrine a boost!” Geuntae grinned, flashing fangs.

“I’d rather fade away than have my shrine smell like some stinking tiger. You can leave. I’ll handle this by myself,” Yoon turned away, gritting his teeth.

“You would throw out a friend that’s come just because he’s concerned?” Geuntae asked.

“You can leave. Now. And perhaps never bother my priest ever again.” Yoon pointedly turned to glare at the tiger in the eyes. Most would freeze up in terror at the mere thought of having to look at Geuntae straight in the eyes, but Yoon had been dealing with this bully since he was nothing but a young fox spirit with no shrine.

“A pity,” Geuntae sighed. “Yunho, we’re leaving!”

Yoon didn’t bother to watch them leave. He only moved from his position when Iksoo’s warm hands gently tried to pry his curled fists open.

“You’ll hurt your hands,” Iksoo murmured gently.

Yoon had seen several priests before Iksoo. So many of them had given Yoon respect, awe and worshipped him. Iksoo on the other hand, treated him more like his caretaker, like a friend. Yoon supposed it was because Iksoo’s predecessor had died early.

“So...this is a bigger issue than I thought it was,” Iksoo said softly. Yoon sighed.

“Iksoo, it’s not your fault.” Yoon put one hand on top of Iksoo’s.

“It is. I am failing my duties as your priest. I will try harder.” Iksoo nodded firmly.

“Try any harder and you’ll have more than a couple of broken bones,” Yoon chuckled, trying to sound light hearted.

“I can take care of myself!” Iksoo frowned. Yoon’s eyes glazed over and he looked over the town in the distance.

“I suppose you can. I suppose they all can.”

Yoon’s hands felt cold.

------o------

“I wonder if I can somehow change things if I involve my blood,” Yoon muttered, frowning at the patch of dying flowers in front of him. He had heard of the powers of yokai blood. Practically been drowned in stories when he had visited a party filled with mermaids some years ago. He himself had seen how people had hunted him down for his blood before they erected a shrine in his name.

There were two visitors on shrine ground and Yoon would usually go and check it out, but he was busy trying to figure out if he should bleed all over the flowers. He would heal easily. A little bit of blood loss wouldn’t hurt him. Aside from attracting all kinds of low lifes. But they wouldn’t be able to enter shrine ground.

“...xcuse me!” Yoon wondered if he should ask Iksoo to get fertilizer or something for the flowers. After all, how much could a bunch of flowers resist his power? It was probably their own problem. “Excuse me!” Something whacked Yoon on his shoulder. Yoon spun around, already ready to lash out.

“Iksoo! What do you think you-” Yoon froze. “You’re not Iksoo.”

“Of course I’m not!” The girl frowned. “I’ve been calling you for five minutes now! You’re horribly rude!” She was in a school uniform, bag slung over one shoulder. Her hair was a curly mess of red that reached her shoulders and she had wide purple eyes and Yoon tried not to shudder. That was a wildly unnatural color. What on earth was in her blood? No wonder she could see him. Suddenly her eyes widened and a horrified gasp left her mouth. “Are you hard of hearing? I had no idea!”

Actually, on the contrary I have enhanced hearing. I’m just not used to people talking to me.

“Do you need something?” Yoon crossed his arms. Humans didn’t see him unless they were like Iksoo, or somewhat blessed like this girl seemed. And occasionally, those that were desperate could see him.

“Are you the priest here?” she asked. She didn’t wait for an answer. “Oh good! We’ve been looking everywhere for the priest!” Yoon’s eyebrows shot up. Iksoo hadn’t told him that he was going out. Had something happened to that stupid priest? “Come! I’ll take you to Hak!” She grabbed his hand and started dragging him. Yoon squawked in indignation and tried to make sure his nails didn’t hurt her.

They found Iksoo and...this Hak...by one of the bushes leading towards the priests’ residence. The tall dark haired male was pulling Iksoo out of the bush.

“Oh there you are, Yona. I found the priest,” Hak said.

“So there’s two priests!” the girl said cheerfully.

“Two priests?” Iksoo echoed in confusion and Yoon tried not to sigh. Yoon frowned when the girl glanced at him and then back at Iksoo.

“You must be the head priest!” the girl said. “We come on behalf of our class! So we’re having exchange students of sorts arriving in a month and we were wondering if we could add this shrine as an official historical spot in this town on the small brochure that we are making for them? Then we can even come here on a tour!” the girl beamed, clapping her hands together. “We were duly informed by our teacher that there are still priests that serve this shrine and that we should ask permission before adding it to the brochure and so here we are.”

“No!” Yoon barked, his blood practically boiling. The girl and Iksoo jumped in surprise and Yoon was furious, absolutely furious. “Does my shrine look like some historical relic to you? It is fully functioning and I will not have you insinuate that it isn’t. How dare you come in here and make such assumptions? You are not welcome here!” Crows cawed loudly and Yoon turned on his heel and marched away.

“Huh? But why? Where are you going?” The girl cried out.

“Yona...who are you even talking to?” Hak asked.

Iksoo awkwardly chuckled.

“If you will excuse me, I will return to you in a moment,”

------o------

Yoon curled up in his usual corner of the shrine. He had not let Iksoo enter, using his powers to forcibly seal the shrine so that Yoon would not accidentally harm his clumsy priest in his anger. Iksoo had talked through the wooden panelling, trying to explain that the children meant no harm. Yoon would hear none of it.

“I’m sorry, children, but I cannot give you permission to do what you’re asking,” Yoon could hear Iksoo’s voice.

“Can we ask why?” Hak’s grumpy voice.

“Because,” Iksoo sounded upset. “My God does not wish for that.”

Yoon curled up further, digging his nails into the wooden floor.

------o------

Chapter Text

Yona couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong or where things had gone wrong. She had been working so hard. She had to prove to her father that she was alright, that she could take care of herself and then go to Kuuto for college. All the college programs in their small town had nothing. It drove her crazy. She needed to get out of this town and far away from everything that made her feel small and weak and made her feel like the world was so big outside and she was trapped .

“So...you talked to a kitsune, held his hand and dragged him...and then you made him angry of all things?” Hak deadpanned while they ate their ramen.

“I had no idea! He was tiny! And pretty! And I thought he was...I don’t know! A cosplaying priest in training!” Yona groaned, slamming her forehead onto the table.

“I still think you’re talking crazy, but keep going,” Hak nudged at her with one hand.

“I can and will tell Jaeha you stare at him when he’s not looking,” Yona whispered viciously into the wood.

“OK, OK! I believe you, you interacted with a creature that is supposed to not actually exist! Now what? Are you just going to let this go?” Hak asked her.

“And get cursed by the only God in this town? I don’t think so! I need to get out of here!” Yona snapped, shooting back up and nearly getting her stupid hair into the ramen.

“I still don’t see why you need to go in the first place. But if that’s what you want, OK.” Hak shrugged and the focused all of his attention onto the ramen.

“I’ll go the shrine first thing in the morning and pray and beg for forgiveness. And if I maybe see the God, well then...I’ll grab him and demand that he not curse me!” Yona nodded firmly. That seemed like a good plan. Hak evidently thought otherwise because he snorted into his noodles. Yona glared at him. Hak caught her eyes and saw the look in them.

“Sorry,” Hak said looking away.

“I swear I saw him, Hak! The head priest kept looking at him too! And then he chased after him when he ran away!” Yona groaned and sank into her seat.

“What’d he look like,” Hak asked, clearly attempting to feign interest. Yona rolled her eyes. Soowon would listen with more attentiveness and he’d be better at pretending he was interested.

“Brown hair that was parted in the middle, but a section on the uh…” Yona gestured with her hands, “the left side of his head was pulled into a feather like clip. He had ears on the top of his head. Now that I think about it, they twitched a whole bunch of times,” Yona near wailed and put her face into her hands.

“Do...you want me to call Soowon?” Hak sounded like she had lost her mind.

“No!” Yona snapped. “He had robin blue eyes and a couple of freckles over his nose. He wore yukata so I totally thought he was a priest!” Yona wailed again and Hak cringed. “He had a tail too!”

“And yet you didn’t think he could be anything but a priest…” Hak gave her a look.

“You would’ve thought the same thing in my place!” Yona hissed.

“Well, if you need me to beat him up for you, you know my number,” Hak shrugged.

“Ugh, you’re not helpful at all,” Yona muttered.

------o------

Yona crept into the shrine grounds extra early. She supposed priests got up early to attend to their duties, so she assumed she might end up knocking into the head priest, but she would be careful. Very careful. She had to also head to school as soon as possible to complete a bunch of her duties. But before that, she had to apologize to the kitsune God.

She had done some research and reading up the night before. The local God had been around for centuries. According to the local legends, he was nearly hunted down and killed, but when he made all the lands he ran through flourish, they erected a shrine for him instead. He did not kill, he did not curse and he majorly involved himself in agriculture and medicine. Yona decided she thought he wasn’t so bad after all.

But of course, there was no saying how true the legends were. There were chances she was the first person to have ever made him mad enough to want to curse someone. So that led her to sneaking into the shrine. She arrived at the front and noticed that the shrine had already been swept and cleaned. The head priest had been up and about.

“What are you doing here? I thought I told you that you weren’t welcome here!” An angry voice spoke up behind her. Yona spun around. There he was. And he looked absolutely furious. Oh boy. He was going to curse her.

“I brought you these as an apology!” Yona cried out, holding out the bag she was holding towards him and squeezing her eyes shut. When there was no answer she opened her eyes. The kitsune had wrinkled his nose in disgust. “W-what’s wrong?” Yona asked.

“Plastic,” he said the word like that explained everything. He said the word like it was some kind of disease.

“Oh!” Yona quickly unwrapped the two large yellow red apples and she watched in fascination as the kitsune’s ears perked up.

“Where did you get those?” the kitsune asked. He sounded almost accusing.

“I bought them from Grandma Hana this morning. She already has her shop open,” Yona explained.

“Ah, Hana, yes. Her faith is still pretty strong, she comes here once a week even though she has lost strength. No wonder these apples are so delicious looking.” The kitsune nodded with pride and Yona almost forgot why she had brought the apples. Almost.

“I meant for these to be an apology for having angered you yesterday. I don’t know what I did to make you angry, but I’m sorry. Please don’t curse me!” Yona said.

“Curse you?” the kitsune scoffed. “Fortunately for you, little girl, I don’t curse people. It’s not in my nature. I’ve gotten into a fight or two, but cursing is something I wouldn’t touch with the tip of my tail.”

“Oh thank heavens,” Yona sighed in relief. “Then am I forgiven?”

“No,” the kitsune deadpanned. He snatched the two apples from her hands before she realized he was even moving. “It has been a while since I was brought an offering. So, I am no longer angry at you. But you’re still not welcome on my shrine grounds. And don’t you dare list my shrine on your bro...bro...well, whatever it is.”

“Oh,” Yona said in disappointment.

“Yes, now, off you go, little girl,” the kitsune waved his hand at her dismissively.

“Little? But you look smaller than I am!” Yona cried out in protest.

“Don’t make me laugh!” the kitsune hissed. “I’m still taller than you, if only by a little bit! And as a kitsune I can take on whatever appearance I want!”

“Then why that appearance?” Yona asked.

“That is none of your business! Off with you!” the kitsune sounded threatening this time and although Yona was sure he wouldn’t harm her, she didn’t want to try her chances. She fled, taking the hated plastic bag with her. As she was going down the stairs, she looked back and saw that he was taking a bite out of one of the apples and he looked very appreciative.

------o------

“Rare for you to be studying here, Yona dear,” Jaeha said as he put her order down in front of her. “Didn’t get much time last night?” Yona looked up at the green haired male with a grin. Jaeha wasn’t a local in town. He was adopted by Gigan who owned the seafood restaurant that Yona, Hak and Soowon loved frequenting. No one knew Jaeha’s backstory, but everyone had heard the stories of what he was like when he had first arrived in their quiet little town. He screamed himself awake every morning, startling the neighbors. He had bruises and cuts that lasted for weeks and he stared with dead eyes at everyone.

Now things were different.

“I was on a little life saving trip this morning so I had no time to study in the morning.” Yona told him, quickly reaching for the food in front of her.

“Is that so?” Jaeha asked her with a raised eyebrow.

“Yup yup,” Yona nodded. Then she paused to think. “Jaeha, do you visit the shrine up on the hill?” Yona asked. Jaeha blinked at her.

“Ah, unfortunately, Yona dear, I happen to not be on very pleasant terms with God,” Jaeha gave her a mock sad smile and Yona rolled her eyes.

“God, you’re so sparkly the moment I enter the shop. Stop it,” Hak’s comment announced his presence and Yona and Jaeha turned to see Hak and Soowon enter the shop.

“I only look sparkly to those who think I’m attractive, Hak. Do you think I’m attractive?” Jaeha asked, wiggling his eyebrows teasingly.

“Yes,” Soowon and Yona muttered under their breaths at the same time.

“In your dreams, drop dead,” Hak deadpanned.

“Yona, what are you studying today?” Soowon asked, sliding into the seat across from her.

“Physics,” Yona grumbled.

“Ah, I remember studying that. It was a pain.” Soowon leaned over the table to take a look at her book.

“You aced your tests effortlessly, shut up,” Hak said, sitting next to Soowon.

“Can I get your orders?” Jaeha asked Soowon and Hak cheerfully.

“Herring soba,” Soowon and Hak said at the same time.

“Right,” Jaeha nodded and then left the table.

“So, Hak tells me you have a story to tell,” Soowon said, taking out a couple of his books. He was an exam student this year so he was busier than Yona would ever be.

“She nearly got herself cursed by a God that’s what,” Hak said.

“Oh shut up. He didn’t curse me. It didn’t even cross his mind apparently. He’s not a cursing kind of God.” Yona defended the kitsune, which she felt was appropriate to do.

“What kind of God is that?” Hak frowned.

“A kind God?” Yona said.

“You guys, I have no idea what you’re talking about…” Soowon sighed.

So Yona told him of the whole ordeal and how she had gone to the shrine that morning only to have the apples taken from her while she was kicked out and not welcome again. Hak of course added his input on how he hadn’t seen or heard a thing, but Yona was threatening him into believing her.

“Actually, that God might not be all a made up story,” Soowon sounded very interested.

“Hm?” Yona and Hak turned towards him, but at that moment, Jaeha arrived with their orders and they kept quiet for a bit. Jaeha grinned at them all and then was off again.

“When your mother was pregnant with you, Yona, the doctors told her that she might not survive childbirth. So your dad and my mom went up that mountain for months praying. And then three weeks before you were born, my mom had come over to visit and had fallen asleep in your mother’s room. When she woke up, she blearily saw a young boy standing over your mother, his hand on your mother’s forehead and he said ‘she’ll be fine’ and then left. My mom of course asked who the young boy was, but no one knew who she was talking about.” Soowon leaned back and Yona and Hak stared at him. “Just telling you what my mom told me.”

“Oh,” was all Yona managed to say.

------o------

Chapter Text

It had been a week since Yoon had seen the back of that red haired girl fleeing from his shrine and she hadn’t returned. Which satisfied him because that meant she was listening to what he said. Iksoo on the other hand had become increasingly worried. He had gone up and down the shrine and to town so many times he had actually broken an arm. Yoon had clucked over him like some kind of mother hen and eased him of some of the pain and told him that he needed to find himself a helper.

“What have you been doing anyways?” Yoon asked Iksoo.

“N-nothing?” Iksoo stammered, looking away.

“You’re a horrible liar,” Yoon told Iksoo flatly. “Now out with it.”

“I am trying to make arrangements for the festival,” Iksoo mumbled.

“Again this!” Yoon said angrily. “I told you, we don’t need people that don’t want to offer anything to the shrine!”

“I can’t ignore what Lord Geuntae said! This shrine is very important and as it’s priest I must do something!” Iksoo said.

“Don’t put on airs!” Yoon snapped. “The one that should be doing anything is me and I’m failing! I’m losing power! This is my fault and it has nothing to do with you!”

“There you go again, acting like everything is on your shoulders! I am the priest for a reason! Letting you connect with the people is my job! Don’t make little of it!” Iksoo said loudly. And then he got up and marched out.

“Hey! Iksoo! I’ll walk you! You’ll fall down and hurt yourself again!” Yoon cried out, rushing after the priest.

“I want to be alone,” Iksoo told Yoon quietly but clearly and Yoon stopped, because that was the first time Iksoo had ever outright refused his company, in all the years that they had known each other.

“Fine!” Yoon shouted after Iksoo.

Yoon turned and marched away. After pacing around in front of the shrine anxiously and irritably, he descended the shrine stairs. It had been full months since he had entered town and he discovered, it had changed already, even within a handful of months. The decrease of his powers was even more obvious in town. The flowers were all drooping and the vegetables that were being sold in the market looked hardly fresh. Yoon turned away and started heading down a path of only concrete with no grass or plants dotting the sides.

It made him sick.

Yoon suddenly noticed the dark haired boy that had been with the red haired girl during her first visit. Yoon instantly felt even more irritated. The boy had a kendo sword strapped to his back and was eating out of some kind of plastic wrapper while reading a book.

Should I go and play a prank on him?

Kitsune were playful and pranksters by nature after all. Yoon waited till the boy had reached him and then jumped. His goal had been to land on the boy’s shoulders but he suddenly looked up and dodged away quickly. Yoon landed and spun around. Had the boy seen him? No. The boy was looking in his general direction with his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

What was Yoon even doing?

Suddenly even more irritated, Yoon decided to take a trip he usually wouldn’t take.

Ever.

------o------

“Could you maybe...stop laughing?” Yoon asked, annoyed. The pale haired God across from him only continued to laugh. Yoon groaned, once again, questioning all his life choices and wondering why he had come here of all places. The god straightened up, wiping tears from his eyes before flashing his teeth at Yoon.

“And so, you fled here, to the one shrine that won’t tell the entire world you’re upset that your little priestling is growing up.” The snake god’s tongue flickered in and out of his mouth and Yoon tried not to wrinkle his upper lip in disgust.

“First of all, I’m not upset he’s growing up. Second, don’t call him priestling! It makes him sound like a bird!” Yoon snapped.

“Pup, then,” The snake god said.

“Mizari, you’re annoying,” Yoon muttered.

“You’re the one that came here,” Mizari shrugged.

“I just...that wasn’t him growing up, Mizari. I’ve watched humans grow up. I knew Iksoo would grow up at some point. He’s an adult now. But...that wasn’t him growing up. That was him rejecting me.” Yoon drew his legs up and hugged his knees, finding the fur bedding behind him to be quite the comfortable backrest.

“Can’t blame him. He’s got this open and loving heart. And you’re prickly. You’re more like porcupine than a fox. Heavens knows how Geuntae and I get along with you at all.” Mizari shrugged and sank further into his furs, hissing comfortably.

“I don’t get along with Geuntae at all,” Yoon hissed.

“So it’s just me? I’m honored!” Mizari cackled. Yoon shot him a withering look, but he was hardly bothered.

“Let me just...stay here until I sort my thoughts through,” Yoon grumbled, curling into the fur.

“Feel free to. Just, don’t be surprised if you wake up and find me curled around you and trying to make a snack out of you.” Mizari gave him a toothy grin.

“Yeah, I’m not going to sleep with you around. Ever.” Yoon turned away, his instincts on alert and thoughts sorting through his head. What had he done wrong for Iksoo to turn away from him? Iksoo had never treated Yoon like that even when Yoon had the worst of mood swings and anger bouts. The times were changing though and maybe Iksoo had grown tired of having to serve a relic of the past.

Yoon chuckled dryly as he pictured the red haired girl and the stunned look on her face.

The times changed and they were cruel to smaller Gods like Yoon. The last time he had actually received continuous visits was when some pregnant lady’s husband had been terrified out of his mind that his wife would die when their child would be born. Yoon remembered the way the man had come and practically prostrated in front of the shrine, his sister-in-law bowing her head next to him. Yoon had told them repeatedly that he would bless the man’s wife and child with health, but the man kept coming and being ridiculous in front of the shrine like Yoon was some kind of tyrant and Yoon had sighed and then descended the mountain to go and visit the man’s wife himself.

She had been weak and clearly suffering, but Yoon had been able to sense a strength in her. Childbirth would not be her death. He had blessed her and left. Of course, that didn’t stop the man and his sister-in-law from coming to the shrine until the baby had been born. She had clearly been strong enough and yet her husband was terrified. He had needed to do something himself for a situation he hadn’t been sure he could control.

Oh.

Humans were so stupid.

“Mizari, I’m leaving,” Yoon got up only to realize Mizari had slithered closer to him.

“So soon?” Mizari asked, calm about having been caught inching closer to Yoon in an attempt to eat him.

“Yes, and clearly, I shouldn’t be staying here much longer anyways,” Yoon deadpanned.

Mizari only grinned at him.

------o------

The moment Yoon had bounded into the shrine area, Iksoo was upon him, broken arm and all. He was crying his eyes out and Yoon was sure he saw some snot. He was in Iksoo’s arms - arm - the next moment. Yoon let the priest hug him and wail in near hysterics silently. If Yoon had learned anything about humans, it was that sometimes, he had to let them do whatever it was that they were doing first, before doing anything else.

“I thought you left me to find another priest!” Iksoo wailed.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Yoon scoffed. “As of now, you are the only priest that can serve me,” Iksoo pulled away and there really was snot on his face.

“Really?” Iksoo asked.

“Yes,” Yoon sighed, using his sleeve to wipe Iksoo’s face and he felt like they had gone back in time, when Iksoo was just a child that peered at Yoon from behind his teacher’s skirts. “Although one day, you will bring the next priest here and I will learn that there is a time where only they can serve me,” Yoon smiled gently at Iksoo and Iksoo looked startled and smiled back. It was a sad smile.

“What a terribly lonely existence you have,” Iksoo murmured.

“Eh, I’m fine,” Yoon shrugged. “Anyways, Iksoo...I have to apolo-” Yoon started but then Iksoo started shaking him violently.

“I figured out a solution for this!” Iksoo said excitedly.

“A solution?” Yoon asked, trying to make Iksoo stop shaking him. Yoon would knock into his broken arm if he wasn’t careful.

“Yes! We’re going to hire part time shrine maidens!” Iksoo said proudly.

“What?” Yoon asked flatly.

“I came across uniforms in the old dusty store rooms of the priests’ quarters!” Iksoo said.

“Ah, those were used when we used to hire helpers for the festivals,” Yoon shrugged.

“And we’ll hire them beforehand this time! It’ll increase shrine visits and we can plan perfectly for the festival! And maybe if they’re interested they’ll become full time shrine maidens!” Iksoo said.

“Iksoo,” Yoon sighed. “You know how I feel about the festival,”

“I know, but you can’t change my mind,” Iksoo said.

“Alright,” Yoon nodded. “I’ll leave the festival in your hands,” Iksoo beamed. “And I’ll attempt to revive the flowers by bleeding on them,”

“What?!”

------o------

Yoon crouched by the flowers, glowering at them. If looks could kill, the flowers would have rotted away by now. He hadn’t attempted to bleed on the flowers yet. He may have traumatized Iksoo by simply mentioning the idea and so he waited until Iksoo had gone to town to experiment. If it didn’t go so well, Yoon would just wash away the blood with water.

What could possibly go wrong?

Yoon looked at one sharp nail on his hand and then drew it carefully across his skin, watching in detached interest as red blood seeped through the cut and then bubbled up, dripping down his hand. Yoon situated the hand over the flowers, watching it drip onto the petals, staining the pretty flowers with vibrant red.

And then Iksoo screamed.

In pure horror.

Yoon started and Iksoo rushed towards him, grabbing Yoon’s injured hand with his uninjured one.

“What are you doing?” Iksoo cried.

“Attempting to revive the flowers?” Yoon said dumbly, picking up the watering can with his free hand.

“Don’t do that!” Iksoo shouted.

“Weren’t you in town?” Yoon asked.

“Ah! That’s right!” Iksoo said, remembering whatever it was that he needed to. “You need to come quick! Grandma Hana is dying!”

Yoon dropped the watering can and it clanged against the stone pavement.

------o------

Chapter Text

Yona was one of the unfortunate people to witness Grandma Hana fall over in her shop. The other one had been the head priest of the shrine. Hak had caught Grandma Hana and then the head priest had called the ambulance. Hak and Yona had gone straight to the hospital with her while the priest ran towards the shrine in panic. Yona had an inkling as to what he was doing. Hak and Yona waited outside of the emergency room while the boy that worked part time at Grandma Hana’s shop attempted to call her grandson who was in Tokyo.

Yona tried not to think of her own mother and how Yona had been seven when she had fallen over in the kitchen. The tea cups she had been filling shattered, tea spilled all over her beautiful black hair and soaked through her cardigan. Not a single teacup shard had pierced her skin and yet, they couldn’t save her. The doctors had said it had been a miracle she had been alive at all. Yona hated not being able to lift a finger while someone just died.

The head priest came running into the hospital and like Yona had expected, behind him came the kitsune. His hand was bleeding and he was pale, a distressed look on his face. Yona wanted to ask why he was bleeding. It was such a stark contrast to his pale skin. The head priest drew to a halt next to Yona and Hak and the kitsune didn’t even look at them. He just went straight towards the emergency room door.

“No one can go in yet,” Yona spoke up before she could stop herself. Hak and the priest looked at her and the kitsune didn’t even flinch. He stayed paused in front of the door and then slowly turned back to look at her.

“In your opinion,” he said. His voice sounded gravelly and he pushed open the door and walked in, startling both Hak and the boy frantically trying to call Grandma Hana’s son. Yona was about to start to her feet, but the head priest put his hand on her shoulder.

“Let him go,” the priest smiled at her. It was strained.

They waited in silence.

Yona thought about the kitsune, about how he had talked about Grandma Hana fondly. She looked up at the head priest who was worrying his lower lip with his teeth. His arm was broken, so it seemed. Yona wanted to ask him about the kitsune and what Grandma Hana meant to him. But the atmosphere wouldn’t let her speak a word. The kitsune was sad. Horrifyingly so.

“Fortunately for you, little girl, I don’t curse people. It’s not in my nature. I’ve gotten into a fight or two, but cursing is something I wouldn’t touch with the tip of my tail.”

Cursing people wasn’t in the kitsune’s nature, but helping people was. Yona remembered how she had scoured the library and internet resources for information about the local kitsune god. He was a God of Agriculture and Medicine. Even when the humans tried to hunt him down, he had never hurt them and instead gave them prosperity.

“What kind of God is that?”

“A kind God?”

The kitsune was a kind God.

The doors opened and the doctors came out. All of them shot to their feet.

“Can I speak to the guardian?” the doctor at the front said.

“Her...guardian is in Kuuto. I’ve been trying to contact him but it won’t get through. I am someone that works in her shop though,” The boy to the priest’s right said.

“We did all we could, but it wasn’t enough. I’m sorry,” the doctor said gently.

“Oh,” the boy said and then Yona watched him fall. The priest caught him with his good hand. Yona then realized that the kitsune hadn’t come out yet. She pushed past the doctors, rushing into the room. She heard Hak call her name.

The kitsune was kneeling by Grandma Hana’s bed, holding her hand, forehead pressed to her wrinkly knuckles.

“Iksoo, what is the point?” the kitsune asked, his voice still gravelly. “I tried. I tried everything I could. But I only delayed her death. I made her suffer more. What use are my powers when I can’t save even one of my loyal followers?” there was a bite in his tone that cut through Yona. “It’s pointless. Geuntae was right. My land is dying. My power is diminishing. I keep blaming people saying that they won’t come to my shrine. But it’s really my fault. I’m not Geuntae that inspires people to worship him. I’m not Mizari, I can’t attract people to me with my charm. I can’t do anything. Maybe I deserve to lose followers. To fade away. And then my shrine will become some historical relic and that stupid girl can put it in her bro...bro...I don’t even care what it’s called!” his hands tightened around Grandma Hana’s hand. “She was one of the very few that I had left. I could feel part of me die with her. I’m fading, Iksoo. You should let go of me too. Go find someone better to serve.”

Yona watched him silently, her heart crying for this kind kitsune God.

“Iksoo?” The kitsune turned around and his red rimmed eyes met hers. Anger bloomed across his face. “Get out! Go away!” the kitsune roared.

“Yoon?” the priest ran into the room.

“Iksoo! Get her out! Now! I can’t bear to look at her right now! Get her out!” the kitsune turned away, burying his face into Grandma Hana’s hand and screaming. The priest hurriedly grabbed Yona’s hand and started to pull her away.

“There is a point!” Yona said urgently.

“Please, miss,” the priest begged.

“There is a point! There is a point to all of th-” Yona wanted to cry.

“Go away!” Yoon slammed one hand into the floor and the tile cracked.

“Please!” the priest continued to try to pull her away.

“Wait! I want to say something!” Yona hissed.

“Yona, what are you doing?” Hak’s voice.

“You’re not those other Gods. You will never be those other Gods! But you’re our God! Listen to me!” Yona snapped.

“Please take her out before she gets hurt!” the priest said.

“He won’t hurt me!” Yona near shouted. But Hak was already hauling her out of the room. “Listen to me!”

------o------

“Yona, I heard you caused a scene at the hospital?” her father asked her. Yona frowned down at her food. There it was, the concern, the way he tried to sound sympathetic, understanding. He just wanted to cage her in, trap her in his tiny little world so that she wouldn’t leave him the way her mother did. But Yona wasn’t her mother. She wasn’t just going to disappear forever. And if she did, well, what happened happened. Her father couldn’t hang onto her in desperation to keep her by his side. She was her own whole person. Not just his daughter.

“It’s not what you think it was,” Yona muttered.

“Yona, you can talk to me about these things. I know you don’t like hospitals-” her father said gently.

“The one who doesn’t like hospitals is you, not me,” Yona said waspishly. Her father stared at her quietly and Yona got to her feet. “I’m going to school.” she stuffed the last bit of her omelette into her mouth and then got up and left.

Lili was waiting for her near the convenience store and Yona smiled gratefully at her.

“Oh, you have that face,” Lili said.

“What face?” Yona asked.

“The ‘my dad was being unreasonable again’ face,” Lili said.

“Ugh, is it that obvious?” Yona ran a hand down her face.

“Yes,” Lili chuckled. “Well, my dad just gives me the ‘what did you do now’ face these days.” Lili frowned. “Why does he just naturally assume I did something?”

“Because you’re like some kind of natural disaster, Lili,” Yona laughed.

They walked in companionable silence for a bit. Which was never a good thing with Lili cause she always had something to talk about. Yona could count the number of times Lili had stayed quiet on one hand. And all of them involved Lili thinking before she brought about a storm.

“Are you OK?” Lili asked.

“Who told you? You know what, don’t answer that. I know Soowon told you. And he heard it from Hak.” Yona closed her eyes, wanting to sink into the ground.

“Hey, all he told me was that Hak had to bodily drag you out of the hospital screaming after Grandma Hana died in the emergency room. What did you think I was going to think?” Lili asked.

“I wasn’t reliving my mom’s death, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Yona sighed. “I was trying to tell someone something important. And he needed to hear it, even if he wanted me out of his sight immediately.”

“Did you get to tell it to him?Actually you know what, don’t answer that. There’s a reason you were dragged out screaming.” Lili shook her head. “Who was it anyways?”

“If I knew, I’d tell you,” Yona said. After all, what was she supposed to say? The mysterious kitsune God from the shrine on the hill? Lili would take her straight to the hospital. Yona didn’t even know the name of the kitsune God.

No wait.

“Yoon?”

“Yoon,” Yona said the name, rolling it in her mouth and tasting it. “That’s a surprisingly lackluster name.” Ah, but he was a humble kitsune God. Yona had seen other shrines to other Gods in nearby towns. They had been large bustling shrines where everything was flashy and even the Gods’ names had been flashy. Yoon on the other hand was homey and warm. In the nicest kind of way. Although he still definitely was a God.

“Who’s Yoon?” Lili asked.

“The guy I was trying to make a point to,” Yona shrugged. “Still don’t know anything about him though,”

“I’ve never heard of a ‘Yoon’ in our town before,” Lili said.

“Oh trust me when I tell you there is one, but you’ve probably never heard of him before. Ever.” Yona said.

“Eh, weird, but fine,” Lili shrugged. “Oh yeah, whatever happened to getting the shrine’s permission?”

“They said no,” Yona shrugged.

“Huh? Why?” Lili asked. “Iksoo is one of the nicest softest guys around in town,”

“The God said no, silly,” Yona said.

“Huh?” Lili gave her a look.

“I’m serious. Iksoo was totally upset about it,” Yona said.

“Alright then,” Lili shrugged.

And just then Yona spotted a handwritten flyer stuck to the wall next to her. In bubbly and cheerful handwriting was written:

Part Time Shrine Maidens Wanted!

Please come to the Kitsune Shrine if you are interested! Details will be discussed there.

“Wow, that would sound super fishy if that wasn’t written by Iksoo of all people,” Lili leaned over Yona’s shoulder to read the flyer.

“Lili,” Yona said slowly, peeling the flyer off the wall.

“Hm?” Lili asked. Yona turned towards Lili with grin.

“Are you interested in being a part time shrine maiden?” Yona asked.

After all, Yona still had a point to make and regardless of whether she was welcome at the shrine or not. Yoon wouldn’t hurt her. She was sure of it.

------o------

Chapter Text

Yoon pulled himself up from the wooden floor. He hadn’t bothered with laying out his futon. Yoon had told Iksoo he needed time and Iksoo had nodded, threading fingers through Yoon’s hair like Yoon was a child. Well, Yoon didn’t mind it if it was coming from Iksoo. Grandma Hana had been one of Yoon’s few remaining loyal followers. It came as a big blow. Yoon hadn’t been able to help her. He had only made her suffer more. If he had been smart, instead of trying to keep her alive, he should have eased her passing. But no, Yoon had been selfish. He had been desperate not to lose another follower. 

“What kind of God am I?” Yoon muttered. 

Yoon rubbed his eyes. They ached. Yoon had kept himself from crying through mere willpower, but that didn’t mean his eyes hadn’t stung through the entire of the yesterday. Yoon pushed himself up and walked out of the shrine. The front had already been swept, meaning that Iksoo had already been up and about. Yoon sighed. He didn’t know how to discourage his priest to refrain from doing some of his duties with his arm broken.

He didn’t know how to tell Iksoo he was better off just leaving Yoon .

Yoon walked towards the back of the shrine where his personal garden was, filled with trees, a little stream and those stupid flowers that he had bled all over the day before. There were birds in the trees and Yoon thought it had been a while since he had seen any on the shrine grounds. The apple trees looked horrible and Yoon was once again reminded of Grandma Hana.

“I think this appearance suits you. I don’t know who you are, but I think this appearance gives off the feeling of someone who loves.”

Yoon groaned, dropping into a crouch and covering his face with his hands. Grandma Hana had lived for so long and she had seen him once. Just once in her whole life. She had been newly married then and Yoon had been going through town and then had seen her apples. He had been pleased and she had seen him. Yoon assumed she had been desperate at the time, which was why she had seen him, but he had never figured out otherwise. She had given him apples.

Yoon pulled his hands away from his face and started. The flowers in front of him looked gorgeous, luscious and alive. Yoon jumped to his feet. They looked nothing like their droopy selves from the day before. 

These were the flowers he had bled all over!

There was still hope! Yoon could still do something as the God of the land!

Excitedly, Yoon scrambled towards the trees. What if he bled all over their roots? Or at least the soil covering the roots? He could also maybe walk through town, dripping blood all over the place. It would revitalize the town. He could save his land, he could protect them and have them smile more. He didn’t need Geuntae’s help or even Mizari’s. Now the mainland Gods wouldn’t attempt to take over their territory.

“Yoon?” Yoon heard Iksoo’s voice and he quickly ducked behind a tree. He couldn’t do what he was thinking with Iksoo around. Iksoo would die of a heart attack, but not before crying all over Yoon and telling him to please stop.

“Here!” Yoon called.

“Checking the gardens and trees again?” Iksoo asked, hurrying towards Yoon. Yoon’s eyes widened and he darted out of his spot behind the tree and caught Iksoo just as he tripped over a loose rock and fell.

“And I tell you not to come in this direction unless you’re being careful,” Yoon said sternly.

“I was going to go into town again today to put up more flyers and...check up on when Grandma Hana’s funeral is,” Iksoo said.

“Oh,” Yoon said, feeling his stomach twist.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Iksoo asked. 

“I was selfish, Iksoo…” Yoon looked away. “I was so selfish and so desperate. I just didn’t want to lose her. I didn’t want to lose another follower. I’m a God of Medicine! I should understand when the God of Death comes for a human! But instead I was so desperate to keep her alive for just a little while longer so that I wouldn’t lose another follower. I made her suffer instead of helping her feel less pain to ease her passing.” Yoon sighed. “I’m a pathetic God,”

“I’ve always wondered who helps Gods when they need help,” Iksoo’s voice was gentle and soft. “At first I thought that other Gods helped. But I’ve slowly come to understand that Gods cannot truly help other Gods. It’s humans that can help Gods. When a God needs help, humans must come in and play their part. Grandma Hana was someone who would have usually helped you. To you, she was your salvation. I understand it must have been terrifying for you to have to watch her slip away from you. And it’s true it was not the right decision to try to make her stay with you, but I think in desperate times, you are allowed to turn to humans. I think you can be forgiven for trying to save yourself.” 

When did Iksoo start to sound so wise? He had grown up and Yoon hadn’t even seen it happened. It seemed like mere days ago he was a child with scrapes and bruises that sniffled in distress even as he held out golden pears to Yoon eagerly and Yoon wiped his face with his sleeve in exasperation while telling him that he shouldn’t let his master see him like that. And now Iksoo was comforting him with words that sounded too true .

“Don’t you have to go to town?” Yoon asked, trying to change the subject. He wasn’t ready to admit that he needed Iksoo’s help, or any human’s help for that matter of fact. 

Iksoo pulled away and Yoon saw the disappointment on his face.

“Yes, actually. I will see you when I return,” Iksoo got up, bowed slightly in Yoon’s direction and started scrambling away quickly.

“Slowly! Or you’ll hurt yourself!” Yoon shouted after him. 

He heard a faint call in reply and Yoon realized the priest was already trying to go down the stairs.

“Honestly,” Yoon shook his head. “Now,” Yoon turned back to the trees. “I have some bleeding to do.”

------o------

“Hm?” Masu blinked and turned to see Mizari uncurl from his furs, an interested smile on his face. If Masu wasn’t used to those smiles by now, a chill would have gone down his spine. Kija was clearly still not used to them and he lightly dropped the teacup he was holding. Luckily, it was not too far away from the table and only made a loud noise. There were no cracks. “I smell something horribly delicious,”

“Are you hungry?” Masu asked, turned and linking his hands together under his sleeves. Mizari turned two brilliantly green colored eyes on him. 

“You can’t get this for me unfortunately,” Mizari grinned, his sharp teeth splitting his face nearly in half. “I smell kitsune blood. And it smells oh-so-very delicious. I wonder if I should have gobbled him up when he was visiting,”

“Is there something wrong?” Kija asked.

“Oh,” Mizari’s eyes focused on Kija and Masu felt a kind of pity flare in him. Mizari would never eat any of his priests, he was sworn to that at least and he hadn’t eaten any humans in several decades, so that counted for something. But he still enjoyed teasing Kija. “Kija, you’re going to Yoon’s territory soon, aren’t you?” 

“Um...if you mean the exchange program, yes, I am,” Kija blinked and then Mizari started inching closer to them.

“I need you to do something for me,” Mizari said.

“Sure?” Kija said nervously as Mizari encircled him and laid his head on Kija’s shoulder. Masu considered telling Mizari to politely back off, but his health wasn’t getting any better. The sooner Kija got used to Mizari, the better. 

“Yoon is so, so much fun to tease. Especially because he’s like a prickly porcupine but he’s so soft inside. He would be absolutely delicious. It seems he’s relying on extreme methods. I want you to report to me everything you observe about him when you get there. Understood?” Mizari asked.

“I understand,” Kija said.

“Mizari,” Masu said warningly.

“Ah, of course, if you ever think you’re in danger from him, you may back off. But I doubt you will be. That one is notoriously well known for having never laid even one nail on a human.” Mizari chuckled.

“Alright,” Kija nodded.

------o------

Bleeding all over the town had turned out to be not as difficult as Yoon thought it would be. He thought Iksoo would instantly notice the blood and pop out of some pothole and be upon Yoon in hysterics. Yoon just had to avoid people he knew had sharper eyes and just walk through town, dripping blood on the side of the streets. No one would notice the yokai blood and animals would steer clear of it, knowing what it was. 

His task was meant to be a quick one, so that he could return home before Iksoo did. He had taken a little longer than he intended, but still managed to return home before Iksoo could return from his daily town runs. Yoon didn’t have to stay around for Iksoo. To be honest, he was free to roam around and Iksoo had absolutely no say in it. But, Yoon had to keep an eye on Iksoo since he had a broken arm now. And Iksoo was stressed with the festival preparations. 

Yoon was just starting to check the meager prayers left at the shrine when someone entered the shrine grounds. He turned around to see a girl with long black hair and sharp blue eyes climb up the stairs. She was wearing a school uniform and was holding a school bag. Instantly Yoon was reminded of the red haired girl and he felt uncomfortable.

“Calm down, it’s just a student,” he told himself as he watched her look around the shrine. And then her eyes met his.

“You’re not Iksoo,” she said.

Yoon’s eyes widened.

“Of course I’m not,” Yoon snapped.

“I don’t even think you belong in town,” she said.

“That’s what you think,” Yoon spat. She drank in his appearance and Yoon moved his injured hand behind himself. Her gaze lingered a little too long on the top of his head.

“Are you even human?” she asked skeptically.

“You tell me, little girl,” Yoon said, baring his teeth.

“Apparently not,” she didn’t seem the least bothered by the fact. Yoon stared at her for a bit and then concluded that she was desperate.

“Do you need something?” Yoon asked.

“Are you Iksoo?” she shot at him.

“No, but I have more right to this shrine than he does,” Yoon frowned.

“I’m here for the part time shrine maiden thing,” she shrugged.

“You don’t seem very interested,” Yoon commented.

“Not really, but I need the money and random work experience. My friend on the other hand is very excited. She will be on her way soon.” She held out Iksoo’s handwritten flyer towards Yoon. Yoon sniffed at her warily before taking the flyer from her. “Since you’re the big guy here, tell me, am I accepted?” she asked, giving him a lazy look. 

“Which family are you from?” Yoon asked.

“The Ahn family,” she said.

“You’re accepted,” Yoon said. The Ahn family made donations to shrine maintenance without fail every year. They also had a long history of well brought up children that knew custom well. Yoon thought this black haired girl in front of him would suit the part of shrine maiden very well.

“My friend should be here in a bit. I’m not going to work here without her,” the girl thought that now was a good time to mention that.

“Who’s your friend?” Yoon asked.

“Ah, her name is-” The girl started.

“Lili!” An ear splitting female voice that Yoon knew well interrupted the girl.

“Yoon!” Iksoo’s equally loud scream followed.

The red haired girl and Iksoo dashed up the stairs and before Yoon could even tell what was happening, both of them were in his face and Iksoo had grabbed one of his shoulders and was shaking him violently.

“Yoon! What did you do?” Iksoo wailed.

“Why is your blood all over town?” The girl shrieked.

“Yona, you’re late,” the black haired girl said.

Yoon was going to have a headache. 

------o------

Chapter Text

“Please, for the love of all that Geuntae holds dear, tell me that she isn’t trying to become a shrine maiden here,” Yoon groaned and put one hand against his face. Yona tried not to grin mischievously because she was indeed about to become a shrine maiden whether he liked it or not.

“I am,” Yona said.

“No,” Yoon snapped.

“Yes,” she said right back.

“I thought I told you that you weren’t welcome here,” Yoon growled.

“I thought you were a patient God, but you don’t even listen to people explain themselves,” Yona crossed her arms.

“Don’t test me!” Yoon snarled. 

OK, Yona had to admit he looked pretty threatening, what with him flattening his ears and baring his teeth and showing off his very long nails - did he always have those? But, Yona had seen cats that acted the same way, so that calmed her down right away. Yona decided to up her game, just a little bit.

“Do you want me to just say whatever I had to say at the hospital?” Yona asked with a raised eyebrow. She saw something change in his eyes for just a second, a flash of immense sadness on his face and then it was replaced by cool rage. Wind whipped around them and the squirrels in the trees started chattering in alarm, groups of crows cawed violently.

“You really want to make me angry?” Yoon asked coldly.

Maybe this was a bad idea .

“You won’t hurt me,” Yona said, trying to glare at him. “We both know that,”

“Want me to change that today, little girl?” Yoon asked.

OK, so bad idea. Abort, abort, ab-

“Yoon!” Iksoo whacked Yoon on the top of his head and Yoon’s ears twitched in annoyance. The threatening atmosphere was gone immediately. Iksoo smacked his head again. “Stop frightening and threatening children! I won’t stand for it. Do you understand?” A low whine left Yoon’s throat.

“But she-” Yoon started to complain.

“No,” Iksoo said firmly, an angry pout on his face. Yoon whined even louder.

“Don’t make that face,” Yoon complained. “You know I really am weak to that face.”

“I’m hiring her and that’s final,” Iksoo said with a huff.

“What?” Yoon cried out. “But Iksoo, I can’t stand her!” 

“And she’s just a human child. It’s fine!” Iksoo said.

“I don’t want to!” Yoon snapped.

“I will call Lord Geuntae to interfere if you continue acting this way,” Iksoo frowned.

“What? You would betray me like that?” Yoon cried out.

“It’s extreme measures! Because you never respect my decisions!” Iksoo turned away.

“Hey! That’s not true! Look at me! Iksoo!” Yoon tried to get Iksoo to turn towards him, but everytime he did, Iksoo would look away. Lili sidled up next to Yona as they watched the priest and kitsune bicker.

This is kind of cute, Yona thought.

“Are we watching a family drama?” Lili whispered. “Should I have brought snacks?”

“Lili, you can see him?” Yona asked.

“So it seems,” Lili shrugged.

“Alright fine!” Yoon erupted. “They can stay and work here! Are you happy?”

Iksoo spun around with what looked like the brightest look on his face and he jumped at Yoon, nearly tripping over if the kitsune hadn’t hurriedly caught him. Iksoo wrapped his good arm around Yoon. 

“I’ll make it so that we have the best festival ever! And you’ll enjoy it!” Iksoo said. Yona saw a fond smile spread across Yoon’s face as he patted Iksoo’s back and her heart grew warm.

“I look forward to it,” Yoon said. 

“So are we accepted or do we have to go another round of family drama? In which case, I’ll go get snacks.” Lili leaned against Yona. Yoon sent her a look. 

“Iksoo, I’m going to go rest,” Yoon said sourly.

“Alright,” Iksoo nodded. “You and I have to talk about your blood all over town though,” Iksoo said. Yoon sighed heavily.

“Fine,” then he turned and walked away, disappearing into the shrine.

Iksoo turned to them, a smile on his face. 

“Welcome, Miss Lili and Miss Yona!” He clapped his hands together. “I apologize for the disturbance. Yoon can be very moody and the Goddess of Luck hasn’t been kind to him lately. Please join me in the priests’ quarters for some tea and then we can discuss the job at hand!”

------o------

“Ah, we have some leftover apple pie,” Yona and Lili watched Iksoo shuffled through the kitchen. They had offered to help him since he had a broken arm and all that, but he had adamantly refused and told them to sit down. He took several trips to bring them tea and plates covered with large generous slices of delicious smelling apple pie.

“You cook?” Yona asked him.

“Me?” Iksoo blinked in surprise. “Oh no, I can barely get by at all. The one that does all the cooking is Yoon,” 

“He cooks?” Yona and Lili cried out at the same time.

“I suppose that is surprising,” Iksoo rubbed the back of his head. “He didn’t really cook, you know. He did basic stuff to get by himself and the priests before me gave him plenty of food and offerings. But then my master died and I couldn’t do anything at all. I thought I could just maybe eat the apples and fruits and flowers from Yoon’s garden and survive. But Yoon wouldn’t let that happen. He barged into the kitchen one day, screaming at me for eating all his apples and fruits as soon as they were ripe and then sniffed around the kitchen for a week and read cook books he found here in the kitchen. By the end of the week I was eating healthy meals again,” Iksoo chuckled. “I can do some things recently, so I told him that he doesn’t need to do anything anymore, but he won’t hear a word. I’ll walk into the kitchen in the mornings and he’ll have made food for the entire day and stored it all in the fridge. Sometimes when he’s in a good mood he’ll make apple pie or sweets or something.”

“So he made this?” Yona asked, poking the delicious looking apple pie with her fork.

“He did,” Iksoo nodded. 

Yona took a bite out of it. It tasted warm and cinnamon-y and apple-y and perfect. It tasted like home. It tasted like a happy home. It tasted like a warm spring morning when her mother was still alive and Yona would wake up to the smell of breakfast, the humming of her mother in the kitchen and the sound of her father gently reading the newspaper out loud for her mother. It tasted like everything Yona ever wanted. 

“Oh dear,” she heard Iksoo say and when she looked up, he was holding out tissues to both Yona and Lili. “I forgot Yoon’s food did this to people. After a while, you get used to it.” 

Yona realized there were tears streaming down her cheeks and when she turned, Lili was sniffling as well.

After they wiped their tears and blew their noses, Lili and Yona finished their apple pie slices with some difficulty and then Iksoo got to business.

“As you know, we hold a festival every year,” Iksoo said. 

“I do! I do!” Lili almost shot out of her seat. “I love the festival!”

“I’m glad,” Iksoo smiled. “We’re having some difficulty arranging for the festival this year.” Iksoo suddenly looked sad. “People don’t want to have much to do with the shrine anymore. Yoon is losing followers, we’re losing money, we’re not getting much donations and what’s worse is, other Gods are trying to nose their way into Yoon’s territory. It’s hard for Yoon. He refuses to blame anyone and is still trying to do his best for this land even though the people have turned away from him. I think in my case, I have failed as his priest.”

“That can’t be-” Yona started, feeling horrified. She had had no idea and then she had come bumbling into Yoon’s shrine and asked if she could make it a historic sightseeing spot.

“It’s true,” Iksoo said. “And now Yoon is doing stupid things like bleeding all over the town!” Iksoo looked like he was going to crumple in on himself and cry. Yona remembered how it felt seeing blood on the side of the street and pointing it out to Hak only to have him tell her he didn’t see anything. She had known then and there it was Yoon’s blood. For a second she was scared that something had happened to the local God and she had ran as fast as she could only to knock into Iksoo who had been terrified out of his mind. For Yona, Yoon was just a God that she had weirdly gotten attached to. For Iksoo, Yoon was everything. Yoon had raised Iksoo and to Iksoo he was family. “So I thought up an idea!” Iksoo brightened again. “I saw the shrine maiden uniforms we use during festivals and I thought, what if we were to hire part time shrine maidens? We still have enough money to pay them wage and that way we can put more heads together to figure out how to increase shrine visits and promote the festival!” 

“I see!” Yona said. 

“Just asking, but how much are we being paid?” Lili asked. 

“Ah, I calculated the costs and considered how long you both will be working here and concluded that I can pay the both of you this much,” Iksoo pushed a piece of paper at them and Yona and Lili peered at it. So they were being paid as much as they would be paid if they had worked part time in a grocery store. It seemed a bit much for the work that they were doing, but Yona wasn’t going to say anything that might discourage Iksoo.

“Alright, I’m in,” Lili said.

“I’m glad!” Iksoo beamed. “Would you like to see the uniforms to check their sizes and such?” 

“Yes, please,” Lili said and Yona followed her, glancing out of the kitchen window to see that Yoon was looking in their direction. When his eyes caught hers, he glared and slammed the shrine doors shut.

------o------

Lili was horribly pleased with the uniforms and Yona found that one of them fit her well. Iksoo showed them around the shrine, explaining some of their duties as they went. Yona looked out over the town from where she stood and wondered what it was like for Yoon for this place to be his entire world and to have that world turn against him. How lonely had he been as shrine visits decreased? How long had he stood exactly where she was and wondered if anyone would come at all? How long had he laughed and smiled and gave his all to humans who did nothing but take his kindness for granted? 

“Yona? I’m going to go get some apple pie for my parents. Do you want me to get some for your dad?” Lili asked.

“No,” Yona shook her head. “I’m fine. You go ahead. I’ll wait for you here.”

“Alright,” Lili nodded and then followed Iksoo towards the priests’ quarters and caught his arm when he tripped over a stone. Yona walked over to the shrine, passing the altar and the bell. She put her hand on the shuttered doors and noticed that the wood smelled like apples. 

“Yoon?” she asked. 

She heard a hiss in reply. She nodded and then headed back to the front of the altar. She rang the bells and then clapped her hands together, closing her eyes. 

“I’m sorry for having insulted your shrine. I did not know what I was saying. I’m very sorry and I understand if you don’t forgive me.” Yona paused, wondering what to say next. “Please give us your blessing that we may be healthy and strong and never give up as we try to bring this shrine back to its former glory and make the festival a success. I’m not going to ask you for good luck or anything because we will absolutely have the entire town bustle through this shrine and pay their respects to you. ” Yona grinned. “You just have to sit back and watch.”

“Yona!” Lili ran towards her and Yona turned to her. “Let’s go!”

The two of them headed back to their homes and Yona was suddenly curious.

“Why did you suddenly get so hyped up?” Yona asked.

“Eh? It was nothing. I just liked the shrine maiden uniforms,” Lili shrugged.

“Sure…” Yona said slowly. Lili wasn’t fooling anyone.

“What about you? Why are you so attached to this Yoon? He doesn’t seem to like you at all,” Lili said.

“I don’t know,” Yona admitted. “Actually...I think I owe him. I think...he let my mother stay by my side for longer than she would have,” 

“Is that so?” Lili asked.

“Yeah,” Yona murmured. 

------o------

Chapter Text

Iksoo spent a long time wrapping bandages carefully around Yoon’s hand although he didn’t need it. While he fussed over Yoon’s hand, Yoon explained to him carefully as to why he had bled all over the garden and the town. It all was very logical. Yoon had finally found a way to give to the town although his powers as a God was fading. Just because he wouldn’t be a God anymore, didn’t mean he was going to stop being a kitsune anytime soon. He just had to use the powers that he did have. 

“You don’t have to do that for the town!” Iksoo snapped. “I’ll handle things and increase visits to the shrine and then you can have your powers as a God back!”

“And what of the gap in between?” Yoon asked.

“The town will survive!” Iksoo said.

“I can’t let that happen. I’m the God of this land. You won’t be changing my mind, Iksoo,” Yoon said. 

“I know,” Iksoo sighed. “I have served you for almost my entire life. I know what you’re like.” Iksoo straightened up. “But it doesn’t make me happy,” Yoon shrugged, looking away. 

He had felt it as soon as the sun set. Darkness trying to sneak into his territory. He still had some sway with his powers, so nothing had made it in yet. But it was only a matter of time. Of course, none of them would be able to enter shrine grounds, but they would prowl around town in the middle of the night. 

“Iksoo, stay inside the priests’ quarters tonight and don’t come out until the sun rises. Do you understand?” Yoon turned to Iksoo. Iksoo watched Yoon curiously for a moment before he nodded. “Go and have dinner and go straight to sleep,” 

“Alright, good night, Yoon. Please don’t stress yourself.” Iksoo bowed slightly and then shut the shrine doors. Yoon twitched his ears made sure he heard Iksoo enter the house. Yoon could feel it, something powerful sitting on the edge of his vision, waiting, just like Yoon was, for Iksoo to fall asleep. It took Iksoo a while with his clumsiness but then he was asleep.

“Your priest is incompetent,” a voice spoke up just across from Yoon. Yoon looked up to meet eyes with Kouren’s pale blue ones. 

“That’s not any of your business,” Yoon scoffed. 

“Oh?” she stood up and Yoon nearly shrank into his corner. The candles all went out and the lights went dim. Yoon’s eyes flickered towards the twisted horns on her head and then back to her sharp eyes. Foxes were powerful. But dragons were much, much, much more powerful.

“You shed blood and invite darkness into your territory and only make room for the mainland Gods. If that is not your priest’s fault, who is it?” she asked. Yoon hissed, getting to his feet.

“Mine,” Yoon said. 

“Don’t make me laugh! You’ve done all you can as a God. You’ve done so for centuries. And now when the humans fail you, you dare to protect your priest who can’t even do his job right?” She asked. 

“Iksoo has never done anything wrong. He has served me well ever since his predecessor died. He works too hard actually, even when I tell him not to. You aren’t even one of my neighbors. You’re not allowed to come in here and tell me how my priest should work. How dare all of you accuse my priest of failing. I raised him, I turned him into the fine priest that he is now. And you dare say my priest has failed me?” Yoon thundered. Iksoo was his priest! All those Gods that looked down on Iksoo had no right to.

“You’re treating him like he’s your child. I know you’ve raised him and that’s why you’re too soft when it comes to him. He isn’t your child.” Kouren glared down at Yoon. 

“I don’t treat him like my child. By human standards he is a full adult too. Since you’re so knowledgeable about how many centuries I’ve been here, you should know that I have seen children become adults, grow old and then die. And the same will happen to Iksoo. I know this. But I suppose there is some truth that I treat him like a child. Because in our eyes, aren’t all humans children? Unless you see humans as adults, Lady Kouren?” Yoon laughed and Kouren’s eyes narrowed. “Children need the help of their parents. Humans need the help of the Gods, even when they are rebellious and turn away from us. And they all try to grow up in their own way. Iksoo has grown into a fine adult and you don’t get to say otherwise.”

“You’re too soft, Fox God. If you’re like this, you will only be hurt time and time again,” Kouren frowned. She looked angry and Yoon wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to hold her off, if she really became angry. 

“And that’s my own problem. Not yours. You’re not Geuntae who comes as friend regularly. You’re not even Mizari who is crafty and tries to devour me or take advantage of my weaknesses, but still hears me out. To me, Lady Kouren, you are simply some distant God that comes for your own purposes. You’re not concerned about me or my people in the least. You just want to keep yourself safe. Since you are neither a friend or an acquaintance, the next time you come, please ask for permission before you enter my territory.” Yoon said cooly, but preparing to lash out at a moment’s notice. 

“You’re awfully arrogant for a mere fox,” Kouren raised to her full height and the shadows within the shrine lengthened. “I came to give you a warning and you treat me like this?”

“I may be a fox, but I am behaving like a God, Lady Kouren,” Yoon snarled, flattening his ears against his skull. “Tell me which God wouldn’t behave like this if you did whatever you liked in their territory?” 

“In comparison to me, you are nothing but a young and arrogant fox. I should put you in your place,” Kouren had no expression on her face as she stared at him.

“I may be losing my powers, but I’m sure I can hold you off and protect Iksoo from you long enough for Geuntae to come to my aid. And trust me when I tell you he would come to my aid. Maybe even Mizari would show up to watch the show.” Yoon bared his teeth at her. The room got darker and black shadows fell across Kouren’s face, her pale blue eyes still glowing. 

“You’ve decided to not heed my warnings. Should anything happen to your territory, I will rally the other Gods and invade and suppress and relieve you of your duties so as to not allow the mainland Gods the freedom to flood our lands.” Kouren gave him one last icy glare and the entire shrine went pitch black. Yoon could feel that the dragon goddess had left, but he still stayed tensed, crouching in the corner of his shrine until all the lights came back on of their own accord. 

Yoon fell to the floor, his hands shaking and blood on his palms from where his nails had cut into his skin.

------o------

Yoon breathed in the sharp and fresh morning air as he stepped out of the priests’ quarters. Regardless of whether bad things happened or emergencies happened, he still had to make meals for Iksoo. The cuts on his hands had already closed over with smooth skin and Yoon gazed at his hands for a bit and wished he could give some of his healing ability to Iksoo. 

Ah, that was right. That girl had prayed for Yoon to keep everyone healthy while they prepared and organized the festival. 

“Yoon,” Iksoo said in surprise when he stepped out of the priests’ quarters. “Is something wrong?” Yoon turned to him. It was a prayer...so maybe…

“Stay still,” Yoon stared at Iksoo’s broken arm. He couldn’t just heal it or the humans would get suspicious. But relieving pain and speeding the healing process were within what he could do. Yoon patted down the cast for a bit, feeling for the broken bone and closed his eyes. Yoon did this regularly for Iksoo’s less serious injuries. But for injuries like broken bones, if Iksoo healed too quickly, humans would shun him. Yoon drew the pain out slowly, channeling it into the ground and then prompted Iksoo’s bone to heal faster. “There,” Yoon pulled away, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand.

“Are you sure you want to waste your energy and powers on that?” Iksoo asked softly.

“What are you talking about?” Yoon raised an eyebrow. “I’m answering a prayer.”

“A prayer?” Iksoo cried out. 

“Yes, yes,” Yoon waved him off. “Don’t you have duties to attend to?”

“I do!” Iksoo said and rushed off. Yoon smiled after him. 

Yoon went to the garden to check on all the plants. They looked fresh and were flourishing. Yoon could feel the pulse of life thrumming through each of the plants, a stark contrast to how it had been nothing but a dull trickle recently. Yoon sighed in relief and turned towards the town. He could feel the life lifting off of the town and into the air. 

Yoon could taste prosperity in his lands once more. 

In the day time, the darkness that was drawn by the smell of his blood had to retreat, so the town was safe, Yoon and Iksoo were safe. But that still didn’t mean that Yoon could go into town yet. Once the barrier was breached, Yoon would have to forbid Iksoo from going out as well. It was easy to spot one with a God’s blessing. 

Once upon a time, Yoon may have very well been considered a part of that darkness. It felt like such a long time ago, even for someone like Yoon that felt like years were days. But now, Yoon was a holy being, one that stayed on the inside of a protective barrier and not the outside of it. Some days Yoon woke up feeling like he had gone back in time and him having a shrine was some kind of surreal dream.

“It seems like they made you a shrine, young one.”

“Oh? Geuntae, who is this tasty looking child?”

“Stop drooling, he’s the new God here!”

“But he doesn’t look very happy about it. Maybe I would do him a favor by eating him?”

“Leave him be. He isn’t sure how to handle this. They were just trying to kill him a week ago.”

“Poor child. If you let me eat you, you won’t have to look so scared.”

Yoon sucked in a sharp breath, as an unwanted memory flooded him. 

Tch, why were those two his neighbors?

“Ugh, forget it. Either way, I have to make my shrine stop stinking like dragon.” Yoon stretched his arms and closed his eyes, focusing on purifying his territory.

------o------

“I wonder why Ahn Lili can see me,” Yoon murmured. He was sitting on top of one of the fox statues and was looking over the town. The sun shown brilliantly but it wasn’t as harsh as it was during noon time. People that weren’t like Iksoo or that red haired girl couldn’t see him. There were some with sharp senses, like the dark haired boy that had sensed Yoon’s presence. So many used to have the sight like Iksoo back in the day, but faith was fading. Very few could actually see him now. 

Yoon’s only conclusion was that Ahn Lili was desperate. Usually, the reason people could see him when they were desperate was so that they could be saved by Yoon. And most of the time, Yoon saved them. But there were rare cases like Hana and Ahn Lili who wouldn’t tell Yoon what they wanted even though he was clearly there to help them. It bothered him. Yoon never knew why Hana had been desperate that one time that she had seen him, but he had never been able to save her and it ate away at him now that she was gone. 

He couldn’t let that happen to Ahn Lili. 

It would be a stain on his pride as a God for the people. 

“I’ll figure out what she wants slowly. She doesn’t seem the type to just tell me her problems,” Yoon grumbled to himself and slouched forwards on the fox statue.

“Hm?” Iksoo asked, walking up next to Yoon.

“I’m contemplating,” Yoon told him.

“About?” Iksoo asked.

“Ahn Lili,” Yoon shrugged.

“Ah,” Iksoo nodded understandingly. “She is hard to understand.”

“I don’t think I like her very much. But it seems she’s in need of my help,” Yoon frowned.

“I think that’s what makes you one of the best Gods,” Iksoo smiled softly and then ran his fingers through Yoon’s hair. Yoon didn’t move, content to let Iksoo do whatever he wanted. “Yoon, Grandma Hana’s funeral is tomorrow. Are you going to go?”

Yoon tensed.

“I’ll go,” Yoon said. He knew it was a bad idea to go out when there were things lurking right outside his barrier. But Hana had done so much for him in ways she hadn’t even known. And Iksoo was going to go. It would be better if Yoon were there to protect him. 

“We’re here!” the red haired girl’s voice rang out and Iksoo and Yoon turned towards the stairs where Ahn Lili and the red haired girl appeared. Ahn Lili looked the least interested, but the red haired girl…

“Welcome,” Iksoo said with a bright smile.

“Yoon, are you OK? How is your hand?” the red haired girl asked excitedly. Yoon stared at her. Her red hair was practically flying in the wind and her eyes were crinkled shut as she grinned when he sat up to raise his hand with disinterest. “I’m glad!” she said. 

Yoon frowned.

What a weird human.

------o------

Chapter Text

Yona couldn’t seem to find a way to explain what she felt for the kitsune God anymore. Although she told Lili it was a sense of debt of sorts, Soowon thought it was plain curiosity and Hak was convinced she was just being bitter and stubborn. Yona had no idea what she thought of the kitsune anymore. She had seen a side to him that she hadn’t expected when Grandma Hana had passed away and she had felt a kind of understanding. As she had stood there watching Yoon clutch Grandma Hana’s hand in almost desperation even though she was already gone, Yona had seen herself. A young seven year old girl, asking shakily for her mother to open her eyes. 

I have to save him , her heart had thought. 

She knew inside that he was a God, he had been around for so long, had seen so many births and deaths, and he probably didn’t need her help in the least. But Yona couldn’t stop now. She had fallen into a rabbit hole that consisted of pleasant brown ears, the smell of apples and expressive blue eyes. There was no turning back now. 

And as she ran up the stairs and saw Yoon sitting perched on a fox statue, Iksoo’s hand in his hair, she couldn’t stop the smile from spreading across her face as he didn’t reject her on sight. 

She was going to save him .

There wasn’t as much to do as Yona was expecting. Their duties were simple and Iksoo told them the right way to pray and clean. Most of Yona and Lili’s duties were to simply attend to the shrine in case someone came by and think up ideas on how to promote the shrine and festival. 

Yoon didn’t lock himself into the shrine, he went to observe all the plants on shrine grounds, even the little grasses that peeked out from between pavement stones. Occasionally, he looked up from the plants to tell Iksoo to be careful and it occurred to Yona that Yoon was constantly watching Iksoo. He always seemed to notice when Iksoo was going to hurt himself or create some kind of disaster and would tell Iksoo to watch himself just before it would happen. Now Lili was keeping an ear out for when Yoon spoke to make sure nothing happened to the clumsy priest either.

“You sure seem to take care of Iksoo,” Yona commented, putting down a watering can next to Yoon.

“I don’t need him worsening that broken bone,” Yoon rolled his eyes. Yona wanted to ask if that had anything to do with her prayer, but that was probably a bad idea. It was a miracle he was talking to her at all. Yona was starting to notice that any time Yoon could be mistaken as affectionate, he acted like he was troubled and uninterested. Yona would have chuckled to herself had it been anyone else. 

“How did you and Iksoo meet?” Yona asked, watering the flowers and bushes. 

“His predecessor brought him here. They were distant relatives, I think. His parents died in an accident and he had no one else to take care of him. I guess it was by some stroke of luck that he was blessed with sight. His predecessor died soon after adopting him and thanks to my blessing on him, no one seemed to question the fact that he was just a child with no legal guardian. I paid for his schooling with the shrine fund and he never left me even though he could.” Yoon shrugged. “He probably should though,” Yona watched the look on his face darken and she remembered the words meant for Iksoo that she had heard instead at the hospital that day.

“I don’t think he would ever leave you. He loves you,” Yona said.

“I know,” Yoon mumbled. 

“We’re going to fix this,” Yona said loudly. Then she shot to her feet. Yoon looked at her in mild surprise and she marched over to where Lili was rescuing Iksoo from falling over his two feet again. “You guys, I have an idea!” Yona grinned. 

------o------

“Yona, you’re late,” Yona froze in the middle of taking off her shoes. 

“I was busy studying with Lili,” Yona shrugged and continued to take off her shoes. She had stayed out studying and hanging around with everyone late before. This wasn’t a big deal. So yeah, maybe she hadn’t told her father about her part time job at the shrine, but she didn’t really have to tell him everything that she did. 

“Try not to stay out so late,” her father said.

“It’s fine, dad, there are kids that are still in the local library and they’re younger than me. Coming home a little late never hurt anyone. And I was with Lili and Soowon came to pick us up.” Yona told him. Lili had been weirdly distant with Soowon and Yona had stared questioningly at him but he had only offered her an awkward smile.

“But anything could have happened,” her father said, wringing his hands together and nervously twitching in front of her. Yona stared at him for a bit and then sighed heavily. 

“Dad, I’m alright. Nothing happened. I promised to be careful and I’ll continue to be careful,” Yona said gently. Her father looked unconvinced, but he didn’t say anything, so Yona took that as her cue to leave. She first headed to her mother’s altar and clapped her hands together. “I’m back, mom.” Yona smiled at her mother’s picture frame and then headed towards her room.

“Yona, you got mail today,” her father said. Yona turned in surprise.

“I did?” she asked. She didn’t usually get mail.

“Yes, it’s from the next town over,” her father said. 

“Oh!” Yona said, lighting up. “It must be from the special exchange program tour that Awa is doing!” Yona hurried over to the mail lying on the table. “I wonder why it came here though? Lili is the one in charge of the communications with the student leader on that side.”

“I don’t know,” her father said, even though she hadn’t been talking to him. Yona looked at him with a shaky smile at best and then tore open the mail. 

As she thought it was addressed to Lili. It spoke of how the arrangements were going smoothly and the families that had agreed to take in the students had confirmed once again. They were ready to go as soon as they date arrived. Yona beamed.

“If the letter has Lili’s name on it, why does it have our address on it?” her father asked and Yona froze.

“Huh...you’re right…” Yona looked at the envelope. It had their address on it and it had specifically Yona’s name on it. “Maybe Lili asked for it to be delivered here for some reason?” Yona asked. 

“That might be it,” her father agreed. 

“Right,” Yona nodded. “I’ll give this to Lili in the morning then!”

“Will you have dinner, Yona?” her father asked.

“Yes, please,” Yona said.

------o------

Yona and practically the entire town attended Grandma Hana’s funeral. Yona stood in line next to her father and Hak and his grandfather and siblings were on one side while Soowon and his mother and younger brother were on the other side. It was ridiculously sunny. The weather was great. But Yona felt awful. Her father had repeatedly asked her over and over again if she really wanted to go to the funeral. As if it would break her. As if the death of Grandma Hana had broken her somehow. Yona had been too drained out to get mad at him.

Iksoo stood at the front with Grandma Hana’s grandson and his wife. Yona had looked all over for Yoon, but she hadn’t spotted him. Slightly disappointed, but knowing that it was probably hard for him, Yona had settled down and stayed quiet for the entire ceremony. 

Grandma Hana used to smile at all of them and give them little extras when she was happy. When they were younger she gave them molasses candy because people didn’t buy them anymore so didn’t know the joy of eating them. Grandma Hana told them that her apples were the best and always told Yona to buy some. 

The ceremony ended and then Yona went to go put flowers on the grave when she noticed someone step up from behind the gravestone. 

It was Yoon. 

“Yoo-” she started, but he put a finger to his lips and she clicked her mouth shut. He held up a bag full of apple blossoms. It wasn’t the season. They fell onto the gravestone and Yona gasped at how pretty they looked scattered there and glistening with dew. 

“May you have favor in the sight of the Gods of rebirth and the cycle of life, Hana,” Yoon bowed his head and touched his forehead against the gravestone. 

“You know, I think you’re one of the best Gods,” Yona blurted. Yoon tensed and then looked up at her. Yona felt a lump in her throat and she swallowed past it. “You asked Iksoo in the hospital if there was a point and there is. You’re our God. Our people chose you. No one here goes to other towns to worship other Gods and no one here has ever considered such a thing. You’re the only God for us. It’s true that we have turned on you. It’s true that we are foolish humans. But even so you inspire us! I am inspired! I want to change things. I want to bring the people back to you. To Iksoo, you are the only God that he would serve! To my family you gave my mother life! We may have started to forget you, but you are the only God for us and we won’t have it any other way! Watch me! I will make everyone remember you!”

Yona huffed and then realized she was standing in a cemetery. She looked around quickly, but it seemed she hadn’t been loud enough for anyone to care. Anyone but Hak who was standing near her, a blank look on his face. She gave him a look and he shrugged. She turned back to Yoon and he was staring at her with wide eyes.

“We don’t need you to be flashy or attractive. This town has always been calm and quiet and filled with nothing but warmth. You’re the only God for this town.” Yona said softly.

And yet, I want to escape from this town like it were a cage.

No, that wasn’t right. Yona turned to look at where her father was talking to Soowon’s mother and clenched her fists. She knew what her cage was. She just wasn’t sure how to put it into words. 

“I’m selfish and moody,” Yoon’s voice cracked. “I made Hana suffer.”

“She’d forgive you,” Yona said with no hesitation. “She’d forgive you, because you gave her a life of prosperity.”

“Thank you,” Yoon’s voice broke and Yona saw tears slip from his eyes. 

A raindrop hit Yona’s nose. Yona looked up, startled. Clouds bloomed across the sky faster than she could comprehend and it started lightly raining. Hak was just as stunned, gaping up at the sky. 

“Drat it!” Yona heard Yoon hiss. She looked at him and he was furiously wiping his face with his hands. Iksoo rushed towards them, looking horrified.

“Yoon, are you OK?” Iksoo cried out.

Yona laughed and Iksoo turned to look at her and Yoon glared at her.

“Sorry, it’s just…” Yona chuckled, her voice dry and her heart so, so, so heavy. “It rains when you cry. That’s so inconvenient.” Iksoo looked stunned.

“Miss Yo-” he started and then Yoon laughed and then he was laughing hysterically, clutching his stomach, tears still pouring from his eyes. “Yoon?!” Iksoo cried.

“She’s right! These tears are so inconvenient!” Yoon laughed. 

Iksoo looked back and forth between Yona and Yoon in confusion. 

Ah, Yona thought. So this is what being on the edge of grief feels like. 

Yoon’s laughter died away into choked sobs and he pressed his hands against his face, sinking to the ground while his shoulders shuddered. Iksoo and Yona helplessly stood there, watching Yoon fall apart. The rain poured harder and Yona heard her father shouting at her to get underneath an umbrella. Iksoo had one and he spread it over them while Yoon seemed content to just get drenched. Yona bit her lip and looked at the sky from under the edge of the umbrella. 

The grief of a God was unbearable to watch.

“Are you sure?” Yoon’s wobbly voice spoke up.

Iksoo and Yona stared at him and then at each other, not certain about what he was asking.

“Are you sure she’d forgive me?” Yoon asked.

“Yes, because she served a God kinder than anyone else for her whole life,” Yona said softly.

“I see,” Yoon’s voice cracked and broke into a sob before his breathing steadied a little.

“Yoon?” Iksoo asked quietly. 

He was crying too, Yona realized.

“Iksoo, let’s go home,” Yoon said.

“Alright,” Iksoo nodded. He left Yona with his umbrella and Yona watched the fox God and his priest walk away as the rain faded into a drizzle. And then when they had gone out of sight, the sun came out again.

Yona turned back to Grandma Hana’s grave and put the flowers she had down.

------o------

Chapter Text

“I heard that tears have a purification effect. Maybe because of that I feel strangely refreshed this morning. I wonder when was the last time I cried like that...And in front of other people to top it off.” - Hozumi Masato (Love Nest).

Yoon woke up feeling like his face had been run over by a horse, but the feeling in his chest was as if he had woken up on a good spring day. Yoon rolled over and climbed to his feet, sniffing at the air. Iksoo still hadn’t woken up. Satisfied that it was early enough, Yoon quickly trotted to the priests’ quarters and climbed in through the window that Iksoo always left open. He made the food rather extravagant and put a cake into the oven as well. He was in a good mood.

The darkness hadn’t managed to break the barrier yesterday. Yoon was pleased to know that he still was strong enough to keep them out. Yoon climbed back out of the window and looked over the town. The grey sky was starting to bloom pink and Yoon heard a crash from inside the priests’ quarters. Iksoo was awake. He wasn’t hurt at least, Yoon could usually notice when Iksoo had hurt himself. 

The pink across the sky blossomed into oranges and reds and Yoon’s eyes widened. The sky looked like Yona’s red hair. How interesting. 

Yoon closed his eyes, inhaling sharply. He had things he needed to do. He climbed onto one of the fox statues and closed his eyes, listening for any cracks in his barrier and carefully smoothing them out. There were being on the edge of his barrier, scratching away at it at the hopes of weakening it and entering. None of them were creatures strong enough to hurt anyone in Yoon’s territory except for Iksoo, one with the God’s blessing. 

Hopefully, the barrier would last for tonight at least. It would take a lot of power and several days for Yoon to fully reinstate the barrier. Yoon had already started to try to save up on what little power he had and was weaving together the barrier in his mind slowly. It was one of the first things that Geuntae had taught him as a God. Geuntae told him that different Gods made different barriers and that it was something that didn’t necessarily have to be taught. As time went by, Gods did it themselves in their own ways in order to protect their followers. 

Yesterday, before Yoon had gone to grow apple blossoms for Hana, he had answered whatever prayers had been in his shrine, convinced he wouldn’t be able to leave the shrine until he was able to recreate the barrier. 

Iksoo walked out of the priests’ quarters with the broom he used to sweep the front of the shrine and Yoon frowned at him. Iksoo only stared at him in the eyes for a moment before he started sweeping. 

“Iksoo! Yoon!” Yoon’s ears twitched at the sound of Yona’s voice and then they saw her, dashing up the stairs, a wide grin on her face. “Good morning! How are the two of you?”

“We’re good. How are you, Miss Yona?” Iksoo asked. 

“I was up last night for a quite a bit working on flyer designs. I thought I would bring them to you both. If you could tell me which ones you like, I can talk to Taejun about helping me find someone with a good touch at art to make it a digital flyer. Then he can help me print in bulk!” Yona opened up her school bag, digging through it. 

“Kang Taejun?” Yoon asked. Yona looked up from her bag in surprise.

“You know about him?” Yona asked.

“You probably don’t realize this, but I know quite a bit about this town,” Yoon deadpanned. “Sometimes I get a little behind, of course. Time doesn’t work the same way with me, after all.”

“Oh,” Yona nodded. 

“Anyways, he used to come up here to play a lot. He never prayed. He just played with his own imaginary friends and every now and then he would catch glimpses of me. Children are pretty sharp, after all.” Yoon shrugged and Yona pulled a stack of papers out of her bag. Iksoo and Yoon leaned forwards, peering at them. 

Most of them were scribbles that they only managed to understand because Yona was explaining to them. She was horrible at drawing, but she knew how to make people understand things. Yoon listened to her explain about how she and Lili had discovered that there were carefully stored pictures from each year’s festival in the Town Library. They would probably be allowed to access those pictures and use them for the flyers.

“Iksoo, I want you to choose,” Yoon said. Iksoo turned to look at him with wide eyes.

“Are you sure?” Iksoo asked.

“Yes,” Yoon nodded. 

Yoon watched, pleased as Yona and Iksoo went through the scribbles excitedly. He jumped off of the fox statue and headed towards his garden the way he did every morning. He checked on all the plants, happy that none of them showed signs of the droopy energy that Yoon had become too accustomed to. They all were alive as Yoon wanted them to be. He gathered three apples and then headed back to Yona and Iksoo. 

“Is he OK?” Yoon stopped. Yona and Iksoo were talking softer than they needed to and Yoon with his advanced sense of hearing could hear them.

“No,” Iksoo’s voice was kind. Kind and sad. Yoon clutched the apples tighter to himself. “I don’t think he’ll ever be properly over how we humans turned away from him. It will take a long time and a lot of steady visits to the shrine. But when it came to Grandma Hana,” Iksoo’s voice sounded distant, “you helped him a lot. He’s not OK yet. But he’s going to become better slowly.”

“That’s right. After all,” Yona sounded weirdly cheerful, “we’re going to fix everything.”

“That’s true,” Iksoo said, sounding equally cheerful. Yoon closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. It was unreal, how much those two seemed to care and not just consider it a duty. Yoon opened his eyes and moved forward.

“Oi, the apples are good for eating today,” Yoon said, dumping an apple each on Yona and Iksoo’s laps. 

“Aren’t they always?” Yona asked.

“As if,” Yoon scoffed. “I would never let anyone eat anything but perfect apples from my garden.”

“I can imagine that,” Yona laughed. “Since you chose a flyer, Iksoo, I’m going to head back to school. The exchange program students are arriving today and I have to be there and everything has to be perfect!” Yona shot to her feet, shoving the papers back into her bag. She looked at Yoon and then smiled. She clapped her hands together in front of him. “Please give me the strength to do well today!” she said. Yoon stared with wide eyes and she opened her eyes and then dashed away. 

“Iksoo,” Yoon said slowly. “She is not as strong as she looks. She needs help.” 

“She does?” Iksoo asked. 

“She does,” Yoon nodded. 

“Will you help her?” Iksoo asked. 

“If she asks me to,” Yoon said. “She is not one of the desperate. So unless she asks me for help, I can’t cut into her life.”

“I see,” 

------o------

It wasn’t a good day. Although Yoon may have woken up feeling like it was a good day, he was wrong. He had felt an itch later on in the morning that only seemed to increase as the day went by. It felt like something he didn’t want had slipped by his barrier and he was anxiously pacing back and forth in front of the shrine. It wasn’t large enough to actually cause any concern. In fact, if Iksoo asked Yoon to explain what was going on Yoon could only say that he felt paranoid. There was no breach in the barrier no matter how many times he checked. There were scratches and thinning parts, but no holes. Nothing strong enough to roam in Yoon’s territory during the day had entered his lands.

So why was he so anxious?

It got worse as evening approached. Yoon could feel the thinner parts of his barrier starting to get picked apart. And while that was something that he had been expecting and wasn’t exactly as worried about, the feeling that something had thwarted his barriers was nagging away at him.

Yona had expressed with enthusiasm that she had found someone that was a very talented artist amongst the exchange students and Lili had added that he was a very pretty boy who had better skin than any of them. Yona had shown them the cleaner and much better tentative flyer which, she had explained would be digitized as soon as possible. Yoon could hardly bring himself to care. His anxiety was eating away at him. He was concerned Yona and Lili would still be on shrine grounds when the barrier would be breached. They wouldn’t be able to go home if they were still there. 

“You should go home,” Yoon said snappishly.

“Already?” Yona asked.

“Not to argue with you, but we still have three hours on the clock,” Lili said. “I want the money we’ll get for those hours.”

“I’ll give it to you, so go,” Yoon said, waving at them.

“Yoon?” Iksoo asked in confusion.

“No questions, off you go,” Yoon practically growled at the two girls as he put their bags in their hands and pushed them towards the stairs. 

“Wait, we haven’t changed out of our uniforms!” Yona protested.

“Do it quickly,” Yoon snapped. They rushed to the priests’ quarters and changed back to their school uniforms. 

“Is everything OK?” Yona asked.

“It’s fine,” Yoon shrugged. 

“If you say so,” Yona said. “Good night, Iksoo and Yoon!” she and Lili waved and then were on their way.

“Yoon, what’s going on?” Iksoo asked. 

“Iksoo, until I say so, you’re not going to leave the shrine grounds. Alright?” Yoon asked.

“Why?” Iksoo asked.

“The barrier is going to be breached maybe tonight. You’d be a high grade snack for the things out there.” Yoon turned to his priest and Iksoo had gone white.

“Is this a bad thing?” Iksoo asked, his voice tiny.

“Usually,” Yoon admitted. “But I expected this was coming and have been working on a new barrier. So just sit here on the shrine grounds until I put it in place, alright?” Yoon asked.

“OK,” Iksoo nodded. 

As Yoon expected, an hour after the sun had set, the barrier was breached and darkness flooded his lands. People were already inside their houses. It was a kind of mental suggestion that came from being Yoon’s people. They didn’t know why they had all returned home already and had gone to sleep, but Yoon knew it was because his powers flowed in their blood and he had willed them all to sleep. 

Yoon sat perched on top of a fox statue, watching the moon turn blood red and darkness flood the streets of the town. Iksoo let out a noise of horror, his hand curling into Yoon’s robes. Yoon put his hand on Iksoo’s.

“You don’t want to see this. This isn’t something I want to show you. The true darkness of this side of the world isn’t something I want you to witness. Go to the priests’ quarters and-” Yoon nearly fell off the statue when he saw a speck of light and heard the whisper of a scream carried on the wind. Yoon leaped off the statue and ran forward in horror.

“Yoon!” Iksoo shrieked.

“I forgot! I forgot! She has such strong sight! Of course she would be immune to my powers of suggestion! Of course she’d be able to see the darkness!” Yoon dashed towards the stairs and turned to look back at Iksoo for just a second. 

“Iksoo! I’ll be back! Guard the shrine! That’s an order!” Yoon shouted. Then he leaped out of the shrine grounds and into the darkness.

------o------

Chapter Text

Ayura didn’t exactly enjoy responding to Kouren’s summons. She hated dealing with god fallouts and she was sure that the others felt the same. She just wanted to curl up into her hole that she had found underneath her shrine floorboards and sleep. It was night time! It was time to sleep. Sure some rabbits wandered around after dark, but those were only the ones that had death wishes. 

And Ayura didn’t exactly have a death wish. 

But Kouren had come banging at her door. And as uneager Ayura was, she wasn’t interested in having lightning burn down her entire shrine with the way Kouren was knocking. Kouren would probably say she would do no such thing, but Joodoh told her otherwise. 

So now she was trekking through the forests, in the company of a handful of annoyingly carnivorous Gods to go and seal up another God. It made her feel dirty and she was ready to call it quits in five minutes and head back home. She was considering pulling pulling someone’s hair and causing chaos so she could slip away in the middle.

Just as she was starting to reach for the nearest head, Kouren drew to a halt and somewhat annoyed, thinking that Kouren had seen her, Ayura drew her hand back towards herself. But it wasn’t Ayura that Kouren had seen. Just in front of their party was an almost white haired God, his skin covered in pretty and shiny white scales and a long and thick trunk of a tail in place of legs. 

Mizari grinned at all of them, flashing his sharp fangs and radiating bloodlust.

“Move out of our way, Mizari,” Kouren said flatly.

“I’m afraid that’s not an option,” Mizari chuckled.

“You would save that child that allowed his territory to be invaded?” Kouren seethed.

“Do you mind if I eat a couple of you?” Mizari asked and Ayura rolled her eyes. She hated Mizari. He had quite the appetite for rabbits.

“Mizari!” Kouren barked. Mizari’s eyes swivelled back to look at her.

“Ah, yes,” Mizari dipped his head a little. “Lady Kouren, beyond me is space that you will not be allowed to go to.”

“How dare you? Why would you do such a thing? You are not the kind to form attachments.” Kouren hissed.

“One of my own is in Yoon’s territory at the moment. I have no desire to let him witness the death of a God so early in his life,” Mizari chuckled.

“One child is not important!” Kouren snapped.

“Oh, but you see. If you go there, you will ruin my little game.” Mizari uncurled slowly rising up in height, supported by his tail. The scales started to dot across his face and his mouth started to slit wider. “I hate it when my games are interrupted.”

“You are being ridiculous!” Kouren snarled. “You are not even within your own territory! You stand no chance against us,”

“None of you will touch Yoon,” Mizari said flatly. “The only God allowed to hurt him is me.” He grinned widely, his face almost split in half. “And anyways, you only managed to gather three Gods. Don’t you think the one that doesn’t stand a chance is you, Lady Kouren?”

What a farce. Ayura rolled her eyes again. Mizari did not make friends. He made snacks and not snacks. If Yoon was a snack, then Mizari wouldn’t let them through. Ayura was so done.

“I’m going home. I don’t have plans to have an all out war. We are near Geuntae’s territory and fighting with him is not on my agenda. Good night,” Ayura turned around and marched away. Geuntae wasn’t the type to come to Mizari’s aid. But he would interfere in any fight near his territory. And  if Geuntae fought, Joodoh would show up. 

Ayura ignored Kouren screeching for her and only thought of her little burrow underneath the shrine floorboards. 

------o------

The first sign that something was wrong at all was Yoon’s behaviour at the shrine. Lili had written it off as Yoon being unfriendly again, but Yona had been at the shrine in the morning and he had shown no signs of hostility. She couldn’t think of anything that she and Lili did that could have offended him. She and Lili had been sure to listen to all of Iksoo’s instructions and not do a single thing wrong. Shrines were all about rituals and traditions. They shouldn’t do anything out of line. So they had been careful.

What Yona had seen on Yoon’s face wasn’t hostility, but rather something like concern. 

The second sign that something was wrong was her father and Yuuri - the exchange student staying in their house - going to sleep as soon as they were done with dinner. Yuuri and Yona had agreed earlier that day to go through lesson material together before they went to sleep that day. Yona’s father usually sat in the living room, in front of her mother’s altar for hours before he went to sleep. 

The third sign that something was wrong was when she heard something loudly crack and she looked outside of her window to see that the moon was almost blood red. 

Yona’s heart raced in her chest with an unexplainable sense of fear. She crawled towards her bed and curled up there, terrified out of her mind. There was a loud bang in the streets and she whimpered. There was something very wrong. Yona wanted to run away. She wanted to disappear. 

“How dare you let her get hurt!”

“Il! Stop that! They apologized! It’s just a scraped knee!”

“Dad! Stop shouting at Hak and Soowon!”

Yona’s eyes snapped open.

No . She was done. She was done being trapped. She was done being controlled. How could she be scared when she hadn’t even seen anything yet? She didn’t even know why she was scared. Yona pushed herself up, her hands trembling. She slowly edged to her window and looked out. 

Darkness. 

The streets were flooded with a rushing darkness that reminded her of a stream on a moonless night. She pressed her hands against the glass and peered and then something in the darkness spotted her. Red eyes, a maw filled with sharp teeth and three tails. A kitsune. 

Yoon?

No. It was not Yoon. It’s body was covered in black fur, and it terrified Yona in a way Yoon never would. It wanted to kill her. It leaped at the window and Yona shrieked, falling backwards. The window broke and Yona scrambled to her feet, dashing out of her room door and towards her father’s room, terror coursing through her veins. 

Help! Help me!

Yona crashed into her father’s room and slammed the door shut behind her. 

“Dad!” Yona wailed. Her father snored softly and then the door splintered open behind Yona. Yona screamed and ducked, shielding her head with her hands. The pitch black fox entered the room, drool dripping from his razor sharp teeth. “Dad,” Yona whimpered.

And then she realized. Her father would have usually woken up by now. He wasn’t exactly a heavy sleeper. Something was keeping her father asleep and something was keeping the kitsune’s eyes only on her. Yona glanced towards the window in her father’s room. It was open. Her father hadn’t even closed his window when he had gone to sleep. 

Yona dashed, jumping out of the window and almost missing her footing when she landed. She was in the garden and she ran towards the gate, the kitsune coming after her. She was barefoot. It hurt. She slammed the gate open and rushed out. There was no darkness on the street in front of her. It had moved. Yona could see it climbing over buildings, but never entering any.

So why was it different with her?

The kitsune leaped over the wall and Yona ran, tears in her eyes from the pain in her feet. Suddenly three creatures slid onto the path in front of Yona. Yona didn’t even know what they were. She was so terrified. She turned and ran into the small alley behind her. The kitsune and the creatures came after her and Yona’s chest hurt, her feet hurt. 

She was going to die.

She burst out of the alley and onto the street and then fell over a tiny stool outside of the shop there. She crashed into the asphalt, skinning her knees and elbows. The four monsters leaped at her and Yona screamed. 

And then she was yanked and scooped into a pair of arms. They were running faster than Yona could ever run.

The smell of apples.

“Yoon!” Yona wailed.

“Hold on! I’ll get you to safety!” Yoon shouted and Yona clutched him tightly as he ran. The wind rushed in Yona’s ears and everything hurt, but she felt like it was going to be OK. Yoon skidded to a halt and Yona looked up from where she had buried her face into his shoulder. They were surrounded.

Yoon slowly set her on her feet and then stepped in front of her. Yona clung to the back of his yukata. Yoon growled the most threatening growl she had ever heard. For a second Yona was reminded of the pitch black kitsune. But that was wrong. Yoon was warm. Yoon was protecting her. 

“If any of you dare to come near her I will rip you to shreds,” Yoon snarled.

Yona dug her fingers into Yoon’s back. The dark creatures weren’t approaching them exactly, so Yona assumed that Yoon was actually pretty dangerous. Well of course he was . He was a God and they were just mere yokai.

Something hot and wet dropped onto Yona’s face. 

Yona looked up.

“Yoon!” Yona screamed. 

Yoon spun around and pushed her backwards. The pitch black kitsune sunk it’s jaws into Yoon’s shoulder and the darkness fell upon them. It was like being attacked by the ocean tide. Yona wailed and rushed towards Yoon. She heard Yoon roaring somewhere in the darkness and just as Yona was about to dive headfirst into the madness recklessly, there was a shrill sound like a whistle.

The madness halted and before Yona could even search for where the sound had come from, blinding light filled the street. There darkness shifted and then fled screaming. When the light cleared, Yona saw Yoon lying on the ground, covered in blood.

“Yoon!” Yona cried and rushed towards him, but he pushed himself up, grabbed her and then shoved her behind him. Yona heard the same growl in his throat and she wondered what he was threatening when the yokai had fled but then saw who stood in front of Yoon.

He had white hair, clear blue eyes, flawless skin and his right hand was dotted with pretty white scales that Yona had definitely not noticed in school.

“Kija?” Yona asked with uncertainty.

“So you’re what slipped in,” Yoon hissed. 

Kija bowed his head and then straightened up.

“I apologize for not having paid my respects to your shrine as soon as I arrived. Humans have much to do. I did not get the opportunity to slip away for even a moment. I had intended to go to your shrine first thing in the morning. I did not expect to meet you in such a place.” Yona was shaking. She didn’t know what was going on. She had just seen Kija that day, talked to him, laughed with him, eaten lunch with him and had promised to work on the flyers together. 

Why was he here?

“Allow me to help you to your shrine,” Kija said.

“I don’t need some snake’s help!” Yoon roared and then stumbled. Yona cried out, grabbing a bloody shoulder to steady him. “I don’t care if you do whatever you do as a human, but the moment you approach me as one of Mizari’s, I will turn on you. Do you understand?” Yoon hissed.

“Yoon?” Yona asked.

“I see, but what will you do? She cannot stay the night in your shrine. You will have disrupted her life as a human. She is not one blessed by you, is she? If you accept my help I can-” Kija said and then Yoon growled, cutting him off.

“I do not need your help,” Yoon said and the grabbed Yona’s hand and pulled her into his arms again.

“You are being unnecessarily stubborn,” Kija frowned. 

“You only get to tell me that if Mizari hasn’t given you some kind of underhanded job to get under my skin,” Yoon snapped. Yona watched as Kija flushed and a weird feeling twisted in her gut. It was the feeling of dislike. Kija was trying to take advantage of Yoon. Kind and loving Yoon. Before Yona could think of anything to tell Kija, Yoon had started running and in the direction of her house. 

As Yona had thought, the darkness wasn’t gone. It had only fled for a little bit. She could already see it surging towards them. She wrapped her arms around Yoon and then remembered that he was bleeding heavily. They entered her room through the broken window and Yoon wobbled and they crashed into a wall. They fell to the floor.

“Yoon!” Yona started to move and he hissed.

“Don’t move. Just. Stay. Still.” he said with gritted teeth and Yona could only nodded, settling back into his arms that were still tight around her. “I’m setting up a tiny temporary barrier to protect your house and heal your wounds. Just...stay...still,” 

Yoon’s eyes closed and Yona stared at the blood on him in fear.

------o------

Chapter Text

Sometime around two in the morning Yona fell asleep in Yoon’s arms. Yoon’s hurt was healing too slowly. He was spending too much energy healing Yona and protecting her house with a hastily cast barrier. Yoon could barely move. Moving hurt. Getting hurt by yokai hurt more than anything else. Even getting hurt by Gods didn’t hurt as much since Yoon was a God himself. It was the power that contrasted his that would hurt.

“This is not what I was expecting,” Yoon flinched and looked up. The rabbit Goddess, Ayura, was looking down at him. Yoon groaned. 

“Just what I needed,” Yoon muttered.

“You don’t seem to have the strength to clean up after yourself, so I’ll do that,” Ayura said. “Get some charms for this girl as soon as you manage to get back to your shrine.”

“I don’t need your help!” Yoon hissed.

“Yeah, I know. Is that going to stop me? No.” Ayura straightened up and ran her fingers against the edges of the broken window. The broken glass flew back towards the window and it mended itself. “I’m not really here for repairs. Or to help you. I thought I’d let you know that Kouren almost invaded your lands last night but failed because an unforeseen problem intercepted her. I came to tell you out of the kindness of my heart.”

“Yeah right, you hate foxes the most.” Yoon muttered, clutching Yona tighter to himself. Ayura wasn’t one of the closer Gods and she rarely left her territory. Yoon supposed it was only because of Kouren that she had left her little burrow to come and see him. 

“I do. They kill rabbits like they’re the only meal they can ever find,” Ayura shot him a look.

“Can’t blame us. Rabbits are tasty.” Yoon shrugged and then winced in pain.

“I’ll take that as a compliment from a fox that has lost his fangs,” Ayura said dryly.

“So you think,” Yoon said.

“Don’t think I haven’t heard stories,” Ayura said, sliding her fingers against the walls of the house to repair any damage within the house. 

“I hate to break it to you, but those are all lies,” Yoon deadpanned.

“Who is she anyways?” Ayura asked.

She is none of your business,” Yoon huffed. Then he paused, watching Ayura fix Yona’s bed sheets. “Ayura, what are you doing here?” he asked seriously. He and Ayura didn’t get along. He was a fox after all. But they both were still the only two of the nine Gods that prefered to treasure their human responsibilities. 

Ayura sighed and then sat down on Yona’s bed. Yoon would have argued about it if he wasn’t on the verge of passing out from blood loss. 

“Yoon, what are you doing?” Ayura asked. “You should know better.”

“What do you mean?” Yoon hissed. 

“You should have asked your priest to handle things.” Ayura frowned at him.

“He may have my blessing, but Iksoo is soft. He would be able to cast off the darkness in theory, but he can’t do that with an unstable resolve and with a broken arm.” Yoon frowned back at her. 

“As always, you’re too soft on him. You should have at least brought him with you. In the end you ended up getting saved by one blessed by Mizari,” Ayura said the snake God’s name with a sour look on her face. 

“It’s fine,” Yoon huffed. He really had to consider what to do with one of Mizari’s slipping into his territory. Yoon understood that as a human it wasn’t something that the child could control. But Yoon knew Mizari. Mizari probably told that child to do something for him. Yoon would let the child be as long as he remained a normal human in his territory. “I’m not going to make Iksoo do such a thing. He doesn’t need to. I will teach his successor differently. But, Iksoo is not one for such things.”

“If you say so,” Ayura shrugged. “Do you want me to help you heal up?”

“And become indebted to you? I don’t think so,” Yoon scoffed. Ayura sighed heavily. 

“Then, let me hold the barrier here to protect the girl and you can focus on healing yourself,” she said. Yoon narrowed his eyes at her and then closed his eyes. It was fine. It was a God’s duty to protect humans after all, even if Yoon and Ayura were the only ones of the nine that actually followed that. 

“Fine,” Yoon said. Ayura nodded and Yoon let his barrier drop. Ayura’s barrier went up immediately and Yoon felt instant relief. He tightened his arms around Yona, still warily watching Ayura through half-lidded eyes. Ayura may be a kind God, but that didn’t change the fact that she was a God and Gods were...fickle. Yoon rested his head against Yona’s room wall and let out a sigh, pent up tension leaving his body in one rush. 

He had protected Yona .

He had saved her.

Ayura and he sat in silence until the sky turned grey and all the darkness fled back into the forests surrounding the town so as to not be overpowered by Yoon during the day. Ayura stood up and turned to look at Yoon.

“I better be off before Lady Kouren realizes that I came to your aid,” Ayura said. 

“I’ll be fine now, I’m mostly healed.” Yoon nodded. Ayura pushed open the window and Yoon watched her climb onto the window sill. “Ayura, thank you,” Yoon said. 

“I didn’t do it for you,” Ayura said. “I did it for myself.”

“I know,” Yoon said. She looked at him and then jumped out the window. 

Yoon closed his eyes again, mind searching for any darkness that might have stayed back in the town. Yona twitched in Yoon’s arms and his eyes flew open. He watched her face wrinkle and then she stirred, her large purple eyes opening. They were swollen and she very obviously looked like she had cried the whole night. Her eyes met his and she stared at him for a second before sitting up so quickly, she nearly slammed the top of her head into Yoon’s chin. 

“Yoon! Are you OK?” she asked, her face bright red. Yoon blinked at her.

“I’m getting better,” he said. “Putting that aside, do you want me to use some of my powers on your face to make it seem like you haven’t cried at all?” Yoon asked. 

“No! No! I’m fine! You should focus on yourself!” she shook her head violently, her face scarlet.

“Are you alright?” Yoon asked in confusion.

“I’m fine!” Yona snapped. “I just didn’t think I’d fall asleep like that!”

“Alright,” Yoon nodded. “Well then, when you get ready, we’ll head to the shrine and I’ll give you some charms.”

“Oh,” she straightened up, turning to him. “I see,” Yoon nodded and prepared to settle back and get some minutes of rest when Yona nudged him. 

“What is it?” Yoon asked her.

“I can’t get ready with you in my room,” she said. Yoon stared blankly.

“Is there a problem?” Yoon asked. 

“Yes!” Yona said loudly. “You’re a boy! I can’t get ready with you in here!” Yona was red again and Yoon was about to scoff and tell her that he was a God of medicine. He wouldn’t be the least bothered by her getting ready. And anyways, he was going to sleep. But before he could tell her anything, she yanked him up and then shoved him out the door and then slammed it shut. 

“Wha…” Yoon rubbed his arm. “Human girls are strange…” He glanced around the house for the first time and then one of the room doors opened. Yoon turned and nearly jumped out of his skin. Yoon knew this man. He had seen him continuously for months bowing at his shrine and praying feverishly. Yoon’s eyes widened and he looked around the house, drinking in everything. It was not the same house he had visited sixteen years ago. But this man was undoubtedly the same man. 

The man went towards a small altar that Yoon hadn’t noticed and said good morning to the picture frame there. Yoon slowly walked up behind the man and saw the picture. The woman that he had blessed. Instantly horror filled him. Had she died during childbirth even with Yoon’s blessing ? Yoon felt panic climb into his chest and then he saw a flash of red out of the corner of his eye. It was a family picture. 

The man and his wife.

And Yona .

Yona was small with chubby cheeks and a wide smile and one missing tooth. She was in the arms of the man’s wife. She was smiling brightly as well. To the side was the man, a soft smile on his face. The man’s wife had lived long beyond child birth. 

Yona was the child he had blessed with health sixteen years ago. 

Yona’s father looked healthy, but he also looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yoon pitied him. Yoon didn’t know what weighed on the man’s mind, but Yoon wished he could free him whatever had possessed him. 

“Yoon! I called Lili and-” Yona burst out of her room, phone to her ear and froze. Her bright smile faded upon spotting her father. She put her phone down. “Good morning, dad,” she said. 

“Good morning, Yona. You’re already dressed. Are you going somewhere?” he asked. 

“Yes. I have an appointment with Lili,” Yona said, her eyes not meeting her father’s. Yoon watched the exchange curiously. There was something so horribly stagnant in the conversation and Yoon couldn’t put his finger on it.

“And what of Miss Kanzaki?” her father asked. Yona’s eyes widened.

“I didn’t think-” Yona said. 

“Yes, and that is the problem,” her father said and Yoon glanced at him sharply. He hadn’t sounded angry when he said that. He still had the same tired look, but Yoon felt like something was off. 

“I’ll go and wake her up. I have to go.” Yona turned towards the door that hadn’t opened that morning. 

“You shouldn’t be going anywhere early in the morning,” her father said. Yona turned to look at him. 

“I told you, dad, that I’m busy with a lot of school responsibilities. I’m class representative and I’m helping out in a lot of things, especially with the exchange program. I need to go,” she said coldly. Yoon’s eyes widened. She hadn’t told her father about working in the shrine. 

“It’s not safe,” her father said.

“What’s not safe?” Yona snapped. “There isn’t a single person in this town that I haven’t seen since I was a child. Everyone knows everyone! This town is so small! What possible dangers could come at me? A crow pecking my eyes out? Stop being like this, dad!” Yona glared, her chest heaving. 

“Cars-” her father started. 

“I’m not going to have this argument again,” Yona hissed. She looked like she was going to cry again. Then she knocked on the closed door. There was a muffled answer from inside and then the door opened. Yona said something quietly to the girl inside and then it closed again. Yona’s father had sat down in front of the altar, wringing his hands together. 

Yona’s eyes met his and Yoon saw how shiny they were. Her face reddened and turned away, her fists curling. 

The house was completely silent. Neither Yona or her father spoke or even looked at each other. After a while the door opened and a black haired girl with a pleasant smile stepped out. She cheerfully greeted both Yona and her father and then Yona and the girl approached him. 

“Let’s go, Yoon,” Yona said quietly. Yoon nodded and he followed the two out of the house. 

He glanced once more at Yona’s father before the door closed. 

The weight of the world was still on his shoulders. No, not the weight of the world. Fear sat on his shoulders, it’s claws sunk in and refusing to let go of the man. The man was filled with irrational fear. 

The girl that Yoon didn’t know was on her phone, calling who Yoon assumed was her mother. Yoon walked up next to Yona who was texting furiously on her phone. 

“Yona,” Yoon said. 

“Please don’t,” Yona said, her voice small and weak. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

What had once been a loving house that Yoon had blessed had become a sad and desolate place. 

------o------

Chapter Text

Iksoo greeted them at the shrine entrance, his face as white as snow. He looked like he hadn’t slept at all. His eyes fell to Yoon and his bloodied clothes and Yona saw the immense grief that crossed over his face. But he didn’t say anything, choosing to give a shaky smile to Yona, Lili and Yuuri. They sat in front of the shrine, Iksoo had already swept it and Yoon collapsed against the doors. Yona had texted Lili before hand, telling her that Yoon was with her and covered in blood. So Lili had only stared at Yoon for a second before greeting Yuuri who couldn’t see Yoon at all. 

Yona and Iksoo kept glancing back at Yoon in concern and Lili being Lili distracted Yuuri with a rapid fire conversation.

“Are you alright?” Iksoo asked Yona.

“Yes...Yoon got to me before anything happened,” Yona said. 

“Don’t listen to her, Iksoo. She was running around barefoot in her pajamas with skinned knees and elbows. You need to make charms for her.” Yoon groaned. His eyes were still closed, but he was definitely listening to them. 

“I will,” Iksoo nodded. “How did you stay safe the rest of last night?” Iksoo asked.

“I carried her into her house and set up a quick and small barrier,” Yoon said. Yona flushed again. She still hadn’t gotten over how she had just fallen asleep in Yoon’s arms! Yoon was a boy. He wasn’t Hak or Soowon. He was...Yoon! 

He’s a God though, her mind supplied. 

But that did nothing to decrease how she had felt when she opened her eyes to see Yoon’s face above her and had realized that she had just comfortably gone to sleep in a boy’s arms. A boy that was bleeding out. She was the worst. 

And he had seen her father and her interact. Oh God, he had seen her and her father interact. Yona didn’t want to ever have to show that to anyone. Hak, Soowon and Lili were one thing, but Yoon. Yoon was...Yoon was...different. At first Yona had been terrified at the prospect of letting Kanzaki Yuuri stay at her house, but she knew that her father wouldn’t say a thing in front of her. The exchange program was important. Speaking of the exchange program…

“Allow me to help you to your shrine,”

Yona looked at Lili and Lili nodded.

“Yuuri, let me show you around the shrine,” Lili said. She and Yuuri got up and Yona turned back to Yoon.

“Yoon, who is Kija?” Yona asked. Yoon frowned and sat up.

“He’s the next priest for the snake God. He has his blessing.” Yoon ran a thumb absently against a healing cut on his arm. 

“What?” Iksoo cried out.

“Yup,” Yoon nodded. “It’s fine though. As long as he doesn’t do whatever dirty work Mizari sent him to do, I won’t consider him a threat. He is a human child as well.” 

“Yoon, he hasn’t even come here to pay his respects!” Iksoo said.

“I know, but he’s not even the current priest. Leave him be.” Yoon shrugged. Yona watched the exchange with some shock. She hadn’t expected that. Kija had seemed normal. A little quiet, but cheerful and eager to make friends and settle in. But last night when she had seen him, his face had been blank and he had spoken blandly. Yona almost couldn’t believe that he was the same Kija from school.

“But, Yoon! He’s the artist that is helping me out!” Yona said in distress. Yoon looked like he was going to argue in rage for a moment before he deflated with a tired sigh.

“It’s fine. Let him do what he wants. He isn’t dangerous. Just be careful if he asks questions about me.” Yoon stood up and then opened the shrine doors. “I’m going to sleep. Iksoo, remember to make charms for her.” Yoon stepped into the shrine and then turned to look at Yona again. “If you ever need to talk to me about anything, let me know.” And then he shut the door. Yona turned red and Iksoo turned to gape at her.

“What happened?” Iksoo asked.

“I don’t know,” Yona said, her face hot.

------o------

The first person Yona saw when she entered the classroom was Kija. He was scribbling something in his biology book. Yona frowned and then walked up to him. He looked up and saw her face and closed his book. Yona noted that his arm was covered in plain skin. She tried not to glare at him. Iksoo had told her about what the snake God, Mizari, was like and the fact that Yoon would always make Iksoo hide in the priests’ quarters if Mizari ever dropped in. Kija hadn’t looked anything like someone that served a God like that when she first met him and to be honest, he still didn’t.

“Did you get yourself charms?” Kija asked. 

“Can I talk to you, outside?” Yona asked right back. 

“Alright,” he nodded and got up from his chair, following her out. Yona saw Hak, Yuuri and Lili stare at her, but she didn’t say anything. When they were outside, Yona turned towards him. 

“I’m going to say this right away, but stay away from Yoon,” Yona snapped.

“What is he to you?” Kija asked. Yona tried to fight off a blush she couldn’t explain. 

“He’s my employer. I have the sight and I work at the shrine as a part time shrine maiden. That’s not important.” Yona waved her hand. 

“I see, did you get charms?” Kija asked.

“I did,” Yona said. “I’m still going to ask you to help me with the flyers. But like Yoon said, if you approach him as one of the Snake God’s, I’ll fight you off myself before you can get to him.” Yona hissed. 

“I don’t think you’d be able to do much, but I understand,” Kija said. 

“Don’t underestimate me. Yoon saved me. I won’t let you hurt him.” Yona seethed. Kija stared at her for a moment and what looked like understanding spread across his face.

“I see,” Kija said and then walked back into the classroom. Yona unclenched her fists and then walked back into the classroom. Hak and Lili instantly were on her, asking what was going on. 

“It’s nothing,” Yona said. 

The day went by quickly and when lunch came around, they gravitated to the lunch table they usually sat at, only this time with Kija and Yuuri. Yona was walking with Lili and Kija was a little behind them when Kija yelped. Both of them turned around to see one of the third years holding Kiija’s hand. 

“Excuse me?” Kija asked. 

“You are extremely beautiful,” the third year said. Kija went so red Yona thought he was a tomato. So that’s what happened when extremely pale people blushed. 

“O-oh-oh no, um...I’m normal,” Kija stammered. 

“Can I have your number?” the third year asked.

“N-no?” Kija said, looking panicked.

“Please?” the third year asked. Yona noticed at how Kija looked like Kija wanted to be anywhere but there.

“He is a human child as well.” 

“Hey,” Yona snapped, pushing herself in between Kija and the third year. “He said no. You’re bothering him.”

“No harm done, I’m just asking for his number. It’s not a big deal.” the third year shrugged.

“It is a big deal. He doesn’t want to give you his number,” Yona said.

“Oh just lay off. I’m talking to him and not y-” the larger boy reached for Yona and then Hak’s hand caught his.

“Is there something wrong?” Hak asked, glaring.

“Uh, no,” the third year backed off immediately.

“Thank you, Hak,” Yona sighed. Yona turned around to Kija. “Are you OK?” Yona asked Kija. Kija nodded.

“It’s fine, this happens a lot. If they really get too nosey I usually throw them over my shoulder,” Kija said.

“Oh?” Hak grinned the way he did when he found someone he wanted to challenge to a fight.

“Hey, stop that,” Yona slapped her hand against Hak’s face. “That’s not OK. If anyone bugs you, let us know. OK?” Kija stared at her and then turned red and nodded meekly.

I wonder if this is actually him or not, Yona wondered.

At the table they discussed the flyers and how to promote the festival. Hak and Soowon participated in the conversation, adding their own ideas. They had to make it so that the festival would be big and enjoyable and people would want their stalls there, not Iksoo begging them to take part. And then Yuuri put her chopsticks down loudly. 

“I’ve been wondering...but is this Yoon you guys keep talking about Yona’s boyfriend?” she asked.

Both Yona and Kija choked. 

“Eh?” Lili said and Yona looked up with tears in her eyes as she coughed to see her friend smirking slightly. “No, he’s our employer at the shrine. He’s kind of the head honcho there.” Yona wanted to snap at Lili to stop smirking but she couldn’t stop coughing.

Neither could Kija.

Yona turned to look at him as saw that his entire face was flushed as he coughed. Yuuri hurriedly handed him her water bottle and he accepted it with a watery smile. 

He’s human too.

------o------

“Thank you, Taejun. So I can have the flyers by tomorrow?” Yona asked phone pressed to her ear as she sucked juice out of a little juice box she had bought on her way back from the shrine. Kija had finished up making the flyer that day and had showed it to Yona. Yona had gone over it with Lili, Iksoo and Yoon - who was completely healed and constantly muttering about new things he needed to add to his barrier. 

“Yes, I talked to my brother and he’ll ask for it to be pushed. It’ll be raining tonight so you’ll get them tomorrow evening,” Taejun said.

“Thank you!” Yona beamed. 

“I didn’t know you were so interested in the shrine,” Taejun said.

“I’m a part time shrine maiden there,” Yona explained. “And...I want to see life in the shrine and festival again,” Yona said.  She rarely ever stayed long enough at the festival to see anything. Maybe that was why she had never seen Yoon before. 

“I’ll help!” Taejun said eagerly.

“Alright then!” Yona laughed. There was a knock on her door and she heard her father’s voice. “Taejun, I’ll call you back later,” Yona said.

“OK, good night, Yona.” 

“Good night,” Yona put her phone down and called for her father to come in. “Do you need something, dad?” Yona asked. Her father held up one of Yona’s scribbly hand made flyers.

“Yona, what’s this?” her father asked. Yona stared at him. There was something wrong.

“Ah, I’m helping arrange the shrine festival this year,” Yona said, getting up, her heart pounding in her chest. Something was wrong. “Lili and me especially because we’ve been helping Iksoo out at the shrine,”

“Don’t go there!” Yona’s father shouted. Yona flinched. Her father hadn’t shouted at her like that in a long time. 

“Why not?” Yona asked.

“They’re all fakes! That priest and the God there! They’re fakes and liars!” her father shouted. Yona’s eyes widened. What was he talking about?

“Dad, you’re talking about Iksoo! Iksoo is the nicest person in this entire town. And I know that the God there is also kind and-” Yona started, feeling furious. 

“They killed your mother!” her father screamed and Yona went silent, her face white. “I asked them to heal her, but they didn’t! I went there every day before you were born and she wasn’t healed. She only looked like she was healed! What good did praying there do? She died before any of us could say goodbye! That god is a cruel and fake Go-” Her father sounded hysterical.

“What use are my powers when I can’t save even one of my loyal followers?”

“Stop!” Yona screamed back. “You don’t even know what you’re talking about! Yoon is-” 

“They’ll take you from me too!” Her father shrieked.

“Enough! Yoon is the kindest God I have ever heard of! He’s always trying to help! He’s always trying to watch over us! Don’t blame mom’s death on someone else! Mom was sick! Mom is gone!” Yona screamed. “Stop holding onto her like this! And how dare you talk about Yoon like that? He nearly died trying to save me!” Yona shoved past her father, her ears ringing and her heart thudding loudly in her chest. 

“Yona, I’m only trying to protect you!” her father shouted.

“Don’t you dare!” Yona screamed. “You’re trying to lock me in, you’re trying to keep me in this little cage you’ve created for yourself ! I refuse to let you do that!” Yona shouted. Yona glanced at a picture frame with her mother in it. Tears filled her eyes. “Mom would hate you for this,” Yona cried and then she slammed open the front door and stepped out into the rain. 

“Yona!” her father shouted behind her. 

------o------

Chapter Text

 Geuntae walked onto the shrine grounds straight after Yona, Lili and their black haired friend had left the shrine. He was not accompanied by his wife this time and Yoon felt that this was not going to be a visit he would like very much. Yoon told Iksoo to stand further behind him and looked up at the tiger God with his arms crossed.

“Can I help you?” Yoon asked. 

“Actually, it’s the other way around. I am here to help you,” Geuntae said. 

“I told you before, I refuse your help,” Yoon frowned. 

“I can’t help it, sorry.” Geuntae shrugged helplessly. “Several of Yunho’s friends lived in your territory for a long time because it was a place of peace and prosperity under your powers of a God. But last night they were all terrorized by the darkness that flooded your lands. Yunho and I suggested that they move, but they refuse to leave your lands. You at least have loyal yokai followers,” Geuntae ruffled his hair looking annoyed. “I know you don’t like receiving help and even Mizari stuck his nose in this time so you’re extra testy, but Yunho asked me to make sure her friends stayed safe.”

“And your point is?” Yoon asked. 

“I know you don’t like receiving the help of a God, I wouldn’t either. Being indebted to a God is a pain. So I’m having several tree spirits from my territory guard yours? They’re guarding their friends, so isn’t that OK?” Geuntae asked. Yoon stared. He had thought that Geuntae would have shoved his way into his shrine like he had attempted to last time. 

“Are you OK?” Yoon blurted. 

“Hah?” Geuntae snapped.

“You’re acting weirdly nice,” Yoon pointed out.

“Ugh, Yunho is pregnant, OK?” Geuntae muttered and Yoon’s eyes widened. 

“That’s wonderful!” Yoon clapped his hands together. New life always made him excited. “When would you like me to visit with gifts and bless her?”

“Perhaps after you solve your problems,” Geuntae deadpanned. 

“Fine,” Yoon said. 

“Also, you have someone with crazy strong sight in this town. What is up with that? I didn’t notice her before.” Geuntae jerked his thumb in the direction to the stairs towards where Yona and Lili had left. So Geuntae had almost run into Yona. 

“I didn’t until recently either,” Yoon shrugged. “Anyways, I don’t mind if the tree spirits do their thing,” Yoon said. 

“Ugh, it’s not fair,” Geuntae muttered. “Why do all the nature yokai like your territory the most?”

“It’s not my fault you’re too forceful to stand,” Yoon grinned. 

“You’re too cheeky, you little fox,” Geuntae grabbed for the top of Yoon’s head and Yoon darted away. Geuntae’s face turned serious. “How much of your yokai powers do you still have?”

“I still have them, thank you very much,” Yoon said, sounding offended. It was not true. Yoon started to lose his powers as a yokai once he had become a God. Although the process was slow, he had lost eight of his tails and slowly, it had become harder and harder to hold a transformation. The longest he could keep up a different appearance was only a week. The God part of him rejected the yokai part of him. But it was fine. His loss of yokai powers had stopped nearly twelve decades ago. But this wasn’t something Yoon would let Iksoo hear.

“If you say so. Well them I’m off,” Geuntae turned and walked off. 

“That means the town is going to be safe even if I take three more days to put up a new barrier,” Yoon nodded. 

“That’s a good thing!” Iksoo said happily. 

“It is. I was concerned about how Yona would do tonight when the darkness came in, but it looks like everything is going to be OK,” Yoon turned to grin at Iksoo and Iksoo smiled back. Yoon sniffed the air. “It’s going to rain in a bit, you should go inside, Iksoo.” 

“Alright!” Iksoo nodded, said good night and then nearly ran towards the priests’ quarters.

“Careful!” Yoon shouted. 

Yoon waited until a drop of rain fell on his ear and then he went into the shrine. He closed the door and lit the candles and lights and settled against a wall near the door to listen to the fall of the rain. When rain wasn’t the result of him crying, he rather enjoyed it. It meant everything would be fresh as soon as the rain stopped. It meant good things for everything that Yoon treasured and valued. 

“She’d forgive you, because you gave her a life of prosperity.”

Yoon sighed. It was hard to accept that, but Yona had looked at him with such certainty in her eyes as if she were daring him to disagree and she knew she would win. Yoon looked down at his hands and curled them into fists, careful with his nails. 

He was going to do his best for his people from now on. He was going to help Lili with whatever she needed and...he would try to help Yona and her father.

Yoon almost dozed off when he sensed Yona practically dash up the stairs and onto the shrine grounds. Yoon shot up. What on earth was she doing out so late and in the rain? Yoon opened the shrine door and instantly Yona barrelled into him. He almost fell backwards but managed to stand his ground. Her arms were wrapped around him and her face was buried in his shoulder. 

“Yon-” Yoon started in surprise.

“I’m sorry,” Yona wailed. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t be here. I’m just a bother, but please. Please just let me stay here for a little bit.” The water on Yoon’s shoulder wasn’t just rain water. Yona was crying, her body shaking with sobs. 

“I’ll get Iksoo,” Yoon said.

“No!” Yona nearly shouted, her arms around him tightening. “Please, just let me be,” her voice wobbled. Yoon raised a hand to the back of her head, patting her hair. 

“Alright, let me just close the doors so that the rain doesn’t come in,” Yoon said. He managed to push the door shut even with Yona clinging to him. With some difficulty, he guided them to sit down and stayed quiet as Yona cried. Yoon couldn’t think of many things that would make the always cheerful Yona like this. And he was absolutely sure that the reason why Yona was so distraught was her father. “Do you want to talk about it?” Yoon asked. 

Yona shook her head.

“Hey,” Yoon shrugged her off his shoulder and grabbed her face with his hands. Her eyes were red and flooding with tears, her lips were wrinkled as she tried to keep herself from crying too loudly. “I can’t help you unless you tell me what you want me to help you with. I’m a God.” Yoon said. “I won’t turn you away or judge you. Understand that. But if you still don’t want to talk, that’s fine.”

She started crying even louder and Yoon let her be. She kept crying for a while and then after a while, her cries died into sniffles. Yoon set her down on the floorboards where she wiped her face with her hands. 

“Yoon, did you not heal my mom?” Yona asked. Yoon tensed. 

“I answered your father’s prayers,” Yoon said. 

“Then why did she die?” Yona asked. Yoon was silent, gazing at Yona’s face, trying to understand why she was asking him such questions and then he sighed. 

“Yona, I am a God of medicine. I am not someone that interferes in the cycle of life and death. That is not my role. While I can do that, that is considered me cutting into someone’s life. Which is something which I as a God have very rarely done. It’s kind of an unspoken rule that we Gods can break, but try not to. I answered your father’s prayers and let your mother live long beyond childbirth. I blessed both you and her. Had your father or your aunt asked me to heal your mother’s hereditary weakness, I would have slowly taken that sickness away from her every day. But that was not asked of me. When the God of death comes for someone, even I should not do anything. I do not work miracles either. The times have changed. The times of when humans would have accepted miracles from Gods well is long gone. I could have even healed Iksoo’s bone completely, but what would humans say if Iksoo healed in one day?” Yoon asked. Yona looked down at the floorboards. 

“I thought so,” Yona whispered. 

“Do you blame me?” Yoon asked her. 

“No,” Yona shook her head. “If you had been asked to help my mother I know you would have. I do not blame you in the least.”

“Is this why you’re here?” Yoon asked. Yona stayed silent for a bit and then looked up at him.

“Yoon, I want to leave this town,” Yona said. Yoon blinked. “I only visited other towns when my mother was alive. But after she died, I haven’t stepped out of this town at all. I want to go to Kuuto to study, I want to see how vast the world really is in comparison to this small town which is the only thing I have ever known.”

Yoon thought back to how her father had acted that morning. 

“Is this town a cage for you?” he asked her and she smiled bitterly at him. 

“It’s only a cage because my father made it one,” she said. 

“I see,” Yoon said. 

Yoon wasn’t sure how Yona would be able to leave the town with her father being the way he was. But if anyone could get rid of her father’s fear, it would be Yona. Yoon wasn’t sure how to tell Yona that she needed to help her father when she needed help too. 

“Yoon, can I go? To Kuuto?” Yona asked him, suddenly sounding so horribly insecure.

“You bulldozed your way into a God’s shrine that was off limits for you. I know you, you can go anywhere and do anything if you want to. You have that strength,” Yoon grinned at her. 

First, he would help Yona .

Yona stared at him and then her eyes teared up again and her face turned red. 

“Thank you,” Yona sniffled. 

“Let me get you a towel to dry yourself or you’ll get sick and I’ll have to heal you,” Yoon chuckled. He got up and went to the drawers where he kept first aid things, herbs, towels and an extra pair of clothes for Iksoo. Yoon returned with the worn out but clean towel and handed it to her. 

“This looks very used. Is it yours?” Yona asked. 

“I actually used to use that for Iksoo when he was a child,” Yoon said, smiling. 

“You love him,” Yona said softly. Yoon started. 

“Well, as much as I love humans. He’s just a little special because he’s also my priest,” Yoon said. Yona stared at him for a bit and then started drying herself. “I’ll get you something to drink to warm yourself,” Yoon told her and she nodded. Yoon got up and walked out into the rain and climbed in through the window of the priests’ quarters.

“Yoon?” Iksoo asked in surprise. “Is something wrong?”

“I have a lost puppy in my shrine. I need something to warm her up,” Yoon said.

“Is Miss Yona here?” Iksoo cried out.

“She is,” Yoon said. “You just go to sleep. I’ll handle things.”

“Alright…” Iksoo said sounding unconvinced. Yoon made hot chocolate the way Iksoo liked it when he was younger and then quickly headed back to his shrine. Yona was curled up in a corner, hugging her knees.

“Are you going to go back home?” Yoon asked her. 

“I’ll go back in the morning,” Yona said. Yoon sighed. 

“Here,” Yoon held out the hot chocolate to her and she took it, mumbling a thank you. Yoon went back to where he had been sitting by the door to continue to construct the barrier in his mind. Five minutes later Yoon turned to look at Yona and saw that she had fallen asleep, curled up against the floorboards. Yoon got up and fetched the blanket that Iksoo always used when he slept in Yoon’s shrine as a child because he was too scared to be alone and covered Yona with it. 

Yoon then spotted Yona’s phone and saw it was ringing and had Lili’s name on it. Frowning at it and trying to remember how Iksoo answered his phone, Yoon answered the call and put the phone near his mouth since his ear was too far away for human standards. He’d still be able to hear Lili.

“Yona, your father has been high and low looking for you. He came banging at my door and I told him that you’re with me but you don’t want to see him. He yelled at me but I yelled right back at him. He went back home, but you can’t do this again. I already guessed where you are, don’t stay there too long or Iksoo will be the one to get into trouble,” Lili sighed. 

“This is Yoon, she’s asleep right now,” Yoon said. 

“OK, wow, I never thought I’d have a phone call with a God. Is she OK?” Lili asked. 

“She’s fine. Cried a river, but she’s fine. I dried her and gave her something to drink,” Yoon said.

“Thank you, Yoon,” Lili said. “She needs help.”

“And I intend to help her,” Yoon said. Lili chuckled on the other side. 

“No wonder. Poor Yona,” Lili said. “I need to go, I’ll see the both of you tomorrow,”

And with that, Lili cut the call.

------o------

Chapter Text

“Yona, Yona,” Yona woke up at the sound of her name being called and her shoulder being shaken. Her eyes were crusty and felt like she had just cried the entire night. She cracked open her eyes and her eyes met robin blue eyes that she had come to associate with Yoon. He was bent over her and Yona sat up with a start and Yoon leaped backwards. “Careful! Do you always wake up like that? You could have made me bite my tongue off!” 

“Sorry!” Yona said, turning to look at him. Her body was sore which she should have expected from falling asleep on a plain floor, but there was a blanket draped over her. It was covered in faded duck prints and she remembered how Yoon had explained that he had things for Iksoo in the shrine and how he had looked almost scared and conflicted when she suggested that he loved Iksoo. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep here,” 

“You’ve said that twice to me now. This had better not become a habit of yours,” Yoon said and grinned teasingly at her. Yona’s face was aflame the next moment. “Are you alright? Do you need me to heal you or something?” Yoon asked.

“No! I’m fine!” Yona cried, slapping her hands against her face.

“If you say so,” Yoon said. “Come on, people aren’t awake yet. I thought I’d quickly take you to your house.” 

“Oh, yes,” Yona stood up, feeling dread pool in her stomach. She didn’t want to have to face her father. Yoon’s hand was on the top of her head the next moment.

“You’ll be alright. You have the confidence of a God behind you,” Yoon said with a small smile and Yona stared at him, things instantly clicking into place.

I think I like him.

“OK,” Yona breathed. 

“Iksoo might be upset that I let you use his things, but I’ll clean it all up. I seem to constantly have to take care of unsure kids,” Yoon laughed.

...And he sees me the way he sees Iksoo…

“Let’s go,” Yoon said and Yona followed him out of the shrine. The sky was still grey.  The sun hadn’t risen and the front of the shrine was unswept. “He’s still asleep, good,” Yoon nodded, sounding pleased. Yona stared at his back. He did love Iksoo. But why was he so unwilling to admit that?

The walk through the town was quiet. No one was awake yet and it was serene in the way Yona had felt when her father and Yuuri had fallen asleep early the night before. Yoon was humming a melody that Yona couldn’t recognize, but it felt ancient. The grey light made the edges around Yoon seemed blurred and soft. His hair gently waved in the slight breeze of the morning and his ears twitched ever so slightly when a bird would sing or if he heard the sigh of the wind. His tail on the other hand was in one place, barely moving. 

Yona was suddenly gripped by the intense desire touch his ears and tail.

But she of course, kept her hands to herself. Too much had happened over the past few days. She was frankly exhausted and wasn’t sure she could handle Yoon getting irritated on top of having just figured out that she liked him and well, everything else. 

“Yoon, I’m tired,” Yona found herself saying before she could stop herself. Yoon turned back to look at her. 

“You do look tired. It’s been an exhausting week. You should just rest today instead of going to school.” Yoon told her. 

“There’s no school today, Yoon,” Yona laughed. “It’s a Saturday,” 

“Oh,” was all Yoon said. “Well then, just sleep today,” Yoon said. 

“If I have the time,” Yona told him. He raised an eyebrow and she grinned widely. “The flyers are being printed today and Lili and I are going to come with everyone to the shrine to discuss what to do during the festival!” 

“I see,” Yoon said. “Don’t overwork yourself,” he said. 

“I won’t!” Yona beamed. 

“Alright,” Yoon drew to a halt outside of Yona’s house and Yona blanched. He turned to her, a kind look on his face and he put one hand against her forehead. Yona reddened. “I’m just taking some of your exhaustion and giving you strength,” he told her. 

“OK,” Yona squeaked. 

“You can do it, Yona. You can do this,” he told her. Yona saw the encouraging look on his face and she felt warmth fill her.

“Alright,” Yona nodded. She pulled away from Yoon’s hand and then rang the doorbell. Almost instantly, the door flew open and her father jumped at her to wrap her in a hug but Yona held up her hand and stopped him. “I’m back, dad,” Yona said flatly. “I still don’t agree with what you said last night. And I don’t think I’ll ever agree. I’m not going to stop helping out the shrine whether you want me to or not. That’s all,” Yona said. She turned to look at Yoon who had a look of sadness on his face. She offered him a small smile and then pushed past her father and into the house. 

“What a sad and weak man you have become,” Yona heard Yoon say, pity in his voice. 

------o------

“Are we all here?” Lili asked, looking over all of them. Yona looked at the small crowd that they had managed to gather. The flyers had been printed just before lunch and as soon as the glare of the sun had gone down just a little bit, all of them had gathered up. Added to their group was Taejun, Soowon’s younger brother and a bunch of Hak’s siblings. “Alright! Let’s head to the shrine!” Lili said and all of them trooped towards the shrine. Kija looked a little nervous. When they reached the foot of the stairs, he stopped completely. 

“Lili, do you think you can send Yoon down here to meet me and Kija?” Yona asked Lili quietly.

“Alright,” Lili said, although she seemed a little confused. 

“Are you scared of Yoon?” Yona asked Kija as they watched the group climb the stairs and Lili told them all to stay on the left side. “You don’t have to be, he’s the kindest God there is,” Yona told him.

“I am a trespasser in his territory. I haven’t paid my respects to him yet. He’s suspicious of me. And my God has attempted to eat him more times than anyone can count.” Kija sighed. “If I wasn’t a little wary after all of this, I’d be an idiot.”

“Yona? What is it? Oh...it’s you,” Yoon had bounded down the stairs and drew to a halt when he saw Kija. Kija bowed his head. 

“I’m a part of the group helping with the festival. May I have permission to enter your shrine?” Kija asked. Yoon narrowed his eyes at him and then sighed. 

“You may. Yona, don’t take your eyes off of him. He has to stay with the group at all times,” Yoon said and then turned to go back up the stairs. Yona turned to grin at Kija who offered her a shaky smile as well. The two of them climbed up the stairs and then saw Iksoo greeting everyone cheerfully.

“He’s grown a lot, that Taejun,” Yoon commented at Yona’s side. 

“Well obviously,” Yona said. 

“You humans grow so quickly,” Yoon said softly.

“I’m sure Iksoo grew just as quickly,” Yona said with a smile. Yoon was silent for a moment.

“You’re right. It feels like he was a little child tugging on my clothes just yesterday!” Yoon laughed. 

“Yona! Kija!” Lili waved at them and they hurried over to her. “We’re going to discuss the events during the festival and what stalls are a must and how much money we might need and then we’ll go put up flyers in pairs.” Lili told them. “Oh and Kija, I’ll be going with you. You don’t want some morons to attempt to accost you, do you?

Kija flushed.

Soowon looked like he wanted to say something. 

Yoon looked back and forth from Lili to Soowon with a thoughtful look on his face. 

------o------

“Lili, did you know?” Yona asked. Lili paused in the middle of trying to find pajamas for Yuuri to wear. They were sleeping over at Lili’s house. Lili was the one that had offered, knowing that Yona didn’t want to be at home.

“That you were at the shrine last night? Yeah, I knew. Yoon picked up your phone last night,” Lili said. Yona gaped at her. 

“No wait! Not that!” Yona said. 

“Is this about Kija?” Lili asked. “What is up with him?” 

“He’s the next priest of the snake God, but that’s not what I’m talking about either,” Yona sighed. Lili stared at her blankly.

“I did not expect that. OK. So what do you think I should have known?” Lili asked. 

“Did you know I liked Yoon?” Yona groaned, covering her face with her hands. Lili snickered. 

“Oh, you realized. Well, I had an inkling. And so did Hak. You kept talking about Yoon after all. At first we thought you were just curious. But then you started talking about wanting to help him and the fact that the fur on his ears was a shade darker than his hair and-” Lili started.

“Please stop,” Yona begged. Lili laughed and then sat down on her bed. 

“But, he doesn’t seem the type to fall in love?” Lili said thoughtfully.

“I know,” Yona grumbled. “And in the first place, he’s a God. There’s no way this would work out even if I did confess to him,” Yona shook her head and then looked at her hands. “And...I want to leave this town.” Lili stared at her for a bit and then sighed. She pulled Yona down onto the bed and leaned her head on her shoulder.

“Are you sure?” Lili asked. 

“I’m sure,” Yona said. 

“Aren’t you just escaping?” Lili asked. 

“I’m not escaping! I’m following my dreams!” Yona said. 

“Alright,” Lili said. “You know, all of you have these big dreams and plan on leaving.” 

“So do you, Lili!” Yona laughed. “You want to take over your family’s tea business!”

“Do I?” Lili murmured and Yona went still. Taking over her family’s tea business was all Lili had ever talked about since they were kids. She had wanted to make it bigger and famous enough to attract people from even the mainland. Yona was a transparent kind of person to Lili, but Lili was hard to decipher, even for Soowon. 

“Lili?” Yona asked softly. “If there’s something you want to talk about, I’m here.”

“Yeah,” Lili said. She stayed silent for a bit and then sat up, a grin on her face. “So about Kija! He’s the next priest is he?” Yona frowned but then sighed.

“Yeah,” Yona nodded. “I saw him do something really weird the other day. He had like...scales and claws on his right hand.”

“What does that mean?” Lili asked.

“I don’t know, but his God is the snake God. According to Iksoo he’s tried to eat Yoon a bunch of times. I wonder how Kija stays around him…” Yona said.

“Oh? What’s this? Are we talking about Kija?” Yuuri walked into the room, a towel on her head and smirk on her lips. “He’s really pretty, isn’t he?”

“He is!” Lili agreed.

“But he’s so quiet! He doesn’t talk to anyone. I’ve seen him talk to his father and sometimes you’ll hear him talking loudly if you go by the temple, but outside? He’s so quiet.” Yuuri sat down across from Yona and Lili on the bed. “That’s why I was surprised when he seemed to be able to talk to you so easily, Yona!”

“Ah...we just have something in common…” Yona said.

“Is that so?” Yuuri asked. “Well...I hope he will open up more here.”

------o------

Chapter Text

“Ahn Lili,” Yoon jumped from the top of the fox statue and next to Lili where she was sweeping the front of the temple in her shrine maiden robes. She looked at him and Yoon studied her hair, facial features and the way she held herself and decided he was right after all. “I need you to do something important during the festival,” Yoon said. 

“And what might that be?” Lili asked. 

“I need you to dance the Kagura dance during the festival,” Yoon said. Lili stared at him. Then she set her broom against the fox statue.

“Can I ask why me instead of Yona?” she asked.

“Because, you hold yourself like Kagura dancer would hold themselves. Also, I think you would be most suited for this. Yona can also do this, but I have other jobs for her,” Yoon said.

“And what are those things?” Lili asked.

“I’m having her manage everything with Iksoo on the last day. I am going to make a point,” Yoon said.

“A point to who?” Lili asked. Yoon grinned at her.

“Her father,” Yoon said.

Lili’s eyes widened and she frowned.

“Are you sure that will really do anything at all? Yona’s been doing everything she can possibly do to make him see things for years.” Lili looked unconvinced.

“Leave that to me,” Yoon said. “I don’t intend to make him completely change his mind. I am intending to make him doubt.”

“And so I have to dance the Kagura dance?” Lili asked. 

“You seem against doing this?” Yoon raised an eyebrow. Lili sighed and looked away. Yoon glanced around them. Yona was cleaning the inside of the shrine with Iksoo and the girl that stayed in her house. Hak and his siblings were attempting to put up a tent of sorts. Kija and Soowon were making rounds around the town and informing people of the festival and putting up more flyers. “Isn’t it about time you tell me why you’re desperate enough to see me?” Yoon asked her. She looked sharply at him. Yoon stared back at her. She sighed heavily.

“Nothing escapes you, huh? I bet you already know a bit. I’ve known Yona and Hak all my life but they still don’t know. But you’ve already guessed.” Lili chuckled to herself and then pressed a hand to her face.

“I simply knew that you needed my help and I observed you from there.” Yoon shrugged. “I am a God, I have seen many, many, many people come and go. It is not hard to discern things,” Lili laughed.

“And yet you seem to have no idea,” she shook her head and then the smile on her face faded and she looked up at the sky. “I confessed to Soowon,” Lili said. “I’ve known him my whole life. He’s not the first person I’ve fallen in love with and he’s definitely not the type of person I would usually fall in love with. But...he’s the first person I’ve ever loved so much.” Lili clenched her fists. “Soowon likes to keep himself at a safe distance from everyone. Some of the only people he lets in close are his mother, Runo, Hak and Yona. It would be nice if I was included in that circle, but I stand on the very edge. So close, but not close enough. Because he keeps himself at such a distance he watches everything like an observer. He feels passionately about things, but it is never for himself. Soowon won’t love,” Lili turned to look at Yoon, “or rather he won’t love me. Maybe one day he will find someone who he’ll let past his wall even though that person hasn’t known him half as long as I have. But it won’t be me.” Lili smiled. “I’m desperate, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Did he tell you he didn’t accept your feelings?” Yoon asked her.

“I confessed and he replied with ‘I’m going to college in Saika’.” Lili laughed bitterly. 

“So you’re just going to give up? You’re going to hand him over to some random person who won’t even have known him for half as long as you have?” Yoon asked. 

“What are you-” Lili started angrily.

“You don’t seem the type. Why don’t you punch him in the face and ask him for a straight answer?” Yoon asked. Lili stared at him, her eyes glassy. 

“It’s not that simple,” Lili said, looking away. 

“So you don’t even want closure?” Yoon asked her.

“I don’t,” Lili spat. “I don’t want to have to hear him straight up tell me no. I don’t think I could handle it.” 

“But you joined as a shrine maiden because you wanted him to see you, didn’t you?” Yoon asked. Lili turned red.

“You’re too observant,” she muttered.

“How about we do this? After the Kagura dance, you can tell him how you feel again. After something like a purification dance, humans tend to be more honest,” Yoon suggested. Lili turned look at him, her fingers wrung together.

“I’ll think about it,” Lili said.

“OK,” Yoon nodded. “But you’re still doing the Kagura dance.”

“But I don’t even know how to do it and Iksoo doesn’t look like he could teach me!” Lili snapped.

“Don’t be stupid,” Yoon shook his head. “The one who’ll be teaching you is me,”

“You?” Lili asked in surprise. “You can dance?”

“What are you guys talking about?” Yona asked, jogging up to them.

“Yoon can dance,” Lili said.

“You can dance?” Yona asked Yoon with wide eyes.

“I have to know how to do it,” Yoon said.

“Oh...because you’re a God?” Yona asked.

“Actually, Yoon dances it once every year when the nine gods gather. Because Yoon is the strongest nature god out of the nine, so his purification is the most suited for the Kagura dance,” Iksoo said. 

“Eh? Really?” Lili asked.

“It’s my job,” Yoon shrugged. “Anyways, are you guys done with cleaning the shrine?” Yoon asked. Yona and Iksoo paled.

“No!” Both of them said and hurried back to where the black haired girl was still cleaning.

“So, you’ll teach me? I doubt you can teach me when everyone is around,” Lili said.

“We’ll work something out,” Yoon said.

------o------

“Yoon, how much longer till you’re ready to construct the barrier?” Iksoo asked Yoon as they watched the last of their visitors leave the shrine. A small but steady amount of people had trickled onto the shrine grounds to pray, most likely the influence of the flyers and Soowon. Yoon had to admit Soowon had his ways. He had watched the other interact with everyone and saw how he could very subtly influence things. 

“Why? Did something happen?” Yoon asked. Iksoo hadn’t asked at all ever since the barrier came down. 

“Hm, nothing,” Iksoo said. “I just want the festival to be something that we humans can enjoy and also something that those of you on this side can enjoy too,” 

“Hm, that’s right,” Yoon smiled. “The tree spirits love joining in on the festival. Don’t worry, the barrier will go up in two days,” Yoon told Iksoo. 

“That’s good,” Iksoo said. 

“Iksoo, this year I have a couple of goals in mind.” Yoon murmured.

“I see,” Iksoo nodded. “I will help you in any way that I can.”

“We also need to warn Ahn Lili that in the middle of her Kagura dance, she might be joined by beings from this side,” Yoon chuckled.

“That’s true,” Iksoo laughed.

Yoon thought of the several tree spirits from Geuntae’s territory guarding Yoon’s borders. They were not Geuntae’s subjects just as the creatures that dwelled in Yoon’s land were not his subjects. They were free beings until they decided otherwise. And for that Yoon was grateful. 

“Iksoo, I need you to step over onto this side during the festival,” Yoon said softly. “I want to thank the tree spirits,” 

Iksoo sucked in a sharp breath.

“Alright,” Iksoo nodded.

------o------

“Lord Yoon,” Yoon’s ears perked up as he heard Jura’s voice. He finished the apple he was eating in two quick bites and jumped down from the tree. Jura had been gone for three weeks. He had been needed urgently in the world of humans and he had apologized profusely. Yoon had told him it didn’t bother him. He had spent the three weeks Jura had been gone with some stupid parties the mermaids in Geuntae’s land had thrown. 

Yoon was reminded yet again that he should never ever let a mermaid tempt him into drinking again. Heaven’s knew what they drank. It was too spicy for Yoon’s tongue. 

“You came earlier than expected. Is everything al-” Yoon drew to a halt. Behind Jura stood a child with messy hair, wide eyes and bandages on his face. 

“Lord Yoon, allow me to introduce you to the one who will serve you next. His name is Iksoo, a distant relative of mine that I need to take in. It is a blessing that he has the sight.” Jura pulled the child from behind him and made him stand in front of Yoon. Yoon gazed down at the child. He had potential and good sight. “Iksoo, this is Lord Yoon. You will address him with respect,”

“Y-yoon?” The child said slowly, hesitantly. Yoon’s eyes widened.

“Lord Yoon,” Jura snapped. The child flinched.

“Oh no, it’s quite alright,” Yoon said hurriedly. “He’s merely a child. He will learn in the future.”

“With all due respect, Lord Yoon, he should learn from a young age so he will not forget.” Jura said, bowing his head slightly. In Yoon’s opinion, Jura was just too stiff.

“I see,” Yoon shrugged.

------o------

“Yoon!” Yoon started awake, almost falling off of the branch he was lying on. He looked down and saw Iksoo hurrying towards him, beaming brightly. 

“Stop rushing!” Yoon shouted, jumping down from the tree. “What is it?”

“There’s a horde of children at the shrine asking to help with the festival!” Iksoo said, looking absolutely stunned.

“What?” Yoon asked in surprise. 

Now that he was awake he could feel it. His shrine hadn’t been so crowded on a normal day in years. He hurried towards the shrine and Iksoo came after him. They were all high school and middle school children. Yona and Lili were trying to make them quiet down and write down their names. Hak and his siblings were grumbling about trying to keep them all in line and Soowon, Taejun, Kija and the black haired girl were scribbling down something with serious faces.

“What’s going on?” Yoon asked startled.

“Oh,” Yona pulled away from the crowd and let Iksoo take her place. She stood next to him, beaming brightly. “The flyers and promotion worked,” she said.

“What...how?” Yoon asked. How had that worked so quickly when Iksoo had struggled so much?

“Actually, Soowon told everyone Lili was going to do the Kagura dance and Hak and his siblings were going to take the taiko drums. And that we needed help. That brought in everyone in swarms,” Yona shrugged. 

“Huh…” Yoon said.

“I feel kind of defeated…” Iksoo said slowly.

“No,” Yona laughed. “It’s just that, everyone needs help sometimes!”

“I’m not going to ask you for good luck or anything because we will absolutely have the entire town bustle through this shrine and pay their respects to you. You just have to sit back and watch.”

Yoon suddenly could see the light at the end of the tunnel. What Kouren had feared and threatened him for didn’t seem like it was going to come to pass at all. Iksoo was going to stay with him now. 

And it was all because of Yona.

------o------

Chapter Text

The shrine got busy. They all equally put their minds into promoting the shrine. But the moment Soowon started seriously working, it was like watching magic unfold. Yona had to admit, her cousin was some kind of crazy genius. Without him it would have taken significantly longer to get things done. Kija unconsciously charming every single caring grandmother that was in the town helped too. It was like he was an old people magnet. Thanks to this Yona got a lot busier. Yoon wanted her and Iksoo to basically lead the organizing while he taught Lili the Kagura dance. 

Yona was decidedly a little jealous. While she was running around and organizing, Lili got to see Yoon dance. Yona couldn’t complain to Hak since he was busy with the taiko drums and she didn’t exactly feel the most comfortable laying her woes on Iksoo. Soowon was busy trying to do everything he could after going over things with Iksoo and Kija who both had grown up in shrines so they knew how festivals worked. Yona wondered how the festivals had been carried out when Iksoo was a child.

Yona had accompanied Soowon on a run through the town to see how many shops wanted to set up stalls. The typical festival stalls that didn’t get run by shop owners would be handled by the student volunteers that had appeared to help. 

“You’re working pretty hard, Soowon,” Yona said as they ducked into a shop to stand under the shade for a bit.

“Not as much as you are,” Soowon said with a smile.

“I just want to do something for Yoon,” Yona shrugged. “All purely selfish desires.”

“Something tells me it didn’t start out that way,” Soowon said.

“That doesn’t matter. Currently I’m doing it all for Yoon while Lili gets to see Yoon dance,” Yona sighed.

“I see,” Soowon said.

“What about you?” Yona asked. “It’s rare to see you so gung ho,”

“I guess I got caught in the excitement you and Hak are throwing off,” Soowon said, grinning. Yona frowned.

“Really?” Yona asked.

“Yup!” Soowon said. He looked down at the stack of papers he was holding. “Alright, let’s head to the last shop. Mostly everyone has agreed and I think once those who haven’t realize they’ve been left out, they’ll come running.”

“OK,” Yona followed Soowon back out into the sun and she stared at his back. There was no way he was just caught up in her and Hak’s excitement. “I wonder if it was OK to leave Kija with Iksoo,” Yona wondered out loud.

“Hm?” Soowon turned to look at her. 

“Oh no! I was just thinking if something were to happen, Iksoo might not be able to handle Kija!” Yona said. It wasn’t that she was suspicious of Kija, but the truth was that the snake God had given Kija something to do and there was a very high possibility that he would do just that. Yona had seen Kija that night and he had seemed like he could do anything. He had made that darkness run away after all. Yona didn’t think Iksoo could handle that. 

“What does that mean? Iksoo has been at the shrine his whole life. Kija is a newbie. I’m sure Iksoo can handle him just fine even though he is a bit clumsy,” Soowon said.

“You don’t get it, do you?” Yona asked as they slipped into Gigan’s shop. “This has to do with God politics and a side of this world that most of us can’t see.” 

“Huh, is that so?” Soowon asked. He didn’t sound very convinced. 

Speaking of God politics and Iksoo and Kija, Iksoo had told her that Yoon had finally put up a new barrier so she could feel completely safe. Well, Yona had felt safe with the number of charms Iksoo had shoved into her arms, practically vibrating in concern for her safety on the first day.

“Welcome! Can I help you?” Jaeha called cheerfully.

“Hey Jaeha, we’re looking to talk to Gigan, if she’s free,” Soowon said.

“Oh, the festival stuff? Give me a minute.” Jaeha leaned over the counter. “Captain Gigan, you’re needed out here!” he bellowed.

“Shut your mouth, snotty brat! I can hear you just fine!” Gigan bellowed back. Jaeha turned back to them with a grin.

“She’s on her way,” he said. He stared at them for a moment. “I see Hak isn’t here with the both of you,” he said in mock distress. 

“Aw, do you miss him?” Yona asked teasingly. 

“Unfortunately,” Jaeha sighed dramatically.

That was the problem with Jaeha. Hak totally crushed on him - although he would never admit it - but Yona couldn’t figure out for the life of her whether Jaeha was serious or if he was just flirting as usual. Jaeha was notorious for never dating seriously after all. Soowon could probably read Jaeha if he wanted to, but Soowon never said a word. 

“Ah, the festival kids,” Gigan stepped up from behind the counter and nodded at them. “How can I help you?”

“We were wondering if you would be interested in setting up a stall at the festival this year,” Soowon said, walking up to the counter with his papers. “It’ll be free of course. However, all expenses for setting up the stall would be on your side.”

“Jaeha, what do you think? Do you want to do it?” Gigan asked. “I can’t handle a stall at the festival so it would have to be you,” 

“I think we can sell some of our cheaper starters there without making too much of a mess and without it requiring too much work,” Jaeha said thoughtfully. “I’ll do it.”

“Alright,” Gigan turned back to Soowon to discuss things and Jaeha leaned down to whisper in Yona’s ear.

“Yona dear, isn’t Soowon pretty invested in this?” Jaeha asked.

“Yeah,” Yona said. “I don’t know why though,”

Well, Yona had her suspicions, but she didn’t know enough to actually voice them. 

------o------

“We’re back!” Yona said cheerfully as she leaped up the stairs. It was only Iksoo and Kija there. Yuuri had texted Yona earlier that she was going to the library with Taejun and another one of the exchange students and would be back in time for dinner. “Where are Lili and Yoon?” 

“They’re in the shrine and practicing,” Iksoo said. “The two of you can go and look if you’d like.”

“Do you want to come, Kija?” Soowon asked.

“Hm?” Kija turned to look at them. “Oh no, I’ve practiced the Kagura dance so much I’m sick of it.”

“Really?” Yona asked in surprise. “You can dance too, Kija?” 

“Well, it’s necessary for a priest to know how to do it,” Kija said. Iksoo laughed.

“I’ve tried it several times in the past. In the end Yoon stopped trying to teach me for fear I would break more than just my bones.” Iksoo rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. “Anyways, if you want to go see how things are going, you should probably go quickly. They’ll finish up soon.”

“Got it!” Yona beamed and dashed towards the shrine doors. Carefully, she pushed it open and peered in. Soowon peeked in from behind her. 

“Anyways, like I was saying, your posture is good, but you need to work more how you move your feet. You’re as bad as Iksoo,” Yoon said, tapping Lili’s ankle with his foot.

“Excuse me?” Lili snapped. “Ah, I see, you’re not a good enough teacher. I’ll go ask Kija.”

“Hah?” Yoon snarled. “Let me tell you, I am probably the best at the Kagura dance in the entire country!”

“But still a horrible teacher!” Lili said. 

“You!” Yoon growled and then he caught sight of Yona and Soowon. Lili who seemed to have caught sight of them before, laughed. 

“Yona, Yoon’s an awful teacher! No wonder Iksoo never managed to learn!” Lili cackled. 

“Hey!” Yoon shouted.

“I’m sure he’s a fine teacher,” Yona said, quickly slipping into the shrine, Soowon coming in after her. “When he explains things to me, I understand perfectly.”

“That’s because you’re just weird.” Lili shrugged. 

“Are we done?” Iksoo entered the shrine and Yoon practically leaped at Kija who was behind Iksoo.

“Don’t you dare enter the shrine, that’s too much to excuse!” Yoon roared.

“I understand,” Kija nodded, bowing his head. “I did not intend to enter the shrine, I will merely stand here.”

“Um...so all of you can see...uh...this Yoon?” Soowon suddenly spoke up. All of them froze up. That was right. He was the only one on shrine grounds that couldn’t see Yoon. Hak and Soowon didn’t really question when Yona or Lili suddenly spoke up to the space beside them, but they must have been at least a little curious. Yona turned to look at Yoon who shrugged. 

“Yeah, that’s right,” Lili said. “Iksoo is a priest so that’s natural. Kija is the next priest of the snake God, Yona has the sight, and for various reasons, I can see Yoon too.”

“I see…” Soowon said. Lili bent down and picked up the kagura suzu she had put down and turned to Yoon.

“Where do I put this away?” she asked.

Yona looked at Soowon and saw that the look on his face was one of confusion. 

“Soowon, will you walk home with me today?” Yona asked.

“Sure,” Soowon said.

------o------

“Good night, Yoon, Iksoo!” Yona waved and then walked down the stairs with Soowon, Lili and Kija. Kija and Lili said good night and then walked off in different directions. Yona and Soowon walked in silence for a bit and Yona observed the open shops around them and then broke the silence. “What’s wrong with you and Lili?”

“Nothing,” Soowon replied.

“Yeah, like I’m believing that,” Yona snorted. 

“I’m going to Saika for college,” Soowon blurted. Yona stopped to stare at him.

“Seriously?” Yona asked.

“Yes,” Soowon said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”

“But you never tol-” Yona stopped. “Does Hak know?” 

“No,” Soowon shook his head. “I’ve only told my mother and Lili.”

“Lili?” Yona cried out. “Is that why you guys have been like that?” Yona asked. This was unusual. Soowon rarely told anyone else if he hadn’t told Hak yet. Soowon looked unsure of himself. Yona stared at him for a moment. “Soowon...that’s not all there is...is it?”

“I don’t know…” Soowon shook his head. “I don’t know what I feel for Lili.”

“You like Lili?” Yona hissed.

“No,” Soowon said. “I don’t think that this feeling is that. I don’t know.” Soowon grumbled and ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t think I see her the way I used to anymore. I don’t know how I see her.” He looked frustrated and confused. “I don’t like that she’s somehow put a wall in between us. I don’t like how sometimes I think I’ve put up a wall between us. But that wall has always been there? I’ve always had it there? So why is it making me uncomfortable now? I don’t like how I’m probably the reason there’s distance between us.” 

“That’s OK,” Yona said simply. She hadn’t seen Soowon look like this about anything other than his family ever before. “You have time to figure things out. Think about it and figure it out.” Yona told him. “Ah, but don’t take too long. Lili is a fickle creature.” Yona laughed.

“Thank you for that much needed reminder,” Soowon muttered. 

They continued to walk in silence. 

“Yona, do you like Yoon?” Soowon asked. Yona weaved her fingers together.

“Yeah...I do,”

------o------

Chapter Text

As soon as the barrier went up, it became decidedly easier for Yoon to handle things, such as focusing on teaching Lili the Kagura dance. For someone who had never danced a day in her life, she was progressing well. His power levels were slowly increasing as well. It wasn’t as noticeable physically, but he could sense life flowing in the town again. The preparations for the festival were going well. Yoon had never been so involved in the human side of the preparation before. During Iksoo’s growth period, Yoon accepted Geuntae’s priest’s help in arranging the festival. But this time, he was neck deep in preparations. 

Iksoo, Soowon, Kija and Yona were running all over the place, busy with organizing. Yona hadn’t come to talk to him about having any problems and Iksoo said everything seemed alright, so Yoon assumed that Yona’s father wasn’t bothering her...yet.

Space was being cleared out for stalls and necessary security measures were being put into effect. Yoon said that he could just have a bunch of yokai scare off anyone that tried to mess things up, but Soowon would have none of it. Yoon supposed that the other still had a hard time believing Yoon existed. 

Humans were like that.

People like An Lili, on the other hand, were hard to come by. She took Yoon’s existence in stride, never questioned his existence, never questioned what she was seeing. Personality wise An Lili often felt like Yoon himself. Living on the edge of their minds and using their brains to survive. They wrapped themselves in a protective shield of logic and reason. An Lili sometimes had the eyes of someone who had lived longer than they looked like. 

An Lili was intelligent, An Lili was talented, An Lili was significantly beautiful by human standards, and An Lili couldn’t seem to get what she wanted the most.

The more Yoon observed Lili and Soowon, the more he realized that the fault didn’t lie with Lili or Soowon. There was a barrier of emotions that neither of them could seem to decipher. It was like watching the love of a yokai. Intangible feelings with no proper name. Was this what it was like with smart humans? Did they cross the barrier of what was normally human and enter a realm that very few could?

Yoon trusted Lili to figure this out. He knew her well, he understood her intelligence. He hadn’t interacted with Soowon and hadn’t seen him enough to understand how he thought. Everything that Yoon was hoping to give Lili rested on Soowon’s shoulders.

And sometimes that was how it was with humans .

Yoon gave Lili the push.

And the rest, they had to figure out themselves. 

Yoon would help them, as much as he could. But there were some places that he as a God couldn’t interfere with even if the person was desperate like Lili.

------o------

“Yona,” Yoon said as he stepped out of the shrine. He was surprised to see Yona still there when he had seen her off with Lili half an hour ago. 

“Yoon!” Yona said in surprise. “I thought you were going to sleep because you were tired?” She wasn’t in her uniform anymore, which meant that she had gone home and had changed and come back.

“I have too much spiritual energy piled up thanks to dancing too many unfinished Kagura dances. It’s messing with my head so I’m going to go and finish up the dance,” Yoon said.

“You’re going to dance?” Yona asked, her eyes lighting up. That was right, Yona had only seen tiny glimpses of him dancing from when he was teaching Lili.

“Yes,” Yoon nodded. “I’m going to head towards the back garden. More importantly, what are you doing here?”

“Oh…” Yona looked down at her hands.

“Is it your father again?” Yoon asked.

“No,” Yona shook her head. “I was just...a little restless.” Yona weaved her fingers together. “Yuuri is sleeping over at Lili’s house tonight so I came here to clear my head a little bit.”

“Is that OK?” Yoon asked. “It’s gotten pretty dark already. Your father won’t like that, will he?”

“My father and I aren’t talking,” Yona said simply. “I left a note saying that I was going out for a walk, so I should be fine.”

“I see,” Yoon nodded. It wasn’t late enough for people to close shops yet, but knowing Yona’s father, he probably considered it late enough. “If you want to clear your mind, why don’t you accompany me?” Yoon asked her. She blinked and stared at him with wide and surprised eyes.

“Is that OK?” she asked, lighting up again.

“Yes, it’s fine. It’s not like anyone else will be around.” Yoon shrugged. He turned and started walking towards the garden and Yona hurried after him. 

“Can you properly do the dance without the Kagura suzu ?” Yona asked. 

“I never hold the Kagura suzu unless it’s the purification day of the nine Gods,” Yoon told her. “Humans can use it to purify things, what do you think will happen if it’s in the hands of a God?” Yoon asked her.

“Extreme purification!” Yona said, practically sparkling. Yoon tried not to laugh.

“You’re not wrong,” Yoon told her. “But if I use it when in the wrong place, I could accidentally wipe out all yokai in the vicinity, regardless of whether they are consumed by darkness or not.” 

“That’s a lot of power,” Yona said quietly after a moment of silence.

“Isn’t it?” Yoon asked. He grabbed a green and new tree branch and ripped it away from the tree. “So in this case, I’ll use this,” Yoon told her. She nodded and Yoon made her sit down with her back against a tree and then closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before starting. 

The dancing came naturally to him. He had practiced it for more years than he could remember. Smooth movements and firm steps. He whipped the branch around with him, making the air hiss. The pent up energy inside of him channeled through the branch, harmlessly releasing into the air. As a nature God, purification was his forte. Before he came around, the one in charge of the Kagura dance was Ayura and that was a downright disaster. She couldn’t dance the Kagura dance to save her life. (She didn’t have any problems with her own random sword dance she performed when drunk, but that was a different issue.) Somehow the Gods had managed to scrape by each year. The year Yoon became a God, Geuntae had practically dragged him to the ceremony and handed Yoon off to a very relieved Ayura.

“That was beautiful, Yoon,” Yona breathed as soon as Yoon had finished the last step. “That was so beautiful.”

“Well...it is a purification dance. For someone with the sight, of course it would be beautiful.” Yoon turned to her, planting the branch into the soil.

“No, no! I meant you were beautiful!” Yona said. Yoon blinked and Yona turned scarlet.

“Thank you?” Yoon said in confusion. He looked at her, curled up against the tree and frowned. “Aren’t you cold?” 

“No,” Yona shook her head. “I feel normal, actually.”

“I see,” Yoon nodded. “I feel like I should probably tell you this before hand. I’ve already told Lili, but you especially should keep this in mind. We won’t be alone during the festival.”

“Alone?” Yona asked.

“Humans aren’t the only ones that attend festivals like these,” Yoon explained. “As a shrine maiden, and especially one with sight, you might be approached by several otherworldly creatures who will request your help or ask you questions. If they do, please direct them all to Iksoo. I’ve told Iksoo to create charms for you and Lili to stay safe during the festival. During the Kagura dance, several tree spirits will probably join.”

“How will I know that they’re not human?” Yona asked curiously. 

“Quite simple, actually. You’ll know it on the day. Just in case I’ll have Iksoo flank you for the first ten minutes of the festival,” Yoon said. Most of the otherworldly would appear otherworldly if you looked at them close enough. It also helped that normal humans around them wouldn’t be able to see them. It wouldn’t be too hard for Yona.

“Alright,” Yona nodded.

“I’ll walk you home,” Yoon told her.

“Already?” Yona asked.

“Yes,” Yoon said firmly. “You can’t stay here all night,” 

“You didn’t consider that a problem before,” Yona pouted. Yoon pinched her cheek. 

“Don’t be cheeky,” Yoon said with a knowing look.

He walked with Yona down still lit streets and open shops and houses. Yona was quiet as if contemplating something. The walk back to her house wasn’t long and they stopped in front of her door.

“Yoon,” Yona turned to look at him. “Can I do this?” 

Yoon studied the insecure and unsure look on her face.

“I want you to be the head shrine maiden on that day. Only you can do that. No one else. Even if someone tries to stop you, I won’t allow it,” Yoon told her. Both of them knew he was talking about her father. Although Yoon wasn’t supposed to cut into her life, although he had promised that the point he was making was for Yona’s father, although he had said he would one day help her father. 

“We’re going to fix everything.”

Please forgive me for thinking selfishly just this once.

“Alright,” Yona said with a shuddering breath and her face flushed. “I can do it,” 

“That’s right,” Yoon said with a smile.

“Good night, Yoon,” Yona said.

“Good night,” Yoon said and then watched her disappear into that cold house without warmth. He looked up at the sky for a bit before turning around and heading back to the shrine. 

------o------

“Perfect!” Yoon said cheerfully and Lili grinned at him.

“After all that nagging about me not being able to do anything right,” Lili said.

“It’s because of my nagging that you were able to do anything at all,” Yoon shrugged.

“The festival is in three days,” Lili said quietly.

“I know,” Yoon nodded.

“Yoon, what am I unsure of?” Lili asked. Yoon sighed and then reached forward to pat Lili on the head. 

“That, Lili, is for you to discover. And always remember, sometimes there are no words that you can give to what you feel. Words aren’t enough...words don’t know.” Yoon told her. It seemed she had already noticed the intangibility of what she felt. How things didn’t seem to be clicking into place the way they did for other people.

“Got it,” Lili nodded.

“Yoon!” the shrine door flung open and Iksoo rushed in. “We’re going to start setting up the framework for the stalls and the arch. Can you quickly give us a blessing?” 

Yona peeked in behind Iksoo.

“I can,” Yoon nodded.

“Should I come?” Lili asked.

“No,” Yoon said. “You stay here and dance until you can’t anymore,” Yoon grinned. She made a face at him and he followed Iksoo and Yona out. 

Hak and his siblings were already there with several other students that were there to help building stalls. Yoon’s eyes passed over a child that was by Hak’s side and then whipped his head back to look at the child. The child was staring at Iksoo and Kija.

Yoon almost thought the child had been looking straight at him .

“Well then,” Yoon said. “Let’s get started,”

------o------

Chapter Text

“Yona!” Yoon shouted, practically throwing open the doors in his hurry. “Are you ready? Let me take a look at you. Did you put your charms where I told you to put them? You can make your hair later. Help me out with Lili, she won’t let me into the shrine to help her get dressed and no one else in the village knows how to dress a traditional purification Kagura dancer.”

Yona stared at him as he checked her uniform and patted the folds where he had made space for Yona to slip charms into. She had helped all the volunteering girls get ready and now she was getting ready.

“But...I don’t know how to dress a traditional purification Kagura dancer,” Yona said with wide eyes.

“Don’t worry, I’ll stand on the outside and give you instructions,” Yoon said. “Tch, should I have employed the help of a tree spirit?” Yoon muttered. 

“I’ll go,” Yona laughed. The both of them hurried towards the shrine where Lili was getting dressed inside. The entire shrine grounds were covered in decorations and busy with people setting working on their stalls, volunteers running around checking lights, decorations, the arch and cleaning up. Yona and Yoon dashed towards the shrine where Iksoo was carefully setting up sacred decorations. Yona walked up to the shrine door. “Lili, it’s me,” Yona knocked. 

The door cracked open and Yona slipped in. She shut the door behind her and drank in Lili’s appearance. Her inner robes were put on properly. Her outer robes were hanging off of one shoulder. Yona smiled. Lili hadn’t done her hair up yet, but her makeup was done. She already looked gorgeous.

“I prefer the shrine maiden uniforms,” Lili groaned.

“OK,” Yona rolled up her sleeves a little bit. “Yoon, talk me through this. She has her inner robes on.”

“Got it,” Yoon said loudly from the other side of the door.

Yona listened to Yoon instruct her as she helped Lili put on the robes. Yoon had told them that a lot of simple Kagura dance clothes were just an extra fancy robe on top of a shrine maiden uniform. But since Yoon was the nature God that danced the Kagura dance every year, the Kagura dance clothes had to be more elaborate. Listening to the comforting sound of Yoon’s voice and the familiar grumbling of Lili’s voice, Yona finished putting the clothes on Lili. 

“I’ll call Yoon in,” Yona told Lili.

“Ah!” Lili grabbed Yona’s arm. “Be careful that just Yoon comes in,” Lili said, looking conflicted.

“Who...else would?” Yona asked. Everyone was busy. 

“No one,” Lili hurriedly let go of Yona’s arm. Yona stared at her funny for a moment before going and opening up the door. Yoon hurriedly came inside and nodded in approval.

“You did well,” he told Yona and then quickly started to fix anything that was out of place. “I’m going to make her hair now. Yona, can you go make sure Iksoo doesn’t fall over?” he asked.

“Understood,” Yona said. She walked out of the shrine and saw Iksoo furrowing his eyebrows together as he tried to thread decorations through a small beam. “Can I help you?” Yona asked.

“Oh, I would be grateful if you could hold the stool in place. It’s a little shaky,” Iksoo admitted. Yona nodded. “I’m surprised Lili let you in. Soowon came by earlier and tried and Lili nearly uprooted the entire shrine,” Iksoo laughed.

Oh .

“Iksoo,” Yona asked. “How do you feel about all of this?” Yona asked.

“Me?” Iksoo blinked. “Well...it’s the liveliest festival that we’ve had yet. I’m glad,” Iksoo smiled. Yona smiled as well. “And yet! Yoon won’t dress up well! Honestly!” 

“He’s supposed to dress up?” Yona asked.

“He’s supposed to put on an elaborate kariginu on such occasions, but it seems he doesn’t do it very often.” Iksoo sighed.

“It would be nice to see him in one,” Yona commented.

“It would be,” Iksoo agreed. “I’m done,” Iksoo told her. Yona stood up and helped the clumsy priest down from the stool. 

The shrine door opened and Yoon poked his head out.

“Yona, I’m done with Lili’s hair. I can do yours now.” Yona turned to look at him. He was wearing a simple yukata in a shade of forest green like he always did. Yona frowned.

“Maybe if you dress up,” Yona said.

“What?” Yoon cried out.

“I heard you’re supposed to wear a kariginu .” Yona tilted her head.

“Iksoo!” Yoon snapped.

“What?” Iksoo cried. “I just told her the truth!”

“But they’re too stuffy!” Yoon complained.

“And so are Lili’s clothes,” Yona said matter-of-factly. “I’ll do my own hair. You can go and put on your clothes,” Yona said. 

Yoon groaned.

“I’ll put them on, but I have every intention to make your hair. So don’t you dare go anywhere else!” Yoon said and then took off in the direction of the priests’ quarters.

“Yona, do you want my position?” Iksoo asked.

“Huh?” Yona blinked.

“You’re better at convincing him to do things than I am,” Iksoo said with an unhappy pout on his face.

“No way, you’re just too nice, Iksoo. Yoon still listens to you.” Yona laughed.

Not even a minute later, Yoon was back.

“I found which one I want to wear. I set it out for a bit. I’ll make your hair and then wear it,” Yoon said. Then he grabbed her wrist and tugged her into the shrine. Yona tried not to die right then and there. When they entered the shrine, Yona saw Lili sitting on a chair, perfectly dressed up, the Kagura suzu laid across her knees.

“Lili, you’re beautiful,” Yona gasped.

“And you guys are lovey dovey,” Lili said, eyeing their hands. 

“No!” Yona pulled her hand away, her face flaming. 

“Huh?” Yoon asked in what seemed like confusion. Yona wanted to pull out the floorboards and bury herself underneath the shrine. “Anyways, sit down, Yona. I’ll make your hair.” Yona was pushed into a chair - Yoon didn’t originally have chairs, but they were brought in for the festival - and he immediately started working on her hair. 

There were a large amount of traditional female accessories that looked fairly old and Yona was sure that at the peak of the shrine, there had been several shrine maidens using them. Yoon’s hands were gentle and almost flowed through her hair despite the amount of time Yona took to even put her hair into a ponytail. 

“Your hair is fascinating,” Yoon murmured. “I have never seen this natural red on a human from this town before.”

Yona flushed and to her side, Lili grinned knowingly.

------o------

The opening of the festival went well. Iksoo looked like he had done it before and if Yona had ever come at the very beginning of the festival, she probably would have noticed that. Yona and Iksoo stayed at the front of the shrine by the altar first, directing people as they prayed and keeping an eye on the crowd. 

“There,” Iksoo said, gesturing as inconspicuously as possible at three girls waiting in line to pray. “They’re yokai,”

“Really?” Yona asked. “How do you know?”

“Well...first and foremost...a feeling?” Iksoo laughed. “I think since you have the sight, you’ll get used to it soon enough. But for now, look at their feet,”

“Their feet?” Yona murmured, her eyes going down. Their feet were bare like Yoon’s. “Oh!” Yona said. “So yokai don’t wear shoes?” 

“Not necessarily. Some do, but we’re visited by mostly nature yokai and they don’t wear shoes.” Iksoo explained.

“I see,” Yona nodded. 

“You’ll pick it up soon enough, I’m sure,” Iksoo told her. 

“Yokai pray as well?” Yona asked curiously.

“They do,” Iksoo nodded. “It’s Yoon’s choice on whether he wants to answer those prayers of course, because yokai don’t fall under any god unless they’re sworn their allegiance. Most of the times when yokai come to this festival, they greet Yoon and offer their cooperation as nature yokai to him.”

“Oh,” Yona nodded.

“Yona!” Yona heard Lili hissed from the door of the shrine. “Help, I’m really hungry.” She was still inside the shrine, but she was speaking from the small gaps in the wood. 

“I’ll ask someone to get you some light snacks,” Yona told her.

“Preferably sweets,” Iksoo added his input.

“Got it,” 

Yona called a volunteer she saw and relayed the message. 

“Yona, do you think you can go around now?” Iksoo asked. “I will be fine here, I want you to make sure everything is going well and to maybe help our otherworldly guests find their way around,”

“I can do that,” Yona nodded.

“Thank you,” Iksoo smiled and Yona smiled back.

“Yuuri!” Yona called as soon as she saw the girl, running by. “Can you stand here with Iksoo for me?”

“Yes!” Yuuri said. 

Yona quickly slipped past the crowd of praying shrine visitors. She didn’t stare, but she noticed the number of yokai in line. She glanced at the feet of people and then briefly glanced over them so that she wouldn’t draw attention. Iksoo was right, it was easier to realize who was a yokai and who wasn’t. Occasionally there were some with distinguishing features like ears or multicolored eyes, but they also just looked...otherworldly.

“Yona!” 

Yona turned to see Yoon run over to her wearing his kariginu. It was so different in comparison to how Yona usually saw Yoon, wearing a comfortable green yukata with a feel of simplicity and humbleness. Now he looked like an actual God. Yona stared open mouthed at him.

“Where are you going?” Yoon asked her.

“Iksoo asked me to make some rounds and check things out,” Yona explained.

“I see,” Yoon nodded. “In that case, let me make sure my blessing on you is still completely effective.”

“Your blessing?” Yona asked curiously and Yoon pressed a finger to the middle of her forehead. 

“It’s a blessing of health I gave you before you were born. Usually it doesn’t last this long after birth, but with your sight, I guess it just never left,” Yoon said. He smiled in relief. “It’s still in effect. I’m glad. It’s an important blessing. There are yokai that would kill for this kind of blessing.”

“What does it do?” Yona asked. 

“Well...it keeps you healthy and it keeps you safe. I blessed your mother with health to survive childbirth, and I gave you the blessing to constantly keep healthy so that your mother’s weakness would not affect you. This blessing isn’t all powerful of course. Iksoo has the same kind of blessing, but if you fall headfirst into a wall, you will end up with a broken arm, blessing or no blessing,” Yoon laughed.

“Thank you,” Yona breathed, suddenly realizing that she had never really gotten sick, only brief colds. Yoon had been taking care of her for so long and she had had no idea. Yoon smiled gently.

“It’s my gift to you,” he said. “It’s important.”

------o------

Chapter Text

“Yoon, this is quite the improvement,” 

Yoon groaned and turned around.

“I knew I smelled a stinky tiger,” Yoon muttered. Geuntae was alone. Yoon was glad about that at least. He wanted to be able to see Yunho next when he formally visited her to congratulate her for her pregnancy and bless her and her baby. 

“I invited Mizari, but he seemed quite against coming. Very unusual coming from him, don’t you think?” Geuntae asked. 

“It actually isn’t,” Yoon deadpanned. “Mizari snuck one of his own into my territory without telling me. He’s scared I’m going to claw his pretty eyes out.” 

“Oh, I see,” Geuntae nodded understandingly.

“It’s honestly a pain. I want to throw him out, but he’s just a child. A normal human child.” Yoon rubbed his forehead.

“Nothing about him is normal,” Geuntae scoffed. “That child is some kind of prodigy, even the mainland Gods have noticed.”

“No,” Yoon said, turning to look at where Kija was struggling to carry several supply boxes with one of Hak’s siblings. “He’s just a human child.”

“I see that I am late in giving my greetings,” Ayura suddenly spoke up to the side and Yoon rolled his eyes.

“Now, what are you doing here?” Yoon asked. Ayura smiled slyly.

“Why now, I am most interested in knowing how you suddenly climbed up from such a slump. It’s fascinating. And given our last interaction, I think I’m more than welcome here,” she said.

“Tch,” Yoon clicked his tongue. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I hope that no more of you are going to-”

“You’re short on luck, squirt,” a deep voice said off to the side. 

“Why?” Yoon snapped at Joodoh. “No one invited you!”

“I invited myself,” Joodoh said. 

“Which is a problem!” Yoon snarled. “I don’t remember being on good terms with you at all! When was the last time we even talked? Eighty years ago?” Yoon asked.

“Earlier this year at the yearly God meeting,” Joodoh told him.

“That doesn’t count,” Yoon snapped.

“Yoon, I did my rounds and everything seems fine. A couple of tree spirits were kind of lost bu-” Yoon turned in horror to see Yona dash up to him, a small box of takoyaki in her hands. She froze, staring with wide eyes at the Gods standing in front of Yoon. “Wha-”

“Oh my-”

“Isn’t that-”

“Who would have thou-”

“Don’t even look at her!” Yoon shouted, quickly sliding in front of Yona. 

“Not even a greeting? What a pity,” Geuntae grinned.

“She doesn’t need to greet any of you! Yona, do me a favor, go check out how Hak and his siblings are at the drums. They should start in half an hour.” Yoon spun around, put his hands on Yona’s shoulders and pushed her.

“O-OK…” Yona said and then stopped. “Wait, I got this to share with yo-”

“Later! Give that to Lili, I’ll buy more for us later,” Yoon said.

“OK, I’m going,” Yona nodded and hurried off.

“Oh? What’s this?” Ayura put an arm around Yoon’s shoulders.

“Don’t touch me, you damned rabbit,” Yoon growled.

“Didn’t she have your blessing? But she’s not one of your own?” Geuntae asked in shock.

“Yoon...you have a human lover?” Joodoh asked.

“I don’t!” Yoon shouted. “She’s a child I’m in the process of helping! She has the sight!” 

“She was wearing the ornament you made for your first priest,” Geuntae pointed out. Yoon twitched. He didn’t think that Geuntae would remember such a thing, especially since he himself was trying to forget.

“So?” Yoon snapped. “It looks good on her!”

“This is interesting,” Ayura snickered.

“Ugh, I’m going to go greet the tree spirits with Iksoo in just a little bit. None of you dare go looking for her. Trust me, I will know.” Yoon shrugged Ayura’s arm off of his shoulders and stormed away in search of Iksoo. 

------o------

Yoon didn’t need to go searching for Iksoo. His priest was still standing by the altar and watching as visitors prayed and gave offerings. A couple of volunteers were standing with him as well and that meant it was alright for Yoon to take Iksoo away for a bit. Yoon quickly went over to Iksoo.

“Iksoo, it’s time. We should go now,” Yoon said. Iksoo nodded, his expression turning serious.

“Miss Kanzaki,” Iksoo said with a smile. “I’m going to go for some urgent work. If you need something, please go to Yona, Soowon or Kija,” 

“Alright,” The girl next to him beamed. 

“Let’s go,” Yoon walked away and Iksoo followed him. The two of them weaved through the crowd and stepped into the shadows. Yoon turned around to see that Iksoo was there, but just not the Iksoo that Yoon was used to. This Iksoo’s eyes glowed in the dark, his pupils were slits, fangs poked out from his lips and the nails on his hands had elongated into fox like claws like Yoon’s. “Are you alright?” Yoon asked. Iksoo looked pale and nauseous, but he nodded anyways. “Are you sure?” Yoon asked.

“I’m fine,” Iksoo said. “This is important to the both of us,”

“Alright, first, let’s go greet the Gods. Three of them are here. I want to also make sure they aren’t wrecking havoc.” Yoon pat Iksoo’s arm. 

“Understood,” Iksoo nodded. 

They found Geuntae and Joodoh immediately. They were too loud to go unnoticed by anyone that could see on this side. They were arguing as usual and scaring away any yokai nearby. 

“What are the both of you doing?” Yoon deadpanned.

“Arguing,” Joodoh said flatly.

“Don’t,” Yoon snapped. “Or I’ll have the both of you kindly removed from the festival.”

“Fine,” The two turned to Yoon and Iksoo and Geuntae grinned widely.

“Your priest seems to have found some courage!” He cackled.

“You act like he never uses this form,” Yoon sighed. “Anyways,” Yoon turned to Iksoo and Iksoo nodded. 

“I thank the both of you for attending the festival. It is an honor to have Lord Geuntae and Lord Joodoh participating in the festivities. Please enjoy yourselves and keep your auras to a minimum,” Iksoo said, bowing his head. 

“Hm, I will try to keep this one from going crazy,” Joodoh gestured at Geuntae.

“I’d actually prefer if Ayura was keeping an eye on the both of you, but Ayura hates dealing with Geuntae,” Yoon shrugged. “Anyways, we’re off,” 

The two of them went in search of Ayura and found her having a drinking contest with two tree spirits. Ayura looked up at the two of them and grinned widely. It took a lot to get a God or yokai drunk, so they would probably be at this all night and then one of them would pass out in the morning. Well, it was better than Geuntae and Joodoh fighting in the middle of a crowd. 

“Lady Ayura,” Iksoo bowed his head. “Thank you for attending the festival. I hope you will enjoy yourself,”

“Ah! The clumsy priestling!” Ayura pointed at Iksoo.

“Why do you have to call him the same thing Mizari calls him?” Yoon asked. Ayura’s face turned green.

“Ugh,” she waved her hand around. 

“Would you like for me to arrange for a doctor to see you in the morning?” Iksoo asked. 

“Yes,” Ayura nodded. “I plan on drinking all night,”

“Understood,” Iksoo nodded again.

“Well then, we’ll be on our way,” Yoon said.

“Yoon! You should drink too!” Ayura said.

“Please don’t say such ridiculous things, I have a child with the sight and a child that’s desperate on my hands. I can’t drink while they’re around. I have things to do.” Yoon scoffed.

Ayura made some kind of face, but Yoon turned around and started walking before he could see it. Iksoo hurried after him.

The two of them went around and greeted and thanked the tree spirits for their help with the barriers. More than five tree spirits attempted to seduce poor Iksoo and Yoon had to interfere each time. 

“Oh, the taiko drums,” Iksoo said on noticing which direction they were heading.

“You’re right,” Yoon nodded.

“Oh! Iksoo! Yoon!” Yona waved happily and then froze and stared at Iksoo.

“Iksoo? Where?” Hak behind her asked.

“...right there?” Yona pointed at them.

“I don’t see him,” Hak said.

“Yona, he can’t see me,” Iksoo said gently.

“What?” Yona cried out. “Why?”

“Because he’s not the-” Hak started sounding exasperated.

“I’m not talking to you,” Yona said flatly and rushed up to Yoon and Iksoo. “Why do you look like that Iksoo?”

“Ah, because currently, I’m a yokai,” Iksoo said. Yoon watched Yona’s jaw drop and resisted the urge to laugh at her.

“Yona, do you remember the night Kija’s arm was covered in scales?” Yoon asked.

“Yes?” Yona said.

“That’s because he was a yokai for that moment. One with the blessing of a God can become a yokai momentarily. It takes a lot of training. This ability is never affected by a God’s power level. That’s why, even if I were still weak and on the verge of fading away, Iksoo would still have to power of a holy kitsune.” Yoon explained.

“Woah…” Yona stared with wide eyes.

“Anyways, Yona, you wanted to eat together?” Yoon asked. Her entire face lit up.

“Yes!”

------o------