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Oni | 鬼

Chapter Text

Don’t jump!”

He changed everything forever.

 

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It’s to the book how stereotypical you are, and it makes you feel that much worse.

Parents said go to med school to make money. Parents said succeed or be worthless. You tried your best and your best wasn’t good enough. Work. School. Work. School. Everybody is better than you. You’re falling behind. You try harder and fall behind still. Nothing matters but it all matters so much.

It has to end.

It’s windy on the bridge. You’ve felt cold for a while, but it’s unbearable here. Your whole body is shaking, but it’s not because of shivering. You let go of the rail with one hand and feel your shoe sole slip on the concrete. With a squeal of fear, you cling onto the rail tightly again and squeeze your eyes shut.

Water rushes beneath you, kicking up freezing mist, making it even harder to hang on. In the dark, it almost looks like there’s nothing beneath you. If not for the sounds of angry rushing water, it’d be like dropping down into the void. You can’t tell how far it is down, and that comforts you.

Prying your numb fingers off the bar, you let go again, more slowly. You let go with the other hand too. Silently, unmoving, you stand there and face forwards. If anybody came and pushed you, you’d fall—no, plummet. If you stepped forwards, you’d fall. If the breeze blew too hard, you could fall. If you wanted to, here and now, you would die.

Even if it had been somebody else, you probably would’ve still listened to them. You never actually wanted to die. You just wanted the pain to stop. But you think, looking back, you’re lucky it was him. Nobody else could’ve saved you like he did.

Kiyose Haiji is warm when he cradles you on the ground, having pulled you back over the railing. You’re bruised from being yanked harshly, but it feels so good. It hurts badly, which means you’re alive. You weep, an ugly idiot, and he holds you.

He brings you to his place on the back of his bike. He doesn’t ask anything, including for permission. He doesn’t even say anything besides getting your name and introducing himself. Kiyose just made you sit down and started off. It’s fine with you. You’re not in the mood to explain yourself. You’ve never felt free having somebody make decisions for you, but you’re so tired that you just want somebody to take control, at least just for a little bit. Your head is empty, numbingly comfortable. His body is warm in front of you and shields you from the biting wind.

He feeds you food you’re not familiar with, something from the countryside apparently—it’s warm and homemade. A little salty, but it’s good. You can’t remember the last time you ate, actually. You eat one, then two servings. Then thirds. He watches with a distant smile, diligently filling your bowl up when you hold it to him.

The water is still hot in the bath, melting away the ice a little. You lie back, totally enveloped by it. Your hands float in the water, fingers quickly going pruney. It’s a nice feeling to let your shoulders relax. When you open the door, he falls backwards into you, having been sitting outside waiting. Again, he says nothing, silently getting up and brushing himself off.

There are still free rooms, but he has you stay in his. You’re grateful he doesn’t ask you what you’d prefer or what you want—right now, you don’t want anything but to go to bed. You do feel bad for taking up his futon, but he’s apparently the type to fall asleep quickly anywhere he is, and he’s already snoring before you can negotiate with him to sleep in his own bed. Finally, you say the first thing of substance tonight,

“Thank you.”

A smile quirks up on his face and he opens his eyes—you realize he was just pretending to be asleep. It’s when you find out that for all his kindness, he can be a little evil at times. His eyes are brown but gleam wood-fired black in the low light.

“Sure. But you owe me, [Name].”

You worry that maybe he wants money, or maybe it’s something more sinister, but then he reaches out and ruffles your hair at the top of your head. The both of you look at each other earnestly.

“Nothing crazy. I just want your life to belong to me. ‘Kay?”

He’s absolutely crazy. You have no idea what he’s thinking. What does he really want? What does he really mean?

But he is genuinely nice (for a demon), and technically, you do owe him the price of your life. And so resigns your fate to belong to Kiyose Haiji, man of many smiles,

man of your heart.

Chapter Text

You thought you deserved to be able to sleep in for a while, especially after last night’s ordeal. But Kiyose apparently wakes up at some ungodly hour before the sun’s even up and rouses you by rudely shaking you awake.

“What?!” is all you can manage to bleat out. He’s blurry, but you can tell he’s in a different outfit already—it’s looks like a track suit, black and green. With eager and somehow very awake eyes, he peers so closely at your face you see nothing else but him. It’s a devilish kind of grin disguised by kindness.

“Let’s go for a run with Nira!”

What?

You don’t have any running clothes (or any other outfit) with you, still in what you wore yesterday. Not to worry, he said chipperly, lending you clothes that are three times over too large. You stagger outside in your ridiculously large shorts and shirt, feeling like a child. Kiyose is already jogging on the spot when he sees you.

“Oh! Looks like you fit my old high school uniform after all!”

Barely. The shirt is about to touch your knees, and the shorts’ waistband is tied so tautly the string just about can’t hold on. The clothes smell like him, though. You’d gotten used to the scent while in his room, but now that you’re in fresh air again, the wave of comfort washes over you all over again.

“This is Nira, by the way. In case you thought he was a person.”

You look down at the dog tied to his waist with a red leash. Was that really what he thought the source of your confusion was?

“Why am I running?” you ask somewhat weakly, your voice still hoarse from grogginess.

“Exercise makes you happy, right? I think I read that somewhere. In any case, it might help clear your mind. Ready to go?”

No, you’re not. But he seems like the type of guy that’s going to hound you so badly it’s easier to just give in, so you groan and start off. You do the lightest jog you can, already feeling your lungs burn after just a few minutes. He’s right beside you. As discreetly as you can, you glance down at Kiyose’s leg, curious about the angry red scar running along the side of his knee.

“This?” he asks, not even breaking a sweat as he jogs beside you. The dog runs faster, pulling at his leash—Kiyose fights him to match his pace to yours. You’re embarrassed to be caught, but he doesn’t seem like he minds. “I got hurt a couple years ago. This was from the surgery.”

“Is it… okay… for you to be… r…?” You can’t form full sentences as he takes you up a hill.

“I’m almost at full speed, and my doctor says it’s okay. So there’s no need for you to worry about me, [Name]-chan!”

Since when were the two of you on such a cutesy first-name basis? It’s kind of shocking, but you’re too out of breath to protest. He doesn’t comment on it any further, turning his head forwards.

You know you’re slowing him down, but he stays right beside you anyways, refusing to go ahead. Maybe he thinks you’ll run away if he takes his eye off you. You don’t think you would—after all, there’s nowhere for you to go. So you just run with him. He is right, though, about it taking your mind off things. All you can think about is how much your fucking lungs hurt.

When he finally loops you back to his place, apparently called “Aotake”, you’re ready to die. More than yesterday, if you want to joke darkly about it. It wasn’t like you moved any faster than a jog, but the hills and valleys took a toll on your very soul. You think you could’ve been okay if you took breaks along the way and walked. Better yet, you wish you had been able to stop along the way to catch your breath. But Kiyose practically dragged you along, refusing to let you stop. Whenever you slowed down, he took your hand and pulled. He’s actually possessed by some kind of evil spirit. Nira’s happy though, panting cheerfully as Kiyose unleashes him. Then he has the audacity to smile at you.

“Do you know how to stretch, [Name]?”

You shake your head. Sitting in front of you in the dirt, he starts doing something with his leg. Exhaustedly, you mimic.

“Hey, Kiyose-san…”

“Haiji.”

“Oh. Okay. Haiji.” It feels weird, saying his given name when you’ve known him for like, a night and a morning. But you swallow your discomfort and continue, needing to get it off your chest before it eats away at you any further. “I’m really grateful to you for yesterday.”

“Of course. I am too. Now I’ve got you for the rest of your life, eh?”

Your brow furrows. “You keep saying that, but I don’t know what it means. What exactly do you want from me? I mean, I owe you, definitely, but like…”

“I don’t know what it means either, yet,” he replies softly. He straightens his back and leans back onto his outstretched arms, looking up at the sky, where the sun is about fully risen. Pink bleeds down into blue and white clouds cut slashes into the tapestry. Then he looks at you, with the same kind of dreamy awe he had looking at the sky. “But it’s kinda reassuring, knowing you’re there. It’s kind of like marriage!”

You gape at him in disbelief. What kind of guy just says that to somebody? Apparently Kiyose—Haiji—who starts to laugh at your expression.

“Aw, come on now. It won’t be that bad! I’m a good guy, I swear.”

“…people who have to say they’re good people usually aren’t.”

“Well, I’ll just let you decide. Okay?” He gets up to his feet, brushing dust off his clothes. Then he holds his hand out to you.

“Let’s go inside. Your first task in repaying me can be helping me make breakfast.”

He’s evil. An evil, evil man. You just want to go back to bed. You just want to block everything out—stay in your bed, paralyzed by the dreary loss of a will to live—and sleep. But Haiji is shaking his hand in your face insistently, and you think you understand what he’s trying to do. Keep you busy? Keep you needed? Whatever he’s planning, it seems like he’s considerate after all.

You take his hand and let him pull you up. His grip is strong and warm, big and enveloping. He leads you along, and you follow.

Chapter Text

Obviously, you and your parents don’t have the most fantastic relationship. But you thought it was like that for everybody—after all, doesn’t everybody in Japan get pressured? Weren’t you just the only one who couldn’t take it?

But when you told them you were dropping out of school, you feared for your life.

It’d been a couple weeks since you started staying with Haiji and the others at Aotake. You got your own room now, right beside Haiji. Every morning, he made you run with him. You managed to reach a compromise about not running at night with him as long as you helped with breakfast and dinner and chores. Haiji called the other tenant Nico-chan-senpai, so you followed suit—he was nice, if not a bit hard to sit next to due to the smell of cigarettes, but you didn’t mind him. Yukihiko, dubbed Yuki, was a little rough around the edges, but the two of you also got along well enough. The menial work was fun for a while, but then reality came knocking.

You thought about going back to class, but it hurt you just to think about it. So, you stopped thinking about it. Your grades kept dropping and dropping due to your absence, and finally, your professors started asking you where you were. Academic Warning 1. Then came Academic Warning 2. Then probation. The next would be forced withdrawal. It was a constant panic. You couldn’t go because it made you feel bad, but you also felt bad failing these courses because you weren’t going. Cyclic pain.

One night while you were crying your eyes out, Haiji came into the room and said simply,

“Why don’t you just drop out?”

No way, you’d said. You can’t. That’s what failures do. You can’t be a failure. You’ve already paid your tuition, which is your parent’s money. Can’t waste that. And you made it into a program that rejects hundreds a year. Can’t give up a spot like that. And, if you drop out, you have to go home.

Can’t have that.

Haiji listens patiently before shrugging, easy-going, as if this isn’t the biggest tribulation of your life. “If you’re not passionate about it, why do it? It’s not making you happy, but you’re spending all this time and money on it. You’d probably be better off finding something that does make you happy. Right?”

During your time here, you and Haiji don’t really talk that much. He goes on his morning run with you, cooks breakfast, then goes to his classes. He comes home and goes for another run. He’s still pushing this whole “you owe me your life for the rest of your life” shtick, but he’s still vague on what he wants from you. Your company? Your slavery? But despite the fact that the both of you don’t really know each other that well, he still says the things you need to hear most.

“There, there. Everything’ll be okay if you just believe in yourself.” He slings a green checkered sweater around you, and you pull it tight around you to feel his warmth.

In the end you take his advice and drop out of the program. It’s embarrassing when you walk out of the academic advisor’s office. You feel so ashamed of yourself that you pull your hood up and stare at the ground so that nobody can look at your face. But when you get on the bus to go back home, you feel… better. More relieved. Not trapped, back to the wall—in your case, a bridge—but free.

Your father threatens you, yelling through the phone so loudly it almost becomes nothing but static. Your mother has no kind words to say either. But what scares you most is the threat, I’m coming to get you.

You don’t know how they found you since you don’t stay at your dorm room anymore. Maybe your roommate sold you out since they’d seen you and Haiji coming to pack up your stuff. But they’re pounding on the front door now, and you’re so scared that you can’t breathe, and you’re so scared that for a split second you wish you were on that bridge again,

“Haiji, what are you doing!?”

He walks past you to the door and opens it. You’re mortified and duck out of sight from the hallway—it’s too late, since you made eye contact with your mother. Your father curses Haiji out, calling him a kidnapper—then, out of nowhere, a rapist. You wish it could’ve been attributed to a dad worrying about his kid, but the way he talks gives you no such sentiment. You’re in real danger.

“Sir, I’m asking you to leave private property.”

“[Name], I know you’re in there,” he yells. You cringe away from the sound. “Get out here now or—”

“Or what?” Haiji interrupts, completely stone-faced and unbothered. “I’m sorry, but [Name] doesn’t belong to you anymore.

She belongs to me.”

It’s a horrible thing to say at this moment. But you don’t wish that he hadn’t said it. You hear them fight more, and your heart’s thudding in your chest from fear, but nobody has ever stood up for you like this before. You don’t stand up for yourself like this. But Haiji did.

You don’t know how he does it, but Haiji gets your parents to leave. The car burns rubber as it screeches away. Haiji finds you curled up in the corner and kneels, putting his hand in your hair.

“Are they coming back?” you ask hoarsely, lifting your tear-stained face off your knees. Haiji’s face is unmistakably grim, but it softens when he meets your eyes.

“If they do, I’ll protect you. So don’t worry about a thing, [Name].”

You lean into his touch and close your eyes. It was either you or him that leant forwards first, but the hug is comforting, and it makes your thoughts numb. It feels good being around him, because it makes you able to believe that things are—and will be—okay.

Chapter Text

The fear starts to dissipate with each passing day. Haiji lets you stay in his room for the first few nights, and the way he falls asleep so carefree eases your pain. You stop checking if your doors and windows are locked. Your family cut you off, which is understandable—for now, that’s the best you can hope for. The silence continues until you feel safe again.

Your life at Aotake is boring and predictable, but honestly, it’s better off that way. It gets you to start enjoying life again, step by step. You find joy in the little things. New roommates trickle in, each one different than the last. It’s a funny group that Haiji’s assembled, but it works somehow. The domestic life is good.

It’s not as if you stop worrying, though, no matter how happy you are. After all, now that you’re not a student, what can you do besides scramble to find a menial minimum wage job? But anytime you fret about not being able to pay rent or ruminate on what you’re supposed to be doing instead of sitting around the house, Haiji waves you off. You’re already paying me.

“You know,” you bring up while drying the dishes Haiji washes. Everybody else has gone back to their rooms, so it’s just the two of you. It’s quiet besides the faint sound of King’s trivia show and running tap water. “You’re always saving me. Do I have to owe you double my life or something now?”

He snorts at the joke, suds drifting up into the air as he scrubs a plate vigorously. His side profile is just as handsome as the front of him. Haiji hands you a bowl and you’re so distracted you completely forget to take it, hastily grabbing it once you come to your senses and it’s been an awkward amount of time of him holding it out.

“Can I confide something to you?” he blurts out randomly.

“Of course.” After all he’s done for you, it’s the least you can do in return.

“I…” He inhales deeply. “I want to run. I want to run in the Hakone Ekiden. I can’t do it without nine other guys, but I’m going to round them up. I’m going to win them over, and then we’re going to run the Hakone mountains. Together. It’ll be my dream team… the one I’ve always been looking for.”

The resolution in which he casually states this lifelong aspiration is shocking and feels out of place in the dingy kitchen. It’s like you’re not even good enough to deserve hearing it right now. He doesn’t look at you, continuing to do the dishes like it’s no big deal. That’s that from him. Simple.

You’ve always thought that Haiji had his shit together. He’s reliable and responsible, never backing out of anything he says he’s going to do. Whether it’s something like taking out the trash or protecting you from your parents, he does it without complaint. If he doesn’t know something, he admits he doesn’t know. Then he does his best to figure it out, step by step, like it’s easy. He’s got a dream to pursue—meaning to his life. What about you? Right now, you’re still drifting. You sort of just exist right now, with no purpose—

Wait. You do have a purpose; it’s what he keeps saying, over and over.

You belong to me.

Maybe it goes against the fundamentals of feminism, feeling security from belonging to a man. But after all this time you start to realize it’s not that Haiji wants to own you or control you. He’s just there for you, and in return, you have to be there for him. “For life”, he says, but it doesn’t sound so bad. Haiji’s not really some malicious villain (even if he does enjoy torturing you)—he’s just a lonely guy looking for unconditional companionship. It’s a human experience. It’s your experience, too. Out of all the people he could’ve chosen, he chose you. Maybe it was just chance that he pulled you off that bridge, but is it still chance that you want to be the one for him, too?

I belong to you. You belong to me.

“I’ll treat you,” you say suddenly, trying to adopt the same determined tone he has. “Whatever you want after class. I’ll pick you up tomorrow.”

“Eh, really?! [Name], you sure are a life-saver!”

He’s the life-saver here, literally, but you accept the compliment with a small smile. Without warning, Haiji takes his wet soapy hand and touches your forehead, startling you.

“See? It’s all better once you smile.”

It’s a roundabout way for him to tell you that he cares about you. Haiji’s never said it explicitly, just like you can never tell what he’s thinking, but actions speak louder than words. You just have to get used to reading a demon to understand. He’s got a mask that’s beautiful, but the man under it is just as radiant, even if he is a little broken like the rest of you.

You’d follow him even if he didn’t ask you to.

Chapter Text

“You were reckless, Haiji.”

“Ah—it turns me on when you yell at me, [Name].”

He’s exhausted from finishing the race, body tensely coiled up in agony. Deathly pale and sweaty on the stretcher, he somehow still has the energy to screw around. The other guys from Aotake hover around, wanting to be close but also respecting you enough to give you a semblance of privacy. Kakeru in particular is practically sitting on your shoulder, looking away just enough so that he’s not staring, but obviously eavesdropping.

You could yell at him more. You’re definitely angry enough for it. He pushed himself too hard; he didn’t have to do this; and now that he’s done it, he’ll never ever run again. But Haiji is smiling at you, even with all his fatigue. He’s content, and you can’t be mad that he’s happy.

You put your hand on top of his head and ruffle his hair.

“I’m proud of you, Haiji.”

It surprises you when he cries, but you hold him silently like he’s done for you so many times—and it all feels right. Weight drops from your shoulders as he sobs into your chest. It kind of feels like you’ve finally paid your debt. You’re free now. And yet you still feel like you owe him, “for life”, because you love him, and he really loves you.

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You listen intently as the surgeon speaks to you and Haiji, jotting notes down in your notebook. Haiji had set you up to shadow and assist his doctor, helping you step into the field of sports medicine. Before, when you were just studying pre-med, you didn’t know why you were there. The classes were challenging, but you’d always been a good student. It wasn’t impossible to do. Yet you couldn’t find any motivation. It didn’t matter, so you didn’t care. You were just there to get the degree and become a doctor to make money… something like that. How could that ever have given you joy?

Sports medicine was similar, but different. Instead of drilling the anatomy and physiology to pass a test, you were doing it to better take care of your patients. You met other people like Haiji, lives upset by a sports injury—and, like you wanted to with him, you give it your all so that you can get them back on track. And if that isn’t possible anymore, you just have to be content with helping them overcome their pain day-to-day.

It’s not like you and your parents were ever on great terms, but you’re talking again. Now that you’ve found something to follow that actually makes you happy, it makes everything that much easier to endure. You’d like to think that they’re proud of you, even if it’s unsaid. And, you’ve got a feeling that even though they hate Haiji, they’re thankful for him all the same.

Most importantly, you finally understand passion. You understand why Haiji wanted to run in the Hakone Ekiden so badly for four years, willing to give it all for one race. He’s happy now, content with what he’s achieved. You’re not okay just being content yet. You want to do more, be more.

It’s all thanks to him.

You walk alongside his bed as they wheel him into the OR. He’s all smiles, though it’s tight around the corners, telling you that he’s actually quite nervous.

“Hey, [Name]. I hope you can forgive me for asking you to take care of me a little while longer.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be sure to make it hard for you later.”

His smile softens a bit while you distract him, and you’re relieved for it. He holds a hand up to stop the nurses from moving him and sits up in his bed, his gown and IV cords shifting as he does.

“Gimme a kiss for good luck?”

God, he’s hellbent on embarrassing you. Here he is in this giant bed, taking up the whole hallway, but he doesn’t seem to care or feel any kind of shame. A nurse blinks and then looks away hastily, turning her back. The other is definitely smirking behind their surgical mask. You feel your face itch uncomfortably, but Haiji’s a master of manipulation. He knows you can’t say no when he’s like this.

You suck it up, leaning forwards to kiss him on the forehead. At the last millisecond he moves so you it lands on his lips. When you pull back, he’s grinning slyly, obviously pleased with himself for his trickery.

“We’ll be taking him now,” a nurse says, kicking off the brakes. You’re thankful, but then—

“Wait!” Haiji interrupts.

He’s such a pain in the ass. Practically beaming, he smirks up to you.

“I want another one.”

You roll your eyes, face positively burning as the medical staff turn to you exasperatedly. You know that they’re blaming you for holding things up even though it’s totally his fault.

“No. It’s waiting for you on the other side.”

Before he can begin his tantrum and protest, you add, “I owe you my life, remember? So you’ve got all lifetime to make fun of me. I’ll see you soon, Haiji.”

He huffs a disgruntled breath but reluctantly lies back down. You touch his hand, feeling the warmth from his fingertips bleed into yours. They finally wheel him away, and you watch him even when he goes past the doors, all the way until you can’t see him anymore. Even when he’s gone, you can still feel him behind you, his presence comforting.

Sure, he’s demanding. He’s weird, coolly manipulative, a gemini man and a tad bit insane—but he’s also the man that saved your life, and he’s the man you love. Forever and always, even beyond the rest of your life.