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In A Breath

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The hashira couldn't believe what he just saw. Not even in his wildest dreams has he encountered anything like this, an ineffable situation where he feels everything and nothing at the same time.

A maroon-haired demon was sitting on a zabuton in a seiza position, looking as if he was waiting for something. His slightly messy hair was long enough to rest and stray on the tatami. Giyuu wouldn't be able to recognize who he was right away if it wasn't for the green checkered haori and discernible hanafuda earrings. He was wearing a kimono instead of the demon slayer corps uniform, which means he probably aware that he doesn't deserve to wear one anymore. The fairly long bangs that he used to comb back are now all over his face, just leaving enough space to notice the mysterious glint of his eyes. Despite having the same wine-colored irises, his pupils are now constricted vertical like that of a feline's.

If Giyuu didn't know what a demon is and how they looked like, he would've admitted that he was a sight to behold.

"...You promised." That's the first word that came out of his mouth.

Tanjirou didn't laugh and admit his recklessness like he usually does or utter an apology. He just sits there comfortably, staring at Giyuu with unclear intention.

"You promised that you'd protect your sister, no matter what it takes." The Hashira gritted his teeth and drew his nichirin katana, it was within a hair's breadth of touching the demon's neck, "How could you protect her like this? Look at what you've become now."

The demon's gaze went down, specifically at the tatami. He didn't move in the slightest even when the Hashira was about to cut his head off.

Surprisingly, Giyuu's hand almost tremble in his stance. But he quickly recovered and readied his sword, indicated by a slight tilt that reflected light and the sound of metal blade clicking in the hilt,"...Disgusting."

Hearing that, Tanjirou loosen the tie and put the bamboo muzzle away. Those actions put Giyuu on his guard for a moment without losing his offensive stance, but Tanjirou could easily notice the twitch of his eyebrows.

"You're surprisingly chatty today," As if it was intentional, the demon's teeth were completely visible as he formed a response with a smile, "Tomioka-san."

Truth be told, Giyuu wanted to laugh ironically at the sight of the man in front of him, the man who he used to look up to despite of his rank. He didn't even look ashamed at all, which annoys him even more.

"...Nothing else you'd like to say?" His gaze was now cold and acrimonious.

Instead of getting in the same hostile temper as the Hashira, the demon let out a hearty snort.

"You should use that frown in moderation," Tanjirou's eyes went to the space that was graced by the sunlight between the sliding patio doors, "It does not suit you at all."

"...You...!!"

Before Giyuu could swing his sword, someone kicked his katana and made it fly to the end of the room. The water pillar has never been this sloppy before, he's usually very keen to his surroundings and doesn't let his guard down even for a second. He was never so shaken, at least ever since Sabito's death. Considering he didn't even shed a tear for Shinobu, he thought that was the last.

When he turned to look at the perpetrator, he saw a teenage girl with familiar pink kimono glaring at him. Nezuko. She seems to grow quite a bit, though her eyes and teeth are exactly the same as the first time he saw her.

"What are you trying to do, Tomioka-san?" A pair of pale pink orbs pierced the deep blue ones.

Giyuu just walked past her, claimed back his tossed katana and sheathed it, "...It looks like you've regained your speaking fluency."

"..." Nezuko was still in her stance, scanning whether there is any suspicious movement from the Hashira.

"You don't need to be that wary." The black-haired Hashira regarded stoically as he faced the young girl, "Now that I know you're here with him, I'm not planning to do anything just yet." 

Everyone knows that Giyuu is anything but a liar. If he was planning to kill Tanjirou, he'd have done so since he laid his eyes on him.

Nezuko cautiously retreated from her position and knelt down to check on her dear brother.

"I'm okay, Nezuko. No need to worry." The soft gentle tone to his voice never disappeared, "Why don't you welcome our guest instead?"

"I didn't plan to stay for long." The water pillar replied too quick to his own comfort, but he corrected himself not long after, "...Unless you're going to explain yourself."

"That's a very difficult offer. I've got nothing in return, you know." Tanjirou muttered as he tilted his head to the side, crossing his arms in the process.

"What?" Giyuu narrowed his eyes, his senses told him that this young boy is definitely up to something.

His personality has changed a lot since he last met him. Based on the conversation he had just now, he could conclude that he's become sassy, evocative, intentionally tries to get in someone's nerves, and tends to dance around an issue. 

"Well, I guess I could use a guest in this house for a while." The ex demon slayer wore his signature smile which Giyuu has just begun to hate, "Will you help Nezuko take care of the small field beside our house for several days? I would appreciate that."

"Nii-chan, I'm fine." Nezuko flashed her brother a sweet reassuring smile that'd definitely melt any heart.

"Even though you're fine under the sunlight now, it's still best not to overwork yourself." Smiling, Tanjirou petted his adorable younger sister's head, "Tomioka-san, what do you think?"

The frown was still plastered on his face, he was deep in thought.

"...I'll do it." An unexpected answer came out from his mouth, "I'll help her for a while."

For the first time since the unexpected guest came, the male demon's face turned a bit sour and complicated. Although his expression changed in a split second, someone like Giyuu would definitely noticed it.

"Great!" Tanjirou clapped his hands once after the offer is settled, "Nezuko, let's show Tomioka our hospitality."

"Understood." Staring at Giyuu's now relaxed posture, Nezuko's vexation has disappeared completely.

She got up from her seat and went into the other room.

 

Giyuu couldn't shake off Tanjirou's expression from his head. The fact that a young hard-working boy like him has turned into a demon made him sick.

The hashira sat down and leaned against the wall, trying to make sense of all this while closing his eyes. However, with all the possibilities, he knew that he'd never find an answer by himself.

The black-haired hashira sighed and reopened his eyes.

The maroon-haired demon was sitting across him, arranging the flowers Nezuko has just picked earlier. Back then, as a swordsman with thousands of training, he couldn't look more rough. Now, however, with a very long hair and limited movements, elegance is the only thing that Giyuu could see.

"Are you not going to take a nap?" The cheerful voice was back, ringing in Giyuu's ear and it irritates him.

Looking away, the stoic man replied briefly, "...Nobody could sleep with a demon beside him."

Giyuu's voice didn't pose anymore threat, but his annoyance was very clear.

Just like something habitual, Tanjirou looked down and smiled gently. He hasn't proven him anything yet and so he didn't bother to justify himself, even though the impatient man before him was waiting for his explanation.

 

Nezuko returned with a wooden tray which a good smell is coming from.

They were simply rice, saba shioyaki, and miso soup. It wasn't grand or anything, but Giyuu could feel the homeliness and effort that Nezuko put into it. Despite being a demon, she does have some human side and quality of what a proper wife would be.

"...Thank you for the food." Giyuu expressed his gratitude right after Nezuko set up the food on the tatami.

The Kamado siblings stared at him with curiosity and expectant eyes as Giyuu took his first bite. They seemed like they wanted to know his comments regarding the food.

"...Can you not stare at other people when they're eating?" Giyuu addressed their behavior since it bothers him.

"Sorry," The older brother smiled , "It's been a long time since we had a guest."

Giyuu narrowed his eyebrows and stopped eating, "A guest...? Someone's been here before me?"

"Yes," Nezuko replied, "Urokodaki-dono."

"...!" Giyuu's eyes went wide for a second even though he could see why he might come, "I see."

 

The rest of the dinner was carried out peacefully without any hassle. The hashira wanted to at least wash the dish himself, but he bumped into the demon girl on his way to the kitchen.

She looked at him earnestly, stopping him in his track, "Tomioka-san."

"...Yes?" He sounded tired and a bit vexed.

"Please take care of my brother." Nezuko tried to ignore the bitterness in his voice and bowed deeply, hoping that her words would reach him, "He became like this because he saved me."

Giyuu stared at her in silence.

Consequently, she peeked on his face and as always, it is incredibly hard to read. She became more nervous and timid as she heard no response coming out from the stoic hashira.

Not planning to waste time any further, the man walked past her and averred, "The food was delicious."

The girl looked back to see the man who has just complimented her disappear. Though it wasn't the answer she was hoping for, the worry in her eyes disappeared and a gentle smile adorned her face.

 

If something happened, I'm sure you'd save my brother like how you've saved me that time.

"...Thank you, Tomioka-san."

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The black-haired man yawned as he walked outside of the guest room, wearing a navy colored sleeping robe Tanjirou lent him. He heard some noises coming from the kitchen, so he went to check it out.

Despite the fact that they were demons, the two siblings were unexpectedly busy early in the morning. They were cooking a pot of salmon daikon, which is the water pillar's favorite food. The raw wild salmon has a beautiful red color before they put it into the pot and the miso broth smells nice with the sliced ginger. He wasn't even that hungry, but just getting his two senses stimulated made the hashira's stomach growl.

"Good morning, Tomioka-san," The little sister greeted the man who just came, "Did you sleep well?"

"...Yes, good morning." He replied as he combed through his messy hair.

Tanjirou was halted by the rare view, noticing that the man with the loose robe lazily slouched against the wall while observing the two of them cooking.

That was incredibly inviting.

On the other hand, Giyuu tried to figure out why he felt like something was missing until he realized that the young cheerful boy hasn't greeted him. Nevertheless, he quickly dismissed the thought after he realized that the guy was wearing the bamboo muzzle again.

"Oh right, I forgot to grab some mikan in the market." Nezuko clapped her hands once as she suddenly remembered, "Can I leave the rest to you, Nii-chan?"

The demon just nodded in reply as he petted her head.

They've always been such good siblings. It made Giyuu feel a bit lonely as he remembered his big sister, Tsutako.

"Oh, Tomioka-san, feel free to wait in the living room if you'd like." The girl suggested before she left, snapping him back to reality.

 

However, even after hearing the suggestion, the man did not bother to move. Giyuu just stood there, observing Tanjirou who was stirring the soup gently.

"Do you really need that?" Giyuu broke the silence as he pointed at the bamboo muzzle, "...You seem to be weaker than your sister."

Tanjirou, who seemed unbothered at first, suddenly took off his muzzle and slowly approached the man who's just insulted him, "Nezuko helped me crush shiso every morning and put it inside this bamboo and I really appreciate what she did."

"...Shiso?" The hashira stayed in his position, not feeling the least bit threatened by the demon's presence.

"Yeah. The herb distracts my sense of smell," Tanjirou's tone dropped a pitch lower as he got even closer, now just several inches away from the collected man, "It is surprisingly nifty... Though the effectiveness decreases a thousandfold when someone smells so appetizing is standing right before me."

"...Oh?" Instead of taking a step back, the black-haired hashira went closer and tried to close the gap between them as a counterattack.

Consequently, the demon flinched and backed off, he neither bares his fangs nor continues his charade. Giyuu was a bit surprised of this sudden change of attitude after all the dominant and menacing act all these time. Tanjirou didn't know why he felt intimidated either, even though after becoming a demon, he's supposed to be physically much stronger than the hashira.

Even though that he knew, partly, it's because he didn't want to harm him.

"Oh, right!" Quickly looking for a way to distract himself and the man before him, the demon put out the fire and took out different sized bowls, "The food is ready."

 

Moving to the living room, Giyuu couldn't wait any longer to savor the food as soon as it was set on the kotatsu. The taste of the dish was really similar to the one he ate during a mission with Shinobu. He spaced out for a bit, immersing himself in those nostalgic moments.

Tanjirou took a teapot and poured some sencha into a cup, "Did I cook it for too long?"

"...No, it's really good." Giyuu commented without hesitation.

"Thank God." The young demon mumbled quietly as he let out a relieved smile.

Somehow, seeing his smile while eating makes the food a hundred times better. Giyuu could feel that the old Tanjirou was definitely still there, the kind-hearted and buoyant Kamado Tanjirou. He averted his eyes for a bit, feeling slightly embarrassed after staring at the demon intensely. Fortunately, the demon was too engrossed at something else. He was again, staring at the warm morning sunlight projected on the tatami, the light he couldn't touch.

The hashira was eating vigorously, he didn't notice that a grain of rice was stuck on his cheek. Tanjirou raised his hand gently and took it away from his face, but before he could toss it away, Giyuu grabbed his hand and snatched the rice away with his mouth. Tanjirou could feel his tongue and teeth grazing his finger lightly, causing him to lean backwards in surprise.

"Wh-What are you doing?!" The demon became very flustered, the redness even went to his ears.

Unbeknownst to him, he enjoys seeing Tanjirou getting all bashful in front of him, "It is not good to waste food."

"Tsk." Tanjirou hides his face with the sleeves of his haori.

This kid... At the very least, he's alive.

The hashira smiled as gentle as a river's flow in the morning. It was a smile he's never shown to anyone, not even his colleagues who've seen him more often. It lasted short, but Tanjirou has engraved it in his mind clearly.

"Thank you for the food... And thank your sister for me too." The hashira expressed his gratitude.

 

On the other hand, Tanjirou had the same eyes. The same ones Giyuu saw when he first met Tanjirou in his demon form, it reflected one's poise yet unspoken agony. Even his usual carefree smile wouldn't be able to conceal them.

As per usual, his voice was soft but somehow audible, "I have nothing much I can do in current condition, it's only natural."

Hearing this statement alone, Giyuu started gazing into space, as if he was surprised by it. The change in his mood is quite apparent though his composure remained unfazed. After several seconds passed, he took a sip of the tea in front of him and frowned a bit. He didn't bother to hide it, he clearly still feels conflicted about this matter.

...It's bitter.

The sencha that he usually likes has never tasted more bitter in his life.

However, it made him realize something. The hashira knows that he couldn't object or sweeten his words in order to cheer him up even if he wanted to, since it is partly his fault and it is the truth. The truth which happened while he was focusing on something else; the truth which is a result of his ignorance; the very same truth which he despised.

...And now the kid is a kid no more. A full-fledged demon was sitting before him with a jarring difference compared to his old self.

Thus, knowing that he has no right to further insult him, the only reply that rolled off his tongue was, "...I suppose."