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He stumbles, and the youkai is by his side in mere seconds, nails digging too-deep into his forearms as he steadies him. Makoto blinks down at where he's held, then up to the youkai's face. His lips are pressed into a firm line, and tension sets a certain stiffness to his shoulders. His eyes — icy blue, more snake than human — lift to meet Makoto’s own. Makoto shrinks, just a little.

Not for the first time, he asks: “Why are you doing this?”

The youkai’s grip does not ease. If anything, his nails dig even deeper, drawing something between a sigh and a whine from Makoto’s lips. There are sure to be angry little crescents left in its wake. “Because,” the youkai says, slowly, as if talking to a child much younger than Makoto is, “I want Yuu-kun to survive. Which I’ve already said, so I don't know why you keep on asking.”

Because that doesn’t explain anything, Makoto thinks. Many people have wandered too far into these woods. Many people talk of the creatures that lurk within the forest’s perimeter. Makoto has heard plenty of stories about them — oni that strike and drink the blood of vulnerable victims, fox spirits that lead helpless explorers further and further from their homes — but no story ever led Makoto to believe that he could be saved by one. 

Assuming this one does plan to save him. The more the youkai holds and talks to Makoto like this, the more Makoto starts to suspect that he plans to lock him away somewhere and keep him as some pretty human pet.

Makoto swallows around the lump in his throat and tries again. “Because,” he says, only for his voice to crack and fade when the youkai’s hands finally slide away from Makoto’s forearms to take Makoto's instead.

“No more of that, Yuu~kun,” the youkai chides. His hands are startlingly and more apparently cold when against Makoto’s own, but his smile is a touch warmer. “You really ought to just be grateful that your onii-chan found you, hmm?”

And with that, he turns, still keeping one of Makoto’s hands in his as he continues to lead him through the woods.