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At the Break of Dawn.

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‘It’ was picked up.

The boy who picked ‘it’ up appears to be under the impression that ‘it’ is a simple jewel.

He seems intent on keeping ‘it’ as a gift or a good to sell.

For the time being, I shall keep continue to keep an eye on how things progress.

Depending on how the being known as ‘Fushi’ develops, this should be interesting indeed.

-

When he wakes up, it is in a house splattered with blood.

Young children of unknown ages strewn over one another. A mother was slumped over the edge of the engawa that the exterior of the room leads to.

(Not that he knows what these beings are.)

The just newly awakened god lifts a hand to his eyes.

Entranced, he counts the number of fingers he has.

It’s flesh marred with the stains of bright red – a curious feature that only preoccupies him for so long, until the dim of light through the cracks of the doors snatches his attention.

Gradually, looking down at the checkered blues and splotches of red around him, the god rises to his feet.

The first attempt is naturally met with resistance.

‘He’ looks down at the bloody hand that is wrapped around his ankles. It extends to the boy with the checkered scarf whose frame he closely resembles.

He raises his foot and he kicks off the limpid hand.

The action faces no resistance.

The apathetic god cocks his head at that.

Outside, a shrill shout resounds.

The god turns his head in the direction of that noise, though his head still remains hunched against shoulders drawn close to his ears.

With unfamiliar actions, he drags his feet to the edge of the house.

It’s cold.

(Not that he knows of what that is.)

The god is able to recognize pain regardless, and blinks as he settles naked feet into the depths of the pain-causing snow that is beyond ankles-deep.

“Nezuko…! You’ve got to hang in there! Nezuko!”

The god tilts his head. And the god marches on, unwittingly stabbing frostbitten feet into the depths of snow as he heads towards the source of that noise.

Until he arrives at a snow-covered plain where the tousle is happening.

On the snow, there is another boy bigger than the one he’d kicked off. He is blood-smeared like the previous one, but he is still moving.

And on him… a girl smaller than the woman who had been on the engawa. Long hair and attacking hands.

The being known as ‘Fushi’ cocks his head.

The boy gasps.

Rubied reds hone in on him. His mouth falls open as the tears brimming over the edge of his eyes dry in shock.

“Ta…keo…?” The last syllable comes a whisper not daring to believe.

At this point, Fushi still does not comprehend words, and so, Fushi does not respond.

He does nothing when the girl on the boy snaps her head towards his direction with slitted topazes, nerves bulging from the temples of her head as she charges at him.

The boy panics, mouth falling open in a shrill yell as he scrambles to get up.

“NO!!!”

Then, world-splitting pain.

The world dies into black, just moments after he sees fanged teeth biting into the side of his arms.

“Nezuko! No—”

With the boy’s voice dying out in the distance, the white-softened world slides out of reach with a burning flare that kills.

(This should be a familiar sensation, but he does not remember.)

-

When he wakes, it is to the world of white again.

The phantom aches of dying remains.

The god does not flinch regardless, numbly turning to the red staining the white of the ground beneath him.

It seems to him like the red that stained his scarf when he awoke comes from him. That girl had slurped her fill through the red that spurted out from his arm when she was eating him.

In that case… The red on his face is probably not a good sign.

The god raises a hand to his neck. His hand comes off with tan skin, smooth as if unblemished.

The god returns to the house where things are warm.

-

Back to the situation with Kamado Tanjirou, he is currently in a hasty cat and mouse chase with his younger sister.

Turning time back to a matter of dozens of minutes before, he had been screaming out a frantic “NO—” when Nezuko grabbed Takeo’s arm and pulled.

The bones and muscles come loose without a snippet of protest.

Tanjirou watches, frozen, rooted to the spot as his younger sister – the one he had looked after since birth; the same person who had held him up with supportive arms and told him they’d look after their family, togetherrips apart their younger brother limb to limb as if there’s nothing holding her back.

In truth, that is the case, isn’t it?

What’s holding her back from killing Takeo now? Tanjirou – Tanjirou has to do something

“—Nezuko—” Her name pulls from his mouth in a strangled yell but dies off as a choked whimper.

The look in her eyes.

It’s feral, nothing like the tears that had stained them seconds prior before Takeo – poor, injured, bloodstained Takeo walked into the field.

Her mouth stained with blood, chomping over veins and muscles and tendons –

Tanjirou’s vision blurs again, unable to take the sight of this.

Takeo – Takeo, he’s –

On the ground, eyes blank as before again. Nezuko’s claws digs further into his neck.

Tanjirou’s unable to process.

He’d just regained hope that one family member might be alive.

That same family member has just now been killed by Nezuko.

He was trying to save Nezuko. He was trying to bring Nezuko down to the medics.

Nezuko is still his family.

Tanjirou throws himself forward unthinkingly at her.

“Stop it! Stop chewing, Nezuko! Don’t—” He doesn’t stop fighting even when her clawed hand whacks him on the face, hard enough to reflect the strength she’d used to rip Takeo apart. Tanjirou just – He just hugs Nezuko taut around her waist, around her arms, keeping her restrained even when his nape is within reach for biting. “Don’t—”

The demon-turned Nezuko who had been reaching down to bite freezes, eyes wide and stained with tears, when her brother looks up from her chest, face an ugly mangled sight full of blood and tears.

“Don’t – Please don’t eat anymore, Nezuko.” Tanjirou begs, clawing on desperately on the back of her kimono. “It’s just the two of us left. Don’t—” He sniffs. “Nii-chan will do everything I can to help you. So…! Please… don’t eat Takeo any further than you’ve done…!”

Eat…?

Dazed, stunned, a trembling clawed hand pulls what she’s holding within view.

The tiny hand of her younger brother, which she’d been holding to treat callouses and sores, which she’d used to swing as they sang songs skipping home on nostalgic paths – An arm is in her grip. With that same scratch that Takeo had demanded her not to tell Tanjirou about the day before. What…?

Her blood runs cold when she looks down to see the hollowed gaze of her younger brother looking up at her.

“Wait, Nezuko--!” Tanjirou screams out when she takes away.

He looks down at the body of his younger brother, dead, empty-eyed. And the eldest brother bites his lip hard enough to draw blood and chases.

“Wait…!”

 Through desperation, through panic, through fear and horror and what had she done what had she done whathadshedone?! – the only thing the monster could think about despite the clarity of thoughts as she races through familiar mountain paths is she. Is. A. Monster.

She is a monster.

She is a monster!

She is…

Tear stains trek down her cheeks.

She is a monster.

Tanjirou will find her too late, just as she throws herself off the cliff where they’d spent minutes awing over, seated on the top of their parents’ shoulders back when it was just the four of them.

He screams.

He cries.

And he pulls himself down to the bottom of the cliff once he has cursed himself enough for always being too late, what’s one or two penny when his family’s dying? Tanjirou slugged at the dredges of his mind for the remaining piece of adrenaline-fueled reason – what should he do? What can he do?

He finds Nezuko blood-stained and unconscious, eyes closed away as her wounds begin to heal.

Tanjirou’s not sure if he’s happy that he can’t see those slitted eyes, so demon and belonging to his sister who’d killed their brother.

Gritting his teeth over his helplessness as he pulls a still-warm Nezuko over his back, Tanjirou begins the long trek back to home, tears streaking down his face.

…Damn it.

-

A sound brings the god’s attention back from where it drifts.

The boy from before is at the wide-opened door, girl blanketed over his back, eyes wide with something incomprehensible as he looks from the woman to the children to the scarfed boy and to him.

“T…Ta…ke…o?” His face is warped with horror as he looks at him.

The god stares back without blinking, tiny frame made smaller by the shadows enveloping him.

“……no.” The boy trembles but stills. He looks at him. “You’re not Takeo.”

The god does not understand.

The boy’s jaw firms as he peers at him.

“What… are you?”

The god does not reply.

‘Fushi’ does not understand himself.

What is he?

All he knows is that he comes into being in a room splattered with red. And this place is warm. So warm. He wants to be here forever.

Cheeks stained with tears, the boy glares at him with eyes overfilling with brevity, hands taut on the girl’s frame.

“If you are thinking of trying to hurt Nezuko, don’t think for a moment that I’ll let you. I won’t… I won’t let anyone hurt my family. Never again.” He declares.

The god only stares.

One-sided tension runs rampant, till the boy’s brave front collapses, softening into a reluctant look of concern at the god’s blood-stained scarf.

“Y-You… Are you alright? Nezuko just…” The boy flinches. Ripped out your arms and tore open your neck doesn’t seem to be a nice thing to say.

The god blinks.

Kamado Tanjirou holds his gaze for another terse second before he sighs.

It doesn’t seem like this boy… thing… demon?... holds any ill will towards Nezuko for having hurt him the way she did. To begin with, how did this person before him grow his arms back? And those long sleeves? Weren’t they ripped along before? It just doesn’t seem humanly possible, to fix a haori and grow two arms in the time they were gone. (No matter what kind of immortal he is.)

Tanjirou reluctantly casts the still Takeo-lookalike a wary look, laying Nezuko gingerly on the engawa beside him.

“I’m going to bury the bodies now.” Even if a pang of longing strikes him. Mother and the rest deserve to rest in peace. “…You can lend a hand, if you want.”

The god doesn’t understand.

But when the boy begins moving the children, heaving them one by one up in his strained arms, the god gets curious and he watches with blank eyes.

The boy eventually begins digging a hole.

(Something itches in the back of his head.

There is a form he can take.

There is a form he can use to help—

What is ‘help’?)

The god ends up watching the whole time as the boy bury his people, digging up holes with that unsuitable tool of his, sweating a bucket and eyes nearly swollen shut. He keeps going on despite the red that spills from his sore-littered hands.

-

Tanjirou is wary.

The boy who takes on the form of Takeo has been still all this while. He does nothing but sit and stare – the total opposite of the energetic Takeo, who was the most subdued of the four youngest siblings he has, but always lively in the way he snarks and likes to bite off more than he can chew.

He sits and stares.

He really does nothing but that.

“Here.” Tanjirou hands the bowl of rice porridge to him.

Filling the stomach is the most important.

That is what Kie taught him back when Dad was ill.

…That was what Kie taught him back then.

When the boy does nothing but merely stare at him, Tanjirou sighs softly through his nose, lowering the bowl an inch.

“You’re hungry after the whole day, aren’t you? I’ve done nothing but digging till the evening.” He hadn’t the time to take care of the boy, is what Tanjirou means. Even though by right, all older people should take care of the younger ones, blood relations put aside.

The boy – he has really got to start giving him a name – stares emptily at him.

Tanjirou frowns. This one is really strange.

He takes a scoop of the rice porridge, blowing on it twice, and lifts the spoon up to the child.

“Here.” Tanjirou indulges, managing the smallest smile. “If you’re not going to open up, this delicious scoop of nom-nom’s gonna land flat on the ground.”

Baby talk for the likes of Shigeru.

…Tanjirou nearly has a whipsplash thereafter, wanting to slap a hand over his reddened face in embarrassment.

What on earth is he spewing to this strange child?

Nevertheless, the sullen-looking boy merely stares as Tanjirou nudges the edge of the spoon against his lips.

“There, there.” Tanjirou’s brows crease. Is it bad that he’s reminded of Takeo’s weening years? “You’ve got to eat up loads, or you’re not going to get strength!”

He somehow manages to force the spoon through the limp lips of the boy, but no sooner had he done that—

Cough!

The child coughs out the spoonful of rice porridge, sending it to the ground.

Tanjirou jumps, startled.

“Woah! S-Sorry. Was it too hot?” Tanjirou asks, concerned.

The rice porridge that had managed to splatter on the back of his hand seems to be of normal temperature though… and the way the child had coughed.

Takeo’s lookalike seems nothing but anguished in the way apathetic eyes crease marginally, drool and porridge grains slipping down the edge of his chin. The child doesn’t even seem remotely inclined to wipe it away.

“Do you… perhaps… not know how to eat…?”

Tanjirou leans in close without thinking.

He blames it on the child’s unresponsiveness. Even when he regains awareness of himself seconds thereafter, he doesn’t feel the need to back away.

When the child does nothing but stare, Tanjirou gets the feeling this boy doesn’t even understand what he’s been speaking.

That couldn’t be possible given his age. But then again, if that is the case, then all his bewildering actions up till now would make sense.

“First, you’ve got to open your mouth.” Tanjirou demonstrates. Struggling through opened lips, he says, “Put the food into your mouth this way. Chew on the food like this.” He parts his mouth to show the gnashed state of the porridge grains. “-And swallow.”

He gulps, letting his bulging adam’s apple show.

He opens his mouth to show that it’s empty.

“There. It’s easy, isn’t it?” Tanjirou smiles as he hands the spoon over to the child.

The boy stares down at the spoon that is in his hand.

For a second there, Tanjirou worries that he might try to be the exact replica of Takeo, wanting both bowl and spoon only to add porridge to the forest grounds for stray animals to eat.

To his surprise, the boy replicates everything he does perfectly.

There.” The rugged word tears out of the boy’s throat roughly as he opens his mouth to show Tanjirou it’s emptied of food.

Tanjirou blinks, startled by the word.

“Good job! It seems like you’re well on your way to becoming a grown boy!” Tanjirou praises, putting the bowl gingerly between Takeo’s calloused hands. “Well done!”

Secretly, he wonders what had happened for this being – Takeo’s replica, whoever he is – to lose his memories like this. Not even knowing how to eat like this, it certainly seems very troublesome.

If Tanjirou had any doubts on this being possibly being the one who’d eradicated his family, it is gradually receding with both the boy’s defencelessness and oblivion.

“I trust that you can finish up the rest of the bowl yourself—”

Movement catches the corner of Tanjirou’s eye.

Rubied reds turn stricken as he peers at Nezuko again.

Bamboo branch stuck between drooling mouth, slitted topazes blinking open from sleep to glare out at them, it seems like there really is no way for her to forget the taste of flesh, having feasted once.

“…Nezuko.” The word shudders out of Tanjirou, colder than winter.

She strains against her bounds. Of course she will. Why wouldn’t she?

Tanjirou has used the strongest rope Kie had braided to ensure their goods wouldn’t be stolen.

It feels wrong to see them used on her like this.

It feels wrong, to be eating right next to her when she’s like this.

Why did he expect her to remember who he is? She even attacked this boy – in Takeo’s form.

However… Nezuko had remembered clearly, near the end of her fall. She’d ran off despite Tanjirou being there; leapt off the cliff by herself. …Or can it really be that she just forgot there was a cliff?

“There.”

Takeo’s voice rings out.

Tanjirou snaps back to reality, and his blood chills in his veins at the arm Takeo’s handing out to the drooling Nezuko.

Don’t!” Tanjirou has Takeo’s arm in his grip before he knows it.

Eyes wide, head pounding with adrenaline, he looms over Takeo for an instance. Wanted to protect Takeo. Wanted to hide Takeo away, from Nezuko.

Until he remembers every truth about their reality and collapses in on himself, heart threatening to give way under everything.

Nezuko is looking at him, drool still drenching her chin. But these pink topaz eyes – they seem a little more rational than the hunger frenzy she was in seconds before, shock stealing away a little bit of that animal in them.

Tanjirou averts his gaze.

He knows why that gaze feels so accusing.

“Don’t.” -Touch her. -Let her eat you.

Tanjirou can’t spew those words in front of a fully conscious Nezuko. (He will hurt her.) His main priority shouldn’t be this child anyways.

He leans in on his knees regardless. Opens himself, so he’s looking at both of them.

“Don’t tempt Nezuko with more meat, okay? Even if I know she’s hungry. Even if you can heal.” Tanjirou tells him. Takeo’s lookalike blinks back at him with wide, rubied eyes. And to Nezuko, who’s growling, veins bulging under the caress of his hand on her face. Tanjirou aches but forces a weak smile. “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to bear with your hunger, alright?”

“Nii-chan… Nii-chan will return you back to the form you were in before.” He promises. Though he doesn’t know how.

Nezuko continues those growls in the back of her throat.

Takeo’s lookalike stares, uncomprehending, and stretches out his arm slowly to the drooling Nezuko again.

Tanjirou grabs it and firmly puts it back by the lookalike’s side.

“No.” Tanjirou scolds firmly. “This is bad.” This is for your own good.

The child cocks a blank look at him.

“No?” He echoes.

“No.” Tanjirou agrees.

And that is that.

-

“In any case, you really are weird.” The boy comments when he is putting him to bed that night.

The god stares unblinkingly up at the ceiling.

“Do you know how to sleep?” Asks the patient boy.

The god does not comprehend.

Sheepish as he chuckles weakly to himself, the boy stays looking over him with an arm propping up his head. Behind him, the girl hisses, bounded, wrapped up in ropes and sheets and haori.

“Come to think of it, do you have a name?” Asks the boy.

The god does not comprehend.

And the god is grabbed by the face.

Calloused hands holding firm onto his cheeks, thumbs prod their way in and Tanjirou looks relieved to find normal teeth unlike the girl’s canines.

“Looks like you’re not a demon.” The boy pulls back, smiling at the same time as his brows furrow.

The god allows him to do as he wishes.

“Hey. Say… If you don’t have anywhere to go, do you want to come along with us?” Tanjirou lays back on his futon.

Face strained despite his smile, he does not look at the god.

“I mean – It’s not like we can stay here forever! After news get out about everyone dying, it’s likely that Saburo-Jii-san and the others will come up to pay their respects. …They’ll see Nezuko the way she is.” What started as the awkward beginnings of a smile falters into a sullen press of lips.

Scowling deeply as he fights to hold back his tears in his watery eyes, Tanjirou turns to look at the gagged and bounded figure by his other side.

“Sorry, Nezuko.” A hand slides up to press against her cheek. Nezuko does not come to her senses. “I’m sorry… that I have to treat you this way. It’s just – Kaa-san always told us we’ve got to rest plenty in order to work well. And I… I think I’ve worked plenty enough to deserve a good rest, don’t I?”

Tan hands begin shaking against her fair skin. Nezuko still struggles against her bonds.

Tanjirou closes his eyes. He withdraws his bandaged hands.

“…Yeah. Who am I kidding? I haven’t worked enough to deserve a good rest.”

The boy turns over in his futon.

“I’ve got to buck up tomorrow. We’ve got to prepare all the rations. Gather enough things to last us for a travel.” Tanjirou closes weary eyes. “Have got to protect Nezuko.”

The writhing pink figure twitches, unseen, at the sound of her name.

Even if it’s for an instant, she peers at her brother with a snippet of intelligence.

The god takes all of these in with his head still tilted at the angle the boy had brought his head to.

The god does not rest – until Tanjirou turns over in the middle of the night, shifting; wakes up only to be startled by the still-opened state of his eyes; and laughs wryly, demonstrating the flutter of his eyes to close and sleep.

(Good night, Fushi.)

(Their whispers go unheard to him.)