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Bride of the Water God

Chapter Text

“Beware of leaning too close, little one,” Tanjirou’s grandmother warned him.

He peered into the murky waters while clutching his grandmother’s sleeve. “Why?” he asked, curious.

The old woman stared at the unforgiving lake and began the thousand-year tale. “Because the water god will drown you,” she said with daunting fear. “Because he might mistake you as his bride.”

XXX

Every ten years, the village would endure a devastating drought, one filled with locusts and death-inducing heat. A ritual would then commence, and the villagers would choose a young woman as an offering to the water god. The more beautiful, the better, and the family who sacrificed their daughter would be paid a hefty sum.

Tanjirou remembered when he first witnessed the ritual. The bride would be dressed in fine clothing as if prepared for a real wedding, but besides that, she would be led to a boat and drifted off in a lake until she drowned, meeting her untimely demise.

This year marked the tenth year, and with the failed crops last year, the village was out to find another contender as the water god’s future bride. He eavesdropped the moment his dear friend Zenitsu visited Nezuko, handing her six coins to cross to the afterlife.

“Must it be you?” he wept softly and held her close. “I can find a job,” he grasped for straws, “I can make enough money and save-”

“We both know more than anyone that I will be the next candidate,” Nezuko’s bottom lip trembled and pushed him away. “Please… Please don’t make this harder than it is.” At the ripe age of nineteen, Tanjirou’s younger sister was next in line to become the water god’s bride.

“Nezuko,” the fair-haired boy held her hands, hands he grew up with, hands he imagined holding forever. “I love you,” he confessed and lowered his head. Alas, this was the law of the land, and nothing, not even true love, can stop the village from sacrificing her.

After a hitched breath, Nezuko shook her head and slowly backed away to recede back into her room and weep in regret. Tanjirou’s heart panged in pity as Zenitsu eventually retreated back to his home, most likely beating himself to death for his weakness. In another time, in another place, the two could have married, but the drought was unrelenting, probably due to the water god’s fury.

“He is never satisfied with his bride,” his grandmother used to tell him before she passed away. “So he always need a new one.”

Tanjirou knew the fate of all the brides who were abandoned on that lake. In mere moments, the boat would collapse and the bride would drown, weighted down by her heavy clothing and accessories. Saving a bride from her fate was considered a crime and was rumored to anger the god even more, so the fool who dared to complete such a feat would be executed immediately.

Tanjirou knew what to do, for he was powered by the love for his family and his friends, so he hastily packed his essentials and carried a lamb on his back without a note.

XXX

Tanjirou trekked up the mountain without a falter in his step, for his conviction was strong and true. He scaled the distance in a day’s time, and when he approached the entrance to the shrine, a young girl with pale, turquoise eyes and shortened bangs greeted him. He assumed she was the priestess of the shrine, but she was odd. She wore the traditional red hakama and white kosode, but she also donned a strange fox mask atop her head, decorated with two blue flowers on the left-hand side.

“Hello Kamado-kun,” she greeted him with an eerie smile and an eerie stare.

Tanjirou took a step back, stunned, that she would know his name, but he cannot be deterred. He does not fully understand the celestial powers granted to the priestess, but he had come too far to turn around and leave.

“I wish an audience with the water god,” he bowed and presented the lamb on his back as payment.

Tanjirou’s heart was beating rapidly as the silence stretched out, unsure if he was given permission to stand or not. Then he heard footsteps approaching him, and the strange girl petted the lamb while placing her other hand on his head.

“How peculiar that a child of the sun would enter this shrine,” she giggled softly, blessing him with her grace. “You may enter, Kamado Tanjirou.” She then added, “I place my trust in you.”

Her words were as soft as sakura petals and silky as a refined kimono. Tanjirou raised his head to ask the girl about the meaning of her cryptic words, but his eyes widened when he realized she vanished into thin air. He whipped his head left and right, but there was no sign of her presence. The lamb was gone as well, and Tanjirou was left alone.

With no trace of the priestess, the young man stood up and dusted his knees. The shrine looked like a palace befitting for a king, he noted, as he pushed against the giant jaded doors. He must have been exhausted in his journey to miss such a magnificent building. It was as if he suddenly entered the land of the gods. Inside, the floors were shiny and pristine, as if no one had dared step foot into the shrine, and Tanjirou felt conscious for bringing in the grime of a day’s hard work. The area was decorated with lacquered artifacts, typically depicting the water god and his many victories. Tanjirou absorbed this with starstruck eyes and openly gawked to see such extravagant items. He cautiously walked forward to avoid bumping into anything precious or special.

A fog permeated the room, hindering Tanjirou from seeing what was beyond it. A cold rush of air breezed past his ankles, and before the brave, young man could make a sound, he smelled the familiar scent of the lake back home, including the water lilies that frequent its still waters.

“Human,” he was addressed. “What brings you to my territory?”

Tanjirou squinted through the fog, but he only saw a shadowy figure in front of him. He mustered his courage, swallowed the lump in his throat, and said, “Are you the water god?”

A beat later he collapsed to his knees from the gravity of the aura surrounding him, and Tanjirou gulped in lungfuls of air, fear seizing his core as he realized that the air had thinned. Head dizzying from the lack of oxygen, Tanjirou gritted his teeth and bore through the magnitude of the weight placed upon him. Images of his sister’s sweet smile flashed in his mind, feeding him strength to carry on.

“I...”

He was the eldest son. It was his ultimate duty to protect his family’s livelihood. It was an honor to preserve that smile, even at the cost of his own life. This plan was suicidal, but it would be a greater shame as a brother to willingly sacrifice his own sister.

“I volunteer to replace my sister as your bride,” he said and looked up.

The fog parted, clearing the way for Tanjirou’s vision. The sight before him took his breath away because standing before him was the water god, and, if he played his cards right, his future husband.

Chapter Text

“Tanjirou,” his grandmother called out his name in her overly croaky voice. “Even though we worship the sun god, remember to always pray to the water god.”

Baffled, her grandson then asked, “Why?” His small brows furrowed together. He stopped in his tracks and stuck out his bottom lip. “Isn’t he a mean god?”

The old woman sighed and brought her grandson to the lake where the village would dump the bride to drown. She pointed at the pink flowers floating atop the lake’s surface. “Do you know what they are, Tanjirou?” She asked him.

Hopping excitedly since he knew the correct answer, he screamed out, “Water lilies, water lilies!”

“Good,” his grandmother nodded and patted his forehead with a proud grin. “The water god created those water lilies.” She arched a brow. “Do you know why?”

He shook his head, not knowing why such a cruel god would make such lovely flowers.

“A long, long time ago,” she told him, “A young girl accidentally fell into the lake and died.” She paused for effect. “The water god was so sad that he created these flowers to prevent another child from falling again.”

After her explanation, tears dripped from the corners of Tanjirou’s eyes.

“So Tanjirou,” she said with a solemn expression, “Do you think a mean god would make those flowers?”

The child rapidly shook his head.

“Good,” She said, glad that the lesson got through his skull. “And that is why we must pray.”

XXX

Tanjirou was entranced by the water god’s ethereal beauty and almost forgot how to breathe when his eyes met a gaze that pierced right through him. The god wore a vibrant blue kimono that brought out his eyes as if they were made from the waters of Lake Biwa. The corners of his eyes and his lips were painted blood crimson, which gave his appearance a regal edge, but besides his clothing and makeup, his hair still managed to look unkempt, as if he just woke up from his slumber.

“To replace your sister as my bride?” The god scoffed.

Once again, a powerful aura wrapped around Tanjirou in a vice-like grip, keeping him frozen from moving an inch. His heart was pounding so fast that he could feel the blood rushing in his ears, provoking him to flee from certain death, but he was powerless under his might.

“I don’t need you as my bride,” the god told him with steel in his voice, “Go home.”

He opened his fist, thereby releasing Tanjirou from his grasp, who laid on his side in a fitful heap. The boy gingerly touched his neck as he gasped and choked out spit, heaving in and out from the near-death experience. For someone who looked graceful and heavenly, he had forgotten that this being in front of him was more deadly than a viper. His vision cleared once he gathered his bearings, but instead, he found himself at a crossroads. Unlike his gorgeous sister who could somehow force all the men in the village to collapse on their knees with the slightest giggle, Tanjirou was simply a humble coal burner with an average body and an average face. He does not possess the sex appeal that numerous brides carried, nor does he retain any extraordinary talents to impress somebody as picky as the water god.

Completely stumped, Tanjirou aimed for a distraction long enough to convince the god to accept him. “I can entertain you!” He said in a hurry before all hope was lost. Then, remembering that he was addressing to a god, he also added, “Your greatness!”

The water god evaluated the human before him, taking note of the scraps he wore and the darkened imperfection that scarred his face. The only distinguishing feature that piqued his interest were the hanafuda earrings he wore since he could sense a protective charm surrounding them.

“And how will you entertain me?” He asked.

The middle of the room consisted of a long, oblong path made of white and black marble. Each side was filled with two small ponds with its own unique plants and animals. Before he lowered himself for a seat, the lily pads from both ponds emerged, acting upon their own volition to thread together into a pillow for their master.

Tanjirou promptly followed his lead and sat down with his legs crossed. He proceeded to explain and tapped the tip of his nose. “I have a keen sense of smell, you see. Let’s play a game to decide if I am worthy of becoming your bride.”

His jackrabbit heart was in shambles, beating like crazy as he pulled more ludicrous ideas out of his ass. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bargain with a god, so there was no room for defeat. Tanjirou must succeed.

“Choose whichever object you want, your greatness, and hide it anywhere in this room.” He continued to face the god head-on. “If you wish, we can even switch rooms to include more spots to hide. After that, I will try to locate the object with my nose.” Tanjirou managed to maintain a cool and collected facade, but his palms were overly sweaty and damp. “We can try as many times as you like,” he said, “But...” This was for Nezuko, he told himself. This was for everything and more. “Rest assured, I will find it.”

“You say this as if you had already won,” the god pointed out his overconfidence.

Indeed, Tanjirou was least likely to be labeled as a smug bastard within the village, but his sense of smell was extraordinary and a coveted skill most envied.

“I have,” he replied because he spoke no falsehoods.

“Amusing,” said the god. “Though, I have one question.” Truthfully, this was the first time anyone volunteered to be his bride, which he presumed was a role many avoided. For a man to challenge the gods was inconceivable, yet here he stood before a willing human who bargained his life like a token to toss in a wishing well. “If I win, you will die and your sister would become my bride. If you win,” he looked perplexed, “You will still die, but as my bride. Why go through these great lengths towards your death?”

Tanjirou felt a wave of heat wash over him, coloring him with an ugly emotion he often tampered with cold baths and long moonlit walks. His nails bit his skin as he clenched his fists tight until they were veiny and white.

“I am the eldest son,” he pushed down his temper and straightened his back. His crimson eyes were lit aflame, scalding the water god with his judgment. “And I am going to protect everything that is dear to me.”

His eyes burned bright, brighter than the northern star and warmer than the sun.

“I see,” the water god acknowledged his conviction and sprouted a water lily in his hands. A stray, bittersweet thought slipped into his mind as he closed his eyes. His sister would have liked this human. A silly, foolish idea came afterwards, and the words snuck out of the god’s mouth before he could stop them. “Your name,” he said. “What is your name?”

Prayers always involved names, for they held power and faith. They hold a title of significance, and under the wrong hands, they could become a weakness. However, the water god’s purpose was not to scorn or curse for eternity, not like Muzan who manipulated names to wreak havoc and cause misery.

“Kamado Tanjirou,” the boy said, unable to read the other’s expression. “And yours?”

It was an unnecessary question, but he kept up the formalities even though Tanjirou already knew his name. It was a name he used to pray every night ever since he was a babe, a name he never forgot because back then, when he was a careless, clumsy child, he almost drowned and was found unconscious at the shoreline. His grandmother was insistent he gave his gratitude to the water god, and Tanjirou had done his part, presenting his shrine with gifts aplenty and a dance.

This was the water god he prayed to, besides the sun god, and this was the water god who asked for his name.

“Giyuu,” the god said and offered him a serene smile, one that the boy doesn’t know how to respond. “Tanjirou,” he said his name, “May the odds be in your favor.” 

Chapter Text

Giyuu knew firsthand that humans were weak and fragile creatures, especially the unconscious child he now carried in his arms. Again, another had fallen into his lake, but fortunately, this one was still breathing, albeit dangling limply as he planned to drift the child back to shore. The water god sighed in relief and brushed away the boy’s rust-colored bangs, accidentally coming across a hidden nasty scar.

“Seems that I have a troublemaker in our midst,” he voiced aloud as he gently laid the child upon an enlarged water lily. He carefully thumbed the scar and checked for further injuries, but to his satisfaction, the child was unharmed. “Now,” he ruffled his hair and placed a small token of his blessings, a lotus, in the boy’s palm. “Try not to fall into my lake again, young man,” he bid his farewell as he sent him away. “Or,” he joked, “I might mistake you as my bride.”

XXX

“Found it!”

Tanjirou’s nose was pressed against the ground, and once he found his mark, he began to dig the earth desperately, not minding the dirt burrowing underneath his nails as long as he achieved his goal. To a mere commoner, this sort of work was nothing. He scooped out more dirt as the fruity fragrance grew stronger and more potent. Once he spotted the first petal, his shoveling became more meticulous, more careful to not damage the flower. Finally, he pulled out the last item, a single lily in his hands and lifted it high in the air for Giyuu to see.

“Congratulations,” the water god nodded, his expression still unreadable as he encased the flower in his hands.

After many trials and tribulations, Tanjirou was an outright mess with muddied cheeks and knees, twigs tangled in his hair, and layered grime on patches of his exposed skin. Despite the cuts and bruises littering his face and arms, the human wore a brilliant smile like a shiny new badge. So strange, Giyuu thought, for a human to be this happy over his eventual demise. He must have stared longer than he thought because when he realized this, Tanjirou fiddled with his thumbs and restlessly tapped his foot since he was uncomfortable being the subject of his scrutiny.

He gestured the human to inch closer and silently observed the skittery boy approach him with reproachful steps. Upon closer inspection, his eyes were like rubies, glittery precious gems miners would die for. How wasteful, he thought, that such pretty eyes would be clouded by death.

“I accept you as my bride,” he said and waved his hand with a flick, instantly cleaning the boy until he was spotless and clean.

Tanjirou looked as if he was scrubbed raw, but he still retained the callouses and blisters from a lifetime’s worth of hard work. He flexed his fingers and voiced out his gratitude, “Thank you.”

A second ago his hands were dirtied from scavenging through different environments, but to a god, wiping the filth away was child’s play. His request was minuscule in the grand scheme, just a blip to a celestial being’s free time. Lost in his thoughts, Tanjirou failed to react quicker the moment the god raised his chin until their lips were a few millimeters apart, close enough for Tanjirou to admire his long eyelashes and got drunk under his scent. His nose recognized the sea, the comfortable scent of a nice sunny day at the beach, and he almost basked in it, embarrassingly so because it was pleasant and safe, familiar and kind. He wondered what came next, slowly fluttering his eyes to a close. Perhaps he was prepared for a kiss to seal the deal, but his prediction turned out wrong as the god turned his head and gave him a chaste peck on the cheek. The sensation that bloomed there was like a soothing balm, numbing his nerves and lighting his skin on fire.

“What did you,” he gasped and gently touched his cheek like a wounded animal. He cannot see his reflection, but beneath his fingers was a mark resembling a ripple.

“It’s my mark,” Giyuu said. He tapped his cheek to reveal an identical mark. “Proof that I accept you,” he explained, aware that the elders of his village were the kind who were not so easily swayed. “If anyone denies my mark,” his eyes flickered lightning blue, a grim reminder of his powers as a god, “There won’t be anyone left to deny it,” he warned.

Tanjirou shuddered to think of the horrors. Not one to test him, he agreed and thanked the water god for the opportunity to play a game. “I believe I should go home now and not overstay my welcome,” he bowed. “Or they might bring you the wrong bride,” he teased.

“Yes,” the water god smiled in return. “We should prevent that.”

Tanjirou grinned with a beaming complexion, internally happy to see a reaction from the water god. Perhaps he was so ecstatic because it made Giyuu seem more human once he chipped away his indomitable exterior.

A bittersweet note infused with the air, and Tanjirou was stricken, surprised, to discover that he was the one who emitted the smell. Now that he had a moment to reflect, the weight of his sacrifice had descended upon him. He was going to die.

To hide his miserable face, to not show his agony, Tanjirou paid his respects. “Thank you, Giyuu-sama,” he said and waited.

Bright light blanketed his body, signaling that he was about to go home. Before he was whisked back to the mortal realm, Tanjirou felt inclined to peek at the water god one more time. The water god looked ready to depart, probably off to complete his duties; however, as Tanjirou was sent back to the entrance of the shrine, one lasting thought stuck with him throughout the duration of his journey home. Maybe he was too presumptuous or cocky to speak from the heart, but he couldn’t help himself from thinking that the god, surrounded by artifacts of his feats, seemed lonely and sad.

XXX

To say that his sister opposed his decision was putting it lightly. The temporary mark was enough evidence to the elders that Tanjirou was undeniably chosen as the next bride. Many hailed him as a hero, some even donating gifts and garments for the ritual to help ease the burden of the expenses.

“You’re a fool,” she spat out and sobbed once he finished reiterating his tale to his family and Zenitsu. She clutched his chest tight and was followed by Zenitsu’s streaming tears.

Tanjirou took their feelings in stride, but he was also comforted that his friend promised to take care of his family once he fulfilled his role and attended his “wedding”. He spent every moment like his last, eating his dinners with laughter and drinks, playing with his siblings with unrepressed energy. When the day of the ritual commenced, Tanjirou was heavily decorated head to toe like a flimsy doll. The women of the village argued among themselves, disputing whether he should be dressed in the traditional white ensemble of a bride or the formal kimono of a groom until his sister intervened and defended his honor. After what felt like hours, they reached a compromise and allowed him to shed a couple layers since they reasoned that Tanjirou was a special exception to the water god’s tastes. Besides, none of the bridal kimonos they had in stock fitted him, especially at such a short notice.

Nobody in a thousand years returned from the realm of the gods unscathed, so he must be blessed, they whispered in the background. Indeed, he was blessed, Tanjirou thought sarcastically, to be minutes away from drowning himself.

“I can replace you, you know,” Nezuko told him as she handed him the coins for the afterlife, coins that would have been rightfully hers.

So much was at stake. Parting from his younger siblings ripped out Tanjirou’s heart and shredded it to bits. He would have given in to their crocodile tears if his mother hadn’t pulled them away. Nezuko’s offer was futile, but he recognized the sentiment and allowed it to ache in his soul, to memorize her scent and the good memories they held together. He pressed his forehead against hers and wished for her eternal happiness.

“Goodbye,” he whispered with no regrets and departed off without another word.

Like all the preceding brides, Tanjirou entered into the boat with his scarce belongings and was pushed towards the center of the lake until he was only a speck in the distance. For hours, Tanjirou suffocated under layers of clothing and was tortured from the sunlight, leaving him to wonder if most brides died from heat stroke or dehydration.

At times he would hallucinate his family encouraging him to grit his teeth and bear the pain. His only grasp to reality were the water lilies near the boat, a splash of color and hope past the monotone image of the lake. However, luck was no longer on his side as a mysterious force rocked the boat, causing him to seize the edges before it was capsized. He fought and kicked and paddled to stay on the surface, but as expected, his clothes dragged him to the bottom like an anchor. He was in the midst of removing his kimono, frantically shedding off the layers to break free.

More bubbles escaped from his mouth, and his vision became spotty and dark, he realized, as he slowly ran out of oxygen. Soft, pink petals caressed his cheek, but Tanjirou had no energy left to register them or realize their purpose. Instead, he closed his eyes and succumbed to his fate. And then, only then, he allowed himself to drown.

Chapter Text

When Giyuu blinked away the dregs of sleep, he realized that the silk sheets were disturbed and discarded to the side. There was an empty space in front of him, an absent warmth that should have remained in his arms. His azure eyes trailed to the edge of the bed, finding Sabito sitting there in silence, gazing at the galaxies and the heavens and everything in-between.

“Can’t sleep?” Giyuu yawned and crawled over to his restless lover.

When his arms reached their goal and wrapped around a slim torso, Giyuu sighed in relief and nuzzled between the human’s shoulder blades, recharging his internal battery before Yoriichi changed the night into day.

Sabito looked at him with a piercing gaze as if he used a bow and arrow to strike its target. He then asked him, “Do gods fear anything?”

From the way he picked at his fingernails to his swollen bitten lips, he seemed fretful and distraught, completely out of character for someone who was usually confident and headstrong.

Concerned, Giyuu placed his hands on his cheeks. “Did you have a nightmare?” His thumbs stroked the bags under his eyes.

Sabito sighed and held Giyuu’s wrists. “My lifespan is short because I’m human.” He frowned. “I’ll be gone in a blink of an eye, but you’ll still be here. Sooner or later you’ll forget me,” he confessed with muted resignation etched in his features. “And that’s why I’m scared.”

To dissipate those fears, Giyuu leaned forward and kissed him, pushing his feelings to assure him that their love, their feelings for each other were genuine and real despite the setbacks. Their lips parted, but their faces were still close, close enough for their breaths to intermingle. “I won’t forget,” Giyuu made his vow. “I’ll never forget you,” he promised with the sincerity of a thousand cranes, for gods never lie. They never break a promise.

XXX

When Giyuu woke up to his greatest fears slammed at his face, with no Sabito or Tsutako in sight, he screamed.

XXX

“Wake up,” Tanjirou heard faintly. “Wake up.”

The boy rolled to his side and let out a disoriented groan, feeling excessively dizzy and nauseous as if his body bypassed a storm. He slowly opened his eyes and woke up to an abyss, completely surrounded by infinite darkness. The ground was like shallow water, wet but stable, but there was no scent, no smell that helped indicate his whereabouts. He had an inkling this was the afterlife.

The mysterious voice refuted this notion.

“So,” he heard to his right, “The bride is alive.”

His heart leapt out of his chest. Tanjirou shifted his head to the direction of the voice to face a tengu mask a hair’s breadth away, ultimately catching him by surprise. He yelped and reflexively jumped back from the strange individual, stumbling to stand upright into a defensive stance.

“Who are you? Where am I?” His voice echoed in this confined space.

“The gatekeeper,” the individual answered in turn, “And you are in front of the gate.” The stranger seemed to emit a dim glow in this blanketed darkness. “The gate leading to the realm of the gods,” he added with a hint of amusement. These words came naturally to him, as if he said these very words thousands of times. The gatekeeper’s snowy white hair and detailed wrinkles gave Tanjirou this impression.

The redhead looked wary. “Can I enter?”

“You can,” said the gatekeeper.

However, a fearsome roar could be heard from afar. Tanjirou jolted from the sound and noticed an incoming speck, one too small to discern. He squinted for a clearer image and stood there breathing rapidly, ears pulsing from the fear of imminent danger. When he realized its true form, his eyes widened to the size of saucers. A vicious blue dragon was hurtling towards him, its claws outstretched to probably tear him limb from limb. He almost lost his footing as he pivoted to break into a run, his footsteps splashing against the floor as he pushed his limits.

However, a human was never meant to outrun a dragon. The difference in speed became apparent once the creature swooped down, snatched Tanjirou with its talons, and flew straight towards the gate. His heart dropped. Still in one piece, Tanjirou used his free arms to cover his head, screaming at the top of his lungs as they were about to crash. He closed his eyes, ready for impact; therefore, he utterly missed the way the gatekeeper bowed low, as if greeting the master of a household.

“Welcome, Giyuu-sama,” said the gatekeeper.

The gates creaked open, flooding in sunshine and light, and Tanjirou removed his hands as he entered the realm of the gods. He inhaled in the sweet mixture of fruit and honey, briefly forgetting that he was held hostage, and drank in the gorgeous scenery in awe. As he passed through the boundary, the dragon exploded into dust and disintegrated into tiny particles like small flecks of light until they surrounded Tanjirou’s hand. The specks of light gradually compacted together and morphed a hand, which left Tanjirou a gawking bystander as more and more appeared until at last the water god stood next to him.

Unlike the harsh claws that kept him prisoner, the water god’s hand was firm and kind. Tanjirou was driven into shock, his mouth opening and closing like a goldfish because he couldn’t comprehend the miracle that just happened.

“How,” he managed to speak but was unable to form more words. He heard of shape-shifting gods, but the water god’s intentions seemed murky and unclear. Was this another test?

“Whenever Giyuu-sama steps outside of this realm,” the gatekeeper explained as the gates closed behind him, “He becomes a dragon.”

“I see...”

Although a bit hesitant, depictions of the water god were usually in the form of dragons and other beasts who protected their domain, so the gatekeeper made sense. Rather, Tanjirou was still mystified that Giyuu’s true form was a handsome man with hair as soft as the finest silks and a voice as smooth as a stone beneath a waterfall. Whenever he spoke, Tanjirou felt liquid fire rush to his cheeks and the lethal urge to buckle his knees. Ironically, he seemed more dangerous in this form than the other one.

“Thank you, Urokodaki,” Giyuu expressed his gratitude and turned to his bride. “Welcome back,” he said with an inscrutable expression, neither smiling or frowning.

Tanjirou instinctively averted his eyes, somewhat embarrassed from his previous behavior even though it was perfectly natural to scream like a banshee considering the circumstances. By avoiding eye contact, he noticed the strange, unique multi-colored plants and flora encircling them, including the unfamiliar creatures roaming these lands.

“Beautiful,” Tanjirou echoed out his thoughts and knelt down to brush his hands against the grass.

“It is,” Giyuu replied and knelt with him. “It’s… It’s home.”

His expression turned soft like mochi and sweet like sugar, practically a dessert for the eyes, but it was so out-of-place, Tanjirou had a niggling feeling that he was imposing on something way beyond his reach. After a few moments of calm, Tanjirou decided to take the lead and grasped his hand tight. The water god looked at him with raw vulnerability, an innocence that left Tanjirou off-kilter and imbalanced. He gulped from the pressure.

Before he could speak again, a stranger approached them in a hurry. He was a young man with parted bangs and a striped blue haori, and when he arrived, he instantly slammed his head and buried it in the ground to pay his respects with grandiose.

“Welcome home, Giyuu-sama!” He shouted at the dirt.

He shot straight up like a bamboo shoot and disregarded the grass in his hair. “I see your bride has arrived! He looks very lovely!” He said with enthusiasm, “If you like, I can escort him to your residence!”

Tanjirou was about to decline, but Urokodaki interrupted him and spoke in Giyuu’s stead. “Thank you Murata,” he came in between them, “You may do that. Besides,” he faced the water god, “I need a few words with the master.”

After his dismissal, Murata followed instructions and grabbed Tanjirou’s sleeve to drag him to the main path. The bride looked over his shoulder, ignoring his companion’s rambles about which outfits he preferred and which foods were his favorite since they have servants to fulfill his requests. Not given the chance to opt out and stick around, Tanjirou continued to let Murata’s suggestions go in one ear and out the other. His ears strained to listen, but he was too far to catch a sentence.

His face was hidden, but Giyuu could tell Urokodaki was disappointed and expressed his displeasure. “That boy,” he paused, “He is not Sabito.”

The old man sounded exhausted. After all, he was also affected from his tragic death, and though Giyuu trained himself to keep a straight face, to not let his heart waver, his name still struck a chord.

“I know,” he said with a shaky breath and closed his eyes. Then he wandered off and bottled those feelings away because that was how he coped, because that was how he would never forget.

Chapter Text

When the previous bride was sacrificed, the village celebrated with drinks and a feast as the rain poured from the heavens and watered their crops. The adults stood outside with their heads turned to the skies, laughing in exaltation as droplets splashed on their faces. Tanjirou, after a good round of jumping into puddles and dancing in the rain, took shelter and watched over his siblings as a diligent son. Once he dried his hair before his mother scolded him, he relaxed to hug his knees close to his chest.

Often overlooked for his small stature, he accidentally eavesdropped a conversation between the neighbors and his mother.

“Poor Kazumi-san,” One woman tutted and sipped her tea. “He loved Satoko so much, but he was too poor to save her,” she said with much pity.

Tanjirou followed their sympathetic gaze. A lone, melancholic man was hunched over the middle of the road, withstanding the fact that he was soaked from head to toe. This man made no sound, no whimper. His eyes were glazed, almost dead, as they were fixated on the ground, but despite the despair written across his face, the man refused to yield to the dreary rain. The next day, the villagers found Kazumi still rooted at the same spot, adamantly treasuring a red ribbon against his chest until he breathed his last, full of longing and regret.

XXX

After Giyuu wallowed in self-pity along Shinobu’s fields where he would receive a dose of her venomous tongue, he returned to his residence by nightfall. He erased the evidence of his tears before he slipped through the entrance. However, what welcomed him was beyond necessary. Laid on his bed like a fish ready to get chopped on a cutting board was his bride, arms crossed over his chest as he offered his body and soul. Also, he was very naked. Giyuu rubbed his eyes to double-check if he was hallucinating, but to his dismay, Tanjirou was still there, presenting his bare self like a snack.

Out of all the appropriate responses, Giyuu blurted out, “Why?”

Slowly but surely, Tanjirou sat up once he figured his husband was not going to ravish him the entire night. He sheepishly positioned himself with his knees together, back straight, and buttocks resting on his ankles. Giyuu wrinkled his nose when he caught a whiff of a flowery, fragrant oil, and from what he saw, it was dabbed all over the human’s neck and inner thighs. Tanjirou seized his shoulders high as if he performed badly even though they haven’t done the deed.

“W-well, you see,” he stuttered, shivering from humiliation, “Murata-san t-told me that it’s proper to c-consummate the wedding.”

He shyly peeked at Giyuu from under his eyelashes. Though he was inexperienced with such matters, he understood if the water god was disgusted with his scars and callouses. He even went through the trouble of memorizing some pointers Murata, who self-proclaimed himself as one of the greatest studs in the realm of the gods besides the god of festivities, kindly shared with him. Although he doesn’t have supple skin or feminine features, Tanjirou was more confident now compared to an hour ago.

He tightened his fists, aware of his disparities, and bowed low until his forehead touched the sheets. “I apologize for my unsightly appearance,” he said. “But I will do everything in my power to satisfy you. Please...” He fretted under the water god’s stare. “Please be gentle with me,” he tapered off.

Silence. There was only stunned silence.

Giyuu was speechless for various reasons, but one truth was certain – Murata was a dead man by tomorrow.

The god pinched the bridge between his eyes and took a sharp intake of breath as he proceeded to clean this messy debacle. He hoped he approached this gingerly.

“Tanjirou,” he called his name and rested at the edge of the bed. There was a safe distance between them. “Please get dressed,” he urged.

“But-”

“I have no interest in intercourse tonight.”

Tanjirou blanched. His efforts to learn how to become seductive went down the drain. Hours of preparation led to failure.

Giyuu then took a moment to reevaluate his words. “And it’s not because you are male,” he added. He shifted closer until he nimbly touched Tanjirou’s precious earrings, marveling at the strength of the protective charm and its design. They must have been a gift from a powerful god.

“Rather, you are very handsome,” he said as he slid his hand to his jaw and watched his pretty human turn red. Tanjirou closed his eyes out of reflex, for he was quite embarrassed to be praised or called attractive. His lips were slightly parted as he took in a tremulous breath. Cheeks flushed, Tanjirou slowly reopened his eyes to meet with Giyuu’s and held his gaze with a rapid beating heart. Heat curled in his gut, and Tanjirou crossed his legs, wondering what he should do in this position. On the other hand, the god wondered if humans were too blind to notice the value in this human for him to react this much to a simple compliment.

“Thank you, Giyuu-sama.”

Tanjirou pulled the sheets to cover his modesty before he exited the room to dress more appropriately. The boy bit his bottom lip deep in contemplation, and Giyuu stared at the movement with a creased forehead. Concerned that he hurt his feelings one way or the other, Giyuu was about to ask him that question, but his concerns were swept away once the human reached a final decision. Tanjirou tilted his chin and swiftly brushed his lips against his without warning. The kiss was only for a brief second, but it was a moment that lasted more than a millennia.

Tanjirou lifted the sheets and hid most of his face, but his voice was as clear as glass. “You are very kind,” he said and skittered out, lest he regretted his actions, and left Giyuu behind numbed and conflicted.

XXX

The next morning was hectic to say the least. The gossip was rampant, and Giyuu’s servants were engrossed in their absurd rumors and speculations. They were so engrossed, they failed to recognize the visitor who approached the great plum tree that resided in the garden.

“Ara, ara, what’s this?”

A dainty-looking woman fluttered to the plum tree with interest, but her sights were not on the cute blossoms that newly bloomed. Rather, she was invested on the man dangling from a sturdy branch, barely hanging on by a rope wrapped around his ankles. Besides his pathetic weeping form, a sign was attached to his chest with a fair warning that instructed everybody to not touch Murata since he was being punished.

“Good morning Murata-san,” the woman greeted him, but her seemingly permanent smile was not so welcoming. Indeed, this was karma biting Murata in the butt. She disregarded his blotchy, simpering face and said, “I would like to pay my respects to the new bride.” Her smile grew wider. “Do you know where I can find him?”

Chapter Text

“Nii-chan, nii-chan,” Rokuta squirmed in his embrace as they were about to sleep. Well, they were supposed to, but the youngest Kamado was too awake to relax. “Tell me about the water god again,” he whispered as best as he could.

“Not the sun god and the creation of the world?” Tanjirou raised an eyebrow since that was his younger brother’s favorite bedtime story. Usually his younger sister Hanako preferred the tales of the water god since it was so romantic and tragic. However, according to Rokuta’s adorable little pout, he was not in the mood for stories about the sun god Yoriichi and how he vanquished the darkness.

Thus, he started the tale exactly like how his grandmother introduced it. “Beware of leaning too close to the lake, little one,” he would say.

Rokuta giggled at his brother and his silly voice. He played along, “Why?”

“Because the water god will drown you,” he smiled and kissed Rokuta’s forehead, “Because he might mistake you as his bride.”

The words weaved and flowed as he told Rokuta of the water god’s immense love for his first bride. Ever since the sun god gave her as a gift to Giyuu, he was immediately smitten and fell in love at first sight. He was never satisfied after his subsequent brides, yet he never failed to celebrate the arrival of a new one. He always poured sake from the heavens, which served the humans a long and fruitful rain.

As Tanjirou finished, Rokuta was finally asleep, softly snoring without a care in the world. Unlike his oblivious younger brother, Tanjirou could not sleep. A traitorous thought crossed the eldest son’s mind, a thought that would have been considered blasphemous to his devoted grandmother, but it bothered him throughout the night.

If the water god truly loved his first bride, was the rain really a form of celebration?

XXX

The blood rushing to his head left Murata dizzy and insufferable since he was hung upside down for hours.

“I didn’t mean to anger Giyuu-sama!” He was almost incoherent with the way he bawled for forgiveness. “He looked so excited to meet his new bride, so I wanted to help!”

The dark-haired visitor nodded her head, pitied the sniffling man, and sliced the rope to free Murata from his torture, which he dropped with a thunk and a whimper. The act was a small mercy. Murata understood he deserved his severe punishment, but he got himself involved with good intentions.

“I wasn’t thinking and intervened,” he said with his face planted on the ground, “But… But...”

Giyuu was stricken with despair ever since Sabito’s death, and his emotions would flood the residence like a torrent of emotions, suffocating and heavy. The servants would watch helplessly whenever he buried himself in a sea of his tears, and Murata was one of the few brave souls who tended to his shattered heart.

“I hoped that this human could make a positive change,” he clawed the dirt in frustration and soaked the ground with his tears.

He shriveled whenever he remembered Giyuu’s thunderous look, the same look he wore whenever a bride misspoke or insulted the first bride.

“Do not get involved with my affairs again, Murata,” he admonished him before he was tied to the plum tree. “Next time I won’t be so lenient.”

Murata was not strong like the god of the mountains or reliable like the god of festivities, so all he could do was struggle at the bottom of the food chain and crossed his fingers for the best.

The woman, who somehow hasn’t abandoned Murata despite his pathetic state, crouched down to his level and offered him a reassuring smile. “Thank you for your honesty, Murata-san,” she told him and handed him a tiny bottle, perhaps a salve to ease the rope marks around his ankles. She then headed off to the main quarters. “I shall see if this human is worthy of your trust.”

In the meantime, Tanjirou kept himself busy with menial tasks, such as folding laundry, cleaning rooms, and cooking meals. When the bustling servants found Giyuu’s bride scrubbing the floors, they gasped in horror. Tanjirou was not meant to stand still or suited for eye candy. He was a go-getter and was determined to lessen the workload. If not, he would die of boredom.

“Please Tanjirou-san,” one of the servants begged him to cease.

Interestingly, there was a ranking system among the servants. Most of them hid their faces with masks and cloths, typically fashioning a black uniform with an indication of their status. Giyuu explained all of this to Tanjirou as he helped his husband wear his kimono, a beautiful, expensive-looking one with a brilliant koi decorated on his back. The lowest ranking servants, called the kakushi, performed the brunt of the grunt work while the more exceptional and talented individuals were in charge of other duties such as training and protection.

Tanjirou, as adamant as ever, insisted to partake in the chores. He brought out his arm and gripped his bicep.

“Don’t worry! I’m strong enough to handle it,” he winked even though he misread their concerns as concern for his well-being.

The kakushi were almost at their wits’ end. Thankfully, a goddess appeared in their presence.

“Good afternoon,” she greeted everybody. Her voice was light and airy. “My, my, it seems that we have an energetic bunch here.”

“Lady Shinobu!”

The kakushi swooned and flocked to her like bees attracted to honey. Tanjirou watched in awe as the servants switched attitudes and bowed to their knees. She must be a celebrity, he thought, to garner this much attention and praise. She dressed like one, too, with her cute floral kimono and eye-catching butterfly-printed haori jacketed over it.

“Oh? And who’s this?”

Shinobu threaded through the crowd, elegantly avoiding each servant with poise and grace as she floated towards him. Tanjirou was mesmerized.

She landed right in front of him without making a sound. “Nice to meet you. My name is Shinobu,” she introduced herself with a gentle smile. “And who are you?”

Tanjirou was so entranced, he forgot himself. Without prompt, he said, “You’re so pretty.”

“Hmm?”

Given a second to recollect his jumbled thoughts, Tanjirou turned a dark shade and realized his slip of the tongue. “I mean!” How embarrasing! Nezuko would have knocked him out if she knew how rude he acted. “My name is Kamado Tanjirou! At your service!”

Then he immediately bowed to profusely apologize for his careless comment. Steam rose from his ears. “Please forgive me,” he clenched his eyes.

A few moments passed until he heard a light chuckle from above. Despite his scatterbrained behavior, Shinobu enjoyed herself as she closed a fist near her mouth to stifle her laughter. Despite his scatterbrained behavior, she was not offended.

“Delighted to meet you, Kamado-san,” she said and gestured him to follow her with a wave of her hand.

Tanjirou opened his mouth to reject her invitation. He was interested, but he was in the middle of cooking a meal for his husband before his return. The kakushi must have been mind readers to sense that danger and immediately slapped their hands over his mouth.

In a panic, they hollered out in unison, “Yes! It would be a pleasure for him to be in your company, Lady Shinobu!”

Right after she turned around to lead the way, they circled Tanjirou with murderous glares and tried to keep their voices down. One poked his cheek and twisted his finger. “Keep your mouth shut! Do you want to die?!”

Another was bonking his head. “Can’t you read the mood?! If you insult her, it’ll be the end for us,” she hissed. “Apologize to us! Apologize!”

“Kamado-san?” Shinobu called out his name and looked over her shoulder.

Indeed, the servants were masters in the art of speed. Before she could catch them threatening Tanjirou, they quickly lined themselves us against the wall to clear a path while wearing immaculate faces – well, as immaculate they could be since they wore masks.

Not to delay the inevitable any longer, he jogged right behind her. “Coming!”

The bloodlust targeted at him was palpable, but Tanjirou ignored them in favor of exploring the area deeper. Besides the dusting and mopping, he didn’t give himself a break to go on an adventure within the confines of the water god’s abode. Not to say he had a bad sense of direction, but he wasn’t confident to say he wouldn’t get lost. Perhaps he should have asked Murata to give him a tour rather than explicit details on how to satisfy one’s lover.

“Are you comfortable here?” She asked him.

“It’s a bit difficult to adapt,” he rubbed the back of his neck, “But I’ll manage.”

Somewhere along the way, the two entered into an open courtyard, and based on the open space and weaponry, this must have been a training ground of sorts. Tanjirou felt inclined to break the silence.

He pondered over what to ask. “Are you a goddess, Shinobu-san?”

The woman sat along the engawa and patted the seat beside her. When he followed obediently, she replied, “No, but I am many names.”

“Like what?”

“Some call me a witch. Some call me a doctor.”

There was one person who called her a goddess, but that was one person she could never have.

“I see. Even so, you must be busy. It’s very nice of you to visit us.” Tanjirou wondered what was the purpose of her visit. “Are you here to visit, Giyuu-san? If you wait, he’ll come home soon! You guys must be good fr-”

She interrupted that train of thought. “No.”

Tanjirou paused and glanced at her. Shinobu gave him a saccharine smile and glanced back.

“Excuse me?”

“We are not friends.”

“Oh,” he stopped. “I see.” No, he does not see. Rather, he was quite blind.

“It’s more appropriate to call us mere acquaintances.”

Unable to form a proper response, he awkwardly stared at the ground to find a shining ray of hope to save this conversation. He took a deep inhale to control his breathing, searching for anything to steer the conversation, but as he did so, he came across a peculiar scent. Tanjirou slowly turned and stared into Shinobu’s amethyst eyes.

A beat later, he asked her a question. “Shinobu-san… Are you angry?”

Though it was a fraction of a second, her eyes widened. She was stunned.

“For some reason, I seem to be picking up an angry scent from you.” He tapped his nose because his nose never lied, was never false. “Even though you were smiling,” he told her.

Shinobu slowly turned her head straight forward and stared at the clear, blue sky. She was quiet. Too quiet.

With no response, Tanjirou panicked if he stepped on a forbidden landmine. However, Shinobu regained her composure and began to talk.

“Yes,” she dipped her head lower. “You’re right. It might be true that I’m always in a constant state of anger.”

Yet, that was another story for another day. There was a reason why she visited Giyuu’s bride and disrupted his routine, and she came here to fulfill her purpose, her warning to his bride just like all the previous ones.

“Kamado-kun,” she said, “As you may know, every ten years a new bride would be sacrificed.”

“Yes,” he affirmed.

Even though this tradition was horrible, his village had followed it for centuries.

For once, Shinobu’s smile faltered. She then asked him, “Have you ever wondered what happened to the past brides? Have you ever wondered why you haven’t seen them yet?”

Yes, he thought, because ever since he arrived, he realized Giyuu was too kind to kill his brides, to murder them just like the tales suggested. 

"Here is my warning to you," she said, "So then you can decide. So then you won't make the same mistakes."

Chapter Text

Sabito grasped the decorated handle with a firm grip. Instantly, the silver blade gradually changed colors into a light turquoise hue. He gasped at the phenomenon and turned to Giyuu to shoot him a grin, and the water god, proud of his human becoming worthy of the blade, embraced him from behind. Then he draped his hands over his arms to correct his stance and taught him how to fight.

“This is a Nichirin blade,” he told Sabito. “The strongest weapon in the realm of the gods.”

When Sabito was ready, he dashed forward and raised his arms for a blow.

“How so?” He asked as Giyuu blocked his attack.

“Because it is the only blade that can kill a god,” the water god explained and parried his next blow by holding his sword vertically. Bored of waiting, Giyuu went on the offensive next and pinned Sabito down, thrusting his sword right next to his face. There was a lot of room for improvement; that much was certain.

“That’s kinda hot,” the human smirked. Giyuu smiled back.

XXX

Most brides were like Satoko, who was the bride who came before Tanjirou. Giyuu’s first impression of her was not impressive, but opinions can change.

The next question that came out of her mouth did not help her case.

“Did it rain?” She asked the water god with her cracked lips.

She looked positively famished, almost to the point of fainting. Living with immortal beings tend to make him forget normal human needs, so he automatically requested Murata to fetch her a glass of water. More disconcertingly, Satoko was not concerned for her well-being, but rather, all she cared about was the rain.

She wore this weary expression that unnerved him, which made him hesitate to tell her the truth because it was an expression he recognized, a look he was too familiar with that left him unsettled. Still, he had to answer her question.

“Yes.”

With a shudder, Satoko collapsed on her knees and let out a choked cry. She was filled with despair as tears slid down her cheeks.

Then she did what most brides begged from him. “Please,” she bit back a whimper at the thought of her poor lover Kazumi drowning himself in sorrow, “Please kill me.”

Giyuu flinched. Most brides had no choice but to sell themselves for their family. Most brides sacrificed themselves even though they had a special someone in their heart. Upon hearing her request, a request he heard over thirty times, Giyuu asked for a request in return.

“Give me a week to convince you to continue living,” he would say, and Shinobu, who was usually within the vicinity of this interaction, would give him her input. “Why try so hard? All they seek is an end.”

As she predicted, nothing changed, and a bit of Giyuu’s heart was chipped as he stared at the human’s miserable state. Resignation crossed his features, and he unsheathed his Nichirin blade to give her a peaceful death. To gods and demons, one strike from the Nichirin blade was agonizing torture, but to a human, it was a painless relief. After he struck her, he cried.

“A few times Giyuu tried to release his brides back to their village,” Shinobu explained to Tanjirou. Her face darkened at the memory, of the cruelty humans can commit. “But tradition is tradition, so when the humans saw the bride, they thought she angered the gods.”

The body was mutilated beyond repair until the only remains were blood, hair and crumpled bones. When Giyuu approached the disfigured brides, he wept for four days and four nights, apologizing for his stupid mistake. When Urokodaki and Shinobu found him, his hands were caked in their blood as a way to atone.

“For the brides who wanted to live,” Shinobu continued, “They were unable to survive. Therefore, they eventually died.”

Tanjirou was choked with emotion, not only for his disproportionate chances to live, but for Giyuu’s sake as well.

“How?”

There was a far off look in Shinobu’s gaze, as if she was seeing a distant memory rather than the butterflies fluttering in the air.

She sounded sad when she replied, “To understand, you have to know about Sabito.”

Tanjirou furrowed his brows. “Sabito?” This was a name he doesn’t recognize. “Who’s Sabito?”

The effect of uttering his name was obvious. Tanjirou was human, but he was not oblivious to the way the trees ruffled in excitement or the way the ground vibrated in anticipation.

“He was the first bride,” Shinobu revealed. “The man Giyuu loved.”

She described Sabito in detail, how he was a peach-haired man with a grueling scar that extended from the corner of his lips to his ear, how he was a human with a frigid sense of righteousness and justice. No bullshit could pass under his radar. The sun god Yoriichi gifted him to Giyuu as a gift. Sabito was quite brazen and crass, but the water god was enamored and frequently tended to his bride’s needs, showering him with kindness and compassion until his love wore Sabito down. Once the human let his walls down, they came across a mutual understanding and became inseparable. Together with Tsutako, his sister, they were a happy family.

The next part was not so sweet. Shinobu gripped the wooden boards beneath her fingers to anchor her anger. She found her center and continued. “One day… A mysterious corruption infected the gods.” Even up to this day, she still doesn’t know the cause or the source.

Tsutako was one of the unfortunate victims, and Giyuu, desperate to save his sister, volunteered to fight in the front lines. The corruption ate away his sister until her skin was blotchy and black, her breath reeked of disease and famine, and her eyes lost all signs of intelligence. Horrified was not enough to describe the feeling Giyuu felt when he saw her in this hideous state.

“When we reached her, she was already feasting on humans,” she said.

Back then, Shinobu tagged along to defend his back, but even she had a moment of weakness and covered her mouth when she saw Tsutako and her crude transformation. Sabito, who followed them, was terrified. All the gods who crossed her path were infected, and her brother was no exception. Though Giyuu pleaded her to stop this madness, to find a sliver of hope from this wreck, she was too far gone.

“She lost all reason. She couldn’t be saved.”

Giyuu was not made to fight his loved ones. She lunged forward and deflected his half-hearted strike, swiping away his Nichirin blade from his hands. Defenseless, Giyuu readily accepted his fate because he couldn’t kill his sister, because his heart was too soft to do the unthinkable, but Sabito, the bride who went against his instructions to assist him, thought otherwise. In an act of true love and true courage, Sabito grabbed Giyuu’s sword, shoved his husband aside, and plunged it into Tsutako’s chest.

Shinobu closed her eyes and allowed the memories to wash over her because she was there. She was a witness.

“After Sabito stabbed her, in retaliation she...” Shinobu swallowed the lump in her throat. “She killed him,” she said in a whisper.

Giyuu’s screams still rang in her ears as Tsutako, claws and all, pulverized his head and brutally murdered his bride in front of him. The deafening sound of crushed flesh was a sound Shinobu wished she could erase from her memories. Finally, after what felt like a hundred years instead of a minute, Tsutako’s body went limp. The deed was done. Two of the most important people in Giyuu’s life were dead in a flash.

He was inconsolable.

“Save them!” He screamed hysterically at Shinobu. “You’re a doctor, aren’t you?! Save them!”

The aftermath was no better.

“A great flood overwhelmed the world.”

Waves upon waves crashed into land; the rain was relentless as it poured day and night. It was so bad, the humans struggled to remember what the sun looked like and prayed for Yoriichi to save them from this never-ending darkness.

“When the humans were on the brink of extinction, the sun god intervened and forced Giyuu to stop.”

The tears Tanjirou shed came unbidden and flowed like a faucet. He doesn’t know how a man could stay sane and survive through all that grief. Shinobu kindly pulled out a soft pink handkerchief and dabbed away his tears. He thanked her, albeit a bit sniffly and gross.

“The brides who stayed and heard my story had a similar reaction,” said Shinobu, “But no matter how hard they tried, they always met an uncanny end.”

She had an inkling that their deaths were related to the strange corruption in the past, but she had no sufficient evidence to support her claims. Either way, the brides were so hellbent on “fixing” Giyuu and replacing Sabito in his heart, that they failed capture Giyuu’s interest.

“You must be careful, Kamado-san. I do not know who is targeting Giyuu’s brides, but I will invest as much power and time to help,” she held his hands and held them tight.

Tanjirou nodded soberly. “Thank you,” he echoed his gratitude. “You are very kind.” He squeezed her hands and smiled. “Though I am only mortal, I hope that I can also provide you help in any way possible.”

Shinobu froze at the sweet gesture. Perhaps she had no right to compare him to the previous brides, but she instinctively knew that Tanjirou was miles nicer and levels brighter. There was a maturity within him that reminded her of her dear sister, and maybe that resemblance was the reason why Shinobu softened quicker than usual.

She smiled back. “Thank you,” she told him, “You are a very kind boy.” She patted his head before she departed.

“Nobody really likes Giyuu,” she said her last words. “It’s a mystery how he scored with you.” Her laughter sounded like chimes as Tanjirou blushed at the reminder that they’re together.

Indeed, he was a refreshing breath of air compared to the heated jealousy of the past brides since Shinobu was a woman with a longer history with him. Honestly, she wouldn’t blame the water god if he fell for Tanjirou already. Based on how frazzled he was after Tanjirou’s arrival, he was well on his way there.

Shinobu fluttered away, praying Tanjirou the best of luck.

XXX

When Giyuu stepped foot in the household, feeling heavy like lead, Tanjirou scurried over to him and slammed into his chest. Not given a moment to brace himself, Giyuu lost his footing and tripped backwards, holding onto Tanjirou close to protect him from the fall.

Whoever cleaned the floors did a good job since they were glossy and smelled like pine, Giyuu noted, as he laid on his back. Confused at the desperation in Tanjirou’s embrace, he supposed that he was gone for too long.

He pressed his lips on the crown of his bride’s head to appease him and inhaled his muted but pleasant scent.

“I’m back home,” he said, attempting to follow human tradition to make him feel safe.

Tanjirou’s greeting was muffled by the mouthful of fabric in his mouth. He doesn’t want to let go. Not now, not ever.

“Welcome back.”

Chapter Text

When Yoriichi paid his respects to Giyuu, the water god was sitting in a field of flowers alone with his sister. Giyuu was relaxed and listened to Tsutako’s peaceful singing as she braided baby’s breath into his hair until the flowers were entirely tangled in his locks.

“Greetings,” said the sun god as he approached them. “I apologize for the intrusion.”

He properly knelt down in front of them, and with a slight wave of his hand, the figure who followed behind him stuck close to his sleeve. Yoriichi sighed. On the other hand, Giyuu and Tsutako stared at their new visitor, wondering if this person was too shy to speak.

“To express my thanks,” he referred to Giyuu’s assistance when he fought against Muzan by his side, “I offer you a gift.”

The sun god removed his sleeve to showcase their gift, and Giyuu’s eyes fell upon the most beautiful man he had ever seen, a person who took his breath away without moving an inch. Despite his fierce scowl and the vicious-looking scar he wore, he had the fairest skin and the most precious set of eyes. Giyuu couldn’t differentiate between the rushing of his ears or the pounding in his chest.

“His name is Sabito,” Yoriichi said. “He is yours.”

From there, the water god’s residence was a living hell for the servants. For days, the human was a thorn in everybody’s side, always running away and digging jabs at whoever was a willing victim. After many complaints, Giyuu approached the human and inquired if he missed his home as a reason for his misbehavior. Sabito haughtily laughed.

“I have no home. My family is dead.” There was no hint of remorse or even a smidgen of sadness when he stated that. “I am only a caged bird,” he spoke with resentment.

Indeed, humans are delicate and emotional creatures, Giyuu thought as he tugged Sabito’s haori, but he doesn’t mind the theatrics. He found it as an endearing part of Sabito’s personality.

“You do have a home,” he countered. “Also,” he fidgeted with a smile and a blush, “Tsutako and I am your family now.”

The water god looked youthful when he said that, almost like a smitten teenager confessing his love during spring. Sabito quirked an eyebrow. Indeed, he thought as he stared at the stream adjacent to them, gods are insensitive and strange beings.

“You’re weird,” he said. That was not the last time he called him that.

XXX

Giyuu blinked away his slumber and groggily rubbed his eyes. He rarely slept well ever since Sabito’s death, which was why he was stupefied to find himself well-rested instead of his usual grumpy self. The bundle of warmth pressed against his chest shifted to nuzzle closer, and Giyuu glanced down at the tufts of hair tickling his chin. Tanjirou’s cheek was compressed against his pec, probably dribbling a bit of drool on his skin. Though this should be disgusting, Giyuu wiped away the saliva with his sleeve and let out a short huff.

Their disastrous and awkward first night together should have deterred Tanjirou from returning back to their bed altogether, but without fail, his bride returned to his side every night, wrapping his arms around his torso as if he belonged there and fell into a deep sleep. Tanjirou was a soothing balm to his recent nightmares, and for that, he was grateful. Giyuu doesn’t remember when he started to listen to his rhythmic breaths in order to match with his, or when his eyes turned drowsy and fluttered to a close with Tanjirou’s placating smile as the last image he saw.

His heart throbbed when Tanjirou’s robe slipped off his shoulder again. The human always looked rumpled in the morning no matter how many times Giyuu adjusted his clothes out of decency. The boy was a temptress in sheep’s clothing.

Tanjirou was roused from his sleep and stared up at him with half-lidded eyes. “Good morning,” he whispered.

Giyuu’s heart lurched. For a moment, he forgot how to speak, how to move. Something must have gone amiss for Giyuu to lose all his functions in front of Tanjirou. The boy caught on and made a pleased sound. There was a glint of mischief in those brilliant, crimson eyes. In hindsight, he made a small lapse in judgment from the comfortable position he was in, but it was too easy for him to gently hold Giyuu’s hand, the one that was placed on his waist, and brought it to his lips where he pressed a chaste kiss on his inner palm. His lips curved into a grin when he felt the water god shiver from the contact.

“Giyuu-sama,” his voice still husky from sleep. He was aware of the effect it had on him. “Is something wrong?”

Tanjirou was not subtle in the way he “accidentally” brushed his thigh against his groin. The little minx. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

Never tease a god needlessly, for there were always consequences. Tanjirou’s light-hearted comments spurred him to seek payback, made him feel inclined to give the human a taste of his own medicine. To gain the upper hand, Giyuu deftly rolled over to loom over him, straddling his waist to keep him confined and trapped.

“Giyuu-sama,” Tanjirou sounded breathless. “What are you-” He took a sharp intake of breath.

Large hands roamed across his tight, compact body, skimming through his labored abs and smooth pecs. Giyuu indulged in his slight trembles and hitched gasps. Crimson eyes were dripping with liquid desire until they were eclipsed by his lust, and the red from his eyes seeped to his chest. Giyuu felt powerful, but he was no longer sure if this was Tanjirou’s objective all along.

However, those doubts were the least of his worries because all he cared about was how good Tanjirou looked beneath him and at his mercy.

“Tanjirou,” he crowed, “Is something wrong?”

He peeled the boy’s robe apart until his chest was bare and revealed. The sudden exposure caught Tanjirou by surprise as he unconsciously moved to cover himself; however, Giyuu had other plans as he pinned his wrists next to his head. He gave Tanjirou the illusion of a struggle as the boy feebly wiggled in his grasp, but the water god was not blind to the growing bulge pushing against his hips.

“Please,” the redhead whimpered.

“Please what?” Giyuu asked as he nosed along his collarbone.

He took delight as Tanjirou squirmed whenever his breath puffed against his sensitive skin. Yet, he still avoided the place where Tanjirou wanted him to touch the most. Instead, Giyuu toyed with him as he peppered feathery light kisses along the indent of his chest, ignoring his whimpers for a real kiss on the lips. Tanjirou writhed in pleasure and even attempted to gyrate his hips to chase for more, but Giyuu’s legs were stronger, tougher, as they clamped down and ceased his movement.

“Is there anything I can help you with?” Giyuu asked smugly. Honestly, he was impressed that he maintained this much self-control.

Tanjirou bit back a whine and his bottom lip.

“Giyuu-sama,” he whispered out his name with reverence and adoration, begging him with his eyes, the very same eyes he had trouble looking away.

He had never seen his human look so thirsty for a kiss, so desperate to taste his mouth against his. Guilt settled in his belly, so Giyuu, after so long, finally relented and leaned down to give Tanjirou what he wanted. He was mere centimeters from his goal. Tanjirou followed his lead, closed his eyes, and tilted his head, ready for the kiss he sought so hard.

However, life had thrown a wrench in their plans. Kissing his bride was better said than done apparently because Murata’s scream pierced through the veil of romance.

“Giyuu-sama!” His shrill voice killed the mood in one slice. “Are you awake?! This is urgent!”

Tanjirou’s keen olfactory sense picked up his husband’s scent, but the bloodlust emitting from Giyuu was so overwhelming and threatening that he admitted that he felt a bit horny and scared. He internally prayed for Murata’s safety as Giyuu slipped away to face him.

As he was catching his breath, he overheard the conversation.

“There you are, Giyuu-sama!” Murata beamed, unaware of the hell he was about to unleash. “Did you have a nice sleep? You look positively glow-”

Tanjirou winced at the sound of a skull being smacked.

“OUCH, WHAT WAS THAT FOR?!”

Then he heard another.

“GIYUU-SAMA, I’M SORRY!” He heard Murata cry out, “WHY ARE YOU UPSET? WHAT HAVE I-ACK!”

The servant was taught a grim lesson that day as Tanjirou readjusted his pants and closed his robe. A curdling sense of disappointment washed over him when his fingertips hovered over his lips. A personal failure, he sighed. Never anger a god, Tanjirou told himself as Murata was whisked away for punishment, for there were always consequences. If the redhead closed his eyes, he could conjure the phantom touches that explored his body, the loving glimpses of the water god who adored his human. A human who wasn't the one he wanted. A pain stabbed in his chest. 

Never pursue anything deeper than this amicable relationship, Tanjirou reminded himself, for the consequence would be a broken heart. After all, he thought as he drowned himself in work and labor, this was the best he could hope for as Sabito's replacement.

Chapter Text

“Here,” Tanjirou split his fish in half and shared it to his younger brother. “Eat to your heart’s content.”

“Thank you Onii-chan!” Shigeru exclaimed and voraciously stuffed his face full of rice. His cheeks were puffed like a chipmunk, and rice grains were stuck to his chin. “Delicious!” He squealed in delight.

The eldest son smiled as the rest of the family laughed at Shigeru’s antics while enjoying their meal. Family came first. This was the ironclad rule he was taught as the eldest son, a role bestowed upon him since birth.

One day, Shigeru told him an interesting proclamation as they bathed together.

“Onii-chan,” he said.

“Yes?” He asked as he scrubbed his little brother’s scalp and sponged his back.

“When I grow up, I’m gonna feed you lots and lots! Even the biggest fish in Japan!” Then the child spread out his arms to display the enormity of this imaginary fish.

Amused, he responded, “Oh really?”

“Mhm! Just you wait!” His younger brother was confident as he continued, “Onii-chan takes care of us all the time, so when we become adults, it’ll be our turn to take care of you instead!”

Touched by his words, Tanjirou nodded, cupped some water, and rinsed his brother’s head. “I see,” he said with a spring in his voice. “Thank you Shigeru,” his eyes crinkled softly. “I’m very lucky to have such a loving brother.”

XXX

“There you are!” One of the servants hollered out, startling Tanjirou from his work.

If Tanjirou recalled correctly, the servant who was approaching him lightning speed was named Goto. After Murata’s… unfortunate timing, Giyuu carried Murata and mysteriously disappeared about the so-called urgent matters he was supposed to deliver. Minding his own business, Tanjirou decided to weed the garden to bide the time.

He stood up from his crouched position to greet him. He waved. “Hello Goto-san! How are-”

A firm grip was placed on his wrist, and without a moment to brace himself, he was flung and hoisted on Goto’s back.

“No need for idle chatter! This is an emergency!”

Tanjirou weighed heavier than a sack of rice, and yet Goto scurried over to his room without difficulty. When they entered his room, the kakushi had already organized themselves into an assembly line, and they all looked at Tanjirou like prime meat. With no regard for his safety, Goto handed him to the hyenas, and Tanjirou shot him a look of utter betrayal as the women manhandled him to remove his clothes. He screamed for dear life.

“I’m sorry, Nezuko,” Tanjirou pitifully hugged his knees close. “Your brother has been violated.”

“Quit being dramatic,” one of the ladies scolded him as they dumped more water over his hair.

When the kakushi first saw him, they were aghast; flecks of soil and grass stained his clothes and smudged his skin. They immediately pushed him into a teppo-buro once they undressed him and harshly scrubbed his body until he was pink and raw. He sputtered and started howling from being tickled as they cleaned every crook and nanny they could reach.

Eventually his patience reached a limit. He kept his mouth shut throughout the time they patted him dry, dressed him like a doll, and styled his hair into what they saw fit. Observing how determined and focused they were to make him presentable as possible, they probably forgot to explain to him the severity of the situation.

“Um… Excuse me,” he grabbed their attention. The servant paused in their ministrations. “I seem to be out of the loop,” he frowned. “Why is everybody acting so frantic?”

“The god of festivities has formally invited Giyuu-sama and his bride to attend the Night Festival,” they patiently explained. “You need to look impeccable, or Giyuu-sama will be the biggest laughingstock among the gods. That is why we cannot have you go out there looking like a country bumpkin. The god of festivities is quite particular about appearances.”

A disfigured feeling rose up like bile in his throat. Once again, Tanjirou was too inadequate to fulfill the role as the water god’s bride.

“Have no fear, Tanjirou-san,” the servant comforted him and pinned a pretty ornament in his hair. “We kakushi have grown to care for you,” they sent him a genuine smile. “We will make sure you won’t fail. Look for yourself,” they gestured towards the mirror.

Staring back at him was his reflection, or more accurately, a fine, handsome young man wearing a navy-colored yukata with a lotus ornament pinned near his ear was assessing himself. The contrast of the blue powder the servant brushed near the corners of his eyes served to accentuate the size and color of his eyes. Yet, the paint polished on his lips were blood red and enticed any man who wished to steal a kiss.

The servant giggled after their work was done. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Giyuu-sama ravished you throughout the night once he gets a good look.”

Tanjirou clutched his sleeves and lowered his eyes, abashed. His mind was daring as it conjured an image of his husband, assessing him from top to bottom with a smoldering gaze and a sinful smile. A thrill ran up his spine as his imagination ran wild with the idea of Giyuu pulling him into an abandoned alleyway during the festival to have his way with him because he couldn’t contain his lust. The thought of Giyuu pushing his knee between his legs drove his heart into somersaults. He was mortified with his nonsense.

“You flatter me,” he mumbled with embarrassment.

“Ah, young love,” the servant sighed dreamily.

The kakushi, in general, were not meddlesome folk and loved watching nature take its course. However, for weeks the two danced around each other, both insecure in their own right, because they refused to see what was obvious. The denial of their mutual feelings brought an odd gleam in the servant’s eyes.

“I think it’s very sweet of Giyuu-sama to go to the festival,” they said, baiting Tanjirou with a dangling hint.

“Sweet?”

“Giyuu-sama could have rejected the invitation,” they told him. “In fact, most of us were quite shocked he accepted Uzui-sama’s summons.”

Tanjirou listened with rapt interest. Something doesn’t add up. “I don’t understand. Wouldn’t he get in trouble if he didn’t go?”

“He would,” the servant nodded, “But festivals are crowded and loud and overbearing.” Their eyes flickered to the bride. “Tanjirou-san, can you envision Giyuu-sama willingly going to an environment like that?”

He tried. Imagining Giyuu entering a festival, especially one that is rambunctious and colorful and populated, was nearly impossible. Knowing him, the water god would simply exit the place with a heart attack on speed dial. Tanjirou’s grim expression proved the servant’s point.

“Giyuu-sama would rather suffer through Uzui-sama’s wrath than spend a day in a festival,” they said. “Evidently, he has done that many times. He’s the type who needs to see it once and be satisfied for the rest of his life.” The servant rambled on, “But you’ve never seen a festival as extravagant as this one. The Night Festival is famous for their fireworks and floats. One of the most popular festivals, to be honest.”

Like a lock clicked in place, Tanjirou widened his eyes as realization dawned on him. Warmth began to coat his insides, and the sheer amount of emotion he felt spilled through his features, painting a lovely expression full of fondness and affection. Even though there was no furnace heating the room, his ears burned hot.

“You’ve done so much for us, Tanjirou-san,” another servant piped up, probably to escort him to his husband. “Everyone, including Giyuu-sama, appreciates you. That’s why we want to do our best to make you feel included!”

Tanjirou choked up. The couple months he spent with the kakushi flew by so fast, he never noticed how lonely they must have felt in the past, how much they suffered from the hole each passing bride carved into their dynamics. The cogs were spinning, and with this friendship they harvested with Tanjirou, they found a companion, another person to form a bond.

Trying to not ruin the makeup on his face, Tanjirou sniffled out, “You guys...”

The weight that accumulated ever since the beginning of his journey began crashing down. The stress of separating from his family, the isolation of being human in a realm of gods, and the insecurity of never being enough for Giyuu were not easy responsibilities to absorb. Yet, Tanjirou grinned and persevered because he was the eldest son, because the person who held the highest expectations of him fulfilling that role was himself. The title of eldest son was his greatest weapon. Without it, a huge margin of his identity would be chipped.

Remarkably, he had forgotten how it felt to be cherished.

Goto returned to the bride’s room to check what was causing the delay and accidentally intruded upon a heartfelt moment where Tanjirou embraced the servants with a crushing hug. Though he was not an active participant in the love fest, the man smiled behind his mask, shrugged, and accepted the strangeness of this scene.

“Ready for the Night Festival?” He asked Tanjirou as he escorted him to his husband.

Eventually, Giyuu was within sight, wearing matching blue garments and a petite fan on his left hand. For an all-powerful being, he looked extremely plain and normal. If he wasn’t a god, he would have passed as an ordinary man, but according to Goto, the water god wanted to blend in with the crowd alongside his bride, forsaking his extravagant attire to not rouse ogling eyes. Tanjirou was his priority, Goto boasted, which caused the bride’s heart to flip manically and lurch from another dose of warmth.

“Never,” he answered as Giyuu stared at him with tinted cheeks. He looked at Tanjirou as if he was more than an object, more than a replacement, which instilled a flicker of hope in the bride’s chest. Perhaps he was no better than the previous brides to feel this greedy.

Everything was going to be alright. Until the festival, that is.

Chapter Text

Tanjirou was half-asleep when Giyuu returned home. The sound of sliding doors startled him, and Giyuu looked at him, bewildered, to find his bride waiting for him with the dinner he prepared, a dinner that went cold ages ago. Tanjirou was a bit stiff sitting in seiza for hours, but despite the crook in his neck and his numbing toes, he faithfully bowed and greeted his husband.

“I’m home,” said the water god.

Naturally, Tanjirou smiled. “Welcome home.”

Immediately, Giyuu sat down in trepidation, for he knew he did not imagine the waves of irritation rolling off Tanjirou’s fake smile. Guilt settled in his belly as he looked at the dish that he was supposed to eat hours ago laid in front of him: curry. Tanjirou typically served barley or millet paired with daikon and other greens. Even though he could afford rice and meat as the water god’s bride, he forwent those luxuries to maintain normalcy. Seeing this new dish – which Tanjirou worked painstaking hours to learn, hone, and perfect – turn cold left a bitter taste in Giyuu’s mouth.

“Giyuu-san.”

Tanjirou’s voice was firm but gentle, unyielding but humble. He had Giyuu’s complete, undivided attention.

“Please,” Tanjirou’s face gave away the concern he concealed for hours, the thin wall he held before it crumbled before Giyuu’s very eyes. “Please let me know if you’re going to be late next time,” he said softly.

After that, a stifling silence befell on the couple throughout the time Giyuu ate his meal, his mind rattling out ways to apologize for his inconsideration. While he fretted over his apology, his human smiled at his earnest attempts. Giyuu was so obsessed over gaining his bride’s forgiveness that the fact that Tanjirou dropped his honorific went over his head.

XXX

The Night Festival was bustling with energy and mirth. Initially, Tanjirou was filled with anticipation for a night full of fun and games, but he was unable to keep up with the excitement and hung onto Giyuu’s sleeve with reservation.

“Sorry,” he mumbled and shyly peered at his husband. “It’s a bit overwhelming.”

Giyuu was many things, but he was not a crude husband. Since Tanjirou was overstimulated from the blinding lights and uproarious laughter, Giyuu patiently guided him through the throngs of people, shielding him with his arm until they escaped and found a pocket of seclusion. His heart thumped against his chest each time his beloved human shifted closer and buried his nose in his scent for comfort. His ego swelled knowing that Tanjirou, who he viewed as a very competent and independent being, leaned against him for support. As Tanjirou took a breather, Giyuu gladly accepted his protective role and began to rub soothing strokes against his back. Unconsciously, Tanjirou drifted towards his touch and sighed in relief.

“How embarrassing,” he said and softly moaned as Giyuu released a knot between his shoulder blades. “Mm, yes right there,” he said, breathless, unaware of how suggestive he sounded to his husband.

Giyuu paused, blushing fiercely as he forcibly removed his hands. Something stirred within Giyuu’s soul. His self-restraint trembled.

“Giyuu-san?” Tanjirou inquired and looked behind his shoulder, tempting his husband further with his beauty and doe eyes.

The water god swallowed and curbed his desire, the projection of his neck bobbing up and down as he panicked over what to do next. He cleared his throat to resist stealing those rosy lips because if he did, he cannot guarantee that the kiss wouldn’t escalate into indecent acts. The kakushi performed their jobs too well. Tanjirou was too irresistible, too alluring to ignore that Giyuu resorted to clawing his lap to distract himself, but now that method was losing its effectiveness.

He had to make a move. Fast.

Giyuu suddenly stood up and turned to his bride. This action made Tanjirou worry that he annoyed him due to his weakness in the crowd. Giyuu read him like an open book and let out an amused huff. To give him reassurance, the water god stroked his cheek, the most contact he will allow himself, and lifted his chin with a finger. Tanjirou’s polished lips glistened under the lantern light, beckoning Giyuu to smear them with his. The charged tension in the air was unmistakable.

“Stay right here,” he whispered low, loud enough for Tanjirou to hear. “I’ll get us some food.”

Tanjirou wasn’t aware he held his breath until he spoke. “Come back safe,” he whispered.

Within a blink of an eye, Giyuu retracted his finger and disappeared. A few seconds later the human exploded into color as he recalled what just transpired. His earrings swayed back and forth as he shook his head with residual excitement, his nose still intoxicated by the leftover scent of arousal. His palpitating heart refused to calm down.

Before Tanjirou went into a downward spiral and revel on the progress in their relationship, a cry interrupted his short-lived celebration. A woman was sobbing loudly near a stand with defeat in her shoulders and distraught written across her face. Onlookers stared at her with pity, but the owner of the stand she was loitering screamed at her to scram and take her hot tears somewhere else.

“This is my last warning!” The owner stepped out in frustration and roughly grabbed her forearm. “Go away!”

Snot and tears were everywhere. Nostalgia overcame Tanjirou as he watched the scene unfold because the woman reminded him of Zenitsu and his crybaby tendencies.

“How cruel!” She shrieked and futilely tugged her arm. “You will pay once I tell my husband of this treatment!”

The disgruntled owner was not threatened by her words and raised his arm to prove his point. As a result, the woman clenched her eyes shut before the strike and screeched like a banshee to garner attention. Before the man could slap her, Tanjirou rushed in with fearsome speed, nails digging into the man’s flesh, and twisted his arm to put him in a constraint. His elbow was near the man’s wrist, prepared to deal a blow and break it. His eyes were fire and ice, burning with rage and ready to freeze any opponent. His veins bulged and strained out of his arms as fury fueled his blood.

“Let. Her. Go.” Short and sweet. His demand was succinct.

The gods and other beings enjoying the festival were uninterested in the altercation, so Tanjirou was left to fend for the woman and himself. The owner grunted in pain from the uncomfortable position of his arm and was about to wring out his hand to beat the boy, but then he glanced at Tanjirou’s ornament and gasped out in fear.

“The bride of the water god,” he shook and instantly loosened his grip, almost making Tanjirou lose his balance and fall.

The owner backed away cautiously as if Tanjirou’s mere presence covered him in flames. “Spare me,” he whimpered and pleaded for his life. The man immediately returned to his stall, the woman forgotten.

Still tense from the dispute, Tanjirou jumped when he felt a hand placed on his shoulder. He whirled around with nerves in case another joined the fight, but the hand belonged to the crying woman, whose teary expression was replaced with admiration.

“Thank you for saving me,” she thanked him.

Upon a closer inspection, Tanjirou noticed that the woman was quite beautiful with her ebony hair and short bangs that framed the entirety of her face. Her skimpy red dress highlighted her voluptuous hourglass figure, which Tanjirou itched to cover with his haori so that her breasts wouldn’t spill out. Relieved to see her unharmed, Tanjirou fished out a fish-printed handkerchief from his hidden bag and handed it to her for her dry tears.

“I feel bad for dirtying something so cute,” she sniffled, her fingers pressing the edges of the cloth. She commented on its professional, adorable design, especially the nice touch of the waves surrounding the lone fish.

Tanjirou waved away her worries. “That’s fine! I’m good at cleaning.” That was child’s play.

“But-”

“I can always embroider more,” he said, beaming with radiance.

Sure, this particular handkerchief was meant to be a gift for Giyuu, but Tanjirou can just whip up another one another day. At least the handkerchief was useful for the time being.

“Suma,” he heard.

Tanjirou blinked innocently. “Hm?”

“Suma,” the woman said again and finally introduced herself. “My name is Suma.”

Tanjirou’s smile grew wider. “Nice to meet you, Suma-san,” he said. “My name is Kamado Tanjirou.”

A high-pitched screech pierced the air, alarming the two, but then they noticed the rest of the festival-goers had their heads turned upward. The sound was followed by an explosion in the sky, and Tanjirou and Suma raised their heads to a collection of colors and lights.

Tanjirou wondered why Giyuu was taking so long to return. He wanted to watch the fireworks with him.

However, the bride did not expect Suma snatching his hand and pulling him to the belly of the beast. “Help me find my husband,” she said out of the blue and dragged him through gods and beasts alike.

His words of wishing to wait for his own husband fell on deaf ears as he precariously dodged bumping into anyone while being slightly impressed with Suma’s nimble footwork. He even accidentally brushed his shoulders against a dangerous-looking gentleman, but wasn’t given the chance to stop and apologize.

“I’m sorry!” He shouted over his shoulder and begged Suma to slow down, completely missing the malicious daggers directed towards him. If he stuck around longer, the bloodlust would have prickled his skin and invaded his nose with a pungent smell.

This search went on for ten minutes until Tanjirou’s prayers were answered and Suma’s speed was reduced. His brief exploration of the festival gave Tanjirou a clear picture of the entertainment and games this festival to offer. It was a grand festival.

Tanjirou gave kudos to the organizer, but the display in front of him was beyond understanding. The chaos was surreal. Flying contraptions and rainbow hot air balloons infested the skies. People partied on the rooftops with booze and nectar while artillery weapons blasted out streamers and glittery dust. Tanjirou almost ducked when he heard them shot another round, but instead of gunpowder and soot blanketing his hair, he was coated with sprinkles of gold and diamonds.

Suma cackled as if she was in her element, twirling around the front grounds like a princess.

A booming voice sliced through the noise. “Suma!”

A giant descended from a balcony and created a crater once he landed. Though Tanjirou never formally met this man, he instinctively knew who he was.

“The god of festivities,” he whispered as he approached the two with an immense, powerful aura, strong enough to keep Tanjirou glued to the ground and lower his head in submission.

“I was looking everywhere for you,” the god plucked his wife and plopped her on his meaty shoulder. A cocksure grin graced his handsome face once he donned a gem-encrusted headband on the crown of her head. “You forgot your ornament. Hinatsuru and Makio are worried sick, you know?”

“Tengen-sama!” Suma wrapped her arms around her husband’s head and sobbed, retelling him the predicaments she experienced until Tanjirou valiantly swooped in and rescued her.

She must have tampered some of the details because Tengen glanced at the human with shimmering eyes and exclaimed, “Splendid! A dramatic save! I like it!”

His huge body was a bit intimidating, especially when he easily loomed over Tanjirou when he knelt in front of him. However, he wore a kinder expression when his hand patted his head and ruffled his burgundy locks.

“I am in your debt,” he said as Suma continued to shower praise.

“Tanjirou-san has a heart of gold,” she giggled and slipped off Tengen’s shoulder. She leapt to Tanjirou’s side with a glimmer in her eyes and a cunning smile. “Doesn’t he have the loveliest eyes?” She sighed dreamily, her fingers grazing his neck to hold up his chin as a demonstration. “He would make a great addition to the harem.”

Tanjirou gasped, taken aback, but Suma’s grip kept him in place. The god of festivities examined him closely, his lips jutting out in contemplation. He crossed his arms, satisfied with what he saw, and let out a boisterous laugh.

“A marvelous idea!” He roared.

A sinking feeling went deep in Tanjirou’s gut.

“It is not everyday a human gains a god’s favor,” Tengen said.

He was not wrong, Tanjirou thought, as Tengen continued, “Therefore, Kamado Tanjirou,” he announced to the audience who gathered around the commotion, “I accept you as my bride!”

Another round of confetti cannons shot off, and Tanjirou learned two lessons at that moment. One, the god of festivities is very flamboyant. Two, he is very, very screwed.

Chapter Text

Giyuu’s wardrobe was a disaster zone. Murata, who temporarily partook the role as his steward, was boggled by the tornado that swept through his master’s room as the water god threw out his zenith outfit.

“Giyuu-sama,” Murata calmly assessed the situation and said, “Your bride will be at the gate shortly. We should go.”

The water god looked more like a feral beast than a holy, divine being. His frazzled raven hair covered the bulk of his eyes, and his elongated claws tore through fabric and silk as he searched for the perfect outfit to impress his bride. Murata, bless his soul, helped him out in a pinch.

“This is the first time you’ve met your bride before they reached the gate,” he stated as he thoroughly brushed Giyuu’s hair, removing his split ends to give his master a glossier look. “The human who wanted to replace his sister, yes?”

Giyuu’s latest bride was the talk of the town. It was unprecedented for a human to make such an absurd request, and yet, Giyuu agreed to Tanjirou’s terms and accepted him as his bride.

“Yes,” he replied and said no more.

Murata weedled for more information. “What is he like?” He gauged his master’s reaction since the others pestered him for more juicy gossip. “Why him?”

I am the eldest son,” Tanjirou pushed down his temper and straightened his back. His crimson eyes were lit aflame, scalding the water god with his judgment. “And I am going to protect everything that is dear to me.”

Giyuu stared at his decimated room, the heaps of clothing discarded and abused. The barest hint of a smile graced the curve of his lips, stilling Murata to openly gawk at the miracle presented to him. He had never seen his master smile like this over hundreds of years.

“Because he’s loyal,” Giyuu said, and he left it at that.

XXX

“Um,” Tanjirou broke apart from Suma’s hold with a nervous smile and shook his head. He bowed low until his forehead touched the ground, hoping that the god of festivities wouldn’t strike him down afterwards. “I’m sorry,” he apologized amid the jubilee. “But I cannot accept your proposal.”

An uncomfortable silence hushed the crowd. Tanjirou swore he heard someone audibly gasp.

“I am Giyuu’s bride,” he explained to the best of his ability. “I’m flattered, but I cannot be your bride.”

He understood that he was on thin ice for spitting on Tengen’s affable offer, but Tanjirou was married to Giyuu. Surely the god of festivities would back off, right?

“But Tanjirou-san,” Suma spoke, “That’s why it’s best for you to be Tengen-sama’s bride.”

He should have been more wary, more careful. “What?” He asked, incredulous.

“You’re cursed,” she said nonchalantly, as if it wasn’t a grim reminder of the danger lurking in the shadows. “You don’t deserve such a wretched fate. If you join the harem,” she clutched his hands in a motherly manner, “Then you’ll be protected. You won’t die.”

Tanjirou backed away. “I won’t die.”

More dreadful words spilled from the woman’s mouth. “Giyuu-sama will understand if you accept the proposal.” Her husband nodded in agreement. “You won’t be the first one to leave him.”

At the drop of a hat, Tanjirou ceased to breathe. A gut-wrenching pain seared his throat.

He punched out the question before he could stop himself. “What?” A horrified expression befell on him.

“Yeah!” Suma maintained her sunny glow. “Tengen-sama was courteous enough to propose to some of Giyuu-sama’s brides. Obviously, they didn’t want to die, so Giyuu-sama let them go.”

The revelation sparked his outrage and ignited his anger. Tanjirou gritted his teeth and clenched his jaw to contain the itching need to lash out. Last time he felt this angry, a man dared to touch Nezuko even though she rejected his advances.

Giyuu was abandoned by his brides.

“I’m sorry,” Tanjirou was firm in his beliefs. “But I cannot marry you, Tengen-sama.”

The god of festivities was seated upon an extravagant throne decorated with multi-colored rare jewels and finished with gold leaf lacquer. He rested his elbow on one of the arms, bored, and yawned. “Why not?” He asked him. “Do you want to die that badly?”

The image of Giyuu, someone who always treated him kindly, standing in his room alone because he wasn’t worth the trouble greatly incensed Tanjirou.

“Because we’re madly in love,” he professed.

He said this with his chest puffed and proud. The corner of his lip twitched, but besides that, he sounded convincing. This was not an outright lie, he told himself, because though he doesn’t know the extent of Giyuu’s feelings, he had faith that they held each other in high regard.

He loves Giyuu. That much was certain. And hopefully, he blushed with butterflies in his stomach, Giyuu loves him, too.

Then a voice cracked through and said, “You’re wrong.”

Tanjirou glared at the god of festivities, for he was adamant, immovable. His tone held this conviction that made Tanjirou nervous to defy him, but still, he had to refuse.

“I’m not,” he refuted. “You don’t know anything between Giyuu-san and me.”

Tengen scoffed, belittling him for being so blind to the workings of the gods, and Suma, one of his beloved wives, couldn’t help but stare at Tanjirou with underlying pity because her husband was right.

“I do,” said the god of festivities and innocuously tapped his lips. “Because the water god never kissed you.”

His answer made Tanjirou see red. How dare he? Their level of intimacy was not an indication of their feelings.

He hissed, “What-”

“Maybe you kissed him,” Tengen cut in, “But the water god never initiated it.”

Hearing that made Tanjirou pause.

Truth. For once, the god of festivities spoke truth instead of riling him. Despite the close calls and teasing flirtations, Giyuu never succeeded in kissing him first. His nose could smell the scent of assurance, not trickery, and thus, a trickling sense of unease numbed his body inside out.

“Why is that important?” He echoed his thoughts. The murmurings of the audience surrounding him were white noise.

“When a god kisses you,” Suma touched her lips, recalling the moment Tengen kissed her, “The god sparks a divine bond with you. A bond where your emotions, pain, and experiences are linked.”

With a blissful smile, she waltzed over to Tengen’s side and seated herself on his lap. The god of festivities coiled his arms around his wife and smirked before blatantly expressing his affection by giving her a deep, tongued kiss. Disgust painted Tanjirou’s features and displayed his discomfort, but still, he listened.

“As you can see,” Tengen said, “The divine bond is only reserved for the ones we hold dear.”

Giyuu probably instigated the divine bond with Sabito. Tanjirou doesn’t need that spelled out to him.

“We gods can see the divine bond. And you,” Tengen pointed, “Kamado Tanjirou, do not have it.”

He was never going to be Sabito, and yet, time and time again, he was tested, challenged for his worth as Giyuu’s bride.

“I’m sorry to say this, but Giyuu doesn’t trust that you can handle this responsibility.”

Tanjirou heard the unsaid words. That Giyuu doesn’t love him enough. That he was only a substitute. That he was going to die loving a man who doesn’t feel the same. He heard them loud and clear.

“Tengen-sama,” he heard Suma whisper to her husband. “Please be gentle with him. Look,” her eyes never strayed from the burgundy-haired boy. “He’s crying.”

Tanjirou was shocked.

His hands crept to his cheeks and felt the salty wetness of his tears, most likely ruining his makeup until it was a smudged, ugly mess. He willed the tears to stop, but they wouldn’t. They were overflowing. To any normal person, being humiliated in public and exposed as an unimportant bride would have crippled anybody’s spirit.

However, Tanjirou was not a normal person. He was not Sabito. And most of all, he was not going to betray Giyuu. Despite the doubts people tried to instill in him, the rumors people tried to unhinge him, Tanjirou was stronger than the toughest mineral and more faithful than a pious monk. His love was bountiful and great.

Giyuu’s heart was as vast as the oceans he ruled and as unwavering as the still waters he provided. For the water god to not love more than one person was preposterous.

Tanjirou reached his answer because he knew it long ago. He knew it ever since the kind man invited his bride back to his bed for warmth and snuggles, the times they ate meals together even though they weren’t necessary, or the moments their lips almost touched before Murata accidentally barged in guns blazing.

“Listen,” Tengen said, sounding more grumpy as his patience waned, “Last call. Do you want to be my bride or not?”

“No.”

Tanjirou took a deep breath. He calmed his beating heart, for it only beats rapidly for Giyuu, and straightened his back with dignity and grace.

“I am the bride of the water god,” he said. Briefly, his earrings glowed, encompassing his form with light and fire and radiance. The crowd watched, eyes wide, at the strange human who defied against the god of festivities. “Giyuu-san is dear to me. And I am going to protect this role no matter what.”

As if on cue, a loud explosion erupted in the background, rocking the ground that everyone stood upon. Giyuu’s might shook the buildings and festivities, and his fearsome power forced the clouds above to combine into a dark, ominous mass. Tanjirou simply blinked, but in one swift movement, Giyuu was already here, panting and sweaty from his search. There was no mirror, but if one was present, Tanjirou would have seen his ornament glowing a brilliant blue.

His husband cradled his face, reminding Tanjirou of his unsightly, blotched look, but instead of repulsion, Giyuu was furious.

“Who did this to you?” He growled. His pupils turned to slits.

Rain began to pour down, soaking all the guests and visitors without reprieve. A bright flash of lightning lit up the skies, and thunder followed its wake. Minus Tengen, who stayed and watched this play out with interest, the crowds dispersed to avoid getting drenched. The screams of children can be heard from afar, and Tanjirou, kind, sweet Tanjirou, laced his arms around his husband’s neck.

“I’m fine,” he calmed the water god. He told him everything: Suma’s rescue, Tengen’s proposal, and his rejection. “I won’t leave you,” he said at last. “I won’t let you get rid of me that easily,” he smirked.

Giyuu was abnormally quiet as he shielded his human from the rain and listened intently. His expression was unchanging even when Tanjirou mentioned the divine bond. As quick as it came, the rains stopped, and sunlight flooded the streets because the god was appeased, because his bride was safe and sound in his arms.

“Tanjirou,” Giyuu said with his head lowered in shame. He almost lost him right when he just got him. “I do not deserve someone as wonderful as you.”

His human smiled and placed his palm on his cheek. “Love is not about deserving,” he whispered. “It’s about choice. And I, your bride, choose you.”

If Giyuu was still waters, then still waters run deep.

With no interruption in sight and Murata a mile away, Giyuu leaned close, their breaths mingled together until there was no room to escape.

“I also choose you,” Giyuu croaked out, full of unbridled emotion and love.

Their lips touched and the heavens sang. Tanjirou embraced this soaring feeling enveloping his lungs as he tugged Giyuu’s strands and pulled him close. He parted his lips and allowed Giyuu entrance as he stroked his tongue, swallowing his groans without hesitation. The divine bond took place right at the Night Festival with Tengen as their witness, but the two lovers didn’t care, didn’t mind.

After all, this was right. This was just.

Chapter Text

“Do you know what love is?”

Giyuu blinked at the taller, prominent sun god with his youthful azure eyes. The young god was surprised that his superior sparked a conversation with him because compared to the legendary Yoriichi, he was only a child who was barely 300 years old.

“Love?” He asked, tightening his small hands around the hilt of his blade and said with the utmost seriousness, “Is that an enemy?” His head turned left and right to check the perimeter. Muzan can strike any second.

The sun god faced towards the horizon and softly chuckled at his innocent answer. His large, encompassing hand palmed the crown of his head and ruffled his hair with parental tenderness. Giyuu silently gazed at him, looking for guidance.

“No,” the sun god smiled, “It is not. It is… It is what you feel for your sister. And the people you care about.”

Tsutako was a special person, Giyuu agreed, because she was the one who welcomed him home and gave him tight hugs.

“But,” Yoriichi said forebodingly, “It drives people to do the unthinkable.”

Rumors speculated that Yoriichi lost his first wife to Muzan, that it pushed him over the edge and swore vengeance, but Giyuu was too young to comprehend the complexities of the human heart and human grief. However, as the water god grew older and more powerful, he began to understand those enigmatic words; for it was love that threw him into a reckless relationship with Sabito, it was love that grappled him to the ground before Tsutako could do the finishing blow, and it was love, that same, accursed love, that impelled his bride to sacrifice himself with a smile.

The world was barren and desolate, driven into a state of despair to reflect the water god’s emotions, and Yoriichi, after many prayers and wishes, visited Giyuu to stop his madness before he drowned the earth. Expecting a turbulent, violent sea of emotions slamming into him, Yoriichi was pained to see Giyuu, the child who was thrusted into war too early and too soon, crumpled over the remaining scraps of his bride and his sister. It reminded the sun god of his youth, and the years he held his wife’s corpse until he regained his senses. Giyuu’s thin, frail frame shook with each sob as he held the tattered haori close to his chest.

“I wish,” the tear-streaked god hiccuped and broke the sun god’s heart, “I wish I never knew love at all.”

XXX

Tanjirou was enraptured by Giyuu’s lips, the way they pressed against his, how they stole his pleased sighs and nipped his skin until he was marked and claimed. The divine bond was a religious experience. Waves of love blossomed in his chest, drowning his insecurities as Giyuu moved in a different angle to deepen the kiss.

“Please, please, please,” Tanjirou whispered. His breath hitched after a well-placed love bite beneath his chin.

Giyuu hummed in delight, palming his ass and kneading them like dough to respond to his bride’s sweet cries. “I got you,” he hushed and silenced him with another kiss. “You’re mine.”

Tanjirou closed his eyes and keened despite their transfixed voyeur watching from his throne. The kiss was slow and sensual, stroking all the right right spots that left stars behind his eyelids and a burning sensation in his loins. A small part of him wouldn’t mind Giyuu ripping apart his clothes and taking his virginity in the middle of the festival, thrusting into him deeply to prove who he belonged to, but the larger, rational side of him suppressed those carnal desires and brought him back to reality.

“Giyuu-san,” he whimpered when a leg slid between his thighs.

Tanjirou blamed his weakness as he spread them further apart to give him better access, rutting against Giyuu’s leg like a wanton whore. Sometimes his body had a mind of its own. However, he had to be the voice of reason, so once he was given room to breathe, he tried again. Giyuu, on the other hand, acted like a starving man, mouthing his earlobe and fondling his flesh with hunger and possession. Tanjirou never tasted so sweet, so addicting. His human trembled beneath his touch and bit his bottom lip to prevent any more noises to escape.

With a stuttering heart, he then placed a hand on Giyuu’s chest to speak. Completely flustered, Tanjirou shyly lowered his eyes to remind his husband of their surroundings.

“Not here,” he mumbled and collected his bearings.

Tanjirou looked terribly debauched. Their passionate kiss led to his yukata partially sliding off his shoulder, which presented his creamy but mottled skin. Giyuu thought Tanjirou couldn’t get prettier, but he was dead wrong because he never saw his pupils dilate like a new moon or his cheeks turn redder than a cherry tomato. There was some excess spit on the corner of his lips, so Giyuu used his sleeve to wipe it away. With a wave of his hand across his bride’s face, the remainders of Tanjirou’s tears were erased and cleaned.

A smile was more suitable for his bride.

The spell was broken when the god of festivities clapped slowly. “Wow,” Tengen whistled. “That was awesome! Never seen you go berserk like that in hundreds of years.”

Giyuu ripped away from the eye contact to glare at the man in charge of this domain. He wrapped one arm around Tanjirou protectively while the other manifested a blade. He pointed it at Tengen without delay. Upon demand, a water dragon descended from the skies in a flash and coiled around its master and his bride to defend them. Giyuu’s piercing eyes glowed the same color as Tanjirou’s ornament, and the voice that came out of his mouth was steely and unrecognizable. It was the voice of an angered god.

“Explain yourself.”

Tanjirou gulped from the intense aura and burrowed deeper into Giyuu’s scent for comfort. As a result, the water god sensed his bride’s distress and toned down the intimidation. After all, prolonged exposure to a god’s divine aura can be quite toxic for a normal human. “I’m sorry,” he apologized softly, loud enough for only Tanjirou to hear.

Tengen was impassive to his threat and did not sugarcoat his words. “I tried to take your bride, but got rejected,” he shrugged indifferently.

Giyuu glowered at the god of festivities. The water dragon he summoned let out a fearsome roar that shook the foundation of the festival. Tengen’s expression took a darker turn when he flung a slab of concrete away from his wife. It was a piece that chipped away from the roof of the building behind him.

“Tengen,” Giyuu’s voice was clipped. “This might be funny to you, but that I am not a fan of jokes.”

Tensions rose. The two gods were at a standoff, and both were not adverse to provoke a war. Unknown to the owner, Tanjirou’s earrings lit up, radiant and bright, as if it sensed danger was near. Before either side made the first move to strike, a third party rushed in-between them. She was a beautiful braided maiden with sea green eyes and a small mole beneath each one, wearing a cute floral yukata and holding a bouquet of cotton candy on one hand. Despite the woman’s outward appearance, Tanjirou understood that in this world there was more than meets the eye. Beams of light erupted from her palms. She activated a barrier to separate the volatile gods and to prevent them from emitting long-range attacks.

“Stop!” She bellowed out. She briskly walked over to the god of festivities with a fierce pout. “No more fighting!”

Tengen sighed. Of course the goddess of love had to intervene. “Mitsuri, this is none of your business. So please, just leave and-”

In a huff, Mitsuri stomped the ground, which blasted chunks of the ground and created a sizable crater beneath her foot. Tengen grimaced at the property damage.

“This is my domain,” she interjected. “These two,” she emphasized by pointing at Giyuu and Tanjirou. “They are in love,” she said.

Although she was not wrong, that did not stop the water god and his bride from blushing at her statement. They exchanged discreet glances and shy smiles, full of adoration, that they were almost disgustingly too sweet to watch. Their conjoined hands were inseparable.

“Therefore,” Mitsuri argued and thumbed her chest, “This is under my jurisdiction, and I won’t let you ruin their romance!”

“Ugh,” Tengen groaned, “I hate it when you pull the love card.”

Tanjirou had never seen a woman look so upset. “Tengen!” She chastised, “Even though you’re cool and wonderfully flamboyant, I won’t forgive you if you meddle any further.” She crossed her arms, so she was entirely serious in her threat. “Do not forget who matched you with your wives,” she reminded him with a sniff.

“Tch,” the god of festivities clicked his tongue. Of all the times Mitsuri could have cashed in her debt, she chose this moment. The woman was right. Without her intrusion, his life would have been much blander and lonely. He owed this to her.

“I’m sorry, Suma,” Tengen sent his wife an apologetic smile and bowed to display he had given up. His wife was too caring sometimes. Even though the human rejected his proposal, Tengen understood his wife’s desperation to integrate him into the harem. Tanjirou had a kind and beautiful soul. It was unfortunate he was going to die because of a cursed role. “We can only pray for his safety.”

Following Tengen’s surrender, Mitsuri walked over to the water god next. Bit by bit, the barrier she set up slowly disintegrated into cherry blossom petals. Tanjirou, who had never witnessed the goddess’s power, was entranced by the flurry of petals that lined her path. Indeed, she was a force to be reckoned with. Giyuu relaxed his stance and lowered his sword to give her permission to come close. The water dragon copied its master and eventually exploded into mist, which dampened everybody’s hair and clothes. It was a small price to pay to give the goddess access.

“Hello Giyuu,” she greeted the water god with a slight giggle.

“Thank you for your kindness, Mitsuri,” Giyuu replied.

If Tanjirou was a jealous harpy, he would have felt a flare of heat from her flirtatious tone. However, the boy was too light-headed to discern it because far away, the goddess’s influence was not as strong, but up close, Tanjirou was vulnerable to the pheromones that affected his cognition. This feeling was different from the times Giyuu touched him. His head felt full of cotton, and he incessantly wobbled to and fro because of the heavy dose that invaded his nostrils.

“Oh dear,” the goddess of love noticed his cross-eyed state. “I got too excited in my talk with Tengen that I got carried away.”

The waft of her pheromones immediately declined, but Tanjirou inhaled too much of her scent to return to sobriety. He fainted in Giyuu’s steady arms and squirmed from the intense sensation between his legs. Her pheromones almost worked like an aphrodisiac that fogged his mind with lust and made him panting heavily from arousal. Tanjirou unconsciously rubbed his cheek against his husband’s chest, whining for release. Giyuu panicked, both from the onslaught of salacious thoughts he received through the divine bond and the growing erection he sported as a response. Thankfully, holding his beautiful bride hid it well from the goddess of love.

“Here,” Mitsuri slipped a cream-colored candy the size of a coin into their mouths. “This will calm down the effects.”

She giggled again at the adorable couple, especially when Giyuu looked like a lost child in the throes of love. “You should go,” she advised him. “You have something to show him, don't you?” She tipped her head in Tanjirou's direction.

Giyuu widened his eyes. He never told anyone, not even Urokodaki. "How did you-"

"Goddess of love, remember?" Mitsuri winked with a peek of her tongue. "Also," she graced him a smile. "You wear your heart on your sleeve." Before Giyuu left, she added, "Ah, but don't forget to visit once in a while. There's a new trend called waffles," she hopped excitedly. "And I wanted to share some with my friends.

Giyuu paused. "I'm your friend?"

"I'm the goddess of love," she repeated with a smirk and began to eat her forgotten cotton candy. "Everyone is my friend."

Well, Giyuu couldn't argue that. With another bow and a promise to eat waffles together, Giyuu carried his bride in his arms and whisked them away to another destination, and hopefully, a better place to end this night.

Chapter Text

The afternoon breeze was pleasant underneath the great plum tree, a pleasant spot for Tanjirou to mention an unpleasant subject.

“Giyuu-san,” Tanjirou said while feeding the koi to busy himself, “… Can you tell me about Sabito?”

Giyuu, who was previously engrossed with his readings, dropped them to the ground. The grief was etched on his face, plain for anybody to see including his bride. His voice was devastated and quiet. There was a slight tremor to the bottom of his lip when he asked, “Who told you that name?”

Apart from him, Tanjirou was frank. “Shinobu-san.”

“Then you know enough,” Giyuu bent down to pick up his discarded books. “I have nothing more to say.”

Tanjirou was candid about his objective in this conversation. “I want to hear everything from you.”

In a rare bout of shortsightedness, Giyuu turned harsh, for that was how he defended himself, for that was how he coped. “For what?” He scoffed. “To be a better bride?” He lashed out like a wounded animal. “I’ve heard that before, and I’ll say the same thing I told every bride who treated this like a competition. You can’t,” he shook his head, “You can’t be better than him.”

Days ago, Tanjirou would have dug himself into depression to hear such cruel, devastating words. Yet, Tanjirou stood his ground because he understood. Giyuu’s reaction was a result of years of suffering, years of suffocation. The human cannot fathom the amount of willpower to continue living despite the guilt eating him, blaming him for being alive. This turmoil the water god bottled within himself turned into sludge, and the water god utilized it to spit back at anybody who tried to get close. How painful, Tanjirou thought, how inexplicably sad.

“I won’t,” he admitted because that was the truth. “And this jealousy may never go away.” He took a deep breath and exhaled the lingering negative thoughts in his heart.

Beware of leaning too close, his grandmother told him, or the water god will drown him. Yet, throughout the duration of his stay in the realm of the gods, Giyuu seemed to be the only one constantly drowning in his sorrows.

“But I am your friend,” he said with conviction, for conviction always made him stronger, better. “Being your friend is more important to me than being your bride. And as your friend,” he picked up the last book on the ground and plopped it on Giyuu’s stack, “I hope that someday you can speak Sabito’s name with a smile.”

There was a crack in Giyuu’s stone cold features. “What if I can’t?” The curtains of his indifference were lifted. Behind them was a man who was lonely and afraid. “What if that day never comes?”

Tanjirou leaned forward and hugged him, causing the water god to drop his readings. Taken aback by the sudden intimate act, Giyuu hesitantly placed his hand on his bride’s back. He slowly gained more confidence and reciprocated his embrace, wrapping his arms around his human with a hint of desperation because there was no map to heal his heart, no god to wish the pain away. He felt hopeless, a lost cause.

“We’ll try,” Tanjirou said and inhaled Giyuu’s sweet musk.

How odd, he thought, that he would live to see the day a god act so human.

“Because that’s what it means to be your friend.”

XXX

When Tanjirou regained consciousness, he woke up to a blanket of darkness. The heady fog in his mind cleared away, but the world felt so dark that he wondered if this was nightmare.

“Where am I?” He whispered.

He stood there in silence, trying to recollect his memories. Now that his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Tanjirou noticed that in front of him was the outline of a boat and a lake. A hand suddenly grabbed his, which made him jump in surprise and almost shout in exclamation, but then a finger was placed on his lips.

His nose knew who it was. “Giyuu-san?” He asked breathlessly.

His heart fluttered at the thought of Giyuu by his side as his mind played the memories of the festival on repeat. As if the water god read his thoughts, he dipped his head and kissed his bride slowly, carefully prying his lips apart for more. Tanjirou arched his back and let out a stuttered moan. His senses were on overdrive, unable to choose whether he should focus on Giyuu’s tongue or his heated scent. Tanjirou clawed his shoulders for purchase because without an anchor, he would be lost under Giyuu’s spell. His husband’s hands caressed his cheek like a king would to his treasure, dripping with aching need. The fluttering in Tanjirou’s chest worsened.

“Do you trust me?” Giyuu asked him huskily, eyes glowing dimly in the dark night.

“Always,” he whispered because his faith was secure.

Tanjirou felt a tender brush against his forehead, and through the divine bond, Tanjirou can sense that Giyuu was pleased.

“Follow me,” said the water god and moved towards the boat in the lake.

Tanjirou followed him, dazed, because his skin still tingled from where Giyuu last touched him. When he stepped foot into the boat, he realized that it was well-furnished and spacious. His whole family would be able to fit inside it. Once he was snug inside, facing Giyuu, the boat began to drift away from the berth. The world still looked pitch black, excluding the luminescent glow of Giyuu’s irises, and the water below was as dark as ink. Tanjirou was convinced that if he dipped his fountain pen in the water, he would be able to constantly write pages in his journal. He told Giyuu his insight, which earned him a soft chuckle.

“I’ve been meaning to show you this place,” Giyuu started. He wore a strange far-off look. “I wanted to apologize for that night you waited hours for me.”

“Seriously,” Tanjirou felt warmth in his cheeks, probably because Giyuu was too sweet for his palate. “I already forgave you. Besides,” he rubbed the back of his neck, “I could have done better with that curry.” After all, that was his first time. He just needed practice.

“Tanjirou,” Giyuu warned. Sometimes his human needed to accept the apology instead of undermining it.

His human took the hint and sealed his mouth shut. Giyuu then raised his head to the skies as if he was watching the moon even though it was absent.

“This lake has many names,” he said, for it was filled with history and legends.

Once, Giyuu heard of a god who proposed to a human in this lake and vowed to make his lover into a god. However, for Giyuu this lake had a different name, and thus, had a different purpose.

“Shijima Lake,” he said. Though the name was not as creative as others, the water god was a simple man. Most bodies of water that owned fancier, outlandish names were all due to humans and their excessive desire to create anything special.

Giyuu took a shuddered breath and swallowed the wedge in his throat. “Ever since...” Tears began to burn his eyes.

“Ever since Tsutako and Sabito...”

He sniffled and pressed his palms against his eyes. He never knew that it would be this difficult to mention their names. How long has it been since he said their names?

“Ever since they passed away,” he recollected himself, “I come here to meditate.”

In this place, he could cry in solitude and weep for the people he lost and loved. The serenity here often soothed his nerves whenever he felt too emotional.

“This is my safe place,” he said. “This is where I usually go whenever I need to be by myself.”

“Giyuu-san...”

The water god laced their fingers together with a shy smile. “You’ve been kind and patient with me,” he said. His skin buzzed from the amount of talking he had done today, but he had to make every word count. His tongue felt dry; he felt a tad parched.

Midway into his speech, blueish-green specks of light appeared in the inky waters and illuminated the lake, giving it an ethereal glow. Giyuu observed Tanjirou’s reaction. His bride was captivated by the sight, precariously leaning over the edge of the boat to admire the glimmering creatures in the lake. His mouth was open wide and eyes were shimmering with curiosity. Being in Tanjirou’s presence influenced Giyuu to strive to improve, and his resilience gave him the confidence he needed to take that first step because he wanted to meet his bride halfway.

The sparkling light reflecting off Tanjirou’s hair gave the water god an idea. He sneakily waved a finger, capturing the pretty bioluminescent algae in water bubbles, and floated them high in the air like miniature cyan lanterns. Peals of delight came from Tanjirou’s mouth.

“Beautiful...” Tanjirou’s hands hovered next to the bubbles but mindful enough to not pop them.

Giyuu’s eyes were still fixed on his bride. “Very beautiful,” he said under his breath. More beautiful than all the landscapes the god of the mountains can offer, and more beautiful than all the springs that Giyuu created in his lifetime.

Even so, the anxiety sprung back in Giyuu’s lungs. Admittedly, he was not a master in the art of refined speech, and though he was not so inept that he couldn’t hold a conversation with his bride, there was an underlying fear that everything would come crashing down once he uttered his thoughts. His past mistakes attested to that.

“Giyuu-san? Is everything alright?”

Perhaps Tanjirou’s perceptiveness was a skill he earned from being the eldest, to be ever diligent to his siblings’s emotions whenever they were upset or uncomfortable. His uncanny ability to be attuned to Giyuu’s feelings was a conundrum, but Tanjirou’s question were the magic words he needed to hear. Just like that, his misgivings were dissolved.

This was the person he loves. This was the person who loves him back.

“Tanjirou.”

The redhead turned his head away from the distraction and stared into his husband’s eyes.

“You’re the only person who knows about this lake.”

The god discovered this lake the day Yoriichi ordered him to stop punishing the earth. The chains that held him down burned like flaming coal, but what hurt him worse was the empathy in the sun god’s eyes as if they understood his suffering. They seared his skin and scorched his back, but Giyuu was too young, too petulant for a rational dialogue. Fuck the world, he used to think. Let them feel his wrath.

When he ran away from Yoriichi’s clutches, he came across this lake and felt touched by its blank state, by its silence. All of a sudden, his tear ducts poured out his pain and frustration and hurt. He cried for many nights and many days until he was numb and cold. Since then, he came to this lake to cry for each bride he lost, for each soul he couldn’t save, and for each time he failed to be a better person.

Tanjirou was not aware of the ties Giyuu had with this lake, but from the atmosphere, he understood that this was monumental, a moment of growth for the water god.

His voice was quieter but still retained its gentle tune. “I’m glad to be the first.”

“You...” Giyuu struggled. Talking was definitely not his forte. “I’m...” Again, he felt strangled by his incompetence. Internally, he groaned and banged his head against a wall. He wished he could hide behind his bangs forever.

He squeezed their hands and squeezed his eyes to muster what needed to be said, what needed to be heard. “I’m sorry if I ever made you feel inferior to Sabito,” he said. The guilt of his insensitivity ate him for days. “You aren’t. You… You’re incredible. And special to me.”

Tanjirou’s eyes looked like starlight.

“You’re my friend and more.” His face felt hot and flushed. “That’s why I want to make new memories with you. I want to share my smiles by your side.” Giyuu was an almighty and powerful god, and yet he was reduced to a flustering, bumbling man. He hoped that he sounded sincere because he was. “Please accept this foolish god and his faults,” he lowered his head.

Not a moment too soon, Tanjirou cupped his cheeks with blood rushing to his ears. His calloused hands were rough but warm. “Giyuu-san!” His voice was loud and earnest. “May I kiss you?”

“Pft.” The raven-haired man huffed in affection because his answer was obvious, but he was not surprised because this was Tanjirou.

His brilliant and wonderful Tanjirou.

His eyes then fluttered to a close, and the man relaxed his posture with expectation. Tanjirou’s heart was like a drum beating excessively, ricocheting off the inner walls of his chest and threatening to jump out. Perspiration gathered in his hands as he trailed them up Giyuu’s arms and rested them on his shoulders to prepare himself for what was coming. He must have taken too long to hype himself up because Giyuu made an impatient noise, placed a hand on his tapered hips, and pulled him forward to steal his lips. He muffled Tanjirou’s gasp with his mouth, kissing him like a man who tasted water for the first time.

As Giyuu dipped him low, teasing him with kitten licks and flicks to the underside of his tongue, his hands roamed the rest of his body and left a trailing blaze. His hands worked to remove their obi and cloth strings, but Tanjirou held his wrist with a conflicted expression.

“We should do this in bed,” he murmured. “It’s not safe here.”

Gentle fingers parted his collar and pressed his sternum until he was gently pushed against the floor. Tanjirou was overshadowed by his god as the man skimmed his fingers along his abdomen until they barely touched the lower hairs of his belly. In response, his bride let out a cloying, needy sound, one that begged his god to wreck him and use him until he ceased to exist. A fog similar to Mitsuri’s pheromones clouded his mind as he spread his legs for his god, showing his husband how much he wanted him, needed him.

“I am the water god.” The timber in his voice caused Tanjirou to involuntarily shiver.

Giyuu hiked up one leg and caressed his thigh all the way to the inner part of his knee. The action was smooth and deliberate and quite telling of the god’s intentions.

“We are the only people in this lake.” Giyuu pressed his hips against his groin to show Tanjirou he was not the only one affected. “This boat will not move,” he announced. “Not until I’m done with you.”

He then bent his legs back until Tanjirou was stuck in a compromising position and gave him a dirty, sinful kiss, one that plundered his mouth and took and took and took. Tanjirou was helpless as he moaned and gripped his biceps. Tears beaded at the corners of his eyes from the immense pleasure while Giyuu rubbed against the crack of his ass, teaching Tanjirou of their future and forevermore.

Tanjirou would have let Giyuu have his way with him until he was filled to the brim and crying his name, but then, he saw a flicker of light in the distance, a light that was much different than the bioluminescent algae or Giyuu’s eyes. Giyuu and Tanjirou were also too engrossed with each other to notice the eerie glow of his earrings. His heart stopped, and his body reacted quicker than his mind.

He pushed Giyuu away and kicked him back. Before Giyuu could ask what was wrong, he wore a mortified face as an arrow pierced Tanjirou’s chest and pinned him to the floor.

“Tanjirou!” He screamed and shielded his limp body. Anger was the first emotion that came, and his anger was out for blood as his eyes searched for the perpetrator. Red seeped through his fingers as Giyuu desperately tried to save his bride.

“TANJIROU!”

Chapter Text

“Listen carefully,” Tanjirou told his siblings. “For this story is powerful but very sad.”

Ever since his grandmother passed away, he was entrusted to carry on the tradition to pass on the stories of the gods. Though his mother and father memorized the stories as well, Tanjirou held a charm that surpassed his parents and roused the children’s interest. He was a born storyteller, and that itself was a gift.

“Your job is important, little one,” his grandmother mentioned his gift while she was bedridden and ill. “Our stories are powerful. Our ideals are passed on from one generation to the next,” she said with a shaky breath. “That is why the gods need our stories. Without them, all is lost. Without them, hope is gone.”

When she took her last breath, Tanjirou grieved. Out of everybody, he was the one closest to her, always attached to her hip and listened to her stories with fervor. His heart swelled with pride as he continued his grandmother’s legacy.

“When the universe was created,” his siblings circled around him with open ears. “There was nothing but two gods.”

Nezuko hopped in her seat. “Michikatsu and Yoriichi.”

“Yes,” Tanjirou nodded. “Michikatsu and Yoriichi,” he repeated. “In the beginning, we had the sun and the moon. And all was fine. The two brothers were inseparable.”

More gathered closer to listen to this tale because one day this story will become relevant once they learned the Dance of the Sun God. Without knowing the background of their special dance, the dance will lose meaning and significance. This story was the first one he heard, and thus, this will be the first one his siblings will learn.

“But Michikatsu was unhappy. Yoriichi was too bright for the moon, so Michikatsu left to the other side of the world and created a new home.”

His siblings frowned, upset to hear the moon ungratefully ruin his family. Tanjirou felt the same. The sun god mourned from the loss of his absent brother because his other half forcefully ripped them apart, and from that wound, darkness formed in Michikatsu’s home.

“And in that darkness,” Tanjirou said with a hushed, ominous tone, “Muzan was born.”

XXX

Shinobu entered the grim atmosphere with a tray of medications and injections. Sitting near Tanjirou’s bedside was Giyuu, who restlessly gripped his bride’s hand and pressed it against his lips, squeezing his eyes tight for a miracle.

“His condition is stable,” she said, but even though the arrow missed his vitals, Tanjirou had been stuck in a coma for at least a week, never stirring, never moving.

When Giyuu frantically barged into her domain, the doctor was ready to smack him for his poor etiquette until she saw Tanjirou’s dire state. She shuddered from the menacing aura of the arrow lodged in his chest and spewed out instructions at breakneck speed as she took over the treatment. When the worst passed, she asked for more details, but they were paltry and unsatisfactory. The culprit, a lesser deity, committed suicide the moment Giyuu found them in his manhunt and slit their throat with a Nichirin dagger without hesitation. Vexed, the water god was tempted to vent out in frustration, but his bride was his top priority. Tanjirou’s earrings continued to glow until the bleeding stopped.

“This power is ancient,” said Shinobu. Without his earrings, Tanjirou might not have survived because for some inexplicable reason, they enhanced his regeneration. Her lavender eyes flickered to Giyuu. “Do you think they belong to Yoriichi?”

The sun god was rumored to love humans, so it was not impossible for him to travel among the mortals and gift them one of his protective charms. Even so, nobody had seen Yoriichi in years, nor do they know how to locate him. His last sighting was from Giyuu himself, but the mysterious god left no clues about his whereabouts except for one vague sentence.

“I’m waiting for someone,” Yoriichi declined his offer for tea with a sly smile. “As long as it takes.”

“We cannot rely on him,” he said. “But if they belong to him, then I’m grateful.”

Wearing a serious expression, Shinobu injected another dose of medicine into Tanjirou’s veins in hopes that he would recover sooner than later. Her lips were pressed into a thin line, for she bore some bad news.

“After investigating the arrow,” she prompted, for this was a delicate matter. “I came upon some disturbing insights.”

She researched its contents, desperate to deny the truth, but she had to see the inevitable conclusion at face value. After this meeting, she must present her findings in an emergency council to warn the gods.

“I recognize this arrow.” Her eye bags were prominent after many sleepless nights. It pained her to say this. “It’s the same arrow that corrupted my sister.” The sister who almost killed her. The sister who Giyuu killed to save Shinobu’s life.

The woman clenched her hands into fists as the bitter taste of regret and rage filled her taste buds, but she still maintained her pristine smile because this was how she preserved Kanae’s memory. No further insights were revealed because the water god received enough information to make the same inference she had.

During their bleakest years, the surviving gods figured out that humans were not affected by the disease, but they were still in danger because a corrupted god would immediately seek out flesh and sink their teeth into meat. Whether one was a god or a mortal, nobody was safe. The realization that Giyuu was the intended target of somebody’s evil scheme dumped an ice cold bucket of reality on his head. He was a potential threat to Tanjirou. If the lesser deity succeeded earlier, his bride would have been his first victim, torn to shreds by his bare hands. He almost threw up at the gruesome thought.

“He can stay here temporarily,” Shinobu offered. “Until it’s safe.”

Tanjirou mumbled in his sleep, his hand unintentionally reaching out for his husband’s hand. Giyuu drifted back to his side, lightly placing a palm on his chest over the wound. The heartbeat beneath his hand was strong and sturdy compared to the feeble pounding he felt when he rushed him to the Butterfly Estate. Feeling the new weight upon his chest, Tanjirou moved his hand atop his, and the subtle gesture moved the water god to tears because he was alive. His heart was thrumming with life; his blood was flowing in his veins. Tanjirou’s listless, glassy-eyed expression that night haunted his dreams and invaded his nightmares, bringing him to a cold sweat. Here was safe, and though his heart broke at the idea of separating from his precious bride, this was for the best. Tanjirou was not a fragile human, but with the corrupted criminal on the loose, his protection cannot be ensured in this unpredictable realm.

“Thank you,” Giyuu expressed his thanks.

“Ah, it must be the end of the world,” Shinobu said with a veiled smile. “To see the day that you would say thanks.”

Two days later Tanjirou woke up from his coma. Unexpectedly, the human absorbed the bombarded news with grace, albeit a bit more concerned for Giyuu’s well-being since he was the main target. He also agreed without any complaints to be under Shinobu’s care.

“You’re mature for a human,” Kanao would tell him softly as she taught him flower arrangement.

Tanjirou, who trimmed the stem a bit too much for Kanao’s liking, asked her, “How so?”

She smiled as she readjusted his drooping roses. Maybe flower arrangement was a skill he cannot excel. Even so, the bride of the water god was happier than usual. Nowadays he can hold a conversation with the goddess of flowers, which was a substantial improvement to her tight-lipped ways. His stay at the Butterfly Estate helped him cultivate a friendship with the ponytailed beauty after days of pestering until she succumbed to his wily charms.

“You miss him, don’t you?”

Anybody with a pair of eyes could see the look of yearning that briefly crossed the human’s face. Caught red-handed of his true desire, Tanjirou turned away to hide his tinted cheeks, but his scarlet ears were visible from behind. He switched back to his vase and fretted over his lopsided roses, ending their short talk.

Kanao was sad for her friend. The goddess was not given the entire story, but she understood that the corruption that plagued their realm was not something to be taken lightly. Born right after the previous goddess’s death, she felt inadequate to fulfill the role as the new goddess of flowers. Whenever Kanae’s name was mentioned within their household, Shinobu often wept, hidden in a corner where nobody could find her, which was why Kanao was adamant when she took her oath of silence to give her sister a space to cry.

Despite everything, Tanjirou maintained his optimism. He looked forward to the days Giyuu would visit the Butterfly Estate because the divine bond thrummed within him, reminding him that he was not the only one who missed his half. Out of pure excitement, Tanjirou cooked a hearty feast, one that was enough to feed two weddings, to welcome his dear husband. His favoritism was obvious. The girls would stare at the two lovebirds with exasperation and rolled eyes.

Afterwards, Tanjirou would receive his reward in his room, sometimes in the form of hour-long kisses and heated touches, anything to remind Giyuu that the man panting beneath him was alive and breathing and well, for he needed this as much as Tanjirou, too. The two never crossed the line, unable to get into the mood after such a traumatizing event, but they compensated through quick ruts and fumbling rubs. They were like a couple of horny teenagers experimenting their likes and dislikes, stroking each other to completion and moaning each other’s name.

However, their meager attempts to return to normalcy were cut abruptly. News of another corrupted victim circulated throughout the realm. From what Tanjirou heard, the god of wind was tending to his pets, feeding them without a care in the world. Just like Giyuu’s case, the moment happened too quickly for Sanemi to discern. All he remembered was his sweet younger brother enveloping him until an arrow struck his back, and minutes later, his younger brother Genya turned into a monster and tried to bite him.

“Sanemi managed to apprehend him instead of killing him,” Shinobu updated Tanjirou and the girls. “For now, he’s caged, and I’ll be researching his blood to search for a cure.”

The silence afterwards was deafening.

“What now?” Tanjirou asked.

With this, his worst fears were confirmed. Giyuu was not the only target; everyone else was free game.

“I don’t know,” she whispered, but she had an inkling on what was going through Giyuu’s mind.

Returning back home was beginning to look like a pipe dream.

That same night, the girls meekly entered Tanjirou’s room, fretful from the lingering doom just around the corner. They twisted and turned in their futons, restless and scared. They had so much difficulty sleeping that Sumi, one of the girls who studied under Shinobu’s tutelage, crawled over to him.

“Tanjirou-san,” she whispered his name in the dead of night.

Taking a few seconds to stir himself awake, he rolled over to face her. “Yes, Sumi-chan?”

The young girl bit her bottom lip, embarrassed to ask such a ridiculous request. Her friends were also not asleep, so they crawled by her side in solidarity to give her encouragement. It was the push she needed to ask him, “Can you please tell us a story?”

She then pulled the covers over her head, for she was ashamed of her childish request. Tanjirou was not offended. Far from it. Seeing the trio ask him for a story reminded him of his own siblings and their own nightmares. Tanjirou was not a god or an immortal or a heavenly divine being, but he was a storyteller. His grandmother’s words resonated within him because stories hold power. Stories give hope.

“Why do gods need them?” Tanjirou once asked her. He racked his brain for answers, but gods were supposed to be invincible, indestructible.

“So that humans can believe in them,” she told him and said nothing else.

Even up to this day, Tanjirou does not know what compelled him to tell this specific story, a story he made right off the bat. Perhaps this improvisation was inspired by the uncertainty of boring the girls to death by repeating stories they probably memorized by heart. Perhaps this was his way to cope, to ease the ache in his heart as he sought his own comfort.

Thus, he began his tale.

“Have you heard, have you heard?” He asked the girls. They giggled by the change in tune.

“Heard of what?” They responded.

Tanjirou smiled and remembered the description Giyuu provided him, of his peach-colored hair and his knack for justice.

“Have you heard of the legendary swordsman Sabito?”

Chapter Text

Everyone was on high-alert, but Tanjirou and Giyuu still paid the god of wind a visit to give him their condolences. A couple of highly trained individuals, including – to Tanjirou’s surprise – Murata, tagged along for the ride to protect their master and his bride with their Nichirin blades safely sheathed in their scabbards. Giyuu also carried his blade, which was closely attached to his hip.

Sanemi, to say the least, was enraged. He simply sought vengeance.

“Once I find the bastard who did this to him,” the white-haired god crushed another teacup in his hands, “I’ll fucking slice them into ribbons, cut them like meat, and feed them to my dogs.”

Tanjioru shuddered from the crazed look in his eyes, the sort of bloodlust that sent shivers down his spine. He seemed like a man who murdered thousands out of spite, and based on the stories he heard, he was right on the money. Without his younger brother to placate his temper, Sanemi was a loose canon prepared to shoot first and ask questions later. Tanjirou was not familiar with the god of wind, but he understood upon first glance that he was absolutely serious in his threats, ready to drag the villain to the depths of hell if he could. Accustomed to this behavior, Sanemi’s maids scrambled to clean up the shards and offered him another teacup.

Undisturbed by his vengeful aura, Giyuu shared the same sentiment. His tea stirred violently, responding to his emotions as he recalled his bride’s brush with death. Some of the liquid spilled to the floor, but the maids did not move in case they were caught in the crossfire. Tanjirou froze as he felt the temperature dropped lower.

“Yes,” his husband’s eyes turned an electrifying blue. “They will suffer,” he snarled.

The maids cowered before his palpable rage, almost called forth to throw themselves to the floor to demonstrate their submission. In the distance, waterfalls poured rapidly, slamming the rocks below with an immeasurable force that chipped away its structure and compromised their integrity. Somewhere else, hail reigned the skies and crashed into rooftops, relentlessly pounding the humans who rushed into shelter. Tanjirou immediately grasped his hand and steadily gazed into his cobalt blue eyes, seeking the man he loved within the storm. If Giyuu was the turbulent sea, ruthless and violent, Tanjirou was his buoy, an anchor that will not drown and navigate him to the right path.

His red eyes sent a message. His body language sent reassurance. “I am here,” they seemed to tell him.

Giyuu’s heart lurched. It reminded him of his unforgivable decision.

Afterwards, Sanemi and Giyuu discussed the new measures the council of gods agreed and disagreed, but after that, the visitors bid their farewells and enjoyed the scenery as they walked down the main path towards the Butterfly Estate. Though the guards were out of sight, Tanjirou could smell their presence and estimated that they surrounded them within a 10-meter radius. As they continued their walk, they eventually came across a familiar patch, a place with blue-green grass and honey-scented flowers – the place that jump-started Tanjirou’s journey.

Unable to contain his elation, Tanjirou tugged his husband’s sleeve. “Giyuu-san, Giyuu-san,” he smiled big and wide. “Remember this place?”

Looking back, Giyuu, who transformed into a humongous dragon, gave him the fright of his life, but he felt welcomed when he first entered the realm of the gods. He was a mountain boy, accustomed to nature and its gifts, but the field still held a charm that cannot be rivaled. He remembered his first impression of this place as if it was yesterday.

Beautiful,” Tanjirou echoed out his thoughts and knelt down to brush his hands against the grass.

It is,” Giyuu replied and knelt with him. “It’s… It’s home.”

Before they moved onward, Tanjirou caught movement at the corner of his eye and pointed at the peculiar dwarf-like creatures roaming the lands. Instead of fur or scales on their miniature bodies, they emitted rays of light, almost burning Tanjirou’s eyes for being too bright. Fascinated, the human knelt on all fours and crawled closer.

“What are they?” He asked quietly.

When there was no response, Tanjirou looked over his shoulder to figure out why there was a delay, but when he discovered the reason, he instantaneously turned scarlet red, which bled down his neck and chest, as he realized his husband was unabashedly checking out his ass.

“Giyuu-san,” he hissed.

Arms crossed, the god looked unapologetic as he undressed him with his perverse leer. In addition, the divine bond amplified his lecherous thoughts, his desire to carve his shape inside Tanjirou and paint his inner walls with his mark until his bride was boneless and pliant.

His needs sizzled beneath Tanjirou’s skin. His greed knew no bounds because all he wanted was to touch him, please him, and worship him. However, no matter how close they got, the mood would sour whenever they were bare and exposed. Giyuu was not repulsed by Tanjirou’s nasty scar from the arrow, but the scar was a reminder of that wretched night, enough to trigger the man to freeze before the next step. He was always sorry for backtracking, for leaving Tanjirou to pick up the pieces, but his human, so kind and sweet, never insulted his weakness or mocked him for his fears.

Thus, a surge of love replaced his hunger and compelled him to move. Before Tanjirou could escape, Giyuu joined his beautiful bride on the ground and kissed him, languid and paced. An ache throbbed the human’s heart, an ache he cannot tell if it came from his husband or himself, but there was no time to ponder over trivial matters when lips were upon his, stealing his every breath. When their mouths were not fighting for dominance, Giyuu would reclaim Tanjirou’s body and suckle each faded mark until a new one was made, visible for everyone to see. His tongue lapped at the dark bruises blooming on Tanjirou’s skin, and the boy muffled his cries, hand covering his mouth, to avoid being caught in this indecent state.

“Stop – mmh – stop teasing – hngh – m-me,” Tanjirou groaned as Giyuu suckled another spot above his left breast.

Finished, the man hoisted himself up to admire his handiwork. Tanjirou’s body was more beautiful than ever, sporting numerous marks as if Giyuu showered cranberry hibiscuses on him, with flushed cheeks and swollen lips. The water god was so enamored by his bride that he failed to see the creature that went under his radar. One of the creatures that Tanjirou pointed out earlier strayed from its group, sidled closer to the human, and offered him a wildflower.

Flattered, Tanjirou beamed. “Thank you,” he said as he accepted it, but to his dismay, more followed suit with the same offering, pushing more and more flowers into his hands until he was overwhelmed by the crowd.

Cute, Giyuu thought as he watched his bride slowly get buried. “The sun sprites seem to be attracted to you,” he stated the obvious.

“H-help,” he pleaded for Giyuu’s mercy.

Typically, he would be at his beck and call, pulling him out of harm’s way as an excuse to hold him close and bury his nose in his burgundy locks. However, he paused a moment longer to watch Tanjirou struggle against the horde of sun sprites, capturing the image and searing it to his memory. Honestly, he wished time would freeze right here and now.

Eventually Giyuu moved forward to assist his bride and gently maneuvered the sun sprites away, not out of pity for his bride, but to prevent him from going into a deep sleep. The glittery trail of dust behind their feet were potent, he explained as he brushed his human’s hair.

“A pinch of this,” Giyuu demonstrated by sprinkling some dust to the ground, “Would be enough to send you straight to sweet dreams.”

Tanjirou took note of that and shuffled closer to his husband, away from the potential hypnotics. “Are they harmless?”

“Yes,” he replied, “Because the sun god made them.”

Even though he mysteriously vanished, there were remnants of his presence. Giyuu was eternally grateful to the sun god, so much that he may never be able to return the favor. Sometimes, when the nightmares were too frequent and consumed his soul, when even the silence of his favorite lake could not soothe him, the water god would visit this field to collect the leftover dust from the sun sprites as a last measure.

“The sun god, huh?” Tanjirou remarked, “Our family worships Yoriichi-sama.”

Giyuu glanced at his earrings, how they innocuously swayed with the wind, and wondered if it was coincidence or fate that a child of the sun would end up as his bride. “Maybe that’s why the sun sprites can’t leave you alone,” he said, “Because they’re attracted to the light.”

Tanjirou was always radiant when he smiled, especially beneath the rays of the sun, where his eyes would crinkle in pleasure and shine bright. Maybe this was why Michikatsu left his shared home, Giyuu speculated, because standing next to his brother left him feeling dirty and tainted. Maybe this was why the water god was so desperate to preserve this light despite the consequences because Tanjirou was his sun, and he knew the sun cannot shine forever.

Urokodaki appeared right on schedule, wearing the same outfit as before.

“Giyuu-sama,” he told his master with a heavy heart, “It is time.”

Tanjirou noticed the old man and welcomed him with open arms. “Urokodaki-san!” He greeted the gatekeeper like he would to a grandparent. Urokodaki also treated the young human like a second son since he received so many letters from the boy and responded in kind. “How are-”

Without warning, a gut-wrenching pain, agonizing and excruciating, plunged into his heart and choked him. Suddenly, the strength in his legs were gone, and he collapsed on his knees, crouched over his chest to withstand the pricking sensation within. A thorny grip held his throat and cut his airways, suffocating him in the process, as he let out a voiceless scream. As quick as it had come, the feeling disappeared in an instant and released him from its clutches. Tanjirou slumped to the ground, shaking with sweat while Giyuu rushed to his side. He was muddled and sore from the brief scare, but he was cognizant enough to come to a chilling conclusion.

This was not an attack from the enemy.

It was the divine bond calling to him. Giyuu was in pain.

Once he regained his senses, Tanjirou backed away from Urokodaki, who reached out to aid him, with widened eyes because he knew better. After all, he was the gatekeeper, the one who allowed entry to the realm of the gods to those he saw fit but also opened the doors for those who had to leave. Why else would Giyuu lead Tanjirou to this field where everything began to only end it?

“No, no, no, no, no, no,” Tanjirou shook his head as dread pumped in his veins and turned his blood into ice. “Please,” he whispered when Giyuu knelt by his side, mirroring his broken expression, “Don’t do this.” He gripped his haori tight. “Please,” he begged.

Another wave of hurt swept through his body, tearing through his insides and leaving a wreckage. A tear slipped down Giyuu’s cheek, and Tanjirou brushed it away with his thumb with heartbreak.

“You can’t stay here,” the god croaked out, each word punctuated by a stab through his heart. “It’s too dangerous now.”

Bullshit, Tanjirou wanted to scream and shout. Instead, he continued to shake his head as his eyes welled with tears. “No, no, no,” he repeated helplessly. His knuckles turned white as he clenched the fabric tighter. Though his chances were slim, he wanted to fight to the very end. “Let me stay.”

It was Giyuu’s turn to shake his head. His red-rimmed eyes were stark and filled with everlasting regret. Already, Tanjirou was in a losing battle because the boy was no match against Giyuu’s overpowering scent of grief. He cried harder than ever, his vision murky and blurred, because he knew the outcome. He knew what was waiting for him beyond the gates. Giyuu hushed him softly and rocked him back and forth, feeling more heartbroken as Tanjirou slackened his grip.

Behind the water god was Urokodaki with a sun sprite in his hands, reminding Tanjirou of the lesson he just learned and its intended purpose.

“Go home, my love,” Giyuu said. “Live and be happy.”

Tanjirou had never heard such kind but cruel words.

“But you are my home,” he sobbed and embraced Giyuu close, for this may be the last time he would be enveloped in his gentle, tantalizing scent.

His husband returned his embrace with the same amount of fervor and more, squeezing his warm body one last time. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Then the gatekeeper showered his bride with the sun sprite’s dust, carefully avoiding his master, and waited for it to take effect. Even though Tanjirou resisted the dregs of sleep with all his might, he was only human and eventually fell limp in Giyuu’s arms.

The deed was done.

Murata witnessed the whole scene, silent and motionless, until his master called his name and beckoned him to come closer. He followed orders and watched as Giyuu stood up with his sleeping bride in his arms.

“Murata,” he said with a solemn voice, “Protect him with whatever means necessary.” His cold, blue eyes flickered to assess him. “I trust you.”

A god’s trust, especially if it belonged to Giyuu, was heavier than the world upon his shoulders because this was not just any bride cautiously placed in his hands: It was the bride of the water god. He gulped and affirmed his commitment to protect Tanjirou.

“Goodbye, Giyuu-sama,” he gave him a wobbly smile. After all, he was leaving home, and most likely, it was going to be a long time. “I pray for your safety,” he said and exited the gates.

XXX

Tanjirou woke up to the pitter-patter of raindrops. Before he realized that the people surrounding his bedside were his siblings and Murata, he frantically ran outside to confirm his fears. Rain soaked through his clothes and drenched his hair, seeping into his bones and wrinkling his skin, but he doesn’t care. All he focused was the incessant downpour, which drowned out his family’s cries of concern.

Today was the heaviest rain his village experienced in over a century, according to Nezuko as she dragged him back inside to change his clothes and dry his hair. Like a dam that was breached, Tanjirou cried, screaming out in agony, for he shared this pain with no one else but Giyuu.

At last, the bride of the water god returned home.

Chapter Text

Murata was ready to give Tanjirou space and time to recuperate from his breakdown, but the boy was tougher than nails and stronger than concrete. He forgot that Tanjirou was not a dainty or feeble-minded bride; after all, he was the man who won Giyuu’s love.

The next day Tanjirou bounced right back to his responsibilities as the eldest son. His family earned a decent amount of money in return for Tanjirou’s noble sacrifice, but they spent most of their wealth on medical fees and medicine to cure Tanjurou’s illness, which was worth every coin. The impact of Tanjirou’s sacrifice was visible as the boy watched his siblings play outside, their faces a healthier glow thanks to the food they can afford. Even Nezuko bought a nicer kimono to replace her worn and tattered one. For years, Tanjirou watched from afar as his younger sister struggled to mend the wear and tear, repairing her clothes with the utmost care, but now, he can provide for his family.

However, not all that glitters is gold. His upbeat manner belied the lingering pain, the hollowness of the divine bond that no longer resonated in his soul as if Giyuu scraped out any trace of his essence. That night, when the rain would not cease and almost flooded the village, he felt the divine bond slowly ebb away until it was dull and weak. Any reminder of Giyuu, whether it was the raindrops that splattered on his cheeks or the river that ran down a path, hung over his head like a dark, gloomy cloud.

He tried to summarize his adventures in the realm of the gods to his family, astounding them with his newfound knowledge, but anytime his siblings mentioned the water god to check if he treated their brother well, Tanjirou’s smile wavered, almost giving them the wrong initial impression of the opposite. Of course, he rectified that misunderstanding and gave them the excuse that he missed his husband dearly, which was the partial truth.

“Do not tell the humans about the real reason why you’re here. Let them think that you’re visiting. Never mention the corruption to them,” Murata instructed in private. “Including your family and friends.”

“Why?” Tanjirou asked.

Murata polished his sword until its slate blue hue was glossy and nice. “Because stories are powerful,” he echoed his grandmother’s words. “Their beliefs and fears can lead us to ruin.”

How lamentable, he thought, that he will never have the chance to properly introduce his husband to his family.

“Well,” his immortal companion pointed out a flaw. “Even if the corruption didn’t exist, you wouldn’t want to introduce a dragon bigger than this village to your folks.”

Ah yes, there was that, too.

At first, Tanjirou questioned why Murata was required to follow him to the mortal realm because the corruption only affected gods, not humans. Besides a starving bear or a rampaging boar, Tanjirou was safe from peril, but he got an inkling when he saw a small mob gathered outside while they were eating dinner. The younger children, including Rokuta, circled their brother and held him with the fiercest expression, as if they knew more than they let on. Before Tanjirou removed their hands to face the crowd, his father signaled him to stay and moved in his stead. Men and women alike held torches, weapons, and farming tools, such as ax-shaped hatchets and hoes, but his father was unphased by the display, stagnant and unmovable. The short sword he carried by his side demonstrated his intention to protect his family. He does not look at rude trespassers interrupting his lovely dinner kindly.

“What brings you here?”

One man from the forefront of the group stepped forward. If Tanjirou recalled correctly, he once cleared the man’s name when a woman accused him of breaking her plates.

“Tanjurou-san,” he spoke to his father respectfully. “My apologies, but please bring out your son. We must execute him for failing to uphold his duty as the bride of the water god.”

The children overheard his demand and gripped their brother tighter than ever.

“You are making a rash decision,” his father argued, rooted to his spot and denied them entrance.

Tanjirou pinched his nose when the acrid smell of sulfur mixed with smoke flared in the air and filled his nostrils, almost gagging him in the process. His father, who typically smelled like fresh pine cones and berries, was angry.

“My son is simply visiting,” he told the man. “Soon, Tanjirou will return to the realm of the gods and reunite with Giyuu-sama. There is no need to resort to violence.”

His calm reply fanned the flames of dissent. “Tanjurou-san,” the leader snarled and snatched his wrist, “Do not defile the will of the gods.”

Tanjirou wanted to vomit from the wave of hostility invading his senses with its foul, putrid smell. He was a fool. Did he learn nothing from Shinobu’s warnings? The brides who returned to their village were labeled as abominations who deserved death, often dismembered and hacked into pieces to serve as a reminder to all future brides. Even if Tanjirou vouched for himself, it was his word against years of tradition and conservative values.

His village must have tolerated his existence for at least a day as a gesture of respect to his family because of their services to the community, but they have finally reached their limit.

“Stop!” He cried out, ripping away from his siblings’ grasp. He cannot drag his family down with him.

Before his father twisted the man’s arm behind his back and increased tensions, Murata materialized in front of them in a snap and diffused the situation. Despite his plain exterior, the villagers were spooked by his sudden appearance, unfamiliar of the outsider who just barged into their fight.

“Murata-sa-”

Tanjirou paused. He does not recognize this man. The person defending his family was not the same ridiculous man who got in trouble for sneaking dumplings into his mouth or punished for peeking into Giyuu’s steamy sessions with Tanjirou. No, this person was entirely different, for he now exuded a certain aura that chilled his bone and brought goosebumps in his flesh.

“What are you doing?”

Tanjirou had never seen him so enraged, but this was Murata, Giyuu’s right-hand man. If he was entrusted to protect his master’s bride, then he will perform this task diligently despite the consequences. It was his master’s command; therefore, his word was law.

The man was ignorant of the sudden drop of temperature and had the gall to point at Tanjirou’s direction. “That boy must die for his sins. The water god is unsatisfied with his bride, so he threw him out. And now, we will suffer years of drought and suffering because of his fault!”

A chorus of agreement boosted his claims, but the mob’s cheers immediately ceased once Murata twirled his finger. In an instant, the man’s head was encased in a sphere of water and trapped in there without oxygen. The human thrashed and clawed his throat for reprieve, screaming for help, but the crowd could only stop and stare at the display of power as he continued to gurgle out noise. His torture would have lasted longer if Tanjirou did not intervene.

The burgundy-haired boy rushed to the man’s aid and turned to look at his friend. He was drowning. “Murata-san,” his voice trembled, “Please.”

A second later the water bubble popped, completely soaking the man’s top, but that was the least of his worries as he went down on all fours and gasped for air. Tanjirou slowly rubbed his back as he coughed out more water.

“A miracle,” someone murmured.

“The will of the gods,” another spoke.

The people looked at Murata with discretion and reverence. Some even bowed, scrambling to the floor, to thank him for his mercy, including the man he almost drowned, because what he had done was the proof they needed to believe.

“Listen up,” Murata asserted his divine placement. His voice rung in their ears. “You guys have been blessed, for Giyuu-sama has chosen Kamado Tanjirou as his favorite. And from the bottom of his kind heart, he gave you all the chance to welcome his favorite bride.” Murata frowned. “This is not the treatment he expects. If you harm even a hair on his head, I swear to you,” he raised his voice, “That you humans will not leave unscathed and a calamity, even greater than the Great Flood, will wipe you out.” He looked around for any opposition. “Do I make myself clear?”

Again, Tanjirou was reminded of the different world Giyuu lived in, how his mortality separated them from being together. Seeing the villagers hang on Murata’s every word made him wonder if Giyuu’s decision to throw him out of the realm of the gods was correct. He expected the children to be frightened of his companion, but gratefulness overrode fear. Instead of shying away, the younger kids hugged their savior and thanked him for saving their older brother.

Though Tanjirou was initially shaken, he came to terms that this was what made the distinction between a human and a divine being.

“I went against the rules,” Murata groaned. “Ugh, I know I went too extreme, but these humans will never believe me if I didn’t.”

Tanjirou smiled. The Murata he knew returned.

Later, Tanjirou learned that it was uncommon for a divine being to dwell among the mortals and have direct contact with them. There was a consensus in the council to avoid doing so, but Giyuu gave him the explicit permission to enact his heavenly powers. Somewhere in the heavens, the water god was still protecting his bride and endangered his own reputation.

“It was an order,” Tanjirou said, “But you still did it.”

“Well...”

“Thank you,” he told Murata. “Not only are you my friend, you have done more than I could imagine. For future generations, from now and beyond, I will tell stories of your name. I promise you that.”

This was his vow. This was his promise. A god’s word was forever and eternal, yet, when Tanjirou spoke, Murata unconditionally believed that his word held as much weight as a god.

As if the boy was a god himself.

XXX

When his siblings gathered to hear his stories before bedtime, Tanjirou remembered a treasured memory.

“What is your favorite story?” he asked his grandmother while he practiced the Dance of the Sun God.

The last response he expected was, “Your stories, little one.”

He cocked his head to the side, confused by her answer, which made his grandmother sigh and beckoned him to sit on her lap.

“You used to make your own stories,” she told her grandson. Sometimes she wrote them in a journal for his parents to read with pride. “But I was selfish. I forced you to memorize the stories of the gods. Because of that, you stopped telling me your original stories.” Her scent was laced with regret.

“It would bring me great joy,” she stared at the sky with longing, “If you told me another story before I pass away.”

Tanjirou looked at his siblings and Murata with a fond smile, and with that, he spun a new tale.