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A Good Hearing (But A Better Sight)

Chapter Text

 

Zenitsu is young when he realizes he's different than other people.

 

He doesn't know exactly what made him understand that, but later, when he'll think about it, he will wonder how the hell did he not notice something was amiss with him. How he didn't notice how sometimes, when he talked to the nice old lady who was always seating by the river or the little boy close to the woods where bears hide, the strange looks people gave him, the way they would watch him with someting between incredulity and fear. How he didn't remember (didn't want to) that time when he asked a young man why he was ignoring the beautiful woman besides him, and how said woman had smiled so sadly while the man sobbed.

 

But if he had to pinpoint the exact moment the thought It isn't normal crossed his mind, it would be one of his fights with Kaigaku.

 

It's not a special fight or anything. It's just another time where his senior mocks and insults him while their professor isn't here. It's a daily occurrence, frankly.

 

They're eating, and Zenitsu is trying his best to ignore the constant and hurtful jibes when Kaigaku utters something that has the effect of an explosion.

 

“I bet you would kneel in front of any demon, begging for mercy like the pathetic brat you are ! I would never step as low as you !”

 

LIAR !”

 

The scream makes him jump, and he frantically looks around him. Kaigaku stares at him like he's some sort of disgusting insect (like always) but otherwise doesn't react. Zenitsu doesn't understand how he can stay so calm after hearing the rage and hatred in this scream.

 

LIAR ! MURDERER ! TRAITOR ! HYPOCRITE !”

 

And the screams don't stop. It's like a bunch of kids are yelling all their despair and hatred towards someone and Kaigaku isn't reacting. Zenitsu knows his hearing is superior to the norm but everyone should be able to hear the agonizing screams of these children.

Then he looks back at Kaigaku and his heart stop.

 

At first he thinks it's a demon. But a closer inspection makes him see the silhouettes of children, mangled together in a dark and bloody mess. Some are almost transparent, but others have wounds so clear it makes him want to puke. They are superimposed, and they're so close to Kaigaku that some of them can touch him.

 

And they try to. A bloody hand attemps to grab Kaigaku's throat only for it to pass through, and a little mouth tries to bit him in the shoulder without any success. And Kaigaku doesn't blink or flinch or react at all. He just stares at Zenitsu like he's the weird one.

 

And Zenitsu faints.

 


 

No one believes him, of course. Who would ?

 

So he learns to live with it. It doesn't take him long to figure out the monsters are actually ghosts.

 

They are different from each other. Some look so human that Zenitsu has to check and see if they have a heartbeat to be sure. Others are so mutilated and full of hatred that they can only scream incoherents things. Those he avoids at all costs.

Sometimes, he can briefly see a shadow or hear a whisper of someone who stopped existing a long time ago. Strangely, those ones are almost comforting.

 

He doesn't talk to them. They're not a lot to begin with, and sometimes he can only hear and not see. The ghosts haunting Kaigaku are strange, sometimes so loud that Zenitsu's ears bleed and sometimes so quiet that if he hadn't seen them, he would think they weren't there.

 

The few he talks to are former demons slayers. They're three in the temple, two children, a boy and a girl around fifteen years old, and a man named Nozomu. This one has a strange mark on his left eye, golden and like lightning, and he looks so tired that Zenitsu can't help but worry about him. But when he asks him if he's okay, after making sure they're alone, he just smiles sadly and says :

 

“You're a kind one.”

 

It's the first and last time Zenitsu hears his voice. He's not here the next day, or the one after.

 

When he asks the two other ghosts about it, they exchange a glance and the girl simply says :

 

“I guess he found what he was looking for.”

 

They never talk about Nozomu again.

 

But seeing ghosts doesn't help Zenitsu with his training. They try to help, but the girl, Saikyo Aokawa, is a user of Breath of Water and the boy, Kireina Senshi, of Breath of Flower. They're strong, but died young and don't know a lot about the Breath of Thunder.

 

(Zenitsu wonders why they're here, in a temple where the thunder is taught, and if they died here, and how long ago. But he doesn't ask and they don't tell.)

 

They still help though, but in a different way. They whisper encouragements and compliments after training, and insult Kaigaku when he tells him how pathetic he is and will always be. Aokawa is rather creative when it comes to insults and threats, but Senshi is even more frightening. Kaigaku's things suddenly start to disappear or abruptly fall on his head. They laugh together for hours later, lying on the grass at night when no one will wonder why he is laughing alone like that.

 

It doesn't last, of course. Aokawa smiles at him one day and kisses his forehead before dissolving like water, an invisible weight gone from her shoulders.

 

Zenitsu cries, but Senshi ruffles his hair and says brightly :

 

“Don't worry about her. She's with her family now.”

 

“But why now ?” Zenitsu whines, because Aokawa was one of his only friends and she just left without as much as a goodbye.

 

Senshi doesn't answer, just hums and hugs Zenitsu.

 

He trains harder. It's weird without the yells and cheers of Aokawa, but the kind words of Senshi keep him going.

 

The Final Selection happens. He's alone this time, without either of his friends, but it barely registres because there are so many ghosts it's not even funny. Most of them are visible and audible, and wearing a strange mask on the side of their heads. They also all disappear during the first day, which is even weirder, but not the weirdest he has seen. That should probably worry him.

 

He passes. He comes back bruised and bloody but alive and with a sparrow in tow and he's just so happy because look Gramps, Senshi, your encouragements helped me !

 

Said ghost beams when he sees him, and Gramps cries, and they have a dinner to celebrate. It's great, even if Zenitsu is scared about the future.

 

He falls asleep with Senshi by his side, and wakes up alone.

 

They are all gone now, he thinks, bitter and sad and wiping his tears away, and not even Gramps's pride is enough to cheer him up. His last friend just left, before Zenitsu could show him how much he was grateful and it hurts.

 

(He can't mourn, because they were already dead, the three of them, and that's what hurt the most.)

 

After that, he swears to never talk to ghosts again, because the living shouldn't frequent the dead unless they want to be hurt. It goes on for weeks.

 

And then he meets a boy with a weird box on his back and an even weirder and expressionless ghost, and his plans are thrown out of the window.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The first thing Zenitsu notices about Tanjirou is his heartbeat.

 

Before the ghost, before the demon in the box, it's the heartbeat he notices. It's not because it's loud or anything like that, but because it's so gentle and kind that Zenitsu wonders if he's imagining it, because surely no one, particularly a demon slayer, can have such a heart. But no, he's not mistaking. It's the first time Kamado Tanjirou suprises him. It will not be the last.

 

Then, he hears, faintly, a heartbeat that is definitely not human. He freezes for a second, terrified, but the calm expression of Tanjirou keeps his mouth shut. He decides to wait and see.

 

Finally, his eyes fall on the ghost besides his new friend and his first thought is “Nozomu”.

 

He doesn't know why he thinks that, maybe it's the strange mark or just the aura, but something about that swordman reminds him of the old ghost he didn't get to know better. Only there's something different about this man, something strange and powerful that makes Zenitsu wants to run. It's the first time he encounters a ghost like that, because normally ghosts don't have any aura or smell or anything like that, but this man does and it scares Zenitsu in a way that he has never been before.

 

So he can't help but stare discreetly at this swordman. He doesn't seem to be a relative of Tanjirou, even if there is a strange resemblance between them, and Zenitsu is pretty sure he died a long time ago. They're not blood related, but they have to be linked, otherwise he wouldn't be following the young demon slayer.

 

Zenitsu also hears, vaguely, some whispers that must be Tanjirou's family. It makes the ghost's presence even stranger, because why would someone haunts a person who's not even his family ? Especially for so long.

 

And yet the ghost stands firm, expressionless and intimiding and staring right back at Zenitsu.

 

Wait. What ?

 

He saw me staring.

 

The ghost is staring too, dark eyes burning in Zenitsu's, and if he wasn't walking with Tanjirou he would shriek. But he forces himself to stay calm and stares ahead of him, hoping the ghost will think it was a coincidence.

 

It doesn't work.

 

“You can see me.”

 

It's not a question. Zenitsu flinches, which attracts a weird and concerned glance from Tanjirou. But the ghost doesn't say anything else, and the rest of the road passes in silence.

 


 

They arrive at the mansion. They fight. Somehow, Zenitsu survives.

 

And then he meets Hashibira Inosuke.

 


 

Angry Tanjirou is probably one of the scariest things Zenitsu ever saw in his life (and he includes the ghosts and demons in it) but the man looks downright terrifying. He doesn't scream or makes any movement, but his eyes darken and a frown appears and even if Zenitsu knows he's already dead and can't hurt them (right?), he still screams in terror. Thankfully, no one question him about it.

 

Tanjrou kicks- well, headbutts- the stupid boar's face and it's scary and hilarious.

 

They bury the dead. There are no ghosts or whispers coming from them, and Zenitsu knows they left long ago, probably the second they died. It's often the case.

 

While the stupid boar, Inosuke, sleeps, Zenitsu catches a whisper full of love and exasperation, and he turns to see who muttered that.

 

Inosuke's mother (because really, she can't be anyone else) is beautiful, like her son. She's also blurry, here yet absent, but he can see enough to admire how breathtaking she is, not only because of her face but also because of her eyes so full of love, the eyes of a mother.

 

(A part of Zenitsu is jealous, because if he had parents, they never loved him. Orphans who were loved always have someone around them, if not visible then audible, whispering, words full of love and joy.)

 

(Zenitsu knows he wasn't loved. There are no ghosts haunting him, no whispers lost in the wind, no strange shadows around him. Sometimes, he hates his gift, because it took away the hope that he was ever loved.)

 

Inosuke wakes up, and the woman vanishes, but he can still hear whispers almost inaudible, always close to her son.

 

They descend the mountain, and arrive at a mansion with a wisteria crest. The old lady is a monster, Zenitsu doesn't care about what Tanjirou says, because even ghosts can't move that fast what the hell.

 

They eat together, all three of them, with Tanjirou's ghost's eyes burning holes in Zenitsu. He's not sure if it's a good or bad thing.

 

They go to bed, and Zenitsu asks the question that burns his lips since he met the other demon slayer. The answer is not what he exepted.

 

Kamado Nezuko is beautiful, deadly so, and Zenitsu is in love. As in, really in love. He hears a giggle and sees briefly purple eyes watching them with amusement. He's pretty sure it's Nezuko and Tanjirou's mother, but he doesn't stop chasing the Kamados. The swordman's expression is still impassible, though.

 

Night falls, and after a lot of screams and fights, they fall asleep.

 


 

Zenitsu is awakened by a strange sensation in his chest, feeling cold and warm simultaneously. He slowly opens his eyes, and sees the swordman's face inches away from his.

 

He doesn't scream, but it's a near thing. He stops breathing and glares at the man who, seeing his open eyes, leans away. He gets up as if he didn't almost kill a child with a heart attack and says :

 

“I would like to talk.”

 

His voice is strong, but polite, and he waits for Zenitsu to get out of the futon before walking away. They're careful to not wake up anyone (well, Zenitsu is) and they sit down outside the house, on the porch, with their feets touching the wet grass and the moon bright.

 

There's an awkward silence, and the swordman just stares at Zenitsu until he mumbles :

 

“So... what's your name ?”

 

The answer is immediate.

 

“I am Tsugikuni Yoriichi.”

 

And he doesn't say anything else. He just keeps staring.

 

Obviously, he's not much of a talker, which sucks because Zenitsu isn't sure how he's supposed to engage a conversation with someone so strong and intimidating. Finally, he manages to stutter :

 

“Uh, what- what did you want to talk about ?”

 

Yoriichi blinks, slowly, face still blank, and Zenitsu wonders if he was like this when alive or if it's the years as a ghost who made him so socially inept. When he speaks, his voice doesn't express anything :

 

“You can see me.”

 

“Yes...?”

 

“Why ?”

 

Zenitsu blushes, embarrassed, and he stutters incoherently for a solid minute. But Yoriichi stays patient, and waits for him to gather himself.

 

“I, I don't know ? I just can.”

 

It's a stupid answer, and Zenitsu cringes, but Yoriichi nods and looks at the moon. A new silence settles, more comfortable than the first. Zenitsu slowly relaxes, and his voice is calm but shy when he asks :

 

“Are you a demon slayer ?”

 

Yoriichi turns to look at him, and something weird flashes in his eyes.

 

“I was.”

 

Again, Zenitsu cringes, because of course he's not anymore I just reminded him of his death shit-.

His next question is rushed, desperate to change the subject.

 

“Are you Tanjirou's family ?”

 

He already knows the answer, or at least he thinks so, but Yoriichi surprises him.

 

“No. He is my legacy.”

 

His what now, he thinks, but Yoriichi ignores the questionning look Zenitsu sends him. Instead he says :

 

“Are there any other ghosts here ?”

 

“Oh” Zenitsu blinks, startled by the sudden question, “There is Inosuke's mother, and I think Nezuko-chan and Tanjirou's family are around, but not always.”

 

Yoriichi nods, and his next question makes something in Zenitsu's chest tighten.

 

“No one is with you ?”

 

He probably doesn't realize he just stabbed the child's heart. His voice shakes a bit when he says :

 

“No. I've always been alone.”

 

It's not a lie, because Aokawa and Senshi, no matter how much he loved them, weren't his ghosts, they were just unfortunates slayers who didn't wait for him.

 

(No one waits for him.)

 

Yoriichi pauses, realizing his mistake, but Zenitsu is too busy wiping his tears away to notice.

 

His voice is no longer blank when he speaks, instead there's something soft and gentle in it.

 

“You're not anymore.”

 

Zenitsu's eyes widen. Yoriichi gets up and waves at him to follow.

 

When he falls asleep again, it's under the watchful eyes of the ghost.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

After their conversation, Yoriichi and Zenitsu don't talk to each other, not really. Yoriichi nods at him when he sees him, and Zenitsu sends him a smile when the others aren't looking, but that's it. What would they talk about, anyways ? Zenitsu doesn't want to appear rude by reminding something unpleasant to him. But even if they don't talk, Yoriichi sometimes sits with him instead of Tanjirou, or pats his hair. These are little gestures, but they still make him smile.

 

Too soon, they're healed, and a new mission is given. The Natagumo Mountain is waiting for them, and everything in Zenitsu is screaming at him to run far, very far away. There's something more than a simple demon.

 

He's right.

 


 

The ghosts of the mountain aren't whispering, they're screaming.

 

Zenitsu can't see them clearly, only shadows and flashes, but their yells are audibles. He doesn't need to check his ears to know that he's bleeding.

 

Because he always is and always will be unlucky, he encounters one of the demons.

 

He fights it, and he wins, somehow. In any other circumstance, he would be happy, but the poison in his veins is a pretty big downside.

 

He's almost unconscious when two beautiful women appear, both wearing a smile. Both have black hair, but the one talking to Zenitsu has purple tips and hair tied with a butterfly clip. The one behind has long hair and two hair clips, and when her gaze catches Zenitsu's, her eyes widen.

 

But he loses consciousness before he can question it.

 


 

When he wakes up, he's dizzy and his limbs hurt.

 

He's relieved to see that Tanjirou and Inosuke are fine, and once he sees him, Yoriichi grants him one of his rarest smiles that leaves Zenitsu dumbfounded. He starts training with the others, whining and complaining all the way.

 

He also figures out that one of the women is a ghost. He blames his poisoned mind for not noticing sooner.

 

During the first week of training, when the others are still working and him resting, she approaches him with a calm smile and a curious gleam in her eyes. It would be worrying if he wasn't so used to it.

 

Yoriichi leaves Tanjirou's side and walks towards them, which reassures Zenitsu more than he'd like to admit. His eternal blank face stares at the new ghost, but he doesn't say anything, and neither does she. When she talks, her voice is soft like silk, and Zenitsu abruptly understands why she looks so familiar ; she must be Shinobu's sister.

 

“You can see me, right ?” At his nod, her smile widens, “My name is Kochou Kanae. I was the Flower Hashira.”

 

Oh. Zenitsu would like to bow or even just say something, but his friends are only a few metters away and he doesn't want to take the risk. Kanae seems to understand though, because instead of taking offense she asks :

 

“Could we talk later ? Tonight, perhaps ?” He nods again, and she closes her eyes with a smile. “I'll see you later, then.”

 

And she leaves, probably regagning her sister's side. Zenitsu returns training.

 

When the night falls, he goes outside. No one stops him, and Yoriichi follows him in silence. After a few minutes, Kanae rejoins them. The question she asks is the same as Yoriichi.

 

“How can you see me ?”

 

“I don't know.”

 

She hums, still smiling.

 

“You don't have to worry, I'm the only ghost of the Estate.”

 

No you're not. Just because she can't see or hear the others doesn't mean Zenitsu can't. He didn't see anyone, but he caught whispers around Shinobu, words that not even ghosts can hear. Her parents, he supposes. Inosuke's mother is still there, and so are the Kamados, though Zenitsu rarely see them. He caught a glimse of hair and scar almost identical to Tanjirou's, but nothing else. He has yet to speak with either of them.

 

“You know, Shinobu wasn't always like that. Back then, she was always angry and serious. But after I died, she changed. Now she's always smiling, but it's not a good one. I don't like it.”

 

Her words are soft, spoken more to herself than to the boy beside her. It must have been on her mind for a long time, and Zenitsu knows she speaks more to calm herself than to inform him. He's used to it, because ghosts, unless having died together or being in presence of Zenitsu, have difficulties seeing each other. Kanae doesn't speak to him because she wants to, but because she needs it. But he doesn't say anything.

 

Kanae blinks, as if she didn't exactly realize what she said, before letting out a giggle. It would be cute, if it didn't sound so sad and bitter.

 

“I guess I can't ask you to transmit my words to Shinobu ?” When she sees Zenitsu shifts, uneasy, she adds, “It's okay. I didn't except you to. Thank you for listening to me.”

 

She leaves, and Zenitsu watches her with a weight on his heart.

 

(Sometimes he wishes he could tell people, about what he sees and hears. But if Gramps didn't believe him, then who will ?)

 


 

The night after Kanae's speech, Zenitsu sneaks out of bed. Sleep won't come, and it's not the first time it happens. He sits outside for a while, listening to Tanjirou's breath and Inosuke's snores. There's a weight on his chest, like always, but this night he can't ignore it.

 

When he speaks, he doesn't know if he talks to Yoriichi, or if he prays to whatever god that gave him this curse gift.

 

“Do you think I'm a bad person ?”

 

(Should I tell someone ? What should I tell ? Who should I tell ? Who would believe me ?)

 

(Does being afraid of rejection makes me bad ?)

 

(Zenistu still remembers telling Gramps, tears on his face and so scared because he didn't understand what was happening.)

 

(He still remembers the exasperated sigh, the shake of the head, and the scolding.)

 

(Don't invent such lies just to escape training !)

 

(Zenitsu loves his sensei, his master, the only one who saw something in him when no one else had. He loves him like the parent he never had.)

 

(It doesn't change the fact that when he said this, something in Zenitsu broke.)

 

Yoriichi's voice is calm, like always, when he replies.

 

“If you are a bad person, then so is everyone.”

 

Zenitsu snorts at his attempt at comfort. He wipes his tears away and whispers a thank you at the ghost. They talk during a few minutes, until Zenitsu finally returns to bed.

 

He doesn't see the curious red eyes watching him.

 


 

They are assigned a new mission, and Zenitsu is watching the girls leave with tears in his eyes when Tanjirou's scream makes him turn around.

 

Tomioka, if what Tanjirou is saying is right, is almost as blank as Yoriichi. He would be as scary if it wasn't for the two smiling ghosts behind him. Zenitsu notices them instantly, and so do they.

 

The boy with a scar beams and waves at him, showing no surprise over the fact that a living human is staring at him.

 

“Hey ! You're Agatsuma Zenitsu, right ? It's okay, Kochou-san told us you can see ghosts !”

 

The girl with him is waving too, albeit less energetically. They both wear a mask like the ghosts in the Final Selection.

 

Zenitsu doesn't answer, obviously, but that doesn't seem to bother them. They leave Tomioka and Tanjirou and approach him. Zenitsu continues to stare at where the girls where and yells at Inosuke, but he listens carefully and they know it.

 

“I'm Sabito, and this is Makomo. We died a few years ago during the Final Selection.”

 

He says this calmly, not at all bothered by his death like the other ghosts that Zenitsu met before. His face is serious, but he seems appeased in a way ghosts rarely are. Makomo is smiling, but her face is as serious as his.

 

Zenitsu can't help but glance at him, a bit freaked out. He never saw a ghost looking so at peace with himself, and he wonders what is he even doing here, with the living.

 

They want to speak to him, but they both have to leave. They follow Tomioka after he disappears, but Sabito turns to look at him.

 

“If you ever have the occasion, please say to Tanjirou and Giyuu that I'm proud.”

 

He leaves without looking back, and Zenitsu keeps staring at where he was until Tanjirou pats his shoulder.

 

“Are you okay ? You seem a bit freaked out.”

 

“You have no idea.” is Zenitsu's answer, and he starts walking away, ignoring the concerned and strangely wary look of his friend.

 

The Infinity Train is waiting for them.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Rengoku Kyoujurou is amazing, and Zenitsu is in awe.

 

He wasn't really impressed at first, because Rengoku is a weirdo, and he was a bit irritated at how he dismissed Tanjirou's question about the Hinokami Kagura. The fact he bluntly informed them of the demon's presence with a smile didn't help either.

 

And then the demon happens, and well. Zenitsu knows strength when he sees it. They were all in awe, except Yoriichi, but at this stage he was relatively sure that nothing could impress the ghost.

 

Unlike the others who almost immediately fall asleep (which is a bit weird, but he supposes they're just tired), Zenitsu listens. There are whispers near Rengoku, so quiet that Zenitsu can barely hear it. The person haunting the Hashira is mostly gone, only here partially. It must be a parent ; their voices decrease when their child grows up.

 

But he mustn't have been as discreet as he thought, because the Hashira's eyes open and stare back. Zenitsu flushes brightly and avoids his gaze, but Rengoku is smiling, looking at him with something weird in his eyes.

 

“Is there a problem, boy ?”

 

If possible, Zenitsu blushes even more, embarrassed. But the swordman's next words make him snap his attention back at him.

 

“You looked strange, like you were watching something.”

 

Something cold settles in his chest, and Zenitsu gives him a strained smile, heart racing.

 

“I just thought I saw something but I guess I imagined it ! Sorry !”

 

Rengoku nods, still smiling, and staring at him with a strange gleam in his eyes, before turning away and closing his eyes. Zenitsu bites his lip, mystified : it's the first time someone noticed him looking at ghosts, and Rengoku did so only after knowing him for a few minutes. He's not sure if he's amazed or terrified. Zenitsu sighs, and closes his eyes after shoving Inosuke off his lap.

 

And then he falls asleep.

 


 

This way, the peaches are delicious-

 

Wake-

 

Don't worry, I'll carry you on my back-

 

Zenitsu-

 

I'll-

 

Wake up !

 

I-

 

WAKE UP !

 


 

Zenitsu wakes up screaming. There are hands on his neck and shoulders, digging in his skin and almost bruising. He panicks, disoriented, before looking up and seeing his attacker.

 

“Yoriichi-san, what are you doing ?!”

 

He tries to push him away, but Yoriichi doesn't let go. Instead, his grip tightens. Zenitsu tries to grab his hands, and finds a rope attached to his own.

 

“What...?”

 

“The demon tried to attack you in your dreams. I woke you up.”

 

Suddenly, Zenitsu notices the situation he's in. His scream should have woken up the others, but their eyes are still firmly closed. Rengoku is strangling a girl, but sleeping, like everyone else, and it's definitly not normal.

 

Yoriichi's grip is still tight when he explains :

 

“You all fell asleep, and the children came and attached themselves to you. I tried to wake you up, but you didn't react until I made you bleed.”

 

“You what.”

 

Zenitsu puts his hand on his neck, and it comes back red. He stares at it, frozen. It's not a lot of blood, just a scratch, he has had much worse. But it's the first time a ghost stays in contact with him, stays solid enough to hurt him. He's not sure what to think of it.

 

A noise breaks his thoughts, and he remembers that he's not the only one awake.

 

“Nezuko-chan ! Please get out !”

 

A muffled noise answers him, and the demon's little head appears, before falling out of the box. She blinks and looks around her without understanding what is going on. Zenitsu screams again.

 

“Nezuko-chan ! Please wake Tanjirou up !”

 

She nods and approaches her brother. Zenitsu tries to get up and cut the rope, but Yoriichi doesn't let go.

 

“Don't move. We still don't know what will happen if you cut off the rope. Don't touch it for now.”

 

A muffled yell makes them turn, and Zenitsu gasps when he sees Tanjirou's body on fire.

 

“NEZUKO-CHAN STOP !!!”

 

But Tanjirou isn't burning, and an idea sparks in his mind.

 

“Nezuko-chan, burn the ropes !”

 

She does so, first his then Tanjirou's, and a few seconds later, her brother wakes up with a scream.

 

“Tanjirou ! You're okay ?!”

 

“Zenitsu- You're awake ! Don't worry !”

 

He tries to wake Inosuke up, without success. Yoriichi finally lets Zenitsu go, and he rejoins his friend and asks :

 

“How did you wake up ?”

 

“I killed myself.”

 

“You WHAT !!!???”

 

“It was the only way ! How did you wake up ?”

 

“I-”

 

Zenitsu stops. Slowly, he says :

 

“I don't know.”

 

It's a lie, of course. Yoriichi woke him up. But he can't exactly say that, and his mind is busy trying to understand what it means. Yoriichi was solid enough to not only hurt Zenitsu, but also break the dream the demon forced on him.

 

There are a lot of implications in this sentence, and it scares him.

 

The kids try to kill them, and Tanjirou knocks them out. They run until they reach the end of the wagon, and Tanjirou climbs up and yells :

 

“Nezuko, stay here ! It's too dangerous ! Go wake everyone up ! Zenitsu, follow me !”

 

“WAIT- you're sure I can't stay with Nezuko-chan ?! Tanjirou !!! Wait for me !!!”

 

He reluctantly follows his friend and stumbles behind him once they're both on the roof of the wagon.

 

When they arrive in front of the demon, Zenitsu shrieks loudly and Tanjirou doesn't hesitate to attack. The demon smiles and whispers with a cruel smile :

 

“Sleep...”

 

Tanjirou briefly loses consciousness and Zenitsu... doesn't feel anything.

 

What the hell.

 

He catches the stunned gaze of the demon, before Tanjirou manages to behead him, only to learn that it was for nothing, since he fused with the train.

 

Zenitsu screams and cries at that, and Inosuke's arrival only adds to his despair.

 

Inosuke goes back to protect the passengers with Nezuko, but Zenitsu decides to stick with Tanjirou and Yoriichi.

 

The train flaters, and Rengoku is suddenly standing in front of them, his eternal smile present. He seems calm, and he's quick to give them orders :

 

“The train has eight cars. I'll defend the back five, that boar boy and your sister will defend the remaining three. You and that yellow boy will keep an eye on those three cars as you search for the demon's head !”

 

“Search for what ?!

 

But the Hashira is already gone, ignoring Zenitsu's whining. Tanjirou turns towards him, frowning :

 

“We need to find his vital spot !”

 

“And how do we do that ?!”

 

But as he says this, Yoriichi waves at him and points towards the front of the train.

 

Oh god.

 

“It's up ahead !”

 

Tanjirou sends him a startled look, but listens regardless.

 

They arrive in the wagon, and the demon immediately starts to attack them. Tanjirou finds the demon's neck bone (oh god this is disgusting-) and his attacks redouble. The demon tries to put them to sleep, and Tanjirou passes out again while Zenitsu doesn't.

 

Okay, something is definitely wrong with me.

 

He stops Tanjirou, who almost kills himself for real and Zenitsu is incredibly grateful to Yoriichi, because he obviously did something to him when he was waking him up so now he doesn't have to cut his own neck, even in dreams.

 

And then the man stabs Tanjirou, and Zenitsu is happy that Yoriichi is a ghost, otherwise he would fear for this man's life. Even if he would deserve it.

 

The train crashes. Zenitsu hurts his hands and breaks his nails, which hurts and makes his nails bleed, and he reculantly leaves his friend's side to see if the stupid man is injured.

 

When he comes back, Rengoku is here, and he's fighting against another demon. And he's losing.

 

At first Zenitsu doesn't believe it. And then the demon attacks, quick and merciless and mocking, and Rengoku isn't fast enough and he's covered in blood and can't open his eye.

 

It's not the first time Zenitsu is afraid. It's the first time he's afraid for someone, though.

 

They watch, terrified, the Hashira fighting and bleeding while protecting them. Zenitsu feels the tears falling from his eyes, and something in him snaps.

 

“Help him.”

 

He grabs Yoriichi's hand, eyes still stuck on the form of the Flame User, and whispers again.

 

“Help him.”

 

His nails dig in the ghost's palm, and he feels something warm running on his hand but he doesn't care because Rengoku is losing and the demon is laughing and he's going to die and Zenitsu is crying and he yells :

 

HELP HIM !!!”

 

And Yoriichi does.

 

Zenitsu doesn't immediately understand what he's seeing. Yoriichi draws his sword, and dashes towards the demon, aiming for the arm that's going to strike Rengoku. His sword exploses in fire, and Rengoku and the demon's eyes both turn towards it, even though they shouldn't be able to see anything.

 

The demon's arm falls.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

There are different kinds of silences. Awkward. Comfortable. Cold.

 

The one after Yoriichi's attack is heavy. Loud. The demon and Hashira both stare at the arm that miraculously fell before it could pierce his enemy.

 

Zenitsu feels his world shatter.

 

Sure, he has always been able to touch ghosts. But there was a limit at what he could do. Ghosts, even strong ones like Yoriichi, usually couldn't touch him beyond the casual hair ruffle. The fact that said ghost managed to make him bleed, even a little, was already supposed to be impossible. The dead couldn't interact with the living. That was a fact.

 

And yet.

 

Yoriichi made him bleed. Made him somewhat immune to the demon's blood art. But no matter how unlikely it was to happen, it was still somewhat understandable. Believable.

 

What wasn't was a ghost not only touching, but hurting someone who wasn't Zenitsu, who couldn't see ghosts to begin with. It wasn't possible.

 

And yet.

 

The others could clearly see something. Maybe not Yoriichi himself, but at least the sword. It never happened before.

 

Beside him, Tanjirou is jaw slacked.

 

Behind the demon, Yoriichi is frozen. He's still holding his sword, but he's staring at the arm like he can't quite understand what happened. Neither can Zenitsu, because it's not possible.

 

But it is, because it happened in front of them.

 

Rengoku is the first to recover from his shock. He's injured, but not dying. His sword flares up and slices the other arm. It's enough to jolt everyone back to reality.

 

The demon jumps back, away from them, before glancing up and scowling. Zenitsu follows his gaze, and feels his heart fastens at the sight of the first rays of sunshine.

 

He doesn't have time to attack anymore, he realizes, and his shock and fear are overcome by relief.

 

The demon hesitates a moment, a mix of anger and fear on his face, before he turns and runs away, and Rengoku collapses. Zenitsu and Tanjirou rush towards him, but he gives them a smile. Tanjirou's hands hover, unsure what to do and worried, but Zenitsu isn't. He cannot feel or hear Rengoku's “voice”, and his heartbeat isn't slowing, so that means he's not dying.

 

A few minutes passes in silence, before Tanjirou's breaks it.

 

“What was that ? It-” he hesitates, “It looked like the Hinokami Kagura.”

 

What ?! Zenitsu sends a stupefied look at Yoriichi, but he isn't paying attention to them, too busy examining his sword with a strange expression.

 

Rengoku's answer fills Zenitsu with dread.

 

“I do not know. But I intend to find out.”

 


 

They are brought back to the Butterfly Estate. They are injured, but they will live. They are told to rest, but Zenitsu knows that they are all thinking about what happened to the demon Akaza. Tanjirou, more than anyone.

 

Zenitsu sneaks out one night, once he's well enough to walk alone. He didn't speak to Yoriichi since their return, but he's still following him, and they need to talk.

 

This time, he doesn't waste time to ask questions.

 

“How did you manage to hurt Akaza ? You shouldn't have been able to do it alone !”

 

Yoriichi's answer stuns him.

 

“I didn't do it alone. You helped.”

 

Seeing Zenitsu's look, he elaborates.

 

“You gave me some of your blood.”

 

“I what ?”

 

“When you took my hand. Your hand was bleeding, and when your nails pierced my skin, it penetrated it. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough for one attack.”

 

Zenitsu opens his mouth, and closes it. He hisses :

 

“You're telling me that my blood brought you back to life ?!”

 

Yoriichi blinks, as if the idea hadn't even brush him.

 

“No. You just lent me some of your strength. If you had brought me back like I was when alive, I would have killed that demon, not cut his arm.”

 

He doesn't say it with arrogance. He just states it like it's a fact, like beating one of the Upper Moons is something he can do easily.

 

Zenitsu stares at him.

 

“You used the Hinokami Kagura.”

 

“No. Not exactly.”

 

Zenitsu gives him a flat look, and he sighs.

 

“It's called Sun Breathing.”

 

Zenitsu keeps staring.

 

“Who are you, really ?”

 

Yoriichi closes his eyes, and Zenitsu is struck by how tired he looks. When he opens them again, he whispers :

 

“It started when I was still a child...”

 


 

When Yoriichi is finished, Zenitsu hugs him. It's partially because he wants to hide his tears and partially because Yoriichi really seems to need one.

 

He freezes, and Zenitsu wonders if he did something bad, but then he hugs him back tightly, and neither of them mention the wet trace on their respective shoulders.

 

But one hug isn't enough. Zenitsu's mind is racing, thoughts tangled in his head. He thinks about what Yoriichi told him, what it means for him and for Tanjirou.

 

Zenitsu's blood can allow ghosts to fight. And that terrifies him.

 

He stays long after Yoriichi left, head in his knees, thinking. The thoughts that plague him aren't pretty ones.

 

(Does that mean I have to make ghosts fight for us ? But that would mean telling everyone.)

 

(What would they think ? Would they accept it ?)

 

(What if they think I'm a monster ?)

 

(Am I a monster ?)

 

(I don't want to be alone again.)

 

(Does that make me a bad person ?)

 

His sobs become louder and he tries his best to muffle it. It doesn't work.

 

A hand settles on his shoulder.

 

“Zenitsu ? Are you alright ?”

 

He looks in the kind eyes of Tanjirou, and he's startled to see he's not alone.

 

Yoriichi is here, but with him is a man with the same hair and scar as Tanjirou. He's holding the hand of a beautiful woman, with purple eyes that Zenitsu recognizes from when he first met Nezuko. In her arms is a young boy. There are two others boys beside her, holding her kimono. There's also a young girl, who's holding the man's other hand.

 

They all look at him with kindness and compassion, with the same red eyes as Tanjirou's, and Zenitsu...

 

Zenitsu breaks down, with his friend's arms around him and with whispers of love and joy, both for Tanjirou and him. With his face buried in the checkered haori, he mutters :

 

“I need to tell you something.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Between tears and stutters, Zenitsu manages to explain what he is able to see, and what happened on the train. Tanjirou keeps his arm around his shouders, and doesn't interrupt him once. Vaguely, Zenitsu wonders how long has it been since he broke down like this. Too long, he concludes.

 

Yoriichi is still here, and so are the Kamados. The children are already becoming blurry, but the parents are still clear. They are both gazing down at them with kindness, with a parental love that Zenitsu never had directed towards him before. It makes something in his throat tightens, and the weight in his heart feels a little lighter. Just a little, but it's enough. He can feel a hand on his head, and he's pretty sure it's Yoriichi, but there's another on his shoulder beside Tanjirou's hand. It's probably one of the children because he can only faintly feel them.

 

Even after he's finished, it takes a few minutes for Zenitsu's sobs to subdue. When it does, he doesn't dare to look at his friend, unsure of what he'll find. Incredulity, maybe. Not hate, he knows, because Tanjirou is too kind for his own good. He waits, because he's certainly not going to engage the conversation.

 

But Tanjirou always surpises him, and when he talks, Zenitsu feels his world crash for the second time in barely two days.

 

“I can see them too.”

 

Zenitsu's head snaps towards him. Tanjirou isn't looking at him, eyes somewhere far away, but his grip on Zenitsu is firm and his voice confident.

 

“Not like you, I mean. Not always. But sometimes, I think I saw my family. When I fought against Rui, and in the train, my father talked to me in my dream. I think I heard their voices after they-” his voice shakes “after Nezuko turned into a demon. But I'm not sure.”

 

Zenitsu is still silent. Tanjirou continues hastily :

 

“And- when I trained for the Final Election, there were these two, Sabito and Makomo, who helped me, and I learned that they were dead later on during a fight...”

 

He doesn't get to finish, because Zenitsu erupts in hysterical laughter.

 

He laughs and laughs until breathing becomes difficult and tears start falling again. Tanjirou shakes his shoulders, worried, but Zenitsu pushes him away. He's smiling.

 

“Sorry, it's just-” he laughs again, and it sounds broken “All my life- no one ever believed, not even Gramps, and you just- you just-

 

Zenitsu cries, and Tanjirou hugs him, a concerned frown on his face.

 

They stay like that for a while. Zenitsu finally mutters :

 

“I'm sorry. I shouldn't have reacted like that.”

 

“No, it's okay ! I understand. You...” He trails, and there's a strange mixt between pity and anger in his voice “You were alone for a long time.”

 

Zenitsu smiles. It's bitter.

 

“Gramps just thought I was joking. I never brought it up again.”

 

Silence. Then, quietly :

 

“You believe me, right ?”

 

“Of course I do ! Besides, you were a bit obvious.”

 

Zenitsu blinks, puzzled.

 

“I was ?”

 

“Like, I saw you sneak out during the night a few times. And on the train, you didn't tell me how you woke up -you're a terrile liar- and you knew exactly where the demon's vital spot was. Also, it's after your yell that Rengoku-san was saved.”

 

“Oh...”

 

What Tanjirou said earlier suddenly catch up to him and he exclaims :

 

“When you said Sabito, did you mean a guy with a weird mask and a scar near his mouth ?”

 

Tanjirou's eyes light up :

 

“Yes ! He trained me for a few months with Makomo ! I would never have realized they were ghosts if it wasn't for the demon.”

 

What the hell. Zenitsu thinks, before calling it a “Tanjiou's thing” and moving on :

 

“I saw them with Tomioka-san. They knew who I was...”

 

Wait.

 

How did they know ?

 

Kanae told them, at least that's what they said, but how ? Ghosts aren't supposed to be able to see each other unless having died together and being with Zenitsu...

 

Is it because I talked to Kanae-san before ? But it was just a quick discussion... It never happened before.

 

Seeing Tanjirou's worried look, he explains quickly what is on his mind.

 

Tanjirou hums, thoughtful.

 

“You said that you managed to make Yoriichi-san solid by giving him some of your blood. Is it the same with Kanae-san ?”

 

“No. I just sat with her and talked, but nothing else.”

 

“Maybe it's because she's a demon slayer ? Or maybe just having been in contact with you once is enough to make ghosts, at least the strong ones, able to communicate between them.”

 

It sounds crazy. And yet, there's no other explanations. And it's not like Zenitsu can say he ever stayed in contact with ghosts long enough to see what effect his presence had. Besides Yoriichi and the ghosts from the temple, he never really paid attention.

 

“I think” Tanjirou continues, “that you can unconsciously make ghosts who are already solid, like Yoriichi-san and Kanae-san, stronger than they are originally. That would explain why Yoriichi-san could wake you up even before you gave him your blood, and why Kanae-san could talk to Sabito and Makomo.”

 

“But why can't I see some ghosts ? I only saw Inosuke's mother once and your family...”

 

Zenitsu stops himself before he can go on, petrified. But Tanjirou smiles sadly and says :

 

“It's okay. I... I made my peace” He hesitates, before whispering “Are they here ?”

 

Zenitsu glances at the father, whose hand is still on his son's, and the mother who puts her hand on his shoulder. He can't see the children anymore, but their voices are still loud and clear.

 

“Yes.” he says, and Tanjirou takes a shuddering breath.

 

“Are they...?”

 

Tanjirou doesn't finish his question, but Zenitsu understands. He locks gazes with his friend's parents, a million questions in his eyes.

 

Are you proud of him ? Are you sad, or angry, or disappointed ? Are you worried ?

 

The voices assault his ears, loud and noisy and loving.

 

Gomen Onii-chan...

 

Don't worry about us ! Just take care of yourself and Onee-chan !

 

Please be strong... We are so proud of you.

 

But the loudest is this one :

 

We love you.

 

Zenitsu turns his gaze towards Tanjirou. He's smiling, and crying.

 

“They love you, Tanjirou. They are proud of you.”

 

This time, it's Tanjirou who cries, and Zenitsu who hugs him tightly.

 


 

“So there are different types of ghosts ?”

 

Zenitsu nods.

 

“There are those like Yoriichi-san and Kanae-san who are really solid, and don't look like ghosts at all. The only ones I met so far were demon slayers, so maybe it has something to do with that... The others are more blurry, but even if I don't see them often I can still hear them, like your family and Inosuke's mother.”

 

He pauses a second, before adding :

 

“There are some who look like monsters, who are tangled together and screaming... But those are pretty rare.”

 

He thinks back at the mess of screams and hatred that was always with Kaigaku, and cringes. He doesn't want to see them again, ever.

 

(Zenitsu doesn't fear them. He pities them, and that's even worse.)

 

Tanjirou hums, lost in thoughts.

 

“So the only ones you can actually talk to are the “solid ones”, and you can only hear the others. Do you think your blood only work on this type of ghosts, or also on the others ?”

 

“I don't know ? I never used my blood before... Yoriichi-san was an accident.”

 

“You said Yoriichi-san was haunting me. Who is he ?”

 

This time Zenitsu turns towards said ghost. The Kamados left, and he's the only one still here. Zenitsu didn't speak of what Yoriichi told him, because it wasn't his story to tell, but now that Tanjirou asks, Yoriichi nods, a silent confirmation.

 

So Zenitsu repeats what Yoriichi said, about twins and demons and marks and jealousy. When he's finished, Tanjirou's eyes are shining.

 

“So that's why the technique he used was so similar to the Hinokami Kagura ! Do you think he could teach me the Sun Breathing ?!”

 

“Well... I'd have to give him some of my blood...”

 

That sounds weird. The idea makes him uneasy. It shows on his face, and Tanjirou immediately softens.

 

“It's okay if you don't want to ! I know it's still really new, so we can wait before trying anything.”

 

“Yeah... Thanks, Tanjirou.”

 

Zenitsu feels like a coward, but he's not sure if he's ready to discover what exactly can his blood do to ghosts. A drop was enough to allow Yoriichi a single attack, so what will more do ?

 

But he doesn't want to sound selfish. Yoriichi could really help Tanjirou, and if he needs Zenitsu's blood to do it, then he'll give it. Just not now.

 

“Let's... Let's try tomorrow.”

 

Tanjirou nods with a smile.

 

“Tomorrow it is, then.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Are you certain ?”

 

Ubuyashiki Kagaya's voice is calm, in a way that appeases even the angriest people. Yet there's a strange tone, one that Rengoku Kyoujurou never heard before, in his question.

 

Kyoujurou nods. He's still at the Butterfly Estate, bedridden, but his injuries are not life-threating. He had all the time during his rest to replay the events of the train in his mind.

 

“Yes, Oyakata-sama. For a moment, I was sure someone was here, but a second later it was gone. Like a ghost.”

 

Ubuyashiki hums, hands carefully folded in his haori.

 

“What an unexpected turn of events... And what about the young slayers ?”

 

“Kamado-kun told me the attack seemed similar to his Hinokami Kagura. The other one didn't say anything.”

 

This catches Ubuyashiki's attention. He smiles, seemingly surprised.

 

“Really ? I would have believed he would also be quite shocked by this event. But he didn't react at all ?”

 

“Well, he looked really shaken, but he stayed quiet.”

 

“And that bothers you, doesn't it, Kyoujurou-kun ?”

 

The Hashira pauses. Ubuyashiki has always been attentive and knows well the nine Hashiras. He shouldn't be surprised that their chief saw his trouble.

 

“I didn't know him for long... But Agatsuma-kun didn't strike me as the quiet type, even in face of such events.”

 

The leader of the Demon Slayers Corps nods, humming.

 

“Agatsuma Zenitsu-kun... Right ?”

 

“Yes. Besides, it's after his scream that the attack happened. And even before, he seemed a bit...off”

 

“How so ?”

 

“I don't know how to explain it. He just doesn't seem to be here. Like a part of his mind is always away. Even when I talked to him, it was like he didn't completely listen to me. He hides it well, though. It's like he didn't even notice himself.”

 

Ubuyashiki stays silent, thoughtful.

 

“What do you think of him, Kyoujurou-kun ?”

 

Kyoujurou thinks for a while, unsure. When he answers, his voice is confident, but troubled.

 

“He's always afraid. And not only by demons. When he still didn't know about it in the train, he seemed tense. But I can't say for sure if it was because of me or if he's always like that.”

 

“I see...”

 

A comfortable silence settles, before Ubuyashiki gets up. He smiles at the Flame Hashira.

 

“Well, I wish you a quick recovery, Kyoujurou-kun. I must come back to my work, sadly.”

 

“Do not worry, Oyakata-sama ! I'll be heal before you know it !”

 

Ubuyashiki lets out a small laugh, and leaves. He walks a few minutes, before speaking to a Kakushi following him.

 

“Would you be so kind to bring me the information we have about Agatsuma Zenitsu-kun, and with it his reports ?”

 

The Kakushi blinks, clearly surprised, before bowing and leaving. Ubuyashiki resumes his pace. The smile doesn't leave his face, even when he hums quietly.

 

“Like a ghost, right ?”

 


 

“I've come to report, Muzan-sama.”

 

The “young boy” turns towards the demon, eyes maintaining their coldness even when they turn an unatural red.

 

“Did you find what I seek ?”

 

“I investigated, but there was no certain information. I also couldn't confirm his existence. I did not find the blue spider lily.”

 

“And...?”

 

This time, Akaza hesitates, for multiples reasons. He knows he failed, and he knows the cost he will pay. But it's also because he's not quite sure of what he saw himself, and how to exlpain it.

 

“Something... strange happened, that kept me from killing the Hashira.”

 

The Demon Lord becomes very still. But he doesn't make any movement to try and hurt Akaza, so he continues.

 

“When I was about to kill the Hashira, an attack appeared from thin air.”

 

“What do you mean, 'thin air' ?”

 

“There was only two other demon slayers, and both were hurt while the Hashira was in my grasp. It couldn't have been them, and I didn't feel any Fighting Spirit before my arm was cut off.”

 

If possible, Muzan tenses even more.

 

“No Fighting Spirit ?”

 

“Yes. I only realized what was happening when my arm bursts in fire-”

 

In fire ?

 

The pure rage and hatred in his lord's voice makes Azaka freeze.

 

“Weren't you fighting the Flame Hashira ?”

 

“Yes, but it wasn't his flames, it was something else-”

 

Quiet.”

 

Akaza obeys. Muzan stays still for a long moment, before hissing.

 

“You disappoint me. Leave.”

 

Upper Moon Three does, stupefied to not be more scolded and to still have his limbs. Long after his departure, Muzan stays silent, eyes wandering on his book before crushing it. Akaza's words are replaying in his mind, mocking, taunting him.

 

No Fighting Spirit. Fire.

 

A single word leaves him.

 

No.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“OI ! Monitsu ! Gonpachiro ! What were you doing last night !?”

 

“THAT'S NOT MY NAME !- Wait, you saw us ?!”

 

Inosuke nods, mouth filled with food. Zenitsu sends him a disgusted look, but doesn't say anything, now used to it. He faintly hears a giggle he knows is his friend's mother, and sighs. Tanjirou is smiling, and says brightly :

 

“There was something Zenitsu wanted to tell me ! It was personal, so he didn't want you to hear !”

 

Zenitsu sees Inosuke freeze for a second, something flashing in his eyes, before he starts to fill his mouth with even more vigor and food.

 

“Whatever !”

 

Zenitsu sighs and rubs his eyes. He didn't sleep well, mind racing with possibilities and what ifs. Neither did Tanjirou, if his tired eyes are anything to go with. They're nervous, and even Yoriichi seems restless, eyes sharper than ever. Today is the day where they will finally see what exactly can his blood do.

 

Zenitsu is afraid, but he always is, so he doesn't say a thing. They wait until they can go train in the forest without raising suspicion, and they carefully leave Inosuke behind, the boar being busy clashing his swords on an unfortunate tree.

 

Once they're far enough, they stop and stare at each other. Zenitsu feels his insides clench, before turning towards Yoriichi, hands shaking. Slowly, he grabs his sword, and presses the blade on the palm of his left hand until it draws what he deems enough blood. Yoriichi and Tanjirou tense when they see the red liquid, and Tanjirou sends him a concerned glance, but they don't make any move to stop him.

 

Zenitsu waves at the ghost, and he tends his hands towards him. Zenitsu lets his blood fall in the open palms of his friend.

 

Yoriichi doesn't hesitate to bring it to his lips, face blank but eyes determined. He drinks it, and after a while, Tanjirou's eyes fall on him.

 

Yoriichi stares at Tanjirou, and he stares back.

 

His shocked expression would have been funny if Zenitsu wasn't wearing the same.

 


 

Zenitsu leaves them, because what they are discussing is something precious and personal and he doesn't want to intrude. Besides, there is something he must do.

 

It doesn't take him long to find Inosuke. His heartbeat is loud, like always, and is a dead giveaway in the quiet forest.

 

He runs towards him, hand still bleeding, and screams.

 

“INSOSUKE !!!!!”

 

His friend stops in the middle of an attack, and turns towards him. But Zenitsu doesn't give him time to react and stops abruptly before him.

 

“Inosuke, do you believe in ghosts ?”

 

Said one blinks, obviously taken aback, and laughs.

 

“There were no ghosts on my mountain !”

 

“But do you believe in them ?” Zenitsu insists.

 

Inosuke pauses, and looks at him weirdly, but he doesn't, can't back down. This is not about him, not anymore.

 

(The look in Inosuke's eyes hours before looked too much like hurt. Looked too much like the one in Zenitsu's eyes.)

 

“I guess.”

 

“If you could see your mother, would you ?”

 

The whispers around them stop, and Zenitsu glimpses at a flash of black hair that doesn't belong to either of them. Inosuke is silent for once, fake eyes staring at Zenitsu.

 

Please answer. I'll explain later. I promise !”

 

Something must be in his voice, desperation or a feeling similar, because Inosuke slowly nods, like he's afraid speaking may scare Zenitsu away.

 

Zenitsu is fast. He pushes his nails into the wound, drawing even more blood. A gentle hand grabs his own, and brings it to soft lips, almost like a kiss. The whisper that follows is clearer than any he heard before.

 

Thank you.

 

Inosuke drops his swords, jaw slacked, and stares at his mother.

 


 

Hashibira Kotoha is kind, and cries for a solid five minutes when she embraces her son for the first time. It takes a while for Inosuke to get out of his shocked state, but when he does, he's full of questions, his eyes alternating between staring at his friend and his mother, like he's not sure what to ask and how to react. Zenitsu explains, softly.

 

Yes I can see ghosts yes it's your mother yes I always could NO IT DOESN'T MAKE ME GOOD TO FIGHT STOP-

 

Kotoha laughs, still crying and arms around her son, and Zenitsu is almost disturbed by how alike and yet opposed the mother and son are. It's the same face, yet their personalities are so different that Zentsu would have doubted the blood link if not for their resemblance.

 

Finally, after the shock and the incredulity, Inosuke asks, almost casually.

 

“So why did you abandon me ?”

 

Kotoha's eyes fill with tears. The story leaves Inosuke enraged, and Zenitsu numb.

 

They talk. Zenitsu feels a bit like an intruder, but when he tries to leave, Inosuke grabs him by his neck and Kotoha sends him a sweet smile.

 

“How did a boar like you get such a kind and beautiful mother ?!”

 

(He's not jealous. He's not.)

 


 

Zenitsu soon understands he needs to give more of his blood if he wants to keep Kotoha visible. It's been almost twenty minutes and Yoriichi and Tanjirou aren't back, so he assumes they're still training and the ghost still visible, which means that the blood quantity varies to one ghost to another. After the sixth drop, Kotoha stops him, smiling. She sends a worried look to his bleeding hand.

 

“It's okay. You gave more than enough.”

 

She turns towards her son, and starts whispering something. Zenitsu covers his ears, and looks away. Something in her eyes tells him he shouldn't hear that.

 

A soft kiss is placed on his forehead, and he startles, wide eyed. Kotoha smiles, so loving and caring, and slowly fades away.

 

The two boys stay like that a long time, until Tanjirou comes running towards them, beaming and eyes shining. Yoriichi isn't far behind him, and they both stop and stare at them. Tanjirou loses his smile and exclaims, worried.

 

“Zenitsu ? Inosuke ? Are you okay ?”

 

It's only then that they realize they're crying.

 


 

When they finally come back to the Butterfly Estate, Aoi shrieks when she sees them -or rather, when she sees Zenitsu's hand- and drags them to the infirmary.

 

“How did you manage to cut your hand like this ?!”

 

Zenitsu can't exactly tell her he did it on purpose, so he keeps quiet and smiles stupidly when she wraps his hand with bandages. Inosuke and Tanjirou are beside him, strangely quiet even when Aoi scolds them and threatens to bring Shinobu. It's an empty threat, because the Insect Hashira is often outside and Zenitsu hasn't seen Kanae in days.

 

Tanjirou asks a question, looking around the room curiously.

 

“Rengoku-san isn't here ?”

 

“He left to see his family not long ago. Something about asking his father help for a dance.”

 

The boys exchange a glance. Now that Yoriichi met Tanjirou, he doesn't really need help with his breathing anymore, but they can't exactly tell the Hashira that without raising uncomfortable questions. Tanjirou especially looks uneasy.

 

When Aoi leaves, the sun is already setting and the three boys are lying in bed. A few minutes passes in complete silence before Tanjirou's voice breaks it.

 

“You're amazing, Zenitsu.”

 

The thunder user blinks and turns to look at his friend. Tanjirou is sitting in his bed, eyes locked on Zenitsu, and he looks amazed. In any other circumstance it would have made Zenitsu happy. Now he just feels empty.

 

“I'm really not.”

 

Inosuke scoffs, and sends him a flat look.

 

“Stupid Monitsu. You know other people who can make ghosts appear ?”

 

“He's right, you know ? You shouldn't look so down on yourself.”

 

Zenitsu doesn't answer. Another silence settles, this time cold, before Tanjirou says something that makes Zenitsu's heart sink.

 

“We should tell Rengoku-san ! I'm sure he'd be happy to help.”

 

Hell no, are you crazy ?! Do you have any idea how it would look ?!”

 

Inosuke and Tanjirou just stare at him. Zenitsu briefly wonders how he managed to get such wonderful yet stupid friends.

 

“Do you know who else has a special blood ?”

 

Inosuke is still staring, puzzled, but Tanjirou's eyes widen. He hesitates.

 

“It's not the same thing-”

 

“So what ? It doesn't change he's the closes-”

 

“Rengoku-san would understan-”

 

“RENGOKU-SAN VOTED FOR NEZUKO-CHAN'S DEATH ! Because she is a demon ! What do you think will happen if he, or anyone, found out that I have an ability similar to Muzan ?!”

 

A heavy silence falls. Tanjirou looks shocked and Zenitsu is glaring daggers at him. He feels his eyes water and he's crying again.

 

(Maybe Kaigaku was right. He really is pathetic.)

 

But Inosuke doesn't seem bothered. He lies back on his bed and closes his eyes.

 

“What's the problem ? If Monitsu doesn't want to tell, then we don't tell. Don't overthink it, idiots.”

 

And then he falls asleep.

 

Tanjirou and Zenitsu stare at him, before looking at each other. They explode in hysterical laughter.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

During the four months following the events of the Infinity Train, Yoriichi starts to follow Zenitsu when he goes on solo mission. The first time it happened, he didn't say anything, just thinking that the ghost followed him because Tanjirou was busy visiting Rengoku (and if Zenitsu hurried to leave when he learnt that, it was only his business) and Inosuke on another mission. But when he continued even when Tanjirou was also on a mission, he asked :

 

“Why are you following me instead of Tanjirou ?”

 

The answer is not what he excepted.

 

“Tanjirou has Nezuko and his family. Inosuke has his mother. You don't have anyone.”

 

He didn't say anything else, and didn't comment on the way Zenitsu's eyes were shining.

 

After that, Zenitsu smiles more often. No one questions him about it.

 


 

The first thing Zenitsu notices about Uzui Tengen is how quiet he is.

 

Actually, he's not quiet at all, but his surrendings are. There are no ghosts around him, just like Zenitsu. He notices it immediately, because people who aren't haunted are rare, and he only met a bunch of them in his life- most of them children. But Uzui is an adult, and a Hashira, so the absence of ghosts makes Zenitsu wary.

 

The strangest thing is, Uzui seems to be wary of him.

 

He hides it well, but Zenitsu notices. He wasn't at first, he even seemed to dismiss him, but when he heard his name, his eyes narrowed briefly and he paused for a fraction of second. It's not much, and he knows that the others didn't notice, but years of observing ghosts and being friends with the expressionless Yoriichi made Zenitsu more observant than he lets on. He knows it's not his imagination, because the ghost remarked it too. He just doesn't understand why.

 

So while Zenitsu yells at him (three wives, how unfair-) he keeps his distance.

 

Tanjirou is the first to be bought. It's not surprising, because even if they can't hear his heartbeat, it's not hard for others to see how kind and hardworking the boy (or girl, whatever) is.

 

Inosuke is second. Frankly, Zenitsu thinks he would be way more beautiful without that awful make-up, but he doesn't say anything. He has to give credit to the woman who chose him though ; if she managed to see how cute Inosuke is under that stupid make-up she has better eyes than all of them.

 

And then he's alone with Uzui and awkward doesn't even begin to describe it.

 

Zenitsu is tense, and even though he grits his teeth, he's careful not to look at Uzui. He can feel his gaze on him, cold and intense, and only Yoriichi's hand on his shoulder stops him from fiddling his hands.

 

“So you're Agatsuma Zenitsu.”

 

“Thanks for stating the obvious.” snaps the concerned, before the words register and he sends the Hashira a surprised and wary look.

 

Uzui is watching him, and Zenitsu is taken aback by the sheer curiosity in his eyes. There is no hatred in his gaze, and the wariness, while still here, is overcome by the curiosity. It's like Zenitsu is a particularly fascinating puzzle that he can't wait to solve, and Zenitsu loathes having this look directed towards him. His anger grows.

 

Uzui narrows his eyes.

 

“Oyakata-sama talked about you.”

 

What ?!

 

Zenitsu is blinded by fear and panick for a second before Yoriichi's grip brings him back. Uzui is still observing him, and he's not sure how he's supposed to react. Happy that their leader talked about him ? Worried ?

 

“Why would he mention me ?!”

 

Uzui doesn't answer.

 

It's almost a relief when someone buys him.

 


 

There's a demon behind him.

 

He knows, the heartbeat, the voices yelling their hatred and anger. It's so painfully obvious that it's almost laughable.

 

He doesn't react at first, because he's afraid (like always) and shocked, and he didn't except to find the demon that quickly.

 

And then she grips the girl's ear and there's blood and something in him snaps.

 

“Get your hands off her.”

 

Distantly, he hears Yoriichi starting to say something.

 

“Zenitsu-”

 

The blow hits fast and hard. He's out cold instantly.

 

(But Yoriichi isn't.)

 


 

He's brutally awakened by his harsh landing on the ground. He gets up quickly, panicked. He's in a cave, and there are strange human patterned clothes what the hell what is he doing here-

 

The familiar sound of a sword makes him notice Yoriichi. He's examining Zenitsu, and he looks relieved.

 

“The demon brought you here. I took some of your blood and freed you.”

 

“Wha- why didn't you do it sooner ?!”

 

“I wasn't sure how long I would last with the amount of blood I managed to take, and I couldn't risk disappearing after attacking her while you were uncouscious.”

 

He points to the clothes. His expression doesn't change, but Zenitsu feels like he's a bit angry. Maybe. Potentially.

 

“The demon imprisons people in it. I cut yours.”

 

“Okay...?”

 

Zenitsu blinks, before gazing at the people who were unlucky enough to meet the demon. Something twists in his guts, something ugly and angry, but he ignores it.

 

“Why didn't you free the others ?”

 

“I didn't have time. There was another demon guarding them. I killed it before freeding you. Then I lost my solidity.”

 

A sound makes them tense, and Inosuke comes crashing down in front of him.

 

This day can't get any weirder.

 

“Where's the demon ?!”

 

“Yoriichi-san killed it. Come on, we need to free the people.”

 

Inosuke complains and turns to where he thinks Yoriichi is and dares him to fight him. It's funny, because Yoriichi is behind him and watching with something that looks a lot like confusion.

 

They free them and meet Suma and Makio, who are far better than them at guiding the victims and comforting them.

 

Uzui comes crashing down flamboyantly. He makes sure his wives are okay before smiling.

 

“We're going to kill the demon !”

 

I have a bad feeling about this.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Apologize to the girl whose ear you pulled.”

 

The words escape him, cold and angry. He's wide awake, eyes staring at the demon who hurt so many people. He's afraid, of course, but for the first time in a long time, he's far more angry than scared.

 

(And if it's because that crying little girl reminded him of himself, well, nobody needs to know.)

 

But the demon laughs, mocking and hating. Inosuke is standing behind him, angry but in a different way. His anger is hot and violent. Zenitsu's is cold and deadly.

 

He doesn't look at Yoriichi. Can't afford to, because Uzui isn't far away and the demon is too focused on them. He can't risk an opening.

 

They fight for what seems to be a long time. Tanjirou joins them, and Inosuke finally manages to behead her. For an amazing moment, victory seems to be theirs.

 

And then Inosuke is stabbed in the heart. Zenitsu hears Kotoha's terrified scream before he's slammed into a building. Strangely, he doesn't black out, but it's a near thing.

 

He can't hear Uzui's heartbeat, and Inosuke's is slowing. Tanjirou's is still there, not too far from him. He needs to get up, but he's crushed by the wreckage. His legs aren't broken, but some of his ribs are.

 

He needs to get up. He has to. But he can't do it alone.

 

Someone grabs his wrists and pulls, and he flinches before realizing who it is.

 

“Yoriichi-san !”

 

The ghost doesn't answer and continues to pull him out of the wreckage. Zenitsu lets out a small scream, and he pauses before pulling even harder than before. Zenitsu is free in a matter of seconds.

 

He hastily gets up, and listens. Tanjirou isn't far, he's with the demons and he sounds panicked and afraid and Zenitsu wants to help him but he isn't strong enough alone to fend off an Upper Moon.

 

But he's not alone.

 

He tends a bloody hand towards Yoriichi. When he hesitates, he yells.

 

“Tanjirou is going to die soon if we don't do something !”

 

“You'll get exposed-”

 

“Uzui-san is dead, and even if he wasn't, Tanjirou still needs us !”

 

(Once upon a time, he may have hesitated. He may have thought that surely, Tanjirou will get up, that it wasn't worth risking exposing his secrets to people, to demons.)

 

(But these thoughts died a long time ago, between Tanjirou's kindness and Inosuke's determination.)

 

(Or maybe they died when he first laid eyes on the mess of screams and hatred that was following his senior and thought I will never have something like this.)

 

(In the end, it doesn't really matter.)

 

Yoriichi takes his hand and brings it to his lips. It's weird, and Zenitsu will never get used to that, but right now he couldn't care less.

 

Zenitsu goes for the girl, and Yoriichi for the man. The demons don't see them coming until Yoriichi pushes him away from Tanjirou and Zenitsu's blade is on her neck in an instant.

 

He tries to cut it off, desperatly. He knows Yoriichi won't have any problem, but Zenitsu refuses to cause him to lose. For a terrifying second, he thinks.

 

I'm not going to succeed.

 

And then Inosuke is here, and Zenitsu never thought he would be so happy to see his stupid boar mask.

 

The head falls, and the body starts disintegrating, which means the other one's head is cut and they won.

 

They collapse, but they're smiling because they won against an Upper Moon and they're alive.

 

Tanjirou and Nezuko come running towards them (well, Nezuko runs with Tanjirou on her back), Yoriichi behind them. He's still visible, but blurry, which surprised Zenitsu. Last time, he gave him even less blood and he lasted longer. But he doesn't have time to question it because Tanjirou rushes in front of them, eyes wide posed on Inosuke. He sounds panicked.

 

“Inosuke !”

 

Why is he so scared ? Zenitsu thinks before remembering the poison. He snaps his head towards his unconscious friend, afraid.

 

Then Nezuko burns and heals him, and Zenitsu is even more in love than before even though she almost gave him a heart attack.

 

“What about Uzui-san...?”

 

“He's fine ! Nezuko burnt out the poison in him. He's with his wives.”

 

“Oh... Good.”

 

Zenitsu feels weak and strangely sleepy, and Yoriichi pats his head and then the Kamados's. Nezuko looks confused but happy.

 

And then he hears a voice that makes his blood freeze.

 

“So. Care to explain what was that ?”

 

Uzui Tengen is standing right in front of them, and his eyes are fixed on the disappearing form of Yoriichi.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Zenitsu always knew that he couldn't lie forever.

 

It's not like he doesn't want to : he would have died happy if no one figured out that he was a freak monster anormal. It was just logic. Someone was bound to notice something, especially something as big as that. So when Tanjirou told him that he had noticed, he wasn't really surprised.

 

It had seemed normal to him to help Inosuke and Kotoha. Zenitsu never had parents, never had whispers of love and pride following him even in death. He wasn't loved and he knew it, but he also knew that Inosuke was loved, and not telling him that would have been a crime.

 

So, some people knew, and they accepted it, and Zenitsu's fear lessened while his love and confidence grew. After all, it didn't seem like someone could suspect him anymore.

 

He should have known he was wrong.

 

He doesn't turn to see his friends's reactions. Inosuke is unconscious, and Tanjirou, even though his heart is racing, will be soon. Nezuko doesn't understand, and can't help him. He's alone in this.

 

Tanjirou tries to get up, and fails. He sounds panicked, and Zenitsu can feel his eyes on him. Uzui is still standing in front of them, and even though his gaze is on all of them, he can feel it lingering on him, as if waiting for him to speak up. He'll wait for a long time.

 

Tanjirou tries to say something, to explain the impossible, and Zenitsu can't help but admire this boy who is injured and bleeding but still trying to defend him. He wonders if he ever told Tanjirou how much he admires him.

 

(He wonders if he'll ever have the chance to.)

 

The silence lingers, and Zenitsu doesn't say anything. He doesn't want to, and doesn't need to. It's obvious that Uzui already knows who the culprit is, even though Zenitsu doesn't understand how. So he keeps his eyes on the ground, heart heavy and lips pressed together.

 

He hears a huff, and Uzui sits down in front of them. He examines Zenitsu, eyes sharp and piercing, and Zenitsu doesn't care. Yoriichi is by his side, now invisible, and whispers a quiet apology to him. Zenitsu would tell him that he's being stupid, but Uzui's presence keeps him from it.

 

The shinobi turned swordman speaks slowly, almost gently, like Zenitsu is a spooked animal who risks to attack him at any moment.

 

“I don't know what your deal is, brat, but I promised Oyakata-sama to keep an eye on you and protect you. So you don't need to be scared.”

 

Zenitsu blinks, surprised, but stays silent. A few seconds pass, before another heartbeat makes himself known and forces him to look up.

 

Obanai Iguro stares at him, bored, and sends to Tanjirou a glare before turning his gaze towards Uzui.

 

“So. You beat an Upper Moon. Six thing aside.I should praise you or something. Six thing asi-”

 

“Shut up Obanai. Now's not the time.”

 

The Serpent Hashira stops, surprised. Uzui's eyes are still fixed on Zenitsu, and he follows his gaze. Again, the Sound Hashira tries to make him speak.

 

“Look, if you could just tell me what that was-”

 

“I don't know what you're talking about.”

 

It's a lie, and they both know it.

 

A sudden shift makes Zenitsu flinch, and he turns to see Tanjirou's uncouscious face on his shoulder. He needs medical attention, they all do, and Uzui stares for a few seconds before getting up and shouting for the kakushis to come and carry them.

 

The next moments pass in a blurr, and it's only when he's on a kakushi's back away from the Harishas that he allows himself to fall asleep.

 


 

He wakes up to the smiling face of Rengoku Kyoujurou.

 

Zenitsu blinks, and the smile widens.

 

“Agatsuma boy ! You're awake ! Good !”

 

Zenitsu doesn't have time to wonder what the hell is happening before the Flame Hashira starts yelling to call Shinobu.

 

He's alone, is the first thing he notices. Rengoku is here, but they seem to be in a separate room away from the infirmary, with only one bed and a few cuboards. The window is closed, and Zenitsu can't see where it leads to. Puzzled, he wonders why he is here and not with his friends.

 

Then he catches Yoriichi's eyes, and everything comes back to him.

 

He sits up abruptly and immediately starts coughing. His breathing is jerky, and he blinks away tears as panick grips him because they know, oh god they know what are they going to do will they kill me-

 

Someone shakes his shoulders and forces his consciousness back to his disastrous reality. Rengoku's eyes and grip are firm, his stare makes Zenitsu freeze. It's not like Uzui's, who was wary and curious, or like the Serpent Hasira's who seemed to want to kill him. Rengoku's eyes are kind, and (what stunned Zenitsu even more) they were grateful.

 

Slowly, he lets his hands fall. His smile is still there, but it's softer, like Zenitsu is a child who needs to be reassured.

 

“Your friends are still unconscious, but they are fine. Your injuries are already healing, at least that's what Shinobu-san told me.”

 

“Why are you here ?”

 

Zenitsu regrets his words the second they leave his lips, but Rengoku doesn't seem to be offended. He smiles brightly.

 

“I do not know the details, but I know you are the one that saved me on the train. I also know that Oyakata-sama trusts you and wants us to watch over you. It's enough for me to trust you, Agatsuma boy.”

 

The door opens, and Shinobu followed by Kanae enter, fake smile firmly in place. Zenitsu can't help but wonder if he would have noticed how false it was without Kanae's help. Probably not.

 

She stares at them, before addressing to Rengoku.

 

“I hope you didn't disturb my patient, Rengoku-san. He needs to be in form for tomorrow.”

 

“For what ?”

 

The Hashiras turn towards him, and Zenitsu shrinks on himself. Shinobu answers, sweet and with a hint of cruelty.

 

“Why, for your visit to Oyakata-sama of course ! He especially requested your presence. Rengoku-san here has volunteered to accompany you, since you need to be with a Hashira to enter the mansion.”

 

Zenitsu's brain crashes, and he briefly sees Rengoku's surprised expression before losing consciousness.

 


 

When he wakes up, they are two kakushis in the room and Rengoku is shaking his shoulder. Yoriichi looks tense, and it immediately makes him wary.

 

Rengoku smiles, like always and explains.

 

“These kakushis are going to transport us to Oyakata-sama's home ! You can't know where it is, of course, so your hearing and your eyes will be blocked.”

 

He says that jovially, like he's not leading Zenitsu to his immediate doom. Yoriichi narows his eyes, and Zenitsu realizes that the ghost will be able to lead him back if need to be. It reassures him a bit, and he relaxes slightly, which doesn't escape Rengoku's eyes. His smile diminishes a little, but he continues.

 

“Dress yourself, we're leaving !”

 


 

The journey to Oyakata-sama's home is excruciatingly long. Zenitsu would have fallen asleep long ago if fear wasn't keeping him awake. Without his senses, he feels awfully exposed, and only Yoriichi's occasional hand on his hair makes him relax.

 

The journey is long, yet Zenitsu wishes it was longer when they finally arrive to their destination. Once free, Rengoku leaves his side after giving him thumb up. He's not sure how to interpret it.

 

A beautiful woman with white hair appears. She nods and waves at him so he follows her into the mansion. He can hear children, five if he's not mistaking, playing. It surprises him. He can also hear Rengoku and another man's heartbeats. His thoughts are cut short once they arrive in front of a man lying on a futon.

 

Ubuyashiki Kagaya's heartbeat is peaceful, kind but strong despite his state. When he sees Zenitsu after his wife, it starts beating a bit faster even though it doesn't show on his face.

 

“Zenitsu” he says, and the lack of suffixes unsettles him “I'm happy to see you.”

 

He says that like I wasn't forced, he thinks but bows at his leader. The woman leaves, and Ubuyashiki beckons him to come closer. Once he's sitting in front of him, he smiles and says.

 

“I was quite excited to meet you. I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind.”

 

Zenitsu's mouth is dry and panick is starting to come back. He doesn't know what to say, but he tries anyway.

 

“Oyakata-sama-”

 

His chief interrupts him, and what he says makes Zenitsu's heart stop.

 

“Oh, don't call me that, child. You are, after all, of my family.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Zenitsu doesn't understand.

 

“Is- I'm sorry- What ?”

 

A soft smile grows on Ubuyashiki's face. Zenitsu stops and stares because his voice fails him, and he doesn't want to make a fool of himself in front of his maybe-family and his leader. Ubuyashiki hums, and slowly, like a secret, whispers.

 

“The Ubuyashiki Family has always been special.”

 

He stops, like he's thinking about something, before smiling again.

 

“Can I tell you our story ?”

 


 

“A long time ago, a monster came from our family. You already know him, by the name of Kibutsuji Muzan. And that led our family to be cursed. Every child born in our family was weak, and they died right away... But when we were about to get wiped of existence, the priest gave us some advice : a demon came from our bloodline, so we had to dedicate our souls to defeat him. If we did that, our family wouldn't disappear. We have received wives from priests for generations and our children are more resilient to death now. But nobody in our family has lived beyond thirty.

 

Except one.

 

My grandfather and his twin sister were weak, like everyone. But there was something different with Ubuyashiki Osoishi. Unlike her brother, Kageyasu, she never fell ill. She was weak, and tired easily, but not once did the grip of illness catch her. When her parents asked her, her response was rather peculiar.

 

Death and Life are tangled in my blood, and they keep me away from a fate that isn't mine.

 

No one understood the sense of her sentence, not even her twin. It wasn't her only quirk, though. Osoishi was often talking to herself, and frequently made herself bleed to the point that her parents called a doctor to examine her. But the man didn't find anything strange with her. She stopped after that, or she hid it better, who knows ? The fact is, she started to act like she was supposed to.

 

Kageyasu became the 95th Head of the Demon Slayers Corps and married, like everyone before him. Osoishi was not destined to anything special. She would help her brother, and probably die by his side like a good sister, like everyone before her. But she didn't. When she was twenty, she ran away and disappeared in the night. And Kageyasu, no matter how hard he tried, never found her. We assumed that she died out there, like all her ancestors. So time passed, and while I heard about this strange event from my father, I never gave it much thoughts. But I should have : after all, Ubuyashiki Osoishi was the first person to run away from our family, and the first one to escape any illness.

 

I think that Kageyasu knew that her sister was different. They were twins, after all, and it wouldn't surprise me that he actually waited until she was too far away to start searching.

 

The fact is, one day, when I was still a child, my father received a message that shocked us to our cores. Ubuyashiki Osoishi's body, old and peaceful, had been found in an abandonned building that used to be the Ubuyashiki's home. She was dead since a few hours.

 

It was impossible. A member of our cursed family had managed to live past thirty. We were blaffed, and we started to recolt informations about this woman who defied her curse.

 

Ubuyashiki Osoishi married a man in a small town and had children. It was all we could find. Her children left after a fight with her husband and she never saw them again. A few weeks before her death, she wrote a book that we found near her body. What was written in it was almost as strange and impossible as her.

 

Ubuyashiki Osoishi heard voices from the dead, that protected her and made her stronger than her sibling. She had dreams, of strange events, and she wrote that she had to leave before the hundred of voices haunting her mansion made her lose her mind.

 

Ubuyashiki Osoishi's curse was different than her family, but it was still a cruel one. She had to flee to live a life without her family. Had she find happiness with her husband ? I don't think so. He was still alive and she chose to die alone in her old home rather than by his side. She never contacted her children, and I thought that I will never be able to find them. In a way, I was right.

 

It is my son Kiriya that noticed you. I don't think he knows why himself. Perhaps a part of him recognized you as family. After the Final Selection, he mentionned you to me, along the other survivors, and said that there was something different about you. It was strange coming from him, so I investigated a little. But it's only when I saw your eyes on a picture that your master sent me that I understood.

 

You have the same eyes as Ubuyashiki Osoishi.

 

Another thing about her was her brown-gold eyes. It was such an unusual color in our family that we were told of it as another quirks of her. But coupled with Kiriya's intuition, it was a strange coincidence. And I don't believe in coincidences.

 

It's your mission with Kyoujurou-kun that confirmed it. An attack like a ghost corresponded exaclty like what was described in Osoishi's book. There is no doubts in my mind that you are her descendant, probably her great-grandchild. And you have inherited her gift.

 

I asked my Hashiras to watch over you. It was selfish, but I had to be sure. Don't worry, I only told them that you were special and important for me. It wasn't a lie after all. Excuse me if they scared you. They were curious after my strange request. I didn't want them to know, it is for you to decide.

 

Pardon my ramblings. Do you have any questions ?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Zenitsu, even though he will forever deny it, breaks down.

 

He stares at Ubuyashiki for a couple seconds, before tears start falling out of his eyes. And then he's shaking, and it's not long before he becomes a sobbing mess.

 

His chief, his blood relative, pushes him until he's crying on his shoulder, his hand carressing his hair like he's a little kid in need of comfort.

 

Yoriichi stands awkwardly behind him, uncertain how to act. He doesn't want to interrupt the family reunion, but it's obvious that Zenitsu's crying distresses him.

 

They stay like that for a long moment, Ubuyashiki humming a lullaby under his breath, until Zenitsu gathers himself and forces himself up.

 

His uncle? Cousin? stares at him with a small smile. There's curiousity in his eyes, but also worry, something Zenitsu is unused to have directed towards himself.

 

“I think you need to rest. We'll talk tomorrow.”

 

Zenitsu doesn't say anything, doesn't have the strength to, just nods. He feels a hand grabs his arm (Ubuyashiki's wife, he realizes) who leads him away from his family chief. He doesn't remember the walk towards his room, just the stop in front of the door. Ubuyashiki Amane sends him a glance. She's beautiful, and if Zenitsu wasn't in shock he would probably tell her so.

 

“Are you alright ?”

 

It's a polite inquiry, and Zenitsu nods even though he really isn't.

 

Somehow, he manages to go to bed, mind hazy. Yoriichi doesn't leave his side, a worried frown on his face. It's a rare display of emotions from him, but Zenitsu can't even comment on it.

 

He's out cold almost as soon as he's in bed.

 


 

When he wakes up (or rather, when Yoriichi wakes him up) he stares at the ceiling. It takes him five minutes before bolting out of bed, because holy shit I have a family someone was like me they won't kill me-

 

Yoriichi pats his shoulder and he calms his breathing. His mind and heart are racing, and he slowly gets up and grabs his clothes. When he gets out, he looks around, unsure where to go. Yoriichi chooses for him and goes right. Zenitsu follows him.

 

It's not long before he hears a heartbeat. It's young, calm and regular. Zenitsu hesitates a but before slowly opening the door.

 

A young boy raises his head, dressed like a girl, but Zenitsu is pretty sure he's a boy. He's Ubuyashiki's son without doubt, which makes him Zenitsu's relative, and he doesn't know how to deal with this.

 

The boy seems to sense his discomfort, because he nods and waves at him. He's sitting and holding a book, and it's only then that Zenitsu realizes they're in a sort of library.

 

He hesitantly sits in front of the boy, who can't be older than ten. His dark eyes follow him, and he says.

 

“You are Agatsuma Zenitsu.”

 

It sounds more like an observation than a question, but he still nods.

 

“I am Ubuyashiki Kiriya. Your third cousin.”

 

“Yeah- I mean, I already know.”

 

Zenitsu grimaces, awkward an embarrassed, but Kiriya doesn't look bothered by his reply. An unease feels him, and he asks, precipitated.

 

“Did Oyakata-sama tell you anything else ?”

 

Kiriya pauses, dark eyes intent on his cousin. He seems to be searching for something, like he's analyzing Zenitsu. It reminds him of Uzui's look, but Kiriya's is more composed, a little curious and not searching for bad intentions. It's similar to his father's.

 

“Father only said that you were a relative. We share, from what I understand, the same great-great-grandfather.”

 

“I- yes, I guess.”

 

He probably doesnt know about Ubuyashiki Osoishi, Zenitsu thinks. Or at least he doesn't know the details of her disappearance. That means that Oyakata-sama was telling the truth when he said that only him knew about his “curse/gift”. Zenitsu can't help but feels reassured.

 

Kiriya's voice tears him away from his thoughts.

 

“Are you looking for something ?”

 

Zenitsu blinks, surprised, before remembering a detail from his conversation with Oyakata-sama.

 

“Is there any book written by Ubuyashiki Osoishi ?”

 

Kiriya's eyes narrow.

 

“Father said you would likely ask this.”

 

He doesn't wait Zenitsu's answer and gets up. He walks towards an old shelf that looks like it's going to crumble at any minute and pushes away a few books, which causes a bit of dust to fall. He grabs an old book, which doesn't really should be called this ; it's more like a bunch of really old papers badly glued together. Whoever did this probably hadn't had the best materials but had plenty of determination.

 

Kiriya sets it down on the table in front of Zenitsu. The demon slayer blinks, bemused, and asks.

 

“Did you read it ?”

 

“Father forbad it. He said that it's a message from your great-grandmother, and therefore you should be the first to read it.”

 

But Oyakata-sama read it. It shouldn't annoy Zenitsu since if he hadn't he wouldn't have known about this, but it does.

 

Kiriya's voice startles him.

 

“I shall take my leave.”

 

Again, he doesn't wait Zenitsu's answer and gets up. He's out before his cousin can thank him.

 

What a weird kid, he thinks, but he's grateful.

 

His eyes fall on the book and he gulps. Yoriichi's hand ruffles his hair, but he doesn't say anything.

 

This has been written by someone like me. Zenitsu would have never dreamt of finding something like this.

 

Slowly, afraid of damaging the already fragiles papers, he opens it.

 

If you're not Ubuyashiki stop reading. It doesn't concern you. This book is for them and the unfortunate person who ended up like me.

 

My name is Ubuyashiki Osoishi. And I'm cursed.

 

If you're like me, you already know this. If you're not, let me explain.

 

Death loves us. It loves us so much that it decided to let us see a part of itself.

 

I can't honestly remember the first time I saw a ghost. There was never a time where Death wasn't surrounding me, be it by its ghosts or by the deaths of my family. It was surrounding me but it never touched once. I never fell ill, and I was incredibly healthy – even by average's standard. It was truly astonishing.

 

My twin brother Kageyasu wasn't like me. He was always fragile, but while his body failed him, his mind was as clear as humanly possible. It was funny, in a horrible way. I was always “away”, while he was always “here”. I don't really know how to describe it. But I do not doubt that, despite my silence, he understood that I wasn't normal. I even think that, before I realized it myself, he knew that I was going to leave.

 

As I said before, ghosts were following me. Sometimes it was good : I talked with my grandparents and some of my ancestors. I learnt about Muzan and the Healer that started everything. I know so much that sometimes I mix everything up. But it is when I approached my twentieth birthday that everything came crashing down.

 

I couldn't hear anything. Or rather, I heard so much, screams and hatred and screams, that I thought I was going crazy. Maybe I already was.

 

Kageyasu was worried sick, and me too. I didn't understand what was happening to me. I would have died if I hadn't run away.

 

I didn't expect to leave. It was just too much, and I wanted it to end. But when I left the Ubuyashiki Estate, the screams disappeared and I could finally breath. When I tried to come back, they started again, so again I left, and this time I never came back.

 

I don't know why the screams only started when I was near the Ubuyashiki's Estate. Maybe the gods were trying to tell me something.

 

I fell in love and married. I have two daughters and I don't know where they are. None of them are like me, which I'm grateful for, but I'm not naive enough to think that this curse will die with me. That's why I'm writing this.

 

The core of this power is blood. It's ironic, isn't it ? Blood that gives a sort of “life” to beings who lost theirs. It's disgusting.

 

It's dangerous, because while these beings cannot be hurt, the “medium” can. If someone, be it a demon or a slayer, strike the ghost, the injury will appear on the medium. So the more ghosts you give your blood to, the more chances you have to die.

 

In a fight, ghosts can save you. But if you're not careful enough, they'll be your doom.

 

Chapter Text

 

Osoishi's book is small. She writes briefly about herself, and mostly about what she discovered, but that's it. It seems his great-grandmother was a reserved person. Zenitsu is disppointed, but not surprised. He doesn't think he would be talkative about his power either, even in a book.

 

Yoriichi reads behind him, brows furrowed. His eyes, particularly, are fixed on a sentence. Zenitsu noticed it, because he read it many times too.

 

If someone, be it a demon or a slayer, strike the ghost, the injury will appear on the medium.

 

It doesn't seem like much, but they both know the importance of staying focused during a fight. Being distracted, even for a second, is deadly.

 

Zenitsu bites his lip. He doesn't like this, and yet...

 

Yet, this power could make fighting against Upper Moons a lot easier. Kanae, Yoriichi, all these amazing slayers who died too soon and are stuck here. Zenitsu could give them a chance to fight.

 

But it would mean to multiply his chances to die. Because even if none of the ghosts “die”, all their injuries combined could probably kill him. In fact, doing this, his chances of survival are slim.

 

But their chances of winning are greater.

 

Yorrichi slams his hand on the book and closes it. His face is still blank, but the action speaks enough as it is : the sun breather doesn't like this plan.

 

(It's a good thing he doesn't have a say in it.)

 

Zenitsu breathes.

 

“Let's talk to Oyakata-sama.”

 


 

Oyakata-sama, or Kagaya as he insists that Zenitsu calls him, doesn't ask about the book. When Zenitsu enters his room, guided by Amane, he smiles politely and gives him candy. Zenitsu keeps his eyes down, hands fidgeting, and his smile becomes sad.

 

“You don't trust me.”

 

Zenitsu doesn't answer, and the leader hums a sad tune.

 

“I understand. But, if you would be so kind, I still have questions that need to be answered.”

 

Zenitsu reculantly nods and Yoriichi's eyes narrow.. Kagaya asks gently, like Zenitsu is some scared child that needs comforting.

 

“You were the one that saved Kyoujurou-kun, weren't you ?”

 

“Yes... But don't you already know that ?”

 

“I suspected it. Now, can you tell me which ghost helped you ?”

 

This time, Zenitsu hesitates. He glances at Yoriichi, a question in his eyes. The ghost observes Kagaya a moment, before giving a small nod.

 

“His name is Tsugikuni Yoriichi. He's a Breath of the Sun user. He... He's the one that almost defeated Muzan, back then.”

 

Kagaya smiles brightly, eyes gleaming.

 

“I know who he is. He was the strongest demon slayer, and invanted the Breaths. My ancestors left some documents about him. I believe he was expulsed from the Corps ?”

 

“It wasn't fair ! It wasn't his fault !”

 

Zenitsu blushes when he realizes what he said, but doesn't apologize. Yoriichi pats his head. Kagaya blinks, surprised for a second, before speaking slowly.

 

“Yes. I know this, but my ancestors didn't.”

 

He pauses, before moving his blanket away. It takes a moment for Zenitsu to realize what the man he's doing, but when he does, his jaw drops open.

 

Ubuyashiki Kagaya is bowing.

 

“Tsugikuni-san. My family wronged you, and while I cannot atone for this, I thank you for taking care of Zenitsu and protecting Kyoujurou-kun against an Upper Moon. You really are the greatest samurai to have walked on earth.”

 

Yoriichi freezes, eyes wide. Something strange appears on his expression, before vanishing. It makes Zenitsu wonders if there is more to his apology, but right now he doesn't look into it and begs his chief to stand up.

 

Kagaya finally stops bowing, and locks eyes with Zenitsu. Slowly, he says.

 

“I will not ask you to tell anyone about this. If one of my Hashiras ask, tell them you are my family, and they will stop.”

 

Again he pauses, and his smile when he speaks again is sad and broken in a way Zenitsu didn't think possible.

 

“But remember that, if you deem it fit to help using your blood, I will not allow anyone to hurt you, and neither will my children after my death. You are of Ubuyashiki blood, and we will not let you be hurt by the Corps we created.”

 

Zenitsu stares at him, eyes wide and tears stuck in his eyes, and whispers.

 

“Thank you, Kagaya-sama.”

 

It is not 'Uncle' or another familial title, but the sick man still smiles.

 


 

When Zenitsu is about to leave, Osoishi's book carefully tucked in his haori, a tall man approaches him. His hands are joined, and his eyes empty and crying. Yet he walks firmly towards the thunder user, and while he knows that he can't be an ennemy -they are, after all, at Ubuyashiki Estate- he still freezes and takes a step back.

 

The man stops in front of him, and talks softly.

 

“I am happy that Oyakata-sama managed to reunite with his lost relative... Namu Amida Butsu.”

 

What the hell. Zenitsu thinks, and behind him Yoriichi blinks slowly.

 

“Err... Can I help you ?”

 

The man whispers something, but Zenitsu is too busy to listen to it. There is something about this man, strangely familiar. He never met him -he would remember meeting someone like this- and yet something bothers him, something familiar in this stranger.

 

The ghosts, he realizes, and hhe stretches his ears to try to hear better the whispers around him, but the man talks and forces his attention away.

 

“I am Himejima Gyomei... The Stone Hashira.”

 

Zenitsu blinks. And then bows, terribly embarrassed.

 

“I'M SORRY !!! I didn't know !!!!”

 

Himejima keeps crying. Zenitsu is a bit freaked out.

 

“I just wanted to salute you... Have a safe travel.”

 

“I- Thank you ! You too ?”

 

The Stone Hashira turns and walks away just as the kakushi escorting Zenitsu back at the Butterfly Estate arrive.

 

It's only when he's blinded and on the back of one of them he realizes that the whispers around Himejima were awfully similar to those around Kaigaku.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Nezuko is walking under the sun.



She is walking under the sun.

 

Zenitsu feels like he is going to have a heart attack, and even Yoriichi's eyes are widened. Obviously even he has never seen something like that before, and there's a glint of pride in his eyes when he looks at Nezuko. Zenitsu understands, because he feels the same thing.

 

And then Nezuko calls him by the boar's name, and Zenitsu's joy turns to anger. But before he can yell, Inosuke arrives followed by his mother and tackles him on the ground and roars.

 

“KONITSU !!! Where were you ?! Kanpachiro was worried !”

 

“What are you even talking about, you stupid-”

 

Realization comes, and Inosuke's violent worry suddenly makes sense. Zenitsu may have known that his friends were alright, but for them Zenitsu has been summoned in front of their leader after displaying an incredibly suspicious behavior. Had they known what would happen to their friend if he was considered guilty of something ? They must have been worried sick.

 

Zenitsu almost forgives him for teaching his name to Nezuko. Almost.

 

“Where is Tanjirou ?” he asks, because if someone can explain the miracle that is Nezuko it's him. Inosuke nods.

 

“Infirmary !”

 

“Again ?!”

 

Tanjirou is lying on a bed when Zenitsu enters, and he beams when he sees his friend, eyes wet.

 

“Zenitsu ! Are you okay ? What happened ?”

 

The medium stares at his friend for a long moment, eying his bandages with something akin to incredulity and exasperation. He sits on a chait with a loud sigh.

 

“You first. Why are you so injured ?”

 

Tanjirou smiles again.

 

“I fought against an Upper Moon.

 

Silence.

 

“You WHAT ?!”

 


 

“So Oyakata-sama is your family ? That's amazing news !”

 

Tanjirou's smile is blinding, while Inosuke just huffs and grabs one of the onigiri disposed in front of his friend. Zenitsu is too used to this and Tanjirou too nice to tell him to stop. He glances cautiously to the boy lying in the bed next to them.

 

Shinazugawa Genya stares at him. There are whispers around him, broken ones that remind him of the children hanging around Kaigaku. But there is only one ghost following Genya, a woman who cries and stay hidden from Zenitsu's eyes. She's still sane, and doesn't scream like the ghost “monsters” haunting his senior. It's good, because Zenitsu doubts he could have tolerated staying in the same room as him if Genya's ghost screamed.

 

Genya doesn't really speak. He already talked briefly when Tanjirou was explaing what happened in the swordsmiths village, but otherwise stayed quiet. Zenitsu wonders if he is shy or just too tired to deal with the headache that is Hashibira Inosuke. Frankly, both are valid options and he is surprised that Shinobu hasn't kicked them out yet.

 

Zenitsu nods to answer Tanjirou's question, but doesn't add anything in front of Genya. His friends seem to understand that there is more to his story, but even Inosuke keep silent. Instead the boar-boy yells.

 

“WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A SUPER HARD TRAINING SESSION NOW !!!”

 

Tanjirou and Zenitsu blink, but Genya nods.

 

“Yeah, I heard about it. That's why Kochou-san isn't here, right ? They're organizing the Hashira Training.”

 

“The what ?”

 


 

This is hell.

 

It's not even the training, which is already horrible, but more so is the awkwardness.

 

Zenitsu can feel Uzui's eyes burning holes in his back. He's probably curious about him and Kagaya's relationship, and definitely wants to know what happened in the Red-Light District. Zenitsu has no intention to tell him though, and he made that clear by ignoring the former Hashira despite the older man's calls and yells about “successors”. Tanjirou is lucky to be too injured to participate, even if he soon will join them.

 

Uzui manages to corner him after five days of avoidance, a few minutes after dinner. He's missing an arm and a leg, but Zenitsu knows he is still by far one of the strongest demons slayer around. That did nothing to reassure him.

 

The former shinobi looks at him an opens his mouth before sighing. He grimaces and finally says.

 

“Look brat, I know you don't like me -and I don't like you either- but you're Oyakata-sama's family, and more importantly I owe you : you defeated Upper Moon Six back then, and while you will tell me how you did it even if I have to force it out of you, I'm... grateful. So stop hiding everytime I come near you, got it ? We're allies, and we have to trust each other.”

 

The man crosses his arms and sends him a flat look. Zenitsu bits his lip, and slowly nods. Former Hashira or not, he doesn't want to tell him anything, but at least he's leaving it alone. Zenitsu hopes it will last.

 

Afterwards, his training speeds up now that his relationship with the slave-driver has settled. He's heading towards Kanroji Mitsuri's estate the following week, and he waves at Uzui before going away.

 


 

The Love Hashira's training is, at least for Zenitsu, even easier than Uzui's, but it probably is because he already has some experience in terms of flexibility thanks to Gramps's hellish training.

 

The real problems start afterwards.

 

It takes him only a week before he's standing in front of the Mist Hashira's Estate, and his first feeling seeing Tokitou Muichirou is surprise, not because of the young swordman but because of the younger ghost looking exactly like Tokitou and standing by his side. The ghost, who has to be Tokitou's twin, glares at him. Zenitsu heeves a deep sigh, and Yoriichi pats his head.

 

This isn't going to go well, is it ?