Bone, flesh and blood of the departed … Is this proof they lived, or were they dead to begin with? All life, after all, is lumps of flesh. Perhaps we're all Ayakashi, just sealed away in these forms. Well, then let's test that theory, shall we? We'll sever the two, Far and Near Shore. These ashes will be a testament to the wills of destruction, creation and death. Life is but a byproduct. There has to be recounciliation somewhere with the spirit and the material. Then let's get searching. A shinki capable of dividing this riddled place into somewhere I can finally wrap my head around? A place of clearer placement. Yet, how? Shinki are uncorrupted, unlike Ayakashi. Ah, but they do make a pilgrimage to the Far Shore. What will happen once the boundary is broken, violated? I want to know.
"Then the game's on."
The ghost giggles and vanishes, transforming into a single branch. The straw hat god plucks it casually from the air and smiles. In a flash, a wind of blossoms blows by and he's gone.
Yato looks up proudly from his garden work.
"Finished, Mr. Fujisawa!"
"Oh, that wasn't too long!" The old man peers out appreciatively from his study, "Thank you for your hard work."
The minor god of fortune jauntily flips his well-earned five yen high before catching it in his palm. Yukine breaths a long sigh of relief as they trudge back to Kofuku's for dinner. The sun is setting with a beautiful crimson hue over the town.
"I'm pooped, and that was only two jobs today!"
"Every yen counts...!"
Yato's voice trails off when he glimpses the cloud-like Ayakashi gathered around the town square. They are lumbering about, like cattle, but stay strictly around the area. The humans and cars pass straight through them, as though they're made of air. Yato looks up to the sky, where a figure veiled in a divine cloak stands roughly above where the center of the Ayakashi are below. The Ayakashi squelch about, their eyes seemingly fixated on the figure, yet making no movement.
The boy quickly responds by transforming into the hafuri twin katanas. Yato grabs them and quickly jumps into the Ayakashi midst. They do not respond.
"Well, good to get 'em while they can't see us!"
He makes a slash that passes through the cloud without resistance. The Ayakashi does not cleanse, however, nor react. It merely continues ambling about, unharmed.
He desperately slashes left and right to no effect. The Ayakashi begin to crowd closer together and he can feel himself getting smothered in their amorphous bodies.
A humongous gust appears from nowhere and blows viciously. Humans hold on tightly to their coats and hats. The cloud Ayakashi are sundered immediately as the wind sweeps their particles away. Yato coughs lightly and watches in awe as the last of those disgusting eyeballs shrivel up, deprived of medium, and turn to dust. His first instinct prompts him to look up. Above, the figure stands motionless. The gale fades but a final breeze lifts the cloak a little and Yato sees whoever it is smile toothily.
At his beckon, the figure turns and is gone. Yato is left to stare at the reddening sky.
Yukine pushes Yato roughly out of the way of the beeping car. The driver's honking as he drives away is the farewell obscenity.
"Who was that guy?" Yukine says, slightly unnerved by the close call.
Yato says nothing, only thinking of the strange figure, those Ayakashi and the mysterious gale. Yukine looks at him, worried, and speaks a little louder.
"Daikoku's gonna yell at us if we're late."
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Let's go."
"Ahh, that cram session sucked!"
"Well, good news is, we'll definitely ace the exams!"
"Right, that's if even Hiyori can stay awake for it!"
The girls share a good laugh. At the fork, Hiyori bids farewell to her friends for the day and walks with a hop in step to Kofuku's. Halfway down the block, she collapses. Her astral projection goes about three steps before turning around in shock.
"NOT AGAIN...!" She moans. Good thing the street was vacant. Save those two walking towards her.
Luckily, Yato and Yukine chanced to walk along the same road. They were actually here to pick her up. Yato sniffs curiously at the box Hiyori's carrying.
She yanks it away, "Tofu age. Grandma made too much, so I thought Kofuku'd like some."
"Hee hee, tofu for the binbougami eh?" Yato snickers, then pauses, "Wait ... or was that for Inari?"
The three make their way to the god of misfortune's house. Daikoku's cooking aroma wafts out subtly and Yukine's stomach growls. The cheerful pink haired goddess eagerly greets them and the three, along with Hiyori's body, enter the abode. From the fringe of shrubbery distantly surrounding the house, a man with a straw hat and long black haori eyes the lights in the house glowing brighter as the sky darkens. In his right hand is a branch adorned with plum flowers.
"A hanyou...? Hmm," He turns to leave, thinking pensively, "One not of the Near nor Far Shore, but in the waters within... Or perhaps something else?"
"Eat up, Hiyorin!"
"Thanks," Hiyori says politely even though Kofuku's too busy chowing down, "Thanks for the food."
"Hey, did you hear about Tenjin's shrine?" Daikoku speaks with a mouthful of shrimp tempura.
"Whuzzat?" Yato doesn't even look up from his rice bowl, "Seconds please."
"A section of it collapsed," Daikoku looks irritably at Yato before handing him his second bowlful, "Seems like there's been damage there for a while."
"Hah! So Tenjin gets his comeuppance!" Yato laughs and casually continues eating, "What I wouldn't give to hear if something happens to Bishamon's!"
"Oh, you're just so sore, Yatty!" Kofuku points her chopsticks at him threateningly, speaking with a mouth full of rice, "You're already a god of fortune aren't you! Don't pick on Bishamon now of all times!"
Hiyori smiles a little, glad the hunt of Bishamon had ended a week ago. Her whereabouts were currently unknown. Both her and the gods of heaven were extremely quiet since then, taking time to nurse their wounds. Every time there are thunderclaps, however, she can swear Takemikazuchi is flying fervently through the sky.
"Oh, I saw something weird today!" Yato perks up, remembering, "There were these weird cloud Ayakashi in the square!"
"Yeah, you were scared stiff!" Yukine pokes fun at him, "Some weird wind came outta nowhere and just blew 'em away!"
"Who're you callin' scared?! You were the one who couldn't cut 'em! You went dull!"
The two bicker passionately. Yukine had not been dull for a while now, not since his purification. Hiyori finishes her meal and returns to her body. The moon is outside the window, almost full.
"I better get going."
"Eeh? Already?" Kofuku pouts.
"Yeah, Masaomi might get mad since I left him alone with the chores."
"It's exam week isn't it? And you even got chores?" Daikoku sighs, "Then you better get running. It is pretty late..."
Hiyori thanks the two profusely for the dinner and pokes in to say goodbye to Yukine and Yato, who's reclining rather motionlessly, admiring his miniature shrine. He turns at the sound of her voice.
"Wait," He stops her at the threshold, "I'll walk you."
"Ha, what? I can take care of myself you know..." She trails off, pulling her muffler closer, "...Thanks for the offer. But I'll be fine."
"What's up Yato? Why're you keepin' Hiyori?" Daikoku walks over, "...Aw heck, just let the stray come along, Hiyori. He'll sulk otherwise."
"Urk-" Yato tenses up, "S-Shut up, idiot! Who's sulking?!"
"...Ok," Hiyori turns away, blushing from the outside chill, "Let's go already."
"Beautiful night, isn't it?" Fujisaki smiles at the straw hat figure, "In a few more days, there might be an eclipse, did you hear?"
"When the Near and Far Shore will be drawn closer together than ever. And when Yomi may open its bowels a crack..."
"There's nothing down there, we both know that. The old bitch, Izanami? She's just sad."
"...I came to talk to you about the girl who follows your stray son," The figure tips the straw hat off, revealing a stern face and long, undone, black hair streaming down to his back, streaked with some gray, "She is a hanyou, no?"
"Indeed. A half-phantom. I've looked into her. Interesting family."
"Then she is indeed a being between Shores."
"... Fudou. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Kouto's mouth twists into a sneering smile.
"...Why should you care for what a 'lowly god' like me has in mind?"
"Aw, come on, don't be like that. I can at least feel some kinship with you Magatsukami, being Yaboku's dad and all," He chuckles, waving around the Yomi no Koto no Ha he stole from Ebisu, "Besides, Fudou Magatsuhi, I have a feeling you'll be useful to me."
"I don't mind playing a pawn, so long as I get answers to my riddles," The dark god speaks without passion, "I want to see what will happen … If I cleave the two shores apart. Would we all disappear? Or will we remain, because we all originated from this place?"
"Ha ha, that's a good question. I'd vote for the latter," Kouto smiles knowingly, "Humans are such depraved creatures after all, much like those slovenly gods of Takamagahara. They are all the same."
"Then we shall see."
"We shall," Kouto hands his own Yomi no Koto no Ha to Fudou, who grasps it suspiciously, "I'll let you borrow that in good faith you'll shake things up a bit, hm?"
"... You won't give me Ebisu's brush?"
"Oh, no. I worked too hard to get this one. It's better anyway. But the one I gave you ought to do the job, no problem. Now," Nora appears by Fujisaki's side, "Can I interest you in a Nora? She's powerful enough to boot."
"...No thanks," The dark god seals the brush within the folds of his sleeve and produces instead a plum branch, "I have my own shinki."
"Ohh. Now that's an odd one. Have you ever tried that form, Nora?"
"I bid you good-night."
Kouto and Nora watch with interest as the black-clad god vanishes in a stream of flower petals into the night, leaving a sour scent of ume.
"Cleave the two apart, eh? Now why haven't I thought of that..."