At least I didn't wait until the next season to update this time?
Yeah I got nothing lmao, thanks for waiting and hope you enjoy the chapter!
As the kasugai crow flew away after relaying its message, Amane Ubuyashiki glanced over at her husband in concern. He was staring up silently at the sky, shadows cast over his sightless eyes from the shade of the trees in the graveyard. He hadn't reacted at all the entire time the crow was giving its message, and even now his face remained unchanged, nearly impassive in its serenity.
"Oyakata-sama?" She asked quietly. "Is everything alright?"
He didn't respond, though he did let out a shaky breath. She could see his hands trembling slightly underneath the long sleeves of his haori. From what, she couldn't tell. Concern? Frustration? Disappointment?
Her worry grew, even if she didn't outwardly show it. Touching his arm gently, she tried once again.
"Kagaya, I understand if you're feeling frustrated that they weren't able to eliminate any of the Upper Moons. However, they all survived, and we acquired valuable information on - "
"Frustrated?" Kagaya interrupted softly. "You think that I feel frustrated?"
Amane paused. "Do you not-?"
He whirled to face her, and the largest smile she had ever seen him display burst across his face, a beam so bright and joyful that she reflexively took a step back. For a moment she could've sworn she was staring into the visage of the Flame Hashira himself.
"What in the world do I have to feel frustrated about?" Kagaya let out a delighted laugh, borderline manic in nature. "They survived against the top three Upper Moons! This is wonderful news, exceptional news!"
Kagaya's entire body was trembling – not from frustration, she realized, but rather from pure overwhelming euphoria. His joy, almost childlike in nature, was infectious, and she couldn't help but smile herself.
"We now know their names, we now know their abilities, and most importantly, we now know that it is possible for humanity to stand up against those monsters," Kagaya clenched his fist, looking utterly revitalized, utterly unlike a man afflicted by debilitating sickness. "This right here – this is the turning point. For centuries, we have been rooted in place, incapable of overcoming the indomitable mountain – until now. A simple stone rolling down the mountain that would grow into an unstoppable avalanche, ultimately resulting in the end of Kibutsuji Muzan himself!"
Kagaya gasped for breath before continuing. "And do you know what that means?" He swiped his hand through the air, gesturing at the hundreds – no, thousands of stone graves that lay around the cemetery. "It means that all the demon slayers' lives – all my children's lives – were not given in vain."
He gripped his left breast tightly, right over his heart, his sightless eyes dangerously bright. "Their sacrifices will be worth it," he managed to choke out. "My children, so many of their lives unfairly cut short by this world, will finally be able to rest easy, knowing that Muzan will be taken down. Their precious lives, their heroic sacrifices, were what allowed us to arrive at this pivotal moment in history."
And suddenly, all the energy evaporated from Kagaya's form and he seemed so utterly drained.
"It will all have been worth it," he whispered.
Amane's gaze softened. "Indeed."
There was nothing more she could say. Because she understood his pain, the pain of being too weak to wield a sword himself, the pain of being forced to constantly send people he regarded as his own children to the frontlines to die. No parents should ever have to bury their children, and Kagaya... Kagaya had buried far too many already.
Knowing that, could she really blame him for losing his composure in what was likely the first time in his life?
Of course not. So she merely laid a hand on his back in a show of support and asked, "What do we do now?"
He stirred. "We let them rest," he said decisively. "My children have battled well. Now is the time for them to recover and grow even stronger in training, so the next time they face off against the Upper Moons and perhaps even Muzan himself..."
He smiled. "They will finish them for good."
Shinobu woke up to the unique sensation of her entire body feeling as if it had been doused in oil, lit on fire, crushed underneath a boulder, before being carved into a thousand pieces and made into some deluxe sashimi.
Was she dead? She hoped not. If this was what the afterlife felt like, then she wasn't sure what she would do. Lead a revolution against the Shinigami in protest, probably.
Letting out a groan of pain, Shinobu opened her eyes only to be greeted by a white ceiling. Ah. She was in the Butterfly Mansion. Still alive, then. She made to sit up, only to let out a gasp of pain as her entire body protested, sharp pain shooting through her limbs.
Shinobu heard the sound of rustling as someone rushed over. That voice... She knew that voice. She managed to turn her head slightly to see Giyuu's normally emotionless gaze filled with worry and concern.
"Tomi-" She coughed, her throat parched and sore.
Gently, Giyuu lifted her head and held a cup of water to her lips. She slowly sipped the cool liquid, feeling it soothe her throat and rejuvenate her. And... yup, there was the unmistakable taste of painkiller laced in as well. Before she knew it, she had drunk it all, and he set the empty cup back down on the bedside table. The painkillers worked quickly, and already she felt a lot better.
"Tomioka," she said, her voice still quiet and raw but at least usable now. "Help me up."
"Your wounds – "
"Please don't make me repeat myself."
Giyuu knew her well enough to listen, stepping forward and helping her sit up straight. His hands were warm and calloused, unlike the smooth, freezing hands of Douma as he had gripped her throat–
She closed her eyes, willing those images away. This sort of response was normal after any near-death experience, and she had plenty of practice suppressing such memories. Granted, she had never been this close to death before, but that was understandable. After all, their opponents had been the three Upper Moons themselves.
Shinobu leaned back against the pillow Giyuu had placed between her back and the headboard, facing him. His dark blue eyes, normally so dull, were alert and tracking her every movement, staring at her with unnerving intensity. She had never seen him like this before, though she didn't mention it. There were more important matters to attend to.
Giyuu blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"On the mission," Shinobu said, already bracing herself. She paused, sudden fear coursing through her. "Is Kanao alive?" she asked desperately. Please, please let her still be alive. Shinobu had already lost three tsuguko and an older sister, she couldn't lose Kanao now–
"She's alive," Giyuu said, calming her racing thoughts. "Everyone is. Nobody died."
Shinobu froze, unsure if she had heard him right. "What? But... What happened? Last I remember, I had used the last of my strength to knock Rengoku aside to avoid an attack, only to pass out afterward. All of us were out of commission, and there was no way Tanjirou was able to stand up to all three Upper Moons himself. How did we live?"
"I don't know," Giyuu said. "We haven't had our debriefing meeting yet."
"I see... All the others are alive? You're absolutely sure?"
"They are," Giyuu confirmed. "They have already woken up and are recovering in the common hospital room right now. We were going to wait until you had woken up as well before moving you over."
"I see..." That explained why she was in one of the private rooms. Unbidden, a sigh of relief escaped her.
"I thought we were all dead," she whispered. Kanao, Rengoku, even Tanjirou and Nezuko... She smiled. "I'm glad we're alive."
"As am I."
There was a moment of silence.
Shinobu paused. Hold on... A glint suddenly appeared in her eyes as she turned to look at Giyuu, and he must've sensed something was wrong because his gaze suddenly became guarded. "Were you waiting in here the entire time?"
"Oh? And if I asked Aoi, would she be able to corroborate that?"
"Would you like to try again, Tomioka?"
"I was waiting in here the entire time for you to wake up," Giyuu admitted.
"My, my," Shinobu raised a hand to her lips, ignoring the twinges of pain that came with the motion. "One has to wonder why you would feel the need to lie about it." Her eyes flickered around the room. "There's not even a book or newspaper lying around. You must have been awfully bored staring at the walls, Tomioka – unless you were staring at someone else? A certain maiden's face, perhaps?"
"I-" Giyuu hesitated, and to her delight, he looked away. As blatant of an admission of guilt as she can get.
Shinobu capitalized on it instantly. "I was right?" she breathed. "Why, you scoundrel. What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I was scared you were going to die and wanted to make sure that you were still alive."
His blunt answer cut through her teasing like a blade through bamboo, and she fell silent.
"Ahh," she said after a moment. "Well, you don't have to worry. I'm still here, as you can see."
"It's a pity, though," Shinobu said, her cheer disappearing as she narrowed her eyes. "I wasn't able to kill the Upper Moon Two. I had dedicated my entire life to avenging my sister, but when I finally had him in my grasp, I failed." Her voice was filled with anger and self-loathing. "I was too slow, my poison not strong enough, my body too weak."
"At least you're still alive."
Shinobu inclined her head. "There is that," she acknowledged. "I'll just have to prepare for the next time I fight him–"
Shinobu turned her head to look at him. "What was that?"
"You shouldn't fight him again. It's too dangerous."
Shinobu narrowed her eyes. "Excuse me? I may have been inadequate this time, but I can improve. That's what training is for. If I just work on my speed and devise some new more potent poisons…"
"And what if it's still not enough?" There was an odd quality to Giyuu's voice as he stared at her. "What if he's still stronger than you?"
Shinobu hummed. "Then I'll just die, I suppose. Does it matter–?"
"IT DOES MATTER!"
Shinobu froze as Giyuu roared – quiet, silent, reticent Giyuu who barely talked on the best of days, who she needed to constantly cajole and annoy and wheedle to get even a few words out of him, had willingly raised his voice to a nearly deafening volume. She wasn't aware he even could be so loud.
"You were nearly dead when they brought you in!" Giyuu shouted, anguish clear in his voice as she stared at him in shock. "If they had been even ten minutes slower, you would have died! Do you understand? Your lungs, damaged! Your windpipe – nearly crushed! A massive gash across your shoulder – inches away from striking your heart! Enough cuts and lacerations on your body that you literally almost bled out!"
"So what?" Shinobu snapped back. "I'm a demon slayer, I know the risks. We fight, we get injured, we die. Every mission we go on has a possibility of being our last, and we accept that! What are you getting all worked up about?"
"Because your first reaction after waking up is to immediately think about fighting him again when you already know that you can't possibly hope to match him!"
The temperature in the room seemed to drop by ten degrees.
"Then how do you suggest I react?" Shinobu asked, her voice dangerously low. "Accept that I'll never be able to beat him and give up?"
"No, I want you to realize what your limits are and reevaluate your strategy. Because while you may have gotten lucky this time, at this rate if you rush in to fight the Upper Moon Two head-on again, you will die!"
"Then let me die!" Shinobu snarled. "It's what I was planning on, anyway!"
The moment the words left her lips, she instantly regretted them, but it was too late.
"What do you mean?" Giyuu asked, his dark blue eyes piercing into her. "What plan?"
Shinobu was silent for a moment. "I was going to infuse my blood and body with wisteria poison," she finally said. "My blade can only hold a limited amount, and he's already shown that he can neutralize it with ease. If I use my body as the carrier, though, then according to my calculations the concentration will be seven hundred times the normal amount – more than enough to cripple or even kill him."
"At the cost of him eating you," Giyuu said, his eyes slowly widening in shock and his face growing ashen.
Shinobu nodded. "It would be a worthy sacrifice."
"Don't say that!" Giyuu said harshly. "Your life isn't something to throw away so easily–"
"And yours is?" Shinobu said as a sudden wave of anger rushed through her. "Don't act as if I had forgotten what had happened before this whole thing. We were about to execute you for breaking the Demon Slayer Corps rules – and you were going to let us! You didn't even try to defend yourself at the trial!"
"This isn't about me–"
"Well, I'm making it about you, so deal with it!" All the rage and frustration and resentment she had suppressed the last month came flooding out. "Because what the hell, Tomioka? You lecture me about planning to sacrifice myself, but you seem to have no issues with letting us, your own comrades, prepare your execution! You didn't say a single damn word as they discussed how to kill you! At least I'm planning on making my death useful – you were willing to throw your life away for nothing!"
"And what difference would it have made if I did say something?" Giyuu was no longer shouting, but his voice was somehow even more fierce. "You saw how our fellow Hashira acted. They attacked the demons even when Oyakata-sama invited them to the headquarters and personally vouched for them. Do you think they would have believed me?"
"I would have believed you!" Shinobu shouted. "Even if you didn't tell them, you could've at least told me!"
Giyuu reeled back, eyes going wide in surprise.
"You idiot!" Shinobu said, almost disbelievingly at just how dense he was. "You didn't even realize, did you! You were so obsessed with being all cool and silent, that you forgot that maybe, just maybe, not everyone hated you?"
"You literally said on the mountain that nobody likes me!"
"Oh my god, you still remember that?" Shinobu cried in exasperation. "That was a joke, you imbecile! Dear heavens, forget me training to fight Douma – you need to brush up on some basic social interaction skills!"
"Wait, so you do like me?"
"Yes!" If she wasn't so injured already, she would've thrown her hands up. "Why on earth would I try to talk to you all the time otherwise?"
"Because you're naturally annoying?"
"For your own health and wellbeing, I'm going to pretend that you didn't say that." Shinobu huffed out a long, frustrated breath. "But yes, I like you, Giyuu Tomioka. So I would appreciate you telling me next time you pull something like that, so that I wouldn't feel like you had betrayed me and raised your blade against me for no reason at all! I could've helped defend you, but instead, I was forced to watch on the side helplessly as you were nearly killed! Your blood would have been on my hands!"
She breathed heavily, all the words she had wanted to say the past month finally spilling out in an uncontrollable rant. She had been so unbelievably stressed, worried that the Hashira would condemn him to death, and she could do nothing about it...
"You're right," Giyuu said, sagging slightly as the fight drained from him. "I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
"But in return... please don't go through with that plan."
"That's not for you to decide."
"I don't care," Giyuu said stubbornly. "You're not killing yourself to take down the Upper Moon Two. I won't let you."
Shinobu laughed. "Do you think you can stop me?"
"Yes," Giyuu said simply.
She scoffed. "Yeah, sure. I don't have time for this." She shifted to get out of bed, only to stop as Giyuu stepped forward and grabbed hold of her wrist.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I need to get back to work."
"You need to rest."
"I can rest later." She made to get up but Giyuu pushed her down. She narrowed her eyes. "Let go of me."
"You need to rest," he repeated. She resisted weakly as he gently maneuvered her back into a resting position, careful to not put pressure on any of her injuries while holding her in place.
"Let go of me!" Shinobu snapped, lashing out with a fist, which he grabbed, then blocked her other fist as well. She continued struggling, trying to get herself free or, failing that, injuring Giyuu badly enough that he'd have to set her free.
"Kochou, your injuries–"
"Damn my injuries! They'll heal, you won't if you don't let go–"
"You're going to rip your stitches–"
"You'll be eating food through a straw for a month–"
The door opened, Sanemi rushing in. "Kochou! You're finally awake..." He trailed off slowly as he took in the sight in front of him.
Giyuu and Shinobu both staring back at him with wide eyes. Giyuu's hands pinning her wrists to the headboard behind her. His body over hers as he leveraged his weight to keep her down. Her mouth an inch away from his ear, about to bite down. Their forms practically entangled from all her struggling. Their faces, still flushed red with anger but could easily be misconstrued for something else...
"Shinobu!" Mitsuri's voice rang out as she stepped into the room as well, a worried expression on her face. "I heard what happened! Are you okay..."
"What a flamboyant accomplishment!" Uzui declared as he too entered behind her, a large smile spread across his face. "Fighting against the Three Upper Moons themselves..."
They too fell silent as they saw the position Shinobu and Giyuu were in.
"This isn't what it looks like," said Shinobu.
"Eep!" Mitsuri squeaked. "I'm so, so sorry for interrupting!" She spun around one-eighty degrees and flew from the room.
"Tomioka, you sick bastard," Sanemi snarled. "You couldn't have waited until she had at least recovered first?" He stepped forward, intent on ripping his head off, only to choke as Mitsuri popped back in to grab him by the back of his shirt. Sanemi clawed at his collar and sputtered out curses as she bodily dragged him out of the room.
"Ho ho!" Uzui laughed. "I have to say, I didn't expect this, Giyuu, you sly dog you." He grinned. "Well, have fun, you two!" He shot them a double thumbs-up before he left, shutting the door behind him.
There was a long moment of silence.
"Before you do anything reckless, I just want to remind you that you are still injured, and Lull is unparalleled in its defensive capabilities–"
"You are dead."
Tanjirou shifted nervously underneath the Hashiras' gazes, desperately wishing that he was anywhere but here. When he had awoken, he had found himself in the "Butterfly Mansion": the medical clinic for the Demon Slayer Corps. Despite being demons, he and Nezuko had been brought there as well, and surprisingly they hadn't even been chained or bound – though that was probably due to the fact the medical team had been too busy performing emergency surgery.
For several terrible hours, Tanjirou had been worried that Shinobu, Rengoku, and Kanao had succumbed to their injuries, and when the news came that they would all survive, he had nearly cried from relief. Even then, however, they had still remained unconscious, their bodies needing all the energy possible to recover.
Rengoku had woken up first about a day later, a testament to his sheer vitality. It appeared that not even broken ribs, internal bleeding, and a crushed eye could keep the Flame Hashira down for long.
Kanao had been the next to wake. Thankfully, her wounds had been relatively straightforward: mostly just cuts and lacerations that were easily stitched up. Her lungs had suffered damage as well from when she had breathed in the demonic ice mist, but there was nothing that could be done about that except to have her drink some herbal medicine to accelerate the healing process and wait for it to naturally recover.
Shinobu had been the worst off, mostly due to how little she had weighed. Even Kanao was a solid nine kilograms heavier than her. It was the reason why Shinobu had to rely on piercing attacks and poison; she simply didn't have the necessary muscle mass to fully behead a demon. Because of that, the blood loss had severely affected her, and from what Tanjirou had heard, she had been touch and go for a while. Thankfully, they had been able to stabilize her in the end–
Tanjirou was interrupted from his thoughts by Rengoku's loud, boisterous laughter.
"... and as I fell unconscious, I had thought that it would be the end, but young Kamado managed to come through," the Flame Pillar said, recounting the story. "I don't know how, but he defended all of us from the three Upper Moons until the sun rose!"
"Most flamboyant!" Uzui grinned, looking at Tanjirou, who was sitting on a chair by Rengoku's bedside. The curtains were arranged so that no direct sunlight would hit him. "How did you do it?"
"I unlocked my Blood Demon Art," Tanjirou explained. "It allowed me to form a barrier that negated their demonic attacks."
"So your Blood Demon Art is a barrier to protect others?" Mitsuri smiled, clapping her hands together. "How amazing!"
"Tch," Sanemi crossed his arms. "It could also be used to keep someone inside, trapped and unable to escape as he devours them."
Tanjirou's eyes widened. "I wouldn't!"
"Yeah, likely story–"
"He wouldn't," a soft voice cut in. They turned to see Kanao regarding them with her usual emotionless gaze. She was lying in the bed next to Rengoku, and had been listening silently as Rengoku talked. Tanjirou had honestly forgotten she was there until she had spoken up.
"Tanjirou saved us," Kanao continued, looking at Sanemi. Her voice was still raspy from the ice mist she had inhaled, but her tone was even and insistent. "He protected us all. Whatever you think of him" – her eyes flashed – "you're wrong."
Sanemi looked stunned that she had said anything at all, much less talked back to him.
Tanjirou felt a smile spread across his face. "Kanao..."
Mitsuri let out a noise that was a mix between a squeal and a coo before immediately covering her lips with her hands and going bright red when they all looked at her. "I'm so sorry," she said, mortified. "I just... look, she's defending him! Kanao's defending him! It's so cute!"
Tanjirou flushed and even Kanao's expression cracked a little, making Mitsuri's smile widen behind her hands even more, but fortunately for them, Rengoku came to their rescue.
"I'm defending him as well!" Rengoku declared. "This mission was a test for him, and he performed admirably – both him and his little sister. Though they may be demons, Kamado Tanjirou and Kamado Nezuko have proven themselves to be true demon slayers." He smiled. "I, for one, am proud to have fought alongside them."
"Rengoku!" Tanjirou's eyes widened in shock. "Y-You really mean that?"
"Of course! Even if you may have fangs and claws on the outside, it's clear as day that your humanity within still shines as brightly as ever!" Rengoku grinned. "I do not know about the others, but just know that I accept you two wholeheartedly."
Tanjirou beamed. "Thank you!"
"Well, if Kyojurou approves, then I do too!" Mitsuri smiled brightly. "Besides, you saved them all. Thank you, Tanjirou."
Then she stepped forward and before he could react, she leaned down and planted a kiss on his left cheek.
Tanjirou blinked. Then his eyes widened and his face went bright red. "I-It was my pleasure," he spluttered as Mitsuri giggled at his reaction.
"Well, facing off against three Upper Moons at once — and engaging the Upper Moon One in direct combat before that…" Uzui grinned and spread his arms wide. "It appears, Tanjirou, that you have grasped the true essence of flashiness. You have the approval of the God of Festivals, yours truly himself!"
"Thank you!" Tanjirou smiled so widely his cheeks hurt. "I—I won't let you down."
Then, he turned to the last person in the room. Sanemi scowled when Tanjirou's gaze landed on him.
"What?" He snarled fiercely. "You want my approval too, is that it? Maybe a compliment and a kiss on the cheek as well?" He shook his head. "Don't bother, you're not getting it."
"Sanemi..." Mitsuri said reproachfully.
"They're demons," Sanemi hissed. "Besides, the only reason why–"
"Sanemi," Uzui said warningly.
Sanemi growled. "Whatever. I need to get back to patrolling," Sanemi turned around and left the room. Before he stepped out the doorway, he looked over his shoulders to send Tanjirou one last withering look, and then he was gone.
"You know, I get the feeling that he doesn't like me very much..."
Mitsuri sighed. "It's not personal, Tanjirou. Sanemi just... had a really rough past."
"Most of us do," Uzui said solemnly. "Which is why it was difficult for us to comprehend the idea of there being a good demon. It wasn't anything against you, specifically – just, most demons are remorseless, disgusting, vile, evil beings–"
"What Uzui's trying to say," Rengoku spoke up, his gaze serious as well, "is that we're sorry for attacking you back at the Hashira meeting. If Oyakata-sama hadn't spoken up in time..." He looked down. "We would have committed an unforgivable sin."
"Ah..." Tanjirou winced as he remembered how close he and Nezuko had been to dying. "It... It's fine."
"No, it's not," Mitsuri said quietly.
Tanjirou sighed. "You're right, it's not. But that's all in the past now. There's no point in dwelling on it – and besides, it's clear that you regret your actions." He smiled gently. "I forgive you."
"You would forgive and forget that easily?" Uzui asked, raising an eyebrow.
Tanjirou shrugged. "What's the point of holding a grudge? We're all on the same side, anyway." Then he narrowed his eyes and his expression darkened. "That said... if anyone tries to hurt Nezuko again, I'll destroy them."
"Hoh? Quite the flashy threat," Uzui smiled. "You, my dear Kamado, have the markings of a true emissary of flashiness. I'll be keeping an eye on you."
Turning around, the Sound Hashira let out a loud laugh as he left the room.
"Don't worry," Mitsuri held up a fist, her face set with determination. "If anyone tries to hurt Nezuko, I'll defend her with all my might."
Tanjirou couldn't help but smile. "Thank you." He paused. "By the way, how's Shinobu doing?"
Oddly, Mitsuri blushed and refused to meet his eyes. "S-She's awake."
"Really?" Tanjirou brightened, Rengoku sat up straighter, and Kanao leaned forward. "I'm so glad!"
"Is she okay?" Kanao asked.
"Giyuu was with her, wasn't he?" Tanjirou asked. Strangely, Mitsuri let out a keening sound. Tanjirou shot her an odd look but she didn't say anything. "I don't think he slept at all these past few days while he waited for her to wake. Aoi says that he was waiting by her bed the entire time."
Mitsuri paused. "Truly?"
"Well, he had to leave in the night to go on his missions, but even then he returned as quickly as possible." Tanjirou smiled. "He must really care for her." He looked down as his smile fell. "And I forced him to fight against her on Mount Natagumo..."
"It'll be fine," Rengoku said. "She'll understand."
"I hope so."
"Oh trust me, I think she does," Mitsuri muttered. "Anyway, I should get going too. Rest well, Kanao, Kyojurou, Tanjirou. See you later!"
With that, the Love Hashira left as well, leaving behind only the scent of lingering perfume.
The moment they could no longer hear her footsteps, Rengoku suddenly lurched forward, bending over as his body was racked with coughs.
"Rengoku?" Tanjirou asked in concern. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Rengoku wheezed out in between coughs. "Just... My body still isn't in the best shape. I didn't want Kanroji to worry..." At Tanjirou's questioning look, he elaborated. "She was my apprentice."
Tanjirou nodded in understanding. "Do you need anything?"
"No, I'm fine – "
The door to the common room slammed open and one of the butterfly girls, Naho, poked her head in.
"Tanjirou! Your sister's awake!"
"Nezuko!" Tanjirou gasped as he entered the room. Did she retain her sentience? Was the change from the fight permanent?
It was dark, the curtains drawn tightly shut, and as the door shut behind him it became darker still. The only source of light in the room was a candle on the bedside table that illuminated Nezuko sitting up on her bed, looking straight at him.
She was smiling.
"Nii-chan! There you are."
Tanjirou broke. "Nezuko!" He rushed over, stumbling slightly in his haste to get to her, and practically crushed her in an overwhelming hug. She hugged him back just as tightly, and for several seconds they just stayed like that. And if she heard several sniffles coming from him, she didn't mention it.
Then, he stepped back and smiled at her, full of warmth and joy. "You're finally awake."
"Yeah," Nezuko smiled. "Sorry to keep you waiting. I was... in a very long dream."
"I'll say. You slept for more than two years!"
"Ugh. That explains why my breath smelled so bad."
Tanjirou laughed. "How are you feeling?"
"I feel fine, though my memories are still really hazy. I don't remember much these past few years..." She paused. "How did the fight end? Did you manage to kill that big bug-eyed demon?"
Tanjirou shook his head. "He got away. All of them did. On the bright side, we all survived as well."
"You know what? I'll take that." Nezuko touched her head, and Tanjirou's heart tightened as he suddenly remembered how Kokushibou had quite literally torn her apart in his attacks.
"I'm sorry I wasn't able to protect you," he whispered. "You were forced to protect me instead, and got hurt for it. I'm really a good-for-nothing older brother, huh."
Nezuko stared at him for several seconds. "Can you come closer for a moment?"
"Huh?" Tanjirou blinked but complied, stepping up so he was right next to her. "What do you – OW!" He winced as Nezuko's hand snapped out and grabbed him by the ear, dragging him down.
"Don't you dare ever say that again," Nezuko said mildly even as Tanjirou flailed around in pain. "You're the best older brother I could ever ask for – and hey, you protected me all this time, so it's only fair I return the favor."
"Oh don't be such a baby," Nezuko gave a casual twist and Tanjirou screeched.
Nezuko giggled, relenting and letting him go. Tanjirou leaped back, grumbling to himself as he brushed himself off while shooting a betrayed look at her.
"I'm serious, though," she said. "You always put so much pressure on yourself, to do everything, to protect everyone. But you're only human – well, demon. Please don't blame yourself."
And she had such a resolved glint in her eyes that he didn't dare argue against her.
Nezuko smiled in satisfaction. "Good." She paused. "So... what happened these past two years?"
Tanjirou smiled. "Well, I met a new teacher. Yoriichi Tsugikuni. He was strong, the strongest person I've ever met, and he trained me in a swordsmanship style called the Breath of the Sun..."
It was good to have her back.
In canon, Giyuu never discovered Shinobu's plan until it was already too late (;-;), but I don't imagine he would react very well if he ever found out. On an unrelated note, I really wish that we saw more of Giyuu's, ahh, angry side in canon. Other than at the very beginning when he'd shouted at Tanjirou, I don't think he ever lost it afterward
And with this, the Infinity Train arc comes to an end, with them having survived a fight against the Three Upper Moons themselves. You already know Muzan is freaking out lmao
Thanks for reading!