The reason the last chapter was so difficult was that this chapter had been on my mind the entire time haha! I know this is a shorter chapter, but I wanted to be entirely focused on an entire chapter dedicated to Yatori!
Yato briefly glanced through the van's windows at Hiyori's sleeping figure. It brought back memories of how her body would be fast asleep whenever her soul slipped out. She always looked so at peace when she slept, and a soft smile remained plastered on his face.
His hand hesitated on the door handle, hoping that he wouldn't disturb her by opening it. Despite the rather loud squeaking noise from the hinge, Hiyori didn't stir from the noise. Yato thanked what luck he still had left in him that she remained asleep.
Leaning into the van, he slid his arms under her body and effortlessly lifted her. She remained asleep, and Yato glanced behind him, hoping that he wasn't going to be followed. He knew that the two of them needed to talk, without interruption.
The sounds of the night descended on the two of them. The birds had stopped chirping, and the sound of buzzing bugs and croaking frogs filled the air with a soft ambience. Streetlights above them began to flicker on, their pale yellow glows illuminating the path forward. Hiyori's mouth contorted into a frown, her brow furrowing as unpleasant thoughts drifted across her mind.
Yato looked down at her, hoping that it was just a small negative part of the dream she was having. He was relieved when her face turned back to normal a few moments later.
He wasn't even quite sure what he was going to do, or if his plan would even work. There was even the possibility that he would have to finally face the judgement of Takamagahara and be left with no way to reincarnate. Stopping briefly, he noticed that a small path forked off to the left with a sign that said "To Pond," on it. His only goal was to get away from any prying eyes and ears, so it would serve well.
The pathway wasn't lit, and the looming trees that surrounded them seemed to engulf the area, whisking them away to a land unseen or unheard of by anyone. The thinning trees betrayed the clearing that was up ahead, which had a few lamps that meekly tried to cast enough light to illuminate the fenced area alongside the pond.
Looking around for a bench, or anything remotely comfortable, Yato sighed and accepted that he would have to set Hiyori down on the cobblestones. Cursing his lack of foresight, he hadn't grabbed the blanket or pillow she was using. It would only be a matter of time before her uncomfortable new bed caused her to wake.
Placing her gently on the ground, she remained stationary for a few minutes. Yato listened in to her rhythmic breathing, savouring the silence that the small park offered them. Other than an occasional loud frog, he could hear nothing but Hiyori's breathing.
Leaning against the railing, he stared at his reflection in the water. A mixture of concern and anticipation continued to course through his body, flinching at every move she made in her sleep. He didn't know how much time had passed until she finally began to show signs of waking up. Without thinking, he shifted away from her in hopes that she wouldn't see him right when she woke up.
Hiyori slowly blinked open her eyes, a confused look coming to her face as she could only see the night sky and a small lamp above her. Below her, she felt a cold and hard surface. Her surroundings were completely different from when she had gone to sleep, which meant…
"Shit!" She bolted upright, and frantically looked around her. She started to panic as she had no idea where she could be, or how she even got there. Was it Yato? Was she being kidnapped? How was she going to get back? How long did she sleep?
"Hiyori." Yato's voice cut through the night air like a whip, cracking into her ears and sending chills down her spine. His voice was cold, but not enough that she instantly felt a sense of fear. Turning to look at the source of the voice, she could see him leaning over the railing, with his head still faced down.
"Y-Yato? Did you bring me out here? Where are we?" She managed to slowly stand up, hand gripping the railing next to her as she continued to shake off the lingering impacts of her sleep.
"We need to talk." This time Yato looked at her, his eyes a well of emotions. All at once, it seemed melancholy, anger, hatred, and shock swam within them, all working to mask his true emotion.
"Why? Where are the others, what are we doing out here? Yato! You need to tell me!" Hiyori protested louder, now regaining control of all of her senses. She folded her arms with a scowl on her face, not willing to back down now in the face of everything that was happening.
He made a low chuckle that sent another chill down her spine.
"Yes, I really do need to tell you." He turned to take a couple of steps toward her. "When all this happened, I want you to know I'm sorry - and I've always been sorry since the first time you met me."
"What are you talking about?" Hiyori normally would have dismissed his comments, but the tone of his voice made her take what he was saying seriously.
"I know you don't remember this, but look back on your Middle and High School days. Specifically the ending and beginning of them, what do your memories feel like? What did you do during that time?"
Hiyori was about to answer until she started to think about it. There isn't anything specific she could remember. She did remember getting into an accident in Middle School, which had given her narcolepsy for a little while. Otherwise, nothing else truly came to mind.
"No response, huh?" Yato said with a slight grin. "That's because we've met before. That bus accident you had? I'm sure you remember that."
Hiyori's eyes widened as she let out a small gasp. She hadn't told Yato about the accident, and it hadn't been brought up in any conversation she's had in a few years. Fears about him being dangerous, a stalker, or someone with even worse intentions flashed across her mind.
"H-How do you know about that," Hiyori demanded, shifting her weight to try and face him in a defensive stance. She could feel her heart starting to pound in her ears, hoping her fears weren't obvious to the man she was staring at.
"You ran in front of that bus to push me out of the way, Hiyori." For the first time, she saw his complexion change. His eyes lost their calculated coolness as he diverted his gaze to the ground.
She extended her hand and opened her mouth as if to say something, but dropped her hand to her side after contemplating what she might have said. She wanted to protest, to say something. But she really couldn't remember why she had been hit by the bus. Only that she found herself in the middle of the street when it happened. It felt as if there was a cloud obscuring her memories, like there was something else there, lurking just beyond her reach.
"You can feel it, can't you?" Yato's cold expression returned to his face. Hiyori's eyes widened even more, moving her hand to her chest and clenching her fist into a ball. Tears flooded into her eyes as a sense of longing overtook her senses. A sense of anxiety and sadness seemed to crash through her body, leaving her unable to respond to Yato's inquisitions.
Hiyori was so overcome by her grief that she hadn't noticed that Yato completely stopped talking. The two of them stood in silence, their heads bowed towards the ground. Tears freely flowed down her cheeks, as she tried to fight her memories, seeing any way to try and look past the pall that seemed to surround each one she looked at.
"Why can't I… why don't I see it…" She mumbled through her sobs.
Yato hadn't moved a muscle since he last spoke, his arms still locked in a slightly raised position. Hiyori's sobbing had cut straight through him, resurfacing the same feelings of anger and regret he had the night he cut their ties. He had hoped that even trying to talk to her about this would have brought some memories back, anything at all. Her constant mumbling and anger reminded him of a shinki learning of this past. He feared that the anger and anxiety that was flowing through her didn't produce an ayakashi.
Pushing those thoughts from his mind, he managed to straighten his pose once more, and inhaled deeply. He had to act before her condition could get any worse. With several quick steps towards her, he grabbed her hands.
She jumped back in fright at his touch, as if an electric shock had surged through her body. She looked up to meet his eyes, taken aback by the intensity of the blue colour that looked back at her. His eyes were glassy as she saw a single tear streak down his cheek.
"Hiyori." He tried once more to take her hands, which she allowed. They stared into each other's eyes for what seemed like an eternity, a blush overtaking both of their faces at their closeness. To Hiyori, something felt right about this, even if she couldn't articulate why that was.
All she could muster in response was a small noise in her throat.
"The only thing I had ever wanted to was to make you the happiest girl in the world. I know I've failed at that, and the pain I see in your eyes tells me that part of you knows it's true too." Yato moved his hands around to grasp both of hers between his, the space between them still closing. Hiyori hadn't even felt the distance growing shorter, but every centimetre that seemed to vanish between them made the haze look less and less dense, details almost seeming to come into some sort of a view.
He was so close she could feel his breath across her face, his scent filled her nose. It was an intoxicating, almost unreal smell. But she could now remember clearly, she could see that she had smelled it before. She slammed her eyes shut and shook her head, trying to force herself to remember, to reach back into the caverns of her mind and pull back the information she so desperately sought.
"Those years ago, you told me something." His voice caused her to open her eyes once again, no longer bothered by just how close he was to her. She let out a ragged breath and gave a slight nod, motioning him to continue.
"Hiyori, I love you too."
Her eyes shot wide open, as a white-hot searing pain felt like it was splitting open her head. She dropped to the ground, screaming in agony at what it was doing to her. Her thoughts seemed to collapse in on themselves, the fabric of her mind being destroyed as thread after thread came loose and seemed to all burn away with anything she thought of.
Yato had caught her when she collapsed and cradled her body as she screamed. Tears were now flowing freely down his face, as he tried to do anything to ease her pain. He had ended up grabbing his hand and nearly crushing it as her muscles reacted to the anguish that surged through each nerve of her body.
Her mind could see fragments starting to reappear, to reshape themselves. She saw a cat, a bus, and a man in a tracksuit. She saw the face of a blond-haired teenage boy. She saw a hole in the ground, bored deep into the earth, a name, Yaboku. A hospital, her hospital, a request denied. Her protecting an unconscious God from a clocked figure. The tracksuit. The smile. Yato.
A silence had fallen on the surrounding area. Her screams had caused the frogs to cease their croaking, and now nothing but the wind gently rustling through the leaves could be heard. Her breathing was still hard, labouring against the stress her body had just endured. Every part of her ached, and it felt like her head was going to split open from the throbbing pain.
She felt semi-consistent wet drops on her face, almost like rain. She struggled to even move her arms, but she slowly moved her hand to her face to try to wipe her face clean. She heard a gasp as she did so, and her surroundings seemed to come into more focus.
She was laying across Yato's lap and could suddenly feel his warmth around her. She struggled to open her eyes, her eyelids feeling as if they had been glued shut. When they did start to part, she was met with the most brilliant blue she had ever remembered seeing. She felt safe and comfortable under their gaze. Unconsciously, a smile appeared on her face.
"Yato…" Her voice was full of emotion, far more than she had ever shown him during their short reunion. He gasped at the tone of her voice, but he didn't dare to speak, not knowing if she truly had her memories back.
She continued to lay there while he awkwardly took her hand to try and soothe her. She drifted to sleep, the pain and stress of the past few days finally catching up to her human body. Yato couldn't help but smile at how fragile humans really were but also knowing that he had a duty to protect the one he was currently holding.
Hiyori slept for a few hours, Yato doing his best to not move at all during that time. She slowly came too, mumbling something incoherent as she did so. It felt like she had the strangest dream. Not a trace of it remained in her head, but it had something to do with…
Her eyes shot open and she bolted upright. Her sudden movement shocked Yato, who gasped in horror. Aware that someone else was with her, she turned her head around to look at where she had just been sleeping. Yato flashed her a goofy smile.
"Uh, Hi!" The faux cheerfulness in his voice was painfully obvious for the both of them. Her eyes narrowed at him, causing the smile he had on his face to melt away.
"Of all the things I ever told you not to do, you do that" she growled, her voice low. Yato could only gulp in response. "You… after everything. How could you?!" She hadn't bothered to keep her voice low, her anger flying out of her as she shouted the words at him.
"Hiyori-" Yato tried to shift towards her but stopped as he processed the glare she was giving him.
"Did what I say mean nothing to you? Did you feel you needed to do it to decide for me? Did you run away again after you got scared of something you couldn't control? Yato! What was it?" Despite the venom in her words, Yato's expression changed to one of contentment. The look on his face shocked Hiyori. "What? What is with you!"
"You're back. You heard what I wanted to say." He couldn't help but smile at her. As if she had finally realised what that meant, a redness slowly burned into her face. Despite the anger that was still burning inside her, she took a second to regain her composure.
"Just tell me why." She spoke the words softly, forcing her anger to take a backseat if it meant she could get some answers out of him. She looked up at the God, expecting some form of an answer from him. The pained eyes she had seen just a short time ago were replaced by the ones filled with the warmth and love that lingered in her memories.
"It's… a long story." Yato sighed, looking away from her. "I would be lying if I said I didn't run away again, just when it was difficult again. You see…" His voice trailed off, as he got absorbed in his own recollections of the event.
She shifted uncomfortably on the ground while moving slightly towards him. He was staring off into the distance, and his head snapped back at the feeling of something touching his arm. Hiyori had grabbed onto his jacket and stared into his eyes.
"I need to know…" Her voice was laden with sadness. Yato could see the years of lost time reflected back at him in her eyes. He could see the days that they had lost together, the hidden pain she never knew she had, the feelings of emptiness and loneliness that lurked in her soul.
He could only give her a slight smile, before dropping his head again. This time she moved closer still, taking his other arm into her hand and grabbing him firmly.
"I'm not letting you go again." She said softly. Their eyes met again, both of them getting glassy. After a deep sigh, Yato hung his head and started to mumble something.
She forced him to look up at her by cupping his cheek in her hand. The two sat silently like that until Yato could finally speak again.
"I was threatened. Indirectly. It was made clear to me by Takamagahara that what we felt… they weren't going to accept it. They didn't just threaten me, Hiyori. They threatened you, and Yukine. It was as if my luck had finally run out. I did the only thing I could have thought of doing, the only thing that I was sure would let you out of their sights. And that was to let you go."
A few tears rolled down Hiyori's cheek at his explanation. Though brief, she could tell he was telling her the truth. The raw emotion in his voice, the fear and anger that it carried, was fully laid bare in front of her. Without thinking, she wrapped her arms around him and started to sob into his shoulder.
Shocked by her sudden embrace, Yato took several seconds before his arms went around her, pulling her closer to him. Fighting through her tears, she kept trying to say something before stopping and burying her head in his shoulder once more. After a while, she stopped crying with the two of them still locked in a tight embrace.
For the first time in years, both of them relaxed. The stress and anxiety that had been pent up within Hiyori melted away. She felt a small smile creep on her lips as she truly realised where she was, and whose embrace she was locked in. After releasing each other, she slowly leaned back.
The two wordlessly stared at each other. They both understood the quiet comfort that they offered each other and didn't want to do anything that could risk disturbing it. An invisible force seemed to be making both of them lean in once more, as Hiyori could feel her heartbeat increasing once more. Her breath became shallow as she saw Yato's eyes close as they drew closer to each other.
Briefly, she felt his breath on her face a second time. His hand came to rest on her cheek, his touch an invigorating and calming sensation that evaporated any of her lingering doubts and fears. They paused there for just a second.
Their lips met softly and tenderly. A warmth spread throughout Hiyori's body as the sensation of the kiss felt nothing like the first one that had been stolen from her. Her hands moved up to his shoulders, content with just feeling that he was there.
When they parted, they both let out a deep breath. Hiyori felt her eyes open at the same time as his. She moved back slightly and turned to the side, her face burning a deep shade of crimson. She glanced over at him, only to see his face engulfed in the same redness hers was.
Yato let out an awkward cough, before making an effort to distance himself further from her.
"Please, don't." Hiyori grabbed his hand. "Just… stay like this. A little longer…"
Yato intertwined his fingers with hers and gripped her hand tighter. He pulled her slightly towards him, and she gratefully accepted the invitation, collapsing into his shoulder. His free arm went around her back as they sat there, wordlessly.
The raw outpouring of emotions caused the both of them to quickly lose consciousness. As if their bodies understood, they remained together, Yato's arm still draped across her back holding her close as the two ended up on their side, facing each other.
In the distance, the frogs once again felt safe enough to resume their nightly serenade. Their croaking filled the night air once more, silencing the rustling leaves up above them.