Phew! I'd have hoped to have gotten this chapter out sooner but, what can I say. Sometimes I procrastinate! The main story of this should be over by Chapter 12, with Chapter 13 being the epilogue. I hope you enjoy it!
Hiyori slowly regained some of her consciousness, the stiffness of sleep melting away from her body. The sun's rays warmed her body, and she could see the light through her tightly closed eyelids. Mumbling an annoyed grunt in response to the light's intrusion, she shifted slightly to turn onto her side. With a soft thump, her head collided with something, causing her to recoil and hiss as her eyes shot open.
An equally annoyed and previously sleeping Yato greeted her, his hand nursing the spot on his forehead Hiyori had just collided into. Her annoyance and pain quickly subsided into concern, her hand shooting to his forehead to rest over his.
"Yato, are you alright?"
"Jeez Hiyori, what the hell's your problem!" Yato continued to rub his forehead, angrily glaring at her.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to!" Just as she finished apologising, the two of them realised that her hand was over his, causing both of their faces to twinge a shade of red. Yato removed his hand away from his forehead, as Hiyori let hers drop in front of her.
With an awkward cough, Yato stood up, offering his hand to Hiyori's. As she accepted it, it drew in her towards him before she caught her balance. Once the memories of the previous night came back to her, she let out a gasp. While her head still hurt, she could piece together her memories of Yato and the Far Shore.
Her mind flashed back to the kiss the two of them had shared. She played the memory over and over in her head, trying to make sure it wasn't just from a dream. In High School, she'd often thought of that moment, but she never really believed it was ever likely to happen. Yato always seemed to be so close, yet so distant from her.
Yet, here the two of them had just slept the night in each other's arms. She could feel her eyes transfixed on a point in the distance, not paying attention to anything Yato had been trying to say.
"Hiyori?" He gently tried to pull her back from her thoughts.
"Eh?" She squeaked out.
"You weren't answering me. How are you feeling?"
Hiyori thought about it for a moment. Her head was still pounding, and she hadn't eaten in quite some time. Her body also ached from sleeping on the ground all night. By all accounts, she felt horrible given the situation she was in, but couldn't help but offer him a smile.
"I've never been better."
Yato flashed her a wide grin, his eyes sparkling in the sunlight. Before she could say anything else, he cut her off.
"We need to get back. Seems we slept the night and a decent portion of the day." He gestured to the sun, which was hanging high in the sky. The two of them walked silently down the pathway, much closer than they would have ever walked together five years ago.
She noticed through stolen glances at Yato that his face hadn't fully relaxed, as if his mind was elsewhere. He's thinking about Yukine. The realisation finally hit her that this entire time, Yukine had been separated from Yato. She knew that there was no doubt he had done nothing but think about him and how to get him back. Yukine was that important to Yato to never leave his mind.
As they turned the corner towards the location of the shrine, a shriek rang through the quiet afternoon. Kofuku had sighted them and attempted to run towards the two of them before Daikoku grabbed her and lifted her to prevent her from getting very far. The pink-haired woman frowned and cast a darkened glance up at him, but he remained resolute.
Hiyori couldn't help but smile when she saw Kofuku, now changed into a long sleeve pink plaid shirt with a pair of black shorts that came halfway to her knees. The two of them cast a wary glance towards her and Yato, Kofuku's momentary desire to jump and run to them having fallen away.
"Don't worry, she has her memories back," Yato said, looking from Kofuku to Hiyori. Her face flushed red, while Kofuku seemed to light up. She broke free from Daikoku and tackled Hiyori, nearly knocking her to the ground.
"HIYORIN!~" Kofuku shouted, "I'M SO HAPPY!" Hiyori returned the hug with a light chuckle, trying to make sure the goddess didn't crush her and to make sure she didn't press anywhere that hurt on Kofuku's body.
"Where did Bishamon go?" Yato said as he moved closer to Daikoku, leaving Hiyori to fend for herself.
"She had to leave, I'm afraid. She was getting better, so I got her out of there and got some clothes on her. We told Bishamon that you were off to get Yukine." Daikoku motioned toward the pink-haired goddess, trying to extract every detail of Hiyori's life over the past five years. Yato squinted at the mention of Yukine's name. "But I suppose whatever you did, it brought her memories back. I guess you weren't the best at cutting those ties after all, eh?"
"I'll have you know I'm perfectly able to cut ties! This one was different! I cut your ties with your son, didn't I?!" Yato said, with his trademark faux anger rising in him. He hadn't been able to talk like that for years, something that Daikoku seemed to note. "I'm glad she's doing okay. I was worried about her condition."
"You and me both." The two of them stood in silence for a few moments before Daikoku spoke again, "So I guess this means you… two are off?"
In truth, Yato wasn't entirely sure what his plan was. His overarching plan was to get Yukine back from Heaven, but the portions in between now and then were still opaque. The easiest solution would be to barge in there and see if they'd release him, but not even Yato was that foolish in believing they'd kidnap a shinki and simply let them go so quickly.
He let out a deep sigh, trying to mull over any potential plans. Having Yukine as a guidepost helped to temper Yato's more… rash decision making. Despite the urge to run into Takamagahara and do what damage he could until he got Yukine back, he could hear Yukine's voice of disapproval in his head.
There also came the issue of… Hiyori. If Yato and her were the reason for both Takamagahara looking to set up an execution squad and for the increasingly strong vents causing chaos on the Near Shore then the two of them sharing whatever they had now would not make much of a difference. Yato didn't know what the future was for either of them, let alone in weeks and months, but also how he could convince her to go back to her friend's home so she wouldn't be in harm's way.
With the thought of Hiyori's friends flashing across his mind, he reached for his phone. He saw 12 missed calls and 46 unread text messages. He also saw that it was well into the afternoon, and figured Hiyori likely needed to make a phone call. Without a second glance at Daikoku, Yato walked over to the two women, as he overheard Hiyori talking.
"...swore that Tenjin must have been watching me when I went to give thanks to him for- Yato?" She stopped mid-sentence when she noticed the serious look on Yato's face, along with his phone extended towards her.
"You might want to be making some calls around now. It seems your friends are getting the wrong ideas." Yato gave her a coy wink as her ears burned. Kofuku's eyes darted over Hiyori, before a look of shock spread across her face as the realisation set in.
"You! You! You-" She stammered, only causing Hiyori's blush to deepen. She looked at Yato, whose face also showed a tinge of red. Leaning back with a smug expression on her face, "I always knew I'd be a good matchmaker." She hummed before turning back towards the van, leaving the beet-red couple behind them.
Hiyori desperately wanted to retort with a quick It's not like that!, but she knew it was a lie. Instead, she let the bubbly goddess saunter away with a smug look on her face. She took the phone from Yato and glanced down at the background screen. It's a picture of the three of us! The realisation that after all this time, he kept his phone background the same, ignoring the cropping he did, hit her like a rogue wave.
A few tears rolled down her cheeks, which prompted immediate concern from Yato.
"Are you okay?" He leaned in to wipe away her tears. She could only nod at him before enveloping him in an enormous hug. She always had her doubts about how he truly felt about her and feared that after all this time, those feelings wouldn't have been as strong as they were before. Even after all that had happened last night, she couldn't help but wonder where his emotions truly were.
The knowledge he had done something so simple and mundane to always remember her indescribably touched her heart. He had expected to never see her again after cutting their ties, and instead of finding a new way forward, that time with her meant something to him. A fresh cascade of tears burst from her eyes as she buried her face in his chest.
Yato wrapped his arms around her before closing his own eyes and holding her close. Neither of them could see Kofuku and Daikoku watching in the distance, a mixture of bemused and concerned expressions on their faces. When they finally broke away from each other, Hiyori couldn't help but mumble an apology, which he brushed off. He turned while making a gesture with his hands to call her friends, reminding her of what she needed to do.
Instead of simply calling Ami's phone back from the recent calls menu, Hiyori first checked his contact list. She was glad she hadn't tried to text or call her own phone before because she saw her own name pop up as plain as day in his contacts. Pushing the thoughts of another wave of tears out of her mind, she hit the button to call Ami back. The phone only rang a single time.
"HIYORI? IS THAT YOU?" Ami's voice screamed over the receiver, causing it to crackle.
"Yes, it's me. I'm sorry something came up, and I ended up being… busy." She immediately regretted the pause in her voice, knowing the other girl would pick up on it.
"Hiyori, you need to tell me what happened. Right now. It's been a few days already since we last saw you. What are you doing for food? For clothes? Are you sure you're okay?"
Hiyori had to bite her lip at this question. She glanced down to see the clothes from Kofuku she was wearing were already dirty, and tried to ignore the pings of pain in her stomach.
"Y-yeah, I've been managing alright with it. You don't have to worry about me."
"I heard the pause in your voice. Where are you? Do you want us to come and get you? Can you at least come here so we can see you? You meet this mystery man and suddenly vanish to who knows where for a couple of days, sometimes without contact, leaving us worried sick! Hiyori, where did this come from?"
She winced as Ami continued to scold her for her actions, but Hiyori had no proper way of knowing how to respond to it. It's not like she could say, "No worries Ami, I met the God who wears a tracksuit I fell in love with in High School, and now I'm off with him again!"
"I know, I know. I'm sorry. Ami, I owe you an explanation. At best, what I can say now is I've reconnected with someone very special to me, and I'm not doing anything like you're thinking of! Yama too! I know you two are thinking other things are happening, but they aren't!" She tried to sound confident in her answer, but the previous night came flashing back to her and caused her to stumble over her words slightly. Hearing nothing from Ami, she continued, "I'm going to try and get back as soon as possible. I know we have to leave soon, and I'm sorry that everything happened like this."
Ami sighed on the other side of the phone.
"I don't know what's gotten into you, or what's happening. But we both want you back here tonight, and whoever you're with… we want to meet him. Can you manage that?"
"Yes, I can," Hiyori answered the question without hesitation, despite having no proper way to keep that promise. After a couple more words, the two of them hung up the phone. Trying to shake off the uneasy feeling she got from promising things she couldn't guarantee to her friends, she took notice of the overpowering aroma of food that hung in the air.
In the time she had been on the phone, Daikoku began cooking a meal for the four of them. On a makeshift platter, there was onigiri, curry, a large bowl of rice, and some miso soup. While it wasn't much, Hiyori was grateful after not having eaten anything in a few days.
She sat down next to Yato, giving him a quick smile to ease his concerned look. She barely got out a thank you for the food before she devoured a plate of curry rice. The four of them sat, reminiscing about old times and discussing more lighthearted topics. Hiyori couldn't help but notice how it seemed Yato had missed a lot of time with Kofuku and Daikoku as well.
As much as Hiyori cherished this moment, she felt an emptiness from Yukine not being there with them. She could see from the pained expression in Yato's eyes that he felt the same way. She put her hand on his knee to reassure him, taking care to make sure Kofuku or Daikoku couldn't see it. Eventually, the four of them fell into silence, clearing the rest of the plates that were laid out.
"Yato, what about Yukine?" Hiyori finally asked, the question having been burning in her all this time. He flinched at her question, his muscles tensing up.
"I'm going to rescue him. But I need to do it alone." He said, moving his gaze away from her.
"No! I'm not going to let you leave me again!"
She grabbed his hand and stared at the side of his head until he turned towards her. He slowly turned to look at her, shocked. Mustering what she could to stare intensely into his eyes while taking his hand in both of hers and giving it a tight squeeze.
"It's not safe for you to come along, not least of which because you are in your human form."
The memories of her spirit form flashed in her head. She didn't know if she could return to that form, not having been in it for over five years. The knowledge of being able to control it eluded her, but she knew that at one point, she could control when it happened. A gasp escaped her lips as her body fell to the ground.
"I guess that won't be a problem anymore!" Hiyori said with a triumphant tone in her voice. Her body was now peacefully resting on the ground, with Yato still holding her hand. For one of the few times she could remember, it left him speechless.
"Hiyori, you can't-"
"No! Yato, after all these years, I will not let you out of my sight. What about Yukine? Won't you need help? What are you even planning to do when you get there? Ask them nicely? I know you, Yato. Let me help you."
The two of them sat there quietly, with Yato intently staring at Hiyori's now sleeping body. He mumbled something Hiyori couldn't hear, causing her to lean in towards him. Instead of repeating himself, he looked up at her with a wide grin.
"You're always going to be by my side, aren't you?"
Hiyori could feel the redness overpower her face, betraying her attempts at staying silent about. Instead, she just nodded, causing Yato's grin to get wider.
By the time Kofuku and Daikoku packed up their van and the four of them had cleaned the mess left inside the shrine, the sun had sunk low over the horizon to usher in the familiar orchestra of the night as it rose for another performance.
Despite the persistent pleading by Kofuku to join the two of them on their trip to Takamagahara, the three of them convinced her that the best course of action was to return to her own shrine so she could continue to rest and recover her energy. Yato also asked her to contact Bishamon, and to let her know where he would be.
They watched as the van drove away, bound once more for Tokyo. A combination of either closing the last vent, or Hiyori's return to Yato's side, had reduced the number of storms each night to where Yato and Kofuku weren't even sure if there were any active ones in the city. The suddenly relaxed atmosphere allowed Yato a lot more free movement at night, despite his lack of a shinki.
Yato stooped low to pick up Hiyori's body, waiting for her to guide them to the home she had been staying at. She didn't mention to him that the two of them wanted her to come home that night, but it sure wasn't like this.
Hiyori was carrying their small bag of supplies that Yato had gathered out of the van, and the two awkwardly shuffled down the road. It took them a surprisingly short amount of time to reach the house, with Hiyori gently opening the front door, grateful that Ami and Yama had kept it unlocked.
Fortunately, the two of them were asleep. They had left a note near the entrance to lock the door when she came home, as well as to leave her bedroom door open so they could actually tell if she came back. Hiyori had to roll her eyes at the gesture, but she was still grateful they were concerned about her.
As they slid open the door of the room she had been staying in, she saw her phone laying in the middle of the bed. She used it to send a couple of text messages to her parents, but also sending one to the group chat she was in with her two best friends. She explained that she finally got home really late and would sleep through most of the day.
Yato looked at her hesitantly as he set her body down on the bed.
"You could at least put me under the covers." She said with a frown.
"Alright, alright, I was just wondering about your, you know…" His voice trailed off as it took a couple of seconds for Hiyori to understand what he meant.
"You pervert!" She hissed at him, though smiling when she did so. She never could interact with her body when she was in this form, and she sure would not let Yato undress her just so she could look more comfortable. Instead, he just pulled one of the light blankets over her.
The two of them walked out of the room, leaving the door half open like the note had requested. Yato's eyes scanned the hallway, sensing something moving in the background.
"There's ayakashi here. They probably latched on to you three, just like the one I had kicked away when you first found me." He said in a low voice, positioning himself in front of her. He cracked his knuckles and rotated his right arm, seeming to get ready to take them on.
"Wait." Hiyori tried to reach out to him, but he brushed her away.
"If we don't get rid of these, it'll continue to drag both of your friends down. You being gone has probably given them more than enough negative energy to feed off of."
Nodding in agreement, Hiyori assumed her own battle stance. She was still relearning how to use this form, but she remembered how nimble and good of a fighter she was in it. Yato was the first to spot one of them, about the size of a small child, lurking just outside Ami's door. Silently, he launched himself at the figure, his foot crashing across the upper part of its body.
From behind, Hiyori ran and did a flip, allowing the heel of her foot to come down on the dazed figure, which didn't dodge the attack. Yato followed with another kick, sending it flying down the hallway towards the staircase. It smashed into the railing, causing two posts to break and clatter down to the floor below.
Cursing the noise that it just caused, Yato kicked it down the stairs, and gave Hiyori a boost to send her flying feet first into it, crushing it. It let out a horrid squeal, hopefully only audible to the two of them, and melted away into the night.
"Now that was a lot easier with your help this time." Yato quipped as he flashed her a toothy smile.
Before she could respond, the sound of the other ayakashi flying at them broke up her thoughts. She jumped up to meet it, trying to kick it away from the two of them. She ended up missing, and the being slammed into her chest, knocking the wind out of her. Ending up on the floor, breathless, Yato grabbed it and flung it away at the kitchen wall, colliding with a loud bang and letting out its own shriek of pain.
He rushed to Hiyori's side to help her up. She hobbled out of the way, both arms draped across her chest. Yato charged at the creature once more, kicking it further across the room. The two engaged in the combat as all she could do was watch on. She had never really seen him fighting without Yukine. The last time she could remember was against one of Bishamon's shinki, who had attacked them with a cursed staff.
She couldn't help but appreciate how he moved to fight the ayakashi, her mind being drawn to his figure, how flawlessly he could place blows on it, and the casual and nonchalant look on his face while doing so. Her face burned once she realised where her thoughts were going.
A final shriek from the creature offered her some respite from her thoughts. It too faded away into the night, the silence of the house returning. He stumbled over to her, slumping up against the wall and coming down beside her.
His breaths were sharp and heavy, and he groaned as he touched his side. Without thinking, she wrapped her arm around him and pulled him close, so that his head was resting on her shoulder. He didn't move, instead taking the time to catch his breath.
"Thank you." Hiyori murmured, pressing a kiss to his forehead. Her own audacity shocked her and braced herself for a large reaction from him. Instead, he just let out a content sigh, moving his head to nuzzle her neck. His breath on her skin made her face instantly turn red, but she did nothing to stop him.
After a while, the two of them parted, his breath returning to normal. She already missed his breath against her skin and tried her best to hide her disappointment.
"We really should get going." Yato finally spoke up. He paced around the room, trying to sense if there were any more ayakashi in the house. Content that it was only those two that had been threatening the house, Yato motioned for her to hand him the bag she had been carrying. Reaching inside of it, he withdrew a small wooden object, which made Hiyori's eyes widen.
"You still have it!" Hiyori couldn't believe that after all this time, he still kept the shrine that she made for him.
"Of course. It's my first shrine, from the person most important to me. I would never let harm come to it."
Her heart skipped a beat after he said that. Tears once more came to her eyes, and she desperately tried to shake them away, to no avail. Yato closed the gap between them and wrapped his free arm around her, pulling her close. His scent overwhelmed her senses, relaxing her body against his.
She let out a few more muffled sobs into his jacket, before regaining her composure and looking up at him.
With her declaration, Yato dropped his arm from around her and took her hand, interlocking their fingers. To prevent the shrine from shattering to pieces when they left, they made their way to Hiyori's room and placed the shrine on the nightstand.
With one last look at Hiyori, Yato touched the shrine and a brilliant flash of white filled the room, a pillar of light stretching towards the ceiling. After a few seconds, the darkness returned, leaving an empty room with nothing but Hiyori's body resting peacefully on the bed.