The local festival was older than anyone's history book and posed as a spring holiday in the late fall, sticking to its pre-industrial traditions.

Hiyori looked at stands of straw crafts, blacksmiths, and jewelry made of flowers and coins. People in traditional clothing stood atop boxes and stages, telling tales of epic warriors and vengeful gods.

Patting at her own crimson kimono, Hiyori was suddenly pulled by Kouto, her arm in his elbow. She stumbled.

"Are you okay?" Kouto asked, "…are you wearing your Halloween costume as normal clothes?"

"I wore normal clothes as my Halloween costume." Hiyori replied. Kouto seemed pleasantly satisfied with that answer, buying them both candy apples. She made more money than he did but he refused. She took a bite and wondered if Yato would like one. They would make a good offering. Yet the ones he made at home tasted better anyway, like most things did these days.

"I want to watch this show." Kouto said suddenly, looking at her from the corner of his eye. Hiyori glanced back at him, wondering why she thought his eyes would suddenly turn black. She didn't agree but was brought to the edge of the crowd anyway, standing behind the wood benches.

The stage, an era far gone, with a poor monk being rescued by a priestess.

"She nursed him back to health and for that, he was grateful," the narrator explained the actors on stage, "In exchange, the monk used his spiritual powers to help the town with their cursed land."

That's right. She remembered this story.

"The gods, you see, caused men to fall into turmoil. Wars were constant. And the battle-hungry spirits would walk the lands to try and tempt humans into battle. Causing them to go mad."

Her grandmother would always hide behind her sleeve. Brows knitted in disgust.

"The priestess, beloved by the town and the monk, worked to heal those of injuries with the medicine made from a cherry tree. Until! She suddenly grew ill."

Reminding spirits of their past turned them wicked, grandmother always said.

"The monk, worried for his beloved, sought out the cause of this ailment. He found the god of the battlefield! The ghost of a fallen warrior made of blood and darkness!"

Boos filled the crowd and Hiyori started to smell smoke.

"But who? Who was giving the demon offerings and luring him into our village?" The narrator ironically asked the crowd. They shouted out the answer, Kouto giving his word as well.

Hiyori started to tremble.

The town suffered because the healer could not work. When the monk continued his purifications, she grew better. Soon the play revealed that the healer was only good at her work because she asked the spirit for help. That the ghost used the bloods of his victims to maintain a curse on her cherry tree. It was those petals which she used in her medicine. They continued to work wonders so the monk remained unaware. Drinking pink tea.

"Madness!" The narrator exclaimed, "the vile woman, led astray by the spirits, started to babble on about nonsense! Trying to get the monk to leave the battlefield be!"

Hiyori's breathing picked up slightly. She tried to control it. Her feet burned.

"Our hero grew suspicious, waiting until night to follow his beloved priestess to the edge of the battlefield! Right over yonder!" He pointed dramatically down the street.

Behind her eyes, Hiyori grew warmer still. She wanted to go home. Someone was watching her but she didn't dare look at the man beside her.

"Traitor! Sorceress!" The mob shouted, "witch!"

It was so hard to breathe in all this smoke.

She took a slight step back, unable to go far with her arm tied to something, holding her there.

"How dare she defend the evil spirit?"

Hiyori blinked. Cold air blew over her, shooing away the smoke like dust with a broom.

The spirit wasn't evil.

The woman on stage weeped about how the spirit wished to be with them forever, scaring the small kids in the crowd as they called her insane.

She probably was, Hiyori considered. But what did it matter to the others when they did nothing wrong?

Nauseous, Hiyori was ready to return to the safety of her home now that the show was over.

"But then…! The ghost grew furious," the narrator continued.

What?

"Outraged by the death of his witch he brought chaos to the village!" Bangs of wood and sheets of metal shook as the demonic figure of a simple shadow with a sword appeared over the backdrop.

"The monk tried his best! They fought in a glorious battle!"

Hiyori didn't remember this part.

"He tried as best he could but the priestess! She poisoned him!" The monk fell to his knees, clutching his stomach.

Hiyori eyed the silhouette of the sword.

"With the last of his strength, the ghost was pushed back," the narrator had an off-putting light surrounding him, "but…some say he still haunts these very grounds, waiting to strike you down with one swing of his ghostly sword!"

The stage went pitch black for a moment before it flashed with the shadow of the terrifying ghost in a kimono, wielding a sword. The kids screamed and cried, lights rising at the finale's end.

One tear fell down Hiyori's cheek as the others in her town chuckled and applauded.

He's been alone all this time. And she…she was killed for no reason other than their friendship. Trying to help.

Kouto shifted his hold on her to clap.

The priestess had been ripped away from him when he thought he was helping. And now, the town celebrated. Hiyori took her arm back.

And now, Yato was all alone.

"Hiyori!" Kouto shouted.

Hiyori kept running. A life depended on it.

Cold biting winds that sliced across soft cheeks, the growl of an old house. The ground was soft when she stepped on it, too soft. Her shoe sunk past the grass and red bubbled up to her socks.

Hiyori's footsteps made no sound, neither did her breathing. The darkness was impenetrable. Hiyori felt like she was being watched, at the same time as being terribly alone. She pushed into the house.

Scenes of an open battlefield flickered across her eyes the further in she stepped. Like the flashes from too many cameras. She felt dizzy.

Someone - a translucent man - suddenly howled and ran at her with a sword. Screaming, Hiyori ran into a wall to avoid the attack but he disappeared. The house groaned at the noise. Objects slammed. Glass broke. And swords clanged. Spirits of those murdered moaned in agony, their exhausting fight an eternal damnation.

Heart beating fast, sweat dripping, hands shaking. Tears started to prick Hiyori's eyes as she forced herself forward. Human instincts of the primal kind warned her to escape, that death was ensured if she stayed.

"I-I-it's too da-rk, I need, p-please, Yato? Who?"

Hiyori peaked in the library as she passed. A glowing boy curled up, rocking back and forth.

"I can't leave. I need. H- Yato? Is he gone? Who? D-don't leave."

She mouthed his name but could make no sounds. Hiyori considered going up to the boy, comforting him. She, too, wanted to curl up under a blanket and wait for the storm to pass.

What if he was lost? What if this was finally it? Yato was an old spirit and this could be his fall.

She had to find what tied him to this world.

Shivering, Hiyori climbed the stairs. The house rolled with hostility as she did, photos falling off the wall, drywall cracking. When Hiyori made it to the top, a grassy hill stretched before her. Bigger than she remembered. Below, soldiers of all shapes, sizes, and armor battled. The ground was red with blood, corpses sinking into the softness.

Someone came up behind her, a presence. Hiyori spun around and used her sword to block it. Before she could react, she impaled him. The man wheezed in pain. Her arms shook. Desperate, Hiyori took a step back, her zori slipping off the top step.

She tumbled.

Hard.

Hiyori cried out in pain. She landed on her shoulder, a crunch of bones as she fell against the floor and another warrior. He shoved her from behind, she hit the wall again. The noise echoed in the house as more furniture was dragged around. Hiyori struggled to stand, blindly facing her enemy.

Swinging, her sword met his, her threadbare, black kimono pitiful compared to his full-body armor and helmet. Hiyori saw her arms - bruised and bloodied - shake against the strain.

She was tired. This was too much. There were too many people. The money wasn't worth this. Hunting down people one at a time for pay made her skilled enough but it didn't compare to this…pointless tragedy. Homelessness was better than this bloodbath.

Knocking his sword away, the opponent snarled. The faceless enemy lashed out, grabbing her face and holding her mouth.

Hiyori fell back and hit the wall, crying.

"Ya…to…?" She tried to gasp, catching her breath.

The house growled again, coming back into focus. Next to her, above her, something heavy thudded - like a soldier's footsteps- and Hiyori whipped her head. The end of a dresser slid to the top of the staircase. Tipping…falling.

Hiyori's eyes widened impossibly big. Someone was running towards her from atop the hill, an ax at the ready. They were coming, fading in and out of each other, something dangerous. Hiyori took a breath as if it were her last.

"Yato! Please! You're scaring me!" Her cries echoed through their home.

The banging stopped.

The breaking stopped.

The moans of the dead and wounded stopped.

Hiyori breathed. It showed in small clouds. Like ghosts.

Shakily, she stood. Her arm dangled and she hissed in pain, wiping her tears. Hiyori inched down the hall towards the kitchen. The darkness still thick, the feeling of dread heavy.

She made it to the back porch, holding her arm. Hiyori knew she was going to die if she went this way, but she pressed on. Wanting to find Yato.

"Who's there?" Hiyori's voice was still soundless.

There was someone. Someone behind her, aiming to take her life. A sword scraped the earth, a blood splattered kimono blending into the shadows. Hiyori's arms, shaky with exhaustion, brought up her own sword. It was broken. Splinters from the hilt dug into her skin.

Tears pricked her eyes. She was too young. This was too much. It wasn't worth it. She couldn't die here. Not like this. It wasn't fair. She hardly lived.

Hiyori turned and ran, slipping on blood and frost, jumping over fallen soldiers and weaving around tables and chairs. She was being chased. She was going to die. She needed to get- She needed to-

Gasping for air, Hiyori fled across the field. She avoided some swings, met some blows, and hiccuped through her sobs. If she could just- If she could just-

A searing streak of pain blazed diagonally across her back, forcing her to stumble. Fury ignited and Hiyori caught herself on one foot, spinning to use the last ounce of her strength to dig her broken blade into the soft of her opponent's throat. Through her matted black bangs, Hiyori watched the blood bubble to her fingers. When the body fell to her yard, Hiyori turned and continued to stagger. Her back was hot, wet with something itchy. It was easy to ignore when her head was so light.

She kept moving.

She had to keep moving.

She would die if she didn't keep walking. But she would make it, and put this whole life behind her. Start anew.

Body laid behind her, Hiyori looked down (her front was so heavy). There was a hilt blocking her view of the clean grass.

That wasn't where swords were supposed to go, but her sheath that had been lost ages ago. This one weighed down her torso. Red dripped down her front.

The battle raged behind her, coming closer.

She would face them using this tree. Hiyori's hand - large and rough - rested on the bark of a cherry tree. Her breathing was so ragged, dragging metallic saliva with it. She pressed her back to the trunk, toes digging in the untouched dirt. With this, she could stand and keep fighting. That way, when the battle was over, she could continue on to a new life.

Her bottom met the ground, head lulling to the side. Annoying. Something was sticking out of her center.

It felt good to finally sit after fighting for so long, all the heavy tiredness dripping out of her body and flowing into the ground. She would get up after she rested. When the battle was over.

She smiled.

Then, she would live a better life. A new one.

Afterall…she didn't want to die.

A warm spring breeze blew across Hiyori's face. She knew her eyes to be open, yet everything was blurry. Pink spread above her while green swayed below, a pillar of crimson pants blew on her right. White stretching like a lone spiderlily.

The woman beside her reached for another handful of sakura blossoms, dropping the petals in a woven basket. It matched the tall one on her back, holding herbs and other flowers.

"Sakura petals for pink tea, huh? Okay, I'll give it a try." The woman said.

Hiyori's pain was gone. She felt rather cold, but was lighter than air. What was she doing here again?

"Don't make that face at me, grumpy. It's not my fault you decided to haunt this particular tree."

This woman reminded Hiyori of her grandmother.

"I can go where I please, thank you very much. Just because you pretend to be scary doesn't mean you can control what I do."

Hiyori smiled at that.

"Why don't you come with me and show me how to make it?

Ah, it smelled so nice here. Her favorite smell.

"…It doesn't matter if you're good at cooking or not, I'll need help. Besides, isn't that what ghosts do? They wander?"

Ghosts did wander, Hiyori knew this first hand.

"In the meantime, you can help me around the house. What else do you have to do besides sit next to a tree you refuse to look at?" Sakura shifted the basket to her waist, "come on, let's go, dark-and-gloomy."

Hiyori floated up to follow her. This woman had a nice smile.

The morning was misty and cloudy. Her eyes had to be pulled apart. The plane came into focus, the sky still a watercolor streak of gray, the dull sun peeked over the treetops. Hiyori's head spun, her shoulder throbbed. In a daze, her fingers spread against the wet grass. When she looked she saw it was morning dew, rather than the blood she expected it to be. Curiously, she poked the ground. It was solid.

Black…suddenly…quietly, stood before her. Still as the morning. His face was white and blank, black flames rolling off him slowly, sword unsheathed.

Hiyori was no longer surprised by such things.

Gone was the beautiful blue of his eyes, leaving nothing but empty holes of ink that flowed down his cheeks in thick drops. They dripped soundlessly, one after the other, never reaching the ground.

Yato said nothing.

"...Are you alright?" Hiyori found her voice. Weak and frayed. The same state Yato found her in.

She was met with quiet. No reminders of his previous warnings. No teasing of her recklessness.

"As much as I want you to, you probably shouldn't possess me right now…no…you better not… I'll find my own way." She mumbled in a daze, looking up at the sky.

Hiyori took a long, deep breath. Just to know she still could. The clean air brought more tears to her eyes.

Her voice broke. Heartache.

"...This tree was never cursed…was it…?"

They both knew it to be true.

"It was just…tea…"

Hiyori's lips trembled. Warm liquid - not blood or ghostly agony - ran down her cheeks. Very human. When her friend's essences flared at the sight, she sniffed and quickly cleaned herself.

"I'll be alright, remember? I can suffer my own consequences."

Yato's head lowered, slightly…silently. Unblinking.

"I'll be fine. You just rest," in a trance, Hiyori placed her hand on the tree's thick root, "we'll be waiting for you at home when you're ready."

Yato sank slowly into the grass.

Hiyori continued to watch the dawn of a new day, letting the tears fall.

Picture frames rearranged, carpets flipped, and the salt switched out for the sugar.

"Masaomi, please, this is unnecessary." Hiyori tried.

Yato seethed in the corner, Yukine holding him back as best he could with his own laughter.

"Come on, Hiyori! Grandma kept this house in tip top shape for the spirits! 'Cause cleanliness keeps the spirits at bay' and all that!" He picked up a wood chair, "Mom never let us stay here for longer than a day so I've never been able to try and contact them. I know they're here, I just want them to communicate with me!"

A chair turned completely on its head, Masaomi skipped over to Yukine's potted plants, shifting them around. Yato tried to slither over to the chair only for Masaomi to thunder his way back. Frightening the ghost and sending him shooting under the couch, staring.

Hiyori sighed at him in pity.

"Besides! Those ghosts deserve it after what happened to your arm! 'Fell down the stairs' my butt!"

When she had returned from the hospital, her arm in a sling, Yukine just started putting things away. Their house was only slightly a mess but it paled in comparison to her ghosts. Yukine wailed at the sight of her, his ghostly moans only being amplified when Yato finally returned. Their weeping over her dislocated shoulder and bump on her head carried through the halls for four nights straight. Only turning to unworldly whimpers when she asked them to tone it down. They avoided her for a week after, staring up at her with big, sad eyes.

It was hard to stay mad at ghosts. Their appearances naturally being so sad and mournful, you'd do anything to make them happy again.

"They'll communicate with you when you calm down." Hiyori led her brother away from Yukine's green room. It was kept much nicer than the garden alongside the house. (Where did you think he got the food before you went grocery shopping, Hiyori?).

"Ah-ha!" Masaomi pointed at her, "so you have been communicating with them! I knew there was no way you kept the house this clean!" His finger caused her to jolt. Her shoulder throbbed.

She pushed her brother to the living room, sending a look of apology to her ghosts. Yukine offered a smile, fixing the chair and putting it back. Yato's eyes slithered up above, staring at the new-comer.

"Sit here, I'll make us some tea."

"No, no, no! I'll do it!" Masaomi rose from the couch, "you sit and relax, let me take care of everything."

Yukine floated into the room, watching them with a distant look. He stayed close to Yato.

"Really, Masaomi, I'm perfectly capable of making tea. I've been doing it!" Yato took care of everything, "Plus I grab an extra empty one for-"

Her brother refused once more and nudged her back onto the couch.

"Thank goodness he can't see us," Yukine stated.

"No, but I can hear you." Masaomi replied. Yukine jolted out of sight and Hiyori's lips pursed like she ate something sour. Grinning, the older man walked off into the kitchen.

Blue eyes shook as kitchen utensils rattled. Drawers were open and closed too harshly and the pot hit the stove hard.

"Masaomi, why don't you tell me about your travels abroad? What work are you doing besides lectures?" Hiyori immediately tried to distract her brother when he sat down. Yukine sat on the couch beside her. Masaomi had brought him a cup as requested.

"I work as a medium!" He beamed, "…ya here that boys and girls? I'm a medium! Got any last words, come find me!" Masaomi shouted at her house, then turned to her, eyes sparkling, "I saw it on tv!"

The doorbell rang.

"I'll get it!" Masaomi popped up and hustled to the front. Yato disappeared to bristle at the newcomer.

Yukine put his face in his hands, "oh my god, he's just like Yato."

Hiyori wasn't sure she liked that statement.

"Well hello there, what can I do ya for?" Masaomi's voice carried from down the hall.

"Hello, Masaomi! Look time no see," Kouto greeted.

"Uh huh, who are you again?"

"I'm…Kouto Fujisaki? Hiyori's friend from childhood?"

"Never heard of you."

Hiyori tried to cram her neck over the couch to see down the hall. Her back was cold as Yukine and Yato peaked over her shoulder.

Kouto gave an awkward laugh, a cough.

"Well, uh, Hiyori and I are rather close. I actually came over to make sure she's alright and to maybe fix that switch in the upstairs hallways giving her problems."

"Oh, that's already fixed!" Masomi chirped, "the ghosts must have fixed it!"

Hiyori spat out her tea.

"...Uh-huh…and…do you think there's ghosts here, Masaomi?" Kouto pressed slowly.

The smile was evident in her brother's voice, gleeful, "it's none of your business whether there is or isn't."

"B-but! Masaomi, surely your grandmother told you how dangerous they are? I'm worried, you're sister's becoming a recluse! An-and the spirits are-!"

"My mother wouldn't allow my sister to become a recluse! Besides, my sister's social media is full of pictures of friends and her garden."

(Yukine liked taking pictures of things and Yato liked social media).

"All my grandmother taught us was having a healthy respect for those who've passed on. So I'm not a big fan of your religious halla-balloo, not to mention you bringing her somewhere she clearly wasn't comfortable with going. And while your concern is, something, I can help my sister with construction until she feels better - I'll take that thank you very much - so you don't have to worry."

"I see…"

"You're free to go back to bullying the helpless and already-dead, now. Thanks for stopping by!"

"...I'll call Hiyori another time…"

The door was shut and Masaomi dropped whatever it was Kouto brought over.

"Now then," Masaomi sat down, "where were we?"

Yato's eyes narrowed at Masaomi as he returned to the corner, slower than before. Yukine snorted at Yato.

"I like him." Yukine decided.

Masaomi's head popped up, his nose wrinkled.

"Was that a child? Are you being haunted by children?" Masaomi asked in all seriousness, "Hiyori, that's creepy."

Yukine gasped in offense.

From somewhere, Yato snickered.