Lost somewhere in dreamland, Hiyori let herself float back down onto the grass. She felt him come, a looming presence, and grabbed him before he could fully materialize. Humming at the contact, Yato kissed her back. But only slightly.
"Hiyori wait," he tried to talk, "Hiyori, this isn't working."
"Yes it is," she murmured back angrily. Could he not feel it like she could? Hiyori kissed harder.
It was difficult to open her eyes. They were too heavy. Her legs felt like lead.
"No, Hiyori!" He pushed her back a tiny bit, "just look!"
It was dark.
Night had fallen over the cherry blossom field. Hiyori stared in awe at the stars, as best she could with her eyes half open. When she smiled at Yato, she saw nothing but worry drawing hard lines on his face. It was so much deeper when she could see it so plainly like that. Did he always look at her like that? It wasn't fair he was a ghost, hiding his emotions in plain sight.
"What's wrong with it?" Hiyori asked, "Do you not want this?"
"I-" He bit his lip painfully. He was always fighting.
"That's not the point. My- I can't-" he breathed, "it's not good for it to be like this. Darkness always exists on the other side. Plus, just look at me."
Yato gestured to himself. His hair was tied up in his short ponytail, ebony kimono hanging off his arms and crossing over his front. He looked at her expectantly.
Oh, they matched.
Wind tugged at Hiyori's white kimono, the extra layer of red underneath keeping her warm. Her hair was down and her obi was decorated with crimson blossoms.
"Yato, you're really being ridiculous. I'm not losing weight, or pale, or suddenly turning old and frail! I'm-" Hiyori swayed, the field blurring and bending. Yato caught her by her shoulders.
"You see, this is what I'm talking about!" He shouted desperately, hands squeezing tight.
"What? Just cause it's night outside?" Hiyori pleaded, "I can make it day again! It's my dream!" Hiyori clenched her eyes so tight, squeezing them as tight as her fists. Yato watched, anguished.
"There, see?" Hiyori opened her eyes, sweating. The sun was back up in the sky.
It was too bright. Too warm. The sweet smell of the place was thick and made her head hurt. Hiyori tried to blink through her fatigue, fighting it. She couldn't stand the way he looked at her. Her eyes hurt, the light was blinding. Hiyori tried to force her eyes open - force a smile - for a moment she held it. Dizziness.
Yato caught her when she fell again, letting her land safely in his arms.
Laid face-down across his forearm, Hiyori's lips trembled in frustration. Her hand came up to clutch onto his sleeve, grasping as she tried to push herself up.
She could not.
Hiyori hiccuped a sob.
"I'm sorry," Yato's other hand rested between her shoulder blades. She buried her nose in the crook of his elbow, holding his arm like she held the toy he made her.
"I'm sorry but…I need you to live a good life, Hiyori. I need you…to grow old and gray…and scare all your grubby little grand babies away from my shrine," he sighed, longing.
"…I need you…to be okay." His voice was so soft and gentle. Hushing just above her ear as his hand smoothed her hair. She laid across his lap, trying pointlessly to show she was okay when she wasn't.
"This is the last time." He held her while she cried, listening and taking on her heartbreak with his own.
Soon, he started to fade. The arm she clenched onto was starting to lose that warm, pliable feel, leaving behind unnatural cold force pretending to be mass.
Hiyori held him tighter, grabbling the fabric, scrambling to keep him close. His spirit slipped from her fingers, slowly but surely.
She was angry with him, furious at the world, but she used the last ounce of her strength to look desperately at his heartbroken, translucent face.
"Wait! Please! Just one more-!"
Yato couldn't hold back. Not for such a simple wish that only she had the strength to say aloud.
He lunged, kissing her fiercely, desperately. Knowing that he would never feel again and wanting her to be the last thing he ever touched.
Yato finally left her dreamscape. Exhaustion finally took its hold and Hiyori fell onto the grass.
The shrine stood where Yato once was. It was the last thing she saw before everything went black.
Life was so unfair.
Yukine had another fit. It was on the day his mother and sister left. Hiyori and Yato stayed up with him all night for comfort.
The halloween decorations had been taken down and Yato had already gotten started on the next holiday's plans. The house always smelled of sugar and cinnamon while Yato and Yukine danced around each other, secret gifts hidden in different rooms.
"I already found his," they both told her in confidence, "it's already wrapped. I wonder what it is."
Hiyori had hers picked out as well; gardening tools and cooking electronics, as well as radio for family (Yato had started calling them that lately. It was sweet). Yato and Yukine needed an update in music tastes, theirs was so old.
She learned ghosts really like music.
Gaming aside, when she turned on the music channel, (the rare time she was allowed to clean), the two were drawn to it like shy moths to a fire, hovering in front of it and staring blankly for hours. (Thankfully they still responded, but it was just mutters at best. Their intangible minds scattered). They snapped out of it when she turned it off, annoyed and whiny (they were no longer scary but her boys were still creepy at times).
So she would get them their own radio and place it somewhere she couldn't see. It might even give her peace and quiet when she needed it. (something about the sound-waves in the air and planes, Yukine explained. Yato didn't understand what he meant, regardless of diagrams) (he was too old) (must be why they liked the tv so much. That and the colors).
"Hiyori? Hiyori, wake up!"
Yato's voice carried through. Flashes of a shrine in a dark cherry blossom field.
Honestly, he was just as guilty as she was.
"You're the one who said to stop! Let me sleep!" Despite this, Hiyori let herself sink down, reaching.
"No! Not that way!" Yato spoke urgently, "wake up!" His desperation echoed in her subconscious, ringing so loud Hiyori started to feel the pillow on her face.
"Yato, what? I have work in the morning…" Hiyori could feel herself stir.
"Hiyori, there are people outside. They're coming up the driveway."
Her heart leaped in her throat, knocking her eyelids open.
She couldn't see through the darkness of her room.
"Yato?" She sat up, wrapping the red kimono tighter around herself. It was for comfort.
"I'm going to take Yukine to hide," he said, "there's not a lot of them, and they're not sneaking around or carrying pitchforks or anything like that…but he's there. And they're throwing holy water."
"I can handle it." Hiyori got up, putting on socks and sandals. Shaking.
"I'll be with you once he's safe." She could sense Yato had vanished.
A knock sounded at the door and Kouto was there when she opened it.
"Can I help you?" Hiyori eyed the men he had with them. Two priests, a rabbi, and another monk.
"We came here to clean the house." Kouto smiled. Disgusting.
Hiyori narrowed her eyes, "my house is cleaner than yours."
Some of them raised their brows.
"Hiyori, please," Kouto sighed like she was a tantrum-throwing child.
"We just wanted to do a quick cleansing," the rabbi butted in politely.
"It's just holy water, miss, maybe a few prayers. We won't touch or move anything," the other priest added.
"Don't you think it's a bit late?" Hiyori questioned.
They looked at each other awkwardly.
"We…were under the impression it was an emergency," the young priest said. From behind his glasses, he eyed Kouto wearily.
"Well it's not. So if you could please-"
"You're not acting like your usual self, Hiyori," Kouto suddenly said.
Bile rose in Hiyori's throat, she bristled. How…dare he look so sorrowful? Like he was a puppy she just kicked.
"Ma'm? Maybe we can just take a look? We can sense these things, you know? We understand you're a very respected and beloved doctor in our community. We just want to make sure everything is okay." Kouto's monk friend explained.
"That won't be necessary," Hiyori repeated, "I said no."
"Why are you being so defiant?" Kouto's voice was a biting frost, "it's just holy water, Hiyori."
Frames on the wall began to quiver.
"Fine," Hiyori moved aside, "besides the blatant disrespect, you will stay on this floor. And if you break anything, I break you."
The men eyed her warily as they stepped inside, glancing around, they nodded apologetically. Hiyori crossed her arms, matching Kouto's glare.
"It's a bit cold in here." One of them said.
"You just came from outside," Hiyori shot back.
One of them cleared their throat, "light?"
"Of course," Hiyori sighed.
"O-oh!" Hiyori scrambled to the light switch. Her cheeks warmed and her hair stood on end.
"I-I'm still half asleep." She offered.
Something in the air changed. They looked at her, hard. Their posture shifted. Closer to each other and farther from her. Hiyori suddenly was very aware of a boundary between them.
"It's alright," Kouto chimed in, "I'll stay with Miss Iki."
Her stomach rolled. The smirk was almost growing on his face.
"...It'll just be a minute." They walked off slowly, eyes scanning, mouths whispering.
The young priest stayed behind.
"You can go on ahead, Father," Kouto smiled, "I'm good friends with Dr. Iki. I can keep her company."
Hiyori felt pale and sick. She tried to open her mouth, but was back to being soundless. Unable to do anything but stare at Kouto.
The priest's eyes darted to Hiyori then back at the other man.
"No, it's fine. I can stay too," the man walked past Kouto, "why don't we sit down?"
His smile was so comforting that Hiyori couldn't help but listen. Arms wrapped around herself, Hiyori led them to the living room and sat. The priest sat the furthest away, Kouto remaining in the doorway. Watching them. Listening for the others. Waiting.
"Thank you, Father," Hiyori said to the priest through gritted teeth.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry. Thank you for humoring us," the priest smiled, "and it's Kazuma, Dr. Iki." He offered his hand and Hiyori shook it.
Someone came around the corner and Kouto stepped out of view to speak quietly to them.
"They'll be fine," Kazuma muttered to her. Kouto was back before Hiyori could even breathe to reply. He looked at them, eyes cold and lifeless. Like a corpse.
Suddenly, something fell on the second floor. Hiyori sucked in a gasp.
"I knew it," Kouto hissed before taking off.
"Kouto! Don't you dare leave this floor!" Hiyori stood. Yato was getting restless, she could feel it. House starting prickle at the threat. They must have gotten too close to Yukine somehow.
"Hiyori!" Yukine suddenly popped out of thin air above her.
"They're in the basement!" He fretted, "they're looking for my grave! What if they find they destroy it? What if they-?" Yukine froze and Hiyori sucked in a gasp. She couldn't utter his name, fearing he would shatter at any moment. He blinked but was still staring behind her with such horror that Hiyori had to turn around.
Kazuma was looking right at him.
Alarm danced across the priest's features but he pressed his lips together tight. Eyebrows raised to his hairline, Kazuma looked between the two of them.
Hiyori's mouth opened and closed.
What about Yato?
Something heavy fell upstairs and Hiyori snapped out of it.
She ran forward, leaving the room and rushing past the stairs and glaring down the basement stairs.
"Get out of o- my house!" She hollered down the dark staircase.
"Where is it, you witch?" One of the men shouted back, "we know something vile is here! Dangerous!"
Hiyori snarled but before she could march down there, someone grabbed her arm.
"Wait, stop," Kazuma pleaded, "they're scared. Don't escalate it further."
He raised his voice for his companions in the basement, "there's no reason to sound so scared! It's just a basement! Let's not get hostile."
"Do you not hear that, Kazuma?" One said.
"There's something here! I can sense it! Can't you?" Asked the other.
"N-no! Nothing here! I think it's just late and we're paranoid! Kouto riled us up some." Kazuma said with a nervous smile.
Hiyori's eyes narrowed at the ceiling. Two pairs of footsteps were above them. One in her room.
Make that three.
Another resounding boom shook the house and even Kazuma started to look fearful. His face whipped to her and he pushed Hiyori back by her shoulders, holding her tightly.
"Dr. Iki, please, you have to tell them to calm down. It'll just make it worse if they act up! I know how defensive they can be, but please!"
Behind him, Yukine reappeared, terrified out of his wits and looking to her for help. The room turned colder.
"You don't understand," Hiyori tried.
"I do," Kazuma pressed forward, squeezing her tight, eyes desperate, "I do understand. I can tell, I can see the look in your eyes. You care for them, I know you do. I understand. I, too, would never want to put her in danger. But please…not like this. It's bad for both sides." He spoke quietly and urgently. Like it was his life at stake.
Hiyori was speechless, Yukine floated beside her.
"Let her go!" His voice wavered.
Kazuma did as the child asked.
"Yukine," Hiyori started, "Yato gave you a proper burial, right? Yato protected you. They can't do anything."
Once things were settled with Yukine's memories, Yato had finally given him a proper burial and boarded up the floor so it was better than new. Strong and difficult to break.
Yukine nodded, "I can help protect our house. I'll call your brother, too."
A scream sounded followed by the heavy weight of a body tumbling down the stairs. The person hit the floor with a sickening crack. He made no other sounds. He stopped moving.
"What was that?" the men shouted from down stairs.
"There's another ghost here, isn't there?" Kazuma accused gravely.
"He protects the house, and our family," Yukine's eyes were threatening, "he doesn't like trespassers."
"We need to make sure no one gets hurt. Try to keep him calm," Kazuma ordered, "that way, you can protect him."
Yukine regarded him through narrowed eyes.
"Don't hurt her." Yukine vanished.
The rabbi and the older priest ran up the stairs.
"He's fine!" Yukine called from down the hall, "he's just knocked out!"
"He's alright! He just fell down the stairs out of fright," Kazuma spoke gravely, "but we should take him to the hospital. This is getting ridiculous. Dr. Iki can help, then we can leave her-"
"Get out," a dark tone hissed from the shadows, "get out of our house!" The house growled, bending and shivering with hostility. Cracks showed up the walls and ceiling.
Hiyori could see her breath, but she was shaking from fear rather than the cold. Yukine suddenly dove into the rabbi, disappearing.
"Rabbi? Rabbi!" The older priest pleaded as the man's face went slack and he suddenly turned and walked out the front door.
"Possession!" The man snarled at Hiyori, "witchcraft!"
The priest turned to follow his companion. He stopped.
The man stood in the hallway, golden staff gleaming. His eyes seemed to glow in the shadows.
"I've had enough of this." Kouto pressed forward. When Hiyori readied herself to stop him, she was grabbed by the other priest. Kazuma sprung into action, helping her push back the older man.
"Get out! Don't hurt her!" Yato roared throughout the house, "Leave this place!"
They screamed as the stairs collapsed. The living room ceiling was impaled by a bed, dust and splinters caught up in the ghostly howls and wind. The house continued to growl and Hiyori could imagine flames. The humans had to cover their faces to protect from the debris. Hardwood floors suddenly sank into blood-soaked grass and the shrine on the shelf rattled. Something strong was pulling her, a wind like no other, trying to force her to safety, but the man held onto her tight.
Yukine reappeared, "That guy's asleep! I can erase some of their memory! Don't worry, I'll bring them to the edge of the yard! They'll be safe! Then I'll deal with Yato."
Nodding, Kazuma ripped off the man's crucifix and yanked the bible from him. Hiyori snatched his holy water. The teen quickly dove into the other priest, forcing the man to clumsily run out the front door.
She turned and her childhood friend was gone.
"Kouto!" She ran after him through the back door.
Mist danced across the field as the two sprinted towards the cherry tree at the edge of the yard. Time blurred as their feet thudded faster than their hearts, crunching on frosted grass. The outside winter was weak in comparison to the cold terror she felt.
Hiyori ran beside her child-self and a young Kouto, easily ducking past swinging swordsmen, and dashing around a woman brewing pink tea. Kouto stumbled over her teenage brother playing in the yard, tripped over a corpse, and swerved past two crying, blonde children curled up in the grass.
It was him. Hiyori could feel herself being watched. Always. Always looked after by bright blue eyes. Goosebumps rose across her arms. She could feel his fury. He was chasing them, moving through the grass at a break-neck pace as a shadow. Gaze fixated and unblinking.
Hiyori was a mere few feet from Kouto when he reached the tree. Yato suddenly appeared in front of him, eyes black, flares blazing, sword unsheathed. Kouto shouted in fear, digging his heels in to stop and throwing talisman out.
Yato dodged. Appearing off to the right in a blink of an eye. Yato rushed, his sword swung.
Kouto's staff met it with a resounding clang before Yato vanished and reappeared just shy of the cherry tree. Hiyori ran to stand beside Yato, staring the monk down.
"I knew it…" Kouto growled, "you're being led astray by a corrupted spirit. One that harms the living."
"He does not harm the living, he protects them. You're the one who crossed boundaries you weren't allowed. You're the one who disrespects the dead and the living."
"Oh please, you've gone mad!" Kouto sneered, "you'll see…once I expel him your mind will clear and you'll go back to your old, endearing self. You'll thank me!" He raised his voice and Yato flared, black shadows sharp as he shot forward.
Kouto's staff caught the blade a few times. Yato's shadows grew and shrunk, tripping the monk, billowing through him with a deep freeze and forcing the man to suffer visions of a battlefield long past. Hiyori watched Kouto slap himself into focus time and time again, shaking himself out of his fear.
"I've dealt with you before, monk," Yato's chilling tone came from all over, eyes always staring, "and I can do it again. Say your prayers."
When he swung, Yato vanished and reappeared, finally getting a swipe across Kouto's side. The man hissed and threw out a string of beads. Yato sank like a stone. His ghostly snarls echoed across the night as he struggled against the massive weight of the holy necklace, holding him down. Kouto stood, clutching his bloodied side. Small red drops leaked from shallow cuts on his face and hands, his haggard breathing coming out in small clouds.
Yato was merely a ghost. The spirit of someone who was. He wasn't a dangerous corrupt spirit. Just a heartbroken, lost soul that could only affect the living on the surface level. Try all he might, Yato's pain could amount to no more than striking terror into the hearts of those susceptible. Those little cuts were all he could manage against a living person.
Humans were such terrifying creatures.
Kouto's staff jingled as he walked past Yato, "I'll put an end to you, spirit, once and for all."
"Stop." Hiyori blocked the tree, standing her ground throughout the battle.
"So…" Kouto's eyes narrowed, "you were aware…"
They stared each other down. Yato struggling harder. The winter howled under the dark new moon. Mourning.
"Dr. Iki!" Kazuma's voice echoed. He dashed down the hill, following Yukine.
The cherry tree remained undisturbed. Still as ever.
Kouto raised his staff, "I'm only doing this to protect the town. And because I know…you'll thank me later."
Hiyori pushed forward, no longer wanting to sit back and do what she was convinced should be done. Kouot was surprised, suffering a harsh kick to the stomach that bent him in half. Hiyori's knuckles kissed his cheekbone. Twice. She practiced taking away a knife - a sword - from an attacker, but a staff could work just as-
The grass, frozen and pointy like Yukine's hands once were all that time ago, sunk into her skin. Hiyori's nose breathed in dirt as her vision tilted. She wondered why the ground wasn't soft or why it didn't smell like blood. Warmth made itself known, pulsing from the back of her skull.
Honestly Yato, now wasn't the time to be giving her flashbacks.
Hiyori pushed herself off the ground, shocked to find her strength leaving her. Red trickled in a simple line down her cheek like halloween makeup, dotting the ground next to her hand. Blood. Her own blood.
"Now then, I'll just put a stop to this, purify this accursed tree, and take you to the hospital and care for you." Kouto limped towards the cherry tree. His staff was wrapped in papers and beads as he muttered something under his breath. Yato's fury blazed, stretching across the ground, writhing in agony as his ghostly moans cried out for help. It did nothing.
The golden staff was raised, gleaming unnaturally like a ray of sun through the underworld, sharp tip pointed and ready.
It smelled so nice here.
Hiyori's back sank against the soft bark. Her chest was heavy, warm, pulsing.
Arrhythmia, her medical knowledge supplied, puncture wound.
Behind her, the tree itself groaned and splintered. Her shoulder slumped over a gaping hole that was growing on the side of the tree, revealing the roots within. As if it were healing backwards…dying slowly…bleeding out.
Yato screamed from a distance, eyes gouged out. Black. His shadows - his being - fading in and out.
Kazuma ran and removed the beads.
Teeth grit, Hiyori met Kouto's stunned - terrified - expression with rage. She grabbed the monk's staff and pulled, eyes alight. Slowly, slowly, pushing his weapon away from Yato's ties. Kouto's eyes lost their light, like the deepest abyss staring into a dying star, he pushed back. Liquid poured down the front of her red kimono.
How lovely. It matched.
Hiyori would have preferred pink.
"Dr. Iki!" Kouto was suddenly thrown out of the way, Kazuma tackling him to the ground.
"Hiyori," Yukine wailed as she slipped. Her bottom meeting the base of the tree, her head lulled.
"Hiyori? Hiyori!" Masaomi's voice echoed from the dropped phone speaker, "Kazuma? What's going on? I'm coming! I'm coming there now! Just hang on!"
Yato roared. The ground shook. Frost cracked across the fragile skin of the humans. In the distance, their home fell.
Kazuma grappled the man onto his stomach, holding him down. Yato suddenly loomed above them like the grim reaper himself. Black cloak flowing silently, eyes nothing but darkness.
"No! No, go to her!" Tears fell behind Kazuma's glasses, "please! Go! Go to her! Don't…don't leave her alone…!"
It was so warm here. Hiyori was happy to be back in this place. Where the night time was beautiful and the cold air couldn't touch her. She asked - so kindly, he was distressed for some reason - for Yukine to tend to the tree. He vanished working to put his gardening skills to use.
It was strange Hiyori could still see him even though he was invisible…she could touch him too… how nice…
"Hiyori?" Yato's voice, calm and clear, settled the turmoil within her. Pain subsiding, arms heavy, feet unfeeling, Hiyori settled in his arms. She leaned solidly on his chest.
"I…don't want to die…" she told him simply. Like telling him the type of dessert she wanted that day.
It was true. She hated hearing her brother's voice so panicked. There was such a nice patient at the hospital making her a holiday card. Her parents still haven't seen what she'd done with the place. And Yukine's hydrangeas had yet to bloom.
There was so much she wanted to do. So many more feelings, sounds, smells, and tastes to be had.
Her mouth felt dry. Her tongue heavy.
Hiyori slurred up at him, "be there for my brother? A…nd Yukine…?"
"Of course, Hiyori." Yato's tears dripped onto the blossoms of her kimono.
Hiyori took one last long breath, just to make sure she still could.
"…Remind…me…?" She asked "I don't wa…nt to…forget you…"
Yato smiled in her mind, his head coming to rest on hers. Solid. Warm.
"In due time. We'll have all of eternity, after all…"
"Wait…for…me…?" She asked, eyes closed.
"…The house will be cleaned for when you return...We'll be waiting for you…when you're ready…"
How sweet he smelled. How beautiful the cherry trees were.
"With warm pink tea…ready for when you come home."
How nice it was…to dance with him in the field of cherry trees.