If someone asked Kanao Tsuyuri what she thought of the Butterfly Estate’s most recent patients from the Natagumo Mountain mission, she would have answered with nothing but a blank look and a serene smile.
It’s not that she disliked them; she just had no opinion of them. In her eyes, they were merely individuals who needed a place to rest and recover—like all the demon slayers before them and the ones who will come after them—so they weren’t special.
Well, maybe not the demon, but there was always room for surprises.
Well, maybe not the demon, but there was always room for surprises.
But while the demon would typically be a topic of interest or conversation for people, Kanao was completely and utterly apathetic to the subject as a whole. If it wasn’t an order, it did not concern her, and she would ignore it all together.
Kanao drew her sword out of its sheath, the blade glinting pink in the sun.
And just because there was a strange visitor temporarily living in her home, it did not mean she should skip her daily training.
Her trained breathing was long, slow, and even like the breeze gently filtering through the surroundings around her, washing over the trees like the gentle lapping of ocean water on eroded stone and carrying the wind chime’s clear sound high into the sky and down beneath the dirt; inspiring the planted seed to follow its music and release its bright plumage towards the sun to dance with the wind; all connected in natural harmony.
Breath of Flower: First Form.
After the first came the second; then the third; each form followed the next seamlessly—if one could see the trail her sword took as she flipped and danced through the air, they would compare it to a long singular paint stroke; there were no flaws or imperfections in sight—and when she performed the last form, she looped her blade around again in a difference sequence. Her dance was less connected and became more dangerous, unpredictable, yet beautiful all the same.
Her sister taught her the importance of adapting during battle, focusing not on perfect form but reading the enemy’s movements, pinpointing weaknesses, exploiting openings from the enemy’s brief lapses of judgement, tuning in to her environment, mitigating any weaknesses or predictability in her own movements, and more and more until it was inscribed into her very being.
Of all the lessons she taught her, Shinobu stressed the importance of adapting. Was it because it was an important aspect of battle? Did Shinobu find a noticeable lack of fluidity in Kanao’s technique and wanted her to work on it? Or was it less literal and more metaphorical? Could it be she was too predictable? Narrow-minded? Unfocused?
She doubted she was unfocused as she noticed Kamado walking towards her long before the other girl had even turned the corner and found her.
Kanao completed the current form she was on—the ground releasing dirt clouds as she slid to a stop—before sliding her sword back into its sheath.
“Oh, sorry, did I interrupt you?” Kamado asked, “I just wanted to see what you were doing. What Breathing style was that anyway? I thought it was Breath of Water, but now I’m not so sure.”
Like countless times before, Kanao took the coin out from her uniform pocket, and flipped it. The coin tumbled through the air, revealing no indication of what side it was landing on as it reached its peak and succumbed to the force of gravity. When she caught it, the coin’s face read “100.”
“Breath of Flower.” Kanao answered.
“Woah,” Kamado’s eyes widened in curiosity. “Is that why your sword is pink? That’s so cool! Could you show me more of Breath of Flower? I only got to see the last form you did and I really want to know what the others look like!”
Kanao flipped the coin again.
She put the coin back into her uniform pocket, and drew her sword out again. Taking a few steps back, she stood still, and tuned out everything but her environment; she focused on the wind crashing against the foliage, the wind chimes playing sweet, clear music, the seed breaking through soft, yielding dirt.
Fifth Form: Peonies of Futility.
She performed a flurry of flowing cuts and slashes, all weaving in on each other.
Sixth Form: Whirling Peach.
When she finished the last flowing cut, she dashed to the side and leaped, spinning as she used her body weight to slice the blade through the air in a helical fashion.
Second Form: Honorable Shadow Plum.
At the last minute, she rolled forward and broke her fall, then performing a series of rotating sword slashes around herself—like a protective shield—throwing dust clouds around her.
Fourth Form: Crimson Hanagoromo.
Taking the last sword slash from the second form, she twisted and launched into the air, clearing the massive dust cloud away in one circular motion. When she landed, Kamado clapped.
“That was incredible!” She cheered, and Kanao could swear she saw stars in her eyes.
Her eyes were very pretty.
“—the way your sword attacks always seemed connected even while you were in the air was so amazing to watch and I especially LOVED the last move you did when you cleared away the dust!” Kamado rambled on. “Could you show me more?”
She took the coin out once more and flipped it.
She sheathed her sword, and smiled.
“... Is that a no?”
Kanao looked at Kamado and her serene smile dropped.
She was disappointed.
Kanao fidgeted with the coin.
“Eh, no worries,” Kamado shrugged, “I have to continue training anyways. Oh, unrelated but can I call you Kanao?”
Kanao moved to flip the coin, but hesitated. She turned it over and over in her hand, before pocketing it, and nodding.
Kamado beamed. “You can call me Nezuko if you want!”
As Kanao watched Kamado,—no, Nezuko—skip away, she put her hand over where she put the coin.
She only did what the coin landed on. That’s how it always has been in the past when she was not given orders from her superiors.
And for the first time, she felt like it chose wrong.
The wind picked up the cloth tied around her shoulders, the cloth gently flowing behind her as she looked up to the sky.
Since that day, Nezuko has come to the training grounds just to watch Kanao perform her sword drills after the daily rehabilitation training session with Aoi and the three girls. Nezuko was content to silently watch her train, unless Kanao performed a form she had never seen before, then she asked her.
Whether or not she got the answer she was looking for was up to the coin. When Kanao answered, Nezuko brightened up, her hands fluttering by her sides as she bombarded her with follow up questions, her excitement growing with each new piece of information she obtained.
Kanao liked the way her eyes shone as she told her more about Breath of Flower, the way she could switch from talking about sword fighting to flower meanings or charcoal creation in the same breath—sometimes even in the same sentence—the way she always apologized for distracting her from training, but Kanao never minded it.
Sometimes when the coin would land tails side up, she wished she could turn it around just to see Nezuko express her joy and amazement. She never did.
These moments became less and less frequent when Nezuko began her training to master Total Concentration Breathing, and soon the only time Kanao saw her was in rehabilitation training. It was admirable how determined Nezuko was in improving herself, but Kanao couldn’t help but regret not showing her more of her swordsmanship skills when she asked.
During times like these, she put her hand over the pocket that held the coin, and wondered if she should have turned the coin around when she had the chance.
Kanao pivoted on her heel as Nezuko dived towards her, Nezuko’s hand briefly grazing the white cloth Kanao wore but slipping just out of reach.
She sprung away from another of her lunges, bounded off the wall, and sailed right over her head. Nezuko turned around and dove again; Kanao spun, shifting her bodyweight to the side, just outside of Nezuko’s reach.
Her speed and stamina had improved exponentially since the start of rehabilitation training and Total Concentration Breathing; Kanao had experienced more near misses in this session alone than all the others before.
It was impressive.
Kanao stuck the landing and dashed to the other side of the room—Nezuko close on her heels—hopping out of arm’s reach at the last second, again, and again.
Nezuko lunged once more and she pivoted around her.
Though, she was getting rather repetitive…
“Hey Kanao!” Nezuko yelled. “You’re really pretty, you know that?”
Nezuko grabbed her arm when she was too shocked to avoid it.
“Wahoo, I finally did it!” Nezuko cheered—or tried to. The chase had taken a lot out of her—she was breathing hard, her face completely red and covered in sweat—she flopped onto the ground, too tired to even stand.
“Just—just give me a minute to catch my breath.”
Kanao glanced at her arm, then to Nezuko, and back again.
“That...” Kanao started softly, “that wasn’t fair...”
Nezuko giggled, before sitting upright. “Silly Kanao! When has a real battle ever been fair?”
Aoi scoffed and put her hands on her hips. “This exercise is not meant to replicate real life battle conditions; it is meant to judge your speed and ability to think on your feet.” She relaxed her authoritative stance, and leaned on one hip. “You should still try your best to play fair so we can judge those aspects accurately, Kamado.”
Nezuko rolled her eyes. “I know that. I just wanted an excuse to call Kanao pretty—Oh yeah!” Nezuko faced Kanao, “have I ever mentioned how cute your butterfly pin is? I like it a lot—it really suits you!”
Kanao blushed while playing with her ponytail.
She thinks my hair pin is cute?
Aoi looked suspiciously at the pair, before clapping her hands twice. “Sumi! Naho! Kiyo! Could you help me set up the reflex training station? And Kamado, since you seem to be fine, could you get the cups and medicinal water from the corner?”
“Yeah, sure!” Nezuko replied, hopping back on her feet, and collecting the cups and water while the three girls hauled out the table.
As Kanao watched everyone busy themselves, she took out the coin from her uniform pocket and flipped it.
She touched her pin and hummed.