“Please please please please please—” Tanjirou clung to the front of the blue butterfly lady’s uniform tighter as he begged, “give me something—anything to do!”
This was so embarrassing, Tanjirou thought. He usually prided himself in maintaining a respectable image. He was the first born son! It was only natural he remained strong so everyone, especially his younger siblings, would feel comforted and safe.
This was not one of his proudest moments.
This was not one of his proudest moments.
The butterfly lady shoved him off, the scent of alarm replaced with the subtle fiery scent of annoyance. “If you’re so bored, just go back to sleep! You shouldn’t even be out here!”
Of course he knows that! It’s just…
“I don’t really want to be in that room right now.” Tanjirou said.
Tanjirou rolled over on his side. Then to the other side. Then on to his back and his stomach, rolling back and forth, trying to get comfortable. He woke up a while ago from reasons unbeknownst to him, yet no matter what he did, he only succeeded in getting more tangled in the sheets, no closer to falling sleeping than he was half an hour ago.
Was it only half an hour? It felt longer.
After more fruitless attempts at falling asleep, he rolled out of bed and circled around the room, hopping on to his bed and off again, rinse and repeat. When he felt the slightest bit fatigued, he got so excited to finally sleep, he was no longer sleepy and was back to square one.
This is ridiculous, he thought when his attempt at sleep was ruined once more by his excitement over finally entering the dream world. He threw off his covers and circled around the room again.
Maybe he was approaching this wrong?
Would it be too strange if he asked the nice butterfly ladies if they could give him something to do?
He sighed. While it wasn’t a bad idea, it’s complicated by his status as a demon. It would be better if he stayed put.
It was so boring though! Tanjirou groaned.
An unknown stretch of time passed (he couldn’t bring himself to look at the clock anymore), and he was becoming fidgety.
All hopes of him falling asleep naturally were dashed, and he was left sitting on the hardwood floor—his sharp nails softly tapping against the surface, fighting the urge to scratch it like he does to the box—as he chewed on the bamboo muzzle and rocked his body from side to side, all at the time of the clock’s ticking.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
He glanced at the door and paused.
Maybe I could… He shook his head.
Don’t even think about it.
But the door is right there! Plus it's dark out; you can stand outside just for a little bit, right?
Tanjirou shook his head again, violently, as he shut his eyes. His thoughts screamed at him, begging him to do something other than tapping, tapping, tapping—
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Where was Nezuko? Why hasn't she come visit him yet?
She’s not here because she has better things to worry about.
That’s true but—
You’ve only been a burden on her this entire time.
No, no I haven’t. His tapping became frantic.
Yes, you have! You’re her older brother; you should be ashamed for dragging her down like this!
If it weren’t for you, she never would have nearly died by the spider-like demon.
She never would have vowed to turn you human and picked up the evil-smelling sword.
She never would have felt raw fear and grief when she found out our entire family was killed—the family YOU couldn’t protect—and she never would have shed bitter tears, apologizing over and over, guilt spilling out of her in waves, while YOU attacked her—
He was shocked back to reality when his nails raked against the floor. They barely left marks, but that was not his main concern. He needed to do something that wasn’t just sitting and doing nothing, or something worse will happen.
And he didn’t stay in the room long enough to find out.
Confusion. Awkwardness. Concern.
Those were the emotions coming off of the blue butterfly lady; and when that happened, it was usually an indication he may have shared just a bit too much.
“Ah, don’t worry about what I said just now!” He chuckled, trying to dispel the air of awkwardness. It didn’t work, and the silence afterwards was unbearable.
“Right, um...” Aoi cleared her throat. “I actually do have something for you to do.”
Tanjirou jumped up. “What is it?”
“Could you get all the bed sheets from the ward and bring them to me? I replaced them all earlier but then that stupid boar guy, the blond kid, and your sister made a complete mess all over the—”
“Bed sheets? Ward? Got it!” Tanjirou was off before Aoi finished speaking.
Bed sheets. Ward. Bed sheets. Ward. He repeated those words over and over as he zipped through the corridors.
Where was the ward? Did the lady ever mention where it was?
Tanjirou slowed to a stop.
He should have asked her where it was before he ran off. He can go and ask her, right?
But just as he was about to run back, he saw a person with very cool hair walking down the hall to his right and got a better idea.
“Um, excuse me!” Tanjirou called out. When the guy didn’t stop, Tanjirou caught up to him, though his train of thought stopped when he took one whiff of him.
His first waking moment since his stay at Urokodaki's place, Nezuko all bloodied, beaten, and fatigued. He ran to hug her, overwhelmed by the millions of different smells on her jacket—flowers, feathers, peaches, demons—
“What the hell do you want?” The guy snapped at him, and he came back to reality.
He stared blankly at the guy, as his mind still hadn’t provided him an answer.
This wasn’t good.
“Um, my name is Kamado Tanjirou! And you?”
The guy scoffed before storming off.
I know I was gonna ask him something, but what was it? Tanjirou thought as he caught up to him.
“I just wanted to say that I really like your hair. Are the yellow parts dyed?”
“Do you come here often?”
“Have you met the blue butterfly lady? She’s really nice!”
The scent of anger spiked as the guy suddenly stopped. “Can’t you see I don’t want to talk to you? Get lost!”
But I’m already lost, Tanjirou was about to argue but figured he must have meant that in a different way.
Wait, lost… He was lost!
“Alright, I’ll get out of your hair,” Which is really nice, by the way, “but you have to tell me where the ward is.”
The guy looked at him as if he said something stupid. “You’re standing right in front of it.”
When Tanjirou opened the door, sure enough, he saw the room—some of the beds overturned and food splattered all over the place—it was a mess.
And it was the exact mess he was looking for!
“Wow, thank you so much!” Tanjirou stepped foot into the messy place. “Sorry if I bothered too much but it was really nice talking—”
It took him a moment to realize the guy’s scent had faded. When he checked back, he was no longer there.
“—to you.” He finished, before shrugging.
Oh, well. Maybe he was busy.
As Tanjirou pulled the sheets off the mattresses one by one, righting the overturned beds to get the sheets trapped under them, he thought about the guy’s scent.
Everyone had a unique scent to them—his sister smelled like burnt wood, Zenitsu smelled like peaches, Inosuke smelled like a rotten animal who died a month ago (it was a little difficult being near him for long periods of time), the blue butterfly lady smelled like soap and fresh laundry—and the guy was no different.
It was strange, Tanjirou paused as he thought.
Why did he smell so much like a demon?
When Tanjirou brought the bed sheets to Aoi (he finally learned her name), she gave him another task: help out the three girls in the kitchen. Simple enough, and theoretically should have taken up a lot of time. He swept and mopped the floors, washed the pots, pans, and kitchen surfaces, and made rice balls with the three girls. When they told him he had done possibly everything they could think of, he went back to Aoi and was told to fold the bed sheets. After that she gave him another. And another. Until there was literally nothing else to do.
This all took roughly under two hours.
Two hours? That was it? “Are you sure there is nothing else left to do?”
Aoi groaned. “How many do I have to tell you that yes, you finished everything we needed to take care of here?”
Her frustration was growing; even someone without an enhanced sense of smell could pick it up, and he took this as a sign to not push her any further than he already has.
Wow, he really was super annoying.
“Okay, I won’t ask you anymore. I’m feeling better anyways so I’ll be going now.” He smiled.
He wasn’t feeling any better. If anything, he felt worse after realizing what he was doing. Thankfully, Aoi didn’t see through his lie.
“Alright then. But before you go,” she produced a kendama from her pocket. “I figured your inability to sleep was not because I have not given you enough to do, but because you were severely under-stimulated. I have that issue as well sometimes and playing a simple game usually helped, so I borrowed this from the girls. Have you used a kendama before?”
“Yeah, but I’m not very good at it.”
She handed it to him. “Good. Then you can use this time to improve.”
So there he was in his room, sitting on the bed, playing with a children’s toy that still gave him much trouble even now that he’s older. He was never really good at games or activities that required hand-eye coordination skills; his hands were much better at chopping trees and doing chores for extended periods of time.
Yet, Aoi was right; he was feeling a little sleepy after catching and dropping the ball, more often than not failing to catch it altogether. What was the phrase she used? Under-stimulated? Yeah, that.
Dirt. Charcoal. They were faint but the moment he smelled it, he put the kendama down.
She was finally here!
“...Brother?” Nezuko said softly, opening the door as quietly as she could. “Oh, you’re awake!”
He hummed as his eyes flicked to the object on her head when she entered the room. “You got a little butterfly stuck in your hair.”
“Oh, this?” Nezuko pointed at it. “It’s just a hair pin; it’s not real.”
Tanjirou patted the spot next to him on the bed and Nezuko took it. “Who’d you get it from?”
“The Insect Pillar, Kochou. But, I have a strong feeling Kanao asked her to give it to me.”
Kanao? Is that a new friend?
His confusion must have been evident, as Nezuko then said, “oh, right, you probably have no idea who she is. She’s been helping the other girls in the estate get Zenitsu, Inosuke, and I back into shape so we can go on missions again.”
“She sounds really nice.”
When Nezuko smiled, the air smelled slightly sweeter.
Well, this was new…
“Hey, um,” Nezuko gnawed on her lip, as if she was planning her next words carefully, “can I tell you something personal?”
The sweet smell only grew stronger as he nodded.
“I think I like her.”
Wait a moment…
“Weren’t you all ‘love is stupid and I’d marry a Hisha piece before I gave my hand in marriage to a boy’ before? What changed?”
She hummed. “Well, Kanao is not a boy, for one.”
That can’t be the only reason.
“Yeah, but what do you like about her?”
Nothing could have prepared him for what happened next.
The moment he uttered those words, Nezuko squealed so loudly it hurt his ears, apologizing quickly before she jumped off the bed, bursting into a fit of giggles, chattering, jumping, and dancing around the room.
Euphoria. Pure joy. Admiration. Love.
Those were only a few of the emotions he picked out of the millions flowing out of his sister in waves, ramping up in intensity the more she gushed and babbled about the girl who captured her heart, each wave completely overwhelming his senses.
It was dizzying. So dizzying.
“—and she is SO pretty! I know you haven’t even seen her but she is absolutely beautiful and ethereal and majestic even when she’s just doing sword drills—like she is the actual wind and her hair is all silky and shiny and—oh, she gets so flustered when I compliment her, it’s so cute and— ”
As much as he was absolutely thrilled to see Nezuko so euphoric and ecstatic, her emotions sometimes were too much for him to handle.
It was too much.
“—are you okay? Oh no, did I get too excited again?”
“No, I’m… fine…” He mumbled into his scarf, drowning out the outside world with nothing but the color blue, the smell of cotton, and his splitting headache.
Nezuko huffed as she plopped to the ground. “You promised me you would always tell me when this happened!”
Even though his head was still pounding, he brought the scarf down just enough to see Nezuko’s cheeks puffed up in annoyance, making sure his nose was still completely covered.
“I know I did, but you seemed to have been holding it in for a long time; I didn’t want to interrupt you.” It all came out slightly muffled but Nezuko understood and sighed.
“You’re too nice sometimes.”
When the headache faded a little, he tentatively uncovered his nose and breathed deeply; the room’s scent was back to normal. He shook his head, getting rid of the pounding in his skull completely, his hanafuda earrings dangling around his face.
Alright! Everything was all good now.
“Hey,” Nezuko started, “did dad ever tell you anything about Dance of the Fire God that he didn’t tell the rest of us?”
Tanjirou hummed. “Nope. Not that I know of.”
“Figures.” She fiddled with a strand of her hair, sectioning it into thirds and making a little braid.
“Why do you ask?”
“He taught it to you personally, so I thought, um...” She dropped the braid and waved her hand vaguely through the air, “you know?”
No, he did not know. “Oh, that reminds me—” Tanjirou carefully took both of his earrings off. “I wanted to give you these, since you’re doing the dance now.”
Nezuko squinted at the accessories. “Isn’t it tradition for the sons to have the earrings?”
Yeah, but I don’t really care. Instead of voicing his thoughts, he shrugged and handed them to her, right before a bone-chilling shriek sounded and a wild cackle followed.
Tanjirou looked outside and Nezuko groaned.
“I forgot about that.” She pocketed the earrings. “Zenitsu, Inosuke, and I were doing mock sparring matches earlier, but I forgot to consider that Inosuke doesn’t know when to quit so he ended up chasing Zenitsu around the estate even after I called time.”
Zenitsu was clinging on to a branch, crying his eyes out as Inosuke tried and failed to climb the tree.
“Why didn’t you help him?”
“I did! I tried stopping Inosuke but he kept throwing me off!” She argued, before muttering to herself. “Would have been easier to just kick their asses and drag them inside.”
He was going to pretend he didn’t hear that.
The smell of anger grew more intense when Inosuke goaded Zenitsu to fight him. When Zenitsu refused, Inosuke kicked the tree, disturbing the birds sleeping in the leaves. Zenitsu bawled as the birds took off to find a quieter place to rest.
Tanjirou was shoved away by Nezuko when she stormed to the window, slammed it open and shouted, “you two need to SHUT THE HELL UP OR I’LL— ”
“NEZUKOOOOO!” Zenitsu wailed. “THIS DUMBASS BOAR WON’T STOP CHASING ME; TELL HIM TO STOP!”
“SHUT UP MONITSU!” Inosuke kicked the tree again, and Zenitsu blubbered out a string of curses. “I’M NOT GONNA LET A LITTLE KITTY-CAT TELL ME WHAT TO DO! IF SHE WANTS TO STOP ME, SHE’S GONNA HAVE TO COME OUT AND FIGHT ME HERSELF!”
Nezuko grit her teeth; the burning smell of anger spiked in the room as Tanjirou heard her breath in.
Wait, was she actually going to fight him?
“Nezuko, please think about this before—” Tanjirou tried to stop her but he was too late; she already vaulted outside and was quickly descending onto Inosuke.
If she reached Inosuke, he was going to get hurt. He had to do something!
Without further hesitation, he clambered out the window after her.
Ancestors, please give me strength, he prayed.