Disclaimer: I do not own Noragami.
Bishamonten's Shinki. Kiyone froze. What is he—
"You're the one Blighting Yato." He said, adding: "he can't even pick a good Shinki." He was a teenager—maybe her age, when he died. (But there was something about him…)
"Her aim is revenge." Yato'd said. "That should include killing my Shinki, too."
"No!" I have to get away, Kiyone turned to run, but—
"—Bind." He said.
Kiyone stopped. She tried to move, but she couldn't. I'm…stuck…? She looked at him. What did he do? How did he—? (She didn't know if she should be afraid or shocked—maybe both. Yeah, both sounds good…)
The Shinki stepped closer. He pointed at her—she flinched—and: "Unseen," he muttered.
Kiyone blinked. Am I…blind…? But, no, she could see. Even if she wished she couldn't.
Bishamonten landed beside them. Her lion crouched and she stepped off of it—Kiyone didn't know which was scarier.
Gods, please save me… (She thought of Yato—with his dirty jersey and crappy five–yen coins…) I'm gonna die! But, who would do it? Would that lion use her as a chew toy—or would Bishamonten impale her on those mean–looking heels? I almost want the lion… Kiyone swallowed.
"Kazuma, have you found Yato?" Bishamonten looked at the boy, (Kazuma).
"No…" He said.
What's going on…? They aren't looking at me. Kiyone's eyes flicked between them. Why aren't they…?
The lion growled.
Kazuma glanced at it. "The extermination of the ayakashi in this area has been completed…" He paused. "So, as Kuraha suggested, let's try expanding our range. I am going to take care to investigate the area again, and afterwards I will follow you." He glanced at his master.
Bishamonten was looking down. "…I'm sorry, Kuraha," she rubbed the lion's ear. "You're wounds haven't healed yet."
The lion growled, pushing her—she fell onto its back.
Bishamonten smiled. "Alright," she said. She mounted it. "Kazuma."
He looked at her. "Yes, Mistress?"
She said: "Don't take to long."
Kazuma bowed—then, Bishamonten and her lion–Shinki left, jumping along the rooftops. He sighed. "I'd tell you not to get involved, but it's too late for that, now, Kiyone."
Kiyone turned to him. My body can move…! "How do you know my name?!"
He rolled his eyes. "My power allows me to grasp at things of that nature. And if I take hold of such things, I'm able to use my techniques." He glanced at her. "Just like I did earlier."
"But—why?" Kiyone blurted. I wish I'd keep my trap shut. "Why'd you save me? I…" She looked at her feet. "I'm Yato's Shinki. Don't you hate him?" —And me?
"There's no doubt that he's our enemy. However…" Kazuma almost looked…nice. "Yato is my benefactor."
Even back then… Kiyone remembered his face—he'd had that look before. But… Didn't Yato kill all of his Bishamonten's other Shinki? Why would he…—
"—By the way, is Yato in good health?" Kazuma looked at her.
"Wh—What?" Kiyone was confused.
"He was impure before, wasn't he?" Kazuma frowned—he looked away. "He was in serious condition…"
"Oh," Kiyone realized. It's okay. "If you mean that, then everything is fine, because he got purified…—"
"—That's insufficient, since what made him impure was not from the 'outside'," Kazuma cut in. "But from the 'within'." He looked at Kiyone—he didn't look nice, anymore. "You and your partner–Shinki should be gotten rid of."
Gotten…rid of…? "What—?" Kiyone swallowed. "What are you talking about? Ev— Everything is fine." Yukine… "Yukine-kun is a good kid. Besides, even if he's—he's dead, he was once alive. It'd be as bad as killing a person!"
"'Yukine'." Kazuma repeated. "The one named 'Sekki'. He's the one Blighting Yato?"
Kiyone felt like she'd been slapped. Blighting Yato. He'd said it so…upfront. "I— No— That's not—"
Kazuma looked at her—there was pity. "He might be your partner—but you must draw the line." He said. "Or you will lose your master."
She bit her lip. "I—"
But he cut in: "—Wait too long and something bad will happen. If a Shinki repeatedly does evil deeds, then its master will become ill. If it's left as is, then the pain will continue to build up, and the impurity will spread all over the body. The god will steadily degenerate. If things continue as they are now, he won't be able to stop it."
"You're Yato's Shinki." Kazuma looked at her. "Hasn't Yato told you anything?"
She glanced away. He never does… "A little bit, but—"
"Why'd he even keep using that guy?" Kazuma muttered. He shook his head. Then, he said: "I have a request for you, though it's a little strange…"
Kiyone glanced at him. What now…?
"—Help Yato." Kazuma looked…concerned. "I don't want to lose my benefactor."
Kiyone swallowed. "I—" Does he…want the same thing that I do? "—I will. I promise." Is this…person Yato's ally? "But, there are still a lot of things I don't know about."
"Well, we met a girl called 'Stray'—"
"—Don't say that name!"
Kazuma looked angry. "Such a vile name…" He shook his head. "I don't want to hear it a second time…!" Then, he got himself together. "—If Yato meets with Bisha again, I'm not sure what will happen. However, his life will have been disappointing." Kazuma began to walk away. "I'm leaving Yato to you…" He glanced back at her. "If he doesn't figure things out with that other Shinki, Yukine—"
Kiyone sucked in a breath.
"—Then Yato is going to die."
And let it out. It felt like she'd been hit really hard in the stomach. Yato is… Kiyone stared. …going to…—
(They say that a god and a Shinki are two hearts beating as one. Without each other, there's no big difference between them and ayakashi. But, if one keeps betraying the other half… I wonder, what will the god do about it?)
Kiyone looked at the ceiling.
(Yato is going to die.)
She bit the inside of her cheek—and looked over, to the benches across from her. Yukine was asleep, (a first), and Yato was, too, (another first). He looked beat. (And every time Yukine turned, so did Yato.)
("—Then Yato is going to die.")
She swallowed. He was always hurting, whenever Yukine stabbed him…or, if I did. And— "You've become dull." She remembered. But I'm also to blame. I…let Yukine do whatever he wanted, because… He was my friend. The first Shinki I knew, other than me. (Stray didn't really count.) Someone…like me.
Kiyone bit her lip.
I…I understood him, just a little… And I thought that that made it—different. Not okay, but… I just… I blocked it out, because I didn't want to hurt him, or lose him…
("Yato-chan killed a Shinki.")
Because he—he's my family. She clenched her fists. He's all I have left. Both of them are…are all I have left. And I—
—I don't want to lose either of them.
Kiyone blinked. She reached a hand up, and rubbed at her eye. She was…crying? She shook her head. Don't be silly. You won't lose either of them.
She glanced to her side—Yato and Yukine were still asleep.
"…Festival?" Yato blinked at her—he'd been sleeping, but this was big, so she'd woken him up.
"Yeah." Kiyone said, hands behind her back. "It's New Years eve, after all."
He sighed, rubbing at the back of his neck. "…I dunno." He leaned back, against the bench. "I'm pretty beat, and a place full of people with money and stuff for sale probably isn't a good idea with Captain Steals–A–Lot, over there." He jerked a thumb at Yukine, a few meters away.
"Shut up." The Shinki snapped, crossing his arms over his chest. (Yato'd been keeping him on a tight leash for the last few days, and it hadn't exactly made him happy.)
"Don't throw a bitchfit," Yato muttered. "I was just bein' honest."
Yukine bit out: "You were being a dick."
"You don't like it?" Yato gave him A Look. "Then don't give me things to be a dick about—"
"—Alright, alright, I get it." Kiyone backed off. Please don't fight. "It's just—" She looked down at her feet. I wanted to go, but… She looked up, smiling. "—It's fine. Don't worry." She paused. "Maybe we can go… Well, no probably not to Hadaka," she blushed. "Or…no, we can't go to Hōnen…" She bit her lip. "But, there's still GW and—in the summer, lots of festivals, so it's okay—"
Yato raised his hand. "No, it's cool." He glanced at Yukine. "We'll go."
Kiyone blinked. "You will?" Really?
Yukine looked at him. "We will?" Really.
"Yes, we will," Yato said, sharply. He leaned forward.
"Fine." Yukine grumbled.
Yato sighed. He ran a hand through his hair, glancing at his Shinki. "When's this party gonna start?"
"Later—eight, maybe nine." Kiyone said.
He slouched. "Good. Maybe I'll get to take a nap…" Yato leand over. "Wake me up when we go." He pointed at Yukine. "And you—don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"Right." Yukine grumbled. "So, I'll stay a loser."
"You've been doin' just fine at it for—"
"—Great!" Kiyone cut in. Don't fight. She smiled. Maybe this'll be fun.
Well… Maybe 'fun' was asking a bit much. Kiyone glanced beside her.
"I can't believe I have to give up my money for this." Yato whined—his hands were in his pockets, and he had to keep checking to make sure that Yukine's were, too. "The old codger won't even grant our wishes—he's such a cheapskate."
Kiyone frowned. "You should have a little more respect—we are at his shrine, eating his food."
Yato crossed his arms over his chest. Sulking.
"And," she added: "we sleep there. Almost on a daily basis."
"—And you," Yukine snapped, "don't have a right to call anyone cheap. We're giving offerings in the form of five yen coins. Not even ten or fifty." He grumbled.
"Damn straight." Yato sniffed. "I'm not giving that old bat a yen more."
Yukine snorted. "Like I said: cheapskate."
"Yeah, yeah," Yato waved him off. "Just don't go stickin' your hand in the offering box, okay?"
"You—" Yukine spluttered. He was embarrassed. "You—"
"—Now, now, children," Kiyone stepped between them. She smiled. "Let's all calm down and try to have a fun time, ne? It's New Years!" Please don't fight. She clapped her hands.
Yato stuck his chin out.
Yukine rolled his eyes.
—And when it was their turn, they stepped up to pray. Kiyone tossed her coin in and put her hands together. Tenjin-sama. It's, well—good to see you…? Hear you? Pray to you…? Sure! She bit her lip. But… What I want for this year… What I wish for is— She glanced over.
Yato was pouting, arms crossed. "I'm not giving him a yen!"
Yukine was scowling.
Kiyone sighed. What I wish for is that Yato and Yukine stay safe and healthy. Thank you! She looked up and smiled. "Alright, let's go!" They walked out of the line, heading towards the stands. "What do you want to get? Dango, kakigōri, taiyaki…"
Yato shook his head. "No—maybe some takoyaki…" He patted his stomach. "Might as well get something from this leech festival—"
Let's not insult the god hosting this. Kiyone cut in, turning around. "—What do you want, Yukine-ku—?" She blinked, looking around. "Yukine-kun? Yukine-kun…?" She turned to Yato. "Did you see where he went, Ya—"
"—That little shit." Yato turned. "Where'd that bastard take off to, now?"
Kiyone bit her lip. "Maybe he went to the bathroom…?" Please, please be the bathroom.
Yato snorted. "If 'bathroom' is code for 'stealing', then, yeah, I'm sure he had to take a real big—"
"Fine, fine." He muttered, glancing around. There were so many people. "How the fuck're we gonna find him…?" He shook his head. "I'm gonna go check over here—why don't you look around the food stands?"
Kiyone raised her hand. "But—"
—He'd already taken off into the crowd.
Her shoulders slumped. She sighed. "I can't believe it…" But, no, I can. She started heading towards the stands. Why did I even suggest this? It was a terrible idea—
"'When the east wind blows, flourish in full bloom, you, plum blossoms!'"
Kiyone blinked. She turned. Wait a minute…!
"'Even if you lose your master, don't be oblivious to spring.'…"
She looked up, sharply. I can't believe it… "Te—Tenjin-sama!" Kiyone blurted.
He was sitting on top of a torī, in his black and white robes. He smiled, waving.
Kiyone raised an eyebrow. She glanced around—I don't see Yato—and walked around the fence of the shrine, to the gardens. She blinked.
Tenjin was floating down from the torī. Beside him were his pretty Shinki—Tsuyu and Mayu.
("Why is he always singing that song?" Mayu asked.
"It's a poem he composed and hands out to everyone…" Tsuyu explained.)
Yato's old Shinki… Kiyone blinked. "I— Hi!" She said, bowing.
"Hello," Mayu and Tsuyu said.
Tenjin smiled. "Happy New Year! You're Yato's Shinki girl…" He paused.
"—Kiyone." She said.
"That's right! Kiyone-san~!" Tenjin smiled—he waved his fan. "Do you have any requests for this old god on the first day of the year of the Rabbit?"
(Mayu rolled her eyes—Tsuyu gave him A Look.)
Kiyone paused. "I—well…" A freebie from a god. "I was wondering—have you seen Yukine-kun around?" She rubbed the back of her head. "He was with us earlier, but now, we can't find him…" This is so embarrassing.
Tenjin paused. He tapped his chin with his fan. "Well, not today …" He blinked. "Oh, but he did stop by my shrine a few days ago…"
She blinked. "He did?!" But, why would Yukine…? "What did he want?"
Tenjin flapped his fan. "Well, you see…"
"So, you're saying that you'd like to join my household…?" Tenjin held his fan.
Yukine nodded—he glanced at the large Yushima Tenman-gū shrine. So big… He asked: "I'd like you to employ me here—is that impossible?" Please don't let it be…
"—Seems like you could only last for a month, ne?" Mayu nodded, hands on her hips. "I understand, really, I do…"
"Mayu-san!" A girl with a ponytail asked: "how long did you last in that place?"
Mayu's chest puffed up. "Three months."
"You sure tried you best, ne?" A girl with pigtails asked. "For me, that'd be impossible!"
Tenjin closed his fan with a snap. "You're holding us up!" He told his Shinki. He turned to Yukine. "Still, it's only been a short time since you joined up with Yato-kun, hasn't it? Why do you suddenly want to leave…?"
"That guy is the worst," Yukine complained. "He doesn't have a shrine or any money. He stinks, and has a shady past." He looked down. "And he already has another Shinki to replace me…" Or maybe I was a replacement for her. He looked up. "So, there's no reason for me to try—or to even stay with him."
Tenjin looked at him. "I am happy that you wish to rely on me… However, as it is now, I can't hire you. If I were to name you now, then—" His fan moved in front of his mouth. "…You would become a Stray."
Like that girl…? Yukine blinked. "—A Stray?"
The other Shinki watched.
Tenjin explained: "You still have the mark of 'Yuki'. If you were to receive another name then that would mean you would have two names." Tenjin paused. "Then, you would be the same as someone without a face."
Yukine pulled his collar down, looking at his kanji: 雪. He looked back at Tenjin. "…What is a Stray?"
"If I had to say, it'd be…" Tenjin opened his fan. "The privates of the gods."
"'Privates'." Tenjin chuckled. He leaned closer to Kiyone. "Get it?"
Tsuyu looked mad. "Lord, please choose your words wisely." She said, sharply. "Do not forget that you are a god who is respected by children, even in this era of declining birthrates."
("It's just because Michizane-san has been drinking today." Mayu explained.
Tsuyu…going by your words, then isn't this just sexual harassment…? Kiyone thought.)
Tenjin pocketed his fan. "As for the Strays…" He frowned. "They are like stray cats. It's a popular nickname for Shinki who have a lot of masters."
I remember… Kiyone blinked. Yato said something like that once.
"However, those who are only seeking to have many names will betray their masters." Tenjin explained. "During that time they become detestable people…"
"I—Is that so?" She bit her lip.
"I suppose…" Tenjin leaned closer. "If I gave you a different name, how do you think you'd feel about it? Shall I become the new person to name you?" He tapped his chin with his fan. "I wonder what will suit you. Yumi-chan, Tomo-chan, Yūko-chan, Hiyori-chan…"
I already have name. "Tha—That's—"
"—See?" Tenjin pointed out. "Yato would never forgive me." He added: "People instinctually dislike the idea. Because of that, the Strays have become an object of distrust…"
Kiyone remembered the girl and her kanji—so many names… And Yato had tried to kill her—
"Basically, a Shinki's name only works for one master." Tenjin explained. "If one wants to serve a new master, it's common practice to erase the name given by the previous master. Like in Mayu's case." He glanced at his new Shinki.
Kiyone swallowed. "Then, why do Strays exist…?"
"In general…" Tenjin's face was serious. "They are used for jobs one wouldn't want their own Shinki to have to perform…"
She blinked. "That's—"
—A bell began to ring.
"My cellphone is ringing." Tenjin pointed his fan to her. He started to walk away…
"Te—Tenjin-sama!" Kiyone blurted. No going back, now. "I—well, do you know anything about a…a female Stray? She looks to be about the same age as Yukine-kun, maybe younger—"
Suddenly, Tsuyu and Mayu were in front of him.
Between us. Kiyone realized.
"I'm sorry…" Mayu smiled. "But don't ask about that."
Tsuyu covered her mouth with her sleeve. "Just hearing that name gives me goosebumps…" She turned to Tenjin. "Lord, you also shouldn't speak of it so easily…"
"Don't worry." He said to her. "I have no intention of using it." He moved his closed fan in front of his mouth. "Since I don't want to have a connection with such a vulgar person." And he walked away.
Kiyone looked. Vulgar…person…?
Mayu put a hand on her shoulder. "You said you had to go find Yukine-kun, ne?"
"I—well, yes." Kiyone stepped back. "So, I guess I should go…" She bowed. "Thanks for your time."
"No problem." Mayu said.
"Goodbye." Tsuyu said.
Kiyone nodded. She waved, walking around the fence, until she was out of sight. Then, she stood. "They become detestable people…" And then: "I don't want to have a connection with such a vulgar person." Even Kazuma… "Such a vile name… I don't want to hear it a second time…!" And Yato… "It would have better if I had killed her."
She looked up—it was night, already. Whenever I ask about the Stray, everyone gets such an awful look on their face. She frowned. Even if they didn't hate her so much, would they…—
—There was a meow. And another, and another—
Kiyone blinked. She looked down, and— "A cat."
It was thin and white, with brown spots. (It sort of looked like Ūe-sama.) A stray.
She smiled. Slowly, she bent down; she scratched its head, and it purred. "Good kitty…" So cute. She looked at it. Just because it's a stray doesn't mean it wants to be. Kiyone frowned. The detestable stray… Even among the Shinki, there are disparities… Because of that, Yato was looking for a different Shinki. She glanced down, at her kanji: 清. And he found me and Yukine…
—And, because of Yukine… Yato is going to die. She bit her lip. How can I save him?
"…your partner–Shinki should be gotten rid of."
Kiyone started. I— What am I thinking? Her heart thudded.
"— I even enabled you to kill Bishamonten's Shinki, didn't I?" Kiyone's hand jerked.
The cat let out a yowl, running off.
"Hey!" She stood. "I—I'm sorry—!"
(There was a drip.)
Kiyone blinked, turning. It's— "Stray." She whispered.
The little girl was walking out of an alley—all decked out in her white yukata. Her face was cold and unfriendly.
"G—Good evening," Kiyone swallowed. I might as well give it a try… "I— You— Have you seen Yukine-kun around? Or Yato, maybe?" Someone? Anyone? "I—I lost both of them…"
"—A spirit like you shouldn't be speaking to me so easily." The girl said.
What? Kiyone blinked. "I— What?"
Stray smiled—but her eyes were hard. She pressed her sleeve against her mouth. "You should have been left to the ayakashi."
"Ex—Excuse me?" Left to the ayakashi… What does she mean?
"Yato should have left you where he found you." Stray said, smiling. "He shouldn't have let his heart rule his head."
"What are you talking about?" Kiyone blurted. 'Heart rule his head'? Yato never said anything about that—
"—To think, if not for that accident, he would have never found you…" Stray said, lightly. "…or that boy."
…Yukine-kun? "What are you talking about?" Kiyone demanded, hotly. That's enough of that. "I don't know what you're talking about, but Yato never mentioned—"
Stray smiled. She covered her mouth with her sleeve. "Then why don't you ask him?" She tilted her head. "Since you two are so close."
This is ridiculous. "I don't know what you're talking about—"
—But the Stray was gone.
"Where are we going?" Yukine asked. (Yato'd gotten them up so early—and all he'd said was, 'because'. The jerk. But he'd been such a tight–ass—ever since Yukine'd taken off during New Years. But he hadn't even done anything…)
"Shut up." Yato groaned, as he walked down the street. "I'll tell you when we get there."
You idiot— "Then what's the point in asking?" Yukine snapped.
"Exactly." Yato said. "Now, shut it."
"Crabby much…" Yukine muttered. But, lately, everyone's been like that… He glanced at Kiyone.
She was looking down, even while she walked. She'd been out of it, lately—ever since New Years. (Yukine'd wanted to ask, but it seemed like something between her and Yato—and, well, he didn't want to get involved in that.)
"—Alright, here's good." Yato stopped.
Yukine glanced around. All he saw was…— "A school?" He blinked. It is. A high school, too.
Kiyone looked up. "What are we doing here?"
Yato ignored them. "Alright, now, grab on." He held out his hand.
"Why?" Kiyone asked.
"I don't want to touch your sweaty palm." Yukine grumbled.
"Get over it!" Yato rolled his eyes. "And hurry it up—time is yen!"
And that's all you care about. But, Yukine grabbed Yato's gross, sweaty hand—so did Kiyone—and then—
"Where are we?" Yukine blinked. He was…in a toilet stall? Gross. He opened the door, and froze.
They were in the girls bathroom.
A/N: So, here it is! Second chapter! Hope you like it! The next chapter is…the Ablution! *Dramatic music*
Ayakashi are bad spirits.
Hadaka is a festival in Japan where people go around half–naked!
Hōnen is a festival that asks for the blessings of a bountiful harvest. It takes place in Komaki, near Nagoya.
GW or Golden Week is a week of holidays and festivals in Japan.
Dango are sweet dumplings made of rice.
Kakigōri is shaved ice with condensed milk and flavored syrup.
Taiyaki are cakes shaped like fish and filled with bean paste or other treats.
Takoyaki are ball–shaped snacks made with wheat batter and filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion.
Yushima Tenman-gū shrine is a major temple of Tenjin's located in Tōkyō.
A Yukata is a kimono usually worn in the summer.