Because We’re Friends
Title: Because We’re Friends
Fandom: Natsume Yuujinchou
Characters: Natori Shuuichi, Natsume Takashi, other mentioned characters
Relationship: Natori Shuuichi & Natsume Takashi
Prompt: Favorite chapter/episode/arc (for May 17)
Word Count: 2263 (not including the additional scene in italics below)
Summary: Shuuichi isn’t stupid. He suspects– knows that Natsume has always been carrying something important with him. He doesn’t know what it is exactly, but he just knows it’s something dangerous. And so Shuuichi’s worry grows. And grows.
Warning: Contains content from manga chapters 14, 60-62, and 72-73, so if you haven’t read up until those chapters then don’t read this yet
Notes: This isn’t actually a single chapter/arc; it’s just that my favorite part/s is/are scattered throughout the manga, as seen in the warning above.
I just love Natori’s relationship with Natsume and he’s honestly so protective of him, which is why Natori knowing about the Book of Friends really hit it home with me. This is basically just the scenes in the manga written in Natori’s perspective along with my own headcanons. Some of the dialogue were copied directly from the ones in the manga, so, yeah. Disclaimer.
Also, I crammed writing this so I’m sorry if it’s a bit messy and inconsistent. And b o i, I did not expect for this to exceed 2,000 words at all. I thought it was just gonna be a drabble with about 1k or so words, but then this happened. :’))
Anyway. On to the story.
The first time Shuuichi realized Natsume was carrying something important with him, it was at their trip to the hot springs. He had caught the tail end of Natsume’s conversation with the Youkai – Sumie, was it? – and even the part where he had a piece of paper tucked in between his lips.
Shuuichi thought odd of it, but he didn’t have time to think into it further as the Youkai was gearing up to attack Natsume, and he couldn’t have that, so he threw away everything but the thought and the instinct to protect him.
And then everything, his true purpose as to why he was in that inn as well as his motives in bringing Natsume along with him, kind of just unfolded from there.
Needless to say, he felt a little bit guilty about deceiving Natsume to go with him on this trip, when all he could have done was ask, but he couldn’t quite find it in himself to do anything but lie at that time because he was so used to doing so. It was hypocritical of him to say to Natsume that he wouldn’t need to lie when he was with him when he himself did so. But, well… he’d say that old habits die hard, but he feels himself letting up a little bit when Natsume admits that he’d been keeping things from Shuuichi himself, and that statement brings Shuuichi back to what he was doing with the Ayakashi before.
However, that was something that could be done at a later date, and right now what’s more important is to seal that Youkai properly.
Shuuichi could admit to himself that he panicked just a little bit when his paper dolls failed to subdue the Ayakashi, but then he proceeded to feel relieved and amazed at the fact that a Youkai that Natsume had saved prior to their trip had been the one to save them when the exorcism failed. Huh, maybe helping Youkai isn’t so bad after all…?
He’ll… entertain that thought another time.
The next time the matter comes up, a few months, close to a year, had passed. Tsukiko-san had called and he’d sent a paper doll containing the details of their meet up, only to find out that that doll had fallen to the ground due to the rain and was picked up by none other than Natsume.
It was funny how fate decided to let them meet again, and under this circumstance no less, but it was even more frustrating because Shuuichi didn’t want Natsume to be involved in his exorcism business. The various times he was involved, Shuuichi had been infected by his compassion and kindness and recklessness, three things that the people in his line of work usually lacked – and for good reason, because those three things entail weakness, and Ayakashi leech onto that.
But… when Shuuichi looks at Natsume and all his compassionate glory, he can’t associate him with the word. Natsume is anything but weak; he’s brave and determined, and he’s also just a tad bit fragile, but that doesn’t make him weak. He knows that anyone who’s had a childhood dealing with Youkai couldn’t have grown up being fully accepted, and it shows with Natsume’s actions because, just like himself, he’s grown accustomed to lying, he finds certain acts of kindness directed toward him surprising, he has a hard time trusting people, and he…
He keeps secrets, no matter how dangerous, just so he could protect other people.
“Are you the Natsume of the Book of Friends that I’ve heard so much about?”
And that brings Shuuichi back into the present, because there it is. There it is again. The… recognition that Youkai have of Natsume’s name.
“Tsk, so the exorcist brat is here. Did you overhear us?” the Ayakashi asked.
“…No,” Shuuichi answered, choosing his words carefully. “But it sounded intriguing. Care to fill me in?”
The Ayakashi snorted. “Who would tell a halfwit exorcist like you?”
Shuuichi paused. The way the Ayakashi said it… it seemed more than just an insult. He’d have lapsed into a thoughtful state right then and there, but alas, the Ayakashi has fled, effectively stopping his thoughts and putting him back into reality.
Later on, after the affair has ended and he’s told Natsume that whatever he had to say, he can say when he’s ready, Shuuichi thought. The amount of recognition Natsume holds over various Ayakashi is downright alarming, if only because it means that Natsume is so deep into Ayakashi business that he’s well-known by them across the land. Originally, Shuuichi had thought that that recognition was brought about by Natsume’s big heart for all the beings around him, but maybe there’s more to it than that.
Maybe… maybe he was well-known because of something he has, something that holds importance and– and power over the Youkai. Something powerful and terrifying and dangerous.
Something that the kind Natsume maybe shouldn’t have in his possession.
The Book of Friends, huh…?
Shuuichi had just exorcised an Ayakashi when he heard two small ones fretting over being exorcised themselves.
“Hey, isn’t that an exorcist?”
“Eh?! How scary… we might be exorcised if he finds us.”
Shuuichi finds himself amused, and he butts in, telling them that if he kept exorcising the small fry, it would be bad for his health. The low-level Ayakashi, fearing for their lives, blurt out that they’d do anything he demanded while also asking for forgiveness. Shuuichi, not one to pass up the opportunity, asks.
“Have you heard of the Book of Friends?”
The small Ayakashi are quaking and are weak-willed but they say nothing helpful about it and quickly run off. Shuuichi purses his lips.
Hm, so it appears that the Book of Friends is a well-kept secret among the Ayakashi that, for some reason or the other, should not be known by exorcists.
Now the question is: why?
What power could the Book of Friends possibly have that would threaten the Ayakashi greatly should an exorcist get his hands on it?
Youkai are generally afraid of exorcists because they do not want to be exterminated. So, if an exorcist in possession of the Book would be much more dangerous and fearsome for the Ayakashi, then Shuuichi could safely assume that the Book is fairly powerful.
Now then, Shuuichi mulls over what possible use a book could be to an exorcist. A book contains writings, and Shuuichi could think of a few things that require writing for exorcists.
It could be a book of spells, for example, spells that could effectively and efficiently exorcise Youkai. However, Shuuichi could not see the wisdom in simply carrying a book of spells around so he scratches that thought away.
A collection of circles, perhaps? That could serve some purpose for exorcists, having a ready-made stash of different types of circles made for different purposes. It may be convenient in some way for some people, however, for Shuuichi, it would only limit the sizes of the circles and he’d have to redraw them on the ground anyway if he needed a bigger one.
The last thing Shuuichi could think of that would need writing in an exorcist’s job would be forming a contract.
That… is not a pleasant possibility.
Shuuichi has caught only a glimpse of the Book, and from what he remembered, it was thick. If that thing contained contracts, then it means that a lot of Youkai were involved, and for such a thing to be in Natsume’s hands… he didn’t want to think of the possibility. Not yet. Shuuichi lowered his hat.
He best be going back. Natsume’s coming soon.
When Shuuichi had gone back to his condo with Natsume after picking him up, he was surprised to see one of his acquaintances – Aimiya-san – hanging around by the entrance of the building. And because fate just liked to screw with him, said acquaintance had also invited Shuuichi to an event in the Hakozaki house and managed to drag Natsume along.
Shuuichi had been careless. He should have never paraded around with Natsume, and now some weird rumor had spread about him.
He managed to suppress a sigh as they entered the premises of the Hakozaki house and quickly put on his business smile, listening attentively to Hakozaki-san’s request to find the elder Hakozaki’s study and seriously considering it.
It was a great opportunity, Shuuichi thought. His only regret was having Natsume be in the presence of other exorcists, especially since the Matobas are most probably elbow-deep into this matter as well.
But really, it was an opportunity that Shuuichi could not pass up, and he’d just have to take the risk. Natsume could defend himself fairly well enough anyway, and he had his cat bodyguard too, but just to ease his own conscience a little bit, he asked Hiiragi to go with Natsume as well, and also made Natsume dress as a shiki for good measure.
With that done, he set out to do some searching on his own. Urihime and Sasago had reported back to him after a while with a non-affirmative of the study’s location, but they both promised to search harder and Shuuichi only nodded. He’d thought as much anyway. There was no way his shiki could find it that quick if the people that came here before him hadn’t found it yet by now.
He continued searching on his own but no such luck turned up on his end as well. He sighed forlornly, thinking if it was impossible after all.
Ah, but if it’s Natsume…
Shuuichi found himself thinking. Natsume is different after all; he might just be able to find it.
He might have mused on it more, but then he was interrupted by the presence of another exorcist.
“Natori!” the elder pleasantly exclaimed. “As usual, you pick up on interesting stories very quickly.”
Shuuichi blurts out his greeting and they proceed on chatting. When asked about Natsume, Shuuichi simply waves it off and states that he hasn’t seen him.
He doesn’t want Natsume doing anything with the Matoba clan, not after he read Matoba’s letter to Natsume.
Nanase-san finally leaves and he takes the opportunity to look for Natsume and warn him about her. When Shuuichi does find him though, he was being attacked by a Youkai, and he tries so hard, his hardest, to pretend that he didn’t hear about the Book of Friends from the Youkai, only telling it to stay away from Natsume and attempting to rescue the younger male only for the fat cat to jump in and save him instead, but he knew Natsume knew that he heard it, so he tried placating him, telling him he’d just pretend he didn’t hear anything.
Natsume surprised him with his response.
“Natori-san… I won’t say it now because there are Ayakashi around, but after everything is done, will you hear me out?”
The statement gave Shuuichi pause, but he smiled and replied, “Of course.”
“My grandmother was called Natsume Reiko. It seems she had strong spiritual power.”
Shuuichi perked up at that, slightly surprised at Natsume’s straightforwardness and not expecting him to open up immediately after they’d finished, but he listened closely nevertheless.
“She was bad at dealing with humans so she was always involved with Ayakashi.” A pause. “She would challenge some, and when the Ayakashi lost, she made them write their names on a piece of paper. It seems she collected these.”
As Shuuichi heard the words, he was overcome with a grim disposition.
Natsume had said that she’d made them write their names. Shuuichi isn’t stupid; he’d deliberately told Natsume a while back that contracts formed with Youkai would require a name other than their real one, so the younger male’s lack of elaboration meant only one thing: the real names of the Ayakashi had been written.
It was a forbidden act.
Shuuichi listened on mirthlessly as Natsume continued to tell him about his grandmother, about how she’d made the Book of Friends out of loneliness, about how he’d inherited it and…
And about how, since he’s the only living blood relative of Reiko, he’s the only one able to return the names to their respective owners, which was why he’s now made it his life’s mission.
It was all… very difficult to accept for Shuuichi, because he knew, even if Natsume didn’t say so, that it was dangerous, risky, unsafe, and– and life-threatening. And he knew Natsume knew that as well, yet the younger still persists in doing so, if only to free the Youkai. Such a heavy burden for someone so… young and innocent. Shuuichi resists a shuddering breath.
Natsume was kind.
Natsume was too kind.
“It would be better if… such a dangerous thing was burned,” Shuuichi breathed out amidst the crackle of fire. Natsume, not having heard it because of the noise from the fire, asked what he had said, but Shuuichi merely brushed it off.
When Natsume had gone and the whole Hakozaki affair had been left behind, Shuuichi contemplated. He didn’t want the Book of Friends to stay in Natsume’s hands any longer, but Shuuichi had a feeling that nothing he’d say would persuade Natsume into giving it up, because Natsume’s just like that. Shuuichi can’t see him willingly throwing away the book; if anything, he’d probably fight tooth and nail just to protect it and to not let it fall into the wrong hands.
Shuuichi sighed exasperatedly, looking at the sky.
What was he going to do with Natsume?
End Notes: And yeah, that’s it. That’s the story. I now realize it’s more of a character study actually…? Of Natori, that is.
Okay, uhm, I lied. That’s not the whole story yet. There’s still a scene I haven’t included in here ‘cuz I’m not yet done writing it, and is2g if I don’t get what I have done out right now, my brain is going to explode.
The additional scene I’ll add tomorrow, but it’s going to be in a reblog sooo yeah. Y’all better read that additional scene because that’s where the title of this one-shot came from.
Thanks for reading and good night.
On second thought, I’m gonna add here what I’ve written of the additional scene bc gahhhd I really need to get it out of my system/drafts and if I don’t my frustration would only grow and grow and grow.
So. Here you go.
“Natori-san! Natori-san, wait! The Book– it’s reacting!” Natsume shouted, stopping Shuuichi’s assault on it and momentarily distracting him from the Youkai.
“Watch out–!” Hiiragi warned, and Shuuichi turned to the Youkai, expecting to be hit, but that was prevented by the fat cat turning into his beast form and grabbing the Ayakashi in between his teeth.
“Natsume, now!” The white-furred beast looked to Natsume, his deep voice carrying across the land to where Natsume was, the Book suddenly out and opened.
“One who would protect me…” Natsume chanted, and Shuuichi looked on, confused and at the same time enchanted. “…show me your name.”
As the words were pronounced, the pages of the Book started flipping on its own and then abruptly stopped, a single page left standing. Shuuichi watched, enamored. He saw as the younger male ripped the page from the book and held it between his lips, a sight which he has seen only once before, at the inn with the hot springs.
And then, Natsume clapped, and blew.
The characters from the paper flew towards the captive Ayakashi in Madara’s mouth, and then a bright and soft light filled the air as the ink sank into the Youkai’s forehead, symbolically indicating that its name has been returned.
Yeah, just take it. And don’t give it back. Ugh.
Okay bye, for real now. See you tomorrow.