The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Haruka is walking steadily in front of him, shoulders straight despite the weight of all their luggage (including Youko's, despite her protests), eyes fixed on the road ahead rather than on the ground, which looks nearer to Kantarou with every step he takes.
Sugino had called Haruka's sudden and inexplicable urge to visit his place of origin "the homing instinct", and lamented the forthcoming decline in the tengu population with the depredations of the hatching grounds by human encroachment, but had fallen silent when Haruka corrected him.
"The numbers of crow tengu will diminish, but yamabushi tengu will grow from strength to strength."
Time, weather and human activity have taken their toll on the small shrine, maintained in a desultory fashion by occasional pilgrims and grateful travellers. Once, offerings had been left there to thank the benevolent tengu in the area, and to propitiate the less friendly ones, but now the altar is bare save for the accumulated grime of decades.
Haruka is the first tengu to visit the shrine in more than a hundred years.
He traces the outline of one of the partly-smashed guardian statues, its colour long since faded and its features barely visible; Youko almost jumps when the long nose breaks off and crumbles into dust at her feet, though Haruka's face is expressionless.
They settle down for the night at the shrine, after Youko has cleared a suitable area with an old broom and some leaves as best as she can.
The first thing Kantarou sees when he wakes in the small hours before dawn is the silhouette of a figure with spread wings against the spring moon, almost blotting it out; when he rubs his eyes to clear his sleep-clouded vision, Haruka is leaning against the doorframe gazing at the stars in the night sky.
"Neither humans nor youkai have changed for the better, but at least this is still the same."
Kantarou smiles, and leans over to kiss him.
"Some things do change for the better, Haruka."