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Sighs of relief were shared unanimously by the ‘Ha’ clan when their master finally awoke. For over a month, Bishamon remained catatonic in bed-- only moving when shinki would come and redress her wounds or shift her onto her other side like a pliant ragdoll. Seeing her in such pathetic state, it was almost hard to believe she wasn’t dead. Few shinki visited while she was unconscious for fear that their grief would sting her and make her condition worse.

One night while sitting at her bedside, fretting over how to fill out Heaven’s latest ‘Statement of Intent’ forms, Kuraha, Aiha, Yugiha, and Kinuha were interrupted by a sigh, followed by a gasp and then a groan of pain. Paralyzed by disbelief, the shinki froze, staring as their master tried to blindly reach out, her hand trembling.

“Go, get Akiha,” Kinuha ordered Aiha, moving to take their lady’s hand in her own.

“A-Ane-sama, can you say anything?” The whip whispered, the room pin-drop silent.

“What happened?” The blonde rasped with half laden eyes, her voice barely audible, before lapsing into coughing fit and causing the other shinki to frantically find water.

“My Lady, what is the last thing you remember?” Kuraha wondered, still in his lion form.

She hesitated a moment, slowly sipping from the cup in Kinuha’s hand, before her face contorted in a mixture of pain and thought.

“The sorcerer,” she stated, voice still weak, but confident. “I had cornered the sorcerer and Nana--” her eyes widened as her the fog from her mind cleared. “Nana. Where is Nana?” she wondered, her tone bordering on erratic.

“She’s fine Ane-sama, her previous master has been staying with her at the manor since the incident,” Kinuha assured her.

“And Yato?”

“He and Yukine are fine as well. Heaven has formally repealed the charges of high treason for everyone involved.”

This seemed to calm the goddess as she exhaled slowly and for the first time tilted her head to look at the shinki surrounding her bedside. Though their faces showed their relief and joy at her consciousness, she was able to notice the lingering stress and worry that had consumed their lives for the past month. Looking remorseful, the goddess opened her mouth to speak when she suddenly paused again, the air in the room shifting.

“Where is Kazuma?”

Her question was met by overwhelming silence as every shinki’s gaze strayed from her.

“Kuraha,” She called when no one responded, reverting the man back into his human form. “Where is my Kazuma?” she demanded. Even though she was quite feeble and couldn’t even lift her head off the pillow, her desperation was still clear.

Kuraha sighed, looking up at his master.

“When we returned, Kazuma underwent ablution.” His voice steady, yielding no evidence of his apprehension. “Following the ritual, he exiled himself for blighting you and immediately evacuated the premises.”

The goddess inhaled sharply before shutting her eyes without saying a word. As seconds that felt like hours turned into minutes which felt like days, Kuraha was beginning to worry she had slipped back into unconsciousness when her soft voice broke the silence.

“How long?” she wondered.

“A month,” Kinuha whispered.

“Did he say where he was going?”

“No, Ojou.” Kuraha sighed taking his master’s other hand in his own. “No one has heard from him since he left.”  Gauging her reaction, he failed to notice anything beyond the shuddering breath she took before speaking again.

“I see.”

She hadn’t spoken of him since.

Instead, she focused her attention over the following weeks on building up her strength and determining what transpired the day of the insurgency following her fall from Heaven. Arahabaki was able to fill in most of the details but she still requested a lengthy meeting with Yato behind closed doors that lasted for hours on end.

It truly felt surreal. Bishamon began acting like her old self again once she regained her strength. Smiling when younger shinki brought her flowers and other handmade items to make her feel better, laughing at the tasteless jokes Lady Kofuku made while visiting, even suggesting they go out on patrol when she was just beginning to walk again. Her positive spirit never once faltering, not even when Heaven began frequently stopping by to ask questions.

Kuraha felt foolish and ashamed that he would think his lady would be so affected by their exemplar’s absence. He had known them to be close companions throughout their centuries together and had even witnessed her sacrifice for him first hand when battling Heaven. But his master was a goddess of war and her resilience should never have been questioned.

They-- as a family-- finally seemed ready to move past this nightmare and focus on a brighter future.

But later that night, as Kuraha slept in his lion form at the foot of Bishamon’s bed for the first time since she regained consciousness, he was awoken by the sounds of his master’s muffled cries.

Choki .” she cried out into the empty the night air, her voice tense and strained as she called the name over and over again. Each repetition a plea with greater desperation. “Please,” she begged, fisting her hand in the sheets as her back racked with sobs. “Kazuma, please.”

She felt something shift at the end of the bed, halting her actions immediately.

“K-Kuraha,” her voice was thick as she wiped her eyes, sniffing. “I apologize. I forgot you were staying here tonight.”

“Ojou,” The lion whispered, both shocked and saddened at the sight of his lady so grief-stricken. He moved so he could nuzzle his master in an attempt to comfort her. “It’s okay.” he purred, earnest in his sincerity. “It’s okay to miss him.”

The goddess lay there, her lower lip quivering before rolling over, and pulling her shinki close to her as she finally let her guard down and cried openly into his mane.

Meanwhile, somewhere under the same starry sky, Kazuma sat with his head cradled in his hands as he resisted the pull of his name for yet another night.