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More Important Than Forever

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Ei sighs, resisting the urge to give in to get this over with. “Come on, Makoto,” she urges. “If you don’t let me put your kimono on, we can’t go out and get dango for dinner.”

Her precious five-year-old pouts, sticking out their lower lip in a terrifying display of cuteness that almost causes Ei to cave.

“Enough of that, you tiny menace,” Miko cuts in laughingly as she enters the room, swooping down to tickle the sides of their adorable little monster. “You know Ei-mama can’t resist when you pout at her. We don’t want a repeat of when the two of you almost gave the poor dango milk man a heart attack, do we?”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Ei mumbles defensively. “Right, Makoto?”

“Right!” Makoto agrees, nodding their head firmly.

Miko rolls her eyes. “Inazuma is lucky I’m around to keep you two in check,” she sighs dramatically. “Heavens know what would happen without me.”

Ei and Makoto share a look.

“Miko-mama,” Makoto tells her seriously. “I wouldn’t exist without you.”

“They’re right,” Ei says, nodding just as seriously as Makoto. Resisting the urge to smile is difficult, but she manages. “You were indispensable. Don’t sell yourself short, Miko — you’re just as responsible for anything that Makoto does to Inazuma as I am.”

Miko reels back dramatically, clutching at her chest. “You’re right!” she gasps. “Should I be watching my back for the Tenryou Commission?”

“Don’t worry, Miko,” Ei reassures her. “I’ll make sure to pardon you.”

“You’d better,” Miko giggles, leaning in to press a kiss against Ei’s cheek. “And you…” She picks Makoto up. “Get dressed and we’ll get you some fried tofu, okay?”

“Fried tofu!” Makoto cheers, throwing their arms out as their ears perk up and tail puffs up in excitement.

Ei gasps, betrayal filling her heart. “You’ll get dressed for fried tofu, but not for dango?” she whispers, wiping at the tears that have begun to spill uncontrollably from her eyes. “You’re… you’re not my child, are you…? Miko… tell me the truth…!”

Miko scoffs and slaps the back of Ei’s head. “Of course they’re your child you idiot,” she says fondly. “You can’t possibly have missed the fact that they’ve got your hair, your eyes, and your nose.”

Ei squints suspiciously at little Makoto. “They could be Makoto’s,” she mumbles rebelliously, not quite ready to concede the point.

“…Ei, your sister has been dead for more than five hundred years,” Miko sighs. “And you know I had no interest in her.”

“Then why doesn’t Makoto want dango?!” Ei pouts.

“Because they’ve got better taste than you,” Miko teases. “Not that that’s hard. Right, Makoto?”

“Right!” Makoto agrees, beaming. “Ei-mama’s food’s gross!”

Ei collapses to the ground as Miko doubles over in laughter. Betrayed by her own child… How will she ever recover from this?

She remains on the ground, trying to come up with an appropriate revenge plan as the sounds of Miko helping Makoto into their kimono filter into her ears.

The feeling of being poked with a pair of sticks causes her to yelp and leap to her feet — Makoto at least has the decency to try to hide their stick behind their back, but Miko just waves hers at Ei with a mocking smile.

“Oh it is on,” Ei grumbles, narrowing her eyes at her wife. “Just you wait, Miko.”

“I’m shaking in my boots,” Miko laughs.

Ei’s eyes trail down to her wife’s sandaled feet, then back up to her smug expression.

“You suck,” Ei mumbles, unable to come up with a better response.

“Only for you,” Miko whispers into Ei’s ear, teasingly licking her earlobe. “Come on, my love. We need to get Makoto their fried tofu now, you know.”

“Fried tofu!” Makoto agrees.

Ei can only whimper.

Miko snuggles up against Ei as they walk through the streets of Inazuma City, heading to her favorite food stall. Little Makoto is held lovingly in Ei’s arms, eyes constantly bouncing around to take in all of the people around them.

She’s never been happier than she is now, Miko thinks. The five hundred years of Ei’s absence had been an unspeakable agony that shattered her heart into tiny pieces, but the life they’ve managed to build together has more than made up for it.

Miko wouldn’t trade Makoto for anything, and five hundred years of pain is a small price to pay for the love that bubbles up in her heart every time her child calls her ‘Miko-mama,’ for the warmth she feels when she sees Ei acting like an absolute fool every time that Makoto does something cute.

“We can get dango on the way home,” Miko murmurs, resting her head on Ei’s shoulder. “You know they love it. It’s your cooking they can’t stand, and for good reason.”

Ei shoots her a betrayed look, but Miko just stares into her eyes until her god lets out a sigh.

“…Yes, I know,” Ei mumbles. “I said I was sorry for almost burning down Tenshukaku.”

“I don’t think the cooks have forgiven you yet,” Miko chuckles. “Just let them do their jobs, okay? I know you’re the big and scary God of Thunder, but cooking is not for you. Stick to making swords.”

“Yes, Miko,” Ei sulks.

Miko kisses her adorable wife on the cheek.

“Me too, Miko-mama!” Makoto pipes up. “I want a kiss too!”

“Of course,” Miko agrees immediately, pressing a kiss to their child’s forehead.

Makoto smiles up at her, and Miko has to blink back tears of happiness.

This is everything she’s ever wanted.

“All right, we’re here,” Ei announces. “Let’s get you two your… fried tofu…”

“You too, Ei-mama,” Makoto tells her, narrowing their eyes at Miko’s silly god.

Ei freezes, shooting Miko a panicked look — but the kitsune is most certainly not going to bail her out of this one.

“A wonderful idea, Makoto,” Miko praises, ruffling their child’s messy hair. “We should teach Ei-mama all about the wonders of fried tofu, don’t you think?”

“Yeah!” Makoto cheers.

“…Fine,” Ei mumbles. “If you both insist…”

Miko laughs as she places three orders. Ei’s sweet tooth, and desire to pass it on to Makoto, never fails to amuse her. Her ridiculous wife does in fact enjoy fried tofu, but she’ll never admit it in front of Makoto out of a silly belief that to do so would lessen their child’s interest in sweets.

Miko, on the other hand, is very certain that nothing could possibly lessen Makoto’s interest in sweets. They are, after all, a child — and moreover, Ei’s child. Keeping Makoto’s hand out of the cookie jar has become an increasingly difficult task as their child has grown up and proven to be a remarkable climber… and more than willing to use their fox form’s sense of smell and ability to squeeze into small spaces to help them infiltrate any location where Miko tries to hide the desserts.

While they wait for their food, Miko and Ei amuse Makoto by folding napkins into origami. Miko’s, of course, are all perfect, but Ei’s…

“And here I had thought you were good with your hands,” Miko giggles, raising an eyebrow at Ei’s deformed attempt at a fox.

“I’ve never done this before,” Ei defends.

“It’s okay, Ei-mama,” Makoto comforts her. “Miko-mama told Auntie Ayaka that it’s cute that you’re a loser.”

Ei gapes at Miko, a strange, high-pitched noise rising from her throat. Miko can’t help it — she laughs so hard that she almost falls off of her stool.

“What have you been telling people about me?” Ei asks, shaking Miko by the shoulders.

“Only the truth,” Miko wheezes.

Ei eyes Miko suspiciously. “Kokomi’s supposed to be arriving tonight to stay for the weekend,” she says threateningly. “I’ll be asking her about what you’ve been telling people.”

“By all means, go ahead,” Miko encourages.

She can’t wait to see that conversation. Kokomi already knows everything there is to know about Ei from Ei’s own mouth, of course, so it’s clear that Miko’s god is hoping for some insight into what Miko has been telling other people — and Miko knows that Kokomi will be more than happy to play along to tease Ei into a defeated mess.

Miko loves her wife dearly, but she has an amusing tendency to doom herself.

“Auntie Kokomi is going to visit?!” Makoto demands, perking up.

“She is,” Miko confirms.

Makoto wiggles around in Ei’s lap in what Miko assumes is supposed to be some kind of happy dance. Makoto loves all of their ‘aunts,’ but has always had a particular fondness for Kokomi — probably because she always brings presents. Miko would ask the Divine Priestess not to spoil their child quite so much, but…

While Miko’s not quite as unable to resist spoiling Makoto as Ei is, it’s a close thing, so it’s not like she would have any room to talk.

When their food arrives, Miko digs in immediately, already looking forward to the rest of the evening.

“Kokomi, it’s good to see you,” Ei greets as she opens the door.

Despite the rocky start that their relationship had, the Divine Priestess of Watatsumi Island has quickly become one of Ei and Miko’s closest friends. Kokomi’s regular visits are always a highlight.

“Hello Ei,” Kokomi returns, smiling as she pulls the god into a hug. “Where’s Makoto?”

“Auntie Kokomi!” Makoto yells, charging over and wrapping their arms around the Divine Priestess’s leg.

“Makoto!” Kokomi yells back, releasing Ei so she can lift Makoto up and hug them tightly. “How has my favorite adorable little fox been doing? I haven’t seen you in a whole week!”

Ei smiles and settles back down on the couch with Miko. The sight of Makoto interacting with any of their ‘aunts’ is always a balm to her heart, a reminder of just how many wonderful people are now a part of her life. She frequently wonders just how she got so lucky as to find herself surrounded by so many friends after the life she’s lived.

“I’ve been good,” Makoto mumbles into Kokomi’s shoulder. “But I missed you.”

“Aww, I missed you too,” Kokomi cries, nuzzling her cheek against Makoto’s head. “I wish I could see you every day…”

“You could marry Ei-mama and Miko-mama,” Makoto suggests, gazing up at Kokomi with wide eyes. “Then you’d be Kokomi-mama and you could live here and we’d always be together!”

Ei chokes even as Miko bursts into laughter beside her.

“T-That’s not quite how that works, Makoto,” Ei says, slapping a hand over Miko’s mouth before her wife can say anything unfortunate. “And anyway, your Aunt Kokomi is a busy woman, she has a lot of responsibilities that she can’t just abandon…”

“I’d abandon them for Makoto,” Kokomi says, tone as serious as Ei has ever heard.

Ei makes the mistake of looking at Miko for support, but all she gets is her wife licking her palm.

Some days it feels like the entire universe exists to make fun of her, Ei mourns.

“It’s good to see you, Kokomi,” Miko says warmly, pulling Ei’s hand off of her face. “How have you been doing?”

“Our latest agricultural experiments seem to finally be showing some progress,” Kokomi says, collapsing into the armchair that Ei has mentally labeled ‘Kokomi’s’ given she’s somehow its most frequent occupant, despite how far away she lives. She’s still hugging Makoto, who’s more than happy to cuddle up with their ‘aunt’ while the adults talk. “We’ve got some researchers from Sumeru helping us who think they’ve made a breakthrough on why our soil does so poorly even with high-quality fertilizer.”

“If there’s ever anything I can do to help, please let me know,” Ei says.

She still feels guilty about the Watatsumi Island situation, about how poor a job the original Makoto — and Ei, by extension — had done integrating it into Inazuma, even in the days when Orobashi had still been alive and working with them. Part of her wonders whether the serpent god might have still been alive had he only been more willing to work with outsiders to resolve his peoples’ food supply problems, as Kokomi is.

“I know,” Kokomi says, smiling at her. “I think we may need you, if the researchers are right… Would you be capable of extracting divinity that’s been absorbed by soil?”

“Of… what?” Ei asks, brow furrowing.

She closes her eyes in thought for a moment, and then…

“…Oh. Watatsumi Island is formed from the coral that used to be a part of Orobashi, isn’t it,” Ei murmurs in realization. “He was a god of the deep sea, where the sun doesn’t reach. Terrestrial plants would struggle to grow under his influence.”

“That’s what the researchers think,” Kokomi agrees, sighing. “So unless we can purify the soil…”

“I can do it,” Ei says. “But.. are you sure?”

Are you sure you want me to remove your god’s last remaining piece of influence from your home?

Makoto lets out a loud yawn as their eyes slip shut, and Kokomi smiles down at them.

“It’s fine,” she tells Ei quietly. “It’s time we moved on. I, for one, now have a god I love much more than I ever did Orobashi.”

Ei tracks Kokomi’s gaze to Makoto’s sleeping face, and her heart melts. The affection the Divine Priestess has for Ei and Miko’s child, for the tiny god only just barely beginning to show signs of the power sleeping within them, is a bridge between Watatsumi Island and the rest of Inazuma that Ei hopes may help heal the still-aching scars of the past.

One day, if Makoto is willing, Ei may be able to pass down the position of Raiden Shogun and retire to live with Miko in peace — and the people will have a new Shogun, one not bound by old grudges.

Makoto is the future in so many ways, with limitless potential to do whatever they want to do. Ei won’t force them onto any path, only open up as many as she possibly can and support them in whatever they choose.

She won’t let Makoto live an empty life like she did for all those years.

Miko smiles as she watches her wife watch Kokomi watch Makoto sleep.

The extended family they’ve built is a warm one, with many aunts to dote on Makoto.

The superior Kamisato, Ayaka, who never seems quite sure how to hold Makoto, always worried that she might break them if she miscalculates her strength — but who, when it comes down to it, is always the gentlest of all.

Sara, the adorably bird-brained little tengu who manages to find herself outwitted by a five-year-old on a regular basis but never takes it to heart, always managing to laugh off her latest humiliation and keep coming back for more.

Shinobu, Sara's wife, who's clearly as amused as anyone by poor Sara's predicament but always ready to step in and resolve a situation... and much-loved by Makoto for her ‘cool mask.’

The firework-maker Yoimiya, whose bubbly energy and playful demeanor make her seem almost like a child herself, but who’s the best babysitter in the country due to her carefully-hidden maturity and sense of responsibility.

And of course Kokomi, the Divine Priestess of Watatsumi Island, who has grown from Miko’s pen pal of years ago into a regular overnight guest at their home, and who Miko can admit probably loves Makoto as much as Ei and Miko themselves do.

She feels her lips quirk up as she remembers Ei’s reaction to Makoto’s little suggestion, only her desire to let Makoto sleep letting her resist bursting out into laughter again. Really, if they were to let anyone else into their marriage it would probably be Kokomi, but Miko’s not sure Ei’s poor little brain is ready for something like that. Ei has a hard enough time keeping up with Makoto’s antics as things are now, let alone if Kokomi were added into the mix.

Although… She steals another look at Ei’s fond smile, noting that her wife’s eyes remain fixed on Kokomi rather than Makoto. Well. Miko will just have to see what happens, now won’t she?

“How has everything been over here?” Kokomi asks quietly, gently stroking Makoto’s back. “No new trouble, I hope.”

“None at all,” Miko says, casually stretching in a way that just so happens to end with her head snuggled up underneath Ei’s chin. She snakes her arms around her wife’s waist and sighs in contentment. “It’s been very peaceful lately.”

“It has,” Ei agrees, hand gently caressing Miko’s stomach. “Part of me is still waiting for the other shoe to drop, but… I think I just have trouble believing in peace, after everything.”

“Nobody can blame you for that, Ei,” Kokomi says gently. “You’ve spent most of your life fighting. Peace is scary, isn’t it? You’re afraid that the next enemy could be hiding around any corner, ready to pounce and destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to build.”

Miko stays silent as an understanding look passes between Ei and Kokomi. It’s moments like these that remind her why she’s grown to care so much for the Divine Priestess — for all that she hasn’t lived nearly as many years as Miko, let alone Ei, she’s deeply empathetic and almost scarily insightful.

“We should put Makoto in bed,” Miko suggests. “It’s nearly their bedtime, anyway.”

“All right,” Kokomi pouts. “I can give them their presents tomorrow.”

Makoto, Miko thinks, looks sickeningly adorable tucked into bed, instinctively clutching at the plush version of Miko’s own fox form that has been their child’s favorite nighttime snuggle buddy for the last three years.

“Good night, Makoto,” Miko whispers. She presses a kiss to their child’s brow, an action repeated first by Ei and then by Kokomi.

Miko smiles and wraps an arm around each of her favorite women, gently guiding them out of Makoto’s bedroom.

“Barbatos recently sent me an excellent vintage of wine,” Miko announces. “I’m thinking we should crack it open and celebrate the miracle of children. What do you say?”

“I’d say that sounds just about perfect,” Ei agrees, smiling as she leans her head against Miko’s.

On the other side, Kokomi giggles as she snuggles up to the priestess’s side. “Sounds good to me,” she says.

Five hundred years of pain have made way to an Eternal happiness — and Miko, for one, can’t wait to see what happens next.