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The memories Bishamon had from when she first reincarnated were hazy at best. From her first breath, she was faced with an endless whirlwind of information spanning from lectures on the nature of humanity to stories of her godly history. 

But throughout the chaos, something her guide said early on stuck. 

“If ever a time arises when you’re in an important meeting and you need to look like you’re engaged, narrow your eyes at the speaker every so often and nod slowly with consideration.”

Her advice surely came with the intention that the god still pays attention in said meetings, but Bishamon had been using the trick to disregard the ramblings of pointless presentations for centuries. 

Today was no different.

Kuraha had called a budgetary meeting to discuss next quarter’s projections, improvement, and self-marketing ideas. It wasn’t exactly the war god’s forte, but seeing as it was her namesake being discussed, she was expected to attend.

Sitting at the head of the conference table, the goddess found her already low interest waning and mind wandering as the interim exemplar flashed yet another chart upon the screen. After giving the room a once over, Bishamon noticed her shinki looked equally enthralled. Kazuha was throwing bits of paper into a sleeping Yugiha’s hair, Kinuha and Aiha seemed to be engaged in a game of tic-tac-toe, and the other attendants’ faces were glazed over, undoubtedly counting the seconds until they could leave.

Then there was Kazuma, scribbling notes down furiously on his legal pad beside her, all bright eyed as he hung onto every point Kuraha made. In the past, she may have rolled her eyes at such behavior, but now she bit back a smile realizing she had missed this— the small moments of their everyday life.

The past year weighed heavy with tragedy and chaos for her and her family. From Kugaha’s betrayal to Yato’s liberation from his father, Bishamon faced the brink of death twice, charges of high treason once, and the senseless killing of many beloved shinki.

But nothing cut deeper than the loss of her hafuri.

“Gone? What do you mean, ‘gone’?” she asked frantically, voice still hoarse from being unconscious for so long.

“He has exiled himself for blighting you and has not been heard from since.”

She couldn’t tell who was speaking in her dazed state, but it didn’t matter.  All she was able to focus on was feeling of bile rising in her throat and the word ‘gone’ pounding repeatedly in her head.

She had never felt so alone.

Whether it was out of compassion for his wishes or guilt for going after the Sorcerer behind his back, Bishamon did not actively try to find Kazuma. She did, however, hold on to the hope that maybe one day he’d return of his own volition. But as months passed, that dream eroded to dust.

Life went on, and she was able to act like her old self again, but the weight of his absence was a constant presence. Sure, her heart would clench on patrol and when there was a slip up on some paper work or misfiling of a document. That was to be expected.

What haunted her was how isolated she felt, how much she missed his companionship and even his mild lecturing. How even though her entire family was there to comfort her and keep her company, she only wanted him.

So when he showed up with information about the Sorcerer in the middle of the Battle for Yukine, she swore he wouldn’t get away so easily. 

“Please,” she begged once they were finally alone, her voice thick with emotion. “Please, come home.”

Kazuma dropped his head and let out a deep sigh.

“Veena, I can’t.”  

The pet name sent a shiver down her spine. Even in such a solemn tone, she ached to hear him call it again. That name forged her. Not as a god with multiple incarnations, but as an individual defined by her own merits.

It forged them as well. Creating an inseparable bond built on mutual trust, adoration, and respect.  

‘Veena’ was the greatest gift he had given her.  

“Of course you can.” She assured, slowly approaching him. “You left to get intel on the sorcerer, right?”

“I left because it was for the best.”

Bishamon paused, that glimmer of hope quickly turned into one of hurt and frustration.

“Do you know how worried I was about you? How terrified I was that your name could rip away from me at any moment?”

Kazuma didn’t say anything, his head still bowed low so she couldn’t see his face.

“I fear my continued guidance and involvement will only hurt or lead you astray and potentially tarnish Bishamon’s reputation.” His tone was neutral but his hands were clenched by his sides so tightly that they were trembling.

“That is utterly ridiculous.” She scoffed, voice rising slightly in exasperation. “You’re my blessed vessel, you have successfully guided me throughout centuries.”

And for the first time, his eyes met hers.

Her breath hitched as she saw how the pain and remorse plagued his face, how self-hatred and regret had been eating him alive non-stop since his departure.

“I’ve blighted you out of desperation, I’ve come to value your individuality above your godlihood,” He began listing his sins, voice shaking with every word. “I-I’ve let my affection for you grow so that it is less like the devotion one should have toward their master, and more like the admiration one has towards a—” he trailed off, tripping over the words. His eyes lowered in shame. “Towards a person they cherish above all else.”  

Bishamon’s heart broke at the sight of her hafuri’s anguish and misplaced guilt. She moved closer so she could take one of his fists and hold it in her hands; relieved when it relaxed in her palm almost instantly.

“If you cherish me so deeply,” She wondered quietly, letting her thumb trace over his name. “I fail to see the reasoning for your hesitation.”

When he didn’t respond, she continued.

“You are my blessing, my treasured companion and I cherish you deeply as well.” Bishamon squeezed his hand, pleading with him. “Y-your absence has struck me like a knife to my heart.” He flinched at her words. “I miss you dreadfully and I’m not sure I can bear to lose you again, so please,” her voice trembled as her carefully crafted façade began to crumble. “Please come back to me.”

By the time she finished, her voice was a mere whisper. She wasn’t able to gauge his response since her vision was blurred by tears that betrayed her resolve. But she could feel his entrapped hand return her grasp--shaky, yet firm.

The silence of the room was overwhelming. All she could hear was the erratic beating of her heart thumping in her ears and the creaking of an old pipe in a nearby wall. Opening her mouth, she went to plead her case again…

But Kazuma never gave her the chance.

His lips, soft and pliant, captured hers in a tender kiss full of remorse. Once rigid hands now caressed her face and pulled her closer as he crossed a boundary they never dared to before.

Bishamon was caught completely off guard, she couldn’t move—couldn’t breathe. Tears that rimmed her eyes fell freely as she blinked in shock.

Before she was able to respond, she felt him pull away.

“Don’t you see?” His forehead gently rested against her own. “I cherish you.”

“Like a lover.” She whispered, the word alone filling her with elation.  

And yet, Kazuma didn’t share in her joy. His lips were pressed tightly together, grimacing.

Taking in his somber expression, she realized the kiss wasn’t so much a confession, as it was a warning. Its intention to shock and disgust her enough that she would let him go.

But he failed to recognize her own desire, never realizing that she had wanted to grow closer-- to further their relationship-- for years.

Standing there in silence, foreheads still against one another, she chose to disregard his warning and counter with a confession of her own.

Some drive, instinct or possibly delirium, pushed her to hold the back of his head and tilt her chin up so her lips pressed against his once more. Swallowing his shocked gasp, she was relieved when he didn’t pull away. Instead, he kissed her back, pulling her close as his arms wrapped around her.

Bishamon relished the comfort of his embrace-- his hands gripping her and the brushing of his lips against her over and over again were intoxicating.

She finally felt at home.

“Any questions?” Kuraha asked, pulling the goddess out of her inner monologue and back to reality. The rest of the shinki noticeably perked up, eager to leave. 

“Yes,” Kazuma quipped and Bishamon felt the room sigh in disappointment. “Can you explain your rationale for cutting the health and nutrition budget back three percent?”

He had no trouble seamlessly stepping into the exemplar role again. To the others, it was like he had never left.

But everything had changed.

The intimacy at their reunion was unavoidable and they both knew it wouldn’t be possible to ignore the confessional kisses and move on. So that night, before Kazuma even had the chance to reunite with the other shinki, the pair locked themselves in the goddess’ office for a serious discussion.

It started off skittish and shy, both of their faces adorning a fierce blush as they confessed secret desires kept hidden for centuries. But as they slowly began to realize that the feelings they thought were so unrequited were actually mutual, the walls between them crumbled and their bond strengthened. 

What does any of this mean?” Bishamon wondered. “You say you love me as one would a wife-- and I reciprocate your sentiments-- but what happens now?”

The goddess understood she was toeing a line that once crossed, could not be undone. But instead of fear, she was filled with a nervous excitement.

“Well, there are many options,” Kazuma sat, wringing his hands on the table across from her. He was clearly hesitant, but there was a bit of hope in his tone she couldn’t ignore. “We could continue on as we have been, and not let potentially fleeting feelings affect our relationship, or--”

“--Or?” Bishamon cut him off, reaching across the table to rest her hand on his.

“Or,” Kazuma sighed, moving to take her hand in his own. “We can take things slow… and explore some of the more romantic aspects of our relationship.”

The choice was simple.

Over the past month, the two had spent nearly every moment of their free time together, growing closer and basking in their budding romance.

But no one knew.

 They decided to keep their romantic relationship a secret-- at least until they were both completely comfortable. Kazuma felt that it would make facing harsh criticism easier and help her keep her status as one of the Lucky Seven, and Bishamon agreed. So chaste kisses and lingering touches were only shared behind closed doors or in empty corridors.

To say she was happy would be a gross understatement, the goddess was in total bliss. It wasn’t just the kissing and the cuddling, it was the conversation-- the inside jokes-- that left her breathless.   

Even though they had spent years together, she felt as though she was getting to know him for the first time.

Kazuma was over the moon as well. Not only could she feel his elation pulsing in her chest, she could see it in the way he looked at her, in his smile, in the way he sighed when he held her close. 

The sound of drumming broke her train of thought. Kazuma’s fingers repeatedly tapped against the table-- a tick he had whenever he was engaged debate-- while Kuraha was explaining… well, something. Bishamon honestly had zoned out for so long she’d lost track of the discussion.

Their days had been jammed packed with various appointments over the past week and they hadn’t seen each other in days. She had missed him and longed for even the briefest contact.

It was almost mesmerizing the way the tendons moved under his name, making it roll like the tides. She wanted to reach out and touch it-- to hold his hand and halt his fidgeting.

But she restrained. 

Sighing, the goddess began tapping her foot. Not only would the gesture be completely unprofessional, it would disclose their secret intimacy as well. If only there was a way to curb her craving.

And then it hit her.

Slipping off one of her heels, Bishamon slowly inched her foot closer to Kazuma’s, careful not to brush up against anyone else. When her toe found the sole of his shoe, she gently wrapped her leg around the back of his calf, stroking his ankle affectionately.

Instead of shaking her off like she expected, Kazuma merely threw her a subtle, yet strong, glare. In return, the goddess flashed him a brilliant smile, her foot grazing higher and higher.  

She knew she was technically breaking the rules, that they’d be found out if anyone happened to peek under the table, but she found the whole ordeal exhilarating. 

Curious to see how far he would let her go, Bishamon moved her hand from her lap and rested it on his knee, caressing it with her thumb.  

His gasp was barely audible as he quickly removed her hand. 

“Ah, yes-- Well, I think we’ve all had enough for today.” Kazuma addressed the group, trying not to appear flustered. “Let’s continue this conversation next week.”

Chairs scraped the floor as the shinki erupted in chatter before filing out of the room.

Once they were alone and the door closed, Kazuma quickly turned to her, eyes wide in disbelief.

“What were you thinking?” He asked, voice three octaves higher than usual. “Not only were your actions completely unprofessional, someone could have seen!” 

He was blushing, embarrassment plaguing his face.

“Oh, you’re too paranoid.” she assured, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.

“Veena, this is serious.” He protested, shaking her leg off of him. “If this is going to work, we cannot allow our personal relationship to bleed into the more professional aspects of our lives.” 

He was annoyed, the mild huff at the end of his diatribe solidifying it.

“I know,” the goddess admitted quietly. “And I’m sorry. It’s just… we haven’t seen each other for few days... and I missed you.”

Kazuma’s features softened with empathy. He draped his arm around her shoulder before placing a gentle kiss on the top of her head. 

“I missed you too.” he murmured quietly into her hair, the honesty in his voice making her heart swell.

They sat like that, in silence, enjoying the comfort and mere presence of one another until Kazuma shifted away.

“I still have to organize my notes before the conference call in an hour.” She could hear the regret in his voice.

Nodding, she gathered her notes-- mostly doodles-- and stood. She wasn’t angry, she understood why they had to leave, but she was disheartened. This could be the only chance she’d see him today.

As they made their way toward the door, Bishamon pulled on his hand, stopping him.

“After dinner, we can watch a movie in my room.”

He smiled softly at her suggestion, moving in closer to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d like that.”

“And you could stay the night,” she laced her hands behind his neck. “If you want to.” 

Bishamon held her breath waiting for his response-- this was another line they had yet to cross. Sure, the two had shared sleeping spaces in the past, but never as lovers when activities beyond sleep were possible.

Kazuma’s eyes widened. “Are you sure?”

Sensing his hesitation, she began to backpedal. “You don’t have to, it’s okay. We can just watch the movie--”

He moved swiftly, kissing her deeply and stopping her mid-sentence. 

“I'd like to stay the night.” He assured, barely pulling away enough for her to see warmth in his eyes. “I only wanted to make sure it's what you want as well.”

“It is.” she smiled, biting her lip before leaning up to kiss him again. 

Kazuma untangled himself from her apologetically, pulling away before getting too lost.

“I’m sorry, Veena.” He panted, “But I really need to prepare for the next meeting.”

She noticed with a small semblance of pride that his lips were swollen from their impromptu make out session. 

“Fine.” She moved to leave, seizing the opportunity to tease him. “But you owe me later.” 

The flustered look on his face was priceless.

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