"I get that you're doing this for Bishamon's sake, but this isn't like you, Kazuma.This is the second time you've come to me, but at that time, you said you'd rather die than become a nora.
"As for Nana, she's supposed to be dead. So forget about her....and about me.
Kazuma hunched over.
Nothing changes. Since long ago, he had been with Viina and had served her unwaveringly...
Kazuma looked up, the symbol of his hand flashing as his master called his name.
In the darkness, Bishamon opened her eyes.
The flash of light pierced her ear like an arrow, and the jewel of Kazuma's chouki form sparkled brightly.
"Kazuma," Bishamon said, and he reverted, shell-shocked in front of her.
"Veena," Kazuma said, his voice breaking. "You're okay."
"Kazuma," Bishamon said, and she held out her arms.
He hesitated a moment, but then the thread of his self-control snapped, and he lurched forward, staggering onto his knees and into her arms. He sobbed against her shoulder as she cradled him, gently.
"I'm sorry," he said, and he sobbed. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry--"
"Hush," she said, and she shifted him closer. "You did nothing wrong."
Moments passed. Bishamon rested her chin against his hair and rubbed his back, while he wrapped his arms around her and clung to her fiercely. Eventually, the sobbing passed, and his breathing seemed to grow steady. He took a few shaky breaths, blinking and wiping his eyes.
"Are you all right?" she asked. She cupped his face, fanning her thumb across his cheek. He nodded, miserably. "Kazuma, where are we?"
"Somewhere safe." His voice was weak and shaky. "I had a vision that you were killed and reincarnated. So I moved you from the manor and set up Kugaha as bait."
"Bait?" Bishamon searched his eyes, worried. She watched as he got a hold of himself, rising shakily and readjusting his glasses.
"Veena," he said, and his eyes were swollen and glassy. "I asked Yato to make me a stray."
Bishamon felt a sharp pang in her chest. Touching her sternum, she looked up to see Kazuma swallowing thickly.
"Why?" Bishamon asked. Kazuma's eyes closed, fresh tears spilling over.
"Because I want to die. Because you no longer need me."
"What are you talking about?" Bishamon asked. Kazuma began crying again. "Kazuma, you're not making any sense--"
"What good am I, if my master cannot use me?"
"What?" Bishamon reared back as if she had been slapped. Kazuma looked up at her with terrible eyes.
"What's wrong with your arm?" Bishamon asked. She could see it, the beginnings of a mark around his wrist. "Kazuma, what is this?"
Before he could answer, she grabbed his arm and pushed up his sleeve. Her eyes widened when she saw the mark seared into his forearm.
"An ancient tracking spell, courtesy of Iwami," Kazuma said. He pulled down his sleeve. "I used Kugaha's blood to infect the sorcerer's nora."
"You're using forbidden spells?" Bishamon stared at him. Kazuma stared hotly at his hands.
"When was the last time you slept?" Bishamon asked. He didn't look at her. She pressed forward. "Kazuma?"
He hunched forward. She pursed her lips then moved closer.
"Have you eaten anything?" She brushed his bangs across his forehead. "Have you talked to anyone else besides the Yatogami?"
"I see." Bishamon frowned at him. She rubbed his back as he hunched further forward.
"You should sleep," Bishamon said. "You're exhausted and you're not thinking clearly."
"Funny you should say that." His voice was soft. Broken. "Yato actually said the same thing."
He lapsed into silence. Above them, a patch of watery moonlight trickled into the room, coloring everything with an icy stillness. Even in the darkness, Bishamon could see how the collar of his shirt was left unbuttoned. His hair was disheveled, and there were dark bruises beneath Kazuma's eyes. Bishamon folded her hands on her lap while Kazuma took another shuddery breath. She could see the snake folding around the skin of his hand.
"I'm so sorry," she said, and she hugged him, leaning him sideways against her chest and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "All I wanted to do was protect you. Please forgive me."
He sighed miserably into her neck. She rubbed his back again, and for a few moments she felt him relax. But then she felt him pull away slightly.
"Veena," he said, finally. "Why wouldn't you use me?"
"Because you're my chouki, and you are precious to me."
She searched his eyes. He looked up at her wonderingly.
She touched his face, and he leaned forward, lips parted and tilting his head a little. But then he stopped just short of touching her; he took a breath, then bowed his head again. Bishamon knitted her brow.
"I love you."
The words were quiet. His head was bowed. She couldn't see his eyes.
"I think I am tired," Kazuma said. He lifted a hand to his face. "I'm not thinking clearly--"
"What did you mean when you said you loved me?" Bishamon asked. He took a shuddery breath, holding his arms.
"...is it the type of love where you'd want to have sex with me?"
"Veena!" Kazuma looked up at her, gutted. Bishamon laughed affectionately.
"Kazuma," she said, and she slipped her hand over his. "You needn't be so distant. I am yours. You already have me."
Kazuma's head snapped up. Tears filled his eyes and Bishamon chuckled fondly.
"You need to sleep," Bishamon said. "How many days has it been since you slept? You're all over the place, Kazuma, you need your rest."
He began to protest, but she leaned him sideways onto the bed. Wrapping her arms around him protectively, she pulled the blankets around them both.
"Sleep," she said, authoritatively. "And after you've rested we can talk things out properly."
"Oh, Veena, I can't, we shouldn't--"
She plucked off his glasses, setting them on the nightstand.
"Sleep," she said, and she pressed a soft kiss above his ear.
"I promise you, you will feel better in the morning."