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Metanoia

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Jirou
before her life was on the brink of changing forever

“You can’t let her go!” she heard Kaminari say. A tight knot formed in the pit of her stomach and she felt anger rising up her throat, scorching and terrifyingly strong. “She won’t survive a day out there!”

“Excuse me?” Jirou growled as she stepped out of the shadows and into the low circle of light dancing around the hut. Kaminari’s eyes widened in surprise as he turned in the direction of her voice, but she didn’t give him a chance to talk. The anger was still there, spreading to the tips of her fingers and her toes and worst of all, her head. “I can handle myself just fine,” she spat.

Kaminari only took a second to shoot back, “You don’t know what it’s like out there. It’s nothing like the comfort of your own hut and last I checked, no wild animal or magical creatures cares too much about you being the tribal chief.”

It hurt, the way he said it - a bit too sure of himself, a bit too sincerely. Jirou had been butting heads with Kaminari for years now, but this was the first time he contested her ability to do something, the first time he was fighting her not because of the different principles they lived after, but because of her inaptitude , and it hurt.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, a voice whispered that it only hurt because she cared. She shushed that voice quickly and opened her mouth to snap back, when-

“Why don’t you two go together?”


Momo
half a day to go until she ruins her best friend’s mood

“Why do you like waking up early so much?” Shouto groaned as Momo opened the windows wide, letting the sun stream in unfiltered. He rolled over, burying his face deeper into the pillow in an attempt to prolong his sleep. As if defying him, Momo opened the other set of windows, too, and the chilly morning breeze rolled in to billow the sheets and blow them off Shouto. “Is this my life now?” he bemoaned, blinking lazily up at her and her heart constricted, if only a little bit, at the precious expression on his face.

She smiled, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as she picked up a dress for the long day ahead. “It is you who proposed, so the blame lies entirely on your shoulders,” she jestered. Shouto only gave a noncommittal grunt in response and despite having her back to him, Momo could tell he was tossing and turning in search for a place the sun wouldn’t reach him.

She stripped off her simple, cotton nightgown and freed her hair from its usual ponytail. It fell around her shoulders in waves of black, shielding her from the crisp air of the morning. Momo put on the traditional yellow dress, tightened the belt around her midriff and strapped the sandals over her feet with practiced ease - as the chief’s daughter, she had grown accustomed to the belt biting into her waist and the rough skin of the sandals giving her blisters.

Shouto still had a hard time wearing official clothes. He was much more comfortable in his training attire, and she knew he’d much rather carry around a sword than wear the traditional ornaments any man with his position was gifted. He stiffened whenever Momo would open the box of red pigment, but he always held still while she painted his face regardless - it was endearing, if anything.

Having finished combing her hair, Momo considered her morning routine finished and approached Shouto once again, gently nudging him. He gave her a guttural “Not yet”, but still leaned into her touch like a baby tiger searching for its mother’s warmth. “Shouto,” she called him, trying to sound strict despite how utterly adorable his mused hair, sticking up in all the wrong places, actually looked. “Come on. We have a meeting today.”

“After noon,” he mumbled, pulling the covers higher over his bare shoulders.

“And breakfast with my parents,” she added, stifling a chuckle as he shot right up.

“Crap. I forgot.” He fumbled to get out of the tangled mess of covers and rise to his feet. For a moment, Shouto walked around dazed with sleep, stubbing his toe against a chair and knocking over Momo’s (thankfully empty) vase in his search for his clothes.

Momo stood up and handed him the items with a chuckle. “You do know they won’t bite your head off, don’t you?” she asked with an amused smile. “They gave us their blessing.”

“Until I am married to you, Momo, I will always be on my toes around Chief Yaoyorzu. Probably after that, too,” he added thoughtfully, letting Momo tie his belt and adjust the straps of his shirt around his back. “To be honest, I am not entirely sure why they gave me their blessing.”

Momo turned him around and placed both hands on his chest, tugging his chin down so his eyes met hers. “It’s because they genuinely like you,” she said with as much seriousness as she could muster. “You’re kind, thoughtful and you make me laugh. And you’re one of the best warriors our tribe has ever seen,” she added with a smirk, dragging him down for a kiss.

“One of?” Shouto quirked an eyebrow, his fingers threading through the hair Momo had so carefully combed into place.

She rolled her eyes and decided not to point out that he was ruining her hard work. “Fine, the best,” she conceded, chuckling at the pleased expression on his face. She liked the way he smiled with his eyes - even when that was a victory smirk completing his cocky attitude -, the way they seemed to dance with a small spark of something .

“It’s getting longer,” he muttered all of a sudden, and Momo realized he was talking about her hair, now brushing the exposed patch of skin around her waist.

“It’s supposed to. My mother’s was almost knee-length on her wedding day.”

Shouto hummed, rolling a strand around his finger aimlessly. “It’s a shame, growing it out just to cut it,” he shrugged. Momo hummed along - it was a tradition she found quite puzzling, supposed to symbolize the start of a new life and thus, of a new self, but Momo quite liked her hair.

Speaking of tradition… “We should talk to Kyouka today,” Momo mused. “It’s not like my father is the tribal chief anymore, but I don’t think it’d sit fine with the elders if his daughter didn’t wear the Adarna feather at her wedding.”

“It’s stupid,” Shouto said bluntly. Momo liked that about him, too - being raised in a world of underlying meanings and carefully woven metaphors, Shouto’s frankness was a breath of fresh air. “As if Jirou had nothing better to do. Adarna birds haven’t been spotted around the village in years,” he snorted.

Momo tapped her finger against his shoulder thoughtfully. “We should ask Mother if she still has hers.”

Shouto hummed and kissed the top of her head. “We will. But first, I need to look presentable - and Creati looks like she demands your attention,” he noted, gesturing towards the white tiger pacing the floor patiently behind Momo’s back, narrowed eyes turned in Shouto’s direction for hogging Momo for so long.

In Momo’s defense, it was the start of an otherwise normal day.

 

Jirou
an otherwise normal day

It was always the same thing: wake up, get changed (and pretend that the peacock feather flapper wasn’t too big for her), have breakfast (which usually meant munching on dried fruit while the generals briefed her in on the newest happenings in the tribe), do they day’s tasks (featuring a lot of snapping at people, putting her foot down and an incoming headache by the end of the day) and, the highlight of every day, fight with Kaminari. Rinse and repeat.

Today was special only in that the general to brief her on the updates was none other than Kaminari himself, which meant fighting with him twice - once because he had, doubtlessly, broken one of the rules Jirou tried so hard to protect and the second time, well, because it was how they communicated at this point. Jirou had never been able to have an entire conversation with the man without contradicting each other.

“Why are you always munching on those… things? ” Kaminari pointed to the figs she was gobbling down while inspecting her daggers. “Have you ever heard of meat? You know, that thing that makes you look less like a walking skeleton?”

Jirou elbowed his sides with as much energy she could muster this early in the morning and continued eating her fruit in peace. “Have you ever heard of shutting up? You know, that thing where your mouth stops spouting nonsense and my ears stop hurting?”

“This is why we can’t have nice things around here,” Kaminari didn’t even try to whisper. “ This is why you can’t see my point and why we can’t change anything. Because you don’t even listen .”

Jirou sheathed her daggers and gave Kaminari a look just as sharp. “I do listen, General ,” she tried sneaking just as much contempt as she could in the title. “Sadly, I do not deem your suggestions appropriate.”

“You’ve never even tried changing your ways to see my point of view, Chief ,” he shot back. “You’re blinded by conservatorism, tying us all to your rules, giving us little freedom to-”

“To run rampant and destroy the feeble balance we’ve managed to restore after the war,” she cut in. “We are not stable enough to allow people to sleep on their obligations, neither can we afford letting our guard down. You’re guarding the West - you must know that.”

“I’m not saying I want us to laze around,” Kaminari exclaimed, his tone coated by irked despair, such as any man who has been shot down more than several times tends to address his superior. “But I do want my people to have a choice .”

“I understand, but-”

“You don’t understand,” Kaminari choked out - maybe it was the anger. Maybe it was something deeper, that part of him that Jirou could never quite peek at in broad daylight, but that she sometimes got a glimpse of when he grew awfully quiet on days of mourning the fallen. “You can’t understand, Jirou.” And there it was - her name, the one he used only when he was dreadfully serious about something, the one he always seemed to give away along with a small part of his soul. “My men are prepared to die everyday, yet you’re here, talking about peace, because it’s easy to do, isn’t it, when somebody else keeps the border protected? When you’re polishing your daggers daily but don’t ever use them?”

“What do you know?” Jirou bit back, squaring her shoulders against the wave of accusations. “All you ever do is fight - and I’m grateful that you’re keeping us safe. We all are, even if we don’t sing you an ode for it. But there’s much more than just defending our people, Kaminari. There’s making sure we have food supplies, there’s providing education, there’s encouraging science and magic to develop. We can’t all just disappear for a few days in the woods every month.”

Kaminari barked out a laugh - bitter and hollow, screeching at Jirou’s ears. “That’s right, we can’t. Some of us need to boss the others around, don’t they?” he said, getting up and stretching his back. “Pleasure talking to you, as always,” he called over his shoulder as he walked out of Jirou’s hut and back towards the tribe coming to life.

Jirou sighed. It wasn’t that she couldn’t see Kaminari’s point of view - bring about change, try rotating the duties, break out of the norm. It sounded easy enough in theory, but in practice, she knew it would result into chaos - a chaos they couldn’t afford with their current situation. They were still too weak, too vulnerable, faltering under the reign of a Chief too young to wear the flapper.

She got up slowly, counted her daggers again and tugged at the peacock feather covering her ear. She had work to do.

 

Momo
in times of need

Creati spun around her happily, chasing the ruffles of Momo’s dress tirelessly. She was still acting like a baby tiger despite being bigger than Momo, still melted into her caresses like a harmless cat. It was hard to believe the same animal was her protector, showing its fangs at strangers with a feral look in her eyes, ready to give its life away for her protegee.

Jirou spun a wheat blade around lazily, luring Creati to her side to scratch the soft patch of fur under her chin. “Let me get this straight,” she said, looking at her friend with a muddled expression. “The elders want you to wear the feather of some extinct bird or you can’t get married. And they want the bridesmaid to get it. That is to say, me.”

Momo nodded. “Shouto and I are trying to talk them out of it, but-”

“It’s their scheme, isn’t it?” Jirou said, her nose wrinkling in disgust. “Is it because you refused to take your father’s place? Is this-” she stopped herself before the words could come crashing down, but Momo knew what her friend meant. Without the flapper and the makeup, Jirou looked a bit too young, a bit too frail, not having quite grown to fill the traditional dress just yet.

“It’s not,” Momo said quietly. Jirou gave her a sharp look, the likes of which she was sure Creati learned from her (or maybe the other way around, given that they grew up together), and Momo added, “It’s not just that. The idea of me not marrying the son of some other tribe chief also doesn’t sit right with them.”

“Absurd,” Jirou seethed. “You’re just one of the common folk now, they can’t tell you who to marry-”

“But they can make our marriage hard,” Momo nodded thoughtfully, stroking Creati’s fur. The tiger pushed her head into Momo’s hand and regarded her with a worried look, so Momo forced herself to smile.

“I’ll do it,” Jirou said all of a sudden. Momo startled at the words and narrowed her eyes at her friend. “What, you think I can’t find some extinct bird?” she smirked, though it didn’t quite touch her eyes. “If I can lead a tribe and deal with both Bakugou and Kaminari on a daily basis, I’m sure looking for the Adarna bird or whatever will actually be quite soothing.”

Momo drew a genuine smile at her best friend’s recklessness. They’d figure it out.

 

Jirou
when her life was on the brink of changing forever

Jirou thanked Iida for his help and walked away from the fire, at first with slow, tired steps as she rubbed at her temples. She had expected Iida to make a fuss over her leaving - as he brought to her attention (several times, in a slightly more panicked tone each time), the tribal chief wasn’t to leave their post, with the very rare exception of a truly pressing matter requesting their attention elsewhere. As he coldly pointed out, a wedding was not such a matter.

And maybe he was right. Scratch that, anyone looking objectively at the situation could see he was right. But this was more than just making sure her best friend’s marriage would take place; this was selfishly about her , about her proving herself and being accepted by the elders as the rightful chief. Jirou shook her head, as if that could make her thoughts lose balance and stumble away.

And that’s when she caught the faintest of whispers coming from somewhere behind Momo’s hut. Her senses tingled, thrumming with magic as she tucked her hair behind her pointed ears and followed the sound, her pace growing more urgent as she finally made out the voices: one of them belonged to her best friend, and the other-

“You can’t let her go!” she heard Kaminari say. A tight knot formed in the pit of her stomach and she felt anger rising up her throat, scorching and terrifyingly strong. “She won’t survive a day out there!”

The problem with Kaminari was that he felt he could do anything, that he was so effortlessly sure of himself, so free - everything that Jirou had ever wanted and quite possibly the reason why she felt a fire rise within her every time Kaminari spoke.

“Excuse me?” Jirou growled as she stepped out of the shadows and into the low circle of light dancing around the hut. Kaminari’s eyes widened in surprise as he turned in the direction of her voice, but she didn’t give him a chance to talk. The anger was still there, spreading to the tips of her fingers and her toes and worst of all, her head. “I can handle myself just fine,” she spat.

The problem with Kaminari was that he didn’t have to wear a flapper and make no mistakes, that he didn’t have the fate of all the tribe riding on his shoulders or the watchful eyes of the Elders on him around the clock, that he could disappear a few days into the woods whenever he wanted and do whatever he wanted.

He only took a second to shoot back, “You don’t know what it’s like out there. It’s nothing like the comfort of your own hut and last I checked, no wild animal or magical creatures cares too much about you being the tribal chief.”

It hurt, the way he said it - a bit too sure of himself, a bit too sincerely. Jirou had been butting heads with Kaminari for years now, but this was the first time he contested her ability to do something, the first time he was fighting her not because of the different principles they lived after, but because of her inaptitude , and it hurt.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, a voice whispered that it only hurt because she cared. She shushed that voice quickly and opened her mouth to snap back, when-

“Why don’t you two go together?”

Jirou blinked in surprise, the words catching in her throat. She turned around to Momo with equal bewilderment and rage, but something in the way her friend looked at her stopped her from speaking. Momo’s face was drawn in sharp lines, her jaw set and her eyes hard - like a leader’s - when she said, “You two should go together. After all, Kaminari is Shouto’s right hand, so it’s only natural he shall accompany you. And besides, I think I’ll be more at peace knowing that Kyouka didn’t go alone.”

And that last line probably stung more than anything else, so Jirou did the only thing she could do - bit on the inside of her lower lip, ignored the itching in the back of her throat and stood straighter. “I can do this alone ,” she hissed, both to Kaminari and Momo.

“Why should I leave the West unsupervised-”

“You have Ashido and she is more than capable of handling the West,” Momo pointed out.

“Regardless,” Kaminari argued, “I don’t see why I should go with her .” He almost seethed the pronoun, like it could physically hurt him. Good , Jirou thought - at least she had that much power over him.

Momo smiled sweetly and tilted her head innocently, but something about it seemed fake and made Jirou’s chest constrict uncomfortably. “You seemed worried about her just a moment ago,” Momo mused. “You said I can’t let her go, but it’s not my decision to make. If you’re that worried, maybe you should just go with her.”

Jirou was really going to have a long, half-shouted conversation with Momo about this. Later. For now, she held Kaminari’s gaze defiantly. “I’m going.”

He kept her gaze unflinchingly, but Jirou could see his shoulders slumping by the second, until he racked a hand through his hair and groaned. “Fine. Fine .” The exasperation in his voice was music to Jirou’s ears, and a victorious smirk curled around her lips subconsciously. “I’m only going with you because I’d rather our Chief didn’t die out there,” he added menacingly.

“How sweet,” Jirou cooed mockingly. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think you cared .”

“What makes you think I don’t?” Kaminari shot back, leaving Jirou momentarily stunned. Before she could recover, he turned to tell Momo, “I’ll be going now. I need to talk to Ashido and inform my men. We should probably leave the day after tomorrow - it’s not safe if the full moon catches us in the woods,” he added as he spared a glance to the new moon hanging in the sky. “The gods know how long this’ll take,” he muttered to himself.

Jirou watched him leave, feeling numb and not entirely sure of what had just transpired. All she knew was that she was speaking the truth when she told Momo, “You have no idea what you’ve just done.” Because Jirou herself had no idea what had just happened.

She was pretty sure this wasn’t going to be soothing at all, however.