“What are you thinking, Tomo?” Kazuha muttered to himself as he ran across the bridge leading to Tenshukaku. A wall of soldiers stood ahead of him but he barely gave them a glance. His only thought was to reach the courtyard and save his friend. Has the fight already begun? Would he be able to intervene if they were in the midst of the battle? What if he was already too late? He pushed the last possibility from his mind and he forced himself to focus on the fight ahead of him.
He thought of the day the Vision Hunt Decree was announced. Baal didn’t provide a reason for why she decided to take people’s visions, whether they were given by her or another archon. Most went into hiding to avoid the hunters because they knew that it was impossible to challenge a deity. Tomo was the only exception.
Kazuha and Tomo were already wandering samurai when the Vision Hunt began and they knew how to easily avoid the hunters. He believed they would continue travelling together and they would keep each other safe. He was confused when Tomo told him that he needed to return to the city. While he didn’t tell him why he wanted to part ways, Kazuha trusted his strength and he didn’t try to stop him. He was certain that they would find each other again.
Now, he wished that he had asked him to stay by his side.
He heard rumours that a tall blond man with an electro vision had challenged the Raiden Shogan. While the description was vague, he instinctively knew that the person was Tomo. He was one of the few people to receive an electro vision before the hunt started. Was the challenge connected to the reason he returned to the city? He should be aware that losing would mean divine punishment.
Kazuha didn’t know if he should describe his friend as incredibly brave or reckless. On the other hand, he was the same as Tomo. The moment he learned that Tomo could die, he ran to Tenshukaku without thought to the danger. He gripped the hilt of sword and he drew on the power of his vision. He had always been careful to hide his vision but he used it without restraint now.
Please, let the wind carry me to Tomo in time, He prayed to Barabatos to give him the speed to reach his friend in time. Kazuha manipulated the wind around him and he used its force to make himself faster. He could see a group of guards before him and he drew his sword. With a powerful leap, he flew above the men’s heads. He turned his body in the sky and he created a vortex around them to immobilize them.
He landed gracefully but his feet touched the ground for only a moment before he flew forward again. Kazuha didn’t bother to look back to the men chasing him to see if they were close enough to grab him. He ran up the looming staircase, taking two steps at a time. He could hear the clashing of swords ahead of him and the wind told him the battle had already started. The journey to the courtyard at the top of the steps only took a few minutes yet his dread made it feel like an eternity.
Finally, he reached the duel. He forced himself not to call Tomo’s name because he didn’t want to distract him from the fight. He bit his lip hard enough for him to taste blood. Kazuha unsheathed his sword and he searched for an opening where he could save Tomo. The moment he stepped forward, a broken blade fell to his feet. His heart sank even before a voice declared the end of the duel.
“You have lost and you shall receive divine punishment.”
With those words, Kazuha felt as if the ground had turned to water and he was dragged beneath. He couldn’t breathe. His mind was racing and his body moved quicker than that. Kazuha jumped forward to protect Tomo from the Musou no Hitotachi but a hand grabbed his arm to stop him. He didn’t take his eyes off Tomo as he thrust his sword backwards to force the man to let him go.
“Tomo!” He yelled and he instinctively reached out his hand to him. Tomo started to turn around to face him but Kazuha couldn’t see the expression he had. Lightning came between them and his senses were overwhelmed by its brightness. He blindly stumbled forward and he prayed that he would be able to reach Tomo. No one had ever survived divine punishment but he didn’t want to accept his friend was gone.
Kazuha continued to call his name even as lightning rained onto the courtyard, hoping to hear him respond. A vision skipped across the ground until it slid to a stop in front of him. He picked up the vision and he realized that it belonged to Tomo. The violet hue flickered and his heart sank. Once the vision bearer dies, the light in the jewel would fade.
“Archons, please don’t take Tomo from me.” He knew the plea was pointless when the only god who could hear him was the one who issued divine punishment. Far too late, Kazuha realized how important Tomo was to him. How could he not realize the truth after travelling with him for years and only once he was gone? “I love him.”
The purple vision in his hand glowed brightly for a moment and then a lightning bolt struck the wood next to him. Kazuha saw that the thunder had stopped a guard from taking his own vision. The fight was over and their eyes were now on him and his vision. He needed to run. He couldn’t absorb his grief properly with the situation he was now in.
Grief and shock made his body stiff but he managed to collect himself enough to stand once more. He pushed himself to his feet and he ran from the courtyard. Using the nearby tree, he climbed to the roof of the gate where the guards couldn’t reach him. He evaded the archers with his agility and he wove through the arrows they shot.
In the corner of his eyes, he saw a cart driving along the other side of the wall. He jumped off the roof and he used his wind to control his fall. Kazuha landed in the back of the cart and he hid himself among the boxes. He was hidden but far from safe so he kept his sword in one hand. His other hand held the grey vision and he slowly ran his finger over the golden frame.
Kazuha covered his mouth in a hopeless attempt to stifle his emotions. His friend was gone and he had been too late to save him. He wasn’t even able to see his face one last time before he died. A hundred different emotions clashed together in his heart but, strangely, not one was anger. Tomo was an honourable man and he likely chose to fight for what he believed in.
He looked down at the vision in his hand, the last thing he had left of Tomo. A vision was one’s ambition and Kazuha wondered what motivated Tomo to challenge a goddess. Perhaps, he could keep him alive by fulfilling the dream that once lit the vision. Unfortunately, the vision didn’t give him a hint of what the answer could be. “Can a masterless vision be revived by someone with a similar dream to Tomo?”
“The guards chased the samurai to the port but they weren’t able to catch him. He escaped with the challenger’s vision. He stole a small boat so I doubt he will survive the journey overseas. Though, I apologize that we weren’t able to recover the visions.” Sara reported the events that followed the duel to Baal. She kept her head lowered out of respect but she noted how Baal stared at the man’s body. “Shall we contact his family so they can give him a burial?”
“Very few have survived the Musou no Hitotachi.” Baal mused out loud and stood over his body. She remembered each person she had gifted a vision to and she recognized him during the challenge. He had a strong will and that hadn’t changed since she first gave him a vision. In the chaos of her attack, she saw how he held onto life long enough to save his friend. The man had succumbed to his wounds shortly after the samurai jumped over the castle’s gate.
Baal stared in the direction that the samurai had escaped. Throughout the centuries she lived, she witnessed the varied way people reacted to death. She was all too aware that nothing was truly eternal. She had seen gods die and countries fall for empty reasons and their own hubris. “In this world, there is only one thing that can withstand the turn of time. The concept of immortality and eternity is far away from even Archons. The others have been quite fickle with their power but I will correct that. An ideal eternity for everyone.”
She drew her sword once more but her intention wasn’t to fight. Sara had watched her wield her sword countless times yet she sensed a different power now. While others saw Baal as a tyrant, Sara didn’t question her Shogun’s intention. She had been the one to train her and she came to know her as more than just an Archon. Baal wanted to give her people a better life according to her values.
Small sparks fell from Baal’s sword before she languidly swung it down on Tomo. The blade only grazed his clothes though. She sheathed her sword and she turned away to return to the castle. She gave the passing guards the order, “Tend to Sara and the man’s wounds. The man should wake shortly.”
“I don’t understand, My Lady.”
“I cut the connection between his body and his memories. His body will return to before he was struck by the Musou no Hitotachi. This will be his second chance at eternity.” Baal explained with a disinterested voice. Even as she revived him, she doubted he could impact eternity nor the future she had planned. “He will wake without his memory so you must explain everything to him. Tell him that he is free to do what he wants after his wounds heal.”
Sara started to walk after her but a low groan stopped her. She followed the voice to the man lying on the ground, struggling to stand once more. The power of a god never ceased to amaze her. He glanced around the courtyard with confusion in his violet eyes. The healers began to heal him and Sara watched over them. She had won the duel but she recognized the man’s strength.
“Can you remember your name?” She asked. He was in too much pain to answer her and his only response was to shake his head. “I believe the person called you Tomo. Your life has been saved by the Electro Archon, Baal.”
“Then, I owe her my life. I must thank her. Is she still here? I don’t know anyone by that name.”
Tomo’s mind felt hazy. He couldn’t recall what happened before he woke, no matter how much his memory. Images sat at the edge of his recollection and far out of reach. He searched the courtyard for a familiar face but he only found himself among strangers. The only thing that stirred his heart was a maple leaf laying on a broken sword. The red hue was oddly familiar and comforting.
“Under normal circumstances, it is rare for commoners like us to obtain an audience with the Raiden Shogun. The Kamisato are a powerful family and they oppose the Vision Hunt Decree. It might be possible to ask for their help.” Kazuha told Aether as the ship sailed closer to the island. The salty breeze washed over him and he adjusted his hood around him.
He wore a large cloak to disguise himself. After he stormed into the castle, he became a wanted man and he thought he would never be able to return to his home. He was caught between feeling nostalgic to see Inazuma’s unique landscape but he was also reminded of the love he lost. Time had helped Kazuha heal from the loss. Yet, there would always be a part of him that missed Tomo.
Kazuha hoped that Tomo’s family still lived with the resistance and they would allow him to visit his grave. He subtly slipped the extinguished vision from his sleeve and he turned it between his fingers. He thought he would be able to hold onto his friend’s memory by continuing his dream and reawakening his vision. Every attempt had failed and he was beginning to fear that it was impossible. Should he bury Tomo’s vision at his grave rather than continuing on a hopeless journey?
He didn’t know what the right choice was and he carefully tucked the vision back into his sleeve. For now, he would help Aether be reunited with his sister and find answers to the questions he held. It was possible his quest would answer Kazuha’s own questions about eternity.
“The officers will search the boat as soon as the ship is fully docked. It’ll be troublesome if they find a fugitive hiding on the boat. I know of a cave hidden in the cliffside and we can use that to evade the soldiers. I will create a wind for us to glide there so follow me closely.” Kazuha nodded towards the large cliff they approached. He was a wandering samurai and he knew the kingdom well. He thought of the adventures he went on with Tomo.
Kazuha watched the shore carefully and he waited until they would be hidden by the other ships. He climbed onto the ledge of the ship and he signalled for Aether to do the same. With his vision, he created a discreet wind that could carry them to the cliff. They glided towards land and they stayed close to the water where they wouldn’t be seen easily.
The wind shifted around them and he sensed a powerful force falling towards them. He grabbed Aether’s arm and he quickly redirected their flight to avoid an arrow. It grazed his hair and he was certain it would’ve struck them if he hadn’t sensed it. The sudden change of their flight made them both dizzy and he did his best to keep them from crashing into the water.
“Paimon, hold onto me!” Aether yelled. He held out his hand towards the water and he summoned a vortex in his palm. The wind fought against the water and the force it created blew them back into the air. Then, Kazuha used his vision to push them towards the beach.
They crashed into the sand and they rolled to a stop. Kazuha sat up and he touched the vision in his sleeve, worried that it had slipped out during the chaos. He let out a breath of relief once he felt the cold jewel. He wasn’t able to relax for long before he heard footsteps behind him. With a hand on his sword, he stood and faced the person.
He recognized her immediately because it was impossible for him to forget the person who defeated his friend in that fateful duel. His eyes didn’t waver as she nocked her arrow and aimed it at his heart. Kazuha held no malice towards her for fighting Tomo. However, her loyalty to Baal and her vision hunt stole people’s freedom. He could never forgive that. Tomo would’ve never challenged an Archon unless it was to stop their oppression.
“How can one forget; Such a cold gleam in your eyes; Without doubt and guilt. Do you ever question your Shogun’s decree? You must’ve heard people’s tears and pain countless times during your vision hunts yet you’re unmoved by them. Can you not hear them or do you merely ignore them?” Kazuha addressed her with a sarcastic smile. His next words were a whisper to Aether. “Run back to the ship. I’ll keep her from following you. Go, Sara is a powerful foe.”
“What about you, Kazuha? We’ll have a better chance of defeating her if we fight together.” Aether argued. They hadn’t known each other forlong but he couldn’t allow Kazuha to face someone so strong by himself. He only returned to Inazuma because he asked for his help.
“This is a personal matter to me. She was present at the duel that took my friend’s life.” For months, he buried his grief and anger but he couldn’t suppress them now. They emerge to taint his usually calm voice. He was relieved that Aether nodded in understanding. “Thank you, Aether. Tell the captain that I will find another ship to return to Liyue.”
“We both know she’ll yell at you for that message.” Aether gave him a weary smile before he turned to run back in the direction of the port.
Kazuha moved to stand between him to prevent Sara from following Aether. Her arrows moved as quick as lightning but he wouldn’t allow a single one to pass. They stood with their weapons drawn, waiting for the other to attack first. She had an advantage while fighting at a distance due to her arrows and he needed to close the space between them quickly.
A movement over Sara’s shoulder caught his attention and he assumed the person was another vision hunter. Kazuha shifted his stance and he prepared to fight multiple enemies. The man stepped out from the shadows of the trees. For a moment, Kazuha stopped breathing and his grip on his sword became lax. The world spun around him and he could only anchor himself by staring at his familiar violet eyes.
“Tomo?” He whispered his name. “Is that really you, Tomo? How? It’s impossible to survive the Musou no Hitotachi. I saw you die.”
Kazuha took a hesitant step forward, afraid that he would lose the illusion of his friend if he moved too close to him. He lowered his sword and he forgot the battle. His pace gradually grew quicker as he approached him and he could see the detail in his face. He had dreamt of reuniting with him for months. The Tomo before him appeared far too real to be a trick.
He was still trying to process the fact that Tomo was alive and he didn’t notice his strange behaviour. Tomo gave him a suspicious frown rather than the welcoming smile he often showed him. When Kazuha broke into a run towards him, Tomo reached for his sword. He couldn’t draw his weapon before Kazuha threw himself into his chest and circled his arms around his neck. He was taller than him and he needed to stand on his toes to bury his face into his neck.
“You’re real. I thought I would never be able to see you again. I’ve missed you so much, Tomo.” He felt warm tears fall onto his skin. Tomo was confused by the person’s reaction to him and he wondered whether the man knew him before he lost his memories. He couldn’t see his face while he was clinging to him. Slowly, he lifted his hand and he touched the anemo vision pinned to his scarf.
“Sara, I’ll deal with this man. You’re faster than me so you should go after the other one.” His words finally made Kazuha look up again. He realized that Sara hadn’t attacked them when she had the perfect opportunity while he was distracted with Tomo. His eyes moved between the two and a sense of dread fell over him. They were far too calm in each other’s presence even though she had been his opponent at the dual.
“Are you working with the vision hunters now?” Kazuha gripped his scarf and he pulled it out of Tomo’s hand. He knew he should run but he couldn’t bring himself to move. He only found him again after months of believing he lost him. What happened after he fled the castle for Tomo’s eyes to become so cold? “Baal is a tyrant and she has no right to take people’s visions!”
He didn’t understand what caused Tomo to agree with the vision hunt, especially after he lost his life challenging the decree. He hoped he could make him see reason again. Kazuha took out his eletro vision from his sleeve and he pressed it against his chest. “Do you remember how you received your vision?”
The vision reacted to Tomo and it reawakened with a purple glow. The blinding light sparked a memory of falling lightning for Tomo. His head began to throb and he closed his eyes against the pain. A scene played in his mind but they were too short and chaotic for him to make any sense of. He was laying on the ground. Thunder rained around him. His hand was outstretched to his vision. Someone picked up his vision and disappeared into the lightning.
“You stole my vision.” Tomo wrapped his fingers around Kazuha’s hand and the vision. The light of his vision grew stronger and sparks of electricity formed between them. For months, he felt as if there was something missing in his heart and the reason could be the man standing in front of him. “Isn’t it a little hypocritical to challenge the Vision Hunt when you took mine?”
They had travelled together long enough for Kazuha to sense the moment he would summon an attack. He kept a firm grip on the electro vision as he jumped away from him. Kazuha manipulated the wind to circle him so he couldn’t take either vision he held. He was conflicted between protecting his vision and not wanting to fight Tomo.
“I didn’t remember anything from that day until now.” Tomo swung his sword down on the barrier of wind. “I won’t let you run away with my vision a second time.”
“Do you not remember me, Tomo?” The realization made Kazuha hesitate and he briefly paused his control over the wind. Tomo broke through the barrier he made in those short seconds and he closed the space between them. Kazuha blocked his attack and he caught his sword against his blade. The force of his strike forced his feet to slide backwards but he kept his footing.
His back hit a tree and he was trapped by the weight of Tomo. His red eyes slowly became more familiar to him. In his memory, this man stole his vision yet Tomo didn’t feel angry as he looked into his eyes. “Tomo, stop! You’re my friend and I’m not going to fight you. I thought you had died when I took your vision. You have to remember me. My name is Kazuha Kaedehara and we travelled together for years.”
Meeting Tomo again, only for him to have forgotten their time together, felt like losing him a second time. Kazuha angled his sword so Tomo’s weight would follow the changing momentum. He slipped from beneath his body but he couldn’t run away. Tomo recovered quickly and he swung at him again. The only thing Kazuha could do was block or evade his attacks.
“We sailed to Watatsumi Island together. You tried to catch a fish with your hands and fell into the water.” He listed more memories they shared together. He prayed they would help Tomo remember him. The longer the fight drew on, Kazuha became more tired. A powerful swing knocked him to the ground. Tomo straddled Kazuha and his weight kept him from standing or running away again. They were both breathing heavily, exhausted from the fight.
He reached for the electro vision still clutched within Kazuha’s fist. He would soon have his vision again yet Tomo still felt as if something were missing. A feeling of emptiness and loneliness lingered within him. He looked into the stranger’s familiar eyes, as if he would find an answer in their autumn hues.
“A vision is one’s ambition and it should not be taken away from its owner. I know this better than most. I should return your vision to you. I want to.” Kazuha struggled to put words to the different emotions washing over him. He lifted one of his hands and cradled Tomo’s face in his palm. His eyes were more beautiful than he remembered. “For the longest time, your vision was the only thing I had of you. I’ve been holding onto it for so long that I can’t let it go easily.”
“My ambition…” He echoed the words and Kazuha nodded with a sad smile. He closed his eyes and he tilted his head back, signalling that he wouldn’t continue to fight. Tomo could kill him and take back his vision. However, his hands began to shake around the hilt of his sword. Something within Tomo stirred and he felt another memory creeping to the surface. How did he receive his vision?
Kazuha expected to feel the sting of Tomo’s lightning. He only felt the light breeze caused by the sword dropping next to him and then there was a brief warmth on his closed eyes. The wind told him that the touch was Tomo’s kiss. Confused, Kazuha opened his eyes and their gaze met. He could see recognition in his violet eyes once again and hoped blossomed in his chest.
“My ambition was to protect the people I love. That’s all I wanted to do. They would’ve chased you for your vision until… I needed to stop them but I was the one who… I’m so sorry that I hurt you, Kazuha.” Tomo whispered and hugged Kazuha close to his chest. While memories could fade and visions stolen, Tomo’s emotions and the bond that connected them was eternal.
“You should take responsibility for these wounds you gave me by treating them.” Kazuha said and there was a small smile on his lips. He was too happy to have Tomo back to be angry. He fought against his sore muscles to return his embrace. “My ambition is to travel the world, boundless and free, with the person I love. Maybe we can make each other’s dreams come true.”