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electrify the resistance in your broken heart

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The soulmark appears when Sara receives her Vision, earned after a victory that almost kills her, and the lightning that flows like fire in her veins is as painful as the wounds she’d sustained on the battlefield, sparking violet and violent where her blood ought to be.

She recovers slowly, her wings bent and broken, and it will be long before she can fly again, but as her body starts to heal—shining silver with the scars that lattice her limbs—the soulmark burns still where it had seared into her skin: the Electro mitsudomoe reminiscent of a storm, pulsing like thunder at the back of her neck.

She does not want it—has no interest in seeking out love—not as she trains and studies and rises through the ranks, serving the Almighty Shogun with a fiercely loyal heart.

She does not want to invite invasive questions, either, and so Sara grows her hair out, just a little bit longer, and takes to wearing clothes that cover the mark, hidden and protected beneath layers of sturdy cotton for no one to perceive, save for herself.

And even Sara does not care to see it, her energy and devotion for Inazuma first, as she relinquishes her desires and buries them deep beneath the trees of her ancestral home: between the roots of the pines that reach the center of the earth in the vaulted heights of mountains shrouded eternally in mist.

Sara does not have time for matters of the heart.

But the soulmark, nonetheless, remains.

***

The battle rages, demons on every side, and Sara commands her troops to march forward as one, destroying enemy lines with ruthless efficiency.

They have pushed them back, reclaiming the beach, when the demons bellow a mighty roar, summoning their champion from the shadows behind, and a massive black bird takes flight from their ranks, eyes burning amber with hatred and malice.

Sara’s wings flare and she flies up to meet it—dwarfed by this demon, but swift as the wind—and she fires arrow after arrow while dodging its strikes, wearing down her opponent as she seeks its weakest point. She takes aim between its eyes, touches electricity to her bow, and just as she releases the perfect shot, the bird erupts in Electro energy, midnight-dark feathers surging with static, and the blow glances off as if it were nothing.

She curses beneath her breath and retreats for a moment, circling the demon as she devises a new strategy, and it is then, as she climbs, that lightning strikes from clear skies—a bolt out of the blue—and the Archon herself materializes in its wake, sparks leaping from her frame and a blinding glow at her back, hovering midair between Sara and the beast.

Sara’s breath falters, gold eyes growing wide, as she basks in the glory of her goddess’ power, but then her long, luxurious braid shifts to the side, and Sara’s eyes widen impossibly further:

A soulmark, bold and violet—the Electro mitsudomoe blazing bright on her skin—the same exact shape in the same exact place as the mark Sara hides from the rest of the world.

(Something needles, however, at the back of Sara’s mind—something she is missing in the heat of the battle—and as a frost-coated arrow whizzes past her face, missing her by inches, she refocuses on the enemy, looms over the horde, and unleashes the storm that swirls wild in her veins, annihilating the demons with a rain of vicious arrows.)

***

It comes to her, suddenly, when she returns to the palace, for the victory celebration at Tenshukaku:

The Archon praises her, commends her skill, promotes her to serve as a chief among the generals; and when she turns to retrieve Sara’s prize from her attendant—a triumphant crown woven from dendrobium petals—the mark is absent from the Archon’s neck, simply pale, smooth skin, like fine porcelain.

Sara blinks her confusion, furrows her brow, but when the Almighty Shogun faces her again, she bows low in respect as the crown is placed atop her head, fragrant and sweet and red as the dawn, a herald of tempests brewing on the horizon.

Her thoughts begin to race with endless possibilities, and she wonders if what she saw was simply a trick of the light, a manifestation of magic, a wish escaped from the confines of her heart that she has left unexamined, or a figment of her dreams brought forth before her eyes, cruel and wistful and rife with temptation.

She does not know—feels shame creep up her spine—and as the victory feast commences, lively music filling the air, Sara silently joins the other generals at their table, and forces the mystery into the depths of her mind.

***

Sara pays attention, clever and keen, and she is surprised to find that a pattern emerges—the mark present at war, but never at home—and she wonders if, perhaps, it is not a soulmark at all, but rather some spell, ancient and arcane; magic inked onto her body to strengthen her for battle.

She is curious, desperately so, and on the smoke-scented eve of the next campaign, the jagged hills of Seirai alive with their campfires, she approaches the Shogun’s tent with stiff, uncertain steps, entirely unlike her usual intense determination.

She salutes and bows, lowering her eyes, and waits to be acknowledged by the Archon.

“General,” she says, voice thick and low, and Sara cannot help the fire that flickers in her blood. “Is there a matter of importance that requires my attention?”

“Your Excellency,” Sara replies, with another respectful nod, “No, there is nothing—all is well among the troops. However…” she pauses, breathes deep, meets the Shogun’s arresting gaze, “I humbly request permission to ask a… personal question.”

The Shogun looks at her with those vivid, violet eyes, and they seem to pierce down to the very heart of her—weighing and measuring and judging her intent—and though her wings twitch, nervous at her back, Sara does not wilt beneath the scrutiny. 

“Proceed.”

“On the battlefield you bear a mark on your neck,” she says—blunt, but never insolent—and she rests her hands at the small of her back, taking refuge in decorum in the face of discomfort. “In Tenshukaku, you do not.”

The question itself remains tied by her tongue, hanging unspoken in the air between them, but still Sara does not flinch from the Almighty Shogun’s gaze, captivated by the sheer magnitude of her magnetism.

The Archon’s lips curl in the hint of a smile, and she sits down by the fire, gesturing to the seat beside her, and Sara’s feet move of their own volition, enraptured by the radiance of the flames in her eyes.

“Listen,” she says, when Sara has joined her, “and I will tell you the tale of my twin sister and I, and how we achieved victory in the war together.”

***

Once the truth is revealed, Sara cannot unsee it—cannot believe that she had failed to detect it in the first place:

Makoto is open where Ei is inscrutable; soft and warm where Ei is like adamant—cold and firm, razor-sharp and unyielding, but glowing with a lustre to outshine the stars. They are light and shadow, the sun and the moon, the rolling waves of the sea as they crash over stone—two harmonious sides of the same divine coin, but the differences between them could not be more stark.

Sara discovers new contrasts with every encounter, learns to tell them apart with merely a glance, and as she earns the sisters’ trust, she becomes one of the few granted the honour of their confidence, a guardian of the secret they have kept throughout the ages: 

That Inazuma is blessed with not one Archon, but two.

Sara reveres them both, holds them in the highest esteem, but it is Ei to whom she gravitates, a warrior like her; whose appearance on the battlefield instills her with courage and grants her resolve, turning the tides of war with her presence alone.

She is lightning incarnate, terrifying and supreme, and when they go forth in combat, weapons drawn side-by-side, Raiden Ei is the wind that soars beneath Sara’s wings.

***

The years flow by, and Sara almost forgets about the mark on Ei’s neck, remains true to herself and maintains the barrier between them, a General and her Shogun—tentative companions—and though she feels in her stomach the stir of something more, she stifles the cinders before they can ignite, leaving her frozen and bereft, but safe.

They train together, fight together, take tea in the gardens with Makoto together, and Ei is the only one who can match her in flight—hair, eyes, and fingertips aglow with brilliant lightning—a sublime violet star that guides her above the fray… and a lodestone to the steel that encases her heart.

Sara becomes proficient at ignoring the mark; perfects the art of pretending that it does not exist.

But… whenever the soulmark comes into view—whenever Sara is taunted by that brief glimpse of fate—yearning sparks deep in the space between her lungs, and she halts the half-formed wish that gathers at her lips, smothering the foolish hope that persists in her chest and thinks: what interest would a god ever take in me?

Ei is her Archon, her comrade, her friend.

And that, for Sara, is more than enough.

***

Her time with the twins is often pleasant, but short—all of them tethered by their various duties—though on the rare occasions when they can sit and relax, joined by Chiyo and Miko and the Kitsune Saiguu, Sara absorbs the love and joy they exude, content in the company of their inner circle of friends.

They are comfortable together, more so by the year, and Makoto always has a smile for her—kind and gentle and endlessly warm.

But Ei…

Ei’s eyes have begun to linger, electrified and profound, causing a heat that rises to Sara’s ears, chest, cheeks—a blush of bright crimson spreading across her body whenever she feels the weight of Ei’s gaze on her.

Sara has no time for matters of the heart, and would not know what to do with it, anyway.

But when Ei finds her one day unaccompanied in the garden, meditating in peace beneath the sakura trees, she twines a hand in dark hair, draws her in for a kiss, and Sara melts like snow into the Shogun’s embrace, returns her kiss, and is lost.

***

Sara’s breathing is heavy, her body deeply flushed, and she shivers in anticipation of what Ei has promised her.

They stand beside Ei’s bed in Tenshukaku’s west wing, Ei slowly unlacing the ties at the nape of Sara’s neck, and through the blissful haze of her passion-crazed mind, Sara suddenly remembers—

Ei will see the mark, and she will know.

“Ei, wait—” she begins, but is a second too late, her neck already bared to the Shogun’s gaze, and her wings stiffen between them, posture still as death—and Sara doesn’t move when she hears the gentle hitch of Ei’s breath; feels her exhale a tremulous sigh, loud as fireworks in the silence of the bedroom.

She feels fingertips, then, unbearably tender, tracing the mark with utmost care, followed by lips and teeth and the tease of her tongue, pressed lovingly to the bold symbol that binds them.

“I hoped it would be you,” Ei says, soft and low, and kisses beneath her ear as she whispers. “I hoped…”

Her voice trails off as Sara turns in her arms, capturing the Archon’s lips fervently with her own, and as they sway into one another, her wings flare wide;

And with Ei, as always, she is flying.

 

fin