“I think I’m in love with Makoto.”
Ei almost dropped her naginata.
“Excuse me? ”
Sara knocked an arrow, brows furrowed. “I said,” she huffed, picking at her bowstring, “I think I’m in love with your sister.”
High above the battlefield stood the dark-haired woman, feet planted on the edge of the cliff as she gazed down at the flattened earth. For those who didn’t know her, a lone archer on the ridge did not seem much of a threat. But for those who recognized the flashes of red on her outfit would know better than to underestimate the Shogunate general.
The kagemusha stood beside the archer, weapon planted against the ground. Her eyes were wide, brows raised impossibly high as she stared at Sara in utter bewilderment. The tengu shifted nervously, avoiding all eye contact. Her arms were lifted, seemingly aiming at nothing as if it would make her seem busy.
Ei dipped her head into Sara’s view, forcing the taller woman to drop her arms.
“Kujou Sara, we are about to set up camp and you’re telling me this now ?” she exclaimed, hand resting on her hip.
Sara scratched her neck, laughing nervously as a faint flush crept onto her cheeks. “Yes — well — I didn’t know how else to tell you,” she murmured in reply.
Ei made an exasperated noise. “And if we get ambushed and I die in my sleep, my last thoughts will be my closest friend admitting to being interested in my sister.” She held her naginata properly, shaking her head. “Why are you even telling me this, other than the obvious?”
The tengu whispered something, but Ei didn’t understand. She leaned in closer, tilting her ear towards Sara in silent gesture. The archer glanced nervously around before leaning in as well, cupping the side of her mouth.
“I wanted to ask for your… blessing.”
There was an air of heavy silence between the two as Sara stared at the ground. When she finally glanced in Ei’s direction, she jolted at the kagemusha’s scrutinizing gaze. The purple-haired woman eyed her as if she were a stranger, violet eyes travelling up and down her form.
Ei sighed loudly, twirling her weapon idly and turning to face forward. “Fine.”
“Yes, fine. I’ll allow it,” Ei breathed in resignation. She did not look at Sara but instead stared out across the expanse of terrain. “With all my years knowing you, there’s no better person suited to be Makoto’s partner than you.” The warrior spoke with a sarcastic undertone, but a small smile played on her lips.
Sara’s eyes widened. The flush on her cheeks grew as she immediately dropped to her knees, palms pressed together above her bowed head. Her bow was laid flat in front of her, and Ei looked down in surprise.
“Thank you, Ei!” the tengu shouted graciously, and Ei’s face went red with embarrassment. She grabbed the archer by the shoulder, hauling her onto her feet.
“What is wrong with you?” she snapped through gritted teeth, glancing around as if someone heard them. Sara laughed apologetically, rubbing the back of her neck.
Ei shook her head, holding her own cheek in her hand. Sitting with her legs crossed, she set her naginata down on the grass. Sara stayed standing even as the kagemusha patted the spot next to her, stepping forward instead and waving a no thank you. Ei shrugged.
“Have you told her?” she asked, plucking handfuls of grass and idly piling them in her hand.
Instead of answering, Sara watched as their soldiers began arriving below them, some already setting up camp. They all seemed so… tired. Sara felt bad for them. These soldiers had travelled such a long way just to build their makeshift encampment, surely they must be exhausted. Most probably had someone to come back home to, too. Friends, family, children, lovers.
Sara wondered what that was like. Of course, she had her Archon to look forward to coming home to, but it just wasn’t the same.
For now, at least.
“...No. I thought you may be able to assist me with that,” Sara replied haltingly, fidgeting.
Ei rolled her eyes. “Of course, why did I even bother asking,” she murmured under her breath. “What do you want me to do?” The warrior waved her hand, leaning back on her palms.
Sara sighed in defeat. “I’m not quite sure how to court her properly. You know how I tend to act,” she admitted, partially embarrassed. “I must act on my feelings at once, Ei. But I’m not experienced in these sorts of things.
Ei quirked her head. “Well… we’ll but stuck here for at least a week or so. I think the best course of action would be to start sending Makoto letters. That’s what Miko and I always do!”
“Letters?” Sara questioned, also tilting her head curiously.
“I used to send Miko letters when I wasn’t home, that’s how I confessed my love for her,” Ei explained as if it were obvious. “They were all handwritten with little gifts from my travels. She always sent something back.” She hummed as she reminisced, twirling a blade of grass between her fingers.
Sara tapped her chin in thought. “I see… That seems like a good idea. What should I say?”
The twin grabbed her weapon and stood, brushing the grass blades from her clothing. She turned to the tengu, gesturing for her to follow. “Here, come with me. I often bring a lot of our letters with me when I travel. For the sentimental value, y’know?” Sara nodded. “I’ll show you some once we get set up, maybe you can get an idea from them.”
“Alright, fine,” Sara complied, slinging her bow and following Ei down from the vantage point.
They left the topic for now — there was a lot to do regarding the encampment before they can focus on themselves. Perhaps it was better if Sara archived these thoughts for later in the day.
Her Excellency; Almighty Shogun; The Electro Archon; Ei’s sister.
The woman she has fallen head over heels for.
These are all things that Sara considers Makoto to be.
The tengu grumbles under her breath, holding a stack of unnamed crates in her arms. Sara brought the load to the outside of her tent, which was larger and built against the base of the ridge face.
What does Makoto refer to her?
Madame Kujou was a common one. But what else? Her right hand? General?
Sara furrowed her brows. Does Makoto consider her a friend? They’ve spent much time together outside of Sara’s work. Not only has the Archon sent messengers with her summons, but she has also personally sought after the archer with her request.
And Sara has never denied her a single invitation.
She huffed, cracking open the top crate. Sara glanced to her side, spotting Ei doing the same. The kagemusha’s tent was similar to her own, though Ei had insisted it be placed near the tengu’s instead of on the opposite side of camp.
Sara laughed after hearing about it. It definitely did sound like something Ei would demand — the woman was so insistent with her attachments. Which was understandable, Sara reasoned, considering how much loss the twins had to go through.
Sighing, Sara took a handful of items and stepped into her tent. Almost instantly, the bustle of working bodies outside came to a low hubbub. The lighting was dim, other than the bright rays streaming through the open seams of the entrance. Warm as well — Sara was grateful. The soldiers had already set up the basics for her: a simple wooden table and lantern, a sleeping cot, and a short shelving unit.
Pleased, Sara began setting up. She organized how she always did, putting each item in its respective places. It was almost routine, the way the archer assembled her arsenal of documents and important work. But it brought her peace of mind, knowing all is where it should be.
Once finished, Sara dusted herself off and took a look around. Satisfied with her work, the general pulled out the chair from her desk and sat down.
Ei must still be busy, Sara thought. Might as well get a head start on some work.
She picked up her pen and pulled over a random document, briefly scanning her eyes over the lettering.
This shouldn’t be too much work, should it?
Sara groaned, thumping her forehead against her table.
It was well into the evening; the sun just beginning its journey below the horizon. The other soldiers had started to turn in as well, stretching their arms high before dipping into their tents as they retired for the day. Sara kept her lantern lit, however. The dim flame providing the right amount of light for her to work.
In front of her, splayed out across the wooden surface, were various files and documents all containing words only someone of her authority would understand. Most were work details; essentially marking out works hours and productivity levels; as well as general reports.
Sara lifted her head, huffing as she picked up her pen once again. She couldn’t stare at the page in front of her for long, though. Her gaze began drifting towards the blank sheets beside her. After a moment of contemplation, the archer finally tossed the document onto the haphazard pile on the table in favour of the empty paper.
She held her pen over the inkwell, contemplating what to write.
A letter to Makoto. That was what she wanted to do.
What should she say? Should she state it plainly?
She dipped her pen, scratching the ink into the parchment.
Dear Raiden Makoto,
I am in love with you.
No, no — she crumpled the paper — that’s too straightforward.
Another dip of her pen. She tried again.
To the Shogun,
It has come to my attention that I am romantically interested in you, and would like to invite you to a private tea session between the two of us. Please reply as soon as you are able to.
General Kujou Sara of the Tenryou Commission.
Sara groaned loudly, dropping her pen and slumping back in her chair. She ran both her hands down her face in frustration, rubbing her eyes.
This was harder than she first thought. Sara has written so many letters before, so why was this one so difficult?
The flap beside her opened, illuminating her tent in bright lantern light as Ei peeked her head in. The two silently greeted each other with a smile — Sara shifting her seat over to make room for the kagemusha.
Ei plopped down on the archer’s cot, tossing a small pile of papers onto Sara’s desk. Upon inspection, she soon realized that they were a surplus of letters and envelopes covered in distinct handwriting.
Awestruck, Sara carefully picked up an envelope, turning it to read the writing on the front.
To my dearest Miko
Sara quirked her eyebrow, looking up at Ei. “Is this —”
“Yup. These are my letters to Miko, all dated accordingly,” Ei nodded proudly, grinning at the seated general.
Sara flipped the envelope back over. The wax seal has long since been worn away, the faintest remnants of the mitsudomoe, pulling out a folded letter. It was kept in near-mint condition, the edge still crisp enough to give papercuts.
The general skimmed through the front of the letter, expression taking on one of confusion. She quickly picked up another one, bearing the same look on her face.
“Are these… pick-up lines?” Sara dropped the letters, arms still propped against the table, and stared at Ei
Ei grinned. “Indeed! Miko thought they were cute, so I always wrote one on the front of the letter. I think Makoto would appreciate it, trust me!” She scooched forward, sliding a blank paper over to her side and swiping the pen from Sara’s hand. Ei scribbled on the front of the page, surprisingly focused for such a simple task.
Once finished, she silently slid the paper back to Sara.
are you a storm?
because I can feel something
brewing between us.
Sara stared back at Ei with an incredulous look.
“What? It’s a good line!” Ei sputtered. “Miko loved that one!”
The tengu shook her head. “Give me a different one.”
Making an exasperated sigh, Ei gestured for Sara to return the page. “Fine!” Another brief moment of scribbling and the paper was moved back to the archer’s side.
are you eternity?
because you can be my
one and only.
“Archons, Raiden. I’m amazed you even got Miko to talk to you,” Sara breathed.
“Hey, it worked for me!” The kagemusha tapped the paper. “Listen, you came to me for help, so don’t complain.” Sara waved her off with another shake of her head.
Ei and Miko have been together for centuries now; having begun their relationship since before the Cataclysm had occurred. It was amazing, Sara thought, how the two have kept their bond so strong for that long.
The warrior had never mentioned it, but Sara began wondering if Makoto had any lovers herself. If so, what were they like? Did they treat her well? Sara would.
She huffed. Back to the task at hand. “How about we just work on the actual letter for now. Please?” Sara pleaded, addressing Ei with a look.
The twin rolled her eyes, letting herself fall back onto the cot. “Very well,” she grumpily muttered. She thought for a moment, staring up at the ceiling of the tent with her legs dangling idly. “How about we start with this: I am…”
The two’s chatter trailed off as the evening grew into night, the moon dragging itself through the sky as the rest of the camp slumbered. Only a few guards stayed up, but none paid any mind to the light in Sara’s tent.
Sara wasn’t sure if this would be worth the effort in the end. For all she knows, Makoto could simply brush away her letter and never read it. Or even worse, the letter would arrive after she has returned from her mission, and Sara would have to face her Archon after confessing her feelings.
That would be a fate worse than death.
Though Sara wouldn’t be sure until she sent the letter off, so all she could do is pray.
“A letter has arrived for you, Almighty Shogun.”
Makoto turned around, smiling at the armoured soldier. Gently, she reached out and took the envelope from the man’s open palms.
“Thank you for delivering this to me. You are dismissed,” she replied warmly. As the guard turned on his heel and left, Makoto called out after him. “And please, there’s no need for the formalities!” No reply came, and she sighed defeatedly.
The Archon turned her attention back to the item in her hand, walking over to her table and picking up her pen as she inspected it.
It was a standard envelope, only slightly yellowed from the sun. On one side, a dark purplish-black wax seal showcasing the Kujou clan’s insignia kept the letter sealed. This caught her attention almost immediately, and she leaned in to stare at the detailing. The sender even took care to highlight the symbol in gold paint.
On the opposite side were two simple lines of words, written in handwriting that she could recognize from anywhere.
Makoto smiled, seating herself before popping open the seal. Carefully, she pulled out a folded card of some sort, eyebrows raising quizzically. Upon reading the writing on the front, she couldn’t help but burst into a fit of delightful laughter.
“Oh Ei… you put her up to this, didn’t you?”
you’re as sweet
dangoBIRD EGG SUSHI
Highly amused, she flipped open the card, surprised to find the entire inside covered in near-perfect handwriting. Her smile slowly widened as she read through each line, a tinge of pink on her cheeks.
While each letter was written with precision, there were some points where words were crossed out and lines trailing just a little longer than they should. Makoto grinned, imagining the conversations the two had while Sara wrote this.
When Makoto got to the last few lines, her eyes glinted with delight and her blush deepened.
“Sara… you really are something else,” she murmured to herself.
The Archon read through the letter one, two, three more times before setting it aside, excitedly grabbing her own paper and instantly getting to work on writing a letter back. She stopped several times to think, tapping the back of the pen on her chin.
It took her a while before Makoto was satisfied with her letter, sighing happily and sliding the folded paper into an envelope. Carefully applying her own seal on it, the same electro mitsudomoe that Ei uses, she signed the letter off with a flourish.
She quickly got up from her desk to fetch a messenger, leaving Sara’s letter behind as she hurried out.
It was unlike Makoto to be forgetful. The woman was elegant and enchanting, there was rarely a thing she wasn’t perfect at.
But Sara was quite different from her. She was stoic and commanding. General of the Shogunate army and her right hand. She was more skilled in battle than Makoto could ever be.
And she was nervous — her bladework more controlled than her own thoughts. The Archon found that quite adorable. She has taken notice of the little things that Sara did, such as the twitch of her hands whenever Makoto spoke, or the ways her piercing eyes followed her movements intently.
Makoto hummed. Perhaps letting her regal demeanour slip just this once was fine, as long as she could give what Sara — what both of them want — just a little quicker.
I am writing you this letter not because there is an issue at the new encampment — which has been set up accordingly — but rather because I wanted to discuss something with you.
I’ve been wanting to confess this to you for a while now, but I was never sure how to properly word it. You are the centre of our nation; you’re our leader and our Archon. I have worshipped your reign for as long as I can remember, and in return, you have provided me with a stable job and a good life. Thank you.
You welcomed me into the Shogunate army and did what you could to keep me safe and secure among the ranks. Not only that, but you have been an amazing companion to me. I often find myself looking forward to our daily tea sessions, and it saddens me that I won’t be able to attend them for a short while. Please, leave a cup out for me.
Recently, I have come to realize that you have done much more for me than that. You have taught me not only how to care for myself in ways I couldn’t even imagine myself doing, but for others as well. I have begun controlling my own emotions per your guidance and allowing myself to be more carefree. Of course, your sister is also to thank for that as well. She’s helped me come out of my shell quite a bit.
But I’ve come to a realization that was difficult for me to come to terms with.
I am in love with you. You have somehow managed to steal my heart from right under my watchful gaze, and have since refused to give it back. I cling to your words like they’re branches in floodwater, and your touches sear into my skin for me to remember. There is no other way to explain this, so I apologize for my intensity.
I wish to stay by your side, not because it is my duty as your general, but because I am utterly enraptured by your very being.
I love you, Raiden Makoto. I pray that you feel the same.
P.S. Ei says hello.