He was merely a human once, yet now he held the fate of an entire nation within his hands.
He was a spirit too rampant to control, yet he had stood by the side of two Gods to this day.
They were a pair of friends, a pair of partners that fate drew together - only to pull them apart once the calamities subsided. But despite it all, their hearts remain connected by the bond they shared.
Opening his eyes to the entrance of the Narukami Shrine, the man took in a deep breath and made his way inside. The shrine maidens greeted him as he went and he returned their hospitality with nods of affirmation, up until he reached the Grand Tree. Usually, he wouldn’t even have the spare time to think about leaving the Tenshukaku. Though he did get a hefty amount of work done just now, and his head was starting to ache a little with thoughts he shouldn’t be bothered by (but he was bothered anyway), so he decided to make his way to a place he knew would take his mind off of things for a while.
Even if it had been a while since he left this place, it still gave Rei the comfort that person used to.
Gazing at the old tree before him, the man wondered when was the last time that he stepped foot into the Shrine in person. It must have been some time ago, for the most recent memory he had under this tree—aside from the present moment—was a friend’s farewell.
Came someone’s voice from behind him. Careful, but almost fearful at times. The voice that belonged to the Guuji, who was the manager of the Shrine. The—well—current Guuji, that is. Turning around, the (undercover) Electro Archon smiled a bit and responded.
“Good morning, Ayase-kun.”
How time flies. One day, the other was a little fox that could barely fit your lap. In the blink of an eye, he was already a fully grown kitsune in the form of a beautiful purple-haired male. The Shogun knew Mayoi would be here when he came, having known who he was, unlike the rest of the shrine maidens. That said, it certainly reminded the Archon of what once was. When the man before him stayed in the form of an adorable fox, curled up on the former Guuji’s lap as the older kitsune stroked his ears.
“... Fufu, we rarely have the honor of welcoming you here.”
And perhaps it showed on his face, because the kitsune gave him a knowing smile.
“It certainly had been a long time since we last saw each other in person, hadn’t it?”
“Mhm, I have to admit.”
A figure smiled at him, a memory resurfacing within a split second. Long, pale blue hair flowed in the wind riddled by petals of cherry blossom. His dear friend looked ethereal, blessed with a beauty hardly any could match. In the kitsune’s hands was his own, a silent reassurance that their friendship would remain despite the other moving to the side of another Archon. A promise he knew the purple-eyed male would keep.
“It had been a long time, indeed.”
Ever since he left, I rarely came back here. If I did at all.
It was a statement unsaid, but understood by them both. It had been lonely—ever since that day.
The harsh winds of Snezhnaya weren't anything like the breezes of his homeland, but wind was wind, and the man could hardly find it in himself to mind such a trivial matter. As the gusts tousled his long locks, the Harbinger hummed. Speaking of his home… he hadn’t been back there in a while, had he? Ever since he left the Land of Eternity to follow the new Cryo Archon, he never had the time to return. Despite his lax schedule thanks to the God of Love’s favor, he usually spent that time attending various Fatui businesses and exploring Snezhnaya. The thought of coming back to Inazuma lingered at the back of his mind, though he told himself he would do so “when the time is right”.
Perhaps that was now, when he felt a light tug at his heart. As if connected by an invisible string, something pulled his mind back to a man—a God—he once stood alongside. Smiling to himself, the kitsune turned on his heel. He could pay a visit this time around.
It didn’t take long for him to spot a fellow Harbinger, greeting the younger happily.
“Hello there, Saegusa-kun~”
The Viper’s brow twitched ever so slightly upon hearing his voice. The young soldier raised a hand up for a salute, smiling and responding enthusiastically. Voice bearing the tiniest hint of annoyance.
He never liked the Jester, and he knew the older was well aware of it.
“What brought your free spirit here today? It must be important!”
With “free” being a polite way of saying “unruly”, absolutely.
Chuckling in amusement, Wataru replied.
“May I ask you to notify Eichi of my absence? I’ll be heading somewhere for a few days, so I won’t be available until then.”
“Why, of course not!”
“I believe you can do it yourself, if you can speak His Eminence’s name so casually!”
Well, an answer he expected. Grinning, the kitsune mimicked the other’s salute before waving.
“Alright! See you, then!”
He went to the Archon directly afterwards, conversing briefly about his upcoming leave. It wasn’t the first time he went off for a few days without doing usual work, but it certainly was the first time he left for another nation—his homeland even. The blonde God agreed without much difficulty, on one condition:
Remain mine. Do not come back under him, not under any form.
One he easily agreed to. After all—
“I am your very own Hibiki Wataru…♪
Worry not, Your Majesty, I shall be your jester to the very end.”
Because he was one and everyone’s own, he was both bound and unbound. Like the wind that would accompany one and everyone. Bowing to the man on the throne, he excused himself with a gust of Anemo from his own Vision. He was one of, if not the only Harbinger that managed to get away with refusing the Archon’s “Visions”. Those were nothing but counterfeits that would eventually kill them, he saw many pay the price—even a man who dedicated his all to the Tsar was no exception. As the God’s right hand, he worked night and day, refusing to get proper rest. Combined with the life-draining effects of his Delusion, the Jester wondered just how long would he last.
Exhaling a foggy breath as he stood by the palace’s exit, he closed his eyes and let himself feel the familiar flow of energy from his blood. The power that coursed through his veins. The Vision on his neck glowed brightly, enveloping him in cyan winds.
Wisdom, longevity and spiritual as well as magical prowess—
The winds consumed his entire figure, forming a sphere that gradually grew bigger.
That is what makes a kitsune.
And exploded, dissipating to reveal the silhouette of a large creature. It didn’t stand still for long and took off into the sky, far above the clouds—so that none could witness its full form—leaving behind a faint trail of viridescent light.
Mayoi flinched. Visibly. Something—No, someone was coming towards them. He could feel it coming into the Shrine’s vicinity at high velocity, from above. The caution was written all over his place, causing Rei to grow concerned as well. The Archon definitely felt something entering Inazuma at an absurd speed, but before any of them could react, the incoming guest slowed down dramatically.
And it was then that they paused.
“My, hello there~”
Sitting on the Grand Tree, smiling at them was a man so beautiful one could barely take their eyes off of him. Purple eyes that seemed to pierce your soul and mesmerizing silver hair that had a cyan tint to it, almost as if reflecting the color of clear azure waters. Behind him were nine swaying tails, and he was dressed in his own old Guuji robes - that which he gave up long ago to pass the position to his trusted pupil. He was just as majestic as the Shogun had remembered.
Without letting the duo respond, the Harbinger made his way down and stood by the Electro Archon’s side. Just like the old days, he thought, standing next to you like this. His movements were light and elegant, befitting of his former position. Directing his attention towards the Guuji firsthand, Wataru spoke.
“You’ve grown, dear. I believe you’re doing well.”
In contrast to his playful entrance, the kitsune spoke calmly as he addressed the younger. It had always been a specialty of his, to be anything should he—or those around him—desire. Reaching out to give the man a pat on the head, he hummed.
“Now… may we have a moment, if you don’t mind?”
“N—No, not at aaaall…!”
Cheeks flushed, Mayoi shook his head and bowed deeply as he excused himself.
“Please take all the time you need!”
Once the Guuji was out of sight, Rei finally spoke after his long period of silence.
“How did you… Why…”
The questions were swarming his mind, making his head ache again. So much for trying to ease it. There were so many things he wanted to ask his dear friend, who had sided with another God, yet came back on an unsuspecting day. It obviously wasn’t that kind of return, but—
“What made you—”
A finger on his lips and he paused, blinking.
“Take it easy, Rei.”
The name rolled off the former Guuji’s tongue with such ease and familiarity that the raven-haired male found himself relaxing almost instantly. He didn’t know if it was the softness in Wataru’s voice, or the comfort the other gave him simply by remaining at his side that calmed him. Perhaps it was both. They have been friends for an awfully long time, preceding the Great Cataclysm over 500 years ago and even further beyond that point. It was what made the trust, the bond between them so strong. Time tied them together, allowing them to learn about one another slowly—but thoroughly. It was also what made him feel terribly lonely, however, when the kitsune was no longer there. The pursuit of Eternity was a long one, and he wouldn’t mind walking that path all on his own—
The Jester’s hand caressed his cheek gently, tails moving to wrap themselves around them like a fluffy blanket that offered both warmth and security. It was nostalgic, he thought, being in his dear friend’s hold like this. If he was being honest, they were more than friends—contrary to popular belief. But what went on behind closed doors stayed there.
“... Mhm, you are.”
Amethyst gazed into ruby and a smile made its way up Rei’s face, brightening his features. After a good while of simply looking at each other, their lips met in a tender kiss. Warmth blossomed in their chests like the flowers in Spring, allowing them to experience the fleeting—though deeply cherished—happiness they shared.
Despite the kitsune’s reputation in Inazuma’s folklore, he knew this kitsune would never truly—willingly—leave him. No, his heart. The other may have left, physically, to serve the Cryo Archon. Yet he remained within his mind, his heart—
And he would stay there, as an extremely important part of the Archon’s life—
For all eternity.