It was raining when she watched her father and Barbara go.
The rain was pelting on the cobblestone path and the wind was flapping at her clothes, the haze of the mist obscuring their faces. Barbara was already looking away before they bid them goodbye. She squeezed her mother’s hand for courage as their silhouettes faded out of the city gates. No matter how many times she asked, her mother would never say why they had to leave. That she should focus on her duty as an heir of the Gunnhildr clan. To be a knight that everyone could be proud of.
For Monstadt, always.
For Mondstadt, always.
Always, for Mondstadt.
It was something she would never forget. She would never forget the sword stances her mother had made her repeat over and over until her feet ached and her fingers were sore. The stories of Mondstadt, the legends of Barbatos and Venessa, would forever be ingrained in her mind like the ink on stained parchment. The harmonies of the Favonius hymnals that would fill the grand halls of the church played like a lullaby well into her teenage years.
But there were things that Jean forgot, the things that the rain took with it as it swept through Mondstadt on that day. She couldn’t see the sky of Barbara’s eyes, murky and dull as the puddles on the stone bridge. On the wind that guided her, she couldn’t hear Barbara’s voice singing over the melody of her favorite song. In the quake of thunder, what was left of her memories had vanished.
Even when Barbara returned, it was never the same. The citizens of Mondstadt loved her, things akin to if you’re ever injured, go see Barbara, she’ll patch you right up! She’s a blessing to all of Mondstadt. If Jean caught sight of her, she felt her rib cage squeeze around her heart, not the kind of injury Barbara could simply fix. The citizens of Mondstadt would always love Barbara, but the knight wasn’t sure if they still loved one another. Jean was convinced that the storm would always take - if it ever returned, it would never be as it was.
“Barbara, she’s rather talented, isn’t she?” Swan, a fellow knight, had asked her.
Jean wouldn’t know. But she smiled, wistfully, anyway. “Yes. She is. I hope the wind continues to look favorably upon her.”
She sent a prayer up to Barbatos. Guide her home.
It was sunny when Lisa returned to Mondstadt. The word of the famed academian from Sumeru was buzzing through the city and Jean had to admit that even she was eager to greet her. Everyone in the city had a rumor about the mystery woman on their lips. Some said that she was a grand mage with the power to manipulate sky and storm, bending lightning to her will with the wave of her hand. It was said that she was the most talented sorceress Sumeru had seen in the past two centuries. Jean once saw a book in the library, something akin to the Arcademia’s magic. When she plucked it off the wall out of curiosity of what to expect, she gaped at the fact that the novel was for beginners and it was nearly 800 pages long.
She paged through it. A jumble of alchemy, elemental infused flora, and various ingredients with their individual properties stared back at her. Sword stances were far easier than this and far more tangible as opposed to the paragraphs that stretched into theories and unearthed secrets of magic.
It left the knight intrigued, Lisa must’ve been an exceptional person. When the gates opened, the sight she saw wasn’t at all like she expected. Perhaps she had an image of a much older woman in plain mage’s robes or someone of grandeur with an ornate staff. Lisa was none of these things. Lisa was stunning . Dressed in every shade of violet in the setting sky and her eyes an emerald green that shone like the vast plains, soft beneath the blessed wind. Her brunette hair spilled in curtains like silk beneath her hat, delicately twisted into the embrace of a purple rose. Her smile was gentle and kind with a voice like honey, captivating and sweet.
“Grand Master Varka, you flatter me. I didn’t think you’d be coming to greet me,” she said kindly, her gloved hands moving in an elegant flourish. Varka let out a barking laugh from his chest.
“How could we not? The best student in over 200 years at Sumeru wants to join the Knights of Favonius - it’s an honor to have you with us, Lisa!”
Lisa giggled quietly, a joyous yet teasing sound that curved up to her eyes at the boisterous man’s nature.
“Mondstadt welcomes you home, Miss Lisa. I’m Jean Gunnhildr, second in command of the Knights of Favonius. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” the knight offered with a polite smile on her face and an armored glove extended. Lisa stepped forward to meet her and shook her hand with a glittering smile.
“The pleasure is all mine, cutie,” Lisa replied and winked at her beneath the brim of her hat.
Jean blinked twice. Certainly not what she had expected. This grand mage, talented sorceress, famed academic, or whatever she may have truly been, was a captivating enigma of her own. To limit her to such rumors would be an insult even if they were the truth. Jean could see that Lisa was all of those things and much, much more. Her kind and playful nature was just the summit of the mountain.
Jean straightened her composure and cleared her throat quietly. Though, she could just feel the amused stare she was receiving from the Grand Master. Her armored glove fell away from Lisa’s.
“May I accompany you to get your belongings settled, Miss Lisa?”
Lisa hummed thoughtfully. “I don’t have many things with me but I would never deny an escort from one of our dear Knights of Favonius. But only if you call me Lisa, I’m not quite so old, wouldn’t you think?”
Jean couldn’t help but let out a light chuckle at the good-natured lilt to her voice. “Lisa, then. Shall we?”
Jean offered her arm and Lisa wound delicately around it, her fingers gently splayed on the knight’s forearm. It was different - instead of touches from her mother correcting her form at every angle or a bruising strike during a spar, Lisa simply existed comfortably, as if she were meant to fit there. Jean mused quietly that it was a pleasant feeling, like the wind at her back. At the same time she reprimanded herself. She had been reading too many novels to sound so cliche. It was a knight’s duty to help Mondstadt’s citizens, it needn’t be more than that.
Varka once again wore a cheeky smile as if he knew a secret of his own. He nodded at her and patted her shoulder gently.
“I’ll leave you in good hands, Lisa. I’ll see you both back at headquarters,” Varka dismissed jovially, his cape swishing behind him as he made his way back. They both waved goodbye at his retreating figure. The pair began to walk down the cobbled street and various citizens would call out to them, greeting Jean happily.
“Good day to you, Jean!”
“Lord Barbatos bless you, Dandelion Knight!”
It was all things she had heard before with variation and normally she’d wave and thank them politely, always willing to offer a hand if they had needed it. Others would say it was troublesome work to be at the beck and call to the entire city, especially as she herself volunteered for such responsibility, but Jean found nothing misplaced about it. It was her duty and her calling to serve Mondstadt’s people. But at that moment, she couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed.
“Someone is in the people’s good graces,” Lisa mused beside her.
Her statement was further emphasized when the flower shop keeper, Flora, came up to the pair with a bouquet of dandelions in hand.
“Jean! I wanted to thank you the other day for helping me gather the Cecilia flowers for the wedding event!” Flora said brightly. “These are for you!”
“Oh, Flora, they’re gorgeous! It really wasn’t a trouble at all but I’ll happily accept them,” Jean replied with a pleasant smile, marveling at the delicate glow of the dandelion seeds. “Please, let me know if you ever need help again.”
“You’re always saying that - you should rest soon, Jean,” Flora quipped with a grin before she retreated back to her stall. Jean sighed, yet another statement she was always told.
Lisa laughed beside her as they continued to walk. “You’d have to climb mountains for Cecilias, I didn’t know that was in the job description of a knight.”
“I’d do anything for the citizens of Mondstadt,” Jean replied easily. Something passed over the green of Lisa’s eyes that the knight couldn’t place before it had vanished in the same instant. In one singular swoop or a stroke of feathered ink on paper, Lisa understood her.
That Jean was the kind of woman who poured love into every ounce, space, and moment around her, and with it, a part of herself flitted away. Like the glowing dandelion seeds that had wisped onto a calm breeze so gentle, that she would’ve never known that she was incomplete.
“Well, they’re certainly lucky to have you then,” Lisa said instead with a squeeze on Jean’s arm.
A cold breeze blew by then like tendrils of ice skimming down the back of Jean’s neck. One drop, then two fell on their linked arms. Jean turned her head skyward, stark clouds blanketing over the sun and bringing shadows over the city. The blue of her eyes began to dull beneath the blurred star and the shadow of a memory passed over the oceans. It was sunny when Lisa returned to Mondstadt.
“Jean? Is there something wrong?” Lisa asked, pausing in the middle of the street. The world disappeared around them, leaving the shower of rain and their beating hearts. Gone was the sweet undertone to Lisa’s voice, replaced with a genuine concern that made Jean snap out of her stupor, another life breathing into her eyes once again.
She gave the sorceress a shaky smile and ignored Lisa’s brow that raised at that.
“It’s nothing, Miss Lisa,” Jean said, guarded, and resumed their walk. The dandelion bouquet’s glow had faded, seeds falling to the wet earth beneath their feet. “We should keep moving, it seems a storm is about to pick up soon.”
Lisa had decided to leave it alone as they crossed the city to their destination.
Jean had wondered, beneath the oncoming torrent, if Lisa would be the one to leave her alone once more.
It was raining when Diluc’s father died.
Jean didn’t witness the accident but the grief and anger in Diluc’s eyes raged like a wildfire, threatening everything in its path to wither to ash. Jean didn’t need to witness anything, Diluc’s shattered soul was enough to know that she was fortunate to still have one. He was different when he returned, empty, a trodden ember beneath an abyssal night. When he returned to the knights, he brushed past her, her fingertips grasping at his shadow.
She could do nothing but watch. She closed her eyes and saw the retreating silhouettes of her father and sister, and the rush of the storm. She opened them again to the sound of the patter on the windows and the red of Diluc’s hair, walking down the halls of the Knight’s Order as if he wanted to join where his father had gone.
In a way, she understood. She could only hope it would be enough to help him.
She finished her rounds and patrol of the city, soaked to the bone in fabric and steel that clung to her skin. When she had returned to headquarters, the doors to the round table room were still closed. It was eerily quiet, like the walls themselves decorated in steel and stone had mourned the loss of one of their own. Jean waited, lingering by the window and watched the sky cry its tears. In the mist in the courtyard, she remembered a simpler time, a bright spot in her past that shined like spring’s day.
They had hidden behind the bushes outside of the city, their heads popping up from above the leaves to peer at the small, round dendro slime that had hopped around the plains, the sprout of its plant waving in the wind.
“We have to protect Mondstadt from the slime!” Jean whispered, her voice high pitched to emphasize the importance of the task.
“You’re right, Jean! We’ll show ‘em!” Diluc agreed with a vigorous nod and a puff to his cheek, his wooden sword held tightly in his pudgy hand. Jean matched his expression with her own puff to her cheeks and her own wooden weapon. The slime bounced around unknowingly as the pair emerged quietly from the bushes.
The slime jumped in fear at the loud cry of the two children charging full force with their swords raised. It bounced away frantically, Jean and Diluc gasping heavy breaths as they sprinted across the fields. Further down the field, in the ground was a budding red flower, and behind it the slime cowered.
“We’ve got you now!”
The earth shifted and from the dirt sprang a much larger, fully bloomed dendro slime with glowing yellow eyes locked onto them.
“Jean, watch out!” Diluc shouted as he cut in front of Jean just as the slime bounced forward to topple them both over. They both yelped in pain as they hit the ground with a thud and scrapes on their elbows. Jean leaned up first, her hand gently resting on Diluc’s arm, noting the blood on his dirt covered wound.
“Diluc, are you alright?” Jean said frantically, her eyes widening on the encroaching enemy. She winced and shielded him with her body, waiting for the oncoming impact.
“Both of you, stay down!”
The two whirled their heads in the direction of the voice and it was then they saw Diluc’s father, Master Crepus, with his claymore raised and a crescent of flame slashed through the wind, right into the slimes. Jean and Diluc yelped as the slime exploded, splashing onto their clothes and their hair. Jean scrunched her nose in disgust as she combed through her hair while Diluc tried to wipe his face clean with the back of his arm.
They dusted themselves off and stood to greet Master Crepus, looking a bit embarrassed and ashamed, slime condensate layered in their hair and clothes.
“What were you two thinking?” Crepus asked sternly, his arms crossed over his chest.
“We were trying to protect Mondstadt from the slimes!” Diluc announced and quickly deflated at how ridiculous he must’ve looked. A sticky and dirt covered mess.
Jean, however, always had his back. “Yes, Master Crepus, we wanted to protect the city! Just like you and the knights!”
Crepus continued to look at them with a firm look in his eye as the two swallowed, awaiting whatever consequence would come their way. A look of confusion crossed their features when the facade broke on Crepus’ face, replaced with an earnest, amused smile, and a hearty laugh. He ruffled both of their heads and hair with a calloused hand, pulling a pout from both children.
“Now there’s our little warriors! You’ll be the finest knights in Mondstadt yet,” Crepus approved and Diluc and Jean beamed with toothy grins.
Crepus added, “Let’s get you both cleaned up and we can talk about some real training.”
Diluc and Jean had cheered brightly and Crepus held their hands in each of his own, walking back to the city of freedom with the winds leading the way. They giggled and skipped across the bridge to a future that they hoped would be just as joyous and light.
Treading in the fog, Jean returned to the present moment, far from the future they all had hoped for. Suddenly, the heavy wooden doors of the round table hall slammed open and Diluc marched out, the fire of his Vision at his heels. Jean could hear the protests and the shouts of the knights calling after him. Grand Master Varka was nowhere to be seen. She pushed herself from the wall quickly and caught up to him, armored glove tugging on his sleeve. This time, he stopped but didn’t face her, his head held high.
“Diluc, where are you going?” Jean asked though she knew the answer. He was leaving to Archon knows where. She knew she couldn’t follow him because Mondstadt was her duty, her loyalty. But he had always been her friend, a brother where Jean never understood her own family.
A sigh escaped his lips, his head tilting up towards the ceiling as though the heavens could wash away the turmoil in his heart. Diluc made a decision then yanked his sleeve away from her grasp, and in that moment, Jean didn’t recognize him.
“Goodbye, Jean.” It was empty, void of regret, steeled with resolve. Jean knew she had lost.
She could hear the rain again when he pushed the doors open and walked away, into a storm that would always take, take, and take more away.
Her gauntlet fell limply to her side. Just how much more?
“Mondstadt to Master Jean?”
Jean startled out of her stupor, her chamber and the sunlight filtering into her consciousness to greet the curious gaze of Outrider Amber who had been waving a hand in front of her face. Jean gave the young woman a sheepish smile and a nonchalant pass with her own hand.
“I apologize, Outrider Amber. I was just thinking,” Jean replied, her hands settling on top of the several laid out parchments. Amber hummed to herself and peered at the documents on the Grand Master’s desk, from tax relations and trade to expense breakdowns. It made the Outrider wince.
“It looks important and pretty difficult,” Amber said, gesturing to her desk. Jean didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t any of that at all. Frankly, she didn’t find anything about being Grand Master a hardship, it was everything before that moment. As Amber relayed her daily report on the perimeter, Jean remembered how she had gotten there. The towering shadow of her mentor faded into the waiting storm and suddenly, she was left to be the pillar of Mondstadt. The sole person everyone looked up to as though she were the rising sun that would guide their lands to the freedom Barbatos had envisioned for them. The paperwork, the letters, the day to day duties weren’t heavy. But to fill the parts of her life that left her empty was a different battle entirely.
To be the Lionfang Knight that would gloriously lead Mondstadt to a perfect future when her past had left her heart scattered to the very wind they praised. Though, Jean never stopped praying for the wind to guide her for there was no one else that could have. Between her joined palms or along the grip of her sword, she secretly wished that perhaps one day, it would guide her to what she lost.
“And that concludes my report!”
Jean smiled and nodded at Amber’s model salute before the girl scampered away to her next task.
“She’s always running off somewhere…” Jean mused to herself quietly with her head turned to the window pane, where the ocean blue sky swam across the glass, the sun glinting in gems across the surface. She hadn’t seen rain in a long time now. Just how long had it truly been since they all had left to never return the same? She asked Albedo once about her fears, but the Chief Alchemist only blinked in her direction with a subtle tilt to his head.
“Jean, the rain doesn’t take anything away, as you say. The cause of rain is the reaction of-”
Jean tuned him out after that because she should’ve expected such an answer, a practical one that made her fears an irrational one. But his calm voice did nothing to dispel the truth of it all - that the world was clear, but Barbara was different. The dead had found their peace, but Diluc was gone.
Varka, the mountain of Mondstadt, had bent to the wind, leaving a lone dandelion to stand against the storm.
Then somewhere, a crack of thunder struck the earth, and somehow, she wasn’t afraid. It came in the form of a yawn, a languid figure perched on the edge of her desk, and a voice wrapped in violet silk.
“Amber ought to slow down once in a while, don’t you think, Jean?” Lisa pondered towards the ceiling, leaning back on her palms atop Jean’s organized desk.
For all her propriety and meticulous nature, Jean didn’t mind her presence amongst the documents. She huffed a quiet laugh, resting her cheek in her palm and gazing up at the sorceress with an amused smirk.
“It’s just how she is and honestly, I admire it. Sometimes I wish I had her youthful energy,” Jean sighed while closing her eyes for a moment. They immediately popped open when she felt Lisa’s finger tap the tip of her nose with a light tsk.
“You’re not old, Jean. You’re sleep deprived,” Lisa corrected with a knowing grin of her own. She crossed one stocking clad leg over the other, settling further into her seat on the desk. “You should slow down once in a while, too.”
“And let Klee run wild to obliterate the fish in Starfell Lake?” Jean said, mockingly horrified. It pulled a lovely giggle from Lisa’s pink lips and it echoed in the hollow halls of the knight’s heart.
“Our little Spark Knight will be one of the best defenders of Mondstadt, just like her hero.”
Lisa hopped off the desk and evened out her skirt while Jean watched her with a curious look.
“Hero? You mean Miss Alice?”
Lisa put a hand on her hip and smiled again. She’s always smiling, Jean thought. But this smile beamed as though it held a secret about the Acting Grand Master that she didn’t know herself.
“No, sweetheart. I mean you,” Lisa clarified and walked forward, grace carrying her every step. The fabric of her gloves brushed the tresses of her blonde bangs and grazed the curve of her cheek before pulling away, the moment gone in the breath of a whisper. That was another thing Lisa always did, and another thing Jean never minded.
For years, it was always like that. Fleeting touches, which Jean never looked beyond the peace it gave her. The curve to Lisa’s smiles, reserved just for her. Lisa had always been kind and if there was anything other than Mondstadt and its freedom she would protect, it would be for the beautiful mage to always remain beside her.
But such ambitions seemed beyond her; she truly wondered if she had lived up to the namesake of the Dandelion Knight. Heroes were people like Venessa - the sword and aegis to the people with the strength to match. Heroes protected others, yet she could hardly protect her family and those closest to her.
What was the point of cutting down Ruin Guards to Abyss Mages if it would always mean she would stand alone?
“You must be mistaken, I’m not a hero,” Jean said, leaning back in her chair and looking away from Lisa’s eyes.
“Then you’re a fool, dear,” Lisa quipped in her familiar, playful tone. It always carried an air of lightheartedness that played to the beautiful melody of a waltz - languid and calm yet able to rouse Jean’s heart in a dance that left her wondering just who the sorceress truly was. Behind every note of her voice, she pulled at strings in her soul that Jean had forgotten existed - reminding her that she herself was kind, hardworking, a friend that anyone would be fortunate to know, and a woman that someone would be the luckiest to love.
Lisa had given her peace, but in that moment, it felt as though she was upset with her and that made the Grand Master’s stomach churn uncomfortably.
Her mind was wiped of that worry when Lisa spoke again. “As a hero in Mondstadt, I would like to make a request from a humble citizen such as myself.”
Jean’s brow rose.
“Oh Grand Master, won’t you save me from an afternoon alone by joining me for tea?”
Jean blinked rapidly and her jaw dropped open much to the woman’s amusement. She waited patiently as she regarded the young knight with endearment glittering on the gems of her emerald eyes. Jean’s mouth closed and she peered over at the paperwork on her desk then back at Lisa, stunning as the day she had met her.
She breathed and stood, offering Lisa her arm and the sorceress giggled knowingly. They exited the headquarters and greeted the sun that hovered over the city, with Lisa curled around her arm and Jean smiling.
Jean would do anything for Mondstadt, so it stands to reason that Jean would do anything for Mondstadt’s people, though Lisa had always been different from everyone else.
“For you, always.”
They continued to play this game. Lisa would drape herself over Jean’s form in an air of melodrama, a damsel in distress asking the knight to save her from the minor inconveniences of the world - from lonely tea times to unshared breakfast meals. The antics always made Jean laugh.
“Jean, you should read this book, there aren’t enough people in the world to appreciate it,” Lisa pouted.
It ended up becoming one of Jean’s favorite books - when she had started it, she couldn’t put it down well into the early hours of the morning. She paid Lisa a visit to the library the next day with the completed book in hand. Lisa yawned from her seat, offering the Grand Master a cup of tea without a word and a soft “Good morning, Jean”.
Jean sipped at it gratefully and forgot herself, gushing about the story as much as she was allowed before the rest of the knights had arrived. Lisa listened to her from across her desk, propping her head in the curve of her palm with a lazy grin as Jean rambled on and on.
“O-Oh, forgive me, Lisa! It seems I was too excited and I must’ve taken up your time from your duties today. I’ll take my leave now,” Jean apologized profusely, standing up straight from her seat.
Lisa waved it off and winked at her. “I’m glad you liked the book, Jean. It reminded me of you. But don’t let me keep you from your Grand Master duties.”
Jean nodded and took her leave. It was only outside of the library’s door did she realize what Lisa had truly said. In the darker parts of the hallways, she felt her cheeks blush as she clutched the copy of the Heart of Clear Springs in her hands.
“Welcome to the Cat’s Tail! What can I-”
The bartender, Diona, paused as her ears flicked and her eyes landed on the Grand Master herself and the resident librarian.
“Tea and a veggie pizza to share?” Diona finished and the pair smiled at her, one smile a bit sheepish and the other impressed.
They had taken their usual spots outside on the terrace under the clear sky. Their food arrived and the server greeted them with a bright smile and a “welcome back!”.
After taking a bite into her pizza, Jean mused, “We really do come here that often, don’t we?”
Lisa set her teacup back in its saucer and leaned into her chair, her fingers drumming on the table. “It’s really cute that they remember us, I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.” The sorceress took her own slice and began to eat. Jean stayed quiet for a moment, just peering at the woman across from her in mild fascination.
Lisa’s brow raised and the corners of her lips ticked up. “Something wrong?”
“You know, I make a pretty good pizza as well. Let me make one for you sometime,” Jean said casually. When Lisa didn’t reply with her brow still raised, she quickly amended while feeling embarrassed, for Archon’s know why. “To repay you for everything you’ve done for me,” she clarified.
Lisa’s laugh chimed like the bells. “I look forward to it, Jean.”
When Jean fulfilled her promise, the pleasant look of surprise and satisfaction on Lisa’s face was well worth being covered in flour, from her blonde hair to her smile.
“Lisa, let’s spar.”
The book the woman was reading snapped shut and the witch regarded her with an incredulous look beneath her hat. “You’re sure about that?”
The knight nodded resolutely. “You denied the Captain position Grand Master Varka offered you when you joined when we all know you’re far more capable. At least let me spar with you first hand, it’s not often I get to fight with skilled mages.”
Lisa laughed at the knight’s eagerness: it was almost similar to a childlike wonder. But Jean wasn’t called the Dandelion Knight for nothing. She wasn’t a revered swordswoman for a lack of skill; she never backed down from a challenge. Lisa supposed this could be entertaining.
“You think I’m skilled, hm?” Lisa teased as she rose gracefully from her seat. She stepped into Jean’s space and whispered inches from her jaw. “You’ll owe me for this one, Grand Master.”
She pulled away and breezed past Jean, the silk of her dress swishing behind her. There was a pause before Lisa heard armored boots walking to catch up with her. They settled on the training courtyard, several other knights and recruits pausing at their patrols at the sight. Jean drew her sword, a swirl of wind twisting around its steel while Lisa conjured a catalyst from thin air with violet sparks on her fingertips.
This type of dance was unfamiliar to Jean, yet exhilarating all the same. Lisa’s lightning was an extension of herself, flowing and ebbing away across the field before sharpening into near deadly strikes. Jean’s wind would deflect the blows and her steel would sing across the air. The trade off sparked in a rapid fire, a swirling storm of wind and lightning that ruptured the training grounds beneath their feet.
Jean charged forward, dashing across the field to close the distance and her sword met a solid shield that Lisa had formed, her blade flickering with tiny bolts against it. The violet reflected off Lisa’s eyes, equally as menacing and alluring as she smiled between their power struggle.
“You’re really powerful, Lisa,” Jean complimented, her brow furrowed in concentration.
Lisa leaned over where their sword and shield had clashed, her lips the barest whisper away from Jean’s ear.
“Surrender and I’ll be gentle.”
Jean stuttered and Lisa disappeared in a blink. The knight fell forward for a moment before recovering, her heel landing solidly into the ground. She pivoted and twisted around along with a graceful horizontal strike where Lisa had reappeared behind her.
A gust of wind shot outwards with the sound of thunder clapping before halting to an overwhelming silence. Jean’s sword was inches from Lisa’s throat while Lisa’s held a handful of lightning inches from Jean’s chest. They were both breathing heavy and their eyes locked, unmoving from their close proximity.
“Never,” Jean whispered.
Lisa only looked impressed, a pretty smile on her pink lips that Jean couldn’t help but notice. The sorceress withdrew, her catalyst evaporating before she crossed her arms over her ample chest.
“Let’s call it a draw,” Lisa suggested with a tilt of her head. Jean also withdrew from her fighting stance and sheathed her sword once again. The steel clicked into the scabbard and Jean nodded, satisfied.
“I owe you. Thank you,” Jean said and Lisa blinked with a look of surprise.
There were cheers around them from the crowd but Jean couldn’t hear any of it. Lisa, the eye of the storm that she could barely look away from.
The wind blew past Lisa and into Jean’s hair and along her skin, breathing a fresh life into her lungs. Jean had barely understood what it could mean- what it could mean for them as people. Her companion and her equal that seemed to defy all the fears Jean had been shaken with every day and night.
This woman with storms in her hands was the one who had brought her peace and yet sparked a new desire in her heart. A desire that burned to the ends of her fingertips - to hold and to cherish for as long as the wind had let her.
When Stormterror brought the rain with him, Jean was afraid.
The roar of the Four Winds shook the stone of Mondstadt’s walls and Jean could feel the sound wrap her heart in dread. Her fingertips shook as she called out her orders to the Knights to secure the civilians and the perimeter. In the solitude of her quarters, Jean paced on the wooden floor with her breath tight in her throat. Her body was rigid for days on end, often leading to searing headaches and knots in her aching muscles.
Jean couldn’t relent, she couldn’t rest. She needed to protect everyone.
After disappearing for a number of days, the beast returned, his shadow cutting through the clouds and bringing a torrent of rain. Fear leaked into every crack in the stone roads and into every grain of wood. The reports came in rapidly, one of the scouts had come rushing into Jean’s office, soaked in water and heaving.
“Grand Master Jean, Stormterror is above the city! But a traveler is fending him off!”
Jean paused. “A traveler? Are they alright? What of the civilians?”
“Captain Kaeya and Outrider Amber have secured the people to their homes and reports say the mysterious traveler is driving the beast away as we speak, ma’am.”
The Grand Master considered his statement carefully, hiding the apprehension in her stomach at the fear of losing anyone else. She would never admit that her pride was wounded if the reports were true - that a mysterious outlander had suddenly driven away the monstrosity that plagued their lands so effortlessly, like a breeze passing through a plain.
Her armored glove rubbed at her jaw as she nodded. Now was not the time to be so ungrateful.
“Captain Kaeya is to return with the Traveler. I want reports every hour on the situation. Send for Lisa to meet here as well.”
“Yes, Grand Master.”
The scout made his exit and Jean exhaled a shaky breath, leaning against her desk as her arms crossed. The grandfather clock ticked on the wall and she raised her head to the sound with a sigh, clutching her temples with her fingertips.
What a disaster. What are you even doing here?
Jean flinched and her head snapped to the doorway, her heartbeat slowing down a few paces at the sight of the Rose Witch who lingered at the entrance with a soft expression that made her ribcage ache for a whole different reason.
It creaked when she breathed in deeply to steady herself, willing the wind to keep her afloat. “Lisa, my apologies, I didn’t notice you coming in.”
Lisa’s eyes narrowed as she crossed the threshold, the door closed lightly behind her. Before Jean knew it, her face was held gently between two warm palms with Lisa looking at her so intensely that her breath was lost on her once again.
“L-Lisa?” she stuttered but didn’t pull away. “What are you-”
“Stop thinking,” the witch interrupted softly. “Just relax, okay? Everything’s going to be fine. Everyone is with you, Jean.”
Jean felt doubt bubble to the surface and it hitched in her throat. She wanted to scream, the anxiety itching beneath the plates of her armor to tell Lisa that she was wrong. How could she possibly say that everything was going to be okay with those beautiful eyes and that painfully delicate voice? How could Lisa look at her so lovingly, not knowing the sheer unease that rattled Jean to her very core?
For who could the storm take other than Lisa to make the Dandelion Knight wither to the earth?
And so, Jean held onto her, her hands grasping at Lisa’s forearms in a barely concealed desperation as she sunk deeper into the warmth that calmed her mind. She held onto her in the way she reached for her father and sister, the way she reached for Diluc and his shadow, in the way that if she could’ve just held onto them , they would have stayed.
“ Please, ” Jean whispered, a prayer pulled from her lips of its own volition. “Don’t go.”
A tide washed over her and Jean’s vision blurred before she knew she was crying. Lisa wiped them away in a tender caress before stepping closer to the knight. The scent of roses beneath the moon flooded into the space between them, mixed with dandelions beneath the sun. Jean’s fingers trembled as they moved to clutch at Lisa’s dress and pulled her closer into an embrace. Lisa let her, sinking in a way that made Jean feel complete, if only for a fleeting moment. She fit in a perfect way against her, like the shameless romance novels Jean loved. They stayed that way with the rain pattering against the glass window to the rhythm of their hearts.
Lisa was quiet, her usual lilt and teasing nature muted, but her touch spoke volumes that couldn’t be ignored. I’m here.
The words resonated in the knight’s mind as clear as the sky above Lisa when she returned to Mondstadt years ago. Jean didn’t know then what Lisa would become to her or if she even wanted Lisa to mean anything at all. She didn’t know what would be more painful now, to never know this remarkable woman she absolutely adored or to watch her go, with Jean’s heart trailing after her.
Lisa answered her woes with her arms tightening around her just a bit more and her fingers weaving into her blonde tresses. A promise that the knight would never have to know such a fate, ever again.
“Darling, I won’t leave you.”
Jean’s only response was a muffled sob, a nod against Lisa’s collarbone, and her arms pulling her closer.
Days passed and they had figured out a way to summon Stormterror to hopefully end this threat, once and for all.
The night sky had draped over the earth, scattered storm clouds dispersed on its surface, and the drops speckled onto Jean’s face, trailing down her cheek to the line of her jaw. Diluc, Lumine, and Venti had departed for Starsnatch Cliff already yet here she still remained by the door to the Knights of Favonius headquarters.
The dusk was quiet, most knights patrolling on the outskirts of town, leaving Jean to her own solace. Her hand came to rest on the hilt of her sword, the intricate weave of gold and porcelain glinted beneath the light of her Vision.
Her breath fogged into the air and then a hand curled over her own atop her sword. She didn’t need to turn to know who it was.
“I thought you would’ve left already,” Lisa said.
“I wanted to…” Jean began, then paused. She shook her head because now was not the time to lack courage. She was about to face a dragon, a practical entity amongst humans. Yet in some ways, the things she felt when it came to Lisa scared her far more than that. Lisa had never rejected her and Jean sent a silent prayer to Barbatos, knowing full well where he waited for her. She breathed, “I wanted to see you.”
“You should’ve sent for me earlier then, dear,” Lisa replied cheekily but it was clear to Jean that despite all her calm and laid back nature, Lisa was worried.
“I’m afraid,” Jean admitted, quietly, truthfully. Lisa’s gaze softened and she gently tugged Jean’s hand, the knight facing her fully with emotions dancing in the pools of her blue eyes. Lisa peered at her, her fingers skimming Jean’s jaw to tilt her head upwards.
“Do you want me to go with you?”
“No! No, I-” Jean immediately said then stopped. Her shoulders were high with tension as she tightened her grip on Lisa’s hand, taking a deep breath. Jean doesn’t know what they are to each other but she knew she needed to say it. “I need you to stay here, so I know you’re safe.” I can’t lose you.
“Oh, Jean,” Lisa breathed, dipping into empathy because she had understood Jean’s silent plea.
“Just promise you’ll stay.”
Lisa’s mouth opened then closed before loosening her hand from Jean’s grip. She saw the flash of panic in Jean’s eyes and it pained her to see Jean this way. Her palm curved over the porcelain of Jean’s cheek, watching the subtle bloom across the surface, and in spite of what future laid ahead of them with Stormterror, she smiled. At the very least, Jean should see her smiling before a fateful battle.
“Promise you’ll come home,” the sorceress countered. The blue eyes hardened to steel and her gauntlet pressed Lisa’s hand closer, nearly nuzzling into the touch.
“Wait for me,” Jean whispered back.
Lisa smiled like the sun parting through the clouds. “I always have.”
The battle with Stormterror was unlike anything she had ever faced. To face one of the Four Winds, one of the original defenders of Mondstadt, had her adrenaline rushing through every limb. The winds were treacherous and the cold water pelted against her armor leaving the world hazy as Stormterror’s roar made the earth shake. She could hear the thunder striking the earth in a crash and altogether the fight was a horrible symphony.
From the depths of the tower, a whirlpool of gray and white spawned Stormterror like a beast out of the pits of hell. A cyclone of boulders and debris swirled in all directions and Jean could feel the few stray stones turn to blades as they cut across her cheek while she tried to withstand the winds.
The beast roared again and Lord Barbatos had the audacity to laugh. Jean wondered if that’s what it was like to truly be free.
“Now we can fight with Dvalin on equal grounds!”
Jean unsheathed her sword in a flourish, dandelions dancing on her blade in a green glow. Equal grounds with a dragon seemed unfathomable but there was no turning back. Either she would end this storm or she’d leave with it.
A memory passed behind her eyelids, of Lisa dozing on the chair in the Grand Master chambers with a book opened across her stomach, her hat slightly askew with silk chocolate locks splayed across the fabric. Jean had walked over silently, draping her coat across the sleeping mage before returning to her desk and etching away at yet another tax document, with a new air of calm and a small smile on her face.
Her knuckles bared white beneath her gloves as she pointed her sword to the corrupt spike on Dvalin’s neck as he fell stunned by Diluc’s heavy swing. With a loud cry, she soared with Anemo in her wings and a plunging strike. She promised Lisa she would come back. It drove every slash of steel and every burning battlecry. Dvalin had roared and knocked his enemies with a thrash of his head and a swipe of his claws.
“Ah!” Jean cried as she felt one of the claws just gouge through her collarbone down to her upper arm.
“Master Jean!” Paimon shouted as Lumine quickly scooped her up out of harm’s way, propelling them both to the next platform just before Stormterror reduced where they had been standing to rubble.
“Barely… a scratch,” Jean hissed as they landed, the scratch being a deep wound that soaked blood into the fabric of her sleeve and rendered her left arm useless. It burned hot like a festering poison and Archons that fucking hurts.
Diluc and Venti fended off Dvalin in a swirl of elemental attacks and Jean waved Lumine’s hovering hands away.
“Go, you have to help them, I’ll be fine,” Jean assured through grit teeth as she rose onto one knee, her hand gripping tightly onto her sword like a crutch. Her wet hair was matted to her cheek as blood continued to wash away to her fingertips. Lumine hesitated as she and Paimon looked at one another doubtfully. They eventually nodded as she ran back into the fray, leaving Paimon to hover nearby.
It was clear to Jean that they were losing. Diluc barely had time to block a deadly swipe of Dvalin’s claws with his heavy blade, ultimately skidding on his heels before being knocked off balance and rolling to the near edge of the platform in a groan. Dvalin’s desperation was palpable from the berserk nature of its attacks that all Venti and Lumine could do was narrowly dodge and hope a stray arrow or graze of the sword would eventually wear him down.
The rain was falling faster now and Jean felt frigid with a sour taste on her tongue, a tear falling with her grief. She never thought she would be the one taken away instead. A bittersweet smile came as the winds picked up, she only wished Lisa were here to kill her twice for such foolishness.
Wind, won’t you let me stay with her?
The sky had turned a near pitch black and the winds picked up, Jean dug her sword into the platform to avoid being blown away and brace for oncoming impact. The crack of thunder made her jump but it was the flash of lilac that made her snap her gaze upwards, watching a spear of lightning pierce from the sky. It struck true into the corrupt clot on Stormterror’s neck, causing the beast to thrash with a pained roar.
Then there was Lisa who appeared out of thin air in front of Jean with her hands outstretched with dancing electro on every fingertip. Her back faced the fallen knight, becoming her shield. A lantern floated as a beacon out of the dark and Lisa’s green eyes were aflame with an anger that could raze Teyvat to ash. The sorceress stared defiantly at the livid beast as if daring him to draw her hand.
“Lisa?! What are you doing here?” Paimon shouted over the rain as all eyes turned to the witch, who conjured a web of lightning, weaving into a circle of runes.
“Now’s not the time, dear,” Lisa said flatly, the lightning growing brighter and brighter with the mage’s agitation. “If Lord Barbatos wants to see his friend live, you’ll subdue him before I do.”
Venti’s eyes were wide but impressed all the same, turning to Lumine and nodding. Diluc joined them on the front line, leaning with his sword but still standing.
“Lisa…” Jean murmured in awe, her knee still bent and sword planted into the ground, a prayer position she had taken many times - never did she imagine she would see Lisa this way. A different archon, a goddess that had answered her voiceless scream on the wind.
Lisa turned her head and Jean felt relieved to see her smile. “Leave this to me, love.”
Jean continued to look after her in a stupor as she watched the lightning blast from the magic circle with Lisa extending her arm forward, zigzagging through the downpour, and clawing its way up Dvalin’s neck. It spiraled along the poisoned spike and binded, pulsing as if it were alive. Lisa’s fist clenched and the surface fractured beneath the storm’s grip, the beast writhing against the elemental chain. The Grand Mage, the Witch of the Purple Rose, had returned with a vengeance.
“Do it, now!” Lisa commanded, her brow furrowed in concentration.
Venti and Lumine charged their winds while Diluc stoked the flames of his sword. Jean’s jaw clenched at the sight. I can’t afford to just be sitting around here. From her knees, Jean brought her sword upwards and called upon the wind, a meadow springing beneath her feet. The flock of dandelions swirled around her and her comrades, their elemental power radiating brighter at being refreshed. Her own wound had closed but she had lost so much blood already.
The world was hazier than before and she felt her body hit the ground long before Dvalin’s final roar. It felt like the earth was going to collapse beneath their feet but Jean could do nothing else to stop it. She grunted when she felt herself being lifted and she blearily opened her heavy eyelids.
Then there’s Lisa, and Jean smiled at the irony of that singular moment. Lisa was always beautiful as the day they met, but now with the rain at her back and the sky she brewed into a storm. Her brunette tresses stuck to the curve of her delicate cheeks and Jean reached for them. Her heart swelled because for once, she could hold onto someone. Lisa’s lips were moving, sweetheart, don’t close your eyes. Come on, stay with me. But she couldn’t hear a word, only knowing that the forest of her verdant green eyes was where she wanted to lie forever.
Jean hated the rain but if Lisa was the storm, she’d leave with her without a second thought.
When Jean’s eyes opened again, she immediately recognized it to be the infirmary. She could hear the subtle hum of an organ in a large hall and she tensed, rising quickly from where she had been tucked beneath a series of blankets. She hissed immediately, her arm and chest throbbing in protest.
“Jean! You shouldn’t be moving so quickly!”
Jean winced. Barbara. Oh, she was in for it now.
“I’m fine, I promise,” Jean assured as she averted her gaze to the blanket in her hands. It was then she realized the reason she was there in the first place. Barbara took a seat beside her bed and placed a gentle hand on top of her own, despite spending their lives apart, she knew that Jean would worry about everyone else first.
“Everyone’s safe, Jean.” Barbara’s eyes were bright blue, calm, and relieved. Her younger sister raised another hand and clasped Jean’s bare one between her palms and squeezed. “I’m really happy you’re home, Sis.”
Jean’s eyes flickered and she let out a light sound of disbelief, staring back at her sister with her mouth slightly agape. Barbara continued to look at her earnestly and underneath the sunlit windows of the church halls, Jean spotted the tears on the corners of her eyes. A small laugh left the Grand Master’s lips as she tightened her hold on Barbara’s hand.
Mondstadt was free from the storm’s plague and Jean breathed a fresh new air as she exited the church with strict orders from Barbara.
“You need to rest this time, I mean it. Or else!”
Jean was amused as she changed into a fresh pair of tights, tucked into a clean pair of boots, and a loose tunic to be mindful of her tender wounds. “Or else what, little sister?”
Barbara pouted but soon the tiniest sparkle of deviousness twinkled in her blue eyes that made Jean’s eyes narrow suspiciously.
“I’ll tell Miss Lisa and let her deal with you!”
Jean choked on her breath and sputtered, the rose on her cheeks not lost on her sister who raised a triumphant brow. If only Barbara knew just how terrifying Lisa could be and she would never subject her to such danger. Jean cleared her throat awkwardly.
“Alright, Barbara. I understand,” she relented with a sigh. All Jean could hear was her delighted giggle on her way out. She returned to her home just a few blocks away from headquarters but the streets had been quiet, peaceful now that their threat had disappeared. Barbara had mentioned that Kaeya took it upon himself to clear her upcoming schedule so she could rest but Jean knew better - he was definitely using Amber and Lumine as a resource.
When she entered her home, she was greeted with several gifts upon her kitchen table - from flower arrangements from Flora, handwritten cards, baskets of fruits that Klee more than likely gathered (if the brightly colored drawing of Jean fighting a dragon beside it wasn’t an indicator), and treats that were as sweet as the sentiment itself. She spotted a particular vase, a full black shine with cracks of gold on its surface as if it shattered and repaired, with a teal ribbon that had a black envelope attached. It was filled to the brim with dandelions.
She reached out gingerly and opened the envelope. The cardstock itself was a deep wine red and the ink glimmered in gold as well, in a neat scrawl with no signature.
Get well soon.
Jean shook her head, exasperated but happy. He always had to be so refined. Her gaze returned to the table and in its entirety; it truly was the well wishes of all of Mondstadt. Truthfully, she didn’t know what to do with the sheer size of it.
“You nearly gave up everything for Mondstadt. It was the least everyone could do,” a voice said from behind her.
Jean whipped around in a shock, her heart beating rapidly in her ribcage at the sight of Lisa, materializing out of nowhere outside of her mage’s garb and hat. She wore a simple flowing dress that fluttered around her knees, her hair still twisted into a purple rose. Out of pure instinct, Jean rushed forward and took the woman into her arms. Lisa made a startled noise as Jean held her tight, lifting her off the floor with her good arm and spinning them around.
“Lisa, it’s you!” the knight said brightly. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”
She set her down and Lisa looked a little winded from the sudden onslaught, bouncing between amusement and bewilderment.
“Of course it’s me. What’s gotten into you? From what I hear, you’re supposed to be resting,” Lisa chided playfully, not pulling away from Jean’s arm that was still wrapped around her. Jean grimaced and pulled away, her arm feeling a little cold now. She didn’t miss the mild look of disappointment on Lisa’s face.
“Sorry,” Jean mumbled sheepishly, rubbing the back of neck. She offered Lisa a harmless smile. “I’m just really happy to see you, is all. It all happened so quickly and now Stormterror’s gone, thanks to your help.”
“I couldn’t let you go and break a promise, now could I?” Lisa teased while being utterly relieved to see Jean positively beaming and more importantly, standing. “I’m really happy you’re okay, Jean. You had me worried.”
Flashes of a memory like thunder, lilac lightning twisting, and Lisa protecting her with a razor sharp voice. It was a far-cry from the woman before her but that was just one of the many facets she possessed that left Jean in admiration of her. In turn, Jean could’ve said that Lisa broke her own promise, putting her safety at risk for them, for her.
She could hardly be upset, she would’ve done the same. Not as a knight but as someone who cared for Lisa like none other.
“Thank you, Lisa. For everything. I-” She paused. On another bout of courage, she reached for Lisa again, for her hand this time, both bare of their gloves. She laced their fingers delicately and it was warm, the sun between their palms. “I couldn’t have done any of this, any of the last few years without you. If you had ever decided to leave Mondstadt, I don’t know what I would have done.”
The mage gave her a curious look and she stepped closer, her eyes peering into Jean’s own that it caused her soul to shake underneath the weight of it. When did Lisa get so close to her? Then, the mage’s lips parted and the world stopped.
“What is it about the rain that scares you so much?”
Of course, Lisa knew. Jean had flinched backwards as if she had been struck, an incredulous look of disbelief on her face. Of course, Lisa knew, because who else but her?
For how long, had Jean repeated those words in her mind? Who else but Lisa, there is no one else but Lisa. No one other than the Rose Witch herself could make Jean feel this way. The warmth of her smile over the rim of a teacup ignited the entirety of her heart. The calm breeze that enveloped her soul when Lisa was near, with a book in hand as she perched lazily in her chair across the room. The flutter of crystalflies in her stomach any time she giggled or even said her name, with such endearment it made her head spin.
It was then the knight figured out what she should’ve known. That it wasn’t the rain that she was afraid of - it was losing love. Her sisterly bond severed in an instant of thunder and her best friend’s soul gone to the flood. Now, Lisa had become the gravity to the world that kept her rooted and eventually what she lost had returned to her - peace and someone to share it with.
Jean stared back at Lisa with the dawn of a revelation in her eyes - by the Seven, she loved her, storms and all.
“I had lost everyone I ever loved to the rain. My father and my sister, my best friend, then my mentor,” Jean replied truthfully and Lisa listened intently, a thumb brushing over the back of her worn knuckles. “I was convinced that it was a bad omen, a fate I couldn’t control. I prayed to Barbatos every day that the wind would guide me to somewhere a little less… lost. Or maybe a place where I didn’t have to lose anyone else ever again. But now...”
Jean swallowed after a beat and a shaky breath. “There’s you and because of that, now I’m not afraid. I never need to be, if you would honor me to stay by my side.”
For once, after all the years they had shared, Lisa looked utterly shocked. There were no teasing retorts, no playful sing-song words, or the slightest sign of a smirk. Her eyes were wide and her jaw was slack, showing that she understood every nuance and subtlety Jean had meant, the love palpable between every letter, every word. Every moment caught up to the sorceress, the storm on the day they met, why Jean hardly considered herself a hero, and the way Jean held onto her with sobs that could shake the heavens above.
“I love you, Lisa.”
Jean still held onto her with a newfound hope, and her baby blue eyes shined. Lisa smiled to rival an entire constellation and answered the prayer that lingered in the warrior’s heart. She stepped into Jean’s space, letting go of her hand and winding her arms around the knight’s neck instead, skimming over the loose curtains of blonde silk. Jean’s arms wrapped around the small of her waist and pulled her in.
Lisa sealed their lips in a blissful kiss, tugging Jean deeper and deeper into the love they both craved from one another. It was calm like rain over violet rose petals and dandelions on the breeze. She cradled her jaw as if she were something to be held so dear, so absolute. Jean’s lips parted and invited Lisa in a dance, a lazy love they could swim in for the rest of their days.
They parted from the ocean to breathe and Lisa whispered, rasped from the ardor, “By the Archons Jean, I love you.”
Lisa never sent prayers up to the gods because she wasn’t sure if she could atone for the price they asked of her. But if it were for Jean, she’d fall to her knees willingly and pay, and then some. Jean Gunnhildr wasn’t a goddess among humans, she wasn’t a legendary hero untouched by the suffering of time and spirit. She was shattered beneath an aegis of her own will, she was left without love but poured her heart into the hands of others if it meant at least one of them could be happy. Lisa loved every piece of her, whole and fractured.
From then on, Lisa would always hold her gently, lovingly, and Jean would surrender.