“Explain the mission to me again,” Lisa asks, not because she doesn’t know, because she does, but every second explaining some meaningless detail in Jean’s thousand point plan is another second with her by her side.
Jean sighs softly as she slings her sword over her shoulder. The light filters through the window and dances across her face, her eyes illuminated by something greater than the both of them; her hair’s nearly white in the sun’s presence.
“There’s an outpost of a few rogue soldiers northwest of Guili Plains,” she stops, a grimace consumes the blank look on her face. “A few rogue Mondstadt soldiers defected to the Fatui two weeks ago. I’m going to try to reason with them.”
She sighs, and sighs again. Lisa watches a frown pull tighter and tighter across her face. “People leave, I understand that, but knights don’t leave, we swore an oath.”
“Not everyone can be as loyal as our dear grandmaster,” Lisa laughs lightly, the joke falls flat to the ground.
Lisa shifts uneasily as every line deepens and every curve in Jean’s face snaps to grow sharper. “I just don’t understand why you have to go, can’t a knight do this?”
“There is no difference between a knight and grandmaster, it’s all a matter of titles,” she explains as she returns to stuffing a bag with supplies. “Besides, they departed only a few weeks after I became acting grandmaster. I must’ve done something.”
Lisa watches her grip tighten on the bag’s handle; her eyes drift up and while the grandmaster is there, Jean is anywhere else.
Jean is out shaking in the cold rain, her fingers wrapped around the hilt of a sword, her fingers wrapped around a rogue soldier’s hand, her fingers wrapped around hers before being swiftly torn apart.
(She’s everywhere except by Lisa’s side, and God , she wants to hate her for it).
Lisa’s hand drifts across her shoulder, it barely hovers above the thin cloth draping over taut and scarred muscle.
She considers all things tense and sharp familiar.
Electricity isn’t like anemo or hydro, it doesn’t pool around soft fingers and release like a controlled breath. Electricity carves its way out, it strips currents from nearby bundles of nerves and explodes from within scarred fingertips.
Electricity is sharp, it’s jagged.
She digs her hands into her shoulder; Jean is sharper.
She’s Mondstadt’s brave grand master, the youngest to ever take the role, she’s their people’s face of everything holy and clean.
(But she wants to tear her from the world, and let the Earth fall off her shoulders and tumble into the abyss).
“I’m finished,” Jean announces, Lisa’s fingers pull away as she turns. A thin grin bobs in the waves of conflicted anguish. “I should be back in a few weeks, I don’t expect this to take long.”
Lisa swallows hour long pleadings; it falls to the bottom of her stomach. The long vines of aged love confessions stretch over the voice crack that always happens when she talks about Jean: the faint one that pushes her back to her early school days when she was just a girl and Jean was anything but the dandelion knight.
“I’ll miss you cutie, but don’t try to come back too fast,” she breathes, her voice looming from the back of her throat.
She wants to keep a steadier grip on her words, but every sentence slips through her teeth, luckily confessions are too big to make it past her throat.
Jean stares back at her, her gauntlets silent. “I’ll try my best.”
“I know you will.”
“I’ll miss you too,” Jean exhales with a shaky breath after a few seconds of silence. The quiet clicking of her gauntlets fills the tiny space between them.
Her smile is slow to show, but Jean watches her lips tilt slightly as pearly-white flashes underneath the soft pink of her gums.
(Jean knows her smile. She loves her smile, she’s sure of it).
“I know you will.”
It was day ten when Lisa got her first letter.
An excited flurry of red flew through her room and crashed into her desk. Lisa watched as a thousand year old crystal ball rolled off its platform and explode into a thousand shiny pieces on the ground.
“Honey,” Lisa sighed as she pulled herself off her desk, a slow yawn swatting from the back of her throat, “It’s nice to see you again.”
Amber rose up with shaky knees, her eyes bouncing between the now broken crystal ball and Lisa. “I’m so sorry. I. I can pay for it, please? Please let me pay for it, just please don’t tell Jean.”
Lisa murmured a quiet incantation in language Amber couldn’t recognize and watched the young girl’s eyes widen in awe as the glass pieces began to rattle against the ground before lifting up and flying back to the platform.
Lisa flicked her hand and a burst of purple light crackled from the center; a thousand pieces of glass melded back into one.
“Don’t worry,” Lisa yawned with a grin, “I won’t tell Jean.”
Amber’s eyes widened again, the normally restrained young girl leapt into the air. ”Jean! Jean sent a letter!”
Lisa fought a burgeoning grin. “Oh?”
“It arrived today, the second I saw the hawk land I knew I had to deliver it myself,” Amber beamed. Her hands dug through her pocket and with one swift motion the letter was placed into Lisa’s hand.
“Thank you Amber,” Lisa chirped, stifling a tooth-flashing grin, “if you’d like you can have the day off.”
“No thank you ma’am,” she replied with a steady salute and before Lisa could open the letter Amber had already sprinted out the door.
My dearest Lisa,
This conquest is taking longer than I expected, I apologize for being deceitful to Mondstadt, but I also wish to apologize to you. I broke my promise, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.
The rogue soldiers are hesitant to return, and I’m more hesitant to pardon them. They’ve done unspeakable damage here, they’ve terrorized local villages for nothing other than their own amusement. They disgust me. I don’t know how much longer I will be staying here, but please await for my next letter, or perhaps even my arrival.
Lisa sighed as she placed the letter aside. Jean was unbridled strength tightened by cords of golden sweetness.
She was the sunny, starry-eyed protagonist that the people of Mondstadt read about when the nights got dark and when the winds turned against them.
Jean was everything Mondstadt wanted from a citizen, from a leader, but where other people slipped she struggled to understand. There were no chips in her morals, not a single crack of a suffering mortal in her holiness.
(And in that way she was insufferable).
Jean’s hand tightens around her sword the way the air tightens in her chest. Her breaths are thin and sharp, blue eyes bounce from target to target. She ignores the blood dripping down her cheek, she ignores the wound cracking open in her waist.
(Barbatos, show me the way. I’m nothing but your servant. Nothing more).
“May the wind guide us to victory,” she whispers to her blade before launching forwards.
Her chest creaks as her sword slices through the hilichurl, her sword raises and it swoops down to kiss a now bleeding wound.
The wind claws against her exposed skin as she yanks her sword from a hilichurl’s corpse, a slather of liquid explodes from the wound and follows after her blade.
Her sword starts twisting in her looser grip. Heavy footsteps shake the ground beneath her; she glances forwards, a hilichurl is sprinting its way towards her. Its dark fur whipping wildly as cheers ring out from the tree-line behind it.
(I don’t like this ending, she thinks).
The white mask snaps open and a roar erupts from its throat, every muscle in her body tenses, a massive club swings and beats on its chest.
Wind can only help her so much, she knows this all too well.
She swings and her sword smacks flat against its shield. Dread leaps from the shield onto her hand and spreads up her arm like a plague, the blood running through her veins comes to an abrupt stop.
Hot air comes out ragged through her teeth. Her eyes shut as the club raises, the sun vanishes from her beaten skin.
(How cruel it is to be deprived of something as sweet as sunlight on her skin).
Warmth presses against her back. Jean’s eyes open and are flooded with unfocused colors: muddy brown from the club, sticky crimson across her hands and legs, light shades of blue rolling across the sky, vibrant green flowing and brushing against the wind.
“How beautiful,” she gasps, blood trickling down her lips as her chest falls and rises sharply. “Oh, Barbatos. Thank you.”
Her knees press roughly into the soft dirt, her arms swing freely by her sides as a slender hand grips her shoulder tightly.
(For a second, her shoulders felt free. For a second Jean felt empty).
Violent, ravenous, insatiable lilac and violet explode from the ground. Jean sluggishly turns her head to watch burning white burst from within the crackling violet.
“Don’t close your eyes Jean,” Lisa growls as her hands fly up.
Where anemo is quiet, electricity is deafening; it roars from Lisa’s palms, snapping its jaws as saliva drips off pearly canines.
She purges the energy from her body and watches the hilichurl drop the club as purple streaks begin to impale from every direction.
She pulls Jean to her arms while the hilichurl collapses into a pile of dust.
“Jean?” she whimpers. Jean’s shaking vision barely meets Lisa’s. Her eyes are the breeding ground for chaos; rage hushes while concern takes it place, they stumble and pool into static filled tears. “Jean?”
She opens her mouths, her throat recoils as the cool air licks her wounds, her mouth shuts. Lisa’s shaking hands press against her jaw, red stains of clinging anguish paints over her face.
“Jean- Jean,” she frantically breathes, “you have to heal yourself- I. I can’t help you.”
The sword is thrust between her shaking hands, Jean shouldn’t wonder if the blood will stain the leather grip, but she does.
“Do you hear me,” she croaks, “wind?”
A cool breeze brushes against Jean’s cheek, she smiles softly as wind swirls around them. Lisa holds Jean’s limp body close to her chest, hoping- praying that her warmth will override death’s touch.
Gentle, sweet teal erupts from Jean’s sword, it swims around them, slowly eating away at Lisa’s crackling, savage purple.
The teal pools over her wounds, it hovers before sinking beneath her skin and swerves in and out like a needle tying wide cuts back together.
Lisa inhales the swift winds; the gentle scent of Jean’s clothes fills her nostrils, the smell of leather and black ink plagues the air around her.
Dandelions fall around them, slowly and then all at once. The teal floats out of Jean one last time, it hovers above her body as if it too wondered how she had survived for this long, before sinking into the ground.
Jean’s steady grip on the sword loosens, the leather rubs against her metal gauntlets one last time before slipping from her fingers.
“I’m glad you’re okay.” Lisa sharply exhales as she gently tucks stray blonde wisps behind her ear.
Jean’s battered lips split open, but only a quiet groan managed to stumble out.
“You don’t have to talk,” Lisa whispers to her, the winds still heavy with the smell of rusting iron. “I‘ll praise Barbatos for you. Okay? I’ll do it a thousand times if you want.”
Jean’s hand moves to hers, their fingers entangle and a calmness washes over the crackling thunder in Lisa’s chest.
Her lips are cracked, bloody, and bruised, but she stretches them, despite the burning ache at the corner of her lips, to flash Lisa a small smile. “I- I owe you everything Lisa. Everything.”
“Just promise to stay awake,” Lisa sighs. She wants nothing to do with Jean’s endless debts to the universe, her debts to the winds for filling her lungs, her debts to the stars for glazing the skies with beauty, her debts to the Earth for not swallowing her whole.
She would not cling onto Jean’s soul, demanding repentance on bruised and broken knees with her vocal cords snapping at the seams. She’s not the world, she’s not Mondstadt, she doesn’t want anything more.
(She wants to curse the stars, the wind and every person who made Jean feel like she had to carve her chest bloody to be enough. Was her existence not enough? Was Jean’s warm breath on her nape while the sun tore through the sky, the splotches of black ink on her hands where Jean’s fingers liked to linger, was it not enough?)
“Promise,” Jean rasps, her voice rumbling from the back of her throat, maybe from the back of a world where she was telling the truth, maybe from a place where only lies can fester.
( Lisa wished she could burn this memory to the ground, like old houses plagued with diseases, there can be nothing good coming from things crumbling and fractured).
Lisa’s eyes hazily scrolled across the long lines of text, the words failed to rise off the page, but it didn’t matter. Lisa had flipped through this book a hundred times before. Each time more boring than the last.
It had been fifty-nine days since Jean departed from Mondstadt with the objective to reform evil into the clean with an unshaking conviction. It had been thirty-one days since her first and last letter.
She knew this because when her eyes got lost within page after page about the histories of every grandmaster before Jean, her fingers always managed to find themselves back at Jean’s letter, running over the ink, tracing the long loops in the way she wrote “y” and “g”.
My dearest Lisa. Clouding her vision, every letter, every word snapped and transformed into what Lisa thought Jean would write, and with only a scrap of her left, Lisa was beginning to assume the letters were echoing her desires, and never Jean’s.
My dearest Lisa , she wrote and yet never wrote again. Lisa wondered what she would write if she ever did it again, would Jean ever call her her most darling Lisa? Her most starling witch, the playful sorceress that bewitched her without a touch of magic?
(She wondered what Jean called her in her head. Was her voice desperate and hungry as her own? Or was it sweet and full like an endless ballad? Did she even say her name at all?).
She was Jean , the one who carried all the suns and stars within the rich silver and light blue in her eyes. Jean, the knight with dandelions flowing through her golden hair.
A blur of familiar red burst through her door; the door swung open and smacked against the wall sending a loud bang through the room.
It jolted Lisa out of her daze, her eyes widened; Amber’s bandana shot out of her hair as her eyes darted all over the room.
(The crack in Amber’s heart ran further as each corner turned up empty, each desk unfilled, each stack of paper left unsigned, each desperate whiff empty of leather and steel).
Lisa watched her bandana seemingly droop slowly till they pressed flat against her hair. She stood frozen in an almost-empty room, her quivering eyes stuck to Jean’s desk like a moth to a flame.
“Still?” she almost whimpered, a heart-wrenching crack tore her voice apart. “The other knights told me they saw her come back.”
Lisa swallowed the sob fermenting at the back of her throat. “Unfortunately so, she’s probably helping rebuild or got caught fighting some beast. You know how she is.”
Her voice was breathless while she ran after endless excuses to explain the massive void eating away at Mondstadt.
(Who was she trying to comfort again? It seemed like the same things she murmured to herself at night to lul herself to sleep).
“I’m sure the bards have already begun writing their songs about her battles,” she explained with her voice trembling far more than she was comfortable with, “the songs will follow her back home. I’m sure of it.”
Amber’s grief cracked to stretch an uneasy smile, her fingers bit into each other as she fought against the hot tears pressing against her eyes.
“Come,” Lisa whispered, it was half order, half pleading, as she got up and quickly engulfed the younger girl in a hug.
She rested her head on Amber’s, she held onto her small body tight as painful sobs wracked her body. Her ribs heaved and ached as violent howls tore their way out of her lungs.
“I know, I know.” Lisa whispered, she rubbed her eyes into her dark hair. “She’ll be back, I’m sure of it.”
Jean would’ve known how to deal with this. Lisa fought back a scowl and shooed away the thought, If Jean was here, she wouldn’t be this upset in the first place.
“But what if she doesn’t?” Amber mumbled into her chest, hot tears stained Lisa’s blouse and Amber’s fingers dug into the soft flesh of her arms.
“Then we move on, we keep protecting Mondstadt,” she said, pieces of her heart flying out with each word spoken.
(She would burn all of Mondstadt for even a glance, for even a weary call of her name. She’d burn the world for scraps).
“I don’t want to move on.” Amber mumbled, her words barely missing the onslaught of tears and violent coughs.
Lisa lifted the younger girl’s head, teary eyes met teary eyes. “Oh sweetie, you can’t stay in the past forever, that’s no place for the living.”
“The past is for the fallen and the forgotten, that’s their domain. The present and future is ours. Don’t venture far from it.” she warned softly.
“But Jean’s there,” she wheezed, her lips slack and her eyes wide with chubby tears. “How do we leave her behind?”
It was day ninety-one.
Lisa strolled the empty courtyard, occasionally she looked over the giant walls and watched the lights flicker from Good Hunter till only the few embers in the oven kept the light alive.
Slowly the city fell asleep, the yellow lights shining from the houses faded into navy blue darkness.
The city was asleep, yet she struggled to even close her eyes.
There’s a world engraved behind her eyelids; one where Jean came back like she promised, where the smell of leather and steel became familiar again, where the tiny creaks of Jean’s metal gauntlets kept her from reading, where Jean’s light smiles managed to outshine the sun.
There was a much better world, she was sure there were a thousand worlds better than this one, but Lisa could not afford to get lost in blind desire and grief’s beautiful delusions. If she ever wandered there, Lisa was sure she’d never be found.
The wind rustled the bushes and stirred the water in the fountains. It swept across her arms, but she no longer shivered at its touch. Jean was in the wind, she was sure of it.
The muffled sound of boots against stone briefly stuck out of the rolling breeze; Lisa’s eyes narrowed and she felt the hum of electricity spawn at her fingertips. There wasn’t another person in Mondstadt awake other than her.
She turned quickly, her hands stretched out and her lips pulled into a snarl.
Blonde. Oh . Sword. Oh. Silver-blue eyes. Oh . Thin smile that outshined all the stars in the sky. Oh.
“You!” she growled, she stomped across the courtyard. Her hands shaking as lilac static leapt between her fingers. “Only one letter?!”
“You leave for three months and you can’t be damned to write me another letter? Not a ‘Hey darling, I’m not dead’ letter?!”
Jean’s smile stretched wider as she walked towards Lisa. Her hands gently cupped Lisa’s cheeks, the gauntlets cold against her reddening cheeks, but Jean was warm, she was always warm.
It sent tidal waves of revival throughout her body. Every word stumbled within Lisa’s mouth.
She never expected Jean’s gauntlets to rest on her cheeks, but here she was. The chips and cracks where swords striked pressed against her jaw, her skin hummed where anemo had torn old metal apart, static raced underneath her cheeks, lilac pooled underneath Jean’s fingertips.
Every star. My darling Jean who outshined every star.
Lisa’s lips trembled with each warm wisp of air that grazed her skin. She wanted to shake Jean’s hands off, she wanted nothing more than to throw Jean back up into the stars.
( Have her! she wanted to shout into the peeling sky, she’s one of your moonlit heroes, have her! Spare me the heartache of loving a legacy ).
“I owed you a letter, a thousand letters,” Jean whispered softly, “I owe you everything Lisa. I’m sorry.”
Tightly bound grief unraveled at the tip of her tongue. A quiet, but strangled exhale left her lips trembling. “You’re always sorry. You’re always owing someone something.”
A flurry of teal and lilac spun in the air as Jean gently pushed her lips against Lisa’s.
She felt ninety-one days melt away in her clenched fist, it dripped from her fingers onto the stone pathway beneath them.
Lisa shut her eyes softly. She thought this was the kiss the authors wrote in their stories, the ones that accompanied clicks, the sound of everything falling together, the sound of wholeness.
This must’ve been the kiss the authors couldn’t forget, the ones that plagued their dreams till they awoke with lips craving for another taste.
(She’d never have to crave again. The world would let her devour. The world would let her have Jean).
Jean suddenly yelped into Lisa’s lips as she hesitantly pulled herself away from the sorceress. Her mouth dropped at the black ash surrounding the tiny hole in her shirt.
“You shocked me?”
Lisa stared at her singing palms before looking back at Jean with her smile stretched wide. “You got me all excited. I really can’t help it.”
“Attacking the acting grandmaster?” she softly gasped, her finger pressed against the welt forming on her skin. “This could be grounds for treason.”
Lisa’s eyes rolled as she pulled Jean back into her, the night breeze circled around them.
Lisa wrote another kiss across Jean’s lips. She laughed softly. “Then lock me up.”
“No,” Jean whispered into her lips, “I have a soft spot for sorceresses, I’m gonna let you go with a warning.”
“Master Jean?” a voice shrieked.
The two tore apart; Lisa leaned against the fountain, her hand pressed against her reddening lips while Jean wiped at her lips before turning to face the voice.
“Outrider Amber,” Jean greeted warmly, “It’s good to see you again.”
“You came back,” she gasped.
Jean walked towards the younger girl and gently ruffled her hair. “I had to come back to make sure you and Klee didn’t burn this entire place to the ground.”
“I wouldn’t do that!” Amber laughed. “I kept an eye on Klee, not a single fish died on my watch.”
“And how many did when you turned around?”
“Approximately twenty or so.”
Jean fought back a long sigh. “Still better than what I can do.”
“Why are you still up?” Lisa asked, her voice stern.
Amber felt a hundred words could explain the nights she spent without dreams, without peace, but some things are better said simply. “I was waiting.”
“The second I saw the lanterns I knew it was you.” A small smile twisted in the moon’s light.
“Thank you for waiting,” Jean said softly, “but go to bed. Training starts again tomorrow morning.”
Jean could see the future of Mondstadt encased within those amber eyes, tinges of orange lighting the way to a better Teyvat.
“Night Master Jean. Night Miss Lisa!” she called out before leaping off the ledge, her wind-glider bursting from her shoulders.
Jean walked forwards and collapsed into Lisa’s arms, yawning quietly into Lisa’s soft embrace.
“So why didn’t you send any more letters?”
“The rogue soldiers thought any letters coming out of Gulili were us asking for backup,” Jean explained with a sigh, “I’m sorry, I wanted to write but everytime I prepared a hawk they came out swords blazing.”
“Did you end up bringing them back?” Lisa asked, her hands resting on Jean’s waist.
She shook her head, “I wanted to, but they didn’t want peace they just wanted to destroy, drink, and eat as they pleased.”
“Where are they?” The words pool at the base of Jean’s neck. Lisa felt the muscles underneath her fingers tense.
“I didn’t want to. I didn’t want-“
Lisa held her tighter. “I know you didn’t.”
Her finger scooped underneath Jean’s chin, her head slowly raised to meet her’s. Jean’s reddening eyes sent endless ripples of grief through her body.
“You’re good. I know you’re good. You’re good Jean, you’re a good person.”
“Despite everything?” she asked, her voice cowering and small. Acting grandmaster Jean blew away in the breeze; all that remained was a sixteen year old with a heaving chest who was seconds away from collapsing in her study room, her hands stained with the blood of her first human kill.
(She wondered how long she spent on the floors of the church, her throat raw and her eyes aflame with vision-splitting grief).
If Barbatos would not forgive her, then Lisa would, not with kind and swift wind but with barbed and splintering thunder.
Lisa had felt electricity before, it was sharp and jagged.
This time it was softer.
Lisa had felt Jean before, she knew the tightness of her muscles and the sharpness of her shoulders.
This time she’s softer.
“I have some work to do in the church,” Jean explained, her voice low as if Barbatos would fling her into the abyss if he had heard.
“Let’s go to bed Jean,” she murmured softly. “Barbatos can wait.”
(Lisa was willing to bargain. One night, just one night without mumbled prayers and endless burdens for a lifetime of just glances. Barbatos, are you listening? ).
Jean dissolved against her body, dandelions and titles tightened with honor dripped down her side. Her sword hung loosely from her shoulders, the light not so crushing on her bones.
“You’re right,” she said as Lisa led her down the stairs. “You’ve waited long enough. I’ve waited long enough.”
(Let’s sleep for as long as the world let’s us. Let’s sleep till the sun calls for you again. Let’s sleep till the wind whispers our names ).