“Where are you looking at?” Jean brushed her shoulder with Beidou as she looked towards where the brunette was facing.
A white-haired, pale-skinned Archon, dressed in pale blues and whites, a glaze lily pinned at the crown of her head. A delicate hand skimming through the wild glaze lilies that bloomed near the outskirts of Celestia, where Beidou would have never thought to see precious flowers like them grow.
“Ah, that’s Ningguang,” Jean said. “She’s one of few words, but her presence is definitely more powerful than her appearance speaks.”
“Why haven’t I seen her around here then?” Beidou asked.
“Well,” Jean started. “She spends her time roaming around the mortal lands with her good friend Morax, the eldest of the adepti. I think her people called themselves the Guili Assembly? Her true name is Guizhong after all.”
As do all the Archons of Celestia, they each go by a different name while on mortal ground. The Archon of the sea as well as its patron, goes by the name of Beidou. Her closest friend was Jean, the Archon of the Winds and a patron of the sky. Beidou often switched between lounging around in the high heavens or lingering by the peak of Mount Tianheng.
When Beidou had first encountered Ningguang while she was taking a stroll through Guili Plains, the white-haired Archon was dividing rations to her people, with a rather brooding, tall young man standing close behind her, a protective presence in her corner. Judging by the horns that peaked through his tresses of hazel brown hair, he must be Morax. The sea Archon watched silently from beneath a sunseitta tree, an arm against its smooth bark, admiring from afar.
Just then, Beidou felt a tug in her chest.
A call seducing her to walk forward to meet this beauty up close.
The Archon, Ningguang, must have been on the other end of the line, because she turned her head towards where Beidou was standing under the tree’s shade.
When their eyes met, Beidou heard something snap into place.
Not the sound of metal, nor any physical object. But of what laid in her heart.
Ningguang had never paid attention to such things. But when she felt something lock into place when her eyes met with the patron of the sea, she regretted not paying attention to the gossip she had initially eavesdropped at a local teahouse.
“A Mating Bond is a special and very rare bond between two individuals. It is higher than the bond between a regular married couple and considered very sacred. Members of the fae species are able to sense their mates, but only if the other side is fae. If their mate is mortal, then this sense will be dulled. Not very often does a fae have a mortal mate.”
Ningguang would have never imagined for a mating bond to manifest between herself and Beidou. Not when they have barely... never conversed.
Maybe she should change that. But where would she find her-
Then, a tug pulled at her chest. Where her heart was.
A few moments later, Ningguang had found herself walking towards the south of Mount Tianheng. As she got closer, she spotted a red-robe atop its peak. A familiar head of brunette as the winds carded through her sun-kissed tresses. Still the same as she last saw her. With a flick of a wrist, the God of Dust summoned a jade glaze lily under her feet, which slowly grew taller and allowed her to reach the peak.
Beidou did not seem to mind the slight disturbance to the tranquil atmosphere, but seemed to know who was behind her. “To whom do I owe the pleasure of being graced by your presence, Guizhong?”
Ningguang smiled softly. “I just wanted to engage in a conversation with you, Mazu.”
And so they started on this connection they felt between each other. They have not heard of any Archons tied with a mating bond, but through the words Ningguang has heard from her people, it was safe to say that this mating bond they spoke of can be found in non-humans (like them), both mortal and immortal. As for how the bond was locked between them without a formal meeting, Beidou found out that a mating bond can reveal itself at different times depending on the couple, for their case it was when they first met at Guili Plains.
The Sea Archon rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. “Well, uh, since this is the first time for the both of us,” she reached out a hand to Ningguang. “Let’s take it slow?”
The God of Dust took her hand gratefully. “Yes, let’s.”
It had been about a millennia since that day and they were stuck to each other at the hip. No longer the shy strangers they were when they had first accepted the fact that they were mates.
Beidou was a comforting presence by Ningguang's side as her good eye observed her mate conversing with one of the adepti. Cloud Retainer, she had learned. It seemed that both of them were enthusiastically discussing adepti mechanisms and developing a new weapon.
Beidou smiled to herself. She had always found the God of Dust fascinating, under that gentle facade laid a complicated puzzle probably no one alive could ever solve. It had also seemed that Ningguang had caught up on the swell of pride and fascination through the mental bridge that laid between them, because she turned to look over her shoulder.
All's well? Beidou nearly cursed out loud when she heard Ningguang's voice fill her mind.
Ah. I just forgot we can...mind speak.
Shimmering laughter lit up the bridge—their connection, bathing it in gold. It'll be quick, I just need a few more minutes with Cloud Retainer then we can depart for our usual spot.
"Guizhong?" Cloud Retainer broke the silence, curiously gazing at the two Archons before them.
"Ah yes, for the matter at hand..." Ningguang faced Cloud Retainer again, leaving the Sea Archon behind her flushing in a bright pink at her ears. If Jean had seen her like this, she would never hear the end of it. But a little birdie had told her that she was all over Lisa, the Electro Archon, so fair's fair.
The usual spot was where Ningguang had first spoken to Beidou, at the peak of Mount Tianheng.
The sun was setting too, the warmth casting Ningguang’s pale skin in a mesmerising orange glow. Beidou smiled gently, before taking a seat on the grass with a leg propped up, with Ningguang nestled into her side, both hands in her lap, prim and proper. By then, the sun was merely peeking from the horizon, the orange sky peeling away to reveal a wash of marine blue.
The silence was a comfortable one, knowing that the God of Dust was not one for words, and Beidou had come to appreciate that about her mate. She occasionally tipped her head down to engulf her senses with Ningguang’s scent; sweet as the glaze lilies she tends to, that blooms under her touch, but with a hint of earth. The Archon on her shoulder laughed at the gesture, only shifting closer into Beidou’s warmth.
“Now that I think of it,” Beidou hummed. “You haven’t seen me shift before, have you?”
Ningguang had heard from the flowers by the sea side that Beidou resides in the sea as a sea serpent, but she has only ever seen Morax in his form as a dragon. This definitely piqued her interest.
“No?” Ningguang replied. She removed herself from Beidou’s side and peered up at her with curiosity. “Are you going to show me?”
“If you’re comfortable with it, of course.”
When Beidou blinked next, her pupils became split. As her hands grapple the earth, skin hardened into shimmering scales which were a few shades lighter than the sea. The Archon shook her head, letting her brunette tresses shift further into what seemed to be fins. Ningguang continued to hold her breath (she didn't want to make a wrong move), before the woman before her had raised to a height where she had thought the moon was gone for a second. She has heard of Archons losing control in their other forms, especially when they took the form of beasts. Divine beasts. Now she had understood why Morax was ashamed of his past before he had met her.
There she was, her mate. Mazu, the Archon of the Sea. Her Beidou. The very same woman her soul was tethered to a millenia ago.
The serpent before her eyes huffed, as in amusement, towering the goddess’s lithe form.
You okay? Beidou’s voice echoed down their bond. I need to know you’re fine, Ning. I don’t need you passing out just by my shifting.
Ningguang was not shaking, surprisingly. She could only let out a huff of laughter in awe.
“I’ve never seen an Archon shift into a…” Ningguang hesitated. “A beast?”
Beidou’s hearty laugh filled Ningguang’s mind, a sound which the goddess very much enjoyed. Yes, that’s pretty much what I am, Ning. Don’t worry, I take no offense to it.
The sea Archon curled around Ningguang, her muzzle gently bumping into her side. The pale-skinned goddess chuckled softly, before returning to their stargazing.
“Say, Beidou,” Ningguang said. “Celestia is starting to fall apart, with corruption and the struggle for power amongst the other Archons. Do you…” Her throat bobbed with the next few words. “Do you think we’ll still be together? Would you still be by my side?”
The serpent huffed through its nostrils, soft tendrils of smoke escaping into the wind.
Yes, my love. Beidou said, unwavering. Even without our physical forms, our love will still be eternal, and transcend through lifetimes. She did not let it be known that she was silently praying to her good friend, for when that time came, it would be carried along with her winds.
No one could ever avoid the day Ningguang had mentioned. She had felt the unrest the longest since she was the most connected to the earth.
Ningguang was dying. The invisible claws tore through Beidou’s chest, and she knew it.
She would die with her.
But Jean knew it was not the fact that she could sense Death standing at a detetcable distance that sent her trembling. Jean’s hand tightened on Beidou’s shoulder. Crackling power, lined with purple, leaked from the sea Archon, trying to heal herself. To heal Ningguang through that bridge, just as she knew Morax was, but to no avail.
How had it come to this? A love between two mates would now end in both of their lives lost.
But Beidou was crying, and Jean could not stop the tears as she buried her face into Beidou's back as she struggled in her arms. And she felt the Archon stopped for a moment, and Beidou--
Beidou began screaming.
Jean knew, as Beidou tried to lunge towards where Ningguang was, miles and distances away, what was about to happen.
Yet no force in the world could stop it.
The world slowed. Went cold.
There was the silent Jean, struggling to hold down her sister-in-arms.
There was Ningguang, sliced at her abdomen and bleeding out in a field of glaze lilies, where Beidou could not see with her eyes but feel with her heart.
There was Beidou screaming, as if her soul was being shredded, but Jean was still there, holding her back as Morax tried to save Guizhong. She could barely restrain Beidou. If they were both about to die, she should let Beidou go to her mate. Be with her in these last seconds, last breaths--
But Jean knew, when Beidou slowed her movements, and her breaths slowed. She was still imbued with Jean's Anemo energy, but a scarred, bloodied hand touched her arm. The Archon’s scarlet eyes were dulled, but there was still light. They were tired, as if knowing that her time was already the end.
“Please…” Beidou rasped, horse from the screaming. “Just help me carry my wishes…”
Jean knew what she meant. She had heard it after all.
She was also hearing the same from a goddess in the same state, her last breath nearing.
Ningguang pressed a bloodied hand onto Morax’s blood-streaked cheek as she smiled softly. Her very last.
“Bring our people, far away, to the south of Mount Tianheng,” she whispered. “May there be a trail of glaze lillies to guide you there in peace, my dear friend.”
Morax’s shoulders shook as he wept. A beast, capable of destroying this world, wept for his friend who could truly understand him.
“Finally…” Ningguang sighed, caught in a sob. “A victor has been...decided...”
Her last word trailed off as her physical slowly fell apart, and crumbled into dust, onto the earth, where the bloodstained glaze lilies still remained.
Afar, where the raging seas crashed into the shores, another Archon fell. Fading into seawater, washed up on a friend’s bloodied gauntlets.
The sky and the ground torn asunder. Jean and Morax began shaking their heads, their powers a palpable, rising wave that could destroy the world, the cursed world which took their friends away. Their other halves. If it meant Ningguang and Beidou was no longer in it.
The Archon of the Winds and the eldest of the Adepti lunged towards the incoming wave of enemies.
Only Morax had lived in the end. Along with six other Archons, who ruled other continents of the mortal realm of Teyvat.
He had not known whether the others which were not under his stone spears, were reincarnated.
Jean, who had laid down her life for a dear friend, was currently the Acting Grandmaster of Mondstadt. Having taken up the role at a seemingly young age, she dedicates her life to the people of her city as the Dandelion Knight and the Lionfang Knight. One of the Four Winds who protect the city, akin to their Liyue counterparts; the Adepti.
Guizhong, now Ningguang, was the current Tianquan of the Liyue Qixing. Her palace in the skies, the Jade Chamber , challenged that of the adepti mechanism, the Guizhong Ballista. Built with her very hands thousands of years ago.
Mazu, now Beidou, captain of the Crux and commanded the Alcor. With a family, her crew, behind her. Her name became a sensation across the harbour and beyond, after defeating a sea beast with her bare hands. A parallel to the sea Archon millennia ago.
As Morax, under the mortal name Zhongli, gazed at the Tianquan and the sea captain attached at the hip. He could have sworn seeing a familiar sight of a glaze lily pin and a red robe lined with gold.