In an echoless hall, the generals of the Shogunate sat in two straight files facing each other. With dipped gaze, Kujou Sara stilled her nerves by focusing on the wood floor in front of her.
"The rebel forces that occupied most of the island's Eastern reaches have been driven off. There are, however, reports of survivors taking refuge in the neighboring villages. Barring more violent measures, it will be difficult to root them out completely. It would take months, at least."
Sara didn't have to look up to know the image of that imposing figure standing at the end of the hall. She was the Shogun: she who was as still as a breezeless Summer; as frigid as the Winter winds. She was a stately ornament, adorned with intricate robes and finery that accentuated her beauty, but laid plainly enough so as to not overtake it. Sara knew that if she ran her hands down her back, she'd feel cool marble or smooth jade, and her fingers would tremble slightly from the sensuality of it all.
The Shogun turned to face them. Her countenance was hard, cruel even, but Sara felt a pang of childish glee. She secretly delighted in her own knowledge that this was not all that the Shogun was; that she was privy to the Shogun's other, more private, multitudes. That she owned a bigger slice of eternity than most.
The Shogun addressed her. "General Kujou," she began. "What is your opinion on this matter?"
"My lord," Sara started as she rose from her seat. "I-"
"Do I scare you?" whispered Raiden, holding Sara tightly to her chest.
Gentle rain pitter-pattered on the thin paper walls, the murmurs of rising winds filling the empty space. Pale moonlight filtered through the window slits, engulfing the sparse bedroom in an unearthly glow.
Sara laid her head on Raiden’s shoulder, softly stroking the other’s breast. “You are an imposing person my lord.”
“Oh? And why do you think that?” The Shogun’s husky voice cut through her, sending a shadow of a shudder up her spine.
“Because the people fear you,” replied Sara coyly. “They are awed by your power.”
Raiden tenderly brushed a strand of hair off Sara’s forehead. “What about you?”
“What do you think of me?”
Sara remained quiet for a while. “You are a...complex figure, my lord. My feelings towards you are likewise too complicated to be expressed in words alone.”
Raiden grasped the back of Sara’s head and turned it to face her. She stared intensely at Sara, her deep and inscrutable eyes boring feverishly into her soul. “Are you mocking me?”
“No my lord,” uttered Sara. “I speak the truth.”
Raiden’s expression softened. “How long have we known each other? You wound me when you pick your words carefully around me. Do not hesitate to speak your mind.”
“You misunderstand me, my lord. I meant what I said; that mere words could not do justice to my feelings for you.” Sara placed her palm on Raiden’s chest and pressed down softly.
“But there are other methods of communication.”
A bright light burst forth from the Shogun’s chest, spilling radiance into the darkened room. Raiden threw her head back in barely contained bliss, as Sara pushed her hand in deeper and deeper.
She had often seen the Shogun materialise her blade right out of her chest. She figured that it was a gateway of sorts for Raiden to channel her power outwards.
But what could exit could also enter.
Sara pushed through the electrifying tingling that crawled up her hand, as she felt for the core of Raiden’s soul. She could sense - not physically, but intuitively - the Shogun’s entire being; her energetic lifeforce that pulsated quickly within her mortal shell. She touched the weight of Raiden’s emotions, brushed against the raw impression of her memories, and skimmed the outline of her very existence. She could feel the spark of longing, of grim ambition, of bittersweet cruelty, each part working against each other like a multitude of contradictions.
Through this, Sara glimpsed the Shogun for what she fundamentally was: a cluster of contradictions. That of kind harshness, and of transient eternity. Sara did not understand it, but she loved it nonetheless. She made peace with her own station and cherished the Shogun all the more, even in all of her oblique angles.
Suddenly, Raiden gripped Sara’s hand tightly and pulled it out of her chest, sending the latter tumbling backwards onto the bed. The Shogun took shuddered breaths as she panted from great exhaustion, appearing frail to the likes of which Sara had never seen before.
“Kujou Sara,” whispered Raiden after a preciously long moment, her voice haggard and utterly destroyed. Sara could not discern her emotions, for she had turned her face away.
“You...you have ruined me.”
“Yes my lord. I will carry out your orders dutifully.”
Sara stood there in trepidation as the rest of the generals filed slowly out of the hall. After a time, only she and the Shogun remained.
They stood a distance apart from each other, with Sara facing Raiden’s back. The Shogun did not command her to leave; she did not even speak at all, so Sara waited patiently as she always did. As she always has. As she always will.
“Sara,” said Raiden finally.
Sara walked up to her hesitantly. “My lord, about last night-“
The next few words caught in Sara’s throat. The Shogun turned to face her, a single tear running down her cheek. She reached out and caressed Sara’s face with an unreadable expression of her own. It looked like love mixed with regret, tinged by a bit of bitterness. And perhaps even loneliness as well?
The Shogun only had a few words to say:
“You are my most precious memory."
And with that, she strode quietly from the hall, leaving the Tengu general to ruminate in her own thoughts.