The Mark isn’t the only bond between a King and his Clansmen. Spoilers for Episode 13.
Every time he acquired a new Clansman, Mikoto wished anew he had known Kagutsu personally. It wasn't the way of the Red Clan to do so, but still. He wished he had someone to talk to, someone who understood all the things no one would ever guess at. The other Kings know somewhat how it was, not that Mikoto was all that inclined to be civil with the least of them, but there were…idiosyncrasies of the Red Clan that only another Red King could understand.
The Mark that appeared was more than just a fancy tattoo. Mikoto had to pass power into a person and attempt to kindle a flame within them. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Mikoto didn't understand why, didn't care to find out. Didn't know if he could find out. Every Clan was different.
The Mark was a tether between the King and the individual Clansmen. They could feel him when he was in distress. It made sense: a distressed King would likely need help. The Mark called his Clansmen to him.
It was the other aspect of the Mark that was the problem.
Mikoto could feel their emotions, you see. Not all of them and not all the time; it wasn't anything like mindreading. But the strong emotions, the ones that came from deep within that you couldn't control, the ones the Red Clan seemed to have in spades, those he could feel.
It was a shock at first, feeling Izumo's occasional pulses of affection or anger and Tatara's mild happiness. Looking back, there had really been little to feel. At the time, though, the two of them had been nearly overwhelming. Mikoto had wondered how he would ever get accustomed to it.
He did, of course, and quickly learned that, paradoxically, the more Clansmen he had, the less the emotions bothered him. It felt less like prying when a flare of anger here or a spike of anxiety there came from one of so many different people. It wasn't as easy to add the individual pieces up into one comprehensive whole.
He felt almost nothing from Kamamoto after the first day, and that was a relief. Kamamoto wasn't exactly mild-mannered, but he had a better grip on his emotions than most or shielded them somehow. Mikoto didn't know, didn't care. Kamamoto was a good man and reliable.
Mikoto never would have suspected then that Kamamoto would lead him to such troublemaking brats as Yata and Fushimi. Oh, he didn't regret accepting them, don't get him wrong. The power in those two was far more than he had expected, and Yata remained incredibly loyal and useful still. But. Yata had no reign on his emotions, and they were deep. That boy's heart was permanently affixed to his sleeve, so Mikoto wasn't the only one who suffered, but he was the only one who felt the entirety of it. Always, Yata was pulsing in the back of his mind, a fire that just wouldn't bank, just wouldn't turn to simmering coals like Izumo or Mikoto himself would.
As for Fushimi…Mikoto truly didn't regret Fushimi. Turncoat though he was, Fushimi was the one who first taught Mikoto to pay attention not just to the emotions of one individual but to the way some flared or died with those of another. When Fushimi and Yata fought, verbally or physically, their emotions danced around each other, anger and frustration, and joy tangled up and yet separate so that, if Mikoto paid attention, he could piece together the fight even from miles away.
He could still feel Fushimi sometimes, small flashes of delight and nearly masochistic pain. It was almost always intertwined with anger and sadness, loathing and regret from Yata. Tiny thrums of physical pain sometimes.
If Mikoto were a different King, he might question why Yata so rarely reported these confrontations with a Blue. He might even tell Yata to stay away from Fushimi, to stop causing trouble. Instead, every time, he turned back over and went to sleep, riding the currents of Fushimi's lingering happiness.
Dewa felt like nothing most of the time. Kamamoto was controlled nothingness, as though Mikoto could press and find the emotions if he wanted. Dewa, though, just didn't feel that strongly. Occasionally, Mikoto would feel the thrum of irritation, but that was all.
His companion, on the other hand, was almost regular waves of pleasure that Mikoto could immerse himself in. There were spatterings of other emotions- during fights, there were angry pulses; after pleasure, there was occasionally soul-deep pain- but mostly what Mikoto felt was pleasure. Mikoto almost wanted to thank Chitose, as though it were a gift, for the feelings he sent along their Bond. Mikoto was sure most of the Clansmen had no idea that he felt what they did, however, so he said nothing. Considering the nature of what was sent along Chitose's Bond, it wouldn't exactly be appropriate.
Chitose was nowhere near the only one, just the most frequent, the most pleasant about it. There were many ways that sort of thing could go, after all, not that Mikoto had much experience since he hadn't any interest in pursuing a relationship of his own. Still, there were things you picked up. Or, in his case, had slam into you down a psychic Bond you hadn't asked for.
He had come to know the feel of so many different emotions as felt by so many different people. The pain of rejection felt like the burn of bile in the back of your throat. Touching a live current and holding on, that was desire. Loneliness felt like not eating for days and days, the emptiness eating you from the inside out. Regret: your stomach twisting up in knots. Fear: being stabbed with a paper-thin knife. Disgust: a dry heave. So many emotions surrounding one act and most of them unpleasant. It was why Chitose's rolling waves of unmarred pleasure were to be cherished.
It wasn't until his last October that Mikoto began to feel one of the stranger, more infrequent aspects of the Bond. He had felt it before with a handful of Clansmen, usually one side very strong, the other weaker. This time, it was almost balanced, and that was different enough for him to take notice.
Since Shohei had first joined, Mikoto had felt the concurrence of two Clansmen's emotions: the steady warmth of true happiness tinged with nervousness from one; happiness but also uneasiness, confusion, and inadequacy from the other. It took him a while to unravel the feelings and find the owners. Bando he recognized after a few days, the new, unfamiliar feel of his happiness making him difficult to recognize. The ill-tempered Clansman was often a jumble of emotions, happiness rarely one of them. Bando was the second one, then. And the first…was Shohei, Mikoto finally decided, the new Clansman.
That wasn't the aspect Mikoto was talking about, though. No, that wouldn't come until later when Mikoto was sitting at Izumo's bar, listening to Tatara play his guitar.
He was taking a sip of his drink when small waves of pleasure from Shohei and Bando came to him threaded through with nervousness. The waves grew larger and larger, the nervousness fading away. In a matter of minutes, they reached immense heights, ones Mikoto had never felt from either before, and then they crashed against him, leaving him spluttering in the surf and Izumo staring at him like he'd gone insane.
Izumo knew a little about the backlash, but Mikoto wasn't going to explain in front of Anna. He shook his head at his best friend. Izumo eyed him suspiciously but didn't ask, which was probably best for his sanity. Mikoto hadn't exactly explained that he was quite capable of guessing when and where if not how Izumo got his pleasure. Oh, yes, the Bond gave him a very close idea of where his Clansmen were at any given moment. Mikoto had walked the city enough times to have much more than a general idea.
In the end, he didn't have to explain anything to Izumo, since the man figured it out for himself. Or, rather, those two were less than subtle about their newfound bond. At least the vaguely sour taste of nervousness disappeared after the first few times. At least no unpleasant emotions cropped up in the following days.
Heartbreak was not an emotion Mikoto liked.
Mikoto could feel Eric even before he joined. That was how he knew the blonde foreigner was suited for Homra (Kagutsu probably wouldn't have approved of Mikoto's way of going about things, but Kagutsu wasn't around to tell Mikoto how to do things right, so Mikoto wasn't much inclined to listen to suppositions. He was also a little resentful that Kagutsu hadn't stuck around longer so he wouldn't have been saddled with the whole business of being a King. Mikoto was fairly certain the Dresden Slate had made a mistake- he wasn't at all suited to be a King, so much so that he might, subconsciously, have been trying to prove the Dresden Slate wrong by being as atypical a one as possible). Eric's emotions pulsed at the surface, the murderous intent already clear to Mikoto when there was no Bond between them.
He hadn't expected the pain hiding within the boy, however. Immense, physical and mental, it was not so much crushing down on him as much as transferring every scrap of pain from Eric to Mikoto. Bruises that weren't healing, bones that had been cracked, damage that even Eric didn't know he had Mikoto felt. Grief from his parents' death, anger at his tormentors and yet a reluctant loyalty, throbbing pain from a myriad of internal injuries, fear that this was all just another trap, that he had signed himself over to something he shouldn't have. If Fujishima hadn't already been in the process of it, Mikoto would have taken Eric to a doctor himself if only to ease the agony he felt through the Bond.
Fujishima's happiness vibrated all around Eric, as though he took joy just from Eric's presence. It was only when they were close together that Mikoto could feel the happiness: otherwise, Fujishima rarely sent along anything other than occasional shock or anger and never without reason. Fujishima was a good kid, kind-hearted but not soft.
Mikoto liked to think there must be some good in Homra if it attracted people like him.
Do you know what it feels like to be shot? Do you know what it feels like to die? Mikoto did.
He had always thought it trite that, in television shows or movies, people coughed up blood when they were shot or stabbed. He never realized how easy it was to puncture your lungs or how quickly they began to fill with blood. How easy it was to drown without any water around.
When there was a lot of it, blood tasted warm, not really coppery at all. If it were a little bit thinner, you'd barely notice it wasn't water. Tatara had marveled at that, his body already locking down around him.
Mikoto had been too stunned to wonder that he could all but hear Tatara's thoughts. In that one moment, all he could think was that he didn't know what Tatara was talking about.
He could taste the copper just fine.
Mikoto had never felt Anna's emotions. There were many things strange about Anna. The monsters who had experimented on a Strain child hadn't been careful about protecting her from trauma. That she was still sane was a testament to personal strength.
He was alright with her strangeness. He hadn't cared for her much at first, for all that he had helped save her, but he was a little less than indifferent to her now. You might even say he was fond of Anna. You might even say he cared about her.
Mikoto wasn't foolish enough to act like he cared about anyone in particular. It would be too easy for his enemies to pick up on his attachments, to single out a particular person. Besides, he needed to keep his own emotions in check.
That was what he had thought a few weeks ago. And look where it had gotten him.
Maybe he hadn't been careful enough. Maybe, once again, someone had realized who the most vulnerable member was. Maybe it had been pure chance. Who knew why the Colorless King did what he did?
He, it, they would be dead soon enough.
Getting stabbed didn't hurt as much as getting shot. Maybe it was because it was Mikoto's own body this time around.
Munakata's hands didn't shake. He didn't tell Mikoto he was a fool for going after the Colorless King. He didn't chastise him. He just did what he had to.
His body felt warm, when Mikoto's felt so, so cold.
Inside the Red King's mind, it wasn't so peaceful. Yata's emotions, always so loud now seemed to be screaming into his ears, hate and anger, and a little bit of fear. Izumo's anger was there, too, just barely restrained. And there, not even trying to be patient, not even giving him time to think were Chitose and Dewa, Kamamoto and Kobayashi, Eric and Fujishima, Bando and Shohei, Suzuki and Shimizu, Yamauchi and Nakamura and so many others. He could hear all of them, their emotions different and conflicting, and so very, very loud. So insistent, all of them demanding his attention. All but one.
And then, as he died, Mikoto felt Anna for the first time.