Published Sep 01, 2022
Word Count 4,604


It is dangerous, this curiosity. Childe is a soldier—or trained like one, at least—which means he always does what he’s asked. Asking questions is a good way to get yourself killed. Pulcinella, the Fifth, the man who brought him in to their organization, has always told him that.

Chapter 8: Who Do You Think I Am?

Childe is a killer. His job is to take life away. No questions asked. He should not be saving a life, much less bringing them to a hospital to be taken care of.

He stares at Lumine, unconscious on a hospital bed. She looks serene like this. Hard to believe this is the woman whom he stabbed, who aimed a gun at him, who is, well, making him do crazy things. If ‘crazy’ means doing things normal people do, like saving a stranger’s life, then yes, she is making him do crazy things.

“What are you doing to me?” he mutters under his breath.

Childe leans back in his chair and opens up his laptop. He looks up news articles from tonight. Any word about gunshot victims, perhaps a certain blue-haired man? But nothing comes up. If his target is smart, which he seems to be, he would avoid hospitals at all. Which means he is possibly bleeding out at this moment. That is, if Rosalyne shot him in the head like she should have. Childe is the better marksman, and really, it should have been his kill. If it were Childe, his target would not have gotten away at all. One shot, one kill.

Ugh. Nothing is going his way at all. Ever since...

He sighs and slams his laptop shut.

“You’re a pain in my ass, you know that?” Childe says to a sleeping Lumine. “Getting in my way for no reason.” He leans closer to her bed, watching the way her chest slowly rises and falls. “What do you want, hmm? How come you and Rosalyne know each other?”

Childe groans, sinking back into his chair. So many unanswered questions. It is dangerous, this curiosity. He is a soldier—or trained like one, at least—which means he always does what he’s asked. Asking questions is a good way to get yourself killed. Pulcinella, the Fifth, the man who brought him in to their organization, has always told him that.

Normally, he will not care about such nuisances, but there have been way too many coincidences as of late. Too many puzzle pieces fitting together too perfectly. But Childe still cannot see the big picture, whatever it is. He needs more. And something is telling him that Lumine can shed a light on whatever is happening.

Maybe that is why he saved her? Because he needs information? And not because his insanity has finally mellowed out into some sort of normalcy? He shudders at the thought.

Childe groans again, drawing out the sound. He does not have the brain cells to be thinking too much. He’s exhausted, mentally and physically, and all he wants is to go home.

So he does.

Ekaterina is waiting for him, making herself at home like it’s her place.

“Oh, good,” she says, “I was beginning to think you got yourself killed.”

Kaaaat,” Childe says in a singsong tune, “You have so little faith in me.”

He slumps on the sofa beside her, stretching his legs. “So, what’s up?”

“I should be asking you what’s up. Where’s Rosalyne, Childe?”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t be an ass. I know you shot her.”

Childe suppresses a laugh. “So?”

Ekaterina rolls her eyes. “Last I checked, coworkers don’t kill each other.”

“Oh, so she’s dead?”

She scowls at him. “You should be more concerned about killing your target.”

Dodging the question, I see. As far as he knows, Rosalyne should be dead, but again, he did not have the time to truly make sure that she was. Like burying her himself, for instance. Maybe if he wasn’t so busy bringing Lumine to the hospital...

Ah, what’s done is done. There is no way she isn’t dead. He shot her twice.

Childe shrugs. “Rosie already took care of the target.”

“Where’s the body, then?” When Childe doesn’t answer, she groans, standing up and pacing. “What the hell has gotten into you?”

“You’re the second person to ask me that today.”


“I... it’s—”

“You know how much I’ve covered your ass, Childe?”

Covered my ass? He frowns. As far as he knows, he has been doing his job perfectly so far. Maybe excluding the recent fiascos, but even before Lumine, he has been fucking excellent in his work.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Ekaterina massages her temples, cursing under her breath. “Remember Qiaoying?”

Childe nods.

“Apparently, there was a man tied up and gagged in your hotel room.”

Ohhhhhh, right. Him.

“He died of dehydration, by the way, and god, the paperwork for that was hell, Childe. And that is just one example in your collection of fuck-ups.”

Childe scoffs. “Well, that’s hardly the first time there’s a casualty in—”

“That is exactly my point!” Her voice cracks. Ekaterina takes a deep breath, calming herself. She sits back down on the sofa and looks straight at him. The gray mask obscures the area around her eyes, but the thin line of her lips tells him this just got serious. “Do you like this apartment?”

Childe nods, earnest.

“Do you like your nice, expensive clothes? Do you like your cool bike?”

He nods again.

“Do you like your passports? Do you like feeling safe?”

“Yes,” he finally says. Childe knows where this is going now, and he does not like it.

Ekaterina’s lips slowly pull back to a sly smile. “Do you like keeping your family safe with your money?”

His mouth goes dry. She did not just threaten his family. She may be a messenger, under protection by the Tsaritsa, but if she keeps this up—

“Maybe the Doctor should visit them. Make sure they’re nice and healthy.”

Childe pulls out a butterfly knife hidden within the cushions of the sofa. He flips it and presses it against Ekaterina’s jugular.

“Don’t. Touch. My. Family,” he says through gritted teeth.

“He won’t,” she replies, breathless. “He won’t if you do your job well.”

Childe wants to press through, to sink the knife in and be done with it all. He kills her, and then what? He’s on the run forever? What about his family? Little Teucer, Anton, and Tonia? Mama and Papa?

Like it or not, he depends on this job to keep his family alive. It doesn’t matter if they thought he died in that Snezhnayan prison. Doesn’t matter if he couldn’t pay them a visit at all. It hurts that he can’t see them without potentially endangering them. Childe swallows that pain every day, because it lets his family live comfortably. At the expense of other people’s lives, yes, but that ship had sailed long, long ago.

Childe draws one controlled breath and leans back away from Ekaterina, knife still in hand.

“It shouldn’t be that hard to do your job, right?” she says.

It shouldn’t. It really shouldn’t be.

Lumine feels tired. Her arms and legs are heavy. She can’t move an inch, but she doesn’t want to, anyway. She just wants to sleep, cuddle up into this blanket, and fade away into the darkness of the unconscious.


Her eyes shoot open. The room is bright and white. She looks down: the blanket isn’t hers, and under them, she is wearing nothing but a hospital gown and underwear.

Her head hurts. Like she’s been sleeping for days. But she still wants more.

God, what happened?

A nurse comes in. She’s speaking; Lumine isn’t sure if she’s hallucinating or if the woman is talking complete gibberish. The nurse looks Liyuen, and though there are Liyuen people in Mondstadt... Lumine can’t process the words coming out of her mouth. Is she in Liyue somehow? But... how can she be in Liyue?

“I don’t understand,” Lumine says, her voice hoarse.

“Common?” the nurse asks.

Lumine nods. “Yes, I speak Common. Can you please tell me what happened?”

“Um...” the nurse looks around, then leaves.

“Hey!” she calls out, but the nurse doesn’t return.

A few seconds pass by. A man in a lab coat enters the room. His long hair is a shade of moss green. Glasses hang precariously on his nose as he smiles and looks down at her.

“Good morning. I’m your attending physician, Dr. Baizhu,” he says. “The nurse called me. How are you feeling?”

“Head hurts.”

“I’ll bring something to help with that later. What about your name? Family? Do you remember?”

She nods. “My name is Lumine. My family...” The thought pricks her heart like a thousand needles. “I–I have a brother. Aether.”

He brings out a clipboard and writes something down. “Okay, good. Do you know a... Tartaglia?”

Her heart skips a beat. That asshole.

“Tall, red hair?”

Dr. Baizhu chuckles. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t here last night to receive you, so I can’t confirm what he looks like. I’m on the day shift.”

Is he implying what she thinks he’s implying?

“Did... did he bring me here?” Lumine asks.

He nods, tapping his pen on the clipboard. “Yes. He brought you here last night. You were bleeding from gunshot and stab wounds. Do you remember anything about that?”

Memories of the night before flash before her eyes. Drinking with Kaeya and Albedo. Dinner with that asshole. Getting stabbed and choked by him. Biking all the way to Kaeya’s apartment. Saving their asses, but then Kaeya got shot, anyway. Then she got shot by Rosalyne.

What. The. Fuck.

How did all that happen in one night?

Lumine brings a hand to her forehead. “I don’t really remember, sorry. My head hurts.” She puts on her best puppy eyes for the doctor.

He nods absently, still writing things down.

“Nurse Liu should be back here with your medicine. Is there anything else you need?”

“Where’s my stuff?”

Dr. Baizhu points toward a nearby closet. “Over there. Anything else?”

“Um... Was anyone else brought in last night?”

“You mean anyone else with gunshot wounds like yours?”

Lumine nods meekly.

The doctor shakes his head. “No. Just you.”

No Rosalyne. No Kaeya. God, Kaeya. Please be okay, she thinks.

Dr. Baizhu approaches her bed and sits on the chair beside her. “You know, with wounds like these, I am obligated to call the police.”


Lumine grabs the doctor’s arm on instinct. “No, please don’t!”

“Listen, Lumine,” he says, placing a hand atop hers, and oh, god, she needs to think of a lie, quick, “If the gunman is still out there—”

“Please don’t,” Lumine repeats. “I—I’m not from here, as you know. I visited Liyue to meet someone. We—we went on a date.” She swallows, doing her best to mimic trembling in fear, drawing from the universal experience of simply existing as a woman. “Turns out, he—he wasn’t what I thought he was. I tried to run away, then he shot and stabbed me. I—I tried calling the police, I did. They arrived, but they didn’t do anything.” She draws short, shallow breaths. “They... They said it was my fault.”

Lumine watches Dr. Baizhu’s face, waits for any reaction. He sighs, shaking his head. “I... understand. I won’t call the police. However, the attending physician later tonight may feel different.”

Figures that stories of violence against women are still prevalent everywhere in the world. How awful that it worked.

“What time does your shift end?” Lumine asks.

“6 PM.”

Lumine glances at the clock hanging on the wall. Six hours from now. She’s got time to rest and then leave.

The nurse comes in with a tray of food and a pill in a small cup. She sets it down on a tall table beside her. Dr. Baizhu walks to it and points at the cup. “To help with your headache.”

She smiles weakly. “Thanks.”

“Just ring the bell if you need anything.” He points to a button beside her bed.

The doctor and nurse leave. Lumine tries to sit up, but everything hurts. Her joints are stiff. She tries anyway, slowly getting up, pain stabbing her with every motion. Her legs slide off to the side, hanging off the bed. She stares at the tray of food. Well, tray of mush, more like. Lumine tosses and prods at it with her fork, but she still does not know what it is. She takes a tentative taste, and... it tastes like nothing. Literal mush. Sighing, she pops the pill in her mouth instead and swallows it dry.

“Kill me now,” she mutters to herself.

Lumine wants to stand up, to get out and walk away from this mess, but she physically cannot. It sucks, she thinks, how everything is so painful, and god, she’s so miserable, Tartaglia really should have left her to die back there.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he took her to a hospital in a different country. He probably left his colleague off to die, too. Lumine closes her eyes and tries to remember. He shot Rosalyne. Twice? Lumine isn’t sure. And Rosalyne called him ‘Ajax,’ if memory serves her right. Is that his real name?

Whatever. It doesn’t matter what his name is. The point is, Tartaglia, Ajax, whatever, saved her fucking life. He wouldn’t have done it out of the goodness of his heart, if he even has a heart. No, he’s using her as bait, that’s for sure. To lure Kaeya to him. He said as much last night.

But if she is bait, why bring her to Liyue? Something isn’t adding up. Why bring her to a totally different country if he wanted to lure Kaeya?

Unless... she isn’t bait. But then, why keep her alive? Not that she isn’t grateful, but a psychopathic assassin like him doesn’t do things, good deeds especially, for no reason. Essentially, she owes him her life now. And that means he could be intent on cashing it out for a favor. Shit, she really needs to get out of here.

Which brings her again, to her miserable plane of existence—the present. Lumine resigns to lie back down where it’s comfortable and safe. She has six hours to spare anyway, before she has to leave. Perhaps by then, her joints wouldn’t be creaking like an old person’s so much.

Hospital beds aren’t usually this comfortable, but her eyes are drooping already. Lumine wraps the blanket around herself, and in a brief moment of peace, she remembers how warm his arms were around her last night.

Lumine wakes up. Her eyelids feel heavy, and it takes a monumental effort to open her eyes fully. She glances at the window. The sun is gone. Her eyes flit to the wall clock. Seven in the evening.

Ah, she woke up too late. It’s not like she could move a muscle anyway, much less run off to god-knows-where, in a country she hasn’t ever been before. So maybe she can just put up that victim act again and hope the evening physician buys it. Then again, it depends on what Tartaglia has told the doctor when he brought her in. What has he said? What stories and lies did he weave so he didn’t seem suspicious bringing in a woman with gunshot and stab wounds?

Speaking of... Lumine hasn’t seen him all day. Well, she has been asleep all day, but still. Has he visited her? He’s probably somewhere nearby, waiting to pounce the second Kaeya comes for her. If he even is alive at this point. She doesn’t know what anything is happening anymore. What she knows is she needs to get out of here as soon as she can.

And after that? Well. She’ll think about it when she gets there.

For now... her stomach grumbles. She hadn’t eaten all day. Lumine reaches to her side and presses the button. There’s no sound, but a few seconds after, a nurse enters the room. A different nurse from earlier, and she doesn’t look Liyuen.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse asks.

“Um... I’m okay. A little hungry,” Lumine replies.

The nurse examines a clipboard. “That’s because you skipped lunch... and breakfast, it looks like. Your dinner should arrive in a few.”

“Okay, thanks.”

“Anything else?”

“Um... did I get any visitors?”

The nurse brings down the clipboard and takes another one laying on the nearby desk. “Hmm... Nothing on the visitor’s log.”

“Oh. Okay. Is the... doctor here?”

She nods. “Yes. He’s busy attending to other patients at the moment. Do you need anything?”

“No, just the food, thanks.”

“Alright. Just ring the bell if you need anything.”

“She’s awake,” Ekaterina reports to Childe. She’s dressed up in a nurse’s uniform, begrudgingly, but with a well-priced bribe, she agreed. Who can say no to a million Mora, anyway? “She’s eating dinner right now.”

Childe nods, putting on a lab coat and wearing a stethoscope around his neck, like he supposes doctors do. They’re in an unoccupied hospital room. Well, there’s a patient in a comatose, but it’s not like he can hear anything they say. Technically unoccupied.

“Did she say anything else?” he asks.

Ekaterina grumbles. “You mean, if she asked about you? No, she didn’t. She did ask if she had any visitors, and I said no.”

“Does she look like she can walk?”

Ugh.” She rolls her eyes. “This is getting ridiculous. Just get in there, already. See her for yourself.”

Childe smooths out the coat and combs his hair back with his fingers. He looks at Ekaterina for approval.

“You look awful. Since when do you care what any woman thinks, anyway?”

“I don’t.”

“Whatever lets you sleep at night, Childe. I’m done with this charade. I’ll hold you to that million later. Bye!”

Ekaterina is long gone, but his thoughts are still lingering on what she said. No, he doesn’t care, has never cared what anyone thinks of him. Childe knows he’s gorgeous, and yes, sometimes he uses it to his advantage, and yes, it works 99% of the time. But now, he finds his heart racing at just the thought of seeing her again. Lumine.

Childe steps toward the window and looks out. Outside, there’s a sea of red lights, cars stuck in the rush hour that plagues this city every night. He studies his reflection, distorted by the city lights. If anyone looks too closely, they’ll see through this poorly put together disguise. But it doesn’t matter. This is mostly for her, to get her rattled at the sight of him, enough to make her talk and spill answers. So what does it matter if he looks good or not?

In a last-ditch effort, he licks his finger and flattens down the stray hair. Perfect.

Childe leaves the room and heads for Lumine’s. She doesn’t look up when he enters, still busy wolfing down the heap of tasteless mush of hospital food. Has she eaten anything at all today?

He sits on the chair beside her bed, clearing his throat to make his presence known. Lumine looks at him, and her mouth hangs open. Then, her face turns to cold fury.

“You,” she says, soft but stern.

Childe gives a lopsided smile. “Missed me?”

Lumine reaches for something on the other side of her bed.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he says, standing up to sit right on her bed. To easily stop her if she tries anything. “You should be thanking me, you know. I saved your life.”

She looks away, pointedly focusing on the window instead. “I know what you did. Why the hell would you do that, anyway?”

Why, indeed.

He settles for a safe answer. “Because, just like you, I need answers.”

Lumine scoffs. “As if.”

Childe takes the tray of food—now empty—away from her lap. The action makes Lumine instinctively turn to him. There’s a puzzled look on her face.

“What do you want?” she asks with a resentful tone. “I’ll answer one question. I owe you that much. For saving my life.”

“Just one? Is that how much your life is worth?”

Lumine scowls at him. “You did save my life, but you were also kind of the reason I almost died. So. Don’t push it.”

A question about his target’s possible whereabouts should suffice.

“How do you and Rosalyne know each other?”

The wrong question spills out of his mouth before he can stop it.

“Ask something else,” she says.

Oh? Does she have anything to hide?

“That just makes me want to know the answer even more.”

“Fine.” Lumine sighs and stares at the window again. “We don’t really know each other. Remember how you and I met?”

Childe nods.

“It was kinda like that, too. I was hired to protect someone. He… he was a singer, outspoken about oppression and all that. You could say he was an activist, I guess? Point is, a lot of people liked him and his songs. But of course, there were people who didn’t. They hated him, even. Enough to dig up dirt on him. And there was a lot. He was a raging alcoholic, for one.”

She pauses, catching her breath. “He had a stalker. One of the worst. An obsessed fan who turned on him. It was getting really bad, to the point of violent death threats. I was assigned to keep an eye on him, made sure he wasn’t ‘accidentally’ killed or something. I didn’t think the Knights cared about him, especially because his songs weren’t really kind about uh... law enforcement people? But I guess, Mondstadt is the land of the free, or something, so we had an obligation to protect him and his freedom of speech. I don’t really know.”

Lumine sighs, sinking back down on the bed. Childe can tell it’s a painful memory for her, and he’s not sure if he should let her continue. He knows how the story goes by now.

“And Rosalyne is the stalker,” he continues. “Except not really, because it was all a calculated move to assassinate him. Is that right?”

She nods.

“I see.”

Lumine stares at him. “Disappointed in my answer?”

Childe shakes his head. “No, no. Just... didn’t expect it.”

She’s smiling now. “What, you thought you’re the only assassin I know? Hmm, Ajax?”

His shoulders stiffen at the sound of his name. His birth name. A name reserved only for his family. How did she know?

Rosalyne. She did call her that last night, screaming about what a piece of shit he was. He knew he shouldn’t have trusted her at all.

Childe forces himself to relax and smile. “Ooh, you know my name. Have you got me all figured out now, Lumine?”

The smile on her face fades. “And if I do?”

“Go on, tell me. Who do you think I am?” He leans forward, intrigued by what she has to say.

“I know you are Snezhnayan,” she says, her tone flat. “Your accent says as much.”

Childe is silent, but he is studying Lumine, waiting for her to continue.

“I know you are exceptional at your job—” Childe visibly preens at her words. “—but it makes you arrogant, sloppy, at times.”

“What else?” Childe is hanging on to her every word, wanting to hear what she has to say, what she thinks of him.

“Your talent makes you think you can do whatever you want to do without consequences, like putting on a shitty disguise, for one. Or killing more people than you actually need to.”

“What else?” His heart is beating loud and clear. What else does she know about him? What else? He wants to squeeze the words out of her, to consume every thought that she has about him. To gouge his fingers into her brain and unravel her before him. He wants.

“I know you’re not one to do something for no reason. Every move is strategic, whether you know it or not. That day we met... I know you wanted to be found.” Lumine pauses, licking her lips. “I know you wanted me to find you.”

Has he really been such an open book all this time?

Or has she somehow crawled inside him without noticing, and carved him open from the inside out, exposing him for everyone to see?

“And why do you think that?” Childe asks.

“Because if I didn’t interest you, you would have killed me a long time ago. You had so many chances to do so.” Lumine brings up her fingers to count. “One, when we first met and I was a witness to your crime. Two, last night when you stabbed me, but hmm, maybe that shouldn’t count. Three, you didn’t shoot me when I got in your way. Fourth, you didn’t leave me for dead to bleed out.”

“You’re bait for my target,” he replies tersely, keeping calm, but his heart is already racing. Childe refuses to believe it. So many opportunities to have killed her, and yet? Why hasn’t he?

She scoffs. “Please, Ajax. If I was bait, you would have left me in a Mondstadt hospital. Not here in Liyue. Why did you bring me here, anyway?”

“So you’re closer.” To me, he does not say, but the implication is there. Lumine’s raised eyebrow tells him she caught it, anyway. “It will be easier to keep a close watch on you like this. And with your injuries, I don’t think you’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.”

Childe bends down to whisper in Lumine’s ear. “I may have saved your life, but if you ever call me Ajax again, it doesn’t matter if you say I’m interested in you. I will kill you.”

Lumine whispers back, “You won’t.”

“I will,” he says through gritted teeth. “Do not test me. I stabbed you once already.”

“You don’t scare me.”

“Careful not to make it your last mistake.” He leans back upright and brings a finger to lightly press on the gunshot wound on her shoulder. Lumine yelps from the pain.

Lumine sits up straight. Her good arm grabs him by the collar, pulling him inches closer to her face. Up close, Childe drinks in the liquid gold of her eyes.

“Fuck you,” she says. “You’re not keeping me here.”

Childe smiles, baring teeth. “I already have.”

His hand encloses hers and slowly unravels the fingers grasping at his collar. Her grip stiffens, not letting go. Instead, she pulls him ever closer. Childe glances down at her lips. He doesn’t move. Doesn’t want to. Childe is not one to hesitate, so why is he? But Lumine doesn’t hesitate, and instead, she closes the distance, brushing her lips against his. His brain short circuits at the touch. It is soft, and Childe cannot stop himself from pressing further into the kiss. Lumine sinks back to her pillow, her hand still firmly clutching his collar, pulling Childe down along with her. He doesn’t want to let go, doesn’t want her to let go of him, and he presses on, parting her lips with his tongue, drinking her in, and she’s moaning—oh god, she’s moaning, and the sound of it jolts him awake from his trance.

Childe instinctively pulls away, but Lumine is still clinging on to his collar. Her cheeks are flushed, her eyes half-lidded, and some part of Childe feels something is wrong, like a ship is sinking and he is stuck inside to drown.

With force, Childe pulls Lumine’s hand away from his collar. He stands up and steps away from the bed. Lumine is saying something, but he cannot hear her voice over the sound of his heartbeat, the blood rushing in his ears. The walls are closing in and he needs to leave.

Without a word, Childe turns away and leaves.

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