Published Sep 12, 2022
Word Count 3,378


“I am sure you know that man is a very dangerous assassin,” he says.

Lumine swallows. “I am aware.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“The same as you. For my brother.”

Chapter 9: I’ll Find You

Lumine kissed him.

His heart is still racing. Childe is back in his apartment now, laying in his bed, curled up in his fancy silk sheets. He closes his eyes and brings a finger to his lips, brushing it softly. He imagines her again, her lips on his, so soft and tender. He thinks of the tiny whimper escaping her mouth, and fuck, he wants more. He really shouldn’t have left, and why is he suddenly thinking with his dick and not his brain?

Mixing work with pleasure is not a new thing for Childe. In fact, he loved blending the two together. Part of it is the sexual gratification, yes, but mostly it provides him a challenge. A challenge to still press on with being professional in his work, killing his target even—especially—after fucking them. Sometimes, it is actually easier to get close to his targets this way.

But a mere kiss should not be affecting him this much. Childe has done more, so much more, with countless people, and yet.

Why did she do that, anyway? Lumine could not make it any clearer that she hated his guts, taking every opportunity she can to defy him and get in his way. It’s not her fault or his. He is only doing his job, and she is only protecting her friend.

And yet.

She made the first move. Had he sent the wrong signals somehow? Did she misread him?

Childe is not complaining. He liked it. But... what does it mean? It is not like him to be perplexed at what kisses mean... and maybe he shouldn’t be. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe she was still drugged up from her meds that she thought he was someone else. Sounds a bit of a stretch, though.

He sighs and stares at the ceiling. What would have happened if he didn’t leave? A hand reaches for the growing bulge between his legs. Maybe he’s overthinking this too much. A kiss is a kiss. He brings out his cock and strokes himself gently at the memory. What would have happened if he stayed? Would she let him? His hands all over her, claiming every inch of skin, leaving bruise marks on her throat, right at her pulse, feeling the steady thrumming between his teeth as he sucks and bites.

It would’ve been easy, too easy, to slide his hands beneath the hospital gown, skim his fingers along her thigh, explore the expanse of her skin. Will it be smooth and soft? Or firm with muscle? Childe can’t decide what he prefers, but the mere idea has him pumping his cock in a steady rhythm, his imagination going wild with what could have been. Would Lumine have been wet for him? A finger tentatively presses on her panties and his breath catches at the touch. She sighs with satisfaction when he pushes her panties aside and slowly strokes her clit. Will her hips push forward, thrusting into his hand as he rubs circles around her? Will she be loud, or will she be quiet? Is she the type to suppress her moans, or is she uncaring of who hears her? Will she moan for him, call his name—Ajax—as she comes on his fingers?

The thought sends him to the edge, the sound of his name on her lips echoing in his mind—and perhaps he doesn’t mind at all if she calls him by his real name—and he says her name, too, as he reaches his peak. The release has him dazed and breathless, the images in his head fading away rapidly like a dream.

Clarity settles in.

Ah, fuck. He really just did that, huh?

Childe hops into the shower, the cold water washing away the evidence. He lets the water hit his face to cool himself down.

Well. He is not one to dwell and regret, so he will not. Besides, there’s nothing inherently wrong with letting one’s imagination go wild once in a while. And maybe he was right. He could very well be overthinking this.

A kiss is a kiss, after all.

She kissed Ajax.

It was completely strategic, of course. A calculated move to distract him. To buy herself time. To be honest, it shouldn’t have worked. Lumine half-expected him to shy away at the touch, and for a moment, he did, and then he pressed on. Her mind blanked and then she’s pulling him down with him, and she wanted—actually wanted—with the way his lips felt good on hers and she did not want to let go. And if Ajax hadn’t stopped, they might have—

What was she thinking?

Clearly, she wasn’t. Still isn’t thinking. Still reeling from it, it seems, even in the next morning.

At least her condition has improved, if only for a little bit. Lumine can finally stand up and move and walk around the room. Her joints ached, her right shoulder incapacitated. Bending down to grab something hurts in the stomach.

Lumine opens the closet and finds her purse and wallet. Her cards and cash are there, but her phone is missing. She slaps her forehead, remembering Ajax had it, and she really should find a way to get it back. Opening her wallet, she sees Yelan’s calling card peeking out from the pocket. Lumine brings it out and examines it. Yelan’s name is printed on the card in capital serif letters, with an illustration of dice embossed around it. Snake eyes. She runs her fingers on the raised design, wondering the use of a calling card that has no details to contact the owner. Only a name and dice lifted too much it might as well be a button.

Oh. It is a button. Lumine presses the dice and feels something underneath compress, like an actual button. She waits for a sound, for any indication of anything. But nothing happens.

There is a knock on the door. Is that her already?

Lumine approaches the door and opens it. Instead of Yelan, a tall stranger with long red hair stands before her. Not Ajax, no. She has never met this man before. Lumine instinctively closes the door, but the man raises his arm between the doorway, stopping it. She presses her weight against the door and the man grunts in pain.

“I can help you,” he says.

“Yeah, right.”

“I know where Kaeya is.”

No. This has got to be a trap.

“He’s my brother,” he continues, and it cements Lumine’s disbelief even further. She does not know who this man is, but Kaeya certainly did not have a brother. Maybe he would lie about his love life or his job, but Kaeya would have never lied about his family.

“I know you don’t believe me, but I really am his brother,” the man says. He’s still fighting to open the door. “He’s hurt and I need your help to find out whoever did this to him.”

Kaeya’s alive, Lumine thinks, and it has got to be some kind of sick joke if this man is lying to him. She opens the door. The man rubs his arm. Lumine studies him. He’s wearing a white long-sleeve and a black vest, looking like a bartender or a waiter in a restaurant.

Lumine backs away and sits on her bed. “How are you two brothers?”

The man enters the room and closes the door. “He’s adopted.”

“How come he’s never said anything to me about you?”

He sits down on the chair across Lumine, mumbling, “Figures he’d never talk about me.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Diluc Ragnvindr.”

“Ragnvindr, as in the Ragnvindr family, owner of the Dawn Winery?”

He nods.

“And Kaeya is your brother. Kaeya Alberich.”

He nods again. The way he’s tapping his knee tells Lumine he’s getting impatient.

“You said you could help me.”

“I can help you get out of here if you tell me who did this to my brother.”

Diluc seems trustworthy enough, but this man is here seeking retribution for his brother and Lumine cannot have anyone in her way of seeking answers.

“And if I tell you, what would you do?” Lumine asks.

“What does it matter to you?” Diluc answers. “He hurt you, didn’t he?” It looks like he wants to lay a soothing hand on her, but decides against it. “If anything, it’ll help you, too.”

“No, it won’t.” Before Diluc could speak, Lumine continues, “I have my reasons.”

“Even if he tried to kill Kaeya?”

Lumine looks away. His gaze is too piercing. “I tried to save Kaeya. That is why I got hurt. And I don’t blame him. I would take a bullet for him. I mean, I kinda did,” She points to her shoulder, laughing dryly. “I just don’t understand... why he knew. How he knew that there was a hit for him. I thought—I thought I knew who he was. My best friend.”

She bites down hard on her lip, trying to stifle the tears threatening to spill. Come to think of it, Lumine felt betrayed by Kaeya. That night... he was so prepared. He knew he was about to be assassinated. But why? Why couldn’t he tell her? She doesn’t know if she should feel angry or disappointed at him.

“I’m sorry,” Diluc says softly. “It is not mine to share his secrets.”

“So you know, too.” A tear falls. Lumine cannot help it.

He nods. “I do. But I cannot divulge it. If he is your best friend, I am sure you are his, too. He must have had his reasons for not telling you.”

Lumine wipes the tears from her eyes. “Fine. Whatever. I know who did this to him. He—he visited me last night. Actually, he... brought me here. To the hospital.”

Diluc frowns. “The assassin?”

She nods. “I know.”

The blood drains from his face. “You’re bait.”

No, Ajax wouldn’t.

Would he?

Lumine knows it is illogical for Ajax to bring her to a different country as a trap, but now that someone, Kaeya’s brother, has come to find him... Did Ajax plan this all along?

“I should have known,” Diluc says, standing up to pace around the room. “No matter. We’ll be expecting each other.” He sits back down. “Forgive me, I have not asked, but how are you faring?”

“I am well. Considering. Wait, how did you find me?”

Diluc leans back in his chair, crossing his arms. “I have my ways.”

“Don’t tell me—you’re an assassin, too.”

“I prefer to call myself an independent field agent contractor. I used to work for the Knights, actually.”

Is that why Kaeya also works for the Knights? Lumine wants to ask, to have answers to her ever-growing pile of questions, to finally know, but the urgency in their situation is looming behind their backs. They have no time for a lengthy interview. Instead, she settles for a short, safe question.

“Oh. What happened?”

“...I decided to focus on the family business.”

Lumine can tell that’s not the actual answer, but she doesn’t press further. If he wants to say it, he will.

“So, what now?” Lumine asks.

“We wait.”

“Who is that man, Ekaterina?”

“I do not know. Why don’t you listen in? Didn’t you put a wiretap in her room?”

Childe clicks his tongue in annoyance. A man with long red hair had entered Lumine’s room. Someone he doesn’t know and hasn’t seen before. From the CCTV in the hallway, it looked like there was a brief struggle between them, but Lumine had let him in anyway. The lack of CCTV inside Lumine’s room has him more and more curious by the second.

Is that man related to Kaeya Alberich somehow?

Childe checks his phone, scrolling through the profile document the Twelve had put together for him. He hasn’t ever needed to refer to these documentations, considering he gets the job done quickly enough. But now, he peruses through them, and there it is. One living family member. An adoptive brother—Diluc Ragnvindr of the Dawn Winery. That must be him. How quaint.

“I’m going in,” he says.

“Mm, no shitty disguise this time?”

“No. I have a feeling they’re expecting me.”

He enters the room with a wide grin on his face. The man, Diluc, instantly stands up from his seat. Lumine sits up on her bed.

“You’re early,” Lumine says. She and Diluc share a look with each other, imperceptibly reaching an understanding. Childe does not know what it means, but it must not be good. He really should have listened in first on their conversation.

“What do we have here?” Childe nods at Diluc. “Care to introduce yourself?”

“Diluc Ragnvindr. And you?”

He smiles. So, he was right, then. What does Diluc hope to achieve in coming here? His profile says he’s the president of the Dawn Winery. Does he intend to, what, pay him to find his brother? Or have a drinking competition? Sorry, but his brother is dead.

“Lumine can answer that for you,” Childe replies, sitting at the foot of Lumine’s bed. “Lumine, what’s my name?”

She glares at him. “Ajax.”

Mm, his name sounds splendid on her immaculate lips.

Childe looks at Diluc. “Please, have a seat. To what do I owe the pleasure, Mr. Ragnvindr?”

“Kaeya Alberich is my brother. I’m sure you’ve met him.”

Childe furrows his brow, tilting his head. “Hmm, sorry, can’t recall. Who’s that again?”

Diluc glowers, very clearly seething at his words. Oh, no, whatever will he do? He stands up and walks towards Childe, towering over him. “You will leave him alone. You will not touch a hair on him again.”

Childe stands up to meet his eye level. Diluc is taller by an inch, but Childe doesn’t let that little detail deter him. “And if I do?”

Diluc brings a hand to Childe’s throat, closing in and squeezing.

“Diluc, don’t!” Lumine screams.

Childe grabs hold of his arm, pulling away, but Diluc pushes him away from the bed, hitting the wall behind him. Childe licks his lips, sizing Diluc up. Nothing energizes him more than a surprising display of strength, even moreso when that strength is directed at him. On a closer glance, Diluc has a slightly bigger build than he is, with a wide girth to his biceps, and Childe has to wonder if he got that from working at a vineyard or somewhere else?

He charges headfirst at Diluc, pushing him against the opposite wall, beside Lumine’s bed. He hears her yelling Stop, and if she doesn’t stop yelling, they’re going to attract a bigger problem very quickly. Childe lands a punch square on Diluc’s cheek, then he turns to Lumine. “Stop yelling!”

Childe pays for the brief distraction with a blow to his abdomen, a tad more powerful than he expects from Diluc, making him double over. Diluc doesn’t stop. His knee comes down on Childe’s face. The blow has him on his ass on the floor, looking up at Diluc, who’s now advancing towards him. He stumbles to his feet, and as he stands up, he can barely dodge a right hook coming at him. Diluc’s fist drives straight into the wall. As he struggles to get his hand out, Childe wraps his neck in a chokehold. Diluc claws at his arms, trying to free himself, but Childe squeezes tighter.

Only a few more seconds and Diluc should be a goner... He’s squirming around him, pushing Childe backwards against the wall, but he doesn’t let up.

Except Childe makes the mistake of looking at Lumine. She has a look on her face, a mixture of anger and disappointment, and Childe doesn’t know why, but his grip on Diluc loosens. Which is a mistake because Diluc quickly recovers, freeing himself. In a quick motion, Childe feels fingers grasping him by the hair, and his entire world shakes as his head hits the wall, once, twice, thrice, until his head bores a hole in the wall, debris all over his face. The repeated collision has him completely disoriented.

Childe hears a far away voice yelling Stop, and he wants to yell back, that she should really shut her pretty little mouth before the authorities come, but his vertigo has him wanting to vomit and faint instead.

The motion stops. The hand on his head finally releases him and Childe instantly drops to the floor. Miraculously, he’s still awake, but barely. His vision is blurred, but he can almost make out the shape of Lumine, her hair looking more like a golden halo on her head. She’s talking to Diluc, her hands making exaggerated movements. Childe strains his ears to listen, but his senses are too dulled to recognize what is happening. He hears the muffled sounds of Lumine’s voice, angry, not at him but at Diluc, somehow?

God, what the fuck is happening? His head throbs from the pain. He should not have been taken out so easily like that. Maybe if he wasn’t so distracted...

Footsteps. Childe hears shuffling footsteps and he fights to open his eyes wide, trying to perceive anything in his stupor. More voices, not just Lumine and Diluc’s. Is security here?

There’s a hand on his cheek, fingers soft and slender, and Childe instinctively leans into it. He tries to say something, but he only gets the first word out: “Don’t...”

“I have to go,” the voice says. “I’ll find you.”

Lumine immediately stands up and gives Diluc a hard shove. “Diluc, what the fuck? I told you not to hurt him!”

He winces. “Did you not hear what he said? He has no plans of leaving my brother alone.”

Lumine falls silent. She wants to argue, to keep screaming at him, and the adrenaline in her veins is not helping her impulse control.

“Do you have a family?” Diluc asks. Lumine doesn’t answer. “If you were me, you would have done the same for your family. I only stopped out of mercy, but if I see him again, I assure you, it will be his end.”

For your family, huh? He’s right. Lumine would not hesitate to kill Ajax if he had hurt him. But she didn’t know that. She doesn’t know anything still, and Ajax is her only tether to her answers about Aether. Lumine looks at him, lying on the floor, fighting to stay conscious. He looks pitiful in this state.

“I am sure you know he is a very dangerous assassin,” Diluc says.

Lumine swallows. “I am aware.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“The same as you. For my brother.”

Diluc gives her a disdainful look. Then, his expression softens. “I understand. But I stand by what I said. And you... you need to be careful about who you’re colluding with.”

“He’s not going to kill me. Trust me. He would already have.”

“Just because he saved you once doesn’t mean he won’t kill you in the future.”

“I can handle myself,” Lumine answers, but the words feel empty.

The door opens. An unexpected but familiar face stands in the doorway.

“Yelan?!” Lumine exclaims. “What—what are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“You called.” Yelan leans on the doorframe, flourishing her calling card between her fingers. Oh. The dice button. “Security is arriving in thirty seconds, so we’d better get out of here.”

Diluc doesn’t hesitate to leave. Lumine turns to Ajax, who’s still lying on the floor, barely conscious. Her heartbeat drums loud in her chest.

“Leave him, darling,” Yelan says.

She can’t leave him here. Can she?

Should she?

Lumine kneels down in front of Ajax. She fumbles around his coat jacket, looking for her phone in his pockets. She only finds his, and she takes it, unlocking it with his face ID, just like he did with hers. Serves you right, she thinks, pocketing his phone.

She sighs, studying him. He’s hardly awake in this state. Without a thought, she brings a hand to his cheek, and he leans into her with a hum.

“Don’t,” he says with a low, rough voice.

“I have to go,” Lumine says softly so Yelan doesn’t hear. “I’ll find you.”

Yelan beckons her along. Lumine stands up and leaves with Yelan and Diluc.

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