like a moth to a flame

Published Nov 29, 2020
Word Count 2,126

Chapter 1

Ever since Lumine arrived in Teyvat, she knew nothing but loss. Even in dreams, she couldn’t escape the horrors of watching as she lost everything she had ever loved. She watched as the Unknown God devoured her brother whole with the void in the shape of cubes. In her dreams, she was always frozen in place, feeling helpless. This was almost always the subject of her nightmares, and the longer she stayed in this continent, the longer her night terrors seemed to get.

It was another night of losing Aether in her dreams. She sat up in bed and turned to the little fairy lightly snoring beside her. Carefully, she slipped away into the night.

Mondstadt was eerily quiet and empty, but the winds seemed to keep her company. She felt the wind current embrace her, and it led her towards the field behind the Cathedral, overlooking the lake. She had only passed by here before; she wasn’t particularly fond of the sinking feeling the nearby cemetery gave her. Her pessimism could get the better of her sometimes.

This time, however, the field felt oddly serene. It might be the wind, it might be the emptiness of the place, devoid of people, or it might simply be her desire to escape the terrors awaiting her in bed. Nevertheless, she stayed and sat on the shallow cliff, deeply breathing in the breeze carrying the scent of freshwater.

She heard footsteps, but she didn’t turn. Only one person could bear those soft steps, lightly brushing the grass, as if he weighed nothing, or simply defied gravity.

“Venti,” she muttered. “Why are you still up?”

He sat next to her, his short legs dangling off the edge. “I could ask the same of you”

When he was met with silence, he continued. “The wind whispers of the terrors that plague the citizens of this city. I generally do not interfere with their affairs, but this one was a little more sinister than the others.”

The bard did not give off the same aura he usually did; this time, he was a bit more serious and concerned, rather than the typical carefree and easygoing attitude he had. The distinct lack of rhyme and rhythm in his words tipped Lumine off.

She sighed. “It’s my brother... I can’t stop dreaming about him, and every time it’s always the same. I watch as that... god... whoever—whatever—she was, took him away from me. It’s like my own personal hell.”

Her chest tightened at the thought. Was this torture? She was finding it hard to breathe again. Venti shifted closer, placing a hand on her shoulder. He must’ve noticed her quick, shallow breaths.

“Lumine,” he said, his voice soft and quiet. “Look at me.”

Till then, she did not notice her eyes had been clamped shut. She opened her eyes gently, and turned to Venti, focusing on the details of his face. His eyes were teal, almost as if it reflected the light of the lake beside them. It looked serene on the surface, but there was also a sense of turbulence underneath, just like the winds he could seemingly control.

“Follow my lead,” he said. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds before exhaling. She did the same, and as she held her breath, she heard nothing else but the loud rhythm of her heartbeat.

“As you breathe out, imagine you’re exhaling your troubles as well,” he continued.

She released her breath, and with it, a little of her anxiety blew away, too. Only a little, but it’s something.

“Let’s keep going.”

Together, they took deep breaths, inhaling the breeze, and exhaling their grief. They developed a rhythm, slow but consistent, and soon enough, Lumine found her heartbeat slowing down.

“Last one,” Venti said.

They took one last breath, making the most of it, and exhaled as loud as they could. She couldn’t help but laugh at the relief she felt from the breathing exercises they did. It was such a simple act, and yet, she felt cleansed, almost.

“That’s called meditation,” he said. “I learned it when I was still starting out as an Archon. The winds became my familiar, and they helped me out when I was having anxiety attacks. Centuries later, it’s still my favorite trick to calm myself down. I hope it serves you well.”

She smiled softly, her heart full of gratitude. “It did help a lot.”

Venti stood and left, letting the wind carry him away. Since then, she would wander to the outskirts of the city, sometimes even going as far as Starfell Lake or Windrise, just to feel the breeze and meditate. She would breathe her terrors away, hoping the wind would carry it away and unburden her.

Recently, even Venti appeared in her sleep. She watched, held down by Fatui agents, as La Signora forcibly took away the Anemo Archon’s Gnosis.

The nightmares got longer after Lumine left Mondstadt and traveled for Liyue. The god of Liyue, Rex Lapis, would make an appearance in her dreams, too, though rarely, but it was the same: she would watch as the god fell from the sky, and she would feel the same pang of guilt and helplessness, even though his death was not her fault. At least Childe had helped her be cleared of suspicion from his death. Still, he was a Fatui Harbinger and she had not forgotten nor forgiven their crimes, especially against her dear friend Venti. Unfortunately, now, she owed him a favor, and the Fatui was not an organization a person wanted to owe favors from.

Liyue was a stark contrast from Mondstadt; even in the late hours of the night, people were still out and about in Liyue Harbor, whereas Mondstadt had offered her peace and quiet in the evenings when she wanted to meditate. It was difficult for her to seek solace in a city that never seemed to sleep. She would find that place right at the entrance of the city, near a small abandoned lighthouse overlooking the sea and providing a beautiful view of the city.

Lumine sat right on the edge of the cliff, crossing her legs underneath. The wind seemed to embrace her again, and her heart was overcome with warmth at the thought of Venti watching over her, even when she was miles away from him. She breathed in. The breeze here was different; it did not have the same freshness the wind carried from the lake, but it was the opposite. It was as if the turbulent waves of the sea controlled the wind in Liyue, carrying the strong scent of seasalt through her nostrils.

It was a little jarring at first, but she was thankful for the change of scenery. She couldn’t stay in Mondstadt for long, as she had to find her brother, and the winds in Mondstadt only reminded her of Venti and his lost Gnosis. It didn’t seem right for that incident to taint her experience in the little city, and she wished it wasn’t all she thought about. But her night terrors begged to differ. And so, coming to Liyue was also a consolation for her.

She closed her eyes and started her breathing exercises. She focused on the scent of the breeze; it had a salty aftertaste. With every breath out, she also exhaled every nightmare she had, almost whispering it to the wind.

Footsteps. Quick and short, but with a consistent rhythm.

Lumine opened her eyes to look for the stranger. Her eyes found a young man with wild auburn hair. She knew that untamed fiery hair anywhere; in fact, no one else in Liyue sported it. Childe. Except this time he wasn’t wearing his usual Fatui uniform, but a casual shirt and loose trousers.

“Hello, little firefly,” Childe greeted. ‘Little firefly’? Where did that come from?

She stood up and turned to him. “Childe, what brings you here at this hour? It’s late.”

He smiled. “Never too late for an evening jog.” He jogged over to her. “Can’t sleep?”

She nodded. “Still getting used to Liyue. Mondstadt was never this noisy at this time of the night.” A half-truth, of course. She wasn’t sure about plainly telling the Harbinger about her nightmares, a potential vulnerability for him to exploit.

“I know just the thing to help.” His grin got a little wider. “A good old sparring match to tire you out.”

“A what?”

He started to jog in place from excitement, his hands gesturing for her to come at him, like a taunt. “Come on, little firefly. I’ve seen you fight.”

Who knew Childe had a thirst for battle? Lumine had always thought the Fatui Harbingers were all scheming manipulators, with the way La Signora immediately fled the scene after acquiring Venti’s Gnosis. Oh, how Lumine would’ve loved to fight her for it.

“I’ll humor you just this once, Childe,” she said. Her chest started firing up from anticipation. It wasn’t La Signora, but perhaps this one would do well as a substitute.

“What an honor,” he said, mocking a curtsy. He switched to his fighting stance, Hydro energy humming in the air as two blades materialized in each hand. She must’ve looked at his swords with awe, because he laughed and spun them around for show.

“I can do that, too,” Lumine said as she summoned her blade, bathed with golden light along the sharp edges, the hilt emerging in her hand. She shifted her weight to favor her right, and lunged.

Their blades met. Childe’s Hydro blades were sharper and firmer than she’d realized. It contradicted the very nature of water: shapeless and flowing. It almost caught her off-guard, but she knew better than to underestimate her opponent.

The sounds of steel and Hydro clashing together filled the air. Where Lumine was lacking in brute strength, she made up for with her agility. She was swift with her dodges and poked with her blade where she could, but not enough to hit Childe’s weak spot, if he even had one. He wore no armor and yet he took all her hits without so much as a stagger.

Childe was strong and quick, not faster than her, but still fast all the same. When he landed a hit, he hit hard. It made quite an annoying adjustment for her, but the challenge it provided fired her up even more. No one could have given her such a difficult fight, excluding the dragon Dvalin and Lupus Boreas, of course, but immortal creatures didn’t count.

Lumine had finally managed to disarm him of one of his blades, making the match a little easier for her. He only laughed when his Hydro blade disintegrated. It was half a taunt, and half a sincere laugh. He really did seem to enjoy fighting and even more so when it was someone who could match him.

She took the opportunity and thrusted the dull edge of her blade to his side. The maneuver seemed to work, and his legs faltered for half a second. She invoked her Anemo powers and blasted at him until he finally crashed down on the wet grass, still with a wide grin on his face. He was laughing now, laying his arm over his head.

“You’re really something, aren’t you?” he said.

She walked over to him and laid down next to him. She was far too exhausted to even think about the implications of their proximity. He seemed to think the same, too; all she could hear were their audible breaths, their chests rising and falling alternately. Her breaths were shallow, probably from a cracked rib.

Lumine was the first to break the silence. “Thank you, Childe.”

He propped himself up on his elbow and turned to her. “It’s my pleasure, little firefly.”

She looked at him. “You have trouble sleeping, too?”

He nodded.

She studied his face. His eyes were a shade of blue, like Venti’s, but more saturated. It wasn’t the color of the sea, but more so the color of a clear sky. Or maybe it was more the shade of a noctilucous jade, albeit a dull one. She couldn’t tell in this light. But they were the same as Venti’s, almost. His eyes looked calm, but underneath was the raging ocean, not of anger, but of passion, of thirst. It pulled her in, and strangely, she found comfort in a stranger’s eyes.

He sat up. “Well, if you find yourself losing sleep one of these days, perhaps we can have another match?” His tone was almost hopeful.

It might’ve been the fatigue that caused her lack of filter, but she found herself accepting his offer. “Why not?”

She slept well that night.

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