like a moth to a flame

Published Dec 01, 2020
Word Count 1,979

Chapter 2

During the day, Lumine helped out in organizing the Rite of Parting for the departed god of Liyue. It was a lot of running around, climbing mountains, and collecting rare Liyue specialties, all for the sake of giving Rex Lapis a suitable funeral. She didn’t mind being, essentially, an errand girl, as she had gotten commissions for the Adventurer’s Guild that were pettier than this. Troubled Lianne always came to mind, asking Lumine to find wild berries sitting right beside her. How could that woman call herself an adventurer like that? But I digress...

At least with Rex Lapis, she had a chance of getting information on her missing twin brother. How she would do that, she still had no idea.

Childe, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen the day following their sparring match. Did I really beat him that hard? For Lumine, it was an even fight, but she wouldn’t deny that she had, indeed, brought him to the ground herself. In his absence, one of the Fatui agents had given them a large, almost overflowing, bag of Mora to spend in preparation for the Rite of Parting.

“Perhaps we should negotiate?” Lumine said, uncertainty in her tone. It was a risk, as she wasn’t sure if sales negotiations were even allowed in the land of contracts. “Just because the Fatui had given us countless Mora doesn’t mean we should spend it all in one place.”

Zhongli nodded thoughtfully. He was the silent brooding type when he wasn’t spouting random trivia about the history of Liyue.

“Will 7,000 Mora do?” she asked the jade merchant.

Shitou, the jade merchant, thought carefully. “The jades shall be used for the Rite of Parting, you say?”

Lumine nodded.

“If it weren’t for Rex Lapis, rest His soul, my business wouldn’t be standing here today. My ancestors had always told me stories of how He discovered these jades, and how He could discern the precious ores from the worthless ones. I will happily give you these jades for 5,000 Mora each, as a sign of our gratitude, and that He may part peacefully from this world.”

Well, that was easy.

He bowed solemnly, offering the jades in a purple velvet bag with both hands. Lumine bowed in return, carefully taking it with her two hands as well, a Liyuean custom she had learned from none other than Zhongli.

As they bade farewell to the merchant, she had sworn she saw a familiar flash of fiery hair in her peripherals. She turned to her right, where Childe was standing, in his full Fatui uniform, conversing with one of his assistants. He caught her eye, and he waved, his smile almost reaching his eyes.

Oh, good, he’s alive.

Childe dismissed his assistant and started making his way towards them. He had a slight limp on his left hip, the same side she had blasted her Anemo powers with reckless abandon. She was sure she hit him hard, and if it hurt him with every step, he didn’t quite show.

“How are the errands going?” Childe asked, casually placing his hand in his pocket.

“If I wasn’t here, Zhongli would’ve probably blew all the Mora you gave us already,” Lumine answered, drawing a light chuckle from Childe.

“Yes, Miss Lumine has been quite helpful in the procurement of the items so far,” Zhongli agreed.

“Even so, we would still fund the funeral, however much it would take,” he said, approaching Lumine. “You need a refill on that Mora? You can keep the change.” He winked.

“No, thank you,” she said. She heard Paimon whine in the background, but she ignored it. She leaned over to Childe, almost tipping her toe to reach his ear. “How’s your hip?”

He raised an eyebrow and gave her a wry smile. “How’s your rib?”

Lumine almost giggled, if it weren’t for her cracked rib preventing her from doing anything other than a light chuckle. She wasn’t sure at first if she should have let Paimon or Zhongli know about their spar last night, but she didn’t regret keeping them in the dark. Their “secret” fraternizing gave her quite the rush, even though all they really did was beat each other up.

Later that night, she returned to the little lighthouse just outside of Liyue. She nursed her wounds, winding a fresh set of bandages around her torso.

“Need help with that?” She knew that voice. Childe.

She quickly forced down her shirt and turned to him. He wasn’t wearing his uniform again, not even his mask. “You a pervert or something?”

He shrugged. “Only if you want me to be.”

“I know it’s a little dark out here but I should tell you, I’m rolling my eyes right now,” she said, doing so.

He laughed, sitting down next to her on the little cliff overlooking the city. A few merchant stalls were packing up for the night, but there were still some shops persisting overnight, probably for the night market.

“I think you might have dislocated my hip last night,” Childe said with a tone that’s half joking and half serious.

“Well, you almost broke my rib, so I think we’re even in that regard,” she said. “I still beat you, though.”

“That you did. Next time, I’ll definitely come out on top. You haven’t seen half of what I can do.”

A taunt.

Lumine was feeling playful tonight. She turned to face him and took his chin, tilting his head to face her. “All bark and no bite, Childe. Beat me first, then I’ll believe you.”

He gave a sardonic smile, and slowly took her hand away from his chin. “Just you wait, little firefly.” His tone was almost foreboding, and if she didn’t know any better, she wouldn’t take it seriously. But a Fatui Harbinger did not make empty threats.

He moved his face a few inches closer. The city lights illuminated one half of his face. Freckles lightly peppered his cheeks and nose, almost invisible, but being this close to his face, she could see them clearly.

What the hell is he doing? Her heart beat a little faster at their proximity. She felt a little self-conscious; if she could see minuscule details on his face, then he could, too. He stayed close a little longer, as if scrutinizing every little detail on her face, then turned towards the city again.

Tonight, there was no battle to be had, only the sight of Liyue Harbor to be taken in.

“Too bad we beat each other up too much last night,” Lumine said. “I would love to fight you again to exhaustion.”

“Is that so?”

She nodded. “Anything to get my mind off things.”

“If a simple distraction is what you wanted, you’ve come to the right guy,” Childe said, standing on his feet and taking his shirt off. He jumped, wrapping his arms around his knees to form a cannonball, diving straight to the ocean below them.

He emerged, waving at her. “Come join me!”

He’s insane. Despite herself, she stood up anyway, unclipping her skirt before diving. Thankfully, she had her shorts on, as swimming with a skirt proved to be tedious at times.

Lumine didn’t mind the spontaneity Childe brought her, only because the distractions were working. Sometimes, meditation just didn’t cut it for her.

She didn’t bother to wonder why he’d been helping her this way. Lumine knew their friendship was being used in some way as a means to his end, and she did not want to know why. She knew she would regret it, but he gave her the solace she so needed, and that was enough for her to not question his motives for now, no matter how foolish it seemed.

The ocean was freezing, and maybe she was regretting it. A little. She shivered from the frigid breeze blowing their way. Well, maybe she didn’t regret it at all. Each splash of the wave against her bare shoulders gave her a sharp jolt, diverting her attention from the pain she felt in her rib to the cold ocean waves.

Lumine was too distracted by the cold to notice Childe had taken off his shirt earlier. She took a second to appreciate the water droplets glistening on his toned chest. She knew he was strong, and only assumed he was well-built underneath his uniform, but this... well, consider her distracted, indeed.

“Feels good, huh?” Childe said, combing his wet hair with his fingers.

“C-cold,” was the only word she could muster.

He laughed. “Liyuean waters don’t hold a candle to the icy Snezhnayan lakes back home. It takes a lot of endurance and stamina to withstand the cold there. This? This is nothing.”

She lowered herself in the water so that only her face was above sea level. “Is that a brag, mister?”

He put his arms to his hips in a proud stance. “As a matter of fact, yes. This might be the only time I could easily defeat you, and I’ll milk it for what it’s worth.”

He started swimming in circles around her. “How about a race, little firefly?”

She started shaking her head aggressively, putting her hands up in surrender. “I gracefully accept defeat. It’s too cold!”

He floated towards her, a wide grin plastered on his face. “Alright, let’s get out of here.” He climbed up the cliff and extended an arm towards her to help her up. She grasped his hand and pulled herself out of the water.

Thankfully, her blouse was thick enough to not soak through and reveal her... delicates, but she was still wet and freezing, not the best combination.

“Now, what?” she said, placing her hands on her hips. “I don’t have a spare change of clothes, and my bandages are wet.”

Childe shrugged. “I’ll take care of it. It’s my fault you got into this mess, anyway.” He took his dry shirt and offered it to her. “I’ll buy you a new set of bandages tomorrow, first thing in the morning.”

“Um... are you really going back to your place without a shirt?”

“I told you, I don’t get cold.”

“No, I mean... won’t people see?”

He gave a wide grin. “Is that jealousy I sense?”

She gasped. The nerve of this guy. “Gods, no! I was just concerned it might be illegal in Liyue to prance around half-naked—you know what? Never mind.” If anyone cared about legality, it would definitely not be the Fatui Harbinger standing before her.

Lumine reluctantly took his shirt and put it on, along with her skirt. His shirt did almost nothing to warm her as the fabric was too thin, but the gesture was appreciated.

She was about to take her leave when she noticed Childe staring at her. “You’re kinda creeping me out, Childe.”

He looked away. It might’ve been the trick of the light, or his cheeks were slightly flushed. “Sorry. I was just appreciating my impeccable fashion sense on you.”

“It’s literally a white shirt.”

“Exactly.”

She shook her head. No way he’s resorting to flattery just to gain her favor. Still, she felt heat rise to her cheeks. It didn’t help that Childe’s beautiful arms and torso were on full display. Barbatos alive, why was he making it so difficult for her?

“Come on, I’ll walk you to your quarters,” he offered.

She refused. “I know my way back. You should worry about yourself. Good night.”

Lumine left. When she arrived at the inn, Paimon was already sleeping, all bundled up in bed. She took off the white shirt, and against her better judgment, brought it close to her face. The scent of the ocean flooded her nostrils, tingling her skin. She took another inhale, a deep one, and sighed into the fabric.

I’m sure Childe wouldn’t miss this shirt, Lumine thought.


Notes

This chapter is a little short, but I'll make it up for the next chapters! Btw, Lumine's JP name is Hotaru, meaning firefly, hence Childe's nickname for her. :)

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