The most painful thing about saying goodbye to the person you love is not being able to pat them on the back, give them a hug, or kiss them on the cheek.
I had ruthlessly used my position as a harbinger to charter a fast ship to take my brothers back to Snezhnaya. Of course, when they found out I had to travel because of a 'work emergency', they were disheartened that their vacation had ended so abruptly. I managed to calm them down by promising to take them via Teyvat at the earliest opportunity, then packed their things and escorted them to the harbor docks where the ship was waiting.
Everyone wanted to hug me, kiss me goodbye. I had to fend them off with weak lies. Seeing the dismay on their young faces hurt like nothing else. Not for the first time today, I muttered a low curse and called the old woman a few well-chosen names.
Fortunately, however, I managed to get her onto the ship without incident. I waved at my brothers until I couldn't see them anymore, then turned and found Lumine at the north entrance to town.
At the thought of the golden-haired girl, a smile spontaneously crossed my face. I got to know her very well during the preparations for the farewell rite. Despite the way she treated me, I still considered her a friend.
It was a shame how our friendship fell apart.
The smile faded from my expression as dark memories of what I had done washed over me. I didn't mean to hurt you - I didn't mean to hurt youeveryone-But...
A heavy breath left me. Ever since I sacked the port, my conscience has been blaming me for what I did. My battle-hardened side argued over and over again:ging wegen Snezhnaya, but the price of this quest just wasn't good for my conscience.
Soon the North Gate to Liyue appeared and pulled me out of my thoughts. Lumine stood under the gate with her arms crossed. A lumpy backpack lay on the floor next to her.
As I approached, she looked up and her face immediately darkened.
"Hey little girl!" I called happily.
She huffed, breath grabbing a strand of hair and throwing it up. "Are you ready?" she asked instead of a greeting.
"Nearly." I jerked my chin at the backpack that was on my back.
"Let's get started then." Without further ado, she slung her backpack over her back and quickly set off. I had to hurry to catch up; She seemed quite determined to put some distance between us.
"So..." I took the card out of my pocket and unfolded it. "Hu Tao said we have to find the ingredients in the right order, so I think we'll go to Mondstadt first. You know more about Mondstadt than I do. can you tell me where we are going
Lumine gave me a weary look before giving in and studying the map. "This is Stormterror's Lair," she said, tapping the purple dot. "This is where Dvalin - Stormterror - lived when he was corrupted. But…” She looked more closely, her lips forming the words from Hu Tao's notes in silence. "Huh."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Apparently there's a hidden area at the top of the tower... I've never heard of it."
I leaned closer, my interest piqued. Domains were ancient structures scattered across Teyvat, each different from the other, and all shrouded in mystery. The idea of exploring a new area and facing the challenges that come with it... My fingers flexed with excitement.
"To access this domain," she read, "we must go to the top of the tower in Stormterror's Lair...so a person blessed with Anemo must speak a sacred phrase..." Here she repeated several words in a language I did not know. "Then the Domain will open for us and... we will enter." Lumine looked up and, realizing how close we were, hastily walked away. Her cheeks suddenly turned red.
"Do the notes tell us what's in the domain?" I asked, suppressing a laugh at her reaction.
"Hm... no. It just means we can find a garden full of the flowers we're looking for... Flower of Freedom.”
"Sounds like a few days' walk," I remarked, looking at the distance on the map.
"Yes / Yes." A frown darkened her expression and she turned her gaze to the horizon.
A sigh threatened to come out of me, but I held it back. It would be interesting to take a trip through Teyvat with someone who hated me.
We camp on a cliff overlooking the Guili plains. Since we started late, we didn't get far before dark. Lumine and I brought a sleeping bag and tent, although I didn't think I would use my sleeping bag; Summer nights in Liyue were bitterly hot.
"I'll make dinner," I offered when we finished setting up our tents.
"Can you cook?" Lumine spoke up, surprise evident in her tone.
"Busy parents, three little brothers - of course I can cook," I told her. "Besides -" here I smiled - "don't you remember the time I cooked for you when we came back from Qingce, but we got stuck in the rain -"
"Yes, I remember," she snapped, cutting me off. She had turned her face away from me as fast as she could, but I could still catch a glimpse of her rosy cheeks. Smiling, I opened my backpack and rummaged through its contents. At the top, wrapped in sacking, was a bird I had shot earlier; I picked it up and put it next to me. I took some bags of herbs and placed them next to the bird. I wasn't particularly picky about how food tasted—food is food, after all—but I knew Lumine was, so I brought herbs to spice up our meals. Finally, I chose a packet of roasted matsutake that I bought before I left as a side dish.
As I began to prepare a fire, I began to softly hum a Snezhnayan lullaby.
from the midnight sky,
Snowflakes fall gently.
Fall softly on your face
gathering on the floor.
A fluffy white bed
On a forest meadow
Lay side by side with me
And we go to sleep...
Soon a happy fire crackled between me and Lumine. Spit out on it, brushed with salt, pepper and garlic powder, lay the plucked and gutted bird I had shot. Some distance from the fire were the fried potatoes; I let them warm up while the bird cooked.
As I waited for dinner to be ready, I mentally searched for something to talk about with the silent Lumine. I was dying to know about her travels - she fought two gods! Then...
"What brings you back to Liyue?" I asked her.
She jumped slightly when she heard my voice. "I, uh..." She cleared her throat and wrapped her arms around her legs. "Visit friends."
"Looks like you have friends everywhere," I remarked.
There was no further comment from her, but I wasn't the type to give up easily. I continued, "I'm on vacation, so I took my three younger brothers - Anthon, Tonia, Teucer - to Liyue for the holidays. I wanted to take a break from my parents; They've been busy with us—their children—for as long as I can remember.
She nodded slowly. "How is Teucer?" she finally asked.
"He'll be happy to know you asked about him," I giggled. “He's very much in love with you since you met; He keeps asking me, "When is the nice lady coming to visit?" He's fine, even though he had mild food poisoning.
A frown crossed Lumine's face, but she said nothing. She simply ripped open a piece of grass and tore it in two.
Softly so she couldn't hear me, I sighed regretfully. I wasn't blind; I knew how much she annoyed me. I could see it in every look she made, in every move she made.
Still... I considered her a friend. Even now after he betrayed her in the Golden House. Even now, after what she had done against the Fatui. As we prepared for the farewell ritual, we got to know each other pretty well, I thought, and I enjoyed spending time with her.
My cheerful demeanor, those awkward attempts at conversation—this was my attempt to fix what I had broken. I knew the best way to regain their friendship would probably be to apologize for everything I had done, but... it was difficult to bring up the subject. After all, how could anyone bring up one of the bloodiest decisions of their life? A decision so horrific that your conscience recoiled from the truth?
Especially for her – she who I betrayed in this golden house, she who saw me so ruthlessly summon a destructive god.
She really was the person I had wronged the most and... for the first time I didn't know what to do.