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i talk and talk about love, but it's above the clouds

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One summer night, she meets a girl whose hair reminds her of starlight, and Amber finds the air leaving her lungs, taking a step backward in stunned awe.

Swallowing slowly, she does a double-take, nearly flinching away from the very vision of it all, because while Amber has certainly gotten shy at the sight of her pretty coworkers – she's friends with Jean and Lisa, for Archons' sake! – she's never witnessed a girl so effortlessly, otherworldly beautiful in her life.

As the sole Outrider of Ordo Favonius, Amber prides herself for her ability to agilely traverse Mondstadt's wilderness without a hitch. And yet somehow, she still finds herself stumbling over her feet, heel cracking over a branch, and she gasps. Suddenly, she's meeting the keen gaze of two golden eyes.

"Who's there?" Serene, doll-like features give way towards a demanding tone and other sharp edges, and the Outrider yelps, immediately raising both hands up as she steps out of the bushes.

"I'm sorry!" Amber squeaks, stepping onto Falcon Coast's sandy shores, but not daring to approach any closer— she's a ranged fighter, after all, and despite this girl's petite figure and soft curves, there's an aura about her that screams danger.

"I didn't mean to disturb you," she stammers, arms still raised. "I had just planned on a quick visit and that's it, I promise—"

"Why would anyone ever visit Falcon Coast at night?" The girl demands as she stands from the piece of driftwood she had been sitting on, crossing her arms.

"Patrol!" Amber manages to somehow muster out coherently. "I'm a Knight of Favonius, and I was put on night patrol this evening, I swear!"

Narrowing her eyes, there's a slight upturn to the girl's lips before she sighs and shakes her head. Bending down, she returns to her seat on the driftwood, gaze returning to overlook the ocean once more.

"Go on," she says, tone and expression unreadable. "Do what you must."

"W-wait!" Amber takes a few hasty, yet wary paces forward. "I just told you my reason for being here, so what's yours?"

"Do I need a reason?" A cool, late-summer breeze blows by, the first hints of autumn already wafting into the season, and the flower and feathers strewn into the strange girl's hair rustle in the wind.

" 'A knight must exercise vigilance at all times and must never treat any potential threat to Mondstadt lightly,' " the Outrider recites dutifully, and much to her shock, the blonde girl blinks in apparent surprise.

Then, having tucked one lock of her star-woven hair behind an ear, the girl actually throws her head back and laughs.

"I see," she says, stifling a melodic giggle as she shifts to look at Amber with a twinkle in her eye that hadn't been there before. "Then tell me, knight— do you think I am a threat?"

"You're—" Once again, Amber finds her mouth dry, desperately seeking the proper words.

Throughout it all, the other girl watches Amber patiently, almost in amusement; as though she can't wait to see what new, unintentionally humorous response Amber will think of this time.

"You just have that feeling about you," Amber finally says, rather lamely. She twiddles her thumbs, embarrassed, and wishing that she could pull out Baron Bunny and hide her face into it for the rest of eternity. "I don't know— you don't look threatening, and I get the feeling that you aren't dangerous right now, but I just get this feeling that, if you wanted to, you could be."

"Oh!" The girl looks pleasantly surprised. "A rather apt observation."

And it’s basically a confirmation of yes, my life is in peril , but for some reason, Amber feels like a schoolgirl all over again, the feeling of being praised by a teacher washing over her in waves. She resists the urge to puff out her chest proudly.

"You, yourself, are rather good at observation yourself, aren't you?" A head of blonde hair tilts, considering, as golden eyes flicker up and down Amber's frame. One corner of perfect, petite lips quirks up. "Although, I'd assume that people often don't realize that—  you probably are often misjudged as dense because of how willing you are to trust others."

"Me?" Amber flushes, oddly flustered by the sudden praise. She scuffs the ground beneath her with the toe of her boot. "No, no, I'm just… trying to make sense of this all. I've never met anyone like you before."

"Is that so?" The otherworldly girl crosses her legs, leaning forward eagerly. “What’s your name, knight?”

“Amber.” She really shouldn’t be giving her name away to a stranger.

“Amber.” Her name gets repeated. “What a fitting name.”

“And you?”

“Lumine.” Bright golden eyes glitter like the celestial bodies above, and Lumine looks young yet experienced all at once.

“Lumine,” Amber echoes. “That doesn’t sound like a local name.”

“Not at all,” Lumine agrees, smiling. “I’m a traveler, staying in Mondstadt for the time being. I’ll be leaving the area in a few days.”

“You never did say why you were here,” Amber states pointedly. She crosses her arms just as another breeze blows, ruffling the red ribbon tied neatly atop her head. “No wonder I thought you were trouble— you’re very good at diverting the topic.”

Once again, Lumine laughs, the sound bubbling up like a clear spring.

“You’re so perceptive!” The blonde girl praises, and Amber feels her heated face enflame even more, most probably brightening to match her vibrant red clothing.

“Just answer the question,” she nearly begs, desperate for a straight answer for once.

And with a final chuckle, Lumine finally relents.

“I’m not here to cause trouble,” she hums, hand over her heart like a scout. “I’ve just got an anniversary coming up, and the heart of my nostalgia is here in Mondstadt. It’s just that…” Lumine pauses, as though considering how much to reveal. Then, she shrugs, her wide, doe eyes coming to fixate on Amber again. “My strength isn’t what it used to be. I can’t travel as I did before, since I tire quickly. I merely stopped to rest by Falcon Coast.”

“My apologies if this is rude, but—” Amber frowns, cocking her head. “Just how old are you, Lumine?”

Lumine grins, eyes forming perfect crescents moons to match her starlight hair.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

--

She carries Lumine all the way to the city on her back.

The other girl had been startled by the suggestion— it was the first time Amber had seen Lumine caught off-guard. Lumine had adamantly refused at first, promising that she could make it the rest of the way herself, but Amber had been insistent.

“Just, um,” Lumine says anxiously as they approach the gates, “You can just let me down here and I can find my way to the inn—”

“Or you could stay at my place?” Amber suggests. “I have a spare room, and you won’t have to pay.”

“...Why are you being so kind to me? Didn’t I scare you not long ago?”

“ ‘When greeting travelers from afar, please act hospitably by giving any further assistance that they may request or require,” the bowknight recites, garnering a breathless laugh from the girl on her back. “Well, that, and I just want to be helpful.”

“You trust me?” Lumine wonders aloud.

“Should I not?” Amber asks in return.

“...Fair point,” the traveling girl concedes, and lets herself be steered onto Mondstadt’s quiet night streets.

--

For a week, Lumine stays.

Amber still has her work with the knights, so for the most part, she doesn’t know what Lumine does during the day to pass the time— Amber’s asked around, and no other knight has ever seen Lumine around Mondstadt. Nevertheless, Lumine finds her after her duties every day without fail, and more often than not, they dine at the Cat's Tail tavern before wandering Mondstadt's streets, talking about everything and nothing.

For the most part, it's Amber who rambles, never seeming to run out of words around Lumine, and to her guest's credit, Lumine seems more than happy to listen. Her smiles are as genuine as they come, and as Amber catches Lumine laughing under the warm glow of a street light, she wonders how she'd ever found the girl threatening to begin with.

(In the back of her mind, she knows that part of Lumine is still there, she knows it is. That sort of aura isn't something that just goes away. Still, in the meantime, she's more than happy to stay on Lumine's good side— as little as she knows about the other girl's different facets to begin with.)

There's an unspoken understanding between them— they just get each other. It's strange, because Lumine is a stranger, and Amber hasn't had much to call family for most of her life, but still.

Her time with Lumine is relaxing, especially when they go out for more leisurely night walks, and Amber climbs trees and picks apples for them, and Lumine points out flora and fauna that Amber had all but disregarded on her many journeys around Mondstadt.

On her last night in Mondstadt, Lumine makes her a chain of Windwheel Asters as they sit atop Cape Oath.

"Did you know?" Lumine asks, her hair taking on a silvery sheen under the light of the full moon. She carefully reaches out, gingerly places the crown of asters atop Amber's head. "In Liyue, there are these beautiful flowers called Glaze Lilies, and they only bloom very rarely at nighttime. They used to grow all over Liyue, but now they're very rare and hard to find."

"Wow," Amber marvels. Tenderly, she reaches a hand up, and her thumb brushes gently over a single petal. Then she beams at Lumine, who cracks a smile in return. "You've been to so many places, Lumine! You must've been all over Teyvat."

"I suppose you could say that, yes," Lumine considers, tipping her head.

"I want to see all of Teyvat one day, too."

"I hope you can. Don't be discouraged if it seems like a daunting task, though. I spent many, many years traveling." Lumine's voice is wistful, and it's yet another moment when the blonde girl seems much older than the body she inhabits.

It's interesting, truly, because there are moments when Amber thinks that there's no way Lumine could ever be any older than the Outrider herself, but then sooner or later, Lumine lets something slip that has Amber second-guessing.

"Were you alone?"

"No, I had a traveling companion." A fond smile toys on Lumine's lips. "He's still in much better a condition to travel these days than I. In fact, he was actually against me making the journey here, but I insisted since the date is special to me."

"Speaking of which," Amber recalls, thinking back to when they met. "Is today the anniversary you were speaking of?"

"It is." Lumine nods, a sigh of something nostalgic passing through her lips. Then she smiles kindly at Amber, giggling. "I must admit though, this trip has been much more fruitful than I had been anticipating. Usually, I spend this day pretty casually and alone, but your presence has been a very nice change of pace, Amber. Thank you for that."

"Oh, there's no need to thank me!" Amber blushes, fidgeting in place. "I'm just honored you decided to spend the special occasion with me."

“I’ve enjoyed my time with you greatly.” There’s nothing but honesty in Lumine’s uncannily earnest tone. “It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of living beside someone else.”

“You don’t live with your traveling companion?” The Outrider asks curiously.

“Not really,” Lumine ponders with a considerate tilt of her head. “He and I were friends, but the situation was slightly different. To this day, he still travels, and does most of the traveling for the both of us. I—” The traveler girl pauses momentarily before continuing. “Even before I met that companion, I had a different traveling partner— my brother. He and I, we traveled to many different worlds, most of which have never even been conceived here in Teyvat.”

“Really? That’s amazing!” Amber exclaims, and she sits back on her heels. Could she believe that Lumine wasn’t from Teyvat? That Lumine had visited worlds she could never even dream of? Truth be told, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched— Amber can’t explain it, and perhaps it’s because of her Vision that she can sense it at all, but there’s a power, depthless and boundless, that lies, simmering, beneath Lumine’s skin, being held in check by the other girl’s sheer ability; effortless.

But there’s also another understanding that remains unvoiced, and Amber chooses not to comment on Lumine’s strange power.

She chooses to inquire about other things instead.

“Lumine? What happened to your brother?”

Lumine takes a breath. “We were separated. He and I had tried to leave this world, but we were stopped by an unknown god. I was cast down to Teyvat, but he… I’m not entirely sure what happened to him.” She looks up to the starry aether above, as though looking for answers. “All I know is that one day, he and I will be reunited. Until then… Well, I miss him dearly.”

“And then what will you do after?”

It takes a moment for Lumine to answer, and Amber watches the gears turn as she mulls it over.

“I don’t know,” she eventually says, facial features strikingly neutral. Amber nods sympathetically. “I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“I guess so.”

They lapse into silence. Then—

"Amber? Can you do me a favor?"

"What is it?"

"If anyone asks you if I was here in Mondstadt, can you tell them that I wasn’t? That you don't know anyone like me?"

"Why?"

“This past week has been… stolen time.” Lumine exhales, her chest rising and falling. “Truthfully, I'm not supposed to be away for this long. Through my own power, no one in Mondstadt will remember me, or what I look like, but I’ve spent so much time with you… I thought it would be a shame if I were to steal those memories away.”

“I… I can do as you ask.” A small frown overtakes Amber’s features. “But does that mean I won’t ever see you again?”

Lumine opens her mouth yet pauses, but then the softest smile Amber’s ever witnessed blossoms across the blonde girl’s lips, and she reaches forward to take one of the Outrider’s hands within her own.

“Depends. Does that mean I can visit you?”

Her cheeks suddenly set aflame, suddenly the tall grass surrounding them is very interesting as Amber pointedly looks away.

“You really want to visit me?” She doesn’t meet Lumine’s gaze, the organ in her chest beating far too fast for it to be healthy—

—but suddenly, there’s a pair of lips on her cheek, and Amber squeaks as her head whips around to find Lumine there, in her personal space, that playful smile Amber’s come to adore, to seek like the sun, toying on her mouth, and Archons, her heart’s just going to thump its way out of her chest like a jackrabbit, isn’t it?

“I do. Is that okay?” Lumine says, soft, a whisper on the wind, and Amber nods dumbly.

“More than okay,” she says, and Lumine beams, a ray of starlight.

--

True to her word, Lumine does come back.

It’s not a relatively common occurrence, but there are days when Amber’s nights are simply sleepless. It’s on those days when the need to go to Cape Oath is at its strongest, and she’s learned not to fight it, because without fail, Lumine is there.

And they talk, and talk, and Lumine strings flowers into her long, brown hair, and Amber rests her head in Lumine’s lap and silently wishes that the blonde girl could stay.

Still, those nights are bliss, and Lumine probably has something to do with it— with the way these nights just so happen to correspond with the days Amber doesn’t have early morning patrol the next day.

But then, one day, it happens.

She meets a boy in the Whispering Woods, and he has the same golden eyes as Lumine, and he has a floating companion, Paimon, and he’s lost, very lost, but he has hair like sunshine and an innocent smile, and oh

Without a doubt, he is Lumine’s brother.

And true to her own word, Amber doesn’t say anything— doesn’t say she knows a thing about the missing sister he tells everyone he’s looking for, doesn’t say a single peep about the way his golden eyes are just like Lumine’s, doesn’t even say a single syllable of her name.

Amber feels bad, she really does. So she puts up missing person posters all over Mondstadt, despite knowing very well that no one here remembers the days she would stroll under the streetlights with a blonde girl with flowers and feathers in her hair. Lumine wouldn’t let herself be found, she’s simply too powerful, too intelligent for that.

Had she not made that promise to Lumine, she would’ve told Aether, she really would have.

But she can’t lose Lumine, can’t lose the friendship they’ve fostered, so she stays silent, stays upbeat, and tells herself that Lumine knows what she’s doing, that everything will be okay.

That doesn’t stop her from bringing up the topic, though. It’s the first time that Lumine has visited since Aether’s arrival and subsequent departure to Liyue, and as Amber settles into the grass like usual, she finds herself desperate to broach the topic.

“I met your brother while you were gone,” she says casually, not quite sure how to bring it up, and from where she’d been stringing together a chain of Cecilias, Lumine halts in place.

“Did you, now?” She murmurs.

Amber nods. “Yes. Aether saved all of Mondstadt from Stormterror’s wrath.”

“He’s always been the vigilant type,” Lumine muses, more to herself than to Amber. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he had a hand in freeing the dragon.”

Amber blinks, furrows her brow. “What are you saying?”

“Oh, nothing of importance.” Lumine giggles, shrugging off Amber’s concerns. She hands Amber an unfinished chain of Calla Lilies before starting another for herself. “I just shouldn’t be surprised that my brother is involving himself so heavily in Mondstadt’s affairs so quickly. He’s very empathetic, and can never stand seeing when others are in danger.”

“You don’t seem too surprised to see him,” Amber comments, absentmindedly observing the way Lumine twines the stems together— after watching Lumine complete flower chain after flower chain, she’d asked her friend to demonstrate. “I would’ve thought you would want to meet him immediately, given how sullen you sounded last time you spoke of him.”

“Truthfully, I do,” Lumine admits, pausing in her work. The partially-finished crown of petals lies in her lap. “But I have seen many things, and I know that it’s far too early for him and I to reunite. Plus,” she shrugs. “I don’t know how he would react to seeing me. I’ve heard that he’s looking for me, but he doesn’t know who I am, or who I’ve become.”

“He’s your brother, I’m sure he still loves you,” Amber insists. She’d become close friends with Aether over the past few eventful weeks, and the boy had really wormed his way into her heart— not in the same way as Lumine, of course, but in a meaningful way nevertheless. “In spite of everything, of how you’ve changed, I’m sure he would accept you.”

“Would he? It’s definitely a possibility, isn’t it?” Lumine’s smile softens, although the look in her eyes is unknown, and with her Vision burning hot against her hip, Amber feels that not-quite-dormant power beneath Lumine’s mortal frame shift and shimmer in its vastness. “I will admit, though— that’s something I’m afraid of.”

--

Life goes on. Months pass in the blink of an eye. Occasionally Lumine stops by and meets with Amber at night, and on other days, Aether returns to Mondstadt, fresh from adventuring off at whatever other nations he and Paimon choose to visit.

(They never visit at the same time, though— absolutely not, and Amber keeps quiet.)

Today though, she finds Aether at night, which is strange considering how his visits usually last during the day.

He sits quietly, on a bench behind the square's fountain, quietly watching the young boy, Anthony, wade through the water, desperately picking up its coins. Nearby, Paimon hovers worriedly, frowning as she clearly tries to cheer him up.

"Aether?" Amber sits next to the traveler. When he doesn't immediately reply, she furrows her brow, casting a curious look at Paimon.

The small pixie-creature sighs, raising her hands in defeat, before disappearing into midair to grant them some privacy.

"Are you alright?" Amber asks softly.

Silence, save for the splash of fountain water.

"It's Lumine," Aether finally says, and his tone is empty, disbelieving. He looks at Amber, and she sucks in a breath at the way tears pool at the corners of his eyes. "It's Lumine, Amber. My sister."

"What—" Amber's eyes widen. Did he know she'd been meeting with her sister? How did he ever find out? "Listen, Aether, I'm—"

Aether shakes his head, the no, you don't understand, going unsaid, and he keeps looking at Amber with those same wide, golden eyes as Lumine's, hauntingly familiar, and—

"Amber, my sister is the leader of the Abyss Order," he says, voice breaking, and Amber freezes. "Lumine is the princess of the Abyss Order."

And it's like the world goes silent.

She doesn't want to believe it.

The rest of the world goes silent, but Amber can distinctly hear the rushing of blood in her ears, and the sound of her heart shattering in her chest.

--

The next time she meets Lumine, the other girl has somehow dared enter Mondstadt’s boundaries; somehow dared approach the city’s great stone bridge.

It’s that sleepless feeling again that gets Amber to leave bed and silently make her way through Mondstadt’s empty streets; that same sleepless feeling that used to bring her happiness, that now leaves her rough and raw, crimson anger flowing through her veins.

Lumine stands alone on the bridge this time, not bothering to wait at Cape Oath.

“Why are you here?” Amber asks, low and squaring her shoulders, summoning her bow with one hand. It appears with sparks of fire, and she deftly spins the weapon around her fingers before grasping the familiar weight with purpose.

“I’m just here to talk,” Lumine says, her voice that calm, soothing tone like usual.

Amber clenches her jaw; it makes her angry.

“What? Now?” The archer asks, uncharacteristically dry, fingers itching to pull back the string of her bow. “You just weren’t in a talking mood when you sent hilichurls to lay siege to the city?”

Lumine shakes her head, and Amber sees the way a shiver runs down the blonde girl’s spine.

“You weren’t supposed to find out this way,” she says, slow, losing its controlled edge.

“Was I even supposed to know at all?” Amber asks sharply, and Lumine seems at a loss for words at that, her jaw working but no words coming out. “I wasn’t, was I? I was just supposed to live in ignorant bliss of the fact that one of the most precious people in my life was working with the enemy?”

“This wasn’t what I intended—”

“So just what did you intend?” The Outrider demands, and Lumine flinches, a far cry from her usual unfaltering confidence. In the meantime, Amber barks out a laugh, and it holds no humor. “You were right when we first met— I do trust too easily.”

“What was I supposed to do?” Lumine retorts, her hands starting to tremble. “At first, of course I couldn’t let you know who I was! But later on, as I kept coming back— I knew you would hate me if I told the truth. What was I supposed to do?”

“Why did you come back in the first place?!” She nocks an arrow, finally pulling back the drawstring.

The first shot races loose. Flicking out her hand, Lumine summons her sword into her grasp, its deep purple glow pulsating through the night as it slices cleanly through the arrow.

“I don’t know.” Lumine gasps, lunging out of the way of another shot but not daring to attack Amber herself. Turning on her heel, she takes off, Amber on her heels. “I don’t know— I liked you, you made me feel things I hadn’t felt in a long, long time, and I couldn’t stay away.”

“And I trusted you!” Amber shouts, and she looses another arrow before dashing after Lumine in hot pursuit, the blonde girl leaping backward towards the forestry. “I trusted you, and you’re the princess of the Abyss Order?”

An arrow lodges itself in the ground in front of Lumine, and although it hadn’t struck home, the Abyssal girl looks pained.

At the sight of Lumine’s stricken expression, Amber grits her teeth and sucks in a breath, the coursing hot anger flooding through her body suddenly fleeing her system. She’s never been good at holding onto anger, never had a strong grip on such negative emotions— it’s not in her system. It’s just that she can’t understand it.

“Why?” Amber whispers, staggering a step closer.

“One more arrow.”

“What?”

With a wave of her hand, the cursed sword she wields disappears into particles of light, and Lumine holds up one finger, jaw set and golden eyes wide.

“One more arrow,” she says again, and despite her steady stance, her voice wavers slightly.

Not even a heartbeat later, and Amber's final arrow strikes true— mere inches away from Lumine's face, a flaming arrowhead has embedded itself inches deep into the wood of the tree the Abyssal girl stands beside, leaving an ugly, singed and searing scar in the bark that certainly won’t fade away any time soon.

And then Lumine's wide-eyed, golden gaze is meeting Amber's honeyed-brown eyes, the archer's shoulders still shaking from the adrenaline.

In a flash of light, Amber whisks her bow away.

Meanwhile, Lumine's chest heaves from exertion, clearly more winded than she'd allowed herself to let on, even a mere moment prior— she hadn't been lying about her fatigue, after all.

"Is that all out of your system?" The Abyss princess asks the Outrider, her voice uncharacteristically small.

It’s a good question, so Amber stops for a moment, reflects. She's just tired. She's too exhausted to be mad at Lumine, too tired of being angry at the girl who had come in and shaken up her life so vigorously, who had decided to occupy Amber's every thought in every action. Her muscles burn, her arm is sore, her heart aches— she's tired.

"For now," Amber replies, equally as quiet.

Lumine nods quickly, swallowing.

“That’s more than enough.”

With that being said, they fall to their knees shortly after, and crawl over to one another, seeking each other like sailors lost at night— as though if they're not standing tall enough, no one will suspect a thing.

--

They sit in the protection of the Whispering Woods, in a clearing covered sparsely by trees, but with enough space to let them see the sky.

The woods are quiet, but Amber's thoughts are loud.

"I don't understand it," Amber says, the length of her arm brushing against Lumine's, and it reminds her of that first night on Cape Oath, when they'd watched the stars and Lumine talked about worlds Amber couldn't even imagine. "I don't want to understand it."

"I'm sorry," Lumine says quietly. It's the first time she's said so tonight, but her own inner turmoil has been evident in spades. "I'm sorry."

"I know you are," Amber says, almost indignantly, and Lumine ducks her head like a kicked puppy. "I know you are, and I accept your apology, I guess, but I just—"

She shakes her head, a fist coming to clench itself in the long grass beneath them.

“I—” The conflict on Lumine’s pained, perfect, graceful features speak entire novels under the silver rays of moonlight streaming in through the forest canopy. “I have… all the power in the world, but my physical body can’t handle it. It’s… it’s taxing, and difficult to explain my experiences over the past five hundred years.”

“I don't understand,” Amber repeats, blinking slowly before turning her head and catching the way Lumine winces. Mulling over her thoughts, she watches the way Lumine seems to squirm in anticipation. 

Finally, Amber sighs. After a mental screw it, she summons Baron Bunny into her arms, burying her face in its soft plush as she shuts her eyes and tries to make sense of it all.

“Aether said you were the kindest person he knew, Lumine.” Her words come out muffled as she speaks into her stuffed toy. “Do I really want to know all the horrible things you had to live through that caused you to become like this? To resort to the Abyss Order?”

“It's more complicated than that, unfortunately,” Lumine says, quiet. “I wish I could tell you everything now, but the last thing I want to do is drag you further into my storm of a life.”

Amber’s head pokes up, and she smiles weakly. She bumps her shoulder against the other girl’s.

“A bit too late for that, I’m afraid.”

“Maybe a bit,” Lumine agrees, chuckling before growing somber once more. “I’m really sorry, Amber, but I can’t take it all back now. Aether and I… it’s fate for us to be truly reunited at the ends of our journeys. However, for now, I’ve waged war on destiny itself, and I need to see it through until the end.”

“I had the feeling you would say something like that.” Sighing, Amber closes her eyes, leaning over to rest her head against Lumine’s. Without looking, she twines her arm around the other girl’s, locking their elbows together. “Hey, listen. I don't know what exactly it is that you're planning, and you don't have to tell me— I don't know if I even want to know. But hey, can you promise me something?”

Lumine’s hands clench into fists in the hem of her pristine white dress.

“Anything.”

“I can’t leave Mondstadt, not now. It’s my home, and my loved ones are here, so I will continue to fight for its protection, no matter what you or the rest of the Abyss Order try.” Amber pauses, feeling Lumine’s slow nod. She opens her eyes, peering up through the canopy of trees, to the starry sky twinkling down. “But when it’s all over, when both of us no longer owe anything to destiny or whatever else, will you take me with you?”

“What?” And suddenly Lumine is gaping at her, wide golden eyes filled with an emotion that neither of them dares put a label on. And Lumine is the princess of the Abyss Order; Lumine is dangerous, but Amber finds herself drawn in nevertheless, just as she had been on that first night at Falcon Coast.

“Take me with you,” Amber tells her, fingers drumming against the pulse on Lumine’s wrist. She feels the motion there, a reminder that Lumine is, or at least once was, a human just like her. “Take me with you to whatever worlds that you uncover. When this is all over, I want to see them all with you.”

“You’d do that?” Lumine blinks in disbelief, lips parting. “With me?”

“Unfortunately for the both of us, maybe I like you, too.” Amber shrugs, feigning nonchalance— it’s hard, though, with the way Lumine’s face brightens to a deep red, completely unlike the intimidating Abyss Princess she’s supposed to be, and with the way her own cheeks light up with the heat of one of her fiery arrows. “As much as I hate to admit it.”

“You mean it?” That smirk Amber’s become so accustomed to flashes across Lumine’s lips, a playfully teasing spark in her eye as well. “You can’t back out if I promise. After this is all over, you’ll be tethered to the Abyss Order’s crown princess for whatever remaining time you have.”

“Will you make the journey worth my remaining time?” Amber counters, her smile growing.

They're nose to nose now, and Amber can feel the span of Lumine's breath against her lips; stardust. And Amber’s still angry, just a little bit. But that’s okay, it really is— they’ll have more time, once they’re free from their destinies and duties, once the dust has settled and Amber has restored the Outriders to their former glory, once the Abyss Order has become nothing more than a passing bedtime tale to tell misbehaving children.

“I’ll make it worth all the time in the universe,” Lumine replies, softly giggling, and it's another promise Amber knows she’ll keep. “I swear it.”

Because Lumine is timeless, and it’s enthralling— Amber wonders if she can learn to be timeless too.

And then Lumine’s lips are on hers, soft like the flowers in her starlight hair, smiling into the kiss like they’re not on different sides of this conflict, featherlight and weightless and all-encompassing. Amber sighs into the warmth, loses herself in that all-consuming sensation, and decides then and there that all the worlds in existence can’t even come close to this fluttering feeling.