Her ruby eyes stared out blankly as she sat alone under the tree on Wuwang hill. This place was special to her, not that she could remember quite well on the reason why. She was told that this was the place where everything ended and everything began, at least for her. She clicked her feet together as she watched the sunrise from over the horizon, she didn’t feel anything, but she was told it was beautiful. That the view on Wuwang hill was always beautiful, even more so when the sun rose but she just saw a glowing orb indicating that the day has begun.
She didn’t know if she was lonely as she moved to touch the bundle of herbs she had collected. She didn’t know because she had long since forgotten the feeling of loneliness but she did feel…empty. Like something was missing here,
She stared and stared and stared but couldn’t see what was missing.
“Qiqi.” A soft voice called out and she looked up to see her Big Brother Xiao standing on the branch of the tree above her. Amber eyes gazed down at before he jumped from his spot and approaching her. “You’ve come here again.” He said as he sat himself down before her.
A gentle hand patted the top of her lilac hair slowly. He shared the same loneliness that she did. She saw it in his eyes, she heard in the way he spoke, she felt it whenever he took her hand in his and as he helped her get something down from a high place.
She did not understand much about what it meant to be an Adepti or the Last Yaksha. She did not know why it was that he always looked so sad and lonely, but she understood it. He was just like her, they both had to stay alive, but they didn’t know what to live for. It was less lonely knowing that there were at least two of them that felt this way. They were the only ones that understood what it meant to be alive but not living.
When she met her big brother for the first time, he had been careful to keep his distance from her. She had noticed that he had followed her before when she came near Qingyun peak. Keeping a watchful eye on her as she looked for some Qingxin flowers. At first when she saw him from the corner of her eyes and wondered if she was bothering him or if she had done something wrong
There was a loneliness that did not leave the guardian’s eyes when he looked at the little girl as she held out the flowers for him. Bending down on one knee, he took the flowers from her hand, and she noticed how warm his touch was. And how the warmth did not make her feel sickly or want to pull away. No, it was a warmth that was gentle and kind Despite the hardened mask that he chose to wore, her big brother was gentle and kind. Qiqi looked at him with a blank expression before she turned her head to the side. “I’ve met you before...haven’t I?”
There was a tightness in his jaw as he nodded slowly. He stared at the flowers in his hand, lightly touching the petals before breathing out sharply through his teeth. He sounded like he was in pain.
“I’m sorry I’ve forgotten you. But I won’t again.” She whispered softly and Xiao’s amber eyes widened with surprise as she gently wrapped her small hand around one of his fingers. “Will you help me gather some flowers?”
She watched as his amber eyes trembled and she half expected him to take his hand away from her and vanish into the air. But instead, he nodded and got back to his feet. “Where shall we go first?”
Once she got home, she wrote in her notebook with a very crude drawing of her big brother until she began to remember him.
This is Big Brother Xiao. It said at the top.
He protects me from the strong winds. He helps me gather herbs. He always watches over me. He is a kind big brother that always pats my head before saying goodbye. He likes sweets and soft foods the most but he will eat anything that Qiqi gives him. When he holds my hand, I feel safe. Like there’s nothing in the world that could hurt me. But sometimes I look at Big Brother Xiao and his eyes are sad. Qiqi doesn’t like it when Big Brother Xiao is sad.
“Why do you always look sad when you see me?”
They were having a lunch together at the Inn eating a bowl of No Tomorrow Noodles and while most would be wary at picking up the chopsticks, her brother didn’t mind. He ate it slowly taking another one of the tofu birds into his mouth.
“Does Big Brother Xiao not like seeing me?” The little zombie girl was afraid of his answer. She didn’t know how long it had been since didn’t feel so alone. Even if it was just a little, being with her big brother—it was important to her. She felt more at home around him than with Baizhu.
“If I didn’t want to see you, I wouldn’t.” He said bluntly before he lowered his chopsticks and sighed. “When I see you…I am reminded of my past…of the things I wasn’t able to prevent..of the mistakes I made..of the people I couldn’t protect.”
“But why does Qiqi remind you of that?”
There was a slight wince in her brother’s expression as he looked away and breathed in slowly. “It can’t be helped, Qiqi. It’s a part of me, this burden…It’s the price I have to pay. The debt that hangs over me. ”
Qiqi turned her head to the side, a bit confused. “Does Big Brother owe someone Mora?”
A rare smile, one that was more like a grimace than anything else. “No. It’s not mora. It’s something more intangible.”
“Qiqi doesn’t understand.”
“I hope you never do.” He said gently before he patted the top of her head. Gently stroking it with his warm hand. “I don’t want you to understand it. I just want you to live and be happy.”
“Qiqi wants that for her big brother too.”
Qiqi stared for a long while as she stood in front of the Pharmacy’s doorway. There stood Miss Lumine laughing into her hand while Big Brother Xiao scowled at her, his arms crossed. But—he wasn’t angry. Qiqi knew when her brother looked angry. She had seen it when a monster got too close to her and her brother’s mask came on. She saw it when her brother saw a group of treasure hunters near the Inn. No, her brother wasn’t angry.
She watched as he sharply turned his head to the side. Muttering something along the lines of No respect for the adepti. Qiqi also noticed that the tips of his ears were slightly red and how his amber eyes opened slightly to steal a glance of the laughing traveler.
No, her brother looked more—
“Qiqi?” Quickly losing her train of thought, she looked up to see the warm golden gaze of Miss Lumine as she leaned down so that she was eye level with her. She felt a warm feeling spread throughout her un-beating heart as a warm smile appeared on the older woman’s lips. “Would you like to go out with us?”
“Out?” She angled her head to the side, one finger pressed against her chin. Curious as to what that meant, she looked behind her and then back at the two of them that looked at her with a gentle and warm gaze. Her chest felt full and warm as she looked up at the two people that made her feel most happy.
“I need some help finding some herbs for a few commissions and your Big Brother Xiao offered his help.”
“I did no such thing.” He said with a frown but Qiqi knew that if her brother didn’t want to be here, he could have easily left. He chose to stay. He wanted to stay.
“Mmnn I think you did.” She said in a sing-songy voice as she turned her head to look at him from over her shoulder. The grin on her lips was bright and Qiqi noticed that the corners of her brother’s lips lifted slightly before being forced back to its neutral expression. “Then I remembered that you are the best in finding herbs.”
“Qiqi is the best?”
“The best.” And Qiqi couldn’t help but feel proud at that title. The warmth spreading out to her fingers as she bounced slightly on her feet. “And we can have lunch together. And maybe take a nice walk? Wouldn’t it be nice to spend the day together with us, Qiqi?”
“That sounds very nice.” She looked up to see her brother gently looking down at her and reached out to take his hand. He let her fingers wrap around him before he closed his over her hand. “Big Brother Xiao will spend the entire day with us, right? Qiqi would like it if Big Brother Xiao stayed with us.”
Sighing, he nodded slowly before looking at Lumine who had a pleased expression on her face. “It’d be best. After all, the traveller is not the best at being careful.”
“Eh?” Straightening up, she put both hands on her hips and pouted slightly. “I am very capable of handling myself.”
Was he trying to stop himself from smiling? As he covered his lips with the back of his hand and let out a cough. Was he trying to stop himself from laughing? Qiqi wondered why her Big Brother hid that. She wanted to hear her brother's laugh.
“I never said you weren’t.” He said quietly before he pulled Qiqi slightly so she’d move between them. Qiqi took Miss Lumine’s hand with her other hand. Qiqi never held two people’s hands at the same time, but she really liked it.
She really liked how safe she felt between them. She liked how they lifted her arms gently so that she could swing in the air between them. The corners of her lips lifted and there was a sparkle in her eyes that was rare for the zombie girl. She never wanted to let go of their hands. She never wanted this moment to end.
As she looked up to see her Big Brother speak to Miss Lumine, she noticed how even when he was guiding her to where they should go first, there was a softness in his eyes. For someone who avoided talking or interacting with anyone as much as he could, there was an ease in his voice as he spoke to Miss Lumine.
He didn’t avoid eye contact with her, rather it almost looked like sought it out. While they were walking, there would be moments of silence but it wasn’t uncomfortable or awkward. It was just a peaceful silence that loomed over the trio.
Sometimes Miss Lumine would bring up a conversation, she would ask her Big Brother a question and he would answer without missing a beat. But they continued onwards with this as they went to each location they needed to go to, to find a horsetail here, maybe a few chilies. As they placed them in the basket, Lumine always smiled and thanked them.
Qiqi felt proud that she could help Miss Lumine even in this small way. Miss Lumine who always did so much for everyone else leaned on them for help. Even if it was something as trivial as collecting herbs with her, it made Qiqi feel happy.
“Watch out.” A soft voice whispered and Qiqi lifted her head to see her Big Brother grab hold of Miss Lumine’s arm and pull her away from the edge of the cliff. If she missed her footing, she would have had to unlock her glider and even then, she might have gotten hurt in the process. It did take them quite some time to get to this peak. “You have to be careful.” His voice was full of concern as his brows knitted.
“You’re so quick.” She said breathlessly before finding her footing again and smiling at him. “Keeping an eye on me, Xiao?”
“Tsk.” He clicked his tongue before he went back to finding some more flowers. “Foolish mortal.”
“Not a mortal.” She said with a laugh before glancing over to Qiqi who had watched the entire scene and gave her a curious look. “Hmn? Is there something wrong, Qiqi? Are you tired?”
“Nothing is wrong, Miss Lumine.” With a quick nod, Lumine went back to looking for more flowers. Qiqi’s ruby eyes moved to see that her brother stopped looking for the flowers and instead his amber eyes watched the traveler. Watching her feet, watching the ground—his eyes never left Miss Lumine. And his gaze was soft and gentle. There was no tightness in his jaw, rather he looked peaceful, he looked calm, he looked…happy.
No, nothing was wrong at all. Rather everything was right. Qiqi thought to herself before she opened her notebook and quickly jotted down her findings. She needed to remember this important fact.
Miss Lumine makes me happy. Miss Lumine makes Big Brother Xiao happy.
“I think that’s everything on your list.” Xiao said as he placed the lotus head into the basket and wiped his hand from the water.
“Yes.” She said with a sigh of relief and a smile. “This is more than enough. Thank you so much.”
“You keep thanking me when you don’t need to.”
“Maybe I want to show Qiqi what it means to have good manners.” Miss Lumine’s voice was bright and Qiqi could almost hear the laughter behind her words. It made her tingle and she quite liked the feeling of hearing Miss Lumine’s voice full of glee. “Who else is she going to learn from?”
“Tsk.” He crossed his arms and turned his head. “Qiqi is fine. Qiqi is a very well-mannered child.”
“Aren’t you a proud Big Brother?” The lift in her voice as she playfully looked at him.
“Are you teasing an adepti?”
“And if I am?” Miss Lumine’s hands were linked behind her as she leaned forward slightly. Her golden eyes sparkling as she turned her head so she could lock eyes with him. Qiqi felt the faint feeling of wanting to laugh at how her brother looked conflicted at continuing to avoid her gaze but also wanting to look at her.
There was a slight flush of her brother’s cheek like he was hot. Even the tips of his ears were red again, but then Qiqi noticed the small faint smile on her brother’s lips. Like he couldn’t stop himself from smiling and Qiqi believed that Miss Lumine noticed too because her smile grew wider. “Ahh, I’ll stop teasing.” She said with a laugh before her hand reached out.
“What are you—“ Startled he took a step back but she quickly grabbed his wrist and held him in place.
“Don’t move.” She said softly before she gently touched her Big Brother’s cheek. His amber eyes widened at the sudden touch but he didn’t move—rather it looked like he was frozen. “Eyelash.”She breathed and held out the perpetrator of the sudden physical touch. “Make a wish, Xiao.”
Blinking a few times, he looked like he was still processing what was happening. He was at a loss for words and it was almost funny. Her normally quiet brother looked like he wanted to say something but didn’t know what to say. Like a thousand words were pushing at the back of his throat. “Why would I do such a—“
Qiqi pulled at his pants and he looked down at the young girl quickly. His cheek still slightly pink and Qiqi gave him a gentle smile. “Miss Lumine said to make a wish.”
His nose scrunched up slightly and QIqi knew that he wouldn’t deny the request now. His amber eyes shifted back towards Lumine who still held the eyelash on the top of her finger, a smile on her lips as she nodded. “You better listen to your little sister.”
“The two of you teaming up against me…It shouldn’t be allowed.”He muttered with a sigh before he inched forward and now it was Miss Lumine’s turn to be startled at their close proximity. His amber eyes looked at her for a moment before he lightly blew against the eyelash that was on her finger.
“What did you wish for, Big Brother Xiao?” Qiqi said as she opened her arms up. Knowing what the young girl wanted, he quickly scooped her up into his arms. Holding her with ease, Xiao’s amber eyes softened as he gently adjusted her talisman.
“For you to be happy.”
Qiqi blinked before she shyly buried her face into her brother’s shoulder. He was always kind to her. He was always making sure she didn’t have to be alone. He was the best big brother Qiqi could ever ask for.
She lifted her head slowly to see her brother’s gaze following Miss Lumine as they made their way down the mountain. “I can take that for you if you’d like.” He said as he motioned to the basket she carried.
“You’re already carrying Qiqi. And it’s not even that heavy. You know I am more than capable of handling this much.”
“I know.” He said under his breath before his eyes cast downwards. “I’d just like it if you could depend on me a bit more.” The last words were barely above a whisper, hidden behind the sounds of the soft winds—a secret that even Qiqi barely noticed.
Qiqi’s eyes widened slightly. So, her Big Brother felt the same way she did? That if they could help Miss Lumine even a bit more, they would take the opportunity. She watched from her Big Brother’s arms the way Miss Lumine turned. One hand tucking a piece of her blonde hair behind her ear as the wind picked up and lightly moved the white dress she was wearing.
The smile on her lips was brighter and more dazzling than the sunlight. The way her eyes were closed and shaped like crescent moons. Her expression was lively and happy and Qiqi didn’t want to look away. Miss Lumine was so beautiful.
She wondered what sort of expression her brother was making, so she willed herself to look up. And Qiqi didn’t know what to expect but she was happy with the result. Her brother’s amber eyes stared at the woman before him, gentle and soft. The curve of his lips showed the ghost of a smile that he could not hide. He looked happy. No. It wasn’t just happiness. He looked hopeful, he looked alive.
There was color on his cheeks, there was a brightness in his eyes. Qiqi had never seen an expression like that before on her brother. And it warmed her to know that her brother who always so lonely, looked like he finally found peace. It made her happy to know that when he looked at Miss Lumine, that there was a gentleness there that he didn’t hide.
Miss Lumine helps Big Brother Xiao feel alive.
As they dined at the restaurant in Liyue Harbor, the normally quiet zombie girl couldn’t resist telling stories of how wonderful her Big Brother was to Miss Lumine. “There was one time a strong wind picked up and Qiqi thought she’d be blown away. But Big Brother Xiao came and covered the wind with his body. From then on, if Qiqi ever has to go to a high cliff, Big Brother Xiao would always be there.”
“What a protective Big Brother you have.” The smile on her face didn’t leave once since their dinner started. One hand cupping her chin, she looked over to see Xiao quietly eating on the other side of Qiqi, his cheeks slightly pink as the young girl kept singing praises about him. “You must be very adored, Qiqi.”
“Adored?” A curious expression as she turned her head to the side before looking at Xiao who glanced over, his amber eyes warm as he raised a brow. “Does Big Brother Xiao adore me?”
Reaching over, his hand gently stroked the top of her head before nodding quietly.
A warm feeling spread throughout her body, to know that she was adored by her Big Brother, it made her feel so happy to know that. Peaking over to Miss Lumine who was smiling at the two of them softly, Qiqi felt brave enough to ask the next question. “Does Miss Lumine adore me?”
“Yes. Of course, I adore you.” She said without hesitation before she gently moved to wipe some of the food away from the corner of Qiqi’s lips. “You are very adorable, Qiqi. How could I not?” The tone she used was sweet and Qiqi didn’t know if it was possible, but she was sure her cheeks were warmer than usual.
As she sat between her brother and Miss Lumine, feeling the warmth that they shared with her Qiqi felt her heart swell and didn’t know how to describe it but knew that what they all shared was special and wonderful.
She never wanted this time to end and even if it did, she wanted to spend the rest of her days like this. With her Big Brother Xiao on one side and Miss Lumine on the other. She wanted to stay in the middle with them, happy and at peace. She liked this warmth that she felt when they were together, this warmth that made her feel like her heart was beating again. Even as their dinner ended, she took both of their hands in hers which made the two of them look at her and then at each other.
A laugh bubbled out of Miss Lumine as she covered her mouth with her other hand. Her brother’s gentle smile appeared for a brief moment as he looked at Miss Lumine. Her Big Brother was carrying the basket this time, despite Miss Lumine’s protests, he simply said it would be easier for all of them if he carried it.
Walking down the streets of Liyue between the two of them, Qiqi didn’t feel overwhelmed for the first time by the bustlings of the town that was always a bit too loud. Looking up, she saw the peaceful expression on her brother’s face and knew that he felt the same. He normally avoided the crowds and yet—at least when he was with them, he didn't seem to mind it too much.
Qiqi gave her brother’s hand a squeeze and he looked down at her wondering why she did such a thing. But Qiqi simply stared for a moment and then a small smile appeared on her lips. I’m happy. Her eyes and smile said to him.
He didn’t say anything back but when he returned a squeeze to her hand, Qiqi knew. Me too. Their wordless conversations that only the other could understand. They were happy and it felt nice to feel this way.
As they said their goodbyes, Miss Lumine once again thanking them, Qiqi sat in her Big Brother’s arm before turning her eyes to him. She saw how his eyes followed her until he couldn’t see her anymore. How his eyes never left her, how they only darted to the side to make sure her surroundings were safe. He worried over her. He cared for her. Qiqi was positive that he--
“Does Big Brother Xiao like Miss Lumine?”
Amber eyes widened as he quickly looked down at the little girl in his arms. “What?”
“Does Big Brother Xiao like Miss Lumine?”
Coughing and looking away, he thought if he avoided the question that Qiqi would forget but when he felt her hand tug at his clothes, he sighed. “She’s not…disagreeable.”
“That doesn’t answer my question, Big Brother.” Qiqi pursed her lips slightly before looking to where Miss Lumine had gone. “Qiqi likes Miss Lumine.”
“I can tell.”
“But I think Big Brother Xiao also likes Miss Lumine…not in the same way…but—Miss Lumine is good. Miss Lumine is kind. Miss Lumine makes Big Brother’s eyes sparkle and he smiles more around Miss Lumine.” Xiao listened quietly to her words, unable to deny them even if he wanted to. “I think Big Brother Xiao doesn’t just like Miss Lumine.”
“If you knew the answer…why did you ask?”
“Because Qiqi thinks Big Brother Xiao needs to admit it or say it out loud.” Qiqi’s ruby eyes sparkled under the soft lights of the harbor before smiling gently. “Sometimes Qiqi says things ten times out loud just to make sure it’s correct and right. It’s so Qiqi doesn’t forget but also..it’s nice to remember something good. Makes me feel less lonely. Makes me feel happy.”
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she sighed and hugged her brother close. “I want Big Brother Xiao to be happy…and Qiqi thinks that when Big Brother Xiao is with Miss Lumine…That happiness is a little bit less like a dream and more like a reality.”
“Since when have you become so smart.” His voice was quiet and low as he held the little girl in his arms and gently lowered his head on top of her shoulder.
“Qiqi was always smart.” She said before pulling away and ruby eyes looked down at the soft amber eyes that looked at her with a calmness that followed her Big Brother. “Just like how Big Brother Xiao watches over Qiqi.., to make sure she’s safe and protected and happy. Qiqi will watch over Big Brother Xiao. And Qiqi sees everything.”
Big Brother Xiao likes Miss Lumine. No. Big Brother Xiao adores Miss Lumine.
Hmn...That also doesn't seem right..It seems like it's something more.
Under a tree on Wuwang Hill sat her Big Brother Xiao, with one knee up the other stretched out against the grass. There was a peacefulness on his face as he quietly turned the pages of the book he was reading. Sitting beside him was Miss Lumine, her eyes closed as she leaned against the tree. Her breathing slow and steady, her lips parted slightly. Qiqi had never seen such a serene expression on Miss Lumine’s face before. Like, she felt completely safe and was able to keep her guard down around her Big Brother.
And on her Big Brother’s face there was no pain, no burden on his shoulder, he just calmly read the book that was previously on Miss Lumine’s lap. Enjoying the peaceful quiet that they shared together.
Qiqi thought Miss Lumine was beautiful, she was always beautiful. But as she slept peacefully without a nightmare nearby, as Miss Lumine enjoyed her brother’s calm presence, she looks most beautiful.
Her ruby eyes then saw her Big Brother with the rare smile on his lips, gently reach out, his fingers lightly grazing her cheek. There was a softness in his eyes as his hand moved a piece of her hair away from her face. A gentleness in his touch like he was touching something fragile and delicate as he tucked it behind her ear.
Her brother did not look like he was afraid to touch her. The soft and tender way his eyes moved, taking in the sleeping appearance of the traveler. Like he wanted to memorize the moment in front of him. Qiqi saw the way he let his fingers trail down the lock of hair in his hand like he didn’t want to let go.
His amber eyes lifted and turned as if he felt her gaze and Qiqi stared blankly with an armful of berries. He smiled at her and Qiqi saw the happiness that seemed to radiate from him. Like he finally found peace, like he understood what he was feeling. Lifting his finger to his lips, the smile behind it was something Qiqi never wanted to forget.
His amber eyes sparkled as if he found out what he wanted to live for. Did he feel the same warmth that she did when she was near Miss Lumine or was it something more? Qiqi didn’t mind, but she quietly approached the two of them and set down the berries into the basket.
“I hope Miss Lumine has good dreams.” She said as she sat herself down in the small space between them.
Xiao hummed as he lowered his hand and gently patted the top of Qiqi’s head. “I’ll make sure she does.”
“Good..that’s good.” Qiqi said as she yawned and rubbed at her eyes.
“Do you need a nap too? We did wake up quite early.” He spoke quietly before his eyes widened slightly. There was a sudden weight on his shoulder as Lumine’s head dropped on top of it. Nuzzling it softly before settling herself. He turned to look at the blonde woman who had a smile on her lips as she kept sleeping on his shoulder. “Silly girl.” He whispered low and gently moved his hand to tuck the stray hair away from her face again.
And as much as Qiqi wanted to continue to watch, she also wanted to see the sunrise over the horizon. Turning her body around, she watched the slow rise of the morning sun peak over the mountains, and she felt the warm sunlight graze against her cold skin.
This was nice. She thought quietly and wiggled her feet. She wondered why it felt different this time. But as she listened to the soft breathing sounds of Miss Lumine to the quiet page turns that her brother made when he finished another page of his book, she understood.
The sunrise over Wuwang Hill was only beautiful because she wasn’t alone this time. She didn’t feel like something was missing. Like the missing part of a painting was finally filled as the three of them sat together, Qiqi never wanted the day to end.
Yawning, she moved slightly so she could lay her head on top of Miss Lumine’s lap, tucking her feet under her. She felt her brother’s hand gently stroke her back in a calm rhythm that brought sleep to come to her faster. He was always good at that. Helping her sleep, making sure that she was able to sleep with only good dreams. Her Big Brother was a good brother. Her Big Brother was the best Brother. Her Big Brother made her happy. Her Big Brother made Miss Lumine happy. And Miss Lumine made him happy. That was all that mattered in the end.
Qiqi’s memory may be poor, she may forget things easily, she did not believe it when she was told that cocogoat milk was actually coconut milk. But that didn’t mean she was helpless. She still had her notebook which told her where all of Liyue’s native plants were. She was still able to create medicines for the pharmacy. She knew that the sun rose in the east and sets in the west.
Most importantly, she knew that there was no one that can make her Big Brother Xiao as happy as Miss Lumine. Qiqi really liked how happy her Big Brother looked around Lumine. And Qiqi wanted her Big Brother to be happy, so she had to help him win Miss Lumine’s heart. She wanted Miss Lumine and her Big Brother together forever — because they made each other happy and she was happy being with them.
Miss Lumine must stay with Big Brother Xiao. They make each other happy.
And Qiqi would like to stay with them too.