She remembers walking through the Snezhnayan wildlife with Childe. A blizzard hits them and they try to find shelter, a cave. She remembers hearing Childe warning her, she remembers not seeing where she was going; took one wrong step and—
She slips and falls down a crack.
The last thing she remembers is Childe screaming her name before her visions clouded by black.
And there was silence.
Lumine feels groggy; her body doesn't hurt, but she feels... off.
"Hey, Miss! It's not good to rest here!" A voice calls out to her. They sound familiar.
Lumine slowly opens her eyes, a blur of orange hair and blue eyes welcomes her sights paired with that voice... "Childe...?" She croaks. How long has she been out? Lumine slowly sits up, tries to anyway, her body's freezing .
Seeing her struggle, the man helps her up, a warm hand on her back. "We need to get you somewhere warm. Can you walk?" Why does Childe sound so gentle? Granted, she's heard a more gentle side of him before, but never to this degree. Not to her like this.
Lumine finally looks to her side and stares at this man helping her.
This man looks like Childe, sounds like Childe.
But this man wasn't her Childe.
Almost on instinct, she pushes this doppelganger away and scrambles away from him, summoning her sword and pointing it at him. "W-Who a-are y-you? W-Why do y-you look like C-Childe?" Her teeth clatter.
"W-Wait there!" The Childe lookalike jumps back, hands up in defense. "I just found you in the snow! I don't know who this 'Childe' person is!" He exclaims, his blue gaze softening seeing the little shivers her body was doing. Her fingertips were probably blue too. "Hey, how about we get you warm first? Then you can ask all the questions you want."
Lumine stares at him for a few seconds before lowering her sword, but not putting it away. "Ok..."
The other man beams and it's so weird seeing such a bright smile on someone who's wearing Childe's face. "Great! Come, follow me I have a camp nearby!" He gestures for her to follow her, occasionally checking behind him to make sure he wasn’t going too fast. A sweet gesture, even with his face all worried for a stranger’s well-being.
Helping out a stranger feels familiar, Lumine can’t help but chuckle to herself.
After arriving at his camp and warming up, Lumine has come to two conclusions:
- She's not in the Teyvat she originally woke up in.
- This man is in a sense, Childe, but not.
"My name is Ajax," he greets and Lumine's heard this name before. A name long forgotten, spoken by a selective few, herself included.
"What do you do Ajax?" Lumine slowly questions. It's very weird to say his birth name, even more so when having to say it casually. She’s been so used to only whispering his name to their ears alone it feels like an invasion of privacy to say it so out like this.
"I'm a toyseller!" His chest puffs out proudly. "I'd say I'm the best one in the world if I do say so myself." Cocky, but not annoying. It's almost endearing.
Lumine stifles a giggle. "Oh really now? Did your brother tell you that?"
Ajax blinks at her surprise. "Actually, yeah," then a big grin breaks out on his face. "My little brother Teucer tells me that all the time! And I kinda have to live up to that y'know? So," he peers over at her, blue eyes shining curiously. "What about you myshka? What do you do?"
Lumine sputters, "M-Myshka?"
Ch—Ajax blinks, then blushes, smiling a little sheepishly. "Ah, sorry. But it means 'little mouse' in my mother language. I don't know your name so... I hope I didn't offend you!" He claps his hands in front of him, a gesture Lumine has seen Childe do multiple times to beg for forgiveness.
The similarities and differences were giving her whiplash.
"N-No, it's fine." She reassures him. "But my name's Lumine."
"Lumine..." He softly mutters out her name, testing it. "Sounds beautiful," His face morphs into something tender and of awe, a gentle smile on his face. "Very pretty sounding, it matches you quite well I think."
Lumine flushes hard because Ajax sounds so genuine and not flirty. If it were Childe that said that, she would simply roll her eyes and punch his arm. But with this version of Childe? A softer, warmer, but non-Fatui associated version of him? Her heart can't handle it.
"Thank you," she coughs. "And to answer your question, I'm a traveler."
"Oo! A traveler you say? Tell me, what parts of Teyvat have you come across?" Ajax eagerly asks. It's cute.
"Throughout all seven nations,"
Lumine giggles. "Yes, even Inazuma."
Ajax whistles impressed. "Wow, not even I can get into Inazuma. Are you still traveling?"
"Yes," Lumine nods, a sober expression on her face. "I'm still trying to find someone very dear to me."
"I see... a family member?"
Lumine hums. "My twin brother. I've been searching for him for a long time and I—" still can't find him. Her breath subtly hitches and she presses her lips into a thin line, an indicator that she no longer wanted to speak about it anymore.
She can’t show how vulnerable she is right now. Not in a completely different universe, not in front of a man that wasn’t even the person she’s familiar with.
A larger hand covers her balled-up fists. Looking up, Ajax offers her a gentle smile, "You'll find him." He says, staring directly into her eyes. "It's strange, I've only just met you and it feels like I know a lot more about you."
Lumine blinks, flattered slightly by his gaze. "A-And what do you know?"
Ajax grins. Boyish, confident. Everything like Childe but also not like him. "That you'll take all seven nations by storm. In a good way obviously~"
"You've only just met me..." Even if he was semi-true, in this universe... It didn't have her in it, at least not to her knowledge anyway.
"I know! Kinda strange isn't it? I just can't brush off the feeling that you're really something else myshka." he softly smiles at her, genuine and real. "Something amazing."
Lumine doesn't say anything, can’t find any words to say anything. She simply just looks away and continues eating the soup that Ajax made. It tastes exactly like how Childe makes it. And if Ajax notices the hint of blush on her cheeks, it’s from the soup.
It's so hard to not get attached to this version of Childe, to Ajax. Because Ajax is so sweet and gentle in comparison to the battle lust Childe always feels out in the field, or around her.
It's kinda a relief while not being one.
Even after regaining her energy and strength, by the time they returned to the spot where Ajax found Lumine in hopes of finding the rift that she fell through; it wasn’t there. Many questions were still left unexplained, was the rift caused by the Abyss? Or something else? But there was one thing for certain: Lumine cannot return to the original universe she came from.
So she stays with Ajax because the man kept insisting and offering and did you know his puppy dog eyes are more dangerous here? Lumine was losing a battle she never had a chance with, especially when he brought her to his house and introduced her to his family.
They love her immediately. It's almost scary how quickly they've warmed up to her. They welcome her with open arms. Ajax welcomes her.
It almost feels like home. It feels like having a family.
Would the same be applied to Childe's family? Childe has countlessly reassured her that they already love her based on the letters he sent back to them.
A pang goes through her chest thinking of the Harbinger.
She's been here for a few days now. And as much as she loves the warmth Ajax and his family give. She also misses him. Lumine will never admit it out loud, but she’s pretty sure Ajax knows about her loneliness.
He sticks around her more, brings her out with him to explore his quaint little seaside town. His excitement and joyous smiles are contagious enough to distract Lumine briefly about her current predicament.
Over the course of a few days, it became less of ‘Childe’ and more of ‘Ajax’. A thought process Lumine never thought she’d go through.
She and Ajax were out in the market shopping for food. Ajax talks about his latest idea currently a work in progress, a Ruin Guard action figure. Lumine almost laughs at the irony of it being reminded of what happened in the other universe. Too focused on Ajax rambling, Lumine doesn’t notice a hand reaching out to grab her.
"Teucer's going to love it! Hey myshka, what do you—?" he trails off, looking behind him. There were a bunch of the other townsfolk, but not his myshka, not a single blonde hair in sight.
Lumine was gone.
Where did she go? Did he lose her while going in-depth with the new toy lineup? There’s a steady rise of panic building up until his eyes pinned on an object, splayed out on the ground that really caused his heart to jump out of his chest.
It was their basket on the ground.
She had been too careless, too unaware of her surroundings. It’s a shame on her for getting so easily captured by the Fatui. Of course, even this universe wasn’t exempted from the infamous reputation of the Fatui. Some things don’t seem to change.
There's a hand over her mouth, a strong grip wrapped around her waist as Lumine's being taken away into a dark alley. She's struggling against her kidnapper, trying to kick and wiggle as much as possible—
"Hey, hey! Stop moving will you?"
That's Childe's voice. Finally, she stops struggling, taking a peek over her shoulder, and lo and behold, it was actually Childe, wearing a Fatui grunt's dark uniform instead of his usual Harbinger outfit. But she knows this is the Childe she knows because of his eyes. They don't shine like Ajax's.
And for some reason, that brings her immense relief.
"Childe," she breathes, almost in disbelief to see him, even slightly overwhelmed.
She didn't think she'd ever see him again.
Not noticing her turmoil, Childe lets out a frustrated sigh and blows his bangs back. "What's with this world?" He grumbles. "There's no 11th Harbinger apparently, and everyone keeps calling me by my birth name and asking what toys I'm selling this time around! It makes no sense—" He abruptly stops. "Hey," he softly calls out, reaching out to Lumine. "Why are you crying Girlie?"
Lumine gasps softly, quickly bringing her hands up to her face to confirm: yes, she is crying. But why indeed? "I—I don't know why..." She hiccups. It’s like seeing Childe again broke a dam within her, reminding her of the world she’s supposed to be in and the person she actually misses instead of this universe’s rendition.
Childe silently cups her cheek, wiping away a stray tear. "Did you miss me?" He teases, but his gentle gaze said otherwise.
Lumine opens her mouth to respond, to deny that 'No I didn't miss you' but couldn't find her words under Childe's tender gaze. They were stuck, lodged in her throat under those lifeless blue eyes of his. “N-No,” she finally responds, sniffing yet not pushing the other man away. Her cheeks flush red hearing him chuckle at her expression.
“Lying’s not a good look on you comrade,” he playfully chimes before his gaze visibly softens. “I missed you.” He softly confesses and it causes Lumine to be taken aback. Childe continues, "I would have searched endlessly for you, y'know?" He whispers, tilting her chin up gently. "I wouldn't stop until I found you again."
She feels so overwhelmed with emotions and all these feelings that have been piling up, and now that Childe was here again it feels like her heart’s about to explode. "Childe—"
Turning around, at the entrance of the alleyway was Ajax, out of breath after running around searching for her. His eyes pinned on her, a big relieved smile on his face to seeing her safe, then he freezes, his body going rigid to seeing her tears and the man behind her, someone part of the Fatui.
This looks bad.
The kind, soft toyseller Lumine has gotten to know over the course of a few days, who can't stay mad for long, and would never lift one finger. The expression on Ajax's face looks outright thunderous .
It’s scary how much of Childe that Lumine can now see in Ajax; seeing his face twist and snarl in anger.
"Hey!" Ajax quickly walks up to them, shoving himself between them. He can't see Childe's face under the hood, thinking he's just Fatui grunt harassing her when in fact he was one of the most dangerous people in Teyvat.
Lumine does find it endearing that despite Ajax never having to train in his life, would still shove himself between her and something dangerous to keep her safe. It’s… it’s very sweet and heartwarming actually.
Ajax was never fond of the Fatui, being well-aware of their darker side. He stands his ground, glaring at the Fatui ‘grunt’. "What are you doing to my myshka!"
Childe didn't even pay attention to the fact he was facing his alternative self, only to the fact that this version of him called Lumine 'his'. Even with the hoodie on, Lumine catches how Childe's eyes darken.
"Your myshka?" Childe lets out a bitter laugh, giving the other man a tight smile. "Sorry to burst your bubble buddy but," Something flashed in his eyes as Childe reaches past Ajax, grabbing onto Lumine's arm and yanking her towards his chest, possessively wrapping his other arm around her. "This girl's mine. "
Ajax looks downright offended to such a claim and Lumine's face is burning. What does he mean by that? He can't be serious right?
Lumine barely manages to compose herself before yanking off Childe's hoodie. The reaction is almost instantaneous. Ajax gets taken aback, stumbles back a few inches before pointing at him, and screams, "You have my face!"
To which Childe points back, Lumine still in his arms, mimicking Ajax’s surprised expression exactly, and yells back, "You have my face!"
Lumine pinches the bridge of her nose and sighs.
"So," Childe starts out after Lumine calms down the situation. "We're in a world where I never slipped into the Abyss?"
"I mean, it has to be." Lumine ponders. "It's what changed you drastically after all." Without the influence of the Abyss, Ajax never felt the lust to fight. Never lost his childlike innocence.
Never lost the light in his eyes.
"And this man is me if I went into the woods back when I was 14?" Ajax asks.
Then they both spoke at the same time, "Glad I'm not him." Their heads snap to each other, there's irritation and electric sparks between their eyes. Lumine pinches the bridge of her nose again and sighs. This was going to be a long day.
Turns out, the random crack they fell into? It won't reopen for some time!
"It's like it’s on a cooldown for a whole week," Childe explains, sensing the Abyss energy around it. "And you can only pass through once every week regardless of the direction. But hey! At least we have each other for the time being right?” Childe turns to Lumine with a big old grin.
“You absolutely cannot start any fights here.” Lumine sternly states. “That also means we can’t spar."
Childe whined and complained on the way back to Ajax’s house. Maybe not going to the woods in the past was a good decision on Ajax’s part.
Despite their massive differences, Ajax allows Childe to stay with his family for the time being. They're a little confused why this Fatui Grunt is staying with them, but he's a good friend of their little myshka so they let him stay, they're fascinated by how much he looks like their Ajax!
Childe tries his best to not get attached to this family; it's not his . His parents would never be proud of his job, Tonia and Anton would never be so careless around him. But it's inevitable. They welcome him with open arms as they did with Lumine and they treat him like he was their son—
Childe almost chokes, overwhelmed slightly by all his pent-up emotions. It brings him back to a time before the Abyss, before becoming Tartaglia. Before he lost all the light in his eyes.
He sees how Ajax interacts with his family, without care and laughter all around. No secrets to be kept in the dark. No big elephant in the room about his job. Ajax was living in a universe that Childe's subconsciously been yearning for years.
And this family isn't his. Does he love his current family any less? No, but seeing this version of them, this version of what he could have had...
"Hey," a soft voice calls out to him, reeling him back from his thoughts. Lumine looks at him with concerned eyes. "You look a little lost." She gently places her hand over his. She may think it's nothing, but to Childe, this gesture was enough to anchor him back down.
At least this Lumine's his.
He still has her here.
"A little," he agrees. "But not anymore," he stares at the stars, a gentle squeeze of his hand.
She squeezes back.
"That's good," Lumine hums, gazing along with him. "Can't have you think too hard now," she says light-heartedly.
"I have a brain too y'know." Childe pouts at her but finds his lips quirk along with hers.
"A head filled with nothing but battles and 'conquering the world'." She air quotes.
"Hey, I told you that in confidant!" Childe dramatically gasps. "And I have you know, my head is more than just battles!"
"Oh?" Lumine's eyes crinkle, twinkling with amusement. "And what else is in that head of yours Mr. Harbinger?"
You, it was the first thing that popped in his mind and almost said out loud. But he refrains and clears his throat slightly. "Oh y'know, Harbinger things. Collecting debt, all that boring stuff," he waves his hands. Childe hears Lumine let out a cute little snort and rolls her eyes at him, muttering how predictable he is.
She doesn’t notice the soft gaze he throws at her. And he’s fine with her not knowing.
Just for this moment.
Ajax approaches him one night, just a day prior before the gateway back to their universe is supposed to open back up, while Lumine and the kids are having fun and the two 'brothers' idly watch from the sidelines, fond eyes on the little blonde traveler they're attached to. "She's good with kids," Ajax remarks and Childe nods in agreement.
"You should have seen her with my Teucer! I swear he loves her more than he loves me, and it was just one encounter! We had our differences in the past but," His eyes soften, pride written on his face. "I'm glad he was in her hands."
"You have a lot of trust in her for someone who's supposedly against your side." Then more quietly, "But I guess with her, it's just become easier huh?" Ajax says, watching Lumine fall over in the snow when the kids all wrapped their tiny arms around her.
Childe doesn’t respond, a silent agreement. Because really when it came down to Lumine, things were just so much easier. Breathing, living, laughing, smiling.
What was his life before Lumine? That excitement, the adrenaline rush, the eagerness to wake up and see a familiar blonde traveler. He wouldn’t be able to have all that if Childe had never met her.
Kinda feels like fate.
"I'm envious of you, actually," Ajax speaks up, gaining Childe's surprised expression. "You're everything I wish I was: strong, confident, bold. As infamous as you are in your universe, I can't imagine how thrilling it feels to be in combat." He sheepishly smiles. "I can barely defend myself! But also, your relationship with Lumine... is strong, I can see it." He adds, sighing slightly. "Did you know she called me by your name when we first met?"
"Well, you are me in a sense."
"Haha, I suppose. But even then, she kept telling me about this 'Childe'." Lumine talked about him? Oh, he's gotta get more information on that.
"I bet she was probably trying to paint me as a bad guy," Childe lightly jokes.
"Kinda!" Ajax chirps. "But she always told these stories of you like heroic tales. Like the stories my father used to read,"
Like a hero huh? He was anything but one.
But the thought of Lumine depicting him like that after everything he's put her through since their first meeting... warms his heart.
"Y'know?" Childe speaks up. "There are parts of your universe I wish I had in mine," And a little part of him still does whenever he thinks about Ajax’s family. But then he looks over at where Lumine was again, a bright smile on her face and rosy cheeks, letting out the most melodic laugh he's ever heard.
His eyes still trained on Lumine, he mutters, "But I wouldn't trade anything in the world for what I have right now."
Ajax follows his gaze and his eyes soften in understanding. “I’m glad that you have someone to hold tight onto.” He says quietly, and the two fall into silence, snow lightly falling to the ground.
The day finally arrives and the rift is indeed there from where Lumine and Childe first appeared. They almost tearfully leave Ajax’s family, finding it hard to even promise them to visit them again next time—if there ever will be one. Ajax's with them to say his final goodbyes.
"Welp! I say this is an experience I'm never going to forget. Say, do you think time changed while we were gone?" Childe asks.
"Erk... I hope not..." Lumine grimaces before turning towards Ajax with a gentle smile. "Thank you again, Ajax for housing us for the time being. You've been a great help to us both."
Ajax bashfully ducks his head and blushes, waving her off. "It's nothing! I hope... I hope even after all this, you don't forget me," He says softly, a little forlorn.
Lumine gently grabs his hand in hers and stares him in the eyes with a smile to match. "Never," she whispers, wrapping her arms around him, bringing him in for a hug. "I could never,"
Ajax wraps his arms around her tightly, it's almost like a bear hug that Lumine melts into. Until a loud cough interrupts their time together. "Not to cut this touching morning short or anything," Childe clears his throat, a hint of jealousy across his face. "But we do have another universe to get back to. One that has me, the 11th Harbinger in it."
Ajax lightly laughs and Lumine rolls her eyes. "You're just jealous because I think Ajax's hugs are better," Lumine jests.
Childe loudly gasps, mock offended. "How would you know that! You haven't even hugged me girlie," he pouts. "Don't you think the comparison's a little unfair?"
"No," Lumine deadpans. "You have too many sharp bits on your outfit and I'm not willing to explain why I have a weird dent on my forehead."
"Well, let's not keep you here any longer!" Ajax breaks in, Childe muttering to himself in the background 'Bet you want to though...'
"Safe travels myshka," he warmly says before leaning in closer to her face. And presses a kiss on her cheek. It was chaste, light, and sweet, but it still brought out strong reactions from both Childe and Lumine.
Lumine's surprised, flustered and red dusting her cheeks.
Childe's surprised, bewildered even that his alternative self was bold enough to do that in front of him.
He is innocently smiling.
"If you ever find yourself back here. Just know our doors are always open to welcome you back myshka—"
"OK, I THINK WE SHOULD LEAVE NOW," Childe exclaims, lifting Lumine up and carefully throwing her over his shoulder.
"WAH—! C-CHILDE! LET ME DOWN!" Lumine yelps, trying to twist and wiggle her body out of the Harbinger's grasp to no avail.
Ajax only huffs in amusement at the two's bickering. He cups his hands around his mouth, "Childe!" To which the other man pauses and looks over his shoulder. "Cherish her," for the both of us, he simply says, smiling.
Childe's silent for a few seconds before grinning back. "Oh, don't you worry, I will." And with that, he salutes his alternative self, leaping through the vortex and disappearing together with Lumine. Snezhnaya weather is cold, but Ajax leaves a little warmer, lighter even knowing Lumine will be well-loved.
Though a hole appears in his chest, vacant where the blonde traveler once resided. He wonders... if there's an alternative version of himself, is there one of her?
"One day, I'll find her. My myshka..." Ajax mumbles to himself, trudging through the snow.
He packs for another business trip, promising to write to his family and send gifts to them while in another nation.
Liyue's familiar warmth makes him sweat underneath his layers. It’s supposed to be the Rite of Descension today as well. Ajax doesn't get into the ritual, he saw it last year and he's got toys to sell.
There’s a crash followed by a loud commotion coming from the Yujing Terrace, Millieth soldiers all start filing up the stairs, inspecting and patrolling the area.
What's going on?
Suddenly, he’s reminded of how Lumine first met Childe in the first place. Rite of Descension, a growing commotion, Millieth soldiers surrounding both stairwells. It feels like deja vu, but a scenario he’s never gone through. Curious, Ajax heads up the stairs to try to get a peak. And what he saw instead was a bunch of soldiers surrounding someone.
Someone familiar, of blonde hair and golden eyes.
His breath hitches and his heart starts racing at the very sight of the woman. But this scenario… how can he save her? He’s not Childe who can fight his way through anything/
But he was a toy seller and a good salesman.
"Ah! There you are!" Ajax calls out, gaining confused expressions from both the Millieth and the woman. Once close, Ajax whispers a low 'Play along with me and trust me ok?' towards her before turning towards the Millieth with a friendly smile.
It took some convincing and lots of persuasion to convince the Millieth but he manages to get them off her tail for a bit. After he manages to dissuade the situation, they're finally alone. Ajax gets a good look at her and his breath is stolen from him.
She looks like an almost carbon copy of Lumine. A soft, but strong expression. Kind, yet fierce eyes. Perhaps the only difference was the length of her hair, slightly longer than Lumine’s short cut, but still just as pretty as his first love.
"Um, thank you but... who are you?" The pretty woman asks warily.
Ajax simply smiles and offers his hand. "I'm Ajax, and I'm just a toy seller, truthfully!"
"And does a toy seller normally save strangers?" A little twinkle of amusement in her eyes.
Ah, how beautiful.
"Just this one," he winks at her, smiling when she giggles a little.
“Well then Ajax, it’s an honor to meet this specific toyseller.” The woman takes his hand, gently squeezes, and looks up at him with a small smile. “I’m Ying. Thank you for saving me.”
“Ying…” He softly mutters out her name, testing it. “Sounds beautiful.” And Ajax chest blossoms, watching Ying react the same way the first time he said that to Lumine’s name.
Childe has his Lumine.
Ajax knows he has found his.
Their universes weren't so different after all.