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Dandelion Breeze

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Once upon a time, there was a kingdom formed by the Anemo Archon Barbatos in the land called Teyvat. This kingdom was called the Kingdom of Freedom, Mondstadt.

Though the kingdom is prosperous and happy, it wasn't always. A long time ago, the aristocrats let their selfishness and greed get the better of them and sent the kingdom into a state of oppression.

At least, this went on until the great hero of Mondstadt's history, Vanessa, stepped in and brought down the oppressors, taking rule of Mondstadt. Her descendants, the red-haired Ragnvindrs, still lead the kingdom today.

Vanessa's greatest allies spread out throughout the land and are still seen today through their descended families. One of those is the Gunnhildr family.

The Gunnhildr family head, Fredrica Gunnhildr, was famed throughout Mondstadt. One day, she met her husband, Seamus Page, and the two eventually gave birth to a pair of daughters.

Their youngest daughter, Barbara Gunnhildr, was known for her gentility and her desire to spread happiness as far as she could. She was a wonderful singer, and would dance along to whatever song came from her mouth.

But her older sister Jean was also widely adored. Jean Gunnhildr took after their mother in every way possible, while Barbara took after their father.

Jean was brave, adventurous, compassionate and caring, and wanted to protect others. However, that didn't mean she and Barbara were extremely different. Rather, they were very much alike, including their singing voices, and got along famously.

Both were gentle, kind, and beautiful. The family was wealthy and prosperous, but the most precious things of all to Fredrica and Seamus were their daughters.

One could say they were all connected through their voices and songs.

“Moonbeams and starlight... Magical twilight... The warmest rain. Hear it whispering your name...” Fredrica sang a lullaby to the girls one night.

“Rainbows at midnight... Sparkling night sky... Don't go away, stay another day.”

“Hey Mother, could you please sing our favorite lullaby to us again? Not that one, the other one.” Barbara asked, still awake.

Fredrica laughed softly. “Time for bed now.”

“Pretty please!”

Seeing Jean had joined the beg, she accepted. “Fine.”

With that, she began the song:

“Where the north wind meets the sea

“There's a river full of memory

“Sleep my darling, safe and sound

“For in this river, all is found

“In her waters, deep and true

“Lie the answers and a path for you

“Dive down deep into her sound

“But not too far or you'll be drowned.”

She smiled as she watched the girls drifting off.

“Yes, she will sing to those who'll hear

“And in her song, all magic flows

“But can you brave what you most fear?

“Can you face what the river knows?

“Where the north wind meets the sea

“There's a mother full of memory

“Come, my darling, homeward bound

“When all is lost, then all is found.”

This song was a song the girls treasured dearly. It came as no surprise when Jean one day woke up bearing an Anemo Vision, they were even more overjoyed. A Vision was something that many desired but few ever received.

However, it was not meant to last.

Jean was age 15 and Barbara age 11 when Fredrica contracted a rare and fatal illness. Despite the efforts of the doctors and nurses, they could not cure her.

Fredrica knew she didn't have much time left. Nonetheless, she spent her last moments with her family. When the time came, Barbara and Jean were at her sides.

“Mother?” Young Jean asked, saddened to see her mother in such a state.

Fredrica forced a weak smile. “Ah. Jean. Barbara too.”

Barbara sniffed. “M-Mother...!”

Fredrica gestured them to come closer. “...Don't be sad, little dears. We all knew this was coming.”

“Doesn't make it easier.” Jean insisted, sitting on the left of her mother while her sister sat on the right.

“Yeah! I wish you didn't have to leave us so early...” Barbara sniffed again.

Fredrica still smiled and laid her hands on her daughters'. “I know. But you shouldn't let me take your wills to live with you. You have wonderful lives to live, still. Never forget that.”

“Before I go, I must tell you.” The girls paid attention.

“I left the fortune for Jean on the day she turns 19. Though normally it's only inherited after marriage, I don't want to restrict freedom. More than anything, I want to ensure your happiness.”

“But even then, remember: Be yourselves. Be kind and loving, and someone out there will love you unconditionally. Never let anyone change who you are.”

Jean couldn't stop shaking. “It's a promise, Mother.”

Barbara, trying to stop her quivering, spoke. “Mother? Can I sing the lullaby for you?”

“Of course, little darling.”

With that, Barbara began singing their song.

“Where the north wind meets the sea, there's a river full of memory. Sleep my darling, safe and sound, for in this river, all is found.”

“In her waters, deep and true, lie the answers and a path for you. Dive down deep into her sound, but not too far or you'll be drowned.”

Seeing this was becoming difficult for Barbara, Jean joined in.

“Yes, she will sing to those who'll hear, and in her song, all magic flows. But can you brave what you most fear? Can you face what the river knows?”

“Where the north wind meets the sea, there's a mother full of memory. Come, my darling, homeward bound. When all is lost, then all is found.”

Fredrica laughed softly at the familiar tune. “To think that the first time I heard you two sing that together... Would be for me. Thank you both.”

Suddenly, a blue light condensed into Barbara's hands. She lifted them to find a round object forming in her palms.

A Hydro Vision.

“A Vision? But why doesn't it resemble Big Sister's?” Barbara asked innocently.

Fredrica was beaming at this. “A Hydro Vision... No wonder you and your sister swirl so well. I'm so proud of you both... I love you two...”

With that, she released her last breath. The girls knew this, and spent some time crying, grieving for her loss.

Though the loss was heavy, the girls remembered their pledge and never changed who they were. They stayed kind, strong, and gentle.

Even then, Seamus knew they missed Fredrica. One day, he came home with a guest: A woman whom the girls didn't recognize.

“Father? Who is this?” Jean asked curiously.

He smiled. “Girls. This is Johanna. These are her daughters, Irma and Monika.”

The two daughters her slightly younger than Jean but older than Barbara.

Barbara smiled warmly at them. “Hi there!”

“Oh, how charming. Your daughters are adorable, Seamus.”

“Thank you. This is my eldest daughter Jean, and my younger daughter Barbara.”

Later that night, Jean approached her father with a pressing matter. “Father? Are you... Remarrying her?”

He turned to see something akin to conflict in her eyes. “Oh? What makes you think that?”

Barbara was also conflicted. “Well, we saw the way you interacted with her is all.”

Seamus sighed. The girls had inherited their mother's perceptiveness. “Yes, I am. It's not that I don't care about your mother anymore, girls. But I'm not doing this for me. I'm doing this for you.”

“For us?” Barbara asked curiously.

“I just feel like you need to grow up with a mother's love. Though I know nothing can replace Mother, a stepmother would not be so dissimilar.” He told her.

Jean and Barbara both smiled. “I understand! We'll make sure we can all be one big happy family!” Jean promised.

“Yeah! After all, Mother wanted us to be kind to people!” Barbara added.

Seamus hugged the girls. “That's my daughters!”

At first, the family was quite happy and lively. The two sisters made sure their new stepfamily felt at home.

“Barbara, Jean? Have you finished with the dishes just yet?” Johanna asked.

Jean grinned from her side of the kitchen, cooking dinner at the stove. “Just a moment! Barbara's handling it, and I've got dinner almost ready!”

Barbara nodded from the plate she had been washing. “Yep! It's a secret recipe from Mother and Father, you'll love it!”

“Excellent! I cannot wait to try it.” She chuckled when arguing was heard in the other room.

“Uhhh... Is that Irma and Monika?” Jean asked.

Johanna laughed. “Yes, it is. Fighting is just their way of showing each other they care.”

Barbara frowned. “I thought there were better ways of showing love. I guess it's different for everyone...”

However, this was not meant to last either.

Barbara was age 13 and was out in the gardens with her father when Seamus suffered a heart attack on the spot. Barbara, in her panic, managed to get him to the hospital.

But sadly, the damage had already been done. Seamus couldn't be saved. Nonetheless, like Fredrica, he spent his last moments with his daughters and family, asking the stepfamily to take care of them.

Barbara felt extremely guilty when she and Jean saw him. “Father... I'm so sorry!”

He took her hand. “Don't be, little star. These things happen.”

Even Jean was about to start crying her eyes out. “But Father... This means you have to join Mother now, right?”

“I know... But don't blame yourselves, ever. This is not your fault. Remember your promise. Besides, your stepfamily will be taking care of you.”

“...At least say hi to Mother for us, Father?” Barbara asked.

He smiled. “I will. But even then, I'll tell you something your grandparents told me. Though those of us who leave cannot interact with you, we are still here, watching from the stars above, always guiding those they shine down on, their loved ones.”

“...From the stars?” Jean repeated. “But that's so far away.”

“True. But just because you cannot see it up close or interact with it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Like faith, it's as real as a first evening star. You can't touch it or buy it or wrap it up tight, but it's there just the same, making things turn out right.”

Though they were still in tears, sobbing into his gentle touch, the girls smiled at the strong words nonetheless. Yet another pledge and quotation they never forgot.

That was when Johanna walked over with her daughters to join them. “I'm sorry for this, Seamus. What should we do about the family fortune?”

“Have no worries. Jean has claims to that already.” He answered.

Irma seemed surprised. “She does?”

“Yes. Her mother left it for her when she turns 19 years old. It will be safe in the meantime.”

Seeing her stepsisters gawking at her, Jean blushed slightly.

When it became apparent that his last breaths were coming, the girls held onto him once more. “Father... Let us at least sing for you one more time?”

He smiled at Jean's request and the girls sang their lullaby to him as a duet.

“Where the north wind meets the sea, there's a river full of memory. Sleep my darling, safe and sound, for in this river, all is found.”

“In her waters, deep and true, lie the answers and a path for you. Dive down deep into her sound, but not too far or you'll be drowned.”

“Yes, she will sing to those who'll hear, and in her song, all magic flows. But can you brave what you most fear? Can you face what the river knows?”

“Where the north wind meets the sea, there's a mother full of memory. Come, my darling, homeward bound. When all is lost, then all is found.”

When the girls felt his grip on their hands loosen, they knew he had gone at the end of the song.

The funeral was a difficult affair for them, especially when they saw their beloved father getting buried alongside their mother. It made them wonder how long he had been waiting to see her again.

But it was after the event that things took a difficult turn.

Without Seamus there to ensure the girls' protection, their stepmother and stepsisters revealed their true, selfish nature:

They became cruel, cold, and jealous of their charm and beauty. Determined to get the better of them in any way possible, the stepfamily used the death of Seamus to their advantage.

When Johanna had learned that she had no claim to the family fortune until Jean, who the stepfamily envied and hated the most out of the two girls, she grew vengeful towards this.

Before long, she allowed her own daughters to spoil themselves as much as possible, causing the fortune to dwindle to nothing. Soon, the last assistant was dismissed from the household, and the property fell into disrepair.

As for Jean and Barbara, they had to put up with their stepfamily's own cruelty.

Once, when Barbara was bringing a meal to her stepsisters...

Monika took one scoop from the bowl and twisted her expression into disgust. “Ew! What is this stuff you're making me eat?!”

“It's... Porridge?” Barbara asked, frowning. Hasn't she ever had porridge before?

Monika's disgust turned to anger. “Keep it away from me, you pervert!” In a fit, she knocked the tray and bowl out of her hands to the ground, spilling the dish.

Jean heard the commotion and put down the dishes she was washing to investigate. She arrived to see Monika slapping and beating her younger sister.

“You can't even make decent food?! What's wrong with you?!”

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Please don't hit me! Stop it, nooooo!”

Jean's older sister instincts got the better of her and she ran forward, grabbing Monika's forearm just as she pulled back to deliver another blow.

“Hey! Don't hit my sister!”

“Let go of me!”

Barbara scrambled back as Jean yanked Monika off her. That was when Johanna came in. “Girls! What on earth are you doing, fighting like children?!”

“It's her fault, Mother. She was making me eat this... Dirt!” Monika pointed at Barbara, who was rubbing her injuries.

Jean ran over to examine Barbara, letting go of Monika.

Johanna turned to the two Gunnhildr girls. “And you. What right have you got to attack my daughter?”

“With all due respect, Stepmother. She's the one who started it, she attacked my sister. I was just acting in Barbara's defense.” Jean argued defensively.

“Also, it's partially your fault for making me do dish and Barbara do cooking. She's much younger than me, she doesn't know how to cook well yet. If you would let me teach her, this wouldn't happen.”

Barbara joined in. “Besides, even if I did cook well, she'd still fight me! It's porridge, it's supposed to be thick!”

Johanna's frown deepened so much the girls thought her skull would pop out of her skin. She turned to Monika and simply told her, “Self control, Monika.”

But then she glared at the girls. “Both of you, shut your mouths and clean up this mess! And finish getting breakfast served! Jean, I expect you to work on your own self-discipline, and teach your sister to at least make decent food!”

“Y-yes, Stepmother.” Jean submitted, even though she knew it was not their fault.

The girls' charm and kindness wasn't the only reason they were jealous and harsh towards them. Johanna was irritated that Seamus's daughters who had no relation to her had Visions while her own daughters did not.

“Oh dear, it looks like we ran out of water for the laundry.” Barbara realized once.

Jean gave a smile to her sister. “Not a problem! We can just fetch some more from the nearby well.”

Irma frowned from her chair on the patio. “What's the point of making that trip? You can just make more with your Vision, right Barbara?”

Barbara glanced at her. “But the well is only a little ways away from here. It's a short walk from there and back.”

Monika groaned. “Oh come on! What's the use of that stupid stone if you don't use it?”

It took all of Jean's willpower not to sigh before heading out to fetch water from the well. When she got back, Barbara was doing her best to ignore her stepsisters' mocks.

Annoyed at her sister getting picked on, Jean approached and spoke. “That's enough, Irma. Leave Barbara out of this.”

She knew Barbara was too compassionate and empathetic for her own good. But that was also what she loved about her.

As they finished washing the laundry and hanging it up, Monika spoke again. “Hey Jean, maybe use your Vision to make the clothes dry faster? By afternoon, preferably.”

She turned. “But, it'll be dry by afternoon by itself. Why-”

“I want it dry faster!” She complained like a spoiled child.

Barbara frowned. “Uhm, for your information, it's not the wind that makes clothes dry faster. It's primarily the sunlight.”

“Do I look like I need science facts from you, Maid?!” Monika growled.

Jean grasped Barbara's hand. “She's not a maid. You're the one making us do chores all the time. Given we're sisters, don't you think it'd be a little fairer if we all shared the labor?”

Irma frowned. “Sister? Mother, do I have sisters that have wild and unruly blonde hair and ugly blue eyes?”

Johanna dropped in as Irma said that. “No, but I do recall you having dirty servants just like that.”

Both of them felt hurt at their stepmother's words.

The two had to make the attic their bedroom due to their stepsisters getting claims at their room. They had to put up with their stepfamily's abuse since the death of their father.

But still, they remembered the pact they made all those years ago, and didn't give up their kindness. Every night, they would look out to the stars that their father promised let their parents watch over them and tell of the events of the day.

It made conversation a little one-sided, but at least no one could respond back.

Whenever the life they put up with became too much to bear, they would sing their lullaby to each other. They sang it so often they knew it by heart.

“Why do you think Mother left us this lullaby, Sister?” Barbara wondered.

Jean sighed. “I wondered that once, too. So I asked her that once. She merely told me that she hoped it would one day let a wonderful life find us, like we're in the river of memories described in the song. Why do you think she told us there will be someone out there to accept us as we are?”

Barbara giggled softly from her bed. “I suppose you're right. After all, Father always said a little faith can go a long way.”

With a sigh, they drifted off to sleep that night.

It wasn't entirely hopeless for them however. One day, a flash of light, a spark of hope, ignited in their little world of suffering.

For starters, even though they were always too busy to go out and make friends, they made friends with animals. At first it made conversation rather one-sided, but after some time they found they could somehow understand what the critters said.

The ones who taught the girls this were their three pixie friends: Paimon, Lumine, and Aether.

How they met was a complicated story. One day, Monika had discovered a wasp nest hanging off the building and wanted them to get rid of it.

“Can you reach it, Sis?” Jean asked, Barbara sitting on her shoulders.

Barbara reached as high as she could. “A little more!”

Jean lifted her effortlessly as high as she could go. “How about now?”

Barbara was able to touch the nest now. “Yeah!”

Buzzing was heard as the wasps flew out, confused at the intrusion. “Ah! Sorry, it's just... Our stepsisters asked us to get rid of your nest. I just hope you can forgive us!” Barbara begged.

Jean frowned up at her. “Are you talking to the wasps?”

“Maybe just a little bit.”

That was when Barbara noticed something in the hive. “Huh?”

A high-pitched voice suddenly rang out. “Hey!”

Barbara gasped and fell backwards as three small creatures flew out of the hive, sending both her and Jean to the floor with a crash.

A small blonde boy with a long golden braid glared at a small girl in white with shoulder-length white hair. “Paimon!”

Then another blonde, this one a girl with tiny flowers in her hair, flew down to meet the girls. “Visitors! We've never had visitors before!”

Jean's eyes widened at the sight of the tiny flying humans. “Is it just me, or are their feet not touching the ground?”

Barbara's eyes widened. “They're... Pixies!”

The wasps got ready to attack, when the male blonde stopped them. “Hey, hold on a sec!”

The blonde girl flew down and tried to help the girls to their feet, her tiny hands pulling on Jean's own.

Even though it wasn't much help, they managed to get on their feet. Barbara was amazed.

“I didn't know pixies lived with wasps! This is so unusual.”

“Well, not all of them. Just us.” The male told her. “Sorry about that. My name is Aether, these are my sisters Lumine and Paimon.”

“It's a pleasure!” Lumine greeted. “Sorry about Paimon.”

The white pixie shook her head. “Sorry, they were touching the nest!”

“Hi there!” Barbara greeted. “I'm Barbara, this is my Big Sister, Jean!”

Jean laughed in embarrassment. “Sorry about the greeting. Our stepsisters asked us to remove your nest, saying it was a bother.”

The wasps all looked conflicted.

Aether seemed shocked. “A bother? S-sorry about that. It's just hard to convince the wasps to leave. They're practically our family, so it's hard to say no.”

“Your family?” Barbara asked.

Paimon nodded. “Yep yep! Our parents died when we were very young, so we were taken in by the wasp nest!”

Jean sighed. “Oh, I see... I understand how that feels.”

Lumine's eyes grew wide. “Please don't get rid of the nest, it's our home!”

“I wish we could say no, but... Not only would my sister and I get a beating for it, but Stepmother might try handling it herself. I honestly don't think you want her to deal with your nest herself.” Jean explained.

“But we can't get rid of their home, either!” Barabara pointed out. “What if we just move it somewhere else? Like... the roof of our attic bedroom! They won't bother us, right?”

“Not at all! Quite the opposite, actually!” Lumine promised, and the hive agreed with her.

So they carefully moved the hive upstairs without their family seeing it. Since then, the pixies had been best friends with the girls and kept them company since.

The wasps and pixies weren't the only critters to befriend them. Many, many animals, including the ones in the stables, would become their only friends.

The one animal that the girls couldn't befriend was Lucifer, Johanna's cat who was just as spoiled as the stepsisters.

One day though, Barbara and Jean got a rare time off and Barbara immediately dragged Jean outside. Jean was 18 at the time while Barbara was 14

“Sis, where are we going?!” Jean asked, trying to keep up with her sister.

“It's a surprise! The pixies discovered it not far from the house!” Barbara told her, pulling Jean by the hand.

The pixies fluttered at their sides along with several birds, butterflies and other critters, with some deer skipping alongside them.

When they finally stop, they realize that down the hillside not far from their home was a large field of colorful flowers. “Oh, wow!” Jean gasped.

Paimon twirled in excitement in the air. “Ta-da!”

Barbara couldn't stand still. “Jean! Wanna go down and weave flower wreaths like we did as children?”

“Of course, how could I forget? Might as well make the most of our time while our stepfamily's away, right?” Jean laughed before breaking into a sprint. “Race you there!”

“Hey! You can't do that!” Aether shouted as they broke into a run.

When they made it to the middle of the field, Jean and Barbara began weaving flower wreaths from the blossoms.

“Ah, it's been ages since we were last able to do this! The memories!” Jean sighed.

“I know! I missed these flowers.” Barbara sighed as a deer handed her a poppy.

Lumine flew over with some white flowers in her hands. “Hey Jean! What kind of flowers are these?”

Jean took one and breathed it's scent, smiling. “A cecilia. They normally tend to grow in places with high winds. Father and Mother's favorite flower.”

Barbara nodded when Aether suddenly flinched, making Barbara look at him with confusion. “What's the matter, Aether?”

Aether tensed. “Do you guys hear that?”

Everyone stopped and listened intently. After a moment, they realized what he heard.

A voice upon the wind drift toward them, humming a familiar and gentle tune that Jean sang the lyrics of in her head.

“Where the north wind meets the sea, there's a river full of memories.”

Paimon blinked. “A singing voice... It sounds like a guy! Is someone in this area?!”

Barbara stood. “Let's go find out.”

Lumine fluttered forward. “We'll go see! Come on, Aether! Paimon, let's go!”

The pixies flew ahead with the woodland critters, Jean and Barbara walking behind while listening to the gentle voice.

Lumine, Aether and Paimon traced it to the woods on the hill at the other side of the field. They weaved their way through the greens until Lumine suddenly called out.

“Help! Aether!”

He turned around. “Lumine!”

Paimon and Aether flew to see what happened. Lumine had somehow gotten herself tangled in a tree's thick, loose, long vines and leaves and couldn't get herself free.

She struggled to untangle her wings. “Uh, a little help?”

Aether gestured to his other sister. “Come on, Paimon! Gimme a hand!”

“Uhh, right!”

The two tried to get their sister free, but the vines were shockingly thick. Lumine suddenly gasped.

“Hurry!”

“I'm trying! What's got you worked up, Sis?” Aether asked, noticing her panic.

Lumine couldn't calm down. “Because of that!” She pointed behind her, making her siblings look up.

They also panicked. A large snake was coming right at them!

The snake hissed, seeming ready to strike as it climbed a lower branch to get to them. In their panic, Aether and Paimon desperately tried to untangle Lumine to no avail.

Suddenly, a gloved hand came and scooped up the python before it could take action, causing the pixies to look up as a familiar voice spoke.

“Whoa, hey!”

They realized that the voice was the same as the one that had been singing the lullaby.

The young man gently held the snake in his hand as it coiled around his arm out of reflex. He didn't seem to mind though, and was smiling gently at it.

There was a hint of laughter in his voice as he spoke to it. “Haha, don't you think that's a bit overkill, eating innocent pixies like that?”

The snake seemed perplexed... And seemed to be talking back!

All three pixies were shocked. The only people they knew to do that was Jean and Barbara!

Jean and Barbara arrived as well and ducked into the shrubs to watch the scene unfold. They stared at the young man in awe and intrigue... With a hint of fear. After all, they had never interacted with someone outside their household or the shopkeepers in town in a very long time.

The young man was surprisingly gentle with the predator and kept speaking to it. “Come on, surely there's something else you can eat around here besides pixies, right?”

The snake hissed in question. “What do you mean, how am I talking to you? It's... Honestly not the first time I've spoken to animals.”

When the snake hissed again, he reciprocated its confusion. “Actually, I'm not sure if predators are the only creatures I can understand.”

Paimon finally spoke from her spot by Lumine and Aether. “Is he talking... To the snake?”

To further confusion and surprise, he talked the snake into finding some other prey and released it into some nearby bushes, where it slithered away, before he turned to the pixies.

“Hey there, what happened to you?” He chuckled softly, bending down to get a better view of them.

Instead of letting them answer, he reached in and carefully unwound the vines tangling Lumine. “Here, I'll get you loose.”

After a moment, Lumine sat down in his hand and he lifted her out of the mess of vines. Smiling, he let Lumine fly back upwards again to join her sister and brother.

“Phew, thanks. Any longer and I would've been snake food.” She said, performing a bow.

“Not a problem!” He told her before distressed chirping made him turn.

With a gasp, his crimson eyes widened and he rushed to the source of the sound: A small baby bird on the ground. Bending down, he scooped the chick into his hand gently.

Jean's eyes widened. She had never seen anyone besides herself and Barbara be so gentle in ages! Not since her mother and father were still alive.

He stood up with the bird sitting in his palm, peering at it with a gaze gentler than his touch. “Are you alright?”

Another bird chirping turned his eyes upward to see an adult bird and two identical chicks in a nest above. “I see. Fell out of the nest, huh? Thankfully, you seem unharmed.” He told the chick, who continued its distressed chirps as though it was crying.

Seeing this, he gently stroked the bird with his free hand and held it close, rocking it slightly. His eyes closed, he sang the tune again.

“Where the north wind meets the sea, there's a river full of memory. Sleep my darling, safe and sound, for in this river, all is found.”

“In her waters, deep and true, lie the answers and a path for you. Dive down deep into her sound, but not too far or you'll be drowned.”

“Yes, she will sing to those who'll hear, and in her song, all magic flows. But can you brave what you most fear? Can you face what the river knows?”

“Where the north wind meets the sea, there's a mother full of memory. Come, my darling, homeward bound. When all is lost, then all is found.”

The girls were stunned. Barbara whispered softly, “Our lullaby...?”

When he was done, the bird had calmed down, and the young man carefully climbed up the tree and placed the bird back in its nest before climbing back down.

The group decided to leave before he saw them, but Jean suddenly stepped on a twig behind her, getting his attention.

SNAP.

He turned towards the sound. “Who's there?”

Seeing they were busted, Jean instantly jumped out of her hiding place, followed by Barbara. “Oh, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to eavesdrop!”

When he saw who it was, he sighed in relief. “It's fine.”

Now that they were no longer hiding, Jean could get a better look at his appearance. He had pale skin and had ruby-red eyes and ruby-red hair, tied back in a low ponytail extending to his mid-back.

He was wearing a black dress shirt, a long white vest, and a black ascot with a red gem. He wore a dark brown- almost black- coat over his outfit with fluffy trimming. He wore black pants embellished with chains on his right thigh.

A red Pyro Vision hung from his belt, and he wore cuffed boots the color of his coat. Beneath the cuffed sleeves of his coat, he was wearing red and black gloves. He looked to be just around her age.

His gaze was curious. “After managing to steer clear of my maid, I never anticipated I would run into commoners instead.” He said, breaking the silence.

Jean choked on her words. “I- Sorry, I-”

He stayed quiet, patiently waiting for her to find her voice.

“I'm sorry, it's just... It's been a long time since we've interacted with anyone other than a shopkeeper or someone from our household.”

“I see.” He seemed understanding, though Jean was hesitant still. “I'm surprised anyone would be hanging in this area other than myself. How did you manage to find me all the way out here?”

Barbara blushed. “We... We heard your voice.”

“...My voice?” He repeated curiously.

Jean nodded. “Yes. We heard you singing that familiar song. Since nobody hardly ever comes to this part of Windrise, we got curious and followed it.”

“Oh. Well, I can see how you might have heard it.” He grinned, pointing to the Anemo Vision she was wearing on her own belt.

Jean returned the smile out of politeness. “I see you have a Vision too. I've never met anyone with a Pyro Vision before.”

Barbara finally met his gaze. “So, what are you doing out here?”

The person's gaze looked around their surroundings. “When I feel the pressures of my home life weighing me down, I like to sneak away and come here. The relaxing surroundings and sweet scents tend to calm my nerves.”

“Oh, so you like the outdoors too?” Jean asked, surprised. “Haha, it's the same for us. The only friends we have are the pixies and animals.”

His expression was a warm smile. “Yes, the atmosphere at my home is, for the most part, extremely suffocating.”

Feeling a little more confident, Jean continued. “Hah. I can understand that, this is one of our rare days off. Our stepmother and stepsisters are always keeping us busy.”

“Stepfamily? Interesting.” The young man acknowledged. “Anyways. Diluc, of Mondstadt. That's my name.”

Jean smiled back. “I'm Jean, and this is my sister, Barbara.”

“Hi there!” Barbara waved cheerfully before turning to the pixies. “This is Aether, Paimon, and Lumine. They're our friends!”

Aether grinned. “Thanks for helping my sister! We certainly weren't expecting to see anyone else out here.”

“Neither was I, for that matter. What are all of you doing out here?” Diluc then asked.

“We were just hanging out in the nearby flower field. It's something Barbara and I used to do as kids, though nowadays we're just too busy.” Jean answered.

Barbara nodded. “Yes, our parents passed away years ago, and we live with our stepmother and stepsisters now. But they're so... Entitled!”

“Entitled? Ugh... I've heard of those kinds of people.” He sighed.

Paimon huffed. “Hmph. Entitled is an understatement! They make Jean and Barbara do all the housework while they use up the money to spoil themselves!”

Jean sighed. “Yeah... The inheritance that Mother left me is long gone, it seems. To this day, I've never understood the reason for such raging envy towards us. Especially since I'd be inheriting it when I turn 19 at my next birthday.”

“Oh? So you're 18 years old?” Diluc deducted.

“Yes. Barbara is 14, she's several years younger than me.”

Barbara nodded. “We live in Windrise, and our parents were Seamus and Fredrica Gunnhildr. Of the Gunnhildr family?”

“Ah, I've heard of them. Though I've never been allowed to look into the current situation of other noble families.” Diluc commented thoughtfully.

Paimon's eyes widened. “So you're a fancy noble too? That certainly explains the expensive clothes!”

Diluc rolled his eyes. “Please don't fuss over it. It... Makes me uncomfortable.”

Jean laughed. “Oh, trust me. Anyway, would you... Like to join us? It's been a while since we had a guest.”

“Oh, thank you. Where exactly are we going?” Diluc agreed.

Jean winked. “I've always wanted to try this... Barbara, do you have our wind gliders?”

“Oh, yes!” She said, seeming to know precisely what her sister had in mind. She took a pair of wind gliders out of her bag.

Diluc seemed surprised. “Oh, you're adept with wind gliders?”

“Ah, not exactly since we haven't practiced. But we always wanted to try!” Barbara answered.

Diluc walked a little closer to them. “I myself am plenty adept with one. What say I lend you a hand? It's easy.”

Jean grinned. “That'd be wonderful, thank you!” With that, she used her Vision to create a wind current.

Diluc grasped Jean's hand and took Barbara's in the other. “Ready?”

After a few breaths, Jean nodded and all three jumped into the current and opened their gliders.

Jean couldn't stop laughing as they soared upward and then down towards the middle of the field. Barbara's eyes sparkled as she took in the view.

“Oh, wow! The flowers look like a rainbow of colors!” Barbara gasped.

Jean's smile was big. “This is amazing! Am... Am I doing it right?”

Seeing her eyes on him, Diluc laughed. “Trust me, you're doing perfectly. Honestly, most beginners aren't this good.”

They all shared a laugh as they landed on the field below.

The trio spent the next few hours chatting and laughing as though they knew each other their whole lives. Something about Diluc drew Jean to him. He was a gentle and modest person who was not spoiled or uptight or rude in any way possible, very unlike her stepfamily.

“So you got your Vision at age 10? I was a little older when mine appeared.” Jean said.

Diluc gave a slight laugh. “Yes, my father always wanted a Vision, though it never did happen. A Vision is something a lot of people desire, yet few ever receive.”

Barbara giggled at the interaction. “You two are like peas in a pod!”

“Oh, Barbara...” Jean blushed.

Diluc just rolled his eyes. “Don't go sounding like the third wheel. For some reason, you remind me of my own sibling, though he's your opposite.”

Jean's expression lit. “You have a sibling too?”

“Yes. I'm the oldest, right after my brother, though we're closer in age. But like you two, we do everything together.”

Barbara laughed. “Haha! Does he have a Vision too? Father used to say that it's highly unusual for all the siblings in a family to have Visions.”

“Well, he's not wrong. His name is Kaeya, with a Cryo Vision.” Diluc answered.

“Uhhhh, aren't Cryo and Pyro a bit... Incompatible?” Jean wondered.

He sighed. “Trust me, I never forgot that conversation. When we got stranded this one time, my Vision melted the ice bridge that he made. He said that it wouldn't have happened if my Vision was Geo.”

Even the pixies burst out laughing at this until Jean's expression darkened.

“I'm a little jealous of you, honestly.”

“How so?” He asked, pausing from the flowers he was weaving.

Jean also stopped weaving and her hand went up to rub her shoulder and upper arm. “It's just... My stepfamily have made it obvious that one of the reasons they're so jealous and abusive towards us is because Barbara and I have Visions and they don't.”

Diluc shook his head. “Good.”

The girls glanced at him for this comment, prompting him to continue. “The way I see it, Visions are proof of one's strength. The both of you are different from them because you're strong in body and spirit, your kindness and gentle nature.”

“I was taught that what is inside will eventually come out. Those who are kind and loving towards others, no matter how ugly they are on the outside, will eventually show their inner beauty.”

“But those who are selfish and cruel, no matter their outer beauty or charm, will also eventually be seen for their true ugliness. I believe this is what those in Liyue call... Ah, that's right. Karma.”

The girls smirked. “I suppose you're right. One of these days, they'll get what they deserve.” Jean giggled.

“Oh, and Diluc?”

“Yes?”

“Thanks for lifting my spirits. Any longer, and I feel my sister and I probably would've started agreeing with them. That we're just ugly servant girls in our very own house.” Jean told him.

Diluc smiled. “Not a problem. Never forget that you can't let others change who you are. My father said to me once, 'For dawn to come there must be those who dare to pierce the darkness with their light'.”

“I bet I'd like your father. He sounds like a wise man.” Jean guessed with a grin.

“He's the best. Though sometimes he can be a bit overbearing, but he has his reasons. After all, my own mother passed when I was little.” Diluc revealed.

Barbara sighed. “I see. But our father told us before he died that those who love us, when they leave this world, watch us from above with the stars. You can't grasp them, but they're still here.”

Diluc chuckled softly. “Hah. I'm pretty sure I would've like your parents too.”

But eventually, their time together had to come to an end when Paimon delivered the news of their stepfamily returning.

“Ah, that's too bad. It might be some time before we can see each other again.” Jean sighed, standing with Barbara and Diluc.

Diluc turned when he heard another female voice in the distance. “Ah. My maid. I'd better go back before she sends a whole armada out for me or something.”

Barbara seemed sad. “Is this goodbye?”

“Don't think of it as goodbye. Think of it as a 'see you later'.” He told her.

Jean knew this was him saying they will meet again. Suddenly, she remembered something and took his right wrist. “Wait!”

He turned to her in confusion before she slipped a bracelet of red flowers around his wrist.

Windwheel Asters.

Jean grinned. “As a promise. And a memento.”

Getting the hint, Diluc grinned and turned Jean around, slipping something over her ponytail. When Barbara gave Jean a hand mirror to have a look, she realized it was a hair band made from dandelions.

“In return. If there comes a time when we meet but cannot see one another's faces, wear these as a way of recognition. Like the dandelion drifting on the breeze that spins the asters, it helps bring us together, even if we cannot be seen.”

Jean smiled back at him. “Thank you. I'll treasure it.”

With that, they parted ways.

But that would not be the last time they saw each other. They would meet many times in that same field and learn more and more about one another.

This lasted for two years, right up until Jean and Diluc were at the age of 20, and Barbara age 16.