Parallel Coincidences - RandomEscapist_990 - 原神 (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Chapter Text Chapter 2 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 3 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 4 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 5 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 6 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 7 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 8 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 9 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 10 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 11 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 12 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 13 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 14 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 15 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 16: New Year's Special Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 17 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 19 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 20 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 21 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 22 Chapter Text Chapter 23 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 24 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 25 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 26 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 27 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 28 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 29 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 30 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 31 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 32 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 33 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 34 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 35 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 36 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 37 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 38 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 39 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 40 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 41 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 42 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 43 Chapter Text Chapter 44 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 45 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 46 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 47 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 48 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 49 Chapter Text Chapter 50 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 51 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 52 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 53 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 54 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 55 Chapter Text Chapter 56 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 57 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 58 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 59 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 60 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 61 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 62 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 63 Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 64 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 65 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 66: Chapter 66 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 67 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 68 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 69: Chapter 69 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 70: Chapter 70 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 71 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 72 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: References

Chapter 1

Chapter Text

Childe hits the ground in a rough tumble, jarring all of his wounds, torn muscle, fractured bones as the flaring pain brings a sharp reminder and awareness that he was in foreign territory, and in danger.

The All-devouring Narwhal…he hadn’t managed to see it to its end. Opening his eyes, he finds himself skidding on rough ice, his own blood dripping and smearing across its surface, not unlike the thick ice that laid on the surface of lakes in Snezhnaya when winter came.

Now was not the time to reminisce.

His instincts roar at him, as he pulls himself into an animalistic crouch, jolting injured limbs, tearing into the temporary bandages he had managed to administer to himself when he had been trapped in that unending battle with the primordial beast. Aching bones, gnawing pain were replaced by the numbness that came with the sting of freezing cold air, a chill that permeated so deeply that the Snezhnayan felt it down to his bones.

Tapping into Foul Legacy for that long had severely weakened him, the Harbinger distantly thinks, his mind and pure instinct disconnected in a strange hazy fog, as he exhales a misty breath into the icy wasteland he had been plunged into.

His left arm was dislocated, right ankle sprained, with blood dripping from various wounds across his torso and back.

….Master…Master Skirk had come.

She had come for him, pulling him out of that endless battle, and he does not recall anything further than that.

He doesn’t remember how long he had been fighting either.

Hours, days, weeks, or months?

The adrenaline was quickly fading from his system, even as the mania and bloodlust from using his Foul Legacy Transformation remained.

It beckons him to get up, to keep hunting, to keep fighting. Blood dripping from his skin feels nothing but warm, his own blood and its copper rich scent tainted with the sulfur of the abyss and electro from his delusion cocoons him, an incentive to keep moving, to stay warm and to keep devouring.

It would be easy.

So, so easy to slip back into that state, that trance of parry, thrust, dodge and stab, to dig claws into warm, eternal flesh of a being from beyond the stars, to drink in liquid starlight and to take in the essence of the Primordial Sea, to drown in its waters and to submerge himself beneath the waves.

A pleasurable high that lasted infinitely, ecstasy fulfilling and his dream achieved, to be trapped in a state of conflict and violence, throwing his full body and soul to simply just…survive. To devour, and slaughter, to satiate the growing madness that he was forced to bring to the forefront, to resort to his Abyssal Transformation to simply last that long.

Staring into the icy wasteland, the reality of his situation has yet to sunk in as he faces the crash, the sharp fall after losing all power and strength granted to him by Foul Legacy, as the adrenaline that had kept him going fades away, and he collapses onto the ice, surrounded by the fading warmth of blood pooling around him.

He closes his eyes, telling himself to stay aware despite knowing how it was a losing battle.

Something steps onto the pool of his freezing blood.

“...A short life species in my training grounds…”

Childe pulls himself together, even as his thoughts turn foggy, his hands stained in his own blood, and he blinks an eye open.

“...Mas-ter-” He chokes, as blood gurgles from his lips.

She had…she had returned for him! She had not abandoned him to die, just as she had chosen to take him in all those years ago.

“How touching. Unfortunately boy, you are no disciple of mine.”

“...Please-”

Childe grasps onto the last tether of consciousness.

He thinks of all the things he has left undone, back at home, those memories which had kept him sane and rational during his time in the Abyss, and in the Primordial Sea, and even now, on the brink of death in this foreign land.

Perhaps Master Skirk finally realised how weak he was and decided that the effort of saving him was not worth it.

He chuckles, blood bubbling from his lips.

He thinks of Tonia, Anthon, Teucer, whom he had promised souvenirs from Fontaine.

He thinks of the Traveller, and how he will never uphold his end of their promise.

He thinks of Zhongli and Ekatrina, his men who still await his return at Liyue Harbour.

He thinks of the Tsaritsa, who could not afford to lose another Harbinger so soon.

The figure walks away, leaving him behind.

Childe will not let go of this chance. He cannot. He still has a life left to live, and he will do anything to get it back, to get a chance to live.

He reaches out, blood stained, bruised fingers wrapping around what should have been the figure’s ankle, only for his hand to grasp at thin air, a limb moved out of the way.

“...Fascinating. Truly fascinating.”

The cold, unfeeling voice remarks, the slightest hint of interest picked out from that voice of hers, as electricity danced across his skin, sparking from drops of blood to the other, the Abyssal taint fuelling his body and soul once more, this time not for a fight, but simply to live. The urge to devour surges, a mania which claws at his soul, to fill himself with sustenance, with the lifeblood of a living being. It needed to feed, and the Abyss reveled in corruption and tainted madness.

He would tear this woman apart for abandoning him, leaving him to die on this snowy hellscape, and satiate his thirst and repressed hunger with her flesh and blood.

“....You exhibit symptoms of being Mara-struck, yet you are a short life species.”

He growls, something feral and animalistic, a beast pushed to the point of survival and pure instinctive mania.

"Perhaps you may be worth my time still."

She steps closer, into the pool of his blood which sparks and fizzles with ozone and electricity, ice emanating from her person like the coldest winter, as she picks him up simply, from his collar and he lashes out from the jarring movement.

"Quit it. I will help you."

Her hands are cold, freezing, empty, hollow, as she brushes a hand across his wound with her free hand, ice seeping into his bloodied wounds and freezing and halting the flow of blood loss.

The ice is soothingly numb.

It dulls the pain, even as it seeps into his veins and permeates through his entire system. The last time he had felt an ice as cold as this…cold, yet brutal and gentle, was from the Tsaritsas presence.

He ceases his thrashing upon realising how she was trying to help him.

“If you survive long enough for my companion to return, then you will live.”

The coldness seeps into his skin, something creeping, until it devours him and encases him whole.

Chapter 2

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The abyssal being roars, diving and lunging for him.

He narrowly sidesteps its lunge, parrying the blow as it flicks its tail against him and sends him back, his weapon bearing the weight of the blow as he digs his feet into the strange surface of this ethereal sea.

He pants, heavily, having long since been forced into overdrive with Foul Legacy being the only thing sustaining his existence against this mad beast.

How…How long more?

He calls upon Foul Legacy to give him strength, even as it binds him further within its depths further and further still. The call of the Abyss sang to him from every direction, the whale itself, the sea beneath him, the false shattered imitation of a sky of this dilapidated, forsaken realm, and from his own corrupted blood.

Fight.

Move.

Breathe.

He waits for the whale to come near and open its jaws to devour him, before he springs up and leaps into the air, thrusting his double edged spear into its skeletal head, pivoting himself into the whale’s back as it twist and begins to swim, taking to the skies of this imaginary domain.

When he had woken up in that pitch black ocean, all he had seen was the narwhal.

It had been minuteshoursdaysweeks

Trapped down here.

Time slipped from his fingers, lost and forgotten as he drank in the corrupted energies of the Primordial seawater which was all around him.

They gnaw at his mind, stray thoughts of home, of never being able to return him, thoughts that would get him killed if he lingered on them for the wrong moment. So he forced them aside and locked them into a box.

It had been weeksmonthsyears

He was growing used to the toxicity of the environment. To drink in the sickening ambrosia provided to him in the form of abyssal energies, one that his blood dripped and exuded when it became increasingly apparent that his time here was changing him into something else.

Pierce.

Parry.

Thrust.

He draws a long gash along the side of the Narwhal, watching a stray burst of liquid starlight burst forth from its wound, oozing a deep spray of inky darkness spotted with the remnants of devoured stars and dreams.

Its blood lands on him, and it is neither warm nor cold. It was empty, its flesh and blood thick with nothing but hollow, endless hunger, a loneliness so deep for it could never seem to be satiated. They hold in them the remnants of a shattered dream, as Childe wrings the blood from his skin before he begins to feel the loneliness in his own heart.

He had been here for so long.

Would anyone come for him?

He chuckles to himself, a feral, guttural choke that emerges from behind his altered form.

He was a fool to think that.

Would he be able to get out?

Fight. Slaughter. Maim. Devour.

He would not die down here. No matter how long he was going to be here for. He refused to go out like that, even as his mask begins to crack, to show weakness, fading strength accompanied by sharp, tearing pain, the accumulation of injuries that had piled up across all the time he had spent fighting.

He was alone.

He had always been alone.

No one was coming for him.

He was always left behind.

He laughs to himself, a broken sound that emerges from his mask, something wet, gurgled, and hollow.

He watches as the whale devours him whole.

Notes:

in which abyssal/primordial sea time dilation screws childe's mental state over

like damn why did everyone just conclude he went poof and then called it quits on the search?

Chapter 3

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“...You’re awake.”

Childe gasps, a scream half caught in his throat as he jolts awake violently, the sensation of being devoured, torn apart, swallowed, maimed, and being forgotten and lost all at once constricting his chest. A fate worse than death had beckoned him, to be trapped and forgotten inside the belly of the abyssal beast, to be forgotten, to be devoured, to be insufficient to satiate that monster’s hollow soul.

It was lonely, as he had been.

As he still was.

Pain. It hurt. Everything hurt. From his limbs down to his chest, torso and deep into his bones. His chest hurt, as he struggled to breathe.

He is paralysed, limbs unmoving as he is lost in the memory of the beast, in that unending battle, forsaken, forgotten, and damned to that fate of endless war.

“Breathe.”

The chill of ice, something sharp and stinging grazed his skin, as he blinked.

He breathes.

“...That must have been a painful memory.” He looks at the figure who sits next to him, and he nearly calls out for Master…because this person looked so much like her.

“...it was nothing much.” His voice is weak, defeated, even as he tries not to make himself appear weak and vulnerable in front of this stranger. There is no solid conviction, only a fragile, pathetic attempt at maintaining his image as a Fatui Harbinger.

“...You are stricken with a type of madness, are you not? Why deny the truth?” The woman speaks to him in a tone that betrays no emotion, not even that of sarcasm, as she peers at him from behind her half moon blindfold.

….She could tell. Was he truly so transparent, to be so easily seen through despite all the masks and layers he dons to obscure his identity and true nature?

“I deny it so that I do not let it overcome me.” He growls, angered that the truth has been forced from him. Her lips thin into a vicious smile, as if she were content with his answer and declaration of such a feeble attempt.

“Fascinating. Truly fascinating. For a short life species such as yours, to undergo an illness so alike to being mara-struck. I wonder, perhaps you are like my past, informal disciple, looking for death in each battle you throw yourself into?” She poses at him. Her voice is stiff, inhuman and so detached from the emotions she was drawing out from him.

Short life species?

Mara-struck?

Throwing himself into battle to find death?

He had no idea what the first two were, but he certainly was not looking to die when he sought out a fight. All he desired was for that unending bloodlust to be satiated, that hollowness within him to be filled with something warm and lasting, to make him feel alive, and to feel human. Perhaps the adrenaline from each clash brought him somewhere closer to what it meant to be human, to finding back the missing pieces of himself he had lost all those years ago as a child.

“Lady, you throw around some really weird terms. What’s a short life species? Like mortals? Like a…normal human?”

She pursed her lips.

“It appears that you are not from around here. Have you heard of long life species aboard the traveling fleets of the Xianzhou Alliance?”

“...The…what?”

“What is the name of your planet? Your homeworld?”

Planets? Like…the stars and sun and moon?

“Does Teyvat ring a bell? I hail from Snezhnaya.” It was best to leave out the Fatui associations for now. It sure was strange however, at all the weird names that his mysterious…benefactor…(he struggled to call her that) was throwing at him.

The woman frowned.

“I am unfamiliar with either of those names. Strange indeed.”

“I’ve never heard of other planets being mentioned either. All I know is that from where I come from, apparently the sky is a false tapestry and we are ruled by the Heavenly Principles which more or less governs our fate.”

The woman frowns harder.

“So you have never been to outer space, I suppose? Never seen the beauty of what other worlds have to offer, and chained to the whims of an omniscient, omnipresent being? How pitiful and tragic.”

Childe chokes, even though his throat is parched and dry unlike ever before. Staying in the Abyss and Primordial Sea for such a long period of time did that to a person. The revelations she was dropping on him, as well as her condescending tone towards beings of a higher nature both confused and resonated with him.

“....Where exactly am I?” His last memory was meeting Master Skirk, who had found him just as soon as the Narwhal had been brought down. He had slipped off into unconsciousness, but remembered being picked up and tossed into…something. Something vast and infinite, lost in the gaps of time and space.

He looks outside the window by his bed, doing his best not to jolt his…injuries? His injuries were gone. What the hell? He glanced at his fingers, the large gash across his torso, his sprained limbs, torn sinews, shattered and fractured arm and leg which he had been unable to move. Only the presence of a clean set of thin bandages remained, but he felt no pain at all. The gashes on his hand had healed fully, leaving behind pink faded scars, and he could move both his arms with no problems.

He stares at the woman, and outside through the window, staring across a vast expansive lake that stretched towards the ends of the horizons, the light of three pale blue orbiting moons casting reflections across the inky surface of the body of water that surrounded them in all directions. Pale blue moonlight illuminates the surface of the water with glitter, the calm surface still with ripples forming from beneath the waves that disturbed the reflections and distorted the image of three circular overarching moons.

“Where am I?” He gasps, having never seen a sight like this in every memory he had of every place he had explored in Teyvat.

“A nameless planet on the outskirts of the known reaches of the universe established by the Interastral Peace Corporation. I doubt you would know what I am even speaking of.”

No sh*t.

At this rate, he doubted that he was even still in Teyvat anymore.

Was this what the Primordial Sea did? Perhaps the influence of the Abyss that had launched him into this big mess?

So much for finding his way out of the Primordial Sea. Now he was a long, long way from home. Had Master Skirk known that this would be the outcome when he felt her pick him up? Was she even here with him?

He gazed out the window, the foreignness of this new land staring back at him, the three orbiting moons which pierce his soul and speak to him about the reality he was now in.

“After all, in my seven hundred years of life, I know every known named planet and city there is within the confines of our universe. Teyvat is not one of them.”

Another bombshell drops on him.

This woman was also immortal. Like…Zhongli levels of immortality? Was she as old as an Archon? Had she heard of the Archon War? Archons, why had he even gone to Fontaine in the first place if all it did was leave him in this mess?

Fontaine…felt like a lifetime ago.

Now, here, he had no idea if he had any way back to his home.

He was alone.

Just like in the Primordial Sea, trapped in foreign, hostile land and forgotten.

The gaping maw of the unknown world he was in threatens to swallow him. Just having escaped the Primordial Sea, he finally thought he could return home, back to Morespoke, or even just the surface of Fontaine, and breathe in the air of the world that he was meant to be in. Not, not chucked down another insane rabbit hole for another indefinite period of time. He wanted to go home.

Back to Snezhnaya. Back to Anthon, Teucer and Tonia. Back to his family, to the cold, but familiar palace of her majesty, even back to Dottore’s damned laboratory, back to the warmth of Liyue. Even his brief escape into Fontaine during his fight with the Narwhal had provided him a fleeting sense of relief and glimmer of hope as he fought against it in the Opera Epiclese. That he would return to the world of the living, that the Abyss would not tear him away from the life he so rightfully deserved to live in.

He yearns for the traveller’s familiar face, even with that noisy floating pixie that hovered near them, for Zhongli’s grounding presence, even if he had been backstabbed and betrayed by him. He missed Ekaterina and how she would nag at him for forgetting to take care of himself, and all his men who he sorely needed to whip back into shape after his…severely extended vacation.

…At least he was not dead.

There was nothing worse than dying forgotten in a foreign land.

At least he still breathed.

“...Yeah. I’m not from around here. Anywhere near here at all.” He responds, voice muted as he turns to stare at his hands.

“And so I find myself with a mysterious wanderer, no, traveller on my hands.” The woman sighs. She reminds him of Master Skirk. The way she spoke, that cold uncaring detachment of simply not being bothered to give a flying f*ck, was simply Master Skirk.

Though she was a lot more talkative than Master had been.

His limbs ache with remembered pain. It reminds me of how pathetically weak he was, how he always lost, how he never, rarely, ever got what he wanted. First he had been falsely arrested, lost in the Primordial Sea, trapped in a years-long fight with the beast, and now he was a long way from home.

It fills him with a hopeless sense of weakness and shame, as he clenches his fists and swings the blanket off of himself.

“Fight me.”

“After being trapped in an unknown, foreign land, having been brought back from the brink of death, the first thing you do is ask for a fight? What a bold child you must be.”

“I am not a child.”

“If you know better, then you should be resting. Those wounds would have killed you. Any vigorous activity would worsen your condition and reverse the healing done by the Abundance energies, which are working overdrive as we speak.” She speaks coolly, unperturbed by his need for violence, for adrenaline, for anything but sitting and resting still. How ironic, for he had just spent years fighting off an immortal beast and now he quickly wanted to get back to losing himself in the battle.

“Fine… what is this Abundance energies that you talk about? Some sort of healing magic?”

“A forbidden art in some places, but a worshipped path in the far corners of the universe. Those who worship and tread the path of Abundance are blessed with immortality, regenerative abilities and healing.”

Huh. That sounded…pretty interesting. Teyvat did not have anything of this sort.

“You guys don’t have Visions?”

“Not what I think you are referring to. Prophetic visions, hallucinatory visions are common enough amongst all races here. So are dreams and ambitions.”

“Yeah…no. Though I’m pretty sure Visions with a capital V, are closely tied to ambitions in some way. I meant elemental abilities bestowed by Archons, or Celestia herself to those who she deems worthy.”

The woman frowns.

“Sounds like a rather pathetic attempt at pity. But no, we do not have them here. What we have here are paths and Aeons who embody these paths. Pathstriders who resonate with Aeons greatly enough in mind, soul and body earn the power of their Path.”

Pathstrider. That sounded…really cool, honestly.

“...Then how do you have cryo abilities-” Childe coughs, the parchnes of his throat becoming greatly apparent to him as he begins to choke, as his voice rasps. Next to him, the lady pours out tea for him in a teacup carved out from wood, offering him some as Childe graciously accepts it.

“Drink slowly. The last my companion checked up on you, it was as if your body had been starved and dehydrated for a few years.”

Childe looks at the tea within the cup, at its pale green tint, stray leaves within it floating at the bottom.

His stomach clenches, as he sips tentatively at the liquid. It is warm, soothing and satiates the dryness that had accumulated in his throat for so long. He wondered how he was still able to speak to the woman before this.

Control, Tartaglia. Control.

He withholds the remaining half a cup from himself, feeling the tea settle in his stomach for the first time in years.

“Do you have a name?” He looks at the lady, her pale blue hair the colour of glacial ice, as he can feel the aura of frost which permeates around her body, as if he were standing and sitting near a very powerful cryo user.

“Jingliu.”

That sounded like a name from Liyue.

“I don’t suppose you come from a place called Liyue?”

She shakes her head.

“It is a waste to ask me questions you already have answers to.” His grip around the cup tightens. Could he not joke around or even have a glimmer of hope?

“What I do want to know however, is how you landed in my territory from a dimensional rift in the sky.”

Ah. So Master Skirk had f*cked up while tossing him through the portal. Which was highly unusual considering how she was extremely competent at everything she did, if not downright brutally efficient and clean, but this was something else.

Childe groans.

“I was in the Primordial Sea fighting against the All-Devouring Narwhal. Whatever its name is. Got chucked through a rift.” He laughs dryly to himself, as he feels for his wounds, tenderly testing and tracing them with his free hand and he was surprised to find that they did not hurt.

“...A dimensional traveller then. Will you be able to return?”

He shrugs.

“No clue.”

Jingliu frowned.

Notes:

when the crossover gets a little too lore entangled that i anticipated....
may or may not bring in luocha in future chapters we shall see where this crack fic goes

Chapter 4

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The woman left him alone for the most part.

She hadn’t even asked for his name, giving him the bare minimum aid and help when he needed it. She definitely reminded him a lot of Master Skirk, her aloofness and impartiality, cold and detached from the world around her.

He laid in the bed, realising how he had not even thanked her for saving him, as he pulled the thick blanket over himself. He had been changed out of his original set of clothes, and he most definitely should have asked her for where his old clothes were, before she seemed to have left the small hut the two of them were currently occupying.

The air turns cold.

Swift and sudden, it sent goosebumps up his skin, as he sat up in alarm and looked outside the window.

“No way.”

The lady, Jingliu, stood in the centre of the lake, its surface frozen all over in a thick sheet of ice, ice which encompassed every inch and surface of water, culling the reflection of the moon and covering it with the dark gleam of moonlight against ice. Snow falls around her presence, a freezing mist in the air which permeates around her figure, and Childe watches her in awe.

She pulled a blade from thin air, formed from nothing but frost and rime, as she darted forward, thrusting against an invisible enemy with a hand behind her back, before she curved her blade upwards unleashing a wave of ice which forms and cuts through the mist, parting it as a wall of ice forms behind her movements.

She sparred with an invisible figure, running through the motions of cutting, stabbing with brutal and cold efficiency, not a single movement wasted on flashy moves that left her wide open, as she smoothly and instinctively carved a gaping void into the ice beneath her feet, shattering the ice plate into a dozen pieces. Her actions beheld a silent fury, frozen behind layers of resentment, a necessity of wielding the blade, seeing it as only a weapon, seeing herself as only a weapon, as she leapt into the air.

Twisting her body, she throws her entire weight and momentum into the swing of her blade, something in her gaze simply dead and devoid of life, as she shatters the ice into dust which disperse and melt into the inky darkness below.

Beneath the moonlight, she was haunting, a figure who stood with an inhuman grace and elegance, as her eyes darted up to meet him.

Her eyes, the ones she had hidden behind her blindfold, were a dull crimson, alight with a gaping void, an emptiness which she had behind the half moon blindfold shown for all to see.

He gazed back at eyes that were akin to his own.

She raised her blade to him.

Something in him yearns.

It is a sudden pang of hunger which strikes and comes all at once, the madness of the Abyss which he had held back often enough with regular sparring and duels, coming in full force, a sinful desire coming in full force, as he leaps through the window without thinking.

He was hungry.

He was lonely.

He was lost.

He was tired.

The delusion which had been by his bedside does not answer his call, its electro hum dull and dormant, unresponsive, as Childe scoffs and simply throws himself out the window regardless.

The hunger seeps into his bones, a gaping maw beckoning him into an abyssal darkness as his hands and limbs spark with something dangerous and foul. That which had been forced onto him by circ*mstance was the sole thing to not abandon him. He laughs, an ugly, depreciating sound as Foul Legacy answers his call, his skin morphing, armoured plates forming around his body, limbs elongating as he drinks in the pain, anything to satisfy the void in his soul. Anything to keep him away from that miserable existence of continuation, repeat, that endless cycle and monotony of being forgotten for years down in that pits of hell.

To have been lost to this unknown world, to have been left behind.

He was always, always left behind.

Back in Fontaine, back in the Abyss, betrayed, backstabbed, and used like a pawn.

They couldn't even return for him?

For all that he had done to hold off the All-Devouring Narwhal for years? (Though it must have only been days on the surface)

He hates it.

If his hydro vision had failed him, and now his delusion, then he would rely on nothing but himself. Foul Legacy had not forsaken him, and had been the only thing to keep him alive for all those years. He had its companionship, those stray whispers it fed him, its feral bloodlust keeping him sane during his time down in the never ending battle.

The adrenaline, the bloodlust was not enough to satiate the hollow emptiness that had begun to take root.

He breathes, as he lunges at the swordswoman, ducking beneath her massive blade, that froze and condensed the air around it, as he materialises his double bladed staff from the reserves of energy whatever his body still possesses. He thrusts the staff at her, lighting and tainted energy dancing in strips of electricity and forbidden power as the swordswoman easily sidesteps his moves, as if he were nothing but a walk in the park.

Crouching, he pivots on his foot and springs into action, leaping into the air and hurling his spear at her, as she parries it with her sword and glances it off. Ice and lightning collide, as ice explodes into chunks that burst across the air. He lands on the broken ice sheet, lunging at her with clawed hands as he takes on a feral stance, more resembling a beast now than ever.

The woman laughs.

Madness drips from her cackle, as Foul Legacy lunged at her, summoning his weapon from the opposite direction to pin her in place, only for her to leap into the air a death defying spin, flicking her blade at him and sending a crescent shaped blade of ice at him. Even when he dodges it, it cleaves the ice beneath him and says streaks of frost up his arm, freezing him in place with thick blocks of ice that he has to channel Foul Legacy’s energy to shatter from within.

Their fight goes on, the ice sheets breaking up all around them as the soulless swordswoman endlessly pursues him, and he takes on her attacks in defiance, the spark of Abyssal taint and magic surging through his body even as a thousand swords made of ice pierce him from the gaps between the rocky, drifting ice sheets.

Foul Legacy roars in response, bearing the brunt of a thousand blades on its body, as the swordswoman holds her blade pointed down towards the ice, that empty, hollow gaze in her eyes devoid of all things human.

He crosses the distance in an instant, blood and violet tar oozing from the cracks in the carapace that he wore, sizzling with violence, ozone, and the coppery tang of what was supposed to be human blood.

He materialises the spear an inch from the swordswoman’s throat, as she simply stares at him, disinterested, before slapping him aside with the flick of her hand. Ice clings to his skin, digging into his armour and taking root, as the temperature of the air around him dropped even further, water beneath his feet freezing into solid ice.

His breath coalesces in the air, every inhale and exhale stinging as it seeps into his lungs.

Foul Legacy reaches its limit. He has reached his limit. The wounds, the injuries of all his compiled exhaustion strike him, as the cold steals his breath and begins to freeze him inside out, blood and tar freezing on his skin.

His back burns, something that sears his skin as he refuses to die, to lose, refuses to give up, to give in, to submit.

He stands, facing off against the swordswoman even as his limbs begin to give out.

Notes:

when you remember that Jingliu is the same person who 'trained' Blade by stabbing him a million times + marastruck (thought kept under control for MOST of the time)
which is why she lives on this isolated planet / miniature habitable asteriod by herself....

as to why Childe's delusion doesn't work either...well he's not in Tevyat anymore so none of the rules/elemental authorities there apply here

also, 700 year old semi-marastruck swordchampion vs Foul Legacy

Chapter 5

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

It was lonely once. For a million years, it had swam and navigated the depths of the stars, its hunger unable to be satiated by all the glowing beautiful stars and planets it hoped to behold and hold close to itself.

It had drank, greedily satiating its thirst on the water of the iridescent sea, preserving its beauty in power for itself, because nothing would ever hope to accompany it in its endless voyage.

Infinity stretched on endlessly, and it was always hungry.

Then it met a boy.

The boy was lonely too.

They were both lonely together.

Lost and never to be found.

When it had realised that the boy was just like him, infinitely hungry and mad, it was ecstatic.

It decided that the boy would be his.

The boy had left it quickly, but he had grown strong quickly, in the time that it could still sense him.

It took months, years, perhaps more, or much less, for time was not a concept for it.

The boy came back, now a man.

Oh how he burned with hunger and desire and bloodlust, an endless hunger so much like its own.

Notes:

not me giving the All Devouring Narwhal a backstory-

Chapter 6

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Childe devours his pain, the agony of freezing limbs, of exhaustion, of the hints of despair, repressed resentment, and forges it into something new. The harbinger sheds aside broken armour and the icy rot which permeated and dug into his skin and flesh, purging it and crushing it beneath his feet.

His hands and skin were coloured by strips of iridescent starlight, a colour never before seen for it did not exist, having long been devoured by something else and forgotten. It shone in shades all too wrong, looked too close to violet yet was red at the same time, and the swordswoman withdrew her blade closer to herself in a defensive stance.

“And so the madness shows itself.”

Her voice was cold, calm, in the face of the convulsing traveller before her, whose limbs trembled with a rapturous hunger, the strange form which he had transformed into morphing into something else, something new and dangerous.

“...Get…get away…” The traveller, the displaced stranger grips on tightly to his limbs, as power seems to ooze from his fingers, a potent whiff with the scent of seawater as Jingliu stabbed her blade into the ground and froze the water beneath them, creating a glacial platform which stretched infinitely over the horizons.

The stranger collapses to the ground, the armour and carapace he wore shattering completely, clothes piling into a heap as a strange, unknown shimmering liquid pooled beneath his person, spreading out widely, akin to the waves of a vast sea which surged at high tide. She froze that strange liquid beneath ice, lifting her blade as the foul scent of danger permeated and condensed in the air.

Something emerges from the tainted liquid, which had spread through across their pale icy battleground, bursting from and shattering the ice she had made with ease, as it hums with heavy delight.

Before her, the swordswoman casts a wary glance at the one horned whale which swam through her ice and into the skies, a vast, humongous being coloured with the remnants of a shattered blue sky, a horned head and skull encrusted with ethereal bone, as it bled liquid luminosity from its vast underbelly. She breaks apart the ice she had formed with the stomp of her foot, plunging her blade down to shatter the glacier ice beneath and send chunks of it flying at the creature with her blade.

As she did so, she closed the distance between her and the outlander, who struggled, his hand pushing against and clawing at the seawater which seemed to pour from his wounds.

He turns to stare at her, eyes looking past her and at the beast he had summoned, and he’s gone.

Jingliu can recognise the gaze of someone lost in traumatic shock, the dreaded realisation plunging despair straight into the soul, the knowledge which would shatter even the strongest of minds.

The whale, or what she could remember the outlander claiming to be some sort of All-Devouring Narwhal takes to the sky as if it were its territory, arcing across and diving towards them with breakneck speed, as the swordswoman dashed forward and grabbed the outlander and hauled him over her shoulder.

It was peculiar how his blood had been transmuted into violet tar and now into seawater which flickered a million colours all at once.

“Traveller.” She nudged him with her free hand as she leapt back and called forth several thick walls to stand between her and the whale, as she ducked out of the way and beneath into the ice, carving a pocket of space out with her blade. The red haired male is unresponsive. She sighs.

“...Listen to my voice.” She calls to him, whispering into his ear closely as she cradles his cheek with a hand that was all too cold.

He roused, if only somewhat, though it was hard to tell because of the lack of shine and light in his eyes in the first place.

“Come to me. Feel the cold, the ice, the frost and its chill. Remember where you are.”

“Remember that you are not where you should be.”

He heaves up seawater and blood, as she grabs his collar and angles him in a different direction, as the whale rumbles overhead, decimating and cleaving through her barriers with the vacuum of a black hole.

“-right…” He pants heavily, as she picks him up with one hand and leaps, bringing the two of them out of the hole as the whale twists its body and turns around for a second blow.

“That thing is yours. Tame it.”

She points her blade at the approaching narwhal.

Childe scrambles to his feet, glancing down at his hands and skin which were coated, no, tainted by strips of what he remembered to be the narwhals otherworldly blood, oblivion condensed into matter that did not seem to belong. Foul Legacy simmered within him, two powers that were of an unholy, forbidden nature which now thrummed beneath his skin.

Mania surges and dances beneath his skin, a compulsive urge to reach out and have a taste of the Primordial seawater which so clearly stemmed and flowed from his wounds.

None of this made any sense.

Perhaps it was never meant to be.

He looks at the swordswoman, whose only response to silence was to lift her blade and point it at his throat.

“Kill it or tame it, get rid of whatever parasite you brought into this world. I recognise a calamity the scale of a planetary system when I see one. That thing which came from you, is one of those.”

He grimaced.

“I spent years fighting this thing into a standstill.” Wiping blood off from his lips using the back of his hand, Tartaglia, the eleventh Harbinger, readies himself for another war.

This time, he had no vision, no delusion, nothing but Foul Legacy and himself. His back burns, something searing which seemed to have branded itself on his skin.

The narwhal calls, its voice singing to him to devour and to feast, and Tartaglia laughs, Foul Legacy dancing at his fingertips as he pulls and drains his reserves down, and with no strength, no power left to feast on, he turns to the long vertical wound along the length of his forearm and drinks the seawater which pours onto his lips.

Perhaps it is mania, delusion, the hint of suicidal insanity coupled with the burnout he had from fighting against the Narwhal for 4 f*cking years down in hell, but the harbinger felt thrilled. Empowered by the scent and taste of his prison, he couldn't care less as he called forth the double edged spear and sprinted straight towards the whale.

Primordial seawater traced his footsteps, as the narwhal opened its gaping maw and sought to devour him.

He in turn, sought to slaughter and consume the beast.

The two of them collide.

He emerges victorious, drenched in golden shattered starlight which bled from the beast, beholding the core in the palm of his hand, the lightless eye of the maelstrom, and consumes it, laughing in psychotic delight, high on pain, power, defeat, confusion, and everything all at once.

It tastes empty.

Devoid.

Hungry.

The sound of applause is the last thing he hears before he collapses.

Notes:

the conclusion to Childe Vs Narwhal
in which genshin did not give us the childe powerup, so I SHALL GIVE IT TO HIM

EDIT: 2 years now changed to 4 years assuming childe was lost for the upwards of 48 ish days in the primodial sea

Chapter 7

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He was falling.

Into a spiralling abyss vast like nothing his mind could ever comprehend, streaks of ethereal light painting against the distorted blue gradient which existed all around him. What started off as shattered remnants of fragmented stars from the Primordial Sea shifted into that unrecognisable shapes, tetrahedrons, dodecahedrons and shapes of too many angles, too few sides, mutating endlessly into itself.

He falls into the spiral, the world inverting and rotating all around him.

Next to him, the lightless eye of the maelstrom hums, diving alongside him into worlds unknown.

They were alone together, once again.

Notes:

in which the Primordial Sea leads to the Abyss leads to....realms untouched, and Childe dreams of all that happened when he crossed worlds

Chapter 8

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Childe jolted awake, searing pain against his back as he jostled an injured arm and strained his injured limbs.

“Try to stay still and rest, would you?” A new voice reached his senses, as Childe turned to look at the new individual who sat by his bedside. He’s vaguely aware of the sunlight pouring through the window into the room, a dim muted orange far duller than the summers in Liyue, but one that casts the new stranger in a halo of sorts.

The stranger had long blonde hair, which draped down over an intricate white coat embellished with a tied scarf of green and gold silk, delicate ornaments which hung across his vest and white coat which framed his fair skin and matched his pale green eyes well.

“....Who are you? Where is-”

Jingliu stepped into the room carrying a tray of tea, as she set it down on a larger table that had been moved closer over to the bed.

“You’re awake. I owe you a few apologies.”

Childe chokes at the admission. So…last night had not simply been a feverish dream. It had happened, in all of its full strength, as he clutched at his head, which throbbed with the weight of memories and hazy dreams, images, voices and thoughts which swam around in his mind.

“I may be someone who lusts for battle, but...I didn’t think I would get into a fight with you so quickly,” He admits, as he looks up at the eyes of the woman, and was met only with the half moon blindfold she wore.

How was she able to live without the use of her sight? He was also certain she was not blind, because of how he had gazed into those dull, lifeless eyes of hers. It was dull not due to the milkiness of blindness, but the lack of humanity.

“I am unused to human company. Your presence has jostled my condition, which triggered my madness. I will have to keep that in mind for future sessions.”

Wait what?

“You also suffer from a sort of madness?” She had seemed so well composed, so calm and cool, elegant and absolutely devoid of humanity. It was as if she was an otherworldly being, just like Master Skirk, except Master Skirk approached all beings she deemed lower than her with nothing but mere disinterest so detached that she became inhuman.

“The curse of being marastruck. You don’t seem all that fine yourself.”

He laughs.

In this strange new world, being mad did not seem all that damning. In the company of these strangers, he contemplates how much he can tell them. After all, he was absolutely certain that by this point he was a long way from Tevyat. Neither his Vision nor Delusion responded to him, further proof that he was out of Celestial’s authority.

Here, he could effectively start out as someone new.

However, he can neither tell if the strangers he had run into were well meaning or not. After being so used to handling threats from all sides when he was in the Fatui and being a Harbinger, he always half expected someone to attack him from all sides from something he had done or was affiliated with the Fatui with.

Now, he has no reason for these strangers to harm him, yet they had no reason to aid him either. With everything that transpired last night, his instincts are…thrown off. By healing, then the near fight to death, the healing again…he was really confused as to where his place in all of this was, and where it was supposed to be.

“Drawbacks from falling into the Abyss as a child, I suppose.” He mutters with off handed amusem*nt, as the gold haired stranger pours him a cup of tea.

“...And the whale?”

Right. The Narwhal.

“...I think it fell into the dimensional rift here with me.”

That was his best guess.

“...You ate it.”

Childe chokes on his tea.

f*ck.

He remembered that he did. In some clouded, distorted memory, he remembered devouring its heart in what was most definitely post battle high, when adrenaline still fuelled him, and likely also under great mental duress and strain from everything that had happened since he had stepped foot in Fontaine.

Why had he done that?

He instinctively reaches for his gut, then his chest and throat, before he realised how his hands and skin were bandaged heavily, as well as his neck and a great chunk of his torso.

More battle scars to add to the collection, he supposed.

He didn’t seem to feel any different however, only that he was getting quite hungry.

The gold haired stranger raised an eyebrow.

“We should probably find you a way home. Unless you…want to stay here in this universe?” The man asked him, as Jingliu peered at him through her blindfold.

Returning to Tevyat would be great. Yes. Definitely. Now he had another problem to handle in addition to having the Narwhal swimming around in his body somehow, his Delusion and Vision not working, the fact that he bled Primordial Seawater? His entire bizarre experience in this world, meeting Jingliu, and now this strange man who radiated a comforting warmth from his presence.

“Yeah, I need to get back as fast as possible.”

Time dilation, Childe. Time dilation. He could be here for another month for another day to only pass in Teyvat but he could not bet on time dilation working in the same way. Master Skirk had warned him about how time flows non-linearly in the Abyss and its regions. He could be lost for years back in Teyvat.

How long, how much time would he have lost? Would Anthon, Teucer, Anya, have all grown up without him? Would the Tsaritsa have already fulfilled her mission without needing his presence? How much would the world there change without him in it?

The inescapable dread of realisation begins to sink in.

“I need to go back.”

His voice is loud, yet choked and stifled beneath the weight of being a displaced traveller, lost in a world far too different from his own, with a life he had yet to live back home.

“We can help you with finding your way back. After all, you don’t know anyone else around here, do you?” The gold haired male posed to him, voice deceptively gentle and kind. It makes him uneasy, even if he cannot pin it down. The offer he posed, however, was one of the most generous ones he had ever heard in his life.

These two strangers had no reason to help someone like him, who had fallen from the sky, and caused them so much trouble.

He nods.

“Count it as an apology for losing control and nearly killing you.” Jingliu spoke, her voice losing that edge of cold detachment, something akin to regret laced behind the harsh tone used, as Childe chuckles.

“If you are willing to aid a not quite sane person like me, then I shall take up your offer.” He raised his teacup towards them. Ah. Her words reminded him of Arlecchino.

The new stranger and woman who resembled Master Skirk raised their glasses in response, and clinked it against his.

Notes:

take a guess at who this new person is

ALSO crossover might delve into more Genshin and Star Rail lore than i thought...

Chapter 9

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He was offered food, a simple meal of rice congee, pickled vegetables, peanuts, braised meat of some kind of fowl that he could not quite place, and a pairing of sauces to go along with it. He learns that the new stranger who had aided him went by the name of Luocha, and was the very person who had healed him of the wounds he had sustained from his two year long battle against the Narwhal.

The man, Luocha, also stated that he was a travelling merchant and healer who carried around a coffin with him for some strange reason. Childe wanted to ask, but Jingliu had interjected before the line of inquiry could go down further. He could tell that she was trying to cover for the merchant, but decided to go along with it, since he had no right to pry into their business either.

“Do you remember how you arrived here?’

He had fallen. Endlessly. With nothing but the heart of the whale by his side.

“I…fell through a gap in the Primordial Sea? Or perhaps I was thrown by someone into a rift and then I fell for…what seemed to be a long time. Couldn't keep track, but then I suddenly ended up on the icy lake, half dead.”

Luocha looked intrigued, green eyes glittering and sharpening with curiosity.

“The Primordial Sea? I assume it is something from your homeworld. Could you explain what it is?”

As much as he would like to, he did not have so much of a clue.

“I can only theorise since I’m also absolutely lost on what the Primordial Sea is or was, but it seemed to be part of something primitive, forbidden and perhaps forgotten part of Teyvat. I literally got falsely accused, arrested and chucked into a prison fortress located underwater that was somehow also holding back the Primordial Sea, answered the strange call and found myself floating in its depths.”

Jingliu stares at him with a deadpan gaze. That he could feel even from behind her blindfold.

“A series of unfortunate events.”

“Definitely. Going to Fontaine for a break only to get arrested and falsely accused for a crime I was too young to commit twenty years ago? Worst vacation ever.” He finds himself warming up to conversation, after four years trapped down there with no one but himself and the Narwhal, the tendrils of whispers of Foul Legacy which sank into his mind, talking to people, actual living breathing beings, grounded him.

Childe ladles himself another bowl of congee, finding himself strangely more hungry than usual. It was his…third bowl already, but seeing how large the pot was, he decided that he could help himself to more servings. The toppings and side dishes were also plentiful, and he could tell that the two of them had prepared the food especially for him, since none of them were reaching for it or even had dishes set up for themselves.

The only problem was that they used chopsticks, which he struggled with and ended up just using it to shovel the toppings into his congee and just drinking it straight from the bowl.

“...The closest guess I can make of your situation is that you…hail from a different dimension entirely.” Childe has to quickly swallow his congee before he choked.

His chopsticks clattered onto the table.

“Wait, what?”

“No place like Teyvat exists on record of the Intergalactic Merchant Guild, and guild members like me have visited many, many planets and solar systems. Furthermore, if Miss Jingliu has also never heard of this place existing, it is likely that it never existed here in the first place.”

Jingliu nods.

“You’re saying parallel dimensions exist? I thought those were only theories? And only theories spun by Dottore of all people!” Jingliu and Luocha turned to look at each other, if only for a glance.

How the hell had he ended up in a parallel dimension where Teyvat didn’t exist? How was he supposed to get home in that case? By the way he came? Through a dimensional rift that no one here knew how to make? That he didn’t know how to make?

How did ANY of this work?

Why were they so casual about the existence of literal parallel dimensions?

Why and how did he even remember Dottore’s passionate rant about the topic during one of the Harbingers annual Christmas dinners?

“The Imaginary Tree theory is one formalised by the founder of the Genius Society, in which various worlds exist as branches and leaves of a large cosmic being or conceptual entity born of Imaginary energy in which different worlds exist in the form of leaves and its branches. The current hypothesis is that it’s impossible to traverse the space between leaves, thus impossible to travel from one world to another because these worlds are separated by unknown imaginary domains.”

Childe massages his temples.

Yep. There was no way any of this could be real. And there was no way he was going to understand this.

Parallel universes..existed and were even widely accepted and known?

What kind of world did he even land into?

“I’m sorry but the…theory is not what I’m most passionate about. Could we kind of move on to the part where we figure out how to get me home? Then I’ll be out of your hair as soon as possible too,” He tells them, though a small part of him nags at him to ask Jingliu to teach him a move or two.

“...Those trailblazers should know more about travel than any of us.” The pale blue haired woman spoke, as she looked over to her companion.

Trailblazers? Archons, the terminology was really throwing him off centre. It was like when he had to take a few classes on Liyuen culture before he got dispatched to that damned mission. Even then, learning about the customs was utterly boring, until it came to Zhongli. Zhongli made even the smallest, most unnecessary detail seem to be something of great importance, and somehow, Childe could remember all of his stories and tales so much better.

The thought of the man and his betrayal, the Archon who had hidden his entire identity from him, conspired with Signora and played him, pained him. All the more reason why he had not returned to Liyue since then.

“As I am on good terms with some of them, I suppose I can bring you along with me once you are sufficiently well to meet them. They will most definitely be able to help you.”

“...That would be great! But isn’t there a possibility that the rift which dumped me here in the first place might open up again?” Childe gestures towards the boundless expanse of water outside the small hut the three of them currently resided in.

“I can stay to watch over it. In the event that it does open up again, I will inform you. The last time it decided to deposit you here, it lasted for two hours. A pity I couldn't have tossed you right back in even if I knew how desperate you were to get home.” At this point, Jingliu’s voice sounded so dead and dry that he could not tell whether or not she was trying to get a rise out of him on purpose or not.

She spoke a lot like Master Skirk, when she even rarely decided to grace him with a few words and comments of her own.

The arrangements were…agreeable, he supposed.

“Until then, I suppose we can accommodate you for the next few weeks. Until then, it is in your favour to befriend the members of the Astral Express, who are known for taking in strays and lost wanderers.”

“What’s going to happen to you guys after those few weeks?” He pries in, curious, since he would have liked to spend some time training under the mysterious swordswoman who was nearly a splitting image of his master.

“...We have matters to attend to. Matters that will put us under great scrutiny and keep us busy.” Great. So even his place here wasn’t permanent.

Childe sighs, as he nods.

“Alright, I guess I’ll stay with these…Trailblazers when the time comes.” He looks at Jingliu.

“This may sound…selfish but may I…train under you until then?” Ah. He was being greedy. So, so greedy. First he wanted a fight, wanted to go home, and now he wanted knowledge. He wanted more, and he couldn't help but ask, for a chance to fight and spar with her once more, because none had given him so much of a good fight back home.

Capitano, Pierro, Sandrone, and even Arlecchino had always, always refused to duel with him. Even Zhongli had refused, as had Aether who was admittedly, quite busy with his quest and running around completing errands for…scraps of knowledge on the whereabouts of his sister. He glanced down at the bandages on his arms and chest, as he looked up at the swordswoman.

“How greedy.”

Her words are sharp, as Luocha seemed amused, raising a gloved hand to his lips in a faint chuckle.

“Child, why do you yearn to grow strong?” She posed this question to him, as he forced himself to relax, to play off the chill that her words had sent down his spine, a harsh criticism of something true. The way she pronounced the word child made it seem like she was calling and speaking to him directly.

“To grow strong. To slaughter, to kill, to maim. To be a weapon. To get things done.”

To satiate this hollow hunger within him.

“A simple set of goals. Yet hard to achieve.” She muses. He watches her keenly, studying the way she moved to elegantly pour herself a cup of tea with deft, calculating movements.

“It has been so long since I last took on a disciple. If you are willing to cast aside your fear of pain, death and madness, then I will take you on as a student. Master and control the hunger and bloodlust of yours, and perhaps I may aid you in forging yourself to becoming something new.”

Childe blinks.

He didn’t expect this response. It was…much easier to convince her than he had Master Skirk, whom he had to follow behind and beg her when he had been a child struggling to survive in the Abyss, because only then had she deemed him worthy to train after surviving by himself for a good two weeks alone without her aid.

“Thank you, master!”

Luocha flashed a glance at the swordswoman, who sipped at her tea.

“I suppose we can arrange for those sessions at night. In the day, I shall bring you to acquaint yourself with the Trailblazers, and bring you back here by evening.” The merchant muses.

Childe listens, as he sets down his chopsticks, finally satiated.

“If there’s anything you need me to help you with, I’ll gladly offer my services in exchange for the hospitality the both of you have offered me.”

“And what would those services entail?”

“Anything that needs killing, capturing, fighting, hunting, tracking down, drawing out people, gathering information, and well, other services that most will deem…unsavoury.” Having witnessed the madness of the swordswoman, he knew that the healer himself also had a few secrets up his sleeve. He had found himself in the company of two, likely, morally grey individuals, who lived isolated away from civilisation.

“My, my, what an interesting occupation you must have held back in..Teyvat.” Luocha chuckles.

“Should we ever require your aid, we will take you up on your offer. Until then, you have many questions and problems for you to settle by yourself.” His new teacher spoke, and Childe begrudgingly nodded.

While he disliked being indebted to others, he could recognise that he was completely out of depth in this foreign world.

At least it was leagues better than falling into the Abyss.

“That brings me to the next point. Could I ask what your name is? It is rude of us to have given our own names yet not asked you for your own.” The merchant asked.

“Childe. With an ‘e’ at the end.”

“Fitting.” Was his new teacher…amused?

“Well then, Childe, I would like to ask what you brought along with you in your unexpected journey here.”

Notes:

IMAGINARY TREE THEORY where star rail and genshin and hoinkai impact 3rd are actually all parallel adjacent bubble universes and yes its actually a valid theory in the lore of star rail because some dude from the Genius Society was big brained enough to concieve this idea...+ Welt also exists

EDIT: 2 years changed to 4 years

Chapter 10

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The harbinger begins explaining all about the All-Devouring Narwhal that he knew. Something along the lines of, Abyssal Beast tied to some otherworldly power, somehow something he had awakened as a child when he first fell into the Abyss, then it threatened Fontaine and he spent four years fighting it off in the Primordial Sea, got knocked out and tossed somewhere.

Even that explanation leads itself to a somewhat heavily summarised version of explaining the visions, Archons, Delusions, and how he possessed Abyssal abilities in the form of the Foul Legacy transformation. He picks up and fiddles with the delusion that rested on his bedside table along with his original clothes, or scraps of them that managed to survive this far.

It was utterly blank.

A strange sight if his hydro vision hadn’t randomly given out on him in Fontaine at the start of his supposed vacation, but at this point he was not surprised in the slightest.

“I guess Tevytian…power doesn’t work here.” He holds the empty delusion up to the light, and sighs.

“Yet you still showed excellent martial prowess with that…form of yours. The All-Devouring Narwhal as well. It is in your possession, is it not?”

Childe barks out a harsh chuckle.

“I don’t know.”

“Are you not aware of the Narwhal constellation on your back?”

He chokes.

“The what?” He reaches for his back, but the merchant stops him from peeling off the bandages.

“Pardon me, but I took a photo of it when you were unconscious.” The blond haired male raised a small, slim device that broadcasted on its small image a picture of his bare back, and on it was the constellation of Monoceros Caeli, branded to his skin and deep, violet ink which glittered faintly of forgotten stardust.

Childe wants to tear his own hair out.

He was most definitely screwed.

Note to self: Do not consume strange things when high off adrenaline. Do not attempt to fight another Abyssal being.

Now, it has carved itself into his skin, branded him as its own, and the harbinger massages his temples.

What now?

He doesn’t think it can be removed. Something deep, down in his bones, this pathetic pile of flesh and blood, moulded, tainted by the Abyss and now the All-Devouring Narwhal, told him that he had forsaken himself a long, long time ago. In exchange for power, otherworldly, monstrous beings had taken up space in his mind and body, as a series of irreversible decisions and choices which accumulated to form who he was.

There was a reason why he no longer called himself Ajax.

It was there to stay, side by side with the restless buzz of Foul Legacy, a burning desire to hunt and bathed in blood, making itself comfortable and known as a hunger so deep it gnawed at his bones and the edges of his coherent thoughts.

Alas, he would destroy another part of his own humanity.

Nothing new, nothing unexpected. Yet it still left him completely disappointed.

He hates this. It was proof that his own human strength was not enough. That he had to resort to the aid, to making deals and poorly thought out contracts so as to gain power. He might have mastered Foul Legacy, yes, but it was never meant to be his power in the first place.

Archons, if Foul Legacy and the Abyssal taint on his body had caused his parents so spurn him and send him to the Fatui, he wonders what the presence of the All Devouring Narwhal will do to his personality and how that will f*ck up his life even further. Dottore would find him to be the perfect specimen to research on.

Hell, even Master Skirk might seek him out for the Narwhal, and attempt to pry it from him.

What would the Tsaritsa say, knowing that he had taken up another host in his system, something even further, and far out of the world of Teyvat. Would she spurn him for becoming something else? Something less than Tartaglia?

“-Childe.”

His new master’s voice rings out, and Childe blinks, snapping out of his thoughts to look at her.

“What’s done is done. Focus on the present and move forward into the future. If the Narwhal is now a part of you, you may as well tame it and shape it to be your weapon.” She spoke nonchalantly, as if it were the most logical course of action that was glaringly obvious for everyone to see.

He should. The knowledge that it was here to stay was something that was obvious to him, with how it had branded its presence on his skin and marked him as its own host. No one would take what was already devoured. No one could take what was already consumed.

“I suppose I will have to test out my new abilities and learn a new thing or two while I’m here,” He smirks, half putting up a front for them, and half putting up a front for himself. To slip back into that confident, co*ckiness that he had long assumed and fallen into comfortably in the face of challenge and life threatening danger, even in this situation where the outcome was entirely unknown to himself and everyone around him.

“It’s good to know that you are in good spirits.” Luocha comments, as he pulls back the small, screen like device, turning it off by pressing it on its side lightly and tucking it into his pocket. With how sleek it is, it garners Childe’s curiosity, also because his mind was trying to find anything to latch onto that was not his current predicament as well.

“...What’s that screen device thingy?”

Luocha pulls it out.

“This? It’s a phone.”

The man turns it on by pressing the centre of the sleep screen with his ungloved thumb, and Childe watches in fascination as the screen lights up with a soft blue glow, revealing the image of a plain blank textile pattern and a display of numbers counting down the time.

“You can do a lot of things with it, such as take pictures, store them, play games, text, message and call others, amongst its many uses.”

“I can’t believe your civilisation doesn’t have phones.” Jingliu murmurs beneath her breath.

“Perhaps the world where you come from simply hasn’t advanced far enough to obtain wireless communication technology.”

Childe’s mind wanders back to the Akasha Terminals which were recently decommissioned en-mass after Dottore had managed to obtain the Dendro Archon’s gnosis, and wondered if it worked in the same way.

Luocha offers his phone over to Childe.

“The bottom has three buttons, back, home and to open up a summary of all currently running applications. The other items in squares or boxes are…apps, or applications, which have different purposes and functions that can help us connect and talk with others even from a great distance, and with little time delay.”

The…phone vibrates, as a white rectangle descends from the top of the screen.

“It says you have a new notification.” The harbinger hands the device back to the man.

“Ah. It’s likely the Trailblazers opening up their offer up to you.”

Wait. Hadn’t he only proposed the idea mere minutes ago?

Luocha chuckles.

“Near instantaneous communication. When you were talking with Jingliu, I took the liberty of informing them. The only delay in time would be the time they need to answer and read the message.”

Whoever invented the phone in this world was truly a genius.

If they had that in Teyvat, Childe could easily talk to his siblings everyday, chat with the Traveller, receive information and mission updates on the go from his soldiers, or receive commands from the Jester, so much more quickly.

This world was truly interesting.

“If it interests you, we can obtain a phone for you.”

Childe beams.

“I would be extremely grateful if you did so!” From what he could tell, the other features included taking pictures and saving them as well.

Holy sh*t. Not only could he learn new fighting techniques, he could also own a piece of cool, flashy new technology to play with. If he forgot about the fact that he had no idea how to get home, or the Narwhal and early getting stabbed to death by a very crazed or manic mentor, this could even be considered his actual holiday.

One that he had rightfully earned after fighting the stupid Narwhal for four years in the Primordial Sea.

This was what his vacation at Fontaine should have been.

Notes:

Updates will be slow since I'm overseas right now and formatting hopefully isn't wonky since I'm posting from my phone...

EDIT: 2 years changed to 4

Chapter 11

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

In the end, Luocha had ordered him to rest with only light activity allowed, so as to allow his wounds to heal fully. The Abundance healing technique of his was nearly much more advanced and effective than anything he had ever experienced in Teyvat, reversing a great majority of the damage on his body sustained by overusing Foul Legacy as well as the fight with Jingliu nearly overnight.

He wonders if a great many individuals in this world were just that powerful.

He watches Master Jingliu step onto the surface of the lake, freezing it beneath each and every step to pave her own path to stride on.

He wagers that she was strong enough to take out a good chunk of the Fatui military. All that fighting against him and Foul Legacy hadn’t even left her strained nor breathing heavily, nor did the Narwhal….The more he watches her spare, from a great distance this time, with how clean and efficient her blows were, the waves of ice and frost radiating from her presence reminded him so much of the Tsaritsa.

She fought with an otherworldly power, just like Master Skirk had, something that was foreign to him because it did not belong to anything remotely Teyvatian in origin. The idea of parallel universes had never once crossed his mind, so he had never thought of worlds that may lay beyond Celestia’s reach and authority.

He watches her manifest a large wave of ice.

That was Adepti levels of prowess and elemental mastery, he mused, as his mind wandered to the memory of Zhongli…of Morax.

“Stupid lizard.”

He turns his attention back to his new, current master.

His stomach growls.

Childe sighs, as he settles on pouring himself another cup of tea to quell this hunger. The hunger gnawed at him, but he could withstand it and ignore it for now. He had just eaten two hours ago, and he had eaten enough food to feed three people, seeing how neither Luocha nor his Master had eaten, as the two of them opted to push the food to him and subtly coax him into satiating his hunger.

He did not want to finish consuming and devouring all of their supplies.

The task assigned to him by Master was to watch her movements and study her actions diligently, in order to replicate them by himself.

He couldn't possibly hope to replicate anything she could do with ice, however, but the way she swung her blade was different from the way he wielded his hydro blades and something he could learn from. Perhaps he could replace those icy crescent scythes with hydro?

The hunger gnaws at him, despite the tea he drank. It claws at his stomach, something feral and instinctive that is slowly beginning to dominate his attention and overtake all his other senses, and Childe can slowly feel himself becoming increasingly frustrated. Was the amount of food he had consumed in one sitting not enough? Especially with how he starved for nearly four years in the Primordial Sea, his hunger and appetite had all but died and withered away, and now it decided to take a 180 and plague him?

The Harbinger gets up from where he was, huffing as he sets another pot of tea to boil.

It was easy to tell what was causing this.

Physiological changes caused by consuming the All-Devouring Narwhal. Just like when he had taken up Foul Legacy, it had left him endlessly manic, restless and lusting for blood and battle for months, and the years that followed. Foul Legacy had permanently altered a part of his nature, filled him with a need to kill, maim and slaughter, one which he tamed or brought to heel during his days in the Fatui, and his tenure as a Harbinger.

For all his father had done to break his trust by throwing him to the Fatui without telling him, Childe realised that that had been the best decision he could have made for him at that point in time. Any longer and he might have ended up killing someone after losing himself to the manic bloodlust.

These days, he dulled it down with regular sparring, hunting expeditions, extermination orders, and his duties as a Fatui Harbinger. It kept Foul Legacy satiated, though he knew that it always yearned for more. He chuckles with how everyone always called him the most bloodthirsty, battle hungry and trigger happy Harbinger. Her majesty’s vanguard. Sent out to do dirty work out on the frontlines.

He couldn't complain about it since it was a fair trade for him.

At least hunger was something he could manage, with enough food.

Problem was that they had limited supplies of food on this small, abandoned planet on the edges of the universe. He down the glass of boiling tea. It scalds his throat and burns his tongue, but he wants anything to just kill his appetite at the moment.

“Childe.”

His master’s voice is sharp, as he reacts by materialising a hydro blade, only for nothing to come to his hand as he turns to face Jingliu.

“You aren’t focussing.”

The Harbinger stared at the empty cup of tea in his hand.

“Sorry master, I was thirsty and trying to make a cup of tea for myself,” The woman peers at him from behind her blindfold, which she kept on the entire time, as she analyses his excuse.

His stomach growls, louder than ever before.

Childe clutches his face in his hands. His face heats up in embarrassment.

“If you are hungry, you should have said so.” She dispels the thing, icy blade in her hand, as it shatters and falls away into a pile of sparkling glitter that dissolves away in the room. She walks into the main storeroom in the kitchen, digging through a few shelves before she pulls out a dried bag of…something, and tosses it over to him.

“Field nutrient bars. Snack on those until Luocha gets back.”

Childe digs through the hefty bag, and pulls out the nutrient bars, each individually wrapped in an aluminium wrapper with an expiry date that he couldn't exactly read nor recognise its significance. Hurriedly peeling apart the wrapper, he finds himself looking at what seemed to be a chocolate covered granola bar, decorated with a drizzle of caramel and honey and sprinkled with some toppings.

He takes a bite and is pleasantly surprised at how it tastes like smoked meat, despite its candy bar like appearance. The notes of sweetness were from the honey, caramel and sugar, making for an interesting combination of sweet and savoury all in one, and completely unlike anything he had ever eaten in Teyvat.

“There’s forty of those inside that. Eat one slowly each time you feel hungry.” His master’s voice may sound cold, but her actions speak otherwise.

“Thank you!” He thanks his master, in between bites of the Field Nutrient Bar.

“I presume that your…unnatural appetite is either a result of you falling into this world, or the Narwhal.”

He nods.

“I guess they didn’t call it All Devouring for nothing,”

“I will arrange for your expeditions with Luocha to include trips to restock supplies.”

The hunger subsides, but only marginally so. Childe hopes he does not have to function on perpetual hunger. He knew what starvation could do to a person, or any living being for the matter. His time in the Abyss had taught him that much, and it was why Master Skirk had gotten him acclimated to the food available there as much as possible.

Now that he thinks about it, the All Devouring Narwhal must have starved the very moment it was born, ever hungry and unable to enjoy what it was like to be satiated. He starts feeling pity for the creature.

What are you doing Childe? He pinched himself and winced at the sharp pain, his strength being greater than he had anticipated, as he looked down at the red mark he had left behind on his skin.

There was no way he should be feeling pity for such a destructive creature. In the end, all it had done was cause a ton of trouble, and now it was causing him so much trouble as well.

“Would you be well enough to accompany him?”

“I can stand and walk around no problem,” Childe rotates his arm and flexes his hand and limbs here and there, despite his limbs being covered in bandages, he felt fine.

“No heavy activity. No fighting. Remember that. As for your phone, he will procure one for you.”

“Yes Master.”

Master’s gaze flickered over to him.

For a second, Childe can catch the look of something wistful in her facial expression.

“Once you recover, I will grind you down to the bone, and push the limits of your sanity.”

“Of course! I wouldn’t expect anything less from you,” Childe smiles, finding himself settled in the soon to be harsh routine that would put him through the wringer. For all the time he had spent fighting against the narwhal in Foul Legacy, one would have expected him to be sick of sparring and battle, yet he surprised himself by being greedy and shameless enough to ask to learn more about fighting from a new master the moment he leaves.

Truly a battle hungry monster, Childe.

Or maybe it wasn’t just the adrenaline that came from it. Perhaps it was also the excitement of gaining new knowledge, learning how to wield weapons he would not have tried out, and perhaps mastering a style or two that was literally foreign to the entirety of Teyvat! To tame and master the All Devouring Narwhal and add it to his already large arsenal of weapons, alongside Foul Legacy, the pleasure that came from surprising the enemy with a new ace up his sleeve, and perhaps even scaring his own allies as well…

Despite being in a foreign land, far from home, Childe was starting to feel excited.

Notes:

Writing while in the middle of a vacation and constantly traveling is a very strange experience...

Note: I've edited the years that Childe has stayed in the Primordial sea to 4 years instead of 2.5 for this chapter, will update the earlier chapters soon

Chapter 12

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The streets are bustling when Childe steps down onto them from the strange flying boat.

His experience in the air was simply wild, as he sat down next to the healer in a seat with a strap across his body and he looked out the window and felt the air rushing along his skin. It had been exhilarating.

He literally flew through the air!

And it was very much different from using Foul Legacy to temporarily hover around and glide through the air. At the higher altitudes they had to close the windows which moved up and sealed themselves automatically by some unseen, hidden mechanism and the pressure difference left his ears feeling a little strange as well.

Never in his life would he ever have imagined himself able to fly, on a man made machine no less! There was the blimp from Fontaine, of course, but that thing was slow moving and limited in speed. This vehicle, what Luocha told him about, was called a Starskiff, and it could be modified and piloted into battles and wars!

Speaking of wars, he learnt a whole lot about the history of the place he was visiting, courtesy of Luocha who seemed like another walking encyclopedia of knowledge, just like Zhongli- Morax, had been, but for someone who was supposed to be a merchant it made sense for him to know so much.

He hadn't realised how the entire Xianxhou Luofu was operating as a massive system of fleets and ships that made its way across star systems in their search to eradicate something called the Abundance, who was led by the Plague Authors. Well he got quite lost by that point so Luocha simplified the entire explanation as different groups of followers worshipping different paths having differing ideals clashing against one another.

Even war itself took place in this much more advanced world that was so much bigger than Teyvat. The path of the Hunt did seem very tempting for someone like him, or perhaps even the path of Destruction, as Luocha had explained the different Aeons to him.

This world was simply so vast and endless, and this was coming from someone who had gone to Inazuma, Fontaine, Liyue and hailed from Snezhnaya. Teyvat was…a speck in contrast to the sea of stars which laid beyond.

He hadn't expected that it would take travelling to a different dimension to re-ignite his love for adventuring, those dreams of being a wanderer, an adventurer traversing lands beyond.

The Starskiff had dropped them off at a floating pier, as Childe marvelled at the numerous levels of buildings and homes which extended downwards into a vast blue sky sea below. The technicalities of how this civilisation sustained itself in its eternal voyage went over his head, since he was only armed with the rudimentary knowledge of how gravity existed for a planet, uncertain of how machines and technology could replicate such a natural phenomena especially without any power from Archons or primordial beings.

“This must be quite a sight to have you in such a state of wonder.”

Luocha commented, as the alighting crowd around then dispersed and thinned out and that Starskiff took off for its next port, leaving behind the two of them.

“Wonder? That isn't enough to describe how amazing this place is!” Childe feels the cool breeze brushing aside his hair. It is surreal, as he studies the busy sight of dozens of Starskiffs in the skies around them, followed by…a mechanical crane landing on a tree?

The air smells faintly of grilled meats, spices, the roasted scents of tea, as he drinks in the colours and grounds himself in this new reality.

It ironically reminded him somewhat if Liyue, yet at the same time was so much more.

“Technology here has far surpassed that of Teyvat. Even Dottore can only dream about how far humanity can come in this place!”

Luocha clears his throat.

“Well I do have to correct you on that front. Humans, or hom*o Sapiens are only one if many life forms that exhibit the intelligence required for a civilization to develop. Numerous other races, beings, some of immaterial shape and form, also reside in this universe, and possess greater technology than the Xianzhou Luofu.”

“Oh I mean we do have Adepti in our world, like a cross between immortal beings and spirits? We also have Melusines and stuff yeah,”

Luocha looked intrigued.

“It would be fascinating to learn more about your home world. For now, I suppose it's your turn to learn about what our universe has to offer you.”

Childe stares at the sky, and across the bustling streets as he peers at individuals with fox like ears and bushy tails walk past him.

Okay…that was definitely not the weirdest type of beings he had seen.

“The Xianzhou Luofu natives live alongside the Foxian and the Vidayahara. The first has fox like traits while the latter has pointed ears. The natives themselves resemble humans the most. Each has their own certain unique traits, but generally most of the Xianzhou Luofu are long life species, living for several centuries compared to short lived species of ordinary humans.”

The merchant steps right next to Childe.

“More immortals? Are there any champion duelists here or crowned fighters? Surely those years must have accumulated centuries of experience as well!” Childe flashed the man a grin, his blood dancing with the anticipation of seeking out another good fight.

If any of them were half as good as his current master was, he was in for a treat.

“Need I remind you that you are meant to only stick to light activity? No fighting, sparring or duelling in that case. I do not take kindly to unruly patients who undo my work and waste my efforts.” Luocha chides, as Childe deflates and huffs.

All these new worlds and people and he can't indulge in his favourite pastime? The one activity literally keeping him sane?

Foul Legacy thrums in his veins, reminding him that it was still present.

Based on his estimates, (because yes he had to keep tabs on the entity which caused him to be overcome with blood lust), he could probably hold out another week or two? Getting the sh*t beat out of him by Master Jingliu had done some wonders to tame Foul Legacy and satiate his bloodlust.

“When you get better, Jingliu will indulge your bloodlust. And to tame that madness of yours. Until then, I trust that you are patient enough to wait?” The merchant smiles at him.

“Alright. Sounds like it's the best deal I'll be able to get out of this, anyways.” The harbinger wonders if they will take up his offer on his services.

Glancing across the bustling street, he can't help but wonder if he had f*cked himself over again by offering such a boon to them. The last time he had been part of a contract, things had not gone down spectacularly well. Luocha flashed a glance at him.

“We will not force you into something that causes you great discomfort. I am aware that you are perceptive enough to tell that neither myself nor my companion are…ordinary. Even so, it is rude for us to rely on you to carry out any…dirty work for us. We have the situation taken care of, and are simply lying in wait for the best time to show itself.” The merchant spoke to him, as he strode forward, the thin rapier attached to his side, as he used a gloves hand to beckon the orange haired male to walk alongside him.

Childe was surprised by such an upfront statement. It was not unwelcome, though his time in the Fatui had taught him to be naturally suspicious of most people, (except that damned consultant).

“For now, take us helping you as something for us to help pass the time with. If your presence unintentionally aids us in our goal, neither will we object to it either.”

Now this was what he was expecting to hear.

“And what exactly is your goal?”

Luocha smiled at him. It was a polite one, the look he recognised on Pantalone and Arlecchino when the both of them when they were not to be pushed further.

“Now, I can't reveal everything to you, a stranger, can I now?”

Childe huffs.

“Fine, fine. Keep your secrets. Just know that I refuse to be a puppet or a pawn to be manipulated into carrying out someone's agenda.” Luocha’s gaze turns to him, as the merchant studies the traveller.

“Of course. It sounds like you had a few unpleasant experiences yourself. Rest assured, we will not force you into anything or leave you in the dark on purpose. It is simply such that you are…an anomaly. An unknown variable that was cast out onto our doorstep. Pardon us if we may come off as cold and detached.”

The Harbinger looks at him.

Childe supposed that he could accept such an explanation. If he were in their place, some otherworldly being being suddenly thrust upon him in the middle of important plans would certainly stir and create a lot of risk and uncertainty. At the same time, however, because of his lack of knowledge of the entire world and how its systems worked, he was vulnerable to manipulation and control. Huh. He had learnt a thing or two from the other Fatui during their interactions.

“... No, it's understandable that you would treat me as such. I think if I were you I would also do the same.” He admits, as he allows his sincerity and unexpected understanding to bleed through. After all, they had already helped him so much, and expected nothing in return.

The merchant nods.

“Then both you and I have reached an understanding. Let's set this debate aside and allow me to give you a tour of the place. In addition, I believe you have a great appetite? I know a place for you to satiate that.”

Childe finds himself smiling.

Notes:

when Christmas is approaching and you haven't written as much as you wanted to before Christmas-

To all those who guessed either path of hunt or destruction y'all are accurate BUT one must factor in the All devouring Narwhal *winks*

Chapter 13

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Stelle, are you sure this is a great idea?”

The pink haired girl follows behind the grey haired trailblazer, followed by a stoic male with dark hair, currently wearing a cloak over his head to conceal the dragon horns over his head. That was until March 7th had just opted to give him a cute pink fluffy headband with hollow bunny ears which fit snugly over his horns.

“It's a competitive eating competition. At worst, I'll pass out again and someone will come along and revive me. An eating competition has never killed anyone.” Stelle responds, as she stops in front of the food vendor selling steamed buns straight from bamboo steamers stacked high on his cart.

“Ah! Young miss, it's you again! I see, you have finally made up your mind to participate in our competitive eating event to celebrate our 421st anniversary?”

“Sign me up.” Stelle slaps 1000 credits into the vendor's hands. March and Dan Heng watch as Stelle once again likely signs herself up for an activity she would likely regret.

“Now, this tournament has two stages. Diplomacy, followed by combat!”

Stelle chokes.

“Excuse me sir? What is going on?” The trailblazer asks, as she looks around at the various contestants and then the vendor for an explanation. A ginger haired male seemed equally as clueless as well, the man stepping closer to hear a potential explanation.

“Ask away!”

“What is diplomacy? And combat about respectively?” The ginger haired male asks the words that had been on Stelle’s own tongue.

“During the diplomacy phase, you can use any kind of diplomatic means available to seize the initiative over your opponents!” Yep. That was totally not vague at all. Stelle resists the urge to throttle the vendor into giving a better explanation.

“That's interesting! For an eating competition, I didn't think that it would include such tasteful strategies as well!” The ginger haired male laughs, as he looks at Stelle and the rest of the Trailblazers with a watchful gaze.

March shivers at how soulless his eyes are, which are so out of line with his cheerful excitement, and Dan Heng regards this new individual with wariness.

“So combat is just the usual eating part?” Stelle clarifies before she was gonna end up stumbling into something without sufficient context and information.

“That's correct. Now, without further ado, we shall begin the diplomacy phase! Go chat with your opponents!”

Stelle looks at the ginger haired male.

“So, stranger, it appears that I'll be your opponent this time!” Welp. There went any hope of asking him to team up with her.

“Throw the contest and split the prize with me? 50/50?” Stelle tries her best set of puppy eyes on the man. To her credit, the ginger haired male bursts out laughing.

“Unfortunately, I'm a person who advocates for fair combat. We shall put our hunger and ability to eat to the test in the combat phase. It is the first time I have experienced such a competition, and I would like it to be as genuine as possible. You could try asking the others though?” The man gestures to the other competitors around them.

Stelle sighs, and makes her way around.

After many unsuccessful negotiations, they end up starting the competition.

Childe wonders how he got himself here in the first place, or rather how Luocha had gotten him to sign up for this competitive bun eating competition. At the very least, the meat buns tasted amazingly good.

He devours the baskets of steamed Bao put on his table, his endless hunger gnawing and only growing with more food he ate. Midway through his 20th basket, he realises that Luocha had dropped him off here to help him manage his hunger. Quick calculation told him that he had eaten nearly 80 steamed buns, and he felt bad for the grey haired girl who was downing a glass of water to help relieve herself of the discomfort of competitive eating.

She herself was not too shabby, being at her 17th basket of buns.

The taste of bao became quickly repetitive, but to Childe, each bite of food satiated a single drop of hunger in the endless sea that was his current state of agony, that empty hollowness which clawed and drowned his mind in a state of perpetual starvation. Small, but with effects sufficient to keep it under control.

The more he ate, the more his appetite grew.

At some point in time, the grey haired girl had passed out, as all the other competitors had tapped out of the competition. Childe was merely only at his 50th basket. The vendor was opening up all his pre-prepared and stored frozen buns to cook whilst making more new ones, and even then it was not enough.

Childe wipes his hands on the napkin given to him, as the vendor stares at him, gobsmacked and surrounded by empty plates, steamer trays and nothing else left.

“It is clear that the winner of this year's Competitive Water Championship is-”

The vendor whispers a question to him.

“How would you like me to address you?”

Childe shrugs.

“Call me Childe.”

“Me Childe! Never before have I ever met a being with an appetite as endless and infinite as yours! Here is the prize!” The vendor coughs, as he hands out a bag of goods and passes it over to Childe

“A lifetime supply of any flavoured buns from my shop, a small, humble cash prize of 100 strale and the recipe on how to make the Tasty Field Nutrient Bar!” Childe shakes the man's hand.

Well. This was actually really fun. With nothing left to eat, he clamps down on his hunger and forces it aside, resisting the urge to peek right into the gift bag.

“Please don't rob me of my business.” The vendor whispers to him quietly, as Childe simply chuckles.

“Rest assured, I will not do so. I'm a passing traveller, after all.”

Stelle's ears perk up at that statement.

The crowd around then disperses.

“Hey, Mr Childe, are you free right now?” A pink haired girl throws him a greeting from afar. Childe studies this trio, from the way they dressed, as he can't help but stare at the fluffy pair of bunny ears attached to the most stoic individual of the group.

“I guess I am until L-my companion picks me up. I'll be lost without him around here,” He already finds the three of them hilarious. And he hadn't even spoken to two of them.

The grey haired girl steps up.

“I'm Stelle, this is March 7th and Dan Heng. We're Trailblazers from the Astral Express.” Stelle points at herself the pink haired girl and the bunny ears male in quick succession.

“I'm Childe. Winner of this competitive eating competition. Probably a misplaced dimensional traveller.” He adds on as an afterthought. This group of individuals seemed peculiar and different enough from the Xianzhou Luofu natives. Childe knew that he could make a guess that they were also travellers, if not tourists hailing from a different civilisation, judging from the way they dressed.

Well, except for Dan Heng. The man looked distinctly uncomfortable with the fake bunny ears headband, which clashed with the green, white and gold robes that he wore. Out of the three, his clothes resembled the Xianzhou Luofu natives the most.

“You're not a Xianzhou Luofu native, aren't you?” March asks him. Her voice weirdly reminds him of Paimon. He shakes his head.

“I come from a place called Teyvat. Which may not exist here.”

Stelle gawks.

“Wait, you weren't kidding when you said you were a dimensional traveller?”

Childe chuckles.

“Well have you heard of Teyvat? Or Snezhnaya, or Fontaine?” Dan Heng shakes his head at all the names he lists, with March and Stelle staring at the dark haired male intently, their surprise growing with each denial of knowledge.

“If Dan Heng hasn't heard of it, it probably doesn't exist! Then again, we should check with Mr Yang just to be sure.” Dan Heng nods in approval. The younger man seemed to relax after finding out that he was not from the Xianzhou Luofu.

“Quick question, but you guys must also be travellers or adventurers of sorts, am I correct? I haven't exactly heard about what the Astral Express does,” Childe shoots his question before the trio go down a different path if discussion. He can feel the slight pangs of hunger growing in his gut already, and pats the enormous bag of field nutrient bars gifted to him by his master to feel its weight. At this rate, he could easily demolish an entire restaurant (which he supposed he kind of just did) within the hour.

All you can eat buffets were going to go bankrupt if he went there.

“Oh! You really haven't heard of the Express? Well we are a group of individuals known as the Nameless, traversing the sea of stars to pave way for the Trailblaze.” March 7th narrates with dramatic flourish waving a band through the air as she pivots on her feet. Childe watches as literally sparkles of light seem to appear around her, and he can't tell if that was some strange particle effect about her presence or simply just…March being Match.

“We also seal disaster causing calamities known as Stellarons and prevent civilisations from falling into ruin.” Dan Heng adds on in a stoic voice, as though March had forgotten the most important part of their travels.

“And I'm on a quest to unlock every single trash can I find!” Stelle adds on. Both Dan Heng and March shoot her a look, as both sigh.

Whatever the three of them were on, it sure as hell sounded really fun! A healthy dose of adventure, danger and some wackiness set them on a path filled with wonder and Childe watched them bicker and banter over someone's trash rummaging and hoarding habits and he wonders if he could have had a life like this.

He watched them from a distant shore, hands wanting to reach out and feel that warmth if companionship and understanding he had yearned for all his life, only to pull his hands back from being scalded by the hot flames of betrayal and abandonment that would no doubt come if he once again opened his heart up to them.

He did not belong. He would not belong. This was not his home, even if it was filled with so much more than Teyvat was, and could ever be. Eventually he would have to leave, or they would leave him behind, and so he can only watch. For how lively everything was around him, the bustling streets and cities, the trio who were chatting away, the noise of passing Starskiffs, Childe was alone.

Perhaps this is simply his fate.

His…phone vibrates.

He pulls the slim device out from his pocket, trying to remember the tutorial on how to unlock the device as Luocha had told him and simply types in 1234 as his passcode and furiously looks for the messaging app Luocha had shown him.

The notification pops up and he taps on that instead, with Luocha telling him that his errands had stretched on longer than anticipated and that he would only bring him back by sunset, and to meet at the port in a few hours time. Until then, he was free to roam about the shopping districts, with a purse of credits to spend on whatever he wanted.

“You have a phone? That makes things so much easier! Could we exchange numbers?” Childe is startled by March’s voice, as he grips onto the phone tightly, body instinctively anticipating a fight.

“...exchange numbers?”

“Like phone numbers! You do seem new to all of this, we can teach you more about how stuff works, if you want,” The pink haired girl seems excited. Dan Heng looks up at him, and then back down to the plain white casing phone in his hand. Stelle nods enthusiastically.

“Feel free to enlighten me.” Childe hands his phone over, as March and Stelle crowd up to his side. The harbinger awkwardly stands in between the both of them, having not expected them to take to him so quickly and keenly. And here he thought he was an extrovert…these two were the definition of what an extrovert was, and he was realising painfully that his four years spent in the Abyss had turned him into somewhat of an introvert. After all, he was alone with no human connection or company but the Narwhal's presence.

He listens quietly as they teach him and show him all the applications or ‘apps’, Dan Heng having scouted out some seats for them at a nearby cafe and ordering all of them drinks. The stoic male had paid for all of their food despite Childe’s protests, and the ginger coul only accept his generosity with the other two next to him cheering Dan Heng on with his bunny ears.

He had never realised how…nice it was for others to be the one treating him since he was usually the one buying gifts and food for others.

Speaking of, this…bubble tea drink was amazing.

“And so, that was the quickest summary we could give. There's also stuff like sending stickers and all, but the rest is up to you to find out!” Stelle finger guns at him, winking mischievously as March nods. Dan Heng sips his bubble tea at the side.

“Wait, I couldn't help but see that you are also friends with Luocha?” March's words make Dan Heng perk up. Childe nods.

“Yep. He's my…saviour and doctor of sorts. Long story short, dimensional travel when you are heavily wounded is not a good idea. Getting into another fight with the same wounds right after was also not a good idea.” Childe admits sheepishly.

“He did say he was a travelling merchant but also a…man with a peculiar talent for healing. I met him at the start of the crisis and journeyed with him for a while.” Dan Heng murmurs.

“Guys, we can't forget the time we had to investigate what he was doing, and how Mr Yang finds him suspicious, ONLY to find out that he helped two guys out from falling into a literal pile of sh*t….” Stelle casually inserts.

March giggles.

“Overall, he seems like a chill guy. Nice to know that he has your back as well.”

Childe wonders if they know about the company he kept.

Dan Heng takes out his phone and scrolls up to look through his own messages.

“You…are the one that Luocha was asking for aid for?” Ah. So Dan Heng was Luocha's contact to the Express.

“Dimensionally displaced traveller? Yep that's me alright.” He grins. That sounded about right. Childe, a stranded traveller on an unknown world. Where harbinger titles no longer existed, the Abyss seemed like a problem so far off, and well he wondered if Fontaine survived or not. Dan Heng types something on his phone, before he whispers something to both March and Stelle.

Childe didn't appreciate such secrecy being carried out in front of him, and hoped they were not gossiping about him right in front of him. However, this was Dan Heng, Stelle and March who so far seemed entirely genuine in their personalities and interactions with him. They had no need to go so far out of their way to aid him or treat him to such good food either.

“What time do you have to leave? We want to spend more time with you,” Stelle looks at him and winks, before Dan Heng slaps her on the back so hard she nearly falls forward onto the table.

“Stop winking at everyone.” The stoic male hisses, as March giggles.

Childe chuckles. Stelle truly was something else. As outrageously daring as she was, he found it refreshing. Most in Teyvat and Liyue had only seen him for his Harbinger status, and few saw him as a person. No one would have dared to try something like this on him.

“Well, I've got to meet Luocha in an hour's time, but I'll be back here daily? I have no idea how long I'll be stuck here in this world, so I might as well learn more about the place while I'm at it.”

“We could help you find a way out? Potentially. Mr Yang comes from a different universe too.” Dan Heng drops a bomb on him.

Childe nearly choked on a boba pearl.

“When can I meet Mr Yang?”

Notes:

AND SO IT BEGINS (wished I could have written fast and far enough to provide a wholesome christmas special but didn't manage to do so...)

ps: Childe also does have Jingliu's number but it isn't saved as a contact yet because he has yet to figure out how...while Luocha helped him to save his contact and number

Chapter 14

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He arranged to meet them tomorrow as soon as they and Mr Yang were free.

By the time they had sent him off at the Starskiff port, Childe waited patiently, sitting down on one of the benches as he fiddled around with his phone. The plan to go back home was beginning to take shape, and not before long it would slowly solidify itself. He could only hope that this Mr Yang had the answers and the key to his escape.

He tears off the wrapper of another field nutrient bar, nibbling on the bar despite his body protesting in hunger, as the harbinger restrains himself from eating the entire bar in a single mouthful. As he gazed at the setting sun overhead, (or perhaps it wasn’t even the sun but some other luminescent star), he wondered if this was what Aether felt like. Lost and stranded in another world.

But the traveller had not been alone. He had been with his sister, Lumine, before they were separated.

Well, on the brightside, Childe did not have a missing sibling to look for.

This universe was too vast to simply go and search for a missing person.

He reaches for his vision, only to remember that he had handed it over to Aether and entrusted the male with it. It was funny how he had also forgotten about his delusion, which likely sat on the bedside table back at Master’s hut. Being in this world had made him forget about visions, delusions, and the power and authority that came with it.

However, he still felt empowered, albeit by different sources. Foul Legacy and the Narwhal co-existed within him, or that was what he liked to think since none of them had been causing him any trouble as of yet. The surrealness of the situation sinks in only now, as he watches the Starskiffs fly by, dressed in borrowed clothes of another culture, as if he had given up everything that Teyvat had bestowed to him.

Four years in the Primordial Sea…had left him in a constant state of fight of flight, living each day down there by the moment.

It was a miracle that he had managed to survive and pull through.

The ginger combs his hair back with a hand as a gentle breeze blows past him.

His mind drifts back to that iridescent water, of a shimmering violet hue all around him, ethereal starlight condensed down to form the basis of all life. The way he had fallen into the vast deep sea, fallen so deep that he had lost himself beneath those waves and through the water into a different layer of reality. So much like the time he had fallen all the way, deep down into the Abyss.

The Narwhal had not devoured him for all the time he had been suspended in seawater, hovering in a dream-like state of suspension, before he awoke and fell deeper into a watery void with no end in sight.

He had been certain he had been dreaming.

The call of the Narwhal, its song seeping into his dreams and dulling his senses, a siren’s song luring him to Fontaine ever since he had fallen from the Abyss. His time spent at the Fortress of Meropide was a blink in comparison, flashes and glimpses of people, words spoken long forgotten as he had found himself drawn to the…to-

He could not determine when he had slowly slipped away entirely.

He awoke in the depths of the Primordial Sea.

And so the fight had begun.

A fight which never ended.

The Narwhal had been lonely. So lonely, abandoned and left behind. So had Childe been. The harbinger knew that he had not fought at full strength for four years continuously. Near misses, brushes with death had littered every second, every moment he had lived in the Primordial Sea, opportunities which only increased exponentially as Foul Legacy drained his sanity, and he had been forced to absorb energy from his environment. Yet the Narwhal had never taken those opportunities to devour him.

Perhaps it did not want to lose its only company.

“Childe.”

He turns to face Luocha.

“I assume you had quite a fruitful day. Would you mind helping me carry a few groceries?” Luocha raised up bags of items, as Childe stepped up to the man to take some of them from his hands.

“Let us return.”

Notes:

Aether as MC in Genshin, Stelle as MC in Star Rail

Chapter 15

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Luocha unwraps the bandages and dressings, as Childe sits on the chair with his back facing the healer. He felt touchy and very, very vulnerable showing his body to someone he had only met a day ago, but stilled himself when Master gave him the set of clothes he had arrived in. One of the few things he had of Teyvat.

“It’s fascinating.”

Luocha’s smooth voice sends a shiver down his spine. It’s the voice of a scientist having their interest piqued, something he recognised from the way Dottore had always seen him and spoken to him with.

“What about me is fascinating?”

“Your wounds are healed. Completely. Even with the aid of my healing, it should not have healed as quickly as it did. When Jingliu found you on the verge of death, I poured in a significant amount of energy to heal you and stem the blood loss and organ failure, but even so your survival was not guaranteed.”

Childe glanced down at his hand and leg.

“Didn’t you notice how you could quickly return to battle and even walk without any issue? All those fractures, ruptured organs, torn muscle, internal bleeding, all healed overnight. Even with how you overstrained yourself once again, your wounds are all healed. My, my, the only other person I could compare your healing to is that Stellaron hunter, Blade.”

Luocha chuckles. He seemed pleased by the new discovery, as he turns to look at his new master.

“Regenerative capabilities like that of those Abundance spawn? Like that of that pathetic blacksmith?”

“Indeed.”

“Woah, woah, who’s this Blade guy, and is my healing a problem? I thought it was a good thing? Unexpected but…good?” Childe asks. It did come off as a pleasant surprise. All his life he had always been living on the battlefield, at risk of death and being crippled by various injuries. Foul Legacy took a toll on his health, with each time he used it. Now, all of that could be easily negated? It sounded too good to be true, and he wondered about the hidden costs behind this new healing factor.

Where did it even come from?

This universe itself, or perhaps it was the Narwhal?

Childe ponders, as he unfolds the clothes he had been given. Filled with holes, wear and tear from all of his fighting. He had to find some time to mend it and sew it up when he could.

“Your level of accelerated healing is not common in your world?” Jingliu asked, as she stepped closer to him.

He shakes his head.

“No. Usually I am the one who comes close to dying because of my wounds, or because I overused Foul Legacy.”

“Is this ‘Foul Legacy’ what you transform into in your last battle with me?”

Childe nods.

“A…thing I picked up from my childhood after an accident.”

“One does not pick up a secondary form or transformation as a child, or by accident. If you want to keep your secrets, we will not pry. Ensure that it does not get in the way of your training.”

“Yes master.”

Childe says, as he unwraps another nutrient field bar to snack on as he had enough with the exponentially growing hunger.

“In your quest to return back to your world, it may be something good for yourself. However, there will likely be hidden costs associated with it. Perhaps your increased metabolism might be one of them?” Luocha suggests gently, as the healer leaves Childe to dress himself, turning to tend to the pot of rice that was cooking.

“Ugh. All of it is because of the Narwhal.” Childe groans, showing the two a glimpse of his frustration on the situation.

“Be mindful of your hunger. Afflictions such as starvation is another form of madness in itself.” Jingliu picks up another bag of food and tosses it onto his bed.

“It is easy to tell that you will be driven mad if there is no food left for you.”

Childe bristles.

“I won’t give in that easily to hunger! You talk about madness as if it’s going to suddenly strike me down because of something like not eating enough, me, going mad because I’m hungry? No way! You think too little of me.”

He firmly believed that if he could tame Foul Legacy and control his bloodlust, he could do the same for the endless hunger within him. He refused to think that he would become a calamity like the Narwhal, who had lost all possible connection with any living being because it was simply so hungry that it devoured everything and everyone.

He was Childe, Tartaglia, eleventh of the Fatui Harbingers. Survivor of the Abyss, and those four years in the Primordial Sea.

“Shall we put that to the test?”

Master leaned down, her long moonlight locks tickling his skin.

“Fine by me. When and how long?”

Master smiles. It is something cold and cruel.

Luocha clears his throat.

“Let us have this…after, we finish this batch of food. I would prefer them not to spoil and go to waste.”

Childe released the breath he had not known he had been holding.

“Alright then. We can have it tomorrow or the day after. I do have to meet the Astral Express crew after all.”

Childe ends up having dinner with the two of them.

He easily demolishes their entire stock of food in one meal.

Notes:

when u add the fact that the Narwhal fought Childe in his Foul Legacy form for four years straight, it has to have some regenerative abilities...

Imagine Childe meeting Blade and the Stellaron Hunters tho...*winks*

Chapter 16: New Year's Special

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Near the end of the meal, Luocha brings out a beautiful cake in the shape of a roll, setting it on the table. It is a roll cake with pink coloured jam and pale cream rolled into a spiral across its cross section, its outer skin with a pattern of swirling red and pink blobs. It smells delicious, making Childe’s mouth water despite the fact that he had the equivalent of ten meals prior.

“...A Tuskpir Wrap. What is the occasion?” Master sipped her tea, as she directed her question at Luocha.

“To celebrate the coming of a new year. I am aware that the Xianzhou natives follow a different calendar, but I would still like to celebrate the beginning of a new year nonetheless. This new year follows the calendar established by that of the Intergalactic Merchant Guild. I do not have any of the usual materials or space to celebrate it the way we usually do, but I suppose having a special treat is symbols enough as something special to enjoy.”

The healer cuts a slice of cake for each of them.

“There’s different ways of celebrating New Years here too?”

“...With many civilisations, the definition of a year and its culture and rituals will vary greatly.” Master elaborates, as she takes the plate of cake from Childe. She had not known this about the healer, despite having joined up with him in their travels some time ago.

“...Back in Teyvat, there was something called the Lantern Rite Festival in Liyue which is celebrated on the first full moon of the year. In a way, I guess that counts as a new year? My homeland does things differently from that as well.”

“Is this…Liyue not your homeland?”

Childe shakes his head, as he uses the provided fork to cut out a portion of cake from his slice.

“I’m…an agent of sorts. Got assigned to a few overseas missions, away from my homeland Snezhnaya, which is a cold place with a ton of ice and snow.”

Luocha pours him a cup of tea.

“I got sent to Liyue, which kind of has quite the similar vibes to the Xianzhou Luofu, honestly, the architecture is…scarily alike.”

Jingliu takes a bite of her cake, a soft murmur beneath her lips.

“That mission sucked. Well after that, I got sent to Inazuma to help overthrow some corrupt ruler, resolve some internal matters and explore a natural dungeon. Finally, I was supposed to take my vacation after that…”

“And your vacation was through…Fontaine? Am I pronouncing it right?” Luocha mused.

Childe nods.

“You are a long way from home, child.”

“Yeah. I just hope the time dilation works the same as the Abyss. One month here should be equal to one day over there.” He finally gets a bite of his cake.

It.

Was.

Amazing.

The gentle sweetness which came from the mixing of the tart, sweet jam with the light, fluffy whipped cream in its centre, complemented with the perfectly light strawberry flavoured sponge cake and its outer skin, which tasted just like the crust of a baked cake yet elegantly intertwined with hints of rose and lavender. The cake itself was surprisingly fragrant, despite having been refrigerated, one could easily smell the scent of berries from the jam itself, but also the light hints of rose and lavender from the sponge cake.

“If you like the cake, you can have more,” Luocha used the knife to cut another slice for him.

Childe was amazed by how good the cake was.

“...really?”

This had to be an expensive cake. The fact that these strangers were so helpful to indulge him and feed him was…something pleasantly warm.

“Help yourself. I’m sure that you won’t have anything like this back in your homeland. Both Jingliu and I can get more whenever we want, but you won’t have all the time to try this cake again.” The merchant smiles, sincerely pleased to see his guest enjoying the cake he had chosen.

“At least you have something to enjoy even when you are this far from home.” Master spoke.

Childe gratefully takes on the second slice onto his plate, as Master’s words and tone remind him so much of Master Skirk. On the day when he had finally found and hunted down something that tasted vaguely like wild boar in the Abyss, she had taught him how to cook and prepare it such that it tasted a lot like the food he had at home.

The words she had spoken were nearly the same.

She was cold, but perhaps she cared too.

The ginger looks at his slice of cake, and quietly ponders.

He slowly savours this slice of cake, since it was the first dessert he had in nearly four years.

“Happy New Year, to the both of you.” He wishes his two mysterious benefactors well, as he catches Luocha’s smile slip into one of genuine surprise and warmth, the way the man’s eyes finally reflected the same sincerity and warmth at his reciprocation, and how Master’s expression softened.

“Happy New Year to you too, Childe.”

“Perhaps your new year has decided to bring a traveller into our lives.” Jingliu murmurs softly.

“Perhaps I’m a sign that your new year will be filled with pleasant surprises,” Childe jokes.

Luocha chuckles in response to both of their words.

“It is as much a new year for the both of you as it is for me, since you are celebrating it with me. All of our lives will be filled with that unpredictable, unexpected variable, and it will be a good thing.”

-

The woman steps through the gate of the freezing palace, a sword of gleaming, unearthly power slung over her back. Dozens of guards lay scattered all around her at her feet, the Fatui members all too weak to withstand her very presence, and the aura her weapon emitted even when sheathed and undrawn.

The remaining Fatui who could still stand and move were already readying their weapons from afar, bows, spells all ready to fire at her.

A command from afar sets off a barrage of spells of various elements, of projectiles, to which the intruder, merely ignored. They dissipated harmlessly metres before they could even reach her.

Skirk eyes the palace ahead of her, annoyed.

“All this time my foolish disciple has done nothing but surround himself with weaklings like these?”

Someone steps out from its grand gates.

Finally, someone who stood a chance.

“I never expected to see that one lady could cause so much trouble right at our Archon’s doorstep.”

A man steps forward, face obscured by an elaborate mask which follows curves downwards and ends in a pointed tip. Light blue strands of hair draped down over his mask, as the Doctor took a few steps down to approach the intruder.

“Is my disciple back yet?”

She threw her question out to him before Dottore could continue.

“Your…disciple. You have to provide more details than that.” He gives a cursory glance at the woman. With his gaze focused on the non-mortal elements of her limbs, the way energy radiated from her presence, simply oozing and brimming with power he had never encountered before. It was not entirely Abyssal, yet nothing Tevyatian in origin. The patterns and colouration on her limbs glow, a power the scent of something dark and old.

Dottore does not wish to take her on in a fight. This woman was clearly something else entirely. A lot like an entity from the Abyss, not quite like the Adepti or special race of beings native to Teyvat, but bearing with her power beyond normal human comprehension.

Power he sought to comprehend and dissect.

“The orange haired boy. Battle hungry, suicidal maniac.”

“Tartaglia?”

“Is that what he goes by? Tch. Is he back yet?”

Dottore frowns.

“He is not currently anywhere in Snezhnaya.” The battle hungry brat always reported his attendance to the Rooster without fail, and the Rooster had just been complaining on how long it had been since he had seen the Eleventh.

The woman frowned.

“Did he get lost in the sea?” Dottore’s sharp, enhanced and augmented hearing allows him to pick up on the woman’s musings.

She turns her back to him, and disappears in a violent purple flash. The air around her distorts, warping as if it was easily wrinkled and crumpled, a wave of the scent of sulphur and salt the only thing left behind.

Dottore was annoyed.

Annoyed but also fascinated. This woman, who claimed to be the Eleventh’s master, bearing with her power unlike anything he had ever known of the entirety of Teyvat, had appeared right before his eyes, and disappeared in the same way.

The Eleventh had been surprisingly elusive about his past.

This woman was a key to just that.

The Doctor mused about the potential leverage he had over Childe, for if he had never once told anyone about her, it meant that he had wanted her to stay a secret. Secrets were valuable. Besides, if that woman was a catalyst to the Eleventh Harbinger ascent to his position, with that taint of the Abyss on him, the both of them would make fascinating test subjects.

For now, he had to report to the Tsaritsa on who had just intruded upon her grounds, though he already suspected that she was aware of all that had happened, for the palace was blessed ground imbued with her authority, and she knew of all that transpired within her domain.

Notes:

original plan for the new years special was for Childe to celebrate it with the Astral Express crew, but i hadn't gotten that far in the writing yet so he'll just be celebrating it with Jingliu and Luocha

and yes, I am finally touching upon the fatui harbingers tag in this story

Chapter 17

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Do you know how to use a sword?” Master raised her blade at him, a sword made of thin, near translucent ice which glinted like crystalised moonlight in the darkness of the night. It was a sword she had formed herself, from her own abilities which allowed her to forge from the shape of ice and the tenacity of her will alone.

“I do.” He knew how to proficiently wield every conventional weapon in Teyvat except for a bow. Master scrutinised him, a neutral expression on her lips. Since her eyes were blindfolded, Childe could not ascertain her intent from the way he normally judged someone’s gaze.

“Spar with me. No holds barred, since the Narwhal will help you heal.”

A grin forms on Childe’s face.

He calls Foul Legacy to his fingertips, the transformation much faster this time than it had been in Fontaine’s court when the Iudex had easily knocked him out, but even then he barely raised an arm to block Master’s kick which sent him flying and skidding over the ice. Foul Legacy growled, as abyssal energy reached its peak, his limbs elongating into armoured hands and stronger legs, allowing the demon to surface and come to the forefront.

It lunges, dual edged polearm materialising mid sprint as Master raised her blade and clashed against his polearm, and she did so with only one arm.

Foul Legacy bristles at her holding back, electricity or some other power creating streaks of violet which emanates from his body. If his delusion and vision both ceased to function, then how was he having any elemental mastery in the first place?

The confusion cuts through his mind, which Master takes advantage of, her blade grazing his side, shattering the armour near his ribs as it sends a poison of frost across his body. Childe rips off the remaining armour before it continues to spread, slight frostbite numbing that area and freezing flowing blood.

“You will find that things work differently here.”

Childe grunts.

Foul Legacy was a buzzing beneath his skin, a sensation which warred with the hunger that was already accumulating in his stomach.

Childe raised his pole arm, stabbing it into the ground and shattering the ice and raising water from the lake below, as electricity spread through the air darting from the water droplets and spreading out to Master. Jingliu coldly retaliates by freezing the air around her presence to ice, causing the electrically charged ice to explode.

Both seize the chance to clash in the explosive counter, as Childe learns to parry her blade, whilst Master punches him squarely in the gut with her free hand, a blow he tanks and stands his ground on despite the immense pain and pressure which shatters more of his armour.

On instinct, he calls for water but it refuses to answer him, and Master cuts through his polearm with her blade made of crystallised frost. Childe retreats, doubling back as he switches his grip on the remnants of the polearm. Foul Legacy demands the battle continue, and so the shape of his summoned pole arm shifts in the familiar form of his two hydro blades.

No hydro. Weird Abyssal electro. That’s all he had to work with.

They clash once more.

The way Foul Legacy held onto electro was animalistic, a field of sparks and lightning which emanated from his presence, the power of a wild beast at his fingertips. But Childe was not a beast, but a human. The time he had spent fighting against the Narwhal had taught him a few tricks or two, as Childe realises that he can substitute his usual electro delusion for the raw, pure power of something he had yet to fully understand himself.

Master’s power is overwhelming.

Cold, intimidating and utterly shattering as even restrained, she exhibits a cold, efficient elegance that showed how long she had been in this business. An immortal who had spent her entire life honing her skill with the blade, as Childe watched her switch her grip on the sword, and now he had to parry from a different direction, and he realises he has never fought an ambidextrous opponent before.

Archons, each of her blows were powerful.

They always, without fail, shattered a part of Foul Legacy’s armour in a single blow. They shattered his armour, and left his flesh beneath bruises and perhaps even fracturing bone if he used a limb to block her kicks or punches.

The hunger grows greater.

He can feel his stomach twist, as if it had turned to consuming

Foul Legacy growls, the buzzing much, much softer than it usually was, as Childe begins to realise that his hunger was now louder than the static that Foul Legacy brought to his mind. The two otherworldly entities within him clashed, fighting for dominance which caused a splitting headache to develop from the back of his head, a migraine which stretches on throughout his skull and seeps deep.

Jingliu slams her leg down across his face in a merciless turning kick.

Childe hits the ice so hard he feels the mask shatter and the thick ice beneath him spiderweb and fragment.

“Where is the bloodlust you held in our first fight? Has your rational mind stripped you of the need to win? Or do you think that I will not kill you?” Master’s voice rings around in his head. They echo, the words win and kill ricocheting around his thoughts, an echo chamber which chants the same two words over and over again as he pushes himself up from the ice.

“I could easily stab my blade in your throat, or felled my blade in you and left you to drown beneath the ice, or frozen you from inside out.”

Master points her blade at his throat, swiftly piercing it through the hand armour and his clawed hands, as it pierces flesh and through the ice.

Childe is left in a daze, when even the pain of being stabbed feels nothing compared to the pain in his own head.

From a half lidded gaze, he watches his blood pool, as Master pulls her blade out from his palm, letting the wound bleed as crimson liquid gushes from it. It flows, warm and heated, across the icy ground, steaming as it comes into contact with the colder surface, proof of the life that still flowed within him.

She raised her sword once more, and stabs it into his abdomen. She had done so purposefully, to strike at where it would hurt the most, breaking ribs, puncturing and rupturing a few organs here and there, such as his stomach, but avoided his lungs and heart.

Childe coughs up blood, words dying out into bubbles of blood which dribble from his lips.

It stains his clothes, as Master steps back and away, turning her back to him once she deemed that he was no longer a threat. She withdrew her blade.

Too weak to continue training any longer.

Jingliu was disappointed.

Was this all his humanity would ever amount to? An obstacle holding him back? The swordswoman flicks her blade, cleaning it off the traveller’s blood as she walks back to the hut.

Utterly pathetic.

This had been a waste of her time.

Notes:

in which Jingliu is prepared to stab the life out of Childe until he picks up a thing or two

Chapter 18

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There was a point where the pain became overwhelming.

Overwhelming, so much so that thoughts became white noise, and he floated in a sea of nothing but blinded haze and agony, a splitting pain from his mind which arose and brought him down. Then came the injuries done onto him, his senses sharpening involuntarily, instinctively at every sensation, every wound carved onto his flesh, from the large gaping wound in his abdomen, down to the pricks of ice on his skin.

Bloodlust was diluted by the need to survive, yet his hunger never once abated, only strengthened in the course of this ordeal, a swelling void and need to gnaw, to fill himself up just as how he needed to fill the hole in his abdomen up before he died.

As he bled across the ice, the warmth was taken, leached from him, paralysing him further and taking away what had been his, what he had consumed to nurture, his own lifeblood, and he… hungered.

He would not die here.

If he had to bring these two forces together, he would push them, push himself, into the brink of madness, the tainted host of an Abyssal entity and something that came from beyond the stars.

The Harbinger was fully prepared to dip his toes into the edges of insanity, returning to a state as he once had lasted a night ago, and the four years before that. When he had pushed through his limits, running himself down to the brink of exhaustion, dehydration and starvation, when Foul Legacy had nothing left to sustain himself but pure adrenaline that was running out, the Primordial Sea itself became his own food source.

What else could the Narwhal devour? What else could he devour?

Childe pushed himself up from the ground, the pain in his hand dying down to a dull buzz.

He raised his bleeding palm up to his face, and opened his mouth to lap at the blood which flowed from his wounds. His blood is salty, lacking the copper taste which it should have. Instead, it tastes like seawater, the Narwhal’s favoured delicacy and sustenance, as Foul Legacy revives itself on the delightful burst of energy that mouthful of blood gives to himself.

That is when Childe discovered that he could devour the concept of pain, of injury, done to himself, as he watches the hole in his palm seal itself, flesh and bone regenerating, fibres of muscle, nerves and tendon restoring itself until his hand was as good as new.

He laughs.

The pain of his wounds are no more, as he thinks of them as a concept to devour, to take the idea of agony, of bleeding wounds, broken bones, fractured limbs, torn muscles, frayed nerves, ruptured organs, and to devour it, make them his own, and to fuel his never ending performance.

Now, he could truly become the ruthless killing machine that he, Tartaglia, the Eleventh Harbinger, was meant to be.

If he could devour pain, devour the idea of injury done to himself, could he devour and conquer other concepts as well? That of death, of age, of, life, of time, of freedom, of knowledge-

This was what it meant to be the host of the All Devouring Narwhal.

To hunger, to decimate, to take away all that was present, from the humblest of beings to the grandest of concepts, shattering laws, and decimating reality.

For a moment, Childe wonders if he could devour a god.

Tear down Archons, consume their power and use it to fuel his own conquest to bring those holy beings down from their iridescent thrones in the sky.

He could become something surpassing a god, with Foul Legacy’s unending thirst for battle and destruction, coupled together with the Narwhal’s hunger and ability to fuel itself on anything and everything, a calamity born from the fusion of things which should not have existed in the first place.

He was ashamed to call himself human. For wanting to be human, when he was clearly no longer one, and would never return to just being Ajax.

It sinks in.

It finally sinks in.

He stands alone on the icy platform, surrounded by nothing but the cold breeze, Master having already left him behind.

The blood on him shifts, the texture changing to become that violet, ethereal hue of Primordial Seawater, which sinks back into his skin, as Childe blinks. The hum of the Abyss quiets down as he reined it in with half a thought, mind reeling from the revelation, the hunger in him no longer prominent, for the time being.

He had been satiated.

Satiated, but left feeling hollow.

Notes:

childe questions what he has, and could become, and what he has left behind.

Chapter 19

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

His phone rings.

With trembling hands, he picked up the phone which had been securely tucked away in one of his inner pockets. It had begun to ring, and he felt the vibration settle on his skin, numb fingers fumbling around to find the right buttons.

“Hi Childe. It’s me. Stelle,”

“What’s up?” He tries his best to sound cheerful. He’s too tired for that.

“...Is this a good time?” The Trailblazer is concerned. Four years in the Primordial Sea, merging with the Narwhal, and now he had begun to lose his ability to act normal.

“Well maybe not…Could I ask you for some advice?” He yearns for company. Someone to be alongside him as he sorts through this whole mess, the heavy weight of the revelation which had dawned on him, the burden of what it meant to be no longer human, to be something that was far, far greater than he was meant to be.

He holds his breath for as long as the pause on the other end lasted.

“Sure. I can’t help you with anything relationship related, so there’s a heads-up for that.”

Childe lightly chuckles on his end.

“What would you do if you found out that you…may not be as human as you were initially?” He wrings the remaining seawater from his clothes, making himself comfortable by finding a large, sturdy piece of ice to sit on.

“...funny question, because I…can’t say I’m a human myself. You could…ask Ms Himeko when you come onboard tomorrow? But you know what, does it really matter if you are a human or not? I’m not a human myself, but I can still live like one. Though Kafka said something about me killing an Aeon and I don’t know how that’s gonna work so uh yeah…”

Were people in this universe just so unperturbed about things like this? But Childe could see where she was coming from. From their interactions with him earlier that day, they…were as human in their behaviour, their words, and their emotions. As human as one could get. Was it really that simple?

“Oh! You should ask Mr Yang this question. He loves debating and thinking about philosophical things like this. Whenever any of us have trouble sorting out our feelings and need some advice, he’s always ready to give us advice and help us sort through our thoughts! He’s a really chill guy, so you don’t have to worry that hard if you think you being a stranger is gonna affect anything. We get a lot of guests aboard the Express anyways, and Mr Yang enjoys talking to them a lot.”

This Mr Yang fellow sounded like some sort of wise man.

“...Sure. I’ll take you up on that offer.” He doubted that Master would advise him on such matters. Luocha perhaps seemed more likely to be interested in such debates and discussions, but the healer was often gone and busy running errands elsewhere, perhaps peddling his trade, as he did say he was a merchant.

“What brought that question to you, though? Some late night musings gone a bit too far?”

Childe glanced down at his hands, the ruined ice, and his torn clothes.

“Yeah. As unfortunate as it gets,” He concludes.

“The universe out there is vast, and, well as someone who was pretty much born a few months ago, there’s a lot out there. Plus, you have the additional problem of being displaced from your homeworld. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t be too quick to conclude that you aren’t a human. Well at least psychologically. Humanity isn’t just a biological definition.”

“That’s…deep.”

“Damn, I didn’t think I could get this deep. I sound like Mr Yang now.”

“People often end up surprising themselves, and you do have a pretty mysterious aura about yourself,” Childe jokes back, something that came to him easily, so familiar, something he used to do so a lot, to jest and poke fun at others. It reminds him of times long past, because those four years spent in the Primordial Sea had distanced him so far back from his time in Fontaine, Inazuma and Liyue.

“Even though I’m basically a space raccoon? I’ll take that as a compliment!”

“What’s a raccoon? Also you said you were only born a few months ago?” He did not miss that detail.

“Right, you probably don’t have those back in your home world. And about how I was born, well that’s a story for another day. Maybe tomorrow, if you’d like. Come hangout with us more often, if you have nothing to do at your end. The three of us like to go around exploring and running errands for the Luofu and stuff.”

Childe would consider it. He didn’t have much to do for now other than find a way out and train with Master when night fell. If Master would continue training him, that is.

“..Sure. I do have to return by nightfall though,”

“That’s plenty of time. You have to come onto the Express tomorrow. Mr Yang can help you with your interdimensional travel thing and we can give you a tour!” The girl;s energy was rubbing off of him. While she was not as bubbly as March, her chaotic enthusiasm also showed. Didn’t she also mention that she was going to kill an Aeon or something? And who was this mysterious Kafka person?

“Well, I gotta get going and crash now. See you tomorrow,” Stelle bids him farewell before her voice clicks off. What was the term? Hung up the call.

Childe keeps the phone in his pocket before he drags himself up, and begins a slow trek back to the hut.

He definitely had a lot to work on, from taming the Narwhal, balancing both Foul Legacy and the Narwhal, and evolving those abilities into something he was more used to fighting with. After talking to Stelle, his head was so much clearer, and spirits lighter.

Because there were actually people looking out for him.

For the first time in years, someone had shown him just a sliver of concern, of care, and he got to enjoy cake with both Master and Luocha, of which no one here judged him for his past, his abilities, his status as a displaced traveller. This world, this universe, was simply that much more freeing, even though he was still lost, it was not suffocating. Teyvat had been familiar, but everywhere he walked, he had to be on edge, on guard, constantly shunned and ostracised for his status, betrayed and manipulated by others like a foolish pawn, discarded once he was no longer useful.

Here, he could be the adventurer he had dreamt of being.

Albeit with the unfortunate side effects of being host to two chaotic beings, but it wasn’t like Master, Luocha, or Stelle seemed to be anyone ‘normal’, in the first place.

He begins his trek back.

Notes:

You’re telling me all of them fight all these random battles their entire journey and still have their phones intact? Those things have to be built different.

Chapter 20

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The pot of tea on the dining table is still warm, an overturned cup waiting for him as Master had a scroll in her head, in a rare instance where her blindfold was removed, she was reading through the contents while sipping a cup of tea.

He approaches, and turns his cup over, pouring himself a cup of tea.

“You managed to survive. Hm.”

“Of course. As your disciple, who would I be if I died so easily because of a few measly wounds like that?” Childe retorts, as he sips his cup of tea.

Master neatly rolls the scroll, keeping it back in the shelf where she took it from.

Her red eyes were cold, distant, detached from the worldly affairs, yet they flickered to meet his own with a hint of interest, as much as a higher being would look down on a lower being that had piqued their interest. It is like peering into a boundless, crimson sea, yet being watched by a predator.

“Have you realised the extent of your regenerative abilities?” Her gaze falls onto the hole in his shirt, of which his abdomen now was at, fully intact and working fine.

“No thanks to you. I should be able to survive anything short of a fatal wound.”

“That won’t do.”

Childe chokes on his tea.

“Are you possibly expecting me to overcome death?”

The stare she shoots him gives him the answer.

He sets the teacup on the table before he ends up breaking it.

“As you are not affiliated with the Aeon of Abundance, I am free to nurture you however I please. As your Master, I promised that I would push you to your limit. Break the heavenly restrictions imposed on your person, and ascend. Vast potential lies in you, ever since you chose to devour that Narwhal.”

“What if I don’t want to overcome death? What if I still want to die, like…a human?”

He slams his fist on the table.

His mind had wandered to the single glimpse of the possible future in which he devoured the concept of death befalling him, of death befalling others, and immediately he knew it was not a good idea. Was that what the Narwhal had done to itself? Devoured the idea of it perishing, suffering injury, of its own mortality. Was that why he could not kill it, in all those four years? Was that why no matter how many wounds he had inflicted on it, it just kept eating?

Was that why putting it to sleep had been the only option to subdue it? And his presence had woken it up from its slumber, just as Master Skirk had told him all those years ago, when he had just been a boy.

“Then you should make sure you do not die under my tutelage.”

“I won’t.”

She…she had not opposed his opinion.

“We will continue your physical training tomorrow. For now, have you learnt to balance the Narwhal and your other side?”

“It’s hard to tell. But it is quiet for now. And I’m no longer hungry.”

“What did it take to satiate that hunger?”

“The concept of injury.”

Master lunged at him, sword materialising in hand as she aimed for his neck. Childe ducks aside, but the blade still grazes his neck. Blood begins to drip, before the cut seals itself up and the crimson liquid transmutes itself into seawater before evaporating.

“Could you warn me the next time you do that?!” He squawked in alarm, though he knew he should have expected that coming from someone as vicious as herself.

“Simply testing your claim and your reflexes.” Her icy sword dissipates into pale moonlight.

“Is that proof enough?”

She nodded, satisfied.

“I knew that Narwhal was something tainted, but you have managed to turn it into a trump card. Be proud.”

The sudden turn around of her words and expectations throws Childe for a loop, and he was much, much unused to hearing praised directed at him. So much so that he lost any anger or frustration at her sudden lunge and act of hurting him, and turned his gaze down to his teacup, a feeling of warmth blooming across his chest.

Tough love indeed, Childe.

All it takes is a single word of praise and you become soft.

But Master meant it. Even as she turned away to pour herself another cup of tea, she did not take back her words, nor add any insults behind it, and had finished saying her piece.

“Yes Master.”

“You are off for the rest of the night. Training continues tomorrow.”

Childe nods, as she takes off to disappear someplace else.

Meanwhile, he needed to patch up and sew his clothes together.

Notes:

feels like childe would have a tough time trusting people's words and intentions after being betrayed by zhongli, working in the fatui in general, esp with his dad literally signing him up and separating him from his family, handling the fatui harbingers, liteally getting thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit ETC ETC ETC thus he is focred to learn not to expect anything from others but potential hurt

or: Jingliu understands what it is like to lose one's humanity and does not want her disciple to face the same, in a rare show of compassion

Chapter 21

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He opened his eyes, body jolting awake as the sound of a guttural call looms over him.

The massive beast stares at him, glowing eyes filled with hunger, unending, unforgiving, as it lunged at him, the Narwhal opening its mouth up wide.

Childe reacts by summoning forth Foul Legacy, the scratches on his skin, accumulated injuries persisting, Pain, sharp and fierce, old and new, strikes him mid movement, as he raised the pole arm and cloaked himself in Abyssal energy.

Why was he here?

He ducks out of the way, narrowing missing and escaping the range of the black hole which was the Narwhal’s gaping maw, feet stepping onto the floor of the Primordial Sea, the sickening colours of tainted, iridescent blue having long been burnt into his eyes. The colour of corrupted stars and fallen divinity marr his memories, as Childe dodges another blow, raising his pole arm to glance a blow off from the Narwhal.

He was not supposed to be here!

He had been thrown out, he had long since left this place, and not fighting here still!

The Harbinger thinks, or tries to think, under the duress of battle, of pain and injury, what he thought he had foregone and thrown away, had consumed and erased entirely, only to find himself stranded back here again.

Had it all been a dream?

He leaps up and drives the polearm into the side of the Narwhal, steering the beast away from him, as he lost the grip on his weapon and swung the beast aside with all of his strength.

He couldn't be here. He couldn't be here. He couldn't still be here.

Hecouldn’tbherehecouldn’tbeherehecouldn’tbe-

Any more and he would go mad, mind slipping away, days and time dripping past his fingers. Falling through like sand, memories growing distorted, hazy, confused, and lost. Monotony would grind him down to dust, the persistence of an endless battle pushing him to the brink of infinity. An infinity that would shatter him.

He thought he had escaped from this hell.

He thought he had met his new Master, had met Luocha, had met the trailblazers, had met everyone else, had lefthadlefthadlefthadleft-

The Narwhal’s fin sends him flying, as he is flung through the thin, light seawater and across the floor.

Where it had shattered his armour, he digs his claws deep into his own flesh and draws blood. The pain is as real as it gets, proof that this is not a dream.

On shaky limbs, he turns to face the Narwhal.

It lets out a sound, a wail, which rattles through his body, casting ripples across the tides and surface of the seafloor.

It was his worst nightmare come true, that none of what had transpired was real, that it had all been a lie.

All of it.

He did not care anymore.

He wanted to get out of here, at all costs.

This was a karmic punishment, for all his sins, to be imprisoned and abandoned to this eternal torture, for falling into the Abyss, for becoming a Fatui Harbinger, for trying to drown Liyue, for being manipulated like a puppet on strings, for always being so bloodthirsty.

The Narwhal swims down to him, and Childe watches it, calling forth his double bladed polearm back to his person.

Could he finally muster the strength to put an end to this being?

Childe bites down on his tongue, as he turns the polearm towards the floor beneath him, casting away his duty to fight and hold off the Narwhal for he no longer had the strength to continue doing so.

Using Abyssal energy, he shreds a hole in the seafloor, and watches as the Narwhal dives into it.

Ice froze it mid way, as a sea of icy spears pierced the Narwhal from all sides, a kaleidoscope of diamond like crystals impaling the creature, as the Primordial Sea seemed to freeze beneath him and all around him.

“Wake up, foolish child!”

Childe feels a harsh slap across his face.

He startles awake, finding himself outside of the hut, despite last remembering dozing off on one of the spare beds, yet he had somehow been thrown straight into the frozen lake outside.

Snow falls around them, as Childe finds himself cast in the shadow of a massive being, and turning around, he sees the Narwhal in the flesh, impaled upon an arcing wave of ice. It had been speared mid turn, fins caught and pinned down by javelins made of frost, the cold air around them freezing the primordial seawater which pooled at his feet.

“Did I…”

“Your mental stability leaves much to be desired.” Luocha comments, a rapier in his hand, his clothes looking somewhat ruffled as Master stabbed her blade into the ground, crimson eyes glowing coldly at him.

“I will teach you meditation, and how to calm the mind. You need to learn how to control those two entities within you, especially the Narwhal, and fast.”

Childe shivers, mind still hazy and confused, the remnants of the nightmare and its emotions clinging to him. He clutched at his head, rubbing the remaining grogginess of sleep, adrenaline simultaneously pumping through his veins keeping him trapped in a state of exhausted survival, and tells himself to breathe.

It had been a dream.

Just a dream.

Just. A. Dream.

He couldn't breathe. The thoughts only cycle back, that perhaps what he was seeing now was also a dream, and that he was trapped within a dream in a dream, and perhaps he was still back there, trapped with no way out and hallucinating everything he was perceiving before him.

So he chokes.

He chokes and throws up, everything too overwhelming all at once, the thought of returning back to the Primordial Sea, of having never left that place, of being left to die, of being unable to die.

“Childe, breathe. You aren’t there, and you’re here. On this icy lake, beneath the moonlight.” Luocha rushed over to him, as Master kept her blade pointed at the Narwhal, daring it to advance forward or taste a glimpse of her swordsmanship once more.

“You can feel it beneath you, the ice, and how cold and numb it is,” Luocha spoke to him in a soft tone, the merchant’s words somewhat reaching him through his haze, as Childe blinks wearily, running his bare hands on Master’s ice beneath him.

They cut his hands with how rough the surface is, but there is no pain as wounds heal instantly, though the cold was still a sensation that stings him, and he relishes the sting, because there was no such sensation in the Primordial Sea.

He…he was not there any longer.

Luocha held out a strange pendant to him, the gold chain glowing softly as it enveloped him in a field of green energy, rejuvenating and clearing his mind by relieving the exhaustion. A wave of calm assurance washed over him, as the healer’s eyes glowed for a brief second, before the man withdrew the pendant.

Childe looks up at the merchant.

“By any chance, is there anything you could do about it?” The man gestures at the Narwhal, frozen and impaled upon a dozen spears and lances made of ice.

He shrugs, but raises a hand out towards the Narwhal.

It comes to life once more, eyes glowing purple flame, encrusted gems in its gaze as it breaks through the lances that had pierced its body and hovers in the air.

Return to me.

Childe steadies himself, calling forth Foul Legacy in case he needed to wrangle the Narwhal once more into submission, the Abyssal creature in his blood moving about more freely, and he holds off his transformation before it covers him fully in head to toe.

The Narwhal cries out in disdain, or perhaps in disappointment, turning away as Master picked her blade up once more.

That was the wrong command.

I need you.

The Narwhal turns around gracefully, accepting this response, as it begins to carve through the air, flying towards him as it dives down into the pool of Primordial Seawater which had pooled at his feet.

Once all is said and done, Childe feels the constellation on his back tingle, and brings both of his hands together, just as he had watched those catalyst wielders do, and spreads his senses out.

He envisions a withdrawal of power back to himself, consolidating the Primordial Seawater back to himself, closing the gateway of which the Narwhal could freely cross between reality, and seals it away, as seawater returns to where it had hailed from.

There’s the sound of a clap.

And then another.

“That was a better clean-up than I envisioned it would go,” Luocha congratulates him, as Childe blankly gazes up at the wall of ice which had confined the Narwhal.

“...sorry. I..I f*cked up.” The Harbinger admits, with an immense amount of uncertainty weighing on his chest as to how a nightmare that bad had gotten to him so much so that it had nearly caused another accident to happen. He really, really needed to stop causing his benefactors so much trouble.

“At the very least, you managed to recall it. Wasn’t a complete waste of time or energy.” Childe shifts uneasily beneath his Master’s comment. Was that meant to be praise or a reprimanding?

“She means that you did good regaining control.” Luocha hums, as the man easily senses and peers through his thoughts. Childe dips his head down, surprised at the praise his Master was giving him.

“Come back in and wash up. You have a long day ahead of you tomorrow.”

He quietly follows the two of them back home.

Notes:

trauma of being trapped in the primordial sea + Luocha being a healer
P sure Jingliu can hold the Narwhal back solo but not kill it outright (hoping the power scaling isn't too wonky here)

Chapter 22

Chapter Text

Childe wraps his cold fingers around the scalding cup of tea in front of him, seated at the wooden table with Luocha and Master, as he realised that the sky beyond in the window behind them began to brighten in colour.

He wonders how much sleep he even managed to get last night.

An hour? Maybe two? Perhaps three if he was lucky.

He had not slept in four years, and by virtue was only alive because of Foul Legacy’s strange ability to persist and survive without having human weaknesses.

“Take a nap, child. Being exhausted won’t do any good for you.”

“I’ll wake you up ten minutes before we have to set out.”

Childe finishes his tea.

Luocha passes a stack of blankets to him, and glancing at the teacup, he blinks his eyes drowsily.

“Did you-”

“We don’t even have to. You’re just that tired.”

Childe yawns, as he takes the pile of blankets in hand and just lays them under his chin as he leans down and half collapses over the table. He probably left the room and the bed a mess with how he had been trapped in his nightmare anyways.

“What if I-”

“I’ll slap you awake.”

“Right. That works.”

He closed his eyes, mind simmering with thoughts on how none of them had anything to say to scold, reprimand, demean him on how he was so weak to have a panic attack because of a single nightmare.

These people were strange.

Despite their dubious morals, they extended care and concern to him all the same. Perhaps Luocha could be attributed to his healer’s oath, and Master because she needed her disciple alive, but they did not have to go so far as to offer him…this.

They weren’t treating him like how the others had.

This place was…was good to him.

It felt too good to be true.

Just like a dream.

-

He wakes up to a gentle nudge on his shoulder, blinking his eyes, feeling much better after that nap. He had been surprised to fall so quickly back into the zone of quiet silence and peaceful darkness, waking up with more energy and alertness than he would have had without the nap.

“Are you hungry?”

Luocha gestures to the bowl of congee in front of him. Childe opens his eyes and takes in the smell of food, from the pickled vegetables, condiments and several crispy looking toppings, and decides to help himself to a bowl before he left to head out for the day. It was strange, not having to wake up to that persistent hunger for once, as he finishes the bowl of congee quickly, since it was at the right temperature of hot but not scalding.

He washes up after that, changing into a fresh set of clothes before he sets out with Luocha.

-

“Do you usually have nightmares?”

The healer asks him on the starskiff, as Childe gazed out at the sky below. It was a self contained atmosphere, for the Xianzhou Luofu did not remain in one place for long, thus the image of a sky itself was a manufactured projection and illusion, sustained by technologies he could not hope to fathom.

“...I’ve done my best to keep them to a minimum. So yes, I do have nightmares.” They had plagued him since he had escaped the Abyss so long ago. At the beginning of his possession of Foul Legacy, they had been at its peak, the constant whispers and feral urge to strike out, to kill and fill his mouth with warm, carmine blood. Staying up did not help either, because he drove himself to exhaustion and weakened his own mental defences against those abyssal urges and influence.

It was no wonder his father had sold him off to the Fatui.

The nightmares calmed when he got his sufficient share of battles, fights and near death brushes in his clashes with monsters and enemies of all sorts, enough to satiate Foul Legacy enough to give him a more consistent sleep schedule.

But Fontaine, archons, Fontaine had been bad.

What he knew now had been the influence of the Narwhal seeping into his dreams from the moment he had set foot into Fontaine, and they had plagued him for every single night he had been there.

Sometimes, his nightmares were simply his own.

Neither a product of any abyssal influence, but rather his own fears and subconscious thoughts solidified and gnawing at his sanity.

“How have you been coping with them?” Huh. Was the healer trying to play the role of a therapist? Childe looks at the merchant, whose pale green eyes look at him, studying him…but not like Dottore or Pantalone did. Rather, it was out of professional concern and duty.

“I’d like to think they don’t happen very often. Likely an effect of my time in the Abyss and the Narwhal’s influence. Perks of being a host to two otherworldly beings that I should not be hosting.” He flashed a smile at the healer out of habit, despite knowing how the man could easily see through him.

“I mean, when it happens, it happens. I figured fighting more can help relieve the stress of when it happens to me and satiate Foul Legacy so it decides not to torture me at night, but the Narwhal, is unpredictable.”

“Hm. If your method of keeping this Foul Legacy works for now, then keep up with it. As for the Narwhal, it could be closely tied to your level of hunger.”

That was where things did not make sense.

He had been satiated last night. No longer hungry. So why had it come back to haunt him in his dreams?

Why had he dreamt that he was still trapped in the Primordial Sea?

He supposed the answer was obvious.

He did not want to return back there. Not now, not ever.

“I think your time in the Primordial Sea left you with more mental scars than you imagined. You were trapped down there for…four years? With no one but yourself and the Narwhal. Most already go insane being trapped to complete social isolation for a month.”

The healer tells him in a quiet tone, and Childe wants to lash out, to not deny this weakness, to deny that staying down there for four years had screwed up his psyche, because it was unbecoming of him as her majesty’s vanguard. It was the exact opposite of what Master Skirk had taught him, to never show weakness, to never trust others but yourself, to not bear your wounds to others. But here, his title, rank, and past meant nothing.

No one was out to kill him, no one knew who he was. No one cared about whether he was weak or strong. He was a nameless being who had nothing but a forged identity, courtesy of Luocha, and he could disappear just as easily if he wanted to. It was freeing.

Childe leans on his armrest, as he peers out the window.

“Yeah. It really did f*ck me up.” He admits.

He was a hundred percent certified messed up from all his past experiences. His supposed vacation gone wrong, now being displaced into another dimension entirely. Still, his time here was…surprisingly peaceful when he was not having to deal with the Narwhal’s influence.

“Which is why it is the best time now for you to heal. Relax, hangout with the Trailblazers, and enjoy yourself. All of your other problems back home can wait. Ease yourself back into civilisation and don’t be too hard on yourself.”

Childe chuckles. He really hoped that the time dilation was the same here as it had been when he had been trapped in the Abyss and Primordial Sea. One day in Teyvat being the equivalent of one month here meant that he could spend a few months here, or maybe even a year, and only a few days would have passed back home.

“I’m definitely already having more fun here than back home.”

The Starskiff lands at the port.

The two of them step off the vehicle, Childe keeping his forged identity papers close to himself as Luocha points him in the direction of the waiting Trailblazers, before the two of them part ways.

“Childe! Come on! We don’t have time to waste!” March runs over to him, waving what seemed to be a sleek version of a Kamera in her hand, as Stelle trails behind her, the girl yawning sleepily.

The ginger looks around for Dan Heng, the mysterious introverted male nowhere in sight.

“Dan Heng’s on the Express with the rest of them. He spoke to Mr Yang and Ms Himeko about your situation. I think Pom Pom’s fine if you need a group of people to stay with in the long term, especially with your current situation.” Stelle rubbed her eyes groggily as she stepped up to him.

Woah. Luocha really had not been exaggerating on the Trailblazers taking him in so easily.

He follows them through a network of cargo shipments, watching the police force of the Xianzhou Luofu, the Cloud Knights, as Luocha had introduced to him, handle and take care of monsters with ease. Stelle and March seemed to be blind to danger, nearly almost stepping straight into a battlefield, which had him alarmed as he reached out to pull them back just as another Cloud Knight stabbed their glaive into a…floating bronze toad creature thing.

“I could have tanked that blow!” Stelle whines, as Childe releases her, the grey haired girl sighing.

“And get your clothes shredded again? I’m not helping you patch them up again!” The pink haired girl had huffed, and Childe was more surprised that none of them seemed the slightest bit surprised about nearly getting killed or injured.

“Are neither of you even scared of getting hurt?”

The two of them stared at him.

“Nah. Simple mobs like that are a piece of cake. We’ve faced far worse and emerged more or less unscathed, so we aren’t too concerned with dangers like these.” Stelle shrugs nonchalantly. Ah. Perhaps this was what she meant by them not quite being human.

At that moment, Childe realised something he should have realised some time ago.

This group of travellers were not ordinary.

“Oh! But Childe, you seem to have the reflexes of a fighter, to be able to twist your body and pull Stelle out of the way so seamlessly.” March ponders, the pink haired girl fidgeting with her bow? Where had she been keeping that weapon?

“I do have experience and training in combat related matters. Fighting is a part of me.” He answers honestly, deciding that if they trusted him and treated him with so much respect and graciousness, the very least he could do was to be honest and forthcoming to them as well. They had earned it.

“Care to teach me a few moves or two when you’re free?” Stelle makes puppy eyes at him, and Childe chuckles.

“Sure.”

The three of them stop in front of a large train, parked into the port of the Xianzhou Luofu, the gleaming red sheen of the outer walls of the train carriage a majestic crimson, regal and elegant, lined with gold frames and crystal windows. The door opens up to them, as Childe passes by the head of the train and into the open door.

“Welcome onboard the Astral Express!”

Chapter 23

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Welt is mid-way in his Starchess game with the general of the Luofu, when he senses the new visitor. The white haired male was leaning over the board lazily, trying to discreetly take a piece of two off the board. Too bad the senior member of the Astral Express could easily see his actions, and flicked the man’s offending hand swiftly, the general smiling cheekily, giving up his ploy.

“General! You’re here too?” March 7th walks over, leaving behind her other two companions. Both Welt and the general turn to face the Stelle and the ginger haired male, the general looking amused as Welt’s eyes widened.

As another person hailing from another dimension, he could subtly learn to sense the difference in…origins of a person. Perhaps it was because of his time travelling with the express, encountering various beings of varied origins in his time back on Earth, on his homeworld from a different dimension, but he instinctively knew that their visitor was an anomaly.

If he were to describe it, it was like finding a freshwater fish living in a sea. Except, the freshwater fish could survive in the seawater without acclimatisation issues. Both he and Void Archives had been like that, and because of that, he could recognise…kin, of sorts. Stranded in a place far different from home, but not so different either.

“This is the…guest Dan Heng was speaking of?”

“Wandering traveller? Yep, that's me.” The ginger haired male answered, eyes shifting cautiously across the room, scanning for danger and…possible signs of escape?

Welt turns to the general.

“I suppose we shall have to put a pause on our game here for today. General, I would appreciate it if you stopped stealing the pieces in our future games.” Welt tells the general of the Luofu off.

Jing Yuan merely gave him a shameless smile that said he was not going to stop.

“I shall try, but my hands do find themselves itchy like that.”

The general stands up, leaving his seat as he waves a hand at him, and then to March and Stelle.

Childe watched the white haired male walk past him, the general looking over at him and shooting him an interested smile.

“You seem like someone who’s pent-up from not being able to have a good fight. Come over to the Seat of Divine Foresight. My retainer is always looking out to learn from others.” Jing Yuan offers to Childe. Stelle gawks.

Childe doesn’t know what to make of the man. The way he held himself, and how he had been addressed by the rest of the Trailblazers, he seemed to be someone of high status and commanded himself as such. Luocha had warned him about not running into a few individuals onboard the Luofu, namely General Jing Yuan and the Head of the Divination Commission, Lady Fu Xuan.

Well, he supposed he was already too late for that.

From the way he was dressed, in a suit of battle armour, yet with a posture that implied a certain level of slacking and a keen ability to attempt to cheat, Childe knew that this man was dangerous. Dangerous because he could easily see through the ploys of others and plot against them in turn.

Nevertheless, he knew that as long as he gave no reason for any of the authorities here to come after him, his status as a…illegal immigrant of sorts will not be thrust into too much danger. At least it was not like Liyue, where he had nearly drowned the entire harbour with the Osial plan…under the Tsaritsa’s orders.

Archons, everything about his entire history was so complicated. He could not believe how everything was being put into perspective only after he got tossed into an entire dimension.

“....I would love to spar, but perhaps not so soon.” He gives the general a polite smile, who takes it in stride as he leaves the cabin. The Harbinger knew that the invitation was a ploy to keep him close to the authorities. He was not taking that bait. However, he could not blame the general for being so cautious, or observant. Luocha and Master had very…dubious and suspicious origins, and the general himself always kept in touch with the ongoings onboard the Xianzhou Luofu.

The door closes behind them.

“Welcome onboard the Astral Express, Mr…” Welt stands and walks over to him, offering a welcoming hand out. He himself could sense the moment of tension that has passed between the General, who had randomly decided to crash the parlour uninvited, sending Dan Heng to the Archives and Welt having to entertain the man.

“Childe. With an ‘e’ at the back. Drop the mister, it makes me sound really old,” Childe chuckles, passing off his encounter with the general easily. He takes his hand, and Welt shakes it.

“Ah. I suppose I should ask the others to also just call me Welt. Hearing mister Yang on a daily basis does make me sound old…”

He sounds like Zhongli.

“But Mr Yang, you are the oldest out of all of us!”

“I can’t ever call you Welt.” Stelle adds on behind March.

Welt huffs, losing to the youngsters already.

He pulls his hand back, sensing the strange energy which radiated from their new guest, Childe, as he brings him over to sit down on one of the lounge chairs in the parlour car.

Welt decides that he should bring up the strange aura and energy that the man seems steeped in at a later time, after the two of them have become more acquainted.

“I’ll go and get Dan Heng out from the Archives!” March tells them, as she makes a few light steps over to the room. The more introverted trailblazer had been taking a nap in his room following the events which had taken place over the past few days, which involved getting caught up in an assassination attempt, and thus spent his time resting. Everyone aboard the Express knew what happened.

Well, everyone except for Childe.

“So…I heard that you could help me with my predicament?” Childe asks humorously, as he made himself comfortable on the lounge chair offered to him.

He tries hard to forget how the man sounded exactly like Zhongli when he spoke.

The entire parlour car reminded him of Fontaine’s style and aesthetics, except coloured a warm and lively maroon red instead. Lush red cushioned chairs, a space decorated with warm yellow lights, as he gazed overhead at the vertical panels of light which made up the shape of a whale.

That was…that was really cool. Though his time with the Narwhal had given him a bad impression and subconscious bias against the Narwhal and whales in general, he could appreciate the work of art above his head.

Then came the backdrop of celestial infinity.

Glancing out the window, his eyes widened at the sight before him.

Curiosity and a peculiar, familiar longing draw him up close to the glass windows before he is aware that he had moved from his position on the chair.

Glowing orbs of light, circular, elliptical, followed by traces of starlight scattered across the inky darkness of the universe beyond…it was a sight he had never seen before. The night sky in Teyvat had nothing compared to this empyrean beauty, shades of colours, luminescent blue to brilliant gold, the burning embers of a fire that refused to die, to specks of silver and bronze that dotted this inky canvas. The world here is so, so vast, vast beyond comprehension, as his mind and eyes spin, gaze becoming unfocussed at the depth of how far it was to look at planetary systems, at stars light years away. Was this what the true sky looked like?

Was that why ███████████ had claimed that the sky in Teyvat was false?

Who was ███████████?

He was….he had been…he had been one of them. One of the Harbingers.

Who was that?

Why was he only remembering this lapse in memory now?

It’s as if something came undone.

Childe blinks, head hurting and thoughts swirling in the face of an infinite divinity, the grand cosmos pouring into his mind knowledge of a different reality, a parallel world.

He feels a gentle hand on his back.

He pulls back and bites down on the urge to flinch and lash out, but calms down enough to not do so, as the hand withdraws itself upon sensing his unease.

“My apologies, but none of our words have been reaching you.” Welt’s voice is soothing, the old man looking concerned, as he gazes at him from behind his glasses.

“Do take a seat. If the view is hurting you or making you uncomfortable, we can bring the curtains down and over the windows,” Childe allows himself to be coaxed back to his seat by Welt. His head throbs, the weight of the reality of a thousand distant, but living stars seared into his mind, as they blur into his memory of the three moons which overlapped each other onboard the planet of which Master resided in.

The sky in Teyvat looked nothing like this.

It really showed him how small each of their existences were, in the face of the ethereal infinity, and only now did he comprehend, or attempt to, see how small of a speck of dust he was in this world. The title of a Harbinger, and Archon, and even a god meant nothing here. Even Zhongli, or Morax, could not ever come close to beholding the might of an entire star within his being.

Childe massages his temple with a sigh.

“Sorry, I’m usually not like this,” He admits, trying to ground himself as he settles down on the lounge chair.

“Most visitors do tend to get overwhelmed by the sight onboard the express. Don’t worry too much about it.” Welt responds, as he brings over a pot of tea and two cups on a tray. From the corner of his eye, Childe could see March dragging Dan Heng out from the passenger car, Stelle was in an attempt to convince the male to come out of te car as well.

“Don’t mind the rest of them. That’s how their usual antics usually go.” Welt hums.

Childe watches him pour tea out from the teapot.

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Yes please.” The harbinger could feel slightly nauseous from staring out the glass window. It was a good thing now that his seat had been angled to face away from it.

“Dan Heng told me that you are a traveller from another dimension. Could you tell me more?”

Childe spends a good chunk of his morning doing just that.

Notes:

no, i definitely did not plan for jing yuan to be in this BUT my brain went WHAT IF and I rolled along with the idea...
also to those reading yalls gotta stop guessing everything so accurately and on the nail (esp abt the Zhongli and Welt sharing the same CN VA) but also...I found out Childe has the same CN VA as Dan Heng??

yes, with Jing Yuan interacting with Childe you acn expect a whole load of other character interactions with Childe which I definitely did not start this fic out with the intention of writing, but I GUESS WE'RE HAVING THEM

Chapter 24

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

It turned out that Welt was welcome to the idea of interdimensional travel.

“As someone who did travel to this universe from my homeworld, it is…possible to cross through dimensions, or the branches of the Imaginary tree. However, you need to be someone who holds a…peculiar kind of power that challenges the laws of the universe itself.” Welt explains, and Childe wonders if the All Devouring Narwhal counts.

“The specifics are very vague as of now, since there are very few recorded instances of interdimensional travellers in the first place. You are one of a kind, Childe.” The man had informed him, as Dan Heng, March and Stelle, had all grabbed chairs to sit and huddle around the two of them.

Childe could not get over how his voice sounded so much like Zhongli’s, either.

“Well, I guess that’s nice to know I’m quite possibly one of the pioneers of literal interdimensional travel, but…I would like to get home. Do you have any experience with that?” Childe prods the conversation back in the direction, as the older man pushed his glasses and adjusted them on the bridge of his nose.

“You mentioned that you came here through a portal? That is the most likely way for you to return back. I, as well as one other, came to this world through a portal. I have yet to figure out how to replicate or recreate that portal with my own abilities or any of the existing technology here, so I am regretfully unable to help you in creating a portal back.”

March pours herself a cup of tea.

Childe sighs. Was he really going to be stuck here for the rest of his life? He peers down at the teacup in his gloved hand, staring at his own reflection in the pale brown liquid, and he feels so thrown out of depth.

From the tea cup, made of white porcelain with gold lined edges, he wonders why he was sitting there in the parlour car of a train that could travel and move through the universe, talking to another interdimensional traveller who was also stranded in this world.

“Do you have any special abilities?”

Surprisingly, Dan Heng breaks the silence with a question of his own. He was still wearing the bunny ears headgear, which Stelle occasionally adjusted or prodded at.

The ginger contemplates telling them about the full extent of the Narwhal’s abilities. For now, all they knew was that he came from Teyvat where they had Visions which gifted them with elemental mastery and manipulation, but he had yet to inform them of the Abyss, Foul Legacy, and the fact that he had assimilated the Narwhal into himself.

“You said you could fight well? What about the Vision thing that you said you had? Can that help maybe create some watery portal or something?”

Well…explaining the concept of a Vision and Delusion was going to be a pain.

“It would be great if I could do that. The thing is, my Vision died a month before I got thrown into this whole mess.”

“The one thing that could have saved your life when you were fighting that…Narwhal thingy, wasn’t even there to help you? Talk about a betrayal.” March sets her teacup down with a clatter.

“From what you told us, the Narwhal was a being capable of devouring a whole country and its people. How then did you manage to stand up to it?” Welt himself grew curious with their new passenger.

“This is gonna sound really complicated, but I technically have two visions. One was gifted to me by Celestia, or what you call the main authority of the world. That one was my hydro vision, aka my water elemental mastery. That one failed me when I needed it the most.”

Childe watches everyone’s reactions, Dan Heng’s gaze scrunching up at the idea of a gift being able to malfunction, as Welt seemed to ponder about the implications. March seemed…sad at what had happened to him, the young girl’s gaze forlorn as she looked at him. Stelle looked at him quietly, the grey haired girl seemingly glancing down at her own hands as if she herself was also contemplating something about herself.

“That’s so unfair to you! Did you ever find out what happened to it?” March spoke, offended on his behalf. Childe blinks, surprised at how protective she got.

“Actually, no. I entrusted it to Aether and told him to keep it for me, but I never got to keep it. I kind of just…made do with my Delusion, which in the easiest way I can explain to you, is a manufactured Vision of sorts. That one gave me electro abilities. Lightning manipulation.” Childe shrugs nonchalantly. Fontaine was a lifetime ago.

“Does this Delusion work here? Or does it also obey the same authority of Celestia despite being a man-made power source?” Welt asked.

“It doesn’t work here as well. It’s like nothing born from Teyvat’s lands and natural state can work here,” Childe lifts up his hollow Delusion, which fits in the size of his palm.

“May I take a look?”

Childe hands his empty Delusion over to Welt. The man inspects and holds up its metallic shell, tapping it with gloved fingers as Childe watches with wide eyes as it gets covered with a blue glow.

“It seems inert. Whatever that could have powered it is missing.”

Inert. Missing.

He made it sound like his Delusion had been shut off or forcibly deactivated. He doubts that Dottore would have made it with such a fatal malfunction, nor would the Tsaritsa have allowed it to be used amongst the Harbingers.

Time to chalk up this malfunction to the change in laws of the universe.

It did make him think about how the Narwhal had been able to cause his Vision to malfunction. Did otherworldly entities just have this effect on Teyvatian technology?

Thank the higher beings up above that he still had Foul Legacy.

“I mean no offence when I ask this, but you have a…distinct aura around yourself. Is there anything else you are willing to share with us?” Childe looks over at the spectacled man.

He could sense Foul Legacy and the Abyssal taint on him? Or was it the Narwhal? He can feel Dan Heng, Stelle and March look at him, all three confused by what Welt was saying. He does not foresee himself making enemies of them anytime soon, but Foul Legacy was supposed to stay a secret. Like Master Skirk had told him, if anyone on Teyvat had found out about his connection to the Abyss and how it clung to him, he would be drawing the attention of powerful beings and entities he had no business encountering. It was why he had not told any of the Fatui Harbingers, or even the Tsaritsa herself.

Her majesty had known something was off about him but let him keep his secret regardless.

But, this was a different universe.

These were…friends. People trying to help him return home, without asking anything from him in turn. Luocha and Master had found out about Foul Legacy by accident, but they had not asked him to help them with anything or even to experiment on Foul Legacy. They simply accepted it as part of his abilities and person and moved on.

So, Childe decides.

“There’s this thing known as Foul Legacy which I got from falling into this slip in space-time called the Abyss when I was young. Basically, the Abyss is a mysterious realm that exists…diametrically opposed to the human realm? I think that’s what Dottore called it but it is a place with its own ecosystems and warped, tainted energy. I survived for three months down there which was actually equal to three days on the surface and managed to escape. After my time there, I learnt this Foul Legacy transformation which is what helped me to fight off the Narwhal when I was trapped in the Primordial Sea.”

“He’s definitely main character material.” March whispers not so softly to Stelle.

“So you can transform into…another form?” Dan Heng asks, his voice tentatively hesitant.

Childe nods.

“Yep. It’s a pretty intimidating form but it gives me some pretty nifty abilities like enhanced speed, strength, armour, manipulation of Abyssal energy and synchronising both my Vision and Delusion together to pull off some sick moves. There’s some level of flight and levitation involved, but no portal opening abilities as far as I’m concerned.”

Welt looks at him, eyes gazing keenly into his.

“I would love to see that one day. If you don’t mind, of course,” The older male spoke quickly, as if he was excited at seeing Foul Legacy up front and up close, despite how monstrous the form was. The name itself had to say a lot about it, right?

“It’s pretty intimidating and violent, though. I become pretty bloodthirsty when I enter that form.”

“Not a problem for any of us.” All three younger Trailblazers replied simultaneously.

“We survived Phantylia dropping the weight of a star on us!”

“And I survived taking Cocolia’s lance to the chest.”

“...Blade stabbed me.”

These people were…very strange. They did not seem human if they really did survive all these injuries and attacks. Who could drop the weight of a star on someone and survive that blow? How much did a star even weigh? A celestial body of light and condensed mass had to weigh insanely heavy. The Harbinger attempts to figure out an estimate for how these individuals actually did get around to surviving all these fatal injuries, and simply concludes that they definitely were not human.

“We have quite a sizable amount of experience facing off against enemies who want us dead. There is no need to worry about fending you off if you lose control. However, your safety is still of utmost importance.”

He hears footsteps from behind him.

“And we should all try to minimise property damage as much as possible.”

The red haired woman, dressed in an attire which enhanced her beauty and majesty, stepped up from behind him, her white dress ruffling and causing the fabric to sway, the ornate golden design of leaves and vines moving as if they were alive.

“I’m Himeko, the navigator of the Astral Express. Pardon me if my companions like to engage in reckless behaviour.” She shoots a stern glare over at the rest of them, as March smiles sheepishly, Welt hiding his own guilty look behind a cup of tea.

“We can’t help it, mom,” Stelle whines in response, as Himeko huffs in response.

“Mom?” Childe struggles to see the resemblance between Stelle and the red haired woman.

“They like to call me that, but I’m not their actual biological mother. Now, just because all of you have abilities surpassing that of normal humans, doesn’t mean that you should go and throw yourselves into the middle of another fight, alright?” Himeko chides the four of them, with Welt who was not spared either, got an earful from the navigator.

“Yes mom.” March and Stelle respond, as even Dan Heng looks at the navigator with an everted gaze. Childe finds the scene amusing, and it touches his heart, for how the Astral Express may not be a family by blood, but were one in spirit. The closest he ever got to feeling this was with Ekaterina, who was by his side to take care of him whenever he had fallen sick or ill from the after effects of Foul Legacy, and nagged at him to take care of himself more often. He supposed he could say the same for Zhongli before he revealed himself to be Morax.

Other than that, his own actual parents were distant from him, ever since he had joined the Fatui. Pulcinella had taken over as his father figure of sorts, and for all the warmth and kindness the man had treated and raised him with, to go so far as to win over and take care of his family, Fatui was still Fatui.

When things turned ugly, he was always the expendable one.

Hence why no one had gone to rescue him when had not only been falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison, or when he had gotten lost in the Primordial Sea.

He…simply did not matter.

Childe chuckles lightly to himself, as he regards how numb he had become to these sorts of relationships.

For how much he loved his family, he could never experience anything like the Astral Express crew had.

“We should probably get back to the main topic before we accidentally forget about our guest.” Himeko spoke to him, as she pulled a chair up next to their table, joining in on their conversation.

“Do you have an idea on how to get me back to my homeworld?” She did say she was the navigator of the Astral Express. Perhaps she knew where Teyvat was in this vast planetary system. If Teyvat even existed in this reality in the first place.

“Every known planet in the known confines of the universe is recorded in the databanks of the Interastral Peace Corporation. Most planets are characterised by coordinates to pinpoint their exact locations, which I can navigate the Astral Express to head over via the Star Rail. Though the Star Rail itself is occasionally blocked or broken by certain events or entities, which leaves us to clear the way.”

She explains to him the concept of planetary travel.

“Hold up. I’m sorry to say this, but you’re gonna have to give me some time to think about everything you just told me.” Childe held up a hand, hoping he did not offend the navigator too much as he buried his head in his hands, and closed his eyes.

Planets were basically isles of life or civilisations in this universe, but some groups could make an artificial planet and move through the universe, like the Xianzhou Luofu? Locations and facilities such as space stations could hover around certain spots and areas in space and move as well, so these places were not always in the same spot in space. Interplanetary travel was highly possible and largely convenient in this age, jumping from star to star or planet to planet, with vehicles that allowed for light speed transportation or devices called space anchors that could essentially teleport a person across space and time.

Based on this, he could only assume that Teyvat had to exist on a planet.

Whether or not it existed in this reality, was another question entirely.

Neither his new master nor Dan Heng and Himeko, had ever heard of a place called Teyvat.

Then again, Welt had also admitted that no one here knew about his homeworld called Earth.

The parallel reality situation was starting to seem like the most likely explanation of his situation, which also made his journey back home all the more difficult.

How was he supposed to make a portal from one reality to another? What was reality even defined as? How did he just end up dead smack in another parallel universe across those weird Imaginary Tree branches? How was any of this even supposed to work?

He groans, with mild frustration and pent up exhaustion of having to handle this new, highly problematic issue with nearly zero knowledge on how travel in this world worked.

“We’ll help you get home, Childe.”

Welt’s voice settles over his thoughts like a warm blanket.

Childe lifts his head up, as he looks up at the senior trailblazer, at Stelle, at Dan Heng, at March, and Himeko.

The rest of them look at him with eyes filled with steely determination, a burning fire lit within their souls, a kindness and willingness that no one else had ever extended to him before, so freely given to him.

Childe pauses, before he laughs.

“Alright then, I’ll be counting and relying on all of you!”

With the new challenge he had to face now made concrete, the ginger focussed his efforts into what he did best. Overcoming obstacles and challenges.

Quietly, he whispers a ‘thank you’ to all of the members, as well as Luocha and Master, for showing him a way out of this predicament, and for helping him remember who he was.

Notes:

Note: Childe gets a crash course on planetary bodies and systems and realises how gd the Astral Express members are, and he starts differentiating power scaling from universe to universe cos CLEARLY the Trailblazers are sth else

Chapter 25

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The air is heavy and solemn, the sharp chill stinging all who stood within the halls of the royal palace. The latent pressure which bore down on them was more prominent now than ever before, the weight of the cold bearing down on their shoulders, seeping deep into their bones and limbs. It numbs the senses, freezing air burning the lungs and making it uncomfortable and hard to breathe, as even the thickest coat and pyro vision could not aid to shield any of them from the cold.

The Tsaritsa’s authority is resolute, her displeasure made clear in the way the ice, snow and frost spread across the marble floor, blooming into thorny flowers and twisted branches made of crystal, hostile to all who were within her presence.

Nevertheless, none touched the Harbingers who had been gathered in the room, proof of the Tsaritsa’s love for her children, of her self-restraint despite her immense displeasure of the situation which had unfolded.

“My Fourth, speak.”

The Tsaritsa commanded her child to speak.

Arrlecchino knelt with one knee on the ground, bowing to the icy throne before them all, and the figure who sat atop it.

“The prophecy of Fontaine’s destruction has been averted and the Hydro Archon’s gnosis obtained. The Iudex has informed me that Tartaglia would have returned to Snezhnaya by now,” The Knave bows her head, her pyro vision glowing slightly if only to offset the sheer, biting cold which flooded the room. She cared little for their youngest Harbinger, knowing that he would make it out of whatever life or death situation he found himself in, as he always did.

The bloodthirsty maniac was smarter than what most painted him out to be, which was why she had left him to sort through his own issue by himself. Furthermore, there was no need for her to involve herself in his business unless otherwise commanded by the Tsaritsa herself, for she did not like to associate herself with someone with a character like the Eleventh.

“And yet he is nowhere to be found. The current Hydro Archon, her power has faded. The Iudex has taken over her duties for the time being, but all he provides to us is false information?” The Tsaritsa makes her displeasure known.

Everyone in the throne room holds their breath, Pantalone burying the lower half of his face within the thick, modified scarf imbued with pyro energy, as the banker warily gauges the surrounding atmosphere. Dottore bites back a chuckle, basking in the glacial drop in temperature, and answer and response waiting at the tip of his tongue, which he withholds if only to hear the freezing disappointment from his Archon.

Pierro stood still, as Columbina ceased her mindless humming at where she stood, a gap between her and where the Captain would normally have stood were he not deep in the midst of hostilities in Natlan.

Pulcinella held onto his cane tightly, bowing and dipping his head down in a show of submission, yet still holding onto tightly to the few strands of growing resentment for Fontaine and its court for losing his charge. Sandrone quiets her automatons, opting to remain silent and wordless in the face of their majesty’s anger.

“How distasteful.”

Frost and snow freeze mid air, the translucent pale blue walls of the palace frosting up as the cold chill seeps in and spreads out from the base of the Cryo Archon’s throne and outwards, a miasma of an intricate, deadly web which slithers.

The Tsaritsa does not show her displeasure in her movement. Seated atop a throne built from forsaken love, unholy ambition, and the cruel methods she would employ to achieve her goals, she tapped a single finger on her armrest.

Arrlecchino knows she needs to pick her next words carefully.

While she knew the Tsaritsa loved her children, the loss of Signora still weighed heavily on her heart. Tartaglia had to still be alive, enough so for them to retrieve him for he too still had his part to play in this mad scheme to bring down the heavens. Personally, the Knave herself was apathetic to the Eleventh’s presence. She and him only operated with the sole similarity of being part of the selected Harbingers who had to operate in foreign lands.

However, she had to acknowledge that he had played a vital part in saving Fontaine. That included all the children at the House of the Hearth, her hometown, its bustling culture and longstanding history. To that, she owed him that much.

“Your Majesty, please allow me to return to Fontaine and question the Iudex further on the Eleventh’s whereabouts. Regardless of his new status as the new Hydro Sovereign, he is bound by his duty to answer for the whereabouts of Tartaglia, who was unfairly sentenced to the Fortress of Meropide. It was a mistake on my part to trust his words.”

Dottore steps forward, walking past the Fourth as he stands at the foot of the Cryo Archon’s throne.

“Your Majesty, if I may add in an additional bit of information which I came across on my own?”

The Knave glares at the Doctor, for stepping into the middle of her conversation with the Tsaritsa.

“My Doctor, do enlighten all of us about your experience with our mysterious visitor.”

Dottore smiles, a razor sharp grin on his lips.

“With regards to our nameless intruder who had breached the palace defences, she claimed to be our dear Eleventh’s…master. She asked about his whereabouts and upon finding out that he was not in Snezhnaya, turned tail and left.”

“I am aware of her presence. She is someone not to be trifled with.” The Tsaritsa tapped on her throne once more.

The room is silent. Rarely ever did the Tsaritsa warn them against beings none of them should challenge. The only other they had been forbidden from targeting had been Morax, or Rex Lapis, when he had been alive.

“If she is the reason why my Eleventh is lost, then I will not hesitate to take action against her.”

Arlecchino’s curiosity only grows.

“If she had known that our dear Childe was meant to be in Snezhnaya, as did the Iudex promise us the same, then it makes sense for the two of them to have exchanged a few words or two, no?” She asked, breaking the silence in the room.

Dottore looks mockingly shocked that she made such an intelligent deduction behind his mask.

“Why of course. Your majesty, please allow me permission to begin creating a counter weapon against this outsider. I would enjoy dissecting her if she ever poses a threat to us all.”

“Isn’t the Eleventh still our main priority? Stop letting your fervent, impulsive and rash obsessions create more problems for us, Doctor.” Sandrone retorts, as she herself resisted the urge to snarl at the Doctor who kept trying to steer things towards his own agenda. She had spent enough time freezing in this hall and she wanted this meeting to end so she could return to her workshop. The Eleventh would return somehow, because there was no way he would up and leave and simply ditch them, be it in life or in death.

“My fourth. You have my blessing to take care of this matter.” Arlecchino bows her head.

Pantalone can only think about how the soldiers and Fatui members would have to be shifted and rotated around in the absence of their Vanguard. More planning, scheduling and relaying of information and instructions awaited him in his office.

Columbina merely hums in disinterest.

“Doctor, you may engage in such research if it proves to be applicable beyond handling just her but also useful in our operations.”

“Thank you, your majesty.”

The wall of ice which descends in front of the throne signals their dismissal, as each Harbinger takes their leave.

Arlecchino resigns herself to a new mission tied to the disappearance of the Eleventh.

-

Out over in the skies above, the constellation for Monoceros Caeli fades away into the dark night.

Notes:

you have no idea how happy I am to bring in the other Harbingers

time dilation is working accordingly btw time in Teyvat is slowing much slower than it is compared to Star Rail universe, hence why updates from teyvat side occur much more rarely

Chapter 26

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Much of the day had been spent on drafting out plans, hypotheses, and collecting information on how he came to end up here.

Himeko had busied herself sorting through the navigational history of the Express, out at the engine room.

Childe does his best to explain the setting of the strange, offworld planet that Master resided at, without disclosing too much. After all, he did not want the Astral Express members to come face to face with his new Master, especially since she could get bloodthirsty at times. It was not good to mix her along with the Trailblazers, even if Luocha was familiar with Dan Heng.

However, the crack and tear in reality had long been sealed up and was gone.

Even with his senses, he had gone around to feel for any discrepancies and could not find any, during one of his breaks in between training with Master.

“Does your Foul Legacy abilities hold any dimensional breaking abilities? Teleportation abilities? Anything that can bend the limits of space and time?” The older male had brought out a device that looked like a typewriter with a screen attached to it, and began typing away at its keys, as March raised up a page from her notebook to flash a diagram at them.

On the sheet of white paper, she had drawn and sketched out a simplified flowchart of options and ideas, of which most ended up in crosses or dead ends.

Dan Heng had moved back and forth from the archives, a larger version of the mobile phone Childe had in his hand, as Stelle was focussed on texting on her phone, occasionally checking in with them through her contacts if they had heard of the planet called Teyvat.

“Foul Legacy does not have anything of that sort, but the Narwhal does.”

“Oh! Maybe the Narwhal somehow tore through the fabric of reality and got you trapped here?”

“Actually, I think Master Skirk tossed me through a rift in space and time.”

“Who is this Master Skirk?”

“Yeah! How did she singlehandedly tear through space and time and chuck you through it?”

Childe tries to recall, but the details are blurry at best.

He remembered hearing Master Skirk’s voice, before being lifted up and tossed into…some strange space that left all his battleworn senses tingling in a strange way.

After that, all he could remember was the sensation of falling.

Dreams, snippets, nightmares of falling through an unending abyss, different from the Abyss and it corruption back home in Teyvat, but an abyss of unknown depths, of ever evolving raw entropy, of otherworldly structures and systems that constructed themselves and deconstructed themselves all around him.

“She is ridiculously strong.”

Dan Heng frowns.

“She sounds comparatively much stronger compared to most individuals in your world. If I am correct, my understanding is that most super powered individuals in your world are Vision holders? Elemental mastery is insufficient to alter the fabric of reality itself.” The archivist thinks, as he uses his finger to swipe across the tablet.

“Well…to be honest, I don't know much about her either. Remember about the time when I fell into the Abyss as a child? She was the one who found me and trained me, and taught me Foul Legacy.” Childe admits with a sigh, realising how he really did not know much about his mentor at all. The woman who had saved him all those years ago was a being who did not conform to the laws of Celestia, that he was certain, with none of her abilities falling into that of a Vision holder’s.

Plus, he had not spoken to her in more than a decade.

“Assuming this Master Skirk has the ability to tear through the fabric of space and time and send you here, how would you contact her though? Is it even possible to get her to…you know...find you? Like opening a door back up over here or something?” Stelle asks, as she sets down her phone, with no luck found through her long, long list of contacts.

Childe shakes his head.

“Teyvat doesn’t have even a tiny portion of the technology this world possesses. You guys have flying ships, interplanetary travel, phones, and like this,” He waves a hand of Welt’s weird device.

“You guys don’t have phones? How are you surviving over there?!” March nearly screeches.

“I’m three months old and I can’t live without a phone.” Stelle murmurs to herself.

Tartaglia scratches his head.

“Well, we use letters.”

“Didn’t Belobog use letters too?” He hears March whisper to Dan Heng.

Welt hushes the group.

“Back to the topic. Teyvat may not have reached the era of the Industrial Revolution yet, nor the age of the Internet. There is no shame in that, because various civilisations progress at their own pace. One of the planets we last visited, known as Jarilo-VI, was cut off from most of the universe and had their technological developments halted due to being plunged into an endless winter. Regardless, it means that we will need to use innate abilities to solve this.”

So, Master Skirk who had chucked him into a whole other dimension, highly likely by accident, even if he knew his Master was not one to make mistakes so easily (she couldn't have possibly thrown him into a whole parallel dimension by accident!), could not be reached.

“Beyond your Foul Legacy, your Vision and Delusion, do you have anything that could help you warp the fabric of reality?” Welt questions him, a strange glint in his eye. It is vastly different from the way the other Harbingers eye him and size him up as a useful tool, but rather one trying to nudge him and encourage him to open up more.

Childe weighs his options. Currently, he did not sense any ill intent from them anytime soon, and since they were actively working to help him find his way back home, they were already deeply invested in his well-being.

They were his allies.

“The All Devouring Narwhal. I ate it.”

Stelle chokes on her cup of tea.

Welt’s eyes widened.

And Dan Heng…Dan Heng bursts out laughing.

It was the incredulous sort of laughter, not mocking, but definitely in disbelief, as everyone turned to stare at the stoic male who rarely ever displayed such an emotion. Childe feels his face heat up, unsure of what to make of the situation, admitting that he ate the very enemy that had nearly drowned an entire city…

“Mr Yang, can we keep him? He’ll fit right in with us!” March looks at Welt, voice bubbly as she gives her best puppy eyes look at the elder.

That was not anything like the reaction he had been expecting.

Dan Heng recollects himself, upon realising how he acted so unnaturally out of character, giving the ginger a quick murmured apology as the man buried his head in his tablet, reflecting on why he had just spontaneously reacted that way upon finding out about how their guest had came to be.

After all, Dan Heng himself had found someone else who was certainly more unpredictable than Stelle or March, of all people. The ginger who had soulless eyes the colour of the deepest sea, harboured within him a strange power that had left Dan Heng feeling strangely uneasy the past few encounters, and when he found out that the man had eaten this Narwhal…His situation left him in a position befitting of a Nameless.

After they had found March encased in ice floating in deep space, down to Stelle housing a literal Stellaron within herself, stumbling across an interdimensional traveller who consumed a world ending calamity should not have been a surprise.

Yet it was.

Meeting this strange traveller had been refreshing, for all the time he had spent on the Luofu haunted by Dan Feng’s past and scorned by his own people, and finding out more about him was as fascinating as reading up on all the strange tales stored in the Archives.

“It’s gonna be like a ‘You are what you eat’ kind of thing, isn’t it?” Stelle had no idea how scarily spot on she was. Childe runs a hand through his hair, combing the loose strands back as he huffs.

“Will me doing that really dumb act of eating it make it impossible for me to get home?”

“On the contrary, likely not. Have you…obtained its abilities?”

“I’m not sure about that, actually.”

March pumps her fists in the air.

“Time for a test run!”

“I call dibs.” Stelle murmurs.

“Relax guys, we can’t just jump into unknown territory like that.” Dan Heng interjects, despite him looking at Childe curiously.

Welt sets his cane down on the ground as he stands up from his seat.

“Dan Heng has the most sense out of the three of you. We should test the waters first before we end up with something else on our hands.” Welt gently chides March and Stelle, who look completely unapologetic.

Dan Heng was most definitely the most logical one out of the three of them.

Childe drums his fingers across the lacquered wood table out of habit, as he tries to think of what he can do to call the Narwhal forth. For now, his new master had the power and bloodlust to challenge and keep it at bay, but he did not want to harm his new companions in a failed attempt at calling it out. How did he even manage to summon the Narwhal in the first place?

Of the past two instances, he can only recall it being summoned when he had first fought with Master, in a haze of bloodlust. The next was when he had a nightmare about being trapped in the Primordial Sea. What was the commonality?

For Foul Legacy, it was instinct, feral bloodlust and the drive to fight. The slip, stepping off and between the line of fighting to accomplish a mission and fighting to feel the rush of adrenaline, to dance with death, and the following need to emerge victorious.

For the Narwhal…perhaps it was hunger?

That was what it represented anyways.

Speaking of hunger, he had not felt unnaturally hungry since last night. Since he had devoured the concept of physical injury onto himself, was that what it took to keep the Narwhal satiated?

So many questions, and too many mysteries to unravel for his comfort. He was honed as a weapon, and preferred to just do, and leave the thinking to someone else. However, he could think and analyse things if he needed to do it. He just found it terribly tedious and dry, because sitting down to plan and research left him painfully restless and craving action and battle.

“Childe, we might have to run a few tests on the Narwhal’s abilities. If my hypothesis is correct, it should be the key to helping you return back home.”

“Oh sure!” The ginger stood up, following behind the group as they began walking for the door. Wow. He really did not expect them to literally jump right into it, but he supposed that they were just that free to help him almost instantly.

March runs off to say a few words to Himeko, before she rejoins the group and leaves the parlour car.

Notes:

Dan Heng post companion quest and after the stellaron incident on the Luofu: things won't get wilder, right-

man's got enough stuff happening to him/connected to him that he's in disbelief

headcanon that when the group is asked to sit their asses down and brainstorm on how to solve a problem, welt takes the lead and they actually put all their collective braincells together and structure a way to find a solution (man was a prof back in hk3 for a period of time)

Chapter 27

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Scalegorge Waterscape seemed more like the remnants of a drowned civilisation, one that had been blended with the seafloor, with the soaked marble and sandstone worn down by the action of sea water, eroded by the tides and everflowing sea before it had been brought to its surface. Seaweed and algae clung to the edges of eroded stone, as they walked along the largely linear and straight path down into the depths.

Tall pillars guided their path down into the ancient ruins, the four of them being careful as they approached deeper into its depths. Childe stares, awestruck at how the large tidal waves of the original sea level were held back through some magical force, water swirling and pounding at invisible boundaries and overflowing in on itself. Yet, water never flowed nor poured over that barrier to drown and submerge the ruins.

He had not missed the statue out at the front that looked too much like Dan Heng either.

Except where the bunny ears were, were a pair of dragon’s horns.

Did they have the equivalent of Adepti here?

Childe hops from a broken stair down to the solid ground, being in the centre of the group as Dan Heng led them forward into the ruins.

The air smelled of salt, and the faint scent of decay, a fishy scent that did seemed to permeate through the air. Childe stops and peers at the glowing egg like orb, which radiates and pulsated with dim light.

“Are these eggs?”

“Vidyadhara eggs. Please don’t touch them. They are…my people, currently in a cycle of rebirth.”

Childe pulls his hand back right as Dan Heng’s words sank in.

“You…you go through cycles of immortality? Like…a phoenix? You hatched from an egg?!”

“Yes.”

“Wait how do you guys start families? If you just revive as a new person each time when you guys die…”

“We don’t start families.”

“Oh.”

Dan Heng turns away, continuing to walk forward, albeit with slightly faster steps as they step onto coral-like growth, Childe trailing behind him in his footsteps.

“The Vidyadhara are a race of beings who descended from an Aeon known as Long the Permanence. They have attributes similar to that of dragons, and undergo cycles of rebirth all throughout their lives, with each rebirth giving way to a new identity, a new self that does not remember the memories of the previous life.” Welt kindly explains to him, sensing the restlessness that laid within the ginger with regards to the mind blowing fact that had just been dropped onto him.

March and Stelle shoot him an apologetic look, as the two dart forward to catch up with Dan Heng, likely sensing that his mood was off because of what had just transpired.

Childe could easily tell that the stoic male had some lingering regret or resentment with regards to his heritage. At least Welt had stayed with him.

“So they aren’t immortal then,” Much different from Zhongli, or Morax for that matter.

“It all boils down to what the definition of immortality is. Most would say that the Vidayahara are immortal, or in the very least, a long lived species. I’m curious as to what made you say that they aren’t immortal,” Welt gives him a gentle nudge.

Childe glances at the field of eggs which trail along their path, before gazing off into the distance.

“They don’t remember their past lives. If they don’t retain memories of who they were before, each of them starts out as a new blank slate, a new person of their own. Isn’t that an obvious fact?”

“Your definition of immortality is tied to that of memory and self. I, too, believe in that definition. Most would call them immortal for the reason that they never truly experience death. However, the experience of losing oneself itself is a form of death.” Welt responds, a soft, contemplative smile settling on his features.

“Does Dan Heng have an existential crisis or something? The statue out at the front looks an awful lot like him, but I’m pretty sure it has been here longer that he has been alive. Plus, the bunny ears look like they are a convenient piece of decoration to cover up two horns that could be sticking out from his head...”

Welt offers him a conciliatory smile.

“Perhaps that is best left up to Dan Heng to tell you. What is for him to say, I shall not speak for him.”

That was the most sensible and respectful decision on the older man’s part. Childe wonders if he will get close enough to Dan Heng to hear about his past from him.

“Alright then.”

Childe stops to look at the horizon, catching a glimpse of a large glowing creature frozen and suspended in time, the image of a magnificent dragon brought to life, settled over the end of the pier. With a glowing mane that flickered, luminescent light pours from its body as it stares over the ruins, a cold, distant gaze peering over all of them.

The Harbinger cannot tell if it is dead or alive, or perhaps simply part of the environment, as its gaze glows with a radiant blue, smoky yet reminiscent of a mirage, poised to lunge and attack yet hovering frozen still in time, in place. Its jade green scales glimmer, a mane of crystal smoke coalescing around its collar, with two large antlers piercing through the sky.

It is almost contradictory in its appearance, so much so that Childe begins to doubt if it is neither alive nor dead.

“We came all the way down here, but how exactly are we going to test my abilities? Especially with all the Vidyadhara eggs scattered around, I don’t want to risk damaging any one of those by accident.” He cannot make out a clear open space for them to train in, or for him to test out anything for the matter.

Welt chuckles.

“Don’t worry. There is a vast expanse of space located at the end of the pier, accessible only by Dan Heng’s authority. I suggested this location here so that we would not be bothered elsewhere on the Luofu, or cause significant property damage lest things go poorly.”

“Is it big enough to contain a huge Narwhal the size of several buildings in length?”

“Definitely.”

“Huh. That’s neat.”

The two of them step down onto the broken path which leads directly into the image of the dragon straight ahead.

“Is the dragon real?”

“It is. You appear familiar with the concepts of dragons. Did Teyvat have a few?”

“Yeah. One of them played me like a fool. Though, to be fair I guess my position meant I had it coming. I just…wasn’t expecting it.”

Welt glances at him.

“The dragons could turn into humans so maybe that was why. But also because I was too stupid to not put two and two together from all the legends and books that pointed out about how Rex Lapis liked to wander the human realm in a human form.”

“That sounds…complicated.”

“Believe me, it was. Then there’s another one rumoured to be in Fontaine? Arrlecchino told me the Iudex was a dragon. I did not believe her then but the judge proceeded to knock me out with one blow. In hindsight, he probably was another dragon.”

“You have a knack for running into dragons.”

“Running into what, two mythical beings in the course of a few months? For sure. My presence just can’t stop drawing in and attracting so many mythical beings. Though my first encounter with Zhongli was probably rigged though. The rest? Coincidence. I don’t know why all the dragons can turn into human forms or have human forms. Someone really ought to research that.”

At some point, Childe realises he’s rambling. He shuts his mouth when he realises that the two of them had caught up with the rest, waiting at the edge of the pier as Stelle, March, and even Dan Heng looked genuinely interested in what he had to say. He really had not expected to have so many things to say, especially after four years in social isolation, but perhaps he was finding that more talkative side of himself again.

“Tell us more about it when we get back,” March giggles, the pink haired girl reaching out to Dan Heng.

“I’m curious to what you have to say about dragons, but I suppose it is only fair for me to offer something in return.”

Dan Heng huffs, as he removes the pair of bunny ears on his head, revealing a pair of jade coloured horns which grew from his head, elegant, sleek and pointing towards the sky. The ambivalent look in his eyes shifts to look at Childe expectantly, as if beckoning him to react, to throw outrage at him, or to react in any way except for what he would like.

“Can you turn into a dragon?”

A small, tentative smile graces Dan Heng’s lips, even as he shakes his head.

“He has a tail though.” Stelle lifts up a large, translucent, near physical dragon’s tail in with both her arms, as Dan Heng playfully flicks the limb such that its ends brush against Stelle’s hair sharply, flicking her hair against her face.

“Wait…wait-wait-, does it work like a prehensile limb? Like is it real? Where was this when I saw you the last time?” The questions leave his mouth before Childe has time to process what he has just asked.

He could not help it, not with his curiosity burning so fiercely.

“I can hide it at will, if I wish. My horns are another matter.”

“That explains the bunny ears for the past few days.”

Dan Heng blinks, as March waves the headband in front of his face, the girl chuckling.

“Doesn’t he look adorable with it on?” She teased the male, who does his best to remain as stoic as possible.

Childe chuckles.

Welt clears his throat.

“We should all return to our task at hand. I imagine that you will have to return by sunset,” Childe nods in response.

“Let’s speedrun this. Maxing out Childe’s potential? Here we go.” Stelle releases Dan Heng’s tail, as she cracks her knuckles and withdraws a long bat from-from her jacket? The Harbinger struggles to see how a weapon as long and inflexible as that could fit within her jacket.

The grey haired girl walks on ahead, into the pool of fog ahead of them, as Dan Heng raised a hand and cleared a path for them beneath the dragon’s jaw and into the zone of blank nothingness.

Notes:

Childe: Teyvat Dragon =/= Vidyadhara? Infinite Weapon storage space in coat?
Welt side thoughts: If both Teyvat and this world has dragons...where is Earth's dragon? (Benares and Kurikara don't count cos they r Honkai Beast)
Author: Is the giant dragon in the background of Scalegorge Waterscape real??

Chapter 28

Notes:

Childe experiences all the non-existent elements firsthand, and struggles to figure out what six phased ice is and what exactly is an imaginary element....

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Childe cracks his knuckles as he stretches and warms his body up, the rest of the Trailblazers seemingly huddling up together as March unslings her bow which had been hanging from her shoulder.

“Hey. if you guys are ready, just hit me!” He throws out the challenge to them, unwittingly returning back to the way he usually taunted his enemies back in Teyvat, that cheeky arrogance and snarky arrogance sneaking its way back into his voice.

Whatever they could throw at him, he was certain he could handle it. In fact, he was excited to get started and to spar against this new group of individuals, an idea of going up against this world’s version of a dragon having his blood pumping.

However, what he was lacking was his weapons. With his usual control over hydro gone, and the fact that he lacked his bow that he was trying to get used to learning and using, he could only transform into Foul Legacy to gain access to those abyss energy formed weapons. Though if he had to say, his hand to hand combat was decent enough, and he would use that if push came to shove.

After all, Neuvillette had pushed him to use Foul Legacy.

The Trailblazers part from their formation, as Stelle lunges at him with her bat, March firing an arrow at him in an attempt to pin him down and lock his location in from both sides. Childe chuckles as he dodges the arrow, and ducks beneath Stelle’s blow at the same time, the grey haired girl left stunned and unbalanced which Childe uses against her and sweeps her leg, knocking her to the ground. March fires off another arrow at him in an attempt to cover for the weakened Stelle, which Childe easily catches with a free hand.

“Now!” March shouts, as the arrow in his hand explodes into a mass of ice which envelops his hand, freezing his arm as Dan Heng directs a strong stream of water right into his face, knocking him off his feet and away from Stelle.

Having not expected any water in this match, nor how strong the jet would actually be, Childe coughs up water and rolls into a crouch, slamming the ice encased fist onto the ground in hopes of shattering the ice. The ice does not shatter. In fact, it continues spreading, and from its weight and density, Childe could sense that this was no ordinary ice.

“Shall we up the ante?” Welt’s voice sounds from behind him, sending shivers down Childe’s spine from how the man had quickly appeared behind him, the man pointing the tip of his cane at him.

“You bet!”

The burst of Abyssal electro he releases is enough to shatter the ice which encased his arm.

It pushes the older trailblazer back, as Childe dons the dual bladed polearm in his hands, Foul Legacy’s form coming to him naturally like breathing after all this time. The thrill of battle against four strong opponents who synergised well, it made it a difficult four against one that he was elated to pit his own abilities against.

March and Stelle gawk at his new form, as Childe drops into a crouch, Dan Hengs gaze focussing and narrowing, the man beholding a sphere of yin and yang in his true form, as Welt slams the tip of his cane into the ground.

Whatever their judgement was and would be, Childe would ignore until it became a problem later down the line.

He raised his polearm and pointed it at the group of them.

“Bring it on.”

-

The kind of abilities the group wielded certainly exceeded his expectations.

From the power granted to Dan Heng by a bygone Aeon, which allowed him to whip out a dragon’s abilities from out of nowhere, to Stelle’s destructive abilities with a weirdly indestructible bat, March’s uncanny ability to manipulate an unknown type of ice. Then there was Welt. Welt was arguably one of the strongest of the group overall. His instincts simply told him that, with how the man could sneak up on him near instantaneously, each blow of his cane multiplied a thousand times, it felt like he was going up against a literal dragon.

Perhaps it was not a good idea to ask them to throw everything at him all at once.

Foul Legacy was strong, but Master had shown him how underpowered he was compared to the people and beings of this world. Sure, he could easily dodge when March fired a hail of icy arrows at him, but her reactions were lightning fast, an instinctive counter whenever her or any of her allies were hit.

Those icy arrows spread ice along his armour and seeped in much faster than Master’s had, and they did not melt like normal ice did. In fact, they were ridiculously hard, taking him multiple bursts of energy and physical force to break them off from his skin.

These individuals were not even slightly fazed by his transformation.

While Welt had raised an eyebrow, Dan Heng slipped into his full Vidayahara form, elegance and majesty in his clothes, floating lotus flowers made of water and energy which he easily commanded with his fine control. March and Stelle had looked at him, before turning back at each other, an excited grin on their faces.

Perhaps they did not fear him because they already knew Childe.

Dan Heng always kept him back with blasts of water mixed with energy, something which poured down and manifested from the surroundings, binding and trapping him, keeping him at a distance from the group. Occasionally, he would toss spears formed from water and energy at him, whilst Welt would tap his cane on the ground and every movement he made became a thousand times heavier.

Oh how Childe missed his mastery over hydro. Watching Dan Heng wield it fluently, elegantly, like a mythical being of which the nature of water resonated with the man himself, Childe slammed his polearm against the stream, Abyssal Electro cancelling out the surge of water with an explosion that vapourised the stream.

It was definitely a struggle for Foul Legacy, and for him.

To even get close enough to reach them, and for Childe to call on the Narwhal.

The entire purpose of this session was for him to summon the Narwhal. Not to train Foul Legacy. At this rate, Foul Legacy was so satiated on the number of battles he and it had experienced here. Nearly three battles within the span of four days! And this was following four years of consecutive fight or die in the Primordial Sea.

He could also tell that the others were holding back, and trying not to use lethal attacks that could possibly kill him. They were not tapping their full potential, and neither was he.

That wasn't good enough.

Childe pulls out the icy arrow that had stuck itself onto the armoured plates, as Stelle runs up and brings the bat down on him. He easily blocks it with a clawed limb, utilising a partial transformation so that his face would not be obscured by his mask.

There was no life or death situation.

He felt no hunger now, nor did he feel lonely.

He could not summon forth the Narwhal now.

He doubts he could ever summon it forth in their presence.

He swings the polearm in a circle overhead, allowing electro to dance from the electrified blade and strike down at the ground beneath him, or at his closest opponent, whoever was brave enough to stand close to him. Stelle leapt back, as Welt seemed to counter and reach for his pole arm with strange ephemeral chains of energy that sought to imprison him.

Childe leaps out of the way, releasing his grip on his polearm as he forms a ball of electro in his palm and slams it into the ground. March counters with a wave of ice that rains down on him, crystalline figures resembling those soft toys Teucer had collected, leaving Childe slightly confused as to why such adorable figures were powerful enough to stop his electro wave in its tracks.

He shot towards the archer with lightning speed, leaving nothing behind in his path but traces of scorched ground, faster than she could counter his blow, as he sent her flying with a kick.

March tumbles across the floor, helped up by Welt, as Stelle raises her bat to take March’s place. Childe knew he had to take special care so as to not permanently injure anyone, especially when he was in Foul Legacy, where his strength was not something he closely monitored. After all, this Abyssal form was for him to go all out, with nothing held back. It also happened to be the only form he could take for now, to use the remaining ability he had brought for Teyvat.

He sighs.

Entering this spar not for the simple need of a good battle, but with a greater goal in mind left a sour taste in his mouth as he calls the spar off.

“I don’t think this is it.” He peels Foul Legacy off with a restless fervour, as the others stop their barrage of attacks. Stelle sets her bat down, as March follows behind her, with the two other males.

“This is a very inefficient process,” Welt acknowledges, as Childe dusts off the remaining shards of Abyssal armour from himself. Foul Legacy’s buzz was silenced, muted and almost drawn back down to levels he had never experienced before. Still, he kept the dual bladed spear in his grip, breaking it down into its separate halves as he jabs them tip first into the foggy ground.

New world, new experiences.

He needed his solution fast, to draw out the Narwhal in front of the group. He glances at the spear.

Life or death situation, right?

He grabs his spear and stabs it into his abdomen.

Or at least, that’s what should have happened if there wasn’t strange, yellow chains binding his movements in place, ice freezing his limbs, another spear blocking the path of his weapon and a hand holding onto his spear.

“Are you crazy?”

“Dude. I think you need to chill. We need you alive, you know?”

“...Stabbing yourself won’t help us with your situation.”

“That was reckless. None of us here can heal you if it really went through.”

Childe keeps his grip on his spear tight.

“I won’t die from that.”

“How would you know that?” March throws the question at him, as Welt frowns. Stelle gazes at him, a spark of recognition that blooms, one she quickly hides away as she quietly lets go of his spear.

“The only way you know is if you’ve done this before.” Dan Heng concludes, as the man removes Cloud Piercer where he had used its blade to block the tip of the glaive.

“Have you?”

Well, he could not lie here, could he?

Childe sighs and shakes his head. Letting go of the spear, Welt eyes him cautiously before releasing the bindings on him with a tap of his cane on the ground, as March looks torn between wanting to throttle him and simply staying silent.

“Why on earth would you think that’s a good idea? We don’t have any healers on hand if things go wrong.” The pink haired girl tells him harshly, pink and blue irises framed by a pair of scrunched up eyebrows, as she removes the ice from his person.

“I don't know how else to call the Narwhal out.”

He…he really didn’t. Foul Legacy had been taught to him in a snapshot of hazy, disjointed memories back in the Abyss. Through a mass of warm blood pouring down his skin, pooling in his hands, the sulfuric scent of corruption staining his skin, Master Skirk taunting him in a garbled tongue when he dipped into a feral insanity.

She tamed the beast within him such that it dare not lash out against her, leaving it raging against Ajax, the young child whose heart was filled with broken dreams, a tarnished innocence he would never get back, and Childe exhales. Foul Legacy had forced him to fight or die, to show the parasite he had willingly accepted that he was worthy to be its host.

If it were something like the Narwhal, he knew it would be something along the same lines.

Such was the nature of foreign, corrupted entities, and the power they bestowed onto him.

He supposes he’ll just have to accomplish this part alone.

“We have time to figure it out. I do not condone acts of self-harm in order to draw out a possible power. Until then, let us not act rashly and consider other means of getting to the same conclusion.”

Welt looks at him, brown eyes filled with cool, calm rationality, accompanied with care and concern freely given, a warmth from one who had always taken up the role of a mentor time and time again, stepping up once more.

Childe smiles.

“You’re right. That was dumb on my part.”

He lies, flawlessly and smoothly.

It was dumb of him to have considered pulling something off like that in front of people who were good, pure, the heroes of this world, because he would never have ever succeeded this way.

If it were Master Jingliu, she would gladly damn him to the pits of despair to draw out his full potential.

“Let us return for now.” Welt’s words cut off his line of thought, the harbinger allowing his weapons to dissipate into sparks of tainted electro as Stelle lags back to walk next to him.

Notes:

None of the trailblazers are going at full power ie no black hole ults being used, no preservation lance, no dan heng IL dragon summoning ult (cos it’s meant to be a friendly spar after all) Even Childe himself is holding back, because he does not want to kill them

Chapter 29

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

They had fried rice for their lunch out on the streets of Aurum Alley, after a strange discussion on dragons, Aeons, hybrid species like Foxians and Adepti on the way back.

The group had graciously borrowed Childe a set of spare clothes, consisting of simple white monotone shirt (A T-shirt, they called it), a charcoal grey jacket with a large number of pockets and straps, and maroon coloured pants. He would have to hand wash his clothes once again when he got back to Master’s hut.

“What did you work as back in Teyvat?”

March is the one who asks this innocent question.

“Damn. I didn’t even think about how we are all technically unemployed. Are you eager for a nine to five job, March?” Stelle muses as she drinks her bubble tea. Welt is amused by the conversation, as Dan Heng adjusts the bunny ears on his head, having switched back to his original attire which had a hoodie as part of his jacket.

The five of them sit within a secluded corner of a restaurant, with its circular wooden table and round stools, Childe taps and feels the carvings along the edges of the table out of curiosity, hiding his fidgeting motion as he does so.

“...I worked as a…bank manager.”

He was not about to tell them what the Fatui were, and what a Harbinger did. Firstly, it would most definitely sour relations between them if he realised that he was a weapon of war, had waged battles amongst people, assassinated and killed them in the name of the Tsaritsa. Next, this world was a new place, wasn’t it? Why should what he did in the past matter?

Or would it always matter?

He remembers Aether’s cold gaze.

Zhongli’s apathy.

The thousand gazes glaring, burning with resentment burning on his back as he left the harbour.

He felt it on his back for a long, long time after leaving Liyue.

It only died down after he was tossed into the Primordial Sea.

“You fight really well for a bank manager.”

“Hey now, of course I had to leave the Abyss with a few skills apart from Foul Legacy. If I didn’t gain any skills, I wouldn’t have left it at all! My time as a bank manager was just a temporary job, and I honed my martial arts on the side to pass time.”

None of it was a lie.

His stationing at Liyue harbour was not meant to be permanent, and he did go out of his way to find sparring partners the few times he was freed from his administrative duties and from debt collection and from training the recruits. The usual.

“I see. Then you have experience in the principles of accounting?” Welt continues, as the man sips at a cup of black coffee.

Childe winces at the thought of all that paperwork and calculation. From interest rates to dividends, Pantalone had personally taught him how to scrutinise and read through reports to look out for irregularities, manage client details, act as a functioning bank manager, so as to solidify his cover as a bank manager.

“Unfortunately, yes. I would like to not touch it again.”

“Did you guys have calculators there? I can’t imagine it must be easy doing it all by hand…”

“What’s a calculator?”

“Oh. My. God.”

“I presume you used an abacus.” Childe nods to Welt’s response.

“I can’t imagine touching an abacus in this day and age.”

“The Vidyahara Preceptors would tell you otherwise.”

Childe pokes at the fried rice with his spoon. He had not felt hungry in the past eighteen-ish hours. A new record for the fact that the Narwhal had plunged him into a state of perpetual hunger since he consumed it. He wondered how long it would stay satiated. Perhaps that was why it had not emerged?

“Wait, how are all of us getting paid? Are we just purely freelancers at this point? Mercenaries?” Stelle was asking the rest of the Trailblazers. Welt raised an eyebrow, as the senior himself began to think about it as well.

“People pay us to run their errands. Therefore we are just errand runners.” Dan Heng concludes, as he sets his empty bubble tea cup on the table.

“These errands literally consist of facing off against corrupt rulers and usurpers. I think we’re closer to mercenaries at this point-” March leans the back of her chair, before she realises that the round stool has no backing and nearly falls off the chair. Welt catches her with a strand of strange yellowish energy, freezing her in place and allowing her to find her balance as she leans forward and half collapses on the table.

“That was close. Thanks Mr Yang!” March thanks him.

“Please just call me Welt. We are all trailblazers.” March only smiles at him cheekily in response. Welt huffs and turns back to his food.

“I suppose we are adventurers and mercenaries. That is the simplest way to describe our roles. We kill alien creatures that seek to harm us, solve the problems of others, be it something as simple as finding a missing item to help unravel a mystery that could affect everyone’s lives and prevent disasters from happening. We do get generously compensated for our work, especially because we have to handle dangerous disaster-causing objects known as Stellarons.”

…Why was this beginning to sound like what Aether did on a daily basis? Well except the traveller was out to find his missing sister, but ended up running into so many people and their errands, saving the day on multiple occasions, making friends with everyone else along in his journey, and living life to the fullest. The next time, he would have to ask him if he handled and dealt with anything that could destroy Teyvat.

That was if he ever encountered the traveller again.

He wonders if he could have taken on that role as an adventurer, instead of the Fatui Harbinger he had become.

“That sounds fun.” The crew notice Childe’s wistful tone, before the ginger blinks and his gaze flickers to them once more.

Childe finishes up the last scoop of his fried rice, finding its taste akin to ash on his tongue. He sets the spoon down, and tries very hard to quell the surge, the stinging harshness of unpleasant resentment which welled up in his chest.

Archons, the mood swings had to stop.

He could not be half torn between murderous bloodlust, empty hunger, envious jealousy, homesickness, numbness and dissociated, tentative enthusiasm, a need to keep going and moving on, and a desire to just let go of everything from Teyvat and settle down here.

He digs his nails into his thigh, wondering how he could have let himself forget about Teucer and Tonia, about his family that waited for him in Snezhnaya, likely praying for his safe return. How could he possibly be getting jealous of a group of strangers who had found amongst them, family, whilst travelling the vast reaches of the universe? To crave that bond, that adventure, when he himself had a life to return back to?

He thinks of his younger siblings, and then his parents.

His parents would not be surprised if he simply disappeared off the face of earth.

But how could he have forgotten about his younger siblings?

What did this say about him?

As an older brother, as one who had promised to protect them?

Four years in the Primordial Sea spent fighting for his life to return home, with him clinging onto the memory of his siblings. Or perhaps, he had misremembered during his time down there, and what kept him going was neither the memory of returning home, but simply the instinctive nature of battle and violence, and Foul Legacy sustaining him.

Does he even want to go home?

He had never dreamt of Teyvat, in the nights he had spent here.

In that instant, Childe stares at the circular table of emptied plates, of quiet chatter dying down and fading into singular sentences, muted echoes which do not reach him. Distant thoughts echo around his mind, faint wisps of ideas of how he should return to Teyvat as soon as possible, so as to return to his life there, with other thoughts commenting on how pathetic his life was there, to walk the path of a villain in the eyes of others, a tool to be wielded by a god with senseless ambition.

His other option was to stay, but in what world could he ever consider that option?

To throw away his life behind, ditching the Tsaritsa’s war against Celestia, one he had sworn to be her Vanguard in, because he found that fighting for four continuous years straight was something he did not want.

Who was he? To settle down in this world as an intruder, an anomaly? To…hopefully join these Trailblazers on their adventurers?

He was a fool.

Stop thinking about such absurd thoughts, Ajax.

The part of him that was still Ajax yearned for the life of a Trailblazer.

Of course, he could never have this.

Ajax died a long time ago, because he could not survive. What he had now was simply the passing remnants of Ajax, the child explorer who had dreams far too great for himself, who had led him down this messy spiral of disjointed identities, and a life changing, traumatic experience through the Abyss.

His thoughts stray, from one word to another, leaping from one conclusion to the other without a rational train of thought, going off the trailing emotions which surged at the mention of names and words, terminologies that seemed to resonate and yet not so, the ginger staring down at the wooden table silently.

“Childe!”

March snaps her fingers in front of his face.

Childe startles, and it is purely on instinct that his hand moves for the steak knife on the table and he half lunges at March, the blade nearly at her throat if not for Welt, who deflects the blow with his cane and sends the knife hurtling through the air.

Dan Heng moves to deftly catch the blade before it hurts anyone else.

Childe is gone before any of them can stop him.

Notes:

Childe's internal conflict between staying and returning are constantly on his mind + angst, as requested

Chapter 30

Notes:

ALSO I REALISED THAT THIS FIC HAS GONE PAST THE 1000 KUDOS MARK AND IM HONOURED TO HAVE EVERYONE'S SUPPORT TOWARDS THIS STORY

Time for a double chapter update :)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

He figures out how to silence the phone, fiddling with it with shaking hands until he finds a button to power off, and he disappears into the crowds, no destination in mind with only the simple desire to be alone.

Alone to handle the overwhelming surge of emotion, to tread the lonely path he has always tread without fail.

Go home.

Go home to Teyvat before you start getting attached to this place.

He tries. He really tries to settle on that single conclusion, to tell himself that everything else, training with Master Jingliu, talking to Luocha, spending time with the Astral Express, was all to help him get home. Nothing more.

Silence those ambitions, those dreams of staying here and leaving everything in Teyvat to be taken care of.

With La Signora dead, and two missing harbinger positions, what was one more?

The Tsaritsa loved her harbingers. That’s what was told, what was meant to be unspoken, but Childe knows she only loves him as her Eleventh, as her vanguard. He was a chess piece, a pawn in the game against Celestia, to remain on the battlefield for as long as he lived.

At what point in time had he considered himself to only be a weapon, to live solely as a tool of mass destruction, to live only for the thrill of battle?

Did that desire stem from Foul Legacy, or his poor, well intended dreams of being someone greater than himself when he had been Ajax?

Now that he was a weapon, that seemed to be all he knew how to do. He couldn't even sit through a meal with the Astral Express without causing them trouble. Without nearly, or accidentally hurting March. He blames it on his own ingrained paranoia, that unsettling feeling of being watched, of heightened wariness and distrust, of being unable to control his reactions, his instincts, that ever present need to hurt and harm.

The dream he had last night was real.

Everything here felt like a dream.

Something unreal, not meant to last, and soon to be forgotten.

He stops in front of a row of shophouses, noticing the lack of people in the area, and settles himself down on one of the steps leading up to a side alley between the shop houses. The sky was grey, cloudy and muddled for the first time he had seen ever since he first came onboard the Xianzhou Luofu, the sign of a storm on the horizon as it overtook the thin, fading rays of sunlight.

He watches dully at a pair of children trying to fly a paper kite as they run down the street. One of them trips on an uneven floor tile and nearly falls, but catches themself as the other child clutches onto the kite protectively, asking the other if they were alright.

Now, he was reminded of Anthon, Teucer and Tonia. How they must have missed him for all the time he had been gone, and it hurts all the more when he realises he had forgotten about them.

He switches his attention to a shopkeeper selling roasted pork buns from his shop, though he was currently sitting and taking a nap, leaving his store open and vulnerable to any potential theft.

Was the shopkeeper trusting or foolish? To leave his shop unattended like that, to leave his guard down and take a nap on a foldable chair he had set out next to him.

His gaze flickers to the couple seated on the bench, hands intertwined as they lean on each other, muttering words he could make out but did not quite want to listen in on, since it was their private affair after all.

He takes in all these sights and sounds of what an ordinary life should have been, a life that he could have led if he had not fallen down into the Abyss, had not joined the Fatui, and had never decided to leave him that fateful winter night to go out on an adventure.

That adventure led to nothing but cursed misery, an insanity which swallowed Ajax, tarnishing the old him and twisting him into something else. The new him now…could not rest. His senses bristled constantly, on the edge of lashing out at others who dared to approach him, tamed and toned down only by the promise and use of battle and brutal spars. If not, he would be lost in his head for longer than what was considered safe, losing himself to thoughts, to the spiral of barely hidden madness that seethed beneath his skin.

Childe looks up from where he realised he had been resting his head on his crossed arms.

“It looks like it’s going to rain. Would you like to come in?”

The man before him was one of the Xianzhou Foxian natives, dressed in their usual garb, with the addition of a ring of golden ginkgo leaves threaded into a bracelet around his right wrist. He glances at the grey overcast sky, as she beckons him to enter the shophouse behind him.

“Mr Yuyan, do you want us to close the windows for you?” Childe hears the voice of two children come from within the shophouse, as he gets up from where he was seated, Yuyan looking back and forth between him and his shop.

“You’re welcome to come in and seek shelter, especially since it looks like it’s going to rain, Mr Stranger,” Yuyan gave him a smile, before he rushed into the clinic, speaking a few words to the children who peeked through the window on the first floor to look at him.

“I’m coming! The two of you should rest. Chen Li, take care of your brother, especially because he is still sick. Make sure he does not engage in any physical activities. Your medicine is coming along.” Yuyan gently reminds the two children, before he seems to rush upstairs.

True enough, Child feels the first few droplets of rain on his skin, the ginger wondering if he should take up the shopkeeper’s offer. It seemed like he was a doctor of sorts, as the two children, both with pointed ears, looked at him curiously through the rectangular windows. The two of them had to be Vidayahara then, of the same race as Dan Heng.

“Are you going to come in, mister?” One of them, the girl, calls out to him, as she looks at her brother and tells him to sit down.

He decides to head inside and seek shelter for now.

The scent of herbs hits him, the moment he steps into the clinic and closes the wooden doors behind him, as the girl beckons him to sit down on one of the comfortable padded benches after closing the windows. Next to her, her brother laid down in a cot on wheels, as Yuyan’s footsteps echo in the floors above.

The waiting area consisted of a counter which sat in front of a wall of wooden cabinets, each with knobs tied with different coloured tassels, a step ladder neatly set aside at a corner, as Childe ducks beneath the branches of a potted plant and walks over to the two kids.

“What’s your name, mister? You don’t look like you’re from around here,” The girl asks him, as she swings her legs over the edge of the bench, energetic and overflowing with restless energy that his younger siblings used to have as well.

“It would be rude of me if I did not ask for your name as well, kiddo. I’m Childe, what’s your name?”

“I’m Chen Li. This is my brother Chen Shan. Your name is really strange, Mister Childe.”

“You can just call me Childe. Mister makes me sound old.” He takes a page from Welt’s book.

Chen Li tilts her head.

“Alright. Are you a visitor from beyond the Luofu? Only someone from the outside would have a name like that,”

“Well, yes. You’re a sharp one, kiddo.”

“Could you tell us some stories?” Her brother speaks up this time, sitting up in his cot as the younger boy leans against the headrest.

“You should be resting! You heard what Mr Yuyan said. If you don’t get more rest, you won’t get better.” Chen Li reminds her brother with the exasperated sass of an older sibling, and Childe thinks back to how Tonia always had to round up Teucer and the other siblings. He can’t help but chuckle at that sight.

“If I tell you a short story, would you promise to go and rest?” Childe looks at the younger boy, as Chen Li looks at him curiously.

The boy nods, short onyx hair moving vigorously along with his movement.

His sister makes way for Childe to sit down on the bench next to her, and Childe gratefully does so, keeping a mental note that the younger brother was sick and at this clinic seeking treatment. On the side, he wonders where these children’s parents were, before remembering what Dan Heng had said. The Vidayhara did not have families, as he had mentioned. Which meant that none of these two were related, but still treated each other as siblings.

His heart softens.

“Let me tell you the story of a traveller.”

Notes:

Childe experiences some kindness from the Xianzhou natives. Perhaps they will give him some food for thought.

also I'm p certain that Childe just has a soft spot for kids in general (me hastily watching cutscene clips of Childe's event with Yoimiya)

Chapter 31

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The violet haired woman glances at her phone, eyes flickering from her phone and back to her surroundings, the agreed meeting point with Blade, who had yet to show up.

It was unusual, for the quiet male was always punctual, either early or on time, but never late when it came to the rendezvous.

You

Has Bladie messaged you? He’s late to the rendezvous.

Wolfie

that guy? you know he barely answers or picks up his phone at all, right? he probably went off to settle something which took him longer than expected

You

It’s been half an hour. He’s never been this late.

Wolfie

uve got a pt. he hasnt msged me yet. ill go and track his location down n forward it to you

[location shared]

thats his last ping.

You

Thanks Wolfie, I’ll head out to investigate

Kafka tucks her phone into her coat pocket and steps out from the shadows, heading to the location Silverwolf had sent her. The idea that the man was being held up or in trouble was a startling one, because she knew the General would let him off, thus the authorities should pose no obstacle to their presence on the Luofu, as long as they laid low and out of sight.

The stoic male was not one who easily got himself into trouble, which meant that trouble would have gone to find him. She licks her lips, in anticipation of what she would find.

After all, who could hope to pose a threat to a weapon such as him?

She did hope the Astral Express Crew were not holding him up.

-

“General! We’ve discovered more clues leading to the creation of the Draught of Draconic Surge. Our forces are currently searching for the supplier and tracing the whereabouts of the supplier of Vidayhara bone marrow as we speak.”

Yanqing startles at the mention of Vidayhara bone marrow, something which could only be obtained from those beings directly, and likely by force, as Fu Xuan looks up at the general with a grim gaze.

Jing Yuan rose from his seat, as he looked over at the head officer and Lady Fu Xuan.

“Let us get to work.”

-

In a small quiet clinic on the outskirts of the city, a doctor finishes his newest batch of medicine.

He listens to the outsider recount of tales he had certainly never heard of before, from winged beasts, dragons, to sea monsters, flying chambers, and it was truly a tale from the lands beyond this secluded society aboard the Luofu.

He slips a dose of the draught of draconic surge into the teacup.

It would certainly be interesting to see how things turned out.

Notes:

'As for short-life species, this medication would forcibly graft the power of the dragons into their body. This brutal transplantation will cause a rapid elevation of bodily capacities for a short duration, significantly improving the short-life species' fragile physiologies. However, once the cells from Long's Scions have all perished to the host's immune system, the host's physiology will suffer a catastrophic regression. The only thing that can suppress or revert such a decline might be the other miracle drugs developed by the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus.

As stated above, though the Seat of Divine Foresight tasked me to analyse the pharmacology of this medicine with the likely goal of preparing an antidote, no "antidote" can possibly exist for the Draught of Draconic Surge. The core of this medication's pharmacology is to manually trigger mara in people using the power of dragons.'

- Excerpt from Pharmacological Studies on the Draught of Draconic Surge

Chapter 32

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“What happened to the traveller in the end?”

“Well, he’s still out venturing across the lands, searching for his sister. Legends say that he hasn’t given up even until this day, and that he helps as many people as he can along the way, all while hoping to find the truth and unravel the mystery of what happened to his sister.”

“Are you that traveller? There’s always the stories of the characters being the ones telling the story…” Chen Li asks, eyes wide and gleaming.

Childe laughs.

“Sadly, no. But the traveller was someone I met before, yes. You would make a great detective, kid.” This younger girl was indeed sharp and keener than most, even as she watched over her younger brother, who had long since fallen asleep midway through the story.

“I’m curious, but how did the two of you end up here?”

Chen Li looks up at him, as the light in her eyes falls away.

“...The Preceptors sent us away.”

Childe had no idea who these Preceptors were, but he would go and find them and kill them. Who in their right mind would send away children as young as these two? Especially when one of them was sick?

Just as he was about to ask more, Yuyan steps down with a tray of tea in his hands.

“Come now, the two of you. Chen Li, your brother’s medicine is ready, and kind stranger, thank you for accompanying my two patients.” Yuyan sets the tray of tea on the table in front of them, as he lifts one up and offers the cup to Childe, who accepts the cup. Chen Li accepts her glass as well, as Yuyan walks over to the sleeping Chen Shan and administers some medicine to the boy via a syringe.

“That should help him fight off the cold for the time being.”

Yuyan sets the empty syringe down, as Chen Li sips at her tea before peering at her brother. Childe soothes the rage towards the injustice to the children by sipping at his tea, finding it tasting bittersweet. He wonders who this group known as the Preceptors were, especially for a race like these two, part of the Vidayhara, if they had no parents, then they had to be raised by others.

Childe cannot fathom a childhood without his family.

The time leading up to his fall into that dark place, at least. Beyond that, he was no longer a child.

If these preceptors refused to care for such innocent, young children like these two, they had no right to be in a position of power to be sending them away.

“I’m curious, what brings someone like you aboard the Luofu?” Yuyan asks him, as the man sips at a cup of tea himself, freshly poured from the same teapot he had drank from. Childe shifts his gaze from the two siblings to the doctor who sat before him, as he weighs the man’s question.

“I’m a wandering traveller who ended up here by accident.”

“Oh? We don’t get many foreigners these days since the Realm Keeping Commission has been screening our visitors more rigorously.”

“What caused them to do that?”

“Ah. Perhaps you aren’t aware, but the Luofu is often plagued by short lived species such as yourself coming onboard to seek immortality.”

Childe looks down at the cup of tea in his grasp, as he looks back up at Yuyan.

“Why would anyone want to seek immortality? Isn’t it sad to live eternally, only to be eroded away by time?” The ginger reminisces the time Zhongli had told his tale, of that quiet but persistent thought of resigning and stepping down from his role as the Geo Archon after centuries of staying alive. If only the man had chosen a better way to go about it instead of using him as a pawn…

Yuyan stares at him for a moment, before the doctor bursts out laughing.

“Why would one see immortality as a burden? It means that you have all the time in the world to work towards everchanging dreams and developing ambitions, to keep up with the fluctuating state of the world, to witness the end of civilisations and birth of new planets. What greater beauty could there be to live long enough to witness life and death occur before your eyes?”

This man was beginning to sound like Dottore.

Childe’s gaze flickers from the two children, and then to the doctor, who looks at him eagerly, onyx black eyes hidden behind a mask of normalcy, waiting for his response.

“I guess you have your own passions, and I have my own. If immortality is what you seek, then go ahead. I’m pretty content with my own mortal life,”

Yuyan co*cks his head at him.

“Interesting. How interesting. On another note, I hope the tea is to your taste?”

Childe takes another sip to refresh his memory on what it tasted like. It had the faint scent of mulberry and ginkgo, followed by the aftertaste of something raw and smooth, a complex taste he could not quite put a description to.

“It is…complex.”

Yuyan looks at a pocket watch.

Childe sets the teacup on the table. Something tells him to cease his drinking. This doctor was weirdly overeager and every second he spent here caused the sinking feeling in his gut to grow.

Yuyan walks over to light a lotus shaped candle, as Chen Li looks at him.

“But Mr Yuyan, the candle always makes me sleepy,” Chen Li complains, yawning as a sweet, faint scent fills the air. The poor circulation in the building causes the scent of the lotus candle to permeate through the room, especially as Yuyan brings it over to the two children.

“It’s to make sure your brother does not wake up halfway in the middle of his next treatment.”

What kind of cold treatment needed medicine which would knock someone out? Even discounting the fact that the Vidayhara were of a different nature, the doctor had injected something into the boy just to cure a cold?

Chen Li nods, as she lays down on the cushioned bench and begins to doze off.

Childe puts two and two together.

He pulls up the collar of his shirt over his mouth and nose, as he lunges for the candle, seeking to put it out. Yuyan beats him to it by swiftly leaping back, already sensing his intention. Instead, the doctor flicks what seems to be dust into his eyes, which Childe closes his eyes to try and protect them, but his eyes burn.

“For a short life species, you certainly are resistant to the effects of the drug.”

Childe focuses on the sound of his voice, and lunges at the man with animalistic ferocity.

“Watch yourself. I will harm the children if you don’t behave.”

With his sight temporarily blinded, Childe bites down on his tongue, knowing that he could not protect the two Vidayhara children from this malevolent doctor while blinded. His sense of smell was thrown off, as he tried to hold his breath as much as possible, a pressure building up behind his mind as he turned back and tried to break open the window instead.

The window does not break, even when he slams his body into it.

“I can’t believe it took three doses for it to disable you.”

Ah. The drugs weakened him.

Childe claws at the window, only for the scent of the lotus candle to grow stronger.

From outside the clinic, the sound of pouring rain muffles any noise coming from within the clinic.

Childe struggles, as he feels the heaviness seep into his bones and spread from his eyes, his chest, lungs and throat, permeating through his body and steeping his senses in an unknown poison.

Foul Legacy laid just out of reach.

“Good night.”

Childe blacks out.

Notes:

The Xianzhou Luofu is not safe.

Chapter 33

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The sound of a sword cutting through flesh and tree roots echo in the air.

The squelching sound of blood slashing through tainted, gnarled gore, as the swordsman cleaves a path forward for himself. The broken, shattering blade in his hand is coated with the blood of both him and his own, drenched in the life giving liquid which had been taken for others.

The marastruck soldiers back away from him in fear, as Blade makes his move ruthlessly, to purge all these abominations of abundance.

The soldiers covered in the gingko leaves are ravenous, mind falling apart and into shambles, but many still retain their sanity to back away and heed the instructions of their leader, who raised forth his spear and shield, prepared for a counter attack.

He does not stand a chance. None of them do.

Blade lunges forth, quick and decisive, bloodthirst filling his every move, as the forged weapon slams through and decimates all possible defence, breaking and shattering the shield as he sunk the tip of his sword within it. Without giving the soldiers a chance to breathe, he swings his sword in a bloody, gorgeous arc, taking the heads off the soldier and their lieutenant.

It is a massacre, as Blade tears off the limbs of the remaining soldiers in a flurry of swift, vicious swings and stabs, taking advantage of the spreading fear and horror as the enemy realises that not even the blessing of the Abundance can save them from slaughter.

Blade continues, without a beat, even as the Disciples of Sanctus Medicius attempt to use explosive spells on him, which does not phase him in the slightest. The searing heat of explosions, cuts brought on by enemy blades, glaives and lances merely left impermanent wounds on his skin, healing before the blade could even finish making the wound.

The cries and orders of the enemy are but restless buzzing beneath his skin, as Blade’s eyes glow a crimson orange amber, the thought of impending death a delightful thought to the man. While his memories were nothing but hazy bygone times of what used to matter to him, all that mattered now was blood and slaughter. He would do the General a favour in helping him clean out a few pests or two, especially from the ports of the Skyfarring commission.

Kafka could wait.

The black haired male glances at the wave of Disciples of Sanctus Medicus, and invites himself to join in on the dance of death.

He wrenches his blade from the chest of another shoulder, shrugging off a blow meant to remove his head from his shoulders.

“Release the beast we caught!”

Blade finds a large cargo container dropped in front of him, crushing the corpses of the fallen marastruck shoulders beneath it into a pile of deadened mush, as the door swings down and open, the Starskiff above escaping into the outer ports.

The door to the cargo hold warps inwards with a groan, before it is sent flying outwards, a pink gas escaping from the container and spreading outwards into the air.

Upon taking in its scent, Blade’s pulse quickens.

His head throbs, and his chest burns with the scent of renewed vigour, the Stellaron Hunter fanning the gas out of his face, but realises that the gas only seems to permeate and disperse through the air and spread around him.

Within his heart, the mara flares.

The lingering regret in his heart that had been suppressed by that purple haired woman shrugs off the shackles placed on it, centuries worth of memories flowing forth in a cyclical cycle of ending regret, guilt and agony. The pain of dying over and over again, in an unending samsara of torture, the blue haired woman with the same marastruck gaze as him.

“Of five, three must pay a price. You are one of them.”

Blade digs his hand into his throat, as he claws and chokes at the new growth which had taken root in his chest, the roots and vines of a gingko tree blossoming in his chest and strangling him from inside out. His Abundance cursed body accommodates the growth, causing gingko flowers and leaves to burst forth from his skin, as the living weapon digs his blade into himself.

Pain was nothing compared to the madness of being mara struck.

For it was when pain and pleasure became indistinguishable, as he carves a hole into his chest and plunges fingers to remove the rot and stagnation which had taken root.

It was impossible for him to be twice mara struck.

Blade savours the taste of blood bubbling from his lips, as he plucks a blood stained gingko leaf from his lips.

He laughs, a bloodied chuckle, as he glances at the thing which had taken a step out of the container.

A being twice his height, adorned with a tattered cape of marred, bloodied and gold speckled violet, crouches down, clawed hands attached to black and violet armour which trailed along its form awaited him. The fur collar it adorned around its neck was speckled with golden dust, and beneath its form, even the marastruck weapon could recognise that this being held a humanoid form. A single, luminescent eye, filled with a gold, hazy sheen, stares at him, affixed onto a red carapace which shielded a face that had trailing orange hair, tips bleached into violet.

This was the thing they had sent to kill him.

Blade pulls his blade out from his chest, feeling onto the warm sticky blood which had coated and soaked through the bandages on his hands, as the wound healed and closed itself.

He hoped it would kill him.

Notes:

Blade’s got a grudge against all who support the Abundance too. (Well he accidentally stumbled into a smuggling operation)

Blade meeting childe heh

Chapter 34

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There is the sweet scent of insanity, a foul scent to the sane, and a familiar smell to those who are not. It coats his skin, warm, sticky, the colour of tar, shades of violet corrosion, an otherworldly being that had touched the nature of his soul and dyed it black.

Something foul and foreign, a poison derived from another world had awakened the beast that lay dormant within Tartaglia, stirring a hunger and madness so deep, propelled forth by the resonant desire of another being that was hosted by this frail mortal body.

Overwhelming power, delivered into its system with the traces of permanence and the descendants of an Aeon, clashes with all that made up Ajax. While their host slumbers, memories lost and presence suppressed by the pain and manic collision of concepts which should not have come to be, Foul Legacy takes over.

It always took over when its host was on the brink of death.

It bites down on flesh, succulent, warm and moist, blood pouring from its gaping maws as the muffled cries of its prey chokes on its own blood. Gingko leaves which fall from its lips, as it realises that its food is unappetising, unappealing, a mass of living roots and parasitic plant life granted onto them.

Childe will not remember this.

It bites down on bone, as the hunger in its stomach rears its head once more. It twists and wrenches its teeth down on the throat of a screaming creature, twisting its head off and licking its lips as it bit down on the part which thrummed with life.

To stave off a fate worse than death, to minimise the damage of a toxin which should not have come so close to it, it feeds. Bloodlust intertwines with hunger, the need for survival enabled by an endless hunger now reawakened and resurfaced.

The heart which remains untainted, untarnished still, spills forth golden blood which it drinks.

It tastes of poison, too full of life, immortality unfairly taken.

Its prey has clearly never fought for survival.

Tartaglia will not remember this.

The abyssal beast and All Devouring Narwhal resonate with the desires of the other, to burn through the effects of what was tainting and poisoning them.

It is why it revels. It revels in its cage filled with the bodies of dead soldiers, of foolish beings which had dared to imprison it, of prey animals sent to keep it satiated. The scent of the lotus candle only makes it hungrier.

For the very first time in its existence, Foul Legacy had come into contact with something that could greatly affect its disposition, trigger and bring it forth to the forefront without its host’s knowledge or will. It fought against the strange hold which was wrangling with the primal, blood thirsty nature, the lust for battle and the thrill of the hunt.

It eats.

It hungers, hoping to burn through the voices, the sensation of flickering, ever abundant leaves which snake themselves through its chest and heart, taking root in its armour. It drenches itself in blood, only to find itself growing angrier, more frustrated, as the bodies it tears through only give way to ashes and scattered leaves.

For a being which thrived off death and murder, it struggled and writhed under the influence of Abundance.

It eats and hungers, for blood, for death, hoping to deliver it where it cannot be found.

Foul Legacy wrings the neck of its prey, finding wooden trunks beneath where soft flesh used to be.

There is no blood. No flesh, no warm sweetness, no bone marrow, no muscle, no flesh, no tendon beneath that which it kills.

Foul Legacy howls.

Even as it tears off the limbs of the soldiers and warriors that have gone into a frenzied panic, it leaves behind arms, legs, shattered weapons, and continues to hunger. Anger grows, a mounting frustration and fury at how something else was trying to take Ajax away from them.

It sets its sights on the black haired predator standing before it.

Ajax will not remember this.

It smells blood. Fresh, crimson, warm, and alive.

Abyssal taint fills the air, distorted by the strange lotus scent, as two predators lunge at each other. An unbreakable blade, clashing against a force of nature from another world, two living weapons coming to a standstill as Foul Legacy is nothing but an untamed beast against a man turned into an undying abomination.

Blade chuckles, crimson blood bubbling from his lips as his wounds heal, as the man swings his blade down to meet the demon’s feral lunge, the electricity emanating from its being sparking through the air and towards him. He follows up with a piercing strike, as the demon leapt back, snaking up and beneath the blade with sharp claws that were poised to attack his legs and destabilise him.

Sensing the waves of bloodlust emanating from this being, Blade leaps into the air, twisting his sword and swinging it in a downward arc to deny the beast its blow.

The beast retaliates by biting down on his blade.

Blade’s eyes widen as the Shard sword shatters.

He grins, the madness, the thrill of coming close to death, of finding an opponent that could put an end to him, comes to him in an overwhelming wave of pleasure. The demon swipes a claw at him that cuts through his throat, as Blade raises his broken blade as his new weapon and holds it close to himself. The beast ignores this, as it raises forth a glaive from thin air, and stabs it through him.

Blade narrowly parries the massive glaive with his broken blade, as he is pushed back, and sent hurtling into a cargo container.

He catches himself and pushes himself off the wall of the container, springing back and hurling his broken blade at the monster with his own inhuman strength. With the blade coated in his blood, those strands of crimson arc through the air in a spiral propulsion and bury itself within the armour of the demon, which had been arrogant enough to think it capable of catching the weapon.

Blade delivers a swift, bone shattering blow with his leg, the side kick sending the demon into the ground as it raises its free arm to block his blow and cushion the impact.

The glaive in its injured hand explodes into a spark of electricity, to which Blade shrugs off the lightning directed at him, as his nerves and body is continuously electrocuted, but he had long since stopped being able to feel pain. However, it limited his movement, caused limbs and nerves to malfunction and freeze, paralysing him.

The mara in his blood thrived on the decay happening to his system, a cursed corpse he wore which had its purposes, as cut limbs and burnt skin and limbs repair themselves at a rate which countered the damage being done to him by the demon. It was to a whole other level, a stark reminder of how much death feared him, and memories of Jingliu’s lessons flowed back to his mind like the stream of blood which pours from ever healing wounds.

Blade raises his leg and slams it down on where the hilt of his broken sword was buried in the creature’s arm, watching as the blade goes through and pierces armour, flesh, blood and bone.

The mara struck male’s eyes alight with a new fervour.

To watch bone, muscle, shards of armour shatter and break apart, to tear and bleed, only for it to regrow and regenerate around the broken blade, Blade laughs.

Blade laughs, as he withdraws his blade and stabs it over and over again, the monster only healing rapidly, faster and faster even as he pins it down and attempts to permanently remove its head from its neck, the bleeding insanity reaching his mind and consuming it.

He had found another one like him.

Something which could not die.

The demon howls, a shrieking cry which pierces the wind and ruptures his eardrums.

There is a moment of deafening silence, before all sense of balance is thrown off, the split second moment of realisation and delay.

Blade laughs as he feels the clawed hand pierce through his chest and pull his heart out from his chest.

The motion sends him tumbling to the ground.

For a moment, Blade dies.

Sensation seizes, and consciousness shuts down.

Darkness.

He wakes once more.

The creature sinks its maws around his shoulder, teeth biting down into his collarbone and shattering it, as Blade wonders if it could put him down permanently.

A beautiful abomination that the Disciples of Sanctus Medius had manufactured.

He lets it bite down on his flesh and rip it from his skin, as Blade revels in the pain, the injury which takes more time to heal than normal, as the creature bites down and devours his flesh, hungry and thirsty for his blood which drips from his wounds down into its lips.

Blade allows his flesh to nurture this monster, just as Jingliu had once taught him through countless rounds of torture.

Perhaps he would finally find permanent death here.

Foul Legacy drinks.

It drinks the warm blood, obtained by force, by violence, by cruelty, yet a freely given gift by one who tread the line between life and death and could never die, only ever live, and live eternally. It satiates itself, and takes, and takes, from a source that wished to only give, and give more until their life itself extinguished like the last flames of dying embers.

It bites down and tears flesh from bone, chewing on tendons and stringy muscle fibres, and it eats.

It drinks, laps at blood that pools across the floor, sinking its lips and teeth down to finally, finally eat. Warm flesh and hot, fresh blood.

It eats to satiate the hunger that had dwelled within it. To burn through the poison that had run rampant within its host.

TartagliawastheirsChildewastheirsAjaxwastheirs

Once it is satisfied, Foul Legacy falls into a deep slumber.

Notes:

Foul Legacy is in its more feral form, so many of the more cunning and complex fighting techniques that Childe knows how to use are not being used in this chapter. If it was Childe FL vs Blade, now that would be interesting to write :)

Chapter 35

Notes:

Two bloodthirsty beasts clash.

The aftermath follows.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Childe wakes up to the sinful taste of blood on his lips, and human flesh trapped in his mouth.

The black haired male beneath him looks up with a heavy, rapturous gaze, crimson eyes glimmering with a wish, a wish that he would have done anything to fulfil, sin etched across amber irises ringed with gold.

“The two of you, stop it, please.”

The male beneath him shivers, the sound of a woman’s voice which echoes distantly in his own ears, a sweet voice of carmine sincerity and gentle guidance, as the bloodlust in his eyes dies down.

Childe chokes on the taste of blood in his mouth, as he releases and stumbles back from the man he had pinned beneath him, the smooth command washes over him like a cold chill, as the voice and what it asked of him was forgotten beneath the weight of heavy, wet blood coating the claws of Foul Legacy.

The man beneath him shoves him off lazily, movements sluggish but still firm and unyielding, as he eyes him with a deadened gaze, a strange, unnatural calm returning to his eyes, releasing the man from the rapturous pleasure he had gained from being so close to death.

The headache strikes him suddenly, as Childe clutched onto Foul Legacy’s mask, still trapped and contained within the form of the Abyssal beast he did not recall summoning forth of his own will.

All he remembered…all he remembered….

Was the smell of lotus, the flash of golden ginkgo leaves, the quiet, slumbering breaths of two young children, and the steep drop into something steeped in madness.

Crunching of bone in his jaws, that feral, wild hunger and instinct, sharp and all consuming, lashing and all devouring, the lives of any taken and shattered with his own hands.

Pain erupts from his abdomen.

He finds a barbed harpoon shot through his fading, cracking armour, its sharp, hooked tip poking through his chest as Childe instinctively tries to wrench it out from his chest, only for something else to land on his throat.

The metallic contraption around his throat expands to form a collar, which yanks him down and off kilter, forcing him onto the ground as he hears the sound of chains being coiled, and the harpoon in his stomach yanks him back.

Ah. He recognises what this is.

Instruments used to tame and capture a beast.

With the taste of human blood on his tongue, Childe wonders how he f*cked up this badly.

He lets himself fall and collapse to the ground, energy spent, sanity depleted, the aftershocks of Foul Legacy wracking through his body in the form of overstrained muscles, near torn tendons, internal injury and damaged organs, electricity and the remaining scent of blood on his skin choking him.

He does not remember what he did.

What atrocities he could have committed, when he was lost in Foul Legacy.

But the taste of human blood in his mouth, the black haired male he had pinned beneath him and tore a chunk of his flesh out from his shoulder, spoke enough.

The scent of lotuses in the air thins out.

He’s dragged in chains, across the ground, as the injury in his abdomen tries to heal but is unable to do so due to the rod of steel pierced and lodged in him.

So Childe gives in to the inhuman treatment as he is dragged up and away, Foul Legacy’s form clinging to his skin in wispy shards and textures, as even it begins to wear off. Barbed wire digs into his skin, as he is forced into a cage with reinforced, and electrified metal bars.

This time, he does not fight.

He lays down his arms, waiting for punishment and judgement to be meted out to his human form, his uncontrollable desires, the monstrous demon which slumbered within him.

Foul Legacy dissipates, as he forces and withdraws that animalistic form, the abyssal beast collared and caged, tamed by numbness, a dissociation of self, consumed only by the taste of blood on his lips. Childe pulls in its power, internally focusing all his attention and remaining energy on containing remnants of the foul being, pulling in the lingering bloodlust, hunger, thirst, and manic adrenaline and fervent desire for violence in on itself. It was easier, now that it had been satiated.

Childe feels numb.

It started with him.

His sh*tty control over his own emotions, leading from one thing to the next, a series of unfortunate events which could have been prevented if he had just made the right choices and avoided all of this.

He wonders if the man he had eaten was still alive.

Something stabs into his leg.

At some point, he learns to ignore the pain, its sharp, stinging biting wound, and simply does not have the energy to care about any further injuries being done to his person. There’s a strict call for attention and to halt all movements, as Childe feels the edge of the blades of a dozen weapons withdraw from his skin.

The glaives and spears are directed at him through bars in the cage, as Childe glances wearily from where his head was laid on the smooth, marble base of the makeshift prison, and looks up at a pair of garnet eyes, humming with power and thrumming with an inscrutable gaze.

“We meet again.”

General of the Luofu, Jing Yuan, addresses him from behind the other side of the bars.

Childe raises his head.

“I have not gotten your name yet. Could I ask what it is?”

The general opens up a small moving door at the entrance of the electrified cage, unbothered by the sharp buzzing sensations of the high voltage metal bars. Childe does not have the heart to inform him that he cannot be hurt by lightning or electricity.

“Childe.”

“Like a child?”

Childe closes his eyes painfully.

He really did not want to have this conversation right now. His voice is raw, hoarse and thickly coated with the remnants of blood which he had failed to swallow completely, the heavy weight and sensation of fullness in his stomach weighing down on him. Knowing that it was filled with human flesh, Childe pushes himself up from the floor of the cage weakly.

He had consumed human flesh and blood.

The thought of it was revolting, and absolutely abhorrent.

Even as the Narwhal had finally stirred from its hibernating slumber, awoken and fed into his ever growing hunger, Childe cannot consume anymore.

He thinks of warm blood, the copper taste of crimson on his tongue, the strands of flesh caught between Foul Legacy’s maw, veins, muscle, tendons and shards of chipped off bone, the brutality of it all, and turns his head to the side and away from the general.

He throws up.

He forces a hand down his throat and forces himself to throw it all up and out.

He could not possibly stomach such an atrocity he had committed.

He refused to be a cannibal.

Refused the finality of having partaken in human flesh, and enjoyed it.

No matter how much the Narwhal wanted him to stay satiated, now matter how Foul Legacy slumbered in the depths of his human, mortal form, Childe refused. He could not be satiated on something like the flesh of another living, breathing human.

He forced fingers down his own throat, triggering his gag reflex as he focused on the overwhelming coppery stench which was all he could smell, now that he had been doused in the blood of that black haired male, and he felt nauseous.

Nauseous enough to continue throwing up everything he had partaken in, be it willingly or not. He twists the harpoon in his chest and breaks the chain apart, pulling the weapon out as he hears the door to the cage open. The collar around his neck and its attached chains are pulled taut, as Childe is slammed onto the floor of the cage.

The general catches him before he hits the floor.

“For your sake, please stop hurting yourself.” The general holds him by his shoulders, as Childe laughs weakly in his firm grasp.

“...I deserve it.” Left with nothing much else to say, Childe brings up his free hand, pushing the harpoon up and out of his chest, bearing with the excruciating pain that came with it, the pain of barbed ends going against his flesh, grinding against shattered, fractured rib bones and tearing through his lungs to free the metal piece from himself.

He heaves, doing so in a single swift movement, limbs twitching and empowered by the adrenaline of too many things happening at once, mind dulled by the overstimulation in all areas, as Childe allows himself to rest in the general’s grasp. The general is startled by his movement, amber eyes flashing with genuine concern and the glimmer of pity.

“Childe!” He hears a familiar voice, before he closes his eyes and falls away into the exhaustion induced by-

Notes:

Kafka’s spirit whisper does not work on Childe. He naturally regained control of Foul Legacy once the effects of the draught of draconic surge wore off.

Also I realised how much I cranked up the angst on this one.

Chapter 36

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Kafka looks at her partner, who was left in nothing but torn and tattered bloodied robes which she had covered up by offering a large spare coat for the man.

Blade traces the wound inflicted onto his person, the still healing edges of the cuts and where flesh had been mauled and torn from his shoulder still slowly knitting itself back together.

“It’s unlike you to go off running by yourself. None of that was in the script.”

Blade pulls the borrowed coat over his shoulders, as Kafka gently leads him over into a public bathroom stall and locks the door behind the two of them. She turns on a tap, and fills a basin with water. The traces of her Spirit Whisper caress his thoughts, silencing the mara struck whispers that attempt to stir the latent madness within him.

“A few enemies stood in my way. Those were followers of the Plagues Author. No doubt spreading more poisonous teachings of theirs.”

“Not them. Those Disciples of Santus Medicus should have been fodder for you. I was talking about that strange demon that had you pinned to the ground. I doubt my Spirit Whisper was the one that dispelled its madness.”

Kafka pulls off the coat she had lent to Blade, bringing out a set of wet towels and guiding the now calm living weapon down to sit on a bench.

“Something in the air caused the mara in my to stir. I have reason to believe it affected him as well.”

“Him? How could you tell it has a gender at all?”

“Instinct.”

“Did instinct lead you to let yourself have a chunk of your body ripped off by it?”

Blade falls silent.

Kadka gently dabs off the beads of blood which trail down and drip across scarred skin, to which Blade looks down at the white handkerchief as she does so, staring at the wound the creature had done to him.

“Not instinct. Desire.”

“My, my, Bladie, you seem taken by that creature already. What epiphany has it given you?”

Blade turns away from her, as he flexes his injured shoulder and lifts his arm.

Pain, fiery and blooming, marrs his skin, from the way his muscles were torn and still healing, to the way his bones felt weak and fragile, on the verge of shattering if he gave it the chance to do so.

It had made him feel alive.

Close to death, to be on the verge of bleeding out, of having his major artery gouged out, to lift the curse of Abundance on his skin by delivering him death on a cruel, selfish plate.

He looks forward to meeting that demon once more.

“Perhaps he could give me the ending I have been fervently working towards.”

“You want him to kill you?” Kafka pauses, as she holds the handkerchief just above his skin. The wound had closed up by itself, blood no longer flowing or trickling down, but the scar of ugly gash marks remained, where flesh had been mauled off of his skin by the rabid beast.

“It has been the only ending I desired, Kafka.”

Blade turns away from her.

“Even if you agreed to work with us and follow Elio’s script? Even after all we’ve done together? How mean you are, Bladie.” Kafka brings the handkerchief over to the sink, rinsing it dry as she uses some of the soap available to wash off the bloodstains. He looks at her back, and watches his companion wring the handkerchief dry, leaving it to hang over the edge of the sink.

No matter how hard she cleaned it, she could not completely remove the bloodstain, leaving a handkerchief that was faintly dyed pink from blood which had soaked every inch of its surface.

“Of five, three must pay a price. You are one of them.”

This was his punishment, to live a life of damnation. He might as well finish serving his sentence first, especially since he had made a contract with Destiny’s Slave. As he glances at the scars left behind from his now healed wound, and then back at Kafka, he decides that he wants both options to remain open.

“You sound afraid he’ll succeed.”

Kafka turns to look at him, as she dries her hands on a paper towel.

“Afraid is the wrong term to use, Bladie. I’m incapable of feeling fear. I am simply perturbed by this being’s presence, who was not in Elio’s script. Besides, I would rather we not undergo the inconvenience of being captured by the Cloud Knights once more.”

Blade has nothing in response to her words.

He wonders if she would be sad if he died.

A fleeting thought, he wonders, as Kafka throws him a spare coat to put over on himself.

“Regardless, I am not one to go back on my word. If Elio’s script requires my part, then I will play my part.”

“Sounds great, Bladie.”

“But, I want to cross paths with that demon once more.”

Kafka hums thoughtfully.

“He would probably have been sentenced to the Shackling Prison by now.”

“As if that prison has ever stopped you or I.”

“Now, now, remember what I said about giving the Cloud Knights more reason to come after us. Besides, you wanted to stay to settle some of your other personal affairs, no?”

Blade closes his eyes and massages his temples, trying to ignore the growing headache that came with the memory of the letter that had been delivered to him. He did not question how Jingliu knew precisely where and when to slip the letter over to him.

The mysterious stranger would have to wait.

Notes:

Childe’s (dis)appearance is so anomalous and unpredicted that it single handedly threw Jingliu’s, Elio’s and the Astral Express crew’s plans into a fray. + the Harbinger’s plans too

Chapter 37

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“General. We came here after hearing the commotion and chasing after our missing companion, and to put it simply, that is our companion.” Welt manages as diplomatically as he can, as the older male looks over at where Childe had been chained up and imprisoned in a mobile cage.

It was cruel.

Too cruel for anyone.

Welt tightens his grip on his cane. They better have a good reason for putting his companion in such a horrible, barbaric cage.

He worries over the state of the unconscious Childe, who appears to not be bleeding from any wound yet, though his skin was paler than he had ever seen before, and he was passed out, which typically was not any good news.

Jing Yuan takes off his cloak and folds it into a pillow, gently laying and setting an unconscious Childe on the soft material, as he exits the cage. He waves a hand for the Cloud Knights to back away and back off, closing the cage door but not locking it behind him.

Welt sends a text to the others to head to his location, saying that he had found Childe, and to regroup where he was.

“Ah. I presume you are aware that your companion has an uncontrollable second side to him?”

Welt nods.

He needed to get Childe free from the Divination Commission's grasp as soon as possible, as the older male scanned the surroundings, taking note of any damage done. Namely a lot of property damage, a few scattered mara struck corpses strewn about, and torn in an almost feral manner.

Blood had been splattered across some of the cargo containers and starskiffs, but no visible corpse in sight.

If Childe has lost control of Foul Legacy (that was the only conclusion he could come to based off of the General’s statement), could the Commission use it against them? Namely, what had caused Childe to lose control of that form? He had wielded it with excellent proficiency back earlier in the day without any issue. What had transpired between lunch all the way until now?

More importantly, had Childe caused any lasting or permanent harm to anyone?

He was excluding the mara struck soldiers since they were considered a lost cause by the Luofu, which periodically sent out members from the Ten Lords Commission to contain them and do whatever it was that they did.

Whose blood was that? Was anyone severely injured?

“May I ask if anyone was severely hurt? We will take full responsibility for any of our companion’s actions, but know that he was likely the influence of something to have him lash out like that.”

Welt looks at the General, who wavesat the Cloud Knights to back off and move out of earshot of their conversation. The members saluted before they seemed to scour the landscape.

“No one appears to be hurt, thankfully. Beyond the marastruck and the traces of the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus, who are our sworn enemies, it seems more like he helped us to exterminate a few of them. If anything, I suppose we should be thanking him. He always did seem to be an interesting fellow.”

The general mused.

“If so, then may I ask why your men had to employ such ruthless methods to incapacitate him?”

“The trail of blood in the centre implies harm done to someone who is not mara struck. That and the fact that he was wild and taking a bite out of a particular individual your group has assisted us in locating previously.”

A bite? Out of a person? Welt looked over at Childe, and began to realise the extent to which the ginger had withheld and restrained Foul Legacy. Was something so primal and dangerous lurking beneath his skin all along?

The amount of blood smeared and pooled across the floor was certainly alarming.

For the Cloud Knights to resort to such tactics to subdue him…

The general’s gaze flickers over to him.

“I caught a glimpse of the victim. It was one of our peculiar Stellaron Hunters.” Welt watches the general glance over at the bloodstained battlefield, marred by destruction and traces of a bloody fight.

“I see.”

That inevitably made things much more complicated.

“Though if they had strength to make a getaway despite spilling out enough blood to kill five men over, I believe they should be fine.” Jing Yuan’s voice is hesitant, the man half convinced that his deductions were on the mark, the other half torn and concerned for the man he once used to know.

Yingxing’s features now were still as glaringly obvious as ever, even from a distance.

Welt wonders what complex past Jing Yuan must have had with the Stellaron Hunters, to have let them off once more.

Regardless, his focus now was Childe, who he walked closer over to by the cage.

“May I?”

The general gives his permission.

Welt opens up the door, and swiftly makes his way to where Childe was, using his abilities as a Herscherr to give a rudimentary scan of the extent of injuries done to the younger male.

It came as a relief, when he discovered that he was for the most part, uninjured. However, none of it explained the blood on his person, the pool of crimson bile at his side, which stained the general’s cloak which had been folded into a pillow. The unnatural pale complexion the ginger also had was a cause for concern, especially after the man had lashed out at March, albeit unintentionally.

Welt wonders what sort of past had left such scars on the man’s psyche, to leave him with such a reaction. He was not simply just a bank manager with a hobby for martial arts.

“He seems unwell. If whatever that transformation had caused him had caused him to rage beyond his control, there’s reason to suspect foul play.” The general’s voice travels over to him.

“Will you allow me to bring him back to the Express without repercussion?”

Jing Yuan looks around at the surrounding battlefield.

“I would not mind letting him off if he pays a visit to the Divination Commission. I would like to know what he was doing amidst the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus, or how they came to swarm over him. Nothing incriminating him, especially since he has shown regret over his actions. With no permanent harm done either, we can easily chalk up any lasting damage to the Disciples who we were chasing after.”

The senior trailblazer sighs, wishing that Childe was awake to agree to this, but could only agree to the General’s request despite knowing how intrusive the Matrix of Prescience could be. He could not deny that he too, was curious in what happened in the hour that they had lost Childe.

“I must only ask that you seek his consent when he wakes.”

Jing Yuan nods.

“Of course.”

The footsteps which run over to them are none other than Dan Heng’s, Stelle’s and March 7th’s, as they look at the scene before them.

Welt unlocks the chains which bound Childe down, having analysed and recreated a suitable imitation of the keys needed to unlock his restraints. He carried the male over his arms, leaving his cane to hover in the air by his side as he stepped out of the cage.

“I’ll explain everything once we get Childe checked over.”

Jing Yuan watches as the crew return with their mysterious friend in hand.

Childe, was the name of that ginger haired male.

And Yingxing, or Blade, as he now called himself.

The remaining Cloud Knights had dispersed and busied themselves with taking pictures, collecting evidence of the battlefield where Childe and Blade had fought, a sight to which Jing Yuan had instructed none of his men to approach, lest they be devoured in the bloody match between two unstoppable forces.

The faint scent of lotus incense in the air gave him the beginnings of a headache.

Though that headache could also be due to how tricky it was to round up the remaining Disciples of Sanctus Medicus. After the chaos Dan Shu had caused in colluding with Lord Ravager Phantylia, the Cloud Knights had rekindled their efforts to stamp out the disciples once more. Especially with how Vidyahara bone marrow was an important ingredient in making the Draught of Draconic Surge, a potent poison which cursed its victims with immortality. Looking from the other perspective, it was a gift that the disciples craved to obtain, a path to the blessed immortality they sought.

Fu Xuan’s forces had managed to capture a fleeing Yueyan, who was the first master primus of the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus, who then turned his position over to Dan Shu. The Foxian traitor had seemed shocked and surprised at his capture, muttering something about a new test subject he had wasted on a failed escape attempt.

Nevertheless, Yanqing had recovered the two Vidyahara Children that had been abandoned, though they were heavily traumatised by something large and fearsome, who had torn through and devoured their guards and created an opening for them to escape.

Yanqing’s reports on how the steel bars and cargo cage had been forced open from the inside with a vicious intensity, wild claw marks and brute force which bent metal and shattered reinforced concrete lined up with Childe’s bestial form.

He massages his temples, before he shuts the door of the cage and locks it up before anything gets in it by accident, retrieving his cape as he did so.

The bloodstains had evaporated into what appeared to be seawater.

He blinks, and wonders if the Astral Express Crew knew of this.

“General! We found the remnants of something burning!”

Jing Yuan walks over and inspects the remaining fragrance left in the Lotus incense.

The faint, dying scent makes his headache worse.

“Keep it in a sealed container and list it as evidence.”

Notes:

Welt comes in to bail Childe out...Jing Yuan is forgiving + Childe transforming into Foul Legacy actually saved the kids :)

Chapter 38

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Far off in the lands of a world suspended within an eternal samsara, the land of Fontaine does not slumber even in the dead of night.

Mona glanced at the telescope, standing on the roof of the tallest building in the city, she blinked as she re-adjusts the settings on the device, before pulling out a map she had drawn by hand, denoting the position of various constellations in the sky.

She turns to her map, before she turns back to the telescope.

There was no mistaking it.

A constellation had disappeared.

Monoceros Caeli, Narwhal of the Sky, had indeed blinked out of existence.

The astrologer hurriedly scans the rest of the sky, checking for any other discrepancies that she might have missed out. Thankfully, there was none other, but she does not heave a sigh of relief.

The implications of a constellation falling from the sky, or fading away….

This would be her next focus.

-

Within the House of the Hearth, the three agents scrutinise the report and letter that had been sent over to them.

“Lord Tartaglia has yet to return? Even with the Prophecy having been resolved?” Freminet mutters, as he scribbles down a few notes on a small notebook he carried on himself. In code, of course, lest anyone discovered its contents filled with sensitive information. Something Father had asked of him, whilst allowing him to use a notebook for note taking.

“Do you suspect foul play? Perhaps someone in the Fortress of Meropide had a grudge against Lord Tartaglia.”

“As if any common assassin could bring Lord Tartaglia down. He’s our majesty’s vanguard. The Eleventh Fatui Harbinger. It’s highly unlikely that he was assassinated. Someone of his calibre would not go down without a fight.” Lyney retorts against his sister.

“Uh…do you think we could ask the Chief Justice? Since he does know more about what happened in the resolution of this crisis than any of us…” Freminet suggests, the more introverted teen making a valid suggestion.

“Didn’t Lord Tartaglia get falsely accused and sent to prison last time when the Chief Justice was around? But, I suppose if he was willing to work with us in the end, and even hand the gnosis over to Father, then perhaps he does know what happened to Lord Tartaglia.”

“I’ll go and arrange for a meeting with the Chief Justice. Until then, we must keep news of Lord Tartaglia’s disappearance quiet for the time being.”

“Do we have to get arrested and sent into the Fortress again? To check up on Duke Writhosely…”

“I sure hope not. Didn't his assistant tranquilise you?” Lyney bristles at how the Duke’s medical attendant had used a seemingly innocent looking toy gun to administer a paralytic poison which left him out of commission for a significant period of time.

“We’ve spent our entire sentence previously searching for Lord Tartaglia’s traces. Even then, we could not find anything. For this news to be relayed back to us still…it’s frustrating.” Lynette interjects.

Lyney raises the letter up to the light.

“Ah. Father said they will arrive to assist with this investigation.”

“You should have started with that!”

“...Do we still need to make this many preparations?”

Lyney nods.

“Father is willing to use aggressive tactics to pressure the Chief Justice and the Duke of the Fortress if needed.”

-

Within a quiet, one of a kind cafe that remained open into the wee hours of the morning, Neuvillette sipped at his cup of ice cold water, poured from a bottle shipped from Mondstat down to Fontaine, a gift from the Duke of the Fortress of Meropide to him.

“What’s on your mind, Chief Justice? You’ve been sipping the same cup of t-water for the past ten minutes.” Wriothesley sipped his own cup of tea, a fragrant blend of tea leaves and excotic spices from Sumeru which gave it a sharp taste of spice.

Neuvillette sets his cup down.

“I was thinking about the resolution of the prophecy. And the people who helped to make it happen.”

“Oh? Weren’t they mainly you and the traveller? Perhaps Miss Furina too if you would like also bring her back into the thick of things. From what you told me, she seems set on leaving her role behind.”

Neuvillette sets his tea cup down onto the table.

“It is a fact that everyone you mentioned played a key role in resolving the crisis, but the person who kickstarted this entire investigation and chain of events…I speak of Tartaglia, the Eleventh Fatui Harbinger.”

“...Wait a minute, I haven’t seen a glimpse of him ever since the first day he entered the Fortress. Is he still missing?” The duke grimaces at the headache of this situation. If it really was like that…then it meant that the Harbinger was likely to be missing in action. Or even killed. Though he doubted someone of his calibre would have perished so quickly. He takes another sip of his tea.

Neuvillette sighs.

“It would seem so. Which is strange considering the fact that we met someone in the Primordial Sea who simply picked him up like a rag doll and tossed him into some sort of dimensional rift.”

Wriothesley nearly chokes on his tea.

“Are you alright?” Neuvillette asks, concerned. The Iudex then remembered that beyond him, the traveller and the Knave, the rest were not aware of what happened to Childe.

“....What? Sorry, but uh…you have to explain everything you just said in the last sentence.”

“I apologise. I forgot that you were not updated on what happened in the Primordial Sea.” Wriothesley huffs in response.

“If you could bring me up to speed, that would be great.”

“Of course. To summarise what transpired in the Primordial Sea, the traveller and I defeated the All Devouring Narwhal, which was the cause of Fontaine’s disaster. As it laid dying, a mysterious woman who called herself Skirk was dragging an unconscious Childe before she…collected the remnants of the Narwhal into an orb and tossed both him and the whale into a rift in time and space.”

“Please tell me that she told you where he would end up. We do not need the Fatui to have more reasons to breathe down our necks.”

“...She told me he would be brought back to Snezhnaya…but it appears that he has not returned.” Neuvillette raised the letter delivered to him by the Knave.

“...And because you and the traveller were the last ones to have seen him, they will begin to interrogate you on his whereabouts?”

“That seems like the likely course of events that will unfold.”

The duke sighs.

“Alright then, I suppose the only thing we can do now is help them figure out where Childe went. We kind of owe him a favor, don’t we? Because he did save the people when that huge Narwhal burst open into the Opera Epiclese.”

“I believe that is where the problem lies. Neither I nor the traveller have any way of contacting this mysterious Skirk, to locate where Childe ended up at.”


The plot only grows thicker.

Notes:

Snapshots of what is going on in Teyvat :)

Chapter 39

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He dreams.

-

Hazy visions, of raw instinct and movement, a burning, surging pain which erupted from his abdomen and swirled around his chest.

Chains bound to his wrists and a collar around his neck, dimmed light and a massive cage.

Commands, words, spoken harshly, the scent of lotus flowers burning in the air.

Betrayal, burning and stinging, guilt, self-hatred, surging forth and drowning him.

Madness, mania, manic desperation, choking on power he should not have been given.

Agony.

Agony.

Bones creaking, flesh and skin tearing, muscles overgrowing within his own skin, bones breaking and regrowing, strengthening beneath the curse of Mara, and an undesired gift of immortality forced onto him.

Blood which thickens, rushes through enlarged veins, arteries, as muscle fibres and nerves grow and extend, expanding within his body like a cancerous poison, to heal and heal and heal and heal-

To heal that which was not there.

He writhes and screams, tearing his vocal chords as it forces Foul Legacy from his form.

Abyssal taint comforts him, soothes his pain, devours it and promises him comfort with sweet whispers of honeyed bloodlust.

He awakes to human flesh and blood on his lips.

-

He wakes up with sweat dripping down his skin, a fever burning as a gentle hand sets a cool cloth over his forehead.

“You’re awake.”

Luocha’s familiar voice cuts through the remnants of a shattered dream, as Childe wearily blinks his eyes, forcing his senses to sharpen against the heavy grogginess which weighed down on his senses and dulled his instincts. The Narwhal is silent once more, and this time, so is Foul Legacy, brought into hibernation by the flesh of an immortal being having satisfied both of their needs.

It leaves Childe feeling painfully fragile.

He pushes himself up, and leads against the headboard of the bed. This time, he does not lash out. He feels too tired. Exhausted mentally, as he struggles to process the contents of his dream, and the implications it meant for him. He pulls the covers of his bed closer to himself, seeking to cover and shelter himself in a cocoon of warmth.

He is too tired for all of this.

Dazed, numb, and dissociated from the weight of his actions, Childe lets his vision blur, pulling his mind back into a place he knew that would keep him sane for the time being.

He thinks of his siblings, his family. Don't think about how you wanted to leave them behind. Don’t think about how your parents watch you with the eyes of a stranger. Don’t think about how you have to shatter Teucer’s dreams one day when the truth finally comes to light.

He thinks of warm days spent in Liyue, the salty sea breeze, and the bustling culture and food, and people. Don’t think about how they now see you as a criminal, a madman who tried to drown their home, don’t think about how they would see you perish without a second thought.

He thinks of Zhongli, of the time he had spent in Liyue. Don’t you dare think about the god who had stabbed you in the back.

He thinks of Master Skirk, and how she had saved him from the Abyss. Don’t forget how she abandoned you.

He thinks of the Tsaritsa, and his role as the Eleventh Harbinger, loyalty and endless devotion, to bring Celestia down from the sky. Don’t forget that you are only a weapon.

He thinks of Master Jingliu, of Luocha, of the Astral Express, of the Xianzhou Luofu. Don’t forget that this is not your home.

Don't forget that you do not belong anywhere.

Childe closes his eyes. His thoughts do not lead him anywhere good.

Staying silent, he pressed the cool cloth to his forehead as he looked around, finding himself in a room, atop a bed with navy blue colours dotted with pixelated figures staring up at a nameless star beneath.

“Luocha?” Childe asks, as he surveys the cabin he’s in, decorated with cool colours, neon lights somewhere near the desk, shelves filled with books, rare collectibles, figurines of a giant robot, and framed pages of sketches hung up on walls.

“Your encounter with the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus left you in bad shape. The Astral Express crew got you out before things turned any worse, especially with the General of the Luofu and the Cloud Knights' attention on you.” The blond explained, as he hands Childe a glass of water.

The ginger takes a sip, washing out and down the faint copper taste in his mouth, as he turns to look at the large window which overlooked the port of the Xianzhou Luofu, set so closely to the edge of space. He was on the Express.

“Disciples of Sanctus Medicus? That doctor who drugged me…”

“They are a faction known for coveting immortality, which is outlawed and punishable by death on the Luofu. Amongst all of the Xianzhou Natives, mainly because the concept of eternal life was spawned by a rival Aeon, and the disciples go to inhuman means to obtain immortality.” Luocha explains.

Childe laughs.

It is a choking one, which he knows could devolve into a half wracked sob if he chose to let it.

Luocha falls silent.

Childe breathes.

He forces himself to breathe, before he starts to spiral.

He holds his head in his hands, and uses the cloth set over his head and pulls it down to cover his eyes, like a blindfold he always saw Master Jingliu wear.

Perhaps that had been for a good reason.

“Would you like some space and time alone?”

Childe nods.

Luocha leaves his side.

Childe turns to look at the room he was in in a cursory glance, before he closes his eyes and allows himself time to rest. He soaks in the faint scent of lavender from the bed, with its comfortable duvet and pillows, scrunching up the soft, velvet material in his palms, before he exhales.

One thing at a time, Childe.

What had happened had happened. He could not beat himself up over falling for such a simple trick, to have consumed and inhaled poison which f*cked him over physically and mentally. Then he had consumed human flesh.

He doesn’t know what to do about that fact.

The only consolation was that his victim did not die.

Was he supposed to be consoled by this fact?

Never had he been so lost to Foul Legacy and his hunger that he had thought of consuming human flesh and drinking the blood of others.

It is unexplainable.

He wants to hope that it was a once off incident, caused by the poison that had run rampant through his system.

He cannot let this happen again.

He will not let this happen again.

Notes:

now this is where the angst hits

Chapter 40

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There’s a knock on the door, as he tells the visitor to enter, and Welt walks in carrying a tray of light snacks, including a bowl of soup.

The harbinger had spent some time alone, an hour or two, judging by the time on the clock which hung on the wall. He did not particularly feel like talking to anyone, but seeing how he was being an inconvenience to everyone, he had to give them answers. If they were concerned for him, he would have to play it off.

That was what he wanted to do, and planned to do.

The familiar smell of borscht strikes Childe, who blinks.

It stuns him, leaves him in disbelief, as he looks at the dish that Welt had brought into the room.

The older man sets the dish on a table which had wheels attached to it, and wheels it over and across the bed.

“...Is this borscht?” Childe picks up the spoon hesitantly, unable, no, unwilling to let himself believe. Welt nodded in response, quietly pleased with his accurate deduction.

“It is indeed. You have this back in Teyvat? I would have thought it was a dish with Ukrainian or Russian origins. I’m curious to know that it exists in your home world as well.” The truth was, the man had suspected as much, from when an unconscious Childe began screaming and writhing in the throes of a nightmare, in a dialect of Russian which sounded familiar but displaced.

He looks down into the bowl of soup, coloured a deep red orange by the ingredients, a dollop of whipped cream, and the scent of stewed vegetables, meats, herbs and spices soothes his soul.

A taste of familiarity in a land far from home, a piece of comfort in the time he needed it the most.

Childe takes a sip of the soup, spooning the rich soup up to his lips as he enjoys the homely taste of home cooked food, the taste of beetroot, with the sour and sweet taste dancing across his tongue, washing away the traces of copper and replacing it with something warm and nostalgic.

It was funny how easily a single bowl of food could calm his emotions, anchor him enough to reality, to focus, to think, to calm down, and to breathe.

“It’s like how Master looks like Master Skirk. Perhaps things are just a line of parallel coincidences, even across worlds.” Childe responds, as Welt finds himself very much interested and invested in this line of conversation.

“Your words have more truth to them than you know.”

The man murmurs, as Childe shrugs. The bowl of borscht before him…was nearly identical to the kind he and his siblings made back in Snezhnaya. Something about the neatly diced vegetables, the taste and presentation of this dish, showed that it was made by hand, and made with a simple intent.

It soothes him, the familiar taste of food from home, the comforting weight of a blanket on him, in a room that was foreign but clearly well loved and spoke greatly of someone’s character.

Welt shifts his gaze from Childe and back to a few sketches on the wall, one including a large tree with outstretched branches and roots dipping into a vast infinite sea stretching into the nameless end, and quietly chuckles.

“By the way, this is really good!” Childe exclaims, as he bit down on a piece of braised brisket that had been stewed in the borscht. It is flavourful and tender, soft to the point that it gives way with barely a few chews, having soaked in the flavour of Borscht, mingling with the gamey taste of the meat itself.

“I’m glad you like it. It’s been a while since I’ve had to cook, and the Omni Synthesizer’s foods seemed too…artificially manufactured.” The older trailblazer chuckles, as he pulls a chair and sits on the other side of the bed.

Childe continues to enjoy his bowl of borscht. It reminds him of home, yet also the notable emotion of finding something familiar despite being far from home. It was not nostalgia, nor homesickness, but rather the fondness of knowing that he could find a sanctuary and moment of hospitality and reminder to anchor him even deep within a foreign land. Perhaps it was fate that even outside of Teyvat, he could have a taste of Borscht.

From what Welt had mentioned, the older male also brought up comparison to the names of worlds he had not heard of, and assumed that those two places had imparted to the man knowledge of how to cook borscht so well.

All of this does a great job at settling the anxiety within his chest, helping him momentarily forget about the weight of his sin.

“Take as much time as you need. If there is any question you need answered, both Luocha and I are here. The rest of the crew has gone out grocery shopping or to aid the General in capturing the remnants of the enemies who had left you in this state.”

Childe sets his spoon down.

They were…capturing his enemies for him? Hunting down the ones who had harmed him, be it to seek vengeance or justice (in this case), it…it left him feeling pleasantly warm.

The last time someone had done that for him…

Perhaps it would have been before he fell into the Abyss, when one of his brothers or fathers had to step in to stop someone from bullying him. Ajax had been an ambitious, but timid child. Powerless. Thus, others had to protect him.

After the Abyss, he learnt that only he could protect himself.

The Fatui had not made it any better either.

Once again, a permanent life in this world tempted him.

Even if it was dangerous, it had people who were willing to protect him. Until he could learn how to defend himself and figure out the way things here worked.

“Thank you.”

Welt looks up at Childe, whose quiet, near whispered words held an emotion that the ginger had not felt in a long, long time. Even in those seemingly soulless dead eyes which reflected no light, was someone who wanted to be human. Who was human.

Childe’s words hold the weight of gratitude that Welt himself had recognised and experienced.

After all, when he too had been stranded in this strange world alongside Void Archives, Himeko had been the one who had given them shelter and a purpose, direction in this vast new universe, until Void Archives had chosen their own path.

He too, had once been a misplaced traveller like him.

Regardless of whatever burden that Childe carried on his shoulders, Welt knew that he was still first and foremost, someone who needed help, someone to guide them in this vast new infinity, and the Astral Express was more than ready to provide that for him.

“You are always welcome here. So rest as much as possible.”

Welt adds on, and it leaves Childe with that gentle, uncertain smile on his lips.

Notes:

name dropping the title after like 40 chapters fr + interdimensional travellers bonding

Chapter 41

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The former head of the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus, who had turned his position over to the now deceased Dan Shu, could only frown as he waited in his cell. His true name was Yueyan, a single letter short of the alias he had been using all this time.

The plot to smuggle the two Vidyahara specimens had been so quickly foiled due to the unpredictable results of his impromptu experiment on the mysterious traveller who had sought shelter at his clinic.

When it had been apparent that the sleeping drug and the draught of draconic surge had instead forced an inhuman transformation from that cautious man, he had been amazed.

It had been a magnificent creature.

An undying, bloodthirsty creature of war that would not end its rampage.

It was only a pity that he had to use it to fend off the Stellaron Hunter that had stumbled onto their plans. Then after, the General and the group of Nameless that had saved the Luofu from the Stellaron crisis had interfered. How dare they.

He tests the chains binding him down, making them rustle within the interrogation room as he watches the exit and for the presence of the surveillance devices that were in the room. First, there would be a dialogue, followed by a divination at the Matrix of Prescience. He would have to find a way to slip out from then between the change in location.

As Yueyan wonders how best to unlock the shackles which bound him to the table, he quietly counts the time that has passed.

He glanced at the door, wondering why the guards had not entered to begin the session.

As if sensing his thoughts, the door slowly opens, a chill passing through. Ice forms across the floor, and Yueyan stifles a shiver, wondering when it got this cold in the interrogation chambers of the Ten Lords Commission.

There’s a flash, before he is left without his left arm.

Yueyan cannot even scream when ice forms over his mouth and throat, choking his cries down and stifling him into silence.

Deep down in the recesses of a dark place like this, being a level just above the Shackling Prison, it did not matter how far his voice could go.

“For my disciple.”

Jingliu removes both of his legs and his other arm in a cold, calculated swing, allowing ice to seep into his limbs and kill nerve endings, a permanent frostbite seeping into his flesh and rotting flesh from inside out.

She leaves him alive, to spend the rest of his days as a limbless corpse.

After all, she needed to give Jing Yuan something to work with.

With her work done, she leaves the place as silently as she came, the ice melting away as the unconscious guards would soon wake up finding nothing but drenched clothes and a prisoner on the verge of passing out from the pain of losing four limbs.

Notes:

Jingliu being coldly protective and vengeful? yes

Chapter 42

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“I wasn’t aware there was so much going on the Luofu. Sure, I had been warned of the mara struck creatures and soldiers wandering around, but a shadowy organisation lurking in the shadows and trafficking children while masquerading as doctors? That never came to mind.”

Childe replies, with a slight huff as he talks to Welt.

“We thought that most of them would have been discovered or arrested, given the death of their leader in the crisis which happened prior, but it seemed like the man who had drugged you was the previous head of the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus, and his whereabouts have been unknown for quite some time. We should have brought you up to speed regardless. It is on us to have not warned you about all the dangers, especially since Luocha entrusted you to us.”

Childe waves his apology off.

“Don’t worry too much about it. Even that man managed to deceive my own senses and lull me into a false sense of security. For someone like me, it takes a lot of effort to do that!”

Welt poured a cup of water for the male, passing off his interest in the ginger’s words with that action. He knew that this man was definitely not just a traveller from another world, nor was he just a bank manager. After his fall into the Abyss, he had taken up another role.

The Herscherr wondered what sort of life the ginger had lived back on his homeworld, enough to have an instinctive reflex to counterattack and maim even while semi-conscious, and trapped in a nightmare.

Childe accepts the glass of water from the man with thanks.

“What happens now? You told me that the general was there when I lost control of Foul Legacy? And that he wanted to interrogate me on what happened?”

“You have a right to refuse if you want. To my knowledge, however, the General has assured that you will not be charged for any crime, and that you are a victim of this ploys of the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus and aid will be provided to you as such. All he simply wants to know is what transpired and led down to that set of events.”

Childe struggles to patch his shattered memories together, the traumatising moment scattered and disjointed flashes of images, sensations, revolting scents, agonising, refreshing pain, and remembers the man he had fought.

“There was…this black haired man. I remember fighting against him and…hurting him severely.” He did not want to admit that he had taken a bite out of the man and savoured it.

Welt nods.

“That man is a wanted intergalactic criminal belonging to a faction known as the Stellaron Hunters. He goes by Blade, and possesses a terrifying regenerative ability. I loathe to say this, but out of everyone that you could have gone up against, he was both the most suitable and the least.”

Childe remembers that crimson, rapturous gaze, heavy and filled with pleasure and quiet contentment at the act of self-destruction, and the mesmerising adrenaline which danced in those irises.

Blade…a fitting name for a weapon of destruction such as him.

“Let me guess, he held me back from harming any other innocent passersby while we both ripped each other’s throats out?”

“That is…one way to put it. Under the influence of the gas however, it is certainly no one’s blame that either of you turned on each other. The lotus candle that had been burning was discovered to have invoked mara, or sped up the process of becoming mara struck in the Xianzhou natives, that is, to lose themselves to a curse of immortality which drives one insane.”

“The curse of being marastruck. You don’t seem all that fine yourself.”

Master Jingliu and the man, Blade, were alike. Both of them were mara struck, and now, Childe finds that things were beginning to make a lot more sense. Their behaviour, that deadly bloodlust, on a level different from the other Disciples of Sanctus Medicus whom he had torn throats out from…they were of the purest, most dangerous version of being mara struck.

A part of him draws a connection between his fight with both Master Jingliu and Blade, and is amused at how he had managed to get into a fight with two of the most bloodthirsty beings on the Luofu, even though it had barely been four days since he had arrived here.

The old Childe would have been elated that he had managed to pick a fight against these two individuals.

But the him now? He was just tired and wanted to rest. It was funny how this was all it took to push him to reign in his bloodlust and hunger for battle when he had been struggling to control and restrain it back in Teyvat. Then again, the individuals here were on another level in terms of their abilities and bloodlust.

“I’ll give the General a hand. So long as he doesn’t pry too much into how and why I’m here, or the origins of Foul Legacy.”

“I shall text him and relay your answer to him as such.” Welt looks at the door. The silhouette of someone else waiting behind the glass panel inlaid on the wooden door beckons the older male to leave his seat.

“Until then, I shall let the others visit you.”

“Sure. Feel free.”

Notes:

setting up a jingyuan and childe meeting be like

Chapter 43

Chapter Text

“How are you feeling?”

The blond haired male asks him, and Childe wonders if he has caused the travelling healer/merchant a great inconvenience by getting into this mess. It was funny how trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went, from Fontaine, and now to this.

“Just peachy.”

Luocha gives him a smile, one deceptively polite, but makes his masked annoyance visible enough to the man for giving such a vague response.

“Alright, alright, physically I’m fine, mentally, well tearing a chunk of flesh out from someone’s torso has to be one of the more insane things I’ve done in my life.” And that was saying something, as someone who fell into the Abyss and fought off countless monstrosities, tore apart corpses and looted bodies to live, under the guidance of a psychopathic mentor.

“I’ll admit, hearing that you did that was shocking. It’s almost that Foul Legacy of yours has a madness that surpasses even that of the mara struck. A potent ability that you no doubt have honed and controlled well over the years in your day to day life. Substances made by the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus do have the tendency to warp one’s thoughts and perceptions, and that wore down at your mental barriers and control.”

“I’d be so f*cked if anyone apart from that Blade person was there.”

Luocha hums.

“Then it was fortunate that no innocent bystanders were present, and that the General had the foresight to withdraw any Cloud Knights from interfering in the battle between the two of you. To stand up and mortally wound a Stellaron Hunter…is an impressive feat. Even if Blade is capable of regenerating from fatal wounds.”

“Everyone keeps mentioning this Stellaron Hunter group. How are they different from what the Astral Express does in sealing away Stellarons?”

“The Stellaron Hunters do not seal them away. In fact, they wreak a lot of havoc on societies which have gained control over them, for the sake of a script written by their leader, and break many laws to do so. One might say they are villains, or merely individuals who are willing to use any means necessary to achieve their goals. What those are, are still unknown.”

Luocha’s words remind him of the Fatui, who were seen as villains, willing to commit to the will of an Archon who dared to stand against Celestia, to overthrow the ruling authority of that world.

One might say that Childe, with his background, was more suited to join their group over the Astral Express. His head throbs at the memory of words spoken like a placating command, gentle yet firm, an entrancing voice which was meant to enthral, yet slid off of his senses like oil over water.

“That’s interesting. Oh and uh, does Master know about what happened to me?”

Luocha simply smiles.

“Do not worry about it. She understands.”

His words make him feel uneasy, as if there was much he had withheld from him. Years of dealing with shady businessmen, corrupt leaders, and two faced individuals had taught him how to read words, tones and body language.

“Alright then.”

After all, who was he to question what Luocha and Master really were beneath the facades they had shown him?

“By the way, please keep your handphone turned on next time. That way, we can find you more easily. If you would like space, I’m sure the crew will understand and respect that. However, as you have seen, the Xianzhou Luofu is not completely clean of its darker shadows which lurk within it. We will come to your aid should you need it.”

This…truly was astounding.

The lifeline he had just been offered, a promise of aid whenever he needed it, when had he last received a gift like this?

He pulls it out from his pocket, turning it on, and miraculously finding it undamaged.

In it, he sees a flood of messages, missed calls and texts.

Ah. He had made people worried.

“I promise I won’t pull something like this again!”

Luocha smiles, this time warmer and comforting. It was something much more sincere, even if the merchant still kept up that guard of his.

The healer looks towards the door.

“It seems that we shall meet later tonight. I will wait in the Parlour Car before bringing you back. Welt has told me that the General wishes for you to pay a visit at the Seat of Divine Foresight whenever you are ready. Preferably within the next three days or so.”

So he was meeting the general. The very man who had ordered for him to be captured, but also treated him kindly by giving him his cloak as a pillow, and-

“Do be careful around him. He is a…deceptively cunning man.”

Luocha stands up, and makes way for the Astral Express trio to check up on him.

Chapter 44

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“We’re so glad you’re alright!”

March’s voice strikes him first, the relief and elation refreshing and a sharp contrast to the calm approach both Welt and Luocha had taken to greeting him.

“You really had us worried there.”

“And don’t worry about the dinner table thing! No offence was taken or harm caused.” March adds on, which reminded the Harbinger of what had kick started this series of events. He was ashamed of how he had reacted in front of such well meaning company, but decided to accept March’s words. There was no point in dwelling over such matters. Especially when his encounter with Blade had dwarfed the severity of what he had done to March in comparison.

“Still, I’m really sorry if I scared you. It’s a…reflex of mine?”

“Those are some sick reflexes you got there.” Stelle interjects coolly.

Dan Heng and March stare at her, as she shrugs.

Childe chuckles.

“Thanks? I’m just glad I didn’t accidentally hurt any of you guys. As for those reflexes, I’m working on them.” Well he definitely had to start somewhere, didn’t he?

“I heard that you clashed with Blade. Are you alright?” Dan Heng asks him worriedly, a frown and pained look on his face, the Vidyahara looked unsettled by the news.

“Yep. If anything, you should be asking him how he’s doing. I’m surprised he’s still alive by what I did to him when I was out of it.” The man’s regenerative ability was insane. Something that could not be compared to anything on Teyvat (perhaps excluding the Narwhal). For a person who had taken fatal damage and injuries, he had shrugged them off and simply…regrow limbs and flesh like it was nothing. Dottore’s experiments fell shy of that, because none lasted for that long nor lived to tell the tale.

“Perhaps it's best none of us approach him, ahahahaha,” March interjects. It seemed that she too was wary of the Stellaron Hunter.

Which made sense for someone as sane as them. For Childe however, he wanted to find him to apologise to the man for what he did to him in that haze of bloodlust and insanity. The man’s features clung to his mind, a mara struck gaze which was sunken and embedded, carved into the black haired male’s soul, one which resonated with Childe.

Yep. He won’t tell them of those plans.

Going all out with a man like him would certainly help him master the Narwhal much more quickly as well.

“I mean…I can technically hold my own against him.” Childe adds on.

“No, let’s not risk it please.” Dan Heng being the voice of reason.

Fair enough.

He’d have to find a way to meet this Blade without notifying the rest.

It was intriguing that Stelle was the only one who did not have much to say.

“How are your injuries? Luocha told us that you’ve recovered quickly.” The grey haired girl spoke up this time.

“Not a problem. I’m all fine and dandy. I did tell you guys that I had a more resilient constitution than most. Bodily injuries like that won’t hold me down.”

“But you're still susceptible to poison and all! Are you sure you are fine? If there’s anything wrong, the slightest pain or headache, you must tell us.” March walks over to the foot of his bed.

Childe smiles.

It was nice to get coddled.

“I will. Rest assured. I do not want to worry any of you guys in the future.”

“Is that a promise?”

“A pinky promise.” He held his pinky out to March.

She did the same, and they made a pinky promise.

“You know, this reminds me of a saying we had back in my hometown, Snezhnaya. It goes like this: You make a pinky promise, you keep it all your life. You break a pinkie promise, I throw you on the ice. The cold will kill the pinkie that once betrayed your friend, the frost will freeze your tongue off so you never lie again!”

March stares at him.

“Well, that’s…certainly a unique kind of promise, but let’s avoid any injury and harm, alright?”

“That’s metal.”

“I shall…record this in the Archives.”

“Wait…wait wait! It doesn’t have to be taken so literally!” Childe waved his hand at the stoic dark haired male, whose lips faintly curve into an amused grin. Next to him, Stelle chuckles while March huffs.

“Oh, Luocha also asked us when we're gonna finish. He wants to bring you back to wherever your accommodation is.” Time to face Master and see what she had to say about what happened to him. Would she mock his weakness, or give a sparing piece of sympathy for him?

“It is late and I should get going soon…I’ve kept all of you for long enough.” Childe was certain it had to be late at night at that point in time. Especially with how long he was guessing he had been out for, it had to be a few hours at the minimum. Plus, he was certain that this room was…He looked at the three of them.

It was none of theirs?

He glanced at the glass cupboard of coats and scarves.

Ah. It was Welt’s.

Welt had lent him his room and bed?

Wait. He was a fan of those…ruin guard automaton looking figures? Perhaps as a thanks to the older man he should sketch out the design of a ruin guard and repay the man. The very least he could do, considering that the man had gotten him out of a sticky situation.

He sweeps aside the blanket, finding that he was dressed in more sets of spare clothes, March, Stelle, and Dan Heng all offering their hands to help him up if he needed support all at once.

“Haha, thanks, guys,” He chuckles, as the three of them looked at each other's outstretched hands, whilst Childe merely got off the bed and walked steadily up, without needing the assistance of any one of them. He appreciated their effort.

“You should text us more! We’ll add you into a group chat with the three of us.” March suggests, as she walks over to slide open the door for him.

“Oh! Thanks! And sure, I shall text you guys more. Do give me some time though, I think Luocha and Master are going to tear into me for getting into this mess.”

“Master?”

“Oh…she’s someone who offered to teach me swordsmanship.” Childe, do not reveal anymore about your Master. Your master who has the same bloodlust as Blade, another person notorious for being an intergalactic criminal. If Blade was already someone with a bounty on his head, then his Master…likely was in a similar situation.

“That’s cool! Will we get to meet her soon?”

“...She’s quite an introvert, so maybe not.”

“Awww…it would have been cool to see who your master is! I guess you should get going soon before Luocha starts chasing us with that…really passive aggressive tone of his.”

“That’s one way to describe it.”

Childe bids them goodbye.

Notes:

why welt's room? Cos march has too many plushies on her bed + a ton of stuff she has not cleaned out/arranged/kept, dan heng sleeps on a mattress in the floor in the archives and Stelle's room is still not yet ready....

Chapter 45

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He was surprised to find out that Master was not back when he returned to that small, off ship planet of theirs.

Luocha had made a simple meal of noodles with meaty broth paired with pickled vegetables, the blond haired male informing him that Master would return later as she needed to run a few errands. The doctor had also told him that he needed to head out after this to continue with another matter, so Childe was left alone on the deserted planet.

So here he was now, sitting on the window ledge looking out into the vast ocean body that encompassed ninety percent of the planet, and he looked at the multiple moons which cast their clashing reflections down on the dark surface of the water.

Without Master to freeze the surface of the large lake, he could not step out of the house.

Which was likely Luocha’s intention for him as well. To stay put and rest.

And he…did so.

Sat down on the ledge, leaning against the backing and resting.

Looking through his phone, he finds…a strange number messaging him.

Anonymous:

You must be the one who fought against Bladie to a standstill, am I correct?

You are an interesting one, for someone who isn’t in Elio’s script.

Childe stares at his phone, which vibrates with the arrival of a new message.

You:

Who is this? How do you have my number?

Anonymous:

My name and identity does not matter. However…you managed to catch Bladie’s attention.

If you’re free, he would like to meet you.

Childe stares at the screen hard.

A satisfied chuckle rumbles from his throat.

“How interesting this has gotten. It appears that I also made an impression on him.” He says aloud, as he considers his odds and information at hand. First of all, if Blade was involved with the Stellaron Hunters, a wanted group of individuals with a bounty over their heads, then whoever was texting him would also be part of that group.

He’d have to ask Luocha for more information about them. Or maybe even Master, if she was in a decent mood.

You:

Give me some time to think about the offer. Until then, couldn't you just ask Blade to arrange the meeting with me instead of going through a middleman like you?

Anonymous:

As much as I’d prefer that, he’s not known for using his phone very often. Besides, your presence also interests me. Take it as an offer to meet the Stellaron Hunters on your own terms.

You:

On my own terms, huh? Alright. I’ll get back to you.

The people here were truly fascinating. No doubt, he could expect an ambush coming from this band of Stellaron Hunters, seeing how he had critically injured one of their own. If anything, this was a veiled invitation of a rematch, or perhaps a bait into a trap.

Childe figures that if he went all out, he could take them on.

After all, Foul Legacy had slaughtered Blade.

“Calm down, Childe. You’re not going over to start a fight, even if you are expecting one.” He reminds himself in a murmur, the cruel, colder and more merciless side of him emerging. Against a potential threat, after having already faced one down, the Harbinger would bare his fangs at anything which dared to stand against him.

After all, this was his own affair. He could not possibly drag the others into it, as he had already done.

If he did mysteriously get ambushed by some other party, he’d call for their help. Childe reasons and draws the lines for himself, between what he can consider asking for help from the Astral Express crew (who had already warned him against finding the Stellaron Hunters), Luocha and Master (Who..were busy for the most part).

For now, he glances at the still black water, and ponders.

Notes:

Kafka and Childe heh

Chapter 46

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He dreams of swords, smoke, blood and shattered camaraderie.

Spilled tea cups of wine, the loss of a close friend which shattered a bond that should have lasted for an eternity.

An impulsive decision would annihilate what was left of the quintet, Dan Heng’s predecessor attempting a forbidden ritual out of grief to bring back a life unfairly taken.

He had failed.

Glowing red eyes, burning with the pain of immortality cursed and burdened onto the man once known as Yingxing.

Master had stabbed him a hundred times, attempting to instil a lesson he would never forget through the pain of a thousand deaths.

None had slain him, and thus he carried with him a single goal.

Alas, he had let himself waste away, waiting for death, until he was given an offer to join a peculiar group of individuals, of which their leader had offered him a destined death.

From then on, he became Blade.

Childe had tasted the blood and flesh of Blade, of Yingxing, and along with it, the essence of his past.

Notes:

Childe speedruns Blade’s side of the High Cloud Quintet lore.

Chapter 47

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Childe wakes up.

He had dozed off a little while sitting by the window’s ledge, and ended up waking up with a compressed and distilled essence of Blade’s past. Like the lingering remnants of a vivid dream, he jolts awake to fresh memories, bloodstained scenes and spiralling sanity.

He wonders how he did not remember falling asleep, merely getting onboard and then staring blankly out into space, and then the dream had washed over him like waves over a violent coast.

Those flashing glimpses, of a life lived and memory condensed, the ginger tells himself to hurry up and internalise all of that information before it disappears or fades away like a passing dream. After all, that endless hunger had to make way for more.

Whatever that was, something told him it was because of the Narwhal’s hunger. What happened when he had consumed the flesh of another living being, particularly one with a potent power that surged through, with heavy memories that seeped deep into flesh and bone itself. He really needs to stop feeding it so much.

His head throbs with the weight of distilled memories, as if he had viewed the snapshots of a dream, yet internalised a man’s past and present all at once. He could not believe how easily he had let his guard down then,

The man known as Blade…

He respects him.

At the same time, he believes that the man should have deserved better. For who he was, anger and vengeance had filled his heart, altered his character, suffering had honed him, but he had found a new purpose.

Perhaps he will finally meet Blade, in his entirety.

Having faced him down in his feral form, and glimpsed into his past as Yingxing, perhaps he will finally meet Blade, the Stellaron Hunter.

His ties to Dan Heng…, or his predecessor, Dan Feng. The Vidyaharan cycle of rebirth seemed to make a lot more sense now, but he also disagreed with the man’s perception of Dan Heng. He was not his predecessor, and could not answer for his mistakes, because Dan Heng had not been put in the same position, had not been the same person, and had not met Yingxing when the tragedy happened. It was unfair of Blade to blame him for his current situation.

At the same time, he understood why the man was angry.

One of the few people he could blame had left. He was angry, confused, upon being given forced immortality, to be mara struck, afflicted with a frenzied madness that stripped him of all rational thought, and…Childe freezes when he remembers what Master Jingliu had done to him.

Death by a thousand blades.

He digs his nails into his forearms.

That was traumatising. He could understand why, why Blade would have snapped, had been conditioned into that state of feral madness, until..until Kafka had stepped in.

An image of that purple haired woman, along with a living armour of steel, who had taken him in.

Perhaps this Kafka…truly was as Stelle had said.

This world truly had some of the most interesting people. Nearly everyone he had met seemed to have their own story, their own tale which had yet to be told, had yet to be finished. He will definitely need a lot more time to reflect and mull upon who Blade is, or was.

He was absolutely f*cked if Master took the same approach to ‘teaching’ him as she had done to Blade. Though, she did seem far more sane now compared to Blade’s memories.

He needs to collect more information, especially since it seemed like he was now armed with a lifetime, no, two lifetimes worth of memories that was already beginning to slip from his fingers. The key information he had been able to remember of the man’s past was simply limited to something about his past success as a member of the High Cloud Quintet, a failed attempt at something…resulting in him being cursed to be immortal. Well there was Dan Feng and Dan Heng which he still was trying to wrap his head around, and then Blade’s current stint with the Stellaron Hunters.

Taking out his phone, he remembers how Stelle had been neutral to the idea of the Stellaron Hunters.

You:

Stelle, I was wondering…what are your thoughts on the Stellaron Hunters? Could you tell me more about them?

Stelle:

Ayo he’s using da phone.

What’s up?

Stellaron Hunters?

Hmm…its a complex case with them really. The crew says they are dangerous and they have committed a bunch of crimes and all and really are intergalactic criminals, but they can be really nice too.

You:

I see. That’s not what I would have thought, especially since I fought against Blade.

Stelle:

The bunch of them do come with varied personalities. Like how Silverwolf games with me online, or how Kafka kind of asks me every now and then whether I’m doing alright. Bladie is kind of an introvert when he isn’t marastruck.

You:

Bladie? You sound like you’re on good terms with them. Does the crew know?

Stelle:

Well…all I know is that I don’t ever mention Blade in front of Dan Heng. The rest are kind of…alright. The Astral Express crew does not harbour any hate for them, just disapproval at how some of their methods turn out. Personally, I’ve only been around for less than 2 months in the world so I can't judge them by too much.

You:

Wait…does this mean you have their contact?

Stelle:

I sense that u’re cooking. But yeah, I do have Silverwolf and Blade’s contact. Kafka changes her phone number super often, so she isnt saved.

You:

Could you give me his contact?

Stelle:

[Bladie] Contact sent.

R u gonna meet him or sth? If so, could u bring me along? Cos Kafka asked me to meet her too, says she needs help for some matters.

You:

This isn't a trap right? I mean even if it was I’d still go with you. After what happened to me, I don’t want anyone to ambush u like they did to me.

Stelle:

Oh, the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus? I faced off against one of their leaders, they also tried to drug me, but I was sus of the random gift cos she seemed kind of off…so I didn't take it. If I did, it might have poisoned me as it did to u. Crap, I’m rambling a little. Don’t worry though, Kafka isn’t like that.

You:

How are you so sure of that? Sorry, I don't mean to be rude or to impose anything on you…

Stelle:

Cos she’s my mom.

Childe chokes.

You:

W h a t.

Stelle:

She woke me up on Herta’s Space Station. Idk whatever it was, she seems p fond of me. I kind of have this instinctive trust for her too…and it has to come from somewhere…besides, she has never done anything to harm me, and neither have the rest of the Stellaron Hunters.

You:

Hold it, Girlie. So you’re basically friends with intergalactic criminals?

Stelle:

Yep.

Now that I think about it, it’s kind of hard to believe when u put it that way….

BUT I did run it by Welt and Ms Himeko. They said they she probs won’t harm me. If they try to attack u, i’ll fight for u and negotiate with them. Trust.

You:

You know what, I don't have anything to lose. Let’s go and meet her. Well, more accurately, you meet her, and I meet Blade.

Stelle:

Sounds good. I think she’ll be messaging you soon.

Sure enough, he gets a new message soon enough.

Anonymous:

There’s been a change in plans. Meet me at the Divination Commission with Stelle. Here are the coordinates. I’ll need to call a favour in from you.

You want that meeting with Blade? I’ll arrange it for you after you help me out with this.

You:

That’s kind of unfair, don’t you think? You said I got to meet you guys on my own terms.

Anonymous:

Don't be greedy. This meeting isn’t on my own terms either, and neither is Bladie’s. You’ll see why when you get here.

You:

Fine. Send them over.

Anonymous:

[Coordinates sent]

Anonymous went offline

He hastily writes a note and a text to Luocha and Master, saying that Stelle had asked him out to help her with something, and he leaves the hut. He was a pretty good swimmer after all.

Notes:

INTRODUCING CHILDE TO KAFKA’S COMPANION QUEST
For genshin only players: Basically Kafka calls for Stelle’s help to help her hold off some enemies while she helps to calm Blade’s mara struck condition down, and she answers a few pressing questions Stelle has for her in exchange.

Me realsiing its been 6 days since the last chapter update-

Chapter 48

Notes:

Acts of self-harm (Blade)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Kafka watches, as her partner begins to choke up ginkgo leaves.

“Kaf..ka…”

“Listen to me, Bladie. Suppress the mara.” Blade writhes, the man clutching at his chest as all that continues to happen is the scent of herbal medicine, ginkgo flowers which bloom and froth from his mouth. With its dozens of small buds attached to a single stalk, Blade chokes up bloodstained flowers and leaves, which pool on the floor in a tainted mess.

Kafka frowns.

Her Spirit Whisper was ineffective.

Blade leans heavily across the table, clutching onto its marble surface tight enough to crack its surface. From his hunched over posture, the wheezing noise that was drowned out by the gurgling choke as the man continued to heave and throw up into the basin which she had found for him, Kafka grew wary.

“Blade.”

Blade pulls out his sword, the Shard Sword having been mended by his abundant blood, as the man pushes the basin aside, gingko leaves glistening with blood.

“...I…will hurt you.”

He brings his sword up and brings it down on his own left hand. He cleaves the limb off, before he turns the blade on himself.

Kafka stills.

“Immobilise…me.”

He holds onto his blade with a shaky hand, and Kafka walks over, steps heavy. She uses her gloved hand, wrapping her fingers over his own to steady his. Blade looks up at her, his immaculate hair now dishevelled and sticking onto his sweaty, pale skin, with pained eyes that flashed with the distorted, warped desire of mara.

“Through the spine. Cleanly.”

Blade dips his head in a nod, unable to hold himself back for any longer.

This will give her an additional…ten minutes for Stelle and her companion to arrive.

She thrusts the blade, guided by his own hand, through his sternum.

He slumps over, blood pooling from the sword embedded in his chest.

It was a last resort method, to which previously they had to bring in Sam in order to incinerate and fight the man until the mara had worn down fast enough, to keep him immobile and paralysed. She disliked doing this, because it always left him out of commission, and because of how much downtime it usually gave him, and he knew that it added more pain to his already growing track list of traumatic injuries which clung to him.

Kafka brings his left wrist up onto the table, watching it closely for signs of regeneration.

Her spirit whisper had failed. It was a strange, and almost impossible event, because it had never once failed to work on him. Especially in suppressing the mara. Whatever he had been afflicted with in that cloud of gas, which had also affected Stelle’s companion…

It was causing a resurgence of mara even after they were no longer in contact with the poison.

It was good that she had taken the precaution to wear a gas mask when arriving on the scene.

Her phone vibrates, but she has no time to answer it. She would not part her gaze from Blade’s corpse, which would reanimate itself in approximately nine minutes and fifteen seconds.

As for the reason why she has asked Stelle’s companion to come along…

She needed someone to keep Blade at bay when he woke. Perhaps even tear out his lungs with how vicious he was, because Kafka knew she could not do that alone, and approaching any surgeon or doctor onboard the Luofu was out of question. Anyone capable of withstanding his feral madness when he was overcome by the mara, was hard to find, with a few exceptions such as the General of the Luofu, and perhaps the Astral Express Crew.

And well, she would need Stelle to hold off the Cloud Knights that were closing in on their location.

She hears a set of footsteps outside.

Ah. They had come.

Keeping her gun pointed at Bladie, she picks up her phone and looks at the message.

She tucks it into her pocket and opens the door.

“Kafka, I’m here-”

“Shhhh….” She set a finger on her lips, as she opened the door up to the two guests.

The ginger haired male was the one who harboured the demon in disguise? She scans his looks, and what stood out to her the most was his dead, soulless eyes. A tad bit too much like Bladie’s, but it made him perfect.

“What happened to Blade?” Stelle whispers. The ginger haired male next to her was quiet, but wary of the man who was bleeding out and also healing across the table, limbs sprawled out, a cleaved hand out somewhere.

“What’s your name?” Childe shifts his gaze to Kafka.

“Call me Childe. You need me to beat the crap out of him?” He gestures to Blade, who begins convulsing, corpse writhing and twitching as blood and gingko leaves froth from his parted lips. The man was shirtless, the clothes on his upper half having been removed as the sword pierced him right through his sternum, blood flaking off and drying quickly as Childe’s gaze sharpens.

Good. He caught on quickly.

“Indeed. If you can subdue him and rip out his lungs, I’ll have a chance to subdue and tame the mara within him and the two of you can have your talk. Stelle, I regretfully need your help in holding off those pesky Cloud Knights which are combing the area. We can talk as we go.”

The violet haired woman’s voice drips with calm, mesmerising suave. It is precise, direct, and beckoning, as Childe dislikes how she had just dumped Blade on him like a trivial concern.

“Oh, you might want to lug him out into the courtyard while you have the chance. I’ll hold off the other Cloud Knights along with…Stelle over here. Give me a call when you ripped out his lungs and he’s grown a pair of new ones.” Kafka steps out of the room and pass the both of them, whispering a few words to Stelle. Stelle looks between him, Blade, and the other Stellaron Hunter.

“Not a trap my ass….” Childe grumbles, as Stelle follows him.

“Quick! Kafka told me that I can help you bring him out, but it has to be quick!”

Childe strides up to Blade, and each of them take one side of the unconscious, writhing man and drag him out into the courtyard, laying him down in the centre of the square as Childe makes sure to leave the sword in his chest.

Stelle was…barely perturbed by this, though she looked queasy at the sight of holding onto such a dangerous man, she had hurried off to rejoin with Kafka and left him alone with the regenerating man.

Seriously? Why him? He literally came here with the purpose of apologising to this man and having a civil conversation with him, not to hurt him further!

Looking down at the unconscious man beneath him, Childe inhales a sharp breath, and calls upon Foul Legacy.

At some point, Foul Legacy has grown accustomed to his skin, as he had grown used to it. It reaches out back to him, after having mingled together with him for years in the Primordial Sea, continuously calling upon its power and satiating it with opponents of another calibre, and feeding into his bloodlust.

The strain still gnaws at him, but with the Narwhal’s ability to continuously heal, any drawbacks on his human mortality no longer matter. He summons forth his dual bladed glaive, envisioning a slimmer, thinner form for which he breaks it in two its two halves and plunges one into Blade’s chest.

His eyes do not miss the way the man’s toned flesh was marked by scars, gashed long and wide, blows which almost certainly killed him over and over again, some in the same spot, overlapping to form a pathwork across his torso.

A hand catches his wrist, stopping him just as vacant eyes flicker open with delirious rage, and Childe realises that the time has run out.

He snarls, as he pushes the glaive down into the man’s chest, but the man raises an arm and pulls the sword from his own chest. The glaive clashes with the sword.

Notes:

Childe vs Blade round 2

Chapter 49

Chapter Text

Blade rolls onto his side, lost limb regenerating into a bulbous tumour like flesh before it explodes into a flurry of leaves and twigs, revealing a pristine, brand new hand, though with a scar around the base of its wrist.

Childe channels Abyssal electro into the glaive, and knows immediately that he is facing a predator. An apex being who stood at the top of a food chain, with a savage intent to kill and maim, a boiling insanity that writhed behind those pair of yellow-crimson eyes.

The shock causes nerves and limbs to spasm, which Childe takes as a chance to glance off the sword’s blow and stab the man down in his thigh, tearing the weapon down his entire leg in a vertical slash.

He must approach this with a strategy.

That is, to immobilise this man by removing his limbs, hopefully searing them shut so he could not regenerate, and tear his lungs out, as Kafka had said.

The familiar, cold precision and cruelty of a Harbinger comes back to him easily. That distance from his target, seen only as a means of an entertaining fight, or a target to be brought down no matter the cost, for the sake of a bigger goal ahead.

Knowing that the man could not die made things a lot easier for him.

Foul Legacy’s armour coats his limbs, as the armoured mask forms over his face. Using his right hand, he clashes with Blade, who was still half laying, half turned on his side on the ground, especially since Childe had pinned his left leg down onto the ground.

As long as the man could not get up, he would have the upper hand.

Blade grows, a deep, guttural sound betraying the animalistic nature this man too had harboured within him, a beast hidden in the form of human skin, willing to throw themselves into an eternal fight with an undying opponent.

Childe forces more electricity into this man, as he shifts his grip on his blades into an underhanded one, and tears off Blade’s left leg with a swift stroke, and flings it across the courtyard.

Blade pulls his sword back and passes it onto his other hand, and thrusts at Childe’s abdomen. Childe holds back the Shard Sword with a clawed hand, having chosen to forgo the right half of his weapon.

The shard sword grazes against his armour, as its burns against his carapace, and Childe grits his teeth as he forced the remaining glaive in his hand to burn with electricity, not just shocking the man before him but also cauterising the wound he had formed at his left leg before it could fully heal.

Startlingly, Blade lunges at him with his teeth.

Truly feral.

Childe uses his armoured arm to block his lunge, and shoves the man’s head back down on the ground so hard that the floor of the courtyard cracks.

The shard sword disintegrates as he crushes it in his grip, even as burning blood seeps into the cracks of his armour and onto his skin.

The blade is thrust at his throat, and Childe chokes, the blow converted into blunt trauma at his throat as it reforms midair whilst still in Blade’s one handed grasp. The pain quickly fades away, but he has been left stunned, and it gives Blade an opening.

The man is relentless, proceeding with a set of stabs and thrusts even as he remained on the ground, unable to stand with only one working leg, and Childe blocks or glances off every single one of them in a low crouch, he too, unable to use his own mobility and agility to his advantage.

Just like two animals caught in a deadly tussle.

Childe responds in kind, summoning the right half of his glaive to return to him, even as it pierces through Blade’s upper torso.

As the man is temporarily winded, Childe takes the opportunity to cleave his right arm off with a quick, clean blow, flicking the limb aside as he digs the blade of his glaive into Blade’s chest. He pushes it down, feeling the resistance from bone and thick muscle, until he is able to tear through skin, and pierce through the other side and pin the man down to the ground.

A burst of Abyssal Electro shocks the man still, and Childe kneels on Blade’s remaining arm and his waist, preventing him from moving up with his own crushing weight, composed of his natural body weight as well as Foul Legacy’s armour, which was by no means light.

Childe breathes heavily.

The writhing mass of muscle and animalistic flesh struggles against him, angry, powerful, an animal that had been temporarily subdued and forced down through violence and bloodshed.

He cannot believe he is hurting this man again.

Gritting his teeth, Childe makes an incision through the man’s chest, a vertical line across his bare skin, cutting through scars and skin, having to pry his ribcage aside and use Foul Legacy’s viciously sharp claws to cut the man’s lungs out and pull it out from his chest.

He does this all as fast as possible, so as to minimise the suffering and pain that had already been done to this man. Childe himself also hated having to deal with internal organs, messing around with someone’s body anymore than he had to, which was more of Dottore’s forte.

Still, he was absolutely certain flowers and branches should not be growing out of anyone’s lungs, for that matter.

Terrifyingly, even the man’s regeneration has managed to overcome the cauterisation of a limb, and regrow his arm just as Childe finished the impromptu, mid battle operation.

Childe crushes the infected organ and pulverises it into a mushy mess within his claws, shocking and burning it into a charred crisp with his electro abilities.

Beneath him, Blade gurgles, this time not on leaves of flowers, but blood.

Fresh, crimson and flowing.

Childe kneels above him still, at least long enough until he is assured the man had reclaimed his sanity.

(Since when had he even seen this man sane?)

He waits, eyeing the man beneath him, wondering how fate had landed him in the same position, as he was over this man. Then again, this man was not exactly normal either…

Childe waits for the man’s lungs to regenerate, studying how strands of flesh bind together and regrow into a whole new organ, a study he is certain Dottore would have killed to experience and watch, as flesh knits itself together in thin strands which then close up the wounds and holes in this man’s body.

Distantly, he wonders how intimate this sight must be.

To have someone’s throat so close to his own weapon, to how vulnerable this man was, regenerating from a death that would have incapacitated him, that had incapacitated him for a few minutes.

If he were any more sad*stic, if Foul Legacy had been the one at the forefront, he has no doubt that it would have helped itself to such vulnerable prey, to take a bite from marred, twisted flesh, to indulge itself in another act of cannibalism. A situation Childe swore he would not allow to happen again.

So, judging the man’s breathing to have evened out, he gets off of the man, recalling and subduing Foul Legacy, which came so easily to him. There was no more tug of war between who got control and who did not, likely because he had been constantly calling it forth for every battle that he had fought.

A strange way of learning control and gaining mastery, one that he could not freely utilise in Teyvat, for he had to constantly repress and control its insatiable bloodlust in Teyvat, which made it infinitely more unruly and harder to subdue.

Here, it was almost second nature to him.

Chapter 50

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He keeps his gaze on Blade, watching the black haired male choke out a few breaths, retching up blood that had pooled in his stomach and emptying the contents out onto a drain by his side.

Childe knew how that felt.

The sensation of blood coating the mouth, throat and settling within the stomach was…unnerving and disgusting. He vowed never to let that happen again.

“Here’s some water if you need it, comrade,”

Blade flashes a glance at him, as Childe withdraws a flask of water he had taken back from Master’s hut. The Snezhnayan had not even realised that he had slipped back into his usual mannerisms of addressing others. What he does not realise, is that on a subconscious level, he has begun to see Blade as a rival, a suitable combat partner he could go all out against, with little to no repercussions.

Indeed, it was strange, because he had not even exchanged a single word with the man.

It all boiled down to the nature of their clashes, to let action, flesh and blood speak for itself. The thrill of battle, of crimson blood shed in a brutal, violent fight, was enough to establish a shared understanding between the two of them.

He tosses the flask over to Blade, who catches it with a single hand.

The man stares at him, orange red eyes now dim and darkened, akin to the shade of a setting sun below the horizon, shadows overlapping with irises to give way to a darker tone, of which resignation and exhaustion piled behind that heavy gaze.

He opens the flask, and takes a few sips and mouthfuls to wash out his mouth and throat by the drain, before taking a few sips to rehydrate himself.

Childe was frankly surprised that he had chosen to drink from the flask at all.

After all, he was simply a stranger to him, and at worst, an enemy to him.

“Your….name…”

“Feel free to call me Childe.”

His voice, Childe notes, is low and raspy, yet smooth with its underlying deeper tones. He figures now is probably not a good time to bring up the fact that he…kind of got an entire lifetime’s worth of his memories crammed into his brain, and opts to make conversation about something else instead.

“Kafka said to wait here, until she returned.”

“....She contacted you to come?” He nears.

His strides are poised, lethal, graceful and barely hiding the power behind each and every lithe movement. Childe wonders if this is what it is like to watch a predator move in motion. It was stunning.

He looks at him from where he had found a comfortable position atop the steps to sit down.

“In short, yes. I was also pretty curious to find out more about you.”

“....” Blade watches him, with a sharper gaze now, as he continues moving closer until he was standing in front of him. His hair is sticky with traces of blood, to which Childe wished he had a cloth on hand to offer the man, or spare clothes, for the matter, since all the man had to wear was a pair of pants that had an entire pant leg torn off.

“Take a seat. She and Stelle went to go and handle some of the Cloud Knights that are on your trail. Besides, you probably should rest, after all of that.” Childe gestures with his hand, movements failing to describe everything he had just done to the man.

“You are a strange one.” Blade sits down on the steps, next to him, but with a spacing between the two of them.

“If I wasn’t a strange one, I wouldn’t be here talking to you, would I?” Childe muses, as he takes in the sight of the man sitting next to him. Judging from his posture and rather pensive expression, he wagered that the man was more of an introvert than anything else. Which meant that he would be carrying the conversation until Kafka returned.

Well, he supposed that was not an issue since he did have quite a few things to say to him.

Blade lets out a ‘hm’ in response.

Childe clears his throat.

“Well, I’m just gonna be straightforward with you. I agreed to meet with you mainly because I wanted to apologise over…what happened the other time, when we fought.”

“You…want to apologise.”

“Yep. I lost control the previous time and caused you a ton of pain. Even if you do have a really sick regeneration ability, it was not cool of me to tear into you like that. For that, I’m really sorry.”

Blade stares at him.

Childe drums his fingers on his thighs nervously, wondering if he said something wrong. This was how an apology went, right? He doesn’t think the concept of an apology differs to heavily from civilisation to civilisation-

Blade turns away.

“Save your words.”

“Huh?”

“Apologies are for mistakes. For when one party was harmed. Our fight was no mistake. Your aggression was welcome.”

Childe can now confirm that this man was 100% a masoch*st. Then again, he was looking for a way to die.

“And here I thought I’d never find anyone else more bloodthirsty than I was.” Childe chuckles, finding the situation mildly amusing. He should totally bring this man back with him to Teyvat. Then they could compete for the title of the most bloodthirsty and battle hungry.

“What are you?”

Childe looks up at Blade, who asks him in a voice that bespoke that quiet, long buried curiosity that had been brought to light.

“A weapon. An interdimensional traveller. A Harbinger. A brother. Take your pick.”

“So you truly are not from this world. That second form of yours…”

“Is a part of me that I cannot part from.”

“It is magnificent.”

Blade looks at him, stares into his own soulless blue eyes.

“Sorry, what?” Childe splutters.

This is the first time Foul Legacy has ever been complimented. This has never happened before, in every single year of his life, not even by Master Skirk, by Master Jingliu, by the Astral Express Crew, by no one in Teyvat for sure. Childe is literally left speechless, and can’t help but feel slightly awed at the fact that someone here was insane enough to appreciate Foul Legacy’s need to just kill and maim.

To even go so far as to call it magnificent, of all things!

“It made me feel alive.”

“That’s a first.” Childe mutters to himself. “People usually run away when they see me in Foul Legacy, ya know? Or they don’t live to tell the tale about it.” The ginger…is confused as to how he is supposed to react. Was he supposed to be impressed? Or horrified at this man’s taste?

“Foul Legacy…that is its name? How fascinating.” Blade answers coolly.

This man is definitely insane. Has more than a few screws loose. Were all the Stellaron Hunters like this? It does remind him slightly of how unhinged some of the Fatui Harbingers were.

“It’s something I inherited from my time in the Abyss, back in my homeworld. A place full of corruption and corrosion and a whole lot of fighting for survival. Thinking about it, it’s probably a place that suits you well, considering how…into Foul Legacy you are.”

“My interest stems from your ability and apparent capacity to permanently kill me. And to do so when I am mara struck, it means that you are a powerful foe.”

Blade dips his gaze down to his bloodied hands.

“Thanks for the compliment, comrade. You too, are an amazing rival.”

The word rival did not cut it. Childe knew that, as Blade eyed him.

“You would call me a comrade?”

Childe shrugs.

“I’d say after two bloody fights where we tried to tear each other's throats out, and being able to still sit here and talk civilly counts as a form of bonding. Besides, I doubt it would hurt for us to talk.”

Blade is silent, his gaze flickering from Childe to the flask he still had in his hand.

“Talk.”

“Have you heard of a place called Teyvat? I’m looking to see if anyone has heard of this place. Seeing as you guys are intergalactic criminals, I was wondering if you stumbled across my homeworld somewhere along the way.”

Blade shakes his head.

“It does not exist in my memory. Nor does it exist in Elio’s scripts.”

Childe wonders who this Elio was. However, if Blade had not heard of Teyvat, it was unlikely that Kafka or the other Stellaron Hunters would have as well.

“Alright then. No one has heard of my homeworld. Great. Okay, moving on, is there anything you want to ask me?” He offers this branch out to Blade, who stares at him curiously, orange crimson eyes flickering with interest.

“Your eyes are dead.”

Childe chuckles dryly.

“I get that alot. My time in the Abyss robbed my childhood innocence from me, and permanently warped my personality into what you see now, and also chucked Foul Legacy into my person. Besides my less than savoury occupation as an occasional terrorist and assassin too.”

What an intriguing man. A weapon could recognise another.

Blade gazes at him, eyes piercing and interested.

“Do you regret?”

On an instinctive level, Childe immediately understands what he means. The sum of one’s choices, every small decision which led to a greater whole, to a fate out of his control. That shared connection and threads which ran parallel between them, of promises unfulfilled, forgotten and shattered dreams, new, poisonous and burning ambitions which lit their path at the cost of self destruction.

Did Childe regret falling into the Abyss? Finding Master Skirk? Obtaining Foul Legacy? Getting sent off to the Fatui? Becoming a Harbinger? Even if it hurt sometimes, to play the role of a villain, it satiated his boundless ambition.

“Does it matter? What’s done is done. Even if I did regret, even if I do now, the other outcome was…”

Would he have been satisfied with any other outcome? Been plain old Ajax, trapped in the small fishing village of Morespoke, taking care of his siblings, marrying another girl, likely becoming a blacksmith's apprentice, and being…nothing?

“If I had not gone down this path, I would have become nothing, a nobody, insignificant to the world, unable to be anything more. I was cursed, but it helped me find my path, and to live a life beyond what I was born for.”

He looks at Blade, and stares him straight in the eyes.

“You may regret what has been done, but you cannot change the past.”

“You speak as if you know me.” Blade’s voice dips into a low growl. Childe looks back, amused. He sets his head in his palm, balancing his elbow on his knee as he taps his fingers on his own cheek.

“What if I told you that I do, comrade?”

The way the man’s muscles and limbs tense up, flexing in hostile defensiveness, as if Childe had prodded straight into the hive of a hornet’s nest, as Blade’s own hand rested on the hilt of his Shard Sword.

“Explain.”

“I consumed your flesh, and found that I gained the power to view your memories from such. It’s kind of like watching a show, really…I only see what you did, but I do not necessarily understand why you chose to continue as you do now.”

He hears Blade mutter something about unscripted events.

“You test my patience.”

“I know what you were. The man who went by the name of Yingxing.”

The tip of his sword grazes his neck, but Childe is unfazed as he sets an armoured hand to block the blow from grazing his skin. Riling up this man was…surprisingly fun.

Stop it, Childe. You are here to apologise not to stir unnecessary conflicts.

“That name.”

Blade blinks, as his arm trembles.

“You aren’t him anymore. You are Blade now, aren’t you? Though I suppose it is hard to discern one’s own identity from another when you end up with more than one name.” The Harbinger knew that very well.

Blade withdraws his weapon.

“You speak from experience.”

Childe shrugs, as he taps his foot on the stone stair.

“I was once Ajax, and now am Childe, whilst being Tartaglia. I used to be an innocent child with dreams far too big for myself, and ended up becoming a weapon of war. Both sides collided and became…Childe.” So yes. He knew that very well.

“Even so, the past haunts us. Lingering regrets which form the basis of our next actions, just like something we can never let go.” Blade is almost poetic, the black haired male’s voice simmering with unknown repose, a reflection and conclusion of himself.

“That sounds like a miserable life.”

“But it is a life you lead, as well.” He was getting sassed by this man?

“Why else would your eyes remain lifeless and dull as they do now?”

He was definitely getting sassed by him.

“Hey now, comrade, I’m still trying to figure out my life path here, okay? I’ve got a whole new problem of not being able to find my way home, and trying to figure out whether or not I even want to go home.”

“Was it not you who began this conversation?”

Ugh. He was right.

“Fine, fine, you win. Let’s move onto the next thing to talk about. Your turn to share something else about yourself.”

Blade looks at him wordlessly.

“Or anything to pass time until Kafka comes back.”

“I want you to kill me.”

Childe chokes upon hearing his request.

“Didn’t I already try? And fail?”

“I want you to try again.”

“I don’t owe you the second attempt. Neither do I want to consume you again.”

Blade is silent.

Childe refused to cannibalise this man the second time. His fervent desire to die was something else as well, but the Stellaron Hunters had already promised him a destined death. Was he truly so eager to die that he would cut his remaining life short so as to find and seek an everlasting peace for himself?

“What can I do, so that you will indulge me in this wish of mine?”

“You can wait for your destined end. Besides, I doubt the rest of your team would want you gone so suddenly. Live a little, Blade.”

“I have been alive for centuries. Do not tell me to continue living.”

“Live as in enjoying yourself. Be a little more greedy. Indulge in things that are not limited to your work and your pursuit of death. Don’t you care about your team?”

Blade stares at him, like he was an alien. Well, to him he was an alien.

Also, why was Childe giving him advice that he himself needed to hear?

Rather than spend his time and energy on Fatui business and accidentally saving Fontaine, he should totally just slack off and go ice fishing or something.

“You are strange.” Ah, he sounded pensive. Perhaps Blade was actually thinking about his words. How fascinating.

“Yeah, I get that alot.”

Notes:

Just 2 traumatised dudes sitting down and having a civil conversation

Chapter 51

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Blade regards the ginger in front of him a level of inexplicable emotion. A strange man who had torn his flesh off and devoured his life and delivered him a temporary death, yet still respected him enough to apologise for doing so.

He was a paradox.

The notion that he had seen who he had been, who he was, was unsettling, but he supposed that as all unscripted things in Elio’s plan unfurled, it would be unknown territory, and anything could come and go.

The man before him was clearly honed to be a weapon, to be a blade, a tool used by someone for the purpose of destruction. The soulless eyes he possessed, was like looking into a mirror. A weathered soul which lived within the form of someone who was young, someone who was raised to be a weapon.

He reminds him of…no one he knew.

It was refreshing.

This man who wore his heart on his sleeve yet still shrouded himself in an air of unfamiliar distortion, a personality that held layers upon layers of masks and faces, all true, even if they clashed.

“What is the beast within you? Are you two one and the same?”

“No. We are different. I acquired Foul Legacy when I was fourteen. So…seven-wait no, eleven years ago.”

Fourteen. What a young age. A mere drop in the sea of time in which he has lived. This man was filled to the brim with potential. Like a gleaming piece of steel, having been honed through countless fires to forge something fine and deadly.

Blade was intrigued.

“It holds the symptoms of being mara struck. Were you afflicted back then, when we fought?”

“Mara struck? Some random disciples of…something something drugged me so yeah probably. If that's what you call going crazy and losing all sense of reasoning and just going berserk, then yeah I suppose I was mara struck for a while.”

“And yet you recovered just fine. And even without the aid of Kafka’s spirit whisper.”

“Kafka’s what?” Childe had some vague idea of what that was, from the memories he had caught a glimpse of from Blade.

“Spirit Whisper. It suppresses the mara. Which means that your body is able to recover from artificially induced mara.”

“Foul Legacy has always been wild. Something unnatural from my homeworld. I suppose if it works, it works.”

“What did you become, back in your home world?”

“A harbinger.”

A harbinger of destruction? Blade finds himself anticipating the idea of clashing again with this man.

“Well, I guess it won’t hurt to explain to you who I truly was.”

“Does the Nameless not know of this side of you?”

A pause.

“No. They do not.”

“I suppose I must be honoured if I am allowed to hear this.”

“Hah! We shared an understanding through a life or death battle. Bonding through fighting, you know? I’d say it's more of an understanding than being honoured.”

“Speak.”

“I’m the eleventh of the Tsaritsa’s Fatui Harbingers. Her vanguard, in her quest to bring down Celestia. Essentially out to overthrow the divine authority which rules over our world.”

Blade’s gaze sharpens, as he looks at the man before him.

“You seek to slay a god?”

“In its simplest terms, yes.”

“You have truly exceeded my expectations.”

“Hey, can’t someone like me have big dreams too?”

Blade…chuckles. Childe watches the man, as amusem*nt graces his low, gravel tone, a rusty sound which emerges from his lips, as the living weapon stabs his blade into the ground.

“I wish you all the best.”

Blade ceases his chuckling, as his gaze bores into his own, glimmering with respect yet shimmering still with an edge, not directed towards him, but something further beyond.

“Gods do not die easily.”

“Yeah, I still have ways to go before I can reach that peak.”

Blade gazes at him.

“I hope to fight with you once you do.”

Childe grins.

“Of course, comrade.”

Notes:

feeding the blade and childe interactions so hard

Chapter 52

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“We must have kept you waiting for some time.”

Kafka’s voice is an amused drawl, as Childe huffs.

Stelle stands close to her.

“Have you had your conversation, Bladie? And you, Mr Childe, are you satisfied?” The violet haired woman smiles at the two of them, seemingly amused, her lips holding no malice nor hidden motive in one of the few instances. Childe chuckles.

“You have a phone?” Childe asks.

The dark haired male stares, as Kafka passes him his phone.

Blade stares. This man…was asking to keep in contact?

“Very well.” Blade takes his phone back from Kafka, who had been safeguarding it.

“I guess we can text each other or something. Besides, you guys have to get going, right?”

Childe stands up from where he had sat, as he offers a hand out to Blade. The black haired male pauses.

In his peripheral vision, he can see Stelle’s jaw drop.

Blade takes his hand, and Childe pulls him up.

The harbinger had not expected the stoic, more introverted man to do so, but it seems that the two of them had reached a deeper understanding. Enough so for him to take his hand when offered.

He can hear Stelle’s gasp.

“It’s a good thing that we managed to meet up like this before we part ways. I’m glad to see that it has brought everyone here some measure of satisfaction.” Kafka glances at Stelle, as she looks at her partner.

“Kafka, I cannot leave yet. There is someone, who I am greatly indebted to. I must see them.”

“More unscripted events? Alright then, Bladie, it's up to you.” The violet haired woman glances over from him to Childe, as she steps away and begins to walk her own path.

Blade casts a glance at Stelle.

“I remember you.”

“Huh?”

“You once followed Kafka. You were next to her. I remember. I've yet to see anyone follow her for as long as you did - and live to tell the tale.”

“What are you getting at?”

“Every Stellaron Hunter has a deal with Elio. Whatever Kafka’s was, she will have done many things to keep you alive until now.”

Yep. Childe was a hundred percent sure now that number one, Stelle and the Stellaron Hunters had a past. Number two, he was definitely intruding on a private conversation.

“And you. I hope to meet you again. Wherever and whenever that may be.”

Childe nods.

The two Stellaron Hunters depart.

“What just happened?” Stelle spoke aloud.

“I don’t know either.”

The two of them begin to walk back to the now quiet streets of the Luofu.

Notes:

The two of them proceeded to find some food at a few late night dessert stalls and exchange their experiences with each of the Stellaron Hunters. They also stop by a few wanted posters of Kafka and Blade, and Stelle convinces Childe to take a selfie with them.

Chapter 53

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Jing Yuan glances at the handiwork that had been done to Yueyan. He recognised the type of ice, from each precise swing, to the way the crystals had formed and seeped into Yueyan’s skin. It killed cells, flash froze flesh, prevented and halted growth, removing all sensation.

That was why his Master had been so proficient in slaying the Denizens of Abundance, after all.

To earn the title of Sword Champion, one had to slay many enemies. It was no title earned through mastery of the blade, but also through its use for the mission of the followers of the Reignbow Arbiter.

It is jarring.

To know that she still lived, even though they had come to clash all those years ago, and he had sworn to put her down then. Alas, perhaps he was still too soft and lacked the viciousness to track and ensure her true death. (After all this time…he still hoped.)

Staring at Yueyan’s living corpse, he raised a hand and waved for the guards to bring him to the divination commission to retrieve any information left from the Foxian man while he still lived. Master had been thorough enough to maximise the pain inflicted upon this man, a prominent head of an operation they had yet to shut down, yet also left him alive to obtain information from.

What puzzled him was…why did she act now?

Why did she return to the Luofu after so long, and to strike out at one of their sworn enemies, who was only coincidentally discovered in recent times? Did she have access to information from within the Seat of Divine Foresight? In addition, it was not her style to leave enemies alive. Even if they were in custody, she preferred to cut them down as soon as they came within reach.

Jing Yuan ponders, as the Cloud Knights and guards mill about him, the flow of people moving around his still position, as he considers what could have changed since this time.

The addition of new players, such as the Astral Express crew, the recent defeat of Lord Ravager Phantilya, the Stellaron onboard the Luofu (which was sealed by the crew), the state of the Luofu in the aftermath of the attack by the Denizens of Abundance…that mysterious doctor, and….Childe.

This strange, targeted attack at Yueyan seemed to indicate something else, if she had specifically made her way down into the bowels of the Shackling Prison to inflict such pain onto him. Everything started from here. Or was at least heavily linked to this point. Yueyan had been carrying out his operations for centuries, so why did she only act now?

What had happened to push her to act?

Was it Yingxing’s presence on board the Luofu as well?

Or was it…Childe?

The general ponders. The threads which tied people together, motivations and likely reasons that could have provoked his Master to take such action…

Yingxing and Childe were both affected by Yueyan’s actions. However, Childe was the one who showed signs of prolonged mistreatment, more so than Blade who had been reported to have come to clash against the Denizens of Abundance.

Childe seemed like the more obvious link.

A sharp pain shoots through his skull.

Jing Yuan massages his temples, as he finds a seat outside the interrogation room, and rests.

He needs to meet Childe, and find out if he was the reason why his Master had chosen to act.

-

“Master….can we spar?”

“No.”

“...I’m bored.”

“Do not test my patience.”

“Alright, alright. Could you freeze the surface of the lake? I want to do some ice fishing.”

Jingliu glanced at him from behind her blindfold. It was eerie how she could know where to just…look at even while being blinded. Childe realises how lucky he is that Master is patient with him, especially with the version of her he had seen in Blade’s memories.

On his way back to the isolated hut, he had snagged some fishing line and rope from a vendor that was still open late into the night. Thinking back of how Master froze the lake had reminded him of the Snezhnayan winters, with its frozen lakes and ponds. Of course, Welt’s borscht had also taken him down a trip through memory lane.

“Ice fishing? What an interesting activity.” Luocha murmurs, as the man seems to close the scroll he was reading through.

“Isn’t there fish beneath the lake or something?”

“There is, but I have not tried hunting them for food.”

“Don’t you get hungry? Or at least when you are stuck here for days on end.”

Master shook her head.

“Hunger is a concept reserved for those who still hold onto their humanity.”

Childe blinks. How peculiar. If the only thing he felt was hunger, would that still make him human? If the Narwhal had only felt an eternal hunger, then did it still hold onto its sentience? It’s right to live?

How inhuman was his master, really?

He knew of inhuman beings, immortals, gods, Adepti, and yet they still exhibited traits of lingering humanity. Was Master Skirk considered human? Mind you, this was already excluding the physical aspects of humans, and touching more upon the values, and traits that a being must have to contain humanity.

How much of himself could be considered to be human?

Childe stands up.

He really wanted to get started on ice fishing. If anything, it was his favoured activity to clear his thoughts and calm his mind. To process everything that had happened in the past day or two, and to simply…relax.

Master flicks a hand out through the window.

Snowflakes fleck from her gloved hands, which land on the surface of the water, and begin to freeze its surface over, halting the empty ripples of water beneath a layer of thick ice that grew and grew.

“Thanks!”

Childe grabs his things and heads out.

Behind him, Luocha looks over at his companion.

“For how cold hearted you are, you seem to be indulging him.” The merchant was amused.

“He is my disciple. If this activity helps him recover faster and stops him from bothering me, then I will enable him.”

“And sneaking into the Shackling prison to handle that man?”

“Something I would have done a long time ago if I had known who he was.”

Luocha chuckles.

“Alas, the deadline of our mission draws near. He must learn quickly, lest we have to clean our hands of him.”

Notes:

let’s not forget that Jingliu and Luocha still have their own agendas to fulfil.

next chap is teyvat chap

Chapter 54

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Her sharp footsteps pierce through the office.

“Monsieur Neuvillette. It is unfortunate that we must meet again so soon.”

The Knave’s voice is sharp, with a cold, calculated intention made clear in her voice. The Hydro Dragon remains neutral, as he stands from behind his desk and lifts the pot of water which had been boiling away on his desk.

“Please, have a seat. I believe the discussion will take some time.” He gestures to the seats and tea table set before his desk, already neatly cleaned up in anticipation for this important visitor. He is well aware that she would require more convincing and truth from his end, because the Knave would not have returned to him so quickly had things gone as planned. With the gift of the gnosis, the end of Fontaine’s prophecy, the only reason she had asked to arrange a meeting with him had to boil down to their missing Harbinger.

“I appreciate your hospitality.” Arlecchino took a seat as the Iudex prepared a cup of tea for her, transferring the hot water to a teapot to mix with the tea leaves, while he poured himself a glass of hot water.

“You are an esteemed guest, after all. I believe the issue of Childe’s disappearance is the reason why we are meeting here today?”

The Knave watches him keenly. Her gaze is shrewd, hiding behind a veneer of rationality and politeness, as well as a level of respect afforded to him for the diplomatic ties he now shared with the Fatui, for delivering them the Hydro Gnosis.

“Indeed. While the prophecy that detailed Fontaine’s end has been halted and even reversed, which I thank you for your aid in that, the trigger and start to this series of events has yet to be found.” She spoke, voice clean, fluent and strong. It prods at him with hard facts and an efficient summary of her intentions, of which he expected nothing less from the Knave.

“As Childe has been found to be not guilty for any crimes committed within Fontaine, he has been pardoned and his sentence and charges withdrawn. His disappearance is not caused by any man-made reason from any of the authorities.”

Neuvillette knows that he must clarify the matter from his side as far as possible. To avoid additional diplomatic pressure from the Fatui, seeing how their relations were more intertwined. While he had handed them the gnosis, a missing Harbinger was no joke either.

“Would you care to explain the matter of his disappearance, from its start to apparent end, up to where it had suddenly been turned on its head? I would like to hear it from you yourself, rather than the sources which I have scoured from. They tend to be…distorted, after all.”

She was giving him a chance to explain everything from his point of view. In that sense, the Knave was still reasonable and willing to listen.

“Very well. As what is known, Childe was falsely accused of being the perpetrator of the serial disappearances case, where the Oratrice Mecanique d'Analyse Cardinale produced a guilty verdict despite evidence which spoke otherwise. He was sent to the Fortress of Meropide, where he was found to be missing.” He takes a sip from his cup of water.

The Knave crosses her legs, setting both palms of her clawed gloves atop her knees, as she taps against her leg with a finger.

“Following that, during Furina’s trial, the All Devouring Narwhal emerged from a tear in reality. I presume that that foul, abyssal creature is Childe, which followed the Narwhal and fought against it to save my people. He has since returned back to the Primordial Sea.”

“I hope you understand that you and the traveller are the sole witnesses to Childe’s last appearance ever since he disappeared from the Fortress of Meropide. As you and the traveller entered the Primordial Sea alone, your memories and knowledge of Childe are the most crucial.”

“I am aware, and am doing my best to describe the entire ordeal to you. It is only fair for the Eleventh Harbinger to be returned safely back and sound, for protecting the people of Fontaine.”

The Knave seems satisfied with his answer.

“In the depths of the Primordial Sea, we finished off the All Devouring Narwhal. Childe was picked up by a strange woman, who does not seem to be a native to the surface world, and tossed into a rift in reality. She referred to Childe as her…disciple. I believe her name was Skirk. She tossed him and the remnants of the All Devouring Narwhal into some place unknown. While she did inform me that he would be sent home, it appears to not be the case.”

The Iudex wonders what happened to the Eleventh Harbinger, if he had been tossed into that rift between space and time. A skill to manifest such a spatial distortion was nigh impossible to master, and even he instinctively knew how foreign that experience would be for anyone.

“She also mentioned to me that she was willing to communicate to me about other…historical methods through Childe, but seeing as he is still missing, I doubt that will be taking place anytime soon. Beyond whatever happened then, I am unable to help you, for she spoke no more about Childe.”

“You mentioned that she would have sent Childe to Snezhnaya?”

“Indeed. She made that clear when she said she would ‘send him back to where he hailed from.’”

“How curious then, that our Eleventh has yet to turn up.”

Neuvillette’s eyes narrow.

“Wherever he is right now, I can assure you, he is not in Fontaine. Childe’s master is also someone who possesses an ability from beyond the common knowledge. To send someone through a spatial rift, especially in a volatile place like the Primordial Sea, comes with its risks. The most probable solution and source of answers is that woman. Neither I, nor the Traveler can give you any answers.”

“The Tsaritsa is displeased even with such a detailed answer. She hopes that you will have more answers.”

She did not have to bring in the name of another false god into this conversation.

“You need not threaten me so boldly in my homeland.”

The Knave clasps her hands together.

“It is not a threat. It is an early warning of what she will do if no answers are given. For our diplomatic relations, the hydro gnosis has improved relations between Fontaine and Snezhnaya greatly, but the fact that a Harbinger disappeared on its grounds does no favours for it. Which is why I am here to make a proposal.”

A proposal? From a Fatui Harbinger such as herself? Even after such blatant statements?

Neuvillette is far from pleased, but understands that the Knave is approaching an idea more constructive for both parties. To be caught between her own Archon and the ruler of her homeland was not an ideal position to be, after all.

“I would like to reopen an investigation regarding Tartaglia’s disappearance, and would invite you to be personally involved in it. Even if it does not yield any tangible results or evidence, it will give me the grounds to testify for your support and aid in this…unexpected disappearance, and alleviate the Tsaritsa’s diplomatic pressure.”

Arrlecchino was no fool, nor blind soldier, unlike Childe.

She recognised the position she was in, the position the esteemed Iudex of Fontaine was in, yet had to make sure the Tsaritsa had some form of answers. While Dottore was working on tracking the mysterious visitor down, she would have to do some digging here on her end.

She too, made sure Lyney and Lynette went out to search and track the traveller down for his assistance in this task.

The Iudex keeps a steady, calm composure.

“Alright then. If this proves my innocence in Childe’s involvement and improves the ties between my people and Snezhnaya, then so be it.”

Notes:

Neuvillette genuinely wants to get this case over and done with, especially since the crisis Fontaine had been facing was resolved thanks to the aid of the Fatui, and because Childe’s disappearance has been a long, perplexing unsolved case that continues to plague him.

Chapter 55

Chapter Text

He spends the night watching Master train. Even if he did only want to do some ice fishing, he slowly came to the realisation that nothing lived in the dead still waters which surrounded the small island their hut was built upon.

Master’s moves, however, are a sight to behold.

He watches her run through patterns, sets and moves, a flurry of flowing movements that had the fluidity of water, but the cold sharp edge of a blade. Each of her strikes and blows were meant to kill, as she easily swaps between both hands and demonstrates the ambidexterity she possessed.

Before him, he watches a performance of the distillation of centuries worth of practice, a finely honed art as Master uses ice in a way he has never seen before, materialising them as weapons, stepping stone, exhaling a cold misty breath that freezes the air around her.

At some point, she removes her blindfolds, and Luocha steps out of the hut and settles down next to him, a curious observer. The audience of one becomes two, as Master’s fighting style slips into something more bloodthirsty, a psychotic execution of movements, still with honed precision, yet hiding beneath them a barely held together restraint and control.

“Childe, if you use the polearm, how will you hope to emulate the moves of your master?”

The Harbinger chuckles.

“I’m a quick learner. Learning how to use a new weapon isn’t anything new to me. In fact, it's something I really enjoy.”

This catches Luocha’s interest.

“Then are you not able to materialise a sword from your second form?”

Childe shakes his head.

“Foul Legacy sort of comes with its own set of weapons. Not sure why it's always been a polearm or a dual bladed glaive, but it does not enjoy using swords. If I had my hydro vision, I would be using a pair of blades. I’m pretty sure I gave up on using a bow as well. At least for now.”

“I see. You are aware that there are stalls on the Luofu which could offer you a few weapons if you would like? Even a few martial tournaments are present as well, if it interests you. They provide weapons and the like.”

Martial tournaments? Holy sh*t that sounded fun. Childe looks at Master, who finished up on her final set as he turns back to Luocha. The Harbinger was amused at how quickly he wanted to return to battle, and how so many opportunities to fight were literally being shoved head first at him, or gifted to him on a silver platter.

Everyone here had been so agreeable for a spar, a fight, a battle to the death, and it was so different from Teyvat.

“You’d have to do it with hand to hand combat and without accessing your second form, though. Let’s not draw any attention to ourselves as far as possible.”

“...About that…I’m pretty sure I’ve caught the General’s eye already. Not only did he invite me to pay a visit to him when I first ran into him onboard the Express, but my involvement in the entire random disciples- abominations cult kind of dragged me deeper into it.”

Luocha hums.

“Well then, I suppose you can only tread carefully from there on out. The General is a perceptive man, and it's in both yours and my interest to not let him think too hard about where we hail from. Especially your master. Never mention her in front of him.”

He remembers a glimpse of Blade’s memories.

“Alright.”

Luocha looks at him, piercing green eyes waiting.

“Hey, I’m not gonna pry. Especially since it looks like something that might get all of us into big trouble. Both of you have already done a lot for me, so a simple thing like a lie by omission is easy.”

“Your cooperation is appreciated.” Luocha smiles.

Childe takes out his phone to look at whoever messaged him. Being new to using the device, he fumbles a bit when typing his password into the phone and forgetting where the messaging app was for a moment as he swipes up and down to find the app.

It turns out that it was Welt informing him that the General had invited him for tea the next day.

An invitation that he was open to refuse, postpone or turn down, but Childe was interested to know what part he had to play in all of this. Especially since he was the victim, and thankfully didn’t cause much trouble in Foul Legacy’s unrestrained form thanks to Blade.

Well he supposed both of them kept each other in check. After talking to the man, he was less intimidated and less haunted by what had happened prior, even if it was still unpleasant to think about.

“Any advice for talking with the General? Like…things to say, or not to say or to watch out for?”

Luocha raises an eyebrow.

“You haven’t committed any crime onboard the Luofu, so I doubt you have to worry about anything. You are just an interdimensional traveller who was caught in an internal conflict onboard the ship. If anything, it’s the General that has to be apologetic towards you, for having been unable to stop the crime before it happened.”

Woah. Is this what not being a Harbinger felt like? He could swear everyone in Teyvat always had some grudge against him because of his title. Especially Lady Ningguang and the other Adepti even, but he did try to drown Liyue after all, so that wariness was deserved.

Here though, no messy politics for once? That was a plus.

“Your life here is a clean slate, Childe.”

Even more reason to stay.

“Thanks for the advice!”

He knows what Luocha’s words imply.

And thus, he is left with the same dilemma.

Chapter 56

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The General’s garden is gorgeous, with bamboo, oriental plants growing in neat shrubs that were nicely trimmed. It also reminds him a whole lot of Liyue, for that matter. The red walls which enclosed the compound and its central courtyard were coloured vibrantly, giving more life and atmosphere to the place on top of the plants, blooming flowers and fauna which seemed to roam about.

The entire compound was on an elevated land, of which the view it gave overlooked the maze of streets, roads and buildings overhead, whilst allowing the artificial sunlight to shine in brilliantly to nurture the plants and illuminate the outdoor courtyard.

The General’s retainer…a kid with blonde hair, brought him in.

Yanqing looked like a pretty upright kind of kid, determined yet was also respectful and polite, and he reminded him of one of his younger siblings if he had been more disciplined and less carefree. Stelle and the others had told him a bit about Yanqing, something along the lines of someone who enjoyed picking fights with others, sort of worshipped the General, but was one hell of a fighter and held himself to some pretty high standards and expectations.

“I’m curious, but when did you start becoming the General’s retainer?” Childe has asked the younger male, who looks at him with a keen gaze.

“As soon as I was able to pass the exam to become a lieutenant, of course. One must first prove themselves to be capable of taking on the role, in order to earn it.”

“How young are you? You remind me of one of my younger siblings,” Childe responds, and he can definitely respect this young man’s tenacity and skill. To have passed an exam which he could tell was something reserved for the older and more experienced at such a young age, this one was talented.

“...Seventeen. But my young age has never stopped me from accomplishing anything!”

“I know. It’s pretty impressive that you managed to earn the title of lieutenant so quickly. The amount of effort and training you put into it paid off!” Yanqing…reminds him of himself. He himself had easily scaled the ranks of the Fatui, quickly becoming a Harbinger by the time he was eighteen himself. Still, he was still young and he should be enjoying himself, especially for one of the long lived Xianzhou natives, Yanqing should be living life and hanging out with his friends, not getting bogged down by duties and military affairs.

Yanqing beams at him.

Oh yeah. He was definitely still a kid.

“Are you skilled at fighting? The General said you were good at fighting! Could we spar? The General always told me that the best way to improve my skills is to gain experience.”

“He’s hit the nail on its head. The man’s got some accurate and wise words.”

“The General always knows the best way to approach anything. So…will you spar with me?”

Everyone here was…just so keen on fighting with him. It was just so damn unreal that Childe blinks and stops in his tracks, turning to look at the general’s retainer.

“...I mean I’m fine with sparring with you, but don’t you have…like other activities you do in your free time? Cos I’m assuming you already do a lot of drills in the military academy you attend or something. Doesn’t it get boring?”

Yanqing stares at him like he’s grown a third head.

“Fighting new opponents is my hobby.”

Archons, this kid was exactly like him when he was younger. Except he seemed more determined and…well resolute and sane than him, being fuelled by the genuine desire to improve and get better rather than living for the thrill of the fight. Childe stares at him with raised eyebrows, urging him to say more that was not just limited to…fighting.

“Well…I’m keen on working towards my goal to become the Sword Champion on the Luofu. As long as it's something I enjoy, that counts as a hobby, right?”

“Hey, I’m someone who enjoys fighting but I’ve got other hobbies like ice fishing and spending time with my younger siblings too, you know? Training can’t be everything you occupy your time with, right?”

Yanqing stares at him, before the boy brings his hand up to his chin, pondering as he dipped his head and rested it on the back of his knuckles as he seemed to think very hard.

“....Does taking care of my weapons count?”

“No, basic weapons care falls under training. Pick something else. Surely you must do other things outside of work?”

“...I like going to shop for more swords. But I mean, is it necessary to have hobbies outside of training? Because I enjoy training just enough, and I’m pretty content with it, so it’s not a problem for me.”

This kid was one hundred percent a workaholic in the making. Someone who had spent most of their life training, and not knowing what else laid beyond. The General was the one taking care of him too? He was going to ask the man to give the poor kid a life outside of work, and introduce him to some fun stuff around here.

“I’m gonna take some of your general’s words and rephrase them a little. It’s important to get out there and experience what the world has to offer. That way, you’ll pick up on other skills and activities that you realise you’ll like.” Wow. Childe really felt like he was advising Tonia or Teucer and encouraging them to pick up something new and unfamiliar to them. After all, Morespoke was only a small town, a fishing village with nothing much to offer to them if they wanted a life beyond.

But first, they had to get out of there and know what life had to offer them. Even if it meant stepping away from the familiar comforts of the confines of their village, and venturing out into the larger capitals in Snezhnaya, or even leaving the country entirely.

Yanqing seems to ponder over his words.

“...Hmm…I guess I’ll think about it. By the way, why is the General so late?” The younger male looked around the garden, having brought the two of them over to a shaded pavilion in the centre of the large courtyard.

“Please take a seat here. I’ll head in to find him and bring him out.” Yanqing briskly walks away, as Childe catches the faint mutter of ‘The General’s been so tired recently, could he have overslept?’. Well considering what sort of back to back crises they had to handle, he supposed he could understand why. Plus, he was not in a rush anyways. He could afford to relax and wait a little.

Childe sits down on the wooden floor, making himself comfortable on the square cushion as he rests a hand on the table. The table itself resembled a marble chessboard, with the chess game reminiscent of the kind he had seen within Wangsheng Funeral Parlour and all around Liyue. More coincidences? Or simply parallels in even culture?

This universe certainly was strange. Welt’s one as well. He could not ignore the glaring similarities in names, and even the appearances of his Master and Master Skirk. Who else would he see?

His time here was a lot more interesting than he had initially thought it would be, especially with these unexpected parallels and overlapping information. It really did beg the question on the nature of what each world was made of, and what Teyvat truly was in the grand scheme of things.

He drums his finger across the table as he waits for the general.

Notes:

I actually think Childe and Yanqing could get along well, because both of them were kind of prodigies on their own terms and share a love/passion for fighting, even if their motivations are different.

Chapter 57

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Apologies for my tardiness.” The General steps up, holding a tray of tea and desserts and bringing it up to the table.

“Oh, it’s not a problem. You must be a busy person, after all!” Childe takes no offence. His presence had been quiet, still and patient, neither menacing nor lying in wait, but simply lingering.

“Please, have some tea and treats as an apology for my tardiness.” The general sits down on the seat across the table, and Childe does not miss how the two of them are positioned like opponents across a chessboard. The subtle detail irks him, and he wonders if someone like the general chose something like this on purpose. All the time paying attention to Liyuen customs and the subtleties of positioning and environment had paid off now, even after he was given a harsh slap of betrayal.

“Sure, as long as we don’t begin playing a game of chess here.” Childe takes up the offered cup of tea, smiling at the general with a seemingly offhanded tone to the man. Look, he was not here to pick a fight, but if the conversation was going to go like a chess match he would leave. He had better things to spend his time on.

He takes the cup but does not drink.

Jing Yuan glances at the unfortunate making of the table.

“Ah. That was not my intention. Rest assured, I am not here to play against you like an opponent. I should have covered up the markings if it made our discussion seem fatefully misplaced. Instead, I wanted to ask you about what happened to you that led you to the state I found you in.”

The ginger weighs the man's words, as he stares at judges the general's intentions, seeing how he seemed to be genuinely sincere in his words. Recalling Welt and Luocha’s advice, he concludes that the general had no need to treat him as an enemy. Even if he was an unknown variable, neither of them had conflicting goals or clashing ideals. The Astral Crew also praised the general for being a rational and patient ruler who sought to avoid conflict because of the trouble it would cause, which earned some amusem*nt from him.

“Alright. What is it that you want to know?”

Childe recalls with painful clarity that dawning, horrifying realisation of losing control and devolving into Foul Legacy.

“Do you recall from what means you were afflicted with mara?”

It started with the damned cup of tea.

In fact, Childe sets his own tea cup on the table, refraining from sipping at it as the vivid instance of how he had accepted that drugged cup of tea from Yueyan. While he knew that the general would not drug him or slip anything into his drink, it is the visceral instinct and gut reaction which has him set the cup down harshly.

“He slipped something into a cup of tea offered to me. Then he lit a strange lotus scented incense which shut my senses down.”

Jing Yuan winced when the man looked down at the cup he had offered him.

“I apologise if the tea has stirred up some bad memories. Would you like me to offer you water instead?”

“Save yourself the trouble, general, though I appreciate the sentiment. You have no reason to poison me, right? And you have no incense burning either, then the cup of tea should be good to drink.” Childe wonders if he is being a little more of an asshole than he normally was.

Still, he takes up the cup of tea and takes a sip.

It is light, and he can taste the scent of chrysanthemum.

The general sitting across him is pensive. The frozen look of stillness momentarily flickered across his topaz coloured eyes, before the general spoke once more.

“I’m sorry that had happened to you.”

That had not been what he had been expecting.

“...It’s not your fault. Not like you could have done much about it either, since I assume this man had to have been in hiding for some time despite active efforts to track him down. I was just unlucky, that’s all.” Well, now that he thought about it, if someone else had been drugged and put into the same situation as he had, they most definitely would not survive.

Foul Legacy had damned him and saved him all in one.

“It was something that should not have happened had we been more alert and managed our investigations better. As a guest of the Luofu, it is on us that you had to undergo an experience as traumatic as that. That as well as your encounter with…Ying-Blade.”

Childe stops himself before he repeats Yingxing’s name in full.

Close call there, Childe.

“Even the most efficient authority will face enemies that slip through the gaps. I really do not hold anything against you or your people. Plus, as long as the man is now caught, then you can consider it a debt repaid.”

Childe reaches out for one of the flower shaped cookies on the tray. The general nudges the biscuit closer to him with a finger, as the man brushes aside a stray strand of hair which had draped across his fringe.

“Very well. His capture was swift, but what was more worrying was what happened to him while he was imprisoned.”

Archons, did this criminal escape? If so, he really was going to retract his words on the efficiency of the Cloud Knights and throw himself out there to hunt the man down himself, for inflicting such a painful torture upon him and Blade, as well as those two Vidyahara children.

“He didn’t escape, did he?”

Jing Yuan is studying his response.

Chidle can feel his gaze on him, taking in his body language, both eyes levelled at him, with a patient smile set on his lips, schooled into passive neutrality.

Childe shrugs. Well, what was the general suspecting him of now? Doing something to Yueyan out of revenge? He had literally been in a minor coma and asleep the entire time.

“Thankfully, that was not the case. Instead, someone entered his cell and maimed him.”

“They maimed him? Oh, that’s great cos he deserved it.”

Jing Yuan chuckles lightly. It does not reach his eyes.

“His attacker entered the cell and removed all of his limbs from his body. Yet he still lives, by some insane miracle. I suppose the man has his ways of evading death even in such a state.”

“Woah. He didn’t die of blood loss?”

Jing Yuan shakes his head.

“It appears that the attacker wields ice as a potent weapon.”

Ah. This was what he had been getting at.

“You think someone went in there to get revenge on my behalf? General, I assure you, no one would go out of their way to do something like that for me. I’m just a passing traveller, after all. Plus, the Astral Express members aren’t the sort to do something like that for me.”

To maim someone for him? The General was strange, to have looked to him for answers. Why not Blade or the Stellaron Hunters? Kafka seemed like she would do something like that for Blade just to return a debt that had been owed. Then again, she didn’t look like an ice wielder.

And Master? Why would she go out of her way to do something like that for him?

He is certain.

Jing Yuan judges him. He lets the general judge him, their pleasant conversation turns into a barely veiled interrogation, and Childe bares a smirk at the man, which the man accepts from him.

“Alright then. Apologies if I have asked you many questions. It is only fair if you have the chance to ask me a few, or perhaps you may ask me for a favour of anything I can offer you?” The general sips at his cup.

Now he had not been expecting the man to give him some way. At the very least, he had expected the man to be like a mix between Zhongli and Ningguang, spouting something vague to brush off such disrespectful and rude topics thrown at him, particularly veiled accusations. Though it was more of Ningguang and the Qixing who liked to treat him like that, while Zhongli would have simply kept things vague.

The man was offering him an olive branch, a favour he could choose to take up. What should he ask from him, though? He was in no need of a spar or a fight, something he would have always asked and requested from anyone, since he already had such a large pool of opponents willing to spar and fight with him. Never would he have thought that there would be a day he could say this.

What then could he choose to ask the general about?

Whether Teyvat existed? It seemed unlikely though, because if someone like Master was unaware of Teyvat’s existence, with no recorded mention of it on the Astral Express’s archives, (they were literally explorers of WORLDS) and another interdimensional traveller who could not help him, then the general seemed to be unable to help him in this area as well.

“Hmm, you’ve sprung on me something I’ll need more time to consider. After all, you offered me a free favour?” He double checks with the man that that is his intention.

The general smiles and nods.

“For what you had to go through on the Luofu and my…sudden volley of questions shot at you.”

That works with him. A favour was always good to have in handy. What he was curious about but did not want to waste a favour on was…about the general himself. Who was he, to attain such a title and rank to be more or less a ruler of the Luofu, to have raised his young retainer and…being the one who ordered him to be restrained like an animal yet offered him his cloak as a pillow?

The same person who invited him for a visit at the Seat of Divine Foresight (Their headquarters, he presumed) yet also changed it around and invited him for tea within his own compound?

The snippets of him he got from Blade’s memories were fleeting.

Beyond that, well since he was already in a whole other universe, he may well simply…befriend everyone he met on his travels. Much like Aether seemed to do so with many people he had met along the way. At least he did not have to run any tasks for most of them (with Blade’s exception of course).

The more he thought about it, he really was being a full time adventurer at this point.

He did find listening to the stories of others very cool though. Like you had Dan Heng who was a dragon. Next thing he knew, the general would whip something badass out from his sleeves. Maybe some sort of spirit summon? That would be hella cool to see.

“In the meantime, would you tell me more about yourself?”

Childe invites the man sitting across from him to share more about himself.

Notes:

Jing Yuan was late on purpose to test Childe and see how he would treat Yanqing and got a gauge of his character from there + Childe about to rizz up everyone at this rate-

Chapter 58

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Jing Yuan had not been expecting this.

In the series of events he had thought would unfold, this did not align with any of them. Of course, he already had a gauge of his personality and character when he arrived ‘late’ on purpose. Yanqing seemed to enjoy his company enough, being open to having another conversation with the ginger haired male.

To have the table turned upon him and defying all of his expectations he thought would have been fulfilled, the notion that this man was a wildcard was well and truly substantiated. Here he was, with the faintest bit of hope that Master Jingliu had returned, as Yanqing had reported to him, and he thought this man would have been related to her. Perhaps he still was, and there was simply too little evidence to work with. The man seemed truthful, after all.

He also did consider whether Jingliu would do something such as execute an act in revenge, which seemed unlikely for someone like her.

He returns back to the conversation on hand.

“Hm? I didn’t expect to be the one getting interviewed now.” He returns an amused smile to the man across from him. Truly someone bold and unpredictable. It was good that the man did not seem to be an enemy of the Luofu, excluding his more vicious second side, of course. The general supposed that in such turbulent, unpredictable situations, the best move was to go with the flow.

It would not hurt to meet someone new, either.

“Well, it’s not a conversation if I’m the one doing all the talking, right? Besides, I’ve heard about your role as a general, and am curious to know what you do in your line of work. Do you stay stuck in the office or do you get to go out and you know, fight?”

The general lets out an amused chuckle.

“Well, it’s a lot of paperwork for sure. Diviner Fu leaves a new stack with the height of the length of my forearm everyday. One could even call it a never ending stack of paperwork.”

“Let me guess..reports, secret correspondences, invitations to meetings, finalised bills and accounting reports, meeting minutes and drafts of master plans?”

Huh. The man surprisingly knew the contents of his paperwork accurately down to their category. Perhaps he had worked in a similar line of work previously? Or was he simply just making a scarily accurate educated guess?

“Indeed. You got it quite spot on. Though sometimes I do get the occasional wedding proposal which I inevitably hand to my secretary to help me draft and send a rejection letter with my signature.”

What could he say? The title of being the Arbiter General’s wife was an attractive one.

Childe looks at him, the ginger bursting out into laughter. The Harbinger himself had never had to receive such a letter, likely due to his reputation as Her Majesty’s vanguard, a bloodhound with nothing but the need to slaughter. Then again, he couldn't see anyone like Arrlecchino or Capitano or even Dottore receiving marriage proposals…

“That happens?”

He was trying to imagine someone like Ningguang or even Neuvillette getting such a proposal. The mental image of envisioning both strict individuals suddenly getting propositioned was a wild thought, and one he would keep in mind whenever he was bored, to entertain himself.

“More often than you think. I suppose with the nature of us long lived species, many would rather give it a shot at least once in their lifetime before simply excluding that option altogether.”

“Please, if you have a copy, I want to look at the kind of things they write to you. Then again, you…aren’t married yourself, are you?”

Jing Yuan coughs.

“No. I’m not married.”

Childe looks at where Yanqing was peeping at them through a window, the young lad having ways to work on his subtlety and gestures at the blond haired kid. The young swordmaster gasps, realising his cover was blown, and ducks beneath the window ledge.

Jing Yuan coughs again.

“What’s his relation to you? I mean he did say he was your retainer, but the Astral Express crew tell me that he’s your son.”

The general’s eyes widened. It’s as if startling realisation washed over him, as the man turned to glance at where the window was, a jolt sent down his back as he seemed to realise something, and allowed a soft smile to grace his lips. A blanket of reassurance rested on his own shoulders, as Childe watched the man’s interesting response to the words he had uttered.

“...He’s my adopted son.”

Oh come on, how was he even supposed to retain any negative sentiment he had of the general after he admitted this? That was really adorable though? Could he even think of anyone back in Teyvat who did something similar?

Well there was how the Knave basically adopted all the children under her care…though he doubted it was with the same level of tenderness and fondness this man showed to his son.

“Please, you need to bring him out to have fun. The only thing he knows is to train and shop for swords. At least that’s from what I heard from him when I asked him if he had any hobbies. Kids need passions and to go out into the world and have fun!” Childe thinks back fondly to his siblings, to Teucer and Tonia, as he recalled the one time Teucer had snuck on a ship from Snezhnaya all the way into Liyue.

The general blinks.

“You speak with a great fondness for children. Do you have any of your own, adopted or biological?” The general asks him, as he looks at Childe with something akin to curious inquisitiveness.

Childe chokes.

“-No, no, I just have a lot of younger siblings, that’s all.”

“Ah. That makes sense.”

“Do I really look like I’m at the age where I’d be married? I’m only…what, twenty five? Well twenty eight if you consider time dilation.”

Jing Yuan stares at him.

“Apologies, I could not tell that you were so young.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment. But back to the topic, go and bring your son out to have some father son bonding activities, you know? Like fishing, hanging out or having barbecues, participating in activities and sports together, or…cooking!”

Jing Yuan sets his hand beneath his chin as he seems to consider his ideas.

“What are your thoughts on an activity like… chess?”

“Nah. Too boring. Plus, isn’t it more fun to engage in an activity where you guys are on the same side, rather than against each other? Or maybe an activity with less strategic thinking involved and more of a chill one to let loose, ya know?”

“I unfortunately do not know. Please advise me.”

Now is Childe’s turn to be amused by the whole situation.

“Any sports you know of? I mean I’m pretty sure you guys have some sort of fun sport, right? If not, you could try and go fishing, or any activity that takes place over a period of time and both of you either have fun or learn a new skill or practise something without facing each other off.”

“I suppose I can start teaching him how to cook?”

“Yep! That’s a solid start. I do the same with my siblings too.”

“But that would entail me learning how to cook…”

Childe bursts into laughter.

“Well, the both of you can learn to cook together!”

“...Hmm, I shall arrange that to be included sometime soon.”

“Mhm. The kid could do something fun and out of his usual choice of activities. And where were we? Oh right, I want to ask you more stuff as well.”

“Our conversation so far has been fruitful. Feel free to ask me more.”

“What’s your secret skill?”

“...My…secret skill?”

“You know, the thing everyone shows that they have some cool power or ability over. I have this theory that everyone I’ve met so far has some wicked cool ability. Like how Dan Heng is a dragon, Welt hiding some secret skill, or you know, like Blade’s insane healing ability. Even your retainer looks like he’s got a specialty that he has.”

Jing Yuan was thoroughly amused by how this man saw the way things worked in their world.

“Now, even if I did, why would I tell you? It is simply not prudent of me to reveal my ace up my sleeve.”

The general smiles cheekily back.

“Aww, I was betting that you were going to have something cool, like a spirit warrior god which follows your action in battle or something.”

The general could not tell if the man in front of him was joking or not. To have such an accurate guess…

Well, he wondered if he would give the ginger a chance to meet the Lightning Wielding Thunder Clapping Spirit Squashing Lord, or Lightning Lord for short.

It is a pity their discussion is cut short when Yanqing comes running towards them.

“General! There has been an issue at the Seat of the Divine Foresight! Your presence is requested immediately!” The young retainer reaches them with light footsteps, reporting ad recounting the details of several Cloud Knights who displayed symptoms of being marastruck within the office.

“I believe we will have to continue our discussion at another time. I shall see you then, Mr…”

“Childe. Call me Childe.”

“Alright then, Childe. It’s unfortunate that our discussion was cut short.”

“Duty calls and you’re a busy man after all. Go ahead.” Childe assures the man that he is fine with their broken up discussion. Though the Harbinger was interested in what caused the usually orderly Cloud Knights to become marastruck.

The general flashes an apologetic smile, as his eyes and gaze sharpens, turning his focus back to the new urgent matter on hand.

He watches the two of them leave.

Notes:

Childe and his fondness for kids, loses to Jing Yuan’s decision to bring up and adopt Yanqing.

Chapter 59

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The Knave steps on the surface of the illusory water, accompanied by the Hydro Sovereign, as Lyney, Freminet and Lynette trailed behind their group.

“So this is the Primordial Sea.” Arrlecchino murmurs, as she casts a glance at their surroundings.

“It is a part of it. The Primordial Sea is limitless, the cradle of civilisation of all life on Teyvat. It once covered the surface of our world, and this is but one small pocket of the waters which are accessible.” He explains, choosing his words carefully to conceal his knowledge about the Primordial Sea. After all, it was unwise to reveal his status as the Hydro Sovereign to the Knave, even if she already had an idea or an inkling of his true nature. There would simply be no need to confirm her suspicions.

“Is it safe for us to be here?” Freminet asks, and the Iudex nods.

“Rest assured, the Primordial Seawater can no longer harm Fontainians such as yourself. In fact, you may feel that it rejuvenates or heightens your affinity to Hydro. The crisis proved that the waters will no longer dissolve anyone.”

Freminet heaves a sigh of relief at that. He had been anxious the entire way down, as were Lyney and Lynette, though the siblings had done a far better job concealing their anxiety than him.

Neuvillette glanced at the Knave. She had hardly seemed concerned by her children’s fears, and looked utterly unphased at the lingering danger of being dissolved into water. He wondered if she had that much faith in the end of the calamity…or if she was even a true Fontainian at all. After all, he had failed to find any records of her registered birthplace within the records, and could not conclude if she was truly a native, or someone who was a Fontaine citizen in name only.

“The traveller and I fought against the All Devouring Narwhal here, where we found an unconscious Childe being hauled away by the woman who called herself Skirk. She collected the remnants of the Narwhal, which the traveller and I had managed to subdue after a long fight.”

The Iudex points at the approximate locations within the area, but with every colour and space within this pocket of the Primordial Sea resembling itself, even the gradient hues of the sky and ground were indistinguishable.

“She manifested through a dimensional rift within the tear of space, something I myself cannot fully comprehend. The Narwhal was…compressed into a dark orb, that was returned to her grasp. She proceeded to pick Childe up and tossed him into the rift, along with the Narwhal. The rift proceeded to close up behind her.”

Lyney and Lynette were exchanging some sort of furious conversation, as their Father walked over to the approximate location that the Iudex had pointed at, and pressed a clawed hand to the ground. Crimson, ghostly flames emerged from where her palm had been, attempting to singe the floor but dissipating as soon as it burst forth.

“Freminet, could you tell me if there were any disturbances in the hydro energy in this area?” The Knave asked her child, as Freminet went to her side, using his knowledge in what he knew of his time spent diving to dip his hand into the swirling mass of iridescent seawater that spiralled up into thin streams.

“...I cannot find anything different. The texture is off, but considering that it is Primordial Seawater, any traces of Childe and the woman who called herself Skirk must have been washed away a long time ago.”

Neuvillette takes a step closer to them.

“Allow me to have a try.”

He taps his cane on the floor of the Primordial Sea. Water ripples outwards, slow, calm and gentle, as Lyney watches as the ripples go around them rather than rebound from their feet, as it spreads outwards across the planes. As it passes by a certain area, the ripples halt, and hydro energy reconstructs an image of the woman, their Eleventh Harbinger, and a rift within the sea of space.

The Knave takes a closer look at the reconstruction, taking her time picking apart the finer features of Skirk, and her unconscious co-worker, who was picked up by his collar like an unruly cub and promptly hurled into the rift.

The three children watch the simulation play out, as the woman ends up dusting her hands clean.


“I’m afraid that I am unable to provide you with any conclusive evidence. It is a difficult task to track down the traces of that lady. Muchless where Childe has been transported to. Unless, you have another lead?” The Iudex had been informed by Skirk herself that Childe would be sent back to Snezhnaya, which was what had been relayed to the Knave.

“Our only lead so far has been what you informed us, as well as that woman who goes by the name of Skirk. I had hoped that your expertise would be able to provide some new insight, but it appears that her abilities are something none of us have any knowledge of.”

“I can provide some insight on her background, if it aids you in finding where Childe is.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“The woman referred to Childe as her disciple, and the Narwhal as her master’s pet. Take it as what you would, but she also mentioned names such as Surtalogi, who also goes by a title known as ‘The Foul.’ Another was of Vedfolnir, the ‘Visionary’, and Rhinedottir, ‘Gold’.” Arrlecchino frowns upon hearing those names. She herself was unaware of what their titles held, but these were definitely important individuals. Beings that the Jester no doubt would have more information on.

“Are these individuals directly involved in Childe’s disappearance?”

“No. I have simply provided you with these names in the hopes that it would help you track Skirk down. She promised to return with more answers, but changed her mind upon realising she could relay them through Childe. With Childe missing however, that seems unlikely.”

“How unfortunate. It seems like we will have to take a different approach.”

The Knave steps away from the reconstruction, her children following her.

“Thank you for your time, Monsieur Neuvillette. Your efforts in helping us have proven insightful, even if they have yet to reap any concrete leads. As you have given us all of your leads, we shall make use of them the best we can.”

Notes:

Any and all leads are unsuccessful from the Knave's end.

Chapter 60

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

It begins as a simple spar.

Master knees him in the gut, as he barely brings up a hand to block the blow. In doing so, he leaves himself and his side vulnerable as Jingliu stabs her blade across his side, drawing a deep gash across his side which bleeds.

“You’ve been out and about.”

“Yes, I’ve been trying to establish my connections, Master.”

“And Yingxing was one of them?”

“...Well if you put it that way, yes?”

Childe realises he had slipped up. The sword and its tip cuts into his throat, as blood pours and stains the front of his clothes, the harbinger clutching at his bleeding wounds as he waits for the regeneration to kick in.

Jingliu stabs her blade into the icy floor.

“You should have no knowledge of the bearer of that name.”

Exactly. Which was why he slipped up. He had not yet told them about how he had experienced a dream of Blade’s entire lifetime, summarised into a short fleeting dream. Side effects of devouring his flesh and body, he supposed. Though, they wouldn’t harm him for it, would they? At best it would be an interesting side effect.

“Well, I forgot to inform you guys that me taking a bite out of Blade had some weird side effects.”

Master simply looked unsurprised.

Childe grimaces as the wound heals. It leaves his hands and palms sticky with blood, which glow in a luminescent colour as it lightens into the colour of primordial seawater.

His gaze widens, as he tries to scoop up the liquid, wondering if he was dreaming, hallucinating from the blood loss or simply tripping.

“More side effects of devouring the Narwhal, I suppose.” Jingliu murmured, something akin to apathetic amusem*nt in her voice.

Master had removed her blindfold and stepped forward to inspect his bloodstained-seawater soaked clothes.

The sight had Childe reeling. It created and spawned more questions in his mind, as he was already trying to navigate the decision of telling his Master about all the changes his body was going through, something new continues to make itself known.

If his blood was primordial seawater, then what exactly was he?

And why hadn’t he noticed this before?

In his fight with Blade, the ground had been bloodstained-

With Blade’s blood. None of it had been his own.

He had never bled in front of the Astral Express either.

For the other times, he supposed he could chalk it up to being too busy and mentally focussed on survival and other matters than to concentrate on what exactly became of his own blood.

What did this mean?

Was he even human anymore?

So many questions, and little to no answers. More questions about whether his decision to devour the Narwhal was a smart one (of course it wasn’t. You did it when you were high on adrenaline). And now more questions on what it meant to his humanity. What it meant at all.

Was he just like those mara struck soldiers, who did not bleed, only shed wood and leaves from their wounds, the plant juices of undying, everliving tainted flora, was he like those…elemental creatures in Teyvat? To not bleed blood but to bleed pure substances instead, such as seawater.

Childe is starting to realise how he dreads learning something new about himself. More often than not, it simply proved and went to show something disturbing about himself, an alteration to his biology that he would come to regret, as he had never realised how many shreds and pieces of himself he had lost along the way.

“Will you let this new discovery hold you back? It is but a side effect. Stand tall and get up, child.”

Childe looks up at his master, as he momentarily sees the visage of Master Skirk overlapped over her own figure, and blinks.

That’s right. Get up and get going. Something like this was part of the careless choice he had made without realising the consequences. It was only something he could live with now, to carry on and keep moving forward.

“Simply because your body and its functions have changed does not mean that you are any less.” His master raised her blade against him. Childe flicks his arm, sending the seawater scattering across the ice beneath both of their feet.

He calls forth Foul Legacy, as the growing craving in his stomach begins to grow.

“No. No relying on Foul Legacy this time. I want to see how you perform at your baseline.”

The abyssal being within him reluctantly returns back to his slumber, as Childe could only call forth the glaive that Foul Legacy utilised as a spear and a lance when needed. Its heavy weight was a far cry from the light swiftness of his hydro weapons, and he finds himself sorely missing their familiar styles.

Fighting barehanded against his master who was armed with a sword was still simply suicide, and he knew that, but chose to move on regardless. The way Master Jingliu trained him was just like how Master Skirk had, and If the latter had been able to push him to newer heights by throwing him into the deep end, then the same should work in this case.

Except-

He feels the icy blade stab his torso.

Childe chokes on blood, as he slams his elbow down on the thin blade, which does not shatter, as his Master stares at him, eyes cold and unfeeling, his blood drenching her blade.

“If I leave my weapon within your wounds, you will not heal. Correct?”

His master was cruel indeed.

Him at his baseline could not hold even a candle to a raging inferno that was his master in a strength of fighting capabilities.

To strip him of both his vision and Foul Legacy, he was left with nothing.

Nothing but his human instincts and the Narwhal's power.

The pain is fleeting, as he devours the concept of pain being inflicted upon his person. Except…what would he become if he could no longer feel pain?

Master twists the blade in his abdomen and the agony nearly causes him to black out.

Black spots dance across his gaze, as Jingliu watches him with cold, cruel eyes, filled with the absolute certainty that this was the only way for him to go.

Childe barks out a pained cry. It is cut off by a choked gurgle of liquid that fills his lungs, as Master's blade cuts into something else.

Blood pours from his wound, standing his clothes and flowing in thick heavy streams down his skin. Holding onto Master's blade, he tries his best to wrench it out, but she follows through by driving it deeper into his torso. She is relentless, pushing and driving the blade of her sword deeper down until it piercers through his abdomen, slow, painful and excruciating as Childe chokes and gasps with a pained howl.

This was what Blade had felt. To be broken by pain and honed to be a weapon by someone merciless.

If only he had his hydro vision.

Master materialises another blade and swings it down on his neck.

The possibility of death swarms his mind.

A finality to all things he still had left undone and unsettled, to which he realised that the repercussions of his death and end would branch out endlessly.

If only.

He glances down at the blood that pools in his clenched fists.

They shimmer with the colour of primordial seawater.

It takes a split second for it to click.

Jingliu’s blade lands on his throat, digging into the flesh of his neck with brutal strength, only for it to be halted by a shimmering blade of swirling water, the Harbinger huffing as the blood which dropped from his lips is drawn towards the blade he had formed.

He has bled enough to form his pair of hydro blades. It comes to him instinctively, a raw savage wild vision to utilise and twist his own blood into weapons, a feral need to simply will it to happen.

Blood and seawater mingle to form a pair of blades in his hands.

Childe leapt back, his favoured pair of weapons now back in the palm of his hands, having thrown himself off from the death grip of his master's thrust. The pain began to fade away, replaced by sharp, honed reassurance, the sign of a new turn in the tide of battle that came when a new element entered the fray.

Both his masters really knew how to push him to the brink.

It was always on the cusp of death where he had an epiphany, and insight, that wild, savage inspiration that fuelled his exponential prodigal growth that propelled him to be the Vanguard he was today.

The ginger chuckles, as he readies and steadies his stance, wounds healing and pain long forgotten as adrenaline thrums in his veins, numbing all pain with the blessing of a new revelation available to him. Something to work with, to increase his options, and to excel in.

Putting distance between himself and his master, he shapes the weapon in his hands into a twilight javelin, which he throws at his master. The weapon misses as Jingliu sidesteps the projectile, only to be caught in its sharp explosive blast of highly pressurised water. She reflects and freezes it before it touches her skin, but by then Childe has already made the next move and lunged at her with his pair of hydro blades, wielding them with the swirling dexterity.

Jingliu’s next few moves come at him with cold, lethal efficiency.

Childe responds with agile, flowing grace, the familiar style he had honed returning back to him. With this makeshift hydro in the form of his own lifeblood, he moves and twists, darts and turns between blows, and raises his new arsenal against his master.

They fight.

He had an inkling that Master was going easier on him compared to the moment where she had been determined that she was willing to kill him if he failed to push past his own limits, and this mercy was a reward for achieving a satisfactory outcome.

It comes to a draw when she shatters his weapons. Rather, they dissolve and fall away just as he was about to deal what should have been a critical blow were his master, anyone normal, but he knew she would block it with those inhuman reflexes of hers.

Ice meets water, and water falls away into a harmless pool of liquid which stains the ice, as Childe pants heavily, each breath letting out a puff of mist due to how cold his master’s aura was.

Jingliu stabbed her blade into the ice.

“You will practise a thousand swings each day, until your blades hold up in shape and form.”

Childe groans.

“Yes master.”

He could see where she was coming from. To ensure his weapons held their shape in his grasp, lest they fall apart on him in a critical moment.

She tied her blindfold back on, allowing her own thin shard like blade to shatter into a puff of crystal ice, glittering faintly in the moonlight like colourful dust as they settled on the ice.

“Reflect on what went right and what failed miserably. You’re dismissed.”

“...Yes Master.”

Their training ends just like that.

While it might have been short, it gave him a lot to think about. His own constitution, if he were not mortal or a human anymore, to have blood that was actually primordial seawater…but also a weapon he could use.

He settles down on the icy floor, crossing his legs as he begins to ponder.

That as well as how he realised the Narwhal and Foul Legacy was slow to react to his Master’s blade. Did Master possess a monstrous battle prowess so much so that he would not even have time to react or think to call them forth, or had they simply chosen not to instinctively protect him? Both seemed equally plausible, though he had doubts that Foul Legacy would not rise up to protect its host.

Then it simply meant that Master was strong, no, fast enough to kill him if it boiled down to that.

That as well as…how he perceived threats.

What had began as a simple spar had turned into a death match, one he had failed to realise until it was nearly too late. So perhaps Foul Legacy and the Narwhal reacted based on what and who he considered life threatening. Though he could not quite vouch for the Narwhal yet, seeing how he had failed to summon it of his own will.

Moreover, he now needed to know what the activation conditions for the Primordial Seawater / blood was.

More things to think about.

Childe huffs, as he laid down on the icy sheet.

He was tired, and he wanted to rest.

-

Luocha muses on the frailty of their guest.

Jingliu shatters her blade, dispersing it into shards which melt in the wind, as she strode over to her companion’s side.

“Are we behind on our schedule?”

Luocha looks at her, and then turns to look at a resting Childe.

“We will be, soon. Yueyan’s capture has brought about a sequence of events that were not part of our plan, and has drawn the attention of the General. Our time with him will be cut short.”

Luocha sighed.

“Perhaps we should not have spent so much effort entertaining him. I was hoping he would be spending more time with the Astral Express instead, and not with us, but it seems like we shall have to keep him company slightly longer than expected. What a predicament we have on our hands, hm?”

Jingliu is silent.

Notes:

From this moment here on out, Jingliu’s companion quest will also deviate from canon.

Chapter 61

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Jing Yuan gazes at the report down on his desk.

His head throbs.

He realised that there was something off about the incident of the Marastruck Cloud Knights. The common ties which linked them all together was the fact that they had been part of the taskforce that had been sent to subjugate Yingxing and Childe.

The both of them had been drugged by something, and he could confirm that Childe likely had a strain of mara that had been introduced into him by way of the Draught of Draconic Surge. Ying-No, Blade, was naturally already mara struck. The compilations of reports from the IPC about Blade which he managed to get his hands on had shown him that fact.

So, how had the remaining Cloud Knights become mara struck? Despite not having a trace of the Draught of Draconic Surge in their systems, having their backgrounds checked to be clean off any and all possible ties to the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus, nor at risk of being mara struck due to their strong mental state and being younger than him by several hundred years.

He had the Seat of Divine Foresight trace the past activities the Cloud Knights had engaged in ever since the clash between Childe and Blade happened, alongside their diets, any interactions, to track any potential leads.

If there certainly was something able to make some of his best knights suddenly fall into a state of mara struck like that, no one would be safe onboard the Luofu.

This new investigation would be an urgent one.

Especially since it cost him seven of his senior Cloud Knights, which had to be subjugated by himself, Yanqing and a few others. All of them were good men, now getting checked out by the best doctors and pharmacists that were available, including Bailu.

Were this mass outbreak of mara spread or occur once more amongst civilians or within one of their places of governance, it would incite a panic amongst the people.

Jing Yuan massages his temples as he returns to weighing all the problems the Luofu was currently facing. He could not lose anymore manpower, or have the people lose their lives and lose their faith in the Cloud Knights.

He drums his finger on the table, tapping on the half filled parchment paper as he scribbles down a timeline of events and sketches out a flowchart on a blank area.

He is half way done when he feels something trickle down over his lip.

It drips onto the paper, blossoming as a red blood stain which blooms a small tendril like growth on the paper.

Jing Yuan pinches his nose and tilts his head down, as he feels more blood dripping from his nose, the first time he has had a nosebleed in nearly a few hundred years. The handkerchief he pulls out stems the blood, as it collects on the white satin fabric, the general wincing at the discomfort as he lifts the paper up to the light.

His head throbs.

His eyes do not lie to him.

On the bloody sheet of paper, he sees tendrils of something spreading out and across where the few drops of his blood had landed and spread itself across the parchment, resembling something akin to veins and roots.

His blood is contaminated with something he knows not of, as he waits for the bleeding to slow before he finds a bag to toss the handkerchief in, sealing it away and inside the pouch. Perhaps a poison, a sickness related to plant infested spores? Where could he have been poisoned? The food he consumed had been checked and taste tested by the usual testers on his behalf, perhaps it was an airborne poison? A poison passed through skin contact?

Was this poisoning related to Yueyan’s capture state?

With a free hand, he runs his fingers down the files and stacks of reports to find the medical report performed on the mara struck Cloud Knights, and flips it open.

If his suspicions were correct…

His eyes scan the line of words which confirm his train of thought.

‘Blood contaminated by unidentified plant growth.’

Jing Yuan frowns, as he begins to conceive a plan of action. Seeing the doctor was the first course of action, but he wonders if it will be of any use as they had their hands full with trying to cure the recently turned Cloud Knights. The report stated that it was an induced state of mara, without the usual growths the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus exhibited on their physical body. Whatever the poison was, its effects were milder but no less dangerous.

If he recalls what he did in the past few days, it would have to be Yueyan’s capture. Meeting Childe for the first time. Meeting him a second time. Subjugating the marastruck Cloud Knights.

Looking at the timeline, his knights had faced the worst of its effects four days after Yueyan’s capture. He looks at his own timeline. The effects only began to show on its fourth day. He tentatively gives himself another three days.

He drums his fingers across the desk, as he finds the frosted envelope, its contents already opened up as he rereads the date of their final reunion.

Three days.

It was clear that he should prioritise his own health. The fastest, most logical decision considering his status, the current instability onboard the Luofu, and how he had yet to prepare Diviner Fu for her future role. It would be selfish to leave so many things on Yanqing’s shoulders as well.

There was no cure yet, though their top healers and alchemists were working to reverse the harm done to the Cloud Knights who were affected. Even then, they had been taken to the Shackling Prison and had been induced into a comatose state to preserve their life and halt the spread of mara within their bodies.

There must be something he can do to extend the time he potentially has left.

For all the things he had left undone, yet to be completed, he could not leave just yet. Even more so due to an unexpected poisoning attempt that none had seen coming. He issues an order to have the evidence collected, particularly the lotus incense burner, after Childe’s words come to his mind.

He sets his plan straight.

To ward off Diviner Fu from questioning his absence, he’ll inform her that he would be visiting Scalegorge Waterscape and the Alchemy Commission to see how things were on the ground over there. (He was planning to hunker down there until the time came, but also because it was close to the Alchemy Commission). Sure, she would argue something about it being inefficient, but then he’d retort with wanting to be there in person to see how the sentiments are, instead of getting some veiled reports written by others.

As for Yanqing….

A familiar ginger haired male comes to mind.

“That should work.”

Now, he needs to make a call to Lady Bailu.

-

The sword champion watches her pitiful disciple.

Time was running out, and she was already behind on both her and Luocha’s schedule.

She had no more time left to spare. To have spent so many extra days indulging in the whims of this child, to even go so far as to hunt Yueyan down…she was growing soft.

She could not allow this weakness to jeopardise the plans that had to unfold.

She decides to rid herself of him.

Notes:

Jingliu’s companion quest will change. Also expect some Childe n Yanqing interactions. This dude seriously has a ton of parallels and ppl he shares character traits with ngl

Chapter 62

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

March 7th:

Childe, are you free to hang out with us today??

You:

Sadly, I’m pretty preoccupied with something on my end today, won’t be able to make it, but appreciate the offer!

Stelle:

Woah. What do you have on?

Dan Heng:

@Stelle it’s rude to pry into the matters of others.

March 7th:

But it’s only rude if we press them!

You:

well…I’m not at a liberty to say what it is, except that I’ve been given a rigorous training routine to complete over the next few days

Dan Heng:

Training routine? Did you not just recover from your clash with Blade?

Childe chuckles to himself, and wonders if Stelle must be doing the same from her end.

You:

I recover pretty quickly and shrug off mortal wounds like it’s nothing. Trust me. Plus, my training is something boring like swing a blade a thousand times except I’ve got to create the blade by myself and make sure it doesnt break with each swing

Stelle:

his training arc begins

March 7th:

Ooooooo can we join you?

Dan Heng:

@March 7th, he’s already said its something monotonous. Such training is meant to build focus and discipline. We won’t be doing him a favour by being there.

Stelle:

Let’s leave the man to his training arc, u guys. Don’t yalls know the protagonist always does it alone?

March 7th

No??

Dan Heng:

Apologies for the confusion. Childe, we shall leave you to your training. Have a…good time?

You:

Thanks! You guys go ahead and have a blast without me as well 🙂

Childe fumbles to find the emoji.

March 7th:

OMG he’s found the emojis!

Stelle:

Time to send him the Pom Pom sticker pack. [Sticker pack sent]

Childe chuckles as he scrolls through what was sent to him. Wait…this…this was the conductor of the Astral Express? He realises in that moment that for all the times he had been on the train he had yet to see the conductor in flesh, and thought it would have been a person or you know, a humanoid being. Only for it to be a…long eared rabbit?

Perhaps it knew of Teyvat.

He’d have to ask it one day, when he went onboard once again.

He sets his phone done on the slab of ice, as he begins to swing his blade once more. His short break was over.

Master watches him from the side.

“More power. Fix your grip. Adjust your stance.”

“Yes master.”

The blade of Primordial Seawater falls apart just as he reaches mid swing.

The Harbinger bites back a huff, as he tries to recall the sensation of summoning Hydro, hoping that he would not have to resort to cutting himself to let his blood bleed forth and form in his palms. He had already spent the morning doing so, and having to turn his blade on his own wrists and even a major artery made him feel sick and uneasy, a discomfort he was ashamed that Master had caught onto.

He knows that such a violent, invasive method will work, especially because he has seen how Blade weaponises his own blood as a vicious curtain of life stealing liquid, one that cuts into skin and rends flesh, but the man is more than willing to employ any means to achieve his goals and bloody victory.

And him, Childe?

He could turn his own blade on himself if needed, but because he healed quickly, he needed to make deep wounds often, which caused the starving feeling in his stomach to grow, coupled with the discomfort of simply stabbing himself or digging a blade deep into his own flesh which simultaneously made him want to retch and yet bite down on his own bleeding, raw flesh.

Hence that was why Master had given him the mandatory short break to answer his messages.

To pull Primordial Seawater forth was something he had still yet to manage, and with every blade he lost control over he would have to draw more blood and go again. It is a slow, painful, frustrating task, where his own failure was a punishment upon itself, but he knew he needed to get this right, to master another aspect of which the Narwhal had given to him.

In the past, visualisation had worked seamlessly as a means to control his hydro blades and weapons, water flowing easily and readily from the turbulent thrum of power gifted to him by his Hydro vision. No doubt a gift from Celestia to make it much easier to wield his abilities, and now after being disconnected from Teyvat in nearly every way, he was forced to draw on his own abilities. Namely Foul Legacy and now the Narwhal.

Talk about independence.

It was more of him being dependent on these two beings that coexisted within his own body.

His stomach growls audibly.

Something is tossed at him, and Childe catches it with his hand.

Master had thrown him a nutrient bar.

He thanks her as he takes a bite of the food item, as he continues to ruminate over what he needed to do in order to permanently summon and wield Primordial Seawater like he did with his hydro.

Thinking of his vision made him wonder what it must be like for Aether who still held onto it. Well…he’d like to think that he still kept it with him. How much time had even passed back in Teyvat? Would the Fatui have sent out more people to look for him? Perhaps even drag Arrlecchino back into this mess.

Behind him, he hears the sharp footsteps of his master.

“Must you be plunged into the depths of despair to call upon your trump card?”

She had long since discarded the blindfold over her eyes, as the thin, icy blade of hers materialised within the grip of her hand. Childe grew wary at her sudden change in attitude, taking note that she had been more proactive the past few days in training, a newfound sense of urgency that had been pushed to the forefront.

Had he done badly? Perhaps his run in with the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus had made it apparent to her that he was still too weak. Too weak to live in this world, to take care of himself, compared to the hundreds of others who were stronger than him.

Childe grits his teeth as he clenches his fists.

He thought he was making good progress.

But this was master, after all. It would not be enough to satisfy her.

“I’ve tried this the gentle way. You still lack the capacity to wield the Narwhal’s power. You still have matters left undone, no? Have you forgotten what your goal is?”

Master’s words cut into him.

“Perhaps your time here has made you soft. Grown attached to the Astral Express, and perhaps…the Stellaron Hunters?” Her crimson eyes pierces his soul. For a single moment, Childe is frozen.

Attachment.

How much had he forgotten of his goal of returning home?

Was that not why he did everything he had done in the first place?

Him being attached to the Astral Express and its crew, he could not deny that. The times he had spent with them were some of the best he’d had with strangers and travellers in his entire life, and the thought of never being able to see them struck a painful chord in his heart.

Tartaglia would not have had this problem.

“No matter. Your will is weak. Weaker than the version of you from before. The version of you that had fought for years whilst being trapped in the purgatory against the Narwhal had more potential than you now. I will not have you waste my time any more.”

Her pale blue hair sways coldly in the wind, as the ice beneath his feet adds on an additional layer of thick chill, the ground beneath his feet turning cold as frost begins to climb up his shoes.

An ultimatum was coming.

She was right. He had been a poor disciple. One whose will wavered in the face of attachment and friendship, to have forgotten his own goal to leave and depart from this world.

“As your master, I will not have a disciple that is so pitiful. I have no more time to wait for you to improve, and your newfound companions will never let you die to be reborn anew. If I must give you death to reach the peak of your power, then I will.”

Her crimson eyes pin him down, the weight of a finality settled as she made her choice. They are dead, utterly inhumane and leaving no room for compassion, merely apathy for a poor product that would soon be disposed of. There was no more room for mercy, unlike the other times where she had pushed him to his limits to help him make new breakthroughs. Now, she simply sought to put an end to him, to tie up any loose ends she had before her own departure.

Childe is left standing in the wake of impending death, instinct torn as he faced the betrayal of his master. Or perhaps, an inevitable, fated outcome that was always going to occur. His weakness, his inability to grow and learn as quickly had caused his master great disappointment.

It leaves him feeling hollow.

He thought he had been doing well, all things considered.

There is no time to dwell, no time to think, as his instincts scream at him to save himself from what was to come.

Jingliu lunged at him, as he materialised and called Foul Legacy forth, the abyssal entity reacting to the raw bloodlust emanating from their opponent, armour forming just in time as the ice beneath his feet shoots upwards in thick spears towards him. A twirl of his electro spears shatters the ice, giving him space as he raises his staff to block the frontal stab from his master.

Her thrust shatters his staff, despite him glancing off the blow, frost travelling down and causing his electro blade to spark and explode.

The resulting mist blinds his vision, as he sharpens his other senses to anticipate where the next attack was coming from, only for a wave of ice to collide onto his person from above, a blow silent and crushing.

Ice bore down on his person as the frost seeped down on his armour, and Childe growled in response as the frost clung to his skin and seeped through his armoured plates.

He dodges the next attack out of pure instinct, as he realises how relentless his master truly was at the peak of her power.

When he managed to dodge her thrusts, the ice beneath his feet shot upwards to spear through his own body, being blocked off by Foul Legacy’s armoured plating. Every step he took was a minefield, and he was forced to rely on Foul Legacy’s partial levitation in order to keep himself from detonating the attacks from his blindspots, especially since he could not afford to split his attention down between a deadly swordmaster and the death traps beneath him.

Jingliu is out to slaughter.

Even so, attacks managed to get through, as he felt the air around him grow heavy and colder, harder to breathe in and inhale as he kept up with trying to parry and even counter his master’s attacks, attention divided when even the moisture in the air around him turned into deadly projectiles.

When everything around him, controlled by ice and snow, was beginning to wear down on his senses, the cold acting as a poison in his lungs, the frost chipping away at his armour, her blows all out to maim if not kill.

He rematerialises his glaive to block a swing she had directed towards his neck, aiming to sever his head from his shoulders.

His eyes widen from behind his mask as it shatters the glaive, and proceeds to remove his right arm from wrist onwards.

Childe freezes.

Blood spurts from the wound, as he regains enough focus to pull away and back, clutching at the stump where his right hand was.

A million different thoughts come crashing down on him at once, as the ice from her blade freezes his injured wrist, preventing him from utilising his blood as additional weapons.

f*ck.

He was f*cked.

He watches master coldly stab a hole in the ice and kick the remnants of his severed hand into the icy depths below.

Could he regenerate his limb? Flesh and bone respond, muscles and tendons repairing the stump, only to be halted by the cold.

All this time, and he hadn’t realised, but Master had caught on quickly to his own weaknesses and limits. Left panting from the exhaustion and choking air that was robbing him of his breath, Childe realises that each hit she landed on him was designed to stop him from healing.

The frost spreads from the stump of his injured right arm and along his forearm.

He makes the choice to recall Foul Legacy’s armour and remove the frostbitten part of his arm, willing it to heal because he needed his limbs in order to stay alive, in order to defy death once and to live. He regains his right hand quickly enough.

He needs to live.

Master stares at him as if he were a mistake.

His will wavers.

Childe swallows, as she leapt into the air.

He needs to get a sure fire hit on her.

In a haunting mid air twist mid leap, with the moon’s cruel light behind her, Jingliu swung her blade down upon him.

He tries to sidesteps the next blow, raising his left armoured arm to halt the downwards swing launched at him. Icy sickles rain from the sky, causing an explosion of frost and snow where they landed on the ground, as Childe called forth all that Foul Legacy could give him to meet her blow. He would show her all he had, even if she had chosen to forsake him.

For he was still Tartaglia, her majesty’s eleventh Harbinger.

Delusion fed into abyssal madness, a betrayal distilled down into self loathing which fed Foul Legacy’s bloodthirsty nature and fuelled its tarnished, tainted power, to fight for a single chance to live.

Lightning and ice clash, Childe raising his reforged glaive once more and pointing it towards her blow.

Now or never.

The air between them explodes in the conclusion of their clash. Shockwaves ripple outwards, cracking the ice across the surface of the pond beneath them.

Jingliu pushes her blade firmly into his gut.

Blood dribbles from his lips.

With a grunt, he allows his master’s blade to stab into his abdomen, piercing the frost weakened armour just to land a single blow back on her, the desperate swing of a single hydro blade he forged from his own blood.

The thin graze on her cheek began to bleed, a line of red which appeared as a result of his feeble blow.

Childe laughs, choking on his own blood.

Jingliu’s eyes flickered to the wound on her face, as she twisted the blade in his gut.

Childe finds himself growing used, growing numb to all the pain he had to go through.

“...M-Master-”

Would his words even make a difference?

“Even on the brink of death, you still disappoint me.”

He knew, hadn’t he? That deep down, this was her true nature. All this time, she had been more focussed on his goal to get him home than he himself had. Even if…he had thought that they had spent good times together.

Who was he kidding?

Jingliu was a monster.

She had only entertained him out of her own amusem*nt.

"Perhaps you may be worth my time still."

Once his value ran out, he would be disposed of.

When did he forget that this world could also be equally cruel?

This was all the more confirmed when her blade exploded within his gut, leaving him wracked in agony as the thick shards of ice buried themselves within his organs, piercing his lungs, cutting into his spine and breaking his ribs.

She tips his body over into the murky depths below the shattered ice.

Notes:

She moves forward, and never looked back.

Chapter 63

Summary:

3K KUDOS BONUS CHAPTER!

Thank you to everyone for being part of this journey, I DIDNT EXPECT THIS FIC TO BLOW UP LIKE IT DID

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Water fills what remains of his lungs.

A violent death, as he is plunged into the freezing sea beneath.

Childe struggles, as the ice reforms over the surface, leaving him gasping for air and choking on what little oxygen he had left. He should…He pounds at the ice beneath him, even as the frost continues to spread beneath the water, his wounds unable to heal.

It is with panicked desperation, as the possibility of truly dying sinks in. Fingers morph into monstrous claws in a last ditch attempt, as Childe embraces what Foul Legacy has left to offer him, to tread water with his only remaining arm. Even the ravenous beast was trapped, a despair drowning both of them as they tried to swim desperately to the surface.

For the first time, Foul Legacy feels fear.

The abyssal being which had always longed for blood and madness had truly fallen back on its base instincts, a resonance with the human fear of death that Childe felt.

He claws desperately at the surface, trying to break the ice with any means possible.

Bubbles of air escape from his mouth and nose, clouding his vision as he loses more precious air.

He slams a fist against the ice.

Again.

And-

Again.

It does not fracture.

It does not crack.

His efforts are futile, because Master would not give him a chance to live.

His air runs out.

Foul Legacy pulls itself back into itself, leaving him vulnerable to the cold water. It was not meant to live underwater, after all. Every movement he makes is accompanied by the excruciating, burning pain in his injured lungs, as the water and the cold stings his vision.

Childe…lets go of the possibility of breaching the surface.

If Master wanted him dead, he would not be given a chance to live.

Black spots dance across his vision, the fading light of the surface nothing but a mere illusion to the fate he could have avoided. He wonders why he was so weak. Why he had been so greedy to seek the tutelage of someone so cold and cruel. Who was he kidding? He was simply drawn to power and strength, regardless of who possessed it.

What would the Astral Express think of this?

What would Blade think of this?

What would…his siblings think of his death?

He falls deeper into the watery abyss.

None of them would remember him. Even if they did, what could they do with the news of his death? Nothing would change that. To lose all these precious friends as quickly as he got to know them, perhaps this simply was the way his life would always turn out.

He was a Harbinger, after all.

The Fatui never got attached because death could come at any moment.

Not just from their enemies, but from the betrayal of their own allies.

He is left alone in the darkness, gradually being robbed of his own life by the growing, crushing weight of water around him, as water enters his lungs and he claws at his own throat weakly. There is no breath left for him to take, as he thrashes instinctively, tearing at open wounds, as his blood seeps into the water.

He closed his eyes.

No one could save him now.

Gone was every other opportunity he would have had, as he ruminates his last few conscious thoughts. In the end, the only one he could depend on was himself. Yet he was still too weak to save himself.

He thinks back to the Astral Express.

If only they could lend him a hand.

He thinks back to Blade.

Would the man frown at the way his life would be snuffed out?

All of his unfinished business in Teyvat still awaited him.

These thoughts were pointless. Simply the last few regrets of a man doomed to die, as Childe contemplates whether he should devour the concept of his own death. What master had pushed him to do through this, despite how he still wanted to stay human.

He hates how he is always, always the one backed and pushed into a corner. Forced to submit to a fate not of his own design, to be moved like a puppet and discarded once his value ran out.

To be given a taste of paradise, before being robbed of everything he had.

He is sick of this.

Sick of always being dealt with a sh*tty hand, to be thrown around like a ragdoll.

Frustration and lingering resentment, watered and groomed by betrayal, bloom into tarnished, pointed acrimony. From then on, the Narwhal’s host desired something more, to spite the loneliness he was always forced into, fuelled by the staunch, bitter will to refuse the fate that had been dealt to him. Childe bares his will against the world, unwilling to accept this unfairness once more.

He had suffered, he had toiled, and he refused to die a pathetic death like this.

He calls out to the last being who still stayed by his side.

The Narwhal answers.

Notes:

To struggle is to grow.

Chapter 64

Notes:

To those who want an explanation and a very thorough answer on what Childe did, you may be disappointed cos it comes much, much later on in a more...grand reveal *Winks*

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Yanqing was patrolling around Starskiff Haven, making his usual rounds as the General had asked him to. Completing his usual routines before meeting up with a colleague from the Divination Commission who went by the name of…Qingque?

Wasn’t she the one who was about to be demoted to “door guardian” of the commission for always slacking off?

Yanqing questions the General’s decisions.

“Take it as having some time off from your usual missions. You’ve done a lot, so you should be taking a break.”

Yanqing had looked at the General, wide eyed.

Jing Yuan had looked at him with a playful smile, as the retainer wondered what was going on.

“General, just be honest. Did I do something that didn’t meet your expectations? If so, please let me know so I can improve on my mistakes!”

That…was the default response, wasn’t it? After all the previous times, the general had sent him away in the midst of apprehending the criminals aboard the Luofu, and he had to leave him to confront them alone. The unpleasant feeling pools in his gut once more. The nagging feeling that he was being a burden in all of these situations only grew.

Yanqing steeled himself.

He would prove himself to the General, as long as the man gave him a chance to redeem himself.

“...No, no. You didn’t do anything wrong or make any mistakes, Yanqing.” The general sounded pained. Yanqing fidgets with the tassel of his sheathed sword.

“It’s just that…I wanted you to get to know more people. Befriend a few people from the Divination Commission.”

Oh. To…improve his connections and social network? He thought he had been doing just fine with the few friends he had in the Cloud Knights. Though he had to admit, he rarely got to see them these days due to their differing duties and schedules.

“Alright. Who am I going to befriend?”

Yanqing can feel something different in the atmosphere. It comes to him like nature, as his hand moves to the hilt of his sword, a change in the air, the mood of the people around him, as he watches the voices and the reactions of the people around him. There was no change in the surroundings, not anything that could be felt with his five senses, simply a sharp, unfiltered emotion of a potential danger that hung over his head.

It was an instinct that was honed through countless battles that was alarmed at this change.

Stiff movements, hurried anxious footsteps away from someone, or something. The Foxian’s ears were bowed and twitching, as they hurried away from the lone Starskiff dock located at the furthest end of the port. The place was already more or less deserted, with only a few merchants or travellers hurriedly leaving and vacating the area, as Yanqing drew closer to investigate.

Out from the Starskiff, stumbled out something, drenched in still drying blood and tattered clothes, as it raised its head to look at him.

Yanqing draws his blade from his sheathe. All of his instincts told him to slay this monster before him before it could have the chance to bring destruction to everything else around it.

He must kill whatever laid within it, because his very being told him that it was something that should not exist.

The being staggers out of the Starskiff, hands drenched in blood that seemed to gleam an iridescent hue.

“State your intention.”

It growls at him, a low, warning sound as it steps onto the port. It sounds almost…wounded, as Yanqing studies its features more carefully. A single streak of silver hair was a sharp contrast to the ginger coloured hair, reminding Yanqing of the guest the General had brought around a few days ago. Its clothes were stained with blood, crimson that shifted into a different shade when the light from the sky refracted against its surface, proof that it was something not quite human.

Yanqing is immediately aware that this is no Disciple of Sanctus Medicus, though the remaining plates of armour on the individual’s body is of an unidentifiable silver and violet colour. Was this being a threat? Who even was this? He tightens the grip on his sword, as he pointed his blade at the being.

Every fibre of his body was telling him to swing his blade, to call forth all of his flying swords to spear and skewer this abomination before him, even if it had made no move to attack. It radiated a sickly aura of hunger, a wounded, tarnished madness, the scent of sea water and salt that stung his own nose, as Yanqing prepared a signal flare if he needed to call for reinforcements.

It takes another step forward, using a bloodied hand to push the wet, mangled hair out from its face and messily comb it back, an almost human-like reaction that gives the retainer some pause. Being in a civilian area, he would like to avoid any conflict as possible, even with this being who seemed so strange and out of place.

It stares back at him mournfully with a familiar face.

“...Food. I need food.”

The time between the words he had spoken, and the face he had seen, the swordmaster debates, a flurry of emotions, confusing and conflicted thoughts that surge to the forefront of his mind. He tries to determine what the right move in this scenario would be, and weighs his options.

Yanqing sheaths his sword back in its scabbard and steps forward to help the General's guest.

Childe stumbles, catching onto the railing to halt his fall as he slumps against the barrier, well and truly exhausted. His hands and limbs are foreign to himself, scales and crystallised skin beneath the thin coat of blood they were drenched in, as the hunger is painful.

The retainer that had rushed forward to help him was growing to be an ideal source to satiate his hunger, a dangerous thought that pushed itself to the forefront of his mind as Childe chokes.

“F-Food. Now.”

Yanqing’s eyes widen as he sees the man’s limbs spasm, shimmering scales along the length of his limbs that refract and distort in the light of the artificial sun, and he hurriedly pulls out some of the food he had been planning to give to Qingque as a welcome gift. Namely, a box of Berrypheasant Skewers, as he hands them over to Childe who tears into it with vicious ferocity.

Yanqing feels like he is watching a wild beast devour its prey.

He has no idea who this person is, being a far cry from the polite, friendly man he had met a few days before. All he knows is that this man was hungry, and if he gave him enough food to satiate his hunger, he would not turn his vicious sights on anyone else.

The young swordsman watches from a distance afar, as the scales and strange armoured plates along the man’s hand recede, as did his breath steady and even out. Had he really been that hungry? He almost looked like a demon when he had been starved. Yanqing wonders if it’s due to some latent ability he possessed. He really should inform the General about this…

The man had told him he’d be busy for the next few days and away from home, though. So he isn’t too sure if he can find him for help on this.

The next few people he wanted to ask was…The Nameless, from the Astral Express.

He sends Stelle a text, only for her to inform him that she was away from the Xianzhou Luofu for the next few days to participate in some event back in…Jarilo-VI? She was manning a museum? The blond swordsman shrugs, as he turns back to Childe.

He supposed he would have to take care of this guest for the time being.

“Are you feeling better now? Or should I bring you to see a healer?” Yanqing got closer, asking tentatively, as he blinked at where he had seen bloodstained clothes before, finding them dried out and wrung into the shade of something violet, as the man before him had half collapsed and half sat down on the bench.

Where bloodied hands and bare skin was supposed to be, was now left flawless and untouched, as the ginger carded his fingers through his tangled hair in a bid to neaten them up, elbow leaning on the arm rest as he sighed.

“I’m good for the time being. Don’t need to waste a healer’s time. Could use more food though,” After seven sticks of Berrypheasant skewers he still felt starved, but had recovered sufficiently to…deactivate all of his abilities.

The retainer wonders what he should do with such a loose cannon around. Not to be mean to the general's guest, but the way he had turned up just then had been something that could have easily sparked panic and fear amongst many others. Even if the man meant no harm. He himself could not tell if the man truly needed medical aid, either. However, if the man insisted that he was fine, then he would leave him be. Someone like him should know his own limits, after all.

As for what to do with him…he wanted to keep an eye on the man, just in case something bad happened. The General had said that this was the man who had come to blows with the Stellaron Hunter during the infamous criminal Yueyan’s capture, and was owed a peace of mind for being dragged into the internal conflicts aboard the Luofu. Though Yanqing knew that if anyone dared try to harm this man, they would likely be on the receiving end instead.

Still, that means that he should keep an eye on the man just in case he turns out to be a danger to others.

He keeps his eyes on the man, who seemed to recover quickly from wounds he suffered previously, from what or who, Yanqing did not know. The way his armour and clothes had been torn and shredded indicated that he had managed to survive fatal wounds, with excellent regenerative abilities. He shudders at the thought of facing off against someone like the Stellaron Hunter.

At the same time, an idea comes to his mind suggesting that this man had ties to the Disciples of Sanctus Medicus. They were the ones infamous and known for their…death defying abilities after all.

But, taking into account what the General had informed him about the Yueyan case, that possibility was out of the picture.

Still, Yanqing shudders at who could have inflicted such wounds on him.

Yanqing makes a decision.

“Do you want to follow me for the rest of the day? I can get you a change of clothes and show you where to find the best food around this area.” He raises the idea tentatively to this visitor.

“...Sure.”

Yanqing is surprised by how quickly the man had agreed.

“Oh! Follow me then, I know a place where we can get you some spare clothes. And I’ll give you a tour of the best food the Luofu has to offer.”

Notes:

Jing Yuan attempted to contact Childe to ask him to hang out with Yanqing, could not reach him, assumed he was busy, and tried to arrange a playdate between Yanqing and Qingque instead.

Chapter 65

Notes:

Stelle’s in Jarilo-VI solving their financial crisis. She also took March and Himeko along with her.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Childe cleans off the residual blood and gunk from his skin and hair, enjoying the shower of hot water beating against his cold, dead skin. In the shower of one of the smaller side apartments of the General’s abode, he discovers the limits of his regenerative ability, in which it regrew new flesh and bone to replace that which he lost.

He combs his hair with his fingers for the fifteenth time, trying to wash out the debris that was trapped in his hair. All the while, the hot water slipped down his skin and across his back, the brand on his back seeping as he twisted the handle of the water to the opposite end. The water changes into an icy spray soon enough, as Childe feels it soothe the sudden burn and throbbing pain from his back, knowing that was where the Narwhal’s brand was.

Now, he must consider what his next move should be.

Under the cold icy spray of the shower, with the burning brand being tempered down by water, his mind is sharp, honed like a blade, even with the hunger gnawing at his stomach once more. Now, it mingled with the hunger and lust for blood, an eager clash against the master who had left him for dead. He wanted answers. Answers that he was owed.

The betrayal that has shocked him to his core, consumed his thoughts and drove him into a yawning chasm of despair and pain, the gaping loneliness once more. Oh how he had been foolish, to have allowed himself to be lulled into a false sense of security, to have allowed himself to trust and believe.

He shuts the tap as he steps out onto the drying mat.

Towelling himself down in front of the mirror, he paused at the image of his own reflection.

The streak of silver on his hair was something he had not expected.

Apart from that, he can almost swear his eyes are a shade deeper than they normally were.

He dresses himself in the clothes that Yanqing had found for him. The garb was reminiscent of clothes from Liyue, more proof that culture ran parallel even across universes. He remains focussed. He must find his master, and demand from her clearer answers as to why she had done what she did.

Contacting the Astral Express would help him find her quicker, as he reached for where his phone should be in his old clothes, only to find it missing. Muttering a curse, he could only conclude that it had been lost or destroyed during his fight with Master. Leaving him with no way to contact Master or Luocha.

So much for promising them he would always keep in contact. And would ask them for help if he needed it.

There’s a knock on the door.

“Hey…uh, if you’re ready we can go out and get some food? Not to disturb but I want to make sure the food’s still in stock when we do get there…Also, if you want something more suited to your style, I think the General has had some extra clothes stashed away in the toilet drawer that’s less like the usual civilian garb.”

“Oh! Right, right…let me get changed first and I’ll join you shortly.”

Childe quickly digs through the cabinet, realising that Yanqing had likely figured out somewhere along the way that he would not particularly enjoy the constricting clothes worn by the general public, and instead, finds something that makes him look like a character from a martial arts legend from Liyue.

The sleeves are no longer too loose, instead, the charcoal grey and black layered cloth nicely fitted over his own arms, and while the rest of the attire was of the same colour and a size too big, it was good enough.

He towels his hair dry after tucking in the last layer of his clothes, stepping out as Yanqing tossed him something which he caught mid air.

“You don’t have a phone, right? Use that to contact me if anything happens.”

Huh. This kid was forward thinking.

“You’re pretty accurate on the fact that I did indeed lose my phone. Good guess, kid.”

“Please do not address me as a kid. It just makes people’s perception of me seem like I’m someone young and immature.” Yanqing snaps at him, and that’s when Childe realised that he probably had to endure this countless times in the process of rising up to where he was now. Well, Childe had experienced the same, only that he bore the brunt of such words with a bloodied smile as he had pummelled the hell out of those individuals right after.

“...Alright then, what do I call you?”

“Lieutenant Yanqing. But Yanqing is fine,”

He follows Yanqing down the long corridor and out of the place.

Meanwhile, Childe fiddles with the phone that had been tossed to him, wondering how people kept spares of this device around like it was nothing. What he did note was that this model was older and less touch sensitive, but still did the job all the same.

When he tries to add and search up March and Stelle’s number, he’s met with an empty contacts list.

“....How do I find people on this?”

Yanqing stops and turns to him. The swordmaster walks up to him, as Childe lowers his screen to all the younger one to take a look at the problem he was facing.

“You can’t find their contact unless you have their number saved and named. Who are you looking for? Maybe I have their number…”

“You have Stelle’s number? From the Astral Express…”

“Of course! Here, I’ll show you how to use the newest feature that saves all the hassle of manually adding her contact. My contact is already in your phone, so you can just open that chat up.” Childe pressed the back button a few times until he was back at his contacts list, finding that the only number- three numbers listed on the phone were that of the general’s, Yanqing and some lady by the name of..Fu Xuan?

He opens up Yanqing’s chat, after he had sent him a contact.

“Oh! I know how to work it from here. Save Stelle’s contact from you, right?” Childe presses on the shared contact, as it instantly opens up a new chatroom with Stelle.

“For someone new to this technology, you sure got the hang of it quickly.” Childe chuckles in response.

“It’s a pretty nifty piece of tech.”

Childe drops a message to Stelle, informing her of his predicament and how his Master had more or less effectively disowned him or something along those lines. She seemed quite busy, as he saw Stelle’s last seen nearly a day or two ago, and wondered what adventure she could be on.

“Now…where were we supposed to go?”

His stomach growls after that question, which Yanqing looks at him with a raised eyebrow.

“....Let’s go and get more food.”

“Yes please.”

Notes:

I'm entertaining the idea of a fic where Dottore is interning under Ruan Mei in the Space Station.

Chapter 66: Chapter 66

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“So, uh, Yanqing, were you on patrol when you found me at the docks?” Childe asks, between mouthfuls of Signature Chili Oil Beef Offal Stew. The lieutenant had already ordered him a less spicy version, but the harbinger could still feel the heat stinging at his mouth and numbing his lips and tongue.

“Yeah. I was finishing up my last few rounds before I was supposed to go and find Qingque to…improve my social connections across departments? That’s what the general wanted me to do.”

Childe swallows a piece of beef. It is tender, thinly sliced and marbled enough to melt in his mouth with barely a few chews. If only the spice was not so spicy….

“...I think he wants you to make more friends.”

Yanqing’s eyes widened, before he fell into a contemplative look.

“I thought I had plenty of friends in the academy, though.”

“How much time do you spend in the academy?”

“Well, with my existing duties and work, maybe twice a week.”

“Now that’s why. You rarely get to see your friends in the academy these days, so the general probably wants you to make more friends that you can see more often, you know?”

This conversation certainly brought back a lot of memories for the harbinger himself, as he recalled the times he had toiled around in the Fatui as a recruit, and barely made any friends himself due to the overwhelming work and difference in strength between himself and his peers.

Pulcinella had called him a prodigy.

The others had called him a monster.

After all, he was the one tearing into his superiors, beating them bruised and bloody with the ferocity of a wild animal, untamed and uncontrollable. He could not exactly blame them for fearing him. Ajax would have been terrified of who he had grown to become, after all. And so would his siblings, if they ever saw the truth of who he was.

As he looks at Yanqing, who contemplated over the general’s last few words and instructions over the remnants of his bowl of stew, he wonders what he would grow up to be like.

“That…makes sense. He has been commenting recently that I spend too much time practising my forms and sword fighting, and that I should head out more and do…what kids normally do…But I’m not a kid!”

“Doesn’t matter. Whether you’re a kid or not, you should go out and find out other things you like doing, or getting to know others. Exposure to the world is important. Besides, having more than one hobby doesn’t hurt.” He responds, starting to enjoy talking to Yanqing.

It felt like he was giving advice to one of his younger siblings, and it makes him feel fond of the younger one, despite how they had only just met.

“....Hey, then, what about you? I realised I’ve been talking too much about myself, so I wanted to ask. What are your plans now?”

Childe pokes a piece of stringy meat in his bowl. It looks like a piece of the stomach lining of the cow, and he decides to give it a try. It’s chewy and good.

“I’ve got someone to look for. And also to hang out with the Astral Express, and maybe find my way back home eventually.”

He resolves himself to go through with this plan.

“Who are you looking for? Perhaps I’ll be able to help?”

Childe looked at Yanqing, and decided that he did not want to drag someone so young and promising to face off against someone as cruel as Jingliu.

“Nah, it’s alright. I’ll be fine looking for her on my own, and I’m sure you have your own tasks to complete as well. Don’t want to trouble you any further.” However, he could use some help finding out where Luocha was. The man was always weirdly or mysteriously gone. Perhaps he’d find the man at the agreed meeting point they had established at the end of each day.

“I see. How are you feeling now? You didn’t look too good when I met you earlier…”

Childe takes a mouthful of the Scalegorge spring water.

“...Sorry about that. I..wasn't feeling too good beforehand. Thankfully I heal pretty quickly these days, so I’m fine now.”

“Who or what did that to you? As a Cloud Knight, we need to know if anything dangerous is approaching the Luofu.”

The swordmaster’s voice took on a serious edge, as he chose to step up to face and handle the responsibility.

Childe ponders on what he should say, to not draw any unnecessary alarm to the Knights, yet also not making himself seem like a threat. If Master was onboard the Luofu…He would have to find her and obtain his answers from her without dragging others into it.

“It was a training accident. Was testing out some of my abilities without supervision from my Master and I lost control. That’s why I needed to find her in case she left to get help and expected me to wait there, but I managed to recover faster than expected and now I’m here.”

Yanqing looks at him, trying to gauge the validity of his words. After all, he had appeared in some very torn, shredded clothes.

But no, Childe was unaware of how his visage had dipped into something inhuman, and how it had taken Yanqing all of his self control to not lash out against him in self defence.

“I mean no offence, but if you lost control and ended up like that, do you need someone to accompany you in your search? Just in case your abilities go out of control again?”

“Trust me, they won’t.”

Yanqing looks at him, unconvinced. Childe sighs internally. How was he supposed to throw this retainer off of his tail? He clearly knew something was off, but he did not want him to join him in a potentially deadly confrontation with his master. If he got him killed….he thinks back to how fondly the general had considered Yanqing.

The general would never forgive him.

“Look. I’ll put my search for my master off for the time being. I’ll tag along with you for the time being if you really, really want to supervise me. I don’t mind following you around the Luofu.” Childe concludes, believing this to be the best option he could make for now. He’d try to find and meet Luocha at their agreed meeting point if possible.

“I’ll make sure to bring you around a variety of places so you can spot your master if she’s anywhere around.” Yanqing promised him.

“That’ll work.”

Notes:

Yanqing and Childe parallels in terms of their childhood prodigal abilities.

Chapter 67

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The two of them walk around the Luofu and its various streets, from Aurum Alley to the Exalting Sanctum, as Childe keeps an eye out for Jingliu, if she decides to show herself. Yanqing had pressed him for details on how his master looked, and he reluctantly gave a few hints here and there.

For some reason, hearing the description made the younger one tense, as Childe wonders how bad of a reputation his master must have garnered onboard the Luofu.

They stop in front of a divination shop, where a crowd has gathered around a group of players deep in the midst of a game. It was quite a crowd, with cheering on all sides, people shouting for…a door guardian?

On the other half, he saw a few armed men, though with their weapons kept, dressed in sheets of plated sleek black armour with a red visor over their heads seemingly cheering for their boss. This group of people were definitely from the Luofu, or not natives, judging from their attire and accent.

Yanqing’s presence has the crowd part way for the two of them, as people fall into a hushed whisper behind them.

Childe can hear the whispers which follow.

“Hey…do you think we’ll get into trouble with the retainer around?”

“The retainer shouldn’t be here!”

“Stop worrying, it’s not like he can do much about this situation anyways!”

“He’s just a kid. This sort of stuff isn’t under his jurisdiction.”

Childe frowns at the tone and implications of such comments.

Yanqing is definitely irked by some of the comments, as a few members of the crowd disperse and back away, and the two of them made their way to the front, where he saw a table of four individuals seated around a floating square tiled game board.

Two of the four were playing intently, one a blonde man wearing a pair of rose tinted shades, a feathered cloak around his shoulders. On his gloved hands were rings and diamonds of gold, a fine hat hanging from the back of his chair as he simply radiated opulence and wealth. He laughs heartily, both hands staring at the set of Celestial Jade tiles set in a straight row across him on his side of the table.

Childe could tell that this man did not belong to the Xianzhou Luofu faction either, and judging by how the guards looked, he seemed to be someone of a high status.

Across him was a shorter lady who wore a sleeveless turtleneck and green vest, twintails of beige hair on her shoulders as she closed her eyes and seemed to clasp her hands together in a prayer, a tile clasped firmly between her fingers.

“The strongest gambler of history versus the strongest gambler of today!” Someone announced, as Childe watched the blond haired man remove his rose tinted glasses, drawing a tint with a savage, knowing smirk as he obtained a winning combination and slams it down on the desk.

“That’s Aventurine of the Ten Stonehearts! What is he doing on the Luofu without any notice?” Yanqing gasps, as the civilians around him turned to look at him, and then back at what Childe presumed was a high ranking member of some organisation that he lacked the context and knowledge of.

The crowd roars louder as his main opponent across him seemed to pull out a miracle of her own.

“Qingque?” Yanqing calls out, as the girl slams her winning set of tiles on the table before she abruptly turns to look at him.

“....Oh hey! It’s the genius swordsman. I’m a tad bit caught up in this game right now…” She laughs awkwardly, like a deer caught frozen by a hunter in its sights.

“...Wait, Is Diviner Fu approaching? Oh crap I need to pack up my things quickly! Now, Mr Aventurine, let’s end things in this round!” Qingque turned her attention back to her opponent, the other two players at the table ducking out of sight as soon as Yanqing’s gaze looked at them.

The name of Diviner Fu had sent the crowd into a frenzy, as most of the people immediately dispersed upon hearing the name of someone so strict.

“I have to admire your spirit! It’s all or nothing.” The man across from her, who went by Aventurine, had his gaze on both Yanqing and Childe, scanning them before he returned to playing the last round of their game.

In a suspenseful climax, both of them revealed their hands.

“It appears that we have a draw.” Qingque mutters mournfully, as Aventurine laughed.

“I assume that you have to take your leave?”

Qingque nods to her guest. The man had been an absolute delight to play against, even if she did have to teach him how to play Celestial Jade from scratch.

“Wait…can I have a word with you? Alone?” Yanqing walked over to Qingque’s side, as he dragged her aside to speak with her.

Leaving Childe with the last remaining player that seemed to be loosening and adjusting his coat.

Notes:

To the one person who requested for Aventurine meeting Childe, here it is.

Also feel free to check out the Dottore and Ruan Mei fic that I impulsively wrote, its now part of the Fractal Convergence series.

Chapter 68

Notes:

Aventurine is here to help smoothen out the Aurum Alley dispute-

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“You, don’t look like you’re from around these parts.”

Childe glances at Yanqing, realising that he should have asked him for some background information on who this man before him was, lest he get dragged unprepared into a web of politics.

“What makes you say so?”

“You’re a ginger. There are few gingers onboard the Luofu.”

From his hair colour and genetics alone, the man had quickly deduced that he was not from these parts. Well, Childe supposed it would be easier to be forthcoming with the man on his status as an interdimensional traveller than to make up a vague backstory.

“Huh. Didn’t think it was that obvious. But yeah, you’re right. I’m not from these parts.”

“Where do you come from then?”

“A world known as Teyvat.”

The man’s gaze dips into one of contemplation.

“For the number of places I’ve been, I’ve never heard of a planet or a civilisation that went by the name of Teyvat.”

“Yeah, I got that alot. I’m something of a…displaced interdimensional traveller.”

The man before him whips his head up, strands of golden hair that shift like fine silk, as Childe finally catches a glimpse of his eye behind those rose tinted glasses which the man removed. Ringed blue and violet, a hypnotising combination that drew all in.

“That…is a fine self introduction you got there, my friend.”

Childe met his interested gaze, allowing himself to step into the hypnotic aura this man held, the suave and charming confidence that resonated with himself, specifically the facade of the Harbinger.

“What else can I say? It’s been a pain trying to find my way home, which I haven’t by the way, and I’ve just been living off of the kindness of those who have offered me their aid.” He bites down on the bitterness of the betrayal Jingliu had gifted him, swallowing it down as a hard, but necessary medicine. He could not allow himself to forget the kindness the Astral Express had given him, the camaraderie that he had forged with Blade, regardless.

“That sounds like quite a long tale. The name’s Aventurine. How about you tell me more about what landed you onboard this lovely ship over a cup of coffee? At least until my other business associate returns to fetch me.”

“Unfortunately, I’m..” He turns to look at Yanqing, who was in some sort of deep discussion with the girl who was Qingque…and another lady who had made her way to the two of them. She was of the same stature of Qingque, with pink hair elegantly tied up in strands which were knotted into an elaborate knot on her head, as she seemed to be scolding one of them. Or both of them.

“I suppose it won’t hurt as long as we don’t stray from this area…”

“Great! That drink stall over there looks like it sells some of the famous drinks from this place. Since I only reached this place yesterday, you must have more experience with the food and any good recommendations than me.” Childe watches with an amused smile, as the man casually waved to the armoured men behind him to depart.

He was definitely dealing with someone of high stature and influence.

“Sure. I’ve got a few favourites to recommend. By the way, feel free to call me Childe.”

“Child?”

“With an ‘e’ at the back.”

“What an interesting name.”

“I get that alot around here.”

The two of them settle down at a seat by one of the stalls, beneath an umbrella which shielded them from the bright artificial sunlight. Childe is glad that he still had the foresight to find the small amount of credits stored away in the hut before he left for the Luofu, and chose to pay for the drink before the man across from him could react.

“My friend, as I’m the one who imposed this sudden meeting on you, I should be the one treating you, and not vice versa.”

“Don’t worry about it. My time here has taught me that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.” Childe wonders if his approach is even right. He’s not one to suck up to others and play politics, but he will do his best to not accidentally insult this man in any way, shape or form.

Aventurine, (he’s pretty sure that’s literally the name of a gemstone. Who names their kid Aventurine?) looks at him, a slight hesitation coming across his features, as if he had been caught off guard by his response.

“Even if it never gets repaid?”

“Kindness is something that can be transacted. So yes, even if it can’t get repaid. For all I know, this is likely the first and last time I’ll ever see you.” The man did say he was here on some business. Which meant their encounter was going to be something more of a touch and go.

“...what a way to see things. You must be an optimistic person, Childe.”

The ginger chuckles.

“It depends on the situation. I wouldn’t call myself an optimist, but neither am I a pessimist. I’m someone who treads the line depending on the context. And you? Are you the kind of person who sees the glass of water as half empty or half full?”

Childe ironically, unintentionally times his words with the arrival of their glasses of Immortal’s Delight. A sugary cup of bubble tea with tapioca pearls and streaks of brown sugar syrup snaking down along the sides of the glass, topped by whipped cream garnished with cookie bits.

“...The glass is simply a glass of water. I’m someone who dislikes such narrow, limited answers. What makes it valuable is whose hand it’s in.”

“Tell me more.”

“Well, this glass of water in the hands of the richest man in the world is worthless, unable to compare to his collection of exquisite liquors. In the hands of someone who is dying of thirst, and on the brink of death, it would be a miracle.”

“So…you’re an opportunist.”

The harbinger concluded. This was the first time he had ever heard someone answer the glass of water question like that. If anything, Aventurine before him reminded him a tad bit of Pantalone in the way he carried himself, and well, that banker was also an opportunist. He could see both of them giving the same response.

“I do consider myself a lucky person.”

The man leans forward.

That is when Childe sees it.

The slave brand on his neck.

The implications are unsettling.

“Your…uh…” He taps on his own neck, indicating to the man that the brand was indeed showing. Wasn’t that the sort of thin people always wanted to hide? To expose oneself as a slave, a branded one no less, it either took a whole lot of courage, or there was value to be gained in doing so.

Aventurine’s lips dip into a practised grin.

“Don’t worry about it. The whole world knows.”

Childe passed him his glass of Immortal’s Delight.

“I can’t imagine what your time must have been like.” As a slave, went unsaid. This man before him…Childe tries to wrap his head around who he was, and his place in everything. For someone of such a high rank to still wear a slave brand…was he still a slave? Or had he escaped the situation he was trapped in before? If so, why would he continue to wear that symbol so proudly? To display to the world that he was the product of someone else?

Aventurine merely smiles. It is a thin one, hiding behind it years of resentment and frustration.

Childe recognises, and sees through it. It tells him enough.

“Let’s move onto happier topics, shall we?”

“Alright. It’s time to hear more about how you ended up here.” Aventurine takes a sip from his bubble tea. The businessman across him enjoys the drink, the slight raise of his eyebrows indicating a pleasant surprise brought on by the drink.

“You mentioned that you were a traveller, from another dimension no less. How does that work?”

This had to be what…the fourth time he told this story?

“Well I was fighting against a city levelling entity in a sub dimension called the Primordial Sea, my old mentor intervened at some point after it was subjugated by a few others who had the capabilities of killing the creature, and tossed me into a dimensional rift.”

“...That’s a lot to unpack.”

Childe nods.

“Yep. Until now, there’s no way for me to explain what happened since I’m pretty confused by what happened in the first place. I didn’t even know dimensional travel was a thing. Or parallel dimensions for the matter. But I suppose that’s cos my homeworld is far less advanced than whatever is going on around here.” Childe gestures to the Luofu and the general world he had found himself in, as he uses his straw to directly drink the whipped cream frosting.

“It’s been pretty eventful here, though. Nearly got murdered once by a terrorist cult, clashed with a wanted man, and emerged alive, all things considered.” The Harbinger manoeuvres his straw, enjoying the taste of the fresh cream.

“Apologies if I misheard, but did you say you nearly got murdered by a terrorist cult and clashed with a wanted man?” Aventurine took a pause, as Childe grins.

“Yep.”

“You…don’t seem as distressed as one should be.”

“Well, that’s part and parcel of life, I suppose. A wake up call for me to not grow complacent in this world no matter how lively and welcoming it seems compared to Teyvat.” To a normal person, Childe would look far too nonchalant for everything he had gone through. The ginger decided it would be better to keep the details vague if he had been asked to elaborate.

Aventurine decides that this man was worth paying attention to.

“Are you the kind of person to disregard their own life in the face of danger?”

What an odd question to ask. Childe’s grin drops into a smooth, suave smile, as he taps on the table pointedly.

“Most would describe me to be the kind of person that runs towards danger, not away from it. After all, I am someone who likes to test my skills against any and all opponents stronger than me. To me, that is one of the best thrills I can pursue.”

The business man before him leans forward.

“And how about you? It’s only fair that I get to ask you the same odd question, no?”

For a man who was a slave to someone else, Childe was curious to see what his answer was.

“I will bet my life on any gamble worth taking. Of course, everyone calls me…lucky. Thus, I’ve never once lost a bet in my life.”

Now, Childe recognised the same manic gaze this man held within those violet and neon blue irises, a madness that had long since taken root in the heart of this man, a violent, obsessive and addictive urge to throw and lay their life down, only barely hiding the very need to survive.

This man’s presence, his attitude, has riled up his senses. The words he has said, it’s as if he’s trying to provoke it, either intentionally or unintentionally. Were Childe still his younger, previous self, he would have started a fight with this man. Even if he was just a businessman. To test how lucky he truly was, and if he could dominate this man’s so-called good fortune.

But, Childe is older, and has grown to learn patience.

“Is that what you were doing against the lady over in the game of Celestial Jade? Though it seemed like the two of you ended that intense game in a draw.”

Aventurine pulls back, both physically, and withdrawing his bait.

“Well now, I was unaware I was playing against the very creator of Celestial Jade. Her techniques were truly something. I have much to learn from her, if I were to pursue the game as a hobby.”

“She created a whole game? From scratch? Huh, I didn't know that. That’s pretty cool though.” For how popular the game seemed to be on the Luofu, the ginger was surprised.

“There you are.”

Notes:

I’ve managed to squeeze this in. SOMEHOW, but yes. Aventurine and Childe interact.

Chapter 69: Chapter 69

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Both of their eyes flicker to the man approaching the two of them.

“Gambler, stop wasting both of our time. We have to handle the mess that one of your underlings left behind in failing to acquire Aurum Alley. This is no time for you to be making friends, as much as your conversation appears to have been a fruitful one.”

The blue haired man walks up to them, dressed in sandals in a similar style he had seen the Sumerian scholars wear, with robes and attire light and thin, dyed in the colours of blue and lined with silver. He moves his arm, causing the owl like adornment on his sleeves to shift, as he slammed a…stone book shut with a single hand.

“Doctor! You’re finally back from your discussion! I’ve been having a blast here, you know?”

“You’ve been gambling our funds away and wasting our precious time. If you do not deem your time to be of value, I would like to politely remind you that mine is more valuable. I have classes to lecture and assignments to grade, gambler.” The blue haired man turns to look at him.

“The name is Veritas Ratio. My apologies for interrupting your conversation, but the two of us must get a move on. I believe your companions are also waiting for you.” Ratio, gestures to where Yanqing and the others were.

“Oh, right. I must have lost track of time. I guess both of us will have to part ways, then.” Childe stands up from his seat.

“May we meet again, Mr Interdimensional Traveller.”

“The name’s Childe.”

“Interdimensional Traveller sounds infinitely cooler as a title.”

Childe huffs in response, as Aventurine chuckles lightly. Ratio raised an eyebrow upon hearing that title, but resolved to drag his companion away. Childe could only think about how he would never meet the two of them again.

“I hope you were careful with your words, traveller.” The short, pink haired lady came up to him, Yanqing at her side.

“Hello! You must be..”

“Fu Xuan, head of the Divination Commission. Call me Diviner Fu, as everyone usually does.”

“Ah. Of course, Diviner Fu. How may I help you today?”

“You have our thanks for entertaining the IPC Delegate for the past half hour. It’s given us enough time to alert the Sky Faring Commission about their surprise guest. Well, I suppose Qingque here did the heavy lifting and entertained him for a whole two hours before that, but every second counts.” She gestured at Qingque, who seemed to smile sheepishly, having been caught off guard by the sudden appearance of her boss.

Diviner Fu looked unamused, but begrudgingly could only accept the fact that her slacking off of work had come in handy.

“Yanqing, have you been able to contact the general? He must be informed about the IPC’s sudden visit. By an executive, no less. That man has been slacking off from his work more than usual recently, and I’ve been closing one eye and chalking it up to him still recovering from the previous Stellaron crisis, but he cannot stay completely out of the loop for matters like this.”

“Yes, Diviner Fu. I’ll try and find him as soon as possible.”

“Start with the Alchemy Commission. And get in contact with Lady Bailu as well. Bring your friend along. I’m sure he won’t mind assisting with the search?” diviner Fu looks up at him, something keen and knowing in her gaze. Peering back into her topaz coloured eyes, Childe felt as if he was being urged to go along with a hidden plan.

Still, his priority should be finding his Master-

Wait. The offer that the general had given him.

A favour, with no strings attached.

He would ask the general to help him find his Master, irregardless of the strained ties they no doubt must have.

“Sure. If there’s anything I can do to lighten your load, I’m free anyways.”

“Really? That’s great!” Yanqing sounds almost all too relieved, knowing that the wild card was going to be kept close to his side.

“You have our thanks. I’m sure whatever answers you are looking for will be found soon enough.” Diviner Fu parts, and Childe can feel the ominous invitation literally seeping into her words.

“Hey, what does the Divination Commission do?”

“Oh, they predict the most likely cause of action about to take place and mitigate disasters and select the best course of action to take in response to the crisis.”

“They can…read the future?”

“Predict. With calculations and probability and statistics.”

Childe blinks. People here really are on a whole other level. Still, if that meant that Diviner Fu had an inkling of what would take place in the future, was she subtly encouraging him to chase it?

“You know, this world never ceases to amaze me.”

“I’d have to imagine it must be very different compared to your homeworld. Many of the tourists and non-natives say the same thing about the Luofu as well.”

Both of them watch as Diviner Fu scolds and reprimands Qingque, before she is dragged to follow after the pink haired woman for something about ‘slacking on the job’, ‘gambling being an unhealthy habit’ and to ‘not pull someone so renowned for persuasion and luck into her games’.

“Let’s get going. We’d probably have to stay at the Alchemy Commission for the night. Hope you won’t mind…”

“Well actually, I want to find someone in a few hours. His name is Luocha, and I was hoping I’d be able to meet him at where we usually agreed to.”

“Oh, uh, sure I can bring you over to wherever that meeting point is.”

The two of them begin making their way to the Alchemy Commission.

“You know…I’m not going to hurt anyone, right?”

Yanqing looks at him. The younger seemed to realise that his intentions had been seen through, and stood there, uncertain of what to say in response.

“...I can’t be sure of that, though. Just this morning, I met you while you were in that state. I apologise if any of my words cause you any offence, but when you were in that state, it really…unnerved me.”

Childe sighs. Even now, he supposed he still had that effect. He realised now that the Astral Express and the General had to be highly tolerant and patient with him, especially since both had glimpsed at Foul Legacy.

“What can I do to reassure you that I’m not out and about to harm or hurt anyone?”

“...Let me accompany you?” The retainer sounded uncertain with this approach.

“But you can’t possibly accompany me all day long, right? Are you friends with the Astral Express? You could get them to come down and have them entertain me, since I’m sure that you must trust them.”

“That…could work.”

“Then let’s try that tomorrow. I’ll follow you around for now.”

Notes:

Fu Xuan did indeed look at the Matrix of Prescience. However, the results were not what she expected.

Chapter 70: Chapter 70

Notes:

TEYVAT TIME LETS GO

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

It was a cloudy day in Sumeru when the Wanderer and his companion were walking around the markets and taking a look around the stalls for goods to purchase. Namely, the current dendro archon wished to take note of the Wanderer’s interest so as to buy a suitable gift for his birthday. While she was slightly surprised that he had forgone the option of choosing the date of him obtaining his new identity to set as his new birthdate, he had simply thrown a dart at a calender and picked that date.

In his words, ‘It doesn’t really matter which date it is.’

While she had tried to inform him of the importance and meaning behind a birthday, Wanderer had gotten antsy with it, and she decided not to press him for it.

“It's Miss Nahida!” Some of the children ran up to her, setting aside their toys and homework, running out from the shop houses and towards her as they crowded around her.

“Please, Miss Nahida, tell us a story!”

“Could you tell us about the puppet who came to life? I really like that story!”

Wanderer turned to look at her sharply, as Nahida found herself surrounded by all of the children, which gave him a wide berth as they looked at her with puppy eyes.

“I’m busy today, so I may have to come back tomorrow, my apologies to all of you.” She told them with a warm smile, as the children’s face fell in disappointment, but relented and gave her space.

A shiver runs up her spine. A cold, unsettling gaze levelled on her person, viewing her as an interesting test subject, garnering amusem*nt and fascination.

Nahida freezes.

Wanderer placed himself between her and the unwelcome guest.

“What do we have here? The Dendro Archon, in the flesh? It is a pleasure to meet you on this fine day.”

The Doctor’s voice is charmingly cold, layered enough to pass off as diplomatic, barely hiding his intentions to find a use out of something or someone. In that case, it was her.

“What are you doing here? Fatui scum.” Wanderer’s voice was bitter, as he too was trying to hold back on decades worth of repressed anger, the urge to lash out and strike the Doctor down barely held together on a thin, fragile leash. He will not let the doctor have the dendro archon, and it was going to be a hard fight out on the streets, with civilians all around. The collateral damage would be huge, and he could not guarantee Nahida’s safety.

“Oh? And you must be…” Wanderer stiffens.

“He is my companion. State your intentions, Harbinger of Snezhnaya. If not, leave this nation immediately.”

Nahida steps out from behind Wanderer’s cover, as she stands her ground before the second Harbinger. The Doctor glances at Wanderer curiously, mouth and lips poised in a look of being puzzled, a dissection of a mystery taking place in that twisted mind of his.

“...Your companion. What a surprise. I was not aware that the Dendro Archon needed a bodyguard to accompany her. Does the nation and its people truly make you feel that unsafe? Well I suppose that would be understandable, considering how the sages and its scholars have treated you.”

Nahida scans the surroundings. Many of the residents grew wary of the confrontation, some having called for some of the city guards. The children had long since fled, sensing the animosity arising from this man, or perhaps it was their base instincts telling them this man was dangerous.

She did not wish to engage in combat with the Harbinger then and there, and she knows that Wanderer was barely holding himself back from lashing out then and there. At the same time, the Doctor was unable to make a move, lest he stir up another big commotion, and in the streets no less. Neither did he seem like he was here to kidnap anyone or carry out any nefarious scheme, if he had decided to boldly approach them in the middle of this crowded street, alone.

“Now now, there is no need for a fight. I have come to make an inquiry on the whereabouts of a certain individual, and hope to access Irminsul to do so. Who better than to ask the God of Wisdom herself?” Dottore held his hands out in a placating manner, the man hoping to make this a quick visit as he still had matters to tend to back in Snezhnaya.

The blue haired man…gave him an irrational feeling.

“You already have what you came here for. How can I be sure you have not returned to stir more trouble in my nation?” Nahida presses, as she crossed her arms.

“Would the God of Wisdom deny a scholar’s request to retrieve information from the tree of knowledge?I was unaware that even the act of trying to learn seems to be something to be frowned upon.”

Nahida pauses.

“I must ensure that the knowledge you retrieve will not be used to hurt the innocent. What is the question you wish to ask?”

The doctor looks at them.

“Let us find a more…private setting.”

“Then let us speak at my place.”

“Very well.”

-

The walk to her past residence was painfully awkward.

The guards had been called off, as Nahida had convinced them that they would be having diplomatic negotiations of sorts, and that she would be accompanied by another. Seeing how the Doctor was also acting alone, without any subordinates or soldiers at his side, he seemed rather patient and calm all things considered.

Perhaps it was because she was speaking to the Doctor in his prime, the first and foremost, the original. Having all of his other segments erased, he no doubt had to face the setbacks of unfinished and collapsed projects, yet personally arrived to negotiate with her.

Thankfully, Wanderer had remained quiet all the while, though she could sense his burning gaze on her, as if he wanted to shake her shoulders and ask her if she was insane.

“Now, as we are alone, what is the inquiry you wish to make?”

“The location of one of my colleagues. Tartaglia, the Eleventh Harbinger.”

Nahida looks at him expectantly.

“Ah. You would like to negotiate for something in return.”

“A trade in knowledge of equal value. To seek an answer from the Tree of knowledge, especially after all the damage you have done so far…It is only fair, is it not?”

“To think that you would be so demanding…I’ve already made such a polite request. Fine. As I have knowledge to spare, then I shall give you just that.”

“You misunderstand me. I do not wish for more knowledge.”

“Oh? Would you like a piece of technology instead? Though I doubt any of my creations would suit your pacifist ideals.”

“I want a non-interference contract.”

“My, my, that is something you would have to take up with the Tsaritsa herself. Oh, she also wishes to congratulate you by the way. I cannot promise you on any such contracts or pacts. Such treaties and political agreements are not in the domains of a scholar such as myself. Besides, the value of such a contract is not equal to the value of knowing where my colleague has vanished off into.”

“Then in that case, I want you to withdraw all of your existing forces, from the scholars who sided with you, to those who partook in any of your unethical experiments, to cease all operations.”

The Doctor was beginning to get annoyed.

This archon was really trying to get back at him and all of his research. At the same time, the Tsaritsa had ordered him to recover Childe. Him and the Knave, to be precise. That bloodthirsty maniac was still a key instrument to her plan to overthrow Celestia.

He weighs his options. On one hand, he could attempt to overpower the God of Wisdom, but he would have no way of accessing the Irminsul without months of research.

At the same time, collapsing and withdrawing his remaining research projects here would be much, much easier since many of them were already falling apart without his segments to oversee them. The same could be said for all of his segments spread across Teyvat, which left him greatly irked. To put it in such a way, taking up this deal meant little loss, since it was already happening and bound to occur.

“Alright then. I will withdraw my forces and cease operations here.” He would simply let another Fatui Harbinger enter Sumeru to take over. After all, the God of Wisdom had only specified his forces, and not the Fatui in general.

Nahida takes in a deep breath, as she turns towards the central column, flowing rife with knowledge.

Reaching a hand out, she taps into the knowledge of the tree.

“Your colleague has…left the confines of Teyvat.”

Dottore stares at her.

“What does that mean? Is he in the Abyss? In some far off land beneath the common place?”

“...The last recorded instance of him was his presence in the Primordial Sea accompanied by the current Iudex of Fontaine, the traveller and a non native known as Skirk. This occurred exactly 56 hours ago. After that, there is no knowledge of him, of where he has gone, of where he is.”

Dottore dips his head in contemplation.

“I have good reason to believe that where he is now is tied to what you informed me in our previous conversation. Of how the skies in Teyvat are…fake. The lady who went by the title of Skirk seemed to have tossed him through a dimensional rift and he is now no longer within the confines of our world.”

“What theories would you have, met with this situation?”

Nahida looks at the Doctor with a measured gaze.

“What is the context behind this question? Do you hope to pry more information from me? Information which I have already informed you of?”

“No, you miss the point. I wish to know what a scholar such as yourself would conclude based on such an impossible scenario. Take this as a debate between scholars, if you would.”

“There have been tales of beings from other worlds who have landed upon Teyvat. I believe you Fatui classify them as…Descenders. Take this as mere speculation, but if this is proof that other worlds beyond our own do exist, then perhaps your missing colleague may have found himself out there. And what would you think of this?”

“You mentioned a dimensional rift. And that woman’s name…Skirk. Is it possible to replicate such a technique? More on that, where does this woman hail from?”

“The records on her are inconclusive. As with the knowledge on the occurrences of a dimensional rift. Is that really all you have to say?”

“What else would you expect me to say? My hypotheses are the same as yours. Proof that worlds beyond Celestia’s control definitely exist, but what’s more important is how to access them. To break free from the shackles of the authority and laws of Teyvat…is that not exhilarating?”

Nahida was now reminded of why this man was exiled from the Akademiya.

“You best tread carefully. To deliberately engage in such forbidden techniques, to breach the confines of our world…you may end up summoning forth the Heavenly Principles to smite you down then and there. Wouldn’t it be a waste, if a Celestial Nail were to fall upon your nation and annihilate everything?”

Dottore lets out a tsk.

“Our discussion has proven fruitful. As much as I am aware that you despise my presence, one must admire the wisdom and willingness to partake in an exchange of knowledge, and to do so whilst tolerating my past deeds. I suppose I shall have to make use of whatever I’ve been able to glean. You have my sincere thanks, God of Wisdom.”

Never would she think the madman who had essentially attempted to create a god and bring destruction down on her nation would one day thank her.

She watches the doctor depart, as Wanderer does a cursory scan of the place, as did Nahida, to remove any possible devices planted at her place. Not that she was occupying this residence in the first place…but better safe than sorry.

“I can’t believe he was there this entire time and I couldn't just beat this sh*t out of him.”

“You would lose. I can confidently tell you that.”

“Couldn't you just do the same trick that you did for Aether when you were fighting against me? To dream a few hundred times or something…”

“I wish I could. Given the doctor’s unpredictable mind and way of perceiving things, he would have found a way to escape that dream. Moreover, to be the first one to take action is to show hostility against him, and by extension, the Fatui. His power and reach has already been greatly crippled since I forced him to destroy most of his segments. To push him too far would be to invite chaos and retribution.”

“Hmph. Stupid politics.”

“Patience is important in biding time for your revenge.” She advised him.

Notes:

I bet none of yalls were expecting this

Chapter 71

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

They had waited.

From one hour, to the next, to the third and to the fourth.

At the meeting point where Luocha was supposed to meet him after each day he spent on the Luofu. Left with no way to contact him and with none of them having his contact, texting Stelle did not reap any result, as she too seemed busy and had been offline for some time.

He hopes that she is alright.

“Perhaps we should return to the Astral Express. Stay with them for the night, at least.” Yanqing yawned, as he suggested. Childe felt bad for keeping him up as well, as he munched on the free pork buns which he had claimed five bags of to take with him. At some point, he really was going to become sick of the taste of the food.

At least he had a few to offer to the young retainer for a snack or his dinner, more like, when Luocha failed to turn up.

“I guess I’ll have to do that.” He fails to hide the slip of bitterness in his voice, simply letting out a stiff exhale as he lets himself be led to where the Astral Express was docked.

Both Luocha and Master had given up on him. He does not know what to make of this. Was he truly so disappointing? At the very least, he’d have thought that Luocha would have given him something to go off of, a warning or maybe a farewell of sorts. Master seemed like the kind to simply kill him and be done with it, but the merchant…he thinks back to the time they had shared that New Year’s cake two weeks ago. Was that all simply for nothing? Did all of that mean nothing?

He clenched his fist at that thought.

This wasn’t his first time experiencing such a betrayal. His parents had left him behind, Morax had left him behind, the entire damned court of Fontaine and their petty notion of justice had left behind to rot in the Primordial Sea. Then Master Skirk had left behind, thrown him into somewhere entirely new and foreign.

Now would be a great time to let out some of his anger and frustration in a spar against Blade.

Except he knew that many of his friends were but acquaintances, temporary bonds that would disappear once he had to return to Teyvat. If only there were a way to stay in contact with those who truly cared, such as the Astral Express and its crew.

“We’re here. Mister, you should get some rest for the night. I’ll pick you up the day after tomorrow, either in the morning or afternoon, the timing might differ. Whichever it is, I’ll text you so keep an eye out for my message, alright?”

“What do you have that’s keeping you busy tomorrow? Just curious,”

“The General wants me to meet him at the Shackling Prison. Probably something important. I’ll tell you if it's not confidential stuff.”

“Alright, see ya!”

He waves goodbye to the young kid, as Welt stands by the entrance of the Express.

“I was informed that you have no place to stay for the time being?” The older man clears his throat, as he beckons him to enter the warm confines of the parlour car.

“Yeah. That’s the quick summary of how things are going.” He must have sounded really dejected, or the false cheer in his voice was no longer able to cover up the sheer disappointment he had felt, that Welt ushers him in and gestures for him to sit down on one of the comfortable chairs.

“You are always welcome aboard the Express. If you need a place to stay, we can provide that.”

Thank the archons for the Astral Express crew. Well, he also ought to thank Yanqing for taking him around and taking care of him earlier in the day, the people here were really hospitable when they wanted to be.

Welt’s words are reassuring, despite the fact that he had just faced a betrayal from Master Jingliu and Luocha. Then again, he did know that they were not the most…morally good of people.

“Could I ask what happened to Stelle?”

“Oh. Her, March and Himeko went to Belobog to help them with a financial crisis. You see, the IPC, or the Interastral Peace Corporation, is a large organisation that goes around collecting taxes and sort of recruiting planets and civilisations to work with them.”

“As they are technologically advanced, they have a tendency to prey on underdeveloped planets, especially those in vulnerable positions facing either a climate crisis or civil war. They offer their help and have the planet indebted to them. For the case of Belobog, they used to be under the IPC’s control but recently sparked their interest again after the environment stabilised after the Stellaron on their planet was sealed.”

Woah. That was an info dump right there. It was pretty clear and concise though, and he could get the gist of what happened.

“They’ll be there for sometime, which leaves only me, Dan Heng and Pom Pom on the Express.”

Something short and fluffy walks over to the two of them.

With two stubby legs and large floppy ears, Childe’s eyes widen at how adorable the creature was, dressed in a red conductor’s uniform, with a height of reaching up to half his waist (Hat height included).

“Pom-Pom senses that this man is not from this world.”

That’s…Pom-Pom?

“Childe, meet Pom-Pom, the conductor of the Astral Express. And yes, he is not from this world.”

Childe has to resist the urge to pet the conductor.

“I see that look in your eyes. Do not pet me.” The conductor warns him.

Childe laughs, his intentions seen clearly by the conductor.

“What’s the name of your homeworld, Childe?”

“Teyvat. I hail from Snezhnaya, specifically.”

“Pom-Pom has no recognition of a world by that name. Perhaps one day once the Trailblaze has been reconstructed will we eventually land upon your homeworld, but without any other knowledge such as coordinates or neighbouring starsystems, we cannot bring you back home.” Tough luck indeed.

“However, you are welcome to stay onboard the train. That will make you a case similar to Mr Yang, who is also trying to reach his homeworld through the Express.”

Welt brings out a pitcher of juice from beneath one of the cabinets. It appeared refrigerated, by the way condensation began to form on the glass, as he poured Childe a glass. The ginger gratefully accepts the glass,

“At the very least, could we try sending a message back to your home world? To tell them about your whereabouts.”

The man brought up, remembering how he had reached out to Herta Space Station to have them send a message back to Earth.

“That’s possible?!” Childe exclaimed loudly, as Pom-Pom was startled. The conductor turned away and left the two of them to their conversation.

“It is, but only if your world has the capabilities to receive a signal from outer space. My homeworld had the technology to do so, which is why it was a feasible idea and option for me to undertake, but for your home world…”

“...Damn. I’m pretty sure we don’t have anything of that sort, but I’m not exactly the most well versed in tech either. Would still be worth a shot to try it.”

“Then I’ll arrange for the Space Station to try and do so. You’ll probably have to pay them a visit though, for them to take a few scans of your biology and approximate which star system you hail from. That way, it would improve the accuracy of the broadcast.”

“Sounds good. When can we get that done?”

“Tomorrow. It’ll take us around half a day. We can use the teleporters to get there.”

“You guys have teleporters too?”

Welt is surprised.

“Yes. I was unaware that your civilisation has discovered the use of teleportation.”

“Oh, they’re called waypoints at our side, but it seems like only Aether has been able to access them. No wonder he kept talking about this technology like it was something cool, but I’ve seen him use it before my very eyes and just…disappear. I do think the Doctor is trying to unlock the secrets of it somehow…”

“So they are only usable by certain individuals…it’s something similar to our teleporters, which we term them as Space Anchors, but I occasionally call them teleporters due to the terminology from my home world. As long as you are blessed by the Trailblaze, you will be able to use them.”

Childe’s mind spins at the terminologies.

“Hold up. What exactly is the Trailblaze?”

Welt looks at him with a peculiar glint in his eye.

“So, you are aware of Aeons and the paths each different individual treads, am I correct?”

“Such as the Destruction, the Hunt and the Abundance? Yep that I know.”

“The Trailblaze is one such path, except our Aeon is…dead, with only traces of their power existing now. The Astral Express and its crew are called the Nameless, and we stride on the path of the Trailblaze. The spirit of adventure, to discover to reach out. The pursuit of the unknown, regardless of what it might contain.”

“Wait, so how are you able to be blessed by a dead Aeon? Aren’t they…dead?”

It was like having a dead Archon bestow a vision of their element to a follower. Which was impossible and basically could not happen.

“That’s the interesting hypothesis about the Aeons. Their paths may still exist, fickle as they may be, as long as enough people pool their belief into that path. Should you choose to stride upon this path, you will receive the blessing of the Trailblaze, which allows us to use these Space Anchors.”

“How would I receive this blessing? Seeing as I’m a traveller from another world and the like-”

He hopes this does not count as a violation of his loyalty to the Tsaritsa.

“You already have the blessing.”

Notes:

SURPRISE

Chapter 72

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Huh?”

“Well, I had a hunch about something since you never did encounter any difficulty talking to any of us, did you? Considering that you are also from another world,” Welt smiles knowingly, as Childe stares at his own hands.

“Waitwaitwait what? You’re telling me that I unknowingly already tread upon a path? And the same one as you guys?”

Though the more he thought about it, the thought of the language barrier being a problem had never been an issue for him.

“You…must have had the spirit for adventure at some point in time, or perhaps an innate curiosity to explore the unknown, to venture out into the worlds beyond and embrace change. To embark on a journey. These are the qualities that make you eligible to receive the blessing of the Trailblaze.”

Childe leans against the back of the lounge chair, and thinks.

He thinks furiously, on the fervent yearning to go on an adventure, to throw himself out into the world, to what had led Ajax down into the ambitious journey into the wilderness. Into the Abyss, and out of it. His time within the Fatui had fed into darker ambitions, but his request to travel the world and take missions outside of Snezhnaya had also been partially fuelled by his desire to see and experience the nations beyond.

He recalls the companions he had encountered along the way, the journey of betrayal, an exercise in trust, comradery, travelling from Liyue to Inazuma and then to Fontaine, to open his eyes to the wonders of what the world had to offer.

The time he had fought the All Devouring Narwhal, and then ended up here, and had simply lingered on the Luofu and explored its different areas, meeting all kinds of individuals, young, old, some ancient.

Welt smiles at him knowingly.

“The fact that you are also an interdimensional traveller also supports your eligibility.”

Childe laughs.

All this time…from the moment he had landed here? He found that strangely hard to believe. An Aeon, not even a living one no less, had deemed him worthy of enjoying the benefits of being a Trailblazer simply because he yearned to reach for the stars? To have been granted the grace of a higher being despite not being from this world, it truly spoke a thousand words, a gentle, kind welcome wishing for him to stay within this realm by giving him an important tool. The ability to understand language spoken by individuals from another world.

The more Childe thought about it, he realised he never had any difficulty reading any of the texts or signage onboard the Luofu as well, even though this was a whole other world. Even back in Teyvat, he had to take lessons to understand the languages in Liyue and Inazuma, especially when some of the locals only spoke in their local tongue.

Here, he had no issue at all with both written and spoken language.

Oh how this world was beautiful and inviting.

He shall accept this blessing, with his role and identity as a simple traveller trying to find his way home, yet embarking on an adventure across places he thought he would never get to experience.

“...This world really is something else.”

That is all he can say, as Welt chuckles in response.

“I too, was surprised when I came into this world with my companion. He’s since then left my side, but we both hailed from Earth, and the concept of Aeons and Pathstriding was very foreign to us. What has been constant ever since Himeko picked us up on the Astral Express however, is the blessing of the Trailblaze. Transcending the language barrier without the use of a Synesthesia beacon is one thing, but if you do choose to board the Astral Express as a Nameless, there are other benefits as well.”

“You know, if you aren’t careful, it's starting to sound like you’re trying to sell the idea of becoming a Nameless to me.”

Welt looks at him, a glint in his eye.

“Well, if all else fails to reunite you with your homeworld, you could always join us until the Astral Express eventually reaches your world. After all, passengers come and go all the time. That is the nature of the Express.”

Childe sips at his glass of juice.

“...I’ll think about it.”

“Of course. There is no rush. Until then, we could head to Herta Space Station to try and identify your homeworld and send a message back to your family and friends about your whereabouts.”

He thanks the older man for his offer, before he retreats into the temporary room gifted to him by the Conductor, who hands him a keycard and leads him down the cabins, walking across the floor as Childe’s mind swirls with the possibilities of things to come.

When he opens the door, he’s met with a plain cabin as the conductor informs him that Stelle’s one would be next to his, and to inform it if his neighbour ever disturbed him through the walls.

Clutching the key in his hand, a golden piece of metal attached to a red, crystal charm, the harbinger looks at the interior of his room, which has a window facing the vast infinity of space, the miniscule stars glowing in the distance. A single bed and a large desk are also included, as he finds a large navy blue bean bag included on a orange coloured circular rug.

He feels like he’s in a dream.

From Master’s attempt to kill him, to escaping that fate, to meeting Yanqing, resting and washing up at the General’s abode, meeting that IPC executive, Diviner Fu, Luocha’s failure to meet him, to the conversation with Welt…

Too much was happening in the span of a few hours.

He…he needs to think.

Archons…his brain and his mind was overloaded with information. Presented with so much all at once, information and perspectives that made his head spin, he decided that the first thing he needed to do was get things in order. Fumbling through the drawers, he finds a notebook and pen, writing down everything that had happened from the start to the end of his entire time since he had been tossed through the portal:

  • Meet Master. Luocha heals me.
  • Eat the Narwhal (On accident?) Master takes me in as her disciple
  • Visiting the Luofu and meeting the Astral Express Crew at the competitive eating event
  • Figure out how to devour concepts? (Let’s not get to ahead with ourselves yet) After getting beat up by master
  • Meet Welt and 1st encounter with General Jing Yuan
  • Sparring with the Astral Express Crew at Scalegorge Waterscape
  • The start of the unfortunate kidnapping fiasco…(Never again)
  • Foul Legacy rampages out of control and consumes a part of Blade
  • The General subdues us with his forces, recovered under Luocha’s care
  • Dreaming about Blade (Have to figure out how this works exactly…)
  • Kafka reaches out and contacts me for a favour…2nd time meeting with Blade (That cunning woman)
  • Meeting the General and his retainer (A fairly pleasant encounter, all things considered)
  • My blood is primordial seawater?
  • Master tries to kill him
  • Meeting Yanqing, and following him on his errands
  • Meeting Aventurine (Him and I share a few tendencies)
  • Returning to the Astral Express. Welt decided to drop a bomb on me (I’ve been blessed by the Trailblaze this whole time?) He also offers me the choice to stay on the train, and to head back to this…Space Station thing to try and send a message back to Teyvat.

He stares at the notebook.

His head throbs at the lines of words and the number of events that have occurred in the short span of time he had been here. Distantly, the fatigue of the day’s events begin to seep in, and he should really, get some rest lest he start making stupid decisions due to the exhaustion.

He shuts the notebook, tells himself that he’ll deal with all of this in the morning, and crashes on his bed.

Notes:

highkey surprised no one pointed out the language barrier being an issue for like the past chapters-

But yes Welt has INDIRECTLY MADE HIM THE OFFER TO STAY AND BE A NAMELESS

Parallel Coincidences - RandomEscapist_990 - 原神 (2024)

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