Childe wrote a lot of letters to Snezhnaya, to the point where it became weekly. He would always write a story about his past week and send it off to his siblings, in hopes Tonia would tell the story to the rest of their siblings.
However, a few weeks after Childe resigned as a Fatui member and started traveling with Lumine, he would recieve nonstop requests from a variety of family members asking to hear from Lumine.
Eventually, Lumine caved in and sent her own seperate letter to Childe, becoming quick pen pals with his family. Tonia had asked her if she had ever read any of Childe’s letters before, as he would always gush about her in various ways.
Lumine would begin pestering Childe to see the letters, but his excuse was that he didn’t have them, and if he did, they were in the trash.
Unfortunately for Childe, his siblings did indeed have the letters and Tonia decided to send Lumine a box filled with letters that were dated to the first week Lumine and Childe met.
She learned many things about Childe at tha time and eagerly read through each letter. She would learn the phases of Childe’s yearning for her, and she would sometimes start squealing excitedly at some of the words chosen.
As it turns out, Childe had somewhat fallen for Lumine when they first met, as he thought she was ‘captivating’ and ‘like a star that fell from the sky and blessed him with their presence’. He would gush on and on about how her hair would glimmer in the sun, how her eyes were a captivating amber, and so on and so forth.
Childe was so descriptive that Tonia had written in a note that she had to omit some details when reading the letters aloud to her siblings, because they wouldn’t understand half of the things he was saying about her.
As it turns out, after their date, Childe would then begin writing about Lumine’s personality and go on and on about one aspect for about three paragraphs.
“Whenever I see her smile, it feels like I’ve been blessed by the Gods themselves. Whenever she laughs, I feel like melting. She’s the sweetest traveler I had ever met while on my business trips, and I wouldn’t change it for a thing,” he once wrote.
Another time, he wrote, “What I wouldn’t give to hold her in my arms and have her embrace me back. It feels so warm and welcoming—a kind of feeling I would only know at home. Perhaps this Traveler has become a person I can confide in.”
Slowly but surely, Childe would continue writing about Lumine and had even once sketched her likeness for his siblings. She was impressed by the accuracy of it, and it might have explained why Teucer already knew what she looked like.
Childe doesn’t stop gushing about Lumine. Tonia even wrote to Lumine that it’s normal for him to mention her. They expect it every week now, and they love it. Their brother finally has a topic to talk about, other than the Tsaritsa, the Fatui, or his job.
Sometimes, he would detail antics with the rest of the adventure team, talking about how he would help train some of the underdeveloped team members, search for treasure, and explore the world of Teyvat alongside Lumine. When she read it, she couldn’t help but laugh—he seemed quite ecstatic
But, the tone quickly shifted to despair.
Childe began to write letters excluding any mention of the Traveler, instead only talking about work and how he would return home soon. They were shorter, brief, and devoid of all joy that used to be in the letters past. When Lumine carefully inspected the parchment paper, she noticed some tear stains on it. It was clear when these letters were written.
After continuing to read a bit more, Lumine finally made her way to the letter that was written the day that Liyue was saved from Osial... and the day when Lumine and Childe crossed blades
He had written and ranted to Tonia, even asking that she only share it to those who are able to comprehend the dark side of Snezhnaya. He had constantly written questions as if panicking, asking if it was the right thing to do and if he had the right to chase after Lumine.
As she continued to read such a letter, Lumine began to cry.
Childe then opened the door, only to see her reading the letters he had once written.
He panicked, distressed at her tears and the fact that she was reading the letters he wrote for his family, but understood when he saw the date for the one in her hands. He calmed her down best as he could.
Lumine didn't understand the full extent of Childe's emotional state after Golden House, but his letters fully demonstrated the major swing in his mood Lumine had on him
In previous letters, he would proudly say that Lumine had praised him and given him a home; that she had hugged him tightly and told him that he did a good job
But in that letter specifically, it was almost like he was grasping at straws to get that affection back, like it was the last thing he had. He kept asking questions almost hysterically, seeking for answers that he couldn't get. He tried to write as if calm, but his frantic handwriting proved different--he was shattered.
Childe didn't know what to say--he desperately wanted to avoid Lumine ever seeing that letter because it was a vulnerable side of him no one should see. He was ashamed of it...
But Lumine hugged him tightly and clutched onto him like he was the last person on Earth
"...you did a good job, Ajax."
Childe was surprised to hear that, but for some reason, he started to tear up.
"...you held out for so long... I'm so sorry I didn't save you sooner. You did very well..."
Lumine patted his head and rubbed his back, continuing to hug him while giving him soft praises. Childe's tears began to grow in amount.
He was being praised.
He was being earnestly praised.
He should've felt ashamed at this, for being treated like a little kid, but for some reason, when Lumine reassured him that everything was okay and allowed him to cry he felt... safe.
"...Ajax, you're home now," Lumine whispered. "...you don't have to shoulder the pain by yourself anymore. I'm here now."
Those words alone were enough to break down all of Childe's barriers and make him cry.
The letters Childe wrote showed Lumine how alone he used to be in the world of Teyvat. He would constantly seek out someone's praise or affection, all so he can quiet the demons in his own personal abyss. It showed her that he was prideful as a front, but a lonely child deep within.
It showed her that she now had a new role to play.
Lumine is Childe's new home, and she wouldn't trade that role for the world.
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Ease Our Burden
Late at night, the Survey Corps veterans head to a bar after wrapping up their year-end paperwork. What happens after a few glasses of alcohol is just plain chaos.
( When I read one of Erwin's official smartpass AUs, I wondered what kind of shenanigans the scouts pulled in the bar they headed off to after work. This is a story I've been wanting to write for so long, as drunk vets live in my mind rent free. Hope you like it.)
Originally posted in Ao3 and dedicated to @someonestolemyshoes
It was late at night when the wooden door of the bar creaked open, the sound of raucous laughter and footsteps spilling in. The old barkeeper looked up from his counter to see the veterans of the Survey Corps entering his almost-empty establishment, headed by their commander, Erwin Smith.
He gave a quiet nod to him. Soldiers frequented this bar often, as it was the closest to the military quarters. His eyes went towards the two Military Police soldiers sipping their beers in one corner of the room. The barkeeper had planned to close for the night after the MPs left, but now that the Scouts were here, he did not mind tending to the bar a little longer. Besides, he knew Erwin well from his cadet corps days- days that felt so long ago now.
The Scouts settled down noisily around a large round table, dragging in chairs from the other empty tables to fit them all. The barkeeper recognized quite a few of them. The loud, bespectacled brunette was Hange Zoe, someone who was poked fun of by the MPs and Garrison soldiers alike on a regular basis in the bar. She was a usual topic of gossip and trash-talk, as he had seen the customers mimicking her for some laughs, as if they were trying to talk to the captured titans in the same way that one would approach a pet.
His gaze trailed to the short man next to Erwin, the infamous Captain Levi, humanity’s strongest soldier. Rumors- fueled by drinks- always spread like wildfire around the bar, and even the barkeeper himself had heard whispers of how the captain was, earlier, a thug from the underground. As for how much truth the rumor contained, he did not know.
Captain Levi sat opposite Mike Zacharias, the tall section commander who was one of Erwin’s longest comrades in the Scouts. He could not recollect the names of the four others- two men and two women- as well, although he supposed he might have seen their faces somewhere before. After all, these soldiers were the best that humanity had to offer- for going outside the walls to face the titans and exterminating them required immense internal courage. The barkeeper could never imagine him voluntarily putting himself through such an ordeal. No, he was happy here just doing his family business.
Erwin walked over to the old barkeeper and enquired about his day with gentle familiarity. The barkeeper answered in like. He remembered the times all those years ago when he’d come over there with Nile Doc, the current commander of the Military Police, to stir up some trouble in the bar and to steal looks at the pretty barmaid- Marie was her name, he believed- during the evenings after their training.
His lips involuntarily quirked up with a smile at that memory. What a rowdy bunch they were.
“What would you and your team like tonight?” he asked Erwin.
“A glass of whiskey for me,” he said and turned back to the others. “What about you all?”
“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” Levi replied, looking bored.
“I’ll have some simple lemonade,” the short blonde haired woman said.
“Can I get a mug of beer?” Hange piqued, “I’m in the mood for some beer today.”
“I’ll have whatever Section Commander Hange is having as well,” said the tall man who sat on Hange’s other side.
“Alright, two beers and one lemonade for Nanaba then,” Erwin said. “What about you Gelgar, Marlene and Mike?”
The other two grinned, “Mike’s going to choose for us.”
At that, Mike stood up and approached him. “May I check your collection out?” he asked politely in his deep voice, towering over the old barkeeper. The barkeeper craned his neck to look up at him and nodded timidly.
Mike hopped on the counter and crossed his legs to the other side with ease. He ran a finger through the array of glass bottles, gleaming in the soft yellow lighting of the bar. Keeping his face close to the bottles, he took a sniff now and then as he went through the assortment of liquors.
The barkeeper let him do his thing as he poured the beer and whiskey in their glasses and chopped up a lemon to make Nanaba’s lemonade.
“Ah… I’m relieved that we are finally here,” he heard Hange’s husky, drawn out voice from their table. “All that year-end paperwork sucked the soul out of me. To balance it out, let’s have some fun tonight, shall we?”
“I’m curious,” Marlene replied, “What do you have in mind?”
“We are going to get Erwin as drunk as possible. I wanna see what embarrassing stories spout out of his mouth.”
Erwin gave a small chuckle. “A brave quest. Good luck with that.”
“You don’t need to get Erwin drunk to embarrass himself,” Levi drawled. “Just place him in the midst of the younger cadets and ask him to make small talk. You’ll watch him flounder like a fish out of water.”
“There sure is a generational gap, but I’m not that old, Levi.”
“Bullshit. You scared away my entire squad that day when you tried to be friendly with them.”
“I was just trying out a change in approach rather than my usual authoritative tone. It is important to connect with the younger-”
“Right, right, I get it. But you should know you suck at that. Just keep doing what you do and you’ll be fine.”
Another smile stemmed from Erwin. “I’ll keep that in mind next time.”
The barkeeper walked over to their table with the tray of drinks in his hand, as all his waiters had left for home already. He set the glasses and mugs in front of them.
“You know what would be a great idea?” Hange’s voice filled the room again. “Let’s have a drinking contest between Moblit and Gelgar. I want to see which one of you two is the fastest to chug three mugs of beer in one go.”
“I place my bets on Gelgar,” Nanaba quipped.
“Gelgar is obviously going to win, this guy is a straight-up drunkard if I’ve ever seen one,” Marlene chuckled. Gelgar, despite his weak protests, seemed quite confident in himself and eager to take part. Moblit, on the other hand, looked resigned- like he was forcibly dragged into yet another messy situation he’d rather not be in, but had no choice but to appease his superiors by participating.
Hange put an aggressive arm around Moblit’s shoulder. “You all underestimate Moblit’s drinking capacity,” she chided, “I’d bet my life on him winning this contest.”
“You do realize his chronic alcoholism stems from your recklessness, right?” Levi asked dryly.
Hange ignored him. “Get the beers rolling!” she signaled the barkeeper with her hand. “Let’s see who downs them the fastest!”
As the others banged their fists on the wooden table yelling chug chug chug, egging the two of them on as they gulped down the mugs of foaming beer, Mike and Erwin checked out the wine selection. Even though the barkeeper was used to their shenanigans, he was still weirded out by seeing Mike sniff at each bottle and give his smirk rating. Apparently, the wider the smirk, the better the liquor.
This went on for a while till Mike’s nose finally rested on an expensive bottle of plum wine. He gave the widest smirk he could muster and nodded his shaggy head at Erwin. The commander took the bottle from him and examined it.
“What’s this one?”
“The Reeves company’s finest plum wine, sir. I’ll have to warn you that it’s very strong. And a little on the pricier side.”
A commotion from the table made them look back at Hange who let out a delighted, victorious cheer, jumping and punching her fist in the air as Nanaba and Marlene rolled their heads, moaning in disappointment. “Pay up,” Hange declared, as the other two pulled out their wallets amidst the grumbles.
“We’ll have this then,” Erwin turned towards Mike. “I’ll pay. Consider this a thank you gift from my end. You have all done so much to help me, so I wish to treat you all to something good tonight.”
Mike crossed the bar counter to the other side and slapped a broad hand on Erwin’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he said, his lips forming a smile that was way more heartfelt than one of his usual smirks. “Let’s go share this with everyone.”
There were whoops from the rest of the table as Erwin and Mike brought over the wine and uncorked it. Glasses, the barkeeper remembered, I have to take some glasses over and-
He stopped, his hand paused over the tray as he saw Mike chug down the wine straight from the bottle. Swiping the back of his palm over his mouth, he passed the bottle on to Hange, who took a deep gulp and handed it over to Levi.
The barkeeper watched in disbelief at the sheer disrespect towards the expensive wine as it got passed on to Erwin, who drank it in the same way. Apparently, he wasn’t the only flabbergasted one, as the two MPs on the other side of the room went quiet, their expressions scrunched as they watched all the veteran Scouts drink from the same bottle without a care in the world.
He did not have enough time to dwell on that, though, as Hange stalked over to the counter, looking slightly dazed. “That was good,” she said as she sat on a stool in front of him, “A little stronger than I expected, but I’m not complaining.” She rested her elbows on the countertop and leaned forward towards the barkeeper as if she were about to share a secret, her breath smelling strongly of the plum wine as she whispered, “Moblit’s birthday is coming up and I want to gift him something good. What are your recommendations?”
As the barkeeper put forth a few bottles of good liquor on the table, the door opened with a creak and an old man with salt and pepper hair entered the bar, his eyes darting outside as if to check that he wasn’t being watched by anyone. Once satisfied that he was alone, he walked into the room and sat on a stool next to Hange. One look at his wrinkle-webbed face and Hange let out a surprised sound.
Pixys placed a finger on his lips. “I’m undercover,” he whispered, pointing towards his salt and pepper wig. “If Anka finds out I’m here, I’m screwed big time.”
“Don’t worry,” Hange smirked, “Your secret is safe with me.”
The barkeeper poured a glass of whiskey to Pixys as Hange sifted through the bottles, almost as meticulously as Mike did, minus the sniffing or smirking part. The old Garrison commander took this as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with the scout.
“I heard your titan experiments are yielding results,” he said over his glass, “How did you manage to capture two of them without any casualties?”
“We lured them to the walls and used spiked nets to pin them to the ground,” Hange replied cheerfully.
“As expected from the Survey Corps’ genius.”
“No, no,” Hange waved off his compliment with a light chuckle. “None of this would have been possible without Erwin’s support and Levi squad’s contribution. They did most of the work.”
“You’re too humble,” Pixys shook his head, his wig sliding down a little as he did. “You know what would be a better contribution to humanity, though?”
“If you researched wine with as much passion as you have towards the titans,” he said as Hange laughed. “Just imagine the breakthroughs you’d come up with that the world can benefit from.”
“How about we combine the two of them together?” Hange proposed. “Think about it, we can make the ultimate Titan-wine!”
“Huh? How is that possible?”
“We can dig a pit outside the wall and fill it with a giant tub full of berries,” Hange went on in her half-drunk state. “Then we lure the titans to fall into the pit, resulting in them stomping the berries into pulp. Once they do the grunt work, we can dispatch Levi and Mike to kill them off. Their bodies would evaporate, leaving no trace of them on the wine. Who knows- the heat might enhance the flavour as well…”
Pixys threw his head back and laughed, patting Hange on her back.
“This is exactly why humanity needs you!”
During his thirty long years of running the bar, the barkeeper had heard many questionable conversations, but this was probably the most bizarre one of them all- considering it was one between a commander and a section commander of the military. He thanked his stars as Hange broke off the conversation after selecting the wine she needed with Pixys’ insight. Wrapping the selected bottle in brown paper, he handed it to Hange, who paid for it separately.
Once Hange left to join her comrades, the barkeeper poured another glass of whiskey for Pixys. Now that his conversation partner had left the table, he started talking to him instead.
“It’s so rare to see them having fun like that,” he said, looking wistfully at the Survey Corps, who were hooting and catcalling at Erwin as he loosened a few buttons on his collar with a lazy smile on his chiseled face. “It’s hard to maintain sanity and optimism when you see your dear friends get killed in front of you during every expedition.” He took a deep drink of his whiskey. “Maybe that’s why they are so optimistic. They decided to spend whatever limited time they have left enjoying each other’s company.”
The door opened again, the sound drowned by the chaos from the scouts table. A red-haired woman strode towards the counter in a huff, frustrated anger written all over her face.
Pixys winced as his aide, Anka, grabbed him by his ear and dragged him out of the bar, paying no attention to his miserable pleas.
“At least let me finish that drink-”
“You weren’t supposed to drink in the first place! Did you really think you could hide under that stupid wig of yours? I’ve known you for years, you know, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life changing your diapers if you end up stuck in a hospital bed.”
The door closed after them. The salt and pepper wig lay on the wooden floor, having slipped from Pixys’ bald head while he struggled against Anka’s steering grip.
The Survey Corps paid no heed to the struggle or the aftermath of the fallen wig as they were too busy goading Nanaba to dance for them.
“Alright, alright,” Nanaba gave in with a laugh, “Just a few steps, but only if some of you guys join me.”
She pulled Marlene up on her feet, while Hange needed no prompting. After downing yet another shot of whiskey, they let themselves loose, snapping their fingers and shaking their bodies to the rhythmic clicks and claps of the rest. Nanaba really was good at it, and the barkeeper did not miss Mike’s longing glance at her.
Their laughter and whoops were interrupted rather rudely by one of the MPs who stood up and glared at them.
“Tch,” he said, his face twisted in disgust at the Scouts, “Can’t have a moment of peace and quiet in here. Stupid scouts, always kicking up a ruckus wherever they go.”
The other MP, however, did not seem so wasted, considering he was tugging the drunk one’s shirt, subtly signaling him to stand down. They were in the presence of the commander and the section commanders of the Survey Corps after all.
The drunk one did not seem to care about their ranks. “Go on,” he jeered, to the now quiet table, “Drink away all our taxes. That’s all that you all are good for either way.”
“What’s your problem?” Levi growled, his sharp gaze trained on him.
The drunk MP waved a hand at them. “Y’all are the problem,” he said, his words slurring together, “To the ‘ntire society. You Scouts are a sham in the name of soldiers. The world would be a better place if you imposters got eaten by the titans y’all love so much.”
There was pin drop silence in the bar. The barkeeper felt his blood pressure rise steadily as the air thickened with tension. The drunk MP, however, did not seem to notice the predatory looks trained on him, unlike the other MP, who desperately hissed at him to shut up already.
“The Survey Corps is too grand a name for what is nothing but a funeral parade,” he went on obliviously. “All you are paid to do is to lead a bunch of stupid, starry eyes idealistic brats that join your dumb regiment to their gruesome deaths in the maws of those titans. At least that saves some resources inside the walls for sane people to live-”
His words were cut short by a strangled choke as Hange strode towards him and lifted him up by his collar.
The barkeeper rushed out of the counter to mediate the situation, but froze on his tracks when he glimpsed the absolute fury in the section commander’s eyes.
“Hange,” Erwin warned, but she paid no heed. Her stare was fixed on the MP’s wild eyes as he struggled to get out of her powerful, vice-like grip.
“Do you know why you MPs can live such comfortable lives within the walls?” she asked, her voice shaking with barely contained rage. “It’s because we, the Survey Corps, risk our lives to seek the knowledge that can give humanity a chance at survival. We are humanity’s spear- fighting in the front lines so that you can meekly settle down behind the walls with a family.”
As the MP clawed desperately at her hands, she shook him harder and flung him across the bar with a grunt. To the barkeeper’s horror, he crashed right on the table they were occupying earlier. The table upturned and the beer glasses shattered, amber liquor soaking the wooden floor.
Hange was still glaring at them as she was pulled back by the combined efforts of Moblit and Mike.
“If you can’t learn to show some gratitude towards the fallen, at least learn to shut up.”
The MPs scurried out of the bar immediately after. The sober one shoved a wad of excess cash into the barkeeper’s palms before he dragged his drunk friend from the establishment. Erwin apologized to him on Hange’s behalf and assured that he’d pay for the damages caused as the others tried to get Hange to calm down- which wasn’t working very well, as Moblit was the only one chiding her for being reckless while the others sat with a suppressed smile, smug satisfaction written clearly on their faces.
“Can't believe the gall of these MPs!” Hange ranted angrily, watching their backs as they left. “If you guys hadn't stopped me, I’d have climbed up on him and given a demonstration of how heroic Erwin looks as he rides a horse outside Wall Rose.” An overly exaggerated, determined look morphed her face as she saluted, hitting her fist to her heart with an amount of force enough to make the barkeeper flinch. “Dedicate your heart!” she declared, deepening her voice considerably, as if she were imitating the commander.
Marlene, Nanaba, Gelgar and Mike immediately responded with similar salutes and a ‘yessir’, while Erwin looked slightly red. A soft, huffing laugh caught their attention, and all eyes turned incredulously towards the source of the sound- Captain Levi.
Hange gasped loudly. “Somebody take the wine bottle away from Levi! He’s so drunk that he’s actually laughing.”
“Shut up, Four-eyes,” his signature scowl returned back to his face. “I'm a human being, not a brick wall.”
“I could easily have mistaken you for one.”
He rolled his eyes. “Sometimes, I wish I could get drunk just so that I don’t have to hear the shit that spouts out of your mouth all the time.”
“Ah, the things that some strong alcohol can do to others but not to poor Levi here. How unfortunate. But there’s a way to recreate that drunken state without alcohol, y’know? Just don’t sleep for ten days.”
“Joke’s on you, I'm an insomniac.”
“So is this your permanently drunken state?” Hange tapped on the commander’s arm, “Erwin, you should look into this. Imagine how much more powerful he would be if he got an adequate amount of sleep each night.”
“Wrong, Hange. Levi is probably this powerful because he doesn’t get any sleep.”
Hange let out a bark of laughter. “You might be right there.”
As their banter continued, Moblit approached the barkeeper. “If it’s not much of a problem, may I request a pencil and a piece of paper?” he asked.
“Sure, sir,” the barkeeper replied as he pulled out his notepad, tore a page and handed it over to him with a pencil he found lying around in the cash drawer. Moblit accepted it with thanks and made himself comfortable on one of the stools with a good view of the Scouts’ table. He started drawing, the pencil scratching on the paper as he made stroke after stroke.
The barkeeper looked on. Even if the sketch was a little shaky- probably because of the alcohol influence- there was no doubt that the man in front of him was an excellent artist. He rendered a near-perfect, dynamic portrait of the team of Scouts who were laughing over one of Erwin’s old stories. Moblit did take some artistic liberties here and there, making the Levi in the painting smile the way he did a while ago, Erwin relax with his loosened shirt collar and pleasant satisfaction gracing his face, Nanaba laugh as she looked over at Mike, and a drunk Gelgar and Marlene with droopy eyes and arms around each other, sharing a joke only they knew. Hange was, by far, the figure Moblit put the most effort into- apparent by how in-focus she looked in the portrait- with her striking dark hair, wide grin and the mischievous twinkle of her eyes behind the glasses.
“You are not drawing yourself with them?” the bartender asked.
Moblit blinked at him, as if it was something that did not occur to him before. From over the table, Hange waved, placing a palm on the side of her mouth as she called him.
“Moblit, collect your stuff, we are leaving.”
“Will be right with you, Section commander.”
He shook his head at the barkeeper, casting a fond look over at his comrades. “It’s alright,” he murmured, “I just wanted to capture this memory.”
The barkeeper nodded as Erwin approached the counter to pay for the drinks as well as the shattered glasses. The rest of the Scouts got up and stretched themselves, collecting their bags and belongings from where they kept them on the floor. Once the payment was settled, Erwin thanked the barkeeper and left, the Scouts joining their commander as the door creaked open one last time.
With his final customers gone, the barkeeper counted the day’s earnings and shut down the bar for the night. As he stood outside the threshold to lock the door, his lips curled in a smile as he heard drunken singing drifting toward him from the end of the moonlit road.
Some things never change.
So ist es immer
We live under the burnt clouds
Ease our burden
Long is the night.
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