Black and white was the norm.
Disregard the widespread pitched tales of romanticized lovers often spread through silly children’s tales. Color was deemed an old wives tale to many, only capable of those who truly believed in love.
Color didn’t exist in her world. Not like it did in countless others.
But she saw color in her own way.
Pyro was described as orange. As fire. Burning those it deemed unworthy to unrecognizable crisps. It was destructive, roaring and monstrous. Capable of wiping villages off the face of maps in a single heartbeat.
Yet her own elemental knowledge begged to differ. As a scout of Mondstadt, she traveled more than she could tell in a single day. Her feet took her places farther than she could count. To the edge of Stone Gate, narrowly avoiding the Ruin Guardian stationed there, to the very tips of Stormbearer Point and its rocky cliff face. She’s never visited Liyue— despite being quarter-Liyuan from what her grandfather told her— she never had the means, nor the will to. Mondstadt was her home.
More often than not, Teyvat travelers would spend nights huddled around campfires, sharing stories of star-crossed lovers and the world beyond monochrome. A slip of the tongue, and Amber would find herself soaking in the tales like a fascinated child waiting for the next outlandish bedtime story. The more she heard, the more she thirsted for the opportunity to experience it.
She longed for color. Merchants spoke of orange as the color of the sky after an exhausting day. Fire is orange, they would tell her. But so were the berries hanging off those bushes, and the setting sun saying goodbye. Even the fluffy warm fur coat of a fox that Amber initially thought was bright purple (Courtesy of Kaeya’s teasing) was orange. Amber was astonished to find her own eyes resembled her element.
She saw it as a beacon of hope because of that. Like a bright light shining in the distance during an unrelenting storm. It wasn’t destructive. It was powerful and ambitious. It was an inspiration.
(Destruction belonged to those who wielded it improperly. Like the Hilichurls who tossed exploding slimes at her with the grace of a beached whale.)
Amber vowed she’d use her own beacon of hope to protect the ones she held close to her heart. Even if she hadn’t quite met her supposed other half yet, she pledged to keep them safe. It seemed fitting, and she was never one to downplay an exciting fairytale.
She’s shocked out of her daydreaming stupor one afternoon. Out of the corner of her eye, she managed to catch something amidst the hunts and patrols she frequented. It was a barely perceptible change. Years of studying depth perception and vision to master her own marksmanship led her to a set of trees just by Timmie’s bridge.
Underneath the light of the sun, there was a tint of something .Gray, but not quite monochromatic. Amber skirted around the clump of leaves, lips pursed with her hands folded neatly across her bosom. She was almost afraid touching it would scare it off.
The only way she could describe it was like she was really seeing the leaves. A faint, narrowly distinguishable sense of tranquility pervaded her mind. She racked her brain for ideas. Recalling past conversations with travelers but coming up empty-handed.
Puzzled, but not one to shirk her own responsibilities for a personal agenda, she continues along her way. Spotting more irregularities along the path leading towards one of the Statue of the Sevens.
All at once, the thought comes to her like a speeding arrow.
She feverishly glances around. Finding the color in underbrushes, in the trees and in the grass. It flitted in the cool breeze, following the leaves as they rode the wind. The more she recognized the color, the more it seemed to make itself known. Tales from travelers around Teyvat came back to her. It swirled around her, seemingly popping into focus, words forming in her mind out of her own jurisdiction. Olive, Lime, Fern, Jade. She breathed. Emerald, Veridian, Sage, Chartreuse.
Wanderers warned her that once she had found her other half, fighting to keep them was crucial— for when your soulmate perished, so would your color. You’re given a chance. A wise old man had told her, leisurely sipping a drink on one of the tables in Dawn Winery. He was reminiscing the times he had with his late wife. A warning. You’ll see color right before you meet them.
Amber briefly remembers that conversation in the back of her mind. Present, but quickly dominated by the expanding world of new findings bleeding into the rocks covered in moss, or the caterpillars on their perch.
Voices break over a jumble of vines and quickly scrambles her thoughts. Suddenly she’s poised and ready. Standing stiff to pinpoint the noise. She’s supposed to be patrolling! Not dawdling in the woods gawking at trails of colors. She chastises herself as she crosses an empty clearing.
“Hey you!” She spots white in a sea of green by the outskirts of Whispering Woods. “Stop right there!”
She misjudges the distance and jumps a bit too far. Theatrics were fine, she muses halfway through. She turns around, hoping that whatever traveler who witnessed her combat roll thought it was cool at the very least.
“May the Anemo God protect you, stranger!” She starts without looking. It’s a customary Knights of Favonius traditional greeting— at least, it's a customary Amber greeting. “I am Amber, Outrider of—“ and without warning, she’s greeted mid-sentence with an explosion of swirling colors.
Her sentence falters, and she hesitates under the sudden blossom of blues, oranges, and gold.
The green that so utterly dominated her world a few moments ago was overtaken by a plethora of ranging hues. Centered upon a single person standing at the edge of an age-old forest.
Amber’s words trail off in a pathetic gasp.
“...Ah.” The stranger says.
She snaps to attention at the sound of her voice. Color seems to emit from her like waves. Spreading along the sky and into the thicket of trees surrounding her. To her surprise, the colors aren’t washed out like they were before.
She’s at a loss for words. The outlander seems to be too.
“Uh… So, Paimon is confused.”
“This is the first time... I’d never thought...” Then the girl is murmuring to herself, and Amber watches as she examines her hands and twirls her body to catch sight of her clothes. She glances at her companion, Paimon, Amber deduces, and scrutinizes the creases of her sleeves.
“Shh.” She says. “You seem different.”
“Paimon hasn’t changed since the last time you saw her.”
“No, no, it’s like you’re… “
“Colorful?” Amber supplies helpfully. She feels her mind struggling to catch up. Her eyes transfixed on the strange girl in white.
The foreigner snaps her fingers. “Yeah! You seem colorful.”
“Lumine… you’re a strange one.” Paimon sighs.
The girl— Lumine— laughs. It's cheery, sweet, and makes Amber's heart feel like she fought a whole swarm of Abyss Mages in ten seconds flat.
She glances over to the Outrider. Her golden eyes are wide and exuberant. The biggest, charming grin was plastered onto her cheeks like she had just uncovered the biggest secret— which, really, wasn't too far from the truth. “I certainly didn’t think there’d be any silver lining to losing Aether.” She muses. “But I’m not complaining.”
The colors are tripping over themselves in a steady crescendo, and it's all she can do not to pass out.
“It’s nice to meet you, Miss Outrider.” A hand was extended. Amber took it breathlessly.
At contact, the world seems to burst like a show of fireworks.
Two months later, the words, I love you, sat on her tongue and refused to part.
It hit her like a ton of bricks. Realization dawned on her without the slightest bit of warning. The stranger, now Honorary Knight: Hero of Mondstadt, captured her heart as easily as an elementary game of capture the flag. She fell so suddenly, and Amber wanted nothing more than to let it happen.
She wasn’t the type to conceal feelings. If anything, she was the type to yell them. Make her opinion known. After the number of official Mondstadt Outrider’s dwindled thanks to her grandfather’s unexpected leave, Amber had the responsibility of picking up the slack herself. She grew up striving to be the best she could possibly be. She needed to be loud. How else could she be heard?
Granted, it had only been about two months since they’d met. Amber wasn’t sure how love even worked. At eighteen, she was focused on following her grandfather's footsteps. At nineteen, she was promoted to the Knights of Favonius’ Outrider status. Now that it's been a year and half of following that dream, what’s stopping her from finding out?
Yet, she held her tongue. Dragged it in by the reigns, painstakingly and carefully. While she did have something to lose before, it didn’t compare to her situation now— now, she had someone to lose.
Soulmates were tricky business. Over the years, many people became more defiant and picky over their future lovers. They upheld the right to have their own sovereignty of such an important aspect of their lives. Because this land was under Archon Barbatos, freedom of choice was held close to the heart. The idea of soulmates were often brushed aside to become platonic partners, rather than romantic. It could go either way.
Who’s to say Lumine fancied her enough to spend the foreseeable future with her? Not when she still had to find Aether. And especially not when she had a God to hunt down.
She wasn’t even from this world anyways. Really, would even stay in the end?
Amber thumbed the goggles hanging around her neck. Absently, she thought of the possibilities where she swept Lumine off her feet with a sweet kiss.
“Have you tried the Fisherman’s Toast?” A voice breathes close to her ear. And Amber almost shrieks. She spins around to see a curious golden gaze.
“In Good Hunter?” She splutters.
Lumine gives her an odd look. “Yeah. Paimon ordered some before I could drag her back.” She shook her head. “I was trying to get your attention, but you seemed preoccupied. Everything okay?”
“Yes! Yeah! Of course! Why wouldn’t it be?”
“That's an awful lot of confirmation there.”
Amber flushes. “You just caught me off guard!”
The blonde bumps her shoulder in jest. Her voice lilts in a tease. “Did you see a new color?”
It was something new that had picked up after Amber came across a shade she hadn’t quite figured out. She consulted her soulmate about the color during an expedition to Wolvendom, unable to find a proper name sifting through descriptions in her mind.
“How about we name it Amber.” Lumine suggested after they tossed names back and forth. There was probably a book somewhere in Lisa’s library that held the proper name, but Amber found herself enjoying the playful guessing match too much to care.
”That is what we’re trying to do!”
”No, no.” Lumine shakes her head. “Name it after you.”
“Why...?” She asks curiously. The traveler looks sheepish.
“One: because you found it.” Lumine clears her throat.“Two: because it matches your eyes.”
She leans closer as she says this. Close enough that Amber can catch the scent of blooming lilies. Her next words send her knees to jelly. “And three: because it’s beautiful.”
Heat prickles up her neck at present. “N-No.”
Lumine furrows her brow, “Hey, Amber—“
“Hurry up!” Paimon interjects. “Stop flirting and help Paimon bring all these juicy steaks to the table!”
The Outrider goes stiff at the insinuation. She glances at Lumine, finding pink dusting her cheeks. She refuses to look at Amber, but the color darkens the longer she stands there. Suddenly she’s off striding to the table in a quick pace. “Where did you get steaks from!?”
Oh. Amber thinks. She feels the steady thump thump thump of her heart under the palm of her shaky hands.
She only joins them mere seconds after she regains her composure. Finding Lumine teasing her floating friend about how short she is when she takes a seat.
“Jokes on you! Paimon can float, so height doesn’t matter.”
Lumine shakes her head. “You’re smaller than Klee, and I’m fairly certain she’s like… eight.”
Paimon folds her arms. “Paimon isn’t falling for this bait. She knows you’re just jealous of her clearly superior height difference.”
Paimon floats just a tad higher. “Not anymore!”
Amber interjects with a teasing tone. “She’s right, Lumine. She’s got you beat.”
“Betrayal.” Lumine gives her a mock look of hurt. She has a mouthful of food, and Amber wants to thumb the crumbs off her cheek. “Unbelievable.”
Amber leans over to retort, when—
“Paimon knows you like short girls anyways.”
Lumine makes a series of choking noises, and Amber has to will her flustered gay panic down to smack her back.
To her credit, the girl looks genuinely confused. “What? Paimon is just repeating what you told her about Amb—“
She’s certain the other patrons of Good Hunter enjoyed an amusing spectacle of the famed ‘Honorary Knight’ chasing her ever loyal floating companion through the streets of Mondstadt like an exciting game of tag. If Amber wasn’t too busy trying to keep up with her wind demon of a soulmate, she’d be shock-still in the middle of the square, flustered and unresponsive.
I really do love you. She thinks again. Watching Lumine quite literally nosedive off the closest tower above the Knights of Favonius’ headquarters without a single ounce of fear. Paimon screams out a laugh.
It’s quite the sight. To see the girl you’re oh-so smitten with under the light of the setting sun. Orange is her favorite color, she absentmindedly notes. But that could change very soon.
“Perfume?” Amber echoes.
“Perfume.” Lumine agrees. “I’m not… sure why the Rite of Passing would require offering three different kinds of perfumes. But I’m also not accustomed to Liyuan traditions quite yet.”
“Mr. Zhongli did say it was a lost practice.” Paimon floats passed them. They were traversing the streets under the soft glow of the lanterns. “The locals pointed us towards Miss Ying’er, Shop Assistant of the Scent of Spring, which Paimon heard was right— aha!”
They round a corner, and find themselves by a pottery shop by the edge of the harbor. Beautiful porcelain vases line the wall in neat rows. It's a quaint shop, but it's certainly homely looking.
A woman appears in the doorway. She’s wearing an intricate purple and white dress that falls just above her ankles. “Well, hello… You’ve found me at last.“ Her voice is airy, gaze half lidded. She carries a thick air of sexual appeal, and Amber is immediately uncomfortable with the gaze she’s set on Lumine. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“How’d you know we were coming?” Paimon asks. She’s as ever oblivious to the rising tension. To Amber’s surprise, her floating companion does most of the talking for the conversation. Her soulmate opted to stay quiet until prompted for a reason for their visit.
Amber pulls out the sweet smelling flowers out of her satchel that they had gathered earlier. “A bespoke triple - Silk - Flower variety…” Lumine says as she’s holding them up.
“Oh my… Three in one go? Maybe the rumors were true after all. You’re on the prowl and need some sweet - smelling ammunition, is that it?”
Amber gets the distinct gut feeling she wouldn’t like this lady in the next coming moments. Lumine stutters out an answer, clearly not expecting the flirtatious advances.
The shop assistant lets out a breathy giggle. “In short, I’m happy to help. Lumine—“ She purrs her name, “—you can be my assistant. But you’d better make sure I’m the only person on your mind while you’re hanging out with me…”
Amber involuntarily stiffens. She clenches her fist, and Ying’er seems to notice. She has a mischievous glint in her eyes, and Amber withholds the thought of calling Fiery Rain down upon her. She holds her tongue at the possessive thought and deflates. Lumine wasn’t hers to own.
Lumine catches it as well. She glances over, and Amber has to force her bristling posture down. Paimon simply blinks at them in bemusement before asking the shop assistant another question.
“Don’t worry.” Lumine whispers while they’re distracted. Her hand is cupped to her face, as if her whispers were only for Amber’s ears. The thought sends her reeling. “I’ll just think of you, instead.” She winks, before turning back to the conversation.
If Ying’er notices the bright red Amber’s face turns into, she doesn’t show it. The line was so utterly dorky in the best way possible, Amber has trouble processing it. It’s at this moment that she’s glad it’s sometimes hard to distinguish red’s in a monochromatic universe.
“So are you ready to please me?” Ying’er says out of the blue once they relocate to Chef Mao’s kitchen.
Lumine is the one to go rigid this time and Amber is too flabbergasted at the unexpected innuendo to look at her. She briefly hears the owner of Wanmin kitchen cough out a laugh. Thoughts that shouldn’t be directed at her supposed friend-slash-soulmate are suddenly and chaotically swirling her mind like a raging swarm of bees.
“Uh… what did you say...?” Paimon tilts her head and Amber self-combusts at her innocence.
Ying’er takes one glance at the two of them before she’s letting out a gleeful laugh. “Ah, pure romance isn’t dead, after all.”
She wants to hiss profanities at the reckless girl.
You’re an idiot. She wants to say. Reckless. Dumb. Foolish. A bumbling moron. The curses halt at the tip of her tongue, unable to break free. She’s incapable, impuissant enough to bring herself to stay mad. It never seemed to stay for long. Anger paved the way for more vulnerable emotions.
Worry, she thought.
She instead spreads the salve across the gash along her back. Her practiced hands work swiftly. As if this wasn’t the first time.
She feels her grow restless under the palms of her hands.
“Stop moving.” She snaps, and the body stills beneath her. “He… got you good.” She says. “It’s deep, I need to finish applying this before we can bandage it.”
She hears a sigh from the girl laying along the makeshift bed. Forlorn and somber. “Sorry, Amber.” Her voice is meek, hoarse, and maybe the slightest bit frightened.
Amber feels the anger subside, guilt clawing its way up her gut. She feels like she might’ve been too harsh. “No— I’m sorry, Lumine. You were only trying to—“
The girl below vigorously shakes her head. “It was reckless of me, I apologize.” She says. “I was just showing off, I didn’t think he’d get the slip on me.”
“Showing off?” Amber echoes. “Lumine, no one else was there but me.”
Lumine remains quiet and the reds of a nearby apple tree’s flicker ever so brighter. Amber furrows her brow. Oh.
“It’s scary to see the colors suddenly… disappear, you know?” She says instead. Her hands ceased their motions as the imagery of the battle came back full force. She was aiming at a Gravedigger readying to fling dirt like rain. When all the colors, during that split-second moment, flickered and vanished. Her world was tired and gray once more. Devoid of the happy hues she was so accustomed to for the past few months.
She remembers blindly jumping from her perch along the mountain thicket. Hurriedly hopping over knocked pottery and book notes before spotting her blonde companion. She crouched beside Lumine’s still body, desperately trying to recall any first aid her senior knights taught her. Color pulsed from her. Draining with every second that passed. She didn’t stop until all the colors came tumbling back.
The vivid memory brought tears to her eyes, and Lumine was scrambling to her knees in an instant.
“I‘m sorry.” She says again, and she’s pulling Amber towards her chest. Her voice is barely above a whisper as she presses close. “I’m sorry.”
“Your wound… ” Her voice cracks, and then she's wrapping her arms around Lumine like she’s a lifeline. Her own beacon of light. “You dummy.” she croaks.
Lumine lets out a breathy laugh, careful not to jostle the ointment plastered on her back. “It’s a good thing we finished whatever we had to do in Dadaupa Gorge already.” She quips, before looking guilty again. “And... I promise, I won’t do it again, Amber.” And in a much quieter and softer voice Amber thinks she wasn’t supposed to hear: “After all, I have no plans on leaving you.”
Just those words, and Amber is unable to seal her lips shut before she spouts. “I love you.”
Under her grasp, Lumine tenses in surprise. She fumbles on her words, pulling away from Amber with the most overjoyed look she’s ever worn. “You do?”
“Yes.” She responds breathlessly. “So much.”
Before Lumine can say anything else, Amber cups her face without a second thought. Bright and lively golden eyes gaze at her like she made the sky. And she kisses her under the setting sun.
“Is it bad that I’ve been waiting since the whole Stormterror thing?” She’s sheepish as she speaks against her lips.
“Y’know! You could’ve said it first! How was I supposed to know you liked me like that?”
Lumine gawked at her. “If me being, and I quote from Paimon, ‘embarrassingly jealous’, every time someone so much as looks at you in a flirty way is any indication…”
“People look at me that way??”
She raises her eyebrows. “Amber… You’re gorgeous, how could someone not—“ Amber goes red. “Yeah see, like that, that’s cute.”
“I’m— uh… uhm.”
The blonde is quickly pulling her closer with the barest hint of a giggle. She’s all mischievous and playful. “I love you too, by the way.” She mumbles against her lips, before she’s pulling her in again.
The color orange is beautiful, Amber thinks very briefly. She likes the unique shade fire gives. It makes her feel warm.
But the radiant gold that bursts around her at this very moment reminds her of Lumine's eyes. And those certainly beat the warmth any flame could provide.
(“How did you know?” Amber mumbles as they shamble off towards the arching Liyuan architecture. Already under the guise of another Zhongli errand.
“Know what?” Her voice tells Amber she knows exactly what she’s talking about. “That you were jealous?”
Amber mumbles a quiet. “... Yes.”
Lumine’s eyes flicker to her before she starts walking off in the direction of Third-Round Knockout. She’s smiling like the cat that ate the canary. “Everything had a tint of green.”
Amber hides her face in her hands.)