Another letter, another batch of lies. The crisp pale paper sat on the table, delicate letters that spelled your name staring up at you. The red wax stamped with his insignia burned into your mind, filling every thought in your head, despite trying to go on with your day. Was it really worth it to open the parchment? Every letter that arrived on the doorstep, with the same handwriting scribbled onto it felt like another push out of his life. Paragraphs describing the beautiful blonde outlander traveller that had caught his heart made your chest hurt with every word that he wrote. How long had it been since you had last seen the young ginger Harbinger whose lopsided smile made your heart skip a beat. Though he had been sent away on a mission to Liyue, you stayed behind to manage your parent’s business in Snezhnaya. Everything could only go downhill from there. You took the seat in the back as you watched letters arrive at your doorstep with pages of Childe’s handwriting describing the new nation he was exploring and the people who he met. But in every letter, he never failed to mention the golden eyed beauty who was Lumine. In the darkest parts of your heart, you wished that Childe would stop sending you letters, that he would just forget about the best friend who remained smitten by him. Rapid knocks on your door interrupted you from your thoughts. A chorus of giggles erupted from behind your door and you bit back a sigh, knowing exactly who was standing out in the cold.
“Did big brother send you a letter too?!” Teucer greeted you the moment your door cracked open, his bright blue eyes looking up at you with excitement and curiosity swimming inside of them. Tonia apologized for the lack of courtesy from her brother, but you could tell that she too, wanted to know if you received anything. A part of you wanted to lie to the two young children, and tell them that Childe didn’t send you anything. But there was no way to deny the two pairs of ocean eyes that twinkled with curiosity. You could tell Tonia was hiding something behind her back yet you didn’t pry, instead, forcing a smile to your face and admitting that their elder brother had sent you a letter.
“Have you read it yet?” Tonia giggled and pulled out the object behind her back. It was another letter, but addressed to her instead. You opened your mouth to reply, but the young ginger haired girl was already speaking rapidly, explaining all that her brother had written in his latest letter. You watched in silence as Teucer stood up on his tiptoes to peak over at the words his sister was reading off and your breath caught in your throat. Teucer was almost exactly like Childe, in his actions and looks.
“He said he’s coming home sometime this week and he’s looking forward to seeing you and the rest of our family!” Tonia grinned and then pulled out a small, dried, pressed, flower from her pocket. “Did you get a flower too?” She tried to peak around your frame but you laughed gently and shook your head, admitting that you hadn’t opened it yet. A pout crossed both of the children’s faces and a guilt brushed across your features, promising them that you would open it. But like the typical stubborn children they were, they eagerly asked you to open it at that moment, promising they wouldn’t say anything or disturb your reading. You pushed down the comment that bubbled up in your chest and nodded, allowing the two children to bound into your small home, throwing themselves on the same couch they used to fall asleep on many years ago whenever Childe had brought them over.
The flower fell out of the letter before you could begin reading, the red colour nearly falling to the floor had you not caught it and held it up. You froze as you held it up to the light, the faint veins of the dried petals snaking through the dried plant, looking like gentle cracks in fine porcelain.
“It’s beautiful!” Tonia breathed out, “What is it?”
“A red carnation.” You scoffed quietly before setting it aside to read the letter. Tonia and Teucer stayed quiet as your eyes skimmed the paper, taking in the hastily written words describing the beautiful landscape of Liyue and adventures with the Mr. Zhongli. It seemed as if everything in this letter was normal, until the last paragraph. You could feel Childe pour all his love into this section as he spoke about battling the traveller in Liyue’s Golden House, and the rush of adrenaline he had never felt in so long. Tears pricked at the corner of your eyes as you took in each sentence, the words feeling like knives twisting in your heart as Childe admitted his love for her without having to say so. Aware of the two children who were watching your every move, you snapped the letter shut and painted a grin onto your face, lying about the contents of the letter as they excitedly asked you what their brother had said. Neither of them noticed the way you subtly brushed away any of the tears that threatened to fall, instead, they fawned over the beautiful flower that now lay on your table, not wanting to be touched by your fingers.
“Mother wants to know if you were still coming over tonight!” Teucer interrupted his sister’s rambling about the flower, gazing up at you with pleading eyes. It was a tradition that you had with their family, going over once a week to join them for dinner, unless Childe was home from whatever mission he was on. If he was, you would make an excuse as to why you were busy that day and couldn’t attend the weekly dinner. It was easier that way, to avoid Childe and not have to watch as your heart would break again and again as he eagerly spoke about his adventures and the people he would meet. Every location he was assigned to, there was always someone that would catch his eye. So you weren’t very surprised when he brought up Lumine. And yet, this time it hurt more because you had never read so many letters about the same golden irises and swordsmanship that Childe was taken aback by. Each time Childe returned for a visit, it became more difficult to stay away. Unsure of how to simply cut him out of your life to allow your own heart to heal, you allowed him to whisk you away for drinks when he returned. He was always far too caught up in his stories of adventure to notice the way his words chipped at your heart, face falling to sadness as he alluded to nights spent with strangers. Childe was a man who lived for adventure, and Snezhnaya could only provide so much. The quaint flower shop that you tended to every waking day would never be enough for the Harbinger. And yet at the same time, you couldn’t find it in you to break off all connections with him. It was a selfish desire, but for once, you wanted to treasure something for yourself, even if it was just a simple friendship.
The icy cold winters of Snezhnaya brought fierce winds and endless blizzards, the grounds coated with fluffy snow and clear icicles hanging from every building’s ledge. Anyone who was visiting Snezhnaya for the first time would marvel at the seasonal beauty, unable to fully take in the gorgeous snowy climate. But after living in the same place your entire life, Snezhnayan life seemed to be black and white, the same tasks done everyday with little adventure and excitement to whisk you away from the gentle flowers you tended to. It wasn’t that you didn’t enjoy managing the shop, but a part of you yearned to escape the endless cold and bask beneath a sky of warmth without having to worry about anything else in your life.
A cloud of white escaped your mouth as you walked up the road to the same house you would visit nearly every week. The last week, you had been lucky enough to have your parents pull you away to visit relatives in another part of Snezhnaya so there was no way you would have to see Childe. There was important business that your parents needed to discuss with you, and you had never felt so relieved to have the chance to speak with them. All of which served as an excuse to once more, avoid the Eleventh Harbinger. Before you had left, Tonia had told you that Childe was leaving the day before you came back, which came as a relief to you. So there you were, hugging your coat closer to your body as you gently held a bouquet of flowers for the family.
The door swung open and your heart stopped. Looking down at you with a large grin and bright blue eyes was the one person you didn’t want to see. Before you could even react, he had pulled you in for a tight hug, your face buried in his chest as he rambled in your ear about finally seeing you after so long. Your mind was still reeling from everything happening at once but you forced a smile to your face as you untangled yourself from his arms, looking down at the bouquet to avoid ocean eyes you could drown in. He wasn’t supposed to be home, and yet here he was, standing in front of you looking as if there was nothing in the world that could bother him.
“This is for your family.” You said quickly, shoving the bouquet towards him, yet still refusing to meet his eyes. You stepped back and quickly made the excuse that you were only there to drop off the flowers, but excited voices came from inside the house and Childe’s younger siblings burst out, excitedly calling out your name and pulling you in for hugs.
“You’re staying for dinner right?” Tonia asked eagerly, grabbing the flowers from Childe’s hands to look at the various colours. You winced and opened your mouth to make an excuse when Teucer exclaimed, “Before you left you said you would stay over today!” You cursed your past self in your head and gave him a weak smile before nodding, stepping past Childe into their house. His older siblings and parents greeted you warmly, not noticing, or perhaps not commenting about the forced smile on your face and the way you seemed to avoid speaking to Childe. The Harbinger watched from a distance as you seemed to fit so well into his family, aiding his mother in cooking while holding up conversation with his parents and a faint smile crossed his lips. It was the feeling of finally being home. Dinner with the large family was never boring and with Childe back to visit, the younger children were firing question after question about his adventures and the people he was meeting. He would often ask you questions about your family’s business and you simply replied with basic answers and a gentle smile that didn’t reach your eyes.
“Who’s Lumine?” Anthon’s voice snapped you from your thoughts and you looked over at Child who was staring at his hands with a faint smile on his face.
“She’s a wonderful fighter. You know the stories of the traveller who beat the dragon Dvalin of Mondstadt? She’s the one!” Childe grinned, a blush coating his pale cheeks. You looked down at your food, appetite suddenly gone as Childe began to recount his tales of adventure with Lumine. From journeying through the beautiful mountainside of Liyue, to dinners at night at the harbour, the words only dug deeper into your chest, twisting painfully until it felt almost painful to breath. It was so obvious: Childe was in love with her. How could you ever compare with a blonde beauty whose eyes glittered brighter than the brightest gold and skills that would make any warrior jealous. You let out a fake cough and everyone turned to look at you, your face flushing red. You met Childe’s sapphire eyes and something like concern flickered beneath those orbs, but you dismissed the thought.
“I’m sorry, I’m not feeling very well.” Your voice nearly cracked as you struggled to keep yourself together. “I think I’ll head home for the night, I’m so sorry.” You gave the family a weak smile. Childe’s mother watched you for a second but she shook her head, saying that they were all glad you could join them for dinner. With shaky hands, you excused yourself from the table and retreated to the front door, desperately hoping you didn’t look like you were trying to run away. A hand wrapped around your wrist just as you were about to open the door and you turned to face the reason behind your heartbreak.
“Are you okay?” He asked, voice gentle. You were hyper aware of the hand that seemed to burn into your wrist and you carefully pulled it out of his grasp, holding it close to you.
“Of course, it’s been a long day, I should really head home.” You lied, moving to turn around when he spoke again.
“Are we okay?”
You paused and turned to look back at him with a feigned expression of innocence, “Why wouldn’t we be?” Childe stared at you in silence before he sighed, his shoulders dropping in defeat.
“We don’t hang out as much anymore. I hardly see you whenever I return, yet my mother says you visit every week for dinner.” You swore you heard traces of hurt in his tone, but you brushed it off, reminding yourself that Childe was already in love with another woman.
“We go out for drinks.” You stammered, trying to come up with excuses in your head.
“That’s not—” Childe sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, “What I mean to say is, you’re not the same.” You scowled at the statement and Childe saw the flash of hurt on your face as he quickly spewed out apologies.
“It’s okay.” You held your hand up. Childe stopped talking and you looked down at the floor, “I really do have to go, there’s some stuff I need to take care of. I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Liyue, Lumine sounds like a lovely person.” Childe’s eyebrows furrowed but you had already moved to open the door to step out into the bleak and dark cold.
“Did you get the flower?” His voice urged you to step back inside and you turned to look at him with a hurt smile and nodded before you slipped out without a word, the door closing in Childe’s face. He blinked in confusion but was brought back to the present as his younger siblings called out for him, while the rest of his family watched him with careful eyes. He would have to ask them some questions the next day.
The next morning, Childe bundled up in a warm coat and slipped out of the comforts of his home to the same flower shop he would frequent every time he visited home. The bell on the door rang to alert anyone inside of his presence, but he was surprised to see your parents standing behind the counter with sad smiles as they tended to the flowers. They greeted him warmly and he quickly returned the sentiment, but his eyes were looking around for you.
“They left early this morning.” Your father peered at him curiously. Childe’s eyes widened before his expression morphed into one of confusion.
“They didn’t tell you?” Your mother asked, trimming the stem of a rose bush. Childe shook his head and moved to the counter, subtly looking to see if there was any sign of your items. His mind raced with questions, but above all why didn’t you say anything?
“They’re setting up a shop in Fontaine. They’ve wanted to explore outside of Snezhnaya for so long so they’ve been saving up over the years to obtain enough money to travel to Fontaine and set up a shop there.” Your parents explained to him and Childe felt like he was at a loss for words. You had never mentioned moving away in the past years that he had come back to visit. Frankly, it was so out of the blue. Yet your mother handed him a letter with his name neatly printed on the front before excusing herself with your father to the back room to give him privacy.
You’re probably mad at me aren’t you? I know there’s not much I can say now, as if you’re reading this, I’m already on my way to Fontaine to start a new life in a new nation. Snezhnaya has become too plain and I want to see a world of colour, just like the flowers I always take care of. You’re probably wondering why I’ve never mentioned this dream of mine for the past few years. Well, you’ve been so busy with your job as a Harbinger, and you’re travelling around the world and adventuring and meeting new people. I don’t want to slow you down, Childe. So, I’m taking a step forward by myself and trying something new. But I hope that now, when you go back to Liyue, you be selfish for once and be with Lumine, the beautiful traveller. In every letter you’ve sent me, you talk about how you wish you could adventure with her, yet your job holds you back. Well, if I can take the step forward to start something new, I know that you can as well. Thank you for all the memories that you brought me in Snezhnaya, but I think that finally stepping away from you and everyone else will bring me some good.
I will always love you, Childe. More than you could ever know. But I can’t be selfish and ask for more. So this is farewell, perhaps one day we’ll meet in the future.
All my love,
Childe reread the letter once, and then once more, eyes scanning over the heartfelt words that burned into his mind. He was unsure of how to feel, caught between wanting to return to Liyue and pursue Lumine or journey to Fontaine and find you. Was this how you had felt for years now? Childe bit his lip and turned over the paper, hurt stabbing through him as he saw what was attached to the back of your letter. A red carnation.