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what's in the box?

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Lumine carefully walked into the office, unsure of what to expect. After all, Childe still was a part of the Fatui. This could be a set up of a sneak attack or some sort of way to extract information about Rex Lapis. She braced herself, just in ca-

“Ooh! Hey, hey, look at this!” Paimon flew towards a thin counter at the side of the room, pointing at a pretty gift box sitting at the center.

“Paimon!” Lumine whisper-scolded. “Be careful, you don’t know what could be in there.”

“Ohh, but aren’t you curious? Like, even Childe gets gifts. It’s kind of surprising, don’t you think?”

Even I’m a little offended by that , Lumine thought. “Still, he invited us in here, and he’s done a lot for us. It’s rude to just poke around his stuff.”

Paimon puffed her cheeks. “Not like that stopped you at poking around anywhere else. Paimon saw you take all those books! And, and carrots! And, umm, those other white things-”

Lumine flinched. “That’s different! Also, you mean radishes?”

Paimon smiled widely. “Yeah! Those. All Paimon’s saying is that a little peek wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

The door clicked open, and the two gasped as they assumed normal positions. Childe strolled in, closing the door behind him.

“Hey, you two got here a lot faster than I expected.”

Yeah, no kidding, usually the others get to their destinations so fast it feels like they’re teleporting. Lumine cleared her throat.

Paimon shoved her hands behind her back, almost bashfully. “Childe! We weren’t doing anything sketchy, like poking around.” Lumine sighed, trying to avoid facepalming.

Childe walked towards the two and the counter they stood next to. “Well, what’re you- Oh, the box, right?”

Paimon nodded. “Yep! It’s so pretty, we were wondering what could be inside!”

Childe laughed. “It’s nothing special, really. I mean, it was extremely expensive, but Zhongli bought it for me, so…” Childe walked over and picked up the box, opening it and showing the contents.

The box had a plush velvet cushion, with two thin wooden chopsticks sitting on top. They were extravagantly designed.

“Wow!” Paimon exclaimed. “Those chopsticks are so fancy!”

Childe laughed. “I know, right? It feels a little awkward to even use them, considering how expensive they were, and the fact that I’m not even that great at them…” He cleared his throat. “But Zhongli insisted, talking about the designs and, er, what did he say? Something about Liyue’s gastronomy.”

Paimon sighed, rubbing her head. “Mr. Zhongli sure has a lot of words to say, huh? Whenever we talk to him, Paimon feels like he talks 99% of the time!”

“Just like you, Paimon!” Lumine said, a large grin spreading on her face.

Paimon put her hands on her hips. “Even Paimon’s not that bad!”

Chuckling, Childe continued. “Even so, isn’t this a little… dramatic? For chopsticks, I mean. The gift box and designs… is Liyue this, ah, obsessive for chopsticks? I understand it is a big part of the culture and all, but it seems a bit excessive.”

“Let me take a closer look,” Lumine said, walking closer. She stared at the chopsticks for a moment, staring at their design and woodwork. “They just seem like overly fancy chopsticks to me. Childe, how much did they cost?”

He paused for a moment. “Zhongli said… 128,000 mora.”

Paimon and Lumine gaped. “Ehhh?? Paimon thinks that’s a ridiculous amount for chopsticks!”

“Well, he also said that they’re special because they have a dragon and phoenix design.”

Something tickled the back of Lumine’s mind. Dragon… phoenix… Where have I heard of that before? She thought deeply, attempting to recall with all her willpower. “W-wait!”

Childe and Paimon both turned towards her. “What’s up?”

“Umm, I think… Paimon, could you bring up the archive for books?”

“Huh? Okay! Which book?”

“Volume three for Feng Shui: A Succinct Explanation.”

Childe frowned. “Three volumes doesn’t sound so succinct. Also, you have an archive for books ? How many do you have?”

“Don’t question it. Here you go, Lumine!” Paimon handed over a book with a golden-amber cover.

Lumine flipped through the relatively thin book, until stopping once she found the word phoenix. “Oh! I found it! See, it says that there’s a relationship between phoenix and dragons.”

“How so?”

“Uhh, it says that the dragon is the yin to the phoenix’s yang and that they symbolize man and woman, respectively. Also, success, prosperity…” Lumine skimmed down the page. “ The phoenix and the dragon symbolize the perfect balance for a successful - wait, a successful…” She stared at the page.

Paimon wailed. “Come on, spit it out already!”

Lumine looked up, a mixture of shock and slight embarrassment coloring her expression. “A successful marriage. Traditionally, gifting someone something with a dragon and phoenix design is the equivalent… of a proposal.”

Childe and Paimon stared back for a solid ten seconds. The words hung in the air.

“EHHHHHHH? P-proposal?!” Paimon turned towards Childe. “You two are-? YOU?! ARE??”

Childe flinched back. “I-I didn’t know…?! I just thought it was a normal gift!” He snapped his fingers. “Wait, wait, maybe Zhongli just didn’t know! He just gave it to me because of the design!”

Lumine inhaled deeply in order to stop herself from banging her head against Childe’s desk. “Have you heard that man speak?! Mr. Zhongli is all about history, and tradition, and being stupid about mora! If he bought you something expensive, that means nothing, but if he bought you something that has a cultural meaning , he clearly knows it. And this knowledge is common enough to be in a book that I found outside some dude’s house!”

Childe looked as if his head were spinning. “B-but that, that means…” He awkwardly closed the box. “I’m going to get some fresh air!” Promptly, he dashed out the room, box in hand, the door shutting behind him.

Paimon and Lumine exchanged a look. “Should we follow him?” Paimon asked.

“I think it’s better if he has his alone time,” Lumine sighed. “Maybe I messed up by even saying that.”

“Paimon disagrees! Who knows, maybe they’ll be happier this way. Plus, we can just say this is us repaying him for that Sigil of Permission.”

“And all that mora?”

“And all that mora.”