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Celestia Academy

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“Promise?” I blinked away the threat of tears.

Moonlight shone on Aether’s face, casting a soft glow on his golden hair and small smile.

“I promise,” my brother smiled. “Nobody can separate us. We’re in this together.”

“But you have the chance to live with a family,” I countered. 

“You are my family. You know that.” Aether reminded me. “If they want to adopt me, they’re gonna have to take you in too.”

A beat of silence.

“Okay,” I sighed and suppressed a yawn. “If you say so.”

“You should get some sleep.” He turned to face the window. “Or else you’re gonna be shorter than me forever.”

I gasped in disbelief, the possibility of my brother’s adoption gone from my mind. “I am not shorter than you! We’re twins! Twins are the same height!”

“Not according to Miss Katheryne,” he chided. “She said I was a whole inch taller than you last week.”

“That was last week .” I rolled my eyes. “I’ve caught up now.”

“You can’t grow an inch in a week.” He lifted his chin with a smirk. “That’s physically impossible.”

“Well, you’re...you’re,” I sputtered. “Oh, you’ll see! I’m only eight years old. I’ve got time to grow.”

“Me too!” Aether grinned. “I’ll get stronger tomorrow, too. Even more the next day after that.”

I turned away from my brother, stomping down the hallway in determination to get the best height-enhancing sleep I’ve ever had.

✧✧✧

I woke with a start and winced at the bright rays of sunlight streaming through the window. It’s been a while since I had that dream. 

Over ten years have passed since my brother and I were adopted from the orphanage. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay together after all. I don’t blame him, of course. Aether and I were just ten years old, kids who didn’t know any better. 

My heart clenched as I remember how I felt waking up the morning after his promise. When I ran to the breakfast table with a ruler in hand, eager to prove to my brother that we were the same. Only, he wasn’t at the table that morning. Nor was he at our secret hiding spot in the woods. He’d been adopted in an instant, and so was I, just one week later.

“Lumine?” a soft voice called from downstairs. “Lumine, are you awake? You’ve got a big day ahead of you, girl.”

“Yes, Madame Ping!” I answered, swinging my legs out of bed and glancing at the acceptance letter on the nightstand. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

The golden embossed sigil of Celestia Acadamy gleamed in the morning light. I lifted the paper for what felt like the millionth time and reread the fancy lettering.

Dear Lumine,

Congratulations! We are delighted to inform you the Committee of Admissions has admitted you as a part of the next class of Celestia Academy. We consider each application with great care, assessing to admit those who use their talents to the fullest and continue excelling in their achievements across all of Teyvat.

Yours Sincerely,

Katheryne

I smiled at the signature of the letter, remembering the kind woman from the orphanage. Though I highly doubt she was the same woman from my childhood as the name could be common, it still brought me comfort.

Getting dressed and rechecking all of my packed belongings, I tried to contain the growing excitement that was threatening to bubble up and burst out of me. I was really going to Celestia Academy, a dream for all and impossible for nearly everyone. It’s a prestigious institution with the most competitive acceptance rate in all of Teyvat. Those with a Vision are typically accepted with no issue, but those without have to prove themselves as combat champions, exceptional intellectual scholars, or skilled mages well-versed in ancient texts and alchemy.

I myself am without a Vision, making me all the more prideful in my acceptance. Of course, it was not without hard work that I have gotten this far. After Madame Ping took me in just one week after my brother left, I was introduced to a whole new world of opportunity. After getting adjusted to my new home, I was enrolled in a myriad of courses that ranged from archery to horticulture.

I never complained, though. I disciplined myself into being the best version of myself because I knew that wherever Aether was, he would be doing the same. 

Lugging my suitcase down the creaky steps, I grinned at the lingering scent wafting from the kitchen. “Are those Mondstadt Hashbrowns I smell?”

“Only the best for you, my dear.” Madame Ping set down a hot plate on the table. “Now, eat up! We can’t have you traveling across the seas and getting lost on an adventure on an empty stomach.”

“I’ll be in school. I won’t have time for any adventuring,” I mumbled in between bites.

“That’s what you think,” she countered. “You may be grown up now, but don’t think for a second I’ve forgotten all the times you snuck out to find the Legendary Love Potion of Liyue.”

“That was a long time ago,” I blushed. “And it wasn’t a love potion.”

“Or how about when you nearly lost your head after traversing in the ruins of a domain overrun with hilichurls?”

“Those hilichurls didn’t stand a chance,” I rolled my eyes. “It was the ceiling collapse I wasn’t expecting.”

“Mhm,” Madame Ping harrumphed. “Just promise me you’ll be careful out there.”

“Yup.”

“Lumine,” she warned.

“I promise I’ll be safe.” I stood up to place a kiss on her head. “You’ve done so much for me already. It’s the least I can do to ease your mind.”

“Oh, stop it you,” she swatted me away.

We continued a light conversation throughout the rest of the meal, reminiscing over the years we’ve had together and speculating what to expect once I’ve crossed the sea and arrived on the private island owned by the academy.

“Well, it’s about that time now.” Madame Ping swept crumbs from her lips with a napkin.

“It is,” I nodded, suddenly feeling nervous. “I’m ready.”

“Oh, don’t make that worried face,” she murmured. “You’ll be fine. Go and make friends while you’re at it.”

“Hey,” I frowned. “I have friends.”

“Maybe even find yourself a boyfriend while you’re at it.”

“Madame Ping!”

“Or maybe two,” she laughed at my red face. “You’re quite the catch, you know. Beautiful inside and out.”

“Okay, okay,” I smothered her in a big hug and made a big show of gathering my things. “I’ll be off now!”

✧✧✧

“Are you boarding for Inazuma?” The man at the dock station inquired.

“No,” I shuffled around my bag and pulled out the pass for my voyage. “I’m on the one for Celestia Academy.”

“Celestia Academy?” His brows shot up and he reached out for my boarding pass, eyes scanning the paper. “Congratulations miss, that’s no easy feat.”

“Thank you,” I tried to be nonchalant. “Do you know which ship is mine?”

“White one down there,” he leaned over the counter and pointed to the ship at the far end of the dock. “Safe travels.”

I thanked him again and rolled my suitcase down the boardwalk. The ship in question was quite modest in comparison to some of the huge cruise liners in the bay. A bright flag with the academy’s sigil flapped in the wind, and I spotted a few others boarding the ship.

The employees on deck directed me to my cabin was to store my luggage and sleep for the overnight journey. I made it to the cabin, no problem, but I was surprised to see there were two beds in the room. Whoever I’d be sharing the cabin with had already arrived, their suitcase tucked neatly under the bed and a bunny-girl doll sitting by the pillows.

I’d just set aside my own belongings when the door swung open and a brunette with a cheery smile bounced in.

“Oh, hi! You must be my roommate. I’m Amber!” She stuck out a hand which I politely shook.

“I’m Lumine,” I smiled. “You’re here for Celestia Academy?”

“Well, of course! I almost didn’t make it here, got lost on the way,” she laughed. “I’m just a first-year, after all. And you?”

“Also a first-year.”

“Cool! What’s your Vision?” She tilted her head and scanned my outfit. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Oh, I actually don’t have one.”

“Really?!” she gasped. “Wow, you must be super talented. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything from you before. Normally, the non-Vision holders that go to Celestia are also members of the Adventurer’s Guild.”

“I’ve had a lot of private lessons,” I supplemented. “Lots.”

“I’m sure you have! Have you met anyone else on the ship yet? It would be good to meet new people since you haven’t been in the community before.”

“No, I just got here. How many others are there?”

“Well, this isn’t the first ship to Celestia, so not everyone is on board,” she mused. “But there’s still quite a few left! Let’s see, I’ve talked to Bennett, Barbara, Xiangling, and Childe. There are a few others, though.”

“And they’re all first-years too?”

“Everyone but Childe,” she replied and plopped on her bed. “He’s a second-year. Though, I hear he’d be a third-year if it weren’t for some disciplinary action from the board.”

Everyone knows that the academy didn’t go easy on rule-breakers, and no sane person would risk losing enrollment over bad behavior. “What did he do?”

“Don’t know,” she shrugged and hugged her plushie. “He wouldn’t say. Though, I’ve heard rumors that he summoned an ancient god on campus to sabotage finals week.”

“That sounds pretty serious,” I raised my brows. “And also a bit impressive.”

“Oh yeah,” Amber grinned. “Basically everyone here is impressive in their own way. If you ever see Bennett—er, if he ever runs into you—you’ll see he can be impressively unlucky.”

“Is that...a good thing?”

“He’s got a good heart,” she giggled. “I hear some of the third-years at Celestia are really something, though.”

“Well, we can’t let them intimidate us.” I crossed my arms. “We may be new, but we were accepted for a reason.”

“You bet!”

I remembered Amber’s question about my nonexistent vision and couldn’t help wondering about hers. “And your...Vision? What element can you harness?”

“Oh right, I’m Pyro!” She lifted the amulet hanging at her waist. “I use Barron Bunny here for some pyro explosions, and I also have my bow.”

“That doll explodes ?” I inched away. “Like a bomb?”

“You have nothing to worry about,” she reassured me. “It’ll only go off when I activate it myself.”

“Alright,” I laughed. “I trust you.”

And I did. I’d only just met this girl, but her bright personality and ease of conversation have made her very likable. I can’t imagine how anyone could dislike Amber after getting to know her for just a little bit.

We talked for a bit more, discussing how excited we were to get to the island and wondering how difficult the classes may be. After some time, Amber left to grab something to eat from the ship’s food bar. I was still full from Madame Ping’s cooking but figured it would be worthwhile to check out what was above deck. I hadn’t realized we already set sail, there was nothing but ocean all around us and I was momentarily speechless over how vast it all seemed.

“There’s nothing quite like it,” an unknown voice said from beside me. “Large, seemingly empty waters. I bet the deep end is teeming with sea monsters just begging for a fight.”

I looked up to see a tall, lean man with ginger hair leaning over the railing, peering into the waters. He seemed like he was ready to hop off the deck and actually fight these imaginary beasts.

“Careful,” I warned. “I don’t know if they’re prepared for a search-and-rescue if you fall off.”

He threw his head back in laughter and moved away from the railing. “I’m not worried about that. Nice to meet you, girlie. I’m Childe.”

“My name is Lumine.” Not girlie. “So, you must be the second-year troublemaker?”

“Depends on your definition of trouble,” he winked. “I hear my name has gotten around. What have you heard of my magnificent feats? Go on.”

This guy was so full of himself.

“Hm?” I blinked innocently. “I thought you were held back for...skipping classes? Or perhaps they were too difficult for you.”

“There’s nothing at Celestia that I can’t handle,” he insisted and studied me. “Though, I’m not sure you’ll be quite alright, girlie.”

“Oh?” I cocked a brow. “Careful now, I can get competitive.”

“Competition is one of my middle names,” Childe smirked. “We’ll have to see about your confidence.”

One of your middle names?”

“I’m a man of many names. Many talents. Many glorious triumphs and—”

“Let me guess, you’re Hydro?” I eyed the Vision on his waist.

“Curious about my abilities?” He leaned in close, catching me off guard when his face came up to mine. “What about you? I don’t see any Vision on you.”

I refused to back away. “Yeah? I don’t need a Vision to fight a guy like you. I could take you on with a dull blade any day.”

He laughed again. “Oh, I like you. I think I’ve got someone to look out for, then.”

Childe was interesting, to say the least. He didn’t seem so bad, actually.

“Let’s fight.”

Huh? 

“What, right here, right now?” I eyed him warily.

“Of course not,” he shook his head. “Once we get to the academy when you’ve had a couple of combat lessons. We’ll see how strong you really are.”

“I don’t need combat lessons to beat you,” I scoffed despite never seeing this man in action myself.

Childe shrugged. “So you say, but I’m sure some tips from the Conqueror od Demons would make our battle a lot more...interesting.”

“Conqueror of Demons? Who is that?”

“You’ll see,” Childe grinned. “Take advantage of this time to relax, while you can. I’m heading back to my cabin. Don’t miss me too much.”

“Why would I…” I trailed off after he’d already walked out of earshot.

With a sigh, I leaned back against the railing and simply watched the waves and the others on board. I spotted Amber at the food bar helping a boy who tripped and sent his food flying. Hm, that must be Bennett. I noticed how there were more students with Visions than without, and I’m beginning to truly worry if I could handle what awaited me at Celestia. Seemingly harmless amulets donned as vital accessories seemed to be the key to power in this world. Do I really have what it takes?

“I’ll get stronger tomorrow, too. Even more, the next day after that.”

The memory of Aether resurfaced, and I smiled. Yeah, I do.