One thing adults never prepare you for is the amount of strange people you will meet in life. Like the boy that plays the lyre and thinks green is a good color for everything. Or that one high schooler that always misses the bus and loses their change. Or maybe that girl that comes into the library daily and only speaks in Shakespearean. Your parents never tell you about those people.
Then again, your parents never expected you would end up at Celestia's Institute for Troubled Teens out of all places.
Yae wouldn’t consider herself troubled or a challenge , per se, as her parents so kindly put it before they sent her to the middle of a god forsaken forest. Obviously, she has had her moments, like any other teenager with more spice than a slice of plain bread. Yes, she ran away from home, smoked, and drank alcohol while underage, broke a few hearts (almost intentionally). But she was a good kid, really.
Her parents must not agree, of course. Because she has been in this stupid camp, not institute, because she has been stuck in the middle of the woods, for two whole months now, and Yae’s pretty sure she just got sold out for free labor by her own family.
“Yae goddammit, it’s just some potatoes.” Sara groaned beside her.
“Throw the peeler at my face, I know you want to.” The pink haired dramatized, “End it once and for all.”
Sara very kindly ignored her, going back to the task of peeling the food Yae was supposed to be washing.
"Next, time." Sara snaps at her, "Don't try having sex in the middle of the forest."
“Sara, I have known you for two whole days, and I already can’t stand you.”
Sara throws a potato peel at her, “The feeling’s mutual.”
A new friend, how nice.
After finally being done with kitchen duty, Yae had pretty much all the rest of the morning free. Not really, since she was supposed to teach the younger girls arts and crafts, but they were as uninterested as she was, so she just let them run around the camp.
Her first stop was, as always, the library, or book cabin as the attendants called it. It was a small hut supposed to be lost and found, but it got so full of lost books it was technically a library at this point. She felt bad for the owners. She felt great for herself.
Of course, Fischl was there already, sitting on a pile of dictionaries and rereading Flowers for Princess Fischl. Whether the name was a coincidence or not she didn’t know nor wanted to find out.
"Good morning." Yae made sure to open the door slowly, as it made too much noise. How old was that thing? Fischl responded with a grunt, her sign she didn't want to be interrupted.
She noticed the pile of history books was left undisturbed, "Zhongli wasn't here today?"
A white head appeared from the cabin’s only window, “He went to - stop screaming please - show around the new arrivals.”
“Bennett! Did no one tell you that sneaking up on a lady is bad manners!” A boy with blue hair, Xingqiu, she recognizes, hits the other on the back of the head.
“Shouldn’t you guys be with the boy scouts or something?” Yae questions, slightly annoyed at the interruption of her free time.
“Coach isn’t here.” Bennett replies, now coming in through the actual door with Xingqiu in tow, “Xingqiu is hiding to- OW!”
“We’re looking for firewood.” Xingqiu interrupts, almost hiding the book he took in time for Yae to notice, “shouldn’t you be overseeing the other kids?”
“Nah, I’m skipping work too.”
Yae grabs a book as well, and leaves the kids to fend for themselves. Not her problem.
She walks through the camp alone, avoiding her superiors, until she notices a tiny group of people near the entrance. Yae quickly recognizes Zhongli, and reasons it must be the new prisoners. She recalls the day she had just arrived, a mess of tears, fear, and mud. The new group looks pretty much the same.
Yae decides to retire to her own cabin before lunch. The space is criminally small for her and the other two people that live in it, but it also means the inspectors are so confident in its smallness they don’t suspect they hide anything. They’re wrong.
Under Yae’s bed, she discovered one week into this hell, there is a faulty floorboard that anyone can easily lift with sufficiently long nails. Thing is, Yae is the only person that bothers taking care of her nails in the woods.
Under the board is a box. It is full of what she would consider “necessities”, money, make-up, sweets, spices (because fuck the people that thought potatoes and unseasoned chicken counted as a meal), jewelry, and most importantly, a phone.
Yae was about to get the latter when the door opened, revealing Ningguang, clipboard in hand, and a girl trailing her.
"This will be your cabin, you're sharing with three other girls, Yae,” She points at her, “Lisa, and Kokomi, only rules are: no switching with other cabins, no sleeping on the same bed, no putting up posters or anything of the sort, and," Ningguang took something Yae couldn't see from the girl's hands, "no phones."
Ningguang turned to leave, but turned once more to face the two girls, "Yae, show her around."
Yae finally got a look at the new arrival. She wore the usual camp uniform, a shirt with Celestia printed on it and jeans. Her clothes were by far the only plain thing about her. Long, shiny dark purple hair, violet eyes, and a mole on her cheek that just seemed to put it all together.
This week will be very fun.
"Raiden Ei." The girl says, and Yae notices how she's staring at her, too.
"Yae Miko, nice to meet you too."
Yae drags the new girl through the small cabin. It's unnecessary, given how small it is. But she has to use every excuse she can to spend time with her.
"This is your bed." She points to an unmade mattress, "The one to the left of yours is mine, and the two on the front are Kokomi's and Lisa's."
If Ei is wondering about the implications of sleeping almost next to each other like Yae is, she doesn't show it. She silently places her bag on the bed and looks at the other girl once more, waiting for her to continue the tour.
"First off, let's go through the schedule every morning there's roll call, then you get assigned a task to help around, then lunch, then free time, but if you broke a rule, more work, then at exactly 7 in the afternoon you have to shower, sleep, and get ready to do it all again, any questions?"
Ei looked like she had many, "Not at all."
Yae grabs the girl's arm, "Now, to the tour."
Yae drags her through every corner of the camp she can get to. She starts by the entrance.
"Every day at eight in the morning, roll call." She explains, "If you're not here by eight thirty they'll launch a search, and pray they don't find you."
"Speaking from experience?" Ei asks, glaring at the sun.
"Just know that cleaning the bathrooms isn't fun."
Then Yae drags Ei by the arm into the cafeteria, where she explains in excruciating detail how bad the food is and how peeling and washing potatoes should be considered torture. Ei silently listens to her rants, commenting once in a while. It's nice, she thinks, her last roommate ran away thirty minutes into the tour.
“This is the center.” Yae motions to an unlit fireplace and the few benches around it, “Every wednesday the older menagerie gather to talk about their time here.
“Menagerie?” Ei asks, her hand goes over one of the benches, but she retracts it when she sees the dust on her fingers.
“Pretty much, we're all animals according to the supervisor,” Yae winks, I’m the fox.”
“Hmm, I can see why.”
Yae’s shoulder slouch for a bit, she would normally fake innocence, but something about lying to Ei just didn’t feel right, “Was it that obvious?”
“Yae Miko, believe it or not, you aren’t the first girl that has tried to get into my pants.” Ei sits down in one of the benches, smiling in a way Yae thinks would mean she lost. But Yae Miko doesn’t lose.
Yae leans down, so her face is right above Ei’s, noses almost touching, “Sweetheart, I wasn’t even trying.”
“Yae Miko!” Too suddenly, a girl comes between them, abruptly forcing them apart and glaring holes in Yae, “Displays of public affection are prohibited and you know that!”
“She was probably unaware, Keqing.” Ei reasons. If she is displeased by the interruption, she doesn’t show it.
“ Oh, she is very aware, I have told her the same thing,” Keqing pauses, counting the fingers on her right hand, “seven times!”
“Oh? But does Ganyu know?” Yae sneers back, “Because I’m sure you-”
Keqing abruptly drags Ei by the arm, away from Yae before she can even finish, “I’m giving her the rest of the tour!”
As promised, Yae doesn't see Ei until she supposes the tour ends, and Ei is sitting on some bulder looking bored out of her life. Yae knows what it feels.
"Already regretting not running away?" Yae approaches her, resting her back on the boulder.
Ei lets out a long breath, "Pretty much, are all first days like this?"
"Don't worry, they get bored of you after the first week." She reussures.
"And my only week." Ei clarifies, and Yae pretends the short time doesn't affect her, "How long have you been stuck here?"
"Two months now." Yae grins at the way Ei's eyes go wide, "A week more for every girl I have slept with while here. They tell me I'm the greatest kisser in the world."
Ei lets out a snort, "You sound fun."
Yae bares her teeth, "In every sense of the word."
She knows how this thing is supposed to go. A few words and the girls are already blushing, and some more banter and even more flirting. Next morning, Ganyu finds them together on the bed and Ningguang has to switch their assigned cabins. Then Yae gets sent to the office, calls her parents, and informs them she will be staying a week longer. Rinse and repeat.
But Ei doesn't blush, "Well then, entertain me."
Yae has always liked a good challenge. She moves over so she is standing in front of Ei. Giving a quick bow, she gets into character (one of many).
"Should I do a quick dance for you? I took classes."
She looks up to meet Ei's eyes, only to find that she has already gotten down from her spot at the boulder.
"No thanks." Ei waves her off, and smiles, "I like the longer performances."
Yae is left behind beside the stupidly big rock. Unconsciously, she smiles, almost feraly.
This week would be very very fun.
The next day passes by in a blur, of course, Keqing just had to assign her to kitchen duty once more,
So she spent half her day sweating in the kitchen instead of spending time with her new ‘friend’. Bummer. Her mood was pretty much ruined for the rest of the day, so she spent it locked up in the library.
“Finally, found you.”
She was just halfway through Pretty Please, Kitsune Guuji when Ei appeared at the door, covered in sweat. Unconsciously, Yae swallowed, there were few people that could look good after a day at the camp.
“How was your first day of work?” Yae pats down the empty spot beside her, squeezed between piles of books no one would bother moving.
“Why do they call this an institute?” Ei takes the spot, and Yae tries not to look at the exposed but of her collarbone, "this is…"
"Yeah, that." Ei leans into the wall, closing her eyes in what she assumes is a moment of rest.
Anyone else would find it strange to rest next to a stranger you just met. But as all the seniors at the camp say, anyone is your best friend in hell.
“They give the worst work to the newbies, especially when they’re older, look out.” Yae warns, slightly enjoying the exasperated groan that leaves Ei at the revelation.
"Why did you get sent here?" Ei opens her eyes to look at Yae, who is busy going back to her book, "you don't look like the type to get into fights."
"We're not allowed to say, one of the many stupid rules here."
"Oh." Ei mutters, more annoyed than surprised.
Yae leans, close to her ear, "But, if you're willing to wake up at midnight one of these days, I can tell you."
"Is this another attempt on my celibacy?" Ei laughs. It’s a rough but nice sound.
Yae scoffs, "Don't let your ego get to your head, it's just something me and the others plan each friday night, you're invited."
Ei raises an eyebrow, "And you'll tell me everything?"
"Every little detail."
Ei leans in even more, and Yae feels her heart pound at the closeness. From this angle she can see Ei’s eyes even clearer. They were much lighter than she thought, warm and welcoming but dangerous in a way.
Ei interrupts her musing, "Even how you hid your phone?"
Yae hits Ei with the hardcover book, which hardly seems to hurt her, as she just laughs at the attempt.
“How did you-”
“Just tell me.” And it isn’t a command, but it sounds like one to Yae.
“You’ll find out soon enough.” Yae whispers into her ear, and she likes the way the hairs on her neck stand.
They spend the rest of their time in the cabin until Fischl kicks them out with an extremely eloquent monologue on the importance of silence. Then they took a walk through the nearby woods, talking about their life back home.
"I have two moms and an older sister. My sister, Saiguu, was adopted but I was conceived… artificially, I guess." Yae explains, "What about you?"
“I have a twin sister and a brother.” Ei kicks a rock, watching it bounce at the dirt until it hits a tree trunk. “My little brother got sent to a military camp nearby.”
Yae wonders if being sent for a week's trip in a makeshift hell is part of some family tradition, “What about your sister?”
“Should be starting college now, she’s the good one.”
Yae laughs, she laughs too much around Ei, even at things that aren’t funny. She reasons its because Ei makes her feel relaxed in some way, they just seemed to naturally connect.
“God, you have it bad.”
Kokomi sits at the edge of her bed, with a face she can only describe as disappointed. They had retired to their cabin for the night and were now waiting for Ei and Lisa to finish their swim by the lake. Yae had the terrible idea of telling Kokomi about her day.
“I-” Yae starts, but is soon cut off.
“You laugh at everything she does because you’re whipped, Yae, whipped, like even worse than Lisa.” Kokomi comes closer and puts a hand on her shoulder, “I can get you the help you need.”
Yae bats the hand away, rolling her eyes, “I don’t need help.”
Suddenly Ei is there, bursting the door open as she’s drenched in lake water and talking about something to Lisa she’s too far off to hear. Suddenly, Yae likes the smell of the lake wafting off her and maybe, just maybe, she’s starting to appreciate the obligatory full body suits the camp gives for swimming.
Lisa, as always, goes straight to sleep after drying off, not even bothering with anything other than a weak goodnight. Kokomi urges them to do the same, but Yae has no intentions to sleep, and she knows it's the same for her friend.
She makes sure that Ei is deep asleep before throwing a pillow at Kokomi's face.
“Kokomi.” Yae whispers.
“What?” Her friend groans. "This better be fast."
“I need help.”
“I’m not sleeping with you.” Kokomi deadpans, sinking her face into the pillow once more.
Yae throws the nearest pillow at the girl, smiling when it hits her square in the face. Kokomi responds by grabbing a pillow herself and throwing it back.
Yae ducks easily, “It’s not that, it's just, I hate to say this, but you were right.”
"Right about what?"
Yae knows it's a taunt, but she is too tired to fight it, "I want to kiss Raiden Ei."
“I’m always right.”
Many pillows were thrown that night.
The procedure goes as follows.
Every Friday night, a pre-selected cabin flashes a flashlight at exactly 1:13am, when the guards are switching shifts. The flash is accompanied by three consecutive knocks on the door. Then it's time to go.
Last time, Kokomi had drawn a five on the lottery, so they had to wait for the other four cabins to get going before going out themselves. It works for them, as it’s almost enough time to wake up Lisa and for Yae to put on her makeup.
“We’re going to be late.” Kokomi groans, forcing the lipstick out of Yae’s hands, “You’ll still look ugly anyway.”
“There are at least ten girls in this camp that say otherwise.” Ye sticks her tongue out and Kokomi gags at the gesture. On the other side, Ei rolls her eyes, so she finally puts the make up down.
Once they all manage to drag Yae out, they follow a path of potato peels (previously thrown by Xiangling) into the forest. This area was thick with bushes and vines, so it was off limits normally, however, they had found a nearby clearing that was perfect for their escapades.
At the clearing, Yanfei was always there waiting for them. She was the mole in the supervisors. A young girl that started working through family connections and a favorite of pretty much everyone.
“You must be the new girl.” Yanfei walks over to Ei and hands her a box, “Here are some of your belongings I could get back, hide them well.” She winks and goes on her way, probably to do the same to the other new campers.
“She is?...” Ei furrowed an eyebrow at the bizarre meeting, looking at the contents of the box.
“One of the supervisors, she’s the one that lets us get away with all this.” Yae responds. She realizes both Kokomi and Lisa had left them alone, and the clearing was now being filled with the rest of the campers.
She pulls Ei into a less crowded spot, which is easy enough judging by the sheer size of the clearing. Most of it is empty except for the blankets and coolers thrown about.
“And them?” Ei pointed at a group opposite from them, they wore camo uniforms and were holding a boxing match of some kind. “They’re not from the same camp, right?”
“No,” Yae neared one of the coolers set up for the night, taking two cans of soda for both of them from a nearby cooler, , “That’s the Fatui Military Training Camp, they’re close by so we just let them come around these days.”
“Oh, that should be the camp Kuronishi’s in.” Ei comments quietly,, “My little brother.” She adds when she sees Yae’s confused face.
“Oh, right, you told me about him.” Yae looked at the camo group, and it's surprisingly simple to find the boy, “By chance, is he the one beating the life out of some poor guy right now?”
Ei turned to see exactly what Yae described. A short boy with similar purple hair was punching some guy in what seemed to be some fighting ring. Yae laughed at the sight, and urged her to get closer to the group.
Childe was the first one to greet them, shaking hands with both girls, “Whats up, sorry Yae but Ekaterina isn’t available for the night, broke an ankle.” he winked.
Yae waves him off, slightly annoyed, "Tell her not to worry."
Ei raised an eyebrow at the conversation, but brushed it off in favor of pulling Kuronishi away from his victim.
“God, Kuronishi, at least let him breathe for the lest few seconds of his life, will you?” She yanked his arm back to stop his assault, by which he responded by pushing her off.
“What the hell are you doing here?!” He screamed.
Ei just took it as his usual bad temper, "Our two camps are close by, nice to see you again as well."
Kuronishi, or Scaramouche, judging by the weird tag on his shirt, only groaned at the half assed answer.
"Let me go!" He brushed off her hand. "Don't you have better things to do?"
“And let you kill a man?” Ei flicked his forehead with her fingers, earning a few awww s from the crowd around them, "what did he even do?"
"This is your sister?" The guy stood up and Ei felt his eyes scan over her, "Looks like she's as much of a bitch as you."
Ei didn't have to think much before she threw the next punch.
Yae was sitting on the grass with Childe and Zhongli while they talked when they heard the sound of cheers and whoops across the whole crowd.
Yae looked at the source of the noise to see Ei was now the one beating the life out of some guy. She shrugged, it wasn't her problem.
"Why is that girl fighting a military student, and winning?" Zhongli stopped his conversation to stare as well, and asked his boyfriend.
"Oh, that's just Albert, he got sent here for assaulting a number of girls at his university." Childe shrugged and kept as usual, "he's our punching bag."
She nodded at the response, understanding, but she still walked over to Ei. She stopped when she got to her little brother.
The boy looked her up and down before frowning, “What are you doing with Ei?”
Yae was about to say something that would’ve surely traumatized the poor boy for life before Ei called her from where she was now sitting. She was washing her hands with a water bottle, almost no proof of the previous fight on her except for the sweat covering her forehead. Yae had to admit, Ei had a knack for looking hot no matter what.
“Ew.” Kuronishi gagged next to her, “Don’t look at her like that. ”
“Like my mom looks at… my other mom, it’s weird.” He scoffed. Yae had to admit that despite being a brat, he was rather adorable. “Get away from Ei.”
Her response was easy enough.
“I’m going to fuck your sister.”
Yae was pretty sure she was about to get murdered, but she believed that was the best sentence to put as your last words. However, Ei was already there to stop her brother’s flying fist. Bummer. It would be difficult to come up with a new one.
“I would appreciate it if you didn’t try fighting my friend.” Yae slightly grimaced at the last part, but smiled at the boy's glare nonetheless.
Sneakily, she attached herself to Ei's arm, "You should listen to your sister."
Yae makes sure to hold Ei extremely close as he growls something and walks away in anger. Ei laughs it off, saying he looks like an angry kitten despite the fact he was about to kill someone seconds before.
Somehow Ei got her hands on cigarettes, and she offers one to Yae before getting a lighter from the box she got handed to by Yanfei moments before. They walk through the forest, talking about whatever comes to mind.
"You told me the other day," Ei starts, "Talking about why you got sent here was prohibited, does it count now?"
Yae turns to the girl and smiles mischievously, "Only if you tell me first, the best for last."
Ei only rolls her eyes, already used to Yae's attitude, "Alright, I got expelled from my high school senior year because I kept getting into fights with the people that bullied my sister."
She feels slightly bad at the revelation, but it still feels good to know more about Ei. Dramatically, she raises a hand to her chest, "How tragic."
"For me? Not really. For them? probably." Ei laughs, and it's a sound Yae doesn't even have to think to love every second of it. "What about you?"
Yae looks around, making sure no one is around thek before responding, "Slept with the priest's daughter."
She has never heard Ei laugh so hard before, and she soon joins in. Before they know it, they are both doubled over in the dirt out of breath.
"You don't believe it, do you?" Yae manages out, now leaning on a trunk. She doesn't have time to lament the dirty shirt.
"Actually," Ei responds once she recovers, "You make it sound very believable, Miko."
"And why is that?"
"Well, aren't you the greatest kisser on the planet?" Ei mimics her words from earlier.
Without thinking twice, Yae sits beside Ei and to her, what comes next is natural. Their lips barely touch when someone sounds a whistle.
"THE GUARDS ARE SWITCHING DUTIES, EVERYONE GO BACK."
Well, a week is more than enough time to kiss Raiden Ei.