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The Pity System

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It was an unnaturally cool night in Mondstat. The air was so crisp that Lumine could see her breath forming in it as she leaned out of her inn room’s window. Paimon, fast asleep on the room’s sole bed, burrowed a little deeper underneath the covers as a gentle breeze blew throughout the room.

Lumine wouldn’t have known nights like this were unnatural if the waitress at the Good Hunter hadn’t mentioned it when Paimon and her were getting dinner there that night. The traveler rested her elbows on the windowsill. She had only just gotten to Mondstat that morning; there was still so much she didn’t know about this place.

She held out a hand and watched the constellations dance in her palm.

She didn’t know if that was normal. She didn’t know if it was normal to stand so close to the window on a night like tonight and not feel a chill. And she didn’t know if it was normal to feel something warm shifting within her as she turned her gaze to the stars above. It had been three months of no memories and not knowing herself, but she still felt like Lumine, otherworldly traveler, was still very much a stranger. 

She let out a sigh and rested her head in the palm of her hands. 

If she strained her ears, she could faintly hear a song floating through Mondstat’s empty streets. Closing her eyes, she tried to imagine what Aether would be doing if he was here instead of her - even though all she could remember was the panic on his face when that woman suddenly took him away. 

xXx

Lumine stared at the hilichurl camp from behind a conveniently placed bush.

Paimon was supposed to be here with her right now. They had promised to check out the camp together the previous day after Amber offhandedly mentioned it. They had run into hilichurls once or twice, but had been mostly avoiding them because they didn’t have any way of defending themselves. Lumine had anemo dancing at her fingertips now. She could do anything with it, a little voice told her. She didn’t know if the feeling came from memory or from the excitement at doing something new , but she was still excited.

...At least, she had before Paimon had complained about an upset stomach that morning. Lumine knew it was a bad idea to eat as much sticky honey roast as she had, but Paimon was stubborn and refused to admit she had a mistake. Now Lumine was out here by herself without the comfort of her trusty guide, wondering if hilichurls were really all that bad as people said.

She shifted behind her bush.

They didn’t seem that bad. Lumine hadn’t met many people since ending up on Teyvat, but they reminded her of them. They just spoke in a different language and didn’t live in quite as fancy of a city. She watched a group of them snack on some cooked meat. It was plain, but it made her stomach growl. 

Trying to get a little more comfortable, she moved her foot to the side.

Snap .

Lumine froze.

The hilichurls froze, too.

Very, very slowly, she looked down at the stick that she had accidentally broken. The hilichurls all looked up at her with what Lumine assumed was surprise and alarm. It was hard to tell with the masks they wore.

But then the hilichurls went to grab their clubs and bows.

Taking the cue, Lumine rushed out from behind the bush and readied the anemo. She had a sword, too, but she needed to practice bending the wind to her will. She shot a gust of wild, unrestrained air at the closest hilichurl. The hilichurl went flying back into the one right behind it; its clubs were quickly dropped. With an ease that Lumine must have picked up in some forgotten experience, Lumine knocked hilichurl after hilichurl down. It was only when she felt an arrow whiz past her face that she realized that the wind and her sword wasn’t going to be enough. 

The archer shot another arrow at her.

Lumine ducked out of the way.

Okay, now she really needed to come up with an alternative approach. She could climb the tower the hilichurl was currently standing on, but it could always just shoot her down. She couldn’t remember if she was good with pain or not; she wasn’t going to test it by getting shot in the shoulder.

“Think, Lumine!” she whispered. 

Maybe she could climb the nearby tree and glide down onto the platform?

No, that wouldn’t work. She could still get shot. Worse, the tree wasn’t even large enough for her to easily glide down. She’d just end up climbing the tower after all.

If only Amber was here! She should have asked her to come. It would have made this so much easier. Amber could have shot at the hilichurl and scared it off its tower. If not, flames at the base of the tower would have been enough to frighten the hilichurl. 

The warmth inside her chest grew.

“Can you come down?” she shouted up to the hilichurl, giving it a hopeful look. “To make this fight a little fairer?” 

The hilichurl replied by launching another arrow. 

Lumine rolled out of the way. The warmth in her chest grew a little stronger. Was adrenaline supposed to feel like when she used anemo? She could feel the tingle of magic - or whatever the elements were - spreading from her chest to the rest of her, but Lumine didn’t have the slightest idea if that was normal.

Lumine raised her sword, hands gripping the smooth, cold metal so hard that it hurt. 

But then the metal wasn’t...metal. It was wood . Lean but sturdy wood, going up and down and curving to make a bent line. Something thin dug into her skin when she moved her arm. She glanced over to the thing in question.

It was a string.

Of a bow.

How was she holding a bow?

Why was she holding a bow?

And why did the world feel so different? Nothing had changed in her environment, but she felt like everything had shifted. The wind danced differently across her skin. The arrow that flew past her face hurt differently when it left a cut. And when she raised her bow, instinct taking over, her right arm’s muscles contracted with a strength they had never contracted with before.

She aimed the arrow.

And then she fired, flames arching across the blue sky.

The hilichurl leapt from its perch. Before she could figure out how to fight with a bow in close range, the hilichurl ran for the hills. Its fellow hilichurls, who apparently hadn’t been as unconscious as Lumine had thought, went running after it. Lumine waited another moment before lowering her bow. 

Then she stared at the bow again.

She had used pyro - she was sure of it! She didn’t know how, but she had definitely done it! She had been hesitant to tell Paimon about how she had a feeling she could do more than use anemo because it was such a weird thing to have a gut feeling about, but now she had proof! She couldn’t wait to go back to the inn and tell her what-

Wait, why did her clothes feel so off? 

And why was her hair so long? 

She glanced down.

The outfit she was wearing looked familiar. So did the brown hair that she saw out of the corner of her eye. But that didn’t make any sense . She was supposed to have blond hair. She was wearing a totally different outfit. The sudden bow and pyro was cool and useful, but this was just weird . Because if she stared down at the outfit for long enough, the more she became convinced that she had somehow become…

No, she was not going to think about it.

She eyed the camp, looking for something to take back as a reminder that this had actually happened - and hadn’t been a dream. Her gaze settled on a mask one of the hilichurls had left behind. Grabbing it with hands that didn’t look like her own, Lumine turned her back to the camp.

It took her all of one minute to realize she couldn’t keep ignoring this when she lost her balance (thanks to a pair of almost stilettos in the place of her nice, sturdy heels) and went stumbling into one of the posts on the very outskirts of the camp.

“Please let this be a dream,” Lumine muttered, only to freeze up when she realized the voice that left her mouth didn’t belong to her. Realization - and acceptance - dawned on her when she was able to put a name to the voice’s true owner.

Amber.

She didn’t know how or why , but she had somehow become Amber and used her pyro vision.