C h e c k m a t e
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Standing under the imposing structure of the building attached to a massive olden tree, a Cryo-user swallows thickly, his lips thinly pressed as he grasped the ornate box that contained a small gift. To whom, you may ask? Well, it's for the Master Exorcist who resides at Wangshu Inn!
He can still recall the awed look of Xingqiu as he told him of his chance encounter with said ace during one of his tag-along with the traveller. Apparently, they reigned from Mondstadt and studied a great deal of divinology in the cathedral before heading out to purge and exorcise at a young age. The bookworm coined them as a child prodigy of exorcisms, much like how he came to address said Cryo-user, though he cannot see himself being the definition of a prodigy when spirits basically flee at the mere presence of him.
Such is why he found himself setting foot on Wangshu Inn, all in endeavors of seeking out this Master Exorcist in their refuge and inquiring if there's a way to properly seek out spirits given the case of his positivity. A gift as some sort of offering—an offering! What's he thinking?!—would present a good first impression, yes?
"Definitely! A gift will surely do the trick."
Count on the Guhua-lover to ascertain the chances of being able to talk to someone mighty.
Chongyun breathes in and out deeply as the elevator stops at the receiving area of the inn and he steps out to approach the woman behind the counter, clearing his throat to get their attention when he finds out that she's already talking with someone. It's someone around his age, a girl who's dressed rather uniquely. He thinks he's seen some kind of similar outfits in one of his friend's picture book. He couldn't quite remember what though, when he wanted to find out, Xingqiu already closed it with a teasing grin.
"What can I be of assistance?" the innkeeper smiles, cutting her talk short with the female who looked over to smile at him, too.
Feeling ashamed of his intrusion, he cuts straight to the chase.
"Sorry for cutting in. I'd like to know if the... Master Exorcist stays around here?"
Their reactions are equally the same, with the younger one of the two donning what he can only guess is an embarrassed yet flustered kind of hue on her face, and the woman stiffling in her laughter. He feels like shrinking because—was it not true? Xingqiu wouldn't play him like that, would he?—they were giggling to themselves. His faint humiliation is abated when the innkeeper finally looks his way with a timid grin.
"Our apologies for laughing, it's just that it's the first time we've heard someone use that kind of title. [Name], if you may," she splays a hand towards the atypically dressed female and he transfers his gaze unto her, blinking as she lifted off her weight from the counter to stand and greet him fully.
Ah, a guide! That makes it easier.
"What's gotten you to search? Are you here to do business, I assume?"
Chongyun shakes his head and shows her the gift he has at hand, pushing it slightly forward for her to observe the box when he deemed it piqued her interest.
"I was hoping to ask a few questions, I'm also an exorcist but I have a slight... problem."
Watching as her eyebrows shot up, she points at the stairwell, motioning for them to continue their conversation somewhere more private given that there's still a handful of bystanders loitering around the current floor. More greetings are exchanged -as well as asking him about the relatively long trip from Liyue to the Inn- on the way to the upper section, and she proceeds to do so after they have finally stepped foot onto it.
"Do tell about this problem of yours, perchance we find a quick, reliable solution to it." they approach the balcony where another figure is overlooking the entirety of the marsh and the bluenette stops briefly to collect his bearings, his grip on the gift slowly tightening in apprehension.
This guy's aura is no joke...
He's definitely the Exorcist!
"I uh, have this congenital positivity that wards off spirits before I could even get to them." he responds, stalking forward towards the Master Exorcist with a bemused girl tailing behind. She no longer said something, so he figured it was the opportunity to greet the fellow.
Said figure—who's surprisingly dressed a bit similar to the female—has already turned around before he could even tap his shoulder. Chongyun fights back the instinct to wince once he saw the sneer on the ace's face, it was one that grew a bit icier once he glanced down at the box and at the snickering girl.
"Why bother me this time, [Name]? You know I do no small talk."
"Oh liven up a little, will you, Xiao? Chongyun here just has a couple of questions, we merely came up here for some privacy!" laughs the [c]-haired girl, her Electro Vision gleaming brightly on her glove as she playfully swung an arm on 'Xiao', who instantly recoils and moves to push her away, clearly not liking the breach of his personal bubble—but the persistent girl simpers it all away.
In the midst of their little banter, the claymore-user miraculously finds the confidence to thrust his gift towards the unsuspecting male, who paused and blinked.
"A small gift," the Cryo-user gulps at the incredulous look sent his way, "As she said, I only want to inquire about something... I hope it doesn't take most of your time."
Xiao wryly sighs before shrugging away the hold on his arm, opening his palm and letting the visitor drop the box onto his hand whilst motioning the other to keep talking, much to the relief. [Name] by then has made herself comfortable by leaning against the wooden railings of the balcony, all the while keeping a quizzical tint in her stare.
Balling his fists in eagerness, Chongyun nods his head.
This is it! The chance to acquire proper knowledge and be able to ward spirits like a true exorcist!
"Is there a way to properly approach spirits without them dispersing so quickly?"
He watches a multitude of emotions flash through the Master Exorcist's face; surprise, bewilderment, then insouciance. It was terrifying, to say the least, and the glower on his golden canary hues proved to be puissant, for it made him feel extremely inferior. Just under a single stare.
Swallowing, he latches onto adding more information.
"The reason behi—"
"Sorry, but what kind of question is that?"
Xiao merely huffs haughtily when the girl beside him slapped his arm, chiding him about his rudeness, which he dismissed. Meanwhile, the exorcist only fell silent in sheer bewilderment. He didn't expect to be turned down so quick—and in less than a minute! He feels a subtle pang against his chest, one that dampened his mood in the faintest of manner at the nonchalance on the listener's face.
The Adeptus gives him another look over and after ascertaining the fact that the guest wouldn't be speaking anytime soon, he sighs and places the gift onto [Name]'s hands, leaning off the balcony to allow his anemo to enclose around his frame.
"Ask something properly next time."
He's gone before anyone present could even speak.
Chongyun, despondent, allows his hand to fall limp onto his side. A frown appearing on his visage, he hangs his head low and moves to collapse most of his weight onto the balcony, well aware of the sympathetic look that's given to him.
So much for learning...
He catches sight of the gift on the girl's hold and sighs himself.
He didn't even take the gift...
But he digresses. The gift wasn't even the thing that downhearted him so, it was the brash dismissal of his question as if that Xiao-person could barely even stand the mere thought of it. Should he be offended by it? He doesn't think he should, but even if he wanted to, he won't be.
"I apologize. He's often like that." whispers [Name] as she propped her elbows beside him, patting his back for good measure.
"No, it's okay," he replies, "Someone as good as him would definitely busy himself to some other matters. He probably thinks conversations like before were insignificant and well, I don't mind."
[Name] frowns as he sluggishly pulls himself up to stand straight, his scanty smile a definite mask to hide away his obvious disappointment. Even at a glance, a child would see the strain in how his lips twitched to keep that smile on his face, it was just awful to look at. To think that is queries would be shunned just like that.
"I suppose I should just work harder! There are no shortcuts, after all." Chongyun beams, but the female could still see through it.
As if he's a one-way mirror—or an easy read book, she shakes her head with a minuscule laugh and balances herself on her feet, stretching her limbs and presenting a supportive smile of her own.
"The least I could do is accompany you back to the harbor's gates. Perhaps you could tell me more about your troubles, I'm a good listener."
Chongyun nods gratefully—although he finds her curiosity about his case a bit odd, he assumes she's trying to make up for the slightly impertinent behavior of her revered friend—and leads the way back down towards the elevator, passing by the innkeeper who bid them off with a knowing look in her kind eyes.
Their small journey back to Liyue's splendid marina is spent with him opening up about his quagmires regarding his congenital positivity and how it affected his occupation as an exorcist both good and bad, albeit it leaned more onto the former, he also spoke of wanting to ward them away like how a true exorcist would; through and by means of proper operandi. And as his current companion promised, she is a good listener, often staying silent and seldomly butting in to say a few opinions of her own.
It felt nice and it alleviated his disappointment from meeting the Master Exorcist incredibly well.
By the time they reached the small hillock that gave view to the setting sun's light moping over the harbor, their talk was still on-going, but obviously had to be cut off for the destination has already been reached. He sees Xingqiu waving at the docks and he smiles, flashing him back a wave before picking up the pace, only to—
"Ah, wait a second!" an arm clasps around his elbow and yanks him back.
[Name] apologizes as soon as he spins to look at her with wide eyes, not expecting her to do anything of the sort. She heads straight to the point, her hands immediately detaching from his arm and moving to fumble and remove something that's strapped onto her waist. The item glows a vibrant purple in reaction to being close to her Electro Vision and she lifts it up for him to see.
It looks like one of the chess pieces, a King, in particular—only the tiny cross is replaced in the figure of a seelie and the complete structure of the item is out of crystalline ore, translucent and prismatic under the ray of the sunset that caused a myriad of rainbow tints to reflect onto the ground. There also appears to be some kind of ancient text embedded onto its base. It read checkmate.
"Take this. I'm not much of a master, but I am pretty knowledgeable," the King piece shimmers with a frosty glow the second it touched his hands, "It acts as an emitter, drawing evil spirits in with the natural presence of a susceptible host, but I designed it to work and be flexible with Visions—meaning it will glow like you saw when a spirit is within its radar."
Chongyun blinks in awe as she beamingly gives a thumbs-up.
"Activating your Vision will cause the King to react and pull those spirits into it, so in the end it also acts like a cage. Don't worry about them leaking out since this piece is made of entirely splendid material! You'll be able to exorcise and purge them whilst inside it."
What wisdom! he muses, clearly she knew a lot!
"Learning from him must be amazing..." Chongyun murmurs, eagerly strapping it to his belt just by his own blessed Vision and watches as [Name] doubles over in laughter, but proceeds not to say anything other than her farewell and a teasing wink. They both hear his friend calling and approaching, so the female tips her balance to the side with a small grin.
"If you need anything else, you can always visit the Inn, yes? See 'ya!"
She literally vanished into crackling sparks of violet just as Xingqiu arrived by the hillock, his trusty book padded and bookmarked by his own finger, his eyes staring upon the space the girl was once previously upon.
He couldn't even thank her for her thoughtfulness..
Patting his friend's shoulder to pull him back out of his stupefy, Xingqiu snickers.
"So have you met the Master Exorcist?"
Chongyun pouts, turning to head down to the harbor with his friend to his side. Just the mere mention of the so-called Master and his blatant disregard of his question was enough to make him brood, but he shouldn't—and he wouldn't! Not when the fruit of today's labor isn't so bad as he thought it'd be.
"I did," he answers, feeling the faint clinking of the King piece against his waist, "He was pretty off. Clearly didn't want to talk and waste his time, but his aura is really scary.."
"Eh?" wondered Xingqiu aloud, causing the exorcist to stop in his steps and raise his eyebrow.
The honey-eyed teen blinks wildly at him, answering, "The Master Exorcist is a she, not a he."
What—w h a t ?
He takes a glimpse at the object in the swordsman's hold and upon finding out that it was the same picture book he was intrigued of, he snatches it out of his grasp, ignoring the surprised 'hey!' and scampering away to stick his nose in it, knowing his friend will do anything to get it back in his hands. His hands hastily flew over the pages, his memory proving to be helpful as he lands on a certain page number.
The stunned male abruptly halts, stumbling when the other male bumps onto his back and whispers,
"Be careful with it, that's the newest edition! Gee.."
But the exorcist could not hear his words as his eyes scanned the text and the drawn photo. Chongyun is reduced to a red, fumbling, stumbling, and stuttering mess as he dragged his hands down his face, shyly passing back the book as he recounts to the earlier events at the Inn.
On the specific page is an elaborate background of the person and an image of his previous [c]-eyed companion with a small text under it reading [Name] [Surname].