“She knows I didn’t die.” Childe looks worried now. “Shit.”
“Ah, this is why Venti told me to read this letter after yours.” Zhongli takes out the letter he pocketed earlier. “Here, it’s from the Tsaritsa. Her sigil is on it.” He had become slightly nervous once he saw it, but Venti’s attitude made him consider.
His friend wouldn’t give him earthshattering news with a smile on his lips.
“...Oh boy.” Childe snatches the envelope out of his hand, inspecting it. “Yep, it’s definitely from her. Should have known that plan of yours won’t work. They didn’t even send anyone to collect my corpse or anything.”
“The Tsaritsa has always been rather hard to fool.” Zhongli ponders as Childe opens the letter carefully. “My plan was rather… halfbaked as well. However, I have to apologize. I didn’t think about this. My thoughts were rather… preoccupied.”
“With trying to flirt with me.” Childe teases him, waggling his eyebrows.
Zhongli flushes slightly. “What does the letter say?”
Childe looks over the letter, his smile dropping as he reads its contents. A short silence falls over them.
“...Well, we’re not dying.” Ajax groans into his hands, a slight flush on his face. “Here, read it.” He hands it to Zhongli.
did you really think you could fool me with such an idiotic plan? The next time you wish to steal one of my Harbingers away for marriage, notify me first.
We both know that there is nothing that’s equal to a Gnosis. It’s a simple favor.
Take Tartaglia, he no longer is a member of the Fatui. In fact, I believe by the time this letter reaches you he’ll already have destroyed his Delusion.
You both are still welcome in Snezhnaya. I expect you want to meet Tartaglia’s family after all.
If you do something this foolish again, I won’t be as benevolent, but this threat means nothing to you, doesn’t it? Even without your Gnosis, you’re strong enough to kill me.
I will overlook this matter. I believe that’s the best course of action for you and for me.
As for you, Tartaglia-
Do invite me to your wedding.
There is no signature.
Zhongli sighs deeply. “I… see.” That would have been a wiser course of action, but his emotions have gotten the better of him. “It seems our problems have resolved themselves.”
“...I guess.” Ajax sighs and collapses against the chair. “Man, I didn’t expect her to let us off the hook that easily. She really doesn’t want to fight you, huh?” There is an excited glint Childe’s eye. One Zhongli knows too well.
“...You wish to fight me more than ever.” Zhongli states, satisfaction spreading in his chest. What can he say? He never lost his love for battle. “That can be arranged, of course. On a later date.”
“It’s a date!” Childe grins and Zhongli forgets his worries. “Alright, now that that’s over- let’s start with our honeymoon. I already have a project for us in mind.”
Zhongli raises his brow. “Oh?”
“So, Aether and Xiao. Mutual crushes, totally.” Childe nods to himself, seemingly very confident in his assumption.
Zhongli nods in agreement. “Yes, it’s obvious.” He says like they didn’t have this whole obvious crush thing going on as well. “Do you intend to do something about it?”
“Well, Xiao already said he’s going with Aether to Dragonspine, right? I don’t think we’ll have to. I just want them out of our house so we can… consummate our marriage.” Ajax says shamelessly, his grin suddenly seeming less innocent now.
Zhongli feels his whole face flare up red. “Ah, I see- well…” He stumbles over his words, caught off guard by Childe’s bold words. “We can... arrange that. Yes.”
“Great! We’ll spend the day with Teucer, bring him to the boat, and then we kick our friends out.” Childe jumps up from the chair, kisses Zhongli’s cheeks, and runs out of the door. “Good talk!”
“Good talk.” Zhongli echoes, slightly bewildered. To think that their situation has been resolved so easily…
It’s almost like his life is a cheesy romantic comedy story.
“Can’t you come with me?” Teucer asks as he gets on the boat that’s meant to take him back home. “Mister Zhongli has to meet everyone!”
“I’m sure. We’ll come later.” Childe crouches down and gives Teucer a tight hug. “Stay good now and don’t give mom so much trouble, you little rascal.” At Teucer’s protests, he only laughs. He then hands his brother a letter. “Here, hand this to mom or dad when you come home.”
Ajax decided he should probably warn his family that he’s engaged and quit the Fatui. Huh, now that he thinks about it, he’s basically jobless. He should fix that later.
“What’s in the letter?” Teucer’s eyes are big and curious.
“You’ll find out with everyone else.” Childe pats Teucer’s head and stands up. “I’ll come to visit you later, so it’s goodbye for now. I suddenly have much more time on my hands.”
“Cuz you’re on vacation from being a toyseller, right?” Ah, Tartaglia knew he forgot something. Well, he’ll have to break Teucer the news about losing his… toyseller job later.
“Right!” Teucer’s boat departs and they stand there, waving at each other until Teucer is nothing but a small dot in the distance.
He already misses him.
When they arrive back at Zhongli’s house, Xiao refuses to come in. “We don’t need to lounge around here anymore. Your stupid plan failed from the start.”
He had not been impressed when Zhongli broke the news to him. Not at all.
“Hmm, yeah. I’ve been taking too much of a break from my adventure anyway.” Aether is quick to agree with him, to Xiao’s relief. “Next up is Dragonspine. It’s gonna be a tough one.”
Zhongli nods, understanding. “Of course, don’t let us keep you. Take whatever resources you need and be on your way.”
“You’ll go with them, right Xiao?” Childe asks, a weird grin on his face. For some reason, Xiao feels a giant urge to punch the fucker in the face.
“Great. Great.” Childe nods, his smile suddenly turning gentler. Oh no, not more mushy shit. Xiao doesn’t want to deal with it. “You three take care. You can teleport here whenever you want or need help.”
Zhongli nods in agreement. “We’ll be in Snezhnaya at some point however, keep that in mind.”
“Snezhnaya?” Paimon asks, tilting her head. “Why there?”
“To meet Ajax’s family, of course.” Zhongli states without shame as Childe’s face takes on a slight red hue.
“Great. Whatever. Don’t die of frostbite in Snezhnaya or I’ll cut your throat.” Xiao directs that statement at both stupid mushy idiots. “We’ll be going now. Bye.”
He walks away, ignoring the cheerful waving the pair is giving him. Aether catches up to him quickly. “That eager to get away?”
“...They were getting annoying.” Xiao refuses to look in Aether’s direction. “Anyway, why Dragonspine?”
“Sounded like a good time, and well…”
“Treasure!” Paimon finishes for them, a bright smile on her face. “Let’s go! What are we waiting for!?”
And that’s how Xiao finds himself dragged off by an overexcited… whatever the fuck Paimon is.
“...I wish to make you happy and I wish to meet your family.” Zhongli smiles gently and Childe’s heart melts.
“I love you, you know that?” Ajax carcasses Zhongli’s cheek with a smile, kissing him softly.
Zhongli returns it eagerly. “I love you too.”
It’s so wonderful to be able to say that phrase freely, to know that his feelings are returned.
“But let’s worry about my family later.” Ajax kisses him again, a bit more forceful this time. “You owe me a fight and…”
“Of course.” Zhongli kisses Ajax’s forehead fondly. “We can get started on the fight right away, my love.”
Ajax turns bright red, but he’s smiling. “Let’s get started then.”
They kiss again, take out their weapons, and smile as they clash.
Nothing will ever be able to take this joy away from them.